Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tom Petty: I Won't Back Down

It’s a few days since we got word that Tom Petty died at age 66; these were followed by alerts that it was a false report. Since being taken off life support, his demise was certainly eventual and he passed away on Monday, October 2, 2017 at 8:40 PM Pacific Daylight Savings Time at UCLA Medical Center. He had suffered a cardiac arrest and was found at his home on Sunday.

It seems as I get older, more and more of my heroes of the stage and screen, as well as family and friends, are passing away. This is a reminder of my own mortality – but with life comes death. As with Tom, it will be for all of us when our number is called.

I wasn’t an early follower of his music, but I must thank Dave Alley, who worked at West Virginia Public Radio in the 1970s, for alerting me of his musical genius. I remember particularly one afternoon Dave was making the argument that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were the musical descendants of one of my favorite groups, The Byrds.

I’ve been busy and couldn’t get to this tribute until tonight and am sorry I couldn’t post it sooner. Since it is a Wednesday, I thought an acoustic version of one of his hits – “I Won’t Back Down” is in order. Recorded live, the song comes off well with the organ being the only electric instrument on it. Listen for Mike Campbell’s mandolin parts. We’ll miss you Tom. Rest in peace.

Monday, October 2, 2017

National Lampoon: Catch It And You Keep It

Sometimes, I do my best thinking in the shower. Yesterday morning while rinsing and repeating I was contemplating the passing of Monty Hall and remembered a comedy routine from 1972: “Catch it and you Keep it.” The cut was found on “Radio Dinner” the first of National Lampoon’s 11 comedy records that were released over the next 11 years. I remember hearing “Catch it and you Keep it” on Pittsburgh's WDVE in early fall 1972 and knew I had to have this record. It was the first release on Banana Records, which was distributed by Blue Thumb.

While the “Catch it and you Keep it” spoofs all game shows from the period, there is a subtle reference to Monty Hall’s “Let’s Make a Deal,” as one of the contestants is dressed as a turnip. Forty-five years later, I still find this cut hilarious and I hope you do as well.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Monty Hall Has Chosen Door Number Three

It must be true, I read it on the Internet and people have posted it on Facebook. Monty Hall has chosen door number three and has entered into eternity. He passed away from heart failure at the ripe old age of 96 today. Since this is a music blog, how can the death of the host of TV’s “Let’s Make A Deal” be musically related? You’d be surprised.

Back in 1974, Steve Goodman and Jimmy Buffett collaborated on a song dealing with the effervescent and zany TV show “Let’s Make A Deal.” Both Goodman and Buffett recorded “Door Number Three” and I’ve chosen the latter’s version for our special tribute. Goodman's version, however, is somewhat lyrically different.

Appearing on Jimmy Buffett’s fifth album, “A1A,” “Door Number Three” was released as a single in July 1975 and peaked at 88 on Billboard’s Hot Country chart. The musicians were loosely arranged in a unit called the Third Coral Reefer Band.

Rest in Peace Monty – let’s hope you got the prize.

Casey Kelly: Reach Out For Me

As in the past, I’ve featured songs that never made it to a respectable position on the charts. Although the term “Bubbling Under” usually refers to songs that charted between 101 to 110, I am a bit more liberal with my definition and use it in a broader sense.

For today’s selection, I picked a selection from an album that was given to me in 1978 while I was a student in Marshall University’s speech department. One of my fellow grad assistants, Joyce Burley McCracken, had a brother that worked in a Warner-Elektra-Asylum warehouse and he had given her some albums a few years earlier. As she knew I loved music, she graciously gave me five of these LPs.

Of that group, two albums stood out: Horslips “Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part” and Casey Kelly’s “For Sale.” Kelly’s LP was often found on my turntable during the next several years. While since the release of his second album for Elektra in 1974, Kelly has distinguished himself as a country songwriter with four top ten country hits he co-wrote with others. The Louisiana native also showcased some of the techniques of the trade in his and David Hodge’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Art of Songwriting published in 2011.

I found it difficult to pick just one song to feature as I liked the entire album. Although the recordings didn’t propel him to fame, I found them refreshing and very personal. In addition, there’s a bit of variety in styles on “For Sale.” After listening to all of the tunes, I’ve decided on “Reach out for Me.” I didn’t know this at the time or until today for that matter, that this was the song Elektra selected as the album’s single release.

