The Beatles…Revolver

Revolver was a revolution for Rock & Roll.

It’s hard to believe this 1966 album was made just two years after The Beatles broke in America with songs like  “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Can’t buy Me Love”.  They’re excellent songs, but nothing like the style of recordings The Beatles created for Revolver.

The very first song of the Revolver sessions was “Tomorrow Never Knows” in April of 1966.  This is the one where John Lennon sings:  “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”  The recording has backwards guitars, ADT (automatic double-tracked) vocal, experimental tape loops that sound a bit like seagulls, variable-speed recording, psychedelic lyrics, and half of Lennon’s vocals were through the spinning horns of a Leslie Hammond organ speaker.   A far cry from “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.  I admit it took me awhile to get into “Tomorrow Never Knows” when I first got the album in 1966.  The song was startlingly different from anything I’d ever heard.

The Beatles had obviously embraced the recording studio as an art form, and didn’t care if they could play these songs on their final concert tour that year.

Before “Eleanor Rigby”, no one would have imagined a Beatles song with none of them playing on it.  The instrumentation is only an octet of strings impressively arranged by George Martin.  Like most of the songs on Revolver, the lyrics had evolved far beyond The Beatles’ early work.  Paul McCartney did the lead vocal, and George & John provided background vocals.

This album was a high point for Paul McCartney.  Besides “Eleanor Rigby”, his songs include two of his most beautiful…”Here There and Everywhere” and “For No One”.  Plus, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Got To Get You Into My Life”, and he was the main writer of “Yellow Submarine”.  He also wrote “Paperback Writer” which was a #1 single from the Revolver sessions.

Besides “Tomorrow Never Knows”, John Lennon contributed “She Said She Said”, “And Your Bird Can Sing”, “Doctor Robert”, and “I’m Only Sleeping”.  Almost unbelievably, those last three songs were taken from the album and released about a month and a half earlier on the American album “Yesterday”…and Today.  Sure that meant Americans got an early sample of the new album (although we didn’t know it at the time), but it left Lennon with only two songs on the U.S. version of Revolver.  After that, all Beatles albums were the same in England and America (except albums that collected old singles).

Lennon also wrote “Rain”, which was the flip side of “Paperback Writer”, the single released prior to the album.  Rain was the first rock/pop song to have a backward vocal.  George Martin had reversed the tape for the last line of the song, and The Beatles liked it.  Backward recordings were used throughout the album to give the instruments new and unusual sounds.  That included George Harrison carefully constructing guitar solos so the melodies worked when the tapes were played backwards.

If you’ve never listened closely to “Rain”, check out the extremely effective and unusual drumming by Ringo Starr.  It’s doubtful any other drummer could have come up with anything so perfect for the song.

For the first time, a George Harrison song, “Taxman”, was the lead track on a Beatles album.  The song lyrics are in response to the English government taking 95% of their money when they entered the highest tax bracket.  “Taxman” is a rocking song, with excellent guitar solos by Harrison and McCartney.  George also wrote “Love You To”, which featured extensive use of Indian instruments, and “I Want To Tell You”.  The latter is a good song, but the prominent dissonant piano notes usually caused me to move the turntable needle to the next song.  For me, that arrangement choice is the only real flaw of the entire album.

(My Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby sleeve & Corgi metal sub.)

“Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby” were the only singles released from the album, and they were on the same 45.  Paul McCartney says “Yellow Submarine” was always meant as a children’s sing-a-long song, and doesn’t have any unusual meanings as sometimes speculated.  When McCartney played his unfinished song for Donovan, the singer/songwriter gave McCartney the line “Sky of blue, sea of green”.

“Eleanor Rigby” is a masterpiece.  It was mostly by Paul McCartney, but he did get some lyric suggestions from Lennon & Harrison, plus that brilliant string arrangement from producer George Martin.  Martin said he based the attack-style violin playing on the music used in Alfred Hitchcock’ movie Psycho.  If someone pushed me to name my favorite Beatles song, I’d say “Eleanor Rigby”.  I later found out it’s the only song The Beatles ever recorded on my birth date…April 28th.  Coincidence?

There were engineering and production techniques that assisted The Beatles in realizing their vision for the album.  Geoff Emerick, then just 20 years old, became the engineer for producer George Martin.  Emerick was the one who suggested putting Lennon’s voice through a Leslie speaker when the singer asked to have his voice sound like “The Dalai Lama singing from a mountain top.”  Emerick also used new techniques for improving the recording of Paul’s bass guitar and Ringo’s bass drum.

His innovation with placing microphones close to instruments missed when he put them inside the bells of the horns on “Got To Get You Into My Life”.  Yeah, it was different, but the tone came out sounding thin and pinched.  The technique has probably not been used since.  But, that’s just one small misstep among the otherwise innovative engineering, and it didn’t ruin the song.  Emerick went on to win Grammy Awards for engineering Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road.

