Vinyl, CD’s & Streaming

This past week there was a significant milestone in how we consume music.

The total combined sales of vinyl records and Compact Discs has now passed digital purchases on iTunes.  That’s a major change, because digital downloads had been dominating physical sales in recent years.  CD sales are still greater than Vinyl, but are on a downward trend, while record album sales continue to rise.  Together…Vinyl, CD’s and digital downloads make up a little less than 25% of music sales.  Of course there are plenty of people listening to the music they’ve already purchased in those forms.

Digital sales are being replaced by streaming, with services like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube.  Streaming now accounts for 75% of all music revenue.  It grew 30% last year.  Subscribing to streaming services appears to be the present and future of music listening, but let’s look at the past and how we got to this point.

Recorded music for the public started in the late 18-hundreds with Edison-style phonographs using playable cylinders.  Above is a single-play coin-operated Columbia Gramophone owned by friend and collector David O’Hanlon.

Next came the 10-inch 78 revolutions-per-minute (rpm) discs played on phonographs.  Each record held only one song per side due to time constraints of the large groove.

     (My 1947 Remler radio/phonograph with 78 rpm picture disc.)

The above Vogue picture record from 1946 is one of the first 78 rpm records available to the public that was actually made from vinyl.  Vinyl was a great improvement in sound over the old shellac 78’s.

It was two years later, 1948, when vinyl 33 & 1/3 rpm music albums were introduced by Columbia Records.  Similar technology had been tried for years, but it was Columbia that made it successful.  The trick was to make smaller grooves and a more sophisticated needle & cartridge.  This allowed 22-and-a-half minutes per side, so longer classical pieces or multiple popular songs could be put on one disc. They called it a Long Playing Microgroove, and it became LP for short.

            (My family’s 1956 RCA single of “Love Me Tender”)

A year later, 1949, RCA Victor introduced 45 rpm singles.  Stereo followed in the ’50’s, and became popular in the ’60’s.

(A stereo console I designed and built in 1973 with the help of my friend Danny Hryhorcoff.  Click to enlarge.)

Stereo components like those shown above were standard in the ’70’s & ’80’s, when album sales peaked.  Cassettes were very popular for awhile (for their portability), but both records and cassettes lost the battle to digital Compact Discs by the late 1980’s.

One of the first all-digital recordings and most popular CD’s was this 1985 album by Dire Straits…Brothers In Arms.  It was also released on vinyl, but the time limitations forced the band to edit some of the songs into shorter versions.  CD’s can hold 80 minutes of music, compared with about 45 minutes on record albums.

Compact Discs dominated over the next two decades, but then on April 28th, 2003 Apple opened its iTunes store.  You could now buy songs for 99-cents each, and also load-in your own CD’s.  The songs would be on your computer, or a little portable player called an iPod.

                                                         (Two of our iPods)

Although a Classic iPod is about the size of one cassette, it can hold over 20,000 songs at the highest digital quality.  For nearly 15 years there were huge digital sales of albums and singles.  Now, digital sales have plunged, and as mentioned at the beginning of the article, the total combined physical sales of CD’s and Vinyl records surpasses download sales.

Our old friend the vinyl album started it’s resurgence in about 2009.  It makes me think I shouldn’t have sold my thousands of vinyl albums and CD’s (most anyway).  But, then I remember how much space they took up, and how hard it was to move all of them.

It’s cool to have some vinyl albums to enjoy, and a decent stereo isn’t real expensive.  However, each new album of about 12 songs costs $25.  To duplicate the nearly 20,000 digital songs I own with a vinyl collection (and not garage-sale worn-out records) would cost more than $40,000!  It makes a lot more sense to pay the $10 a month for streaming and instantly choose from over 50-million tracks.

Like my friend Jodi Gehr told me…she found a new female artist she likes, and already “owns” everything she’s recorded.  Too bad streaming wasn’t available in the 1960’s!

(Our stereo system today…two HomePods & our music in iTunes.)

Vinyl, CD’s, streaming…enjoy music in whatever way makes you happy.  Life is better with music.

(For those who are analytical:  It would actually cost much more to try to duplicate a collection similar to mine on vinyl.  I only loaded in the “good” tracks…songs I wanted to listen to over and over.  Few albums have 12 good tracks.  It’s probably generous to say albums average 6 good songs.  That places the calculation at $80,000.  The reality is it would be impossible to duplicate on vinyl, because not all songs are available in that form.  Digital downloads brought back a lot of songs and albums that are otherwise discontinued.)

Kris Kristofferson Concert

“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, headin’ for the trains, feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans.”

”Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Those lines were sung early in a concert this weekend in Salem, Oregon as Kris Kristofferson sang “Me and Bobby McGee”.   What a great experience to see and hear the man who wrote so many classic songs perform them live.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Kris Kristofferson is now 82 years old.  His gravelly voice always added character to his recordings.  He still has that same basic tone to his voice, but it’s lost some of it’s highs and lows.  Despite those vocal limitations, it was very special to hear this poetic composer treat us to so many great songs.

“Take the ribbon from your hair, shake it loose and let if fall.  Lay it soft against my skin, like the shadows on a wall.  Come and lay down by my side, till the early morning light.  All I’m takin’ is your time, help me make it through the night.”

”Help Me Make It Through The Night” was considered a scandalous affair when Sammi Smith sang it in the early ‘70’s, but is certainly mild by today’s standards as Kristofferson sang it Saturday night.

Supporting Kristofferson was the band The Strangers, which was the backup group for Merle Haggard.

The band was absolutely first rate.  They were also very good singers who took over some of the lead vocals as Merle Haggard hits were sprinkled in.  Most of those songs were uptempo, and added a nice change of pace, because many of Kristofferson’s songs are ballads or mid-tempo.

“Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.”  As Kristofferson sang “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, he reached the line about finding his “cleanest dirty shirt” and cracked “this one” as he touched the shirt he had on.  “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was a real highlight of the concert, not only because it’s a great song, but because it mostly fell in the still strong midrange of his voice.

A lot of songs were played during the two-hour concert, including…”Loving Her Was Easier”, “Just The Other Side Of Nowhere”, “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”, “Nobody Wins”, “For The Good Times”, and “Why Me”.

Because my wife, Jeannette, is such a Kris Kristofferson fan, we bought tickets right away and were in the sixth row.  All of the photos were taken from our seats to the left side of the stage in the beautiful Elsinore Theatre in Salem.

Kristofferson still draws crowds.  He had a show in Spokane on Thursday, in Seattle on Friday, and because his Saturday show sold out in Salem, another show was added for Sunday in Portland.

”He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” (From “The Pilgrim”)

Kris Kristofferson wrote lyrics for country songs that were like no others.  We were fortunate to see the legend himself singing the lyrics to songs we love.

(Also, please check out the more historical article:  Kris Kristofferson…Country’s Bob Dylan)

Picture Records

In 1998 I started collecting old radios from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  It was about that same time when my aunt, Margaret Hall, gave me the below picture disc from her record collection.  It was a nice visual to show the kind of music that would have been played on the radios of the 1940’s.

It’s a 78 RPM Vogue Picture Record with the colorful artwork right under the grooves. The 10-inch record was put together with an aluminum core, paper artwork, and clear vinyl holding it all together.  When picture records came out in May of 1946, they were popular for the novelty, and for the improved sound of the vinyl compared with the older shellac records.  However, Vogue records were only manufactured until April of 1947, because the company, Sav-Way Industries in Detroit, had financial problems.  In total, there were about 74 different records released during that one year.

I collected a few Vogue records over the years.  The 1940’s artwork was done by multiple artists, so the styles varied.  I really like the dance orchestra theme of the record my aunt gave me, and the cool jazz look of the instruments on the above record.  By the way, “Musicomania” preceded Beatlemania by almost two decades.

Although the songs were usually well known, like George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue”, the artists were not necessarily well known, nor well named, like…The Hour Of Charm All Girl Orchestra.

“Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” was a big hit for Scotty Wiseman (who wrote it) and his wife Lulu Belle.  It was also a hit for Gene Autry.  The 1946 Vogue picture record has the look of post-war America.  Van Morrison must have liked the title, because he used the same line for his song, “Have I Told You Lately”, that was made popular by Rod Stewart.  They’re both good songs.

“Stardust” is one of the most-recorded songs of all time.  You can see that instead of being recorded by a Big Band, it was done by a Large Chorus.

And this one was by a small band…The Charlie Shavers Quintet…although from the artwork you might think it’s a trio.

