The Beatles & Taylor Swift

Even Classic Rock fans should be impressed with how Taylor Swift is setting records!  Let’s start with a new record that involves The Beatles, then look at more of Swift’s accomplishments, and also compare her total #1’s with those of The Fab Four.

Taylor Swift just broke a record The Beatles held for 54-years.  The Beatles had three #1 albums in England within just 364 days.  Now, Taylor Swift has had three #1 albums in only 259 days.  Wonder if that record will stand for 54 years.

Some records get broken simply because of all the changes in sales and streaming, but this one seems to be as fair a comparison as possible.

Naturally, Swift breaking The Beatles’ record really upset Ringo Starr.  Just kidding.  In a recent interview about today’s music, Ringo said “I Love Taylor Swift…she’s the only one who’s doing well.”  Ringo is overstating it, but no one else is coming close to all the records Taylor Swift has been setting.

Here’s how Swift’s last four albums hit the charts and dominated all the other albums over the last two years.  Fearless (Taylor’s Version) had the biggest week of 2021.  That was the biggest week since Evermore’s debut in December of 2020…which was the biggest week since Folklore’s debut in August of 2020…and that was the biggest debut since Lover in August of 2019.

The three albums that broke The Beatles’ record are Folklore, Evermore, and her new 2021 re-recording of her 2008 album Fearless.

The original version  had 13 songs, and the new one has 26, including six she wrote in 2008, but had never recorded.  Who writes 26 songs for an album?…and she was just 18!  The new album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), was done because Taylor Swift was unable to purchase her old recordings.  She hopes to have control over her songs by re-recording her first six albums, and basically have the new recordings replace the old ones.  She already owns her three most recent albums.

(Swift’s 9 albums before re-recording Fearless)

So how did the new Fearless perform in its first week?  It became Taylor’s 9th straight studio album to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200.  It also started at  #1 on the Country chart.  It had the biggest first week for a Country album since 2015.  It’s already the biggest selling album of 2021, and had the year’s biggest first day of streaming on Spotify with over 50-million plays!…and that’s just one streaming service.

Because Taylor Swift was so young and so popular with teenagers, my wife and I hadn’t really checked out her albums.  That changed last year when we bought both Folklore and Evermore.  Those albums have more of a Folk/Alternative style, and have impressive songwriting & performances that fit her age of 31.  Because we liked those albums so much, we added Taylor’s new recording of Fearless, and found out she’s been writing really good songs for a long time.

Despite Taylor’s success with her re-recording project, it would be nice to have her spend the time on brand new albums like her last two.  It might be best if the owners of her old recordings figure out that their value is going down, and just sell the rights to Taylor.

(T.S. with Folklore co-writer and co-producer Aaron Dessner)

Last month, Folklore won the Grammy for Album Of The Year.  Taylor Swift now has the record for the most albums of the year at three.  She’s tied with Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Frank Sinatra (pretty good company).  She passed Michael Jackson for the number of weeks her albums have been at #1, with 53 weeks.  It’s not likely she’ll catch The Beatles.  Their albums have 132 weeks at #1, Elvis Presley is second with 67, and Taylor Swift is in third place. The Beatles also have the record of 19 albums to hit #1.

Taylor Swift became a Beatles’ fan during her childhood.  She says she bought all their CD’s and studied their songwriting.  This photo looks to have been taken near the beginning of her career.  There’s another record Taylor Swift shares with The Beatles.  They are the only two artists in history to have five albums that remained in the #1 position for six-plus weeks.

Late last year, Taylor Swift & Paul McCartney interviewed each other for Rolling Stone.  They were put together, because Swift has always cited McCartney as having a major influence on her career.  During their time together, they confided in each other as to when they were releasing albums in December.  That way, the two didn’t have to compete with one another.  At the time, no one except a few musicians even knew Swift had recorded another album (Evermore).  It took Paul decades to acquire the rights to The Beatles’ recordings.  Hopefully, Taylor’s quest will be much quicker.

Taylor Swift holds the record for the most Albums Of The Year based on sales, with five.  It’s too hard to keep up with all the awards she’s won, including an Emmy, Grammys, Billboard awards, just about every Pop & Country category available to her, and 28 Guinness World Records.

On May 11h, 2021, Taylor Swift became the first woman, and first non-Brit, to be chosen as the Brit Award’s “Global Icon”, their highest honor.  It was awarded by the British record industry for her global impact on music, and for her career achievements.  Previous recipients include Elton John and David Bowie.

A little over seven years ago, Billboard started a chart called the Artist 100.  It measures key metrics of music consumption, with a blend of Album & Track sales, Radio airplay, Streaming, and Social Media fan interaction.  Taylor swift has the record at 48 weeks atop the chart (6/8/21), Drake is a distant second at 32 weeks.

Most artists peak within their first five years, but Taylor Swift’s peak (so far) is 15 years into her career.  It’s hard to believe an artist could maintain such an incredible level of popularity for so long.  Don’t bet against her next release being her 10th album in a row to debut at #1.  She has a long way to go, but who knows, Swift might even have a shot at breaking The Beatles’ record of 19 #1 albums.

Update:  June, 2021.  Taylor Swift now has the record for the biggest week of vinyl album sales since record keeping began 30-years ago.

Her album Evermore came out December 11th, 2020, but the vinyl albums weren’t available until May 28th, 2021.  The previous highest one-week sales record was 40,000 copies in 2014, and Taylor Swift blew that away with 102,000 vinyl records sold.  Her album also returned to #1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.

Update:  June 2021.  Fans will have another T.S. album this year.

The re-recorded version of 2012’s Red will be released November 19th, 2021.  Instead of the original 16 tracks, the new version will have 30 tracks that were originally written for the album (that’s a whole album’s worth of new songs).

Tom Petty…Finding Wildflowers (Review)

Tom Petty’s estate has released the Finding Wildflowers album as a stand alone purchase (1 CD or 2 LP’s).  Prior to this, it was only available as the 5th disc in the Super Deluxe box set for an extra $100.  The single CD was just $15 on Amazon.  I appreciate being able to get the 16 tracks for $85 less.

(The single disc Finding Wildflowers next to my well-worth-it $50 4-disc set  Wildflowers & All The Rest.  There’s a review of the set on this site.)

These songs are mostly alternate earlier versions of the ones on the Wildflowers album.  As you would expect, the final recordings that were chosen for the original album are the best versions, but there are some good things happening with these tracks too.

Let’s look at some of these versions individually.

The disc starts with “A Higher Place”, because it’s well done.  However, it misses the vocal harmony that helps the song soar.  This certainly could have been the final version if the harmony part had been added.  You can even hear Tom Petty say “Real good” after the take ends.

”Cabin Down Below” is the version on this CD that most obviously is as good as the one on the original album.  It’s slightly looser, and features more of Benmont Tench’s piano and Mike Campbell’s guitar work.  There’s about 40-seconds extra of cool guitar instrumental at the end.  This track has all of the Heartbreakers, including drummer Stan Lynch and bassist Howie Epstein.

