Saturday, December 31, 2016

America’s Pop Music Hall of Fame

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America’s Pop Music Hall of Fame launched in 2012 with a list of 40 nominees for potential induction. To be eligible for the Hall, an act must have charted between 1946 and 1975. There’s no indication of what chart – the site simply says “national charts.” An actual structure for the Hall was supposed to open in a modest 3000-square foot space in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (just outside Pittsburgh) in time for the first ceremony, but as of this post, that had yet to happen. The city, which boasts native sons Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, calls itself the country’s “small town musical capital.” Here are the inductees from 2013 to 2017:


2016: Top 25 Albums

First posted 1/8/2021.

Dave’s Music Database:

Top Albums of 2016

Based on a combination of year-end lists and overall status in Dave’s Music Database, these are the top 25 albums of 2016:

  1. Beyoncé Lemonade
  2. David Bowie Blackstar
  3. Drake Views
  4. Frank Ocean Blond
  5. Rihanna Anti
  6. Solange A Seat at the Table
  7. Sturgill Simpson A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
  8. Bruno Mars 24K Magic
  9. Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool
  10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree

  11. Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker
  12. The Weeknd Starboy
  13. A Tribe Called Quest We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
  14. Chance the Rapper Coloring Book
  15. Miranda Lambert The Weight of These Wings
  16. Bon Iver 22, a Million
  17. The 1975 I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It
  18. Kane Brown Kane Brown
  19. Childish Gambino Awaken, My Love!
  20. Moana soundtrack

  21. Ariana Grande Dangerous Woman
  22. Post Malone Stoney
  23. Keith Urban Ripcord
  24. Lady Gaga Joanne
  25. Kendrick Lamar Untitled, Unmastered

Resources and Related Links:

50 Years Ago Today: The Monkees’ hit #1 with “I’m a Believer”

First posted 3/1/2012; updated 12/24/2019.

I’m a Believer

The Monkees

Writer(s): Neil Diamond (see lyrics here)

Released: November 12, 1966

First Charted: December 3, 1966

Peak: 17 US, 18 CB, 15 HR, 14 UK, 12 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales *: 1.0 US, 0.4 UK, 10.0 world (includes US + UK)

Radio Airplay *: --

Video Airplay *: 21.28

Streaming *: --

* in millions


Jeff Barry discovered Neil Diamond singing in a coffee house in Greenwich Village. BR1-216 They became two of the biggest talents for the hit-making machine known as the Brill Building. Diamond has become one of the most successful singer/songwriters, ranking #3 all-time on the adult contemporary charts and in the top 25 for the pop charts. However, his biggest success came via a made-for-television group.

That group, the Monkees, were modeled after the playful spirit of the Beatles’ movies. JA-95 While they fought to play their own songs, producers limited the Monkees to singing and brought in session musicians for the instruments. SF The show, which aired from 1966 to 1968, propelled the Monkees to the top of the charts with debut single “Last Train to Clarksville.”

When publisher Don Kirshner was seeking a million-selling follow-up, he turned to Barry and Elle Greenwich, Diamond’s producers, after hearing Diamond’s top 10 hit “Cherry Cherry” on the radio. BR1-216 Kirshner picked out several songs Diamond was prepping for his next album, among them “I’m a Believer.” The head of Diamond’s record company couldn’t believe he’d give away potential number ones, but, as Diamond says, “I couldn’t have cared less because I had to pay the rent.” SF After all, Diamond intended to give the song to country artist Eddy Arnold. KL-129

In the Monkees’ hands, the song became the biggest hit of 1966 WHC-91 and “one of the Hot 100’s finest specimens of pure pop genius.” BB100 The song went to #1 for 7 weeks in the U.S. and sold 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the world’s all-time best-selling songs. Diamond still recorded the song, releasing it on his 1967 album Just for You and as a single in 1971, peaking at #51. The song resurfaced in 2001 when the alternative rock group Smash Mouth recorded it for the movie Shrek and took it to #25 on the pop charts.

Resources and Related Links:


Friday, December 23, 2016

50 years ago: Buffalo Springfield released “For What It’s Worth”

First posted 4/19/2020; updated 2/7/2021.

For What It’s Worth

Buffalo Springfield

Writer(s): Stephen Stills (see lyrics here)

Released: December 23, 1966

First Charted: January 14, 1967

Peak: 7 US, 7 CB, 8 HR, 1 CL, 9 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 52.6 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“It feels like an anti-war song, but ‘For What It’s Worth’ was far more domestic than that.” DT “It sprang out of the civil war in miniature that [songwriter Stephen] Stills was witnessing on Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip at the time.” TB It became “a defining sound of the time period, in which inter-generational discord was rampant and youth were attempting to assert themselves against authority figures.” KW It “established Stephen Stills as a spokesman for ‘60s youth.” SJ

Pandora’s Box, a nightclub on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, closed down and there were, as Stills said, “a bunch of kids having a funeral for a bar.” CR “The LAPD decided to run a line-up across the street, like there was some kind of revolution going on.” CR Stills had just visited Latin America “and was horrified at how similar the tensions in that region on the brink of revolution were to those in a developed democracy.” TB “The Summer of Love was unraveling before it even began.” RS500

Another account suggests the “crowds of longhairs” MA were “blocking sdewalks, smoking dope, spilling into the streets…Neighborhood businessmen complained of the disruptions,” MA concerned the “scruffy hippies were chasing away legitimate customers.” SJ When the Los Angeles police force was “called upon to rid the street of ‘undesirables,’ they busted heads.” MA

“When song lyrics stick in our minds…the reason is not to be found in the lyrics alone, but in the combination fo lyrics and tune and beat and performance and, most of all, sound.” WI “The song is a call to awareness and, at least implicitly, resistance, but there is also a plea for brotherhood, a rejection of ‘us and them’ thinking.” WK That message is accompanied by “Neil Young’s guitar [which] tolled like a funeral bell;” RS500 it “had a beautiful ringing...basically one note…that sounded like heaven opening. The entire apocalypse was in that one note.” CR

Resources and Related Links:

  • Buffalo Springfield’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 357-8.
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. Page 183.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Pages 838-9.
  • KW (12/25/2013). “30 Songs That Changed the Course of Musical History” by Kayli Woods
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (4/7/2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • DT Dave Thompson (2011). 1000 Songs That Rock Your World. Krause Publications: Iola, WI. Pag 69.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 96.
  • WI Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Pages 45-6.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era (1890-1953)

cover for Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era book

This is a companion book to The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at as a standard book or ebook!

When I was in the beginning stages of The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, the intent was to write a “top 100 songs of all time” book. As I quickly discovered, most lists which proclaimed to offer the best of all time are really focused on the latter half of the second century. I decided to retool my project to focus on those years with the idea that I would later roll out another book focused on the pre-rock era.

That book is still in the works, but I thought I’d roll out the list as it stands now as a teaser. As always with DMDB lists, the rankings are determined by aggregating multiple best-of lists and factoring in songs’ sales, chart stats, and awards. It should be noted that in the pre-rock era there were often multiple versions of a song. In fact, some best-of lists did not list a specific version. When the latter occurred, all versions of a song were given points. Once all points were compiled, only the top version of a song was included in this list.

The Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era (1890-1953)

1. White Christmas… Bing Crosby (1942)
2. Over the Rainbow… Judy Garland (1939)
3. Night and Day…Fred Astaire (1932)
4. Alexander’s Ragtime Band…Arthur Collins with Byron Harlan (1911)
5. In the Mood…Glenn Miller (1939)
6. Star Dust…Artie Shaw (1941)
7. Cheek to Cheek…Fred Astaire (1935)
8. St. Louis Blues…Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong (1925)
9. My Blue Heaven…Gene Austin (1927)
10. Begin the Beguine…Artie Shaw (1938)

11. Over There…American Quartet (1917)
12. Whispering…Paul Whiteman (1920)
13. Swanee…Al Jolson (1920)
14. April Showers…Al Jolson (1922)
15. Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All the Time)…Ethel Waters (1933)
16. You’re a Grand Old Flag (aka “The Grand Old Rag”)…Billy Murray (1906)
17. Let Me Call You Sweetheart…Peerless Quartet (1911)
18. All the Things You Are…Tommy Dorsey with Jack Leonard (1939)
19. The Way You Look Tonight…Fred Astaire (1936)
20. Sweet Adeline (You’re the Flower of My Heart)…Haydn Quartet (1904)

21. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer…Gene Autry (1949)
22. Tennessee Waltz…Patti Page (1950)
23. Pennies from Heaven…Bing Crosby (1936)
24. Peg O’ My Heart…The Harmonicats (1947)
25. As Time Goes By…Dooley Wilson (1942)
26. Paper Doll…The Mills Brothers (1942)
27. Ol’ Man River…Paul Robeson (1928)
28. You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)…Al Jolson (1913)
29. Take Me Out to the Ball Game…Billy Murray with the Haydn Quartet (1908)
30. Body and Soul…Coleman Hawkins (1940)

31. Moonlight Bay…American Quartet (1912)
32. Dardanella…Ben Selvin (1920)
33. Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis…Billy Murray (1904)
34. Give My Regards to Broadway…Billy Murray (1905)
35. You Belong to Me…Jo Stafford (1952)
36. By the Light of the Silvery Moon…Billy Murray with Haydn Quartet (1910)
37. Ain’t Misbehavin’…Thomas “Fats” Waller (1929)
38. Goodnight Irene…The Weavers (1950)
39. Tea for Two…Marion Harris (1925)
40. A-Tisket, A-Tasket…Ella Ftizgerald with Chick Webb (1938)

