March 29, 2013 - Booker T. Promotes Pita Chips, More Motown on AI...Questions Arise!
Booker T. and the MG's provide the soundtrack to a TV spot for Stacy's Pita Chips with "Green Onions," which begs the question: "Are onions an ingredient in their chips?" The answer: Yep, in several of the brand's products.
American Idol dodged the inevitable "When are they going to do a Phil Spector night?" question with yet another Motown installment, expanded this time around, it seems, to include any artist who ever lived in Michigan...or, in a few cases, didn't. Motown's great Smokey Robinson was in the house to give encouragement. Candice Glover ("I Heard it Through the Grapevine"), Janelle Arthur ("You Keep Me Hangin' On") and Kree Harrison, doing "Don't Play That Song" in an Aretha Franklin style arrangement (as opposed to original artist Ben E. King), made the most of it. Less successful in their attempts were Burnell Taylor (with Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour"), Angie Miller (The Miracles' "Shop Around") and Lazaro Arbos (the Tony Bennett and/or Wonder tune "For Once in My Life"). Three of the girls (Candice, Angie and Amber Holcomb) did a passable "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," but the three remaining male contestants were blasted (fairly so) by judge Nicki Minaj for mangling the Four Tops classic "I Can't Help Myself." Ultimately Devin Velez was sent home (despite a fine performance of the Miracles' "The Tracks of My Tears"); he went out on a high note reprising his mostly-Spanish rendition of the Perry Como hit "It's Impossible."
March 20, 2013 - "Let's Dance" with Chris Montez for DSW, Idol's Class of '13 Takes On Roy, Ben E. and Beatles Tunes
Chris Montez has people gyrating in their living rooms to his 1962 hit "Let's Dance" from a current TV ad for DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse). At this point Chris is getting more pop culture exposure than American Idol, showing signs of age with its lowest ratings thus far. The two early front-runners delivered the goods last week with vintage selections: Candice Glover impressed with the Ben E. King hit "I (Who Have Nothing)" and Kree Harrison sang Roy Orbison's "Crying" (which has popped up once before this season). Tried-and-true (and tired) formulas are coming around again; AI devoted another entire show to the music of The Beatles and most of the nine remaining contestants made uninspired choices (though understandable considering their ages). Exceptions: Amber Holcomb's sensitive-but-strained rendition of "She's Leaving Home" and Janelle Arthur's pleasantly countrified "I Will." Best of show honors go to Angie Miller for her uniquely fresh take on one of the Fab Four's most famous songs, "Yesterday."
February 24, 2013 - Motown: The Musical Opens Soon: Chrysler, Gordy, Gaye and Terrell Pave the Way, Aretha "Ain't" on Idol, Bassey Bonds with Oscar Audience
Motown: The Musical is set to premiere on Broadway March 11, heralded by a current commercial for Chrysler that opens on the curb outside Hitsville U.S.A.'s Grand Avenue address in Detroit. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell plays throughout. Motown founder Berry Gordy stars in the spot, which takes him from his historical 1960s home base to Times Square in New York City.
American Idol's "sudden death" rounds gave us one great oldies moment. 17-year-old Adriana Latonio of Anchorage, the show's first-ever Alaskan contestant, wowed with a beyond-her-years rendition of Aretha Franklin's 1968 hit "Ain't No Way," advancing to the next round in the process. Shirley Bassey made a grand entrance at the 85th Academy Awards, capping off a tribute to James Bond's 50 years in cinema singing the hit theme she originated in 1964's "Goldfinger."
February 10, 2013 - Patti Page, Carole King, Dave Brubeck and Levon Helm Among Grammy's Classic Artist Tributes
Kelly Clarkson displayed the best pure vocal excellence at the 2013 Grammy Awards on a pair of songs famously affiliated with two of this year's Lifetime Achievement recipients: Patti Page ("The Tennessee Waltz") and Carole King ("A Natural Woman"). Jazz pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and saxophonist Kenny Garrett paid tribute to Dave Brubeck with a way-too-short performance of "Take Five" (including a quick shot of "Blue Rondo a La Turk" thrown in at the end). Mumford and Sons, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown, Brittany Howard (of the band Alabama Shakes), Elton John and T-Bone Burnett pulled out the stops for a big production of "The Weight" in honor of The Band's drummer Levon Helm. Overall, performances of older and current songs compared favorably to recent Grammy telecasts.
