John Lennon Murder Documentary (Review)

There’s a new three-part documentary on Apple TV, John Lennon: Murder Without A Trial.  I watched it so you don’t have to, but if you do, it’s best to only watch the first 37-minute episode.

The first episode is titled The Last Day.  It focuses on John Lennon’s activities on December 8th, 1980, before he was shot in cold blood outside his home in New York City.  You also see news coverage and reactions from John Lennon’s fans.  If you were old enough to be aware at the time, you might have found out about Lennon’s death on Monday Night Football, like so many of us did.  You probably also remember much of the TV coverage of the crowds that gathered outside the Dakota Apartments and in Central Park.

Parts 2 and 3 are best skipped.  They’re about John Lennon’s killer.  Part 2 is called The Investigation.  Well, very little investigation was needed, because the guy that did it remained on the scene until the police arrived.  That’s because his admitted reason for the killing was that he wanted to be famous.  He even told the cab driver his name as he was dropped off at the Dakota, and said “you’ll remember it”.

The episode wastes time mentioning that the justice department had been following Lennon’s activities, possibly even tapping his phone.  This was some half-baked attempt to allude to a conspiracy.  But, the surveillance happened under the Nixon administration in the early ‘70’s, when Lennon was protesting against the Vietnam war.  Lennon had been out of the public eye for nearly five years, and was a threat to no one.

Part 3 is called The Trial, which is ridiculous, since the title of the documentary tells you there was no trial.  The killer pleaded guilty to second degree murder.  The debate is whether he was insane or not.  It could be argued that any cold-blooded killer is insane, but he pre-planned the murder, and definitely knew what he was doing.  He remains in prison, and has been denied parole 12 times.

Above is some “wire copy” from United Press International that I saved.  Most of it is from the morning after the murder.  At the time, I was the News Director for a couple of radio stations south of Lincoln, Nebraska.  One of the stories mentions how London is mad at the United States for having a gun culture that killed John Lennon.  The editorial says… “John Lennon’s meaningless murder is increasingly typical of New York and the United States in general, where freedom to carry guns has brought forth monsters.”  The monster who killed John Lennon was born in Texas, raised in Georgia, lived in Hawaii, and flew to New York City to commit the murder.

Like most radio stations during the week of December 8th, 1980, we played a lot of music by John Lennon and The Beatles.  I also wrote and produced a news special that covered Lennon’s life and career.  John had just turned 40 when he was taken from us.  As we see Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr still being creative into their 80’s, imagine how much more great art we would have received from John Lennon if he hadn’t been gunned down 43 years ago.

Band On The Run 50th Anniversary Edition (Updated)

Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run was released on December 5th, 1973.

It quickly became McCartney’s most popular album.  Band On The Run topped the charts, went multi-platinum, and had the hit singles “Jet” #7, “Helen Wheels” #10, and “Band On The Run” #1, plus the tracks “Let Me Roll It” and “Bluebird”.  The critics and the public agreed it was excellent, and it’s still considered his best album. Even Paul’s sometimes critical friend, John Lennon, called it “a great album” during a 1975 Rolling Stone interview.

It’s now 50-years later, and we’re able to hear the album in a new way. The two-disc or two-record 50th Anniversary sets include a version that McCartney calls “underdubbed”.  That means we can hear the album in its raw form, before the orchestration was overdubbed onto the album’s songs.  The Band On The Run 50th Anniversary edition was released February 2nd, 2024.  We’ll look at the specifics of the sets available, but first a little about the original album.

This was McCartney’s fifth album, and was listed under the band name Wings, even though Paul & Linda McCartney and guitarist Denny Laine were the only members left.  (Update:  Sadly, Denny Laine passed away from lung disease December 5th, 2023 at the age of 79.  Besides being in Wings, he was a cofounder of The Moody Blues, and sang lead on their first hit, “Go Now”.)

The three musicians (and engineer Geoff Emerick) flew to Lagos to record the album.  It’s very close to being a “one man band” album.  Paul sang the lead vocals & some background vocals, played most of the lead guitar parts, acoustic guitars, bass, piano/keyboards, drums, and percussion.  Denny added guitars and background vocals, and Linda added some keyboards and background vocals.

It’s interesting to hear the stripped-down versions of the songs we know, but we miss the orchestration that brought power to songs like the title track, and subtle touches to other songs.  By the way, Band On The Run won the Grammy Award for best engineered album, thanks to Geoff Emerick.

