Tom Petty…Artist For The Decades (updated)

(After the sad news of Tom Petty’s passing, this article about his four decades of success was updated.)

Are Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers considered ‘70’s artists?  ‘80’s? ‘90’s?

All too often music careers only last a few years.  Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers had hit singles and hit albums since they released “Breakdown” in early 1978, and they still had hit albums and sold out arenas nearly 4 decades later.

Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, Tom Petty, Stan Lynch, & Benmont Tench

As Disco was fading in the 1970’s, the Punk and New Wave movements arose.  People tried to put one of those labels on Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, but they didn’t fit either one.  After all that Disco, maybe Rock & Roll was hard to recognize.  Petty’s band from Gainesville, Florida was mostly influenced by groups like The Byrds, The Beatles, and other bands of the British Invasion.

Let’s just break it down by Decades.

In the late 70’s Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers charted three albums…Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, You’re Gonna Get It!, and Damn The Torpedoes.  Major songs included “Breakdown”, “American Girl”, “Don’t Do Me Like That”, and “Refugee”.

The ‘80’s were big, with six Tom Petty projects…four albums with the Heartbreakers, Hard Promises, Long After Dark, Southern Accents, and Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), a huge solo album Full Moon Fever, and the superstar project The Travelng Wilburys (with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison & Jeff Lynne).

The singles in the 1980’s featured “The Waiting”, “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” (with Stevie Nicks), “You Got Lucky”, “Change of Heart”, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, “Jammin Me”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Runnin’ Down A Dream”, “Free Fallin’ ”, “Handle With Care” and “End Of The Line” (also check out the Wilburys’ “Last Night” and “Cool Dry Place”).  It was the decade of MTV videos, and Tom Petty was featured prominently.

After another Traveling Wilburys album, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers continued in the 1990’s with the albums Into the Great Wide Open, She’s The One (movie soundtrack), and Echo.  Hits included “Learning To Fly”, and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.  That last one is from their Greatest Hits album, which has sold over 12-million copies in the U.S.  Petty also released another multi-platinum-selling solo album Wildflowers.  “You Don’t Know How It Feels” was the main hit from the album, with “You Wreck Me”, “It’s Good To Be King”, and the title track among songs getting airplay.

The ‘90’s were a time of big changes in the Radio industry.  Formats splintered into niches, and Billboard magazine did the same thing with their charts.  By the turn of the century, it was hard to know where to find rock & roll on the dial.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers addressed the upheaval in Radio with their album and song The Last DJ from 2002.  It complained about the lack of the human element in selecting what was played, because of the tight playlists on many corporate stations.   “The Last DJ” is a really good and commercial-sounding single, but Petty didn’t endear himself to radio programmers, some of whom took it personally.

Next for Tom Petty was another solo album Highway Companion in 2006.  It was a Gold-selling album. This solid effort featured “Saving Grace” and “Square One”, but the national trend was a severe reduction in the representation of Rock anywhere.  Pop, Hip-Hop, and Country had taken over music.

In 2010, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers got their mojo back.  Well, at least they released an album named Mojo.  It was fairly well received by fans and critics, and went to #2 on the Billboard album chart.  In fact, their 2014 rock album Hypnotic Eye hit #1.  The only problem is…the charts don’t mean much anymore, because sales of albums are so small.  Proof is that one of the Heartbreakers’ lowest selling albums topped the charts.

Tom Petty seemed to fully understand the situation.  So he decided to re-form his original band from Florida, “Mudcrutch”.   With charts and airplay not mattering anymore, why not?   Mudcrutch (still a crazy name) allowed Petty to do something that’s a mix of Country Rock, Americana, and The Heartbreakers own sound.  The band included guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, making it three-fifths of the band we’ve loved for decades.

The first Mudcrutch album was released in 2008, and Mudcrutch 2 in 2016. I’m partial to the second album, which has quite a few high-quality Tom Petty originals.  But there’s at least one don’t miss song on the first album “Crystal River”.

Four decades on, and Tom Petty kept producing excellent songs no matter what the musical landscape threw at him.  He never did back down.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers had just completed a summer tour that celebrated their 40th Anniversary.  Then, on October 2nd, 2017, Tom Petty died at the age of 66.  It was later determined that he died of an accidental overdose of pain killers he’d been taking for a broken hip.  A major loss, too sad for words.  He’s greatly missed.

The Dave Clark Five…British Big Beat

When the British Invasion started, some of their rock music was described as having a “big beat”.  It was mainly in comparison with the more anemic pop/rock that was being made in the U.S. in the early 1960’s.  Some of the British bands had a tougher rock sound, like The Dave Clark Five’s uptempo drum rock.

Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Dave Clark, Rick Huxley, Denis Payton

The Dave Clark Five (from London) was the second British band to have a song chart in America in 1964.  No American bands were performing anything that included a big beat like “Bits And Pieces” and “Glad All Over”.  Dave Clark was the drummer, and lead singer Mike Smith had one of the best rock voices ever.  It certainly wasn’t “hard rock”, but it was a step in that direction.

Groups like The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five were heavily influenced by 1950’s American rock & roll, and especially Chuck Berry.  Both bands covered his songs.  Compare The Beatles’ “Rock & Roll Music” or The Dave Clark Five’s “Reelin’ And Rockin'” with Chuck Berry’s versions.  The British versions have a much more muscular and energetic feel…they rock!

Speaking of comparisons.

Publishers figured fans of both bands would buy their magazines if they portrayed the two as competitors.  Early on, The Beatles might have even been slightly worried that they would be replaced or eclipsed, because in 1964 it was all new.  No one knew the future for these two groups.

It wasn’t all uptempo rock songs for The Dave Clark Five.

The first single I ever bought at a record store is the ballad “Because”.  Above is my 1964 record sleeve from that song.  It’s still one of my favorites.

The DC5 was mostly a singles band.  Their albums sold well, but were not musical landmarks like those of some other groups.  I enjoyed their hits, but it seemed like there was too big of a quality gap between those and many of the album cuts.  Most of the songs were about 2-minutes long, which worked well musically, but it also meant with 11 songs per album (in America), all of the songs could have fit on one side of the record (would have saved flipping it over!).

The Dave Clark Five populated the Top-40 with seven hit singles in 1964…”Glad All Over” (#6), “Bits And Pieces” (#4), “Do You Love Me” (#11), “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” (#4), “Because” (#3), “Everybody Knows (I Still Love You) [#15], and “Any Way You Want It” (#14).  The songwriting on all but one of these songs was credited to Dave Clark, often with Mike Smith or one of the other band members as co-writers.  Some articles about the band suggest that an English songwriter named Ron Ryan wrote or co-wrote some of the band’s hits, including “Bits And Pieces”, “Because” and “Any Way You Want It”, and allowed his friend Dave Clark to be credited as the songwriter.  I have no way of independently verifying the story, but thought it should be mentioned.

