By now it’s safe to assume folks have heard of Tina Turner’s passing yesterday (April 24) at age 83 at her home near Zurich, Switzerland. While neither a notification on Turner’s Facebook page nor a statement by her publicist provided the cause, she had been in poor health in recent years. Based on concerts in Germany and the U.S. in 1985 and 1993, respectively, the Queen of Rock & Roll was among the most energetic performers I’ve seen to date, together with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and U2.
This post is all about celebrating Tina Turner’s music, which will stay with us. In case you are looking for a traditional obituary, you have plenty of other choices, such as The New York Times, CNN or Rolling Stone. My focus will be on six tunes from Turner’s 40-year-plus performing career, followed by a Spotify playlist of these and some additional songs.
River Deep – Mountain High (1966)
River Deep – Mountain High is one of my favorite tunes Tina Turner recorded with her then-husband Ike Turner as Ike & Tina Turner. Written by producer Phil Spector, together with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, River Deep – Mountain High was first released as a single in May 1966 as the title track of a studio album by Ike & Tina Turner. That album first appeared in the UK in September 1966 and three years later was also issued in the U.S.
Private Dancer (1984)
Private Dancer is the title track of Turner’s fifth solo and comeback album released in May 1984. The tune, penned by then-Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, was one of multiple hit singles from what became Turner’s best-selling album with more than 12 million copies sold worldwide. It catapulted her to international stardom as a solo artist – eight years after she had fled from her abusive husband with just 36 cents and a Mobil card.
Proud Mary (1971)
Ike & Tina Turner’s version of Proud Mary is one of the best remakes I can think of. The song was written by John Fogerty who first recorded it with his band Creedence Clearwater Revival for their second studio album Bayou Country, released in January 1969. The tune also appeared as a single at the same time and became one of CCR’s biggest hits, climbing to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ike and Tina Turner’s version, which was included on their 1970 studio album Workin’ Together, did nearly as well, peaking at no. 4 on the U.S. pop chart. Unlike CCR, it also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group in 1972.
What You Get Is What You See (1986)
When it comes to Tina Turner’s solo career, I tend to favor her rock over her more pop-oriented songs. One tune in this context is What You Get Is What You See, off her sixth solo studio album Break Every Rule, which came out in September 1986. Turner’s follow-on to Private Dancer was another major internal chart and commercial success. What You Get Is What You See, co-written by Terry Bitten and Graham Lyle and produced by Bitten, also became the album’s third single in February 1987.
Acid Queen (1975)
Turner recorded Acid Queen as the title track of her second solo album released in August 1975. The tune was written by Pete Townshend and first appeared as The Acid Queen on The Who’s rock opera album Tommy from May 1969. A different recording of the song was also included on the March 1975 soundtrack album to the 1975 film Tommy, in which Turner starred as the Acid Queen. Her second solo album was inspired by that performance.
Nutbush City Limits (live) (1988)
The last track I’d like to highlight is a killer live version of Nutbush City Limits that was included on Turner’s first live solo album Tina Live in Europe. Notably, part of that album was recorded at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany on April 14, 1985 – one of the above-mentioned Tina Turner shows I attended! Written by Tina Turner, the semi-autobiographical tune about her rural hometown of Nutbush, Tenn. was the title track of a 1973 studio album by Ike & Tina Turner. It also became the duo’s most successful single and one of the last hits they released together.
Here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes. The Queen of Rock & Roll sadly has left us, but her music will continue to reign!
Sources: Wikipedia; Tina Turner Facebook page; YouTube; Spotify
It’s Wednesday and I’d like to welcome you to another installment of my weekly recurring feature, which explores a song I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. In this case, it’s actually a tune by a band I haven’t written about until now, even though various fellow bloggers have covered them. Time for my first post dedicated to The Replacements! Courageously, I decided to pick I Will Dare.
Penned by the Minnesotan group’s frontman and main songwriter Paul Westerberg, I Will Dare first appeared in July 1984 as the lead single of their third studio album Let It Be. The album was released in October of the same year.
I Will Dare marked a departure from the band’s punk origins by embracing a more pop-oriented alternative rock sound. Like all but one of their other singles, I Will Dare did not enter the U.S. pop chart Billboard Hot 100. However, as Songfactsexplains, the tune became very popular on college stations across the U.S. and got some airtime on commercial stations in big cities.
It probably didn’t hurt that R.E.M. lead guitarist Peter Buck frequently hang out with The Replacements at the time. They used his 12-string Rickenbacker on I Will Dare. While the band’s own lead guitarist Bob Stinson came up with the guitar riff, he had some challenges with the solo, so Buck ended up playing it. Songfacts notes his feel was inspired by Zal Yanovsky, guitarist and co-founder of The Lovin’ Spoonful.
Interestingly, Let It Be had a similar path to I Will Dare. While it missed the charts, became the band’s breakthrough album. It was well-received by music critics and subsequently ranked as one of the greatest albums of the ’80s by AllMusic and Rolling Stone. Let It Be is also included in Rolling Stone’s most recent September 2020 edition of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, ranked at no. 156.
BTW, in case you wonder, the album’s title was a reference to that other album you may have heard of. According to Westerberg, it was picked when The Replacements were looking for a title and decided to name the album after the next song they would hear on the radio, which happened to be Let It Be by The Beatles.
The Replacements also wanted to play a bit of a joke on their manager Peter Jesperson who was a big Beatles fan. Westerberg toldRolling Stone the title “was our way of saying that nothing is sacred, that the Beatles were just a damn fine rock & roll band. We seriously were gonna call the next record Let It Bleed.”
Following are some additional tidbits about I Will Dare from Songfacts:
U2’s “I Will Follow” irritated Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg so badly that he wrote two songs about it. The first was “Kids Don’t Follow,” the second was “I Will Dare.”
Westerberg saw U2 perform at Uncle Sam’s nightclub in Minneapolis in April 1981 on the backend of U2’s first international tour. Named the Boy Tour in promotion of the band’s first studio album, it started September 6, 1980, and ended June 9, 1981. (Peculiar though insignificant factoid: U2 played another club named Uncle Sam’s on that tour – this one in Buffalo, New York, on December 8, 1980.)
U2 played “I Will Follow” twice the night Westerberg saw them. He appreciated the sound but took umbrage with lyrics he interpreted as a statement about youth in general. This was a misinterpretation on his part because Bono wrote “I Will Follow” for his deceased mother, but Songfacts didn’t exist in 1981, so there was no way for him to know that.
Westerberg immediately wrote “Kids Don’t Follow” in response to the show. The song leads off Stink, the 1982 EP they made following their debut album, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash. He wrote “I Will Dare” a couple years later in 1983 as the Replacements’ second studio album, Hootenanny, was being mastered. He felt it was the best song he ever wrote and wanted to get it on the album, but it was too late in the process, so it ended up on their next one, Let It Be.
“I Will Dare” has a few layers of meaning. In addition to sniping at Bono, it’s a statement about the Replacements themselves. In Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, Westerberg says, “Part of it has to do with the band: we’ll dare to flop, we’ll dare to do anything.”
It was also “a kind of love song,” according to Westerberg. An unnamed confidant in Trouble Boys says they believe that Westerberg might have been messing around with some ladies that he shouldn’t have at the time.
The timing worked out well because “I Will Dare” wound up being the opening track on Let It Be, the band’s 1984 breakthrough album.
The words “I will follow” are contained entirely between the titles of the two response songs “I Will Dare” and “Kids Don’t Follow,” though Westerberg never claimed to have intended this.
Westerberg plays mandolin on this song.
The Replacements 2017 album For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 includes a performance of “I Will Dare.” (see second clip above – CMM)…
…Part of the song’s success was due to its promotion. The Replacements’ label, Twin/Tone, was in a significant upward transition. Using money earned after their act The Suburbs took off earlier that year, they moved out of cofounder Paul Starks’ basement and into a set of offices in South Minneapolis. They were able to bring in new staff and to devote more time to the business, which led to a proper promotional buildup for the single and its attendant album. It was a new thing for the Replacements.
“I Will Dare” remains a favorite for Replacements fans. Many consider it their signature song. It’s highly acclaimed among music journalists as well: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included this song on their 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll list.
Sources: Wikipedia; Rolling Stone; Songfacts; YouTube
Happy Wednesday and I’d like to welcome you to another installment of Song Musings, in which I take a closer look at a tune I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. This week, my pick is Shape of My Heart by Sting, a gem off his fourth studio album Ten Summoner’s Tales. And guess what, today happens to be the 30th anniversary of that very album, which I feel is Sting’s artistic Mount Rushmore. A dear friend reminded me of the anniversary last week after I had earmarked the tune for today’s post – so, yes, I suppose the stars were aligned!
Co-written by guitarist Dominic Miller and Sting (credited with his birthname Gordon Sumner), Shape of My Heart first appeared as the 10th track on Ten Summoner’s Tales. Five months later, on August 23, 1993, it was also released separately as the album’s fifth single. While unlike If I Ever Lose My Faith In You and Fields of Gold, the album’s first and fourth singles, respectively, Shape of My Heart didn’t gain much traction in the charts, Wikipedia notes the tune has become a “pop classic” and one of the songs that are most closely associated with Sting’s solo career.
The official music video for Shape of My Heart (see below), filmed at Sting’s lake house in Wiltshire, southern England, was directed by Doug Nichol. Apart from Sting, the American filmmaker and video director also worked with the likes of David Bowie, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and U2 and was the director of photography on Madonna’s 1991 documentary Truth or Dare. Nichol won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video for Ten Summoner’s Tales.
Upon its release as a single, Shape of My Heart reached an underwhelming no. 57 on the UK Official Singles Chart. In Canada, it did somewhat better, climbing to no. 44. Elsewhere, including the U.S., Australia and various European countries other than the UK, the single didn’t chart at all. I find that a bit mind-boggling. Perhaps, audiences felt it was too mellow!
When it comes to the album, fortunately, the picture looks very different. Ten Summoner’s Tales topped the Austrian charts, reached no. 2 in the UK, the U.S., France and Germany, no. 3 in Norway and Switzerland, and no. 5 in The Netherlands, among others. It also became one of Sting’s best-selling albums, gaining 3x and 2x Platinum certifications in the U.S. and the UK, respectively, as well as Platinum status in each Australia, Canada, Spain and Switzerland. The album was also nominated for multiple awards in the U.S. and UK, and won three Grammy Awards and one Brit Award.
Sting talked about “Shape Of My Heart” in a 1993 promotional interview: “I wanted to write about a card player, a gambler who gambles not to win but to try and figure out something; to figure out some kind of mystical logic in luck, or chance; some kind of scientific, almost religious law. So this guy’s a philosopher, he’s not playing for respect and he’s not playing for money, he’s just trying to figure out the law – there has to be some logic to it. He’s a poker player so it’s not easy for him to express his emotions, in fact he doesn’t express anything, he has a mask, and it’s just one mask and it never changes.”
This is one of the rare songs that is co-written by Sting’s longtime guitarist, Dominic Miller. In Lyrics By Sting, the singer remembered Miller bringing him the “beautiful guitar riff” and going for a walk along the riverbank and through the woods to figure out the lyrics. “When I got back, the whole song was written in my head. Dominic now thinks that I find lyrics under a rock somewhere… He could, of course, be right,” Sting wrote.
This song was edited into the end of the 1994 movie Leon: The Professional.
Both the Sugababes and Craig David sampled this and had hit singles with it in 2003 in the UK. The Sugababes’ “Shape” made #11, and Craig David’s “Rise And Fall” made #2. On the latter, Sting even made an appearance in the video and performed the track with Craig David on live music shows.
15 years later, US rapper Juice WRLD had a worldwide hit with “Lucid Dreams (Forget Me)”, which also makes major use of this track.
Renowned harmonica player Larry Adler played on this song. Before collaborating with popular musicians like Sting, Elton John and Kate Bush in his later career, Adler worked with composers like George Gershwin, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Darius Milhaud – many of whom composed works specifically for him. Unfortunately, he would be blacklisted during the anti-Communist crusade led by Senator Joe McCarthy in the ’50s.
This was featured on the TV crime drama Hustle in the 2011 episode “The Delivery.”
Miller was just warming up his fingers by playing Chopin-style chords on the guitar when he happened to catch Sting’s ear. He explained in a 2018 interview at Jazzklub Divino in Denmark: “I was just playing that in front of the fireplace at Sting’s house in England and he said, ‘What’s that?’ ‘Oh, it’s nothing, it’s just a little movement.’ He said, ‘That’s a song.’ I went, ‘Really? Are you kidding me?’ Then ten minutes later we went into the studio – ’cause we were at his studio anyway in his lake house – and we put a drum machine up, just the two of us. And then he went out in the garden for a walk and he came back with those lyrics. And so we recorded it! It was just an acoustic guitar and it was finished in one day – it was written in one day and recorded.”
He continued: “It’s one of those nice moments that happen in your life when things just fall on top of each other naturally, like nature. It’s not always like that… Sting’s genius with lyrics made it into a very, very ambiguous kind of narrative, which really goes well with that kind of arpeggio, with those Chopin-esque chords, you know? That Chopin-esque harmony kind of lends itself to those kind of lyrics, with Sting’s timbre of his voice and the sound of my guitar and just a little bit of a groove. It was the perfect storm.”
It’s Wednesday, folks, and I hope this week has been kind to you. This also means it’s that time again when I take a closer look at a song I’ve only mentioned in passing or haven’t covered at all to date. My pick for this installment of Song Musings is In Your Eyes, one of my longtime favorite tunes by Peter Gabriel.
I first heard Gabriel unknowingly on the radio back in Germany after Genesis had released their single The Carpet Crawlers. Had you asked me whether that song was a hit, I would have said ‘yes’ without any doubt. But according to Wikipedia, it didn’t even chart – I’m still in disbelief! It was on the radio pretty frequently.
The first Peter Gabriel solo tune I recall hearing back in Germany was the live version of Solsbury Hill, which appeared as a single in August 1983, off his first live album Plays Live. While I liked the song from the get-go, it wasn’t until Gabriel’s fifth solo album So from May 1986 that I started to explore his music.
With Solsbury Hill and the tracks on So being pretty pop-oriented, much of Gabriel’s earlier music was an acquired taste. But I came around fairly quickly and still dig a good number of his songs that are on albums that preceded So. That said, So still remains my favorite.
This brings me to In Your Eyes. Written by Gabriel, the tune also appeared separately as So’s second single in September 1986. I still get chills when listening to this song and Gabriel’s vocals. Speaking of vocals, In Your Eyes also features Senegalese singer-songwriter Youssou N’Dour who sings a part at the end translated into his native Wolof – quite appropriate for a tune with lyrics that per Wikipedia were “inspired by an African tradition of ambiguity in song between romantic love and love of God.”
In Your Eyes didn’t match the chart success of the album’s lead single Sledgehammer, which hit, well, like a sledgehammer, topping the pop charts in the U.S. and Canada, and climbing to no. 3 in each Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. By comparison, In Your Eyes reached no. 26 and no. 29 on the U.S. and Canadian mainstream charts, respectively. That said, thanks to strong radio play and MTV rotation, it ended up topping Billboard’sMainstream Rock Tracks chart. Elsewhere, the single got to no. 50 in New Zealand and no. 97 in Australia.