Update:  Paul McCartney did an early release of the “underdubbed” version of the song “Band On The Run”.  The audio quality is excellent, with great clarity to the voices and instruments, but what it truly shows is how important those missing finishing touches were to making the song a hit.  The changes from one section of the medley to another are less powerful without the orchestration.  The main thing missing is the accent guitar part that plays on the choruses, right after Paul sings the title.  As interesting as the stripped-down version is to listen to once, it’s better to spend your 5-minutes listening to the fully produced version of “Band On The Run”.

Update 2 (Feb 2nd, 2024):  The stripped down versions all sound good, but the overdubs were needed to complete them.  For example…“Bluebird” sorely misses the beautiful saxophone solo that gave the song such a cool feel.  “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five” is the instrumental bed, without the lead vocal.  It’s best to enjoy the original versions as they were released.

Here are the various sets available (with prices) as shown on Paul McCartney’s website.  You can click to enlarge.

It’s also available digitally.  Here are the CD tracks:

You can see the “underdubbed” version has a different/earlier running order of the songs.  “Helen Wheels” is missing from Disc 2, because it was originally only on the U.S. release.

The two-record vinyl set is half-speed mastered.  It has the same tracks as shown above, with the side-ones each having five tracks.

Buying the Band On The Run record in 1973 wasn’t enough for me.  I also bought the original CD in the ‘80s, and then this 25th Anniversary set in 1998:

It’s 25 years later, and it seems I shouldn’t buy Band On The Run yet again.  This time I was able to listen to the “underdubbed” songs on my streaming service.

The Beatles Green Album Added To Red & Blue

The new expanded remixes of The Beatles Red Album & Blue Album have had excellent sales; however, hardcore fans have still been complaining about songs that were left off.  Plus, Apple knows they can cash in…so they’re releasing The Beatles Green Album.

Just kidding.  This is for fun, and to look at the depth of The Beatles’ library of recordings.  The Beatles have so many worthy songs that are not among the 75 on the Red & Blue albums.  It was a real gift to hear all those older Beatles songs remixed in true stereo, so wouldn’t it be great to get another big batch?  In that spirit, here are 40 more songs ready to be put on CD’s or green-vinyl records.

Disc 1:

  1. It Won’t Be Long
  2. Money (That’s What I Want)
  3. Do You Want To Know A Secret
  4. I Call Your Name
  5. I Should Have Known Better
  6. If I Fell
  7. I’m Happy Just To Dance With You
  8. Things We Said Today
  9. Tell Me Why
  10. I’ll Be Back
  11. She’s A Woman
  12. No Reply
  13. I’m A loser
  14. Baby’s In Black
  15. Rock And Roll Music
  16. I’ll Follow The Sun
  17. I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party
  18. The Night Before
  19. I Need You
  20. Act Naturally

This song list starts energetically with “It Won’t Be Long”.  It was the lead song of The Beatles second album of 1963, With The Beatles.  Then it moves on to a cover song with a great John Lennon vocal, “Money (That’s What I Want)”.  Farther down the list is another one, “Rock And Roll Music”.   Third is a song that hit #2 in the U.S., the George Harrison sung “Do You Want To Know A Secret”.  George’s first solo-written Beatles song “Don’t Bother Me” would be an alternate choice.

Then it’s a lot of excellent songs, including…”If I Fell”, “Things We Said Today”, “She’s A Woman”, “I’m A Loser”, “I’ll Follow The Sun”, “I’ll Be Back”, and ending with the third and final cover song, Ringo Starr’s “Act Naturally”.  Beatles fans should enjoy them all.  If you put the songs into a playlist, you’ll hear the quality of the collection.

Disc 2:

  1. I’ve Just Seen A Face
  2. You’re Going To Lose That Girl
  3. Think For Yourself
  4. You Won’t See Me
  5. I’m Looking Through You
  6. Rain
  7. Good Day Sunshine
  8. And Your Bird Can Sing
  9. For No One
  10. When I’m Sixty-Four
  11. She’s Leaving Home
  12. I Will
  13. Julia
  14. Birthday
  15. For You Blue
  16. Two Of Us
  17. Because
  18. Golden Slumbers
  19. Carry That Weight
  20. The End

The second disc starts with the song that led-off the American version of Rubber Soul, “I’ve Just Seen A Face”.  Another 19 great songs follow, with the highlights being…”Rain”, “For No One”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “I Will”, “Two Of Us”, and “Because”.  It all wraps up with the three-song medley that is the climax of Abbey Road (the last album The Beatles recorded together).  Really, the whole list makes an excellent collection.  Besides, nowhere else will you find pairings like “You Won’t See Me” & “I’m Looking Through You”.  Or the short weather forecast, “Rain” followed by “Good Day Sunshine”.

