Friday, January 31, 2014

Sire Records: My City Was Gone

As we continue our look at Sire Records, we also feature a flipside this Friday. “My City Was Gone” got enough album rock play that charted as an AOR hit at #11. Although it didn’t chart as high “Back on the Chain,” the “A” side peaked at #5 on the AOR charts and at #4 on the Hot 100.

In this 1984 flipside, Chrissie Hynde reflects on her the Ohio of her youth that somehow disappeared during her absence. The places she enjoyed frequenting in downtown Akron had been leveled and replaced by parking lots. The pristine countryside became crisscrossed with asphalt highways and the rich Ohio farmland was plowed over for shopping malls. Even the seminal North East Ohio music scene was overtaken by Muzak that played non-stop in these establishments. Although her childhood home was still standing, her family too was gone.

The tune’s working title was “Ohio”; however, Hynde felt there would be confusion with the Neil Young song about Kent State. “My City was Gone” appears only in the lyrics of the first verse.

Over the years, it has been used as the recognizable as the bumper music Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. As far as Limbaugh’s use, EMI (who holds the publishing rights) ordered that he cease and desist. Limbaugh obliged and stopped using it for a short time. Chrissie Hynde, however, did not mind that it was used on his show and performance royalties were negotiated. Hynde contributes these royalties in their entirety to PETA.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sire Records: Hocus Pocus

If you took Deep Purple, Ian Anderson, an Alpine yodeler, Popeye the Sailor, Frankie Yankovic, and Whistling Jack Smith and had them compose one song, you might come up with “Hocus Pocus.” Dutch band Focus’ signature tune had it all – a heavy rock band that had flute, yodeling, scat singing, accordion, and whistling all on one track.

I remember this record quite well. It was the summer of 1973 and I just graduated from high school and got my first car. My friends and I would spend the evenings cruising through the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh listening to the radio. My ’64 Ford Fairlane 500, however, only had an AM radio with one oval speaker, but that was sufficient to hear the tunes in all of their mono glory. That summer, it seemed that the three Steel City Top 40 stations (13Q, KQV, and WIXZ) only played three songs: “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, “Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group, and “Hocus Pocus” by Focus. These three cuts dominated the airwaves.

Released in the US on Sire Records, “Hocus Pocus” – in all of its unusual glory – made it to the Top 10 and charted at #9. It also was the first record I ever purchased on the Sire label. The flip side of the single was part two of the nearly seven minute album cut from their “Moving Waves” LP. The song was born with a riff created by Jan Akkerman while the band was practicing in a room of a castle that they had rented as a rehearsal hall. 

While coauthor Jan Akkerman’s guitar shines on this number, the real work came from the song’s other author, Thijs Van Leer, who played the organ, accordion, and flute along with whistling, singing the Popeye like scat parts, and of course yodeling – the song’s unique characteristic. Typically it categorized as an instrumental, but Thijs Van Leer considers it a vocal performance; albeit, a different type of vocal performance.

The song also fits our Repeats and Threepeats category as the album was released three times and the single twice. Generally known for the album’s second and third releases distributed by Polydor and Famous Music as “Moving Waves,” the original version of the album was named “Focus II” and was on Sire distributed by Polydor.

The single was released twice in succession from Polydor and Famous Music Corporation. Interestingly enough, the two issues had the same catalog numbers; however, the publishing companies were listed with different identities. I was cognizant of the two issues at the time and sought out a copy distributed by Polydor as it would be rarer.

Even though Nike used it for a World Cup commercial a few years ago, you don’t hear “Hocus Pocus” much these days as the novelty  has worn thin, but it is always a treat to hear the band’s only American Top 40.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sire Records: Streets of London

When Ralph McTell wrote “Streets of London,” he intended to be on his first album “Eight Frames a Second” in 1968; however, the song didn’t make the cut, as he decided it was too depressing. He did, however, record it for his second album “Spiral Staircase” in 1969. Transatlantic Records, did not issue the song as a single, and numerous artists clamored to record the tune and have a go at it as a single.

