Tag Archives: Brian Wilson

Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (3-24-20)

Inspired by the March 24 birthdays of Nick Lowe, Nena, Don Covay and Billy Stewart, and the passing of Manu Dibango.

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The Beach Boys – “Don’t Worry Baby”

Winston + Beach Boys
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys calls “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes his favorite single of all-time. So blown away by the song he was that he attempted to match it. He wrote a song in the same key, E Major, and opened his song with the same drum riff that opens “Be My Baby.” The title of Wilson’s composition was inspired by his then wife, Marilyn. When he wondered if he could write a song as good as the Ronettes one, she said to him “Don’t worry, baby.”

Wilson’s “Don’t Worry Baby,” as recorded by his group the Beach Boys, is a classic in its own right. It kicks off our playlist celebrating Wilson’s 74th birthday, which coincides with the first day of summer, which makes sense. Here are twenty of Brian’s greatest contributions to popular music.


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All You Need Is Mike Love

Mike Love is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and activist who in 1965 founded the group Love with his sisters, Courtney, Darlene and Monie. He was nicknamed the “Yoko Ono of the Beach Boys,” not because he is a Japanese woman, but because in 1969 he married the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, who he met during a performance art piece entitled “Nail MC Hammer,” and in doing so, influenced the band’s musical direction away from songs about surfing, girls, cars, surfing girls, girls’ cars, and surfing cars, and toward more lyrically deep and musically complicated pieces, like “Kokomo.” Tom Jones paid tribute to Mike Love’s importance to the Beach Boys with the song “Without Love (There Is Nothing),” a top 5 hit in 1970. Jones was not the only musician to admire Love. Mike Love is considered a genius by all musicians named Mike Love.

In 1976, Love got his M.D. in Transcendental Medication. The band Kiss paid tribute to his achievement with their hit “Calling Dr. Love.” Other songs honoring the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer include “Love Can Make You Happy,” “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” and “Love is All We Need.” Steven Tyler of Aerosmith bumped into Mike on an escalator at the Beverly Center, and wrote “Love in an Elevator” about the experience, changing the means of conveyance because “escalators ain’t musical, you know?”. In 1979, the r&b band Rose Royce (“Car Wash”) moved into the house that Mike Love moved out of a few years earlier. Annoyed by his deranged fans, who camped out on the front lawn 24-7, the band’s Gwen Dickey yelled out the window “Love don’t live here anymore!,” and a soul classic was born.

These days Love is a recluse, staying inside one of his homes in between concert dates, of which he does 729 each year. He only grants interviews to those who ask. I didn’t ask.

UPDATE: I just received an email from the “LAW OFFICES OF MIKE LOVE’S LAWYERS.” Per his attorneys, there are some factual inaccuracies in what I’ve written above. They write that while Mike Love will take credit for starting the band Love, the following things are not true:

Mike Love did not marry Brian Wilson. Wilson is Love’s cousin, and they are not from the South.
Mike Love is a founding member of the Beach Boys.
Mike Love does not have an M.D. Well, he has an M.D., but he himself is not an M.D. Kiss wrote that song for him because they feel he should have received an honorary doctorate.
Rose Royce never lived in any of Love’s homes, and the song “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” was not written about Mike Love, though the other songs you referenced were.
Mike Love’s attorneys did not send Tunes du Jour an email.
Mike Love is a Japanese woman.

Coincidentally, they tell me that today is Mike Love’s 75th birthday. Tunes du Jour sends Love love. Here are twenty of his most loverly:


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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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50 Songs Named After Real People

Today is the birthday of two music icons – Jam-Master Jay of rap pioneers Run-D.M.C. and disc jockey Wolfman Jack. Besides their place in their history of rock and roll, both men have another thing in common – they were the subjects of songs. That inspired me to put together today’s playlist – songs named after real people.

I found fifty songs whose titles are actual people. Actually I found more than fifty, but I didn’t want to subject you to Chiddy Bang or Mac Miller. I made a few rules for myself:
1) The title can’t have words besides the person’s name, hence no Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” or Sleater-Kinney’s “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.”
2) The title has to be the full name the person is known by, so no “Springsteen” by Eric Church or “Jessica” (about Jessica Simpson) by Adam Green. Allowed are “Galileo,” “Joan of Arc” and “King Tut,” as that is how most people identify Galileo Galilei, Joan d’Arc and Tutankhamun.
3) The song doesn’t have to be about the person after whom it is titled, so “Jack the Ripper” and “Rosa Parks” are in.
4) The track has to be on Spotify. This means I left out Bob Dylan’s “George Jackson” and Hoodie Allen’s “James Franco.”

Amazingly for a playlist based on such a goofy concept, it holds together quite well, if I say so myself.

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“River Deep – Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner

Winston + Turners
By 1966, the recording duo Ike & Tina Turner and the record producer Phil Spector could use a turnaround in their luck.

Ike & Tina Turner’s first hit song was 1960’s “A Fool in Love.” Two more top forty pop and four more r&b top ten hits followed over the next couple of years.

