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.

There are lots of good camera angles, and his crew did a great job of getting the reactions of the Londoners who heard the music.

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:

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:

Screenshot

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.

There are some artists (or their families) who have a good reason 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 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 always maintained their popularity through touring (like in 1974 above), and the release of their very popular greatest hits collections.

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


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

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.

 

Concept Albums…What Fits?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Wilson…A Look Back

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Taylor Swift…The Peak Years (Updated)

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

Above are the eight albums Taylor Swift has released from July 2020 through April 2024.  All 8 of the albums debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and broke a bunch of sales and streaming records.  Her new total of 14 #1 albums makes her second only to The Beatles’ 19 #1’s.  If the quality of her albums wasn’t high, her sales would drop off (if buyers were disappointed with what they heard).  Instead, her whole catalog is selling extremely well.

The sheer volume of her recording output is astonishing.  Yes, four of her last eight albums are re-recordings (Taylor’s Versions), but imagine the effort it takes to recreate intricate recordings that her longtime fans know intimately.  Besides, there are enough new songs on her four re-recorded albums to fill two new albums.  So…in less than 5 years…Swift has released the equivalent of six new albums (really 7 since Tortured Poets is a double), and four re-recorded albums.

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

(Nice shirt)

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

On the album chart, no other artist (while living) has ever had five albums simultaneously in the top 10.  Swift has done it multiple times.  On the album sales chart Swift is the only person to have the top 4, and the only artist to have 7 of the top 10.  Swift is second only to The Beatles for the number of weeks topping the Billboard 200 album chart.  She has 73 weeks at the top (5/19/24), and they have what may be an unbreakable record of 132 weeks.

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

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

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

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

Update: (2/11/24)


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

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

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

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

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

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

Update:  Taylor Swift shocked fans with 31 song Anthology!

The album of all new songs was released April 19th, 2024, and promptly set records for physical sales and for streaming.  The album hit #1 immediately, and Swift had the top 14 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.  Taylor held the previous record with all of the Top 10 singles when Midnights was released.

Immediate Family…Music Documentary (Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immediate Family in a recent performance.

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

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