Tag Archives: The 5th Dimension

Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (7-22-20)

Inspired by the July 22 birthdays of Rufus Wainwright, Eagles’ Don Henley, Parliament-Funkadelic’s George Clinton, Chuck Jackson, Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers, Futureheads’ Ross Millard, Bobby Sherman, Selena Gomez, Keith Sweat and Supertramp’s Rick Davies.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (7-1-20)

Inspired by the July 1 birthdays of Debbie Harry, Missy Elliott, The B-52’s Fred Schneider, Village People’s Victor Willis, Evelyn King, Sufjan Stevens, Bobby Day, David Geddes, Imperial Teen’s Roddy Bottum, Elwood Blues (aka Dan Aykroyd), The Rembrandts’ Phil Solem, and Plies.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (6-26-20)

Inspired by Black Music Month, LGBTQ Pride Month, and the June 26 birthdays of The Clash/Big Audio Dynamite’s Mick Jones, The 5th Dimension’s Billy Davis Jr., Ariana Grande, B.T. Express’ Louis Risbrook, Chris Isaak, Mr Hudson, The Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler and Wannadies’ Pär Wiksten.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (6-17-20)

Inspired by Black Music Month, LGBTQ Pride Month, and the June 17 birthdays of Kendrick Lamar, Barry Manilow, Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, Mike + the Mechanics’ Paul Young, and Ricardo “RikRok” Ducent.

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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 – The Hits Of 1968

For Throwback Thursday this week, Tunes du Jour goes back to 1968. Though the year’s biggest hit, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” is not on Spotify, there are enough great smashes to make a compelling playlist.


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I Say A Little Prayer On Burt Bacharach’s Birthday

Songwriters/Producers Burt Bacharach and Hal David had a string of hits with Dionne Warwick in the 1960s. They usually got the master they wanted after just one take; however, on “I Say a Little Prayer,” they did ten takes with Warwick, not liking any of the end results. They felt the tempo was too rushed. They gave up on the recording and into the vault it went, until October 1967, when the head of Warwick’s record label slated it to be the b-side of the new single “(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls.” While “Dolls” eventually became a hit, it was “I Say a Little Prayer” that raced up the chart first, becoming Warwick’s first gold record.

Against the advice of Jerry Wexler, the head of her record label, Aretha Franklin recorded a cover of “I Say a Little Prayer” just weeks after Warwick’s record peaked. Wexler thought it was too soon to remake the song, not to mention that he felt the song was far better suited to Warwick’s voice. Franklin came up with a new arrangement for the tune and used the same backup singers that sang on Warwick’s version. Though he loved what she did with the song, Wexler still didn’t think it was a hit, and scheduled it as the b-side to Aretha’s July 1968 single “The House That Jack Built.” As with Dionne’s record, both sides of Aretha’s single hit the top ten and the record went gold.

Though he didn’t produce Franklin’s recording, Bacharach has called it “the definitive version.”

Today Burt Bacharach turns 87 years old. Here are twenty classic songs from his songwriting catalogue.


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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

As a songwriter, Jimmy Webb scored his first hit in 1967 at age twenty when The 5th Dimension took “Up, Up and Away” to the top ten. Later that year Glen Campbell had a hit with Webb’s composition “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”

Webb then wrote a 22-minute cantata. His friend Bones Howe, with whom Webb worked on The 5th Dimension’s Up, Up and Away album, invited Webb to play the new piece for The Association, who Howe was then producing. Their reaction was less than enthusiastic. Per Howe, one group member said “Any two guys in this group could write a better piece of music than that.”

Sometime after, Webb received a telegram from actor Richard Harris, who he met at a fundraiser in Los Angeles. Harris was nominated for an Academy Award in 1963 for This Sporting Life and again in 1990 for The Field. He later went on to play Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies. The telegram read “Jimmy Webb, come to London and make a record. Love, Richard.”

Webb flew to London, bringing a satchel of songs he’d written. He played each for Harris, but nothing struck the actor. Webb recalled “I looked down with some dread because there was only one thing left.” That one thing was the last movement of the cantata he presented to The Association. He called it “MacArthur Park.”

Here are the lyrics to “MacArthur Park.” Raise your hand when they get confusing.

The opening lines are “Spring was never waiting for us, girl / it ran one step ahead, as we followed in the dance.”

I see some hands raised. The next line should help you understand: “Between the parted pages and were pressed in love’s hot fevered iron, like a striped pair of pants.” Now you got it! Harris, who is from the UK, where “pants” means underwear, uses an iron, a hot fevered iron, on his striped underwear. You may be asking: Does he iron his solid-colored underwear? Does he have solid-colored underwear? Boxers or briefs? Relax – there are still six and a half minutes left in the song, so maybe you’ll find out.

Moving on, we learn that MacArthur Park, which Harris calls MacArthur’s Park for the duration of the song, is melting. In the dark. Its icing is flowing down. Who hasn’t been there?

We now arrive at the classic lines about a cake left out in the rain, which appears to be causing Harris to have a breakdown. “I don’t think that I can take it ‘cause it took so long to bake it and I’ll never have that recipe again. Oh no!” Calm down. It’s just a cake. Bake another one. I know – this song was recorded in the pre-Internet age when finding a cake recipe required one to open a cook book, but come on! This cake can’t be that special if you chose to leave it out during inclement weather.

