American Bands Of The ‘60’s (’65-’67)

In 1963, the closest thing to an American band getting to the top of the charts was The Four Seasons, and they were thought of more as a vocal group.  The only Rock & Roll band with some serious hits was The Beach Boys.  They had multiple Top 10 hits in ‘63, including “Surfin’ U.S.A.” (#3) and “Surfer Girl” (#7).

During 1964, there were plenty of British Invasion bands, but only The Beach Boys with “I Get Around” and The Four Seasons with “Rag Doll” broke through to #1 as American bands.  Instead, we still had talented, but old fashioned artists like Louis Armstrong and Dean Martin topping the Billboard singles chart.  That changed the following year.

Starting in 1965, there was an “American Revolution” of bands to counter the Brits.  As The Beach Boys continued their success that year with “Help Me Rhonda” (#1) and “California Girls” (#3), they were joined by The Byrds.

The first hit by The Byrds was “Mr. Tamborine Man” (#1) in June of 1965.  The song was written by folk singer Bob Dylan, but the rock arrangement & 12-string guitar were by Roger McGuinn.  The Byrds followed up with another #1 hit, “Turn Turn Turn”.  Folk Rock was the year’s hot new sound.

It should be pointed out that it was the electrified band sound that finally put Bob Dylan on the singles chart.  In September of 1965, “Like A Rolling Stone” (#2) was his first major hit (& biggest hit), and “Positively 4th Street” (#7) followed that about a month later.

The Turtles had their first chart success by turning a Bob Dylan folk song, “It Ain’t Me Babe”, into a rock song.  It went to #8 in September of 1965.  The Turtles had a total of nine Top 40 hits (until 1969), including “You Baby” (#20), “Happy Together” (#1), and “She’d Rather Be With Me” (#3).

Another successful Pop-Rock act that emerged in 1965 was Gary Lewis & The Playboys.  Once the band was signed to a label, they were augmented by professional writers, arrangers and musicians, including Leon Russell.  Gary Lewis & The Playboys had twelve Top 40 hits, with the first seven making the Top 10.  Hits included “This Diamond Ring” (#1), “Save Your Heart For Me” (#2), and “Green Grass” (#8).  Their chart career ended after Gary Lewis (son of actor Jerry Lewis) was inducted into the Army in 1967.

The only other band to start their career with seven straight Top 10 songs was The Lovin’ Spoonful, which also became popular in 1965.  John Sebastian was the lead singer and songwriter.  His talented band had a very original sound that was a mix of rock, folk, and country music.  The Spoonful’s hits included “Do You Believe In Magic” (#9), “Daydream” (#2), and “Summer In The City” (#1).  Even The Beatles were fans of The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Another American band that helped develop the Folk Rock sound was The Beau Brummels.  Their hits in 1965 included “Laugh Laugh” (#15) and “Just A Little” (#8).

You may remember the American band, The Strangeloves, had the hit “I Want Candy” (#11) in 1965.  They were going to release “Hang On Sloopy”, and had recorded the basic track, but their label thought it was too soon for them to release another song.  In order to beat The Dave Clark Five and The Yardbirds (who both wanted to record it), the record company had 16-year old Rick Derringer record the vocals onto the track already recorded by The Strangeloves.  Released in September of 1965 by Rick’s group, The McCoys, “Hang On Sloopy” went to #1.  The McCoy’s other big hit was a rock version of “Fever” (#7), the old Peggy Lee song.

Even though they weren’t American bands, a big part of the “American Revolution” were artists from Motown Records in Detroit.  Among their #1 hits in 1965 were “My Girl” by The Temptations, “Stop In The Name Of Love” by The Supremes, and “I Can’t Help Myself” by The Four Tops.  Motown continued to build on their sixties success.

A major addition to American music was the emergence of Simon & Garfunkel in late 1965.  Their first hit, “The Sound Of Silence” moved into the #1 spot at the beginning of 1966.  Paul Simon’s incredible songwriting and the beautiful blending of his and Art Garfunkel’s voices made them the most successful duo in history.  Their other #1’s were “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  They also had five multi-platinum albums from 1965 to 1970, plus a Greatest Hits album that was 14-times platinum in the U.S. alone.

A couple of other American duos topped the charts in the mid-sixties.  The Righteous Brothers had ”You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (#1) and “Soul And Inspiration” (#1).  Sonny & Cher had “I Got You Babe” (#1) and “The Beat Goes On” (#6).

Joining Simon & Garfunkel with their first #1 songs in 1966 were six new American bands.

In April of 1966, The Young Rascals first hit, “Good Lovin’”, went to #1.  This New York band combined Rock and Soul into 13 Top 40 hits, including “Groovin’” (#1), “A Beautiful Morning” (#3), and “People Got To Be Free” (#1).  By 1968, they decided they weren’t “Young” anymore, and just went by The Rascals.

While more of a vocal group than a band, The Mamas & The Papas were important to ‘60s music.  They broke through with “California Dreamin’” (#4), and then hit #1 in May, 1966 with “Monday, Monday”.

In July of 1966, simple & fun “Garage Rock” was at #1 with “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James & The Shondells.  From that beginning as teenage musicians, the group had 17 Top 40 singles, including…”I Think We’re Alone Now” (#4), “Mony Mony” (#3), “Crimson And Clover” (#1), and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” (#2).

Another new band at #1 was The Association, with “Cherish” in September, 1966.  They used sophisticated vocal harmonies, and were an accomplished live band.  Their other big hits were “Along Comes Mary” (#7), “Windy” (#1), and “Never My Love” (#2), which is their most played song.

Another simple garage band song that topped the singles chart in October, 1966 was “96 Tears” by ? (Question Mark) & The Mysterians.  It was also their Greatest Hits album.

The biggest new American band of 1966 was a group of musicians/actors put together for a television show.  The Monkees climbed up the charts with two #1’s in a row, “Last Train To Clarksville” and “I’m A Believer”, which was the final #1 of 1966 and the biggest hit of the year.  It doesn’t hurt having Neil Diamond write a song for you.  Neil also wrote “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (#2) for them.  The Monkees had eleven Top 40 songs through 1968, including “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (#3), and “Daydream Believer” (#1).

Another band that became popular in 1966, had actually formed back in 1960 in Portland, Oregon.  Their name indicates that in 1964 they should have been able to warn us that the British were coming.

