Tag Archives: Music

Levon Helm

Rock and Roll SatLevon Helm lost his battle with cancer on Thursday past. He was a unique player on the rock, country, and folk landscape.  Helm achieved fame as the drummer and frequent lead and backing vocalist for The Band. His soulful voice was cultivated in the cotton fields of Arkansas, a stones throw from the Mississippi River.

Helm played with many of the rock and roll, and country greats throughout the years but he is most noted for his vocals on many of the Band’s recordings, such as “The Weight“, “Up on Cripple Creek“, “Ophelia” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“.

Levon HelmIn the late 90s, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer causing severe hoarseness and was advised to undergo a laryngectomy. Instead, Helm opted for a tedious regimen of radiation treatments at Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The tumor was successfully removed but Helm’s vocal cords were damaged. His powerful tenor voice was replaced by a quiet rasp.

Helm’s 2007 comeback album Dirt Farmer earned the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in February 2008, and in November of that year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #91 in the list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. In 2010, Electric Dirt, his 2009 follow-up to Dirt Farmer, won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Americana Album, an inaugural category in 2010. In 2011, his live album Ramble at the Ryman was nominated for the Grammy in the same category and won.

Besides being a notable singer and drummer, Helm found his way to Hollywood and was cast in many standout feature films.

Levon Helm Movies

1. Coal Miner’s Daughter – Ted Webb, Loretta Lynn’s father

2. The Right Stuff – Jack Ridley, Chuck Yeagar’s friend and Flight engineer.

3. The Fire Down Below – Reverend Bob Goodall (w/Steven Seagal)

4. In the Electric Mist – General John Bell Hood (in dream sequence)

Helm’s narration and performance in The Right Stuff.

On April 17, 2012, his wife and daughter announced on Helm’s website that he was “in the final stages of his battle with cancer” and thanked fans while requesting prayers. Two days later, Helm died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Deep Purple

Rock and Roll SatOne of the British bands to hit the scene in the late 60s was Deep Purple. For some reason they always seemed to be a tier below their British contemporaries.

First off I want to wish Ritchie Blackmore, one of the earliest members of Deep Purple, a very Happy Birthday. He turns 67 today.

Richie’s guitar mastery is second to few and in the days since Purple, he has stayed very active in the business.

The early lineups of Deep Purple:

Ritchie Blackmore – Guitar

Ian Paice – Drums

Jon Lord – Hammond B-3 Organ

Rod Evans (1968-69), Ian Gillian (1969 – 1973) – Vocals

Nick Simper (1968-69), Roger Glover (1969-1973) – Bass

Deep PurpleDeep Purple enjoyed immediate success when their cover of Joe South‘s, Hush reached #4 on the Billboard Top 100 in the US and #2 on the Canadian charts.

In October of ’68, Deep Purple opened for Cream on their Goodbye tour.

In 1971 the band released their most commercially successful album, Machine Head. The album included the song Smoke on the Water, which included the lyrics, “Frank Zappa and the Mothers, were at the best place around. But some stupid with a flare gun, burned the place to the ground.

These words are in reference to their recording plans for Machine Head. The band was originally booked to record at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. The Casino always closed in the winter months for refurbishment and Purple arrived on December 3, 1971.

Smoke on the WaterThe final Casino concert of the season was the following night when Frank Zappa took the stage. Sometime during the concert a member of the audience fired a flare into the building’s roof. Although there were no fatalities, the resultant fire ruined Deep Purple’s plans. The band retreated to a nearby theatre called the Pavilion, where they recorded a riff by Ritchie Blackmore provisionally named “Title No. 1.” It became one of the most recognizable riffs in rock.

Bass player Roger Glover named it “Smoke on the Water”, in reference to the band’s experience watching the burning down of Montreux Casino. A photograph of the burning Montreux Casino would ultimately be included in the gatefold of Machine Head’s album cover.

