Harry Nilsson – Without You

Nilsson’s vocal on this song is outstanding. He took a small blues song written by Badfinger’s Pete Ham and Tom Evans and turned it into an epic. Ham had written a song called “Is This Love?” but wasn’t happy with the chorus. Evans came up with the “I can’t’ live if living is without you” chorus but had no verses for it, so they put the two songs together as one. Both would die broke while this song made millions. Ham and Evans never considered it a strong song.

The song was a smash… peaking at #1 in the Billboard 100 as well as Canada and the UK in 1971. Mariah Carey also released the song on Jan 15 1994 (the day Nilsson died) and the song proved to be a smash again.

From Songfacts

Nilsson first came across this song at a Laurel Canyon party in 1971 and thought it was a Beatles song. Badfinger was signed to Apple Records, The Beatles’ label. The story did not end well for Badfinger: Both Ham and Evans became despondent when they encountered various legal difficulties and committed suicide. Ham hanged himself in 1975 and Evans did the same in 1983.

Nilsson’s version added an orchestra and gave the song a dramatic production. When Nilsson recorded it, he initially played the song slow and dark, accompanied only by piano. Producer Richard Perry recalled to Mojo magazine April 2008 that he had to persuade an unwilling Nilsson to record it as a big ballad: “I had to force him to take a shot with the rhythm section. Even while we were doing it, he’d be saying to the musicians, ‘This song’s awful.'”

January 15th is a date with some interesting coincidences where Nilsson’s version of this song is concerned. He died on January 15, 1994, the same day Mariah Carey’s version was released, which is also 22 years to the day after his interpretation of “Without You” hit #1 on the US charts.

Badfinger’s original version is under Nilsson’s version

Without You

No I can’t forget this evening or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way the story goes
You always smile, but in your eyes
Your sorrow shows
Yes, it shows

No I can’t forget tomorrow
When I think of all my sorrow
When I had you there but then I let you go
And now it’s only fair that I should let you know
What you should know

I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t live
I can’t give anymore
I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t give
I can’t give anymore

Well, I can’t forget this evening or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way the story goes
You always smile, but in your eyes
Your sorrow shows
Yes, it shows

I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t live
I can’t give anymore
I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t live
I can’t give anymore

No no no no I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t live
I can’t give anymore
I can’t live

 

The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

I remember this song in the 80s and I didn’t hear it again until playing…Grand Theft Auto Vice City. It’s the only game I ever got hooked on as an adult. After playing the game for hours and stealing cars…this would be on the radio of the car you were driving constantly. After I beat it…I really never played another game again. I guess I just had to get it out of my adult system.

The song kicks in nicely.

The lead singer Ian Astbury puts it bluntly on what the song is about…he says “What’s the song about? Sex. Plain and simple, it’s about sex. I’ve had sex and I’m very proud of that fact.”

The song peaked at #15 in the UK charts but didn’t chart in the Billboard 100.

From Songfacts.

Billy Duffy of The Cult talks about how his quasi-psychedelic guitar intro came about: “I found a violin bow, and I started to play the guitar with the bow like Jimmy Page. I did it to amuse Astbury, who was in the control room, and in order to make it sound weirder, I just hit every pedal I had on the pedal board. Then once I stopped banging the strings and doing all that, I played the middle section of the song, which was kind of a pick thing with all the BOSS pedals on, and that sound just leaped out. The producer went, ‘Hold it, hold it, that’s great!’ And we decided to start the song with that mystical sound. If I hadn’t found that violin bow laying around, we wouldn’t have gone there.”

“She Sells Sanctuary” was the last song to feature Nigel Preston on drums. Preston was fired from the band shortly after its release and was replaced by Big Country’s drummer, Mark Brzezicki.

In 1993, a collection of remixes of this song by Youth, Butch Vig and JG Thilwell reached #15 in the UK.

This song featured in the 1992 film, With Honors and in the 2004 film, Layer Cake.

This formed part of a mashup with Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” in a Budweiser commercial broadcast during the 2012 Super Bowl. The one-minute ad celebrates several decades of great times in the US, beginning at the end of Prohibition in 1933.

 

She Sells Sanctuary

Oh, the heads that turn
Make my back burn
And that heads that turn
Make my back, make my back burn

The sparkle in your eyes
Keeps me alive
And the sparkle in your eyes
Keeps me alive, keeps me alive

The world
And the world turns around
The world and the world yeah
The world drags me down

Oh, the heads that turn
Make my back burn
And that’s heads that turn
Make my back, make my back burn, yeah
Hey yeah hey, yeah hey

The fire in your eyes keeps me alive
And the fire in your eyes keeps me alive
Inside her you’ll find sanctuary
Inside her you’ll find sanctuary

And the world the world turns around
And the world and the world the world drags me down
And the world and the world the world turns around
And the world and the world and the world and the world
And the world drags me down

Ah, hey yeah, hey yeah
And the world and the world turns around
And the world and the world
Yeah, the world drags me down
And the world
Yeah, the world turns around
And the world and the world the world drags me down

Hey yeah, hey yeah
Sanctuary, hey
Sanctuary, hey

1970s Russ Berrie Sillisculpts

Whenever I go to a yard sale or flea market and I see one…I have to get it. Worlds Greatest Dad, Worlds Greatest Mom, Worlds Greatest Grandpa, “Being Sick is bad for your health” and many more. They have a look that I like and are usually cheap…for two bucks you can have part of the seventies. 

He did more than the statues…he had stuffed animals and bears which in the 80s and 90s really took off…along with trolls.  

Russell Berrie started his business with only $500 and ran it out of a rented garage in Palisades Park, NJ. His first product to reach the shelf was his Fuzzy Wuzzie in 1964.

fuzzywuzzies.jpg

By 1968 Americans were ready for something a little bolder. Russ Berrie and Co. introduced Sillisculpts, plastic message figurines with a little more attitude. Two of the most memorable are the “I love you this much!” statuette and another of an old lawyer crying “Sue the bastards!” (I must find this one). 

Image result for russ berrie sue the bastards

These come in every form and shape.

In 1971, as sales passed the $7 million mark, Russ Berrie and Company moved to a new corporate headquarters facility in Oakland, New Jersey. This location would become the center of the company’s worldwide marketing and distribution businesses. In the following year, Russ Berrie and Company opened a second new facility, when a distribution center, in Santa Rosa, California, came online. 

By 1985, Russ Berrie and Company sales had reached $204.6 million, and revenues more than doubled in just two years.

In 1992, Russ Berrie and Company’s fortunes got a lift, when the popularity of one of its oldest products, Trolls, first introduced in the 1960s, escalated dramatically. Although they had not been a big seller for many years, suddenly the company’s trolls—squishy dolls with rubbery faces and hair that stood on end—were experiencing wild demand. To meet this clamor, Russ Berrie and Company’s designers began to churn out hundreds of different troll products, and the company’s Far Eastern suppliers raced to keep output high. By the end of the year, pushed by the troll fad, the company’s earnings had soared to $300 million. 

Image result for 1990s troll russ berrie

In 2001, Russ Berrie had sales of $294.3 million and net income of $40.2 million, selling items like a stuffed dog named Muffin and a stuffed bear known as Honeyfritz. 

In December 2002, Russ Berrie died unexpectedly after having a heart attack in his home. Often named by Fortune magazine as one of America’s most generous philanthropists, Berrie was just 69 years old when he died.

Image result for russ berrie statue dirty men

 

Hollies – Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress

Great song by CCR Uh no the Hollies. This song peaked in 1972 at #2 in the Billboard 100 and #32 in the UK. The Hollies had most of their success in the UK but surprisingly it missed there but was a huge hit in America. Lead singer Alan Clarke wrote this song with the Brittish songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway.

Love the intro and I especially like the slapback echo on the vocals. I never really thought of CCR when I heard it though many people do… Alan Clarke’s voice will never be confused with John Fogerty’s but the style here is the same. Here is a quote from Alan Clarke…  On the vocal, my intention wasn’t to sound like John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. I was thinking of Elvis on his early songs, like “Mystery Train.”

From Songfacts.

This is the only Hollies single without any backing vocals. The reason why Clarke is the only singer on this record is that he didn’t intend the song to be released on a Hollies album but as a record of his own. When the band learned that he intended to do a solo recording, Clarke was issued an ultimatum – he could either remain with The Hollies or pursue a solo career, but not both. Clarke told Rolling Stone in 1973: “I think with me the band feared that if I got a hit I’d leave. How can you stop destiny? Now, if they originally agreed, I might not even have left. ‘Long Cool Woman’ would have been released a year earlier, and we’d have done a few tours of the States and maybe would have been really big.”

Note to readers outside the UK: A “skinful” is a British term, essentially meaning an amount of alcohol that is enough to make a person drunk.

Great article with Roger Cook (one of the songwriters) from the Tennessean.

 

Saturday night I was down town
Working for the F.B.I.
Sitting in a nest of bad men
Whiskey bottles piling high
Boot legging boozer on the west side
Full of people who are doing wrong
Just about to call up the D.A. man
When I heard this woman singing a song.

A pair of forty fives made me open my eyes
My temperature started to rise
She was a long cool woman in a black dress
Just a five nine
Beautiful
Tall
With just one look I was a bad mess
Cause that long cool woman had it all.

Saw her heading to the table
Well a tall walking big black cat
When Charlie said “I hope that you’re able boy”
Well
I’m telling you she knows where it’s at
Well suddenly we heard a siren
And every body started to run
A jumping out of doors and tables
Well I heard somebody shooting a gun.

Well the D.A. was pumping my left hand
And a she a holding my right
And I told her don’t get scared
Cause you’re gonna be spared
I gotta be forgiven
If I want to spend my living with
A long cool woman in a black dress
Just a five nine
Beautiful
Tall
With just one look I was a bad mess
‘Cause that long cool woman had it all
Had it all
Had it all
Had it all 

Robert Johnson – Crossroad Blues

My introduction to Robert Johnson came from Eric Clapton while playing with Cream. Johnson was a great blues guitarist that supposedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to be able to play the blues. Some of the songs he wrote played into this myth. He only cut 29 songs that he recorded in a two year period of 1936 and 1937.

I’m not a blues expert, nor do I play one on tv, but I love these old blues recordings. Johnson wasn’t the only one but they influenced everything I’ve liked since. They are also historical documents of the time.

Robert Johnson’s slide playing was so complete that he sounded like two guitar players instead of one on some songs. The atmosphere of those recordings is incredible to me and something that you can’t duplicate. Johnson’s influence is huge. Keith Richards, Eric Clapton,  Bob Dylan. Duane Allman, and too many more to list.

Movies such as the 1980’s film Crossroads brought Johnson many more fans. My friend Ronald was one of those people and went out and bought everything he could find of Johnson in the 80s. Many people have searched out Johnson after listening to artists that were influenced by him. His voice will haunt you after you listen to his recordings. His songs are pure and timeless.

Some quotes on Robert Johnson

Keith Richards – Brian Jones had the first album, and that’s where I first heard it. I’d just met Brian, and I went around to his apartment-crash pad, actually, all he had in it was a chair, a record player, and a few records. One of which was Robert Johnson. He put it on, and it was just-you know-astounding stuff. When I first heard it, I said to Brian, “Who’s that?” “Robert Johnson”. I said, “Yeah, but who’s the other guy playing with him?” Because I was hearing two guitars, and it took me a long time to realize he was actually doing it all by himself.
Eric Clapton – His music is like my oldest friend, always in the back of my head and on the horizon. It’s the finest music I’ve ever heard.  I’ve always trusted its purity. And I always will.’ I don’t know what more you could say….”
Robert Cray – He is a perfect example of what anybody should listen to if they want to get an understanding of the blues… and American history.’

Below is Robert Johnson and down below is Cream’s version.

Cross Road Blues

I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
Asked the lord above “Have mercy now
save poor Bob if you please”
Yeeooo, standin at the crossroad
tried to flag a ride
ooo ooo eee
I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me babe
everybody pass me by
Standin at the crossroad babe
risin sun goin down
Standin at the crossroad babe
eee eee eee, risin sun goin down
I believe to my soul now,
Poor Bob is sinkin down
You can run, you can run
tell my friend Willie Brown
You can run, you can run
tell my friend Willie Brown
(th)’at I got the croosroad blues this mornin Lord
babe, I’m sinkin down
And I went to the crossroad momma
I looked east and west
I went to the crossroad baby
I looked east and west
Lord, I didn’t have no sweet woman
ooh-well babe, in my distress

Climax Blues Band – I Love You

This is a very likable ballad that was a big hit in 1981. It peaked at #12 in the Billboard 100. This song developed a large following and continues to get airplay on many radio stations. The legendary Nicky Hopkins played on this track.

Derek Holt who was the bass player wrote the song. None of the band liked it. They would not even tour to support it. He would have the last laugh as this came from an interview with Derek.

Derek: Up until the ‘Flying the Flag’ album, we used to split songwriting royalties four equal ways as we were all credited with writing songs. For this album, we had a meeting to discuss starting to have songwriting credit split separately. I lost the argument to keep it all the same as before and ended up gaining 100% of my own song. Ironic!

When the song became a hit (also it was the start of me then becoming a lead singer which worried the others), we had a major U.S. tour booked but both Colin and Pete didn’t want to “go on the road to promote my career”. So even with a song high up on the U.S. charts, they actually chose not to back me up instead of just being grateful for another hit. I never got to tour and sing the song live so I feel slightly cheated out of performing it. But it became a really popular radio song and of course, a lot of people fell in love because of it. I also get emails from people who actually got married because of it even had it played at their “first dance” at their reception.

 

From Songfacts.

Bass player Derek Holt wrote this song. He told us: “It was about meeting my first wife, meeting the lady that’s going to encourage me to do what I did best, and that was be a musician, with no qualms about it. I used to go away from home, used to leave her behind, and used to come back. I was a hippie, a drinking hippie with really long hair. We had a great time – I’m meeting my wife since then I’ve never looked back. You know, pretty much out living a dream, because, ‘Ooo, I love you.’ You could say it’s for one person, but it’s quite generic. At that particular moment in time, everything was right. You know, usually, songs appear from nowhere, and that one appeared in a couple of hours. Why I have no idea, but it did. And I guess the influence was the person I was with at the time.”

Holt: “That song was written in my house. After a couple of hours just sitting in my studio I came up with this song I Love You – words, solo, drums, the whole thing. And I thought, ‘Well, it’s a lovely song.’ We had a guy come over from L.A., an American producer called John Ryan, who arrived in Stafford to do some pre-production on an album that we were going to record in Los Angeles called Flying The Flag. So he came to England and spent probably 2 weeks with us going through all the tracks that we’d got. And he said, ‘Does anybody have any more songs?’ I’d already played my song to the band and they didn’t really like it; it was a little bit too lovey, so I said to John Ryan, ‘I’ve got this song called ‘I Love You.” He said, ‘Well, play it for me.’ So I plugged in my cassette, played it, then he said, ‘That’s a hit.’ Just like that. Everybody just sort of looked at each other and said, ‘Oh, bloody hell.’ So anyway, we ended up going to Los Angeles, and that song was recorded with just me and the drummer because the other two guys weren’t really into the song. So it’s me, the drummer, and a fantastic keyboard player named Nicky Hopkins. He’s since died, unfortunately. He was the sort of legendary keyboard player, he played with The Stones and lots of people like that, and he was great. So it was me, Nicky Hopkins and the drummer in the studio. We all sat down together and played the basic backing track. I then put the bass on it, sang it, did all the harmonies, then I got Pete – the guitarist – to play the lead solo, which was the solo that I wanted to be played. So he played the solo, because he was the guitarist – reluctantly. Then John Ryan said, ‘This song needs some strings.’ So he got a string section in at whatever cost it was, which also pissed the other guys in the band off to think that the strings were a big part of my song. Then Warner Brothers arrived to hear all the tracks, and everybody was blown away by ‘I Love You,’ this song that I believed in, the producer believed in, but none of the other guys did, and it became a hit. And it’s just unbelievable that nobody else in the band recognized it other than the producer and me. So the story’s quite phenomenal, really. And it’s also probably one of the reasons why the band split up in the end because they weren’t into playing it live, and I was. The song was in the charts, we had the tour booked, and two guys in the band said, ‘We’re not going to go to America to promote Derek Holt’s career.’ How’s that for faith?”

 

I Love You

When I was younger man I hadn’t a care
Foolin’ around, hitting the town, growing my hair
You came along and stole my heart when you entered my life
Ooh babe you got what it takes so I made you my wife

Since then I never looked back
It’s almost like living a dream
And ooh I love you

You came along from far away and found me here
I was playin’ around, feeling down, hittin’ the beer
You picked me up from off the floor and gave me a smile
You said you’re much too young, your life ain’t begun, let’s walk for awhile

And as my head was spinnin’ ’round
I gazed into your eyes
And thought ooh I want you

Thank you babe for being a friend
And shinin’ your light in my life
‘Cause ooh I need you

As my head was comin’ round
I gazed into your eyes
And thought ooh I want you

Thanks again for being my friend
And straightenin’ out my life
‘Cause ooh I need you

Since then I never looked back
It’s almost like livin’ a dream
Oh I got you

If ever a man had it all
It would have to be me
And ooh I love you

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – American Girl

This may be my favorite song of Tom Petty. The ringing 12 string that introduces it with the Roger McGuinn like vocals…it’s hard not to like. The song peaked at #40 in the UK and #68 in the Cash Box Top 100. Even though Petty and his band were from the US, this caught on in England long before it got any attention in America. As a result, Petty started his first big tour in the UK, where this was a bigger hit.

Roger McGuinn joked that the first time he heard the song he thought it was an old Byrds song he recorded and forgotten about.

From Songfacts.

Tom Petty said of this song: “I wrote that in a little apartment I had in Encino. It was right next to the freeway and the cars sometimes sounded like waves from the ocean, which is why there’s the line about the waves crashing on the beach. The words just came tumbling out very quickly – and it was the start of writing about people who are longing for something else in life, something better than they have.”

Mike Campbell has been The Heartbreakers’ guitarist since they formed the band. Here’s what he told us about this song: “We used to have people come up to us and tell us they thought it was about suicide because of the one line about ‘if she had to die,’ but what they didn’t get was, the whole line is ‘if she had to die trying.’ Some people take it literally and out of context. To me it’s just a really beautiful love song. It does have some Florida imagery.”

In our interview with Mike Campbell, he said: “We cut that track on the 4th of July. I don’t know if that had anything to do with Tom writing it about an American girl.”

Roger McGuinn recorded this on his 1977 album Thunderbyrd. McGuinn was a member of The Byrds and a big influence on Petty. He once joked that this number was a Byrds song he’d forgotten. Petty told Mojo magazine January 2010: “‘American Girl’ doesn’t really sound like The Byrds; it evokes The Byrds. People are usually influenced by more than one thing, so your music becomes a mixture. There’s nothing really new, but always new ways to combine things. We tried to play as good as whoever we admired but never could.”

This was featured in the 1991 movie Silence Of The Lambs. It was used in a scene where a female character is listening to it in a car before she meets Buffalo Bill, a serial killer who abducts her.

The Goo Goo Dolls played this at the 2001 “Concert For New York,” a benefit show organized by Paul McCartney. Classic rockers like The Who and David Bowie were big hits among the crowd of police officers and firefighters, and they responded very well when The Goo Goo Dolls played this.

Petty gave his reaction to the performance: “I was watching the 9/11 concert in New York and the Goo Goo Dolls played ‘American Girl.’ I could see the crowd cheering in this really patriotic context. But it was just a story when I wrote it. In my mind, the girl was looking for the strength to move on, and she found it. It’s one of my favorites.”

Petty credits their producer, Denny Cordell, with helping him understand the importance of crafting a story in the lyrics to this song. Petty says Cordell told him, “When you put a little truth in a song, it elevates things.”

In the Bob Dylan tradition, Petty doesn’t have a typical singing voice, but as heard in this song, he writes compelling lyrics that he delivers with conviction.

American Girl

Well she was an American girl 
Raised on promises 
She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there 
Was a little more to life 
Somewhere else 
After all it was a great big world 
With lots of places to run to 
Yeah, an d if she had to die 
Tryin’ she had one little promise 
She was gonna keep 

Oh yeah, all right 
Take it easy baby 
Make it last all night 
She was an American girl 

It was kind of cold that night 
She stood alone on her balcony 
She could the cars roll by 
Out on 441 
Like waves crashin’ in the beach 
And for one desperate moment there 
He crept back in her memory 
God it’s so painful 
Something that’s so close 
And still so far out of reach 

Oh yeah, all right 
Take it easy baby 
Make it last all night 
She was an American girl