Thursday, August 29, 2013

Michael Jackson's Top 50 Songs

Originally posted 8/29/12. Updated 8/29/13.

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Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, into one of the world’s most musical families in history. As a kid, he was thrust into the limelight fronting his brothers in The Jackson 5 and his solo efforts in the ‘70s and ‘80s lifted him to the status of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated musical icons and arguably the biggest music star of the last 30 years. He didn’t just create accessible music via his blend of R&B, pop, and dance. He also showed the world the power of music video by knocking down the MTV race barrier (“Billie Jean”), showing how a video could tell a memorable story (“Beat It”), and transforming the idea of short video clips into the idea of short films (“Thriller”). He also championed the blockbuster album, showing how an album could be milked for as many as 7 top ten hits (Thriller) or 5 number ones (Bad). Gone were the days of releasing three of four songs maximum from an album.


Along with his superstar status, however, came constant probing into his personal life. The world was exposed to a man who was first robbed of his childhood and then his privacy. Accusations of inappropriate behavior with children dogged him in his later years and he had largely disappeared from the recording industry in the last decade of his life. It can be difficult to separate the man from his legacy, an idea I address in my essay, Michael Jackson: Icon or Ick? (7/6/09). However, the intent here is to focus on what a musical legacy he left.

In June 2010, Billboard magazine published a list of Michael Jackson’s top 50 chart hits in honor of the first anniversary of his death. You can see that list at Billboard or the Dave’s Music Database Facebook note I posted in response. That response also included the DMDB’s own ranking of the top 50 Michael Jackson songs. As always, DMDB lists are compiled by aggregating multiple best-of lists along with sales figures, chart data, and awards. Songs noted with an asterisk (*) are by the Jackson 5; songs with two asterisks (**) are by the Jacksons.

The Top 50 Michael Jackson Songs

Billie Jean

1. Billie Jean (1983)
2. Beat It (1983)
3. I Want You Back (1969) *
4. I’ll Be There (1970) *
5. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (1979)

Beat It

6. Say, Say, Say (with Paul McCartney, 1983)
7. ABC (1970) *
8. Rock with You (1979)
9. Black or White (1991)
10. Bad (1987)

I Want You Back

11. Thriller (1983)
12. Man in the Mirror (1988)
13. You Are Not Alone (1995)
14. The Way You Make Me Feel (1987)
15. Remember the Time (1992)

I’ll Be There

16. The Girl Is Mine (with Paul McCartney, 1982)
17. I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (with Siedah Garrett, 1987)
18. Rockin’ Robin (1972)
19. The Love You Save (1970)
* 20. Never Can Say Goodbye (1971) *

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

21. Shake Your Body Down to the Ground (1978) **
22. Enjoy Yourself (1976) **
23. Ben (1972)
24. Scream (with Janet Jackson, 1995)
25. State of Shock (with Mick Jagger, 1984) **

26. Human Nature (1983)
27. Will You Be There? (1993)
28. Mama’s Pearl (1971) *
29. In the Closet (1992)
30. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (1983)

Say, Say, Say

31. Dancing Machine (1974) *
32. She’s Out of My Life (1980)
33. Dirty Diana (1988)
34. Another Part of Me (1988)
35. Got to Be There (1971)


36. Off the Wall (1980)
37. Smooth Criminal (1988)
38. Who Is It? (1992)
39. Heal the World (1992)
40. Maybe Tomorrow (1971) *

Rock with You

41. Lookin’ Through the Window (1972) *
42. Lovely One (1980) **
43. Earth Song (1995)
44. Farewell My Summer Love (1984)
45. Jam (1992)

Black or White

46. Torture (1984)
47. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) (1983)
48. Show You the Way to Go (1977) **
49. Heartbreak Hotel (1980) **
50. Ease on Down the Road (with Diana Ross, 1978)



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Roy Orbison Charts with "Oh Pretty Woman": August 29, 1964

Originally posted 8/29/11. Reposted 8/29/13.

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This content is taken from the The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at as a standard book or ebook!

Orbison and co-writer Bill Dees were writing when Roy’s wife interrupted them to ask for some money to go to the store. Dees shot back that a “pretty woman never needs any money.” RS500 From that, Roy came up with the idea of a man watching a pretty woman walk by and wondering if she might be lonely like him.

