Saturday, December 5, 2015

This Date in Rock Music History: December 6

1964:  The movie Ferry Cross the Mersey, starring Gerry & the Pacemakers, premiered a the New Victoria Cinema in London.

Order The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era Using Your PayPal Account

For your convenience (which also allows you to save a little money), we have set up an option for you to purchase The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era (1955-2015)* through your PayPal Account.  The price quoted includes shipping, and you can purchase the book with either Media Mail Shipping, First Class Shipping, or Priority Mail Shipping.  The link will always be at the top right-hand side of the website!

Featured Unknown/Underrated Song*: "Conviction Of The Heart" by Kenny Loggins

Judged by Inside The Rock Era editors to be one of the Best in Category*, here is this great artist from Santa Barbara, California.  Kenny Loggins has put out a lot of great music, but not too much better than this undiscovered gem.  It was released as a single in 1991, and it was as though music directors were out on dates or something instead of listening to the music--it peaked at #65:
Convictiction Of The Heart
Kenny Loggins 

Written by Kenny Loggins and Guy Thomas 

Where are the dreams that we once had?
This is the time to bring them back.
What were the promises caught on the tips of our tongues?
Do we forget or forgive?
There's a whole other life waiting to be lived when...
One day we're brave enough
To talk with Conviction of the Heart.
And down your streets I've walked alone,
As if my feet were not my own
Such is the path I chose, doors I have opened and closed
I'm tired of living this life,
Fooling myself, believing we're right, when...
I've never given love
With any Conviction of the Heart
One with the earth, with the sky
One with everything in life
I believe we'll survive
If we only try...
How long must we wait to change
This world bound in chains that we live in
To know what it is to forgive,
And be forgiven?
It's been too many years of taking now.
Isn't it time to stop somehow?
Air that's too angry to breathe, water our children can't drink
You've heard it hundreds of times
You say your aware, believe, and you care, but...
Do you care enough
To talk with Conviction of the Heart?  

The Top Christmas Songs of All-Time, December 5

We've included a good mix of songs, not only in the Top 150, but also each day, so you'll get a good variety of songs by a variety of artists in a variety of styles.  Here are six more coming at ya on December 5:
"Christmas Time Is Here"
by Vince Guaraldi Trio
This holiday favorite instantly transports listeners to being kids for some reason.  It was released on the Soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in 1965, the music for the television special of the same name.  The angelic voices included on the song that fit the season are largely responsible for the song's relevance and popularity.

Friday, December 4, 2015

This Date in Rock Music History: December 5

1959:  Gene Vincent ("Be-Bop-A-Lula") met television producer Jack Good upon arriving in England.  It was Good who convinced him to adopt an all-leather look.
1960:  Elvis Presley raced to #1 with his new album G.I. Blues, his fifth #1.
1961:  Ray Charles was arrested in Indianapolis, Indiana for possession of drugs.
1964:  "Ringo" by Lorne Greene was the #1 Easy Listening song for a third week.

The Top Christmas Songs of All-Time, December 4

December 4, three weeks before Christmas Day.  Here are six more of The Best Christmas Songs of All-Time*:
"We Three Kings
by the Ray Conniff Singers
The Singers do as fine a job as anyone on "We Three Kings".  The song was written by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in 1857.
The song is featured as part of a medley with "Oh Holy Night" and "Deck The Halls".
The reality is that few artists can sound as good on Christmas songs as Conniff's Singers do and that's certainly the case on "We Three Kings".

Thursday, December 3, 2015

This Date in Rock Music History: December 4

1956:  Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins recorded some gospel standards together at Sun Records studios in Memphis, Tennessee in what became known as "The Million Dollar Quartet".  What made the recordings so special is that they weren't planned.  Perkins was in the studio to record new material, including a reworked version of "Matchbox".  Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, had asked piano madman Jerry Lee Lewis to play the piano on the Perkins session to add some zest to the recording.  Sometime that afternoon, Elvis, a former Sun artist who had switched to RCA, dropped by the studio.  Presley was the hottest star in the business, having reached #1 five times in the last year.  Presley and Phillips talked in the control room before Elvis went into the studio.  Cash also dropped by, and soon, the jam session began.  Phillips left the tapes running in order to "capture the moment".  The session, however, would not be released for 25 years.

                   Dion was one step away...

1961:  "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean remained on top for the fifth week.  "Runaround Sue" by Dion was second followed by "Please Mr. Postman" from the Marvelettes, which moved from 8 to 3.

