In 2018, I've made the time to listen to a lot of new albums. For me, listening to new records for the first time is like mining. In any type of mining, you spend most of your time digging and shifting. In the digs for new music, I'm trying to hear the golden songs that first hook my attention, and then work on my head and heart.
As AM/FM radio is a wasteland in San Diego except for NPR (including NPR Music), and Jazz 88.3, Amazon Music and YouTube are now my go to digging. I'll also mention the podcasts- WTF with Marc Maron and the Americana Music Show as great resources for expanding my search for fresh songs and learning about the musicians behind the music .
Music is such a personal thing for all of us. My wife and I love each other but our tastes in music would never have been the magical online dating algorithm to make us a match. I just love it when she gently yells up the stairs to me, "Would you please put your headphones on!"
As this blog took about 15 minutes to write, the playlist (now at 100 songs) has been going on for several months now. I publish it with the hopes that you will find at least a few golden nuggets of song that maybe you have never heard before.
Well it's my fourth year doing a YouTube Merry Christmas mix without any single artist repeats from previous years with the one exception of John Williams, Carol of the Bells. After this fourth one, I had to reach a little deeper this year for NOT giving you the typical Christmas shopping mall loop tape.
Feel free to visit my past mixes above and have a wonderful Christmas. Now don't forget to play this mix with your family and friends while sipping on the eggnog, or my favorite, Kahlua N Cream (no vodka). Happy days my friends!
On November 9, 2018 The Beatles released their 50th Anniversary edition(s) of the 1968 White Album. For many (including me), it's the best rock 'n' roll double album ever made and recorded in arguably the best year in rock 'n' roll history. It was released to the world on November 22, 1968, which happened to coincide with the 5th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The six, yes 6 CD Super Deluxe Set includes 107 tracks or 5 hours and 26 minutes remastered by George Martin's son Giles Martin. Giles to many Beatles fans, is 'the keeper of the flame.' I end this week's playlist with Giles being interviewed about the White Album.
Here is the Super Deluxe version for purchase on Amazon.
One of my most favorite Christmas shopping memories was driving down to the La Cumbre Plaza shopping center in Santa Barbara to Christmas shop with my next door neighbor Ron Zieman and his family. Ron was on a mission from God to get The Beatles White Album for Christmas, as it was not yet available in our small town of Santa Maria, CA. I was along for the ride, but I remember Ron's expression as I believe he found it in a department store and held it up like the Willy Wonka 'golden ticket.' When we got back home, it was never Christmas wrapped, but rather unwrapped quickly from it's shrink wrap and we were listening to it in Ron's bedroom on his portable record player that night.
Fifty years later, I realize the magnitude of 1968 on the world, but I had no idea how the music of that time would shape my life in such a profound manner. It in fact helped me look at the world from a bigger prism than my small town projected. The music and particularly The White Album came to me in my 13th year and today, frames a place in time when I was just starting to grow up.
Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated on April 4th, and Bobby Kennedy on June 6th, 1968. On the night of June 6th, the California Primary, my dad and I stayed up to watch the race and results and I remember it as a bonding moment as we talked with my questions and his explanations about how this game was played. I went to bed with Bobby winning and then was awakened by my dad with the news. I'll never forget the look on his face as he told me. This was a beginner's punch in the gut lesson of politics, swirling and evolving in my head.
Then in the fall, the White Album is released and it's simply a masterpiece of music. No concept album here, an eclectic mix of styles all blended to expand a young person's perceptions of music, and thinking. For example, as a 13 year old, John's line in Revolution- "But if you go carrying pictures of chairman MaoYou ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow" was synthesized by me to- think for yourself, not to blindly follow a leader or the crowd.
The 50th Anniversary mix gives us all more Beatles to listen to. It includes the 27 rehearsal 'Esher Demos' made in one magical day at George Harrison's house shortly after the group had returned from their trip to India together. These demos were taped on George's reel to reel tape recorder in late May of 1968 and before the band entered Abbey Road Studios to cut the album.
Last week, I was so excited to find the Super Deluxe (all 107) tracks posted on YouTube that I had to write this blog and include it here.
For the Playlist this week, I've mostly assembled the Esher demos coupled with the instrumental tracks, out takes and remix tracks from the 50th Super Deluxe Set to make my own little White Album. These tracks capture the acoustic and harmonizing Beatles- all of whom seem to be having a wonderful time together. There has been a lot said about the internal discord of the making of this album that would eventually lead to the breakup of the band. But I agree with Giles Martin, if you listen to his interview, he says he can't hear the discord but rather the genuine Beatle banter and laughter on all the audio he poured through to do this 2018 remix.
So what's your favorite songs on the White Album, old or new mix? Let me know in the comments section below if you like.
This go around, my favorite is the lads singing backup vocals to Ringo's lead on Goodnight (Take 10 With A Guitar Part From Take 5).
Take it from the 1968 thirteen-year old and the current sixty-three year old as it is agreed,
The White Album is a marvel to listen to at any age.
South County Turkey Trot 2014 (Pismo Beach, California)
I hope this holiday Thanksgiving week provides you with a little time to spend with family and friends. Mary Kit and I are off to Santa Maria this week to do both while visiting my childhood home with my mom.
I have a lot to be thankful for and want to wish all my family and friends the best as we are all blessed to live together in this great country. A couple of songs came up this past week on my Amazon Music stream while jogging that are the inspiration for this play list. Don Henley songs seem to always have a timeless relevance (to me) and when I heard his My Thanksgiving on the trail, well it just captured my feeling in these current times and leads this eclectic selection of 31 "thankful" videos.
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Jesse Colin Young with my old buddy Mark Hunter at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA. Mark and I go way back to our college days together as we became fast friends in our first year at San Diego State in the Toltec Dorm in 1975. We used to meet in the Toltec commons area where they had a big console TV and we watched several of the first episodes of Saturday Night Live during that year.
For high school graduation, I had received a rather large stereo system as a gift from my parents, and managed to cram that into my little dorm room with my roommate Kevin Kuhlmeyer. Anyway, my room became a kind of hangout for listening to music and my girlfriend, Mary Kit would bring her Zapotec girl dorm friends over, so it was kind of a happening place for a nerd like me.
We listened to all kinds of music as some would bring over cheap beer and their albums. Mark would drop in with either his Martin guitar, or have some really cool records in hand to listen to, like Jesse Colin Young.
Now I had seen The Youngbloods (Loggins and Messina opened) at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1972, but really didn't know much about Jesse Colin Young who like Mark had lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mark provided this introduction so to speak.
After that first year, Mark and I broke from the dorms and got a two bedroom apartment together about a mile from campus. We listened to a lot of music that year, because we were both broke and I remember us heating tortillas up on the stove and eating peanut butter burritos many a night.
It was during that school year of 1976-77 that I got my stereo system stolen after we had left the windows open during a heat wave.
No worries, I downgraded where I found an ad on campus and got a simple record player. Both Mark and I took that cheap stereo with us to another apartment on a street actually named Jessie St. I'll never forget that time thanks to Mark, listening to Jesse Colin Young's hot streak of albums through the 70's including, Song for Juli, Lightshine, Songbird, On the Road, and Love on the Wing. So, it was incredibly fitting that Mark and I would get together all these years later and spend an evening together listening to Jesse Colin Young with his wonderful band of young people. I say that because it seems Jesse went shopping one day at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and literally recruited all these talented, young musicians to be in his band. Actually, Jesse saw all these musicians as students performing at their graduation ceremony with Jesse's son Tristan Young, also a graduating student at Berklee, and now bass player in the band.
Mark commented how brilliant it was for Jesse to assemble this group and take them out on the road and into the studio together. As good as Jesse is to his band, they are equally good to a 76 year old legend who has suffered greatly over the years as he was not correctly diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Jesse said last night that ten years ago he thought he'd never be able to perform again and now that he is being treated for his disease, has been given another chance to be the troubadour he has always been. Now, he gets to do his thing surrounded by a fresh group of young people that give a real pop to the Jesse Colin Young jazzed infused sound of folk rock of the middle 1970's.
Here is my shot of the group from my cool loft seat at the Belly Up last night.
It was truly an evening to remember. Jesse has all these great songs he has written over the years as a folk singer in Greenwich Village, leader of the Youngbloods, and then his successful solo career. I had forgotten how many great love songs he has written that still touch me today. In this week's playlist, I got a chance to catch up on some "newer" songs that I had never heard before and look forward to his new album coming out in early 2019.
So Mark, this one's for you, thanks for all the good times- past, present and future!
Last Saturday night, I got to complete the four way treat by seeing Graham Nash at Humphreys by the Bay in San Diego. Now when you think of Graham Nash, your first thought is not as a solo act, not that he can't pull that off and did brilliantly on Saturday. It's just that you think of Graham as a team player in a band. His beautiful voice was first made famous with The Hollies and his pairing with Allan Clarke. He then went on to make music with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, then later adding Neil Young to make CSNY. I also have to mention his 1971 solo album, Songs for Beginners, as one of my favorite records of all-time
Over the years, the pairing of David Crosby and Graham Nash has transcended CSNY as those two voices blended together to make a perfect sound of harmony. As a fan today, it is heartbreaking that David and Graham are still not talking to each after several years.
It's no secret that David Crosby is an asshole as he himself told the audience at his SD Balboa Theatre concert in 2016. I listened as he told a story about his behavior being the reason he got kicked out of The Byrds in 1967.
Over the years, I have always admired Graham because he was the definition of a good friend, especially to David Crosby. Crosby's huge ego coupled with his legendary drug problems, prison sentence and liver transplant have been well documented over the years, with Graham always there to support his friend. Let's hope these two can square up before one of them dies. Too many friends have made that mistake over our time on this earth. I'm actually hoping David is the first to reach out and pick up the phone and call his old buddy. Life typically only gives you one handful of people that you can count as true friends, and those gifts are not meant to be broken.
In the meantime, Graham Nash is having a grand time singing solo in smaller venues. But wait a minute, once you go see Graham as a solo act, you quickly learn of a new partner, one Shane Fontayne. Shane is a great guitar player and good backup singer. For Graham's latest album, This Path Tonight the two co-wrote 20 songs together in preparation and Shane produced the album.
The pleasant surprise of seeing these these two guys live is that you get to hear all these great Graham Nash songs that he has written since the mid 1960's, but with an electric guitar master to help interpret the songs with new colors. During the concert, Mark Knopfler came to my mind as Shane can subtilely bend and slide notes with the best of them. His guitar "Whale Sounds" on Wind on the Water, knocked me out. Graham at the end of that song said, "Shane does Whale well."
What was not a surprise, is the well preserved 76 year old voice of Graham Nash. Graham has always taken good care of himself and it shows. Nothing better than listening to two guitars in sync with a timeless voice that still carries the day in 2018.
In this week's playlist, I've tried to capture Saturday's concert with current videos of the 70+ year old Graham Nash mixed with some of his rock 'n' roll hall of fame recordings, along with a few short interviews as well. Enjoy my friends!
On Saturday night, Mary Kit and I had the pleasure to see Todd Snider and John Prine in Seattle thanks to the warm invite from our old Santa Maria friends Ken and Vicki Forman whose daughter Emily lives in Seattle with her family. Mary Kit's three kids and their families also live in the greater Seattle area. So the four of us decided to meet up here, spend the day together and see the concert.
Before the show at dinner, Ken was telling me how John Prine took Todd Snider under his wing and that Todd has opened many shows for John over the years and helped build his career as a singer-songwriter. For me, it was a perfect connection of mentorship from Kristofferson to Prine and Prine to Snider. These unique individuals all have the gift of storytelling in their songwriting. It is a gift that reveals the plain and simple truths about men and women, working people, people living in a simpler time, injustice, the amusing, the open and shut doors, and the wide open spaces.
Todd opened the show with his stories and songs and I don't think I've ever seen such a perfect opener for the main attraction. If you have never seen or heard Todd Snider, he is funny as hell but can turn that emotion around quickly with a darker perspective. His gift is his balance between stupid funny, serious satire, and folk singer. I became a convert in a sold out theater of the Todd Snider faithful with a lot of hoots and a standing ovation at the end of his set. Thanks to Ken and Vicki for the introduction.
Now John Prine at 71 has 20 years on Todd Snider, and the master came out ready for spit and fire. He has a new album, The Tree of Forgiveness, which had me at the title before I even listened to the album when it came out in April. Prine backed by his fantastic band moved through the new songs intertwined with his famous standards and I felt the audience embrace every song like a winding stream. (Here is the setlist.)
So why does everyone love John Prine these days? I think we are all needing real stories, stories John Prine communicates through his songs of our shared humanity to love and respect each other.
For me, Saturday night was a range of emotions from laughter to tears. This is something you go to a theater for when you see a play. It was an Americana Folk passion play of plain truths about ourselves, past and present. In our current times, where bullshit and hate have become king and queen on our national stage, truth has mostly taken a back seat.
The audience at the Paramount on Saturday night was ready to be entertained. They came to see a couple of their heroes who represent genuine honesty, humor and truth in song. I walked into the building to be entertained too, and I was. But what I came away with more than anything, was the wonderful feeling that it was simply nice to escape from the news of the day and hear from a couple of authentic Americans on a very friendly stage.
It's been 43 years since the Eagles played The Fabulous Forum for the first time. I did not see any of those famous Forum shows, but did see the band in 1979 at the Sports Arena in San Diego. Back in the day, both the Forum and the Sports Arena were designed for sporting events, not music concerts. But as rock 'n' roll acts got bigger and bigger arenas became prime locations for rock concerts.
I saw Elton John at the Forum in 1974 and remember what many would call "the sound bounce" off the walls, but nothing was worse than the Sports Arena bounce if you were sitting up high. Speaking of high, most were, so I guess the acoustics didn't matter much but to a nerd like me.
The Sports Arena today is a tad better with probably a $1000 worth of hanging ceiling panels to baffle the sound. I did still hear the sound bounce several times at a James Taylor concert at the Sports Arena (now called the Valley View Casino Center) in 2015. James Taylor, really... Yeah James Taylor and his wall of Marshall amplifiers!
Now the Forum is a whole different story these days and truly a horse of a different color. In 2012, the Madison Square Garden Company purchased the Forum and immediately put $50 million into a complete renovation including $18 million more by the City of Inglewood. A good deal of that money went into transforming the acoustics in the building. In 2015, I saw Don Henley on his Cass County Tour, I couldn't believe the sound quality of not only the excellent band, but the building itself, it was well, fabulous!
So this past week on September 12th, we continued (my wife) Mary Kit's passion of seeing either the Eagles or Don Henley somewhere on the west coast of the United States, as much as possible. This time it was the Eagles first night stay at the Forum.
On this first night of three concerts at the Forum, Don opened the show with the announcement that their manager, Irvin Azoff would probably be making a boxed set of these shows. I'm thinking to myself, how many boxed sets can the Eagles make of their 1970's material and who's going to buy that? Well, I looked to my immediate right, and my lovely wife says to me, "Oh I'm getting that!"
Okay, if you read or watch TV you know that Glenn Frey died in 2016 and the Eagles then added Vince Gill and Glenn's son, Deacon Frey to the band. This has literally proven to be a sound move on the band's part to first- continue the legacy of Glenn through Deacon and then, bring in one of the finest singers and guitar players in Country music with Vince Gill. Both add tremendous new elements to a very familiar act and harmony of sound that has defined this band and a generation of fans. You'd think the sea of gray at the Forum was an AARP convention.
This new version of the Eagles were perfect from my old ear, and I mean perfect musically and vocally. Both the band and building made the sound magical, and this is an audience who knows every word of every song in this sing-along night with every guitar lick as clean and clear as their album recordings.
Now that brings me to Don Felder and his famous dismissal from the Eagles in 2001. Much has been made of this over the years. My idealistic hope was that after Glenn's death, maybe Don Henley would see the light like both Glenn and Don did on their 2014, History of the Eagles Tour when they invited Bernie Leadon back for that tour. I will say when I saw that that tour here in San Diego, I had tears in my eyes on that night when Bernie come on stage. Nobody even dreamed of Glenn's passing just two years later, but I was hoping against hope that bygones would some how be bygones, but that wasn't going to be. If you don't understand what I'm saying, just watch the 2013 documentary, History of the Eagles on Netflix.
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
So whatever you think of Don Felder, nobody can deny his contribution to the songs and sound of the Eagles. Today that lead guitar sound and back up vocals is filled by a very accomplished musician named Steuart Smith. Steuart replaced Don Felder in 2001 and has been with the band ever since. He is also a band member in Don Henley's band on his solo tours. In 2007, the Eagles last album of original material, Long Road out of Eden has five songs where Steuart Smith shares cowriting credits.
I thought for this post, I would be writing about Vince Gill, who was fantastic in his own right on backup vocals and guitars with also some great shining moments on several lead (Glenn) songs. I was glad they let him sing one of his solo hits, Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away. I guess if Joe Walsh gets to do his solo hits at Eagles concerts then the others can now get a solo hit into the Eagles' setlist. Hell, they even did Don's, Boys of Summer to our delight!
But for me, I kind of zeroed in on Steuart Smith as he has a unique position in the band- a first tier player on the front line, but with second citizen status as a band partner. He plays right next to Joe Walsh and shares as many lead guitar duties as Felder always did. In fact Steuart Smith had so many close up shots on the big screens behind the band simply because he's doing so much of the lead guitar playing.
I'm sorry but I was kind of appalled that he was never introduced during the evening, not even a shout-out after several great songs where he did most of the heavy guitar work. This just struck me as odd. He should have been out there with the band taking their final bow at the end of concert, especially with the future box set cameras rolling. (At a Paul Simon concert this year, Paul literally introduced every member of his large ensemble band, and that goes a long way with enduring fans.)
I'm sure Steuart Smith has no complaints, is paid extremely well, and is as happy as punch to be in the Eagles for the long run.
(And if the Eagles [=Don Henley] won't do it in their show, here's my appreciation for the man on the far right of this picture below. And to be fair to Don... here's an entertaining article of Don ejecting a concertgoer for shouting Don Felder's name while introducing Steuart Smith at a 2015 show in Detroit.)
Left, Vince Gill, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Henley, Deacon Frey, Joe Walsh and Steuart Smith @ the Forum 9/12/18
(Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
I haven't found a good Steuart Smith clip at the Forum (so far) so here's a phone video I found on YouTube from the Eagles 2017 show at Safeco Park in Seattle that Mary Kit and I attended, featuring Timothy B. Schmit and Steuart Smith on I Can't Tell You Why.
Here's a quality clip of Don and Steuart doing Boys of Summerwith Don's solo band and Steuart playing the Mike Campbell guitar composition for the song.
If you get a chance, try to see a concert at The Forum, you'll have a great experience. As for the Eagles, they are still flying high with their two new band mates. Deacon Frey is not a gimmick. At 25 he has big shoes to fill and is doing a great journeymen's job. The new pairing with Vince Gill is brilliant marketing but backed with a quality of sound that is unmatched, not even by the original members of the Eagles.
I decided not to do a playlist this week because you've already have heard the Eagles tunes a million times. If you can, try to see the Eagles live (see current tour) once before they are gone as a group; it's as crisp a sound as putting on a new vinyl record of the best selling album of the 20th century, Eagles Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975).
Awhile back I did a sneak preview of Paul McCartney's new album, Egypt Station with a couple of YouTube songs released before the official September 7th release date. The highlight of that blog was my inclusion of the James Corden piece with Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke which I have included here again at the end of the playlist.
For this week's release of the album, I was able to snag every song from the new album off YouTube from various sources. Here's the album on Amazon Music if you have a subscription.
This is Sir Paul's 17th solo album that he's calling 'a concept album' but I couldn't hear the travel or any other connected themes other than love or want of. I still think its a very good album that is worthy of a start to finish listen to as we used to do back in the day. I've only seen pictures as shown above of the album cover, but Paul's really put a great deal of visual art into the vinyl album that I think many fans will love to look at and read the liner notes while listening. Here's a link to buy on Amazon.
I start this playlist with three Jimmy Fallon videos with Paul on his show promoting the album last Friday, September 7th. I always enjoy Jimmy's love for Paul that now extends across several generations of fans.
If you want to read a review of this album, just read Rob Sheffield's Rolling Stone review here, with the opening line - "Make a list of all the songwriters who were composing great tunes in 1958. Now make an overlapping list of the ones who are still writing brilliant songs in 2018. Your list reads: Paul McCartney."
So happy Monday and start (or end) your day enjoying Paul's new music and sense of humor here!
On Saturday night, I got to see Jason Isbell in my own backyard at the San Diego Copley Symphony Hall. It was special on several fronts. First, it was my first time seeing Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit live. Second, Amanda Shires who is Jason's wife and has her own solo career (and currently on tour) was in the band for the night. Third, Jason's and Amanda's daughter turned three that day, and came out for a song with the band as the entire audience sang Happy Birthday to Mercy Rose.
During the set up between opening act Aimee Mann and Jason's band hitting the stage, I saw a roadie bring out Amanda's violin and set it up on it's stand next to a smaller microphone stand to the left of Jason's center mic. I turned to my wife Mary Kit at that moment and told her, "It's going to a great night!" This past week, as I poured through a bunch of Isbell videos onYouTube, I listened to how Amanda's violin and harmony singing completes Jason's voice and the 400 Unit's sound.
By the way, guess what the '400 Unit' means? My guess was- it was some kind or type of farming equipment. The name actually comes from the annex of the "the psychiatric ward of Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence, Alabama." The things you learn on Wikipedia.
If you spend anytime looking into Jason Isbell you will learn he was born in Alabama and who's mother was only 17 at his birth. On my playlist this week, check out Children of Children and you'll get an insight to where and how Jason's songwriting developed with his upbringing.
In 2001, Jason joined the Drive-By Truckers and established himself as a solid songwriter and performer. However, with a long history of substance abuse he was kicked out of the band in 2007.
In 2012 with help from Amanda Shires, her manager Traci Thomas and Ryan Adams, Isbell entered a treatment center in Nashville. In 2013, Jason and Amanda were married by Todd Snider, who I'll be seeing September 22nd with John Prine in Seattle. (I had to throw that in, in my continuing game of '6 degrees' of rock 'n' roll.)
I'm happy to say, the happy ending is always a daily process, but it's really exciting to see that happiness on stage right in front of your eyes. Jason, Amanda, and Mercy Rose have the world in front of them, with a lifetime of love and song.
That brings me to Jason's song, If We Were Vampires, from his 2017 album, The Nashville Sound. If We Were Vampires is in my opinion one of the best love songs of the 21st century. I can't get enough of the lyrics and watching these two artist's sing this song live facing each other made this a special evening indeed.
If We Were Vampires
It's not the long, flowing dress that you're in
Or the light coming off of your skin
The fragile heart you protected for so long
Or the mercy in your sense of right and wrong
It's not your hands searching slow in the dark
Or your nails leaving love's watermark
It's not the way you talk me off the roof
Your questions like directions to the truth
It's knowing that this can't go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we'll get forty years together
But one day I'll be gone
Or one day you'll be gone
If we were vampires and death was a joke
We'd go out on the sidewalk and smoke
And laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn't feel the need to hold your hand
Maybe time running out is a gift
I'll work hard 'til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn't me who's left behind
It's knowing that this can't go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we'll get forty years together
But one day I'll be gone
Or one day you'll be gone
It's knowing that this can't go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
That then got me thinking of The Bangles again this past week and their smash hit of 1986, Manic Monday. Manic Monday came to mind because in San Diego, school starts today and I was thinking of all the students and teachers who would appreciate this song on a day like today. I was a teacher for 35 years, so the thought of getting up at 6am to get ready not only for the day but the school year was always that work person's grind of, "here we go again." Anyway, whether you are going to school or work, I hope your day goes a little easier with some Monday music, and that's why I'm here.
The Bangles have always been one of my favorite bands, because of their classic rock 'n' roll sound with harmony. In putting the playlist together last week, I could hear The Byrds and the Tom Petty sound in many of their songs. This band was never a "girl band" gimmick as the media and music industry sometimes portrayed. The Bangles have lots of great songs written and played by themselves as all four women sing lead on different songs with Susanna Hoffs on her Rickenbacker guitar, Vicki Peterson on lead guitar, sister Debbie Peterson on drums, and Michael Steele on bass.
The band broke apart in the 90's as Susanna Hoff's was getting more lead vocals and attention from their record company, but like most hugely successful rock 'n' roll bands, they came back together in 2000 after taking a decade off as The Bangles.
In 2004, Michael Steele left the band during the middle of their tour and today the band consists of the other three original members. I would love to see these ladies live someday and now follow their Facebook page for such an event!
Recently, I was eating lunch with my wife at the Prado in Balboa Park and put my phone on the table. I had my default ringtone set to the intro of Walk Like an Egyptian. Well, the phone rings and the Walk Like intro begins. A waiter walks right over to me and says, "You like The Bangles?" I say, "Yes," and she gives me a high five and walks on, like a busy waiter. Fans everywhere.
The Bangles are timeless and have taken good care of their voices and continue to play well together as a band. As a big fan of female rock 'n' rollers who can harmonize, I recommend them as a class act to follow.
My growing up in a mostly white Baptist church in a small town farming community could have been an isolating experience. However, my town was on the California central coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I remember many times going over to my friend Bill's house who lived one block parallel to the the US 101 freeway. In our junior high years starting around 1967, hippies hitch-hiked both north and southbound by the freeway on-ramps at Main Street. Maybe that's where my dreams of going to bigger places started...
How this links up with Aretha Franklin is that for me, she is one of those singers that took me to places in my mind that I had not experienced yet in reality. For me growing up in a white bread church, standing and singing hymns seemed so stiff and rote. I hadn't heard the sound of real gospel music until I heard Aretha's voice on AM local radio. In 1967 when Respect came out, I was hearing her soaring soul transformed to a secular medium. I loved the sounds of R&B and soul even though I had no direct connection to the experience. Aretha, like so many musicians of the time provided that bridge for me with her music to a connected spirituality that was real and authentic. As I got into my later teens and early twenties, I moved away from the church, but always appreciated black gospel because it was music you could feel, it soared. If you really want to go to church, just listen to Aretha's 1972 album, Amazing Grace. There's no need to sit in a hard pew listening to a pastor busting your spirit and limiting your options. Aretha's voice (and piano playing) will set you free! (Amazing Grace album on Youtube).
Here's my Aretha playlist including my favorite Aretha song (written by Stevie Wonder), Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do). This song reminds me of being out of high school and going to Alan Hancock Jr. College in 1974, a very good year in my life. Anyway, the playlist tends to go back to that founding gospel R&B rock 'n' roll soul sound that opened up the world to a lot of people. Rest in peace our sweet queen.
Note - Catch the American Bandstand video featuring Respect in 1967. I just love all the white teens dancing to Aretha's music, as it's a geek flashback of all the white kids like me from anywhere USA.
Have you ever felt you were about to achieve a higher level of success and for whatever reason, that next level was taken from you? Times that by seven and you may want to lean in and hear the story of an exceptionally talented family, a family that could have been rock 'n' roll hall of famers. When I say talented, each one of the six Cowsill children were musical naturals that could all sing and play different instruments to their perfect harmonies. The Cowsills were in fact real contenders in the rock 'n' roll world of the late 1960's.
However, this musical family story begins and looms with the dark cloud of Bud Cowsill, The Cowsills abusive alcoholic father, and controlling manager of the group. His actions alone, would not only create a tremendous negative impact to his seven children growing up (including his wife Barbara), but to their collective fate in popular music history. This story doesn't end with Bud, but it does have a long and winding road with many ups and downs for all of the Cowsills due to Bud's complete control over the family. One quick example, look at the header picture above of the family band. There is actually one son missing from the band, Richard. Richard (who died in 2014) was Bob's twin brother and excluded from the band from the very beginning, by Bud. Instead of playing music with his siblings, Richard was shipped off to military school and then, onto two tours in Vietnam. Yeah, Bud's a great guy.
As you look at the header picture left to right- The Cowsills begin with the oldest child, Bill (or Billy) who was the band leader and lead singer of the group. Billy and Bob (two over from the left) start as a duo in 1965 after learning how to play guitars in the late 50's and early 60's. They work up to singing together in clubs around Newport, Rhode Island and begin to gain some traction locally. Smelling success right under his nose, Bud steps in and to his credit gets the boys more gigs, and expands the group with John (fourth from left) and Barry (sixth from left). After a little reshuffle, John moves to drums and Barry to bass.
The Beatles were the four boy's idols and their sheer motivation and ability took them on a sky rocket ride, from the boys watching their heroes on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, to themselves appearing on Ed Sullivan only three years later in 1967. Leading up to 1967, Bud thought it best to add Barbara, their mother and then, Susan (seventh from left), and finally Paul (second from left) to the group. In effect, Bud had himself a Sound of Musicrock 'n' roll Trapp Family Singers.
Bill laments in the film documentary, Family Band: The Cowsills (a film by Louise Palanker, 2011- available here on Amazon), how any teenage boy would react when told that his mother was going to join his rock 'n' roll band! But the family did exactly what was told of them by their father. If you get a chance, watch the documentary, it's a must see as I'm just skimming the surface here to a very complex saga.
From 1967-1969, The Cowsills have three top 10 Billboard singles and are riding on top of the world. Then Bud does two critical epic fails as manager. In 1969, he fires Bill (over smoking some pot, but it's much deeper as Bill is beginning to butt heads with his dad) and then, he fires the band's writing team of Artie Kornfeld and Steve Duboff. Korfeld and Duboff wrote, The Rain, The Park, & Other Things, specifically for The Cowsills that in 1967 reached #2 on the American Billboard charts and #1 in Canada.
I don't know how a father fires his own son, but Bill (only at 19) was the singer-songwriting leader of the band whose own star was rising fast. I will say that Bill was so promising as a musician, that if things had turned out differently, we might have been talking about him and The Cowsills at a level at least in sight of another family band, The Beach Boys. Today, Brian Wilson is called, "a genius," but even with Brian's own controlling father, was given a creative incubation environment that allowed him to thieve as an artist. Billy on the other hand was never given anything close to that incubation opportunity to steadily grow. Instead, Billy was often psycho bullied, physically beaten up and literally driven out of the family by his father that he moved to Canada to start a new life. Removing Billy killed The Cowsills as a top act who quickly crumbled and disbanded by 1972.
How does a working family regroup from such folly? To make matters worse, and pouring salt in an open wound, Hollywood comes knocking in 1970 and wants to put the Cowsill kids on television (ABC) as a family band TV show. But instead of using Barbara Cowsill, they hire Shirley Jones as the mom, and after the family declines the offer because of this fact, hire Jones' real step-son David Cassidy to be the stars of the The Partridge Family (from 1970-74). I had to add the Partridge Family logo here because, don't you think it's a bit ironic?
In the years following, Bill and Barry both had a rough journey. Bill created a musical career for himself in Canada and lead various bands (including The Blue Shadows) and produced many artists, but also developed numerous health problems. Barry who was a fantastic singer and bass player was also a teen magazine idol (my wife as a 6th grader was in love with him). As an adult, he did some solo work but with a lot more drinking mixed in throughout his life. Barry died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as he refused to leave New Orleans. Bill died shortly after in 2006 from his medical problems.
Mom Barbara, died in 1985 from emphysema and who's memory (as "minimom") seems to be closely protected by all the children. One can only imagine her life with Bud and trying to keep her family together. As for asshole Bud, he died in 1992 from leukemia and according to Bob in the documentary, never accounted for the estimated 20 million dollars The Cowsills generated in the late 60's that he subsequently lost in the years following. To this day, the rest of the family has never seen a penny of that money.
So that's the backdrop past. However, there's a whole flip side to the Cowsill family album- a family that can look back, but with a focus on moving forward with great character and stamina for life.
Bob who was forced to step into his older brother's role of lead singer when Billy was kicked out, has managed to keep the band The Cowsills alive and kicking all these years. Along with Paul and Susan they continue to perform as a band with a second generation of family members and many different offshoots.
John is a professional musician who played with the regroup of the band in the 1990's and today is the drummer of the touring Beach Boys band featuring Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. John is also married to Vicki Peterson, a founding member of The Bangles. Vicki Peterson has also played with Susan Cowsill in The Psycho Sisters. Susan along with playing with The Cowsills for many years has her own band, The Susan Cowsill Band and also played in the Continental Drifters. Bob Cowsill has played over the years with The Bob Cowsill Bandand I included a great Beatle cover they do in the playlist this week.
So what attracted me back to The Cowsills after all these years? It was one of my favorite songs as a middle schooler in 1967, and their break out smash hit, The Rain, The Park & Other Things. That song has such a great hook. A couple of weeks ago, I looked it up on YouTube for my Summer Tunes blog, and now I still can't get the harmony chorus hook out of my mind!
I love the flower girl
Oh, I don't know just why, she simply caught my eye
I love the flower girl
She seemed so sweet and kind, she crept into my mind
To my mind
What really got my attention was not the original recording, but the 2004 video of Bob, Paul, Susan and Barry (including Bill's old friend and mentor, Waddy Watchtel) performing it live. The family had come together for a benefit show they organized for their original leader and brother Billy to help fund his medical bills. From this live recording and album, The Billy Cowsill Benefit Concertat the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, The Cowsills were not just an oldies act, but a fresh band who still had the harmonies! In my playlist this week, you have to listen to, I Really Want To Know You with Susan on lead vocal, it brought me to tears. And if you're me, playing 'shoulda coulda', listen to their 1990 release, Is It Any Wonder, now please that song should have been a 90's era hit single!
Fast forward to now and The Cowsills have a new (and they say last) album coming out soon.
They are controlling the distribution through PledgeMusic and here is the link to their campaign. As of this writing, they have 19 days left and just got 103% funded! I bought the pre-order CD for $15 (that must have been the order to put them over ;-) and go ahead and hit that link if you're interested.
The Cowsills are currently on tour with the Happy Together Tour 2018 that I now see I missed in July in Orange County, darrnnnn. They are currently finishing the tour in the mid-western states if my little blog has somehow reached you on the plains.
I'll finish with the old saying, "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" could be applied to the Cowsill children as they grew into adults. I can't help but think that Billy, Barry and Richard's identities and spirits were irreparably damaged by their father that had a lifetime effect and probably contributed to their early deaths. For Bob, Susan, John and Paul you see their love for all their siblings in the videos. They survived their roller-coaster up and down early years, and live their lives with such a positive energy moving forward, and that my friends is how the good shines through.
T-shirts, cut-offs, and a pair of thongs We've been having fun all summer long Brian Wilson
Updated - Okay, starting week two of summer tunes as I have been busy on the YouTubes collecting now a 100 different eclectic videos for your summertime listening pleasure! This week I really got into watching Beach Boys videos, stories and just enjoying the music of Brian Wilson. Brian's one of rock 'n' rolls greatest artists and a fascinating character to put it mildly. I love this picture of him and wish him as much happiness as he has given all of us with his music! Please make some time this summer to relax, maybe next to a body of water, and listen to some music. Enjoy my friends!
This past week, I had a chance to see Dana Carvey on Jerry Seinfeld's, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, New Season 5, Episode 6. I just love this show and the Dana Carvey episode was great as Dana rolls through his impressions. He does a segment of the sketch with Paul McCartney talking to John Lennon in heaven about Kanye West. Now this was absolutely hysterical and I didn't realize that Carvey actually does a 5 minute piece on this in his 2016 Netflix Special, Dana Carvey, Straight White Male, 60. (As a side note - Dana Carvey is my birth class of 1955 and we all just seem to continue to ride that endless Beatles wave.)
So after the Comedians in Cars Episode, I immediately watched Dana Carvey, Straight White Male, 60 which I highly recommend. His Paul McCartney John Lennon sketch was so fantastic I had to find it on the Internet and write this blog. Anyway, Netflix didn't create a copyrighted clip for YouTube and the only other one I found wasn't up to par. So, thinking I could do a bit better, I set up me ol' iPhone on the tripod and shot it right off the big telly. I uploaded to YouTube and well... that lasted for about 15 minutes before my clip was blocked by YouTube (as it should Douglas Glen McIntosh), but I've now posted another one I found on YouTube (?)...
So watch the bit here with a few more gems stitched together to form the playlist, and then catch the entire special on Netflix, as it's a boomer's TV night event!
This past week I came across the 1968 song, Good Old Desk by Harry Nilsson from his third album, Arieal Ballet while listening to streamed music at well... my desk. I have a tricked out 60"x 30" sit to stand electric desk that I purchased at IKEA in 2015 (see build). Since retiring from my 35 year teaching career, it has become my new place of work.
Almost everyday, I get up in the morning and write something into the cloud from my good old desk. It has really become an extension of myself as I grow my educational consulting business, do research, write my book (with Richard Oka), or post a music blog before my self-imposed deadline of Monday at 8am. The blog title, Monday Monday Music (yes inspired by The Mamas and Papas) but strictly named on my part to kick my ass into actually writing something every week.
My favorite desk story is that it's going to be Mary Kit's birthday a couple of years ago, and I decided to get her a 32" TV for her office/sewing room. I order it from Amazon Prime and it doesn't show up for a week. We call, they can't locate it and send another one out, and it comes in two days. Then, about three weeks later, the original comes with the box a little worse for wear, but its fine. We call, and Amazon says, "just keep it." The picture above of me standing, is MY 32" TV/computer monitor that I use to mirror my laptop screen, on my desk. I blow the text up and man, I can even take off my reading glasses and pretend I'm reading 12 point font again. Also, my grandchildren love to control the up and down button (with my supervision) and watch the desk grow and shrink.
So, if you're at your work desk right now and going through your email or on the web and come across this blog, take a listen about a place where maybe you spend a good deal of time. If you don't like your current desk, think of it as, "a sad song and make it better." I mean it, start right now, concoct a plan to get a better desk that fits YOU. Nothing better than creating at a space that you can call, "my good old desk."
If you already like your desk and it kind of follows with this song, knock on wood.