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Any Major Music Firsts

February 25th, 2020 4 comments

 

 

This collection presents a number of firsts in recorded music. These are mostly confirmed firsts; obviously there are many other firsts that are disputed or plain unknown. So while we know what the first jazz, blues country or hip hop records were, it is impossible to determine the first rock & roll record, since the genre evolved from various other genres and therefore is difficult to define. It’s also a point of debate what constitutes the first-ever heave metal record — if I said Helter Skelter, you’d say Black Sabbath and your mom would suggest Blue Cheer’s cover of Summertime Blues — so no contender features here.

Other firsts are easily determined: first recordings by Elvis or The Beatles or Michael Jackson or Frank Sinatra; first record to feature the word “fuck”, even the first use on record of an electric guitar.

The oldest known recording of the human voice dates back to 1860, with an anonymous person singing the French folk song Claire de la lune on a phonautograph (nobody even knows for sure whether it’s a man or a woman). In 1878, Thomas Edison recorded a man reciting nursery rhymes. The man gets it quite wrong, but he is very audible. I haven’t included either of those, but if you really want to know, they are on YouTube.

 

1. Marv Johnson – Come To Me (1959)
First what? Marv Johnson recorded the first single to be released on Tamla, the label that would become Motown, in May 1959. It was co-written by Johnson with Berry Gordy, and reached #30 on the Billboard charts. Johnson would also have the label’s first Top 10 hit, with You’ve Got What It Takes in the early 1960s (also a #7 in the UK).

2. The Dominoes – Sixty Minute Man (1951)
First what? A few black artists had crossed over into the Billboard pop charts, but Billy Ward’s Dominoes were the first R&B act to do so, reaching #17 (having topped the R&B charts). The lyrics were risqué for their time: in them, the protagonist brags about his sex technique and stamina. There’ll be 15 minutes each of kissing, teasing, squeezing and “of blowing my top”. Moreover, “I rock ‘em, roll ‘em all night long.” The use of those words (more on them later) and the song’s crossover success makes it a contender for the elusive “first rock & roll record”.

 


3. The Jackson 5 – Big Boy (1968)
First what? This was the first recording to feature Michael Jackson. Recorded in Chicago in 1967, when MJ was nine, Big Boy was released on the Steeltown label in the Jacksons’ hometown of Gary, Indiana. It became a minor hit locally but did nothing regionally, never mind nationally. The band released one more single on Steeltown before they signed with Motown later in 1968. It’s fair to say that there they eclipsed their success on Steeltown.

4. The Fatback Band – King Tim III (Personality Jock) (1979)
First what? Released on 25 March 1979, six months before the Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, this is the first commercially released hip hop record, as the flip side of the disco number You’re My Candy Sweet. While the Sugar Hill Gang was a rap act (albeit one thrown together by producer Sylvia Robinson), the Fatback Band was actually a funk and disco outfit. The eponymous King Tim is Fatback Band lead singer Tim Washington.

5. The Maytals – Do The Reggay (1968)
First what? This is the song that gave the name reggae to the modern Jamaican music that was evolving from ska and rocksteady. As The Maytals’ song title suggests, the term “reggay” was until then used to describe as dance. The song was written by Maytals leader Toots Hibbert.

6. The Beatles – Across The Universe (1970)
First what? In 2008, this Beatles track from 1970s’ Let It Be album was the first song beamed into space, chosen for apparent reasons. Aliens thought: “And that’s The Beatles’ best song?”

7. The Boswell Sisters – Rock And Roll (1934)
First what? A few songs ago we noted how The Dominoes used the terminology of rockin’ and rollin’ in their crossover hit from 1951. The verb “to rock” was used in a song title in 1927 in country singer Uncle Dave Macon’s Rock About My Sara Jane, but the Boswell Sisters in 1934 were the first to use the name of the future pop genre in a title. Unlike The Dominoes’ lyrics, the song, from the film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round, was not about sex but about “the rolling rocking rhythm of the sea”.

8. Trixie Smith – My Daddy Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll) (1938)
First what? First recorded in 1922, Trixie Smith’s My Daddy Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll) marks the first mention of both “rock” and “roll” as sex metaphor in lyrics. I’m using the 1938 version, because Smith’s voice had matured by then, influencing future R&B singers in ways her cartoonish 1920s voice didn’t.

9. Buddy Jones – Rockin’ Rollin’ Mama (1939)
First what? Rockin’ Rollin’ Mama is generally regarded as the first rockabilly song (and, yes, rock and roll is used as sex slang here). Buddy Jones was an early exponent of western swing, the sub-genre in country which drew from black musical forms. Since rockabilly was a huge influence on rock & roll — by the mid-’50s the two were virtually undistinguishable — Buddy Jones can be described as a proto-rock & roller. Alas, he died at 53 in 1956, just as rock & roll was becoming big. But by then he was long retired from the music biz.

 

10. Elvis Presley – My Happiness (1953)
11. Elvis Presley – That’s When The Heartaches Begin (1953)
First what? These are the first two recordings Elvis made when he was an amateur. On 18 July 1953, the 18-year-old truck driver Elvis Presley walked into Memphis’ Sun studios to avail himself of a service whereby members of the public could record a double-sided acetate. As a present for his mother, Elvis recorded these two ballads. Secretary Marion Keisker was so impressed by this boy that she advised the studio owner Sam Phillips to audition him. Which, it turns out, Phillips did.

12. The Quarrymen – In Spite Of All The Danger (1958)
First what? This is the first recording of the three young guys who’d become The Beatles: John Lennon (the leader of the Quarrymen), Paul McCartney and George Harrison. On 12 July 1958 they laid down two tracks for a demo at the Kensington recording studio — well, living room — of Percy F Phillips: a cover of the Buddy Holly song That’ll Be The Day, and the Elvis-inspired In Spite Of All The Danger, a Paul McCartney & George Harrison composition with John on lead vocals. With the Fab Three were John “Duff” Lowe on piano and Colin Hanton on drums. Each member held on to the shellac record for a week, until it was Lowe’s turn… who kept it for 23 years. In 1981 McCartney bought it from his old school friend, “at an inflated price”. In 1995, after having the two sides cleaned up, McCartney had them included on the Anthology set.

13. The Hoboken Four – Shine (1935)
First what? This is the first recording of Frank Sinatra, as a member of The Hoboken Four on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio show. The group won and was awarded a six-month contract to perform on the radio and on stage. It was an important event in the career of Sinatra, even if he left the group later that year to job as a singing waiter.

14. Frank Mane Orchestra with Frank Sinatra – Our Love (1939)
First what? This was first song which Frank Sinatra recorded in a studio, for Frank Mane’s Orchestra on 18 March 1939. Our Love was not released, though. It survived as an acetate in Frank Mane’s personal collection, and was finally released after Mane’s widow auctioned it off in 2006 for $14,000.

 

15. Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra – Hittin’ The Bottle (1935)
First what? Hittin’ The Bottle was the first song to feature an “amplified guitar”, what we’d now call an electric guitar. It was played by Eddie Durham, who had experimented with various guitar effects for a few years already.

16. Martha Tilton – Moondreams (1941)
First what? On 6 April 1942, Martha Tilton recorded the first song for Capitol Records, a company just founded by the songwriter Johnny Mercer, who also supervised the recording. Capitol went on to become of the giants of recorded music, with legends such as Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Kingston Trio and, in the 1960s, the Beach Boys and The Beatles on their roster.

 

17. Eddy Arnold – Texarkana Baby (1949)
First what? On 31 March 1949 Eddy Arnold became the first act to have a song released on a 45RPM 7” single. Released by RCA, who had tried unsuccessfully to introduce 12” vinyl records in the early 1930s, Texarkana Baby came out on green vinyl. It was not the first 7” single to be pressed; that was a demo titled Whirl Away, which nevertheless featured a sample of the Arnold song.

18. Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra with Frank Sinatra – I’ll Never Smile Again (1940)
First what? This was the first #1 on Billboard’s “National List of Best Selling Retail Records”, on 27 July 1940, which replaced the three separate hit parades that since 1936 had listed separately the top Sheet Music Best Sellers; Records Most Popular on Music Machines and Songs With the Most Radio Plugs. I’ll Never Smile Again, recorded in May 1940 and billed as a foxtrot, topped the charts for 12 weeks.

19. Al Martino – Here In My Heart (1952)
First what? Al Martino scored the very first UK #1, in November 1952 when it was the NME Top 10. He topped the charts for nine weeks before being toppled by Jo Stafford’s You Belong To Me.

20. Eddy Duchin with Patricia Norman – Ol’ Man Moses (1938)
First what? This is probably the first song to use the word “fuck”. The word was not in the lyrics of the original Louis Armstrong song, but singer Patricia Norman pretty clearly doesn’t sing the prescribed line “buck’, buck, bucket”. Instead the song goes “(We found out) He kicked the bucket, (We found out) Where’s the man? Fuck, fuck, fuck it.”

 

21. Jimmie Rodgers – Blue Yodel No.9 (1930)
First what? Although there were black country musicians even in the early days of the genre, they didn’t record with their white counterparts. In 1930, Jimmie Rodgers became the first white country act to record with a black musician, in the person of Louis Armstrong (albeit initially uncredited). Both men were megastars in their respective genres. Rodgers died in 1933, aged only 35.

22. George W. Johnson – The Laughing Song (1891)
First what? Recorded on wax cylinder, this is the first recording by an African-American singer. Johnson was quite a star in his day, so much so that he was promoted across racial lines. The Laughing Song and the racist The Whistling Coon were the best-selling recordings in the US in the early 1890s, selling somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 (each wax cylinder had to be recorded individually, so Johnson was a busy man). Born in 1846 to a slave, Johnson was brought up as a companion to a Virginia farmer’s son. After the civil war he moved to New York City, where he became a street entertainer before hitting stardom. He also had a turbulent private life: both his common-law wives died in suspicious circumstances; possibly at Johnson’s hands.

23. Dinwiddie Colored Quartet – Down On The Old Campground (1902)
First what? This is the first record by African-Americans to be put on disc, and the first ever gospel record. It is not, however, the first black group to be recorded: in 1893 four songs were recorded on wax cylinder by the barbershop quartet Unique Quartette (the first of these is included as a bonus track). The Dinwiddie Colored Quartet cut six tracks for the Victor Talking Machine Company in October 1902.

24. Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band – Dixie Jass Band One-Step (1917)
First what? The first-ever jazz record was released in 1917 by a bunch of white guys (the flip-side was Livery Stable Blues, which therefore is also the first-ever jazz record). And it was so popular that W.C. Handy, the Father of the Blues, would cover it. Jass was the original spelling of the genre’s name, first documented in 1915. The first-ever jazz record was also one of the first to use an unauthorised sample, of Joe Jordan’s 1909 song That Teasin’ Rag. After a court case, subsequent pressings had to carry Jordan’s song-title in brackets: “Introducing ‘That Teasin’ Rag’”.

25. A.C. ‘Eck’ Robertson – Sallie Gooden (1922)
First what? This is the first-ever country record, recorded on 30 June 1922 in New York City by 35-year old Texan fiddler Eck Robertson and released by Victor. At the time the term country music didn’t exist; before that was invented in the 1940s the genre was often called Old-Time Music. But the label bills the type of music on this record as “Country Dance”.

 

26. Fiddlin’ John Carson – Little Old Cabin In The Lane (1923)
First what? Little Old Cabin In The Lane, a minstrel song from the 1870s, was the first country hit record. Recorded in Atlanta, it was released on the Okeh label. Read a Any Major potted history of country music.

27. The Victor Military Band – Memphis Blues (1914)
First what? It might not sound much like it, nor do the performers have a name to suggest it, but this is generally regarded to be the first blues record to be released. Of course, the song definitely is a blues song, written in 1912 by W.C. Handy, the first breakthrough blues artist. The Victor Military Band was a houseband of the Victor label, the giant that would later become RCA.

28. Walter M. Schirra Jr. & Thomas P. Stafford – Jingle Bells (1965)
First what? On 16 December 1965, astronauts Walter Schirra Jr. and Thomas Stafford played an impromptu version of Jingle Bells, relayed from their spacecraft to ground control, making this the first piece of music broadcast from space. The musical performance, performed with a harmonica and a jingle bell, was preceded by the astronauts making a gag about an UFO they had sighted… namely Santa Claus.

Bonus Tracks:
Unique Quartette – Mama’s Black Baby Boy (1893, first recording by black group)
Cal Stewart – Uncle Josh In Society (1909, first time ‘jazz’ is mentioned on a record)
The Quarrymen – That’ll Be The Day (1958, The Beatles first recorded performance)
Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star (1979, first song played on MTV)

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Life In Vinyl 1987 Vol. 1

February 13th, 2020 1 comment

The first half of my 1987 was tinged by retro, much as the UK charts were. As the year begun, Jackie Wilson was at #1 with Reet Petite; and the follow-up re-releases — The Sweetest Feeling and Higher And Higher — also charted well. In February, Ben E. King topped the charts with Stand By Me, thanks to the Levis 501s commercial. Percy Sledge hit #2 with When A Man Loves A Woman around the same time, also on the back of a Levi’s ad. In April Doris Day’s 1964 hit Move Over Darling returned to the charts, also thanks to a commercial. And so on.

I loved it, especially the soul revival, which found fine expression in Wendy May’s Friday night club Locomotion at the Kentish Town & Country Club in north London, a jog away from my flat. The rules of playlisting were strict: nothing but soul music from the 1960s and ’70s (popular soul, not the specialists’ rare tracks scene of Northern Soul).

If that rule was broken, then I recall only one instance. Local-based Terence Trent D’Arby, a US singer who had just arrived from Germany a few months earlier, had his debut single out. If You Let Me Stay, a superb track with a bit of a ’60s soul vibe, would be played at the Locomotion, doubtless helping it into the charts. I certainly bought the single well before it was a hit.

There were other soul singles which I thought deserved to be hits. Paul Johnson’s When Love Comes Calling, on which the singer hits a hell of a long falsetto note, unaccountably stalled at #52. Produced by Junior Giscombe, it should have been a hit. But, as we have seen in the past few years, the British public is an idiot.

Likewise, the lush Don’t Come To Stay by Hot House barely dented the charts. It spent a week at #74 in February 1987. A reissue troubled the charts in September 1988 to the tune of #70 (the good follow-up to the ’87 release, The Way We Talk, didn’t even chart!). The singer of Hot House was Heather Small, still with an attractive soul voice. She later switched her vocals into foghorn mode for the successful but mostly regrettable M-People.

In April ’87 I saw Johnny Clegg & Savuka at the Kentish Town & Country Club. I had seen Clegg with his previous band Juluka several times in South Africa. There wasn’t much of a difference, and when they played Scatterlings Of Africa, to me it was just one of several Juluka songs they played. But on the Savuka LP Third World Child, it had been re-recorded, and to good effect. The single of it did little to bother the charts: it spent one week at #75 (the Juluka version had peaked at #44 in 1983).

Clegg was, of course, an icon of the struggle against apartheid, though his audience of South African expats at the gig probably didn’t all share his views. Labi Siffre’s Something Inside So Strong riffed along the same lines. A song about apartheid, its single cover showed a segregation sign in South Africa. Songs like these and the cultural boycott helped mobilise international opposition against apartheid. We didn’t know it then, but within less than three years, apartheid would fold. Don’t let anybody say that cultural boycotts of evil regimes don’t work. They do, and that’s why evil regimes don’t like them.

In my memory, I tended to think of Duran Duran’s Skin Trade — a song that was clearly more than a little influenced by Prince — as a comeback single. But it wasn’t. Notorious had been a hit just a few months earlier. But Skin Trade, which stalled at #22, did signal an end to Duran’s run of ten Top 10 hits on the trot.

If you asked me for my favourite track of 1987, I might be tempted to name Sherrick’s Just Call, a soul groover with a great bassline. That would be the emotional answer, rather than one propelled by discernment of artistic merit. Just Call smells like 1987. It’s a fine track, even if Sherrick looked a lot like a 1980s soul singer cliché. Alas, he died in 1999 at the age of only 41.

So, let’s revisit the first eight months of 1987, with a second part coming later this year.

1. Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
2. A-ha – Manhattan Skyline
3. Simply Red – The Right Thing
4. Carly Simon – Coming Around Again
5. Duran Duran – Skin Trade
6. Hot House – Don’t Come To Stay
7. Paul Johnson – When Love Comes Calling
8. Terence Trent D’Arby – If You Let Me Stay
9. Sly & Robbie – Boops
10. Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Scatterlings Of Africa
11. Labi Siffre – Something Inside So Strong
12. Jody Watley – Looking For A New Love
13. ABC – When Smokey Sings
14. The Christians – Hooverville (And They Promised Us The World)
15. The Cure – Catch
16. Echo and the Bunnymen – Lips Like Sugar
17. Heart – Alone
18. Sherrick – Just Call
19. Jonathan Butler – Lies

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Any Major Women Vol. 2

January 23rd, 2020 2 comments

 

Here is a second tribute to all the girls I’ve known before. As with Any Major Women Vol. 1, here I want to be clear that I’m talking about women who have been in my life in some way or another — as family, friends, loves and lovers.

Again, the lyrics of the songs applied to their names obviously don’t necessarily reflect my relationship with or feelings about the women in question. There’s nothing to be inferred from the song choices.

The Nina in my life certainly was not a gay woman trying to use me for a beard, as she is in Jens Lekman’s marvellous song. And “my” Sandra was  definitely not lousy with virginity until she was legally wed. I was quite happy to say good-bye to “my” Nadine. And Dawn must stay around. But I’m sure Peggy doesn’t remember me. I do hope the girl referenced by the Claude King song remembers me for that very brief encounter we shared very many years ago…

I must confess that I have never known a Jolene; the titular character stands in for a for an erstwhile flame with a very similar name.

As always, CD-R length (plus one bonus track), home-cooked covers, PW in comments.

1. Toto – Pamela (1988)
2. Steely Dan – Peg (1977)
3. Hall & Oates – Sara Smile (1975)
4. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Jennifer She Said (1988)
5. Elvis Costello – Alison (1977)
6. Mindy Smith – Jolene (2004)
7. Indigo Girls – Get Out The Map (Joni, Suzanne & Beth, 1997)
8. Jessi Colter – I’m Not Lisa (Lisa & Julie, 1975)
9. Claude King – Anna (1965)
10. The Four Seasons – Dawn (Go Away) (1964)
11. Four Tops – Bernadette (1967)
12. Sarah Vaughan – Bianca (1949)
13. Paul & Paula – Hey, Paula (1962)
14. The Passions – Gloria (1959)
15. Ray Peterson – Corinna Corinna (1960)
16. Carpenters – Eve (1969)
17. Elton John – Lady Samantha (1974)
18. Jimi Hendrix Experience – The Wind Cries Mary (1967)
19. Neutral Milk Hotel – Naomi (1995)
20. The National – Karen (2005)
21. Jens Lekman – A Postcard To Nina (2007)
22. Mungo Jerry – Hello Nadine (1974)
23. Frank Sinatra – Tina (1963)
24. Stockard Channing – Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Sandra, 1978)
Bonus: Boz Scaggs – Simone (1980)

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Any Major Favourites 2019 – Vol. 2

January 16th, 2020 8 comments

This is the second compilation of tracks that appeared on mixes posted in 2019 (and, in one case, in the last days of 2918), with links to the particular posts — just in case you missed something good, following the first collection posted last week.

I have been wondering if I should switch this operation to the posting of Spotify playlists, to keep up with the times. Do you, the reader, have any opinions either way on such a move?

As always, this mix is timed to fit on as standard CD-R, but this time without covers. PW in comments.

  1. The Who – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (1991)
    Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Recovered
  2. Steely Dan – Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More (1975)
    NYC: Any Major Mix Vol. 3
  3. Giorgio Moroder – Arizona Man (1970)
    The Originals: Schlager edition
  4. Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne – Dance Across The Floor (1978)
    Any Major Disco Vol. 7 – Party Like It’s 1978
  5. New Order – Shell Shock (1986)
    Life In Vinyl 1986 Vol. 1
  6. Chris Rea – On The Beach (Summer ‘88) (1988)
    Any Major Beach Vol. 3
  7. Lucinda Williams – Are You Alright? (2007)
    Any Major Music from ‘The Sopranos’ Vol. 2
  8. Mindy Smith – Fighting For It All (2004)
    Any Major ABC: 2000s
  9. Rusty Wier – High Road, Low Road (1976)
    Any Major ABC of Country
  10. George Harrison – You (1975)
    Beatles Reunited 77 (1977)
  11. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Turn Your Lights Down Low (1977)
    Any Major Babymaking Music Vol. 1
  12. Sly and the Family Stone – Stand! (1969)
    Any Major Woodstock
  13. Tammi Terrell – All I Do Is Think About You (1965)
    Any Major Originals – Motown
  14. The Young Rascals – A Girl Like You (1967)
    Any Major Blue-Eyed Soul
  15. Laura Nyro – Wedding Bell Blues (1967)
    The Originals – 1960s Vol. 1
  16. Arthur Alexander – Anna (Go To Him) (1962)
    The Originals: Beatles
  17. Louis Jordan – Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby (1944)
    Any Major Hits From 1944
  18. Sarah Vaughan – You Never Give Me Your Money (1981)
    Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
  19. Edith Piaf – Notre-Dame de Paris (1952)
    Any Major Churches

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Any Major Favourites 2019 – Vol. 1

January 9th, 2020 5 comments

As every year, the mixes of the past year are revisited by the choice of one favourite song from them — like an annual Greatest Hits of Any Major Dude. I hope it is useful to provide a link to the relevant mix in the playlist, so that you might discover a mix here or there which you missed.

