Rock Combinations That Could Have Happened

Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Miles Davis, and jazz drummer Tony Williams. 

This one would have been interesting. Jimi had sent a telegram to Paul in 1969. The telegram said:

“We are recording and LP together this weekend in NewYork [sic],” “How about coming in to play bass stop call Alvan Douglas 212-5812212. Peace Jimi Hendrix Miles Davis Tony Williams.”

Beatles aide Peter Brown responded the next day say that McCartney was on Holiday and was not expected back until 2 weeks.

Of the ones on this post…this would have been the most musically interesting to me.

Image result for Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Miles Davis, and jazz drummer Tony Williams.

 

Elvis Presley album produced by David Bowie

Dwight Yokum said in an interview that David Bowie told him that in 1977 Elvis heard “Golden Years” on the radio and he called Bowie and asked him to produce his next album. This is a “he said he said” but it would have been a unique combination…but Bowie was no stranger to that.

 

A Bob Dylan/Beatles/Rolling Stones Super Album

In 1969 Producer Glyn Johns met Bob Dylan and Dylan told Johns that he would like to make an album with the Beatles and Stones. Glyn went back to England very excited and told Keith Richards and George Harrison and they were all for it. Ringo, Charlie, and Bill said they would do it. John didn’t say no but Mick and Paul said absolutely not…leaves you to wonder what it would have sounded like…

Glyn also said  “I had it all figured out. We would pool the best material from Mick and Keith, Paul and John, Bob and George, and then select the best rhythm section from the two bands to suit whichever songs we were cutting. Paul and Mick were probably, right, however, I would have given anything to have given it a go.”

XYZ Band

It would have been comprised of ex-Yes bassist and drummer, Chris Squire and Alan White, along with Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. XYZ was said to have stood for eXYes-&-Zeppelin. They had rehearsals and Robert Plant came to one to give it a try in 1981 but found the music too complex for his liking…he was also getting over the death of their drummer and his friend John Bonham.

This one didn’t excite me as much…now Chris Squire and Page does sound interesting and with Robert’s comment it looks like it was going to be a more Yes progressive path.

 

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Mr. Bojangles

I admit that the part when the dog “up and died” it hits me.”Mr. Bojangles,” written by country music artist Jerry Jeff Walker.

It was based on a homeless man Jerry Walker met in a New Orleans jail. The man referred to himself as “Mr. Bojangles” and regaled Walker with various stories about his life and then created a depressing mood in the cell when he talked about his dog, who had died. When one of the other men requested for someone to cheer everyone up, “Mr. Bojangles” hopped up and performed a tap dance.

“Mr. Bojangles” was the nickname used by Bill Robinson, a black tap dancer who appeared in many movies in the 1930s, including with Shirley Temple in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. After Robinson’s success, many black street dancers became known as “Bojangles.”

The song peaked at #9 in the Billboard 100 and #2 in Canada in 1971.

Some of the many artists to record this song include Bob Dylan, Harry Nilsson, John Denver, Nina Simone, Sammy Davis Jr., and Neil Diamond.

 

From Songfacts

This was written and originally released by the singer/songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote the song in the mid-’60s and recorded it in 1968. Walker left his home in upstate New York and traveled the country playing music. He spent some time in New Orleans, where one day he was a bit tipsy and made a public display trying to convince a young lady that love, at first sight, was real. This landed him in jail, where his cellmate was an older black man who made a living as a street dancer and told Walker all about his life.

In his book Gypsy Songman, Walker tells the story: “One of the guys in the cell jumped up and said, ‘Come on, Bojangles. Give us a little dance.’ ‘Bojangles’ wasn’t so much a name as a category of itinerant street entertainer known back as far as the previous century. The old man said, ‘Yes, Hell yes.’ He jumped up and started clapping a rhythm, and he began to dance. I spent much of that long holiday weekend talking to the old man, hearing about the tough blows life had dealt him, telling him my own dreams.” 

Walker moved on to Texas, where he sat down to write: “And here it came, just sort of tumbling out, one straight shot down the length of that yellow pad. On a night when the rest of the country was listening to The Beatles, I was writing a 6/8 waltz about an old man and hope. It was a love song. In a lot of ways, Mr. Bojangles is a composite. He’s a little bit of several people I met for only moments of a passing life. He’s all those I met once and will never see again and will never forget.”

Walker wrote another verse to the song but didn’t perform it because he couldn’t fit it all in. This verse was about the three wives the man in jail told him about.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band version starts with a spoken intro called “Uncle Charlie And His Dog Teddy.”

Jerry Jeff Walker told American Songwriter Magazine May/June 1988 that the success of this showed that songs needn’t conform to rules. He explained: “‘Bojangles’ broke all the rules. It was too long, was 6/9 time, about an old drunk and a dead dog. They had so many reasons why it didn’t fit anything. It would have never been a song if I had been living in Nashville and tried to take it through there. I recorded it in New York. I’ve always had my record deals through New York or L.A.”

According to Jerry Jeff Walker’s confrere Todd Snider, Jerry Jeff was known for a time as “Mr. Blowjangles” because of his raging cocaine habit. Todd quotes Jerry Jeff as saying: “A line of cocaine will make a new man out of you – and he’ll want some too.”

Mr. Bojangles

I knew a man, Bojangles and he danced for you
In worn out shoes
Silver hair, a ragged shirt and baggy pants
The old soft shoe
He jumped so high
He jumped so high
Then he’d lightly touch down
I met him in a cell in New Orleans, I was
Down and out
He looked to me to be the eyes of age
As he spoke right out
He talked of life
He talked of life
He laughed, clicked his heels and stepped
He said his name, Bojangles and he danced a lick
Across the cell
He grabbed his pants, a better stance
Oh, he jumped so high
Then he clicked his heels
He let go a laugh
He let go a laugh
Pushed back his clothes all around
Mr. Bojangles
Mr. Bojangles
Mr. Bojangles
Dance
He danced for those in minstrel shows and county fairs
Throughout the south
He spoke with tears of fifteen years how his dog and him
Traveled about
The dog up and died
He up and died
After twenty years he still grieves
He said I dance now at every chance in honky tonks
For drinks and tips
But most the time I spend behind these county bars
He said I drinks a bit
He shook his head
And as he shook his head
I heard someone ask him please
Please
Mr. Bojangles
Mr. Bojangles
Mr. Bojangles
Dance

Chris Bell – I Am The Cosmos

Alex Chilton’s songwriting partner in power-pop legend Big Star, Chris Bell was an overlooked member of an overlooked band. In London, he teamed up with longtime Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick at AIR Studios, where the final touches and mix were completed. Bell would spend the next two years engaged in a frustrating attempt to get a record deal in the U.S. and Europe. With those prospects dimming, he eventually abandoned his career and took a job with his family’s fast-food chain back home.

Just another sad story that came from Big Star. In 1978, amid when Big Star started to get a  cult following, “Cosmos” was released as a single by fan and fellow musician Chris Stamey, on his tiny North Carolina-based Car label. The song (backed with the “You and Your Sister”) would be the only solo work released during Bell’s life. Just a few months after the record was pressed, Bell would die in a late-night single-car accident near his home in East Memphis on December 27, 1978. He was 27.

The B side…You and Your Sister

 

 

I Am The Cosmos

Every night I tell myself,
“I am the cosmos,
I am the wind”
But that don’t get you back again
Just when I was starting to feel okay
You’re on the phone
I never wanna be alone
Never wanna be alone
I hate to have to take you home
Wanted too much to say no, no,
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Never wanna be alone
I hate to have to take you home
Want you too much to say no, no
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
My feeling’s always happening
Something I couldn’t hide
I can’t confide
Don’t know what’s going on inside
So every night I tell myself
“I am the cosmos,
I am the wind”
But that don’t get you back again
I’d really like to see you again
I really wanna see you again
I’d really like to see you again
I really wanna see you again
I’d really like to see you again
I really wanna see you again
I never wanna see you again
Really wanna see you again

 

The Cars – Just What I Needed

Ric Ocasek wrote this in a basement at a commune in Newton, Massachusetts where he lived. Benjamin Orr the bass player sang it. The 2-track demo recorded by the band became the most-requested song by a local band in the history of WBCN, a popular rock station in Boston.

The song peaked at #27 in the Billboard 100, #17 in the UK, and #35 in Canada in 1978. The song was on their self-titled debut album that peaked at #18 in the Billboard Album charts in 1979. The Cars set the bar high with their debut album with two songs (My Best Friends Girl, Just What I Needed) in the top 40 and one song (Let The Good Times Roll) just missing it at #41. At least 6 out of the 9 songs on the album is still being played on classic radio.

From Songfacts

This established The Cars as one of New Wave’s leading hitmakers and helped get them a deal with Elektra Records.

Lead vocals were by bass player Ben Orr, but it was written by lead singer/guitarist Ric Ocasek. Orr died of Pancreatic cancer in 2000.

This was the group’s first single. The Cars evolved from a trio called Milkwood.

The group’s manager took the Cars’ demo tape to two Boston radio stations and got it regular airplay before the group re-recorded it and released this as a single.

