The Lovin’ Spoonful

This band was huge in the mid-60s. They were famous for jug band music but would have pop/rock success. The members were John Sebastion, Zal Yanovsky, Joe Butler, and Steve Boone. They started in the folk scene in the early sixties. They were signed in 1965 to Kama Sutra Records and released “Do You Believe in Magic” which reached #9 in the charts.

After that, the hits kept coming…You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice (#10), Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind (#2), Daydream (#2), Summer in the City (#1), Rain on the Roof (#10), Nashville Cats (#8), Darling Be Home Soon (#15), Six O’ Clock (#18) and She Is Still a Mystery (#27). They had all of these hits between 1965-1968

In the 1980s I really got into this group. I purchased one of the many greatest hits of this band. I first heard of John Sebastion in the 70s when he wrote and sang the theme song of  TV show Welcome Back Cotter called “Welcome Back” that went to #1.

The Lovin’ Spoonful were considered by producers to be in a television show but they were dropped over a conflict of song publishing rights. It’s probably a good thing that happened or they would not have been taken seriously. The producers were the ones that a short time late started the Monkees.

Their songs are grounded in folk, jug music,  and blues. I don’t know if it is possible to be in a bad mood while listening to them. Their songs are now staples on oldies radio stations.

Zal Yanovsky left in 1967 after being dissatisfied with John’s more personal songwriting and a pot conviction. John Sebastion left the group on 1968 and with him gone the hits dried up.

A fun band to listen to. You won’t hear rock operas or rocking solos but you will hear a band that sounds like they are having a good time.

They reunited in once in 1979 and for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2000.

 

Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones

A biography about Brian Jones who founded the Rolling Stones written by Paul Trynka. This is more of a sympathetic look on Brian than other books I’ve read. Trynka digs deep with meticulous research. He tries to be fair and Brian isn’t always shown as the nicest guy in the world but he also isn’t always the person that Mick and Keith seem to remember when they actually remember him at all.

This book is not just a rehash of the best-known things about Jones and the Stones. Some instances that Stones fans know like the period where Keith ran off with Brian’s girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, we get more information on what happened. He researched Brian’s childhood and adult life thoroughly and you feel like you know the man before the book is over.

This is not only a good book on Brian but also the birth of the Stones. After reading what I’ve read about Brian in past books, I had to wonder to myself, is this author trying to make Brian look better than he was? After reading more I didn’t think so. He interviewed over 100 people for this biography and many of them were either close friends or knew Brian. He was fair about the good and bad.

When you think of Brian Jones you can’t help but think of the way his life ended. Paul Trynka doesn’t miraculously find the definite answer to Brian’s death but he gives you the most recent events that have been uncovered and basic common sense answers to a mystery that probably will never be solved.

The Rolling Stones had three different lead/rhythm guitarists. Brian Jones, Mick Taylor, and Ronnie Wood. I make no secret of loving the Taylor period of the Stones. Saying that I will admit during the Brian Jones era they were more creative and tried different things. He was very important to their sound. Under My Thumb, Paint It Black, No Expectations, The Last Time, and Ruby Tuesday would not have been the same without Brian.

The book deals with the complicated relationship between Brian, Mick, and Keith. George Harrison and Brian Jones became friends and they had a lot in common. They were in a similar situation in their respective bands. The big difference was George had more of a support system than Brian did in his band. John and Paul had a monopoly on the songwriting but they would help George and he was given a chance to grow as a songwriter within the group. The Stones didn’t work that way.

Brian could be his own worst enemy and had a hard time handling fame but he was a very talented musician. Maybe the best musician in the band. Keith and Mick learned a lot from Brian. His musicianship, image, and outlook on life rubbed off on the more inexperienced Mick and Keith.

I would recommend this book to any Stones fan. You get a better picture of the earlier days. It is a reminder that it took more than Keith and Mick to get the Stones rolling.

 

A very good professional review of the book by Larry Rohter of the New York Times

Brian Jones is to the Rolling Stones what Leon Trotsky was to the Russian Revolution: organizer, ideologist and victim of a power struggle. Jones founded the group, gave it its name and recruited the schoolboys Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who then marginalized him, eventually expelling him from the band. Since his death in 1969, a month after he was forced out, Jones has largely been airbrushed from the group’s history.

Paul Trynka’s biography “Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones” challenges the standard version of events, focused on Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards, in favor of something far more nuanced. Though Mr. Trynka sometimes overstates Jones’s long-term cultural impact, his is revisionist history of the best kind — scrupulously researched and cogently argued — and should be unfailingly interesting to any Stones fan.

Specifically, “Brian Jones” seems designed as a corrective to “Life,” Keith Richards’s 2010 memoir. Mr. Trynka, the author of biographies of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and a former editor of the British music magazines Mojo and Guitar, has interviewed Mr. Richards several times over the years and obviously likes him, but also considers his memory of events highly unreliable.

“History is written by the victors, and in recent years we’ve seen the proprietors of the modern Rolling Stones describe their genesis, their discovery of the blues, without even mentioning their founder,” Mr. Trynka remarks in the introduction. Without naming Mr. Richards, he also expresses his distaste for an assessment that appears in “Life,” that Brian Jones was “a kind of rotting attachment.”

The portrait of Jones that Mr. Trynka offers here is bifurcated. Though he is impressed with Jones’s “disciplined, honed sense of musical direction” and his dexterity on guitar and many other instruments, he does not hesitate to point out his subject’s more unpleasant personality traits: He was narcissistic, manipulative, misogynistic, conniving and dishonest about money. It’s not accidental that this book is called “Sympathy for the Devil” in Britain.

Mr. Trynka attributes Jones’s downfall to a conjunction of factors, some related to those character flaws but others external to him. Much has been written about the drug busts that swept up Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards in the mid-1960s and their court battles, though Jones seems to have been even more of a target, because he was such a dandy and so successful with women.

But as Mr. Trynka tells it, Jones did not receive strong legal advice or fight charges as hard or as successfully as the Jagger-Richards team. After his first arrest, he pleaded guilty, which drove a wedge between him and other band members, who feared it would mean they could no longer tour abroad, all of which left him feeling crushed, isolated and vulnerable. That, in turn, increased his consumption of drugs and alcohol and made him less productive as a musician.

Nevertheless, Mr. Trynka demonstrates convincingly that the original Rolling Stones were Jones’s band and reflected his look, tastes and interests, not just the blues but also renaissance music and what today would be called world music. (He recorded the master musicians of Joujouka in the mountains of Morocco.) In “Life,” Mr. Richards describes his discovery of the blues-tinged open G guitar tuning, familiar from hits like “Honky Tonk Women” and “Start Me Up,” as life changing, and says it came to him via Ry Cooder in the late 1960s. But Mr. Trynka notes that Jones often played in that tuning from the band’s earliest days and quotes Dick Taylor, an original member of the Stones, as saying, “Keith watched Brian play that tuning, and certainly knew all about it.”

Some of Mr. Trynka’s account is not new, having appeared in “Stone Alone,” the often overlooked 1990 memoir of the Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, or other books written by band outsiders. What makes Mr. Trynka’s book fresh and interesting, and gives it credibility, is the length he has gone to find witnesses to corroborate and elaborate on those stories.

It’s not just that Mr. Trynka has sought out those who worked with the band on the creative side, such as the singer Marianne Faithfull, the arranger Jack Nitzsche and the recording engineers Eddie Kramer, Glyn Johns and George Chkiantz. He has also interviewed those with more of a worm’s-eye view: drivers, roadies, office staff, old girlfriends and former roommates like James Phelge, whose surname the band would appropriate to designate songs that were group compositions rather than Jagger-Richard numbers.

“Brian Jones was the main man in the Stones; Jagger got everything from him,” the drummer Ginger Baker, who played in the band at some of its earliest shows and went on to become famous as a member of Cream, says in the book. “Brian was much more of a musician than Jagger will ever be — although Jagger’s a great economist.”

