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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Top Twenty Best Teen Idol Songs From The Early 60s!

Top Twenty Best Teen Idol Songs From The Early 60s!

Welcome everyone to our countdown of the best Teen Idol Pop tunes from that era of naivety and innocence that was the early 60s.   Or specifically, 1960-63.  Before The Beatles came along and changed everything forever.

Before you count down a list like this, you need to put down some rules.  What we’re including, what we’re not: just so you guys aren’t all “hey why isn’t blah blah blah “ etc.

We’re not including any of those “dance” songs. There were so many “dance” songs – “The Twist”, “The Mashed Potato”, “The Locomotion”, I could go on – that they’d fill up an entire other list. 
Which in fact they probably soon will.

Since these are teen idols, I’m not including groups.  So no Girl Groups in this list.  Again, there’ll be a list for that soon.

And although I’m calling this teen idol pop, I’m not judging according to classic idol looks: Del Shannon’s in there, and he looked like a lumberjack.  I don’t think anyone ever stuck a poster of Ray Peterson on their wall, but he gets up there as well, if only so that we can have a token “teenage death song.”

Mmmm, that’s enough caveats.  Let’s go.

One of the most important parts of being a teen idol is to be good looking.  So it’s pretty much compulsory that Shelley Fabares be on this list.  It is simply impossible to overstate just how pretty Shelley was.  Dreamy.  So is “Johnny Angel”, her Number One single from 1962, about a boy who doesn’t know she exists, a concept that is asking us to suspend our disbelief just a little too much.



19. Jimmy Jones – Good Timin’

And the winner of the best tap dancing from a teen idol award goes to… Jimmy Jones.  Who also wins the competition for the best use of historical figures in a hit song.  There was a lot of this sort of thing going on at the time.  “Battle Of New Orleans” for example.  Jimmy Jones raises the bar by including two!  David & Goliath and Columbus and Queen Isabella.  Bob Dylan would totally blow the whole name-dropping-historical-and-fictional-figures in songs out of the water, but for 1960, it was quite impressive.



We have to include at least one “teenage death song” (or, if you prefer, the less tastefully named genre of “splatter platters), so it has to be Ray Peterson.  The kind of pop star that might (a) not be able to afford a wedding ring, and (b) would likely crash their car in a drag car race.  An idol for the loser in all of us.





Connie Francis.  She was the biggest female pop star around.  Number Ones all over the world.  Yet she’d never had a boyfriend.  Her father wouldn’t let her.  There had been that brief moment when Bobby Darin had flirted with her and they’d talked about eloping.  But then her father scared him off with a gun.  So it seemed a little odd when Connie starred in the movie “Where The Boys Are”, where the boys and girls head to beach to wear bikinis and short shorts, and the “bad girl” gets raped and becomes suicidal, and Connie plays the “ugly girl” who only manages to get a guy because he’s lost his glasses and can’t see her, and by this stage she obviously can’t stand all her sexual repression anymore and so she just explodes. Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield wrote it.




Teen pop is supposed to be all naïve and innocent, by one was quite as naïve and innocent as 14-year old Little Peggy March.





15.   ConnieFrancis – Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool

Connie Francis had been the Queen Of Teen Pop in the late 50s, and despite some momentary competition from Brenda Lee, retained that crown for the first couple of years of the early 60s.  Pretty much until Lesley Gore came along.  But she was also the Queen Of Adult Pop, courtesy of her father (who was also, quite infamously, her manager) who chose her a whole lot of old fashioned songs to sing.  Including a remarkably successful foray into country-music that resulted in two US Number One’s: the utterly heart-breaking “My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own,” and this one “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” where Connie actually sounds almost happy.  Which is nice, because a happy Connie is a very rare thing.






The early 60s were not only the golden era of teen idol pop, but also the golden era of B-grade horror movies.  “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” is what happens when two golden eras collide, and has what is possibly the best Scopitone video of all time!



“Tra la-la-la-la la-la-la-la”  Neil Sedaka was certainly a happy guy.  And if teen pop had a musical genius, it was probably him.  He only did the melodies however.  The words were from his friend Howard Greenfield, who was quite good at capturing the essence of boy-and-girl-dating culture in the early 60s.  Which seems particularly impressive since he was a boy who preferred to date boys.






