The Doors…”Light My Fire” & FM Radio

“Light My Fire”…the difference between AM & FM radio.

Jim Morrison (lead vocals), Ray Manzarek (keyboards), Robby Krieger (guitar), & John Densmore (drums)

FM Radio was developed in the 1930’s.  I collect old radios, and had a Sonora table radio from 1948 that was AM/FM and could receive today’s FM stations.  But in reality, it wasn’t until the mid to late 1960’s that FM radio started becoming popular.  FM stands for Frequency Modulation, and AM is Amplitude Modulation.  By modulating the frequency of a radio wave instead of it’s size, FM allows for greater fidelity, stereo, and as Steely Dan said “no static at all”.

(Funny fact:  Steely Dan’s song “FM” actually had an edited version played on AM stations.  The FM was edited out, and the song was simply called “No Static At All”.)

In January of 1967 The Doors released their first album.

The album was not an instant hit, and the first single “Break On Through”… didn’t.  It stiffed at #126.  What to do?  There was this great song on the album, “Light My Fire”, but it was 7-minutes long.  The radio stations with the most listeners were AM, and they mainly played singles that were about 3-minutes long.  No new group was going to get a 7-minute single on the charts.  So, an extremely smart decision was made.  Elektra edited the long instrumental section out of “Light My Fire” to make a single that was under 3-minutes.  It’s one of the great singles…exciting and dramatic.  It went to #1, stayed there for three weeks in July & August of 1967, and sold nearly a million copies.  By September, The Doors album went to # 2, pulled to that position by the power of “Light My Fire”, and only held out of #1 By Sgt. Pepper.

AM radio stations played the 3-minute single of “Light My Fire”, and FM stations played the 7-minute album track.  This was the first time there was such an obvious difference in the versions of the same song being played on AM & FM.  It was a big draw for FM, because Doors fans felt FM stations were playing the “real” version of the song.  It was about this time I bought a Kenwood Receiver/Amplifier that only had the FM band.

  My late 1960’s Kenwood FM Receiver/Amplifier (click to enlarge)

Basically, I listened to FM at home (KFMQ), and AM in my car (KLMS & KOMA), because like most cars, mine only had an AM radio.  AOR (Album Oriented Rock) FM stations began to grow in popularity, FM tuners became more plentiful, and album sales increased.  Originally, FM stations could feature more music and longer songs because they didn’t have as many advertisers as the more popular AM stations.  They also featured less news and information.  Listeners liked the “more music” of FM, as well as the stereo and superior sound quality.  By 1978, FM Radio surpassed AM Radio in the number of listeners, and by the end of the 1980’s most AM stations had shifted from music to the News/Talk format.

It’s interesting that The Doors broke into the mainstream because of the single version of “Light My Fire”, and yet The Doors didn’t include that single on any of their many “Hits” albums.  Fifty years after it was #1, It finally found the light of day in The Doors’ The Singles collection this September.  It’s great we have both versions of the song, but if I could only have one version, I’d choose the single.  Sure the album cut is innovative, but the instrumental kind of meanders for a little too long, and it simply doesn’t pack the power of the single.  The only problem with the single is that it’s mono.  Almost everyone prefers stereo over mono, but they’ve only officially released the mono version, even on the new collection.  There is one rare exception.

When I bought some “jukebox singles” for our vintage 1964 jukebox (in the late ’80’s), I came across this stereo single!  The mix sounds great, and of course I have a digital copy of it on our computer.  Since this stereo mix exists, why not make it readily available and let fans choose it if they wish?  Here’s the stereo single:

Besides “Light My Fire”, some other famous songs that had shorter edited versions for AM radio include:  Bob Dylan’s (6:00) “Like A Rolling Stone” in 1965, Iron Butterfly’s (17-minute) “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in 1968, and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s (7:23) “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” in 1969.  Even today, there are still “radio versions” that include edits or special mixes in order for artists to get their songs on the air.

The most classic “Light My Fire” story comes from The Doors’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  That show provided the greatest exposure a musical act could get at the time.  Ed Sullivan and the producers decided “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” must be a drug reference, so they said the lyrics needed to be changed.  After all, they got The Rolling Stones to sing “Let’s spend some time together” instead of “Let’s spend the night together”.  So The Doors agreed to sing “Girl, we couldn’t get much better“.  However, when The Doors performed, Jim Morrison defiantly sang the original “higher”.  The group was told they’d never do the Sullivan show again.  Jim Morrison responded “We just ‘did’ Sullivan”, and that was all they needed.  That’s the version as it was told by Ray Manzarek.

In his book, Set The Night On Fire, Robby Krieger writes that The Doors were told not to sing “higher”, but didn’t take it too seriously.  He says Jim Morrison just sang the song the way he always did, and it wasn’t really a big defiant move.

Once “Light My Fire” ignited their career, The Doors had five years of recording success, with 8 Top-40 hits, and six studio albums.  Their career shockingly ended with the death of Jim Morrison at the age of 27 in 1971.  The group officially disbanded in 1973.  The fact that The Doors are still so highly regarded, speaks to the originality and quality of their songs and recordings.

The Byrds…Folk Rock

The term “Folk Rock” didn’t exist, until the American music press came up with it to describe The Byrds’ album Mr. Tambourine Man in June of 1965.

“Mr. Tambourine Man” was an unreleased song by Bob Dylan when the members of the Byrds first heard it.  It was an acoustic folk song in 2/4 time.

Jim McGuinn (lead guitar & vocals), Michael Clarke (drums),  Chris Hillman (bass & vocals), Gene Clark (guitar & vocals), and David Crosby (guitar & vocals).

The members of The Byrds came from a folk background, but had been experimenting with adding a “Beatles sound” to folk songs.  Jim McGuinn (he later changed his name to Roger McGuinn), said The Beatles had already incorporated some folk minor-chord changes into their music as far back as 1963.  In 1964, McGuinn also saw George Harrison play a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar in the film “A Hard Days Night”, and bought his own.

