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.

Beatles Expert

After 55 years of being a Beatles fan, I finally had a chance to meet an expert…someone who has studied, investigated, and written books about The Beatles.

Oregon State University in Corvallis brought in Kenneth Womack.  His many books include…The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, Long and Winding Roads, and two recent volumes on George Martin…Maximum Volume and Sound pictures.

(Kenneth Womack [left] was interviewed by Bob Santelli, who is OSU’s Director of Popular Music and Performing Arts.)

The interview format was excellent, with Bob Santelli asking questions that guided us through the Beatle era.  Kenneth Womack proved to be a living encyclopedia of Beatle information.  He knew just how to answer each question in an enlightening and entertaining way, without trying to stuff-in too many facts.

The audience was mostly fans who grew up with The Beatles, and about a dozen raised their hands when asked who had actually seen The Beatles in concert.  The above photo (of people sitting behind us) was taken before the event…those empty seats filled up.  You’ll notice there are some younger people mixed in, and in fact, it was my son, Paul, who suggested we attend the event.  It’s always great to see other generations appreciate Beatles music.  Kenneth Womack told the crowd he believes the songs of The Beatles will live on in the same way as those of Mozart.

Womack had a relaxed and sometimes humorous way of talking about The Beatles.  It was easy to see that he and Bob Santelli both love music.  They fit right in with the audience of Beatles fans.

Besides collecting every bit of music by The Beatles as their singles and albums came out, I started reading books about them with the release of their first biography by Hunter Davies in 1968.  In the above photo, it’s the top book with the yellow The Beatles on the binding.  The other books are ones I’ve kept.  Some of my Beatle books were passed on to other fans, and some are in digital form.  My favorite book is The Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn.

Lewisohn’s 1988 book chronicled all the recording sessions by The Beatles.  Because the book concentrates so much on how the music was created, it’s fascinating.  We can thank the author for guiding Apple to many of the tracks released on The Anthologies collections.

After the interview and Q&A at OSU, Kenneth Womack took the time to visit personally with a few of us who lingered.  I found out he too loves the new remix of The White Album.  He even pulled out his phone and shared some fascinating extra audio outtakes!  Now that’s a Beatles fan!

Received my copy of Womack’s The Beatles Encyclopedia. It’s filled with great detail and interesting information about everything Beatles.  You can read it like a regular book, or simply go to the Beatles songs or topics that interest you the most, because everything is in alphabetical order.

The Beatles…Remix History

It may seem like the remixing of Beatles music started recently, but it actually began over 20 years ago.

Although George Martin did a little bit of remixing on Rubber Soul for the 1987 CD release, it was really during the time of The Anthologies in 1995 & 1996 when the modern remixing of Beatles music started.

(I had collected the three promotional posters as each anthology was released from 1995 to 1996.  If you put the posters side by side, they formed one large art piece by Klaus Voormann.  I had the posters mounted together and framed, and eventually gave it to a record shop in Lincoln, NE when we moved to Eugene, OR in 2008.)

As Apple went through all the original recordings by The Beatles to find alternate versions and unreleased songs for The Anthology series, they also started manipulating those recordings.  Most of these “takes” of the songs had never really been mixed before, so it had to be done for this release.  I remember some fans being upset that the producers had “flown in” a guitar solo from another take to complete the anthology version of “One After 909”.  “How dare they mess with what The Beatles had done!”  In reality, The Anthologies were a welcome gift to Beatles fans.  We were able to hear the alternate versions writer Mark Lewisohn had praised in his excellent 1988 book The Beatles Recording Sessions.

An early take of “Here There And Everywhere” was not included on The Anthologies, but was an extra cut on a CD single.  The track is mostly a solo McCartney vocal, but for the final chorus of the song the beautiful background vocals were added in a stunning effect.  The text said the ending was an example of how Beatles songs could be remixed (instead of just remastered) in order to improve the sound quality and stereo mix.

The first big remixing project of familiar Beatles recordings was the release of the Yellow Submarine Songtrack in 1999.  This was a clever choice, because instead of remixing a well-loved album, this was a new collection of songs that had been in the movie, rather than the old soundtrack, which only had a limited number of these songs.  So how did it come out?  The results were, well…mixed.  Some of the songs, particularly “Eleanor Rigby”, “Yellow Submarine” and “Nowhere Man” were the best-sounding versions ever.  The songs from Sgt. Pepper were less successful, probably because they are more complex recordings.  Overall, engineer Peter Cobbin and his staff did an admirable job on a risky project.  It was well received enough to allow for future remixing.

Although it wasn’t really a remixing of a Beatles album, George Martin and his son Giles used Beatles songs in unusual mashup mixes to create a soundtrack for Cirque du Soleil’s Love show in 2006.

(The 2015 CD of The Beatles 1 remix, with accompanying video DVD.)

The next major project was also a collection of songs, The Beatles 1.  The original release of the album was in 2000, and it’s one of the best selling albums ever.  In 2015, Producer Giles Martin and Engineer Sam Okell released their remixed version.  Luckily for Apple, the reviews for these new mixes were widely positive.  That was encouragement to green-light more projects.

Then came the riskiest project of all…the remixing of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 2017.  The beloved album was painstakingly remixed by Giles Martin.  It was almost unanimously praised.  There’s an article dedicated to it on this site.

