The Beatles and A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)

Artificial Intelligence is being used to alter Beatles songs.  If you’ve checked out YouTube recently, you may have heard them.  For example…Paul’s “Every Night” can be found with the artificial voice of John Lennon singing the lead vocal.  It actually sounds more like a combination of John and Paul’s voices into one wrong-sounding voice.  There are a bunch of similar attempts, but it seems they’re a little short of perfecting the voices.  I couldn’t bring myself to listen to “John’s voice” being used for “Hey Jude”.

John said he should have sung the lead on Paul’s song “On Darling”.  That would be good, but you couldn’t just replace Paul’s voice with John’s.  The musical key would have to be lowered into John’s range, and then someone would have to guess how John would’ve actually chosen to sing it.

There will certainly be improvements shortly, so what are we going to end up with, and what will be legal?

Some attempts like these could turn out good in the future, and fans may find them interesting and enjoyable.  The copyright laws might prevent free use of Beatles recordings, but it’s likely owners of various copyrights will find ways of making money off old songs.  Maybe that has something to do with companies buying so many artist’s catalogs recently.

Paul McCartney is using AI to release what he calls the final Beatles song.

As most fans know, AI was used to improve the audio quality of the documentary The Beatles: Get Back.  It was also used to better separate the instruments and voices on the remix of Revolver.  That same technology has been used to separate and enhance John’s voice from an old cassette of demos.  McCartney said that nothing has been artificially or synthetically created.  He said “It’s all real, and we all play on it.”  It’s expected the song is “Now and Then”, which The Beatles worked on at the time of the Anthology series in the mid 1990’s.

I’ve listened to John’s demo of “Now and Then” on YouTube, and it’s certainly underwhelming in that form.  John’s singing of the demo doesn’t have the emotional punch he would have given a final take in the recording studio.  Also, the high part of the vocal seems a little too high for John’s range.  We can hope Paul sang the high part when they worked on the track in the ‘90’s, like he took the high part on John’s song “If I Fell”.  We’ll find out if “Now and Then” is the song, and how it sounds, when the recording is released later this year.

Someone may also decide to improve John’s voice on “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” which were also derived from low quality cassette demos.  An almost-good AI version of John’s demo of “Grow Old With Me” is already on YouTube.

In other Paul McCartney news, he’s released a book of photos he took in 1964 during Beatlemania.

Paul and the other Beatles were not photographers, but Paul and Ringo took snapshots from time to time.  Ringo has already published a more extensive collection of his photos, and Paul included some personal photos in his book The Lyrics.

Here are some samples of photographs Paul provided as publicity for the book.

There seems to be an endless market for Beatles product.  Besides books, it looks like we could get some interesting, and hopefully good music…if Artificial Intelligence can be used in an artistically satisfying way.

CSN&Y…Wasted On The Way

Like many Crosby Stills Nash & Young fans, I’ve read books about them, watched documentaries, bought all of their group albums, and most of their solo albums.  Even so, when Amazon suggested I might like another book about CSN&Y (and it was at half price) I bought it.

This book, came out in 2018, but somehow I missed it, or thought I didn’t need to read more about the group.  Amazon provided the first chapter as a sample, and I was hooked.  Author David Browne also wrote Fire And Rain (about Rock in 1970), which I read when it came out in 2011.

This book provides a lot more detail about Crosby Stills Nash & Young, but maybe even more than I wanted to know.  Sure there’s all the info about what made them so special, but Graham Nash was right when he sang about “Time we have wasted on the way”.  CSN&Y wasted time by not getting along, mostly because of egos and drugs.  It’s a real shame that drugs were a part of the Rock & Roll lifestyle, because drugs almost killed David Crosby, and they did kill some of the musicians CSN&Y worked with.

There were also personality clashes, and significant differences in work habits when it came to the recording process.  Stephen Stills could play all of the instruments needed for a band, and loved to work in the studio.  Sometimes that was good, but other times he would get so involved he’d spend days working without sleep.  No one else thought that was a healthy way to make music, and lack of sleep hurt his interactions with the others.  During part of his career, Stills also had an alcohol problem.

David Crosby’s extreme drug usage caused him to almost miss 1982’s fourth group album, Daylight Again.  His time in jail for drug possession actually helped him get clean.  Graham Nash also had some drug problems, but was the most stable of CSN, and helped the group by handling much of the business side of their career.

The book clarified how Neil Young fit in (or didn’t fit in) with the others.  The author’s opinion was in line with my long-held belief that Neil Young cleverly joined CSN mainly to become well known.  It greatly impacted the sales of his solo albums.  He had released two previous solo albums that (despite being good) had poor sales.  After his fame with CSN&Y, his album sales took off, often to the platinum level.

One of my main takeaways from the book is that Young was probably right to limit his involvement with CSN.  Buffalo Springfield showed that Young wasn’t a good member of a group.  He abandoned Buffalo Springfield just before a TV appearance, and again before the Monterey Pop Festival.  Neil proved he needed to be in charge of his own unique career, and he couldn’t function well within a group…especially one with the members so often at odds with one another..

Neil Young only wrote three songs that CSN&Y recorded and released on their 1970’s studio albums.  His real place was as a very valuable member of their live shows.  Anytime the “& Young” was added to a tour, the group played larger venues and made more money.  That seems a fair payback for the jump-start CSN gave to Neil Young’s solo career.

The first album, Crosby Stills & Nash, arrived in 1969, just before The Beatles stopped recording together.  CS&N helped fill that major gap, along with the surge of singer-songwriters.

CSN’s most significant group recordings are contained in their first four albums, as shown above.  These albums were recorded between 1969 and 1982.  CSN (& sometimes Y) recorded four more albums, but when the group released their CSN Greatest Hits album in 2005, all of the songs chosen were from those first four albums.

Here’s the list of those songs, placed in chronological order.

  1. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
  2. Marrakesh Express
  3. Guinnevere
  4. Helplessly Hoping
  5. Wooden Ships
  6. Long Time Gone
  7. 49 Bye-Byes
  8. Teach Your Children
  9. Carry On/Questions
  10. Our House
  11. See The Changes
  12. Just A Song Before I Go
  13. Shadow Captain
  14. In My Dreams
  15. Cathedral
  16. Southern Cross
  17. Wasted On The Way
  18. Delta
  19. Daylight Again/Find The Cost Of Freedom

The first seven songs are from their initial album, Crosby, Stills &  Nash,  8, 9 & 10 are from Deja Vu, the next five are from CSN, and the final four from Daylight Again.

That’s an impressive line-up of very original recordings.  Notice anything missing?  Unfortunately, It was decided to not include any songs Neil Young recorded with them, so “Woodstock” and “Ohio” are not there.  That poor decision eliminated a great Stephen Stills arrangement and vocal of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”, and the excellent group effort on Neil Young’s “Ohio”.

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash also had many outstanding songs on their solo albums of the 1970’s, but they would have needed to add another disc to accommodate them, plus get clearance from multiple labels.

These are the other four albums released by the group from 1988 to 1999.  I did a count of the songs I listen to regularly from these albums (on my playlists), and there are only seven.  That’s not a winning percentage, but I wouldn’t want to be without those tracks. It just shows that even great artists and songwriters can’t keep up the quality for their entire careers.

Looking at the above albums, it’s hard to forgive Graham Nash for approving the cover with giant hot dogs on the moon.

Since reading the CSN&Y book, I’ve been trying to put the group into perspective.  For me personally, the quality and amount of music (including solo albums) make them second to The Beatles. Other strong contenders include the Eagles and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.  CSN&Y’s sales and streaming aren’t as big as some other Classic Rock groups, but their unique blend of voices and the variety of styles from four songwriters are unmatched.

John Denver’s Skyrocket Career

Thank goodness for playlists.  As I was scrolling down the playlists of my collection, I came across “John Denver Best”.  It had been too long since I listened to John Denver, and the songs sounded so good.  I’m not sure his music is played much anymore, or that there are still radio formats with his songs, but John Denver deserves to be remembered.

The first time I saw John Denver was on
The Tonight Show.  It was before he became famous.  In fact, John said he only had one hit, and although he wrote it, he wasn’t the one who made it famous.  The song he sang was “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, a #1 hit by Peter, Paul & Mary in December of 1969.

The first record I bought by John Denver was his breakthrough album, Poems, Prayers & Promises in 1971.

With this album, almost everyone knew about John Denver.  The songs played from the album were “Take Me Home Country Roads” #2, “Sunshine On My Shoulders” #1, “My Sweet Lady”, and “Poems, Prayers & Promises”.  The album also includes two covers of songs by Paul McCartney, “Let It Be” and “Junk”, plus the James Taylor classic “Fire And Rain”…which is a very good version.  By the way, the two co-writers who helped John Denver with “Take Me Home Country Roads” were members of the Starland Vocal Band which had the famous/infamous hit “Afternoon Delight”.

From 1971 through 1975, Denver’s career was like a “skyrocket in flight”.  More of his hits included “Rocky Mountain High” #9, “Annie’s Song (You Fill Up My Senses)” #1, “Back Home Again” #5, “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” #1, “I’m Sorry” #1, and “Calypso” #2.

But it wasn’t just his recording career.  John Denver starred in the hit movie Oh God! with George Burns, had his own TV variety show, won an Emmy for his concert special An Evening With John Denver, and was a guest star on many other television shows.  In 1975 he was named “Entertainer Of The Year” by the Country Music Association, and he hosted the Grammy Awards five times.

For about five years in the 1970’s, John Denver was probably the highest profile musician in America, and may have been overexposed.  There was blowback from some people who thought he was too lightweight or not hip enough.  After 1975, Denver’s career cooled off.  He never had another Top-20 hit, even though he still maintained a solid fan base who loved his music.  In the later part of his career, John Denver used his earnings and celebrity to help charities and environmental organizations.

Sadly, John Denver died too soon, at the age of 53, on October 12th, 1997.  He was an experienced pilot who was flying home-built aircraft (he purchased  it after it had been assembled).  Unfortunately, the switch to change to a reserve fuel tank was improperly installed.  It’s thought that led to the crash that killed him.

Like the majority of musical careers, John Denver’s legacy is mostly remembered through a variety of “Greatest Hits” collections.  His songs feature beautiful acoustic guitar playing, and some extremely memorable melodies.  A demonstration of that took place last year at an American NFL game that was held in Germany.  The German crowd serenaded the players with a song they all knew…”Take Me Home Country Roads”.

Extra:  My playlist.  All songs are the original versions.  (Some tracks on his Greatest Hits albums are re-recorded versions.)

Gordon Lightfoot…Canadian Troubadour

One of the best singer-songwriters to come to us from Canada has passed away.  Gordon Lightfoot was 84.  He had been in poor health, and died in a Toronto hospital on May 1st, 2023.

Most Americans heard Gordon Lightfoot’s songs before we heard his voice.  In the 1960’s artists like Bob Dylan and Peter Paul & Mary recorded Lightfoot’s Folk songs.  They included “Early Morning Rain”, “Ribbon Of Darkness”, “Did She Mention My Name”, and “(That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me”.

In early 1971 Lightfoot started to duplicate his Canadian success in the U.S. with “If You Could Read My Mind”.  It went to #5 on the singles chart, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  His next hit was his biggest.

“Sundown” was Gordon Lightfoot’s only #1 on the Hot 100 singles chart.  The 1974 album, Sundown, was also #1 in the U.S. and Canada.  The album had another hit, “Carefree Highway” #10.  It was one of four #1’s on the AC chart for Lightfoot, with the fourth one being “Rainy Day People” in 1975.  It was then that we got a chance to catch up on some of Gordon Lightfoot’s best songs.

Gord’s Gold was a two-record set.  The first record included new recordings of his best 1960’s songs, including the epic “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”, plus the songs other artists had success with during the ‘60’s Folk revival.  Record two had his ‘70’s hits and best album tracks.

There was one more big hit for Gordon Lightfoot.  In the folk tradition, Lightfoot wrote about a real event, “The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald”.  The ore freighter went down in Lake Superior during a storm in 1975.  The crew of 29 was lost.  The song was a hit in 1976, and that’s when we saw Gordon Lightfoot in concert.

Here are some photos I took during the concert.  They’re not up to today’s standards, but clicking to enlarge them will help.

The event was at the 4,500 seat Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln, Nebraska.  It was probably around that same time that I took this shot of the auditorium.  It held a lot of events in Lincoln until it closed in 2014.

The highlight of the show was his latest hit at the time, “The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald”.  I remember how great the audio was on this particular song, with dramatic full bass and drums.  It felt like the band was excited to be playing their new hit.  Over the years, Gordon Lightfoot has pointed to “The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald” (which was a #2 hit) as his best work.  “Sundown” is right there too, and his older songs are now considered Folk classics.

Although his greatest success was in the 1970’s, Gordon Lightfoot continued to be a concert draw for decades, and was very highly esteemed in his native Canada.

Stephen Stills…Live at Berkeley 1971 (Review)

Stephen Stills has released a live album he recorded over 50 years ago.  The taping was done in August of 1971, shortly after Stills released his second solo album.  The high-quality recordings were selected from two shows at the 3,500 seat Berkeley Community Theater in Northern California.

The first ten songs are all acoustic and all good, with Stills on guitar, piano, and even one song on banjo, “Know You Got To Run”.  The concert starts with his most famous solo hit “Love The One You’re With”.  Stephen’s voice is young and strong, and it sounds great, but the background voices from the original recording are missed.  The next song, “Do For The Others” is near perfection, with Steve Fromholz providing excellent vocal harmony.  A song that wouldn’t be released until the Manassas album the following year, “Jesus Gave Love Away For Free”, continues the harmony work, but this time Stephen sometimes slips into the upper harmony part instead of singing the lead.  Even though the song is over 50 years old now, it has the sound of a country standard that could have been 20-years-old back then…in a good way.

The main guest star at the concert was David Crosby.  Unlike the above photo, Stephen and David were on acoustic guitars.  They performed Stills’ “You Don’t Have To Cry” with their usual great harmonies.  Then Stephen returns the favor on Crosby’s “The Lee Shore”, with excellent guitar playing and subtle harmony vocals.

One bit of unique harmony came during “Black Queen”.  Stills is playing a guitar lead, and then he vocalizes a harmony that goes with the melody of the guitar.  It sounds cool, and the audience spontaneously applauds his efforts when that instrumental ends.

After the ten acoustic songs, there are four electric songs with most of the band members Stills had been using since CSN&Y started recording in 1969.  Plus, there’s a five-piece brass section, The Memphis Horns.  The electric set doesn’t quite rise to the level of the acoustic portion of the concert, except for the over 9-minute “Cherokee”.  The bass, drums, and percussion keep a driving rhythm, while the horn section provides some superb jazz instrumental breaks, and Stills wraps it up with some searing electric guitar.

Here are the two sides of the trifold CD holder.  It’s a nice presentation that provides the needed information about the concert.  If you click to enlarge & zoom, you can read it all. 

Overall, Stephen Stills Live At Berkeley 1971 is a welcome addition to any Stephen Stills collection.  It was thoughtful of Stephen to release the album on my birthday (April 28th), because my wife got it for me as a present.

The Beatles…Flawed History (and Outrage!)

Is this the way it’s going to be?  People who must be too young to understand The Beatles are writing articles, and they obviously don’t research very well either.  We’re getting articles about The Beatles that don’t make sense.

Recently, one young writer was listing artists who influenced The Beatles, and included Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Apparently the writer didn’t know that it was the other way around, and that CCR’s burst into popularity came in the last year the four Beatles recorded together, 1969.

An article about the worst Beatles songs had “Yesterday” at #5, and called it “schmaltzy drivel”.  Apparently a beautiful melody, heartfelt lyrics, great arrangement, and excellent vocal are not enough to place the most recorded song of all time on the plus side.  It would be okay to do an article on The Beatles’ worst songs, but at least make an honest effort.

There are often articles about individual songs.  Almost invariably they mention how the song did on the charts.  They’ll write that some Beatles song was not a hit.  Well that’s because it was never released as a single!  After doing this for some time, the writers finally realized the problem, so now they mention whatever album it was on, and how it did on the charts.  Then they’ll say something like… “Even though the song wasn’t popular….”.  With album cuts, there’s no way to definitively measure their popularity.

