Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Birth of a Nation

The redoubtable Mark Lerner sends along the following link to the first twenty-four hours in the history of MTV: Music Television, from August 1, 1981. I doubt you want to watch the whole thing, but the winsome Martha Quinn is still worth checking out.

To make things easier for you, here is a list of the songs played that day on MTV. The playlist is better than I remember - the Pretenders and "Oliver's Army" are always worth hearing - but also more repetitive. If you were watching MTV that day, I hope you liked Rod Stewart and REO Speedwagon:

The Buggles: "Video Killed the Radio Star"
Pat Benatar: "You Better Run"
Rod Stewart: "She Won't Dance"
The Who: "You Better You Bet"
Phd: "Little Susie's on the Up" I have no idea who or what this is.
Cliff Richard: "We Don't Talk Anymore" This video, from 1979, is basically someone using every digital effect on their brand new videotape editing machine. Gerry Todd would have loved it.
The Pretenders: "Brass in Pocket"
Todd Rundgren: "Time Heals"
REO Speedwagon: "Take It on the Run" If you're going to play a bunch of REO, this is the one to kick it off with. I always liked it much better than "Keep on Loving You."
Styx: "Rockin' the Paradise"
Robin Lane & The Chartbusters: "When Things Go Wrong"
Split Enz: "History Never Repeats"
.38 Special: "Hold On Loosely"
April Wine: "Just Between You and Me"
Rod Stewart: "Sailing" Was this the Christopher Cross song?
Iron Maiden: "Iron Maiden"
REO Speedwagon: "Keep On Loving You" "I don't want to sleep/I just want to keep": Genius!
The Pretenders: "Message of Love"
Lee Ritenour: Mr. Briefcase"
The Cars: Double Life"
Phil Collins: "In the Air Tonight"
Robert Palmer: "Looking for Clues"
The Shoes: "Too Late" The Shoes were a pretty great power-pop band from Zion, Illinois, sort of the missing link between Cheap Trick and Enuff Z'Nuff.
Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"
Rupert Hines: "Surface Tension"
Madness: "One Step Beyond"
Gerry Rafferty: "Baker Street"
Pat Benatar: "I'm Gonna Follow You"
Tom Johnson: "Savannah Nights
Rockestra: "Lucille" This was a one-off formed for some charity thing, with Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Robert Plant, bunch of other guys. Useless.
Styx: "The Best of Times"
Carly Simon: "Vengeance"
Iron Maiden: "Wrathchild"
Blotto: "I Wanna Be a Lifeguard"
Rod Stewart: "Passion"
Elvis Costello: "Oliver's Army"
REO Speedwagon: "Don't Let Him Go"
The Silencers: "Remote Control/I'm Too Legal"
Juice Newton: "Angel of the Morning"
Rockestra: "Little Sister"
Bootcamp: "Hold On to the Night"
Cliff Richard: "Dreaming"
Lee Ritenour: "Is It You?"
Fleetwood Mac: "Tusk"
Michael Stanley Band: "He Can't Love You"
REO Speedwagon: "Tough Guys" The fourth REO song of the day.
Blondie: "Rapture"
The Who: "Don't Let Go the Coat"
Rod Stewart: "Ain't Love a Bitch"
The Pretenders: "Talk of the Town"
Rainbow: "Can't Happen Here"
Andrew Gold: "Thank You for Being a Friend" The Golden Girls would debut in September of 1985.
Gerry Rafferty: "Bring It All Home"
April Wine: "Sign of the Gypsy Queen"
Kate Bush: "The Man With the Child in His Eyes" So even if they weren't playing Michael Jackson at this point, they were playing songs about Michael Jackson.
David Bowie: "Ashes to Ashes"
April Wine: "Just Between You and Me" Yes, that's the second time in the first 24 hours that viewers were treated to "Just Between You and Me."
The Specials: "Rat Race"
Talking Heads: "Once in a Lifetime"
Bootcamp: "Victim"
Rod Stewart: "Tonight's the Night"
Nick Lowe: "Cruel to Be Kind" I do my best to understand it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Long Distance Dedication

All of us here at OPC wish a very happy birthday to Casey Kasem, who is 76 years old. His birthday was yesterday, actually, but he probably doesn't read this blog, so the lateness doesn't matter very much.