The appreciation for Revolver has grown over time.  For decades, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has topped most lists that attempt to rank the best albums of all time.  In recent years, Revolver has sometimes taken over that spot, or has been very close to the top.  Some of that may be to simply provide a change from the usual choice, but it may also be because people came to realize how Revolver was truly a breakthrough.

Peter Paul and Mary

It was 1962.  The initial surge of ‘50’s Rock & Roll had given way to lighter pop music and teen idols.  There was an opening for a revival of folk music.  Leading the way was a group with three singers…Peter, Paul and Mary.

(Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers)

Music manager Albert Grossman (who also represented Bob Dylan) had put the trio together from artists who played in Greenwich Village in New York City.  Their first album, Peter, Paul and Mary, was released in May of 1962.  It was filled with acoustic guitars, beautiful harmonies, and poignant lyrics.

The album went to #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for seven weeks, and stayed in the Top 10 for ten months.  That was a breakthrough for folk music.  Although Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey (whose first name is Noel) are both accomplished songwriters who would later write hits, this album mostly brought some classic folk songs to the masses.  It included “Lemon Tree” (#35) and “If I Had A Hammer” (#10) both appearing in the Top 40 for the first time, even though the songs had been around for over a decade.  Plus, the album included “500 Miles”, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”, and more traditional folk songs.

Peter Paul and Mary were building upon the success of other folk groups, like the Kingston Trio which had the hits “Tom Dooley” and “M.T.A. in the late ’50’s, and continued into the early ’60’s.

In 1963, Peter Paul and Mary had two hit albums, and three major singles.  “Puff The Magic Dragon” is a song by Peter Yarrow that was based on a poem of a little boy growing up.  It was not about smoking weed, which was a silly rumor, probably started by someone smoking weed.  The second big hit was the Bob Dylan song “Blowin’ In The Wind”.   Both of those songs went to #2 on the Billboard Top 40.  The third 1963 hit was “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (#9), another Bob Dylan penned song.  They also recorded Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing” as an album track.  Dylan was not very well known, but the Peter Paul and Mary recordings brought his songwriting to the forefront.

Folk music regularly dealt with serious topics, and Peter Paul and Mary were active in the social movements of the 1960’s.  For example, they performed at a march for racial equality in Selma, Alabama, and at the March On Washington (as pictured above).  This is the 1963 event that included Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.  Prior to that speech, Peter Paul & Mary sang “If I Had A Hammer” and “Blowin’ In The Wind” to the large crowd.

The Folk Revival, as it was now called, was monetized by ABC Television.  They developed a show called Hootenanny, which was a term used for a gathering where folk artists performed.  The show was on from 1963 to 1964, and featured folk groups like The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, and The New Christy Minstrels.  Hootenanny was about to be renewed in April of 1964, but there was a monumental shift in the music scene.  That month, The Beatles held the top five positions on the Billboard Top 40.  The British Invasion had wiped out the Folk Revival.  Hootenanny was soon replaced by Hullabaloo and Shindig.

Peter Paul and Mary’s popularity on the charts took a hit.  They wouldn’t have another Top 10 song until 1967.  In the meantime, Folk Music became Folk Rock.  Artists who had come from the same Greenwich Village scene, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Bob Dylan were now electrified and having hits.  Dylan’s first major singles success came with “Like A Rolling Stone” (#2) and “Positively 4th Street” (#7) in 1965.

It wasn’t until 1967 that Peter Paul and Mary once again hit the Top 10.  A song written by Noel Paul Stookey, James Mason, and Dave Dixon had some fun with the more current musical styles of The Mamas & The Papas, Donovan, and The Beatles.  “I Dig Rock And Roll Music” was filled with good humor and impressive vocal work, and was rewarded with a #7 in the Top 10.  The 1967 album it came from was Album 1700, which referred to the Warner Brother’s catalog number for the disc.

Peter Paul and Mary’s biggest hit was also their last.  The song came from the same album, and was written by a friend and unknown songwriter, John Denver.  His first popular song was “Leaving On A Jet Plane” performed by Peter Paul and Mary.  It hit #1 in 1969.  Although there were solo albums and many “reunion” performances over the following decades, that was the last real chart success for the group.

Fast forward to March 20th, 2019.

Noel Paul Stookey came to Corvallis, Oregon for an interview (by Bob Santelli) and a performance at The Majestic Theater.  It was part of Oregon State’s cool American Strings series.

Paul Stookey told us he started as an “M.C.”, as well as a singer, at folk performances in Greenwich Village.  Then he took us all the way through his career, including the protests in the ’60’s, and his solo work that followed.  In 1971, he wrote and performed “The Wedding Song (There Is Love)”.  It was written for Peter Yarrow’s wedding, and has been performed at thousands of weddings since.  We bought his solo album, Paul and, in 1971 and have songs from it on our Peter Paul and Mary playlist.