One writer on this site, Showbiz Cheat Sheet, seems to have a goal of slamming Lennon & McCartney’s best songs.  His comments would never be made by anyone who knows music.  The songs he tries to diminish have inspired  generations of musicians and songwriters, but this guy thinks he knows more than all of them.  He needs to be removed from his current assignment, so he can write about something he knows and likes.

Now there’s outrage over Ringo Starr’s 1973 hit “You’re Sixteen”.  A writer for Showbiz Cheat Sheet says it’s “gross” and “reprehensible” that Ringo would sing about a sixteen-year-old girl, because when the record was released he was 33!  The song goes back to 1960 when professional songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman wrote it for singer Johnny Burnette.  The recording went to #8 on the Billboard singles chart.  The writers and singer were all too old for a 16-year-old girl.  But they weren’t writing about themselves as possible boyfriends for the girl, they were writing a song for teenage boys and girls who could imagine themselves in the song.

Ringo likes singing old Rock & Roll songs, and “You’re Sixteen” is a fun one.  Can’t we all imagine ourselves being sixteen?  The recording was extremely well produced by Richard Perry, and there’s great piano work by Nicky Hopkins.  The public agreed, and the song was a number-one hit from the best-selling 1973 album, Ringo.

The term “teenager” was coined in the 1950’s and applied to the “Baby Boomer” generation…the largest demographic in U.S. history.  This was the group buying records, and especially 45-RPM singles.  So, professional writers and performers aimed their songs at teenagers.  It was the same way for some of the songs by the writing teams of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, and Gerry Goffin & Carole King.  Even The Beatles originally wrote songs with teenagers in mind.

Another common mistake by the writers of numerous Beatles articles is that they grab one moment in history, or a comment one of The Beatles made.  They make a big deal about that comment, but don’t provide any historical perspective of how that moment in time played out, or was amended by later comments or circumstances.

There was also a recent article about Beatles songs that the author said “made no sense”…that the lyrics didn’t mean anything.  Examples he used included “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”.  Specifically pointed out was the “Strawberry Fields” line… “No one else is in my tree.  I mean it must be high or low.”  John Lennon always knew he was different, and wasn’t sure how he fit in, but the article’s writer thought the words were just nonsense.  Do they even know that Strawberry Field is a real place from John’s childhood?   As for “Lucy”, it’s an Alice In Wonderland style of song, and is using words to paint a psychedelic world.  The song title was taken from a drawing done by John’s young son, Julian.

When it comes to some of the recent writers of Beatles articles, maybe a John Lennon “nonsense” line said it best… “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.”

Beatles Solo Songs Made Into Beatles Albums

Although The Beatles never got back together, we can put them together with our playlists.  Placing John, Paul, George and Ringo’s songs together makes for a more satisfying listening experience than playing their solo albums separately.  And the most enjoyable way is album-style playlists.  This is not an attempt to say what The Beatles would have done.  Instead, each artist’s songs are spread across the timeline of all four of their solo careers.  It’s a fun way to add more high-quality Beatles albums to your life.

(Each album list can be clicked to enlarge.)

These Beatles solo songs, mostly from 1970-71, form a strong album.  Six of the tracks were hit singles.  Placing their best solo songs together not only boosts the quality, it provides a variety of styles and voices that make listening more interesting.  Each of these playlists includes a title (like
Karma for this one), it gives a hint as to the basic timeline of each album and what it might include.  There’s also a light attempt to provide a visual for each album.  The photos on this one are all from 1970.

The first solo albums by Paul and George both hit #1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, and with his impressive second album, Imagine, John joined them at #1.  Ringo’s self-titled and best album made it to #2, and he had multiple singles hit #1.  Ringo was the only solo album that included appearances by all four Beatles.  Side 2 of this fantasy album has a theme, and places related songs together.  They include John’s bashing of Paul with “How Do You Sleep”, Paul’s answer, “Dear Friend”, John’s possible admission of jealousy of Paul, and George’s “Isn’t It A Pity” about “How we break each other’s hearts, and cause each other pain”.  Fortunately, The Beatles eventually made peace with each other.

Here’s another collection of hits and great songs.  Besides Paul McCartney’s #1 title song, it has George Harrison’s definitive version of Bob Dylan’s “If Not For You”, one of John Lennon’s most beautiful songs, “Oh My Love”, his #1 hit “Whatever Gets You Through The Night”, and Ringo’s fun #4 hit “Oh My My”. 

This is a fun album.  Each of the individual Beatles recorded early Rock & Roll songs during their solo careers.  This album puts them together.  Ringo kicks it off with his #1 version of “You’re Sixteen”.  It’s nice to have him start a Beatles album for a change.  There’s also his Top-10 hit “Only You”.  Paul was just a natural at performing early Rock & Roll, so he has five tracks here.  John’s songs are great too, but if you can, try to get the remixed versions, because his voice sounds so much better on those.

More great songs from some top-ranked albums, brought together in one Rock Show.  If only we could have had these four talents come together in the late 70’s to play their songs for us at a show.  Paul McCartney was the most prolific solo Beatle, and he provides most of the rocking on this album with “Rock Show”, “Helen Wheels”, “Junior’s Farm”, and “Letting Go”, plus the #1 hit “Listen To What The Man Said”.  The somewhat less well known songs by the other three are excellent too, with “Nobody Loves You (WhenYou’re Down And Out)” and “Watching The Wheels” standouts.

More songs from #1 albums, including John Lennon’s Double Fantasy.  This suggested playlist is stacked with many hits (two #1’s and multiple Top-10’s) in a wide variety of styles.  There are a couple of album tracks from Paul McCartney that you might not know.  “Summer’s Day Song” and “Love Awake” are segued together to make one track, because the two ballads are so closely linked by their themes.  (You can listen to the track at the end of this article.)   “Cloud 9” is the title track from George Harrison’s big comeback album that was produced by Jeff Lynne.

In the latter part of George Harrison’s career, he took time to look back at The Beatles with “When We Was Fab”.  Near the same time, George gathered his A-list friends to form the Traveling Wilburys.  Their first hit, “Handle With Care” is included.  George’s “All Those Years Ago” sets the stage for Side 2.  The song is a tribute to John…Ringo Starr’s “Never Without You” is a tribute to George…and Paul McCartney’s “Here Today” is his tribute to John.  The two John Lennon songs “I’m Stepping Out” and “Borrowed Time” were released over three years after he died.  Plus, he wrote “Grow Old With Me” (with Ringo in mind to record it), and Ringo does John proud with his version.

The final playlist of Beatles solo recordings is by Paul, George and Ringo.  The photos on the mock album cover are from their last photo session before George passed away.  “Heading For The Light” is an excellent solo-sounding song George recorded with The Traveling Wilburys.  His other two songs, “Any Road” and “Run So Far” were released posthumously.  Paul McCartney’s songs are mainly from one of his best albums, Flaming Pie.  There is one John Lennon song, “Real Love”, which was a demo recording that was augmented by the other Beatles when Anthology 2 was released.

Whether you’re able to utilize these playlists or not, you can see how there could have been many more great Beatles albums.  Wish these four musicians could have combined their best music for at least another decade.

Bonus:  Thought you might like to hear “Summer’s Day/Love Awake”.  The lyrics to the mostly instrumental “Summer’s Day Song” end with “For the world will soon be waking to a summer’s day”…and the next song starts with the words “Love awake.”, and ends with “It’s never too long before the summer comes again”, which wraps it all up.  Paul McCartney plays the almost classical-style synthesizer instrumental and sings all the vocals for “Summer’s Day Song”.  “Love Awake” picks up the tempo and has more of a Beatles’ sound.  Here’s the track with the two songs put together.

Creedence Clearwater Revival Documentary

There’s never been a lot of film available of Creedence Clearwater Revival.  They were popular in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s.  That was before music videos were common, and a decade before MTV made artist videos necessary.  Although CCR played Woodstock, John Fogerty was not satisfied with their performance, so they were not included in the film.  There was also film of a 1970 performance at The Royal Albert Hall in London, but it was lost.  Decades later, it’s been found.

If you have Netflix, you can watch a 90-minute documentary called Travelin’ Band/At The Royal Albert Hall.  The Travelin’ Band portion of the documentary is a really good history of CCR, with lots of video and photographs, plus narration by Jeff Bridges.  It was good to see all of the band members talking on camera during their rise to fame.  The film was actually released this past fall, but wasn’t on my radar at that time.  Hopefully, it will continue being discovered.

