Showing posts with label Graham Nash. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Graham Nash. Show all posts

Monday, May 10, 2021

Fifty Years of Music • Ram, Paul McCartney & Songs for Beginners, Graham Nash

Both Ram and Songs for Beginners hold a special place in my heart as I purchased both albums in 1971. It was also a time where Paul McCartney and Graham Nash were without a band.

Last year, friend Paul Hobbs and I took on a 'What If' scenario if both The Beatles and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had stayed together as bands in 1970. 

Our first go around was A 'What if' Album: Apple Scruffs • The Beatles 1970Paul McCartney's first solo album in 1970, McCartney included several songs in our Beatle fantasy album complete with fake album cover and press release. 

Ram came out in May, 1971 with McCartney being another year removed from the Fab Four. Then and now, I just think it was so upbeat! If you were a Paul snob before and/or after The Beatles broke up, so sorry, you missed out as one of the most talented people on earth was simply having a wonderful time. Being a solo act, he was now free to create whatever he wanted to on vinyl as a happily married man with wife Linda and their newly blended family together.

As a sixteen year old, I had started a quiet depression questioning my self-worth that I didn't share with anyone. Needless to say, millions of my peers were also going through the same slow drip of life in high school, living under the roof of their parents, wanting something more. Maybe this is where the term "sophomore slump" is derived, being stuck in a place in time before your break out year would be realized. 

Summer would be coming, and with my new driver's license my friends and I would soon be heading up the coast, to the beaches and back country roads with a little bit of independence to build on. 

1971 was a great year for rock 'n' roll and Paul McCartney's Ram came at a good time to lift my spirits and put a positive tone under my small town skies. 

Songs for Beginners was part of our second 'What If' album featuring Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's solo albums from 1970-71. Song For Beginners would be Graham's masterpiece and completed our, A 'What If' Album: All In • CSNY 1970. Our fantasy title, All In was our pipe dream of CSNY committing to each other to be that great band that some were calling, "The American Beatles" after their Déjà Vu album in 1970.

Graham Nash was simply a hitmaker tunesmith in all his bands. He wrote hits for The Hollies, CS&N, CSN&Y and Crosby & Nash. 

In Songs for Beginners, Graham's hadn't lost his midas touch for writing catching hooks in most of the eleven songs on the album. This was his spotlight moment coming after his break up with Joni Mitchell and his thoughts were poured into song. I also think of this as a positive album even though the subject matter is actually a little dark. What shines through is Graham's attitude on this album, his pushing forward on both the personal and social fronts. At sixteen, his song, Be Yourself really spoke to me. 

Paul McCartney and Graham Nash, both born in England in 1942 are still making music today as solo acts. God save the Brits and their invasion to our shores in the 1960's!

Enjoy these two albums my friends.
 ram on... we can change the world!

Ram Playlist
 

Songs for Beginners Playlist

Monday, December 07, 2020

Christmas Mix 2020

Christmas Mix
2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • 2020 • 2021

Santa Santa, Surfin' Santa Claus
Here he comes, Here he comes
Surfin' Santa Claus
Bringin' toys for girls and boys
Surfin' Santa Claus
–Joe Lubin & Stan Stan Stenner

Sometime in the middle of the year, I usually create a YouTube Playlist called Christmas Mix for that year and just start squirreling away traditional and alternative songs that I think would make a good mix with no general theme in mind. I have one general goal with the Mix- to be a little different and always make Christmas a little more inclusive no matter one's belief system. With that said, it should be noted that a lot of great artists have made some terrible Christmas albums over the years, and a streaming playlist is one remedy to broaden the category of 'Christmas Music.'


Being from San Diego, my first idea for this year was a Surfin' Santa theme. Then I started looking for a good graphic. When I found the 'Merry Christmas 1942' graphic above it had everything I wanted, a traditional Coca-Cola® Santa surfing, and then a new thought, 1942- with all the great musicians born that year.

The class of '42 includes: Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Brian Wilson, Carole King, Jimi Hendrix, Graham Nash, Leon Russell, Barbara Streisand, and Roger McGuinn. I've included at least one song from my short list of musical greats born that year, and if you're interested, here's a complete list of musicians and singers born in 1942. 

Also, I can't ignore the elephant in the room, the original 1942 release of Irving Berlin's White Christmas by Bing Crosby, the #1 selling single of all-time with more than 50 million sales alone. 

This is all a bit ironic for me as when I started the Christmas Mix in 2015, I tried to generally avoid the sappy standards with White Christmas being at the top of the list. For me it's like eating turkey every year at Thanksgiving since my birth. I can imagine my dad saying to my mom when I'm a baby, "Fern just put a slice in the blender, he'll be fine." Anyway, I just got to the point where I couldn't take turkey anymore, same for White Christmas.  I get this 1942 idea from the graphic and low and behold, White Christmas is released that year. So, I start reading about White Christmas, and then I read this about Bing Crosby.

According to Crosby's nephew, Howard Crosby, "I once asked Uncle Bing about the most difficult thing he ever had to do during his entertainment career… He said in December, 1944, he was in a USO show with Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters. They did an outdoor show in northern France… he had to stand there and sing 'White Christmas' with 100,000 G.I.s in tears without breaking down himself. Of course, a lot of those boys were killed in the Battle of the Bulge a few days later." Wikipedia

Sweet Jesus, that made me cry too. So Irving and Bing, I yield the space here, thinking of all the babies born during war, and their dads fighting around the world wishing they were home with their families. 

It should also be noted that today is as Franklin Roosevelt told congress, "December 7, 1941- a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." The attack on Pearl Harbor thrust us into World War II, and changed our country overnight. White Christmas coming out the following year was a song we needed to hear as a nation and the world needed too. The lyrics, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know, were in 1942, as impactful as any song that's ever been recorded. The history and power of this song endures.

 

Then, I thought about the babies born this year in the time of coronavirus. My granddaughter was born April 17, 2020. This virus is a different kind of war, but a worthy advisory nevertheless. Somehow our country has to band together as if we are in a world war against fascism, everybody on the same page working for our victory, all together. 

As a war baby himself, Paul McCartney grew up reading the British children's comic strip and books, Rupert Bear. In 1984, Paul wrote the song, We All Stand Together, arranged and produced by George Martin and made into a short film about Rupert Bear. The song has just been released again with the animated video and included here in my playlist Mix in several versions. 

These World War II children knew a thing about banding together in a crisis and maybe a reason, they're the greatest generation of rock 'n' roll. Sir Paul was no exception, and even if this song's about frogs, you'll feel the bond, like a lot of his work. His lyrics have now come back around in 2020 and a perfect theme for this season and moving forward together during this difficult time. I also have to think this generation of children are maybe special too, and will know how to stand together when the chips are down when they are the decision-makers.


Win Or Lose, Sink Or Swim
One Thing Is Certain We'll Never Give In
Side By Side, Hand In Hand
We All Stand Together

Play The Game, Fight The Fight
But What's The Point On A Beautiful Night?
Arm In Arm, Hand In Hand
We All Stand Together

Keeping Us Warm In The Night
La La La La
Walk In The Night
You'll Get It Right

Win Or Lose, Sink Or Swim
One Thing Is Certain We'll Never Give In
Side By Side, Hand In Hand
We All Stand Together
–Paul McCartney 

This has been a rough year for many who have been laid off or lost their small business in the time of coronavirus. However, we begin this coming new year with a fresh start with great hope and energy that will carry our people and country to a better place. 

In good times or bad, music has alway been central to Christmas time as it can take us to a place, the want for peace, comfort and joy, to dream the dream. My Christmas Mix is always a kitchen sink of tunes but I tried to find some songs this year that have that spirit of people needing people to get us through anything if we stick together. 

I like to also think my Christmas Mix might even spark an interesting conversation around the Christmas dinner table, or distanced smartphone video call this year-  
  • Why does Uncle Dave (an atheist) love gospel music?
  • Is eggnog still a thing? Why can't I just have a White Russian?
  • Do you care if someone says, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas?" Who gives a rat's ass in 2021? And who really cares about gay people marrying? Oh yeah... those people.
  • Winter Soltice and Christmas, Spring Equinox and Easter, is that timing just a big coincidence? "Hey Uncle Dave, grandma says 'Pagan' is a bad word?"
  • Beyoncé, Queen B? Sorry their's only one Queen and that's Retha, period.
  • Why does mom always tear up when Carol of the Bells comes on? 
Here's wishing you and your family a Happy Christmas and better days this New Year as we give thanks for the good people around us, no matter our beliefs.

Stay well my friends, and mask-up. We all stand together.

Monday, November 02, 2020

#NewMusicMonday • October • 2020

A YEAR of #NewMusicMondays  
Tomorrow and the days ahead will be one of the most important times in U.S. history. So, we're all going to need some good music to get us through the week. This week's #NewMusicMonday is packed with new songs and covers, and at least ten old songs that you probably have never heard before. Those ten songs are from Tom Petty's 1994 album, Wildflowers. Tom Petty, Mike Campbell and Producer, Rich Rubin spent two years making Wildflowers as it originally was going to be a double album with 25 songs. Well, the record company stepped in and as usual mucked things up and said it would be better as a single album that eventually got whittled down to fifteen songs. Here I present the remaining ten songs scattered throughout the playlist with a trailer video of the new super deluxe box set, Wildflowers and All the Rest, just released October 16th. 

At the end of the playlist, I also include a great interview by Malcolm Gladwell with Rick Rubin.

Here's a couple of links that you may want to circle back to and view.

Happy Birthday to Tom on what would have been his 70th Birthday on Oct. 20 and to John Lennon who would have been 80 on Oct. 9. I have included several John songs in the playlist done by artists in honor of his birthday. Damn, both of these guys should be alive today to still give us new joys with their great talents.

As we approach our historical election tomorrow, I have included several new songs that are hopeful toward a change from our current wannabe regime and back to our democratic principles. I'm just so tired of being tired about Trump and now I'm scared to death he is going to win re-election (sometime this month). If that happens, I'm mentally preparing myself for a depression hangover that I hope I can snap out of sooner than later. After 2016 and the last four years, nothing can surprise us anymore, so it's best to prepare for both scenarios with either: the Trump shit show's victory and gloating with no plan for anything, or Biden's win and a new start with strategic planning to tackle the pandemic, economy and our world standing, just to name the tip of the melting iceberg. During these sad years, the end of the innocence came much too quickly for this generation of young people.  


On the lighter side, music will always be here to help us whether we're up or down. There's a life motto that I have adopted from Paul McCartney's Hey Jude lyric - Take a sad song and make it better. So my take from that powerful line-  I/we have the ability to change something negative into something better, by our actions. Together we can, make it better. My ol' buddy and friend to the blog, Paul Hobbs has a new song that I lead with in the playlist, Charity Begins At Home. So no matter the outcome, tomorrow or next week, we can start working to make things better by starting at home with our family and friends. This last paragraph was corny as hell, but I'm going to get up and go install a light above my workbench right now before I delete it.

Enjoy my friends and stay well.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Echo in the Canyon

Rickenbacker 360-12 Electric Guitar
 So I finally got a chance to see the Andrew Slater documentary echo in the canyon (2018) starring Jacob Dylan and just released this past week on Netflix and linked here.

This documentary has gotten a few harsh reviews, as notably Joni Mitchell is not even mentioned, even in the context of the California Sound evolving from surfing and car songs to more socially conscious and interpersonal songs. For god's sake, as a Laurel Canyon resident who released Ladies of the Canyon in 1970 she (and The Doors) deserved a little shout out here. Also the overuse  of clips from the 1969 art film Model Shop as Slater's and Dylan's inspiration for the documentary is annoying but is easily put aside.

With that said, this 1 hour and 22 minute doc has plenty of great clips of its own as you get a snapshot of the the mid to late 60's in Laurel Canyon with some of the famous musicians who lived there and some famous musicians who didn't. My favorite was getting to watch Tom Petty talk about music one more time as this was his last recorded interview. The beginning of the film with Tom is a fantastic hook that for me is my ultimate sweet spot of Monday Monday jingle jangle 60's rock 'n' roll and my original inspiration for writing this blog. For me, learning anything new about three of my all-time favorite bands- The Mamas & The Papas, The Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield are gem pieces to the rock 'n' roll puzzle for those of us who just can't get enough of this stuff. Man, to have a time machine and be a young adult in Laurel Canyon and on the Sunset Strip in the mid-sixties, would be...



Here's several key elements that make this film 'a must see' that covers the folk to folk rock transformation.

This starts with the transition of folk musicians and studio recording in New York mostly moving to Los Angeles shortly after The Beatles stepped off the plane in 1964. John Sebastian tells how Roger McGuinn started singing Beatles' songs in folk clubs in New York and Los Angeles with no success but with the guts of a pioneer and a Beatles inspired 12 string Rickenbacker 360-12 electric guitar. 

In the film, Roger McGuinn gets a much deserved feature as a major architect from musicians singing folk songs with acoustic guitars to composing folk rock songs with electric guitars. Here's a quick clip (not in the film) of Roger and his Rickenbacker.



In the film, Roger and The Byrds take traditional folk songs like Pete Seeger's The Bells of Rhymney and transform it in their 1965 version. Here's a set of clips, first with Seeger's original version, and then The Byrds.





I also enjoyed the conversations with famous musicians who discuss how art is a continual process of iteration and the 'cross pollination' of songs that influence song writing. I bought a book a couple of years ago by Austin Kleon with the perfect title to describe this process of creativity, Steal like an Artist. In the 1960's, Laurel Canyon becomes such a place where collaboration + competition = creativity. One example from the doc, is how George Harrison adapts Roger's riffs on The Byrds version of The Bells of Rhymney that influence him in his 1965 song, If I Needed Someone.



Then, Brian Wilson is blown away by Rubber Soul and that inspires him to write Pet Sounds in 1966. In turn, The Beatles are inspired by Pet Sounds, and in 1967 create Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. (As a side note to the playlist below- I also include Buffalo Springfield's (Stephen Stills) Questions, which morphs into Carry On with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and then Eric Clapton adapts the Questions riff for his song, Let It Rain (1970) .

July 25, 1965 - Newport Folk Festival
The film's MC role is played with perfect Bob Dylan DNA detachment by son Jakob Dylan, born in 1969. I think son Dylan does a great job tapping into dad's influence without mentioning his name. As the greatest songwriter of his generation, Bob Dylan himself also makes the historic transition from acoustic folk to electric rock 'n' roll and turns the music world on its head at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

As the documentary unfolds, I realize Jakob is the perfect medium to tell this story. His quiet casual manner and approach to the material works perfectly for the famous musicians who take his questions and run with it (e.g. David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Tom Petty,  Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, Jackson Browne, Lou Adler and Michelle Phillips).

Jakob brings in his own generation of musicians to update 13 songs from the California Sound era that in their interpretation remain both current and true to the originals. In the playlist below, I start with the original 60's version and then follow it with the Jakob and friends take. I love his selections as Jakob goes for some of the deeper cuts, not just the hits and hey that's my kind of playlist! I highly recommend you make the time to watch echo in the canyon this week on Netflix, it's a trip!



Monday, May 13, 2019

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Celebrating 50 Years of Their Debut Album

Back and Front Album Cover - Photo by Henry Diltz | Source - PopSpots by Bob Egan
On May 29, 1969 Crosby, Stills & Nash was released by Atlantic Records. I love all ten songs today as much as I did when I was a teenager because their place in time helped define my place in time.

