Sunday, August 28, 2016

8/28/1948: “Twelfth Street Rag” hits #1 more than 30 years after published

image from pinterest.com


Pee Wee Hunt “Twelfth Street Rag”


Writer(s): Euday L. Bowman, Andy Razaf

First charted: 6/28/1948

Peak: 18 US, 2 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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


Review: “Twelfth Street Rag” has an interesting history. It was first published in 1914 as a piano rag TY-136 by composer Euday L. Bowman. Years earlier, he was walking down 12th street with a friend known as “Raggedy Ed” who said he planned to open a pawn shop on the street. Bowman supposedly shot back that if his friend got rich from the shop, then Bowman would write a song to make himself rich. WK Since the song has become “the most recorded rag of all time,” JA-201 it would be fair to assume Bowman succeeded. No word on the pawn shop.

Actually, Bowman took more than 15 years to write down the music, finally selling it in 1913 to Jenkins Music Company. They thought the arrangement was too difficult and hired C.E. Wheeler to simplify it. WK In 1916, James S. Sumner added lyrics TY-136 and Earl Fuller got the song on the charts for the first time the following year, taking it to #7. Ted Lewis revived the song in 1923, reaching #14. In 1927, Bennie Moten and Louis Armstrong recorded it. WK In 1929, Spencer Williams added new lyrics. TY-136 In 1935, the song charted for a third time – this time with a #19 version by Fats Waller.

The song still wasn’t done transforming. Andy Razaf added new lyrics once again in 1942, TY-136 but it would be another six years before it charted again. This time, however, it had its greatest success. Pee Wee Hunt and his orchestra decided to record the song for Capitol Records. It went on to become one of the biggest records to date for the company, TY-136 selling more than three million and becoming the biggest-selling ragtime song of all time. JA-201

The song charted two more times by Frankie Carle (#10, 1948) and Liberace (#23, 1954). PM-599 The song was given yet another life when Big Tiny Little’s 1959 recording of the song became the theme for The Joe Franklin Show in the UK. WK The song also made appearances in the movie The English Patient (1996) and in the cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants. WK


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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.


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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

8/17/1918: “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” hits #1

image from 45worlds.com


Al Jolson with the Charles Prince Orchestra “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody”


Writer(s): Sam Lewis/ Joe Young/ Jean Schwartz (see lyrics here)

First charted: 8/10/1918

Peak: 18 US, 3 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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


Review: Crooner Bing Crosby once said of “Broadway’s most charismatic performer,” “Nobody could sell a song like Jolson.” LW-40 “Rock-a-Bye” was one of his signature songs, debuting alongside 26 other musical numbers in the stage play Sinbad. PS The show, which starred Jolson in his familiar black face, LW-40 opened at the Winter Garden on February 14, 1918 and ran for 164 performances. PS

Jean Schwartz, who was a native Hungarian, wrote the music. His sister had studied under composer Franz Liszt and taught Schwartz to play piano. LW-40 The lyrics were penned by Tin Pan Alley writers Sam Lewis and Joe Young, who also wrote for the vaudeville circuit and penned hits such as “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and “Sitting on Top of the World.” Lewis had previously worked as a café singer while Young demoed songs for publishing houses. LW-40 The “Stephen Foster sound-a-like song” even mentions the famous writer’s “Old Black Joe” and “Swanee River.” RCG

Jolson took the song to #1 in 1918; that same year Arthur Fields’ version went to #9. Jolson integrated the song in his vaudeville act and performed the song in three films – 1939’s Rose of Washington Square, 1946’s The Jolson Story, and 1946’s Jolson Sings Again. The song was also featured in 1929’s The Show of Shows and 1944’s The Merry Monahans. PS

The song resurfaced in 1956 as a top ten, million-selling hit for comedian Jerry Lewis JA-165 and Aretha Franklin hit #37 with he song in 1961. Cher, Sammy Davis Jr., Connie Francis, Judy Garland, and Brenda Lee also recorded versions. RCG


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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.


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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Sia hit #1 with “Cheap Thrills”

Last updated 2/15/2021.

