Friday, September 14, 2018

50 years ago: Jimi Hendrix charted with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”

All Along the Watchtower

Bob Dylan

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

Released: December 6, 1967 (album cut)

Peak: 5 CL, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.1 video, -- streaming

All Along the Watchtower

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Released: September 2, 1968

First Charted: September 14, 1968

Peak: 20 US, 18 CB, 8 GR, 18 HR, 1 CL, 5 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 119.2 video, 478.88 streaming

Awards (Hendrix):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Jimi Hendrix is largely credited with reinventing the electric guitar and his prowess is never more apparent than on his take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” “Raging and climactic where Dylan’s had been soft-paced and relaxed,” AMG Hendrix’s version pulls off the rare feat of giving the world a cover that outdoes its original source. After hearing Hendrix tackle it, “you can’t imagine it...any other way.” BBC Dylan himself has admitted that in his subsequent performances of the song, he strove to emulate Hendrix’s version. RS500 “When I sing it,” Dylan said, “ I… feel like it’s a tribute to him.” LW

Dylan first recorded the song for 1968’s John Wesley Harding. Musically, the song is a perfect example of why Dylan songs lend themselves so easily to re-interpretation. “Aside from a few harmonica flourishes, it is a fairly basic affair,” BBC both “direct and unadorned.” LW

Lyrically, the song took the form of a conversation between a joker and a thief in “an allegorical tale about the sweeping away of society’s old guard.” BBC Peppered with “Biblical imagery and apocalyptic words,” AMG the original has “such an odd, abstract lyric that hardly anyone…could have held on long enough to spot the song hidden within,” MA but Hendrix’s interpretation does so, “obliterating the lyric’s pretensions” MA and giving the song an “urgency and edginess…far more in keeping with its apocalyptic message.” BBC

While at a party, Hendrix proclaimed to Traffic’s Dave Mason his interest in recording the song just a few weeks after its release. Just days later, the pair assembled with drummer Mitch Mitchell at London’s Olympic Studios to nail down their rendition AMG that has now become a rock standard.


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Jimi Hendrix
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Bob Dylan
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Thomas Ward
  • BBC BBC Radio 2 (2004). “Sold on Song Top 100
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 129.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 147.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/2004). The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

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Last updated 11/21/2022.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Top 50 Operas of All Time

image from

This list was created, as are most DMDB lists, by aggregating multiple best-of lists, both those focused specifically on opera and those on all albums/works regardless of genre, alongside sales, chart data, and album ratings. Here are the results:

1. Claudio Monteverdi: L’Orfeo (Orpheus) (1607)
2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni (1787)
3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) (1786)
4. Richard Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle) (1874)
5. Richard Wagner: Tristan Und Isolde (1859)
6. Georges Bizet: Carmen (1875)
7. Gioacchino Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) (1816)
8. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) (1791)
9. George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin/Dubose Heyward: Porgy and Bess (1935)
10. Giacomo Puccini: Tosca (1900)

11. Giacomo Puccini: La Bohème (The Bohemian Life) (1896)
12. Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata (The Fallen Woman) (1853)
13. Claudio Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppaea) (1642)
14. Giuseppe Verdi: Aida (1871)
15. Giacomo Puccini: Turandot (1926)
16. Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto: La Donna È Mobile (1851)
17. Henry Purcell: Dido and Aeneas (1689)
18. Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) (1904)
19. George Friedrich Händel: Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt) (1724)
20. Luciano Pavarotti with Placido Domingo & Jose Carreras: The Three Tenors in Concert/Mehta (live: 1990)

21. Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio (1805)
22. Vincenzo Bellini: Norma (1831)
23. Andrea Bocelli: Romanza (1997)
24. Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) (1911)
25. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) (1781)
26. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Cosí Fan Tutte (Thus Do They All) (1790)
27. Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor (1911)
28. Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice) (1762)
29. Giuseppe Verdi: Otello (1887)
30. Alban Berg: Wozzeck (1922)

31. Giuseppi Verdi: Il Trovatore (The Troubador) (1853)
32. Modest Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (1873)
33. Christoph Willibald Gluck: Iphigenie en Tauride (Pphigenia in Tauris) (1779)
34. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Idomeneo (1781)
35. Gaetano Donizetti: L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love) (1873)
36. Richard Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander (aka 'The Flying Dutchman') (1843)
37. Gioacchino Rossini: Guillaume Tell (William Tell) (1829)
38. Richard Wagner: Lohengrin (1850)
39. Pietro Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) (1890)
40. Gioacchino Rossini: La Cenerentola (Cinderella) (1817)

41. Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg (The Master-Singers of Nuremburg) (1868)
42. Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsk: Eugene Onegin (1879)
43. Jules Massenet: Manon (1884)
44. Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freishchutz (The Marksman) (1821)
45. Hector Berlioz: La Damanation of Faust (The Damnation of Faust) (1846)
46. Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) (1842)
47. Charles Gounod: Faust (1859)
48. Richard Wagner: Tannhauser (1845)
49. Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlos (1867)
50. Claude Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande (1902)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Top 50 Blues Albums of All Time

First posted 9/10/2018; updated 9/4/2020.


The Top 100 Albums

This list started as a post on the DMDB Facebook page (Top 10 Blues and Blues/Rock Albums) on 2/23/2010. It has been expanded and refocused on just blues albums, although some albums still making the cut are arguably more in the blues/rock genre (Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan).

The list was created, as are most DMDB lists, by aggregating multiple best-of lists (see sources at bottom of page), both those focused specifically on the blues and those on all albums regardless of genre, alongside sales, chart data, and album ratings.

Also, check out other best-of-genre lists here.

1. Robert Johnson The Complete Recordings (compilation: 1936-37, released 1990)
2. B.B. King Live at the Regal (live, 1964)
3. John Mayall & the Blues Breakers Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (1966)
4. The Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones (aka ‘England’s Newest Hitmakers’) (1964)
5. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble Texas Flood (1983)
6. Howlin’ Wolf Moanin’ in the Moonlight/Howlin’ Wolf (aka ‘The Rockin’ Chair Album’) (compilations: 1951-62, released in 1959 and 1962) *
7. Bessie Smith The Essential (compilation: 1923-1933, released 1997)
8. Muddy Waters At Newport (1960)
9. ZZ Top Tres Hombres (1973)
10. Bobby “Blue” Bland Two Steps from the Blues (1956-60)

11. Eric Clapton: From the Cradle (1994)
12. Albert King Born Under a Bad Sign (1967)
13. Junior Wells Hoodoo Man Blues (1965)
14. Eric Clapton & B.B. King Riding with the King (2000)
15. Robert Cray Strong Persuader (1986)
16. Muddy Waters Best of/His Best 1947-55 (compilations: 1947-55, released 1958 and 1997)
17. Charlie Patton Founder of the Delta Blues (compilation: 1929-34, released 1969)
18. Paul Butterfield Blues Band Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965)
19. Willie Dixon/various artists The Chess Box (compilation: 1951-69, released 1988)
20. Magic Sam West Side Soul (1967)

21. Albert Collins Ice Pickin’ (1978)
22. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble In Step (1989)
23. Eric Clapton Me and Mr. Johnson (covers: 2004)
24. Muddy Waters Hard Again (1977)
25. Elmore James The Sky Is Crying – The History of (compilation: 1951-63, released 1993)
26. Howlin’ Wolf The Chess Box (compilation: 1951-73, released 1991)
27. Rory Gallagher Irish Tour ’74 (live: 1974)
28. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble Couldn’t Stand the Weather (1984)
29. Skip James The Complete Early Recordings (compilation: 1930, released 1994)
30. B.B. King Live in Cook County Jail (live: 1970, released 1971)

31. Muddy Waters Folksinger (1964)
32. Paul Butterfield Blues Band East West (1966)
33. Big Joe Turner Boss of the Blues (1956)
34. Muddy Waters The Real Folk Blues (compilation: 1947-64, released 1966)
35. Blind Willie Johnson Praise God I’m Satisfied (compilation: 1927-30, released 1977)
36. B.B. King Singin’ the Blues (1956)
37. John Lee Hooker The Ultimate Collection (compilation: 1948-90, released 1991)
38. Albert King Live Wire/Blues Power (1968)
39. Ry Cooder Paradise and Lunch (1974)
40. Little Walter His Best – Chess 50th Anniversary Collection (compilation: 1952-60, released 1997)

41. Robert Cray Bad Influence (1983)
42. Blind Lemon Jefferson King of the Country Blues (compilation: 1926-29, released 1990)
43. Johnny Winter The Progressive Blues Experiment (1968)
44. Mississippi Fred McDowell I Do Not Play No Rock and Roll (1969)
45. Sonny Boy Williamson II Down and Out Blues (1959)
46. Gary Moore Still Got the Blues (1990)
47. T-Bone Walker T-Bone Blues (1959)
48. Henry Thomas Texas Worried Blues – Complete Recorded Works (compilation: 1927-29, released 1975)
49. Otis Spann Is the Blues (1960)
50. The Blues Brothers The Blues Brothers (soundtrack, 1980)

* These were initially released as two separate albums, but are now typically packaged together.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

100 years ago: Joseph C. Smith hit #1 with “Smiles”


Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra and Harry MacDonough

Writer(s): Lee Roberts (music), J. Will Callahan (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: August 10, 1918

Peak: 11 US, 112 GA, 114 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.02 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This “wartime morale booster” TY2 was introduced in the revue The Passing Show of 1918 by Nell Carrington and a chorus of girls. TY2 Part of the song’s popularity may be attributed to it being a song that came out during the Great War, but wasn’t directly about it. It gave “soldiers and their loved ones back home a break from the war.” TY2

Composer Lee Roberts was at a convention and heard a lecture on the value of a smile in business. He wrote a melody along with some suggested lyrics, including the line “There are smiles that make us happy and smiles that make us blue” and sent it to J. Will Callahan. He expanded it into a full song.

“Smiles” “was a break from the military marching music of the past few years and was very modern for its era allowing the showcasing of the musicians with a vocalist secondary to the overall sound of the record, a style that would dominate the first half of the decade of the 1920s.” SM

Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra took the song to #1 in 1918. “Joseph Cyrus Smith was born in New York City in 1883 and before the war, he was leader of his own dance band which had a residency at the Plaza Hotel in New York.” SM His version featured vocals from Harry MacDonough. SM There were also versions that year from Henry Burr & Albet Campbell (#3) and Lambert Murphy (#5). PM The song was used in several movies, including Applause (1929), For Me and My Girl (1942), The Dolly Sisters (1945), Somebody Loves Me (1952), and The Eddy Duchin Story (1956).


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First posted 3/20/2023.