And Decca passed on the chance to sign the Beatles - let that sink in...
More than anything, the Who craved success in America. Despite overwhelming success in their native England, the band had trouble selling records in the States. They had reached the American Top 10 with their singles “I Can See for Miles” and “Magic Bus,” but their album sales were abysmal with many of their early releases languishing in the cutout bins for a buck or two.
Concept albums had been all the rage since the release of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper LP. Yet the Who’s own concept album The Who Sell Out could get no higher than #48 on the Billboard LP chart. Clearly, the Who needed something more.
Then Pete Townsend had the brilliant idea to write a “rock opera.”
The Doors (1967)
Was there ever a debut album as brilliant as the Doors?
Recorded in the summer of 1966, released in January of 1967 and on almost every rock radio station and Baby Boomer’s turntable during the “Summer of Love,” the album spawned the monster hit “Light My Fire” and helped reshape the parameters of rock radio, killing the 45 single and paving the way for longer album cuts to finally start getting airplay.
There is not one wasted track on the album. Side 1 open with “Break on Through,” establishing the album’s goal. The energy continues unabated through the appropriately-titled last track, “The End.”
Stevie Nicks’ song “Landslide,” recorded by Fleetwood Mac, has been a fan favorite since it appeared on the band’s breakthrough album in 1975. But it had been written two years before.
The first (and only) Buckingham Nicks album had come out and was met by massive indifference. The duo had been dropped by their label (Polydor) and had gone to Aspen so that Lindsey Buckingham could rehearse for a tour with Don Everly. This was during the time that the Everly Brothers had split up and Lindsey was recruited to take Phil’s place.
When Don and Lindsey hit the road, Stevie stayed behind to contemplate whether she wanted to continue with her music career. It was during this time that she wrote “Landslide” about her decision to stay with music.
As Stevie herself tells it: “So, during that two months, I made a decision to continue. ‘Landslide’ was the decision. ‘When you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills’—it’s the only time in my life that I’ve lived in the snow. But looking up at those Rocky Mountains and going, ‘Okay, we can do it. I’m sure we can do it.’”
And she was right. Within a year, Mick Fleetwood had heard their debut album and had called the pair with an invitation to join Fleetwood Mac. They were paid the princely sum of $800 a week, each. Within another year, their contributions would complete Mac’s evolution from British blues band to international pop sensations.
One album from that great era of psychedelic rock is the self-titled album by a group that called itself The United States of America.
The group was led by an avant-garde composer intensely interested in the-then brand-new field of electronic music, Joseph Byrd. In addition to working with very early synthesizers, the band also included an electric violinist and also processed the drums through electronic equipment. The result was an album that sounded like no other.
The album starts off by layering no less than 5 tunes from the 19th century: a calliope playing "National Emblem", a ragtime piano playing "At a Georgia Camp Meeting", two marching bands playing "Marching Through Georgia" and "The Red, White and Blue" switching between left and right channels. Two other tracks of electronic sounds are also added to the mix. After just a few moments, all of this fades into the album’s first track, “The American Metaphysical Circus.” The lyrics take “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” several steps farther. In fact, many of the album’s tracks pushed the limits for rock at the time, including references to S&M and topless nightclubs as well as a little ditty called “I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife for You” and another dedicated to mentioning as many poisonous plants as possible in 2 minutes and 39 seconds.
Probably rock’s most famous muse, Pattie Boyd was the inspiration for 3 of the greatest love songs of the last half of the twentieth century: George Harrison’s “Something,” Eric Clapton’s “Layla” and Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.”
Pattie shot to fame in the early 1960s, becoming an international success as a model. Her work on a potato chip commercial (called “crisps” in the UK) led that commercial’s director, Richard Lester, to cast her as a schoolgirl in the first Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night.
Boyd was 19, George Harrison was 20. He was instantly smitten and began pursuing Ms. Boyd – proposing to her before they even had their first date. The couple were wed in 1966.
In the course of things, George introduced her to his new best friend, Eric Clapton. Clapton also became infatuated with Boyd. The fact that she was married to his best friend only made things worse. Someone then gave Clapton a 12th-century Persian poem called “The Story of Layla and Majnun.” (I bet you can guess where this story is going.)
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