Cheap Thrills

Sia with Sean Paul

Writer(s): Sia Furler, Greg Kurstin, Sean Paul Henriques (see lyrics here)


Released: February 11, 2016


First Charted: March 5, 2016


Peak: 14 US, 16 RR, 2 AC, 17 A40, 2 UK, 14 CN, 6 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 1.8 UK, 11.1 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2032.0 video, 1140.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Australian singer Sia had been around as a performer for years and toyed with the idea of switching gears and just being a songwriter. She initially wrote “Cheap Thrills” with Rihanna in mind since the Barbados singer had already found chart-topping success with the Sia-penned “Diamonds.” However, Rihanna’s people wanted something more soulful and turned it down. Sia realized it “sounded a little bit too Brit-pop for her” but thought there was “something really uplifting about it that put me in a good mood.” SF Shen ended up recording it herself for her seventh album, This Is Acting.

A remix of the song featuring reggae artist Sean Paul was released as the album’s second single. When Sia approached Paul, he listened to the song and thought, “What a big sound, nice hook and melody she had put down. I’m a huge fan of her voice. She spans generations.” SF

The “synthpop and dancehall song” WK went all the way to #1 on the BillboardHot 100. It was her first chart-topper as a performer and Paul’s fourth trip to the pinnacle. “Cheap Thrills” was also a #1 in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia and a top 10 in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. WK It became the all-time best-selling song in Italy. WK It was the most “Shazamed” of the year, meaning more people used the music identification app Shazam to identify this song in 2016 than any other song. SF The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Rolling Stone’s Brittany Spanos called the song a “bouncy party anthem” and NME’s Nick Levine said “there’s no denying this is another superior slab of on-trend ear candy from one of pop’s finest songwriters.” WK


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Friday, August 5, 2016

8/5/1944: Bing Crosby hits #1 with “Swinging on a Star”

image from music.meo.pt


Bing Crosby with the Williams Brothers Quartet “Swinging on a Star”


Writer(s): Jimmy Van Heusen/ Johnny Burke (see lyrics here)

First charted: 5/13/1944

Peak: 19 US, 1 GA, 2 HP, 1 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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


Review: Composer Jimmy Van Heusen was at Bing Crosby’s house for dinner specifically to discuss plan’s for a song for the impending movie Going My Way, starring Crosby. Bing’s son complained about not wanting to go to school the next day, to which Dad replied, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?” WK Van Heusen relayed the remark to lyricist Johnny Burke, WK who turned it into the line “By the way if you hate to go to school/ You may grow up to be a mule.”

The movie, which featured Crosby as a young Catholic priest, was one of his best-loved performances. Crosby sings the song a group of children at St. Dominic’s Church TY-117 who are behaving much as his own son had the night Van Heusen had come to dinner. WK The tune amusingly became a favorite for young listeners, JA-187 but had plenty of adult fans as well – it won the Academy Award for Best Song.

Crosby recorded “Swinging on a Star” with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Williams Brothers Quartet, which included 7-year-old Andy Williams, a future singing star himself. PM-109 It became the biggest hit of 1944. WHC-63 Others who’ve recorded the song include Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Burl Ives, Shari Lewis, Maureen McGovern, Oscar Peterson, and Frank Sinatra. WK

The song resurfaced multiple times in television in film, including a Little Lulu cartoon (1947), a performance from Jimmy Dean and Rowlf the Dog (a muppet) on the Jimmy Dean Show (1967), Sesame Street (Susan with muppets, 1969), and Julie Andrews’ television special My Favorite Things (1975). It became the theme song for the TV series Out of This World (1987) and Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello performed it in the film Hudson Hawk (1991). WK


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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.


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50 years ago: The Beatles released Revolver

Last updated 1/12/2021.

Revolver

The Beatles


Released: August 5, 1966


Peak: 16 US, 17 UK, 13 AU


Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 0.5 UK, 11.3 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

You can check out the Beatles’ complete singles discography here.