So, do you know all the songs on the two lists?  Most of them are album tracks rather than singles, but they’re likely familiar to the majority of Beatles fans.  Even with these extra 40 selections, some fan favorites will still be missing.

Extra:  In putting together the lists, I just wanted the best songs, and paid no attention to how many were “John songs” or “Paul songs”.  I did consciously make sure to include a decent sampling of “George songs”.  After publication, I found there were 17 songs by John, and 17 by Paul.  John dominates the earlier Beatles, and Paul dominates the later Beatles.

The Beatles Red & Blue Remixes (Review & Perspective)

After waiting a year (actually many years) for the remix of Rubber Soul, Apple pulls a fast one and instead releases the remixes of the Red & Blue Albums, but that turns out to be a good thing.

The Red Album (The Beatles 1962-1966) is the most interesting, because it contains 30 tracks (out of 38) that are new 2023 remixes.  Previously, most of the songs were in poor quality stereo.  Now, the instruments and voices have been separated and reassembled in wide-spectrum stereo.  So, how do they sound?

Wow!  You aren’t going to believe how much more you can hear with these wide stereo mixes!  I’ve been following The Beatles closely since late 1963, and for the first time I can really hear the individual voices of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison as they sing three part harmony on these early recordings.  George’s guitar leads and John’s rhythm parts ring like never before.  Paul’s bass and Ringo Starr’s drumming have a new fullness.  Everything sounds more real.

(Photo from the Red booklet)

We always knew that the poorest sounding recordings were the early ones, because they didn’t have the number of studio tracks they needed, and instruments and voices got shoved together in an unnatural way.  Partly that was because mono was king in the early portion of The Beatles’ career.  These remixes are a revelation about how good those songs and voices really are.  John and Paul’s lead vocals sound great, and listening to George’s vocal and guitar on “Roll Over Beethoven” reveals why that song was added.

Here are the track lists.  We’ll cover more of the remixes after that.  *Indicates songs not on the original 1973 release.

The last 8 tracks are from the Revolver remix released in 2022.  The lack of songs from that album was the biggest flaw in 1973, and the addition of 5 songs from that album is a big improvement for the Red Album.  The two-disc set has an excellent selection of tracks…no bad songs…and even more could have been added.  Think of the musical progress The Beatles made in four years…from “Love Me Do” to “Tomorrow Never Knows”!  By the way, many of these songs were on The Beatles 1 album that was remixed in 2015, but they are newly remixed here.

The first song, “Love Me Do”, is great to hear in stereo for the first time.  It’s slightly disappointing that the version they selected is the original British single.  The #1 hit version released in America has a better vocal by Paul, but it’s missing Ringo on drums (which is likely why the other version was chosen).  As the individual tracks played, I put some letter grades next to many of them, and A+ got used the most.  I was afraid that rockers like “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist And Shout” would lose their power, but they didn’t, and Paul and John’s voices come across better than ever.

As the songs moved into Help and Rubber Soul the quality of the recordings seemed even better with the more sophisticated arrangements.  “Ticket To Ride”, “We Can Work It Out” and “Day Tripper” come alive, and you feel like you’re in the middle of the band.  Really, except for feeling a bit of vocal or a guitar part could have been a little higher in the mix, these remixes are very impressive.  (Note to Giles Martin, you’ve done a great job, but please turn up the guitar solo in the middle section of “Drive My Car” before you finish the Rubber Soul box set.)

The Blue Album (The Beatles 1967-1970) mostly has songs that have already been available in their remixed form in the 50th Anniversary releases.  Only six of the tracks are newly remixed, including songs from the Magical Mystery Tour album.  There are nine added songs that were not on the 1973 release.  Those are indicated with *.

The six new remixes are…”I Am The Walrus”, “Fool On The Hill”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, “Revolution”, “Hey Bulldog”, and “Old Brown Shoe”, plus the new recording “Now And Then”.

