Marty Balin’s influence on rock & roll both in front of the mike and behind the scenes was enormous. He soared to fame during the summer of love as one of the main singer-songwriters for Jefferson Airplane. He passed away over the weekend in Tampa, FL, where had had made his home. The cause of death is, at this time, unknown
Born Martyn Buchwald in Cincinnati, Balin got interested in music at an early age. He recorded two singles in 1962 for the small Challenge Records label. It was that label that changed his name to Marty Balin.
Relocating to San Francisco, Balin hooked up with musicians Paul Kantner, Skip Spence, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen and Signe Anderson in 1965. That same year, he and some partners also opened the hugely influential Matrix nightclub that was a launch pad for many Bay Area groups including the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Steppenwolf.
Jefferson Airplane became the first of those San Francisco groups to land a contract with a major label, recording their first album for RCA in 1966. Ms. Anderson, one of the Airplane’s lead singers became pregnant and left the band. She was replaced by Grace Slick. Drummer Spence also left and was replaced by Spencer Dryden.
It was the Airplane’s second album, “Surrealistic Pillow,” that catapulted them to superstardom. While Balin was sharing most of the lead vocal duties with Slick, it was Slick’s songs that became the group’s first hits. From then on, the media tended to focus their attention on Slick and who could blame them? In addition to her powerhouse vocals, she was also an extremely good-looking young woman. Tensions within the band escalated until Balin left in 1971.
The band then renamed themselves Jefferson Starship and continued along. By 1975, Balin had rejoined his old group; and this time, it was his songs that led to their biggest chart successes – “Miracles” “Count on Me,” “Runaway” and “With Your Love.”
Balin left the group again in 1978 avoiding the band’s slide into corporate rock as simply Starship in the 80s.
Balin recorded some solo albums and appeared with his former bandmates in various aggregations, including a full-fledged Jefferson Airplane reunion tour in 1989 and with a reincarnation of Jefferson Starship in the 90’s.
He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 and was still writing and singing right into this year.
The True Stories Behind Rock’s “1-and-Done” Classics
“Angel of the Morning” (1968)
As is often the case with 1-Hit Wonders, the composer and producers of “Angel of the Morning” actually had long, successful careers, even if the Turnabouts did not.
The song was written by Chip Taylor, the same many who gave us “Wild Thing,” “I Can’t Let Go” and others. He has said the line “There be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can’t bind your heart” came to him out of the blue one morning. Within ten minutes, he had written the entire song.
He hoped the song would be the breakout single for a young lady named Evie Sands. But Evie would have a career filled with near misses. The small label that produced her version of “Angel of the Morning” went belly-up shortly after they released it. With no push from the label, the song died a swift death.
At this point, Paul Revere of “and the Raiders” fame enters the story. Revere had been pushing a Seattle band he believed in, Merilee Rush and the Turnabouts. Revere secured them a recording deal with hitmakers Tommy Cogbill and Chips Moman. They gave “Angel of the Morning” to Merilee and her band and that version quickly became a million-selling hit.
Sadly, Merilee never cracked the Top 40 again although she continued to perform for many years.
One other interesting note, the Turnabouts guitarist Carl Wilson (no, not the Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys) eventually hooked up with two sisters named Anne & Nancy Wilson and helped them form a band called Heart.
One of the most iconic of all surf instrumentals, “Wipe Out” by the Safaris, almost never came to be.
The song was composed and recorded on the spot when the band was in the Pal Recording studio in Cucamonga, California. The lads thought their first big smash would be “Surfer Joe,” but they needed something for the single’s B-side.
The band members, Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller and Ron Wilson, launched into an enthusiastic bit of a jam, keyed by Wilson’s energetic drum solo. In keeping with the surf theme of the A-side, the boys christened the tune “Wipe Out” after the term surfers used when one of their own fell off their board in an often-painful way.
For a finishing touch, the band added a sound effect they thought sounded like a surfboard breaking up as well as a maniacal laugh and the expression “wipe out” voiced by the group’s manager, Dale Smallin.
To the Safaris’ surprise, “Surfer Joe” failed to get much airplay. But their throwaway instrumental proved to be a different story. Although the single was released by the tiny DFS label, it attracted the attention of Dot Records, a national label. They bought the rights to the single and released it in the summer of 1963. By fall, it had climbed all the way to #2 on the charts, selling well over a million copies. Even more amazing, the song returned to the Top 20 just 3 years later, reaching #16 in 1966.
It sold still more copies when it was featured on the soundtrack of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing.
Unfortunately, the band was never able to duplicate their initial success. They released only 4 other singles and were soon “gone with the wave.”
