Sunday, June 20, 2004

Blame it on Bill Murray (and Sofia Coppola and Scarlett Johansson)

Earlier this week I rented "Lost in Translation" and, as a result, I now have a blog. Confused? I'd been toying with the idea of starting a blog for some time, but my motivation was never high enough to move me beyond the blogspot intro page. Sure I love to write, but I didn't need a blog for that. I was very happy submitting the occasional freelance piece for publication to The New York Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Entrepreneur or Brandweek and sending out an annual, lengthy, witty (or so I believe) update of my life to family and friends. Most of my opinions and beliefs about the world, current events and even pop culture were already being articulated by others on the Web and, in many cases, better than I ever could have said them myself. If I wasn't going add anything to the equation, then there were much better things I could be doing with my time.

Then on Thursday I finally saw "Lost in Translation." I'm not going to review or analyze the film (there are plenty of other blogs for that) except to say I enjoyed it immensely and Scarlet Johansson is cute as a button. But the scene that launched this blog came towards the end when they're in a bar and in the background you can hear the haunting bluesy keyboards of "So In To You," a song which The Atlanta Rhythm Section took to #7 in the Spring of 1977. While it's not one of my all-time favorites (it's not even my favorite tune by The Atlanta Rhythm Section), I'd heard the song several times over the last 27 years and it even appears on one of my compilation CDs. But this time something clicked and a 20-year old mystery was solved.

Like many a Sunday Morning in my teenage years, I would devote a healthy block of time to listening to American Top-40 and December 11, 1983 was no exception. I must have had a late start that morning because I remember that they were already in the middle of song #34 when I turned on the radio. From the vocals I could tell immediately that it was Genesis and that made sense since the group had just released a new album but the tune sounded a little too familiar. I figured if it was a remake Casey would let me know, but he said nothing of the sort as the song faded out. Just a "Coming in at #34, that's the British trio Genesis with `That's All.'" And, no it wasn't a remake. So this bouncy "original" tune with a slight subtle tinge of eerieness must have reminded me of another song I'd heard before.

Ultimately, I'd go on to buy the Genesis tape with "That's All" on it (the title of the album was simply Genesis, though they were originally going to call it "Pieces of Perfection"---check out the album cover) but in recent years I hadn't given the tune a lot of thought...until last Thursday Night! Now if you happen to be familiar with both songs ("So In To You" and "That's All") think about them.... think about them realllly carefully. See where I'm going here. The songs, while not exactly identical, flow together rather nicely. While I was walking to work on Friday, I started thinking how I wished I was talented enough to record the two songs as a medley (reality check: I play a grand total of 0 musical instruments). I even had it all figured out where the tunes from each would switch back and forth. The songs even have some lyrical similarities with both touching on the matter of unrequited obsession.

I figured I couldn't be the first person ever to come up with this idea. So I googled the titles to both songs and the only joint results returned came from music databases. If someone else has made the connection they haven't written about it yet. So.....that's what I will do!

Life is a Soundtrack will focus on the nuances of pop music, both yesterday's and today's. I hope to put together some interesting lists (ideas in the works include "The Top 20 Best Produced Songs,"
"The Top 20 Greatest Remakes," and "The Top 20 Best Songs for Slow-Dancing ). We'll also have some thought-provoking pieces ("Were the Gin Blossoms influenced by The Grass Roots?"; "Why the WNEW-FM of the 1980's was the greatest station of all time") as well as trivia and concert reviews (including some retro-reviews). And yes, occasionally I may even get a little autobiographical and talk about how a certain song or group of songs defined a moment or phase (a la John Cusack in High Fidelity) and earned their personal place on the soundtrack of my life.

Oh, and we're not done talking about how songs like "That's All," have (inadvertently or not) borrowed from other tunes. In the near future I expect to revisit the issue in greater detail (Yes Britney, "Ooops, I Did it Again" sounds a little too much like Barbara Streisand's "Woman In Love." For what it's worth, I actually like your recording better).

While the blog will hold special appeal for music-geeks, radio-geeks and, especially chart-geeks, my aim is to make it fun for everybody. For right now I'm going to shoot for one solid post a month (on or around the 20th) and we'll see how it goes. Comments and feedback are welcomed and appreciated.

Exactly 22 years ago yesterday (Saturday June 19th, 1982) was my Bar Mitzvah and so exactly 22 years ago today (Sunday June 20th, 1982) was my Bar Mitzvah party. With the party starting around 1:30, you can guess what I was doing from 9-1. I had my ears glued to AM 66 WNBC (my how times have changed) as Casey Kasem counted down the 40 biggest hits of the week. This was actually a nice Bar Mitzvah present for me as I had just become a music (and chart) geek earlier in the year and, between my massive 8th Grade project and my Bar Mitzvah preparations, I hadn't had the chance to listen to AT 40 in its entirety in several weeks. I committed that week's list to memory and can even tell you that I said morning prayers from songs 23-20 and showered between songs 11-8 (I found out those songs from friends later on in the day).

I thought what better way to end this initial post than with a nod to yesteryear as well as a taste of some of L.I.A.S.'s things to come. So, according to Billboard Magazine, these were the 40 hottest songs in the land for the week ending June 19th, 1982:

#40 "Stone Cold"---Rainbow

#39 "Be Mine Tonight"---Neil Diamond

#38 "Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do"---Huey Lewis and The News

#37 "This Man Is Mine"---Heart

#36 "Abracadabra"---The Steve Miller Band

#35 "After The Glitter Fades"---Stevie Nicks

#34 "Keep The Fire Burnin'"---REO Speedwagon

#33 "Hold Me"---Fleetwood Mac

#32 "Personally"---Karla Bonoff

#31 "What Kind Of Fool Am I"---Rick Springfield

#30 "Still They Ride"---Journey

#29 "Forget Me Nots"---Patrice Rushen

#28 "Break It Up"---Foreigner

#27 "Do I Do"---Stevie Wonder

#26 "When It's Over"---Loverboy

#25 "Empty Garden"---Elton John

#24 "Without You"---Frankie and The Knockouts

#23 "Play The Game Tonight"---Kansas

#22 "Take Me Down"---Alabama

#21 "Any Day Now"---Ronnie Milsap

#20 "Only The Lonely"---The Motels

#19 "Man On Your Mind"---The Little River Band

#18 "I've Never Been To Me"---Charlene

#17 "Tainted Love"---Soft Cell

#16 "Caught Up In You"---.38 Special

#15 "867-5309/Jenny"---Tommy Tutone

#14 "Don't Talk To Strangers---Rick Springfield

#13 "Making Love"---Roberta Flack

#12 "Love's Been A Little Bit Hard On Me"---Juice Newton

#11 "Body Language"---Queen

#10 "It's Going To Take A Miracle"---Deniece Williams

#9 "Hurts So Good"---John Cougar

#8 "Let It Whip"---The Dazz Band

#7 "Crimson And Clover"---Joan Jett and The Blackhearts

#6 "Heat Of The Moment"---Asia

#5 "Always On My Mind"---Willie Nelson

#4 "The Other Woman"---Ray Parker Jr.

#3 "Rosanna"---Toto

(COOL ANECDOTE: While introducing "Rosanna," Casey made the observation that there were a few elements of The Wizard of Oz in that week's countdown. There was Rainbow at #40; Kansas at #23 and then finally at #3 there was Toto.)

#2 "Don't You Want Me"---The Human League

And The Number One Song For The Week Ending June 19th, 1982 (Drumroll)


(Note to Cynics: Back issues of Billboard Magazine are available at the library for verification purposes)