Posts Tagged ‘Paul McCartney’

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #64–The Beatles: “Slow Down” b/w “Matchbox” – Capitol 5255 (G7/H7)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #64–The Beatles: “Slow Down” b/w “Matchbox” – Capitol 5255 (G7/H7)

The Beatles not only had three of the greatest songwriters of all time in their band, but early on they were also great tastemakers, choosing unknown American R&B, Country, Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll tunes and repurposing them for the UK market. As a result of their world domination of the music charts, they pretty much reintroduced songs like “Please Mr. Postman,” “Rock And Roll Music,” “Anna,” “Act Naturally,” “Baby It’s You,” “You Really Got A Hold On Me,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Honey Don’t,” “Long Tall Sally,” “A Taste Of Honey,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Devil In Her Heart” and even a Broadway tune “Till There Was You” to the American market.

Today’s jukebox classic features two such cover records, although I have taken some liberties and flipped the single in the juke to make the B-side of the single, the A-side instead. Both of today’s songs originally appeared on the British Long Tall Sally EP released in 1964.

“Slow Down” is a cover of a Larry Williams tune from 1958. The Beatles probably first heard it as the flip side of Williams’ single “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” which they also covered. The Beatles would also return to Larry Williams’ cannon of material for a third time to record his song “Bad Boy.” Williams was a New Orleans R&B recording artist who was far more influential across the pond than here in the U.S., which is probably why The Beatles covered three of his songs.

The song has also seen covers by The Young Rascals, The Flamin’ Groovies, The Jam, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring, Tom Jones, Elvis Costello and many others. Today, The Beatles’ recording can be found on the compilation album Past Masters Vol. 1 and also on the first Live at the BBC album.

The other side of today’s single is one of three Carl Perkins songs that the Beatles recorded. (“Honey Don’t” and “Everybody’s Tryin’ To Be My Baby” were the other two.) The song was first recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1927, but The Beatles based their version of “Matchbox” on Carl Perkins’ 1956 single version released on the Sun record label.

The Beatles began performing the song as early as 1961 with Pete Best handling the vocal chores. The group continued to perform the song and live versions have turned up from The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany featuring Lennon on vocals. By the time the group got around to performing the song for BBC radio (as heard on the Live at the BBC album), Ringo was featured on vocals. The song later turned up on The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally EP in England, and on the Something New album in America also with Ringo on the vocals.

The Beatles’ recording of “Matchbox” was issued as the A-side of today’s single in a nice picture sleeve and climbed to number 17 on the pop charts. Today, it also can be found on The Beatles’ Past Masters Volume 1 album. For the studio recording, the group was augmented by George Martin who played piano on the track.

The song has also been covered by Jerry Lee Lewis, Ronnie Hawkins, Johnny Rivers, Bob Dylan (unreleased), Derek and the Dominos, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Jeff Beck & The Big Town Playboys, Duane Eddy and “The Silver Wilburys” (featuring George Harrison, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Taj Mahal & Jesse Ed Davis).

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: August 11th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #16 – The Beatles: “Paperback Writer” b/w “Rain” – Capitol 45 RPM Single 5651 (K2/L2)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #16 – The Beatles: “Paperback Writer” b/w “Rain” – Capitol 45 RPM Single 5651 (K2/L2)

We’ve hit ground zero for classic singles! It really doesn’t get any better than the coupling of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” on a single slab of 45RPM vinyl. And, the single wasn’t even intended to be a double A-side, it just worked out that way on the strength of the material.

Both songs were cut during the sessions for Revolver in which The Beatles began to spread their creative wings and experiment in the studio. “Paperback Writer” was recorded with a boosted bass sound because Lennon wanted to emulate the bass sound on a Wilson Pickett record he liked. It was also cut much louder than other singles of its time to make its searing guitar riff stand out on the radio, and as a result, the song topped the charts in 1966.

The lyrics were in response to a comment that McCartney’s Aunt Lil made to him challenging him to write a song that wasn’t about love. Paul: “Years ago my Auntie Lil said to me, ‘Why can’t you ever write about a horse or the summit conference or something interesting?’ So I thought, All right, Auntie Lil. I’ll show you.” (songfacts.com)

The song is written in the form of a letter from an author to his publisher talking about a book he’s written based on “a man named Lear.” Lear was Edward Lear, a Victorian painter who wrote poems and prose whom John Lennon admired. Paperback books were seen to be a cut-rate second cousin to hardcover books which were looked upon as works of art, so the writer in the song is only striving to be a paperback writer. During the song, Lennon and Harrison interpolate the French nursery rhyme, “Frere Jaques” as a counter melody.