The two biggest differences are with “I Am The Walrus” and “Magical Mystery Tour”.  The audio on “Walrus” comes close to dropping out at about 2:08 with a stereo-effect transition that was less noticeable on the original version.  For “Magical Mystery Tour” the introductory vocal is too buried in the mix (but the rest is good).  These are actually minor variances in the two songs, but they’re noticeable because the original recordings have been imbedded in our brains.  These two new remixes are sonically better than the old mixes, but with some noticeable changes.  Overall, the remixed 50th Anniversary box sets have been very welcome, and the songs included here are excellent sounding.  All of the previously remixed albums are reviewed individually on this site.

(Photo from the Blue booklet)

A few details you might be wondering about…  “A Day In The Life” has the intro that doesn’t include a cross-fade from “Sgt. Pepper Reprise”.  “Dear Prudence” does not cross-fade with “Back In The U.S.S.R.”.  “Within You Without You” includes the laughter at the end, which might have been eliminated since it’s a song on a collection and not actually on the Sgt. Pepper album.  This is especially true with the vinyl, which has it separate from the other Sgt. Pepper songs.  The impressive remix of “Don’t Let Me Down” doesn’t have the studio chatter that was included with the Let It Be box set.

(Shown with optional colored vinyl)

The vinyl versions of these two double albums are three-records-long.  The first two discs have exactly the same songs as the original 1973 releases, and the third vinyl disc has the added songs for 2023.  That’s twelve tracks for the Red Album, and nine for the Blue Album.

Of the 21 songs added to the 2023 sets…11 have John Lennon as the primary writer (or were sung by him), 5 have Paul McCartney as the primary writer, and 5 have George Harrison as the writer (or were sung by him).

In total, the Red Album and the Blue Album have 75 songs that represent the varied musical styles of the world’s greatest group.  All of these songs, except “Now And Then”, were recorded while John, Paul, George & Ringo were in their twenties.

(My CD’s. Each booklet has an essay, photos, and all lyrics.)

There certainly can be debate about which songs should or should not be on these two albums.  Rather than point out some songs that could have been omitted, here are a dozen songs that could have been included (in chronological order).  “If I Fell”, “Things We Said Today”, ”I’ll Be Back”, “I’ll Follow The Sun”, “Rain”, “For No One”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “I Will”, “Julia”, “Two Of Us”, “Because”, and “Carry That Weight/The End”.

(Everything old is new again…the original CD’s & 2023 CD’s.)

The new expanded versions of the Red and Blue albums are significantly better.  Adding more songs from Revolver, a few cover songs that influenced the group, and some key songs like “Blackbird”, present a more complete picture of The Beatles.

Extra:  These new versions have sold very well.  In the U.K., the Blue Album went to #2, the Red Album to #3…exactly their rankings of the original releases in 1973…while “Now And Then” hit #1 on the U.K. singles chart.

The Beatles’ Last Single “Now And Then” (Updates & Review)

The Beatles releasing their last single in 2023 is a bit surreal.  They broke up in 1970.  John Lennon died in 1980 (at age 40), and George Harrison died in 2001 (at age 58).  Paul McCartney is 81, and Ringo Starr is 83.  How is it possible to get a brand new single?

It all started 1977 when John Lennon recorded a lo-fi cassette demo of “Now And Then”.

In 1995, the three remaining Beatles…Paul, George, and Ringo…recorded parts to go with the demo.  This was during the Anthologies sessions that produced “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”.

The “Now And Then” project was  abandoned, because the audio of John’s voice was just too poor sounding.  Almost three decades later, advanced Artificial Intelligence audio technology (utilized in the Get Back documentary & the Revolver remix) was used to extract a better quality vocal from John Lennon’s demo.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr decided to give “Now And Then” another try.  Paul McCartney added guitar, bass, keyboards, and vocals.  Ringo added drums and vocals.

(Ringo & Paul recording their new parts for the song)

They used guitar and vocals that George had recorded in 1995 (Paul’s slide guitar part is a salute to George’s style).  Producers Paul McCartney and Giles Martin added a string arrangement, and even a blend of background voices from the recordings of “Here, There And Everywhere”, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Because”.  That means a bit of George Martin’s production is also present on the final Beatles single.

Was it all worth it?

Yes.  It’s great to hear John Lennon singing as the song begins.  His voice is almost as good as we know it, but not quite.  There’s great nostalgia hearing The Beatles on a new recording.  Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and co-producer Giles Martin have done an admirable job of taking a rough demo and making it a fully realized song.  It’s not among The Beatles best songs, but at this point we have to accept the reality that this is as close as we can get.

