Friday, April 25, 2014

Woody Guthrie recorded “This Land Is Your Land”: April 25, 1944

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Woody Guthrie “This Land Is Your Land”

Writer(s): Woody Guthrie (see lyrics here)

Recorded: 4/25/1944

Peak: -- (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: Guthrie’s song is “one of the most stirring testaments to the American spirit ever put to music” SS-62 and might have been the national anthem if he was alive during the foundation of the United States. TM His song isn’t just “a pleasant ode to the beauties of the countryside” SS-62 but a conviction that America belongs to the people, not just “the poliiticans, or the corporate executives, or the priviledged class.” SS-62

Guthrie was born in Oklahoma in 1912. During the 1930s, he witnessed firsthand the effects of the Depression and the dust storms which ravaged the Great Plains. This impacted his songwriting and earned him a reputation as a spokesman for the disenfranchised. When he went to California in 1937, he forged a reputation for songs with biting social commentary in his radio broadcasts. In 1940, he went to New York to record a series of “Dust Bowl Ballads” for Victor.

Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940 in response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” He was annoyed by the song’s suggestion that all that happened to the country – including poverty and injustice – was somehow blessed by a divine being. SS-62 He set the lyrics to “When the World’s on Fire,” a traditional melody used by the Carter Family in 1930. That song, in turn, had been based on the 1928 hymn “Rock of Ages” as recorded by Blind Willie Davis. SS-62 Guthrie’s song was built on “just three simple chords and a childlike lyrical quality.” TM

In 1944, Guthrie recorded more than 170 songs for Asch Records, a small independent label in New York City. Among the songs was a slightly reworked “This Land Is Your Land,” but it didn’t see release until 1951. SS-63 By then, the song became “a leftist national anthem, sung at rallies, political events, and in schools.” NPR The song was made familiar to most Americans by the Weavers. PM-189

Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Chuck Berry charted with “Johnny B. Goode”: April 21, 1958

Originally posted 7/13/2014.

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Chuck Berry “Johnny B. Goode”

Writer(s): Chuck Berry (see lyrics here)

First charted: 4/21/1958

Peak: 8 US, 11 CB, 2 RB (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 4.6

Review: In “Johnny B. Goode,” Chuck Berry created a character who symbolizes an Elvis Presley-type who comes from humble beginnings and whose mother promises her son that his name will be in lights someday. MA Berry says the improvised tale of a young man who plays “his guitar all the way to stardom” CR is “more or less” his story, RS500 with a few details changed.

The character is named after pianist CR Johnnie Johnson. Berry joined Johnson’s group, the Sir John Trio, in 1953, soon becoming the focal point as the lead singer. SF Johnson wrote many of Berry’s hits on piano and then Berry converted them to guitar. CR

The name “Goode” came from the street where Berry grew up, TB one nowhere close to the song’s setting in a cabin “deep down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans.” Berry grew up in St. Louis and proclaimed, “I don’t think I’ve actually seen a real log cabin, much less lived in one!” SJ

Berry was not illiterate like the song’s character. He went to beauty school and graduated with a hairdressing and cosmetology degree. RS500 Lyrically, “that little colored boy could play” was changed to “that little country boy could play,” because, as Berry said, “I thought it would seem biased to white fans” MA and “it wouldn’t get on the radio.” RS500

Perhaps more than any other, the rags-to-riches song “established the sound of the rock and roll guitar.” WI-39 Regarding the guitar intro which, ironically, is nearly a note-for-note copy of the opening solo in Louis Jordan’s 1946 “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman,” WK rock historian says “You can’t copyright guitar licks and maybe that’s good, because if you could, …we’d lose not just the Beach Boys, but essential elements of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, and Bruce Springsteen.” MA

Resources and Related Links:

  • Chuck Berry’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • CR Creswell, Toby. (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 22-23.
  • MA Marsh, Dave. (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 3.
  • RS500 “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SF
  • SJ Shannon, Bob, and John Javna. (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Books, Inc. Page 48.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 34.
  • WK


Elvis Presley hit #1 with “Heartbreak Hotel”: April 21, 1956

Originally posted 7/13/2014.

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Elvis Presley “Heartbreak Hotel”

Writer(s): Mae Axton/Tommy Durden (see lyrics here)

Released: 1/27/1956, First charted: 3/3/1956

Peak: 18 US, 16 CB, 117 CW, 3 RB, 2 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 2.33

Review: RCA Records made a deal on November 22, 1955 that may be the best ever made in music history; for $40,000, an unprecedented amount at the time, they bought Elvis’ contract from Sun Records. BR1 At times, Presley accounted for 25% or more of RCA’s record sales. SA His blend of R&B with country made him rock music’s first and greatest superstar.