The “meat and dolls” photo that graced first pressings of the Yesterday And Today album was originally taken to promote this single in the trades, and a promotional film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg was created showing the Fabs traipsing around an English garden.

On the flip, is “Rain,” one of The Beatles’ all-time greatest tracks exemplifying the amount of experimentation the group were putting into their recordings of the time. “Rain’s” backing track was recorded faster than normal and played back at a slightly slower speed giving the record a psychedelic off-kilter feel. Conversely, Lennon’s vocals were recorded at a slightly slower speed and sped up during playback making his vocals sound slightly higher than normal.

The song also features one of the first uses of backwards vocals on a rock record. Lennon: “After we’d done the session on that particular song—it ended at about four or five in the morning—I went home with a tape to see what else you could do with it. And I was sort of very tired, you know, not knowing what I was doing, and I just happened to put it on my own tape recorder and it came out backwards. And I liked it better. So that’s how it happened.” (songfacts.com)

The backwards vocal at the end fade out is actually the songs first line: “When the rain comes they run and hide their heads.” Beatles engineer, Geoff Emerick said “From that point on, almost every overdub we did on Revolver had to be tried backwards as well as forwards.” (songfacts.com)

The song reached number 23 on the charts as a B-side, and Ringo Starr considers his drumming on the track to be his best recorded performance. The single’s picture sleeve inadvertently depicted Lennon and Harrison playing left handed because Capitol’s art department mistakenly reversed their photos.

Three videos were created to promote “Rain,” directed again by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. (Lindsay-Hogg first worked with the group on the set of Ready Steady Go several years earlier.) One was filmed at Chiswick House in London and shows The Beatles walking and singing in a garden, while the other two feature the band performing on a soundstage.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: April 15th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Lady Madonna” by Fats Domino

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Lady Madonna” by Fats Domino

Reprise Records was one of the labels to be on in the 1960s. What started out as the house that Frank Sinatra built, chock full of releases by his cronies like Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., turned into Mo’s home when Sinatra sold the label to Warner Brothers in 1963, and Mo Ostin began to sign artists to the label. Ostin ran the label as a haven for artists, and under his aegis a hip cadre of musicians like Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, The Kinks, Arlo Guthrie, Ry Cooder, Neil Young, T. Rex, Pentangle, Gram Parsons, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Gordon Lightfoot, Jimi Hendrix and many others, came on board.

Along the way, Reprise began to look into the not too distant past to revive a few careers, which brought both Little Richard and Fats Domino to the label. While neither artist delivered the hits that Reprise, no doubt had hoped for, they both cut terrific records for the label that came and went without a trace.

Richard Perry was brought on board as producer for Domino’s “Fats Is Back,” the first of his two Reprise albums. Perry surrounded Fats Domino with an all-star list of session musicians who were sympathetic to what Fats and Reprise were trying to achieve, which was to update his sound without changing too much of what made Fats a great artist. To that end, Fats was backed by King Curtis, Eric Gale, Larry Knechtel, Chuck Rainey, Hal Blaine, James Booker and Earl Palmer, with horn charts arranged by none other than Randy Newman.

Fats Is Back came out in 1968, and featured remakes of some of Domino’s own hits including “I’m Ready,” “Wait Till It Happens To You,” and “One For The Highway.” The album’s opening track is called “My Old Friends” and begins with a medley of snippets of some of Fats’ original hits, before fading into the new, up-to-date opening song that ends with the declaration that “Fats Is Back.” The album also features Fats covering the Barbara George hit “I Know” (later remade by Bonnie Raitt), a version of James Booker’s “So Swell When You’re Well,” and a couple of Beatles favorites– “Lovely Rita” and today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman, “Lady Madonna” – which was Domino’s last chart hit.

It’s no surprise that Domino would take a crack at “Lady Madonna,” since Paul McCartney wrote the Beatles song in his style with an eye towards giving it to him to record. And Fats does not disappoint with his version, and for that matter, the rest of the tracks on this essential album.

Edited: October 19th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Long, Long, Long” by The Beatles

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Long, Long, Long” by The Beatles

One of George Harrison’s most underrated songs and a highlight of The White Album for sure. The song was actually recorded by “The Threetles” since John Lennon was not present for any of the sessions.

Lennon’s absence kind of illustrates the short shrift that Harrison’s songs were given during Beatle recording sessions, considering that songs like “Something,” “Not Guilty” and “Sour Milk Sea” were left off The White Album and “All Things Must Pass” “Isn’t It A Pity” and “Let It Down” were left off of Let It Be in favor of much weaker material like “Dig It,” “Maggie Mae” and “Good Night.”

The rattling heard during the psychedelic meltdown at the end of the track was from a bottle of wine that was left on top of a speaker during the recording. Happy “mistakes” like this were often left in making the recording more interesting and more psychedelic. “Long, Long, Long” is one in a long line of Harrison love songs that can be directed at either his wife or the Lord.

Edited: June 12th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “She’s My Baby” by Wings

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “She’s My Baby” by Wings


Wings At The Speed Of Sound, the 1976 album where this song is from is one of Paul McCartney’s slighter efforts recorded quickly to have a some product on the shelves in time for the Wings Over America” tour of 1976. That said, it does have its charms…”Beware My Love,” “Time To Hide” and this breezy favorite.

Edited: June 4th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #64–The Beatles: “Slow Down” b/w “Matchbox” – Capitol 5255 (G7/H7)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #64–The Beatles: “Slow Down” b/w “Matchbox” – Capitol 5255 (G7/H7)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

The Beatles not only had three of the greatest songwriters of all time in their band, but early on they were also great tastemakers, choosing unknown American R&B, Country, Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll tunes and repurposing them for the UK market. As a result of their world domination of the music charts, they pretty much reintroduced songs like “Please Mr. Postman,” “Rock And Roll Music,” “Anna,” “Act Naturally,” “Baby It’s You,” “You Really Got A Hold On Me,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Honey Don’t,” “Long Tall Sally,” “A Taste Of Honey,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Devil In Her Heart” and even a Broadway tune “Till There Was You” to the American market.

Today’s jukebox classic features two such cover records, although I have taken some liberties and flipped the single in the juke to make the B-side of the single, the A-side instead. Both of today’s songs originally appeared on the British Long Tall Sally EP released in 1964.

“Slow Down” is a cover of a Larry Williams tune from 1958. The Beatles probably first heard it as the flip side of Williams’ single “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” which they also covered. The Beatles would also return to Larry Williams’ cannon of material for a third time to record his song “Bad Boy.” Williams was a New Orleans R&B recording artist who was far more influential across the pond than here in the U.S., which is probably why The Beatles covered three of his songs.

The song has also seen covers by The Young Rascals, The Flamin’ Groovies, The Jam, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring, Tom Jones, Elvis Costello and many others. Today, The Beatles’ recording can be found on the compilation album Past Masters Vol. 1 and also on the first Live At The BBC album.

The other side of today’s single is one of three Carl Perkins songs that the Beatles recorded. (“Honey Don’t” and “Everybody’s Tryin’ To Be My Baby” were the other two.) The song was first recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1927, but The Beatles based their version of “Matchbox” on Carl Perkins’ 1956 single version released on the Sun record label.

The Beatles began performing the song as early as 1961 with Pete Best handling the vocal chores. The group continued to perform the song and live versions have turned up from The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany featuring Lennon on vocals. By the time the group got around to performing the song for BBC radio (as heard on the Live At The BBC album), Ringo was featured on vocals. The song later turned up on The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally EP in England, and on the Something New album in America also with Ringo on the vocals.

The Beatles’ recording of “Matchbox” was issued as the A-side of today’s single in a nice picture sleeve and climbed to number 17 on the pop charts. Today, it also can be found on The Beatles’ Past Masters Volume 1 album. For the studio recording, the group was augmented by George Martin who played piano on the track.

The song has also been covered by Jerry Lee Lewis, Ronnie Hawkins, Johnny Rivers, Bob Dylan (unreleased), Derek and the Dominos, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Jeff Beck & The Big Town Playboys, Duane Eddy and “The Silver Wilburys” (featuring George Harrison, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Taj Mahal & Jesse Ed Davis).

Edited: January 22nd, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #16 – The Beatles: “Paperback Writer” b/w “Rain” – Capitol 45 RPM Single 5651 (K2/L2)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #16 – The Beatles: “Paperback Writer” b/w “Rain” – Capitol 45 RPM Single 5651 (K2/L2)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

We’ve hit ground zero for classic singles! It really doesn’t get any better than the coupling of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” on a single slab of 45RPM vinyl. And, the single wasn’t even intended to be a double A-side, it just worked out that way on the strength of the material.

Both songs were cut during the sessions for Revolver in which The Beatles began to spread their creative wings and experiment in the studio. “Paperback Writer” was recorded with a boosted bass sound because Lennon wanted to emulate the bass sound on a Wilson Pickett record he liked. It was also cut much louder than other singles of its time to make its searing guitar riff stand out on the radio, and as a result, the song topped the charts in 1966.

The lyrics were in response to a comment that McCartney’s Aunt Lil made to him challenging him to write a song that wasn’t about love. Paul: “Years ago my Auntie Lil said to me, ‘Why can’t you ever write about a horse or the summit conference or something interesting?’  So I thought, All right, Auntie Lil. I’ll show you.”