Update Nov. 10, 2023:  “Now And Then” went to #1 in England.  The Beatles have the record for having #1 songs over a span of 60 years!  The song hit #7 on the U.S. Hot 100.

John’s one-time girlfriend, May Pang, recently confirmed that John told her (in the mid ’70’s) that he wanted to work with Paul McCartney again.  That’s one interpretation of “Now And Then”.  Here’s part of the chorus:  “Now and then, I miss you.  Oh, now and then I want you to be there for me.”

In an interview with Variety, producer Giles Martin said about Paul McCartney… “I think he just misses John and he wants to work on a song with him.  It’s just as simple as that.”

The physical single was released on November 3rd, 2023 in various vinyl versions, and on cassette…bringing John’s recording full circle. The flip side is the new stereo remix of “Love Me Do”.  It was The Beatles’ first single in England, but a different version was a #1 hit in America.  The Now & Then clock on the back cover was purchased that way by George Harrison.  His wife Olivia added the photo of The Beatles when the decision was made to release the song as a single.

A 12-minute movie about the making of the recording debuted on YouTube on Wednesday, November 1st, 2023.  On Thursday, November 2nd, the audio of the single was released.  Then on Friday November 3rd, the music video for the song, directed by Peter Jackson, debuted (review below).

Update Nov. 1st, 2023:  Watched the 12-minute Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song (Short Film).  Besides being informative, it was emotional seeing John & George, but also fun.  That’s because it included cleverly edited video clips from across the years.  We get bits of the song, but we don’t get to hear the completed recording.  We do hear John’s voice, and it sounds very clear.  Here are a couple screen shots:

Update Nov. 3rd, 2023:  Right after it became available, my wife and I watched the music video for “Now And Then”.  As it ended, my wife just said “That was amazing!”.  The video mixes film from throughout The Beatles time together, also from the 1995 Anthology sessions when Paul, George and Ringo were originally working on the song, and adds recent footage of Paul and Ringo.

One problem with the video…for a serious song, Director Peter Jackson used too much film of John goofing around.  Other than that, it’s very impressive film-making, and a joy to see The Beatles together.

Here’s the link to the video on YouTube:

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr say this is “the last Beatles song”, but you gotta wonder if Artificial Intelligence technology could be used on other demos, song fragments, or even improving John’s voice on “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”.  John Lennon’s son, Sean, and George Harrison’s wife, Olivia, gave their approval for the “Now And Then” project.  Who knows what future projects could be approved by the heirs of John, Paul, George, & Ringo.

The Beatles…Red & Blue Albums Remixed

There’s good news, bad news, and half-good news.

The good news is there are new and expanded remixed stereo versions of the Red & Blue collections.

The bad news is the Rubber Soul remixed box set is delayed.

The half-good news is that half of the Rubber Soul remix (7 songs) can be found on the Red remix.

Because this year is the 50h Anniversary of the Red & Blue albums, Apple decided to issue expanded and remixed versions.  The release date was November 10th, 2023.

The Red Album is the main attraction for Beatles fans in that it’s filled with remixed stereo versions of songs that had poor stereo mixes, or even just monophonic versions.  In fact, the first 30 songs are brand new remixes.  Three classic songs The Beatles didn’t write (like “Twist And Shout”) are  included, the Revolver album is much better represented, and so is George Harrison.  Here are the song lists.  *Indicates added songs.

The Blue Album  has only six songs that hadn’t been remixed, but it also has nine songs that weren’t on the original release.  *Indicates added songs.

You can see the set ends with “Now And Then”.  It’s a new recording that was released on November 2nd, 2023.  “Now And Then” is from a 1977 demo by John Lennon.  Using new technology, they were able to extract and enhance John’s voice.  Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr added instrumental and vocal parts, and George Harrison’s guitar and background vocals came from an earlier attempt of the song at the time of the Anthologies in the ‘90’s.  Here’s the artwork for the single.

There are various versions of the single that can be ordered through The Beatles Apple Store online.

The song is also available to stream, or to buy digitally.  There’s a link to a review of the single and music video at the end of this article.  Update:  “Now And Then” went to #1 in the U.K., 54 years after their last British #1 in 1969.

Here are the various CD and vinyl album versions as shown on The Beatles site.  Some of the colored vinyl versions will only be available at that online store.  Photos can be enlarged with a touch or click.

(A sleeve is added if you buy the discs as a set.) [They sold out]

The song order for the vinyl versions is not completely in chronological order like the CD’s.  The first two vinyl albums in each set are exactly like the original releases, and the third albums contain the added songs.

Red Album:

Blue Album:

Looking at how well various albums are represented…there are 9 songs from the Rubber Soul recording sessions, 8 from the Revolver sessions, 8 from the White Album sessions, 7 from the Sgt. Pepper sessions, and 6 each from the Let It Be and Abbey Road sessions..

The Red & Blue albums are not really “Greatest Hits” collections (many of the songs were not singles), nor “Best Of” collections (there are other Beatles songs that are better than some of these).  But, the expanded versions give a good overview of The Beatles’ full career.

Review:  Here’s a link to my “Review & Perspective” of the remixed Red & Blue sets:

Extra:  For a review of the “Now And Then” single & video, click this link:

Fleetwood Mac Is Done

It’s not just a rumour, Fleetwood Mac is finished…according to Stevie Nicks.  Their Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums from the mid ‘70’s are two of the most popular albums of all time, and every tour they played since then was very successful.

(Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, & Stevie Nicks in the 1970s.)

This week, Stevie Nicks said it’s over, and that it actually ended when Christine McVie passed away (on November 30th, 2022).  Nicks says there’s no reason to get together without Christine.  The band continued to tour when McVie took an 18-year break from the group.  She returned in 2014, and the band toured into 2019.  Nicks says the band would miss all of the pop-style hits McVie wrote for the group.

Another unspoken reason Fleetwood Mac has ended is that the band is also without Lindsey Buckingham.  They were missing Buckingham on their last tour.  He had a falling out with the group in 2018, and was replaced by Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and Neil Finn of Crowded House.  Stevie Nicks recently toured with Billy Joel, and has continued touring solo.

The reason talk of Fleetwood Mac’s end came up is that Stevie Nicks was asked the question during the recent release of the “Stevie Doll”.  It’s a Barbie doll custom-made to look like Fleetwood Mac’s most popular member.

The doll is based on Nick’s appearance at the time of the Rumours album (1977).

Although the doll is not an exact image of Stevie Nicks, it does a decent job of representing her.

Stevie Nick’s fans must have been happy with it, because the doll sold out in one day.  It was $55 from Mattel, and the doll was seen online the next day for $160.  Who knows what a rabid fan might be willing to pay…probably not the $65,000 someone jokingly put on eBay.

Although there will be no new recordings or touring by Fleetwood Mac, it wouldn’t be surprising if their label finds a way to re-release their old recordings.  In fact, there was a recent release of an old concert.  The album title is Rumours Live.

The album is a performance from 1977 that was released on September 8th, 2023.  Maybe future releases will include an anthology of alternate studio versions and demos.  That might be a good one.

Jim Croce…50 Years Later

It’s been over 50 years since we saw Jim Croce in concert, August of 1973.  It’s better to remember that excellent performance, than to recall his sad death a month later, September 20th, 1973.  Jim Croce was only 30-years-old, and his accompanying guitarist and harmony singer, Maury Muehleisen, was just 24 when their small plane crashed on takeoff, killing all onboard.

But let’s go back to a little over a year earlier, mid 1972.  Jim Croce released his breakthrough album, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.  That was also the name of his first Top-10 single at #8.  His second single was “Operator”, and it reached #17.  We bought the album at that time, and found it had other great songs, including “Time In A Bottle” and “Photographs And Memories”.

Jim Croce’s songs  joined those by some of our favorite artists of that time, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Carole King, and other singer-songwriters.  Croce, who was from Philadelphia, had his own style of songwriting.  His album included uptempo urban stories, such as the pool hall setting of “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, along with the insightful and emotional lyrics of his ballads.  We also purchased Jim Croce’s next album in 1973.

Life And Times came out only a month before we saw his concert, but two singles from the album…”One Less Set Of Footsteps” and “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” had been released earlier, and “Leroy Brown” hit #1.  Then we saw Jim Croce at the Hampton Roads Coliseum near Norfolk, Virginia.

It was August 6th, 1973, and Croce opened for Loggins & Messina.  The concert was one of our favorites, and the musicianship was amazing for the whole night.  We attended the show with friends Don and Linda MacLeod, and the four of us were in the second row.  Don took the photos of Jim and Maury.

They performed the best songs from Jim’s first two albums, and we were also treated to new songs from an album he was recording.  Those songs included “I Got A Name” (#10), “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” (#9), and “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” (#32).  That last one is actually my favorite of his “character” songs, even though it wasn’t as big a hit as a couple others.

We left the concert very impressed with Jim Croce, and we were looking forward to his next album.  Then came the tragic news of the plane crash on September 20th, 1973.  The crash was listed as “pilot error”.  He took off in darkness and fog, and didn’t clear a tree near the end of the runway.

The album,
I Got A Name, was released December 1st, 1973, and went to #2 on the charts for two weeks.  It was behind You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, which was #1 for five weeks after Croce’s death.  Besides the three hits on Jim’s last album, there are a couple more songs of that quality…”Age (Right Back Where I Started)” and “Thursday (You Were Looking For A Friend)”.  

“Time In A Bottle” was released posthumously as a single, because of how appropriate the lyrics are…”There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do…”.  The song reaching #1 was what helped pull Croce’s 1972 album to #1 too.

After 50 years, Jim Croce’s recordings remain popular with the public, and on our own playlists.

The Eagles’ “The Long Goodbye” Concert Details

The Eagles launched “The Long Goodbye” tour with a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Their setlist was made up of twenty-three songs, including a couple of surprises.

The last three songs were played for the encore.  Songs 15 & 16 were included as a salute to their good friend Jimmy Buffett who recently passed away, September 1st, 2023.

Buffett’s excellent hit “Come Monday” was sung by Timothy B. Schmit.  He had been a member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band, and is credited with coming up with the name “Parrotheads” for Buffett’s fans.  Joe Walsh did the lead vocal honors on the other Buffett song “Fins”.

The rest of the setlist is made up of classic Eagles hits, with just a few songs Don Henley and Joe Walsh recorded outside the band.  Reviews of the concert were highly complimentary, and the band’s vocals remain strong.  We saw the Eagles over 25 years ago, and the setlist is not much different, because there’s an obvious group of hits Eagles fans want to hear.  The band is making the right choice to include them, plus the Buffett songs were a nice addition.

Another treat for fans at the concert was the appearance of Steely Dan, which is the opening act for the whole tour.

According to reviews of the concert, Donald Fagen was in good voice, and his accompaniment included a four-piece brass section.  Steely Dan hits played included “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”, “Reelin’ In The Years” and “Hey Nineteen”.  What a great bonus for Eagles fans.  Update:  Due to an illness, Donald Fagen missed some performances, so Sheryl Crow, Steve Miller, and The Doobie Brothers each helped open shows.  Fagen is doing better now, and has continued with the tour in 2024.

(MSG concert photos by Charles Sykes)

The concert wrapped up with one of the most classic of all Classic Rock songs…”Hotel California”.  The Eagles have always been one of the best-sounding live bands, and their “Long Goodbye” gives fans one last chance to hear them.  In keeping with the name of the tour, it may run for at least a couple of years, and dates are being added.

Flying Saucer Stereo

So, my wife and I were watching the “Sherlock” style British mystery show, Endeavour, when this shot of a suspect came on the screen.

I quickly paused it.  What the heck is that in the back?  Because of the close proximity of the record collection, I deduced that it might be a stereo.  The murder suspect was a soccer star in a story set in 1971, and he had an ultra-modern apartment.  I asked my trusty assistant, Google, to check on a “space age stereo”, and here’s one of the pictures that was produced.

It turns out it really is a stereo!  It’s by the Weltron company, and was first manufactured in Japan in 1970.  Here’s a close look at the stereo workings inside the shell.

According to a print ad by Weltron, the “Shape Of Sound” concept includes a BSR record changer, an 8-track tape player, and an AM/FM radio, all in what they called a “flying saucer” design.  It then said…“the Model 2005 Space Odyssey lists for under $300.”  The company was obviously inspired by the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  

Although there were stereo speakers built into the shell, you could also get cool-looking external speakers for better quality sound.

By 1973, Weltron had a Model 2007 that played & recorded cassettes, and came in an optional yellow case.  You can see the company also had colorful portable radio/tape players.

The clever stereo design includes four round feet so the saucer can “land” on a flat surface, maybe a record cabinet.

The main character on the show is Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse.  Here he’s trying to decide if his next purchase should be that nifty little TV, or the trend-setting “Space Age” stereo.

Vinyl record albums have made a comeback.  It’s time for an updated “flying saucer” turntable too!

Extra:  So now I’m imagining an updated Weltron stereo wirelessly connected to my HomePods.