An acoustic version of “Cabin Down Below” is also on this CD, and would be a nice addition to any Tom Petty collection.

”Crawling Back To You” is a really good Heartbreakers’ version (they’re all on it).  The impressive piano playing by Benmont Tench stands out.  The only slight negative is that the vocal isn’t as upfront as the final version, but even so, some people might prefer this one.

”Only A Broken Heart” features the piano a little more too.  It’s good, but Tom Petty nailed the vocal better on the original release.

”You Wreck Me” doesn’t rock quite as much as on the original album.  In the booklet, Benmont Tench mentions that you can hear his piano on this version.  He says… “on some of the rock songs on Wildflowers, although I was playing, you don’t hear me.”  One of the best reasons for owning these alternate versions is that Benmont’s playing is more clearly featured, and he’s so good!

”It’s Good To Be King” is a slower version, and although enjoyable, it seems like a work in progress.  Now that we know how fantastic the song is with the brilliant orchestration on the original, it’s missed here.

”Wildflowers” is a good less-produced version, and certainly would have been acceptable, but it’s not the perfection of the final version on the original album.  This one has Ringo Starr on drums.  At the beginning Tom says “Count it off Ringo”.  Pretty cool for a Beatles fan to be able to say that.

”Don’t Fade On Me” can’t quite match the original, but it’s a good version with a cool bluesy guitar and effective harmony vocals toward the end.

”Wake Up Time” is a reasonable attempt, but Tom Petty’s vocal wasn’t as good a take, and his voice sounds pinched at times.

“Drivin’ Down To Georgia” is the studio version, and a welcome addition.

“You Saw Me Comin’” is an unreleased song, and I think there’s a good reason for that.  As my wife, Jeannette, and I were listening to it for the first time, I said to her that the melody is familiar from another song.  She thought about it for awhile, and then nailed it.  She said it sounds like Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Goin’”.  We first heard the song by Tom Rush, who recorded it in 1968 (even before Joni recorded it).  Someone had to have told Tom Petty about the similarity, so that’s probably why “You Saw Me Comin’” remained hidden until now.

Finding Wildflowers definitely has enough good recordings to make it a very welcome addition to my collection.  The more I listen to the tracks, the more I appreciate them.  They help complete the picture of how the masterwork, Wildflowers, was created by Tom Petty, producer Rick Rubin, and some great musicians.

The booklet includes good descriptions & comments on all the alternate tracks, and the lists of the musicians on each recording.  This disc shows us the link in the process between those impressive home demos Tom made, and the completed songs on the album.

Extra:  Here’s the link to an article about Tom Petty’s album Angel Dream:

CSN&Y…What If They Had Stayed Together

Crosby Stills Nash & Young had a huge hit with their album Deja Vu in 1970.  They split to do solo albums, and didn’t get back together until a CSN reunion in 1977.  But what if they had continued making group albums after Deja Vu?  By combining their talents and best songs, the band’s albums would have been even more popular than their solo efforts, and their songs more widely known.  CSN&Y’s place as one of the greatest rock bands would be completely solidified.

As fans know, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young didn’t always release songs in the order they were written and recorded.  Neil Young recently released some great recordings he made 45 years ago!  So, at a pace of one album per year (and using some chronological flexibility), here are CSN&Y fantasy albums.  Those of you familiar with the songs will be aware of the effort to place them in an order for musical flow and often with lyrical associations.

1971…After The Gold Rush

Neil Young’s title fit perfectly after the group’s initial rush of popularity, so it’s the title of CSN&Y’s follow-up album.  Here are the songs.

Side One:

  1. Love The One You’re With (Stills)
  2. Tell Me Why (Young)
  3. Laughing (Crosby)
  4. Ohio (CSNY)
  5. Find The Cost Of Freedom (CSNY)
  6. Chicago (Nash)

Side Two:

  1. Sugar Babe (Stills)
  2. Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Young)
  3. Simple Man (Nash)
  4. Southern Man (Young)
  5. Do For The Others (Stills)
  6. After The Gold Rush (Young)

This album would have been a worthy next album for CSN&Y.  The album starts with “Love The One You’re With”, which has all three of CSN on it.  Since the band was now providing new albums to their record company, there would have been no need for the So Far hits collection.  “Ohio” and “Find The Cost Of Freedom” would have been on this album.  Most of the other songs are from the first solo albums by the group members.   In the early 70’s both Stills and Young were very prolific songwriters, so they have a strong showing throughout these six albums.  In reality, Young definitely needed solo albums to hold all the songs he wrote.

1972…Change Partners

Side One:

  1. Change Partners (Stills)
  2. Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Young)
  3. Traction In The Rain (Crosby)
  4. Nothing To Do But Today (Stills)
  5. Out On The Weekend (Young)
  6. Sleep Song (Nash)

Side two:

  1. Don’t Look At My Shadow (Stills)
  2. Alabama (Young)
  3. I Used To Be A King (Nash)
  4. The Lee Shore (CSNY)
  5. Know You Got To Run (Stills)
  6. Birds (It’s Over) [Young & Nash]

This album mostly has songs from the first and second solo albums the artists recorded after Deja Vu.  It would have kept the momentum going for this super group.  The song “Change Partners” has all of CSN on it.  Graham Nash says it’s CSN&Y’s theme song, since they were always changing alliances within the group.  There’s a cool version of “Birds” that’s included with the Deja Vu box set.  The song has Graham Nash harmonizing with Neil Young, and it would be a good closer for this album, with the song’s last words being…”It’s over”.

1973…Heart Of Gold

Side One:

  1. It Doesn’t Matter (Stills)
  2. Heart Of Gold (Young)
  3. Immigration Man (Crosby & Nash)
  4. The Wall Song (Crosby & Nash)
  5. The Needle & The Damage Done (Young)
  6. Blues Man (Stills)

Side Two:

  1. So Begins The Task (Stills)
  2. Harvest (Young)
  3. Right Now (Stills)
  4. Games (Crosby & Nash)
  5. Southbound Train (Crosby & Nash)
  6. Journey Through The Past (Young)

Heart Of Gold is named for the #1 hit, and it would have been an amazingly popular album with this killer collection of songs.  They’re some of the very best cuts from three solo albums that all made the top five on Billboard’s album chart.  “Journey Through The Past” is the studio version from the Harvest sessions.  It was on Neil Young Archives I.  This album almost certainly would have had multiple weeks at #1.

1974…The Bridge

Side One:

  1. Johnny’s Garden (Stills)
  2. Old Man (Young)
  3. Page 43 (Crosby & Nash)
  4. Do You Remember The Americans (Stills)
  5. Prison Song (Nash, CSNY version)
  6. The Bridge (Young)

Side Two:

  1. Song Of Love (Stills)
  2. Love Is A Rose (Young)
  3. Where Will I Be (Crosby & Nash)
  4. Colorado (Stills)
  5. Another Sleep Song (Nash)
  6. A Man Needs A Maid (Young)

The Bridge completes the use of songs from the Manassas and Harvest albums.   Some of the tracks that make this strong are “Johnny’s Garden”, “Old Man”, “Prison Song”, and “Love Is A Rose”, but they’re all good.  “The Bridge” is the studio version (minus the studio chatter) from Neil Young Archives II.

