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Music and Pop Culture Blog (4)

What makes a song “classic”? We will skip the dictionary definition and just say a classic is something that is older and has been around awhile and seems to have a style about it that keeps it alive beyond it’s years. Unfortunately music has a certain life expectancy because it follows trends. Much like a gallon of milk or a package of cheese some songs have a relative short shelf life. You’ve all heard of the “One Hit Wonders” like “Gangham Style” by Psy, “Louie, Louie” by the Kingsman.

Playing so many gigs and dealing with everyone from old to young, I deal with so many requests for songs. There are only two groups, the ones that wants to hear the familiar and those who want only to hear just the new stuff. Years ago I attended a DJ convention in Atlantic City where I met the spokesman for Pioneer. His claim to fame was that he was a DJ who had appeared on MTV’s Real World, London. His name was DJ Lars(I always give credit to those I use in articles). Lars, I believe Dj’ed in London in the trendy clubs there. We got onto the subject of songs he played and he said that he played songs only until they broke through to the Top 40 and then he stop playing them. His clientele did not bother with the Top 40. They wanted the avant-garde and the hip. I on the other hand I play many of the same songs over and over again at my events. Two different styles for different audiences played by different DJ’s.

Lars will never say, “here’s an old favorite” but I will. There are songs that have stood the test of time. There’s something about the lyrics, the “hook” or the beat. This makes a song seem to go beyond it’s expiration date and is put into that category of “classic” Songs like “Hotel California”, “My Girl”, “Sweet Caroline”, “Brown Eyed Girl” and now add to that list, “Uptown Funk.” I don't want to delve too deeply or dissect the song too much, that takes away the essence and just leaves the parts. All I can say thank God that there are classics and I will continue to play them when asked.

It makes no difference to me if the song is old or new if it has a great beat and people like it. I would play Spike Jones if people danced and enjoyed the songs. I have a saying, “If you have never heard the song, then it’s new to you.” So you shouldn’t care if a DJ puts on “Johnny B.Good” by Chuck Barry or “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers or even a song from the Bee Gees. If it makes you tap your feet and it makes you want to get up and dance, then that’s all that matters!

I’ve picked one song from each decade going back to the 1950’s. If you would like to check out more one hit wonders head on over to Wikipedia, they have an in depth look at the songs and artist from each decade that rose like the Phoenix only to crash and burn.

!950     Eddie Love     Teen Queens                 Good slow make-out song

1960     Tip Toe Thru the Tulips   Tiny Tim     Need I say more

1970     Makin’ It     David Naughton   Song followed his successful movie “American

             Werewolf in London”

1980     Whip It         Devo     Short lived techno song

1990     Nothing Compare To U       Sinead O’Connor         Prince gave her that song

2000     Smooth Criminal     Alien Ant Farm     Remake of Michael Jackson’s song

2010     Harlem Shake       Baauer       I sneezed and the song was gone!

Thursday, 26 December 2013 00:00

Disco Is Not Dead

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 Disco Ball

Well, here we are at the end of 2013 and as I look back, there was quite a phenomenon that took place in the vast wasteland of "Pop" music. Disco has raised it's head once more to prove to all those "tragically hip" that demean this genre of music that it still lives. Disco continues to seep back into our culture every time the "hipster dufuses" relegate it to its place in the history of irrelavance in music history. Thanks to such artist as Parrnell and the elusive group Daft Punk with their mega-hit "Lucky". When did anyone think that Daft Punk would be influenced by Disco and yet Nils Rodgers, the leader of the 70's and 80's group Chic, had a hand in helping Daft Punk on their album. There is no song that is more set in the Disco style with the sound of the 70's than "Lucky". If you don't feel the beat and want to get up and dance to this song, then you must be dead and just haven't been put in the grave yet. Next comes Justin Timberlake's, "Coat and Hat" with the smooth sounds of the big band but with the sophisticated sounds that was prevalent during the Disco era and Justin's other song "Take Back The Night."is so reminscent of Michael Jackson in his hey day. What a great song. Next we have Bruno Mars with his Disco influenced song "Treasure" I almost forgot Pharrell who does the singing on "Lucky" and his follow-up hit from the GIRL album, disco inspired "Happy."

What is my point to this you say?  I'm tired of the bad rap Disco gets and I know "How Cool" it is to bad-mouth Disco but the fact is it has made a major contribution to music. Rap artist have ripped it off and used it for their samples because they can't come up with anything original.

There is no music that could beat Disco for dancing. The fusion of every type of music style could be found in Disco. From Vicke Sue Robinson latin flavored "Turn the Beat Around " to the hard driving beat of Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel, Mighty Real" which by the way, was released in a club version in 2013 by Promo Only, the company that supplies music to the Disc Jockey industy. There are so many songs this article would be a book. There is one mention of a group that never made it to the states(what a surprise) from Spain "La Bionda". Their song is "One for Me, One for You" could raise the dead .It's bass driven beat is so infectious and the words so simple, it was a song that should have made the charts and be number one.

Now to turn to another area that may floor you, TV. On the Fox network is a show called Brooklyn Nine Nine with a great line-up of stars from Andy Samburg (Saturday Night Live), Andra Braugher (Homicide:Life on the Street, Men of a Certain Age)and Terry Crews (Everbody Hates Chris, Bridesmaids, White Chicks and Are We There Yet). The intro music to this comedy is straight out of the 1970's black action movies. It has that scratchy sound like a well played vinyl record with a funk beat and could easily fit into Foxy Brown, Super Fly and Dolamite movie and the list goes on and on. So don't tell me Disco is dead. It's got more lives than a cat.

So when someone you know starts to bad mouth Disco you can read them the "riot act" and you won't be a "hipster dufus"

Update: Daft Punk walked away with the album of the year at this year's(2014) Grammy Awards. Nil Rodgers was up on the stage with them when receiving their awards.  It was so good to see Nil Rodgers playing during the Grammys that night. That guy is as good as he every was in the 70's.

Also, as I was watching TV the other night amid the thousand commericials that interrupt a TV show to the point that I would like to file criminal charges against the networks for assault, there caught my eye from Target stores a line of clothing they were hawking by Pialotto and the music they used was Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" This commercial started in January of 2014.

 Another update.May 22, 2014. Maya Rudolph of "Saturday Night Live" fame had a variety show on TV and her first number was so Disco influenced, it sounded like it was lifted from "Saturday Night Fever" During the routine a quarter moon was lowered down harkening back to the days of Studio 54 in New York City and like the song sez, "And the Beat Goes On" from the song of the same title by the Whispers.

I like to update this page as more info comes in. It's 2016 and Disco rears it's head again through a group made up of one of the Jonas brothers(whoda thunk?) called DNCE. Their hit is "Cake by the Ocean" and it is similiar sound to Daft Punk's hit  "Lucky" from 2013. Go back and listen to Disco and see for yourself if "Cake by the Ocean"does not have similarities reminiscent of the 70's. Check it out

Written by Larry Bernstein owner of Disc Jockey Services in Richmond Va.(not a hipster dufus)

 PS. If you every go to ME TV you will see the "Love Boat." It is being shown again. This was being broadcasted during the Disco Era and the title song written by Paul Williams is a disco stylized song.

Sunday, 20 May 2012 00:00

Last Dance-Donna Summer

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It’s the 17th of May and I’m in my car. It’s cloudy and a little humid. Nothing unusual about the day.  Pretty much like the day before and I expect pretty much like it will be tomorrow. I switch the radio to the Dennis Miller Show and he’s playing a Donna Summer song. Nothing unusual, Miller during his broadcasts will pick out an artist or group and use it as bumper music, but then he cuts in and says, “Rest in Peace”. What, what did he say! I don’t believe it! Then it came up on the hour and the news blurted out, Donna Summer dead at 63 from cancer. What a knot in the pit of my stomach. A sadness descended upon me and all of a sudden the cloudy day seemed drearier.    

Now I never met Donna Summer, never saw her in concert but I fell in love with her music when I heard “I Feel Love” Up until then I did not care for Disco. The fusion of Rock and Big Band with Latin and R’n’B. What kind of mishegas is this? I was hooked. That’s right I love Disco music!

 A little background, it was the mid-70s and the country was coming out of the Vietnam War, Nixon’s resignation, the implosion of the Yippies, peace and love. People were tired. They needed some kind of diversion from everything. Actually Disco was dying until a guy on a sitcom about the Sweathogs crossed over to movie called “Saturday Night Fever” and Disco was on. People were dressing up again. The guys in slim fitting bell bottom pants, slick tight fitting colorful shirts and the ladies in Danskin wrap around skirts, clingy tight dresses in high heels and various form of Farah Fawcett hairdos. People were learning the Latin Hustle, Bus stop (Pre Electric Slide), New York Hustle and the Cha Cha.  Man, women looked so sexy and here comes Donna Summer from Boston via Germany in a version of “Hair.” She was discovered by Giorgio Mauroder and had her do a song “Love to Love You Baby” which had her simulating groaning during making love in the song. Never mind that this religious lady from Boston was so embarrassed, she recorded it in the dark so no one in the studio would see her as she moaned and groaned. Summer became the sex symbol of the seventies and the title Queen of Disco.

 As a DJ, I love it when someone requests a Donna Summer song. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a party or a wedding and Hot Stuff and Bad Girls still gets the wedding party up and dancing at any wedding reception

Donna Summer did not rest on gimmicks and flash. She was all class, terrific voice, great looks and hot songs that just made you want to dance. She even slipped in a small part in “Thank God It’s Friday.” She became an avid painter to add to her talents.

Maybe it’s the passing of someone we grew up listening to her music that reminds us of our own vulnerability or the innocence lost to an era we remember fondly, but the world was a better place with Donna Summer in it and a little less with out her. She’s had her LAST DANCE taken too early. We will miss you.


 Larry Bernstein runs a Disc Jockey business in Richmond, Virginia and blogs on pop culture and music.

Thursday, 26 April 2012 00:00

Dick Clark’s Passing

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Dick Clark, I could say was one of my inspirations for being a disc jockey. When I was very young I would watch his show from Philadelphia everyday after school because my sister was into American Bandstand. I liked watching the teenagers dancing on the show and seeing the popular artists of the times doing their hits. After Dick Clark moved to Los Angeles and continued American Bandstand, he expanded to all the other shows that carry his Dick Clark Productions logo like $20,000 Pyramid Show, Bloopers, So You Think You Can Dance, AMA Awards and Dick Clark’s Rockin New Year’s Eve.

 

I was fortunate to hear Dick Clark speak in Richmond Va. at the Landmark Theatre. He covered the payola scandal, which he was caught up in the late 50’s, and how he ended up doing American Bandstand and stories of rock and roll legends. It was one of the best evenings I had spent. I had just started my new business Disc Jockey Services and felt I was listening to one of the greats in the business.  As a young kid I would watch the show everyday after school and later after Clark moved to LA, I would watch him on Saturday afternoons.                                                             

I will surely miss him and his contribution he made to the music industry and to the disc jockey profession. Everyone who is a DJ owes Dick Clark a debt of gratitude. I never liked the term “Oldest Teenager” I rather think of him as just “Ageless.” He has earned his place in the history books of music and pop culture. You will be missed Dick Clark.

 

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