Phil Spector’s first hit as a producer was The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” a #1 pop single in 1958. Over the next seven years Phil Spector produced twenty-five top 40 pop hits, including such classics as The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Unchained Melody,” The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” and “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and Curtis Lee’s “Pretty Little Angel Eyes.”

Fast forward to late 1965. Ike & Tina Turner’s last top 40 pop hit was “Poor Fool,” which peaked at #38 in early 1962. It went top ten on the r&b chart, as did its follow-up, “Tra La La La,” but successive singles failed to do as well.

Despite scoring four top ten singles on Spector’s Philles Records, The Righteous Brothers sued the producer/record company head to get off the label, saying their contract was unenforceable. It was announced in early 1966 that the duo signed with another label. Their first single for that label, Verve, was a #1 hit – “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.” Spector lost his star attraction, and the other acts in his stable had lost luster. The Ronettes’ most recent top 40 hit was 1964’s “Walking in the Rain.” The Crystals’ most recent top 40 hit was 1963’s “Then He Kissed Me.”

In 1965 the Ike & Tina Turner Revue performed The Galaxy in Los Angeles. In the audience was Phil Spector. He loved their act and booked them to appear on The Big TNT Show, a televised concert for which he was the associate producer and musical director. Also appearing on the program were The Byrds, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Donovan, Joan Baez, Petula Clark, and Roger Miller.

Spector was taken by Tina’s performance. “I said, God, if I could make a number-one record with her she could go on Ed Sullivan, she could go to Las Vegas; she could break the color barrier.” At the time, Ike & Tina were singed to Loma Records, a division of Warner Brothers Records. None of their releases hit the pop charts. Spector negotiated a release from their Loma contract. Spector wanted Tina, not Ike, so he paid Loma $20,000 to buy out the duo’s contract, on the condition that Ike stay away from the studio while Tina recorded. Ike accepted this offer, with the stipulation that the resulting record still be credited to Ike & Tina Turner.

To come up with a suitable song, Spector turned to the husband and wife songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who, with Spector, wrote “Be My Baby” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” and also wrote “Leader of the Pack” (with Shadow Morton) and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” CORRECTION: former husband and wife songwriting team – Barry and Greenfield divorced in December 1965, just a few weeks before Spector asked them to write a song for Tina.

Though freshly-divorced, they both came to the table, each with a different unfinished song. The combination of the three songs resulted in “River Deep – Mountain High,” with the melody of the verses coming from Greenwich, the melody of the chorus coming from Spector, and most of the lyrics coming from Barry.

The first of five recording sessions for the single was in February 1966. Hanging out in the control room were a couple of folks you may have heard of – Mick Jagger and Brian Wilson. To achieve his vision Spector used 21 background vocalists and 21 musicians, including Glen Campbell, Leon Russell and Hal Blaine. The completed record cost around $22,000 to make. Said Bob Krasnow, the head of Loma Records, “In those days, you could make five albums for twenty thousand dollars. And this was just a single – one side of a single.”

After years with Ike Turner, Tina must have been relieved to be able to go into the studio without Ike and with Phil Spector, a man who treated women with respect – scratch that thought. In her autobiography, I, Tina, she recounts a recording session with Spector. “That intro – ‘When I was a little girl…’ – I must have sung that five hundred thousand times, and I don’t know if I ever got it just the way he wanted it. I would sing it, and he would say, ‘That’s very close, very close. We’ll try it again.’ I don’t remember him saying, ‘Got it.’ Pretty soon, I was drenched with sweat. I had to take off my shirt and stand there in my bra to sing, that’s how hard I was working on that song.”

A River Deep – Mountain High album, with a cover photo taken by a broke Hollywood actor named Dennis Hopper, wouldn’t be released until 1969. However, the “River Deep – Mountain High” single came out in the United States on May 14, 1966. It entered the Hot 100 at #98. A week later it was #94. One week after that #93. The next week it rose to #88.

And that was it. The record that was to be the triumphant return of Ike & Tina Turner and Phi Spector stayed on the chart for only four weeks. Looking back, Tina concluded “It was too black for the pop stations, and too pop for the black stations.” Ike agreed.

After the single’s failure, Spector became a semi-recluse. It would be three years before another Phil Spector’s production was on the Hot 100.

In the United Kingdom, however, it was a different story. “River Deep – Mountain High” peaked at #3 there. George Harrison called it “a perfect record from start to finish – you couldn’t improve on it.” Harrison would later have Spector co-produce his All Things Must Pass album, which included the classic “My Sweet Lord.”

In praising Tina, Mick Jagger said “’River Deep-Mountain High’ was an excellent record because she had the voice to get out in front of Phil Spector’s so-called wall of sound.” The Rolling Stones invited Ike & Tina to open for them on their tour that began in the autumn of 1966.

In 1999, “River Deep – Mountain High” was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine put it at #33 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Tina Turner turns 75 today. Here are twenty career highlights, kicking off with the classic “River Deep – Mountain High.”

Read more about Tina Turner here.

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The Ronettes – “Be My Baby”

Ringo + Ronnie 2014-08-10 12.19

Ronnie Spector turns 71 years old today. Along with her sister Estelle and cousin Nedra, Ronnie, then Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, formed The Ronettes, one of the classic girl groups of the sixties.

The trio was signed to Colpix Records, but none of their singles performed well. Then they met Phil Spector, who signed them to his label, Philles.

The first track Spector recorded with the trio was “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love?,” which, though the girls liked it, Spector held from release.

With Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector wrote “Be My Baby,” with the intention of having Ronnie Bennett, the woman he wanted to be his baby, record it.

The resulting record had a classic Spector wall of sound production and Phil recorded more than 40 takes. It took Ronnie three days to get the lead vocal down.

The other Ronettes don’t sing on “Be My Baby.” Background vocals were provided by Darlene Love, Nino Tempo, Sonny Bono, who did promotion for Phil Spector, and Bono’s girlfriend, Cher.

In 1963, The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” rose to #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Since that time it has made many lists of the greatest recordings. Among its biggest fans is Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who named it is favorite single of all-time, saying “This is a special one for me. What a great sound, the Wall of Sound. Boy, first heard this on the car radio and I had to pull off the road, I couldn’t believe it. The choruses blew me away; the strings are the melody of love. It has the promise to make the world better.”

Ronnie Bennett married Phil Spector in 1968. They divorced in 1974.

Today’s playlist consists of twenty tracks embodying the classic girl groups sound, with an emphasis on The Ronettes.

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Bad Songs I Love – “I Write The Songs”

The earliest known song in recorded history was performed by Eve. Not the rapper-actress whose hits include “Let Me Blow Your Mind” and “Gotta Man,” but a different Eve with no last name, the one who called the Garden of Eden home. Her song was “The Only Girl in the World,” later a hit for Rihanna. The song was written by Barry Manilow, as were “Let Me Blow Your Mind” and “Gotta Man.”

In 1976 the scientific community was rocked when Barry Manilow, in his #1 hit “I Write the Songs,” sang “I’ve been alive forever and I wrote the very first song.” A glance at his album cover photos allays any doubt as to the first part of that claim. “But how did you write that first song?,” the skeptics asked. Manilow replied “I put the words and the melodies together,” which was enough evidence to silence any doubters. He then proclaims “I am music.” He presents his case that he, Barry Manilow, wrote every song that has ever been written. Songs that make the whole world sing. Songs of love and special things. Things like a duck that loves disco and a heart that’s both achy and breaky.

In the song’s bridge Manilow sings how his “music makes you dance,” and really, who doesn’t get down to “Mandy?” He also says he “wrote some rock-and-roll,” referring to his hit “Can’t Smile Without You,” which rocks harder than anything by The Carpenters or Air Supply.

Then we get the one-two punch of “Music fills the heart / Well, that’s a real fine place to start” followed by “It’s from me, it’s for you / It’s from you, it’s for me / It’s a worldwide symphony.” Granted, those aren’t the greatest lyrics, but the man wrote 623,524,325 songs, so cut him some slack!

Now is a good time to mention that Barry Manilow did not write “I Write the Songs.” As a matter of fact, Barry Manilow did not write any of his three number one singles, the other two being “Mandy” and “Looks Like We Made It.” Manilow did write a acne medication jingle, a toilet cleaner jingle, and “Copacabana.”

“I Write the Songs” was written by Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys. He recorded the tune into a cassette and submitted it to a Japanese music festival, who rejected it as being unsuitable.
Undeterred, Johnston played the tune for a couple of friends who worked with The Beach Boys, Daryl “The Captain” Dragon and Toni Tennille. The Captain & Tennille included the song on their 1975 debut album Love Will Keep Us Together.

That same year Johnston produced an album for David Cassidy entitled The Higher They Climb, on which Cassidy took a stab at the song. (I know – Barry Manilow, The Captain & Tennille and David Cassidy! This is a glorious Bad Music I Love trifecta!) Cassidy’s version hit #11 on the UK singles chart in August of ’75.

That summer, Clive Davis, the chief of Arista Records, Manilow’s label, was in London and heard the Cassidy record on the radio. He suggested the song to Manilow. Manilow liked the song but was reluctant to record it. As he wrote in his autobiography Sweet Life, “The problem with the song was that if you didn’t listen carefully to the lyric, you would think that the singer was singing about himself. It could be misinterpreted as a monumental ego trip.”

I listened to the lyrics very carefully and can tell you that based on my multiple listens (and an interview with Bruce Johnston I read), the “I” in “I Write the Songs” is God. See that? The song is someone claiming to speak for God. Nothing egotistical about that! God wrote all the songs that make the whole world sing. This leads to the profoundly earth-shattering realization that God wrote “My Humps.” Praise be Him!

“I Write the Songs” won Johnston the 1976 Grammy Award for Song of the Year over such worthwhile nominees as “Afternoon Delight,” “Breaking is Hard to Do” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The Beach Boys never won a Grammy. The man who wrote most of the songs for The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, won his first Grammy in 2005 – Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.” Was that his most award-worthy contribution to popular music? The “I” of “I Write the Songs” has the answer to that question, but He’s not telling. I guess God only knows.

Winston + Barry 2014-06-17

Today the man(ilow) who claims to have been alive forever turns 71. Here are some of my favorites from his oeuvre.

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