Sunday, June 17, 2012
Ten Great Songs From One Great Week
The songs the radio played this week in history
June 18-24, 1978
Garfield Debuts -- the comic strip created by Jim Davis. Published since June 19, 1978, it chronicles the life of the title character, the cat Garfield (named after Davis' grandfather); his owner, Jon Arbuckle; and Arbuckle's dog, Odie. As of 2007, it was syndicated in roughly 2,580 newspapers and journals, and held the Guinness World Record for being the world's most widely syndicated comic strip.
Though this is rarely mentioned in print, Garfield is set in Muncie, Indiana, the home of Jim Davis, according to the television special Garfield Goes Hollywood. Common themes in the strip include Garfield's laziness, obsessive eating, and hatred of Mondays and diets. The strip's focus is mostly on the interactions among Garfield, Jon, and Odie; recurring minor characters appear as well. Originally created with the intentions to "come up with a good, marketable character," Garfield has spawned merchandise earning $750 million to $1 billion annually. In addition to the various merchandise and commercial tie-ins, the strip has spawned several animated television specials, two animated television series, two theatrical feature-length live-action films and three CGI animated direct-to-video movies. Part of the strip's broad appeal is due to its lack of social or political commentary; though this was Davis' original intention, he also admitted that his "grasp of politics isn't strong," remarking that, for many years, he thought "OPEC was a denture adhesive."
In the '70s, Davis authored a strip, Gnorm Gnat, which met with little success. One editor said that "his art was good, his gags were great," but "nobody can identify with bugs." Davis took his advice and created a new strip with a cat as its main character. The strip originally consisted of four main characters. Garfield, the titular character, was based on the cats Davis was around growing up; he took his name and personality from Davis' grandfather James A. Garfield Davis, who was, in Davis' words, "a large cantankerous man". Jon Arbuckle came from a coffee commercial from the 1950s, and Odie was based on a car dealership commercial written by Jim Davis, which featured Odie the Village Idiot. Early on in the strip Odie's owner was a man named Lyman. He was written in to give Jon someone to talk with. Davis later realized that Garfield and Jon could "communicate nonverbally". The strip originally centered on Jon, being rejected by the King Features, Creators' and the Chicago Tribune-New York News agencies, all which asked Davis to focus on the cat, who in their opinion, got the better lines. United Feature Syndicate accepted the retooled strip in 1978 and debuted it in 41 newspapers on June 19 of that year (however after a test run The Chicago Sun-Times dropped it, only to reinstate it after readers' complaints).
Garfield quickly became a commercial success. In 1981, less than three years after its release, the strip appeared in 850 newspapers and accumulated over $15 million in merchandise. To manage the merchandise, Davis founded Paws, Inc. By 2002, Garfield became the world's most syndicated strip, appearing in 2,570 newspapers with 263 million readers worldwide; by 2004, Garfield appeared in nearly 2,600 newspapers and sold from $750 million to $1 billion worth of merchandise in 111 countries. In 1994, Davis' company, Paws, Inc., purchased all rights to the strips from 1978 to 1993 from United Feature. The strip is currently distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, while rights for the strip remain with Paws.
Davis is no longer the sole artist of Garfield. Though he still writes the stories and rough sketches, other artists handle the inking, coloring, and lettering. Davis otherwise spends most of his time managing the business and merchandising of Garfield.
#1 Single -- "Shadow Dancing" by Andy Gibb
#1 Album -- "Some Girls" by Rolling Stones
1269 – King Louis IX of France orders all Jews found in public without an identifying yellow badge to be fined ten livres of silver.
1846 – The first officially recorded, organized baseball match is played under Alexander Cartwright's rules on Hoboken, New Jersey's Elysian Fields with the New York Base Ball Club defeating the Knickerbockers 23-1.
1862 – The U.S. Congress prohibits slavery in United States territories, nullifying Dred Scott v. Sandford.
1870 – After all of the Southern States are formally readmitted to the United States, the Confederate States of America ceases to exist.
1953 – Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed at Sing Sing, in New York.
1964 – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is approved after surviving an 83-day filibuster in the United States Senate.
1982 – In one of the first militant attacks by Hezbollah, David S. Dodge, president of the American University in Beirut, is kidnapped.
Just What I Needed -- The Cars
This established The Cars as one of New Wave's leading hitmakers and helped get them a deal with Elektra Records. Lead vocals were by bass player Ben Orr, but it was written by lead singer/guitarist Ric Ocasek. Orr died of Pancreatic cancer in 2000. Ocasek wrote this in a basement at a commune in Newton, Massachusetts where he lived. The 2-track demo recorded by the band became the most-requested song by a local band in the history of WBCN, a popular rock station in Boston and it was the group's first single, peaking at #27 in the US and #17 in the UK. The Cars evolved from a trio called Milkwood.
Can We Still Be Friends -- Todd Rundgren
This song is about a couple who really like each other but, their relationship just can't last any more, even though he still wants to be friends with her. It was recorded for Rundgren's 8th solo album, Hermit Of Mink Millow. Todd states that the album was more of a song-centric recording; he wanted songs that could stand on their own weight without elaborate production. For Rundgren, it was a comeback of sorts. After three top #20 songs from '71-'73, this was just his second top 40 hit since. However, although he remained prolific in his writing and recording (including a few years as a member of the New Cars), Rundgren would only have one more single reach the top 40.
FM (No Static At All) -- Steely Dan
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wrote this song for the 1978 movie FM, which takes place at a radio station. Becker and Fagen performed the song in the movie, which came at a time when FM Radio was relatively new and catching up to AM in popularity. As the song points out, FM has a lot less static than AM, but at the time, a big selling point of FM radio stations was their ability to take chances by playing lesser known bands and album cuts. Some reference books claim that the TV sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati was based on "FM". However, WKRP series creator Hugh Wilson asserts that the sitcom was already in development when the film came out. He also states that he was "scared to death" when the film came out, afraid that it would eclipse the CBS show, which made its debut in September of 1978. Wilson was relieved when FM came and went from theaters quickly.
Grease -- Frankie Valli
This was featured in the movie of the same name starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, and was written and produced by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees specifically for the movie. At the time, no artist was more in demand, or as popular, as Gibb, as the Bee Gees ruled the airwaves for the latter part of the decade. He asked Valli to record it, since it was written for a film about the '50s (Valli is/was a member of the Four Seasons, an enormously successful band in the early days of Rock). This was Valli's second #1 hit as a solo artist, as three years earlier, he hit the top with "My Eyes Adored You." On a side note, the lead guitar in this song is played by Peter Frampton, who would soon join the Bee Gees in the megaflop film "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band."
Still The Same -- Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Although performing since the early '60s in such bands The Decibels, The Town Criers, Doug Brown and The Omens and The Last Heard (later changed to the Bob Seger System, where he finally had a chart hit, 1968's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" which peaked at #17), Seger finally broke through in '76, with the hugely popular "Night Moves." The LP (of the same name) began a 15 year stretch where he had an additional seven top 10 albums, 18 top 40 songs and one #1 hit ("Shakedown" in 1986). Said Seger, regarding "Still The Same": "It was just Chris Campbell (bass) David Teegarden (drums) and me in the studio when we cut this. People have asked me for years who this is about. It's an amalgam of characters I met when I first went to Hollywood. All 'Type A' personalities, overachieving, driven."
Miss You -- Rolling Stones
The lyrics were seemingly inspired by Mick Jagger's deteriorating relationship with his wife, Bianca. Jagger, has claimed otherwise, saying: "'Miss You' is an emotion, it's not really about a girl. To me, the feeling of longing is what the song is." The bassline, horns and drums gave this a disco sound and it alienated many of their fans, but also propelled it to the top of the charts. The Stones, though, thought of it as more R/B than Disco. Drummer Charlie Watts explained: "A lot of those songs like 'Miss You' were heavily influenced by going to the discos. You can hear it in a lot of those four on the floor rhythms and the Philadelphia-style drumming. Mick and I used to go to discos a lot... It was a great period. I remember being in Munich and coming back from a club with Mick singing one of the Village People songs - 'Y.M.C.A.', I think it was - and Keith went mad, but it sounded great on the dance floor."
You’re The Love -- Seals and Crofts
In 1963, Jimmy Seals, Dash Crofts, Glen Campbell, and Jerry Cole left The Champs to form a band named Glen Campbell and the GCs, which played at The Crossbow in Van Nuys, CA. The band only lasted a couple of years before the members went their separate ways. Crofts returned to Texas and Seals joined a band named The Dawnbreakers (a reference to a book about the beginnings of the Baha'i Faith by the same name). Crofts eventually returned to California to join The Dawnbreakers. However, The band turned out to be unsuccessful. Crofts married fellow Dawnbreaker Billie Lee Day in 1969, and both Seals and Crofts were introduced to and became members of the Bahá'í Faith. After the failure with The Dawnbreakers, the two decided to play as a duo, with Seals on guitar, saxophone and violin, and Crofts on guitar and mandolin. They signed a contract with the record division of Talent Associates (TA) in 1969 and released two LPs, of which, only the second reached the Billboard 200 chart, peaking at #122 in October 1970. The pair signed a new contract with Warner Bros. Records in 1971. Their first album with their new label did not break into the charts, but their second album Summer Breeze charted at #7 in 1972 and gave them their first Gold album. Seals' younger brother, Dan Seals was also well known as one half of another successful soft rock band in the same time period, England Dan and John Ford Coley, as well as for his success as a country artist starting in the mid-1980s. In 2003 Seals and Crofts reunited and recorded their first new album since 1998, released as Traces (2004). In 2011 the bandmates' daughters, Juliet Seals and Amelia Crofts, used the name "Seals and Crofts" for their musical act.
Even Now -- Barry Manilow
Born Barry Alan Pincus in Brooklyn, New York, Manilow is the son of Harold Pincus and Edna Manilow. His mother's family was Jewish, while his father, who was often known by the surname "Keliher," was born to a Jewish father and Irish American mother. Barry's name was changed to Barry Manilow at the time of his Bar Mitzvah, adopting his mother's maiden name. Reared in the community of Williamsburg in northern Brooklyn, Barry attended nearby Eastern District High School, from which he graduated in 1961. In the same year, he enrolled in the Juilliard performing arts school, while working at CBS to pay his expenses. At CBS, in 1964, Manilow met Bro Herrod, a director, who asked him to arrange some songs for a musical adaptation of the melodrama, The Drunkard. Instead, Manilow wrote an entire original score. Herrod used his composition in the Off Broadway musical, which enjoyed an eight-year run at New York's 13th Street Theatre. Manilow then earned money by working as a pianist, producer, and arranger. During this time he began to work as a commercial jingle writer, an activity that continued well into the 1970s. By 1967, Manilow was the musical director for the WCBS-TV series Callback, which premiered on January 27, 1968. He next conducted and arranged for Ed Sullivan's production company, arranging a new theme for The Late Show, while still writing, producing, and singing his radio and television jingles.
You Belong To Me -- Carly Simon
Doobie Brothers singer Michael McDonald wrote this song with Carly Simon, although they wrote their parts separately. The Doobies recorded it first, with McDonald changing the line "I'd always be your girl" to "always be the one." A year later, Simon released her version on the album Boys in the Trees, with her then-husband James Taylor singing backup vocals. Simon's version was the hit, going to #6 in the US. Simon's version was featured on the soundtrack to the romantic comedy films Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) and Little Black Book (2004).
Baker Street -- Gerry Rafferty
This is the most sentimental of all Gerry Rafferty's songs. It is about a man who dreams of owning a house and living away from his neighborhood, but he is a drunk, and cannot achieve that goal. He drinks to forget what he doesn't have, and never realizes he's a rolling stone with no direction. Rafferty was a member of Stealers Wheel, who had a hit in 1973 with "Stuck In The Middle With You." His first band was a Folk duo called "The Humblebums," and his singing partner was the famous Scot comedian Billy Connelly. The sax solo is played by Raphael Ravenscroft. Rafferty wrote the song with an instrumental break, but didn't have a specific instrument in mind. Hugh Murphy, who produced the track, suggested a saxophone, so they brought in Ravenscroft to play it. Ravenscroft has worked with Pink Floyd, Abba and Marvin Gaye. Other Ravenscroft performing credits include work with America, Kim Carnes, Mike Oldfield, Chris Rea, Robert Plant, Brand X, Hazel O'Connor and Bonnie Tyler. Sadly, Rafferty passed away in January of 2011.
Take Me Back To Chicago -- Chicago
By 1978, after 11 top 5 LPs (including 5 straight that went to #1) and 21 top 40 hits (including one #1), Chicago seemed to have hit the end of their reign. This song, taken off of the LP Chicago XI, which was their first since their debut LP to not crack the top 5, became their lowest charting single ever, barely making the top 70. At the same time, tragedy struck the band when guitarist/singer-songwriter/group co-founder Terry Kath died of an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound. The next 4 years were ones of transition for Chicago and while they had a couple of modest hits, they were no longer relevant. That was, until they changed labels in 1982 and began to work with producer David Foster. That move ushered in a second wave of success for the band, which was almost at successful as the first - and included two additional #1 hits for the band. Despite the personnel changes over the years, the group is still active more than four decades after its founding, touring live with other musical acts of their generation like The Beach Boys, America, Earth Wind and Fire and the Doobie Brothers.