Brochure Beauties #9: RCA Victor’s Popular Records for January 1947

You kids with your YouTube and streaming services have it so good. Back in 1947 the main way to listen to recorded music at home was rather brittle shellac 78 rpm records. One of the leading brands in that market was RCA Victor, who issued this brochure highlighting some of the most popular songs and artists at the beginning of 1947.

RCA Victor's Popular Records for January 1947

RCA Victor's Popular Records for January 1947

This brochure features songs from the likes of Desi Arnaz, Perry Como, Betty Hutton, Tex Beneke, Herbie Fields, and Spike Jones. Here’s one of those tunes, “Tia Juana” by Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra.

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.

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.

Spotify logo

The Ultimate Hit Collection Spotify Playlists

Because I can’t get enough of Spotify playlists or of gathering things into lists, I have undertaken what I think you’ll agree is a great public service that combines those two loves. I am in the process of creating playlists — which I’ve helpfully dubbed “Ultimate Hit Collection” — that gather together every song to chart in the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 U.S. singles chart.

These aren’t your typical hits playlists, in that I’m not curating but collecting. That means if a song ever got into the top 10 and it’s on Spotify, it goes into the playlist. So you get to hear some all-time classics and some head-scratching dross.

Thus far I’ve completed my playlists for the 1980s, am almost halfway through the ’70s, and have just started the ’60s. I may one day get to the 1990s but that won’t be anytime soon. So think of this as the greatest oldies radio station in the world, if you will.

One thing I should state clearly is that if an original song isn’t available on Spotify, it’s not in the playlist. This means songs for artists that aren’t on Spotify at all, like George Harrison, the Beatles, and Bob Seger aren’t in here. Likewise, I have tried my best to exclude re-recordings of songs (this happens a lot with older songs especially). I think I have a good ear for that sort of thing, but if I missed any please let me know.

I’ll update this post as new playlists come online, but here are the links as of now.

The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations1960s

Love Will Keep Us Together1970s

Billie Jean1980s


Terms of Endearment promo photo

Pop Culture Capsule — January 1-7, 1984

Terms of Endearment promo photo

It’s a brand new year, so what better time to look to the past, right? Well anyway, I’m going to do it and I hope you’ll join me for yet another pop culture capsule.

To start off this year’s capsules, I’m taking us back 30 years and putting us knee-deep in the 1980s. By this point in American popular culture, the last vestiges of the ’70s have been shed and we’re smack dab in the middle of the Reagan Era.

For those of you on Spotify, a lot of the tunes listed here are included on some of my Ultimate ’80s Hit Collection playlists. Specifically, the ones for 1983 and 1984.

Top 10 Movies

1. Terms of Endearment ($11.5 million)
2. Sudden Impact ($9.6 million)
3. Scarface ($5.6 million)
4. Yentl ($5.5 million)
5. Uncommon Valor ($5.2 million)
6. Two of a Kind ($5 million)
7. The Rescuers ($4.2 million)
8. Silkwood ($3.8 million)
9. Christine ($3 million)
10. D.C. Cab ($3 million)

Top 10 TV Shows

(Note: Most shows were not airing new episodes the first week of January, so these rankings are from the week of January 8.)

1. Something About Amelia [TV movie] (31.6)
2. 60 Minutes (26.6)
3. Dynasty (25.7)
4. The A-Team (25.3)
5. TV’s Bloopers, Commercials and Practical Jokes (25.0)
6. Dallas (24.2)
7. Simon & Simon (24.1)
8. Hotel (23.0)
9. Falcon Crest (21.5)
10. Magnum, P.I. (21.5)

Top 10 Albums

1. Michael Jackson, Thriller
2. Lionel Richie, Can’t Slow Down
3. Linda Ronstadt, What’s New
4. The Police, Synchronicity
5. Quiet Riot, Metal Health
6. Yes, 90125
7. Culture Club, Colour by Numbers
8. Billy Joel, An Innocent Man
9. Barbra Streisand, Yentl
10. Daryl Hall & John Oates, Rock ‘n Soul Part 1

Top 10 Singles

Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, "Say Say Say"1. Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, “Say Say Say”
2. Daryl Hall & John Oates, “Say It Isn’t So”
3. Duran Duran, “Union of the Snake”
4. Yes, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”
5. Olivia Newton-John, “Twist of Fate”
6. The Romantics, “Talking in Your Sleep”
7. Matthew Wilder, “Break My Stride”
8. Elton John, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”
9. The Rolling Stones, “Undercover of the Night”
10. Lionel Richie, “All Night Long (All Night)”

The New York Times Best-Selling Fiction Books

1. James A. Michener, Poland
2. Stephen King, Pet Sematary
3. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
4. Bill Adler & Thomas Chastain, Who Killed the Robins Family?
5. Mary Stewart, The Wicked Day
6. Isaac Asimov, The Robots of Dawn
7. Danielle Steel, Changes
8. Anne McCaffrey, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
9. Bette Midler, The Saga of Baby Divine
10. Joan D. Vinge (adap.), Return of the Jedi

The New York Times Best-Selling Non-Fiction Books

1. Erma Bombeck, Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession
2. The Best of James Herriot
3. Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr., In Search of Excellence
4. Art Buchwald, While Reagan Slept
5. Ken Follett, On the Wings of Eagles
6. John Naisbitt, Megatrends
7. Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History
8. Robert H. Schuller, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!
9. Jonathan Miller, The Human Body
10. William Manchester, One Brief Shining Moment

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year with the Mom and Dads

Music from the Worst Album Covers — Merry Christmas & Happy New Year with the Mom and Dads

We’ve all seen at least one article showing the worst album covers of all-time. But what about the music inside? Should you judge an album by its horrible cover? Well in this series, we’re going to find out. Today we examine Merry Christmas & Happy New Year by The Mom and Dads.

I’ll say this much for the 1972 holiday album Merry Christmas & Happy New Year by the Mom and Dads — if ever there was a Christmas album that sounded exactly like you would expect it to, this is it. I’m not going to sit here and judge whether or not that’s a positive thing; I’m just throwing it out there as a heads up of sorts.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year with the Mom and Dads

Yes, that’s the actual group on the cover. We’ve got (l to r) Quentin Ratliff (saxophone), Harold Hendren (drums), Doris A. Crow (piano), and Leslie Welch (accordion) looking resplendent in their early ’70s finery. But in case this photo wasn’t enough to entice you into buying the album, check out the back cover!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year with the Mom and Dads

Boom! Matching purple vests for the win!

So just who are the Mom and Dads? Well, they got their start in the early ’50s and were based out of Spokane, Washington. They played on a part-time basis early on, and specialized in waltzes, polkas, country & western… you know, music for moms and dads. They did actually achieve some commercial success, believe it or not.

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