You could have seen The DC5 perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.  He booked them consistently during their hit-making years.

The Dave Clark Five had five Top-40 hits in 1965, with three of them making the top 10, “I Like It Like That” (#7 and just 1:38 long), “Catch Us If You Can” (#4), and “Over And Over” (their only #1).

By 1966, they were losing some of their momentum.  They only had three Top-40 singles, and none reached the top-10.

In 1967, The DC5 had just two hits, and those were the last hits for them in the United States.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see what happened.  When they started out, their music was similar to The Beatles and other British Invasion groups.  They continued to make the same kind of music from 1964 to 1967.  During that time, The Beatles’ songwriting and innovation progressed rapidly with Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper.  The two hits for The Dave Clark Five in 1967 were “You Got What It Takes” and “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby”.  Songs that were remakes of old songs that didn’t fit in with the growth of rock music.

The Dave Clark Five continued to have some hits in England, but disbanded in 1970.

The good news for Dave Clark…unlike most musicians, he owned his own recordings, which made him very wealthy.  The bad news for fans…Dave Clark owned his own recordings, and decided to lock them away.  For 25 years, from 1978 until 1993, fans couldn’t even buy any of The DC5’s recordings.  Why?

Harold Bronson, the co-founder of Rhino Records (which has done some great work with reissued music), says Dave Clark mistakenly thought the longer he held out for a deal to release the music on CD, the greater the desire, and the greater the payday in terms of a royalty advance.  Instead, Bronson says, the band missed out on being played on oldies stations, because good copies weren’t available, and the songs weren’t exposed in films or on TV shows.  Plus, music fans were mostly playing CD’s, not their old worn out records.  Basically, The DC5 had been fading from memory.

Finally, in 1993, came The History of The Dave Clark Five.

It was a two-CD set that did a nice job of covering their career.  Unfortunately, it came a bit late, and probably should have been a single disc, because sales were disappointing.  I tried to help, and bought my copy as soon as it was available.  There’s one other thing that bugs fans.  They’d like to have stereo recordings, instead of the mono in which almost all of the songs are released.

  1. Glad All Over
  2. Bits & Pieces (Stereo)
  3. Do You Love Me (Stereo)
  4. Because (Stereo)
  5. Can’t You See That She’s Mine (Stereo)
  6. Any Way You Want It (Stereo)
  7. Everybody Knows (I Still Love You) [Stereo]
  8. Reelin’ & Rockin’ (Stereo)
  9. I Like It Like That
  10. Catch Us If You Can
  11. Come Home (Stereo)
  12. Over & Over
  13. At The Scene
  14. Hurting Inside (Stereo)
  15. Try Too Hard (Stereo)
  16. Everybody Knows (Stereo Single)
  17. Please Tell Me Why (Stereo)
  18. ‘Til The Right One Comes Along (Stereo)
  19. Don’t Let Me Down
  20. Satisfied With You (Stereo)
  21. Look Before You Leap (Stereo)
  22. Whenever You’re Around (Stereo)
  23. You Got What It Takes (Stereo)
  24. Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll Medley (Stereo)
  25. Rock ‘N’ Roll Medley 2 (Stereo)

Above is my playlist for the best of The Dave Clark Five.  Over the years, I’ve acquired stereo versions of many of their songs, in fact, 19 out of 25 of these versions are real stereo (not re-channeled stereo).  One collection of DC5 songs released on vinyl in America (just after their popular years) had stereo versions.  Some of their other albums also contained a few real stereo versions.  However, it should be noted that the stereo versions are not always better.  “Glad All Over” is more powerful in mono, and the stereo version of “Catch Us If You Can” is a terrible mix.  It doesn’t seem likely that we die-hard fans will get a quality stereo remix from master tapes anytime soon.

The best collection currently available through iTunes is 2008’s The Dave Clark Five: The Hits ($11.99).  It’s in living mono, but the songs sound good.  Update:  In 2019 another “remastered” version (not a remix, not a stereo version) was made available.  At this point, it’s only $10.99 for the same 28 song set.

The Dave Clark Five added the “big beat” and a lot of fun to the British Invasion.  They made it into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, but it should have been a lot sooner.  Lead singer Mike Smith died just eleven days before the group was inducted by DC5 fan Tom Hanks.

Elton John…The Best Years (Updates)

Most of us learned of Elton John in late 1970 with the release of “Your Song”.  The song ranked a respectable #8 in 1971, and it feels more like a #1,  because it grew to become Elton’s signature song.

The album it was from, Elton John, had been released in April of 1970, and the first single “Border Song” had stiffed at #92.  It takes the right song to break an artist, and “Your Song” was the right one for Elton John.  His self-titled first U.S. album (second in England) went on to hit #4 in Billboard, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.  The album also contained “I Need You To Turn To” & “Take Me To The Pilot”, and was strong enough to move Elton John into the stream of singer-songwriters that started at the beginning of the decade.

There was a difference with the songwriter portion of that description, as Elton John had a co-writer, Bernie Taupin.  For the most part, Bernie would write lyrics or poems, and Elton would put them to music.

It may seem as if Elton John’s career just exploded from there, but the reality is, he had trouble getting another hit single.  From a movie soundtrack, “Friends” only made it to #34.  His next album, Tumbleweed Connection, had no Top 40 hits, but “Country Comfort”, “Come Down In Time”, and “Love Song” did get some airplay.

He followed that up with Madman Across The Water in 1971, and “Levon” at #24 was the only (modest) hit.

1972 would be the big breakout year for Elton John.

Producer Gus Dudgeon and engineer Ken Scott recorded the album in a French chateau…thus, Honky Chateau.  Normally it takes singles to drive an album, and it had “Rocket Man” (#6) and “Honky Cat” (#8).  The album went to #1, and was the first of 7 straight #1 albums for Elton John.  Besides the fact that it has some great songs, the thing I remember most about Honky Chateau is it’s wonderfully clear and full audio quality…thank you Gus and Ken.

Here are the other six #1 albums in that streak for Elton John…Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), Caribou (1974), Greatest Hits (1975), Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975), and Rock Of The Westies (1976).  That’s a great run, and an amazing output, but that also was the last of his #1 albums, just six years into his 50 year career.

The main point of this article is that as incredibly popular as musicians become, they cannot maintain that level of quality or success.  It’s almost always the first part of their careers that give us their truly classic songs.

