On This Day In Rock & Roll History: December 10

1966: The Rolling Stones released Got Live If You Want It!, their first full live album. The record, which only appeared in the U.S., resulted from a contractual obligation with the band’s American distributor London Records. A year earlier, an EP with the same title had been released in the U.K. Two of the tunes – I’ve Been Loving You Too Long and Fortune Teller – actually were recorded in the studio and overdubbed with audience background noise. The Stones didn’t like the record and later repudiated it, maintaining their first true live album was the excellent Get Yer Ya-Yas Out! Frankly, given the two fake live tracks and the mediocre sound quality, you can’t blame them! Here’s a clip of the opener Under My Thumb.

1967: Soul legend Otis Redding became another major American music artist who tragically died in a plane crash during a tour. Redding and his band were on route from Cleveland to their next scheduled gig in Madison, Wis. when his Beechcraft H18 crashed at night during bad weather into Lake Monoma near Madison. Apart from Redding, who was just 26 years old, the crash also killed four members of his touring band, guitarist Jimmy King, tenor saxophonist Phalon Jones, organist Ronnie Caldwell and drummer Carl Cunningham, along with assistant Matthew Kelly and the pilot, Richard Fraser. The only survivor was Ben Cauley, Redding’s trumpet player. The official cause of the crash was never determined. At the time of his death, Redding had been the biggest star of Memphis-based Stax Records. Here’s a great clip of Respect captured live at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival in June 1967. Written by Redding, the tune was originally recorded and released in 1965.

1973: CBGB, a music club in Manhattan’s East Village that became a famous performance venue for American punk and new wave bands, opened its doors to the public. Initially, founder Hilly Kristal’s vision for the club was to feature the music styles that were represented by CBGB,  which stood for Country Blue Grass and Blues. Instead, it became a forum for acts like the Ramones, Patti Smith Group, Blondie and Talking Heads. From the early 1980s onward, CBGB showcased mainly hardcore punk, post punk, metal and alternative rock. The club closed in October 2006. Here’s a clip of the Ramones at CBGB in 1977.

1976: Wings released Wings Over America, the band’s only live album and the sixth record in their overall catalog. The triple LP set captured the American leg of their 1975/76 Wings Over The World Tour. In addition to major hits Paul McCartney had recorded with Wings by then, the album included five songs from his time with The Beatles: Yesterday, Lady Madonna, I’ve Just Seen A Face, Blackbird and The Long And Winding Road. The album became a huge success, especially in the U.S. where it hit no. 1 in early 1977 and ended up selling four million copies. It also holds the distinction to be the first triple set by a group to reach the top of the U.S. charts. Here’s a clip of Maybe I’m Amazed, one of my favorite tracks from the record. I actually much prefer it to the original studio version on McCartney’s debut solo album McCartney, which appeared on April 17, 1970, just seven days after the official announcement of The Beatles’ breakup.

Sources: This Day in Music.com; Songfacts Music History Calendar, Wikipedia, YouTube

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The Rolling Stones’ New Collection of BBC Recordings Is A Gem For Fans

“On Air” documents radio recordings from band’s formative years

Last Friday (Dec 1), The Rolling Stones released On Air, a collection of recordings made by BBC Radio between 1963 and 1965 – a great piece of early Stones performance history and a true gem for fans. According to Wikipedia, The Sunday Times first mentioned the existence of the BBC tapes in early January 1998. Why it took almost 20 years to release a compilation of these recordings isn’t clear to me. Some reviews regarded the record as a sequel to Blue & Lonesome, the band’s first all-blues cover album from last year. Given the unexpected success of that record, which topped the charts in 15 countries, perhaps there is something to it. On Air certainly makes for a great Christmas present, especially for Stones fans.

The collection is available in a standard 18-track and a deluxe 32-track version. The above picture shows the cover of the deluxe. All of the recordings were captured live in-studio, a BBC Radio requirement for any band that wanted air time on their shows in the 60s – no lip-synching allowed! Some of the performances happened in front of live audiences. The shows during which these performances aired included Saturday Club, Yeah Yeah, Blues In Rhythm, The Joe Loss Pop Show and Top Gear. Saturday Club, which was on the air from 1957 until 1969, was one of the earliest pop music radio programs in England.