The Top Christmas Songs of All-Time, December 3

When we get done, you'll have The Best 150 Christmas Songs of All-Time*.  I'll put up a page with the links to each of these groups of six, so you'll have them in one place.  Today is December 3, and here are the next six:

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
by Dean Martin

Johnny Marks wrote this song that was first sung by Harry Brannon in November 1949.  Dean Martin recorded his version in 1959 and his wording of "Rudy, the red-beaked reindeer" fit Martin's image perfectly and Martin's probably the only guy who could sing those lines and pull it off.  It gave the song a whole new appeal.

"You're All I Want for Christmas"
by Brook Benton

Benton recorded this song in 1963 and it is one of the least-covered songs in this special, but certainly one of the most personal and most romantic.

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
by Jimmy Boyd

Tommie Connor wrote the lyrics and music to this one.  Boyd recorded the original version of the song in 1952 when he was 13 years old.  Several other artists have covered the song but Boyd's is still the best.
"What Christmas Means to Me"
by Stevie Wonder

Anna Gordy Gaye, George "Horgay" Gordy and Allen Story wrote this song on Wonder's Someday at Christmas album in 1967. Out of all the Christmas songs, this is one of the ones that captured the true meaning of Christmas. 

"Frosty the Snowman"
by the Ronettes

This fun song about an imaginary snowman who magically comes to life has been delighting audiences for years.  Walter "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson wrote it for Gene Autry who originally recorded it.  

Of course, the famous "Wall of Sound" production technique made almost anything sound better and when the Ronettes did this song, it quickly became a holiday favorite.
"Oh Holy Night"
by Josh Groban

Adolphe Adam composed this song in 1847 based on the French poem "Minuit, chretiens" (Midnight, Christians) by Placide Cappeau.  Minister John Sullivan Dwight created a singing version of the song based on Cappeau's French text in 1855.  

Groban sings it with such reverance, that allows his amazing voice to transport you back in time to the actual night.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

This Date in Rock Music History: December 3

1938:  Alfred Lennon married Julie Stanley.  That partnership would soon produce a son, John, that would go on to change the world and alter popular music forever.
1956:  Guy Mitchell had the top song with "Singing The Blues".

1961:  The Beatles met with Brian Epstein at his NEMS record store in Liverpool.

The Top Christmas Songs of All-Time, December 2

Here are the next six songs in Inside the Rock Era's Christmas Spectacular of The Best 150 Christmas Songs of All-Time*:
"Wonderful Christmastime"
 by Paul McCartney

McCartney wrote this song in 1979 and he plays all instruments on the song.  Since he originally did it, over 20 artists have recorded their versions.  

"Do You Hear What I Hear"
 by Bing Crosby

It is important to know the history regarding this song.  It was written by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker in October, 1962 as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Anyone who records it without the passionate conviction and desperation that people felt during the threat is missing the point.

Bing Crosby "got it" and delivered an incredible performance more in tune with the message than other versions.  He first performed it on The Bob Hope Christmas Special of 1963.
"Oh Come All Ye Faithful"
by Faith Hill

"Adeste Fideles" is the original name of this song attributed to John Francis Wade.  The original four verses were extended to eight and the English translation by Roman Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley is the most common.
Faith Hill's version is different than most if for no other reason, tempo.  Instead of just singing the words, she slows it down to emphasize the tender message that I believe the songwriter intended.
"Snoopy's Christmas"
by the Royal Guardsmen

The Peanuts comic strip created by Charles Schultz featured the beagle Snoopy, who often would go off on imaginary battles with The Red Baron.  It is that rivalry that first inspired the Royal Guardsmen to record "Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron".

The group drew upon the theme again for this Christmas song which included a surprising turn of events that gives a message to us all.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
by Frank Sinatra

This song was written in 1944 by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and first introduced by Judy Garland in the MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis.
Frank Sinatra did it in 1957 and his version became the standard for many years.  Somehow hearing "The Chairman of the Board" sing it made it genuine.  

"Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!"
by Harry Connick, Jr.

Lyricist Sammy Cahn wrote the song with Jule Styne in 1945.  It was written in July in Hollywood, California during one of the hottest days of the year.  Vaughan Monroe originally recorded it and hit #1 with the song but since then, several versions have eclipsed it in popularity.
Connick recently recorded his version and the big band sound represents the severity of the storm outside while Connick sees the romantic possibilities of being "snowed in".