The past year I have focussed especially on the series of lesser-known originals of famous hits, sorted by themes. I’ve posted one a month, except in December and the preceding month, when I posted a mix of samples used in famous hits. I plan to continue with The Originals.

I’ve also been asked to carry on with the Any Major Soul series, which is going to hit the 1980s. One series which is inevitably coming to a close in 2020 is the Beatles Recovered series, whereby I have marked the 50th anniversary of the release of a Beatles LP with a mix of covers of the songs on that album. The final Beatles LP, Let It Be, came out in 1970, so in April that series will end. Or will it? I started the series with A Hard Day’s Night in 2014; so there are two uncovered albums, Please Please Me and With The Beatles. I might still cover them.

Another series I’ll terminate is Life In Vinyl, which saw two volumes for 1986 last year. I might still do a 1987 mix, marking ten years on from the first of these compilations. But I don’t think these mixes are popular anymore.

So, to the first of the Any Major Favourites of 2019 mixes.

  1. Camille Yarbrough – Take Yo’ Praise (1975)
    Any Major Original Samples Vol. 1
  2. Shuggie Otis – Strawberry Letter #23 (1971)
    The Originals – Soul Vol. 1
  3. Jimi Hendrix – Angel (1971)
    Any Major Babymaking Music Vol. 2
  4. Alex Harvey – Delta Dawn (1971)
    Any Major Originals: The 1970s Vol. 2
  5. Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968)
    Any Major Dogs
  6. Robber Barons – Music For A Hanging (2004)
    Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 2
  7. Neil Young – Harvest Moon (1992)
    Any Major Moon
  8. Bruce Springsteen – Growin’ Up (1978)
    Any Major Teenagers
  9. Keith Whitley – When You Say Nothing At All (1988)
    The Originals: 1990s & 2000s
  10. Michael McDonald – Sweet Freedom (1986)
    Life In Vinyl 1986 Vol. 2
  11. Carole King – It’s Going To Take Some Time (1970)
    The Originals: Carpenters edition
  12. Chaka Khan – Any Old Sunday (1981)
    Any Major Week Vol. 1
  13. Kool & the Gang – Too Hot (1979)
    Any Major Soul 1979
  14. Lou Rawls – The Alphabet (1970)
    Any Major Sesame Street Pops
  15. Richie Havens – Lady Madonna (1968)
    Beatles Recovered – Yellow Submarine
  16. Country Joe McDonald – Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag (Live, 1969)
    Any Major Woodstock
  17. Stuart Hamblen – This Ole House (1954)
    The Originals: Rock & Roll Years
  18. The Bobettes – Mr. Lee (1957)
    Any Major ABC: 1950s

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Any Major Disco Vol. 8 – Party Like It’s 1979

December 27th, 2019 1 comment

 

As every year, we anticipate New Year’s Eve with a disco mix. Like last year, the theme is the stuff the people boogied down to 40 years ago. So put on your best satin trousers, say goodbye to the heady 1970s and dance into the 1980s.

Some of the songs have run on previous disco and funk mixes.

And so I wish you a good journey into the 2020s. May it be a year and decade of fulfilled dreams, good fortune, excellent health and always good music for us all!

As always, CD-R length, home-shuffled covers, PW in comments (which are also useful for saying hello)…

1. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood
2. Edwin Starr – H.A.P.P.Y. Radio
3. The Gibson Brothers – Que Sera Mi Vida
4. Earth, Wind & Fire and The Emotions – Boogie Wonderland
5. Al Hudson & The Partners – You Can Do It
6. Deniece Williams – I’ve Got The Next Dance
7. Isaac Hayes – Don’t Let Go
8. Roy Ayers – Don’t Stop The Feeling
9. The Neville Brothers – Sweet Honey Dripper
10. Jackie Moore – This Time Baby
11. Ashford & Simpson – Found A Cure
12. Shalamar – The Second Time Around
13. Sister Sledge – We Are Family
14. Chic – My Feet Keep Dancing
15. Diana Ross – No One Gets The Prize
16. Narada Michael Walden – Tonight I’m Alright
17. Inner Life – I’m Caught Up In A One Night Love Affair
18. Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer – No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)

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Any Major Original Samples Vol. 1

November 21st, 2019 2 comments

 

 

The art of the sample has been diluted by the lazy poaching of popular grooves, hooks and riffs, but it hasn’t always been like that. Some of the best-known samples aren’t even known to be the work of other people.

Not many people know, for example, that the hook of Grandmaster Melle Mel’s White Lines was lifted from a rather obscure piece called Cavern by Liquid Liquid (like all tracks mentioned here, it features on this mix). Or that Tupac & Dr Dre’s California Love took the whole chorus (“California knows how to party, in the city of LA…”) and more from a 1982 track by Ronnie Hudson and The Streetpeople.

A well-deployed sample can suck over the life out of the song it has been taken from. If you listen to the horn blast on the Chi-Lites’ Are You My Woman, try not to do the “oh-oh oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” hic-cupping thing in Beyoncé’s Crazy In Love. Or try not launching into Lauryn Hill mode when the wonderful Fifth Dimension track kicks in, or avoid conversing about sex when you hear the horn hook in The Staple Singers’ I’ll Take You There.

And if you manage to not do any of those, you will still go, “All I want to do is zoom-a-zoom-zoom-zoom and a poom-poom” when you hear the Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s Darkest Light.

 

A couple of songs were more than sampled. Fatboy Slim reworked performance-poet Camille Yarbrough’s delicious 1975 sex anthem Take Yo’ Praise as Praise You, but it’s more cover (though not quite) than sample. In fairness, Yarbrough has received the full writing credit.

Even more a virtual cover is Mariah Carey’s mega-hit Fantasy, which reworks the Tom Tom Club’s 1981 anthem to black musicians, Genius Of Love. Of course, Tina Weymouth and colleagues got a co-writing credit

Some of the tracks that are sampled include themselves samples. For example, the widely-sampled (Not Just) Knee Deep by Funkadelic (for example in De La Soul’s Me Myself And I) references James Brown’s Ants In My Pants.

The mix closes with the godfather of sampled tracks, by the Godfather of Soul: Funky Drummer, by James Brown & The J.B.s., which has provided drum breaks for Public Enemy’s Fight The Power and the Powerpuff Girl’s theme song. Clyde Stubblefield, who played the drum break, didn’t get a writer’s credit on Funky Drummer — the most-reused bit of music, and the creator went empty-handed.

As ever, CD-R length and home-hooked-and-riffed covers. PW in comments.

 

1. Ronnie Hudson and The Streetpeople – West Coast Poplock (1982)
The Borrower: 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre – California Love (Vocals/Lyrics)
Also: Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang (Vocals/Lyrics)
Also: N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton (Vocals/Lyrics)
Also: Mos Def – Habitat (Vocals/Lyrics)

2. Leon Haywood – I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You (1975)
The Borrower: Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang (Multiple Elements)

3. Liquid Liquid – Cavern (1983)
The Borrower: Grandmaster Melle Mel – White Lines (Multiple Elements)

4. The Chi-Lites – Are You My Woman (Tell Me So) (1970)
The Borrower: Beyoncé – Crazy In Love (Multiple Elements)
Also: Kool G Rap & DJ Polo feat. Big Daddy Kane – #1 With A Bullet (Hook)

5. The Moments – Love On A Two-Way Street (1970)
The Borrower: Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind (Multiple Elements)

6. The 5th Dimension – Together Let’s Find Love (1971)
The Borrower: Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing) (Hook)

7. Pete Rodriguez – I Like It Like That (1967)
The Borrower: Cardi B – I Like It (Multiple Elements)

8. Peggy Lee – Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay (1969)
The Borrower: Beastie Boys – Ch-Check It Out (Multiple Elements)

9. Bill Withers – Grandma’s Hands (1971)
The Borrower: Blackstreet – No Diggity (Multiple Elements)

10. The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There (1972)
The Borrower: Salt-N-Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex (Hook)
Also: Eazy-E – Boyz-N-The-Hood (Hook)

11. Camille Yarbrough – Take Yo’ Praise (1975)
The Borrower: Fat Boy Slim – Praise You (Vocals/Lyrics)

12. Kool & the Gang – Summer Madness (4:17)
The Borrower: DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince – Summertime (Multiple Elements)
Also: Snoop Dogg – Doggy Dogg World (Sound Effect)

13. Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love (1981)
The Borrower: Mariah Carey – Fantasy (Multiple Elements)
Also: Mark Morrison – Return Of The Mack (Drums)

14. Aerosmith – Dream On (1973)
The Borrower: Eminem – Sing For The Moment (Multiple Elements)

15. The Lafayette Afro Rock Band – Darkest Light (1974)
The Borrower: Wreckx-N-Effect – Rump Shaker (Hook)
Also: Jay-Z – Show Me What You Got (Hook)

16. Funkadelic – (Not Just) Knee Deep (1979)
The Borrower: De La Soul – Me Myself and I (Multiple Elements)
Also: Snoop Dogg – Who Am I (What’s My Name)? (Bass)
Also: Black Eyed Peas – Shut The Phunk Up (Multiple Elements)

17. Sly & the Family Stone – Trip To Your Heart (1967)
The Borrower: LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (Multiple Elements)

18. James Brown – Funky Drummer (1970)
The Borrower: Public Enemy – Fight The Power / Bring The Noise (Drums)
Also: Dr. Dre – Let Me Ride (Drums)
Also: N.W.A – Fuck Tha Police (Drums)
Also: LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (Drums)
Also: Fine Young Cannibals – I’m Not the Man I Used To Be (Multiple Elements)
Also: The Powerpuff Girls Theme (drums)

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More Originals:
The Originals: The Classics
The Originals: Soul
The Originals: Motown
The Originals: Rock & Roll Years
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1990s & 2000s
The Originals: Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 1
The Originals: Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 2
The Originals: Beatles Edition
The Originals: Carpenters Edition
The Originals: Burt Bacharach Edition
The Originals: Schlager Edition
The Originals: : Christmas Edition

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Any Major Week Vol. 1

November 14th, 2019 3 comments

 

This is one of the earlier themed mixes I’ve posted, back in 2011 when young Rebecca Black got heaps of ugly abuse for liking Fridays and ordering seating arrangements in cars (read my defence of Black). I’m re-upping this mix because it’s so good that I still return to it occasionally — what a trio of starter tracks! I’ve made myself a follow-up mix which I also enjoy; it will be posted some time in the future.

The theme is obvious: songs about the days in the week, in sequence until time of the standard CD-R runs out, on a Saturday night.

As always, CD-R length, home-dated covers, PW in comments.

