This post first appeared last week on A Sound Day, a great blog by Dave as part of his fun Turntable Talkfeature, where he invites contributions from other bloggers on a topic he proposes. His latest ask, which he playfully titled ‘Feels Like the First Time,’ was to write about the first album we ever bought. In this republished version of the post, I altered the feature image and added one of the embedded images. I also adjusted the formatting of the post to fit the style of this blog.
Thanks, Dave, for inviting me back for another Turntable Talk contribution. Your recurring feature truly is a gift that keeps on giving. I particularly enjoy reading the posts from fellow bloggers and the insights I gain in both their music tastes and personalities. And since I love writing about music, of course, it’s also fun sharing my own two cents.
This time, Dave asked us to reflect on the first album we bought, whether on vinyl, CD or in other formats. Jeez, I oftentimes can’t recall what I did the previous day, so remembering what I did some 45-plus years ago seems to be impossible. So, I decided to take some liberty with the topic.
While I really can’t remember the first record I bought with my own money, which to be clear would be my monthly allowance or any German Marks I received as a gift for my birthday or Christmas, I’m fairly certain three records were among the very first I owned and still do to this day!
Two of them are pictured below.
I believe The Beatles compilation I bought with my “own” money. The greatest hits sampler by The Everly Brothers, on the other hand, was a gift.
Obviously, I could have picked The Beatles, my all-time favorite band. But I’ve written multiple times about them, including once for Turntable Talk. That’s the main reason I picked the following record. Plus, given Elvis Presley was my first and only childhood idol before I discovered the four lads from Liverpool, there’s a high probability I owned Elvis’s 40 Greatest prior to getting the Beatles compilation.
Before I get to the record, let me tell you a little bit about my obsession with Elvis as a kid back in Germany. While my six-year-older sister introduced me to some of the greatest music ever recorded, such as Carole King’sTapestry, Pink Floyd’sWish You Were Here and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’sDéjà Vu, the “King of Rock and Roll” was my own discovery.
I must have “met” the man for the first time on the radio. We’re talking about 1976 or 1977, when I was 10 or 11 years old. I can’t recall specifically what it was that grabbed my attention in ways no other music had done before then. Mind you, I didn’t understand or speak any English, so I was reacting to Elvis’ amazing voice, as well as the cool groove and incredible energy projected by tunes like Tutti Frutti and Jailhouse Rock.
I became truly infatuated with Elvis and wanted to know everything about him. Obviously, there was no Internet back then, so I couldn’t simply ask Mr. Google or check Wikipedia! I do recall reading a bio published in paperback but sadly don’t remember the author or the title. Mr. Google didn’t help either, but since that bio included Elvis’ death in August 1977, obviously, it must have appeared thereafter – I assume sometime in 1978.
I also watched Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite on German TV. Given the original broadcast aired in 1973, it must have been a re-run, likely in the wake of Elvis’s passing. I also recall watching the Western Flaming Star (1960). Elvis starred in many movies, most of which were forgettable. I would say Flaming Star and Jailhouse Rock (1957) were among the best ones.
My obsession with Elvis culminated in attempts to impersonate the King in front of the mirror. I would even put grease in my hair. Once I also “costumed” as Elvis during the so-called Karneval season, which is prominent in the Rhineland, the area where I grew up, especially in the cities of Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Aachen and Mainz. Costuming, dancing, parades, drinking and happiness (or is it really forced silliness?) are part of the celebration, which reaches its climax in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday when ‘everything is over,’ as the Karneval fans say.
Once I started picking up the guitar as a 12- or 13-year-old, incorporating the instrument became part of my Elvis impersonation package. One of the first Elvis tunes I learned was (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear. My poor parents really had a lot to endure!
Okay, I think you get the picture. I idolized Elvis, of course in an innocent childish way.
Time to finally get to some music and the aforementioned compilation, which according to Discogs was released in 1978. I know I got it as a present for Christmas, and we’re likely talking about the holiday that same year.
As also noted above, I still own that copy. While a bit worn it’s still playable. To prove it, I’ll leave with clips of four tunes I captured myself, one from each side of the double LP.
Side 1, Track 7: (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (1957) – of course, I couldn’t skip that one!
Side 2, Track 2: Hard Headed Woman (1958) – this song just rocks; love the cool guitar solo by the great Scotty Moore!
Side 3, Track 10: Can’t Help Falling In Love (1961) – call it schmaltz, but that tune is a true beauty, which literally has brought me to tears!
Side 4, Track 8: Suspicious Minds (1969) – one of my all-time favorites I couldn’t skip!
While since those days back in the second half of the ‘70s I’ve become a bit more mature (I think!) and no longer idolize Elvis, or anyone else for that matter, I still enjoy much of his music. I also think Elvis was an incredible performer, especially in the ‘50s before joining the U.S. Army in March 1958 for his military service.
Last week (May 11), Eric Burdon turned 82 years. Since the first moment I heard him I’ve always thought he’s one of the most compelling white blues vocalists. It also reminded me of a post I published in February 2019. Here it is again with the added bonus of a Spotify playlist at the end. Yes, it’s a bit of a beast! 🙂
Tumultuous Path Of A Journeyman And Survivor
For more than 50 years, Eric Burdon has been one of rock’s most distinctive vocalists
Oftentimes, I feel the best blog ideas are inspired by a previous post. In this case, it was my writing about great covers performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which included I’m Crying by The Animals. The tune reminded me of Eric Burdon and a voice I’ve always felt was made for singing the blues. Just like many other blues artists or more generally those who started out during the ’60s and ’70s, Burdon has experienced it all, from the highest high to the deepest low and everything else in-between. Unlike many fellow artists, he’s still there, which I think makes him one of the ultimate survivors.
Eric Victor Burdon was born on May 11, 1941, in the northeastern English industrial town of Newcastle upon Tyne. His upbringing in a lower-class working family was rough. Burdon started smoking at the age of 10 and skipping school with friends to drink beer. He described his early school years as a Dickens novel-like “dark nightmare,” which included bullying, sexual molestation and sadistic teachers hitting kids with a leather strap. While his father Matt Burdon struggled as an electric repairman, this allowed the family to have a TV by the time Eric was 10. Yet again the TV sparking it all!
Seeing Louis Armstrong on the tube triggered Burdon’s initial interest in music, first in the trombone, then in singing. The next decisive stage in his life was secondary school and a teacher named Bertie Brown who helped him get into the local art college. There he met John Steele, the original drummer of The Animals. They ended up playing in a band called The Pagan Jazzmen. By early 1959, keyboardist Alan Price had joined. After a few iterations and name changes, the band evolved into The Animals in 1962.