Kemal Amin Kasem was born in Detroit, where he got started in radio, but he made his name as a DJ in Los Angeles throughout much of the 1960s. He launched American Top Forty, his signature show, in 1970, and remained there till 1988, when, if memory serves, he was replaced by Shadoe Stevens. Someone recently had the bright idea to repackage those old AT40s to oldies stations, and they are now heard around the world on great radio stations like WBBG, Youngstown, Ohio; WHHN, Bay City, Michigan; KXKL, Denver; and 2ZM, Wellington, New Zealand. Now, on with the birthday tribute.

Casey was hired to be the narrator on Soap, but left after the first episode, because he didn't approve of the racy content. He's a liberal, though, going so far as to back Nader in 2000, although that was probably more of a Lebanese thing. He's also a vegan.

For a while there in the 1980s, Casey also did a TV show called America's Top Ten. Here he is with his "exclusive" interview with Kiss upon the release of their dreadful Music From the Elder, or rather, here's Casey talking about Kiss from the studio in L.A. while the guys in Kiss answer some questions a producer has shot at them somewhere else in the world. Note that Gene says they all wrote their new single, "World Without Heroes," without mentioning that Lou Reed also collaborated on the song. Maybe Lou had it in his contract that the band members could never say his name in public in the context of the band. Note too that this song never made it anywhere near the Top Ten, belying the title of the show:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Own It Today!

In this Sunday's New York Times, a writer describes director Jim Jarmusch as "a true independent who insists on final cut and who even owns all his negatives." That sounds like something out of a self-help book, doesn't it? If you're ever going to defeat them, you must own your negatives.

Incidentally, Quentin Tarantino totally stole the tripartite, time-overlap structure of Pulp Fiction from Jarmusch's Mystery Train, starring the legendary film duo of Joe Strummer and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Tarantino's entertaining and all, but his movies are for the most part all about the other movies he's seen. And one of them was clearly Mystery Train.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Head to the Finnish

In the movie version of Woodstock, the Jefferson Airplane are shown singing two songs in their sunrise set: a medley of "Saturday Afternoon" and "Won't You Try," followed by "Uncle Sam's Blues." The Airplane, you may remember, featured Grace Slick and Marty Balin as co-vocalists who didn't play an instrument, but both sang very well. But for the second song shown in the film (not, it should be noted, the second song of their set), Grace went to the side of the stage and watched as guitarist Jorma Kaukonen (seen at right) took the lead vocal. Marty Balin apparently went back to the Bethel Holiday Inn.

Grace seemed amused enough, smiling occasionally but never dancing, never really moving, truth be told. The camera remained trained on her for much of the song. People would rather look at Grace than Jorma, I suppose.

The question is: Why was this in the movie? It's like fitting in only two Beatles songs but having one of them be "Octopus's Garden." The Airplane even ended their set with their two biggest hits, "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love," plus they played "Volunteers." Till I saw the Woodstock movie, I didn't even know Jorma could sing.

By the way, despite having the most Finnish name of anyone west of Helsinki, Jorma Kaukonen was actually born in the capital of this nation, Washington, D.C.

Making Electricity

Who would have guessed that lo-fi synth-pop would be the sound of 2009? Well, MGMT did, which is why they're now rich and I'm not.

At their first show, back at Wesleyan University, MGMT (then known, or at least pronounced, as "Management") played a 45-minute version of the Ghostbusters theme - something strange in your neighborhood, to say the least, but I bet it was a lot of fun. I have not been able to determine whether Bill Belichick was in attendance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jack and Glen

It's Jack Nicholson's birthday today. Glen Campbell's, too. Do you know which one is older?

Glen had his first sort-of hit in 1965, when "Universal Soldier" went to Number 45, but his first real hit was in late 1967 with "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." Jack had his first sort-of starring role with The Raven in 1963, but he didn't become a star until 1969's Easy Rider.

In 1975, Jack won the Oscar for Cuckoo's Nest, while Glen had a Number One hit with "Rhinestone Cowboy." Near as I can figure, though, they've never worked together.

