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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mel Carter--Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (1965)

     This song was written in 1952, and was a number 5 hit for Karen Chandler in 1952. It was covered by Mel Carter in 1965. Carter who had garnered the attention of a young Quincy Jones, and then Sam Cooke, who co-wrote his first hit, "When A Boy Falls In Love" which just missed the top 40 in the fall of 1963. Carter moved to Imperial Records, and his first hit out of the box was "Hold Me.." which was his only top 10 hit. He continued to see chart action throughout 1965/66 with his last chart action being late that latter year. Carter has had some success in later years musically as he co-produced his Gospel album, "Willing" which was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Male Gospel Performance".

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where you can hear "The Rock and Roll Omnibus"

Hi everybody.....

It's been a busy morning around the homestead and am not posting a normal music post. However, it has been brought to my attention that many of you might not know about our weekly radio show. "The Rock and Roll Omnibus is heard in six markets now and is continuing to grow. Here is a listing of where you can hear us....all times are US CENTRAL:

WRFN--LP  107.1 Pasquo TN: Monday evenings 9p-11p:
WERU 89.9 Blue Hill ME and 99.9 Bangor ME: Friday mornings midnight-2am:
KYGT 102.7  Idaho Springs CO: Friday mornings, midnight-2am:
KPVL  89.1 Postville, IA: Tuesday evenings  10p-midnight:
WYAP  101.7  Clay, WV: Saturday afternoons:

Hope you can find a time to check us out. If you have any questions, please send them to me at Peace.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Clarence Carter--Patches (1970)

     Clarence Carter has been recording and touring since the mid-60's, but his most notable successes were from between 1967 and 1973.
      He was born in Montgomery Alabama, and went to the Alabama School for the Blind, then later Alabama State College where he received a degree in music in 1960. He began his career as a singer in 1962, and first achieved chart success in 1967, but his first hit was a year later, with "Slip Away", which began a string of hits.
      The song, "Patches" had already been recorded by "Chairman of the Board", but Carter's version reached #4 on the pop charts and won a Grammy for Best R&B song in 1971. He still continues to record and tour. You can find a lot more about him at:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: Vicki Carr--It Must Be Him (1967)

     Vicki Carr has been a star in the Latin music world now for over 25 years. He has been nominated for five Grammys since 1986, winning five of them. She has done a wealth of humanitarian work especially in  behalf of Hispanic students, where her Vicki Carr Scholarship Foundation has awarded more than 280 scholarships totaling over a quarter of a million dollars. What many have forgotten was her start as a easy listening pop star.
     Carr was born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona in El Paso TX in 1941. Her first recording success was in 1962 as she recorded the song, "She's A Rebel", which went top 5 in Australia. She gained more exposure from being a regular on TV's Ray Anthony Show. The singles for the next few years all flopped, and the several albums had spotty success. However the 1966 album, "It Must Be Him" was nominated for 3 Grammy's on the strength of the title track which reached #3 on the charts.
     She had moderate success on the pop charts over the next several years, although doing well in the Adult Contemporary field scoring 7 top twenty songs through 1972. In 1980, she began a series of  Latin albums sung entirely in Spanish (she had recorded many of her hits in Spanish much earlier). She broke through in to that market several years later, and continues to tour and record to this day.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Cars--Just What I Needed (1978)

     There are many who consider The Cars early new wave. I've always resisted that label because they were always too rock and roll. The trio of "Just What I Needed", "My Best Friend's Girl", and "Good Times Roll" on their first album was as good as rock got in the late 70's. The sound just leaped out of the speakers, and almost 35 years ago, that blend of straight rock with the use of the keys and synths still sticks in the ear.
     The group had their beginnings in Columbus, Ohio, where Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr began playing as a duo. The pair thought Boston would be a better place to be discovered and relocated there in 1973. They hooked up with Greg Hawkes who along with guitarist Jas Goodkind founded the group, Milkwood who released an album, "Paramount", which went nowhere.
     After floating around with several other bands, Ocasek and Orr hooked up with Ellot Easton and with Hawkes and David Robinson form The Cars in 1976. They recorded a demo of this song and started floating around the radio stations in Boston, and one of them, on station WBCN, began playing it regularty. By virtue of this, Elektra Records signed them to a contract.
      The debut album, simply named, "The Cars" was released in 1978 and has to be considered one of the best albums of the 70's. Hawkes synth lines danced over and punctuated the straight up rock, which was catchy and fresh. None of the single all of the album reached the top 20, although the album did reach #18. "Just What I Needed" rose to #27 in the summer of 1978, but it set the pattern for the group, and they would breakthrough in a massive way during the early 80's. For my money however, the album was the best made by the group, and became one of the most enduring and fresh sounds of the late 70's.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Keith Carradine--I'm Easy (1976)

     The Carradine family to me is like the Baldwin's of today...there are so many of them, and all of them are actors, I can hardly keep them all straight. So...which one of them played in the TV show Kung Fu (That would be David). Isn't he the same one that sung that song, "I'm Easy" in 1976 (uh no....that would be Keith).
     Actually David would play a role in the life of his step-brother Keith. After a semester studying drama at Colorado, Keith quit and moved in with David who encouraged (and paid) for him to study drama and music. His first big break was being cast in the original Broadway version of "Hair". His first major role in a film was a Roger Altman film, "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" in 1971. This would being a fruitful relationship with Altman as he also was in, "Thieves Like Us" in 74, and his defining role of Tom Frank in the 1975 movie, "Nashville".
     Several of the stars in the movie wrote and performed their own songs, and Carradine did as well. "I'm Easy" ended up winning a Golden Globe and a Oscar for Best Original Song. This lead to a recording contract, which produced two albums, but this song was the only one that produced chart action (reaching #17 in the summer of 1976)
     In the years since, Keith has performed on stage some, but his main focus in the last 30 years have been movies and television.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kim Carnes--Bette Davis Eyes (1981)

     Kim Carnes has been working as a singer/songwriter since 1969, with her first album, "Rest on Me" coming out in 1972. She spent much of the decade recording and writing, having several songs recorded by Barbara Streisand in the late 70's. Carnes also had some chart success, first in 1978 with "You're A Part of Me", a duet with Gene Cotton, and then a top 5 breakthrough with Kenny Rogers on "Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer" in early 1980.
     "Bette Davis Eyes" was written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon in 1974. DeShannon had success as a vocalist with self-penned , "Put a Little Love In Your Heart", and "What the World Needs Now" (written by Bacharach/David). The song as written bears no resemblance to Carnes version (in fact...we have included her version here as well), as keyboard player Bill Cuomo added those hypnotic synth runs and producer Val Garay totally reworked the song.
      The song went on to win two Grammy's (Record of the year, Song of the Year), and was the number one song on the Billboard charts for a total of 9 weeks. It is the second most popular song of the 80's in terms of sales. (First was Olivia Newton John's, "Physical) and also garnered the appreciation of it's namesake, Bette Davis herself. Carnes developed a friendship with the legendary actress up to Davis' death in 1989.
      Carnes finished the 1980's with a total of 9 top 40 hits through the 1980's. She lives in Nashville and continues to tour around the country. The first video is DeShannon's version...with Carnes below it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eric Carmen--All By Myself (1975)

     Eric Carmen was the lead singer of one of my favorite bands of all times. The Raspberries who became one of the groundbreaking bands of what is now known as power pop. They were also highly misunderstood by a press that couldn't pigeonhole them, and by a public who seemingly couldn't either. What they were however, was a band who could play straight-ahead rock and roll with a leaning towards The Who and, who just as easily could sound like a Beatles/Beach Boys hybrid with gorgeous harmonies and inventive melodies.
      The frustration with attempting to just be seen as a serious rock band finally led to the break-up of the group. Carmen went into a solo career and his first outing was based on the 2nd movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor (interestingly enough, his second hit was also based on a piece by the same composer). It reached #2 on the charts in early 1976 and was the first of eight top 40 hits. It has spawned several dozen covers and launched Carmen into a success that eluded him with his previous group. Over the last decade or so, he works on projects now and then, and reunited with his former group for a tour and a fantastic live CD.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Larry Carlton--Theme From Hill Street Blues (1981)

     I have to admit to never being much of a TV watcher, even as a kid. My first (and only) "appointment television" show was "Hill Street Blues". People who would see the show today wouldn't realize it's significance, but it's groundbreaking style of a never ending storyline from show to show has affected television dramas ever since. Just like many themes from iconic shows, the first few bars grab you and let you know immediately what was ahead.
     Mike Post wrote the theme from 'Hill Street Blues", but it was Larry Carlton's guitar work that propelled the song (and won him a of four in his career).  He had spent much of the 70's as a top notch studio musician working on literally thousands of projects. Among them was Michael Jackson's, "Off The Wall" album, and Steely Dan's, "The Royal Scam" (he has that scorching solo on 'Kid Charlemagne'.)
     He still keeps busy playing, writing and producing. He also has a musical family as he is marred to Contemporary Christian Music singer, Michelle Pillar, and his niece is pop songstress Vanessa Carlton.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Carl Carlton--Everlasting Love (1974)

     Carl first recorded for Lando Records in 1964 under the monicker, "Little" Carl Carlton. Being only 12 at the time, his handlers were hoping to piggyback on the success of another "Little" artist, Stevie Wonder. Having had some local success, he was signed in 1968 to a local Houston TX label, Back Beat Records. He had a couple of minor hits in 1968, ("Competition Ain't Nothin'") and in 1970 (Drop By My Place).
     1974 brought Carlton's biggest hit, a cover version of Robert Knight's  "Everlasting Love". In 1972, owner Don D. Robey sold Back Beat at ABC Records which would eventually cause problems with Carlton as a dispute arose over back royalties that had not been paid. Except for a very minor blip on the charts in 1975, "Smokin' Room", he recorded very little, and was not heard on the charts again except for 1981's, "She's A Bad Mama Jama (She's Built, She's Stacked", which reached #22 in 1981.
     Since then, he had some minor hits on the R&B charts, in just recently released his first gospel single called, "God is Good" and is now working on an album.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: The Caravelles--You Don't Have to be A Baby to Cry (1963)

     "You Don't Have to be A Baby to Cry" was written by Bob Merrill and Terry Shand. It was recorded twice for the US Country market, once by Earnest Tubb and the other by Tennessee Ernie Ford (it was the B-side of "Sixteen Tons").
     The Caravelles, a duo made up of Lois Wilkinson and Andera Simpson recorded the song in 1963 and not only reached the UK charts, but soared to #3 on the US pop charts as well. The girls never had another hit on either side of the ocean, but even after Wilkinson left, Simpson kept the name, and The Caravelles toured well into the 1980's.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Belinda Carlisle--Heaven Is A Place On Earth (1987)

    In the 80's world of pop music, I was always more of a Bangles kind of guy rather than a Go-Go's guy. This doesn't mean they didn't have their charms. I thought Jane Wiedin was all kinds of hot (still do), and they had some entertaining music, especially early on. It was not surprising though that lead singer Belinda Carlisle would go out on her own when the group broke up in 1985.
      In fact, Carlisle was a pretty hot commodity during the mid-80's. In 1986, her first single, "Mad About You" reached #3 on the charts. From 1986 through 1987 her songs ended up on three movie soundtracks, "Mannequin", "Out of Bounds", and "Burglar" She released her biggest song in mid-fall of 1987, "Heaven Is A Place On Earth".
      The song was based musically on an aria from J.S. Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" and written by a couple of new songwriters, Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley. The song reached number 1 and gave all three a Grammy nomination for best pop female vocal. Remember the video (look down)...anyone who went to Six Flags very much during the 70's and 80's would be humored to know that part of the shots were done inside the Spin Out ride.....

Irene Cara--Flashdance...What a Feeling (1983)

     By the early 80's, Irene Cara was flying high. even before getting out of her teenaged years.  (she was born in 1959) She had been on Spanish and English television as a child, had a regular role on the soap opera, "Love of Life", had a major dramatic roll in the TV mini-series, "Roots". By 1980, she had one of the co-staring roles in the movie, "Fame", along with singing the title song and hitting #4 on the charts.
     Paramount Pictures was working on a movie called, "Flashdance" and had asked Giorgio Moroder to write music for it. Irene and Keith Forsey wrote the words to the title track, "Flashdance...What a Feeling", and Moroder first recorded it with Joe Esposio.  However, since the star of the movie was female, Paramount asked him to re-record the song with a female singer and Cara did the version that would be soon known world-wide.
    The song reached #1 in the spring of 1983 and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and a Golden Globe in 1984. Although Cara never reached those heights again, she has remained busy as an actress and singer most recently with her group Hot Carmel.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Capitols--Cool Jerk (1966)

     As with all popular music for centuries, dancing to music seems to be a natural thing to do. By the early 1900's, there always seemed to be a dance for musicians to capitalize on and make popular. The decade of the 60's however was about the last decade that artists wrote for particular dances. One of them was performed by a group out of Detroit.
     The Capitols had their beginnings as "The Caps" in 1962. They were signed to a local label and released an album and single, which although showing musical promise, never caught on and after several years disbanded. Two of it's members, Ralph Julies Jones, and Don Storball was seeking to capitalize on a new dance in the clubs of Detroit. It was a version of "the jerk", but a bit more sexual in nature. It was called, "the pimp jerk", but given the potential problems with the name, changed it to the "cool jerk". Jones and Storball wrote the song and hastily reformed The Caps and renamed them.
     "Cool Jerk" was released in the spring of 1966 and shot up to #7 on the charts. The group released eight more singles, which two of them reached the lower rungs of the top 100. They disbanded in late 1969....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Canned Heat--Going Up The Country (1968)

     Canned Heat was a blues/boogie band who's most famous years surrounded the late 60's/early 70's, but continue to tour today albeit having gone through many changes. The band formed in the 1965 around blues enthusiasts Al Hite, and Alan Wilson. Like many who saw great success in the late 60's, the group was helped tremendously by an appearance at Monterrey in 1967 where the group went into their "classic" period with Hite on vocals, Wilson on guitar, harmonica, and vocals, Henry Vestine: lead guitar, Larry Taylor: bass, and Adolfo de la Parra (is the only remaining member of this group playing today). 
     "Going up the Country" musically was based on Henry Thomas', "Bull Doze Blues' written and recorded in 1927. The lyrics provided by Wilson (who also sang lead), emphasized a environmental theme and hippie esthetic which fit in well with the times. As mentioned, the group was a hit at Monterrey, and also at Woodstock. The groups laid back take on the blues was well received at both festivals. Hite, Wilson, and Vestine have all passed, but the Heat continue to tour all over the world with Parra keeping things together.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cameo--Word Up (1986)

     Cameo started out in the mid-70's as a funk outfit that was crafted with the dance floor in mind. Originally a 13 piece band called The New York City Express, the name was changed to Cameo so as to not cause confusion with the band Ohio Players who were big at the time. The group's sound proved popular, and their debut album, "Cardiac Arrest" in 1977 reached the top 20 albums R & B charts. More albums came with success on the R&B and hot 100 albums chart, but it wasn't until 1984 that the single "She's Strange" hit the top 50 singles, and they began to reach a wider audience.
     Word Up" came out in the fall of 1986, and reached #6 and became their biggest hit. The released material pretty much dried up by the end of the decade, but many of the members have had successful careers in music and still will occasionally meet up to perform.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: Ed Byrnes & Connie Stevens--Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb) (1959)

