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That’s Entertainment! #5: Bee Gees, c. late 1960s

I’m not a Bee Gees superfan so I’m not totally certain when this group photo was taken. But based on the little I do know about the group and what they look like I’d put this at around 1967-68, give or take a year.

Bee Gees circa late 1960s

If I’m correct that means the band lineup was Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Colin Petersen, and Vince Melouney. Melouney was the band’s lead guitarist for a brief time and left in 1968.

Van Halen

Greatest Misses: Van Halen

Even the most popular and successful bands have songs that speak only to a (relatively) devoted few. In Greatest Misses, I’ll count off the least popular song on band’s albums, not including brief interludes, joke songs, or generally any abnormally short song. I’m using the super scientific method of counting streams from a band’s Spotify catalog, so you know it’ll be accurate.

First up: Van Halen.

Van Halen

One interesting note about this first entry, that I would like to do some further research on. Of the 12 songs listed, 7 of them are the last song on the album. Do people just get to the end of a record and decide, “Nah I’m good, I’ll listen to something else now”? Strange.

Anyway, here’s the list and then the Spotify playlist:

  1. “On Fire” – Van Halen
  2. “Outta Love Again” – Van Halen II
  3. “Loss of Control” – Women and Children First
  4. “One Foot Out the Door” – Fair Warning
  5. “The Full Bug” – Diver Down
  6. “House of Pain” – 1984
  7. “Inside” – 5150
  8. “A Apolitical Blues” – OU812
  9. “In ‘N’ Out” – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
  10. “Baluchitherium” – Balance
  11. “How Many Say I” – Van Halen III
  12. “Beats Workin'” – A Different Kind of Truth

Here’s the Spotify playlist, which will be added to with future entries in the series.

Club 99: Songs That Peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100

Club 99 #3: Teresa Brewer, “Pickle Up A Doodle”

In Club 99, I look at songs that peaked at position #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and help to put them into context. Together we can decide if the song deserved more success or got too much.

The Song: “Pickle Up A Doodle”
The Artist: Teresa Brewer
#99 Chart Date: September 1, 1958

I don’t know that this entry necessarily counts as a novelty song, but it sure sounds like one upon first listen. The problem with making that determination is that at this point in American music history, the definition of pop music was much broader and more inclusive than it is today. So I’ll let you listen and make that call yourself:

Any idea? Pop? Novelty? Traditional? A little of each? It’s fun no matter what you call it, albeit somewhat inconsequential. I tracked down a live performance of the song, and the dramatic stage production certainly adds some interest.

Dig those flames!

On to the details. “Pickle Up A Doodle” was released in America on the Coral label (b/w “The Rain Falls On Everybody”) and hit #99 on September 1, 1958. It was also included on her Heavenly Lover LP. My two main impressions from this song (written by Jeannie Joy) are that it sounds like something from a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, and that Brewer sounds like a younger Dolly Parton.

Teresa Brewer was well-established as a successful singer by the time this was released in the summer of 1958, having already scored several Top 40 singles throughout the decade. However, while there were still a few more successful singles in Brewer’s future, her hit-making days were done within a few years. She charted her last Top 40 in 1960.

To hear other songs in Club 99, check out my Spotify playlist.

Before We Was Fab: Benny Spellman, “Fortune Teller”

Before We Was Fab looks at some of the best songs of the pre-Beatles era, in search of great singles that have largely been forgotten.

If you’ve heard of Benny Spellman at all, chances are it’s because of his association with groups such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, The O’Jays, or The Hollies — all of whom covered his songs.

Benny Spellman, "Fortune Teller"As it happens, I was listening to the iconic Who album Live at Leeds and paid particular attention to their live rendition of “Fortune Teller.” The Who, as with many English rock bands of the time, had a deep love and appreciation for popular and obscure R&B, and that’s where “Fortune Teller” comes in.

The song was written by the great Allen Toussaint under the pseudonym Naomi Neville, and was first recorded by Spellman as the B-side of his only hit single, “Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette).” That single was released on Minit Records in the spring of 1962 and debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 5. The A-side peaked at #80 on June 2, but did find greater success on the Hot R&B Sides chart (#28).

Musically, there is very little difference between Spellman’s original and the versions recorded by The Who or The Rolling Stones. Toussaint’s production has a little more bounce and flair (courtesy some extra percussion and barely noticeable horns), but doesn’t have the same bombast (Who) or speed and urgency (Stones). But otherwise, even the greatest rock groups ever knew to leave a great tune largely alone.

Benny Spellman never had another hit and released only a few singles after 1965. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and died of respiratory failure in June 2011, at the age of 79.

Enrich your life and subscribe to the Before We Was Fab playlist on Spotify today!

Club 99: Songs That Peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100

Club 99 #2: Nat King Cole, “Nothing in the World”

In Club 99, I look at songs that peaked at position #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and help to put them into context. Together we can decide if the song deserved more success or got too much.

The Song: “Nothing in the World”
The Artist: Nat King Cole
#99 Chart Date: August 11, 1958

Just one week after our last entry peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100, one of the 20th century’s greatest crooners grabbed the spot. And my friends, this is about as smooth and sumptuous a recording as we’re likely to come across during this project.

