Fred and his readers discuss Diana Ross and The Supremes, Meryl Streep and "Mamma Mia!," Cathy Dennis and more!

THE WHITE STRIPES

Dear Fred,

I've been a faithful reader of your columns since 1996, even though I've never written you a letter. Not that I didn't want to write, but I thought that with all the correspondence you receive, you wouldn't have the time to answer me. I can't complain, because I've always been very happy reading your answers, and learning a lot about music acts.

I owe you my newfound love for Diana Ross and the Supremes. You must understand that growing up very near to Antarctica, there was a huge chance that we wouldn't get all the American music.

I'm from Tierra del Fuego, which is an island situated in the south Atlantic, 300 miles away from Antarctica. I'm 38 years old, and I still remember how happy I was to listen to the "American Top 40" countdown with Casey Kasem every week. Every Saturday there was nothing to keep me away from my stereo! I remember one time I had to be at the hospital, and all I was worried about was missing the countdown, never mind my health!

I grew up at an English boarding school, so I heard all the cassette tapes that my fellow students brought from Europe or the United States; I remember every one of them. I only needed someone to mention a band or solo artist, and my curiosity led me to buy it their album at the local record shop. Since the early '80s, I have managed to put together a decent tape collection of 1,000 cassettes, which I used to carry around. It was a labor of love trying to replace them all with CDs, once the format came to my island in 1988. I still own 300 cassettes that I couldn't find in the CD configuration!

There is more joy in my life when I travel to the United States to hunt for CDs. I was last there in March, and with my father rented a car in Miami and drove to New Orleans, Memphis (Elvis' home), Atlanta, and most importantly, Nashville, because of my love for American country music. I brought home about 400 CDs. Thanks to your columns, I learned that are a lot of other music-mad addicts like myself, all around the globe, and that was a relief!

There's one thing I hate about new CDs, I try only to buy the American copies whenever I travel or I order from here, and every time I try to open a new CD, I have the same problem, I don't know who in the world thought of the idea of labeling the CDs with a sticky white stripe on one side. The problem is that the sticky part is in direct contact with the jewel case, and almost every time, there's a lot of sticky residue that's left on the case, once I remove that white labeling stripe. It is particularly frustrating to have the same experience time and time again!

I know this is not the type of question you usually receive, but I want to ask you why the United States is the only country in the world to use this kind of labeling. There's no other place in the world that uses this kind of glued sticky white labeling stripes on their CD cases. Why don't they put it outside the plastic wrapper, that would be more convenient. Could you please at least mention this to other colleagues, I'm sure that record companies would listen to such well-respected industry people!

Thank you a lot, you are like part of my family. A big hi from the real land down under, near Antarctica, and wishing you could do something to stop the use of that kind of labeling, or at least put it on the outside of the plastic wrapper.

Thank you for all these years,

Eduardo Nereo Marino
Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
emarinio@psi.gov.ar

Dear Eduardo,

Thank you very much for your letter, and I'm glad that you finally wrote to me after reading my columns for so many years. I have heard of Tierra del Fuego, but have never been there and did not realize how close it was to Antarctica. Your e-mail made me curious to find out more about your island, so I went to several websites, including the official site at http://www.tierradelfuego.org.ar/v4/_eng/index.php.

It's easy to take for granted the easy access we have to music, so it's interesting to read about your passion for music and how you were able to find recordings of American artists. Your trips to the United States to shop for CDs sound like my trips to Europe and Asia, where I buy a lot of music to bring home.

As for the sticky white labels on CDs sold in the United States, I hate them too. I often switch the jewel cases, though I know that is not a practical solution for everyone.

When CDs were first introduced in America, they were sold in "long boxes," cardboard boxes that were the same height as vinyl record albums. This allowed stores to display CDs on the same racks that held LPs. Eventually, environmental concerns and practicality led to the demise of the "long box," so retailers wanted some way to display CDs on a rack in a store and allow customers to easily view the name of the artist and the title of the album without having to pick up each CD. The solution was the white sticky label we both dislike so much.



CATHY'S CROWN

Hi Fred,

It was nice to read a blurb from you on Cathy Dennis - we chart fans get caught up in so many historical and geeked-out numbers games on the charts that good stories sometimes get overlooked. Cathy Dennis has been around for a long time and managed not only to be a hot young starlet in her own right in the early '90s, but a prolific and talented hit songwriter. For what it's worth, I think her particular knack for quirky hooks is a standard above that of much hit music these days. And anyone who wrote a song called "Can't Get You Out of My Head" that is literally the hardest song in years to expunge from one's head - must have a vicious sense of irony. Awesome!

Anyway, the reason I am writing is merely to add to your list of seven top 10 credits in the United States. Did she not also hit No. 10 with D Mob in 1990, as singer of "C'mon and Get My Love"? I believe she did!

Anyway, keep up the great work. I look forward to it each week.

Regards,
Marshall Pierce

Dear Marshall,

For readers who missed the original item in Chart Beat, I wrote about Cathy Dennis' achievements as a songwriter when she earned her first No. 1 hit with Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl." I mentioned that this song was Dennis' seventh top 10 hit as a songwriter.

You are one of a handful of readers who wrote to me about "missing" "C'mon and Get My Love" by D Mob introducing Cathy Dennis, a No. 10 hit the week of March 17, 1990. But that song wasn't missing from the list - it didn't belong there. The item was about songs written by Dennis, and she did not contribute to "C'Mon and Get My Love" in that fashion. The song was written by Danny Poku.

I am glad that you appreciated the item - as a fan of songwriters, I'm always glad to highlight their achievements.



MERYL STREEP: CHART VETERAN

Hi Fred,

Much has been made about Meryl Streep's participation on the "Mamma Mia!" soundtrack. However, it should be noted that this is not her first appearance on The Billboard 200.

She charted at No. 180 in 1985 when she narrated the soundtrack to the PBS-TV animated children's special "The Velveteen Rabbit," accompanied by pianist George Winston.

Thanks for your weekly column!

Paul Haney
Milwaukee, Wisc.

Dear Paul,

I'm pretty sure Meryl Streep doesn't remember that she has already been a visitor to the Billboard album chart. When I asked her how she would feel about seeing her name on a Billboard chart (should one of the tracks from the "Mamma Mia!" soundtrack reach the Hot 100), she didn't mention "The Velveteen Rabbit" or being on the chart 23 years ago. Thanks for doing the "record research" on this one!