McTell’s Transatlantic label mates The Johnstons was part of that number and released “Streets of London” in 1970. Since Transatlantic did not have a corresponding label in the US, Sire Records issued it as a single in North America. Richard Gottehrer, one of the two owners of Sire came to London to produce the single for Transatlantic’s Big T label (as well as for Sire).

The press released touted that “Ralph [McTell] considers The Johnstons’ interpretation of the song the best he has heard.” Incidentally it was The Johnston’s only release on Sire; two previous singles had been issued on Tetragrammatron Records. The Johnston’s interpretation of “Streets of London” failed to chart.

Starting with a harpsichord and then quite a bit of overproduction with horns, “Streets of London” featured the lead vocals of Adrienne Johnston. Others on the single include band members and multi-instrumentalists Mick Moloney and Paul Brady. There is some question on whether Lucy Johnston is on this record, as she left the band in early 1969, but she is depicted on two versions of the single’s picture sleeve.

Speaking of Mick Moloney, I had an opportunity to meet and chat with him after a concert in Beckley, WV in 1988. At the time, he was working on his PhD in Folklore and Folklife at the University of Pennsylvania. He currently teaches in the Irish Studies program at New York University. Adirenne Johnston suffered a broken neck in a fall that led to her death in 1981. Some have suggested that her demise was not accidental.

As for McTell, Transatlantic remixed several songs from McTell’s 1969 albums including “Streets of London” in 1970. The remix was issued in the Netherlands as a single and peaked at #9 in 1972. McTell re-recorded the song and it was eventually released in the UK as a single in 1974. It charted at #2 and is considered by some his signature song.

Streets of London” also appeared on the American version of McTell’s 1971 album “You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here.” I first heard this LP in 1974 about 500 yards from where I am now sitting, and I would later procure a copy from a Huntington, WV radio station’s discard pile in 1979.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger Lies In The American Land

Similar to when Richie Havens passed on last year and I suspended my week’s special in order to pay tribute to that great folk singer, I now pause my special on Sire Records to honor the memory of Pete Seeger – the quintessential American folk musician. Seeger passed away last night in New York City at the ripe old age of 94.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of Pete Seeger – perhaps it was during the folk craze of the early sixties, or maybe it was through other groups who recorded his well known compositions such as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” “If I had a Hammer,” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

Possibly, I learned his name when I was in the fourth grade and ordered the Scholastic Books’ “Folksong Festival Sampler” that included one of his recordings. Maybe it was because he popularized the song “We Shall Overcome,” a song the late Miss Gloria DiMartini had us sing in our fourth grade music class. Perhaps it was the sight of that extremely long necked, 25-fret Vega banjo he strummed. I don’t know, but it seems like I’ve always known him – always admired him.

Today, I’m not going to feature one of his better known songs, but rather a song that mentions my hometown – McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Seeger didn’t write “He Lies in the American Land,” but he did set Andrew Kovaly’s poem to music and recorded it on his 1956 “American Industrial Ballads” LP.

Kovaly, a Slovak immigrant to McKeesport, witnessed the death of his friend in the mill and wrote this ballad to break the bad news to his widow when she arrived from Austria-Hungary. The millwright’s wife and children had already set out on their journey when the tragedy occurred. Perhaps it’s the only song to mention McKeesport, as Kovaly lamented “Here in McKeesport, this valley, this valley of fire.”

Seeger took this song to a broader audience. Accompanied only by his unwieldy banjo, his sparse interpretation of Kovaly’s lyrics gives the song an Eastern European flavor.

Pete Seeger influenced a generation of singers who influenced another generation of singers who still influence others yet today. Thanks for bringing us many great songs – songs that will live on forever.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sire Records: Shake Some Action

Formed in San Francisco in 1965, the garage band the Flamin’ Groovies had a style that could be described as “Pre-Punk.” Although they never garnered mainstream success, their 1976 recording of “Shake Some Action” tends to be one of their better known songs. It was released in Europe in 1976 as a single.