As far as I can tell, this song was actually the B-side to “Acércate Más (Come Closer to Me)”, released on Capitol Records F4004, which itself peaked at #41 in September 1958.

In addition to Cole’s smoother-than-butter vocals, I really love the orchestration on this single. So it shouldn’t have surprised me to learn they were by none other than the great Nelson Riddle.

“Nothing in the World” has since been included on at least one or two Nat King Cole compilations, and should absolutely be sought out.

To hear other songs in Club 99,  check out my Spotify playlist.

Club 99: Songs That Peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100

Club 99 #1: Billy Williams, “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)”

In Club 99, I look at songs that peaked at position #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and help to put them into context. Together we can decide if the song deserved more success or got too much.

The Song: “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)”
The Artist: Billy Williams
#99 Chart Date: August 4, 1958

Today’s entry is the first #99 in the Billboard Hot 100 era, “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)” by Billy Williams. Williams charted several times going back to the mid-1940s, but by far his biggest hit was “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” which hit #3 in the summer of 1957. Just over one year later he released “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)” as the b-side of “It’s Prayin’ Time.”

In just about every important way, “I’ll Get By” is a carbon copy of his earlier hit. The arrangement, melodies, and vocal gimmicks are purposely meant to evoke and duplicate Williams’ earlier hit.

The record-listening public wasn’t having any of it, however, and the new song peaked at #99 on August 4, 1958, the same week the new Hot 100 debuted.

It’s a decent song compared to others of the era, but loses points for being a total knockoff.

To hear other songs in Club 99,  check out my Spotify playlist.

Billboard Time Capsule — August 14, 1965

In Billboard Time Capsule, we journey through an old issue of Billboard to see what the most popular and advertised albums of the day were. Not through charts, but rather through advertisements. In each capsule you’ll see ads for classic songs and albums, both promoting new recordings and trumpeting ones that had already gained traction.


vintage 1965 Billboard ad - The Beatles - "Help!"

The Beatles – “Help!”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - Jody Miller - "Home of Brave"

Jody Miller – “Home of Brave”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - The Hollies - "I'm Alive"

The Hollies – “I’m Alive”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - Barry McGuire - "Eve of Destruction"

Barry McGuire – “Eve of Destruction”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - Donovan - "Colours"

Donovan – “Colours”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - Connie Francis - "Roundabout"

Connie Francis – “Roundabout”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - Columbia Records

Columbia Records

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - Sonny Bono - "Laugh At Me"

Sonny Bono – “Laugh At Me”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - Skeeter Davis - "Sun Glasses"

Skeeter Davis – “Sun Glasses”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - The Great Scots - "Give Me Lovin'"

The Great Scots – “Give Me Lovin'”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - Rusty Draper - "You Can't Be True Dear"

Rusty Draper – “You Can’t Be True Dear”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - The Lovin' Spoonful - "Do You Believe in Magic?"

The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Do You Believe in Magic?”

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - "Must I Tell You So?" - The Liverpool Set

“Must I Tell You So?” – The Liverpool Set

vintage 1965 Billboard ad - "Heartaches by the Number" - Johnny Tillotson

Johnny Tillotson – “Heartaches by the Number”

For those who dig Spotify playlists, here is one that contains about half of these songs. I suspect the rest are either not permitted or may have just been lost to the mists of time…

Kiss (1974) band photo

Greatest Misses: Kiss (Spotify Playlist)

I’m starting a new music series on this site that I call Greatest Misses, with a debt owed to the Devo collection of the same name. The premise is simple — I ID the least listened-to song for every (or most) of a band’s studio records available on Spotify.

A few caveats: Short, interlude-type songs don’t count for me, and I also don’t count live albums, compilations, or records of the like.

Up first is Kiss, for whom every studio albums is currently available as of this posting except for 2009’s Sonic Boom.

Not surprisingly, this 20-song playlist is composed almost entirely of deep cuts that only the diehards would know (think “Two Timer” from Dressed to Kill or “Murder in High Heels” from Animalize.)

But there are a few ones I was shocked to see heard so little. “Escape from the Island” is a great instrumental and one of the few truly excellent rock tracks from Music from “The Elder.” Ditto for “Got Love for Sale” from Love Gun, which lost out to the album-ending clunker “Then She Kissed Me” of all tracks.

One thing I couldn’t help noticing was how Gene Simmons-heavy this playlist is. 12 of the 20 songs are Gene’s, six are Paul Stanley’s, with one group vocal and the aforementioned instrumental.

Anyway, give it a listen and see if you agree with the masses. Because to be honest, some of my favorite Kiss songs are on this thing.

Listening Booth — The Who, “Had Enough”

One of my resolutions for 2016 is to start publishing more Listening Booth posts, but why not get a head start before 2015 finishes? Here’s a gem from the last studio album by The Who to feature the legendary Keith Moon. It’s “Had Enough” from 1978’s Who Are You LP.

Roger Daltrey reportedly hated the string arrangement on this song, but I love it. It lends an extra element of emotion to a very world-weary track from John Entwistle. I especially love the chord progression on the chorus, which is nothing short of brilliant.

Don’t forget you can hear most of the songs from in my Listening Booth series on Spotify.