Paul Revere & The Raiders had moved to L.A. by 1965, and were the “house band” for the music TV show “Where The Action Is”.  They used the show as a stepping stone to the singles chart in 1966.  Their hits included “Kicks” (#4), “Hungry” (#6), and “Good Thing” (#4).

The Grass Roots (originally spelled as Grassroots) started charting in 1966, and had 14 Top 40 hits through 1972.  Their hits included “Let’s Live For Today” (#8), “Midnight Confessions” (#5), and “I’d Wait A Million Years” (#15).

The first #1 of 1967 was “Kind Of A Drag” by The Buckinghams.  It was a huge year for them, as they added “Don’t You Care” (#6), “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (#5), “Hey  Baby, They’re Playing Our Song” (#12), and “Susan” (#11).

1967 was the year music started to lean more to Rock than to Pop, and a new group, The Doors, were an example of that.  The Doors had their own sound, and went to #1 with “Light My Fire”, a great 3-minute single on AM radio stations.  But, it was the 7-minute album version that broke ground on FM stations.  Their follow-up hits included “People Are Strange” (#12), “Hello I Love You” (#1), “Touch Me” (#3), and “Riders On The Storm” (#14).

The Box Tops’ first hit “The Letter” went to #1 in September of 1967.  Their lead singer, Alex Chilton, was only 16-years-old.  Their other songs included “Cry Like A Baby” (#2) and “Soul Deep” (#18).  Alex Chilton went on to form influential cult band Big Star.

The album cover and the name, Strawberry Alarm Clock, scream psychedelic!  Their one big hit was #1 in November of 1967, “Incense & Peppermints”.

We wrap up 1967 with three non-#1 (but influential) bands.  Jimi Hendrix was from Seattle; however, he recorded his first album after going to London and forming a trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  The band wasn’t very successful on AM radio, but their influential FM songs included “Fire”, “Purple Haze” and “All Along The Watchtower” (#20).

They had one iconic hit, “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound), which reached #7 in February, 1967.  Buffalo Springfield’s blending of various musical styles was impressive, and a blueprint for other bands.  Their songs that got a lot of FM play included “Mr. Soul” and “Bluebird”.  Four members of the group went on to successful careers…Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina.

Jefferson Airplane was one of the few Rock bands with a female lead singer, Grace Slick.  She also wrote the band’s first two hits from 1967, “Somebody To Love” (#5) and “White Rabbit” (#8).  Members of the band continued into the 1970’s and 1980’s under the names Jefferson Starship and Starship.

1965 through 1967 showed America was quick to develop bands that were able to respond to the British Invasion.  They clearly added some great songs to the sixties.  Hope you enjoyed remembering those songs, and seeing those 1960’s album covers & single sleeves again.

The combination of 1960’s bands from the U.S. and the U.K. greatly influenced young musicians, who then gave us a golden era of Classic Rock and Singer-Songwriters in the 1970’s.

For an article about British bands in the 60s, here’s the link:

(There are also individual articles on many of these groups.)

British Invasion…The Other Bands (Timeline)

Everyone knows the “British Invasion” followed The Beatles success in America, but what was the arrival timeline of the other English bands?  The Beatles entered the American Top 40 January 25th, 1964, and a week later “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was #1.  They were already dominating the U.S. charts with multiple hits when a band from Tottenham, England broke through.

It was March 7th, 1964 when The Dave Clark Five drummed and stomped their way into the Top 40 with “Glad All Over, which went to #6 on April 25th.  As soon as their first song peaked, “Bits And Pieces” was released, and went to #4.  The DC5 were the first serious competition for The Beatles in America, with 17 Top 40 hits, but just one #1, “Over And Over”.  Their success in the states only lasted until 1967, which was typical for so many of the bands.

Can you name the third British band to make it into the American Top 40?  I couldn’t remember who it was, and I had even bought their single!

Above is my 1964 picture sleeve of The Searchers’ hit “Needles & Pins”.  The Searchers entered the Top 40 March 21st, 1964.  The song was written by Americans Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzscke, and was an example of the Folk Rock sound that fully developed a year later.  Despite all the boasting their record company did on the above sleeve, The Searchers only had seven Top 40 hits in America, with “Needles & Pins” (#13) and “Love Potion Number Nine” (#3) being their biggest hits.

The fourth British band to have an American hit was from Liverpool, The Swinging Blue Jeans.  “Hippy Hippy Shake” entered the Top 40 March 28th, 1964, and made it to #24.  It was their only American hit.  “Hippy Hippy Shake” was a 1959 hit for Chan Romero in England in 1959.  The Beatles recorded it in mid-1963 for a BBC radio show.

They may have been a drummer and bass player short of a band, but Peter And Gordon were the first British artists after The Beatles to score a #1 song.  It was June 27th, 1964 when a song written for them by Paul McCartney, “A World Without Love”, topped the Billboard singles chart.  They were popular for three years in the U.S., and had ten hits, including “I Go To Pieces” (#9), “Lady Godiva” (#6), and “Woman” (#14), another McCartney song.

Another Liverpool band to cross the pond was Gerry And The Pacemakers.  They’d already had three #1 hits in England in 1963.  Their first and biggest American hit was “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” (#4), June 6th, 1964.  They had a total of seven hits in the U.S. through 1967.  Their second most popular was “Ferry Cross The Mersey” (#6) in 1965.

Chad And Jeremy hit the charts just a week after Gerry And The Pacemakers.  “Yesterday’s Gone” peaked at #24 June 13th, 1964.  Premiering that same month was “A Summer Song”, which then made it to #7, and was their biggest of seven hits through 1966.

The Rolling Stones entered America’s Top 40 in August of 1964 with “Tell Me” and “It’s All Over Now”.  Their first #1 hit, “Satisfaction”, was in July of 1965.  The Stones had a total of seven #1’s, with the last one coming in 1978.  They remained one of the top touring acts for over half a century!  In 1964…not these young men, nor anyone else, would have believed that was possible.

The first English band to hit #1 after The Beatles was from the London blues scene, The Animals.  A traditional song, “House Of The Rising Sun”, was a favorite in The Animals’ live shows, and they recorded it in just one take.  The recording was four-and-a-half minutes long, but was edited down to three minutes in America, where it topped the chart for three weeks, starting on September 5th.  Beginning in 1965, the full-length version was used on all album releases.  That was the band’s only #1 hit, but they had 14 Top 40 songs, including “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (#15) and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (#13).  Their last hit was in 1968, under the name Eric Burdon & The Animals.