“Heartbreak Hotel” was among the songs recorded at Elvis’ first RCA recording session in January 1956. BR1 RCA was looking for more rockabilly tunes in the vein of what he had recorded for Sun, but for his first RCA single, Presley delivered “this gloomy, downtempo number” RS500 which Sun Records founder Sam Phillips called “a morbid mess.” RS500 It went on to become the first number one song and first million-seller for Presley. RS500 “The king of rock and roll had just ascended to his throne.” BR1

The song developed out of a newspaper story which Tommy Durden brought to Mae Axton. The front page article was about a suicide in which the victim left a note that simply said “I walk a lonely street.” BR1 Axton was inspired, suggesting to Tommy that they put a Heartbreak Hotel at the end of the lonely street. CR She was so confident with the results that she called Elvis and said he should meet her to hear his first million-selling single. BR1

The song was released in late January, but didn’t take off TB until April. On the 3rd, Elvis sang the song before an estimated fourth of the U.S. population on NBC’s Milton Berle Show. BR1 By the end of the month, it had landed atop the Billboard charts. By year’s end, the magazine crowned it the number single of 1956. BR1

Resources and Related Links:

  • Elvis Presley’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • BR1 Bronson, Fred. (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY; Billboard Books.
  • CR Creswell, Toby. (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 46.
  • RS500 “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SA Sadowski, David. (1999). Haven’t Named It Yet: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Prehistory, 1926-55.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16, 1964: The Rolling Stones released their debut album

Originally posted April 1, 2008. Last updated September 7, 2018.

The Rolling Stones (aka ‘England’s Newest Hit Makers’)

The Rolling Stones

Released: April 16, 1964 R
May 30, 1964 E

Sales (in millions):
US: 0.5
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 2.5

US: 11 E
UK: 112-R
Canada: --
Australia: 13

Quotable: “As hard-core as British R&B ever got” – Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide

Genre: classic rock

Album Tracks:

  1. Not Fade Away (Holly/ Petty) [1:48] (2/27/64, #48 US, #3 UK) E
  2. Route 66 (Troup) [2:21]
  3. I Just Want to Make Love to You (Dixon) [2:18]
  4. Honest I Do (Abner/Reed) [2:10]
  5. Mona (I Need You Baby) (Ellas McDaniel) [3:33] R
  6. Now I've Got a Witness (Phelge/ Spector) [2:32]
  7. Little by Little (?) [2:40]
  8. I'm a King Bee (Moore) [2:37]
  9. Carol (Berry) [2:34]
  10. Tell Me (Jagger/ Richards) [4:05] (7/4/64, #24 US)
  11. Can I Get a Witness (Dozier/ Holland/ Holland) [2:56]
  12. You Can Make It if You Try (Jarrett) [2:02]
  13. Walking the Dog (Thomas) [3:09]

Notes: As was often true of UK groups making it in the US in the ‘60s, albums didn't make it across the ocean with the exact same track listings, covers, and sometimes even album names. Tracks unique to one album or the other are noted with E (U.S. release England’s Newest Hit Makers) or R (U.K. release The Rolling Stones).

Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.


“The group’s debut album was the most uncompromisingly blues/R&B-oriented full-length recording they would ever release. Mostly occupied with covers, this was as hard-core as British R&B ever got; it's raw and ready. But the Stones succeeded in establishing themselves as creative interpreters, putting '50s and early '60s blues, rock, and soul classics (some quite obscure to White audiences) through a younger, more guitar-oriented filter. The record's highlighted by blistering versions of Route 66, Carol, the hyper-tempoed I Just Want to Make Love to You, I'm a King Bee, and Walking the Dog.” RU

“Their Bo Diddleyized version of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away gave them their first British Top Ten hit (and their first small American one).” RU The song was not on The Rolling Stones “where singles and LPs were usually kept separate.” BE Instead, the U.K.-only album featured “the Stones' cover of Bo Diddley's Mona (I Need You Baby)…which had to wait until Now!, a year later, for its U.S. release. It's not a big switch, a Bo Diddley-style cover of a Buddy Holly song bumping an actual Bo Diddley cover on the U.S. version.” BE

Also of note is “the acoustic ballad Tell Me…Jagger-Richards' first good original tune.” RU The version on The Rolling Stones “sounds about two generations hotter than any edition of the song ever released in the U.S. – it’s the long version, with the break that was cut from the single, but the British LP and the original late-‘80s Decca-U.K. compact disc…both contain a version without any fade, running the better part of a minute longer than the U.S. release of the song, until the band literally stops playing.” BE

Review Source(s):


Related DMDB Link(s):

Thursday, April 10, 2014

KISS: Top 20 Songs

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In 2011, I wrote a blog post arguing why KISS belonged in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (read here). I pointed out that while I wasn’t a fan of the band, they absolutely fit the credentials to be in the Hall and that it was unfortunate that politics were getting in the way. Three years later, the Hall finally decided to listen to me (yeah, I’m sure I’m the reason). In honor of KISS being inducted into the Hall, I present to you the DMDB’s list of the Top 20 KISS songs. This is a melding of multiple factors, including appearances on multiple best-of lists, sales figures, chart data, and which tracks show up most often on KISS compilations. KISS fans, rejoice. Your band is finally in the Hall. Now you can rock and roll all night and party every day in celebration.

Rock and Roll All Nite

KISS: Their Top 20 Songs

  1. Rock and Roll All Nite (1975)
  2. Beth (1976)
  3. Detroit Rock City (1976)
  4. I Was Made for Lovin’ You (1979)
  5. Shout It Out Loud (1976)
  6. Calling Dr. Love (1976)
  7. Lick It Up (1983)
  8. Hard Luck Woman (1976)
  9. Christine Sixteen (1977)
  10. Heaven’s on Fire (1984)


  11. Forever (1989)
  12. Love Gunn (1977)
  13. Deuce (1974)
  14. Shandi (1980)
  15. Strutter (1974)
  16. Sure Know Something (1979)
  17. Reason to Live (1987)
  18. I Love It Loud (1982)
  19. God Gave Rock and Roll to You II (1991)
  20. Tears Are Falling (1985)


Resources and Related Links: