Sunday, December 28, 2014

Liberty Records: Don't Give It Up

Just for fun, I decided to add another Liberty release to round out the week. In 1980, Capitol/EMI resurrected the label as a vehicle for the United Artists’ catalog that was purchased two years earlier. Making the transition from the UA brand that they were permitted to use for two years, Liberty became the official label for the catalog of releases that now were under EMI’s control.

Instead of managing Liberty from EMI’s flagship American brand, Capitol Records, it fell under the jurisdiction of EMI America for promotion. In addition to United Artists, Imperial, Liberty and other related labels’ catalogs released under the label, Liberty was EMI’s primary country music outlet.

Several of these artists had been previously signed with United Artists, such as Kenny Rogers, Dottie West, Cristy Lane, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. While primarily a country and oldies imprint, a number of pop artists were signed to the reinvigorated label including Robbie Patton.

Having been an opening act for Fleetwood Mac, Patton was promoted as having a connection with these superstars. To further cement this connection, Christine McVie played keyboards and co-produced the “Distant Shores” album and the “Don’t Give It Up” single along with Ken Caillat and Robbie Patton. In addition, Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac alumnus Bob Weston, and Tim Weston played guitars.

Backup vocals were supplied by McVie and another Fleetwood Mac alumnus – Bob Welch. Welch and McVie were also joined on backup vocals by Robin Sylvester who played bass on the track and by David Adelstein who also played keyboards. Although not on this particular recording, Stevie Nicks lent her vocals to another track.

While never a major success, Patton’s “Don’t Give it Up” charted in 1981 at #26 on the Hot 100 and #41 on adult contemporary chart. The song was co-written by Patton and Adelstein.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Liberty Records: Power of Love

Before the Allman brothers were the Allman Brothers, they first The Allman Joys and then later The Hour Glass. Based out of Los Angeles, Gregg and Duane Allman (from The Allman Joys) and Pete Carr, Johnny Sandlin, and Paul Hornsby (of the Men-its) formed this pop band with a slight edge.

Through connections with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who were under contract with one of Transamerica’s labels, United Artists, The Hour Glass were signed to another Transamerica subsidiary, Liberty Records. The band released two albums, “The Hour Glass” and “Power of Love,” and six singles – four of which were credited to Gregg Allman and Hour Glass.

In order to fulfill the band’s contract with Liberty, Gregg Allman recorded an album of material with session musicians that, outside the two single “A” sides, was shelved until some of the recordings were released the 1990s. Eventually all of this material, along with outtakes from the bands’ two official LPs, was released on CD by Acadia Records as “Southbound.”

While the originating two bands had both performed blues covers, Liberty attempted to mold The Hour Glass into a soul/pop band. Unfortunately, The Hour Glass never achieved the status they deserved and when they split in 1968, Duane and Gregg formed the Allman Brothers Band. The other three members headed back to Alabama where they became session musicians Fame Studios, one of the two prominent recording studios located in Muscle Shoals.

“Power of Love” was written by two Alabamans who also spent a great deal of session time at the studios in Muscle Shoals and later in Memphis: Dan Penn and Dewey “Spooner” Oldham. Penn and Oldham had coauthored a number of songs including “Cry Like a Baby” for The Box Tops and “I’m Your Puppet” for James and Bobby Purify. By the time “Power of Love” was written, Penn was already an established songwriter and producer.

Oldham had a plethora of hits under his belt having played organ on Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man,” and Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” He was a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section that was nicknamed The Swampers along with Hour Glass alumnus Pete Carr. Oldham has played with numerous artists and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a sideman in 2009.

“Power of Love” features Gregg Allman on organ and lead vocals and Duane Allman on lead guitar. While it doesn’t measure up to the brothers’ later material, it is a decent enough recording. Unfortunately, it never charted and hence is truly a bubbling (way) under selection.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Liberty Records: Going Up The Country

It’s day six of our look at Liberty Records and we turn to Canned Heat’s highest charting single, “Going up the Country.” Credited to Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, it was far from being an original tune. As with a number of the artists recording blues songs in the late 60s and early 70s, “Going up the Country” is an example of overt plagiarism – but, let’s call it what it is was – pure unadulterated theft.

“Going up the Country” is nearly note for note a copy of Henry Thomas’ 1927 recording of “Bull Doze Blues.” Although the melody is the same, the clincher is session musician Jim Horn’s flute parts. They are note-for-note identical to Thomas’ original accompaniment and lead. While Horn used a flute, Henry Thomas played the quills – an African version of the pan pipes. I would imagine that he had the quills attached to a rack so he could accompany himself while playing a guitar.

The similarities are so evident, the stars and the planets would have to be aligned just right and the odds of a billion to one would have to be stacked in Canned Heat’s favor to create this song without influence from Thomas’ original. On the surface, it appears that Wilson, who sang the song as well, just borrowed the tune from Thomas and created the lyrics.

Well, that’s partially true as he did write the lyrics, but he had some inspirational help from Johnny Miller who wrote “Up the Country ” in 1927 for Wingy Manone who recorded it twice: once in 1927 as “Up the Country” and then later in 1930 as “Up the Country Blues.” Wilson’s lyrical content is original, but it is obvious that he heard Manone’s recordings and borrowed the idea for the title and the hook lyric.

Recorded for Canned Heat’s “Living the Blues” album in 1968, the single was released in late November 1968 and charted in 1969 at #11. The band performed “Going up the Country” at Woodstock. In the film, the studio version was used while the actual Woodstock performance was included on the soundtrack album.

Henry Thomas’ “Bull Doze Blues”


Check out the musical similarities between Canned Heat’s hit and this 1927 recording. Despite that the label says whistling, Thomas was actually playing the quills. 

Wingy Manone “Up the Country”


Not the original US 1927 release, but a later UK reissue.

The title and hook lyric were “borrowed” from this 1927 recording. Manone’s unusual nickname came about because he lost an arm in a streetcar mishap.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Liberty Records: A Not So Merry Christmas

One of Liberty Records’ biggest stars of the early ‘60s was Bobby Vee; however, his music was filled with stories of bad relationships. Notwithstanding, Bobby struck a chord with the record buying public. Maybe it was his boyish good looks, his smooth voice, or possibly consumers identified with the content of his message.

And let’s take a look at his message. Consider “Take Good Care of My Baby” and “Run to Him” – he was giving his gal up to some other guy without an argument. At other times, he wasn’t quite sure of the stability of his partner or his relationship status; think of “Devil or Angel” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” – with the latter tune implying that Bobby was a stalker.

On another occasion, he is the constant rebound lover in “Rubber Ball” – there to always pick up the pieces when an old girlfriend ends a relationship with another guy; he would later become a victim. To heap coals on the fire, just remember “Please Don’t Ask about Barbara.” Finally, there’s “Come Back when You Grow Up” girl. Let’s not even go there.

Do we see a theme developing? This guy keeps chasing the women away. Today’s Christmas selection is no better, as Bobby was planning to have “A Not So Merry Christmas.” Unable to repeat the mirth of the previous holiday season, the sad “A Not So Merry Christmas” leads off the second side of the “Merry Christmas from Bobby Vee” album, which was released in December 1962. Vee is backed by The Johnny Mann Singers on all of the cuts.

Actually, “A Not So Merry Christmas” would have made a great Christmas single, as it modeled Vee’s formula hits. Originally, Liberty had intended issuing it as a 45, but shelved that idea, as “A Night Has a Thousand Eyes” was released the day after Thanksgiving 1962. A Christmas single would certainly erode sales of this up-and-coming hit record and in essence, Bobby would be competing with himself – and we see what happens when he competes with other guys – he loses.

Since the “A Night Has a Thousand Eyes” LP would not hit the stores until April 1963, the release of a Christmas album fit into Liberty’s overall marketing schema. Unfortunately, the release only charted at #136. While 13 of his 25 albums never made the charts, “Merry Christmas from Bobby Vee” had the third worst position of the 12 that had placed on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. Be that as it may, “A Not So Merry Christmas,” even with his characteristic sad undertone, is still a classy tune. Here’s wishing that you have a better Christmas than Bobby Vee did in 1962.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Liberty Records: Quiet Village

Today’s selection is not very Christmassy (if that’s a word), but after spending 20 years in radio, you tend to get burnt out on Christmas music very quickly. There’s only so much of a hit and run reindeer, mommy kissing Santa Claus, the lack of two front teeth, Alvin, and back bacon one can take. To satisfy the insatiable Christmas fans, I promise a Christmas release tomorrow from Liberty Records, no doubt – and Ross Bagdasarian had nothing to do with it.

For today, the musical style is exotica. Martin Denny, the father of the genre, was also a Liberty recording artist. He and his band discovered their unique sound while playing at the Shell Bar in Hawaii. When the band played, the local frogs croaked. When they stopped playing, the frogs stopped as well. As a gag, some of the band members decided to do bird calls during the performance. The next night, the owner asked them to do the song with the frogs and birds again – and exotica was born.

The signature tune of the genre was Denny’s adaptation of Les Baxter’s 1952 song “Quiet Village.” They recorded it in 1957, but since there were no frogs present, Denny used a makeshift güiro from a grooved cylinder. In 1959, Liberty Records decided to release “Quiet Village” as a single and it shot up the charts to the #4 position. It also crossed over to the R&B chart where it peaked at #11.

For the album “Exotica,” the beautiful model Sandy Warner graced the cover. In fact, Warner was the face of Martin Denny’s albums for the next eleven releases as well. I always loved this song and was able to purchase the original single release with a stock Liberty sleeve in 1976 in mint condition at a little music store in East Jenkins, KY. I think I paid a quarter for it.

It was the second time I visited this now extinct establishment and I always walked away with collector items including a rare Beatles album that I paid $2.00 for in 1973. Its current worth is between $600 and $800. The value of the “Quiet Village” single – not so much, and it is probably valued in the $15 range – still worth a lot more than I paid for it nearly 40 years ago. Enjoy this Wordless Wednesday selection from Liberty Records.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Liberty Records: Cry Me A River

Since I featured Joe Cocker’s version of “Cry me a River” last night, I thought I might divert my Liberty Records’ selection today to the original recording. I hadn’t planned on any Julie London songs for this week, but with the circumstances with the death of Joe Cocker, I thought it might be nice to hear the version that Cocker probably heard first and inspired him to make it his own.

Arthur Hamilton wrote “Cry me a River” in 1953 originally for Ella Fitzgerald to sing in the movie “Pete Kelly’s Blues” – and she did; however, her recording was cut from the film and shelved until 1961. After others passed on the tune, Julie London recorded it and the original release became the sixth single issue for Liberty Records in 1955. It appeared on her second album, “Julie is her Name.” Hamilton had one of the more unusual lyrics in this hit, as he wrote, “Remember, I remember all that you said. Told me love was too plebeian – told me you were through with me and . . .”

Backed with a Spartan accompaniment from Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Leatherwood on bass, it was all that was necessary to provide a platform for London’s low, sultry voice. Charting at #9, it was her signature song as no other Julie London single made it into the Top 40 let alone the Hot 100. In the UK where Joe Cocker would have heard the song, it only charted at #22. No one, including Joe Cocker, has ever matched Julie London’s chart performance of this tune on either side of the Atlantic.

Movie Video

Although Ella Fitzgerald’s recording laid on the cutting room floor, Julie London’s rendition made it into several movies. It has appeared in “Passion of Mind” and “V for Vendetta,” but another film provides a unique haunting version of “Cry me a River.” London sang the complete number in the 1956 release of “The Girl Can’t Help It.” In the clip, Julie appears as an apparition to Tom Ewell’s drunken character Tom Miller. Was it the paranormal or the DTs? We may never know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cry Me A River as Joe Cocker Has Departed

I don’t often have two posts in a day, but when I do it is usually due to unfortunate news. Earlier today, I heard that 70 year-old Joe Cocker had succumbed from lung cancer. His death occurred in Colorado where he made his home. In 1968, he was propelled into the spotlight with his rendition of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help from my Friends.” While it was a number one record in Britain, it had a dismal showing in US where it only peaked at #68.

His appearance on the stage of Woodstock gained him further notoriety and he entered the Top 40 charts in the US. Some of his biggest hits included the following:
  • His rendition of another Beatles’ album cut, “She Came in through the Bathroom Window” that charted at #30,
  • A cover of The Boxtops number one record from 1967, “The Letter,” that reached #7 in 1970;
  • A rocking version of the 1950s torch song “Cry Me a River,” at #11;
  • His composition with keyboardist Chris Stainton, “High Time We Went,” that charted at #22;
  • A live re-issue of Dave Mason’s “Feeling Alright” that landed at #33. This version did significantly better than the 1968 studio rendition that charted at #69;
  • His cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rambler” that landed at #27;
  • His most popular solo release that charted at #5 – “You are so Beautiful”;
  • A duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong,” which became his most popular recording and was his only #1 record; and
  • His final Top 40 hit in the US, 1989’s “When the Night Comes.”

Although I am not featuring “Up Where We Belong,” I have a personal connection with this song. As the music director at WCIR-FM in Beckley, WV, I was one of the first programmers in the country to play the record on the air. It was immensely popular in our market; however, it took awhile for other stations to play the tune and for several weeks only a handful of reporting stations had added the song. My gut instinct was correct, and the record peaked at #1 for three weeks. It also won the both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for “Best Original Song.”

Atlantic Records, who was distributing Island Records at the time, promised me a gold record if it sold a million copies. Unfortunately, the record sold slightly under a million and initially failed to have gold status. With sales of it as an oldies release, the Recording Industry Association of America certified the single both as gold and platinum in January 1989. By December that same year, the single was reissued; however, it failed to chart in the US the second time around.

While I am not featuring this tune, I have decided to feature his rocking rendition of the torch ballad “Cry me a River.” Recorded live at the Fillmore East in New York in March 1970, “Cry me a River” was originally a slow tempo, sultry number until Cocker got a hold of it.

The album features a veritable who’s who of the music business. Most notably, Leon Russell is on piano, Don Preston on guitar, and Chris Stainton is playing a Hammond organ. This is a great recording and captures Cocker’s energy. I’ve never had the opportunity to see him live, but have seen his Woodstock footage as well as other videos – and he was the consummate (and very animated) performer. We’ll miss you Joe – Rest in Peace.

Liberty Records: Summertime Blues

It’s the day after the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and here I am featuring a song about summer. But Eddie Cochran’s iconic record about summer break is appropriate, as it was a Top 10 hit for Liberty Records – our feature label during this month of December. Released initially as a “B” side, Liberty saw the potential of this song and flipped it to the “A” side in August 1958. This was a good move as “Summertime Blues” peaked at #8 in September – well after summer break ended.

Written by Cochran and his manager Jerry Capehart, the song features Cochran on all of the guitars and vocals, Connie “Guybo” Smith on bass, and Earl Palmer on drums. It is believed that the handclaps were provided by Cochran and his fiancée Sharon Sheeley; however, there is no official documentation to confirm this hypothesis.

With the death of his friends Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), Cochran had a premonition of an early death. Unfortunately, this was the case as he met his untimely end at the age of 21. Cochran was the only one of the four occupants to have fatal injuries in a one-vehicle accident in England.

Travelling at a high rate of speed, the taxi in which he was a passenger slammed into a lamp post. Cochran was thrown from the taxi and died the next day in St. Martin’s Hospital in Bath. It is said he was protecting Shelley as the crash was imminent. Shelley was a prolific songwriter and later would be co-creator of the Shindig TV show.

As for Cochran, his guitar playing would influence several generations of musicians. He was best known sporting an orange Gretsch 6120 hollow-body electric guitar. Cochran was an innovator of sorts as he customized his instrument. Wanting a fatter sound than the stock DeArmond Dynasonic pickups, he replaced the neck pickup with a Gibson P-90 (as seen in the photo above).

While “Summertime Blues” doesn’t include any lead guitar parts, Cochran replaced the typical wound “G” string with an unwound version that made string bending easier. It is also reported that he tuned the guitar a step lower (DGCFAD) on occasion to facilitate the bending of the strings.

“Summertime Blues” has been covered numerous times, but most notably by Blue Cheer in 1968 (peaking at #14), The Who in 1970 (#27), and Alan Jackson in 1994. Jackson’s version charted at #104, but was a #1 country tune. None, however, has had the success of the original on Liberty.  Cochran’s original recording also appears on the soundtrack to “Caddyshack.”

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Liberty Records: A Hundred Pouds of Clay

Founded in 1955, Liberty Records began as an independent record label originally focusing originally on film, standards, and instrumental music. By 1957, Liberty added rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues to their repertoire, which was a positive cash flow move for the label. Over the years, Liberty had its ups and downs; and in 1963, Avnet, Inc. purchased Liberty Records. Liberty was added to the company’s stable of independent labels that included the following: Imperial, Blue Note, Dolton, Aladdin, and Minit.

Avnet’s entrance in the record business, however, was unsuccessful and it sold the collection of labels to Alvin Bennett, Liberty’s president from 1955 to 1963. In 1968, Transamerica Corporation, the owner of United Artists Records, purchased Liberty and allied labels and their respective catalogues. Many of the secondary labels were shuttered by 1980 with the artists transferred to Liberty. By 1971, Liberty itself was absorbed into United Artists.

In 1978, EMI purchased United Artists. Under the transfer agreement, EMI was allowed to use the UA name and logo for two years. After the 1980 expiration of the contract, EMI revived Liberty primarily as an oldies label for the United Artists’ catalogue. While some new pop and rock artists were signed to Liberty, EMI primarily used the Liberty brand for new country recordings. Liberty was active as a country label such from 1980-1984 and 1991-1995. Although a European version of Liberty has been ongoing, the American label ceased operation in 1995.

For our look at Liberty Records, we begin with a million seller by Gene McDaniels. While McDaniels would later be known as a songwriter, his early hits on Liberty were penned by others. While the first two singles were flops, the label teamed McDaniels up with veteran producer Tommy “Snuff” Garrett and a hit was born with the release of “A Hundred Pounds of Clay.”

Charting at #3 on the Hot 100 and #11 on the R&B chart in 1961, “A Hundred Pounds of Clay” was composed by Kay Rogers, Luther Dixon, and Bob Elgin.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Parts of Speech: Stormy

Our final selection for our Second Week Special on parts of speech features a word that is typically an adjective, but is used as a noun in the Classics IV’s “Stormy.” This 1968 recording came from their second album, "Mamas and Papas/Soul Train."

Peaking at #5, “Stormy” was the one of only four songs by the band to chart in the Top 20 and one of only three to chart in the Top 10. Sandwiched between “Spooky” that peaked at #3 and “Traces” that charted at #2, “Stormy” is a tune that is likely to be heard on oldies radio nearly 50 years later.

Besides Dennis Yost’s vocals, one of the shining moments of the song is the fantastic alto sax lead provided by session musician Ray Jarrell. Of course there is also the subtle use of a vibraphone, which is slightly buried in the mix unlike its front and center usage on “Traces.”

I’ve heard this song hundreds of times; but today, I noticed some things I’d never heard before with the guitar tracks provided by Buddy Buie and J.R. Cobb. If you listen closely, some of the rhythm guitar is run through a Leslie rotating speaker cabinet at full speed. There’s also an electric sitar playing accompaniment.

Finally if you listen to the sax solo, there’s a series of octave guitar runs (akin to a style used by Wes Montgomery) playing the melody of the song counterpoint to the solo. Emory Gordy’s arrangement and Buddy Buie’s production is spectacular – one of the best spent 2:45 in the 1960s.

By the time “Stormy” was released, the band had transformed from “Classics IV” to “Classics IV featuring Dennis Yost.” In 1969, they became “Dennis Yost and The Classics IV.”

Friday, December 12, 2014

Parts of Speech: Because

Today we focus on another part of speech – the conjunction and specifically a subordinating conjunction – “Because.” Growing up in the 1960s, you will certainly remember the identity of the Mersey Beat that was used to describe the sound popularized by Liverpudlian groups such as The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, and Rory Storm and The Hurricanes – well maybe not that last one, but you’d certainly remember their name, as Ringo Starr had been a member of The Hurricanes before becoming a Beatle.

How about the Tottenham Sound? To compete with Merseyside groups and their distinct sound, this subgenre of rock ‘n’ roll was named after the music from North London and the home area of The Dave Clark Five. When The DC5’s “Glad All Over” unseated The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at the top of the UK charts in early 1964, the media promoted a fictitious feud between The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five. There was no feud, but it was a bit of fun encouraging people to pick their favorite band. Additionally, there was no official Tottenham Sound either – this was another fabrication of the media at the time.

In the US, the decision over which group reigned supreme in the battle of the British Invasion never came to fruition, but The DC5 were popular enough with eight Top 10 hits. One of those, “Because,” was released in August 1964.

Initially, Epic Records did not want to release this ballad as a single because it was different than the band’s previous hits with a driving beat – the songs that had garnered their initial success on this side of the Atlantic. In addition, “Because” did not feature Denny Payton’s sax – an integral part of their hit sound.

Band leader and drummer Dave Clark felt differently and persuaded Epic to release “Because.” This was highly unusual, as The DC5’s UK label, Columbia EMI,” only issued the song as a flip side to “Can’t You See that She’s Mine.” There was no precedent for this single to be issued, but Epic acquiesced. Clark’s forecast was correct and Epic’s fears were unfounded, as “Because” did quite well in the US peaking at #3.

“Because” features the vocals of keyboardist Mike Smith. Although named The Dave Clark Five, the front man was Smith. Adding to the sound of this record was his keyboard lead. It was played on a Vox Continental combo organ.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Parts of Speech: Ooh Ooh Song

Day five of our Second Week Special on parts of speech brings us to an interjection. Wow! It could be an exclamation too. Today’s word of emotion is Ooh! From the album “Tropico,” Pat Benatar sings the “Ooh Ooh Song” from 1985.

It wasn’t one of Ms. Benatar’s biggest hits, but it made it to the Top 40 charting at #36. This allows us to use the “Ooh Ooh Song” as a Thirty Something Thursday selection. The same tune appeared on the single’s flip side; however, it was in Spanish and was titled as “La Canción Ooh Ooh.”

The harmonica (as well as the guitar) was played by Benatar’s husband, Neil Giraldo. Giraldo also co-produced the single and album with Peter Coleman. Here’s one you probably hadn’t heard since the ‘80s. Notice the songwriting credits are listed as N. Giraldo and P. Giraldo with Pat using her second married name rather than the first for royalty purposes.

Spanish Version

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Parts of Speech: Drive

Day four of our Second Week Special on parts of speech is brought to by verbs – “they’re where the action is.” Today’s verb is “Drive” – a 1984 single by The Cars. Not only is “Drive” my favorite song by The Cars, it was their most popular single peaking at #3 on the pop charts and #1 on the adult contemporary chart.

Written by guitarist Ric Ocasek, the medium tempo ballad “Drive” was the perfect (excuse the pun) vehicle for Benjamin Orr’s voice. “Drive” was one of those songs I wish I had an opportunity to sing, as my voice is in a similar range. I never had that opportunity though, but I did do a cover of Orr’s 1986 solo number “Stay the Night.”

In addition to Orr, my second attraction to the song is its wonderful layered keyboard tracks. The LP credits one of the instruments as a Fairlight CMI digital sampler; however, some of the layers are reminiscent of a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 synthesizer, which was very popular at the time.

“Drive” appeared on The Cars’ fifth album, “Heartbeat City.” In addition to a vinyl copy of the LP, I had the cassette version that I wore out on long trips during the mid 1980s. Additionally, the song’s video featured the Slavic beauty Paulina Porizkova who would later marry Ric Ocasek in 1989. I guess he gets to drive her home tonight as well as every night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Parts of Speech: Alone Again (Naturally)

I’ll have to admit, this selection was not one of my favorite songs when it was released in the US in 1972. I thought it was sappy, but Irishman Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” struck a chord with American audiences. It was a number one record for six weeks on both the Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts and was the second most popular record in 1972. By the end of the decade, “Alone Again (Naturally)” ranked as the fifth most popular tune of the 1970s.

Although its dreary lyrical content would bring a tear to most eyes, I have chosen it for our second week special on parts of speech because the title is a series of adverbs. To be honest, the word “alone” can be either an adverb or an adjective, but for argument’s sake, let’s stick with the adverbial identification. Do you know how hard it is to find songs with a series of three adverbs, well it ain’t easy.

Contrary to popular belief at the time, O’Sullivan’s composition “Alone Again (Naturally)” was not autobiographical. He was not left standing at the altar and had not contemplated suicide. Although, his father had passed away, O’Sullivan hardly knew him – so his grief is off the table – as well as that of his mother’s, as the old man had been abusive. Finally, O’Sullivan’s mother was still living at the time this song was released. So if you bought the record out of pity, you were out 89¢.

The guitar solo which mimicked the melody was supplied by session musician Big Jim Sullivan. It appears that he was playing a nylon string guitar for the session, but I can’t verify it. I can verify that it was released on the MAM Records label, which was distributed in the US by London Records. MAM stood for Management Agency & Music Ltd. Only two artists on MAM charted in the US: O’Sullivan and his Welsh label mate Dave Edmunds.

Parts of Speech: I Me Mine

Oops, I was so busy yesterday, I missed my Monday post. I’ll double up and make good on it later this week. Our look at parts of speech brings us to personal pronouns – and especially first person, personal pronouns in the subjective, objective, and objective possessive cases. Recorded in early January 1970, George Harrison’s “I Me Mine” was one of the last tunes recorded by The Beatles.

A demo was recorded by George in 1969; however, when the film “Let it Be” was being assembled from the various film clips of the “Get Back” (the original title of the “Let it Be”) project, director Michael Lindsey-Hogg wanted a better version of the tune to use while showing John Lennon and Yoko Ono dancing a waltz. The original waltz was filmed as George was introducing the song to the band.

This required a re-recording of the tune on January 3, 1970. This was after John Lennon had left the band and only included the other three members. With 16 takes, an abbreviated version of the song was recorded by Harrison, McCartney, and Starr. George sang lead and harmony vocals and played acoustic and electric lead and rhythm guitars; Paul added harmony vocals and played bass, organ, and electric piano; and Ringo added drums – to which he overdubbed another drum track on April 1, 1970.

When Phil Spector was assembling the “Let it Be” album, he lengthened the original by splicing a copy of the song into itself. Additionally, Spector added an orchestral arrangement that included 18 violins, four violas, four cellos, three trumpets, three trombones, and a harp. The song had two movements – the verse in A minor that was in 6/8 time, and the chorus in A major in 4/4 time. During the chorus, George and Paul actually sing “I, Me, Me, Mine.”

The lyrics were based on a Hindu doctrine of renouncing one’s own ego to achieve enlightenment. Harrison also used “I Me Mine” as the title of his autobiography. Although the “Let it Be” album bore the Apple label and logo on the American releases, it was actually distributed by United Artists, who had the rights to the film. To my knowledge, the red Apple label was only used in the US, as releases in other nations (including Canada) used the traditional green Apple label.

When Capitol’s parent company EMI purchased United Artists in 1978, it provided an opportunity for two Beatles’ LP controlled by United Artists, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Let it Be,” to finally be issued on the Capitol imprint in the US.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Parts of Speech: Over, Under, Sideways, Down

Back when I worked at WWNR (1987-1994) in Beckley, West Virginia, the last hour of my Friday shift (9AM-10AM), I did a set of music that had some sort of common theme – much like I do every second week of the month here. During the month of December 2014, it is no different, as I am repeating one of my themes from that oldies’ show. This week’s set looks at parts of speech in song titles.

Today, we pick prepositions – well, more accurately – three prepositions and an adverb. The prepositions are “over,” “under,” and “down” – “sideways” is the lone adverb. One of my favorite groups of the 60s were The Yardbirds and one of their best known tunes is their Top 15 hit “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.” In the US, it charted at #13 in 1966.

The band, sans Jeff Beck, recorded the basic tracks of “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” with Keith Relf on lead vocals and harmonica, Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar and vocals, Jim McCarty on drums and vocals, and Paul Samwell-Smith on bass and vocals. The working arrangement with Beck was that the band would lay down the song and Beck would then work his magic. What resulted was not expected by the band.

Although they were initially skeptical of Beck’s high energy eastern influenced leads, they added a new dimension to the song. Part of the lead’s charm was its tonality. At the time, Beck achieved his signature sound by using a fuzz tone and feedback. Additionally, he overdubbed a bass part to give the song greater drive. Apparently the changes were acceptable to bassist Samwell-Smith who also co-produced the record with Simon Napier-Bell.

In the US, the song was the title cut to their third studio album. In the UK, it appeared, however, on their only studio album – “The Yardbirds” commonly called “Roger the Engineer.” This nickname was based on Chris Dreja’s drawing of studio engineer Roger Cameron. The American release wisely steered away from the original artwork and used photos of the band that were edited to depict the title’s description. On the cover, Chris Dreja is “over,” Jim McCarty is “under,” Paul Samwell-Smith is “sideways,” while Keith Relf and Jeff Beck are both “down.”

The song was credited to all of The Yardbirds; however, on the American releases, Jim McCarty is incorrectly listed as “McCarthy” and Chris Dreja’s name was misspelled as “Drega.” You’ll see these errors on the single’s label.