Did you figure it out? Glen Campbell is 73, and Jack Nicholson is 72. Happy birthday, boys.

Just Call Him Keef

Maybe it's just because of my recent post on "Sister Morphine," but there has been a lot of interest lately in an old post of mine on Keith Richards' last name. The gist of that post was that Keith had his name changed to Richard by Andrew Loog Oldham, then eventually went back to Richards at some point. No one is quite sure when that latter switch happened; shortly after my original post, Joe opined:

I think you'll find him credited as "Keith Richard" on England's Newest Hitmakers, and "Richards' on everything else thereafter, though it may have lasted until "Aftermath."

Now Kinky Paprika has weighed in:

On my copy of 1974's "It's Only Rock n' Roll," which is either an original pressing or pretty close to it, he is credited as Keith Richards.

On my copy of 1976's "Black and Blue" (ditto) he is back to being Keith Richard.
Same deal for 1977's "Love You Live."

But here's what's really messed up:
On 1982's live album "Still Life," the writing credits are "Jagger-Richard" on the older songs and "Jagger-Richards" on the post-'78 material.
Couldn't the credits have been standardized in recognition that Richard and Richards were one and the same?

Kinky also offered up the above poster, signed by Keith with no S, dating to 1964 but possibly signed at a later date.

My guess now is that Keith unofficially switched back to Richards in the late 60s, but not officially until after 1978. I can't think of any other reason for the niceties of the Still Life credits. But I'm sure at this point that Keith doesn't even know.

Monday, April 20, 2009


The other day, in an American Top Forty rebroadcast from April of 1975, Casey Kasem announced that he was about to play the song that had the longest wait between the date of its recording and its debut on the charts. I had no idea what single he was talking about, figuring it was by Johnny Mathis or Louis Armstrong or somebody like that. Casey then said it was by a man named Benny Bell. I still had no clue; I'm not sure I'd ever heard that name before.

Then he played the song, and its tinkling melody was instantly recognizable: "Shaving Cream." I was nine years old in 1975, and "Shaving Cream" was a huge hit with the nine-year-old crowd:

I have a sad story to tell you
It may hurt your feelings a bit
Last night when I walked into my bathroom
I stepped in a big pile of shhhhaving cream
Be nice and clean
Shave everyday and you'll always look keen

Hearing it now, it sounded like something that was cut in 1946 (and released on the Cocktail Party Songs label): scratchy, low fidelity but carefully enunciated lyrics. It never occurred to me in 1975 that the song was that old; I never would have figured that people used (or at least alluded to) language like that back in 1946.

Benny, who was known for his risque records, had a whole basketful of songs with titles like "Without Pants," "I'm Gonna Give My Girl a Goose for Thanksgiving," and "Everybody Loves My Fanny." Dr. Demento began playing "Shaving Cream" at some point on his show in the early 1970s, leading to a re-release of it as a single in 1975, when Benny Bell was already 69 years old. (The vocal on the single, confusingly enough, was by Paul Wynn, although Benny sometimes sang it his ownself, too, and also sometimes performed under the name Paul Wynn. Near as I can tell, the hit single did not feature Benny's own vocal.)

The Benny Bell revival was short-lived; "Shaving Cream" peaked at Number Thirty and stayed on the charts only four weeks. Benny became a Dr. Demento favorite for a while and released several more comedy records before dying in 1999 at the age of 93.

Benny's real name, by the way, was Benjamin Samberg. OPC has contacted the press people for Andy Samberg, the SNL and YouTube star, to see if the two are any relation (although we highly doubt it). The Andy Samberg camp has not, as of yet, chosen to respond.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Things Are Not What They Seem

The Rolling Stones' "Sister Morphine" had its origins back in 1968, when Mick Jagger was fooling around with some chords on an acoustic guitar, and his then-girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, had the idea for a story about a man in a car accident who was taken to the hospital and given morphine. The song was finished shortly thereafter, and Faithfull released it as the B-side to a single in 1969. Her version had Jagger on acoustic guitar, Ry Cooder on slide guitar, Charlie Watts on drums and Jack Nitzsche on piano.

