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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mr. Acker Blik--Stranger on the Shore (1962)

      The late 50's brought a renaissance of traditional jazz to almost all of Europe. Bernard Bilk, known to his fans as Mr. Acker Blik was one who rode the crest of that wave. His velvety smooth clarinet sound, and his stage look, (Bowler hat, goatee and striped waistcoat) hit No. 1 in the US with "Stranger on the Shore", his first charting song in 1962. There were several other hits before the British Invasion came and overtook the charts. He started on the cabaret circuit during that time and at the age of 82, is still touring.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Zager and Evans--In the Year 2525 (1969)

     In the almost 8 full months I've been writing this blog we have covered a lot of different songs and a lot of different types of music. Of course music, along with every art form is a very subjective thing. What is one person's favorite song, will be someone else's pile of poo. Which brings me to this song.

      The danger for any "message" song is that people will tire of the message before it has a chance to actually reach it's audience. Many folk singers have turned messages and/or protest into an art form. Sometimes when the message goes beyond the "now" and takes on a universal tone, it becomes a classic.  "In the Year 2525" is certainly a product of it's era more than a lot of songs, although it uses a sledge hammer to get it's point across rather than a scalpel, nonetheless the song endures to this day.  It came out during the time that Neil Armstrong was walking on the was also the summer of Woodstock. Both events had many of every generation wondering what was to become of us as a people.I think that had a lot to do with galvanizing of the song in the consciousnesses of that generation.  

      The interesting thing about the song was that it was written in 1964! Denny Zager and Rick Evans met at Nebraska Wesleyan University and formed a musical duo. It was originally released in 1968 on a local label and had received a lot of airplay on local stations in Omaha and Lincoln. It was picked up by RCA and given nationwide release in 1969, with it reaching #1 for six weeks that summer. Evans is still writing and performing, Zager makes custom guitars and although not performing together, are still good friends.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Morning Vault: George Baker Selection--Paloma Blanca

     Holland born George Baker (actual Name: Johannes Bouwens) who was lead singer of the George Baker Selection saw first chart action in 1970 with, "Little Green Bag" which reached #21 on the charts. Those who don't remember when it came out, might remember the song from the movie, "Reservoir Dogs" in 1992.

     They had a minor hit later that year then fell silent (at least in the US), until 1975 when this little tidbit was released. Paloma Blanca is translated "White Dove". (it does not however explain why he was singing to it in the video...or maybe he feared bird retribution for the song)  It was a huge hit in all of Europe, was #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts in the US along with #26 on the top 100 and #33 on the country charts. They never had another US hit, Baker continuing to perform as a solo artist.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Captain & Tennille--Love Will Keep Us Together (1975)

     In 1971, Toni Tennille was looking for a keyboardist. The play she had co-written was being set up for performance at the South Coast Repertory. Dragon was on break from his gig with the Beach Boys as a part of the touring band and was hired. He was impressed with her voice and recommended her as a backup singer on the next BB's tour. When the tour was over, they began writing and performing together. A recording they made of, "The Way I Want To Touch You" garnered them a contract with A&M records.

      The song, "Love Will Keep Us Together" was written by Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield in 1973. Sedaka first recorded it for his album, The Tra-La Days Are Over" which was released in the UK only and later in the US on the album, "Sedaka's Back" in 1974. The song had also been covered by Wilson Pickett  before The Captain (a name given to Dragon by Mike Love from the Beach Boys) & Tennille recorded it for their debut album in 1975.

     The song reached #1 in the US and began a string of top 5 hits over the next two years. It also began a renaissance of Sedaka's career as a songwriter and a singer. Dragon & Tennille married late that year and 35 years later are enjoying their life together in Prescott Arizona.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Looking Glass--Brandy (Your a Fine Girl) 1972

     A college band was born out of Rutgers University in 1969. After graduation, the band fell apart, but two of it's members, Elliot Lurie (lead guitar, vocals) and Larry Gonsky recruited Pieter Sweval (bass) and Jeff Grob (drums) to form Looking Glass.

