A Hidden Treasure From Rock & Soul’s Golden Era
A series of posts about albums you may have missed back in the day when so much good music was coming out on nearly a daily basis. But now that the real “good stuff” is few and far between, you might want to backtrack and add these gems to your music collection.
It happens so often in rock music. Artists struggle for years with albums the critics love but record buyers ignore. Then they finally break through to a wider audience and go on to long, successful careers. Yet, those earlier albums remain, for the most part, ignored.
Such is the case with Boz Scagg’s “Slow Dancer” in 1974. It was his 6th album and his 6th commercial failure. Yet, many die hard Boz fans will tell you “Slow Dancer” is his best album. We don’t think they’re wrong.
It finally happened! After more than 30 years, the members of ABBA staged an impromptu reunion on stage in Stockholm.
The occasion was a private celebration to honor ABBA’s songwriting duo, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, held tin 2016 at Berns Salonger to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first meeting.
In attendance were their former spouses, the female side of ABBA, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstadon, Before anyone knew what was happening the quartet were on stage singing “Me and I.” The effort marked their first public performance as a quartet since January of 1986.
You can find the full story here.
The band has promised a tour with holograms in the next year or so and yes, it will feature a few new songs as well as the ABBA classics.
With the release of “Days of Future Passed, the Moody Blues went from “one hit wonders” to virtually pioneering the musical form that came to be known as “progressive rock.”
The Moody Blues began life as just another band from Britain that performed covers of American r&b records. They scored one hit with “Go Now” during the first wave of the British Invasion in 1964. But like a lot of the white boys performing American black music, they found follow-up success elusive.
Between ’64 and ’67, the band reinvented itself with original members Denny Laine and Clint Warwick departing and new members Justin Hayward and John Lodge joining Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder and Graeme Edge. Their sound became more ambitious as keyboardist Pinder picked up a new instrument called a mellotron, which was capable of producing sounds very close to an orchestra’s string section.
Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" started out as "Mrs. Roosevelt", and was changed to the final title after it was pitched to director Mike Nicols, who was then filming The Graduate. The opening lines, “dee de dee dee de dee dee dee,” were sung during the pitch because Paul Simon had not come up with suitable lyrics yet, but Nicols liked it that way and so they remained in place for the final recording.
“Runaround Sue” the rock classic that topped the charts in 1961, was Dion’s only #1 song (despite having 32 other records hit the charts) and has since gone on to become an enduring classic of the genre had its birth as a song Dion improvised at a friend’s birthday party.
The friend was named Ellen and at her birthday party in late 1960, the partygoers had turned off the record player and begun to make up songs on their own. When it came time for Dion, he basically invented the invented the doo-wop stuff you hear as back-up on the record – the “hey-hey-wom-de-heydy-hedy” part. He made up some lyrics about Ellen that he later confesses were pretty forgettable. But after leaving the party, he couldn’t get that catchy little doo-wop riff.
The next morning, he went down to the offices of his record label, Laurie Records in midtown Manhattan, and grabbed a rehearsal room. He called his friend Ernie Maresca to join him and see if they could pound Dion’s germ of a song into a full-fledged hit. By the time Maresca arrived, Dion had already decided to make the song about a girl who dated all kinds of boys and broke their hearts. He says he based it on an actual girl he knew, but to protect himself from unfavorable repercussions, he and Maresca didn’t use her real name. Instead, they picked the name Sue after a gorgeous girl they knew, but had been afraid to approach.
Dion actually found his backing group on the street, literally. He heard a group of guys harmonizing, liked what he heard and invited them to join the recording session. (Dion had already split from the Belmonts at this point.
Of course, the song became an immediate sensation and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002,
The original partygoers? When Dion played the recording for them, they were underwhelmed. They thought it had all sounded much better when he was just making it up at the party!
"Hang On Sloopy” is a rock classic. But few know the long and winding road it took before becoming a big hit for the McCoys in 1965.
The song began with the title “My Girl Sloopy.” It’s credited to Wes Ferrell and Bert Russell (a.k.a. Bert Berns). However, Rick Derringer claims the song was really written by a St. Louis high school student who sold the rights to Russell. If that’s true, then Sloopy might be Dorothy Sloop, a jazz singer from the same area.
The song was first recorded by an L.A.-based R&B group called the Vibrations. That version reached #10 on the R&B charts and #26 on the pop charts.
The Strangeloves were looking for a follow-up to their hit “I Want Candy” and thought “My Girl Sloopy” might do the trick. Pay attention now because from here, the story gets a little twisted.
Of all the songs Janis Joplin recorded in her brief, but spectacular career, one of the best-known and most fondly remembered is “Mercedes Benz.”
Few remember now that Janis was also interested in poetry and often attended poetry readings. Her tongue-in-cheek paean to consumerism began as a quick poetry jam between her and songwriter Bob Neuwirth in a bar in Port Chester, NY. They built their short poem around a line written by poet Mike McClure.
About an hour after the poem was completed, she performed it live during her show that night at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, inventing an acapella melody on the spot.
It was promptly forgotten until she had finished recording her second solo album, “Pearl.” With the pressure of the major session work behind her, Joplin stepped to a microphone while the tapes were still rolling and announced she was about to sing “a song of great social and political import.”
She quickly ran through her little “Mercedes Benz” performance. One take. She also recorded a quick birthday message to John Lennon that included her rendition of Roy Rogers’ theme song, “Happy Trails.” Those would be the last two songs she ever recorded.
Only three days later, she would be dead of a drug overdose.
When Columbia released “Pearl” posthumously, producer Paul A. Rothchild decided to include “Mercedes Benz.”
The song quickly caught the fancy of FM deejays. Radio listeners also fell in love with the tune.
Today it has been covered by more than 30 other recording acts.
(And yes, we know the car in the photo is a Porsche! It belonged to Janis. She did not own a Mercedes-Benz.")
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