Sunday, January 29, 2006

Gonna Shoot the Whole Day Down

(Edited to add link to a radio-related post at the Daily Aneurysm, below.)

January 29, 2001: A data research company publishes its list of the artists who had sold the most records posthumously. In reverse order, the top five were: the Doors, Eva Cassidy, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and 2Pac. Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robbie Krieger of the Doors were undoubtedly surprised to learn that they were dead.

January 29, 1992: Blues musician Willie Dixon dies at age 76. Dixon is best remembered as a major influence on the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Led Zeppelin, all of whom recorded his songs--although Dixon and his managers sued Zeppelin twice for copyright infringement. Before rock bands discovered them, several of his songs were already standards in the repertoire of electric Chicago blues, most famously "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Back Door Man," "I Just Want to Make Love to You," and "I Ain't Superstitious."

January 29, 1979: A 16-year-old girl opens fire on an elementary school across the street from her house in San Diego, killing two people and wounding nine. When asked why, she responded, "I don't like Mondays," thus inspiring the lone American hit by Bob Geldof's Boomtown Rats a year later. On the same day, Emerson Lake and Palmer split up, after the financial disaster of their latest American tour and the aesthetic disaster of Love Beach.

January 27, 1969: Fleetwood Mac's gorgeous instrumental "Albatross" hits Number One on the British singles charts. It would chart on at least three other occasions in the next three decades, and remains the Mac's only Number One single in the UK.

Birthdays Today:
James Jamerson, perhaps the greatest bass player in history, would be 68 today, had he not died in 1983. Jamerson anchored the Motown rhythm section throughout the 1960s, but when Motown celebrated its 25th anniversary a few months before his death, they did not acknowledge the contributions of the musicians. Jamerson had to buy a ticket to the show from a scalper.

Acker Bilk is 77. British jazz fans know him as a popular clarinetist who emerged during the "trad jazz" boom of the late 50s. If Americans know him at all, it's for "Stranger on the Shore," a haunting instrumental that made it to Number One on the U.S. charts in May 1962.

Number One Songs on This Date:
1995: "Take a Bow"/Madonna.
The prettiest melody she's ever recorded.

1990: "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You"/Michael Bolton. On Judgement Day, all of us who were DJs and music programmers on adult-contemporary radio in the 1990s are going to have to answer for the massive success of Michael Bolton.

1986: "That's What Friends Are For"/Dionne Warwick and Friends.
The Friends, of course, are Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John, who would have throat surgery not long after, and clearly needed it.

1973: "Superstition"/Stevie Wonder.
Thirty-three years later, this groove hasn't hit bottom yet.

1946: "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!"/Vaughn Monroe. Now a Christmas perennial, this was originally just a song about a season, like "It Might as Well Be Spring." Between 1940 and 1954, Monroe charted 67 different records, including "Ghost Riders in the Sky," "Ballerina," and the original version of "There! I've Said It Again," all in a stiff baritone that makes his work sound far more dated than most other pop music from the period.

(Note: Those of you who enjoy reading tales of my radio days may wish to click here, for a reminiscence of the day the Challenger exploded in 1986.)


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