Mary Travers passed away in 2009 while being treated for leukemia.  Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey still perform together at times, and Stookey’s baritone voice remains strong, despite his age of 81.  His humor is also intact, and he had us all laughing.

Noel Paul Stookey still writes songs…he played some new ones…and he also had the sold-out audience of about 300 singing along emotionally with “If I Had A Hammer” and “Blowin’ In The Wind”.

Besides the importance that folk music has played in America’s history, maybe the most interesting comment was one about how Peter Yarrow, Mary Travers and he sang.  Stookey asked us to think about listening to vocal groups today and how the singers often seem to be competing with each other by using “an edge” to their voices.  He said Peter Paul and Mary always “pulled back” their voices a little…so they would “blend together”.

We could use more blending together these days.

Vinyl, CD’s & Streaming

This past week there was a significant milestone in how we consume music.

The total combined sales of vinyl records and Compact Discs has now passed digital purchases on iTunes.  That’s a major change, because digital downloads had been dominating physical sales in recent years.  CD sales are still greater than Vinyl, but are on a downward trend, while record album sales continue to rise.  Together…Vinyl, CD’s and digital downloads make up a little less than 25% of music sales.  Of course there are plenty of people listening to the music they’ve already purchased in those forms.

Digital sales are being replaced by streaming, with services like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube.  Streaming now accounts for 75% of all music revenue.  It grew 30% last year.  Subscribing to streaming services appears to be the present and future of music listening, but let’s look at the past and how we got to this point.

Recorded music for the public started in the late 18-hundreds with Edison-style phonographs using playable cylinders.  Above is a single-play coin-operated Columbia Gramophone owned by friend and collector David O’Hanlon.

Next came the 10-inch 78 revolutions-per-minute (rpm) discs played on phonographs.  Each record held only one song per side due to time constraints of the large groove.

     (My 1947 Remler radio/phonograph with 78 rpm picture disc.)

The above Vogue picture record from 1946 is one of the first 78 rpm records available to the public that was actually made from vinyl.  Vinyl was a great improvement in sound over the old shellac 78’s.

It was two years later, 1948, when vinyl 33 & 1/3 rpm music albums were introduced by Columbia Records.  Similar technology had been tried for years, but it was Columbia that made it successful.  The trick was to make smaller grooves and a more sophisticated needle & cartridge.  This allowed 22-and-a-half minutes per side, so longer classical pieces or multiple popular songs could be put on one disc. They called it a Long Playing Microgroove, and it became LP for short.

            (My family’s 1956 RCA single of “Love Me Tender”)

A year later, 1949, RCA Victor introduced 45 rpm singles.  Stereo followed in the ’50’s, and became popular in the ’60’s.

(A stereo console I designed and built in 1973 with the help of my friend Danny Hryhorcoff.  Those speaker-looking sides of the console are doors to storage areas.  Click to enlarge.)

Stereo components like those shown above were standard in the ’70’s & ’80’s, when album sales peaked.  Cassettes were very popular for awhile (for their portability), but both records and cassettes lost the battle to digital Compact Discs by the late 1980’s.

One of the first all-digital recordings and most popular CD’s was this 1985 album by Dire Straits…Brothers In Arms.  It was also released on vinyl, but the time limitations forced the band to edit some of the songs into shorter versions.  CD’s can hold 80 minutes of music, compared with about 45 minutes on record albums.

Compact Discs dominated over the next two decades, but then on April 28th, 2003 Apple opened its iTunes store.  You could now buy songs for 99-cents each, and also load-in your own CD’s.  The songs would be on your computer, or a little portable player called an iPod.

                                                         (Two of our iPods)

Although a Classic iPod is about the size of one cassette, it can hold over 20,000 songs at the highest digital quality.  For nearly 15 years there were huge digital sales of albums and singles.  Now, digital sales have plunged, and as mentioned at the beginning of the article, the total combined physical sales of CD’s and Vinyl records surpasses download sales.

Our old friend the vinyl album started it’s resurgence in about 2009.  It makes me think I shouldn’t have sold my thousands of vinyl albums and CD’s (most anyway).  But, then I remember how much space they took up, and how hard it was to move all of them.

It’s cool to have some vinyl albums to enjoy, and a decent stereo isn’t real expensive.  However, each new album of about 12 songs costs $25.  To duplicate the nearly 20,000 digital songs I own with a vinyl collection (and not garage-sale worn-out records) would cost more than $40,000!  The reality is it would be impossible to duplicate a serious digital collection on vinyl, because not all songs are available in that form.  Digital downloads brought back a lot of songs and albums that are otherwise discontinued.

It makes a lot more sense to pay the $10 a month for streaming and instantly choose from over 50-million tracks.

Like my friend Jodi Gehr told me…she found a new female artist she likes, and already “owns” everything she’s recorded.  Too bad streaming wasn’t available in the 1960’s!

