I cannot believe it’s been 10 weeks since the last installment in my irregularly recurring feature where I take a look at events in music on a specific date throughout the decades. Today, it’s April 6. As always, the content reflects my music taste and isn’t meant to provide a full accounting of things that happened on this date.
1965:The Beatles were busy with filming their second motion picture Help! From The Beatles Bible: The Beatles completed the interior kitchen and dining scenes for the Rajahama Indian restaurant sequence in Help! on this day.The scenes were filmed on a set at Twickenham Film Studios in England. During a break while filming, the group saw traditional Indian musical instruments for the first time. George Harrison, in particular, was fascinated by them, and the music had a significant effect on The Beatles’ musical development.“The first time that we were aware of anything Indian was when we were making Help!. There was an odd thing about an Indian and that Eastern sect that had the ring and the sacrifice; and on the set in one place they had sitars and things – they were the Indian band playing in the background, and George was looking at them.” (John Lennon quote, 1972 – from The Beatles Anthology, paperback, Sep 1, 2002)
1968: The soundtrack of the romantic comedy-drama picture The Graduate starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Brancroft and Katherine Ross hit no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200, fueled by the popularity of Simon & Garfunkel tune Mrs. Robinson. Written by Paul Simon and initially titled Mrs. Roosevelt, the song was also included on the duo’s fourth studio album Bookends and appeared separately on April 5, 1968 as the record’s fourth single. Like the soundtrack, it climbed to the top of the U.S. charts, in this case the Billboard Hot 100. The Graduate soundtrack also included four other songs by Simon & Garfunkel, most notably The Sound of Silence.
1974: Swedish pop group ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo, which turned them into European stars overnight. Co-written by the group’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, together with ABBA manager Stig Anderson, Waterloo was the lead single and title track of the group’s sophomore album. It also became ABBA’s first major international hit though in their homeland of Sweden it “only” reached no. 2, just behind Ring Ring, the title song of their debut album, which topped the charts there. Waterloo hit no. 1 in the UK, Norway, The Netherlands, Ireland and Germany. Elsewhere, it climbed to no. 2 in Austria, no. 3 in New Zealand and no. 6 in the U.S. It marked the beginning of a remarkable 8-year international career that lasted until their first breakup in 1982. In 2016, ABBA reunited which culminated in a new album and ABBA Voyage, a virtual concert residency at a purpose-built venue in London. It started in May 2022 and is currently slated to last until January 2024.
1992:Annie Lennox, formerly a member of British synth-pop duo Eurythmics with Dave Stewart, released her debut solo album Diva. It became the most successful album of her solo career to date, topping the charts in the UK and Italy, and placing in the top 10 in Austria (no. 3); The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland (no. 5 in each); Germany (no. 6); Australia (no. 7) and Canada (no. 8). In the U.S. , it reached no. 23. Diva has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, and won the 1993 Brit Awards for British Album of the Year, as well as the 1993 Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video. Here’s the beautiful debut single Why, released in March 1992. Written by Lennox, it also enjoyed significant international chart success:
Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; Songfacts Music History Calendar; YouTube
Recently, Max who writes the excellent PowerPop blog, invited me to develop a post for a fun series he titled Beatles Week. His direction to contributors was “to either write about their favorite Beatles song…or write something about them.” Max and I share very similar opinions about music, including the longtime conviction The Beatles are the best band of all time, and sometimes I still believe we’re distant relatives – well, regardless, I feel like Max is my brother. Following is my contribution, which first appeared on PowerPop blog on March 15.
The Beatles are my all-time favorite band, so rejecting an invitation to write about my most beloved song or something else about the four lads from Liverpool simply wasn’t a possibility. I chose the first option. Thanks for the generous offer, Max!
So, what’s my favorite Beatles tune? That’s easy – all of them, except perhaps for number 9, number 9, number 9…Well, that doesn’t reduce the choices by much. Seriously, with so many great Beatles songs, it’s hard to pick just one! My first Beatles album was a compilation, Beatles 20 Golden Hits, released by Odeon in 1979. Below is an image of the tracklist.
While each of the above songs is great and would deserve a dedicated post, the album doesn’t include the tune I decided to highlight. If you follow my blog or know my music taste otherwise, by now, you may be thinking I’m going to pick another song The Beatles recorded after they stopped touring.
Perhaps gems like A Day In the Life, Strawberry Fields Forever or I Am the Walrus come to mind. In fact, I previously said if I could pick only one, it would be A Day In The Life. The truth is with so many great tunes to choose from, it also depends on my mood and the day of the week.
That said, one song I’ve really come to love only within the past five years was recorded by The Beatles while they still were a touring band: If I Needed Someone, one of George Harrison’s earlier tunes that made it on a Beatles album: Rubber Soul, except for North America where it was included on Yesterday and Today, the record that became infamous because of its initial cover showing The Beatles in butcher outfits with mutilated baby dolls.