The path from inception to release was, as Dees says, “the fastest thing I ever saw.” KL He says they wrote the song on a Friday, recorded it the next Friday, and by the following Friday it was released. KL Chet Atkins called it the “best commercial record I ever heard.” HL

The flirtatious nature of the song was amusingly ironic, depicting Orbison (or at least the song’s protagonist) “as a trolling stud.” MA The image was far better suited to singer David Lee Roth’s machismo when his hard-rock band, Van Halen, took their 1982 cover of the song to #1 on the album rock chart and #12 on the pop charts. Six years later, Orbison died of a heart attack, but as a testament to the song’s timeliness, a version recorded live in September 1987 hit the adult contemporary and country charts in 1989 – twenty five years after the original.


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Byron Harlan: His Top 50 Songs

Byron Harlan was born on August 29, 1861 and died September 11, 1936. He ranked as one of the most famous singers of the first quarter of the 20th century. He made a name for himself as a solo artist who sang ragtime and minstrel humor and as half of a duo with Arthur Collins. He racked up 24 number one songs (marked by #1) and has seven featured in the DMDB list of the top songs of all time (DMDB 1000). In honor of his birthday here are his top songs:

1. Alexander’s Ragtime Band (with Arthur Collins, 1911) #1 DMDB 1000
2. School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids) (1907) #1 DMDB 1000
3. My Gal Sal (1907) #1 DMDB 1000
4. Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie (1906) #1 DMDB 1000
5. The Darktown Strutters’ Ball (with Arthur Collins, 1918) #1 DMDB 1000
6. The Aba Daba Honeymoon (with Arthur Collins, 1914) #1 DMDB 1000
7. Hello Central, Give Me Heaven (1901) #1 DMDB 1000
8. Down Where the Wurzburger Flows (with Arthur Collins, 1902) #1
9. Put Your Arms Around Me Honey (I Never Knew Any Girl Like You) (with Arthur Collins, 1911) #1
10. Blue Bell (with Frank Stanley, 1904) #1

11. When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam’ (with Arthur Collins, 1913) #1
12. In My Merry Oldsmobile (with Arthur Collins, 1905)
13. The Right Church But the Wrong Pew (with Arthur Collins, 1909) #1
14. Down in Jungle Town (with Arthur Collins, 1908)
15. I Love the Ladies (with Arthur Collins, 1914) #1
16. Under the Yum Yum Tree (with Arthur Collins, 1911) #1
17. Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet (1910)
18. Camp Meetin’ Time (with Arthur Collins, 1906) #1
19. Where the Morning Glories Twine Around the Door (1905) #1
20. Keep on the Sunny Side (1906)

21. Everybody’s Doin’ It Now (with Arthur Collins, 1912)
22. Oh How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wachi Woo (That’s Love in Honolulu) (1916) #1
23. How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree (1919)
24. Tell Me Pretty Maiden (with Frank Stanley, Joe Belmont, and Flordora Girls; 1901) #1
25. The Mansion of Aching Hearts (1902) #1
26. The Cubanola Glide (with Arthur Collins, 1910)
27. Alabama Jubilee (with Arthur Collins, 1915)
28. Under the Anheuser Busch (with Arthur Collins, 1904)
29. Snookey Ookums (with Arthur Collins, 1913)
30. Hurrah for Baffin’s Bay (with Arthur Collins, 1903) #1

31. Daddy’s Little Girl (1906)
32. The Good Old U.S.A. (1906) #1
33. Down Among the Sugar Cane (with Arthur Collins, 1909)
34. Coax Me (with Arthur Collins, 1905)
35. Always in the Way (1903)
36. Under the Bamboo Tree (with Arthur Collins, 1903)
37. The Old Grey Mare (Whiffle Tree) (with Arthur Collins, 1918)
38. Casey Jones (with Arthur Collins, 1910)
39. Would You Care? (1905)
40. The Battle Cry of Freedom (with Frank Stanley, 1905)

41. Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (The Boys Are Marching Along) (with Frank Stanley, 1910) #1
42. Waiting for the Robert E. Lee (with Arthur Collins, 1912)
43. All Aboard for Dreamland (1904) #1
44. The Memphis Blues (with Arthur Collins, 1915)
45. Oh You Circus Day (with Arthur Collins, 1912)
46. Tammany (with Arthur Collins, 1905)
47. Nobody’s Little Girl (1907) #1
48. Chicken Reel (with Frank Stanley, 1911)
49. Won’t You Come Over to My House? (1907)
50. Here Comes My Daddy Now (with Arthur Collins, 1913)


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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Elvis Costello! / His Top 20 Albums

Originally posted on 8/25/12 as a top ten list alongside a list of Elvis Costello’s top 50 songs (see that list here).

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Elvis Costello was born Declan McManus in Liverpool, England, on August 25, 1954. He came out of the British punk/new wave scene in 1977 and became one of the most celebrated musicians of all time with his diverse abilities for dipping his toe into multiple musical genres including R&B, country, and classical. While these lists reflect a definite emphasis on his work from the ‘70s and ‘80s, Costello continues to make adventurous music. His fans never know just where he might go on his next album.

Sales, chart date, awards, and appearances on best-of lists are factored into Dave’s Music Database. Here are the results for Elvis Costello’s top 20 albums:

The Top 20 Elvis Costello Albums

1. This Year’s Model (1978)
2. My Aim Is True (1977)
3. Armed Forces (1979)
4. Imperial Bedroom (1982)
5. Get Happy!! (1980)
6. King of America (1986)
7. Blood and Chocolate (1986)
8. Spike (1989)
9. Trust (1981)
10. The Delivery Man (2004)

11. Punch the Clock (1983)
12. When I Was Cruel (2002)
13. Almost Blue (1981)
14. National Ransom (2010)
15. Mighty Like a Rose (1991)
16. The River in Reverse (with Allen Toussaint, 2006)
17. Brutal Youth (1994)
18. Secret, Profane and Sugarcane (2009)
19. Painted from Memory (with Burt Bacharach, 1998)
20. Momofuku (2008)


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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Best Live Acts Now According to Rolling Stone

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In the August 15, 2013, issue of Rolling Stone, more than 20 musicians and others in the music industry were asked to list up to 50 of their favorite live acts. Rolling Stone then crunched the numbers and created a list of current live acts using the critiera that the artists must have toured within the past five years and not announced their retirement.

1. Bruce Springsteen
2. Prince
3. The Rolling Stones
4. Arcade Fire
5. Neil Young
6. Jay-Z
7. Radiohead
8. Jack White
9. Rage Against the Machine
10. My Morning Jacket

11. U2
12. Wilco
13. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
14. The Black Keys
15. Paul McCartney
16. Alabama Shakes
17. Nine Inch Nails
18. Metallica
19. The Roots
20. Kanye West

21. Red Hot Chili Peppers
22. Tom Waits
23. Pearl Jam
24. Dave Matthews Band
25. Phish
26. Leonard Cohen
27. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
28. Patti Smith
29. Muse
30. Madonna

31. David Byrne
32. Sleigh Bells
33. Beyonce
34. Foo Fighters
35. Bruno Mars
36. Florence & the Machine
37. The National
38. Queens of the Stone Age
39. Rush
40. Eric Church

41. Tame Impala
42. Skrillex
43. Mumford & Sons
44. Janelle Monae
45. Lady Gaga
46. Tool
47. Sigur Ros
48. Green Day
49. Taylor Swift
50. Fiona Apple

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Elvis Presley hit #1 with “Don’t Be Cruel”/ “Hound Dog”: August 18, 1956

Originally posted 7/13/2014.

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Elvis Presley “Don’t Be Cruel”

Writer(s): Otis Blackwell/Elvis Presley (see lyrics here)

Released: 7/13/1956, First charted: 7/27/1956

Peak: 111 US, 16 CB, 110 CW, 16 RB, 24 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, -- UK, 10.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 4.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 5.05

Review: Elvis had already shaken the music world with two chart toppers in 1956 when “Don’t Be Cruel,” backed by “Hound Dog,” topped the chart for 11 weeks. Joel Whitburn, the go-to chart historian for Billboard magazine with his Record Research books, calls it the only single in history to have both sides go to #1. He backs up the claim by pointing out that “Hound Dog” hit the charts first and had the initial buzz, but that airplay began to favor “Don’t Be Cruel.” SF

The single was also the first to top Billboard’s pop, rhythm & blues, and country & western charts. WK Not only was it the biggest song of 1956, WHC but the biggest hit of the rock era for the next 36 years, when Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” finally bested it. In terms of chart success, there has never been a more successful double-sided hit in history.

Presley took a demo by Otis Blackwell and reworked the arrangement on piano, changing the music and lyrics, just as he had done with other Blackwell compositions. WK Elvis recorded “Cruel” on July 2, 1956 at RCA’s New York City studio with his regular band featuring guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, and drummer D.J. Fontana. The Jordanaires provided backup vocals. WK

They recorded eight takes of the song after they’d already knocked out thirty takes of “Hound Dog” in the same session. WK Elvis invented a new style for himself when he decided to slap the back of his guitar for extra percussion. RS500

Sam Phillips, Presley’s former producer, was floored when he heard the song, saying that the first time he heard it on his car radio he had to pull over. CR Phillips said later, “they have finally found this man’s ability.” CR

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