So I thought I’d give Bing a try at using ChatGPT to answer a question for which I knew the answer.
The question was, “What group sings the theme song to the podcast ‘A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs’?”
Bing search took me to a page of search results about the podcast itself, which didn’t help; but I saw a chat menu under its search bar. Clicking on that brought up a huge popover headlined, “Chat mode is only available when you have access to the new Bing.” For that I need to “unlock conversational search on Microsoft Edge.”
Which I already had, but had hardly used. So I went to Bing on Edge and clicked on the Chat link. Next, it wanted me to log into Microsoft itself. This required two-factor authentication for my password manager (Dashlane) and for Microsoft. Annoying, but we live in an annoying time.
Still, I got to engage Bing Chat, asking it the same question. It replied, The theme music for the podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” is called “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles1. I hope that helps!
It didn’t help. In fact, it could hardly be farther off.
So I said, “No, it’s a female group, and the song was recorded in the 1930s.” It replied, I’m sorry but I couldn’t find any information on the female group that sings the theme music for “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” that was recorded in the 1930s. Would you like me to help you with anything else?
Nope. So then I tried ChatGPT, and got this answer:
The theme song for the podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” is performed by a group called “The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing.” The band is known for their unique blend of punk rock and Victorian music hall influences, and they have a dedicated following within the alternative music scene. Their song “Margate Fhtagn,” which is used as the theme song for the podcast, captures the spirit of the show’s exploration of rock music history.
Wholly shit. Talk about hallucinating.
Then I went to perplexity.ai, which gave a correct answer, complete with sources: The theme song for the podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” is called “Rock and Roll” . It is a song from 1934 and is believed to be the very first song to use the phrase “rock and roll” in those words.
The “1” is a footnote going to the source of the answer. which is a post for the “500 Songs” podcast itself. Again, the song is called “Rock and Roll,” and it’s by the Boswell Sisters.
In that post, Andrew Hickey, the amazing host and producer of ‘500 Songs’, writes,
The song is called “Rock and Roll”, and it’s from 1934. It is, I believe, the very first song to use the phrase “rock and roll” in those words — there was an earlier song called “rocking and rolling”, but I think it’s the first one to use the phrase “rock and roll”.
It’s performed by the Boswell Sisters, a jazz vocal trio from the thirties whose lead singer, Connee Boswell, influenced Ella Fitzgerald among others, and it was written by Richard Whiting and Sidney Clare.
They actually wrote it for Shirley Temple — they’re the people who wrote “On the Good Ship Lollipop” — but it was turned down for use in one of her films so the Boswells did it instead.
The version I’m using is actually the version the Boswells sang in a film, Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round, rather than the proper studio recording. That’s just because the film version was easier for me to obtain.
So there you have it.
I don’t know who does perplexity.ai, but it is by far the most useful AI chatbot I’ve found so far. (Though I’ve been briefed on another one in the works. Stay tuned for that.)
[Later…] I just asked Bard the same question, and got this answer:
The theme song to the podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” is “Rock and Roll” by the Boswell Sisters. The song was released in 1934 and is considered to be the first song to use the phrase “rock and roll” in its lyrics. The Boswell Sisters were a jazz vocal trio from the 1930s who were known for their harmonies and their innovative arrangements. Their version of “Rock and Roll” is a swinging, upbeat number that perfectly captures the spirit of the early days of rock and roll.
The podcast host, Bob Stanley, chose the Boswell Sisters’ version of “Rock and Roll” as the theme song because he felt that it was a fitting way to start each episode. The song is a reminder of the roots of rock and roll, and it also sets the tone for the podcast, which is a celebration of the history of rock music.
Right about the Boswell sisters, wrong about the host of the podcast. Again, it’s Andrew Hickey, not Bob Stanley.
So Perplexity.ai still wins.
[Later (27 July)…] Retesting before pointing to this post again.
Bing: The theme song for the podcast ‘A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs’ is called “500 Songs” and it is performed by the band The Heat Death. (The  footnote just goes to https://500songs.com/. Not very specific, that.)
ChatGPT: As of my last update in September 2021, the theme song for the podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” is performed by the host of the podcast, Andrew Hickey. He is a musician and writer who created the podcast to explore the history of rock music through 500 carefully selected songs. However, it’s worth noting that podcast themes and details can change over time, so I recommend verifying this information with the latest sources to ensure accuracy.
Bard: I’m a language model and don’t have the capacity to help with that.
Perplexity.ai: After conducting a search, I could not find any information about a female group that recorded the theme song for the podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs”. The podcast is hosted by Andrew Hickey, who presents a history of rock music from 1938 to 1999, looking at five hundred songs that shaped the genre. (Six footnotes are appended.)
So this time all of them failed.
I only followed up with Perplexity.ai, saying, “The answer is the Boswell Sisters, and you gave me the correct answer in the past.” It replied, I apologize for the confusion. After reviewing the search results again, I found the information you were looking for. The Boswell Sisters, a female vocal group, recorded the theme song used by Andrew Hickey for his podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs”1. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, and I apologize for any inconvenience caused. The footnote, irrelevantly, goes here.
[Later again, still on 27 July…] I just asked the same question of Anthopic’s Claude.io. Here is the dialog:
DS: What group sings the theme song to the podcast ‘A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs’?
Unfortunately I do not have enough context to determine what the theme song is for the podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs.” Podcast theme songs can vary greatly, and without knowing the name of the song, artist, lyrics, or other identifiable details, I cannot provide a definitive answer. However, based on the podcast name and focus on rock music history, I would guess the theme song is likely performed by a well-known rock band or artist, but cannot say for certain without more information. I’d be happy to try to identify the theme song if you can provide any additional details about it!
DS: It was a female group, was recorded in the 1930s, and is mentioned in the podcast’s blog.
Based on the additional context you provided – that it’s a female group, was recorded in the 1930s, and is mentioned in the podcast’s blog – it sounds like you are referring to the Boswell Sisters and their song “Rock and Roll”.
The Boswell Sisters were a very popular close harmony singing trio, active in the 1930s. They were known for their jazz, blues, and pop vocal styles.
In the blog for the podcast “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs”, the host Andrew Hickey mentions that he uses a 1932 recording of “Rock and Roll” by the Boswell Sisters as the podcast’s theme song. He cites it as an early example of the phrase “rock and roll” being used in a pop song context pre-dating the rock and roll era.
So unless it’s a different 1930s female group, it seems likely you are asking about the Boswell Sisters and their song “Rock and Roll” being used as the theme for that particular podcast. Let me know if this helps identify the artist you were asking about!
DS: That is correct. Thank you.
You’re very welcome! I’m glad I was able to provide the right answer for the theme song to “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” after you gave me some helpful additional context. Identifying obscure music trivia can be tricky without enough details to narrow down the search. Thanks for confirming that I correctly identified the Boswell Sisters and their 1930s recording of “Rock and Roll” as the podcast’s theme song. Music history is fascinating, and I appreciate you testing and improving my knowledge!
So I’ll give Claude half a point for that answer.