(Our stereo system today…two HomePods & our music in iTunes.)

Vinyl, CD’s, streaming…enjoy music in whatever way makes you happy.  Life is better with music.

Kris Kristofferson Concert

“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, headin’ for the trains, feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans.”

”Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Those lines were sung early in a concert this weekend in Salem, Oregon as Kris Kristofferson sang “Me and Bobby McGee”.   What a great experience to see and hear the man who wrote so many classic songs perform them live.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Kris Kristofferson is now 82 years old.  His gravelly voice always added character to his recordings.  He still has that same basic tone to his voice, but it’s lost some of it’s highs and lows.  Despite those vocal limitations, it was very special to hear this poetic composer treat us to so many great songs.

“Take the ribbon from your hair, shake it loose and let if fall.  Lay it soft against my skin, like the shadows on a wall.  Come and lay down by my side, till the early morning light.  All I’m takin’ is your time, help me make it through the night.”

”Help Me Make It Through The Night” was considered a scandalous affair when Sammi Smith sang it in the early ‘70’s, but is certainly mild by today’s standards as Kristofferson sang it Saturday night.

Supporting Kristofferson was the band The Strangers, which was the backup group for Merle Haggard.

The band was absolutely first rate.  They were also very good singers who took over some of the lead vocals as Merle Haggard hits were sprinkled in.  Most of those songs were uptempo, and added a nice change of pace, because many of Kristofferson’s songs are ballads or mid-tempo.

“Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.”  As Kristofferson sang “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, he reached the line about finding his “cleanest dirty shirt” and cracked “this one” as he touched the shirt he had on.  “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was a real highlight of the concert, not only because it’s a great song, but because it mostly fell in the still strong midrange of his voice.

A lot of songs were played during the two-hour concert, including…”Loving Her Was Easier”, “Just The Other Side Of Nowhere”, “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”, “Nobody Wins”, “For The Good Times”, and “Why Me”.

Because my wife, Jeannette, is such a Kris Kristofferson fan, we bought tickets right away and were in the sixth row.  All of the photos were taken from our seats to the left side of the stage in the beautiful Elsinore Theatre in Salem.

Kristofferson still draws crowds.  He had a show in Spokane on Thursday, in Seattle on Friday, and because his Saturday show sold out in Salem, another show was added for Sunday in Portland.

”He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” (From “The Pilgrim”)

Kris Kristofferson wrote lyrics for country songs that were like no others.  We were fortunate to see the legend himself singing the lyrics to songs we love.

(Also, please check out the more historical article:  Kris Kristofferson…Country’s Bob Dylan)

Picture Records

In 1998 I started collecting old radios from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  It was about that same time when my aunt, Margaret Hall, gave me the below picture disc from her record collection.  It was a nice visual to show the kind of music that would have been played on the radios of the 1940’s.

It’s a 78 RPM Vogue Picture Record with the colorful artwork right under the grooves. The 10-inch record was put together with an aluminum core, paper artwork, and clear vinyl holding it all together.  When picture records came out in May of 1946, they were popular for the novelty, and for the improved sound of the vinyl compared with the older shellac records.  However, Vogue records were only manufactured until April of 1947, because the company, Sav-Way Industries in Detroit, had financial problems.  In total, there were about 74 different records released during that one year.

I collected a few Vogue records over the years.  The 1940’s artwork was done by multiple artists, so the styles varied.  I really like the dance orchestra theme of the record my aunt gave me, and the cool jazz look of the instruments on the above record.  By the way, “Musicomania” preceded Beatlemania by almost two decades.

Although the songs were usually well known, like George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue”, the artists were not necessarily well known, nor well named, like…The Hour Of Charm All Girl Orchestra.

“Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” was a big hit for Scotty Wiseman (who wrote it) and his wife Lulu Belle.  It was also a hit for Gene Autry.  The 1946 Vogue picture record has the look of post-war America.  Van Morrison must have liked the title, because he used the same line for his song, “Have I Told You Lately”, that was made popular by Rod Stewart.  They’re both good songs.

“Stardust” is one of the most-recorded songs of all time.  You can see that instead of being recorded by a Big Band, it was done by a Large Chorus.

And this one was by a small band…The Charlie Shavers Quintet…although from the artwork you might think it’s a trio.

One of the nice things about Vogue records is that you get completely different artwork on the flip sides.  Below are the same six records shown above, but with the artwork from the other sides.  You can click on the images to enlarge.

Vogue picture records are collectible, but generally not extremely rare, because who would throw them away?  Values vary greatly, ranging from about $25 to over $100 for titles that are available; however, a couple of extra-rare ones could cost into the thousands.

The picture record process was also used for some children’s recordings and sporadically for novelty collectibles, but picture discs (as they are now called) have never been consistently produced.

