Beach Boys Book…By The Beach Boys

Another really expensive book by another classic band!  As the story circulated today about a new Beach Boys book, the one thing that was left out was the price.  I went to the publisher’s (Genesis) site, and the price was 945-pounds.  So, I Googled what that is in dollars, and it’s 1,238-dollars for pre-orders.

If you want to pre-order one of the approximately 400 copies of the deluxe edition, you’ll get the book this December, and a box to put it in.  But wait, there might be good news for the rest of us.  A “bookstore version” is set for release in 2024.  Hopefully, it will be reasonably priced.

Genesis gave us some good examples of what the book contains.  You can click to enlarge.

The text includes comments from over 60-years by all of The Beach Boys.  They tell their story along with the historic photos.  Here are some samples of photos of the group.

The Beach Boys are the most iconic American band of the 1960’s, with most of their classic recordings made from 1962 through about 1973.  While we wait to see about that “bookstore version”, wouldn’t it be nice to listen to The Beach Boys, and have some fun fun fun as we’re picking up those good vibrations.

Eagles…An Appreciation & Look Back

Since the Eagles stopped recording studio albums in 2007, and are on their final tour, it’s time to consider their artistic contributions to America and the world.

The Eagles’ music has been so popular over the years, that it’s sometimes taken for granted instead of appreciated the way it should be.  Here’s a layout of the Eagles’ studio albums released in the 1970’s.  As a reminder of which albums produced which hits, the top songs from each album are noted.  (Click to enlarge.)

Seeing these Eagles songs in a single playlist shows why their Greatest Hits album is the best-selling album of all time.  The #1 hits, Top-10 hits, and Grammy winners are noted.

  1. Take It Easy
  2. Peaceful Easy Feeling
  3. Witchy Woman (#9)
  4. Desperado
  5. Tequila Sunrise
  6. (Whatever Happened To) Saturday Night
  7. Already Gone
  8. Best Of My Love (#1)
  9. On The Border
  10. Lyin’ Eyes (#2 Grammy-Best Pop Performance)
  11. One Of These Nights (#1)
  12. Take It To The Limit (#4)
  13. Hotel California (#1 Grammy-Record of the Year)
  14. New Kid In Town (#1 Grammy-Best Vocal Arrangement)
  15. Life In The Fast Lane
  16. Heartache Tonight (#1 Grammy-Best Rock Performance)
  17. The Long Run (#8)
  18. I Can’t Tell You Why (#8)

We’ve been listening to these songs since the ’70’s.  They still hold up today, because of the quality of the songwriting, performing, and recording.

(Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Henley, & Glenn Frey)

The original four Eagles were responsible for the first two albums, and country-rock songs 1-through-6 above.  All four members were talented vocalists who could sing lead & harmony.  Intricate harmonies were a big part of the group’s identity.   The Eagles wanted to move to more of a rock sound, and they added Don Felder on lead guitar prior to their 1974 album On The Border.  Leaning more to rock was the right move, because it gave the band more airplay on Rock and Top-40 radio stations.

Bernie Leadon, who played guitar, banjo, and mandolin, left the band in 1975, because he wanted to stick with a more country sound.  It’s important to note that the band still incorporated country elements in their songs, received some airplay on country stations, and influenced a lot of country artists.  Leadon was replaced by Joe Walsh, a successful solo artist and impressive guitarist.  Walsh became an important part of the 1976 album Hotel California.

Hotel California is recognized as one of the best albums of all time, both from an artistic standpoint, and as a sales juggernaut.  In fact, it’s the  third-best-selling album in history.

To appreciate how special the Eagles were, try to name the second-best country-rock band.  There really is no one close.  Even though country-rock is an accepted genre of music, similar bands only had scattered hits and limited success in that form of music.  However, because of the Eagles, country artists added more rock-style guitar into their songs.

By 1980, the pressures of stardom, the striving to maintain their success, and egos within the band caused a breakup that lasted 14 years.  It’s not that the Eagles retired, instead they provided more good music with solo careers.  Those recordings are seldom looked at together, but here’s a list of songs members created outside the Eagles.

