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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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Throwback Thursday – 1986

By 1986, Aerosmith appeared to have had their best years behind them. Sales of their releases that decade lagged significantly behind their hits in the 1970s, and the group’s members were struggling with drug addictions.

They did have fans, though. One was music producer Rick Rubin. He was working with rap group Run-D.M.C., who were known in hip hop circles and with music critics for incorporating rock guitars and beats in their boastful raps, such as “Rock Box” and “King of Rock.”

Rubin suggested Run-D.M.C. do a remake of Aerosmith’s 1977 hit “Walk This Way,” but the rappers had no interest in doing a cover. However, the group’s DJ, Jam Master Jay, was open to the idea, and Rubin called Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to come into the studio. Perry was familiar with the rappers, as his stepson was a fan. Jam Master Jay convinced Run and D.M.C. to give the remake a shot, seeing as Tyler and Perry were in the studio with Rubin.

The Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith version of “Walk This Way” was not only massively successful, but highly influential as well. It became Run-D.M.C.’s first crossover hit, and the first rap track to make the top ten of Billboard’s Hit 100, peaking at #4, six notches higher than Aerosmith’s original peaked. It opened the door to future song/rap collaborations, something that continues to dominate the charts to this day, not to mention bringing “rock rap” to a wide audience.

Steven Tyler went to rehab in 1986, and the other members of Aerosmith also sought treatment for their drug addictions. On the heels of the success of the “Walk This Way” remake, Aerosmith released the Permanent Vacation album in the late summer of 1987. Its first single, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” became the group’s first hit single outside the Run-D.M.C. collaboration since 1978’s “Come Together.” They followed that single with a string of big hits over the next few years, including “Love in an Elevator,” “Cryin’,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “Livin’ on the Edge,” and “Jaded.”

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights the best of 1986, kicking off with the groundbreaking “Walk This Way,” performed by Run-D.M.C. and featuring Aerosmith’s “Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.


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Remembering Prince

Usually on Thursdays I post a Throwback Thursday playlist spotlighting a particular year in music. In light of today’s sad news, I’m posting a playlist of songs written or produced by the late great Prince.


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Throwback Thursday – Hit Songs Of 1988

me in WoodbridgeThe blogger in 1988

On this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, we listen to some of the biggest hits from 1988.


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

“Turn on my VCR, same one I’ve had for years”

beta
I still have my beta player. It’s not a Betamax, which is a Sony brand, but rather a Sanyo. I haven’t used it since I moved to LA in 2003, because it isn’t working. I don’t want to get rid of it, though, as I have a lot of great stuff on beta tapes. Stuff that is irreplaceable.

beta tapesThere are plenty more where these came from!

Some of the recordings I have on beta tapes can be found on YouTube – The Making of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” for example. Others, such as Purple Rain and The Flamingo Kid, are available on a host of formats that have hit the market since beta. I’m sure I could find Madonna’s pre-fame feature A Certain Sacrifice on-line if I bothered to look for it.

I used to always keep a recordable beta tape in the machine. You never know if while channel surfing you’ll come across Chaka Khan being interviewed on a Spanish talk show on UHF. (UHF pre-dates cable TV. It pre-dates beta tapes. Look it up.) I have several dozen tapes filled with television performances from artists I was obsessed with during my beta machine’s lifetime. Not that it’s dead. I refuse to believe it is. Perhaps I’m still in the denial stage of Dr. Kübler-Ross seven stages of grieving, but I believe the beta machine can easily be fixed. It probably needs a new band. Getting the machine fixed is on my To Do list. I can’t wait to dig in to those old tapes. I look forward to watching the one I labelled “Highlights from The Late Show With Joan Rivers.” It contains her interview with the late great disco queen Sylvester in which he accidentally outed his boyfriend. It also contains several appearances by The Bangles, as I was obsessed with both the Bangles and Joan Rivers. Sometimes I miss the 80s, but then I remember Duran Duran.

Might any of my LA readers be able to recommend a beta machine repair person?

The lyric that opens this post is from The Police’s song “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around.” I have some of the band’s TV appearances on those beta tapes.

Today is the 64th birthday of that band’s usual lead singer, Sting. Our weekly dance party kicks off with the song with the longest title of any in the trio’s recorded repertoire.


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

John “Jellybean” Benitez, along with Arthur Baker, was the pre-eminent remixer of the 1980s. If I saw his name on a 12-inch single, I knew I was going to get something good. He worked with many big names in that decade and beyond. Artists whose work he remixed include Talking Heads, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, Donna Summer, Santana, ZZ Top, Billy Joel, Afrika Bambaataa, Whitney Houston, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Sting, Bangles, A-ha, Cher, Shakira, Bonnie Tyler, The Romantics and, most famously, Madonna.

These days Jellybean deejays parties around the world and is the Executive Producer of Sirius XM’s disco/dance station, Studio 54 radio. A couple of years ago, while I was working at Warner Music, Jellybean and I were discussing a project he wanted to do. I was very into the idea and told him I was confident I could get the big names he wanted on board. We also talked about a radio show he conceived for the Sirius XM channel in which new mixes of classic dance songs were played. To help him with that show I sent him a package with some modern mixes we had done of disco classics by Chic, Ashford & Simpson and others.

He never said thank you. I sent him a follow-up email to be sure he received the package, but he didn’t reply. Oh, well. So he is lacking manners. That doesn’t affect the joy I get listening to his classic remix work. (By the by, he never got around to launching the project he wanted to do about which I was excited.)

Today is Jellybean’s 57th birthday. Many of his mixes are not on Spotify, so today’s dance playlist consists of some of his mixes that are, of Madonna, David Bowie, Irene Cara, The Pointer Sisters, Shalamar and Whitney Houston, alongside other records I love to dance to.

You’re welcome.

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Glenn’s Ten – August 4, 2014

Spoon’s “Do You” holds on to #1 in Glenn’s Ten this week. There is one new entry – “Really Don’t Care” performed by Demi Lovato featuring Cher Lloyd. The track, a pop song in the “Call Me Maybe” vein, is the first Glenn’s Ten entry for both of these women.

Glenn’s Ten for this week is:
1. “Do You” – Spoon
2. “All the Rage Back Home” – Interpol
3. “Left Hand Free” – Alt-J
4. “Really Don’t Care” – Demi Lovato featuring Cher Lloyd
5. “Heart is a Drum” – Beck
6. “Nothing More than Everything to Me” – Christopher Owens
7. “You Are Your Mother’s Child” – Bright Eyes
8. “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” – Sharon Van Etten
9. “Just One of the Guys” – Jenny Lewis
10. “Control” – Broken Bells

Rounding out today’s playlist are ten tunes that were #1 on this date in Glenn’s Ten history, in reverse chronological order.

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Celebrating Prince

Prince is second to The Beatles on my list of all-time favorite music artists. From the first time I heard “1999” on the radio in my dorm room at Brandeis University, I became obsessed and started collecting his albums and singles. Here are ten items from my Prince collection:

Prince memorabilia - I Wanna Be“I Wanna Be Your Lover” was Prince’s first US Top 40 hit, reaching #11 in 1980.

Prince memorabilia - Still Waiting“Still Waiting” is a track that appears on Prince’s self-titled second album, the same record that spawned “I Wanna be Your Lover.” It’s not his best track, but how cool is it that I have a promotional 12-inch single from Prince’s pre-superstar days?

me wearing t-shirtPrince’s 1999 album was released in October 1982, one month prior to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I remember taking the train to Harvard Square and buying both albums at the university bookstore. Shortly thereafter I bought a 1999 t-shirt, which I still have. Though I wear it regularly, its color hasn’t faded at all, there are no tears, and it fits me perfectly. Back then they made t-shirts of better quality. Kids today don’t know what good t-shirts are.

Prince memorabilia - Little Red CorvettePrince first US Top Ten single was 1983’s “Little Red Corvette.” The song is from his 1999 album, presently at #36 in my Top 100 Albums of All Time list. The song inspired Stevie Nicks to write “Stand Back,” on which Prince played keyboard.

Prince memorabilia - Delirious“Delirious,” also from 1999, was the follow-up to “Little Red Corvette” and also hit the top ten. The 45 came wrapped in a poster of Prince which had a calendar of the year 1999 on the other side.

Prince memorabilia - Purple Rain singles“When Doves Cry” was the first single released from the Purple Rain soundtrack, my #4 Album of All-Time. It became Prince’s first #1 single. It holds the distinction of being the only track without a bassline to go to #1 on the Dance Club chart. Like the album’s title track, the 45 was pressed on purple vinyl.

Me as PrinceMy Halloween costume in 1987 was Prince, inspired by his Parade: Music From The Motion Picture Under the Cherry Moon period. That album, #38 on my Top Albums list, includes Prince’s third #1 pop single, “Kiss.” He wrote the song for the band Mazarati, who were signed to his Paisley Park label. When he heard what the band did with the song, he took it back, replacing the group’s lead vocals with his and adding a guitar lick. Some more trivia – the week “Kiss” went to #1, the #2 song in the US was “Manic Monday” by Bangles. Per that record, the writer of that song was “Christopher.” In actuality, Christopher was a pseudonym for Prince, who also wrote under the names Jamie Starr (The Time’s “Jungle Love”) and Alexander Nevermind (Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls”).

Prince memorabilia - autographOne afternoon in 1988 Prince did an impromptu autograph signing at the Sam Goodys a block away from my office. I told my boss I’d be right back and I wormed my way to the front of the line. He was there to promote his Lovesexy album, which includes “Alphabet St.” I already had the album (on its first day of release, of course!), so he signed a piece of stationery I took from my office.

Prince memorabilia - Batman“Batdance” was Prince’s fourth #1 single. It appears on his Batman soundtrack though was not used in the film. The CD of the Batman soundtrack was released in a tin case.

Prince memorabilia - Most BeautifulDuring one of his fights with Warner Bros. Records, Prince self-released a single of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” which was available by mail order in an oversized greeting card.

Today, the seventh day of Black Music Month, Prince turns 56. I don’t think he celebrates his birthday due to his religious beliefs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t. Here are twenty of his finest.

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#1 In Glenn’s Ten On This Day Throughout History

dogs + stuff 005
Today’s playlist consists of songs that were #1 in Glenn’s Ten, the weekly tally of my favorite current songs, on this date going back to 1981, the year I started tracking such things (click here for more background).

My #1 on March 3, 1981 was Don McLean’s cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” My #1 this week is Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” It took me thirty-three years to go from “Crying” to “Happy.”

In 1981 I was a shy, skinny high school student who felt like he didn’t belong. I wished I was more popular but hard as I tried, I just wasn’t cool.

I worked to better myself. Gaining weight was a challenge, as was overcoming my shyness. To achieve the latter I ultimately turned to stand-up comedy. Getting up on stage in front of a group of strangers to express my thoughts was what I needed. It gave me confidence and got me an agent and positive reviews in publications including Backstage.

To gain weight I ate a banana split every night right before bed. I didn’t put on any pounds, but I did develop lactose-intolerance.

Eventually my metabolism slowed down and I filled out.

I also became successful in corporate America, most recently as the Vice President of Licensing at Warner Music Group. That shy, introverted kid made something of himself.

In retrospect, I’ve been cool this whole time. Perhaps my fellow high school students didn’t think so, but what did they know? I’m going to rely on the impressions of 16 year-olds as to my coolness? It takes more guts to be a non-conformist. I learned to love myself as I am.

Loving yourself is the subject of a few #1 songs of this date. There’s 1991’s “I Touch Myself” by Divinyls, but that’s not the self-love to which I refer. Lady Gaga’s self-empowerment anthem “Born This Way” topped my chart for several weeks n 2011. Madonna, Gaga’s spiritual predecessor, sang “You’re frozen when your heart’s not open” in 1998.

It’s now 2014. I’m unemployed for the first time since graduating college. I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. I am confident. I feel positive and energized about my future. If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am…happy.

Here is the chronological soundtrack of my March 3 journey from “Crying” to “Happy,” with videoclips for the two entries not available on Spotify.


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Gift-Giving Guide

In many activities in my life, I’m inspired by music, and shopping for gifts is no exception. I spent the last three hours listening to all 20,000 CDs and records in my collection, looking for ideas that I can impart to my reader(s). Here now I present to you the very first Tunes du Jour Gift-Giving Guide, complete with its own soundtrack.

Do you know anyone who wears clothes? Why not buy them some clothes?

For me, clothes-wearers make up exactly twenty-two percent of my gift-recipient list. What do I get the other 10.9 people?

The gift of media is always welcome. For the bibliophile in the family, I recommend a book. Any book. Books are timeless, just like VHS tapes and cassettes.

For those who haven’t learned how to read (i.e. anyone who started school after 1988) or are too stupid, get them a game. Board games are fun and I hear they now have games that can be played on TV and computer screens. If games are too challenging, buy a toy. Anything to keep the kid or moron occupied while you read a book.

Jewelry makes a nice gift. Just make sure the person you give the jewelry to is willing to put out. Seriously, that shit can get expensive. You deserve something in return.

If there’s a person on your list who won’t put out, doesn’t know how to read and is too impatient to read game instructions, buy them some cigarettes. Who doesn’t like cigarettes? They’re easy to work, easy to transport, don’t take up much room and smell like Christmas. Give cigarettes with alcohol unless the person is in recovery, in which case, substitute coffee. Those addicts love their coffee. Jesus, do they love their coffee, though not as much as they love cigarettes.

Oftentimes, the nudist on your gift list will tell you what they want, but you have to listen carefully. Not everyone is tacky enough to come out and say “I want _____” or “Gimme gimme gimme _____,” which brings me to a related topic. If you stole someone’s man, give him back. I’m not going to mention any names (LeAnn Rimes), but if any of my reader(s) started sleeping with Eddie Cibrian while he was married, you should send him back to his wife. At the very least, send her a thank you note along with some cigarettes and alcohol.

Gifts needn’t be physical objects. Perhaps you know someone who can benefit from a spa day, golf lessons or rhinoplasty. That last idea occurred to me while listening to The Ramones’ “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment.” Let me say this: if someone says to you “gimme gimme shock treatment,” that’s a cry for help.

You can always give the gift of love. However, if you do, make sure you include a gift receipt so the recipient can exchange it for something useful.

If all else fails, money makes a great gift. Save yourself the trouble of shopping for that unintelligent teetotaling nudist with a perfect nose on your list. Think of the dollar amount they deserve and give them half of it. Use the other half to spend on yourself, as you just freed up some shopping time in your schedule.

You may have people on your list who’ll say “I don’t need a gift. I have everything I want.” These people are THE WORST! Call their bluff – don’t give them anything. Don’t call them. Don’t stop by their house. Just leave them alone. They have everything they want, which means they don’t want you hanging around. They are rude and should be avoided.

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