  1. Taxman (George Harrison) [2:36]
  2. Eleanor Rigby [2:11] (8/11/66, B-side of “Yellow Submarine,” 11 US, 1 UK, 1 CN, gold single, airplay: 2 million)
  3. I’m Only Sleeping [2:58]
  4. Love You To (George Harrison) [3:00]
  5. Here, There and Everywhere [2:29] (airplay: 3 million)
  6. Yellow Submarine [2:40] (8/11/66, 2 US, 1 UK, 1 CN, 1 AU, gold single, airplay: 1 million)
  7. She Said, She Said [2:39]
  8. Good Day Sunshine [2:08]
  9. And Your Bird Can Sing [2:02]
  10. For No One [2:03]
  11. Doctor Robert [2:14]
  12. I Want to Tell You (George Harrison) [2:30]
  13. Got to Get You into My Life [2:31] (6/12/76, 7 US, 9 AC, 1 CN, 93 AU, sales: 1 million, airplay: 2 million)
  14. Tomorrow Never Knows [3:00]

Songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney unless noted otherwise.


Total Running Time: 35:01


The Players:

  • John Lennon (vocals, guitar)
  • Paul McCartney (vocals, bass)
  • George Harrison (guitar, vocals)
  • Ringo Starr (drums, vocals)

Rating:

4.660 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)


Quotable: “Music’s most immaculate and innovative album.” – Clarke Speicher, The Review


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Many musicians changed the face of music, but only one band changed the world. With Revolver, The Beatles gave us more than we deserve.” RV “Like most Beatles albums, it could pass for a greatest hits collection.” VH1 Thanks to “consistently stunning songcraft,” AMG the “songs have endured as well as any ever written” IB and “set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve.” AMG “It is nearly impossible to overestimate this record.” IB

For years, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been hailed as the greatest album of all time, but there are some who argue Revolver is better. Abbey Road may be better loved, Meet the Beatles! was “life-changing for the generation coming of age when it was new,” and The White Album is probably “more respected than revered,” viewed by some as “unfocused and self-indulgent.” RR-xi However, Revolver has emerged as a dark horse “in lists assessing the group’s finest work.” RR-xii it is “the best introduction to their work, and the strongest single example of their magnificence.” TL

It pushed “the sonic boundaries of rock farther than any other LP in history;” JA it “declared rock and roll to be a wide-open field, something that could encompass the orchestral and the eastern, the romantic, the transcendental, and the whimsical.” VH1 It “covered so much new stylistic ground and executed it perfectly on one record.” AMG It “sparked subgenres with every track,” RR-xiii earning a reputation as “music’s most immaculate and innovative album.” RV

Predecessor “Rubber Soul only treaded water in the matters of turning pop-rock into art-rock.” GS However, with “some of the most innovative and gorgeous production heard then or since,” VH1 Revolver is “arguably the first psychedelic rock album.” CD “From that album on, sitars and backward-masking have stood as musical shorthand for ‘60s psychedelia.” VH1

In the Studio:

In 1963, the Beatles were given a single day to produce their first album, Please Please Me. By 1966, they’d earned the right to take as long as they wanted in the studio. RR-97 When plans to make another movie fell through, they found themselves with three months of unscheduled time which could be devoted to writing and recording. Because they were on the verge of abandoning live recording, they were also free to “produce songs that they had no intention of ever producing live.” RR-98 They were also established enough that they could take risks with odd experiments. RR-19

“Taxman”

Revolver roars to life” RV with “the fantastically funky and ominous” JA “Taxman.” It marked the first – and only time – a Beatles’ album opened with a Harrison composition. The song unexpectedly starts “with a disembodied voice mumbling ‘One, two, three, four...’ accompanied by tape-sped guitar sounds and a cough.” VH1

The “tightly wound, cynical rocker” AMG featured “a fantastically ferocious guitar solo from, of all people, Paul McCartney.” IB He said he wanted to try something “musically fiery in the spirit of early Hendrix – ‘feedback-y and crazy.’” RR-128 He drew from exotic Eastern scales rather than bluesy, Western ones. RR-128

As “the Beatles’ first serious social statement,” GS this “bitter diatribe” CD is a “stinging attack on British taxation.” RV John assisted George to give his “already-biting lyrics some extra sting.” RR-126

“Eleanor Rigby”

Paul’s “highest profile contribution to RevolverRR-81 was a “bleak portrait of loneliness” CD shaped by “melancholy strings.” TL As his “first (and one of the most successful) attempts at a 'serious' song,” GS Paul considered it “an artistic breakthrough: something beyond the mere pop stylings in which he’d trafficked to this point, a direction that could sustain him well into the future, after the ‘bubble burst’ on his Beatles career.” RR-132-3

