Music, Music Countdowns, Radio

What is the Greatest Christmas Song of All Time?

Oh, all the lights are shining so brightly everywhere

And the sound of children’s laughter fills the air

 

And everyone is singing

I hear those sleigh bells ringing

Santa, won’t you bring me the one I really need?

Won’t you please bring my baby to me?

 

Oh, I don’t want a lot for Christmas

This is all I’m asking for

I just wanna see my baby

Standing right outside my door

 

Oh, I just want you for my own

More than you could ever know

Make my wish come true

Baby, all I want for Christmas is you

 

 

What is the greatest Christmas song of all time? Over the past 25 years, “All I Want For Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey has become one of the most popular Christmas songs ever recorded.

Just how popular is Carey’s song?   “All I Want For Christmas is You” has been recognized for setting 3 Guinness World Records and her accomplishments will be published in the 2020 edition of the Guinness book. Here are the 3 records that Carey has broken:

 

  • The highest charting Christmas song on the Billboard Hot 100 by a solo artist
  • The most streamed track on Spotify in a 24 hour period
  • The most weeks in the United Kingdom singles Top 10 chart for a Christmas song

 

“All I Want For Christmas is You” is also riding high with popularity here in 2019 as the song just reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, for the week ending December 21st.   Carey’s song is just the 2nd Christmas song ever to reach the top spot on the Billboard chart (The first song to do so was “The Chipmunk Song” by the Chipmunks in 1958-59).

Since Carey’s Christmas song was first released in 1994, it has sold over 16 million units. Every Christmas season for the past 25 years, I have regularly heard Carey’s song played on Roanoke, Virginia radio stations, Top 40 K92 and Adult Contemporary Q99. Those stations are still playing “All I Want For Christmas is You” again this holiday season.

Arguably, Carey’s song is the biggest Christmas hit during the past quarter century. However, I go back to my original question at the start of this message: Is “All I Want For Christmas is You” the greatest Christmas song of all time?

I personally maintain that proclamations concerning “the best or greatest” Christmas song ever made, are rather pompous and are an exercise in futility.

Rather than ranking Christmas songs as the “best or greatest” of all time, I prefer to give acclaim to individual songs about Christmas, which are still meaningful and have lasted through the test of time.

My hypothesis on music and song likability: Generally, the songs that a person listened to as a teen or as a young adult, tend to be the songs that are fondly remembered and considered to be their favorite music selections of all time.

The most memorable and favorite songs for older adults tend to be the songs they loved during middle school, high school and college days.

While baby boomers might think Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby have the best Christmas songs, those growing up in the 2010 decade may consider Lauren Daigle or Kacey Musgraves to have the greatest Christmas songs ever made.

For the remainder of this article, I will be highlighting Christmas songs that were first written prior to 1994. My ranking of songs will not be based on greatness or popularity. My criteria will focus on songs and artists, whom I feel are still relevant and have withstood the test of time.

When I attended the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra “Holiday Pops” Christmas concert with my wife Priscilla a couple weeks ago, I began to realize how many wonderful Christmas songs there are in western civilization.

Roanoke Symphony Orchestra “Holiday Pops” concert at Salem Civic Center. December 6th, 2019

The Christmas songs that I like the most, all seem to be tunes older than 25 years old.   The Hallmark Christmas music channel on SiriusXM radio has became a favorite for me this holiday season. This station plays everything from the sounds of Nat King Cole to the modern tunes of Jen Lilley.

I do have a wide range of artists that I listen to on a regular basis for Christmas music. I can go from tuning in standard Christmas classics from Gene Autry, Andy Williams and Perry Como, to enjoying contemporary artists like Pentatonix, Mannheim Steamroller and Sara Niemietz.

Before revealing my top selections of Christmas songs, I want to document some music that I fondly remember during my childhood and are still favorites to me.

My first memories of Christmas music happened around age 10 during my childhood. Both of my parents each had one favorite Christmas album and those records were regularly played on the Woodson family RCA stereo system.

“The Andy Williams Christmas Album” was Shirley Woodson’s absolute favorite Christmas record. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was my mom’s most treasured song on the album. She also loved Williams’ covers of “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.”

For my dad Andy Woodson, “The Twelve Songs of Christmas” by Jim Reeves was his favorite Christmas album. “Mary’s Boy Child” was his most loved song on the album. He also cherished “An Old Christmas Card” and “The Merry Christmas Polka.”

