Friday, November 19, 2010

My Life's Soundtrack Part 17 - A Song Of Joy by Miguel Rios

A 1970 song you might not remember. This peaked at #14 on Billboard, #9 on Cashbox, and #16 in the U.K.. But, it went to #1 in Germany, staying on the charts for 39 weeks! It was also #1 on the Billboard AC chart. The alternate title is Himno A La Alegria. Miguel was born in Granada, Spain in 1944. The melody, of course, is based on Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" is the final complete symphony created by Ludwig van Beethoven. He completed it in 1824 -- when he was completely DEAF! It was adapted as the European Anthem and is considered by critics to be one of Beethoven's finest masterpieces, and one of the greatest musical compositions ever written. It was also the first time a major composer used human voices in a symphony. In the classical presentation, the lyrics are sung during the final movement by four soloists and a chorus. They were taken from Ode To Joy, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additions made by Beethoven. Whenever I get depressed about something, I think about Beethoven losing his hearing then pressing on to create this beautiful music and suddenly my life doesn't seem so bad...

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Life's Soundtrack Part 16 - Mr Tambourine Man by The Byrds

When this song was topping the charts, a 5-year old girl rode her tricycle across Harvard Avenue, right in the path of a city bus. She was killed instantly, while I watched from my bedroom window. The song haunted me for years. It seemed that every time I heard it all the way through, something terrible would happen. Weird, eh?

My Life's Soundtrack Part 15 - Fun Fun Fun by The Beach Boys

Hey, let's park our surfboards and head down the beach. There's a bunch of beach boys standing on top of their Woodie wagon playing some rock and roll music. It's gonna be a great party!

Now let's hear what they sound like outside the studio. Added bonus, we get to see one of my all-time favorite comedians and TV personalities, Steve Allen.

My Life's Soundtrack Part 14 - O Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison

This isn't just one of my all-time favorites. Back when I was heavily involved in music research, this song consistently scored very high. In one large auditorium test, it actually had a perfect score. Everyone knew it. Everyone loved it. Nobody disliked it. Nobody was tired of it. THAT is a timeless oldie!

My Life's Soundtrack Part 13 - Travelin' Man by Ricky Nelson

Little did I know, back in 1961 when I was only eight years old, that fifty years later I would actually be a "travelin' man" who had already made stops in the places he mentions. I just wish I had a girl in every port, like I'm SURE Ricky did. ;-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Audition Tape from 1977

Here's a very unusual audition tape I made back in 1977. I made this while I was working as the Chief Engineer for WZUU-FM/AM in Milwaukee. I didn't really have my heart in that job. For one thing, I really missed working at my previous job, the legendary Buzzard, WMMS in Cleveland. I had been the assistant engineer there, working for a guy named Jim Somich, also known as The Pooh, and his boss, Tom Bracanovich.  I was also unhappy to be in a strange new city. But most of all, I had this burning desire to get back on the air somewhere and try to work my way up to Program Director of a real radio station.  

Unlike most radio audition tapes, this one contains a lot of music.  That's why it runs 21 minutes long!  But the concept worked.  I managed to get a job with this at the album rock station in town, 93QFM.  

Unfortunately, the job only lasted six months. I ended up out of work, and out of money. I moved back to Cleveland, cleaned up my act, and went back to radio engineering. I took the job as Chief Engineer at WZZP-FM and made up my mind to be one of the best radio engineers on the planet.  

After that, I went to M-105 in Cleveland for a while, then took a job back at WZUU in Milwaukee, working again for Malrite Broadcasting. This time, I rebuilt the FM studios and helped build an AM tower system and studios for 13Z, their oldies AM station. 

Later, Malrite sent me to New York City where I ended up in charge of the project to build Z-100.  

It's funny how you can take even the worst things life throws at you, learn from them, and go on to much better things.

If you take the time to listen to this, pay attention to the segues between songs.  I picked most of these up from a couple of my friends at WZUU, Jeff Peterson and Charlie McCarthy.  A lot of professional radio programmers will tell you that playing songs just because one sounds good blending into the next one is a really bad idea.  But I'm not so sure about that.  As long as the songs involved fit the format and help create a good overall mix, blend, and flow, I think it can help hold an audience longer.  Besides, it's really creative and a lot of fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Life's Soundtrack Part 12 - Mashed Potato Time by Dee Dee Sharp

What do you mean you don't know how to do the Mashed Potato? Just pay attention to the dancing girls and you can get with all the latest dance steps!

My Life's Soundtrack Part 11 - Da Doo Ron Ron by The Crystals

This was THE sound back in 1963, just before the Beatles blew everybody out of the box for a while. Another of Phil Spector's famous Wall of Sound productions. I hear David Mamet is making a movie about Phil Spector that will star Al Pacino. Could be a good choice. Phil will spend the next 20 years of his life in "rehab" at Corcoran State Prison. He'll be 88 before he's eligible for parole!

My Life's Soundtrack Part 10 - Hawaii 5-O (Originally by The Ventures)

If you're going to remake something, make sure you make it better. But, be true to the original in the places that really matter. I wish they would have made Steve McGarrett's dad the actual character that Jack Lord played in the show. That would have made him Steve McGarrett Jr., I guess. Instead, they gave his dad the name John, nicknamed Jack, in honor of Jack Lord. But, as I recall, the original Steve McGarrett didn't have a family.

My Life's Soundtrack Part 9 - Ue O Mui Te Aruko (Sukiyaki) by Kyu Sakamoto

This is another of my all-time favorite oldies. Ue O Mui Te Aruko... I look up while I walk so my tears won't fall... (Stupidly renamed Sukiyaki for release in the USA.) This is an absolutely beautiful and timeless song.

Kyu's life story is very interesting. He died in a commercial airplane crash. If you read the wikipedia article, be sure to drill down and read about that crash. The story is fascinating.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Life's Soundtrack Part 8 - I Will Follow Him (Japanese) by Little Peggy March

Here's a twist on a song you've probably heard a million times, but probably not like this! Little Peggy March actually spoke fluent German and moved to Germany after this hit where she made several records in German. But that's not the only language she knew how to speak! Some 60's songs are SO good, you even enjoy them when you can't understand the lyrics!

My Life's Soundtrack Part 7 - A Walk In The Black Forest by Horst Jankowski

This was the very first piece of vinyl I ever purchased. I had stolen quite a few records by then, and my Uncle George gave me a whole bunch of rock and roll 45's for free. But, I liked this melody so much, I actually plunked down 49 cents for it. I still love it to this day...

My Life's Soundtrack Part 6 - Bus Stop by The Hollies

I remember hearing this on my little green GE transistor radio at five in the morning while hauling my wagon around the neighborhood delivering newspapers. I was 13. Watch lead vocalist Allan Clarke's dance moves! Graham Nash plays some cool guitar licks and contributes some pre-CSNY harmonies! But the sleeper of this act was drummer Bobby Elliott. That guy is a machine! I think that's Bernie Calvert on bass. He and Bobby had been members of The Dolphins before joining the Hollies.

My Life's Soundtrack Part 5 - You Can't Hurry Love by The Supremes

Here's a nice gift for you. It's summertime, 1966, and we're going down to the Motown building down on West Grand. Berry Gordy's going to let us in to listen to Diana Ross and the Supremes work on their new song with some help from the Funk Brothers...

Those beautiful ladies are Flo Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Diana Ross. Those guys over there in the corner are Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddy Holland Jr.; They wrote the song, and now they're helping the girls produce it. You can just tell this is going to be a number one smash, right? Maxine Powell is already fitting them for the dresses they'll wear on stage! This will be one of TWELVE #1 hit singles from The Super Supremes between 1964 and 1969. These are the girls who knocked The Beatles out of the spotlight! They appeared on the Ed Sullivan show TWENTY times! They've come a long way from those Brewster-Douglass housing projects where they hooked up with Eddie Kendricks who got them started as The Primettes, an all-girl "sister" version of his own group, The Primes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Life's Soundtrack Part 4 - I've Told Every Little Star by Linda Scott

Back in 1961, I used to help my grandma out by stacking pop bottles and sweeping the floors in her little corner diner at 102nd and Miles Avenue in Cleveland. I'd listen to the jukebox play, watch the teenagers dance, and have a great bowl of chili. It always made me happy to hear this song.

It's actually a remake of a 1933 tune by Mary Ellis. Here's the original version of I've Told Every Little Star by Mary Ellis from 1933:

The song was written by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II for the Broadway musical, Music In The Air. There was a film version of that play made in 1934 starring Gloria Swanson. By the way, if you want to check out the lovely Miss Ellis in action, check out her 1937 movie Glamorous Night!

Check out this really interesting video that mashes up I've Told Every Little Star with Smashing Pumpkins. Rock and roll may not be completely dead...

My Life's Soundtrack Part 3 - The Wanderer by Dion

Here's another song that defines the pre-Beatles 60's music. Dion DiMucci left The Belmonts and hooked up with the (uncredited) Del-Satins led by Stan Sommers (a group that would later evolve into The Brooklyn Bridge led by Johnny Maestro) for this one. It was the B-side of The Majestic, but DJ's flipped it over and took this side to #2 on the charts. Dion later called this, "Black music filtered through an Italian neighborhood."

My Life's Soundtrack Part 2 - End Of The World by Skeeter Davis

One of the definitive songs of the 60's. Little Mary Frances "Skeeter" Davis looks really nervous here...and take a look at that hair-do!!! A big influence on Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton, she was one of the first female superstars of Country music. She passed away from breast cancer in September 2004. Skeeter, I will always love you.

She started out with The Davis Sisters (no relation), who ended up in a fatal car accident that left Skeeter critically injured. She was actually banned from the Grand Ol' Opry at one point! Married to radio star Ralph Emery. Read her story here: Skeeter Davis on Wikipedia

Her book is fascinating, too!

My Life's Soundtrack Part 1 - Silence Is Golden by The Tremeloes

"Talk, it is cheap, people follow like sheep; even though there is nowhere to go."