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Archive for May, 2011

Intros Quiz – TV Themes edition

May 30th, 2011 2 comments

We’ve seen the TV shows, but how well do we remember their themes? Here are twenty intros to TV themes fromUS shows that were internationally syndicated. I know that all of them were shown on South African TV, and most, if not all, on German TV as well. The oldest goes back to the 1950s, but most of them come from the 1970s-’90s. Each is  5-7 seconds in length.

The answers will be posted in the comments section by Thursday (so please don’t post your answers). If the pesky number 19 bugs you, go to the Contact Me tab above to request the answers, or  better, message me on Facebook. If you’re not my FB friend, click here.

Intros Quiz – TV Themes Edition


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Covered With Soul Vol. 7 – Bacharach/David edition

May 25th, 2011 5 comments

Three years ago, on 12 May, this blog marked the 80th birthday of Burt Bacharach with a mix of his songs (it’s still available; check out Lyn Collins’ version of Don’t Make Me Over), most of which were written with Hal David, the often neglected lyricist, the writer of the often marvellous words that we sing to Bacharach’s gorgeous melodies.

Indeed, would Bacharach’s music be the same without such great phrases as “Let this be just the start of so many nights like this? “Let’s take a lover’s vow and then seal it with a kiss”, “And if the way I hold you can’t compare to his caress, no words of consolation will make me miss you less”, “I’m not meant to live alone. Turn this house into a home. When I climb the stair and turn the key, oh, please be there still in love with me” or “Like a summer rose needs the sun and rain, I need your sweet love to beat all the pain”? Of course, David also wrote some sexist lyrics – at least by the reckoning of our age – like those for Wives And Lovers and Wishin’ And Hopin’.

On 25 May Hal David will turn 90, and it seem right to mark his birthday with a mix consisting of vocalists in a genre that values the interpretative components of singing. I’m running this as part of the Covered In Soul series, for most of these songs are covers. Four songs here are original recordings: Make It Easy On Yourself, Always Something There To Remind, Tower Of Strength, and Any Day Now.  And the very eagle-eyed will spot that the lyrics of three tracks on this mix were not written by Hal David (Tower Of Strength, Any Day Now and Mexican Divorce were written by Bob Hilliard).

Unusually for these mixes, two artists feature more than once. It seems appropriate that Dionne Warwick, the great and prolific interpreter of Bacharach/David songs, should be represented twice: once with a version from 1970, the other a rather belated interpretation of an old classic, recorded in 1977. Her cousin Cissy Houston even features three times: once on her own, once with Bacharach, and once as a member of the Sweet Sensation. And to be clear: the versions here are not necessarily the best ever recorded; some are excellent, some are chosen for curiosity value (I don’t like Martha Reeves’ version of I Say A Little Prayer; others might disagree with me). And, strangely, some Bacharach/David songs have been covered more than others in soul music: I had three wonderful contenders for Alfie (the others by Stevie Wonder and Dee Dee Warwick), and none for Do You Know The Way To San José.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. Homebaked front and back covers are included. PW in comments.

TRACKLISTING
1. Diana Ross – (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970)
2. Rhetta Hughes – Walk On By (1969)
3. Marva Whitney – This Girl’s In Love With You (1970)
4. Jerry Butler – Make It Easy On Yourself (1962)
5. Lou Johnson – (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (1964)
6. Chuck Jackson – Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird) (1962)
7. Roy Hamilton – Reach Out For Me (1966)
8. Gene McDaniels – Tower Of Strength (1961)
9. The Glass House – A House Is Not A Home (1972)
10. Gladys Knight and the Pips – One Less Bell To Answer (1971)
11. Madeline Bell – What The World Needs Now Is Love (1968)
12. Cissy Houston – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1970)
13. Dionne Warwick – Only Love Can Break A Heart (1977)
14. The Pointer Sisters – Wanting Things (1975)
15. Nancy Wilson – Wives And Lovers (1964)
16. Isaac Hayes – Windows Of The World (live, 1973)
17. Brenda and the Tabulations – Don’t Make Me Over (1970)
18. The Dells – Trains And Boats And Planes (1972)
19. The Stylistics – You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) (1972)
20. Cissy Houston & Burt Bacharach – Mexican Divorce (1970)
21. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – I Say A Little Prayer (1968)
22. The Delfonics – The Look Of Love (1968)
23. Dionne Warwick – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (1970)
24. The Sweet Inspirations – Alfie (1968)
Bonus track: The Shirelles – It’s Love That Really Counts (In The Long Run) (1962)

