Saturday, November 18, 2017

Who's That? Behind Blue Eyes

As we close out our second week special, “Who’s That?,” we leave you with a cover of one of my favorite songs by The Who: “Behind Blue Eyes.” Who am I kidding? I like most of The Who’s songs. Pete Townshend began writing the song after being tempted by a groupie. Having the strength to resist, he began by writing the song’s bridge:

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool;
When I smile, tell me some bad news,
Before I laugh and act like a fool.
And If I swallow anything evil,
Put your finger down my throat;
And If I shiver, please give me a blanket.
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat.

“Behind Blue Eyes” was the second single “Who’s Next” and peaked in the US at #34.

Today’s cover comes from a Dutch symphonic metal band, “Within Temptation,” and features Sharon den Adel on lead vocals. The lyrics were changed to match a female protagonist. To celebrate their 15th anniversary in 2012, Within Temptation recorded 15 cover songs for Belgian radio station Q-Music.

During the following year, the band released 11 of these songs from the session on a CD, as “The Q-Music Sessions.” “Behind Blue Eyes” made the cut for one of the inclusions. It was not, however, released as a single. In my opinion, Within Temptation’s rendition is one of the better covers of this Who classic.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Who's That? Squeeze Box

In 1975, The Who issued their seventh studio LP, “The Who by Numbers.” Two singles were subsequently released in the US: “Squeeze Box” and “Slip Kid.” While “Slip Kid” failed to chart in any country except with a dismal showing at #72 in France, “Squeeze Box” did much better with a showing at #16 in the US, #10 in the UK, and at number one in Canada. Pete Townshend really shows his talents on guitar, piano, banjo, and squeeze box. Specifically, I love his guitar and banjo work on this number.

Fast forward to London in 1997 and Sheryl Crow pays homage to The Who by performing “Squeeze Box” live. Now Crow is very talented and can play every instrument that Townshend plays (but not as bombastic); however, she chose the accordion as her weapon of choice to attack this Who classic. The band is tight as well with the lead guitar and mandolin being standout instrumentalists.

It is a pity that Crow hasn’t released a studio version of this song.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Who's That? Love, Reign o'er Me

From the 1973 rock opera “Quadrophenia,” The Who’s “Love, Reign o’er Me” remains one of the band’s better-known selections even though the original single peaked at #76 on the Hot 100. The title is a play on words, as Pete Townshend took the inspiration from Meher Baba who believed that rain was a blessing from God. Even the original version opens with the sound of rain and the lyrics reference rain over reign. Perhaps the title indicates that Jimmy, the protagonist of “Quadrophenia,” isn’t beckoning for love to rain on him, but rather he is wanting love to reign over him.

Music critic Mark Deming believed that Roger Daltrey was at the peak of his singing career with the “Quadrophenia” album in general and “Love, Reign o’er Me” in particular. It would be difficult for any vocalist to duplicate Daltry’s performance. Eddie Vedder, however, tried and succeeded with Pearl Jam’s 2007 rendition. While Vedder’s voice is lower than Daltry’s and he often strains to hit the high notes, he reaches his intended goal. His lower timbre gives “Love, Reign o’er Me” a distinctive character.

While the original Who version is referenced in the movie, “Reign over Me,” Pearl Jam’s version plays over the credits. When I saw this movie about post traumatic stress disorder, I automatically realized that it wasn’t The Who, so I waited for and waded through the credits to see who had recreated this classic. Pearl Jam’s version peaked at #32 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Good stuff.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who's That? Won't Get Fooled Again

Day four of our “Who’s That?” feature with another cover a classic Who song. The original version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” charted in the US at #15, and it was the fourth highest charting Who single in the US, as it was outpaced by “I Can See for Miles,” “See Me, Feel Me,” and “Who Are You.” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was the final cut on my favorite Who LP, “Who’s Next.”

Today’s cover is by the late Richie Havens from his last album “Nobody Left to Crown.” The album was released in 2008, five years before Havens passed away. It is a slightly slower acoustic version of this classic Who rocker. Stephanie Winters emulates the synthesize on the original during parts of the recording. The song also features Keith Christopher on bass and Shawn Pelton on drums. Richie Havens and Walter Parks are both featured on guitar, Parks also plays some of the original synthesizer parts on his guitar as well. 

Not your typical Who cover, but I think you’ll like Havens’ take on Townshend’s composition. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Who's That: Join Together

Are you ready Steve? Uh-huh. Andy? Yeah. Mick? Okay. Who could forget the immortal beginning to The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz?” Remember this glam-rock band from the ‘70s . . . well, they’re still out there – well actually two versions of the band. For a while, there was a third edition of The Sweet – all different bands bearing the name and led by a different former member of the original 70s unit.

Of the two versions of The Sweet, one led by Andy Scott is based in the UK and the other under the leadership of Steve Priest is in North America. Today, we’ll discuss Andy Scott’s Sweet and their 2012 rendition of The Who’s classic 1972 single “Join Together.”

Although Sweet’s version of “Join Together” is good, this is a song that would be difficult for any band to duplicate, no matter how talented. Peter Lincoln’s lead vocal is accentuated by Andy Scott’s  excellent guitar work, but I am missing the jaw harps and harmonicas. Andy Scott’s Sweet’s version failed to chart as a single and is found on their self-released “New York Connection” CD. The Who’s original peaked at #17.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Who's That? I Can't Explain

You may remember the name Yvonne Elliman – she had her start singing in the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Her first single, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” peaked at #28 in the US; unfortunately, Helen Reddy’s cover outpaced the original in the chart wars. Following her tenure with the rock opera and her first solo career, she joined Eric Clapton’s band as a backup vocalist and appeared on five of his releases in the 1970s. The work with Clapton landed her a contract with RSO Records and Elliman scored a number one record with “If I Can’t Have You.”

In addition, Elliman had several other Top 40 hits such as “Love Me,” “Hello Stranger,” and “Love Pains.” During her earlier solo years, Elliman recorded a cover The Who’s “I Can’t Explain.” While not technically the first Who single, as they recorded Zoot Suit as The High Numbers, “I Can’t Explain” was their first release under their new name.

Chided by The Who’s management to write original music, Pete Townshend locked himself in his room listening for lyrical inspiration from an eclectic group of artists. Instrumentally, however, he was drawn to The Kinks. When you compare “I Can’t Explain” to the early Kinks’ records, you can hear the direct influence.

Although a fantastic rendition of this Who classic, Elliman’s 1973 single failed to chart in the US or the UK. The song was featured on her second solo LP, “Food of Love.” By the way, Pete Townshend plays lead guitar on this track. How great is that? The single and album were released in the UK on Deep Purple’s label: Purple Records. In the US, MCA picked up the option for Elliman as she had been under contract to MCA’s Decca Records for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and her self-titled debut album.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Who's That? I Can See For Miles

It’s no secret that one of my favorite bands is The Who. While I have written about a number of their recordings and covers of the same, I have dedicated this month’s second week’s special to several other artists’ renditions of Who classics under the name of “Who’s That?”

Our first “Who’s That?” tune is one that originally appeared the band’s third album: “The Who Sell Out.” This was the first Who album I owned and “I Can See for Miles” remains one of my favorite cuts. As a single, the tune peaked at #9 in the US. As with many of the CSI franchise using Who songs, “I Can See for Miles” was the theme for CSI-Cyber.

I wanted to buy limited rights of the original recording for a regional TV commercial I was producing back in 2001, but Essex Music and Universal refused my request. Pity, it would have made a great commercial with the music. We went another direction with a song we had written and recorded for the commercial, but “I Could See for Miles” would have been a killer tune the message we were sending.

As for today’s selection, we have a 2014 release by Raul Midón from his CD “Don’t Hesitate.” Midón, who is blind, plays guitar and sings on this cut. The tune was recorded in his home studio that alleviates the need for a separate engineer and allows Midón complete control of the recording process. This is a fantastic rendition and Midón’s acoustic guitar and his strong vocals are powerful enough to do the ultimate justice for this classic.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Checker Records: The Soul Stirrers

While focusing on blues and rhythm and blues, Chess Records was also one of the premier gospel labels in the 1950s and 1960s featuring a number of artists that would reach greater fame. The gospel releases spilled over to Chess’ subsidiaries of Checker Records and Cadet Records.

On Checker alone, 82 gospel singles and 57 gospel albums were released between 1953 and 1970. According rock historian Ed Ward, these recordings are difficult to find: “If you want to hear them . . . you'll have to go find the records. Gospel has never sold well, and it was the lowest-priority item for labels when the great reissue boom that the CD started came along.”

One of the premier gospel recording acts that made their mark on several labels, including Checker, were The Soul Stirrers. They may be the longest, continuously operating vocal group, as they formed in 1926 and are still performing today. A group with that length of tenure is also plagued with numerous personnel changes. The Soul Stirrers provided a proving ground for several artists including Sam Cooke and Johnnie Taylor.

When The Soul Stirrers moved to Checker, Johnny Taylor, who had replaced Sam Cooke in 1957 would remain year before embarking on his solo career. “Don’t You Worry,” our Spiritual Sunday release, was the ninth single for The Soul Stirrers recorded for Checker and the lead track for their 1969 album, “The Judgment.”

“Don’t You Worry” was penned by Leonard Caston, Lloyd Webber, and Sonny Thompson. Thompson also provided the arrangement and Ralph Bass produced the single. Bass, who was later inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 as a non-performer, also composed the single’s flip side, “When the Gates Swing Open.” The Soul Stirrers were inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 as early influences of rock ‘n roll.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Checker Records: Good Advice

On Saturday, I typically feature songs that didn’t chart in the Top 40, and today is no exception with a rhythm and blues treatment on Checker Records by Koko Taylor. Our “bubbling under” selection is “Good Advice” by Koko Taylor – a song that was composed by bluesman J.B. Lenoir. There is reason to this rhyme, as Willie Dixon discovered Koko Taylor and rediscovered Lenoir about the same time in the early 60s.

Dixon, a Chess producer, A&R man, songwriter, and session musician, knew talent when he heard it. Although “Good Advice” was released twice in 1966 on Checker, neither single produced a hit for Koko Taylor. The original issue as Checker 1140, with “When I Think of My Baby” as a “B” side, failed to attract attention. This version of the record is extremely rare and copies may have only been distributed to radio stations.

Later in September 1966, “Good Advice” returned as a flip side of “Tell Me the Truth” on Checker 1148. Billboard predicted that “Tell Me the Truth” would be a Top 10 R&B hit; it didn’t happen despite Billboard’s assessment that a “Powerful performance makes this disk one to be reckoned with.” Apparently because of radio’s preference for “Good Advice,” the single was flipped, but it failed to chart in the Hot 100 on its second go-around.

Recorded on December 16, 1965, Taylor is joined by Gene Barge on tenor sax, Dillard Crume on bass, Johnny Twist and Rufus Crume on guitar, and Al Duncan on drums. The Crume brothers may be credited incorrectly, as Rufus was the bassist and Dillard the guitarist of The Soul Stirrers – another Checker act. A piano player is present, but not credited. Willie Dixon, the song’s producer, provides the low vocals.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Checker Records: I'm A Man

It’s time for a Friday Flipside, and today’s selection is the “B” side to one of Checker Records’ better known artists: Bo Diddley. “I’m a Man” appeared as the flip of “Bo Diddley,” the eponymous record that shared his name with the artist. There are several competing stories how Ellas McDaniel got the name “Bo Diddley,” so we really can’t be certain.

But we can be certain about “I’m A Man.” This 1955 flip was inspired by Willie Dixon’s composition “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” that was recorded for Chess Records during the previous year. One month after Bo Diddley recorded “I’m A Man,” Muddy Waters took it and created “Mannish Boy” as his answer to the tune. Bo Diddley was given writing credit along with Waters and Mel London.

Bo Diddley is joined on  “I’m A Man”  by Billy Boy Arnold on harmonica, Jerome Green on maracas, Willie Dixon on bass, and Otis Spann on piano. There are conflicting accounts on who played drums on this cut. Some say Clifton James and others credit Frank Kirkland as who handled the backbeat.

Although “I’m a Man” was a flip side, it got into the hands of numerous consumers as “Bo Diddley” was a #1 R&B hit for two weeks. “I’m a Man” was covered by several artists with The Yardbirds recording four versions of the tune. Each of the three recorded live tracks feature one of their famous guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Beck played on the studio version, which by the way, had its basic tracks recorded at the Chess studios at 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago where Bo Diddley cut the original.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Checker Records: We're Gonna Make It

On Tuesday, we featured Checker Records’ Little Walter, but today we feature the label’s other little artist: Little Milton. James Milton Campbell, Jr., known throughout his life as Little Milton, had an impressive, but not very successful musical career. In the mid-1950s, he was signed by Ike Turner to Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, but never had a hit with the regional label out of Memphis.

By 1959, while unable to get another record deal, Milton set up his own label in St. Louis: Bobbin Records. During this time, he secured a distribution deal with the Chess Brothers. Within two years, his singles were appearing on the Checker imprint.

Finally, after eight releases on Checker, Milton scored the biggest hit of his career: “We’re Gonna Make It.” This 1965 recording, that echoed sentiments shared with the Civil Rights movement, charted at #1 on the R&B charts, and it was Little Milton’s only single to chart in the Top 40; it peaked at #25.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ain't That A Shame, Fats Domino Has Passed

Being busy today, I didn’t hear about Fats Domino’s passing until I returned to my office and saw a post by Rebekah Canada stating that October has been a “Lousy month.” Another great legend has been ushered off into eternity. “Ain’t that a Shame,” Fats Domino, 89, died of natural causes yesterday, October 24, 2017.

An innovator from the very beginning, Antoine Domino, was once called the “real king of rock ‘n roll” by Elvis Presley. In the 1950s, Domino was second only Presley in releasing a string of hits. When asked about this new “Rock ‘N Roll” sound in the 1950s that he helped to create, he stated that he’d been playing rhythm and blues for 15 years – which what rock ‘n roll really is.

His influence went far and wide, with “Ain’t that a Shame” being the first song John Lennon learned to play on the guitar. Paul McCartney later wrote “Lady Madonna” in the style of Fats Domino. Domino returned the favor by recording the tune, as well as “Lovely Rita” on his 1968 comeback LP “Fats is Back.”

“Ain’t that a Shame,” which was mistakenly credited as “Ain’t it a Shame” on the original Imperial Records’ releases was co-written by Domino and his long-time producer, Dave Bartholomew. It was a #1 R&B hit that crossed over to pop audiences and landed at the #10 position. Rolling Stone considered “Ain’t that a Shame” as one of the top recordings of the rock ‘n roll era.

We’ll miss you Fats – Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Checker Records: Juke

I teach a class in Media and Society at a small university and today before class, I was getting my computer, projector, and speakers set up for a multimedia presentation. Today, I decided to test the audio with Little Walter’s “Juke.” One of my students asked, “What’s that?” He was no doubt referring to Little Walter’s amplified harmonica. I responded, “That’s Little Walter playing the premier instrument of the blues – the harmonica.” To which he retorted, “I thought the harmonica was the premier instrument around camp fires.” We both laughed.

Yes, Virginia, the harmonica was used quite often for the blues and it’s not your pioneer great-great-grandpa’s instrument anymore. Recorded in 1952 at Universal Recorders on Chicago’s Northside, today’s Bluesday Tuesday hit, Little Walter’s “Juke,” was a number one R&B record for Checker Records. It held that position for eight consecutive weeks.

Billed as “Little Walter and his Night Cats,” the recording featured Muddy Waters and his back-up band. With Little Walter Jacobs on amplified harmonica, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers on guitar, and drummer Elga Edmunds. The song was originally titled “Your Cat Will Play,” but the title was changed to “Juke,” by the time the single was released. Only two takes were recorded with the first being issued as the release.

“Juke” has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. The song influenced several generations of blues harpists to pick up their harmonica with a handheld microphone and blast the night away.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Checker Records: Susie Q

My Facebook page tells me that five years ago this month, I started the fourth week label feature on Reading Between the Grooves. This month, I going to feature seven sides from Checker Records of Chicago. It’s hard to put a finger on the style of music that Checker featured, as there were so many different styles released by this subsidiary of Chess Records. You could hear blues, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n roll, gospel, zydeco (at least one record), and other styles on the Checker imprint.

Formed in 1952 as a subsidiary of Leonard and Phil Chess’ eponymous primary label, the Checker name played on the chessboard theme. It was hoped that, by having two imprints, it would increase the brothers’ output to receive more airplay. On the early Checker releases, the Chess connection and name were not stated, but it was not difficult to determine that Chess was in control. Many of the songs carried publishing by the Chess publishing arm Arc Music, BMI.

In 1969, the Chess family sold their labels to General Recorded Tape Corporation. By 1971, GRT consolidated the Chess/Checker/Cadet/Argo catalog under the single Chess imprint. The Checker catalog is currently available through Universal Music Group and has been since the 1980s.