1975…Down The Road

Side One:

  1. Walk On (Young)
  2. Down The Road (Stills)
  3. Homeward Through The Haze (CSNY)
  4. See The Sky About To Rain (Young)
  5. Shuffle Just As Bad (Stills)
  6. And So It Goes (Crosby Nash & Young)

Side Two:

  1. Love/Art Blues (CSNY)
  2. As I Come Of Age (CSN)
  3. Tonight’s The Night (Young)
  4. Witching Hour (Stills)
  5. Through My Sails (CSNY)
  6. Critical Mass/Wind On The Water (Crosby & Nash)

“Love/Art Blues” sounds almost studio-quality on their CSNY 1974 live album, and could have been used here.  They likely would have done a studio version after that tour.  “Witching Hour” is a song Stills did in the early 70’s with Manassas.  It was released decades later on the Pieces album.  Down The Road is a really good collection, with five songs that were intended for the Human Highway album.

(This photo was going to be the Human Highway cover.)

1976…Human Highway

Side One:

  1. See The Changes…Crosby Stills Nash & Young (CSN Box Set)
  2. Human Highway…Crosby Stills Nash & Young (Archives II)
  3. Taken At All…Crosby Stills Nash & Young (CSN Box Set)
  4. Long May You Run…Crosby Stills Nash & Young (Decade)
  5. Stateline Blues…Stephen Stills (Illegal Stills)
  6. Out Of The Darkness…Crosby & Nash (Whistling Down The Wire)

Side Two:

  1. Treetop Flyer…Stephen Stills (1976 CSNY sessions)
  2. Time After Time…Crosby & Nash (Whistling Down The Wire)
  3. Midnight On The Bay…Crosby Stills Nash & Young (Archives II)
  4. Black Coral…Crosby Stills Nash & Young (Stills Box Set)
  5. Little Blind Fish…Crosby Stills Nash & Young (1976 CSNY sessions)
  6. Hawaiian Sunrise…Crosby Stills Nash & Young (CSNY 1974)

Human Highway was the “lost” album that was supposed to be the follow-up to Deja Vu.  This version only uses songs still available to them in 1976.  Other songs originally meant for Human Highway were used on earlier albums.  Still’s “Treetop Flyer” and Crosby’s  “Little Blind Fish” were recorded during the 1976 sessions for this album, and probably would have been finalized.  For my playlist, I used the later versions the two completed on their own albums.

CSN got back together for real in 1977.  Their CSN album was solid, and only included one song, that was originally recorded for Human Highway, “See The Changes”, but it’s a different version.

For the complete Human Highway article, here’s the link:

This “What if” article is for pretty hardcore Crosby Stills Nash & Young fans.  Hope you enjoyed it, and maybe you’ll try these playlists, or make your own CSN&Y fantasy albums.  Mixing the artists and songs this way creates a refreshing musical variety that’s impossible on solo albums.

American Bands Of The ‘60’s (’65-’67)

In 1963, the closest thing to an American band getting to the top of the charts was The Four Seasons, and they were thought of more as a vocal group.  The only Rock & Roll band with some serious hits was The Beach Boys.  They had multiple Top 10 hits in ‘63, including “Surfin’ U.S.A.” (#3) and “Surfer Girl” (#7).

During 1964, there were plenty of British bands, but only The Beach Boys with “I Get Around” and The Four Seasons with “Rag Doll” broke through to #1 as American bands.  Instead, we still had talented, but old fashioned artists like Louis Armstrong and Dean Martin topping the Billboard singles chart.  That changed the following year.

Starting in 1965, there was an “American Revolution” of bands to counter the British Invasion.  As The Beach Boys continued their success that year with “Help Me Rhonda” (#1) and “California Girls” (#3), they were joined by The Byrds.

The first hit by The Byrds was “Mr. Tamborine Man” (#1) in June of 1965.  The song was written by folk singer Bob Dylan, but the rock arrangement & 12-string guitar were by Roger McGuinn.  The Byrds followed up with another #1 hit, “Turn Turn Turn”.  Folk Rock was the year’s hot new sound.

It should be pointed out that it was the electrified band sound that finally put Bob Dylan on the singles chart.  In September of 1965, “Like A Rolling Stone” (#2) was his first major hit (& biggest hit), and “Positively 4th Street” (#7) followed that about a month later.

The Turtles had their first chart success by turning a Bob Dylan folk song, “It Ain’t Me Babe”, into a rock song.  It went to #8 in September of 1965.  The Turtles had a total of nine Top 40 hits (until 1969), including “You Baby” (#20), “Happy Together” (#1), and “She’d Rather Be With Me” (#3).

Another successful Pop-Rock act that emerged in 1965 was Gary Lewis & The Playboys.  Once the band was signed to a label, they were augmented by professional writers, arrangers and musicians, including Leon Russell.  Gary Lewis & The Playboys had twelve Top 40 hits, with the first seven making the Top 10.  Hits included “This Diamond Ring” (#1), “Save Your Heart For Me” (#2), and “Green Grass” (#8).  Their chart career ended after Gary Lewis (son of actor Jerry Lewis) was inducted into the Army in 1967.

The only other band to start their career with seven straight Top 10 songs was The Lovin’ Spoonful, which also became popular in 1965.  John Sebastian was the lead singer and songwriter.  His talented band had a very original sound that was a mix of rock, folk, and country music.  The Spoonful’s hits included “Do You Believe In Magic” (#9), “Daydream” (#2), and “Summer In The City” (#1).  Even The Beatles were fans of The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Another American band that helped develop the Folk Rock sound was The Beau Brummels.  Their hits in 1965 included “Laugh Laugh” (#15) and “Just A Little” (#8).

You may remember the American band, The Strangeloves, had the hit “I Want Candy” (#11) in 1965.  They were going to release “Hang On Sloopy”, and had recorded the basic track, but their label thought it was too soon for them to release another song.  In order to beat The Dave Clark Five and The Yardbirds (who both wanted to record it), the record company had 16-year old Rick Derringer record the vocals onto the track already recorded by The Strangeloves.  Released in September of 1965 by Rick’s group, The McCoys, “Hang On Sloopy” went to #1.  The McCoy’s other big hit was a rock version of “Fever” (#7), the old Peggy Lee song.

Even though they weren’t American bands, a big part of the “American Revolution” were artists from Motown Records in Detroit.  Among their #1 hits in 1965 were “My Girl” by The Temptations, “Stop In The Name Of Love” by The Supremes, and “I Can’t Help Myself” by The Four Tops.  Motown continued to build on their sixties success.