  1. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  2. Bennie And The Jets
  3. Daniel
  4. Crocodile Rock
  5. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  6. Philadelphia Freedom
  7. Island Girl
  8. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
  9. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
  10. Sacrifice
  11. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
  12. Can’t You Feel The Love Tonight
  13. Your Song
  14. Tiny Dancer
  15. Rocket Man
  16. Candle In The Wind
  17. Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

Above are the songs on Elton John’s Rocket Man: Number Ones collection from 2007…37 years into his career.  Out of the 17 songs, 15 are from 1970 to 1976.  By the way, not all of them hit number one.  I love “Tiny Dancer”, but it only hit #41 in the U.S. and was not released in the U.K.  Only 5 of these recordings actually hit #1 in the U.S., but that doesn’t lessen their quality.  Also, Elton John has consistently charted songs & albums, and continues to have a career like very few artists have enjoyed.

Let’s look at “The Best Years” of some other top artists:

James Taylor…has had a career parallel to Elton John.  Of the songs he says he “must play” in concert to satisfy his fans, all of them fall into the 1970 to 1977 time frame.  Like Elton, he continues to chart songs and albums…even had a #1 album in 2015, but it’s not the same as when album sales were the true measuring stick.

Carole King…1971 to 1975 for her main songs as a performer.  She had decades of hits as a songwriter.

Eagles…they recorded from 1972 to 1979, and then they broke up.  They got back together in 1994 and remain popular, but their “must play” songs are from that 8 year period.  However, the theory might not apply, since Don Henley had so much solo success.

Cat Stevens…1971-1974 for his main hits.

Carly Simon…1971 to 1978, with a couple top 20 hits in the 80’s.

Jackson Browne…1973-1982, with a couple top 20 hits later.

Bob Seger…1977-1987, a good 11 year stretch on the singles chart, with pretty steady popularity.  His albums sold well long after his singles success.

Bob Dylan…1964-1973, plus 3 more top 40 singles in the ’70’s.  Of course he’s one of the most influential songwriters of all time.

The music industry has plenty of one-hit and two-hit wonders, and more often than not artists are only popular for a few years.  Above are some of the best and most influential musicians of our time.  This info is only meant to indicate their periods of highest popularity.

Elton John is indisputably one of the most successful artists of the rock era, and yet his career was “front loaded” with his defining hits.  Compare that with your favorite artists.  When were their “best years”?

Update: (Sept. 2022)  Elton John, who had been knighted in England, was recently honored in America.  He went to the White House to perform, and was surprised and brought to tears when he received the National Humanities Medal for his many years of humanitarian work.

Update: (July 8th, 2023)  Elton John ended his touring career with a final concert in Stockholm, Sweden July 8th, 2023.  He performed over 4,000 concerts in his more than half-century career.

(Elton John during his final tour performance)

Elton John hinted that although he’s done touring, he’s not giving up performing, and could do a residency in England.

Ringo Starr…It Don’t Come Easy

Which ex-Beatle had the most Top-10 hits in a row?  Yes, good old one-song-per-Beatles-album Ringo Starr had seven of them.  For comparison, the most the other Beatles had were…Harrison two, Lennon four, and McCartney six in a row.

When The Beatles split, Ringo was at a loss about what he should do as a solo artist.  In 1970 he tried an album of standards, Sentimental Journey, and a country album, Beaucoups Of Blues.  Those proved that he needed to stick to Rock & Roll.  In 1971, George Harrison helped kick-start Ringo’s solo career by co-writing, producing, and playing on the single “It Don’t Come Easy”.  It was a big hit (#4) that is still a fan favorite.

George also helped with 1972’s “Back Off Boogaloo” which made it to #9.  Those singles were followed by the album that is the height of Ringo Starr’s solo career.

Ringo, was released in November of 1973.  Richard Starkey’s album was produced by another Richard…Richard Perry.  He was the hot producer of the time, and was behind top albums by Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, and many more.

Richard Perry and Ringo’s greatest accomplishment was getting all three of the other Beatles to make solid contributions.  George Harrison played guitar on four songs, and wrote or co-wrote three.  John Lennon wrote “I’m The Greatest” and provided piano and backing vocals on it.  Paul McCartney wrote “Six O’Clock”, played keyboards and sang backup on it , plus he added rock kazoo to “You’re Sixteen”.

There were three hit singles “Photograph” (#1), “You’re Sixteen” (#1), and “Oh My My” (#5).  Plus, there were three more potential singles…Randy Newman’s “Have You Seen My Baby (Hold On)”, Lennon’s “I’m The Greatest” and McCartney’s “Six O’Clock”.  Basically, the whole album is good.  The CD release is even better, with the bonus cuts “It Don’t Come Easy” and it’s flip-side, “Early 1970” (a song about how The Beatles were that year.).  Ringo made #1 on two of the three American album charts, and was a platinum seller.

Ringo Starr continued his chart success with an early rock & roll classic, “Only You” (#5) and Hoyt Axton’s “No No Song” (#3).  They were both from the 1974 album Goodnight Vienna.  It was a decent album, hit #8 and earned “Gold” certification.

Ringo’s next album, 1976’s Rotogravure, had some good songs…”A Dose Of Rock “N’ Roll”, a remake of “Hey Baby”, and McCartney’s “Pure Gold”, but it only made it to #28, and had weak sales.  The hot streak was over.

From that point, “It Don’t Come Easy” was the story of Ringo’s recording career.  Although he continued to make albums (His latest albums, Give More Love & What’s My Name, are good), Ringo never repeated the sales success he had in the 1970’s.  But, there was a brilliant solution that kept him musically active and successful.

Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band started in 1989 with musicians like you see above.  The format features Ringo playing his hits from The Beatles and solo career, backed by some of the world’s best musicians.  Those artists also play their biggest hits during the concert.  The All-Starr Band line-up changes as each new period of touring starts.  There have been more than a dozen variations.

We were able to see one of these shows in 2010, when they made their way to Eugene, Oregon.  By then, Ringo was 70-years old, and frankly, we didn’t know what to expect.  Ringo was energetic, looked good, and sounded great!  Amazingly, his voice still sounds the same as when he was younger.  Ringo at times took center stage as the lead singer, sometimes he drummed and sang, and he backed-up all of the other performers with his drumming.  Here’s the line-up of musicians we saw:  Wally Palmer of The Romantics, Rick Derringer of The McCoys, Gary Wright of “Dream Weaver” fame, Richard Page of Mr. Mister, keyboardist Edgar Winter, and drummer Greg Bissonette.  It was a thoroughly entertaining night of “Greatest Hits” music!

It’s so good that the two remaining Beatles rekindled their friendship in the 1970’s, have performed together on each other’s albums (like Ringo’s recent one), and have teamed up on major post-Beatles projects.

Before he joined The Beatles, Ringo was already an established drummer, and The Beatles were lucky to get him.  His personality meshed perfectly with John, Paul, and George, and his innovative drumming added just the right touches to The Beatles’ songs.

With his solo career, Ringo Starr provided fans with some quality recordings and memorable songs.  They hold up well when placed on playlists with the solo work of the other members of The Fab Four.  Playlists allow us to assemble their solo songs into fantasy Beatles albums, and in this case, Ringo certainly gets more than one song per album.