The Byrds had been struggling to become successful in the music business, and McGuinn thought “Mr. Tambourine Man” was their last chance to get it right.  The Byrds changed the time signature to a 4/4 rock beat.  They also selected what they felt were the best verses, in order to keep the song under 3-minutes, so radio stations would play it.  Roger McGuinn’s bright 12-string guitar playing was featured to give it a “jangly” sound.  McGuinn, Crosby, and Clark sang in beautiful three-part harmony as arranged by David Crosby.

Because of the importance of the make-or-break recording, session players were used for the remaining instruments of the single.  They also played on the flip side, but that was it.  From that point on, the playing and singing was by the members of The Byrds.  The single was released in April of 1965.

The song “Mr. Tambourine Man” went to #1, and the album rose to #6.  Other notable songs on Mr. Tambourine Man are the excellent “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” written by Gene Clark, “The Bells Of Rhymney” by Pete Seeger & Idris Davies, and two more Bob Dylan songs “Chimes Of Freedom” and “All I Really Want To Do”.  That last one was also covered by Cher.  She was just coming off the first Sonny & Cher hit “I Got You Babe”.  The duo had heard The Byrds perform the Dylan song at a club in Los Angeles, and rushed to put it out.

The Byrds were the major players in the move to Folk Rock, but they certainly weren’t alone.  The Beau Brummels had released “Laugh Laugh” (#15) and “Just A LIttle” (#8) in early 1965 prior to the success by The Byrds.  Also, The Searchers had used the same jangly 12-string guitar work on “Needles & Pins” (#13) and “When You Walk In The Room” (#35) in 1964.  However, “Mr. Tambourine Man” was the first recording to mix that rock sound with true folk lyrics as written by Bob Dylan.  That’s why the term Folk Rock was so appropriate.

Bob Dylan liked the new arrangements by Roger McGuinn and the rest of The Byrds.  He too had been experimenting with adding a band sound to his music, and he completed the move in 1965 with the classics “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Positively 4th Street”.

Meanwhile, The Byrds recorded their second album of 1965, Turn! Turn! Turn!  The title track (written by Pete Seeger) charted as a single in November, and was another #1 hit.  Other tracks include Dylan’s “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”, and a McGuinn song about the JFK assassination, “He Was A Friend Of Mine”.

Folk Rock grew with artists like The Turtles (“It Ain’t Me Babe” by Dylan), The Beatles (“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” & George Harrison’s homage to The Byrds “If I Needed Someone”), Barry McGuire (“Eve Of Destruction”), The Grass Roots (“Where Were You When I Needed You”),  The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Mamas & The Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, and more.

Music styles progressed quickly in the ’60s.  Just 6-months after The Byrds released “Mr. Tambourine Man”, the unofficial start of Folk Rock, Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, and David Crosby wrote the song “Eight Miles High” (November 1965).  The song was inspired by their flight back to America from performing in London.

              (My 1966 picture sleeve for the single “Eight Miles High”)

The song was recorded at the beginning of 1966, and released in March.  Released just weeks earlier was “Shapes Of Things” by The Yardbirds.  Both songs hit the Top-40 in April.  These two are considered the first full-blown examples of Psychedelic Rock.  Other recordings had included elements used in Psychedelic Rock, but these two songs were the culmination of those experiments.

For their third album, Fifth Dimension (July, 1966) The Byrds recorded without Gene Clark, who left after “Eight Miles High”.  He reportedly left because of tensions in the band, as well as a fear of flying.  The quality of the album was not up to the first two albums.  It still had some Folk Rock (no Dylan songs though).  It also had Psychedelic Rock (“Eight Miles” and “5D”), and Country Rock (“Mr. Spaceman”).  It showed The Byrds were willing to expand their sound.

The Byrd’s 1967 album would have more of the same, but at a higher quality level.

Younger Than Yesterday might be The Byrds’ best album…right there with Mr. Tambourine Man.  Like Pet Sounds, it wasn’t extremely popular at the time of release, but has grown in stature.  “So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star” (with a horn part by Hugh Masekela), and “My Back Pages” (written by Bob Dylan) were the hit singles.  Chris Hillman who’s an accomplished guitarist and mandolin player, as well as bassist, really came through with his songwriting.  He contributed the Country Rock songs “Have You Seen Her Face”, “Time Between”, and “The Girl With No Name”.  David Crosby also impressed with “Everybody’s Been Burned” and “Renaissance Fair” (with McGuinn).

The Notorious Byrd Brothers was released in January of 1968.  It was one of their weaker efforts, and didn’t sell as well as previous albums.  On the plus side, the album included a couple of strong songs by Carole King & Gerry Goffin, “Goin’ Back” and “Wasn’t Born To Follow”.  The Byrds blended the elements of Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock, and Country Rock into their songs, instead of displaying them in separate songs.  It may have been the first album with a pedal steel guitar and a Moog synthesizer.

This was the last album to feature David Crosby.  He left/was fired mainly due to creative differences and some admittedly erratic behavior.  He felt more of his songs should have been included on their albums…in particular his threesome song “Triad”.  Drummer Michael Clarke was also dismissed from the band.

From this point, The Byrds would no longer have hit singles, but would still release influential albums, especially for Country Rock.  The years of many personnel changes (1968-1971), resulted in a real mixed-bag of albums, Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde, Ballad Of Easy Rider, (Untitled), Byrdmaniax, and Farther Along.  They did include some good songs… “Hickory Wind” (by Gram Parsons), “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”, “Ballad Of Easy Rider”, “Jesus Is Just Alright”, “Just A Season”, and “I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician”.

The original line-up of The Byrds had a reunion in 1972 for one last album, Byrds (released in March, 1973).  It was a commercial success (#20), and the highest charting Byrds’ album since their first.  However, it was not popular with critics who thought the band had not really jelled.

Good tracks include “Full Circle”, two Neil Young songs “See The Sky About To Rain” & “Cowgirl In The Sand”, and David Crosby’s vocal on the Joni Mitchell song “For Free”.