A major addition to American music was the emergence of Simon & Garfunkel in late 1965.  Their first hit, “The Sound Of Silence” moved into the #1 spot at the beginning of 1966.  Paul Simon’s incredible songwriting and the beautiful blending of his and Art Garfunkel’s voices made them the most successful duo in history.  Their other #1’s were “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  They also had five multi-platinum albums from 1965 to 1970, plus a Greatest Hits album that was 14-times platinum in the U.S. alone.

A couple of other American duos topped the charts in the mid-sixties.  The Righteous Brothers had ”You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (#1) and “Soul And Inspiration” (#1).  Sonny & Cher had “I Got You Babe” (#1) and “The Beat Goes On” (#6).

Joining Simon & Garfunkel with their first #1 songs in 1966 were six new American bands.

In April of 1966, The Young Rascals first hit, “Good Lovin’”, went to #1.  This New York band combined Rock and Soul into 13 Top 40 hits, including “Groovin’” (#1), “A Beautiful Morning” (#3), and “People Got To Be Free” (#1).  By 1968, they decided they weren’t “Young” anymore, and just went by The Rascals.

While more of a vocal group than a band, The Mamas & The Papas were important to ‘60s music.  They broke through with “California Dreamin’” (#4), and then hit #1 in May, 1966 with “Monday, Monday”.

In July of 1966, simple & fun “Garage Rock” was at #1 with “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James & The Shondells.  From that beginning as teenage musicians, the group had 17 Top 40 singles, including…”I Think We’re Alone Now” (#4), “Mony Mony” (#3), “Crimson And Clover” (#1), and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” (#2).

Another new band at #1 was The Association, with “Cherish” in September, 1966.  They used sophisticated vocal harmonies, and were an accomplished live band.  Their other big hits were “Along Comes Mary” (#7), “Windy” (#1), and “Never My Love” (#2), which is their most played song.

Another simple garage band song that topped the singles chart in October, 1966 was “96 Tears” by ? (Question Mark) & The Mysterians.  It was also their Greatest Hits album.

The biggest new American band of 1966 was a group of musicians/actors put together for a television show.  The Monkees climbed up the charts with two #1’s in a row, “Last Train To Clarksville” and “I’m A Believer”, which was the final #1 of 1966 and the biggest hit of the year.  It doesn’t hurt having Neil Diamond write a song for you.  Neil also wrote “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (#2) for them.  The Monkees had eleven Top 40 songs through 1968, including “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (#3), and “Daydream Believer” (#1).

Another band that became popular in 1966, had actually formed back in 1960 in Portland, Oregon.  Their name indicates that in 1964 they should have been able to warn us that the British were coming.

Paul Revere & The Raiders had moved to L.A. by 1965, and were the “house band” for the music TV show “Where The Action Is”.  They used the show as a stepping stone to the singles chart in 1966.  Their hits included “Kicks” (#4), “Hungry” (#6), and “Good Thing” (#4).

The Grass Roots (originally spelled as Grassroots) started charting in 1966, and had 14 Top 40 hits through 1972.  Their hits included “Let’s Live For Today” (#8), “Midnight Confessions” (#5), and “I’d Wait A Million Years” (#15).

The first #1 of 1967 was “Kind Of A Drag” by The Buckinghams.  It was a huge year for them, as they added “Don’t You Care” (#6), “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (#5), “Hey  Baby, They’re Playing Our Song” (#12), and “Susan” (#11).

1967 was the year music started to lean more to Rock than to Pop, and a new group, The Doors, were an example of that.  The Doors had their own sound, and went to #1 with “Light My Fire”, a great 3-minute single on AM radio stations.  But, it was the 7-minute album version that broke ground on FM stations.  Their follow-up hits included “People Are Strange” (#12), “Hello I Love You” (#1), “Touch Me” (#3), and “Riders On The Storm” (#14).

The Box Tops’ first hit “The Letter” went to #1 in September of 1967.  Their lead singer, Alex Chilton, was only 16-years-old.  Their other songs included “Cry Like A Baby” (#2) and “Soul Deep” (#18).  Alex Chilton went on to form influential cult band Big Star.

The album cover and the name, Strawberry Alarm Clock, scream psychedelic!  Their one big hit was #1 in November of 1967, “Incense & Peppermints”.

We wrap up 1967 with three non-#1 (but influential) bands.  Jimi Hendrix was from Seattle; however, he recorded his first album after going to London and forming a trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  The band wasn’t very successful on AM radio, but their influential FM songs included “Fire”, “Purple Haze” and “All Along The Watchtower” (#20).

They had one iconic hit, “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound), which reached #7 in February, 1967.  Buffalo Springfield’s blending of various musical styles was impressive, and a blueprint for other bands.  Their songs that got a lot of FM play included “Mr. Soul” and “Bluebird”.  Four members of the group went on to successful careers…Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina.

Jefferson Airplane was one of the few Rock bands with a female lead singer, Grace Slick.  She also wrote the band’s first two hits from 1967, “Somebody To Love” (#5) and “White Rabbit” (#8).  Members of the band continued into the 1970’s and 1980’s under the names Jefferson Starship and Starship.

1965 through 1967 showed America was quick to develop bands that were able to respond to the British Invasion.  They clearly added some great songs to the sixties.  Hope you enjoyed remembering those songs, and seeing those 1960’s album covers & single sleeves again.

The combination of 1960’s bands from the U.S. and the U.K. greatly influenced young musicians, who then gave us a golden era of Classic Rock and Singer-Songwriters in the 1970’s.

For an article about British bands in the 60s, here’s the link:

(There are also individual articles on many of these groups.)

British Invasion…The Other Bands (Timeline)

Everyone knows the “British Invasion” followed The Beatles success in America, but what was the arrival timeline of the other English bands?  The Beatles entered the American Top 40 January 25th, 1964, and a week later “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was #1.  They were already dominating the U.S. charts with multiple hits when a band from Tottenham, England broke through.

It was March 7th, 1964 when The Dave Clark Five drummed and stomped their way into the Top 40 with “Glad All Over, which went to #6 on April 25th.  As soon as their first song peaked, “Bits And Pieces” was released, and went to #4.  The DC5 were the first serious competition for The Beatles in America, with 17 Top 40 hits, but just one #1, “Over And Over”.  Their success in the states only lasted until 1967, which was typical for so many of the bands.

Can you name the third British band to make it into the American Top 40?  I couldn’t remember who it was, and I had even bought their single!

Above is my 1964 picture sleeve of The Searchers’ hit “Needles & Pins”.  The Searchers entered the Top 40 March 21st, 1964.  The song was written by Americans Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzscke, and was an example of the Folk Rock sound that fully developed a year later.  Despite all the boasting their record company did on the above sleeve, The Searchers only had seven Top 40 hits in America, with “Needles & Pins” (#13) and “Love Potion Number Nine” (#3) being their biggest hits.

The fourth British band to have an American hit was from Liverpool, The Swinging Blue Jeans.  “Hippy Hippy Shake” entered the Top 40 March 28th, 1964, and made it to #24.  It was their only American hit.  “Hippy Hippy Shake” was a 1959 hit for Chan Romero in England in 1959.  The Beatles recorded it in mid-1963 for a BBC radio show.

