You Say It’s Your Birthday

Sir Paul turned 75 today and he is not slowing down

To those who read this blog or know me otherwise, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Paul McCartney is one of my all-time favorite music artists. Today, Sir Paul is celebrating his 75th birthday, and I sure hope he’s gonna have a good time.

James Paul McCartney was born in the middle of World War II on June 18, 1942 at Walton Hospital in Liverpool, England. His mother was Mary Patricia, who was a nurse at that hospital. And, by the way, that’s the mother Mary (not the Virgin Mary), who inspired the lyrics of one of McCartney’s most beautiful ballads:

“When I find myself in times of trouble/Mother Mary comes to me/Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” 

His father James “Jim” McCartney couldn’t witness his son’s birth, since he was working as a volunteer firefighter during the war. While I know that Penny Lane, one of my other favorite McCartney tunes, reflects childhood memories, I haven’t found any references that suggest the fireman referenced in the song was inspired by Sir Paul’s father.

Fast-forward to July 6, 1957. That was the day McCartney met John Lennon for the first time. It was at a performance of John’s high school band The Quarrymen. The encounter would start a working relationship between the two that would change music history forever.

I could continue to recount McCartney’s history, but it has been told many times and, it’s also safe assume, by people who know much more about it than I do. So instead of an additional attempt to create yet another write-up, I’d like to celebrate Sir Paul’s birthday with a selection of his music over the past 50-plus years. Let me repeat this: 50-plus years – wow!

All My Loving (1963)

Things I Said Today (1964)

Yesterday (1965)

Here, There And Everywhere (1966)

Back in the U.S.S.R. (1968)

Let It Be (1970)

Maybe I’m Amazed (1970)

Band On the Run (1973)

Silly Love Songs (1976)

Take It Away (1982)

My Brave Face (1989)

Hope of Deliverance (1993)

Run Devil Run (1999)

Fine Line (2005)

New (2013)

Birthday (1968)

While like many other Beatles songs Birthday was officially credited to Lennon-McCartney and, according to the Beatles Bible, there are different accounts whether McCartney wrote it or whether it was indeed a co-write with Lennon, it simply feels right to end the post with it.

I also decided to take a clip that was captured during McCartney’s ongoing One on One World Tour. Last July, I was fortunate enough to catch one of the tour’s shows. More on that amazing concert is here. Once again, happy birthday, Sir Paul, and rock on!

Sources: Wikipedia, The Beatles Bible, YouTube

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: June 3

1964: Ahead of their upcoming world tour, The Beatles met for a recording session at Abbey Road’s Studio Two, according to the Beatles Bible. The session, which lasted from 5:30 to 9:00 PM, started with George Harrison recording a demo of You Know What to Do, a tune that would remain unreleased until 1995’s Anthology 1. Moreover, The Beatles recorded a demo of John Lennon’s No Reply, which was included on Beatles For Sale, the band’s fourth studio album. The Fab Four also made the last recordings for A Hard Day’s Night, the film soundtrack and their third studio album, taping some overdubs for Lennon’s Any Time At All and Paul McCartney’s Things We Said Today.

1967: Aretha Franklin hit no. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with Respect, which would become one of her signature songs. The tune was written and originally released by Otis Redding in 1965. Franklin’s version became an anthem of the feminist movement and earned her two Grammy Awards in 1968 for “Best Rhythm & Blues Recording” and “Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female.” The track was also included in the soundtrack for Blues Brothers 2000, the sequel to the iconic 1980 motion picture featuring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues, respectively. That movie featured another great Aretha Franklin song, Think.

1970: Deep Purple released their fourth studio album, Deep Purple in Rock. It was the first record to feature the band’s classic Mark II line-up of Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (keyboards), Ian Paice (drums, percussion), Ian Gillan (lead vocals) and Roger Glover (bass). The album includes classics, such as Speed King and Child in Time. Black Night, another Deep Purple gem, was recorded at the same time but not included on the album. Instead, it was released separately as a single. While Deep Purple in Rock was the band’s breakthrough album in Europe, climbing to no. 1 on the German album chart and reaching no. 4 in the U.K., success in the U.S. was more moderate with a no. 143 placement on the Billboard 200.

1977: Bob Marley & Wailers released Exodus, their ninth studio album. In addition to the title song, the record includes some of Marley’s greatest reggae classics like Jamming and One Love/People Get Ready. Recorded in London after Marley’s departure from Jamaica in the wake of an assassination attempt, Exodus finally brought this exceptional artist the wide international recognition he so much deserved. The record peaked at no. 8 on the U.K. Albums Chart and at no. 20 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The album earned gold certifications in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

Sources: The Beatles Bible, This Day in Music.com, Wikipedia, YouTube

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: May 12

I suppose by now this recurring feature needs no further introduction. Let’s take a journey back to May 12 throughout rock history.

The Rolling Stones_Satisfaction Single

1965: The Rolling Stones recorded what would become one of the most epic anthems in rock, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, at RCA Studios in Hollywood, LA. Two days earlier, the Stones had recorded an earlier version, which featured Brian Jones on harmonica, at Chess Studios in Chicago. The iconic three-note guitar riff had come to Keith Richards during the band’s third U.S. tour in a dream in a motel room in Florida. He woke up and recorded it with a cassette machine. Released as a single in June and August  1965 in the U.S. and the U.K., respectively, Satisfaction became the Stones’ first no. 1 hit in America in July that year. In the U.K., the song initially received limited radio play, since its lyrics were considered too sexually suggestive, though eventually it reached the top of the charts there as well. Satisfaction was also included in the band’s fourth U.S. studio album Out of Our Heads, which appeared in Sep 1965. Rolling Stone ranked Satisfaction no. 2 in The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2011, behind Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and before John Lennon’s Imagine.

The Beatles_Yesterday and Today Collage

1966: Mixes of three Beatles songs from Revolver – Dr. Robert, I’m Only Sleeping and Your Bird Can Sing – were made for Yesterday…And Today. The 1966 U.S. compilation album became infamous for its initial cover, which showed the Beatles in white butcher jackets holding decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat. The negative reaction to the “butcher cover” was so strong that Capital Records recalled 750,000 copies from distributors to replace the cover. While initially it had not been intended as cover art, John Lennon reportedly defended the photograph, saying it “was as relevant as Vietnam,” while Paul McCartney felt the critics were “soft.” George Harrison disagreed, calling the whole idea “gross” and “stupid.” Remarkably, the album still reached no. 1 on the Billboard 200 by July 30, 1966 and remained there for five weeks.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience_Are Your Experienced

1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut studio album Are You Experienced in the U.K. Widely considered to be one of the greatest debuts in rock history, Jimi Hendrix’s innovative approach to songwriting and playing the electric guitar had a major influence on psychedelic and hard rock. The album’s U.S. version appeared in August that year and had a different song lineup. It included some of Hendrix’s best known songs, such as Purple Haze, Hey Joe and The Wind Cries Mary, which had all been successful singles in the U.K. The album climbed to no. 2 in the U.K. charts and reached no. 5 on the Billboard 200, staying in that chart for 106 weeks. Not surprisingly, Are You Experienced, is included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Records of All Time, ranked at no. 15.

Led Zeppelin_Houses of the Holy

1973: Houses of the Holy, the fifth studio album from Led Zeppelin, hit no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200, staying in the top spot for three weeks and remaining in the albums chart for 39 weeks. The record, which includes Zeppelin classics like The Song Remains the Same, Over the Hills and Far Away and D’yer Mak’er, is ranked no. 148 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Records of All Time. Initial reviews from music critics were less kind, however. For example, Rolling Stone’s Gordon Fletcher called it “one of the dullest and most confusing albums I’ve heard this year.”

Sources: This Day in Music.com, Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, The Beatles Bible

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: May 7

It’s time for another installment of this recurring feature.

As I’ve said on previous occasions, I always enjoy looking back at events that have happened in rock history over the decades. Let’s see what May 7th had in store:

Beatles at Star-Club

1962: The Beatles played their 24th of 48 nights at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany. It was part of the Fab Four’s first of three residencies at what was then the city’s newest rock & roll venue. The first residency included a whooping 172 hours over seven weeks and performances every night, except for Good Friday (April 20). The band’s performances (from their third residency) at the Star-Club were captured in the 1977 double album, Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962. While the sound quality is poor, the record is a great testament to the raw rock & roll music The Beatles played in those early pre-‘Beatle mania’ days. The intense performance schedule was the perfect preparation for the band to become one of the best live acts of the ’60s.

The Mamas and the Papas_Monday Monday Single 2

1966: The Mamas and the Papas hit the top of the U.S. charts with Monday, Monday, the band’s only no. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Released as a single from their debut album If You Can Believe Your Ears and Eyes, the song also proved to be popular in the UK where it climbed to no. 3. Reportedly, except for John Philipps (“Papa John”) who wrote the tune, the remaining members of the band hated it. During an interview in 1969 for the radio series Pop Chronicles, Philipps said he wrote the song in about 20 minutes. In March 1967, it won the band a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group or Group with Vocal. It never continues to amaze me what categories they come up with for the Grammys.

Eagles Hotel California Single

1977: The Eagles hit no. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with Hotel California, one of the defining ’70s classic rock songs, which had been released as a single in Feb that year. It was the band’s fourth no. 1 hit in the U.S., after Best of My Life (1974), One of These Nights (1975) and New Kid in Town (1976). The title track of The Eagles fifth studio album also became the band’s biggest hit in the UK, climbing to no. 8. Writing credits for the tune are shared by Don Felder, Don Henley and Glenn Frey. The song’s signature feature, the epic electric guitar solo at the end, is a fantastic interplay between Felder and Joe Walsh.  Rolling Stone ranked Hotel California no. 49 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Readers of Guitarist magazine also voted the solo as the best of all time in 1998. Here’s a great clip of an Eagles live performance of this gem.

Sources: The Beatles Bible, The Day in Music.com, Rolling Stone, Guitarist, Wikipedia

On This Day In Rock & Roll History: April 22

This time, I decided not to wait for weeks until posting another installment on this recurring feature.

I always have fun looking back at happenings in rock & roll history. One could argue that doing this based on a specific date is rather arbitrary. It certainly is, as is the following list:

The Rolling Stones_Off the Record

1964: Wallace Scowcroft, the president of the UK’s National Federation of Hairdressers, offered a free haircut to the next band to hit no. 1 on the pop charts. Reportedly, he said: “If pop groups had their hair well cut the teenagers would copy them – instead of just asking for a bit off the neck. The Rolling Stones are the worst. One of them looks as if he has got a feather duster on his head.”

The Beatles_Ticket to Ride

1965: The Beatles’ Ticket to Ride was on top of the U.K. singles chart, their seventh consecutive no. 1 hit there. Written by John Lennon and, as usually, credited to him and Paul McCartney, the song was also included on Help!, the Fab Four’s fifth studio album, which appeared in August that year. The Beatles recorded Ticket to Ride on Feb. 15, 1965 at Abbey Road Studios in London, using a new approach. Instead of taping live versions of songs, select the best take, and overdub harmonies or solos, The Beatles now usually recorded a rhythm track first and then built an arrangement around it step by step.

The Troggs_Wild Thing

1966: The Troggs released Wild Thing, a single from their debut album From Nowhere, which appeared in July that year. Written by American songwriter Chip Taylor, the song was originally recorded the prior year by The Wild Ones, an American rock band. But the Troggs’ cover became the most successful commercial version, hitting no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1966 and climbing to no. 2 in the U.K. singles chart. Undoubtedly, the wildest live performance of the tune was by Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Here’s a nice clip of the spectacle. Wild Thing has been called a major influence on garage rock and punk. As performed by The Troggs, it’s ranked at no. 261 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Deep Purple_Machine Head

1972: Deep Purple scored their second no. 1 album in the U.K. official charts with Machine Head after Fireball, which was released the previous year. The band’s seventh studio album includes gems like Highway Star and Smoke on the Water. It remains my favorite Deep Purple album to this day and is perhaps the best classic hard rock album. Surprisingly, the record is not in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, though it scored no. 4 on a reader’s poll about the 10 best metal/hard rock albums of the 1970s, which the magazine published in August 2013.

Sources: This Day in Music, Rolling Stones: Off the Record (book by Mark Paytress, 2003), Rolling Stone

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: April 16

After adding more categories to the blog and covering other topics, the time has come to do another post about rock history.

Following is a selection of happenings on April 16 in rock & roll history. As always, this list is not meant to be comprehensive and is fairly arbitrary.

Buddy Holly Love Me

1956: Buddy Holly released his first single, Love Me, on the Decca label, with Blue Days – Black Nights as the B-side. While the single was a commercial failure, it would mark the beginning of Holly’s prolific but short recording career, which would generate iconic tunes, such as That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue and Everyday. Holly tragically died in a plane crash on Feb 3, 1959 at the age of 22.

The Rolling Stones

1964: The first studio album of The Rolling Stones appeared in the U.K. Their eponymous debut only included one original tune written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Tell Me (You’re Coming Back). The remaining songs were covers of blues classics, such as Route 66 (Bobby Troup), Carol (Chuck Berry) and Walking the Dog (Rufus Thomas). While the Stones have always loved and played the blues, it would take them another 52 years before they would release an album that’s entirely made up of blues covers – last year’s excellent Blue and Lonesome, their best release in decades!

The Beatles Rain

1966: With last night’s excellent concert of Beatles tribute band RAIN very much on my mind, I couldn’t leave out this tidbit. It so happens that on Apr. 16, 1966, the Fab Four finished recording Rain, a song written by John Lennon and credited to him and Paul McCartney. The tune became the B-side to Paperback Writer. Both of these songs did not make it on any studio album released while The Beatles were active.

Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love

1970: Led Zeppelin’s gem Whole Lotta Love received Gold certification in the U.S. after sales exceeded more than one million copies. The opener of their second album Led Zeppelin II was also released as a single in the U.S., Japan and several European countries, though not in the U.K. Initially, Whole Lotta Love was credited to all four members of the band. In 1982, credits were expanded to American blues artist Willie Dixon. It was part of a settlement of a lawsuit that claimed parts of the song were adapted from Dixon’s tune You Need Love, which had been recorded by Muddy Waters in 1962. In 2004, Whole Lotta Love was ranked no. 75 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon Tour 72

1972: Pink Floyd performed at the Township Auditorium in Columbia, S.C. as part of their Dark Side of the Moon Tour. Remarkably, the tour, which included 93 shows, featured the entire album prior to its release in March 1973, though with significant variations in the music and the titles for most of the songs.

Sources: This Day in Music, The Beatles Bible, Rolling Stone, Wikipedia

On This Day in Rock History: February 20

It’s been a while since my last post in this category, so I thought this would be a good opportunity.

Let’s take a look at what happened on February 20 in rock history. As always, this list doesn’t claim to be complete or objective.

1959: Jimi Hendrix gave his first public performance in the basement of this famous Jewish synagogue in Seattle. He only made it half-way through his first set when he was asked to stop. The audience couldn’t take the unorthodox style of the then-16-year-old high school student!

1965: According to the Beatles Bible, the Fab Four were in the studio that day to make mono mixes of If You’ve Got Trouble, Tell Me What You See, You’re Going to Lose That Girl and You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. The last three songs were included on Help!, The Beatles’ soundtrack album for their second motion picture, which appeared in August that year. The Beatles also recorded and mixed That Means a Lot, a song that like If You’ve Got Trouble wasn’t released until 1996 as part of the Anthology 2 album.

1970: John Lennon’s Instant Karma! was released as a single in the U.S. Credited to Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band and produced by Phil Spector, it became the first solo single of a former Beatle to sell a million copies in America. It climbed all the way to no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 2 in Canada, and also reached the top 10 in various European charts, including no. 5 in the U.K. Here’s a cool clip of the song from a live performance of Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

1980: Bon Scott, the second lead singer of AC/DC, was pronounced dead at King’s College Hospital in London’s borough Southwalk, following a night of heavy drinking that led him to suffocate from vomit during his sleep. Scott provided his incredible voice on AC/DC’s first seven studio albums (counting the Australian and international versions of High Voltage separately). During the Scott era, some of the band’s classic tunes were released, such as T.N.T., It’s a Long Way to the Top, Whole Lotta Rosie and Highway to Hell. Here’s a great clip of Highway to Hell.

1991: At the 33rd Annual Grammy Awards, Bob Dylan received a lifetime achievement award from actor Jack Nicholson. Unlike last year’s ceremony for the Nobel Prizes, I understand Dylan showed, performed Masters of War from his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and even gave a short speech. Other recipients of the award that year included John Lennon, American classical singer Marian Anderson and trailblazer Kitty Wells, the first female country singer to top the U.S. country charts in 1952 with It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.