This week in music: higher education from the music geek

All right stop, collaborate and listen, the Geek is back with a brand new invention.  Something grabs ahold of me tightly, flow like a harpoon daily and nightly.

Will it ever stop?  Yo, I hope so…  just wanted to say I’m back with some nerdy music news.

And at Number One, “Somethin’ Creepy”

This week in 1967, “old blue eyes” Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy had a number one hit with “Somethin’ Stupid,” making them the only father and daughter to have a number one single as a team.

The “something stupid” is the singers’ fear of having a few too many and saying something stupid like “I love you.”  Is it just me, or is that kind of a disturbing song for a father and daughter to sing?  Maybe Jerry Lee Lewis should have sung this song.  (If you don’t get that reference, you will be educated below.)

Photo courtesy of

“Cancelled” is the Word

This week in1980, the musical “Grease” closed after 3,883 performances in New York City.  Also this week in 1980, lovers of music and culture dropped to their knees and thanked a higher power for the gift bestowed upon them.

This will alienate half of my readers (and we all know which half), but “Grease” is horrible – maybe the stage show was a little better, but I’m sure it had the same inane songs and ridiculously cartoonish characters and dialogue.  (I really like this show, can you tell?)

I have a rule – if I am at a karaoke bar and someone starts singing “Summer Nights,” I leave the building until it is over.  I would rather stand in the rain or cold than support that recklessness.

I also leave the building when “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac plays – it’s a lie!  Thunder doesn’t only happen when it’s raining, it’s just a falsehood you made up to facilitate a cheap rhyme, Stevie.

Who’s the World?  We Are!

This week in 1985, USA for Africa, the greatest collection of talent ever compiled for one song, started a four-week run at Number 1 on the U.S. singles chart with “We Are The World.”

Unlike the 2010 Haiti fundraiser, the original was full of real, talented musicians.  While the imposter fundraiser was full of out-of-tune or autotune, the original We Are The World had some of the greatest singers of their time.

Don’t get me wrong, the new version had some good singers – they were just overshadowed by the not-so-great ones.  Also, the whole Haiti thing bugged me.  The day they had their earthquake, every media outlet showed the statistic that Haiti was the poorest country in the world before the quake.  If we knew that already, why didn’t we give a crap and help them then?

Hmmmm, the music geek just took a tangent.

Let’s go back to 1985, where vocal legends teamed up to help drought-ravaged/colonialism-screwed/economically-hijacked Africa, including: Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis, and Ray Charles.

AND they were backed up by:

Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Jackie, LaToya, Marlon, Randy and Tito Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Bette Midler,  Smokey Robinson, and the Pointer Sisters!

The numbers are sketchy, but it is believed that We Are the World came close to meeting its goal of $50 million to aid USA for Africa’s humanitarian fund.  Not too shabby.

Rage Against Rage Against The Machine

This week in 1996, Rage Against The Machine appeared on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, but only performed one song.  Their two-song performance was cut to one song when the band attempted to hang inverted American flags from their amplifiers to protest the politics of the conservative host of the show, Steve Forbes, which they claimed represented the inverted nature of the American democracy.  NBC sent stagehands to remove the flags before the performance, and the band was asked to leave the building after performing only one song.

Really?  Isn’t Saturday Night Live supposed to be edgy and cool?  What’s up with the censorship, SNL?  Aren’t you the same show that let Sinead O’Connor cut up a photo of the Pope and whose cast routinely tries to push the envelope by making fun of, well, everybody?

I don’t know the back-story on this one, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Forbes is a major financial backer of NBC, SNL, or Lorne Michaels.  Just sayin’.

Science, Schmience

This week in 2009, The London Times produced a list of the 75 most played songs in public places in the past 75 years.  As a self-proclaimed music geek, the concept of this list excites me greatly, but as someone who has taken research methods classes, I am distressed by this list.  There is no mention of how they obtained their data, no definition of what a “public place” might be, and not even a quick paragraph describing their methods.

That being said, the list is still pretty fun to look at.  Number one on the list is Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” followed by Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  So far, so good.

I would love to hang out where these “researchers” performed this study based on the first two songs, but then it gets weird.  Number three on the list is “All I have to Do is Dream” by the Everly Brothers, which makes me think the research was performed in an elevator or maybe a bingo hall.  That is followed by a menagerie of artists and styles, including Bryan Adams, Robbie Williams, Elvis Presley, and Harry Lillis Crosby (that’s “Bing” Crosby to you and me), and that is just the top 10.

While some of the songs rounding out this list are guilty pleasures of mine (“My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison, “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel, and “Rhythm is a Dancer” by Snap, for example), most of the list is the soundtrack to my own personal hell: the aforementioned “Summer Nights” is at number 70, Cher’s “Shoop Shoop Song” is at number 55, “Do They Know it’s Christmas” hits at number 52,  and “I Will Always Love You” is the number 17 song on the list.  If this list is accurate, it’s not even worth the free health care and bangers to move to England.

I just noticed that “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart is on the list.  Excuse me while I go Van Gogh myself.

Drugs Are Bad, MmmmmKay?

This week in 1971, The Illinois Crime Commission issued a list of “drug-oriented records” that they wanted banned from radio airplay.  The list contained nine songs, some more “drug-oriented” than others.

I see how they picked up on the drug lingo of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon,” but how did they ever decode Joe Cocker’s subtle anthem “Let’s Go Get Stoned”?  Those guys were good.

Kissin’ Cousins

This week in 2003, Jerry Lee Lewis filed for divorce from his wife, Kerrie McCarver Lewis. The 67-year-old singer married Kerrie in 1984, who was the president of Lewis Enterprises Inc. fan club.  This story sounds innocuous enough, until you learn about Jerry Lee’s marital history.

Even though these two lovebirds were married for 19 years, it was actually Jerry Lee’s sixth marriage, and by all accounts, this was the smoothest.  Lewis, known for his raucous piano playing and his song “Great Balls of Fire,” was already an international star in 1957 when he filed for divorce from his first wife.

Still not interesting?  Well, 24 days before the divorce was finalized with wife number one, Lewis married Myra Brown.  Still not scandalous enough for you?  Fine. Myra was Jerry Lee’s third cousin.  Want more?  She was also 13.

News of this bizarre relationship traveled swiftly and derailed Lewis’ rock and roll career for a long time.  He resurfaced as a country star in the 1960s and enjoyed moderate fame for the rest of his career, but the legend of the double-marriage-one-of-which-is-your-13-year-old-cousin scenario follows him to this day.


Born this week

Bill Conti – singer (“Gonna Fly Now” from “Rocky”).

Jack Casady – bassist, Jefferson Airplane.

Max Weinberg – drummer, E Street Band and Conan O’Brien Show.

Peabo Bryson – crooner.

Butch Taylor – keyboardist, Dave Matthews Band.

Lou Bega – singer, “Mambo No. 5.”

Loretta Lynn – first woman to be Country Music Entertainer of the Year.

Ritchie Blackmore – guitarist, Deep Purple.

Win Butler – singer, Arcade Fire.

Roy Clark – singer/banjo player/Hee-Haw staple.

Edward John O’Brien – guitarist, Radiohead.

Henry Mancini – one of the top U.S. composers ever.

Gerry Rafferty – sang “Stuck in the Middle With You” and “Baker Street.”

Selena Quintanilla-Perez – Selena.  Murdered March 31, 1995.


Died this week

Pete Farndon – bassist, The Pretenders.

Burl Ives – folk singer, actor, and writer.

Joey Ramone – singer, the Ramones.



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