Rolling Stones at BBC

On Air features blues and rock & roll covers of tunes from the likes of Chuck Berry, Bobby Troup and Willie Dixon, as well some early Stones originals, such as Satisfaction, The Spider And The Fly and The Last Time. What’s especially intriguing is that the collection includes eight songs the Stones had never recorded or released commercially before. Unfortunately, these tunes are nowhere revealed, so I suppose fans have to figure them out by themselves – not an easy task, given the Stones mostly played covers in their early years.

Only very few reviews I’ve seen pointed out the mystery around the eight songs. Instead, some reviewers were upset about the fact that the tracks are not presented chronologically. While the order in fact does appear to be arbitrary, that aspect doesn’t bother me much. For folks who don’t want to listen to say Satisfaction prior to Route 66, Little By Little or Walking The Dog, they can simply queue up the songs accordingly. Figuring out the eight previously unreleased tracks is more tricky!

Abbey Road Studios

In addition to the great music, what’s truly remarkable to me is the crisp sound of some of the tracks. That is due to audio source separation. According to a press release, the process “involved de-mixing the transcripts and allowing engineers at Abbey Road access to the original instrumentation and voices within each track, so that they could be rebuilt, re-balanced and remixed to achieve a fuller, more substantial sound.”

Time for some music clips! First up: Satisfaction. Obviously one of the original tunes penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the song was first released as a single in the U.S. in June 1965 and was also included on the American version of the Stones’ fourth studio album Out Of Our Heads, which appeared in September that year. The BBC version was recorded just a few days prior to the appearance of that record. I just love how this recording sounds even more guitar-focused than the original studio version, especially the roar of Richards’ signature guitar riff!

Roll Over Beethoven, one of the above noted eight tracks, is a highlight of the collection and I think my favorite on the album. It is one of various Chuck Berry covers. Berry, a huge influence on the Stones, originally released the tune in May 1956. It was also included on Chuck Berry Is On Top, one of the most amazing classic rock & roll records ever released. The BBC recording is from October 1963. I’ve always liked The Beatles’ version of the song. This one kicks it up a notch, in my opinion, and I say this as a huge Beatles fan. Similar to Satisfaction, the sound of the recording is just amazing!

Another great track on the collection is Route 66, the Bobby Troup rhythm & blues classic from 1946. The BBC recording is from 1964 and is one of the songs the Stones apparently performed in front of a live audience, though one can only hear screaming folks in the beginning and at the end.

Fannie Mae, another cover, was recorded in 1965. One can clearly hear that the Stones had become a more mature band by that time. The tune features great blues harp playing by Brian Jones. Fannie Mae was written by American blues and R&B singer Buster Brown and originally recorded in 1959.

Confessin’ The Blues, which was recorded for The Joe Loss Pop Show in 1964, is another performance in front of a live audience. Similar to Fannie Mae, it features Brian Jones doing another amazing job on blues harp. Written by Jay McShann and Walter Earl Brown, the Stones first recorded the tune for their second American studio album 12 X 5, which was released in October 1964.

The last track I’d like to highlight is Ain’t That Loving You Baby, which according to one review I read is also among the above eight mystery songs. The tune was written by Don Robey and first recorded by Bobby Bland in 1962.

While doing some research for this post, I came across a great story in the Los Angeles Times. It includes an interview with Richards discussing his recollection of the Stones’ experiences at the BBC Radio recordings. Since I found his comments fascinating, following are some excerpts.

“At the time we were doing this, we were, like, ‘Oh, my God — the BBC!’. We were just trying to disguise our actual terror. There was a lot of adrenaline…Once we started playing, we didn’t give a [damn]. They [the Stones] still don’t — bless their hearts. We just got off the road, and I wish there were a few more shows. We were just hitting a groove!”

“The BBC wanted us and we didn’t know really why or what we were doing. We were playing blues in bars, for Christ’s sake, but then we got a top 10 record and suddenly we’re the other alternative to the Beatles, bless their hearts. Yeah, I mean, they broke the doors down, especially Johnny. We always got along.”

“You think — you believe, the way you’re brought up in London — that the BBC know what they’re doing. Then you get there and find out they have no idea how to record a band like this.”