  1. The Boys Of Summer…Don Henley
  2. All Those Lies…Glenn Frey
  3. Funk #49…Joe Walsh (with James Gang, pre-Eagles)
  4. Dirty Laundry…Don Henley
  5. The One You Love…Glenn Frey
  6. Rocky Mountain Way…Joe Walsh (pre-Eagles)
  7. Hearts On Fire…Randy Meisner
  8. The End Of The Innocence…Don Henley
  9. You Belong To The City…Glenn Frey
  10. All Night Long…Joe Walsh
  11. Sunset Grill…Don Henley
  12. Smuggler’s Blues…Glenn Frey
  13. Help Me Through The Night…Joe Walsh (with Eagles backing)
  14. The Last Worthless Evening…Don Henley
  15. Life’s Been Good…Joe Walsh
  16. Heart Of The Matter…Don Henley

These recordings would make another “Greatest Hits” album, and are part of the Eagles’ legacy.  Many of these songs have been featured during Eagles concerts.

Don Henley had two albums, Building The Perfect Beast & The End Of The Innocence, that had sales similar to Eagles albums…3-times platinum and 6-times platinum.

(Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, & Don Felder)

When the Eagles reformed in 1994 (pictured above), they released the live album Hell Freezes Over.  It also contained four studio recordings, including “Get Over It” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive”.  America was happy to have the Eagles back, and the album went 9-times platinum.

It wasn’t until 2007 when we finally got another studio album.

Long Road Out Of Eden was a double album, and a huge success, even though it came 28-years after their previous studio album.  It was the Eagles’ sixth consecutive #1 album, went 7-times platinum, and was the biggest-selling album of 2007.  Featured tracks included “No More Walks In The Woods”, “How Long” (a Grammy winner), “Busy Being Fabulous”, “No More Cloudy Days”, “What Do I Do With My Heart”, and the instrumental “I Dreamed There Was No War” (a Grammy winner).  If the titles are not as familiar as their 1970’s hits, that’s because of the shift in radio formats, with far fewer stations featuring rock music.

Now, the Eagles are leaving us with one final tour that will probably have a long run…from September of 2023 and into 2025.

It ‘s a great line-up with three Eagles from the ‘70’s, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit, plus Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, who’s helping fill in for his father, Glenn, who died in 2016 of medical complications.

Here’s a final summary of the output of America’s most popular band.  It’s the Eagles’ nine studio albums (including their two greatest hits albums) placed in chronological order, and at the bottom are their three live albums.

What a great career…still going after more than half-a-century!

Update (July 27th, 2023)  Original Eagles bassist and high harmony singer Randy Meisner passed away at the age of 77 on July 26th, 2023 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Meisner recorded with Poco and Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band before helping found the Eagles.  He was on all of their studio albums through Hotel California.  The biggest hit Randy Meisner had as a songwriter and lead singer for the band was “Take It To The Limit”.

Extra:  I admit that when it comes to my favorite artists, I too often rebuy their recordings in various forms.

I bought the 4-CD box set on the left when it came out in 2000.  It had most of their recordings, but grouped their ballads and rockers separately.  It also had their “Millennium Concert”.  The small box set on the right was a 2013 CD collection of their six 1970’s studio albums.  Each CD is in a cardboard sleeve that matches the original album cover.  Those six CD covers are next to each other in the first photo of this article (the one with the songs superimposed).  

Eagles To End Their Long Run

Fifty-one years ago the Eagles started one of the longest runs of Rock & Roll popularity with “Take It Easy”.  Their recordings are among the most successful in history.  They have the best-selling album of all time Eagles Greatest Hits, and the third biggest, Hotel California.  Tours by the Eagles have always been popular, and today they announced they’ll be performing their final tour, The Long Goodbye.  It’s starting September 7th at Madison Square Garden in New York, and likely ending sometime in 2025.  Dates and locations are still being determined, but here are the stops so far.

(Dates are being added as the tour progresses.)

You can see the concerts include another popular Classic Rock act, Steely Dan.  Early demand has caused dates to be added to this tour of U.S. arenas.

The lineup is the main group that has toured after Glenn Frey’s death in 2016.  Three of the members have been together since the 1970’s…original Eagle Don Henley, plus Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit.  Rounding out the band are Glenn Frey’s son Deacon, and Country artist Vince Gill.   Before he became a solo act, Gill sang with an Eagles-style Country Rock band, Pure Prairie League.  You might remember his lead vocal on “Let Me Love You Tonight”.  Gill and Deacon Frey do a great job of carrying on the quality fans know they’ll hear at an Eagles concert.

(Joe Walsh, Vince Gill, Deacon Frey, Don Henley, & Timothy B, Schmit)

In a statement released by the band, they said they will play “as many shows in each market as the audience demands, even if it requires returning to certain cities.”  The Eagles thanked fans for all the years of support, and said “This is our swan song, but the music goes on and on”.

As various media outlets reported on this story, some mentioned that the Eagles did a tour named Farewell 1 Tour in 2003.  What they failed to note is that the title was just a joke, because bands like Kiss, The Who, and many more had been doing multiple “last” tours.

When I heard the announcement of the final tour, I happened to have just watched a video of a 1973 Eagles BBC concert.  What struck me about it was how well the four original members started the show with four acoustic guitars and four voices in perfect harmony.  Unlike some groups that have trouble replicating intricate harmonies in concert, the Eagles have always excelled at it.  They’re sometimes unfairly criticized for being “too perfect” in concert, or that they only play their songs exactly as they were recorded.  That’s simply not true, the band has changed up arrangements many times, it’s just that they respect their fans by making sure their shows are really good.

When we saw the Eagles in 1995 during the Hell Freezes Over tour, they were amazing, but they were also having fun, not some robotic version of perfection.

The final studio album by the Eagles was the #1 multi-million selling Long Road Out Of Eden in 2007.  Now, the final tour of the Eagles is a sad reminder of the winding down of many of our best Classic Rock artists.  We just have to remember how lucky we’ve been to have had them in our lives.  Despite the line in “Hotel California”, the Eagles “can check out anytime” they like…and can leave.

When Did Beatlemania Really Start In The U.S.?

The start of Beatlemania in America is often thought of as their historic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, 1964…but that’s not right.  How is it that we already knew all of the songs The Beatles played that night (and for the next two Sundays)?

Americans first started to become aware of The Beatles at the very end of 1963.  It was December 26th when “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was officially released by Capitol Records.  Just slightly before that some radio stations were already playing the song by getting copies of the single from England.  The single had been released a month earlier there, with “This Boy” as the flip side.  The Capitol single had the uptempo “I Saw Her Standing There” as the flip side.

(My 1964 “I Want To Hold Your Hand” sleeve)

Radio Stations took the unusual step of playing both sides heavily.  I remember going to a multi-school teen dance at that time, and the band had done a good job of learning the two songs.  The crowd reaction was so strong the group had to play the songs multiple times that night.

The real start of Beatlemania in America wasn’t on television, it was on radio.  It was in January of 1964 when all the songs The Beatles had recorded the previous year began airing on nearly every radio station.  Besides “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There”, songs played included “She Loves You”, “Please Please Me”, and “From Me To You”.  Two albums, Meet The Beatles and Introducing The Beatles, were both released in January, and some radio stations dug into those too, playing songs like “All My Loving” and “Twist And Shout” (which later became a single).

This was historic.  No other act had ever had so many songs dominate radio airplay.  By the time The Beatles’ airplane touched down in New York City, Beatlemania was already raging.  That’s the reason 73-million viewers tuned-in to Ed Sullivan that night.  That was 52-million more than his regular audience.

And what a night that was!  The Beatles started with “All My Loving”, then played “Till There Was You” (mostly because it was a song the parents would know), and they ended the first set with “She Loves You”.  Above is the dramatic “arrows” set design for that first Beatles performance.  Ed Sullivan cleverly kept us all watching by having The Beatles play again near the end of the show.

The Beatles returned with the excitement of “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.  Set designer Bill Bohnert did a great job…with Ringo up on that stand, the use of a dramatic visual background, and using subdued colors (though we saw it in black and white at the time).  It was even used for the cover of the album Something New.  Here are a couple more photos taken at that time.

The Beatles rode a train from New York to Washington D.C. to perform their first U.S. concert on February 11th, 1964.

They performed again the next Sunday, February 16th, on The Ed Sullivan Show, but this time the show was on location in Miami.  
The songs for that second appearance were “She Loves You”, “This Boy”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “From Me To You”, and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.  Here are The Beatles on the set in Miami:

The third Ed Sullivan appearance by The Beatles aired on February 23rd, but it had actually been pre-recorded just prior to the group’s first appearance on the show.  Here’s a photo from the taping:

There were only three songs played during that third appearance, “Twist And Shout”, “Please Please Me”, and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.

The Beatles returned in August of 1965, for their final live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  They performed “I Feel Fine”, “I’m Down” and “Act Naturally”, then came back later for “Ticket To Ride”, “Yesterday”, and “Help”.

Beatlemania took over the United States in January of 1964.  That’s when we heard all the songs on the radio, studied their album covers, saw news reports on television, and read articles in magazines.  By February, the young people of America were more than ready for The Beatles to arrive.

After all that exposure at the beginning of 1964, it was up to The Beatles to release music that kept fans interested…mission accomplished.

Just for fun:  Hallmark thought enough of how The Beatles looked on the Ed Sullivan Show to put out this 1994 30th Anniversary Christmas ornament set.  Yeah, they had trouble getting the faces right, but from a little distance it captures the group’s look.  I couldn’t pass it up.

Paul Simon Is Not A Footnote To Bob Dylan

Recently one writer declared that Paul Simon will just be a footnote in the history of Bob Dylan.  Almost everyone would agree that Bob Dylan is a great and influential songwriter, but Paul Simon is also one of the world’s greatest songwriters.  One difference is that the popularity and familiarity of Paul Simon’s recordings surpasses Bob Dylan’s recordings.

(Bob Dylan & Paul Simon toured together in 1999. Simon was top-billed.)

I’m a fan of both artists, and have lots of their albums.  I got to know Bob Dylan first.  It was through Peter, Paul & Mary’s recordings of “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”.  Next came The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “All I Really Want To Do”.  Then it was Bob Dylan himself with two great singles “Like A Rolling Stone” (#2 on Billboard’s singles chart)  and “Positively 4th Street” (#7).  The Turtles quickly followed those with Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” (#8).

Later that same year, 1965, America first heard Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel with “The Sound Of Silence”.  The single went to #1 in January of 1966.  Below are shots directly from my 1994 Billboard Top 40 book, so you can compare the popularity of songs by Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.  You’ll also be reminded which recordings they chose as singles.  The info looks a little wonky, because the pages are curved by the book’s spine.  The three columns on the left side give the date the song entered the Top-40, the highest chart position it made, and the number of weeks in the Top-40.  (Click to enlarge)

Bob Dylan had 12 Top-40 hits, with 4 making the Top-10.  He did not have a #1 hit.  In Paul Simon’s career (including with Art Garfunkel) he had 29 Top-40 hits…14 made the Top-10, and 3 hit #1.  By the way, the black dots next to the above songs indicate the singles went “Gold”, selling over half-a-million copies, and Top-10 songs are in bold type.

Interestingly, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon have each sold approximately 125-million albums.  Dylan’s biggest sellers are his Greatest Hits (over 6-million) and Greatest Hits II (over 5-million).  Simon’s biggest sellers are Bridge Over Troubled Water (over 25-million) and Graceland (over 16-million).  It shows that Dylan served his fans by releasing a greater number of albums, and Simon reached a wider audience with fewer, but more popular albums.

Bob Dylan wrote many well known songs that were performed by other artists.  Those include “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, “The Mighty Quinn” by Manfred Mann, “If Not For You” by George Harrison, “My Back Pages” by The Byrds, “I Shall Be Released” by The Band, and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Eric Clapton.  The majority of Americans have not even heard Dylan’s versions of many of his most famous songs.

Bob Dylan had more influence on other songwriters.  That’s because of his early albums and songs like “The Times They Are A-Changin’”.  The Beatles and other Rock/Pop songwriters saw they could expand their writing to topics beyond love.  That was shortly before the emergence of Simon & Garfunkel.

The history of music is not just about songwriting.  It includes the recordings themselves.  Here’s where Paul Simon excelled.  His songs, as sung by him (and sometimes with Art Garfunkel) are very well known, and they have the potential to be enjoyed for many generations, and maybe hundreds of years.  If we had recordings going back to the original classical composers, they’d still be listened to today.  Recordings like “The Sound Of Silence” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” should stand the test of time.

Paul Simon was particularly innovative with the way he incorporated musical influences that went beyond Folk, Rock, and Pop.  He adopted musical styles from around the world into his solo albums.  He was one of the first American artists to help popularize Reggae from Jamaica, and his 1987 Album Of The Year, Graceland utilized South African music.  Then Rhythm Of The Saints used South American music.

The point is that Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are national treasures.  It’s true that history will necessarily compact the decades, and some artists may be forgotten, but that’s not likely to happen to either Bob Dylan or Paul Simon.  Their contributions are so great that the two should remain essential to music history.

The Beatles and A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update Nov., 2023:  The single “Now And Then” was released on November 2nd, 2023.  Great improvement was made to the audio quality of John’s voice, and the arrangement of the song is quite good.  While it’s not one of The Beatle’s best songs, it’s still a worthwhile addition to The Beatles catalog.

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

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

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

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

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

CSN&Y…Wasted On The Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Denver’s Skyrocket Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon Lightfoot…Canadian Troubadour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Stills…Live at Berkeley 1971 (Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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