Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #81 – Donovan: “Hurdy Gurdy Man” b/w “Teen Angel”– Epic 5-10345

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #81 – Donovan: “Hurdy Gurdy Man” b/w “Teen Angel”– Epic 5-10345

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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 fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

If Donovan’s vibrato hum at the top of this track doesn’t gain your attention from the get-go, then you will certainly be sold down the road by the time the guitar solo grabs you by the nads. And who exactly is the mystery axe man on this track anyway?

A hurdy gurdy is a stringed instrument that produces sound by turning a crank attached to a rosined wheel, acting like a violin bow on top of strings. The instrument gained popularity during the Renaissance era and again became famous with musicians known as organ grinders who roamed the streets of London during the 1800s.

Donovan composed today’s jukebox classic in 1968 for a band called Hurdy Gurdy that included his friend and guitar mentor Mac MacLeod. Donovan had intended to produce the song for the group, but creative differences led to Donovan committing the song to tape himself affording him another top five single in 1968. The song does not include a hurdy gurdy in its instrumentation.

“Hurdy Gurdy Man” was recorded in early 1968 and the session (according to the liner notes of the Troubadour box set) featured Donovan on vocals, acoustic guitar and tamboura, Alan Parker and Jimmy Page on electric guitar, John Paul Jones on bass and John Bonham and Clem Cattini on drums. If the personnel listing is accurate (more on this later), this song gave us three-fourths of Led Zeppelin before there even was a Led Zeppelin.

However, exactly who played the ultimate guitar solo on the track is still in question. According to Jones, it was Alan Parker who played the blistering guitar solo (and Bonham wasn’t on the session at all), but Donovan remembers it differently with Page performing the axe chores. Nevertheless, Donovan originally planned for Jimi Hendrix to play the guitar solo, but he was not available for the session.

Jimmy Page weighed in on the situation in the liner notes to the 2005 reissue of The Hurdy Gurdy Man album: “I know it’s rumored that I played on that, but I didn’t – and the most bizarre part about this whole story I heard about this story actually when I was in USA, it was about the time we were talking about the deal with Led Zeppelin. We were at Miami with Jerry Wexler. And I heard about the story by there and then, across from England, and on the shores over here. And what the story was – and it’s very true. That they had Jeff Beck go in, and Jeff Beck played on it, and the producer decided to wipe the track. And Donovan had asked for me to do it, but of course I wasn’t there. And they had a guitarist, he basically filled, you know. He went into the session – and I wouldn’t say filled my shoes – but he went in the door, and his name was Alan Parker. I mean, none of you even know of him. It’s not the film producer. But anyway, he’s the guy who played the guitar solo, so you know, as you say, some people might have thought Beck did it, or me, but it was neither of us. But I think it was tragic that Beck got wiped off. That was absolutely crazy. They just decided that they didn’t like what he did. And I mean, perish the thought, you know.”

The song originally had a third verse which was composed by George Harrison while Donovan and Harrison were in Rishikesh, India visiting with the Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. Harrison’s verse went as such: “When the truth gets buried deep / Beneath the thousand years of sleep / Time demands a turn-around / And once again the truth is found / Awakening the Hurdy Gurdy Man / Who comes singing songs of love.”

Donovan: “I was intrigued by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s teachings of transcendental meditation, which were also followed by The Beatles. I went with The Beatles and George’s wife, Pattie Boyd, Cynthia Lennon and Jane Asher to stay with the Maharishi in the Himalayas for 3 months. For a while, Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, shared the bungalow next to mine. She inspired John Lennon to write “Dear Prudence.” “Hurdy Gurdy Man” was influenced by the sounds I heard there.” (London Daily Mail)

In order to keep the running time of the single below three and a half minutes, producer Micky Most opted for the guitar solo over the third verse. Today, Donovan performs the Harrison verse in concert when he plays the song. The tamboura that Donovan plays on the track was, in fact a gift from George Harrison from when they were both in India.

The song has been covered by the likes of Steve Hillage, The Butthole Surfers, Wild Colonials, L.A. Guns and Howard Stern. The hypnotic flip of today’s single is “Teen Angel” which was recorded during the sessions for the Hurdy Gurdy Man album, but was ultimately relegated to the B-side- of the single.

Edited: October 21st, 2015

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 #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms),” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and the two songs on today’s jukebox single, remains largely unknown to most people today, or even worse, totally forgotten.

The A-side of today’s double-A-sided jukebox single was originally written, recorded and released as a single on the Dot label by Alexander in 1962. Alexander’s version charted at #68 on the pop charts, while climbing to #10 on the R&B lists. The song is notable because it was covered by The Beatles for their debut album Please Please Me. It was a favorite of John Lennon’s and became part of the group’s early live repertoire. Lennon had a bad cold during the marathon session that produced their first album, which accounts for the roughness of his voice on “Anna.”

If Alexander’s recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s. Alexander’s original version of the song charted at #24 on the pop charts in 1962 and sold 800,000 copies making it possible for Muscle Shoals to relocate its facilities to 603 East Avalon Avenue. The backing musicians on the track included Dan Penn, Tommy Roe (of “Dizzy” fame) and Joe Tex.

The song was also covered by The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Moody Blues, Dean Martin, Johnny Rivers, Billy “Crash” Craddock (whose version was a #10 country hit), Mink DeVille and George Jones and Johnny Paycheck (whose duo version peaked at #18 on the country charts).

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for Buddah Records.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just Like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute To Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music.

“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: May 11th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

The late 1960s introduced a new Bob Dylan to the world. With his motorcycle accident and requisite seclusion in Woodstock behind him, he emerged with John Wesley Harding, a rootsy, back-to-basics album in 1968 that flew in the face of the flamboyant psychedelic music that was currently all the rage at the time.

However, nothing could prepare Dylan fans for what followed in 1969: A content Dylan who was seemingly happy with his lot in life, complete with a new soulful, melodic croon of a voice that replaced the nasal monotone of the past. Most crucially, the 1969 model Dylan marked another shift in musical direction away from the mainstream, with an album of country influenced tunes called Nashville Skyline that was quite simply, unlike anything else he had recorded up to that point.

The album was recorded with a who’s who of Nashville’s finest session musicians including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel guitar, Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson on piano and organ and several others including Johnny Cash who provided duet vocals on “Girl From The North Country.”

“Lay Lady Lay,” the A-side of today’s jukebox classic was originally intended for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but it was submitted too late to make the film and Nilsson’s cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking” was used in its place. Dylan then offered the song to the Everly Brothers backstage at a concert. When Dylan played “Lay Lady Lay” for them, they thought he was singing “lay across my big breasts, babe” instead of “lay across my big brass bed” and didn’t’ think that the song was appropriate for them to record. When they finally heard the correct lyrics in Dylan’s recording, they realized what a mistake they had made. They finally got around to recording the song for their EB 84 album in 1984. (songfacts.com)

“Lay Lady Lay” became one of Dylan’s biggest singles climbing all the way to #7 on the Billboard pop charts. According to Johnny Cash, Dylan introduced the song in a circle of song writers who congregated at Cash’s house that included Shel Silverstein who played “A Boy Named Sue,” Joni Mitchell who broke out “The Circle Game,” Graham Nash who performed “Marrakesh Express” and Kris Kristofferson who played “Me And Bobby McGee.” (songfacts.com)

Over the years, “Lay Lady Lay” has been covered by the likes of Cher, The Byrds, The Everly Brothers, Melanie, The Isley Brothers, Keith Jarrett, Neil Diamond, Isaac Hayes, Richie Havens, Steve Howe, Booker T. & the MGs, Buddy Guy, Duran Duran and Ministry.

The flip of today’s single was the first single release from Nashville Skyline, although it only charted at #85 on the Billboard pop charts. After writing the song, Dylan shared it with George Harrison who brought it to The Beatles’ Let It Be recording sessions. Session tapes reveal that George took the song out for a spin during The Beatles’ session for a performance . The song was also covered by Cher, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Lambchop and Yo La Tengo.

“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 27th, 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 – The Jukebox Series #7 – Paul & Linda McCartney – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” b/w “Too Many People” – Apple Records 45 1837 1971 (M1/N1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #7 – Paul & Linda McCartney – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” b/w “Too Many People” – Apple Records 45 1837 1971 (M1/N1)

Lyrics were never his strong suit…and the lyrics from “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” are at best incoherent. However, you’d be hard pressed to argue with the musical prowess of Paul McCartney especially on today’s Song of the Day.

Today’s single was culled from Paul McCartney’s second solo album Ram, the only album in his vast catalog credited to Paul & Linda McCartney. The album was recorded in New York City with backing musicians David Spinozza on guitar, Hugh McCracken (who replaced Spinozza for the second half of the sessions) on guitar and future Wings member Denny Seiwell on drums.

The construction of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” picks up where the second side of The Beatles’ Abbey Road left off. Here we have McCartney dabbling in multi part suites of music, and the song is an amalgam of its many unfinished parts. McCartney wouldn’t perfect this way of song construction until “Band On The Run” two years later.

The song was inspired by Paul’s real Uncle Albert Kendall who married his Aunt Millie. Uncle Albert would habitually get drunk and then read passages from the Bible out loud. The admiral of the song was inspired by American Naval Admiral William “Bull” Halsey,” however Paul’s use of Admiral Halsey’s name was chosen because of the way it sounded and had nothing to do with who Halsey was or what he did.

The single was McCartney’s first chart topper away from The Beatles and it won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1971. It was never released as a single in the UK, where they got “The Back Seat Of My Car” instead as Ram’s first single. The song’s flugelhorn part was played by Jazz be-bop trumpet player Marvin Stamm who never met McCartney in person, as his parts were recorded in London and overdubbed onto the master in New York. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra was also brought in for the arrangement.

The flip of the single is “Too Many People” which is also the opening track on Ram. After the acrimonious split of The Beatles, Lennon and McCartney cryptically addressed each other in lines from their songs. Several lines from “Too Many People” were seen as snipes at John Lennon, like the line “Too many people preaching practices.” Paul: “[John had] been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit.” (SongFacts.com) The line “You took your lucky break and broke it in too” was also seen as addressing McCartney’s former writing partner with the lucky break referring to being a member of The Beatles and his breaking it in two about their breakup.

Lennon retorted on his next album Imagine with the scathing “How Do You Sleep.” The album also included a postcard photo in early pressings depicting a smiling Lennon holding a pig’s ears in the same pose as McCartney holding the ram’s horns on the cover of Ram.

The sessions for Ram also produced McCartney’s first solo single “Another Day,” as well as early versions of “Big Barn Bed,” “Little Lamb Dragonfly” and “Get On The Right Thing” which turned up on McCartney’s 1973 album Red Rose Speedway. McCartney released an all-instrumental version of the Ram album in 1977 under the pseudonym of Percy “Thrills” Thrillington.

Ram was roundly panned by the critics when it was released in 1971; however it has grown in stature over the years. I’ve always loved the album and it is still one of my all-time favorite records all these years later. As far as “musical comfort food” goes, this one has been a staple in my diet since it came out – very tasty, always reliable with plenty of room for multiple helpings.

“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 fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: March 22nd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)” by Arthur Alexander

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)” by Arthur Alexander

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Anna (Go To Him),” “You Better Move On,” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman, remains largely unknown to most people, or even worse, totally forgotten.

And if his recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s.

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for the Buddah label.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute to Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music and are essential.

Edited: November 4th, 2014

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 – “New World Rising/Ocean Breakup (Reprise)” by Electric Light Orchestra

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “New World Rising/Ocean Breakup (Reprise)” by Electric Light Orchestra

By 1973 and the release of their third album, On The Third Day, ELO had literally rid themselves of all the Wood (Roy Wood, that is) from the lineup, and the band was firmly under the artistic direction of Jeff Lynne.

The record was far more progressive in its arrangements than those that came before, and the music acquired a melodic flair attributed to the group’s new leader. Lynne’s goal of seamlessly melding classical music motifs and instrumentation into a traditional rock format was accomplished with the record’s first side, which was a continuous suite featuring intricate string parts tying the tracks together.

The album was by far, the group’s most consistent record, even though it didn’t soar to the commercial heights of their later albums. In America, the album was also known as the “belly button” album because of its Richard Avedon cover photo with the band showing off what they probably thought was an alluring part of their anatomy. In England, the album sported a cover designed by Hipgnosis (see video image) who were famous for designing album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, 10cc, Yes, Bad Company, T. Rex and Black Sabbath, to name but a few. Americans wouldn’t see the original album art until the record was re-mastered and re-released on CD in 2006.

Jeff Lynne has reformed Electric Light Orchestra and performed what is expected to be the first show of a world tour on September 15th in London’s Hyde Park.

The video for the full show can be seen here:

And here’s Today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman

Edited: September 18th, 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 – The Jukebox Series #84 – Billy Preston: “Will It Go Round In Circle” b/w “Blackbird”– A&M-1411

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #84 – Billy Preston: “Will It Go Round In Circle” b/w “Blackbird”– A&M-1411

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

He truly was the fifth Beatle…he was also a Rolling Stone, and Billy Preston also did numerous sessions with a stellar cast of characters that included Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, The Beach Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Little Richard, Sly & The Family Stone, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and dozens of others. He also co-wrote Joe Cocker’s smash hit “You Are So Beautiful” and sent his own hits like “Space Race,” “Outa-Space,” “Nothing From Nothing,” “With You I’m Born Again” (with Syreeta Wright) and today’s jukebox classic, “Will It Go Round In Circles” up the charts.

The list of albums he’s appeared on reads like a history of classic rock ‘n’ roll including The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Love You Live, Black And Blue and Tattoo You,  The Beatles’ Let It Be and Abbey Road, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, The Concert For Bangla Desh, Dark Horse, Extra Texture, Thirty-Three & 1/3 and Gone Troppo, and Ringo Starr’s Ringo and Goodnight Vienna. He was, indeed the Forrest Gump of keyboards to the biggest bands in the land. And if that’s not enough, he was also the first musical guest on Saturday Night Live, he inspired Miles Davis who named a song after him on his Get Up With It album, and he also coined the phrase “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” for Stephen Stills.

Preston first came into The Beatles’ circle back in 1962 when he was a sixteen year old touring member of Little Richard’s band. But it wasn’t until 1969 when George Harrison walked out on the Let It Be sessions, and returned with Preston in tow in an effort to get the other three fabs to be on their best behavior during the acrimonious sessions that led to their last two albums as a group. At one point, John Lennon suggested that they add Preston as the fifth member of the band to which McCartney quipped that four Beatles were bad enough. (The Beatles – A/B Road: The Complete Get back Sessions, January 24th via Wikipedia)

“George Harrison, a friend of Preston, had quit, walked out of the studio and gone to a Ray Charles concert in London, where Preston was playing organ. Harrison brought Preston back to the studio, where his keen musicianship and gregarious personality temporarily calmed the tension.” (Harrington, Richard (June 8, 2006). “‘Fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston Made the Greats Even Greater”. Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-02 via Wikipedia)

Preston was signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records label where he launched his solo career in 1969 with the gospel single “That’s The Way God Planned It” and the album of the same name that were both produced by George Harrison. After a second Apple LP release went nowhere, Preston signed with A&M Records where he found his greatest solo success.

Today’s jukebox classic was one of two chart-topping singles Billy Preston recorded (“Nothing From Nothing” was the other). The song was written by Bruce Fisher, who was working in the mail room of NBC-TV and Billy Preston. Inspiration for the song came after Preston walked into the writing session and told Fisher “I got a song that ain’t got no melody.” The song was originally released on his 1972 solo album Music Is My Life that featured the musicianship of The Brothers Johnson (George Johnson on guitar and Louis Johnson on bass), and a horn section that included Tom Scott and Jim Horn. The flip of today’s single is Preston’s gospel-flavored cover of the Beatles’ classic “Blackbird.”

During his later years, Preston served time in prison for tax evasion and suffered from kidney disease and high blood pressure. He died in June of 2006 after several months in a coma of malignant hypertension which caused his kidneys to shut down and respiratory failure.

Edited: February 27th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #81 – Donovan: “Hurdy Gurdy Man” b/w “Teen Angel”– Epic 5-10345

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #81 – Donovan: “Hurdy Gurdy Man” b/w “Teen Angel”– Epic 5-10345

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

If Donovan’s vibrato hum at the top of this track doesn’t gain your attention from the get-go, then you will certainly be sold down the road by the time the guitar solo grabs you by the nads. And who exactly is the mystery axe man on this track anyway?

A hurdy gurdy is a stringed instrument that produces sound by turning a crank attached to a rosined wheel, acting like a violin bow on top of strings. The instrument gained popularity during the Renaissance era and again became famous with musicians known as organ grinders who roamed the streets of London during the 1800s.

Donovan composed today’s jukebox classic in 1968 for a band called Hurdy Gurdy that included his friend and guitar mentor Mac MacLeod. Donovan had intended to produce the song for the group, but creative differences led to Donovan committing the song to tape himself affording him another top five single in 1968. The song does not include a hurdy gurdy in its instrumentation.

“Hurdy Gurdy Man” was recorded in early 1968 and the session (according to the liner notes of the Troubadour box set) featured Donovan on vocals, acoustic guitar and tamboura, Alan Parker and Jimmy Page on electric guitar, John Paul Jones on bass and John Bonham and Clem Cattini on drums. If the personnel listing is accurate (more on this later), this song gave us three-fourths of Led Zeppelin before there even was a Led Zeppelin.

However, exactly who played the ultimate guitar solo on the track is still in question.  According to Jones, it was Alan Parker who played the blistering guitar solo (and Bonham wasn’t on the session at all), but Donovan remembers it differently with Page performing the axe chores. Nevertheless, Donovan originally planned for Jimi Hendrix to play the guitar solo, but he was not available for the session.

Jimmy Page weighed in on the situation in the liner notes to the 2005 reissue of The Hurdy Gurdy album: “I know it’s rumored that I played on that, but I didn’t – and the most bizarre part about this whole story I heard about this story actually when I was in USA, it was about the time we were talking about the deal with Led Zeppelin. We were at Miami with Jerry Wexler. And I heard about the story by there and then, across from England, and on the shores over here. And what the story was – and it’s very true. That they had Jeff Beck go in, and Jeff Beck played on it, and the producer decided to wipe the track. And Donovan had asked for me to do it, but of course I wasn’t there. And they had a guitarist, he basically filled, you know. He went into the session – and I wouldn’t say filled my shoes – but he went in the door, and his name was Alan Parker. I mean, none of you even know of him. It’s not the film producer. But anyway, he’s the guy who played the guitar solo, so you know, as you say, some people might have thought Beck did it, or me, but it was neither of us. But I think it was tragic that Beck got wiped off. That was absolutely crazy. They just decided that they didn’t like what he did. And I mean, perish the thought, you know.”

The song originally had a third verse which was composed by George Harrison while Donovan and Harrison were in Rishikesh, India visiting with the Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. Harrison’s verse went as such:  “When the truth gets buried deep / Beneath the thousand years of sleep / Time demands a turn-around / And once again the truth is found / Awakening the Hurdy Gurdy Man / Who comes singing songs of love.”

Donovan: “I was intrigued by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s teachings of transcendental meditation, which were also followed by The Beatles. I went with The Beatles and George’s wife, Pattie Boyd, Cynthia Lennon and Jane Asher to stay with the Maharishi in the Himalayas for 3 months. For a while, Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, shared the bungalow next to mine. She inspired John Lennon to write “Dear Prudence.” “Hurdy Gurdy Man” was influenced by the sounds I heard there.” (London Daily Mail)

In order to keep the running time of the single below three and a half minutes, producer Micky Most opted for the guitar solo over the third verse. Today, Donovan performs the Harrison verse in concert when he plays the song. The tamboura that Donovan plays on the track was, in fact a gift from George Harrison from when they were both in India.

The song has been covered by the likes of Steve Hillage, The Butthole Surfers, Wild Colonials, L.A. Guns and Howard Stern. The hypnotic flip of today’s single is “Teen Angel” which was recorded during the sessions for the Hurdy Gurdy Man album, but was ultimately relegated to the B-side- of the single.

Edited: February 24th, 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 #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

“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.

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms),” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and the two songs on today’s jukebox single, remains largely unknown to most people today, or even worse, totally forgotten.

The A-side of today’s double-A-sided jukebox single was originally written, recorded and released as a single on the Dot label by Alexander in 1962. Alexander’s version charted at #68 on the pop charts, while climbing to #10 on the R&B lists. The song is notable because it was covered by The Beatles for their debut album Please Please Me. It was a favorite of John Lennon’s and became part of the group’s early live repertoire. Lennon had a bad cold during the marathon session that produced their first album, which accounts for the roughness of his voice.

If Alexander’s recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s. Alexander’s original version of the song charted at #24 on the pop charts in 1962 and sold 800,000 copies making it possible for Muscle Shoals to relocate its facilities to 603 East Avalon Avenue. The backing musicians on the track included Dan Penn, Tommy Roe and Joe Tex.

The song was also covered by The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Moody Blues, Dean Martin, Johnny Rivers, Billy “Crash” Craddock (whose version was a #10 country hit), Mink DeVille and George Jones and Johnny Paycheck (whose duo version peaked at #18 on the country charts).

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for Buddah Records.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just Like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute To Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music.

Edited: November 12th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #22 – Bob Dylan: “Lay Lady Lay” b/w “I Threw It All Away” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 13-33178 (C3/D3)

“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 late 1960s introduced a new Bob Dylan to the world. With his motorcycle accident and requisite seclusion in Woodstock behind him, he emerged with John Wesley Harding, a rootsy, back-to-basics album in 1968 that flew in the face of the flamboyant psychedelic music that was currently all the rage at the time.

However, nothing could prepare Dylan fans for what followed in 1969: A content Dylan who was seemingly happy with his lot in life, complete with a new soulful, melodic croon of a voice that replaced the nasal monotone of the past.  Most crucially, the 1969 Dylan model marked another shift in musical direction away from the mainstream, with an album of country influenced tunes called Nashville Skyline that was quite simply, unlike anything else he had recorded up to that point.

The album was recorded with a who’s who of Nashville’s finest session musicians including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel guitar, Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson on piano and organ and several others including Johnny Cash who provided duet vocals on “Girl From The North Country.”

“Lay Lady Lay,” the A-side of today’s jukebox classic was originally intended for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but it was submitted too late to make the film and Nilsson’s cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking” was used in its place. Dylan then offered the song to the Everly Brothers backstage at a concert. When Dylan played “Lay Lady Lay” for them, they thought he was singing “lay across my big breasts, babe” instead of “lay across my big brass bed” and didn’t’ think that the song was appropriate for them to record. When they finally heard the correct lyrics in Dylan’s recording, they realized what a mistake they had made. They finally got around to recording the song for their EB 84 album in 1984.

“Lay Lady Lay” became one of Dylan’s biggest singles climbing all the way to #7 on the Billboard pop charts. According to Johnny Cash, Dylan introduced the song in a song circle of writers who congregated at Cash’s house that included Shel Silverstein who played “A Boy Named Sue,” Joni Mitchell who broke out “The Circle Game,” Graham Nash who performed “Marrakesh Express” and Kris Kristofferson who played “Me And Bobby McGee.”

Over the years, “Lay Lady Lay” has been covered by the likes of Cher, The Byrds, The Everly Brothers, Melanie, The Isley Brothers, Keith Jarrett, Neil Diamond, Isaac Hayes, Richie Havens, Steve Howe, Booker T. & The MGs, Buddy Guy, Duran Duran and Ministry.

The flip of today’s single was the first single release from Nashville Skyline, although it only charted at #85 on the Billboard pop charts. After writing the song, Dylan shared it with George Harrison who brought it to The Beatles’ Let It Be recording sessions. Session tapes reveal that George took the song out for a spin during The Beatles’ session and performed it . The song has also been covered by Cher, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Lambchop and Yo La Tengo.

Looking for classic Dylan recordings on YouTube is somewhat of a lost cause, so today’s audio clips feature Cher’s version of “Lay Lady Lay” under the title “Lay Baby Lay” recorded for her 1969 album 3614 Jackson Highway, and George Harrison’s bootleg take of “I Threw It All Away” from The Beatles’ Let It Be sessions in January of 1969.

Edited: November 5th, 2013

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 – The Jukebox Series #7 – Paul & Linda McCartney – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” b/w “Too Many People” – Apple Records 45 1837 1971 (M1/N1)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #7 – Paul & Linda McCartney  – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” b/w “Too Many People”  – Apple Records 45 1837 1971 (M1/N1)

“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.

Lyrics were never his strong suit…and the lyrics from “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” are at best incoherent. However, you’d be hard pressed to argue with the musical prowess of Paul McCartney especially on today’s Song Of The Day.

Today’s single was culled from Paul McCartney’s second solo album Ram, the only album in his vast catalog credited to Paul & Linda McCartney. The album was recorded in New York City with backing musicians David Spinozza on guitar, Hugh McCracken (who replaced Spinozza for the second half of the sessions) on guitar and future Wings member Denny Seiwell on drums.

The construction of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” picks up where the second side of The Beatles’ Abbey Road left off. Here we have McCartney dabbling in multi part suites of music, and the song is an amalgam of its many unfinished parts. McCartney wouldn’t perfect this way of song construction until “Band On The Run” two years later.

The song was inspired by Paul’s real Uncle Albert Kendall who married his Aunt Millie. Uncle Albert would habitually get drunk and then read passages from the Bible out loud. The admiral of the song was inspired by American Naval Admiral William “Bull” Halsey,” however Paul’s use of Admiral Halsey’s name was chosen because of the way it sounded and had nothing to do with who Halsey was or what he did.

The single was McCartney’s first chart topper away from The Beatles and it won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1971. It was never released as a single in the UK, where they got “The Back Seat Of My Car” instead as the first single. The song’s flugelhorn part was played by Jazz be-bop trumpet player Marvin Stamm who never met McCartney in person, as his parts were recorded in London and overdubbed onto the master in New York. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra was also brought in for the arrangement.

The flip of the single is “Too Many People” which is also the opening track on Ram. After the acrimonious split of The Beatles, Lennon and McCartney cryptically addressed each other in lines from their songs. Several lines from “Too Many People” were seen as snipes at John Lennon, like the line “Too many people preaching practices.” Paul: “[John had] been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit.” The line “You took your lucky break and broke it in too” was also seen as addressing McCartney’s former writing partner with the lucky break referring to being a member of The Beatles and his breaking it in two about their breakup.

Lennon retorted on his next album Imagine with the scathing “How Do You Sleep.” The album also included a postcard photo in early pressings depicting a smiling Lennon holding a pig’s ears in the same pose as McCartney holding the ram’s horns on the cover of Ram.

The sessions for Ram also produced McCartney’s first solo single “Another Day,” as well as early versions of “Big Barn Bed,” “Little Lamb Dragonfly” and “Get On The Right Thing” which turned up on McCartney’s 1973 album Red Rose Speedway. McCartney released an all-instrumental version of the Ram album in 1977 under the pseudonym of Percy “Thrills” Thrillington.

Ram was roundly panned by the critics when it was released in 1971; however it has grown in stature over the years. I’ve always loved the album and it is still one of my all-time favorite records after all these years. As far as “musical comfort food” goes, this one has been a staple in my diet since it came out – very tasty, always reliable with plenty of room for multiple helpings.

Edited: October 15th, 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 – 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 – 4/12/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Piggies” by Theo Bikel

Broadway and film star, folk singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, and back in 1969 Theodore Bikel attempted to add pop star to his list of credentials with the release of one bright and shining album for Reprise Records.

As a Broadway star, Theodore Bikel originated the role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music on Broadway and he’s portrayed the role of Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof on stage over 2000 times. In film, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Defiant Ones (1958) and also acted in The African Queen (1951) and Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (1970) to name but a few.

He was one of the first artists signed to Jac Holzman’s upstart Elektra Records where he recorded 16 albums of ethnic folk songs throughout the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, helping to establish himself as a recording artist and the label as an entity to be reckoned with.  He also founded the Newport Folk Festival (with Pete Seeger, Oscar Brand and George Wein) in 1959 and became a civil rights activist in the early ‘60s and a delegate to the 1968 Democratic Convention.

He was signed to Mo Ostin’s artist friendly Reprise Records in 1968 where he was paired with hip producer of the day, Richard Perry to record the album A New Day where today’s Song Of The Day was culled. Perry’s stock in trade within the Warner/Reprise family was as a career revivalist. He worked with established artists who hadn’t had hits in awhile and put them into the context of what was currently happening in music. To that end, Perry recorded albums with Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Domino and Little Richard for the label, casting them all into a more hip and contemporary vein.

As he did with the others in his charge, Perry surrounded Bikel with sympathetic backing musicians including Larry Knechtel on bass and keyboards, Eric Weissberg on banjo, Jim Gordon on drums, Louie Shelton on guitar, Paul Beaver (of Beaver & Krause) on synthesizer and Sid Sharp, Donnie Gallucci and Joey Newman on strings. Together they worked to update Bikel’s sound by choosing current songs that would spotlight Bikel’s interpretive talents.

Today, the album is purely a pop period piece from the late ‘60s that features Bikel performing current hits of the day in contemporary easy listening settings of the time, as evidenced by the chamber pop arrangements on Donovan’s “Jennifer Juniper,” The Rolling Stones’ “Lady Jane,” The Beatles’ “For No One,” Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Going” and today’s Song Of The Day, The Beatles’ “Piggies.” While the arrangements date the material, the material doesn’t sound dated at all.

Elsewhere Bikel rocks out on Cat Stevens’ “I Love My Dog” and gets positively theatrical (and a little hysterical) on Jaques Brel’s “Amsterdam.” Other songs include covers of Peter Yarrow’s (of Peter, Paul & Mary) “The Great Mandala (The Wheel Of Life),” Paul Williams’ “The Lady Is Waiting,” Bikel’s own “I Hear The Laughter” and yet a third Beatles song, “Mother Nature’s Son.” Bikel lends a theatrical touch to several of the songs by incorporating spoken word vignettes that occasionally drag the proceedings down.

Back in the late 1960s, Warner Bros. and Reprise Records release sampler albums in a series they called The Loss Leaders. They charged $2.00 for each double album and included tracks from all of the labels’ new releases. As a pre-teen kid, I first discovered groups like Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, The Fugs, Randy Newman, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Rod McKuen, Harper’s Bizarre, The Mike Post Coalition, Petula Clark and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition through these albums.

I first came into contact with tracks from Bikel’s A New Day from the Loss Leader albums Schlaggers, which included his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Goin’,” and The 1969 Warner/Reprise Record Show that included today’s Song Of The Day.

1969 Reprise Records RS-6348

Edited: April 12th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman –3/4/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Savoy Truffle” by Ella Fitzgerald

About a month ago, I featured Fats Domino’s recording of “Lady Madonna” from the 1969 album Fats Is Back. That record was produced by Richard Perry for Reprise Records, and today’s Song Of the Day follows Perry to the very next project he worked on, Ella by Ella Fitzgerald.

Reprise records of the late ‘60s was an artist’s haven due in no small part to the approach label head Mo Ostin took towards nurturing his roster. As a result, the label attracted top-shelf folk and rock attractions like Neil Young, Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Ry Cooder and Arlo Guthrie.

But let’s face it, Reprise was once Frank Sinatra’s label and it always had a sweet spot for its easy listening releases. Under Sinatra’s leadership, the Reprise roster featured records mostly by him and cronies like Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Jo Stafford. When Sinatra sold the label in 1963 to Warner Bros., the label came under the direction of Mo Ostin.

Under Ostin’s tutelage, the label’s easy listening roster grew hipper and included releases by Theo Bikel, Petula Clark, The Vogues, Gordon Lightfoot, Rod McKuen, Randy Newman, Dion, Harper’s Bizarre, Lee Hazelwood, Tom Lehrer, Mike Post Coalition and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition.

One of the label’s early strategies was to find worthy artists who had fallen out of the spotlight, and match them up with a sympathetic producer who could give their recordings a contemporary sheen. For Ella Fitzgerald’s Reprise debut, Ostin matched her up with producer Richard Perry.

Perry booked time at Olympic Studios in London and had Ella record no less than three tunes by Smokey Robinson, including a sumptuous take on “Ooh Baby Baby,” The Temptations’ “Get Ready” and a sultry and soulful version of “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game.”  And under Perry’s direction in choosing repertoire, she also turned in more than credible versions of songs by Randy Newman (“Yellow Man” and “I Wonder Why”), Bacharach and David (“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”), STAX men Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd (“Knock On Wood”) and Harry Nilsson (“Open Your Window”).

However, no late ‘60s career resuscitation could be complete without a couple of Beatle tunes thrown in for good measure, and on this album Ella sings “Got To Get You Into My Life” which had been covered by numerous artists, and George Harrison’s “Savoy Truffle,” which was covered by almost no one, making Ella’s version such a treat. Although Ella sang well throughout the album, no hits ensued and the album quickly went out of print.

For her second and last album for Reprise, Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (And You Better Believe It), Ella teamed up with arranger Gerald Wilson and producer Norman Granz to record a record with far more traditional jazz arrangements, while still offering some outstanding cover choices like “Sunny,” “Mas Que Nada,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “A Man And A Woman” and “Days Of Wine And Roses.”

Edited: March 3rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/24/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Things Will Never Be The Same” by Four Just Men

Last week I wrote about Freddie & The Dreamers single, “I’m Telling You Now,” and the American album of the same name. The record was not a Freddie & The Dreamers album per se, although they were the featured group on the cover. It was a compilation released in 1965 to introduce unknown British Invasion groups to American audiences featuring two tracks each by Freddie & The Dreamers, Mike Rabin & The Demons, The Toggery Five, Linda Laine & The Sinners, Heinz and the group whose song is today’s Song Of The Day, Four Just Men.

Four Just Men were one of the better groups to ride on the coattails of The Beatles and The British Invasion, and while their output was miniscule to say the least, it was indeed potent.

They were a Merseybeat group whose original name was Dee Fenton & The Silhouettes. Upon changing their name to Four Just Men in 1964, they were signed by George Martin who produce several non-charting British singles for them in 1964 through 1965. The group’s two Parlophone singles were “Things Will Never Be The Same” b/w “That’s My Baby (which were the two songs on the U.S. compilation album) and “There’s Not One Thing” b/w “Don’t Come Any Closer.”  Both singles were originals, written by singer-guitarist Dimitrius Christopholus and guitarist John Kelman.  They changed their name yet again, this time to Just Four Men after another band also calling themselves Four Just Men threatened to sue EMI.

While the group toured with The Rolling Stones, The Searchers and Del Shannon in support of the two singles, neither charted and they were dropped by EMI, only to resurface in 1966 as a psychedelic group called Wimple Winch, who were known for the local hits “Rumble On Mersey Square South” and “Save My Soul.”

The two Four Just Men singles, as well as eight previously unreleased tracks from the era and 16 songs by Wimple Winch were released on the now out of print import CD The Wimple Story 1963-1968.

Edited: February 24th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/11/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I’m Telling You Now” by Freddie & The Dreamers

I’m writing this on the 49th anniversary of The Beatles historic first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and while I have a vague memory of The Beatles playing on Sullivan, I don’t think it was their very first performance. Well, heck, I must have only been four or five years old. But even then, I do remember there was a sense of importance about the event in my house, because of my older sister, who made it that way.

Some of my earliest memories of the British Invasion include albums by the Herman’s Hermits including “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry The VIII,” and today’s Song Of The Day by Freddie & The Dreamers, “I’m Telling You Now.”  In fact, I have a distinct memory of my sister playing her copy of the album that is pictured with this piece, and teaching my brother and I how to do “The Freddie.”

It was pure show biz. The wacky dance performed by Freddie Garrity, with his hands and legs flailing to and fro. The vapid, comedic mugging. The maniacal laugh that bordered on the annoying. The geeky glasses.  The matching tailored suits. – They were just what American teens demanded in 1964 at the height of the British Invasion, when all things British was all the rage.

Garrity was an ex-milkman from Manchester, England when he joined forces in 1963 with Roy Crewdson on guitar, Derek Quinn also on guitar and harmonica, Peter Birrell on bass and Bernie Dwyer on drums, to form Freddie & The Dreamers.

They were much bigger in their native England where they scored four chart hits, to their two in America which included the chart-topping “I’m Telling You Now,” and its number 18 follow-up, “Do The Freddie,” which capitalized on Garrity’s manic stage gyrations by turning it into a dance craze.

Perhaps critic Lester Bangs summed it up best when he said in The Rolling Stone History Of Rock& Roll, “Freddie and the Dreamers [had] no masterpiece but a plentitude [sic] of talentless idiocy and enough persistence to get four albums and one film soundtrack released … the Dreamers looked as thuggish as Freddie looked dippy … Freddie and the Dreamers represented a triumph of rock as cretinous swill, and as such should be not only respected, but given their place in history.”

Edited: February 10th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/6/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)” by Arthur Alexander

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy trinity of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Anna (Go To Him),” “You Better Move On,” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and today’s Song Of The Day, remains largely unknown to most people today, or even worse, totally forgotten.

And if his recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s.

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for Buddah Records.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just Like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute To Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music.

Edited: February 5th, 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 – 12/12/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Dr. Robert” by The Beatles – Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set Review

I should have left well enough alone, but I had to go there. When Capitol-EMI released the remastered Beatles catalog on compact disc in 2009, it was great cause for celebration. The CDs that had been on the market since the mid-1980s had sub-par sound quality, and if ever a catalog was crying out for an upgrade, it was this, the Holy Grail for most music fans. And for the most part, Capitol-EMI got the CD reissues right. The sound quality was much improved across the board, and the new packaging, while a little on the skimpy side regarding notes and photos, were for the most part adequate with, at the very least, replicas of what originally came in the records.

It was also cool that the mono version of the box set came out at the same time, since many of us had never really heard the mono mix of records like The White Album before.
My big qualm back in 2009 was the notion that the mono box set was a limited edition. Limited to what? Once they realized that there was way more demand than the number of mono boxes pressed, Capitol-EMI went back for more pressings. I guess they were “limited” to whatever demand was out there for them….and they’re still out there and readily available for anyone who wants one (and worth the price of admission). But that was a minor snafu that music collector’s like myself have come to expect from the major labels.

So when news broke that a stereo vinyl box set would finally see the light of day this winter utilizing the 2009 remasters, I was ready to take the plunge (even though I already own the catalog several times over on vinyl). The draw for me was the promise that the sound quality on the 2009 remasters would even be better on vinyl because of the increased dynamic range inherent to the format. Although this news was soon met with some irritation due to the fact that the mono vinyl box set wouldn’t be released until next year, so no mono vinyl White Album for now.

When the day finally arrived and the 22 pound box set arrived at my door, I was duly impressed. The box came housed inside not one, but two outer shipping boxes complete with foam shielding, to insure that the set would arrive damage free, and it did. Once I dug the box out of the crates, I was confronted with a savory feast for the eyes that heightened the anticipation for the feast for the ears that would soon be coming.

Finally the time came to remove the outer wrap on the box and open the lid. What a joy to take clean fresh copies of these records out of the box and remove the shrink wrap on each one anew. These are indeed the simple pleasures that record geeks live for. As I sifted through the records, I noticed that the album covers had crisp and clean graphics and, for those that had inserts, they were all present and accounted for.

When I got to The White Album I came across my first packaging quibble. Why on earth are these not numbered? The box set is supposedly a worldwide limited edition of 50000, so why wouldn’t EMI-Capitol number each album, just like they were when first issued back in 1968. They got the raised lettering correct, but no number. For the amount of money they’re charging for this box set, I want my White Album numbered!!

Next up, I delved into the 252 page hardcover book that comes with the set. While I haven’t read any of it yet, I can’t imagine I’ll garner any new information I haven’t seen elsewhere. Flipping through all of the pages, I noticed many photos I’ve never seen before, and the presentation of glossy photos on matte finished pages is nothing short of sumptuous. But this is all packaging…how do the records sound?

The sound quality on the albums I’ve auditioned so far is absolutely horrendous!

How could they have gotten it so wrong? The pressings I own of these albums from the early 1980s “Blue” vinyl box set and the original Capitol and Apple pressings that I’ve had for years are far superior to what is in this box. The new pressings I’ve auditioned so far are Help, A Hard Day’s Night, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Please Please Me, With The Beatles, Abbey Road, The White Album and Past Masters, and every single record has significant levels of surface noise. I’m not talking about intermittent surface noise that subsides once the music kicks in; I’m talking about surface noise you can hear throughout the pressings. Add to that, a fair amount of clicks and pops on all of the records and you have what I would call a public affairs disaster for Capitol-EMI and The Beatles, and a travesty for all of us who shelled out over $300.00 for the set.

After listening to a few of the pressings and realizing that this problem was consistent, I decided to check out the customer reviews on Amazon, where I bought the set. Sure enough, I was not alone. Numerous customers were as unhappy as I am with the sound quality of the vinyl for the same reasons I just spelled out. Next I called Amazon’s usually exceptional customer service. The Amazon rep gave me an email address for Capitol-EMI and told me that they were handling all issues regarding the box set. My email went unanswered for several days, until I got a generic response saying that they were looking into my complaint and would get back to me shortly. So here I wait, with new vinyl – broken hearted, in much worse shape, than I started…

Hopefully Capitol-EMI will do the right thing and go back the drawing board to re-press these records with the care they should have taken the first time around. While my expectations are now low, I can still dream, can’t I? And if you haven’t taken the plunge on the set, or purchased any of the record separately, hold off for now until this issue is corrected.

Edited: December 11th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 11/3/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Mulberry” by Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore

Yoko Ono — You either love her, or you so totally loathe her that you can barely put your hate into words. As for me, I think she’s about as original and daring as they come…in the best way possible. Yoko, of course, was the Fluxus artist who married John Lennon and got a raw deal when she was wrongly credited with breaking up The Beatles. That said, Paul McCartney recently stated that Yoko had little to do with their demise. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were husband and wife for many years, and are founding members of art-rock-punk band Sonic Youth. As for the music…what would you expect from this, not unlikely, trio! Yoko has been releasing Dada records like this since the 1960s, while Sonic Youth have been there and done that as well throughout their storied punk career. Together, the three have released one of the most adventurous and challenging records this year called “YokoKimThurston,” chock full of installation music for the not-so-faint-of-heart. Not everyone’s cup of tea for sure, but what they’re doing is just the tonic for those of us who have been Biebered and Aguliera’d to distraction.

Edited: November 2nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/18/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Solar Prestige A Gammon” by Elton John

This is the “Seinfeld” of songs, meaning that it is a song about…nothing! By the release of “Caribou” in 1974, Elton John’s career was so white-hot he could do no wrong. Hence, Elton unleashed a flimsy, tossed-off album chock full of half-baked songs (by a fully baked superstar), that topped the charts all over the world. “Solar” is the “Mairzy Doats” of the 1970s, and if you are too young to know what that is (and you probably are), you should check out that precedent-setting Merry Macs’ hit from 1944 on YouTube. The song, whose lyrics are purely gibberish, was inspired by none other than The Beatles and their “Abbey Road” track “Sun King.” Elton thought it would be fun to sing a song comprised of real words strung together to mean nothing, so Bernie Taupin wrote up a set of on-demand nonsense lyrics to fulfill his wishes. Sure, it’s a goof performed by the ultimate goofball, but if this musical turd doesn’t manage to put a smile on your face, you are far more jaded than I am.

Edited: October 17th, 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 – 6/17/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Daddy’s Song” by Harry Nilsson

Nilsson is one of my favorites songwriters, right up there with Lennon & McCartney, Bob Dylan, Bacharach & David, Jagger & Richards, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, et. al. This song was originally from Nilsson’s second album, “Ariel Ballet” from 1968. But a funny thing happened on the way to the pressing plants. Without Nilsson’s knowledge, RCA pulled the song off of the album after the initial pressing shipped because The Monkees paid them $35,000 to have exclusive rights to the song for their recording that was sung by Davey Jones in the Monkees’ film “Head.” Most fans didn’t’ get to hear the track until a remixed and rerecorded version was released on Nilsson’s 1971 album “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” which was probably the first “remix” album ever released. The original recording was restored to the lineup of the album in the late 1990s when RCA released it on CD. Losing the song was indeed a bummer for fans, but it couldn’t hurt an album that also sported such soon-to-be classics as Nilsson’s cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” (from the film “Midnight Cowboy”) and songs like “One” (later a top-five hit by Three Dog Night) and “Good Old Desk.” The Beatles were huge fans of Nilsson with John Lennon once proclaiming Nilsson to be his favorite songwriter. During the recording of the “White Album,” the Beatles shared some of their recordings with Nilsson and Nilsson reciprocated by sharing an acetate of this album with them.

Edited: June 16th, 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 – 5/5/12

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 this 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: May 4th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 3/4/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Cheese And Onions” by The Rutles

From the 1969 album “Yellow Submarine Sandwich” comes this Nasty classic from the Rutles’ psychedelic period. At this point, the prefab four were at odds with each other. Stig was becoming too bossy in the studio trying to control the group’s sessions. Both Dirk and Barry had both left the group and returned. The end was certainly near due to the boys growing apart and poor business deals set up by Stig’s financial manager Ron Decline. Yet they did managed to squeeze out some earth shakingly great music in those final sessions. After the “Stig Is Dead” rumors began to circulate based on the artwork to their “Shabby Road” album, Barry decided to stay in bed for a year leading to the “Barry Is Also Dead” rumors that swept throughout the music world. After the “Let It Rut” release the next year, the group began to sue each other and Stig accidentally sued himself which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. However, the Rutle legacy lives on…and on…and on…

Edited: March 4th, 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