This I was not expecting. Serbian “body illusionist” Mirjana Kika Milosevic, whom you’ve maybe seen before seemingly mutilating herself, was apparently commissioned to produce video footage for this song by singer Adil Maksutović:
“Ne kidaj mene od sebe” translates to “Do not bother me,” and there’s a definite Go Away feeling to Adil’s performance.
Writers know about prompts: you get a very brief setup, from which you are expected to derive a story.
It may be a little trickier if what you write is the popular song. Rebecca Black asked for a one-word prompt, and this was the result:
While watching one of her weekly videos many moons ago, I caught a glimpse of an actual record player at her digs. As someone who got his first such device before even hitting puberty, I can appreciate this photo from RB’s Facebook page:
“Brand New Key”, I wrote in about fifteen minutes one night. I thought it was cute; a kind of old thirties tune. I guess a key and a lock have always been Freudian symbols, and pretty obvious ones at that. There was no deep serious expression behind the song, but people read things into it. They made up incredible stories as to what the lyrics said and what the song meant. In some places, it was even banned from the radio.
My idea about songs is that once you write them, you have very little say in their life afterward. It’s a lot like having a baby. You conceive a song, deliver it, and then give it as good a start as you can. After that, it’s on its own. People will take it any way they want to take it.
Forty-odd years later, it persists. First, Orange County chanteuse Sabrina Lentini, now 19. She was 14 when she did this take:
Sabrina has a single coming out next month called “Dorothy Gale.”
Katharine McPhee actually released her take on the song in 2010, and it’s an intriguing blend of Melanie and the late George Michael.
Billy Jones and Ernie Hare were the Happiness Boys, so named not so much for their dispositions, but for their radio sponsor: the Happiness Candy Company. In 1924, they cut a novelty track titled “Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?” It became a national smash.
In 1958, British skiffle master Lonnie Donegan updated the song just a little. The BBC wouldn’t play it because “Spearmint” was a trademark in the United Kingdom, so Donegan’s release in early 1959 substituted the more generic “chewing gum.” (See, for instance, the “cherry cola” version of the Kinks’ “Lola,” under the same strictures.) Donegan had himself a hit, though for some reason it got no serious push Stateside until 1961.
And that would be Donegan’s last hit in the US, though he continued to record in the UK for the rest of his days. In 1962 he cowrote a song sad enough to be a country weeper, with the unhappy title “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” (Yes, this is the song that became such a huge hit for Tom Jones seven years later; Jones had actually cut it in 1967, but it went nowhere until 1969.)
“I Wanna Go Home,” waxed by Donegan in 1960, dates back to a Bahamian folk song from about fifty years earlier. In 1966, his recording was reissued, probably prompted by an American cover by the Beach Boys.
Donegan, a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire as of 2000, died of a heart attack in 2002 at seventy-one. I still find interesting stuff in his catalogue.
Peter Daou is currently running something called Verrit, which I have not explored in any detail but which appears to be a social network/talking points dispenser for Hillary Clinton fans. Daou has worked on Clinton campaigns before, though his Twitter account comes across as a twisted love song to Lady Cornpone.
And truth be told, if I must deal with Peter Daou, I’d rather deal with this aspect of him:
Forty percent of this band was named Daou: Vanessa, the singer, and Peter, the keyboard player. They were married at the time. Vanessa achieved some fame as a solo act; Peter went on to — well, you can read as much as you can stand here. And “Surrender Yourself,” which headed for the top of the dance chart in 1992, is probably the one thing in his life that requires no explanation. It’s a damned good record, and it deserves to be pulled off the shelf now and then.
About the time Linet Munyali (born 4 August 1987, Nairobi) started singing professionally, circa 2008, she took the name “Size 8.” And that name works for me: I know exactly two Kenyan women, and neither of them wears size 8. Her first single was “Shamba Boy”:
The last time we had occasion to mention Barry Sadler, a Staff Sergeant in the US Army Special Forces, we were playing an early Bob Seger disc that more or less borrowed “Ballad of the Green Berets” for a satirical number about draft dodgers.
