Monthly Archives: February 2015

It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Billboard magazine’s first disco chart was published in October of 1974. Its #1 song was “Never Can Say Goodbye” performed by Gloria Gaynor. That record stayed on top for four weeks, soon crossing over to the pop chart, where it peaked at #9.

An eighteen-plus minute medley of “Honey Bee,” “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” reached #2 on the Disco chart in early 1975, leading to Gaynor being named “Queen of the Discos” by the National Association of Discotheque Disc Jockeys in March of that year.

Six more top ten disco hits followed in 1975 and 1976, but then her fortunes dried up. Her sole entry on the Disco chart in 1977 reached only #38. Her next charted disco single was over a year later, and peaked at #24. By this point, Donna Summer was the new Queen of Disco. Summer was also crossing over onto the pop chart, while Gaynor’s sole top 40 pop single was “Never Can Say Goodbye.” She failed to crack the Hot 100 in 1976 and 1977.

Her record company, Polydor, reached out to producer Dino Fekaris and asked him to produce for Gaynor a cover of the Righteous Brothers track “Substitute,” then a recent hit overseas for a group called Clout.

Fekaris was a staff songwriter at Motown Record for almost seven years before the company let him go. Determined not to let that career setback derail him, Fekaris got together with his songwriter and production partner Freddie Perren, who also had a stint at Motown, and wrote a song about getting over the fear of the unknown and surviving what life throws at you. They wanted a woman to record the track, but didn’t have anybody in mind. They decided to give the song to the next diva they work with. That’s when Polydor called with the Gaynor gig.

As requested by her label boss, Gaynor recorded “Substitute” to be the A-side of her next single, but the song about survival, which she recorded to be the record’s B-side, really resonated with her. Besides her career troubles, she recently lost her mother and fell on stage while performing, which required her to undergo spinal surgery and spend six months in the hospital. She recorded the tracks wearing a back brace.

“Substitute” was released in the fall of 1978. It failed to make the Hot 100.

One night around that time, Studio 54 DJ Ritchie Kaczor flipped over “Substitute” and played its B-side. The patrons ignored it that first time, but Kaczor kept playing it. Eventually, it became the club’s most popular cut. Soon, all New York City clubs were playing the track.

In November 1978 Vince Aletti wrote in Record World magazine that this song “is Gaynor’s very best work in years…delivered with such relish that one can’t help but get caught up in the emotion.”

In Boston, disco radio DJ Jack King played the single’s B-side and reported that “my listeners went nuts!” Seeing the response this song was getting, Polydor reissued the single with “Substitute” as the B-side. The A-side was now the anthem “I Will Survive.”

Winston + Gaynor
In January 1979, “I Will Survive” returned Gloria Gaynor to #1 on the Disco chart, where she remained for three weeks. In March of that year the record hit #1 on the Hot 100, where it also stayed for three weeks. It went on to become a smash around the world.

At the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on February 27, 1980, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” won for Best Disco Recording, the only time that award has ever been given, over Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” Earth Wind & Fire with The Emotions’ “Boogie Wonderland,” and then Queen of Disco Donna Summer’s Bad Girls.

“I Will Survive” kicks off Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party.

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It’s Rihanna’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

As much as I miss so many things about living in New York City, during the winter months I’m glad I moved to Los Angeles. I spent the first forty winters of my life on the east coast. I’m fine never again seeing snow or experiencing temperatures below 35 degrees.

When I was living in Manhattan I would take one week every winter to escape the city and head to the Caribbean or Mexico. I needed that time to thaw out. I didn’t take that trip the winter of 2002/2003, using my vacation fund to purchase a laptop instead. When LA-based Rhino Records called me in March 2003 to see if I’d consider moving out west to work for them, it was the fifth month of winter and I hadn’t a break. I said yes.

Growing up my parents would take us on vacations every winter. We went to the US Virgin Islands, Mexico, Puerto Rico and other warm places. We visited not-so-warm places as well. One year we went to Switzerland, where we skied down the Swiss Alps. One afternoon after we finished skiing for the day we took a walk. We heard what sounded like a loud rumble of thunder, but the sky was blue. Looking up, we saw an avalanche coming down the mountain right toward where we were. We ran for shelter in an igloo that was nearby (I have no idea why there was an igloo there), but not before I snapped some photos. Who knew when I would next see an avalanche?

avalancheAvalanche!

Similar things happened in other places I traveled with my family. I think it was on St. Thomas where we were told the evening we arrived that we had to leave our beachside bungalow and move into a room further up the hill, as a tidal wave was expected. The day we arrived in Barbados it was raining, which surprised and pleased our cab driver from the airport, who said they had been experiencing a very long drought. Fret no more, sir; the Schwartzes are here and we bring weather.