In 1978, I picked up this 33 1/3 RPM album of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:

The famous album cover was on one side, and the drum head on the other, although the record was produced later with the cover photo on both sides.  In 2017, Apple Records recreated the picture disc for the Sgt. Pepper remix.

Linda Ronstadt’s Living In The USA album was also available as a picture disc in 1978.  There was a wide variety of artists and music styles that got the picture disc treatment in the late 70’s and early 80’s, then sporadically in the following decades.  They were usually limited novelty items rather than primary releases, plus Compact Discs mostly replaced records in the late ‘80’s.

Our picture discs are currently being displayed on this bookcase.  I’ve sold most of my old radios, but you can still see a couple dozen of them in the photo (click to enlarge).  You can view the full radio collection at my other site.  Just Google…Radios Past.

With vinyl albums making a comeback, maybe picture discs will make a comeback too.

Bonus Disc:  Almost forgot…I have this 45-RPM single.

This is a 20th Anniversary 7-inch picture Disc of “I Feel Fine”, which came out in England in 1984.  More of The Beatles’ singles got this same treatment at that time.

Yesterday…The Movie

What an idea!

What if no one in the world had ever heard of The Beatles or any of their songs…except for you.  That’s the premise of the new movie Yesterday.

Now suppose you were a pretty good guitar player & singer and had the entire Beatles Songbook to use as if you’d written those songs.  How popular could you become?  That’s what we’re going to find out in the movie.  Here’s the trailer:

Update: The movie is reviewed on this site with no spoilers.

Yesterday is a romantic comedy.  It appears to be in good hands, including British screenwriter Richard Curtis who is known for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually, and About Time.  Plus, it’s directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle.

The stars of the film are Himesh Patel (from the British TV series EastEnders), Lily James (from Cinderella, many other movies & Downton Abbey), Kate McKinnon (from Saturday Night Live), and Ed Sheeran (from many hit songs).

It’s interesting what Beatles songs they put in the trailer.  Featured are “Yesterday”, “Let It Be”, “Hey Jude”, “Something”,  and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.  That’s a good start on the best known song catalog in history.  Imagine how much the music rights cost!

Since this is a romantic comedy, we don’t want to take the premise too seriously, but it does make you think about why The Beatles remain so popular.  It’s the quality of their songs.  The Beatles’ haircuts, British accents, and Rock & Roll energy may have helped create Beatlemania, but it was their amazing songwriting that kept them popular, and keeps them musically relevant.

Yesterday is set to open June 28th.  The trailer certainly makes it look like fun.  We don’t know whether the main character, Jack, is in a coma dreaming, is in an alternate universe, or whatever else it might be, but the movie should provide some needed escapism from the real world.

There was no legal reason for The Beatles to approve the movie (except for song rights), but Ringo Starr has already seen “Yesterday”…according to the L.A. Times.

Linda Ronstadt…Live In Hollywood

Linda Ronstadt has released her first concert album, Live In Hollywood.  The concert took place nearly 40 years ago, and the master recording had been lost for decades.

It’s amazing the master tape was even found.  Music producer and friend John Boylan had been checking the internet for any unauthorized use of Linda Ronstadt recordings.  He came across an old poor quality video of a Linda Ronstadt concert that aired on HBO in 1980.  Boylan was interested in finding the master audio recording for possible release, but didn’t have any luck.  Boylan says he was attending his son’s hockey game and told another father, Craig Anderson, the story of the lost recordings.  Anderson is an audio engineer at Warner Brothers, and just a day later he called Boylan and told him he found the master tape.  It had been misfiled.  Boylan says the odds of finding the recordings through a chance meeting at a hockey game must be astronomical.

Linda Ronstadt selected 12 songs from that 1980 concert:

  1. I Can’t Let Go
  2. It’s So Easy
  3. Willin’
  4. Just One Look
  5. Blue Bayou
  6. Faithless Love
  7. Hurt So Bad
  8. Poor Poor Pitiful Me
  9. You’re No Good
  10. How Do I Make You
  11. Back In The U.S.A.
  12. Desperado (The wonderful encore I mentioned in a career-spanning article:  Linda Ronstadt…Queen Of Rock & Roll, which you can read on this site.)

We saw Linda Ronstadt in Omaha during that 1980 tour, and this concert from L.A. captures that time brilliantly.  The whole album is good, with her clear and powerful voice sounding the way we remember it.  The album has a nice flow of rocking moments and softer moments, and Ronstadt uses the appropriate touches of varying dynamics in each song.  It shows her great vocal ability wasn’t limited to the recording studio.

For the most part, the songs are performed like her original hits, but are refreshingly “stripped down” compared with the multi-layered studio versions.  For “Blue Bayou” she sings the final verse and chorus in Spanish as a salute to her family’s roots in Tucson, Arizona.  Also, “You’re No Good” is expanded with an extra guitar break that lets the band jam a little.

