Popdose Single Premiere: Alphabeat, “Shadows”

We sang their praises 10 years ago, and at long last, Alphabeat is ready for their American close-up. 

The Danish sextet has reconvened after a six-year hiatus and, newly signed to Atlantic Records, the band finally, finally makes their American debut with “Shadows.”

The song is leaner than their past efforts, emphasizing guitars over keys (at least for this tune), but the band’s signature blend of effervescent pop hooks and the vocals of singers Stine Bramsen and Anders SG (same melody but an octave apart, like a Difford & Tilbrook of dance pop) demonstrate that, creatively, the band has picked up right where they left off. 

The band is also playing South by Southwest March 13, with a new album scheduled for release in the fall. Someone, please see them for us, and tell them we said hi. 

Soul Serenade: Linda Creed, Songwriter

“Linda Creed was such a sweet young lady. She started out wanting to be a singer and she wasn’t a bad singer but she was a great, great writer. All you have to do is listen to her lyrics like on “Betcha By Golly, Wow.” Listen to those lyrics and see how she was able to make those lyrics like that. Look at her lyrics on “I’m Stone In Love With You.” These are great concepts. Her and Tommy Bell were meant for each other.”Kenny Gamble

You may not know her name and yet she was responsible, in part, for some of your favorite records. The more you learn about Linda Creed, the more you realize just how extraordinary her journey was from the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia to the top of the pop and soul charts. Her journey was as unlikely as it was spectacular.

Creed was born Linda Epstein in Philadelphia in 1948 and attended the city’s Germantown High School. Her ambition was to be a singer and she was still in high school when she realized that ambition by singing in a group called Raw Soul. Among the venues that the group played were the Philadelphia Athletic Club and Sid Booker’s Highline Lounge.

When she finished high school, Creed, like so many others before her, headed up the Turnpike to New York City to realize her dreams. She got a music business job working as a secretary for Mills music and in her spare time she worked on developing her lyric writing skills. But her dreams, like those of so many before her, died on the streets on the Big Apple and she returned home to Philadelphia, feeling defeated, eight months later.

All was not lost, however. Creed refused to give up and she was only 22 years old when her break came as Dusty Springfield recorded Creed’s song “Free Girl.” At around that time, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff had gotten Philadelphia International Records off the ground and had formed a subsidiary company called Mighty Three Music. The third member of the trio was songwriter/arranger Thom Bell. Creed was signed to Mighty Three Music and she began working on songs with Bell. In 1971, Bell was producing the Stylistics and one of the songs they chose to record was a Bell/Creed composition called “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart).” The single was a hit, reaching #6 on the Billboard R&B chart and crossing over to Top 40 success on the pop chart.

It was the beginning of an incredibly successful collaboration between Creed, Bell, and the Stylistics. Other collaborations included the hits “You Are Everything,” “Betcha by Golly, Wow,” “Break Up to Make Up,” “People Make the World Go Round,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” and “I’m Stone in Love with You,” the latter written with Anthony Bell. But the Stylistics were not the only group who had success with Bell/Creed songs. Bell also worked with the Spinners and they had hits with “Ghetto Child,” “I’m Coming Home” (with lyrics that were inspired by Creed’s time in New York), “Living a Little, Laughing a Little,” and “The Rubberband Man,” all written by Bell and Creed.

Linda Creed

Creed got married in 1972 and her string of hits continued with tracks by Johnny Mathis (“Life is a Song Worth Singing,” later covered by Teddy Pendergrass), Phyllis Hyman (“Old Friend”), and others. In 1976, Creed and her husband, along with their baby daughter, left Philadelphia to live in Los Angeles. The future must have seemed bright but there were dark clouds on the horizon. That same year, Creed underwent a radical mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Not long after the surgery, Creed was asked to write the lyrics for a song (Michael Masser wrote the music) that would appear in a film that was being made about the life of Muhammed Ali. The song, first a hit for George Benson and then turned into an even bigger hit by Whitney Houston ten years later, was “The Greatest Love of All.”

By 1980, Creed and her family, which now included a second daughter, were back in Philadelphia. There, she had more success with Pendergrass (“Hold Me,” a duet with Houston), Johnny Gill (“Half Crazy”), and others. Over the years Creed’s songs have been covered by artists including Roberta Flack, Rod Stewart, Smokey Robinson, and Michael Jackson.

Whitney Houston’s version of “The Greatest Love of All” was released on March 18, 1986. Linda Creed lost her long battle with cancer less than one month later. I would like to think she knew that her lyrics, which were written while she was struggling with cancer and dealt with trying to cope with the challenges that life brings, helped to take the single to the top of the charts. It was one last beautiful message that Creed left us as her all-too-short life came to an end at the age of 38. A short life surely, but just as surely one of incredible achievement.

In 1992, Linda Creed was posthumously elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

 

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode One Hundred

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross:  Episode One Hundred

After an unexpected but very necessary hiatus, here at last is the (slightly overdue) one hundredth installment of the popular podcast.  Although a few weeks behind, you can enjoy Jon and Rob chat about everything that’s been going on in a revolving, evolving and devolving world – done with a lot of thought, heart and humor.

Please welcome back Jon and Rob and sit down for the 100th Radio City…!  And rest assured, show #101 will be very up-to-date and a complete powerhouse (you may as well whet your appetites now)…

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode One Hundred

The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

Popdose Song Premiere: French Horn Rebellion, “Renaissance Man”

All revolutions must come to an end, and for French Horn Rebellion, the end is near, by which we mean today with the release of Graduation Compilation. This set, a mixture of past hits and new tracks, doesn’t mark the end of the band, just Phase 1.0, an era that saw brothers David and Robert Perlick-Molinari move from Milwaukee to Brooklyn and set the world on fire with their French Horn-based electronic dance music. 

Prior to the release of their debut album, 2011’s The Infinite Music of The French Horn Rebellion, David produced MGMT’s Time To Pretend EP. They’ve toured with that band, kindred spirits like Cut Copy , Hot Chip, Two Door Cinema Club, not to mention timeless acts like the B-52’s and Blondie. As remixers, they’ve worked with everyone from Beyonce to OMD. 

In 2010, David told Interview‘s Katie Mendelson that their music was “intensive, sensitive, and runs the gamut of the human condition.” And yes, the horn is part of the sound, not just a catchy band name. “Our album is actually centered around the French horn,” David said. “It has to do with the struggle to understand who you are. The reason why the whole band started was Robert felt like he wasn’t fitting in. In modern society, the horn player has very limited options.”

New single, ‘Renaissance Man’, is a collaboration with Laurence Jepson and Charlie Dale of indie pop duo Lejon. “‘Renaissance Man’ is a tune about the simpler things in love,” David tells Popdose. “The track features true Renaissance period instruments: Robert on Natural Horn heavily disguised as a Moog bass synth, Charlie on recorder masquerading as a synth organ and a piano break by Laurence recorded on an 18th Century (ok, not quite Renaissance) Steinway.” 

Also included on Graduation Compilation is French Horn Rebellion’s delicious 2018 single, ‘Rooftops’ featuring Natalie Duffy:

Graduation Compilation is available today to download and stream. 

 

 

Popdose Video Premiere: Grace Gaustad ‘Best Self’

For the past two years, Grace Gaustad, 17, has been steadily building momentum on two fronts – to finish high school and launch a career in pop music. While her diploma is on lock, a run at the top of the charts takes the right combination of talent, image, luck, timing, savvy, connections, and the drive to do the hard work, constantly up your game, and take the gold medal in overcoming hurdles.

While Grace has written more than 300 originals, she’s been primarily posting covers online to date, and that strategy seems to be working. More than 550,000 people are following her on Instagram, she’s training with Lady Gaga’s vocal coach, Don Lawrence, and now ONErpm is preparing to release four of her original tracks this year.

Popdose proudly presents the lyric video world premiere for Grace Gaustad’s first single of 2019, ‘Best Self’’:

To celebrate ‘Best Self’, Popdose asked Grace to tell us more about herself:

POPDOSE: You’ve been posting digital singles steadily since 2017 and have a new batch slated to release in 2019, starting with ‘Best Self’; how does the new material compare with what you’ve put out — both in terms of songwriting and production? 

GRACE GAUSTAD: Most of the previous releases have been acoustic originals and covers while the next set of songs set for 2019 are fully produced originals. The newer songs have a much more mature and dynamic feel which I think resembles my growth as a musician and artist. 

As you close in on 560K followers, your digital empire is both a tremendous achievement and responsibility. When you interact with fans and followers, do you mainly talk about music, or other topics like your personal life, activism, fashion, etc.?

So far I have kept my page primarily music based so that there are no distractions from the music but in 2019 I’d love to be able to really open up and allow my fans to see a more personal side of me. 

I try to interact with fans as much as possible without getting into the negative energy I’ve seen in the comments section on certain videos. The best way to do that is just disregard negative comments and move on. I love seeing different posts from fan pages and answering direct messages when I can. It’s so fun seeing and reading reactions.

In addition to honing your craft as a singer, songwriter, and performer — how are you learning about the music industry, especially how to monetize and forge a bankable career? The digital age is still the wild west in terms of promotion — your direct access to millions of potential fans was unheard of 20 years ago. 

I’m still learning everyday about how the industry is changing. Although digital platforms have created much easier access for smaller artists, as most people know, it is very difficult to make a living on streaming platforms. I am hoping to see bigger artists take a stance in a changing industry to help the next generation of artists thrive.

Will you be touring or playing showcases to promote the new music?

So far, I haven’t played more than a few charity events and small gigs but after I finish school in June, I’m looking to really start working on live performance.

Do you envision spending much of your career on the road?

I’d love to be an opening act on the road for a reputable artist! As my career progresses I imagine a lot of my time will be spent touring and promoting new music. I’m very excited for what the future holds. 

What have you learned from your idols — like Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse — in terms of what you can accomplish or avoid as your career unfolds?

I feel like the biggest thing I have learned from many of the people I look up to in the industry is the importance of putting your all into your art and sticking to the our core beliefs and values in an industry where it’s easy to lose sight of who you are, especially if you reach tremendous success.

Which artists would be on your wish list to open for in the year or years ahead?

I would love to open for Halsey, Khalid, or Taylor Swift. I think there are many similarities in my music and these wonderful artists. 

Who would you love to collaborate with?

I would love to collaborate with Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, and Halsey to name a few alongside Max Martin who is one of my favorite producers. I’m really looking forward to meeting new writers and producers as I continue in the industry. It’s always amazing to meet new people and artists to see what you can create together. 

Tell us about ‘Best Self’ — is this the theme song to Melanea Trump’s “Be Best” campaign?

Actually, ‘Best Self’ is a song I wrote about a relationship I was in where the person thought they were winning with their best self by winning with the devil aka going down dark paths they didn’t realize were dark. It broke my heart as I loved who they were, not who they had become. Their version of this their best self wasn’t what I thought it was at all. Part of the message of the song is that bad actions lead to worse consequences.

‘Best Self’ is available for download and streaming on all major digital platforms. Connect with Grace Gaustad on Instagram.

Popdose Single Premiere: Peter Noone with the Weeklings, “Friday on My Mind”

Popdose is very pleased to share this great new single from New Jersey’s own Jem Records – this time legendary Herman’s Hermits singer Peter Noone teams up with The Weeklings (a Popdose favorite) for a dynamic version of The Easybeats’ classic, “Friday On My Mind”.

Uptempo and energetic, Mr. Noone’s voice is in fine shape and fits the melody perfectly while the on-the-one backing of The Weeklings is flawless, as are their vocal harmonies.

I’ve heard other artists cover this track and by far, this is the best rendition yet.  See what you think – it’s hard not to dig it.

“Friday” On My Mind is currently available

https://www.weeklings.com/

http://www.jemrecordings.com/

Soul Serenade: Teddy Pendergrass, “Love T.K.O.”

Have you seen the new Showtime documentary Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me? I recommend it with a bit of reservation related to some rather dubious accusations that are thrown around by people who may, or may not, be reliable. The documentary tells the tragic story of a star who rose from humble beginnings to the verge of superstardom only to be disabled in a terrible automobile accident. But the film’s most important message and the one that makes it worthwhile viewing is that Pendergrass, in a wheelchair, his career seemingly over and intent on suicide, chose life.

Pendergrass grew up on the mean streets of North Philadelphia. He and his mother had moved there from South Carolina when Pendergrass was an infant. His father Jesse left the family early on and was later stabbed to death. The young Pendergrass began singing in church and had dreams of becoming a pastor, a dream he realized when he became an ordained minister at the age of ten. Around the same time, Pendergrass began to play the drums.

Pendergrass attended high school in North Philadelphia but dropped out in his junior year to pursue a career in music. He released one single, “Angel With Muddy Feet,” but it didn’t gain any traction. Pendergrass played drums for a number of local bands eventually landing in one called the Cadillacs (not the same group as the popular Cadillacs of New York City). At that time, Harold Melvin had founded a group called the Blue Notes and in 1970, when he heard Pendergrass play, Melvin asked him to become the group’s drummer. The Blue Notes hadn’t been able to find much success at that point. Then, one night Pendergrass sang along with the group from his drum chair. Melvin knew a good voice when he heard it and he moved Pendergrass from the drum set behind the group to the lead singer position center stage.

Things changed quickly for the Blue Notes after that and in 1971 they signed with Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. The first Blue Notes single for P.I.R. was a ballad called “I Miss You.” The song had been intended for the Dells but when they rejected it, Kenny Gamble, with the similarity of Pendergrass’ voice with that of Dells lead Marvin Junior in mind, chose Pendergrass to sing lead on the track with fellow Blue Note Lloyd Parks handling the falsetto parts and Harold Melvin himself handling an early rap part at the end of the song. “I Miss You” was a major hit on the R&B chart, reaching #4 while almost making it into the Top 50 on the pop chart. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes were on their way but much bigger things were still ahead.

The second Blue Notes single was once again a song originally intended for another artist, in this case, Labelle. A scheduling conflict prevented the Philadelphia trio from recording the song and it fell into the lap of the Blue Notes. It was a huge break for the group because “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” was one of Gamble and Huff’s most magnificent creations. The resulting single rose to the top of the R&B chart hit the Top 10 on the pop chart and made Teddy Pendergrass a star. There was just one problem — most people thought that the guy out front with the big voice was Harold Melvin.

Pendergrass kept leading the way on subsequent Blue Notes hits like “The Love I Lost,” “Bad Luck,” “Wake Up Everybody,” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” At some point, Pendergrass became unhappy with the way Melvin was handling the group’s finances, i.e. paying himself much more than the other group members, including Pendergrass. At the same time, Pendergrass was upset that he wasn’t getting the recognition that he had earned as the lead voice on all of those hits. He asked that the group be renamed Teddy Pendergrass & the Blue Notes but Melvin wasn’t having it and in 1975, Pendergrass left the group to pursue a solo career.

Teddy Pendergrass on his own was an immediate star. Continuing to work with Gamble and Huff, the self-titled Teddy Pendergrass debut album, which included the hit singles “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” and “The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me,” went platinum in 1977. The following year the album Life is a Song Worth Singing, did even better with the singles “Only You” and especially the smash hit “Close the Door” spurring sales. The latter song was the one that turned Pendergrass into an undeniable sex symbol.

The next album, Teddy, topped the R&B chart for eight weeks helped by the songs “Come Go With Me,” “Turn Off the Lights,” and “Do Me.” After the Live Coast to Coast album, Pendergrass released the perhaps his greatest album, TP. The album included massively popular tracks like “Feel the Fire,” a duet with Stephanie Mills, the Ashford and Simpson song “Is It Still Good To Ya,” and the classic “Love T.K.O,” a song written by Cecil Womack and Gip Noble, Jr. and first recorded by David Oliver. The Pendergrass cover reached #2 on the Billboard R&B chart and skirted the Top 40 on the pop chart. By 1982, Pendergrass, with his four consecutive platinum albums, was perhaps the biggest star in R&B rivaling even giants like Marvin Gaye. In light of his crossover success, some in the media were even referring to him as the “black Elvis.”

Teddy Pendergrass

With Pendergrass at the peak of his success, on the verge of becoming an international superstar, fate intervened. On the night of March 18, 1982, Pendergrass was driving his Rolls Royce in Philadelphia. In the passenger seat was a performer named Tenika Watson who Pendergrass met earlier that evening. Pendergrass lost control of the car and hit a tree. He and his passenger were trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes. Watson, who was later revealed to be transgender, walked away with scratches. Pendergrass had been struck in the chest by a dome in the center of the steering wheel, a decorative feature. The blow severed his spinal cord and he was left a quadriplegic.

Unsurprisingly, Pendergrass became depressed in the wake of the accident. He spoke about committing suicide. Desperately looking for a way to prevent Pendergrass from taking his own life his psychiatrist, a quadriplegic himself, hit on the idea of holding a mock funeral so that Pendergrass could see how much he meant to his family and friends. The radical approach worked and Pendergrass emerged from the ceremony determined to live.

Still, it wasn’t going to be easy. Pendergrass was determined to continue his career and with the help of his doctor, an apparatus was created that when worn would help Pendergrass find enough air to sing. But his contract with P.I.R. had expired and other record labels had no interest in signing him given his physical condition. In 1984, Pendergrass finally got a new record deal and released the album Love Language. The album got as far as #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified as a Gold album.

One of the most emotional moments in popular music history came on July 13, 1985, at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia. Pendergrass had chosen a daunting venue for his return to live performance and he was so nervous that he almost didn’t go through with it. But when he rolled out on stage in his wheelchair during Ashford and Simpson’s set the ovation from his hometown crowd that greeted him seemed to go on forever. Together with his old friends he performed a tearful version of “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” a song that had been a huge hit for Diana Ross and couldn’t have been more appropriate for the moment.

By 1988, Pendergrass was back on top of the charts with the single “Joy” and in 1994 he had another hit, albeit one of his last, with “Believe in Love.” Four years later, Pendergrass published his autobiography Truly Blessed. In 2002, he turned his Power of Love concert which had taken place at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles into the live album From Teddy, With Love. In 2006, Pendergrass announced that he would retire from the music business although he did return to perform at the Teddy 25: A Celebration of Life, Hope & Possibilities concert the following year. The concert marked the 25th anniversary of the accident while also raising money for the charity that Pendergrass had established.

Pendergrass faced colon cancer surgery in 2009. The surgery was successful but several weeks later he was back in the hospital with respiratory problems. On January 13, 2010, Teddy Pendergrass died at a hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, not far from where he had grown up. On that day we lost one of the greatest voices of our time. Pendergrass was only 59 years old at the time of his death but by choosing life all of those years earlier he was able to enjoy the love of his family, friends, and fans for many years after his accident.

 

Popdose Video Premiere: Jonny Polonsky, “The Same Song”

Popdose is pleased to share with you the brand new video from Chicago pop-meister Jonny Polonsky, from his most recent album, Unreleashed:  Demos & Rarities, 1996 – 2018.  The track, “The Same Song” has a quirky little background, but we’ll leave it to the source himself:

“It’s basically about the sad-eyed joy of hooking up. Kind of a sexed-up Carson McCullers story. 

 
I was recently listening to the album Night and Day by Joe Jackson, which I had loved as a boy. The last song on the record, “A Slow Song,” is basically where I got the chorus for my song. Totally different feel, vibe and message, and it was 100% unintentional. One of those cute little moments where you can connect the dots that your subconscious puts together when you make stuff. That was a cool surprise, to realize where the germ of my song had come from.
 
So remember kids, it’s okay to steal; just recontextualize and you’ll be golden.”
 
Unreleashed:  Demos & Rarities, 1996 – 2018 is currently available
 
www.jonnypolonsky.com

Dizzy Heights #52: Someday We’ll Be Happy Again – Breakup Songs Part 2 (The Ballads)

I’m bringing the mope this week, love birds. If I know anything about love, it’s that it dies a slow, painful death when the month of February rolls around. Seriously, for two Februarys in a row in college, all of my friends and I saw our relationships come to an end. The following year, we threw a party to celebrate it, and that annual party tradition carried on for another ten years. The breakups, thankfully, didn’t.

 

Bands making their DH debuts this week include Alison Moyet, The Bangles, Deon Estus, David Gray, Elliott Smith (what), Kate Bush (WHAT), Simply Red, Vitamin Z, and World Party. Wait, really? Sorry, Mr. Wallinger. I just assumed I had played you by now.

 

The March show is still being built, but I’ll give you a hint as to its theme: the giant crab in “Moana” would approve.

 

Thank you, as always, for listening.