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

This Date in Rock Music History: December 2

1957:  Connie Francis appeared on the chart for the first time with "The Majesty Of Love".
1959:  Bobby Darin was on the television show This Is Your Life.

The Top Christmas Songs of All-Time, December 1

As a holiday treat, Inside the Rock Era will present The Best Christmas Songs of All-Time*.  Rather than give them to you all at once, which would require a good deal of time to sort through, we are featuring six per day, beginning today and going through Christmas Day, for a total of 150 songs.  We aren't going to "count them down" or anything, because we want to feature some of the great songs at the start of the month as well.  So the 150 songs are well mixed in terms of quality. 

Plus, I tried to find at least one great version of the traditional songs to mix in with the secular songs.  So make sure you check out the blog every day to properly "get in the spirit" before you start your day.  Here are the first six:
"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"
 by Johnny Mathis

Meredith Wilson (who did music for The Music Man) wrote this song in 1951.  It was been recorded by several artists.  Johnny Mathis' version picked up popularity when it was included in the movie Home Alone 2:  Lost in New York, but it has always been a holiday favorite.  It is included because Mathis sings it joyfully.  The backing vocals, which alternate often with Mathis, add substantially to the song's appeal as well.
"Silent Night"
 by Boyz II Men

The song "Stille Nacht" with German lyrics was written by the priest Father Joseph Mohr with music from Franz Haver Gruber in Obendorf bei Salzburg, Austria. Second Bishop John Freeman Young of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida wrote the English translation that is often heard today.

There are several versions of this great song included--it perhaps is the Christmas song which most fits what should be the mood of the season. An amazing performance by Boyz II Men sung A Capella. The Boyz sing it with great reverence, which was the way it was written.
"Go Tell It on the Mountain"
 by Mahalia Jackson

The third song today is an African-American spiritual written by John Wesley Work, Jr. and dating back to at least 1865.

This version is included in The Best Christmas Songs of All-Time* because Mahalia sings it with great passion and conviction.  I believe she captures the original intent better than anyone else.

"Winter Wonderland"
 by the Eurythmics

This winter song has become a Christmas standard.  Richard B. Smith wrote the words after Central Park in his hometown of Honesdale, Pennsylvania was covered in snow.  Felix Bernard put the message to music.  

Over 150 artists have recorded the song.  One of the best versions is this one by the Eurythmics.  The musical accompaniment and the interlude from Annie Lennox of the duo add considerably to the song.  Winter can be drudgery, to be sure, but these aspects of the song convey the fun aspect of winter.
"Silver Bells"
 by Kenny G

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrote this song that was first performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in 1950 for the movie The Lemon Drop Kid.

The song has been recorded by hundreds of artists despite the song being one of the newest of what we call Christmas standards.  This song is included because, as an instrumental, it is naturally unique from vocal versions.  Kenny G is one of the best artists for Christmas songs and his great sax playing adds much to this song.  His ad-libbing captures the celebratory nature of the song, ringing silver bells to celebrate the season.
"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"
 by the Carpenters

One of the most popular of the secular Christmas songs, this was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie.  It was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November of 1934.  There were orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music the next day and 400,000 by Christmas.

Another of the top Christmas performers is the Carpenters.  They have several songs included among The 150 Best Christmas Songs of All-Time*.  Karen's voice in many ways sounds like Christmas; she definitely had a gift from God.

Monday, November 30, 2015

This Date in Rock Music History: December 1

1956:  The rock & roll movie Shake, Rattle and Rock opened in theaters.  (Note:  there are several websites which call the movie 'Shake, Rattle and Roll' (presumably after the Bill Haley song of the same name).  There was no such movie in the 50's; there was a film series of the 90's called 'Shake, Rattle and Roll'.  The movie that opened on this date was a comedy called Shake, Rattle and Rock, according to 'Turner Classic Movies' and other authoritative sites.)
1956:  "Blueberry Hill" by Fats Domino was the #1 R&B song for the seventh week.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

This Date in Rock Music History: November 30

1954:  Nat King Cole played the first of six nights at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York.

1960:  The Shirelles re-released the single "Dedicated To The One I Love".  (Note:  some websites claim the single was released in December of 1961.  It was first released in April of 1959, then re-released after "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" became a hit.  The second time, it debuted on the chart on December 26, 1960, so it is physically impossible for the song to chart in 1960 and then not be released until 1961.)