Tag Archives: Run-D.M.C.

The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

Today is the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. You’re officially allowed to start listening to holiday music now. To get you started, I compiled a playlist of what I consider to be 100 of the best Christmas songs. Okay, 98 songs, a stand-up routine and a skit. It’s a mix of standards, versions of standards with which you may not be familiar, and obscure but delightful tunes.

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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It’s Alison Goldfrapp’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Translated literally, the French expression “ooh la la” means “Oh there there.”

Per About.com, “ooh la la” is an interjection that “can indicate surprise, disappointment, commiseration, distress, annoyance… any moderately strong reaction to something that was just said or done. Note that there is no connotation of sexiness or impropriety in French.”

Per UrbanDictionary.com, “ooh la la” is “a universally understood way of saying ‘check out that hot piece of ass.’” I detect a slight connotation of sexiness and impropriety.

Per OxfordDictionaries.com, “ooh la la” is “used to express surprise or excitement” or “to convey a sexual innuendo.”

The music duo Goldfrapp, made up of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, released a single called “Ooh La La” in 2005. Written by the duo, the song tells of Alison’s lust for someone without a romantic component.

Goldfrapp’s “Ooh La La” became their first top ten pop single in the UK and their third #1 on the US dance chart. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, and Rolling Stone magazine placed it at #10 on their list of the year’s best singles.

Today, Alison Goldfrapp turns 50 years old. Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party is heavy on her group’s music, kicking off with “Ooh La La.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1983

Winston + MJ
MTV debuted on August 1, 1981. Back then it was a music video network. It positioned itself as a rock station. Most of the videos shown were of songs made by Caucasian performers, though rock-leaning black acts such as Joan Armatrading and the Bus Boys got some play.

Then came “Billie Jean.” The second single from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, “Billie Jean” was accompanied by a stylish video featuring a mesmerizing performance from Jackson. However, it wasn’t a rock song. It didn’t fit the format of rock radio stations, and it didn’t fit the format of MTV either.

But there is a big difference between radio and music television. There were plenty of radio stations and many different formats. You may not hear “Billie Jean” on the rock stations, but you could hear it on r&b stations and pop stations and dance-leaning stations. However, there was only one music television – MTV.

In his autobiography, Howling at the Moon, Walter Yetnikoff, head of CBS Records, for whom Jackson recorded (and where I worked in my first music business job), wrote “I screamed bloody murder when MTV refused to air [Jackson’s] videos. They argued that their format, white rock, excluded Michael’s music. I argued they were racist assholes – and I’d trumpet it to the world if they didn’t relent. I’ve never been more forceful or obnoxious. I’ve also never been as effective, threatening to pull all our videos. With added pressure from [Thriller producer] Quincy Jones, they caved in, and in doing so the MTV color line came crashing down.”

Jackson’s video for “Billie Jean” aired on MTV, followed just weeks later by his video for “Beat It,” a song whose guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen helped make it a hit on rock radio. These two videos made Jackson, already a superstar, a worldwide phenomenon with a humongous fan base that transcended race, age and location in a way never seen before. These two videos made MTV, a year and a half old and fairly popular in white suburban areas, a cultural institution. These two videos made the music video, then not something done for many singles, particularly those performed by artists of color, an art form and a necessary marketing tool.

Some people tuned in to MTV to see the Michael Jackson videos, and while watching the channel, discovered other acts. Some people tuned in to MTV to watch “white rock” videos, and while watching the channel, discovered Michael Jackson.

MTV went to showcase more “non-rock” videos. In 1988, they launched their hugely popular program Yo! MTV Raps, something that would have been completely unexpected just five years earlier, pre-“Billie Jean.”

While MTV deserves credit for making “Billie Jean” and Thriller successful, the person most responsible is Jackson himself. He wrote the song. He sang the song. He danced the song. Quincy Jones did not want “Billie Jean” to appear on Thriller. He didn’t like the title. He didn’t like the bassline. He felt the song’s introduction was too long. Jackson argued “But that’s the jelly!…That’s what makes me want to dance.” Jones wasn’t ready for this jelly, but Jackson stood his ground.

In May of 1983, NBC aired a tribute to Motown Records. Motown: Yesterday, Today, Forever featuring many legends who recorded for the storied label performing their classics. We saw Diana Ross, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Mary Wells, Junior Walker and then some. It was a terrific show, but the talk of the town following its airing was the performance of a song not from the Motown catalogue – Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” The iconic performance, during which Jackson brought the famous moonwalk to the world at large, pushed him that much more ahead of any other performer working in music back then.

Following “Beat It,” CBS Records released four more singles from Thriller. All seven of the singles released (the album had only nine songs!) went top ten, breaking the record of most top ten hits from a single-artist album that was set a few years earlier by…Michael Jackson, whose Off the Wall gave us four. Before Thriller, four singles for one album was considered a lot. Thriller raised the bar for blockbuster albums, and subsequent releases such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Prince’s Purple Rain, Def Leppard’s Hysteria and Janet Jackson’s Control each produced more than four hits.

“Billie Jean” changed everything.

On this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, Tunes du Jour spotlights 1983, kicking off with Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean.”


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The Beastie Boys Parody That Changed Rock And Roll

Ringo + Beasties
In 1986, a group that started out as a punk rock quartet released a single that mocked party anthems, and in doing so made music history.

The group is the Beastie Boys and the song is “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!).” Per the group’s late founder, Adam “MCA” Yauch, “the song began as a goof on dumb rock songs” and a satire of drunken frat boys and the like. The trio recorded vocals and their friend, Rick Rubin, who produced Run-D.M.C.’s rock/rap breakthrough album Raising Hell, added loud drums and guitars. An iconic video was shot and received a lot of airtime on MTV.

“Fight for Your Right” took off. In early 1987 it reached #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the group’s only top ten single. It was hugely popular with the audience at whom it poked fun. Lamented the group’s Michael “Mike D” Diamond, “The only thing that upsets me is that we might have reinforced certain values of some people in our audience when our own values were actually totally different. There were tons of guys singing along to ‘Fight for Your Right’ who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them.”

“Fight for Your Right” brought hip hop to the suburbs, with bored kids finding the same rebellion in rap that they did in punk. It is on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Among other accolades, it was named one of its release year’s top singles by the Village Voice, New Music Express and Record Mirror, and was later named one of the 100 Greatest Singles Of The Post-Punk Era by Uncut, one of the 100 Greatest Songs Of All Time by Q, and one of 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear by The Guardian.

The album from which “Fight for Your Right” was taken, Licensed to Ill, became the first rap album to hit #1 in the United States. It remained at the top of the album chart for seven weeks, becoming the best-selling hip-hop album of the 1980s.

As today is the 49th birthday of Beastie Boy Adam “King Ad-Rock” Horovitz, Tunes du Jour celebrates with a playlist of twenty of the trio’s best.


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

Another New York Moment

    In those halcyon days before we thought about skin cancer, when David Dinkins was the mayor of New York City, Kathy and I would go to Central Park to tan. Usually we spread our towels on Sheep Meadow, among our fellow Manhattan sun worshippers, who were not sheep, at least not genealogically.

    One time Sheep Meadow was closed off, so we went to a nearby field to lay out. It was a smaller area, with only a handful of folks taking in the rays. Shortly after we covered ourselves in suntan oil, Kathy and I independently simultaneously peripherally noticed some motion nearby. A gender-discordant couple was enjoying each other’s company. Not in the same way Kathy and I were enjoying each other’s company. Their way was under a thin ratty blanket and involved thrusting. Looking around we saw that our fellow tanners saw what was happening and looked around at all the tanners to confirm their eyes were not deceiving them. It being New York City, nobody bothered them. Not the people there to tan, not the parents walking with their children along the path a few feet from the fornicators, not the NYPD. Live and let live. That’s how we did it in New York.

    They finished their activity and cleaned themselves up with the paper towels they had the foresight to bring with them. These were not amateurs. They were prepared. He probably was a boy scout many many years earlier.

    That was all well and good. However, a half hour later they started at it again. One time, no problem, but a second time? Now that’s rude! Nobody likes a show-off.

    “I’m near the meadow watching you boink her, oh ooh oh.” I didn’t write a song with that lyric that day, but let’s pretend I did, if only to make this segue less awkward.

    In 2010, Swedish singer Robyn released “Dancing on My Own,” which included the lyric “I’m in the corner watching you kiss her, oh ooh oh.” Her song was not about coitus in a Manhattan park. In the song she is stalking her ex, something I don’t recommend doing unless it’s on-line.

    Today Robyn turns 36 years old. As Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour, we’ll pepper our playlist with some of Robyn’s best, starting with “Dancing on My Own.” Everybody get down (though if you’re in a public park, get down only once per 24-hour period)!


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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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King Holiday

Winston + King

There was a trend in eighties pop music of superstars banding together for a cause. As trends go, it was certainly better than the medley craze of that same decade. Its high points included “We Are the World,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” “Sun City” and “King Holiday.”

“King Holiday” was the result of a conversation rapper Kurtis Blow had with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son Dexter. The civil rights leader’s birthday was celebrated as a national holiday for the first time on January 20, 1986. To commemorate the occasion, Blow, along with Grandmaster Melle Mel, Bill Adler and Phillip Jones, composed “King Holiday,” which Blow and Jones produced.

To perform the song, they gathered an impressive list of crossover stars of the day. Joining Kurtis Blow and Melle Mel on the record were Run-D.M.C., Whitney Houston, Lisa Lisa, Full Force, James “JT” Taylor (of Kool & the Gang), Teena Marie, Whodini, Fat Boys, El DeBarge, Stephanie Mills, New Edition, Stacy Lattisaw and Menudo (featuring Ricky Martin). The single made the top 30 on Billboard’s Black Music chart. All proceeds from its sale were donated to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Today Tunes du Jour jumps back in time to sing celebrate sing sing celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

There was an article on the site Gawker yesterday about a woman named Zoe Fennessy who, when she hears the music of Ne-Yo, “freezes up and begins vomiting uncontrollably.” You may say the same thing happens to you when you listen to Nickelback, but Ms. Fennessy’s reaction to Ne-Yo’s music is due to a rare medical condition called musicogenic epilepsy.

Some of you may be saying “Who’s Ne-Yo? Is he/she/they someone whose music gets played a lot?” The answer is, apparently. Since his first hit in 2006 (“So Sick,” which went to #1 on the US and UK pop charts), Ne-Yo has had 17 top forty hits on the US pop chart and a half-dozen more on the r&b chart. He has had just as many hits in the UK, where Fennessy lives.

Ne-Yo isn’t the only artist to cause seizures in people with this condition. Around ten years ago there was a report of a six-month-old who had seizures when she heard The Beatles. The Beatles! That shit ain’t right, yo. One may get a reaction from all classical music, another from the lower notes played on a brass instrument.

The reactions people with the condition have vary as well. Some have convulsions, others become incontinent, and others become incredibly sleepy.

Ms. Fennessy had part of her brain removed to try and cure the problem, but the operation was not a success. She still needs to steer clear of Ne-Yo’s music.

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour, and if Ms. Fennessy is reading, she’ll be happy to know there is no Ne-Yo on today’s playlist, which kicks off with the Jason Nevins remix of “It’s Like That” by Run-D.M.C., whose Joseph “Run” Simmons turns 50 today.

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Clowns Angry At Media (+ It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!)

The new season of American Horror Story features a character named Twisty the Clown. Twisty the Clown is a psychopath who murders people with scissors and imprisons children in a school bus. The character is getting professional clowns’ knickers in a twisty.

Glenn Kohlberger, president of Clowns of America International, is quoted in The Hollywood Reporter as saying “Hollywood makes money sensationalizing the norm. They can take any situation no matter how good or pure and turn it into a nightmare.”

His sentiments are echoed by the United States’ second largest clown trade group, the Society of Clowns for the Advancement of Realistic Expression (SCARE). “Business was going great for me until the autumn of 2001,” said that organization’s president, Slappy bin Laden. “You have to ask yourself ‘Why would business suddenly drop off?’ The answer must be the media’s portrayal of clowns.” Bin Laden points to The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown as an example. “[Krusty the Clown] is a buffoon masquerading as a clown. He’s not a real clown.”

“Things have not improved since then,” bin Laden continues. “We got a Batman movie in which a clown called The Joker is a sociopath. We got a sitcom called Modern Family in which a clown is actually a homosexual. These portrayals give clowns a bad name.”

“Hollywood is not going to change unless it is pressured to do so.” That is why bin Laden pitched a new sitcom that portrays clowns in a positive, and per bin Laden, more truthful light. Everybody Loves Slappy will premiere on the FX network in January 2015. In the show, bin Laden plays Slappy Hussein, a sportswriter living with his family in Lynbrook, NY. “The show is good clean entertainment. It’s about a clown who works hard and loves his family, though he’s an alcoholic who beats his wife, because all clowns do that.”

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Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. You can vogue, hustle or do the twisty. Put on your dancing shoes (or big clown shoes) and hit the floor!

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