Fleetwood Mac…Top 10 In 2023

The sales figures for vinyl albums in 2023 have been released.  As expected, it was Taylor Swift’s year, as she had 5 of the top 10.  But, what caught my eye was #9.

How in the world did an album that’s nearly a half-century old sell close to as many copies as new albums by Lana Del Ray and Olivia Rodrigo?

The songs might have something to do with it.

Rumours had four Top 10 hits…“Go Your Own Way” #10, “Dreams” #1, “Don’t Stop” #3, and “You Make Loving Fun” #9.  The songs “Never Going Back Again”, “Songbird”, “The Chain”, and “Gold Dust Woman” were played on FM stations, and became classics too.

The album was released in 1977.  It spent 31 non-consecutive weeks at #1 (the most for a Rock album), and won the Grammy for Album Of The Year.  So it’s mostly the quality of the album, the continued popularity of Stevie Nicks, and possibly the passing of Christine McVie in November, 2022 that pushed Rumours into the Top 10 for vinyl sales in 2023.

Are there a bunch of other Classic Rock albums just under the Top 10?  No.  I checked the Top 50 vinyl sales, and the only ones are…Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon #20, Queen’s Greatest Hits #23, and The Beatles’ Abbey Road #38.  Quality choices.

While Rumours is unquestionably one of the best albums ever, it wouldn’t have been nearly as big a hit if it weren’t for another album that set it up for success.

The album is Fleetwood Mac from 1975, and its quality is not far removed from Rumours.  This was the first Mac album with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  Their songwriting and Lindsey’s production skills helped create a new era of popularity for the group.

You can see the key songs that brought the group into prominence…“Monday Morning”, “Warm Ways”, “Rhiannon”, “Over My Head”, “Say You Love Me” and “Landslide”.  It took the band 15 months of touring to take the album to #1.  It was only after a lot of work and a breakthrough album that a phenomenon like Rumours was possible.

Not many groups have had three amazing singer-songwriters (Stevie, Christine & Lindsey).  When their songs were added to the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass) along with Christine McVie’s Keyboards and Lindsey Buckingham’s virtuoso guitar, great things happened.

While most music is streamed these days, vinyl sales have been growing steadily over the last decade.  Besides people liking the analog sound, fans want to have a tangible piece of a performer’s art.

Our son (born in the ‘70s) has been collecting vinyl in recent years.  In 2023, he got Rumours for his birthday, along with Hotel California, and The Doors.  Then it was The Beatles’ remixed and expanded Red & Blue albums for Christmas.  Our grandchildren also enjoy Classic Rock.  It’s cool that the resurgence in record albums gives more generations a chance to drop the needle, look over an album cover, and listen to some of the greatest recordings of all time.

That may even include some of the new albums on that 2023 list.

Beach Boys…New Book! (Review)

The new book The Beach Boys by The Beach Boys has arrived!

This is the “bookstore version”, which is a reasonably priced ($65 list) heavy coffee-table book.  It’s approximately 12×10 inches, has an embossed hard cover, and is 408 pages long.  It’s packed with photos, and has commentary that covers the members of The Beach Boys from childhood.

They quickly move on to the formation of the band in 1961, and then the book follows them to about 1980.

For most of their career, the group was made up of the three Wilson brothers Brian, Dennis, & Carl, plus Mike Love (their 1st cousin), Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston.

The first part of the book reveals how The Beach Boys’ early influences shaped their sound.  Brian Wilson was into the intricate four-part harmonies of The Four Freshmen vocal group, and jazz instrumentals like “Rhapsody In Blue” by George Gershwin.  Mike Love was into vocal groups that were more Rhythm & Blues based.  Carl Wilson learned guitar at an early age, and was influenced by Chuck Berry and other Rock & Roll artists.  Al Jardine also started on guitar early, and favored Folk Music.  You can hear all of those elements as you listen to The Beach Boys.

The written comments are from previous interviews The Beach Boys had given.  So even though Carl and Dennis Wilson are no longer with us, they are well represented.  To give you examples of the text, here are two sections in the book from Carl and Mike.  They give us a sense of how gifted Brian was at an early age, and how The Beach Boys developed their amazing vocal blend.

The normal breakdown of the vocal harmony for The Beach Boys had Brian with the clear high falsetto, and Mike with the bass vocals.  Carl. Dennis, and Al filled in the middle parts of the complex harmonies.  Also, not long after Brian stopped touring in 1965, Bruce Johnston took over those high falsetto vocals.  Here’s
Mike Love explaining their vocal blend.  In their teens they would harmonize at family gatherings (you might have to click to enlarge):

The lead vocals were mostly Brian and Mike, but eventually each of The Beach Boys had opportunities to sing lead.  Who sang the lead was Brian’s decision as the producer/arranger.

When the book reaches 1966 and Pet Sounds, we not only get comments from The Beach Boys, but from a whole host of famous musicians who were influenced by the group’s best album.

There are photos from each step of their career, such as these two-page spreads of the Smile era of 1967.

If you look closely on the snow sledding page, you can see a list of some of the songs from the Smile album.  Of course they’re not in the order Brian Wilson eventually used on his solo release in 2004.

(The Beach Boys in November 1970 at Coventry Cathedral U.K.)

About three-quarters of the book covers the band in the 60s, and the remainder of the book shows them in the 70s.  To be honest, the commercial success of the band’s recordings fell off a cliff in 1970.  None of their new songs even made it into the Top 40.  Finally, in 1976, a remake of Chuck Berry’s “Rock & Roll Music” made it to #5.  And that was their last major hit until “Kokomo” (#1) in 1988.

Their new studio albums during the 70s also struggled on the charts.  Here are their rankings…Sunflower #151, Surf’s Up #29, Carl & The Passions #50, Holland #36, 15 Big Ones #8 (because of the “Rock & Roll Music” hit), The Beach Boys Love You #53, M.I.U. #151, and L.A. (Light Album) #100.  That’s not to say that these albums don’t have their fans.  I particularly like some of the tracks on Surf’s Up and Holland.

The good news is The Beach Boys always maintained their popularity through touring (like in 1974 above), and the release of their very popular greatest hits collections.

If you’re a Beach Boys fan, you’ll find the book a treasure trove of details provided by the band members themselves.  You don’t have to read it straight through, you can skip around to the albums and eras that were most important to you.  The format combining historical photos and historical comments provides an insightful look at one of America’s best bands.

(The back cover is directly printed on, there’s no sleeve.)

Here’s an audio bonus of the song Brian is talking about.  It’s a custom mix of “Til I Die”.  I took the audio from a bootleg of the unreleased Landlocked album.  This version includes an instrumental introduction.  The song is 2:43.


Concept Albums…What Fits?

Any article written about Concept Albums struggles to clarify which albums fit the term.  Sometimes they include albums by Frank Sinatra and The Beach Boys.

In the 50s, Sinatra put together love songs that fit a certain feeling, and in the early 60s, The Beach Boys had albums about cars and/or surfing.

Some albums from the mid-sixties were so good and innovative that people sometimes include them in the concept album discussion, even though they weren’t really built on specific concepts.  However, they did help begin a boom in albums that grew in the 70s and 80s.

The album that started the concept album discussion in the 60s is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

If you were a music collector at that time, you know the release of Sgt. Pepper was a seismic event in recording history.  There had never been a mainstream album that combined such innovation in song styles and use of the recording studio.  There were no gaps between the tracks, and some of them were musically connected.  It was the first album to have all of the lyrics printed right on the cover.

Sgt. Pepper certainly started as a concept album.  Paul McCartney thought that if The Beatles recorded as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they could explore new musical ideas.  Though the album started that way, even The Beatles admitted the idea wasn’t fully realized.  Would Sgt. Pepper’s Band really have played “Within You Without You”?

What we need is a clear definition for a concept album.  Albums like those by Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and many others are more accurately described as theme albums.  In order to sort out theme albums from concept albums, we could apply these three straightforward measurements.

  1. A starting concept
  2. Original songs written specifically for the album’s concept
  3. Songs that together form a complete work of art (rather than songs that just fit a theme)

This stronger definition eliminates albums like those of Sinatra, who chose songs from the American Songbook, rather than having songs written specifically for the album.  As great as some of The Beach Boys songs are, they didn’t really form a greater whole.  It’s just that their early songs were about surfing, cars, and girls.  Vocalist Mike Love said they didn’t use concepts in making their albums.

It’s likely the first concept album was the one released in 1940 by Woody Guthrie.

An “album” back then was like a photograph book with 78 RPM records placed in paper holders between the cardboard covers.  Those 10-inch records only had one song on each side, so the complete album was two album-books with three records each, for a total of 12 songs.  Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads fits the stronger definition of a concept album.

As far as Rock albums go, there’s an album from a little later in the same year as Sgt. Pepper (1967) that is obviously a concept album.

The songs on Days Of Future Passed by The Moody Blues take us through a compete day.  Song titles include “Dawn Is A Feeling”, “Tuesday Afternoon”, and “Nights In White Satin”.  All songs are original, and are interconnected with orchestral instrumental links written from the melodies of the songs.  Of the albums that were successful enough to at least make the Top 100 of Billboard’s album chart (“Days” hit #3), this may be the first Rock concept album (if the clearer definition is applied).

The other 1960s concept album that really made a big splash is Tommy by The Who (from 1969).

Tommy was labeled a “Rock Opera” by songwriter/guitarist Pete Townshend who wrote nearly all of it.  The album is a 2-record set that tells the life story of a “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who’s also a “Pinball Wizard”.

The innovation of albums in the 60s pushed the art form to a higher level, including a greater use of concepts.

Brian Wilson…A Look Back

The recent news about Brian Wilson (81) has been sad and disheartening.  He lost his wife and “lifeline”, Melinda (77), on January 30th, 2024, and he has been diagnosed with “major neurocognitive disorder” (dementia).

Let’s go back in time, and look at his life in music.

Brian Wilson’s band, The Beach Boys, broke big in 1963 with songs about surfing, cars, and girls.

(Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson & Mike Love)

They used an original combination of Rock & Roll instrumentation and sophisticated vocal arrangements.  Their songs and arrangements evolved into a peak in 1966 with the album Pet Sounds and the hit single, “Good Vibrations”.  That was after Brian had stopped touring with the band.  Instead, he developed more complex instrumental arrangements, and laid down the tracks using studio musicians.   Later, The Beach Boys added their intricate vocals.  Here are their studio albums from 1962 through 1973:

For a refresher of how many great songs and hits there are by The Beach Boys, here are my two “Best Of” playlists from my collection.

I started collecting their music in 1963, and no matter when you became a Beach Boy’s fan, you’ll likely recognize most of these songs, and be able to sing along with a lot of them.

After the artistic high of the Pet Sounds album, and the #1 success of the “Good Vibrations” single, Brian Wilson worked on what he thought would be his best album, Smile.  This period in 1966 and 1967 would be the turning point in his life and career.  Because of mental issues (anxiety and depression) and drug usage (mostly marijuana and amphetamines), Brian Wilson was unable to complete the album.  After that, his participation in Beach Boys albums was significantly limited, and his songwriting was severely reduced.

The solo part of Brian’s career didn’t start until 1987, 20-years after his problems with Smile.

Although Brian Wilson didn’t have a solo career of big hits and top-ranked albums, the above four albums include some significant musical contributions.  The albums are Brian Wilson (1987), Imagination (1998), Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (2010), and No Pier Pressure (2015).  He had a total of ten studio albums, with a variety of original songs, some re-recordings of his older songs, and a few albums were mostly cover songs.

For those who might not be familiar with his solo recordings, here’s my Best Of Brian Wilson playlist (in chronological order) taken from his solo studio albums.

Through the years, the legendary recordings from The Beach Boys’ unfinished album Smile became available on bootlegs.  I bought a couple of those bootleg CD’s, but like everyone else, I didn’t know how to assemble all the tracks into Brian’s vision for the album.  That changed in 2004 when Brian released his own version of Smile.  It was made up of mostly the same songs, but with new recordings.

(The original Beach Boys’ Smile cover, and Brian’s solo cover.)

I much prefer the original Beach Boys’ Smile recordings with their youthful 20-something voices and their great vocal blend.  If you’re curious about how good the album is, here’s a 29-minute edit of The Beach Boys’ Smile (odd songs like “ Barnyard” and “Vege-Tables” are omitted, allowing a better musical flow).  The audio plays right on this site:

(The list of songs used for the Smile presentation:  1. Our Prayer, 2. Gee/Trombone, 3. Heroes And Villains, 4. Roll Plymouth Rock, 5. Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine, 6. Cabin Essence, 7. Wonderful, 8. Child Is Father Of The Man, 9. Surf’s Up Intro/Surf’s Up, 10. Wind Chimes, 11. Cool Cool Water, 12. Good Vibrations, 13. Heroes And Villains Piano Instrumental.  The songs are segued together to form one complete work.)

The Smile album doesn’t rise to the very high level of Pet Sounds, but it has the strong songs “Good Vibrations”, “Heroes And Villains”, “Wonderful”, and “Surf’s Up”, plus a lot of interesting song segments that link the album together.  To me, it’s better than any of the other Beach Boys’ albums that came after Pet Sounds.  Even if you don’t listen to the whole album above, you’d probably enjoy listening to the one-minute introduction vocalizing song “Our Prayer”…Beach Boys’ harmonies at their finest!

Brian Wilson has rightly been called a “musical genius”.  He co-wrote nearly all the hits by The Beach Boys.  Brian wrote the music, and almost always worked with a lyricist.  They included Mike Love for many of the early hits, Tony Asher for Pet Sounds, and Van Dyke Parks for Smile.  Just as important as Brian’s songwriting and beautiful vocals, was his talent for creatively arranging and producing songs.  Brian Wilson’s music will be everlasting.

Taylor Swift…The Peak Years (Updated)

Three years ago, I wrote an article about Taylor Swift and The Beatles.  She had broken one of their records on the U.K. album chart.  That was just after Swift had released Folklore, Evermore, and Fearless (Taylor’s Version).  Since that time, Taylor Swift’s life seems to have gotten as chaotic as Beatlemania must have been for John, Paul, George & Ringo.

Above are the seven albums Taylor Swift has released in a time period of just three-and-a-quarter years…July 24th, 2020 to October 27th, 2023.  Besides the three albums mentioned earlier, there were Red (Taylor’s Version), Midnights, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), and 1989 (Taylor’s Version).  All 7 of the albums debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and broke a bunch of sales and streaming records.  Those include the most #1 albums by a woman (13), and the most-streamed album in a day, 1989 (Taylor’s Version).  If the quality of her albums wasn’t high, her sales would drop off (if buyers were disappointed with what they heard).  Instead, her whole catalog is selling extremely well.

The sheer volume of her recording output is astonishing.  Yes, four of her last seven albums are re-recordings (Taylor’s Versions), but imagine the effort it takes to recreate intricate recordings that her longtime fans know intimately.  Besides, there are enough new songs on her four re-recorded albums to fill two new albums.  So…in 3-and-a-quarter years…Swift has released the equivalent of five new albums, and four re-recorded albums.

During that same time she wrote and directed her own music videos, and two of them won “Video Of The Year” awards.  Also, for six months of that time she trained & rehearsed for a concert performance that lasts nearly 3-and-a-half hours.  She performed as many as six shows in seven days, and did 66 concerts in 2023.  Is she twins?!

(Nice shirt)

What’s happening with Taylor Swift is extremely similar to what happened with The Beatles.  They had the top 5 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964.  Taylor Swift had the entire top 10 on that chart in 2022.  The method for measuring such things has changed, but the two feats are similar, and no one else has ever owned the whole top 10 before or since.

On the album chart, no other artist (while living) has ever had five albums simultaneously in the top 10.  Swift has done it multiple times.  On the album sales chart Swift is the only person to have the top 4, and the only artist to have 7 of the top 10.  Swift is second only to The Beatles for the number of weeks topping the Billboard 200 album chart.  She has 69 weeks at the top, and they have what may be an unbreakable record of 132 weeks.

That kind of dominance also shows up with Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.  She has the only tour to earn over 1-Billion dollars.  She did it in 66 stadium concerts over 9-months.  The second-biggest tour of all time was by Elton John.  He earned 939-million-dollars in 330 concerts over 5-years.  Swift not only sold more tickets than her friends, Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran, her tour made more than both of them combined last year.  And, Swift is only about half done with the tour!

The Eras Tour movie made over 261-million-dollars in theaters.  It also made a bundle as a rental.  It started streaming March 14th, 2024 on Disney+.  They reportedly paid $75-million for the rights.  The film only cost an estimated 10-to-20-million to make, so it’s generated a huge profit.  The streaming version has five additional songs…”Cardigan” and four acoustic performances.  Swift doesn’t need an idea for another album, but a collection of her best solo acoustic performances from the Eras Tour would make a great one.

Taylor Swift is the only entertainer ever named Time’s Person Of The Year.  The honor wasn’t only because of all the records she was setting in 2023, but because her tour was adding billions of dollars to the world’s economy.  She gives millions of dollars to food banks and other charities (a million dollars went to Nashville after a recent tornado). She also gave 55-million dollars in bonuses to all the performers, technicians, and truck drivers who are touring with her.

When Swift attends an NFL game to support her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, the TV ratings go up.  That means more revenue for TV and the NFL.  Some football fans resent that Swift is shown on camera, but she really isn’t shown more than some relatives & friends of other players, or for that matter crazy-dressed fans and the back of player’s helmets.  Swift has been shown for an average of about 30-seconds total per game, and according to Apex Marketing Group, Taylor supporting her boyfriend has generated over 331-million-dollars for the NFL brand.

Update: (2/11/24)

Mastermind Taylor Swift at the Super Bowl planning for the Chiefs to score the winning touchdown on the 13th play of the final drive during the 13th Kansas City game she attended.  This Super Bowl had over 123-million viewers.  That’s the most-watched TV show since the moon landing.  Guess it was “Taylor’s Version”.  CBS showed her for a total of 54-seconds during the game broadcast.

With the past few years being so huge for Swift, she is definitely in the over-exposure danger zone.  There have been some negative articles written about her recently.  They’re not about anything specifically that she’s done, they’re just the natural reaction to extreme popularity.  The same thing happened to The Beatles, Elton John, and a lot of other artists.  Most of the 2024 portion of Swift’s tour is in other parts of the world, so that may somewhat dial down the swirl of media coverage in the U.S.

Taylor Swift started performing as a teenager over 17 years ago, and her songwriting has developed to the point that her lyrics are reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s style.  They can be clever & complicated.  Swift has performed over 160 of her songs during the Eras Tour.  How does she keep all of those lyrics in her head?

This string of albums (maybe adding two re-recorded albums and one new album in 2024), plus the finalization of the Eras Tour, will likely mark the peak of Taylor Swift’s music career.  No one could keep up that pace!  It would make sense that she would want to devote time to her budding film career, or maybe even start a family.

There were four Beatles who helped each other handle the fame.  Taylor Swift is the sole focus of this mania, so she must have a great support staff, as well as friends and family to help her.

Honestly, it’s practically unbelievable what she has accomplished.  Four years ago, no one, not even “Mastermind” Taylor Swift, could have predicted the dizzying heights her career has reached.

Update:  (The way Billboard reported it.)

The release date is April 19th, 2024.

With Midnights, Taylor Swift won the Grammy for “Album Of The Year” for the 4th time.  That’s a record no other woman, man, or group has accomplished..

Immediate Family…Music Documentary (Review)

Were you listening to albums by James Taylor, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, or Crosby Stills & Nash in the 1970s?  If you were like me, you’d put on the album, and then read the information on the album covers to see what musicians helped the star.  If you did, the music documentary Immediate Family is for you.

The movie is about the studio musicians who recorded with singer-songwriters of the ‘70s and ‘80s.  As you can see on the above poster, the singer-songwriters who were interviewed still get the star billing.  Here’s a recent shot of the studio musicians who now go by the name Immediate Family:

Lee Sklar plays bass, Russ Kunkel drums, Waddy Wachtel guitar, and Danny Kortchmar guitar.

And this is Craig Doerge, who played Keyboards on a lot of recordings with the other guys.

The start of all these musicians getting together was because James Taylor and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar were teenage friends.  They played in the band Flying Machine, and when the band broke up, Danny Kortchmar did some work as a studio musician.  That’s how he met Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon fame).  Kortchmar knew Asher was the head of A&R for The Beatles’ new Apple label.  He suggested James Taylor contact Peter Asher, and that’s how Taylor’s recording career started n 1968.

A year later, Taylor and Asher were working on the Sweet Baby James album in L.A., and put together a stellar line-up of musicians that included Danny Kortchmar, Carole King, and Russ Kunkel.  These musicians and James Taylor also worked their magic on Carole King’s Tapestry album.  Then Carole had to be replaced on future James Taylor albums by keyboardist, Craig Doerge (pronounced Dur-gee).  Also added was Lee Sklar on bass.  James Taylor gave them the nickname “The Section”.

If you’re familiar with the 1960s studio musicians, The Wrecking Crew, you know they played on hundreds of hit singles and classic albums.  However, it wasn’t until years later that these musicians became known to anyone but industry insiders.

Credit Peter Asher for the big change for studio musicians in the 1970s.  He included the names of the musicians, often right on the covers of the albums he produced, and that became the norm for the record industry.

Other recording artists saw the names and wanted those studio musicians too.  Guitarist Waddy Wachtel and lap-steel guitarist David Lindley were soon among this well known group of studio musicians.  Wachtel worked extensively with Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks, and Lindley with Jackson Browne and Neil Young.

Another big difference for the 1970s studio musicians was that their notariety allowed them to go out on tour without fear that they would be replaced.  When my wife and I saw James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and Crosby Stills & Nash in the ‘70s and ‘80s, those studio musicians were often there.  Almost all of them played on Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty Tour in 1978 (an absolutely great concert!).

L-R: Danny Kortchmar, Jackson Browne, Russ Kunkel, Lee Sklar, David Lindley, and Craig Doerge performing songs from Running On Empty.  And here they are in the studio:

A little closer up with Danny Kortchmar, Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Russ Kunkel, Waddy Wachtel, and Lee Sklar in their younger days.

The documentary gives you the inside story, featuring interviews with the Immediate Family and many of the stars they worked with.  The musicians didn’t just play on the albums, they added ideas to the arrangements, and sometimes Kortchmar and Doerge added to the songwriting.  The film is available to buy or rent (at reasonable prices).

Immediate Family in a recent performance.

We also learn that these musicians are like a lot of artists from the Classic Rock era…they still love to play in front of an audience.

Extra:  If you enjoy music documentaries, here are some recommendations.  The Wrecking Crew, Sound City, Standing In The Shadow Of Motown, Laurel Canyon, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice, The Making Of Sgt. Pepper, Get Back, Tom Petty Runnin’ Down A Dream, History of the Eagles, and whatever artists you like in the Classic Albums series.

John Lennon Murder Documentary (Review)

There’s a new three-part documentary on Apple TV, John Lennon: Murder Without A Trial.  I watched it so you don’t have to, but if you do, it’s best to only watch the first 37-minute episode.

The first episode is titled The Last Day.  It focuses on John Lennon’s activities on December 8th, 1980, before he was shot in cold blood outside his home in New York City.  You also see news coverage and reactions from John Lennon’s fans.  If you were old enough to be aware at the time, you might have found out about Lennon’s death on Monday Night Football, like so many of us did.  You probably also remember much of the TV coverage of the crowds that gathered outside the Dakota Apartments and in Central Park.

Parts 2 and 3 are best skipped.  They’re about John Lennon’s killer.  Part 2 is called The Investigation.  Well, very little investigation was needed, because the guy that did it remained on the scene until the police arrived.  That’s because his admitted reason for the killing was that he wanted to be famous.  He even told the cab driver his name as he was dropped off at the Dakota, and said “you’ll remember it”.

The episode wastes time mentioning that the justice department had been following Lennon’s activities, possibly even tapping his phone.  This was some half-baked attempt to allude to a conspiracy.  But, the surveillance happened under the Nixon administration in the early ‘70’s, when Lennon was protesting against the Vietnam war.  Lennon had been out of the public eye for nearly five years, and was a threat to no one.

Part 3 is called The Trial, which is ridiculous, since the title of the documentary tells you there was no trial.  The killer pleaded guilty to second degree murder.  The debate is whether he was insane or not.  It could be argued that any cold-blooded killer is insane, but he pre-planned the murder, and definitely knew what he was doing.  He remains in prison, and has been denied parole 12 times.

Above is some “wire copy” from United Press International that I saved.  Most of it is from the morning after the murder.  At the time, I was the News Director for a couple of radio stations south of Lincoln, Nebraska.  One of the stories mentions how London is mad at the United States for having a gun culture that killed John Lennon.  The editorial says… “John Lennon’s meaningless murder is increasingly typical of New York and the United States in general, where freedom to carry guns has brought forth monsters.”  The monster who killed John Lennon was born in Texas, raised in Georgia, lived in Hawaii, and flew to New York City to commit the murder.

Like most radio stations during the week of December 8th, 1980, we played a lot of music by John Lennon and The Beatles.  I also wrote and produced a news special that covered Lennon’s life and career.  John had just turned 40 when he was taken from us.  As we see Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr still being creative into their 80’s, imagine how much more great art we would have received from John Lennon if he hadn’t been gunned down 43 years ago.

Band On The Run 50th Anniversary Edition (Updated)

Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run was released on December 5th, 1973.

It quickly became McCartney’s most popular album.  Band On The Run topped the charts, went multi-platinum, and had the hit singles “Jet” #7, “Helen Wheels” #10, and “Band On The Run” #1, plus the tracks “Let Me Roll It” and “Bluebird”.  The critics and the public agreed it was excellent, and it’s still considered his best album. Even Paul’s sometimes critical friend, John Lennon, called it “a great album” during a 1975 Rolling Stone interview.

It’s now 50-years later, and we’re able to hear the album in a new way. The two-disc or two-record 50th Anniversary sets include a version that McCartney calls “underdubbed”.  That means we can hear the album in its raw form, before the orchestration was overdubbed onto the album’s songs.  The Band On The Run 50th Anniversary edition was released February 2nd, 2024.  We’ll look at the specifics of the sets available, but first a little about the original album.

This was McCartney’s fifth album, and was listed under the band name Wings, even though Paul & Linda McCartney and guitarist Denny Laine were the only members left.  (Update:  Sadly, Denny Laine passed away from lung disease December 5th, 2023 at the age of 79.  Besides being in Wings, he was a cofounder of The Moody Blues, and sang lead on their first hit, “Go Now”.)

The three musicians (and engineer Geoff Emerick) flew to Lagos to record the album.  It’s very close to being a “one man band” album.  Paul sang the lead vocals & some background vocals, played most of the lead guitar parts, acoustic guitars, bass, piano/keyboards, drums, and percussion.  Denny added guitars and background vocals, and Linda added some keyboards and background vocals.

It’s interesting to hear the stripped-down versions of the songs we know, but we miss the orchestration that brought power to songs like the title track, and subtle touches to other songs.  By the way, Band On The Run won the Grammy Award for best engineered album, thanks to Geoff Emerick.

Update:  Paul McCartney did an early release of the “underdubbed” version of the song “Band On The Run”.  The audio quality is excellent, with great clarity to the voices and instruments, but what it truly shows is how important those missing finishing touches were to making the song a hit.  The changes from one section of the medley to another are less powerful without the orchestration.  The main thing missing is the accent guitar part that plays on the choruses, right after Paul sings the title.  As interesting as the stripped-down version is to listen to once, it’s better to spend your 5-minutes listening to the fully produced version of “Band On The Run”.

Update 2 (Feb 2nd, 2024):  The stripped down versions all sound good, but the overdubs were needed to complete them.  For example…“Bluebird” sorely misses the beautiful saxophone solo that gave the song such a cool feel.  “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five” is the instrumental bed, without the lead vocal.  It’s best to enjoy the original versions as they were released.

Here are the various sets available (with prices) as shown on Paul McCartney’s website.  You can click to enlarge.

It’s also available digitally.  Here are the CD tracks:

You can see the “underdubbed” version has a different/earlier running order of the songs.  “Helen Wheels” is missing from Disc 2, because it was originally only on the U.S. release.

The two-record vinyl set is half-speed mastered.  It has the same tracks as shown above, with the side-ones each having five tracks.

Buying the Band On The Run record in 1973 wasn’t enough for me.  I also bought the original CD in the ‘80s, and then this 25th Anniversary set in 1998:

It’s 25 years later, and it seems I shouldn’t buy Band On The Run yet again.  This time I was able to listen to the “underdubbed” songs on my streaming service.

The Beatles Green Album Added To Red & Blue

The new expanded remixes of The Beatles Red Album & Blue Album have had excellent sales; however, hardcore fans have still been complaining about songs that were left off.  Plus, Apple knows they can cash in…so they’re releasing The Beatles Green Album.

Just kidding.  This is for fun, and to look at the depth of The Beatles’ library of recordings.  The Beatles have so many worthy songs that are not among the 75 on the Red & Blue albums.  It was a real gift to hear all those older Beatles songs remixed in true stereo, so wouldn’t it be great to get another big batch?  In that spirit, here are 40 more songs ready to be put on CD’s or green-vinyl records.

Disc 1:

  1. It Won’t Be Long
  2. Money (That’s What I Want)
  3. Do You Want To Know A Secret
  4. I Call Your Name
  5. I Should Have Known Better
  6. If I Fell
  7. I’m Happy Just To Dance With You
  8. Things We Said Today
  9. Tell Me Why
  10. I’ll Be Back
  11. She’s A Woman
  12. No Reply
  13. I’m A loser
  14. Baby’s In Black
  15. Rock And Roll Music
  16. I’ll Follow The Sun
  17. I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party
  18. The Night Before
  19. I Need You
  20. Act Naturally

This song list starts energetically with “It Won’t Be Long”.  It was the lead song of The Beatles second album of 1963, With The Beatles.  Then it moves on to a cover song with a great John Lennon vocal, “Money (That’s What I Want)”.  Farther down the list is another one, “Rock And Roll Music”.   Third is a song that hit #2 in the U.S., the George Harrison sung “Do You Want To Know A Secret”.  George’s first solo-written Beatles song “Don’t Bother Me” would be an alternate choice.

Then it’s a lot of excellent songs, including…”If I Fell”, “Things We Said Today”, “She’s A Woman”, “I’m A Loser”, “I’ll Follow The Sun”, “I’ll Be Back”, and ending with the third and final cover song, Ringo Starr’s “Act Naturally”.  Beatles fans should enjoy them all.  If you put the songs into a playlist, you’ll hear the quality of the collection.

Disc 2:

  1. I’ve Just Seen A Face
  2. You’re Going To Lose That Girl
  3. Think For Yourself
  4. You Won’t See Me
  5. I’m Looking Through You
  6. Rain
  7. Good Day Sunshine
  8. And Your Bird Can Sing
  9. For No One
  10. When I’m Sixty-Four
  11. She’s Leaving Home
  12. I Will
  13. Julia
  14. Birthday
  15. For You Blue
  16. Two Of Us
  17. Because
  18. Golden Slumbers
  19. Carry That Weight
  20. The End

The second disc starts with the song that led-off the American version of Rubber Soul, “I’ve Just Seen A Face”.  Another 19 great songs follow, with the highlights being…”Rain”, “For No One”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “I Will”, “Two Of Us”, and “Because”.  It all wraps up with the three-song medley that is the climax of Abbey Road (the last album The Beatles recorded together).  Really, the whole list makes an excellent collection.  Besides, nowhere else will you find pairings like “You Won’t See Me” & “I’m Looking Through You”.  Or the short weather forecast, “Rain” followed by “Good Day Sunshine”.

So, do you know all the songs on the two lists?  Most of them are album tracks rather than singles, but they’re likely familiar to the majority of Beatles fans.  Even with these extra 40 selections, some fan favorites will still be missing.

Extra:  In putting together the lists, I just wanted the best songs, and paid no attention to how many were “John songs” or “Paul songs”.  I did consciously make sure to include a decent sampling of “George songs”.  After publication, I found there were 17 songs by John, and 17 by Paul.  John dominates the earlier Beatles, and Paul dominates the later Beatles.

The Beatles Red & Blue Remixes (Review & Perspective)

After waiting a year (actually many years) for the remix of Rubber Soul, Apple pulls a fast one and instead releases the remixes of the Red & Blue Albums, but that turns out to be a good thing.

The Red Album (The Beatles 1962-1966) is the most interesting, because it contains 30 tracks (out of 38) that are new 2023 remixes.  Previously, most of the songs were in poor quality stereo.  Now, the instruments and voices have been separated and reassembled in wide-spectrum stereo.  So, how do they sound?

Wow!  You aren’t going to believe how much more you can hear with these wide stereo mixes!  I’ve been following The Beatles closely since late 1963, and for the first time I can really hear the individual voices of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison as they sing three part harmony on these early recordings.  George’s guitar leads and John’s rhythm parts ring like never before.  Paul’s bass and Ringo Starr’s drumming have a new fullness.  Everything sounds more real.

(Photo from the Red booklet)

We always knew that the poorest sounding recordings were the early ones, because they didn’t have the number of studio tracks they needed, and instruments and voices got shoved together in an unnatural way.  Partly that was because mono was king in the early portion of The Beatles’ career.  These remixes are a revelation about how good those songs and voices really are.  John and Paul’s lead vocals sound great, and listening to George’s vocal and guitar on “Roll Over Beethoven” reveals why that song was added.

Here are the track lists.  We’ll cover more of the remixes after that.  *Indicates songs not on the original 1973 release.

The last 8 tracks are from the Revolver remix released in 2022.  The lack of songs from that album was the biggest flaw in 1973, and the addition of 5 songs from that album is a big improvement for the Red Album.  The two-disc set has an excellent selection of tracks…no bad songs…and even more could have been added.  Think of the musical progress The Beatles made in four years…from “Love Me Do” to “Tomorrow Never Knows”!  By the way, many of these songs were on The Beatles 1 album that was remixed in 2015, but they are newly remixed here.

The first song, “Love Me Do”, is great to hear in stereo for the first time.  It’s slightly disappointing that the version they selected is the original British single.  The #1 hit version released in America has a better vocal by Paul, but it’s missing Ringo on drums (which is likely why the other version was chosen).  As the individual tracks played, I put some letter grades next to many of them, and A+ got used the most.  I was afraid that rockers like “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist And Shout” would lose their power, but they didn’t, and Paul and John’s voices come across better than ever.

As the songs moved into Help and Rubber Soul the quality of the recordings seemed even better with the more sophisticated arrangements.  “Ticket To Ride”, “We Can Work It Out” and “Day Tripper” come alive, and you feel like you’re in the middle of the band.  Really, except for feeling a bit of vocal or a guitar part could have been a little higher in the mix, these remixes are very impressive.  (Note to Giles Martin, you’ve done a great job, but please turn up the guitar solo in the middle section of “Drive My Car” before you finish the Rubber Soul box set.)

The Blue Album (The Beatles 1967-1970) mostly has songs that have already been available in their remixed form in the 50th Anniversary releases.  Only six of the tracks are newly remixed, including songs from the Magical Mystery Tour album.  There are nine added songs that were not on the 1973 release.  Those are indicated with *.

The six new remixes are…”I Am The Walrus”, “Fool On The Hill”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, “Revolution”, “Hey Bulldog”, and “Old Brown Shoe”, plus the new recording “Now And Then”.

The two biggest differences are with “I Am The Walrus” and “Magical Mystery Tour”.  The audio on “Walrus” comes close to dropping out at about 2:08 with a stereo-effect transition that was less noticeable on the original version.  For “Magical Mystery Tour” the introductory vocal is too buried in the mix (but the rest is good).  These are actually minor variances in the two songs, but they’re noticeable because the original recordings have been imbedded in our brains.  These two new remixes are sonically better than the old mixes, but with some noticeable changes.  Overall, the remixed 50th Anniversary box sets have been very welcome, and the songs included here are excellent sounding.  All of the previously remixed albums are reviewed individually on this site.

(Photo from the Blue booklet)

A few details you might be wondering about…  “A Day In The Life” has the intro that doesn’t include a cross-fade from “Sgt. Pepper Reprise”.  “Dear Prudence” does not cross-fade with “Back In The U.S.S.R.”.  “Within You Without You” includes the laughter at the end, which might have been eliminated since it’s a song on a collection and not actually on the Sgt. Pepper album.  This is especially true with the vinyl, which has it separate from the other Sgt. Pepper songs.  The impressive remix of “Don’t Let Me Down” doesn’t have the studio chatter that was included with the Let It Be box set.

(Shown with optional colored vinyl)

The vinyl versions of these two double albums are three-records-long.  The first two discs have exactly the same songs as the original 1973 releases, and the third vinyl disc has the added songs for 2023.  That’s twelve tracks for the Red Album, and nine for the Blue Album.

Of the 21 songs added to the 2023 sets…11 have John Lennon as the primary writer (or were sung by him), 5 have Paul McCartney as the primary writer, and 5 have George Harrison as the writer (or were sung by him).

In total, the Red Album and the Blue Album have 75 songs that represent the varied musical styles of the world’s greatest group.  All of these songs, except “Now And Then”, were recorded while John, Paul, George & Ringo were in their twenties.

(My CD’s. Each booklet has an essay, photos, and all lyrics.)

There certainly can be debate about which songs should or should not be on these two albums.  Rather than point out some songs that could have been omitted, here are a dozen songs that could have been included (in chronological order).  “If I Fell”, “Things We Said Today”, ”I’ll Be Back”, “I’ll Follow The Sun”, “Rain”, “For No One”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “I Will”, “Julia”, “Two Of Us”, “Because”, and “Carry That Weight/The End”.

(Everything old is new again…the original CD’s & 2023 CD’s.)

The new expanded versions of the Red and Blue albums are significantly better.  Adding more songs from Revolver, a few cover songs that influenced the group, and some key songs like “Blackbird”, present a more complete picture of The Beatles.

Extra:  These new versions have sold very well.  In the U.K., the Blue Album went to #2, the Red Album to #3…exactly their rankings of the original releases in 1973…while “Now And Then” hit #1 on the U.K. singles chart.