Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Song:The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)
1958 was a big year for Ross Bagdasarian. As David Seville, he scored a number one hit with Witch Doctor. Then he scored a second number one hit with The Chipmunk Song. And those chipmunks are Bagdasarian's legacy because they are still around. He was born Feb. 27, 1919 in Fresno, CA. His cousin was famed playwright William Saroyan. The two wrote the 1951 Rosemary Clooney hit Come On-a My House. Bagdasarian did some acting most notably as the piano player in the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window. This led to the minor hit Alfi and Harry based on the 1956 Hitchcock film The Trouble With Harry. But then he bought a tape recorder that allowed him to vary the recording speed. That led to the 1958 #1 hit Witch Doctor. While driving in Sequoia National Park, a chipmunk dashed in front of his car. That inspired Alvin & The Chipmunks. He was very smart to give them individual personalities. It wouldn't have worked if it had been generic. The Chipmunk Song topped the charts in 1958 and it became a Christmas perennial. Bagdasarian recorded all the voices. He signed with Liberty Records. Though other Chipmunks songs charted, Bagdasarian never had another big hit. He didn't need it because he turned Alvin & The Chipmunks first into a comic book and then The Alvin Show TV series in 1961. Ross Bagdasarian died on Jan. 16, 1972 at age 52. His son Ross Bagdasarian Jr. runs the company today and he continues to produce films and TV shows. Here's David Seville with Alvin & The Chipmunks performing The Christmas Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) on The Ed Sullivan Show Dec. 13, 1959.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Album:The Best Of UFO
Though they never had the commercial success of other hard rock bands, today UFO is considered to be very influential on bands that followed. Lights Out may be their signature song. UFO was formed in London, England in 1968 as Hocus Pocus. They were lead singer Phil Mogg, guitarist Mick Bolton, bassist Pete Way and drummer Andy Parker. They changed their name to UFO in honor of the London club where they were discovered and signed to Beacon Records. They recorded two albums. The second one was more space rock with a 26 minute track. They wanted to get back to hard rock so Bolton was replaced by 18 year old German guitarist Michael Schenker. Schenker was in an early version of his brother Rudolf's band Scorpions. And UFO signed with the larger Chrysalis Records. They began to get momentum with their next two albums. But it's the 1977 album Lights Out that really broke UFO internationally. Savoy Brown keyboard player Paul Raymond was brought in for this album. The album was very successful and Lights Out is one of their more popular songs. The success allowed UFO to tour the US and record two more albums which did well especially in England. But Schenker wasn't getting along with Mogg. He left in 1978 to form Michael Schenker Band. The 1980 album No Place To Run didn't do as well. Raymond was replaced by Neil Carter. Then Way left after the 1982 album Mechanix to form Fastway. Billy Sheehan replaced him. But things weren't going well and UFO split up in 1983. Mogg formed a new version of UFO in 1985 and a version of the band still records and tours today. Mogg recently announced that UFO's 2019 50th Anniversary tour will be his last as he will retire. It is not known if UFO will continue. This comp is a good intro to their music. Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Dave Mustaine of Megadeath are among those who credit UFO as a major influence. That is their legacy. Here's UFO performing Lights Out at the Roundhouse Theater in London June 12, 1977.
Monday, June 18, 2018
Here's the match video of Carmella vs Asuka for the WWE Smackdown women's Championship from last night's Money In The Bank show. Of course the big story is the return of James Ellsworth which led to Carmella winning. The match was fine but the ending was beyond stupid. I'll explain that in a minute. Asuka's biggest challenge was getting a decent match out of a very limited wrestler. So what did Asuka do? She sold Carmella's offense though Carmella did very little. Asuka ran herself into the post. I don't know if Carmella even touched her. And Asuka threw herself outside of the ring. She took bumps to try to make Carmella look half decent. Those self inflicted bumps led to all of Carmella's offense. Some complained that Asuka sold too much. But she wants to make her opponent look good. It's just that trying to make Carmella look good is an impossible task. Of course her awfulness is part of this angle. I expected shenanigans with Ellsworth but I didn't think it was executed very well. He shows up in an Asuka costume to distract Asuka. Her reaction was understandable at first. But it took too long to develop. And then when Ellsworth unmasked, Asuka's reaction should have gone from shock to "Oh, it's the doofus". She should go back on the attack. But instead Asuka just continued to stand there with her mouth open and Carmella kicked her from behind for the win. And the funny part is the cameras missed the kick. They showed it on replay and it looked awful. I have no problem if the finish was believable...but it wasn't. It was illogical and stupid. If a finish needs to be explained maybe a different finish should have been done. I'm sure tomorrow's Smackdown will give some direction. Enjoy the video!
