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You Light Up My Life

November 19, 2019

Debby Boone’s One Hit Wonder

You_light_up_my_life_posterOn November 19, 1977, this song was in the middle of a 10 week run as the number one song in America. You Light Up My Life was the one and only Top 40 hit from Debbie Boone, daughter of 50’s teen idol Pat Boone. It reached number one on October 15 and stayed in that position through December 23, making it – at the time – the only recording to stay that long in the top spot in Billboard history.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Besting her chart performance in Billboard, Boone’s ‘You Light Up My Life’ single topped Record World’s Top 100 Singles Chart for an unbroken record of 13 weeks. On Billboard’s chart, Boone was unseated from #1 by the Bee Gees, with ‘How Deep Is Your Love,’ the first of three #1 singles from the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack. On Record World’s chart, Boone kept the Bee Gees out of the number-one spot. In Cash Box Magazine, ‘You Light Up My Life’ managed only an eight-week stay at the top of the chart, before being dethroned by Crystal Gayle’s ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue’.

The single, which was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), also hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and reached #4 on the Country chart. The single peaked at #48 I’m the UK Singles Chart. Boone’s hit single led to her winning the 1978 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, with additional Grammy nominations for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female and Record of the Year. Boone also won the 1977 American Music Award for Favorite Pop Single.

Decades after its release, the Debby Boone version is still considered one of the top ten Billboard Hot 100 songs of all time. In 2008, it was ranked at #7 on Billboard’s ’Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs’ list (August 1958 – July 2008). An updated version of the all-time list in 2013 ranked the song at #9.

Although it was written by (Joe) Brooks as a love song, the devout Boone interpreted it as inspirational and proclaimed that it was instead God who ‘lit up her life.’”

The song was tainted by controversy, however, as songwriter Brooks apparently did not want to pay the agreed upon amount owed Kasey Cisyk, the artist who sang it for the movie of the same name, and whose version is included on the 1977 soundtrack.

Boone was told, when recording the song for release as a single, exactly how to sing it and her vocals were dubbed onto the original orchestral track.

At the time, I recall that Boone received much derision and the song was labeled as saccharin. In reading what occurred, however, I feel bad for both the women caught up in the controversy. Perhaps Cisyk was denied her shot at a Top 40 career and, perhaps, Boone was lulled into a sense of inevitability that she would become a star like her father. Although in listening to both versions, I think Boone’s is better.

Boone released additional songs into the pop market, but none ever came close to the success of “You Light Up My Life.” Her career eventually led her back to country music – where she had started – and then to work in the Christian music world.

In the fall of 1977, you simply could not avoid the song. It was played hour after hour on the radio. That autumn was one of the most memorable in my life: I was living away from my parents for the first time, having joined the Alpha Phi sorority at the University of Puget Sound. While I was studying, I don’t think I was studying quite as much as I should have been. Instead, I was attending frat parties every weekend and going on dates! That era in my life was punctuated by music and there were a couple other songs which should have, in my opinion, been number one instead.

These included Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are – an infinitely better song; Rita Coolidge’s version of We’re All Alone; Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better; and Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue by Crystal Gayle. The list of great songs also includes big  hits – but never number ones – from Foreigner, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Styx, Supertramp, and Steely Dan.

Yes, 1977 was an epic year for music and will, unfortunately, forever be associated with You Light Up My Life.

And in case you’d like to hear the Casey Cisyk version and really get the worm stuck in your head (it’s been in mine since I wrote this!) here’s that video also. Note that you are seeing Didi Conn on screen – she is doing a lip-sync to Cisyk’s vocals. Enjoy!

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Light_Up_My_Life_(song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1977_in_music#October

Answers to the Facebook Quiz: the other artists are Roberta Flack, whose hit The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face topped the Billboard charts for 6 weeks in 1972; and Rod Stewart who crooned Tonight’s The Night which spent 8 weeks there in late 1976 and the first week of 1977.

Dan Fogelberg

August 13, 2019

Gone Like The Sand and The Foam

The year was 1979 when this artist entered the American consciousness with a song destined to become a wedding favorite. No doubt he never intended for that to be the case but said of the song, which he wrote while vacationing in Maui, that he was “”lounging in a hammock one night and looking up at the stars. It just seems this song was drifting around the universe, saw me, and decided I’d give it a good home.”

Dan Fogelberg 1980The song was Longer. The artist Dan Fogelberg, who was born on August 13, 1951.

Although Fogelberg had another hit song, Part of the Plan in 1974, it was the song Longer which was his most commercially successful song. It peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1980 and created a fan base of twenty-something young women.

This was due to a number of factors: first, he was an incredible songwriter. His true gift was as a storyteller who could set his tales to music.  He encapsulated human emotion into concise, memorable lyrics which managed to tug at one’s heartstrings and, often, produced ennui. His voice possessed qualities which carried the listener to another place and time, evoking sentiment and meaning with his rich vocals. And, because so many of his songs were written from personal experience they were believable and relate-able.

In a short time period after Longer – which did top out at number 1 on the Adult Contemporary charts – a series of memorable hits followed.

According the Infallible Wikipedia:

Innocent age.jpg“The Innocent Age, released in October 1981, was Fogelberg’s critical and commercial peak. The double album included four of his biggest hits: “Same Old Lang Syne”, “Hard to Say”, “Leader of the Band”, and “Run for the Roses”. He drew inspiration for The Innocent Age from Thomas Wolfe’s novel Of Time and the River. A 1982 greatest hits album contained two new songs, both of which were released as singles: “Missing You” and “Make Love Stay.” In 1984, he released the album Windows and Walls, containing the singles “The Language of Love” and “Believe in Me.”

While Dan Fogelberg was not a flashy performer, his concerts capitalized on the very qualities I listed above. I was privileged to see him perform live twice. The first time was in 1994 for an acoustic concert at the Paramount in Seattle. It was just Dan and the instruments he played, primarily guitar and piano. He connected with the audience and was passionate about his music but also about his commitment to environmental causes.

The second time was at a Summer Nights at the Pier concert in the early 2000’s. I’m not entirely sure which year it was as he played there in 2000, 2001, and 2002 from what I’ve been able to research.

What I do know is that the hubby and I experienced a magical Seattle evening on Elliott Bay enjoying Dan Fogelberg as he shared his music.

Sadly, he was diagnosed with advance prostate cancer in May 2004 and died on December 16, 2007.

But what gifts he shared with the world. He released 16 studio albums and 21 singles. His greatest success was on the Adult Contemporary charts. Of the 21 singles, four went to number one and a total of 12 were top ten hits.

As one of my favorite ‘hitchhikers’ he often keeps me company in my treks back and forth across the mountains. There are so many great songs that it’s difficult to pick just one. So I’ll pick two instead.

The first one is easy as it was the song of his I fell in love with and that would be Longer. Despite having friends who suggested that having it sung at our wedding would be too predictable (it charted in March 1980 – I was married in August that year), my sis-in-law did a beautiful rendition and the song will forever have a tender spot in my heart.

The second one is also from his Innocent Age album. It was never released as a single (although it was the B-side of Run For The Roses) and, I would guess, most people have never heard it. It is, however, a gorgeous song which showcases his talent. The song is titled The Sand and the Foam and here’s a YouTube link. No flashy video. Just pure, unadulterated music by my favorite artist.

And a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Fogelberg

https://www.danfogelberg.com/

https://www.danfogelberg.com/our-story-a-serial-memoir

Just like me, they long to be…

…Close To You

July 30, 2019

In the spring of 1970 there were around 17 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 16, approximately eight and a half million of which were female. It was the era of AM radio and the dawn of a musical period often dominated by a form of music known as soft rock.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts became more similar again toward the end of the 1960s and into the early and mid-1970s, when the texture of much of the music played on Top 40 radio once more began to soften. The adult contemporary format began evolving into the sound that later defined it, with rock-oriented acts as Chicago, the Eagles and Elton John becoming associated with the format. The Carpenters’ hit version of ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ was released in the summer of 1970, followed by Bread’s ‘Make It with You’, both early examples of a softer sound that was coming to dominate the charts.”

Carpenters album cover 1970It was during the last week of July 1970 when Close To You topped the Billboard Hot 100 and held the number one position for four weeks. It marked the ascension of The Carpenters as one of the defining musical acts of the early 1970’s.

Despite the group being derided as saccharin at the time, their musical success is undisputed. Much has been written about Karen Carpenter’s voice and her three octave range and soulful interpretations. The Carpenters would not, however, have been the Carpenters without older brother Richard who was the arranger behind their ‘sound.’

Love em or hate em, the Carpenters’ style was original enough to propel them to the top of the pop charts. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“They produced a distinct soft musical style, combining Karen’s contralto vocals with Richard’s arranging and composition skills. During their 14-year career, the Carpenters recorded ten albums, along with numerous singles and several television specials.”

It was from 1970 through 1973, however, when they achieved their greatest success, appealing to a demographic who purchased their records and made the Carpenters a household name: females aged 13 to 18.

“Their career together ended in 1983 when Karen died from heart failure brought on by complications of anorexia. Extensive news coverage surrounding these circumstances increased public awareness of eating disorders. Though the Carpenters were criticized for their clean-cut and wholesome conservative image in the 1970s, their music has since been re-evaluated, attracting critical acclaim and continued commercial success.”

I have decided to reserve the right to blog more about the Carpenters at a later date. They were the most influential musical group for me during my teen years and I will have more to say. But this article is only to focus on their launch and the song Close To You. 

My early blogging was in the form of keeping a diary. Although I couldn’t put my hands on my 1970 diary, I found a reference to this song at the end of my 1971 diary, noting when it was played on the radio.

I was so obsessed with the song that I used a cassette tape recorder with the microphone held up to the radio to record it for later listening. Close To You was one of the first single records I purchased as was their album of the same title. It’s four week run on the charts also coincided with my 13th birthday.

My obsession even prompted me to think it was a good idea to do a lip-sync version for a competition where I needed a ‘talent.’ (I have zero public performance talents) Taken from the pages of my 1971 diary on December 31 I dutifully record that “I am going to pantomime Close to You like I’m a chorus girl or something. I’m going to wear Sue’s blue velvet formal and silver shoes. If she’ll let me.”

Yes, my older sister did let me wear the dress and the shoes. Yes, it was a total embarrassment. It’s why I avoid karaoke and limit my singing to the shower and the car.

Thank goodness Karen Carpenter – who suffered from stage fright – was able to overcome it enough to share her amazing voice with the world. But I’m not so sure the price she paid was worth it.

The lyrics:

Why do birds suddenly appear, ev’ry time you are near?
Just like me, they long to be close to you.
Why do stars fall down from the sky, ev’ry time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be close to you.

On the day that you were born the angels got together.
And decided to create a dream come true.
So, they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold
And star-light in your eyes of blue.
That is why all the girls in town follow you all around.
Just like me, they long to be close to you…

On the day that you were born the angels got together.
And decided to create a dream come true.
So, they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold
And star-light in your eyes of blue.
That is why all the girls in town follow you all around.
Just like me, they long to be close to you…
Just like me, they long to be close to you…

And a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(They_Long_to_Be)_Close_to_You

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_rock

Maybe It’s Only Yesterday…

July 16, 2019

Zager & Evans.jpgThis song, which charted as number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 the third week of July in 1969, stayed in the top spot for six weeks that summer.  It portrayed a Dystopian future which, one might argue, was just too downer a message for the ‘make love, not war’ crowd of the decade.

In The Year 2525 was destined to become a “one hit wonder.”

When one looks at the events of 1969, is it any surprise this song captured the imagination of a country that a week later witnessed two men walk on the moon? Technology, it seemed, had no limits and it was just a matter of time before robots usurped humans and the reign of homo-sapiens would end.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“‘In the Year 2525’ opens with an introductory verse explaining that if humanity has survived to that point, it would witness the subsequent events in the song. Subsequent verses pick up the story at 1,010-year intervals from 3535 to 6565. In each succeeding millennium, life becomes increasingly sedentary and automated: thoughts are pre-programmed into pills for people to consume, machines take over all work, resulting in eyes, teeth, and limbs losing their purposes, and marriage becomes obsolete since children are conceived in test tubes. Then the pattern as well as the music changes, going up a half step in the key of the song (chromatic modulation), after two stanzas, first from A-flat minor, to A minor.

For the final three millennia, now in B flat minor, the tone of the song turns apocalyptic: the year 7510 marks the date by which the Second Coming will have happened, and the Last Judgment occurs one millennium later. By 9595, with the song now in B minor, the Earth becomes completely depleted of resources, potentially resulting in the death of all life.

The song ends in the year 10,000. By that time, humanity has become extinct. But the song notes that in another solar system (or universe), the scenarios told in the song may still be playing out, as the beginning of the song repeats and the recording fades out.

The overriding theme, of a world doomed by its passive acquiescence to and over-dependence on its own overdone technologies, struck a resonant chord in millions of people around the world in the late 1960’s.  The song was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart during the Apollo 11 moon landing.”

decca record 2525.jpgThe song was written by Rick Evans, one half of the duo of (Denny) Zager and Evans. One remarkable fact about the song is that it is the only song (still true 50 years later) which reached number one on both the US and UK music charts.

Over the past weekend I had the opportunity to see my two older brothers and asked each separately if they knew what one hit wonder was the number one song for mid July 1969. I expected my brother the disc jockey would get it and he did.

It was my older brother, who turned 21 that summer, who took but a moment to consider the question and responded not with the song title but with the name of the artist. Which is quite rare. So often we know the song but not who recorded it. He waxed poetic for a few minutes about how great the music of the late 1960’s was and what an impression it made on an entire generation.

As for me – not yet really listening to the popular music of the day – the song was inescapable. I know I heard it when it came on the radio as well as when my brother played it on his reel to reel tape deck.  As someone on the verge of her teen years, I spent considerable time contemplating the lyrics and it marked my questioning ‘who am I and what am I doing here?’ The world they imagined for the year 2525 and beyond was not a place I wanted to live and I found it all very depressing.

Fast forward to today and although computers, robots, and drones are now part of our world it would seem as though people spend more time now working on personal care and fitness, unwilling to become the lifeless blobs imagined. And that is a good thing.

As a work of fiction, In the Year 2525, serves as a cautionary tale. But don’t take my word for it… copy the link to your browser, watch the video, and enjoy the trip back to the Year 1969 when earthlings went to the moon and the world paused to imagine the future.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Year_2525

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zager_and_Evans

 

 

These Are The Good Old Days

carly simon debut albumJune 25, 2019

Carly Simon

I have been waiting over two years to find a Tuesday on which I can feature this musical artist. As one of my favorite ‘hitchhikers’ when I travel back and forth from Yakima to my home, her lovely contralto voice frequently fills my car with many beloved songs from my teen years. I would argue that nobody does it better than Grammy and Academy Award winner Carly Simon. June 28 is her 74th birthday.

In anticipation of this article, I plugged in her greatest hits CD and imagined I, like Carly, was a legend in my own time, singing in the footlights. Alas, I think anyone listening would have said to me you’re so vain to think your voice could compare to hers.

Ultimately, the right thing to do is tell you all about Simon’s life and her amazing career. By all appearances hers was a storybook existence. The daughter of publisher Richard Simon of Simon and Shuster, she grew up as one of three girls seemingly given every advantage. She was, however, sexually assaulted at age 7 by a teenage friend of the family. The event caused the young Carly to withdraw into herself. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

” ‘It was heinous’, (Simon said) adding, ‘It changed my view about sex for a long time.’ Simon began stuttering severely when she was eight years old. A psychiatrist tried unsuccessfully to cure her stuttering. Instead, Simon turned to singing and songwriting. ‘I felt so strangulated talking that I did the natural thing, which is to write songs, because I could sing without stammering, as all stammerers can.’ Simon attended Riverdale Country School and also (briefly) Sarah Lawrence College, before dropping out to pursue music.”

Additionally, she lost her father who – by all accounts was a mostly absent father – at age 15. She teamed up for a short time with her sister, Lucy, and then with another group. It was her impressive talent which propelled her forward as a solo artist. The self titled debut album, Carly Simon, debuted in March 1971 when she was 26.

Her first top ten hit, That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be, hailed from the album.  Her second album, Anticipation, was released nine months later and the title song made it all the way to number 3 on the charts.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Simon scored the biggest success of her career in 1972–73, with ‘You’re So Vain’. It hit No. 1 on the U.S. Pop and Adult Contemporary charts, and sold over a million copies in the United States alone. It was one of the decade’s biggest hits and propelled Simon’s breakthrough album No Secrets to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts, where it stayed for five consecutive weeks. The album achieved Gold status that year, and by its 25th anniversary in 1997 it had been certified Platinum.”

carly-simon-anticipation-1971-7.jpgFor me it was the song Anticipation which has always garnered a strong emotional response. In fact I found in some of my teenage writings where I had written out all the lyrics to the song and even named the beginnings of one of my early attempts at story telling ‘Anticipation.’

Now, decades later, I am always carried back to 1971 and 1972 when I hear that song and the poignant lyrics are as true today as they were then:

 

 

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

And I tell you how easy it is to be with you
And how right your arms feel around me.
But I rehearsed those words just late last night
When I was thinking about how right tonight might be.

Anticipation, Anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

And tomorrow we might not be together
I’m no prophet, I don’t know natures way
So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.

 

The song is pure in thought and sentiment. Cherish today, for tomorrow is not promised. Carly was right. These ARE the good old days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carly_Simon

I Believe In Yesterday

June 18, 2019

Paul McCartney

The Infallible Wikipedia article about this artist, born June 18, 1942, is one of the longest I’ve ever seen.  Which might explain why I’ve been reluctant to write about him until now.  No words are capable of capturing his musical greatness or the impact of his compositions. That artist is Paul McCartney.paul-mccartney-twitter-14.jpg

The numbers are staggering: He has written or co-written 32 songs which were number one on the Billboard Hot 100; more than 2200 artists have covered his iconic song “Yesterday”;  has won 18 Grammy Awards; twice inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; is personally worth $1.2 BILLION; and was knighted by the Queen of England in 1997.

McCartney was, of course, one of the four members of the Beatles. But he truly was so much more than that.  He wrote, or co-wrote with John Lennon, the majority of their songs.  From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“At the age of fifteen on 6 July 1957, McCartney met John Lennon and his band, the Quarrymen, at the St Peter’s Church Hall fête in Woolton. The Quarrymen played a mix of rock and roll and skiffle, a type of popular music with jazz, blues and folk influences. Soon afterwards, the members of the band invited McCartney to join as a rhythm guitarist, and he formed a close working relationship with Lennon.”

Three years later the group renamed themselves the Beatles. While the group rocketed to international fame, the relationships between the members were contentious. McCartney was seen as picky and also the one who forced the Beatles to go beyond the simple songs which defined their early work. The three other members all seemed to resent McCartney and how he took control. Finally, in April 1970, McCartney left the group and strode out as a solo artist.

Paul and Linda McCartney.jpgIt was the influence and support of his wife, Linda, which defined the next 25 years of his career. The solo career was short lived. He formed the band Wings along with his wife, ex-Moody Blue’s guitarist Denny Laine, and also drummer Denny Seiwell.

While the band never saw the same level of fan hysteria as the Beatles, Wings achieved enviable success. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In March 1973, Wings achieved their first US number-one single, ‘My Love‘, included on their second LP, Red Rose Speedway, a US number one and UK top five. McCartney’s collaboration with Linda and former Beatles producer Martin resulted in the song ‘Live and Let Die‘, which was the theme song for the James Bond film of the same name. Nominated for an Academy Award, the song reached number two in the US and number nine in the UK. It also earned Martin a Grammy for his orchestral arrangement. Music professor and author Vincent Benitez described the track as ‘symphonic rock at its best’”Band on the run

More number one hits followed such as “Band on The Run” and “With a Little Luck.”

But, as had happened with the Beatles, disagreements with band members led to the band’s breakup in April 1981.

McCartney has not achieved the same commercial success as with either the Beatles or Wings, but he continues to stretch and grow as an artist, exploring orchestral, classical, and electronica styles in the past quarter century. In September 2018 he released his album, Egypt Station, which became his first album to make it on to the Billboard Hot 200 chart in 36 years. It debuted as number one.paul-mccartney-press-cr-Mary-McCartney-billboard-1548.jpg

Having grown up in the 1960’s with an older brother who adored the Beatles and then ‘discovering’ music on my own in the 1970’s, McCartney was, of course, a household name. Girls of the era often referred to him as the ‘cute’ Beatle. Personally, I’ve never was a huge Beatles or Wings fan, but both group’s music were inescapable.

My favorite story about McCartney occurred during his tenure with Wings. My sister became a Junior High school teacher after she graduated college in 1979. One day she overheard a couple of students discussing the band Wings and one of them said “Did you know Paul McCartney was in another group before Wings?”

My sister had to stop herself from laughing out loud. ‘Another’ group? Like the Beatles? Ah, how quickly one’s fame can flee.

So happy 77th birthday to Paul McCartney.

A link to the exhaustive Wikipedia articles:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_McCartney

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_McCartney_and_Wings

And a youtube link to the iconic ‘Yesterday.”

Fleetwood Mac

I heard some Rumours…

April 2, 2019

This album sat atop the Billboard charts for 31 non-consecutive weeks in 1977 and early 1978. Its chart dominance began on April 2, 1977 and, according to one of the principles of the group who recorded it, it was “the most important album we ever made.”fleetwood-mac-rumours-album-cover.jpg

The album was Rumours and the group Fleetwood Mac.

Theirs is a story which shows that finding the right blend of talent, relentless commitment, and a lot of hard work, are necessary to make it in the music industry. The Fleetwood Mac story begins in 1967 as explained in the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Fleetwood Mac was founded by guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Jeremy Spencer. Bassist John McVie completed the lineup for their self-titled debut album. Danny Kirwan joined as a third guitarist in 1968. Keyboardist Christine Perfect, who contributed as a session musician from the second album, married McVie and joined in 1970. At this time it was primarily a British blues band, scoring a UK number one with ‘Albatross’ and had lesser hits with the singles ‘Oh Well’ and ‘Black Magic Woman’. All three guitarists left in succession during the early 1970s, to be replaced by guitarists Bob Welch and Bob Weston and vocalist Dave Walker. By 1974, all three had either departed or been dismissed, leaving the band without a male lead vocalist or guitarist.”

The group was plagued by skullduggery from their manager, drug and alcohol addictions of some band members, departures of multiple guitarists, and an inability to make it big as a British Blues band. Then, in 1974 the band moved to Los Angeles. It was in that moment the magic began to happen. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“After (Bob) Welch announced that he was leaving the band, Fleetwood began searching for a replacement. While Fleetwood was checking out Sound City Studios in Los Angeles, the house engineer, Keith Olsen, played him a track he had recorded in the studio, ‘Frozen Love’, from the album Buckingham Nicks (1973). Fleetwood liked it and was introduced to the guitarist from the band, Lindsey Buckingham, who was at Sound City that day recording demos. Fleetwood asked him to join Fleetwood Mac and Buckingham agreed, on the condition that his music partner and girlfriend, Stevie Nicks, be included. Buckingham and Nicks joined the band on New Year’s Eve 1974, within four weeks of the previous incarnation splitting.”

With the new members in place, the band took to the studio to record their (second!) self titled album, 1975’s “Fleetwood Mac.” It was a commercial success, selling over 7 million copies and featuring the memorable tracks: Over My Head, Say You Love Me (vocals Christine McVie), Rhiannon,  and Landslide (vocals Stevie Nicks).

In many ways, the two women’s distinctive voices came to define the group’s sound and propel their musical style towards mainstream pop.

With the release of Rumours in January 1977 and its subsequent rise to the top of the Billboard album charts, Fleetwood Mac cemented their spot in the Rock and Roll history books. The Infallible Wikipedia gives the details:

“By 1980, 13 million copies of Rumours had been sold worldwide. As of 2013, sales were over 40 million copies. As of May 2016, Rumours has spent 630 weeks in the UK Top 75 album chart and is the 11th best-selling album in UK history and is certified 13× platinum by the British Phonographic Industry, the equivalent of 3.9 million units shipped. The record has received a Diamond Award from the Recording Industry Association of America for a 20× platinum certification or 20 million copies shipped, making it, as of 2012, the joint fifth best-selling album in US history (by number of copies shipped).” (Ed note: it is still, as of 2019, one of the top ten best-selling albums of all time)

Fleetwood-Mac.jpgAlthough the group has continued to record and perform over the years, with some members leaving, new ones coming in, and then old ones rejoining, those of us of a certain age no doubt think of Fleetwood Mac as the following five individuals who were the group in 1977: Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

During a foray in to Value Village (a Western Washington thrift store) about a year ago I was – as is my habit – perusing the used CD’s when I spied it: Fleetwood Mac – Greatest Hits. I plucked the CD from the shelf and spirited it home. Last fall when the hubby and I were about to embark on a three week, three thousand mile, road trip, I was forced to reduce down my box of ‘hitchhikers.’ This is what I lovingly call the approximately 25 CD’s which travel with me to Yakima and back every couple of weeks.

The purge process involved looking at every CD we own (who knows 100? 150? 200?) and determining which of the CD’s deserved a place in the box and which had a cut or two to be recorded onto a thumb drive. One by one I evaluated with the thumb drive pile growing ever higher and the box group getting smaller. “Would I,” I asked myself with each CD, ” listen to every song on this?”

There were only a handful which met that standard…  FM’s Greatest Hits was one of them. And so it remains in the box of hitchhikers. My only wish is that “Landslide” had been included on the CD as it is, by far, my favorite of their songs.

For those not familiar with it, here it is. Enjoy!

The FM story is fascinating and far too much to include in my weekly blog. Thankfully Wikipedia provides exhaustive information for those interested:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleetwood_Mac

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Billboard_200_number-one_albums_of_1977

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumours_(album)

When I first posted this three years ago, I had asked a few questions on Facebook. Couldn’t now tell you the question, but here is the answer: these five albums stayed at number 1 on the album charts longer than any others since the mid-1950s.

Weeks Album Artist Year(s) Source
54 West Side Story Soundtrack 1962-63 [44]
37 Thriller Michael Jackson 1983–84 [45]
31 Rumours Fleetwood Mac 1977–78 [45]
South Pacific Soundtrack 1958–59 [44]
Calypso Harry Belafonte 1956–57 [44]

Buying a Stairway To Heaven

March 5, 2019

For many Baby Boomers, there is one song from the 1970’s which seems to define and capture their youth. The song, however, was never released as a single and never hit number one on the Billboard charts. In fact it defied all the ‘rules’ of Top 40 Rock and Roll. It was nearly eight minutes long, unheard of when the average length of a commercial song was about three minutes. It started as an ennui inducing ballad but then morphed to a hard rocking electric guitar solo, but finishes back in ballad form. If, by now, you don’t know the song then you probably missed the 1970’s and have not listened to the radio since.led zeppelin.jpg

Stairway to Heaven was performed live for the very first time on March 5, 1971 at Ulster Hall in Belfast, Ireland.  According to Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones the crowd was “… all bored to tears waiting to hear something they knew.” I have my doubts that his evaluation was entirely accurate. I imagine there were many in the audience that day who instantly knew they were hearing history being made.

In the subsequent years, the song has proven a thoroughbred, consistently among the top contenders on many ‘greatest’ song lists. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“‘Stairway to Heaven’ continues to top radio lists of the greatest rock songs, including a 2006 Guitar World readers poll of greatest guitar solos. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via U.S. radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays – back to back, that would run for 44 years solid. As of 2000, the song had been broadcast on radio over three million times. In 1990 a St. Petersburg, Florida station kicked off its all-Led Zeppelin format by playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for 24 hours straight. It is also the biggest-selling single piece of sheet music in rock history, clocking up an average of 15,000 copies yearly. In total, over one million copies have been sold.”

plant page.jpg

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Bonham

With great success often comes controversy. Such was true for Stairway To Heaven. Two years before the song was written, Led Zeppelin toured a few times with a group called Spirit. And that group performed an original song titled Taurus. As it happens, Taurus’ opening guitar riff began with a descending A minor chord progression. Which is also true of Stairway To Heaven. The similarity spawned a copyright infringement lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of the deceased creator of the Taurus guitar introduction. When the verdict was announced in 2016, it ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin. Essentially, while Stairway to Heaven uses a nearly identical A minor chord progression, theirs went way beyond what Spirit had done, adding an ascending progression from A to B to C and finishing on F sharp which plays simultaneously with the descending A minor progression.

I found the whole thing quite fascinating and enjoyed watching this musician dissect it:

https://youtu.be/PCEg9gMJakU

By 1973, Stairway to Heaven was a staple at every Homecoming, Tolo and Prom. And one you were never quite sure how to dance to. I imagine the guys liked it because they got to slow dance with the girls for a bit… and then break apart for more traditional rock and roll moves.

Personally, I always found it awkward. And then there was the problem of local bands attempting to do justice to the music… and usually butchering it.

No, the best way to enjoy Stairway To Heaven is to simply close one’s eyes, listen to the lyrics sung by Robert Plant, the amazing guitar work of Jimmy Page, and contemplate the concepts. Since it first emerged in our collective consciousness, countless fans have, no doubt, cogitated and considered just exactly what it all means. And that, ultimately, is one of the greatest allures of the song.

As always, a couple links for you:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stairway_to_Heaven (the Infallible Wikipedia article)

https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/led-zeppelin-wins-copyright-infringement-suit-opening-lick/story?id=40026259 (report on the lawsuit)

Led-Zeppelin-Stairway-To-Heaven

 

 

Saturday Night Fever

The Bee Gees

February 12, 2019

It was this trio’s  sound which came to define a  craze which swept the United States in 1978. By early January the Bee Gees dominated the Billboard charts. They would go on  to have three number one singles that year, solidifying Disco as the ‘sound’.

On February 12th the Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive, the song featured in the opening segment of the hit movie Saturday Night Fever, was in the middle of a four week stint at the top.  Two months earlier, on December 17, 1977, the movie captured the attention of the country. Soon guys were donning their own white disco suits and gals strapped on wedgy high heels and wore swingy dresses, flooding dance floors everywhere as they gyrated to the catchy beat.

More than the movie, however, it was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that defined the era. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“It remains the best selling soundtrack of all time with over 45 million units sold. In the United States, the album was certified 16× Platinum for shipments of at least 16 million units. The album stayed atop the album charts for 24 straight weeks from January to July 1978 and stayed on Billboard‘s album charts for 120 weeks until March 1980. In the UK, the album spent 18 consecutive weeks at No. 1. The album epitomized the disco phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic and was an international sensation. The album has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress for being culturally significant.”

Saturday-Night-Fever-Soundtrack-Ristampa-Vinile-lp2.jpgThe Bee Gees, already a successful group, had no small part in the creation of the soundtrack. In all, eight of their original songs are featured. But for the fact that Columbia records refused the producers the rights to use Boz Skaggs song Lowdown, the Bee Gees might never have gotten involved.

Movie producer, Robert Stigwood, contacted Robin Gibb who related the conversation as this:

“We were recording our new album in the north of France. And we’d written about and recorded about four or five songs for the new album when Stigwood rang from LA and said, ‘We’re putting together this little film, low budget, called Tribal Rites of a Saturday Night. Would you have any songs on hand?’, and we said, ‘Look, we can’t, we haven’t any time to sit down and write for a film’. We didn’t know what it was about.”

What happened next is that most of the songs were written in one weekend and the rest, they say, is history.

bee gees 1978.jpgAlthough the Bee Gees may have lost an album that year, their place in the annals of musical legends was solidified.

As a 20 year old college co-ed, I was not immune from the disco craze. A student at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, myself and a sorority sister enrolled in a Disco dancing class at Tacoma Community College.

For a number of weeks we attended the class where we learned all the fancy footwork, arm movements and twirls of the dance.  I bought a white dress with a handkerchief hem, donned my white wedge sandals, and was soon going out dancing.

Despite my natural klutziness, I managed to dance with the best of them and, in the process, met a recent alumni from one of the fraternities who turned out to be the best dancer I ever knew. Alan knew every step, every move, and was a great teacher and partner. Dancing with him was magical.

At the time I did not appreciate what a unique time or experience it was. By 1979 Disco had faded due – I think – to the reluctance of the majority of the male population to learn the dances.  It was soon replaced with moon walking and other forms of dance and then, in the late 1980’s, with the phenomenon of country line dancing. And so it goes throughout history.  But for me, whenever I hear Stayin’ Alive or any Bee Gee song of that era, I find myself busting the moves. Just don’t tell my daughter, okay?

A couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturday_Night_Fever_(soundtrack)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee_Gees

The King of Rock and Roll

January 8, 2019

Perhaps more than any other musical artist this star’s rise was in concert with the era of Rock and Roll. There are those who say he defined the sound of the genre. There is no doubt – as his 115 songs which charted on the Billboard 100 prove it – Elvis Presley was “The King of Rock and Roll.”elvis-aaron-presley-lovers-842.jpg

Born on January 8, 1935, he would have been 84 this year.

His story was truly the stuff of fiction. He was born, and spent the first 10 years of his life, in a two room shotgun style house in Tupelo, Mississippi. Interestingly, Elvis was an identical twin but his brother was a stillborn. Although attracted to music from a young age, he suffered from terrible stage fright in the early years. Despite this – and despite being told he had no ability many times – he continued on in pursuit of a career.

There was moderate success. It was during a recording session with Sun Records in August 1953 when the 19 year old’s ‘sound’ was discovered. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The session, held the evening of July 5, proved entirely unfruitful until late in the night. As they were about to abort and go home, Presley took his guitar and launched into a 1946 blues number, Arthur Crudup’s ‘That’s All Right’. Moore recalled, ‘All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open … he stuck his head out and said, ‘What are you doing?’ And we said, ‘We don’t know.’ ‘Well, back up,’ he said, ‘try to find a place to start, and do it again.’‘ Phillips quickly began taping; this was the sound he had been looking for. Three days later, popular Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips played ‘That’s All Right’ on his Red, Hot, and Blue show. Listeners began phoning in, eager to find out who the singer really was. The interest was such that Phillips played the record repeatedly during the remaining two hours of his show. Interviewing Presley on air, Phillips asked him what high school he attended in order to clarify his color for the many callers who had assumed that he was black.”

Elvis’ self titled debut album was released in March 1956 and featured his first big hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.” Because Presley’s sound was so different from any popular music of the day, many radio stations refused to play it, unable to figure out where it fit. But when the teenagers heard it, they would call the stations and request his songs. It was the first rock and roll album to reach number one on the Billboard charts, a position it held for 10 weeks.

What followed for Elvis were television appearances, most filled with controversy in regards to his iconic on-stage gyrations. His suggestive movements were originally prompted by a combination of nervousness on stage and tapping his foot to keep the beat. But Elvis seemed to have an instinct for knowing what his fans wanted and, when they screamed for more, he gave them more. The hullabaloo over his antics only served to bolster his success.

Rather than pen about more of his career – after all there have been hundreds of books and articles written – you can read a synopsis of his life here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley

I never saw Elvis in concert. I never bought one of his records. In fact, by the time I was a teenager, he was 35-40 years old and his career was in decline. You can only be a teen idol for so long.

elvis-presley-at-home-with-teddy-bears-1956-phillip-harringtonBut I do have a distinct memory of meeting a man who played with Elvis. By the time I met Punky Caldwell, he and his family were living in Yakima. Punky, unfortunately, was suffering from the complications of diabetes. It was Thanksgiving weekend of 1977, a few months after Elvis’ death. It was a weird night. I had gone with my ex-boyfriend to visit a friend of his from high school – Thelma – and we ended up playing cribbage with her and her mother, Jo. We said hello to Punky. He retired shortly thereafter and then, during the cribbage games, the story of how he had worked with Elvis was told. I guess he must have played with Elvis before Elvis got big. The way I recalled the story is that Jo and Punky went to visit Graceland after Punky no longer played with Elvis, and that there were hundreds of teddy bears everywhere. She commented on the teddy bears to Elvis who offered her one, which she refused. Later, when she and Punky were back at the hotel, a package arrived from Elvis. It was a teddy bear.

Being that I was 20 years old I hadn’t yet emerged from my self-centered cocoon. I’ve always been sorry that I didn’t show more interest in that unique story or to find out how, exactly, the family got from the south to Yakima.

A couple of years later when I worked as the editor/reporter of a small weekly newspaper I discovered I had a talent and a love of writing stories exactly like this; stories about a regular person who, perhaps, has done something extraordinary at one time in their life.

So now the reporter instinct in me kicked in and I have been able to learn more about Punky and his legacy. I know that he mentored young musicians in Yakima, making a real impact on them personally. I spoke with Thelma and the stories she heard growing up were quite different from what I recalled.

Her dad was a talented saxophonist and clarinetist and had his own band in Arkansas in the 1950’s. He played with Elvis before the King made it big, touring as musicians do. Even after Elvis achieved international fame, Punky was one person Elvis always trusted because Punky never wanted anything from him. In fact, after Punky and Jo married and their two daughters were born, he decided his young family needed him home more and decided to cut back on the touring. This was at a time when Elvis’ career was launching out of the stratosphere.

Elvis kept asking him to become a permanent member of his band, but Punky always said no. Finally one day, Elvis sent a gift to Punky; a Cadillac! Immediately Punky determined that he could not keep the car as he would not join the band. According to Thelma (she was only two, so this is the story from her parents) words were exchanged between her parents as to the disposition of the car. In the end, both Punky and Jo drove the car back to Graceland to return it.

Punky, who spent his life in music, lived for a few years in the Midwest before moving to Yakima. He thought Yakima would be a good place to headquarter where he could get to west coast gigs more easily. Sadly,  blues and jazz music – his specialty – were, by the 1970’s, no longer being sought after for live performance.

But the takeaway is this… you never know whose life you may impact and what legacy you will leave. Perhaps you will be as big and as famous as Elvis or perhaps your impact, like Punky, will be on far fewer. Oh but what a difference it can make to those few.

For more on Punky’s life, some photos, and HOW he came to be called Punky, here’s two links:

Caldwell, Walter Garnett “Punky”

https://activerain.com/blogsview/1727482/punky-caldwell-reblogged—c-l-coyle-and-other-band-members-from-searcy-arkansas-

Update on January 8, 2021 – If you’d like to hear some of Punky’s music, this guy randomly picks an album which piques his interest and then folds laundry and listens to it, making comments along the way. I know, it’s a weird set up. But kind of interesting how he is skeptical of Punky’s work at first but comes to appreciate the talent. Enjoy! Also, I guess he liked it enough to do side 2 of the album which was posted on December 17, 2020.