One Hit Wonders #7: “Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas (Glades Records 1972)

I had a completely different music post scheduled for today, but with all the strife and hatred going on right here in our country, I thought I’d share Timmy Thomas’ #1 global smash “Why Can’t We Live Together”, an impassioned plea for peace and unity that’s (sadly) as relevant today as it was 45 years ago. No further words from me are necessary, just watch the video:

Adios, Rhinestone Cowboy: RIP Glen Campbell

There aren’t many entertainers who can boast of 9 #1 hits, 12 Gold Records, 4 Platinum, 1 Double Platinum, 10 Grammys, a hit television show, and a co-starring role in a John Wayne movie! In fact, there’s only one. Glen Campbell, who died yesterday at age 81 of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, was more than just an average country music singer. During the tumultuous late 60’s/early 70’s, when protests and riots were common occurences, Campbell’s country/folk/pop songs were a common denominator, enjoyed by hippie freaks and establishment tools alike. Face it, Glen Campbell was The Man!

Born in humble, sleepy little Billstown, Arkansas, Glen took up playing guitar at an early age. His uncle was a musician, and teenage Glen began his show-biz career picking on his radio show. The young man soon formed his own band and toured the South and Southwest extensively. The bright lights/big city of Los Angeles beckoned, and Campbell headed to LA, joining The Champs, who’d had the hit “Tequila” (his band mates at the time included future folk/rock duo Seals & Crofts).

Glen’s musical talent got noticed, and he became a highly sought-after session musician, playing with a collective called The Wrecking Crew. These were among the top musicians on the West Coast, including during Glen’s tenure Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, and Tommy Tedesco. They backed up hitmakers from Frank Sinatra (“Strangers in the Night”) to The Righteous Brothers (“You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”), The Crystals, The Ronettes, Sonny & Cher, The Mamas & The Papas, virtually every pop artist on the LA scene. The Wrecking Crew were the house band in the seminal 60’s concert film THE TAMI SHOW, backing up all those great acts. Glen also did work with The Beach Boys, playing on their hits “I Get Around” and “Help Me Rhonda”, and the album “Pet Sounds”. He filled in on tour for an ailing Brian Wilson, singing the falsetto parts and playing bass.

Around this time Campbell tried launching a solo career, with limited success. His record company was about to drop him when he suddenly found himself on top of the pop charts with the bluegrass-flavored “Gentle On My Mind”, written by his friend John Hartford:

After all those years paying dues, Glen Campbell was an overnight sensation. His smooth-as-honey voice dominated AM radio, and his Eddy Arnold-influenced country pop, combined with his clean-cut good looks and pleasant personality, made him a star at last. Among his biggest hits were his interpretations of songwriter Jimmy Webb’s tunes: “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Galveston”, and the haunting “Wichita Lineman”, as perfectly crafted a piece of pop music as there ever will be:

In 1968, Glen hosted a summer replacement variety series for folk duo The Smothers Brothers. It was another hit, and the following January he began a three and a half run on THE GLEN CAMPBELL GOODTIME HOUR. This CBS series brought families together to watch and enjoy some of the best music had to offer at the time. Hartford was a regular, as was a young country artist named Jerry Reed. Not just country stars (Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash & June Carter, Roy Clark, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Minnie Pearl, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans) appeared, but rock acts like The Monkees, Linda Ronstadt, Three Dog Night, and Stevie Wonder were featured (there was even a film clip from The Beatles doing “Get Back”!). The world of show biz was well represented by Lucille Ball, Tony Bennett, Walter Brennan, George Burns, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Debbie Reynolds, and some guy named The Duke:

Campbell had made his big-screen acting debut in TRUE GRIT, Henry Hathaway’s 1968 Western that netted John Wayne his first (and only) Oscar. Glen played Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who along with one-eyed Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Wayne) and vengeful young Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) hunt down killer Tom Cheney (Jeff Corey). Campbell wasn’t the greatest of thespians, but his natural charm was made for the Silver Screen. Unfortunately, his next picture was 1970’s NORWOOD, a plodding bomb that reunited him with Darby and another late 60’s/early 70’s icon, football’s Broadway Joe Namath. He was given a starring role as the Elvis-like rooster Chanticleer in 1991’s animated ROCK-A-DOODLE, which didn’t exactly light up the box office, but is a pretty decent kid’s movie (in my opinion, anyway).

Glen’s career, like many, skidded to a halt in the early 70’s. Times and tastes were changing, and his records weren’t automatically climbing the charts anymore. That is, not until 1975’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”:

The tune, an ode to surviving in the show-biz jungle, was yet another surprise smash, and Campbell was back on top. More hits followed: “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in LA)”, the theme to Clint Eastwood’s ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN, and most of all the soft-rock classic “Southern Nights”:

After a bout with alcoholism and cocaine abuse, Campbell went on to continue touring and receiving accolades for his manybaccomplishments. In 2001, he bravely announced to the world he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but kept touring as long as he could. He released the plaintive 2014 song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, about his struggle:

The length of this post says a lot about Glen Campbell’s impact on me. There’s a lot of ground to cover in his 50 year career, and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface. Singer, actor, TV star, talk show guest, Campbell was first and foremost a musician, and I’ll bid Glen a fond adieu with his rendition of “The William Tell Overture”. Rest in peace, Glen Campbell. Wherever you are, I know there’s room for you in the band:

 

One Hit Wonders #6: ARE YOU A BOY OR ARE YOU A GIRL? by The Barbarians (Laurie Records 1966)

Garage rock bands sprouted up everywhere during the 60’s. Any teen who could master three chords on guitar or bang on a drum kit wanted to be a rock star, mainly because all the girls were ga-ga for teen idols. Cape Cod, MA was no different, and The Barbarians rose to #55 on the Billboard charts with their long haired anthem, “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?”:

The difference between The Barbarians and all those other would-be Beatles was their drummer, Moulty, who had a hook in place of his left hand. Victor “Moulty” Moulton lost his hand in a homemade pipe bomb explosion at age 14, but that didn’t stop him from joining the rock revolution. He had his hook modified to fit a drum stick, then he and the band grew their hair out longer than the popular Beatle-bowl cut. Their unique looks helped land The Barbarians a gig in THE TAMI SHOW, a filmed concert featuring top groups like The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, and the one-and-only James Brown:

Moulty recorded an autobiographical tune called (what else?) “Moulty” under The Barbarians’ name, only the rest of the band was back in Boston, while he was in New York City. Instead, he’s supposedly backed by members of Ronnie Hawkins’ group The Hawks, who were soon to go solo and rename themselves The Band:

“Moulty” was featured on the seminal 1972 garage rock anthology NUGGETS: ORIGINAL ARTYFACTS FROM THE FIRST PPSYCHEDELIC ERA 1965-1968, complied by rock writer and future Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye. NUGGETS contains tracks by artists like The Electric Prunes, The Standells, The Shadows of Knight, The Seeds, The 13th Floor Elevators, and The Blues Magoos, among others, and is highly recommended. The CD is still available on Rhino Records; get your copy today!

Since this weekend around these parts we’re celebrating The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (better known as The Portuguese Feast!), I’ll end this post with The Barbarians’ instrumental tribute to my favorite Portuguese sausage, “Linguica”! Til next time, peace out and rock on!

One Hit Wonders #5: DOA by Bloodrock (Capitol Records 1971)

Talk about shock rock! Proto-metal rockers Bloodrock reached #36 on the charts in 1971 with DOA, a morbid little ditty about a plane crash, told from the victim’s point of view:

Bloodrock began playing local Ft. Worth, Texas venues in 1965 as The Naturals, quickly changing their name to Crowd +1. A string of unsuccessful singles followed, until they were discovered by Detroit rock impresario Terry Knight, a former DJ who once fronted his own band, Terry Knight & The Pack:

Knight changed their name to Bloodrock, taking over management and producing duties for the band. He also at the time handled the immensely popular (yet critically reviled) hard rock group Grand Funk Railroad:

After an acrimonious split with the two groups, and failing at starting his own label (Brown Bag Records), Knight vanished from the music scene. He hung out with stars, raced autos, but mostly did tons of cocaine. After getting clean in the 80’s, Terry Knight settled down to a life in advertising sales, until he was stabbed to death in 2004 by his daughter’s meth freak boyfriend. Which is a pretty gruesome way to go itself.

As for Bloodrock, they hung around the lower end of the album charts, continued touring, and finally disbanded in 1975. The song “DOA” is their only claim to fame, a heavy metal hit barely remembered except by those who have a taste for the ghastly. Like me! And perhaps, you too.

Terry Knight (1943-2004)

 

One Hit Wonders #4: NA NA HEY HEY KISS HIM GOODBYE by Steam (Fontana Records 1969)

Singer Gary DeCarlo died this past week at age 75. Who the heck is Gary DeCarlo, you may well ask? The name may not be familiar, but the song he sang that had a two-week run at #1 in 1969 sure is:

The song was written by DeCarlo and his friends Paul Leka and Dale Frasheur in the early 60’s when they were in a Bridgeport, CT doo-wop group. Later that decade, when DeCarlo was looking for a B-side for a single he recorded, he dug up this old tune and it was put together in the studio. The band Steam in that video wasn’t really a band at all, just some dudes lip-synching DeCarlo’s hit!

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” was resurrected in 1977 when the Chicago White Sox organist at Comiskey Park began playing it whenever the Sox’s opposing pitcher got knocked out of the ballgame. Soon other sports venues (and very vocal fans!) followed suite, and a sports tradition was born. The song was featured on the 1994 CD “ESPN Presents Jock Rock” along with other stadium anthems like Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Pt 2” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You”:

I don’t know much about co-writer Dale Frasheur, but Paul Leka, who died in 2011, wrote some hits for the psychedelic bubble-gum band The Lemon Pipers, including their #1 smash “Green Tambourine”:

And that’s the story behind “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”. Now you can use this knowledge to amaze your buds next time you’re at the ballgame! And thanks, Gary DeCarlo, Paul Leka, and Dale Brasheur.

 

One Hit Wonders #3: LONG, LONESOME HIGHWAY by Michael Parks (MGM Records, 1970)

Did you know the late actor Michael Parks (1940-2017) once reached #20 on the Billboard charts with the song “Long, Lonesome Highway”:

Parks was appearing at the time in the NBC-TV series THEN CAME BRONSON, a sort of ROUTE 66 on two wheels, riding his Harley across America in search of meaning. The show aired during the 1969-70 season, and was a nod to the counterculture movement going on at the time. THEN CAME BRONSON had some good writing and featured guest stars both established (Iron Eyes Cody, STAR TREK’s James Doohan, LA Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale, Beverly Garland, Gloria Grahame, Jack Klugman, Fernando Lamas, Elsa Lanchester, James Whitmore) and up-and-coming (Dabney Coleman, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Penny Marshall, Kurt Russell, Martin Sheen, folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie), but lost it’s ticket to ride because of CBS’s ratings powerhouse HAWAII FIVE-O, and was cancelled after 26 episodes.

The song was written by James Hendricks (not to be confused with Jimi Hendrix!), who once played in folk-rock group The Mugwumps alongside future Mamas & Papas Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, and John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky of The Lovin’ Spoonful. Hendricks also wrote the Top Ten hit “Summer Rain” for Johnny Rivers, released during the Summer of Love:

And now you know, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story”!

50 Years Ago Today: The Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (Capitol Records 1967)

June 2, 1967. The beginning of the so-called “Summer of Love”. The underground hippie culture was grooving toward the mainstream. And those four loveable mop tops, The Beatles , released their eighth album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, on America’s shores, ushering in the concept of “concept albums” that still reverberates in music today. The Fab Four were Fab no more, but genuine artists, with a little help from their friend, producer George Martin.

The Beatles had stopped touring  the previous year, tired of the grind and the hysterical screaming that drowned their music out. They had done some experimenting in the studio with “Revolver”, their previous LP, but “Sgt. Pepper” was something different. Martin and the band members, influenced by both The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and Frank Zappa’s “Freak Out!” discs, utilized then cutting edge studio techniques (tape loops, sound effects, varying speeds) and instrumentations (sitar, harmonium, Mellotron, tubular bells, even a 40-piece orchestra) to create the album’s aural mood, with The Beatles using alter egos as a Edwardian Era marching band!

None of the tracks were released as singles, although two songs that didn’t make the cut (“Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane”) were issued as a Double-A sided 45 (both were featured on their later ’67 LP, “Magical Mystery Tour”). After the hard-rocking albeit brief intro, Paul welcomes singer ‘Billy Shears’, actually Ringo crooning “With a Little Help from My Friends” (later a #1 hit for Joe Cocker). The next song, John’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, is probably the most trippy. Lennon always claimed “Lucy” was taken from a picture drawn by his young son Julian, but seriously… with lyrics like “Picture yourself in a boat on a river/With tangerine trees and marmalade skies/Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly/A girl with Kaleidoscope eyes” what else could it be about than an acid trip? “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” – right John, you cheeky little devil!

“Getting Better” is an uptempo rocker reminiscent of the band’s “Yesterday and Today” period, while “Fixing A Hole” toys with major and minor keys, to good effect. “She’s Leaving Home” is a sad number about a female youth running away, with Paul and John’s vocals augmented by a lush string orchestraition. The last song on Side 1, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, has a swirlingly fun circus-like atmosphere, influenced heavily by the  British Music Hall sounds the band grew up with.

Side 2 kicks off with George Harrison’s “Within You, Without You”, a hypnotic, raga-based mediation on the nature of life and being I find hauntingly beautiful. Harrison shows off the sitar skills he learned from Indian master Ravi Shankar, while accompanied by traditional Indian instruments like the tabla and tambora. “When I’m Sixty-Four” is another Music Hall influenced number, Paul’s ode to growing old together, with a clarinet used to give it an old-timey feel. “Lovely Rita” is another rocker that finds John and Paul playing both kazoo and a comb-and-tissue combo! “Good Morning, Good Morning” puts John front and center for a peppy tune compete with crowing roosters!

After a reprise of “Sgt. Pepper”, it’s time for “A Day in the Life”, the album’s most ambitious track. A drug-soaked rumination on the nature of reality, with the refrain “I’d love to turn you on”, this avant-garde inspired piece features the most famous final chord in rock, a glorious forty-second noise with three pianos and a harmonium hitting an E-Major that vibrates off into space and the album’s ending.

Equally as famous as the music on “Sgt. Pepper”, and deservedly so, is the iconic album cover by artist Peter Blake, parodied and imitated for fifty years and counting. Among those standing in the picture you’ll find the likes of Fred Astaire, author William S. Burroughs, occultist Aleister Crowley, Lewis Carroll, Marlene Dietrich, Bob Dylan, W.C.Fields , Bowery Boy Huntz Hall Laurel & Hardy , socialist Karl Marx, cowboy star Tom Mix, Edgar Allan Poe, poet Dylan Thomas, Shirley Temple, H.G. Wells, and Mae West. Blake’s collage collected some of The Beatles’ biggest influences, and won a Grammy for Best Album Cover (Graphic Arts).

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was a #1 smash, and definitely is the pinnacle of the psychedelic rock era. Fifty years on, both fans and musicians alike marvel at The Beatles’ stunning achievement, done in a time when studio tricks and sound sweetening were at a primitive level. The album has influenced everyone from Pink Floyd (“The Wall”) and The Who (“Tommy”, Quadrophenia”), to latter-day artists like Green Day (“American Idiot”), turning the ‘concept album’ (and rock itself) into an art form. It belong in any music lover’s collection, and if you haven’t heard it in a while (or, heaven forbid, ever!), today would be a good day to let The Beatles “turn you on”. (Just stay away from the wretched 1978 movie starring Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees!)