The Stones recorded their version around the same time (reports differ on whether it was March or May of 1969); in fact, I suspect it was at exactly the same time, since theirs also features Ry Cooder on slide and Nitzsche on piano. For whatever reasons, the track didn't show up on Let It Bleed, but hung around for two years before Sticky Fingers came out in April 1971.

By then, Mick and Marianne had broken up, and Faithfull had started having serious drug issues of her own. She claims the song has nothing to do with her own drug use, which might sound slightly dubious, but I believe her. It's about a man developing an addiction after being given morphine in a hospital, so it's the good, Rush Limbaugh kind of addiction rather than the bad David Crosby kind.

Of course, the Stones being the Stones, by the time they released their version, the song was credited to Jagger-Richards. I would love to know what the songwriting credits were on Faithfull's 1969 single. When it appeared on her 1987 Marianne Faithfull's Greatest Hits, it was credited to Faithfull-Jagger-Richards.

According to Faithfull, at some point along the line, it was Keith Richards who told Stones manager Allen Klein that she deserved a songwriting credit. "This story I heard from Allen Klein, it might not be true," she said in February. "Keith Richard told him that I did write the words and I needed the money. So now and again, I get a royalty cheque for 'Sister Morphine'. I've been living off 'Sister Morphine' for years. I just got one today. £485!" Apparently, the first time she got any credit for a Stones version was when it appeared on the 1994 re-release of Sticky Fingers.

Mick, naturally, is still whining about giving up a few pounds to his old squeeze. "[Marianne Faithfull] wrote a couple of lines; she always she wrote everything, though," he said in 1995. "She's always complaining she doesn't get enough money from it."

Thursday, April 16, 2009


John Madden, the greatest football broadcaster of all time, has announced his retirement at the age of 73. People claimed that Madden had lost it a few years ago, but in the last couple of years, on the brightly lit stage of Monday/Sunday Night Football, he seemed refocused, as into the game and perceptive as ever, not afraid to be technical and loving every minute of it.

As coach of the Oakland Raiders for ten years, Madden was rumpled and ornery. Once, after calling a practice on Christmas Day, which fell in the middle of playoff season, Madden angrily erased the "Merry Christmas" someone had written on his blackboard.

But as a broadcaster, he was engaging and funny. He reminded me of the great rock critic David Fricke; they each had a seemingly limited palette of pet sounds (e.g., doink! for Madden, skronk for Fricke) but would employ them with such originality and in such fresh settings that they never grew tiresome. And more importantly, they never lost their excitement for what they were seeing or hearing, and showed an enthusiasm about getting you to see it the same way.

I used to go out of my way to catch any game Madden was doing on CBS or Fox, even if it featured the hated Giants. Of course, that was much easier once he moved to prime time. Let's hope someone brings him back for a Super Bowl or two a la Keith Jackson and the Rose Bowl.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Disappeared

The first Rolling Stone Record Guide came out in 1979. The second edition came out in 1983, and is the oldest one that I own. Tucked into the back of this, making up the final four pages of the book, is a list of the artists who appeared in that first book but not in the second one. The list is headed up by this note:

"The following artists, all of whose material is now out of print, have entries in the first edition of the Record Guide only:" [emphasis mine]

That's a lie. Porter Wagoner is listed, and he not only continued to have records in print but released several records in this time period, including a duet album with Dolly Parton that went to Number Nine on the C&W album chart in 1980. I bet plenty of other acts had their work remain in print as well.

More interesting than that is that there are some true worthies on the list. I mean, I love "Sky High" but I totally understand why Jigsaw is on the list. What is an album guide going to say about Jigsaw, except to point out which LP has "Sky High" on it? On the other hand, some big, recognizable names fell off the cliff between 1979 and 1983:

Frankie Avalon
Tommy Bolin
Boney M
Brewer and Shipley
Arthur Brown
Albert Brooks
Eric Burdon and War
George Clinton (!)
Dick Dale and the Del-Tones
Nick Drake (!!)
David Geddes
Philip Glass
Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
Clarence "Frogman" Henry
Gabriel [sic] Kaplan
King Harvest
Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams (!!!)
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.
Lee Michaels
Freda Payne
Chris Rea
Starland Vocal Band
Bonnie Tyler
The Undisputed Truth
Dennis Wilson
Johnny and Edgar Winter
Bill "Je Suis Un Rock Star" Wyman a whole bunch of Seventies one-hit wonders like the Hues Corporation and Pilot and David Essex and Silver Convention.