The Byrds Box Set (4 CD’s) was released in 1990…I couldn’t pass it up.  It’s a great history of the band, has some never before released songs, and four new studio tracks.  These include “From A Distance” (later recorded by Bette Midler, but the Byrd’s folk treatment is better), “Love That Never Dies” and a re-recording of “He Was A Friend Of Mine”, adding a third harmony part.  The three tracks were recorded by Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman.  Highly recommended is a single disc collection of The Byrd’s best songs, 20 Essential Tracks From The Boxed Set.  (Zoom or click to enlarge the image.)

Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Gene Clark all continued to make more good music.  David Crosby became the most famous, with a little help from his friends Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young.

The Byrds were not “America’s answer to The Beatles” as they were once mislabeled; however, they gave us many classic recordings, and were very influential pioneers in the evolution of Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock, and Country Rock.

Update 1/19/23:  David Crosby passed away at the age of 81.  The last couple of years, David talked about his fragile health.  His family was with him when he passed.  Crosby had been working on a new album, and was planning for a tour before his passing.

Bob Seger…Rock & Roll Never Forgets

Bob Seger showed amazing perseverance.  He had his first top-twenty hit in early 1969 with “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” (#17) under the name the Bob Seger System.  It would be eight years (and 9 albums) until his next hit single, “Night Moves” (#4) in 1977.  Many music careers don’t even last eight years.

Actually, it was the year before, 1976, when Bob Seger made a great decision.  He and his backing group, The Silver Bullet Band, hadn’t been capturing their live rocking sound in the studio, so they released a 2-record concert album, Live Bullet.  It’s one of the best live Rock albums of all time.  In front of his hometown fans in Detroit, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band rocked “Travelin’ Man”, “Beautiful Loser”, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, “Katmandu”, and the soulful road song “Turn The Page”.

That album got Seger a lot of FM airplay, but it was the one-two punch of also releasing an excellent studio album, Night Moves, later that same year (1976) that brought Bob Seger to national attention.

Night Moves has the hits “Mainstreet” and the title track, plus album cuts that got played like singles…”Rock & Roll Never Forgets” and “The Fire Down Below”.

The songs from those two 1976 albums kept Bob Seger on radio stations throughout 1977, and the public was primed for Bob Seger’s next album, 1978’s Stranger In Town.

If you’re familiar with Stranger In Town, you know it’s one of the rare albums that’s good all the way through.  It has four hit singles “Still The Same” (#4), “Hollywood Nights” (#12), “We’ve Got Tonite” (#13), and “Old Time Rock & Roll” (#28).  That last one became popular again later, when it was featured in the 1983 Tom Cruise movie “Risky Business”.  Stranger In Town went platinum almost immediately, went on to go 6x platinum in the U.S., and broke Seger internationally.

Bob Seger then had a #1 album, Against The Wind in 1980.  It topped the Billboard album chart for six weeks, and had three hit singles, “Fire Lake” (#6), “Against The Wind” (#5), and “You’ll Accompany Me” (#14).  It was another huge seller, with over 5-million copies sold in the U.S.

Bob Seger continued his success with Top-10 albums from 1982 to 2014, including The Distance (#5), Like A Rock (#3), The Fire Inside (#7), Face The Promise (#4), and Ride Out (#3).  That means Bob Seger has had recordings on the charts in six straight decades! 

Even with all those decades in the music business, Bob Seger made one miscalculation…he was late to music streaming.  He held out from having his music for sale online, such as on iTunes, and having it on the various music streaming services, like Spotify or Pandora.  He missed out on a lot of digital sales, and his rightful place in Classic Rock type formats and playlists.

Bob Seger started correcting that with the 2011 release of Ultimate Hits: Rock & Roll Never Forgets.  It’s basically a two-disc length collection of his career, and is a steal at $12.99 for 26 songs on iTunes.  You may also want to cherry pick some more of his songs from other albums.

His latest album is I Knew You When.  It includes a song for his friend, the late Glenn Frey, simply called “Glenn Song”.

Bob and Glenn were both from Detroit, and were good friends.  Glenn played guitar and sang backup on Seger’s first hit “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, and then performed (like most of the other Eagles) on various Bob Seger albums.

We watched the television broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors for the Eagles in December of 2016.  Of course this was after the death of Glenn Frey (January, 2016).  The band Kings Of Leon performed a faithful rendition of “Take It Easy”, and I thought they had done a pretty good job.  But then, Bob Seger took the stage to perform “Heartache Tonight”, a song he co-wrote with Glenn Frey, Don Henley & J.D. Souther.  Man did he take everyone to school on how to sing Rock & Roll!  He didn’t overdo it, or sing too hard, he sang it with just the right amount of emotion and grit.  It was satisfying to read articles after the show that talked about how amazingly Bob Seger had performed a song originally sung by his friend, Glenn.

As you can see from the photos, Bob Seger has gone from a young long-haired rock star, to a silver-haired rock star.  He’s in his 70’s…and never forgets how to Rock & Roll.

Bruce Springsteen…Born In The U.S.A. (album with update)

Sometimes successful musicians have that one amazing peak to their careers, for Bruce Springsteen it was Born In The U.S.A.

The album was recorded in the first quarter of 1984, and released in June.  Prior to the release of the album, Columbia Records released the first single “Dancing In The Dark”.  It turned out to be Springsteen’s biggest single ever, peaking at #2, and going platinum (over a million copies sold).  A couple of things helped the single.  One, was the flip side…”Pink Cadillac”…which could have been a great single on it’s own.  The other thing was the video.  It featured a young Courtney Cox (future “Friends” actress) as a fan who was pulled up on the stage to dance with The Boss.

MTV played the heck out of the video, and it introduced Bruce Springsteen to a lot more music fans.  Other popular videos followed as more singles were released.

Like most people, I originally missed Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums in 1973, but I started purchasing his albums when he broke into the mainstream with his third album, Born To Run, in 1975.  I bought the Born In The U.S.A. album right away in 1984, based on the “Dancing In The Dark” single.  So I dropped the needle and listened closely to the entire album.  Later, I listened to the whole thing again and decided I liked it all…except the first song.