Sealed With A Kiss” belongs to the tradition of teen songs where the girl goes off on her summer holidays (maybe to summer camp, maybe to Florida) and the boy is left behind to wait for her, terrified that she’ll find someone new.  “See You In September” - by, well, so many people, but let’s say The Tempos - was another.  “Sealed With A Kiss” piles on the paranoia, and it is quite wonderful.  Or maybe we are just amazed that Brian Hyland would make something amazing at all!  This is the guy whose biggest hit was “Itsy BitsyTeenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” after all.





11.   Ricky Nelson – Travellin’ Man

When the kids of 1961 bought their copies of Ricky Nelson’s “Travellin’ Man” weren’t they getting value for money.  Not only did they get “Travellin’ Man” – the tale of a worldwide womaniser that actually manages to avoid sounding misogynist, unlike, let’s say Dion’s “The Wanderer” – but they got the B-side Gene Pitney penned “Hello Mary Lou”, which – not wanting to give too much away – may actually make an appearance further up on our list.  “Travellin’ Man” is also notable for being placed about halfway in Ricky’s transition to becoming a Rick.  It still says Ricky on the single cover, but not on the album: “Rick Is 21.”  The little boy was growing up.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Twenty Best Songs From The Golden Age Of Synth Pop (1978-83)

Twenty Best Songs From The Golden Age Of Synth Pop (1978-83)

1.       TheHuman League – “Don’t You Want Me?




And here it is: the Holy Grail of synth pop hits!  That turned the genre from a bunch of guys pretending to be robots or something into, not just a Global Phenomenon, but into everything that the 80s would stand for.  When somebody today says something like “that sounds totally 80s” what they are really saying is that “that sounds like that don’t you want me baby song.”




2.       Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”



Marc Almond was the perfect pop star.  A boy who liked to flounce (there’s really no better word to describe it) around like a girl, sing songs about being the kind of boy who liked to flounce around like a girl and just generally sound like a pertinent brat.

And “Tainted Love” was the perfect pop song, with lots of “da-dink-dink” bits and Marc pouting as he begs you not to touch him, sounding as if he’s scared of your girl germs.
Brilliant.

3.       GaryNuman“Cars”




Eerie science fiction noises sung by the ultimate pop star android as he sings paranoid nonsense lyrics that sounded totally out-of-place in a “Car” song (car songs traditionally being amongst the macho-est songs on Earth) before launching into the rather courageous choice of simply holding down one note for most of the solo… all to a jaunty beat.

4.       DepecheMode – “Just Can’t Get Enough




Depeche Mode may have made better singles later – they certainly made more serious and arty singles later – but they never made anything quite as irresistible chipper.  Listening the more po-faced stuff they’d become famous for, it’s mind-boggling that it’s the same guys: it’s almost as though are declaring that after chanting “I just can’t get enough” for the hundredth time all the happiness burst out of them like a rainbow making them free.

5.       Yazoo“Only You”

Having written Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” and a bunch of other jaunty tunes for the boys, probable musical genius Vince Clarke says “bye!” finds the world butchest blues singer and writes a tune of timeless beauty, and the sound of a synthesizer crying.



Even spookier sci-fi sounds than anything Gary Numan had ever come up with, a French girl sounding all exotic, and the rather disturbing sound of kids singing about growing old.  A sublime piece of synth-pop by itself, “Fade To Grey” is also the song that sprouted a whole second genre: the New Romantics, who would pick up where synth-pop left off, only with better haircut and sillier outfits. 


Like a synth pop Nostradamus, “Video Killed the Radio Star” predicts both the coming of synthesizer and the world domination of the music video, the sound and the vision of the 80s. Listen carefully, over –analyse the lyrics: I’m sure we can find references to PacMan, the Rubiks Cube and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in there somewhere. 




