Ranking #2 singles, U.S. edition: 1963-1964

As much as it might pain my boomer readers who read Robert Christgau’s scathing review of its soundtrack and wondered why he couldn’t flash the badge of his generosity,, or, perhaps, drove their cars into their parents on hearing “She’s Like the Wind” or “Hungry Eyes,” I owe Dirty Dancing a debt.Continue reading “Ranking #2 singles, U.S. edition: 1963-1964”

Ranking #5 singles, U.S. edition: 1963-1965

In the era of La Dolce Vita and Oscars awarded to Ingmar Bergman “The Girl from Ipanema” surprised audiences with its lilting vocal and talk-sung melody, the origin to my ears of too many Bacharach-David tunes. But the most surprising record was new to me. With one foot in the Beatles jangle and another in what Tom Ewing has called the strange, slow kid shuffling by himself in a corner of the disco,” the single “Have I the Right?” has a tub thumping section louder than its vocal and a sexual imperative louder than its lyric. Oh, yeah!

The rest of these singles bow and move offstage on oldies radio. Let me bow myself to a voice of startling purity and need in Barbra Streisand’s debut “People.”


Herman’s Hermits – Silhouettes
Bobby Freeman – C’mon and Swim

Sound, Solid

Jackie Wilson – Baby Workout
Roy Orbison – Mean Woman Blues
The Beach Boys – Fun, Fun, Fun
Lesley Gore – Judy’s Turn to Cry
Major Lance – Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um
The Rivieras – California Sun
Lonnie Mack – Memphis

Good to Great

Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto – The Girl from Ipanema
Four Tops – It’s the Same Old Song
The Honeycombs – Have I The Right
Joe Tex – Hold What You’ve Got
The Shangri-La’s – Remember (Walking in the Sand)
The Drifters – Up on the Roof
Betty Everett and Jerry Butler – Let It Be
Lesley Gore – She’s a Fool
The Chiffons – One Fine Day
Barbara Mason – Yes I’m Ready
Barbra Streisand – People
The Ramsey Lewis Trio – The “In” Crowd

Ranking #37 singles, U.S. edition: 1969-1970

A psych-rock chestnut by Pete Townshend proteges that as a young man I confused with Neil Young, “Something in the Air” boasts a latticework of guitars, basic barrelhouse piano pounding offsetting lyrics that may sound platitudinous to our ears but at the height of the Vietnam War bloodshed resonated. Continue reading “Ranking #37 singles, U.S. edition: 1969-1970”

Romantics, perhaps radical: Kali Uchis , Quasi, and Fever Ray

During proofreading I realized these blurbs have more in common than I thought — even Quasi rage against anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers like the cynics they are, and I define cynicism as curdled romanticism. Continue reading “Romantics, perhaps radical: Kali Uchis , Quasi, and Fever Ray”

Ranking #57 singles, U.S. edition: 1969-1971

The older sister of Dionne Warwick and often a co-singer, Dee Dee had a rougher-hewn voice; it wears its gospel origins more fully than Dionne’s, which was made for genteeler settings. She recorded one of the earliest — perhaps the earliest — version of “You’re No Good.” On “Foolish Fool” she belts with an abandon that recalls contemporary Tina Turner, listed below and made for rockier settings. This is the first time I hear “Foolish Fool,” and it’s wonderful. Not so wonderful: accusations that Dee Dee, an out lesbian, molested her cousins Whitney Houston and Whitney’s brother Gary Garland-Houston. The latter made those accusations in Kevin Macdonald’s 2018 documentary Whitney; their mother Cissy has denied them, which meant she contradicted her son.

Tasty trifles abound: 1910 Fruitgum Company and The Archies, of course; also “Rag Mama Rag,” a UK top 20 hit for The Band. Helen Reddy covers Van Morrison. Tommy James flops with his solo debut single (“Draggin’ the Line” the following year would offer a corrective).


The Doors – Tell All The People
Anne Murray – Talk It Over In The Morning
Dusk – Angel Baby

Sound, Solid

Elvis Presley – It’s Only Love
1910 Fruitgum Company – The Train
Pop Tops – Mammy Blue
Shango – Day After Day (It’s Slippin’ Away)
Helen Reddy – Crazy Love
The Ebonys – You’re The Reason Why
The New Hope – Won’t Find Better (Than Me)

Good to Great

Dee Dee Warwick – Foolish Fool
Ike & Tina Turner – Come Together
The Band – Rag Mama Rag
Tommy James – Ball and Chain
Dionne Warwick – Who Gets the Guy
Young-Holt Unlimited Who’s Making Love
The Archies – Sunshine
Jean Knight – You Think You’re Hot Stuff

‘The campus can be a hostile place’

Governor Torquemada is at it again, punishing establishments for following the rules:

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is seeking to revoke the Hyatt Regency Miami’s liquor license because one of its facilities hosted a Christmas-themed drag queen show in which the state claimed minors were present.

The event — “A Drag Queen Christmas” — was held on Dec. 27 at the James L. Knight Center, a 4,500-seat auditorium affiliated with the hotel that typically hosts concerts, graduation ceremonies and other events. The December show was hosted by Nina West, a star from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and minors were required to be accompanied by an adult to attend.[Emphasis mine]

In a 17-page administrative complaint, state regulators said the venue’s admission policies allowed minors to attend the event and as a result, they were exposed to performers who were “wearing sexually suggestive clothing and prosthetic female genitalia.”

“The nature of the show’s performances, particularly when conducted in the presence of young children, corrupts the public morals and outrages the sense of public decency,” according to the complaint, filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Students are already feeling the consequences of Tallahassee’s animus towards queer Floridians. Interviews conducted at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville reveal a depressed, despairing lot whom DeSantis will replace with Jordan Peterson pod people in four years:

Lee Jordan, a junior studying sociology, chose to attend UNF in part because of its nationally recognized LGBTQ Center.

“I thought it would help me adjust to college life and being away from home for the first time as an LGBTQ person,” Jordan said.

The center, Jordan said, helped him find a community on campus and in Jacksonville, providing sexually transmitted infection testing and offering a bountiful library of LGBTQ texts. Staff there helped him deal with an incident freshman year when someone wrote homophobic messages on his dorm room door, Jordan said.

“The campus can be a hostile place,” he said. “The center is vital in giving students the resources to deal with these issues.”

To hope that the courts halt these assaults, like they did DeSantis’ absurd, ill-lettered attack on social media, is illusory. The chilling effect is the point. The dehumanizing of children, relatives, and neighbors is the point.

Ranking #56 singles, U.S. edition: 1968-1971

Don’t blame ? and the Mysterians for Smash Mouth’s to-the-letter cover of their Stax-influenced single. I don’t play “I Am the Walrus” often either; what lingers in the memory is John Lennon’s prissy vocalese while singing stupid lyrics, and George Martin’s fantastic string arrangement. That’s enough. What isn’t: Loretta Lynn’s contribution to her Conway Twitty collaboration, which got close enough to the pop chart to impress me. Same with Candi Stanton, The Impressions, and Crow’s okay jam about the grossest of human creations. Continue reading “Ranking #56 singles, U.S. edition: 1968-1971”

Ranking #40 singles, U.S. edition: 2000-2008

If artistic and business circles overlap at all, consider the premium placed on Originality and its knavish twin “leadership.” Every one of us craves singularity; we like to claim we are our own creations. The marvel of “Tim McGraw” is how a young Taylor Swift posits herself as tradition’s supplicant and implies that she will cast it off soon enough. She would write bigger songs; few debut singles would present the artist’s skills such that the through-lines, however gnarled, remain years later vivid in later essentials like “Cardigan,” “Cornelia Street,” and “Midnight Rain.” Continue reading “Ranking #40 singles, U.S. edition: 2000-2008”

Léa Seydoux is up to the complexity of ‘One Fine Morning’

Sandra doesn’t know what’s worse: sleeping with a man who insists he’s going to end his marriage or finding the right assisted living facility for her philosophy professor father, in the grips of Benson’s syndrome. It’s not that family isn’t cooperative: her mother, who divorced Georg twenty years ago, takes time from her lively private life as mentor to Gen Z activists protesting the Macron administration; and her daughter Linn doesn’t annoy like most teens. Yet, programmed to assume responsibilities without complaint, it’s Sandra who looks as if she might collapse. Continue reading “Léa Seydoux is up to the complexity of ‘One Fine Morning’”