The song is written in the form of a letter from an author to his publisher talking about a book he’s written based on “a man named Lear.” Lear was Edward Lear, a Victorian painter who wrote poems and prose whom John Lennon admired. Paperback books were seen to be a cut-rate second cousin to hardcover books which were looked upon as works of art, so the writer in the song is only striving to be a paperback writer. During the song, Lennon and Harrison interpolate the French nursery rhyme, “Frere Jaques” as a counter melody.

The “meat and dolls” photo that graced first pressings of the Yesterday And Today album was originally taken to promote this single in the trades, and a promotional film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg was created showing the Fabs traipsing around an English garden.

On the flip, is “Rain,” one of The Beatles’ all-time greatest tracks exemplifying the amount of experimentation the group were putting into their recordings of the time. “Rain’s” backing track was recorded faster than normal and played back at a slightly slower speed giving the record a psychedelic off-kilter feel. Conversely, Lennon’s vocals were recorded at a slightly slower speed and sped up during playback making his vocals sound slightly higher than normal.

The song also features one of the first uses of backwards vocals on a rock record. Lennon: “After we’d done the session on that particular song—it ended at about four or five in the morning—I went home with a tape to see what else you could do with it. And I was sort of very tired, you know, not knowing what I was doing, and I just happened to put it on my own tape recorder and it came out backwards. And I liked it better. So that’s how it happened.”

The backwards vocal at the end fade out is actually the songs first line: “When the rain comes they run and hide their heads.” Beatles engineer, Geoff Emerick said “From that point on, almost every overdub we did on Revolver had to be tried backwards as well as forwards.”

The song reached number 23 on the charts as a B-side, and Ringo Starr considers his drumming on the track to be his best recorded performance. The single’s picture sleeve inadvertently depicted Lennon and Harrison playing left handed because Capitol’s art department mistakenly reversed their photos.

Three videos were created to promote “Rain,” directed again by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. (Lindsay-Hogg first worked with the group on the set of Ready Steady Go several years earlier.)  One was filmed at Chiswick House in London and shows The Beatles walking and singing in a garden, while the other two feature the band performing on a soundstage.

Edited: October 28th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/21/13 – “We Can Work It Out” by Stevie Wonder

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “We Can Work It Out” by Stevie Wonder

He was no longer little…but he was not yet big either…

By 1970, Stevie Wonder had grown restless with the constraints that Motown Records put upon his creativity. Rather than continue to create commercial fodder that was sure to climb the charts, Wonder wanted to dig deeper by addressing social concerns with his music, and exploring different instrumentation on his records. On his 1970 album Signed, Sealed & Delivered, he began to spread his musical wings and display a newfound maturity in his songwriting and his singing, particularly on songs like “I Can’t Let Heaven Walk Away,” “Something To Say” and “Never Had A Dream Come True.”

Sure, he still had the ability to give Motown what they wanted, but Wonder craved more control over his recordings, and for this album he wrote or co-wrote seven of the tracks and received full production credit for the first time. (In reality, he actually only produced two of the tracks and co-produced three more.)

Along with the hit title track (#1 R&B, #3 Pop), the album also featured the singles “Heaven Help Us All” (#9 Pop), “Never Had a Dream Come True” (#11 R&B) and Wonder’s cover of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” (#13 Pop). Wonder’s version of the Beatles classic announces its intention right from the get-go with one of the most succinct and exciting organ intros ever to grace the Motown label. From there, it’s a non-stop soul fest compete with Wonder’s exuberant lead vocals over funky harmonica riffing flying around the mix. The recording earned Wonder his second Grammy Award nomination, for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, while the album hit #25 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and also climbed to the #7 spot on the R&B Albums chart.

The song was credited to Lennon and McCartney; however the lyrics were primarily written by McCartney and were about his relationship with then girlfriend Jane Asher. The Beatles’ recorded it during the sessions for Rubber Soul, and released it as one side of a double A-sided single with “Day Tripper” on the flip.

Wonder’s version was heard playing over the closing credits of the 2005 film Kicking And Screaming. He also performed his version of the song at The White House to honor Paul McCartney in 2010 when McCartney was awarded the Gershwin Prize by the Library of Congress.

While the release of “Signed, Sealed & Delivered” was a somewhat tentative step toward full-blown maturity and artistic control on vinyl, it did bring Wonder one step closer creating world class albums like Music Of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Songs In The Key Of Life.

Edited: September 20th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 6/3/13 – Reposted from 7/26/11

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “My Dark Hour” by Steve Miller Band – Reposted from 7/26/11

Here’s an instance where an artist cribs from his own back catalog and creates another hit. Miller revisited this riff from this 1969 song that originally appeared on his “Brave New World” album again in 1976 for “Fly Like An Eagle” and took it to new heights.

The bass and backing vocal duties on this track are handled by Paul Ramon, an alias Paul McCartney would occasionally use.

Edited: June 2nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/27/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Lovely Rita” by The Beatles

I just heard The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the first time today!

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been listening to this record since it was new. I guess that’s one of the big positives of having older siblings, you got to hear cool records when they came out, way before your peer group caught on to them.

I’ve been reading the Howard Kaylan biography Shell Shocked which was written by Kaylan and Jeff Tamarkin. Howard Kaylan was a member of The Turtles and The Mother’s Of Invention. He was also Eddie of Flo & Eddie. So far, the book is a great read with numerous first person accounts of historic musical moments, a real page turner!

Kaylan tells the story of The Turtles’ first visit to England in 1967 when their hit “Happy Together” was riding high on the charts. No sooner had the band arrived at their hotel, they received a call from Graham Nash, then of The Hollies, who invited the group over to his house for a little “refreshment.” While visiting, Nash pulls out a reel-to-reel tape of The Beatles’ forthcoming Sgt. Pepper album. Kaylan proceeds to tell about that game changing first listen, and the seismic impact the record had on him and everything that came after it. The story continues with Nash taking them to a swingin’ London club for an audience with The Fabs (at least three of them) that went awry because John Lennon was being a prick.

Inspired by Kaylan’s story, I tried an experiment on my way to work today. I cued up Sgt. Pepper on my iPod and tried to listen to the record as if it were the first time I’d ever heard it. In my mind, I wiped away the impact the record had on everything that came after, and proceeded to attempt to experience the record as if it was the first time I’d ever heard it.

It was impossible to do. Too much baggage, too many lyrics ingrained in my memory, too much life lived with this record for it to sound truly brand new.

What I did get from my experiment was a newfound appreciation for how it really was one of the most groundbreaking records of the time, and for that matter all time. With its segued songs and symphonic sequencing, use of recording techniques and layers upon layers of sound, plus its distinctive front cover graphics that begged hours of study and the inclusion of lyrics on the back, it really is a special record from a very special time in history.

That said, it was never my favorite Beatles record, but after 46 years the record still remains fresh and unique. Its inventiveness remains stunning. So what more can I possibly say about this record that hasn’t been said before? Absolutely nothing, except if you haven’t visited its wonderment in awhile, it’s high time you did.

Edited: April 26th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/17/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Knocking ‘Round The Zoo” by James Taylor

It is indeed a fascinating story as to how a singer songwriter from America who was recovering from heroin addiction came to the attention of The Beatles in 1968, leading to the release of the first album by an American artist on their newly-christened Apple record label.

James Taylor came from a wealthy family and grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he learned to play cello and then guitar. The family vacationed in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts during the summers where he first met Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar at the age of 14. Even at their young age, Kootch realized that Taylor’s singing and songwriting were indeed something special. The two began gigging together in folk clubs under the name Jamie and Kootch.

Taylor had a hard time dealing with the pressure of attending college prep school, resulting in his first bout with depression issues. He checked himself into the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts where he wrote many of the songs that would figure into his first proper album while recovering.

Upon leaving McLean, Kortchmar urged Taylor to move to New York City where they formed a band called The Flying Machine and began playing many of the songs that would later turn up on Taylor’s debut album, including “Knocking ’Round The Zoo,” “Something’s Wrong,” “Night Owl” and “Brighten Your Night With My Day.”

While in New York, The Flying Machine frequently played at the Greenwich Village nightclub, The Night Owl Café that ultimately inspired Taylor’s song “Night Owl.” Taylor also began to become involved in the seedier side of New York City life and got hooked on heroin which inspired the song “Rainy Day Man.”

In New York, the band came to the attention of Chip Taylor who agreed to record them for the Jay Gee record label which was a subsidiary of Jubilee Records. After their first single, “Brighten Your Night With My Day”/”Night Owl” failed to chart higher than number 102, Jay Gee decided to shelve the band’s recordings which were later released in 1971 as James Taylor And The Original Flying Machine. After bottoming out in New York City from his heroin addiction, Taylor’s father came to retrieve him and he returned home for six months, spending more time in rehab before deciding to move to London in 1967 to try his hand as a solo artist.

In the meantime, Kortchmar became good friends with Peter Asher (of Peter And Gordon) after his band The King Bees opened for Peter And Gordon on tour. It was through Kortchmar’s connection with Peter Asher that James Taylor was able to fly onto The Beatles’ radar. At the time, Asher was head of artists and repertoire for The Beatles’ newly formed Apple record label. Taylor sought Kortchmar out a few days after arriving in London, and an audition was scheduled. Asher was duly impressed and introduced Taylor to Paul McCartney. After winning McCartney’s approval, Taylor became the first non-British act signed to Apple, and he began recording his first proper album at the same time that The Beatles’ were working on The White Album.

During the sessions which also featured ex-Flying Machine drummer Joel “Bishop” O’Brien, Paul McCartney brought in noted jazz arranger and trumpeter, Richard Hewson to orchestrate many of the links that tie the songs together, creating a unique listening experience.

Paul McCartney and George Harrison guested on the song “Carolina On My Mind” which was the album’s first single. One of the other songs recorded for the album was “Something In The Way She Moves” that provided George Harrison with the inspiration for his song “Something,” which later topped the charts for The Beatles. Taylor also wrote and recorded an early version of “Fire And Rain” for the record, but the recording was ultimately rejected by Peter Asher. This version still remains unreleased.

Today’s Song Of The Day was one of the songs specifically written about his stay at McLean Hospital, and it features a superb swingin’ sixties horn chart. While the lyrics of the song are dead serious – “Just knocking around the zoo on a Thursday afternoon, There’s bars on all the windows and they’re counting up the spoons, yeah. And if I’m feeling edgy, there’s a chick who’s paid to be my slave, yeah, watch out James. But she’ll hit me with a needle If she thinks I’m trying to misbehave” – Taylor’s sly delivery and use of slang is most humorous.

For all of the drama surrounding the back story of the creation of the album, it did feature many lyrically upbeat songs including “Sunshine, Sunshine,” “Taking It In,” “Brighten Your Night With My Day” and “Circle Around The Sun.”

Taylor relapsed into full-blown heroin addition during the sessions for the album and returned back to the states checking himself back into rehab before the album’s release. Meanwhile, Apple released the album and the single “Carolina On My Mind” which both performed poorly on the charts, partially due to Taylor’s inability to promote it.

As Apple Records began to crumble under the weight of its high ideals, a power struggle developed between Allen Klein who was brought in by Lennon, Harrison and Starr to clean things up, and Peter Asher was ultimately forced out. When Asher left, he agreed to take on the management of James Taylor, ending the artist’s relationship with the label.

Shortly thereafter, Taylor was in a motorcycle accident in which he broke both hands and both feet, sidelining his career for months. While recuperating, Taylor wrote many of the songs that would make up his breakthrough album Sweet Baby James, which led to a new record deal with Warner Bros., and ultimate superstardom.

Edited: April 16th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 1/27/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Lady Madonna” by Fats Domino

Reprise Records was one of the labels to be on in the 1960s. What started out as the house that Frank Sinatra built, chock full of releases by his cronies like Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., turned into Mo’s home when Sinatra sold the label to Warner Brothers in 1963, and Mo Ostin began to sign artists to the label. Ostin ran the label as a haven for artists, and under his aegis a hip cadre of musicians like Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, The Kinks, Arlo Guthrie, Ry Cooder, Neil Young, T. Rex, Pentangle, Gram Parsons, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Gordon Lightfoot, Jimi Hendrix and many others, came on board.

Along the way, Reprise began to look into the not too distant past to revive a few careers, which brought both Little Richard and Fats Domino to the label. While neither artist delivered the hits that Reprise, no doubt had hoped for, they both cut terrific records for the label that came and went without a trace.

Richard Perry was brought on board as producer for Domino’s “Fats Is Back,” the first of his two Reprise albums. Perry surrounded Fats Domino with an all-star list of session musicians who were sympathetic to what Fats and Reprise were trying to achieve, which was to update his sound without changing too much of what made Fats a great artist. To that end, Fats was backed by King Curtis, Eric Gale, Larry Knechtel, Chuck Rainey, Hal Blaine, James Booker and Earl Palmer, with horn charts arranged by none other than Randy Newman.

Fats Is Back came out in 1968, and featured remakes of some of Domino’s own hits including “I’m Ready,” “Wait Till It Happens To You,” and “One For The Highway.” The album’s opening track is called “My Old Friends” and begins with a medley of snippets of some of Fats’ original hits, before fading into the new, up-to-date opening song that ends with the declaration that “Fats Is Back.” The album also features Fats covering the Barbara George hit “I Know” (later remade by Bonnie Raitt), a version of James Booker’s “So Swell When You’re Well,” and a couple of Beatles favorites– “Lovely Rita” and today’s Song Of The Day, “Lady Madonna” – which was Domino’s last chart hit.