Glen Gregory’s ironic douchebag businessman vocal technique always sounded ridiculous, and understandably so, since the band’s whole image and fascist disco sound were pretty much a complex joke.  And “Temptation” was the glorious punch line: for most songs a disco diva chorus like this -“adorable creatures… with unacceptable features” – would be the highlight, but for Heaven 17 this is just the first step as they build up to a great big “LEAD US NOT INTO TEMP-TAT-TION OOOOH!”

9.       Kraftwerk – The Model (or Da Model for the purests)

Originally appearing on “The Man Machine” album of 1978, a song this catchy, this deadpan sarcastic, this full of awkward English (“consumer products” is not a phrase that anyone not German would ever think of as potential pop song lyrics), this unintentionally hilarious with the perfect beat to strike poses to couldn’t remain in the shadows forever… and so it went to Number One in the UK three years later, at the beginning of 1982, right at the point when synth-pop was actually doing what it had always threatened to do: take over the world.

10.   OMD – “Enola Gay” 

Ah OMD. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.  What a pretentious name for a band.  No surprises then that they liked to write songs that showed off all of the obscure facts they knew:  like the exact time the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Or what the plane was called. They were like a singing encyclopaedia with a knack for writing some of synth-pops catchiest hooks.


11.   YMO – “Technopolis”

Synth-pop was not only about Brits and Germans… it’s also all about Japan! Where the Yellow Magic Orchestra called home. But of course, it was only the most futuristic land on Earth.  And “Technopolis”, their greatest moment, it appropriately about all about Tokyo, the most futurist city on Earth!  So how could this not be one of the greatest slices of synth-pop history?




Before there was “Cars”, there was Gary’s old ground, Tubeway Army, who liked to sing songs about some demented apocalyptic future, when the world is taken over by raping robots. Specifically “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” is all about those times when you hire a robot friend (read: prostitute, probably) and you find that they’ve run out of batteries when they arrive.  


13.   JohnFoxx – “No One’s Driving”

So Mr Gary Numan… you’ve got a song called “Cars” do you?  Well that’s not very futuristic.  How about a car that … no one’s driving!! 

Freaky!

14.   The Human League – “Love Action (I Believe In Love)”

The Human League’s “Dare” album is the unquestioned peak of the synth pop wave, full of perfect pop from beginning to end (“Seconds”! “Open Your Heart”!!!  “Things That Dreams Are Made Of” oh yes they are!!!) and  “Don’t You Want Me?” might be the undeniable classic, but “Love Action (I Believe In Love)” – two songs smashed together, one a story of Phil’s dysfunctional love life and the other about watching porn – is simply the breeziest piece of fun, from the “mew…. Mew…mew” intro, to the “I believe what the old man” said four-on-the-floor breakdown, to quite possibly the catchiest damn hook of them all.

15.   Mi-Sex – Computer Games

Synth-pop was also occurred right on the other side of the world, in faraway New Zealand.  Sure, singing a synth-pop song about “Computer Games” wasn’t the most original idea in the world (over in Japan, Yellow Magic Orchestra did exactly the same thing) but with vocal ticks and keyboard hooks as quirky as these it’s no surprise that this song is something of a retro anthem down under

16.   Soft Cell – Sex Dwarf

“Isn’t it nice? Sugar & spice, luring disco dollies to a life of vice.”  So begins the kinkiest, smuttiest piece of naughty fun to come out of Soft Cell’s kinky, smutty, naughty album “Non Stop Erotic Cabaret.” Probably would have been a huge hit if there was any chance of any radio station ever playing it.


OMD were most notable at this stage for being total nerds who only ever wrote songs about technology, gadgetry, and being obsessed by various historical figures.  They were, in other words, the kind of band who knew stuff.  But they also had fluffy, lovey dovey feelings, and here they are gloriously on display, all buried in the cloud of sensitive fog.   In terms of sensitive synth-pop, only Yazoo’s “Only You” beats it. 

18.Heaven 17 - “We Don’t Need That Fascist Groove Thing” 

Just in case you thought that the whole dystopian world view of synth-pop was a little bit paranoid, a little bit conspiracy theory, here were a bunch of guys recently thrown out of The Human League for looking too normal, cutting the headlines out the newspaper and the song titles out of the disco charts before throwing them all up in air and creating probably the most fun protest song of the era.


