Thirty songs written by Randy Newman
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Today Tunes du Jour pays homage to Neil Diamond (b. January 24, 1941). Included in today’s playlist are hits Diamond had as a performer, songs of his that were hits for other artists, and “The Pot Smoker’s Song” and “Reggae Strut,” because I think you need to be aware of them, the latter sounding like it wasn’t written by the guy who espoused the views of the former.
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Inspired by the February 16 birthdays of The Weeknd, Danielle Haim, Lupe Fiasco, Ice-T, Duck Sauce’s Armand van Helden, Sonny Bono, 808 State’s Gerald Simpson, and songwriter Otis Blackwell, whose compositions include “Don’t Be Cruel,” “All Shook Up,” Handyman,” “Great Balls Of Fire,” and “Return to Sender,” and the February 15 birthdays of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, Melissa Manchester, UB40’s Ali Campbell, Megan Thee Stallion, Denny Zager, and Olivia.
1) “Sweet Caroline” has been played during every Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park since 2002. Over the past couple of years it has been played in tribute to the city of Boston and those directly affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.
2) The Monkees’ cover of Diamond’s “I’m a Believer” was the biggest hit of 1966 in the US. It remained at #1 for seven weeks. The Monkees also had a hit with Diamond’s “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.” Other hit versions of Diamond compositions include UB40’s “Red Red Wine,” Deep Purple’s “Kentucky Woman” and Jay & the Americans’ “Sunday and Me.”
3) In 1977 Diamond released a solo version of a song he wrote entitled “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” Shortly after, Barbra Streisand released her version of the song. An employee at a Kentucky radio station spliced the two versions together, creating a virtual duet. An official release of a duet version by Columbia Records, for whom both artists recorded, resulted in a #1 record. It was produced by Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons.
4) “Solitary Man” was Diamond’s first charting single as a performer. In 2005 Rolling Stone magazine called it Diamond’s best, saying “There’s not a wasted word or chord in this two-and-a-half minute anthem of heartbreak and self-affirmation, which introduced the melancholy loner persona that he’s repeatedly returned to throughout his career.”
5) He starred in the 1980 version of the film The Jazz Singer, for which he was a nominee for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and the winner of the Razzie for Worst Actor. The film’s soundtrack became Diamond’s best-selling album and spawned three top ten singles: “Love on the Rocks,” “Hello Again” and bad song I love “America.”
6) “Cracklin’ Rosie” is slang used by a Canadian Indian tribe for a bottle of wine. The tribe had more men than women, so the men that didn’t get a girl got with Cracklin’ Rosie. The song “Cracklin’ Rosie” became Diamond’s first #1 single as a performer.
7) “Heartlight” was inspired by the film E.T., The Extraterrestrial.
8) Urge Overkill’s version of Diamond’s “Girl, You‘ll Be a Woman Soon” became a hit on the Modern Rock chart due to its inclusion in Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction. Diamond initially withheld the right for Tarantino to use the song in the film as he found the script too violent.
9) In the mid-sixties Diamond was working on a song he called “Money Money.” The head of his record label, Bert Berns, and songwriter Jeff Barry convinced him to change the title to something more teen-friendly. The result became Diamond’s first top ten single as a performer, “Cherry, Cherry.”
10) It took Diamond four months to write “I Am…I Said,” my favorite song about hearing-impaired furniture.
Today Diamond turns 74. Here is your Diamond Day soundtrack.
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Back when Home Box Office was still referred to as Home Box Office and not by its acronym, the network showed music videos between movies. There was no MTV yet, certainly no YouTube. It was between movies on Home Box Office that I discovered Pretenders.
“Brass in Pocket” was shown regularly and I was instantly taken by this woman playing a waitress, signing that she’s “got bottle” and a “new skank,” she’s “Detroit leaning,” and she’s gonna use her “sidestep” to get a guy to notice her. I hadn’t the foggiest what she was talking about.
In Pretenders’ 2005 box set, the woman, lead singer Chrissie Hynde, explained the lyrics. Having “brass in pocket” means you’re doing alright. “So reet” refers to marijuana. “Got bottle” means “I’ve got front.” “Detroit leaning” refers to an attitude with which people from that city drive. “Gonna use my sidestep” refers to a dance move. I still haven’t the foggiest what she’s talking about, but what a great record!
Hynde didn’t and doesn’t care for the song. The track’s producer, Chris Thomas, saw the band play at a club in London and afterwards told Hynde he especially liked “Brass in Pocket.” He insisted the band record it. After acquiescing, Hynde told Thomas “he could release it over [her] dead body.” She was convinced to let the song come out. It became the group’s first top ten single in the UK, where it hit #1 in January 1980, and their first top 40 single stateside, where it peaked at #14.
“Brass in Pocket” was included on the band’s self-titled debut album, released in January 1980. The album also includes their first single, “Stop Your Sobbing,” a Kinks cover produced by Nick Lowe, who declined to produce the rest of the album, supposedly because he didn’t feel the group were going anywhere. (A few years later Hynde would become romantically-involved with The Kinks’ lead singer, Ray Davies.)
“Kid” was the single follow-up to “Stop Your Sobbing.” Here is what AllMusic.com says about this song: “The Pretenders recorded a fair share of brilliant tracks on their first three albums, but ‘Kid’ is probably the band’s masterpiece.”
Other stand-out tracks on the debut album include “Precious,” wherein Hynde sings “But not me, baby, I’m too precious/Fuck off!,” a line that was supposed to end with “I had to fuck off,” but Hynde couldn’t get all the words out; “I Go to Sleep,” another Ray Davies composition, this one not released previously by The Kinks; “Private Life,” a song covered by Grace Jones, of whose version Hynde said ‘Now that’s how it’s supposed to sound!,” calling the cover a “highpoint of [her] career;” “Tattooed Love Boys” and “Mystery Achievement.”
Presently, Pretenders sits at #30 on my Top All-Time Albums list.
Chrissie Hynde turns 63 today. Here are twenty of her finest.
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Demi Lovato’s “Really Don’t Care” moves from #4 to #1 in Glenn’s Ten this week. There are three new entries – “New Dorp, New York” performed by SBTRKT featuring Ezra Koenig, “Chandelier” by Sia and “Dark Sunglasses” by Chrissie Hynde. This is SBTRK’s first appearance in Glenn’s Ten, while guest vocalist Koenig has been in the countdown a handful of times with his band, Vampire Weekend. Sia has been in Glenn’s Ten previously as a co-writer of Britney Spear’s “Perfume;” this is her first time in the ten as an artist. Chrissie Hynde showed up in Glenn’s Ten many times with her band Pretenders and with UB40 on a cover of Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe.”
Glenn’s Ten for this week is:
1. “Really Don’t Care” – Demi Lovato featuring Cher Lloyd
2. “Do You” – Spoon
3. “New Dorp, New York” – SBTRKT featuring Ezra Koenig
4. “All the Rage Back Home” – Interpol
5. “Chandelier” – Sia
6. “Nothing More than Everything to Me” – Christopher Owens
7. “You Are Your Mother’s Child” – Bright Eyes
8. “Dark Sunglasses” – Chrissie Hynde
9. “Left Hand Free” – Alt-J
10. “Heart is a Drum” – Beck
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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