(This is the 4th in a series of articles on The Beatles as solo artists.  Please check out the individual articles on John, Paul & George.)

Update:  (June/July, 2022)  Ringo went back on the road with his All-Starr Band.  Ringo turned 82 as July 7th, 2022…with Peace & Love.

George Harrison…Solo/Traveling Wilburys

George Harrison kept growing as a songwriter.  On the last album The Beatles recorded, Abbey Road, Harrison had two of the best songs, “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun”.  Then when The Beatles broke up, his first album was bursting with good songs.

Of the first albums the individual Beatles released after the breakup, All Things Must Pass is the best.  It’s not even close.  Making it a 3-record set was excessive, and there are extra tracks that aren’t very good, but the good stuff is plentiful.  I have eleven songs from this album on my “Best Of George Harrison” CD-length playlist.

Critics would say John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is the best of the first solo albums because of its raw emotional lyrics, but it doesn’t have close to the number of Beatles-ready songs as Harrison’s.  Highlights include:  “My Sweet Lord” (#1), “What Is Life” (#10), “Beware Of Darkness”, “If Not For You”, “Isn’t It A Pity”, “All Things Must Pass”, “Behind That Locked Door” and more.  If George had issued the best songs on a single record, All Things Must Pass would probably be even more recognized as the great album it is…the crown jewel of George Harrison’s solo career.

Update:  A remixed version of All Things Must Pass was released August 6th, 2021.  It sounds excellent, with George’s voice less buried in the “wall of sound” from producer Phil Spector.  The link to the review is at the end of this article.

The public certainly liked the album.  It topped the Billboard chart for 7 weeks in 1971 (released in November of 1970).  Sales figures are hard to nail down, because of U.S. Sales, World Sales, Multi-Disc Sales, or just plain wrong information, but All Things Must Pass and McCartney’s 1973 Band On The Run are the two top-selling solo Beatles albums.  Good choices.

George also helped out Ringo Starr.  He co-wrote “It Don’t Come Easy”, and produced the recording.  It was Ringo’s first big hit (#4) in 1971.

George Harrison was approached by teacher and friend Ravi Shankar to help the war refugees of Bangladesh (East Pakistan).  George asked friends in the music community to join him in what was the first major charity concert, film, and album…The Concert For Bangladesh.

Musicians who participated included…Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, and Badfinger.  The concert was August 1st, 1971, with two sold out shows.  It was a huge success, musically and financially.  Although it took some time to sort through the finances, the total sent to Bangladesh has been 12-million-dollars, and most importantly, the plight of the area was made known to the world.

(George in 1973)

George Harrison’s next studio album, Living In The Material World, was released in May of 1973.  It was a #1 album, with a #1 single “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”.  That peace probably included being past all The Beatles’ legal battles he highlighted in the song “Sue Me, Sue You Blues”.  Despite it’s rapid rise to the top of the charts, the album didn’t sustain the good sales like his first post-Beatles album.

For the remainder of the 1970’s, George Harrison had no more Top-10 singles, and just four singles that made the Top 20.  He released four more albums, and only Dark Horse made the Top-10.

It wasn’t until mid 1981 that George Harrison had another hit single.  He had been working on the song “All Those Years Ago” (originally for Ringo).  Then after John Lennon’s tragic death, George updated the lyrics as a tribute to John.  Ringo Starr played drums, and Paul & Linda McCartney added background vocals.  The song was #2 on the Billboard singles chart, and #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.  The album, Somewhere In England, also did fairly well, just missing the Top-10 at #11.

The low point for George Harrison’s albums was 1982’s Gone Troppo.  It failed to even make the top 100 albums.  At this point, George was doing better with financing Monty Python movies than with music.

But George wasn’t done making good music.

Enter unabashed Beatles’ fan Jeff Lynne of The Electric Light Orchestra.  George asked Jeff to co-produce his 1987 album Cloud Nine.  It was successful.  The album had a #1 single, “Got My Mind Set On You”, which was originally a 1962 recording by James Ray.  Other tracks did well on the Mainstream Rock chart (Multiple charts and formats had become the norm.) “When We Was Fab” (#2), “Cloud 9” (#9), and “Devil’s Radio” (#4).  Cloud Nine hit #8 on Billboard’s album chart and went platinum.  It was the last solo album George would release, but he was about to have some musical fun with his friends.

Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison, & Roy Orbison

The Traveling Wilburys kind of happened by accident, but it was mostly Jeff Lynne’s fault, because he was producing albums for George, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty.  In a Wilburys documentary, George Harrison says the group wasn’t planned.  He was having lunch with Jeff and Roy, and wanted to use them on a B-side single.  He says he called Bob Dylan to use his studio, and had to pick up a guitar he left at Tom Petty’s house.  They all joined in the writing and recording of “Handle With Care”, and presto, The Traveling Wilburys!

They decided to make an album, and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was a major success…triple platinum.   Most of the tracks got airplay on FM stations, “Handle With Care”, “End Of The Line”, “Tweeter And The Monkey Man”, and “Last Night”.  Plus, “Not Alone Anymore” and “Heading For The Light” were showcases for Roy Orbison and George Harrison respectively.  The album won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance.

If you get a chance, watch the 25-minute documentary that was included with the deluxe edition of the Traveling Wilburys Collection.  You can see it free on YouTube.  They had so much fun together!  George said: “It was a bunch of friends that just happened to be really good at making music.”

Sadly, Roy Orbison died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 52, on December 6th, 1988.  Tom Petty said he was glad Roy had been able to enjoy The Wilburys and the success of the album.  All of the band’s members were in awe of Orbison’s voice.

Two years later, October of 1990, the group released their second and last album, humorously called Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3.   Though not as popular, it still went platinum, and included the tracks “She’s My Baby”, “Inside Out”, Wilbury Twist”, and “Cool Dry Place”.

These were the last albums George Harrison would release in his lifetime, except for his participation with The Beatles Anthology project in the 1990’s.  He died of cancer on November 29th, 2001 at the age of 58.

George Harrison’s son, Dhani, and Jeff Lynne put together an album of songs George had been working on during the previous ten years.  Brainwashed was released in November of 2002.  Two of the best songs from the album are “Any Road” and “Run So Far”.

It’s so great George Harrison and Roy Orbison had such fulfilling and happy experiences with The Traveling Wilburys.  Despite all the star power involved, Tom Petty said, “It was George’s band”.

Well, his second band.

(This is the 3rd article in the series of The Beatles as solo artists.  Ringo is next.)

Here’s the link to the All Things Must Pass Remix review:

Paul McCartney…Man On The Run (Updated)

Paul McCartney’s been entertaining  people for over 60 years!