According to his 1980 autobiography I, Me, Mine, as cited by Wikipedia, Harrison apparently didn’t feel If I Needed Someone was anything special. He compared it to “a million other songs” that are based on a guitarist’s finger movements around the D major chord.
True, it’s a fairly simple song. And yet I totally love it!
Music doesn’t have to be complicated to be great. In this case, a major reason why I dig this tune as much as I do is Harrison’s use of a Rickenbacker 360/12, a 12-string electric guitar that sounds like magic to my ears. Of course, when you hear Rickenbacker, one of the first artists who come to mind is Rickenbacker maestro Roger McGuinn who adopted the Rickenbacker 360/12 to create the Byrds’ signature jingle-jangle guitar sound.
There is an interesting background story. The inspiration for McGuinn to use the Rickenbacker 360/12 came after he had seen Harrison play that guitar in the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night. Harrison’s If I Needed Someone, in turn, was influenced by the guitar sound McGuinn had perfectionated, especially on the Byrds’ rendition of Pete Seeger’sThe Bells of Rhymney. The rhythm was based on the drum part in She Don’t Care About Time, a tune by Gene Clark, the Byrds’ main early songwriter.
“George Harrison wrote that song after hearing the Byrds’ recording of “Bells of Rhymney”, McGuinn told Christianity Today magazine, as documented by Songfacts. “He gave a copy of his new recording to Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ former press officer, who flew to Los Angeles and brought it to my house. He said George wanted me to know that he had written the song based on the rising and falling notes of my electric Rickenbacker 12-string guitar introduction. It was a great honor to have in some small way influenced our heroes the Beatles.”
Apart from the signature guitar sound of the Byrds, If I Needed Someone also is viewed as reflecting Harrison’s then-developing interest in Indian classical music by the use of drone over the main musical phrase and its partly so-called Mixolydian harmony. I’m basing this on Wikipedia and frankly don’t fully understand it.
Harrison wrote the song for English model Pattie Boyd whom he married in January 1966. There has been some discussion over the ambivalent tone of the lyrics. Does a guy who sings, “If I needed someone to love you’re the one that I’d be thinking of” really sound like he’s madly in love with the girl and wants to marry her? Or how about “Carve your number on my wall and maybe you will get a call from me” – “maybe” neither sounds very committed nor romantic, at least not in my book!
If I Needed Someone has been covered by various other artists. First out of the gate were The Hollies who released the tune as a single on December 3, 1965, the same day Rubber Soul appeared in the UK. Their rendition, which Harrison evidently didn’t like, peaked at no. 20 on the UK Official Singles Chart. Various other versions were recorded in 1966 by American bands Stained Glass, The Kingsmen and The Cryan’ Shames, as well as South African jazz trumpet player Hugh Masekela. Among additional covers that appeared later is a brilliant rendition by Mr. Rickenbacker maestro himself from 2004.
The Beatles – If I Needed Someone
The Byrds – The Bells Of Rhymney
The Byrds – She Don’t Care About Time
Roger McGuinn – If I Needed Someone
If Needed Someone
If I needed someone to love You’re the one that I’d be thinking of If I needed someone
If I had some more time to spend Then I guess I’d be with you, my friend If I needed someone
Had you come some other day Then it might not have been like this But you see now I’m too much in love
Carve your number on my wall And maybe you will get a call from me If I needed someone Ah, ah, ah, ah
If I had some more time to spend Then I guess I’d be with you, my friend If I needed someone
Had you come some other day Then it might not have been like this But you see now I’m too much in love
Carve your number on my wall And maybe you will get a call from me If I needed someone Ah, ah
Music fellow blogger Dave from A Sound Day has a great recurring feature, Turntable Talk, for which he invites other bloggers to contribute their thoughts about a given topic. This time, he called it “Those Were the Days My Friend,” I guess a nod to the tune popularized by Mary Hopkin in 1968. Or as he summed it up: Simply put, we’re asking the contributors to write about “music’s best year.” Following is my contribution, which first ran on Dave’s blog yesterday. For this post, I added some clips, as well as a Spotify playlist at the end.
Here we are with another great topic for Turntable Talk – thanks for continuing to host the fun series, Dave, and for having me back.
Interestingly, when prompted to think about what I feel is the best year in music, I instantly had the answer – or so I thought until I started having second thoughts.
Admittedly, this is typical for me who oftentimes tends to overthink things. That’s why I also keep emphasizing that I’m “ranking-challenged.” Anyway, after careful agony, guess what happened? I stuck with my initial spontaneous choice: 1969 – what an amazing year in music!
From an overall perspective, the year saw two epic moments and a less-than-glorious event: The first was the three-day Woodstock festival in mid-August with an incredible line-up of bands and artists, such as Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Jimi Hendrix. Can you imagine a music event of that caliber these days?
