Monthly Archives: August 2015

Van Morrison Wasn’t Looking For A Hit

In 1967 Van Morrison hit with his first solo single, “Brown Eyed Girl.” He had hit the top 40 twice before as the lead singer of Them, first with 1965’s “Here Comes the Night,” which peaked at #24. That song’s writer/producer, Bert Berns, produced “Brown Eyed Girl,” a Morrison composition. The song hit the top ten, which didn’t make Morrison happy. “I never wanted to be commercial, and suddenly ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ was making me even more commercial,” he complained.

The relationship deteriorated between Morrison and Berns, who besides being a songwriter and producer ran Bang Records, the record company to which Morrison was signed. Morrison’s next album would be on Warner Bros. Records.

Released in 1968, Astral Weeks produced no top ten singles. As a matter of fact, it didn’t produce any charting singles. The album failed to chart as well. Morrison was following his musical muse.

These days Astral Weeks is considered Morrison’s best work and is a rock era classic.

Today Morrison turns 70 years old. Here are twenty career highlights, including “Brown Eyed Girl” and a healthy lot of songs from Astral Weeks.


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 18

In this week’s installment of A Hint of Mint, you’ll hear songs with LGBT content from rockers such as Green Day, Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles, as well as music from queer artists (I can’t tell you who because 8tracks, the platform on which this playlist was created, limits me to naming three artists, per copyright law.). Originals, covers, singles, album tracks, hits and rarities make up this twenty-track collection.


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My Michael Jackson Memorabilia And Collectables

MJ pin
I’m celebrating Michael Jackson’s birthday by sharing with you some of the fun stuff in my Michael Jackson collection.

MJ cereal box recordsThe youth of today hear music via inferior-sounding MP3s. When I was a kid, we cut records out of the back of cereal boxes. I miss the warm sound cardboard provides.

MJ ColorformsRub ’em here! Rub ’em there! Rub ’em EVERYWHERE! Ages 3 and Up

MJ paperweightI should have wiped the shmutz off of this promotional paperweight before I took the picture. Oh well.

MJ trading cardsTrading cards are not for trading. They are for hoarding.

MJ Pepsi canPromoting their sponsorship of The Jacksons’ Victory tour, Pepsi issued cans of the soft drink that came with the brothers’ autographs and a dismembered hand.

MJ Dangerous pop-upWhat kid grown man doesn’t love pop-ups?

MJ duffle bagThis duffle bag comforts me as only having Michael Jackson’s eyes staring at me while in a strange hotel room can.

MJ inviteNo recuerdo nada de este.

MJ HIStory puzzleWhat kid grown man doesn’t love these slidey puzzle games?

MJ promo remixesPromotional-only remixes on vinyl, not cardboard

MJ Smile singleMichael’s cover of the classic “Smile” (not the Lily Allen song, but the one that goes “Smile though your heart is breaking”) was not released as a single, though it was pressed bearing this cover. Why is Michael dressed like Hitler?

The best part of my Michael Jackson collection is the music. Here are twenty of my favorites:


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The Problem With Music Streaming Exclusives | It’s Florence Welch’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Dr. Dre recently released a new album, Compton. If you want to stream it, the only place to do so is on Apple iTunes’ new streaming service, Apple Music.

Prince announced that his new album would be available for streaming exclusively on Tidal.

Both Apple Music and Tidal charge monthly subscription fees. Unlike paying a monthly subscription fee to HBO and Showtime, thereby giving you access to exclusive content on each network, the majority of material on Tidal is also on Apple Music. If you pay for Apple’s service, is it worth paying an additional amount to Tidal just to hear Prince and see a few behind the scenes videoclips?

The situation reminds me of what happened in the late 1990s. Record companies stopped releasing commercial singles, so if a consumer wished to own, say, “Tubthumping,” that consumer had to purchase a Chumbawamba CD for $18.98. “Tubthumping” is a great song, but is it $18.98 great? Yes, you get other songs on the album, but be honest – it’s all about “Tubthumping.”

It turns out an alternative appeared – illegal downloading. Consumers rebelled against being forced to pay $18.98 to get that one song they wanted, so they found a copy of it on the Internet for free. And while browsing the store known as the World Wide Web, they found some other selections that they felt were well worth the price of nothing.

Many folks want to hear the new Dr. Dre album. Many folks will want to hear the new Prince album. Many of those folks don’t want to pay for both or either streaming service. Many will download the albums for free from places not owned by Apple of Tidal. The services likely paid Dre and Prince and their record labels a pretty penny for the exclusivity. That’s the only way I can see anyone winning in this scenario, though will those labels win in the long run?

