Four Beatles Movies…A Good Idea?

The plan is to have four movies about the Beatles, each from the viewpoint of one Beatle at a time.  Only guessing, but the films will probably be named John, Paul, George and Ringo.  The movies are being developed by well-known director Sam Mendez, who is working with the full music rights and approval from all The Beatles’ representatives.  All four movies are expected to be released in 2027.

And now the lead actors have been cast.

No, they won’t look exactly like The Beatles, but they’re all considered good actors.

Normally the announcement of a new Beatle project is exciting, and has me looking forward to its release.  Ever since this one was announced, I’ve been more wondering than excited.

What made The Beatles so special was having John Paul George & Ringo together.  Trying to look at the same important events from four different viewpoints could be amazingly repetitious.  Were their viewpoints so different?  It could also seem exceedingly long since it’s four movies.  Honestly, this seems better suited for a limited series.

The films are not the life stories of the individual Beatles.  They’re only going up to the 1970 breakup of the band when all four members were still in their 20’s.  The breakup also seems like a downer of an ending, that we’ll get four times.

The “Here Comes The Sun” view is that Sam Mendez knows what he’s doing.  That each story will be interesting and entertaining, and that the films will become a treasured history of the world’s greatest band.

Here’s hoping younger fans find the films fascinating, and we older fans are still around in 2027 to enjoy them too!

Taylor Swift…WTF?

One of the first uses of an expletive in a hit song was by Taylor Swift’s namesake, James Taylor, singing “Go away then damn ya” in “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” in 1972.

A year later, Chicago had a #4 hit with “Just You ‘N’ Me” with the line “Loving you girl is so damn easy”…done in perfect harmony.  In 1976, the Eagles took it one step further by adding God to damn in “Life In The Fast Lane”.

Then when Rap took over, the floodgates of expletives opened.

Using expletives is neither right nor wrong.  It’s not a morality problem, because swearing is a part of life, and most of us do it.

The question being posed here is…do the expletives being used by the current biggest star in the world really serve the songs or not?

Taylor Swift’s Folklore is a great album, and the best part is the trilogy of  “Betty”, “Cardigan”, & “August”.  “Betty” is so strong melodically and lyrically, but there was a problem with it for some listeners.  James saying to Betty…”Would you tell me to go f-myself” (using the full word) was too harsh for the story, and the only part of the trilogy with an expletive..

The radio version used “Would you tell me to go straight to hell”.  That was enough to convey the story without distracting the listener away from it.  That “clean” version allowed it to go to #2 on the Country chart, and let Swift perform it at the CMA awards show.

Using expletives in a song might limit recordings of it by other artists, and possibly reduce its chances of being well thought of by future generations.  It takes away a song’s universal appeal.

Swearing is normal in some situations, but the f-word is wasted when it’s used casually.  Take Swift’s “Snow On The Beach”.  It’s a beautiful duet with Lana Del Rey, and the radio version should have been the official one.  The beauty is lost on the album track with the supposed casual-cool of using f-in’.  Completely unnecessary.  The same goes for “The Tortured Poets Department”.  It’s a really good song, and the f-word is so not needed that no one would miss it if it wasn’t there.

To Taylor Swift’s credit, she makes “clean” radio versions of her songs available.  On her best songs, she takes the time to record both versions equally well, with lyric substitutions that make sense.  Many of her songs with expletives are fine the way they are, but from personal preference I chose to also buy the radio versions of “Ivy”, “Maroon”, “Hits Different”, “Florida!!!”, “I Can Do It With A Broken Heart”, and “Down Bad”.  Those last two songs have major hit potential.

Before Folklore in 2020, Taylor Swift hadn’t used expletives in her songs.  Certainly some of her songs warrant the impact expletives can provide, but she may want to consider whether she’s overusing them, and that some of her songs would be better without them.

