Way Back 2019

December 6, 2019 - Scorsese's Irishman Outdoes All Others with More Than a Score of Classic Tracks

The Band's main man Robbie Robertson got the nod from Martin Scorsese to compose original music for The Irishman, his new three-and-a-half-hour Netflix gangster epic starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and a cast of hundreds. It was no mean feat for Robertson, who deftly mixed his score with an extensive selection of classic and should-be-classic pop tunes. The choices cover several categories as various periods are depicted. "Anna" (original title "El Negro Zumbon") by actress Silvana Mangano (from the 1951 Italian-French film of the same title), "Le Grisbi" (from the 1954 French-Italian gangster film Touchez Pas au Grisbi), an instrumental written by pianist Jean Wiener and performed by harmonica player Jean Wetzel, and French diva Edith Piaf's famous "La Vie en Rose" are the European selections that set the mood for New York's organized crime scene of the early '50s, along with American pop hits "You Belong to Me" by Jo Stafford, "Cry" by Johnnie Ray and The Four Lads and "A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)" by Marty Robbins.

The rock and doo wop bracket is covered by The Five Satins' everlasting N.Y. hit "In the Still of the Nite," Fats Domino's 1950 debut "The Fat Man," the 1955 hit "I Hear You Knocking" by Domino contemporary Smiley Lewis and "Have I Sinned," an underappreciated 1957 ballad by Donnie Elbert. Instrumental standards of the decade are sprinkled throughout: Jackie Gleason's famous theme "Melancholy Serenade," Percy Faith's 1953 chart-topper "Delicado," Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk" and two by orchestra leader Hugo Winterhalter, "Song of the Barefoot Contessa" and "Canadian Sunset," the latter featuring pianist Eddie Heywood. Two selections by Perez Prado convey the Latin flavor of the era: "(Qué Rico) El Mambo" from 1950 and "Patricia," a number one hit from 1958. Easing into a more relaxed zone, two number one instrumentals are included: "Sleep Walk" by guitarists Santo and Johnny and "Stranger on the Shore" by clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk.

The '60s Las Vegas vibe comes on strong with Sanremo Music Festival favorite Emilio Pericoli and his international hit from '62, "Al Di La" (it also went top ten in the U.S.), in addition to crooner Jerry Vale's rendition of the song. The Golddiggers, an all-female song-and-dance act that became well-known as regulars on The Dean Martin Show (and their own summer replacement series in Dino's time slot) are featured on the Irishman soundtrack with a Vegasy tune, "The Time is Now." Scorsese's feel for the music of the era and knack for song placement once again scores a "10."

November 2, 2019 - TV Promos and Spots Incorporate Lesley, Sam, Little Eva, Vogues, Animals, Steppenwolf, Andy and Screamin' Jay

Lesley Gore's anthemic "You Don't Own Me" is the pick to promote classic film channel TCM's entire November schedule while clips of the month's films and regular features appear as a montage. Major League Baseball's just-ended Nationals-on-top World Series on Fox threw out some random bumper tune choices, including a pair of hits from 1962: "Bring it on Home to Me" by Sam Cooke and "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva. Car manufacturers, restaurants and computer companies continue to match their products' TV commercials with sometimes-shrewd, other times baffling music choices. The latest batch includes The Vogues' 1968 hit "Turn Around, Look at Me" for the Volkswagen Tiguan, "Boom Boom" by The Animals for the Ford F-150 and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild," an implication that Applebee's customers are living life precariously if they happen to eat large platesful of specially-priced 25 cent boneless wings. Andy Williams' 1968 cover of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" can be heard in a spot for Amazon Prime, while HP asks, "Have we lost touch with what's real?" to the tune of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' unfiltered (and thus real in an embarrassing way for Jay) '56 classic "I Put a Spell on You."

October 20, 2019 - Bee Gees, Patsy Cline, Sensations, Chad and Jeremy, Everlys and Platters All Get Flat Panel Play

Some great vintage songs have been embraced by current media to promote the online world of search and social media. A series of commercials for Facebook Groups has the 1967 hit "To Love Somebody" by The Bee Gees supplying the soundtrack for a "Dads with Daughters" ad, while "Back in Baby's Arms," the 1963 Patsy Cline classic, provides a similar service for a bassett hound group; the goal, of course, is to increase the amount of time users spend on Facebook. Meanwhile, the world's number one website, Google.com, is letting The Sensations' 1962 hit "Let Me In" power a weird "Passwords" spot.

Among other TV ads, Coors Light uses Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde's top ten '64 single "A Summer Song" to suggest men may be "going golfing just to drink beer." A Wal-Mart commercial features "All I Have to Do is Dream" by The Everly Brothers, though it's the 1960s Warner Bros. re-recording in place of the original 1958 chart-topping Cadence version. Playstation Now combines action and nostalgia with The Platters' ballad "Twilight Time" (another number one hit from '58), as all sorts of debris (robots, cars, animals, people) spill out of a space ship and fall to earth; an elephant goes through the roof of a house, mirroring a shot in Camila Cabello's video for her current hit "Liar," where an elephant lands on top of her and, in a second take, just misses her. Lesson learned: keep your eyes peeled for potentially-crushing things dropping from above. Are we ready for the drones?

October 8, 2019 - Is Bobby (Boris) Pickett Really the Only "Halloween Artist" Achieving Noteworthy Music Sales?

The Billboard singles charts are more chaotic than ever, as the magazine struggles to find a functional formula for combining airplay, sales and streaming data; until that happens, chart entires will continue making big upward and downward jumps, with songs moving on, off and back on. In trying to make sense of it all, many non-robotic users are baffled. But Billboard apparently has a better handle on compiling music charts than its competitors; PopVortex, the website that tracks iTunes downloads, features a current survey of the Top 100 Halloween Songs, which starts off with a logical pick for number one: the 57-year-old "Monster Mash" by Bobby (Boris) Pickett, which has become the most famous of all scary-season selections.

So if you're thinking the list will be loaded with other Halloween hits spanning the decades, think again. From number two on down, it appears music purchasers are going for generic fare, headed by The Knights of Midnight, a mysterious studio group doing remakes of well-known music available strictly as downloads. Favorites like "The Purple People Eater," "I Put a Spell on You," "Tubular Bells" and "Werewolves of London" made the ranking, but they're not the original versions by Sheb Wooley, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Mike Oldfield or Warren Zevon. The chart would have us believe the Knights' anemic remakes are the top-selling versions; the group's output takes up 22 slots, while eleven others are from Elvira's Gravest Hits, a compilation album featuring obscure tunes marketed using the image of the "Mistress of the Dark" horror show hostess. iTunes seems to have made very little effort with this chart; some tracks are nothing more than sound effects of the "Scary Sounds" variety.

The late Mr. Pickett's prominence appears to be without question as all 16 tracks from The Original Monster Mash (an expanded edition of Bobby's 1962 Garpax label LP) have separate rankings, including bonus single "Monsters' Holiday," his hybrid Christmas/Halloween top 40 hit! Another bona fide original can be found midway down the chart: "Season of the Witch," Donovan's 1966 album cut that has stood the test of time, comes as a surprise not due to its inclusion but by the omission of so many other Halloween classics (the 1967 hit "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" by The Electric Prunes made the cut as well...but, well, it just hasn't ever fit into the "Halloween" category). This chart feels like it's been cobbled together using track listings from several compilation albums. The result is rather pointless, interesting only as a brief curiosity.

Hall of Fame Cry A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation) In the Still of the Nite I Hear You Knocking Honky Tonk Patricia You Don't Own Me Boom Boom I Put a Spell on You Let Me In Monster Mash