It’s no surprise that Domino would take a crack at “Lady Madonna,” since Paul McCartney wrote the Beatles song in his style with an eye towards giving it to him to record.  And Fats does not disappoint with his version, and for that matter, the rest of the tracks on this essential album.

Edited: January 27th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/17/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Born To Sing” by Van Morrison

I’m always fascinated by how the record companies approach the marketing of their legacy artists. To the record company, legacy artists are loss leaders, they have name value but don’t sell the number of records they used to. Many of these artists are either kept on their label’s roster for their marquee value, or they find themselves cutting distribution deals with independent labels like Concord Records to release their records. Paul McCartney and Paul Simon have recently gone down this route with their latest releases, and McCartney has gone as far as re-releasing his entire back catalog for the umpteenth time as well. I find it very telling which artists get the promotional bucks behind their releases versus those that don’t. For instance, the build up to Bob Dylan’s latest album “Tempest” went on for months, culminating in live streams a week before the release and a plethora of ways to purchase his new music, including one bundle that included a signature harmonica (for $119.99). With all the promotional muscle behind his release, Dylan only debuted on the charts at number three (roughly 110,000 in sales), a full two slots below the debut of his last record. Neil Young is deep into promotion for his second release this year, the forthcoming double-disc “Psychedelic Pill.” Neil recorded with Crazy Horse for the first time in seven years resulting in the “Americana” album earlier this year. Like that album, several tracks debuted with social media in the form of videos, well in advance of their release. While on tour, Neil has pretty much ignored the “Americana” album in favor of debuting many of the songs that will end up on “Pill.” Meanwhile, members of Crazy Horse hit the media trail giving interviews about the recording sessions of both albums. And just to ensure that your holiday gift giving will be Neil-filled, a biography “Waging Heavy Peace” and a concert film “Journeys” are also hitting the shelves this fall. The Rolling Stones seem hell-bent on milking every last dollar out of their 50th Anniversary with a book, a hits record and some concert dates. The band reconvened in the studio to record only two new songs. These songs will form the basis of their upcoming hits album called “Grrrr” that will be released in every which way to make you buy music you largely already own. There will be a single disc, double disc and multi-disc version released on CD and, of course, the obligatory over-priced multi-disc vinyl version. Since not much has happened on the charts for the band since their 40th anniversary hits album “Forty Licks,” you can pretty much count on shelling out your dough to buy songs you already own in order to get the two new songs. What will follow are a handful of live dates at two venues: one in Newark NJ and one across the pond at the O2 Arena in London. Top ticket price for the New Jersey show will cost some rich boomer $750.00. This brings us to Van Morrison, another legacy artist that stands about as tall as Dylan, Young, Simon, McCartney and The Stones. His awkwardly-titled new album “Born To Sing – No Plan B” has seemingly appeared with very little fanfare. The far more reclusive Morrison gave only one promotional interview behind the album to Mojo. While Van’s new release is largely a mixed bag, his singing is as committed as ever. It kind of makes me wonder why it is that Morrison’s new album hasn’t been met with the same fanfare and the five-star reviews of the rest of the lot?

Edited: October 16th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/5/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Thank You Girl” by The Beatles

Pretty good song…I think this band has a future…

Edited: July 5th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/30/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Ram On” by Paul & Linda McCartney

“Ram” is one of my all-time favorite albums…pretty close to the top of the heap in my estimation. I just listened to the newly released vinyl mono mix of this record today for the first time. The mono mix hasn’t been in circulation since its original release as a radio station promo back in 1971. It has now been reissued as a limited edition 180 gram vinyl pressing to as part of McCartney’s ongoing “Archive Collection” re-releases. It’s like meeting a friend that you are totally comfortable and intimately familiar with only to realize that there are nuances to their personality you never knew anything about. The differences between the stereo and mono mixes of this record are minor, however if you’ve listened to it pretty consistently over the last 40 years (like I have), you can feel them without being able to put your finger on what they actually are. As for this song, it’s still one of my favorites by Sir Paul. Its title was a bit of a pun since Paul used to go by the pseudonym Paul Ramon (Ram On) when he stayed at hotels, etc. He began performing this song on stage for the first time during his 2010 tour.

Edited: May 29th, 2012

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – 2/27/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “So Like Candy” by Elvis Costello

By 1991, Elvis Costello released “Mighty Like A Rose,” his second album for the Warner Bros. label. It was the follow-up to the critically hailed yet relatively flat album “Spike” and hits big hit song “Veronica” co-written by Paul McCartney. Costello and McCartney had also written a clutch of songs that turned up on Macca’s “Flowers In The Dirt” album from around the same time. For album number two on the contract, Costello once again teamed with producer Mitchell Froom for an ornate collection of songs. Whatever he was going though in his personal life didn’t bode well for the record, and what we got was a decent collection of songs that suffered from too much production and arrangements that were as bloated as our beloved bearded Elvis himself. But like every Elvis record, there were gems like this one also co-written by Paul McCartney. Here he is performing the track on Saturday Night Live.

Edited: February 27th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 2/13/12

 

Song Of The Day and Grammy Recap by Eric Berman – “Holocene” by Bon Iver

OK…time for a rant. After spending 3 1/2 abysmal hours with our friends at NARAS last night watching them trade awards for record sales and publicity, I think I have a right to complain a little about some of the stuff that passed for music that I sat through. Nicki Minaj…WFT was that? While she adds much needed novelty to tracks she makes guests appearances on, this had to the most head-scratching-devoid-of-any-musical-value “performance” of the night…and that’s a night that included “performances” by Katy Perry and Chris Brown. Then we had some of the tried and true stalwarts like Bruce Springsteen who has been regurgitating the same song for the last ten years, Paul McCartney who was redeemed by appearing twice, the second time with a Beatles medley. He was pleasant enough if you overlook the fact that on this night his voice was pretty well shot. Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys paid a well-deserved and well received tribute to Etta James that did not disappoint. There were a few other artists who like Keys and Rait got up there and performed without much fanfare and let their music speak for them including Taylor Swift, who was channeling The Beverly Hillbillies with her look (thanks Deb), Cary Underwood and Kelly Clarkson who actually gave American Idol some credibility, The Foo Fighters who while out of place in today’s world of processed music, managed a full-on assault without looking like a dinosaur act and, of course, Adele who earned every award she received with a record full of real songs performed with a real voice. Jennifer Hudson had the near-impossible task of paying tribute to Whitney Houston whose death hung over the entire proceedings. While she has one of the best voices out there today, her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” only pointed out what a great loss the death of Whitney Houston really is. Nobody could sing that song like she could. This brings us to today’s Song Of the Day. I don’t get Bon Iver. I’ve seen Justin Vernon/Bon Iver twice in person (albeit during festivals) and he’s never impressed. I have the two albums and find them to be rather dull affairs. I do, however, give him credibility for the most humble down to earth acceptance speech of the night.

Edited: February 13th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 1/4/12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Dear Prudence” by The Beatles

Prudence was, of course, actress Mia Farrow’s sister. They were in attendance in India studying Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi along with The Beatles, Donovan and Mike Love of the Beach Boys. Prudence was very serious about TM and spent most of her time in her room meditating. Beatle John was concerned for her wellbeing and wrote this song inviting her to come out to play. Prudence went on to become a teacher and still practices TM to this day. The song appeared on “The Beatles” better known as “The White Album” from 1968 and features Paul McCartney on drums because a frustrated Ringo had walked out of the sessions — and the band — for a few days.

Edited: January 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 8/30/11

Song Of The Day – “Ever Present Past” by Paul McCartney

Macca has had a bit of resurgence in the albums department over the last few years. This one comes from his 2007 album “Memory Almost Full,” which to my ears is one of his best albums in years…and maybe one of the top five in his illustrious catalog. That’s saying a lot when that catalog includes albums like “Ram” and “Band On The Run.”

Edited: August 30th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 7/26/11

Song Of The Day – “My Dark Hour” by Steve Miller Band

Here’s an instance where an artist cribs from his own back catalog and creates another hit. Miller would revisit the riff on this 1969 song from his album “Brave New World” again in 1976 for “Fly Like An Eagle” and take it to new heights. The bass and backing vocal duties on this track are handled by Paul Ramon, an alias Paul McCartney would occasionally use.


Edited: July 26th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 6/2/11

Song Of The Day – “Temporary Secretary” by Paul McCartney

OK, so do I really need another copy of his 1980 album “McCartney II?” I’ve owned it on vinyl for over 30 years and while I didn’t like it when it was new, I must admit it is one of my favorite Macca records now. The reissue will include many bonus tracks since the record was originally intended to be a double…I have most of them on bootleg.  My verdict…

Edited: June 2nd, 2011

Song Of The Day – 5/9/11

Song Of The Day – “She’s My Baby” by Paul McCartney & Wings

“Wings At The Speed Of Sound,” the 1976 album where this song is from is one of McCartney’s slighter efforts recorded quickly to have a some product on the shelves in time for the Wings Over America tour of 1976. That said, it does have its charms…”Beware My Love,” “Time To Hide” and this breezy favorite.

Edited: May 9th, 2011