Here’s a cool extended live version from Gabriel’s concert film Secret World Live, which was released simultaneously with a companion live album of the same name in August 1994. The footage was captured during two concerts in Modena, Italy in November 1993, conducted as part of Gabriel’s tour that supported his sixth solo album Us, released in September 1992. I had not watched this clip until I did some research for this post – wow!
Songfacts provides a ton of additional insights about In Your Eyes, including the tune’s prominent use in the 1989 U.S. teen romantic comedy-drama motion picture Say Anything… directed by Cameron Crowe, and starring John Cusack, Ione Skye and John Mahoney. Full disclosure: I knew nothing about the film until the late ’90s after I had gotten married to my dear wife who is a huge John Cusack fan.
While some of the other Songfacts content gets into territory that could be characterized as inside baseball, especially if you’re not a musician, I didn’t want to cut anything. So here it is in its full beauty. The clip from the movie was my brilliant addition! 🙂
According to Gabriel, the lyrics could refer to either the love between a man and woman or the relationship between a person and God.
The West African musician Youssou N’Dour sang backup on this track, giving it a distinctive vocal texture. Gabriel learned about him in 1984 when N’Dour was performing in England. They became friends and collaborators, with a mutual respect for each others’ music. N’Dour joined Gabriel on the So tour and was very well received – he was part of an extended version of “In Your Eyes” and also sang on “Biko.” In 1991 Gabriel performed the song in N’Dour’s native country of Senegal before a crowd of 70,000.
This was featured in the 1989 movie Say Anything in a scene where John Cusack plays this from a Boom Box he holds over his head to win the heart of Ione Skye. Cameron Crowe, who directed the film, was going to use Billy Idol’s “Got To Be A Lover,” but it didn’t work with the scene. Crowe got the idea to use this when he played a tape from his wedding which had the song on it. Because it was a deeply personal song, Gabriel did not want to let him use it, but when Crowe called and sent him a tape of the movie, Gabriel loved it and gave his approval.
The producers of Say Anything were charged about $200,000 to use the song, but it was worth the price as it became one of the most famous scenes in movie history. The scene became a cultural touchstone, which was a little strange for Gabriel. He told Rolling Stone in 2012: “I’ve talked to John Cusack about that. We’re sort of trapped together in a minuscule moment of contemporary culture.”
Gabriel combined various real and electronic instruments to create the song. He worked the Fairlight CMI synthesizer and the Linn drum machine, and also played piano. Other musicians on the track, along with N’Dour, were:
David Rhodes – guitar, backing vocals Jerry Marotta – drums Richard Tee – piano Larry Klein, Tony Levin – bass Manu Katche – drums, talking drum, percussion Ronnie Bright – bass vocals Jim Kerr (from Simple Minds), Michael Been – backing vocals
A special 7:14 mix of this song was released to radio stations by Geffen Records. It features extended singing by Youssou N’Dour. This promotional copy also included a 6:15 version of the song, and an 8:36 of Gabriel’s “Biko.”
Peter Gabriel produced the So album with Daniel Lanois, who had worked on U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire and after finishing up with Gabriel, started work on The Joshua Tree. Lanois will develop an understanding of a song on an emotional level and craft the production accordingly, which lyricists like Bono and Gabriel appreciate. In a Songfacts interview, he explained what this song means to him: “‘In Your Eyes,’ Peter had this idea that by looking into someone’s eyes, you would see, quite specifically in the lyric, the doorway to a thousand churches. I think it’s as simple as that – the power of commitment and care and love will be stronger.”
This is one of the few slow songs that gets consistent airplay on rock radio. It was not very popular when it came out, but continues to get constant airplay on a variety of formats, as listeners never seem to tire of it.
Peter Gabriel’s elaborate concerts are highly choreographed, but with “In Your Eyes,” he made sure there was lots of room for improvisation. His keyboard player on the So tour, David Sancious, told Songfacts how it came together. “We were rehearsing the song and Peter said he wanted to extend the ending,” said Sancious. “There was going to be a break where I’d just play something, make up something for like eight bars. It’s just a drumbeat and piano. Manu Katché is playing the drums and would give me a signal to come back in.
So that was different every night and he very much enjoyed it when I would come up with different things. It was a gospel-y kind of break and then it went back to the chorus of ‘In Your Eyes.’ And there were other points where I got to do little different things that weren’t the same every night, and he enjoyed that.”
In 1994, Gabriel did a version of “In Your Eyes” live, which appears on Disc 2 of the double CD set of Secret World Live, and lasts 11:34. On this version, he improvises a lot in the song with the backup singers.
According to Daniel Lanois, the drums on this song add a lot of flavor and power the song along. “Everything on that record was cut to a beatbox initially, as was the case with ‘In Your Eyes,'” he told Songfacts. “Manu Katche from Paris – a great drummer – played that beautiful drum part. So that ‘down push,’ it’s an old carnival beat – it keeps it motoring along. Even though it’s quite a contemplative song, it has a little bit of carnival in its engine that keeps the zip in the step going and keeps you interested in the lyrics.”
When Guitar Player magazine questioned whether David Rhodes was upset over his 12-string being buried beneath synthesizers, the guitarist replied: “I think that’s fine. Often, I prefer that. I think sometimes it can be unnecessary to have a lot of definition between instruments. All the instruments should blend to make the song work, to build the atmosphere. The fact that you can’t hear your part, a particular sound, shouldn’t worry you at all. A lot of guitarists enjoy playing very loud and doing big solos. I’m not into that.”
He added: “The idea of making things work appeals to me a lot more. I approach things texturally and build them up, giving the music space to develop. With Peter, we use a lot of effects, so that it sounds as little like a guitar as possible.”
In addition to Say Anything, this was also used in these TV shows:
The Righteous Gemstones (“Better Is The End Of A Thing Than Its Beginning” – 2019) It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (“The Gang Gets Romantic” – 2019) The Last Man On Earth (“Not Appropriate For Miners” – 2017) The Flash (“Gorilla Warfare” – 2015) Lilyhammer (“Out Of Africa” – 2013) The Goldbergs (“The Ring” – 2013) Glee (“Girls (And Boys) On Film” – 2013) Cold Case (“Family” – 2005) American Dad! (“It’s Good To Be The Queen” – 2006) Felicity (“Pilot” – 1998)
And in these movies:
Yes, God, Yes (2019) Deadpool 2 (2018) The Rocker (2008)
Co-producer Daniel Lanois explained to Sound On Sound how a small musical toolbox created a dynamic album. “It’s a mysterious album,” he said. “What’s interesting about that record, is that if you listen closely there aren’t that many unusual instruments on it but it sounds sonically innovative.
It was created with a fairly limited supply of tools, if you like. Most of the keyboards are acoustic piano, Yamaha electric piano and Prophet 5 – an old Prophet 5 polysynth, one of the very first ones to come out. Also an old Fairlight Series II with some good sampled sounds. Yet So has a variety of sounds and you don’t get the feeling that it’s the same things over and over again. It’s another lesson in the theory of the small toolbox and learning to love your tools. Learning the difference between that setting and this setting and not necessarily using wildly different instruments or components to come up with variety but using a concentrated small area and drawing a lot from them.”
The singer/guitarist Jeffrey Gaines recorded a popular version of this song that got a lot of airplay on Adult Contemporary radio and appears on his 2001 album Always Be. Gaines writes most of his own material, but his cover of “In Your Eyes” has become his best-known work. When we asked him about performing a song written by someone else, he replied: “The conviction I have within that material is my joy of singing.”
The rock band SR-71 did a cover of this song that appears on their 2004 album Here We Go Again. They performed it live at the Gravity Games that year.
Peter Gabriel wanted to use “In Your Eyes” as So’s final track, but its prominent bassline meant it had to be placed earlier on the vinyl edition to give the phonograph stylus more room to vibrate. This restriction was no longer an issue for later CD releases, so the track was placed at the end.
Alrighty, it’s Wednesday and time again to prep for another imaginary desert island trip. Of course, in the context of this recurring feature, this means I need to pick another song to take with me – one bloody tune, not an album, though I’m not suggesting the latter would be much easier.
Plus, there are a few additional rules. The tune must be by an artist or band I’ve only rarely written about or not covered at all. And I’m doing the silly exercise in alphabetical order.
This week I’m up to “u”. Artists (last name) and bands starting with that letter include U2, UFO, Ultravox, Umphrey’s McGee, Uncle Kracker, Uncle Tupelo, Utopia and Uriah Heep. Given my above rules, U2 and Uriah Heep are out. I also just recently wrote about Umphrey’s McGee. And since I don’t feel like dancing with tears in my eyes, Ultravox are out as well.
This still leaves me with four choices, none of which I’ve covered to date. And my pick is Utopia, aka Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. Now that I’ve figured out the artist/band, the question is which song to pick? Love Is the Answer.
Written by Todd Rundgren, Love Is the Answer is a tune from Utopia’s third studio album Oops! Wrong Planet, released in September 1977. Initially, the pop-oriented song missed the charts. Two years later, American soft rock duo England Dan & John Ford Coley recorded a version of the tune and took it to no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart. It also reached no. 10 on the mainstream pop chart Hot 100. Sounds very yachty!
Following are some additional tidbits from Songfacts:
Todd Rundgren wrote this hopeful song about the power of love for his band Utopia, which released it on their 1977 album Oops! Wrong Planet. The song became a hit in 1979 when England Dan & John Ford Coley recorded a slicker version perfect for the adult contemporary market, and scored their last of six US Top 40 hits with their cover.
In our 2015 interview with Todd Rundgren, he explained that Utopia’s Oops! Wrong Planet was a “bummer album,” and that they included this song on it to make it more uplifting. [Perhaps that made Rundgren want to bang the drum all day? CMM]
Todd Rundgren performed this song when he toured as part of Ringo Starr’s “All Starr Band” in 2015. Ringo insists on three hits from his guests, and along with “I Saw The Light” and “Bang the Drum All Day,” he wanted Todd to do “Hello It’s Me.” Rundgren didn’t think that one was a good fit in the set, as it’s a very introspective song and Ringo’s shows are very communal. Todd convinced him to go with “Love Is The Answer,” which he thought was the perfect song for Ringo – “Mr. Peace And Love” as Rundgren calls him. The plan worked: the song went over very well at these shows and fit the vibe perfectly.
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.
The most famous line-up of my all-time favorite band The Beatles existed from August 1962 until September 1969 when they collectively recorded their last song appropriately titled The End, the final track of the Abbey Road album – not a bad duration for a band, given the music business oftentimes is dominated by larger-than-life egos. Yet as productive as The Fab Four were, these seven years look pretty moderate compared to the groups featured in this post, who have been rocking for more than 40 years – in one case even reaching 60 years!
Following are three criteria a band needed to satisfy to be considered for the post. They need to have at least one remaining original member. A group’s duration was measured in terms of active years, not how long they have been together on paper. For example, while Deep Purple were founded in 1968, they “only” have played together for 48 years, not 54 years, if you consider their break-up between 1976 and 1984. Last but not least, I solely included bands I like.
Following I’m highlighting six groups in chronological order of when they were founded with one tune from each. A Spotify playlist at the end of the post includes those tracks, plus songs from a few additional bands meeting the above criteria. Altogether, I decided to include 10 picks. Let’s get to it.
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones, formed in 1962, have been active for an incredible 60 years, making them the longest-running band on this list. With Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, they still have two original members who have been key to the group. It’s also noteworthy that Ronnie Wood has been part of the line-up since 1975. Sadly, the Stones lost their long-time drummer Charlie Watts last August. He had joined them back in 1963. To date, the Stones have released 30 studio albums, 33 live records and 29 compilations, among others. On November 23, 2021, they finished their most recent tour (No Filter Tour) in Hollywood, Fla. Here’s Jumpin’ Jack Flash, which first appeared in May 1968 as a non-album single.
Approximately two years after the Stones, in 1964, another dynamite British rock band was formed: The Who. Like their compatriots, the group has two original and essential members to this day, guitarist Pete Townshend and lead vocalist Roger Daltrey. Counting various breaks along the way, The Who have been active for 50 years. Their catalog includes 12 studio albums, 16 live recordings and 32 compilations, among others. Just on Monday this week, The Whoannounced a 2022 North American tour, The Who Hits Back, scheduled to kick off on April 22 at Hardrock Live in Hollywood, Fla. – the very same venue where the Stones wrapped up their tour last year. Messrs. Daltrey and Townshend and their band are playing New York’s Madison Square Garden on May 26 – damn, this is tempting! Here’s Going Mobile from my favorite Who album Who’s Next.
On to my favorite hard rock band of all time, Deep Purple, who were initially established in 1968. One of the founding members, drummer Ian Paice, remains part of the group’s current formation. Two additional present members, bassist Roger Glover and lead vocalist Ian Gillan joined in 1969, and as such were part of the group’s classic line-up that also included guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and organist Jon Lord. Deep Purple’s discography encompasses 22 studio albums, 45 live records and 28 compilations. The band is also touring this year starting in May, mostly in Europe. Here’s the epic Child in Time, a track from their fourth studio album Deep Purple in Rock released in June 1970 – the first to feature the classic line-up.
The bad boys from Boston were formed in 1970. Remarkably, four of the group’s current five members are co-founders: Steven Tyler (lead vocals, harmonica, percussion), Joe Perry (guitar, backing vocals), Tom Hamilton (bass) and Joey Kramer (drums, percussion). Second guitarist Brad Whitford joined in 1971. While Perry and Whitford, respectively, had five and three-year interruptions in-between and missed the 1982 Rock in a Hard Place album, Tyler, Hamilton and Kramer have played on all of the band’s 15 studio records to date. Aerosmith’s catalog also includes six live records and 16 compilations. On January 31, the group announced the cancellation of their European tour that had been planned for June and July, citing uncertainty around the pandemic. Here’s Janie’s Got a Gun, one of my favorite Aerosmith tunes off their 10th studio album Pump, released in September 1989.
Australian rock and rollers AC/DC have been around since 1973. Not counting their hiatus between 2016 and 2020, this amounts to 45 years. Lead guitarist Angus Young remains as the only founding member. There are three other longtime members: Phil Rudd (drums), Cliff Williams (bass, backing vocals) and Brian Johnson (lead vocals), who first joined the band in 1975, 1977 and 1980, respectively. AC/DC’s catalog features 17 studio albums, three live records and two box sets, among others. Here’s Play Ball, a great track from the group’s 16th studio album Rock or Bust that appeared in November 2014, featuring all of the above members.
The last group I’d like to highlight in this upfront section of the post are Irish rockers U2 who were formed in Dublin in 1976 under the name Feedback. It’s the only band on this list whose current members were all co-founders. That being said, their present line-up is not the group’s initial formation, which during their first year also included a second guitarist, Dik Evans, the older brother of David Evans known as The Edge. U2’s other members are Paul Hewson (Bono), Adam Clayton (bass) and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums). To date, the band’s discography consists of 14 studio albums, one live record and three compilations, among others. U2 were most recently on the road in 2019 for the second part of The Joshua Tree Tour. I caught one of the shows during the first part of that tour in 2017 – my only U2 concert so far, and a memorable experience! Here’s Red Hill Mining Town, a track from my favorite U2 album The Joshua Tree that came out in March 1987.
Following is the aforementioned Spotify list.
Sources: Wikipedia; The Who website; Deep Purple website; Aerosmith website; YouTube; Spotify
One man come in the name of love/One man come and go/One man come here to justify/One man to overthrow…
As the U.S. observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, I decided to repost a piece I published on that occasion last year. It has been slightly edited. I also added a clip and some images.
Pride (In the Name of Love) may have been over-exposed. It’s certainly been criticized for its lyrics, as have U2 for their grandiose concerts. I can also see why Bono’s frequent political activism for hunger, the poor and other causes while becoming a very wealthy man in the course of it all can rub people the wrong way. Yet I’ve always loved this song. And, call me naive, I also feel that being a force for good while being rich don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Bono’s vocals are simply amazing, while The Edge provides a cool and unique guitar sound that’s truly signature. Meanwhile, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. keep the rhythm going. The lyrics may not teach a lot about Dr. King, but I still believe the words are powerful.
…In the name of love/One more in the name of love/In the name of love/ One more in the name of love…
Pride (In the Name of Love), composed by U2 with lyrics by Bono, is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. The lyrics were inspired by U2’s visit of the Chicago Peace Museum in 1983, which featured an exhibit dedicated to the civil rights leader. Initially, Bono had intended to write a song criticizing then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan for his pride in America’s military might.
…One man caught on a barbed wire fence/One man he resist/One man washed up on an empty beach/One man betrayed with a kiss…
But as Songfactsnotes, Bono came to the conclusion lyrics condemning Reagan weren’t working. “I remembered a wise old man who said to me, don’t try and fight darkness with light, just make the light shine brighter,” he told NME. “I was giving Reagan too much importance, then I thought Martin Luther King, there’s a man. We build the positive rather than fighting with the finger.”
…In the name of love/One more in the name of love/In the name of love/One more in the name of love…
The melody and chords to Pride were conceived during a soundcheck in November 1983 prior to a U2 show in Hawaii. It was a gig during the band’s supporting tour for their third studio album War that had been released in February of the same year. Like all U2 soundchecks, it was recorded. U2 continued work on the track after the tour and it was subsequently finished as part of the recording sessions for their next album The Unforgettable Fire.
…Early morning, April four/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride…
Pride erroneously suggests Dr. King was shot in the early morning of April 4, 1968. The murder actually occurred just after 6:00 pm local Memphis time – a surprising mistake for Bono who seems to be well-read. He later acknowledged his error and in concerts sometimes sings “early evening, April 4.” Why he simply didn’t make that a permanent adjustment beats me – rhythmically, I don’t see an issue.
…In the name of love/One more in the name of love/In the name of love/One more in the name of love…
Pride was first released in September 1984 as the lead single of The Unforgettable Fire, appearing one month ahead of the album. It was U2’s first major international hit, topping the charts in New Zealand; climbing to no. 2 and no. 3 in Ireland and the UK, respectively; and becoming the band’s first top 40 hit in the U.S.
…In the name of love/One more in the name of love/In the name of love/One more in the name of love.
Despite initially getting mixed reviews from music critics, Pride has since received many accolades. Haven’t we seen this movie many times before? The tune was ranked at no. 388 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in December 2003. Pride is also included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Is it only me, or is 2022 already starting to feel old? Regardless of my sentiment, let’s focus on the positive – it’s Saturday and time to take a fresh look at newly-released music! Unlike some of the recurring feature’s other previous installments, this week, I didn’t have much of a challenge to identify four picks I sufficiently like to highlight in a post. Next week, it could be entirely different, so I should enjoy it while it lasts! All tunes are on albums that appeared yesterday (January 14).
Elvis Costello & The Imposters/Magnificent Hurt
I’d like to start with a longtime artist who I trust doesn’t need much of an introduction: Elvis Costello, who started his recording career in 1977 and has been on a roll over the past few year. After Hey Clockface from October 2020 and a Spanish re-interpretation of his 1978 sophomore album This Year’s Model released in September of last year, he’s out with a new studio album, The Boy Named If. Based on sampling some of the tunes, I’m quite excited about it. As reported by Ultimate Classic Rock, Costello is backed by The Imposters, “essentially the classic Attractions lineup minus bassist Bruce Thomas, replaced by Davey Faragher.” UCR characterizes The Boy Named If as sounding similar to Look Now, his 30th studio album from October 2018. I’ve listened to some of Costello’s early music, especially his 1977 debut My Aim Is True, which I dig. Clearly, I have much more to explore. Meanwhile, here’s the Magnificent Hurt. I love that cool retro sound – check out that seductive keyboard!
The Lumineers first entered my radar screen in July 2017 when I saw them open for U2 in New Jersey. Prior to that, I had only heard their 2012 hit Ho Hey. This prompted me to review their sophomore album Cleopatra released in April 2016. At the core, The Lumineers are songwriters Wesley Schultz (vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums, piano), though there have been additional members over the years. At the time they started collaborating in the early 2000s, they performed under various different names, including Free Beer, 6Cheek and Wesley Jeremiah. In 2005, they became The Lumineers. When I saw them in 2017, they were a trio that also included cellist and vocalist Neyla Pekarek who left the following year. Reprise, co-written by Schultz and Fraites, is a track off their fourth and latest studio album Brightside. They also played most of the instruments.
Cat Power/Pa Pa Power
Cat Power (born Charlyn Marie Marshall) is a singer-songwriter born in Atlanta, Ga. According to her Apple Musicprofile, Growing up in the South, Charlyn “Chan” Marshall was influenced by church hymns, country music, the blues played by her musician father, and her stepfather’s rock ’n’ roll records. After seeing a man wearing a trucker cap emblazoned with the words “Cat Diesel Power,” she named her first band Cat Power, before adopting the moniker for herself. Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Two Dollar Guitar’s Tim Foljahn were so impressed by her live performances that they became her bandmates during the mid-’90s. Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl contributed to 2003’s You Are Free, the first Cat Power album to make the Billboard 200 chart…After helping Marshall through a time of self-doubt, Lana Del Rey collaborated with her on the feminist anthem “Woman,” which became one of Cat Power’s biggest hits. The single appeared in August 2018. To date, Marshall has released 11 studio albums, including her latest, a collection of covers appropriately titled Covers. Here’s Pa Pa Power, co-written by Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields who make up the rock duo Dead Man’s Bones (gotta love that name!) and included the tune on their 2009 eponymous debut album. I’m intrigued by Cat Power’s sound!
Punch Brothers/Church Street Blues
Let’s wrap things up with Punch Brothers, a folk band that has been around since 2006. Wikipedia notes their music has been described as “bluegrass instrumentation and spontaneity in the structures of modern classical” and “American country-classical chamber music” – couldn’t have said it any better! 🙂 Their current members include Chris Thile (mandolin, vocals, mandola, bouzouki), Gabe Witcher (fiddle, vocals, drums), Noam Pikelny (banjo, vocals, steel guitar), Chris Eldridge (guitar, vocals) and Paul Kowert (double bass, vocals). Since their debut album Punch, which remarkably gave the Punch Brothers a chart-topper right from the get-go on Billboard’sBluegrass Albums, five additional full-length records by the group have come out. Their latest is titled Hell on Church Street. Here’s the opener Church Street Blues, written by guitarist and singer-songwriter Norman Blake. He first recorded the song for his 1976 studio album Whiskey Before Breakfast. Punch Brothers do a beautiful job with their rendition. I really dig the warmth that comes across in their music, which makes me want to hear more, even though I don’t listen much to bluegrass. But beautiful music remains beautiful, no matter the genre!
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring the above tunes. Hope there’s something for you there!
Sources: Wikipedia; Ultimate Classic Rock; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Perhaps it’s not surprising that checking iTunes yesterday hardly revealed any new music releases dated December 24. Which artist would really want to issue an album or a single that day when many folks are focused on Christmas and are done with gift shopping. Of course, I realize release dates are mostly determined by record labels, though December 24 shouldn’t be in their best interest either. Anyway, I still found some music I like that came out fairly recently and, as such, still qualifies as new, at least in my book. My picks this week all fall within different types of rock. Here we go!
Black Map/Witching Hour
Black Map are a post-hardcore supergroup formed in 2014 in San Francisco after the trio’s respective bands had gone on hiatus. Their members include Dredg guitarist Mark Engles; vocalist and guitarist Ben Flanagan, from The Trophy Fire; and drummer Chris Robyn, formerly with Far (all groups I don’t know). A debut EP, Driver, released in February 2014 was followed by the group’s first full-length album …And We Explode in October that year. Witching Hour is an upfront track from Black Map’s upcoming third full-length studio release Melodoria scheduled for Feb 18, 2022. It appeared on December 17. I can hear a bit of U2 here – check out the neat sound!
Goodbye June/See Where the Night Goes
Nashville, Tenn. group Goodbye June were formed in 2005. Their lineup features Landon Milbourn (lead vocals), Brandon Qualkenbush (rhythm guitar, bass, backing vocals) and Tyler Baker (lead guitar), who are all cousins. Apple Musicdescribes them as a hard rock band who blend a rootsy sound with big guitars and plenty of strutting style. Their debut album Nor the Wild Music Flow came out in 2012. See Where the Night Goes is the title track of the band’s upcoming fourth album set to drop on February 18, 2022. Released on December 14, this tune sounds very classic rock. I find it great to see contemporary bands embrace a genre that has often been called dead. Reminds me a bit of AC/DC!
Austin Meade/Loser Mentality
I hardly could find any public information on Texas rock guitarist and vocalist Austin Meade. Not even his own website includes a bio! According to his Apple Musicmini-profile, he cranks out twangy hard-rock albums like 2021’s Black Sheep that boast growling riffs and an outlaw swagger that would make Tyler Childers proud.Wikipedia describes Childers as an American singer-songwriter who blends neotraditional country, bluegrass and folk. I guess this shall suffice. Loser Mentality is Meade’s new single, released on December 9. It was co-written by him and David James Willie. I like it!
Superchunk are an indie rock band from Chapel Hill, N.C., which were formed in 1989. Their members include Mac McCaughan (vocals, guitar), who I featured in a previous Best of What’s Newinstallment this September; Jim Wilbur (guitar), Laura Ballance (bass) and Jon Wurster (drums). Since the release of their eponymous debut album in September 1990, 10 additional records have come out. Endless Summer is a track from Superchunk’s upcoming 12th studio album, Wild Loneliness, scheduled for February 25, 2022. Credited to the entire group, the melodic rock tune was released on December 7 – nice!
Here’s a playlist that includes the above tunes.
Once again, to those celebrating, Merry Christmas!