It turns out that this is not the wildest expropriation of Sadler’s melody. Herewith, Heidi Brühl’s “Hundert Mann und ein Befehl,” an undisguised and unrepentant antiwar song:
Irgendwo im fremden Land
Ziehen sie durch Stein und Sand,
Fern von zu Haus und vogelfrei,
100 Mann, und er ist dabei.
Second verse, not the same as the first:
100 Mann und ein Befehl
Und ein Weg, den keiner will.
Tagein tagaus, wer weiß wohin,
Verbranntes Land, und was ist der Sinn?
Translation, sort of, of that second verse:
100 men and one command
and a path that no one wants,
day in, day out, to who knows where,
burned countryside and what’s the use?
Heidi Brühl (1942-1991) began acting in her teens, went on to a modest career as a pop chanteuse, and returned to film in her later years.
Reputation is due out a week from tomorrow, and Taylor Swift fans are apparently overlooking the harshness of the tracks thus far revealed because, hey, it’s Taylor Swift.
I admit to being something of a Swiftie myself; I have Reputation on pre-order. But I’m pretty sure none of Tay’s impure pop for now people will affect me quite as much as this countrified song from way back in 2010:
And it didn’t take her half a dozen co-writers to whip it into shape, either.
This, in fact, is British band Bow Wow Wow, and the young lady in her birthday suit is lead singer Annabella Lwin. EMI, their label at the time, were constantly in head-shaking mode The first BWW single, “C-30 C-60 C-90 Go,” was issued at first on a one-sided cassette, the reverse being blank, which irked EMI because it seemed to promote home taping, something proper record companies at the time objected to most strenuously.
Malcolm McLaren, he who assembled the Sex Pistols, brought BWW together; the guys had been Ants behind Adam, and a friend of McLaren’s had seen Lwin working at a dry-cleaning establishment. EMI dropped them after a second single, and McLaren found himself at odds with Lwin’s mother, Lwin not being quite 18 just yet. Eventually, the fake Manet, intended for an album cover, was shelved. (Remarkably, it showed up on an American EP, The Last of the Mohicans. on RCA.)
Bow Wow Wow’s biggest hit in the States was a cover of the Strangeloves’ “I Want Candy,” which stumbled to #62.
Creeping onto the last row of Billboard’s Top 200 album chart (at #192) was BWW’s See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy! The title song was generally abbreviated to “See Jungle!”
In 1983, Lwin was ousted from the band, though she’d drift in and out of the ranks over the years. She continued to record as a solo, and apparently she has the only copy of her early-Nineties single “Car Sex”:
Today is her 51st birthday. Tomorrow she’s appearing in Ridgefield, Connecticut with Martha Davis and the Motels.
A soon to be released box set containing everything that Herbert Von Karajan recorded for Deutsche Grammophon and Decca has broken records. Containing 330 CDs, 24 DVDs, 2 Blu-rays, 4 tracklist booklets and one hardcover book, it has set the bar for the largest box set ever issued as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. Only 2500 of these box sets will be produced, with each white and gold box individually numbered.
Three hundred fifty-six discs! It’s hard to envision. (There’s an unboxing video at the link.) Some of what’s inside:
Among its 405 listening hours of music are the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Tchaikovsky, and Anne-Sophie Mutter’s celebrated recordings of the Brahms, Bruch, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky violin concertos. Also included are several Mahler symphonies, the three great requiems by Brahms, Mozart and Verdi) and 20th-century masterworks by composers like Bartók, Berg, Honegger, Prokofiev, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and Webern. Among the eight operas is Karajan’s benchmark recording of Puccini’s La Bohème with Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti and Nicolai Ghiaurov.
Actually, celebrating his rotundness wasn’t Antoine Domino’s priority that day in 1949; he’d cut a single for Imperial called “Detroit City Blues,” and he and producer Dave Bartholomew came up with a little throwaway for the B-side. He’d play that throwaway for the rest of his life:
Much is made of the fact that Fats placed thirty-seven songs in Billboard’s Top 40 but never quite made Number One. A lot of this can be blamed on radio-format apartheid: “Ain’t That a Shame,” which peaked at #10, was drowned out on the airwaves by a blandified cover by Pat Boone, which soared to the top. According to one story, one of the other trade papers (not Billboard) explained why they factored airplay into their chart computations: if they scored simply on sales, said their rep, the entire Top Ten would consist of black acts. And really, do you know anyone who bought Boone’s version? (Other than me, I mean.)
Besides, if we add up the entire Hot 100, Fats wins, 66-60. His last entry, #100 for two weeks in 1968, was a cover of a Beatles song that Paul McCartney said was inspired by Fats. You can’t close the circle any better than that:
Farewell, Fat Man. Rock and roll heaven will make good use of your voice, your piano, and every one of your two hundred (as if) pounds.
Miss Thang was the title of Monica’s first album, released back in 1995 when she was only fourteen. It went triple-platinum in the States, and suggested she had a long, fruitful career ahead of her.
She’s not making as much chart noise as she used to. Some say it was because in 1999, her boyfriend propelled himself into the afterlife — at his brother’s gravesite, no less. Others point out that she’s done a fair amount of TV and film work. I think it’s simply that now that she’s married and has three kids, she has higher priorities.
And of the several million records Monica’s sold over the last 22 years — she turns 37 today — this one might be my favorite. From her 2010 album Still Standing:
The new boyfriend, incidentally, is Shannon Brown. They were married shortly thereafter.
In 1964, Sammy Davis, Jr. got a respectable (#17) pop hit with “The Shelter of Your Arms,” a love song that comes very close to a declaration of severe, almost pathological, neediness; only the Four Tops’ “Bernadette” surpasses it, and not by much.
Despite indications in and around the video, “Shelter” was not part of Golden Boy, the musical version of Clifford Odets’ 1937 play, starring Mr Davis.
Jerry Samuels wrote “Shelter”; it was his second-biggest hit. His first-biggest hit, which he performed himself under a pseudonym, worked seemingly similar turf and made it to #3.
Here’s a question. In pop culture history, there are countless male-male songwriting teams — Rodgers-Hart/Hammerstein, Lennon-McCartney, Jagger-Richards, Page-Plant, Strummer-Jones, etc. And there are some male-female songwriting pairs, such as Comden-Green, Goffin-King, and Mann-Weil.
But are there any female-female songwriting teams? I imagine there must be, but they are definitely rare.
Why do women write so few popular songs? And, especially, why do they so seldom team up?
Three hundred comments followed, and I was grateful that the two pairs that first came to my mind were eventually mentioned: Jackie DeShannon / Sharon Sheeley and Annette Tucker / Nancie Mantz.
“Breakaway” was the B-side of Irma Thomas’ 1964 hit “Wish Someone Would Care,” though it’s probably best remembered these days in the form of Tracey Ullman’s 1983 cover. Both Jackie and Sharon wrote with others from time to time, but this was their biggest hit as a duo.
The first Electric Prunes album contained twelve songs, six written by Annette and Nancy. (The second single, “Get Me to the World on Time,” was written by Tucker with Jill Jones.)
Deserving of mention here: Ellen Weston, Lesley Gore’s writing partner in the 1970s. They did most of LG’s album Someplace Else Now (for Motown’s Mowest label in 1972) and all of Love Me By Name (for A&M in 1976).
Marie Osmond turned 58 Friday. Most of you already know the demographic — the only girl among eight boys — and well, in terms of Overall Instant Recognition, she’s either first or second, depending on how much attention you paid to brother Donny. Of course, the whole brood was cute, but Marie (that’s her middle name: first name was Olive) had that whole Only Girl thing going for her, and still does.
She did have a musical career separate from the boys, starting with one good-sized hit (the old standard, “Paper Roses,” which hit #5 pop and #1 country in 1973). Things sort of tailed off after that; her 1974 album This Is the Way I Feel, her fourth, was poppier, and while there were two songs written by the older Osmond brothers, there was also this one, written by the brothers Gibb:
Marie’s most recent album was Music Is Medicine (2016), which barely crept into the Billboard 200 but did make it to #10 on the country chart. This slightly goofy video for the title track includes kids from the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals:
Oh, before you ask: Brother Donny turns 60 in December.
Iron Butterfly will always be remembered for that little seventeen-minute tune called “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida,” and likely for all of it: the single version, edited to 2:52, managed to make it only to the bottom of the Top Thirty in 1968, and maybe a couple dozen folks have heard my 2:00 edit.
Still, for all its persistence, it can be kind of tedious. With that idea in mind, I’m tossing up another very long Butterfly burst (right around 14 minutes) that wasn’t widely heard but should have been.
“Butterfly Bleu” is the last track on the 1970 IB album Metamorphosis, and no, it doesn’t take up the whole of side two. Guitarist Erik Brann had departed, and it apparently took two guys to replace him: Mike Pinera and Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt. Two other session axemen appear on the album, but these two became full members of the band, and they’re the major forces on “Bleu”: Pinera took the lead vocal, and Rhino spent several minutes in the middle on a Kustom Electronics talk box.
Technical aside: “The Bag,” as the device was known, was only just coming into common usage; for an earlier example, you might try “Sex Machine” by Sly and the Family Stone from the Stand! album, with the box manned by Sly himself. (Weirdly, it’s on side two and runs about, um, 14 minutes.) Peter Frampton? He had Kustom work him up a, um, custom version.
The only remaining original member of Iron Butterfly is drummer Ron Bushy, though he bows out for concert performances in favor of ex-Wishbone Ash Ray Weston, who first toured with the band in 2010. Both Reinhardt and bassist Lee Dorman died in 2012. Brann passed away in 2003. And Doug Ingle, organist and composer of “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida,” more or less retired in 1999. I’m guessing he could afford it.
“Twice” is an unusual K-pop girl group; three of the nine members are in fact Japanese. This past year, they’ve been serving as brand ambassadors, or whatever, for the legendary Far Eastern sports drink Pocari Sweat.
As far as US Wikipedia is concerned, only one member of Twice is notable enough to rate a separate article: Chou Tzu-yu. Tzuyu was born on Taiwan, and her appearance (at sixteen) on a Korean variety show, holding the flag of the Republic of China, caused some grief on the mainland, which continues to argue there is only one China, and Taiwan is only a small part of it.
After about 60 days of turmoil, Tzuyu read an apology on television; it’s not clear how much effect the incident might have had on the 2016 Taiwan general election.
I admit to not entirely comprehending “Signal,” the title track to Twice’s 2017 EP.
Starley Hope left Australia for the wonders — and the record industry — of Greater London. When nothing happened for her in the UK, she flew back home, sliced off her last name for commercial purposes, and signed with a label in Sydney.
Her first single, “Call On Me,” made enough noise to justify a pickup by a US label (Epic), and she performed it for Jimmy Kimmel. This is the video:
Mind you, it’s Official. Says so right there. The follow-up, “Touch Me,” came out this past summer.
Francis W. Porretto went to a whole lot of trouble to type the lyrics to the Animals’ seminal 1965 recording “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” about which he says:
Pure Sixties’ English working-class resentment of the English working-class lot, topped with a fantasy that there’s an escape somewhere, if only dyin’ old Daddy and his resentful proletarian son could recognize it and grasp it. But there wasn’t then … and there isn’t now, here or there, as the Powers That Be have contrived to ensure.
Sums it up nicely, though I am compelled to point out that this song was written by a couple of Yanks in the Brill Building: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. (They also knocked out another FWP favorite: “Shape of Things to Come,” by “Max Frost and the Troopers,” from the film Wild in the Streets.)
And really, it doesn’t matter, because FWP was listening to the original British release, not the one we got in the States that hit #13 in Billboard. And I know this because the two vocal takes by Eric Burdon are substantially different. Allen Klein, who ended up with the rights to the Animals’ Columbia and Decca material (on MGM in the US), decreed that the UK take would henceforth be the Official Version. Complaints from this side of the pond were loud and got louder; Klein relented and allowed the American version to appear on a compilation CD. However, most of the “US versions” on YouTube, including some supplied by Universal Music Group, which distributes Klein’s ABKCO label, are in fact the British take. This is guaranteed to be, as of this writing, the US release:
Still, no one does Angry Young Geordie quite the way Eric Burdon did. The opening to John Patrick Shanley’s Joe Versus the Volcano features Burdon doing a song of similar intent: Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons,” made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
For about as long as there have been protests, there have been protests of protests. This 1966 wonder, on the real-life Are You Kidding Me? label, lays out its agenda before the very first verse:
The Beach Bums were Doug Brown and the Omens, plus a different frontman than usual: Bob Seger, who probably wrote this under the “D. Dodger” pseudonym, though it might have been nice to cut in Barry Sadler, an Army E-6 on whose “Ballad of the Green Berets” this was obviously based. After Sgt Sadler and mighty RCA Victor complained and lawyers were retained, “Yellow Beret” was withdrawn from circulation.
The very first time I heard the name “Madison Beer,” I assumed it was some cheesehead lager, rented only by people who thought Pabst Blue Ribbon was too exotic. This is, of course, right up there with the story of Ariana Grande being the name of a font.
Anyway, Madison Beer is a singer, seventeen years old as of this month; she has a career because for several years she was singing cover versions on YouTube, and apparently Justin Bieber, always on the lookout for younger women, was sufficiently fond of her take on Etta James’ “At Last.” This eventually got her a record deal and a few singles, though no Hot 100 hits as yet.
A year and a half later, some of the puzzle pieces fit. She’s released five singles, none of which have charted. What I heard last year as the instrumental track from “Out Loud,” which hasn’t been released at all, turns out to be the instrumental track from “Melodies,” her 2013 debut.
And since she was Very Young then, we’ll do some more recent photos.
Her most recent single is “Dead,” which sounds like something SZA would do.
If SZA were an Ashkenazi Jew who drives a Range Rover, anyway.
Every now and then, something throws me off my train of thought and into something else entirely.
I was recalling an old portable keyboard I used to have, on which I never developed any technique whatsoever; eventually, I passed it on to my youngest. “Ah, technique,” I thought, which propelled me to Technics, a brand name formerly used by Panasonic for its higher-end audio gear, and now in use again for turntables, an area where Technics excelled. They also used to make portable keyboards, such as the KN series, used exclusively by the late Wesley Willis, who sang with an operation called the Wesley Willis Fiasco for about five years before going solo, just him and his “demons” — Willis suffered from, or maybe enjoyed, schizophrenia — and his Technics keyboard.
There aren’t too many Wesley Willis songs I’d toss up here: he was given to titles like “Suck an Ibex’s Bootyhole.” But sometimes he’d just relax and tell you about his minivan:
Wesley Willis died in 2003 of complications from chronic myelogenous leukemia. He had only just turned 40.
I duly trotted on over to YouTube, and there I found a recording I knew: Bernstein’s, with (of course) the New York Philharmonic, backed with (of course) Pictures at an Exhibition. CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classical) had reissued it on vinyl in the 1980s at a discount price. So I saw an opening: I could put up Pictures, completing the Mussorgsky double-play, and probably get the no-motion video to embed properly over here.
And foiled again. Whoever posted this put up each of the ten movements, plus the Promenade, as a separate video. This is absurd for a piece running only a little over half an hour.
So I’ll send you back to the Eighties a different way. In 1981, RCA introduced the Capacitance Electronic Disc, a videodisc that looked almost exactly like a phonograph record. It was sensitive to dust, so RCA designed the system with a disc caddy that kept dirt and fingerprints off the groove; you’d slide the whole thing into the slot, then withdraw the caddy. (And, no more than one hour later, get up and turn it over.) Nipper dropped something like half a billion dollars on the system before finally giving it up after five years. But the one thing I’ll always remember was the little fifteen-second fanfare RCA stuck at the beginning of Side One. Whoever it was at RCA who suggested the Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition wins my eternal gratitude.
Sabrina Lentini might be the hardest-working teenaged singer around: in four years she’s released two EPs and played possibly a thousand dates, mostly close to her Orange County, California home.
This past summer, though, she put in an appearance at SXSW in Austin and, yes, worked:
She’s on the rooftop of the Westin Hotel, catching the absolute maximum Texas wind possible this side of Hurricane Whatzisname. “Ex’s & Oh’s” is an Elle King song from 2014; the scary structure out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is the Frost Bank Tower.
Grace VanderWaal’s Just the Beginning album is due out in November, a week before the new Taylor Swift disking. Which doesn’t matter so much, except that Grace, for the first time, has had writing assistance on three tracks, and we all remember when Tay-Tay wrote all her own stuff, back in the Old Silurian period.
Still, the best co-writers give you something you might not have gotten otherwise, and what Grace gets in “So Much More Than This” is essentially a Katy Perry-esque pop bounce. Give a listen:
Okay, maybe it needs more ukulele, but for the moment, I am persuaded that Grace’s first three singles in advance of her album are decidedly more interesting than Taylor’s two.