     As most parents who have had children who have gone through adolescence and are in adulthood, we have already attempted to explain (at least once) about some pop culture event that occurred when we were children. In today's IMAX world, it's almost impossible to explain adequately the awe and wonder of the time we watched Neil Armstrong take that first step on to the lunar surface. So if that's difficult....try explaining why one would wear platform shoes and bell bottom jeans, or that gas in 1977 was less than 80 cents a gallon....or that we (at least in St. Louis) had 6 TV stations and that our remote control consisted of my Dad say, "Get up and the turn the channel to....".
     I guess I'm mentioning all of this to attempt to explain this song. Ed Byrnes was an actor who played in the ABC series, "77 Sunset Strip". On the pilot episode he played a continual hair combing serial killer. The end of the show has him being arrested and sent off to prison to be executed. However, there was huge feedback about the character and, sensing how popular he was, ABC brought him back the next episode. "Kookie" was a character that many could identify with: windbreaker jacket, hair greased up and piled high on his head, and a language that was a cross between Jack Kerouac and James Dean (...think Fonzie from "Happy Days"). He became one of the first TV teen idols.
     The show ran from 1958-1964, and this duet with Connie Stevens was recorded early-on in the "Kookie" phenomenon. It reached #4 on the Billboard singles chart in late spring of 1959...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney Houston (1963--2012)

     Am writing after just hearing about the death of Whitney Houston, and at this time (8:00 pm Central US) it is has not been released where she was or how she died. Which is why I want to write now rather than to have anything color my initial writing.
     During a 15 year period she could do no wrong professionally. Eight to 10 albums, twenty-two top 10 hits with eleven of them reaching number one. A starring role in three major hit movies during the 90's, "The Bodyguard", Waiting to Exhale", and The Preacher's Wife. And who could forget her rendition of the National Anthem during Super Bowl XXV in 1991?
     I always appreciated her talent, although couldn't necessarily call myself a fan, but watch warily as she entered into a romance then marriage with Bobby Brown... watched her slow decent and pulled for her as she attempted to pull out of her drug induced haze. Was always hoping that she could make a career comeback, but was more hoping that she would make a life comeback. As news will eventually leak out about her death....we will know more about how successful she was at that. No matter what the cause however, we will be left with many good memories, but somewhat haunted about the potential of a star gone way too soon.

JJ Cale--Crazy Mama (1972)

     John Weldon Cale was born in Oklahoma City and has had a long and successful as an singer and songwriter who's laid back style has incorporated country, jazz, and the blues. He adopted the monicker JJ as a way to distinguish himself from another John Cale who was with the Velvet Underground. Cale's is probably best known for a pair of songs covered by Eric Clapton, "After Midnight", and "Cocaine", but had this tasty slice of blues back in 1972. A story has been told that he was invited to do American Bandstand to promote the song, but refused when told that he could not bring his band, and that he would have to lip sync. He was just nominated for induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame....

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bobby Caldwell--What You Won't Do For Love (1978)

     Bobby Caldwell would be known as a journeyman songwriter. He has recorded and toured for himself  to success around the world, especially in Japan. Written many a songs over the years, for himself and for others, but the only other "hit" other than this song, was "Next Time I Fall" for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera. He has written for several movies we well.
      Here in the states, he is known mostly for this song, released in late 1978 and reached #9 on the charts. The album and the single was marketed with just his silhouette, since the aim was to R&B stations, and the company didn't want them to know that he was white. It didn't make any difference as the single took off on R&B and pop stations. It did surprise many a person seeing him in concert for the first time however....

Thursday, February 9, 2012

John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band--On The Dark Side (1984)

     From the early days of it's conception, Rock and Roll gestated and blossomed through the clubs. "Can you Dance to it?" was an early question when it came to the success of a band and it's music. In the over 50 years since the birth of Rock, and for much longer in the clubs, speakeasies, and dance halls of an earlier generation, America bands and singers have honed their craft. For every song you hear on the radio, there are hundreds who literally toil locally with the hope of "making it", but really have made it in the eyes of those who are looking for a place to dance, hook up, or just kick back on a Friday or Saturday night.
     For some reason, a number of these, "bar bands" made it to the charts in the 80's. Every era in music history has had those who stood out among the others, even if for just a song or two. However, (and I may be wrong about this), the decade of the 80's seemed to have brought more of them to the charts. From the 70's, a group called Brown Beaver toiled away in the bars and clubs of the their home state of Rhode Island, then throughout the northeast. Lead by singer John Cafferty, they had worked hard to gain a reputation of one of the best bar bands in that area of the country.
     Movie director Martin Davidson had put a lot of his own money into a project based on a novel by P.F. Kluge called, "Eddie and the Cruisers". To help him get a credible look and feel to the Rock movie, he hired Kenny Vance, who was one of the original members of Jay and the Americans to help. It was Vance who discovered Beaver Brown and upon meeting the band, Davidson agreed. In fact, the sax player in the band, Michael Antunes, was cast in the movie as a member of Eddie's band. Cafferty was initially asked to write a couple of songs, but did such a good job of capturing Davidson's vision, that he ended up writing the soundtrack for the entire film.
     As it turned out, the title song, "On the Dark Side" did much better than the movie itself, which has garnered a bit of a cult following but never did hit big. "Dark Side" reached #7, and put what was now, "John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band" on the map. Contrary to what many think, this was not a one hit wonder. In fact the next three songs reached the top 40, ("Tender Years" in 84', "Tough All Over" in 85', and "C-I-T-Y" also in 85. They also were tapped to write songs for other movies, "Rocky IV", "Cobra", and "Eddie and the Cruisers II"


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Byrds--Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965)

     By late 1965, The Byrds had two hits, one of them going to #1, and were looking for a song to release as their 3rd single. The group named, "The Jet Set" just a year before had crafted their electric mix of Beatles pop and Dylan folk into their own sound. Mixing in with this the beautiful harmonies of Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman and it looked like, at the time, a group that had staying power.
     They turned to a song that had been adapted by folk singer, Pete Seeger in 1959. "Turn, Turn, Turn" was taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible. Chapter 3, vereses 1--8 read like this:

1. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
3. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. 
5. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time
    to refrain from embracing.
6. A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

     Seeger wrote the song in 59, but didn't record it himself until 1962, but his own recording was preceded a few months by a group called, "The Limelighters" who released their own version. A member of that group was one Jim McGuinn, who later changed his name to Roger. and brought the beauty of the song with him to The Byrds. Judy Collins would also have her own cover of the song for her third album in 1963.   
     It became the second number 1 of the year for The Byrds. They never reached the top 10 with a song again, and the members of the band shuffled constantly (except for McGuinn), but as opposed to hurting the group, it's focus would shift in another direction without a major loss in quality. This is why, looking over 40 years back, one could claim that The Byrds were one of a handful of 60's bands, who's influence can still be heard today not only in rock, but in folk, and country music. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jerry Butler--Only the Strong Survive (1969)

     From his first hit with The Impressions in 1958 to his last charting song in 1972, Jerry Butler has had a career that never was in the spotlight for very long at a time, but was consistently a part of the 60's R&B scene. He co-wrote hits for Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield as well as recording 14 top 40 hits of his own. His best known song is probably, "He Will Break Your Heart" in 1960, which was covered by Tony Orlando and Dawn in 1975 under the title, "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)", and for a bit of trivia, his version of "Moon River" in 1961 sold higher than the better known version by Andy Williams..     
     His album, "The Iceman Cometh" received three Grammy nominations in 1968, and garnered Butler his highest charting song, "Only the Strong Survive"reaching #4 in the spring of 1969. The song was covered by Elvis in 1969, and Billy Paul in 1977. In the mid-80's Butler, who was still touring, ran for the County Commissioner of Cook County Illinois and today still serves in that position while touring from time to time.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eric Burdon and War--Spill the Wine (1970)

     The band War had it's beginnings with Howard E. Scott and Harold Brown as The Creators in 1963. They added a few more musicians in the next couple of years and spent much of their time playing clubs and absorbing the diverse sounds of the L.A. ghetto. They cut a few singles in 67, then in 68 became the backing band for football player/singer Deacon Jones in 1968, when they also changed their name to Nightshift. 
     Record producer Jerry Goldstein heard the group while out one night, and was impressed by the sound of the group. He suggested the band to Eric Burdon, who's "New Animals" had been disbanded and was considering getting out of the music business entirely. Burdon warmed to the idea of going with a fresh sound and with another name change became Eric Burdon and War.
     They recorded two albums together, and "Spill the Wine" was their first and only top 10 single before Burdon left to follow his muse once again. The group stayed together and had great success throughout the early/middle 70's.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: The Buggles--Video Killed The Radio Star (1979)

     There are a lot of misconceptions about this song. As you can see from the title of the blog, it was released in 1979, although it really didn't enter the consciousness of the American public until the creation of MTV. It actually did very well on the charts around the world, hitting #1 in 16 different countries, including the UK. It barely scraped the top 40 here, but the "New Wave" as it was being called then had not fully taken hold yet in the states.
      It's biggest claim to fame was that it opened the launch of MTV on August 1, 1981. Just like other historical events, many have claimed to have seen it (and thanks to You actually CAN see the first hour of it's broadcast). However, at the time, very few were able to watch it because so few had cable, and even fewer had MTV as a part of their package. The night of it's premiere, the VJ's and executives had to have a party over in New Jersey, because no cable company in New York City actually carried the network.
      The ironic thing is that for all of the trivia, it's a brilliant song, as is the album that accompanied it, "The Age of Plastic". The concept album was based on a couple of books and a silent film (1925's, "The Plastic Age"), and delved into nostalgia and uneasiness about technology and our future in it. "Video Killed The Radio Star" had to do with radio stars of the 40's being supplanted by television, however, given the nature of the rest of the album, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downs had to also be looking into the future as well.
     Horn and Downs went on to stellar careers. Trevor recorded as an artist with Yes, and The Art of Noise. He received a Grammy for producing the single, "Kiss From A Rose" by Seal, and has a stake in a record and music publishing company. Downs was a member of Yes for a short time and Asia during their best years. He has continued to play keyboards for a number of groups over the years.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jimmy Buffett--Margaritaville (1977)

     Obsession about one's choice in music is a totally objective endeavor. I've never understood those who followed the Grateful Dead around, or Phish, or Jimmy Buffett. Although I suppose many would find my appreciation of power pop amusing as well. But one especially has to give Buffett credit. He started singing about a lifestyle, found millions of others who tap into that, and has made a very comfortable living doing so. He will have the occasional hit, but makes the bulk of his money on tour and working his other business ventures, such as the Margaritavile Cafe, and Cheeseburger in Paradise eatery. 
     At one time, back in the 70's he was a thoughtful and witty songwriter (he graduated with a degree in Journalism)  One of his songs ("Come Monday") is still one of my favorite songs of the decade. Then there is "Margaritaville". A song that embodies the "woe is me" esthetic of country with pop, clever wordplay and that feeling of the tropics that permeate enough that you can almost feel the sand between your toes. It reached #8 in the spring of 1977. He continued charting songs until 1981 and will still make the occasional chart appearance on the country charts. His has reached the top spot there with Alan Jackson in 2003 and just last year with the Zac Brown Band and "Knee Deep".

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Buffalo Springfield--For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound) (1967)

     It was a theme that would be echoed over the rest of the decade. Adults telling teens what to do, and feeling as if their rights were impinged upon. In this case, the residents and business owners on the Sunset Strip were becoming annoyed at the all night partying going on in their area. They encouraged the local government to incorporate a curfew.  (they thought 10pm was a nice time to shut all things down)
     Filers were distributed to all that a demonstration would be held on November 12, 1966. About a thousand showed up and more than a few (including a young Peter Fonda) were arrested. Three weeks later, Stephen Stills of The Buffalo Springfield (who had a gig at the Whisky a Go Go, a Sunset Strip club at the time) wrote a song that he presented to Atlantic records, "for what it's worth". That became the songs name, and not only documented a specific event, but became a musical touchstone for the many demonstrations that were to take place over the next five years.
     The Springfield recorded three albums, but personality conflicts and drugs caused divisions that would prove fatal to the group. The disc, "Buffalo Springfield Again" is now considered a classic, but except for this single, they just had moderate success on the chart.  The profile of the group has grown over the years because of the output of it's members after the breakup
     Stephen Stills and later Neil Young would join Graham Nash and David Crosby to form CSNY. Richie Furay formed Poco with Jim Messina, who left after 3 albums to form a duo with Kenny Loggins.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Buckner & Garcia: Pac--Man Fever (1982)

     Novelty songs have been a part of recorded music for almost as long as it has existed. It has taken on various forms over the years, but being topical has been one of the constants. This also means that the song has a short shelf life, and are quickly forgotten after it's time on the charts.
     Pac-Man was one of the first arcade games of it's time. Asteroids and Space Invaders were there before, but Pac-Man, released in 1980, not only became the most popular game in it's era, but one of the most popular of all time. Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, from Akron, Ohio had some minor success before this, but "the Fever" eclipsed anything done before or after. It reached #9 in the winter of 1982.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

R.I.P. ---Don Cornelius (1936-2012)

     My experience growing up with any minority groups were few. I lived in an area south of St. Louis Co., that was a lily white as any place could be. My high school had over 2,000 students and it was not until my last two years (1977/78) that other black (or any other hue) students could be found. My first real introduction to "the black experience" was found on late Saturday mornings on Channel 11, when I discovered, "Soul Train".
     It would be easy to attempt to compare "American Bandstand" to "Soul Train", and to a certain extent you would be correct. Chicago born Cornelius had been inspired to put together a show like 'AB", but with soul music instead. They also had the same effect on teens, but in different eras. Bandstand was most influential during the 50's and early 60's, when teenagers were just getting into  rock and roll, and found themselves influenced by styles that they saw dancers and singers wearing. TV (and especially their advertisers)  was also just learning about the power the medium had over teens as well. The influence was as much cultural as musical.
      By the time, "Soul Train" was first aired on August 17, 1970, times had changed. Don Cornelius saw black music going in a direction that was influenced much more by Memphis and later Philadelphia than the R&B influenced pop churned out by Motown. He also felt (correctly as it turned out), that black teens also needed to be influenced by their own sounds and styles. He was not only correct, but just like in the early 50's when white teens would get in their cars, out of earshot of their parents, and turn on the local R&B station, white kids from all over, would turn off AB and turn on Soul Train.
     I could never dance (still can't), but was wowed by the dances and the dancers on the Train. I learned about many artists that would have never been talked about in the halls of my school. It's also where my love for Philly Soul came to birth.....and where else would a white boy from the rural midwest learn about Afro-Sheen and Colt 45 Malt Liquor??
    The show itself went on without Cornelius from 1993-2006 as he was never much of a fan of hip hop or rap, and decided it was time to allow the show to led by a new generation. He passed away this morning of a self-inflicted gun shot wound in LA. There are not many in the media portion of popular music that earned the title of legend, but he has. Rest in Peace Brother Don...

The Buckinghams--Kind of a Drag (1966)

     The Buckinghams were a local group from Chicago who had a string of top 20 hits for a a year, from Dec. of 66 to Dec. of 67.
     They were first known as the Pulsations and were the house band on WGN-TV's, "All-Time Hits". It was during that year (1966) that the producer of the TV show suggested a name change that would reflect the British Invasion. They were a record deal late that year, and released, "Kind of a Drag" which reached #1 for a couple of weeks to start out the new year. Including that song, they reached the top 15 with four other songs in 1967, but didn't do much after that. The band dissolved in 1970, reformed in 1980, and have been recording and touring ever since.