19.   Telex – Moscow Discow 

A Kraftwerky disco tune that rhymes “super chic” and “fantastic”, through a Vocoder , with a Eurochic accent,  with the sound effect of a train tooting for good measure. 
 
20.   Gina X Performance – No GDM

Gina X was a German lesbian cabaret with a passion for singing cold disco anthems about British homosexuals (she sang another song about Oscar Wilde) and how the “rouge on my face hides my beard.”  This one is about Quentin Crisp.  But of course.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

THE TOP 20 OF PRE-ROCK’N’ROLL POP No. ONE!


AND THE NUMBER ONE BEST HIT SONG OF THE PRE-ROCK'N'ROLL ERA IS.... (drum roll)....







From the same decade that gave the world probably more Christmas albums than any other (probably, it’s difficult to prove these things absolutely) comes “Mr. Sandman” a song in which a mystical creature, the subject of so many nursery rhymes and fairy tales, combines with the power of teenage hormones and a longing for love, to create a fluffy piece of perfect pop that no other song of the era can touch. 


Specifically The Four Aces version, which, with its Technicolor “the hills are alive with the sound of music” opening, is so much better than The Chordettes version.  Really it is.  Even though history has smiled so much more kindly on The Chordettes.  I blame feminist revisionists.




The Chordettes sound - in resorting to asking a mythological being for help with their love lives – like desperate middle aged women on their way to a Desperate & Dateless Ball (and besides, all that “bung, bung, bung, bung, bung”... is just annoying!).  The Four Aces sound a bit more like the friendliest of game show hosts, not needily begging for affection – that would seem unmanly, and The Four Aces seem unmanly enough at the best of times – but charming putting themselves forward, selling themselves, as the best man for the “lonely nights are job” job.  And when wearing tux’s like that, what girl could possibly say no?




But hey, you decide.  Here’s The Four Aces:








Here’s The Chordettes:




Sunday, March 13, 2011

THE TOP 20 OF PRE-ROCK’N’ROLL POP No. 5-2!

You’re probably looking at this list now and thinking, “y’know, there really isn’t enough Frank Sinatra”, and you’d probably be right.  The problem is, this being a list of hit singles and all, that most of Frank’s classics of the period – “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “You Make Me Feel So Young”, “Come Fly With Me”, or it you feel like being a purist about it “I Get Along Without You Very Well” – just weren’t released as singles.

Which leaves us with a bunch of singles that are swell but not equal to the draw dropping brilliance that justifies being included in this list.  “I’m Walking Behind You” comes close, but “Love And Marriage” is just a little too cute, and cute Sinatra… that doesn’t really sit well does it.
Which leaves us with “Young At Heart”, his biggest chart hit ever in Australia, and a classic if ever there was one.   The first in the long list of Sinatra songs about life and what it all means, songs that you can base your life on, but one where he sounds like a wide eyed Democrat voting optimist, instead of the grumble-bum Republican that he would later become in the “That’s Life” and “My Way” era. 



Perry Como was such a relaxed fellow, always seeming on the verge of nodding off, that it’s always entertaining to hear him do a boppy tune.  There’s a certain adorable old uncle entertaining the kids-ness about it all.  And in “Magic Moments” this is combined with the power of name-dropping every all-American activity of those long gone innocent times: hay rides!  Sleigh rides!  Halloween costumes!   And the quaintness of a time when the primitive telecommunications infrastructure meant that a telephone call could tie up a line.  And finally, it contains something that should be at the very top of any “things that there are not enough of in pop music these day” list: Whistling. 