1. Marvin Sease – Friday (2001)
2. Dee Dee Warwick – Another Lonely Saturday (Baby I’m Yours) (1965)
3. Chaka Khan – Any Old Sunday (1981)
4. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – Monday Monday (2006)
5. Cat Stevens – Tuesday’s Dead (1971)
6. Simon & Garfunkel – Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (1964)
7. Harry Nilsson – (Thursday) Here’s Why I Did Not Go To Work Today (1976)
8. Steely Dan – Black Friday (1975)
9. Nick Drake – Saturday Sun (1970)
10. Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning (1967)
11. John Prine – Long Monday (2005)
12. Chairmen Of The Board – Everyday’s Tuesday (1970)
13. Ronnie Dyson – A Wednesday In Your Garden (1973)
14. Matt Costa – Sweet Thursday (2006)
15. The Pale Fountains – Beyond Fridays Field (1984)
16. Josh Rouse – Saturday (2005)
17. Laura Nyro & Labelle – I Met Him On A Sunday (1971)
18. Fats Domino – Blue Monday (1956)
19. Yazoo – Tuesday (1982)
20. Lisa Loeb – Waiting For Wednesday (1995)
21. The Futureheads – Thursday (2006)
22. Jens Lekman – Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo (2007)
23. Walker Brothers – Saturday’s Child (1966)

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Any Major Sesame Street Pops

October 31st, 2019 8 comments

 

 

On November 10 it will be 50 years since the Sesame Street theme first announced sunny days on which everything is A-OK on the US public TV channel PBS. And not only has the show kept running ever since 1969, it has also spread across the world.

I remember well watching the pilot aired on West-German TV in 1972, flighted in the English original on regional channels to let parents decide whether they would like to expose their kids to this kind of thing. My mother had me and my brother, 6 and 4 years old, watch it with her, and afterwards asked us what we thought of it. Oh yes, yes, yes, please! A few months later, Sesamstrasse debuted on German TV — except in conservative Bavaria (the German Texas), where all those progressive teaching methods and racial mixing were unwelcome.

 

 

At the age of six going on seven, I was a bit beyond the target audience. But no matter, I loved it. Sesame Street taught me a lot about social empathy. It gave me the idea that most Americans were black. While my home was normatively white (though that was changing already), I learnt that not all places are like that, and I learnt that people of different backgrounds could and should be friends. Thanks to Susan and Gordon and Bon and Mr Hooper (or, in German, Herr Huber).

Obviously, I loved the muppets. I loved Ernie and wanted to be him, though I identified more with Bert’s sensible character. I loved the Cookie Monster, even though I thought he was quite rude and selfish. And above all, I loved Oscar the Grouch — so much so that I dressed as him for a fancy-dress party within weeks of Sesamstrasse debuting. He remains my favourite, and I still find him very funny.

Most of the great songs of early Sesame Street were translated into German for Sesamstrasse: Rubber Duckie; C Is For Cookie, I Love Trash, and so on. When I introduced them in English to Any Minor Dude back in the 1990s, I could relive my childhood as he lived his (though his Sesame experience also included Elmo, who arrived long after my time).

 

 

I don’t remember if the guest appearances by singing stars were part of the German Sesame Street. I discovered them later on, in the age of YouTube. Those are wonderful. Some singers performed their songs straight (more or less): on this mix, Stevie Wonder jams Superstition while name-dropping muppets; José Feliciano croons on the brownstone steps; Paul Simon clearly got annoyed with the kids; Cab Calloway revisits his ancient hits.

Some sang Sesame Street standards. On this mix Lou Rawls grooves the ABC like nobody’s business; Lena Horne sings another alphabet song. Diana Ross builds self-esteem (as does Ray Charles with the same song in a bonus track). Aaron Neville and Ernie duet on I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon. Gladys Knight & The Pips do the Sesame Street theme. And Little Richard sings — obviously! — Rubber Duckie.

 

 

And then there are the adaptations of the guests’ popular hits, which always wink a little at the parents, too. Some are alphabet-based. Norah Jones doesn’t know why Y didn’t come; in Sheryl Crow’s song I soaks up the sun; guess what B.B. King’s favourite letter is.

Most artists riff along with muppets. Stevie Wonder tries to teach Grover how to scat. Johnny Cash and James Taylor revisit their hits in dialogue with Oscar (Cash: “Nasty Dan was a nasty man the whole day long.” Oscar: “Good for him.”). Andrea Bocelli sings Elmo to sleep with the song that had Camilla Soprano nearly jump in the sack with the priest.

This mix is great stuff for families. I’d play it with kids in the car. But, to be honest, I’ll play it in the car on my own as well…

 

 

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-clouds-swept covers. PW in comments.

1. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Sesame Street Theme (1988)
2. Lou Rawls – The Alphabet (1970)
3. Ray Charles with Bert & Ernie – I Got A Song (1977)
4. Jesse Jackson – I Am Somebody (1971)
5. Stevie Wonder – Superstition (1973)
6. Stevie Wonder with Grover – Scatting (1973)
7. Four Tops – Please Be Careful (When You Cross The Street) (1986)
8. José Feliciano – A World Without Music (1975)
9. James Taylor with Oscar – Your Smiling Face (1983)
10. Johnny Cash with Oscar – Nasty Dan (1973)
11. Johnny Cash with Biff – Five Feet High (1973)
12. R.E.M. – Furry Monsters Song (1998)
13. Sheryl Crow – I Soaks Up The Sun (2003)
14. Janelle Monáe – Power Of Yet (2014)
15. Queen Latifah with The Prairie Sisters – The Letter O (1992)
16. Norah Jones with Elmo – Don’t Know Y (2004)
17. John Legend with Hoots – I Got A Song (2006)
18. Diane Schuur with Elmo – From Your Head (1996)
19. Lena Horne – The Alphabet (1974)
20. Cab Calloway – Hi De Ho Man (1981)
21. Cab Calloway – Jump Jive (1981)
22. B.B. King – The Letter B (2000)
23. Little Richard – Rubber Duckie (1994)
24. Harry Belafonte with the Count – Coconut Counting Man (1982)
25. Paul Simon – El Condor Pasa (1977)
26. Feist – 1,2,3,4 (2008)
27. Chaka Khan with Elmo and Telly – Faces (2000)
28. Arrested Development – Pride (1995)
29. Dixie Chicks – No Letter Better Than B (2002)
30. Alison Krauss & Union Station – Sesame Jamboree (2005)
31. Diana Ross – Believe In Yourself (1981)
32. Aaron Neville & Ernie – I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon (1994)
33. Andrea Bocelli & Elmo – Time to Say Goodnight (2004)
Bonus Tracks:
Faith Hill & Tim McGraw – Take A Turn (2000)
Ray Charles with Elmo – Believe In Yourself (1996)

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Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 2

October 24th, 2019 4 comments

 

Just in time for Halloween, here’s another mix of murder songs to provide you with holiday-appropriate chills.

Some of these are truly scary. Some of our killers here have serious mental conditions, such as the protagonists in the songs by Warren Zevon and Hall & Oates. In Zevon’s song, the target of the singer’s wrath are the entitled family members who make excuses for their murderous rapist spawn. The Hall & Oates track (in which the duo recalls one of their older hits) is a bit disturbing as our dark anti-hero is into music you or I might listen to.

The darkness of mental disease is captured well in sound in the Wilco song’s distortions. The track was recorded live in Chicago. It’s about a guy dreaming of committing a murder in that city, and coming to the city to make his dreams come true. When Jeff Tweedy sings the name Chicago, the crowd cheers. Audience members: you really don’t want the protagonist of that sing in your city!

Most of our murders here are crimes of passion, with the victim being either a cheating partner, or the person with whom the cheating was committed (including Loretta Lynn, who in the Jack White-produced song will hang for her murder).

However, Rod Stewart uses a murder to deal with homophobia at a time when that was not really a mainstream issue. Think what you will of Rod, but plaudits are due for that song.

Of all our killers here, there’s one we can sort of support, Woody Guthrie’s Pretty Boy Floy, who gunned down an especially unpleasant deputy sheriff (I like to imagine a law enforcer of the Mississippi Burning variety).

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the troubling case of a father pushing his daughter down the well in the Violent Femmes song.

Neil Young is running a theme as old as song itself — the crime of passion; the wronged husband avenging his honour. But this being 1969, and musicians of Young’s ilk more interested in laying down guitar jams than producing lucid lyrics, we must figure out ourselves the circumstances leading to the murder, which the narrator at least admits to: “Down by the river, I shot my baby. Down by the river…Dead, oh, shot her dead.” The rest is just crazy hippie talk about rainbows. So, obviously, youngologists believe the song is about heroin. Which, by Young’s own account, it isn’t.

But of all these songs, Porter Wagoner’s song is the most spine-chilling. It has a real horror-movie vibe. In fact, the only thing that will lift the chill is to look at a picture of Porter in full ludicrous country music regalia. Or it might make things worse…

Again, to be very clear, this mix does not promote, endorse or celebrate murder. Don’t kill, kids.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-first48hoursed covers. PW the same as always.

1. Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy (1978)
The Vic: Suzie from the Junior Prom

2. Tim Rose – Hey Joe (1967)
The Vic: Joe’s “old lady”

3. Nina Simone – Ballad of Hollis Brown (1965)
The Vic: Hollis’ family

4. Fleetwood Mac – Blood On The Floor (1970)
The Vic: The “darling” of the guy about to hang

5. Porter Wagoner – The First Mrs Jones (1967)
The Vic: Mrs Jones

6. Johnny Cash – Joe Bean (live) (1969)
The Vic: Well, Joe Bean, really. An man hanging for a crime be didn’t commit

7. Loretta Lynn – Women’s Prison (2004)
The Vic: The “darling” of the woman about to hang

8. Wilco – Via Chicago (live) (2005)
The Vic: “You”

9. Violent Femmes – Country Death Song (1984)
The Vic: His daughter, the bastard

10. Robber Barons – Music For A Hanging (2004)
The Vic: A killer who is about to hang

11. Neil Young – Down By The River (1969)
The Vic: Neil’s “baby”, down by the river

12. Fairport Convention – Crazy Man Michael (1969)
The Vic: The “raven”

13. Rod Stewart – The Killing Of Georgie (1976)
The Vic: Georgie

14. Hall & Oates – Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear The Voices) (1980)
The Vic: Random strangers at the subway station

15. Tom Jones – Delilah (1968)
The Vic: Delilah, the two-timer

16. Marty Robbins – Streets Of Laredo (1969)
The Vic: The narrator, a cowboy

17. Lloyd Price – Stagger Lee (1958)
The Vic: Billy, a gambler

18. Little Walter – Boom, Boom, Out Goes The Light (1957)
The Vic: His baby who ain’t his no more

19. Louis Armstrong & Louis Jordan – You Rascal, You (1950)
The Vic: The seducer of his wife

20. Carter Family – John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man (1929)
The Vic: A man on the West Virginia line

21. Woody Guthrie – Pretty Boy Floyd (1940)
The Vic: A very rude deputy sheriff

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