“Reach out to Me” reminds me of some of Dan Fogelberg’s early material and probably is my favorite cut on the album. Interestingly enough, I didn’t remember that this song was produced by Norbert Putnam who coincidentally produced Fogelberg’s first LP: “Home Free.” Enjoy.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Monkees: The Girl I Knew Somewhere

Much to my children’s apathy, I manage to still wax nostalgic about when and where I was when I first heard a song or an artist. Although they persist in rolling their eyes, I continue to yammer on. Case in point. It was September 1966 when I initially heard The Monkees’ first single “Last Train to Clarksville.” I was in the company of my brothers and a few other college students as they were driving off “Radio Hill” in Grayson, Kentucky.  As we headed back to campus, the song emanated from the ether of a distant radio station. I remember asking, “Is that The Beatles?” I was informed by someone in the car that it was a new band called The Monkees.

Fast forward six months to their third single release, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and we have our Friday Flipside: “The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” Not only was it a “B” side, but the tune got enough airplay to chart at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.

After The Monkees recorded two albums where they were refused the opportunity to provide their own instrumentation, Mike Nesmith began lobbying the producers of their TV show for more creative control. To make a long story short, Don Kirshner, the show’s musical director, was eventually fired and the band was given the opportunity to record on their own.

In early 1967, Chip Douglas, who was performing as a substitute bassist for The Turtles, was approached by Mike Nesmith at The Whiskey A-Go-Go to be The Monkees' new producer. Having a lack of experience in this role, Douglas was initially reluctant, but Nesmith, who had produced recordings in the past, promised to help.

“The Girl I Knew Somewhere,” written by Nesmith, was one of the first songs Douglas recorded with the band. While Mike originally sang lead, it was decided a month later to rerecord the tune with Mickey Dolenz singing lead, as his voice was better suited for a pop recording. All of The Monkees played on this song.

Besides lead vocals, Dolenz also played drums. Nesmith was on electric guitar (in the right channel) and background vocals. Davy Jones played tambourine and Peter Tork can be heard on the acoustic guitar (in the left channel) and on the keyboard lead. Chip Douglas, the only non-member of the band, supplied the bass. Douglas' production credits are listed under his legal name: Douglas Farthing Hatlelid.

“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” is a catchy tune in its own right and the song’s bridge is quite unique. Although Douglas was a new producer, this song still sounds great 50 years later. Good stuff.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Who: I'm Free

It’s Thirtysomething Thursday where we look at songs that charted between 30 and 39 on Billboard’s Hot 100. This week’s selection comes from one of my favorite bands: The Who. As part of rock opera “Tommy,” “I’m Free” was the second of three singles from the album; the others were “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me, Feel Me.” The single charted at 37.

According to Pete Townshend, the rhythm of the song was inspired by Charlie Watts’ drumming on the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man.” This unusual rhythm was no small feat to pull off, as Keith Moon couldn’t play it. John Entwistle relayed that Keith had another rhythm pattern in his head and couldn’t hear what Pete wanted.

This required Townshend and Entwistle to play the snare, hi-hat cymbals, and the tambourine parts. Moon was later brought in to provide the fills. Apparently, this was a bit difficult to pull off live, as Townshend and Entwistle were playing guitar and bass. To compensate, Pete apparently gave exaggerated visual cues for the primary rhythm of the song so Moon could play it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sarah Jarosz: Ring them Bells

It’s a Wooden Music Wednesday and here’s an artist that I’ve heard quite a bit on National Public Radio’s “Prairie Home Companion.” Sarah Jarosz, a 26-year old mandolin prodigy from Texas, has been recording with Sugar Hill Records since 2009. Today we feature “Ring them Bells,” which is a Bob Dylan composition that was featured on his 1989 “Oh Mercy” album. Sarah recorded it on her second LP, “Follow Me Down” where the arrangement centers around her banjo picking. We’ll play the studio version, which is excellent, later.

But for now, here’s a live studio cut featuring Sarah on an octave mandolin – one of my favorite instruments. While I have one, her instrument is of better quality than mine. This acoustic version was recorded at Minutia Studios in Nashville in 2013 as part of The American Sessions from Vanguard Records and Sugar Hill Records.