Music stories and my Fourth Blogiversary

Year Four

I write this blog because I enjoy the subject matter and it interests me, last year I recapped some stats on my third anniversary; as of the end of April 2021, there were a record over 4,500 page views for the month and in total had just passed the 100,000 mark.  An increase of 44,000 over 2020 and the number of different countries went from 83 to 107. This is my “passion project” I guess you could say, a hobby that was not designed to make money. Nevertheless I will admit I was pleased enough with the growth that I continued to write in the past year. Now as of May 1, 2022, I have reached 122 countries and over 180,000 pageviews, representing an increase of 80,000 views and 13 countries in the past year. I exceeded my one week record of 13,000 pageviews. My updated post on The Most Covered Pop Artists and Songs of All Time not only continues to be the most popular but the pageview count has risen by more than 3,000 in one year. At nearly 8 thousand pageviews it is by far my most viewed post out my 159 written to date. That’s quite enough of a walk down vanity lane, I should get to the point. I have reached the 4 year mark and while that has surpassed my expectations I continue to struggle with the time and effort invested, so my posting may be less consistent going forward.

A little bit about Music Blogging

There are many blogs that talk about cover songs, but very few embrace the history of vintage music the way that I do. The majority of people are interested in current music, and that’s a good thing. But contemporary music, with several exceptions I will say, interests me much less. While I have no idea as to the demographics of my readers I suspect the vast majority are 50 plus. Which is of course relates more to the eras I talk about, for the most part stuff I know and familiar with, the added benefit is that I always learn something new during the course of my research.

So if we take any given song from any year from even the biggest stars in let’s say 2004 that may even have been covered a dozen or so times does not typically grab my attention the way a tune from 1904 might. Actually the most covered song from 2004 is a great tune from their first album Hot Fuss by the Rock Band The Killers, “Mr. Brightside” with an impressive 69 versions. However the history is not there and as far as I can see there’s not much of a story either.

Conversely, and this a great example of what I am talking about, the most covered song from 100 years prior has a story. Now I had just picked 2004 at random so I looked at what the most covered songs were from that year as noted. So now we go back to 1904 and the #1 most covered tune is one everyone will recognize. “Aloha Oe” written by Liliuokalani, this is the pen name for the last reigning Monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii which itself dates back to the 15th Century. Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha (September 2, 1838 – November 11, 1917) had her short lived reign of two years overthrown in 1893. I will give a very short version of a long and fascinating story. She had attempted to bring about a more democratic government and allow people to vote on their leaders. This was seen as contrary to American interests and with the help of the US Marines the country was seized and pro American leaders put in place. This, not surprisingly was mostly about money and resources. Though later exonerated she was put on trial and when her closest friends and family were threatened with hanging, she wrote a letter confessing to supposed wrong doings to help justify the coup. She served a period of confinement, albeit in the Palace. We all know how that turned out as eventually Hawaii was made the 50th State in 1959.

While under house arrest she continued to write several more beautiful songs. Liliuokalani composed “Aloha Oe” 1878 and in 1904 she recorded it in Hawaiian along with her sister Princess Likelike and two other ‘girl’s. Credited as the Quartet of Hawaiian Girls from Kawaihao Seminary. The first commercial version of the song was the English adaptation by Bing Crosby in 1936. Also recorded by Elvis Presley for the movie Blue Hawaii in 1961. Among the more than 125 recordings is a lovely version from Oregon native Evynne Hollens in 2019 for the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch. Now, while you may argue the merits of my writing, I barely scratched the surface of the story behind a tune that half the planet can hum along to nearly 125 years after it was written.

It’s stories like these that lead me to quite frequently go off on little tangents from the theme of a post. Believe it or not, I have used a fair bit of restraint in that regard. As a consequence I have had a few thoughts on songs I have talked about or as with “Aloha Oe”, newly discovered ones. I didn’t get to fleshing these out enough for a dedicated post and/or they got clipped out of post during the editing process. So here are some of them.

Terminology

We hear terms such as ‘legend’ or ‘icon’ to describe artists and I have used them myself several times. “That’s an iconic song” or “She is a music legend”, but what do the the terms actually mean? Often times when I read the terms from others writing or social media comments it is a substitute for “one of my favorites”. I have to say I am fairly well read on music history so when I come across the terms in reference to someone or a song that I have never heard of, well I question the use of the labels. But who decides whether a singer or musician or group is legendary? What makes a song iconic and worthy of the designation? Many times you will find the words in an Obituary or Biographical pieces, and the editorial nature of them opens the door for the use of the noun(s). The word icon for example has many meanings, such as the small picture on your computer screen or phone, a religious object, painting or a person that represents something in a larger or universal way.

This is an example of what it takes to be labeled an Iconic song. “Bésame mucho” (Kiss Me A Lot) originally written by Consuelo Velázquez in Spanish. First recorded in 1940 by Los Cadetes del Swing. Later the singer songwriter Selig Shaftel known by his stage name as Sunny Skylar would translate and sing an english version, so that “Besame mucho” was first recorded by Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra in 1944. Also recorded by The Beatles, the most recent of the over 624 versions is by Martina Balogová from the Czech Republic in 2021. Songs that are currently very popular must stand the test of time to become iconic. Check out his interesting article on iconic songs, https://www.eonline.com/ca/news/699788/here-are-the-most-iconic-songs-of-all-time-according-to-science

The Culture Beyond the Music

In my recent post on the 1970’s I edit out this tangent from the topic of Punk Music; I can see the sway of Punk Culture, aside from the musical influences, in other art forms. From what I have read there is connection by way of more than just a coincidental use of the word or name “Punk” in the Sci-Fi book concepts/genre of Cyberpunk (coined by William Gibson in 1979, btw his Neuromancer is a great read) followed by Steampunk (author Kevin Jeter). They and others found their writing inspiration from earlier authors including HG Wells and the eccentric William S. Burroughs, a bit later also the likes of Michael Moorcock. But to my point, more recently when transformed into visual art such as comics, it comes out looking like Punk fashion and the characters persona reflects that renegade lifestyle. The stories themselves are often set in Dystopian environments with Victorian Era style ‘steam’ technology. There are many short stories, novels, comic book series and video games are designed in the Steampunk and/or Cyberpunk style. Although it is based on a 1968 Book by Philip K Dick (another odd man but a brilliant author I’d recommend) the ‘look’ of some of the characters in the movie Blade Runner from 1982 is an example. For video games there is the popular Borderlands series and yes (quilty pleasure time) I admit to owning that ;).

Sampling

Also from the 1970’s post I had researched a bit on the origins of Song Sampling; For example, if we look at Song Sampling which is not normally my thing, there are tens of thousands of excerpts taken from songs of this decade and inserted, for the most part into Rap, Hip Hop, Funk and R&B songs. Sampling by definition is the use of a previous recording in whole or part and inserted into a new piece of music. For the beginnings of this phenomenon we can look to pioneer James Tenney and his experimental “Blue Suede” in 1961 which incorporated clips of Elvis Presley’s version of “Blue Suede Shoes” along with audio distortions. One of the first commercial examples would be the use of a “Sousa” March from American composer John Philip Sousa, which had been previously recorded by George Martin and Geoff Emerick and inserted into The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” recording in 1966. Followed by the more well known use of a BBC King Lear broadcast into “I Am the Walrus” in 1967. However it was in the 1970’s when Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and others were more regularly using this technique. Sampling began to really impact the recording industry, particularly as new technology was created in 1970’s. While growing common among live DJ performances it was still a fairly sparse practice until the 1980’s, once the R&B/Hip Hop/Rap genres really got hold of it, a new art form was created. As far as songs from the 70’s that have had samples taken from them, “Think About It” (1971) by Lyn Collins (which was written and produced by James Brown) has been sampled 3077 times according to whosampledwho.com . If you include his singing and writing credits Brown is the most sampled artist in almost 14,500 songs. In Hip Hop, Drum beats are the most sampled sections of songs and Browns “Funky Drummer” from 1970 has been sampled 1750 times.

Conclusion

So this is just a short post today to make a mark for my four years of blogging and thanks to my buddy Shayne for his support and the note today acknowledging that bit of trivia. A special thanks to my family (aka my patient and understanding wife), friends and regular readers. Also thanks to those that take the time to pass on a note or comment, especially David and Darren, for without feedback I operate in a bit of a vacuum. Some of my FB friends share my blog posts, and to Judy-thanks for doing that every time. My dear friend Steve and I have talked about music almost every week for the last 45 years or so, and that helps keep me going as well. I would also like to thank all those you have visited my site and read a blog post or two. Happy reading and happy listening.

References: 123, 4,

The 1970’s Pt. 3

Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic from 1975

I received some feedback on the first two 1970’s posts citing that there were “some forgotten songs mentioned, and yet they came back immediately in my head” which is all part of the fun.

Music of the 1970’s

Parts one and two focused on three major sources; the Billboard charts, Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs and from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. A few other references were used and I will try not to repeat myself as I would like to give an overview of the decades music. It was a time of much social change and we saw the introduction of many new music styles that still impact the music of today.

Read More »

100 of the Greatest Cover Songs #76-100

Last but not least, 25 more of the Greatest Cover Songs

Ok here is the last of my list, I could go on and as a matter of fact I will, just not with another set of 25 plus “to infinity and beyond!” I have to say it was easy to come up with more songs to complete the total of 100 as this final list started at 43. But it was very difficult to decide which ones would make the cut, so these last 25 songs became a list with a number of great ones left for another day.

Downchild Blues Band
76. “Flip Flop and Fly” is a song by the same collection that brought us the classic “Shake Rattle and Roll” written by Jesse Stone (credited to his pseudonym Charles E. Calhoun) and Lou Willie Turner, sung by Big Joe Turner (1954). The first time I heard this song was at a club in my hometown I’ll say around 1979 or so, performed by the talented Canadian Blues band Downchild Blues Band(1973), later known as just ‘Downchild’. Still the best cover for me although I’ve heard many fine ones out of some over 70 versions, this is a standard blues song sung in venues around the globe. Have a listen and you’ll hear I’m not just being a homer, it really is a well made piece of music. I was fortunate there were a few places noted for booking blues artists like the amazing Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy and attending them with my buddies-for just the music you understand, got me hooked on the genre. I have to sneak in this version from the Geraint Watkins Band (1978) who is a real blast to see perform live.

Read More »

100 of the Greatest Cover Songs #51-75

25 more of the Greatest Cover Songs

There has been a very positive response to the first two ‘Greatest’ posts. So the list continues and the songs become no less in their timeless quality compared to numbers one through fifty. I will post a #76-100 edition soon.

51. “I Put a Spell on You” written and originally recorded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956. There have been many really good covers of this song but Nina Simone (1965) was just the second person to cover this song. I just can’t get over how overlooked this artist was in her time, a high class version that turns the song on it’s ear to give it an entirely different sound.Read More »

100 of the Greatest Cover Songs #26-50

The next 25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #26-50

In part one I listed 25 of the greatest cover songs and to date it’s been one of my most viewed blog post. There are so many more added to the list so I’ve updated the posts on #’s 51-75 and 76-100 and will publish those as well.

This list in part comes from many of the songs that I have already posted since I started blogging. As for how songs make it on my list there are a few criteria, while I don’t dismiss music from more recent years a song has to have stood the test of time for me, hence much of the list are songs of some vintage and just plain old, like the writer. Next, the original song itself must have some character and some degree of popularity. And preferably the artist and or songwriters are of interest as well. I have read other lists of great cover songs from books, articles and google searches and you’ll find much similarity, but some of them contain songs I just don’t think warrant the attention or at the very least should be much lower on the ‘great’ scale. Last but not least I have to like the songs and most of these I put on my ‘songs I love’ list.Read More »

100 of the Greatest Cover Songs #1-25

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs-2022 update

Nothing quite grabs the attention more than a list of the greatest this or that, so at 85 posts about cover songs I did this one and now it’s been updated with new links. As I advised with my other ‘Greatest’ posts we all have our favorites so anytime there is a list, something or someone ‘great’ gets left off. And the debate ensues, why is this and that at #11 not #4 and vise versa. My list therefore, shall be no different for it is not scientific but subjective and it is biased by my own tastes and exposure to music. Having said that it’s hard for me to have missed many of the truly great cover songs of all time, indeed I think I’ve talked about quite a few:

Read More »

Ukrainian Music

The Ukraine is under siege and many around the world are witnessing the horrors of war in real time. Many of us are doing what we can be it financial contributions, political pressure or spiritual support. Some may debate whether we should be listening to music at this time but in truth life goes on for the rest of the world and if we keep the Ukraine and the people in our thoughts and prayers, that is at least something. I write a blog about Music and not that I think this post will change what is going on but for me personally the research itself gave me a new appreciation for the music of the Ukraine. Here in Canada we have a special relationship with the people as we are have the third largest population in the world of those with Ukrainian origin at approximately 1.4 million. For the most part I “stick to my knitting” in my choice of topics but today I felt compelled to go a bit beyond. For so many there is little time for music now, however as we all hope for the future of a free Ukraine, the spirit of the people will always remain and their songs will play a big part.

Read More »

The 1970's Pt. 2 (75-79)

The 1970’s Pt. 2 (75-79)

Bruce

This is the 1970’s continued from Pt. 1 and just a reminder that I have short formed the Rolling Stone Magazines 500 Greatest Songs of All Time to 500 Greatest . The Rolling Stone list has been revised three times and to maintain the 500 number, songs have been subtracted from prior lists. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 500 Songs that Shaped R&R (500 Shaped) has been updated, no songs were dropped and it now includes another 160 songs and is simply referred to as ‘The Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll’. On the expanded list I found the 1970’s only had minor additions, hence my reference to the original titles as it just makes an easier comparison, at least for my purposes.

1975

On the Pop charts we had Elton John with three #1 songs “Philadelphia Freedom” being one, KC and the Sunshine Band had two #1’s “That’s the Way (I Like It)” hit two different times, Neil Sedaka had “Laughter in the Rain” and “Bad Blood” and he co-wrote and originally recorded “Love Will Keep Us Together” in 1973 and the cover version hit #1 for four weeks, sung by The Captain & Tennille. Read More »

The 1970's Pt. 1 (1970-74)

 

 (1970-74)

Tapestry from my collection

There is too much to talk about for the 1970’s so I’ll split this one up. Parts one and two will largely focus on songs and charts by year and part three I will look at genres, key artists, trends and cultural impact. I have touched on this decade in many of my posts, for me personally the 70’s is the more formative era for my musical experience. Many of us cling to the music of our youth, for me talking about this time takes me from late elementary, then high school through to college. 

If you read my post on The 60’s I described it as the decade with the greatest change and the most impactful era of Popular music, and I stand by that assessment. However if you take any stretch of 10 years of music you will see if not a new genre, then several sub and sub sub genre. The 1970’s produced some of the greatest music of any era. Staying true to my mandate I have to point out that cover songs play an important part. They sometimes appear on the charts years after the original, as a result when tracking cover song statistics there are a number of data points that alter a songs place in history. Read More »

Gospel Music

Gospel Music

What do you think of when you hear the words Gospel Music? It depends on your background to a great extent, such as religious ties and beliefs, geography, family, ethnicity, and what music you have been exposed to, not to mention personal preference. My interest leans toward the impact that Gospel has had on Popular Music. A brief look at the history shows us Anglican Church roots dating back over 250 years such as “Amazing Grace” (1772) written by the Cleric John Newton, or “Rock of Ages” (1763) written by Reverend Augustus Toplady. The term is believed to have been first printed in the 1874 publication by Philip Bliss, Gospel Songs: A Choice Collection of Hymns and Tunes. There is, as we all know many types of Spiritual Music that is tied to Indigenous Peoples around the world, not to mention ritual songs from many different faiths and beliefs. But today the music focus is about the Gospel rooted in the American South.

Read More »