Topic change:  It was a little weird how quickly some people jumped on a few negative reviews of The Tortured Poets Department.  You’d have thought Swift’s career was tanking.  In reality, the problem was that the 31 songs required a lot more listening.  People had to get to know the songs before they could evaluate them.  The reviewer for CNN initially gave TTPD a poor review.  Then he listened to the album more, and wrote a new review saying it’s one her best albums.

Taylor Swift can rest easy.  The public has embraced the album.  Not only has it set records, it remained at #1 for multiple weeks.  If it was a poor album, it would have faded fast.

We’ve always needed time to get to know albums.  When The Beatles released the White Album with 30 tracks, we honestly didn’t know how good it was the first time we heard it.  In time, we picked out the songs we liked.  They weren’t all good, but there certainly were enough good songs to make it a great purchase…just like The Tortured Poets Department.

Now we’re left with the question… How in the world did Taylor Swift have time to write and record a 31 song album with how amazingly busy she’s been?

Bonus:  Here’s the trilogy of Betty/Cardigan/August segued together.

Classic Rock Albums…The Blockbusters!

So many lists try to rank the best albums of all time and inevitably fail. That’s not what this is.  There are no albums here that were wimpy on the charts, barely sold, or that most people don’t know.  Instead, this is a small list of Classic Rock albums that were highly impactful.  They set trends, set sales records, dominated the album chart, and lodged in the minds of the public.  This is not a ranking, but a chronology, and we start with an album that garnered unheard of fame, and changed the recording industry forever.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was like no album before it.  The songs showed great imagination.  The recordings were extremely innovative in their topics, the instrumentation, and the way they were recorded.  There were no breaks between the album tracks, and some songs flowed directly into another.  For the first time, all the lyrics were printed right on the album cover.  It was 1967, and Sgt. Pepper launched a new age of how artists and fans looked at albums as whole works of art, instead of just a collection of songs.  In fact, The Beatles didn’t release any of the tracks as singles, and didn’t include the two hits they recorded during the album sessions…“Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”.  The album held #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 15 weeks, and remains the best-selling album of the 1960s.  You might even remember that Johnny Rivers’ hit song “Summer Rain” contained the line… “Everybody kept on playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.  They still do.

The first #1 song of the new decade in 1970 was “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, and the album Bridge Over Troubled Water was not only #1, it became the best-selling album of all time (at that time).  It also contained the hits “The Boxer”, “Cecilia” and “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)”.  It went on to win six Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year.  The album boasted a variety of musical styles, including World Music, which foreshadowed Paul Simon’s solo career.

Carole King’s Tapestry set a new standard for female artists, and helped lead the singer-songwriter movement of the 70s.  Her 1971 album topped the chart for 15 consecutive weeks and stayed on the Top 200 chart for a record number of weeks (318, 6-years)…broken later by one of our other blockbuster albums.  Tapestry also had a two-sided #1 single “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel The Earth Move” which spent five weeks at the peak of the Hot 100.  Carole wrote or co-wrote all of the songs, including “You’ve Got A Friend”, which she kindly allowed James Taylor to release, and it also went to #1.  Tapestry is the third of our albums to receive the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year.

Also in 1971, but on the other side of the Rock spectrum was Led Zeppelin IV.  At the time, the title of the album was just the band’s name, but the Roman numeral was added for clarity.  Although the album “only” made it to #2, it went on to be among the very best-selling albums of all time and a major influence on the Hard Rock genre.  It’s filled with popular songs, including “Stairway To Heaven”, “Rock And Roll”, “Black Dog”, and the folk-style “Going To California”.

A true blockbuster album, The Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd was released in 1973.  Although the album only hit #1 for one week, it became the dominant album in terms of longevity.  It was on the Billboard 200 album chart for over 15 years, a total of 741 nonconsecutive weeks.  No other album is close.  Dark Side is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and is always among the highest ranked in any list of best Rock albums.  Popular songs on the album include “Money”, “Time”, and “Us And Them”.

Welcome to the Hotel California.  It was released in December of 1976, and was an immediate success in sales, critically, and on the album chart, with eight weeks at #1.  It contained the #1 hit singles “New Kid In Town” & “Hotel California”.   “Life In The Fast Lane” would probably have made #1 too if it hadn’t contained an expletive.  In recent years Hotel California has ranked as high as number three on the all time best sellers list.  The title song won Record Of The Year at the Grammy Awards, but lost the Album Of The Year Grammy to our next blockbuster.

Just two months after the Eagles’ best album came out, Fleetwood Mac released their best…Rumours.  It was a phenomenon, spending a total of 31 weeks at #1.  The album was filled with great songs, and FM stations played nearly all of them.  Tracks included “Dreams” #1, “Don’t Stop”, “Go Your Own Way”, “The Chain”, “You Make Loving Fun”, and “Gold Dust Woman”.  Rumours was certified 21x platinum in the U.S. alone with worldwide sales estimated at about double that.  Just last year (2023, 46 years after its release), it was the 9th highest selling album on vinyl.

Born In The U.S.A. is the only Classic Rock album to put seven songs into the Top-10 of the Billboard singles chart.  In 1984 and 1985, Bruce Springsteen was all over the radio, and his videos were heavily featured on MTV.  Besides the title song, the biggest hits were “Dancing In The Dark”, “Cover Me”, “I’m On Fire”, “Glory Days” and “My Hometown”.  Bruce never had another album that was even close in popularity to this blockbuster, which is estimated to have sold over 30-million copies worldwide.

Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms was the album that transitioned music into the digital age.  It was the first major album to be all digitally recorded.  It was also the album that helped consumers move from vinyl records to compact discs.  The record came out first, and then when the CD was released, listeners found out the songs were more complete.  The tracks had been edited down for the vinyl, because of the time restrictions of the format.  For quite some time, Brothers In Arms was the biggest selling CD.  The hit songs included “Money For Nothing” (the MTV Video Of The Year for 1985), “So Far Away”, and “Walk Of Life”.

Honorable Mentions:

These albums were blockbusters too, but not quite at the impact level of the others.  They range in order from 1969 to 1986.  There are many other great and influential Classic Rock albums that could be added to these, but by the late 1980s Rock’s prominence started to lessen.  Classic Rock albums dominated from about 1965 to 1986, even though we’ve had many excellent albums since that time.

Here are the statistics.  In the 1960s, 8 of the top 10 selling albums were Rock.  In the 1970s it was 7 of 10.  The 1980s, 4 of 10.  And by the 1990s, only 1 of the top 10 selling albums was Rock.

Maybe every generation feels the same way about their music, but it was great experiencing the golden age of Classic Rock as the albums were being released.

The Beach Boys Documentary (Review)

That’s the straight-forward title of the new documentary that’s streaming on Disney+.  If you’re a Beach Boys fan, you’ll enjoy it and learn even more about one of America’s top bands.  Only snippets of their songs are used, so novices are encouraged to stream some of the group’s biggest hits and the Pet Sounds album, and then watch the documentary.

Like the recent book, The Beach Boys by The Beach Boys, there are a lot of archival comments by all of the members.  The comments are insightful, plus there are recent interviews with original members Mike Love and Al Jardine.  In addition, there are contributions from musicians who were influenced by the band.

Director Frank Marshall does a really good job of selecting the most important aspects of the group’s development.  It’s difficult to get The Beach Boys story told in less than two hours.  Sure there are details left out, but overall it’s a welcome summary of the band.

The Wilson brothers, Brian, Dennis & Carl, plus 1st cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardin were the original Beach Boys.  The documentary explains the group’s lineup changes and additions for touring and recording.  The band built a great library of material based on surfing, cars, girls, and sunshine.  Then when Brian Wilson stopped touring, he spent time writing and arranging The Beach Boys best album, Pet Sounds.

By now, fans know the album was not a successful seller when it was released in 1966.  Yet it’s thought to be among the greatest albums ever recorded.  The documentary accents the fact that Pet Sounds turned platinum in 2000, 34 years after its release, but that’s only one-million copies.  Obviously, Pet Sounds is still under-appreciated by the general public.  The album has been compared to Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, but those sold around 30-million copies each.  The Beach Boys and The Beatles were fans of each other’s music, and influenced one another mostly during 1965 & 1966.

One of the positive aspects of the documentary is how it shows The Beach Boys were more than just Brian Wilson.  Brian gets credit for being a musical genius, and there wouldn’t have been The Beach Boys without him, but the contributions of the other members are highlighted too.

Mike Love may have busted some awkward moves as a live performer, but he quickly wrote lyrics when needed for “California Girls” (in the recording studio hallway) and “Good Vibrations” (dictating to his wife as he drove to the vocal session).  He also provided lyrics and lead vocals for dozens of other hits.  Carl Wilson took over more lead vocals when Brian had problems with drugs and his mental health.  Carl also produced some of the group’s recordings.  You’ll see that all of The Beach Boys were multi-talented.

For example, Bruce Johnston wrote “I Write The Songs”, which won the Grammy Award for Song Of The Year in 1978.  Bruce says the “I” refers to God, because of the way songs often seem to come to songwriters in a spiritual way.  Johnston also wrote “Disney Girls” for The Beach Boys.  Art Garfunkel did a great cover version.

The documentary cleverly takes us full circle from The Beach Boys’ first album cover shoot, to the remaining members of the group at the same location 61 years later.  The Beach Boys documentary is not all sun and fun, but it’s worth taking the safari through it.

Extra:  Random notes made while viewing the documentary…

We hear the impressive separated vocal parts of “Don’t Worry Baby”.

Brian says he was “pretty jealous” seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, but “They got us off our asses.”

On Brian’s breakdown in 1967 he said… “I was a millionaire, and I was able to get ahold of all these drugs, and they messed me up.”

Bruce Johnston said at one time in the early 70s The Beach Boys were so uncool their concert fee actually dropped to just $5,000.

The 1974 release of Beach Boys hits, Endless Summer, went to #1, sold over 3-million copies, and made the group a successful live act again as their early songs reached newer generations.

Of course when Mike Love sued Brian Wilson to get credit for writing lyrics for some songs (he won), there was this headline:

At least the documentary is no bummer.

Beatles Let It Be Movie…54 Years Later (Review)

Many of us saw Let It Be in theaters as soon as it became available in 1970.  Now 54-years later, a restored version of Let It Be is streaming on Disney+.

So how does the new version compare with the original theater experience?   The film has been completely restored, and it actually looks a lot better than it did in 1970.  Let It Be was not movie-screen quality, because it was originally shot for television (and is still in the old TV ratio instead of wide screen).  The new look of the film brightens the whole perception of it.

By 1970, most Beatles fans had seen A Hard Day’s Night, Help, & Yellow Submarine in theaters.  We also knew The Beatles from their often humorous press conferences.  What we had never seen was The Beatles working and creating in a recording studio.  It was raw seeing them in real life instead of acting, and the playing was not smooth, but kind of herky-jerky rehearsals as they explored their new songs, and jammed on old cover songs.

There are a couple of highlights among the rehearsals and jamming.  We get two of George Harrison’s songs back-to-back, “I Me Mine” and “For You Blue” in nearly complete form.  “I Me Mine” includes John & Yoko waltzing.  “For You Blue “ has cool instrumental solos from John Lennon on lap slide guitar, and Paul McCartney on a prepared piano (to make the sound more percussive).

We had never imagined John, Paul, George & Ringo in disagreements.  That new reality became what the movie was known for.  Prior to the movie’s release, The Beatles had just broken up, and people thought this was the documentation of it.  The film and the Get Back documentary did show there were fractures in the group, but the band members were able to come together for Abbey Road later that same year.

Here are two photos next to each other that kind of sum-up Let It Be.


Look at the range of emotions between the two photos.  They appear to be taken in the same room, and on the same day.

All rock bands have their ups and downs. We didn’t know back then, but The Beatles having disagreements while they were recording was nothing new.  Paul left briefly during Revolver, Ringo left during The White Album, George left during Let It Be, and John quit the group after they recorded Abbey Road.  The public wasn’t aware of the breakup until just before the release of Let It Be.  Seeing the movie again shows it is not as negative as its reputation.  The Beatles were usually working well together, and mostly in a very friendly way.

If we step back just a little to think about what The Beatles accomplished during the filming, it’s amazing.  They came into the project needing to write a whole album’s worth of songs.  In less than one month, January of 1969, they wrote the songs for Let It Be (with three #1 singles), plus there were portions of 11 songs (shown in Get Back) that appeared on Abbey Road, and a few songs that ended up on their solo albums.  They completed recording the tracks for the Let It Be album, except “I Me Mine” and some overdubbing later.

Let It Be has something the Get Back documentary sorely lacked…complete performances of the key songs “Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, “The Long And Winding Road”, and “For You Blue”.  It was a real treat to see The Beatles perform them in the studio, and with video and audio quality better than originally shown.

Another difference between the 8-hour Get Back and the 82-minute Let It Be is that there’s limited dialogue in the original film.  It’s mostly The Beatles rehearsing and jamming.  The infamous disagreement between Paul & George about a guitar part, and Paul talking to John about George not wanting to perform live are the negative parts of the movie.  There are more scenes of problems in the Get Back documentary, even though the tone is positive overall.

Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Get Back director and film restorer Peter Jackson do an interesting 4-minute discussion before the film starts.  You can see how happy Lindsay-Hogg is to finally have his movie streaming after having it disappear for 40 years.  We get to see Lindsay-Hogg in the film, and he was about the same age as The Beatles.  He certainly did superior work in capturing the rooftop performance.

Considering the cramped space, there are a lot of good camera angles, and his crew did a great job of getting the reactions of the Londoners who heard the music on the streets below.

Early in the film, we see Lindsay-Hogg concentrating the majority of the time on Paul McCartney.  Some may interpret this as ego or bossiness on McCartney’s part, but it’s just the reality of what was happening.  The majority of the songs are written by McCartney, so he’s leading the recordings.  John Lennon had withdrawn from his once leadership role, probably because he was more heavily into drugs at that time.  Neither George Harrison nor Ringo Starr demonstrate the dominant personality traits of Lennon & McCartney.

The last 30-minutes is the movie’s payoff.  That half-Hour includes the final studio performances of “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be”, and “The Long And Winding Road”.

Then comes the rooftop concert and The Beatles are really connecting with each other, particularly John and Paul.  The songs are “Get Back”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “One After 909”, “Dig A Pony”, and another version of “Get Back” as the police arrive to shut down all the loud music.

After The Beatles “passed the audition” and the credits roll, we also get an early version of “Oh Darling”.  It’s quite different from the Abbey Road recording, and Paul & John have fun with it.  There are also some cool keyboard flourishes by Billy Preston.  Since the Let It Be version of “Oh Darling” isn’t readily available, it’s included here:  (2:24 long)

Let It Be probably isn’t a movie we’ll watch often, but along with the Get Back documentary, it’s an important historical record.  If only someone had filmed at least portions of The Beatles in the studio during the making of Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper.

Extra:  The film’s songs in order…the first 20 are mostly incomplete.

  1. Paul’s Piano Intro
  2. Don’t Let Me own
  3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
  4. Two Of Us
  5. I’ve Got A Feeling
  6. Oh Darling
  7. One After 909
  8. I Bought A Piano The Other Day (piano boogie)
  9. Two Of Us
  10. Across The Universe
  11. Dig A Pony
  12. Suzie Parker
  13. I Me Mine
  14. For You Blue
  15. Besame Mucho
  16. Octopus’ Garden
  17. You Really Got A Hold On Me
  18. The Long And Winding Road
  19. Medley: Shake Rattle & Roll/Kansas City/Miss Ann/Lawdy Miss Clawdy
  20. Dig It
  21. Two Of Us (complete songs from this point)
  22. Let It Be
  23. The Long And Winding Road
  24. Get Back
  25. Don’t Let Me Down
  26. I’ve Got A Feeling
  27. One After 909
  28. Dig A Pony
  29. Get Back
  30. Oh Darling (playing over credits)

In reality, the rooftop concert was on January 30th, and the final studio recordings of “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be” & “The Long And Winding Road” were recorded on January 31st, the last day of filming.

And some extra photos:

Eagles & Springsteen Collections…Are They Needed?

As our Classic Rock artists are ending their careers, we’re getting a lot of “Greatest Hits”, “Best Of”, and “Anthology” collections.  Are they needed?

A recent release is the Eagles’ 3-CD or 6-Record To The Limit: The Essential Collection.  Two-thirds of it is the Eagles’ studio recordings, and the rest is many of those same songs performed live.

The songs are in the chronological order of their albums.

The vinyl set has all the same songs spread over the six records.

If you’re an Eagles fan, you probably have most or all of these recordings.  The collection is definitely not essential for us.  Maybe it’s for young people who are new to the band.  The 3-CD set is reasonably priced at about $26, and the 6-Record set is about $140.

One of the impressive aspects of the Eagles is that they were always very good at performing their songs live.  The problem with the live set here is that they chose live versions that are almost identical to the studio recordings.  From time to time the Eagles rearranged their songs live…such as an acoustic version of “Hotel California”, or having Glenn Frey sing “Take It To The Limit” after Randy Meisner left the band.  Giving us some alternate versions like that would have made the live album more interesting and differentiated it from the studio recordings.  In addition, they could have included some of their solo songs that were often played at Eagles concerts.  Those would have been very welcome.

There are good recordings of the Eagles playing Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer”, “New York Minute”, “Sunset Grill” and “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”.  Joe Walsh could be much better represented with Eagles live recordings of “Funk 49”, “Walk Away”, “Rocky Mountain Way” and “All Night Long”.  Including some of these would have improved the collection.

Another new release is from Bruce Springsteen.

Both cover photos are from the Born To Run photo shoot.

The one on the left is the new collection, but it’s not an improvement over his Greatest Hits as you can see below.

Bruce Springsteen is an iconic artist, but if we’re being honest, his best songs were on the albums leading up to his Greatest Hits (as you can see above).  In addition, even though his extremely popular album Born In The U.S.A. had seven Top 10 hits, only two are on the new collection.  Certainly the reason is because his label will be doing a special edition release of that album someday.

And now we have it, with a June 14th, 2024 release date.

It’s not a box set.  It’s a single album pressed on red vinyl, with just the original songs.  It has a gatefold cover with the paper inserts you see above.  The list price is $34.98.  There’s not a 40th anniversary CD version.

Some artists (or their families) have good reasons to release a new collection, such as Tom Petty’s Best of Everything that gathered all his best solo and group songs covering his entire career.  Also it’s great to have collections that include unreleased songs, alternate versions, demos, or remixes of mono or poor stereo versions.

With so many artists having sold the rights to their music, we can depend on a steady flow of releases as those buyers want to make money on their investments.

Maybe we’re just in the “best of” times.

Let It Be Movie…The Original Restored!

Once it seemed like the original film of Let It Be would be lost forever.  It hadn’t been available for 40 years.  Now the movie has been restored, and started streaming on Disney+ on May 8th, 2024.



After taking years to restore all the original footage filmed in 1969, producer/director Peter Jackson released the 8-hour award-winning documentary
Get Back in 2021.  Now Jackson has worked with the original director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, to complete the restoration of Let It Be.

Interestingly, Lindsay-Hogg asked Jackson to give the restoration a look that appears more like film, instead of the pristine digital look of the documentary.  Peter Jackson says the documentary he made leads up to the film, and now the presentation is complete.  The biggest fault with the documentary was that we saw all the songs being rehearsed, but only the five rooftop songs were shown in completed form.  The Let It Be film has taken care of that problem.

The completed songs we missed in Get Back are… “Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, “The Long And Winding Road” and “For You Blue”.  At the time it seemed unthinkable that we didn’t get to see the completed songs, but Jackson and Lindsay-Hogg were probably already planning to rerelease Let It Be.  Of course the music in the film has been restored and remixed.

There’s no word as to whether Let It Be will be released in a physical form, such as Blu-Ray disc.  So I had to renew my Disney+ subscription.  There’s a review of the movie on this site.  Here’s the link:

https://ontherecords.net/2024/05/beatles-let-it-be-movie54-years-later-review/

At some future date there will likely be a “Super Version” that combines the best scenes from Get Back and Let It Be.

Historical Note:  The last time Let It Be was released on video:

Those are the two sides of an RCA video disc from 1981.  I had the disc, but the whole disc player system wasn’t very good.  I did dub all the full-song performances from the disc onto a video tape so we could watch them without searching through the disc.  It seems like ancient technology.

Billy Joel…Yesterday & Today

It was over 50-years ago (1973) that we first heard Billy Joel and “Piano Man”.  Joel then became one of the world’s most successful singer/songwriters, with 20-years of hit singles and hit albums.

He even outsold Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson in the U.S.  But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.

“Today” (2024), Billy Joel released his first original Rock/Pop song in over 30-years, “Turn The Lights Back On”.  On March 28th, 2024 he performed his 100th sold out show at the 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden in New York City.  Except for a time during COVID, Joel performed at M.S.G. every month since 2014.

After month’s of promotion, CBS televised an edited version (14 of 25 songs) from that 100th concert on April 14th, 2024.

The concert was beautifully filmed and edited.  Billy Joel was in very good voice (for a 75 year old), and the band was top notch.  TV viewers in the Eastern & Central Time Zones had the concert start a half-hour late, because of a golf broadcast overrun.  Then near the conclusion of the show, Joel’s signature song “Piano Man” was cut off mid-song as the network went to local news.  The outcry was such that CBS scheduled a rebroadcast.  They should have aired it commercial free.  The original broadcast had so many commercial breaks that four individual songs had breaks on both sides of them!

By the way, “You May Be Right” mixed in some of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll” to great effect.  Here’s the running order of the original 25 songs from the March 28th concert, as shown on the setlist website.  Of the songs left out of the TV concert, “The Longest Time” deserved to be included…in place of one of those commercial breaks.

It’s been exactly 40 years (April of 1984) since my wife and I saw Billy Joel live in concert.  It was his Innocent Man tour.   He was really excellent, and he looked like this.

It was a pleasure to see him in the new television concert, along with saxophonist Mark Rivera who was also at the 1984 show.  Billy Joel may not look the same…

…but he has the same sense of humor, and still delivers a great show.  Here are some screenshots from the broadcast (click to enlarge).

While Billy Joel has been prominent in New York during his decade-long concert series at The Garden, he was mostly out of the national picture for decades.  However he’s been doing short tours recently, including with Stevie Nicks and with Sting.

If you watched the TV concert, you saw that the audience was loving it, and were enthusiastically singing along.  Joel charted 33 Top 40 hits and has a bunch of famous album tracks.  So he could have played for a lot longer…except CBS would have cut him off!

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 (along with their own contemporary favorites).  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 were able to maintain 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.)

Extra:

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.