Traveling alone as an adult I didn’t have such weather-related events in the places I visited, but I more than made up for that with other misadventures. There was the time I accidentally hired a hooker to show me around Prague. There was the time in Puerto Vallarta where I signed up for a nature trek that turned out to be an orgy. There was that time in Istanbul where looking for an authentic Turkish bath I stumbled upon an underground sex club. I would have preferred a tour guide, a nature trek and a Turkish bath, but such is life.

I love to travel, but these days I’m not compelled to do so during the winter, where in LA we’ve enjoyed seventy-something degree weather the last few weeks. For those of you who are having a winter, do your best to stay warm and healthy.

To help you heat up, this week’s Tunes du Jour dance playlist features twenty-tracks from Barbados-born Rihanna. Did you know that Rihanna has had more #1 hits on the US Dance chart than any female artist save Madonna? She’s hit the top spot on that chart 21 times. This week, Madonna has her 44th #1 dance hit, “Living for Love,” so Rihanna has a way to go to overtake her. However, Rihanna can take solace in knowing that she has the #1 song in Glenn’s Ten this week, “FourFiveSeconds.”

Here are twenty Rihanna club bangers.

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

“I go through stages of intense dislike for ‘Blue Monday,’ which I’m sure every group does when they get one song they’re synonymous with, but the way it keeps getting reinvented is wonderful. It seems to be one of those tracks that’s timeless, which is amazing. We were using technology which could have dated like other ’80s stuff, but somehow we managed to swerve it. Was that deliberate? No, everything we do is by accident. The fact that for two years no one spotted that the sleeves cost more to make than the records confirms this. I honestly thought ‘Thieves Like Us,’ the single after ‘Blue Monday,’ was far superior. ‘Blue Monday’’s not a song, it’s a feeling, but once people hear that drum riff they’re off. People used to go mad when we didn’t play it. We had a fight onstage with a DJ in Nottingham once because we wouldn’t play it – which was a very New Order thing to do. As you get older and mellower you appreciate what got you where you are. We play it now because people love it.” – Peter Hook of New Order, 2003, in Q magazine, which named “Blue Monday” one of the best songs ever

Peter Hook turns 59 today. Tunes du Jour kicks off our weekly dance party with “Blue Monday.”

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Beck, Kanye and Beyoncé

“I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists, to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé. Because when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in their face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration. And we as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album and they feel like it takes them to another place.” – Kanye West on the Grammy Award for Album of the Year going to Beck’s Morning Phase rather than Beyoncé’s self-titled release

“I thought she was going to win. Come on, she’s Beyoncé! You can’t please everybody, man. I still love [West] and think he’s genius. I aspire to do what he does.” – Beck

“I wasn’t saying Beck; I said the Grammys. Beck knows that Beyoncé should have won; you know that. Come on, man. I love Beck! But he didn’t have the Album of the Year.” – Kanye West

Kanye West, official spokesperson for the Bey Nation, gave his opinion and the Internet blew up! It was a repeat of 2009, when West announced that Taylor Swift stole the MTV Best Female Video Award that should have gone to Beyoncé. The American people were up in arms! So much vitriol was sent West-ward and his detractors found plenty of reasons to go after him the ensuing years. As the wise trophy thief said, “the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.”

Kanye’s point was about creating art and reaching new heights in one’s craft. The only intelligent responses to further this discourse, per the many comments I saw on Facebook and Twitter, are “You’re classless” and “You’re garbage.” One person who didn’t call Kanye garbage was Shirley Manson, the lead singer of the band Garbage. She called him “a complete twat.”

At least all of us can sleep better knowing that Kanye loves Beck. They are two of my favorite all-time artists for many of the same reasons. They seldom repeat themselves, making each album they release different than the previous one. Neither follows trends. Both challenge themselves. Both are masters of their craft. Both can be sincere. Both can be funny. Neither has released a bad record.

However…

Beyoncé should have gotten the Album of the Year Grammy. Her self-titled album was a revelation. Following up her uneven 4, she took a giant leap forward and strived to make something more artistic than what we were used to from her. She succeeded. The Beck record, Morning Phase, sounds beautiful, but there were no surprises. It was announced early in 2014 that Beck would be releasing a new album that was in a mellow vein. I got what I expected. It was as fine as I thought it would be, and stronger than his last couple of releases. I like Morning Phase very much, more than the other nominated Albums of the Year performed by Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Pharrell Williams, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard Beck do before. Ironically, in Beyoncé’s quest to be more artistic, her album outsold its predecessor. Like Kanye said, she had the Album of the Year.