The initial lineup featured Burdon (lead vocals), Steele (drums), Price (keyboards), Hilton Valentine (guitar) and Chas Chandler (bass), who later became the manager of Jimi Hendrix. Between September and December 1963, The Animals developed a following in Newcastle by playing local clubs there. During that period, Burdon met some of his blues heroes, including John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson. The Animals also backed Williamson during a local gig.
In December 1963, The Animals recorded their first single Baby Let Me Take You Home. It climbed to a respectable no. 22 on the UK singles chart. But it was the second single, The House Of The Rising Sun from June 1964, which brought the big breakthrough, topping the charts in the UK, U.S., Canada and Sweden. It also started the beginning of the band’s demise when the arrangement of the traditional was only credited to Price who collected all the songwriting royalties.
The band’s first studio album The Animals appeared in the U.S. in September 1964. Their British debut record followed two months later. As was quite common at the time, the track listing between the two versions differed. Altogether, the original incarnation of The Animals released five U.S. and three U.K. studio albums. Here’s the above-mentioned I’m Crying, which was included on the second U.S. record The Animals On Tour, a peculiar title for a studio album. Co-written by Burden and Price, it’s one of only a few original tracks by the band that was mostly known for fiery renditions of blues and R&B staples by the likes of John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed and Ray Charles.
In May 1966, The Animals released Don’t Bring Me Down. Co-written by songwriter duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King, the tune became Burdon’s favorite single, he toldLouder/The Blues during a long interview in April 2013. The song also became the opening track to the band’s fourth U.S. album Animalization released in July 1966. The great tune is characterized by a distinct Hammond B3 sound played by Dave Rowberry, who had replaced Alan Price following his departure in late 1965, and Hilton Valentine’s fuzz guitar. Burdon recalled the song’s recording in a hotel in the Bahamas. “There was an old record player in the room where we were recording and it had this strange, thin electrostatic speaker. Dave Rowberry connected it to his Hammond B3 and that’s where the sound comes from on that track.”
By September 1966, The Animals had dissipated and Burdon started work on his first solo album Eric Is Here, which wouldn’t appear until the following year. Meanwhile, in December 1966, he formed Eric Burdon & The Animals. In addition to him, the band included Barry Jenkins, who had replaced John Steel on drums during the first incarnation of The Animals, John Weider (guitar, violin, bass), Vic Briggs (guitar, piano) and Danny McCulloch (bass). The band subsequently relocated from the U.K. to San Francisco. By that time, Burdon had become a heavy user of LSD.
In October 1967, Eric Burdon & The Animals released their debut. Appropriately titled Winds Of Change, it featured mostly original tracks and psychedelic-oriented rock, a major departure from the past. But, as Louder/The Blues noted, except for San Franciscan Nights, “the British public were reluctant to accept Eric’s transformation from hard-drinking Geordie bluesman to LSD-endorsing, peace and love hippy.” Three more albums followed before this second incarnation of The Animals dissolved in late 1968. Here’s Monterey, the opener to their second record The Twain Shall Meet from May 1968. Reflecting the band’s drug-infused experiences at the Monterey Pop Festival, where they also had performed, the tune is credited to all five members.
Disillusioned with the music business, Burdon went to LA to try acting. But after one year, he returned to music, fronting a Californian funk rock band that would be called War. Together they recorded two original albums in 1970. Here’s Spill The Wine from the first, Eric Burden Declares “War”, which appeared in April 1970. Credited to the members of War, the tune became the band’s first hit, peaking at no. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also marked Burdon’s last major chart success.
Burdon’s relationship with War abruptly unraveled after the band had decided to record their next album without him. It was around the same time his friend Jimi Hendrix passed away. Burdon was devastated. “That became the end of the parade because it affected us so much,” he stated during the above Louder/The Blues interview. “It was tough for me. It was tough for everybody.” Unfortunately, one of Burdon’s answers was drugs and more drugs.
During the ’70s and ’80s, Burdon had numerous drug excesses. In 1983, this led to an arrest in Germany where he had lived since 1977. Subsequently, he returned to the U.S. Yet despite all the upheaval, Burdon still managed to continue recording albums and touring. In 1971, he teamed up with American jump blues artist Jimmy Witherspoon for a record titled Guilty! Here’s Home Dream, a great slow blues tune written by Burdon.
In August 1977, the first incarnation of The Animals released the first of two reunion albums, Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, billed as The Original Animals. Despite positive reviews, the record only reached no. 70 on the Billboard 200. Lack of promotion, no supporting tour and most importantly appearing at a time when punk and disco ruled were all factors. Here’s the great opener Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt), a tune co-written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and Clyde Otis.
Next up: Going Back To Memphis, a song co-written by Burdon and Steve Grant. It appeared on Burdon’s 1988 album I Used To Be An Animal. Released in the wake of his autobiography I Used To Be An Animal, But I’m Alright Now, it was Burdon’s first new album in almost four years.
In April 2004, My Secret Life appeared, Burdon’s first new solo record in almost 16 years. Here’s the opener Once Upon A Time, a nice soulful tune co-written by Burdon and Robert Bradley.
‘Til Your River Runs Dry is Burdon’s most recent studio release, which came out in January 2013. His website calls it his “most personal album to date.” Here’s Old Habits Die Hard, co-written by Burdon and Tom Hambridge. “This song is dedicated to the people in Egypt and Libya trying to throw off the shackles of all those centuries of brutality,” Burdon toldRolling Stone a few days prior to the record’s release. “It reminds me of Paris in 1968 when I saw the kids going up against the brutal police force or the L.A. uprising. I went through these experiences and they’re still with me today. The struggle carries on. I wrote this song so I won’t forget and to say, even though I’m older now, I am still out there with you.”
Burdon’s most recent recording is a nice cover of For What It’s Worth, written by Stephen Stills and originally released by Buffalo Springfield in December 1966. He commented on his website: The whole idea of recording this song came as a result of a conversation I had with a young fan backstage, when she asked me, “Where are the protest songs today?” Right then and there, I wanted to write something about the brutality that’s going on in the world today but I couldn’t find any better way to say it than Buffalo Springfield did in “For What It’s Worth.
In 1994, Eric Burdon was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as part of The Animals, along with the other original members of the band. He did not attend the induction ceremony. Burdon remains active to this day and uses the name The Animals for his backing band, which includes Evan Mackey (trombone), Davey Allen (piano), Dustin Koester (drums), Johnzo West (guitar), Justin Andres (bass) and Ruben Salinas (saxophone).
While Burdon’s website currently does not list any upcoming gigs for this year, according to Consequence of Sound, Eric Burdon & The Animals are part of the lineup for the KAABOO Festival in Arlington, Texas, May 10-12. The band is also scheduled to perform on May 26 at Avila Beach Blues Festival in California.