     The band's sound was one of straight ahead rock and roll, but as one can hear, the songs that reached the chart (Brandy, and Jimmy Loves Mary Ann from 1973) were more AM pop. This didn't sit well with Lurie who left the band in 74 and after a failed solo career settled in as a film composer....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

KISS--Rock and Roll All Nite (1975)

     KISS was in danger of losing it all....

     It was 1975 and all of the work that Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss had put into the group was in danger of being for naught. Their 5th single, "Rock and Roll All Nite" had a short life on the charts. The album that it was taken from, "Dressed to Kill" had done much better than it's two predecessors, but their label, Casablanca Records was in danger of going bankrupt. 

    Simmons and Stanley had been frustrated that the hot live shows that had already received lots of notice couldn't be translated to studio. So they came up with the idea of attempting to capture the excitement of their live shows on vinyl. The result was "Alive" released in September of 1975 and a re-release of "Rock and Roll all Nite" a month later. It reached the top 20, and set the wheels in motion that elevated KISS to one of, if not the most popular American band in rock history.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stevie Wonder--Fingertips Pt. 2 (1963)

     He really was a product of the 60's and 70's, but Stevie Wonder has continued to record and tour long after his major popularity has waned. 

     Born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950, Stevland Judkins was born blind due to being 6 weeks premature. At the age of four his parents divorced, which prompted a move to Detroit and led to him being discovered by Ronnie White of the Mircales (actually it was his brother who kept nagging Ronnie to go to a friends house to check Stevie out). By this time he could play the harmonica, piano, drums, and bass. White took Stevie and his mother to Motown Records, and Berry Gordy signed him to a contract with Tamla Records under the name, "Little Stevie Wonder"

     Wonder cut several singles and a couple of albums in 62 without much success. In 1963, on a Motown Revue Concert with a very young Marvin Gaye on the drums, Stevie cut "Fingertips Pt. 2". It was his first hit and his first #1...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rick Springfield--Speak to the Sky (1973)

     Many only know him as an actor from the late 70's soap opera General Hospital, others as a successful singer in the early/mid 80's. Springfield's first hit however was in the early 70's....

      He was born Richard Lewis Springthorpe in a western suburb of Sydney, Australia in 1949. From the age of 13 he was playing in bands and his addition to the group Rockhouse prompted the name change to Springfield. For the three years between 69 and 71, Rick was with the group Zoot which not only gave him recognition throughout his homeland, but allow him to begin to spread his wings as a songwriter as well.

     He went solo in 72, writing and releasing, "Speak to the Sky" which went to #4 in Australia and prompted a flight to London to record his first solo album, which he plays guitar, keyboards, and banjo in addition to writing all of the songs. Later that year he moved to US to correspond to the release of "Speak to the Sky" in the US. It did great for a debut as it reached #14. However, a combination of being lumped in other established teen idol, a break from management as he wanted to do more adult themed music kept him out of the spotlight. Finally in 1978 he started doing some acting which led him the next year to the role that made him a star, and gave him a second chance to make it in the music business.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bay City Rollers--Saturday Night (1975)

     The Saxons formed in 1966 with bassist Alan Longmuir, his brother Derek who played drums and lead singer Gordon Clark. They didn't fancy the name and chose another by throwing a dart a US map which landed on Bay City, Michigan. They did the pub circuit without much luck on the charts until releasing, "Keep On Dancing" in 1971 which reached #9 on the UK charts. In 73, they recorded their first version of "Saturday Night" which didn't make the charts, and with no more success to speak of, Clark left and was replaced with Les McKeown. That year also saw the addition of Eric Faulkner and Stuart Wood. "Saturday Night" was re recorded with McKeown at the mic in 1974 for the Rollers first album, "Rollin", but was not released as a single.

     However, 74 was the year they broke out in a big way, and in 75 the decision was made to release "Saturday Night" as a single in America. Along with a tidal wave of publicity, it shot up to #1. It was one of three top 10 songs in the US and after about a year of  "Rollermaina" it was about over. There were a couple of hits in early 77, and the US (and British) string was over. They dropped the "Bay City" in 78, but three albums failed to chart and the group, except for an attempt to reform the group in the late 80's called it a day in 1981.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Morning Vault: Jackie DeShannon--What the World Needs Now Is Love (1965)

     Jackie DeShannon is one of the most underrated songwriters of the 60's, although this song, was written by Bacharach and David. It was originally pitched to Dionne Warwick who eventually recorded it, but initially passed on it. DeShannon had one other hit, (Put a little love in your heart) but who's career was defined by not only the music she wrote in the 60's, but in the re-recording of a lot of her material by artists in the 80's and early 90's.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Led Zeppelin--Rock and Roll (1972)

     Some birthdays make me feel different that others and the fact that Robert Plant turns 63 today revives many memories of my youth, and makes it all too real that I celebrate my birthday in less than two weeks as well. He is still popular today, not only for his past, but for a very successful present as well where top albums and Grammy awards are the norm. But for a generation he will be as close to a golden god as rock and roll ever truly got. I'm still always amused at the eye fluttering and audible groaning from female friends over 40 when his name is mentioned.

      When it came to living the rock and roll lifestyle, Led Zeppelin defined most of the excesses of the 70's. From it's very early days, manager Peter Grant demanded the best for his boys and was very shrewd about putting them "out there" when it came to interviews and such. This gave an aura of mystery about them, and the music with it's blues inflected mysticism did nothing to lift that notion, which is what Grant wanted in the first place. They also had the good sense to quit long before the opportunity to become a parody presented itself, which secured them a status that is only surpassed by a handful of bands.

     Robert Plant's voice isn't the controlled shrieking that used to come down like thunder off of a mountain, however he has tailored his music to the maturing and mellowing of the sound. This has allowed for a redefinition of  the music without really straying too far from his bluesy roots. However this has not lessened his swaggering self assured persona on stage. This will secure his future success for as long as he chooses, but for people my age, the vision of Plant will always be the one of the honey haired singer, out front of the greatest rock band of the 1970's.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Morris Albert--Feelings (1975)

     Those born after 1980 never noticed it much as popular music has become more fragmented, but there was a time that the top 40 was a true hodgepodge of music. Rock, pop, country, jazz, easy listening, and others that defy description found it's way to the Billboard charts. There are probably a myriad of reasons why this is, but unfortunately there isn't near the diversity on radio there used to be.

      For better or worse, songs like this one will never be heard again on top 40 radio. For one thing, those who sing in a style like this, can find their own fans and success on their own terms due to the internet and radio stations that cater to this specific type of music. Between the mid-70's and late-90's you never heard much from this musical faction, until a generation had passed and many of those stars from the 50's became "hip" again Many "easy listening" stars have come to the fore in the last 10 years without a song ever being near the top 40. Which brings us (finally) to "Feelings".

     Morris Albert was born in Brazil and had played guitar and sang in several bands up to his writing and recording of his biggest hit. It wasn't only here either, as his success became worldwide. Why? I don't have a full explanation for why it hit big here, except that radio listeners out there like a nice sappy ballad every so often. (Julio Iglesias made a career of it in the 80's).  The follow up here in the states made the top 100, but after that faded from view. He still continues to tour and lives in Italy having become a world musical celebrity. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Paper Lace--The Night Chicago Died (1974)

     Paper Lace began in 1967 in Nottingham, England as the group Music Box, then in 1969 changed it when Phil Wright joined as drummer and lead singer. They spent the next 5 years paying their dues on the pub circuit with the occasional television appearance. In 1974 the group had an chance to be on the show "Opportunity Knocks" and did so well that songwriters Mitch Murry and Peter Callender approached them with the song, "Billy Don't Be A Hero". The song went to number 1 on the British charts in the spring of 1974, but failed here as Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods beat them to the punch and released their version stateside first.. Another Murry/Callender song, "The Night Chicago Died" however, didn't have that issue and reached #1 here with 3 million copies sold.