Enough of the Grammy voters felt otherwise and awarded Beck. That’s fine. There have been worse slights in the Grammy Album of the Year category than Beyoncé losing to Beck. What about the 1996 awards, when Beck’s Odelay lost to Celine Dion’s Falling into You? Or in 2000, when Beck’s Midnight Vultures lost to Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature? Or in 2005, when U2’s Hot to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb beat Kanye’s Late Registration and in 2004, when Ray Charles & Friends’ Genius Loves Company beat Kanye’s The College Dropout and Green Day’s American Idiot? Steely Dan, U2 and Ray Charles have released many albums deserving of Album of the Year. These weren’t them. U2 should have won 1992’s Album of the Year for Achtung Baby. They lost to Eric Clapton Unplugged. In 2007, Kanye’s Graduation and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black both lost Album of the Year to Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, a record that literally nobody has ever heard. In 1980, Christopher Cross’ self-titled debut beat Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In 1966, The Beatles’ Revolver lost to Frank Sinatra’s A Man and His Music. In 2012, Mumford & Sons’ Babel beat albums by Frank Ocean, Jack White and The Black Keys. The nominees for 1984’s Album of the Year Grammy were Prince’s Purple Rain, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, and Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down. Four classic albums plus one by Lionel Richie. The winner? Lionel Richie! WTF on a stick?!?! In 1991 the Album of the Year Grammy didn’t go to R.E.M., nominated for Out of Time. It went to Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable…with Love. Eligible but not nominated that year? A little album called Nevermind by a band named Nirvana. Oh well, whatever. In 1982, Toto IV beat…it doesn’t matter who else was nominated. It’s Toto Fuckin’ IV, people.

It looks like Beyoncé will have to wait longer before she is in the same hallowed company as Toto.

In less contentious news this week, ISIS killed U.S. hostage Kayla Mueller, Boko Haram killed thirteen soldiers and 81 civilians in Chad, and the Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court forbade probate judges in that state to issue marriage license to same-sex couples, despite a judge’s ruling that such unions are legal and the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to issue a stay on that ruling.

Congratulations, Beck!

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U Should Know D’Angelo

You should know D’Angelo’s music. His debut album, Brown Sugar, turns twenty this summer. It’s a landmark in neo soul that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1995.

D’Angelo’s second album, Voodoo, celebrated its fifteenth anniversary a couple of weeks ago. It builds on and surpasses his debut, with D’Angelo’s singing, writing and production stretching beyond what his contemporaries were doing.

He surprise released his third album, Black Messiah, this past December. The Village Voice annual music critics poll placed it at #1 for 2014 album releases.

Today D’Angelo turns 41. Here is an introductory playlist. You should know D’Angelo’s music.

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Making Love With Roberta Flack

In the 1982 film Making Love, Michael Ontkean plays a doctor (“Zack”) who cheats on his wife (“Claire”), portrayed by Kate Jackson, with Harry Hamlin (“Bart”), one of his patients. I guess I’m straight, because between the three main characters, I had a crush on the woman. Jackson was always my favorite of Charlie’s Angels. I was more attracted to her than I was to Farrah Fawcett or Jacklyn Smith or Cheryl Ladd. On second thought, that’s pretty gay.

Back in those days, there weren’t many Hollywood movies with big-name stars that had homosexual storylines, unlike today, when the typical multiplex fare is chock-full of celebrities acting out LGBT plots, he wrote sarcastically. It was a more conservative time. Reagan was president. Most folks didn’t want to see this pic. In her review of the Making Love in The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote that the film “isn’t for everybody. It isn’t, for instance, for those who value seriousness, quality or realism above sheer foolishness, at least where their soap operas are concerned.” I prefer sheer foolishness.

Ms. Maslin continued her rave review. “Once the cat is out of the bag, the movie turns rip-roaring awful in an entirely enjoyable way. There is, for instance, Claire’s visit to one of Zack’s male lovers, whose address she finds on a matchbook in Zack’s closet. ‘Could I ask you a stupid question?’ she says, rather unnecessarily. ‘Are you happy?’ The movie maintains this pitch right through to its ending. The ending, incidentally, is one for the record books.”

Roger Ebert was equally impressed. In his review he wrote “This movie has some of the worst dialogue one can imagine:
She: ‘What about passion?’
He: ‘What about support?’
She: ‘What about betrayal?’”

Ebert also wrote “[Ontkean’s character] visits a couple of gay bars populated exclusively by extras who look as if they should be posing for an Ah! Men! catalog.”

Why Ebert was familiar with the Ah! Men! catalog I do not know, but he sure knows how to sell me on a film.

The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, though not for the actors or director. Roberta Flack’s theme song, written by Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Bruce Roberts, lost Best Original Song to “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman. Fair enough, though the song “Making Love” is as pretty as Kate Jackson.