What a band it is!  The lead guitarist is Danny Kortchmar, who also performed with James Taylor and Jackson Browne.  The other guitarist is Kenny Edwards, who worked with Ronstadt since they had the hit “Different Drum” with The Stone Poneys.  Bill Payne, of the band Little Feat, is on Keyboards (his band’s song “Willin'” is covered here).  Rounding out the band are some of L.A.’s finest musicians…Dan Dugmore on pedal steel guitar, Bob Glaub on bass, and Russ Kunkel on drums.  Backing vocals are by Wendy Waldman and Ronstadt’s manager and main record producer, Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon fame).  Asher also adds percussion.

Linda Ronstadt’s popularity was amazing.  She did what no other woman, man or band had ever done…she was the first artist to ship an album Double-Platinum.

        (Our picture disc of Ronstadt’s Living In The U.S.A. album.)

The album was Living In The U.S.A., released about a year-and-a-half before this concert.  it was her 6th Platinum album in a row.  Her 7th was Mad Love, which was released in conjunction with this 1980 tour.  The Live In Hollywood album features three hits off Mad Love, “I Can’t Let Go”, “Hurt So Bad”, and the intensely rocking “How Do I Make You”.

(Our copies of Linda Ronstadt’s 2013 Simple Dreams autobiography and her 1999 4-CD Box Set.)

Linda Ronstadt was 33 when she recorded her live album.  Now she’s 72, has Parkinson’s Disease, and can no longer sing.  In a  touching interview on CBS, Ronstadt recently said…”I can sing in my brain”…but she greatly misses the physical feeling of actually singing.

It’s important that recordings like Live In Hollywood exist to remind the world Linda Ronstadt once possessed one of the greatest Rock and Pop voices of all time.

Buddy Holly…The Music Didn’t Die

Today, February 3rd, 2019 is the 60th anniversary of the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly (22), Richie Valens (17), and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (28) .  Because of the song “American Pie”, that tragic event is often referred to as “The day the music died”.

I don’t remember the news story from when it first broke.  I was 10 years old, and the news wasn’t everywhere like it is today.  The fact is, except for knowing “That’ll Be The Day” and “Peggy Sue”, I wasn’t very aware of how special Buddy Holly was until many years later.  That’s probably the way it was for most people.

(Buddy Holly and The Crickets…Joe Maudlin, bass & Jerry Allison, drums.)

Buddy Holly had his first hit “That’ll Be The Day” (#1) in 1957, followed that same year by “Peggy Sue” (#3) and “Oh Boy” #(10).   In 1958, he had 4 more Top-40 hits, with “Maybe Baby” being the only major hit at #17.  Richie Valens had the two-sided hit “La Bamba”/”Donna” (#2), and The Big Bopper (who was a radio DJ) had one major hit “Chantilly Lace” (#6).  He also wrote “Running Bear” for Johnny Preston, and it later became a #1 hit.

The importance of Buddy Holly revealed itself over the decades.  Musicians who were influenced by him recorded his songs.  The Beatles released “Words Of Love” on the Beatles For Sale album in 1964 (on Beatles VI in the U.S.), and had been performing the song live since 1958.  They also recorded “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” for the BBC in 1963.

           (John Lennon in his “Buddy Holly Glasses” in 1963.)

The Beatles name was even based on The Crickets.  John Lennon thought it was cool that “Cricket” had two meanings…the insect and the game.  He wasn’t aware that the game, Cricket, wasn’t well know in the U.S.  Of course hearing “Beatles” can bring to mind both the band and the bugs.  Paul McCartney is a major Buddy Holly fan, and he wisely bought the rights to all of Buddy Holly’s songs.

The biggest popularizer of Buddy Holly songs was Linda Ronstadt.  She got major airplay in the mid-seventies with three of his songs “That’ll Be The Day” (#11), “It’s So Easy” (#5), and a popular album track “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (written for Holly by Paul Anka).

Holly’s “True Love Ways” was a #14 hit for Peter & Gordon in 1965.  The Bobby Fuller Four had a hit with “Love’s Made A Fool Of You” (#26) in 1966.  “Not Fade Away” has been played and recorded by numerous artists through the years, including The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead.  “Rave On” is another popular choice of Rock Bands.  “Everyday” has been recorded by many artists, including James Taylor.  His recording was #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1985.

Eric Clapton saw Buddy Holly in London in 1958, and he says seeing Holly on stage with a Fender Stratocaster guitar made him want to have a career in music.  Bob Dylan also saw Buddy Holly perform, and he says they looked each other directly in the eyes.  Dylan claims it affected his music.  Bruce Springsteen says he plays Buddy Holly songs every time before he goes on stage.  He said, “It keeps me honest”.

