Tag Archives: George Harrison

Presidents Day Top 40

Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson – they’re here. This Presidents Day playlist kicks off with one of the Bushes. Kate.

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The Story Of Eric Clapton And Layla

In the latter half of the 1960s, Eric Clapton and George Harrison developed a close friendship. Clapton also developed a crush on Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. The two started having an affair, but Pattie didn’t want to leave her husband.

Clapton wrote a song about his feelings for Pattie. He called the song “Layla,” after a title character in the book The Story of Layla and Majnun. The book told of a man, Majnun, who was madly in love with a woman, Layla, but was forbidden to marry her. His longing for her drove him mad.

Clapton’s band Derek and the Dominos released “Layla” in 1971. Pattie and Eric started living together in 1974. They wed in 1979. George Harrison, along with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, played at the wedding. Clapton left Pattie for another woman in 1985.

Today Eric Clapton turns 71. Here are twenty tracks that feature the musician.

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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 23: Covers

This week’s installment of A Hint of Mint consists of cover songs. It’s likely you are familiar with most or all of the songs on this week’s playlist, but I’m guessing you are not familiar with the versions presented here. Drawn primarily from soundtracks, compilations and CD singles, here are twenty remakes of popular tunes, performed by members of the LGBTQQISA populations. Included are Tegan & Sara covering Bruce Springsteen, Antony & the Johnsons covering Beyoncé, and Pansy Division covering Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Happy Sunday!

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Buddy Holly And “That’ll Be The Day”

Ringo + Buddy
In 1956 Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis went to the movies to check out the John Wayne feature The Searchers. In the film Wayne, when given predictions by other characters, would reply with the catchphrase “That’ll be the day.”

Holly suggested to Allison they write a song together. Allison mimicked the Duke when he responded with “That’ll be the day.”

The two did write a song. They called it “That’ll Be the Day.” At age 20, Holly had his first hit record when that song went to #1 in 1957.

The following year a teenage British combo who called themselves The Quarreymen recorded “That’ll Be the Day” as a demo disc. The group, whose members included John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, later changed the name of their band. Inspired by the name of Holly’s group, The Crickets, to whom the single “That’ll Be the Day” was credited, The Quarreymen chose another insect, a beetle, altering the spelling to the more musical Beatles.

Buddy Holly racked up seven top forty hits before his death in a plane crash at age 22. Despite a very brief recording career, his influence was massive.

Today is the 79th anniversary of Buddy Holly’s birth. Here are nineteen gems from his catalogue, plus one song named after him.

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The Unsung Genius Of Billy Preston

Ringo + Billy Preston
Today is the birthday of the late, great Billy Preston. You may be familiar with his #1 hits “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing from Nothing.” Preston has many more accomplishments on his resume. Here are ten things you may not know about him:

1. He is the only person to be given a featuring credit on a Beatles single. The #1 smash “Get Back” and its b-side, “Don’t Let Me Down,” also a top 40 hit, were credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston. He also played on the band’s Abbey Road, Let It Be and self-titled albums (the latter often referred to as The White Album) and in their famous final rooftop concert. At one point John Lennon suggested having Preston become one of The Beatles.
2. He played on several albums by The Rolling Stones, including Exile on Main Street, Sticky Fingers, Tattoo You, It’s Only Rock‘n Roll and Goats Head Soup.
3. In 1958, twelve-year-old Preston played “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy as a child in the Handy biopic St. Louis Blues.
4. At age 15 Preston joined Little Richard’s band.
5. In 1967 Preston joined Ray Charles’ band.
6. He played on Sam Cooke’s final studio album, the critically-acclaimed Night Beat. Preston was 16 years old at the time.
7. Other artists on whose records Preston played include Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton, MeShell NdegéOcello, Joni Mitchell, Jet, Neil Diamond, Sly & the Family Stone, Aretha Franklin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Luther Vandross, the Everly Brothers, and Johnny Cash.
8. Preston co-wrote “You Are So Beautiful,” a top five single for Joe Cocker in 1975.
9. It has been written that Stephen Stills got the expression “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” from Preston. (Some reports say it was Doris Troy who gave Stills that phrase.)
10. George Harrison wrote and co-produced “My Sweet Lord” for Preston. It appeared on Billy’s 1970 Encouraging Words album, released on The Beatles’ Apple Records. Harrison went on to record his own version of the song for his All Things Must Pass album, on which Preston played. Perhaps you’ve heard the Harrison version.
11. Preston introduced George Harrison to a woman named Olivia Arias, who worked at A&M Records, for whom Billy recorded after he left Apple. Arias soon became Olivia Harrison.
12. So impressed by Preston’s music was Miles Davis that the jazz legend recorded a song called “Billy Preston” for his 1974 album Get Up With It.
13. Preston’s primary instrument was the organ. The first time he played the clavinet was on his hit “Outa-Space,” which reached #2 on the pop charts. The first time he played the Arp synthesizer was on his hit “Space Race,” which reached #4 on the pop chart.
14. Preston’s singles “Will It Go Round in Circles,” “Nothing from Nothing,” “Outa-Space” and “Space Race” each sold over one million copies in the United States alone.
15. As a solo artist Preston had ten top 40 hits on Billboard’s R&B chart.
16. Preston played Sgt. Pepper in the ill begotten film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of my favorite bad movies. In the film he sings “Get Back” to Billy Shears, played by Peter Frampton, just after Shears jumped off of a roof to kill himself. Perhaps I should have written SPOILER ALERT, but you can’t spoil something that stinks to begin with.
17. In 1972 Preston became the first rock performer to headline at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
18. Preston was a musical guest on the first episode of Saturday Night Live.
19. Preston started playing piano and singing church. About being gay in the church, Preston told writer David Ritz “In the community outside the church, gay men were called sissies. There was zero tolerance. But inside the church, a lot of music was created by gay men. It was almost a tradition. Everyone knew that my mentor James Cleveland, who became the King of Gospel, was gay….So many of the other major figures – like Professor J. Earle Hines out of Los Angeles and Professor Alex Bradford out of Chicago – were gay. Mahalia [Jackson] surrounded herself with gay men her entire life. In the neighborhood they made you ashamed of being gay, but in the church you were almost proud to be part of the gay elite of musicians.”
20. Preston died on June 6, 2006, from complications from malignant hypertension. He was 59 years old.

Here are twenty of the many highlights of Billy Preston’s recording career:

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“River Deep – Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner

Winston + Turners
By 1966, the recording duo Ike & Tina Turner and the record producer Phil Spector could use a turnaround in their luck.

Ike & Tina Turner’s first hit song was 1960’s “A Fool in Love.” Two more top forty pop and four more r&b top ten hits followed over the next couple of years.

Phil Spector’s first hit as a producer was The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” a #1 pop single in 1958. Over the next seven years Phil Spector produced twenty-five top 40 pop hits, including such classics as The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Unchained Melody,” The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” and “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and Curtis Lee’s “Pretty Little Angel Eyes.”

Fast forward to late 1965. Ike & Tina Turner’s last top 40 pop hit was “Poor Fool,” which peaked at #38 in early 1962. It went top ten on the r&b chart, as did its follow-up, “Tra La La La,” but successive singles failed to do as well.

Despite scoring four top ten singles on Spector’s Philles Records, The Righteous Brothers sued the producer/record company head to get off the label, saying their contract was unenforceable. It was announced in early 1966 that the duo signed with another label. Their first single for that label, Verve, was a #1 hit – “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.” Spector lost his star attraction, and the other acts in his stable had lost luster. The Ronettes’ most recent top 40 hit was 1964’s “Walking in the Rain.” The Crystals’ most recent top 40 hit was 1963’s “Then He Kissed Me.”

In 1965 the Ike & Tina Turner Revue performed The Galaxy in Los Angeles. In the audience was Phil Spector. He loved their act and booked them to appear on The Big TNT Show, a televised concert for which he was the associate producer and musical director. Also appearing on the program were The Byrds, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Donovan, Joan Baez, Petula Clark, and Roger Miller.

Spector was taken by Tina’s performance. “I said, God, if I could make a number-one record with her she could go on Ed Sullivan, she could go to Las Vegas; she could break the color barrier.” At the time, Ike & Tina were singed to Loma Records, a division of Warner Brothers Records. None of their releases hit the pop charts. Spector negotiated a release from their Loma contract. Spector wanted Tina, not Ike, so he paid Loma $20,000 to buy out the duo’s contract, on the condition that Ike stay away from the studio while Tina recorded. Ike accepted this offer, with the stipulation that the resulting record still be credited to Ike & Tina Turner.

To come up with a suitable song, Spector turned to the husband and wife songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who, with Spector, wrote “Be My Baby” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” and also wrote “Leader of the Pack” (with Shadow Morton) and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” CORRECTION: former husband and wife songwriting team – Barry and Greenfield divorced in December 1965, just a few weeks before Spector asked them to write a song for Tina.

Though freshly-divorced, they both came to the table, each with a different unfinished song. The combination of the three songs resulted in “River Deep – Mountain High,” with the melody of the verses coming from Greenwich, the melody of the chorus coming from Spector, and most of the lyrics coming from Barry.

The first of five recording sessions for the single was in February 1966. Hanging out in the control room were a couple of folks you may have heard of – Mick Jagger and Brian Wilson. To achieve his vision Spector used 21 background vocalists and 21 musicians, including Glen Campbell, Leon Russell and Hal Blaine. The completed record cost around $22,000 to make. Said Bob Krasnow, the head of Loma Records, “In those days, you could make five albums for twenty thousand dollars. And this was just a single – one side of a single.”

After years with Ike Turner, Tina must have been relieved to be able to go into the studio without Ike and with Phil Spector, a man who treated women with respect – scratch that thought. In her autobiography, I, Tina, she recounts a recording session with Spector. “That intro – ‘When I was a little girl…’ – I must have sung that five hundred thousand times, and I don’t know if I ever got it just the way he wanted it. I would sing it, and he would say, ‘That’s very close, very close. We’ll try it again.’ I don’t remember him saying, ‘Got it.’ Pretty soon, I was drenched with sweat. I had to take off my shirt and stand there in my bra to sing, that’s how hard I was working on that song.”

A River Deep – Mountain High album, with a cover photo taken by a broke Hollywood actor named Dennis Hopper, wouldn’t be released until 1969. However, the “River Deep – Mountain High” single came out in the United States on May 14, 1966. It entered the Hot 100 at #98. A week later it was #94. One week after that #93. The next week it rose to #88.

And that was it. The record that was to be the triumphant return of Ike & Tina Turner and Phi Spector stayed on the chart for only four weeks. Looking back, Tina concluded “It was too black for the pop stations, and too pop for the black stations.” Ike agreed.

After the single’s failure, Spector became a semi-recluse. It would be three years before another Phil Spector’s production was on the Hot 100.

In the United Kingdom, however, it was a different story. “River Deep – Mountain High” peaked at #3 there. George Harrison called it “a perfect record from start to finish – you couldn’t improve on it.” Harrison would later have Spector co-produce his All Things Must Pass album, which included the classic “My Sweet Lord.”

In praising Tina, Mick Jagger said “’River Deep-Mountain High’ was an excellent record because she had the voice to get out in front of Phil Spector’s so-called wall of sound.” The Rolling Stones invited Ike & Tina to open for them on their tour that began in the autumn of 1966.

In 1999, “River Deep – Mountain High” was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine put it at #33 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Tina Turner turns 75 today. Here are twenty career highlights, kicking off with the classic “River Deep – Mountain High.”

Read more about Tina Turner here.

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Happy Birthday, Ringo!

Ringos 2014-07-07 11.01Ringo, Star

In December of 2010 I adopted two rescue dogs, whose photos appear in posts throughout this blog. Being rescues, I have no idea when their actual birthdays are, so I decided to celebrate their birthdays on the birthdays of their namesakes, Ringo Starr and John Winston Lennon.

Today, Ringo Starr turns 74 and Ringo Schwartz turns 7. Here are some interesting factoids about the former:

• Ringo was the first former Beatle to have back-to-back #1 singles, with “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen,” both released in 1973. The only other former Beatle to have back-to-back #1s was Paul McCartney, who did so in the 80s with “Coming Up” and “Ebony and Ivory.”
• Between 1971 and 1975 Ringo racked up seven top ten singles. John Lennon didn’t have his seventh top ten single until 1981’s “Woman,” released after his death. George Harrison scored a total of five top ten solo hits.
• 1971’s “It Don’t Come Easy,” Ringo’s first top ten solo hit, was written by Ringo and George, though only Starr was credited on the record. The track was produced by Harrison, who plays on the record, as does Stephen Stills.
• The b-side of the “It Don’t Come Easy” single, “Early 1970,” was written by Ringo about his fellow Beatles. Verse one is about Paul, verse two is about John, and verse three is about George, who plays on the record.
• Starr’s second top ten solo single, 1972’s “Back Of Boogaloo,” was written by Ringo and produced by George as well.
• “I’m the Greatest” was written by John, who plays and sings on it. Ringo also recorded songs written by Paul.
• “Photograph” was written by Ringo and George, with the latter receiving a writing credit this time. George had an affair with Ringo’s then-wife Maureen.
• 1975’s top three hit “No No Song” was written by David Jackson and Hoyt Axton, the latter of whom plays on Ringo’s version. The song is about a man being offered drugs and alcohol after eschewing such vices. Said Ringo to Time magazine: “We were doing ‘No No Song’ [in the studio] with the biggest spliff and a large bottle of Jack Daniel’s.”
• “Snookeroo,” the flip-side of the “No No Song” 45 and listed with that song on the charts, was written by Elton Jon and Bernie Taupin specifically for Ringo at Ringo’s request.
• Ringo’s most recent top 40 single, 1981’s “Wrack My Brain,” was written by Harrison about his frustrations trying to come up with a pop hit.

Tunes du Jour wishes Ringo the Beatle and Ringo the doggie very happy birthdays! As the majority of Starr’s hits are not on Spotify, I present to you a YouTube playlist of his best work.

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George, Johnny and Fats

dogs + icons 002
I screwed up.

I lost track of what day it was and in doing so missed posting about George Harrison’s birthday, which was yesterday.

The Beatles are my favorite recoding act of all-time, and if I had to rank the group’s members in order, George would make the top four (no disrespect to Pete Best).

I’d been thinking about what to post for George’s birthday for a couple of weeks. His recordings are not on Spotify, the program I use to create the playlists in each blog entry. I couldn’t find any worthwhile vintage performance clips of George on YouTube. I could post the music video for “Got My Mind Set on You,” but that track is hardly representative of the man’s genius. I was leaning toward creating a playlist of great covers of George’s songs, but what I came up with before abandoning that idea was an unremarkable collection that would not serve as a fitting tribute.

I love so many of his songs – “My Sweet Lord,” “Handle With Care” (Traveling Wilburys), “The Inner Light” (The Beatles), “What Is Life,” “All Those Years Ago,” “It Don’t Come Easy” (written by George and Ringo Starr, recorded by Ringo), “Something” (The Beatles), “Here Comes the Sun” (The Beatles), “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (The Beatles), “If Not For You,” and “When We Was Fab” at the forefront, though my favorite of George’s solo recordings is “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).” In his autobiography George wrote “This song is a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it.” The Lord and I aren’t on speaking terms; however, I love the song’s message. I’m a sucker for songs espousing love for all. “Put a Little Love in Your Heart?” Yes! “Love Train?” Hell, yeah! The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love?” Sure, even though it includes the lyric “to discriminate only generates hate / And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah / Badness is what you demonstrate.” And then you won’t be able to meet a mate named Nate / You won’t even get a date / To gain weight will be your fate / You won’t make it through the gate and then you’ll be late / That isn’t great.” And that’s why I adore George’s “Give Me Love.”

dogs + icons 004
Today marks the birthday of two other all-time favorites of mine – Johnny Cash and Fats Domino. I’ve created a playlist for each of them.

The Johnny Cash playlist kicks off with his 1963 hit “Ring of Fire.” The writing of the song is credited to June Carter, who married Johnny in 1968, and Merle Kilgore. Though initially recorded by Carter’s sister Anita, Carter said the song was inspired by Cash, who at that time was her friend and singing partner. Though not romantically-involved, she was drawn to him against her better judgment, despite his drug use. Per June, there is “no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns.”

Cash’s wife at that time, Vivian Liberto, claimed that June had nothing to do with writing that song. Per Liberto, Johnny wrote it “while pilled up and drunk” and it’s not about the love June described, but rather it’s “about a certain private female body part,” which provides a much different image to accompany the line “I went down, down, down.” I’m not an expert on this body part to which Liberto refers, but if it burns, burns, burns, you should probably have it checked out by a professional. Anyway, Liberto said Cash gave Carter the writing credit because she needed the money.

dogs + icons 005
Our Fats Domino playlist kicks off with one of Richie Cunningham’s favorites, “Blueberry Hill.” Though Domino wrote many of his hits, this one was written by Vincent Rose, Larry Stock and Al Lewis (not the Grandpa Munster Al Lewis) in 1940.

Domino recorded this song at a session after he ran out of material. His long-time producer, Dave Bartholomew, was against doing the song, perhaps because all of Fat’s hits up to that point had been original compositions. Domino’s version hit #2 in 1957 and has become one of his most recognizable recordings.

Some other facts about Fats: In the fifties he sold more records than any other rock & roll artist except Elvis Presley; he’s had 35 US top 40 pop hits; his song “The Fat Man,” from 1949, is considered by many to be the first rock and roll record; today he turns 86.

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He’s A Rebel

crystals 003

Some time in my teen years I feel in love with the girl group sound. My favorite was The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel.” The music and the vocals hooked me. The singer tells of how others don’t approve of the boy she loves as he’s a non-conformist, but he treats her well and that’s all that matters.

The story behind the record is as interesting as the record itself. The song was written by Gene Pitney, who had several hits of his own, including “Town Without Pity” and “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valence.” “He’s a Rebel” was slated to be the debut single for Vikki Carr, but when Spector heard Pitney’s demo he knew he wanted it for one of his acts, The Crystals.

He needed to record it quickly in order to challenge Carr’s version at the stores. The Crystals, however, were on the road in New York and unable to make the recording sessions in Los Angeles. No problem. Spector hired a local group called The Blossoms, led by Darlene Wright, to record the song. Wright was paid $3000 for the session. Spector released the record under the name The Crystals, as his label owned the name. The actual Crystals first learned of their new hit song when they heard it on the radio. It became their first #1 single, meaning The Crystals had to learn this song so they could perform it at their shows. The group’s lead singer, Barbara Alston, could not match Wright’s vocal performance, so fellow Crystal LaLa Brooks moved into the lead vocalist slot. Coincidentally, the week The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” was #1, Gene Pitney was #2 as a singer with “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” a song he didn’t write.

As “He’s a Rebel” was so successful, Spector needed to get a follow-up single out quickly. Again, he turned to The Blossoms to record “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” Wright, however, was angry that her name was not on “He’s a Rebel” and told Spector she would only do this song if she were singed to a recording agreement and was properly credited for her vocals on the track. Spector agreed, changing her name in the agreement to Darlene Love. He released “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” It was credited to The Crystals.

Spector used the money he made from “He’s a Rebel” to buy out his business partners in the Philles Records label. In addition to the financial settlement, Spector had to give his two ex-partners a share of the royalties of the next Philles single release, so Spector got the real Crystals into the studio and recorded “(Let’s Dance) The Screw,” a silly number clearly not intended to be a hit. A copy was sent to one of the ex-partners. No royalties were generated.

Today is Phil Spector’s 74th birthday. He’s spending it in jail, convicted in 2009 for the 2003 murder of Lana Clarkson. What happened to Clarkson is horrible and unforgivable. That this is how many people know of Spector these days is tragic. This playlist recalls the years that Spector was known as one of the greatest producers in the history of rock and roll. Besides the tracks presented below, Spector also worked with John Lennon, producing with him, among others, a little ditty called “Imagine;” with George Harrison, producing, among others, a song you may have heard called “My Sweet Lord;” and with The Beatles, producing an album named Let It Be.

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Happy Anniversary, Ringo + Winston!

Three years ago I adopted Ringo and Winston from a nearby dog rescue shelter. Ringo was abandoned by his previous owner(s). He was micro-chipped but they never sought him. He was fending for himself on the streets of L.A. When I met him he was malnourished, weighing six pounds. His fur was shaved as it was all knotted when he was found. He sat next to me and shook for a half hour.

My intention was to adopt one dog. While meeting Ringo someone dropped off Winston. I don’t remember his background, except that the person who dropped him off was looking after him for a few days and said he’s a great dog but his previous owners couldn’t keep him.

I couldn’t decide between the two so I adopted both. They are opposites in almost every way but they get on great.

Ringo wasn’t named Ringo when I met him. I changed his name so he would have a new identity for a new, happy life. I chose Ringo after the drummer in my favorite group. Winston was already named Winston when I met him. I recall that John Lennon’s middle name was Winston, which would go well with Ringo. My next two dogs will be Harrison and Mac.

Dec 2013 si9a1833Ringo, Glenn and Winston

Here is a dog-themed playlist for my two kids, Ringo and Winston.

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