One of the nice things about Vogue records is that you get completely different artwork on the flip sides.  Below are the same six records shown above, but with the artwork from the other sides.  You can click on the images to enlarge.

Vogue picture records are collectable, but generally not extremely rare, because who would throw them away?  Values vary greatly, ranging from about $25 to over $100 for titles that are available; however, a couple of extra-rare ones could cost into the thousands.

The picture record process was also used for some children’s recordings and sporadically for novelty collectibles, but picture discs (as they are now called) have never been consistently produced.

In 1978, I picked up this 33 1/3 RPM album of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:

The famous album cover was on one side, and the drum head on the other, although the record was produced later with the cover photo on both sides.  In 2017, Apple Records recreated the picture disc for the Sgt. Pepper remix.

Linda Ronstadt’s Living In The USA album was also available as a picture disc in 1978.  There was a wide variety of artists and music styles that got the picture disc treatment in the late 70’s and early 80’s, then sporadically in the following decades.  They were usually limited novelty items rather than primary releases, plus Compact Discs mostly replaced records in the late ‘80’s.

Our picture discs are currently being displayed on this bookcase.  I’ve sold most of my old radios, but you can still see a couple dozen of them in the photo (click to enlarge).  You can view the full radio collection at my other site.  Just Google…Radios Past.

With vinyl albums making a comeback, maybe picture discs will make a comeback too.

Bonus Disc:  Almost forgot…I have this 45-RPM single.

This is a 20th Anniversary 7-inch picture Disc of “I Feel Fine”, which came out in England in 1984.  More of The Beatles’ singles got this same treatment at that time.

Yesterday…The Movie

What an idea!

What if no one in the world had ever heard of The Beatles or any of their songs…except for you.  That’s the premise of the new movie Yesterday.

Now suppose you were a pretty good guitar player & singer and had the entire Beatles Songbook to use as if you’d written those songs.  How popular could you become?  That’s what we’re going to find out in the movie.  Here’s the trailer:

Yesterday is a romantic comedy.  It appears to be in good hands, including British screenwriter Richard Curtis who is known for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually, and About Time.  Plus, it’s directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle.

The stars of the film are Himesh Patel (from the British TV series EastEnders), Lilly James (from Cinderella, many other movies & Downton Abbey), Kate McKennon (from Saturday Night Live), and Ed Sheeran (from many hit songs).

It’s interesting what Beatles songs they put in the trailer.  Featured are “Yesterday”, “Let It Be”, “Hey Jude”, “Something”,  and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.  That’s a good start on the best known song catalog in history.  Imagine how much the music rights cost!

Since this is a romantic comedy, we don’t want to take the premise too seriously, but it does make you think about why The Beatles remain so popular.  It’s the quality of their songs.  The Beatles’ haircuts, British accents, and Rock & Roll energy may have helped create Beatlemania, but it was their amazing songwriting that kept them popular, and keeps them musically relevant.

Yesterday is set to open June 28th.  The trailer certainly makes it look like fun.  We don’t know whether the main character, Jack, is having a dream, is in an alternate universe, or whatever else it might be, but the movie should provide some needed escapism from the real world.

Linda Ronstadt…Live In Hollywood

Linda Ronstadt just released her first concert album, Live In Hollywood.  The concert took place nearly 40 years ago, and the master recording had been lost for decades.

It’s amazing the master tape was even found.  Music producer and friend John Boylan had been checking the internet for any unauthorized use of Linda Ronstadt recordings.  He came across an old poor quality video of a Linda Ronstadt concert that aired on HBO in 1980.  Boylan was interested in finding the master audio recording for possible release, but didn’t have any luck.  Boylan says he was attending his son’s hockey game and told another father, Craig Anderson, the story of the lost recordings.  Anderson is an audio engineer at Warner Brothers, and just a day later he called Boylan and told him he found the master tape.  It had been misfiled.  Boylan says the odds of finding the recordings through a chance meeting at a hockey game must be astronomical.

Linda Ronstadt selected 12 songs from that 1980 concert:

  1. I Can’t Let Go
  2. It’s So Easy
  3. Willin’
  4. Just One Look
  5. Blue Bayou
  6. Faithless Love
  7. Hurt So Bad
  8. Poor Poor Pitiful Me
  9. You’re No Good
  10. How Do I Make You
  11. Back In The U.S.A.
  12. Desperado (The wonderful encore I mentioned in a career-spanning article:  Linda Ronstadt…Queen Of Rock & Roll, which you can read on this site.)