3. Johnnie Ray – Cry

Quite why Johnnie Ray isn’t quite a bit more of a pop icon that he is – if LastFM listening figures are anything to go by then he is only 5% as popular as Tony Bennett, 3% as popular as Dean Martin, 2% as popular as Nat “King” Cole and 0.5% as popular as Frank Sinatra, which just doesn’t quite seem fair – is a bit of a wonder. And his qualifications for being a pop icon are considerable: an impossibly depressed closeted homosexual (it was the 50s) with a giant hearing aid sticking out his ear for everyone to see, with arms flaying around, and songs that almost always appeared to end up in tears. A perfect icon surely for the angsty teenager in us all. If the title to this song isn’t enough of a give away then also note that his follow up single was called “The Little White Cloud That Cried”, possibly the most uber-sensitive new aged man song title ever concocted. Logically he should be blu-tacked up on every lonely teenagers bedroom between the James Dean and Morrissey posters (do kids stick up James Dean and Morrissey posters?) Instead all he gets is the opening line in “Come On Eileen.”


Pretty much the premier guitar god of the pre rock’n’roll era - there was admittedly not a lot by way of competition, at least not in the pop charts - it apparently wasn’t enough for Les Paul to be a guitar hero – and something of a guitar addict, the man did tend to love his guitar perhaps a little bit too much - he had to be a mad scientist as well, locking himself up in his home studio, experimenting with wacky hi-tech machinery in an attempt to create the “The New Sound”, basically involving playing 12 guitar overdubs all over the top of each other, and an awful lot of showing off. Then - because just because you are a mad scientist, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are evil - he found a nice wholesome gal called Mary to sing nice wholesome country tunes over the top. Meaning that regardless of whether you are into blistering guitar solos, or comely buxom preachers daughters, there’s something in “How High The Moon” for all of us.



Gosh, I wonder what Number One will be!

THE TOP 20 OF PRE-ROCK’N’ROLL POP No. 10-6

Because everyone loves a good list, here we have the Top 20 Best Big Hit Songs Of The Pre-Rock’n’Roll Era!  Some people call the Pre-Rock’n’Roll era the Traditional Pop Era.  Basically it was a lighthearted period of time (from 1950 till around 1958, at about which time “pre rock’n’roll pop”, having managed to survive through three years of the rock’n’roll era, just shrugged it’s collective shoulders, decided to let the kids have their fun and retreated to Las Vegas), when naïve pop stars sung innocent pop songs that weren’t about sex or drugs and obviously weren’t about rock’n’roll because that didn’t even exist.

Specifically these are the Top 20 Best Songs that actually made the Top 20 in Australia.  So before you complain about the lack of … I dunno… Big Joe Turner, Guitar Slim, Muddy Waters, or Big Mama Thornton, that is because nobody actually bought those records.  

Instead they bought this stuff…


Upon listening to a song such as “Roll Over Beethoven” – either The Beatles or the Chuck Berry version – you might be tempted to think that the history of music goes like this: one minute there was classical music.  The next there was ROCK’N’ROLL!!!!!!!!  which came along in order to save the kids of the world from boredom.

“The Poor People Of Paris” demonstrates that that account of music history is absolutely correct!   For “The Poor People Of Paris” is a jittery little piece of instrumental orchestral pop, that Mozart would feel proud to call his very own. It is as bustling as the Champs-Elysees and yet still  as pretty as a beret wearing mademoiselle riding a bicycle.  And it has a bit where it goes quiet and you think it’s the end, and then it comes back, louder and brighter than ever!!


One of the truisms of pop music is that the simple songs are often the best.  If we follow that rule to its logical conclusion then, “Unforgettable” must be one of the best songs ever written.  Centred around a piano melody so simple that I reckon even I could play it, and filled with lyrics so sentimental that it is guaranteed to touch either the cockles of your heart, or your gag reflex, depending upon what mood you are in at the time.  Only someone who clearly believed in the power of love, as Nat did, could instill it with the necessary warmth to make its sentimental sentiments so universal.


That’s right, I’m making the call…. “Somewhere Along The Way” is a better song than “Unforgettable.”  It’s smokier.  Huskier.  And, if I’m not contradicting myself, smoother at the same time.  And full of love and tenderness.  And affection. All of which is made all the more remarkable for being something of a break-up song.  Admittedly a “it’s nobody’s fault, we just drifted apart” kind of break up song (as opposed to the usually more popular “I hate you so much right now” kind of break up song), but still it is a break up song and Nat’s still being nice about it, as was his way.  Has there ever been a pop star that was nicer?  I don’t think so. 