At the same time, I don’t want to romanticize things either and will add it was probably a near-miracle Woodstock didn’t end in complete disaster, given the overcrowding and horrible sanitary conditions. Also, let’s not forget the three lives that were lost: two drug overdoses and another fatality when a 17-year-old sleeping in a nearby hayfield was run over by a tractor.
Then there was that other concert by one of the bands who would decline to perform at Woodstock: On January 30, 1969, The Beatles played an impromptu gig on the rooftop of their Apple Corps headquarters in London. Commonly known as the rooftop concert, it became their final public appearance as a band.
Speaking of concerts, again, I’d be remiss in not to least briefly acknowledging The Rolling Stones’ performance at Altamont Speedway in California on December 9, 1969. The gig became infamous for its violence, including a fan who was stabbed to death by members of the biker gang Hells Angels who had been hired to provide security for $500 worth of beer. I guess you can put this mind-boggling arrangement into the ‘you can’t make up this stuff’ and ‘what were they thinking?’ departments!
Next, I’d like to highlight some of the great albums that were released in 1969. Looking in Wikipedia, I easily came up with 20-plus – obviously way too many to cover in this post. As such, I decided to narrow it down to five. I’m briefly going to touch on each in the following, in chronological order. I’m also picking one track from each I like in particular.
January 5: Creedence Clearwater Revival released their sophomore album Bayou Country, the first of three(!) records they put out in 1969. Here’s Proud Mary, which like all other songs except one was written by John Fogerty.
May 23: The Who put out their fourth studio album Tommy, Pete Townshend’s first rock opera. While the production oftentimes feels unfinished, the double LP is a gem. One of my favorite songs has always been We’re Not Gonna Take It. Like most of the other tunes, it was solely penned by Townshend.
September 23: Of course, it was a forgone conclusion any favorite year in music while The Beatles were still together would include one of their albums. In this case, it’s Abbey Road, which actually was their final record, even though it appeared prior to Let It Be. Two of the best tracks on the album were written by George Harrison. Here’s one of them: Something.
August 22: Santana’s eponymous debut album was released in the wake of the band’s legendary performance at Woodstock. Here’s the amazing instrumental closer Soul Sacrifice.
October 22: Last but not least, on that date, Led Zeppelin released their sophomore album Led Zeppelin II, only nine months after their January 12 debut. One of my all-time favorite Zep tunes is Whole Lotta Love, initially credited to all members of the band, with the subsequent addition of Willie Dixon. Once again, unfortunately, it took litigation to give credit where credit was due!
In the final section of this post, I’m going to look at a few additional great songs that were released as singles in 1969.
First up are The Rolling Stones and Honky Tonk Women, a non-album single that appeared on July 4. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was the first of two versions of the song. The second version, Country Honk, which has slightly different lyrics, appeared on the Stones’ Let It Bleed album that came out on December 5 of the same year.
Suspicious Minds is one of my all-time favorite tunes performed by Elvis Presley, which was released on August 26 as a single. Written and first recorded by American songwriter Mark James in 1968, Suspicious Minds topped the Billboard Hot 100, giving Elvis his first no. 1 on the U.S. pop chart since 1962, helping revive his chart success in America, following his ’68 Comeback Special, a concert special that had aired on NBC on December 3, 1968. The song also was a major hit in many other countries.
Let’s do two more: First up is Reflections of My Life by Scottish band Marmalade, a song I loved from the very first moment I heard it on the radio back in Germany many moons ago. Co-written by the group’s lead guitarist Junior Campbell and vocalist Dean Ford, this gem was first released as a single in the UK on November 14 and subsequently appeared on their 1970 studio album Reflections of the Marmalade.
I’d like to close out this post with what remains one of my favorite David Bowie songs to this day: Space Oddity. Written by Bowie, the tune was first released as a single on July 11. It also was the opener of his sophomore eponymous album, which subsequently became commonly known as Space Oddity because of the song and to distinguish it from Bowie’s 1967 debut album, which was also self-titled. Bowie’s tale of fictional astronaut Major Tom was used by the BBC during its coverage of the Moon landing.
I can hardly think of another year in music that was as rich as 1969. That said, I was considering 1971. And 1972 didn’t look shabby either. Now that I think about it, let me go back to further reflect!😊
Following is a Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes from 1969.
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
Final gig of North American tour features plenty of music, anecdotes and a surprise guest
Last night, I saw Paul McCartney for the third and possibly last time, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. It’s hard to believe six years had passed since my previous Macca concert in August 2016 at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa. Yesterday’s show marked the final gig of his 16-date North American Got Back Tour. And back he got, with more than two and a half hours of songs, anecdotes and a surprise guest.
Overall, I share the same sentiments of fellow blogger Jim from Music Enthusiast, who recently got to enjoy McCartney in Boston and posted a nice review here. Backed by his longtime touring band, McCartney delivered many great songs and had an amazing amount of energy. His voice definitely wasn’t what it used to be, but I had fully anticipated that, so it didn’t bother me. I was simply happy to get another opportunity to see one of my biggest heroes in music.