But for Baby Boomers, there was once only one true test of a great drummer – could he play the drum solo from “Wipe Out?”
Two new CDs may be of interest to Baby Boomers. They are both 2-disc live recordings. The first is a bit of a time capsule. The second is a more recent recording capturing one of rock’s great singer/songwriter/producers running through bravura versions of his greatest hits.
The Who Live at the Fillmore East 1968 was supposed to be released back in the day as the band’s follow-up to The Who Sell Out and before their massive breakout LP, Tommy. Recorded during a two-night stand at NYC’s Fillmore (the shows were the first by a British act at that venue), the tapes sat on the shelf for years due to audio problems. The first couple of songs were not satisfactorily recorded on either night. But thanks to modern technology, the surviving tapes were cleaned up and we now have the shows just in time for their 50th anniversary.
This is still the raw, energetic Who before superstardom overtook them. You get two Eddie Cochran covers (the perennial Who concert fave “Summertime Blues” and the much less heard “C’mon Everybody"). You also get two songs from The Who Sell Out as well as an extended version of their first “mini-opera” “A Quick One.”
The second disc captures a tremendous 30-minute version of “My Generation” that concludes with the guitar smashing and drum kit destruction that was the band’s calling card back in the day.
The other new release is from Jeff Lynne, Wembley or Bust, featuring his newly constituted group Jeff Lynne’s ELO. For various reasons, Lynne does not use the full Electric Light Orchestra name. Just as well, as Lynne is the only original member present. But as he was the composer, lead singer, arranger and producer for all of the band’s albums, we doubt you’ll notice the difference.
If you had heard that ELO was not as big in their native England as in the States, don’t believe it. This 2-disc set was recorded in June of 2017 at sold-out shows in London’s Wembley Stadium. You’ll hear tens of thousands of Brits applauding and singing along as Lynne and his cohorts roar through a set that includes ELO’s very first song “10538 Overture” right up to a selection from ELO’s comeback album Alone in the Universe. Lynne also manages to squeeze in one of the tunes he wrote and recorded with the Traveling Wilburys (“Handle With Care”) and yes, he does perform the title track from Xanadu, the movie that ended Olivia Newton John’s acting career. Too bad it was such a cheesy movie because the title song is a pretty good little rocker.
One minor quibble: each of the tracks on the CDs fade out at the end rather than flowing one into another as they would at the live show.
However, as an added bonus, the set does include a Blu-Ray disc of the live show and on video, the concert is presented without fade outs.
If you are fan of either band or both bands, these two releases come highly recommended!
Think you have all of Paul McCartney’s solo albums? You don’t if you don’t have this one, the oddest of all Beatles oddities – Thrillington.
During the recording of McCartney’s second solo effort, Ram, he decided to record a second version of the LP as lounge music instrumentals!
Paul and Linda also decided to form a new rock band, which became known as Wings. That proved to take up most of Paul’s time, so the instrumental album sat on the shelf for 6 years.
When he finally decided to release it in April of 1977, he created a totally fictious persona, British socialite Percy Thrillington as the album’s creator. He then took out ads in various British music papers chronicling the comings and goings of Thrillington.
The album came out and was virtually ignored by all but a small handful of fans who saw through the deception.
McCartney finally confessed to the hoax during an interview in 1989. By that time, the album was already out of print.
A few years later, McCartney also confessed to being Clint Harrigan, who had written the liner notes for both Thrillington and the Wings’ album Wild Life.
Thrillington came back into print with CD releases on 1995, 2004 and as a special 2nd disc with a deluxe re-release of Ram in 2012.
The album is scheduled to be re-issued on CD, vinyl, and limited edition colored vinyl on the 18th of this month (May, 2018)!
So if you ever wondered what the Ram album would sound like if it had been recorded by Les Brown and His Band of Renown, wonder no longer!
Or How a Black Man from South Africa Was Screwed Out of Several Million Dollars
“A-wimowack, a-wimoweh A-wimowack, a-wimoweh…”
Everybody knows that hook from the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” The song was a staple of the folk music circuit of the late 50’s and early 60’s. In 1962, it went to #1 in the U.S. when the Tokens recorded a more rock-oriented version. Robert John took it to #3 in 1972 and the British ensemble Tight Fit had a #1 hit in the UK in 1982. It was featured in the Disney movie The Lion King and even played a prominent part in an episode of the popular sitcom Friends.
Few know who really wrote the song or the long journey it made to become the classic we know today.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
There has been so much written about this album since its first release 50 years ago. And now, so much more being written about it, thanks to the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Re-Issue. There’s little we could add. You either still own this album, owned it back in the day or know many, many people who own it.
So instead of posting an appreciation of it, here are 5 things you might not know about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts club Band:
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