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.
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 (guilty pleasure time) I admit to owning that ;).
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.
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 who have visited my site and read a blog post or two. Happy reading and happy listening.