Alison Krauss

If the question was asked…”What singer has won the most Grammy Awards?”…not many people would know the answer is Alison Krauss.  She’s won 27 Grammys.  That’s more than any other vocal performer…man, woman, or group.  Only two non-performers have more Grammys, a Classical Music conductor, and a producer.

(Concert photos are from a 2011 performance we attended in Bend, Oregon)

Born in 1971, Alison Kraus first became popular as a Bluegrass artist.  She was playing the fiddle and winning local talent contests at 10 years of age.  By 12 she was in a band, and by 14 she had a recording contract.  By then, her soprano voice was featured as much as her violin.  It was at the age of 20 she won her first Grammy, and at 21 she became the (then) youngest member of The Grand Ole Oprey.

We became aware of Alison Kraus as she hit the mainstream in 1995 with the songs “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” and “When You Say Nothing At All”.  Although both were remakes, they had original arrangements that made them fresh.  The album, Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection, with her group Union Station, was her first double-platinum album and won four CMA awards.

From that point on, we bought all of her albums, including these solo albums:

(All photos can be enlarged with a click.)

Alison Krauss has always collaborated with other artists.  Her duet with James Taylor on “How’s The World Treating You”, from the above album, is one of our all-time favorite recordings.

In 2007 she recorded the album, Raising Sand, with Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant.  This unusual pairing was produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett.

The album was nominated for five Grammy Awards, and won all five, including Album Of The Year.  Only three country albums have ever won that category.

Her latest album, Windy City, is an excellent collection of classic Country/Pop songs.  Alison’s singing style is mostly Pop, the arrangements make it Country.  Windy City might be the best album to stream if you’re still getting to know her.  The ten songs are all good, and her vocals are impeccable.

It was a beautiful evening in July of 2011 when we saw Alison Krauss & Union Station at an outdoor concert in Bend, Oregon.

We were seated in the fourth row, and the sound was perfect.  Because it was an open-air theater, the music came to us, and then kept on going instead of bouncing around like it does in an auditorium.  Alison Krauss’ voice was crystal clear and beautiful.

Union Station’s players were all impressive, and gave Alison great support on a wide range of uptempo songs, as well as ballads.  Guitarist Dan Tyminski (in the center above) also contributed some lead vocals.

The concert concluded with the singers in harmony around a single microphone, and using only light acoustic accompaniment.  It was gorgeous.  Maybe they’re always this amazing, or maybe it was a magical night.

Peter Asher…The Beatles A to Zed

Just when you think there are no more books that need to be written about The Beatles, there’s one with new personal insights.  Peter Asher became friends with The Beatles early on in their recording career, and he’s still friends with Paul and Ringo.

In the book, The Beatles From A to Zed, Asher takes us on an alphabetical journey through many songs and events associated with The Beatles.  The important part is that Asher adds his own impressions and first-hand knowledge. You’ll learn a lot about The Beatles, and about Peter Asher.

(Paul McCartney and his girlfriend, Jane Asher, and Jane with her older brother Peter.)

For a time, starting in 1963, the Asher family had Paul McCartney as a live-in guest, and he had a room next to Peter’s.  In the book, Peter tells the story of how John Lennon came over to do some songwriting with Paul.  Instead of grabbing their guitars, the two went downstairs to use the Asher’s piano.  After a while, they yelled for Peter to come down and listen to a song they had just written.  Peter says John and Paul played the piano together and sang “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.  Asher says… “I told them how brilliant I thought it was, and begged them to play it again, which they gladly did”.  And we all wish we were there.

Having a songwriter staying in the house certainly was fortunate.  Paul provided several songs, including “A World Without Love” and “Woman”, to greatly help Peter and Gordon (Waller) with their musical career.

Asher provides more details of the experience, including John Lennon’s reluctance to record “A World Without Love” with The Beatles.  John stopped Paul singing it as soon as he heard the opening line…”Please lock me away”.  However, music fans liked the the song all the way to #1 in the U.K. and U.S.  It was the worldwide breakthrough hit for Peter and Gordon.

When you examine the lyrics, they’re actually quite good:

”Please lock me away, and don’t allow the day, here inside, where I hide with my loneliness.  I don’t care what they say I won’t stay in a world without love.”

They’re somewhat reminiscent of the feeling John would write about in “Help” the following year.

When The Beatles started Apple Records, they hired Peter Asher to run their A&R Department.  So, the book includes inside information about what happened as The Beatles were winding down their time together near the end of the sixties.

(Peter & Paul with Linda & Linda)

The Beatles From A to Zed goes beyond The Beatle years to include their solo work and information about artists Peter produced, like James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.

The book is filled with Peter Asher’s perspective as a producer and musician.  For example, when he gets to the “R” chapter, he analyzes Ringo’s drum part on “Rain”.  He explains the many ways a drum can be set for various sounds, how it can be miked & equalized, and of course the drummer makes all the choices regarding the playing.

Ringo’s drumming on “Rain” has been universally praised.  When Asher asked Ringo about it, he said he came up with the drum pattern specifically for that song, and has never used it in any other recording.

Peter Asher was an insider with The Beatles and many of the music artists of the sixties, seventies and beyond.  If you enjoy getting extra details about the era, The Beatles From A to Zed is definitely a good read.

By the way, Zed is the way the British pronounce the letter “Z”.  It’s pronounced that same way in the majority of English speaking nations.

This is the final photo in the book.  Peter Asher might be saying…”There you have it”, or maybe he’s simply happy after looking back at the life he’s led.

Beatles vs Stones…55 years later!

It’s almost unbelievable that over 50 years after the “British Invasion” the “Top Artist of All Time” title came down to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones!

Billboard magazine’s 125th Anniversary turned into a battle of the bands with The Beatles at #1 and The Stones at #2.  The way the magazine ranked all the artists was a combination of their U.S. chart success on the Hot 100 singles chart, along with the success of their albums on the Top 200 chart.  We’ll look at the top thirty artists, but first let’s compare the two biggest artists.

The statistics are actually overwhelming for The Beatles compared with The Stones (or anybody else).  The Beatles spent 132 weeks at #1 on the album chart, and the next closest is only 52 weeks (80 weeks less).

The Beatles had 20 #1 singles, The Stones had 8.  The Beatles had 19 #1 albums, and The Stones had 9.  Where The Stones surpassed The Beatles is that they stayed together!  That means they charted 37 albums over the years, and that’s the impressive reason they earned the #2 position on the top artists list.  The Beatles vs The Stones was always a rivalry between friends, and in the end, they both won.

Here’s the list of the top thirty artists in Billboard’s 125th Anniversary issue:

  1. The Beatles
  2. The Rolling Stones
  3. Elton John
  4. Mariah Carey
  5. Madonna
  6. Barbra Streisand
  7. Michael Jackson
  8. Taylor Swift
  9. Stevie Wonder
  10. Chicago
  11. Whitney Houston
  12. Paul McCartney
  13. Elvis Presley
  14. Janet Jackson
  15. Rod Stewart
  16. Drake
  17. Prince
  18. Rihanna
  19. Billy Joel
  20. Garth Brooks
  21. Herb Alpert
  22. Eminem
  23. Usher
  24. Bruce Springsteen
  25. Neil Diamond
  26. The Supremes
  27. Eagles
  28. Bee Gees
  29. The Beach Boys
  30. Fleetwood Mac

You can see the #3 position and top solo artist went to Elton John.

The top female artist is right behind Elton at #4, Mariah Carey.

There are three surprises in the Top 10.

  1. The Easy Listening/Broadway recordings of Barbra Streisand placed her high at #6.
  2. The only recent star is Taylor Swift at #8…which is very impressive for someone who’s only been charting for 13 years.  It also means she easily out-performed all her contemporaries.
  3. Chicago at #10 beat out many acts that might have been expected to outrank them.

Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, contemporaries of Chicago, are at #27 & #30.  Of course Eagles recorded the #1 and #3 best-selling albums of all time, and Fleetwood Mac is not far behind.  It accents that these rankings are based on Billboard’s weekly charts, which are not the same as overall sales.  For instance, Billy Joel has actually outsold Elton John and Michael Jackson in the U.S., even though he is ranked lower here.

In their explanation of how they did the rankings Billboard said…Due to changes in chart methodology and title turnover rates, certain periods for each chart recap were weighted differently to ensure as equal a representation as possible among all eras.”  The cynical interpretation would be “We just make this stuff up”.  The fact is, sales and radio airplay no longer drive Billboard’s charts, and streaming is not an accurate measurement either, so they just do the best they can.

It’s actually impossible to directly compare chart success from one era to another, but we can still have fun with The Beatles vs The Stones.  There’s a certain satisfaction to it, so we can’t just let it be.

Rodney Crowell…In Concert

We only own about a dozen songs from Rodney Crowell’s long career, but when we saw he was coming to Eugene, we immediately bought tickets to his concert.

It’s been a trend for us lately, deciding to see artists even though they’re well past their hit-making years.  Rodney Crowell, at 69, is still in great voice, is still writing good songs, and can still really play his trusty black & white guitar.  Throw in two virtuoso musicians on lead guitar and violin, and you get an excellent evening of music!  Guitarist Joe Robinson was especially impressive with his intricate playing, similar to Chet Atkins’ full mastery of the instrument.  Robinson was given the spotlight for two of his own songs.

The peak of Crowell’s career was over three decades ago, with his album Diamonds & Dirt In 1988.

The album produced five #1 hits on the country chart.  Although his music is classified as country, some of it seems built more on blues and rock & roll.  Maybe “Outlaw Country” is the closest label.

Some of Crowell’s better known songs include “‘Til I Gain Control Again”, “Shame On The Moon” (covered by Bob Seger), “I Ain’t Livin’ Long LikeThis” (covered by Waylon Jennings), “An American Dream” (covered by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Linda Ronstadt), and “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried”.

Even though we didn’t know many of the songs Crowell played at the concert, they all came off great, and the crowd was enthusiastic.

Other older artists we’ve seen in the past couple years include:

(Guitarist Leo Kottke)

(Kris Kristofferson)

(Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary)

The point is, all of the shows were well worth the time and the price of the tickets.  We recommend attending concerts like these when established artists are in your area.  You’re almost certain to have a great time with their music and their stories.

After the Rodney Crowell concert, the venue (The Shedd Institute in Eugene) sent us a thank you card with this photo:

That was a nice touch!

Ringo Starr…What’s My Name (review)

John Lennon was right.  In 1980, when he was starting to record a rough demo of his song “Grow Old With Me” he said…”This will be great for you Ringo”.  Ringo Starr only heard that tape recently, as he was about to record his new album What’s My Name.

Ringo recorded “Grow Old With Me”, and nearly 40-years on, we finally have the definitive version of the song.  Lennon’s demo unfortunately was recorded on a very low-quality cassette with poor audio.  There’s a good version by Mary Chapin Carpenter that was recorded for a John Lennon tribute album, and others have recorded the song, but Ringo’s version sounds like it’s the way it was meant to be.

”Grow Old With Me” is a sentimental ballad that would have fit nicely on a Beatles album, the way “Good Night” finished The White Album.  John Lennon also wrote that song, and Ringo sang it.   For “Grow Old With Me”,  Ringo got by with a little help from a friend.

Ringo recruited Paul McCartney to play bass and add a light background vocal.  The string arrangement by well known producer Jack Douglas includes a slight nod to George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun”.  So, there’s a bit of all four Beatles in this recording.

In a recent interview, Ringo talked about what it means to record Lennon’s song.  “The idea that John was talking about me in that time before he died, well, I’m an emotional person.  I do well up when I think of John this deeply.  We’ve done our best.”

The second-best song on Ringo’s new album is the title track “What’s My Name”.  It’s a fun rocker just right for Ringo’s performances with his All Starr Band.  The song came about from Ringo introducing the band members on stage, and then instead of introducing himself, he just asked the audience “What’s my name?”, and of course they shouted back “Ringo!”.  Now it’s in a song.  It was written by Men At Work’s Colin Hay.  He had been touring with the All Starr Band, and wrote it after hearing Ringo’s exchange with the audiences.

You can check out both songs on YouTube and other streaming services, and the whole album on some of them.

The overall album is good.  Here are the songs:

  1. Gotta Get Up To Get Down
  2. It’s Not Love That You Want
  3. Grow Old With Me
  4. Magic
  5. Money
  6. Better Days
  7. Life Is Good
  8. Thank God For Music
  9. Send Love Spread Peace
  10. What’s My Name

Here’s a ranker of the songs by quality:

  1. Grow Old With Me
  2. What’s My Name
  3. It’s Not Love That You Want
  4. Send Love Send Peace
  5. Life Is Good
  6. Money
  7. Thank God For Music
  8. Better Days
  9. Magic
  10. Gotta Get Up To Get Down

The songs have a lot of peace, love, and positive thoughts.  Maybe a little corny, but sincere…like Ringo.

Abbey Road Remix (Review & Perspective)

The Abbey Road 2019 remix by Giles Martin is excellent, but if there’s a Beatles album that didn’t really need remixing, this is it.  The album was recorded on new equipment with eight tracks instead of four.  The result was higher quality audio than previous Beatles albums.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road (1969), and Apple has given it the special treatment they gave Sgt. Pepper and The White Album.  Too bad they didn’t start the 50th anniversary series earlier.  We’d have Rubber Soul and Revolver remixes by now.  Next up should be Let It Be, which was released in May of 1970.

I bought the 2-CD Anniversary Edition as shown above, and have done a lot of A-B comparisons with this and the 2009 Remaster.  The new remix has better depth and clarity.  If you have a good stereo system, it’s the one to go with.  More casual listeners will not notice a major difference between the mixes.

So what about the extras?  There’s a nice 40-page booklet with added information and many photos like those above, mostly by Linda McCartney.  The second CD contains an alternate version of each song.  Even though they’re interesting, there’s not a must-have track.

Also available is a Super Deluxe version with more alternate takes which I listened to online.  The only track I decided to purchase was George Martin’s instrumental accompaniment for “Something”.  He was brilliant at adding instrumentation that enhanced a song without overpowering it.

Other reviews of the remix have also been positive, but mostly they just talk about Abbey Road as one of The Beatles’ best albums.

So let’s go back and take a closer look at the album we’ve known for all these years.

The top four songs being downloaded from the remix on iTunes are “Come Together”, “Here Comes The Sun”, “Something”, and “Oh! Darling”.  Good choices.  John Lennon’s “Come Together” has a great groove, and is a reminder of how well The Beatles played together as a band.  “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” may be George Harrison’s two best Beatles’ songs.  Paul McCartney sang a soulful “Oh! Darling” that has held up well.  Add in “Because”, and you have a list of the best individual songs on the album.

But, it’s the medley of songs on side-two of the album that sets it apart.  Cynically, one could look at the medley as a way for The Beatles to simply use up some song fragments.  The reality is, the arrangement is rather brilliant.  It’s similar to classical music with recurring melodies and themes.  They got great help from George Martin, who orchestrated “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” perfectly.  The remix of the medley sounds great.

(Good use was made of this early Moog synthesizer.)

If there’s a weakness to the medley, it’s that the songs have many lyrics that are light, or even non-sensical.  Had the songs included more relatable and serious lyrics, the medley would have elevated Abbey Road even higher.

The medley has a strong finish with “The End”.  It’s the last full song on the last album The Beatles recorded.  It has short but rocking guitar leads by John, Paul, & George, and a solid drum solo by Ringo.  The last line is… “And In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”  That’s the way to go out.

Interestingly, they debated having side-two be side-one.   And in the end, they made the right decision.

It was recently revealed that The Beatles were heard on tape discussing the possibility of doing another single and another album after Abbey Road.  Even though that’s true, it’s very likely The Beatles still worked on Abbey Road as if it could be their last album.

Bonus: Cover Story

Iconic covers for The Beatles’ albums didn’t just happen.  The Beatles always trusted artists to help them.  The art director for Apple in 1969 was John Kosh, seen below with some other covers he helped develop through the years.

The photographer for Abbey Road was Iain Macmillan, who said the idea for the photo came from Paul McCartney.  Once Macmillan had taken the photos and helped select the best one, it was turned over to John Kosh to finalize the actual cover.  In an article in U.S.A. Today, Kosh says he touched-up the sky to be bluer than it was, and then decided the album cover should not include the title or the name of the group.

As the album was about to be printed, Kosh says he received a call at three o’clock in the morning.  It was from the Chairman of EMI, Apple’s parent company.  Kosh, who was just 23 at the time, says the call included yelling about how the album wouldn’t sell if The Beatles’ name wasn’t on it.  Kosh said he was shaking after the call, and was worried as he went into Apple the next day.  He told George Harrison about the problem.  According to Kosh, George said…“Screw it.  We’re The Beatles.”

David Crosby: Remember My Name (Review)

David Crosby is 78, and knows he’s living on borrowed time.  Most of his friends expected him to die over 30 years ago.

The documentary, David Crosby: Remember My Name, is not exactly a biography.  It’s more of a portrait of the man and the artist as seen through his memories.  The title is a take-off of Crosby’s 1971 solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name.

In the film, we see David being interviewed recently, and quickly find out he has alienated almost all of his longtime friends.  Crosby had a very unhealthy Rock Star drug-addicted lifestyle that nearly killed him many times.  He’s still performing, but when he goes out on the road, both he and his wife, Jan, think he might not make it home.

The film takes us back to David Crosby’s breakthrough time with The Byrds.  There are some great photos and film clips from that time, but he was eventually fired from the group because of his erratic behavior.  David admits it was his fault.

The interview and the film are not chronological, but we all know Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young came next.  It was a true “Super Group” made up of singer-songwriters from several excellent bands.  We see how extremely popular they became, but that after 45 years of harmony (and disharmony), David Crosby is no longer on speaking terms with any of them.

Although Crosby had a musically successful career, we see how drugs and his own bad choices almost killed him, and robbed him of what should have been a much better life.  He says he has had multiple heart attacks, and 25 years ago a liver transplant saved him.

The documentary is filled with fascinating stories, many interviews with other artists, and even some good humor.  If you’re a fan of The Byrds, CSN, and other musicians from that era, the film is definitely worth seeing.  Incredibly, David Crosby’s voice still sounds like it always has, and he’s recently put out several new albums of original songs.

Near the end, Crosby talks about maybe being able to somehow rekindle some of his old friendships, but he’s very aware time is running out.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice (Review)

The Linda Ronstadt movie has an audience approval rating of 99%.  After seeing the movie, I can only imagine the other 1% must have thought the problem with the movie was that it was too short.  It’s so good!

The 2013 documentary History Of The Eagles includes a scene that has some historic footage of Linda Ronstadt.  The wonder was why we hardly ever saw classic film of Ronstadt.  The new documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice finally fixes the situation, but wife and I could have watched a lot more classic video than was included in the 95-minute movie.

The documentary shows Ronstadt from childhood, with all the musical influences she experienced in Tucson, Arizona.  Her father sang and arranged Mexican music for public performances, and her mother sang American Standards for the pure enjoyment of it.  Linda also listened to a wide variety of music on the radio…Rock & Roll, Country & Western, and even Opera.  In the mid-sixties, she and her two brothers formed a local Folk Music trio.  It all became the foundation for one of the most diverse careers in music history.

The film includes old family photos and rare videos of her early performances.

One important moment came very early in her career when Ronstadt was appearing at The Troubadour in L.A.  It showed another beautiful brown-haired young woman performing at the same venue.  It was Emmylou Harris.  Instead of Ronstadt being jealous or looking at her as a competitor, Linda decided they should be friends.

That friendship became lifelong, and the two helped each other throughout what became stellar careers.  Similar friendships were formed with Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, and Karla Bonoff.

As her career progresses, we see so many of the top musicians she worked with, and there are enlightening interviews throughout the documentary.

Linda Ronstadt became far and away the best-selling female artist popular music had ever known.  She sold out arenas, and had 8 platinum albums in the 70’s and into the 80’s.  Then she abruptly stopped her Pop/Rock career.  Instead, she moved on to musical projects that those around her said were doomed to fail, but Ronstadt chose to follow her own instincts.

In 1983 she decided to perform in an operetta ,The Pirates Of Penzance, on Broadway.  She was nominated for a Tony Award as lead actress in a musical, and her show won Best Musical!

She recorded albums of the American Standards her mother loved, and the Mexican music her father loved.  Despite all the naysayers, the albums were multi-platinum successes!  Linda Ronstadt said she had felt compelled to record the musical influences from her childhood.

She eventually returned to mainstream music and continued winning Grammys and selling albums (11 total Grammys and 13 platinum albums during her career).  You’ll find much more career details in the article Linda Ronstadt…Queen Of Rock & Roll that’s also on this website.

By now, everyone knows that Linda Ronstadt’s singing career ended (in 2009), because she has Parkinson’s disease.  The film revealed early on that her Grandmother suffered from the same affliction.

Near the end of the movie, Linda Ronstadt (age 73 in 2019) courageously tries to sing with her brother and her nephew.  It’s sad to hear the sound of her voice has been almost completely silenced.

For all but that one scene, the movie captures Linda’s voice as it ranges from subtle beauty to amazing power.   There are hardly any studio recordings in the film, instead it’s mostly the audio of her live performances.  She successfully conveyed any musical style she chose to perform.

If you like Linda Ronstadt, the movie is a wonderful must see.  It’s playing in independent theaters now, and because CNN is one of the producers, the documentary will be airing on the network in 2020.  We couldn’t wait.

Country Rock

Country Rock was developed during the ‘60’s, and flourished in the ‘70’s.

Many early rock artists were heavily exposed to country music, and began their careers by perfoming it.  Some of the songs by artists like Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, and Carl Perkins were big hits on both the popular music charts and the country charts.  Back then, the label applied to the music was usually “Rockabilly”.

American country music was also popular in England.  John Lennon said that even before he played guitar, he imitated songs by Hank Williams.  The Beatles played country songs as part of their early performances.  There’s a 1962 recording of them performing the Carl Perkins’ country ballad “Sure To Fall” for BBC Radio.  The Beatles also covered country songs, such as “Act Naturally”, “Matchbox”, and “Honey Don’t” on their early albums.

The change to “Country Rock” started when The Beatles began using country elements in their own original songs.

In late 1964, The Beatles For Sale album (called Beatles ‘65 in the U.S.) had their first original song with a very country arrangement, ”I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party”.  Twenty-five years later, the song went to #1 on the country chart for Roseanne Cash.  Also on Beatles For Sale was another original song done as a country waltz, “Baby’s In Black”, plus “Honey Don’t”, and the Buddy Holly song “Words Of Love”.

According to Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of The Byrds, The Beatles doing country music influenced them to do the same.  First, Chris Hillman convinced The Byrds to cover the country song “Satisfied Mind” in 1965.  Then, he wrote three songs for their 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday.

Those songs…”Time Between”, “Have You Seen Her Face” and “The Girl With No Name”…are great examples of Country Rock.  The Byrds continued using country arrangements in 1967 and 1968 with popular songs like “Wasn’t Born To Follow” (country and psychedelic) and “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” (which featured pedal steel guitar).  That one was on the highly influential album Sweetheart Of The Rodeo in 1968.

The Byrds had added Gram Parsons to their group, and one of the album’s best tracks is Parsons’ classic “Hickory Wind”.

Another pioneering ’60’s band to do multiple country-oriented songs was The Lovin’ Spoonful.  They had the Top 10 hit “Nashville Cats” in 1966, plus Johnny Cash & June Carter covered two of the group’s songs, “Darlin’ Companion” and “Lovin’ You”.

Meanwhile, Buffalo Springfield used country arrangements for some of their Rock songs from 1966 to 1968.  From the ashes of the band’s breakup came Country Rock band Poco with Jim Messina and Richie Furay.  Stephen Stills helped form CSN, and they recorded the now classic Country Rock song by Graham Nash, “Teach Your Children”, in 1970.  It featured a pedal steel guitar played by Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead.

One of the most popular bands in the late ’60’s and early 70’s was Creedence Clearwater Revival.  They really fit in with the Country Rock sound, even though their style of music is most often called “Swamp Rock”.

Also in the late ‘60’s, other Country Rock bands formed.  They included…The Flying Burrito Brothers, Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band, and Pure Prairie League.

The singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970’s featured the more laid back side of Country Rock.

James Taylor certainly added to the appeal of country in popular music with such songs as “Sweet Baby James” and “Country Road” in 1970.  Many other singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan (recorded in Nashville in the late ‘60’s), Dan Fogelberg, Jackson Browne, and J.D. Souther also contributed to the Country Rock sound.

The biggest breakout for Country Rock happened in 1972.

That was the year of the Eagles’ first album, which included “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”.  Neil Young had a #1 single with “Heart Of Gold” and the country-leaning #1 album Harvest.  1972 was the year of the band America’s first album featuring “A Horse With No Name”, another #1 hit.  That year also gave us the The Doobie Brothers’ “Listen To The Music”, and one of the favorite Country Rock songs of all time, “Amie” from the Pure Prairie League album Bustin’ Out.

A little later came the reign of Country Rock leader Linda Ronstadt, who had been recording country-influenced albums and songs since 1967 (“Different Drum”, “Long Long Time”), and finally broke through big time in late 1974.

Country Rock artists successful in the ’70’s included Firefall (“You Are The Woman”, “Just Remember I Love You”), Little Feat (“Willin'”), Loggins & Messina (“Your Mama Don’t Dance”), The Band (“The Weight”, “Up On Cripple Creek”), and Poco (“Crazy Love”).  Sometimes placed on Country Rock collections are songs by bands that fall under the label “Southern Rock”…Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, etc.

The most popular (best selling) album of all time is Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975).  A testament to the power of Country Rock!

The Beatles…Singles Ranked

What are the best singles by The Beatles?  They’ll be ranked two different ways.

(Some of my old Beatles singles.  Click to enlarge, then zoom.)

Albums by The Beatles are often ranked, but let’s consider their singles.  First, we’ll look at them as 2-sided collections.  Which 45’s gave us two great songs?  Only singles released by The Beatles in the U.S. during their active years, 1962-1970 will be considered (all songs were recorded in the ‘60’s).

10.  And I Love Her / If I Fell  This one might normally be overlooked, but it gives us two great ballads.  Paul McCartney’s “And I Love Her” backed with John Lennon’s “If I Fell”.  These two songs from the film A Hard Day’s Night have only grown in stature.  In fact, “And I Love Her” is one of the top 10 most recorded songs of all time.  It’s a tender straight-forward love song with one of McCartney’s great melodies.  He credits George Harrison with adding the famous acoustic guitar riff.   “If I Fell” has Lennon writing as if he’s unsure of himself, hoping his new love won’t treat him the way his ex-love did.  He sings “Don’t hurt my pride like her”.  Leave it to John Lennon to write a love ballad from a slightly skewed point of view.  Both songs were included on United Artist’s A Hard Day’s Night album, and Capitol’s Something New album.

9.  Can’t Buy Me Love / You Can’t Do That  “Can’t Buy Me Love” was the big #1 single released in 1964 prior to the movie A Hard Day’s Night.  Paul McCartney’s song packed so much energy it was used multiple times during the movie.  The flip side is an underrated rocker by John Lennon…”You Can’t Do That”.  It gave The Beatles another solid rock song for their live shows.

8.  Paperback Writer / Rain  As The Beatles moved into more adventurous recordings during their Revolver sessions, they created this great single.  “Paperback Writer” is another #1 from Paul McCartney, with an unusual topic and excellent sweeping harmonies.  John Lennon’s “Rain” is a psychedelic song.  It fit in with similar pioneering recordings by other groups in 1966.  It features variable speed tape effects, a backwards vocal at the end, and some creative drumming by Ringo Starr.

7. Yesterday / Act Naturally  It’s hard to know where to place this one, because the A-side is so strong.  “Yesterday” not only was #1, but it’s the most recorded song of all time (cover versions).  “Act Naturally” is not nearly as good as the other B-sides, but it’s a fun Buck Owens tune that let’s Ringo’s love of country music shine through.

6.  We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper  These two A-sides are both extremely strong.  “We Can Work It out was another #1 with Paul McCartney as the main songwriter.  John Lennon’s “Day Tripper” was not far behind at #5.  It’s a great rocker, and it might have hit the top of the chart if it had been the only A-side, with a weaker song as a B-side.

5.  Something / Come Together  Another double A-sided single.  “Something” was George Harrison’s first A-side on a single, and in 1969 it went to #1 in both the U.K. and the U.S.  John Lennon also had a #1 with “Come Together”.  This collection is kind of like Beauty and the Beast.  A truly beautiful ballad, and a nonsense lyrics rocker, but with a cool groove and great chorus.

4.  Eleanor Rigby / Yellow Submarine   “Yellow Submarine” was Ringo’s first & only vocal effort to hit #1 (for four weeks in the U.K., #2 in U.S.).  It’s a highly imaginative song that McCartney says was meant to be a fun sing-along for children.  The just-over-2-minutes story of Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie is generally considered a masterpiece, and is one of the top 5 most recorded songs of all time.  Paul McCartney was the main songwriter, with some lyric input from John Lennon and George Harrison.  The striking string octet arranged by producer George Martin was the only instrumental accompaniment…something totally new to Rock.

3. I Want To Hold Your Hand / I Saw Her Standing There  This might be the most exciting and important single for The Beatles.  Both songs are bundles of energy that made The Beatles explode into America!  When these songs came on the radio near the end of 1963, they sounded like nothing else.  If you bought this single, you played both sides over and over.  “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was #1 for 7 weeks, and was only moved out of that position by “She Loves You”, which was then replaced at the top by “Can’t Buy Me Love”.  At that time, in April of 1964, The Beatles had the top 5 positions on the singles chart.  “I Saw Her Standing There” started with an excited count-in by Paul McCartney, and then rocked right on through to the end.  Some credit should go to Capitol Records.  Although they badly failed by  letting other labels release some of the earliest singles by The Beatles, choosing “I Saw Her Standing There” instead of the ballad “This Boy” (which was on the British single) added to the initial excitement of The Beatles’ arrival on the American airwaves.

2. Hey Jude / Revolution  When The Beatles launched Apple Records at the time of The White Album in 1968, they chose these two songs as the first Apple single.  Paul McCartney originally wrote “Hey Jude” with Jules in the title, because he was reaching out to Julian Lennon after his parents, John and Cynthia, divorced.  “Hey Jude” remained at #1 for 9 weeks in 1968.  That’s the longest a Beatles song held the top spot.  The song remains extremely popular, and has often been chosen by Paul McCartney to close arena and stadium concerts.  Before “Revolution” became the choice for the single, it was reworked.  The Beatles decided the original version (“Revolution 1”) was too slow.  The song was turned into one of John Lennon’s best rockers!  This combination of songs certainly could be the #1 single, but the next one is also very special.

1. Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever  Of all The Beatles singles, this may be the one that’s hardest to decide which song is the best.  Yes, McCartney’s “Penny Lane” was #1 and Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” was #8, but that’s probably due to “Strawberry Fields” being so original and experimental.

Some years later, Lennon looked back on his time with The Beatles and said it seemed like when he introduced songs to the group, they decided it was time to try new things.  By most accounts, it was Lennon himself who requested innovative techniques and experimentation.  In preparation for this article, I found  there are 32 recordings of “Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles in my digital music collection.  They include demos, alternate takes, various stages of layering instruments, remasters, and remixes.  It’s amazing how The Beatles and George Martin created such an original final recording.

“Penny Lane” also went through many stages, and in its own way is as innovative as Lennon’s song.  The complex arrangement includes four keyboards…3 pianos and a harmonium…all used for different textures.  The song has brass, woodwinds, key changes, unusual melody choices, and some surreal lyrics.  One of the most unique touches is a piccolo trumpet.  It’s high clear classical sound was completely new to Rock.

The original mix of “Penny Lane” sent to radio stations included a final seven-note piccolo trumpet flourish at the start of the song’s long last note.  However, the released single didn’t include that trumpet ending.  You can hear it on the alternate version on the Anthologies.   The early “radio version” was on The Beatles Rarities album, which I bought in 1980.  Once I heard it, my mind added that trumpet flourish every time I listened to the regular version of “Penny Lane”.  When the 2015 remix came out, I placed a digital copy in Garage Band and added the trumpet ending.  It’s the version I listen to the most.

(Some colored vinyl jukebox singles from 1987, plus a picture disc.)

Now…what are the best singles if we look at the songs individually?

  1. Yesterday
  2. Eleanor Rigby
  3. Hey Jude
  4. Let It Be
  5. Penny Lane
  6. Strawberry Fields Forever
  7. Can’t Buy Me Love
  8. I Want To Hold Your Hand
  9. And I Love Her
  10. Nowhere Man

Okay, that’s impossible.  There are so many Beatles singles that could be put on that list.  There’ll never be a definitive top 10.  The Beatles had 21 #1 singles, and a total of 46 Top 40 singles during their active years.

In America, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper, and The White Album had no singles released from them.  Plus, other Beatles albums contain so many more quality tracks.

Imagine how many hit singles there could have been!

Bonus List:  Here’s my “No Singles” playlist.  It contains some songs (chronologically) The Beatles did not release on singles in America (1962-1970).

  1.  All My Loving
  2. This Boy
  3. Things We Said Today
  4. I’ll Follow The Sun
  5. I’ll Be Back
  6. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
  7. Drive My Car
  8. Norwegian Wood
  9. Michelle
  10.  In My Life
  11.  For No One
  12.  Here, There And Everywhere
  13.  Good Day Sunshine
  14.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  15.  With A Little Help From My Friends
  16.  Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  17.  When I’m Sixty-Four
  18.  A Day In The Life
  19.  Magical Mystery Tour
  20.  The Fool On The Hill
  21.  Back In The U.S.S.R.
  22.  Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
  23.  While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  24.  Blackbird
  25.  I Will
  26.  Two Of Us
  27.  Here Comes The Sun

For more, check out the article:  The Beatles…Singles Left Off Albums.