The music history books are vast and full of interesting bits of knowledge. “Big” Jay Sorensen gives you a recap of the biggest and most interesting music news from the week; something from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
This week Big Jay remembers a live classic from the Beach Boys, Elton John’s leap into the spotlight and a change of pace and fan base for Chicago.
This week, the Beach Boys were the principal American album sellers this week with their seventh U.S. LP, Beach Boys Concert on Capitol Records. The album was in its third of an ultimate four weeks in the summit spot on the Pop Albums chart. The fact that it was their initial chart-topping album is significant. But let’s take a hard look at this live LP. There were many live tracks, but, in addition to those recorded at a December, 1963 show in Sacramento, CA, the album also featured some aural tomfoolery. A few of the songs were in reality studio recordings that were edited, sped up or embellished with vocal and instrumental studio overdubbing by studio session cats—members of the so-called Wrecking Crew. Part of the reason for the tinkering was that (like label-mates the Beatles live shows) the screaming girls sounded like a locust invasion and ruined any chance of decent sonic quality.
No singles were officially released from this ‘live’ set, as their current single was “Dance Dance Dance” from their future studio LP The Beach Boys Today. Songs recognizable to Beach Boys fans were included in this set, like; “Fun, Fun, Fun”, “Little Deuce Coupe”, “In My Room” and “I Get Around” their only number one single at this point. Other tracks were memorable songs for other artists, like; “Little Old Lady From Pasadena” (originally from the Beach Boys’ pals, Jan & Dean, along with live renditions of “Monster Mash”, “Let’s Go Trippin’”, “Johnnie B. Goode”, “The Wanderer” and doo-wop classic “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow.”
Some of the live tracks (“Fun, Fun, Fun” and “I Get Around”) were doctored to make them sound like the more full-sounding original studio tracks—actually the instrumental tracks WERE done in the studio, and simply sped up for this set with overdubbed vocals added. Thus, this million-selling LP was partly a spurious effort to get people to buy new Beach Boys material—some of which really wasn’t that new. AND Capitol Records charged a dollar MORE than a standard LP for the so-called ‘deluxe’ packaging. The set was produced by Brian Wilson who led the most familiar version of the Beach Boys; his brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine.
Leaving out only the U.S. singles “Friends”, “Levon” and “Tiny Dancer”, MCA Records decided to cash in on the dazzling career of Elton Hercules John. Reginald Kenneth Dwight (real name) had been a roving studio pianist for acts like the Hollies (that’s him on “He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother)” and others. He had aligned with lyricist Bernie Taupin in 1967 after they both answered an ad in an English music paper. By ’68, they were staff songwriters for a label run by Dick James (who owned the publishing rights at one time for a small amount of early Lennon/McCartney songs.)
The Elton John LP was actually his second, but the first to get detected in the U.S.A. Led by “Your Song”, most American’s got their first experience of the future Rock & Roll Hall of Famer from that LP. Nearly all of the songs on the album featured the classic Elton John Band.
“Your Song” and other tunes on Elton John’s Greatest Hits included: “Border Song”, his first U.S. single, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Gonna Be A Long, Long Time)” and “Honky Cat” both from Honky Château, “Crocodile Rock” and “Daniel” both from Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Bennie And The Jets” all from the double LP Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and “Don’t Let The Sun Come Down On Me” from the album Caribou. The song “The Bitch Is Back” also from Caribou was left off of this one-disc LP, only to be included on the next compilation package Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume II in 1977. The British version of the first Greatest Hits LP replaced “Bennie And The Jets” for the Brit hit the original version of “Candle In The Wind” about late actress Marilyn Monroe.
Chicago had traveled into a slightly different direction after one of their founding members left. With the departure of Peter Cetera in ‘85 after Chicago 17, the group shifted down a few gears, releasing a reduced amount of horn-driven singles—attracting a more female fan-base. This was their first and only number one single after Cetera’s tenure. “Look Away” (which suitably fits the description of a ‘power-ballad’) was taken from their album Chicago 19 on Reprise/Full Moon Records.
Renowned songwriter Diane Warren penned “Look Away”, about a guy whose former wife is getting re-married. She wrote it from the man’s point of view. It was Chicago’s third and final number one Pop Singles chart-topper this week in ‘88 (all three of those were power-ballads come to think of it.) When I think of Chicago, it’s the exploding horns and rockin’ rhythms that make my ears stand up and notice. “Look Away” featured the lead vocal of a fairly fresh recruit to the long-running group Chicago, Bill Champlin, who has since left their squad and has recently recorded with the band’s founding drummer, Danny Seraphine as California Transit Authority. Seraphine was released from the band after the making of Chicago 19.
Other strong singles from Chicago 19 were the first onr, “I Don’t Want To Live Without Your Love” (co-written by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond of “It Never Rains In Southern California”-fame) the third single “You’re Not Alone”, and lastly “We Can Last Forever.” The first three were Pop top-10 charters, and the last was a bigger Adult Contemporary Singles chart hit than on the Pop singles chart. The Chicago 19 album itself reached a below par number 37 on the Pop Album chart in America. One other song from the album ended up being released as a single, re-mixed for the groups’ Chicago Greatest Hits 1982-1989; “What Kind Of Man Would I Be?” featuring lead vocals by Jason Scheff and ended up being the very last top-30 Pop hit for Chicago; reaching number 5.
–Big Jay Sorensen/WCBS-FM
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