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Caught up in the rapture

May 21st, 2011 5 comments

The world is ending today. In fact, it might end before I get to post this, or before you get to download these five songs. It’s the day of Rapture. And we tend to get a lot of those these days. Yesterday Any Minor Dude said to me: “You can’t predict the end of the world.” Like the pedantic shit that I am, I reponded: “Oh, you can predict. You can always make a prediction, but most likely you’ll be wrong if you try and predict the last day of the world.” So whichever crazy cult said the world would end on 21 May will probably have made a wrong prediction. They’ll certainly feel pretty stupid if the world ends on Monday.

In any case, if the world were to end, it would be the Good News, because Jesus would come to save the righteous — and by mere dint of reading this blog, you are righteous. The Rapture thing is really what others call Judgment Day. So here are a few songs riffing on that theme, in lieue of Blondie and Anita Baker.

The Rance Allen Group – There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (1972)
Great stomper by gospel-soul/funk guys who turned The Temptations Just My Imagination into Just My Salvation on Covered With Soul Vol. 5.

Johnny Cash – Redemption Day (released 2010)
Recorded shortly before his death, the devout Christian Cash gets ready for the Judgment. “There is a train that’s heading straight to heaven’s gate… And on the way, child and man and woman wait, watch and wait, for redemption day.”

Over The Rhine – The Trumpet Child (2007)
“The trumpet child will blow his horn, will blast the sky till it’s reborn. With Gabriel’s power and Satchmo’s grace, he will surprise the human race.”

The Carter Family – When Our Lord Shall Come Again (1939)
The original Carter Family turn up on radio in 1939 to sing a hymn by Johnson Oatman Jr.(1856-1922) with music by R.L. Ferguson. “When upon the clouds of heaven Christ shall come to earth again; will the world be glad to see Him, when our Lord shall come again?”

Arizona Dranes – He’s Coming Soon (late 1920s)
Early gospel-blues legend makes a prediction. If the world ends today, she’ll be just 80-something years late.

Beatles Bizarre Vol. 2

May 19th, 2011 8 comments

Beatlemania coincided with a renaissance of novelty records, and so it is logical that many of these novelty records would concern themselves with The Beatles. Here is a batch of songs particularly about Ringo, as well as a recording Frank Sinatra made for Ringo’s wife Maureen, and a young Sissy Spacek totally going off John Lennon after being exposed to his luxuriant bouffant of pubic hair displayed on an album cover.

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Rainbo (Sissy Spacek) – John, You Went Too Far This Time (1968).mp3
Before she became famous as an actress, including her singing role as country singer Loretta Lynn, Sissy Spacek tried to become a folk singer, releasing a solitary single under the trite moniker Rainbo (which she apparently disliked) before being fired by her label for not being a best-seller. The John whom Sissy Rainbow addresses on this breathtakingly bad record would be Mr Lennon, and his transgression would be letting it all hang out post-coitally on the cover of Two Virgins, his avant garde nonsense recorded with Yoko Ono, who also appears naked on the cover.

Sissy loves John and forgives him many things, but she is not one who would endorse exhibitions of public nudity – and in this particular instance I am inclined to concur with her, purely on aesthetic grounds. John and Yoko were not attractive naked people. But if Lennon went too far on a record sleeve, then Spacek (and the chaps who wrote this bizarre thing, John Marshall and Ronald Dulka) overstepped the boundaries of musical decency with that chorus, which supposedly was meant to evoke the Beatles sound. In 1983 Spacek released a full country album, titled Hangin’ Up My Heart. She was fully clothed on the cover.