“The first thing I remember about my encounter with the BBC was there was this guy: Microphone Control Man. He had a huge mustache, like an officer in the RAF [Royal Air Force], one of them ginger jobs. He told me, ‘If you touch that microphone, I’ll decapitate you.’ I didn’t know what I would do with it anyway, but he had no more idea what to do with it than we did.”

“On those shows, you had no idea what the microphones were picking up and what was actually coming out of the radio. You just winged it and hoped for the best. Listening to it now, I think they captured the spirit of it all. I could argue about whether Brian was too loud or not, but apart from [stuff] like that, I think it’s a fascinating record as a piece.” Well said!

Sources: Wikipedia, Uncut, Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, YouTube

On This Day In Rock & Roll History: October 7

1951: John Mellencamp, one of my longtime favorite music artists, was born in Seymour, Ind. He started his recording career in 1976 with Chestnut Street Incident, an album of mostly covers, released under Johnny Cougar. The stage name was imposed by his manager at the time, who felt the name Mellencamp was too hard to market. The record flopped anyway. But luckily Mellencamp soldiered on and has released 22 additional studio albums to date. The first record credited to his given name instead of John Cougar Mellencamp, the name he used on most of his ’80s albums, was 1991’s Whenever We Wanted. Starting with the excellent Lonesome Jubilee (1987), Mellencamp gradually moved away from straight rock to more stripped down roots-oriented rock. Here’s a clip of Cherry Bomb from the 1987 album. Happy Birthday!

1960: Elvis Presley recorded Flaming Star, the title song to the soundtrack for his 1960 motion picture. Written by Syd Wayne and Sherman Edwards, the track was also included on an EP in February 1961. It peaked at no. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. While Presley starred in numerous, mostly mediocre movies, this Western film is considered to be one of his best acting performances. I used to be a huge Elvis fan in my early teens and Flaming Star was one of my favorite tunes. While I’m no longer as crazy about Elvis, I still think he had a great voice and was a terrific performer, especially in his early days.

1963: The Rolling Stones recorded I Wanna Be Your Man, which became their second single released November 1, 1963. Credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, this Beatles song was primarily written by McCartney. The Stones’ cover, which appeared prior to the release of The Beatles’ version, climbed to no. 12 on the British chart, giving them an early hit. The tune’s characteristic features are Brian Jones’ slide guitar and Bill Wyman’s driving bass, giving it more pep than the original.

1967: American music producer and promoter Sid Bernstein, who had first brought The Beatles to the U.S. in February 1964 and also was involved in their first Shea Stadium appearance in August 1965, tried to get them back for a third time, offering one million dollars. But The Beatles had grown tired of Beatlemania and decided to retire from touring in late August 1966, so they rejected the offer. It’s a reassuring example money can’t buy everything.

Sidney Bernstein

1969: The Youngbloods’ version of Get Together was certified gold. Composed by American singer-songwriter Chet Powers, the Kingston Trio originally recorded the song as Let’s Get Together in 1964. Jefferson Airplane included a cover on their debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, released in August 1966. But the best known and most successful version was recorded by The Youngbloods and first released in July 1967. Initially, it only became a minor hit for the band. Things changed when the tune was used in a radio public service announcement from the National Conference of Christians and Jews calling for brotherhood. The song was reissued in June 1969 and climbed to no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Sources: Wikipedia, Songfacts, This Day in Music, YouTube

On This Day In Rock & Roll History: September 9

1956: Elvis Presley appeared for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show, together with his backup group The Jordanaires. They played three songs: Don’t Be Cruel, Love Me Tender and Ready Teddy. The performance became legendary, not only because it was watched by about 60 million viewers, a record 82.6 percent of the U.S. TV audience, but also because of what TV watchers weren’t allowed to see – Presley’s gyrating hips that Sullivan deemed too offensive for a family audience. So the cameras only showed Presley from only the waist up. Before launching into Don’t Be Cruel, Presley said: “This is probably the greatest honor I’ve ever had in my life. There is not much I can say except if it makes you feel good, we wanna thank you from the bottom of our heart.”

1965: The Rolling Stones were at no. 1 in the U.K. with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, the band’s fourth chart-topping single there, and their first no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s iconic signature riff came to Keith Richards in a dream in a Florida hotel room. He got up and quickly recorded a rough version on a tape recorder, using an acoustic guitar. When he listened to the tape the next morning, there was about two minutes of music and 40 minutes of snoring. I suppose this must have been of Richards’ sweeter dreams!