Song:You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else
Album:The Jones Girls
The Jones Girls were around for over a decade mostly as backup singers before they scored a chart hit with You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else in 1979. It turned out to be their biggest hit. Brenda, Valorie and Shirley Jones are from Detroit. Their mom was gospel singer Mary Frances Jones. They released a few singles on Hot Wax, Paramount and Curtom with no success. They worked with producers like Ronald Dunbar, Leroy Hutson and Gil Askey. Askey was an arranger for Diana Ross and he suggested hiring them as backup singers. After three years touring with Diana, The Jones Girls signed with Philadelphia International (PI). Their debut album The Jones Girls was released in 1979. The album was produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Dexter Wansel and John Ursy Jr. wrote the arrangements. You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else reached #5 on the R&B Singles chart and #38 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gamble and Huff wrote the song and Ursy arranged it. This was their biggest hit though some of their other songs had success on the R&B charts. The Jones Girls released three albums for PI and then returned for a fourth after the disastrous 1983 album On Target was released on RCA. Shirley Jones released a solo album Always In The Mood for PI in 1986. Do You Get Enough Love topped the R&B charts. But for the most part, The Jones Girls returned to backup singing. Valorie Jones died in 2001. Brenda Jones moved to Atlanta and performed in clubs. She died in 2017 after being hit by a car while visiting her daughter in Wilmington, DE. Shirley Jones leads a version of The Jones Girls on the oldies circuit. Here's a video for You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else by The Jones Girls.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
Metallica is one of the most durable bands in history. They have been around since the 80s and are still going strong today. For the most part they are an album band. Enter Sandman is one of their few hit singles and it is also their signature song. In 1981, drummer Lars Ulrich placed an ad in the Los Angeles paper the Recycler looking for musicians to jam with. Guitarist James Hetfield responded and he could sing too. The name Metallica came from a friend. Ulrich placed another ad and Dave Mustaine responded. They added bassist Ron McGovney and Metallica started playing gigs. They saw bassist Cliff Burton of Trauma and they invited him to replace McGovney. He agreed on the condition Metallica move to San Francisco. They recorded their first album Kill 'Em All for Megaforce. Mustaine was fired due to drug and alcohol abuse and replaced by Kirk Hammett. Mustaine went on to form Megadeath. Metallica toured and the album did well enough that they signed with Elektra Records. Master Of Puppets was their first album on Elektra in 1985. The album did well but then disaster struck on Sept. 27, 1986 while on tour in Sweden. The driver lost control of their bus and Burton was killed. Their was doubt that Metallica would continue. After many auditions, Jason Newsted was hired. He was bassist for most of Metallica's run. Their success continued with the 1988 album ...And Justice For All. The 1991 album Metallica was recorded with producer Bob Rock. It was a tough experience as Rock was not happy with the songs they were writing. Ulrich, Hammett and Newsted all divorced their wives. So there were problems in the recording studio. But despite that, the album was a huge success. It was certified Diamond. Enter Sandman reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became their signature song. The album is available as a budget CD. There aren't any Metallica greatest hits comps. They continue to be successful today though obviously they aren't as big as they were back then mostly because they have gone on hiatus occasionally. Newsted was replaced in 2001 by Robert Trujillo. Metallica's latest album was released in 2016 and they continue to tour. So like I said, they are very durable. Here's the video for Enter Sandman by Metallica.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Album:The Best Of Santana
Most music fans are probably familiar with Santana's early Latin tinged hits and also his late 90s comeback. But he had a long dry period in the 80s. Winning was a top 20 hit in 1981. And of course it doesn't sound like a Santana song. It sounds like a generic pop rock song. Santana went in that musical direction with the 1978 album Inner Secrets. That album was produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter who wrote most of the songs. They are pop music producers. They revived Glen Campbell's career with Rhinestone Cowboy. Carlos Santana may have thought that they could help him score a big hit too. The lead singer at the time was Greg Walker who was unknown before joining Santana. Though a couple of singles charted, the album was a failure. For the 1979 album Marathon, Santana hired producer Keith Olsen who had success with Fleetwood Mac. He also brought in a new singer Scotsman Alex Ligertwood. He was lead singer of Brian Auger's Oblivion Express. The rest of the band was the same as Inner Secrets and like that album, Marathon was a failure. For the 1981 album Zebop!, Olsen was still producer and the band was the same. It looks like he took more time to record it and it was more successful. Winning (written and recorded by Russ Ballard in 1975) reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was Santana's biggest hit since 1971. The 1982 album Shango was similarly successful with the single Hold On reaching #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The success did not continue with the 1985 album Beyond Appearances and this led to a long dry period and Santana's departure from Columbia in 1990. Certainly Winning was not one of Santana's more memorable hits. And it wasn't typical of their usual music. But it was a hit and you can get it on this budget comp. Here's the video for Winning by Santana.