In the US, for some unknown reason, Sire Records chose not to release the song on 45 and picked “I Can’t Hide” instead – it, by the way, flopped. “Shake Some Action” was the lead track from the LP of the same name. While the album is probably the band’s best known 12-inch release, it had a dismal showing at #142 on the Top 200 album charts. With that said, it was the only one of Flamin’ Groovies’ eight albums to chart and was the first of three to be released by Sire, which was distributed by ABC at the time.

“Shake Some Action” was written by guitarist Cyril Jordan and guitarist/lead vocalist Chris Wilson. Jordan was a founding member of the band and Wilson joined the Flamin’ Groovies in 1971. The song can be loosely considered a Media Monday selection, as a cover of “Shake Some Action” by David Lowery was featured in the 1995 film “Clueless.” I, however, like the original. This is great stuff from a band that is largely unknown in the broader scheme of things.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sire Records: Rivers of Babylon

It’s the fourth week of the month and every month we feature a specific record label. This time around it’s Sire Records. Founded in 1966 by Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer, the label’s initial foray into the recording industry was bringing lesser known British artists to American audiences. Chronicling the label’s history is as difficult as charting the romantic encounters of Elizabeth Taylor, as you will see in the next several paragraphs.

When the label began issuing releases in 1968, it was initially distributed by London Records. It switched distribution to Polydor for 1970 and 1971. By 1972, Famous Music Corporation took over distribution which was transferred to ABC when that label purchased Famous Music in 1974.

Distribution was again shifted in 1977, and this time to Warner Brothers who purchased the label outright in 1978. By 1994, Sire was moved by Warners Music to the Elektra division where it remained for three years until it was spun off as an independent label. From 2000 to 2003, Sire and its former distributor London Records merged. That short romance was annulled and it is currently an independent label distributed once again by Warners Brothers Records.

During its heyday, Sire Records was the home for many interesting artists – some of which we will feature during this week. Some of the better known artists in the Sire corral are Madonna, The Pretenders, The Talking Heads, Modern English, Focus, and the Climax Blues Band. This list only scratches the surface. Since the label was known to seek out British (and other European) independent acts, many Sire artists released in the US on the label were signed to other companies overseas.

One such artist, who was signed with Hansa Records in Germany, was Boney M. In 1978, Boney M. revisited The Melodians’ “Rivers of Babylon.” While based upon Psalms 137 and 19 with additional Rastafarian overtones, Boney M. altered the lyrical content to that which would be acceptable in the sight of a Judeo-Christian context.

“Rivers of Babylon” was a #1 record in the UK, Germany, Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. Several of their other recordings were number one records in various countries; however, “Rivers of Babylon” remains as band’s only hit proper in the US with the highest chart position being #30. Its performance in Canada was similar, as it peaked at #25 in the Great White North.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Moody Blues: Driftwood

It’s cold outside – the perfect day to stay inside and stay warm. No chance on that, as I have to take the kiddos to work. Here’s a medium tempo “almost hit” by one of my favorite bands: The Moody Blues. Released as the second single from their 1978 album “Octave,” “Driftwood” only made it to #59. Since the term “Driftwood” is not part of the lyrical content of the song’s hook (it is, however, found elsewhere in the song), I wonder if it had been named “Time Waits for No One” would it have had better chart performance?

Besides the title and its overall peak on the Hot 100, “Driftwood” is one of their masterpiece songs. It was the last single on which keyboardist Mike Pinder performs. In the video, Pinder’s replacement Patrick Moraz is playing the keyboards – but not so on the recording. The vocals are primarily handled by Justin Hayward with help from bassist John Lodge.

Although Ray Thomas is shown as playing a tenor sax in the video, the song actually features several alto sax tracks by Los Angeles studio musician R.A. Martin. The sax parts add a nice counterpoint to Hayward’s lead guitar. Martin also plays the French horn primarily heard during the song’s intro and is not keyboard generated as the video implies. Although it wasn’t one of the bands biggest hits, it is one of their most beautiful ballads.

The Promotional Video (in mono)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Up Around the Bend

For our Friday Flipside feature, we have selected a “B” side of a double-sided hit by Creedence Clearwater Revival that charted equally at #4. While being the “B” side, “Up Around the Bend” was better known in the US than intended the “A” side – “Run through the Jungle.” This was not the case in most countries, as “Run through the Jungle” was the hit and “Up Around the Bend” failed to chart.