There was a LOT of music – 40 songs, including a snippet of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxey Lady at the end of Let Me Roll It, and not counting the audience’s rendition of Happy Birthday to congratulate Sir Paul in advance of his imminent big occasion. Putting together a setlist that between The Beatles, Wings and Paul McCartney solo tunes reflects a massive catalog must be tricky and cannot make everybody entirely happy. Personally, I would have loved to see a few more early Beatles songs. And from Egypt Station, Paul’s 17th solo album from 2018, which I feel is among his better post-Beatles efforts, Come On to Me and Fuh You wouldn’t have been my picks, but enough with the silly complaining!
While based on Jim’s blog and other accounts I’ve read Macca’s song announcements and shared anecdotes didn’t vary from show to show, nevertheless, this didn’t feel like some routine gig to me. You could see from Macca’s facial expressions that the soon-to-be 80-year-old still enjoyed performing for his fans. I mean, ‘drink this all in,’ to borrow one of Paul’s expressions he used last night!
Usually, I don’t “coordinate” my posts with fellow bloggers. But since I believe Jim and I have a number of common followers and given his recent review, I decided to focus on music Jim didn’t highlight in his great post, so our fellow bloggers don’t end up watching the same clips twice. And, as previously hinted, there is a surprise guest. Curious? Read on! 🙂
Let’s kick things off with a Beatles tune from Revolver: Got to Get You Into My Life. Written by Macca and credited to him and John Lennon, the song is a nice homage to Motown. I’ve always dug it! The performance also prominently showcased Paul’s neat horn section.
The next song I’d like to highlight is from Band on the Run, Macca’s third studio release with Wings. The 1973 record remains my favorite McCartney album post-Beatles. Here’s the great piano-driven Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.
For this next tune, Macca went back, way back, to the very first song recorded in June 1958 as a demo by The Quarrymen, the group that eventually would evolve into The Beatles. In addition to Paul, John and George Harrison, the line-up featured John Lowe (piano) and Colin Hanton (drums). Sure, In Spite of All the Danger isn’t as good as I Saw Her Standing There, You Can’t Do That, She Loves You and other early Beatles tunes, but I still thought it was cool Paul decided to play it.
No Paul McCartney gig would be complete without some solo tunes on acoustic guitar. Here’s Blackbird, off The White Album, a song I loved from the get-go when I heard it many moons ago. In fact, my great guitar teacher showed me how to play it at the time. Unfortunately, these days, I can only partially remember it. But I suppose there’s always YouTube!
Next, I’d like to highlight a medley of You Never Give Me Your Money and She Came Into the Bathroom Window. During his announcement, Paul noted the North American tour marked the first time they performed this. It’s hard to believe they didn’t play these great tunes from Abbey Road during previous tours.
Did I mention there was a surprise? About two-thirds into the show, there was a sudden commotion in the audience. I heard people behind me speculate that Ringo Starr might be in the house. After all, Ringo had showed up at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in July 2019 where Macca wrapped his Freshen Up Tour. Well, we didn’t get Ringo. Instead, Bruce Springsteen walked up on stage to a screaming audience. Here are two tunes he performed with McCartney: His own Glory Days, off the Born in the U.S.A. album, and The Beatles’I Wanna Be Your Man. For a moment, the Boss stole the show, but Macca seemed to be cool with it!
I could go on and on, but all things must pass, to borrow from the wise George Harrison. The last tune I’d like to call out is from the encore: Helter Skelter, another track from The White Album. And an impressive illustration of Sir Paul’s admirable energy level two and a half hours into the gig. Any young cat musicians out there, check this out – just incredible!
I briefly mentioned Paul’s excellent band in the upfront. These guys are simply top-notch musicians and Macca rightfully called them out last night: Paul “Wix” Wickens (keyboards), Brian Ray (bass/guitar), Rusty Anderson (guitar) and Abe Laboriel Jr. (drums). He also noted the name of his amazing horn section, but unfortunately, I did not catch it.
Last but not least, here’s the setlist: • Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles song) • Junior’s Farm (Wings song) • Letting Go (Wings song) • Got to Get You Into My Life (The Beatles song) • Come On to Me • Let Me Roll It (Wings song) (with “Foxy Lady” outro jam) • Getting Better (The Beatles song) • Let ‘Em In (Wings song) • My Valentine • Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings song) • Maybe I’m Amazed • I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles song) • In Spite of All the Danger (The Quarrymen song) • Love Me Do (The Beatles song) • Dance Tonight • Blackbird (The Beatles song) • Here Today • New • Lady Madonna (The Beatles song) • Fuh You • Jet (Wings song) • Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles song) • Something (The Beatles song) • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles song) • You Never Give Me Your Money & She Came in Through the Bathroom Window (The Beatles songs) • Get Back (The Beatles song) • Band on the Run (Wings song) • Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen cover with Bruce Springsteen) • I Wanna Be Your Man (The Beatles song with Bruce Springsteen) • Let It Be (The Beatles song) • Live and Let Die (Wings song) • Hey Jude (The Beatles song)
Encore: • I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles song) (“virtual duet” w/video &… more ) • Happy Birthday to You (Mildred J. Hill & Patty Hill cover) (with Jon Bon Jovi) • Birthday (The Beatles song) • Helter Skelter (The Beatles song) • Golden Slumbers (The Beatles song) • Carry That Weight (The Beatles song) • The End (The Beatles song with Bruce Springsteen)
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band shine at New York City’s renowned performance venue
I finally got to see Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band Tuesday night at New York City’s storied Beacon Theatre. While as a huge Beatles fan I can’t quite explain why this didn’t happen years ago, I know one thing for sure: The night turned out to be a great memorable experience that was worth the wait!
At the beginning of the concert, which kicked off shortly after 8:00 p.m. with no opening act, Ringo noted that after various previously cancelled attempts he was glad to be back on the road. Based on the vibe he projected throughout the gig, those were honest words from a close to 82-year-old artist who still loves to perform.
One sad note: All Starr member Edgar Winter was absent. Ringo explained he had come down with COVID. Since his keyboards had been set up, I assume Winter literally must have found out just hours before the gig. But as professional musicians do, they decided the show must go on. Not only do I join Ringo who wished Winter the best, but I also hope nobody else from the band and the supporting staff got infected and the long postponed tour can go on.
Another bit of a bummer: I didn’t capture any video. You can thank the Beacon Theatre’s usher police. I’ve rarely seen ushers constantly pacing back and forth and telling people not to take photos or videos. Granted these are the official rules but, come on, regular concert visitors snapping some photos or taking some video aren’t doing this for profit.
Well, other than taking a couple of pictures, I didn’t want to become a troublemaker, especially when the performer’s key motto is ‘peace and love’. Instead, I’m relying on YouTube videos captured by some other terrible violators! None of the clips was captured Tuesday night, but they are all from the current tour and feature Edgar Winter. And while he was defintely missed, the group did a great job without him.
Speaking of the All Starr Band beyond Ringo, each member had moments when they truly shined. The first two I’d like to call out are saxophonist Warren Ham, who also played flute and harmonica and sang vocals. Then there was British guitarist and bassist Hamish Stuart, a co-founder of Scottish funk and R&B group Average White Band, aka AWB. Check out their and and the band’s great rendition of AWB’sPick Up the Pieces, off their 1974 eponymous sophomore album. And, yep, that’s Steve Lukather on bass, who occassionally traded the instrument with Stuart.
Colin Hay, best known as songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist of Aussie band Men At Work, stood out on vocals, still sounding like business as usual in the ’80s, especially on Men At Work songs. Here’s Overkill, a tune from the band’s sophomore album Cargo, released in April 1993. Check out Hay hitting high notes at around 3 minutes. Hay also perfectly nailed the high notes on Toto’s Africa, a vocal highlight of the night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip that did the performance full justice.
Steve Lukather was great on guitar. Here here’s rocking out on Hold the Line, Toto’s debut single from October 1978, which gave them a big hit from the get-go. When anouncing the tune on Tuesday night, Lukather said he was 19 years old when Toto recorded that tune, adding in a few months he’s turning 65. I’ve always loved that song!
So where the heck is Ringo in all of this, you may wonder. Well, to begin with, he shared drumming responsibilities with Gregg Bissonette, and they both looked like they were having fun behind their kits. And then, of course, he also did some singing. Here’s Photograph, co-written by him and George Harrison, and first released in September 1973 as the lead single of Ringo’s eponymous third studio album that came out in November that year.
Following is the setlist from Tuesday night: • Matchbox (Carl Perkins cover) • It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo Starr song) • What Goes On (Beatles cover) • Rosanna (Toto cover feat. Steve Lukather) • Pick Up the Pieces (AWB cover feat. Hamish Stuart) • Down Under (Men At Work cover feat. Colin Hay) • Boys (Shirelles cover feat. Ringo Starr) • I’m The Greatest (Ringo Starr song) • Yellow Submarine (Beatles cover feat. Ringo Starr) • Cut the Cake (WAB cover feat. Hamish Stuart) • Octupus’s Garden (Beatles cover feat. Ringo Starr) • Back Off Boogaloo (Ringo Starr song) • Overkill (Men At Work cover feat. Colin Hay) • Africa (Toto cover feat. Steve Lukather) • Work to Do (Isley Brothers cover feat. Hamish Stuart) • I Wanna Be Your Man (Beatles cover feat. Ringo Starr) • Who Can It Be Now? (Men At Work cover feat. Colin Hay) • Hold the Line (Toto cover feat. Steve Lukather) • Photograph (Ringo Starr song) • Act Naturally (Johnny Russell cover feat. Ringo Starr) • With a Little Help From My Friends/Give Peace A Chance (Beatles cover feat. Ringo; John Lennon cover)
Tuesday night’s gig was the second of three dates Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band did at the Beacon Theatre. Tomorrow night, they play Count Basie Theater, a great venue in Red Bank, N.J., before moving on to State Theater in Easton, Penn. (June 11) and Providenc PAC in Providence, R.I. (June 12). The current leg of the North American tour wraps up in Clearwater, Fla. on June 26. Part 2 starts in Bridgeport, Conn. on September 23. The full current schedule is here. If you haven’t seen Ringo yet and like his music and the All Starr Band concept, I can highly recommend the show!
