Thursday, November 1, 2012

Don McLean: Castles In The Air

Today’s Thursday Repeat and Threepeat is both. The original recording of Don McLean’s “Castles in the Air” was released twice. Eleven years after its initial release, McLean re-recorded the song and finally had a Top 40 hit with the single.

During 1969, Don McLean recorded his first album “Tapestry.” McLean shopped the album to every major and independent label he could and racked up a total of 72 rejections until a new company, Mediarts, released the album in 1970. The album’s single of “Castles in the Air” was also released in 1971 but failed to chart in the Hot 100; however, it did make it to the #40 position on Billboard’s AC chart.

In 1971, Mediarts was acquired by United Artists and McLean’s second album, “American Pie” took both the number 1 slot for the album and the title track. For its second single release, UA issued “Vincent” with “Castles in the Air” as the flip. Due to airplay from “Castles in the Air,” the single was considered a double sided hit that peaked at #12. Although “Castles in the Air” was getting some airplay, “Vincent” was really the hit side.

The Remake

McLean recorded four more albums for United Artists, but these never recreated the success that he generated with “American Pie” and “Vincent.” After his contract with UA expired, McLean released one album apiece for Arista and Casablanca. In 1981, he signed with Millennium Records and released only one album, “Believers.” Millennium picked up the previous album from Casablanca and released three singles – notably McLean’s cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” – the second highest charting single of his career at #5.

The only single from “Believers” was a remake of “Castles in the Air.” The new version was nearly a minute longer and much slower than his original. I’ve been told that the new version appears on later versions of “Tapestry,” but I can neither confirm nor deny this. The remake charted at #36 and was the final single for McLean to chart within the Hot 100. It was his sixth most popular single.

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