It’s been over 50 years since we saw Jim Croce in concert, August of 1973. It’s better to remember that excellent performance, than to recall his sad death a month later, September 20th, 1973. Jim Croce was only 30-years-old, and his accompanying guitarist and harmony singer, Maury Muehleisen, was just 24 when their small plane crashed on takeoff, killing all onboard.
But let’s go back to a little over a year earlier, mid 1972. Jim Croce released his breakthrough album, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. That was also the name of his first Top-10 single at #8. His second single was “Operator”, and it reached #17. We bought the album at that time, and found it had other great songs, including “Time In A Bottle” and “Photographs And Memories”.
Jim Croce’s songs joined those by some of our favorite artists of that time, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Carole King, and other singer-songwriters. Croce, who was from Philadelphia, had his own style of songwriting. His album included uptempo urban stories, such as the pool hall setting of “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, along with the insightful and emotional lyrics of his ballads. We also purchased Jim Croce’s next album in 1973.
Life And Times came out only a month before we saw his concert, but two singles from the album…”One Less Set Of Footsteps” and “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” had been released earlier, and “Leroy Brown” hit #1. Then we saw Jim Croce at the Hampton Roads Coliseum near Norfolk, Virginia.
It was August 6th, 1973, and Croce opened for Loggins & Messina. The concert was one of our favorites, and the musicianship was amazing for the whole night. We attended the show with friends Don and Linda MacLeod, and the four of us were in the second row. Don took the photos of Jim and Maury.
They performed the best songs from Jim’s first two albums, and we were also treated to new songs from an album he was recording. Those songs included “I Got A Name” (#10), “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” (#9), and “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” (#32). That last one is actually my favorite of his “character” songs, even though it wasn’t as big a hit as a couple others.
We left the concert very impressed with Jim Croce, and we were looking forward to his next album. Then came the tragic news of the plane crash on September 20th, 1973. The crash was listed as “pilot error”. He took off in darkness and fog, and didn’t clear a tree near the end of the runway.
The album, I Got A Name, was released December 1st, 1973, and went to #2 on the charts for two weeks. It was behind You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, which was #1 for five weeks after Croce’s death. Besides the three hits on Jim’s last album, there are a couple more songs of that quality…”Age (Right Back Where I Started)” and “Thursday (You Were Looking For A Friend)”.
“Time In A Bottle” was released posthumously as a single, because of how appropriate the lyrics are…”There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do…”. The song reaching #1 was what helped pull Croce’s 1972 album to #1 too.
After 50 years, Jim Croce’s recordings remain popular with the public, and on our playlists.
The Eagles launched “The Long Goodbye” tour with a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Their setlist was made up of twenty-three songs, including a couple of surprises.
The last three songs were played for the encore. Songs 15 & 16 were included as a salute to their good friend Jimmy Buffett who recently passed away, September 1st, 2023.
Buffett’s excellent hit “Come Monday” was sung by Timothy B. Schmit. He had been a member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band, and is credited with coming up with the name “Parrotheads” for Buffett’s fans. Joe Walsh did the lead vocal honors on the other Buffett song “Fins”.
The rest of the setlist is made up of classic Eagles hits, with just a few songs Don Henley and Joe Walsh recorded outside the band. Reviews of the concert were highly complimentary, and the band’s vocals remain strong. We saw the Eagles over 25 years ago, and the setlist is not much different, because there’s an obvious group of hits Eagles fans want to hear. The band is making the right choice to include them, plus the Buffett songs were a nice addition.
Another treat for fans at the concert was the appearance of Steely Dan, which is the opening act for the whole tour.
According to reviews of the concert, Donald Fagen was in good voice, and his accompaniment included a four-piece brass section. Steely Dan hits played included “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”, “Reelin’ In The Years” and “Hey Nineteen”. What a great bonus for Eagles fans.
(MSG concert photos by Charles Sykes)
The concert wrapped up with one of the most classic of all Classic Rock songs…”Hotel California”. The Eagles have always been one of the best-sounding live bands, and their “Long Goodbye” gives fans one last chance to hear them. In keeping with the name of the tour, it may run for at least a couple of years, and dates are being added.