Country music: the music of choice for truck drivers, particularly of the monster truck variety, rodeo enthusiasts and old guys sitting on porches, country music has always been the dominant soundtrack in times and places where men are men, and they carry guns.  Why then was one of the biggest country music stars of the 1950s, an impeccably well dressed man with an immaculately groomed porno moustache, who liked nothing better to do than to yodel in a high voice.
And couldn’t Slim yodel!!  Yes, he could, and “Indian Love Call” contains possibly the best use of yodeling in a pop song ever.  The way that it echoes off the Grand Canyon walls at the beginning of the song is simply magical.




THIS is the kind of singer that real men like.  Whereas Slim Whitman yodeled high and sensitive notes, Frankie Laine frowned a lot, and was serious, and sung deep baritone-heavy songs.

He was one of the more emotionally complex pop singers of the early 1950s as well, with records tended to involve Frankie singing in a dramatic and tortured manner to God, inanimate objects, and water fowl (in the particularly dramatic and much recommended “The Cry Of The Wild Goose”), asking them philosophical questions about the meaning of life.  Most of the time these songs seemed to be set in the Wild West, which worked well since (a) it’s gave the producers a good excuse to bring a Mexican mariachi band into the studio, and everyone loves a good mariachi band, and (b) when you’re riding your horse through the desert all day you have a lot of time to ponder such things as the meaning of life.  Obviously Frankie was a deep and tortured character, so when it comes time to sing a song about a woman breaking his heart, the woman turns out not to be just a woman, but some sort of Latino demon woman, ripping-his-heart-out-whilst-its-still-beating.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

THE TOP 20 OF PRE-ROCK’N’ROLL POP No. 15-11

Because everyone loves a good list, here we have the Top 20 Best Big Hit Songs Of The Pre-Rock’n’Roll Era!  Some people call the Pre-Rock’n’Roll era the Traditional Pop Era.  Basically it was a lighthearted period of time (from 1950 till around 1958, at about which time “pre rock’n’roll pop”, having managed to survive through three years of the rock’n’roll era, just shrugged it’s collective shoulders, decided to let the kids have their fun and retreated to Las Vegas), when naïve pop stars sung innocent pop songs that weren’t about sex or drugs and obviously weren’t about rock’n’roll because that didn’t even exist.

Specifically these are the Top 20 Best Songs that actually made the Top 20 in Australia.  So before you complain about the lack of … I dunno… Big Joe Turner, Guitar Slim, Muddy Waters, or Big Mama Thornton, that is because nobody actually bought those records. 

Instead they bought this stuff…



15. Patti Page – Old Cape Cod

Also known as the “if you’re fond of sanddunes and salty air/ quaint little villages here and there” song. And who isn’t fond of sand dunes and salty air? And quaint little villages here and there? Clearly the answer to that is: no-one. It is, after all, something of a universal love. Probably no tourism campaign tune has ever been delivered with quite as much love and affection, and the understanding that sand dunes/salty air/ quaint little villages, is really all any of us really want in our lives! Brilliant!!!


14. Johnnie Ray – Just Walking In The Rain

Five years earlier Johnnie had been such a troubled homosexual young man that he couldn’t sing without crying. Couldn’t record a hit single without having a nervous breakdown in the studio. Who had a giant hearing aid jutting out of his ear. He seemed to have, one could say, some issues to deal with. By 1956, when he had this particular hit, Johnnie still seemed to have issues (there are good reasons for people looking at you Johnnie, since walking in the rain is not a particularly sensible thing to do (you could catch a cold). But at least he had perked up enough to whistle a jaunty tune!




13. Rosemary Clooney – Come On A My House

I don’t know about you but there just isn’t enough harpsichord in today’s pop music. And not enough fake Italian accents. And not enough double entendres about Christmas trees and pomegranates. It’s a pity really. A shame.