And now we have the new remix of The White Album.  There’s a full review of it on this site, but the short review is that it sounds amazing.  It seems the simpler arrangements on The White Album (in comparison to Sgt. Pepper) allowed Giles Martin to do an even more impressive remix.

What’s next?

Giles Martin answered the “What’s next?” question recently by saying we should take some time to enjoy The White Album while he works on a project for Elton John.  When an interviewer mentioned Abbey Road, it was interesting that Martin suggested Let It Be might be next since it was recorded first.  Of course if they keep with the 50th anniversary of the release dates, 2019 would be the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road, and 2020 the anniversary of Let It Be.

It’s obvious the albums that could benefit most from remixing are the older albums…Rubber Soul and Revolver.  The marketers wouldn’t like leaving the 50th anniversary connection behind, but It would be more interesting to hear those two albums remixed first.

No one could have predicted we’d be looking forward to new mixes of Beatles albums more than 50 years later.

Postscript:  Those of us who were there at the beginning of Beatlemania learned to love their music while listening to small transistor radios and on car radios that had one low-quality speaker in the middle of the dash.  If you played the new remixes through those devices (or today’s phone speakers), they would sound just like the originals.

There should be no backlash against remixes.  People can always listen to their own original mixes anyway.  Giles Martin has done a great job of recreating the songs the way we know them…only with better sound quality.  When we listen on good audio equipment, it’s more like what The Beatles themselves heard in the studio.

The Beatles…White Album Remix

It was 50 years ago (1968) when I bought my first copy of The White Album on the day it was released.  I went through at least two vinyl copies, the original CD release in 1987, the remastered CD’s in 2009, and now I bought the new 2018 Remix (Deluxe Version) on the day it was released.

This 3 CD version is new, in that all of the songs have been completely remixed from the original studio tapes.  Of course the original production was by George Martin, and this remix was done by his son Giles.

According to Giles Martin (shown above with his dad), the main purpose of remixing The Beatles albums is to improve the sound so that the recordings don’t seem dated when played beside more recent recordings.  He feels it also increases the possibility that future generations will enjoy the recordings.

Giles does a great job with the remixes.  Basically, he  centers the lead vocals and balances the instruments into a good stereo mix.  He also provides a greater fullness by reducing the compression that is on the original mixes.  Plus, he uses the original recordings before they were “bounced down” to other tapes to make room for more instruments.  It all gives the recordings a cleaner sound that allows us to hear the voices and instruments with new clarity.  These new mixes don’t take away from the original visions for the songs, and of course they’ve been approved by Paul McCartney  & Ringo Starr.  In fact, in a new Rolling Stone interview, Ringo says with the clearer mix “…you can really hear the drums”.  He joked…”I have to pay Giles extra for that.”

The other addition to the “Deluxe” album is a third disc filled with demo versions of the songs.  These are the rehearsal sessions that were recorded at George Harrison’s house in Esher prior to taking all these songs into the Abbey Road Studio.  Most of the songs for The Beatles’ only double album were written while John, Paul, George & Ringo were on a break, studying with the Maharishi in India.  The three main songwriters came back bursting with new tunes, and appeared anxious to share them.

The “Esher Demos”, as these recordings are called, have been bootlegged for years, but this is the best they’ve ever sounded.  For the most part, the demos (27 of them) are as if The Beatles are sitting around with acoustic guitars in an “unplugged” performance.  The difference is that near the end of many of the demos, The Beatles do something silly, or out of character with the song, probably because they haven’t yet developed an ending.  So what you have are raw versions that are much simpler than the finished product, and they certainly could never replace the versions we know.  Still, it’s an interesting glimpse into how the songs were written, and there’s an appeal to the casual intimacy of the recordings.  It sounds like The Beatles are having fun.   It also shows that The Beatles had already decided how to approach each of these songs, because there are few drastic differences between these recordings, and the final interpretations.

Giles Martin says even though the sessions for The White Album are infamous for The Beatles being at odds with one another, the tape recordings reveal a well-functioning band.  One of the reasons they were going off on their own to separate studios, was because they were recording so many songs.  There are 30 tracks on the double album…which is more than twice as many as their regular albums.  They had even more songs that didn’t make the final cut.

So, the question is…do you need to buy this 3-disc “Deluxe” set.  No, you can get by with the 2009 remastering that gives you the best copies of the recordings exactly as we have known them for these five decades.  However, if you want to listen to these songs with new depth and clarity of sound, they’re more than worth the $24 price tag.  As a bonus, you’ll get the demos (and people used to pay $24 just for the demo bootlegs).  The more I listen to The White Album remix, the more I realize it’s a major improvement…a real listening pleasure!  Anyone with a good sound system should treat themselves to the remix.

By the way, there  are a few people who have decided to hate remixes of Beatles songs.  There’s no reason for that, because they can simply listen to whatever mix they prefer, and in whatever format they prefer.  The remixes do them no harm.  Any future listeners will still hear the spirit and genius of The Beatles through the remixes.

There’s also a “Super Deluxe” set for fans who want to dig even deeper into the album.  It costs $139 on Amazon, and includes a 164 page book that details more of the recording process.  The biggest draw is that the set includes 50 alternate recording studio takes.  If you just want the digital downloads, the Super Deluxe set is $70 on iTunes.

The alternate recording takes are fascinating to listen to, but for the most part, they simply show how much better the final recordings are.  It’s hard to listen to these without subconsciously hearing all the missing instruments, harmonies, and other details of the final recordings.

The alternate version that’s attracting the most attention is Take 10 of “Good Night”.  It’s a song written by John Lennon, with the lead sung by Ringo Starr.  This version includes the other Beatles supporting Ringo’s vocal with harmony parts, and a nice acoustic guitar part by Lennon (that was actually from Take 5).  The other versions that drew my attention the most were the instrumental backings for “Back In The U.S.S.R.” and “Revolution”.  They accent how rocking those songs are.  You hear the really crunchy distortion of the guitars on “Revolution”.  Besides singing lead, Paul McCartney played drums,bass and lead guitar on “Back In The U.S.S.R.”  John and George also played multiple instruments.  This was while Ringo was on break from the band, but he soon returned.

Last year, I bought the “Super Deluxe” version of Sgt. Pepper, but found that I don’t really listen to the alternate versions very much.  So, for The White Album, I just bought the $24 “Deluxe” set, and then bought my favorite alternate takes from the iTunes version of the “Super Deluxe” download.

Giles Martin will very likely be doing more remixing of Beatles albums, and we’ll probably buy them.

Actually, I’m so impressed with his work, I know I’ll buy them.

Bonus:  The White Album has been on iTunes for many years now, so I was curious how those 30 songs rank with buyers.  Here they are in order of popularity.

  1. Blackbird
  2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  3. Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
  4. Birthday
  5. Dear Prudence
  6. Back In The U.S.S.R.
  7. Rocky Raccoon
  8. I Will
  9. Helter Skelter
  10. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
  11. Julia
  12. Revolution 1
  13. Martha My Dear
  14. I’m So Tired
  15. Mother Nature’s Son
  16. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
  17. Glass Onion
  18. Cry Baby Cry
  19. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
  20.  Sexy Sadie
  21. Yer Blues
  22.  Good Night
  23.  Honey Pie
  24.  Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
  25.  Revolution #9
  26.  Don’t Pass Me By
  27.  Savoy Truffle
  28.  Long Long Long
  29.  Piggies
  30.  Wild Honey Pie

A quick analysis shows 7 of the top 10 songs are by Paul McCartney.  George’s great song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is #2, but his other three songs are at the bottom of the list, with only the short not-really-a-song “Wild Honey Pie” lower.  While not exact science, I think we can agree that the public’s top 15 songs would make a much better single album than the bottom 15.

The White Album is the one where it became very obvious which Beatle had written each song.  There was also less co-writing by John and Paul.  Still, the Beatles stayed together, and there was a lot of great music to come!

The Beatles…Let It Be (Updated 2019)

There’s been talk recently that a new movie version of Let It Be may be edited together.  (Update:  Yes!  It was announced on January 30th, 2019.  More info on that farther below.)  But first, let’s explore what got us to this point.

In November of 1968, The Beatles released their double album The Beatles…known forever as The White Album.  At times The Beatles worked on their songs in separate studios.  The bickering of The Beatles during group recording sessions caused engineer Geoff Emerick to stop working with them, and even somewhat alienated George Martin.

Paul McCartney had an idea…maybe it was a bad one.

McCartney suggested they “Get Back” to playing in the studio as a live band, instead of overdubbing the recordings.  That part of the idea might have been good.  The real error may have been when he suggested they could film their recording sessions for a television special that would end with a live performance of the songs they’d written.  What could go wrong?

(My “Get Back”/“Don’t Let Me Down” single from 1969.)

John Lennon suggested The Beatles should just break up instead.  Ringo Starr had already left the group for a time during the recording of The White Album.  After they started rehearsals at the beginning of January 1969, George Harrison left the band for a few days.  It was up to Paul McCartney to try to hold the band together, but he was resented for taking a leadership role.  And that was just the beginning of the Get Back/Let It Be recording sessions.

Further complicating matters…George Martin was only there for some of the sessions, and Yoko Ono was there for all of the them.

George Martin had relinquished some of his duties to producer/engineer Glyn Johns & tape operator Alan Parsons, and the sessions were much less organized.  Further confusion with recording takes vs filming takes created problems for assembling the album.  Having a girlfriend at Beatles recording sessions was an irritant to the other band members, especially when Yoko would make suggestions.

(Apparently, things weren’t going well at this moment.)

The rehearsals and recording sessions for the Get Back album only lasted a month, January 2nd to January 31st, 1969.

So what happened with the music?  Despite all the problems, The Beatles were able to knock out “Get Back” & “Don’t Let Me Down”, and later release them as a strong single.  “Get Back” stayed at #1 for five weeks.  Even though sessions were sometimes contentious, other great music emerged…”Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, “Across The Universe”,  and “The Long And Winding Road”.

Add to the above six songs…”For You Blue”, “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “One After 909”,  “Dig A Pony”, “I Me Mine”, and maybe one of their jams,  and you’d think Get Back was done.  But, various mixes of the album were rejected, and the album was shelved.  The television project fell through.  The film footage was to be turned into a movie, but it was delayed while the producers waded through 56 hours of film.

After that bad experience,  The Beatles didn’t break up!  Instead, they convinced George Martin and Geoff Emerick to produce an album like they used to make, and they promised to behave.  The resulting excellent album proved to be the last one they recorded, Abbey Road, just a little later in 1969.

So how did Get Back become Let It Be in 1970?  First of all, they couldn’t name the album after a single that had been released a year earlier.  The title was chosen for the album’s best song, and maybe as an indication that the group was simply letting The Beatles be over.

Even on the 2009 digital remaster of Let It Be, they mentioned the “freshness” of the live performances.  In fact, the production had been turned over to wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector.  He added orchestration, a choir, and other major production elements, especially to McCartney’s “The Long And Winding Road” and “Let It Be”.

Maybe the song “Let It Be” is best with the orchestration and a new guitar lead by McCartney, but “Road” is over-the-top with “angel voices” McCartney never approved.  It would be interesting to hear a version that kept the orchestra, but dropped the choir.  McCartney might have been okay with that.  The big productions were the exact opposite of the original intent, and while the result is a mix of good and not so good, it was mostly unnecessary.

As can be seen in the film, the original versions of “Get Back”, “Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, and “The Long And Winding Road” were excellent long before Phil Spector was involved.  George Harrison’s original non-Spector versions of “I Me Mine” and “For You Blue” sound great, with George’s voice clearer.  Spector also should have chosen the simpler version of John Lennon’s “Across The Universe” that appeared on the anthology series.

Phil Spector certainly deserves credit for wading through the tapes to pull the album together, but maybe George Martin’s quip is the best description of the result.  He said the album jacket should have said “Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector.”

In 2003, Paul McCartney tried to remedy the situation with Let It Be…Naked.  It does a good job of providing the unadorned versions, and it puts back “Don’t Let Me Down”, which should never have been left off the original album in the first place.  But at the same time, this album wasn’t going to replace the version people had enjoyed for over 30 years.  The original album won an Academy Award and a Grammy in their respective soundtrack categories.

About the film…

My wife and I saw Let It Be in a theater when it was originally released in 1970, and it was a bit shocking to see The Beatles angry with one another.  Because the film came out at the time The Beatles split, it’s generally believed that the movie portrays the band’s break up.  Although it shows the tension in the group, the movie also shows some excellent live studio performances, plus the fun The Beatles had jamming in the studio and playing together in the rooftop concert.  The real breakup came later with Allen Klein handling the business side of the group and alienating McCartney.  Eventually, all The Beatles fired Klein and battled him in a lawsuit.

(The movie has not been available to the public since the RCA Video Disc release in 1982.  I had this movie & a disc player, but it was not a good system.)

A new version of the film would have to be approved unanimously by the remaining Beatles and the wives of John & George.  The basic idea would be to downplay the bickering, and show more of the positive interactions.

It may be the 50th anniversary of the movie (in 2020) before we know if there will be a new version of the film, or whether they’ll just decide to let it be.

Update:  It was announced on January 30th, 2019 (the 50th anniversary of the famous rooftop concert) that Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson will be putting together a Beatles documentary.  The news release said he will be using in-studio film from January of 1969.  This would be the 56 hours of Let It Be footage.  Here’s a statement from Jackson where he says the footage is much more upbeat than the general feeling of the Let It Be movie:

”I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth.  After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Linsey-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure trove.  Sure, there’s moments of drama, but none of the discord this project has long been associated with.  Watching John, Paul, George and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating, it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate.  I’m thrilled and honored to have been entrusted with this remarkable footage.  Making this movie will be a sheer joy.”

Interestingly, the original version of the Let It Be movie will also be made available for streaming after the release of this new documentary.  It wouldn’t be surprising if the new movie is called Get Back, but maybe it should be called The Long And Winding Road.  It seems like that was the path it took.

Joe Walsh…Solo Eagles Part 3

Joe Walsh joined the Eagles over 40 years ago…in 1975.  His solo career predates his time with the band, and continued even while the group was active.

Joe’s career included time with The James Gang & Barnstorm…for which he was the principal songwriter, lead guitarist, and lead vocalist.

(The James Gang consisted of Jim Fox, Dale Peters, and Joe Walsh)

Joe Walsh was with The James Gang from 1969 to 1971.  The main songs to come out of that time are…”Funk 49″ and “Walk Away”…plus I recommend their second album The James Gang Rides Again.

Barnstorm didn’t have any hits, but they’re on Joe Walsh’s first official solo album, The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get from 1973.  It includes the classic  guitar song “Rocky Mountain Way”…Walsh’s first Top 40 hit at #23.

Then in December of 1974, before Joe Walsh joined the Eagles, he released his very best album with the help of…the Eagles.

Don’t let the crazy cover and So What title turn you away.  This is a masterful album that every Joe Walsh and Eagles fan should own (or stream).   Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, and J.D. Souther all contributed.  The songs include “Falling Down” (co-written by Don Henley), “Welcome To The Club”, “Turn To Stone”, “Help Me Through The Night”, and “County Fair”.  Those aren’t hit singles, but all of them were played by Album Oriented Rock stations.  Joe Walsh is an accomplished instrumentalist, and for this album he played guitar, bass, piano, and various synthesizers.  He said at the time that the goal of the album was to make his “Sgt. Pepper”.  If he meant his “best album”, mission accomplished.

In 1976, Walsh and the Eagles released Hotel California.  One of Joe’s many contributions was coming up with the guitar riff for “Life In The Fast Lane”.  Before the Eagles’ next album, The Long Run, Walsh released his 1978 solo album But Seriously, Folks.  I remember dropping the needle on the album.  As I listened, there were no songs I thought were very good…until the very last song.  Finally, I heard some cool guitar riffs, and then the words…”I have a mansion, forget the price.  Ain’t never been there, they tell me it’s nice.”  Instantly, you could tell this was a great song…”Life’s Been Good”.   It was a hit single (#12 in Billboard, #6 in Cash Box), was added to the Eagles’ concerts at the time, and has been a staple of their shows ever since.  It was worth the price of the album.

Joe Walsh continued to release albums while the Eagles were broken-up from 1980 to 1994. The albums include… There Goes The Neighborhood (1981) [Which is when we saw him in concert], You Bought It – You Name It (1983), The Confessor (1985), Got Any Gum? (1987), Ordinary Average Guy (1991), and Songs For A Dying Planet (1992).  His most recent, Analog Man, was released in 2012.  Other popular songs of his include…”All Night Long”, “A Life Of Illusion”, “The Confessor”, “Ordinary Average Guy”, and a couple songs off his latest album “One Day At A Time” and “Lucky That Way”.  That last one is kind of a follow up to “Life’s Been Good”.  It reflects on how his life is now.

Joe Walsh’s solo songs bring a lot of fun and energy to all those Eagles concerts.  He’s considered one of the best guitar players ever, and despite some earlier substance abuse problems, he was a great addition to the Eagles.  He straightened out his personal problems long ago, and life really has been good to him (so far).

Bonus Fun Fact:  Good friends Joe Walsh and Ringo Starr are also family.  Ringo Starr is married to Barbara Bach, and Joe Walsh is married to her sister, Marjorie.  Associated Fun Fact:  Eagles’ drummer Don Henley says his favorite drummer is Ringo Starr.

One more thing:   One of the original Eagles, Randy Meisner, left the band after Hotel California.  He had some really good solo songs…”Deep Inside My Heart” (#22), “Hearts On Fire” (#19), “Gotta Get Away”, and “One More Song” with backing by Don Henley and Glenn Frey.  All four of the songs are on the 1980 album One More Song.  “Hearts On Fire” and “One More Song” would have fit perfectly on an Eagles album.

That concludes the three-part series on the Solo Eagles.  You can find the other two parts listed on the right side of the page, or at the bottom of this article.  Don Henley…Solo Eagles Part 1 and Glen Frey…Solo Eagles Part 2.

Glenn Frey…Solo Eagles Part 2

Glenn Frey was described by the other members of the Eagles as the leader of the band…but when they broke up in 1980…how did he do as a solo artist?

Glenn Frey had success as a recording artist for radio, TV, and movies.  His first album sounds mostly like an Eagles album, but with more saxophone and less variety.

The word play in his 1982 album title, No Fun Aloud, might have referred to how he felt about the Eagles at the time of their tense break up.  The album produced two Top 40 hits…”I Found Somebody” (#31), & “The One You Love” (#15, and #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart).  The song I thought could have dropped right into an Eagles album is “All Those Lies”.  Another good album cut is “That Girl” co-written by Bob Seger.

In 1984, Frey released his second album The Allnighter.  It had “Sexy Girl” (#20), cool album cut “Lover’s Moon”, and “Smuggler’s Blues” (#12)…which was about to become a television episode.  But just before that, Glenn Frey recorded a big hit for the Eddie Murphy movie, Beverly Hills Cop.  “The Heat Is On”, went to #2 on the Billboard singles chart.

1985 was a good year for Frey.  Besides the big movie hit, one of the hottest shows on television, Miami Vice, decided to make an episode based on the lyrics of “Smuggler’s Blues”, they even had Frey guest star.  That led to more acting parts, including a small role as the football team General Manager in the Tom Cruise hit “Jerry MaGuire”.  Miami Vice used the Glenn Frey song, “You Belong To The City” in another episode.  The single was another #2 hit for Frey, and the Miami Vice Soundtrack, (featuring both of Frey’s TV hits), was the #1 album for eleven weeks.

The hot streak cooled down for Glenn Frey by the 1988 release of his third solo album, Soul Searchin’.  The album only went to #36, but he did have two more hit singles (now on the Adult Contemporary chart), “True Love” #2 and “Soul Searchin'” #5.  It should be noted that Jack Tempchin, who wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling” for the first Eagles album, co-wrote eleven of the twelve songs Glenn Frey charted as a solo artist.

Frey released album four in 1991, Strange Weather.  It has some quality music, but only had two songs do fairly well on the Adult Contemporary chart…”Part Of Me, Part Of You” (#7″) and “I’ve Got Mine” (#12).

Then…The Eagles got back together.

(You can check out the article about it:  Eagles…Hell Freezes Over.)

Glenn Frey and Don Henley handled the majority of the lead vocals for the Eagles, so Glenn’s strong and soulful voice is on some of the most popular songs in music history.  His solo career was successful, even though it was not as stellar as his friend and Eagles co-founder, Don Henley.  Like Don Henley, Glenn Frey was a multi-instrumentalist…playing guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums.

The reunited Eagles were a touring force until Frey passed away from health complications in January of 2016.  While John Lennon’s tragic death in 1980 was an extreme shock, Glenn Frey’s death really hit home.  Some of our greatest musicians are leaving us, and our generation is turning the world over to our children…just as Glenn wrote in his last song, “It’s Your World Now”.  Glenn Frey would be proud that his son, Deacon, is helping the Eagles continue to tour with great success.

(This is Part 2 about the solo Eagles.  Don Henley was featured in Part 1, and Joe Walsh is featured in Part 3.)

Don Henley…Solo Eagles Part 1

The Eagles are the most popular American band of all time.  But, how good were their solo careers after the band broke up in 1980?  This is the first of a three-part series on the Eagles as solo artists, and we start with the most successful…Don Henley.

“Going solo” doesn’t work out for a lot of ex-band-members, but Don Henley’s solo work makes an impressive career all by itself.

His first album was I Can’t Stand Still, released in August of 1982.  The album sold well, but of course nothing like an Eagle’s album.  “Dirty Laundry” was a #3 hit single, and the album achieved Gold status while going to #24.  Bob Seger co-wrote one of my favorite cuts “Nobody’s Business”.  A couple of ex-Eagles and one almost-Eagle appeared in minor capacities…Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, and J.D. Souther.  Frankly, the musical credits on Henley’s albums look like a who’s who in the music business.

Two years later, in 1984, Henley really solidified his solo career with his Building The Perfect Beast album.  It had four hit singles…”The Boys Of Summer”,  “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”, “Not Enough Love In The World”, and “Sunset Grill”.  By this time in the 1980’s there were lots of charts.  “Boys” and “Dance” were both Top 10 hits, and both hit #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart.  Henley was even on the Dance and R&B charts with “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”.  “The Boys Of Summer” won a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal.  Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers co-wrote & produced the song.  The album itself sold over 3-million copies in the U.S. alone.

And the hits just kept on coming.

The End Of The Innocence was Don Henley’s biggest album.  It was released in 1989, and sold over 6-million copies.  It also produced another four hits…”The End Of The Innocence” (co-written with Bruce Hornsby), “The Last Worthless Evening”, “Heart Of The Matter”, and “New York Minute”.  On the Mainstream Rock chart, “Innocence” hit #1, “Evening #4, and “Heart” #2.  “New York Minute” was a hit on the Adult Contemporary chart at #5.  Henley scored another Grammy for Male Rock Vocalist for “The End Of The Innocence”.

Then…The Eagles Got Back Together.

(You can read about it in the article:  Eagles…Hell Freezes Over.)

Don Henley’s career also included many duets.  He had a #6 hit with Stevie Nicks on “Leather And Lace”.  He reached #2 with Patty Smyth on “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”.  He recorded two country hits with Trisha Yearwood…”Walkaway Joe” & “Hearts In Armor”, and he sang with Linda Ronstadt on “Hasten Down The Wind”.

It wasn’t until after years of Eagles’ touring that Don Henley released another album…Inside Job, in 2000.  The album hit #7 on the Billboard album chart.  By now his music was classified as “Adult”, in that the single “For My Wedding” was #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and “Taking You Home” was #12 on the Adult Top 40 chart.  It would be 15 years and more Eagles touring before Henley released another album.

This time it was a country album, although there are still songs that fit the Eagles’ sound.  I realize most people haven’t heard Cass County.  I bought the 16-song deluxe version from iTunes when it came out in 2015, and my review is that it’s one of his best albums.  There are quite a few duets, and lots of country artists…Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, Trisha Yearwood, and more.  Although there are a few traditional country songs, the majority of the tracks are new original songs written by Don Henley and Stan Lynch, formerly of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

The Cass County album reached #3 on Billboard’s album chart, and #1 on the Country chart.  Despite the somewhat grumpy looking cover photo, Henley says it’s the most he’s ever enjoyed recording an album, because of all the artists who performed with him.  At this point in his career there’s also much less pressure.

Don Henley is the last original member still in the Eagles.  It would be hard to find many artists who had a career that included so much great music…as part of a group, and as a solo artist.  In his song “The Boys Of Summer” he says “Don’t look back, you can never look back.”, but if he ever does look back at his career…he deserves to be very proud of the music he created.

(Please check out:  Glenn Frey….Solo Eagles Part 2 and Joe Walsh…Solo Eagles Part 3.)

Mamas & Papas…California Dreamin’

Few groups represented the sound of California better than The Mamas And The Papas in the mid 1960’s.  In fact, it was their first hit “California Dreamin'” that introduced them to the world in early 1966.

(John Phillips,  Michelle Philips,  Cass Elliot  &  Denny Doherty)

The Mamas And The Papas were not really a California group.  John Phillips was from South Carolina, Cass Elliot was from Maryland, and Denny Doherty was from Nova Scotia, Canada.  The only native Californian…Michelle Phillips.

John Phillips met Michelle Gilliam when she was pursuing a modeling career in San Francisco.  Phillips was touring with his folk group, The Journeymen.  The couple married in 1962 when Michelle was only 18 (John was 27), and they moved to New York.  It was there they met Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot who were in the folk group The Mugwumps.  The four eventually formed The Mamas And The Papas (their name based on counter-culture slang sometimes used by couples to refer to each other), and they moved to Los Angeles in 1965 to try to make it in the music business.

They had a friend, Barry McGuire (“The Eve Of Destruction”), who had signed with Dunhill Records, co-owned by Lou Adler.  The group auditioned and got a multi-album contract.  Folk Rock was the big sound of 1965, and the group’s folk background was perfect for a move into electric Folk Rock.  Lou Adler was very impressed.  He personally produced their albums, and used some of L.A.’s best studio musicians.

The distinctive looking and sounding two-man/two-woman group appropriately named their first album If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears.  You can see above that the record company decided to cover up the toilet that was in their album photo by posting a list of their featured songs.

In early 1966, “California Dreamin'” went to #4 on the singles chart.

”All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.  I’ve been for a walk on a Winter’s day.  I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.  California Dreamin’ on such a Winter’s day.”  

Here’s John Phillips’ memory of how the song came about…from a 1995 interview at Paramont Studios:

‘It’s my recollection that we were at the Earle Hotel in New York and Michelle was asleep.  I was playing the guitar.  We’d been out for a walk that day and she’d just come from California and all she had was California clothing.  It snowed overnight, and in the morning she didn’t know what the white stuff coming out of the sky was, because it never snowed in Southern California.  So we went for a walk and the song is mostly a narrative of what happened that day, stopped into a church to get her warm, and so on and so on.  And so as I was thinking about it later that night, I was playing and singing and I thought “California Dreamin'” was what we were doing that day.  So I tried to wake Michelle up to write the lyrics down that I was doing.  She said, “Leave me alone. I want to sleep. I want to sleep.” “Wake up.  Write this down.  You’ll never regret it.  I promise you, Michelle.” “Okay.” Then she wrote it down and went back to sleep. (Laughs)  And she told me she’s never regretted getting up and writing it down, since she gets half of (the royalties for) the writing of the song.’

Their next single, “Monday Monday”, made it all the way to #1.   It’s a really good song, and won a Grammy, but it also benefited from having the ice broken by “California Dreamin’”, and having the group become well known.  That’s why artist’s follow-up singles and albums are often bigger than their first.  Both of those singles were million sellers.

The third song listed on the cover was a very original arrangement of a Beatles’ song…”I Call Your Name”.  Cass had a crush on John Lennon, and you can even hear her whisper his name during the song.  One of John Phillips’ specialties was finding new ways to cover songs, so something refreshing was brought to each one.  The album also contained their original song “Go Where You Wanna Go”.

The Mamas And The Papas made a huge impact on radio and television.  Many of their TV appearances were lip-synced…one, because a lot of TV shows were done that way, and two, because they were a vocal group and not a band that could replicate the instrumental portions of their recordings.  Unlike some of today’s artists, they never hid the fact that they were miming to their recordings.  They’d do things like play an “air flute” during the break in “California Dreamin'”.  For other appearances they did perform live with other musicians, and of course they used a band for concerts.

Besides singing harmony, some lead vocals, and co-writing some songs, Michelle brought the look considered the classic “California Girl”…blonde, blue-eyed, and model pretty.  Cass not only had an outstanding voice, her singing style and warm personality resonated with fans.  Denny was the major male vocalist around which many of their hits were built, and John was the leader of the group who was a good guitarist, and an outstanding vocal arranger & songwriter.

By August of 1966, The Mamas & The Papas released their second album.  It was self-titled, with “&” officially replacing “And” in their name for the rest of their recordings.  The album had two big hits.   “I Saw Her Again” (#5) which had a little false start in the middle of the song…”I saw her (pause) I saw her again last night”.  That was actually a tape operator error that Lou Adler decided was a nice touch, so they polished it and left it in the song.   “Words Of Love” with a strong vocal from Cass also went to #5.

Their third album in less than a year was released in February of 1967…The Mamas & The Papas Deliver.  “Look Through Any Window” was a modest hit at #24, and had actually been released in 1966.  The group’s second biggest hit “Dedicated To The One I Love” was #2 for three weeks, and featured Michelle on the lead vocal.  The history of the group was amazingly capsulized in “Creeque Alley” (#5).  That’s the name of a boarding house in the Virgin Islands where they were rehearsing prior to signing with Dunhill.  The song even manages to name-drop some of their friends like John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, and Barry McGuire.  By the way, Creeque was actually pronounced as Creaky in the Virgin Islands, but the song is always called Creek Alley.

Speaking of friends, John Phillips wrote the Summer of Love hit “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” for his friend Scott McKenzie.  The Mamas & The Papas also inspired similar groups to start…like Spanky & Our Gang and The 5th Dimension, whose first hit was a cover of “Go Where You Wanna Go”.

Later in 1967, songs by The Mamas & The Papas failed to climb into the Top 10.  Their last three hits were “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)” (#20), “Glad To Be Unhappy” (#26), and in 1968, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” (#12).  That was pretty much their whole career as a group…early 1966 to mid 1968…not much more than two-and-a-half years.  They did get back together for one unsuccessful album in 1971.

Michelle went on to an acting career in some major movies and television shows.  Denny eventually returned to Canada, doing stage and television acting.  John did some solo musical work, and also put together various musicians to tour using The Mamas & The Papas’ name.  Cass started a promising solo career.  Then after completing a successful two-week engagement at The Palladium in London, she died of a heart attack on July 29th, 1974 at the age of 32.

The Mamas & The Papas career may have been short, but their music has remained popular for decades.  There have been more collections of their hits than the number of albums the group ever released.  They were inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998.

Badfinger…Day After Day

Badfinger was the first band to be signed by Apple Records, but back then they were called The Iveys.  Their first album, Maybe Tomorrow, was not considered a success, and the title song stalled at #67 on the singles chart in March of 1969.  Enter Paul McCartney.

(Joey  Molland [guitar], Mike Gibbins [drums], Pete Ham [guitar/keyboards] Tom Evans [bass]  Pete, Tom & Joey did most of the lead vocals and songwriting.)  [Do Joey & Pete look a bit like McCartney & Lennon to you?]

Paul McCartney knew Apple’s new band wasn’t happy with their progress…so he wrote a song for them…”Come And Get It”.  He also made a complete demo of the song with him playing all the instruments.  The band heard the song and liked it, but thought they might do it their own way.  Paul told them that if they wanted a hit, they should perform it exactly like the demo.  They did.  “Come And Get It” was a #7 hit in Billboard’s Top Ten in early 1970, and broke the band internationally.

Before the release, there was one other piece of business.  They needed a new name that sounded less lame.  The Beatles had recorded a track at a time when John Lennon hurt his hand, and he was playing the piano with just one finger.  They called the track “Bad Finger Boogie”.  Long-time Beatles assistant Neil Aspinall suggested the band be named Badfinger, and it stuck.

“Come And Get It” was included in the movie The Magic Christian, which starred Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr.  Another movie song “Carry On Till Tomorrow” (written by Pete Ham & Tom Evans) was produced by Paul McCartney and featured an arrangement by George Martin.  Badfinger included those songs on their own album which they called Magic Christian Music to take advantage of the publicity generated by the movie.

Notable cuts included a couple of their Iveys’ recordings remixed…”Maybe Tomorrow” and “Dear Angie”, along with a cool rock track “Midnight Sun”.

Badfinger was able to follow up their success with another catchy Top 10 song, “No Matter What” (#8), from the album No Dice in late 1970.  Other standout tracks included “Midnight Caller”, “We’re For The Dark” and “Without You”…with the line…”Can’t live, if living is without you”.  The first time I heard “Without You” wasn’t by Badfinger (I was late buying the album), but by Harry Nilsson who had a #1 hit with his amazing cover version.  It was only later I found out it was written by Badfinger’s Pete Ham and Tom Evans.

Badfinger went back into Abbey Road Studios in January of 1971.  Pete Ham and Tom Evans were producing a new album with the help of Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick.  After they thought it was complete, Apple management rejected it as not being good enough.  Enter George Harrison.

George had already worked with Badfinger when they helped him on his epic All Things Must Pass album.  He produced four songs for Badfinger’s new album, Straight Up, including their biggest hit “Day After Day” (#4) on which Harrison plays a slide guitar duet with Pete Ham.

(George Harrison at the mixing board with Pete Ham in 1971)

Harrison was called away for business in L.A., leading to the Bangladesh benefit concert at which Badfinger performed with Harrison.  The remainder of the album was produced by Todd Rundgren.  Among the cuts he produced was another hit “Baby Blue” (#14).  The hits “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue” were key to the album’s success, so the decision to work more on the album before releasing it was proven right.

Above is the full lineup of songs on my 1993 CD re-release of Straight Up, including bonus tracks of the original Geoff Emerick versions.  One of my favorite Badfinger songs since the original album’s release in late 1971 has been “Name Of The Game” which George Harrison produced.  Then in 1993 I heard the version that had been produced by Geoff Emerick, and liked it even better!  That version is a little more uptempo and has horns arranged by George Martin.  The Emerick versions of “Money” and “Flying” also include George Martin arrangements, and are better than the Todd Rundgren versions.  Rundgren had sped up the recordings of those two songs, and the vocals sound thin (and a little like The Chipmunks).  Special thanks to Dirt Cheap Records in Lincoln, Nebraska whose owner (also a Badfinger fan) sold the CD to me before it officially went on sale.

Straight Up is considered Badfinger’s best album, and is referred to as a Power Pop classic.  Just want to note that Pete Ham’s songwriting was at it’s peak.  He wrote and sang the three best cuts…”Day After Day”, “Baby Blue” and “Name Of The Game”.

Badfinger’s career sputtered from there.  They released three more albums with the four-man lineup, but the financial problems at Apple, a switch to Warner Brothers, and bad management (by Stan Polley) brought an end to the band’s success, and left them without the money they had earned.

(Apple released a collection of Badfinger’s best tracks.)

The most tragic part of the Badfinger story is that Pete Ham became depressed and took his own life in 1975 at the age of 27…and that was followed by Tom Evans also taking his own life in 1993.

Badfinger fans are still saddened by what happened, but try to focus on all the great music the band created.  Badfinger member Joey Molland was quoted as saying Pete and Tom would probably be surprised and happy about how their songs have stood the test of time.