They may have been a drummer and bass player short of a band, but Peter And Gordon were the first British artists after The Beatles to score a #1 song.  It was June 27th, 1964 when a song written for them by Paul McCartney, “A World Without Love”, topped the Billboard singles chart.  They were popular for three years in the U.S., and had ten hits, including “I Go To Pieces” (#9), “Lady Godiva” (#6), and “Woman” (#14), another McCartney song.

Another Liverpool band to cross the pond was Gerry And The Pacemakers.  They’d already had three #1 hits in England in 1963.  Their first and biggest American hit was “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” (#4), June 6th, 1964.  They had a total of seven hits in the U.S. through 1967.  Their second most popular was “Ferry Cross The Mersey” (#6) in 1965.

Chad And Jeremy hit the charts just a week after Gerry And The Pacemakers.  “Yesterday’s Gone” peaked at #24 June 13th, 1964.  Premiering that same month was “A Summer Song”, which then made it to #7, and was their biggest of seven hits through 1966.

The Rolling Stones entered America’s Top 40 in August of 1964 with “Tell Me” and “It’s All Over Now”.  Their first #1 hit, “Satisfaction”, was in July of 1965.  The Stones had a total of seven #1’s, with the last one coming in 1978.  They remained one of the top touring acts for over half a century!  In 1964…not these young men, nor anyone else, would have believed that was possible.

The first English band to hit #1 after The Beatles was from the London blues scene, The Animals.  A traditional song, “House Of The Rising Sun”, was a favorite in The Animals’ live shows, and they recorded it in just one take.  The recording was four-and-a-half minutes long, but was edited down to three minutes in America, where it topped the chart for three weeks, starting on September 5th.  Beginning in 1965, the full-length version was used on all album releases.  That was the band’s only #1 hit, but they had 14 Top 40 songs, including “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (#15) and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (#13).  Their last hit was in 1968, under the name Eric Burdon & The Animals.

One of the most fun songs of the year was “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann.  The song entered the Top 40 September 12th, 1964, and went to #1.  The band’s other sixties hits included “Pretty Flamingo” (#29), and “Mighty Quinn” (#10).  They had three Top 40 hits in the seventies and eighties under the name Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

A one-hit-wonder British group, The Nashville Teens, probably shouldn’t have chosen an American name, because the U.S. was entranced with everything British in 1964.  It was in October of that year when “Tobacco Road” entered the Top 40, and peaked at #14.

One of the British Invasion bands that lasted long past the sixties is The Kinks.  Their first chart success was with “You Really Got Me”, peaking at #7, November 28th, 1964.  It was quickly followed by “All Day And All Of The Night” (#7), and “Tired Of Waiting For You” (#6).  The Kinks had eight Top 40 hits in the sixties, plus the #9 hit “Lola” in 1970, and “Come Dancing” (#6) in 1983.  The Kinks also had albums that were critical favorites.

The last British band in the alphabet was almost the last British band to make it into America’s Top 40 in 1964. The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” hit #2 on December 12th.  Their other hits were “Tell Her No” (#6), and “Time Of The Season” (#3).

December 12th was also the date “I’m Into Something Good” peaked at #13.  The song by Herman’s Hermits had entered the Top 40 one week after The Zombies’ first hit.  1965 would be Herman’s Hermits’ big year.  They reeled off nine straight Top 10 songs, including two #1’s…”Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry The VIII, I Am”.  They had a total of 18 Top 40 hits, but the magic ran out in 1968.

Here’s a list of other well known British Invasion bands, and when they first broke into the American Top 40.

Freddie & The Dreamers…March, 1965 “I’m Telling You Now” #1.

The Mindbenders…March, 1965 ”Game Of Love” #1.

The Moody Blues…March, 1965 “Go Now” #10.

The Yardbirds…June, 1965 “For Your Love”, #6.

The Hollies…January, 1966 “Look Through Any Window” #32.

The Troggs…July, 1966 “Wild Thing” #1.

The Who…May, 1967 “Happy Jack” #24.

The Bee Gees…June, 1967 “New York Mining Disaster 1941” #14.

Small Faces …January, 1968 “Itchycoo Park” #16

Cream…February, 1968 “Sunshine Of Your Love” #5.

The term “Rock Band” didn’t exist back then.  When The Beatles albums first came out, printed on them was “File under Vocal Group”.  The big change from the charts having mostly individual vocalists to having lots of bands happened in England in 1963.  A year later, The British Invasion caused an explosion of bands in America.

The United States always exported its music to England, but until 1964, there was no major flow from the U.K. to the U.S.  The back and forth stream of music has continued at varying levels since then.

Thank goodness for the British Invasion, because it helped create so much great music on both sides of the Atlantic.

To see America’s musical response to the British Invasion, here’s the link:

(There are also individual articles on many of these bands.)

Beatles Albums…You Might Not Know Them All

Sure most fans know the major albums by The Beatles, but some of the odder releases may have been forgotten.  Here are the American releases (including some rare ones), along with the major British releases that had different album covers (they’re not normally seen together, and photos can be clicked to enlarge).  Being a Beatles fan since “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was released in late 1963, I owned all but two of these albums, and there are a lot of them!

The Beatle’s first album in England was Please Please Me released in April of 1963.  The cover has a clever shot of The Beatles looking down from a landing.

In America, the nearly identical album was called Introducing The Beatles.  Capitol Records had turned down releasing The Beatles even though EMI/Parlophone in England was their parent company.  So Vee-Jay got the rights, and for some reason ended up with the most boring Beatles cover ever. The album was originally scheduled to be released in July of 1963, but Vee-Jay didn’t actually release the album until January 10th, 1964.  That was after the single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was a huge hit for Capitol (which had come to their senses).  Introducing The Beatles was released just ten days before The Beatles’ first Capitol album.

The Beatles were already past their second album in England.  With The Beatles was released in the U.K. November of 1963.  In America, the album came out in January, 1964 and was called Meet The Beatles.  It included “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and “This Boy”, which were not on the British version.  If you want to know which singles were on which albums, you can read my article “The Beatles…Singles Left Off Albums”.  Here’s the link when you want to check it out:

The immense popularity of The Beatles caused more recordings to come out of the woodwork.  English singer Tony Sheridan had used The Beatles (billed as The Beat Brothers) to back him on a record he made in Germany in 1962.  Somehow in 1964 this became a Beatles album.  It actually has only two songs by The Beatles, an original instrumental, “Cry For A Shadow”, and a cover of “Ain’t She Sweet”.  I decided not to buy this one.

The third major Beatles album in America was curiously named The Beatles’ Second Album.  Capitol apparently didn’t want to admit Vee-Jay had released an album at all, even though it was a big hit.  The Beatles’ Second Album was put out in April of 1964.  The U.S. was catching up on all the songs The Beatles had recorded in 1963, and they completely dominated the charts.  During one week in April of 1964 they had the top two albums and the top five singles.

Just two months later, June of 1964 (early July in England), The Beatles released the album and movie A Hard Day’s Night.  In England, it was a full album with 13 songs written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney.  In America, the soundtrack was released by United Artists.  It only had nine of the same songs, plus instrumental music from the film.

Since Capitol didn’t have the rights to the movie soundtrack, they had to come up with something new.  So they “cleverly” named the album, Something New.  It was a mix of some non-soundtrack songs from the British A Hard Day’s Night album, a couple of American singles, and some of the songs from the movie.

Not to be outdone for coming up with ways to repackage The Beatles, Vee-Jay put together a two-record set with their other big act, The Four Seasons.  This was the second of the two albums I didn’t buy.  I already had all The Beatles’ songs, and the three big hits by The Four Seasons.

American “Capitolism” was on full display with an expensive two album set that told The Beatles’ Story.  I think I listened to it once.  Vee-Jay had also put out a similar interview album.

In November of 1964, the English album, Beatles For Sale, became Beatles ’65 in America.  That brought the total number of major Beatles albums released in the U.S. in 1964 to six.  Beatlemania indeed!

Capitol finally got the rights to The Beatles songs they had turned down in 1963, so they packaged them in their own version of the Please Please Me album, The Early Beatles, in March of 1965.

American albums had fewer songs than the British albums, so every once in a while, Capitol made their own albums.  In June of 1965, Beatles VI was mostly made up of leftover songs from Beatles For Sale, combined with songs from the upcoming Help album that were not on the American soundtrack.

In England, Help (August 1965) was a full 14 songs long.  In America, Capitol only used 7 Beatles songs, and filled it with instrumentals from the film.  That’s one way we got more Beatles albums in America.

Looking at the English and American covers of Rubber Soul (December 1965), it seems the only difference is the color of the title.  In reality, there’s a big six song difference between the records.  Capitol left off four songs, and added two that had been on Help in the U.K.

On the left is the original “butcher cover” for the American album Yesterday And Today.  Radio stations and retail stores complained about the cover, and Capitol changed it to the one on the right.  Yesterday And Today was released in June of 1966.  It consisted mainly of “leftover” songs from Help Rubber Soul, plus tracks from the not-yet-released Revolver.

The U.S. and U.K. album covers for Revolver (August 1966) are basically identical.  The difference was that three John Lennon songs had been placed on Yesterday And Today instead.

Finally, by June of 1967, all Beatles albums would contain the same songs in England and America…starting with the amazing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Well, the idea of having all the albums the same lasted one album.  When the Magical Mystery Tour EP (extended play 45) was released in the U.K. in November of 1967, Capitol turned it into a full album by putting 5 songs from singles on the other side.  This was actually a good idea, and it’s now the official album on both sides of the Atlantic.

After the psychedelic covers of Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles (White Album) used a minimalistic cover in 1968.

Because animation takes a long time to complete, the Yellow Submarine movie gave The Beatles another psychedelic album cover in January of 1969.

Easily one of the most iconic album covers is Abbey Road in September of 1969.  It was actually the final album The Beatles recorded together.

What’s a record company to do when they have singles that never appeared on any of their albums.  Capitol’s last weird American album was Hey Jude in February of 1970.  It was also the last photo shoot of the four Beatles together.  The album was originally going to be named The Beatles Again, and my memory is that title was printed on the record label.

The final original Beatles album to be released, Let It Be (May 1970), was recorded before Abbey Road, but was delayed until Apple was satisfied with the final production.

The first official U.S. & U.K. Beatles hits collections were released in April of 1973.  The Red Album covered 1962-1966, and the Blue Album 1967-1970.  These were both double albums.  The cover shot for the Blue Album was a cool 1969 recreation of the photo on The Beatles’ first album.  It definitely shows how much The Beatles changed over a 6-year period, and their music changed at least as much.  The photo was originally going to be used on the Get Back/Let It Be project in 1969.

So, how could Capitol and Parlophone (Apple) release more Beatles albums?  Well, in June of 1976, they grouped together the most “Rock & Roll” Beatles songs (originals and covers) into a double album called Rock ‘N’ Roll Music.

In late 1962, The Beatles were making their final appearances in Hamburg Germany.  Somebody used a single microphone and a portable recorder to capture a performance at the Star-Club.  Of course it’s historic, but the sound was bad on this 1977 release.  I’m sure I only listened to it once.

In May of 1977 came the first official release of a Beatles live album The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl.  It’s an example of the band’s short concerts from the mid-sixties.  With all the screaming, the sound quality is not great.  It was upgraded in 2016 for the documentary Eight Days A Week.

A collection named Love Songs was released in October of 1977.  It was another double album featuring some beautiful ballads, and the softer side of the Fab Four.

Ten years after The Beatles split, two albums of Rarities were released.  One was a U.K. version, and the other U.S.  They had different tracks, because what constituted rarities varied by what had been released in each country.  My favorite rarity was “Penny Lane” with that cool trumpet ending that was originally on the single, but was ultimately left off when it was released.

A reader reminded me about this Reel Music album from March of 1982.  The cover was a poorly drawn conglomeration of Beatles movie images, and the album, although it had some great songs, was mostly unnecessary.  It ended up in the cutout bins, because fans already had the songs.  I do have the single of the “Movie Medley” Capitol edited together.  The picture sleeve is next to the album above..

Who could even limit Beatles songs to 20 Greatest Hits?  Apple tried to do it in October of 1982.  The songs chosen were slightly different in the U.S and the U.K., because of which songs were #1 in each country.  One detail that stood out to me was that “Hey Jude” had about 2-minutes less of “Na Na’s at the end.  It was shortened because of the time limitations of vinyl records.

When Beatles albums came out on CD’s in 1987 (using the U.K. versions), they found a way to handle the songs that were not on those British albums.  Originally, Past Masters had two volumes, but they soon put all the songs on one CD.

When The Beatles appeared on BBC radio programs in the early ‘60’s, they made original recordings at the BBC’s studios.  Mostly they used the opportunity to record songs they liked that weren’t their own.  In November 1994, a two CD collection of these recordings was released, Live At The BBC.  A second volume was released in 2013.

Three double albums of alternate takes and rarities, Anthology 1, 2 & 3 were a treasure trove for Beatles fans.  They were released from November of 1995 to October of 1996.  Beatles friend/artist/musician Kraus Voormann created the three covers that were part of a large art piece.

The Yellow Submarine Songtrack was released in September of 1999.  It featured a much larger number of songs than were on the original movie soundtrack.  It was the first major project of remixing well known Beatles songs.

In November of 2000, a Greatest Hits package was released that only The Beatles could make.  It has 27 songs that all hit #1 on the charts in England or America.  The Beatles 1 is one of the best-selling albums of all time.  In 2015, the album was remixed, and the colors on the cover of the CD/DVD version were reversed.