12. The Four Aces – Love Is A Many Splendid Thing

Love. It’s pretty good y’know. It is, for example, not just a splendid thing (which in itself is pretty good, splendid being something of a pretty awesome, and ultimately under used word), but a MANY SPLENDID THING. Which leaves us with the question, why The Four Aces version and not the Nat “King” Cole version? This can largely be explained by the fact that whilst Nat sings it “Love Is A Many Splendid Thing” (note please the lack of exclamation marks or all caps) the Four Aces do tend to get over exciting about the situation, and in a very game show host kind of way sing it “LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDID THING!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Which of course it is!




11. Dean Martin – Sway

Dean Martin was a drunken charmer par excellence, capable of going up to a hottie slurring a couple of sentences together and going off to the balcony with her, with the moonlight in her hair… as was the fashion at the time. In “Sway” we see Dean at the top of his charming powers, and like most charmers his power lies in his confidence, meaning that there is the slight suspicion that the reason that he is “swaying” is not because of the lady that he is with. It’s because he just caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and is stunned by how cool he looks. And probably because he’s drunk.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

THE TOP 20 OF PRE-ROCK’N’ROLL POP No. 20-16



Because everyone loves a good list, here we have the Top 20 Best Big Hit Songs Of The Pre-Rock’n’Roll Era!  Some people call the Pre-Rock’n’Roll era the Traditional Pop Era.  Basically it was a lighthearted period of time (from 1950 till around 1958, at about which time “pre rock’n’roll pop”, having managed to survive through three years of the rock’n’roll era, just shrugged it’s collective shoulders, decided to let the kids have their fun and retreated to Las Vegas), when naïve pop stars sung innocent pop songs that weren’t about sex or drugs and obviously weren’t about rock’n’roll because that didn’t even exist.







Specifically these are the Top 20 Best Songs that actually made the Top 20 in Australia.  So before you complain about the lack of … I dunno… Big Joe Turner, Guitar Slim, Muddy Waters, or Big Mama Thornton, that is because nobody actually bought those records.  







Instead they bought this stuff…












Lists like this are essentially cheat sheets, short cuts for people to get a crash course in stuff that is good.  So it is only appropriate that we should start this list with a bit of a cheat sheet in itself: a pop star singing a bizarre little record full of impersonations of other pop and movie stars.  Only once you can recognize each of the pop stars Sammy impersonates, and understand at least half of the in-jokes, can you truly claim to be a 50s pop connoisseur











For being so incredibly educational.  When I first heard this song (teenage years, They Might Be Giants version) I was not aware of the Istanbul/Constantinople connect (shame on me I know).  I was especially surprised about the New York/New Amsterdam connection, and actually though they made it up.  But it’s all true!  Which is especially impressive since I am certain that no-one connected with the song had ever gone to Istanbul in their lives, and did all their research by watching “I Dream Of Jeanie” (not actually released at the time, but you know what I mean). 



















Any song that starts with the words “scoobidy-dooby-dum” has got to be amazing.  Any song where the same phrase (that would be “scoobidy-dooby-dum”) is the primary refrain has got to be annoying.  And “Sweet Old Fashioned Girl” is indeed both amazing and annoying!  There’s the petulant screams, in which she occasional eats the microphone as if it was a lollipop.  There’s the contrast between her insistence that she is a hip rock’n’roller, whilst slipping repeatedly into her actual self (“you’ll really dig the flavor of our bubblegum”).  There’s the fact that she started off her career in the 1940s as a Shirley Temple wannabe, and the ten years later had evolved into a … well evolution is over-rated anyway.













Obviously designed by masters in the art of getting teenage girls hearts a-flutter to achieve exactly that.  Because the effect of having four constantly chirpy brothers all in love with YOU, all willing to submit to your every whim, like a gaggle of beau’s surround Scarlett O’Hara… with the possible exceptions of an icecream soda and a hula hoop, is there anything that a 1950s teenager could want more?













A bit of an anomaly in the world of pre-rock’n’roll pop music, a time when potential mates were largely judged on whether or not they were “true”, with the implication that if you managed to find a yourself a dolly who had never been kissed before, then you should feel pretty damn proud of yourself.  Joni questions such conservative logic, breaking down the sexual taboos of her time, and doing it in a suitably pre rock’n’roll way:  with politeness and grace.