Asked by Louder/The Blues during the above interview how he would sum up the past 50 years, Burdon said, “I’d been screwed by [War], I’d been screwed by The Animals. All use Burdon because he’s a great front guy and then come payday where’s the money? A lot of people had a great ride off me being on stage and I didn’t get much of it.” With a little chuckle he added, “I’m not bitter. I’m bittersweet.”
– END –
The original post, which was published on February 10, 2019, ended here. One thing that happened since then is a 2020 British TV documentary titled Eric Burdon, Rock’ n’ Roll Animal, which was written and directed by Hannes Rossacher, an Austrian film director and producer. It featured interviews with Burdon, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, George Thorogood and Patti Smith. An edited version is available here.
Other than an awkward 2022 remix of Spill the Wine, I’m not aware of any music associated with Burdon, which has appeared since the time the above post was published first. The most recent evidence of live performances I could find on Setlist.fm was from November 2019. The lack of more recent concerts could largely be explained by the pandemic. There’s an Eric Burdonwebsite, but other than what looks like a fairly recent photo, it’s not evident whether it is active. Perhaps Eric is simply taking it easy these days, which after 60-plus years since the start of his career would be more than deserved!
Last but not least, here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist. It features all of the above tracks except For What It’s Worth, as well as a good number of additional tunes from throughout Burdon’s recording career.
Sources: Wikipedia; Louder/The Blues; Deutsche Welle; Eric Burdon website; Rolling Stone; Consequence of Sound; Eventbrite; Setlist.fm; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Are you ready to escape your surroundings for a little while and embark on another imaginary trip into the magical world of music? If yes, you’ve come to the right place; if not, I hope you’ll stick around anyway! It’s amazing what music can do, especially on a rainy weekend like in my neck of the woods of central New Jersey, USA. Without any further ado, let’s start up the music time machine!
Our first stop leads us back to the year 1956 and some beautiful jazz by Swedish saxophonist Lars Gullin. He started out on the accordion and switched to the clarinet at age 13 before first embracing the alto saxophone. After moving to Stockholm in 1947, Gullin became a professional pianist, aiming to pursue a classical career. But in 1949 an unexpected tenure as the baritone saxophonist in Seymour Österwall’s band changed Gullin’s trajectory yet again, and this time he stuck with jazz. In the early ’50s, he was a member of Arne Domnérus’ septet and also started working with visiting American jazz musicians like James Moody, Zoot Sims, Clifford Brown and Lee Konitz. In 1953, Gullin formed his own short-lived group. In October 1955, he teamed up with Chet Baker for a European tour, which tragically involved the heroin-induced death of the group’s pianist Dick Twardzik. Sadly, Gullin developed his own addiction to narcotics, which eventually took his life in May 1976 at the age of 48. Here’s Fedja, a Gullin composition off his 1956 album Baritone Sax.
Marshall Crenshaw/Cynical Girl
Let’s next set our time machine to April 1982 and a neat artist I’ve started to explore recently, thanks to fellow blogger Rich who pens the great KamerTunesBlog where he featuredMarshall Crenshaw and his 1983 sophomore album Field Day the other day. I instantly loved the American singer-songwriter’s catchy power pop and promptly covered Someday, Someway, a tune off his eponymous debut, which appeared in April 1982. It was a close decision between that tune and Cynical Girl, another song from that album I love. According to Wikipedia, the tune is a satire on the “mass culture” Crenshaw disliked, not about a specific girl.
Little Eva/The Loco-Motion
Time to go a little loco with one of my favorite early ’60s tunes: The Loco-Motion by Little Eva. It was one of the many great tunes by songwriting powerhouse Carole King and her husband and lyricist Gerry Goffin, who during the ’60s penned an impressive amount of hits for the likes of The Shirelles, Bobby Vee, The Chiffons, The Drifters, Herman’s Hermits, The Monkees and even The Animals. And, of course, Eva Narcissus Boyd, aka. Little Eva, the babysitter for King and Goffin, who became an overnight sensation with The Loco-Motion. Her debut single, released in June 1962, topped the U.S. pop and R&B charts and hit no. 2 in the UK. Initially, Goffin-King had written the tune for R&B singer Dee Dee Sharp but he turned it down, making Little Eva one of the most famous babysitters in pop history. What a timeless classic!
The Allman Brothers Band/It Ain’t Over Yet
This next pick is a bit out of left field. When you think of The Allman Brothers Band, tunes like Whipping Post, Melissa, Ramblin’ Man and the bouncy instrumental Jessica come to mind. It Ain’t Over Yet? Possibly not so much. I coincidentally came across that track a while ago and dug it from the get-go, so I earmarked for a Sunday Six. Co-written by Doug Crider and by the Brothers’ second keyboarder Johnny Neel, It Ain’t Over Yet became the closer of the group’s ninth studio album Seven Turns, released in July 1990 – their first after their second breakup in 1982. It Ain’t Over Yet, an appropriate title, also appeared separately as the album’s third single. Allen Woody’s slap bass playing gives the tune a bit of a funky vibe. Perhaps more familiar is the neat guitar work by Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes, and of course the vocals by the one and only Gregg Allman. Hope you dig that song as much as I’ve come to!
Alejandro Escovedo/The Crossing
Let’s go back to the current century and set our time machine to September 2018. I don’t recall how I came across that next tune and suspect it may have been served up as a listening suggestion by my streaming music provider. It’s another song that’s been on my list of earmarked tracks for a Sunday Six. Alejandro Escovedo, the son of a Mexican immigrant to Texas and a Texas native and, according to his website, one of 12 children, is an eclectic rock musician and singer-songwriter who has been recording and touring since the late ’70s. He played in various bands, such as punk groups The Nuns and Judy Nylon’s band, as well as country rock formation Rank and File, before releasing his 1992 solo debut Gravity, an alternative country and heartland rock-oriented outing. Fast-forward 26 years and The Crossing, the title cut of his 2018 studio album. You can find more about Escovedo’s story on his aforementioned website. For now, let’s listen to this excellent and haunting tune!
Sly And The Family Stone/Family Affair
And once again, it’s time to wrap up another trip. Our final destination takes us back to November 1971 and There’s a Riot Goin’ On, the fifth studio album by psychedelic funk and soul powerhouse Sly And The Family Stone. Mirroring other African American artists at the time like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield, the record marked a departure from the group’s previous more upbeat songs by embracing sentiments like apathy, pessimism and disillusionment. The lead single Family Affair, which like all other tunes was written by frontman Sylvester Stewart (Sly Stone), became the group’s third and final no. 1 hit in the U.S. on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Best Selling Soul Singles (today known as Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs) charts. It also was their most successful international song, charting in Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK.
As usual, I’m leaving you with a Spotify playlist featuring the above tunes. Hope there’s something you dig!
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured tracks appear on albums, which were released yesterday (February 24).
