Tuesday, December 16, 2014

QUESTIONS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE



We’re just a few days away from the big event that children look forward to all year.  That’s right, the one time of year when Uncle George belches “Jingle Bells” at the Christmas dinner table.  OK, maybe it’s Aunt Helen who does it at your house. 
This week, more Christmas holiday questions.   One or two will be multiple choice and the rest will be regular old questions.  So, let’s start rockin’ around the Christmas tree...”

QUESTIONS

1.  This Christmas record went to # 1 on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart in 1958.  Was it:  a. White Christmas  b. The Chipmunk Song  c. The Christmas Song               

2.  This Christmas hit comes back every year since it was first released in 1957.  It climbed to # 6 on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart by a singer who also made the Top Ten a few months earlier with “My Special Angel”.  His Christmas tune was featured in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, “Jingle All The Way”.  Can you name this annual holiday hit?  There’ll be extra nog in your egg nog if you know the name of the singer too.    

3.  In 1955, Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” that he recorded for the movie “Holiday Inn”, zoomed up the charts, finally landing at # 7 on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart.  There was another version of “White Christmas” that went a little higher.  In fact, it was # 1 on Billboards’ Christmas chart in 1963.  The singer charted nearly 50 hits on the Hot 100, including his only other # 1, “Butterfly” in 1957.  He had his own weekly TV variety show for nearly 10 years.  His unofficial theme song was “Moon River”, although surprisingly, his vocal version was never released as a single.  Can you name this singer?           

4.  This Christmas song made it all the way to # 1 on Billboards’ Christmas chart in 1967.  It did better than any of this group’s previous hits.  The song was inspired by one of the characters from the “Peanuts” comic strip.  A fanciful little dog who liked to imagine he could do all sorts of things.  Do you know the name of this # 1 Christmas hit?  Is it: a. Snoopy versus the Red Baron  b. Snoopy’s Christmas Caper  c. Snoopy’s Christmas    

5.  There have been several hit songs recorded about Santa Claus.  “Santa Claus And His Old Lady” by Cheech and Chong got to # 3 on Billboard magazine’s Christmas chart in 1971.  James Brown took “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto” to # 4 in 1968 on the same holiday chart.  The hardest working man in show biz (James Brown again) had another Santa hit in 1970 with “Santa Claus Is Definitely Here To Stay”.  That one made it to # 7 on the Christmas chart.  The ‘Santa’ song we’re looking for first charted by The Four Seasons in 1962, but only climbed as high as # 23.  Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band took it to # 1 on the Christmas chart in 1985, but Bruce and the boys weren’t the first ones to do it.  15 years earlier, a Motown group made up of 5 brothers took this song to # 1 on the Christmas chart for the first time.  What’s the name of this ‘Santa’ song?     
            
ANSWERS

1.  b. “The Chipmunk Song” is the correct answer.  Ross Bagdasarian, who went by the stage name of David Seville, had created a sped-up voice on his previous 1958 # 1 hit, “Witch Doctor” and decided to create three chipmunk characters to sing a Christmas song.  Simon, Alvin and Theodore were all named for Liberty Records executives, which was the label that Seville recorded for.  Simon was for Liberty Records founder Si Waronker, Alvin was named for Liberty Records President Al Bennett and Theodore for Liberty’s chief engineer Ted Keep.  “The Chipmunk Song” by The Chipmunks with David Seville was # 1 on the pop charts for 4 weeks and sold 4 ½ million copies in just seven weeks.  Ross Bagdasarian died in 1972 and the Chipmunk tradition has been kept alive by his son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and wife Janice Karman who co-produced several new chipmunk CDs, an animated TV series and the films “Alvin and The Chipmunks” (2007), “Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” (2009) plus “Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” (2011).  There’s also a new Alvin, Simon and Theodore movie scheduled for release in December of 2016, “Alvin and The Chipmunks: Road Trip”.                  
    
2.  The song was “Jingle Bell Rock”.  The singer – Bobby Helms.  Helms was born in Bloomington, Indiana in 1933.  He was a country singer who’s first charted pop hit was “Fraulein” in 1957.  It made it to # 36.  “My Special Angel” came a few months later and climbed to # 7.  Both “Fraulein” and “My Special Angel” went to # 1 on the Country charts.  Then just two days before Christmas of ’57 came “Jingle Bell Rock”.  Helms continued to tour and record for the next four decades until his death from emphysema and asthma in 1997 at the age of 63.  His musical accomplishments were honoured with his induction in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  Bobby Helms died
    
3.  Andy Williams is the singer’s name we were looking for.  During his career, Andy recorded 44 albums, 17 of which were certified Gold and 3 went Platinum.  His TV show, “The Andy Williams Show”, aired from 1962 until 1971.  Andy also hosted the Grammy Awards several times.  He formed Barnaby Records at the end of the 1960’s, a label that had hits with Ray Stevens (“Everything Is Beautiful” in 1970 and “The Streak” in ’74).  Andy Williams passed away in 2012.            
                  
4.  The answer is c. “Snoopy’s Christmas” recorded by The Royal Guardsmen, a group from Ocala, Florida who’s first hit was “Snoopy vs The Red Baron”.  “Snoopy’s Christmas” did make # 1 in Australia and New Zealand in 1967.  It re-charted in 1987, ’88, ’89 and 2003.  On the flip side of all that chart action, the song was voted as ‘the worst Christmas song of all time’ by the readers of the New Zealand Herald newspaper in 2007.            

5.  It was “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”, a # 1 in 1970 by The Jackson 5, featuring a 12 year old Michael Jackson.  Altough it only went to # 1 on Billboards’ Christmas chart, it was their 5th # 1 hit and they all happened in 1970.  The first was ”I Want You back”, followed by “ABC’.  Then came “The Love You Save”.  “I’ll Be There” was next after which came “Sant a Claus Is Comin’ To Town”.  In 1975, they dropped the name The Jackson 5 and became The Jacksons.  Michael went on to a superstar solo career and the rest is music history.    

Sunday, December 7, 2014

JINGLE BELL, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY



Even if you wanted to, you can’t ignore the fact that the Christmas holiday season was upon us.  Just about every business you enter, whether it’s a drug store or grocery store or department store, they all have Christmas music playing on their PA systems.  Radio stations started playing Christmas music a few weeks ago.  Since we can’t escape it, I figured we might as well embrace it, so this week’s quiz is all about lyrics from contemporary Christmas songs – that is, songs written within the past 60 years.  In other words, there won’t be questions about “Good King Wenceslas” or “O’Come All Ye Faithful” or “Mary Boy Child”.  It’ll be more like:  What Christmas song do these lyrics come from?  “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  Jack frost nipping at your nose..”  And of course, you would answer “The Christmas Song” by Bob Wells and Mel Torme (OK, you might not have guessed the name of the other writer besides Mel, but you get the point). So here we ho ho go! 
                    
QUESTIONS

1.  This Christmas classic has been recorded by many performers including Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Jessica Simpson.  A portion of the lyrics are:  “Santa came down the chimney, half past three.  With lots of nice little presents for my baby and me.  (THE SONG’S TITLE IS SUNG HERE), you surely treat me nice.  And I feel like I’m living, just living in paradise.”  Do you know the name of this holiday hit?              

2.  Johnny Mathis, Johnny Cash, Celine Dion, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Michael Buble have all recorded this Christmas favourite, but the most popular version belongs to Elvis Presley.  Some of the lyrics are: “Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree.  Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me.  And when those blue snowflakes start falling.  That’s when those blue memories start calling.”  Can you name that tune?   

3.  David Letterman features Darlene Love singing this song every Christmas using a string section and a huge vocal choir along with the Late Show Band (I assume, with this being Dave’s last holiday show before he retires next spring, that this will be the last late night TV performance by Ms. Love of this song), but then again, you never can tell.  Here’s a portion of the lyrics:  “(Christmas) The snows coming down (Christmas) I’m watching it fall (Christmas) Lot’s of people around (Christmas) THE SONG’S TITLE IS SUNG HERE”.  The bracketed word (Christmas) is sung by a choir.  What’s the name of this wonderful Christmas song?   

4.  We’ve already mentioned this performer in questions # 1 and # 2, so this might be a bit easier (then again, maybe not).  Some of the lyrics are:  “He sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”  This one should be easy.  What’s the title of this Christmas  classic? 

5.  This Christmas hit raised millions of dollars for African famine relief in 1984 and subsequent years.  Sir Bob Geldof (although he wasn’t knighted yet) came up with the idea and gathered dozens of British pop stars together to record it.  The opening lyrics are:  “It’s Christmas time; there’s no need to be afraid.  At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade.  And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy.  Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime.”  So what say you?  Can you name this Christmas charity song that when it was first released in 1984?         

ANSWERS

1.  “Merry Christmas Baby” is the correct answer.  It was written in the late 1940’s by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore.  Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers recorded the original version in 1947.  It went to # 3 on Billboard Magazine’s Juke Box chart that year.  Since then, it’s also been recorded by B. B. King, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Christina Aguilera, Chuck Berry, Otis Redding, Booker T and The MG’s (instrumental version) and even the original vamp herself, Mae West.  Bruce Springsteen’s version (recorded at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York) may be the one that gets the most airplay at this time of year.  Bruce performed this song on Conan O’Brien’s network TV show.  Conan’s even playing rhythm guitar on it.  Check it out on youtube.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi9kvO2zL2E               
    
2.  Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without Elvis Presley’s version of “Blue Christmas“.  Written by Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson, it’s the sad tale of Christmas without love.  It was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948.  The following year, country star Ernest Tubb, orchestra leader Hugo Winterhalter and bandleader/singer Russ Morgan all recorded their own versions of “Blue Christmas”.  Tubb’s went to # 1 on Billboard magazine’s ‘Most Played Juke Box (Country and Western) Records’ chart in January 1950.
Winterhalter’s version peaked at # 9 on Billboards’ chart for ‘Records Most Played By Disc Jockeys’ and Morgan’s got to # 11 on Billboards’ ‘Best Selling Pop Singles’ chart.  Elvis recorded his version on September 5th, 1957 and was one of the songs on “Elvis’ Christmas Album” that year.  RCA Victor Records didn’t release “Blue Christmas” as a 45rpm single until 1964.      
    
3.  “Christmas Baby, Please Come Home”, written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, was originally recorded by Darlene Love in 1963 for the album, “A Christmas Gift To You From Philles Records”.  The album was released on November 22, 1963 but with the assassination of U.S President John F. Kennedy in Dallas that same day, it obviously did not sell well.  However, over the years, it has become a continuing Christmas classic.  In 2010, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked the song # 1 on its list of ‘Greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Songs’.  Watch for Darlene Love singing “Christmas Baby, Please Come Home” one last time on “The Late Show with David Letterman” a few days before Christmas.            
                  
4.  Bruce Springsteen recorded a live version of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” in 1975, but wasn’t released until 1982 as one of the songs on the Sesame Street compilation album, “In Harmony 2”.  Columbia Records finally released it in 1985 on the ‘B’ side of Bruce Springsteen’s 45rpm single from the “Born In The U.S.A.” album, “My Hometown”.  The song was written by John Frederick Cootes and Haven Gillespie.  It was first performed in November of 1934 on singer Eddie Cantor’s radio show.  A plethora of performers have recorded “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”, including Alvin and The Chipmunks (1961, The Ronettes (1963), The Four Seasons (1963), The Beach Boys (1964), Carpenters (1978), Neil Diamond (1992), Mariah Carey (1994), Miley Cyrus (2008) and three Canadian singers: Justin Bieber, Michael Buble, and the late Cory Monteith from ”Glee”.  All three of those recordings were from 2011.  Two versions of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” made it all the way to # 1 on Billboard Magazine’s Christmas singles chart – The Jackson 5 in 1970 and Bruce Springsteen in 1985.      

5.  There’s a new version just released this year featuring many new performers, but the classic “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, recorded in 1984, remains the best version (at least in my humble opinion).  Midge Ure (Ultravox) and Bob Geldof (The Boomtown Rats) wrote the song and Geldof corralled as many British pop stars as they could into a recording studio to sing it with Ure producing.  Performers included members of Duran Duran,Status Quo, Bananarama, Big Country and Spandau Ballet along with solo performers Phil Collins, Boy George, George Michael, Sting, Bono and Adam Clayton from U2, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and many others.  Geldof revised the lyrics for the 2014 version.
Watch the 1984 original video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjQzJAKxTrE or the 2014 version:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w7jyVHocTk.   

Saturday, November 22, 2014

NAME THAT TUNE (AGAIN)!



By time out, we’re returning to the charts of November 1984.  Looking at the Top Ten albums for the week of November 24th, 1984, the # 1 album was “Purple Rain” from Prince.  # 3 was Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer”.   The Honey Drippers album “Volume One” was at # 5.  Huey Lewis & The News had the # 7 album with “Sports”.  And the # 9 album that week was Billy Ocean’s “Suddenly”.  That’s the odd numbered albums anyway.  The five questions for this quiz involve the names of the albums that were the even numbers.  Good luck.       
              
QUESTIONS

1.  The # 2 album for the week of November 24th came from a musician who was born in New Jersey.  In fact, he’s one of that state’s favourite sons.  He’s won 20 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award (and many more).  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.  This superstar was featured on the cover of both Time and Newsweek magazines the same week, October 27th, 1975.  He is tireless on stage and has become legendary for his 3 hour plus concerts.  The albums’ cover photo shows a photo of this performer from behind with a red bandana in his right pocket and the American flag in the background.  Seven of the songs from this album went into the Top Ten.  What’s the name of this 1984 best selling album?       

2.  The # 4 album for that November week in 1984 was the soundtrack for a movie starring Kelly LeBrock.  The songs in the movie (and the soundtrack album) were written and recorded by a Motown legend.  One of those songs, “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, was # 1 on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 chart for 3 weeks in October ‘84.  Can you name the movie and this ‘wonder-ful’ songwriter/performer/producer?       

3.  Daryl Hall and John Oates had the # 6 album that week.  It was album number twelve for the Philadelphia duo.  A couple of hits came from this album – “Out of Touch” and “Method of Modern Love”.  The album has three short words in its title, all starting with the letter ‘B’.  Hope that helps.  What’s the name of this 1984 Hall & Oates classic album?            

4.  # 8 on Billboards’ album chart for November 24th, 1984 came from another Motown superstar.  He’d been a member of a hit making ‘70’s Motown group before embarking on a successful solo career.  This was the third best selling album of 1984 and garnered this artist 5 Top Ten hits, which included two # 1’s.  For some strange reason, this album also made the country charts and climbed to # 55.  Go figure, since it was not a country album.  Can you name this singer/songwriter originally from Tuskegee, Alabama?      

5.  Finally, the album that was at # 10 during the week of November 24th in ’84 was by a female singer who’s so unusual.  Well, she’s more eccentric than unusual, but boy is she talented.  She hails from Queen’s, New York and still carries that accent around with her wherever she goes.  On TV, she’s played herself on such shows as “Queer As Folk”, “Kathy Griffin: My Life On The D List”, “ and “30 Rock”,  From 1993 to 1999, she appeared in 5 episodes of the Paul Riser/Helen Hunt sitcom “Mad About You” as Marianne Lugasso and in 2009, she was a contestant (but didn’t win) on the Donald Trump reality series, “Celebrity Apprentice 3”.  From 2009 to 2013, she played the recurring character of Avalon Harmonica on the TV series “Bones”.    Her debut album, released in 1983, became a huge hit around the world, climbing to # 4 on Billboard Magazine’s album chart.  Like most girls, she just wants to have fun.  So who is this ‘kinky’ performer?

ANSWERS

1.  Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen is the artist – the album is “Born In The U.S.A.”, which was the best selling album in the U.S in 1985 (and Springsteen’s most successful album to date) with sales of 30 million copies worldwide.  The seven songs from “Born In The U.S.A.” that made Billboards’ Hot 100 chart Top Ten are: “Dancing In The Dark” (# 2), “Cover Me (# 7), “Born In The U.S.A.” (# 9), “I’m On Fire” (# 6), “Glory Days” (# 5), I’m Goin’ Down” (# 9) and “My Homtown” (# 6).  “Born In The U.S.A.”, the album, went to # 1 in eleven countries, including the U.S. and Canada.   

2.  The soundtrack that peaked at # 4 was “The Woman In Red”.  Stevie Wonder wrote all of the songs except one (an instrumental by Ben Bridges).  Dionne Warwick sang the Stevie Wonder written “Moments Aren’t Moments” on her own, plus Dionne and Stevie sang two other songs as a duet.  “I Just Called To Say I Love You” from the movie’s soundtrack became Stevie’s 8th # 1 single.  That song went on to win an Academy Award for ‘Best Original Song In A Motion Picture’.  Although this album only got to # 4 in North America, it did make # 1 in Norway, Italy, Spain and Sweden.        
    
3.  The Hall & Oates album that was # 6 for the week of November 24th was “Big Bam Boom”.  It would climb one more spot on the album chart the following week to reach its highest position of # 5.  Of the two hits from “Big Bam Boom”, “Out of Touch” got to # 1 while “Method of Modern Love” climbed as high as # 5.   
                  
4.  Lionel Richie is the man with all those hits from his 1984 “Can’t Slow Down album.  The singles that made the Top 5 are:  “All Night Long (All Night)”, which went to # 1; “Running With The Night”, which climbed to # 7; “Hello”, also a # 1 hit; “Stuck On You” which got to   # 3 (as well as # 24 on Billboards’ Hot Country Singles chart) and “Penny Lover”, a # 8 hit.  “Can’t Slow Down” had been # 1 on Billboards’ album chart in December of ’83 and spent the entire year of ’84 (all 52 weeks) in the Top Ten.  “Can’t Slow Down” won the Grammy Award for ‘Album of the Year’ in 1985 and had sales of over 20 million.                      
  
5.  Her full name is Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper, but she’s much better known as Cyndi Lauper.  Her 1984 album is “She’s So Unusual”, which had climbed to # 4 on the album chart back in June of ’84 and spent 21 weeks in the Top Ten (although not consecutive weeks).  Cyndi has sold over 50 million albums worldwide, plus an additional 20 million singles.  At the Grammy Awards in 1985, Cyndi cleaned up, winning ‘Best New Artist’, plus ‘Album Of The Year’ for “She’s So Unusual”.  Her # 1 song, “Time After Time” won the Grammy for ‘Song of the Year’.  “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, her first solo hit, took home the Grammy statuette for ‘Record of the Year’ and ‘Best Female Pop Vocal Performance’.  During her career so far, she’s won 15 Grammy Awards.  Cyndi’s won 3 of the 4 biggest show business awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony.  The only one missing is the Oscar (give her time).  Her 2013 Tony Award was for ‘Best Score Written For the Theatre’ for the Broadway production, “Kinky Boots”.