Our first selection from Checker is a 1957 recording that was sold to Checker by Jewel/Paula Records in Shreveport, Louisiana: Dale Hawkins’ “Susie Q” – a song that reached greater fame eleven years later by Credence Clearwater Revival. This rockabilly hit was one of several recordings by Dale Hawkins released by Checker. “Susie Q” was recorded at KWKH in Shreveport. James Burton, who would also play with Ricky Nelson and Elvis, played guitar on this recording.

Written by Dale Hawkins and band-mate Robert Chaisson, credit was given to Hawkins, Jewel/Paula Records owner Stan Lewis, and Eleanor Broadwater, the wife of WLAC Nashville radio announcer Gene Nobles. Chaisson never received credit or royalties for his part of the composition. When the master was transferred, the publishing was assigned to Arc Music, an arm of Chess Records.

While the later CCR recording would place at #11 on the Hot 100, the original only charted at #27 on the pop charts. Although not a rhythm and blues recording, Hawkins’ version did much better on Billboard’s R&B charts at #7. What a great song and a great introduction to this seminal label from the past.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tom Petty: I Won't Back Down

It’s a few days since we got word that Tom Petty died at age 66; these were followed by alerts that it was a false report. Since being taken off life support, his demise was certainly eventual and he passed away on Monday, October 2, 2017 at 8:40 PM Pacific Daylight Savings Time at UCLA Medical Center. He had suffered a cardiac arrest and was found at his home on Sunday.

It seems as I get older, more and more of my heroes of the stage and screen, as well as family and friends, are passing away. This is a reminder of my own mortality – but with life comes death. As with Tom, it will be for all of us when our number is called.

I wasn’t an early follower of his music, but I must thank Dave Alley, who worked at West Virginia Public Radio in the 1970s, for alerting me of his musical genius. I remember particularly one afternoon Dave was making the argument that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were the musical descendants of one of my favorite groups, The Byrds.

I’ve been busy and couldn’t get to this tribute until tonight and am sorry I couldn’t post it sooner. Since it is a Wednesday, I thought an acoustic version of one of his hits – “I Won’t Back Down” is in order. Recorded live, the song comes off well with the organ being the only electric instrument on it. Listen for Mike Campbell’s mandolin parts. We’ll miss you Tom. Rest in peace.

Monday, October 2, 2017

National Lampoon: Catch It And You Keep It

Sometimes, I do my best thinking in the shower. Yesterday morning while rinsing and repeating I was contemplating the passing of Monty Hall and remembered a comedy routine from 1972: “Catch it and you Keep it.” The cut was found on “Radio Dinner” the first of National Lampoon’s 11 comedy records that were released over the next 11 years. I remember hearing “Catch it and you Keep it” on Pittsburgh's WDVE in early fall 1972 and knew I had to have this record. It was the first release on Banana Records, which was distributed by Blue Thumb.

While the “Catch it and you Keep it” spoofs all game shows from the period, there is a subtle reference to Monty Hall’s “Let’s Make a Deal,” as one of the contestants is dressed as a turnip. Forty-five years later, I still find this cut hilarious and I hope you do as well.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Monty Hall Has Chosen Door Number Three

It must be true, I read it on the Internet and people have posted it on Facebook. Monty Hall has chosen door number three and has entered into eternity. He passed away from heart failure at the ripe old age of 96 today. Since this is a music blog, how can the death of the host of TV’s “Let’s Make A Deal” be musically related? You’d be surprised.

Back in 1974, Steve Goodman and Jimmy Buffett collaborated on a song dealing with the effervescent and zany TV show “Let’s Make A Deal.” Both Goodman and Buffett recorded “Door Number Three” and I’ve chosen the latter’s version for our special tribute. Goodman's version, however, is somewhat lyrically different.

Appearing on Jimmy Buffett’s fifth album, “A1A,” “Door Number Three” was released as a single in July 1975 and peaked at 88 on Billboard’s Hot Country chart. The musicians were loosely arranged in a unit called the Third Coral Reefer Band.

Rest in Peace Monty – let’s hope you got the prize.

Casey Kelly: Reach Out For Me

As in the past, I’ve featured songs that never made it to a respectable position on the charts. Although the term “Bubbling Under” usually refers to songs that charted between 101 to 110, I am a bit more liberal with my definition and use it in a broader sense.

For today’s selection, I picked a selection from an album that was given to me in 1978 while I was a student in Marshall University’s speech department. One of my fellow grad assistants, Joyce Burley McCracken, had a brother that worked in a Warner-Elektra-Asylum warehouse and he had given her some albums a few years earlier. As she knew I loved music, she graciously gave me five of these LPs.

Of that group, two albums stood out: Horslips “Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part” and Casey Kelly’s “For Sale.” Kelly’s LP was often found on my turntable during the next several years. While since the release of his second album for Elektra in 1974, Kelly has distinguished himself as a country songwriter with four top ten country hits he co-wrote with others. The Louisiana native also showcased some of the techniques of the trade in his and David Hodge’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Art of Songwriting published in 2011.

I found it difficult to pick just one song to feature as I liked the entire album. Although the recordings didn’t propel him to fame, I found them refreshing and very personal. In addition, there’s a bit of variety in styles on “For Sale.” After listening to all of the tunes, I’ve decided on “Reach out for Me.” I didn’t know this at the time or until today for that matter, that this was the song Elektra selected as the album’s single release.

“Reach out to Me” reminds me of some of Dan Fogelberg’s early material and probably is my favorite cut on the album. Interestingly enough, I didn’t remember that this song was produced by Norbert Putnam who coincidentally produced Fogelberg’s first LP: “Home Free.” Enjoy.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Monkees: The Girl I Knew Somewhere

Much to my children’s apathy, I manage to still wax nostalgic about when and where I was when I first heard a song or an artist. Although they persist in rolling their eyes, I continue to yammer on. Case in point. It was September 1966 when I initially heard The Monkees’ first single “Last Train to Clarksville.” I was in the company of my brothers and a few other college students as they were driving off “Radio Hill” in Grayson, Kentucky.  As we headed back to campus, the song emanated from the ether of a distant radio station. I remember asking, “Is that The Beatles?” I was informed by someone in the car that it was a new band called The Monkees.

Fast forward six months to their third single release, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and we have our Friday Flipside: “The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” Not only was it a “B” side, but the tune got enough airplay to chart at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.

After The Monkees recorded two albums where they were refused the opportunity to provide their own instrumentation, Mike Nesmith began lobbying the producers of their TV show for more creative control. To make a long story short, Don Kirshner, the show’s musical director, was eventually fired and the band was given the opportunity to record on their own.

In early 1967, Chip Douglas, who was performing as a substitute bassist for The Turtles, was approached by Mike Nesmith at The Whiskey A-Go-Go to be The Monkees' new producer. Having a lack of experience in this role, Douglas was initially reluctant, but Nesmith, who had produced recordings in the past, promised to help.

“The Girl I Knew Somewhere,” written by Nesmith, was one of the first songs Douglas recorded with the band. While Mike originally sang lead, it was decided a month later to rerecord the tune with Mickey Dolenz singing lead, as his voice was better suited for a pop recording. All of The Monkees played on this song.

Besides lead vocals, Dolenz also played drums. Nesmith was on electric guitar (in the right channel) and background vocals. Davy Jones played tambourine and Peter Tork can be heard on the acoustic guitar (in the left channel) and on the keyboard lead. Chip Douglas, the only non-member of the band, supplied the bass. Douglas' production credits are listed under his legal name: Douglas Farthing Hatlelid.

“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” is a catchy tune in its own right and the song’s bridge is quite unique. Although Douglas was a new producer, this song still sounds great 50 years later. Good stuff.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Who: I'm Free

It’s Thirtysomething Thursday where we look at songs that charted between 30 and 39 on Billboard’s Hot 100. This week’s selection comes from one of my favorite bands: The Who. As part of rock opera “Tommy,” “I’m Free” was the second of three singles from the album; the others were “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me, Feel Me.” The single charted at 37.

According to Pete Townshend, the rhythm of the song was inspired by Charlie Watts’ drumming on the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man.” This unusual rhythm was no small feat to pull off, as Keith Moon couldn’t play it. John Entwistle relayed that Keith had another rhythm pattern in his head and couldn’t hear what Pete wanted.

This required Townshend and Entwistle to play the snare, hi-hat cymbals, and the tambourine parts. Moon was later brought in to provide the fills. Apparently, this was a bit difficult to pull off live, as Townshend and Entwistle were playing guitar and bass. To compensate, Pete apparently gave exaggerated visual cues for the primary rhythm of the song so Moon could play it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sarah Jarosz: Ring them Bells

It’s a Wooden Music Wednesday and here’s an artist that I’ve heard quite a bit on National Public Radio’s “Prairie Home Companion.” Sarah Jarosz, a 26-year old mandolin prodigy from Texas, has been recording with Sugar Hill Records since 2009. Today we feature “Ring them Bells,” which is a Bob Dylan composition that was featured on his 1989 “Oh Mercy” album. Sarah recorded it on her second LP, “Follow Me Down” where the arrangement centers around her banjo picking. We’ll play the studio version, which is excellent, later.

But for now, here’s a live studio cut featuring Sarah on an octave mandolin – one of my favorite instruments. While I have one, her instrument is of better quality than mine. This acoustic version was recorded at Minutia Studios in Nashville in 2013 as part of The American Sessions from Vanguard Records and Sugar Hill Records.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tony Rice: Urge for Going

It’s been a long time since we’ve conversed. I must apologize, but I’ve been a bit busy over the past year and have been meaning to say hello – but you know, life sometimes gets in the way. I’ve felt guilty for abandoning you about a year ago, which was a few days after “Reading Between the Grooves” had turned seven and we had our 1700th post.

This weekend, I heard a song on the radio that brought back a lot of memories and reminded me that the blog’s eighth birthday was coming up. Facebook nudged me of this morning. So, I make a return, but I can’t promise that I will be as active as I was those first few years, but I’d like to come back from my sabbatical even if it is on a limited basis.

The amazing thing, even with my extended absence, the best month the blog had was during my absence. In December 2016, we had 27,473 pageviews. No other month comes close. The second highest was in July 2016 with 15,568 pageviews. January 2017 was no slouch at third with a total of 14,425 pageviews. In fact, some of our heaviest traffic months were in 2017. More on the stats later.

As for that song I heard, it’s title is “Urge for Going” – which is how I behaved a year ago. It was written by Joni Mitchell, but her version wasn’t my favorite. Although it’s her song, I preferred Tom Rush’s arrangement from his “Circle Game” album.

Of the hundreds of versions of this song, there is a distinction of direct influences. Many use Joni’s arrangement as a base (such as Crosby & Nash) and others used Tom Rush’s version as a springboard (as did George Hamilton, IV and Lee Hazelwood). There are a few unique versions; and of those, Darrell Scott’s up-tempo new grass arrangement is quite good.

Today’s version may not be one you’ve heard before. It comes from Tony Rice’s 1988 LP “Native American” and it is inspired by Tom Rush’s playbook. Tony Rice is a world renown flat-picker and I received a cassette copy of this LP from my friend John Sellards. I wore out this cassette on my daily commute between Beckley and Charleston, West Virginia in the early '90s. While Tom Rush's version was my favorite, Tony Rice's adaptation dropped Tom Rush to number two.

While I loved the whole album, “Urge for Going” was my absolute favorite. Rice’s low voice is reminiscent of Tom Rush, only Rice has a distinct South-Central Virginia twang. What makes this song isn’t Rice’s pleasing voice or his lightning fast acoustic guitar lead, its John Carroll’s piano. For half of the song, its only Rice’s guitar and Carroll’s piano. Just before the guitar lead, additional color is added by Mark Schatz on double bass. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Typically when its the blog's birthday, I give a quick and dirty about how we are doing.  Unfortunately, Google cannot agree on the stats for the blog, as they count the information differently – one through Google Analytics via Blogger and through the Google Analytics platform. I’ll try to make some sense from both.

To date, there have been 787,614 pageviews on the blog. Sadly, total unique visitor metrics are no longer available; therefore, these cannot be ascertained.

The stats reflect that we have been visited by people from 197 countries and territories. Therefore, there are only a handful of geographic regions we haven’t touched. The Top 10 is below and Russia has moved into second place from fourth. That jump was a major one, as Russia entered the Top 10 last year; no new countries were added to the list below.

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

1United States391,491
4United Kingdom43,477

As it has been for several years, September 28, 2010’s post regarding Elliot Murphy’s “Eva Braun” continues to be the most viewed page. Several new songs entered in the top list of posts. Patty Loveless’ version of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” is now at fifth place. Two other songs that were added last September also made it to the Top Ten: Mason Proffit’s “Jewel” at sixth and Jesse Winchester’s “Quiet about It” at eighth. I believe that these two jumped into the top ten as they were the most recent posts to the blog and may be just a fluke caused by my absence.

More to come this and next year.  Thanks for sticking around even when I haven’t.