Friday, July 24, 2015

50 years ago: Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” charted

Like a Rolling Stone

Bob Dylan

Writer(s): Bob Dylan (see lyrics here)

Released: July 20, 1965

First Charted: July 24, 1965

Peak: 2 US, 11 CB, 2, HR, 1 CL, 4 UK, 2 CN, 7 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK, 0.2 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 36.84 video, 215.89 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

It was only Bob Dylan’s second appearance on the Billboard Hot 100. His maiden hit on the chart was “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, just a few months earlier. This one, however, would be his biggest hit. Music critic Toby Creswell said it “was so different, so sophisticated, that it shaped the future of rock & roll.” CR

“No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time.” RS500 Regarding Dylan’s 1965 Newport Folk Festival performance of this song, Joni Mitchell said, “The American folk song has grown up.” NPR Folk music fans had seen their genre as carrying intellectual import while rock-n-roll was “adolescent trash.” TB This song, however, proved that lyrical prowess need not be an impediment to commercial success BBC and suddenly rock was not just teen music, but an art form on par with any other. TB

Dylan wrote this not initially as a song, but, by varying accounts, “as a prose poem,” WI “extended piece of verse,” RS500 or a short story about a society girl who loses her status, BBC possibly even Andy Warhol protégé Edie Sedgwick. SF It was, he says, “just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred.” RS500

The “mighty, stream-of-consciousness, rock ballad” JA owes a debt to Al Kooper, for the signature “garage-gospel organ.” RS500 The usual guitarist snuck into Columbia Studios for the chance to play with Dylan, but when Mike Bloomfield arrived with his guitar, Kooper knew he couldn’t compete so he took up a position behind the Hammond organ, which he hadn’t played before. CR Dylan liked what he heard and even had it turned up in the mix, despite the opening being an 1/8 note behind everyone else. SF

Guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix liked what he heard as well – regarding Dylan’s voice, that is. Reportedly, Dylan’s unconventional vocals, “nasal and nasty, raw as barbed wire,” MA served as an inspiration to the legendary musician to see himself as more than just a guitarist. SF

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Bob Dylan
  • DMDB page for parent album Highway 61 Revisited
  • BBC BBC Radio 2 (2004). “Sold on Song Top 100
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 533-4.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 119.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 9.
  • NPR National Public Radio web site (1999). “The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SF
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 79.
  • WI Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Page 90.

First posted 7/24/2011; last updated 4/13/2021.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

“See You Again” spent 12th week at #1

See You Again

Wiz Khalifa with Charlie Puth

Writer(s): Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charlie Puth, Cameron Thomaz (see lyrics here)

Released: March 10, 2015

First Charted: March 28, 2015

Peak: 112 US, 14 RR, 13 AC, 2 A40, 114 RB, 12 UK, 18 CN, 16 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 0.73 UK, 13.22 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 5014.0 video, 952.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

The Fast and Furious movie franchise, starring Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, focused on fast cars and racing. In a sad twist of fate, Walker died in a car accident in 2013. For the seventh movie in the franchise, producers wanted a song to serve as a goodbye to Walker. Charlie Puth, who’d penned “Slow Motion” by Trey Songz, answered the call for demos, imagining a final text from Diesel to Walker saying, “I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.” SF

Puth was paired with Justin Franks, i.e. DJ Frank E, by his publishing company. WK The two shared a common bond which inspired the song – both lost friends to motorcycle accidents. Puth’s friend, Vail Cerullo, was a fellow student at Berklee College of Music and predicted Puth would write a #1 song. SF

One account suggests Puth was surprised to find out his vocal would be used in the song, SF but he told The Talk TV show that he refused to contribute the song unless he sang the hook. WK His vocal wasn’t the only one on the song, however. Wiz Khalifa was also commissed to add rap verses, which he crafted around the subject of family. WK

The song started at the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100, but picked up steam quickly, setting a record with its five-week ascent to the top for the fastest climb from #100 to #1. Only ten songs accomplished that feat; one of them was Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.” SF The song’s twelve weeks atop the chart tied Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” as the longest run at #1 for a rap song. SF It was the biggest-selling song in the world in 2015. WK

“See You Again” broke the record for Spotify’s most-streamed track in a single day with 4.26 million streams on April 17, 2015. SF In July 2017, it became the all-time most-watched music video on YouTube, surpassing the 2.8 billion views of PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” SF Its reign wasn’t long; the next month it was passed by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito.” SF

Resources and Related Links:

Last updated 3/30/2021.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Three Cheers for Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

image from

I’m into Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. The show. I mean the show.

Fans of Denis Leary's stand-up comedy and TV shows like The Job and Rescue Me know to expect a no-holds-barred, brash style which will have an insightful, yet brutal, honesty. With the possible exception of his voice work in the animated Ice Age movies, Leary could never be accused of being warm, cuddly, and lovable. Thus it should come as no surprise that Leary’s talent for in-your-face, deeply-flawed characters is on full display in the new FX series Rock & Roll.

Leary isn’t out to glamorize the rock lifestyle or make himself look cool. Johnny Rock, lead singer of the Heathens, is an egotistical jerk unaware of how much he looks like an idiot with his childish behavior. He boasts in a bar about a younger woman’s attraction to him, only to find himself punched in the crotch when it turns out to be his daughter.

As the daughter, Elizabeth Gillies holds her own with Leary. She insists he revive his songwriting partnership with Heathens’ guitarist Flash (played by John Corbett) to boost her career. Instead of seeing an opportunity to connect with the daughter he never knew he had, Leary sees only dollar signs. By the end, however, his own twisted version of fatherly protectiveness sets up a hilarious scene where he lambasts his bandmates for objectifying his daughter.

Based on Leary’s track record, this won’t veer into sappy territory with touching scenes of father and daughter bonding. He’ll continue his bad behavior and frustrate everyone around him. She will prove to be the only one capable of taming him. I’m sold.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

James Brown charted with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” 50 years ago today (7/15/1965)

First posted 4/9/2020.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

James Brown

Writer(s): James Brown (see lyrics here)

Released: June 1965

First Charted: July 15, 1965

Peak: 8 US, 8 CB, 6 HR, 18 RB, 25 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming


About the Song:

“Brand New Bag” is “arguably the first funk record,” RS500 “a metaphor for the changing times.” NPR Its razor-sharp guitar rhythms and shattering horn riffs…were simultaneously primitive and brand spanking new.” TB “With the possible exception of Little Richard, no one has ever made a rock or rhythm and blues record this extreme.” MA “Few songs have changed music as much.” CR “No record since – certainly no dance record – has been unmarked by it.” MA

“It also represents Brown’s first attempt to capture the rhythms of his live performances in a studio recording. All those breaks in the melody gave him a chance to execute his intricate dance moves.” NPR’99 The only way it “could be more bone-rattling would be if James Brown himself leaped from your speakers, grabbed you tight by the soldiers and danced you around the room.” MA

The lyrics about “an old man brave enough to get out on the dance floor of anightclub” WK “seemed largely gibberish, but for sheer, unbridled energy nothing else came close in the mid 1960s.” TB The “band provides a horn-heavy backdrop with a prominent rhythm and an electric guitar riff for a hook. Both singer and musicians place overwhelming emphasis on the first beat of each measure.” WK “It’s driven by the empty space between beats as much as by Brown’s bellow and guitarist Jimmy Nolen’s ice-chipper scratch.” RS500

Brown had been an R&B mainstay for about a decade. This was his tenth top-ten hit on the R&B charts and third #1. “But until ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ climbed the charts in 1965, he was largely unknown to white fans.” NPR This was his first top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

Resources and Related Links: