Way Back 2019

December 30, 2019 - Tying Up a Few of '19's Musical Loose Ends with Noble, Gore, Como and Sinatra

Wrapping up the year (and the decade!), here are some of December's scattered retro melodies heard in commercials and on the big screen: "Accidents Will Happen" by British rock chick Patsy Ann Noble (from the 1963 film "Live it Up!) reached American ears some five-point-six decades late via a Heineken Beer snare. Lesley Gore's classic statement of independence, "You Don't Own Me," turned up for the second time in as many months in a spot for Giorgio Armani's Si Passione fragrance. Walmart milked Perry Como's "Magic Moments" remembrances to inform hungry holiday gobblers (i.e. all of us) about the national chain's free grocery pickup. Meanwhile, Golden Globe-nominated comedy Knives Out carved out a spot on its soundtrack for "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" by Frank Sinatra.


December 22, 2019 - Sorting Through Mounds of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Music

Viewers have been binging Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel since the series' third season premiered. The dozens of musical selections from the period could cover many more than the mere eight episodes that make up this latest simultaneously-released batch of episodes. Some of the biggest '50s hits made the soundtrack: "Mr. Sandman" by The Chordettes, "Sh-Boom" by The Crew-Cuts and The Champs' instrumental "Tequila" represent the tip-top of the charts, while solid hits "When" by The Kalin Twins and Neil Sedaka's '58 breakthrough "The Diary" are joined by Singin' in the Rain film tune "Good Morning" by stars Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds and some doo wop dazzlers ("Wiggle Wiggle" by The Accents, "Aurelia" by The Pelicans and "That's What I Need" by The Harptones).

The series, set in 1959, moves into the New Year with a few '60s kickoff tunes: Bobby Darin's much-loved "Beyond the Sea," Elvis Presley's summertime chart-topper "It's Now or Never" and "Cling A Ling" by Dee Clark, plus Rat-Packers Frank and Dino with "Nice 'n' Easy" and "Until The Real Thing Comes Along," respectively. A stellar line-up of '50s stars slip in and out of the mellifluous background, including Louis Prima, Les Baxter, scatwoman Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Conniff, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, "Velvet Fog" Mel Torme and underrepresented duo The Bell Sisters. Two selections apiece by Kay Starr, Doris Day and the toast of New York and Paris, Blossom Dearie, made the cut while Bronx bombshell Helen Merrill is heard more than twice.

Attention to detail has unraveled in places; earlier Maisel installments kept a pretty tight rein on the music selections, mainly using only songs that existed at the time of the show's setting (the exceptions playing over closing credits and coming from any time period). This season takes a more anachronistic approach and the result sounds a bit chaotic for anyone who was alive during the show's era, or follows music closely at any age. Still, selections are diverse and quite entertaining: "Luck Be a Lady" by Frank Sinatra, "Got to Move Your Baby" by bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins and "Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)" by Julie London all come from 1963 or '64. There's a double dose of Nina Simone: "Come on Back, Jack" (from 1961) and 21st century smash "Feeling Good" (from 1965), a '67 hit by The Mamas and the Papas, "Dedicated to the One I Love," and a fave from the Best Picture-winning movie musical The Sound Of Music, "So Long, Farewell" by The Children (those seven cute von Trapp kids, that is, among them actresses Heather Menzies and Angela Cartwright). So long, farewell, indeed...it's not easy keeping track of all the great songs from way back in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel!


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, The Jaynetts' offbeat 1963 hit "Sally, Go 'Round the Roses" 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.




WAY BACK

You Don't Own Me Mr. Sandman It's Now or Never 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 Boom Boom I Put a Spell on You Let Me In Monster Mash