The other day, fellow blogger Max from PowerPop blog featuredI Want to Tell You, a George Harrison tune from Revolver, rightfully noting the great opening riff and calling it very unrated. This reminded me of a post I originally published in August 2016 about the then-50th anniversary of what is widely considered one of the best albums by The Beatles.
I was about six weeks into my blogging journey. The blog was very bare-bones at the time with no embedded images or video clips in the posts. While my writing was also still evolving, I felt the content of this early post deserved to be republished. Unlike previous Musings of the Past installments, which essentially were straight reposts, I decided to enhance the Revolver post with both multi-media and some additional text at the end. I also slightly amended the headline. Here we go.
When The Beatles’ Revolver Turned 50
It was 50 years ago yesterday (Aug 5): The Beatles released Revolver in the UK, an album that is considered a leap from predecessor Rubber Soul, introducing more experimentation and innovative recording techniques.
On Aug 5, 1966, The Beatles released Revolver, their seventh studio album in the UK. Just the other day, a good friend of mine told me many experts consider it the best album of the Fab Four. Yesterday, I noticed a number of related articles from music sources like Rolling Stone and others commemorating the occasion. So I decided to take a closer look on this mold-breaking album.
On Revolver, The Beatles started experimenting with various new recording techniques, including tape loops, backwards recordings and varispeeding. The most significant innovation was Artificial Double Tracking (ADT), which was invented by Ken Townsend, a recording engineer at Abbey Road Studios. The technique essentially combines an original audio signal with a delayed copy of that signal. Previously, the effect could only be accomplished by natural doubling of a voice or instrument, a technique called double-tracking.
The invention of ADT mainly was spurred by a request from John Lennon who during the Revolver sessions asked for a less tedious alternative to double-tracking. ADT was soon adopted throughout the recording industry.
Revolver was also remarkable for other reasons. The title, by the way, had nothing to do with guns but was derived from the verb revolve. One of the album’s highlights is the string arrangement on Eleanor Rigby, which was written by George Martin. Otherwise, the tune was primarily penned by Paul McCartney. Blending classical and pop music broke conventions. It would take another four years before another British band, Electric Light Orchestra, would take this concept to the stratosphere.
Revolver also saw George Harrison take on a bigger role in song-writing and shaping the band’s sound: Taxman, Love You To and I Want to Tell You were all written by him. Love You To featured Indian classical instruments, which George had introduced on Rubber Soul with his use of the sitar on Norwegian Wood. On Revolver, he also introduced the tambura, another instrument used in Indian music, on John’s Tomorrow Never Knows. Another interesting tidbit I read: The guitar solo on Taxman was played by Paul after George had made multiple unsuccessful attempts.
Apart from the above, Revolver included other gems like Here, There and Everywhere, Good Day Sunshine and Got to Get You into My Life. The sessions to the album also yielded the non-album single Paperback Writer with Rain as the b-side.
In the U.S., Revolver was released on August 8, 1966. The release coincided with The Beatles’ third and final concert tour in the U.S. and Toronto. Except for Paperback Writer, the band did not perform any of the songs from the Revolver sessions.
Revolver won the 1966 Grammy for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts. The cover artwork was designed by Klaus Voormann, who had known The Beatles since 1960 when he met them during their time in Hamburg. While Revolver was well received in the UK, the initial reception in the U.S. was less enthusiastic due to John’s controversial statement that The Beatles had become bigger than Jesus. Eventually, the album was certified 5 times platinum in the U.S. and platinum in the UK.
– End –
The original post, first published on August 6, 2016, ended here. Following is some additional content about two songs that are among my favorites on Revolver.
First up: Taxman. According to Songfacts, George was a fan of the 1960s American television series Batman. The music for Taxman was inspired by the Batman Theme, written and first recorded by conductor/trumpeter Neal Hefti. It was subsequently covered in early 1966 by The Marketts, an American surf rock group. “‘Taxman’ was when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes,” Harrison said. Subsequently, he changed his stance about money, telling BBC Radio in 1969, “No matter how much money you’ve got, you can’t be happy anyway. So you have to find your happiness with the problems you have and you have to not worry too much about them.”
Let’s wrap up with John Lennon tune And Your Bird Can Sing. From Songfacts: “Bird” is British slang for “Girl.” One theory is that this song is a scolding by John Lennon of his buddy Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, who loved to brag about his bird – Marianne Faithfull – who was great, green (jealous/young) and could sing. John made it clear that Mick and the Stones wear great but could never ever match up to John and the other Beatles...The signature dual-harmony electric lead guitar parts were played live (without overdubbing) by Harrison and McCartney. Lennon played the rhythm in the “D major” position with the capo on the second fret (to account for the song being in the key of E)...John Lennon said this was a throwaway song with random words of psychedelia added in designed to sound like it meant something. He considered it one of his worst songs. Not bad for a “junk tune”!
Last but not least here is a Spotify link to Revolver:
Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; Songfacts; YouTube; Spotify
15th All Starr Band features Steve Lukather, Colin Hay, Warren Ham, Hamish Stewart, Greg Bissonette and Edgar Winter
…We’re on the road again/We’re on the road again/We’re on the road again/We’re gonna play some rock ‘n’ roll, that’s true/Now we’re heading down the highway to play for you...
The above excerpt from We’re On the Road Again, the opener of Ringo Starr’s 2017 studio album Give More Love, was my first thought when getting a recent email reminder for my scheduled upcoming gig by Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band at New York City’s storied Beacon Theatre. This prompted me to check on the status of their tour, which had been derailed twice in 2020 and then again in 2021 due to you know what! It’s now official. Ringo and his revolving cast of prominent bandmates are back on the road, the best news I’ve heard in a long time!
The tour kicked off on May 27 in Canada at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario. An announcement on Ringo’s website notes the show marked the fifth time the band launched a tour at that venue after 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2014. The large casino, hotel and entertainment complex is located on the reserve land of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.
“It’s loose,” Ringo told the Toronto Sun when describing the atmosphere at Casino Rama and explaining why the band chose the venue yet again to kick off another tour. “For a week we live here and we just go to the same stage. It’s good being in the same vicinity as where we’re rehearsing.”
Following are some clips taken by concert attendees of both the initial May 27 show and the second Rama date of May 28. First up: It Don’t Come Easy, which has always been one of my favorite Ringo tunes. The song, which he co-wrote with George Harrison who also produced it, first appeared as a non-album single in April 1971. It was Ringo’s second solo single. The tune may be titled “it don’t come easy”, but you don’t get the sense performing it posed any bigger challenge to Ringo who is turning 82 in July and seems to be in superb shape!
While Ringo undoubtedly is central to the All Starr Band, the idea behind the live “rock supergroup”, which he founded in 1989, has always been to go beyond Ringo’s songs and showcase tunes by the band’s members. Now in its 15th iteration, the group features longtime members Steve Lukather (of Toto), Colin Hay (formerly of Men At Work), Warren Ham, Hamish Stuart (formerly of Average White Band) and Gregg Bissonette, as well as alumni Edgar Winter whose first tenure was from 2006 to 2011. Speaking of Edgar, here’s Free Ride, a song written by Dan Hartman and originally recorded in 1972 by the Edgar Winter Group. Yeah, baby, this rocks!
How ’bout some Aussie music. Ask you shall receive. Here’s Colin Hay with Men at Work’s Down Under. One of the band’s best-known tunes, Down Under appeared on Business As Usual, the group’s debut album released in November 1981. Hay’s proposition of the vegemite sandwich still sounds pretty tasty.
Three clips in, you may wonder, and no Beatles? Agree, this borders on a crime. Here’s Octopus’s Garden, one of two songs Ringo not only sang but also wrote for the band. The second one was Don’t Pass Me By. He penned Octopus’s Garden during a boating trip with his family in Sardinia after he had walked out on The Beatles during The White Album sessions in 1968. Of course, we know the rest of the story. When Ringo returned, he found his drum kit covered with flowers, thanks to George, and Octopus’s Garden ended up on Abbey Road, the actual final Beatles album, even though it was released in September 1969, eight months prior to Let It Be.
Let’s do one more: With a Little Help From My Friends combined with a snippet of Give Peace a Chance, the show finale. With a Little Help From My Friends, off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was among the final songs John Lennon and Paul McCartney truly wrote together. Give Peace a Chance, recorded May 31, 1969 at a “bed-in” Lennon staged with Yoko Ono in a room at Queen Elizabeth’s Hotel in Montreal, was Lennon’s first solo hit.
Here’s the setlist from the May 27 show, as reported by the Toronto Sun: • Matchbox • It Don’t Come Easy • What Goes On • Free Ride • Rosanna • Pick Up the Pieces • Down Under • Boys • I’m The Greatest • Yellow Submarine • Cut the Cake • Overkill • Africa • Work to Do • I Wanna Be Your Man • Johnny B. Goode • Who Can It Be Now • Hold the Line • Photograph • Act Naturally • With a Little Help From My Friends/Give Peace A Chance
“I can’t wait to get back out on the road and play,” Ringo said in the above statement that was issued in February. “This is the longest I’ve been off the road in years – up until 2020 I was touring every year with the All Starrs – and I’ve really missed it. Making music in the studio has been great, and it certainly saved me during the pandemic, but nothing beats playing live with great musicians in front of an audience. I love my fans and they love me and it’s going to be wonderful to be peace and loving and playing for them again.” That’s the spirit!
Tonight, Ringo and His All Starr Band are playing CMAC in Canandaigua, N.Y., before moving on to Boston’s Wang Theater on June 2 and Hanover Theater in Worcester, Mass. on June 3. The full tour schedule is available here.
Sources: Wikipedia; Ringo Starr website; Toronto Sun; Songfacts; YouTube
While I know a good number of Elton John songs from throughout his 50-plus-year recording career, I cannot make that claim when it comes to his 30 studio albums. So why pick Honky Château to highlight in a post? Well, to start with, it includes Rocket Man, one of my all-time favorite tunes by John. I’ve also always dug Honky Cat. But the main reason for writing about Honky Château again today is the album’s 50th anniversary, another 1972 classic to hit the big milestone.*
Released on May 19, 1972, and named after Château d’Hérouville, an 18th-century French castle where it was recorded, Elton John’s fifth studio album is a gem that definitely has more to offer than the above-noted tunes. Moreover, it’s a significant album in his recording career. Honky Château became John’s first of seven consecutive no. 1 records in the U.S. on the Billboard 200. It also performed very well elsewhere: No. 2 in the UK, no. 3 in Canada and no. 4 in Australia, to name a few countries where it charted. John truly ruled during the first half of the ’70s!
Honky Château also marked the first record to feature core members of John’s road band: David Johnstone (acoustic and electric guitars, steel guitar, mandolin, backing vocals), Dee Murray (bass) and Nigel Olsson (drums). Murray and Olsson had joined John’s touring band from The Spencer Davis Group. Johnstone, a session musician, had first played with John on predecessor Madman Across the Water from November 1971. He pretty much has been with John ever since. Johnstone, Murray and Olsson became instrumental in shaping Elton John’s sound during the ’70s.
Let’s get to some music, and what better way to start than with the opener Honky Cat. Like all other songs on the record, the music was composed by John with lyrics from his long-time partner in crime Bernie Taupin. I always liked the tune’s New Orleans vibe. The brass section, which was arranged by producer Gus Dudgeon, featured Jacques Bolognesi (trombone), Ivan Jullien (trumpet), as well as saxophonists Jean-Louis Chautemps and Alain Hatot. Honky Cat also appeared separately as the album’s second single in July 1972, backed by Slave.
I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself has some of Honky Cat’s New Orleans vibe as well. According to Songfacts, John said the song about a moody teenager’s suicide thoughts isn’t to be taken too seriously. I’m not sure a tune like this could be released today without causing controversy. Of course, the times they are a-changin’, and you could make the same observation for other ’70s tunes. The tap-dancing routine was performed by “Legs” Larry Smith, the former drummer of the comedy satirical rock group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Smith was friends with George Harrison who would include a tribute song about him, His Name Is Legs (Ladies and Gentlemen), on his 1975 studio album Extra Texture (Read All About It).
Closing out Side 1 is the majestic Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time), as it’s officially titled. Not surprisingly, the tale about a Mars-bound astronaut’s mixed feelings about leaving his family behind to carry out his mission became the album’s big hit. Separately released as the lead single in April 1972, backed by Susie (Dramas), it rose all the way to no. 2 in the UK and reached no. 6 in the U.S. Rocket Man also was a hit in various other countries, including Canada (no. 8), Germany (no. 18), Ireland (no. 6) and New Zealand (no. 11). It truly is a timeless classic!
Side 2 opens with Salvation. There isn’t much to say about this tune other than it’s the kind of ballad John excelled at in the ’70s, in my view.
Amy is another nice tune on Side 2. The song about young lust has a great groove. It features French jazz violinist and composer Jean-Luc Ponty on electric violin.
The last track I’d like to highlight is Honky Château’s closer Hercules. Initial plans to make Hercules the album’s third single did not materialize. While I haven’t read this anywhere, I’m wondering whether there may have been concerns it could have interfered with Crocodile Rock. One of John’s biggest hits, it was released in October 1972 as the lead single for his next studio album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player.
Here’s a Spotify link to the entire album.
Honky Château was generally well received by music critics at the time and is regarded as one of Elton John’s best albums. In October 1995, the record was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), meaning it had reached certified sales of one million units.
In 2003, Honky Château was ranked at no. 357 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, a position that remained nearly unchanged (no. 359) in the 2012 list. Interestingly, the album moved up by more than 100 spots to no. 251 in the list’s most recent revision from September 2020.
* This post was originally published on May 31, 2021. It has been slightly updated.