It’s probably because Bruce uses a guttural scream sound in his voice throughout, and because I have a tendency to not like choruses that are essentially one line, such as “Born In The U.S.A.”.  I’m certainly in the minority, because it’s very popular with fans.  By the way, “Born In The U.S.A.” is still widely misinterpreted as a patriotic song with the singer boasting about being born in the U.S.A.  Actually, it’s mainly about being forced to fight in Vietnam, and the poor treatment faced by returning veterans.  And no, Springsteen says the cover photo is not meant to give the impression he’s urinating on the flag.

Bruce was the first artist to have seven Top-10 singles from one album“Dancing In The Dark” (#2), “Cover Me” (#7), “Born In The USA” (#9), “I’m On Fire” (#6), “Glory Days” (#5), “I’m Goin’ Down” (#9), and “My Hometown” (#6).  He probably could have released an 8th Top-10 hit with “No Surrender”, a song which was played on Rock FM stations more than some of the singles.

Having so many great songs on the album is a demonstration of Bruce Springsteen’s strong songwriting.  He could have even added “Pink Cadillac”.  With that string of hit singles, Born In The U.S.A. was the top-selling album of 1985.  It has officially sold over 15-million copies in the U.S.A., and over 30-million worldwide.  Springsteen has had a lot of other successful albums, but none have come close in sales.  Born To Run is second, with an official 6-million copies in the U.S.

One aspect of overwhelming success is that some people will claim you “sold out” or “became too commercial”.  It’s understandable that early fans might feel that way.  After all, they discovered the artist and liked the way he sounded.  For Born In The U.S.A., there was a change to a more produced sound with synthesizers.  But in reality, it was mostly the same musicians he used for years, and the lyrics were consistent with his previous work.  He was simply at the peak of his Glory Days.

Update:  If you’re a vinyl collector, and you don’t have Born In The U.S.A., you might want to spring 34.98 (list price) for the 40th Anniversary edition.  There are no extra songs, but it’s pressed on red vinyl.  (It was released on June 14th, 2024)

If you zoom in on the sticker, you can see there are some extra inserts provided with the gatefold album.  There is no CD version.  It’s a little surprising that there are no demos, alternate takes, or other songs from around that time that would have made the release more interesting and more attractive to his regular fans.

When Rock & Roll became “Rock”

Just like there is no one record or an exact date when Rock & Roll was “invented”, the same holds true for the transition from Rock & Roll to Rock music.  “Rock” isn’t just a shorter term for Rock & Roll, it’s actually a broader term that allowed all the experimentation and development in the 1960’s to be placed under that one umbrella.

At it’s breakthrough time in the mid 1950’s, Rock & Roll was mostly a feel good uptempo blues based sound.  Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and more gave us some great songs, with lyrics that were mainly aimed at teenagers.  Some variances in styles developed, like Doo-Wop and Surf Music.  But still, the songs were mostly about love and lost love.

That continued with the early songs by The Beatles.  Paul & John would use pronouns to personalize songs for teenage fans…”She Loves You”, “And I Love Her”.  Then about 1965, folk music in general, and Bob Dylan in particular (“The Times They Are A-Changin'”, “Like A Rolling Stone”),  helped artists realize that Rock & Roll could take on greater meanings, and broader subjects.  Popular music began to transform.  The Beatles and other artists started writing about a much wider variety of topics, from introspective to universal.  Musicians also expanded instrumentation and recording techniques, and began to draw from more influences.

Around 1965 and moving forward, Rock & Roll started being categorized as…Folk Rock, Country Rock, Blues Rock, Jazz Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Pop Rock, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, etc.  When the music was referred to overall, it was simply called Rock.

The term Rock & Roll is still popular to use, because that started it all, but If you say “the Rock & Roll era”…it’s the mid-fifties to the early sixties.  Rock, on the other hand, doesn’t refer to a specific era, and includes a wide variety of musical styles.  It’s up for debate whether Rock’s broad sweep should include Pop, Hip Hop, and Rap.

But let’s try to pinpoint the timeline a little more.  Almost without fail, programmers of Classic Rock formats on radio stations (and now streaming services) start with the year 1967.  It was the year of The Doors (“Light My Fire”), Jefferson Airplane (“White Rabbit”), Buffalo Springfield (“For What It’s Worth”), Jimi Hendrix (“Purple Haze”), The Who (“I Can See For Miles”), and of course, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Music wasn’t “I Want To Hold Your Hand” or “All Shook Up” anymore.

If you’re looking for the golden age of Rock, its the 1970’s.

Led Zeppelin,  Eagles,  Bruce Springsteen,  Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers,  Bob Seger,  The Rolling Stones,  Fleetwood Mac,  Queen,  Van Halen,  Pink Floyd,  The Who,  Linda Ronstadt,  Lynyrd Skynyrd,  Eric Clapton,  AC/DC,  The Allman Brothers Band,  Emerson Lake & Palmer,  The Doobie Brothers,  Creedence Clearwater Revival,  Chicago,  Aerosmith,  Black Sabbath,  Crosby Stills Nash & Young,  America, Supertramp,  Steely Dan,  Foreigner,  Boston,  Steve Miller Band,  The Moody Blues,  Heart,  Loggins & Messina, Santana,  Kiss,  Deep Purple,  Dire Straits, Yes, and more.

The decade of the 70’s was also the golden age of singer-songwriters: James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Carole King, Billy Joel, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, the individual Beatles, and so many more.

The progression of Rock in the 1960’s, and the inspiration it gave young people to take up music, caused an explosion of Rock in the 1970’s.

Above is a list of songs that have some of the most memorable guitar riffs ever recorded!  (You can click to enlarge the list.)

There have been many outstanding Rock musicians and songs in all of the decades after the ’70’s, but whether it’s called Rock & Roll or Rock, it’s currently taking a back seat to other types of music.  Maybe there are young musicians practicing on their guitars, keyboards and drums, ready to return Rock back into wide popularity.  We hope Neil Young is right…”Hey, Hey, My My, Rock & Roll Can Never Die”.

The Moody Blues…Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (updated)

The Moody Blues made it into the 2018 class of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

(This article was originally written while it was still being decided if they’d get in, and has been updated. The question was asked…Do The Moody Blues deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the answer was…of course.)