Citing those present at the creation, Mr. Trynka contends that Jones had a hand in composing some well-known Stones tracks, including “Paint It, Black” and “Under My Thumb.” He also claims that “Ruby Tuesday,” a No. 1 hit early in 1967, is actually a Jones-Richards collaboration — written not by Mr. Richards in a burst of inspiration and heartbreak in a Los Angeles hotel room, which is how the story is told in “Life” and elsewhere, but, according to Ms. Faithfull and Mr. Kramer, “labored over” by the pair in London for weeks.

“I used to say to Brain, ‘What on earth are you doing?’ ” Stan Blackbourne, the accountant for the Rolling Stones at their mid-1960s peak, recalls in the book. “ ‘You write some of these songs, and you give the name over as if Mick Jagger has done it. Do you understand, you’re giving ’em thousands of pounds!’ All the time I used to tell him, ‘You’re writing a blank check.’ ”

Mr. Trynka also looks into the circumstances of Jones’s death, on July 3, 1969, in the swimming pool at his home in East Sussex, once owned by A. A. Milne, but after all the Sturm und Drang that has come before, the subject is somewhat anticlimactic. In numerous books and in films like “Stoned,” it has been suggested that Jones was murdered, but Mr. Trynka painstakingly examines the flaws in each of the theories, and ends up close to the official verdict, “death by misadventure,” because of drug and alcohol consumption.

“The official coroner’s verdict on Brian’s death was perfunctory and lazy,” Mr. Trynka concludes. Nonetheless, “I’ve come to share their belief that Brian’s death was most likely a tragic accident” and to believe that “many of the existing theories that his death was in fact murder rely on unreliable witnesses.”

In the end, with the advantage of 45 years’ perspective, Mr. Trynka maintains, it is Jones’s music that matters. “It’s understandable why the survivors resent Brian Jones beyond the grave,” given his founder’s role, he argues, and also writes: “Brian Jones got many things wrong in his life, but the most important thing he got right.”

 

 

 

 

 

Everclear

In the late-1990s I started to listen to this band. They were formed in the early 90s by lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter Art Alexakis. Art’s dad left his mom and family and they had to survive in rough neighborhoods in LA. Some of the songs he wrote like “Father of Mine” relates that.

I must admit I know more of their radio songs but I have listened to their older albums and they are mostly solid. The album that caught my attention was “So Much For The Afterglow” with songs “I Will Buy You A New Life,””Everything to Everyone,” and “Father of Mine.” When I heard “I Will Buy You a New Life” on the radio I was hooked and got the album.

My favorite song by them is “Wonderful” that was released in 2000 on the album “Songs from an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile.” It’s about a divorce through a child’s eyes. I can relate to that so the song hit home in a lot of ways.

They also perform a good cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.”

One song off the album is a tribute to the 1970s called “AM Radio.” That one of course I love. Art grew up in the 70s and has said he was influenced by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Merle Haggard, Motown, Otis Redding, and Punk Rock in general. He knows how to write good hooks that will stay with you.

The AM radio video is hilarious.

Here is “Wonderful”

I want the things that I had before
Like a Star Wars poster on my bedroom door
I wish I could count to ten
Make everything be wonderful again

 

AM Radio

 

You can hear the music on the AM radio

The VCR and the DVD
There wasn’t none of that crap back in 1970
We didn’t know about a World Wide Web
It was a whole different game being played back when I was a kid

Wanna get down in a cool way
Picture yourself on a beautiful day
Big bell bottoms and groovy long hair
Just walkin’ in style with a portable CD player
No, you would listen to the music on the AM radio
Yeah, you could hear the music on a AM radio

Flashback, ’72
Another summer in the neighborhood
Hangin’ out with nothing to do
Sometimes we’d go drivin’ around
In my sister’s Pinto 
Cruisin’ with the windows rolled down
We’d listen to the radio station
We were too damn cool to buy the eight-track tapes
There wasn’t any good time to want to be inside
My mama wanna watch that TV all goddamn night

I’d be in bed with the radio on
I would listen to it all night long
Just to hear my favorite song
You’d have to wait but you could hear it on the AM radio
Yeah, you could hear the music on a AM radio
I can still hear Mama say ?°Boy turn that radio down!?±

?°Aw, Mom. Not that show again! I don’t wanna watch that show! 
Can’t we watch Good Times or Chico and the Man or something cool? 
Turn it off!”

Things changed back in ’75
We were all growing up on the in and the outside
We got in trouble with the policeman
We got busted gettin’ high in the back of my friend’s van

I remember 1977
I started going to concerts and I saw the Led Zeppelin
I got a guitar on Christmas day
I dreamed that Jimmy Page would come from Santa Monica 
and teach me to play
Teach me to play…

There isn’t any place that I need to go
There isn’t anything that I need to know
I did not learn from the radio

Yeah when things get stupid and I just don’t know
Where to find my happy
I listen to my music on the AM radio
You can hear the music on a AM radio
You can hear the music on a AM radio

I like pop, I like soul, I like rock, but I never liked disco
I like pop, I like soul, I like rock, but I never liked disco
We like pop, we like soul, we like rock, but we never liked disco…

No I never liked disco…

 

The Raspberries

A powerpop group from Cleveland Ohio in the early to mid-70s. They were influenced by the Beatles, Small Faces, The Who and The Beach Boys. They had some of the same problems as Badfinger, being too hard for pop and too soft for rock. Badfinger was overall more successful but the Raspberries had some top 40 hits.

“Go All The Way” (1972 #5),  I Wanna Be With You (1972 #16), Lets Pretend (1973 #35), and Overnight Sensation (1975 #18). They were too clean cut for rock fans to embrace. Matching suits and a teenybopper image. Unhip or uncool is what was many critics of that time wrote about them but their songs are melodic and fun.

Most bands have one song that is above the rest of their catalog. Many would probably say the Raspberries best song was Go All The Way but to me, it was Overnight Sensation. That song is their masterpiece. The song tells of the frustrations of trying to have a hit song on the radio with a heavy Who, Beach Boys, and Beatle sound.

After their album “Starting Over” in 1975 they broke up. If they could have stayed around a few more years they may have fit nicely with Cheap Trick, The Cars, The Knack, and Blondie.

Many artists list them as an influence and are fans such as KISS, Courtney Love, and oddly enough Bruce Springsteen and Axl Rose have mentioned them.

John Lennon was a fan of them and was in the studio when they made “Starting Over.”

Eric Carmen had a very successful solo career after the breakup but he stuck with pure pop in his music. He finally got the elusive hits he sang about in Overnight Sensation with All By My Myself, Never Gonna Fall in Love Again, and some songs off of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. I never thought they were as good as his Raspberries songs.

The Raspberries reunited in 2004 and did a tour. I have watched some video of one of the shows and they were really tight.

If you want to get a cd that covers their career get “The Raspberries Greatest”

rasp great.jpg

 

The original members were

Eric Carmen (Volcalist, Guitar, Pianist, Bass)
Dave Smalley (Bass, Guitar)
Wally Bryon (Guitar)
Jim Bonfanti (Drummer)

 

 

 

 

Rolling Stones – Memory Motel 1976

This song is off of the Rolling Stones album Black and Blue from 1976. The album was not one of their best. It was the album they were trying out new guitarist to take the place of Mick Taylor who had just left. This is one of my favorite Stones songs. There was an actual Memory Motel in Montauk, New York. This is a rare song that both Mick and Keith sing the lead vocals on.

It has a haunting melody and lyrics that stick with you. Some say the Hannah in the song is referring to Carly Simon and some say it’s Annie Leibovitz. Whoever the muse was, they inspired a beautiful song.

