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Cool Newish Music (9-28-19)

Here are twenty recently-released tracks I’ve been grooving to of late. Let me know if you have a favorite I should check out.

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(100) Songs Of Summer: A Donna Summer Playlist

Born LaDonna Gaines in Boston, Massachusetts on the last day of 1948, Donna Summer became a worldwide superstar in the 1970s. She earned the title “The Queen of Disco,” which is accurate and limiting at the same time. Sure, she scored over two dozen top forty hits on Billboard magazine’s Disco/Dance chart; however, her voice and repertoire were not bound by genre, and she placed entries on the Rhythm & Blues and Adult Contemporary charts and has 14 US top ten pop hits to her name.

The first of those pop hits was “Love to Love You Baby,” which reached #2 in 1976. Our playlist begins before that hit, with vocals she provided for a Peter Thomas recording around the beginning of the decade.

Performing musical theater, she joined the cast of a road version of Hair, which brought her to Germany, where she performed in that country’s language. You can hear her German version of “Aquarius” on the YouTube playlist that accompanies this post. (The YouTube playlist encompasses recordings that cannot be found on Spotify at this time.)

Two other significant things happened to LaDonna Gaines in Germany: She married fellow actor Helmut Sommer, and she met producers/songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Moroder and Bellotte signed her to their record label, and the trio began work on her debut album, on which her name was misspelled on the front cover, giving us Donna Summer.

Donna Summer’s debut album, Lady of the Night, produced the singles “The Hostage” and the title track, with the former going to #1 in Belgium and #2 in The Netherlands and the latter cracking the top 40 in Germany as well as being another top five single for her in The Netherlands.

Then came “Love to Love You Baby.” Initially released in The Netherlands as “Love to Love You,” the song was heard by Casablanca Records head Neil Bogart, who suggested they extend the song. The nearly seventeen-minute version was serviced to US clubs in September 1975. Record World magazine’s disco reporter Vince Aletti wrote it sounds “like nothing else I’ve heard before.” Clubgoers shared his enthusiasm, sending the song to #1 on the disco chart for four weeks beginning the month after its release.

While “Love to Love You Baby” was rocketing up the pop chart, Summer’s follow-up became her second #1 disco hit. “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” is actually four songs: “Try Me,” “I Know,” “We Can Make It,” and “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It.” Those four songs encompassed side one of Summer’s A Love Trilogy album, with side two providing three more top ten disco hits: “Could It Be Magic” (a cover of Barry Manilow’s pop hit from the previous year), “Wasted” and “Come with Me.”

Later in 1976 came yet another album from Summer, Four Seasons of Love. Billboard listed every cut from the album as #1 on the disco chart, where they remained for six weeks. A few months later she released I Remember Yesterday, where once again, all cuts were listed in the #1 position on the disco chart. From that album came the classic “I Feel Love,” about which Brian Eno said to David Bowie “This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.” Bowie agreed.

You may think all this product in quick succession would create a glut from which the public would want a break, but the stats show the exact opposite. Summer’s “Theme from The Deep” (on the YouTube playlist) became a disco hit. “Last Dance” became a disco and pop hit. The double album Once Upon a Time went to #1 on the disco chart (again with all cuts listed). She followed this up with another double album, Live and More (which includes “MacArthur Park” and “Heaven Knows”). Then came another double album, Bad Girls, her commercial and artistic pinnacle.

An interesting piece of trivia for chart geeks: Up to this point every Donna Summer single serviced to dance clubs hit the disco top ten, with her spending 29 weeks at #1 on the chart between 1975 and 1979. Her first entry to make the disco chart but miss its top ten? “Dim All the Lights,” which peaked at #54. Go figure. You may know that song. It performed way better on the pop and rhythm & blues charts.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider not only the quantity of material Summer released and struck gold with. Let’s also look at the quality. These are great records. (Okay, the Live part of Live and More is good, not great.) Disco was predominantly a singles medium, yet Summer cranked out albums that sustained interest throughout. Double albums at that.

A double greatest hits album wrapped up her tenure at Casablanca Records, producing what would be her final #1 on the Disco/Dance Club chart for 15 years, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” a collaboration with Barbra Streisand.

Her star cooled a bit when she released her first post-Casablanca record in 1980. Several factors contributed to this, including the (US) backlash against disco and disparaging remarks attributed to her about gay people, a core and loyal audience until that point. (In 1989 she denied making this comments, saying she would have addressed the controversy earlier but her publicist shielded her from any negative press, so she was unaware. I’m not saying I buy that; I am glad she addressed it.) Also, at the request of her new label’s head, David Geffen, she split with producers Moroder and Bellote following her 1980 album The Wanderer (actually, following that album’s follow-up, I’m a Rainbow, which was shelved until a slim-downed version’s release in 1992).

Despite the dip in popularity, she was far from over. In the eighties she hit the pop top ten with “The Wanderer,” “Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger),” “She Works Hard for the Money” and “This Time I Know It’s for Real,” all of which also made the dance top ten. Her pop chart success in the US ended with 1989’s “This Time I Know It’s for Real.”

While she never again hit the US pop top forty, back in the dance clubs she returned to the apex again and again, scoring seven #1s and three additional top tens between 1995 and her death in 2012.

The Donna Summer playlists below include her pop hits, her dance hits, the best non-singles from her studio albums, cuts from compilation albums, songs from soundtrack albums, and some of her guest appearances on other artists’ albums. It may be Labor Day weekend, but Summer never ends at Tunes du Jour!

The YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTkV-h9qkYAyB3JvP5yiWJC6Kf8Lknvc0

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Cool Newish Music

Billie Eilish’s album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is one of my favorites of 2019.

Here are twenty recently-released tracks I’ve been grooving to of late. Let me know if you have a favorite I should check out.

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Prince: Compositions

Around ten years ago, while I was working at Warner Music, we were trying to think of catalogue projects that may engage Prince. One of my suggestions was a two-disc set in which one disc consisted of Prince songs recorded by others and the second disc was Prince’s demo versions of songs made famous by others.

Two weeks ago Warner released on Tidal Prince’s Originals, demo versions of songs Prince wrote that were recorded by other acts. (It hits others streaming services tomorrow, with CD and vinyl releases coming as well.) I’m not saying Warner took my idea without giving me credit; I’d be surprised if I were the only person who thought of it.

Today’s Tunes du Jour playlist is the concept of the other disc of my proposed set – songs Prince wrote or co-wrote performed by other acts. It’s not exactly what I envisioned that disc to be, as many (MANY!!) of the songs I would choose are not available on Spotify. There’s all the Paisley Park material that reverted to Prince (Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Mazarati, Jill Jones, The Family, Ingrid Chavez, etc.), as well as commercially-released covers that for whatever reason are missing, by artists such as Foo Fighters, Robyn, Jesus and Mary Chain, Mavis Staples, Eels, and Living Colour.

Even with those limitations, not a bad list. Enjoy!

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Message In Our Music: A Black Music Month Playlist

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared June Black Music Month. In 2016, President Barack Obama, who recognized the month as African-American Music Appreciation Month, said the music of African-American artists helped the country “to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Today’s Tunes du Jour playlist embodies that sentiment.

(The Spotify embed function is not working.)

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Pride 50

On June 28, 1969, what was supposed to be a routine raid on a gay bar by the New York City police turned violent when patrons at the Stonewall Inn fought back, thus setting off the gay liberation movement. That pivotal moment was recognized one year later with a gathering in New York’s Greenwich Village, where the Stonewall Inn is located, and Gay Pride marches in Los Angeles and Chicago. The following year, Gay Pride marches sprang up in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin and Stockholm. The Pride movement grew with each passing year, and it continues to expand to this day.

Tunes du Jour celebrates 50 years of Pride with today’s playlist. Be seen. Be heard. Be proud. Celebrate. Love.

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The Elton John Songbook: R&B Covers

Elton John has often professed his love for rhythm and blues music. Today’s playlist consists of soul or r&b covers of songs composed by Sir Elton.

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Disco 1975

If you see Patti LaBelle today, wish her a happy birthday.

Nineteen seventy-five was a pivotal year for disco music. The genre was still very young; the name “disco” as a reference to the music genre was coined just two years earlier by journalist Vince Aletti. Disco music crossed over into the mainstream with more frequency, yet was not as ubiquitous a presence on the pop charts as it would become in the ensuing years of that decade. Artists who had their first top 40 singles in 1975 include Gloria Gaynor and KC and the Sunshine Band. In December of 1975, Donna Summer made her first appearance on the Hot 100 when “Love to Love You Baby” made its debut, having already been a smash in the clubs. The Bee Gees updated their sound in 1975 with “Jive Talkin’,” which became their first top ten single since 1971. Ben E. King, who had hits in the early 1960s as a solo artist and as the lead singer of The Drifters scored his first top ten pop hit since 1961’s “Stand By Me” with the funky “Supernatural Thing.” As the lead singer of the trio named after her, Patti LaBelle scored her first top ten hit in over a decade with “Lady Marmalade.” Veteran acts such as Frankie Valli, The Temptations, The Miracles, The Isley Brothers and Esther Phillips filled the dance floors. And it was in 1975 that the world was doing the hustle.

Today’s playlist is made up of forty disco gems from 1975.

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Nineties R&B

Today is Janet’s birthday!

The most popular r&b group of the nineties was probably Boyz II Mej3y64t.,huy

Sorry. My head hit the keyboard. Just typing that group’s name puts me to sleep. I find their music devoid of personality, emphasizing vocal histrionics over soul-felt passion. They should call themselves Boyz II Meh! Am I right, people? Tip your waitstaff.

Much of nineties r&b suffers from the same. Technique over feeling. Not all, though. I’m not damning a whole genre with a wide paintbrush, or whatever that expression is.

Today’s playlist showcases twenty of the best r&b hits from last millennium’s last decade, the decade being 1990 to 1999, for the purposes of this post. Nothing obscure this time. All of these songs received a fair amount of airplay back in the day.

If I missed any of your favorites, let me know in the comments section, unless it’s a song by Boyz II Mebg;hev.

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Produced by Mike Chapman

You may not know the name Mike Chapman. Then again, maybe you do. Chances are I don’t know you, so I have no idea what familiarity you may have with the name Mike Chapman. Even if I do know you, I don’t know everything that you know. I mean, I don’t know how much familiarity you have on certain subjects. Of course, you know things I don’t. Where am I going with this? I forgot. I’ll start over.

Mike Chapman. Even if you don’t recognize the name, chances are you recognize his hit songs. He produced Blondie’s Parallel Lines album. He produced Get the Knack. He produced lots more, some of his earlier efforts with his former business partner Nicky Chinn. The Chapman-Chinn team is also credited with writing many hit songs, as is Chapman without Chinn. Have you ever heard Toni Basil’s “Mickey?” Of course you have. It was written by Chapman and Chinn. Do you know Tina Turner’s “Better Be Good to Me?” That was written by Chapman and Chinn with Holly Knight.

Today’s playlist consists of nineteen songs on which Mike Chapman has a production credit, with Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” as a bonus track. Chapman didn’t produce that, though he and Chinn wrote it, as they did Sweet’s hit “Little Willy.” I love both of those records! Chapman and Chinn also wrote but didn’t produce the Huey Lewis and the News hit “Heart and Soul.” It’s no “Ballroom Blitz.” If you want to listen to it, you’re on your own.

Today may be Mike Chapman’s birthday. Then again, maybe it isn’t. It depends on what website you look to to get your information. Either way, the man is responsible for so many great hits, and that’s reason enough to post a playlist of some of his finest work (plus Rod Stewart’s “Love Touch,” which Rod agrees isn’t his finest, but whatevs). Included are the original versions (produced by Chapman) of the previously-mentioned hits for Toni Basil and Tina Turner.

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