The extra ‘F’ is for Festive…
In the spirit of the late great John Peel, this week I present to you, dear listeners and followers, my very own 2020 Festive Fifty. All of the songs were released this year. Some you may know. Some you may not know. I hope you enjoy most of them.
It’s now time for me to take a break for a little while. Partly to give you time to make your way through this playlist. But, mostly to allow me to settle into my new house. But, don’t worry – TFIF will return in 2021 bigger, better and louder than ever.
I hope you and your families have a great Christmas. I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Thanks for listening.
This week’s playlist pays some homage to the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which was unleashed to an unsuspecting world on November 30, 1982.
Here is everything you (probably) always wanted to know about Thriller.
1. Sixth album released by Jackson
2. Cost $750,000 to produce and record
3. Number one selling album for a total of 37 weeks between February 26, 1983 and April 14, 1984
4. Seven songs (out of nine) released as singles
5. Best selling album of all time – 66,000,000+ copies worldwide
6. 14 minute video released for title track one year after the album (December 2, 1983) – It was shown in a movie theatre in California for one week, so that it could qualify for an Oscar
The good news is that Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ became the number one song in the UK on November 29, 1975, and it stayed there for nine weeks. Although Queen were already famous, the song made them superstars.
The song took three weeks to record, and was like nothing that came before it. Written by Freddie Mercury, it contained multiple parts that he worked on for years. After the intro, the song is a ballad. A guitar solo follows before it become an opera. The song finishes as a rock song with a killer riff thrown in for good measure.
When the band planned to release it as a single, they were shot down by the record company because they thought that, at nearly six minutes long, no radio station would ever play it. So, they gave a copy of the song on a reel to reel tape to a DJ friend of theirs. He only played sections of the song at first, but his listeners demanded to hear the song in it’s entirety. He finally played the track 14 times in two days, during his show even though it had not been released. When it finally did get released, well… the rest is history.
The bad news is that Freddie Mercury passed away on November 24, 1991.
Given the close proximity of the two events on the calendar, I thought this would be a good week to dedicate a playlist to Queen. The playlist contains songs by Queen, as well as songs by artists who influenced Queen (The Beatles, Elton John, Elvis and Tears For Fears), and artists who Queen influenced (David Bowie, Nirvana, Radiohead and The Smashing Pumpkins).
As a bonus, I have also included their set list from Live Aid, which was memorialized by the film Bohemian Rhapsody.
The Bank Nightclub
When I was a kid, I listened to some Disco in the 1970s. Partly because it was on the radio all the time. And, partly because my parents listened to it. Every adult I knew (except my grandparents) owned a copy of the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack on vinyl. My parents and their friends always listened to it, when they had parties. But, in the summer of 1979, everyone got sick of Disco and revolted against it. As a new decade began, I just moved on to the next thing – New Wave and MTV.
Fast forward to 1993. I had just graduated from college and moved to a northern suburb of Philadelphia with my girlfriend. She was a real party girl, so we used to go to all of the cool nightclubs in center city Philadelphia. One of them was called The Bank, which funnily enough, was a renovated bank. It wasn’t the best nightclub in Philadelphia, but if you stayed long enough you would hear tunes like ‘Girls And Boys’, or ‘Fool’s Gold’, or even ‘Blue Monday’. There was usually just enough good music to make you stick around and order one more round.
The best part of The Bank was actually a little upstairs room tucked away in the corner. It had a tiny bar, several small tables and a modest dancefloor. There was a giant bookcase along one wall full of 1970s board games and puzzles. The walls were covered with 1970s movie posters and pictures. The room was called The Leisure Suit Lounge, and the DJ played nothing but Disco. When I first went into the room, I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I heard the tunes being played. I liked it straight away because it reminded me of my childhood and how much I really liked Disco. (There, I said it.) Even though it was the height of Grunge, I started buying and listening to Disco CDs again.
During the past 25 years, musicians, DJs and journalists have consistently returned to Disco, citing it as a major influence. Rather than being remembered as just a cheesy fad, lots of people now regard the more quality Disco as the music that moved the needle from Funk and Soul to Hip Hop and House.
This week’s playlist is a sample of what I remember being played in the Leisure Suit Lounge.
Have a great weekend.
This stuff is starting now…
On October 24, 1962 James Brown & The Famous Flames recorded a live show in the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York. It was a bit of a gamble because Brown’s record company had no interest in recording and releasing a live album, so he paid for it himself. It took six months, but Brown was finally able to convince his label to release the album the following spring.
Although he was already famous, ‘Live At The Apollo’ made James Brown an established superstar. The album sold so quickly that most record stores could not keep it in stock. Radio DJs would play each side of the album in it’s entirety without any commercials because they were only 15 minutes long. The whole album clocks in under 32 minutes.
In addition to being a commercial success, ‘Live At The Apollo’ influenced lots of up-and-coming musicians and changed the idea of what a live album could be. It is generally regarded as the best live album ever recorded. And, without it, most of the iconic live albums released in the 1970’s like ‘Kick Out The Jams’ (MC5), ‘Live At Leeds’ (The Who) and ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ (Peter Frampton) would never have been recorded.
I own a copy of ‘Live At The Apollo’ on both vinyl and CD. If you don’t own this record, or you have never heard it before, I recommend you check out this week’s playlist and listen to the ‘Hardest Working Man In Show Business’ during one of the early peaks of his powers.
Back in the old days (before children) I used to post monthly podcasts. For a while, I did a series called Soul Kitchen. Around this time back in 2012, I posted podcast number 27 in the series. This week’s playlist is a few of the tracks from that playlist.
Have a funky weekend…