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.
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.")
Carole King was already one of rock’s most successful songwriters. But no one could have predicted that when she finally started singing her own songs, she would create one of the best selling albums of all-time by a female vocalist, especially when her only previous album had not climbed higher than #84 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Tapestry has sold more than 25 million copies and is considered one of the top 50 albums ever released by a rock artist.
Just as most of were embarking on life as full-fledged adults, Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young penned this Hallmark card of song, encapsulating the life of tranquil bliss we all imagined ourselves living once we settled down with our "one true love."
"Our House" was featured on Dejé Vu, the album that saw Neil Young formally join what had been the superstar trio of David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash. It was written by Nash about his relationship with singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. The two were living together in L.A. The couple had stepped out for breakfast. After the meal, Mitchell spotted a vase she liked on Ventura Boulevard. When they arrived back at home,the weather had turned chilly. Nash remarked, "Why do I light the fire and you put some flowers in the vase you just bought."
Struck by his own words, he went over to the piano and an hour later, "Our House" had been composed.
As few, if any of us, ever achieved the idyllic existence promised in the lyrics of the song, it may be comforting to know that Nash and Mitchell didn't either. The couple split up before the year was out.
Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan
What if you had been able to tell your 13-year old self that Bob Dylan would one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature? Do you think then your English teacher would have let you do your book report on Dylan’s latest album?
Maybe not. But there’s no question that Dylan was on an incredible hot streak in the mid-sixties, one that saw him release 3 albums that cemented his transition from folk to rock and put him in the very forefront of the contemporary music scene.
That trio of albums began with Bringing It All Back Home, continued with Highway 61 Revisited, and reached the pinnacle with the 1966 release of one of the first double albums in rock history, Blonde on Blonde.
A singer who landed 16 songs in the Top 40 and 4 in the Top 10… 22 songs in the British Top 40… a songwriter who penned Top 10 hits for 3 other artists… an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… yet he is almost forgotten today.
He is Gene Pitney.
Pitney was born in 1940 in Hartford, Connecticut. By high school he was singing with a local doo-wop group called the Embers. By 1959, he was recording with a young woman named Ginny Arnell under the name Jamie & Jane.
Pitney also started working as a songwriter and actually had his first success there, writing “He’s a Rebel” for Darlene Love & the Blossoms (recording as the Crystals), “Rubber Ball” for Bobby Vee and “Hello, Mary Lou” for Ricky Nelson.
2016's simultaneous release of Eight Days a Week and Live at the Hollywood Bowl reignited interest in the Beatles live shows. But these are not the only places you can find Liverpool’s favorite sons performing live.
Here’s an overview of all the ways you can experience the Beatles in concert:
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