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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You Say It’s Your Birthday

Sir Paul turned 75 today and he is not slowing down

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

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

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

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

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

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

All My Loving (1963)

Things I Said Today (1964)

Yesterday (1965)

Here, There And Everywhere (1966)

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

Let It Be (1970)

Maybe I’m Amazed (1970)

Band On the Run (1973)

Silly Love Songs (1976)

Take It Away (1982)

My Brave Face (1989)

Hope of Deliverance (1993)

Run Devil Run (1999)

Fine Line (2005)

New (2013)

Birthday (1968)

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

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

Sources: Wikipedia, The Beatles Bible, YouTube

What I’ve Been Listening To: Wings Over America

I’m introducing a new category for the blog about albums I’ve been listening to. First up is Wings Over America.

Saturday and Sunday mornings when preparing and having breakfast, I oftentimes listen to entire albums. While in the era of iTunes and the like this may sound like an outdated concept, I can highly recommend it!

Since only a few weeks ago I saw Paul McCartney in Hershey, PA and the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Revolver was earlier this week, perhaps it’s not a surprise I chose an album that falls in the same realm: Wings Over America, a fantastic live set that captures the band’s 1975-1976 “Over The World” tour.

Released in December 1976 as a three-vinyl record set, Wings Over America includes recordings from various shows of the tour’s American leg from May to June 1976. It was the first time Paul performed live in the U.S. since The Beatles’ final live tour there in 1966. I also read it apparently was also the only time Wings played in the U.S. and Canada, which surprised me, given Paul’s enormous popularity in the States.

In addition to many Wings classics like JetLet Me Roll ItLive and Let Die, Letting Go and Band On the Run, the set features five of Paul’s songs from The Beatles era: Lady Madonna, The Long and Winding Road, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Blackbird and Yesterday. Another standout is Maybe I’m Amazed, which originally appeared on Paul’s first solo album after the break-up of The Beatles, McCartney, in April 1970. The live version of the song was also released as a single in February 1977 and remains a staple on many rock radio stations to this day. In my opinion, it’s much more dynamic than the studio version!

Just like I felt about the recent show in Hershey, I think the true highlights on Wings Over America are the acoustic pieces: Picasso’s Last Words, the Paul Simon song Richard Cory, Bluebird, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Blackbird and Yesterday.

Based on two of Paul’s live shows I was fortunate to see, which in addition to Hershey included a gig in the late 1980s in Germany, I have to say Wings Over America does a beautiful job to capture the concert experience. Obviously, with so many additional albums Paul has released since 1976, his live set has evolved quite a bit. In addition to songs from these albums, it now includes many more Beatles songs, both from the band’s early period and the later more experimental phase.

Wings Over America hit No. 1 in the U.S. in early 1977 and N0. 8 in the UK. I read it has sold more than four million copies in the U.S. alone and apparently was the first triple record release by a group to reach the top spot. The single off the set, Maybe I’m Amazed, made it to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 28 on the UK chart.

During his live tours, Paul has always played with terrific musicians, so my musings about Wings Over America wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the band. In addition to Paul (vocals, bass, piano, acoustic guitar) and his wife Linda McCartney (keyboards, backing vocals), Wings included original Moody Blues member Denny Laine (vocal, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion), Jimmy McCulloch (electric and acoustic guitars, bass, vocals), Joe English (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and a fantastic brass and woodwind section consisting of Howie Casey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard and Tony Dorsey.