K-Chuck Radio: The Adjustments of Popular Songs

Here’s the thing.  We’ve loved our music for generations and generations, and we can sing all the lyrics to our favorite tracks.  We know every word.

Or do we?

See, in some instances, our favorite classic tracks have undergone – shall we say – alternate versions, depending on previously unforeseen situations.  Some songs have lyrics that might confuse people in other countries, while some songs have recorded different versions for a regional effect.

On today’s K-Chuck Radio, I have a few examples of songs that were customized – sometimes by the artist, sometimes by the record company – for various reasons.  Let’s start with

DR. HOOK AND FRIENDS
The Cover of Radio Times

Continue reading “K-Chuck Radio: The Adjustments of Popular Songs”

K-Chuck Radio: Wake up, you sleeping lion!

There is an outstanding chronology, written by Rian Malan, of the history of one of the world’s most beloved pop songs.  It evolved from a Zulu chant, it went through a folk music iteration, and later topped the charts as a doo-wop classic.  Its creator barely received any compensation during his lifetime, while the song itself has generated millions of dollars worldwide.  Here’s a PDF of the original article by Malan, which originally appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in 2011.

That being said, on today’s K-Chuck Radio I want to bring you the evolution of what we know as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” – how it bounced from a 1939 South African recording to modern appreciation.

And it all began with …

SOLOMON LINDA’s ORIGINAL EVENING BIRDS

This is Mbube, the 1939 track that started it all.  And if you go to 2:23 of this video clip, you can hear lead singer Solomon Linda go through a very distinctive note run that today sounds very familiar … very very familiar…

PETE SEEGER AND THE WEAVERS w/ GORDON JENKINS’ ORCHESTRA

It’s now 1952, and the popular folk group The Weavers did a reinterpretation of Mbube – Pete Seeger had misheard Solomon Linda’s chant as “Wimoweh” – and this became not only a national hit, it also inspired versions by other performers and artists.

YMA SUMAC with MARTIN DENNY AND HIS ORCHESTRA

Today, tracks like this are classified as “space age pop” or “exotica,” but even back in the mid-1950’s when this track was released, you could still hear those classic melodic runs, even if they were sung by a woman who possessed a five-octave range.

THE TOKENS

By 1961, “Wimoweh” had evolved into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and became a MONSTER hit for The Tokens … and, for all intents and purposes, it dwarfed every single track they ever recorded before or since.

THE LOVE MACHINE

This Australian studio group recorded their own version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and if you listen carefully you can hear the singer interpret “Wimoweh” as “I’m on my way.”  Interesting…

THE NEW CHRISTY MINSTRELS

I’m trying to wrap my head around this version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” I can only surmise that it was produced specifically as an audiophonic torture device.

ROBERT JOHN

If I recall correctly, this track actually had the Tokens producing and/or background vocalizing the track.  Amazingly, this was at one time Robert John’s biggest hit … until he had that track “Sad Eyes” a few years later.

TIGHT FIT

This trio was one of several UK clean-scrubbed pop groups that seemed destined for multiple appearances on Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test and other UK shows of that ilk.  I think they had a couple of other hits… maybe.  I think.  Nah, I don’t want to think.

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO with THE MINT JULEPS

And here is a beautiful version that encompasses the original “Mbube,” along with its evolution with “Wimoweh” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”  Awesome.

I would recommend re-reading the PDF article by Rian Malan, in that throughout the evolution of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” there were still battles over who wrote the song – and whether royalties should be sent to Solomon Linda as the original performer of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight’s” earlier incarnation as “Mbube.”  Fascinating read.

And here we are, full circle with another K-Chuck Radio!

K-Chuck Radio: Saturday morning rock and roll!

Listen.  I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons.  The routine was simple.  Sneak into the living room.  Grab a bowl of Froot Loops or Alpha-Bits and watch, watch, watch until some parental authority came in, turned off the television and yelled at me to go outside and play, to get some fresh air and not sit in front of the idiot box.

Ah, 1970’s parenting skills.

But over the years, I’ve noticed something really intriguing – at one time or another, several rock bands have added a Saturday morning TV theme to their catalog.  Sometimes it’s part of a tie-in with a movie, other times it’s associated with a charity fundraiser.  I don’t care how it’s created … all I care about is that it’s fun.

So let’s start this episode of K-Chuck Radio with …

THE BC-52’s
Meet The Flintstones

Hey wait a second … is that Fred Schneider?  Is that Kate Pierson?  Yeah, it really IS the B-52’s!!  Surprisingly, we never got to hear the group’s follow-up track, “Bedrock Lobster.”  Ha.

Continue reading “K-Chuck Radio: Saturday morning rock and roll!”

K-Chuck Radio: The Arthur Baker Groove System

If you’ve never heard of Arthur Baker, you’ve missed out on a lot.  In the early 1980’s, the New York City producer was at the top of the club and dance music scene.  He created and operated Streetwise Records, which had a number of Top 10 R&B and dance hits, and he eventually crossed over to mainstream pop and rock.  His beats are instantaneously recognizable … trust me, you’ll know an Arthur Baker beat when you hear it.

And on K-Chuck Radio today, let’s show off a few Arthur Baker dance tracks – including rare 12″ remixes – for your enjoyment.

And let’s start with …

AFRIKA BAMBAATAA AND SOULSONIC FORCE
Planet Rock

This track mixed New York City hip-hop with German minimalist beats – even threw in a lyrical shoutout to Kraftwerk – and became a monster hit in 1982.  It also launched the Tommy Boy label to prominence.

Continue reading “K-Chuck Radio: The Arthur Baker Groove System”

K-Chuck Radio: Music to help pretty plants grow

As you know, I’m trying to grow some “skeleton flowers” – Diphylleia Grayi, to be more precise – and in addition to adding soil and fertilizer and sunlight and whatnot, I thought my plants deserved some soothing audiophonic music.  I’ve heard of such studies where relaxing music can actually cause plants to grow larger and bloom brighter; so why not try growing these plants with their own specific K-Chuck Radio blogcast?

Sounds like a plan to me, don’tcha think?

All right, little plants, let’s start with…

MAISEY RIKA
Tangaroa Whakamautai

This woman’s voice is incredible.  I have absolutely no idea what she’s saying in these lyrics (sorry, my Māori is a bit rusty), but damn this track is super-awesome.  Grow, little plants… Continue reading “K-Chuck Radio: Music to help pretty plants grow”

K-Chuck Radio: Forgotten AOR Rock and Roll

Back in the day, when I was a college student and worked at the college radio station, our main broadcast competition wasn’t the other college stations in the area.  Trust me, WHCL could kick WPNR’s tuchus just as easily as Hamilton College used to kick Utica College’s rear in basketball.

No, we had to go up against the two rock radio stations in the area, 96.9 WOUR and 107.3 WRCK (“OUR and Rock 107”).  Trust me, these stations could play “Stairway to Heaven” every hour on the hour.

And in their defense, there were plenty of songs on their playlists that – well – I kinda liked.  Shh.  Hard to believe, but yeah it was so.  And ironically, the songs that I liked seemed to only last on those stations for about three to six weeks — then they would disappear and never be heard again.  Interesting.

Such was the case with AOR (“Album Oriented Rock”) radio.  And today, I’m going to share a few examples of those long-forgotten tracks.

WRABIT
Anyway, Anytime

Somewhere in that mixture of glam-metal and hair-metal came the group Wrabit, who blasted onto rock radio stations for all of about three weeks with this track.  And then they went back down the wrabit hole.

HONEYMOON SUITE
New Girl Now

This Canadian band had a massive #1 hit in their homeland with this track, and it even snuck onto rock radio stations in 1984.  It even creased the bottom of the Top 40 on pop stations.  And then it just disappeared… I guess the honeymoon was over.

ORION THE HUNTER
So You Ran

This is what happens when the band Boston takes half a decade to record an album – several musicians who performed on Boston’s first two albums record their own LP.  “So You Ran” actually did quite well on Top 40 radio and on album-oriented rock stations, but a follow-up wasn’t in the stars.

GIUFFRIA
Call To The Heart

Close your eyes and listen, and you might think this is a Journey cover band.  Nope.  It’s Greg Giuffria and his band.  Would still like to hear him cover some Journey songs, though…

VIXEN
Edge of a Broken Heart

I vaguely remember Vixen, only that there was some big deal about an all-female hard rock band not being able to play riffs and chords like their male counterparts.  Well, there’s a lot of male rock bands out there that never even sniffed the Top 40, while these female foxes were one up on that total.

AUTOGRAPH
Turn Up The Radio

The only thing I remember about Autograph was that at one point in time, they actually toured the Soviet Union while a Soviet band named Autograph toured America.  I think this is the American group.  😀

ENUFF Z’NUFF
New Thing

Yes, you too can write a song that only has four notes.  And yes, if you write this song, it could actually hit the charts.  Case in point?  E’Nuff Z’Nuff.

NIGHT TRAIN
Never To Old (To Rock and Roll)

Of course, there were the regional hits that WOUR and WRCK played to death, including this group Night Train.  Look, I could play this or I could dust off an old track by the Todd Hobin Band, don’t threaten me with a good time, kids…

WHITE LION
Wait

Not to be confused with Whitesnake.  Or Great White.  Or Glass Tiger.  Or Coppermouith.  Okay, so I made that last one up.  Or did I?

GREAT WHITE
Once Bitten, Twice Shy

And let’s wrap up this edition of K-Chuck Radio with Great White’s hit that was so big, it hasn’t been heard since.  Really.  Have you heard this on any of the Sirius/XM oldies stations?  Yeah, me neither.

And just for a kicker to end the K-Chuck Radio bloglist for today, howzabout some classic radio banter and commercials from the dearly departed Rock 107 in Utica?

 

K-Chuck Radio: The 80’s college hits even I completely forgot I ever played…

From 1981 to 1985 – my college years – I spent most of my free time buried in the basement of the Minor Theater, playing music on the powerful (well, it started out as five watts of powerful) WHCL 88.7 college radio station.  You could only pick up the station on half the campus, and there was a tendency for graduating seniors to pilfer the remaining station library LP’s for their own parting graduation gifts.

But by 1985, we were cruising at 250 watts of power, and people throughout Oneida County could hear our station.

I say this because yesterday I remembered that some of our tabulated college playlists were reprinted in the archives of the Clinton Courier weekly newspaper … and lo and behold, the digital archive fultonhistory.com has the run of the Courier from that time period.

Ooh, this ought to be fun.  I can look and see the songs that were popular on our station at that time, including …

Wait.  I don’t recognize that song.  And here’s another … it says we played that song in massive rotation, but I can’t for the life of me recall a note or a lyric or anything.  And I remember this band – and that band – but  not those songs.  Hmm…

Well… I guess it’s time to fire up the old K-Chuck Radio blogcast and refresh my failing memory.  And in addition to the songs referenced, I’ll even post the notes about the songs themselves, as taken directly from the Clinton Courier from three decades ago.

ABSOLUTE GREY
Memory of You

“From Rochester, Absolute Grey were the headliners in a benefit concert at Hamilton College. This former #1 WHCL band is another graduate of the neo-psychedelic sound pioneered by bands like R.E.M. and the Dream Syndicate.” (Clinton Courier, February 27, 1985)

FLIPPER
Way of the World

“For those of the faint of heart, I should warn you that Flipper now has the no. 10 song. Flipper is now the highest charting hardcore punk group on WHCL in the past two years.” (Clinton Courier, October 24, 1984)

THE MARCH VIOLETS
Religious As Hell

I don’t remember writing about the March Violets, but I do recall them as a labelmate of another band we used to play a lot, the Sisters of Mercy.  Apparently this song did get a ton of plays on WHCL, but when I found it on YouTube, it was as if I had heard it for the first time.

THE SMITHS
Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

How popular were the Smiths on WHCL?  This song hit #1 – as an imported 45 from the UK.  Imports making big dents on our college playlist were rare occurrences, but hey this is the Smiths we’re talking about.

MALCOLM X feat. KEITH LeBLANC
No Sell Out

This was a unique little record.  Remixer Keith LeBlanc spliced together speeches and phrases from Malcolm X’s interviews and speeches, and soldered them to a funky dance beat.  A great dance beat for those who didn’t get it, and a solid message for those who did.

MADE FOR TV
So Afraid of the Russians

Another spoken-word industrial record, this was produced by John Cale.  This was a huge hit on college radio stations throughout the early 1980’s, but the group just completely disappeared after this track.

THE ASSEMBLY
Never Never

The Assembly was a studio collaboration featuring Vince Clarke (Yaz, Erasure) and Feargal Sharkey (The Undertones).  This ballad was the big hit, but the Assembly never recorded with that lineup ever again.

AZTEC CAMERA
All I Need Is Everything

Wow.  At one point, Aztec Camera was the most popular group on WHCL – so popular, in fact, that nearly every track on their LP found fans with our on-air talent.  They even did a ballad version of Van Halen’s “Jump” that got plenty of play.  I think this was their most popular track on the station.

NATIVE
Love Ain’t No Holiday

We played a lot of electronica on WHCL.  We also played a lot of reggae and dub.  And on occasion, we acquired records that contained both electronica and dub.  Such as this slow-groove track by the New York City group Native.

GIL SCOTT-HERON
Re-Ron

Truth.  This record was created during the 1984 Presidential campaign, where Gil Scott-Heron satirized the re-election of Ronald Reagan.  Man, I wish Gil Scott-Heron was alive today.  He would have a field day with the political situation in 2016.

And that’s a sample of some of the music that populated our little college radio station in the early 1980’s.  Hope you enjoy.

Another spin – from the crew at WHCL – er – um – the crew at K-Chuck Radio!