1968: The Beatles were working on Helter Skelter at Abbey Road Studios in London. On July 18 of that year, they had recorded three takes. During the September 9 session, they transformed what was initially a slow blues into what perhaps became their most frantic song. The tune was included on The White Album, which appeared on November 22, 1968. The following evening, The Beatles added additional overdubs to the track. Commenting on the September 9 session, technical engineer Brian Gibson told Beatles book author Mark Lewisohn, “The version on the album was out of control…Everyone knew what substances they were taking but they were really a law unto themselves in the studio. As long as they didn’t do anything too outrageous things were tolerated.” Oh well, the times of neat suits and ties were definitely long past.

1972: British rockers Slade topped the U.K. single charts with Mama Weer All Crazee Now, scoring their third no. 1 there. Written by lead vocalist Noddy Holder and bassist Jim Lea, the tune also was the lead single from the band’s third studio album Slayed? 

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

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: September 2

1964: As part of their second U.S. tour that year, The Beatles played Convention Hall in Philadelphia, performing to some 12,000 people. The 12-track set featured Twist And Shout, You Can’t Do That, All My Loving, She Loves You, Things We Said Today, Roll Over Beethoven, Can’t Buy Me Love, If I Fell, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Boys, A Hard Day’s Night and Long Tall Sally. The bill also included The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and Jackie DeShannon. Henry joined the tour for this date to replace The Righteous Brothers over complaints their music was drowned out by audience cheers for The Beatles. Here’s a great clip of You Can’t Do That from that gig.

1964: The Rolling Stones recorded Little Red Rooster at Regent Sound Studios in London, England. They released the Willie Dixon blues standard as a U.K. single in November that year. The tune was also included on the band’s third U.S. studio album The Rolling Stones, Now! Little Red Rooster was first recorded in 1961 by Howlin Wolf, who together with Muddy Waters had a major influence on the Stones.

1965: The Doors recorded their first demos at World Pacific Jazz Studios in Los Angeles. The band cut six tracks, which were all written by Jim Morrison. According to BootLegZone, the songs included Hello, I Love YouEnd Of The Night; My Eyes Have Seen You; Moonlight Drive; Summer’s Almost Gone; and Go Insane. Eventually, The Doors released Hello, I Love You as a single in June 1968 and also included it on their third studio album Waiting For The Sun, which appeared in July that year. The tune became a major success for the band, hitting no. 1 in the U.S. and Canada, and reaching no. 15 in the U.K. – their first big hit there.

1972: The Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival, a three-day rock festival held over the Labor Day weekend on Bull Island near Griffin, Ind., kicked off. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people attended, a multiple of the 50,000 music fans the promoters had anticipated. With food and water in shortly supply, the festival drifted into anarchy, culminating in three deaths and the burning down of the main stage after the end of the concert. Many artists pulled out as the conditions deteriorated. The remaining performers included Foghat, Albert King, Canned Heat, Ravi Shankar, Rory Gallagher and The Eagles, among others.

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival Ticket

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

Chuck Berry Classics Performed By Other Artists

A list of covers from AC/DC to The Yardbirds

A few days ago, I coincidentally came across a previously created iTunes playlist I had completely forgotten about: Covers of Chuck Berry classics performed by other music artists. I thought it would be fun to develop a post around this theme.

While no one artist can claim they created an entire genre of music, there is a reason why Berry was known as Mr. Rock & Roll. In any case, the number of other artists who covered his tunes sure as heck is impressive.

Maybelline/Foghat

English blues and boogie rock band Foghat included a killer version of Maybelline on their 1972 eponymous album. The tune was written and recorded by Berry in 1955, and first released as a single in July that year. It also appeared on his 1959 iconic third study album Berry Is On Top, which also included many of his other major hits. Here’s a great clip of the tune from a Foghead live performance.

School Days/AC/DC

AC/DC recorded a cool cover of School Days for their second Australian studio album T.N.T., which appeared in December 1975. Originally, Berry released the song as a single in March 1957, two months ahead of his debut studio album After School Session.

Too Much Monkey Business/The Yardbirds

Too Much Monkey Business is the first track on Five Live Yardbirds, the band’s terrific debut live album from 1964. Berry released the song as his fifth single in September 1956. It was also included on the After School Session album.

Sweet Little Sixteen/John Lennon

John Lennon recorded a nice Memphis soul-style cover of Sweet Little Sixteen for Rock ‘n’ Roll, his sixth studio album from 1975. Berry released the track as a single in January 1958. It was also included on his second studio album One Dozen Berries, which appeared in March 1958.

Rock & Roll Music/The Beatles

Rock & Roll Music is among my favorite rock & roll covers from The Beatles. They included it on their 1964 fourth studio album Beatles For Sale. Berry initially released the tune as a single in September 1957. It also appeared on the One Dozen Berrys studio album. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip of the Beatles’ studio version, so here is a live performance captured from a 1965 performance in Paris.

Carol/The Rolling Stones

I’ve always loved the cover of the song The Rolling Stones recorded. Initially, they included it on their 1964 eponymous debut album, but my favorite version appeared on the fantastic 1970 live record Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out. First released in 1958 as a single, Carol is also one of the gems from Chuck Berry Is On Top. Here’s a great clip of the Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out version.

Johnny B. Goode/Jimi Hendrix

If I only had one classic rock & roll tune to choose, it would be Berry’s 1958 gem Johnny B. Goode, which first appeared as a single in March that year and is yet another highlight from Chuck Berry Is On Top. Who could possibly do a better cover of it than Jimi Hendrix? Here is a great clip of Hendrix absolutely killing it live – not sure whether it is the same performance that was also captured on Hendrix in the West, a 1972 posthumous live album.

Little Queenie/The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson

Frankly, I do not quite remember how I came across this cover of Little Queenie when I put together the above iTunes playlist, but I find it pretty awesome. It’s performed by country and southern rock band The Kentucky Headhunters featuring Johnnie Johnson, a jazz, blues and rock & roll pianist, and was included on a 2015 release titled Meet Me In Bluesland. Originally, Berry released Little Queenie as a single in 1959, another tune from Chuck Berry Is On Top.

Roll Over Beethoven/Electric Light Orchestra

It’s safe to say this is one of the most unique covers of the track performed by Electric Light Orchestra. Blending elements of classical music with rock & roll and other styles of rock, ELO is one of the weirdest ’70s bands, in my opinion. While most of their productions were bombastic and completely over the top, I still have to admit there is something intriguing about their music. Their 8-minute-plus cover of Roll Over Beethoven was included on their eponymous second studio album, which was released in 1972. Berry first recorded the tune as a single in May 1956. It also appeared on Chuck Berry Is On Top. The following clip is an abbreviated live version of the song, captured from a 1973 performance on The Midnight Special, an American late-night music variety show that aired during the 1970’s and early ’80s.

Memphis/The Hollies

This cover from The Hollies was included on the band’s debut album Stay With The Hollies, which appeared in the U.K. in January 1964. The track was also included on the U.S. version of the album titled Here I Go Again, released in June that year. Berry first recorded Memphis as a single in 1959.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

When Live Performances Become the Ultimate Listening Experience

A list of great songs performed live

To me there is nothing that beats the experience of listening to music live. But there are only so many shows one can go to. Plus, at least in my case, some of my favorite artists are no longer around or bands have changed their line-ups to the point where they no longer have much to do with the act I initially came to like.

Fortunately, many music artists have recorded live albums. While a live record can never replace attending an actual show, if well produced, it can at least convey an idea of how it must have felt being there. Obviously, some live albums are better and more authentic than others. Following is a list of songs from some of my favorite live records.

Things We Said Today/The Beatles (The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, 1977/1964 & 1965)

Sunny Afternoon/The Kinks (Live at Kelvin Hall, 1967)

Jumpin’ Jack Flash/The Rolling Stones (Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, 1970)

First I Look At the Purse/The J. Geils Band (“Live” Full House, 1972)

Rock And Roll All Nite/Kiss (Alive!, 1975)

Turn the Page/Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band (Live Bullet, 1976)

I Want You to Want Me/Cheap Trick (Cheap Trick At Budokan, 1978)

Rock You Like a Hurricane/Scorpions (World Wide Live, 1985)

Nutbush City Limits/Tina Turner (Tina Live In Europe, 1988)

Pride (In the Name of Love)/U2 (Rattle And Hum, 1988)

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube