Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Hint Of Mint – Volume 39: Back To The Bench Where Your Clothes Were Stolen

It’s dancey. It’s retro. It’s desperate. It’s freeing. It’s new wavey. It’s sexy. It’s vintage. It’s the truth.

Artists include Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Dead or Alive and Erasure.


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Ruth Brown And 1950s Rhythm And Blues

So successful was Ruth Brown in the 1950s that her label, Atlantic Records, which started in 1947, was nicknamed The House the Ruth Built.

Her first single for the label, “So Long,” reached #4 on the Rhythm & Blues chart in 1949. Her next hit, “Teardrops from My Eyes,” spent 11 weeks at #1 on that chart. She earned the nickname the Queen of R&B, and over the next ten years scored an additional nineteen r&b top ten singles, including four more number ones. In total she spent thirty-two weeks at #1 on the r&b singles chart. In 1953, Brown crossed over to the pop top 40 with “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean.”

In the 1960s Brown focused on her family life. She returned to music the following decade, and added acting gigs to her resume. In 1979 she was a regular character on the sitcom Hello, Larry, and she famously portrayed Motormouth Maybelle in the original 1988 movie version of Hairspray, a role which had echoes of her life performing at segregated dances in the sixties. She won the 1989 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in the Broadway show Black and Blue. Her companion album, Blues on Broadway, won Brown the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance, Female.

Ruth Brown 327410_1258221698098_full
Brown was also influential in the creation of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, founded in 1988. Per the nonprofit’s mission statement, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation is “dedicated to the historical and cultural preservation of Rhythm & Blues music and recognition of participants in its community by providing services and programs to Rhythm & Blues artists and their fans.”

In 1993, Ruth Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

She died in 2006 from complications resulting from a heart attack and stroke.

Inspired by Ruth Brown, who was born on January 12*, 1928, today’s playlist presents twenty of the best rhythm and blues recordings from the 1950s.


(*I initially prepared this entry to be posted on January 12. However, once I was about to post it, I read in a few places that the information I had was incorrect, and that Brown’s birth date was January 30, so I saved it for today. Just after I finished re-editing it this afternoon, I looked on Wikipedia and see they (now) list her birthday as January 12, which some other sites confirmed.)

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Jada Pinkett Smith announced that she is boycotting the Academy Awards this year due to the lack of diversity among the acting nominees. I’m sure that will put a huge dent in the show‘s ratings, as the 40 million people who tend to tune in to the telecast do so to see Jada Pinkett Smith. Following in Pinkett Smith’s footsteps, Spike Lee and Pinkett Smith’s husband Will Smith announced that they were joining in the boycott.

The issue is that out of twenty nominated actors and actresses, twenty are Caucasian. At first glance that doesn’t appear to be very diverse. At second glance, it’s still not diverse, but a boycott is not going to bring about the change that is needed.

Granted, the conversation about the lack of diversity among the nominees needs to be had. The Motion Picture Academy needs to step up its efforts to expand its membership beyond white men, who at this time overwhelmingly make up its ranks.

However, the Academy Award nominations are the result of the actual problem, which is the lack of diversity involved in the movies being made by Hollywood. Movie studios and production companies need to be engaged in the diversity conversation. They’re the ones making the majority of films from which the Academy chooses the nominations. While Caucasian men make up the majority of ticket buyers, serving other demographics adds to a studio’s bottom line. Remember how shocked everyone was when the Sex & the City movie proved a box office bonanza? It’s a movie with female leads that sold tickets primarily to women moviegoers and grossed over $400 million, and it isn’t even good!

Women like to see their lives on the screen. So do African Americans. And Latinos. And people of Asian descent. And gay people. And trans people. And older people. And so on and so on.

Seeing one’s life on the screen means more than merely seeing people of one’s race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation on screen. As the conversation surrounding this year’s nominees focuses on race, let’s look at some recent black nominees.

During the past decade, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o were nominated for portraying slaves. Denzel Washington was nominated for his role as an alcoholic drug-abusing pilot. Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis were nominated for playing maids. (Spencer won, but Davis lost to Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Yes, the Iron Lady won over the lady who irons.) Mo’Nique won for her portrayal of an abusive mother. Forest Whitaker won for playing a corrupt, human rights-abusing dictator. Barkhad Abdi was nominated for playing a pirate. Ruby Dee was nominated for playing the mother of a drug kingpin.

Also nominated was Gabourey Sidibe for her portrayal of an African-American teenager who is repeatedly raped by her father and abused by her mother and others. That performance lost to Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of a nice, white lady who takes in a troubled African American teen.

Other characters portrayed by recently nominated white folks include Colin Firth as a king with a speech impediment, Eddie Redmayne as a brilliant scientist, Benedict Cumberbatch as a brilliant computer scientist, Leonardo DiCaprio as a stockbroker, Patricia Arquette as a loving mother, Sandra Bullock as an astronaut, Daniel Day-Lewis as the U.S. president who freed the black slaves, Robert Downey Jr. as a white actor portraying a black man, and Christoph Waltz as a bounty hunter who emancipates and mentors a black slave. I’m not going to go through every white nominee; we’ll be here all day!

From the examples given, eagle-eyed observers may notice the types of parts for which black actors and white actors get nominated for Academy Awards. Lee and the Smiths are not wrong in saying there is a problem here that needs to be fixed.

Joining the boycott are Curtis Jackson, star of such not-Oscar nominated films as Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Home of the Brave and Righteous Kill. Under his nom de rap 50 Cent, Jackson posted on Instagram a plea for Chris Rock to step down as the award show’s host. The same request came from Tyrese Gibson, star of such not-Oscar nominated films as The Fast & the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, and Furious 7.

Calvin Broadus, under his nom de rap Snoop Dogg, posted a video on Instagram that said “Fornicate the Academy Awards,” though not in those exact words. Broadus was not nominated for his role in The Wash, in which he stretched his acting chops by portraying Dr. Dre’s weed-smoking best friend. That film has an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Until a few minutes ago I thought The Wash was a remake of the seventies movie Car Wash, which has an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Per Wikipedia, The Wash is an original movie written and directed by Mark Jordan under his nom de rap, DJ Pooh.

While the soundtrack of The Wash didn’t produce any Billboard Hot 100 hits, the soundtrack to Car Wash did. It was on January 29, 1977, that its theme song hit #1, an incredible feat given it’s a song about a car wash. Amazingly, the song holds up to this day.

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Our playlist kicks off with Rose Royce’s “Car Wash.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1989

During the February 22, 1989 telecast of the Grammy Awards, Pepsi premiered a thirty-second spot that featured a new song by Madonna, “Like a Prayer.” It was the first time a major artist’s new single was used in a television commercial prior to being released to radio or record stores.

The following week, a two-minute version of the commercial aired during The Cosby Show, at the time a highly-rated program starring America’s favorite dad, Bill Cosby. The ad, part of a $5 million endorsement deal Pepsi struck with Madonna that also included tour sponsorship, featured Madonna dancing in the street, in a school hallway, and in a church.

The song’s music video premiered the following day on MTV. In the video, Madonna witnesses the murder of a white girl by white supremacists. A black man gets arrested for the killing. Madonna seeks refuge in a church, where she has a dream that includes stigmata on her hands, kissing a black saint, and dancing in front of burning crosses.

The Vatican and other religions organizations condemned the video and threatened a protest against Pepsi products. Pepsi dropped its sponsorship of Madonna, never again aired the television spot, and let Madonna keep the $5 million they paid her.

“Like a Prayer” became Madonna’s seventh #1 pop hit in the United States. It also topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Belgium, and Switzerland.

“Like a Prayer” won the Viewers Choice award at the 1989 MTV Music Video Awards, a program that incidentally was sponsored by Pepsi. In her speech, Madonna said “I would really like to thank Pepsi for causing so much controversy.”

Tunes du Jour’s playlist this Throwback Thursday spotlights the year 1989, and kicks off with Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 38: What Exciting Things Will Happen Today?

Indie rock/pop, with St. Vincent, Sleater-Kinney, Grizzly Bear, and a host of other cool folks.


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It’s Michael Hutchence’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

There’s a dead bird on my balcony. I don’t know the bird. I don’t know how he or she died. I raised the shades on Tuesday morning and saw the bird underneath one of the two lounge chairs I bought at Ikea ten years ago.

I don’t know what to do with the dead bird. I’d like to alert his or her family, who for all I know are keeping a vigil, hoping to see their loved one come home to roost, or whatever non-chicken birds do when they return home. More so, I’d like the dead bird off my balcony, as it makes me sad to see him or her whenever I have the shades up. Dead bird aside, I like to have the shades up.

It would be great if a huge breeze came along and blew the dead bird off of my balcony and into a neighbor’s backyard, where he or she would no longer be my problem, but that seems unlikely. We were promised that El Niño would hit Los Angeles in mid-January and wreak havoc through mid-May, also bringing about some much-needed rain to our drought-ridden state, but our hopes for miserable weather have been dashed. Yesterday was sunny and in the mid-seventies with nary a breeze in sight (in feel?), and today is a mere five degrees cooler.

If I were still living on the east coast, I’d be preparing for a huge blizzard right now, one in which dead birds are blown far away, or at the very least covered in snow, where they can’t be seen when one raises their shades. Count your blessings, east coasters. Each and every morning I’m forced to face a dead bird, and by extension my own mortality, while you get to lock yourselves up inside your tiny apartments, never to again set foot outdoors. Lucky.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with the late Michael Hutchence, who was born on this date in 1960. I’ll tell you. Michael Hutchence was the original lead singer of INXS, and New York is expecting INXS of ten inches of snow over the next twenty-four or so hours.

If you’re in New York, or elsewhere on the east coast where blizzards are expected, stay inside and dance. If you’re on the west coast, where dead birds mysteriously show up on your balcony beneath one of the two lounge chairs you bought at Ikea ten years ago, stay inside and dance. Everyone else should stay inside and dance. Here is your Michael Hutchence-inspired Friday dance playlist.


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Throwback Thursday – 1978

Just how popular were the Bee Gees in 1978? So big that they accounted for two percent of the record industry’s profits that year.

On January 1, 1978, the trio, made up of brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, were at #1 with “How Deep is Your Love,” which the three performed, wrote and co-produced. It stayed on top for three weeks. In February they returned to the #1 position with “Stayin’ Alive.” That stayed at #1 for four weeks. It was knocked from the top spot by “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” performed by Andy Gibb, younger brother of the Bee Gees. “Thicker Than Water” was co-written and co-produced by Bee Gee Barry Gibb. “Thicker Than Water” was knocked from the top spot after two weeks by “Night Fever,” performed, written and co-produced by the Bee Gees. That song remained at #1 for eight weeks, only to be knocked from the top by “If I Can’t Have You,” performed by Yvonne Elliman and written and co-produced by the Bee Gees. Starting in mid-June, “Shadow Dancing,” written by the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb, co-produced by Barry Gibb, and performed by Andy Gibb went to #1 and stayed there for seven weeks. In late August Frankie Valli had his first #1 single in three years with “Grease,” written and co-produced by Barry Gibb.

Not everything they touched hit #1 that year. “Emotion,” written by Barry and Robin Gibb, co-produced by Barry Gibb and performed by Samantha Sang, peaked at #3 in March 1978. It was kept from #1 by “Night Fever” and “Stayin’ Alive.”

The album from which “Night Fever,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep is Your Love” and “If I Can’t Have You” were taken is the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever, which spent 24 weeks at #1 and became the largest-selling album in history at that time. It remains the only soundtrack to have spawned four #1 singles. It could have been five if the Bee Gees’ version of their composition “More Than a Woman” had been released as a commercial single. Instead, the Tavares version of the song, which also appears on the soundtrack, was the single and became a top forty hit. Saturday Night Fever became the first soundtrack album to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The Bee Gees also won Grammy Awards for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (both “How Deep is Your Love” and “Stayin’ Alive”) and Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices (for “Stayin’ Alive”), and Barry Gibb, along with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson, won Producer of the Year.

In 1978 the Bee Gees were connected with another high-profile movie project: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which they starred and performed on the soundtrack. Though Robin Gibb hit #15 with the film’s “Oh! Darling”, the album and film were considered flops.

The relative failure of Sgt. Pepper’s notwithstanding, the Bee Gees remained huge throughout 1978. Their blend of pop, soul, and dance music gave them mass appeal. Besides hitting #1 on the pop charts, “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” were top ten hits on the r&b and disco charts.

Tunes du Jour celebrates Throwback Thursday this week with the music of 1978. The Bee Gees may have dominated the mainstream, but as you’ll hear, rumblings of new and exciting permutations of rock & roll were rumbling under the surface.

We’ll kick off today’s playlist with the song that went to #1 in the UK, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and the US.


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 37: You Can’t Make Me Dance Around

Indie rock, indie pop, not-really-indie rock, lots of fun. Artists include Junior Senior, Imperial Teen and Rufus Wainwright.


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

Today is National Hat Day. I was unable to find the origins of this holiday online, though to be honest, I didn’t research it very hard. Frankly, I don’t care. I don’t care from where this holiday sprang. For that matter, I don’t care much about hats.

I don’t look good in hats. Some people look great in hats, such as Pharrell Lanscilo Williams. Some people look great without hats, such as Pharrell Lanscilo Williams.

When I lived in New York, I wore a hat when the temperature fell below zero. Saving my ears trumped vanity. (Sorry about the use of a verb form of the word trump.) Now I live in Los Angeles. No hats.

Moving to the other end of my body, I always wear shoes when outside. Sneakers, actually. I’ll wear flip-flops on the beach, but not when I’m off the sand. I also always wear socks, except when I’m wearing flip-flops. On the beach. And I’ll confess to you, my readers, that I’m judgmental toward those who wear flip-flops in public off the beach or wear shoes with no socks. And don’t get me started on people who wear flip-flops in public off the beach WITH SOCKS! I’d love to hear their therapist explain the root cause of that sociopathic behavior.

As I’ve gone from head to toe, I know I should tell you that not only is today National Hat Day, but it is also the 50th birthday of Lisa Lisa Velez.

Lisa Lisa socks
Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Put on your dancing shoes (no flip-flops) with socks and party down to this twenty-track playlist, kicking off with Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s “Let the Beat Hit ‘Em.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1966

me - 1966001The blogger in 1966

“My mother used to tell me about vibrations. I didn’t really understand too much of what she meant when I was a boy. It scared me, the word ‘vibrations’ – to think that invisible feelings existed. She also told me about dogs that would bark at some people, but wouldn’t bark at others, and so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations.”
– The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Rolling Stone magazine

“The concept of spreading goodwill, good thoughts and happiness is nothing new, but it is our hope. The ideas are there in ‘Good Vibrations,’ ‘God Only Knows,’ ‘Heroes and Villains,’ and it is why the new LP is called Smile.”
– The Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson

According to Brian Wilson, Capitol Records didn’t want to release “Good Vibrations” as a single because of its duration: three and a half minutes. Reportedly, executives at the label were also concerned about the psychedelic overtones of the lyrics. Wilson pleaded with Capitol to release the 45.

The song went to #1 and earned the Beach Boys a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Contemporary Group Performance, in which they were pitted against three fine recordings plus “Guantanamera” by the Sandpipers. The Beach Boys lost, thankfully not to the Sandpipers but to the Mamas & the Papas for “Monday, Monday.” Mojo magazine placed “Good Vibrations” at #1 on their Top 100 Records of All Time list, and Rolling Stone magazine had it at #6 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time survey.

The crowning achievement of “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys was followed by an abrupt reversal of fortune for the group. While “Vibrations” was their 14th top ten single in just over four years, they would have to wait another ten years before cracking the top ten again, with their not-that-great remake of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” in 1976. It would be twenty-two years after “Good Vibrations” that the group hit #1 again, with the classic bad song “Kokomo.” The Smile album Carl Wilson referred to in the quote above went unfinished. Instead, the group released an album entitled Smiley Smile in 1967. Between 1963 and 1966 the group scored nine top ten albums; Smiley Smile peaked at #41. The following year’s Friends album only got as high as #126.

On this Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour listens to twenty of the finest singles from 1966, kicking off with the classic “Good Vibrations.”


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