Machine Head would be the groups only #1 album. (#1 in UK – #7 US)

In December of 72, DP released Made in Japan, a double album live set.

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Deep Purple was at the height of its powers. That double album was the epitome of what we stood for in those days. It wasn’t meant to be released outside of Japan. The Japanese said, ‘Will you please make a live album?’ We said, ‘We don’t make live albums; we don’t believe in them.’ We finally said okay, but said we wanted the rights to the tapes because we didn’t want the album to be released outside of Japan. That album only cost about $3,000 to make. It sounded pretty good, so we said to Warner Bros., ‘Do you want this?’ They said, ‘No, live albums don’t happen.’ They wound up putting it out anyway and it went platinum in about two weeks.

Jon Lord interview at www.thehighwaystar.com[/box]

Despite getting to platinum in two weeks, Made in Japan topped out at #6 in the US and #16 in the UK.

This period also marked the beginning of the band’s decline. Roger Glover took an exit shortly after Made in Japan and was replaced by Glenn Hughes. Vocalist Ian Gillian was replace by David Coverdale about this same time.

Blackmore abandoned the band in mid 1975 to be replaced by Tommy Bolin.

Within a few months Deep Purple imploded on the wieght of Bolin’s drug use and Coverdale’s resignation. The breakup was publicized in July of 76. Guitarist Tommy Bolin died of a drug overdose the following December.

In April 1984, eight years after the demise of Deep Purple, a full-scale (and legal) reunion took place with the “classic” early 1970s line-up of Gillan, Lord, Blackmore, Glover and Paice. The reformed band signed a worldwide deal with PolyGram, with Mercury Records releasing their albums in the US, and Polydor Records in the UK and other countries. The album Perfect Strangers was recorded in Vermont and released in October 1984. A solid release, it sold extremely well (reaching #5 in the UK and #17 on the Billboard 200 in the US.)

The guys clicked along with miner skirmishes flaring up between Blackmore and Gillian over the years. Then in November of ’93, Blackmore walked off, guitar in hand, never to return.

Joe Satriani was drafted to complete tour dates in December and stayed on for a European Summer tour in 1994. He was asked to join permanently, but Satriani’s other contract commitments prevented this. The band unanimously chose Dixie Dregs/Kansas guitarist Steve Morse to become Blackmore’s permanent successor.

Morse’s arrival revitalised the band creatively, and in 1996 a new album titled Purpendicular was released, showing a wide variety of musical styles, though it never made chart success on Billboard 200 in the US.

Don Airey joined the group in 2001 to prepare for Jon Lord’s looming retierment from Deep Purple. Through the years there have been many shifts in the lineup but the 2012 Deep Purple looks like this.

Deep Purple

Queen

QueenThe rock group Queen had their debut performance at the Marquee Theater in London on this date in 1973.

Although the guys got together in late 1971, it would be well over a year of reheasing and refining the Queen sound before they were ready to debut.

A week after their debut performance,  eponymous debut album Queen launched with moderate success in the UK. Their second effort, Queen II, didn’t do much better. It was not until their 3rd studio album, Sheer Heart Attack, did Queen gain international acceptance.

Lead singer Freddie Mercury died of Aids on November 24, 1991.

From Queen’s debut album – Keep Yourself Alive

Rolling Stones – 1962

Rock and Roll SatIn the timeline of rock the chance meeting fifty years ago today between childhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and guitarist Brian Jones at an Alexis Korner concert in London, set the stage for the longest continuous rock act in history — The Rolling Stones.

Stones 1962Brian Jones was the initial leader but by 1969, with Jones’ personal life unraveling under the weight of legal and drug problems, Richards and Jagger took over primary control of the band.

The original 1962 lineup included:

Brian Jones – Guitar

Mick Jagger – Vocals

Keith Richards – Guitar

Ian Stewart – Keyboard

Dick Taylor – Bass

Tony Chapman – Drums

Brian Jones left the Stones in 1969. Publicly it appeared to be his decision but legal problems and drug issues surrounding the co-founder had become very divisive and on June 8th of ’69, Jagger, Richards, and Watts, met with Jones to let him know the band would be moving on without him. Jones was replaced by 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor (formerly of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers).

Charlie Watts took over drums in January of ’63. Bill Wyman replaced Taylor at Bass in December of ’62 but retired in January of ’93.

Mick Taylor left the band voluntarily in 1964. He was replaced by former Birds / Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Ian Stewart played piano off and on, and acted as road manager from the beginning until August of 1985. “Stu” had a heart attack that December and died in the waiting room.

Chuck Leavell, long time Allman Brothers’ piano player, stepped in as the unoffical Stones keyboardist in the wake of Stewart’s death.

After Wyman retired, Darryl Jones, a noted sessions musician from Chicago was invited to play bass, a position he enjoys today.

Considering the recent tift between Jagger and Richards another tour is questionable. With Jagger and Richards both enjoying a young 68-years-old, if they have one more tour in them they’d better get going. There’s just something about the prospects of 70-year-old rockers playing Carnegie Hall that doesn’t seem quite right.

Rolling Stone magazine is saying a Stones Tour for 2013 is being tentatively planned but everything hinges on Richards’ health.

I wonder what this Tour would be named???

    • The “Sympathy for the Doctor” Tour
    • The “Gimmie Seltzer” Tour
    • The “BooHoo Lounge” Tour
    • The “Bridges to Bathtime” Tour
    • The “Exile on Pain Street” Tour
    • The “Geriatric” Tour

Purple Rain

Purple RainTo say Purple Rain was a cultural phenomenon in 1985 is like saying there’s a vacuum in space. You know it to be true you just don’t quite understand why.

Now I’ll be the first to say I am not, have never been, will probably never be a Prince fan. That’s a personal preference and has nothing to do with the skill this Minneapolis native has with anything musical.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson this young musician was a relative unknown in certain musical circles around the country before the release of the film, Purple Rain. Although his October of ’79 self-titled album, Prince, reached  No.4 on the Billboard Top R&B/Black Albums charts, and No.22 on the Billboard 200; until I heard When Doves Cry on the radio, I’d never heard of the guy.

PrinceThe film is tied into the album of the same name, which spawned two chart-topping singles: “When Doves Cry” and the opening number “Let’s Go Crazy“, while “Purple Rain” reached #2. The movie won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. The soundtrack sold over 10 million copies in America alone, and 20 million worldwide.

I’ll be the first to tell you I am by any means a music critic, expert, or go-to guy for all things music. At the end of the day I am a consumer. I have a diverse taste that spans many genres from hard rock to classical to blues and jazz. What that means is my opinion and a buck fifty will get you a cup of Waffle House coffee. It doesn’t mean Jack.

Was Purple Rain winning the Oscar for Best Original Song Score a surprise? Maybe-maybe not. Considering the competition came down to Kris Kristofferson – Songwriter, and Jeffrey Moss – The Muppets Take Manhatten,  I’m not surprised at all. Had it been up against Yentl or Out of Africa, I’m convinced the results would have been quite different.

Instead… Prince takes the Oscar – March 25, 1985.

Thick as a Brick

Rock and Roll SatThick as a Brick was the fifth studio album from the British progressive rock group Jethro Tull. It released forty years ago in March of 1972.

Unheard of at the time, Thick as a Brick included one continuous track, forty-four minutes of one composition pieced together with a mixture of complex musical structures. It was a tour-de-force, a masterpiece of rock blended with English folk music, sprinkled with classical symmetry, and wrapped from the ground up with ahead of its time sound engineering. Brick stands the test of time and not-by-note presents what music is all about. It’s about taking great lyrics, creative instrumentation, and courageous steps beyond self-imposed boundaries.

Few rock and rollers can be dubbed with the title genius. Ian Anderson is one of them.

Ian AndersonThick as a Brick  shot to the top of the album charts and held the #1 slot for a solid two weeks.

The Jethro Tull lineup for TAAB was:

Ian Anderson – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, flute, violin, trumpet, saxophone

Martin Barre – electric guitar, lute

John Evan – piano, organ, harpsichord

Jeffrey Hammond – Bass guitar, Vocals

Barriemore Barlow – drums, percussion, timpani

David Palmer – Brass and string arrangements

The creation of TAAB is pure Ian Anderson genius.  Its lyrics are based on a poem written by a fictitious boy, Gerald Bostock, said to have been adapted to music by Jethro Tull. In reality Ian Anderson wrote all the lyrics himself.

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A snippet of Thick as a Brick lyrics:

So come all ye young men who are building castles!

Kindly state the time of the year

and join your voices in a hellish chorus.

Mark the precise nature of your fear.

Let me help you pick up your dead

as the sins of the father are fed

with

the blood of the fools and the thoughts of the wise

and from the pan under your bed.

Let me make you a present of song

as the wise man breaks wind and is gone while

the fool with the hour-glass is cooking his goose

and the nursery rhyme winds along.

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TAAB PaperThe album cover was pure spoof of a local newspaper, entitled The St. Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser, with articles, competitions, adverts, etc., lampooning the parochial journalism still existing in many places. There are hints of certain classical album covers embedded in the paper.

Jethro Tull’s official website explains the mock-newspaper, “There are a lot of inside puns, cleverly hidden continuing jokes (such as the experimental non-rabbit), a surprisingly frank review of the album itself, and even a little naughty connect-the-dots children’s activity.”

The “newspaper”, dated 7 January 1972, also includes the entire lyrics to the poem “Thick as a Brick” (and, thus, to the album of the same name—printed on page 7) as written by a fictional 8-year-old literary prodigy, Gerald “Little Milton” Bostock, whose disqualification from a poetry contest is the focus of the front page story. This article claims that although Bostock initially won the contest with “Thick as a Brick“, the judges’ decision was repealed after a multitude of protests and threats concerning the offensive nature of the poem, furthered by allegations of the boy’s psychological instability.

On February 1, 2012 Ian Anderson announced via the official Jethro Tull website a follow-up album, TAAB2 – Whatever Happened To Gerald Bostock?

TAAB2 is to be a full length Progressive Rock “concept” album worthy of its predecessor. Boy to man and beyond, it looks at what might have befallen the child poet Gerald Bostock in later life. Look for Brick II on April 2, 2012.

Jethro Tull performing Thick as a Brick at Madison Square Gardens.
– October 9, 1978

Current JETHRO TULL touring band

Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull current touring band

CCR

Rock and Roll SatCreedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) were:

John Fogerty
Stu Cook
Doug Clifford
Tom Fogerty

CCRThese four guys from El Cerrito, California made up the late 60s musical phenomenon Creedence Clearwater Revival. There was a period of time you couldn’t turn on the radio for more than a few minutes and not hear CCR. Their unique blend of rock, folk and country was a contrast to the psychedelic sound coming out of San Francisco.

I always thought it odd the boys from Berkley made their name singing songs about the south, Louisiana Bayous, The Mississippi River, and catfish. They were southern rock before there was such a thing and the generation loved it.

In 1964 the band signed with Fantasy Records in 1964 as The Blue Velvets but the label immediately changed the name to The Golliwogs, hoping to mimic the success of the British Invasion. It wasn’t to be and in 1967 Fantasy records changed hands. The new owner, Saul Zaentz, saw the potential but never liked the name Golliwog. He asked the guys to come up with ten suggestions each.

It was their first suggestion that made the cut: Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The band took the three elements from, firstly, Tom Fogerty’s friend Credence Newball, (to whose first name Credence they added an extra ‘e’, making it resemble a faith or creed); secondly, “clear water” from a TV commercial for Olympia beer; and finally “revival”, which spoke to the four members’ renewed commitment to their band. Rejected contenders for the band’s name included ‘Muddy Rabbit’, ‘Gossamer Wump’, and ‘Creedence Nuball and the Ruby’, but the last was the start that led to their finalized name.

