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Throwback Thursday – 1955

Blackboard Jungle hit US theaters on March 25, 1955. The plot concerned the arrival of a new teacher at a violent inner-city school. The producers wanted a theme song that was typical of what a 1955 teenager would listen to. Glenn Ford, who starred in the film alongside Anne Francis and Sidney Poitier, looked through his son’s record collection. In there, the theme song was found.

It was the b-side of a single entitled “Thirteen Women (And the Only Man in Town)” that had been released the prior year. When the song was used under Blackboard Jungle’s opening credits, that flip-side, “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock,” performed by Bill Haley and His Comets, went to #1 in the US, and is considered to be the first rock and roll song to do so. It became a smash elsewhere in the world, too, becoming the UK’s first million-selling single.

The classic guitar solo on the track was performed by Danny Cedrone, who was not one of Haley’s Comets but a session musician who had worked with the group previously. He got paid $21 for his contribution to the track. Cedrone took a tumble on a stairway and died shortly after the song was recorded, not living to see its success, let alone its iconic status.

Ringo + Bill Haley
Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week spotlights the year 1955, kicking off with Bill Haley and His Comets’ “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.”


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 62: Oldies But Minties

A collection of songs from the fifties and sixties that have a hint of mint. Perhaps the singer was openly minty or came out later in life, or perhaps the lyrics are minty, some unintentionally. There are also a couple of women included who had and have a large minty following. Artists include The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Little Richard.


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Throwback Thursday – 1962

Some time in my teen years I feel in love with the girl group sound. My favorite was The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel.” The music and the vocals hooked me. The singer tells of how others don’t approve of the boy she loves as he’s a non-conformist, but he treats her well and that’s all that matters.

The story behind the record is as interesting as the record itself. The song was written by Gene Pitney, who had several hits of his own, including “Town Without Pity” and “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valence.” “He’s a Rebel” was slated to be the debut single for Vikki Carr, but when Spector heard Pitney’s demo he knew he wanted it for one of his acts, The Crystals.

He needed to record it quickly in order to challenge Carr’s version at the stores. The Crystals, however, were on the road in New York and unable to make the recording sessions in Los Angeles. No problem. Spector hired a local group called The Blossoms, led by Darlene Wright, to record the song. Wright was paid $3000 for the session. Spector released the record under the name The Crystals, as his label owned the name. The actual Crystals first learned of their new hit song when they heard it on the radio. It became their first #1 single, meaning The Crystals had to learn this song so they could perform it at their shows. The group’s lead singer, Barbara Alston, could not match Wright’s vocal performance, so fellow Crystal LaLa Brooks moved into the lead vocalist slot. Coincidentally, the week The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” was #1, Gene Pitney was #2 as a singer with “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” a song he didn’t write.

As “He’s a Rebel” was so successful, Spector needed to get a follow-up single out quickly. Again, he turned to The Blossoms to record “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” Wright, however, was angry that her name was not on “He’s a Rebel” and told Spector she would only do this song if she were singed to a recording agreement and was properly credited for her vocals on the track. Spector agreed, changing her name in the agreement to Darlene Love. He released “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” It was credited to The Crystals.

Spector used the money he made from “He’s a Rebel” to buy out his business partners in the Philles Records label. In addition to the financial settlement, Spector had to give his two ex-partners a share of the royalties of the next Philles single release, so Spector got the real Crystals into the studio and recorded “(Let’s Dance) The Screw,” a silly number clearly not intended to be a hit. A copy was sent to one of the ex-partners. No royalties were generated.

Tunes du Jour celebrates Throwback Thursday with twenty great hits from 1962, kicking off with “He’s a Rebel” by “The Crystals.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1961

From 1958 to 1960, Ben E. King was the lead singer of The Drifters, scoring hits with “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment” and “I Count the Tears.” He suggested to the group’s manager, George Treadwell, that they record the spiritual tune “Stand by Me Father,” but Treadwell turned him down. King also asked Treadwell for a greater share of the group’s royalties. Again, Treadwell turned him down. King said goodbye.

King left the group after recording just thirteen songs with them. He soon made the top ten as a solo act with 1961’s “Spanish Harlem.”

Around that time, King was working on a song based on “Stand by Me Father.” He had some lyrics and a melody. He finished the lyrics with his producer, Jerry Leiber. Leiber’s songwriting/production partner, Mike Stoller, added some chords behind the melody, as well as a bass line.

Per Leiber, it’s that last addition that makes Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” a classic. “The lyrics are good, King’s vocal is great. But Mike’s bass line pushed the song into the land of immortality. Believe me – it’s the bass line.”

“Stand By Me” kicks off this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, spotlighting hits from 1961.


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Throwback Thursday – 1960

“I’ve always been very content when I wrote all those songs. By this I’m saying that a lot of people think you have to live through something before you can write it, and that’s true in some cases, but I remember the times that I was unhappy or discontent, and I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t communicate, and I certainly couldn’t write a song, no way. All the songs I wrote that were successful were written when I was in a contented state of mind.”
– Roy Orbison, NME, 1980

From its title, you’d never know that the guy who wrote “Only the Lonely (Know How I Feel),” was content. Orbison wrote the lyrics to this song while sitting in his car outside his house. Being there by himself inspired the sentiment expressed in the song’s title.

As he had yet to have any hits as a performer, Orbison offered “Only the Lonely” to the Everly Brothers, who by that time (1960) had many hits, including “Claudette,” written by Orbison. Don Everly told Orbison he should record “Only the Lonely” himself.

“Only the Lonely,” written with Joe Melson, became Orbison’s first top 40 single as a performer, reaching #2 on the pop charts in the summer of 1960. He’d go on to have 22 more top 40 singles.

On this Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour presents twenty great tracks from 1960, kicking off with Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely (Know How I Feel),” one of three hits about loneliness to impact the charts that year.


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Throwback Thursday – 1969

In 1968, songwriter Mark James, whose hit compositions include “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Always on My Mind,” was married to his first wife, but he still had feelings for his childhood sweetheart, who also was married. Said James, “My wife suspected I had those feelings, so it was a confusing time for me. I felt as though all three of us were all caught in this trap that we couldn’t walk out of.”

He recorded and released a song he wrote based on his situation, but it flopped.

A year later, producer Chips Moman brought the song to Elvis Presley. Elvis loved it and was confident he could make it a hit.

Elvis was acknowledged as the King of Rock and Roll. During the ten years from 1956 through 1965 he scored 33 top ten singles, including 17 #1s. Then he hit a relative dry spell, with no top tens in 1966, 1967 or 1968.

The King recorded Mark James’ song. It became Elvis’ first #1 single since “Good Luck Charm” in 1962. The song, “Suspicious Minds,” was Presley’s final #1 in the US. Between 1956 and 1969, Elvis spent 79 weeks at #1, more than any other act.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Suspicious Minds” at no. 91 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Ringo + Elvis
This week, Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights twenty of the best singles of 1969, kicking off with Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1957

Nineteen fifty-seven was a banner year in the nascent days of rock and roll.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets had their first chart hit with “That’ll be the Day,” which hit #1 in September. “Peggy Sue” became their second top ten single before the year was out.

Sun Records, the label that brought us Elvis Presley (among others), released “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” performed by Jerry Lee Lewis. It became Lewis’ first hit single, peaking at #3.

Gospel singer Sam Cooke released his first secular recording on Keen Records. The song was “You Send Me,” and it spent three weeks at #1 in December. Cooke would go on to score 28 more top 40 pop hits.

The Everly Brothers cracked the pop chart for the first time with “Bye Bye Love,” which peaked at #2. Their follow-up single, “Wake Up Little Susie,” went to #1 and stayed there for four weeks.

Chuck Berry, who cracked the pop top ten in 1955 with “Maybellene,” had two more top ten hits in 1957 – “School Day” and “Rock & Roll Music.” He wouldn’t have a #1 single until 1972.

Elvis Presley was at #1 on the pop singles chart for exactly half the year with “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” and “Too Much.” So his increasing amount of fans wouldn’t be bothersome to his neighbors and to have more security, in 1957 Presley purchased the Graceland mansion in Memphis for $102,500.

Jackie Wilson, formerly a member of Billy Ward and His Dominoes, released his first solo single, “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet),” co-written by an up-and-coming songwriter named Berry Gordy, Jr. Though the song only reached #62 on the US pop chart, it went top ten in the UK, earning Gordy enough money to fund the launch of Motown Records. Ultimately, Wilson would have 24 top 40 hits on the US pop chart.

Little Richard, who first cracked the pop chart in 1956 with “Tutti-Frutti,” had three more top 40 hits in 1957 – “Keep a Knockin’,” “Jenny, Jenny” and “Lucille.” The latter hit #1 on the r&b chart, while the other two titles peaked at #2 r&b.

The Coasters teamed up with the production/songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and in doing so, scored with the double-sided hit single “Searchin’” (#3 pop / #1 r&b) and “Young Blood” (#8 pop / #1 r&b). With Lieber and Stoller The Coasters would score several more top ten hits over the next few years.

Also, in 1957, the television program American Bandstand was syndicated nationally. It would air for the next 32 years.

Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week focuses on the great music of 1957.


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Throwback Thursday – The Hits of 1958

On March 28, 1958, 19-year-old Eddie Cochran recorded a song he co-wrote with his manager, Jerry Capeheart, called “Summertime Blues.” It was intended to be the b-side of a single whose a-side, “Love Again,” was written by 17-year-old Sharon Steely, who soon became Cochran’s girlfriend. Liberty Records released the 45 with “Summertime Blues” as the a-side. Five months after he recorded it, Cochran had his first U.S. top ten single. In the fall of 1958, the record became a hit in England.

Besides singing and co-writing the song, Cochran produced it. His talents didn’t stop there. He could play piano, drums, bass and guitar, the latter of which he played on records by two dozen other acts.

Cochran’s popularity overseas led to a hugely successful tour of England in the spring of 1960, culminating on April 16 with a performance at the Hippodrome Theater in Bristol. On his way to the airport after the show, Cochran got into a cab with Steely, who was now his fiancée, his tour manager, Patrick Thompkins, and fellow performer Gene Vincent. The taxi driver was speeding on a dark and winding street. The car blew a tire and the driver lost control of the vehicle, crashing it into a lamppost. Cochran put himself over his fiancée to protect her and ended up being thrown from the car. Suffering a severe head injury, he was brought to the hospital. The following afternoon he was pronounced dead. He was just 21 years old.

Eddie Cochran’s time with us was far too short, but his legacy lives on. “Summertime Blues” is an undeniable rock and roll classic, covered by many artists of different genres, including The Who, Alan Jackson, Blue Cheer, The Beach Boys, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Olivia Newton-John. Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody” was later recorded by Sex Pistols, and his “Twenty Flight Rock” was played by a teenage Paul McCartney at his audition for a teenage John Lennon to let McCartney join Lennon’s band, The Quarreymen.

Today is Throwback Thursday, and Tunes du Jour revisits some of the hits of 1958, kicking off with Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1956

Our playlist on this Throwback Thursday focuses on 1956. Rock and roll was in its infancy and many architects of the new style of music were making their marks. Enjoy this collection of classics.


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My Birthday Advice: Don’t!

doggies + Elvis
Today is my birthday. Over my 25+ years on earth, I’ve learned many life lessons. Most of them came from songs. My birthday gift to you is a playlist of 100 songs offering advice as to what not to do.


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