February 2, 2013 - American Idol Auditions: Etta James Songs Lead Oldies Bombardment
Season 12 of American Idol is under way and tunes from the '50s and '60s are everywhere. A partial list of songs performed during the audition phase of the competition includes "To Know Him, is To Love Him" (The Teddy Bears), "See You in September" (The Tempos, The Happenings), "Who's Lovin You" (The Miracles), "Knock on Wood" (Eddie Floyd), "Respect" (done Aretha style), "Rock Me Baby" (B.B. King), "Crying" and "Oh Pretty Woman" (Roy Orbison), "Nothing Can Change This Love" and "A Change is Gonna Come" (Sam Cooke), "Folsom Prison Blues" (Johnny Cash) and "People Get Ready" (The Impressions), along with the original recordings of "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" by Lesley Gore and the seldom-heard "I Don't Need No Doctor" by Ray Charles.
At one point, four different songs from the inventory of Etta James classics came up inside the space of a half hour. Three were auditions by Idol hopefuls: "All I Could Do Was Cry," "At Last" and "I'd Rather Go Blind," plus James' original hit version of "Something's Got a Hold on Me," played as the auditioner left with a "Golden Ticket." The show, still close to the top of the ratings, is doing its part to keep the oldies alive! Add to all this a second-year-in-a-row oddity: one of the amateur singers shooting for a spot in the Hollywood round goes by the name Frankie Ford, so let's keep our fingers crossed they'll have him sing "Sea Cruise" (similar to the hopes that last year's winner Phillip Phillips would take on "Sea of Love"...though he never did).
January 24, 2013 - Bobby Day "Beeps," The Troggs Terrify, Shirley Ellis Invades Asylum Dance Floor
"Beep-Beep-Beep" by Bobby Day and the Satellites (from 1957, it predates Day's hit, "Rockin' Robin"), is getting millions of audience impressions every day on a frequently-shown commercial for Kia Sorrento. Trailers for the upcoming zombie comedy film Warm Bodies features The Troggs' 1966 hit "With a Girl Like You," suggesting potential romance between a dead guy and a living woman. In other scary developments, FX's American Horror Story has increased its oldies count since a jukebox was brought into the asylum. "Our Day Will Come" by Ruby and the Romantics and "Love Potion Number Nine" by The Searchers are among the selections, in addition to a big production number featuring Jessica Lange and the cast (including Naomi Grossman in her much-talked-about role of Pepper the Pinhead), lip-syncing a dance routine set to the Shirley Ellis tongue-twister "The Name Game."
January 1, 2013 - Movies Boiling Over with Oldies, Lewis Lymon "Tra-La-La"s for Chrome
Hollywood movie studios sent out some solid oldies vibes this holiday season. Silver Linings Playbook, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, uses Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" to build the plot and also features "Unsquare Dance" by Dave Brubeck, a Nashville Skyline album track by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, "Girl From the North Country," Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be," "Misty" by Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra's sentimental "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins as the ultimate Psycho-era film and TV icon and Helen Mirren as his wife and collaborator, brings back two big '50s hits by Georgia Gibbs: "Kiss of Fire" and "Tweedlee Dee." The Guilt Trip, a Barbara Streisand-Seth Rogen guilty pleasure, includes the original Ray Price rendition of the Harlan Howard hit "Heartaches by the Number." The gospel classic "Oh Happy Day" by The Edwin Hawkins Singers has been featured in many films in recent years and it popped up again last week in Parental Guidance with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler.
Back home on your flat screen, Google Chrome is running a spot featuring Lewis Lymon and the Teenchords' 1956 recording of "I'm So Happy (Tra-La-La-La-La)." It's nice to hear Frankie Lymon's hitless, but no less worthy, younger brother getting some bigtime exposure more than 56 years after-the-fact.