1942: Casablanca and White Christmas

THAT’S R and B?

Glenn MillerIn Joel Whitburn’s A Century of Pop Music, an interesting note. “The recording industry enjoyed booming success during the early 1940s until the era’s dominant big bands were stilled on August 1, 1942, when the American Federation of Musicians joined in a ban on recording due to a dispute over musicians’ royalties.

“By the time all the record companies entered into an agreement to end the ban in late 1944, vocalists had assumed predominance over bands in popularity.”

This is also the year of one of my favorite movies, Casablanca. I’ve mentioned it at least a dozen times in this blog. I saw this film, outdoors in a park, maybe in Rochester (?) with my friend Debi. I’ve lost track of the friend ever since. Nor have I seen the film again, and it was at least thirty years ago, so I should fix that. It’s certainly one of the oldest films that I’ve ever viewed, aside from The Wizard Of Oz and a handful of others.

White Christmas – Bing Crosby (Decca), 11 weeks at #1, gold record. In 2016, I wrote a whole post about the song here. I noted that the recording ALSO led the rhythm and blues tally for three weeks that year, and continued to appear on some charts for several years. It is the best-selling single worldwide with an estimated 50 million copies sold.

Bronze Star

Moonlight Cocktail– Glenn Miller with Ray Eberle and the Modernaires (Bluebird), 10 weeks at #1, gold record. From Wikipedia: “In 1942, Miller volunteered to join the U.S. military to entertain troops during World War II, ending up with the U.S. Army Air Forces. On December 15, 1944, while flying to Paris, Miller’s aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal.”

Jingle Jangle Jingle– Kay Kyser with Henry Babbitt and Julie Conway (Columbia), 8 weeks at #1, gold record.

(I’ve Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo – Glenn Miller with Tex Bereke, Marion Hutton, and the Modernaires (Victor), 7 weeks at #1, gold record. Apparently, Kalamazoo was a funny-sounding city name, like Walla Walla and Schenectady.

Tangerine – Jimmy Dorsey with Bob Eberle and Helen O’Connell (Decca), 6 weeks at #1. A familiar tune, though I don’t remember specifically why.

Sleepy Lagoon – Harry James (Columbia), 4 weeks at #1. Instrumental.

A String Of Pearls – Glenn Miller (Bluebird), 2 weeks at #1. Instrumental. All of the Miller cuts are well known to me.

Blues In The Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me) – Woody Herman (Decca)

1931: Bing Crosby and Guy Lombardo

hold that tiger!

Bing CrosbyBy 1931, in the midst of the Depression, the music business plummeted. According to A Century of Pop Music by Joel Whitburn, record sales hit only six million in 1932 compared “to the peak of 140 million only five years earlier. The opportunity to hear all the popular songs on the radio for free… also contributed to the desperate slump.”

Into that market came Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby. Bing Crosby was “the king of popular records during the 1930s following his departure from the Paul Whiteman band, with nearly 150 charted hits from 1931-1939 alone.”

Meanwhile, “the mellow sweet-band sounds of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians were top sellers throughout the decade.” Jazz purists might have preferred the sounds such as the ensemble led by Duke Ellington, whose Mood Indigo got up to #3 in 1931.

Some songs

The Peanut Vendor (El Manicero) – Don Azpiazu with Antonio Machin (Victor), seven weeks at #1. An early foreign language hit.
Good-night, Sweetheart – Wayne King with Ernie Birchill (Victor), seven weeks at #1.

Sweet and Lovely– Gus Amheim with Donald Novis (Victor), six weeks at #1.

Dream A Little Dream of Me  – Wayne King with Ernie Birchill (Victor), four weeks at #1. You may know the cover by Mama Cass Elliot 37 years later.
Tiger Rag  – the Mills Brothers, (Brunswick), four weeks at #1. I have this on a collection called 100 Years of Black Music. This a consequential track. See this  Fleischer cartoon.  

Der Bingle

By the River St. Marie – Guy Lombardo with Carmen Lombardo (Columbia), three weeks at #1. Later covered by Frankie Laine.
Out of Nowhere – Bing Crosby (Brunswick), three weeks at #1.
 At Your Command – Bing Crosby (Brunswick), three weeks at #1.
(There Ought To Be A) Moonlight Saving Time – Guy Lombardo with Carmen Lombardo (Columbia), three weeks at #1.
I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five and Ten Cent Store) – Fred Waring with Claire Hanlon, three weeks at #1. Waring was the arranger of a lot of the songs I sang in my high school choir and especially glee club.

Good Night Sweetheart – Guy Lombardo with Carmen Lombardo (Columbia), two weeks at #1.
Just One More Chance – Bing Crosby (Brunswick), two weeks at #1.

Diamond Dave

Just a Gigolo – Ted Lewis (Columbia), two weeks at #1. From Songfacts: “In 1931, ‘Just A Gigolo’ became Bing Crosby’s first-ever hit song as a solo artist (#12 Pop.) It was originally adapted from an Austrian hit ‘Schoner Gigolo,’ written in 1928 and was first sung in America by the French star Irene Bordoni.