One of the most fun songs of the year was “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann.  The song entered the Top 40 September 12th, 1964, and went to #1.  The band’s other sixties hits included “Pretty Flamingo” (#29), and “Mighty Quinn” (#10).  They had three Top 40 hits in the seventies and eighties under the name Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

A one-hit-wonder British group, The Nashville Teens, probably shouldn’t have chosen an American name, because the U.S. was entranced with everything British in 1964.  It was in October of that year when “Tobacco Road” entered the Top 40, and peaked at #14.

One of the British Invasion bands that lasted long past the sixties is The Kinks.  Their first chart success was with “You Really Got Me”, peaking at #7, November 28th, 1964.  It was quickly followed by “All Day And All Of The Night” (#7), and “Tired Of Waiting For You” (#6).  The Kinks had eight Top 40 hits in the sixties, plus the #9 hit “Lola” in 1970, and “Come Dancing” (#6) in 1983.  The Kinks also had albums that were critical favorites.

The last British band in the alphabet was almost the last British band to make it into America’s Top 40 in 1964. The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” hit #2 on December 12th.  Their other hits were “Tell Her No” (#6), and “Time Of The Season” (#3).

December 12th was also the date “I’m Into Something Good” peaked at #13.  The song by Herman’s Hermits had entered the Top 40 one week after The Zombies’ first hit.  1965 would be Herman’s Hermits’ big year.  They reeled off nine straight Top 10 songs, including two #1’s…”Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry The VIII, I Am”.  They had a total of 18 Top 40 hits, but the magic ran out in 1968.

Here’s a list of other well known British Invasion bands, and when they first broke into the American Top 40.

Freddie & The Dreamers…March, 1965 “I’m Telling You Now” #1.

The Mindbenders…March, 1965 ”Game Of Love” #1.

The Moody Blues…March, 1965 “Go Now” #10.

The Yardbirds…June, 1965 “For Your Love”, #6.

The Hollies…January, 1966 “Look Through Any Window” #32.

The Troggs…July, 1966 “Wild Thing” #1.

The Who…May, 1967 “Happy Jack” #24.

The Bee Gees…June, 1967 “New York Mining Disaster 1941” #14.

Cream…February, 1968 “Sunshine Of Your Love” #5.

The term “Rock Band” didn’t exist back then.  When The Beatles albums first came out, printed on them was “File under Vocal Group”.  The big change from the charts having mostly individual vocalists to having lots of bands happened in England in 1963.  A year later, The British Invasion caused an explosion of bands in America.

The United States always exported its music to England, but until 1964, there was no major flow from the U.K. to the U.S.  The back and forth stream of music has continued at varying levels since then.

Thank goodness for the British Invasion, because it helped create so much great music on both sides of the Atlantic.

To see America’s musical response to the British Invasion, here’s the link:

(There are also individual articles on many of these bands.)

Beatles Albums…You Might Not Know Them All

Sure most fans know the major albums by The Beatles, but some of the odder releases may have been forgotten.  Here are the American releases (including some rare ones), along with the major British releases that had different album covers (they’re not normally seen together, and photos can be clicked to enlarge).  Being a Beatles fan since “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was released in late 1963, I owned all but two of these albums, and there are a lot of them!

The Beatle’s first album in England was Please Please Me released in April of 1963.  The cover has a clever shot of The Beatles looking down from a landing.

In America, the nearly identical album was called Introducing The Beatles.  Capitol Records had turned down releasing The Beatles even though EMI/Parlophone in England was their parent company.  So Vee-Jay got the rights, and for some reason ended up with the most boring Beatles cover ever. The album was originally scheduled to be released in July of 1963, but Vee-Jay didn’t actually release the album until January 10th, 1964.  That was after the single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was a huge hit for Capitol (which had come to their senses).  Introducing The Beatles was released just ten days before The Beatles’ first Capitol album.

The Beatles were already past their second album in England.  With The Beatles was released in the U.K. November of 1963.  In America, the album came out in January, 1964 and was called Meet The Beatles.  It included “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and “This Boy”, which were not on the British version.  If you want to know which singles were on which albums, you can read my article “The Beatles…Singles Left Off Albums”.  Here’s the link when you want to check it out:

The immense popularity of The Beatles caused more recordings to come out of the woodwork.  English singer Tony Sheridan had used The Beatles (billed as The Beat Brothers) to back him on a record he made in Germany in 1962.  Somehow in 1964 this became a Beatles album.  It actually has only two songs by The Beatles, an original instrumental, “Cry For A Shadow”, and a cover of “Ain’t She Sweet”.  I decided not to buy this one.

The third major Beatles album in America was curiously named The Beatles’ Second Album.  Capitol apparently didn’t want to admit Vee-Jay had released an album at all, even though it was a big hit.  The Beatles’ Second Album was put out in April of 1964.  The U.S. was catching up on all the songs The Beatles had recorded in 1963, and they completely dominated the charts.  During one week in April of 1964 they had the top two albums and the top five singles.

Just two months later, June of 1964 (early July in England), The Beatles released the album and movie A Hard Day’s Night.  In England, it was a full album with 13 songs written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney.  In America, the soundtrack was released by United Artists.  It only had nine of the same songs, plus instrumental music from the film.

Since Capitol didn’t have the rights to the movie soundtrack, they had to come up with something new.  So they “cleverly” named the album, Something New.  It was a mix of some non-soundtrack songs from the British A Hard Day’s Night album, a couple of American singles, and some of the songs from the movie.

Not to be outdone for coming up with ways to repackage The Beatles, Vee-Jay put together a two-record set with their other big act, The Four Seasons.  This was the second of the two albums I didn’t buy.  I already had all The Beatles’ songs, and the three big hits by The Four Seasons.

American “Capitolism” was on full display with an expensive two album set that told The Beatles’ Story.  I think I listened to it once.  Vee-Jay had also put out a similar interview album.

In November of 1964, the English album, Beatles For Sale, became Beatles ’65 in America.  That brought the total number of major Beatles albums released in the U.S. in 1964 to six.  Beatlemania indeed!

Capitol finally got the rights to The Beatles songs they had turned down in 1963, so they packaged them in their own version of the Please Please Me album, The Early Beatles, in March of 1965.

American albums had fewer songs than the British albums, so every once in a while, Capitol made their own albums.  In June of 1965, Beatles VI was mostly made up of leftover songs from Beatles For Sale, combined with songs from the upcoming Help album that were not on the American soundtrack.

