Friday, June 29, 2012

Pop Music (Part II)

Photos and images provided by "Google Images" 
Titling and compositing by Felicity B.

Part II  (1948 – 2012)

By Felicity Blaze Noodleman

*  The electric guitar was invented in 1931 by the National Guitar Corporation which would become “Rickenbacker Guitars”.  Before the 1950's there were clues indicating pop music music was beginning to change.  Since the beginning of radio and recorded music during the 1920’s in the southern US radio stations were catering to the regional tastes of their listeners.

Television was replacing radio as the medium for entertainment drama.  Programs which began on radio were now moving to TV and as a result radio stations needed a new source of programming to fill their empty time slots.  Music radio was born.  Radio stations began to branch off into all areas of music – Pop, Rock, Soul, Country and Easy Listening.  Rock n’Roll and Soul were new with small recording studios springing up to help Radio meet the new challenge of programming.   

WSM radio in Nashville was the home of “Country” music and would spawn what was to be called “Rockabilly” music.  It was becoming hugely popular in other parts of the country and the world.  Deeper in the south “Jazz”, with its home in New Orleans, had already made an influence in the swing and pop music of the day.  All over the south there was a trend toward “Rhythm and Blues”.  Soul was being developed in the northern urban areas of the nation and also drew its inspiration from the musical traditions of the South.  Young people in the ‘50’s were becoming disenchanted with the music of their parents feeling it was too stuffy and old hat.  They were ready for something new!


Dean Martin – Dean is arguably the last of the really big Crooners.  He began his very successful career with his comedy partner Jerry Lewis.  They were another example of stars who drove their fans to pandemonium.  Jerry was the wild and crazy nut and Dean was the voice of reason and sensibility who would try to keep Jerry in line.  What was really different about Lewis & Martin was Dean’s singing ability.  He absolutely knocked them off their feet with his smooth Baritone voice.
Performing as a nightclub act they were given national exposure on the new medium of television and were signed to a radio contract in 1948 and then were signed by Paramount Pictures in 1949.  Martin recorded for a small company in 1946 and signed with Capitol Records in ‘48 and would later record for fellow “Rat-packer” Sinatra at Reprise Records in 1962.  Lewis & Martin went through a very nasty public break up in 1956.  Dean was the more successful of the two and perused a successful solo acting career and continuing with his accomplished recording profession.

During Dean’s era many entertainment industrial innovations came about.  The Birth of television, Stereo recording and record manufacturing, AM top 40 Radio and FM Stereo Radio.
Martin has recorded 83 singles, and 52 albums in all during his career.  He has made over 60 motion pictures and has been very successful as a television performer throughout the early years of TV.  “The Dean Martin Show” and the “Dean Martin Celebrity Roast” were both big hits on national TV.

Dean Martin very early in his career on NBC radio with
 comedy partner Jerry Lewis, 1949

Elvis Presley -  Started his career at Sun Records in Memphis, TN. In 1954 this was a new kind of music enterprise blending Country music with Rhythm & Blues and the beginnings of “Rockabilly”.  He was creating a stir with fans where ever he performed with his “hip swiveling” style.  Other artist at Sun also were “rockers” such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison.  One other very famous artist who would come from Sun Records was the hugely popular country artist Johnny Cash and was dubbed a member of the “Million Dollar Quartet” with Presley, Lewis and Perkins.  

Sun records sold Elvis’s contract to RCA records and he became an international sensation.  “Rock & Roll” was the term coined by D.J. Alan Freed some years earlier.  Elvis truly was a crossover artist who could sing and perform Rock & Roll at a fever pitch and who also was capable of singing a tender love ballad in the best tradition of the “Crooner”.  Elvis had the best singing voice I have ever heard! 

He soon signed a movie deal with MGM and the dye was struck.  Over the course of his career his films did very well and were a staple for fans.  He influenced so many others of his generation and those to follow.  One such notable entertainer who gave Elvis a great deal of competition was Ricky Nelson.  During the early period of their careers it was difficult to detect who was the top dog!  Both greatly admired the other but with time Elvis became the more dominate through the longevity of his career.  Elvis holds the number 2 spot in the over $300,000. club with a certified 203.3 million units sold.  He was working and still emencly popular until his death in 1977.

Sir Paul McCartney - Began his professional music career in 1962 recording with “The Beatles” and signing with Parlophone records.  He was an influenceal member of the group being one half of the song writing genius of Lennon & McCartney.  His career with this band lasted until their breakup in 1970 and they are listed as the number one pop act of all time earning well over $300,000. with an estimated 250 million units sold.
Paul or Sir James Paul; as he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997 is estimated to have earned over 450,000 in English Pounds Sterling.  This entertainer concerns himself primarily with songwriting, recording and touring in concert.  He is now in his sixth decade of entertaining.  His accomplishments are staggering and at this point I will quote from the “Gunnies Book of World Records”.

McCartney has been described by Guinness World Records as "The Most Successful Composer and Recording Artist of All Time", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million albums, 100 million singles, and a writer's credit on forty-three songs that have sold over one million copies each.  According to Guinness, he is "the most successful songwriter" in UK singles chart history, and has written or co-written “188 charted records, of which 129 are different songs. Of these records, 91 reached the Top 10 and 33 made it to No.1. In total, the songs have spent 1,662 weeks on the chart (up to the beginning of 2007)”.  In 1986 he received acclaim from the Guinness Book of Records Hall of Fame, who presented him with a rhodium disk to commemorate his standing "as the most successful musician of all-time."

In the US, as a songwriter or co-writer, McCartney is included on 32 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100; including twenty with the Beatles and nine solo and/or with Wings, one as a co-writer of "A World Without Love", a number one single for Peter and Gordon, one as a co-writer on Elton John's cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", and one as a co-writer with Jackson on "Say Say Say”.  As of 2012 he has sold 15.5 million RIAA certified units in the United States.

Although Elvis Presley has achieved the most UK number-ones as a solo artist with eighteen, McCartney has been involved in more number-ones in the UK than any other artist under a variety of credits, totalling twenty-four singles: including seventeen with the Beatles, one solo, and one each with Wings, Stevie Wonder, Ferry Aid, Band Aid, Band Aid 20 and one with "The Christians et all".  He is the only artist to reach the UK number one as a soloist ("Pipes of Peace"), duo ("Ebony and Ivory" with Wonder), trio ("Mull of Kintyre", Wings), quartet ("She Loves You", the Beatles), quintet ("Get Back", the Beatles with Billy Preston), and as part of a musical ensemble for charity (Ferry Aid).

McCartney's song "Yesterday" is thought to be the most covered in history with more than 2,200 recorded versions,  and according to the BBC, "The track is the only one by a UK writer to have been aired more than seven million times on American TV and radio and is third in the all-time list ... [and] is the most played song by a British writer this century in the US."  His 1968 Beatles composition, "Hey Jude", is also a career highlight. It achieved the highest sales in the UK that year, and topped the US charts for nine weeks, longer than any other Beatles single. It was also the longest single ever released by the band, and at seven minutes eleven seconds was the longest of any number one ever to that point.   "Hey Jude" was covered by several notable artists, including Presley, Bing Crosby, Count Basie, and Wilson Pickett.  It is the best-selling Beatles single of all-time, with sales of over five million copies achieved soon after its release.

In 1990 the minor planet 4148, was named "McCartney" in his honour.  In July 2005 he was involved with the fastest-released single in history, when his performance of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" with U2 at Live 8 was released before the concert was over. The single reached number six on the Billboard charts, just hours after the single's release, and hit number one on numerous online download charts across the world.  In 2008 he received a BRIT award for Outstanding Contribution to Music,  as well as an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Yale University.  In 2012 he became the last of the "Fab Four" to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Sir Paul embraces the other members of "The Beatles" in the mid 1960's 
(Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison)

Sir Elton John -  The true mad man of mad men.  He has been known for his simply out ragious performances on stage with big glasses, rhine stone and feather studded costumes with high platform shoes.  Elton holds a number of records – number two best selling song of all time, “Candle in the Wind” and is ranked as the fifth best selling artist of all time with over $300,000. in sales and 154 million units sold.  He came to prominence in 1969 and still remains active today.

Trained as a classical pianist John was exposed to classical and gospel music.  He also was influenced by the rockers of his day – Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.   Elton collaborates with partner Bernie Taupin on his music writing which is where he got his start in the music industry.   Together they have produced more than 30 albums to date.  Sir Elton has also established himself in theater and motion pictures writing music and sound tracks for a number of shows and films.  John’s career has earned him a number of awards and he is active in a number of charities. 

During Elton’s career “Disco” was the popular dance music of the day and produced many one hit wonders which have been a phenomenon since the early days of recording.  FM radio was now transitioning making the switch to pop and rock music formats and moving away from its staple which was known as “elevator music”.  In the recording studios however there were big changes happening.  Video 1 & 2 inch recording tapes were being adapted for sound only recording making more channels available.  Much bigger mixing boards were developed and the largest part of recording was now in production.

* Motown Records – Founded in 1960 by Barry Gordy Jr. is probably the most successful small label in the recording industry. Motown’s studio was located in a two floor house in Detroit, MI and was to become known as “Hits Ville USA”. Gordy has discovered and produced so many great stars in pop music. The Supremes, The Jackson 5, The Miracles, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Dianna Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder to name a few all got their start at Motown. Gordy would go on to establish a total of five labels for his recording business and is currently planning a Broadway musical on the founding of Motown.

Michael Jackson  -  Began his recording career in 1968 at the historic “Motown” record label with his brothers, the “Jackson 5”.  A highly popular act selling over 100 million albums Michael performed as the lead singer at the age of 10.  Jackson became a solo act.  He has been active in motion pictures, stage and recording until his death in 2009.  He is ranked as the third best selling artist of all time and dubbed “The King of Pop” with sales over $300,000. and 156.5 million units sold. 

The albums “Thriller” and “Bad” are Jackson’s two of his biggest selling albums and they have been ranked as the best selling of all time with over 40 million in sales each.  He is best known for his singing and dancing style and has been involved with various areas in motion pictures.  At the time of his unfortunate death Michael was in the middle of preparing for his sold out tour “This Is It”.  After his death he became the best selling artist of 2009 with over 35 million albums sold worldwide.

A young Michael in 1973 performs with his brothers "The Jackson 5" 
Tito, Randy, Marlon, Michael and Jermaine

*Special thanks to TaNisha Harris for background research on Michael and The Jackson 5

Madonna – This lady has carved her entertainment career in the likeness of her predecessors.  She began recording in what was known as “New Wave” music.  She is a star of recording, stage and motion pictures and is ranked as the forth best selling recording artist of all time with over $300,000. In sales with 157 million units sold.  She has made 18 motion pictures to date and has worked as a director.  Her career has been going strong since her first film in 1979.  She still continues working and hopefully will be with us for years to come.

During Madonna’s career the music industry continued to make big technical advances.  MTV became a new medium for showcasing musicians and digital recording revolutionized music production.  Compact discs soon gave way to music down loads for iPods and MP3 players and the computer replaced CD players and turn tables.  Now it is possible to down load music videos and motion pictures via computer.  Madonna is the reigning queen of pop – that’s it and that’s all!  She is active in all areas as an entertainer and is the hardest working woman in show business today.

Inside the digital recording studio.  This is where the engineer
"mixes" and produces what will become the final master
recording of a song.

Who will be the next Mega Super Pop stars of the future?   Only time will reveal them to us.  They are out there right now working at their craft – building their numbers.  I’ll throw out a few names:  Lady Ga Ga, Eminem, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Jay-Z or maybe someone out of one of the groups like the Black Eyed Peas, Red Hot Chili Peppers or the Backstreet Boys. Perhaps it will be Christina Aguilar, Bono of U-2, Gwen Stephani or Sting.  It’s a little early to tell for now.

It is this writer’s opinion that we will not see such mega super stars for quite some time for two reasons.  Firstly because the music field of today is so diverse incorporating more genera’s than ever before blending into the main stream of music.  Some of these are totally new musical styles and are still in themselves being developed while others are much older and established veins of music with newer stars who are making the effort of mass appeal through the medium of television and video.  The second reason is due to the new medium of the music digital down load – iTunes; which allows users the option of purchasing only a single song or video instead of making the song only available as an album purchase.  Boy; things have sure changed a lot!

I’m Felicity and next week we will be looking at “happiness” and how to really achieve it.  Here’s hoping you will keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!

* A sad footnote to this article – the Kodak Theater here in Hollywood has changed hands with the Dolby Laboratories, Inc. as of May 1, 2012.  The theater has been home to “Oscar” and the Academy Awards since its opening in 2001; the first ceremony being held there in 2002.  It has also been home to “American Idol”.   Kodak has been associated with the motion picture industry for well over 100 years and was present during so many of the innovations mentioned is this article.  Kodak has truly been a part of our lives and passes on a rich legacy for all time.

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