Westing/Back in the Twenties
Kicking things off are Westing, a rock band from Visalia, Calif., who until late 2021 were known as Slow Season. Together with the name change came the addition of Ben McLeod as lead guitarist, who also is a member of All Them Witches, a rock group from Nashville. Additionally, Westing include Daniel Story Rice (vocals, keyboards), Hayden Doyel (bass) and Cody Tarbell (drums). Slow Season had emerged about 10 years ago and released three albums. The reincarnated group’s first new release as Westing is titled Future. Here’s the album’s opener Back in the Twenties, which first appeared as the second upfront single about two weeks ago. It’s got a bit of a Led Zeppelin swagger. A bio that accompanies the clip of the song’s official video below notes the tune’s “message comes through clear (and loud) that however much Westing’s foundations might be in ‘70s styles, the moment that matters is now.”
Death Valley Girls/What Are the Odds
Death Valley Girls, who have been around since 2013, are a Los Angeles-based group blending garage rock, psychedelic pop and proto-metal. From their AllMusicbio: Evoking names like the Cramps, Black Sabbath, and Bikini Kill, the band was founded by drummer Patty Schemel (Hole), her six-string-wielding brother Larry Schemel, vocalist Bonnie Bloomgarden, and bass player Rachel Orosco. The group released their debut album, Street Venom, on cassette via Burger Records in 2014. Patty left the group shortly thereafter and was replaced by Laura Kelsey (the Flytraps). In 2016, Death Valley Girls issued their sophomore studio long-player, Glow in the Dark. The band moved to Suicide Squeeze Records for 2018’s Darkness Rains, and in 2020 they released their fourth full-length effort, Under the Spell of Joy. Now Death Valley Girls are out with their new album Islands in the Sky. Let’s listen to What Are the Odds, a tune co-written by Bloomgarden and Larry Schemel. I would call this song charmingly weird. It certainly rocks!
Iris DeMent/Goin’ Down to Sing in Texas
My next pick is by singer-songwriter Iris DeMent, who blends elements of Americana, country, folk and gospel. Born in Paragould, Ark. as the youngest of 14 children, DeArment was exposed to country and gospel music early on, but a bad experience during her first performance as a 5-year-old put a pause on additional such efforts. It wasn’t until the age of 25 in 1986 that she penned her first song Our Town, which changed her trajectory to becoming a songwriter. DeMent’s debut album Infamous Angel appeared six years later in October 1992. She has since released six additional albums including her latest Workin’ on a World. According to her website, it addresses the modern world — as it is right now — with its climate catastrophe, pandemic illness, and epidemic of violence and social injustice — and not only asks us how we can keep working towards a better world, but implores us to love each other, despite our very different ways of seeing. Here’s Goin’ Down to Sing in Texas, a tune her website characterizes as an ode not only to gun control, but also to the brave folks who speak out against tyranny and endure the consequences in an unjust world. Undoubtedly, DeMent won’t endear herself to everybody with her outspoken lyrics.
Philip Selway/Check For Signs of Life
Wrapping up this week is Philip Selway, who is best known as the drummer of Radiohead, the English alternative rock band he co-founded in 1985. While Selway had written songs as a teenager, he decided to focus on playing the drums for the group. Eventually, he changed his mind and released his debut solo album Familial in August 2010. It was an immediate success in the U.S. where it reached no. 7 and no. 8 on Billboard’sTop Heatseekers and Americana/ Folk Albums charts. It also made the UK’s Official Albums Chart (no. 185). This brings me to Strange Dance, Selway’s third and latest solo effort. From his Bandcamppage: When Philip Selway approached some of his favourite musicians to play on his third solo record he said he imagined it as a Carole King record if she collaborated with the pioneering electronic composer Daphne Oram and invited him to drum on it. Unsurprisingly they were all sold, and so began the bringing together of an extraordinary number of gifted people, including Hannah Peel, Adrian Utley, Quinta, Marta Salogni, Valentina Magaletti and Laura Moody. Here’s Check For Signs of Life. Written by Selway, this geat-sounding tune was first released as a single in October 2022.
As usual, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring the above tracks and a few additional songs by all highlighted artists.
It’s Wednesday again and, as such, time to take a closer look at another tune I haven’t covered or only mentioned in passing. This week, I decided to dig into the catalog of Jackson Browne. Since the singer-songwriter entered my radar screen with Running On Empty many moons ago, I’ve enjoyed listening to him on and off over the decades.
Rock Me On the Water is a great tune from Browne’s eponymous debut album, which came out in January 1972. Penned by him like the remaining nine tracks, the song also became the record’s and Browne’s second single in July of the same year. Like his debut single Doctor, My Eyes, it made the U.S. charts, reaching no. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100, not as high as its predecessor that peaked at an impressive no. 8.
Like on the album overall, Browne had impressive guests. In the case of Rock Me On the Water, David Crosby and Graham Nash provided backing vocals. Among others, the recording also featured top-notch session musicians Craig Doerge (piano), Leland Sklar (bass) and Russ Kunkel (drums), who would play on many other Browne albums as well. They were all part of The Section, the de facto house band of record label Asylum, whose members collectively or individually played on countless records by artists, such as Carole King, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell and Warren Zevon.
Jackson Browne is the first of 15 studio albums issued to date by Browne who continues to go strong 50 years into his recording career. His most recent album Downhill From Everywhere, released in July 2021, earned a 2022 Grammy Award nomination in the Best Americana Album category. Los Lobos’s Native Sons, a great album I reviewed here, ended up winning the category – certainly a worthy winner!
Following are some additional tidbits from Songfacts:
Jackson Browne uses biblical imagery in this song, where he makes a point that salvation can be attained outside the church.
“It’s got an apocalyptic theme running through it and it’s meant to be kind of a gospel song,” he said in a radio interview. “I employ this gospel language: ‘stand before the father,’ ‘sisters of the sun.’ But it’s turning that around 180 degrees so it’s not about religion, it’s about society.”
“You have to have an idea in a gospel song,” he added, “and if it’s not going to be Jesus, it has to at least be salvation. It’s a way of lovingly, and in a friendly way, refuting the traditional and conventional messages of redemption having to do with the straight and narrow. I staked a lot on that song because it was that combination of social awareness and paying attention to what’s going on around you with that inner search for spiritual meaning.”
Browne wrote this song around 1970, before he started work on his debut album. He was well known as a songwriter at this point, with songs recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Byrds, and Nico. “Rock Me On The Water” was first recorded in 1971 by Johnny Rivers, then later that year by Brewer & Shipley.
Linda Ronstadt released this song on her self-titled third album early in 1972, around the same time the song appeared on Browne’s album. Her version was the first released as a single, and it went to #85 in March, making it the first song written by Jackson Browne to reach the Hot 100.
Time for another installment of this infrequent feature, in which I republish select content that first appeared in the earlier stage of the blog when I had fewer followers. The following post about my favorite saxophone players originally appeared in November 2017. I’ve slightly edited it and also added a Spotify playlist at the end.
In Appreciation Of The Saxophonist
A list of some of my favorite saxophone players and solos
Music instruments have always fascinated me. I also have a deep appreciation for musicians who master their gear. Oftentimes, I wish I would have learned more than just the guitar and the bass. For regular readers of the blog or those who know me otherwise, none of this should come as a big surprise. I’ve written a bunch of posts on some of the gear I admire, from guitars like the Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul and Rickenbacker 360/12, to keyboards like the Hammond B3, as well as some of my favorite drummers and bassists. One of the coolest instruments I haven’t touched yet is the saxophone.
Let me address the big caveat to this post right away: Since I know next to nothing about jazz, I’m focusing on genres that are in my wheelhouse: rock, blues and pop. While many of the saxophonists I highlight come from the jazz world, it’s still safe to assume I’m missing some outstanding players. On the other hand, where would I even start, if I broadened the scope to jazz? With that being out of the way, following is a list of some of favorite saxophonists and sax solos.
Update: Since subsequently I’ve started to explore the jazz world, mostly in my Sunday Six feature, I’m going to add some tracks in the Spotify playlist featuring some additional outstanding jazz saxophonists.
I imagine just like most readers, I had never heard of this British saxophonist until I realized he was associated with a ’70s pop song featuring one of the most epic sax solos: Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. The breathtaking performance put Ravenscroft on the map. He went on to work with other top artists like Marvin Gaye (In Our Lifetime, 1981), Robert Plant (Pictures At Eleven, 1982) and Pink Floyd (The Final Cut, 1983). Ravenscroft died from a suspected heart attack in October 2014 at the age of 60. According to a BBC News story, he didn’t think highly of the solo that made him famous, saying, “I’m irritated because it’s out of tune…Yeah it’s flat. By enough of a degree that it irritates me at best.” The same article also noted that Ravenscroft “was reportedly paid only £27 for the session with a cheque that bounced while the song is said to have earned Rafferty £80,000 a year in royalties.” Wow!
The American jazz saxophonist and composer, who started his career in the late ’50s, played in Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet in the 1960s and co-founded the jazz fusion band Weather Report in 1971. Shorter has recorded over 20 albums as a bandleader and played as a sideman on countless other jazz records. He also contributed to artists outside the jazz realm, including Joni Mitchell, Don Henley and Steely Dan. For the latter, he performed a beautiful extended tenor sax solo for Aja, the title track of their 1977 gem.
The American saxophonist, musician and actor was best known for his longtime association with Bruce Springsteen. From 1972 to his death in June 2011 at age 69, Clemons was a member of the E Street Band, where he played the tenor saxophone. He also released several solo albums and played with other artists, including Aretha Franklin, Twisted Sister, Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band. But it was undoubtedly the E Street Band where he left his biggest mark, providing great sax parts for Springsteen gems like Thunder Road, The Promised Land and The Ties That Bind. One of my favorite Clemons moments is his solo on Bobby Jean from the Born In The U.S.A. album. What could capture “The Big Man” better than a live performance? This clip is from a 1985 concert in Paris, France.
The American West Coast jazz musician was primarily known for his work as a tenor and soprano saxophonist. Among others, Amy served as the musical director of Ray Charles’ orchestra for three years in the mid-60s. He also led his own bands and recorded under his own name. Outside the jazz arena, he worked as a session musician for artists like The Doors (Touch Me, The Soft Parade, 1969), Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Carole King (Tapestry, 1971). One of the tunes on King’s masterpiece is the ballad Way Over Yonder, which features one of the most beautiful sax solos in pop I know of.
The English saxophonist, who started his professional career in 1964, has worked as a session musician with many artists. A friend of David Gilmour, Parry is best known for his work with Pink Floyd, appearing on their albums The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), The Division Bell (1994) and Pulse (1995). He also worked with Procol Harum guitarist Mick Grabham (Mick The Lad, 1972), John Entwistle (Mad Dog, 1975) and Rory Gallagher (Jinx, 1982), among others. One of Parry’s signature sax solos for Pink Floyd appeared on Money. Here’s a great clip recorded during the band’s 1994 Division Bell tour.
Albert Ronald “Ronnie” Ross was a British jazz baritone saxophonist. He started his professional career in the 1950s with the tenor saxophone, playing with jazz musicians Tony Kinsey, Ted Heath and Don Rendell. It was during his tenure with the latter that he switched to the baritone sax. Outside his jazz engagements during the 60s, Ross gave saxophone lessons to a young dude called David Bowie and played tenor sax on Savoy Truffle, a track from The Beatles’White Album. In the 70s, his most memorable non-jazz appearance was his baritone sax solo at the end of the Lou Reed song Walk On The Wild Side. I actually always thought the solo on that tune from Reed’s 1972 record Transformer was played by Bowie. Instead, he co-produced the track and album with Mick Ronson. According to Wikipedia, Bowie also played acoustic guitar on the recording.
The American saxophonist was a founding member of Chicago and played with the band for 51 years until earlier this year (2017) when he officially retired due to a heart condition. In addition to the saxophone, Parazider also mastered the flute, clarinet, piccolo and oboe. Here is a clip of Saturday In The Park and 25 Or 6 To 4 from Chicago’s great 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction performance, which features Parazaider on saxophone.
Thomas Neal Cartmell, known as Alto Reed, is an American saxophonist who was a member of The Silver Bullet Band since it was founded by Bob Seger in the mid-70s. He toured with Seger and the band for 40-plus years, starting with Live Bullet in 1976. Reed has also performed with many other bands and musicians like Foghat, Grand Funk Railroad, Little Feat, The Blues Brothers and George Thorogood. Among his signature performances for Seger are the saxophone solo in Old Time Rock And Roll and the introduction to Turn the Page. Here’s a great live clip of Turn the Page from 2014.
Autry DeWalt Mixon Jr., known by his stage name Junior Walker or Jr. Walker, was an American singer and saxophonist whose 40-year career started in the mid-1950s with his own band called the Jumping Jacks. In 1964, Jr. Walker & The All Stars were signed by Motown. They became one of the company’s signature acts, scoring hits with songs like Shotgun, (I’m a) Roadrunner, Shake And Fingerpop and remakes of Motown tunes Come See About Me and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). While Walker continued to record with the band and solo during the ’70s and into the early ’80s, one of his most memorable performances resulted from his guest performance on Foreigner’s 1981 album 4. His saxophone solo on Urgent is one of the most blistering in pop rock. Walker died from cancer in November 1995 at the age of 64.
No list of saxophonists who have played with rock and blues artists would be complete without Bobby Keys. From the mid-1950s until his death in December 2014, this American saxophonist appeared on hundreds of recordings as a member of horn sections and was a touring musician. He worked with some of the biggest names, such as The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Harrison, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker. Some of these artists’ songs that featured Keys include Don’t Ask Me No Questions (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Second Helping, 1974), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (John Lennon, Walls And Bridges, 1974) and Slunky (Eric Clapton, Eric Clapton, 1970). But he is best remembered for his sax part on Brown Sugar from the Stones’ 1971 studio album Sticky Fingers.
– End –
The original post, which was published on November 11, 2017, ended here. Here’s the previously mentioned Spotify list featuring all of the above and some additional saxophone greats.
Eighth annual tribute festival for a cause returned to Jersey shore
Saturday, the time had finally come for the long-awaited Rock the Farm to return to the Jersey shore. The annual tribute festival in Seaside Heights, N.J. once again delivered 10 hours of great music for a cause. And that cause – helping individuals and families struggling with addiction to drugs, alcohol and other substances – has gained even more urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rock the Farm is the main annual event of the nonprofit New Jersey CFC Loud N Clear Foundation to raise funds for programs designed to prevent relapse after drug rehab, a particularly challenging time to stay sober. CFCnotes that since it was established in 2012, the foundation has assisted over 20,000 families struggling with addiction and has received numerous accolades and rewards for the innovative, groundbreaking approach to recovery. Throughout the event, individuals who have benefitted from CFC’s programs stepped on stage to share some of their stories, which was both pretty inspiring and moving. You can read more about CFC’s important work here. Let’s get to some music!
Kicking off the festival once again were One Fine Tapestry, a great tribute to Carole King and the music she co-wrote with Jerry Goffin for many other artists. At the core of this act are Gerard Barros and Diane Barros, a New Jersey-based versatile husband and wife duo who for many years have performed a variety of tribute shows. My all-time favorite Carole King album remains Tapestry. Here’s IFeel the Earth Move.
We May Be Right are a fun Billy Joel tribute led by pianist and lead vocalist Karl Dietel, a 20-year veteran of the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area live music scene. The band also features Perry Andrews (brass, woodwinds, percussion, backing vocals), Derek Davodowich (guitars), Luke Kessel (bass, backing vocals) and Andy Janowiak (drums). I know I’ve said this before, it’s amazing to me how popular Billy Joel remains to this day, nearly 30 years since the piano man released his final pop album River of Dreams. There were definitely many Billy Joel fans among the Rock the Farm audience. One of the tunes they enjoyed was Big Shot, off Joel’s sixth studio album 52nd Street from October 1978.
And then it was time to really put the rock into Rock the Farm with La Grange. This New Jersey-based tribute to ZZ Top includes Sean Peronard as “Billy Fibbons” (Billy Gibbons), Pete Perrina as “Frank Goatee” (Frank Beard) and Jim Capobianco as “Rusty Hill” (Dusty Hill). It was all there: The sound, the singing, the beards and even the fury guitar and bass – the only things missing were the rotation of the instruments and my all-time ZZ Top favorite Tush! But, hey, they played plenty of other great tunes. It was a ball. Check out Cheap Sunglasses from the Texan rockers’ sixth studio album Degüello.
How about some more kickass rock? Ask and you shall receive with Stiff Upper Lip! This New Jersey tribute to AC/DC, formed in 2007, features Glenn Taglieri (vocals), Joe Witterschein (guitar), Mike Cusumano (guitar), Peter Lee (bass) and Steve Villano (drums). One of my all-time AC/DC favorites is their song with the longest title: It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll). The tune initially appeared on AC/DC’s second, Australia-only record T.N.T. Subsequently, it was also included on their first international release High Voltage, which came out in April 1976. Here we go, featuring some enthusiastic, dancing ladies with glowing devil’s horns!
Okay, I’d say it’s time for a little breather. Here’s a little photo collage with different impressions from Rock the Farm.
All right, on to part II of this post and The ELO Tribute Show – yep, they make no bones about whose music they are celebrating! The group of Philly area-based musicians includes Mick Bodine (lead vocals, guitar), Andre “Virus” Karkos (guitars, vocals), Chris McCoy (keyboards, vocals), Julie Meyers (violin, vocals), Tommy Grasso (bass, vocals) and Dave Ramani (drums, percussion). Check out their cool rendition of Evil Woman, a tune from ELO’s September 1975 record Face the Music, their fifth studio release.
One could argue that holding a tribute festival in New Jersey without featuring music by at least one artist from the Garden State would be an oversight. Coming to the rescue were Keep The Faith from – nope, I bet you didn’t guess that one – Canada! This Bon Jovi tribute from Ontario includes Chris Newman (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Tondreau (guitar), Dan Benezra (keyboards, vocals), Doug Adams (bass) and Mark MacPherson (drums). Shall we check out their rendition of Born to Be My Baby, off Bon Jovi’s fourth studio album? Well, it’s really a rhetorical question since it’s my frigging blog! Are you one of the 100,000,000 Bon Jovi fans who can’t be wrong? If so, you should know the title of Bon Jovi’s fourth studio album. Yes, New Jersey!
And then things got pretty groovy with Funky Monkswho shall we say aren’t your typical monks. Formed in 2003, this Chicago-based tribute to Red Hot Chili Peppers has performed across the U.S. and even internationally. The band consists of Ryan “Ryanthony” Machnica (vocals), Mike Walker (guitar), Jeff “Jefflea” Genualdi (b-b-b-bass) and Paul Guziec (drums). In case you ever wondered why I like to say bassists are cool dudes, Jeff is one of the reasons. Yes, I know, it’s the obvious Peppers tune to feature, but I couldn’t help it. Here’s Under the Bridge, included on Peppers’ fifth studio album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, released in September 1991.
All things must pass, as the wise George Harrison once sang. This also applies to Rock the Farm, which brings me to the final act of the night: Fleetwood Mac tribute TUSK – what a great way to end yet another outstanding event! Founded in 2008, TUSK primarily focus on the Mac’s pop-rock period. In addition, they feature some music from Stevie Nicks’ solo catalog and on Saturday night also threw in a cool blues medley of the Peter Green era. TUSK are Kathy Phillips as Stevie Nicks (vocals), Kim Williams as Christine McVie (keyboards, vocals), Scott McDonald as Lindsey Buckingham (guitar, vocals), Randy Artiglere as John McVie (bass) and Tom Nelson as Mick Fleetwood (drums). Here’s Little Lies, off Fleetwood Mac’s 14th studio album Tango in the Night, which came out in April 1987.
Rock the Farm 2022 is over. Sadly, the same cannot be said about addiction, which continues to upend the lives of those impacted and their friends and families. Many lives have been lost, even more so during the pandemic, leaving empty chairs in kitchens across this country.
The reality is addiction can happen to all of us. Nobody is immune! People struggling with drugs, alcohol and other substances deserve our compassion rather than stigmatization. That’s why it is so important that organizations like the CFC Loud N Clear Foundation continue their work. Once again, in case you’d like to find out more about their programs, visit https://healingus.org.
Sources: Wikipedia; CFC website; One Fine Tapestry Facebook page; We May Be Right website; La Grange Facebook page; Stiff Upper Lip website; The ELO Tribute Show website; Slippery When Wet website; Funky Monks website; TUSK website; YouTube
Eighth annual 10-hour festival on Jersey shore to feature top notch tribute music for great cause
On September 24, the annual music festival Rock the Farm returns to Seaside Heights, N.J. Since my first attendance five years ago, I’ve loved the idea behind the 10-hour spectacle to combine top-notch tribute acts with a great cause. And with the dreadful COVID-19 pandemic now being well into its third year, that cause has taken on a new urgency: supporting individuals and families struggling to overcome addiction.
Drug overdose-related deaths in the U.S. have soared by 28.5% to an estimated 100,306 during the 12 months ended in April 2021, according to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in November 2021. That’s up from 78,056 for the corresponding period a year earlier. The latest CDC insights also show that estimated overdose deaths from opioids totaled 75,673 for the latest 12-month period, a 35% increase from 56,064 the year before. Imagining all the empty seats these lost lives have left at kitchen tables around the country paints a pretty grim picture.
Rock the Farm is the main annual fundraiser of the CFC Loud N Clear Foundation. The New Jersey non-profit community organization offers programs for individuals and families battling to overcome addiction to opioids, alcohol and other substances. Their efforts aim to fill the gap after clinical treatment in rehab, a period when staying sober and remaining on track can be particularly challenging.
The CFC Loud N Clear Foundation was established by the Regan family in 2012 after their son Daniel Regan had come out of a rehab center and with the help of his mother, Lynn Regan, developed a recovery system for himself. Other people noticed it was working for Daniel and started asking how they did it. That’s when the Regan family realized everyone should have access to an aftercare program, sparking the idea of establishing a foundation.
“CFC Loud n Clear Foundation is celebrating over 10 years of building strong communities of recovery,” said Alyssa Regan, CFC Assistant Executive Director who was kind enough to provide a quote for this post. “Rock the Farm is in its eighth year of bringing family fun and incredible music to Seaside Heights, New Jersey. However, this festival is more than just a great day during summer down the shore! Rock the Farm is about smashing the stigma of addiction, living life in recovery out loud, and the importance of aftercare and relapse prevention! This festival, which hosted 15,000 people last year, is entirely run by our community of recoverees and their families in order to raise funds for the program that has helped them gain a new life!”
Let’s take a look at the great line-up for the upcoming event, which includes tributes to Fleetwood Mac, Red Hot Chili Peppers, AC/DC, ELO, Eagles, Billy Joel, Carole King, Alanis Morissette, ZZ Top and Bon Jovi. Just imagine for a second seeing all the real acts in one festival, not to mention this particular line-up wouldn’t even be possible any longer, given Carole King has retired from performing! Fleetwood Mac and Carole King tributes TUSK and One Fine Tapestry performed at all four previous Rock the Farm events I attended. On separate previous occasions, I also saw Stiff Upper Lip and Keep The Faith, tributes to AC/DC and Bon Jovi, respectively. The other tribute artists are new to me.
Following are clips to preview some of the tribute acts who will play at Rock the Farm 2022. Kicking things off are TUSK with You Make Loving Fun, footage I captured at last year’s event. Focused on the pop rock period of Fleetwood Mac, the group includes Kathy Phillips as Stevie Nicks (vocals), Kim Williams as Christine McVie (keyboards, vocals), Scott McDonald as Lindsey Buckingham (guitar, vocals), Randy Artiglere as John McVie (bass) and Tom Nelson as Mick Fleetwood (drums).
Next up are One Fine Tapestry with one of my all-time favorite Carole King tunes from the iconic Tapestry album: I Feel the Earth Move. At the core of this tribute act are Gerard Barros and Diane Barros, a versatile husband and wife couple performing a variety of different tribute shows, sometimes as a duo, other times backed by a full band, which was the case here. This clip is also from Rock the Farm 2021.
Let’s do two more, using YouTube clips I didn’t create. Here are Stiff Upper Lip with Back in Black. The New Jersey band has been around since 2007 and includes Glenn Taglieri (vocals), Joe Witterschein (guitar), Mike Cusumano (guitar), Peter Lee (bass) and Steve Villano (drums).
As a blues rock fan, I couldn’t resist including ZZ Top tribute La Grange. The band features Sean Peronard as “Billy Fibbons” (Billy Gibbons), Pete Perrina as “Frank Goatee” (Frank Beard) and Jim Capobianco as “Rusty Hill” (Dusty Hill) – clever stage names! Here’s a fun promo video, including snippets of Waiting For the Bus, Under Pressure and Gimme All Your Lovin’.
In addition to plenty of great music, Rock the Farm features food trucks, a wine and beer garden and beach yoga. They also have some fun activities for kids, including a Kidzone Arts & Crafts, face painting, braid bar and “the world’s greatest FOAM dance floor.” While I can’t verify that claim, I can confirm kids and adults have had a lot of fun with the foam in the past!
“All of the members of CFC get the opportunity to create something magical that positively impacts the community, be inspired by purpose, and uplift others who are in search of hope and connection,” Regan added. “CFC has impacted over 20,000 families since its foundation and continues to come up with new and innovative ways to make recovery fun. We can’t wait to rock out with everyone on September 24th and end Recovery month in the best way possible!”
If you’re into live music, dig the above bands, want to support an important cause and can get there, I can highly recommend Rock the Farm. For tickets and more info, visit https://www.rockthefarmnj.com. You can also read more about the CFC Loud n Clear Foundation and their important work here.
Sources: CDC National Center for Health Statistics; CFC Loud N Clear Foundation website; TUSK website; One Fine Tapestry website; Stiff Upper Lip website; La Grange Facebook page; YouTube
Happy Wednesday with another decision which one tune to take on an imaginary trip to a desert island.
In case you’re new to this weekly recurring feature, the idea is to pick one song by an artist or band I’ve only rarely mentioned or not covered at all on my blog to date. This excludes many popular options like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Carole King and Bonnie Raitt, to name some of my longtime favorite artists. I’m also doing this exercise in alphabetical order, and I’m up to the letter “q”.
How many bands or artists do you know whose names/last names start with “q”? The ones that came to my mind included Quarterflash, Queen and Quiet Riot. And, of course, my pick, Can the Can by Suzi Quatro. Yes, perhaps it’s not the type of song that would be your first, second or even third pick to take on a desert island, but it’s a great kickass rock tune anyway!
Can the Can, penned by songwriters and producers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, was Quatro’s second solo single and her first to chart. And it was a smash, topping the charts in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. It also climbed to no. 2 in Austria and no. 5 in Ireland. In Quatro’s home country the U.S., the tune fared more moderately, reaching no. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. American music listeners just weren’t as much into glam rock as audiences in other parts of the world, especially in Europe. Can the Can was also included on Quatro’s eponymous debut album, released in October 1973.
Here’s a bit of additional background on Suzie Quatro from her bio on AllMusic: With her trademark leather jump suit, instantly hooky songs, and big bass guitar, Suzi Quatro is a glam rock icon with a window-rattling voice and rock & roll attitude to spare. After getting her start in garage and hard rock bands, 1973’s breakthrough single “Can the Can,” a stomping blast of glam rock that combined ’50s-style song craft with Quatro’s powerful vocals, made her an international star. She followed up with a string of similar-sounding singles and albums — and made an impression on TV viewers with her role on the hit sitcom Happy Days — before softening her sound and scoring a hit with the 1978 ballad “Stumblin’ In.” While her work in the future would encompass everything from new wave pop on 1983’s Main Attraction to starring in a musical based on the life of Tallulah Bankhead in 1991, Quatro never lost her instincts as a rocker, as evidenced by albums like 2006’s Back to the Drive and 2021’s The Devil in Me.
When I heard Can the Can for the first time in the mid-’70s, it was not by Suzi Quatro but by German vocalist Joy Fleming. While I don’t know much about Fleming except for a 1974 live album titled Joy Fleming Live, I know one thing. She was a hell of a vocalist! Check this out!
Here are a few additional tidbits on Can the Can and Suzie Quatro from Songfacts:
…Quatro is an American who joined Mickie Most’s RAK label roster, becoming part of the glam rock revolution. Most produced her first single, “Rolling Stone,” but it went nowhere, so he asked songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman to write and produce her next single. The result was “Can The Can.”
When asked what “Can The Can” means, Nicky Chinn replied: “It means something that is pretty impossible, you can’t get one can inside another if they are the same size, so we’re saying you can’t put your man in the can if he is out there and not willing to commit. The phrase sounded good and we didn’t mind if the public didn’t get the meaning of it.”
Suzi Quatro: “I can hear a record for the first time and know whether it will be a hit. And I knew as soon as we had finished recording that we had a big hit on our hands.” (above quotes from 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh)
This was the first #1 UK hit for a solo female artist since “Those Were The Days” by Mary Hopkin in 1968.
Quatro never hit it big in her native America, although she did have a memorable role on the TV series Happy Days playing Leather Tuscadero. She landed several more UK hits, including the #1 “Devil Gate Drive,” and influenced a generation of female rockers, notably Joan Jett.
Quatro wrote many of her own songs, but they tended to be album cuts, with the Chapman/Chinn team getting the singles. In a Songfacts interview with Quatro, she explained: “I was very boogie-based, very bass-based. And they went away and wrote ‘Can the Can.’ We had the arrangement where I could write the albums, and they would write the three-minute single – although I did have singles out myself, like ‘Mama’s Boy.’ I didn’t learn anything from their songwriting, because I always had my own thing. Whatever I did, I did.”
Suzi Quatro, who turned 72 a few weeks ago, continues to rock on. And tour. Her current schedule is here. Here’s Can the Can captured at London’s Royal Albert Hall in April this year. What a cool lady!
It’s Wednesday and I’m back with my little exercise to pick one tune to take with me on an imaginary trip to a desert island. Given my arbitrary self-imposed rules, perhaps I should change the title of the recurring feature. When most folks hear the term ‘desert island song’, understandably, they associate with it their most favorite music. That’s not what I’m doing here, at least not on an absolute scale.
The idea of this feature is to pick an artist or band I have rarely or not covered at all to date and select one song from them I like. Oftentimes, the choice comes down to only a handful of their tunes I know. As such, this excludes many of all-time favorites like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Carole King, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy or Steely Dan who otherwise would be preferred picks. Another restricting factor is I’m doing this exercise in alphabetic order.
What that said, let’s get to today’s pick. I’m up to the letter “n”. Looking in my music library reveals artists and bands, such as Graham Nash, Johnny Nash, Nazareth, Willie Nelson, Randy Newman, Nilsson and Nirvana. My pick is Yellow Moon by The Neville Brothers.
Sadly, The Neville Brothers are among the music acts whose names I had known for years but had not been able to identify a specific tune. To inform the above pick I sampled tracks of two compilations, including the one pictured in the clip, Uptown Rulin’, which came out in 1999.
I couldn’t find much information on Yellow Moon. This groovy tune is credited to band co-founder, keyboarder and vocalist Arthur Neville, who was also known as Art Neville, and Jack Neville who based on my findings in AllMusic was a songwriter, predominantly for country artists. Here’s a nice live version of the tune, featuring the great John Hiatt as a guest. While the group’s sax player Charles Neville introduces him, he notes the Nevilles had performed a song written by Hiatt on their 1978 eponymous debut album (Washable Ink).
Yellow Moon was the title track of a studio album The Neville Brothers released in March 1989. According to Wikipedia, it peaked at no. 66 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200. Notably, the album was produced by Daniel Lanois who also worked with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, among others. He also collaborated with Brian Eno to produce various albums for U2 including my favorite The Joshua Tree.
A review of Yellow Moon by Ron Wynn for AllMusic notes the album charted and remained there for many weeks, while the Nevilles toured and generated lots of interest. It didn’t become a hit, but it did respectably and represents perhaps their finest overall pop LP. The group won a 1990 Grammy for Best Instrumental Pop Performance for another track on that album, titled Healing Chant.
The seeds for The Neville Brothers were planted in 1976 during a recording session of The Wild Tchoupitoulas. This Mardis Gras Indian group was led by the Nevilles’ uncle, George Landry, known as Big Chief Jolly. In addition to the previously noted Art Neville (keyboards, vocals) and Charles Neville (saxophone), The Neville Brothers featured Aaron Neville (vocals) and Cyril Neville (vocals, percussion). All four were siblings and participated in the above recording session.
AllMusic and Wikipedia list nine studio albums The Neville Brothers released during their active period between 1976 and 2012. In the latter year, they formally disbanded but reunited one more time in 2015 for a farewell concert in New Orleans. Charles Neville and Art Neville passed away in April 2018 and July 2019 at the ages of 79 and 81, respectively. Aaron Neville, now 81, is retired. Seventy-two-year-old Cyril Neville, the youngest of the four brothers, still appears to be an active musician.