We saw Linda Ronstadt in Omaha during that 1980 tour, and this concert from L.A. captures that time brilliantly.  The whole album is good, with her clear and powerful voice sounding the way we remember it.  The album has a nice flow of rocking moments and softer moments, and Ronstadt uses the appropriate touches of varying dynamics in each song.  It shows her great vocal ability wasn’t limited to the recording studio.

For the most part, the songs are performed like her original hits, but are refreshingly “stripped down” compared with the multi-layered studio versions.  Also, for “Blue Bayou” she sings the final verse and chorus in Spanish as a salute to her family’s roots in Tucson, Arizona….and “You’re No Good” is expanded with an extra guitar break that lets the band do some jamming.

What a band it is!  The lead guitarist is Danny Kortchmar, who also performed with James Taylor and Jackson Browne.  The other guitarist is Kenny Edwards, who worked with Ronstadt since they had the hit “Different Drum” with The Stone Poneys.  Bill Payne, of the band Little Feat, is on Keyboards (his band’s song “Willin'” is covered here).  Rounding out the band are some of L.A.’s finest musicians…Dan Dugmore on pedal steel guitar, Bob Glaub on bass, and Russ Kunkel on drums.  Backing vocals are by Wendy Waldman and Ronstadt’s manager and main record producer, Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon fame).  Asher also adds percussion.

Linda Ronstadt’s popularity was amazing.  She did what no other woman, man or band had ever done…she was the first artist to ship an album Double-Platinum.

        (Our picture disc of Ronstadt’s Living In The U.S.A. album.)

The album was Living In The U.S.A., released about a year-and-a-half before this concert.  it was her 6th Platinum album in a row.  Her 7th was Mad Love, which was released in conjunction with this 1980 tour.  The Live In Hollywood album features three hits off Mad Love, “I Can’t Let Go”, “Hurt So Bad”, and the intensely rocking “How Do I Make You”.

(Our copies of Linda Ronstadt’s 2013 Simple Dreams autobiography and her 1999 4-CD Box Set.)

Linda Ronstadt was 33 when she recorded her live album.  Now she’s 72, has Parkinson’s Disease, and can no longer sing.  In a  touching interview on CBS, Ronstadt recently said…”I can sing in my brain”…but she greatly misses the physical feeling of actually singing.

It’s important that recordings like Live In Hollywood exist to remind the world Linda Ronstadt once possessed one of the greatest Rock and Pop voices of all time.

Buddy Holly…The Music Didn’t Die

Today, February 3rd, 2019 is the 60th anniversary of the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly (22), Richie Valens (17), and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (28) .  Because of the song “American Pie”, that tragic event is often referred to as “The day the music died”.

I don’t remember the news story from when it first broke.  I was 10 years old, and the news wasn’t everywhere like it is today.  The fact is, except for knowing “That’ll Be The Day” and “Peggy Sue”, I wasn’t very aware of how special Buddy Holly was until many years later.  That’s probably the way it was for most people.

(Buddy Holly and The Crickets…Joe Maudlin, bass & Jerry Allison, drums.)

Buddy Holly had his first hit “That’ll Be The Day” (#1) in 1957, followed that same year by “Peggy Sue” (#3) and “Oh Boy” #(10).   In 1958, he had 4 more Top-40 hits, with “Maybe Baby” being the only major hit at #17.  Richie Valens had the two-sided hit “La Bamba”/”Donna” (#2), and The Big Bopper (who was a radio DJ) had one major hit “Chantilly Lace” (#6).  He also wrote “Running Bear” for Johnny Preston, and it later became a #1 hit.

The importance of Buddy Holly revealed itself over the decades.  Musicians who were influenced by him recorded his songs.  The Beatles released “Words Of Love” on the Beatles For Sale album in 1964 (on Beatles VI in the U.S.), and had been performing the song live since 1958.  They also recorded “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” for the BBC in 1963.

           (John Lennon in his “Buddy Holly Glasses” in 1963.)

The Beatles name was even based on The Crickets.  John Lennon thought it was cool that “Cricket” had two meanings…the insect and the game.  He wasn’t aware that the game, Cricket, wasn’t well know in the U.S.  Of course hearing “Beatles” can bring to mind both the band and the bugs.  Paul McCartney is a major Buddy Holly fan, and he wisely bought the rights to all of Buddy Holly’s songs.

The biggest popularizer of Buddy Holly songs was Linda Ronstadt.  She got major airplay in the mid-seventies with three of his songs “That’ll Be The Day” (#11), “It’s So Easy” (#5), and a popular album track “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (written for Holly by Paul Anka).

Holly’s “True Love Ways” was a #14 hit for Peter & Gordon in 1965.  The Bobby Fuller Four had a hit with “Love’s Made A Fool Of You” (#26) in 1966.  “Not Fade Away” has been played and recorded by numerous artists through the years, including The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead.  “Rave On” is another popular choice of Rock Bands.  “Everyday” has been recorded by many artists, including James Taylor.  His recording was #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1985.

Eric Clapton saw Buddy Holly in London in 1958, and he says seeing Holly on stage with a Fender Stratocaster guitar made him want to have a career in music.  Bob Dylan also saw Buddy Holly perform, and he says they looked each other directly in the eyes.  Dylan claims it affected his music.  Bruce Springsteen says he plays Buddy Holly songs every time before he goes on stage.  He said, “It keeps me honest”.

Buddy Holly’s influence shows up in other ways.  He added a rhythm guitar to The Crickets line-up, and two guitars, bass & drums became the blueprint for Rock bands.  He was also one of the first musicians to write, sing, arrange, and produce his own recordings.  He experimented with recording techniques, including double-recording his vocals so he sang harmony with himself.  He sounded a lot like The Everly Brothers.  Shortly before his tragic death, he was working with orchestral arrangements to broaden his sound.  All of this from a young man who was just 22, and whose successful recording career was only about 2-years long!

In just those two years, his impact was so great that he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as one of the first 10 artists.

February 3rd, 1959 wasn’t “The day the music died”.  Buddy Holly’s music continues to live on through all the artists he inspired, and the new artists they inspire.

Tom Petty…The Best Of Everything (Updated)

The estate of Tom Petty has released a major “Greatest Hits” collection.

The Best Of Everything is a 2-disc career-spanning set that came out March 1st, 2019.  It’s nicely priced on the low end of such collections.  You can see the set includes all his major hits and some of his most popular album cuts.  Out of the 38 songs, 21 are not on his previous Greatest Hits album.

Disc 1:

  1. Free Fallin’
  2. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
  3. You Wreck Me
  4. I Won’t Back Down
  5. Saving Grace
  6. You Don’t Know How It Feels
  7. Don’t Do Me Like That
  8. Listen To Her Heart
  9. Breakdown
  10. Walls (Circus)
  11. The Waiting
  12. Don’t Come Around Here No More
  13. Southern Accents
  14. Angel Dream (No. 2)
  15. Dreamville
  16. I Should Have Known It
  17. Refugee
  18. American Girl
  19. The Best Of Everything (Alt. Version)

Disc 2:

  1. Wildflowers
  2. Learning To Fly
  3. Here Comes My Girl
  4. The Last DJ
  5. I Need To Know
  6. Scare Easy
  7. You Got Lucky
  8. Runnin’ Down A Dream
  9. American Dream Plan B
  10. Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (w/ Stevie Nicks)
  11. Trailer
  12. Into The Great Wide Open
  13. Room At The Top
  14. Square One
  15. Jammin’ Me
  16. Even The Losers
  17. Hungry No More
  18. I Forgive It all
  19. For Real (unreleased song)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers sustained their career for 40 years, and Tom Petty’s songwriting was great all the way through.  You’ll notice the order of the songs is not chronological.  Probably the main reason is that the presence of Rock music on Radio declined over the years.  Tom Petty’s later songs got far less exposure than they deserved.  By mixing his songs from the last half of his career with his better known earlier songs, listeners are more likely to get to know the songs they may have missed.

As a collector of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ music since their first hit, there would only be a few changes I would make to the list (adding “It’s Good To Be King” and “Crystal River” in place of a couple other songs, and using the more stripped-down version of “Walls” came to mind), but that’s just personal choice, and minor at that.  The reality is that this will likely be the definitive collection, and Tom Petty’s family has done a good job…with help from Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.

Collectors of their albums know there are a lot more great songs by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, but this kind of “Greatest Hits” treatment is always a good idea to get the music to even more people.  It’s also a helpful guide for future fans in the decades to come.

I don’t take the cynical view that releases like these are “money grabs”.  Rather, I think they help keep alive the interest in musicians like Tom Petty…which is a good thing.

We miss Tom Petty, and it’s sad we’re no longer able to hear more of his songwriting and performing.  The set has one new song, “For Real”.  The lyrics tell us about his approach to music…almost like a note he left for us to find:

“I didn’t do it for no magazine.  Didn’t do it for no video.  Never did it for no CEO.  But I did it for real.   Would’ve done it for free.  I did it for me.  ‘Cause it was all that rang true.  I did it for real.  And I did it for you.”

We can still enjoy all that he did for us…including the music on this new The Best Of Everything collection.

Bonus Analysis:  Just for comparison, here’s what the same collection of songs would look like if they were placed in chronological order like many “Greatest Hits” albums.

Disc 1:

  1. Breakdown
  2. American Girl
  3. I Need To Know
  4. Listen To Her Heart
  5. Refugee
  6. Here Comes My Girl
  7. Even The Losers
  8. Don’t Do Me Like That
  9. The Waiting
  10. Stop Dragging My Heart Around
  11. You Got Lucky
  12. Don’t Come Around Here No More
  13. Southern Accents
  14. The Best Of Everything (Alt. Version)
  15. Jammin’ Me
  16. Free Fallin’
  17. I Won’t Back Down
  18. Runnin’ Down A Dream
  19. Into The Great Wide Open

The four songs on this Disc 1 not on his previous Greatest Hits album are…”Stop Dragging My Heart Around”, “Southern Accents”, “The Best Of Everything” & “Jammin’ Me”.

Disc 2:

  1. Learning To Fly
  2. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
  3. Wildflowers
  4. You Don’t know How It Feels
  5. You Wreck Me
  6. Walls (Circus)
  7. Angel Dream (No. 2)
  8. Room At The Top
  9. The Last DJ
  10. Dreamville
  11. Saving Grace
  12. Square One
  13. Scare Easy
  14. I Should Have Known It
  15. American Dream Plan B
  16. Trailer
  17. Hungry No More
  18. I Forgive It All
  19. For Real (Unreleased)

Only the first two songs on this Disc 2 were on his previous Greatest Hits album.  By the way, the one track that was on the Greatest Hits album, but missing here is “Something In The Air” (originally by Thunderclap Newman).

If you’ve collected Tom Petty’s studio albums and know the songs, you might prefer this order.

Tom Petty was particularly fond of the Wildflowers/She’s The One sessions, and had talked about doing a project based on that music.  So, those songs could be developed into a future release in some form.

The Everly Brothers

If you look up the word “harmony”, it might say…See The Everly Brothers.

(Don Everly [left] and Phil Everly)

Of course it should say…Listen to The Everly Brothers.  It would be hard to find a better example of two voices blending beautifully.  It’s said that family voices blend the best…and it also helps if you have singing talent, play guitars, and write songs.

The Everly Brothers’ parents were folk & country performers who lived at various times in Kentucky, Iowa, and Tennessee.  Don & Phil began singing with the family when Don was eight and Phil was six.  When they were in their teens, guitarist/producer Chet Atkins asked the duo to move to Nashville.  In 1957, when Don was 20 and Phil was 18 they had their first hit…”Bye Bye Love”.  Crossing-over between Pop and Country is not a new thing…the song was #2 on Billboard’s Top 40 chart, and #1 on the Country chart.

Just 4-months later, in the fall of 1957, “Wake Up Little Susie” topped both charts.  In April of 1958, “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, also made #1 on both charts.  Now that’s how you start a career.

Through 1962, The Everly Brothers scored 25 Top 40 hits, with these songs hitting the Top 10:  “Bird Dog” (#1), “Devoted To You” (#10), “Problems” (#2), “(‘Til) I Kissed You” (#4), “Let It Be Me” (#7), “Cathy’s Clown” (#1), “When Will I Be Loved” (#8), “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” (#7), “Walk Right Back” (#7), “Ebony Eyes” (#8), “Crying In The Rain” (#6), and “That’s Old Fashioned” (#9).

Many of the Everly’s songs were written by the team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, but The Everly Brothers wrote some of their own songs, including “When Will I Be Loved”, “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” and their multi-million-selling hit “Cathy’s Clown”.