(Doug Clifford, Tom Fogerty, John Fogerty, and Stu Cook)

It’s been long known that John Fogerty became estranged from the rest of the band, and the bad feelings were never resolved.  So the documentary is a way to see the group during better days.

CCR’s first recording success started with their Creedence Clearwater Revival album in 1968.  It was filled with cover songs like “I Put A Spell On You”, and “Susie Q”.  That established their “Swamp Rock” style, but it was the next year’s explosion of great songwriting by John Fogerty that made them popular.

In 1969 CCR had three major albums, Bayou Country, Green River, and Willy And The Poor Boys.  They included an enviable string of hit singles including “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Lodi”, “Green River”, “Down On The Corner”, “Fortunate Son” and more.  Rarely has a band produced so many hits so quickly.

The next year, 1970, brought two more albums, Cosmo’s Factory, and Pendulum.   Those had the hits “Travelin’ Band”, “Who’ll Stop The Rain”, “Up Around The Bend”, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”, and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”.  With all their memorable singles, it’s obvious why CCR’s greatest hits album is still a big seller.

After the history of the band, the documentary ends with CCR’s 1970 concert at The Royal Albert Hall.  The performance of twelve songs is a combination of hits up to that time, plus some album tracks.  The band may not have gotten along later, but here their playing is tight.

(CCR at The Royal Albert Hall in 1970)

Unlike today’s big concert productions, CCR only takes up about 20-feet of the stage.  There are no big screens, no backdrops, and very little interaction with the audience.  John Fogerty is the definite focus of the band.  He’s the songwriter, the lead guitarist, and the lead singer.  The rest of the band is solid, but there’s only one star.  CCR broke up in 1972, only four years after having their first hit.  John Fogerty went on to a successful solo career.

If you’re a fan, you’ll find the Creedence Clearwater Revival documentary on Netflix well worth your time.

Blood Sweat & Tears…What Happened?

There’s a new documentary called…What The Hell Happened To Blood Sweat & Tears?

The main answer is…“What goes up, must come down.” (but we’ll get into specifics).

That line from their song “Spinning Wheel”, sums up what happens to every successful band, but the down part came pretty quickly for BS&T.  The group’s first album in 1968 didn’t propel the band into national prominence, but their second album became a major hit in 1969.

Their self-titled album brought the term Jazz Rock into our vocabulary.  Blood Sweat & Tears had three platinum hit singles…  “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, “And When I Die”, and “Spinning Wheel”.  The sound was groundbreaking.  The brass arrangements were played by members of the band, instead of session players, as was the norm.

Instrumental breaks were heavily jazz influenced, and featured some exceptional trumpet solos.  The producer was James William Guercio, who also produced The Buckinghams and Chicago.  The other big change for BS&T was that David Clayton Thomas had taken over the lead vocals from Al Kooper.

(Click or zoom to enlarge.)

Besides the three hits, FM radio played almost all the songs, including “Smiling Phases”, “Sometimes In Winter” and “God Bless The Child”.  Blood Sweat & Tears won the Grammy for Album Of The Year.  It beat out Abbey Road, and though that seems wrong now, BS&T was hot.

So what happened to all that popularity?  They released more albums, but the quality just wasn’t there.  Also, their own songwriting was limited, so most of their recordings were cover versions.

I really enjoyed Blood Sweat & Tears, so I also bought their first album, Child Is Father To The Man (despite the creepy cover).  Although some people really like the album, it lacks the energy and commercial appeal of their hit album.  The follow-up to their successful album was Blood Sweat & Tears 3.  Because their second album was a phenomenon, their third album sold well at first, but the magic just wasn’t there, and it faded.  BS&T 4 was a little better, but also had disappointing sales.  In 1972, David Clayton Thomas left the group to try a solo career.  With a new lead singer, the band released New Blood.  It was after this one that I stopped buying their albums.  There were other album releases, but none had much impact..

The successful portion of BS&T’s recording career was only from 1969 to 1971.  After those three hit singles (that all made it to #2) they had only three more modest Top-40 hits, with each ranking lower than the last.

