Way Back 2020

May 26, 2020 - Wicked Wilson, Sam and Dave Highlight TV Shorts, Lesley, Association and Kingston Trio Underscore Mrs. America

Wilson Pickett's hit 1966 version of Chris Kenner's much-covered classic "Land of 1000 Dances" is set for a few months of heavy promo play as HBO is using it to hype Lovecraft County, an upcoming Jordan Peele/Misha Green horror series beginning in August. Political drama Mrs. America continues working its way through the '70s on FX while slipping in a few notable '60s tunes including teen-feminist anthem "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore, "Cherish" by The Association and The Kingston Trio's 1961 recording of Woody Guthrie's controversially patriotic "This Land is Your Land."

In the 30-to-60-second TV commercial world, "Hold On! I'm a Comin'" by Sam and Dave supplies a hot beat for a current Walmart spot, while the Memphis-based two-man-soul-singing act's main competitors from back in the day appear to be enjoying a gradual revival in popularity; James and Bobby Purify's 1967 B side "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down" is leading the charge. American Idol contestant and top five finisher Jonny West performed the song on the reality-competition series' sing-from-home finale, the first time, it seems, that an original James and Bobby song (written by Bob Montgomery and Purify producer "Papa Don" Schroeder) has instantly reached an audience in the neighborhood of eight million.

May 5, 2020 - Hit-Loaded Television: Mrs. America, Better Things and Call Saul, Various Promos and Commercials

These quarantine days of our lives may provide many of us with extra time to binge-watch more TV shows...yet between broadcast, cable, satellite, streaming and the more recent push for shorter, smaller phone-and-tablet-sized entertainment, there are just so #*?%$*!' many choices! So the search for vintage music contained within this vast variety of programs comes up incomplete at best (but then, it usually does).

The most obvious oldies-packed series is FX's political period piece Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett as '60s-'70s anti-equal rights activist Phyllis Schlafly. Selections evoke the era without necessarily building a statement in one direction or the other, but it's a compelling mix: Anita Bryant's recordings would likely support Schlafly's agenda, though two selections by her ("Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the 1960 hit "In My Little Corner of the World") come across with an impartial tone. Etta James pops up twice (with "Tell Mama" and "Fire") in addition to other soulful scorchers like "I Want to Take You Higher" by Sly and the Family Stone and "Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)" by The Chi-Lites. Brenton Wood's often-heard "Oogum Boogum Song" is offset by psychedelic-era classic "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" by The Seeds, Steppenwolf rocker "Magic Carpet Ride" and hippie-Broadway Hair smash "The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)" by original cast members James Rado, Lynn Kellogg and Melba Moore. A softer side is represented by Cass Elliot ("Make Your Own Kind of Music"), Dionne Warwick ("This Girl's in Love With You"), B.J. Thomas ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"), Doris Day ("Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)") and Jackie DeShannon ("What the World Needs Now is Love"). There's one more, and it's the most unexpected choice: "Roller Girl" from the 1967 TV-movie musical Anna, sung by recently-mourned superstar French actress Anna Karina. Mrs. America's season is in progress, so the mix will certainly continue growing in the coming weeks.

Even better: multitasker Pamela Adlon's FX series Better Things applied some out-of-the-box thinking in musical selections for its just-completed fourth season, which include almost-never-heard '60s gems "(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count the Days" by Inez and Charlie Foxx and Marcie Blane's angst-ridden teen query "What Does a Girl Do?," the latter in the same episode as Leroy Anderson's keyboard exercise-set-to-music, "The Typewriter," performed on the show in typing-mime by series regular Hannah Alligood. Adlon's show also gave the aforementioned Day "Que Sera" tune a TV-spin a few days before its Mrs. America moment. Better Call Saul recently wrapped its fifth season on AMC, but not before squeezing in an exotic Yma Sumac track, "Chuncho (The Forest Creatures)" from the 1953 album Inca Taqui. One television promo for ABC comedy The Goldbergs made prominent use of The Champs' 1958 chart-topper "Tequila" and one commercial (Milk. Love What's Real.) treated listeners to Jackie Wilson's memorably romantic '58 hit "To Be Loved."


Land of 1000 Dances You Don't Own Me Cherish In My Little Corner of the World Tell Mama What the World Needs Now is Love