(My Family’s 1961 copy of “Walk Right Back” & “Ebony Eyes”)

My two older sisters, Veronica & Janice, collected records by The Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, and other stars of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Ronnie and Jan were both good singers, and they had that “sibling blend” like The Everly Brothers.  I remember hearing them sing “Teen Angel” together, and it definitely sounded better than the hit version by Mark Dinning.  By the way, The Everly Brothers’ “Ebony Eyes”…like “Teen Angel” and “Last Kiss”…had that somewhat creepy “dead teenager” theme popular at that time.

The Everly Brothers had a major impact on other musicians.  The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Hollies, The Bee Gees, CSN&Y and many other musicians of the Sixties and Seventies have said that listening to Phil & Don Everly helped teach them how to sing harmony.

Artists also covered songs by The Everly Brothers.  Linda Ronstadt had a big hit with “When Will I Be Loved”, and James Taylor and Carly Simon had a hit with “Devoted To You”.  In 2007, The Everly Brothers song, “Gone Gone Gone” was the featured single for the Grammy winning album Raising Sand by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.  Many more Everly songs can be found as album tracks, including a personal favorite…Art Garfunkel and James Taylor doing “Crying In The Rain”.

As you can see, The Everly Brothers changed their hair after The British Invasion started in 1964 (the year “Gone Gone Gone” was a hit for them).  They never regained the popularity they had in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s.

Despite some personal problems and sibling conflicts, they did continue to (off-and-on) record and perform live, including a successful tour with Simon & Garfunkel in 2003. 

Simon & Garfunkel have always said The Everly Brothers were the biggest influence on their own career, so they were thrilled to perform with them.

Phil Everly passed away from lung disease at the age of 75 in 2014.  Don Everly says he thinks of his brother every day.

The importance of The Everly Brothers has always been recognized in the music community.  In 1986, they were in the very first group of 10 artists inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

Beatles Expert

After 55 years of being a Beatles fan, I finally had a chance to meet an expert…someone who has studied, investigated, and written books about The Beatles.

Oregon State University in Corvallis brought in Kenneth Womack.  His many books include…The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, Long and Winding Roads, and two recent volumes on George Martin…Maximum Volume and Sound pictures.

(Kenneth Womack [left] was interviewed by Bob Santelli, who is OSU’s Director of Popular Music and Performing Arts.)

The interview format was excellent, with Bob Santelli asking questions that guided us through the Beatle era.  Kenneth Womack proved to be a living encyclopedia of Beatle information.  He knew just how to answer each question in an enlightening and entertaining way, without trying to stuff-in too many facts.

The audience was mostly fans who grew up with The Beatles, and about a dozen raised their hands when asked who had actually seen The Beatles in concert.  The above photo (of people sitting behind us) was taken before the event…those empty seats filled up.  You’ll notice there are some younger people mixed in, and in fact, it was my son, Paul, who suggested we attend the event.  It’s always great to see other generations appreciate Beatles music.  Kenneth Womack told the crowd he believes the songs of The Beatles will live on in the same way as those of Mozart.

Womack had a relaxed and sometimes humorous way of talking about The Beatles.  It was easy to see that he and Bob Santelli both love music.  They fit right in with the audience of Beatles fans.

Besides collecting every bit of music by The Beatles as their singles and albums came out, I started reading books about them with the release of their first biography by Hunter Davies in 1968.  In the above photo, it’s the top book with the yellow The Beatles on the binding.  The other books are ones I’ve kept.  Some of my Beatle books were passed on to other fans, and some are in digital form.  My favorite book is The Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn.

Lewisohn’s 1988 book chronicled all the recording sessions by The Beatles.  Because the book concentrates so much on how the music was created, it’s fascinating.  We can thank the author for guiding Apple to many of the tracks released on The Anthologies collections.

After the interview and Q&A at OSU, Kenneth Womack took the time to visit personally with a few of us who lingered.  I found out he too loves the new remix of The White Album.  He even pulled out his phone and shared some fascinating extra audio outtakes!  Now that’s a Beatles fan!

Received my copy of Womack’s The Beatles Encyclopedia. It’s filled with great detail and interesting information about everything Beatles.  You can read it like a regular book, or simply go to the Beatles songs or topics that interest you the most, because everything is in alphabetical order.

The Beatles…Remix History

It may seem like the remixing of Beatles music started recently, but it actually began over 20 years ago.

Although George Martin did a little bit of remixing on Rubber Soul for the 1987 CD release, it was really during the time of The Anthologies in 1995 & 1996 when the modern remixing of Beatles music started.

(I had collected the three promotional posters as each anthology was released from 1995 to 1996.  If you put the posters side by side, they formed one large art piece by Klaus Voormann.  I had the posters mounted together and framed, and eventually gave it to a record shop in Lincoln, NE when we moved to Eugene, OR in 2008.)

As Apple went through all the original recordings by The Beatles to find alternate versions and unreleased songs for The Anthology series, they also started manipulating those recordings.  Most of these “takes” of the songs had never really been mixed before, so it had to be done for this release.  I remember some fans being upset that the producers had “flown in” a guitar solo from another take to complete the anthology version of “One After 909”.  “How dare they mess with what The Beatles had done!”  In reality, The Anthologies were a welcome gift to Beatles fans.  We were able to hear the alternate versions writer Mark Lewisohn had praised in his excellent 1988 book The Beatles Recording Sessions.

An early take of “Here There And Everywhere” was not included on The Anthologies, but was an extra cut on a CD single.  The track is mostly a solo McCartney vocal, but for the final chorus of the song the beautiful background vocals were added in a stunning effect.  The text said the ending was an example of how Beatles songs could be remixed (instead of just remastered) in order to improve the sound quality and stereo mix.

The first big remixing project of familiar Beatles recordings was the release of the Yellow Submarine Songtrack in 1999.  This was a clever choice, because instead of remixing a well-loved album, this was a new collection of songs that had been in the movie, rather than the old soundtrack, which only had a limited number of these songs.  So how did it come out?  The results were, well…mixed.  Some of the songs, particularly “Eleanor Rigby”, “Yellow Submarine” and “Nowhere Man” were the best-sounding versions ever.  The songs from Sgt. Pepper were less successful, probably because they are more complex recordings.  Overall, engineer Peter Cobbin and his staff did an admirable job on a risky project.  It was well received enough to allow for future remixing.

Although it wasn’t really a remixing of a Beatles album, George Martin and his son Giles used Beatles songs in unusual mashup mixes to create a soundtrack for Cirque du Soleil’s Love show in 2006.

(The 2015 CD of The Beatles 1 remix, with accompanying video DVD.)

The next major project was also a collection of songs, The Beatles 1.  The original release of the album was in 2000, and it’s one of the best selling albums ever.  In 2015, Producer Giles Martin and Engineer Sam Okell released their remixed version.  Luckily for Apple, the reviews for these new mixes were widely positive.  That was encouragement to green-light more projects.

Then came the riskiest project of all…the remixing of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 2017.  The beloved album was painstakingly remixed by Giles Martin.  It was almost unanimously praised.  There’s an article dedicated to it on this site.

And now we have the new remix of The White Album.  There’s a full review of it on this site, but the short review is that it sounds amazing.  It seems the simpler arrangements on The White Album (in comparison to Sgt. Pepper) allowed Giles Martin to do an even more impressive remix.

What’s next?

Giles Martin answered the “What’s next?” question recently by saying we should take some time to enjoy The White Album while he works on a project for Elton John.  When an interviewer mentioned Abbey Road, it was interesting that Martin suggested Let It Be might be next since it was recorded first.  Of course if they keep with the 50th anniversary of the release dates, 2019 would be the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road, and 2020 the anniversary of Let It Be.

It’s obvious the albums that could benefit most from remixing are the older albums…Rubber Soul and Revolver.  The marketers wouldn’t like leaving the 50th anniversary connection behind, but It would be more interesting to hear those two albums remixed first.

No one could have predicted we’d be looking forward to new mixes of Beatles albums more than 50 years later.

Postscript:  Those of us who were there at the beginning of Beatlemania learned to love their music while listening to small transistor radios and on car radios that had one low-quality speaker in the middle of the dash.  If you played the new remixes through those devices (or today’s phone speakers), they would sound just like the originals.

There should be no backlash against remixes.  People can always listen to their own original mixes anyway.  Giles Martin has done a great job of recreating the songs the way we know them…only with better sound quality.  When we listen on good audio equipment, it’s more like what The Beatles themselves heard in the studio.