Pigs Fly CD
Jackie Chan & Ani DiFranco
Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable"
Best known to the world as a hugely successful action star, and perhaps best remembered as the slapstick martial artist partner of whom Chris Tucker asks, "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?", Jackie Chan is equally known in his native Hong Kong as a popular singer. As a child Jackie was enrolled in the Chinese Opera Research Institute at age seven to learn dancing, singing, acting and martial arts. His voice was first noticed when Chan would sing over the closing credits of his own movies in Hong Kong. Recording contracts and a successful recording career followed soon thereafter.
A folkie in punk's clothing, Ani DiFranco battled successfully against the Goliath of corporate rock to emerge as one of the most influential and inspirational cult heroines of the 1990s. A resolute follower of D.I.Y. ethos, DiFranco released her records through her own indie label Righteous Babe, slowly but steadily building a devout grass-roots following on the strength of a relentless tour schedule. Her songs tackled issues like rape, abortion and sexism with insight and compassion, the music's empowering attitude and anger tempered by the poignant candor
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio"
One of new wave's most innovative and (for a time) successful bands, Devo was also perhaps one of its most misunderstood. Formed in Akron, OH, in 1972 by Kent State art students Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo took its name from their concept of "de-evolution" -- the idea that instead of evolving, mankind has actually regressed, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society. Their music echoed this view of society as rigid, repressive, and mechanical, with appropriate touches -- jerky, robotic rhythms; an obsession with technology and electronics (the group was among the first non-prog-rock bands to make the synthesizer a core element); often atonal melodies and chord progressions -- all of which were filtered through the perspectives of geeky misfits. Devo became a cult sensation, helped in part by their concurrent emphasis on highly stylized visuals, and briefly broke through to the mainstream with the smash single "Whip It," whose accompanying video was made a staple by the fledgling MTV network
The Boxtops (featuring Alex Chilton)
Blondie's "Call Me"
In the tradition of the Rascals and the Righteous Brothers, the Memphis-based Box Tops were one the finest blue-eyed soul groups of the sixties. Lead singer (and former Big Star honcho) Alex Chilton had a tough, swaggering voice that belied his teenage years, sounding at times as if he were in a cutting match with the young Steve Winwood. Producers Chips Moman and Dan Penn surrounded Chilton with a crack American studio band, giving the music more muscle and deep funk than you'll ever find in "Mary Mary."
Instead of knocking off pimply, lightweight teen-fodder, the Box Tops managed to add another link in the Memphis soul chain, mixing blues, Beatlesque pop, and the sound of Stax, Hi, and Goldwax. And unlike the Monkees, the Box Tops benefited from top-notch material: Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham's "Cry Like a Baby" and "I Met Her in Church"; Wayne Thompson's "The Letter" and "Soul Deep"; and the occasional Chilton-penned nugget, such as "I Must Be the Devil." The group's heyday was brief -- two years, tops -- but their music remains a staple on oldies stations and has retained its vitality for over three decades.
Cypress Hill's "Insane In The Brain"
The Raleigh, North Carolina-based jangle-pop outfit the Connells formed in the spring of 1984. Fronted by guitarist Mike Connell and his bassist brother David, the first incarnation of the group also featured vocalist Doug McMillan and drummer John Schultz, who was soon replaced by former Johnny Quest percussionist Peele Wimberley. In late 1984 the quartet recorded a four-song demo; after one of the tracks, "Darker Days," was selected to appear on the North Carolina compilation More Mondo, the Connells' ranks expanded with the addition of singer/guitarist George Huntley, who made his debut on a March 1985 session co-produced by Don Dixon.
With the help of the band's friend Ed Morgan, the resulting demo made its way to the offices of the British label Demon, which agreed to fund the recording of enough additional tracks to complete a full-length LP. Darker Days was released in Europe by Demon in 1985, and when Morgan returned to the U.S., he formed his own label, Black Park, to issue the album domestically. After the low-budget videos for the tracks "Seven" and "Hats Off" garnered MTV airplay, the Connells won a contract with the TVT label prior to entering producer Mitch Easter's Drive-In Studios to record 1987's brooding, more assured Boylan Heights, which featured the superb single "Scotty's Lament."
The edgier Fun and Games followed in 1989, and a year later the group resurfaced with One Simple Word, scoring an alternative radio hit with the single "Stone Cold Yesterday." After a three-year tour which saw the Connells add keyboardist Steve Potak to their lineup in 1991, they finally returned to the studio to begin work on 1993's Ring, highlighted by the single "Slackjawed," as well as "74-75," a major hit throughout Europe. After another three-year hiatus, the Connells issued 1996's Weird Food and Devastation, released concurrently with Huntley's solo debut brain junk. The group returned in 1998 with Still Life.
Peter Gabriel's "Shock The Monkey"
Don Ho employed his talents as a "middle of the road" pop singer and musical ambassador for Hawaii to launch a mainland career that included half a dozen chart albums, numerous television appearances, and engagements at top venues starting in the mid-1960s. He was born in Kakaako, a small neighborhood in Honolulu on the island of Oahu in Hawaii and grew up in the city of Kaneohe, also on Oahu. After a stint in the Air Force, he took over a cocktail lounge in Kaneohe named Honey's, after his mother. There he started a band, eventually called the Aliis, with himself as singer and organist. In 1962, he moved to the Oahu resort district of Waikiki, where he played in a nightclub called Duke's. There he began to come to the attention of the mainland entertainment business. He was signed to Reprise Records, which released his debut album, Don Ho Show, in 1965. His second album, a live collection called Don Ho - Again!, reached the charts in March 1966, but it was the release of "Tiny Bubbles" that fall which really broke him in record stores. The single placed in the pop and the easy listening charts, stimulating sales of a Tiny Bubbles LP that made the top 20 and stayed in the charts nearly a year.
Subsequent records didn't do as well, but another live LP, Suck 'em Up (the title referring to his onstage exhortation to the audience to drink heartily), gave him his fourth chart album in the spring of 1969.
Ho's record sales declined after the late 1960s, but he continued to perform extensively and to appear on television, notably on episodes of The Brady Bunch, Charlie's Angels, and The Fall Guy. From October 1976 to March 1977, he hosted a half-hour daytime variety series, The Don Ho Show, broadcast over ABC-TV. By the 1990s, he had launched his own label, Honey Records, to release his recordings and others by island favorites. He continued to make occasional TV appearances, in 1996 had a small part in the film Joe's Apartment, and he performed regularly at his own club in Hawaii.
Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World"
In the '70s Roy Clark symbolized country music in the US and abroad. Between guest-hosting for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and performing to packed houses in the Soviet Union on a tour that sold out all 18 concerts, he used his musical talent and his entertaining personality to bring country music into homes across the world. As one of the hosts of TV's Hee Haw (Buck Owens was the other) for more than 20 years Clark picked and sang and offered country corn to 30 million people weekly. He is first and foremost an entertainer, drawing crowds at venues as different as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and the Opry. Among his numerous vocal hits are "Yesterday When I Was Young" and "Thank God and Greyhound." Instrumentally he has won awards, for both guitar and banjo. Clark has also co-starred on the silver screen with Mel Tillis, in the comedy Uphill All the Way.
In 1963, Clark signed to Capitol Records, and his first single for the label, "Tips of My Fingers," became a Top Ten hit. Over the next two years, he had a handful of minor hits for Capitol before he switched labels, signing with Dot in 1968. At Dot, his career took off again, through covers of pop songs like Charles Aznavour's "Yesterday, When I Was Young" (number nine, 1969). However, what really turned Clark's career around was not records, it was a television show called Hee Haw. Conceived as a country version of Laugh-In, Hee Haw began its run in 1969 on CBS. Roy Clark and Bakersfield country pioneer Buck Owens were picked as co-hosts. Over the next two years, it was one of the most popular shows on television.
While Hee Haw was at the height of its popularity, Clark had a string of country hits that ranged from Top Ten singles like "I Never Picked Cotton" (1970), "Thank God and Greyhound" (1970), "The Lawrence Welk - Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka" (1972), "Come Live With Me" (1973), "Somewhere Between Love and Tomorrow" (1973), "Honeymoon Feelin'" (1974), and "If I Had It to Do All Over Again" (1976), to a multitude of minor hits. Though he didn't consistently top the country charts, Clark became one of the most recognizable faces in country music, appearing on television commercials, Hee Haw, and touring not only the United States, but a number of other countries, including a ground-breaking sojourn to the Soviet Union in 1976.
Duran Duran's "Girls On Film"
It's advantageous to get an early start on your chosen career, but Billy Preston took the concept to extremes. By age ten he was playing keyboards with gospel diva Mahalia Jackson, and two years later, in 1958, he was featured in Hollywood's film bio of W. C. Handy, St. Louis Blues, as young Handy himself. Preston was a prodigy on organ and piano, recording during the early '60s for Vee-Jay and touring with Little Richard. He was a loose-limbed regular on the mid-'60s ABC TV series Shindig, proving his talent as both vocalist and pianist, and he built an enviable reputation as a session musician, even backing the Beatles on their Let It Be album. That impressive Beatles connection led to Preston's big break as a solo artist with his own Apple album, but it was his early-'70s soul smashes "Outa-Space" and the high-flying vocal "Will It Go Round in Circles" for A&M that put Preston on the permanent musical map. Sporting a humongous Afro and an omnipresent gap-toothed grin, Preston showed that his enduring gospel roots were never far removed from his joyous approach.
Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin"
London-based new wave group that managed to sustain a successful career in America for several years in the mid-'80s, the Fixx always flirted with mainstream pop with their catchy, keyboard-driven pop. Formed by college friends vocalist/keyboardist Cy Curnin and drummer Adam Woods in the early '80s, the pair advertised in the music press for additional members; the remaining members of the group -- guitarist Jamie West-Oram, keyboardist Rupert Greenall, and bassist Charlie Barret -- all responded to the ad. Taking the name the Portraits, the band recorded a single for Ariola Records, "Hazards in the Home, " which failed to gather much attention. Within a year, the band had changed their name to the Fixx and recorded "Lost Planes, " the single that led to a record contract with MCA.
The Fixx released their debut album, the Rupert Hine-produced Shuttered Room, in 1982. The record spawned to minor U.K. hits, "Stand or Fall" and "Red Skies, " and spent a short time in the charts. In America, none of the singles were hits, yet the album stayed on the charts for nearly a year. After Shuttered Room, Barret left the group and was replaced by Dan K. Brown. Reach the Beach, released in 1983, established them as a hit-making force in the U.S. The terse, pulsating "One Thing Leads to Another" became a number four hit, sending the album into the Top Ten. Reach the Beach would go platinum by the end of the year, launching two more Top 40 singles -- "Saved by Zero" and "Sign of Fire." Despite all of their American success, the Fixx failed to break back into the British charts with Reach the Beach; in fact, they never had another British hit in their career.
The Fixx returned in 1984 with Phantoms. While it performed well -- it peaked at number 19 and went gold -- it didn't match the success of Reach the Beach; after it launched the number 15 single "Are We Ourselves?" the record fell off the charts. Although their audience was shrinking, the band kept their basic, synth-driven sound intact for 1986's Walkabout, which featured the hit "Secret Separation." After Walkabout, the Fixx stopped working with producer Rupert Hine, which resulted in a harder, more guitar-oriented sound for 1988's Calm Animals. The album charted at number 72, but it spawned no hit singles. Ink, (1991) the group's last album, didn't reverse their declining fortunes, even though they tried to update their sound with an emphasis on guitars and slick, dance-ready beats. After the record failed to recapture their mainstream audience, the Fixx seemed to fade away before resurfacing in 1998 with Elemental. A year later, they returned with 1011 Woodland, a collection of re-recordings of their greatest hits.
The Oak Ridge Boys
Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son"
The Oak Ridge Boys began as a gospel group named the Oak Ridge Quartet in 1945. In 1949, Bob Weber purchased the rights to the group's name from lead singer Wally Fowler and ascribed it to his group, the Cavalry Quartet. The Oak Ridge Quartet remained together through the mid-'50s, becoming one of the top gospel groups in America. Smitty Gatlin later created a new Oak Ridge Quartet after purchasing the name from Weber. Gatlin decided to steer the group towards secular success and changed their name to the Oak Ridge Boys in 1961. Although they were concentrating on commercial material, the group continued to sing gospel music. In the late '60s, the Oak Ridge Boys underwent an image makeover, growing their hair long and singing almost nothing but pop-oriented material. In the early '70s, they gradually incorporated more gospel back into their repertoire. By 1973, the group's core lineup -- Duane Allen (lead vocals), Joe Bonsall (tenor), William Lee Golden (baritone), and Richard Sterban (bass) -- had fallen into place and they made their first entry in the country charts with a cover of Johnny Cash's "Praise the Lord and Pass the Soup." The following year they signed to Columbia, although they nearly disbanded due to financial difficulties. In 1977, the group decided to switch over completely to secular music, beginning with the hit singles "Y'All Come Back Saloon" and "You're the One." Almost immediately, the Oak Ridge Boys became a fixture in the country Top Ten; for the next eight years, they had a string of 25 Top Ten singles, including 13 number one hits. In 1978, they had their first number one single with "I'll Be True to You." In 1981 the Oaks had their biggest hit with the crossover smash "Elvira."
The Neanderthal Spongecake
T. Rex's "Get It On (Bang A Gong)"
It is hard to believe only two years has passed since the formation of the Czech Republic's greatest band --- The Neanderthal Spongecake. Not since the massacre of the dogs has so much excitement been generated. The Prague Beat summed up the enthusiasm best: "The feeling is almost surreal . . . seeing bohemians in awe of the same music that makes girls swoon . . . Single-handedly, The Neanderthal Spongecake has not merely changed the face of the Czech music scene, but culture as well. Prague will never be the same."
The events that preceded The Neanderthal Spongecake's dominance are equally stunning. As a boy, band founder and lead singer Cevin Soling helped the underground resistance against the Communist rule. After the Velvet Revolution liberated Czechoslovakia, there was still lingering political turmoil. These events shaped Cevin's outlook and are evident in his writings including his first published work: Onen Svet (The Beyond). While well received by critics, and hailed as classic by fellow Czech Milan Kundera, the audience was limited and Cevin realized the best way to reach people would be through music.
One night at Klub Ujezd, Cevin caught a show which included keyboardist Bill Brandau. Bill had been working as a volunteer fire fighter in Moravia and was filling in that night with the house band. Nevertheless, he clearly stood out. After the set, he introduced Cevin to Austrian ski instructor / guitarist Andy Thunder and before long the three formed a band intent on forging a new sound imbued with their distinct perspective. They played out with various drummers until one day when they were visiting the local hospital trying to cheer up recovering patients when they ran into Dan Kornfeld. Dan, an American, was in Prague for the International Motorcross competition, but had been thrown from his bike during a collision. They hit it off immediately, and, when the band saw Dan drum after his recovery, he was in.
The band played a number of gigs, but success was not immediate. They kept their sense of humor during these lean times, though, and even named the group "Zvetraly Chleb." Properly translated, this means "Stale Bread" which was the bulk of their diet at the time until Dan's mother began making sandwiches for the band. Improperly translated, as the case was, they became known as The Neanderthal Spongecake. After some time, they developed a small following which including Mark Tomase. Mark's father was a world-renown paleontologist who insisted that Mark follow in his footsteps. Despite years of study, Mark and his father's interests could not have been further apart. When Mark asked the band if he could join as bass player, his father refused to speak to him for 6 months. During that time, though, the band's sound really came together and Semyon Tomase came to appreciate his son's passion and eventually became a fan.
After only their third show at Futurum, word on the band had spread and nearly 6,000 people showed up to see The Neanderthal Spongecake. The following night there were more than 15,000 fans clamoring to catch a glimpse. They were presented with a record deal that night, and within three months The Neanderthal Spongecake was at the top of the Czech charts with "Knock You Back." The phenomenal follow up successes of "This Thing" and "Boss God" cemented their place in history. Introduction to dignitaries, the key to the city, and even a "The Neanderthal Spongecake Appreciation Day" followed. Through it all, the band has kept their humility and sense of humor.
Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone
Billy Idol's "White Wedding"
Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone was born in Manchester, England. He studied singing and acting at the Manchester School of Music and Drama. As a child, he appeared in the British television shows CORONATION STREET, KNIGHT ERRANT and FAMILY SOLICITOR. In 1963, he joined a Manchester beat group, The Heartbeats, whose name was changed shortly thereafter to Herman and The Hermits and eventually shortened to Herman's Hermits.
Peter Noone became Herman.
The group's phenomenal string of successes began with their first #1 recording, I'm into Something Good in late1964 and was followed by dozens of top 20 hits, including: Silhouettes, Dandy, Can't You Hear My Heartbeat, Just a Little Bit Better, There's a Kind of Hush. Listen People, End of the World, Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter and Henry VIII.
During their pop chart reign, Herman's Hermits sold 52 million records and performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. Peter Noone aka Herman, graced the cover of every national and international magazine, including Time in April 1965. Herman was a teen pop idol, appearing on hundreds of national television programs and three major motion pictures. Herman's Hermits was named Cashbox Top Entertainer for two years in a row. Their success was matched by only a few household names of the British Invasion: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Dave Clark 5.
The 1970s found Noone pursuing a solo career as an actor and musical star, both in television specials and as the first pop star to successfully make the transition to Broadway actor - he starred in two Broadway shows in the 1980s.
Noone came back to musical touring in the 1980s, first with a new wave band, The Tremblers and later with Herman's Hermits, performing throughout the United States. His acting career also continued with guest-starring roles in television shows such as MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, MY TWO DADS, QUANTUM LEAP, THE TED KNIGHT SHOW and LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY.
The 1990s found Noone beginning a 4-year stint as host of MY GENERATION on VH1, the highest-ever-rated half hour retrospective of the music of the 1960s and beyond. Noone wrapped up the 90s with his successful entry into the internet era, dubbed "King of the 60s on the Internet" by The New York Daily News due to his popular web sites, www.peternoone.com and www.hermanshermits.com.
Peter Noone still performs to sold out audiences around the globe in over 200 concerts a year, delighting them with his music, charm and wit. His worldwide fan club spans the generations, as young teen girls still scream today as their mothers did back in 1965, prompting VH1 just last November to name Noone their viewer's choice for "2000s Sexiest Artist."
AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"
The most commercially successful solo singer to be identified with the girl group sound, Lesley Gore hit the number one spot with her very first release, "It's My Party," in 1963. Produced by Quincy Jones, who fattened the teenager's sound with double-tracked vocals and intricate backup vocals and horns, she reeled off a few more big hits in 1963 and 1964, including "Judy's Turn to Cry," "She's a Fool," "You Don't Own Me," "That's the Way Boys Are," and "Maybe I Know." Her best songs survive as classics, particularly the irrestistibly melodic "Maybe I Know" and "Look of Love" (both written by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry) and "You Don't Own Me," an anthem of independence with a feminist theme that was considerably advanced for early 1964.
So what was Quincy Jones doing producing a White suburban teenager who had never recorded before? A couple of demos she recorded with her vocal coach made their way to Mercury's president, who recommended her to Jones, the label's A&R head. For their first session, Gore and Jones picked "It's My Party" out of a pile of about 200 demos. The "It's My Party" single was rush-released when Jones found out that Phil Spector had plans to record the same song with the Crystals.
"It's My Party" and the weaker sequel, "Judy's Turn to Cry," have given Gore a somewhat unfair bratty image. Those are the hits that are remembered the most, but much of her subsequent material was both more mature (or, perhaps more accurately, less immature) and stronger. The singles were also very well-produced, with orchestral arrangements (by Claus Ogermann) that hewed closer to mainstream pop than Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Retrospectives of Quincy Jones' career usually downplay or omit his work with Gore, although it was among his most commecially successful; he's known now for recordings that are, well, funkier. But his success with Gore did a lot to build his already impressive résumé within the industry.
Gore appeared on the legendary T.A.M.I. Show alongside such heavyweights as the Rolling Stones, James Brown, and Smokey Robinson, but after 1964 her star plummeted rapidly. Mercury was still investing a lot of care in her sessions throughout the rest of the '60s, and her material and arrangements showed her capable of greater stylistic range than many acknowledged. But after the mid-'60s, Jones no longer worked with the singer on a regular basis. "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" (1965) and "California Nights" (1967), both of which were co-written by Marvin Hamlisch, would be her only Top 20 entries after 1964. She played the cabarets after her days as an active recording artist, and eventually had some success as a songwriter for other performers.