News for May 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #36 – The Friends Of Distinction: “Grazing In The Grass” b/w “Going In Circles”

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #36 – The Friends Of Distinction: “Grazing In The Grass” b/w “Going In Circles” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 04769 (M4/NL4)

Some of the world’s best-loved and biggest hits have their origin in afterthought…

“Grazing In The Grass” was originally an instrumental hit recorded by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela that topped the charts in 1968. Masekela came to record the song after purchasing a cowbell-infused novelty record in Zambia called “Mr. Bull #5.” After turning in his debut album to UNI Records which was contractually short by three minutes, the label suggested he cover the single. While in the studio, actor and singer Philemon Hou came up with a new melody which became “Grazing In The Grass.”

Masekela thought little of the song, but included it on the album anyway to fulfill his contract. When UNI executive Russ Regan decided to release it as a single, Hugh Masekela became the first South African recording act to reach number one on the pop charts. (Fun fact: The guitarist on Masekela’s version of the song was Bruce Langhorne, who was the subject of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.”) (songfacts.com)

The Friends of Distinction was a soul group from southern California that formed in 1968 around Harry Elston, Floyd Butler, Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love. Elston and Butler were members of The Hif-Fi’s, who warmed up for Ray Charles on tour, along with Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore who went on to form The 5th Dimension. The group secured a recording contract with RCA Records after joining forces with ex-Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown who took on management of the group.

When Elston heard Masekela’s hit version of the song, he wrote lyrics to it for Friends Of Distinction to record. Their version hit #3 on the pop charts and #5 R&B.

The song has been covered by Stevie Wonder, Chet Atkins, Boney James and Meco, and has been featured in many films including Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Jackie Brown, I Shot Andy Warhol and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.

The flip of today’s single is The Friends’ follow-up single “Going In Circles” which was also a million seller that climbed to #3 on the R&B charts and #15 pop in 1970. The slow jam heartbreak/coming-of-age song was written by Jerry Peters and Anita Poree and has been covered by The Gap Band, Isaac Hayes (on his Black Moses album) and Luther Vandross.

The story goes that after six albums and five years of hits including “Love or Let Me Be Lonely,” “Time Waits for No One,” and “I Need You,” The Friends Of Distinction broke up somewhat acrimoniously with Elston and Butler going separate ways to work outside of the music industry. By 1990 the legacy and influence of The Friends’ recordings had grown substantially. After not speaking to each other for many years, Elston and Butler agreed to work together again, however the reunion was short lived as Butler suffered from a heart attack and died in Elston’s arms. Elston reformed the group in 1996 with new members including Geno Henderson, Wendy Brune and Berlando Drake. They continue to tour and perform the music of The Friends of Distinction around the world today.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 31st, 2015

The Jukebox Series #35 – Neil Diamond: “Solitary Man”

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #35 – Neil Diamond: “Solitary Man” b/w “The Time Is Now” – Bang 45 RPM Single 45 578 (K4/L4)

I’ve always been willing and able to give Neil Diamond a pass for syrupy hits like “September Morn,” “Heartlight,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and the many other middle of the road cringe-worthy songs that he cut during the 1980s, in exchange for the greatness of hits like “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Holly Holy,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “I Am…I Said,” “Song Sung Blue,” “Cherry Cherry,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Thank The Lord For The Night Time,” “I’m A Believer,” “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon,” and today’s jukebox classic, the sublime “Solitary Man.” How could you not?

“Solitary Man” was Neil Diamond’s first single as a recording artist after seeing success as a songwriter of hits for others around the Brill Building. Diamond was one of the first signees to the Bang record label which was formed in 1965 by Bert Berns, Ahmet Ertegun, Neshui Ertegun and Jerry (Gerald) Wexler. (Their first initials gave the label its name.) Some of Berns’ other early signings on the label were The Strangeloves (“I Want Candy”), The McCoys (“Hang On Sloopy”) and Van Morrison (“Brown Eyed Girl”).

“Solitary Man” was produced by Diamond’s Brill Building cohorts Jeff Barrie and Ellie Greenwich and it was a minor hit when released as a single in 1966 climbing to #50 on the pop singles charts. After signing with UNI Records and having more mainstream success, the song was re-released as a single by Bang in 1970 and it charted again at #21.

Neil Diamond: “Solitary Man was my first song where I tried to really raise the level of my songwriting. It was inspired by the Beatles’ song ‘Michelle,’ which was also written in a minor key. I don’t think I’d ever written a song in a minor key before, it was the first and it kind of broke the dam for me.” (Mojo) It was also an early example of Diamond looking inside to write more personal material about himself. Diamond: “After four years of Freudian analysis I realized I had written ‘Solitary Man’ about myself.” (Pete Paphides from The Times.)

The song was the lead track on Diamond’s debut album for Bang called The Feel Of Neil Diamond. The album included several original compositions including “Cherry Cherry,” “Do It” and “Oh No No (I’ve Got A Feelin’),” plus covers of “Hanky Panky,” “Red Rubber Ball,” “Monday Monday” and “La Bamba.”

The song has been covered by Johnny Cash, Cliff Richard, Chris Isaak, T.G. Sheppard (who scored a #14 Country hit with the song in 1976), Billy Joe Royal, Johnny Rivers, Jay And The Americans, The Sidewinders, B.J. Thomas, the metal band HIM (who took the song into the UK top ten) and many others.

Diamond was one of Bang Records’ early success stories, but he left the label and signed to UNI records because he felt that Berns was holding him back artistically by not releasing his introspective song “Shilo” as a single. After Berns died suddenly in December of 1967, his wife took control of the label and she took to releasing older Diamond song as singles in order to compete with his latest output for UNI. And wouldn’t you know it that one of the singles she released was “Shilo,” which climbed into the top forty.

The flip of today’s single was one of two B-sides that graced the “Solitary Man” single. The original 1966 issue of the single featured the track “Do It” on the flip; the 1970 rerelease featured the bluesy “The Time Is Now.”

The Neil Diamond we hear on “The Time Is Now” isn’t the syrupy sweet balladeer of “Heartlight” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” nor is it the fun-loving Brill building party boy of “Cherry Cherry.” Instead, we get a rough-cut Diamond totally ensconced in the blues.

Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Additionally, he was an honoree at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2011.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 28th, 2015

The Jukebox Series #34 – Dusty Springfield: “The Look Of Love”

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #34 – Dusty Springfield: “The Look Of Love” b/w “All I See Is You” – 45 RPM Single 45 (I4/J4)

Her voice was smooth, and her delivery was as sultry as it comes. While she was a much bigger star in her native England, Dusty Springfield sent numerous singles up the charts on these shores as well, including “I Only Want To Be With You” (#12/1963), “Wishin’ And Hopin’” (#6/1963), “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” (#3/1964 UK), “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” (#4/1966), “Son Of A Preacher Man (#10/1969), “The Windmills Of Your Mind” (#31/1969) and “What Have I Done To Deserve This” with The Pet Shop Boys (#2/1987).

She was also credited with introducing the Motown Sound to English music fans by helming a special edition of the British music TV show Ready Steady Go!, that featured the first UK TV appearances by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Temptations, The Supremes, the Miracles and Stevie Wonder. She also covered her share of Motown hits for consumption by the UK market and some of her versions were more popular than the originals.

Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien (aka Dusty Springfield) got her start as a member of the “sister” act The Lana Sisters performing on TV and as part of shows on military bases around the UK. From there, she joined the family folk group called The Springfields with her brothers Tom and Tim who were best known by their recording of “Silver Threads And Golden Needles.”

Today’s jukebox classic is one of Dusty Springfield’s signature hits, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the James Bond film parody Casino Royale. The song was originally intended to be an instrumental until David wrote lyrics to the song. It was nominated for Best Song in the 1968 Grammy Awards. Springfield recorded the song twice. Her first recording was released on Colgems Records on the soundtrack to the film Casino Royale.

Burt Bacharach: “When I’m scoring a picture, whether it’s Butch Cassidy or Casino Royale or What’s New Pussycat?, all those melodies that turned into what became hit songs came from what I saw on the screen when I was scoring and what I heard. The first thing is you service the motion picture. If you’re lucky enough and you have a theme that turns into a hit whether it was Dusty (Springfield) singing ‘The Look Of Love’ in Casino Royale, what was most important there was the sexuality of Ursula Andress wearing very little clothes and making very sexy theme with the saxophone playing the melody of ‘The Look Of Love.’ Then we put Dusty on. First and foremost is it’s written for the picture, you don’t force it in.” (Record Collector via Songfacts)

Springfield then rerecorded the song for the Philips label in 1967, where it was relegated to the B-side of her “Give Me Time” single. It also appeared on The Look Of Love album, which was her last U.S. album for Philips Records in 1967 before signing with Atlantic and releasing the landmark Dusty In Memphis record. (Tracks for her last Philips album entitled Dusty Definitely in England were not released in America until the 1990s, and then they were released under the title Dusty In London.)

The song has been covered by a myriad of artists including Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (whose version charted at #4 on the pop charts), Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Isaac Hayes, Ahmad Jamal, Claudine Longet, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Dionne Warwick, Andy Williams, The Delfonics, Tony Joe White, The Meters, The Vanilla Fudge, The Zombies, Diana Krall (whose recording made it into the top ten of the Canadian charts), Anita Baker and literally dozens more.

The flip is Springfield’s 1966 single “All I See Is You”, written by Ben Weisman & Carl Westlake, which also reached the US Top 20.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 26th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Buckets Of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Buckets Of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan

Here’s one for Bob Dylan’s birthday…

Today’s Song of the Day is a great Bette Midler/Bob Dylan duet from Midler’s 1976 album Songs For The New Depression. The session came about because Dylan had hoped Midler would join him on the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour with an eye towards her being a part of his four-hour Renaldo and Clara movie which was filmed on the tour.

The duo’s original intention was to cut a new version of Moogy Klingman’s song “Friends” that Midler had recorded on her The Divine Miss M album several years earlier. When that didn’t work out, they worked up this rough and ready version of a song that was from Dylan’s then-current Blood on the Tracks album.

While there’s no topping Dylan’s own version of the song, I’ve always thought this one had a lot of personality and it sounds like they were both having a hoot recording it. Dylan and Midler would find themselves together in the studio one more during the USA For Africa sessions in the 1980s for the charity record of “We Are The World.”

Edited: May 25th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #33 – Unit 4+2: “Concrete And Clay” b/w “When I Fall In Love” – London 45 RPM Single 45-LON-9754 (G4/H4)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #33 – Unit 4+2: “Concrete And Clay” b/w “When I Fall In Love” – London 45 RPM Single 45-LON-9754 (G4/H4)

Today’s song is a somewhat forgotten British Invasion classic from 1965, featuring future members of The Kinks and Argent amongst its band members.

Unit 4 was a British harmony vocal group that was started in the early 1960s by Brian Parker who was a member of Adam Faith’s backing band The Roulettes. Parker set out to form his own band and recruited Buster Meikle on vocals and guitar, Tommy Moeller on vocals and piano and Peter Moules on bass. Soon thereafter, they added two more members, Rod Garwood (bass) and Hugh Halliday (drums) who became the “+2” of their namesake. Their first British single was “The Green Fields” which was a top 50 hit in 1964.

By 1965, they were joined by two guest musicians, Bob Henrit who later went on to become a member of The Kinks and Russ Ballard who was a founding member of Argent. Both had worked with Parker and were also members of The Roulettes. Henrit and Ballard later joined Unit 4 + 2 as full members in 1967.

Their 1965 single, “Concrete And Clay” topped the British charts due to its inclusion on pirate radio playlists. In America, Unit 4 + 2’s recording of the song competed on the charts with a rival version by singer and Bob Crewe protégé Eddie Rambeau. Rambeau’s version climbed to number 35 on the charts, while Unit 4 + 2’s made it up to number 28. Both recordings kind of cancelled each other out, so neither was able to attain the attention that it should have.

A full length album was rush-recorded and released to capitalize on the success of the single in England, but the material was lacking and attempts to find a suitable follow up single failed to catch fire on the charts. As time went on, the band delved into psychedelic music as they strived to keep up with the ever changing times. During the late 60s, the group with Henrit and Ballard now full members recorded a version of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” that failed to compete well with the more successful version by The Byrds.

“Concrete” was covered by Gary Lewis And The Playboys, Cliff Richard, Martin Plaza (of the group Mental As Anything) who brought the song to the #2 position on the Australian charts in 1986, Randy Edelman who brought the song to #20 on the UK charts in 1976, Kevin Rowland (of Dexy’s Midnight Runners) and They Might Be Giants.

The flip of today’s single is a cover of the Victor Young and Edward Heyman standard “When I Fall In Love” which was popularized by Nat “King” Cole and hundreds of other pop vocalists. The group’s cover puts them more into the category of easy listening artists like The Lettermen.

All in all, Unit 4 + 2 released 16 singles and two albums in England between 1964 and 1969. The song was rerecorded by songwriter and original vocalist, Tommy Moeller for a UK album in 2011. Moeller was also known as the public face of another British one-hit wonder, Whistling Jack Smith who had a number five whistling hit with “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman.” In the U.S. Unit 4+2 are barely remembered for this one great track, which to my ears sounds like a prequel to today’s faux folk groups like Mumford And Sons and The Lumineers.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 20th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #32 – The Trashmen: “Surfin’ Bird” b/w The Castaways “Liar Liar” – Eric 45 RPM Single 247 (E4/F4)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #32 – The Trashmen: “Surfin’ Bird” b/w The Castaways “Liar Liar” – Eric 45 RPM Single 247 (E4/F4)

Today’s jukebox classic is a near-perfect pairing of two garage rock classics by two different artists on one solid 45 RPM record (and on the Eric label, no less). One side gives us the stompin’ “Surfin’ Bird,” a song that set ‘60s frat parties into motion by The Trashmen. It is paired with another garage classic on the flip, The Castaways’ one-hit wonder “Liar Liar,” in all its primal glory.

The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” was itself an amalgam of two other hits originally by The Rivingtons, one being “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow,” and the other, “The Bird Is The Word.” The Trashmen took the chorus to both Rivington songs and strung them together to make this nonsensical garage rock classic. When the record came out, the songwriting was credited to the group’s singer and drummer Steve Wahrer whose idea it was to string the two songs together. After legal representatives from The Rivingtons’ camp contacted The Trashmen, later copies of the single gave The Rivingtons sole writing credit of the song.

The Trashmen formed in Minneapolis in 1962 and consisted of Tony Andreason on lead guitar and vocals, Dal Winslow on guitar and vocals, Steve Wahrer on drums and vocals and Bob Reed on bass guitar. Along with “Surfin’ Bird,” they placed five other singles in the charts including “Bird Dance Beat” which climbed to #30 in 1964.

The song has been covered by the likes of The Ramones, Silverchair, The Cramps and Pee Wee Herman who sang it in the movie Back To The Beach. It has also been awarded screen time in the movies E.T., Full Metal Jacket and in John Waters’ classic cult film Pink Flamingoes.

Most recently, the song was used in a 2009 episode of Family Guy which brought the track back to the #50 position on UK singles charts, and #10 on the iTunes chart. It was also the subject of a Facebook campaign to send the song up the UK charts in 2010 in order to keep the winner of X-Factor off the top of the charts during the Christmas season. The campaign resulted in the song’s highest chart position of #3. The group broke up in 1967, but reformed in the 1980s and have toured on and off in some form ever since.

On the flip of today’s double A-sided single is another garage classic, “Liar Liar” by the one-hit-wonder garage rock group The Castaways. The Castaways were also from Minnesota and consisted of James Donna on keyboards, Robert Folschow and Dick Roby on guitar, Roy Hensley on bass and Dennis Craswell on drums.

The group formed to play frat parties where today’s song became popular enough to allow the group to record and release the track on the Soma record label. It is Folschow’s falsetto that is heard on the single which climbed up to the #12 position of the singles charts in 1965. The group became so popular on the heels of this song, that they performed it in the 1967 beach movie It’s A Bikini World.

The song was also used in the films Good Morning Vietnam and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and was covered by Debbie Harry of Blondie in 1988 for the film Married To The Mob. Harry’s version climbed to #14 on the Modern Rock charts. The group still exists today with James Donna the only original member.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 19th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #31 – The Isley Brothers: “That Lady (Part 1)” b/w “That Lady (Part 2)” – T-Neck 45 RPM Single 2251 (A4/B4V3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #31 – The Isley Brothers: “That Lady (Part 1)” b/w “That Lady (Part 2)” – T-Neck 45 RPM Single 2251 (A4/B4V3)

From gossamer to “grit-tay”…the other day I featured a satiny-smooth jukebox classic by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles…today we’re going gritty with this funky 1973 track by The Isley Brothers.

They were one of the longest running R&B groups of all time forming in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1959 and recording and touring together in some form through 2010.

The Isley’s were responsible for such indelible hits as “Shout,” “Twist And Shout,” “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You),” “Black Berries,” “It’s Your Thing,” “Pop That Thang,” “Love The One You’re With,” “Summer Breeze,” “Fight The Power,” “Harvest For The World,” plus many others. Today’s Song Of The Day comes from their 1973 album called 3+3.

The album’s title alludes to the fact that the three original members of the group, Ronald, Rudolph and O’Kelly Isley, made their brother-in-law Chris Jasper and brothers Ernie and Marvin Isley, the other 3, full time members of the group.

The album became their first platinum album, selling over one million copies. Along with “That Lady,” two other tracks from the album made waves on the R&B charts including their cover of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” (#10 R&B) and “What It Comes Down To” (#5 R&B). The group also covered Jonathan Edwards’ hit “Sunshine” and James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” for the album.

“That Lady” was originally recorded by The Isley’s back in 1964 under the title “Who’s That Lady.” That version was cut at a slower tempo and was driven by a spare staccato drum pattern, a roller-rink organ part and a full-blown horn section. The group decided to record the song again after Santana covered it on their Spirits Dancing in the Flesh album.

At first, Ronald Isley was against cutting the track again, however the rest of the group convinced him that the arrangement would be much different and it would highlight the guitar work of brother Ernie. Ernie’s guitar playing was informed by the Isley Brothers’ association with Jimi Hendrix who played with the group in 1964. Hendrix can be heard on the group’s “Testify” and “Move On Over And Let Me Dance” singles. The song became their first top-ten hit since 1969’s “It’s Your Thing,” climbing to #2 on both the Pop and R&B charts. Brother Ernie’s guitar solo was later sampled by The Beastie Boys on the track “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” from Paul’s Boutique.

Another distinction about today’s jukebox classic is that it is one in a long line of two-part singles. When 45 RPM singles ruled, it was customary to break longer tracks into two parts for the single release. The Isley Brothers were no stranger to the two-part single, and as far back as 1959, “Shout” was released as a two-parter. Many of James Brown’s singles were released in the two-part format including “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud,)” “Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine,” and “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.” Other notable two-part singles include Joey Dee’s “The Peppermint Twist,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Suzie Q,” Don McLean’s “American Pie,” Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep On Truckin’,” George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby,” Rick James’ “Super Freak,” Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” and Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane.” What other two-part singles can you think of?

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 18th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #30 – Ricky Nelson: “Stood Up” b/w “Waitin’ In School” – Imperial 45 RPM Single X5483 (U3/V3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #30 – Ricky Nelson: “Stood Up” b/w “Waitin’ In School” – Imperial 45 RPM Single X5483 (U3/V3)

Growing up in public must be very hard to pull off gracefully. And for every artist who has achieved some semblance of normality in the public eye, there are dozens whose lives were ruined by it. Ricky Nelson managed, but just barely…

Nelson’s father Ozzie was a big band leader and his wife Harriet, a big band vocalist who supported Red Skelton on his popular radio show. When Skelton was drafted in 1944, his producer John Guedel created a radio show around the couple and their family called The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet. The Nelson’s children were first played on the radio series by professional child actors until Dave and Ricky (aged 12 and 8 respectively) joined the show on February 20, 1949.

Ricky didn’t have any inkling to make records until telling a girl he was trying to impress that he was going into the studio to cut his first record. At the time, he didn’t have a record contract, but he did have connections. Ricky’s father arranged for him to record Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’” for Verve records in 1957. Crucially, he then lip-synched the song on the TV show before the single came out, resulting in a #4 hit on the Billboard charts. Its flip side “A Teenager’s Romance” climbed all the way to #2 after he also performed it on the show. Nelson was one of the few fortunate artists who had a built in mechanism to get his songs heard by a mass audience through exposure on the family show which ran on TV from 1952 through 1966.

After this success, Ozzie negotiated a long-term deal with Imperial Records for Ricky that gave him approval of what songs he would record and final say over sleeve artwork, which was unheard of at the time. His first single for the new label “Be Bop Baby” went on to sell over a million copies. While on Imperial, he scored hits with “Poor Little Fool” (#1 Pop/#3 Country), “Lonesome Town” (#7 Pop), “It’s Late” (#9 Pop), “Never Be Anyone Else But You” (#6 Pop), “Just A Little Too Much” (#9 Pop), “Sweeter Than You” (#9 Pop), “Travelin’ Man” (#1 Pop), “Hello Mary Lou” (#9 Pop), “Young World” (#5 Pop), “Teen Age Idol” (#5 Pop) and “For You” (#6 Pop), mostly propelled by his performances of the songs on TV.

From 1957 to 1962, Nelson scored 30 Top-40 hits, more than any other artist except Elvis Presley who had 53, and Pat Boone with 38. For some, Nelson was the consummate teen idol with dreamy good looks and a smooth voice that sugar-coated the numerous gooey ballads he committed to wax. But today’s double shot of rockabilly illustrates that Nelson was so much more than just a teen idol. He was a way-out rockin’ cat whose backing band was also one of the hottest in the land.

Early in his recording career, Nelson became fed up with the contemptuous attitude toward rock and roll of the jazz musicians his father chose for him to record with. In 1957 he formed one of the sturdiest bands of all time. He didn’t have to look far for his guitarist since his 18 year old friend James Burton was already living in his home. With the nimble-fingered Burton and his distinctive sound on electric guitar, he added James Kirkland on bass, Richie Frost on drums and Gene Garf on piano. Elvis Presley’s backup vocalists, The Jordanaires were also featured on Nelson’s recordings but they were not credited at Presley’s request.

Today’s jukebox classic features two rockabilly blasts from 1958. The A-side “Stood Up,” climbed all the way to the #2 slot on the pop charts, while its flip, “Waitin’ In School,” which was written by Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, rose to #18.

In 1963, Nelson signed a long-term deal with Decca Records. His Decca era produced some solidly great albums and singles, although his standing on the charts was dismal. As the 1960s came to a close, you pretty much could not give a Rick Nelson record away. Things were so bad that Nelson began performing shows on the oldies circuit at county fairs.

His last big single was “Garden Party” from 1972, which was about being an artist on the oldies circuit before his time. While performing at Madison Square Garden as part of a multi-act oldies bill, Nelson’s penchant for performing new material was met with boos from the audience. Disgusted by his audience’s expectations, he wrote “Garden Party” which when released climbed to #6 on the Billboard charts and topped the Adult Contemporary charts.

Nelson died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve in 1985. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 17th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #29 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “I’ll Try Something New” b/w “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Collectables 45 RPM Single MOT-00505 (S3/T3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #29 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “I’ll Try Something New” b/w “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Collectables 45 RPM Single MOT-00505 (S3/T3)

Before The Miracles, before Berry Gordy and before Motown, a talented singer and aspiring songwriter named William Robinson formed a group called The Matadors. The Matadors consisted of Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Warren Moore and Claudette Rogers.

They met a hungry promoter named Berry Gordy who had his first taste of success by writing the Jackie Wilson hit “Reet Petite.” The Matadors auditioned for Gordy who liked the group, especially their lead singer. When Williams told Gordy that he could write songs, the two sat down and wrote an answer record to The Silhouettes’ 1958 hit “Get A Job,” and called it “Got A Job.”

Gordy thought the name, The Matadors, was far to masculine for a group that featured a vocalist like William Robinson and also a female vocalist, so he changed their name to The Miracles. Gordy negotiated a release of the record on the independent End record label in 1958 and it became a minor hit.

With the money earned from the hit record, Gordy went on to found the Motown record label making Robinson the vice-president…so you may say that both Gordy and Smokey Robinson (as he became known) “Got A Job” with the release of the record of the same name.

The Miracles consisted of Smokey Robinson on lead vocal, Claudette Rogers Robinson (his wife) on backing vocal, Pete Moore on backing vocal, Ronnie White on backing vocal, Bobby Rogers on co-lead vocal and backing vocal, Marv Tarplin on guitar with all other instruments performed by The Funk Brothers.

Songs don’t come any more romantic than the top side of today’s double A-sided single! The first thing that grabs you is the angelic, echo-laden production sound of “I’ll Try Something New” with its elaborate and plush bed of strings. If that doesn’t automatically get your attention, then Robinson’s gossamer vocals are sure to woo even the most hardened heart. (Note: For the ultimate in greatness, check out his soulful vocals during this record’s fade.)

The song was one of The Miracles early singles from 1962 and was also the title track to their third album. Upon its release, it climbed to the #11 position on the R&B charts and settled at #39 on the pop list. In 1969, the song was released as a single by The Supremes and The Temptations together that climbed to #25 on the pop charts and #8 R&B. It was also covered by the disco group A Taste Of Honey in 1982.

The flip of today’s single was a much bigger hit for The Miracles topping the R&B charts and climbing all the way to #8 on the pop list while selling a million copies. “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” is deservedly in the Grammy Hall Of Fame and also holds the distinction of being covered by The Beatles on their second album.

The song was written by Smokey Robinson for his wife (and group member) Claudette after hearing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” on the radio while on a business trip in New York City. When originally released, it was relegated to the B-side of the song “Happy Landing,” however DJs flipped the record and liked it much better. Both songs appeared on The Miracles second album The Fabulous Miracles released in 1963.

The Beatles first heard the song after finding an imported copy from the U.S. and it quickly became a staple of their early live repertoire. It was recorded for their second album WithThe Beatles (in the U.K.) and The Beatles’ Second Album (in the U.S.) featuring an indelible lead vocal by John Lennon.

The Beatles re-recorded the song after EMI acquired their first four track recording equipment; however that version was deemed no better than the original and remains unreleased to this day. They also recorded it four times for broadcast on BBC radio. The song can also be heard in the 1970 Let It Be and it was also featured in a live version from Stockholm, Sweden in October 1963 on the Anthology 1 album.

The Beatles covered several Motown songs early in their career, including “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Please Mr. Postman,” because Berry Gordy gave the group reduced rates as an enticement since they were such a big recording act. The song has also been covered by a myriad of artists including The Supremes, The Temptations, The Zombies, The Jackson 5, Mickey Gilley (#2 Country Hit), Phil Collins, Mike + The Mechanics and She & Him.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 13th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #28 – Average White Band: “Pick Up The Pieces” b/w “Work To Do” – Atlantic 45 RPM Single 45-3229 (Q3/R3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #28 – Average White Band: “Pick Up The Pieces” b/w “Work To Do” – Atlantic 45 RPM Single 45-3229 (Q3/R3)

“TSOP” by MFSB, “Love’s Theme” by The Love Unlimited Orchestra, “Space Race” by Billy Preston, “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter Group, “Popcorn” by Hot Butter,” “Joy” by Apollo 100, “Rock And Roll” by Gary Glitter, “Dueling Banjos” by Eric Weissberg & Deliverance, “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, “The Hustle” by Van McCoy, “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango, “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione, “Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey and “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield – the 1970s had its share of some of the greatest instrumental hits of all time. While many of these tracks are truly not instrumentals because they either have wordless singing or minor vocal parts consisting of the title being shouted out several times over the duration of the song, they are still rightly classified as instrumental hits.

Today’s jukebox classic stands taller than most on the above list of ‘70s instrumentals. With its propulsive disco beat and infectious horn part, “Pick up the Pieces” managed to set throngs of dancers into motion on disco dance floors around the world.

But it wasn’t always that way…When “Pick up the Pieces” was originally released as a single in the U.K. in 1974; it sank without a trace, completely failing to chart. Three months later, the single came out in the U.S. where it sold a million copies and climbed to the top of the charts. It was then rereleased as a single in the U.K. and it rose to the top five. Not to dis our friends across the pond, but what were they thinking the first time around…

The song crossed over into the disco charts and also spawned an answer record recorded by James Brown’s backing band The J.B.s, called “One By One.” On the record, the J.B.s are credited as AABB, or the Above Average Black Band in homage to AWB. It was also sampled by the likes of The Beastie Boys, TLC, Too Short, Ice Cube, Eric B. & Rakim, Nas, Arrested Development and A Tribe Called Quest.

The Average White Band originated in Scotland in 1971 and consisted of Allan Gorrie (bass, guitar and vocals), Malcolm Duncan (tenor sax), Onnie McIntyre (vocals, rhythm guitar), Michael Rosen (trumpet), Roger Ball (keyboards and sax) and Robbie McIntosh (drums) and Hamsih Stuart (guitar, bass and vocals).

Even though one of the group’s earliest gigs was as a support act to Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert in 1973, when their debut album Show Your Hand was released on MCA Records the same year, it sold poorly. For their second album, the group relocated to Los Angeles and signed with Atlantic Records.

The album, titled AWB was produced by Arif Mardin and ultimately topped the U.S. album charts on the heels of its chart-topping single. It was also known to AWB fans as The White Album as it featured stunning graphics on a white background that gave the band its memorable logo.

At the height of their initial fame, tragedy struck when drummer and founding member Robbie McIntosh died of a heroin overdose at a party in 1974. Allan Gorrie also overdosed at the same party, but Cher kept him conscious until medics arrived and he survived. Such was the “swinging” party scene of mid-70s Los Angeles. As a result, McIntosh was replaced by Steve Ferrone.

The band continued to release albums well into the 1980s (including a duo album with Ben E. King on vocals), and scored several hit singles including “Cut The Cake” (#31/1974), “Queen Of My Soul” (#23/1976) and “Let’s Go Round Again” (#12/1980). By the early 1980s, Ferrone left the group to work with Duran Duran, while Hamish Stuart went on to tour and record with Paul McCartney.

The group still exists today with McIntyre and Gorrie still on board. Their last album was a live album called Times Squared, released in 2009. The flip of today’s single is an exceptional cover of The Isley Brothers’ top twenty R&B hit “Work To Do,” which was also covered by The Main Ingredient and Vanessa Williams.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 12th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms),” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and the two songs on today’s jukebox single, remains largely unknown to most people today, or even worse, totally forgotten.

The A-side of today’s double-A-sided jukebox single was originally written, recorded and released as a single on the Dot label by Alexander in 1962. Alexander’s version charted at #68 on the pop charts, while climbing to #10 on the R&B lists. The song is notable because it was covered by The Beatles for their debut album Please Please Me. It was a favorite of John Lennon’s and became part of the group’s early live repertoire. Lennon had a bad cold during the marathon session that produced their first album, which accounts for the roughness of his voice on “Anna.”

If Alexander’s recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s. Alexander’s original version of the song charted at #24 on the pop charts in 1962 and sold 800,000 copies making it possible for Muscle Shoals to relocate its facilities to 603 East Avalon Avenue. The backing musicians on the track included Dan Penn, Tommy Roe (of “Dizzy” fame) and Joe Tex.

The song was also covered by The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Moody Blues, Dean Martin, Johnny Rivers, Billy “Crash” Craddock (whose version was a #10 country hit), Mink DeVille and George Jones and Johnny Paycheck (whose duo version peaked at #18 on the country charts).

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for Buddah Records.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just Like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute To Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 11th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #26 – Dionne Warwick: “Knowing When To Leave” b/w “Make It Easy On Yourself” – Scepter 45 RPM Single SCE-12294 (L3/M3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #26 – Dionne Warwick: “Knowing When To Leave” b/w “Make It Easy On Yourself” – Scepter 45 RPM Single SCE-12294 (L3/M3)

The great thing about having a jukebox is that you get to decide what the A-side of the single will be by the way you place the single into its slot. Case in point is today’s jukebox classic. I bought the single specifically for “Knowing When To Leave” which is technically the B-side. The real A-side is a live version of “Make It Easy On Yourself,” but not in my jukebox.

“Walk On By,” “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart),” “Message To Michael,” “Alfie,” “”Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” “I Say A Little Prayer” — the list goes on and on, making an argument for the notion that the songwriting partnership of Burt Bacharach and Hal David was one of the most important in the history of pop music on par with Lennon and McCartney. Add the sophisticated stylings of Dionne Warwick into the mix and you got recordings that resulted in pure pop perfection.

It was a marriage made in heaven, but soon after this recording, the marriage would dissolve into lawsuits and acrimony.

But for now, things were good. Bacharach and David were coming off of their 1968 hit Broadway musical Promises, Promises which was based on Neil Simon’s film The Apartment. The musical ran for 1,281 performances and featured several hit songs (all recorded by Warwick) including the title hit, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” “Wanting Things” and today’s Song of the Day, “Knowing When To Leave.”

After recording her 1968 album, also titled Promises, Promises, with Bacharach and David, Warwick went to Memphis where she recorded an album of soul covers called Soulful with Chips Moman. So the time was ripe for Warwick to return to her winning partnership with Bacharach and David, which they did for the 1970 album, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.

The reunion of Warwick with Bacharach and David resulted in their last great album together, it would also be one of the last albums Warwick would record for Scepter Records where she spent the entirety of her career up to that point. The album featured a clutch of some of the writing team’s greatest songs including “Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets,” “The Wine Is Young,” “Paper Mache,” “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” and today’s song. Added to the album’s tune stack was Warwick’s own version of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” plus covers of George Harrison’s “Something,” Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” and Paul Anka’s “My Way.”

The album’s title song was originally a last minute addition to the musical Promises, Promises. “’I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ was written quicker than any song that I ever wrote with Hal. I had just gotten out of the hospital. I’d been on the road and gotten pneumonia. We were on the road with Promises, Promises and we’d try to get this song written and into the show the next night or two nights later. That’s where Hal’s line came from, ‘what do you do when you kiss a girl, you get enough germs to catch pneumonia, after you do she’ll never phone ya.’ So having been in the hospital for five days with pneumonia, I got out and struggled to write that song feeling not too great.” – Burt Bacharach (Record Collector)

After the release of this album, Warwick signed a lucrative contract with Warner Bros. Records. Her new contract specified that subsequent recording would be made with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s involvement. Their first album for the label, titled Dionne was a minor hit, only landing at #57 on the album charts.

At the time, Bacharach and David had just wrapped their first film musical Lost Horizon which when released was a colossal flop resulting in the bitter dissolution of the two writers’ songwriting partnership. This left Warwick in a precarious position with Warner Bros. facing the prospect of a breach of contract law suit. As a result, she was forced to sue Burt Bacharach and Hal David for breach of contract, ending their partnership as well.

It would be many years before Warwick would work again with Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

The true A-side to today’s jukebox classic is Dionne Warwick’s live recording of “Make It Easy On Yourself.” The Bacharach-David song was originally a hit for Jerry Butler in 1962. The song made it into the pop top twenty and reached #18 on the R&B charts. Butler originally heard the song from a demo featuring Warwick’s vocal. Warwick was under the impression that the song would be her debut single, but Scepter Records honcho Florence Greenberg rejected that idea and gave the song to Butler.

A very disappointed Warwick balked at Bacharach and David’s assurance that they would give her a song to record every bit as good as “Make It Easy On Yourself” by telling them “Don’t make me over, man.” Bacharach took her rebuke and wrote the song “Don’t Make Me Over” which ultimately became Warwick’s debut single. Warwick’s demo recording of “Make It Easy On Yourself” became an album track on her 1963 debut album called Presenting Dionne Warwick.

Warwick would later return to the song with a live single version in 1970 recorded at the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. The concert version of the song peaked at #2 on the easy listening charts while climbing to #37 on the pop charts.

The Walker Brothers topped the UK charts with their version of the song in 1965, although it only climbed to #16 on the U.S. pop charts. The song was also covered by The Carpenters (as part of a Bacharach medley), Johnny Mathis, Cilla Black, Tony Bennett, Glen Campbell, The Four Seasons, Sarah Vaughan, Long John Baldry and Rick Astley.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 10th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #25 – Barbara Lewis – “Hello Stranger” b/w “Baby I’m Yours” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3105 (I3/J3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #25 – Barbara Lewis – “Hello Stranger” b/w “Baby I’m Yours” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3105 (I3/J3)

The magic in today’s track lies in Lewis’ feathery-light delivery atop the heavenly harmonious shoo-bop-shoo-bops in the background, and one of the all-time greatest roller-rink Hammond organ introductions ever on record. It’s no wonder that “Hello Stranger” climbed to #3 on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts in 1963.

During a time when most recording artists were told what to record, especially if they were women, Barbara Lewis wrote almost all of the songs on her debut album also called Hello Stranger. The hit title song was recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago with backup vocals provided by The Dells. Inspiration for the song came from performing shows with her musician father. Lewis: ““I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’”. (Complete Atlantic Singles liner notes.)

Lewis’ soul classic has spawned numerous covers over the years. Yvonne Elliman topped the easy listening charts and brought the song into the top-twenty of the pop charts in 1977, Carrie Lucas charted in the R&B top twenty in 1985, The Capitols’ version gained wide exposure as the B-side to their hit single “Cool Jerk,” and Martha And The Vandellas, The Supremes & The Four Tops (together) and Queen Latifah have also given the song a go in the studio.

The flip of today’s reissue single is “Baby I’m Yours,” which was written by Van McCoy. McCoy is best known for the disco smash, “The Hustle” which topped of the charts in 1975, and it is his voice that is heard on the track as part of the choir. Lewis brought the song to the #11 position on the pop charts and #5 R&B in 1965.

She initially did not like the song and gave a lackluster vocal performance of it in the studio in the hopes that it would end up shelved. After the session, producer Ollie McLaughlin told her that she needed to re-record her vocals. McLaughlin chided her into giving the song a winning performance. Lewis: “He said ‘You know, Barbara, Karen can sing that song better than you.’ That was his little daughter. And it pissed me off. I did one more take, and that was the take that they selected.” (Complete Atlantic Singles liner notes.)

The song also went on to become a country hit for Debby Boone and Jody Miller. Peter & Gordon brought the song to #19 on the UK Pop charts in 1965, and Cher, Cilla Black, Petula Clark, Maureen McGovern, Billy Preston and The Arctic Monkeys have recorded the song.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 5th, 2015