I subscribe to neither Apple Music nor Tidal. I have access to Amazon’s streaming service via my Amazon Prime subscription, but I can’t recommend that streaming service, as their music library is paltry. I use Spotify’s free tier. Its library is a good size and it is convenient. Because it is the most popular streaming service and available to everyone at no fee, I use it for this blog’s playlists.

Spotify isn’t perfect, however. Far from it. Many songs are misidentified and there are far too many cheesy re-recordings of songs in place of the original hit versions. Many of the tracks I’d love to include on our Friday dance playlists – Amii Stewart’s “Knock on Wood,” Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” David Naughton’s “Makin’ It,” Junior’s “Mama Used to Say,” – are not available, save for crappy-sounding covers by the original acts.

Therefore, our weekly dance party doesn’t include any of those (or anything by Prince, who removed his music from Spotify to make his catalogue exclusive to Tidal). However, it does include twenty tunes to get you jumping, kicking off this week with Florence + the Machine, whose Florence Welch turns 29 today.


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Try A Little Kindness: The Ashford & Simpson Songbook

Try a little kindness and you’ll see it’s something that comes very naturally

I have a neighbor down the hall who has never said hello to me. He has never acknowledged my existence. We’ve been neighbors for twelve years. Until recently, that rankled me. Is it so difficult to say hello? To smile? To half-smile?

There is a couple who live on the floor beneath mine. A couple of years ago, after our morning walk, I got on the elevator with my dogs. One of the guys got on as well and said, unsolicited, “I hate your dogs.” That’s a terrible thing to say under any circumstances, but you should know, my dogs don’t bark. They don’t jump up on people they don’t know. They were standing in the corner of the elevator next to me when this man shared his opinion, an opinion that could not have any positive effect on the environment. Recently that same guy and his partner were on the elevator. The vocal dog hater saw me approaching (sans pets) and held the door open for me. I said thank you. When they exited on their floor, the partner of the vocal dog hater admonished the vocal dog hater. “See what happens when you hold the door for people!” They get on the elevator? They say “Thank you?” I’m not sure what his beef was, but again, what positive effect does such an attitude encourage? If those are your thoughts, why share them?

It still bothers me a little to encounter such uninvited nastiness, but I’ve come to realize it’s not me. It’s them. I’m nice. I say thank you. I adopted two rescue dogs, one of which was abandoned by his previous owners, and nurtured them. That someone can’t appreciate who I am, that someone can’t appreciate what I do, that someone can’t bring themselves to be courteous or half-smile is a sign of their damaged psyche.

Once I fully realized this I decided to make a concerted effort to display more acts of kindness. I say hello to people I pass on the sidewalk, which, as a native New Yorker, took some getting used to. I smile at store clerks, not just the ones I want to date. I “like” more posts on Facebook and LinkedIn.

The more kindness we put out into the world, the kinder the world will be.

The lyric at the top of this post comes from Diana Ross’s first post-Supremes solo hit, 1970’s “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The song was written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, the married couple who wrote so many great songs for Miss Ross, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, and others, including themselves.

Today Valerie Simson turns 69 years old. Our playlist consists of twenty of Ashford & Simpson’s finest.


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Jesus, Etc. | A Wilco Playlist

Duke University placed Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home on its suggested summer reading list for incoming students. The book, which was adapted into a Broadway show that won Best Musical at this year’s Tony Awards, is a coming-of-age story about a lesbian and her relationship with her closeted gay dad.

Some Duke students refused to read the book. One wrote in a Facebook post “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” Reading a book is against his beliefs? Another incoming freshman wrote “The nature of Fun Home means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature.” You might have consented to look at pornography. On the other hand, you might not have. There’s one way to find out. The inclusion of Fun Home on the suggested reading list made one new student at Duke remark “I thought to myself, ‘What kind of school am I going to?’” A college that suggests students read books? What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks?

One can hold on to their personal beliefs while reading about persons with different backgrounds or beliefs. I’m not an expert on religion, but I don’t think one spends eternity in h-e-double-hockey-sticks for learning about someone who in some ways differs from the reader. Maybe these students will eventually come to realize this. They are in school; perhaps they’ll use their time there to learn.

Today is the 48th birthday of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Hopefully it’s not against your religious beliefs to check out twenty of the band’s best.


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 17: The F Word

This week’s installment of A Hint of Mint features a collection of twenty songs with the f word or some variation thereof in their titles. Which f word? Hit play and you’ll find out pretty quickly. Sing these songs at the top of your lungs. You’ll feel better.