The first time The Moody Blues hit the charts, they were a Blues/Rock group.  It was 1965, “Go Now” was a top ten hit, and the lead singer was Denny Laine, who would later join Paul McCartney in Wings.  (Update:  Denny Laine passed away from lung disease on December 5th, 2023 at the age of 79.  Laine was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a founding member of The Moody Blues.). By 1967, the main lead vocalist and songwriter was Justin Hayward, and the sound of the band was completely transformed.

Mike Pinder (Keyboards), Justin Hayward (Guitars), Ray Thomas (Flute & Harmonica), Graham Edge (Drums),  & John Lodge (Bass).

1967 was a very key year for Rock.  It was the year of Sgt. Pepper, The Doors, Jim Hendrix’s Are You Experienced, Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday, Cream’s Disraeli Gears, and The Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed.

There’s confusion about what was the first “Concept Album”.  The 1940’s & ’50’s had some albums that had similarly themed songs that flowed nicely from one cut to another, and maybe Beach Boys albums about cars and surfing were somewhat “concepts”.  Sgt. Pepper definitely started as a concept.  But, the first Rock album to really be a complete concept in thought and execution may be 1967’s Days Of Future Passed by The Moody Blues.

The album takes you through the cycle of a complete day, from “Dawn Is A Feeling”, to “Tuesday Afternoon”, to “Nights In White Satin”.  This was two years before the “Rock Opera” Tommy by The Who.

It’s really an amazing work.  The Moody Blues wrote the songs for the album, then arranger and conductor Peter Knight skillfully used those melodies to create introductions, end pieces, and musical links to tie the whole album together.  It was the first successful combination of a rock band and an orchestra for an entire album.  The orchestra was made up of classical studio musicians using the name London Festival Orchestra for this album.

Besides the high concept and use of an orchestra, the album is generally considered an early Progressive Rock album because of it’s heavy use of a Mellotron, which was a new instrument at the time…an early synthesizer.  Mike Pinder used the Mellotron to match the songs the band played to the sound of the orchestra.  This made the whole sound of the album cohesive, even though the orchestra and band were recorded separately.

The Mellotron was actually invented as a quick playback method for sound effects recorded on tape loops.  Mike Pinder worked at the factory that built Mellotrons, and reworked some units, taking off the sound effects, and replacing them with musical instruments.  One of these was used on The Beatle’s “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

So, how was Days of Future Passed received?  The single “Tuesday Afternoon” went to #24 in the Billboard Top-40 in 1968.  The album was so far ahead of its time, that it wasn’t until 1972 that it peaked at #3, and the single “Nights In White Satin” hit #2.

Above you can see the Moody Blues’ first seven albums (which I bought as each one was released).

Besides “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin”, some of their other songs from 1968 through 1988 include:  “Voices In The Sky”, “Ride My See Saw”, “Question”, “The Story In Your Eyes”, “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock & Roll Band”, “The Voice”, “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”.  They had 13 Top-40 hits, plus many album cuts that also received airplay.

After more than 20 years of recording success, The Moody Blues continued their popular tours, including playing with orchestras across America.

So, the original question was…Do The Moody Blues deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?  The answer is…”Of course, it should have happened years ago”.

The Moody Blues in the 1970’s.

I’m sure some of the critics and industry people think The Moody Blues are too soft, or their lyrics don’t have enough bite, or whatever, but their body of work is far more convincing than many other artists who were already in the hall.

In fact, with all the pop and hip hop artists that are in the hall, the name should be changed to the Rock & Pop Hall of Fame.  That’s not meant as any kind of slam or joke.  It’s truly a more representative name that should be given consideration.  This would be a way to cover most forms of music, and country music has its own hall anyway.  The other Hall of Fame inductees for 2018 included these rock acts…Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, & The Cars…solid choices. 

Even if their career hadn’t lasted 50+ years, and their only album had been Days Of Future Passed, it was such an innovative album that The Moody Blues deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Congratulations!

Update:  (November 11th, 2021)  A sad day for Moody Blues fans, drummer Graeme Edge has passed away at the age of 80.

Update:  Founding member and keyboardist of The Moody Blues, Mike Pinder, passed away April 24th, 2024.  He died peacefully in his home, surrounded by family.

Tom Petty…The Songs

The loss of a great music artist makes us turn to their songs…for comfort, to remember them, and to immerse ourselves in their art.

In looking at the iTunes sales chart the day after Tom Petty died, the top 4 albums, and 7 of the top 10, were his.  The top single was “Free Falling”, and four more of his songs were in the top 10…”I Won’t Back Down”, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, and “American Girl”.

Over the last 40 years, my wife and I bought almost everything Tom Petty released, including all his albums, the Playback box set, and some of his videos.

People who liked Tom Petty, but hadn’t necessarily purchased his music are looking for some guidance on what to buy, or maybe listen to on streaming services.

Here are some recommendations.  You can start with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Greatest Hits.  It’s a very well-chosen selection of most of his earlier popular recordings.  However, that will only take you to 1993, so you’d be missing a lot.  Eventually, they’ll probably release a volume 2 of greatest hits, or a 2-disc set that covers his entire career.  (They have….See the new article:  Tom Petty…The Best Of Everything…there’s a link to it at the end of this article.)  There is an Anthology: Through The Years that goes a little deeper, but don’t be fooled into thinking it covers more years than the Greatest Hits, because it doesn’t.

Greatest Hits songs:  1. American Girl, 2. Breakdown, 3. Listen To Her Heart, 4. I Need To Know, 5. Refugee, 6. Don’t Do Me Like That, 7. Even The Losers, 8. Here Comes My Girl, 9. The Waiting, 10. You Got Lucky, 11. Don’t Come Around Here No More, 12. I Won’t Back Down, 13. Runnin’ Down A Dream, 14. Free Fallin’, 15. Learning To Fly, 16. Into The Great Wide Open, 17. Mary Jane’s Last Dance, 18. Something In The Air.

Once you have Greatest Hits, you might want to purchase or stream Wildflowers, because it’s his best album after 1993.  Or, you may want to select the best songs individually from the part of his career that was 1994 to 2016.  Here are my recommendations for songs (in chronological order):

  1. Wildflowers (first 4 songs are from Wildflowers)
  2. You Don’t Know How It Feels
  3. You Wreck Me
  4. It’s Good To Be King
  5. Walls (#3) [from She’s The One]
  6. Angel Dream (#2) [from She’s The One]
  7. The Last DJ (from The Last DJ)
  8. Square One (from Highway Companion)
  9. Saving Grace (from Highway Companion)
  10. Crystal River (from Mudcrutch)
  11. American Dream Plan B (from Hypnotic Eye)
  12. Shadow People (from Hypnotic Eye)
  13. Trailer (from Mudcrutch 2)
  14. Dreams Of Flying (from Mudcrutch 2)
  15. I Forgive It All (from Mudcrutch 2)

Other songs you might want to add include “Waiting For Tonight” (It’s a good uptempo song with background vocals by The Bangles, from the Playback box set), and The Traveling Wilburys’ song “End Of The Line”.  These two are actually from the 1980’s.

There are many other songs that could be on this list, but these along with the Greatest Hits album will give you a good overview of his career.  Some people may not be familiar with many of the above songs, but that’s because music trends changed and radio formats splintered so much that most people were not exposed to his later recordings.

I find that I listen to songs from the latter part of his career as much, and probably more, than the earlier songs.  Tom Petty maintained the ability to write great songs throughout his long career.  He never lost that elusive “muse” for writing.

Mike Campbell,  Benmont Tench,  & Tom Petty

One more thing.  While we remember Tom Petty, we should also appreciate how much Mike Campbell (lead guitar & sometimes co-songwriter) and Benmont Tench (keyboards) added to all those great songs.  Those two were on most of the recordings, even the albums that were considered Tom’s solo records.  They’re brilliant musicians who’ve also worked on many projects with other artists.

It’s sad to think we won’t be getting any new songs from Tom Petty, but his treasure of songs will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Extra:  Here’s the link to the Best Of Everything review:  https://ontherecords.net/2018/12/tom-petty-the-best-of-everything/

Tom Petty…Artist For The Decades (updated)

(After the sad news of Tom Petty’s passing, this article about his four decades of success was updated.)

Are Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers considered ‘70’s artists?  ‘80’s? ‘90’s?

All too often music careers only last a few years.  Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers had hit singles and hit albums since they released “Breakdown” in early 1978, and they still had hit albums and sold out arenas nearly 4 decades later.

Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, Tom Petty, Stan Lynch, & Benmont Tench

As Disco was fading in the 1970’s, the Punk and New Wave movements arose.  People tried to put one of those labels on Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, but they didn’t fit either one.  After all that Disco, maybe Rock & Roll was hard to recognize.  Petty’s band from Gainesville, Florida was mostly influenced by groups like The Byrds, The Beatles, and other bands of the British Invasion.

Let’s just break it down by Decades.

In the late 70’s Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers charted three albums…Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, You’re Gonna Get It!, and Damn The Torpedoes.  Major songs included “Breakdown”, “American Girl”, “Don’t Do Me Like That”, and “Refugee”.

The ‘80’s were big, with six Tom Petty projects…four albums with the Heartbreakers, Hard Promises, Long After Dark, Southern Accents, and Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), a huge solo album Full Moon Fever, and the superstar project The Travelng Wilburys (with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison & Jeff Lynne).

The singles in the 1980’s featured “The Waiting”, “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” (with Stevie Nicks), “You Got Lucky”, “Change of Heart”, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, “Jammin Me”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Runnin’ Down A Dream”, “Free Fallin’ ”, “Handle With Care” and “End Of The Line” (also check out the Wilburys’ “Last Night” and “Cool Dry Place”).  It was the decade of MTV videos, and Tom Petty was featured prominently.

After another Traveling Wilburys album, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers continued in the 1990’s with the albums Into the Great Wide Open, She’s The One (movie soundtrack), and Echo.  Hits included “Learning To Fly”, and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.  That last one is from their Greatest Hits album, which has sold over 12-million copies in the U.S.  Petty also released another multi-platinum-selling solo album Wildflowers.  “You Don’t Know How It Feels” was the main hit from the album, with “You Wreck Me”, “It’s Good To Be King”, and the title track among songs getting airplay.

The ‘90’s were a time of big changes in the Radio industry.  Formats splintered into niches, and Billboard magazine did the same thing with their charts.  By the turn of the century, it was hard to know where to find rock & roll on the dial.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers addressed the upheaval in Radio with their album and song The Last DJ from 2002.  It complained about the lack of the human element in selecting what was played, because of the tight playlists on many corporate stations.   “The Last DJ” is a really good and commercial-sounding single, but Petty didn’t endear himself to radio programmers, some of whom took it personally.

Next for Tom Petty was another solo album Highway Companion in 2006.  It was a Gold-selling album. This solid effort featured “Saving Grace” and “Square One”, but the national trend was a severe reduction in the representation of Rock anywhere.  Pop, Hip-Hop, and Country had taken over music.

In 2010, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers got their mojo back.  Well, at least they released an album named Mojo.  It was fairly well received by fans and critics, and went to #2 on the Billboard album chart.  In fact, their 2014 rock album Hypnotic Eye hit #1.  The only problem is…the charts don’t mean much anymore, because sales of albums are so small.  Proof is that one of the Heartbreakers’ lowest selling albums topped the charts.

Tom Petty seemed to fully understand the situation.  So he decided to re-form his original band from Florida, “Mudcrutch”.   With charts and airplay not mattering anymore, why not?   Mudcrutch (still a crazy name) allowed Petty to do something that’s a mix of Country Rock, Americana, and The Heartbreakers own sound.  The band included guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, making it three-fifths of the band we’ve loved for decades.

The first Mudcrutch album was released in 2008, and Mudcrutch 2 in 2016. I’m partial to the second album, which has quite a few high-quality Tom Petty originals.  But there’s at least one don’t miss song on the first album “Crystal River”.