41. Mood Indigo…Duke Ellington (1931)
42. The Prisoner’s Song…Vernon Dalhart (1925)
43. Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)…Vaughn Monroe (1949)
44. In the Good Old Summertime…Haydn Quartet (1903)
45. Sentimental Journey…Les Brown with Doris Day (1945)
46. I’ll Never Smile Again…Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra (1940)
47. Near You…Francis Craig with Bob Lamm (1947)
48. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love…Cliff Edwards (1928)
49. Shine on, Harvest Moon…Harry MacDonough with Miss Walton (1909)
50. School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids)…Byron Harlan (1907)

51. Chattanooga Choo Choo…Glenn Miller (1941)
52. The Christmas Song…Nat “King” Cole (1946)
53. It Had to Be You…Isham Jones (1924)
54. When You Wish Upon a Star…Cliff Edwards (1940)
55. Happy Days Are Here Again…Ben Selvin (1930)
56. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes…Paul Whiteman with Bob Lawrence (1933)
57. Tiger Rag…Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1918)
58. God Bless America…Kate Smith (1939)
59. How High the Moon…Les Paul with Mary Ford (1951)
60. Blue Moon…Glen Gray with Kenny Sargent (1935)

61. I Got Rhythm...Red Nichols (1930)
62. Mona Lisa… Nat “King” Cole (1950)
63. Buttons and Bows…Dinah Shore & Her Harper Valley Boys (1948)
64. Yankee Doodle Boy…Billy Murray (1905)
65. Till We Meet Again…Henry Burr with Albert Campbell (1919)
66. I’ll Be Seeing You…Bing Crosby (1944)
67. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling…Chauncey Olcott (1913)
68. Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home…Arthur Collins (1902)
69. It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary…John McCormack (1915)
70. Always…George Olsen with Fran Frey, Bob Rice, & Edward Joye (1926)

71. Deep Purple…Larry Clinton with Bea Wain (1939)
72. The Gypsy…The Ink Spots (1946)
73. Strange Fruit…Billie Holiday (1939)
74. Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody…Al Jolson (1918)
75. My Gal Sal…Byron Harlan (1907)
76. Swinging on a Star…Bing Crosby (1944)
77. Sonny Boy…Al Jolson (1928)
78. Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie…Byron Harlan (1906)
79. Ain’t We Got Fun?...Van & Schenck (1921)
80. I’ve Heard That Song Before…Harry James with Helen Forrest (1943)

81. Frenesi…Artie Shaw (1940)
82. Casey Jones… American Quartet with Billy Murray (1910)
83. On the Sunny Side of the Street…Ted Lewis (1930)
84. I’m in the Mood for Love...Little Jack Little (1935)
85. Someone to Watch Over Me...Gertrude Lawrence (1927)
86. Twelfth Street Rag...Pee Wee Hunt (1948)
87. After You’ve Gone…Marion Harris (1919)
88. Some Enchanted Evening...Perry Como (1949)
89. For Me and My Gal…Judy Garland with Gene Kelly (1942)
90. Darktown Strutters’ Ball...Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan (1918)

91. My Melancholy Baby... Gene Austin (1928)
92. Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me)...Woody Herman (1941)
93. I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now…Henry Burr (1909)
94. Silent Night…Bing Crosby (1935)
95. Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet…Haydn Quartet (1909)
96. In My Merry Oldsmobile…Billy Murray (1905)
97. Down by the Old Mill Stream…Harry MacDonough (1911)
98. Blue Skies...Ben Selvin (1927)
99. Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?...Rudy Vallee (1932)
100. Take the “A” Train…Duke Ellington (1941)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

12/18/1909: “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet” becomes Haydn Quartet’s 11th #1

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Haydn Quartet “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet”

Writer(s): Stanley Murphy/ Percy Weinrich (see lyrics here)

First charted: 12/11/1909

Peak: 111 US, 13 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music sales)

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

Review: The song which was originally rejected for having “no popular appeal” PS became the biggest song of 1909 WHC-16 and “a favorite of barbershop quartets and community sings.” JA-161 It was also the longest-running #1 for the Haydn Quartet, which included big names like Billy Murray and Harry MacDonough. They charted more than 60 hits from 1898 to 1914, including twelve trips to the top of the charts. However, their version of “Bonnet” was the biggest of their #1 hits.

Arthur Clough and Byron Harlan each took the song to the top ten in 1910. Over a quarter century later, Jimmie Lunceford took the song back to the charts, peaking at #11 in 1937. The song was also covered by Pearl Bailey, Tommy Dorsey, Coleman Hawkins, Ethel Merman, the Mills Brothers, and Hank Snow.

The memorable lyrics were scribed by Stanley Murphy, who would have success penning words for a variety of composers. Amongst his hits were “Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee” (1912), “Oh How She Could Yacki, Hacki, Wicki, Wacki, Woo” (1916), and “Sugar Moon” (1910).

Ragtime/tin pan alley composer Percy Weinrich worked with Murphy on “Sugar Moon” as well as “Bonnet.” PS He also composed “Wabash Avenue After Dark” (1909), “When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose” (1914), and “Minnetonka” (1921). Revenue from the hit allowed Weinrich to focus on composition and supporting the vaudevillian career of his wife, Dolly Connolly. PS

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.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

12/11/1911: Harry MacDonough charts with “Down by the Old Mill Stream”

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Harry MacDonough “Down by the Old Mill Stream”

Writer(s): Tell Taylor (see lyrics here)

First charted: 12/11/1911

Peak: 17 US, 13 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 6.0 (sheet music sales)

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

Review: With hundreds of songs under his belt, Tell Taylor was “one of the powerhouses in musical composition during the early 20th century,” PS but of all his songs, probably none is more familiar than “Down by the Old Mill Stream.” He wrote it in 1908 while sitting on the banks of the Blanchard River in Ohio, WK although it has been reported that it was modeled on “Down by the Old Stream,” a Joseph P. Skelly song from 1874. SS-436 The lyrical focus is on someone older looking back on a lifelong romance, but true to form for post-1900 songs, it focuses more on reality than sentiment. SS-436

Musically, MacDonough’s version was unique in that he sang the first half with an orchestra, but then the orchestra is replaced by a quartet – most likely the Haydn Quartet, of which MacDonough was a member. The rest of the song is then handled a cappella by the quartet. SS-436 That combination of four-part harmony alongside the “beautifully flowing melody with romantic lyrics” PS made the song a barbershop quartet favorite RCG and arguably the song that defines that genre. PS

The song was one of only four from 1890-1954 to sell 5 million in sheet music. PM-634 One of those, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” shares other traits with “Stream.” Both songs were published in 1910 and first charted in 1911. The first chart versions of each were by Arthur Clough. Usually the first charted version of a song was the biggest, but the Peerless Quartet and Harry MacDonough each topped the chart for seven weeks with, respectively, their recordings of “Sweetheart” and “Old Mill Stream,” leaving poor Arthur Clough the dubious distinction of also-ran status – twice.

“The song was originally published with not only the piano version but also with an arrangement for male vocal quartet.” PS The song resurfaced in the 1936 film Her Master’s Voice JA-51 and the Mills Brothers revived the song in the 1940s “with a more swinging style to it.” RCG In 1965, Alvin and the Chipmunks recorded the song and Snoopy played the song in the 2000 animated special It’s the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown. WK

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.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Beach Boys hit #1 with "Good Vibrations" fifty years ago today (12/10/1966)

First posted 10/22/2011; updated 4/17/2020.

Good Vibrations

The Beach Boys

Writer(s):Mike Love/Brian Wilson (see lyrics here)

Released: October 10, 1966

First Charted: October 22, 1966

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 12 UK, 2 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 38.9 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

At the time of its release, “Good Vibrations” was the most expensive single ever released BR1 with one claim putting the total recording cost as high as a million dollars. JA The song was pieced together from hundreds of recording sessions NPR and more than seventy hours of tape CR generated in four studios over seventh months time. RS500

The song is the “crowning achievement” RS500 for Brian Wilson, who has been called “rock and roll’s finest composer ever.” WI While still a Beach Boy in name, Wilson stayed home while the rest of the group toured. This freed him to go wild in the studio, most notably in using a theremin, which is a keyboard instrument best known for its use in soundtracks to horror films. HL While the end result employed the vocal talents of the other Beach Boys, none of them actually played on the song. KL

As for the term “good vibrations,” Wilson told Rolling Stone that his mother had explained how dogs barked at some people, but not at others, “‘that a dog would pick up vibrations from some people that you can’t see, but you can feel. And the same thing happened with people.’” BR1

Wilson was convinced of the song’s good vibe, saying it would be better than the Righteous Brothers‘ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’” RS500 Beach Boy Bruce Johnston was a little more nervous, saying, “’we’re either going to have the biggest hit in the world – or the Beach Boys’ career is over.’” HL It turned out the public appreciated the song‘s vibe as well; it met with instant success, selling 400,000 in four days SJ and becoming the group’s first million-seller TB and third #1.

Resources and Related Links:

  • The Beach Boys’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 215.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Page 779.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 24.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 66.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 127.
  • NPR National Public Radio (1999). “The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century
  • RS500 Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” (12/04).
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. Page 193.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 83.
  • WI Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. Page 105. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc.