Monthly Archives: February 2013

H20: the album that keeps on giving

I keep a notebook with to-do lists, names of records I’m looking for, movies to watch, and (as found in last year’s notebook) a full-page demand for myself to LISTEN TO ALL HALL & OATES ALBUMS IN THEIR ENTIRETY ASAP! I went through a similar phase with the Bee Gees a few years ago, knowing that a band capable of such a stellar run of singles clearly had to be writing album tracks nearly as good or better, and I spent months getting up close and personal with Idea, Horizontal, and Main Course–now my three favorite Bee Gees albums.  I’ve always associated Hall & Oates with the sweaty H2O cover, which is no wonder I never exactly embraced the duo. But a group responsible for “I Can’t Go For That” (admittedly ripped off by Michael Jackson for “Billie Jean”), “Maneater,” “Sara Smile,” “Private Eyes,” and “Kiss On My List” deserves not to be judged by one silly sleeve. My Hall & Oates education would begin with H2O  because admittedly, it’s the only H&O album I own, and then I would proceed in reverse chronological order (Private Eyes, Voices, and so on). I should be … Read more

stop, look, and listen

When my dad called me to ask if I knew where his boxes of LPs might be, I knew that something had changed. My dad, a champion of modern technology and all things new, boxed up all his vinyl upon the advent of the CD, bought a laser disc player, then a DVD player, and insisted my brother and I learn the computer when few owned such a thing. This is not a man in any way nostalgic for the past. So the fact that he went out and purchased a turntable (and has since spent many hours positioned at the optimal distance from his speakers, listening to Dark Side of the Moon) is proof enough for me that vinyl is well and truly back. His christmas presents last year included the reissue of the Beatles’ LP collection and 12 Bee Gees LPs. Add that to all the constant news stories about the resurgence of vinyl, and the number of labels releasing and re-releasing their catalogues on record, and we’ve got a mainstream movement that has woken up from the false promise of digital with the realization that vinyl not … Read more

a whole lotta love for all things awesome

Hello to friends and readers, old and new!  Cha Cha Charming has come out of hibernation–with a little less pink and a whole lotta love for all things awesome. For those that have visited in search of girl pop, you’ll still find plenty of that here. But my enthusiasm for everything has made it difficult to keep CCC in such narrow focus. The site is still very much music-centric, but with the more-than-occasional nod to favorite destinations (Palm Springs), animals (spiders), documentaries (at the moment, anything by Adam Curtis), and other random delights. For the newcomers, I started Cha Cha Charming in 1998, after having returned to NYC from London with a pile of girl-pop 45s that would prompt the beginning of a record-collecting habit that I have yet to shake. I needed a place to gush about Andrea Carroll records whilst at the same time documenting my ever-growing obsession with metal band Megadeth. Cha Cha Charming lasted for three print issues, and then moved to the web a couple of years later as a hub for female-fronted pop, from the past, present, and future, and from all over the globe. I updated it fairly … Read more

Nippon Girls on Vinyl

In the vinyl-receiving pleasure chart, nothing beats a 12 inch-square package from the UK stuffed with copies of your very own compilation–Nippon Girls: Japanese Pop, Beat & Bossa Nova, 1967-1969– in a gatefold sleeve, with a 23-inch square poster, on purple vinyl. It is a compiler’s wet dream. The CD has long been the format-of-choice for most compilations, but thanks to the ever-growing love for vinyl and the surprise success of Nippon Girls on CD, Ace decided it was ripe for a vinyl edition. So here you’ll find 12 highlights from the 25-track original–Jun Mayzumi’s R&B stomper “Black Room,” the ultra-cute “Peacock Baby” by Reiko Ohara, and quite a few of the more dancefloor-friendly cuts (for the DJs averse to CDs and mp3s). For more details, please visit Or purchase from or 

My Favorite Record #1

Mieko Hirota: Ningyou No Ie (Ballade of Doll’s House) (Columbia, 1969) With the release of the Nippon Girls LP this week, I thought I’d pick a sixties Japanese girl-pop track as my first record of the week. Ballads dominated the girl-pop scene in ’60s Japan, but few come close to the intensity and melodrama of Mieko Hirota’s “Ningyou No Ie” (Ballade of Doll’s House), released on Columbia in 1969. Lyricist Ray Nakanishi remembers that the label was adamant that the record was much too dark for Mieko Hirota’s image. Up until the single’s release, Hirota was marketed as a cute n’ chubby-cheeked youngster whose immense voice was kept at bay by the label’s very pop song choices. Despite the lack of confidence in the song, “Ningyou No Ie” was released in July of 1969, with a much more sultry and grown-up Hirota pouting on the sleeve. By October of that year it had reached #1. “Miko-chan” was back in the spotlight. 

Guide to Palm Springs

When Don Draper needed a vacation, he headed to Palm Springs, California–the desert playground for Hollywood’s elite in the 1950s-1960s, and still the hub of what is known as mid-century modern design–a distinct architectural and interior style that favors sleek lines, steel structures, unconventional shapes, and enormous pieces of glass that bring the outdoors indoors. Palm Springs’ preservationists have put up a mighty fight to protect the works of architects Donald Wexler, William F. Cody, and E. Stewart Williams, as developers seek out more space for golf courses and Starbucks. Thankfully the ever-growing adoration for mid-century modern design and frustration with clone-towns has breathed new life into the desert town, and it is lauded worldwide as a rare symbol of the beauty and design America was once capable of. I stumbled upon Palm Springs in January 2011, when I spent six weeks road-tripping from San Francisco to Miami. We checked into the Del Marcos hotel, dined in the old-Hollywood glam of Melvyn’s, rode up to the top of the San Jacinto mountain via the Palm Springs aerial tramway, and attempted to trespass the gates that kept us too far from John Lautner’s space-age Elrod House, built in … Read more

Palm Springs Mix

Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr., or the Rat Pack, are the logical choices for music to enjoy Palm Springs by. Hotel rooms often come with their Greatest Hits collections, and “Come Fly With Me” is always playing by the pool. I’ve included Sinatra (and daughter) in the mix, and Dean Martin’s country cracker “1200 miles from Palm Springs to Texas,” but I wanted to stay light on the Rat Pack and choose other artists + songs that I think capture the mood of the desert. Todd Rundgren’s “Hello it’s Me” may feel more East Coast , but when it came on as I was speeding past a sea of windmills, I was certain it couldn’t sound better anywhere else. They are the perfect match. As is anything by Claudine Longet. And Diana Dors. Even though she’s so English.  1. Santo & Johnny: Sleep Walk 2. Frank & Nancy Sinatra: Something Stupid  3. Diana Dors: Come By Sunday4. Alan Moorhouse: That’s Nice 5. Priscilla Paris: I Can’t Understand  6. Dean Martin: It’s 1200 Miles from Palm Springs to Texas 7. Lesley Gore: A Girl In Love 8. The Walter Wanderley Trio: Amanha 9. Claudine Longet: Run Wild, Run … Read more

Century of the Self

I watched Adam Curtis’ 4-part series The Century of the Self (2002) and my brain went into “too much information” mode and left me overwhelmed and mind-blown. It was the moment in the Monkees’ film Head, where the band are sitting for hours in a steam bath with the Maharishi, hoping to gain some insight into the meaning of life. After hours of lecturing, the Maharashi concludes by questioning everything he’s just said. “But why should I speak?,” he asks. “For I know nothing.” The Monkees flip out. “You know nothing?!” they ask. And Davy Jones storms off in a huff. After absorbing 240 minutes worth of footage on propaganda, PR, consumerism, and psychology, I was left with the frustrating yet oddly liberating feeling that I know nothing. When the film reveals that women’s “choice” to take up smoking in the 1920s was not actually a radical expression of equality and feminism, but a carefully constructed PR plan to get the other half of the population to cough up their cash for cigarettes, it leaves you questioning your own forms of personal expression, and begs the questions, Am I in charge of myself … Read more