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It’s Joe Strummer’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Nineteen seventy-nine saw the release of The Ethel Merman Disco Album. That same year saw western music banned in Iran. If you heard that album you’d hail that decision. Six-and-a-half minutes of “Everything’s Coming up Roses” set to a dance beat was deemed too decadent and an insult to decent citizens. By order of the Prophet, they banned that boogie sound, as it degenerated the faithful.

Ethel Merman discoIt’s a it’s a it’s a it’s a sin!

While waiting for his bandmates to come to the studio to work on the album with the working title Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg, The Clash’s Topper Headon recorded a song he wrote. He played drums, piano and bass on the track. Per the group’s former associate and sometime manager Kosmo Vinyl, Headon accompanied his music with “very, very pornographic lyrics” about his girlfriend. The Prophet would not be happy.

Raga is a style of Indian classical music. Its performed pieces typically last for a half hour or longer. After a few days of hearing each song being worked on for the The Clash’s album lasting a minimum of six minutes, band manager Bernard Rhodes asked “Does everything have to be as long as a raga?” The question inspired the band’s Joe Strummer to write the lyric “The king told the boogie men ‘You have to let that raga drop.’” (NOTE: Joe Strummer did not compose the KC & the Sunshine Band hit “I’m Your Boogie Man.” Or did he???)

With that line as his starting point, Strummer replaced the original “pornographic” lyrics Headon wrote for his tune with ones inspired by Iran’s ban of disco music. In the song, once the Shareef is out of sight, the populace ignore the ban. Even the fighter pilots the Shareef brings in to drop bombs on the partying civilians turn up the music on their radios once he’s been chauffeured away. Western dance music? The Shareef don’t like it!

By the late 1990s the laws against western music had been relaxed in Iran, only to be reinstituted in 2005 by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Ringo + The Clash
Though Ahmadinejad thinks it’s not kosher to boogie, we at Tunes du Jour think it’s treif to let Friday pass by without dancing. Our weekly dance playlist kicks off with The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah,” with lyrics by Joe Strummer, who was born on this day in 1952. By the way, the album from which the song is taken, released under the name Combat Rock, contains only one song longer than five minutes, the five-and-a-half minute long “Straight to Hell.” The king won.


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 16: Madonna

Celebrate Madonna’s 57th birthday with this 20-song playlist of songs performed by Madonna, songs about Madonna, songs covered by Madonna, covers of songs made famous by Madonna, and songs sampled by Madonna.


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It’s Ana Matronic’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

“A kiki is a party, for calming all your nerves
We’re spilling tea, and dishing just deserts when they deserve
And though the sun is rising, few may choose to leave”

It’s Friday and I need to dance, but you already know that.

I’ve always enjoyed going out clubbing, especially in the early nineties. Some Fridays and many Saturdays I’d go with whoever I was then dating or a good friend to The Roxy or The Limelight or Twilo (though Twilo may have come into being a few years into the nineties) or that club on Sixth Avenue around 15th Street whose name escapes me at the moment or that bar/club/fire hazard in the East Village or The Saint. In New York, the clubs didn’t close at 2 AM or 4 AM. They stayed open. There were times we wouldn’t leave until 8 or 9 the next morning. As that was breakfast time, we’d head for a diner (a “coffee shop” in the local parlance, before coffee shop meant a place like Starbucks) to eat before heading home to sleep. Watching people start their Sunday before we even finished our Saturday made me feel so alive. I’m here on this earth and taking advantage of it.

It’s been a long time since I stayed out all night. Though I cherish the memories, I can’t say I miss doing so. That may be because I haven’t hit upon a club that plays music I’d like to dance to for hours on end. The exception is Oil Can Harry’s, a dive in Studio City that hosts classic disco night on Saturdays. I love me some classic disco, and can stay there until closing if classic disco and post-disco 80s house was all that was played. For some reason, the DJ throws on Rihanna or other contemporary acts between midnight and 1. That’s my cue to leave. Nothing against Rihanna – she has many fun club songs – but it throws me off after I’ve been grooving to Donna Summer and KC & the Sunshine Band and Chic to suddenly be brought back to the 2010s.

If they didn’t call it Classic Disco Night, if they mixed up the eras and genres throughout the evening, that would be welcome. Seventies disco, eighties house, nineties alternative, aughts pop – take the best of each and mix ‘em up. I’ll leave when the sun comes up.

I’d love to DJ there. This way I can play the music that would keep me going all night.

Every Friday Tunes du Jour posts a slice of such playlists. Today’s slice kicks off with “Let’s Have a Kiki,” performed by Scissor Sisters, whose Ana Matronic turns 41 today.


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