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Bonnie Jo Mason (Cher) – Ringo, I Love You (1964).mp3
Another future star recording Beatles-related material under a different name was Cher, who in 1964 sought to buy into the Zeitgeist by declaring her love for the drummer. Before her brief stint as Bonnie Jo Mason, Cherilyn Sarkasian sang backing vocals on classics such as The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, The Chiffons’ Da Doo Ron Ron and the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – and it was the producer of those songs, Phil Spector, who co-wrote and produced Ringo, I Love You. Then she recorded as plain Cherilyn (a song called Dream Baby which your faithful correspondent recently featured on the Star Maker Machine blog) and in a duo as Cleo to Sonny Bono’s Caesar. Within just over a year of releasing Ringo, I Love You, Sonny and Cher were stars. The Ringo anthem was backed with an instrumental titled Beatles Blues, a deliberately bad song placed to deter DJs from ignoring the A-side, as they often did. The ploy backfired: apparently radio DJs were thrown by Bonnie Jo’s deep voice and refused to play what they thought was a gay declaration of affection for the Beatles drummer.

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ringo Beat (1964).mp3
There were loads of Ringo-themed songs in the mid-’60s, apparently some 50 of them. They included The Rainbows’ My Ringo, Christine Hunter’s Santa, Bring Me Ringo, Treat Him Tender, Maureen by Angie & The Chicklettes, Al Fisher & Lou Marks’ Ringo Ringo Little Star, Three Blond Mice’s Ringo Bells, The Whippets’ Go Go Go With Ringo, Neil Sheppard’s You Can’t Go Far Without A Guitar (Unless You’re Ringo Starr), Ringo Did It by Veronica Lee, I Want To Kiss Ringo Goodbye by Penny Valentine, and Bingo Ringo by Daws Butler (who voiced Huckleberry Hound). Even Ella Fitzgerald got in on the act with Ringo Beat, a rather nice number written by Ella herself (one of her 27 compositions), which naturally features a “yeah yeah” reference and namechecks other contemporary popsters.

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The Young World Singers – Ringo For President (1964).mp3
Released in August 1964, the Young World Singers in their cover of Rolf Harris’ song sought to offer an alternative to Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater in that year’s elections for US president, evidently oblivious to the rule that disqualifies those not born in the United States from standing as candidates. And since Ringo was a Kenyan Muslim… In any case, it is doubtful that Ringo, who has acknowledged his limitations in intellectual pursuits, would have been a great president (though the US voters elected a man of even less cerebral qualities to the presidency in 2004).

Of course, it wasn’t cleverness the Young World Singers and the others engaged in the Ringo For President campaign were looking for in their candidate: “He’s our candidate ’cause he makes us feel so great. We could talk about war out on the big dance floor. Oh my gee, oh my gingo…if I could vote, I’d vote for Ringo!” Asked at a press conference in August 1964 about the Ringo For President campaign, Starr admited: “I’m not sort of politically minded.” Asked whether he would appoint the other Beatles to his cabinet, the conversation descends into a typical Beatlesque farce, with George interjecting: “I could be the door”, and John nominating himself to serve as the cupboard.

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Don Bowman – The Other Ringo (1966).mp3
In the early ‘60s, there was a popular cowboy hit titled Ringo, recorded by Bonanza star Lorne Green (the Cartwright patriarch), which Don Bowman parodied to coincide with the height of Beatlemania. Bowman notes the death of the old Ringo and the rise of the Beatle by the same name. He seems to be taken particularly with the length of Ringo’s hair. Bowman was a country singer, comedian, TV presenter and DJ who recorded this rather amusing novelty number for his 1966 LP titled Funny Way To Make An Album, which also included a song called Freddy Four Toes. Bowman clearly did not compromise his comedy with artistic credibility: other LPs were titled Fresh From The Funny Farm (1965), Recorded Almost Live (1966), Support Your Local Prison (1967) and Still Fighting Mental Health (1979).

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Dick Lord – Like Ringo (1964).mp3
Don Bowman wasn’t the only one to make the connection between Lorne Greene’s hit and the Beatles drummer. Dick Lord was not a porn actor but a comedian, and  remains one today. At the time of recording Like Ringo, Dick Lord was a close friend of the great Bobby Darin. I the song, Dick Lord’s girlfriend is rather obsessed with the Beatles man, and Dick Lord’s exasperation at being rejected by the obsessed fan turns to ingenuity as he adopts the Ringo look. Eventually Dick Lord’s girlfriend returns to Dick Lord, informing him tearfully that her Ringo infatuation is over. A great punchline awaits, and I shall not spoil it.

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The Bon Bons – What’s Wrong With Ringo? (1964).mp3
A persistent rumour has it that the Bon Bons were the Shangri-Las by another name. It is, alas, not true. What’s Wrong With Ringo was released before the Shangri-Las’ debut single, Remember (Walking In The Sand), was issued by Red Birds Records in September 1964. The Ringo song was released on the Coral label, the Decca subsidiary that had also issued records by Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline and The Vogues, but never had the Weiss and Ganser sisters under contract.The Ringo song was not the Bon Bons’ only release; also in 1964 Coral issued the follow-up single Everybody Wants My Boyfriend . Anyway, the question of the song’s title concerns the shortage of Beatles songs sung by Ringo. It seems the record-buying public did not share their concern, and so ignored this quite catchy girl-group record (which includes, of course, the “yeah yeah yeah yeah” thing).

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Frank Sinatra – Maureen Is A Champ (1968).mp3
This tribute to Mrs Ringo is not only a great novelty item, but also something of a historical artefact: it’s the first record to be catalogued on the Beatles’ Apple label – its number being Apple 1 (Hey Jude was the first Apple release, but it wasn’t catalogued). Only a few copies, some say only one, of Maureen Is A Champ were made before the master tape was destroyed, because this was a private recording to mark Maureen’s 22nd birthday. Maureen was a big Sinatra fan, so a train of events was set in motion, apparently by Beatles business manager Peter Brown, which involved the great Sammy Cahn rewriting Lorenz Hart’s lyrics for The Lady Is A Tramp, and Frank Sinatra – who by that point was a Beatles fan (and covered several of their songs) – singing the reworked number, with Cahn on piano. We can assume that when Ringo presented his wife with that special record on 4 August 1968, she probably was quite pleased.

Beatles Bizarre Vol. 1
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A History of Country Vol. 9: 1957-60

May 11th, 2011 20 comments

In Volume 9 of the country history series, we look at the glory years of country, a time when the genre was at its most self-confident and profitable. It was still a vibrant genre, as this collection shows, though the crooners were already beginning to define the genre, a situation that would give rise to the outlaw movement, the protagonists of which were inspired by several of the artists on this mix.

It’s difficult to say who was the biggest star in 1950s country. The crooner likes of Eddy Arnold were immensely successful, but in terms of sales and influence, the biggest names were Left Frizzell and Webb Pierce, rival kings of honky tonk music. Pierce notched up more country #1s than any other in the 1950s, having in the late ’40s gained recognition by placing girls in the frontrow of his gigs and paying them to scream at him, bobbysoxer style. Read more…

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Answer Records Vol. 8

May 5th, 2011 5 comments

In the eighth instalment of the Answer Records, Wilson Pickett is being told to change his sense of timing, a soul group is trying to escape a hungry lion, and a 1920s singer rails against women with short hair.

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It’s a question of timing
Act 1: Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour (1965).mp3
Wilson is quite specific as to the time that he will condescend to engaging in the passions of copulation. That is, he will not make love to his woman unless the clock strikes 12, in darkness. However, once the time has arrived, he promises that “I’m gonna take you girl and hold you, and do all the [alas unspecified] things I told you”. Oh yes, come the minute hour, Wilson’s “love will come tumblin’ down”, whatever that means, and it will “begin to shine” and so on. But only once it’s midnight, because he wants a bit of privacy.

Act 2:  Ann Mason – You Can’t Love Me (In The Midnight Hour) (1965).mp3
Using the same tune, Ann Mason reminds Wilson that her expectations of him exceed a bit of nocturnal hanky panky. In any case, she argues, the midnight hours “is the only time I’m on your mind” and she is not the kind of girl he can use for his selfish gratifications. She regards herself as the only girl to give it – the truth – to him straight: “You got to love me in the morning, you got to love me during the day. If you want me during the midnight hours then you just gotta love me my way.” Looks like Wilson’s love will have to come tumblin’ down solo unless he is willing to show the straightshooting Ms Mason some affection around the clock.

Let sleeping lions lie

Act 1: The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight.mp3
Ripped off from the South African pop tune Mbube via The Weavers Wimoweh (story in The Originals Vol. 20), The Tokens observe that in the “mighty jungle” the lion (and presumably others of his herd) is sleeping. But instead of keeping quiet in case the lion (and the other wild cats) is awoken, The Tokens begin to yodel, which seems a pretty bad idea.

Act 2: The Dukays – Please Help (1962).mp3
Well, there the careless Tokens have done it: they’ve roused the lion from his sleep with their yodelling, and he is not only grumpy now. The Dukays now face the wakeful  and hungry lion’s wrath. Hence their call to “notify the nation” to help them out of this situation (with a different tune). The Dukays’ problem is that “the lion’s got a notion I’ll make a tasty potion”, and we do hear the fearsome lion roar. So while The Dukays state their appeal for emergency assistance, they have the awareness to keep using their feet, though it’s unclear whether they advise running or dancing, for this is an eminently danceable soul number. No wonder the lion is catching up; indeed, at the end it sounds like the lion won. If only The Tokens hadn’t yodelled.

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Hairdressing advice from Blind Alfred
Act 1: Blind Alfred Reed – Why Do You Bob Your Hair, Girls (1927).mp3
The youth of 1927 was out of control. They were, if you can believe the affront to all that’s decent and moral, bobbing their hair. That’s right, righteous folks, styling their hair in the shape of the bob, like some Hollywood harridan. Next these bobbed jezebels will propose baring their ankles, for shame. So Blind Alfred Reed wrote his protest song and recorded it on 19 December 1927 in Camden, New Jersey. “Why do you bob your hair, girls,” Alfred asks by way of pointing out that they are “doing mighty wrong” because a woman’s hair should be long by divine ordinance, no less. Yes, short hair is revealing and therefore “a sin”, and to keep in fashion “is not God’s advice”. Oh, the iniquities that reside in the decision “to rob the head God gave you and bear the flapper’s name”! So “every time you bob” your hair, “you’re breaking God’s command” and won’t “reach the Glory land”  (there’ll be something about that in that fun loving book of Leviticus, so beloved of homophobic hypocrites with the theological acumen of a dustmite that has failed Grade 1 in the remedial class of the school for slow insects. And 1 Corinthians 11 will clinch it). So keep your hair long, girls. “And when before the judgment you meet your Lord up there, he’ll say: ‘Well done. For one thing, you never bobbed your hair.’”

Act 2: Blind Alfred Reed – Why Don’t You Bob Your Hair Girls (1929).mp3
The title notwithstanding, Blind Alfred is not telling you to ignore what he counselled two years earlier (so this is rather a sequel than answer song). He acknowledges that a woman with long hair “is hard to find” this fine 3 December 1929 in New York City. And the problem really swings both ways: a man wants to get married, but not to a woman who has no hair. And as woman with short hair won’t find as man (if Blind Al was alive today, he might find that some women with short hair don’t want to land a man in the first place). Upshot : marital bliss and procreation down the drain. And that won’t serve anybody. The solution now is to revert from bobbing your hair, girls, and repent so that Jesus will forgive the errors of your hairstyling ways. In other words, go to the confessional, not the salon. And let that hair grow, for God’s sake.

Don’t beat up on Blind Alfred though: it sounds like one of the original socially conscious protest singers is having a bit of fun with his hair songs, rather mischievously overstating the case. He had made his first recordings in July 1927 in the Bristol sessions which launched the careers of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. And his end is just tragic: he died penniless in 1956 at the age of 76, apparently of starvation.

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In Memoriam – April 2011

May 2nd, 2011 4 comments

For a blog going by this name, the death of multiple Grammy award-winning producer and pioneering sound engineer Roger Nichols is particularly noteworthy. The school mate of Frank Zappa was crucial in the development of Steely Dan’s sound, from the West Coast rock of Can’t Buy A Thrill to the jazz-tinged material on Aja and the comeback album Two Against Nature.It’s his hand on the back-cover of Countdown To Ecstasy.

Actor Tim Robbins’ parents were folk singers. Gil Robbins was a member of the pioneering folk group The Highwaymen; he died on 5 April; his wife Mary passed away 12 days later. It’s romantic in a way, but poor Tim.

The oldest death this month was that of bandlerader Orrin Tucker at the age of 100. His recording career went back to the late 1930s. And I was most saddened by the death at 60 of Phoebe Snow, a wonderful singer who cut down her music career to care for her disabled daughter for more than 30 years.

Richard Patterson, 66, drummer of Canadian group The Esquires, on April 2

Calvin Russell, 62, singer-songwriter, on April 3

Scott Columbus, 54, drummer of heavy metal band Manowar, on April 4
Manowar – Manowar (1982)

Gil Robbins, 80, singer with folk group The Highwaymen and father of actor Tim Robbins, on April 5
The Highwaymen – Whiskey In The Jar (1962)

John Bottomley, 50, Canadian singer-songwriter, of suicide on April 6
Bill Pitcock, 59, guitarist of power pop group Dwight Twilley Band, on April 8
Dwight Twilley Band – I’m On Fire (1975)

Orrin Tucker, 100, orchestra leader, on April 9
Orrin Tucker and his Orchestra – You’d Be Surprised (1939)

Roger Nichols, 66, sound engineer and producer for Steely Dan, Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Diana Ross a.o., on April 9
Steely Dan – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (1974)

Lacy Gibson, 74, blues guitarist and singer, on April 11
Kent Morrill, 70, singer and keyboardist for garage rock pioneers The Fabulous Wailers, on April 15
The Fabulous Wailers – Out Of Our Tree (1965)

Mary Robbins, 78, American musician, mother of Tim Robbins, on April 17

Roy Burris, 79, songwriter and drummer for Merle Haggard & the Strangers, on April 19
Merle Haggard – Okie From Muskogee (as drummer and co-writer, 1969)

Gerard Smith, 36, bassist of TV on the Radio, On April 20
TV On The Radio – Staring At The Sun (2003)
Joe Pennell, 66, member of surf rock band The Rivieras, on April 21
The Rivieras – California Sun (1964)

Hazel Dickens, 75, bluegrass singer, on April 22
Hazel Dickens – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (1983)

Tom King, 68, founder and singer of ’60s pop band The Outsiders, on April 23
The Outsiders – Time Won’t Let Me (1967)

Dutch Tilders, 69, Australian blues musician, on April 23

Poly Styrene, 53, singer of punk band X-Ray Spex, on April 25
X-Ray Spex – I Am A Cliché (1977)

Phoebe Snow, 60, singer-songwriter, on April 26
Phoebe Snow – Poetry Man (1974)

Dag Stokke, 44, keyboardist of Norwegian glam metal group TNT, on April 27

Neusinha Brizola, 56, Brazilian pop singer, on April 27
Neusinha Brizola – Mintchura (1983)

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