Ringo + Roberta
Today Roberta Flack turns 76 or 78, depending on where you read it. Here are twenty career highlights.

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Who Is Barry Mann?

Ringo + Righteous
During yesterday’s Grammy Awards, the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil received the Trustees Award, whatever that is. The honor was introduced by Tom Jones and Jessie J, who performed the most godawful rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” that has ever been foisted upon an unsuspecting world. Lost that loving feeling? More like lost their hearing, based on the way Jones and J yelled and screamed at each other. Do they not understand the concept of microphones? No need to shout, people.

To unwrong this heinous assault on the ears of the show’s viewers, Tunes du Jour presents to you a collection of twenty tunes co-written by Mann, most with his wife of 54 years, Weil. Along with the husband-wife songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil helped shape the sound of American pop music beginning in the early 1960s. Coincidentally, both Mann and King celebrate their birthdays today. For more on King, click here.

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Grammy Predictions

The 2014 Grammy Awards will be handed out tomorrow night. Here are my fearless predictions:

RECORD OF THE YEAR – “Stay With Me” – Sam Smith
ALBUM OF THE YEAR – Beyoncé – Beyoncé
SONG OF THE YEAR – “Stay With Me” – Sam Smith
BEST NEW ARTIST – Sam Smith
BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE – “All of Me” – John Legend
BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE – “A Sky Full of Stars” – Coldplay
BEST TRADITIONAL POP VOCAL ALBUM – Cheek to Cheek – Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM – X – Ed Sheeran
BEST DANCE RECORDING – “F for You” – Disclosure featuring Mary J. Blige
BEST DANCE/ELECTRONIC ALBUM – While(1<2) – Deadmau5
BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE – “Fever” – The Black Keys
BEST ROCK SONG – “Blue Moon” – Beck
BEST ROCK ALBUM – Turn Blue – The Black Keys
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM – Reflektor – Arcade Fire
BEST R&B PERFORMANCE – “Drunk in Love” – Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
BEST R&B SONG – “Drunk in Love” – Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
BEST URBAN COMTEMPORARY ALBUM – Beyoncé – Beyoncé
BEST R&B ALBUM – Give the People What They Want – Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE – “i” – Kendrick Lamar
BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION – “The Monster” – Eminem featuring Rihanna
BEST RAP SONG – “i” – Kendrick Lamar
BEST RAP ALBUM – Oxymoron – ScHoolboy Q
BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE – “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
BEST COUNTRY DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE – “Somethin’ Bad” – Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood
BEST COUNTRY SONG – “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM – Platinum – Miranda Lambert
BEST COMEDY ALBUM – Mandatory Fun – “Weird Al” Yankovic
BEST SONG WRITTEN FOR VISUAL MEDIA – “Let It Go” – Adele Dazeem
BEST BOXED OR SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION PACKAGE – The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Volume One
BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM (NON-CLASSICAL) – Morning Phase – Beck
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR (NON-CLASSICAL) – Max Martin
BEST REMIXED RECORDING (NON-CLASSICAL) – “All of Me” (Tiesto’s Birthday Treatment Remix) – John Legend

Enjoy the show!

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Trivia Question – Who is the only male solo artist whose first eight singles all went top ten in the UK?

Elton John? No. Elvis Presley? No. Cliff Richard? No. It was Rick Astley. In the US many people remember Rick as a one-hit wonder, but that is incorrect. Rick had seven top 40 singles stateside, including five top tens, two of which, “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Together Forever,” went to #1. He retired from recording in 1993, by which time he had sold around forty million records.

Winston + Rick A
Today Rick turns 49 years old. We kick off our weekly dance party with a largely-forgotten tune of his that went top ten on both sides of the Atlantic.

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The Song Retains The Name

Winston + Bobby Brown
Today is Bobby Brown’s 46th birthday. A former member of New Edition, Brown had his first solo hit in 1988 with “Don’t Be Cruel,” which reached #8 on the Hot 100. Though it shares its title with an Elvis Presley #1 hit from 1956, Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is not a remake.

That brings us to today’s playlist, which I call The Song Retains the Name. It consists of different songs with the same title. I initially planned to include twenty such songs, but more kept springing to mind. Before I knew it, I passed 100 entries. There are plenty more, so I decided to open this up to my reader(s). If you have songs that share titles you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

(NOTES: I included The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” because when it was released in 1980 its title was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Thought he didn’t have to, Michael Jackson, the song’s writer, later changed its name to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel.” Whitney Houston didn’t feel the need to make the same Hotel accommodation.

Also, though it is listed on Spotify as “The Best of My Love,” the Eagles track does not have a “The” on the 45 or the band’s On the Border album.)

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