Friday, June 15, 2018
Song:Audition/Love To Be Unhappy
CD:Live From New York
Of course Gilda Radner was best known for her Saturday Night Live (SNL) performances in the late 70s. She was not a recording artist but her one woman show of SNL sketches was filmed and an album was released. She was born June 28, 1946 in Detroit. Her family was upper middle class and Gilda based one of her characters on her nanny. She suffered from an eating disorder as a child and a doctor put her on dexedrine when she was ten years old. Her father ran Detroit's Seville Hotel and he took Gilda to New York to see Broadway shows. Sadly he died from a brain tumor when Gilda was a teen. She left the University of Michigan after three years to move to Toronto with sculptor boyfriend Jeffrey Rubinoff. Gilda made her acting debut in the 1972 Toronto production of Godspell. And then she joined Second City along with Godspell cast members Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin and Martin Short. She also appeared on the National Lampoon Radio Hour with John Belushi and Chevy Chase. And that led to Saturday Night Live. There she created characters like Baba Wawa and Emily Litella. Gilda usually wrote her own material with staff writer Alan Zwiebel. After a successful run, she left SNL in 1979. She turned down NBC's offer of a variety show. Instead she did a one woman show Gilda Radner Live In New York on Broadway. This show was based on SNL sketches. It was turned into the movie Gilda Live by director Mike Nichols. And an album was released. Neither the film or album did well. The Audition which Gilda wrote with Paul Shaffer is from that album which is available as a budget CD. The DVD of the film is out of print. Gilda married SNL guitarist G.E. Smith in 1980 and they divorced in 1982. Then she met and married Gene Wilder on the set of the 1982 film Hanky Panky. And she made a couple of movies with him. While filming the 1985 film Haunted Honeymoon in England, Gilda got sick and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She had surgery and went into remission. But the cancer returned and Gilda Radner died on May 20, 1989 at age 42. Her legacy is the many Gilda's Clubs across North America that help those living with cancer. Here's Gilda Radner performing Audition/Love To Be Unhappy from the film Gilda Live.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Song:A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes
Album:Cinderella: The Legacy Collection
Ilene Woods was the voice of Cinderella in Walt Disney's 1950 film Cinderella. She was named a Disney Legend in 2003. She was born May 5, 1929 in Portsmouth, NH. Apparently her mother was quite the stage mother and Ilene started performing at a very early age. At age 15, Paul Whiteman hired her to sing on his radio show. She even had her own fifteen minute show for a while. And that's where she met legendary songwriters Mack David and Jerry Livingston. They had her sing some demos for songs they were writing for Cinderella. After Disney heard the demos, he offered Ilene the role of Cinderella. And that was it. The film was huge success. Disney was in debt at the time so he needed a big hit. Ilene sang A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes at the start of the film. Ilene recorded a version of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes for RCA Records. Ilene released an album in 1957. But mostly she was only known for Cinderella. She married Tonight Show drummer Ed Shaughnessy in 1963 and she retired from show business. This 2CD Legacy Collection edition of the Cinderella soundtrack was released in 2015. As I said, Ilene was named a Disney Legend in 2003. She died on July 1, 2010 at age 81. Here's Ilene Woods performing A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes on The Perry Como Show 1950.