By the end of verse one we have learned several things: 1) Harris is singing to a girl; 2) Harris irons his striped underwear; 3) a park is melting; 4) if you bake a cake and wish to leave it outside, check The Weather Channel first; and 5) never write a song while you are on an acid trip.

As the song continues it gets more bizarre. The melody changes and Harris threatens us by singing “There will be another song for me, for I will sing it.” Luckily, this other song never became a hit. (And may I add, he is being rather presumptuous by calling his performance on this record “singing.”)

The song clocks in at nearly seven and a half minutes, and though it reached #2 on the US pop charts, most listeners had no idea why Harris was singing about a melting park, ironed underwear and a waterlogged dessert.

Songwriter Webb didn’t understand the confusion. He told Q Magazine that the song is “clearly about a love affair ending, and the person singing it is using the cake and the rain as a metaphor for that.” Clearly. Clear as mudcake.

The love affair was one from Webb’s own life. He and his girlfriend would meet for lunch at MacArthur Park, where there would sometimes be birthday parties, with cake. Their breakup devastated Webb, who wrote “Mac Arthur Park” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” based on their relationship. (Bonus trivia – the woman went on to marry Linda Ronstadt’s cousin.)

In 1993, humorist Dave Barry surveyed his readers to find the worst song. The clear winner for Worst Overall Song and Worst Lyrics was “Mac Arthur Park.” Culture critic Joe Queenan disagreed with the results “because ‘Ebony and Ivory’ exists, as do ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,’ ‘Baby, I’m-a Want You,’ ‘Feelings,’ ‘Benny and the Jets,’ ‘Witchy Woman’ and ‘Sussudio,’” adding “On a planet where somebody thought it would be a good idea to write ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,’ the best ‘MacArthur Park’ is ever going to earn in the sucky-song sweepstakes is a tie.”

Good or bad, the song is a classic. A 1968 Grammy winner for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist, the song has been recorded by top artists in diverse genres, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli, the Four Tops, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton and Woody Herman. Waylon Jennings’ 1969 version won a Grammy. In 1978, Donna Summer’s rendition became her first #1 pop record and stands as the only US #1 pop song for Jimmy Webb, who also wrote “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “Worst That Could Happen” and “All I Know.”

It has been rumored that Webb and Harris had a falling out due to the song’s success. Harris promised Webb his Rolls Royce if the song went top ten. When the record did, Harris offered Webb a different Rolls Royce. It is because of this that people named Richard are often called Dick. Allegedly, the pair stopped speaking.

Ringo + Harris 2014-08-15 12.17
Today Jimmy Webb turns 68 years old. Hopefully he’s somewhere celebrating with a nice piece of wet cake. We kick off our weekly dance party with Donna Summer’s version of “MacArthur Park,” which she, like Harris, insists on calling “MacArthur’s Park” for the duration of the song.

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A Sly & The Family Stone Playlist

doggies + Sly 002
Today the musical genius that is Sly Stone turns 71 years old.

On our menu:
“Dance to the Music”
From 1968, Sly & The Family Stone’s first hit single helped launch the “psychedelic soul” sound that was a huge influence on acts such as The Temptations, The Undisputed Truth, War, Parliament and The 5th Dimension. Interestingly, the Family Stone didn’t care for the track, thinking it too commercial.

“Sing a Simple Song”
Sly & The Family Stone drummer Greg Errico said this song isn’t simple at all; it’s actually difficult to play live.

“Runnin’ Away”
“In those days it was the hippies who cut their hair and ran away from the hippy feeling. It’s about how, at a certain time, everybody runs away from something.” – Sly Stone

“Family Affair”
From 1971, this was Sly’s third #1 pop hit and his last top ten.

“Somebody’s Watching You”
A track from 1969, seventeen years after President Truman formed the NSA.

“Hot Fun in the Summertime”
This song contains the lyric “I cloud nine when I want to,” a reference to The Temptations hit song “Cloud Nine,” insinuating that the Motown band was echoing The Family Stone’s vocal style. This single went to #2 on the pop chart, kept from the top spot by The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next to You.”

“Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”
And vice versa, per the song. Made more impactful due to the fact that this as one of the first integrated bands (which also had men and women playing major roles).

“If You Want Me to Stay”
The band’s final gold single, from 1973

“Everybody is a Star”
Recorded for an album that was never competed, this song, along with “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” was included on a 1970 Greatest Hits set from the band.

“Stand!”
“In the end you’ll still be you, one that’s done all the things you set out to do”

“I Want to Take You Higher”
Released as the b-side of the “Stand!” single, the band’s incendiary performance of the tune at Woodstock had their record label release it as a single a-side, becoming another top 40 hit for them.

“Everyday People”
“And so on and so on and scooby doobie doobie.” Has any other song said so much as elegantly?

“Que Sera, Sera”
One of the few cover versions his band recorded

“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
Hulk Hogan’s daughter Brooke released a cover of this song. It’s not as well known.

“Crazay”
Jesse Johnson, lead guitarist of The Time, brought in Sly to help on this 1986 club hit that went to #2 on the r&b chart.

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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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