Hannah honey was a peachy kind of girl
Her eyes were hazel
And her nose were slightly curved
We spent a lonely night at the Memory Motel
It’s on the ocean, I guess you know it well
It took a starry night to steal my breath away
Down on the water front
Her hair all drenched in spray

Hannah baby was a honey of a girl
Her eyes were hazel
And her teeth were slightly curved
She took my guitar and she began to play
She sang a song to me
Stuck right in my brain

You’re just a memory of a love
That used to be
You’re just a memory of a love
That used to mean so much to me

She got a mind of her own
And she use it well
Well she’s one of a kind
She’s got a mind
She got a mind of her own
And she use it mighty fine

She drove a pick-up truck
Painted green and blue
The tires were wearing thin
She turned a mile or two
When I asked her where she headed for
“Back up to Boston I’m singing in a bar”
I got to fly today on down to Baton Rouge
My nerves are shot already
The road ain’t all that smooth
Across in Texas is the rose of San Antone
I keep on a feeling that’s gnawing in my bones

You’re just a memory of a love
That used to mean so much to me
You’re just a memory girl
You’re just a sweet memory
And it used to mean so much to me
Sha la la la la

She got a mind of her own
And she use it well
Mighty fine, she’s one of a kind

On the seventh day my eyes were all a glaze
We’ve been ten thousand miles
Been in fifteen states
Every woman seemed to fade out of my mind
I hit the bottle and hit the sack and cried
What’s all this laughter on the 22nd floor
It’s just some friends of mine
And they’re busting down the door
Been a lonely night at the Memory Motel

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me Documentary

A friend of mine knows I’m a Big Star fan…he dropped this documentary of Big Star off for me to watch and I wasted no time.

Such a great band but a frustrating story. Someone in the documentary remarked, “Big Star is like a letter that was mailed in 1972 but didn’t arrive until 1985.” That is a great way to explain them. They made three of the best albums of the decade that were not heard until much later. When they were finally discovered they influenced many artists such as The Replacements, REM, Matthew Sweet, and more.

The first album got great reviews…you couldn’t ask for better. When the label called radio stations trying to get them to play it…the stations would say it’s not selling. When someone actually heard the songs on the radio they couldn’t find the record to buy it. This was basically the same story with all of the albums.

Distribution problems and just bad timing. Stax didn’t do a good job of distribution…they made a deal with Columbia before the second album to distribute the album…problem solved right? Nope, Clive Davis who made the deal was then fired at Columbia. The deal fell through and then Stax disintegrated.

Chris Bell who was key in creating the sound the band had quit after the first album. He came back but then quit again. Chris had depression problems and wanted badly to do something on his own. Alex Chilton continued and finished the second and third album with a new bass player on the third album.

After that, it follows Chris and Alex’s career to the end of both. It also covers  Jim Dickinson’s role on the third album. Family members, fans, and rock writers also share their love of Big Star and memories of the band members.

In May of 1973 Ardent Studios where Big Star recorded invited a 100 rock writers down to Memphis to hear Big Star live. They all loved Big Star and it went over great…but that wasn’t the band’s problem…it was the business side. What would have happened if they would have signed with a label more suited to them?

Before watching this documentary I didn’t realize Chris Bell was so instrumental in developing their sound. I knew it wasn’t the Alex Chilton band but Chris was invaluable and started the ball rolling. All 4 members did contribute writing and singing but Chilton and Bell were the Lennon and McCartney of the group.

It’s a good documentary about a great band that had the talent but not fate.

My recommendation? Get this and watch it…

A Couple of Songs by the Jayhawks

I first found out about this group in 2000 with “I’m Going to Make You Love Me” and from there I found an older song by them called “Blue.” I regret I didn’t notice them in the 1980s and 90s when they started.

They recently backed Ray Davies on his albums Americana and Our Country – Americana Act II. Their 2016 album Paging Mr. Proust was produced by Peter Buck of REM.

They formed in Minneapolis–Saint Paul in 1985 and played alternative country rock. They have released 10 studio albums and are worth checking out. Below are two songs… I’m Going to Make You Love Me (#40 in the adult contemporary chart) and Blue (#33 in Canada).

They combine country, folk, rock, and pop with good harmonies.

I’m Gonna to Make You Love Me – 2000

Blue – 1995