Archive for Tongue and Groove

Grammy approves

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the folks who bring you the Grammy Awards each year, makes up for that in December with inductions into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and this year’s selections are a diverse bunch indeed, though two of the singles nominated are in fact the same song.

The fifteen individual tracks:

  • “Big Girls Don’t Cry” — Four Seasons (1962)
  • “Dancing Queen” — ABBA (1976)
  • “Honky Tonkin'” — Hank Williams & His Drifting Cowboys (1947)
  • “I Fought the Law” — Bobby Fuller Four (1965)
  • “Jitterbug Waltz” — Fats Waller, His Rhythm and His Orchestra (1942)
  • “Le Freak” — Chic (1978)
  • “Rescue Me” — Fontella Bass (1965)
  • “San Antonio Rose” — Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (1939)
  • “School’s Out” — Alice Cooper (1972)
  • “Sixty Minute Man” — Dominoes (1951)
  • “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” — Fisk Jubilee Singers (1909)
  • “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” — Paul Robeson (1926)
  • “Tell it Like It Is” — Aaron Neville (1966)
  • “Try a Little Tenderness” — Otis Redding (1966)
  • “Walk on the Wild Side” — Lou Reed (1972)

Definitely appeals to my sense of eclecticism. In the case of “Swing Low,” the Jubilee Singers from Fisk University put out the first known recording of the song, which dates back to the 1840s; Robeson cut it twice, in 1926 for Victor, and during his British sojourn in 1939. And there are two different Otis Redding takes on “Try a Little Tenderness,” as noted here.

The newly anointed albums:

  • Autobahn — Kraftwerk (1974)
  • Blood on the Tracks — Bob Dylan (1975)
  • The Bridge — Sonny Rollins (1962)
  • Calypso — Harry Belafonte (1956)
  • Harvest — Neil Young (1972)
  • John Prine — John Prine (1971)
  • Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols — Sex Pistols (1977)
  • Nick of Time — Bonnie Raitt (1989)
  • The Shape of Jazz to Come — Ornette Coleman (1959)
  • Songs of Leonard Cohen — Leonard Cohen (1967)
  • Stand! — Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
  • Stardust — Willie Nelson (1978)

All of these are eminently defensible — even Calypso, which was just one of the genres Belafonte mastered — though I have been known to wonder if anyone has ever played Side Two of Autobahn.

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Basket cases

Some of us saw Green Day’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as being, well, so much dookie:

{American] Idiot combined the band’s new inability to take itself unseriously with a penchant for swiping lyrical images and music from everywhere under the sun to make a record just like the ones that had made the original punk bands throw up their hands in disgust at the music industry: Dumb, grandiose, and saturated with self-important artsy pretentiousness.

Hmmm … maybe they’re a good fit for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after all.

Of course, the real objection to this year’s list was that Stevie Ray Vaughan wasn’t already in.

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Wings of wonder

A fellow using the name “PinkiePieSwear” once put together a lovely little bit of electronica called “Flutterwonder,” with visuals sliced from various MLP episodes and a few words of Fluttershy’s sampled for the vocal. And it was, well, wondrous.

Then Ferexes put together a completely new animation for the song using Source Film Maker, relying on no original-series clips at all. And it was, well, just as wondrous:

The last thing I expected, though, was an acoustic — unplugged — version with the lyrics resung. (This is the first time I’ve ever actually understood the words.) Wondrousness is declared:

And this is the one thing I’ve always adored about Fluttershy: her almost-childlike sense of wonder. In fact, considering that she’s presumably the oldest of the Mane Six, this may be closer to envy.

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Don’t even think about downloading this

And if you manage to pull it off, let me know how you did it:

Trevor Jackson hasn’t released an album in 14 years, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. On February 25, the creative director, artist, and sonic pioneer behind Playgroup is set to debut a 12-track full-length [album] in 12 separate physical file formats. Aptly entitled F O R M A T, the album is spread out, one song per 12″, 10″ and 7″ vinyl, CD, mini CD, cassette tape, USB stick, VHS tape, MiniDisc, Digital Audio Tape (DAT), 8-track tape, and reel-to-reel tape, respectively, each designed by Jackson and released by The Vinyl Factory. According to the press release, the album pays homage to music formats of the past, in celebration of “the artistry, design and individual experience of playing music via traditional methods.”

If Jackson really wants to stir the pot, he should offer a bonus track on a 78 — or on Betamax.

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Blasts from the past

The very last time I can remember calling up a radio station and asking “What the hell is that?” was for this very track, some time in 1990.

I’m not sure that stills of Mount Etna in mid-eruption are the ideal visual complement to Paul Speer’s guitar and Leroy Quintana’s keyboards, but it’s what we’ve got. (And the tune runs only to 5:10, so there’s two minutes more volcano without accompaniment.)

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Out to launch

Would you like to swing on a star?

And yes, those are real NASA interns.

Meghan Trainor can probably retire next spring.

(Via Miss Cellania. See also this earlier example of Johnson [Space Center] Style.)

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A folkie not to be forgotten

I don’t actually have a copy of this — believe me, I looked — but it seems like it’s been here all the time.

“Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in early 1964 and cut at that time, but was left in the can until the Metamorphosis compilation of 1975. Dick and Dee Dee (!), a supporting act for the Stones during their 1964 US tour, got first crack at a cover, but the one that got airplay, albeit minimal, was this version by Vashti Bunyan, released in May 1965 on Decca (UK) with production by Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham. Some pressings list her only as “Vashti,” as did the credits of at least one episode of the US TV series Shindig. “Some Things” somehow never got a US release, and, her career faltering, she moved to a commune in Scotland, eventually emerging long enough to cut an album, Just Another Diamond Day (Philips UK). Reviews were kind — you can find rather a lot of them on her Web site — but sales were awful, and she decided she wasn’t going to get mixed up in that sort of thing ever again.

By the turn of the century, Just Another Diamond Day was commanding $2000 bids on eBay, prompting Spinney Records to reissue it on vinyl and CD; Bunyan’s second career, as an off-center folkie, was under way. She would cut two more albums: Lookaftering (2005) and Heartleap (2014); the latter, she says, is her last.

How influential is Vashti Bunyan? Let’s ask Beck:

In which he sings Vashti’s “Winter Is Blue,” a late-60s track that preceded her departure to points north. (Her own take sounds like this.)

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All alone on the rack

Dave Schuler is asking: “What was the first record album you purchased with your own money?”

Cover art for Something New by the Beatles 1964The parental units weren’t about to fork over any coin of the realm for me to squander on vinyl — or styrene, as appropriate — so this is my first record album, period. Something New is one of those Frankenalbums Capitol persisted in issuing in those days, partly due to the fact that British LPs tended to have 13 or 14 tracks, while we Americans were dumb enough to settle for eleven. The track list includes eight songs from the UK A Hard Day’s Night album, though not the title track; two cuts from the British Long Tall Sally EP, and a German version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The track ordering is not bad, actually, and for the most part, we were spared Capitol’s infamous mono-reprocessed-for-stereo mixing, though I wouldn’t have known that at the time, having bought the mono version on the basis that (1) I had a fairly crummy record player and (2) stereo would have been a buck extra. Something New peaked at #2 on the Billboard album chart and stayed there for nine weeks; what kept it out of first place was the United Artists issue of the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night, another dog’s-breakfast compilation with eight actual Beatles tracks, plus four instrumentals presided over by George Martin.

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Never need to doubt it

Pitchfork once claimed that the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” was the single best song of the 1960s, which would be startling only if it weren’t true. Herewith, some minor factoids concerning the song:

  • Only one of the Beach Boys — Carl Wilson, who also sang lead — actually plays on the track: he’s on twelve-string guitar.
  • Paul McCartney said it was his favorite song, period.
  • There’s a vocal version of it in the videogame Bioshock Infinite.

The BBC “Impossible Orchestra” version, recorded as a charity one-off in October, has detractors, like this guy in the Independent:

With its message, that the BBC “owns” the entire musical waterfront and licence-fee payers would do well to remember that, it is the kind of propaganda film an autocratic regime sensing that its legitimacy is crumbling might produce.

By which I infer that he’d be just fine with it had it come out on Channel 4 or ITV.

But the hell with that noise. It’s a stirring rendition of a seriously beautiful song, and I don’t care how preposterous the presentation might be.

You’re excused if you didn’t recognize Pharrell without a hat.

(Previous “God Only Knows” discussion here.)

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Dreamy redefined

Somewhere, where romantic and whimsical collide, you’ll find this:

While the screen is taken up by Zooey and a very palpable nothingness, it would mean nothing without the music, and as I commented on YouTube: “If there’s ever a reason to make a movie about me (and there probably isn’t), I want M. Ward on the soundtrack.”

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We’ll show those hatches

Guitarist Jennifer Batten, fifty-seven today, has put out three solo albums, though she’s probably best known for her axe work on tour with Michael Jackson, supporting Bad, Dangerous and HIStory, and in MJ’s Super Bowl appearance in 1993. She’s a bit wild and unruly in appearance, though this can be toned down a notch:

Jennifer Batten at rest

Or, you know, not:

Jennifer Batten at work

One of Batten’s influences is Jeff Beck; she appeared on his Who Else! (1999) and You Had It Coming (2001) albums, and toured with him for three years. In this amateur video — the picture is good, the sound not so much — she takes on a Beck original from the Who Else! album, “Brush with the Blues”:

She can definitely wail.

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You can’t get rid of me that easily

Just renewed the hosting package with the surfer dudes: you’re stuck with me for another year.

As is often the case, about a quarter of the tab was picked up by kickbacks, since I get a smidgen of the take when someone signs up for services of their own and drops my name. I’ve had this account since the very end of 2001, and it was twice as pricey back then; I could knock off 10 percent if I prepaid two years in advance, but I never seem to remember that until the invoice shows up.

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Persistence is further rewarded

About a year ago, I finally picked up a clue about a record I once owned and largely forgot, and duly posted the research I’d done so far. The conclusion:

Wingate, it appeared, owned a piece of this independent-ish label called Volkano, with a K, which would issue four singles during its short lifespan, including one by a fellow named Bob Santa Maria. (It is suspected that Bob’s real last name was Seger.) The first issue on Volkano was “The Beginning of the End,” by Little John and Tony; “Tony” was Pete Saputo, also known as Anthony Raye — the more pseudonyms, the better, am I right? — and “John” was producer John Rhys, who co-wrote the song with longtime Detroit bassist Dennis Coffey. Coffey also arranged the record, and, most important from my point of view, still had a copy of it.

Now if I could just find a copy on YouTube — or, better yet, iTunes.

Well, looky here:

While this track definitely meets the description of “60s Garage USA,” the Tombstone Records compilation Die Today, per this listing on RYM, does not contain this track. It does, however, contain a track called “I Love Her So,” by Moby Dick and the Whalers, from legendary seaport Midwest City, Oklahoma.

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From the Department of Earworms

Obsessed with doomed romances as I am, I was inevitably drawn to Richard Donner’s film Ladyhawke, in which Matthew Broderick Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer play a couple living under a curse: “always together; eternally apart.” I wasn’t quite sure what New Zealand musician Phillipa Margaret “Pip” Brown was thinking when she adopted “Ladyhawke” as a stage name, but she does put out some cursedly listenable tunes, such as this 2008 number, which somehow did not chart in the States:

And I have to admit, I wonder what all those cars are doing at the end of the video.

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Give a little whistle

In case you were wondering, Irish funerals aren’t all “Danny Boy” these days:

Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” has been replaced by Monty Python’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” as the most popular song played at funerals, new research has found.

A study by The Co-operative Funeralcare showed that traditional hymns, football anthems and classic pop songs top the list of the “funeral music chart.”

As funeral music goes, the BBC’s theme from “Match of the Day” is pretty, um, perky. Then again, it is a legitimate football anthem, though I admit I’m waiting for someone to go out to the accompaniment of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Sports Song.”

David Collingwood, operations director of The Co-operative Funeralcare, said: “We think we may be seeing a generational shift in attitudes towards funerals, and the choice of music being requested.

“Music plays such an important part in people’s lives that it now acts as the theme tune to their passing. Modern funerals are very much about personal choice, which can be reflected in the choice of music, dress, coffin, flowers, hearses or memorials.”

Which may explain why my brother departed to the strains of “Let It Be” — and why I won’t.

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Desperate for attention

This is about two steps below clutching at straws:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is it worth it to pay $6000 to get famous?

Why $6000, exactly?

I want to pay $6000 to Ark Music Factory (Just like what rebecca black did) so they can help me produce a song and release it on their channel and I will become famous. I am not very good at singing but I think this is a great way to become famous. However, my parents are poor and we are on food stamps but they will be willing to sacrifice everything for my music career.

Update: they will be willing to do it, even if they have to starve for a few days.

Not sure if trolling or simply out of touch with reality. I did point out that what happened to Rebecca Black will not necessarily happen for anyone else.

And anyone who’s on food stamps should know that six grand is more than a few days’ worth.

Addendum: Last I heard, Patrice Wilson, who produced “Friday,” was asking $6500 for his services.

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Just an illusion

“Motown at its most mystical,” Dave Marsh wrote a quarter-century ago:

Ruffin wakes up in a bottomless pit of orchestration, and recounts a bad dream about his travels in “this land of broken dreams,” which he says means lack of romantic love but which everybody who’s ever heard him understands to signify something a lot more disturbing and universal.

That would include yours truly:

[M]aybe it’s just what John Mellencamp ascribed to those two American kids, Jack and Diane: “Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” And, of course, if the thrill is gone, we’ve finished up Jimmy Ruffin’s record, and moved on to B. B. King’s.

Jimmy’s own record ground to a halt this week in a Las Vegas hospital. He was 78.

And because Gerard Van der Leun would have wanted it that way, here’s Joan Osborne’s Ruffin cover, eminently worthy in its own right.

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Chicks unfilleted

If you thought “What Does The Fox Say?” was a bit too, um, cerebral, here’s a Chinese video that makes approximately one zillionth as much sense:

(Via Incredible Things. They didn’t believe it either.)

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Still pretty after all these years

Last time we checked in with Tristan Prettyman, she’d been let out of her major-label contract, for which she blamed me. Still, she keeps working, and right now she’s touring with Eric Hutchinson on what is called the City and Sand Tour. For a surfer girl from Southern California, this makes perfect sense.

Tristan Prettyman at Waikiki

(Parenthetical — obviously — note: Waikiki, seen here, is a sister city to, um, Bixby, Oklahoma. I have no idea how this happened.)

This trip to Hawaii, I should point out, was not actually on the tour: that was, I think, last year. (All these pix are from her Facebook timeline.) This on-stage shot, however, is from the current tour:

Tristan Prettyman on stage

Of course, unless you’re an A-list star, the road can be a tedious and boring place, and there are tedious and boring things that have to be done, like this:

Tristan Prettyman kills time while doing the wash

Her new EP, Back to Home, released independently, is on my Get list. No videos yet, but here’s a take — literally, a take — on “Say Anything,” which you might have heard in the film Safe Haven:

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Long-term dementia

Someone has compiled a list of the Top 100 (or so) Demented Discs, as played on the Dr. Demento Show between 1974 and 2013, based on the annual Funny Twenty-Five surveys. I am still trying to figure out how I actually paid genuine coin of the realm to own all ten of the Top Ten.

At the other extreme, this is my favorite of the songs tied for Number 97:

It even exceeds this small-screen favorite, if you ask me.

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How this reminds me

Brian Ibbott, host of the Coverville podcast, seems like such a kind, gentle soul. Then this shows up:

Five will get you ten, or eight anyway, that at least one of my favorites will be thus characterized. This is not among them:

And let’s face it, ragging on Nickelback is practically a cottage industry.

Ibbott will record the show tonight. I am preparing for the worst.

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What, this Sith again?

You can’t tell me this wasn’t inevitable.

(Via Bonnie Burton at CNET.)

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Accounting for another week

We begin with an anguished question from a fan:

This is what you’d call a business decision by the artist:

“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for,” [Taylor] Swift said earlier this year to The Wall Street Journal. “It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”

Then again, seven years ago a band, without any label input, threw the question open to its fans:

I’m contemplating offering £4.50 — a tad over nine bucks — to download Radiohead’s new album In Rainbows, and after all, the price is up to me.

After a brief discussion, I upped the ante to £4.75.

If there’s any irony here, it’s in the fact that if Rebecca Black ever gets around to releasing an album — she says she’s been in the studio on weekends — she’ll be setting the price for it, unless she signs a distribution deal. (Her singles have been coming out at 99 cents each, with the notable exception of “My Moment,” which carried a $1.29 tab.) I have no idea how much she’s making off Spotify, but it can’t be a whole heck of a lot.

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Personalized boilerplate

Six years into the post-Derek Sivers era, CD Baby still retains one of Sivers’ trademarks: the chatty New Release announcement, tailored to your previous purchases. Unfortunately, only so much tailoring can be applied in some cases. This was received yesterday:

We here at CD Baby have got pretty good memories. And we just remembered that at some point in the not-too-distant past you purchased music by Various Artists.

We commend your impeccable musical taste and wanted to let you know that Various Artists has a brand new release out now. It just went live on our website for sale. And we just had to let you know FIRST since you’re one of the few hip and wise people who “knew them way back when.”

At Home cover artThat’s me: the Tastemaker™. If you actually go out to CD Baby, you will eventually find the actual description of the release, which at the moment is download-only — though past performance suggests that a physical disc may eventually be forthcoming. If you’re disinclined to hit the link, well, these are the Various Artists in question:

A relaxing unplugged collection of originals and covers with four great singers (Michelle Creber, Gabriel Brown, Monique Creber & Andrea Libman) performing solos and beautiful harmonies, accompanied by Grammy-nominated pianist, Michael Creber.

Michelle Creber, if you follow these things, is the voice of Apple Bloom on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic; those other Crebers are her parents. Andrea Libman voices both Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie on MLP:FiM, though she sings only for Fluttershy: Pinkie’s out of her singing range. Gabriel Brown is the famed brony musician (and skydiver!) Black Gryph0n. The original “I Will Fight For You” was released as a single, which I bought, which explains why CD Baby suspects I might be interested in the whole album; they’ve just turned loose (on YouTube) a cover of the old Jackson 5 favorite “I’ll Be There.” I will eventually get this, of course, but my want list is at the moment overflowing, while my wallet isn’t.

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Well, damn

MTV apparently found this video a bit too saucy, even for 1992:

There is, of course, a VEVOfied version suitable for family consumption — maybe. I haven’t decided if the scary part is in the sheer eroticism of some of the imagery, or that “Damn” coming out at the very beginning of the chorus.

Or maybe it’s just sheer kineticism:

Sophie B. Hawkins in 2010

Identification for this shot:

Sophie B. Hawkins poses in the press room during “VH1 Divas Salute the Troops” presented by the USO at the MCAS Miramar on December 3, 2010 in Miramar, California. “VH1 Divas Salute the Troops” concert event will be televised on Sunday, December 5 at 9:00 PM ET/PT on VH1.

The B., in case you’re asking, stands for “Ballantine.”

Hawkins campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2008; she hasn’t said if she’d do so in 2016, but she did say this:

[A]t the Love Heals benefit, Hillary Clinton wrote a letter for Bronson Van Wyck in lieu of presenting him an honor, and I have to say this; if Hillary runs again, her whole campaign should be the way that letter was written. From the mother. The mother of the planet. She is a great mother, and anyone who has children can agree that being a great mother is the toughest job. So there. This planet needs a great mother.

Hawkins is for some reason thought of as a one-hit wonder, though “As I Lay Me Down” (1995) made #6 in Billboard, only one notch lower than “Damn.”

And today is her 47th birthday.

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And other places she’s not

Since that South American Dusty Springfield cover went over pretty well, I’m tossing up another British Invasion tune with a south-of-the-border accent. Los Shain’s got together in 1963 in Peru, survived for five years, and then resurfaced for a series of concerts in 2005 as Los Nuevos Shain’s. The two mainstays of the band were vocalist Gerardo Manuel and guitarist Pico Ego Aguirre; Manuel isn’t heard on this track, but you get plenty of Aguirre, and licks from Lynn Stricklin on the Farfisa organ.

No, I don’t know why the apostrophe is where it is.

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Toast of many towns

The microphone loved Melba Moore even more than the camera did, and the camera definitely had a crush on her. Here’s the 45 sleeve from her 1986 single “Falling”:

Falling by Melba Moore on Capitol B-5651

A #1 R&B hit, “Falling” missed the pop charts by a hair. By ’86 she’d been recording for seventeen years; Mercury, her first label, tried lots of things, including the obligatory live album and a pop/rock setting of Bizet’s Carmen, but she didn’t really hit big until she switched to Buddah, in 1975. “Falling” was cut for Capitol in 1986. There’s no actual video here, but the song sounds great:

Also in 1986 came the debut of the situation comedy Melba. Unfortunately, CBS scheduled the first episode for the 28th of January, which turned out to be the day of the Challenger disaster, and hurriedly shelved the series. (The other five episodes appeared as summer filler.)

On the evidence of this picture, from last year’s opening night of Motown: The Musical, the camera hasn’t ever gotten over her:

Melba Moore at Motown: The Musical, April 2013

Happy 69th, Melba. (It’s tomorrow, actually.)

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You might consider sticking around a bit

Dusty Springfield was still technically a member of the Springfields in late 1963 when producer Ivor Raymonde suggested she try a song he’d composed, with lyrics by Mike Hawker. This turned into “I Only Want to Be With You,” a major hit for Dusty, which hastened her departure to the solo spotlight; Raymonde and Hawker quickly hatched “Stay Awhile” as a follow-up.

Lots of acts have covered “I Only Want to Be With You” over the years, my favorite perhaps being the inexplicable 1965 French-language cover by Uruguayan band Los Shakers. Fewer have attempted “Stay Awhile,” though a new version waits in the wings:

The background, of course, is “Oh No Not My Baby,” a Goffin/King hit for Maxine Brown, but “Stay Awhile” is on the track list, and for a while, anyway, you can hear it in full by dialing in to the She & Him Web site, turning ON the radio, and then twidding the tuning knob a bit. Hint: Classics drops 12/2, so start at 1200 and move upwards.

(Via Pitchfork.)

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A certain lyrical economy

Silver Convention, a couple of West German guys, first hit the Eurodisco scene in 1975 with “Save Me,” which contained the following lyrics: “Baby, save me, save me, I am falling in love.” That was it, except for a few scattered incidences of “woo-hoo.”

For the next two singles, they hired some full-time singers and cut two songs with exactly six different words each: “Fly, Robin, Fly” (“Fly, robin, fly, up, up to the sky”) and “Get Up and Boogie,” which, in its 4:05 single edit and 2:45 radio edit anyway, began “That’s right!” before actually saying “Get up and boogie.”

My late brother Paul objected most strenuously to that configuration. “What’s right?” he’d yell at the turntable. “You haven’t said anything we can test for rightness!” On that basis, I conclude, he’d have hated Meghan Trainor’s big hit, which begins “Because I’m all about that bass”: how dare she dangle a phrase like that! Then again, I think I could have sold him the Siren’s Crush cover, maybe: he did have a certain respect for a cappella. (I owe Roger for that link.)

Random stuff picked up during research:

One of my favorite late-Nineties dance numbers was “Better Off Alone” by Alice Deejay, which contains ten words: “Do you think you’re better off alone? Talk to me.” But long before that, “Weird Al” Yankovic had done the definitive six-word song.

The very first Silver Convention album, Save Me, was released in several countries, including the States, with a vaguely risqué cover — and in others with a really risqué cover. (The latter might not please your boss.)

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Rhymes with “flatten ‘em”

Way back in those dear, dead days of 1976, the Recording Industry Association of America proclaimed a new certification: Platinum, which was twice as high as Gold. A gold record in those days required sales of one million singles, or 500,000 albums, so this was an aspirational goal. (The first platinum album was Eagles: Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which everyone has but me.) In 1989, as the singles market was evaporating, the RIAA cut the threshold for singles by half, but a platinum album still had to sell a million.

This year, the number of platinum albums is … one. And it’s a soundtrack, yet: to Disney’s Frozen. No individual artist or band has come even close to moving a million:

The two records nearest the magic number are Beyoncé’s self-titled album and Lorde’s Pure Heroine, but neither have even crossed the 800,000 mark, with sales of both having tapered off months ago.

Then again, Taylor Swift’s 1989 drops next week. I mention purely in passing that “Shake It Off,” the lead single, has already moved two million copies.

There were, as it happens, sixty platinum singles this year. As they did at the beginning of what the late Casey Kasem used to call the Rock Era, singles rule the popular-music market once more.

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