What I wonder is how many of these artists had enough of a second wind to get re-established in later editions of the Record Guide? Clinton, Drake, and Rea did, I'm sure. If I were getting paid big money to write this blog, I'd surely spend half a day or so checking that out.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mark Fidrych, 1954-2009

I got nothing funny or cute to say about this. Mark "the Bird" Fidrych was a source of endless joy to baseball fans in Detroit, in his native Massachusetts, and around the nation in that magical summer of 1976, when he won 19 games as a 21-year-old rookie for the Tigers. Fidrych was killed on his farm on Northborough, Massachusetts, earlier this afternoon.

The MLB Network recently aired Firdych's masterful beatdown of the Yankees just before the All-Star break in 1976, before a huge, raucous crowd at Tiger Stadium. Afterward, a dazed but happy Fidrych came out in his stocking feet to do a postgame interview. When the interview asked him if he knew he was still throwing 91 mph in the ninth inning, Fidrych looked kind of confused and said, "I don't know, no one's ever timed my ball before. I don't know how hard I throw."

His delirious smile made him look like a kid who had just come out of an Aerosmith concert having unexpectedly scored front-row seats. The Bird's innocent exuberance captured the way a lot of us fell in love with baseball. None of us who watched him pitch that summer will ever forget him.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rubber Soul

I recently picked up an album called Soul Tribute to the Beatles, which, unlike most things billed as a tribute, collects old covers rather than new recordings, in this case of Beatles songs by great R&B singers, and I do mean great. You get Aretha Franklin churchifying "Let It Be" and Earth, Wind & Fire's super-peppy "Got to Get You Into My Life," Al Green's reinvention of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and Wilson Pickett's gutbucket "Hey Jude," with a Duane Allman guitar solo subbing in for the extended na-na's. You also get Natalie Cole doing a live version of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." Really.

I was especially interested in Fats Domino's cover of "Lady Madonna," which I'd never heard before. It was a mite disappointing, very faithfully reproducing the original arrangement, which makes sense since it was supposed to sound like Fats in the first place. At last Fats gets to N'Awlins' up the vocals, singing "Friday night arrives wit'out no suitcase."

The Pickett "Hey Jude" was a hit, going to Number Twenty-Three back in 1969, and the EWF went Top Ten in 1978, just two years after the Beatles' version did likewise. But you also get a rarity like Marvin Gaye's revelatory "Yesterday," which originally appeared on his album That's the Way Love Is, released in early 1970. It's long out of print, the song was never released as a single, and no one these days owns any Marvin albums from before What's Going On, so it's anybody's guess as to the last time anyone heard this gorgeous performance before this compilation came out in 2003.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Harvey's Wallbanger

The radio market out here really fascinates me. Denver is hardly the hippest city in the nation, or even in the Mountain States region, yet our radio choices are lively and different and plentiful. I'vd written before about the late, unlamented Martini on the Rockies, which has now morphed into something called Indie 101.5, playing the choicest of current indie rock. It's really kind of shockingly good.

What's really remarkable is how well they choose the older stuff they play (and how unapologetic they are about playing older stuff). This morning I heard PJ Harvey's incredibly fierce "Sheela-Na-Gig," which I've heard on the radio maybe once before in my life. (Is it supposed to go "Put money in your idol hole," or "Put money in your idle hole"? Maybe I'm better off not knowing.) Every so once in a while you hear a song on the radio and think, "That's the best song I'm gonna hear all day," and that's what I thought when I heard "Sheela-Na-Gig."

Still, there was some competition: This afternoon, I heard "See a Little Light," from Bob Mould's Workbook, heretofore best known as the last vinyl album I bought before getting a CD player. This suggests that someone at Indie 101.5 is programming the station by rummaging through my record collection circa 1995.

What makes it even bolder is that there's already a Modern Rock station in town, which the offhandedly cool Indie DJs dismiss as teenager music. I'm not a teenager, so I wouldn't know. This idea of taking a format another station is already purveying and doing it better seems pretty common in this market. A year or two ago a station called KCUV started playing smart adult-alternative rock, sort of like WXRT in Chicago, in direct competition with the World Class Rock of the venerable Boulder-based Whole Foods-ish KBCO. KCUV closed up shop last Labor Day, but God bless 'em for trying.

But yeah, "Sheela-Na-Gig." Greil Marcus once wrote a whole column in Esquire about how alarmingly great Sleater-Kinney's "Start Together" was, but concluded that it could never be a hit because it would make everything else on the radio sound silly. That's probably what happened to "Sheela-Na-Gig." Hide the small children and anyone with a heart condition:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Even the President of the United States

In anticipation of Bob Dylan's upcoming album Together Through Life, the Bard has submitted to a fairly lengthy interview, which is posted at In it, Bob offers his take on Barack Obama:

He’s like a fictional character, but he’s real. First off, his mother was a Kansas girl. Never lived in Kansas though, but with deep roots. You know, like Kansas bloody Kansas. John Brown the insurrectionist. Jesse James and Quantrill. Bushwhackers, Guerillas. Wizard of Oz Kansas. I think Barack has Jefferson Davis back there in his ancestry someplace. And then his father. An African intellectual. Bantu, Masai, Griot type heritage - cattle raiders, lion killers. I mean it’s just so incongruous that these two people would meet and fall in love.

Bob's way too smart to be taken in by all this pretty storytelling though:

Do you think he’ll make a good president?

I have no idea. He’ll be the best president he can be. Most of those guys come into office with the best of intentions and leave as beaten men. Johnson would be a good example of that … Nixon, Clinton in a way, Truman, all the rest of them going back. You know, it’s like they all fly too close to the sun and get burned.

Incidentally, the most Dylanesque thing I have ever seen was an old man missing a ring finger who was playing a little electric organ in a subway station in New York City. I had to go back and check the lyrics of "Desolation Row" to see if "the nine-fingered organist" was in there.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sufferin' Saltwater

Isn't that common songwriting trope of drowning in one's own tears - cf. Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds' "Don't Pull Your Love," Ray Charles' "Drown in My Own Tears," Dolly Parton's "Endless Stream of Tears," Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There for You," Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is," Eric Clapton's "River of Tears," the Bee Gees' "Tragedy" - actually kind of gross?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

So Sweet and Clear

I recently had the good fortune to be asked by the winsome editor of Oklahoma Today, Louisa McCune, to write an article on Leon Russell, the Master of Space and Time (and isn't that ever one of the great lost rock & roll nicknames), for that magazine's upcoming special Rock and Roll issue. One thing I discovered, but did not have room for in the story, was that Leon wrote the song "Superstar," which the Carpenters took to Number Two back in the fall of 1971.

(Karen and Richard, by the way, had four songs stall out at Number Two, plus two more that peaked at Number Three. But they also had three Number One hits, so no one should cry for them, unlike Creedence Clearwater Revival, who had five Number Two hits and no Number Ones. But I digress).

Leon actually co-wrote "Superstar" with Bonnie Bramlett, when they were on tour with, among others, Rita Coolidge, who originally had the idea for a song about a deranged groupie. Rita also gave it the title "Superstar," for reasons that elude me. From there it was picked up by Bette Midler, who sang it on The Tonight Show - which I guess could be true, and has been printed in a major magazine, but would mean that Bette was on Johnny long before she ever released an album, which makes me skeptical - where Richard Carpenter heard it and brought it to Karen.

The Carpenters altered the words slightly to make the song more palatable to their audience: “At that time, Top 40 radio in America would not have played something that said 'can hardly wait to sleep with you again,’" Richard told Blender magazine. "So I changed it to 'be with you again.’ ”

Once again, I'm skeptical; I think he was deferring more to Karen's sensibilities than to those of radio programmers. One song that kept "Superstar" out of the top spot had Rod Stewart asking Maggie to wake up, so sleep was not unheard of at the top of the charts back then. It was the Seventies!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Applause, Applause

How many songs have hand-clapping that lasts throughout the entire song? I can think of only one: "Right Back Where We Started From," by Maxine Nightingale. (Actually, I thought of another, but now I can't remember what it was.)

Are there any others?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Etta's Place

Speaking of Etta James, she had nine Top Forty hits between 1960 and 1968, and the highest-charting of these was "Tell Mama," which hit Number 23 in the early days of 1968. (This is the same song, co-written by Clarence "Patches" Carter, that would become a staple for Janis Joplin.) At a guess, I think this makes Etta James the artist with the most Top Forty hits who never had a Top Twenty hit. I realize that it's highly unlikely that anyone would ever check out (or even care about) such a thing other than me, but I will see what I can do to confirm it for you.

What's most surprising about this is that "At Last" is not one of those nine Top Forty hits. Etta's recording of "At Last" came out in April 1961 and went to Number Two on the R&B charts, but only Number 47 on the Hot 100. I'm not sure why it didn't cross over better, because Miss James had already had three Top Forty pop hits by then.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I Just Wanna Stop Gino Vannelli

The irrepressible Mark Lerner, who is just full of fun and games, has suggested another little amusing diversion for us in the comments to On and On. It's a game called "A song, a singer, a sentence," with a variation called "A singer, a song, a sentence." The challenge is to come up with a singer and a song that combine into a sentence, such as, as Mark suggests, "Blow Away George Harrison."

Other contributors have already made suggestions in the comments to that thread. Here are some that I've come up with:

I Do Lisa Loeb
The Marvelettes Please Mr. Postman
The Beatles Can't Buy Me Love
I Need to Know Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
J. Geils Band Must of Got Lost
I Hear You Knocking Dave Edmunds
Don't Stop Til You Get Enough Michael Jackson
I Can't Go for That Daryl Hall and John Oates
You Can Make It If You Try Sly and the Family Stone
Keep a-Knockin’ Little Richard
Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit
Let’s Get It on Marvin Gaye

Some of these aren't quite sentences, but I thought they were funny anyway:

Fastball out of My Head
Vienna Calling Falco
I’m Henry VII, I Am Herman’s Hermits
Sometimes When We Touch Dan Hill

Friday, April 3, 2009

Once I Understood

So I was driving through northern New Mexico today and noticed a sign alerting the population of I-25 that Foreigner was making an upcoming appearance at an Indian casino, as well as the fact that opening for Foreigner would be the band Think. You may remember Think as the studio concoction that perpetrated "Once You Understand" on this great nation of ours back in 1972. That was the half-spoken-word hit that featured arguing between teenagers and their parents, with a chorus going "Things'll get a little easier once you understand" all the while. Then there was an ending that was most chilling, although probably not in the way the producers intended:

Mister Cook (yes)
You have a son named Robert
Robert Cook, age seventeen (yes)
I'm sorry, Mister Cook
You better come down
To the station house
Your son is dead (dead, how)
He died of an overdose (oh, God)

Now, even I'm not dumb enough to think that that Think is going to be sullying the good name of Foreigner at an Indian casino in New Mexico. There must be some new band that was so enamored with "Once You Understand" that they decided to cop the name.

But why would anyone in their right mind name themselves after a band that was famous for being horrible? If you were starting a band would you call it Milli Vanilli? Or Johnny Hates Jazz? Or the Doors?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Foolin'

You may have noticed that all of the April 1st posts here at OPC were undeniably true. We believe that so-called April Fools' jokes primarily consist of someone telling a lie, then insisting that the lie is true over and over again until the listener finally agrees that it's true. At that point, the liar announces that the listener has, by believing the lie, done something wrong.

We don't find that funny.

On and On

I always thought it strange that two of Marvin Gaye's biggest hits, and arguably his two signature hits, both end with that little dangling preposition "on." How many song titles even end with "on"?

In fact, there are only three songs that have gotten to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 that ended that way. They are:

"You Keep Me Hangin' On," by the Supremes
"Let's Get It On," by Marvin Gaye
"My Heart Will Go On," by Celine Dion

And "What's Going On"? It got stuck at Number Two for three weeks, but never ascended into the top spot, depriving Marvin Gaye of the honor of having fully half the Number One hits that end in "on."