In England, Help (August 1965) was a full 14 songs long.  In America, Capitol only used 7 Beatles songs, and filled it with instrumentals from the film.  That’s one way we got more Beatles albums in America.

Looking at the English and American covers of Rubber Soul (December 1965), it seems the only difference is the color of the title.  In reality, there’s a big six song difference between the records.  Capitol left off four songs, and added two that had been on Help in the U.K.

Here’s the original “butcher cover” for the American album Yesterday And Today.  Radio stations and retail stores complained about the cover, and Capitol changed it to this one:

Yesterday And Today was released in June of 1966.  It consisted mainly of “leftover” songs from Help Rubber Soul, plus tracks from the not-yet-released Revolver.

The U.S. and U.K. album covers for Revolver (August 1966) are basically identical.  The difference was that three John Lennon songs had been placed on Yesterday And Today instead.

Finally, by June of 1967, all Beatles albums would contain the same songs in England and America…starting with the amazing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Well, the idea of having all the albums the same lasted one album.  When the Magical Mystery Tour EP (extended play 45) was released in the U.K. in November of 1967, Capitol turned it into a full album by putting 5 songs from singles on the other side.  This was actually a good idea, and it’s now the official album on both sides of the Atlantic.

After the psychedelic covers of Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles (White Album) used a minimalistic cover in 1968.

Because animation takes a long time to complete, the Yellow Submarine movie gave The Beatles another psychedelic album cover in January of 1969.

Easily one of the most iconic album covers is Abbey Road in September of 1969.  It was actually the final album The Beatles recorded together.

What’s a record company to do when they have singles that never appeared on any of their albums.  Capitol’s last weird American album was Hey Jude in February of 1970.  It was also the last photo shoot of the four Beatles together.  The album was originally going to be named The Beatles Again, and my memory is that title was printed on the record label.

The final original Beatles album to be released, Let It Be (May 1970), was recorded before Abbey Road, but was delayed until Apple was satisfied with the final production.

The first official U.S. & U.K. Beatles hits collections were released in April of 1973.  The Red Album covered 1962-1966, and the Blue Album 1967-1970.  These were both double albums.  The cover shot for the Blue Album was a cool 1969 recreation of the photo on The Beatles’ first album.  It definitely shows how much The Beatles changed over a 6-year period, and their music changed at least as much.  The photo was originally going to be used on the Get Back/Let It Be project in 1969.

So, how could Capitol and Parlophone (Apple) release more Beatles albums?  Well, in June of 1976, they grouped together the most “Rock & Roll” Beatles songs (originals and covers) into a double album called Rock ‘N’ Roll Music.

In late 1962, The Beatles were making their final appearances in Hamburg Germany.  Somebody used a single microphone and a portable recorder to capture a performance at the Star-Club.  Of course it’s historic, but the sound was bad on this 1977 release.  I’m sure I only listened to it once.

In May of 1977 came the first official release of a Beatles live album The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl.  It’s an example of the band’s short concerts from the mid-sixties.  With all the screaming, the sound quality is not great.  It was upgraded in 2016 for the documentary Eight Days A Week.

A collection named Love Songs was released in October of 1977.  It was another double album featuring some beautiful ballads, and the softer side of the Fab Four.

Ten years after The Beatles split, two albums of Rarities were released.  One was a U.K. version, and the other U.S.  They had different tracks, because what constituted rarities varied by what had been released in each country.  My favorite rarity was “Penny Lane” with that cool trumpet ending that was originally on the single, but was ultimately left off when it was released.

Who could even limit Beatles songs to 20 Greatest Hits?  Apple tried to do it in October of 1982.  The songs chosen were slightly different in the U.S and the U.K., because of which songs were #1 in each country.  One detail that stood out to me was that “Hey Jude” had about 2-minutes less of “Na Na’s at the end.  It was shortened because of the time limitations of vinyl records.

When Beatles albums came out on CD’s in 1987 (using the U.K. versions), they found a way to handle the songs that were not on those British albums.  Originally, Past Masters had two volumes, but they soon put all the songs on one CD.

When The Beatles appeared on BBC radio programs in the early ‘60’s, they made original recordings at the BBC’s studios.  Mostly they used the opportunity to record songs they liked that weren’t their own.  In November 1994, a two CD collection of these recordings was released, Live At The BBC.  A second volume was released in 2013.

Three double albums of alternate takes and rarities, Anthology 1, 2 & 3 were a treasure trove for Beatles fans.  They were released from November of 1995 to October of 1996.

The Yellow Submarine Songtrack was released in September of 1999.  It featured a much larger number of songs than were on the original movie soundtrack.  It was the first major project of remixing well known Beatles songs.

In November of 2000, a Greatest Hits package was released that only The Beatles could make.  It has 27 songs that all hit #1 on the charts in England or America.  The Beatles 1 is one of the best-selling albums of all time.  In 2015, the album was remixed, and the colors on the cover of the CD/DVD version were reversed.

Paul McCartney was never satisfied with the overproduction by Phil Spector on the Let It Be album.  So, in November of 2003, McCartney released Let It Be…Naked.  It took the album back to the original intent of the band, which was to present the songs as played by just The Beatles and Billy Preston, with no overdubs.

We can expect another version of this album in 2021, when a remixed soundtrack is released for the documentary film The Beatles: Get Back.

Since this long list of albums, Apple has been releasing remixes of The Beatles classic albums, with the records made before Sgt. Pepper waiting to be remixed.

For the record, here’s a shot of most of my remaining Beatles CD’s.

Popular for over half-a-century, Beatles songs are likely to maintain their popularity for many decades to come.

Classic Rock Album Sales from 2020

How did the old Classic Rock Albums perform in the Top 200 album sales in 2020?  I wasn’t positive there’d be any Classic albums on the list.  Don’t most fans already have them?  Rolling Stone magazine released the sales figures for the year, which is a combination of actual sales and equivalent sales by streaming.  It turns out Classic albums made the list…starting at #46.

What Classic Rock album did the best?  If you knew it was an album by the Eagles, you might guess Eagles Greatest Hits (the biggest selling album of all time), or Hotel California (the 3rd best selling album of all time).  The surprise is that it’s Eagles, their very first album!

The album features “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman”, and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, but those are on on the hits album too, so people must want to hear the other tracks on that first album (unless Rolling Stone listed the wrong album).  The number to the right side of the ranking is the number of equivalent sales from a combination of actual sales and streaming.

The second highest Classic album is a little more predictable, because Queen has had a major surge in popularity since their big biographic movie.

A Beatles album made the list, and it’s the one that younger Beatles fans seem to favor.  The 50th Anniversary remix of Abbey Road was released in the fall of 2019.

If I would have guessed which Classic album did best, it would have been Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.  That’s because of the “Dreams” viral skateboard video.  Fleetwood Mac didn’t get the top Classic album, but they were one of only two Classic Rock acts to place two albums on the list.

And here are the rest of the Classic albums in the Top 200 list of equivalent album sales in 2020.

The top album of 2020 was by the only artist whose album actually sold over one-million hard & digital units, Taylor Swift.  The next highest album sold less than half as much.  Add in the streaming, and it’s still Taylor Swift’s folklore at #1.

Taylor Swift had a total of five albums in the Top 200 for 2020.  Extra trivia:  Of her first 8 albums, 5 of them have been the biggest selling albums in the year they were released (a record).  Swift’s 9th album, evermore, was released very late in 2020, so it could at least have a slight chance to be the biggest seller in 2021.  However, the smart money would be on a new release by Adele.  Her last two albums led sales for a total of two years each.

It’s right that new albums in 2020 are the biggest sellers, but it’s impressive that some Classic albums are still selling and streaming as much as 50 years after they were released!

So, after I wrote the above article…

I checked how Billboard  ranked the top selling albums of 2020.  The only real agreement between Rolling Stone and Billboard is that Taylor Swift’s folklore is the top album.

Here’s the ranking of the Classic albums and four new albums by Classic artists (James Taylor, The Who, Bruce Springsteen & Bob Dylan) in the Billboard 2020 sales chart. This ranking of the Top 100 albums is based on real sales, and do not include streaming (that’s the big difference).

It looks like the Billboard chart makes a little more sense, or at least it shows which albums people were actually willing to buy.  By the way, 2020 was the first year since 1986 that vinyl records outsold CD’s, and the most vinyl albums sold since 1991.  Pretty amazing popularity for a technology (vinyl albums & turntable cartridges) introduced in 1948.

What both lists show is that some great Classic Rock albums are still being purchased and streamed, with one of them, Abbey Road, being the 12th best-selling album 51 years after it was released!

Gerry & The Pacemakers

The first rivals for The Beatles were Gerry & The Pacemakers.

Both groups were from Liverpool, and were regular performers at The Cavern Club.  The two bands also played in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, and both had Brian Epstein for a manager & George Martin as their producer.

You can see that Gerry Marsden performed with his guitar held unusually high.

Gerry & The Pacemakers won the race to #1 on the English charts in 1963 with the song “How Do You Do It?”.  George Martin first presented the song to The Beatles, and they recorded it, but they convinced Martin to release their own song, “Love Me Do”, instead.  It made it to #2.  Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “How Do You Do It?” went all the way to the top.  They followed that with two more #1 songs, “I Like It” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, also in 1963.  That last one is a ballad from the 1950’s musical/movie Carousel.

Gerry Marsden’s vocal on “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was so popular that the recording was played at the games of the Liverpool Football Club, and the song has remained their official anthem ever since.

Gerry & The Pacemakers and The Beatles were friends, and toured together in 1963 with Roy Orbison.  Here’s a posed photo from the tour, as the groups pretend to be fighting over singer Louise Cordet.

After The Beatles broke big in America, the “British Invasion” began, and bands like Gerry & The Pacemakers became popular here too.  Their first American hit was “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”, which was also the band’s first self-written hit.  It went to #4 in 1964, and was followed successfully by their previous English releases…”How Do You Do It?” #9, and “I Like It” #17.

I bought all the singles by Gerry & The Pacemakers.  They were on the Laurie label, because Capitol Records in the U.S. had turned them down, just like they did the early recordings by The Beatles.

Gerry & The Pacemakers had three hits in 1965…”I’ll Be There” #14, “Ferry Cross The Mersey” #6, and “It’s Gonna Be Alright” #23.  They also made a movie named after their second biggest hit.

Unfortunately, like most of the British Invasion bands, Gerry & The Pacemakers hit-making only lasted a short time.  Their final hit was “Girl On A Swing” #28 in 1966.  I even bought that one.  After that, it was just the release of multiple “Best Of” albums.

The band officially split up in 1969, and Gerry Marsden had a short, but successful acting career.  He later did some touring with various musicians in the role of “Pacemakers”.  After that, I would see him from time to time being interviewed for a number of documentaries about The Beatles.  He was always upbeat, interesting, and very likable.  He obviously had enjoyed his time as a part of the British revival of Rock & Roll in the sixties.

In an interview, Marsden said…”The main thing is to enjoy what you’re doing.  All the pressure crap you hear, people bring that on themselves.”

On January 3rd, 2021 it was announced that Gerry Marsden had died after a short illness from a heart infection.  He was 78.  Among the many musicians paying tribute was Paul McCartney.

McCartney is right about remembering Gerry Marsden with a smile.  Gerry wrote and recorded uplifting songs that are still fun to hear.

Paul McCartney…McCartney III

Paul McCartney is an amazing musician.  He seems to be a musical savant who can play guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and nearly any instrument he picks up.  McCartney III is the third album in his 50 year solo career that he made with almost no help from anyone else…writing all the songs, playing all the instruments, and singing all the vocal parts.

The above album cover and the photos used in this article were taken by Mary McCartney.  The photos are really good, and you can click to enlarge them.  You may remember Mary from this photo her mom, Linda, took for the first McCartney album in 1970:

That’s Mary peeking out from Paul’s coat.

That first album featured the songs “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Junk”, and “Every Night”, which were the tracks worthy of being on a Beatles album.  McCartney II came out in 1980, and featured “Coming Up” (#1), “Waterfalls”, “Summer’s Day Song”, and the some-like-it-some-don’t “Temporary Secretary”.  Now 30-years later, at the age of 78, Paul McCartney has done it again.

Paul says the pandemic forced him away from live performances and into his own studio.  The result was released yesterday, December 18th, 2020.  McCartney III has received almost all positive reviews.

I love so many of Paul McCartney’s songs that I own nearly everything he’s released.  My collecting began when The Beatles first broke in America.  So, the next sentence is hard to write.  I have to be honest and say that on McCartney III his voice shows it’s age, and I don’t hear any songs that compare with the best tracks on his previous albums.  “When Winter Comes” and “Seize The Day” probably come closest.   But if you’re a fan, you’ll still want to stream the new album, and decide for yourself, maybe you’ll agree with all those positive reviews.