Buddy Holly’s influence shows up in other ways.  He added a rhythm guitar to The Crickets line-up, and two guitars, bass & drums became the blueprint for Rock bands.  He was also one of the first musicians to write, sing, arrange, and produce his own recordings.  He experimented with recording techniques, including double-recording his vocals so he sang harmony with himself.  He sounded a lot like The Everly Brothers.  Shortly before his tragic death, he was working with orchestral arrangements to broaden his sound.  All of this from a young man who was just 22, and whose successful recording career was only about 2-years long!

In just those two years, his impact was so great that he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as one of the first 10 artists.

February 3rd, 1959 wasn’t “The day the music died”.  Buddy Holly’s music continues to live on through all the artists he inspired, and the new artists they inspire.

Tom Petty…The Best Of Everything (Updated)

The estate of Tom Petty has released a major “Greatest Hits” collection.

The Best Of Everything is a 2-disc career-spanning set that came out March 1st, 2019.  It’s nicely priced on the low end of such collections.  You can see the set includes all his major hits and some of his most popular album cuts.  Out of the 38 songs, 21 are not on his previous Greatest Hits album.

Disc 1:

  1. Free Fallin’
  2. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
  3. You Wreck Me
  4. I Won’t Back Down
  5. Saving Grace
  6. You Don’t Know How It Feels
  7. Don’t Do Me Like That
  8. Listen To Her Heart
  9. Breakdown
  10. Walls (Circus)
  11. The Waiting
  12. Don’t Come Around Here No More
  13. Southern Accents
  14. Angel Dream (No. 2)
  15. Dreamville
  16. I Should Have Known It
  17. Refugee
  18. American Girl
  19. The Best Of Everything (Alt. Version)

Disc 2:

  1. Wildflowers
  2. Learning To Fly
  3. Here Comes My Girl
  4. The Last DJ
  5. I Need To Know
  6. Scare Easy
  7. You Got Lucky
  8. Runnin’ Down A Dream
  9. American Dream Plan B
  10. Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (w/ Stevie Nicks)
  11. Trailer
  12. Into The Great Wide Open
  13. Room At The Top
  14. Square One
  15. Jammin’ Me
  16. Even The Losers
  17. Hungry No More
  18. I Forgive It all
  19. For Real (unreleased song)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers sustained their career for 40 years, and Tom Petty’s songwriting was great all the way through.  You’ll notice the order of the songs is not chronological.  Probably the main reason is that the presence of Rock music on Radio declined over the years.  Tom Petty’s later songs got far less exposure than they deserved.  By mixing his songs from the last half of his career with his better known earlier songs, listeners are more likely to get to know the songs they may have missed.

As a collector of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ music since their first hit, there would only be a few changes I would make to the list (adding “It’s Good To Be King” and “Crystal River” in place of a couple other songs, and using the more stripped-down version of “Walls” came to mind), but that’s just personal choice, and minor at that.  The reality is that this will likely be the definitive collection, and Tom Petty’s family has done a good job…with help from Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.

Collectors of their albums know there are a lot more great songs by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, but this kind of “Greatest Hits” treatment is always a good idea to get the music to even more people.  It’s also a helpful guide for future fans in the decades to come.

I don’t take the cynical view that releases like these are “money grabs”.  Rather, I think they help keep alive the interest in musicians like Tom Petty…which is a good thing.

We miss Tom Petty, and it’s sad we’re no longer able to hear more of his songwriting and performing.  The set has one new song, “For Real”.  The lyrics tell us about his approach to music…almost like a note he left for us to find:

“I didn’t do it for no magazine.  Didn’t do it for no video.  Never did it for no CEO.  But I did it for real.   Would’ve done it for free.  I did it for me.  ‘Cause it was all that rang true.  I did it for real.  And I did it for you.”

We can still enjoy all that he did for us…including the music on this new The Best Of Everything collection.

Bonus Analysis:  Just for comparison, here’s what the same collection of songs would look like if they were placed in chronological order like many “Greatest Hits” albums.

Disc 1:

  1. Breakdown
  2. American Girl
  3. I Need To Know
  4. Listen To Her Heart
  5. Refugee
  6. Here Comes My Girl
  7. Even The Losers
  8. Don’t Do Me Like That
  9. The Waiting
  10. Stop Dragging My Heart Around
  11. You Got Lucky
  12. Don’t Come Around Here No More
  13. Southern Accents
  14. The Best Of Everything (Alt. Version)
  15. Jammin’ Me
  16. Free Fallin’
  17. I Won’t Back Down
  18. Runnin’ Down A Dream
  19. Into The Great Wide Open

The four songs on this Disc 1 not on his previous Greatest Hits album are…”Stop Dragging My Heart Around”, “Southern Accents”, “The Best Of Everything” & “Jammin’ Me”.