Paul had just turned 15 years old when he joined John Lennon in The Quarrymen in 1957.  In the ’60’s, John, Paul, George & Ringo turned The Beatles into the most popular and influential music group in history.  All those great songs, and yet Paul was only 27 when he made public the group’s breakup in April of 1970.  The last time the four of them recorded together was in 1969.

Now what?  Paul had a tough time with the split, but he had already recorded his first solo album by the time of the announced breakup.

The April, 1970 album, McCartney, was certainly a commercial success…#1 for three weeks…but was not loved by critics.  Paul did the entire album himself… playing bass, all guitars, multiple keyboards, drums, and vocals (with a little bit of help from wife Linda).  The showcase of Paul’s skills is “Maybe I’m Amazed”, which sounds like it could have been on Let It Be or Abbey Road, and we would have just figured it was The Beatles.  Not far behind are “Every Night” and “Junk”.  What hurt the album was that some of the songs, especially the instrumentals, sounded like they were ideas for songs, and not really complete.  For some reason, McCartney didn’t release any singles from the album.

In early 1971, McCartney released His first single, “Another Day”.  It hit #5 in the U.S., and #1 in several other countries.  It’s about a lonely woman (similar to Eleanor Rigby), and is always an good listen.

The sessions for 1971’s Ram album produced “Another Day”, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”(#1 hit), “Heart Of The Country”, “Back Seat Of My Car”, and “Too Many People”.  The album, billed as Paul & Linda McCartney, was much more fully produced, hit #2 on the album charts, and went platinum.  Critics still weren’t on board, but retrospectively, Ram is looked upon mostly favorably.

And then came Wings.  Paul McCartney added drummer Denny Seiwell (right side of photo), guitarist Denny Lane (from the early Moody Blues), and Linda McCartney on keyboards to form the group Wings.  They quickly recorded the album Wildlife.  It has it’s fans (made it to #10), but it’s generally not well thought of, except for a remake of “Love Is Strange”, and the appeal to John Lennon, “Dear Friend”.  There was some success with follow up singles in 1972, including “Hi Hi Hi” at #10.  1973 would be better.

Paul McCartney (with Wings until 1980) had his second #1 single with “My Love”, and another #1 album, Red Rose Speedway in April of 1973.  Then came James Bond theme “Live And Let Die” (#2).

Finally, in late 1973, Paul released an album that had fans and critics in agreement, Band On The Run.  The album contained three hit singles…”Band On The Run”(#1), “Jet” (#7), and “Helen Wheels” (#10) [on the U.S. album only].  It’s a solid album.  Rolling Stone reviewer John Landau said with the possible exception of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album, Band On The Run is “the finest record yet” from the ex-Beatles.  Among the other stand out cuts are “Bluebird” and “Let Me Roll It”.  Interestingly, Wings was down to just Paul, Linda, and Denny Lane.  Similar to his solo McCartney album, Paul played most of the instruments.  Later, he had overdubs of horns and percussion added.

From this point on, Paul McCartney settled into becoming far and away the most commercially successful Beatle.  According to Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Top-40 book, Paul McCartney was the most popular singles artist in the 1970’s.  More big hits included “Junior’s Farm” (#3), “Listen To What The Man Said” (#1), “Silly Love Songs” (#1), “Let ‘Em In” (#3), “Maybe I’m Amazed (Live) [#10],”With A Little Luck” (#1), “Goodnight Tonight” (#5), and “Coming Up (Live)” [#1].

His follow-up album in 1975, Venus And Mars, was also #1.  Wings At The Speed Of Sound (1976) was #1, and Wings Over America was McCartney’s 6th #1 album out of 8 releases, not bad.

The London Town album hit #2, and Back To The Egg #8.  In 1980, it was goodbye Wings, hello solo (again).

The 1980’s were a real mixed bag for Paul McCartney.  They started with his McCartney II album, which was generally panned, but is now seen by some as a milestone in techno-pop.  My favorite track from it is “Summer’s Day Song”.

The Tug Of War album in 1982 brought back producer George Martin, and it was another #1 album.  Besides the song about his friendship with John Lennon, “Here Today”, the album had the #10 single “Take It Away” and #1 hit “Ebony And Ivory” with Stevie Wonder.  McCartney also had a #1 in 1982, “Say Say Say”, with Michael Jackson.

The remainder of the 1980’s saw the albums Pipes Of Peace, Give My Regards to Broad Street, Press To Play, and Flowers In The Dirt.

From the  Broad Street album came “No More Lonely Nights”, the medley of “Yesterday/Here There & Everywhere/Wanderlust”, and “Eleanor Rigby” with an extended instrumental piece, “Eleanor’s Dream”.  It was interesting that McCartney chose to include four songs from one Beatle’s album, Revolver.  Besides the two mentioned above (“Here” and “Eleanor”), he did “For No One” and “Good Day Sunshine”.  Flowers In The Dirt was also a pretty strong album, and featured “My Brave Face” co-written by Elvis Costello.

In 1991 the U.S. finally got his Russian release of old rock & roll songs CHOBA B CCCP from 1988.  Off The Ground with “Hope Of Deliverance” was released in 1993.  That was also the year we saw Paul McCartney at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.  It was a fantastic concert that mixed his solo and Beatles songs.  The surprise for us, was that he played the two Beatles songs that were performed during our wedding…”And I Love Her” and “Here There And Everywhere”.  It was unusual that we’d get to hear both, because he would normally select just one of them for a concert.  We tell people he knew we were there.

Twenty-four years after Band On The Run, Paul McCartney released what I believe is his next-best album, Flaming Pie, in 1997.  The album received the best critical praise and fan support (#2) since Tug Of War fifteen years earlier.  It’s no surprise that Paul was working with George Martin again, and he also got help from producer Jeff Lynne.  Songs include “The World Tonight”, “Young Boy”, “Little Willow”, “Beautiful Night”, and the two best songs, “Somedays” (very Beatles-like) and “Calico Skies” (which McCartney felt was among his best).  It’s my wife’s favorite McCartney solo song.  There’s a little anti-war verse at the end, but most of “Calico Skies” appears to be a love song for his wife.  The Chorus is:  “I will hold you for as long as you like.  I will hold you for the rest of my life.”  Linda McCartney had been battling breast cancer, and she succumbed to it a year later.

From this point on, Paul McCartney released these albums:  Run Devil Run (old rock & roll), Driving Rain, Chaos And Creation In The Back Yard (a success at #6, with 4 Grammy nominations, “Jenny Wren” won for Best Pop Vocal Performance), Memory Almost Full (#3, and a multi-million seller), Kisses On The Bottom (#5, a collection of old American standards, and includes original song “My Valentine”.  McCartney won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.), and finally in 2013, New (#3, and over a million sold in U.S.). The last album was fairly successful at updating McCartney’s sound by using young producers, including George Martin’s son, Giles.

Update:  In September of 2018, Paul (then 76) released Egypt Station.  The album received mostly positive reviews.  It debuted at #1…McCartney’s first #1 since Tug Of  War In 1982.  The standout cuts include the Beatlesque songs “Dominoes” and “I Don’t Know”, plus “Despite Repeated Warnings” which sounds like it came from Band On The Run.  There’s also a cool album-ending medley…”Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link”.

Update 2:  In November of 2019, Billboard did an article on Paul McCartney (then 77).  It featured the successful publishing business, MPL, that he owns, with artist catalogues like Buddy Holly & Carl Perkins, and many American standards.  The article included this photo by his daughter, Mary McCartney.

The cover featured The Beatles as the most successful recording artists of all time.

(Photo by Melissa Fossum)

It’s impossible to cover Paul McCartney’s career (and include all his projects) now that it’s 60 years on.  But, what we do know is that McCartney is an amazing entertainer, who is still doing 2-and-a-half hour concerts to sell-out crowds.  Paul McCartney will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest musicians!

Update:  Paul McCartney released his third completely solo album, McCartney III, December 18th, 2020.  There’s a review on this site.

Update:  The documentary McCartney 3,2,1 is now available on Hulu, and it’s excellent.  McCartney spends about 3-hours (6 episodes) talking with producer Rick Rubin.  Here’s the link to a review on this site:

Update:  Paul’s book The Lyrics was released on 11/2/21.  Here’s the link to my article about it:

(This is the second of four articles on The Beatles as solo artists.  George is next, and then Ringo).

John Lennon…Imagine Peace

The first Beatles solo single was released about a year before the official break-up of the band.

Above is my single of “Give Peace A Chance”.   It was recorded live in June of 1969 at a “Bed In” during John & Yoko’s honeymoon in Montreal, Canada.  A month later, it was released under the name Plastic Ono Band, rather than John Lennon.  It was credited as a Lennon-McCartney song, even though Paul wasn’t involved.  McCartney had also included Lennon’s name on songs he’d written by himself, because that had been their policy with all their songs.

The verses of “Give Peace A Chance” are nothing special, but man did John Lennon nail the chorus!  It’s such an important idea that’s laid out in a single sentence with a great easy to remember melody.  That chorus helped focus the opposition to the Vietnam war.  In turn, those large demonstrations helped end the war.  Even President Richard Nixon admitted that looking out on the demonstrations helped change his position on the war.

John Lennon’s second solo single also came in 1969, “Cold Turkey”.  The song was released under the Plastic Ono Band name, but this time the writing was credited only to Lennon.

The Beatles were still officially together when John Lennon released the first single under his own name (although he added Ono as a middle name).

My February, 1970 single of “Instant Karma!”, with “Play Loud” on the label.

“Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” was written, recorded, and released in the U.K. within 10 days.  It includes one other Beatle, George Harrison, on guitar.  I remember being surprised as we heard the song for the first time on our clock radio one morning.  It was the first we knew John had an official solo single.  We liked it instantly, and it went on to become one of his most popular hits at #3 and certified gold.  “Give Peace A Chance” had peaked at #14, and “Cold Turkey” at #30.

John Lennon’s first solo album after the breakup of The Beatles, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, was released in December of 1970.  Critics love it, and it’s listed at #23 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 albums of all time (2012).  The album was recorded after John & Yoko underwent months of Primal Therapy.  The resulting emotion is exhibited in the music.  Anger and frustration are apparent in “Mother” and “God”,  two cuts which received FM airplay.  I gravitated to the more Beatles-like “Look At Me” and “Love”.  (A great version of “Love” with just John on acoustic guitar was included with his John Lennon Anthology box set.)  The album reached #6 on the U.S. Billboard chart, no singles made the Top 40 chart.  Update:  John Lennon’s first album was released in a remixed form, April 16th, 2021.  It’s available as everything from a single disc to an 8-disc box set with alternate versions.  Here’s a fantastic “Raw Studio Version” of John Lennon performing “Love”.  This should have been the album version.  No fading in and out of the piano, and John’s voice so real.

John Lennon added another political anthem in April of 1971.  “Power To The People” reached #11 on the singles chart.

His best solo album and song came in September of 1971…Imagine.

This plaque, from a local craft fair, is at the front entrance of our home.

Lennon asked people to imagine peace…“nothing to kill or die for”…no countries, no religion.  Extreme nationalism and warping of religious beliefs are two of the leading causes of war throughout history.  It’s a visionary song with hope that the world…”will live as one”.  It will probably never happen, but just imagine.

The Imagine album was #1 in the U.S. and many other countries, and the “Imagine” single went to #3.  Other favorite cuts on the album are “Oh My Love”, “Crippled Inside”, “Jealous Guy” and “How Do You Sleep?”.  That last one was a nasty jab at Paul McCartney.  John felt Paul had made fun of him on McCartney’s Ram album with the song “Too Many People”.   It may be finding something that isn’t there, but I got the feeling the song “Jealous Guy” might have been John admitting another reason he slammed Paul so hard with “How Do You Sleep?”.  Later, on his Wildlife album, Paul reached out to John with “Dear Friend”.  Anyway, the two of them eventually made up.

Update:  In October of 2018, a new “ultimate” version of Imagine was released.  It takes a deep dive into the album, with demos and “raw” studio versions without overdubs.

The next two albums by John Lennon, Some Time In New York City and Mind Games from 1972 and 1973, were critical and commercial disappointments.

Lennon rebounded in 1974 with Walls And Bridges.  The album went to #1, and so did the single “Whatever Gets You Through The Night”.  The album was made during an 18-month separation from Yoko Ono, or as Lennon called it…”my lost weekend”.  Despite it’s popularity, the album received mixed reviews.  It contained “Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out” and the hit “#9 Dream” which peaked at (what else?) #9 on Billboard’s singles chart.

1975 brought a collection of rock & roll oldies as covered by John Lennon.

The best part of the album was the cover.  It’s a shot of Lennon taken during The Beatles’ time in Hamburg, Germany in the early 1960’s.  The 3 blurs walking past were identified as George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Paul McCartney.  John Lennon had one of the best rock & roll voices ever, as heard on “Twist And Shout”, “Rock And Roll Music”, and other covers The Beatles recorded with George Martin.  Unfortunately, John Lennon and Phil Spector produced this album with John’s voice being altered.  It sounds thin and distant.  What should have been great, is underwhelming at best.  To hear how it should have sounded, two cuts “Be-Bop-A-Lula” and the medley of “Rip It Up/Ready Teddy” were on the John Lennon Anthology box set with Lennon’s voice sounding full and normal…way better!

Which brings us to Yoko Ono.

About 30-years after The Beatles broke up, good friends (Al & Mary Kay Koontz) gave me the above magnet as a joke.  It’s funny, but no, I’m not still mad at Yoko.  In fact, she has made some good choices.  One of which was to release some of John’s recordings without having his voice so processed.   These include the John Lennon Anthology box set, and the “Stripped Down” version of Double Fantasy.

John Lennon didn’t record from 1975 until his Double Fantasy album in 1980.  Instead, he decided to become a “house husband” to help raise the newly born Sean Lennon.

Double Fantasy has some excellent songs by John Lennon… “(Just Like) Starting Over”, “Woman”, “I’m Losing You”, “Watching The Wheels”, and “Beautiful Boy”.  John Lennon was excited about finally recording again, and he certainly delivered.  John turned 40 on October 9th, 1980, the album was released on November 17th, and John Lennon, an advocate for peace, was gunned down on the streets of New York City on December 8th.  Fans were stunned, and the thought of the tragedy still affects us.

John’s death impacted sales and radio airplay of his music.  The album went to #1, and there were three Top 10 singles.

Extra songs had been recorded at the time of Double Fantasy, and they were released as part of the Milk And Honey album in 1984.  Songs included… “I’m Stepping Out”, “Nobody Told Me”, “Borrowed Time”, and a demo of “Grow Old With Me”.

John Lennon turned 30 in 1970 after The Beatles broke up, and with the time he took off for his son Sean, John really only had about 6 years as a solo recording artist.  It was the world’s loss.

(This is the first of 4 articles on The Beatles as solo artists…in the classic order…John, Paul, George, & Ringo.)

Here’s the link to an article about a great John Lennon collection with excellent sounding remixes:

Joni Mitchell…The Folk/Pop Years ’68-’74

We started hearing about Joni Mitchell through her songwriting.

Judy Collins had her first and biggest hit with Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” in 1968.  That same year, a folk singer from New England, Tom Rush, released an album called The Circle Game.  That’s a Joni Mitchell song she hadn’t even recorded yet.  The album also included Mitchell’s “Urge For Going”.  This album is where we first heard Joni’s two excellent songs, plus it had songs by then little-known songwriters James Taylor and Jackson Browne.  For good measure, the cover photo was by Linda Eastman (McCartney to be).

It was time for Joni Mitchell to become appreciated for her performing, as well as her songwriting.  Enter David Crosby.

Mitchell was mostly known in her native Canada, and she’d been working the folk circuit on the East Coast.  David Crosby heard her, was impressed, and convinced her to move to Los Angeles.  Crosby then introduced her to manager Elliot Roberts, and her recording career began.

From 1968 to 1970, she released three albums… Song To A Seagull (1968), Clouds (1969) and Ladies Of The Canyon (1970).

The third album was the charm, as it contained her first song to get significant airplay, “Big Yellow Taxi” with the famous line “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot”.  The album (which was the first of her albums we bought) also finally gave us Mitchell’s recording of “The Circle Game”.  The song was a response to fellow Canadian Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain”.

Then in 1971 came one of the most critically acclaimed albums ever…Blue.  Joni Mitchell had just come off two of the strongest relationships in her life, with Graham Nash, and then James Taylor.  The result is a very personal and raw set of songs many critics hail as a landmark for singer-songwriters.  Songs that got the most attention include “Carey”, “California”, “River” and “A Case Of You”.

Far be it from me to swim against the tide of critical praise, but I actually prefer her next two albums…For The Roses and Court And Spark.  The difference is that while she continued writing great lyrics, she wrote even better melodies (overall), and added more sophisticated arrangements and vocals.

For The Roses, from 1972, includes Joni’s first Top 40 hit “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio”.  She was having fun with the idea that she needed to write a song that would get radio play.  Other standout tracks include “For The Roses”, “Barangrill”, “See You Sometime”, “Blonde In The Bleachers”, and “Electricity”.  The arrangements include a little more rock, with Stephen Stills on guitar, and some touches of Jazz.   Quoting the New York Times: “Each of Mitchell’s songs on For the Roses is a gem glistening with her elegant way with language, her pointed splashes of irony and her perfect shaping of images.  She’s a songwriter and singer of genius who can’t help but make us feel we are not alone.”  It’s her only album that has been chosen by The Library Of Congress to be in the National Recording Registry.  Here’s a really good outtake from the cover shoot:

Court And Spark, from 1974, is her most popular and best selling album.  It includes her biggest hit “Help Me” (#7), as well as “Free Man In Paris” (#22), “Raised On Robbery”, “Court And Spark”, and Grammy winner “Down To You” (Best Arrangement).  The influences of rock, pop, and jazz are strong.  Critics liked it too, and it’s listed at number 111 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums.  Blue is number 30 on that list…the highest ranking album by a female.  (Update:  In 2020 Blue was moved all the way up to #3 in a radical/unrealistic reworking of the list.)

It was after 1974 that Joni Mitchell began exiting the mainstream.  Maybe she had proven all she wanted in folk and pop music, because she moved away from commercially popular music and turned to the niche of Jazz.  She still produced some critically praised albums, and at times returned to pop, but had no major sellers.

In 1996 she released Hits, a well chosen collection of her most popular recordings.  If you don’t have her other albums, this is the one to get.

(All of the songs are copyrighted from the 1966 through 1973, except one from 1982 and one from 1991.)

Joni Mitchell also continued her drawing and painting, and is considered an excellent artist.  She did the cover art on many of her albums (including those first three).  One of my favorites is the cover for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s So Far album.

Like John Lennon, she can capture so much with seemingly simple line drawings.  And like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell has had a major influence on other songwriters.

Paul Simon (updated 2023)

If we hadn’t known about Simon & Garfunkel when we first heard the solo Paul Simon album in 1972, I think we’d still have been pretty impressed.

It had “Me And Julio Down By The School Yard”, “Mother And Child Reunion” (with a not yet common Reggae rhythm),  “Peace Like A River”, and 8 more solid songs.  Since we did know about the famous duo, if you were like me, you missed the harmony of Simon & Garfunkel.  But, it was still a really great start to his solo career.

Paul Simon continued to prove himself an American treasure as a songwriter.  His second solo album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon in 1973, included the classic “American Tune”, and the hits “Kodachrome” (#2), “Loves Me Like A Rock” (#2), and the ballad “Something So Right”.  Then, his third album, Still Crazy After All These Years in 1975, returned him to the top of the charts with “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”, and won the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year.

Paul Simon performed with George Harrison on Saturday Night Live in 1976.  They sang “Here Comes The Sun” and “Homeward Bound”. That SNL Thanksgiving episode is famous for Simon opening the show by singing “Still Crazy After All These Years” while wearing a turkey costume.  Who said he was too serious?  Simon has made over a dozen appearances on SNL through the years.

Paul Simon only had one more hit in the 1970’s, with “Slip Slidin’ Away”, at #5 in 1977.  He finally released his fourth album One-Trick Pony in 1980, and although it had  another top ten hit, “Late In The Evening” (#6), it wasn’t a success by his standards, nor was the accompanying film a hit in theaters.  What to do?

He put on a live concert in Central Park with old pal Art Garfunkel.  At the time, it was one of the largest concerts ever.  The crowd was estimated at half-a-million people, although years later it was questioned whether the park could hold more than 100,000.  The event and the live album transported Simon back to more successful times, but that didn’t last long.  In 1983, he released Hearts And Bones, which turned out to be a commercial low point in his career.  He was even quoted as wondering if he was still a commercially viable artist.

After hearing a cassette of some South African music in late 1984, Paul Simon was inspired.  He began writing new songs, and enlisted the help of musicians from South Africa.  This was a risk, because there was a  boycott against the South African government over Apartheid, and some accused Simon of breaking that boycott.  Paul Simon said he was simply working with fellow musicians, and they shouldn’t be limited because they were living under an unfair government.   Despite the controversy, the result was his most popular solo album ever…Graceland…in 1986.

The album was a hit with fans and critics.  Popular cuts included “You Can Call Me Al” (with a funny video featuring Chevy Chase), “Under African Skies” (with Linda Ronstadt), “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”, and the title track.  Graceland went on to win Grammy Awards for Album Of The Year, and Record Of The Year, and it sold an estimated 16-million copies.

Paul Simon was once again among the most popular musicians in the world, and he embarked on very successful tours.  His follow-up album came in 1990, Rhythm Of The Saints.  This time, Simon used Brazilian style music on “Born At The Right Time”, “The Obvious Child” and “She Moves On”.  The album was well received by most critics, but it didn’t have the commercial impact of Graceland.

In 1991, he did another “Concert In The Park”, only this time it was a solo effort backed by African and South American musicians.  The crowd was huge, like his previous park concert with Art Garfunkel.  Over the years, he has received almost every song-writing and musical honor that could be applied to his long stellar career.

Paul Simon has continued performing, sometimes doing concerts with Art Garfunkel (when they’ve gotten along), and releasing albums that have had reasonable popularity.  His 2016 album, Stranger To Stranger, includes the popular song “Wristband”.  The song features Italian electric dance beats provided by the artist Clap! (yes, with an exclamation point).  It’s a cool song that tells the story of Simon being locked out of the stage door of his own concert, and then not being able to get back in the front doors, because he doesn’t have a wristband for admission.  Of course it has a deeper meaning of disadvantaged people not being allowed into society.

That’s Paul Simon…still relevant after all these years.

Update:  Paul Simon 2/5/18 statement on retiring:

Update 2023:  Paul Simon released a new studio album called Seven Psalms on May 19th, 2023.  He says the title and some of the lyrics came to him during dream-like early morning sleep hours.  The album is 33-minutes long, all acoustic, and his voice is reflective of his 81 years.

Update May, 2023:  Paul Simon announced he has suddenly lost hearing in one of his ears, and may not be able to perform live again.

Peter & Gordon / Chad & Jeremy Twins?

One with glasses & one taller…One with glasses & one taller.

Peter & Gordon (top l-r) and Chad & Jeremy (l-r) were often mistaken for each other.  The two duos were part of the British Invasion, and they both had hits from 1964 to 1966.  P&G’s first hit was in May 1964, C&J’s in June 1964.

Peter Asher and Gordon Waller had a secret weapon…Paul McCartney.  Paul was dating Peter’s sister, Jane, and for a time was even living with the Asher family.  Paul wrote songs there, and sometimes he’d give an original song to Peter (who became a good friend) for Peter & Gordon to record.  Their #1 hit “A World Without Love”, plus hits “Nobody I Know” (#12) and “Woman” (#14) were all written by Paul McCartney.

My copy of “Woman” had the songwriter listed as A. Smith, because McCartney didn’t want the song to become popular just because the Lennon/McCartney writing-team name was on it.

Update (12/25/22):  Received the Capitol Records book for Christmas, and it had this cool photo of P&G doing vocals for “Woman” at Abbey Road Studios.

My 1965 picture sleeve of “I Go To Pieces”.

My favorite Peter & Gordon song was written by an artist they toured with, Del Shannon of “Runaway” fame.  “I Go To Pieces” was a #9 hit in early 1965.  The late great Buddy Holly furnished “True Love Ways” (#14), and their other significant singles were two fun novelty songs…”Lady Godiva” (#6) and “Knight In Rusty Armour” #15).  The last of these was released in late 1966.

Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde started as a folk duo called “The Jerks”, but wisely changed their name.  Their music is even more Folk influenced than that of their friendly rivals.   “Yesterday’s Gone” (#21) was their first hit, and their biggest hit was “A Summer Song” at #7.  Their first album, shown above, also included a #15 hit “Willow Weep For Me”.  They did a show tune “If I Loved You” (#23), and their last significant singles were “Before And After” (#17) and “Distant Shores” (#30).

Two of their album cuts are of particular note:  The Lennon/McCartney song “From A Window” (which had been given to Billy J. Kramer, but is better by Chad & Jeremy), and the folk song “Four Strong Winds”.  It was originally by Canadian couple Ian & Silvia (Tyson), and was also done very well by Neil Young on his Comes A Time album.

Peter & Gordon won the competition on the charts, but it was Chad & Jeremy who got on American Television shows.  The British Invasion was a cultural phenomenon, and TV shows wanted to join in.  Chad & Jeremy appeared as characters on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” & “The Patty Duke Show”, and as themselves on “Batman”.

By 1967, music became less folk & pop, and more rock & psychedelic.  Neither Peter & Gordon nor Chad & Jeremy fit in.

The Beatles hired Peter Asher as the head of A&R at Apple Records, where he produced the first album by James Taylor.  He moved to the U.S., and produced many extremely successful albums for James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, and other artists.  Asher also reunited at times with Gordon Waller for special performances, but in 2009 Waller passed away of a heart attack at the age of 64.

Chad & Jeremy continued sporadically releasing albums and songs into the 2000’s, but did not have chart success beyond their period of popularity in the 1960’s.

I’m a major fan of the British Invasion, and still enjoy both of these duos.  The reality is, not very many British Invasion artists continued successful recording careers past the 1960’s.

I found the above photo of Peter & Gordon online, and it was labeled…Chad & Jeremy.


Extra:  Starting in 2018, Peter Asher and Jeremy Clyde performed from time to time as Peter & Jeremy.  That might cause a little confusion, but it’s great for them and for fans.

Bonus:  In 2021, I received this 3-minute video birthday greeting from Peter Asher.  Click on this underlined IMG number to play it:


He’s charming.  I’d like to have a long conversation with him.  Here’s the link to my article about his Beatles book:

Update:  It was announced on December 20th, 2020 that Chad Stuart passed away at the age of 79.  He died of pneumonia.