Tag Archives: Amy Winehouse

It Really Shoulda…

Sam + Ringo
It’s that time of year when music geeks such as I think about the I.R.S. I.R.S. as in It Really Shoulda, as in it really should been a top ten hit.

Eight years ago, a colleague from my Sony Music days, Rich Appel, created the I.R.S. countdown. Music fans submitted a list of songs that didn’t make the top ten on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 but should have, in their opinion. Rich compiled the tallies to create the overall I.R.S. top 104. He’s been compiling this survey each year since.

As for why a song should have been a top ten hit, that’s left entirely up to the list-maker. On my list, I included records that are perfect or near-perfect melodically, lyrically and/or production-wise. I included songs that have withstood the test of time and are still part of the public consciousness years later. I included records that everybody thinks were top ten hits. I included tracks that would have been top ten hits except they didn’t conform to Billboard’s rules for chart placement at their time of release (e.g. they weren’t available on commercial 7-inch singles or viral video play didn’t count in metric measurements). I included singles by artists who hit the top ten with lesser songs. I focused on tracks that have pop appeal, leaving out fantastic recordings from some of my favorite acts, such as The Replacements and The Smiths – they were called “alternative” because they weren’t pop.

My list for 2015 is below, followed by a Spotify playlist of those songs. Rich asks people submitting lists to put them in order, with #1 being the record one feels should have, more than any other, been a top ten hit. Ask me to do so tomorrow and my list will likely be in a different order.

For today, here is my I.R.S. 104. After the artist name I listed how high the song charted during its initial release. If the single hit the Hot 100 at a later date, I included that information as well.

You can hear the official I.R.S. 104 tally for 2015 on Rich Appel’s radio show, That Thing, this coming weekend on RewoundRadio.com. Friday at 6PM Eastern he’ll go from #104 to around #53 and Sunday starting at 6PM Eastern he’ll pick up from where he left off and go to #1.

1. Wonderful World – Sam Cooke (#12, 1960)
2. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (#19, 1967)
3. River Deep, Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner (#88, 1966)
4. I Only Want to Be with You – Dusty Springfield (#12, 1964)
5. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#14, 1969)
6. Cupid – Sam Cooke (#17, 1961)
7. Holiday – Madonna (#16, 1984)
8. Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder (did not chart, 1977)
9. 1999 – Prince (#44, 1982; #12, 1983; #40, 1999)
10. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (#23, 1975)
11. It Takes Two – Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston (#14, 1967)
12. Little Egypt (Ying Yang) – The Coasters (#23, 1961)
13. I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & the Family Stone (#60, 1969; #38, 1970)
14. Into the Groove – Madonna (did not chart, 1985)
15. We Will Rock You – Queen (did not chart, 1978; #52, 1992)
16. S.O.S. – Abba (#15, 1975)
17. You’ve Got a Friend – Carole King (did not chart, 1971)
18. Hold On! I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave (#21, 1966)
19. Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding (#25, 1967)
20. The Way You Do the Things You Do – The Temptations (#11, 1964)
21. It’s a Shame – Spinners (#14, 1970)
22. It’s Gonna Work Out Fine – Ike & Tina Turner (#14, 1961)
23. Under My Thumb – the Rolling Stones (did not chart, 1966)
24. Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me) – Four Seasons (#13, 1966)
25. Me and Julio down by the School Yard – Paul Simon (#22, 1972)
26. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko & the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir (did not chart, 1971)
27. I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan (#21, 1978)
28. Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley (#29, 1964)
29. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (#13, 1984)
30. Super Freak – Rick James (#16, 1981)
31. Mighty Love – Spinners (#20, 1974)
32. Stan – Eminem featuring Dido (#51, 2000)
33. So Far Away – Carole King (#14, 1971)
34. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love (did not chart, 1963)
35. Because the Night – Patti Smith Group (#13, 1978)
36. Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (#67, 1970)
37. Candy Girl – New Edition (#46, 1983)
38. Brass in Pocket (I’m Special) – Pretenders (#14, 1980)
39. Everybody Hurts – R.E.M. (#29, 1993)
40. It Takes Two – Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (#36, 1988)
41. Heartbreak Hotel – the Jacksons (#22, 1981)
42. Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Staton (#20, 1976)
43. Valerie – Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse (did not chart, 2007)
44. Rock and Roll All Nite (live) – Kiss (#12, 1976)
45. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester (#36, 1979)
46. L-O-V-E (Love) – Al Green (#13, 1975)
47. It’s Raining Men – the Weather Girls (#46, 1983)
48. I’m a Slave 4 U – Britney Spears (#27, 2001)
49. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (#35, 1980)
50. Wake Up Everybody – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (#12, 1976)
51. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (#16, 1973)
52. Bring It on Home to Me – Sam Cooke (#13, 1962)
53. Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2 (#33, 1984)
54. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead (#13, 1979)
55. Move Your Feet – Junior Senior (did not chart, 2003)
56. Heroes – David Bowie (did not chart, 1977)
57. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (#21, 1978)
58. One Way or Another – Blondie (#24, 1979)
59. You Get What You Give – New Radicals (#36, 1999)
60. Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel – Tavares (#15, 1976)
61. Ain’t Nobody – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan (#22, 1983)
62. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon (#44, 1986, #23, 1987)
63. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt (#18, 1992)
64. Young Americans – David Bowie (#28, 1975)
65. A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke (#31, 1965)
66. Respect Yourself – the Staple Singers (#12, 1971)
67. Moondance – Van Morrison (did not chart, 1970; #92, 1977)
68. Where’s the Love – Hanson (did not chart, 1997)
69. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing – Stevie Wonder (#16, 1974)
70. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow (#62, 1982)
71. Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club (#31, 1982)
72. Beautiful Stranger – Madonna (#19, 1999)
73. Shame, Shame, Shame – Shirley (& Company) (#12, 1975)
74. The Way I Am – Eminem (#58, 2000)
75. Jungle Love – The Time (#20, 1985)
76. Gypsy – Fleetwood Mac (#12, 1982)
77. Smile – Lily Allen (#49, 2007)
78. Tear the Roof off the Sucker (Give up the Funk) – Parliament (#15, 1976)
79. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert (#11, 2013)
80. Solid – Ashford & Simpson (#12, 1985)
81. Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang (#36, 1980)
82. The Cup of Life – Ricky Martin (#60, 1998; #45, 1999)
83. Me, Myself and I – De La Soul (#34, 1989)
84. Bad Luck – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (#15, 1975)
85. Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads (did not chart, 1981)
86. Fuck You – Lily Allen (#68, 2009)
87. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service (did not chart, 2003)
88. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (movie version) – Lauryn Hill (did not chart, 1998)
89. Dedication to My Ex (Miss That) – Lloyd featuring Andre 3000 (#79, 2011)
90. Jump To It – Aretha Franklin (#24, 1982)
91. Mamma Mia – Abba (#32, 1976)
92. Space Oddity – David Bowie (did not chart, 1969; #15, 1973)
93. P Control – O{+> (Prince) (did not chart, 1995)
94. Got Your Money – Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis (#33, 1999)
95. LDN – Lily Allen (did not chart, 2007)
96. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Buddy Holly (#13, 1959)
97. Does Your Mother Know – Abba (#19, 1979)
98. Up in a Puff of Smoke – Polly Brown (#16, 1975)
99. Blue Limousine – Apollonia 6 (did not chart, 1984)
100. All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople (#37, 1972)
101. Fight the Power – Public Enemy (did not chart, 1989)
102. Pass That Dutch – Missy Elliott (#27, 2003)
103. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne (#21, 2003)
104. You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse (#78, 2007; #77, 2008)


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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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The #31 Album Of All-Time | Amy Winehouse – Back To Black

You may have noticed that music is my passion, and I’m passionate about the music I like. I’m always on the hunt for new music. Usually I discover new acts from listening to satellite radio or from reading music blogs.

In late 2006 two tracks performed by a woman named Amy Winehouse appeared on UK music blogs. Both “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good” blew me away. The music sounded like nothing else out at that time, and that voice was distinctive and sublime. The album on which these songs appeared, Back to Black, was released in the UK in October of 2006. The US release was months away. I couldn’t wait. I called a friend who worked at Universal Music, the album’s distributor, in the UK. She sent me Back to Black and Winehouse’s prior album, Frank.

Frank was very good, but Back to Black was the best album I’d heard in years. The songs came from a dark place – Winehouse’s break-up with her boyfriend (with whom she later reconciled and married), but I didn’t find it a depressing listen, as the singing and production thrilled me. She sang how love is a losing game, how after their break-up she wanted to die, how despite feeling that way she knew they had to break up, and I smiled all through it.

Not every song is about a gloomy subject. In “Me and Mr. Jones” Winehouse asks “What kind of fuckery is this?” and takes her “best black Jew” to task for making her miss the Slick Rick concert, among other things. The Mr. Jones of the title is rapper Nas, with whom Winehouse later collaborated and who shares a birthday with the songstress.

Amy Winehouse ticket 2014-09-11 15.08
Back to Black was released in the US on March 13, 2007, entering the Billboard album chart at #7, at that time the highest debut ever for a British woman. Six days later I saw her perform at the 500 person capacity Roxy on Sunset Boulevard, where the majority of the audience already seemed to know the album backwards and forwards.

One song from the UK edition was left off the US version of the album – the wonderful “Addicted.” What kind of fuckery is that? Was her US label trying to hide a truth about the artist? We already knew they tried to make her go to rehab but she said no no no. We knew she went back to black. I think we could take her berating someone for smoking all her weed and not buying more. Did they not want the US public to know she was an addict? We knew. We knew very well.

Back to Black is #31 on my top albums of all-time list. In honor of what would have been Amy Winehouse’s 31st birthday, today’s playlist consists of ten of her finest performances, with a focus on that classic album.

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The Twelfth Best Album Of All-Time, Subject To Change

Ringo + Carole King 002

I’m creating a list of my top 100 albums of all-time. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years. I need to get it right. I’ve whittled the list down to 112 nominees, which I listen to repeatedly, moving albums around as I assess their impact on my ears and emotions. Presently sitting at #12, between The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and the Phil Spector Christmas album, is Carole King’s Tapestry.

Released in 1971, Tapestry was a huge success, staying at #1 on the album charts for 15 weeks and remaining on Billboard’s album chart for 300 weeks, the longest run of any album by a female solo act. The album won King the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, its track “It’s Too Late” was named Record of the Year, its song “You’ve Got a Friend” won Song of the Year (as well as a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male for James Taylor for his cover version), and its title track won King the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female award.

The album includes new songs written or co-written by King, including “I Feel the Earth Move” and “So Far Away,” as well as covers of songs she wrote or co-wrote that had already been hits for other acts, such as “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a smash for Aretha Franklin, and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which The Shirelles took to #1 ten years earlier.

Other King compositions you may know are “Up on the Roof,” a hit for The Drifters, “One Fine Day,” a hit for The Chiffons, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” a hit for The Monkees, “Go Away Little Girl” a hit for Steve Lawrence and later Donny Osmond, “I’m Into Something Good,” a hit for Herman’s Hermits, “It’s Going to Take Some Time,” a hit for The Carpenters, and “The Loco-motion,” a song which holds the distinction of going top ten in three different decades – in the sixties for Little Eva (King’s babysitter), in the seventies for Grand Funk and in the eighties for Kylie Minogue. In the forty years between 1959 and 1999 King made the Billboard Hot 100 118 times as a songwriter.

Tunes du Jour honors the classic work of Carole King, who turns 72 today.

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Dionne Warwick And The Extra E – A Cautionary Tale

In 1971 an astrologer told Dionne Warwick to append an “e” to her last name. “It will bring you luck,” she was told. At that point in her career Warwick was a multi-Grammy Award winner with more than twenty US top forty pop hits, collaborations with the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, to her name. But who can’t use more luck?

Following the astrologer’s advice, Warwick became Warwicke, and besides a guest co-lead vocal on a Spinners record (the sublime “Then Came You”), Warwicke didn’t have any hits. Warwicke didn’t win any Grammys. The songwriting partnership of Bacharach and David split apart. Warwicke separated from and divorced her husband.

Dionne dropped the “e” and became Warwick again. Warwick returned to the top ten with “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” which won her the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, with its follow-up single, “Déjà Vu,” winning her the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.

The lesson? Stay away from “e.” It’ll ruin your life.

Here is a playlist inspired by Warwick, who turns 73 today.

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Did You Know Sara Bareilles Released An Album This Year?

grammy plaqueI’ve worked on nearly every Grammy compilation release since the first one.

The nominees for the 56th annual Grammy Awards were announced last Friday. The nominations always elicit strong reactions from music fans. I’m pleased with many of the Academy’s selections (Go Kendrick Lamar and Daft Punk!) and puzzled by others (Ed Sheeran is nominated for Best New Artist. Last year he was nominated for Song of the Year. Was he pre-new then?).

Today’s Tunes du Jour playlist consists of some of the tracks that have won Record of the Year. I choose to focus on the positive. I refuse to bash the Grammy voters for when they got it wrong (such as, for example, when they gave Record of the Year to Bobby McFerrin for “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” What the hell was that about? That record won over Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” Are you kidding me?).

Herewith are some of the better Record of the Year winners.

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