Paul McCartney was never satisfied with the overproduction by Phil Spector on the Let It Be album.  So, in November of 2003, McCartney released Let It Be…Naked.  It took the album back to the original intent of the band, which was to present the songs as played by just The Beatles and Billy Preston, with no overdubs.

We can expect another version of this album in 2021, when a remixed soundtrack is released for the documentary film The Beatles: Get Back.

Since this long list of albums, Apple has been releasing remixes of The Beatles classic albums, with the records made before Sgt. Pepper waiting to be remixed.

For the record, here’s a shot of most of my remaining Beatles CD’s.

Popular for over half-a-century, Beatles songs are likely to maintain their popularity for many decades to come.

Classic Rock Album Sales from 2020

How did the old Classic Rock Albums perform in the Top 200 album sales in 2020?  I wasn’t positive there’d be any Classic albums on the list.  Don’t most fans already have them?  Rolling Stone magazine released the sales figures for the year, which is a combination of actual sales and equivalent sales by streaming.  It turns out Classic albums made the list…starting at #46.

What Classic Rock album did the best?  If you knew it was an album by the Eagles, you might guess Eagles Greatest Hits (the biggest selling album of all time), or Hotel California (the 3rd best selling album of all time).  The surprise is that it’s Eagles, their very first album!

The album features “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman”, and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, but those are on on the hits album too, so people must want to hear the other tracks on that first album (unless Rolling Stone listed the wrong album).  The number to the right side of the ranking is the number of equivalent sales from a combination of actual sales and streaming.

The second highest Classic album is a little more predictable, because Queen has had a major surge in popularity since their big biographic movie.

A Beatles album made the list, and it’s the one that younger Beatles fans seem to favor.  The 50th Anniversary remix of Abbey Road was released in the fall of 2019.

If I would have guessed which Classic album did best, it would have been Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.  That’s because of the “Dreams” viral skateboard video.  Fleetwood Mac didn’t get the top Classic album, but they were one of only two Classic Rock acts to place two albums on the list.

And here are the rest of the Classic albums in the Top 200 list of equivalent album sales in 2020.

The top album of 2020 was by the only artist whose album actually sold over one-million hard & digital units, Taylor Swift.  The next highest album sold less than half as much.  Add in the streaming, and it’s still Taylor Swift’s folklore at #1.

Taylor Swift had a total of five albums in the Top 200 for 2020.  Extra trivia:  Of her first 8 albums, 5 of them have been the biggest selling albums in the year they were released (a record).  Swift’s 9th album, evermore, was released very late in 2020, so it could at least have a slight chance to be the biggest seller in 2021.  However, the smart money would be on a new release by Adele.  Her last two albums led sales for a total of two years each.

It’s right that new albums in 2020 are the biggest sellers, but it’s impressive that some Classic albums are still selling and streaming as much as 50 years after they were released!

So, after I wrote the above article…

I checked how Billboard  ranked the top selling albums of 2020.  The only real agreement between Rolling Stone and Billboard is that Taylor Swift’s folklore is the top album.

Here’s the ranking of the Classic albums and four new albums by Classic artists (James Taylor, The Who, Bruce Springsteen & Bob Dylan) in the Billboard 2020 sales chart. This ranking of the Top 100 albums is based on real sales, and do not include streaming (that’s the big difference).

It looks like the Billboard chart makes a little more sense, or at least it shows which albums people were actually willing to buy.  By the way, 2020 was the first year since 1986 that vinyl records outsold CD’s, and the most vinyl albums sold since 1991.  Pretty amazing popularity for a technology (vinyl albums & turntable cartridges) introduced in 1948.

What both lists show is that some great Classic Rock albums are still being purchased and streamed, with one of them, Abbey Road, being the 12th best-selling album 51 years after it was released!

Gerry & The Pacemakers

The first rivals for The Beatles were Gerry & The Pacemakers.

Both groups were from Liverpool, and were regular performers at The Cavern Club.  The two bands also played in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, and both had Brian Epstein for a manager & George Martin as their producer.

You can see that Gerry Marsden performed with his guitar held unusually high.

Gerry & The Pacemakers won the race to #1 on the English charts in 1963 with the song “How Do You Do It?”.  George Martin first presented the song to The Beatles, and they recorded it, but they convinced Martin to release their own song, “Love Me Do”, instead.  It made it to #2.  Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “How Do You Do It?” went all the way to the top.  They followed that with two more #1 songs, “I Like It” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, also in 1963.  That last one is a ballad from the 1950’s musical/movie Carousel.

Gerry Marsden’s vocal on “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was so popular that the recording was played at the games of the Liverpool Football Club, and the song has remained their official anthem ever since.

Gerry & The Pacemakers and The Beatles were friends, and toured together in 1963 with Roy Orbison.  Here’s a posed photo from the tour, as the groups pretend to be fighting over singer Louise Cordet.

After The Beatles broke big in America, the “British Invasion” began, and bands like Gerry & The Pacemakers became popular here too.  Their first American hit was “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”, which was also the band’s first self-written hit.  It went to #4 in 1964, and was followed successfully by their previous English releases…”How Do You Do It?” #9, and “I Like It” #17.

I bought all the singles by Gerry & The Pacemakers.  They were on the Laurie label, because Capitol Records in the U.S. had turned them down, just like they did the early recordings by The Beatles.

Gerry & The Pacemakers had three hits in 1965…”I’ll Be There” #14, “Ferry Cross The Mersey” #6, and “It’s Gonna Be Alright” #23.  They also made a movie named after their second biggest hit.

Unfortunately, like most of the British Invasion bands, Gerry & The Pacemakers hit-making only lasted a short time.  Their final hit was “Girl On A Swing” #28 in 1966.  I even bought that one.  After that, it was just the release of multiple “Best Of” albums.

The band officially split up in 1969, and Gerry Marsden had a short, but successful acting career.  He later did some touring with various musicians in the role of “Pacemakers”.  After that, I would see him from time to time being interviewed for a number of documentaries about The Beatles.  He was always upbeat, interesting, and very likable.  He obviously had enjoyed his time as a part of the British revival of Rock & Roll in the sixties.

In an interview, Marsden said…”The main thing is to enjoy what you’re doing.  All the pressure crap you hear, people bring that on themselves.”

On January 3rd, 2021 it was announced that Gerry Marsden had died after a short illness from a heart infection.  He was 78.  Among the many musicians paying tribute was Paul McCartney.

McCartney is right about remembering Gerry Marsden with a smile.  Gerry wrote and recorded uplifting songs that are still fun to hear.

Paul McCartney…McCartney III

Paul McCartney is an amazing musician.  He seems to be a musical savant who can play guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and nearly any instrument he picks up.  McCartney III is the third album in his 50 year solo career that he made with almost no help from anyone else…writing all the songs, playing all the instruments, and singing all the vocal parts.

The above album cover and the photos used in this article were taken by Mary McCartney.  The photos are really good, and you can click to enlarge them.  You may remember Mary from this photo her mom, Linda, took for the first McCartney album in 1970:

That’s Mary peeking out from Paul’s coat.