The group saw their biggest successes between 1968 and 1970 with the release of a half-dozen stellar albums.

There are plenty of successful groups out there with a hit single list of one or two records. CCR had a couple of dozen. They were songs of a generation that still resonate today. Some of my best teen memories are sitting with the headphones wrapped around my skull and CCR songs massaging my eardrums. Great memories.

How many bands besides The Beatles and The Rolling Stones can tout a list of hit singles this long?

Suzie Q
Proud Mary
Born on the Bayou
Bad Moon Rising
Lodi
Green River
Commotion Fortunate Son
Down on the Corner
Travelin’ Band
Who’ll Stop the Rain
Run Through the Jungle
Up Around the Bend
Long As I Can See the Light
Lookin’ Out My Back Door
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Hey Tonight
Sweet Hitch-Hiker
Someday Never Comes
Tearin’ Up the Country
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Good Golly, Miss Molly

CCR was one of the bands to play Woodstock but because Fogerty thought the performance was not up to par he chose not to be a part of the initial soundtrack. The performance at 3:00 in the morning went basically unnoticed by festival-goers.

The weight of long recording sessions and touring took a toll on relationships within the band. Tom Fogerty left CCR permanently in the middle of the Pendulum sessions. It was February of 1971. Pendulum released later that year and the band moved on without Tom. (In September 1990, Tom Fogerty died of an AIDS complication, which he contracted via a tainted blood transfusion he received while undergoing back surgery.)

CCR’s final album, Mardi Gras, was released in April 1972, featuring songs written by Fogerty, Cook, and Clifford and a cover of “Hello Mary Lou.”  It received mostly poor, even savage reviews: Rolling Stone reviewer Jon Landau called it “the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band.”

By this point, Fogerty was not only at direct odds with his bandmates, but he had also come to see the group’s relationship with Fantasy Records as onerous, feeling that label owner  Saul Zantz had reneged on his promise to give the band a better contract. Cook — who holds a degree in business — claimed that because of poor judgment on Fogerty’s part, Creedence Clearwater Revival had to abide by the worst record deal of any major American recording artist.

On October 16, 1972 – less than six months after the Mardi Gras tour ended – Fantasy Records and the band officially announced the disbanding of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The journey of discourse and law suits from then to now is a rocky road I won’t bore you with here. Just know that one of the great voices of my generation fell silent because personalities collided with ego and ownership and nobody would budge.

CCRCreedence Clearwater Revival’s music is still a staple of American and worldwide radio airplay. It’s common to hear CCR songs as a movie backdrop. The band sold 26 million albums in the US alone. Creedence Clearwater Revival was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. They are ranked at 82 on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest artists of all time.

 

Santana

My first introduction to Santana was hearing about their performance on the Woodstock stage. Within days of the festival their self-titled album Santana released to an hungry public. One hit from the album, Evil Woman, climbed into the top ten, but it was the last song on side 2 that caught my ear – Soul Sacrifice.

When Santana released I was still a teenager and thirsting for the shifting musical sounds coming from San Francisco, ground zero for the Summer of Love. At 16 years-old sitting in front of the TV watching the gathering in upstate New York that August of ’69, I knew I had to be a part of it somehow. I was but I was relegated to status of consumer. I would’ve been one hell of a drummer.

Soul SacrificeThe drums is what sucked me into Soul Sacrifice in the first place. When Santana took the Woodstock stage and lit into their electrifying extended version of the instrumental, 19 year-old drummer Michael Shrieve officially became the youngest performer of the weekend. Those nine minutes are considered one of the great single instrumental performances in rock history. (See below)

The Woodstock era lineup included:

Carlos Santana, lead guitar

– Mike Carabello,  percussion

– David Brown, bass guitar

– Gregg Rolie, lead vocals, Hammond Organ B3

Michael Schrieve, drums

This core group stayed intact across three studio albums, Santana (1969), Abraxas (1970), and Santana III(1971). By the time the shifting lineups stabilized enough for the group to get back into the studio, the early synergy was in freefall and the music mix of Caravanseri, Santana’s fourth album was a distinct diversion from the fusion of salsa, rock, and jazz the public expected.  For this releases Santana concentrated on jazz-like instrumental passages. All but three tracks were instrumentals, and consequently the album yielded no hit singles. Still, Caravanseri peaked at #8 on the Billboard album chart.

By the time Welcome, their fifth studio release hit the stores in late ’73, the Santana sound was all but unplugged from the public ear. The release continued down the jazz fusion path with another different mix musicians in the lineup. The opening track, Going Home,  featured John Coltrane‘s widow, Alice, as a pianist,  and Flora Purim (the wife of Airto Moreira) on vocals. The release could only muster a disappointing #25 in the charts. Guitar fame was fading for the brilliant Carlos Santana.

Between 1974 and 1992, Santana would release another 12 recordings, never to achieve anything close to their earlier success. The last four albums didn’t break into the top 50 or achieve Gold status. Milagro, their last album before a long recording hiatus, never broke the top 100, falling just short at 102.

Many people inside and outside the music business wrote Carlos Santana off as a has-been.

Boy did he prove them wrong.

Carlos SantanaIn what may be the greatest comeback release of all time, seven years after the disappointing Milagro, Carlos Santana released Supernatural.

Launched like the space shuttle in 1999 it was their seventeenth album. It went 15 times platinum in the US and won nine Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. Supernatural also claimed three Latin Grammy Awards including Record of the Year. This album was numero-uno around the globe and solidified Santana’s place in music history.

Supernatural debuted at number nineteen on the Billboard 200 on July 3, 1999 but topped (after 18 weeks) the chart on October 30, 1999 and stayed there for 12 non-consecutive weeks. It included the hit single “Smooth“, which featured Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas on vocals, and was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks.

The follow-up single, “Maria Maria” (which featured The Product G&B), was number one on the same chart for 10 weeks. Santana and Rob Thomas won three Grammys for their collaboration on the song “Smooth” while Santana and Everlast won another for the song “Put Your Lights On“. Santana also won a Grammy for “Maria Maria”.

Among the other guest artists are Eric ClaptonEagle-Eye CherryLauryn HillDave Matthews, and Cee-Lo.

For a guy like Carlos Santana to travel the up and down journey between Soul Sacrifice on the Woodstock stage to the phenomenal success of Supernatural, I can say with absolute confidence it was always about the music. He spoke with the strings of his guitar in the language of his Latin heart.

Frankly, I think we are all better for it.

In 1998, the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Carlos SantanaJose Chepito AreasDavid BrownMike CarabelloGregg Rolie and Michael Shrieve being honored.

Ron McKernan “Pigpen”

Pigpen McKernanRon McKernan, known to his friends as Pigpen after the Peanuts character, was found dead in his California home on this day in 1973. McKernan was a founding member of the Grateful Dead and had been making music with Jerry Garcia since early 1965.

McKernan’s contributions to the Dead included vocals, Hammond organ, harmonica, percussion, and occasionally guitar. In 1994, Pigpen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the other members of the Grateful Dead.

In 1968 McKernan and Phil Lesh were both released from the band for their unwillingness to rehearse. For a short period the remaining members did a number of shows under the monikers Mickey and the Hartbeats and Jerry Garrceeah and His Friends, mostly playing Grateful Dead songs without lyrics.

Phil Lesh was soon brought back into the fold promising to step up his committment. McKernan finally relented and made the same promise to improve. In his absence Tom Constanten had been brought in on keyboards so McKernan took up the Congas on his return. It was an uncomfortable period for the young musician but he took the role with humility. When Constanten left the band in 1970, McKernan returned to the Hammond Organ.