From the 1970 album “Cosmo’s Factory,” the double-sided hit was a million seller in the US and garnered gold record certification. Both songs have appeared in numerous films and TV shows over the years and both were penned and sung by CCR’s leader John Fogerty.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Spirit in the Night

Just as Manfred Mann in the 1960s recorded several songs by Bob Dylan, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in the 1970s chose to record three songs penned by Bruce Springsteen. Released under three different titles, Springsteen’s “Spirit in the Night” was issued twice as a single for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band with two different vocalists.

In 1975, the album “Nightingales and Bombers” listed the tune as “Spirits in the Night.” Mick Rogers was the vocalist on this version as well as for the first single release in 1976. The single listed the correct title of “Spirit in the Night.” This first version charted at #97.

In 1977, Manfred Mann re-released a remix of the single featuring Chris Thompson on vocals. Thompson joined the band in 1976 and replaced Rogers. This single release featured the abbreviated title of “Spirit.” The second time around the song barely made it into the Top 40 by charting at the #40 position.

The singles, issued under different numbers, featured unique flipsides. One of the interesting aspects of the two singles is that the phonodisc (p) copyright for the 1976 version has a 1976 date; however, the copyright for the 1977 version is 1975 and lists their UK label of Bronze Records' logo, which is absent from the first single. Unfortunately, I could only find the Mick Rogers rendition and would have liked to feature his and Thompson’s version for comparison purposes.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

High Strung Guitar: I Don't Want to Know

This week it was announced that Christine McVie was rejoining Fleetwood Mac – bringing the entire hit version of the band back together as she joins ex-husband John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks. So, it is only fitting with our last feature of the high strung guitar as well as our typical Saturday Bubbling Under Feature that we bring something from this classic line-up of Fleetwood Mac.

Previously, this five person version of Fleetwood Mac ended in 1987 when Buckingham left the group. Stevie Nicks stayed on until 1992; and after a series of series of guitarists and one replacement for Nicks, Fleetwood Mac called it quits in 1995. In 1997, the best known version of the band was resurrected; however, Christine McVie left after a year and FM has been performing as a four piece until now.

The bestselling album for this lineup (as well as any iteration of the group) was “Rumours” which spawned our featured cut today “I Don’t Want to Know.” The double tracked guitar parts throughout this number were played on a high strung guitar by Lindsey Buckingham. All three vocalists, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, and Lindsey Buckingham sang on this Stevie Nicks’ composition. I hope this week about high strung guitar has been educational and entertaining as well.

Friday, January 17, 2014

High Strung Guitar: Don Quixote

It’s kind of a Certs day – two features in one – our Second Week Special on High Strung Guitar and our Friday Flipside. Gordon Lightfoot is an artist that liberally used the high strung guitar on his landmark, platinum certified album from 1974 – “Sundown.” I’m not going to feature a cut from “Sundown”; however, I prefer an earlier tune since it better showcased the high strung guitar. Today’s feature is the title cut from Gord’s 1972 album “Don Quixote.”

“Don Quixote” also was the “B” side to the single “Beautiful” which failed to make the Top 40 in the US as it only peaked at #58. It was, however, a top 15 pop single and #1 adult contemporary record in Lightfoot’s native Canada. “Don Quixote” did not chart in either country.

While Lightfoot plays the high strung guitar on his “Sundown” album, it is not him that plays this treble instrument on “Don Quixote.” The late John “Red” Shea, Lightfoot’s lead guitarist, plays high strung, and it is evident throughout the tune in the left channel. Shea uses a variety of styles to accompany Lightfoot’s fingerstyle 6-string. These include strumming, fingerstyle, flatpicking, and silence when absolutely necessary.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

High Strung Guitar: The Promise

As we explore the high strung guitar, we turn to a 1996 single from Tracy Chapman’s album “New Beginning.” The LP did very well on the charts at #4 and was certified quintuple platinum. Although the album fared well, its third single failed to chart. With its mellow sound, I would have expected it to place on the adult contemporary charts; however, that didn’t happen.

Tracy Chapman plays fingerstyle high strung guitar on this particular cut. In addition, Cameron Stone’s ‘cello and Lili Haydn’s violin both figure prominently in the arrangement.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

High Strung Guitar: Woodsmoke and Oranges

Today’s high strung guitar selection is not as well known as some of the others that I’ve featured this week. Canadian Ian Tamblyn’s “Woodsmoke and Oranges,” which also serves as our Wooden Music Wednesday selection, was actually inspired by a lick he first played on a high strung guitar some thirty years ago. In 2007, he re-recorded the song for his “Superior: Spirit and Light” CD. Tamblyn said that the high strung part sounded like the North Coast of Lake Superior.

The title intrigues me, as I am not sure what “Woodsmoke and Oranges” really means. Perhaps I’m dense, but the oranges may refer to the colors of autumn and of course the fires burning in the distance provides the woodsmoke.

Add to the title’s mystique is the fact that folk-singer Paul Siebel titled his 1970 debut album with the same phrase – yet no song named “Woodsmoke and Oranges” appears on the record. Perhaps Tamblyn was paying tribute to Siebel – unfortunately, I do not know this for a certainty.

I like the tune and if you listen, you’ll hear the high strung guitar.

Live Version from 2012

I have also included a live video where Tamblyn talks about how the guitar configuration motivated the song’s writing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

High Strung Guitar: Wild Horses

As we continue our look at the use of high strung guitar, I turn to another popular song that employed this technique – The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” Inspired by Gram Parsons, this Stones’ foray into a country influenced sound simultaneously was issued on two albums on two different labels in 1971.

Joining its fellow single “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” was one of the two 45s from the album “Sticky Fingers” – their first release on Rolling Stones Records that was distributed by Atlantic’s ATCO division. Due to a contractual fight with their former manager Allen Klein, he claimed ownership rights to both singles and subsequently they also appeared on a London Records compilation known as “Hot Rocks 1964-1971.”

Keith Richard plays most of the guitar parts – a 12-string guitar in the right channel and the electric lead guitar; he also provides backing vocals on the chorus. Mick Taylor, however, was responsible for the high strung guitar that appears in the left channel. He does some nice accompanying parts as well as some 12th fret harmonics. The remainder of the line-up is straight forward: Mick Jagger on vocals, Bill Wyman on bass, and Charlie Watts on drums. They are joined by the late Jim Dickinson on piano.

Today’s feature also fulfills our Atypical Tuesday selection as “Sticky Fingers” was packaged with an Andy Warhol designed cover of a man’s jeans with an operational zipper. Behind the cover was a photograph of men’s briefs, but you had to pry apart a thin line of glue to get to the inner picture.

Bowing to complaints of record stores who returned a number of albums damaged in shipping, Atlantic began manufacturing the album with the zipper pull tab opened and centered over the label. This prevented damage in shipment to the playing surface of the LP – a hazard that occurred when the zipper was completely closed.

While “Brown Sugar” was a number one record, its follow-up “Wild Horses” was a mid-charter at #28. Selling over three million copies, “Sticky Fingers” was certified triple platinum. The album spent four weeks at the number one position on the US album charts and a total of 62 weeks on the charts.

Monday, January 13, 2014

High Strung Guitar: Hey You

From Pink Floyd’s album “The Wall,” “Hey You” was originally intended to be part of the motion picture of the same name, but was cut from the final due to time constraints. Copies of the DVD contain a rough cut in black and white of the intended video.

The song features lead vocals by both Roger Waters and David Gilmour. While Waters doesn’t play any instruments on this cut, Gilmour is on fretless bass, 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars, electric guitars, pedal steel guitar, and his own take on the high strung guitar.

For this particular recording, Gilmour strings the low “E” string an octave higher than a normal high strung configuration – thus making the string two octaves higher than standard tuning and in unison with the high “E” string. His own take on the high strung acoustic guitar provides a unique sound on the arpeggios during the “Hey You’s” beginning.

In addition, Nick Mason plays drums and Richard Wright is on Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond organ, and synthesizer. More unusual than Gilmour’s take on the high strung guitar is engineer James Guthrie’s use of an electric drill as an effect. You can hear it from about 3:22 to 4:00 in the song.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

High Strung Guitar: Paradox (Disciple's Song)

Well, it’s the second week of the month and time for our special feature this month is the high string guitar or sometimes referred to as Nashville tuning or stringing. The Nashville moniker was attributed to this non standard way of stringing of an acoustic guitar because of its frequent use by Nashville session musicians.

To make it simple, a high strung guitar is not one with too much caffeine, but rather one where the four lowest strings (E-A-D-G) are strung an octave higher while the B and the high E strings are strung in standard. In other words, a high strung guitar is the octave set from a 12-string guitar. A guitar strung in this manner has a bell like quality and even alone sounds wonderful, but many musicians use it in tandem with a standard strung acoustic guitar.

In 1974, I began stringing one of my acoustic guitars in this matter and still have it strung this way. I don’t use it often and haven’t played it out since using it for special music at a funeral in 1989. As I was performing with two other guitarists that evening, I opted for a different sound to round things out and used it rather than my typical instrument.

My, I must use it more – as that is a long time. Probably my reason for not using it since is that I typically use my 12-string which I purchased in 1990 since I don’t often play in a group setting. There are quite a few recordings that use this technique and we will explore some of these during this week. To my limited knowledge, the most famous song using a high strung guitar is Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”; unfortunately, I will not be featuring this tune as I have already used it on this blog.

In February 1981, I left Eastern Kentucky for Beckley, WV and the last album that I received was a promo copy of ArkAngel’s “Warrior.” I played this record to death and have already featured a few of the songs from this contemporary Christian album.

“Paradox (Disciple’s Song)” is today’s feature and features Kemper Crabbe on high strung guitar as well as much of the song’s (and the album’s) instrumentation. He also sings lead. The high strung parts can be heard near the beginning of the song. It appears that there is a 12-string in the mix – and it is a very nice mix for this song as well. The paradoxical lyrics are “before you can win, you first must lose”; “before you can gain, you’ve got to give”; and “you’ve got to die in order to live.” While it is a paradox, it is what a disciple is called to do.

I hope through the song choices of this week that you gain an appreciation for high strung guitar.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Little Feat: Dixie Chicken

I know . . . I’ve been a bad boy. It’s been a week since my last post. Although I had intended posting yesterday, I decided to save the song for our second week special that starts tomorrow. For today’s  Bubbling Under Feature, I turn to a band that had little chart success, but had a very loyal following. Little Feat formed in 1969 and broke up shortly before their leader Lowell George passed away from a heart attack ten years later. In 1987, keyboardist Bill Payne reformed Little Feat and they are still going strong today.

“Dixie Chicken” was originally released as a single and as the title cut of the band’s third LP, but today I’m featuring the live version from their 1978 album “Waiting for Columbus.” This nearly nine minute rendition is a rock ‘n roll jam extraordinaire. Written by Lowell George and Fred Martin, “Dixie Chicken” is often considered Feat’s signature song. This version features an extended solo by Payne and it is augmented by Tower of Power’s horn section in a true-to-life Dixieland style. 

This live rendition brings back memories. I moved to Beckley, WV in February 1981, and it seemed that every time I gathered with a group of friends who were employed in the New River rafting industry in nearby Fayette County, someone would breakout “Waiting for Columbus.”  Immediately, the choice would be Side 3 and “Dixie Chicken” would round out the evening and the dancing commenced. When I listen to it today, it takes me back to my mid 20s although that was over 30 years ago.

One apology is needed here. Every version on YouTube – cuts the songs ending too close. I guess we will have to live with that.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Loss Hurts: Rest in Peace Phil Everly

In 1959, he served as a pallbearer at Buddy Holly’s funeral and now nearly 55 years later Phil Everly has gone on to his reward. A lifelong smoker, Phil Everly died yesterday from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; he was 74. Collectively, Phil and his older brother Don were the chart making Everly Brothers. Don generally sang lead while Phil contributed the high tenor harmony. Their sound and style influenced quite a few of the second generation of rock musicians and that influence carries over to the present.