McCartney has made the album available on vinyl, and it comes in various colors, including red, green, and yellow.

It’s mostly just McCartney’s three one-man albums that cause people to talk about his multi-instrument musicianship, but his best album, Band On The Run, is nearly the same.  Paul had basically lost his band, Wings, prior to the album.  Only Linda McCartney and guitarist Denny Lane remained.  Except for some of the guitar parts, Paul played all the instruments on the basic album.  Later, orchestral overdubs were added.  McCartney sometimes played multiple instruments on Beatles recordings too.

Paul McCartney long ago secured his position as one of the greatest songwriters, singers, and musicians of all time.  Many of us have been fortunate to enjoy his music for six decades.

Update:  The first week sales of McCartney III placed it at #1 on the Album Sales chart, and #2 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums.  Paul McCartney is the only artist to place albums in the top two for six straight decades!

Neil Young Archives Vol. II (Review)

After many years of promising, Neil Young finally released his Archives Vol. II. That’s eleven years after Archives Vol. I was released in 2009.  This second volume covers 1972 through 1976.  Neil will have to speed things up if he wants to release archives from the other 44 years of his career.

It’s great to get some unreleased songs and alternate versions of songs we’d only heard about, or maybe found on bootlegs.  Of the 131 songs on Archives Vol. 2, there are 12 that were not previously released, 51 songs that are unreleased alternate versions (many of them live), and 68 tracks that were previously released on Neil’s albums.

The songs are mostly from Time Fades Away, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma.  The original recordings from those albums are almost all included.  There are also versions of songs from Comes A Time, American Stars ‘n BarsRust Never Sleeps, and Hawks & Doves.  If you have those eight albums, you already own over half of the recordings in the box set.

I started collecting Neil Young songs in 1969 with Retrospective: The Best Of Buffalo Springfield.  Then I bought all of his studio albums (and many of his live albums) from 1969 to 2005.  After that, I’ve purchased individual tracks from many of his albums.  I bought the recently released album  Homegrown, which was actually recorded in ‘74-‘75 and is in this box set.

The $250 Deluxe box set sold out (3000 units) as soon as it went on sale.  More will be available March 5th, 2021.  There will also be a $160 set with exactly the same 10 CD’s, but without a hard-cover book.  That set will be sold in stores and online retail sites.  Meanwhile, all of the tracks can be streamed on the Neil Young Archives website.  Membership is just $1.99 a month, and you have access to all of Neil Young’s releases.

So, how is Archives Vol. II?  There are some gems.  The 1976 Crosby Stills Nash & Young version of “Human Highway” sounds great (the 1973 version is here too, but the harmonies are not as good).  It was going to be the title song of their group follow-up to Deja Vu and their solo work of the early ’70’s.  This version of the song was recorded during the Long May You Run sessions.  The other really good recording from that session is “Midnight On The Bay”.  If you want to know more about the lost Human Highway album, here’s the link to the article on this site, when you’re ready to check it out:

Homegrown, which is on it’s own disc, had been another “lost album” that was originally supposed to be released in 1975.  It includes seven good songs that weren’t already available.

There are three recordings of “Love/Art Blues”, a song which was worked on during the Homegrown sessions. A solo version, and a trio version (on Disc-6 of the box set) are both very good.  The third version has a poor ending.  An impressive recording of the song can be found on the CSNY 1974 live album.  You can’t beat CSN&Y harmonies.  Proof of that is a solo version of “Through My Sails” which screams out for the harmonies of CSN (if you’re used to the Zuma version).

Other previously unreleased standouts include the first studio version of “The Bridge”, “Homefires” & “Daughters” (both from the Homegrown sessions), and “Come Along And Say You Will” (from 1972, the same year as Harvest).  Plus, there are nice live versions of “Stringman” and “Midnight On The Bay”.  These two are on a disc separate from the three concert discs.

How valuable Archives II is to you is probably based on how many of the songs you already own.  Or, you can obviously stream the whole thing very cheaply.  As of this writing, the set is not available on other streaming services, just NYA.

Now…we wait for Neil Young Archives III.  Neil says it won’t be long this time.  We’ve heard that before, but maybe at age 75 he feels a greater urgency.  We look forward to more treasures.

Extra:  This playlist helps point out (in chronological order) some of the best studio recordings of previously unreleased songs and alternate versions.  Only four of these songs/versions were *previously available.

  1. The Bridge (11/15/72)
  2. Come Along And Say You Will (12/15/72)
  3. Homefires (6/16/74)
  4. Love Is A Rose* (6/16/74)
  5. White Line (Acoustic) [9/12/74]
  6. Frozen Man (11/4/74)
  7. Changing Highways (12/4/74)
  8. Love/Art Blues (Trio Version) [12/10/74]
  9. Try (12/11/74)
  10. Daughters (12/11/74)
  11. Deep Forbidden Lake* (12/13/74)
  12. Star Of Bethlehem* (12/13/74)
  13. Homegrown (12/13/74)
  14. We Don’t Smoke It (12/31/74)
  15. Vacancy (1/4/75)
  16. Little Wing* (1/21/75)
  17. Kansas (1/21/75)
  18. Lookin’ For Love (8/29/75)
  19. No One Seems To Know (9/11/75)
  20. Midnight On The Bay (w/CSN) [4/14/76]
  21. Human Highway (w/CSN) [4/15/76]

Fifteen of these songs…#3 though #17…were recorded during the Homegrown album sessions from mid 1974 to early 1975.  Neil Young could easily have put together another album similar in quality to After The Gold Rush, Harvest, or Comes A Time.  Instead, he released Tonight’s The Night (which he had recorded in 1973).  When he recently released Homegrown, he didn’t include some really good songs… “Homefires”, “Frozen Man”, “Love/Art Blues”, “Daughters”, and “Deep Forbidden Lake”…even though some were recorded on the same days as other songs on the album.

Neil Young waited about 45 years to release most of these recordings.  It’s so enjoyable getting to know his  “new” old songs.

Tom Petty…Wildflowers & All The Rest (Review)

Wildflowers is Tom Petty’s best album…and that’s according to Tom Petty.  After he said that, he qualified it a bit by saying Full Moon Fever & Damn The Torpedoes were right there too.  Tom had wanted Wildflowers to be a 25-song double album in 1994, but his record company convinced him to make it a 15-song single album.

In 2017, Tom was looking forward to releasing the full double album, or at least the All The Rest album he had originally planned.  He also hoped to do a special tour to promote the release.  Sadly, on October 2nd, 2017, Tom Petty passed away from an accidental overdose of pain killers he was taking for a broken hip.

(The 4 CD Deluxe edition includes a built-in 48 page book with background info on each recording, plus photos & artwork.)

Three years later, we have an extensive box set that includes the original 25 Wildflowers songs as well as demos, live versions, and alternate takes.  So, is Wildflowers & All The Rest as good as fans hoped?  We’ll look at the discs, beginning with the original album.

Wildflowers (Disc 1)

  1. Wildflowers
  2. You Don’t Know How It Feels
  3. Time To Move On
  4. You Wreck Me
  5. It’s Good To Be King
  6. Only A Broken Heart
  7. Honey Bee
  8. Don’t Fade On Me
  9. Hard On Me
  10. Cabin Down Below
  11. To Find A Friend
  12. A Higher Place
  13. House In the Woods
  14. Crawling Back To You
  15. Wake Up Time

Like most great albums, it starts extremely strong.  The first six songs are of such high quality, they would be considered a “perfect album side” for a regular 12-song album.  Besides the title song, there are three singles:  “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, “You Wreck Me” and “It’s Good To Be King”, one of Tom Petty’s favorites.  The song’s lyrics are meaningful, while still being humorous, and the arrangement with orchestration is perfection.

The song quality is high on the rest of the album too.  “Honey Bee”, “Cabin Down Below”, and “A Higher Place” are rocking single-sounding songs The Heartbreakers often played in concerts.  “Don’t Fade On Me” and “Crawling Back To You” showcase Petty’s more sensitive side.

Tom Petty believed Wildflowers represents when he was at the height of his songwriting powers.  He said in an interview that the song “Wildflowers” flowed through him in its completed form.  Unlike most artists whose careers start strong and fade, Petty’s personal peak came mid-career.  The rest of his 40-year career shows his talent never faded, and his songwriting remained strong.

Producer Rick Rubin says that despite spending nearly two years recording Wildflowers, it still has an organic feel.

All The Rest (Disc 2)

  1. Something Could Happen
  2. Leave Virginia Alone
  3. Climb That Hill Blues
  4. Confusion Wheel
  5. California (released on She’s The One soundtrack)
  6. Harry Green
  7. Hope You Never (on She’s The One soundtrack)
  8. Somewhere Under Heaven
  9. Climb That Hill (on She’s The One soundtrack)
  10. Hung Up And Overdue (on She’s The One soundtrack)

Tom Petty had previously selected these songs and put them in this order.  The thought was to possibly release the songs as a single album.

Three songs on the All The Rest disc were available for streaming prior to the album release.  Both “Leave Virginia Alone” and “Confusion Wheel” were released recently, and are very welcome additions to the Tom Petty catalog. “Somewhere Under Heaven” was put out five years ago near the 20th anniversary of Wildflowers.  It has a “jangly” guitar like the Byrds, but with a harder edge.  “Something Could Happen” has a classic Tom Petty sound that would have been welcome on the original album.

“Climb That Hill Blues” is an acoustic blues arrangement of “Climb That Hill”.  It’s actually one of Tom’s home recordings, and I prefer it to the more produced rock version.  “Harry Green” is believed to be about a real friend Tom knew in High School.  This one is also a home recording (with just a bit of overdubbing), and the sparse arrangement is the right touch for such a personal song.

“California”, “Hope You Never”, “Climb That Hill”, and “Hung Up And Overdue” were on the She’s The One movie soundtrack in 1996.  The tracks here are alternate versions that are very similar to the ones on the soundtrack.  These songs plus “Walls” and “Angel Dream” were the best songs on the soundtrack..

Home Recordings (Disc 3)

  1. There Goes Angela (Dream Away)
  2. You Don’t Know How It Feels
  3. California
  4. A Feeling Of Peace
  5. Leave Virginia Alone
  6. Crawling Back To You
  7. Don’t Fade On Me
  8. Confusion Wheel
  9. A Higher Place
  10. There’s A Break In The Rain (Have Love Will Travel)
  11. To Find A Friend
  12. Only A Broken Heart
  13. Wake Up Time
  14. Hung Up And Overdue
  15. Wildflowers

The third disc has Tom Petty’s home-recorded demos for Wildflowers.  It’s a real treat.  Mostly it sounds like a Tom Petty Folk album, in a good way.  It starts with a really nice new song, “There Goes Angela (Dream Away)”.  Once fans get to know this cool little song, I think we’ll all be able to agree that Tom would have changed the name to “Have A Dream On Me”, before he put it on an album.  The song was not taken to the main Wildflowers sessions, but was recorded by Tom Petty in his home eight-track studio, as were all the other songs on this disc.

Other highlight tracks:  ”California” is probably the best version of the song, and even has an extra verse.  “To Find A Friend” seems better in this simpler version.  “Confusion Wheel” also sounds good in a stripped-down version.  “Don’t Fade On Me” and “Only A Broken Heart” have interesting vocal/melody choices that are different from the versions we know, and “Crawling Back To You” is “Comin’ Back To You”.

Tom’s demos show how much thought he put into arrangements before he took the songs to other musicians for the final album versions.  He played multiple instruments, and added vocal harmonies.  If you ever wished you could spend a little time with him in the studio, this is as close as it gets.  This disc has quickly become one of my favorite Tom Petty albums.

Wildflowers Live (Disc 4) [From 1995-2017]

  1. You Don’t Know How It Feels
  2. Honey Bee
  3. To Find A Friend
  4. Walls
  5. Crawling Back To You
  6. Cabin Down Below
  7. Driving Down To Georgia
  8. House In The Woods
  9. Girl On LSD
  10. Time To Move On
  11. Wake Up Time
  12. It’s Good To Be King
  13. You Wreck Me
  14. Wildflowers

Everyone knows Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were one of the world’s best live bands, so naturally these tracks are high quality.  Eleven of the fourteen songs are from the Wildflowers album, and the other three are from around that same time.  It’s a solid disc, but the unreleased studio & home recordings are the real reason for the box set.

 Finding Wildflowers (Disc 5) [Alternate Versions]

  1. A Higher Place
  2. Hard On Me
  3. Cabin Down Below
  4. Crawling Back To You
  5. Only A Broken Heart
  6. Drivin’ Down To Georgia
  7. You Wreck Me
  8. It’s Good To Be King
  9. House In The Woods
  10. Honey Bee
  11. Girl On LSD
  12. Cabin Down Below (Acoustic)
  13. Wildflowers
  14. Don’t Fade On Me
  15. Wake Up Time
  16. You Saw Me Comin’                                                                                            
    I passed on spending another $100 to get the 5th disc, because even though alternate versions are interesting, the versions chosen for an album are almost invariably the best.

Summary:  Tom Petty fans will enjoy the expanded view of this time in his life.  Disc 1 is a killer album.  Disc 2 adds some songs we wouldn’t want to be without.  Disc 3 is an intimate look at a great songwriter & musician.  And Disc 4 is a solid live album.  Fans should be happy with the collection Tom’s family put together with the help of Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.

(Photos of Mike, Benmont & Tom from the 1994 CD booklet)

Update:  Wildflowers & All The Rest went to #1 on the Rock Album chart, and #5 in the overall Top 200 chart.  That beats the original album’s ranking of #8.  Of course that’s with only 44,000 equivalent sales (38,000 actual).  It’s a good total for these days of streaming services, but very low compared with the 3-million+ sales of Wildflowers when it was first released in 1994.

Bonus Story:  The single “You Don’t Know How It Feels” was Tom’s last Top 20 hit single, but that wouldn’t have happened without a one word change to get it played on CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) stations.  I had been working at KFRX-FM in Lincoln, which was a popular Top 40 station that reported for the national charts.  Most people don’t realize that Radio stations have to follow FCC rules about drug references on stations that have large teens-and-younger audiences, like CHR stations always do.  Program Director Sonny Valentine had previously approved “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” for airplay, but this time she was concerned about the line “Let’s roll another joint.”.

Fortunately, Tom Petty recorded a special “radio edit” of the song for CHR stations.  It changed the word “roll” to “hit”.  By singing “Let’s hit another joint”, the interpretation could be they were going to another bar, instead of rolling a joint.  The song would not have reached #13, and been heard by millions more music fans, without that change.

I have that “radio edit” recording, and the funny thing is, it sounds really good.  “Let’s get to the point.  Let’s hit another joint” makes a nice rhythmic rhyme scheme.  After this, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers had songs that made the Mainstream Rock chart, but because of the changes in radio formats (Rock gave way to Hip-Hop & Pop), they had no more big hits on the major singles chart, the Hot 100.

John Lennon Sounds Better Than Ever

We all know John Lennon’s songs from his solo career, but we’ve never heard them sounding this good.  In honor of what would have been his 80th Birthday (October 9th, 2020), 36 of his songs have been completely remixed from the master tapes.  The collection is called Gimme Some Truth.

The result is that we hear John Lennon’s voice more fully.  John tended to have producers process his voice with effects.  The new collection remixes the songs to better reflect John Lennon’s natural voice.  The instrumentation also benefits from the new mixes.  The recordings simply sound warmer and clearer.  Even though I’ve purchased these songs in multiple ways before, the improvement is worth the expense to me (though it might not be to casual listeners).  The main presentation is the deluxe 2-disc set.  There is also a one-disc 19-song version with selected songs from both discs (which are shown below).

(Click lists separately or zoom to enlarge.)

The collection was curated by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.  One could quibble with some of the song selections, and wish that the title wasn’t Gimme Some Truth, which had already been used for a John Lennon collection.  They could have just gone with the collection’s subtitle:  The Ultimate Remixes.

(My CD’s)

It’s always interesting to see what songs are most popular as they sell on iTunes.  “Instant Karma”, “Imagine” and “Watching The Wheels” are the top three.  “Instant Karma”, “Stand By Me”, and “Mind Games” were especially improved by the remixes, and really, all the songs are better.

The change in the quality of the audio will help John Lennon’s  songs be better received by future listeners.

It All Begins With A Song (Film Review)

Songwriting is an amazing process.  It creates some of the greatest art in the world, seemingly out of thin air.  The new documentary It All Begins With A Song lets us hear directly from some of the world’s most successful songwriters who work in Nashville, and it’s fascinating.

The accent is on country songs, but Nashville songwriters have written some of the biggest Rock and Pop hits too, like “Don’t Stop Believin’”.  The basics of songwriting are universal, even though individuals may incorporate various approaches.  Some start with an idea for a title or a topic.  Others start with various chord changes or riffs.  And sometimes, songwriters just wake up with a song in their heads.

That’s what happened to songwriter Michael Busbee, who wrote the song “Try” for Pink.  Busbee said the song was 95-percent from his “dream”, and then he worked with Ben West on developing it into a hit.  “Try” sold over 2-million copies.  It was a common theme in the film that songwriters often feel like they are able to “tap into something” that delivers a song through them.

It All Begins With A Song introduces us to successful songwriters like Brett James, shown above.  James has earned songwriting credits on 25 #1 country hits, including “Jesus Take The Wheel”, which was a hit for Carrie Underwood.  James sang the song to great effect in the film.  You’ll see that all these successful songwriters are talented instrumentalists, as well as good singers.

Still, it was telling when the film went from Jon Randell, one of the songwriters of “Whiskey Lullaby”, to the hit’s performers, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss.  There’s a whole other talent level with singers like that.  “Whiskey Lullaby” was another 2-million seller, and the Country Song of the Year in 2005.

The documentary is filled with stories that will draw you in.  It includes references to some of Nashville’s legendary writers, like Kris Kristofferson and Harlan Howard.  Although not as famous to the public, Howard wrote a long list of country hits, including “I Fall To Pieces” for Patsy Cline.  He’s an inspiration to other songwriters, and he famously said…”Country Music is three chords and the truth.”

And the truth is, you’re going to be very moved when you see the story of a song written by Jessi Alexander (shown above), Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary.  It’s called “I Drive Your Truck”.  Despite what could be the title of a light country song, it packs an emotional wallop.  It won the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music 2013 “Song Of the Year” awards.

Besides being an extremely interesting 90-minutes about all that goes into songwriting, It All Begins With A Song is also high quality in all aspects of production.  The film is now showing on Amazon Prime, and is available for rent or purchase.

Even though Nashville songwriters have to compete with each other to get their songs recorded, they’re willing to share their expertise and work together.  A lesson for the world.