While most of McKernan’s friends and bandmates were experimenting with LSD and other psychedelics, McKernan stuck to Thunderbird wine and Southern Comfort. He had been a heavy drinker since adolescence. His taste for bourbon whiskey mixed well with his brief on again/off again relationship with Janis Joplin.

In 1970, McKernan began experiencing symptoms of congenital biliary cirrhosis. After an August 1971 hospitalization, doctors requested that he stop touring indefinitely; pianist Keith Godchaux was subsequently hired and remained a permanent member of the band until 1979.

McKernan rejoined the band in December 1971 to supplement Godchaux on harmonica, percussion, and organ. After theirEurope ’72 tour, his health had degenerated to the point where he could no longer continue on the road. He made his final concert appearance on June 17, 1972 at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles, California.

On March 8, 1973, he was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage at his home in Corte Madera, California. For Pigpen McKernan, the long strange trip was over. He was 27 years-old. Sound familiar?

 

The Monkees

In the fall of 1966 a program debuted on NBC. It was a knockoff of The Beatles, Hard Day’s Night and Help!, and starred Davey Jones, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork.

They were — The Monkees.

With the recent death of Monkees singer Davey Jones I pretty much had no choice about this weeks topic. The Monkees were a phenomenon that  practically defies explanation. To try to classify them, push them into the proper musical cubby-hole, is a bona fide challenge.

Were they pop? Were they top-40? Were they the Marx Brothers who blended in pop-music with slap-stick comedy? They were a made-for-TV boys band, a quartet of young guys thrown together like shake and bake, and plastered on television to become an overnight sensation.

The MonkeesSongwriters penning songs for The Monkees reads like a who’s who of the music business of the late sixties, Neil DiamondI’m a Believer, Harry Nilsson – Cuddly Toy, and Carole KingPleasant Valley Sunday.

The Monkees craze began with the recording of their first studio album, July of ’66, rolled out a few weeks after the series launched that September. It was the first of four consecutive U.S. number one albums for the group, taking the top spot on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks.

The first cut was the Monkees theme song which would become ingrained in the musical ear of a generation. We all knew the words and remember the off-beat boys they referred to.

The top cut on side two was the Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart song, Last train to Clarksville which shot to the top of the charts the first week in November for one week.

I believe an argument could be made saying The Monkees, despite their commercial upbringing and contrived roots were one of the most influential pop bands of the era standing with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. As a matter of fact in one of the oddest pairings in rock and roll history, Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees for seven concerts in 1967.

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Of those concerts Micky Dolenz would later reflect:

“Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps and break out into ‘Purple Haze,’ and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with ‘We want Daaavy!’ God, was it embarrassing.”[/box]

I am one of the people who was not necessarily on The Monkees bandwagon in the late 60s. I was more of a Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Grand Funk Railroad kind of guy. However I stand with the folks that believe this odd foursome belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame based purely on their impact on the music scene of that era.

The fact that they haven’t been nominated is the most blatant rock-snobbery since the HOF opened. For every argument about why The Monkees should not be in the hall you can point to a dozen inductees that would lose that same argument. I can only assume it’s a bit of underlying jealously about the success of Nesmith, Dolenz, Tork, and Jones.

In one year The Monkees sold more albums than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. (Their albums and singles have sold over 65 million copies worldwide since 1966.)

The Rock Hall of Fame has an exhibit called: The 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll. With few exceptions, most Hall of Fame inductees on that list only have one song. The Monkees have two. (I’m A Believer and Last Train To Clarksville.)

Davey Jones was the cute one. He was the first crush of many women my age. I know a few who wept openly on the news of his passing. With Davey gone I think it’s high-time the rock elite gets off their high-horse and extend The Monkees their rightful place in the Hall of Fame, because it’s the right thing to do, because they deserve to be there, and because it’s way past time.