This week’s Mono Monday release is perhaps best known for being Ray Charles’ final offering during his tenure with Atlantic Records during the late 1950s and early 1960s, but while one might expect it to feel slightly schizophrenic, given that it features a dozen songs recorded during various sessions over the course of his time on the label, some of which are covers and some of which are originals, The Genius Sings the Blues is actually one of the strongest efforts from that era of Charles’s career.
The whole affair kicks off with Charles’ take on Louis Jordan’s “Early in the Mornin’,” with other covers including Sam Sweet’s “The Midnight Hour,” Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones’s “Feelin’ Sad,” Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” and “(Night Time Is) The Right Time,” a song which, despite having been originally recorded by Roosevelt Sykes way back in 1937, quickly became one of Charles’s signature songs. The original material has its merits as well, including such tracks as “Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I),” “Ray’s Blues” and companion piece “Mr. Charles’ Blues,” “I Believe to My Soul,” “Nobody Cares,” “Some Day Baby,” and “I Wonder Who.”
34 years ago today, Dire Straits released Making Movies, an album which failed to change the band’s then-declining chart fortunes in the US – their debut hit #2, but their sophomore effort, Communiqué, only climbed to #11, and this one topped out at #19 – but provided them with their third consecutive top-five album in the UK.
Making Movies was co-produced by Dire Straits frontman and songwriter Mark Knopfler with Jimmy Iovine, a pairing which came about as a result of Knopfler being so smitten by the sound of Patti Smith’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Because the Night.” In addition to his own work on the album, Iovine also helped the band secure E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan for the Making Movies sessions, which definitely added a new element to the Dire Straits sound.
50 years ago today, Manfred Mann found themselves atop the Billboard Hot 100 for the only time in their career, but if you’re only going to hit the top spot once, then it might as well be with a song as instantly memorable as “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”
Written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, a duo well known for their work in and around the Brill Building, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” was originally recorded by an American group called the Exciters, under the title “Do-Wah-Diddy,” but while they didn’t find the same degree of success with the song as Manfred Mann did, they did make it onto the Hot 100 with their version, if only to the #78 spot. Still, it was high enough to bring the song a certain amount of attention, ultimately resulting in Manfred Mann – who’d broken into the UK top five with “5-4-3-2-1” but were still struggling to find consistent success with their own material – taking a shot at the song themselves.
Could be the first Peter, Paul and Mary track I ever heard. A staple at summer camp, it was emblematic of the folk boom, hell, we even had a folk TV show, "Hootenanny."
Everybody knew the lyrics and longhaired girls strummed the tune on acoustic guitars and this could have been the first moment I realized the power of music to get the hormones flowing.
I probably heard this sung before I heard the recording. That was the power of songs back then, when they could be sung. And we did.
IF I HAD A HAMMER
A Pete Seeger/Lee Hays composition, it's hard to overestimate the ubiquity and impact of this track. It went to number 10 and my mother bought the single and at this distance it stands out as a protest song, its lyrics are most meaningful, and even though this was only 1962, the youthquake had already begun, questioning authority and standing up for the rights of the underprivileged...we saw that on the news every day, the South was roiling, it was part of the conversation, no one ignored the issues of the day the way they do today, feeling helpless against the system. The system was just one more enemy to be confronted and defeated.
It’s been buzzed about for several days now that Foo Fighters would be spending a full week as the musical guests on CBS’s The Late Show with David Letterman, but we were as surprised as anyone when we found out that Dave Grohl and the gang would be bringing a few friends along for the ride, including the one and only Tony Joe White.
Last night, White joined forces with the Foos for a scorching version of his signature song, “Polk Salad Annie,” which hit #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1968, and if “Annie” has ever shown her age in the past, she sure didn’t last night.