Friday, November 30, 2012

Blue Thumb: Baja Bus

Getting a late start for my Friday post tonight, as it has been a very busy day, but I wanted to get the post in by midnight. Our Friday post from Blue Thumb Records happens to be a flip side from The Butts Band single “Pop-A-Top.” The single failed to chart in the US. The single’s B-side was “Baja Bus” and was written by the band’s guitarist, Robbie Krieger.

Yes, it was that Robbie Krieger and The Butts Band was originally to be a continuation of The Doors, as Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, and drummer John Densmore were in London auditioning several new replacements for the late Jim Morrison. Apparently Manzarek was not pleased with the process, so he left Krieger and Densmore in London.

With Manzarek gone, the two remaining Doors members hired Jess Roden, one of the vocalists that had auditioned to replace Morrison as the bands lead vocalist. Manzarek, who also played the bass parts on a Rhodes Bass keyboard, was replaced by three new members: keyboardists Roy Davies and Mick Weaver and bassist Phil Chen.

The Butts Band name was chosen as the members considered themselves as losers looking for a gig, so they picked a beat up Fender 4X10 Concert amp to represent the band on the cover of their debut album. Today’s selection, “Baja Bus” appears on this release.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blue Thumb: Ride A White Swan

Day five of our tribute to Blue Thumb Records and I have a selection that will please my brother, as it is  Tyrannosaurus Rex's (later known as T. Rex) release of “Ride a White Swan.” Being that it is a Thursday, a day we honor “Repeats and Threepeats,” “Ride a White Swan” was released four times in the United States and fits that category as well.

Its first issue was the version that I own. I remember seeing the album “A Beard of Stars” in the cutout bin at a local discount store – probably F.W. Woolworths in 1972, and my brother Chuck suggested that I purchase it and I did. The album was originally issued in the US in April 1970 and was later re-issued with a bonus 45 of “Ride a White Swan” backed with “Is it Love.”

The album was a Capitol pressing and was cutout due to Blue Thumb Records switch from Capitol Records distribution to that of Gulf+Western/Famous Music Corporation. It was a good time to get Blue Thumb Recordings as Capitol had to divest its stock of the label. “A Beard of Stars” was released in Britain on the Regal Zonophone label and was the second album by Tyrannosaurus Rex to be issued in the US on the Blue Thumb imprint.

While Regal Zonophone had the album, “Ride a White Swan” was released in the UK on the band's new label, Fly Records. It was the company’s first single and the catalog identification was fitting as “BUG-1.” The new single, which was officially released in the UK in October 1970, represented a change of names for the band with their shortened moniker of “T. Rex.” The single in the UK had two songs on the B-side: “Is it Love” and a cover of the Eddie Cochran hit “Summertime Blues.”

In the US, Blue Thumb issued two commercial versions of the single in 1970. Both were released in December, both bore the “Tyrannosaurus Rex” name, and both had the same number #7121. This number also appeared on the some of the later pressings of bonus singled that was issued with “Beard of Stars”; however, the proper catalog number of the promo single was SP-6115.

While the commercial version of the single like the promo had “Is it Love” as the B-side, Blue Thumb reissued the single with “Summertime Blues” as the flip. Perhaps this was done to capture the momentum of The Who’s version of the song that was released months earlier. The second version of the single can be identified by the A-side’s label as it included a star indicating the plug side of the single.

While the single was a smash hit in the UK charting in the number #2 position in early 1971, it failed to enter the Top 40 in the US and Canada. The US release peaked at #76 and the Canadian version did a little better at #48.

A fourth version of the song was also issued in December 1970. This was as an album cut on the band’s fifth album which was simply titled “T. Rex.” Issued on Fly in the UK, the album was licensed to Reprise Records in the United States. What interest the Blue Thumb single may have generated probably benefited Reprise rather than Blue Thumb.

Marc Bolan recorded the vocals, four guitar parts, and the bass. There is a rhythm maker tambourine and hand claps keeping rhythm. I’m not sure if Micky Finn played on this recording – if he did, he only provided the hand claps. A very sparse string arrangement was also added. Tony Visconti, who has worked with David Bowie, The Moody Blues, Thin Lizzy, The Kaiser Chiefs, among others, produced the single. Although the band had recorded four albums to this point, “Ride A White Swan” was pivotal in jump starting the careers of Marc Bolen and T. Rex.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blue Thumb: I've Been Loving You Too Long

In 1968, Blue Thumb Records signed Ike and Tina Turner for one album – the fifth for the label; however, the initial single release was delayed until spring 1969. Their “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” was the first single for the label and was appropriately numbered as BLU 101. Ike and Tina’s cover of the Otis Redding tune charted at #68 on the Hot 100 and at #23 on the R&B chart.

Speaking of covers, the album, “Outta Season,” was their only release on the Blue Thumb label and it sported a highly imaginative and possibly controversial cover. Ike and Tina were depicted in “white face” make-up that mocked the prejudicial black-faced make-up used by minstrel performers from the past. Only Ike and Tina could have pulled this off.

Internationally, the album was released on Liberty Records or its subsidiary labels Minit and Sunset. This may have provoked Ike and Tina to switch loyalties to Liberty Records. When Transamerica, who owned United Artists, Liberty, and its family of labels, devalued the Liberty brand in the early 1970s, Ike and Tina (as well as other artists on the Liberty roster) were switched to the United Artists brand.

With the signing of Ike and Tina to Liberty/UA and their greater success with the single “Proud Mary”  and the inclusion of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” on the 1971 live album “What You Hear is What You Get,” Blue Thumb re-released the single as BTA 202. It failed to chart the second time around. It may be the only example were a second release of a single had a catalog number that was exactly double of the initial release.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Blue Thumb: Yes We Can Can

The next selection in our fourth week special on Blue Thumb Records comes from The Pointer Sisters’ 1973 self-titled debut album. While the sisters had released several singles prior to “Yes We Can Can,” it was the first single by the sisters to chart within the Top 40. “Yes We Can Can” peaked on the Hot 100 at #11 and would remain their highest charting single on the Hot 100 until 1978’s release of “Fire.” The song also peaked at #12 on the R&B charts.

“Yes We Can Can” was written by New Orleans musical legend Allen Toussaint and had been originally released by Lee Dorsey in 1970. The Pointer’s version eclipsed Dosrey’s original which failed to make it to the Hot 100 and only charted at #46. Like Dorsey’s release, the single edit was nearly half the length of the album version.

The album, “The Pointer Sisters,” also did well. It peaked at #12 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart and at #3 on the R&B Albums chart. In February 1974, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales in excess of 500,000 copies

Anita Pointer handled the lead vocals on “Yes We Can Can” – the group’s first of many Blue Thumb singles. Sisters Ruth, Anita, and Bonnie handled the back-up vocals.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Blue Thumb: A Heartache, A Shadow, A Lifetime (I'll Be Home)

Back in 1972, Dave Mason released his third album on the Blue Thumb Records label, “Headkeeper.” His first solo album was “Alone Together, “ which came in a marble colored vinyl that is often known as “vomitone” for its resemblance more to emesis rather than marble. Mason’s second Blue Thumb release was an album of duets with Mama Cass Elliot.

The single from “Headkeeper” was “A Heartache, A Shadow, A Lifetime (I’ll Be Home).” While the parenthetical title appeared on the single, it was not included on the album. Unfortunately, it failed to chart.

The best parts of this single are the keyboards and the vocal harmonies. Mark Jordan plays both the piano and organ on this cut. The backup vocals were provided by Rita Coolidge, Graham Nash, Spencer Davis, and Kathi McDonald.

Side one of “Headkeeper” was recorded in the studio and side two was recorded live at LA’s Troubadour.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blue Thumb: One Way Sunday

I took a few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and now that it is the fourth week of the month, we’ll commence with our week long record label special. This month, I’m looking at Blue Thumb Records which started as independent label in 1968. It was former King Records exec Bob Krasnow’s brainchild and he recruited A&M veterans Tommy LiPuma and Don Graham to handle production and marketing duties.

Typical Blue Thumb Label Configuration

Captain Beefheart was the inspiration for the label’s name as he had suggested it for the name of his band; however, Krasnow vetoed the name for the band, but kept it for the label. Initially, Blue Thumb distributed their own material, but by 1970 they saw the need to partner with a major label to provide distribution. From late 1970 to 1971, Capitol Records distributed Blue Thumb. In late 1971, Gulf+Western/Famous Music began distributing the label and bought it directly from Krasnow in 1972.

By 1974, ABC Records bought out the Gulf+Western/Famous Music family of labels that included the Blue Thumb, Dot, and Paramount labels. Until ABC was sold to MCA/Universal in 1979, the Blue Thumb logo appeared alongside the ABC logo on record labels. Universal resurrected Blue Thumb from 1995 to 2005 for blues, adult contemporary, and jazz recordings.

This week, we’ll look at some recordings on the Blue Thumb imprint that show the variety of musical styles found on the label. Since today is Sunday, I thought I might feature a song from “Mark-Almond II” called “One Way Sunday.” Mark-Almond, led by Jon Mark and Johnny Almond, was a jazz and blues influenced band that was established by these two alumni from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in the 1960s.

Jon Mark provides the vocals and guitar and Johnny Almond shines on the stellar flute lead. This very mellow piece is perfect for a quiet Sunday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Delbert McClinton: Giving It Up For Your Love

Although Delbert McClinton had been performing for decades, his only Top 40 hit came about in late 1980 with his single “Giving it up for your Love.” The song peaked at #8 in early 1981 about the time I left Huntington, WV for Beckley, WV to work at WCIR-FM. The song was in “A” or hot rotation when I started working at the station on February 16.

This particular single features the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section who co-produced this recording with Barry Beckett. Other claims to McClinton’s fame included playing harmonica on Bruce Channel’s number one hit “Hey! Baby”; the instrument is prominently featured on the recording. Additionally, McClinton tutored John Lennon on the harmonica.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cream: Cat's Squirrel

Last week I learned about an early guitar effect, which somehow escaped my knowledge over the years. The unit made by Dallas Arbiter was called the Rangemaster and was a treble booster which produced a fuzz tone in the process. This early signal booster/distortion unit was used on countless recordings. In an article that Dennis Harris provided me, a number of songs were listed.

One by Cream from their debut album, “Fresh Cream,” caught my eyes, memories, and ears – the instrumental “Cat’s Squirrel.” I hadn’t listened to this album in decades and all of the memories of this LP came flooding back. The song, which had previously appeared as the flipside to Cream’s first single, “Wrapping Paper,” opened side two.

While the British version was slightly different from the American version, I bought my copy when ATCO was divesting its stock of the Robert Stigwood Organisation’s material that was soon to be released on Polydor’s USA label. Unable to get an ATCO version, I bought the British import.

The album differed from the American release in that the album’s title was graphically different and the UK album included the song “Spoonful,” which had been released in America as a single, but not on the album. “I Feel Free,” which was released in both countries as a single, was included on the American version, but not the original British release. Additionally, as many albums from the UK were printed on a thinner and glossy stock, these releases were prone to finger prints, scratches, and creases more than the American issues.

“Cat’s Squirrel” features Jack Bruce on harmonica and a Fender VI six-string bass. Of course Ginger Baker is supplying the rhythm while Eric Clapton is doubling Bruce’s harmonica. The guitar is being run through the Rangemaster. This song as well as the rest of the album is not mixed to my liking – Robert Stigwood produced it. I prefer the later Cream album mixes by producer Felix Pappalardi. With that said, “Cat’s Squirrel” is on one of the best tunes on the album - “Alright, alright, alright, alright.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blues Saraceno: Save My Soul

It’s Media Monday and today’s song is a cut that has gotten a great deal of television airplay in the last month. Blues Saraceno’s “Save My Soul” was the opening theme and the promo bed for the History Channel’s “The Men Who Built America,” which was an excellent docu-drama of the industrial giants of the late 19th and early 20th century America. The song is also being used as a commercial bed for the latest Hardees commercial.

The son of two musicians, it isn’t that unusual that Saraceno’s given name is “Blues.” Discovered at the age of 16, he has toured with Poison and former Cream members Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. I love the tonal qualities both on his slide guitar and vocals. Saraceno is living up the name “Blues.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Electric 12-String: You Were On My Mind

Back in 1965 (there’s that year again), the We Five was inspired by a cut from an Ian and Sylvia album that they decided to record it as the title cut for their first album. The song was “You Were On My Mind” and Sylvia Tyson’s composition proved to be a good selection as it peaked at #3.

Integral to the single’s overall sound was the electric 12-string provided by guitarist Bob Jones. It’s entry into the song starts with jangly chords that evolve to leads. Jones’ technique is not normally found among 12-string artists as he does a bit a string bending – something you don’t normally hear from this double coursed instrument.

Like several of the other artists we’ve featured this week, Jones played a Rickenbacker 360/12 – and you didn’t even have to ask.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Electric 12-String: It's My Life

The name Hilton Valentine is not one that you hear much these days, and like The Hollies’ Tony Hicks, The Animals’ lead guitarist is often missing from the pantheon of guitar greats – that’s a pity. As much as Eric Burdon’s voice and Alan Price’s keyboards defined The Animals’ sound, Hilton Valentine was part of the equation. I’m not purposely eliminating Chas Chandler’s bass and John Steel’s drums, but this feature is about electric 12-string guitars and their owners.

There were several Animals’ recordings that used the electric 12-string guitar. One of the earlier tunes with this instrumentation was “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Despite the official video showing Valentine playing a Gretsch Tennessean 6-string electric, he actually played a white Vox prototype of the Mark XII electric 12-string. This guitar was given to him by Vox. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones received a 6 string (Mark VI) at about the same time. The Mark series of Vox guitars were teardrop shaped and Valentine is seen playing his on the cover of the American version the “Animal Tracks” album.

Since I’ve already featured “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” I’ll move on to another 12-string number, “It’s My Life.” On this selection, Valentine plays, what else, but a Rickenbacker electric 12-string. It was a 1993/12 model that was produced by Rickenbacker for export and was sold in the UK by Rose Morris and Company, Ltd.

Typically, these export Ricks are known by collectors as Rose Morris models. Valentine had two Rose Morris Rickenbackers – the other was a  model 1997 six-string which he is seen playing at the top of the page.

“It’s My Life” came to The Animals from producer Micky Most’s solicitation for songs from the Brill Building’s song factory in New York. This saga of independence and angst was written by Roger Atkins and Carl D’Errico. It starts with a bass riff by Chas Chandler which is doubled by Valentine’s 12-string. While the song was a top ten hit in the UK and Canada, it only peaked at #23 in the US.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Electric 12-String: Look Through Any Window

Although The Hollies had eight Top 40 hits in the UK before releasing “Look through any Window,” it was their first US single to break the Top 40. Its entry into the hit category in the US stalled at #32 in 1965; however, it charted at #4 in the band’s homeland.

Just to stamp out any suspected favoritism I might have toward Rickenbacker guitars (although I have never owned a Rick of any configuration), today’s fourth installment of our second week special on  12-string electrics features a song that has a Vox guitar – a Phantom XII to be exact.

The Hollies’ lead guitarist, Tony Hicks, used a red Vox Phantom XII on the recording of “Look through any Window.” Hicks, who is an excellent musician on all manner of fretted instruments, doesn’t often get the credit which is due his great talent.

The pentangular shaped guitar was made in Italy for the British based Vox company and was the 12-string version of their Phantom six-string and bass models. The small bodied electric featured three single coil pick-ups reminiscent of a Fender Stratocaster. Like many guitars produced in secondary and tertiary markets, the Phantom models all carried a zero fret. Phantoms  were available in three colors: white, black, and red. All three configurations sported a white pick guard. 

As with many of The Hollies recordings, Alan Clarke sings lead and is joined by Graham Nash and Tony Hicks. Nash sings the high harmony parts while Hicks takes the lower harmony. Additionally, Clarke’s vocals are double tracked. “Look through any Window” was composed by Graham Gouldman and Charles Silverman. Gouldman would later be a member of the Mindbenders, 10cc, and Wax.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Electric 12-String: The Waiting

The natural extension of our electric 12-string feature is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and one of their numerous songs that feature the instrument. Like “Ticket to Ride,” 1981’s “The Waiting” features two Rickenbacker electric 12-strings. While the previous two selections featured “Ricks” as well, you would think that they were the only manufacturer of that particular beast.

With the exposure of The Beatles, The Byrds, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, you might jump to that logical conclusion. While the Rickenbacker was “the” 12-string instrument to have, most other guitar makers produced electric 12-strings including Vox, Gibson, Fender, Dan Electro, Mosrite, ad infinitum.

I happen to own a Dan Electro Bellzouki electric 12-string, and with a compression pedal, it is sweet. Like a Rickenbacker, my Dan Electro has the octave strings to the right of the course and not to the left like acoustic 12-string guitars and many other electrics.

On “The Waiting,” Tom Petty plays a mapleglo Rickenbacker 360/12 (see yesterday’s post), but Mike Campbell is playing a solid body fireglo Rickenbacker 660/12. While Campbell wanted a model akin to the 360/12, he was able to buy this model for $150.00 – a steal in anyone’s book.

Rickenbacker told Campbell that, by analyzing his serial number, his guitar was made during the same production run as George Harrison’s famous 360/12 – which means it was a very early made Rick 12-string. It is Campbell’s guitar that Tom Petty is holding on the cover of the album “Damn the Torpedoes.” Campbell also plays a six-string electric for the leads on the song. In the official video for the song, he plays his 12-string mimicking the six-string leads.

From the 1981 album “Hard Promises,” “The Waiting” placed at #19 of the Hot 100. It was a number one song on Billboard’s Rock chart.

Official Video in Mono

Monday, November 12, 2012

Electric 12-String: Mr. Tambourine Man

In the 50s and 60s (and to an extent today), the record label often retained creative control over new artists and required session musicians to record the studio tracks. That’s what happened with The Byrds’ first single release “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Although the band had learned the tune from a Bob Dylan acetate provided by Dylan’s publisher M. Witmark & Sons Music, they were not originally impressed with the tune; however, it would be come a #1 hit for The Byrds.

In time, they developed their own arrangement of the song (which Dylan actually gave his seal of approval) and cut a number of demos of it and other songs. You can hear these early recordings on the Preflyte album which was released by Together Records in 1969.

Columbia later reissued the album in 1973 and several other labels have released versions of the album and other early tracks over the years. I bought my copy in the early 70s and it is a little rough, but there are some gems on it; however, their original demo recording of “Mr. Tambourine Man” was not one of them.


I don’t think Roger McGuinn (known as Jim McGuinn in those days) played an electric 12-string on this demo as it sounds more like an acoustic 12-string guitar – but it may be his Rickenbacker 360/12 without the compression that created the jangly sound so familiar to The Byrds’ recordings.

On January 20, 1965, The Byrds entered the Columbia Records studio to record their rendition of Dylan’s tune. Producer Terry Melcher had doubts about the musicianship of the band and hired a session group called The Wrecking Crew to perform the majority of the instrumental tracks. McGuinn was the only member of The Byrds who played on both sides of the single. McGuinn, who sang lead, was joined by Gene Clark and David Crosby on harmonies. Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke did not appear on “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

McGuinn played a mapleglo finish Rickenbacker 360/12 – the same model as George Harrison (although a different finish). He would later add a third pickup to his guitar which inspired Rickenbacker to create the 370/12 – known and the Roger McGuinn model. His playing style is a combination of flat-picking and finger picking. He holds the flat pick with his thumb and forefinger and wears metal finger picks on the middle and ring fingers.

This style allows him to play melody and accompaniment simultaneously and allows him to mimic banjo rolls as well. This style is especially noticeable on “Turn, Turn, Turn.” His jangly style was born in this session as the engineer compressed his guitar to prevent over-driving the equipment.

This technique produced what is now known as the distinctive Roger McGuinn sound. From that day, McGuinn has compressed the guitar’s output to get that unique jangly 12-string electric sound. The line of the song, “In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you” became prophetic, and the rest they say is history.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Electric 12-String: Ticket To Ride

It’s the second week of the month and time for our Second Week Special – this week’s feature is the 12-string electric guitar. When most people think of the 12-string electric guitar, their minds drift back to Roger McGuinn and his use of his Rickenbacker model and numerous recordings by The Byrds. His usage inspired Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to adopt a similar jangling sound – but who influenced Roger McGuinn – the answer – George Harrison and The Beatles.

The Byrds happened to see “A Hard Day’s Night” and could not figure out how Harrison got the sound out of his Rickenbacker 360/12 because the headstock made it appear to be a 6-string. The Rickenbacker 12-string had six standard tuners and six slotted tuners.

There were a couple of songs in “A Hard Day’s Night” that utilized a 12-string guitar: “I Should Have Known Better” and “Any Time at All”; however, we are going to feature a 12-string song from The Beatles’ second movie, “Help.”

“Ticket to Ride” features two Rickenbacker 12-string electrics. John Lennon is playing his black (jetglo) 325/12 model while Harrison is playing his fireglo 360/12 style instrument.  George's 12-string was the second electric 12 production guitar built by Rickenbacker.

The single, which was primarily written by Lennon, was released prior to the finish of “Help” and the writing of the title song. If you look closely at the label, you’ll notice the working title for the movie: “Eight Arms to Hold You.” I like “Help” so much better for a title.

This week, we’ll explore songs that feature 12-string electric guitars and will have songs by The Byrds, The Hollies, The Animals, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and others. Enjoy the jangling sounds that will emanate from “Reading Between the Grooves.”

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dan Fogelberg: As The Raven Flies

I’ll have to give credit where credit is due and thank the guy who introduced me to the music of Dan Fogelberg – my friend Jon Weiner from Louisville. Although Fogelberg had recorded albums since 1972, I was not aware of his output until I heard his second album while staying with my friend Jon in 1977. Others may consider “Phoenix” and the “Innocent Age” as his best, but I am partial to Dan’s second album “Souvenirs.”

Released in 1974, the album produced one single “Part of the Plan” that only placed at #31 on the Top 40 charts; however, “Souvenirs” placed at #17 on the Top 200 albums chart. Since “Part of the Plan” charted in the Top 40, I cannot use it as my bubbling under hit; therefore, I have decided to use an album cut that got some airplay and has the distinction of being the heaviest cut on the album: “As the Raven Flies.”

Produced by Joe Walsh, the album features a star studded cast of musicians that includes Joe Walsh and a couple of his solo album cronies; four members of the Eagles; two members of Souther, Hillman, and Furay; Graham Nash, and a number of well known session musicians. The slide guitar on “As the Raven Flies” was actually Al Perkins playing lap steel.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood: Jackson

I was reminded by my brother this week about some of the duets that were recorded in the 1960s by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood. Hazelwood, who also served as Sinatra’s producer and sometime songwriter, was also responsible for her public makeover. At his suggestion, she dyed her hair platinum blond, began wearing false eyelashes and frosted lipstick, and began sporting mod clothing inspired by London stylists.

In 1967, Hazelwood went into the studio to rerecord “You Only Live Twice” with Nancy Sinatra recreating her vocal from the Bond soundtrack of the same name. While Hazelwood’s production was somewhat different from the motion picture version, it actually had some better characteristics. I remember seeing the movie in Atlantic City that summer and fell in love with the theme song. Being a sucker for Bond themes, I always regarded it as my favorite.

For the flipside, Reprise Records selected a duet by Sinatra and Hazelwood on the song “Jackson.” The song’s primary author was Billy Edd Wheeler who grew up about 40 miles from where I live. The songs coauthor and the person who was responsible for cleaning up the song was Brill Building icon Jerry Leiber. For this and several other compositions, Leiber used his wife’s name of Gaby Rodgers for crediting purposes. “Jackson” appeared on Nancy Sinatra's LP "Country My Way."

This single release was one of those rare occurrences where the “B” side outperformed the “A” side. This is highly unusual, as I don’t remember “Jackson” getting that much airplay, but I do remember hearing “You Only Live Twice.” The chart positions were surprising as “You Only Live Twice” made it to #44 while “Jackson” charted at #14.

Billboard’s unique algorithm not only charted sales and airplay, but also jukebox plays which may be the source of determining which side of the single charted higher. Typically, the “A” side is the hit. While “You Only Live Twice” failed to break into the Top 40, the record is still considered a double sided hit. A video, which is included below, also helped promote the song as well.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jethro Tull: Living In The Past

While there are probably others, I can only think of two Top 40 hits that were in 5/4 time: Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and Jethro Tull’s “Living in the Past.” Recorded during the same session as Jethro Tull’s “Stand Up” album, “Living in the Past” was originally issued as a non-album single in 1969 with “Driving Song” as its flip. The single’s original release on Reprise failed to chart.

In 1972, Chrysalis Records released the quasi compilation album “Living in the Past” that included non-album singles and outtakes from previous album releases. To promote this album, the title track was released as the single with “Christmas Song” as its flip.

The repeat issue of “Living in the Past” was prime for American audiences as it ended up being the band’s highest charting single. It peaked on the Hot 100 at #11. In addition to being rereleased, the original version was in mono and Chrysalis remixed the song in stereo.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dave Loggins: Please Come To Boston

Like his cousin Kenny Loggins, Dave Loggins got his start as a songwriter before branching out on his own. One of his earlier successes was penning “Pieces of April’ for Three Dog Night. Unfortunately, Dave Loggins only had one solo hit: 1974’s “Please Come to Boston.”

Besides being covered by numerous other artists, it was nominated for the Grammy for the “Best Male Pop Performance.” Besides charting at the #5 slot for two weeks, it also was a #1 record on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. It had similar success in Canada placing at #4 on the singles chart and at #2 as an adult contemporary recording.

From what I remember, most people I knew at the time liked the song. I was at home on summer break when it came out and remember my coworkers’ discussions comparing his style to his more famous cousin. The song was unprecedented for being nearly four minutes in length for an unknown artist’s first release. I always assumed that the “man from Tennessee” was a reference to Elvis.

Although this was Loggins only solo hit, he went back to songwriting for a number of other artists such as Kenny Rogers, Gary Morris, Alabama, Wynonna Judd, Don Williams, Anne Murray, Restless Heart, Toby Keith, David Allen Coe, and Reba McEntire.

Although I can’t be sure, it sounds like one of the guitars used on this cut used Nashville tuning which is called high-strung tuning. This is achieved by using the E, A, D, and G octave strings of a 12-string guitar set on a 6 string acoustic guitar instead of the standard set of guitar strings. The B and high E strings are the same as standard tuning.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sheryl Crow: Everyday Is A Winding Road

The other night, I watched the movie “Erin Brockovich” – I had never seen the 2000 film and really had no desire to see it at the time. While trolling through the late night offerings on Friday, I saw that it was on and said, “what the heck, let’s watch it.” It was a rather good movie and the harsh language with which the movie was criticized for in 2000 was cleaned up for television viewing.

Sheryl Crow’s “Everyday is a Winding Road” was featured over the movie's ending credits. The title, which is grammatically incorrect like so many other song titles, should have been listed as “Every Day” and not “Everyday.”  Buddy Holly's “Everyday” had the same problem.  This 1996 release from Sheryl Crow’s self-titled second album peaked on Billboard’s Hot 100 at #11. It also received the nomination for the 1998 Grammy for “Record of the Year,” but failed to win the award.

Singing back-up on this track is Neil Finn who sang lead in Split Enz and Crowded House. Besides its media usage in “Erin Brockovich,” it also appeared as a commercial bed for Subaru commercials in the mid to late 2000s. It’s a great tune with a nice slide guitar riff that becomes an instrumental hook. I hadn’t heard this song in a number of years, so it was a nice surprise to catch it on TV.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

UFO: Too Hot To Handle

“Lights Out” may be the only album I have by the British metal band UFO. There is good reason for that – the 1977 album was their highest charting LP in the US landing at the #23 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Chart. Much of the success of this album stateside was the airplay generated by AOR radio stations of its initial single “To Hot to Handle.”

While I use the category of “Bubbling Under” for our Saturday feature for anything that didn’t chart in the Top 40, “Too Hot to Handle” is a truly a “Bubbling Under” hit as it appeared only on Billboard’s Bubbling Under chart at #106. In fact it is the only song by UFO to appear on any American chart.

While the success of this song was not due to its release as a single but as an album cut, the single release in the US and the UK were issued in red vinyl and are somewhat of a collector’s item today. “Too Hot to Handle” was composed by lead singer Phil Mogg and bassist Pete Way.

The cut also contains a killer lead from Michael Schenker – whose membership in the band over the years helped them evolved from a space rock band to a metal band. “Lights Out” is also the first album to feature the band’s newest member Paul Raymond . Raymond, who played rhythm guitar and keyboards, was previously a member of Savoy Brown.

Friday, November 2, 2012

America: Everyone I Meet Is From California

I was talking to a friend yesterday about the group America and we were reliving some of their great music. I was reminded that I hadn’t featured any of their music for a while; therefore, I thought I might give it a stab for my Friday Flipside selection. The single “Horse with no Name” was released twice and I already featured the flip of the second issue – “Sandman.”

When Warner Brothers originally released the single in January 1972, it had a different “B” side. The song was the same one used on the successful UK version of the single and was a Dan Peek composition titled “Everyone I Meet is from California.” Originally a non-album single, the song later appeared on America’s second album under the title of “California Revisited.”

The initial single release of “Horse with no Name” failed to chart, but the second version was a #1 single. Because of this, Warner Brothers pulled their first album which did not include the cut and reissued the LP with “Horse with no Name.” And the rest they say is musical history.

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.