Two wholly different albums are combined into this set. Hitchcock is heard only on the first, a collection of “mood music in a jugular vein” released by Imperial in 1958. The second is the original soundtrack to the 1960 scarefest Circus of Horrors, which Hitch had nothing to do with, but it seems murderous enough in its own right.
This track was on Quincy Jones’ 1981 album The Dude; as was Q’s wont, he brought in talented friends, and James Ingram qualified on both counts. “One Hundred Ways” won the 1982 Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance.
Ingram was all over Q’s productions: the two of them teamed up to write “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” for Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, which you most certainly have. Jones, Ingram, reliable R&B songwriter Rod Temperton, and burry-voiced Michael McDonald collaborated on this little religious number:
This song has somehow grown on me since its 1983 release.
The market for Elvis remixes has always been strong, and some geniuses somewhere figured that this was just the background for shuffle dancing:
“His Latest Flame,” a Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman confection, was first recorded by Del Shannon in the spring of 1961; the Elvis version appeared at the end of summer. So this summery video fits wonderfully well. (Can Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez do these steps? Of course she can.)
The dance somehow found its way to mainland China:
“Gangtai” is a subset of Chinese pop music, romantic rather than revolutionary, not allowed on the mainland until the middle 1970s, though it flourished in Taiwan and Hong Kong before Beijing decided to let it come across. One of the first actual hits from gangtai was “The Moon Represents My Heart,” sung by several but not truly iconic until Teresa Tang recorded it in 1977.
Teng, born in Taiwan in 1953, got her first record deal at fifteen; five years later, she managed to crack the Japanese market, and recorded material in Cantonese and Mandarin in the expectation that she could do the same in China.
Beijing decided shortly thereafter that this bourgeois love-song stuff was incompatible with the revolution after all. Red China, however, was not prepared for the black market, and the ban didn’t last long. Unfortunately, neither did Teresa Teng; while on holiday in Thailand in 1995, she suffered a severe asthma attack and died.
“The Moon Represents My Heart” remains a popular-music icon today, covered by famous Pacific Rim singers like, um, Jon Bon Jovi.
This slightly-NSFW song by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie sits right in the middle of the Hoodie SZN album:
And Hoodie SZN (that last trigraph is pronounced like “season”) made it to Number One, but somewhere it needs an asterisk:
This week’s #1 album on The Billboard 200, Hoodie SZN by New York rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie on Highbridge/Atlantic Records, sold zero CDs, zero LPs, 823 downloads, and 83 million paid streams of individual tracks (counted as the equivalent of 58,000 album sales), The New York Times reports.
Billboard and Nielsen say that the album’s 823 sales last week are the lowest ever for a #1 album, surpassing a record set just the previous week by 21 Savage’s I Am > I Was, which sold 3,481 copies and had 84 million streams. Hoodie SZN has not been released on any physical formats.
The Recording Industry Association of America says that in the first half of 2018, U.S. CD sales totaled 18.6 million copies, down 47 percent from the same period in 2017. In those six months, streaming accounted for 75% of sales, followed by 15% for purchased downloads and 10% for all physical formats combined.
Eight hundred twenty-three copies? Of a Number One album? That many copies of Sgt. Pepper’s were shoplifted in any given week of 1967.
I’m almost surprised someone didn’t think of this long ago:
Toto’s “Africa” has come home, so to speak, thanks to an installation by an artist who plans to play the song on loop in a Namibian desert — for eternity.
German-Namibian artist Max Siedentopf has set up the sound installation, called “Toto Forever,” in an undisclosed location in the 1,200 mile-long Namib Desert.
The desert, on the west coast of Southern Africa, is around 55 million years old — making it the world’s oldest desert and the “perfect spot” for his work, Siedentopf, 27, told CNN in an email. “Hopefully the song will play just as long,” he added.
Siedentopf is using solar batteries to power the entire installation, which consists of plinths supporting six speakers attached to a single MP3 player that contains one track: Toto’s “Africa.”
This is seriously neat, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.
Wait, what? Kilimanjaro is a hundred miles away from the Serengeti?
I have had conversations with a handful of one-hit wonders where they lamented that they knew the moment where things went bad, and it sometimes boils down to “Lead Singer Syndrome” (LSS), as depicted by the movie That Thing You Do. I once recorded a jingle session with an attractive couple, and during a conversation break they revealed they were Bill & Taffy Danoff, who were half of The Starland Vocal Band, who had had a huge 1976 hit with the infamous “Afternoon Delight.” Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “what happened?”
After I apologized, they kind of winced and gave me a long story about how they went in a completely different direction for their follow-up album, which tanked, then they went back to their original formula, only RCA didn’t like it and dropped them, then their concert audiences started drying up… so in 1980 they were writing and recording jingles for chewing gum. As Bill told me: “we still gotta keep up the payments on the house and the Mercedes!”
The SVB cut ten singles for Windsong, John Denver’s imprint at RCA, four of which charted, though three of them were stuck around #70. The last of them was “Loving You With My Eyes”:
Written by the female half of the group (Taffy Danoff and Margot Chapman), “Eyes” charted in early 1980 at #71.
Australian singer/songwriter Samantha Edge has recordings in release and videos on YouTube, but around her home town of Adelaide she’s probably best known as the Busker at Rundle Mall. We have here a sampling of her work this past year:
And it has its rewards:
It's one of the best things when your performance connects with someone emotionally and they come up to thank you with tears glistening in their eyes. He was also so kind as to give me a… https://t.co/Mq1O6zRg3n
In a world less perverse than this one, Donna Summer would be turning seventy this week. Lung cancer is pretty terrible stuff, and its visitation upon Summer, a nonsmoker, seems especially horrific.
This was always my favorite Donna Summer record:
It’s an odd edit — two minutes shorter than the LP track (from Four Seasons of Love), but not the 45 version either.
And because Roger didn’t mention it at all, here’s her very first single, “The Hostage,” from 1974, a year before that whole Love to Love You Baby thing. To my knowledge, it went unreleased on this side of the Atlantic.
Not a music video, this was taken from a Dutch television series.
I don’t always look at YouTube’s screen of recommendations, but when something shows up in the grid that’s three years old and has had precisely zero views, I follow up.
There were some other tracks with one or two views, even reaching double digits in one instance, but this is about as neglected a set as you’re likely to find on YouTube. I dialed up the iTunes Store and found Hollie Sue’s The Island. No reviews yet. And the little bar graph they put out to indicate popularity? Not one bar on any song.
I bought the album, mostly on the basis of “Well, somebody ought to.” And then I noticed the CD Baby reference on the YouTube page and decided I’d look over there. Remarkably, they had more than the one album, and some bio:
Hollie Sue is a singer-songwriter from Yorkshire in the North of England. Her music is influenced by blues, jazz, soul, and folk artists such as Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone, Norah Jones, Eva Cassidy, Jools Holland, and Joni Mitchell. Writing songs from the heart, Hollie accompanies her soulful voice with a rich tapestry of instruments such as piano, ukulele, guitar, double bass, gentle drums, percussion, strings, and breathy vocal harmonies.
At the tender age of 5, Hollie’s favourite Disney films prompted her to start singing, and she hasn’t stopped since. After singing her way through school choirs, college bands and vocal group, and performances at university, Hollie now counts among her achievements a degree in music, a Finalist and Runner-Up certificate in the UK Songwriting Contest, and three of her own self-penned albums.
And so long as I was there, I picked up her Truth or Dare album, from way back in 2008.
If at times our relationship with Turkey seems a bit muddled, at least some of it has to do with our traditional American insularlty: often, we can’t be bothered to find out what’s happening on the street. I didn’t do such a hot job of it when I was actually there, though I can pass off “security” as a reasonable excuse.
I wasn’t there when Makbule Hande Özyener was born in 1973. (Got there about 14 months later.) Of course, I had no way of knowing that she was destined to be a pop star. In 2000 she released her first album, Senden İbaret, from which “Yalanın Batsın” (“you lie down”) was the lead single, heard here in a clip from a TV show:
Senden İbaret moved about three-quarter of a million copies, and Hande Yener, her newly shortened name, was on her way. She continued to make serious chart noise until about 2007, when she abruptly turned to purely electronic sounds. Perhaps anticipating the response, she titled her 2007 album Nasıl Delirdim? “When did I go crazy,” indeed.
Some received the new style well; others turned on Yener after singer Serdar Ortaç somehow incurred her wrath. Said Yener:
“I’m not making music only for commercial purposes and I don’t make a music that can’t be understood. Every time one of his albums are released, he keeps talking about me in his interviews. I don’t want to be compared to those who make ‘grocery music’.”
This sounded even more pretentious than it was, and Ortaç shot back:
“If I’m making grocery music I’m proud of it. Grocery is a music genre that appeals to every corner of the society.”
The feud eventually played itself out, and after one more album of electronica to fulfill her record contract, she signed with another label, only to find herself at odds with the label’s management. Lawsuits ensued.
And Hande Yener’s life is still turbulent; now considered a gay icon, and a friend, or perhaps an enemy, of the ruling AKP party, her image now seems protean. If you say this sounds kind of like Madonna, she’ll probably smile.
The current single, her first in English, is called “Love Always Wins.”
Sounds a little Madonnaesque, now that I think about it.
“There’s this thing called compulsory licensing law that allows artists through the record companies to take your music at will without your permission. And that doesn’t exist in any other art form, be it books, movies — There’s only one version of Law & Order. There’s several versions of Kiss and Purple Rain.”
At the time, I wondered if maybe NBC no longer had a Twin Cities affiliate, inasmuch as there have been times when the Peacock Network seemingly had turned over half the primetime schedule to variations on L&O.And then I said:
Fact is, though, you or I or even Dick Wolf could do a version of, say, “1999,” and as long as Prince gets paid, it’s legal. I’m guessing Prince’s objections probably don’t extend to the “getting paid” part of it.
That said, I am confident that Prince paid Tommy James (and maybe even Chip Taylor) for this:
Curiously, while this track was on the actual 3-CD Lotusflow3r set, it was not on the downloadable version — at least, not upon its original release in 2009.
In the summer of 1964, the peak of the British Invasion, there was still a place on the American charts for non-white non-English non-boys, and into that place, as smoothly as could be, slid Nancy Wilson, who made it to #11 with “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am.” It was a jazzier piece than its florid arrangement might have let you think; “I wish I were an artist,” she sings, and you think, “Oh, honey, you don’t have to worry about that.”
Her last album, recorded in 2006 under the auspices of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh, was called Turned to Blue. This was the last track:
Brenda Lee’s first record, in 1956, was a cover of the Hank Williams and/or Moon Mullican standard “Jambalaya”:
The label on Decca 30050 bills her as “Little” Brenda Lee, and in parentheses: “9 Years Old.” Um, no. She was already 11 when this track was cut.
Then again, they say that a lack of height contributes to the appearance of youth, and Brenda Mae Tarpley, born on this date in 1944, never climbed above about four foot nine. In 1957, she cut a tune called “Dynamite,” and she was Little Miss Dynamite thereafter. And this being December, a radio station near you is playing this 1958 recording:
To this day, this site gets visits from people wanting an explanation of “the new old-fashioned way.”
And a 1966 single of hers got an unexpected shout-out in 1973 — in a Dutch progressive-rock number, no less — and remains part of her set list to this day, her 74th birthday.
Brenda Lee has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. She is the only woman so honored.
Now and then, I go through the work box and try to organize the 8300 or so tracks located thereupon, and occasionally this effort produces a question. This time it was “How the hell did I get so many Ingrid Michaelson songs?” They show up in the iTunes “Purchased” folder, so I must have bought them at some point. So I decided I should look up the lady in question, just to see if I could figure out why. I did learn that she has a degree in theater from Binghamton University, and sang with the school’s a cappella group. And she has two RIAA-certified platinum singles despite never charting higher than #37 on the Billboard Hot 100.
This latter garment was issued in 2016 to promote a single:
Which I didn’t have, so I guess I’ll have to go buy it.
Car and Driving songs: The Beach Boys had hits with “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” and “My 409,” while Jan and Dean scored with “Dead Man’s Curve.”
I thought at first that I should make a fuss, what with the song about the Little Old Lady being properly a Jan and Dean title — but this perhaps would have been unfair, inasmuch as while the J&D single (Liberty 55704, if you’re keeping score) had crested at Number Three, the Beach Boys did a creditable live version of the song on their late-summer concert LP, which topped the album charts.
Both organizations also put out versions of “Little Deuce Coupe,” which song has provided me with sexual euphemisms (“She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored”) and a glossary of Californisms (“I got the pink slip, daddy” is “What’s more, it’s paid for“).
But “Little Old Lady” introduced a twist on the California milieu: while anyone who grew up within the broadcast range of Los Angeles stations understood the reference to Pasadena, that leaves only the rest of the world to puzzle over it. The Italians, for one, were not having any of that:
Oh, and on Beach Boys’ Party! there’s a cover of the Regents’ “Barbara Ann.” Which Beach Boy sings lead? None of them. That’s Dean Torrance (of Jan and) up front. Now how often is a hit song sung by someone who’s not actually a member of the group? At least once more.
It’s not that we’ve never written about an Indonesian pop star before. In fact, we have; but it’s not easy to climb onto the radar here, awash as we are in pop stars from all over the place.
Sheryl Sheinafia Tjokro was born on this date in 1996, and was by all accounts a fairly accomplished musician in her teens. Blessed with an abundance of Teh Cute, she found herself in demand for TV and film; her most recent acting role was in The Underdogs (2017), a tale of “4 friends who tried to become famous by being Youtubers.” Like that ever works.
Perhaps the high point in Sheryl Sheinafia’s life up to now was meeting John Mayer:
And I am quite fond of her 2017 single “Sweet Talk,” the video for which looks for all the world like they shot it on a smartphone:
Back at the beginning of the decade, Chris Heron was writing pony-inspired stuff with titles like “Scootaloo’s Dream” and “Fluttershy’s Garden.” (They’re up on YouTube still, albeit unlisted.) His particular strength, it seems to me, has always been quiet, reflective, but not necessarily ambient music; he’s now billing himself as a film/videogame composer, and that’s as good a niche for him as anything else. [This link has embedded audio, but it’s really gorgeous embedded audio.]