Around the age of 13, I began listening to Top 40 radio and I started forming my own favorite list of Christmas songs. Here are some of songs I loved during my teen years:

 

Novelty Songs

  • Snoopy’s Christmas—The Royal Guardsmen
  • Little Saint Nick—The Beach Boys
  • The Chipmunk Song—The Chipmunks (David Seville)
  • Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer—Gene Autry

Top 40 Rock Songs

 

  • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree—Brenda Lee
  • Jingle Bell Rock—Bobby Helms
  • Sleigh Ride—The Ronettes

 

Middle of the Road Songs

 

  • (There’s No Place Like) Home For the Holiday—Perry Como
  • A Holly Jolly Christmas—Burl Ives
  • Pretty Paper—Roy Orbison

Holiday Songs

 

  • This Christmas—Donnie Hathaway
  • It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way—Jim Croce
  • Aspenglow—John Denver

As an adult, I expanded my musical horizons and added a couple songs from the Contemporary Christian genre to my favorite playlist.

 

Star Song (There Is Born a Child)—Sheila Walsh

 

 

Come On Ring Those Bells—Evie

 

 

I now humbly submit to you, my top Christmas song listing of all time. I am not declaring they are the “best or greatest” holiday songs ever made. These selections are my favorite Christmas songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.

 

  1. Do You Hear What I Hear—Whitney Houston

 

Obviously hundreds of artists have covered “Do You Hear What I Hear” over the years, so it is hard to choose just one version. I have selected Whitney Houston’s performance of the song that was written in 1962.

 

  1. Silent Night—The Temptations

 

Written in Salzburg, Austria during 1818, “Silent Night” is one of the most widely acclaimed Christmas carols of all time. Hundreds of artists have recorded the song and I enjoy listening to the Temptations Motown version best of all.

 

 

  1. Mary Did You Know—Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd

 

Mark Lowry wrote “Mary Did You Know” in 1984 and Michael English was the first to record the tune. Mother Mary and her possible understanding with the virgin conception of Jesus, totally makes this an intriguing lyrical song. I prefer the Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd version of this tune.

 

  1. That’s What Christmas Means To me—Stevie Wonder

 

Stevie Wonder released a Christmas album in 1967 called “Someday at Christmas” and his song “That’s What Christmas Means To Me” is the crown jewel on this recording. Wonder’s top-tapping tune continues to be a winner in my book.

 

  1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)—Darlene Love

 

The most underrated of my top 10 selections is “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love. Utilizing Phil Spector’s, “Wall of Sound” production, Love’s emotion and excellent vocals are powerful and still sound fresh to me.

  1. O Holy Night—Martina McBride

 

One of the best known Christmas carols of all time is “O Holy Night” which was written in France during 1847.   Many have recorded the song but my favorite rendition is by Martina McBride. The country music singer provides outstanding vocals with her recording on the song.

 

 

  1. Merry Christmas Darling—The Carpenters

 

Originally released in 1970, “Merry Christmas Darling” was a perennial Christmastime hit on Top 40 radio during the 70’s decade for the Carpenters. Karen Carpenter’s vocals are superb: Haunting, longing and inviting. She had one of the purest voices in pop music when this song was recorded.

 

  1. The Christmas Song—Nat King Cole

 

Known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” by many folks, “The Christmas Song” was written in 1945 by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé.   My favorite version of the song is by Nat King Cole and his rendition was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974.

  1. Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)—Amy Grant

 

One of the most melodic Christmas tunes of the past 30 years is the song Amy Grant wrote with Chris Eaton, “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song). The lyrics are written from Mary’s perspective of the nativity story with Jesus’ birth. Grant’s tender vocals are exceptional on this modern day Christmas classic song.  My second favorite Christmas song of all time.

 

 

  1. White Christmas—Bing Crosby

 

Irving Berlin wrote the lyrics to “White Christmas” in 1942 and Bing Crosby’s version is my number one all time favorite Christmas song. The song has sold over 50 million units worldwide and is the biggest selling single ever recorded.   “White Christmas” is ranked number 2 on NPR’s “Songs of the Century” listing and is in the Library of Congress, National Recording Registry.   Without a doubt, “White Christmas” is the most beloved holiday song ever made.

Now that you have viewed my selections of what I consider to be the top Christmas songs ever made, I want to pose the question again: Is Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” the greatest Christmas song of all time?

My answer is no. Although I do not want to disrespect those who place Mariah Carey’s song as the greatest Christmas song of all time, I respectfully submit that “All I Want For Christmas is You” is a wonderful holiday tune but hasn’t yet weathered the test of time.

“All I Want For Christmas” has achieved great accolades over the past 25 years since Carey’s song was released and most likely will be highly rated during upcoming Christmas seasons during the 2020 decade. However, comparing the current number 1 song in America with Christmas songs like Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is completely unfair to Mariah Carey.

Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” was recorded in 1942 and has sold over 50 million units worldwide. For the past 78 years, “White Christmas” has been the most beloved Christmas song around the world and without a doubt, is the greatest Christmas song of all time.

Those are my thoughts on Christmas songs. Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of Christmas music. Your top selections of Christmas songs could be totally different than my picks. There are no right or wrong answers on this topic.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

 

I close with the lyrics to the greatest Christmas song ever made:

 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

Just like the ones I used to know

Where the treetops glisten

And children listen

To hear sleigh bells in the snow

 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

With every Christmas card I write

May your days be merry and bright

And may all your Christmases be white

 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

Just like the ones I used to know

Where the treetops glisten

And children listen

To hear sleigh bells in the snow

 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

With every Christmas card I write

May your days be merry and bright

And may all your Christmases be white

 

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

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AT40, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1974 Singles: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

 

I remember listening to AM radio on my transistor radio and hearing the novelty hit, “Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)” during the summer of 1974.

Some music historians would point to the “one hit wonder” song by Reunion and proclaim that it was indicative of how bad the music was on Top 40 during 1974.   Many musical experts completely pan the entire year of 1974 music, claiming it to be the worst year ever for Top 40 radio. Is that hypothesis correct?

I completely understand why some folks may not like a lot of the top songs from 1974, as many of those tunes are horrid. However, I refuse to throw out the baby with the bath water.

During any given year, there are plenty of good songs and also bunches of wretched, insipid tunes. I refuse to categorically describe all music released during 1974 as wretched. I prefer to place the music from 45 years ago into three silos: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

For this edition of my musical musings, I will be investigating the Top 100 songs of 1974, which were compiled by Cashbox and Billboard music publications.

Here are the Top 20 songs from Cashbox:

 

  1. Show And Tell – Al Wilson (Rocky Road)
  2. Come And Get Your Love – Redbone (Epic)
  3. The Most Beautiful Girl – Charlie Rich (Epic)
  4. Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim (Capitol)
  5. The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand (Columbia)

 

  1. Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver (Rca Victor)
  2. You Make Me Feel Brand New – The Stylistics (Avco)
  3. Rock On – David Essex (Columbia)
  4. Seasons In The Sun – Terry Jacks (Bell)
  5. The Joker – The Steve Miller Band (Capitol)

  1. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – Stevie Wonder (Tamla)
  2. Bennie And The Jets – Elton John (Mca)
  3. The Loco-Motion – Grand Funk (Capitol)
  4. Love’s Theme – The Love Unlimited Orchestra (20th Century)
  5. Spiders And Snakes – Jim Stafford (Mgm)

 

  1. Nothing From Nothing – Billy Preston (A&M)
  2. TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) – MFSB (Philadelphia Int’l)
  3. You’re Sixteen – Ringo Starr (Apple)
  4. The Night Chicago Died – Paper Lace (Mercury)
  5. Top Of The World – Carpenters (A&M)

Here are the Top 20 songs from Billboard:

  1. “The Way We Were” – Barbra Streisand
  2. “Seasons in the Sun” – Terry Jacks
  3. “Love’s Theme” – Love Unlimited Orchestra
  4. “Come and Get Your Love” – Redbone
  5. “Dancing Machine” – The Jackson 5

 

  1. “The Loco-Motion” – Grand Funk Railroad
  2. “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” – MFSB
  3. “The Streak” – Ray Stevens
  4. “Bennie and the Jets” – Elton John
  5. “One Hell of a Woman” – Mac Davis

  1. “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” – Aretha Franklin
  2. “Jungle Boogie” – Kool & the Gang
  3. “Midnight at the Oasis” – Maria Muldaur
  4. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” – The Stylistics
  5. “Show and Tell” – Al Wilson

 

  1. “Spiders and Snakes” – Jim Stafford
  2. “Rock On” – David Essex
  3. “Sunshine on My Shoulders” – John Denver
  4. “Sideshow” – Blue Magic
  5. “Hooked on a Feeling” – Blue Swede

As you can tell from comparing the two 1974 year-end surveys, there are distinct differences with these listings. I will be selecting my choices for Good, Bad and Ugly from these two lists.

The musical landscape of 1974 is dear to my heart, as my first job in radio started in April of that year. At age 18, I was hired to be a remote engineer by Top 40 radio station WROV in Roanoke, Virginia. My responsibilities at the station included setting up equipment for remote broadcasts, running the soundboard and playing records, while a WROV DJ was in charge of announcing duties.

Dave Woodson playing records for WROV Roanoke remote broadcast during 1974.

During my first remote broadcast, I worked with the legendary WROV DJ Larry Bly. The first song I played that day was “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, so for sentimental reasons, I am placing that song in the Good category for 1974 singles.

Two other Good 1974 songs associated with WROV are “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band and “Blackwater” from the Doobie Brothers. The Roanoke radio station added “The Joker” during the fall of 1973, and was credited with a “gold record” by Capitol Records, as WROV was the first station in America to play the song.

Then during September 1974, WROV music director Chuck Holloway started playing “Blackwater” as a Doobie Brothers album cut on his nighttime DJ air-shift. The WROV request line lit up every time “Blackwater” was played and it immediately became a hit in Roanoke.

Soon after, Phil Beckman at WQRK Norfolk and Buzz Bennett with KDWB Minneapolis added “Blackwater” to their playlists. Finally, Warner Bros Records released the song as a single and it became the first number 1 tune for the Doobie Brothers during March 1975. Later that year, WROV proudly received another “gold record” for breaking “Blackwater” in America.

Working for WROV gave me a chance to thoroughly evaluate the music from 1974. From my perspective, there are a whole lot more Good songs than Bad or Ugly tunes from this year.

Since I will be evaluating just the top singles of 1974, according to Cashbox and Billboard, there are many Good songs that I will not be mentioning with this message. The sole parameter that I am using will be if the song made one of the year-end surveys for 1974.

Before I reveal my Top 10 good songs from 45 years ago, I am going to share some other significant songs from 1974. I consider all of these songs to be Good.

  • I Shot the Sheriff—Eric Clapton
  • Beach Baby—First Class
  • Sideshow—Blue Magic
  • Nothing From Nothing—Billy Preston
  • Rock on—David Essex

  • The Air That I Breathe—The Hollies
  • Annie’s Song—John Denver
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road—Elton John
  • Help Me—Joni Mitchell
  • Please Come to Boston—Dave Loggins

  • Be Thankful For What You Got—William DeVaughn
  • Then Came You—The Spinners & Dionne Warwick
  • Whatever Gets You Through the Night—John Lennon & Elton John
  • You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet—Bachman Turner Overdrive
  • (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long—Chicago

  • Hello It’s Me—Todd Rundgren
  • The Lord’s Prayer—Sister Janet Meade
  • Midnight Train To Georgia—Gladys Knight & the Pips
  • I Got A Name—Jim Croce
  • You Make Me Feel Brand New—The Stylistics

Now I will be focusing on what I consider to be the top ten Good songs of 1974.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order.

 

Time in a Bottle—Jim Croce    

 

After Jim Croce died in a plane crash during September 1973, “Time in a Bottle” was released as a single and became a posthumous number 1 hit.   The haunting lyrics of mortality and the wish to have more time, brings sadness to this melodic tune. The song truly resonated with music listeners and is one of Croce’s greatest musical achievements.

 

Band on the Run—Paul McCartney & Wings

 

The musical structure of “Band on the Run,” is absolutely incredible. Continuous switching of tempos, with three distinct music segments, the song flows into a musical masterpiece. Paul and Wings provide excellent three part harmonies throughout the song, which utilizes rock, funk and country influences. I consider “Band on the Run” to be the best song recorded by McCartney after the break up of the Beatles.

Living For the City—Stevie Wonder

 

Prior to 1974, Stevie Wonder sang mostly love songs and stayed away from controversial issues. This changed with his hit, “Living for the City.” It became one of his first songs to deal with racism and gave Wonder a chance to express concerns facing life in America. The other thing I admire about this song is that Wonder played all the instruments on this wonderful tune.

 

You Haven’t Done Nothin’—Stevie Wonder

 

The second good Stevie Wonder song of 1974 is “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” With backup vocals from the Jackson 5, Wonder unleashes fiery lyrics about U.S. President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Ironically, Nixon resigned his presidency in August, the same month that Wonder’s song was released as a single.

Cat’s in the Cradle—Harry Chapin

 

Listening to Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” for the first time, one may think it is a mellow song. However, the subject matter is any thing but mellow. Chapin’s signature song paints a sorrowful picture with a father neglecting his son, and then when the son becomes a man, he actually neglects his father, the same way he was treated as a boy. This folk rock song gives a baleful warning with brilliant lyrics.

 

Sweet Home Alabama—Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

One of the most iconic Southern Rock songs from the 70’s, “Sweet Home Alabama” pans multiple political subjects and stoked controversial topics. The lyrics mention Neil Young and his song, “Southern Man,” the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace and the Watergate scandal. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first hit record has become an anthem for the state of Alabama.

For the Love of Money—The O’Jays

 

First Timothy 6:10 states, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” That message is the basis for the O’Jay’s hit song, “For the Love of Money.” This R&B groove features powerful vocals and has a killer bass line. The group from Philadelphia gives a powerful warning about the misuse of money on the toe-tapping soul song.

 

Takin’ Care of Business—Bachman Turner Overdrive

 

During the summer of 1974, Canadian rock band Bachman Turner Overdrive had one of the hottest sounding songs with, “Takin’ Care of Business.” Randy Bachman, formally of the Guess Who, teamed up with Fred Turner to give us straight-up catchy guitar rifts and tongue in cheek lyrics. The band from Canada sure knew how to rock during this year.

Keep on Smilin’—Wet Willie

 

Making lemonade out of lemons is the main message on Wet Willie’s song, “Keep on Smilin’.” The band was from Alabama, giving Southern Rock more exposure on Top 40 radio. A positive message is heard on the chorus, “Keep on smilin’ through the rain, laughin’ at the pain, just flowin’ with the changes, till the sun comes out again.”

Wet Willie’s biggest hit happened during the summertime.

 

Radar Love—Golden Earring

 

Throughout the history of Rock and Roll, there have been songs dealing with death. The Dutch band, Golden Earring, gave us a perfect “death rock” song in 1974. “Radar Love” is actually a “Rock Suite” and has two distinct musical segments. Lyrics mention Brenda Lee, driving at a high rate of speed in the middle of the night, and reconnecting with his angel “in the sky.” It is an excellent highway road song.

The next 6 songs are in the Bad category.

 

Spiders and Snakes—Jim Stafford

 

I don’t like spiders or snakes, and I sure don’t like Jim Stafford’s number 1 song about arachnids and serpents. “Spiders and Snakes’ ” lyrics of sexual innuendo are not clever and are down right trite. Stafford’s follow up hit, “My Girl Bill” was equally insipid and wretched to my ears. I don’t know why this became a hit record.

 

Midnight At The Oasis—Maria Maldaur

 

Some may call this song a guilty pleasure. I call the fantasy desert love affair song, “Midnight at the Oasis” lascivious. Maldaur’s stereotypes of Arab “sultans and sheiks” are appalling and her suggestive sexual euphemisms are way over the top. Lyrics like, “But you won’t need no harem, honey, when I’m by your side, and you won’t need no camel, when I take you for a ride” are absolutely insidious.

 

Maria Muldaur

The Streak—Ray Stevens

 

When the streaking craze happened in 1974, someone had to record a song on the topic. That someone was Ray Stevens. His novelty song, “The Streak” may have been funny the first time heard. After the second hearing, the song became annoying. These are lyrics I never want to hear again: “Don’t Look Ethel”, “Ethel, you shameless hussy”, “Ethel, you get your clothes on” and “Say it ain’t so, Ethel.” Ray Stevens’ number 1 song is a dud.

 

You’re Sixteen—Ringo Starr

 

Ringo Starr should have never covered the song “You’re Sixteen.” The Beatles drummer was 33 years old when he recorded the song, and it was creepy listening to it on the radio in 1974. I attended Ringo’s concert with His All Starr Band last month, and he is STILL performing “You’re Sixteen” during his shows. Hearing a 79 year old man singing this song is beyond disgusting. It is atrocious.

 

 

Ringo Starr at Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo by Sammy Oakey

I Can Help—Billy Swan

 

Country crossover artist Billy Swan hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his dreadful song, “I Can Help.” The singer pleads, begs and promises to do any and every thing possible in order to be her lover. The last line of the song is unbelievable: “If your child needs a daddy, I can help, It would sure do me good to do you good, let me help.” Any woman that is gullible enough to believe that line definitely needs HELP!

 

Dark Lady—Cher

 

Normally, I can tolerate story songs but Cher’s number 1 song from 1974 is rather sordid. “Dark Lady” is a New Orleans fortune-teller, which the narrator of the song (Cher) goes to see. When money is paid for a fortune, the woman proclaims that Cher’s lover has been unfaithful and gives this advice: “Leave this place, never come back and forget you ever saw my face. “ Of course, Cher goes back to the fortune-teller with a gun, catches her lover kissing the woman, and shoots them both dead. Some may claim the song is clever, I maintain the song is just wretched.

 

Cher

Finally, here are 6 songs in the Ugly category:

 

I’m Leaving It Up To You—Donny and Marie Osmond

 

Every time that I heard Donny and Marie’s horrid song during 1974, I would sing, “I’m heaving it up on you.” Listening to this song made me want to puke! In deference to Marie Osmond, she should have never recorded any duets with her brother. Every single Donny Osmond song is completely detestable and obnoxious to my ears. Same for the Osmond Brothers. The song is ugly to the max!

 

Hooked On a Feeling—Blue Swede

 

Why would Swedish pop band sing, “Ooga-chaka, Ooga-Ooga, Ooga-Chaka” over and over, with their cover version of, “Hooked on a Feeling?” Why ruin a wonderful song, which B.J. Thomas made popular in 1968? I prefer listening to Thomas singing “Hooked on a Feeling.” Listening to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” is worse than torture for me.

 

Blue Swede

The Night Chicago Died—Paper Lace

 

One may think that “The Night Chicago Died” was based on a true story. However, it is about a fictional shoot-out between the Chicago Police and members of Al Capone’s crime syndicate. Instead of Capone and his men meeting their doom, the lyrics state “about 100 cops are dead” at the hands of the gangsters. Even worse than unbelievable lyrics is the “bubble gum pop music” that Paper Lace performs on this vapid tune. Chicago would have been better off without this song by Paper Lace.

 

Billy Don’t Be a Hero—Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods

 

One of the sappiest bubble gum songs of 1974, “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” is the ultimate, miserable death pop music song. With the Vietnam Conflict still going on in 1974, many folks assumed that “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” was associated with the Southeast Asian war. However, the lyrics suggest it is about the American Civil War. A young woman is distraught that her fiancé chooses to enlist with the Army. Eventually, Billy is killed in action during a battle. A dreadfully sad tune, that continues to be irritating to me 45 years later.

 

(You’re) Having My Baby—Paul Anka

 

Besides being a duet with Odia Coates, I can’t think of anything positive about this Paul Anka song. “You’re Having My Baby” is overtly sentimental, sappy and the most sexist record of 1974. With Anka declaring, “it is his baby” without acknowledgement of the mother and her part in the pregnancy, is the ultimate in male chauvinism. Furthermore, the song was voted the number 1 “Worst Song of All Time” by CNN in 2006. Needless to say, this is one horrible tune.

 

Terry Jacks

Seasons in the Sun—Terry Jacks

 

The bubble gum, death pop tune, “Seasons in the Sun,” quite possibly is one of the worst songs ever made. The tune is an English-language adaptation of the song “Le Moribond” by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with lyrics rewritten by American singer-poet Rod McKuen. The singer laments that he is dying and says goodbye to his Papa, Michelle and a trusted friend. Terry Jacks’ singing delivery is a schmaltzy, emotional mess. Just hearing the opening chords of this song makes me shiver. Rolling Stone ranks the record as the 7th “Worst Song of the 70’s. I proclaim “Seasons in the Sun” as the ugliest of ugly songs of 1974.

 

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the Good, Bad and Ugly singles from 1974, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music of that year.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of the 100 biggest songs from 1974. The songs that you might feel are the Good, Bad and Ugly, maybe be completely different from my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the Good, Bad and Ugly songs for 1974? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

If anyone ever suggests that the music from 1974 is all bad and ugly, I hope those folks educate themselves. The majority of the top 100 songs from 1974 are on the good side of the ledger. Long live Top 40 music from 45 years ago!

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

 

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Music, Music Countdowns, Radio

Billboard Hot 100: Comparing Ariana Grande with the Beatles?

Ariana Grande has an excellent singing voice. Her four-octave vocal range makes her one of the best pure singers over the past ten years.

February 19th, 2019 was a historic day for Grande. She became only the second artist ever to achieve the top three positions on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, matching the feat first accomplished by the Beatles in 1964.

(Now it must be noted that the Beatles actually held all five of the top spots on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week during April 1964, at the height of Beatlemania in America. Obviously, the Beatles holding all 5 songs at the Top of the Hot 100 is still the overall record with the Billboard chart).

 

Still, it is impressive that Grande held down the top three spots with these songs for the Billboard Hot 100 survey dated 2/23/19:

  1. 7 Rings
  2. Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored
  3. Thank U, Next

 

 

Even more impressive are the Beatles and their overall record, with the Top 5 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending April 4th, 1964:

1: Can’t Buy Me Love

2: Twist And Shout

3: She Loves You

4: I Want To Hold Your Hand

5: Please Please Me

 

 

While I admire and respect the accomplishment of Ariana Grande, I am wondering how can we accurately rank Grande’s historic position in relation to the Beatles holding down the top 5 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1964?

For over 60 years, Billboard Magazine has tracked the top songs in America with their Billboard Hot 100 chart. Since 1958, Billboard has tracked song popularity by using various metrics.

During the early days of the Billboard Hot 100, the chart was calculated based on:

  • Record Sales
  • Radio Airplay
  • Radio Stations Top Hits Surveys
  • Jukebox Plays

 

The first number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson, on August 4, 1958.

 

 

During the golden age of Top 40 radio, major market radio stations played a key role in songs becoming hits. If either Cousin Brucie on WABC New York or Larry Lujack on WLS Chicago played your song on their radio stations, the song generally reached the top 10 and quite possibly the number 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100.

 

 

Over the years, the way people bought and listened to music changed and so did the policy of criteria used by Billboard to calculate the Hot 100.

When record and singles sales dropped during the 90’s, Billboard switched the Hot 100 from a singles chart to a songs chart. Album cuts were also considered for the first time during this time period.

Last decade, Billboard introduced digital downloads and online audio streaming to the Hot 100 process and earlier in this decade added video streaming from YouTube and other sources to the Hot 100 mix.

Today the Hot 100 tracks radio airplay by audience impressions as measured by Nielsen BDS, sales data compiled by Nielsen Soundscan, both at retail and digitally, and streaming activity provided by online music sources, according to Billboard.

 

 

As you can tell, the criteria that Billboard uses here in 2019 is completely different than what they utilized in 1964 when the Beatles held the top 5 spots on the Billboard Hot 100.

My question that I pose for you: How can we compare the Billboard Hot 100 chart success of Ariana Grande (or any other artist today) with the historic Beatles music feat of 55 years ago? Isn’t this comparing apples to oranges?

The only constant thing for over 60 years is that Billboard has created a weekly Hot 100 chart. Everything else about the chart: How the songs are measured, are completely different now compared to Hot 100 calculations in 1964.

Should we even compare rote facts and figures associated with the Hot 100 from 1958 with the music of 2019? Is it fair to place a song like, “Can’t Buy Me Love” next to, “Thank U, Next?”

 

 

I’ve asked a couple of my friends to speak on this topic. Al Weed, General Surgeon for the Veterans Medical Center in Salem, Virginia, stated to me, “It is like comparing sports records from different eras” but Grande’s historic achievement is “still an impressive feat.”

Dave Delaney, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for Lutheran Churches in Virginia, also agreed that Grande’s topping of the Hot 100 “is an impressive achievement.” Delaney went on to say, “regardless of what you think of Grande’s music, she has prevailed over an extremely large field of gifted performers.”

I am in agreement with both Al Weed and Dave Delaney with their assessment of Grande and her recent historic success. However, I still wonder how to accurately rank the music feat of the Beatles: Which happened 55 years ago, to the chart topping Billboard Hot 100 record, just set by Grande?

Can I reconcile the totally different set of criteria used by Billboard in 1964, compared to the music measurements used by the Hot 100 in 2019? Quite frankly, I do not consider there is a fair and accurate way to evaluate extreme differences of Hot 100 benchmarks between the 1960’s and today.

Ranking music over a 60-year period of time can be subjective. My thoughts could be totally different from what you think on this subject. Reasonable minds can agree to disagree when it comes to opinions on music.

I find it extremely hard to properly rank and place music, compiled over 6-decades, when the metrics and categories of measurements have radically changed over the course of time.

Billboard will probably continue to crank out their Hot 100 chart, as long as there is recorded music on a national level. Many will debate music history as it relates to the current music scene. More than likely, people will have dialogue on the Billboard Hot 100 for years to come.

 

What are your thoughts on Ariana Grande and her recent Billboard Hot 100 music performance? Is it equal to the Beatles 1964 Hot 100 achievement? Better? Not as good? Different?   Ariana or the Fab 4? Which do you choose?

Obviously, there are no definitive answers on this topic. The only sure thing that I can come up with is from the song, “Spinning Wheel” by Blood Sweat and Tears:

“What goes up, must come down, spinning wheel, got to go ‘round.”

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message. Rock on!

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Music Countdowns

Dancing In The Street: Best Summer Song of All Time?

Calling out around the world

Are you ready for a brand new beat

Summer’s here and the time is right

For dancing in the street

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Martha and the Vandellas’ 1964 hit “Dancing in the Street” is the best summer song of all time. So why did this song get selected as number 1 best summer song? In my humble opinion, “Dancing in the Street” is not even the best summer song by Martha and the Vandellas. I would select “Heat Wave” as the greatest summer song by the 60’s R&B group.

At the beginning of every summer season, publications like Billboard and Rolling Stone promote their “definitive” listings of “the greatest or best summer songs” ever recorded. While I am always curious to read which songs are selected, I also personally scoff at these yearly listings.

So what are the best summer songs of all time? Can anyone ever come up with a definitive list of the greatest songs that describe or are about the summer season? Just who has the audacity to declare which songs are the greatest summer songs of all time? Not me.

Can anyone tell me the key ingredient that music critics use to determine what are the best or greatest summer songs in modern musical history? Maybe but probably not? I have a theory on the subject and I want to submit my thoughts to you:

Most people consider the music that they listened to during their formative years, generally teen years and/or young adult stage of life, as the best or greatest music that they have ever known. During this developmental stage, favorite music is not forced by parents but rather is willingly chosen by individuals and has a lasting influence on the types of music they listen to the rest of their life.

With this in mind, it will be easy for you to figure out what era of music I consider to be the greatest in relation to summer songs. The very first summer song that I can remember liking as a young boy was “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole. Other early summer tunes that I remember liking during that time period were, “Under the Boardwalk” from The Drifters, “Summertime” by Billy Stewart, “All Summer Long” from the Beach Boys and “Summertime Blues” from Eddie Cochran (and then later cover versions by The Who and Blue Cheer).

If I had grown up during the 80’s, my favorite summer songs might be “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama or “Blister in the Sun” from the Violent Femmes. Had I been a 90’s boys, maybe “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & and Fresh Prince or “Island in the Sun” from Weezer would have been my favorites? If I had come to love music this century, my favorite summer songs might be “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, “California Gurls” from Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg or “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Ray.

Since I am from the baby boomer generation, most of my selections are from when I was a teenager or a young adult. Without further ado, here are my favorite top 10 summer songs of all time:

  1. School’s Out—Alice Cooper

School’s out for summer, school’s out forever, my school’s been blown to pieces.

There are always two days a year that all girls and boys love: First is Christmas morning and second is the last day of school. Alice Cooper’s 1972 hard rocking tune remains a staple for school children everywhere: They all sing with glee, school’s out for summer!

  1. In the Summertime—Mungo Jerry

In the summertime when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky, when the weather’s fine, you got women on your mind.

While the lyrics of drinking and driving are not kosher here in 2018, this song was unusual as it featured a banjo, a string bass and the jug. The feel good song summarizes the content of the tune with the line, “We’re always happy, life’s for livin’ that’s our philosophy.”   With that type of mindset, summer living is always easy.

  1. Sunny Afternoon—The Kinks

Now I’m sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer, lazing on a sunny afternoon and I love to live so pleasantly, live this life of luxury, in the summertime.

Most everyone at one time or another dream about spending their summer afternoons living the type of lifestyle that is depicted in the Ray Davies’ 1966 hit for the Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon.” The laid back music of the song invites the listener to enjoy the moment and soak up easy living during the summertime.

  1. A Summer Song—Chad & Jeremy

Trees swayin’ in the summer breeze, showin’ off their silver leaves, as we walked by, soft kisses on a summer’s day, laughing all our cares away, just you and I.

The folk/rock British duo Chad and Jeremy have a melodic masterpiece with their wistful tune reminiscences of summer romance. The combination of gentle guitar and a light string orchestra arrangement gives the song a pleasing harmonic flow and was the biggest American hit for the British Invasion pair in 1964.

  1. Hot Fun in the Summer Time—Sly and the Family Stone

Them summer days, those summer days, that’s when I had most of my fun back, I cloud nine when I want to, out of school, county fair in the country sun and everything, it’s true, hot fun in the summertime.

Sly Stone’s celebration song of school being out, attending county fairs in the country sun and joyfully praising the summer days, created one of the best R&B tunes reminiscing the pleasures of summertime activities. The added violins to the music mix helped to make “Hot Fun in the Summertime” the 7th biggest record for 1969.

  1. The Boys of Summer—Don Henley

Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, a liitle voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back, you can never look back.” I can tell you my love for you will still be strong after the boys of summer have gone.

Don Henley’s song about aging, questioning the past and the baby boomer generation selling out is both amiable and baleful at the same time. “The Boys of Summer” hit from 1984 is a summer song that will make you think and is also an excellent tune when driving down a highway during the summertime.

  1. Do It Again—Beach Boys

It’s automatic when I talk with old friends, the conversation turns to girls we knew when their hair was soft and long and the beach was the place to go. Suntanned bodies and waves of sunshine the California girls and a beautiful coastline, warmed up weather, let’s get together and do it again.

The Beach Boys are the ultimate “summer song” band with dozens of songs recorded in this genre and “Do It Again” is the best of the bunch. The harmonies on this song 1968 song are Excellent: I saw Brian Wilson in concert two years ago and he and his band sang 5 separate parts of the song simultaneously and I could hear each of the 5 parts perfectly clear and in harmony at the same time. It was absolutely astounding!

  1. Saturday in the Park—Chicago

Saturday in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July, people dancing, people laughing, a man selling ice cream, singing Italian songs, Can you dig it (Yes I Can) and I’ve been waiting such a long time for Saturday.

Most likely “Saturday in the Park” has the best description for a sunny Saturday afternoon in a park than any other song in modern music history. Robert Lamm’s 1972 classic song incorporates all pleasant things associated with spending a wonderful summer afternoon with friends and loved ones in a park setting.

  1. Summer in the City—Lovin’ Spoonful

Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty, been down, isn’t it a pity, doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city, but at night it’s a different world, go out and find a girl, come on and dance all night, despite the heat it’ll be all right.

The stark contrast between the intense heat of the daytime with work duties and then after dark activities of dancing the night way brings to life different aspects of city life and makes the Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 hit an intriguing song. With sounds such as a car horn and a jackhammer as part of the mix, “Summer in the City” is a perfect summer song no matter what location you are at during the summertime.

  1. Summer Breeze—Seals and Crofts

Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom, July is dressed up and playing her tune, see the paper layin’ on the sidewalk, a little music from the house next door, so I walk on up to the doorstep, through the screen and across the floor, summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind.

Idyllic lyrics of the 1972 Seals and Crofts hit paints a picturesque setting of summer living in suburbia America. The descriptions of everyday life combined with the melodic sounds from the soft rock duo makes “Summer Breeze” my number 1 greatest summer song of all time.

So there you have my top ten listing. I am not like Rolling Stone and proclaim that my selections are the best or greatest summer songs ever. Now that you know my top summer songs, I would love for you to post your thoughts. What songs do you consider to be the greatest or best summer songs?

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message. Rock on!

 

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