So, my wife and I were watching the “Sherlock” style British mystery show, Endeavour, when this shot of a suspect came on the screen.
I quickly paused it. What the heck is that in the back? Because of the close proximity of the record collection, I deduced that it might be a stereo. The murder suspect was a soccer star in a story set in 1971, and he had an ultra-modern apartment. I asked my trusty assistant, Google, to check on a “space age stereo”, and here’s one of the pictures that was produced.
It turns out it really is a stereo! It’s by the Weltron company, and was first manufactured in Japan in 1970. Here’s a close look at the stereo workings inside the shell.
According to a print ad by Weltron, the “Shape Of Sound” concept includes a BSR record changer, an 8-track tape player, and an AM/FM radio, all in what they called a “flying saucer” design. It then said…“the Model 2005 Space Odyssey lists for under $300.” The company was obviously inspired by the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Although there were stereo speakers built into the shell, you could also get cool-looking external speakers for better quality sound.
By 1973, Weltron had a Model 2007 that played & recorded cassettes, and came in an optional yellow case. You can see the company also had colorful portable radio/tape players.
The clever stereo design includes four round feet so the saucer can “land” on a flat surface, maybe a record cabinet.
The main character on the show is Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse. Here he’s trying to decide if his next purchase should be that nifty little TV, or the trend-setting “Space Age” stereo.
Vinyl record albums have made a comeback. It’s time for an updated “flying saucer” turntable too!
Extra: So now I’m imagining an updated Weltron stereo wirelessly connected to my HomePods.
Does it seem real? The average amount each Taylor Swift fan is spending to see her Eras Tour concert is $1,300. That includes a ticket, travel, hotels, meals and other expenses. Swift is able to sell out SoFi stadium in Los Angeles for six nights in seven days. At 80,000 people per concert, that’s nearly half-a-million fans! Those concerts were the final ones of Swifts’ 53 U.S. concerts from March 17th through August 9th, 2023.
SoFi Stadium has a roof, so here’s an aerial view of one of the Taylor Swift concerts in Pittsburgh:
I had no idea any musician was so popular that people would pay thousands of dollars for tickets. My wife and I attended many concerts from 1970 through just recently, including some of the biggest artists, like Paul McCartney, Crosby Stills & Nash, the Eagles, James Taylor, Billy Joel, and many more. The highest-priced tickets we ever got were $94 each. That was for a Dark Side Of The Moon concert by Roger Waters. The prices we paid for concerts seem really quaint now.
Taylor Swift’s shows are nearly 3-and-a-half-hours long, and she sings 44 songs. The production quality is exceptional. Swift completed four shows in Mexico City (8/27/23), and takes a breather until November for more international shows. Right now she’s set for a total of 146 concerts.
(The dates are in the international style, with the day and then the month.)
Is she going to be able to complete such a schedule without health problems, weather problems, or logistical issues? If it all works out, the tour should be the first to gross in the Billions of dollars.
If a financial report by CNN is accurate, Swift’s first 53 dates would already have grossed 1.7-Billion-dollars. They say she is averaging 72,459 fans per show, with an average ticket price of $455.78 (this is the hardest figure to pin down). Multiplied together, that’s a per show total of $33,025,363. Take that times the 53 shows so far, and you get over 1.7-billion-dollars! Compare that with Elton John’s just completed multi-year (330 shows) farewell tour that made about 939-million-dollars, and is the highest grossing tour of all time. An article in Money Week,said Swift already has the new tour record at 1.4-billion-dollars. Imagine what the Eras Tour total will be after the 93 remaining concerts are added in.
While the numbers are huge, the expense of such a large tour will eat into the profits…plus Swift is sharing those profits. She gave her tour crew members $55-million in bonuses…such as $100,000 to each of the 50 truck drivers. Swift has also given undisclosed “significant donations” to food banks in cities where she’s performed. The tour is expected to generate $5-billion in revenue for the cities she plays.
