Jane Lee Hooker not only have one of the coolest blues rock band names I can think of, but the four ladies and the gent from New York City also deliver the goods. A couple of weeks ago, they came out with their latest single White Gold, a neat acoustic blues tune from their 2022 studio album Rollin’, along with a fun video. The release comes ahead of a five-week European tour that kicks off one week from today.
Credited to all members of the group, White Gold is Jane Lee Hooker’s first acoustic blues. Traditionally, they have focused on electric blues rock, blended with rock & roll, R&B and on their latest album also some soul. “I always knew we had a song like this in us,” said Tina Gorin who played resonator guitar on the tune. “It doesn’t even feel like a departure for us to me. We always had roots in our music and this shows our purer side of that.”
White Gold is the fifth single and video off Rollin’, Jane Lee Hooker’s third studio album released in late April 2022. I reviewed it here at the time. “I can’t remember the name of the studio in Woodstock [Dreamland Recording Studios – CMM], but it was an old church,” recalled Tracy Hightop, the band’s second guitarist. Matt [producer Matt Chiaravalle – CMM] and Ron [drummer Ron Salvo – CMM] had already gone to sleep and Dana [lead vocalist Dana Athens – CMM], T-Bone [Gorin’s nickname – CMM] and I snuck back into the old dark church to practice the song. Just two guitars and Dana’s massive voice filling the church.”
If you dig live music and energetic blues rock and can get to any of the above cities in Belgium, Germany, Slovakia, France and Spain, I can highly recommend Jane Lee Hooker. I’ve seen them twice and they were killing it!
Last but not least, a shoutout to Gregg Bell of Wanted Management, who kindly gave me a heads-up on the above!
While I wasn’t exactly engaged in a bicycle race, this post was inspired by an activity I did yesterday. A few weeks ago, I finally brought my bike which had been languishing in my garage for several years and collecting dust, to a local store for a tune-up. Once I noticed the nearly 30-year-old bike almost felt like new, I decided to get a helmet in fashionable yellow. Yesterday, I took advantage of a picture-perfect sunny autumn day and finally did what legitimately could be called my first bike tour in a long time, riding about 10 miles in my area.
This brings me to Bicycle Race, a bit of an odd yet remarkable song by English rock band Queen. Written by Freddie Mercury, the tune was included on the group’s seventh studio album Jazz, which appeared in November 1978. Its complexity reminds me somewhat of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Bicycle Race was also released separately as the album’s lead single in October 1978, a double A-side, together with Fat Bottomed Girls. It climbed to no. 11 on the UK Official Singles Chart. Elsewhere in Europe, it reached no. 5 in The Netherlands, no. 10 in Ireland, no. 15 in Belgium, no. 21 in Austria and no. 27 in Germany. In the U.S., the tune peaked at no. 24, while in Canada and Australia it peaked at no. 17 and no. 25, respectively.
Following are some additional tidbits from Songfacts on Bicycle Race, which you didn’t know you always wanted to know:
Freddie Mercury wrote this in France after watching the Tour de France bicycle race ride by his hotel. The band were recording Jazz in the French countryside mainly as a tax break – Roger Taylor claimed in the Days of our Lives documentary that they were being taxed as much as 98% on royalties on previous albums, hence why they defected to France and later Montreux in Switzerland to record future albums.
This was released as a double A-side single with “Fat Bottomed Girls.” They ran back to back on the album, and many radio stations played them together. The “Fat Bottomed Girls” are mentioned in this song’s lyrics.
Wherever Queen played, bicycle shops sold out of bells bought by fans who brought them to the show to ring them during this song. [You can’t make this stuff up! CMM]
Queen staged a bicycle race around Wimbledon stadium in England to promote the single. Sixty-five professional models were hired to race nude, with special effects hiding the nudity in the original video; a photo from the race was used on the cover of the single and images from the race were used for the video.
Queen rented 65 bicycles for the race. In a possibly apocryphal but often-repeated story, when the rental company found out what they were used for, they refused to take the bikes back unless the band paid for new seats.
The album contained a poster of the women in the bicycle race. It was left out of some copies for stores that did not want to carry it, but fans could mail order the poster if they desired. A bikini bottom was added to cover the bum on the cover of the single, and on some US releases a bra was also added.
At a 1978 concert in Madison Square Garden, Queen re-created the video by having women with very little clothing ride bicycles around the stage.
Queen had a lot of success the year before with another double A-side, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions.”
Be Your Own Pet covered this for the 2005 Queen tribute album Killer Queen.
The song features surprisingly complex instrumentation, and the Jazz album as a whole perhaps represents the apex of Queen’s experimentation. It features an imaginative solo played exclusively on bicycle bells, unusual chord progressions, shifts in time signature (from 4/4 to 6/8) and a whole host of pop culture references in the lyrics, including mentions of religion, the Watergate scandal, drugs, Jaws, Star Wars and Frankenstein.
And you thought Bicycle Race simply was a song about bike racing!
Last but not least, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank fellow blogger Lisa from Tao Talk, who in addition to being a talented poet and writer is an avid biker and who has encouraged me to revive my bike and get going!
I’d like to interrupt the broadcast with some breaking news I just spotted on YouTube. Bruce Springsteen has released a new single from his upcoming studio covers album Only the Strong Survive. Scheduled for November 11, this marks Springsteen’s second covers release, following We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006).
Unlike the Seeger collection, which focused on folk and Americana, Only the Strong Survive celebrates R&B and soul songs from the catalogues of Motown, Gamble and Huff and Stax, among others. Here’s Nightshift, co-written by Walter Orange, lead singer of The Commodores, together with Dennis Lambert and Franne Golde. The tribute to soul/R&B singers Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye became the title track of The Commodores’ 11th studio album released in January 1985 and a major hit for the group.
Nightshift follows Do I Love (Indeed I Do), the first single off Only the Strong Survive, which premiered on September 29. Both renditions sound mighty cool to me!
“I wanted to make an album where I just sang,” Springsteen commented in a recent statement on his website. “And what better music to work with than the great American songbook of the Sixties and Seventies? I’ve taken my inspiration from Levi Stubbs, David Ruffin, Jimmy Ruffin, the Iceman Jerry Butler, Diana Ross, Dobie Gray, and Scott Walker, among many others. I’ve tried to do justice to them all—and to the fabulous writers of this glorious music. My goal is for the modern audience to experience its beauty and joy, just as I have since I first heard it. I hope you love listening to it as much as I loved making it.”
Here’s more from the above statement: This 21st studio album from Bruce Springsteen will also feature guest vocals by Sam Moore, as well as contributions from The E Street Horns, full string arrangements by Rob Mathes, and backing vocals by Soozie Tyrell, Lisa Lowell, Michelle Moore, Curtis King Jr., Dennis Collins and Fonzi Thornton...Only The Strong Survive was tracked at Thrill Hill Recording in New Jersey, produced by Ron Aniello, engineered by Rob Lebret and executive produced by Jon Landau.
I can see some ignorant cynics say the Boss is trying to make a quick buck here or running out of ideas or both. But if you’ve ever been to a Springsteen show, you know how much this man loves soul music. And has prominently featured it during his concerts for decades. In fact, during my first Springsteen concert in Germany in the second half of the ’80s, he delivered at least an hour’s worth of outstanding soul covers. Dare I say it, these renditions were at least as good as his originals. The E Street Band, which at the time still featured sax giant Clarence Clemons, was on fire!
So kudos to Bruce for celebrating some sweet soul music. Count me in among the folks who are looking forward to his new album. The cynics can go and take a hike!
While writing my post last month about Uriah Heep’s sophomore album Salisbury, I found myself thinking more than once how much better that record would have been, had its title track been replaced with the magnificent July Morning – sort of like adding Strawberry Fields Forever to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and taking out When I’m Sixty-Four and Lovely Rita. July Morning had been on my mind ever since.
The song, which I would consider to be among Heep’s top tunes, was written by keyboarder Ken Hensley and lead vocalist David Byron in July 1970. Notably, Manfred Mann had been brought in by the group’s manager Gerry Bron to play a Moog synthesizer. Supposedly, this was the first time Mann was recorded using what became a staple of ’70s progressive rock. That’s according to the liner notes of Look At Yourself, Heep’s third studio album from September 1971, on which July Morning first appeared.
There were also various singles of the song. The first was an edited shortened version, released in Japan in June 1972 and backed by Love Machine, another tune from Look At Yourself. A Venezuelan single split the full song between both sides. Finally, in May 1973, a live take from the Uriah Heep Live album appeared in the U.S. I’m not fooling around with this amazing tune, so here’s the full studio album version.
Following is some additional background from Songfacts: This 10-minute song was essentially put together from different ideas from Ken Hensley and David Byron. While recording Look at Yourself, the band noticed that they had three separate parts of compositions that were all in C minor, so they tried putting them together, thus those parts became the intro, verse and chorus buildup of “July Morning.”
In a Songfacts interview with Ken Hensley, he related the story about how he came to write the song. “Uriah Heep was on tour in the UK with an American band named Sha Na Na and we were sharing a bus, which meant we had to wait for them to finish before we could go home,” Hensley said. “This was boring!”
To entertain himself, Hensley started noodling around with his acoustic guitar. “It began with a true statement,” he said. “‘There I was, on a July morning,’ and then my imagination took over.” Hensley worked the song out over the next few days and played it for the rest of the band in their rehearsal room. “I played it to the band on my acoustic guitar and, by the end of the day, it had become the song that so many people grew to love,” Hensley said. “That was magic!”
Here’s a live version of July Morning by present-day Uriah Heep. According to the clip, this was literally just captured by an attendee of Heep’s concert at Eventim Apollo in London on January 29 – not bad. Guitarist Mick Box remains the only original member. Bernie Shaw who has been Heep’s vocalist since 1986 does a commendable job, though replacing David Byron is pretty much mission impossible. BTW, the group’s current keyboarder Phil Lanzon also joined in 1986.
Last but not least, July Morning inspired a tradition in Bulgaria in the 1980s, which continues to this day, where every June 30, people from all over the country come together on the coast of the Black Sea to watch the sunrise on July 1st. The origin was political.
Once again here’s more from Songfacts: “July Morning” inspired a Bulgarian show of resistance against a repressive Soviet Communist government and became an annual festival that has only grown more popular with each passing year.
The song…doesn’t have anything overtly political in the lyrics. It seems to be about a guy waking up on a July morning resolved to find his own road and an unnamed love. It’s natural to assume that the “love” is a romantic interest, but that’s not exactly how the song is formed. Things are kept ambiguous enough that the “love” can be something more like a grand purpose, a passion, or perhaps love of life itself.
The ambiguity may in part be why the song was able to resonate so much with Bulgarians in the 1980s. During that time, a Soviet-backed communist government held power over the people. Young Bulgarians started travelling to the coast of the Black Sea, camping out, making music, and just having fun into the early hours of July 1.
It was a sort of a soft, spiritual rebellion against the joyless Soviet state, as well as a great excuse to party. It’s been compared to the hippie festivals of the 1960s in the United States. Bulgaria broke out of Soviet rule [in 1989 – CMM], but the festival has continued ever since. In 2012 it had upwards of 12,000 attendees, and one-time Uriah Heep singer John Lawton performed “July Morning.”
One man come in the name of love/One man come and go/One man come here to justify/One man to overthrow…
As the U.S. observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, I decided to repost a piece I published on that occasion last year. It has been slightly edited. I also added a clip and some images.
Pride (In the Name of Love) may have been over-exposed. It’s certainly been criticized for its lyrics, as have U2 for their grandiose concerts. I can also see why Bono’s frequent political activism for hunger, the poor and other causes while becoming a very wealthy man in the course of it all can rub people the wrong way. Yet I’ve always loved this song. And, call me naive, I also feel that being a force for good while being rich don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Bono’s vocals are simply amazing, while The Edge provides a cool and unique guitar sound that’s truly signature. Meanwhile, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. keep the rhythm going. The lyrics may not teach a lot about Dr. King, but I still believe the words are powerful.
…In the name of love/One more in the name of love/In the name of love/ One more in the name of love…
Pride (In the Name of Love), composed by U2 with lyrics by Bono, is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. The lyrics were inspired by U2’s visit of the Chicago Peace Museum in 1983, which featured an exhibit dedicated to the civil rights leader. Initially, Bono had intended to write a song criticizing then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan for his pride in America’s military might.
…One man caught on a barbed wire fence/One man he resist/One man washed up on an empty beach/One man betrayed with a kiss…
But as Songfactsnotes, Bono came to the conclusion lyrics condemning Reagan weren’t working. “I remembered a wise old man who said to me, don’t try and fight darkness with light, just make the light shine brighter,” he told NME. “I was giving Reagan too much importance, then I thought Martin Luther King, there’s a man. We build the positive rather than fighting with the finger.”
…In the name of love/One more in the name of love/In the name of love/One more in the name of love…
The melody and chords to Pride were conceived during a soundcheck in November 1983 prior to a U2 show in Hawaii. It was a gig during the band’s supporting tour for their third studio album War that had been released in February of the same year. Like all U2 soundchecks, it was recorded. U2 continued work on the track after the tour and it was subsequently finished as part of the recording sessions for their next album The Unforgettable Fire.
…Early morning, April four/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride…
Pride erroneously suggests Dr. King was shot in the early morning of April 4, 1968. The murder actually occurred just after 6:00 pm local Memphis time – a surprising mistake for Bono who seems to be well-read. He later acknowledged his error and in concerts sometimes sings “early evening, April 4.” Why he simply didn’t make that a permanent adjustment beats me – rhythmically, I don’t see an issue.
…In the name of love/One more in the name of love/In the name of love/One more in the name of love…
Pride was first released in September 1984 as the lead single of The Unforgettable Fire, appearing one month ahead of the album. It was U2’s first major international hit, topping the charts in New Zealand; climbing to no. 2 and no. 3 in Ireland and the UK, respectively; and becoming the band’s first top 40 hit in the U.S.
…In the name of love/One more in the name of love/In the name of love/One more in the name of love.
Despite initially getting mixed reviews from music critics, Pride has since received many accolades. Haven’t we seen this movie many times before? The tune was ranked at no. 388 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in December 2003. Pride is also included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
When I love a song as much as I do Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks, I tend to be hyper-critical about covers from other music acts, especially when they make changes. In this case, not only did I not mind it, but I was truly blown away when I heard Peter Gabriel’s rendition the other day.
Waterloo Sunset, written by Ray Davies, first appeared in May 1967 as the lead single of Something Else by the Kinks, the group’s fifth UK studio album released in mid-September of the same year. Together with Death of a Clown, Waterloo Sunset became one of two hits the record generated, climbing to no. 2 in the UK on the singles chart. Elsewhere, it topped the charts in The Netherlands, climbed to no. 3 in Ireland, and reached no. 4 in Australia, among others.
The lyrics, which describe the narrator’s thoughts about a couple passing over a bridge, were rumored to have been inspired by the romance of British actors Terence Stamp and Julie Christie. But during a 2008 interview, Davies explained, “It was a fantasy about my sister going off with her boyfriend to a new world and they were going to emigrate and go to another country.”
Peter Gabriel’s transformation of Waterloo Sunset reminds me of the haunting Wallflower from his fourth eponymous studio album released in September 1982. I’d be curious to know whether it grabs you as much as it did me. Check it out!
This rendition of Waterloo Sunset appeared as a bonus track on Gabriel’s eighth studio album Scratch My Back from February 2010. The record consists of cover versions of tunes from a broad variety of other artists. Co-produced by Gabriel and Bob Ezrin, the recordings only use orchestra and voice and have a bare-bones vibe. Based on briefly listening into the remaining tracks, Gabriel’s other renditions don’t work as well for me as Waterloo Sunset.
Initially, Gabriel had planned to release Scratch My Back with a companion album of covers of Gabriel songs performed by the same artists whose tunes he had covered on Scratch My Back. But due to delays, And I’ll Scratch Yours only appeared in September 2013. David Bowie, Neil Young and Radiohead declined to cover Gabriel songs and were “replaced” by Brian Eno, Joseph Arthur and Feist.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band are one of my favorite “discoveries” this year. Seeing this country blues trio extraordinaire in action just makes me happy. If you like what’s in the clip below, I can highly recommend their latest album Dance Songs for Hard Times from April this year, which I reviewed here.
Run Rudolph Run, originally credited to Chuck BerryMusic and subsequently to Johnny Marks and Marvin Brodie, first appeared as a single by Berry in November 1958. The popular Christmas rocker has been covered by numerous other artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dave Edmunds,Sheryl Crow, Keith Richards, Foghat and Brian Setzer Orchestra. And now, of course, Rev. Peyton, a particularly charming rendition with great energy – also love their showmanship!
The trio has been around since 2003 and consists of Josh “The Reverend” Peyton (guitar, lead vocals), his wife “Washboard” Breezy Peyton (washboard) and Max Senteney (drums). Notably, they don’t have a bassist. Peyton, a great guitarist, compensates with skillful fingerstyle playing that includes the prominent use of his thumb to play bass lines.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Cheers and Merry Christmas!
An email I received from thebeatles.com on Wednesday brought to my attention a new video clip of George Harrison’sMy Sweet Lord. What I expected to see was the audio of the song with some video montage of footage showing George – well, not exactly!
It actually turned out it’s an X-Files type comedy mini-movie. Instead of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, it stars comedians and former Saturday Night Live cast members Fred Armisen and Vanessa Bayer as agents with a mission to discover “something out there.” It also features appearances by Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, Jeff Lynne and other personalities.
Here’s how thebeatles.com put it: An all-star cast from the worlds of music, TV, film and comedy have come together to honor George Harrison in the first-ever official music video for his iconic hit song, “My Sweet Lord.”
Directed by Lance Bangs, the video stars Fred Armisen and Vanessa Bayer as metaphysical special agents who are tasked by the head of a clandestine agency, played by Mark Hamill, to search for that which can’t be seen.
Also featuring Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, Jeff Lynne, Jon Hamm, Natasha Legerro, Darren Criss, Rosanna Arquette, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Patton Oswalt, Reggie Watts, Tim and Eric, Taiki Waititi, and many more, click below to watch the video now.
Of course, My Sweet Lord is from Harrison’s third solo album All Things Must Pass from November 1970, the first that appeared after the breakup of The Beatles. The tune, which also became the triple-LP’s lead single on November 23, 1970, four days prior to the album’s appearance, is best known because of the copyright infringement lawsuit it triggered.
Without going into the details, I think there is no doubt My Sweet Lord sounds very similar to He’s So Fine, a tune written by Ronnie Mack that became a hit in 1963 for The Chiffons. Harrison eventually was found to have “subconsciously plagiarized” the song.
On a more cheerful note, the recent 50th anniversary edition of All Things Must Pass received a nomination for a 2022 Grammy for Boxed or Special Limited-Edition Package. It’s just amazing to me how many different Grammy categories exist. That being said, I’m happy for Dhani Harrison, Olivia Harrison and art director Darren Evans, who were involved in the anniversary edition.
Neil Young has shared a video of Welcome Back, the third upfront track from his upcoming new album. Recorded with his longtime backing band Crazy Horse, Barn is scheduled for this Friday, December 10. The eight-and-a-half-minute track is a slow-burning, crunchy jam rocker. Its feel reminds me a bit of Cortez the Killer, the epic tune from Young’s 1975 Zuma album, which he also made with Crazy Horse. This sounds like classic Neil – check it out!
A note published on Young’s website NeilYoungArchives.com on December 3 reads as follows: Welcome Back! The Horse is in the Barn playing a song like only the Horse can. Enjoy! We had a great time making this record for you and of course for us!
Apart from Young (guitar, vocals), the clip features Crazy Horse members Nils Lofgren (guitar), Billy Talbot (bass) and Ralph Molina (drums). Like the previously released Heading West, Welcome Back was recorded on June 21 this year at Le Mobile Remote Recording Studio in the Rocky Mountains. According to Wikipedia, Barn is Young’s 41st studio album and his 14th with Crazy Horse.
In addition to the album, there will be a companion documentary titled BARN/A Band – A Brotherhood – A Barn, directed by Young’s wife Daryl Hannah. The film will be screened at select theaters for one night only. Current locations listed on NeilYoungArchives.com include venues in Chicago; Santa Monica, Calif.; New York City and Toronto. Here’s a trailer.
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The idea for this post came to me spontaneously earlier this morning when I cheerfully deleted the latest batch of unsolicited advertising emails about Black Friday. Above is a small sample. While I generally don’t mind sales and getting a good deal, I just find the frenzy around Black Friday completely insane. I’m sure if I would search the Internet long enough, I’d find local news reports about folks beating up each other in stores. I certainly recall reading about such incidents in years past.
This brings me to Messrs. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen and the opener of Steely Dan’s fourth studio album Katy Lied that appeared in March 1975. Black Friday was also released separately as the record’s lead single in April of the same year. The tune reached no. 57 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 mainstream chart, a modest showing, but I doubt Becker and Fagen lost much sleep over it!
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Here’s some background on the tune from Songfacts: Long before the term came to denote the shopping frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving, Steely Dan released this song about the original “Black Friday,” when on Friday, September 24, 1869 a failed ploy left many wealthy investors broke. The investors tried to corner the market on gold, buying as much of it as they could and driving up the price, but when the government found out, it released $4 million worth of gold into the market, driving down the price and clobbering the investors.
As for how it became a retail reference, sometime in the ’60s, the term was bandied about to indicate the key day in the holiday shopping season when the stores would be “in the black,” meaning making money (black ink indicates profit, red ink indicates loss).
…Steely Dan used various guitarists on the Katy Lied album, including Rick Derringer, Hugh McCracken and Larry Carlton. On this track, however, Walter Becker played the solo. He did it using the Fender Telecaster belonging to another guitarist who played on the album, Denny Dias. Becker used it because he liked how Dias had it set up. Once again goes to show what a kickass guitarist Becker was!
And then, there’re shocking news headlines like the following:
Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. Again, there’s nothing wrong per se to look for a good deal. But Black Friday just isn’t my thing and never has been – can you tell? If you’re out there hitting the stores, please be safe. Or shop over the Internet. Or even better, watch the Disney+Peter Jackson docuseries The Beatles: Get Back. You can get a 1-month trial to the Micky Mouse channel. It’s a great deal! 🙂