Phil Everly playing his Gibson Everly Brothers model guitar.

During their career, the duo had 27 Top 40 hits, 12 country hits, nine R&B hits, four adult contemporary hits, and three Top 20 albums. Of those, the Everly Brothers had five US number one hits – with three simultaneously charting at the top position on more than one chart. Two of the three were number one records on the pop, country, and R&B charts. All five of their number one singles were certified gold in the US. Their biggest hit, “Cathy’s Clown,” sold 8 million units.

As a tribute to Phil, and in keeping with our normal Saturday “Bubbling Under Feature,” I did not select one of their hits, but rather an album cut that was originally recorded by the duo, but became a hit for the rock band Nazareth in 1975. “Love Hurts,” penned by Boudleaux Bryant, is today’s featured song.

As for the Bryants, Boudleaux and his wife Felice wrote a string of hits for The Everlys that included the following: “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “All I Have to do is Dream,” “Bird Dog,” and “Problems” to name a few. “Love Hurts” was included on the Everlys’ second Warner Brothers’ album: “A Date with the Everly Brothers.”

Shortly after the December 1960 release of the album, Roy Orbison recorded “Love Hurts” as a single, but it failed to chart in the US. Previously, Orbison had penned the Everly’s 1958 hit “Claudette.”

Although the brothers have not charted since the 1980s, they have performed together since the 1950s – with the exception of a decade long estrangement from 1973 to 1983. Yesterday, the world lost a great voice with the death of the first rock ‘n roll star of this new year. May we never forget Phil Everly’s contributions to modern music.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

David Crosby: Laughing

Last week my friend Greg Rector posted on my Facebook account that he and a couple of coworkers were discussing what three albums they would take with them on a deserted island. If you’ve ever contemplated this, you know how difficult it is to whittle down a collection to only three albums. Not so for Greg though, he has his three selections already in mind for the post apocalyptic world: Little Feet’s “Waiting for Columbus,” Graham Nash’s “Songs for Beginners,” and David Crosby’s album “If I Could Only Remember my Name.” Greg was amazed that neither one of his friends had any familiarity with the album.

I must confess, of the solo albums released in 1971-72 by the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; this is one that I don’t have in my collection. That was not by decision – it just never happened. It’s not an obscure LP, as “If I Could Only Remember my Name” charted on the Top 200 Album charts at #12 and has never gone out of print since its initial release in July 1971 – which shows Atlantic’s commitment to the LP.

As I have rekindled my knowledge of this album, I could see why it holds a special place in Greg’s heart. He asked that I feature the song “Laughing” for a Wooden Music Wednesday selection and I’m happy to oblige by making it the first selection of 2014.

The album features a veritable Who’s Who of musicians – especially from the San Francisco music scene. I remember in 1971 that Circus Magazine did a feature on the cross-pollination of musicians from the Bay Area and that contained groups like CSN&Y, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Jefferson Airplane, and their splinter bands. The article, which charted the activities of these musicians, was spurred on by the Crosby album and the release of the first Jefferson Starship project by Paul Kantner.

“If I Could Only Remember my Name” contains personnel from many of the aforementioned bands. “Laughing” features Crosby on all of the guitars and lead vocals. Back-up harmonies were provided by Crosby, his partner in crime – Graham Nash, and longtime friend Joni Mitchell.

Members of the Grateful Dead fill out the remainder of the musicians. Jerry Garcia is on pedal steel guitar – a role he held on with CSN&Y’s “Teach Your Children.” Bill Kreutzmann handles the back beat while Phil Lesh attacks the bass with a vengeance.

Even during his tenure with The Byrds, Crosby’s songs were notoriously complex and his compositions on “If I Could Only Remember my Name” are no different. The chord changes are unique and the harmonic qualities of his arrangements are unlike any other artist at this time. Good stuff for a New Year. Happy New Year all.