But it’s not just the concerts. Taylor Swift is a songwriting and album-producing machine. By the end of October, 2023, she’ll have had 13 albums in a row enter the charts at #1, with seven of those albums being released in just over the last three years.
Three of those albums, Folklore, Evermore, and Midnights, were completely new, and have an average of 18 songs each. That’s enough songs for about 4 & 1/2 typical albums. Then there are the four re-recorded albums. Not only did Taylor Swift completely re-record those albums, but they have another 26 new “from the vault” songs that Taylor Swift wrote, but hadn’t recorded. That would be another two-albums-worth of new songs!
Besides her massive song output, maybe the most unusual part of Taylor Swift’s popularity is how deeply her fans are into her music. They seem to know all the lyrics…not just the hits, but the album tracks and the bonus tracks. During her U.S. Eras Tour, Swift performed approximately 150 different songs (who does that?), and fans sang along with all of them. That speaks highly to the quality of the songs and the recordings.
So far so great, but where does it go from here? How long could any artist maintain the heat Taylor Swift is currently generating? Will the extreme popularity cause over-exposure to the point that people get tired of her? Her relationship with fans seems passionate and personal. So, if Swift ever makes a mistake and alienates them, it would seem like a betrayal.
There’s also the possibility that Swift (like most artists) will eventually have trouble creating the quality of songs and recordings she now makes. Swift has directed award-winning music videos, and has expressed interest in directing movies, so that could change her career path. At some point, the 33-year-old may opt for marriage and a family. That would at least necessitate a significant slowdown in her professional activities.
It’s probably not fair to think about the distant end to Taylor Swift’s career when she is having truly historic success. Her songwriting has become even more sophisticated in recent years. Members of indie group The National, who have provided Swift with “song starter” chords and riffs, were amazed how quickly Swift was able to write melodies and lyrics to complete the songs.
There’s a story in Variety by writer Chris Willman, who attended the final Eras concert in L.A. She said this tour surpassed the other historic tours she witnessed, such as those by Michael Jackson, U2, and Bruce Springsteen. Willman compared it to how it would have been if The Beatles had stayed together for an “Eras Tour” of their own. She said the demand for tickets in Los Angeles was so great Swift could have easily sold out the stadium six more times.
It would seem impossible for Taylor Swift to keep up her unbelievable success of the past few years, but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the Taylor Swift era.
Update: A film of the Eras Tour will be in North American & many international movie theaters starting October 13th, 2023. The ticket prices are by the Taylor Swift numbers of $19.89 (reflecting her birth year, and title of her 1989 album), and children/seniors tickets $13.13 (thirteen is her birth date and lucky number). This young woman and her marketing team are geniuses. They’re getting this film out just two months after her last U.S. concert date, and two weeks before the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version).
The film is currently scheduled to run four weekends, but will almost certainly be extended. In the first 24-hours, the concert film sold a record-smashing 37-million-dollars, and theater owners say the film could earn $100-million the first week.
While researching for an article about The Beach Boys, I was surprised by some strange statistics.
Here are the studio albums from 1962 to 1973 by The Beach Boys in order of release (minus a Christmas album & live albums).
So, out of all these classic albums, how many of them went platinum (sold a million copies) in those years?
I was shocked that none of The Beach Boys’ regular albums sold a million. I was expecting that nearly all of them would have passed that mark. Decades later, only two of their studio albums finally became platinum, Little Deuce Coupe and Pet Sounds.
Back in 1963, I was too young to get a drivers license, but not too young to love the “car songs” by The Beach Boys. The very first album I ever bought was Little Deuce Coupe, which came out in October of 1963. It was the fourth album by The Beach Boys, who had only been recording for a year. Oddly, the main songs on the album, “Little Deuce Coupe”, “Shut Down” and “409”, had already been released on the group’s previous albums. The title song had even been featured on the Surfer Girl album which had been released only three weeks earlier. All but one of the eight new songs on the album were about cars. That one, “Be True To Your School”, is another of the best tracks, and became a single in a remixed form.