      As with much of the best of bubblegum pop, it was very well crafted, and an album with "Billy" and "Chicago" proved that the band could extend the sound for a whole album. (It was released as "Paper Lace" in the states, "Paper Lace and Other Bits of Material" in the UK).  If you get a chance to hear it, you might be surprised at the quality of the music. However, the band never had another hit in the US or in Britain and by the end of the decade had gone their separate ways.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jewel Akens--The Birds and the Bees (1965)

     In 1964, Jewell Akens was the lead singer of a group called The Turnarounds and had just been signed by Era Records out of Hollywood. That year produced one single that saw no chart action. The owner of the label, Herb Newman, brought a song to them by a young songwriter by the name of Barry Stewart. (it was the pseudonym of Newman's teenaged son).

     Looking over the song, it was very sing-songy....almost like a nursery rhyme. Akens really liked the song, however the rest of the group did not. Long story short, the group split up over the song and Jewell decided to record it himself. He went through several arraignments before settling on the one that was finally released. It shot up to #3 on the charts in the spring of 1965 and became popular in different versions all over the world.

      It was to be the only big hit of Akens career. A follow up song, "Georgie Porgie" saw some chart action, but never saw the charts again. He has continued recording and have been told there are some really good singles from the early 70's that I need to check out. He released a gospel album not too long ago, but am lacking info about it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ad-Libs: He Ain't No Angel (1965)

     John T. Taylor had been playing saxophone with different big bands since the 30's. He decided by 1960 that it was time to retire from the road and to teach. During that time, he heard a group calling themselves the Creators. He began writing for them, but the couple of singles flopped on the charts. 

      In 1964 there was a reshuffling of the ranks, and a name change to the Ad-Libs. Hugh Harris, Danny Austin, Dave Watt, Norman Donegan, and female lead, Mary Ann Thomas made up the classic lineup of the reformed group. That next year they hit it big with the Taylor penned, "Boy From New York City", reaching #8 on the Billboard charts.

       This was the only hit they would ever have, although they recorded several strong singles which sank quickly. They had one more song reach the top 100 (in fact it reached #100 in 1965) which you can hear below. The group continued to make the R&B charts until 1969, but recorded and toured right up to into the late 80's.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Morning Vault: Barbara Acklin--Just Ain't No Love (1969)

      Barbara Acklin was like many in the 60's who tried to make it in the music business, she got a job with a record company. In this case it was Brunswick, where she was a receptionist for producer Carl Davis. She kept asking him for a chance to record something, and his response was to just keep writing. Well, she did that and one day she cornered Wilson Pickett and convinced him to a song she had co-written called, Whispers (Gettin Louder). Pickett liked enough to pass it on to Davis as a song to record. It was and it re-ignited his career. They in turn gave Barbara a chance to record.

      She began with a duet with Gene Chandler and her recording career was off and running. Her greatest chart success on the pop charts was "Love Makes a Woman" in 1968 which reached #15. She had a few more on the top 100, and her songs could be found on the R&B charts up to 1975. She also wrote for others, especially The Chi-Lites who recorded her songs, "Have You Seen Her", and "Oh, Girl".....She died in 1998 of pneumonia in Nebraska

     The song highlighted here was from 1969. It reached #67 on the pop charts and #23 on the R&B. It might not be her best song, but the organ hook at the beginning just doesn't let go.....

Friday, August 12, 2011

AC/DC--Highway to Hell (1979)

     Highway to Hell was the first song to break through in a major way to American audiences, but had spent the previous four years being one of Australia's premiere rock bands....
      The Young family relocated to Sydney in 1963 from Scotland, and it wasn't long before older brother George found himself in the group, "The Easybeats". Not only were they one of the biggest acts of the 60's in their country, but the song, "Friday on my Mind" was the first Australian song to reach the pop charts in the US in 1966. A couple of years later Malcolm joined a band out of New South Wales called The Velvet Underground (no connection with the NYC band).

      In the early 70's, Malcolm and youngest brother Angus put together a band out of a desire to play harder rock. The first couple of years was spent finding a direction for the music. They dabbled with glam rock (including all of them wearing costumes), before settling on a harder edged, hard driving sound. Much of that sound was embodied in new lead singer Bon Scott, who joined the band in 1974. By the way....the name of the group was suggested by their sister who saw the words AC/DC on vacuum cleaner. This same sister was the one who made the schoolboy outfit that has become forever linked to Angus.

      The band by 1976 was touring extensively in the UK and Europe gaining a rabid and loyal following, and in the next year was beginning to get some limited airplay in the US. It was the release of the album, "Highway to Hell" that broke through in a big way. Unfortunately, the success was tempered by the death of Scott (just 10 days after this video was shot). This paved the way for perhaps their greatest album, "Back in Black" with singer Brian Johnson.      

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Buck Owens--I Got A Tiger By The Tail (1965)

      Buck Owens is known in the last couple of generations as one of the hosts of "Hee Haw" the long running comedy and music show. During the 60's, one could suggest that he was one of the biggest hit makers in the business. Between 1959 and 1968 he had 28 straight county top 20's with 14 of those consecutive #1's. It was no wonder between his success as a performer and his ability to connect with an audience (see video above) that he was chosen to host "Hee Haw" along with Roy Clark. The hits continued (partially because of the extra exposure) until 1979, then had a bit of revival in the late 80's. Much of that was linked to the success of Dwight Yoakam, who was deeply influenced by Owens' music.

     Owens was born in Texas but spent his older childhood and teenaged years in Arizona. As a young adult he took a job as a truck driver, which is where he first drove through the San Joaquin Valley and was impressed enough with it that with his wife, relocated there in 1951. His ability on the guitar got him gigs in Hollywood with rock and rockabilly artists through the 50's. It was that experience along with the music of his childhood, country and Mexican polkas which blended into what was many years later to be known as the "Bakersfield Sound". 


Monday, August 8, 2011

Ace--How Long (1975)

     There are many one-hit wonders over the years, but not many of those have become classics of their era. Ace and "How Long" is one of those. The laid back, car radio-ready vibe still is as distinctive now as it was then. Paul Carrack had already given notice in the group, Warm Dust, that his talent stood out. When he formed Ace with his former band mate Tex Comer, the pub band sound was established early and the debut album, "Five A Side" reached the top 20 albums, with the Carrack penned, "How Long" reaching #3.

      The group recorded two more albums, and several singles, with none of them even coming close to the previous success. The band broke up and Carrack in particular has done well serving as a gypsy in a way, traveling from one band to another. Roxy Music, Squeeze, and Mike & the Mechanics have all benefited from his lead vocals. Lately he has been touring solo...


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Joe Tex--I Gotcha (1972)

    In 1972, it looked as if the career of Joe Tex was beginning to wind down. His last big hit was five years before, and his unique style of spoken morality songs and humorous R&B was out of vogue. He had teamed with Nashville producer Buddy Killen in 1965 and found a formula that put him all over the charts from 65-67.

     Tex had a song he had written for King Floyd in the late 60's called, "I Gotcha", but Floyd never recorded it. Instead, Joe recorded it himself, but shelved it for a couple of years. Finally it was put as the "B" side of "A Mother's Prayer". It didn't take long for DJ's to flip it over and it shot up to #2 on the top 100 and #1 on the R& B charts. It was not only his biggest hit in five years, it was his biggest hit ever.

     Tex had converted to Islam in the late 60's and after his success alternated between touring as a spiritual lecturer and recording, with another top 20 hit in 1975. He died in 1982 of a heart attack at the age of 49.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sunday Morning Vault: The Adant Garde--Naturally Stoned (1968)

     One of the things that I get a kick out of is to be able to introduce you to music that was done by people you know from other areas of pop culture. 

     Chuck Woolery is a long time game show host who’s career has now spanned a couple of generations. He was the original host of the Wheel of Fortune from 1975-81, the original Love Connection from 1983-94, Scrabble from 84-90, and for almost the last ten years hosted shows on the Game Show Network. What many don’t know is that he began his entertainment career as a singer from the late 60s to 1980 which overlapped his career as a game show host.

     The Avant Garde was a duo consisting of Woolery  and Elkin Fowler. They released a series of three single on Columbia records, which, “Naturally Stoned” in the summer of 1968 reached number 40 on the charts. The duo went their separate ways later in the year with Fowler playing folk music and Woolery making country music. He had a couple of songs scrape the bottom of the country charts in the late 70’s but never released another album. This song sounds to me like they were patterning themselves after The Association, without the material. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chubby Checker--The Twist (1960)

    Ernest Evans has lamented that his career has been focused on just one song, but probably no one artist in the rock and roll era has been linked to a song like he has...

     As a teenager, The Twist was the only song that I associated with Chubby Checker. In fact, it's the only song linked to him in 2010. There have been times that he has complained about that, which is a valued argument. From 1960 to 1965 Checker had 21 hits on the top 40 (if you count The Twist's second #1 showing in January 1962). So why isn't he known for more than just this one song.

     Well, first of all, it's a great song. It was originally recorded by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters in 1959 as a B-side to "Teardrops on your Letter". In 1960, Dick Clark attempted to get Ballard on American Bandstand to perform the song, but was unavailable. With that Clark decided to look for a local kid to do the song. He found Checker who's vocal style is similar to Ballard's. The song went to #1 and began a string of hits that linked itself to dance (including 5 about the Twist).

      The Twist was also on the cusp of a couple of cultural changes that are still with us today. The first was the style of music. People had been dancing for centuries, but the Twist was the first major hit in the rock era where couples didn't have to touch to dance. I'm not sure why, but it sparked a revolution in dance where the participants wouldn't be touching. Another huge change (and a reason why it went #1 for a second time) was that adults began dancing the Twist. Before this song, rock and roll songs were danced by teenagers and the parents stayed away. However, the upper and middle class adults began to take the dance moves to the floor, and this spurred on an entirely new audience for the song.

      Another factor why this was important in the career of Checker was that of all of those dance crazes, the Twist is one of the few that has survived the hype. The Pony, The Limbo and others have pretty much gone away except for those who were actually dancing in that era. For whatever reason, the dance and therefore the song stayed in the public eye for years. Then in 1988, he re-recorded the song with The Fat Boys, in a totally different style and reached the top 20 again and made the song hip again for a new generation.

       Checker hit the oldies circuit since the 70's, and is still touring today. And on dance floors all over the world, there will still be couples dancing the twist.....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Songs of Jimmy Webb...

     The late 60's belonged to Jimmy Webb. 

      His first big break was when Johnny Rivers signed him to a publishing deal and recorded his song, "By the time I get to Phoenix" in 1966. The next year Rivers was producing an album for a new group called The Fifth Dimension and turned to Webb for some songs. One of them became a breakthrough hit for the group and was the first real success for Jimmy. Later that year, Glen Campbell covered "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and was a hit for Campbell and has become a musical standard and began a long and fruitful musical relationship between the two.

     1968 was the year that propelled Webb into the rare status of a songwriting superstar. MacArthur Park and Wichita Lineman were great songs which earned him Grammy awards to add to the 8 that he won the year before. Lineman especially is an amazing piece of work with one of my favorite lines in a song ("I need you more than want you/and I want you for all time..."). It also established Glen Campbell as the best interpreter of his music. The hit Galveston in 1969 solidified that position.

     The following years never reached those dizzying heights although Webb has continued to win awards, write songs, and had also recorded a group of albums that have had great critical (if not chart) success over the last 45 years. Almost all songwriters in the rock era have reached star status for the interpretation of their own music. Webb has achieved superstar status solely on his writing ability....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Maureen McGovern--The Morning After (1973)

      In the late 60's/early 70's, Maureen McGovern was working as a secretary and performing in a folk band called, "Sweet Rain". She had always wanted to be a singer, but up to that point had gone nowhere fast. In 1972 a demo she had recorded ended up catching the ear of Russ Regan who at that time was the head of 20th Century records. Having never actually met her at that time, he called and asked if she would be interested in recording a song from a film that was to be released in December of that year called, "The Poseidon Adventure"....

     The song, "The Morning After" had been written for the movie in March of 1972 by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. The original title of the song was, "Why Must Their Be A Morning After", however the lyrics were changed to reflect...shall we say a more positive tone. (The movie was about a sinking ship after all...) The song was sung in the movie by Carol Lynley (actually by voice double Renee Armand). 

      McGovern's version of the song was released in May of 1973 and went to #1. This opened up an opportunity to sing on several movie soundtracks through the 70's. She never had another song reach the top ten, although the song, "Different Worlds" (which was the theme to a TV sitcom, "Angie") reached #18 in 1979. "Morning After" won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1981.

     She left recording music for the stage in the early 80's and has alternated her career between acting and recording since then. On the movie screen you might have remembered her from the singing nun character in the movie "Airplane!". If you haven't it is one of the many scene stealers of the movie....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tony Bennett--I Left My Heart In San Fransicso (1962)

     In every area of life there are those who defy the odds that other succumb to. Tony Bennett turns 85 today and shows no signs of slowing down. I don't think it would be overstating the fact that his career has been more successful the last 10 years than at any point in his life.

     He came up in the early 50's as a crooner who's success began to wane during the British Invasion. As opposed to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin however, his career trajectory took a quicker dive, and by the end of the 70's he found himself without a manager, no recording contracts, his second marriage was failing, was in trouble with the IRS,  and was not performing outside of Las Vegas. To add to this, he had developed a cocaine habit.

      Enter his son Danny....

       Danny Bennett at the time was with a struggling country-rock band, 'Quacky Duck and His Barnyard Friends" (you can look it up..). Late in 1979, his dad called and asked for help. The elder Bennett's life was a mess and was desperate to not only resurrect his career, but straighten his life out. Danny was taking stock of his life as well, and after a promising start in 1974, his musical career was on a downhill slide as well. He came to realize during this time that the business side of music was something that was of interest to him. So Danny agreed to become his dad's manager.

     Over the next six years, Tony moved back to New York while Danny worked on getting his dad's finances straight with the IRS and began to put a plan in place to get him back in the spotlight. It was Danny's belief that an audience of younger fans were out there. No one of the "MTV" generation had heard the style of music that his dad was singing, and believed it would be well received. The plan was not to change a thing, for Tony to continue to wear his tuxedos, to continue to sing from The Great American Songbook, and just be himself.

     To make this plan happen, he reunited Bennett with his old pianist and musical director, Ralph Sharon. The move to New York was to detach from the "Vegas" image.  By 1986 he was signed to a new contract with Columbia. Then a re-introduction to television via David Letterman, Conan O'Brian, various non musical shows (like The Simpsons), and most notability MTV. The response was nothing short of amazing as a generation of teenagers who were for the most part at least two generations separated from the style of music that was popular during Bennett's early years. The masterful work by Danny, and the tireless work on the road that Tony has put in not only revived his career, but has made him a wealthy man. Happy Birthday to an American musical icon..... 

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Grateful Dead--Truckin (1971)

     The legend of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead has grown to the point where it almost overshadows their musicianship. All we hear about anymore are the endless tours, the drug abuse, and the deadheads. Unfortunately, this media whitewashing has obscured a dammed good band. Interestingly, they weren't really rock and roll, (at least not on vinyl), nor were they country, but there were elements of rock, country, folk, bluegrass, and reggae in a mix that was truly their own. As good as their musical output was however, it truly was the live show that became the stuff of lore There was an ebb and flow from one song to the next...from one concert to the next. Obviously, some of this was drug induced, however this overlooks the fact that the band had strong improvisational skills.    

      Today would have been Garcia's 69th birthday and one has to wonder what would have happened had he not be affected by drug addiction from the late 70's until his death in 1995. Not only beyond his work with the Dead, he was in numerous side bands, and worked on countless albums for other. This along side the constant touring.   As it was, he was one of the most influential artists of the rock era, as a singer, guitar player, and personality.

      "Truckin" is no doubt the song that defines their group philosophy and although it was only in 1971, the line, "what a long strange trip it's been" not only summed up their career up to the moment, but defined their future as well. It was their highest charting single, other then the one shot 80's single, "Touch of Grey". The music clip here was from a 1972 concert (we show it any other way) in Denmark.