‘It was restyled by trumpeter-singer Louis Prima in 1956 with an uptempo arrangement combining ‘Just a Gigolo’ with another song, ‘I Ain’t Got Nobody.’ While still a member of Van Halen, David Lee Roth released a solo EP of standards in 1984, including his interpretation of Louis Prima’s version of this track.”

When The Moon Comes Over The Mountains – Kate Smith (Columbia), two weeks at #1.

Minnie the Moocher (The Ho De Ho Song), Cab Calloway (Brunswick). I recently wrote about call-and-response. This song definitely qualifies!
Stardust  – Isham Jones (Brunswick)

David Bowie Space Oddity: birth, death

Some of it belonged in ’67 and some of it in ’72,

Space Oddity.David BowieHere’s a space oddity: David Bowie was only 69 years and two days old when he left us on January 10, 2016. That is not old at all, especially if you are a sexagenarian.

Hmm: Bing Crosby was but 74 when HE died shortly after they recorded The Little Drummer Boy (Peace On Earth) back in 1977. Apparently, Bowie only agreed to do the show because his mum was a big fan of Bing, who had passed away by the time the program aired. I find myself missing these folks who go too early.

It occurs to me that I don’t know much about Bowie’s 1960s output. His first eponymous album, released the same day as Sgt. Pepper in 1967, was the work of a young man “with mountains of charisma and ambition, and no idea what to do with his obvious gifts.”

His second album, also called David Bowie in the UK, and as Man of Words/Man of Music in the US, was released on 14 November 1969. “It was reissued in 1972 by RCA Records as Space Oddity (the title of the opening track, which had reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart)… but it reverted to the original, eponymous title for 2009 and 2015 reissues.”

“Regarding its mix of folk, balladry and prog rock, NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray have said, “Some of it belonged in ’67 and some of it in ’72, but in 1969 it all seemed vastly incongruous. Basically, [it] can be viewed in retrospect as all that Bowie had been and a little of what he would become, all jumbled up and fighting for control.”

I’m oddly pleased by these “missteps”, because he persevered and became, well, Bowie.

Here’s an interview from 1983 taking MTV to task for failing to play music videos by black artists. It was back when MTV played music videos.

Someone recently posted a photo on Facebook and described it as serious moonlight. This prompted me to find a video of Let’s Dance from the Serious Moonlight Tour, which made me smile.

Listen to:
The Bowie channel
Under Pressure – Bowie and Queen, because I still miss Freddie, too

Read what I wrote about Bowie in:

Baseball on PBS

Still, the series may be more enjoyable for those less familiar with recent baseball history, or those with lousy memories. And I have to think that if I watch it a decade or more from now, it’ll become more interesting.

I’ve been watching Baseball recently. Not baseball, which I have viewed from time to time, but the TV “two-part, four-hour documentary film directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick,” BASEBALL: THE TENTH INNING. I’m a big fan of the original nine-part series and have even borrowed the expansive coffee-table book associated with it.

For me, I think the problem is that much of the information was a bit too recent, and the conclusions drawn generally unsurprising, which is to say, I noted to myself, “Yeah, I thought that, too.”. I remember watching, in real-time, the Braves vs Pirates NLCS, 1992 game 7 with former Pirate Sid Bream beating the throw from left fielder Barry Bonds. I recall well the 1994 strike, and how it almost destroyed the sport.

I remember the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, which revived the sport; I’m sure I watched, again in real time, probably on FOX Sports, McGwire hit home runs 61 and 62. In fact, when I saw the show, I said, “Number 62 goes right down the left-field line, just over the fence.” I DID forget that at least a sports writer tried to blow the whistle on performance-enhancing drugs, but was ignored; and, of course, I do remember the steroid scandal. Don’t know if I’m projecting, but I sensed a bit of, if not sympathy, then at least understanding about what drew Barry Bonds to steroids. It makes the interesting, if unoriginal point, that by Roger Clemens sullied by the scandal, it made going after Bonds more palatable; Bonds is black, a position player from the National League, and sullen, while Clemens is white, a pitcher from the American League, and at least more civil.

My favorite parts involved, unsurprisingly, the information I did NOT know: the exploitation of the players from the Dominican Republic, and background on Ichiro Suzuki of Japan.

Still, the series may be more enjoyable for those less familiar with recent baseball history, or those with lousy memories. And I have to think that if I watch it a decade or more from now, it’ll become more interesting. Also, for those largely unfamiliar with baseball, the website does contain a great deal of information from the past 20 years. The Tenth Inning will be rebroadcast on November 8 and 15 on PBS.

I did not know this: former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams has played with Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of the Yankees, I will definitely have to watch the broadcast of Game Seven of the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees, when it will be broadcast on the MLB Network. Film of the game was recently discovered in the wine cellar of the late Pirates’ part-owner Bing Crosby.

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