That first album featured the songs “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Junk”, and “Every Night”, which were the tracks worthy of being on a Beatles album.  McCartney II came out in 1980, and featured “Coming Up” (#1), “Waterfalls”, “Summer’s Day Song”, and the some-like-it-some-don’t “Temporary Secretary”.  Now 30-years later, at the age of 78, Paul McCartney has done it again.

Paul says the pandemic forced him away from live performances and into his own studio.  The result was released yesterday, December 18th, 2020.  McCartney III has received almost all positive reviews.

I love so many of Paul McCartney’s songs that I own nearly everything he’s released.  My collecting began when The Beatles first broke in America.  So, the next sentence is hard to write.  I have to be honest and say that on McCartney III his voice shows it’s age, and I don’t hear any songs that compare with the best tracks on his previous albums.  “When Winter Comes” and “Seize The Day” probably come closest.   But if you’re a fan, you’ll still want to stream the new album, and decide for yourself, maybe you’ll agree with all those positive reviews.

McCartney has made the album available on vinyl, and it comes in various colors, including red, green, and yellow.

It’s mostly just McCartney’s three one-man albums that cause people to talk about his multi-instrument musicianship, but his best album, Band On The Run, is nearly the same.  Paul had basically lost his band, Wings, prior to the album.  Only Linda McCartney and guitarist Denny Lane remained.  Except for some of the guitar parts, Paul played all the instruments on the basic album.  Later, orchestral overdubs were added.  McCartney sometimes played multiple instruments on Beatles recordings too.

Paul McCartney long ago secured his position as one of the greatest songwriters, singers, and musicians of all time.  Many of us have been fortunate to enjoy his music for six decades.

Update:  The first week sales of McCartney III placed it at #1 on the Album Sales chart, and #2 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums.  Paul McCartney is the only artist to place albums in the top two for six straight decades!

Neil Young Archives II (Review)

After many years of promising, Neil Young finally released his Archives Vol. II. That’s eleven years after Archives Vol. I was released in 2009.  This second volume covers 1972 through 1976.  Neil will have to speed things up if he wants to release archives from the other 44 years of his career.

It’s great to get some unreleased songs and alternate versions of songs we’d only heard about, or maybe found on bootlegs.  Of the 131 songs on Archives Vol. 2, there are 12 that were not previously released, 51 songs that are unreleased alternate versions (many of them live), and 68 tracks that were previously released on Neil’s albums.

The songs are mostly from Time Fades Away, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma.  The original recordings from those albums are almost all included.  There are also versions of songs from Comes A Time, American Stars ‘n BarsRust Never Sleeps, and Hawks & Doves.  If you have those eight albums, you already own over half of the recordings in the box set.

I started collecting Neil Young songs in 1969 with Retrospective: The Best Of Buffalo Springfield.  Then I bought almost all of his studio albums up to 2005.  After that, I’ve purchased individual tracks from many of his albums.  I bought the recently released album  Homegrown, which was actually recorded in ‘74-‘75 and is in this box set.

The $250 Deluxe box set sold out (3000 units) as soon as it went on sale on Neil Young’s site in November, 2020.  More sets were made available March 5th, 2021.  There is also a $160 set (lower-priced on Amazon, $116 in March 2021) with exactly the same 10 CD’s, but without a hard-cover book.  That set is sold in stores and online retail sites, and is in iTunes for $100.  All of the tracks were also added to streaming sites on March 5th, 2021.

So, how is Archives Vol. II?  There are some gems.  The 1976 Crosby Stills Nash & Young version of “Human Highway” sounds great (the 1973 version is here too, but the harmonies are not as good).  It was going to be the title song of their album to follow-up Deja Vu and their solo work of the early ’70’s.  This version of the song was recorded during the Long May You Run sessions.  The other really good recording from that session is “Midnight On The Bay”.  If you want to know more about the lost Human Highway album, here’s the link to the article on this site, when you’re ready to check it out:

Homegrown, which is on it’s own disc, had been another “lost album” that was originally supposed to be released in 1975.  It includes seven good songs that weren’t already available.

The box set has three recordings of “Love/Art Blues”, a song which was worked on during the Homegrown sessions. A solo version, and a trio version (on Disc-6 of the box set) are both very good.  The third version has a poor ending.  An impressive recording of the song can be found on the CSNY 1974 live album.  You can’t beat CSN&Y harmonies.  Proof of that is a solo version of “Through My Sails” which screams out for the harmonies of CSN (if you’re used to the Zuma version).

Other previously unreleased standouts include the first studio version of “The Bridge”, “Homefires” & “Daughters” (those two from the Homegrown sessions), and “Come Along And Say You Will” (from 1972, the same year as Harvest).  Plus, there are nice live versions of “Stringman” and “Midnight On The Bay”.  These two are on a disc separate from the three concert discs.

How valuable Archives II is to you is probably based on how many of the songs you already own.  Or, you can obviously stream the whole thing, since it’s been added to streaming services.

Now, we wait for Neil Young Archives III.  Neil says it won’t be long this time.  We’ve heard that before, but maybe at age 75 he feels a greater urgency.  We look forward to more treasures.

Extra:  This playlist helps point out (in order of recording dates) some of the best studio recordings of previously unreleased songs and alternate versions.  Only four of these songs/versions were *previously available.

  1. The Bridge (11/15/72)
  2. Come Along And Say You Will (12/15/72)
  3. Homefires (6/16/74)
  4. Love Is A Rose* (6/16/74)
  5. White Line (Acoustic) [9/12/74]
  6. Frozen Man (11/4/74)
  7. Changing Highways (12/4/74)
  8. Love/Art Blues (Trio Version) [12/10/74]
  9. Try (12/11/74)
  10. Daughters (12/11/74)
  11. Deep Forbidden Lake* (12/13/74)
  12. Star Of Bethlehem* (12/13/74)
  13. Homegrown (12/13/74)
  14. We Don’t Smoke It (12/31/74)
  15. Vacancy (1/4/75)
  16. Little Wing* (1/21/75)
  17. Kansas (1/21/75)
  18. Lookin’ For Love (8/29/75)
  19. No One Seems To Know (9/11/75)
  20. Midnight On The Bay (w/CSN) [4/14/76]
  21. Human Highway (w/CSN) [4/15/76]

Fifteen of these songs…#3 though #17…were recorded during the Homegrown album sessions from mid 1974 to early 1975.  Neil Young could easily have put together another album similar in quality to After The Gold Rush, Harvest, or Comes A Time.  Instead, he released Tonight’s The Night (which he had recorded in 1973).  When he recently released Homegrown, he didn’t include some really good songs… “Homefires”, “Frozen Man”, “Love/Art Blues”, “Daughters”, and “Deep Forbidden Lake”…even though some were recorded on the same days as other songs on the album.  Fortunately, we can put the songs together in a very strong playlist like this.

Neil Young waited about 45 years to release most of these recordings.  It’s so enjoyable getting to know his “new” old songs.