The lyric “must have stopped Dylan in his tracks, emerging from the voice that had sung ‘Can't Buy Me Love’ just two years earlier.” IB His “most complex narrative...feature[s] two seemingly unrelated plots – that of the isolated Eleanor Rigby and the equally alienated Father MacKenzie.” RV Paul’s boyhood friend, Pete Shotton, was the one who suggested that the two lonely people cross paths when the priest officiates Rigby’s funeral. RR-82 Paul has claimed he just made up the name, but a monument with the name was found in a graveyard next to the church where John and Paul met in 1957. RR-83

Musically, the song featured an “appropriate and dramatic string section.” AD Producer George Martin had pushed for the use of a string quartet on “Yesterday” in 1965; this time a full-fledged string octet was used. “Eleanor Rigby” was the only Beatles song which didn’t feature any of the Fab Four playing any instruments. RV

“I’m Only Sleeping”

John had entered into what he later called his “Fat Elvis” stage in which he became slothful about writing and creating songs. RR-88 However, even in his laziness, he wrote an ode which was originally “a quite literal account of his need for slumber” but became “an evocation of purposeful daydreaming: escaping from the world’s transient but persistent demands in favor of turning off his mind, relaxing, and floating upstream.” RR-88

John’s vocals were recorded a slower speed and then double-tracked, RR-131 which gave the song a druggy feeling, “as if he had just woken up.” RV Paul suggested that George play his guitar solo backwards “to add to Lennon’s heady vibe.” RV As a result, the song “seems to exist in that beautiful place between dream and awake.” RV

The Kinks’ Ray Davies called it “the best thing on the album,” adding that “I can imagine they had George Martin tied to a totem pole when they did this.” RR-176

“Love You To”

George’s second composition on the album is one of his “finest moments.” AD His “exotic sermon” RR-66 concerning “the cosmic mind” GS was written on the sitar and performed almost entirely on Indian instruments. The song arguably gave birth to world music RR-xiii by exhibiting the sitar and George’s Eastern influences in a “daring, brave, experimental [that] comes across as perfectly natural.” AD

“Here, There and Everywhere”

Paul was directly inspired to write “Here, There, and Everywhere” by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Paul has called their song “God Only Knows” the greatest pop song ever. Paul’s song featured delicate harmonies, a double-tracked lead vocal, and layered, melodic guitar lines, RR-144-5 not to mention a “Pet Sounds style” AD “bass [that] gently beats – rising and rising.” AD John only expressed envy over two songs written by Paul – this one and “For No One.” RV

“Yellow Submarine”

“Of course, there's everyone's all-time favorite sing-along novelty tune – ‘Yellow Submarine.’” JA While “a children's song on the face,” AD this “charmingly hallucinogenic slice of childhood whimsy” AMG offers up “more production tricks and effects than...any song here apart from ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’” AD With its “uses of samples...voices [and] the big, fat and joyously happy bass line,” AD the song “points the way forward towards Sgt. Pepper.” AD

Part of the experimentation was designed to give the song some aquatic sounds. John blrew air through straws into a bucket of water and George sloshed water in a metal bathtub. In an effort to simulate underwater singing, John tried gargling and singing, which nearly choked him. They also submerged a microphone in water – protected by a condom – but it only produced a muffled sound. RR-141

The song was given to Ringo to sing because he gave it an “everyman” voice, deflating suggestions of pretension. RR-65 It was the first time the A-side of a single featured Ringo on vocals. RR-168

“She Said She Said”

“A drug-induced conversation with Peter Fonda inspired Lennon to write” RV “the spiraling ‘She Said She Said.’” AMG “Fonda's comment, ‘I know what it's like to be dead,’ laid the ground work for the song's opening line and other hazy musings.” RV “It was a milestone in the history of rock lyrics, as the first masked description of an acid trip and its, er, ‘side effects.’” GS Those lyrics are paired with “Ringo's great sounding drums [and an] interweaving duelling guitar effect.” AD

The song, the last recorded for the album, was one of the few on which Paul didn’t play. There are different stories as to why, but there was speculation that Paul walked out of the sessions because John asked George for help in writing the song instead of him. RR-146-8

“Good Day Sunshine”

On “I’m Only Sleeping,” John “could not bear the thought of daylight rousing him from his slumber.” RR-74 By contrast, on the “upbeat” CD “Good Day Sunshine,” Paul can’t wait to embrace the day. Paul was inspired by the “sunny sounds” of “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. RR-73 While the songs didn’t sound similar, they shared an “old-timey soft-shoe sensibility.” RR-73

Paul did most of the instrumentals, except the solo and drums, on the keyboard-driven tune. RR-143 “With its peculiar marching rhythms and a great optimistic feel,” GS this “is another fine song possibly pointing the way towards Sgt. Pepper production wise.” AD

“And Your Bird Can Sing”

Early takes of this song, “buried...in a maze of multi-tracked guitars,” AMG “came off as blatantly Byrdsian” RR-43 until the Beatles rethought making such an obvious homage and scrapped it. RR-43 It may have been inspired by Frank Sinatra’s use of the word “bird” as a phallic reference. RR-89

“For No One”

The “beautifully sad” AD “piano-driven” GS ‘For No One’ is “is a lament about a broken love, but with serious lyrical undertones.” GS The “minimally produced” DBW song “captures a couple's fading love through a series of flashbacks.” RV Ironically, Paul began the song while on a skiing holiday in Switzerland with Jane Asher. RR-80

The song, originally titled “Why Did It Die?,” used a clavichord, which is different than a harpsichord because the strings are struck instead of being plucked. RR-136

“Doctor Robert”

John’s “experiments with LSD...resulted in the first openly psychedelic songs.” GS “Doctor Robert” was a “direct and unambiguous” song on recreational drug use. The “tongue-in-cheek salute to a drug-dispensing physician” RR-121 sparked a lot of speculation about who Doctor Robert was. Some thought it might be Bob Dylan, who introduced Lennon to marijuana in 1964. Other candidates were Dr. Robert Freymann who specialized in giving speed-laced B-12 shots to musicians and Dr. Max Jacobson who treated famous people with injected cocktails of vitamins and amphetamines. RR-86

“I Want to Tell You”

On his “jaunty yet dissonant ‘I Want to Tell You’” AMG George offers “general commentary on communication breakdown” RR-68 by serving up “self-analysis of his own inarticualateness.” RR-66 He “presents...a vivid picture of a stuttering, confused mind, and the song’s dreary, dreamy mood only accentuates this.” GS

It was the first time George contributed three songs to a Beatles’ album, “up from the usual two he was restricted to.” RV That may have been because John didn’t have any other songs ready. RR-142 George also challenged “Lennon-McCartney's songwriting dominance” RS by being “the first of the band” GS to largely shun “generic love ballads from his repertoire.” GS

“Got to Get You into My Life”

This “bold, brassy slab of American-styled R&B” RR-84 was the first Beatles’ song to feature horns. RR-84 This may have been the kind of song Paul had in mind when the group was looking into recording at Stax in the U.S. RR-111 While a seemingly straightforward love song, this was actually Paul’s ode to weed. RR-84

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

“John...begins to dabble in psychedelia on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’” RV a song which “effectively kicked off the psychedelic rock movement” TL and anticipated electronica. RR-xiii “With its dense wall of noise” AD and Lennon’s “eerie...vocal,” CD this is “the most innovative track on the album” RS and “the most radical departure from previous Beatles' recordings.” CD

Inspired by “the Buddhist Tibetan Book of the Dead and drug guru Timothy Leary's The Psychedelic Experience,” RV Lennon attempts “to distill an LSD trip into a three-minute song.” RS “John Lennon told engineer Geoff Emerick” TL to “’make me sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a mountaintop.’” TL

Beneath it all are “Ringo's thundering, menacing drumbeats and layers of overdubbed, phased guitars and tape loops” AMG with “each of the members fading in and out.” RV “Every song leading up to this grand finale has Revolver knocking at the door of greatness, while ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ kicks it off the hinges.” RV


Notes: “I’m Only Sleeping,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and “Doctor Robert” were omitted from the U.S. version of the album because they’d already been released on the U.S.-only album Yesterday…and Today in June 1966. The UK version of the album was the official release when Revolver came out on CD.

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