The album cover photo taken by Henry Diltz was scouted by Graham Nash and Art Director, Gary Burden in LA. As the two were driving around, they found an abandoned house in West Hollywood with the infamous couch in the front. On the day of the photo shoot, the band had not decided on a name yet. A day or so after the shoot, the boys decided on Crosby, Stills & Nash. They then went back to do a reshoot so that their names would correspond with their left right order on the couch. When they got there, the house had been torn down and lay in a pile of rubble. Oh well, the dye was cast, and Diltz's photo is a rock 'n' legend in its own right.

I love this story because I've always felt the band's last names order was always out of order. As any person that follows music in the 1960's knows (or at least in my opinion)- Stills' name should have gone first, Nash second, and Crosby third. Don't get me wrong, they are all truly gifted as they came together from famous bands to make the supergroup of harmony, but Stephen is the music genius of the three. Like a five-tool baseball player, Stephen Stills is a superstar songwriter, singer, and both an acoustic guitar and electric guitar master. And I suppose the fifth tool being, he publicly appeared to keep his ego a little more checked at the doorstep than his other star bandmates (starting with his name being second).

When I saw Graham Nash perform in San Diego last year, he warmly talked about the making of the debut album and how Stephen arranged and played every instrument on the album with the exception of Dallas Taylor on drums (shown behind the door on the back cover of the album photo).

I've always been a Stephen Stills and Neil Young fan, but I would say I was a Stephen Stills fan first starting with the two in Buffalo Springfield. As the two alpha's of Buffalo Springfield, Neil has always had a propensity to just leave and he did just that to Buffalo Springfield in 1968. 

In July of 1968, Cass Elliot took Nash (still in The Hollies) to meet the now band-less Stills (from Springfield) and Crosby (fired from The Byrds) to a party at Joni Mitchell's house in Laurel Canyon, and the birth of the band was born that day. 

In the formation of Crosby, Stills & Nash, I believe this was Stephen's chance to get out from Neil and do his own thing. The debut album is such a fresh start for all three that embodies the pure joy of collaboration. It was also Stephen's moment to lead and I became a HUGE Stephen Stills fan after this album with his fingerprints all over it. 

And yes, the album was a big hit, but more importantly, it was all the buzz within the music industry in Los Angeles. A few years later in the mid-seventies, another famous LA band would say in a famous song..."we haven't had that spirit here since 1969, and still those voices are calling from far away"...

In the months following the debut, Ahmet Ertegun, the President of Atlantic Records had the idea to suggest adding Neil Young to the group. Now that was both brilliant and ballistic at the same time. Brilliant because we get the album Déjà Vu and the song, Ohio in 1970, and ballistic because Neil is Neil and he tends to just do his own thing, which is also brilliant by the way.  

The storied history of CS&N and CSN&Y through their breakups, makeups and breakups has been well chronicled and I won't go into depth here. I will indulge in the idea of  "what if" because like Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash were broken up as a band shortly after take off. It would have been special for the trio to have ridden that moment of 1969 and carry on as a trio. The inclusion of Neil Young cut short the magical run that many monster bands or single artists have, 5+ successive years of lighting the fire and being at the top of the music game. Not surprisingly, Neil Young did just that in his 1970's solo run while using a splash of Stills, Nash, Crosby, The Stray Gators, and of course Crazy Horse mixed in.


Side note- I was in Maui last October and wanted to see Mick Fleetwood's restaurant. Fleetwood's On Front St. It's in an old general store building upstairs (pictured above), but the gem is walking downstairs to Henry Diltz's photo studio, Morrison Hotel Gallery in Fleetwood's General Store in Lahaina, HI. In the Gallery, was an original print of the Crosby, Stills & Nash album cover. The Gallery's Art Consultant, Sharon Cholet filled me in on all the history of the photo shoot and I appreciated her time. The print cost $500 and I wanted it so bad.

Enjoy my friends, this one is special.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Graham Nash - Humphreys San Diego 10/13/18




A music wish list of mine from the past was to see Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young together, and now, all of them separately. I did see CSN a couple of times over the years, but never as CSNY. In the past two years, I have seen David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young as separate solo acts (with Stephen Stills with The Rides).

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!