Seven years after it was first released, this made its second appearance on a single – this time as the B-side of the Cars’ last Top 10 hit, “Tonight She Comes.” >>

This song was used in the opening credits of the Oscar-winning film Boys Don’t Cry starring Hillary Swank. 

This was used in Circuit City ads when the electronics store used the slogan, “Just What I Needed.”

Just What I Needed

I don’t mind you coming here
And wasting all my time
’cause when you’re standing oh so near
I kinda lose my mind
It’s not the perfume that you wear
It’s not the ribbons in your hair
I don’t mind you coming here
And wasting all my time
I don’t mind you hanging out
And talking in your sleep
It doesn’t matter where you’ve been
As long as it was deep
You always knew to wear it well
You look so fancy I can tell
I don’t mind you hanging out
And talking in your sleep
I guess you’re just what I needed
I needed someone to feed
I guess you’re just what I needed
I needed someone to bleed

The Searcher… Elvis Presley

Whenever I start reading about someone (In this case Elvis Presley) I usually dive deep into them. I’ve watched a few documentaries on youtube and the Comeback Special.

Last week Slightly Charming (I highly recommend checking out her blog) recommended this documentary on Elvis and it is the best one I’ve watched about him. It’s an HBO production with commentary by Priscilla Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Robbie Robertson, and many others.

It is a two-part documentary around 3 hours long both combined. Much like the Peter Guralnick books I’ve been reading it is very even-handed but it doesn’t pull any punches.

Elvis was an interesting person. A poor southern boy who gained fame and fortune quickly and handled it well considering what he was going through until his mother passed away. After that came the Army stint in Germany and from there while his fortune and fame grew his artistic credibility went down. In the mid-sixties, while The Beatles, Dylan, and the Stones dominated the charts…Elvis, a big influence to all three was stuck in a cycle of bad movies and bad soundtracks that he didn’t want to do.

The documentary goes over Colonel Tom Parker his manager, The infamous Memphis Mafia, Las Vegas, and the failed marriage to Priscilla.

The one thing this film does is concentrate on his music and not the parody he turned into at the end of his life. I found myself rooting for him during the 1968 Comeback Special. He had the spark back again and his voice was the Elvis we heard in the fifties. After the dismal movie soundtracks, he made this great comeback special but then it slowly started to go down. There was still good music to come but the end was in sight.

This great documentary is worth the time to check out.

 

 

Big Star – Thirteen

Big Star was the best band never heard. Not a bad song on the first album. The song was originally featured on the 1972 album #1 Record. It was released as a single by Big Star with “Watch The Sunrise” as the B-Side, on Ardent Records, but was mislabeled as “Don’t Lie To Me”. Chris Bell and Alex Chilton were the two main songwriters.

Bell and Chilton wanted to emulate the Lennon/McCartney formula as much as they could, so they shared credit on many of the songs on #1 Record even though there was, in fact, little writing collaboration between the two. “Thirteen,” was entirely Chilton’s creation

Alex Chilton said about this song: “I don’t know where it came from but I made up this wild bit of guitar in 15 minutes. You don’t hear many 20-year-olds doing that.”

From Songfacts

Frontman Alex Chilton wrote this acoustic ballad about two kids in love with Rock & Roll and each other. He explained to Rolling Stone that it’s simple musically as “I was still learning to play and stuff.”

The couplet “Won’t you tell your dad to get off my back/Tell him what we said about ‘Paint It Black,'” refers to the Rolling Stones song “of that title.”

This was ranked #396 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs. They described it as, “one of rock’s most beautiful celebrations of adolescence.”

Artists who have covered this include Evan Dando, Garbage, Elliot Smith, Wilco and Kathryn Williams.

Thirteen

Won’t you let me walk you home from school
Won’t you let me meet you at the pool
Maybe Friday I can
Get tickets for the dance
And I’ll take you

Won’t you tell your dad, get off my back
Tell him what we said ’bout ‘Paint It Black’
Rock ‘n Roll is here to stay
Come inside where it’s okay
And I’ll shake you

Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of
Would you be an outlaw for my love
If it’s so, well, let me know
If it’s no, well, I can go
I won’t make you

Don McLean – Vincent

Just a beautiful song and it’s close to perfect. The song was obviously inspired by Vincent Van Gogh. Underneath the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, there is a time capsule that contains the sheet music to this song along with some of Van Gogh’s brushes. This song is often played at the museum.

The song peaked at #12 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the UK, and #3 in Canada. It was on the album American Pie.

Don McLean: “In the autumn of 1970 I had a job singing in the school system, playing my guitar in classrooms. I was sitting on the veranda one morning, reading a biography of Van Gogh, and suddenly I knew I had to write a song arguing that he wasn’t crazy. He had an illness and so did his brother Theo. This makes it different, in my mind, to the garden variety of ‘crazy’ – because he was rejected by a woman as was commonly thought. So I sat down with a print of Starry Night and wrote the lyrics out on a paper bag.”

McLean was going through a dark period when he wrote this song “I was in a bad marriage that was torturing me. I was tortured. I wasn’t as badly off as Vincent was, but I wasn’t thrilled, let’s put it that way.”

 

From Songfacts

The words and imagery of this song represent the life, work, and death of Vincent Van Gogh. A Starry Night is one of the Dutch impressionist’s most famous paintings.

The lyrics, “Paint your palette blue and gray” reflect the prominent colors of the painting, and are probably a reference to Vincent’s habit of sucking on or biting his paintbrushes while he worked. The “ragged men in ragged clothes” and “how you tried to set them free” refer to Van Gogh’s humanitarian activities and love of the socially outcast as also reflected in his paintings and drawings. “They would not listen/They did not know how” refers to Van Gogh’s family and some associates who were critical of his kindness to “the wretched.”

“How you suffered for your sanity” refers to the schizophrenic disorder from which Van Gogh suffered. 

This song and Van Gogh’s painting reflect what it’s like to be misunderstood. Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” after committing himself to an asylum in 1889. He wrote that night was “more richly colored than the day,” but he couldn’t go outside to see the stars when he was committed, so he painted the night sky from memory.

Talking about the song on the UK show Songbook, McLean said: “It was inspired by a book. And it said that it was written by Vincent’s brother, Theo. And Theo also had this illness, the same one Van Gogh had. So what caused the idea to percolate in my head was, first of all, what a beautiful idea for a piece of music. Secondly, I could set the record straight, basically, he wasn’t crazy. But then I thought, well, how do you do this? Again, I wanted to have each thing be different.

I’m looking through the book and fiddling around and I saw the painting. I said, Wow, just tell the story using the color, the imagery, the movement, everything that’s in the painting. Because that’s him more than he is him.

One thing I want to say is that music is like poetry in so many ways. You have wit and drama and humor and pathos and anger and all of these things create the subtle tools that an artist, a stage artist, a good one, uses. Sadly, this has really gone out of music completely. So it makes someone like me a relic because I am doing things and people like me are doing things that utilize all the classic means of emotional expression.”

There could be some religious meaning in this song. McLean is a practicing Catholic and has written songs like “Jerusalem” and “Sister Fatima” that deal with his faith. The “Starry Night” could mean creation, with many of the other lyrics referring to Jesus. McLean has said that several of the songs on the American Pie album has a religious aspect to them, notably the closing track “Babylon.”

Josh Groban recorded the song for his self-titled debut album, which was released in 2001 when he was just 20 years old.

The British electronic artist Vincent Frank aka Frankmusik (check out “Better Off as Two”) was named after this song.

Irish singer Brian Kennedy sang this song at footballer George Best’s funeral.

According to the movie Tupac, the Resurrection, Gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur was influenced by Don McLean, and this was his favorite song. When he was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting in 1996, his girlfriend put this tune into a player next to his hospital bed to ensure it was the last thing he heard.

This soundtracked the moment on the “‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky” episode of The Simpsons when Lisa becomes interested in astronomy.

Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)

Starry, starry night 
Paint your palette blue and gray 
Look out on a summer’s day 
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul 
Shadows on the hills 
Sketch the trees and the daffodils 
Catch the breeze and the winter chills 
In colors on the snowy linen land 

Now I understand what you tried to say to me 
And how you suffered for your sanity 
How you tried to set them free 
They would not listen, they did not know how 
Perhaps they’ll listen now 

Starry, starry night 
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze 
Swirling clouds in violet haze 
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue 
Colors changing hue 
Morning fields of amber grain 
Weathered faces lined in pain 
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand 

Now I understand what you tried to say to me 
And how you suffered for your sanity 
And how you tried to set them free 
They would not listen, they did not know how 
Perhaps they’ll listen now 

For they could not love you 
But still your love was true 
And when no hope was left inside 
On that starry, starry night 
You took your life as lovers often do 
But I could have told you, Vincent 
This world was never meant 
For one as beautiful as you 

Starry, starry night 
Portraits hung in empty halls 
Frameless heads on nameless walls 
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget 
Like the strangers that you’ve met 
The ragged men in ragged clothes 
A silver thorn, a bloody rose 
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow 

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me 
And how you suffered for your sanity 
And how you tried to set them free 
They would not listen, they’re not listening still 
Perhaps they never will