Four decades on, and Tom Petty kept producing excellent songs no matter what the musical landscape threw at him.  He never did back down.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers had just completed a summer tour that celebrated their 40th Anniversary.  Then, on October 2nd, 2017, Tom Petty died at the age of 66.  It was later determined that he died of an accidental overdose of pain killers he’d been taking for a broken hip.  A major loss, too sad for words.  He’s greatly missed.

The Dave Clark Five…British Big Beat

When the British Invasion started, some of their rock music was described as having a “big beat”.  It was mainly in comparison with the more anemic pop/rock that was being made in the U.S. in the early 1960s.  Some of the British bands had a tougher rock sound, like The Dave Clark Five’s uptempo drum rock.

Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Dave Clark, Rick Huxley, Denis Payton

The Dave Clark Five (from London) was the second British band to have a song chart in America in 1964.  No American bands were performing anything that included a big beat like “Bits And Pieces” and “Glad All Over”.  Dave Clark was the drummer, and lead singer Mike Smith had one of the best rock voices ever.  It certainly wasn’t “hard rock”, but it was a step in that direction.

Groups like The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five were heavily influenced by 1950s American rock & roll, and especially Chuck Berry.  Both bands covered his songs.  Compare The Beatles’ “Rock & Roll Music” or The Dave Clark Five’s “Reelin’ And Rockin'” with Chuck Berry’s versions.  The British versions have a much more muscular and energetic feel…they rock!

Speaking of comparisons.

Publishers figured fans of both bands would buy their magazines if they portrayed the two as competitors.  Early on, The Beatles might have even been slightly worried that they would be replaced or eclipsed, because in 1964 it was all new.  No one knew the future for these two groups.

It wasn’t all uptempo rock songs for The Dave Clark Five.

The first single I ever bought at a record store is the ballad “Because”.  Above is my 1964 record sleeve from that song.  It’s still one of my favorites.

The DC5 was mostly a singles band.  Their albums sold well, but were not musical landmarks like those of some other groups.  I enjoyed their hits, but it seemed like there was too big of a quality gap between those and many of the album cuts.  Most of the songs were about 2-minutes long, which worked well musically, but it also meant with 11 songs per album (in America), all of the songs could have fit on one side of the record (would have saved flipping it over!).

The Dave Clark Five populated the Top-40 with seven hit singles in 1964…”Glad All Over” (#6), “Bits And Pieces” (#4), “Do You Love Me” (#11), “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” (#4), “Because” (#3), “Everybody Knows (I Still Love You) [#15], and “Any Way You Want It” (#14).  The songwriting on all but one of these songs was credited to Dave Clark, often with Mike Smith or one of the other band members as co-writers.  Some articles about the band suggest that an English songwriter named Ron Ryan wrote or co-wrote some of the band’s hits, including “Bits And Pieces”, “Because” and “Any Way You Want It”, and allowed his friend Dave Clark to be credited as the songwriter.  I have no way of independently verifying the story, but thought it should be mentioned.

You could have seen The DC5 perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.  He booked them consistently during their hit-making years.

The Dave Clark Five had five Top-40 hits in 1965, with three of them making the top 10, “I Like It Like That” (#7 and just 1:38 long), “Catch Us If You Can” (#4), and “Over And Over” (their only #1).

By 1966, they were losing momentum.  They only had three Top-40 singles, and none reached the top-10.

In 1967, The DC5 had just two hits, and those were the last hits for them in the United States.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see what happened.  When they started out, their music was similar to The Beatles and other British Invasion groups.  They continued to make the same kind of music from 1964 to 1967.  During that time, The Beatles’ songwriting and innovation progressed rapidly with Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper.  The two hits for The Dave Clark Five in 1967 were “You Got What It Takes” and “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby”.  Songs that were remakes of old songs that didn’t fit in with the growth of rock music.

The Dave Clark Five continued to have some hits in England, but disbanded in 1970.

The good news for Dave Clark…unlike most musicians, he owned his own recordings, which made him very wealthy.  The bad news for fans…Dave Clark owned his own recordings, and decided to lock them away.  For 25 years, from 1978 until 1993, fans couldn’t even buy any of The DC5’s recordings.  Why?

Harold Bronson, the co-founder of Rhino Records (which has done some great work with reissued music), says Dave Clark mistakenly thought the longer he held out for a deal to release the music on CD, the greater the desire, and the greater the payday in terms of a royalty advance.  Instead, Bronson says, the band missed out on being played on oldies stations, because good copies weren’t available, and the songs weren’t exposed in films or on TV shows.  Plus, music fans were mostly playing CD’s, not their old worn out records.  Basically, The DC5 had been fading from memory.

Finally, in 1993, came The History of The Dave Clark Five.

It was a two-CD set that did a nice job of covering their career.  Unfortunately, it came a bit late, and probably should have been a single disc, because sales were disappointing.  I tried to help, and bought my copy as soon as it was available.  There’s one other thing that bugs fans.  They’d like to have stereo recordings, instead of the mono in which almost all of the songs are released.

  1. Glad All Over
  2. Bits & Pieces (Stereo)
  3. Do You Love Me (Stereo)
  4. Because (Stereo)
  5. Can’t You See That She’s Mine (Stereo)
  6. Any Way You Want It (Stereo)
  7. Everybody Knows (I Still Love You) [Stereo]
  8. Reelin’ & Rockin’ (Stereo)
  9. I Like It Like That
  10. Catch Us If You Can
  11. Come Home (Stereo)
  12. Over & Over
  13. At The Scene
  14. Hurting Inside (Stereo)
  15. Try Too Hard (Stereo)
  16. Everybody Knows (Stereo Single)
  17. Please Tell Me Why (Stereo)
  18. ‘Til The Right One Comes Along (Stereo)
  19. Don’t Let Me Down
  20. Satisfied With You (Stereo)
  21. Look Before You Leap (Stereo)
  22. Whenever You’re Around (Stereo)
  23. You Got What It Takes (Stereo)
  24. Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll Medley (Stereo)
  25. Rock ‘N’ Roll Medley 2 (Stereo)

Above is my playlist for the best of The Dave Clark Five.  Over the years, I’ve acquired stereo versions of many of their songs, in fact, 19 out of 25 of these versions are real stereo (not re-channeled stereo).  One collection of DC5 songs released on vinyl in America (just after their popular years) had stereo versions.  Some of their other albums also contained a few real stereo versions.  However, it should be noted that the stereo versions are not always better.  “Glad All Over” is more powerful in mono, and the stereo version of “Catch Us If You Can” is a terrible mix.  It doesn’t seem likely that we die-hard fans will get a quality stereo remix from master tapes anytime soon.

The best collection currently available through iTunes is 2008’s The Dave Clark Five: The Hits ($11.99).  It’s in living mono, but the songs sound good.  Update:  In 2019 another “remastered” version (not a remix, not a stereo version) was made available.  At this point, it’s only $10.99 for the same 28 song set.

The Dave Clark Five added the “big beat” and a lot of fun to the British Invasion.  They made it into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, but it should have been a lot sooner.  Lead singer Mike Smith died just eleven days before the group was inducted by DC5 fan Tom Hanks.

Elton John…The Best Years (Updates)

Most of us learned of Elton John in late 1970 with the release of “Your Song”.  The song ranked a respectable #8 in 1971, and it feels more like a #1,  because it grew to become Elton’s signature song.

The album it was from, Elton John, had been released in April of 1970, and the first single “Border Song” had stiffed at #92.  It takes the right song to break an artist, and “Your Song” was the right one for Elton John.  His self-titled first U.S. album (second in England) went on to hit #4 in Billboard, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.  The album also contained “I Need You To Turn To” & “Take Me To The Pilot”, and was strong enough to move Elton John into the stream of singer-songwriters that started at the beginning of the decade.

There was a difference with the songwriter portion of that description, as Elton John had a co-writer, Bernie Taupin.  For the most part, Bernie would write lyrics or poems, and Elton would put them to music.

It may seem as if Elton John’s career just exploded from there, but the reality is, he had trouble getting another hit single.  From a movie soundtrack, “Friends” only made it to #34.  His next album, Tumbleweed Connection, had no Top 40 hits, but “Country Comfort”, “Come Down In Time”, and “Love Song” did get some airplay.

He followed that up with Madman Across The Water in 1971, and “Levon” at #24 was the only (modest) hit.

1972 would be the big breakout year for Elton John.

Producer Gus Dudgeon and engineer Ken Scott recorded the album in a French chateau…thus, Honky Chateau.  Normally it takes singles to drive an album, and it had “Rocket Man” (#6) and “Honky Cat” (#8).  The album went to #1, and was the first of 7 straight #1 albums for Elton John.  Besides the fact that it has some great songs, the thing I remember most about Honky Chateau is it’s wonderfully clear and full audio quality…thank you Gus and Ken.

Here are the other six #1 albums in that streak for Elton John…Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), Caribou (1974), Greatest Hits (1975), Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975), and Rock Of The Westies (1976).  That’s a great run, and an amazing output, but that also was the last of his #1 albums, just six years into his 50 year career.

The main point of this article is that as incredibly popular as musicians become, they cannot maintain that level of quality or success.  It’s almost always the first part of their careers that give us their truly classic songs.

  1. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  2. Bennie And The Jets
  3. Daniel
  4. Crocodile Rock
  5. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
  6. Philadelphia Freedom
  7. Island Girl
  8. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
  9. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
  10. Sacrifice
  11. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
  12. Can’t You Feel The Love Tonight
  13. Your Song
  14. Tiny Dancer
  15. Rocket Man
  16. Candle In The Wind
  17. Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

Above are the songs on Elton John’s Rocket Man: Number Ones collection from 2007…37 years into his career.  Out of the 17 songs, 15 are from 1970 to 1976.  By the way, not all of them hit number one.  I love “Tiny Dancer”, but it only hit #41 in the U.S. and was not released in the U.K.  Only 5 of these recordings actually hit #1 in the U.S., but that doesn’t lessen their quality.  Also, Elton John has consistently charted songs & albums, and continues to have a career like very few artists have enjoyed.

Let’s look at “The Best Years” of some other top artists:

James Taylor…has had a career parallel to Elton John.  Of the songs he says he “must play” in concert to satisfy his fans, all of them fall into the 1970 to 1977 time frame.  Like Elton, he continues to chart songs and albums…even had a #1 album in 2015, but it’s not the same as when album sales were the true measuring stick.

Carole King…1971 to 1975 for her main songs as a performer.  She had decades of hits as a songwriter.

Eagles…they recorded from 1972 to 1979, and then they broke up.  They got back together in 1994 and remain popular, but their “must play” songs are from that 8 year period.  However, the theory might not apply, since Don Henley had so much solo success.

Cat Stevens…1971-1974 for his main hits.

Carly Simon…1971 to 1978, with a couple top 20 hits in the 80’s.

Jackson Browne…1973-1982, with a couple top 20 hits later.

Bob Seger…1977-1987, a good 11 year stretch on the singles chart, with pretty steady popularity.  His albums sold well long after his singles success.

Bob Dylan…1964-1973, plus 3 more top 40 singles in the ’70’s.  Of course he’s one of the most influential songwriters of all time.

The music industry has plenty of one-hit and two-hit wonders, and more often than not artists are only popular for a few years.  Above are some of the best and most influential musicians of our time.  This info is only meant to indicate their periods of highest popularity.

Elton John is indisputably one of the most successful artists of the rock era, and yet his career was “front loaded” with his defining hits.  Compare that with your favorite artists.  When were their “best years”?

Update: (Sept. 2022)  Elton John, who had been knighted in England, was recently honored in America.  He went to the White House to perform, and was surprised and brought to tears when he received the National Humanities Medal for his many years of humanitarian work.

Update: (July 8th, 2023)  Elton John ended his touring career with a final concert in Stockholm, Sweden July 8th, 2023.  He performed over 4,000 concerts in his more than half-century career.

(Elton John during his final tour performance)

Elton John hinted that although he’s done touring, he’s not giving up performing, and could do a residency in England.

Update:  1/15/24  Elton John is the 19th person to be designated an EGOT winner.  Elton has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.