I was also one of the 500,000 or so who bought Pet Sounds in 1966. At that time, the album’s performance was considered disappointing. Since then, the album has been elevated as one of the greatest of all time. Because of that, it should have sold many millions by now. According to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) Pet Sounds has only one-million in sales. That makes no sense. Compare that to another critical favorite from 1966…Revolver…whichhas sold over 27-million copies.
Here’s another numerical curiosity about The Beach Boys. They recorded 29 studio albums, yet there have been 56 “Greatest Hits” albums and various collections. Since we now know The Beach Boys’ regular albums sold way less than expected, the group’s popularity was mostly in its hit singles. Five of those greatest hits collections have gone multi-platinum, and Capitol Records keeps pumping them out. Sometimes they use “remastered” or “remixed” as reasons for us to again purchase the same songs.
The first big double album of hits was 1974’s Endless Summer. It covered most of The Beach Boys hits up to, but not including, Pet Sounds. It’s sold over 3-million copies, and is the only Beach Boys album of studio recordings to hit #1 (another surprise!). The other double album above, Sounds of Summer, covers the group’s entire career. It’s from 2003, and has also sold over 3-million copies. One problem with it is that some of the songs are presented in mono, even though there are excellent stereo versions available of nearly every Beach Boys song.
Do you know which song written by Brian Wilson was the first to hit #1? Despite a bunch of great songs by The Beach Boys in 1963, it was not one of theirs. Instead, the song was recorded by Brian’s friends Jan Barry & Dean Torrence. It was in the summer of 1963 that “Surf City” (“Two girls for every boy.”) became the first surf song to hit #1. Brian Wilson had written the music and played it for Jan Berry. Jan finished off the lyrics.
Brian almost always wrote with a lyricist, and he worked on about a dozen songs with Jan & Dean. You might remember that The Beach Boys’ song “Catch A Wave” was reworked into “Sidewalk Surfing” by Jan & Dean. The line “Catch a wave, and you’re sitting on top of the world.” became “Grab your board, and go Sidewalk Surfing with me.” Other Jan & Dean hits included “Dead Man’s Curve”, “Drag City” and “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena”.
By the way, The Beach Boys’ first #1 was “I Get Around” in 1964. The flip side was “Don’t Worry Baby”. What a great single!
Thought Beach Boys fans might like to see another fan’s “Best Of” playlists. As I bought these songs through the years, I eventually found the best stereo versions, instead of mono or re-channeled stereo. Only “Surfin’ Safari” is mono.
You can see the lists are chronological. Best 1 is a lot of fun, with a few serious songs mixed in. The quality continues with Best 2, and the arrangements are at an even higher level. The vocal harmonies throughout are off the charts.
Recently we’ve been hearing about the astronomical sums of money aging classic artists have been getting for the rights to their songs. Back in 1969, their manager and the father of three of The Beach Boys, Murray Wilson, apparently thought their music would become passé, because he sold the publishing rights for $700,000. Even translated to today’s money, that’s way underpriced. The rights to those songs are now owned by Universal Music. Fortunately, the band still retained the rights to some of their songs & master recordings, and their name.
(Bruce Johnston, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and David Marks…he was in The Beach Boys for their first year.)
In 2021, The Beach Boys sold the controlling interest for their music and image to Iconic Artists Group run by longtime music manager Irving Azoff. No money amount was announced. The company is marketing the band and developing projects to keep Beach Boys music popular far into the future.
Extra: After the success of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in February of 1964, Ed started booking bands regularly.
The Beach Boys first appeared in September of 1964. They performed “I Get Around” and “Wendy”.
Another really expensive book by another classic band! As the story circulated today about a new Beach Boys book, the one thing that was left out was the price. I went to the publisher’s (Genesis) site, and the price was 945-pounds. So, I Googled what that is in dollars, and it’s 1,238-dollars for pre-orders.
If you want to pre-order one of the approximately 400 copies of the deluxe edition, you’ll get the book this December, and a box to put it in. But wait, there might be good news for the rest of us. A “bookstore version” is set for release in 2024. Hopefully, it will be reasonably priced.
Genesis gave us some good examples of what the book contains. You can click to enlarge.
The text includes comments from over 60-years by all of The Beach Boys. They tell their story along with the historic photos. Here are some samples of photos of the group.
The Beach Boys are the most iconic American band of the 1960’s, with most of their classic recordings made from 1962 through about 1973. While we wait to see about that “bookstore version”, wouldn’t it be nice to listen to The Beach Boys, and have some fun fun fun as we’re picking up those good vibrations.
Since the Eagles stopped recording studio albums in 2007, and are on their final tour, it’s time to consider their artistic contributions to America and the world.
The Eagles’ music has been so popular over the years, that it’s sometimes taken for granted instead of appreciated the way it should be. Here’s a layout of the Eagles’ studio albums released in the 1970’s. As a reminder of which albums produced which hits, the top songs from each album are noted. (Click to enlarge.)
Seeing these Eagles songs in a single playlist shows why their Greatest Hits album is the best-selling album of all time. The #1 hits, Top-10 hits, and Grammy winners are noted.
Take It Easy
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Witchy Woman (#9)
(Whatever Happened To) Saturday Night
Best Of My Love (#1)
On The Border
Lyin’ Eyes (#2 Grammy-Best Pop Performance)
One Of These Nights (#1)
Take It To The Limit (#4)
Hotel California (#1 Grammy-Record of the Year)
New Kid In Town (#1 Grammy-Best Vocal Arrangement)
Life In The Fast Lane
Heartache Tonight (#1 Grammy-Best Rock Performance)
The Long Run (#8)
I Can’t Tell You Why (#8)
We’ve been listening to these songs since the ’70’s. They still hold up today, because of the quality of the songwriting, performing, and recording.
(Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Henley, & Glenn Frey)
The original four Eagles were responsible for the first two albums, and country-rock songs 1-through-6 above. All four members were talented vocalists who could sing lead & harmony. Intricate harmonies were a big part of the group’s identity. The Eagles wanted to move to more of a rock sound, and they added Don Felder on lead guitar prior to their 1974 album On The Border. Leaning more to rock was the right move, because it gave the band more airplay on Rock and Top-40 radio stations.
Bernie Leadon, who played guitar, banjo, and mandolin, left the band in 1975, because he wanted to stick with a more country sound. It’s important to note that the band still incorporated country elements in their songs, received some airplay on country stations, and influenced a lot of country artists. Leadon was replaced by Joe Walsh, a successful solo artist and impressive guitarist. Walsh became an important part of the 1976 album Hotel California.
Hotel California is recognized as one of the best albums of all time, both from an artistic standpoint, and as a sales juggernaut. In fact, it’s the third-best-selling album in history.
To appreciate how special the Eagles were, try to name the second-best country-rock band. There really is no one close. Even though country-rock is an accepted genre of music, similar bands only had scattered hits and limited success in that form of music. However, because of the Eagles, country artists added more rock-style guitar into their songs.
By 1980, the pressures of stardom, the striving to maintain their success, and egos within the band caused a breakup that lasted 14 years. It’s not that the Eagles retired, instead they provided more good music with solo careers. Those recordings are seldom looked at together, but here’s a list of songs members created outside the Eagles.
The Boys Of Summer…Don Henley
All Those Lies…Glenn Frey
Funk #49…Joe Walsh (with James Gang, pre-Eagles)
Dirty Laundry…Don Henley
The One You Love…Glenn Frey
Rocky Mountain Way…Joe Walsh (pre-Eagles)
Hearts On Fire…Randy Meisner
The End Of The Innocence…Don Henley
You Belong To The City…Glenn Frey
All Night Long…Joe Walsh
Sunset Grill…Don Henley
Smuggler’s Blues…Glenn Frey
Help Me Through The Night…Joe Walsh (with Eagles backing)
The Last Worthless Evening…Don Henley
Life’s Been Good…Joe Walsh
Heart Of The Matter…Don Henley
These recordings would make another “Greatest Hits” album, and are part of the Eagles’ legacy. Many of these songs have been featured during Eagles concerts.
Don Henley had two albums, Building The Perfect Beast & The End Of The Innocence, that had sales similar to Eagles albums…3-times platinum and 6-times platinum.
(Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, & Don Felder)
When the Eagles reformed in 1994 (pictured above), they released the live album Hell Freezes Over. It also contained four studio recordings, including “Get Over It” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive”. America was happy to have the Eagles back, and the album went 9-times platinum.
It wasn’t until 2007 when we finally got another studio album.
Long Road Out Of Eden was a double album, and a huge success, even though it came 28-years after their previous studio album. It was the Eagles’ sixth consecutive #1 album, went 7-times platinum, and was the biggest-selling album of 2007. Featured tracks included “No More Walks In The Woods”, “How Long” (a Grammy winner), “Busy Being Fabulous”, “No More Cloudy Days”, “What Do I Do With My Heart”, and the instrumental “I Dreamed There Was No War” (a Grammy winner). If the titles are not as familiar as their 1970’s hits, that’s because of the shift in radio formats, with far fewer stations featuring rock music.
Now, the Eagles are leaving us with one final tour that will probably have a long run…from September of 2023 and into 2025.
It ‘s a great line-up with three Eagles from the ‘70’s, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit, plus Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, who’s helping fill in for his father, Glenn, who died in 2016 of medical complications.
Here’s a final summary of the output of America’s most popular band. It’s the Eagles’ nine studio albums (including their two greatest hits albums) placed in chronological order, and at the bottom are their three live albums.
What a great career…still going after more than half-a-century!
Update (July 27th, 2023) Original Eagles bassist and high harmony singer Randy Meisner passed away at the age of 77 on July 26th, 2023 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Meisner recorded with Poco and Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band before helping found the Eagles. He was on all of their studio albums through Hotel California. The biggest hit Randy Meisner had as a songwriter and lead singer for the band was “Take It To The Limit”.
Extra: I admit that when it comes to my favorite artists, I too often rebuy their recordings in various forms.
I bought the 4-CD box set on the left when it came out in 2000. It had most of their recordings, but grouped their ballads and rockers separately. It also had their “Millennium Concert”. The small box set on the right was a 2013 CD collection of their six 1970’s studio albums. Each CD is in a cardboard sleeve that matches the original album cover. Those six CD covers are next to each other in the first photo of this article (the one with the songs superimposed).
Fifty-one years ago the Eagles started one of the longest runs of Rock & Roll popularity with “Take It Easy”. Their recordings are among the most successful in history. They have the best-selling album of all time Eagles Greatest Hits, and the third biggest, Hotel California. Tours by the Eagles have always been popular, and today they announced they’ll be performing their final tour, The Long Goodbye. It’s starting September 7th at Madison Square Garden in New York, and likely ending sometime in 2025. Dates and locations are still being determined, but here are the stops so far.
You can see the concerts include another popular Classic Rock act, Steely Dan. Early demand has caused dates to be added to this tour of U.S. arenas.
The lineup is the main group that has toured after Glenn Frey’s death in 2016. Three of the members have been together since the 1970’s…original Eagle Don Henley, plus Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit. Rounding out the band are Glenn Frey’s son Deacon, and Country artist Vince Gill. Before he became a solo act, Gill sang with an Eagles-style Country Rock band, Pure Prairie League. You might remember his lead vocal on “Let Me Love You Tonight”. Gill and Deacon Frey do a great job of carrying on the quality fans know they’ll hear at an Eagles concert.
In a statement released by the band, they said they will play “as many shows in each market as the audience demands, even if it requires returning to certain cities.” The Eagles thanked fans for all the years of support, and said “This is our swan song, but the music goes on and on”.
As various media outlets reported on this story, some mentioned that the Eagles did a tour named Farewell 1 Tour in 2003. What they failed to note is that the title was just a joke, because bands like Kiss, The Who, and many more had been doing multiple “last” tours.
When I heard the announcement of the final tour, I happened to have just watched a video of a 1973 Eagles BBC concert. What struck me about it was how well the four original members started the show with four acoustic guitars and four voices in perfect harmony. Unlike some groups that have trouble replicating intricate harmonies in concert, the Eagles have always excelled at it. They’re sometimes unfairly criticized for being “too perfect” in concert, or that they only play their songs exactly as they were recorded. That’s simply not true, the band has changed up arrangements many times, it’s just that they respect their fans by making sure their shows are really good.
When we saw the Eagles in 1995 during the Hell Freezes Over tour, they were amazing, but they were also having fun, not some robotic version of perfection.
The final studio album by the Eagles was the #1 multi-million selling Long Road Out Of Eden in 2007. Now, the final tour of the Eagles is a sad reminder of the winding down of many of our best Classic Rock artists. We just have to remember how lucky we’ve been to have had them in our lives. Despite the line in “Hotel California”, the Eagles “can check out anytime” they like…and can leave.
The start of Beatlemania in America is often thought of as their historic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, 1964…but that’s not right. How is it that we already knew all of the songs The Beatles played that night (and for the next two Sundays)?
Americans first started to become aware of The Beatles at the very end of 1963. It was December 26th when “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was officially released by Capitol Records. Just slightly before that some radio stations were already playing the song by getting copies of the single from England. The single had been released a month earlier there, with “This Boy” as the flip side. The Capitol single had the uptempo “I Saw Her Standing There” as the flip side.
(My 1964 “I Want To Hold Your Hand” sleeve)
Radio Stations took the unusual step of playing both sides heavily. I remember going to a multi-school teen dance at that time, and the band had done a good job of learning the two songs. The crowd reaction was so strong the group had to play the songs multiple times that night.
The real start of Beatlemania in America wasn’t on television, it was on radio. It was in January of 1964 when all the songs The Beatles had recorded the previous year began airing on nearly every radio station. Besides “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There”, songs played included “She Loves You”, “Please Please Me”, and “From Me To You”. Two albums, Meet The Beatles and Introducing The Beatles, were both released in January, and some radio stations dug into those too, playing songs like “All My Loving” and “Twist And Shout” (which later became a single).
This was historic. No other act had ever had so many songs dominate radio airplay. By the time The Beatles’ airplane touched down in New York City, Beatlemania was already raging. That’s the reason 73-million viewers tuned-in to Ed Sullivan that night. That was 52-million more than his regular audience.
And what a night that was! The Beatles started with “All My Loving”, then played “Till There Was You” (mostly because it was a song the parents would know), and they ended the first set with “She Loves You”. Above is the dramatic “arrows” set design for that first Beatles performance. Ed Sullivan cleverly kept us all watching by having The Beatles play again near the end of the show.
The Beatles returned with the excitement of “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. Set designer Bill Bohnert did a great job…with Ringo up on that stand, the use of a dramatic visual background, and using subdued colors (though we saw it in black and white at the time). It was even used for the cover of the album Something New. Here are a couple more photos taken at that time.
The Beatles rode a train from New York to Washington D.C. to perform their first U.S. concert on February 11th, 1964.
They performed again the next Sunday, February 16th, on The Ed Sullivan Show, but this time the show was on location in Miami. The songs for that second appearance were “She Loves You”, “This Boy”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “From Me To You”, and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. Here are The Beatles on the set in Miami:
The third Ed Sullivan appearance by The Beatles aired on February 23rd, but it had actually been pre-recorded just prior to the group’s first appearance on the show. Here’s a photo from the taping:
There were only three songs played during that third appearance, “Twist And Shout”, “Please Please Me”, and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.
The Beatles returned in August of 1965, for their final live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. They performed “I Feel Fine”, “I’m Down” and “Act Naturally”, then came back later for “Ticket To Ride”, “Yesterday”, and “Help”.
Beatlemania took over the United States in January of 1964. That’s when we heard all the songs on the radio, studied their album covers, saw news reports on television, and read articles in magazines. By February, the young people of America were more than ready for The Beatles to arrive.
After all that exposure at the beginning of 1964, it was up to The Beatles to release music that kept fans interested…mission accomplished.
Just for fun: Hallmark thought enough of how The Beatles looked on the Ed Sullivan Show to put out this 1994 30th Anniversary Christmas ornament set. Yeah, they had trouble getting the faces right, but from a little distance it captures the group’s look. I couldn’t pass it up.
Recently one writer declared that Paul Simon will just be a footnote in the history of Bob Dylan. Almost everyone would agree that Bob Dylan is a great and influential songwriter, but Paul Simon is also one of the world’s greatest songwriters. One difference is that the popularity and familiarity of Paul Simon’s recordings surpasses Bob Dylan’s recordings.
(Bob Dylan & Paul Simon toured together in 1999. Simon was top-billed.)
I’m a fan of both artists, and have lots of their albums. I got to know Bob Dylan first. It was through Peter, Paul & Mary’s recordings of “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”. Next came The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “All I Really Want To Do”. Then it was Bob Dylan himself with two great singles “Like A Rolling Stone” (#2 on Billboard’s singles chart) and “Positively 4th Street” (#7). The Turtles quickly followed those with Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” (#8).
Later that same year, 1965, America first heard Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel with “The Sound Of Silence”. The single went to #1 in January of 1966. Below are shots directly from my 1994 Billboard Top 40 book, so you can compare the popularity of songs by Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. You’ll also be reminded which recordings they chose as singles. The info looks a little wonky, because the pages are curved by the book’s spine. The three columns on the left side give the date the song entered the Top-40, the highest chart position it made, and the number of weeks in the Top-40. (Click to enlarge)
Bob Dylan had 12 Top-40 hits, with 4 making the Top-10. He did not have a #1 hit. In Paul Simon’s career (including with Art Garfunkel) he had 29 Top-40 hits…14 made the Top-10, and 3 hit #1. By the way, the black dots next to the above songs indicate the singles went “Gold”, selling over half-a-million copies, and Top-10 songs are in bold type.
Interestingly, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon have each sold approximately 125-million albums. Dylan’s biggest sellers are his Greatest Hits (over 6-million) and Greatest Hits II (over 5-million). Simon’s biggest sellers are Bridge Over Troubled Water (over 25-million) and Graceland (over 16-million). It shows that Dylan served his fans by releasing a greater number of albums, and Simon reached a wider audience with fewer, but more popular albums.
Bob Dylan wrote many well known songs that were performed by other artists. Those include “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, “The Mighty Quinn” by Manfred Mann, “If Not For You” by George Harrison, “My Back Pages” by The Byrds, “I Shall Be Released” by The Band, and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Eric Clapton. The majority of Americans have not even heard Dylan’s versions of many of his most famous songs.
Bob Dylan had more influence on other songwriters. That’s because of his early albums and songs like “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. The Beatles and other Rock/Pop songwriters saw they could expand their writing to topics beyond love. That was shortly before the emergence of Simon & Garfunkel.
The history of music is not just about songwriting. It includes the recordings themselves. Here’s where Paul Simon excelled. His songs, as sung by him (and sometimes with Art Garfunkel) are very well known, and they have the potential to be enjoyed for many generations, and maybe hundreds of years. If we had recordings going back to the original classical composers, they’d still be listened to today. Recordings like “The Sound Of Silence” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” should stand the test of time.
Paul Simon was particularly innovative with the way he incorporated musical influences that went beyond Folk, Rock, and Pop. He adopted musical styles from around the world into his solo albums. He was one of the first American artists to help popularize Reggae from Jamaica, and his 1987 Album Of The Year, Graceland utilized South African music. Then Rhythm Of The Saints used South American music.
The point is that Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are national treasures. It’s true that history will necessarily compact the decades, and some artists may be forgotten, but that’s not likely to happen to either Bob Dylan or Paul Simon. Their contributions are so great that the two should remain essential to music history.