Disc 2:

  1. Learning To Fly
  2. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
  3. Wildflowers
  4. You Don’t know How It Feels
  5. You Wreck Me
  6. Walls (Circus)
  7. Angel Dream (No. 2)
  8. Room At The Top
  9. The Last DJ
  10. Dreamville
  11. Saving Grace
  12. Square One
  13. Scare Easy
  14. I Should Have Known It
  15. American Dream Plan B
  16. Trailer
  17. Hungry No More
  18. I Forgive It All
  19. For Real (Unreleased)

Only the first two songs on this Disc 2 were on his previous Greatest Hits album.  By the way, the one track that was on the Greatest Hits album, but missing here is “Something In The Air” (originally by Thunderclap Newman).

If you’ve collected Tom Petty’s studio albums and know the songs, you might prefer this order.

Tom Petty was particularly fond of the Wildflowers/She’s The One sessions, and had talked about doing a project based on that music.  There could be a release near November 1st, which would be the 25th anniversary of the 1994 album.

Update:  It’s sad to say, there’s a rift in the Petty family.  Tom Petty’s wife, Dana, was in charge of the two releases since Tom’s death…An American Treasure (mostly outtakes and alternate versions) and The Best Of Everything…with the help of Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.  Now, Tom’s daughters from a previous marriage, Adria and Amakim, are suing Dana.  They claim Dana was supposed to include them in all decisions.  Dana’s concerned the two of them would simply control everything with their two votes.  She says Tom wanted her in charge of his estate.  Hopefully, as Tom Petty sang…”It’ll all work out, eventually”.

The Everly Brothers

If you look up the word “harmony”, it might say…See The Everly Brothers.

(Don Everly [left] and Phil Everly)

Of course it should say…Listen to The Everly Brothers.  It would be hard to find a better example of two voices blending beautifully.  It’s said that family voices blend the best…and it also helps if you have singing talent, play guitars, and write songs.

The Everly Brothers’ parents were folk & country performers who lived at various times in Kentucky, Iowa, and Tennessee.  Don & Phil began singing with the family when Don was eight and Phil was six.  When they were in their teens, guitarist/producer Chet Atkins asked the duo to move to Nashville.  In 1957, when Don was 20 and Phil was 18 they had their first hit…”Bye Bye Love”.  Crossing-over between Pop and Country is not a new thing…the song was #2 on Billboard’s Top 40 chart, and #1 on the Country chart.

Just 4-months later, in the fall of 1957, “Wake Up Little Susie” topped both charts.  In April of 1958, “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, also made #1 on both charts.  Now that’s how you start a career.

Through 1962, The Everly Brothers scored 25 Top 40 hits, with these songs hitting the Top 10:  “Bird Dog” (#1), “Devoted To You” (#10), “Problems” (#2), “(‘Til) I Kissed You” (#4), “Let It Be Me” (#7), “Cathy’s Clown” (#1), “When Will I Be Loved” (#8), “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” (#7), “Walk Right Back” (#7), “Ebony Eyes” (#8), “Crying In The Rain” (#6), and “That’s Old Fashioned” (#9).

Many of the Everly’s songs were written by the team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, but The Everly Brothers wrote some of their own songs, including “When Will I Be Loved”, “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” and their multi-million-selling hit “Cathy’s Clown”.

(My Family’s 1961 copy of “Walk Right Back” & “Ebony Eyes”)

My two older sisters, Veronica & Janice, collected records by The Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, and other stars of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Ronnie and Jan were both good singers, and they had that “sibling blend” like The Everly Brothers.  I remember hearing them sing “Teen Angel” together, and it definitely sounded better than the hit version by Mark Dinning.  By the way, The Everly Brothers’ “Ebony Eyes”…like “Teen Angel” and “Last Kiss”…had that somewhat creepy “dead teenager” theme popular at that time.

The Everly Brothers had a major impact on other musicians.  The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Hollies, The Bee Gees, CSN&Y and many other musicians of the Sixties and Seventies have said that listening to Phil & Don Everly helped teach them how to sing harmony.

Artists also covered songs by The Everly Brothers.  Linda Ronstadt had a big hit with “When Will I Be Loved”, and James Taylor and Carly Simon had a hit with “Devoted To You”.  In 2007, The Everly Brothers song, “Gone Gone Gone” was the featured single for the Grammy winning album Raising Sand by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.  Many more Everly songs can be found as album tracks, including a personal favorite…Art Garfunkel and James Taylor doing “Crying In The Rain”.

As you can see, The Everly Brothers changed their hair after The British Invasion started in 1964 (the year “Gone Gone Gone” was a hit for them).  They never regained the popularity they had in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s.

Despite some personal problems and sibling conflicts, they did continue to (off-and-on) record and perform live, including a successful tour with Simon & Garfunkel in 2003. 

Simon & Garfunkel have always said The Everly Brothers were the biggest influence on their own career, so they were thrilled to perform with them.

Phil Everly passed away from lung disease at the age of 75 in 2014.  Don Everly says he thinks of his brother every day.

The importance of The Everly Brothers has always been recognized in the music community.  In 1986, they were in the very first group of 10 artists inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.