BS&T’s concerts were very popular for a couple years, and then they ran into the problem featured in the new documentary.

When Canadian David Clayton Thomas was still in the band, the U.S. State Department threatened to revoke his green card.  To keep that from happening, the band reluctantly agreed to do a concert tour behind the Iron Curtain.  The idea was to give those countries a taste of America’s spirit and freedom.  Unfortunately for BS&T, the Vietnam War meant working for the Nixon government was frowned upon by the youth of America.

Foreign audiences responded enthusiastically to BS&T, but the band received some undeserved animosity when they returned to the U.S.  The documentary covers the controversy.  It’s in limited theatrical release in major markets.

That Blood Sweat & Tears only had one truly great album, does not take away from the band’s innovative sound, nor the fact that their best songs are still a treat to hear all these decades later.


Just for fun:  BS&T should probably have sued their record company over the really bad album covers.

Child Is Father To The Man looks like the guys are holding doppelgänger ventriloquist dummies.  Blood Sweat & Tears appears to have black and white cutouts of their heads, and they kind of look like a line-up of Jack The Ripper suspects.  For Blood Sweat & Tears 3, someone said…”It’s a gloomy gray day.  Let’s have you all stand in the mud, and I’ll take your picture.”  BS&T 4 is an incomplete graphic with lots of white space and a cloud in the middle.  And finally, the New Blood cover represents the band by using flowery peacocks and butterflies.  The group should have been able to collect damages from Columbia Records.

Fictional Bands…Daisy Jones & The Six

There’s a new addition to the world of fictional Rock bands.

The movies gave us a great ‘60’s one-hit-wonder band, The Wonders, with That Thing You Do!  Almost Famous, from the real-life story of a young journalist, Cameron Crowe, included a fictional band, Stillwater, based partially on The Allman Brothers Band.  The film Eddie And The Cruisers had songs played by the real John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band.  And, Hard Rock humor came in the form of a fake “Rockumentary” with This Is Spinal Tap.

Of course there have also been fictional Pop bands based mainly on light-weight TV shows (The Archies, The Partridge Family, etc.).  That doesn’t include The Monkees, which became a real band even though the members were brought together for the show.

Now, there’s a ten-episode TV series on Amazon Prime with the fictional Rock band Daisy Jones & the Six.  It does a masterful job of visually recreating Rock & Roll in the 1970’s.  Oh, the original songs are not quite up to the quality of the real 70’s bands, but they’re good enough to provide the illusion we need.  Plus, there are a lot of real ‘70’s hits played during the show.  We even hear Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” near the end.

The series is from the 2019 bestselling novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  She was inspired to write the book after she saw Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham performing.  The book’s featured musical couple are Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne.  The two are played by Riley Keough (granddaughter of Elvis Presley) and Sam Clafin.  Though neither are professional singers, they provided strong and convincing vocals.  The music was produced by Blake Mills.  He also wrote most of the original music with help from co-writers, including a little bit of assistance from Jackson Browne, Marcus Mumford, and Phoebe Bridgers.

We see how the band comes together, their rise with the help of Daisy and Billy’s songwriting, and all the problems with egos, drugs, drinking, and relationships within the band.  The series is rated for ages 16+.

The emotional center of the show is a love triangle with the two main characters and Billy’s wife & band photographer Camila (Camila Morrone).  The other pairing in the band is Billy’s brother and lead guitarist Graham (Will Harrison) and keyboardist Karen (Suki Waterhouse).

The series does such a great job of recreating the era of the mid 1970’s that you almost believe the band was on the cover of the Rolling Stone, and that you may have owned their popular album Aurora.

As you watch the series, it’s fun to pick out the touches of Fleetwood Mac (and other bands), even though this is a fictional story.  In the longer concert scenes, Daisy does the twirling style of Stevie Nicks, and in the final concert she even dresses like a “white winged dove”.

Although Daisy Jones & The Six doesn’t quite reach the level of That Thing You Do! and Almost Famous, it is time well spent for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a fantasy of ‘70’s Rock & Roll.  No spoilers, but if you like the show, be assured that the finale episode is a satisfying conclusion.

Extra:  Here’s the link to an article on That Thing You Do!: