Song Memories Of Brenna

Last post I saluted my dad’s passing with music he might have enjoyed.   This month I will move to a happier topic – the marriage of my daughter.  Songs often will often become inextricably bound to a memory.  When I think of my daughter Brenna who will marry Jeff in a matter of days, I mostly remember silly things from her youth.  It is interesting how we have different personalities at different points of our lives often totally at odds to what we once were.  I recall thinking with Brenna that I hoped she would always stay that happy uncynical child that could always find fun in life.  I’m certain my parents always looked at me and wondered what happened to that kid who over time became  more sullen and ground down by doubts and fears especially in high school – a time we either look back with fondness or with dread (count me in the latter).  Life does that to us all to some degree – takes a child who has little to worry about other than what and who to play with today, then adds reality.  The secret is to find something in life that keeps that pilot light of happiness lit in your core so the darkness stays away.  For me that has always been music (and food to some degree – give me an egg roll!).  When the voices of doubt and anger start getting louder in the stillness, it has always been comforting that I can play a song and it walls out the unhappiness.  Perhaps we will explore that at a later date, but for now let me turn to the songs that bring some sort of memory of Brenna (some intertwined with youngest child Hilary as well).  There are so many other songs I used to play for my kids that they liked – I won’t include them all, but I will at least mention “Yellow Submarine” (Beatles), “Happy Together” (Turtles) and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” (Abba) as being faves.  I hope we were good parents, but how do you know.   I, like any caring parent, only want one thing for my children – a full and happy life.  Brenna and Jeff – congratulations!

Girl On A Swing – Gerry & The Pacemakers

This is a very early memory song and one that Brenna will likely not recall first hand as she was just a toddler when we pushed her on the swing and sang “girl on a swing swing high, girl on a swing swing low”, but it certainly takes me back to her childhood.  Every family needs to have moments that are special to them and this is one of ours.  The song itself dates back to 1966 and was Gerry’s last hit in the U.S. albeit a minor one.

La Bamba – Richie Valens

It would be interesting to know how many young people know songs not of their generation strictly from commercials.  Brenna always called “La Bamba” the popcorn song every time it came on the radio because of this commercial for Pop Secret Popcorn.  In 1958 Richie Valens adapted an old Mexican folk song and made it the b-side to his #2 hit “Donna”, hitting #22.  The Los Lobos remake from the Valens biopic made it to #1 in 1987 which no doubt inspired its use in the commercial.

Java – Al Hirt

Hearing this song always brings to mind the Muppets, but it was also a perfect song to make Brenna’s stuffed toys dance to.  I remember making her toy Blue Guy dance and rock to this jolly tune.  Of course at the end something crazy would have to happen like having it soar across the room – always the entertainer.  We discussed this song in the last post so please feel free to go back and read it.  It was an Allen Toussaint composition taken from his 1958 LP The Wild Side Of New Orleans.

Martian Hop – The Ran-Dells

Brenna, Hilary and often Elvis the cat (with me in hot pursuit) would chase around a coffee table to many songs.  This silly hit from 1963 was one of our favorites to race to.   Space was on everyone’s mind back in the ’60s with the Telstar satellite having been successfully launched the year before. This one-hit wonder group from New Jersey had the space aliens from Mars be friendly (the opposite of what most sci-fi movies painted them as) throwing a sock hop for us Earthlings.

Lollipop – The Chordettes

Here is another very early Brenna favorite.  Handclapping, dancing, mouth popping – what more could you ask for?  This is the perfect song for kids to sing along to as it is pretty simple.  This 1958 #2 hit was first done by Ronald & Ruby then covered by the female quartet the Chordettes from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Sarasponda – Barney

For those who don’t know, there was a TV show popular with kids featuring a purple dinosaur named Barney which aired starting in 1992.  It was a pretty tame show that was built around alot of singing and I would have to say is unfairly criticized for being too upbeat.  To that I say, why must a child be exposed to woe and misery – they’re children, so lighten up.   “Sarasponda” is an old campfire sing-along that supposedly traces back to Dutch spinners who sang it while at the spinning wheel.  My friend G Brown hosted the Fox 31 Kids Club back then and got us passes to go to a Kids Expo and see Barney live (along with the Power Rangers).  The picture of the girls with Blinky the Clown at the beginning of this post was taken at that event.

Haircut – Craig ‘N Co.

Craig Taubman’s 1992 CD Rock N Together had this muy muy spiffy song about dreading getting a haircut.  Reading about him online shows a performer who started putting out kids records in the early 90s  but has now moved into releases involved with his Jewish faith. Sort of an intro to rock music for kids – and pretty catchy at that.

Ren & Stimpy – Happy Happy Joy Joy

Oh my, I guess we were ‘progressive’ parents for letting the kids watch the rather edgy humor of chihuahua Ren and cat Stimpy – but it was funny.  John Kricfalusi put this show together to air on Nickelodeon in 1991.  If Bart Simpson’s “eat my shorts” got uptight folks hot and bothered, this one was guaranteed to push them over the top (but was pretty tame by current animated hijinks on South Park and the like).  We had to buy the CD after watching Powdered Toast Man, Mr. Horse, Muddy Mudskipper, etc.  This song is insanely inane.

Space Ghost & Brak – I Love You Baby

Just plain dopey is the only way to describe taking a kids sci-fi cartoon and making it into a weird outer space talk show with the dumbest host ever not to mention the even dumber sidekick Brak who gets the sing this song.  Would have also included to Brak discussion of dating and eating a pu pu pu platter but it’s not a song.  Of course we had to have this CD as well in our collection.  Yes, I must say that I believe watching weird shows like these helped make my kids just as crazy as I am – and I’m proud of it.

Cow & Chicken – Opening Theme

Brenna and Hilary always seemed to have the knack of winning contests – mostly coloring (proving the adage that you can’t win if you don’t enter).  I don’t recall exactly how Brenna won the chance for our family of 4 to go to the 1997 pool party that Cartoon Network threw to premier Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Cow & Chicken but this pretty rockin’ theme song reminds me of that.  The party was alot of fun and they gave us some nifty themed pool toys to keep.  Only in animation would a cow and a chicken be siblings.

Johnny Horton – The Battle Of New Orleans

We used to play this enough that Brenna and younger sis Hilary worked up a pantomime routine for me to videotape.  Needless to say they killed it with hand gestures and marching.  This song might well be the first country song that non-country music fans liked opening the door to exposure to other non-rock goodies – something that today’s youngsters don’t get due to the homogenizing of music tastes which is a true pity.  This song was written by Jimmy Driftwood and gave Johnny Horton a #1 in 1959.

Peter, Paul & Mary – Puff The Magic Dragon

This song speaks for itself.  What self-respecting kid doesn’t know the lyrics to this Peter Yarrow, Leonard Tipton song?  It hit #2 in 1962.  This song reminds me of one of the very first concerts we ever took our kids to (Peter, Paul & Mary at Fiddler’s Green).  I will never forget Brenna saying to me that she really liked that song (after they performed it) and that she hoped they would do it again.

Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl

Well this might not be an obvious choice for a kid favorite, but Brenna mistook the title for “Brenna Girl” and that was all it took to become a must have in the collection.  The other misheard lyric (or mondegreen as they are called) for her was “sha la la la la lucky duck”.  This was a #10 hit in 1967 for the former singer from the band Them (whose “Gloria” was the first 45 I every owned – and still have).

Toni Basil – Mickey

Even though this song was a #1 hit 5 years before she was born, it was so catchy that it had the legs to endure many years.  Basil’s cheerleader video was perfect for girls to dance to and had a great fairground organ riff to appeal to boys.  We had pom poms and a tambourine that we would use to recreate the video.

Ace Of Base – The Sign

In early 1994 the Berggren siblings and Ulf Ekberg had a U.S. #1 becoming the next big thing from Sweden to hit the charts after ABBA.  This was catch enough for mom and dad but sounded like modern music to the kids.

Spice Girls – Wannabe

A #1 in 1997’s U.S. charts after taking the world by storm the year before, this was a perfect girl-pop song by a British creation from management team Bob and Chris Herbert as the answer to the boy bands popular at that time.  1997 seems to be an important year musically for Brenna as she was discovering music not of her parents (but that honestly still appealed to older folks as well – not unlike the Beatles had done years before).

Aqua – Barbie Girl

This was a big worldwide hit for the Scandinavian group Aqua.  Like so many songs that become catchy to the younger set, it was rather suggestive (how about “Whip It”?). In 1997 it got to #7 in the U.S.  Brenna had to have the CD which had some other goodies like “Dr. Jones”.

Hanson – MmmBop

Another 1997 single, this one hit #1 for the every so cute brothers Hanson.  The fact that Isaac, Taylor and Zac actually have musical chops put them way ahead of most teen pop acts.

Larger Than Life – Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys were the pin-up boy band du jour in the late ’90s and even if you didn’t like them you had to admire how well crafted their records were.  This, I am told by daughter Hilary, was one of Brenna’s faves.  This Brian Littrell composition was from their third album (Millenium) and frankly sports a pretty cool video.

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25 Fave Easy Listening Instrumentals

An interesting debate in my mind has boiled for some time – how much of what is ‘you’ comes from genetics and how much from environment.  My parents love of music certainly infected me too and likely my love comes from both sources.  As a kid mom played a lot of classical music and show tunes while dad had a thing for ragtime and easy instrumentals.  When you are growing up and in the throes of soaking up the culture of your generation the farthest thing you want to admit to liking is the music of your parents.  As an adult I still love the Beatles plus rock and roll, but darn if an awful lot of the things mom and dad liked sounds pretty good today – sort of like comfort food for your ears taking you back to a more innocent time.  So much music evokes feelings and memories personal to you – bygone mundane things that you would give a year of your life to revisit.  The first real softening of the musical divide between my dad and I was Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass who he and I both liked (though he didn’t like the more rocked up songs and I didn’t like the quieter songs as much).  With the recent passing of my dad, I decided that as a tribute to him I would make a listing of my favorite ‘elevator music’ songs (though today’s elevator music seems to be rock and roll from my past).  I know some of these would be too jumpy for him, but generally I know he would be pleased to know that I still love instrumentals.  As a crabby old white guy, I often feel that why I don’t like today’s hits is that it is based on dance-worthy beats as opposed to hum-able tunes which I miss.  Dad, I hope you enjoy these (and mom, we’ll do classics another time).

1.Miss Marple Theme – Ron Goodwin

Mr. Goodwin was a British composer mostly known for his film music (Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines).  He did the music for the four 1960s movies starring the great Margaret Rutherford as the Agatha Christie character Miss Marple – an elderly busybody with a knack for solving murders.  This may just be my favorite all-time piece of music that isn’t by the Beatles – it is just so darn jaunty and it never fails to make me grin.  Hard to believe that it was produced by George Martin – the Beatles producer.

2.The Magic Trumpet – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

From the sixth TJB album (a #1 in 1966), this is a cover of a tune by German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert called “Happy Trumpeter”.  While the original version is more syncopated, this version is more like a march and no doubt stirs up my Teutonic blood (though the Lowe half of me keeps me firmly in check thankfully).  As with my #1 song, this just makes you happy and want to nod your head from side to side in time with the music.  Look at my last month’s post about fave American bands for a capsule about the history of the TJB.

3.A Swingin’ Safari – Billy Vaughn

Yet another cover of a Bert Kaempfert original (written as Bernd Bertie).  This song was used as the theme to Gene Rayburn’s game show – The Match Game (dumb Dora was soooo dumb that she didn’t know a … from a blank – you fill in the blank and try to match a celebrity panel).  Vaughn’s cover charted at #13 in 1962 and had more punch than the original.  Vaughn was a member of the 1950s vocal group the Hilltoppers, but left in 1955 to become the musical director of Dot records where he would chart 28 records of his own.

4.The Theme From “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith

One of the earliest Canadians to breech the U.S. market, Faith had a wonderful way with lush string-laden orchestrations with this 1960 #1 record (for nine weeks) being his apex.  While he did chart a few singles, it was his myriad albums for Columbia records that are most remembered – most vinyl collections of the era had at least the 1963 album Themes For Young Lovers.  Max Steiner wrote the tune (Mack Discan wrote the lyrics not heard here) for the 1959 Troy Donahue/Sandra Dee romantic drama.

5.Portuguese Washerwoman – Baja Marimba Band

If these guys sounded a lot like the Tijuana Brass (with less trumpet and more marimba) there is a good reason – they were both mostly the studio greats we now call The Wrecking Crew who also played on the TJB records (the touring bands generally didn’t play on the records).  Indeed leader Julius Wechter played on records by the Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, etc.  After playing marimbas on the first TJB hit “The Lonely Bull”, Alpert encouraged Wechter to form his own hispanic theme band (though neither were Latino).  They became a hit on Alpert’s (and Jerry Moss’) A&M label.  This song charted #15 on the adult contemporary charts in 1966 and can be found on the fine Watch Out! LP that stood incongruously in my collection next to my Rolling Stones albums.  The composer credit on the record is Popp and Lucchesi.  It is a cover of a big 1950s hit for Lou Busch who recorded as Joe “Fingers” Carr for Capitol records as a ragtime pianist.

6.Music Box Dancer – Frank Mills

Here is a classic example of a song finding its time.  Canadian pianist Frank Mills recorded this bright original in 1974 but it did nothing.  It finally became an accidental big hit in Canada in 1978 and then crossed the border to the U.S. where it charted at #3 in the spring of 1979.  He had two other small U.S. hits but has continued on as a performer while not charting.  Back when radio played a potpourri of styles side by side, you might segue from this to the Bee Gees to Dolly Parton, etc. – made you a more rounded music fan than today’s more narrow “if you like this then maybe you will like that” computer brainwashing.

 

7.A Walk In The Black Forest – Horst Jankowski

More of a jazz player, German pianist Jankowski wrote this million selling 1965 hit known as “Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt” in his native tongue.  As with all our songs thus far in this list, it is a happy ‘up’ sort of tune that raises your spirits which I have always found a good way to break out of a funk.  Listen to music, it is cheaper than drugs and psychoanalysis.  Jankowski was essentially a U.S. one hit wonder but continued to release albums till his death in 1998 at age 62 of lung cancer.

8.Candy Girl – The Hollyridge Strings

This is the most wistfully dreamy record on our list.  The Hollyridge Strings existed as a studio creation of Capitol records that would mostly put out albums of orchestrated rock hits (Beatles, Elvis, etc.) to make them tamer for mom and dad.  While Mort Garson and Perry Botkin, Jr. did some of their work, for me it was the Stu Phillips led records that were the best.  This song comes from a tribute to the music of the Four Seasons with the eerie intro violins drenched in echo.  One Krieger family activity would be going to a large mall when such things sprang up in the latter part of the 1960s (Villa Italia or Cinderella City) and I clearly remember hearing this as background music while strolling with mom and dad and sister Cheryl (mom – please please please don’t make me sit in the ladies department holding your purse while you try on clothes – NOOOO!).

9.Route 66 Theme – Nelson Riddle

The picture in this video says mono, but wow that glorious 1962 wide stereo sounds amazing even today 55 years later.  When I look up these folk who did these records, I am struck by how many of these talents passed at my pre-66 age or even younger.  Riddle left the world at age 64 in 1985 (liver disease), but before that he had an wonderful career spanning everything from arranger for Capitol artists like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to later success working with Linda Ronstadt in the 1980s.  He also had a successful history arranging music for film and TV including this excellent theme to a 1960s show about two men travelling the country in their Chevy Corvette.  This #30 1962 hit was written by Riddle and featured an insistent descending bass line and a piano augmented by strings.

10.That Happy Feeling – Bert Kaempfert

Here is a man who only made it to age 56 (passing of a stroke in 1980), but German Kaempfert still had a long influential career including producing a session for a Brit named Tony Sheridan who brought along his backing band to help out on his 1961 single – “My Bonnie”.  In that session the unknown Beatles were also allowed to record an instrumental (“Cry For A Shadow”) and a John Lennon vocal version of “Ain’t She Sweet”.  Kaempfert was also an accomplished songwriter composing the tunes for “Strangers In The Night”, “Danke Schoen”, “Wooden Heart”, etc.   This jaunty record only managed to place at #67 in 1962 here in the U.S. where he had hit #1 previously with “Wonderland By Night”.

11.The Big Country Main Title – Jerome Moross

Few may know the title to this song and even fewer the composer, but there is no mistaking that agitato string intro that never fails to thrill.  This was the main title theme to the classic 1958 William Wyler western starring Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons and in his best supporting actor Oscar role as Rufus Hannassey – folk singer (and snowman in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer) Burl Ives.  Jerome Moross’ musical score was also nominated for an Academy Award.  Moross composed music for films from 1948 till 1969 with this his best known.

12.Music To Watch Girls By – The Bob Crewe Generation

Six months before the summer of love in 1967 your’s truly was buying this album by producer Bob Crewe fronting a group that sound suspiciously like the Tijuana Brass which in hindsight likely means that they were both using the Wrecking Crew studio musicians.  This song was a Sid Ramin/Tony Velona composition that hit #15 and was used in a diet Pepsi commercial.  Velona’s lyrics can be heard on the later Andy Williams vocal version.  Crewe was mostly known for producing and co-composing hits for the Four Seasons (“Walk Like A Man”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”) among others.

13.Cotton Candy – Al Hirt

Going head to head with the Beatles in 1964, this record was a #15 hit for New Orleans trumpeter Hirt.  The song was composed by Russ Damon and seems to evoke the feel of doing jumping jacks or something equally boppy.  Hirt charted 22 albums for RCA Victor in the 1950s and 60s and had his own club on Boubon St. in New Orleans.  He performed in several of the early Super Bowl half-time shows including at #XII in January of 1978 when the Broncos played the Cowboys.

14.Elizabethan Serenade – Mantovani

Ronald Binge was an arranger for conductor Mantovani who then composed this pastoral piece in 1951.  It won him the Ivor Novello award.  Annunzio Mantovani was hugely successful with his cascading strings sound.  He is reported to have had six albums in the U.S. top 30 simultaneously in 1959.  His London label records were often used in the pre-rock era to demonstrate sound equipment due to their dynamic stereo.  His biggest hits were “Charmaine” and “Around The World”.  This song was another mall music staple.

15.The Syncopated Clock – Leroy Anderson

There can’t be a kid of the 1950s who doesn’t know at least six songs by this genius whose music seemed to be on every black and white TV show of the era (and as intros to late night movies in the 1960s).  You many not know the names of the songs but we all know this, “The Typewriter”, “Blue Tango”, “Sleigh Ride”,”Fiddle-Faddle”, “Bugler’s Holiday”, etc.  Anderson studied at Harvard in the 1920s and 30s before hitting it big in the 1950s.  He died of cancer at age 66 in 1975.

16.Exodus – Ferrante & Teicher

Wow does this have a stirring intro before giving way to the dual pianos of Art Ferrante and Louis Teicher.  If this doesn’t give you chills then you aren’t reachable.  Released late in 1960, it hit #2 as the theme from the Otto Preminger movie about the founding of the modern state of Israel.  It was composed by Ernest Gold.  Ferrante & Teicher met while studying music at Juilliard in New York in 1930.  They continued to perform together till retirement in 1989.

17.Down Yonder – Del Wood

I very stupidly never asked my dad, but I would have to wonder if this wasn’t one of his favorite recordings.  It seemed to encapsulate everything I remember about my dad when he played the piano (though he was mostly an organist – and a darn fine one).  The ragtime piano featured a driving left hand bounce with a very catchy (and very fast) right hand melody lead.  This 1921 composition was by L. Wolfe Gilbert and did have words but is generally played as an instrumental.  Del Wood (Polly Adelaide Hendricks Hazelwood) is credited with being the first female instrumentalist to sell a million records (1951).  She is known as Queen of the Ragtime Pianists (with Jo Ann Castle of Lawrence Welk fame often sharing that title).  She passed in 1989 at age 69 having achieved her goal of joining the Grand Ole Opry.

18.Swedish Rhapsody – Percy Faith

This was a 1953 chart hit for Faith which comes from a 1903 composition by Hugo Alfven.  You can certainly visualize it being played while Swedish children might dance around the may-pole.

19.Java – Al Hirt

This song and the Muppets will always be locked in my mind having seen this with the crazy dancing fuzzy tubes (and the surprise ending, kids!) on Ed Sullivan and the Muppet Show episode 22 (look on youtube).  The song was written by New Orleans composer/performer Allen Toussaint and was Hirt’s biggest hit (and his first) hitting #4 while the Beatles owned the charts in early 1964.  It earned Hirt a Grammy that year.

20.Calcutta – Lawrence Welk

Oh my, the Lawrence Welk show might have been my Krieger grandparents’ favorite TV show.  Boy does it evoke an era with the old folks in the audience watching the polkas and bubbles – and who can forget Myron Floren on accordian?  This song had the same accordions and such, but was a bit more (dare I say) rockin’.  It managed to hit #1 in early 1961 giving Welk the distinction of being the oldest artist (at 57) to have a #1 chart record up till then.  Heino Gaze wrote the song as “Tivoli Melody”.  You can credit his music director George Cates for this hit, however, as Welk had to be talked into recording it.  His recording career amazingly started in the 1920s.

21.Baby Elephant Walk – Henry Mancini

If I had to pick one artist that my dad loved more than any other, I would assume it would have been Henry Mancini who was a genius at writing catchy tunes for movies.  This song from the 1962 John Wayne film Hatari earned Mancini a Grammy (one of his lifetime 20).  This was a much goofier song a la “The Pink Panther Theme” as opposed to his usual themes like “Moon River” and “Days Of Wine & Roses”.  During his recording career he put out over 90 albums.

22.Spanish Flea – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

While this song as the B-side to “What Now My Love” only charted at #27 in 1965, it always felt like a bigger hit as it was used extensively on The Dating Game TV show.  This delightfully bouncy tune was composed by Julius Wechter of The Baja Marimba Band.  It appeared on the TJB LP Going Places in 1965 which was one of their best records (along with Whipped Cream & Other Delights).  From  October 16, 1965 through April 29, 1967 the TJB had at least one album in the Top 10, making 81 consecutive weeks.  They sold over 13 million records in 1966 alone and in that year they had five albums at the same time in the top 20 on the Billboard  album chart which it is said has never been repeated.

23.The Poor People Of Paris – Les Baxter

With a title like that you would think it would be fairly somber, but it is quite the opposite being a light and frothy song making the listener think of a busy Parisienne gayly strutting down the sidewalks and through the bistros.  The song was written by Marguerite Monnot with added lyrics that are seldom heard.  Les Baxter’s 1956 release hit #1 for six weeks (chart fans may want to know that the next #1 was Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel”).  Baxter was mostly involved in movie music for many years.

24.Soul Coaxing (Ame Caline) – Raymond Lefevre

Well this is the one song on this list that I know would have been too rockin’ for dad, but it has all the elements of a great record – driving drums over a descending bass part with echoy strings playing the main melody.  A heavenly choir takes over at times to be supplanted by pounding piano going then back to the strings.  This record only managed a #37 placement in 1968 though it feels like it was more popular here in Colorado on KIMN.  This was the year of “Love Is Blue” so instrumentals were not totally out – just fading by then.   Michel Polnareff wrote the song as a vocal.  French orchestra leader Lefevre had a slightly bigger hit with “The Rains Came” ten years earlier.

25.March From The River Kwai & Colonel Bogey – Mitch Miller

Here is another song that seems like a much bigger hit than the national charts suggest.  I doubt there is a single child of the 1960s worth their salt who couldn’t whistle this stirring tune yet it only hit #20 in early 1958 for the bearded bandsman.  As an oboe player, I was always excited that such a famous man also played the oboe.  He was best known for his series of ‘sing-along’ records and TV show.  This song was a medley of two songs – “March From The River Kwai” written by Malcolm Arnold for the 1957 film about prisoners of war in WW II and “Colonel Bogey March” from 1914 by  F. J. Ricketts.

Twenty Fave American Bands

  

Independence Day celebrates the July 4th, 1776 ratification (by Congress) of our nation’s  formal Declaration of Independence.  While caught up in the recent patriotic fervor of our 2017 celebration, your Rock N Roll Dentist was moved to pen a list of his favorite American bands (three or more members).  It’s hard to figure these sorts of lists out criteria-wise.  Do you rate a band that only stuck around for a few great albums then broke as high as a band that also put out a few great albums but then kept pumping out records well after they should have given up the ghost?  These sorts of lists always feel like personal puffery so please forgive me especially if I have omitted one of your faves – if anything, please feel free to comment and submit your additions.  Sorry, but the Electric Flag (seen above) didn’t make it.  Oh and if you are looking for the Monkees, forget it as Davy Jones was British and I really couldn’t include them on this list of All-Americans.

1.Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Back in 1978, their classic 2nd album You’re Gonna Get It moved me to visit my local vinyl emporium (Underground Records on Pearl perhaps?) after hearing “Listen To Her Heart” on the radio.  It sounded a lot like a snottier version of the Searchers (clear chiming 12 string guitar over a great tune) – something sorely missing from the disco-drunk music scene of the late 70s.  To rock starved ears they filled the bill, but could they keep it going?  Well, here it is over 40 years after their debut and they don’t show any signs of slowing down with their 13th studio album Hypnotic Eye (2014) debuting on the charts at #1.  The team of TP on vocals + rhythm guitar and Mike Campbell on lead guitar is as potent as ever with original keyboardist Benmont Tench and bassist Ron Blair.  The late Howie Epstein was a fine Heartbreaker bassist as well who formed a great rhythm section with the much missed Stan Lynch on drums and backing vocals.  The volatile Lynch left in 1994 to be replaced by Steve Ferrone who is an able replacement but doesn’t have the distinctively loping behind the beat style Stan brought.  Their 1979 album Damn The Torpedoes was their breakout album with great songs like “Refugee” and “Don’t Do Me Like That”.  My personal favorite Petty song is “The Waiting” from the 1981 LP Hard Promises.

2.Creedence Clearwater Revival

Their 1968 debut single, a remake of “Susie Q” by Dale Hawkins, got played on Denver’s first underground radio station KMYR – all 8 minutes and 37 seconds.  It was a strange amalgam with classic screaming rock vocals over a nearly metronomic rock backing that gave in to a psychedelic guitar/vocal workout before returning to its roots.  Frankly, I wasn’t ready for it or their first album – but boy did that change in 1969 when John Fogerty and company pumped out three classic albums – 3 in 1 year!!  Bayou Country, Green River + Willy & The Poor Boys were loaded with rock and roll classics like “Born On The Bayou”, “Green River”, “Fortunate Son” and “Proud Mary”.  By July of 1970’s Cosmo’s Factory, CCR were America’s biggest band.  John’s late brother Tom Fogerty played rhythm guitar while the able rhythm section was Stu Cook on bass and the undervalued Doug Clifford slammin’ the drums.  John Fogerty, however, was the MVP writing, producing, playing guitar and possessing one of the greatest swamp rock vocals of all-time (chooglin’ from California – go figure).  In addition to playing his music in college, I also adopted Fogerty’s look of lumberjack shirts and jeans not to mention his mop of Prince Valiant hair and long-sideburns (where did all that hair go!?).  One more pretty good album and another not so good album then it was all over in 1972.  While the passing of Tom and the acrimony with Stu and Doug means no CCR reunion, at least John Fogerty has embraced his legacy and still sounds and looks great in concert.  John (if you are reading this – unlikely) why don’t you write an update on your character Jody as I would like to know what he’s been up to since he fell out of his tractor on “It Came Out Of The Sky” and he went to the rodeo on “Almost Saturday Night”.   You can’t beat “Travelin’ Band” from the classic Cosmo’s Factory for 2:07 of rock and roll maniac energy on a vinyl record.

3.Los Straitjackets

Oh my – I can hear many heads being scratched.  Who are these guys?  Well kids, they happen to be one of the coolest and rockin’est instrumental combos to grace a stage plus they have pumped out just south of 20 albums if spiffy rock and roll since their 1995 debut The Utterly Fantastic And Totally Unbelievable Sound Of…  If that isn’t enough, who can resist the mysterioso wrestling masks not to mention on-stage choreography on classics like “Itchy Chicken” (cool cheesy instro choreography at that – not pre-packaged lip-synced dance a la Madonna and her more modern ilk)?  Danny Amis of the Raybeats (way ahead of their time) and rockabilly Eddie Angel (the Neanderthals – great band) formed the original guitar core with Amis spouting fake-o Mexican jive on stage (they’re as Mexican as Jose Jimenez after all – look him up if you don’t remember Bill Dana).  Scott Esbeck gave way to the winged Pete Curry on bass in ’99 while an assortment of drummers (Jimmy Lester and Jason Smay) have lead to Chris Sprague.  When Amis became ill in 2010, Greg Townson from the Hi-Risers (another great band) came on board and has given a nice kick to the sound now that Amis is back.  On stage nifty originals like “Lonely Apache” stand next to classics like “The Munsters Theme” and Duane Eddy’s “Yep”.   They have a history of teaming up at times with vocalists including, recently, Nick Lowe leading to their newest record – an instrumental tribute to Lowe’s music called What’s So Funny About Peace, Love & Los Straitjackets.  Go see them in concert now!  They do a killer “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.

4.Paul Revere & The Raiders

When rock and roll was a fresh music style to this brand new teenager in 1965, my parents signed up for the Columbia Record Club (remember those, baby boomers?).  They got something like 10 records for a penny (give or take) as an intro offer and gave the catalog to me to pick out two albums of my own.  Thanks to mom and dad’s largesse I got to drive them crazy repeating over and over Do The Freddie (Freddie & The Dreamers – my first concert too) and Just Like Us! by the very sharp looking Paul Revere & The Raiders who also rocked like mad.  I suspect my first exposure to the Raiders was similar to other teens of my era – Dick Clarks’ after-school music TV show Where The Action Is.  They seemed to be having a great time while wearing revolutionary war costumes and pumping out covers of the day’s rock and roll hits.  They followed that formula on their LP adding the singles “Steppin’ Out” and “Just Like Me” – two garage rock classics.  Who knew that they had already put out over a dozen records since 1960 in a frat rock style (unless you had bought their early chart instrumental “Like Long Hair”).  That classic line-up of Revere on Vox organ, Mike Smith on drums, Phil “Fang” Volk on bass, Drake Levin on guitar and the pony-tailed and leather lunged Mark Lindsay on vocals and sax was the band I remember (though on-line they list around 30 members over the years).   I saw them at my 2nd ever concert (at the echoy Denver Coliseum) after Jim Valley had replaced Levin.  For a time I forsook them as being too pop (Hendrix called), but couldn’t resist tasty radio hits like “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon” and “Too Much Talk” and returned to buy all their albums.  Sadly three of that classic line-up are gone (including Revere), but Lindsay occasionally performs and records (saw him a few years back and he could still rock).  That they are not in the rock and roll hall of fame is a total travesty.  “Hungry” is classic rock and roll.

5.The Beach Boys

With guitarist Al Jardine having a brief desire to study Dentistry, it’s easy to see why your kindly Rock N Roll Dentist is in the thrall of these guys (not to mention I have always loved those striped shirts).  Some 56 years after they formed literally as a garage band, there is still a version lead by Mike Love and Bruce Johnston on the road plus another version in all but name lead by Brian Wilson and Jardine.  While they have recorded something like 29 studio albums and a pile of live records, we think mainly of their output of the 60s when they went toe to toe with every style of music and came out on top.  Heck, they didn’t even have a #1 single till the British Invasion swept many U.S. acts off the charts yet they managed three during the Beatles’ heyday – “I Get Around”, “Help Me Rhonda” and “Good Vibrations”.  Brian combined the great harmonies of the 4 Freshmen with the wall of sound a la Phil Spector plus he threw in a dose of Chuck Berry rock and roll for good measure and came up with the classic Beach Boys sound of summer.  Brian’s genius for pop hits gave way to amazing studio productions that he heard in his head an translated to beautiful art with Pet Sounds and Smile.  When Brian and the big hits faded, it gave his late brothers Dennis (drums) and Carl (guitar) a chance to shine.  Frankly there aren’t many bands who could sing as well as the former Pendletones then you add in the songwriting and you come up with nearly 60 chart singles.  The Mike Love helmed version scored an unexpected #1 in 1988’s “Kokomo” that doesn’t sound out of place with their classics of two decades previous.   When former guitarist David Marks and the rest of the living originals toured in 2012, they stopped at Red Rocks Amphitheater for an outstanding show that was non-stop hits – over 50 of them.  No other American band could top that.  My favorite hit by them is a great cover of “Sloop John B”.

6.Raspberries

No fan of what we now call power pop music should be without at least a Raspberries greatest hits album.  Since they only recorded four albums between 1972 and 1974 (the Raspberries, Fresh, Side 2, Starting Over), it is smarter to just buy their whole discography.  Dave Smalley, Jim Bonfanti and Wally Bryson came out of the Ohio band The Choir (“It’s Cold Outside”) and added Eric Carmen of rival band Cyrus Erie in the 1970.   Their self-titled debut on Capitol (combining some Beach Boys with Badfinger and the Who soundwise) came with a scratch & sniff fruit scented sticker on the cover – my copy still has that odor.  Their sound   While Smalley and Bryson both sang and wrote, it was Carmen’s smokin’ rock and roll voice plus his catchy songs (“Go All The Way”, “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)”, “Tonight”) that bore chart fruit.  Acrimony lead to Smalley and Bonfanti leaving before the final excellent album on which Scott McCarl and Michael McBride replaced them.  After a strong Carmen solo career (“All By Myself”, “Make Me Lose Control”) I was lucky enough to see one of their rare reunion shows at Denver’s Fiddler’s Green in 2005.  Sadly they didn’t record any new material, but they did release an outstanding live album in Live On Sunset Strip.  Their quintessential hit has to be “I Wanna Be With You” from Fresh.

7.Cheap Trick

This band from Illinois seemed to take over the style Raspberries and have kept it going through 18 studio albums and induction in to the rock and roll hall of fame last year.  They are a 40+ year tribute to perseverance with very few changes (music and personnel-wise).  Power Pop bands seem to be the offspring of the Beatles and the Who with other smart Anglophile references of their own.  In Cheap Trick’s case, over the years they have added some Roy Wood (The Move, ELO, Wizzard) in the form of “Brontosaurus” (at least the riff) and “California Man”.  The Move classic “Blackberry Way” is covered on the deluxe edition of Trick’s newest album We’re All Alright!.  They showed another of their influences with the strong tribute to the Beatles in 2009’s Sgt. Pepper Live.  Singer Robin Zander still has a great set of pipes while unlikely guitar god Rick Nielson lugs around some of the coolest guitars ever seen on a stage.  He also can send a guitar pick soaring through the audience for several rows with one landing in my souvenirs following a Fiddler’s Green concert purely by luck.  Original bassist Tom Petersson left for a time then returned while drummer Bun E. Carlos (Brad Carlson) was replaced by Nielson’s son Daxx in 2010.  Their second album (1977’s In Color) is the one that first grabbed me with great songs like “Come On, Come On” and “So Good To See You”, but didn’t take off in the U.S. till a live-in-Japan “I Want You To Want Me” became a surprise hit.  Over the years they have had hits like “Surrender” and “The Flame”, but my fave will always be “Dream Police” from the album of the same name.

8.The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Though not as flash a guitarist as his sorely missed younger brother Stevie Ray, the cool Jimmie Vaughan was the first of the two to strike pay-dirt when he teamed with singer and harp player extraordinaire Kim Wilson.  From ’76 to ’90 those two led one of the best swampy blues rock outfits in the country while selling few records.  In ’86 with drummer Fran Christina and bassist Preston Hubbard, they finally hit it big with “Tuff Enuff” which was of a piece with all their other fine records including “The Crawl” from 1980’s What’s The Word and “I Believe I’m In Love” from Butt Rockin’ the following year.  Since Vaughan left in 1990, Wilson has nested with a flight of fine players (including the late great Nick Curran on guitar) and continues to keep the Austin sound alive in concert.  My fave T-birds track is 1989’s “Powerful Stuff” from that same album.

9.The Doors

It’s interesting how the mythology of singer Jim Morrison has kept the legend of the Doors going over 46 years after his death, but if the music wasn’t there no one would really care.  If they had only released their 1967 self-titled opener, that might still be enough to get them on this list.  Robby Krieger’s “Light My Fire” was the song that drew us all in, but “Break On Through”, “Soul Kitchen”, “Crystal Ship” and the powerful “The End” kept us there.  John Densmore’s whip-crack drumming and Ray Manzarek’s keyboards all fit with the enigma that was Morrison to create one of the more unique sounding bands of the rock era.  They weren’t heavy but they rocked on songs like “Hello, I Love You” and “Roadhouse Blues” (Waiting For The Wind and Morrison Hotel respectively) – but how do you classify songs like “Horse Latitudes” (Strange Days) or “Runnin’ Blue” (The Soft Parade)?  Their last album (1971’s L A Woman) is nearly the equal of their debut.  Frankly they should have broken up after Morrison’s passing July 3, 1971 but instead they released two easily forgotten albums before mercifully closing in ’73.  I would love to know if Robby and I share any common ancestors, but from pictures it appears we shared a love for Gibson SG guitars (which I too played through my Vox amp back in the day).  I guess my favorite Doors song is “Twentieth Century Fox” off The Doors.

10.Huey Lewis & The News

In my music life, it seems there are certain bands that everybody seems to like at a certain time.  Santana in college and Fleetwood Mac later.  These guys were in that category in the early 80s when they could do no wrong.  They came out of the 70s Bay area music scene being mostly an amalgam of Soundhole and Clover (who backed Elvis Costello early on).  The original six have stayed amazingly stable over the years with only guitarist Chris Hayes and bassist Mario Cippolina departing.  What remains from that band are Bill Gibson (drums), Sean Hopper (keys), Johnny Colla (sax/guitar) and Huey Lewis (harp/vocals).  They struggled for a time till 1982’s Picture This with “Do You Believe In Love”.  Their next record Sports is the one that really spread the word far and wide with hits like “Heart & Soul”, “I Want A New Drug”, “If This Is It” and “The Heart Of Rock & Roll”.  Placing their leader and their song “The Power Of Love” in the movie Back To The Future kept things rolling till the 1986 album Fore! which sported “Hip To Be Square”, “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Stuck With You”.  Their everyman image seemed to be tailormade for heavy MTV rotation as well.  Since then they have had a few lesser chart hits (though still good musically) and continue to crop up every so often in concert.  If I want to play a News track it is generally “Workin’ For A Living” from Picture This.

11.The Lovin’ Spoonful

From mid-1965 to early 1969 these guys charted 14 singles on the Hot 100 which is pretty darn good, but that they charted top 10 with seven consecutive singles is a feat only matched in the 60s by Gary Lewis & the Playboys.  The stretch from “Do You Believe In Magic” to “Nashville Cats” was remarkable with great material like “Daydream” and “Summer In The City”.  Coming out of N.Y.’s folk scene, we had never seen any band that had someone like John Sebastian happily singing while playing the electrified autoharp.  We CERTAINLY had never seen a band with someone like Canadian Zal Yanovsky with his cowboy hat and crazy persona (sorta like a template for one of the Monkees in ’66).  Quiet Steve Boone on bass and occasional singer Joe Butler on drums rounded out the original four.  My favorite LP of theirs is the 1966 album Daydream (their 2nd) with great album cuts like “Let The Boy Rock And Roll”, “Jug Band Music” and “There She Is”.  The original band only recorded three albums and two soundtracks before Yanovsky left to be replaced by Jerry Yester in 1967.  Their sound was less ‘good-time music’ by this time and more guitar pop though “She Is Still A Mystery” and “Six O’Clock” are great singles (the album Everything Playing was only okay).  After Sebastian split in ’68 they still managed a decent swansong LP in Revelation: Revolution ’69 with Butler singing lead on the excellent singles “Me About You” and “Never Goin’ Back”.  The original four had an odd reunion playing music in a cameo appearance in the Paul Simon movie  One Trick Pony (1980) and then finally at the rock and roll hall of fame induction in 2000.  With Yanovsky’s death and Sebastian’s vocal problems, Boone, Butler and Yester continue to perform under the old name.  I saw Sebastian a couple of years ago and even if his voice isn’t up to par, his stories and quick wit are.  “Rain On The Roof” remains my fave track by them.

12.The Smithereens

Keepers of the power pop flame, the Smithereens are a band that found success a bit later than most.  At the time of their excellent 1986 debut album Especially For You, singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio was 31 while high school buddies John Babjak (guitar), Dennis Diken (drums) and Mike Mesaros (bass) were nearly 29.  From New Jersey, these guys were fighting an uphill battle to get on the charts with great pop tunes like “A Girl Like You” and “Blood & Roses”, but their lack of chart success had nothing to do with lack of quality.  In addition to their original albums, they have recorded their version of the Who’s Tommy and two albums of Beatles tributes not to mention an excellent Christmas album.  Mesaros left in 2006 to be replaced by Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion and are still outstanding in concert as a recent Denver show proved (though I worry about DiNizio who no longer plays guitar as he had little use of his arms it seems since an accident).  You can’t beat the song “Top Of The Pops” from their ’91 album Blow Up.

13.Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Admittedly the music has to start with Springsteen’s songs, but frankly it has been the six to ten headed monster that is the E Street Band that in my mind has made that music special.  It has been sort of like seeing Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound come to life in a different context then he would have imagined.  Max Weinberg’s power drumming in team with bassist Gary Tallent then Roy Bittan and Danny Federici on dueling keys formed the core.  The Boss fronted first Miami Steve Van Zandt then Nils Lofgren and now both in a guitar army with wife Patti Scialfa at times joining in.  Oh, and you can’t overlook the big man – Clarence Clemons on master blaster sax and percussion.  Soozie Tyrell came in on violin in 2002.  In it’s prime they were a formidable force on stage and on record.  Forming in 1972, members came and went before finding the core that mostly still remains.  They hit their stride with the 1975 album Born To Run carrying through great albums like The River in 1980 and the  ’84 LP Born In The USA.  The 40 track box Live: 1975-85 neatly summarized the band after which Bruce put the full act on hiatus recording a series of personal albums only reconvening off and on for various projects till a true reunion tour in 1999.  Federici and Clemons have since passed, but they finally go recognized as the E Street Band were inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 2014 by Bruce himself.  My favorite song by them could be “Glory Days” which has a bright classic rock sound rife with cheesy organ.

 14.The Ventures

That it took the best selling instrumental band of all time (over 100 million records) till 2008 to finally get in to the rock and roll hall of fame tells you volumes about how little many regard instrumentals, but this writer loves this kind of music.  Northwestern guitarists Don Wilson and the late Bob Bogle became the Ventures in 1959.  A version of the band continues to this day mainly touring Japan where they apparently still appreciate instros.   With Nokie Edwards on bass and Howie Johnson on drums they had a hit in 1960 with Colorado guitarist Johnny Smith’s jazz standard “Walk, Don’t Run” done in a rocked up manner.  For many, their story would end with their other big hit “Hawaii Five-O” in 1969 but there is a lot of great music in between those records and since.  Nokie Edwards was also a skilled lead guitarist so he and Bogle switched instruments while Johnson was replaced in ’63 by one of the finest drummers of early rock in the late Mel Taylor.  During the 60s the band pumped out a series of excellent albums every few months that included instrumental versions of many of the hits of the day (such as “Secret Agent Man” that was better than the vocal version frankly) plus covers of other band’s hits – often better than the original (“Out Of Limits” from The Ventures In Space Jan. ’64 and “No Matter What Shape” Feb. ’66 Where The Action Is just to name two).  In their career they have released over 60 studio albums plus countless more live records.  Looking at their classic live videos you can see many of the same moves that Los Straitjackets still do on stage – the synchronized turning of the guitarists for instance.  When Mel died in ’96, his son Leon took over with the band hardly skipping a beat.  Mel’s drum workout “The Creeper” ( from their album Walk, Don’t Run ’64) remains my favorite Ventures track likely because my pal Dan Campbell and I used to play this – me on guitar and DC on pounding skins.

15.The Turtles

Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman have to be the most unlikely looking rock stars ever – sort of overweight and sort of goofy looking, but they sang like angels and had a sense of humor that always tickled me (except in their scatological era with Frank Zappa).  As Flo and Eddie they still front a version of the Turtles keeping alive all the great late 60s pop hits they pumped out – “Happy Together”, “You Baby”, “She’s My Girl”, etc.  That last abbreviation reminds me that their composition “Elenore” may be the only chart hit to include the work etcetera.  Lesser songs by them are still great pop – “Guide For The Married Man” and “Can I Get To Know You Better” come to mind.  Their crowning achievement for me was the Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands LP from 1968 on which they managed to lampoon several different music styles while putting out a good record (surf music in “Surfer Dan”, heavy rock in “Buzzsaw” and the aforementioned “Elenore”).  Al Nichol on guitar, Johnny Barbata on drums and Jim Pons and bass where the band at that point.  At various times I have listed “You Know What I Mean” from the Golden Hits album as my all-time favorite song.

16.Aerosmith

For good reason, many liken these guys to the Rolling Stones – classic blues based rock and roll and a big-lipped singer (Steven Tyler) paired with a classic riffing guitarist (Joe Perry).  Add in the other three backing musicians (Joey Kramer on drums, Tom Hamilton on bass and Brad Whitford on guitar) and you have just about the only 46 year old classic rock band still made up of all originals.  “Dream On”, “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” are standards by now.  Their issues with drugs are well documented.  That they beat the odds and regrouped to even bigger success is amazing – “Angel”, “Janie’s Got A Gun”, “Love In An Elevator” on and on.  While it wasn’t a huge success, I think their best album is their 14th studio album – 2004’s Honkin’ On Bobo which is 12 trax of classic blues just like the Stones did in 2016 on Blue & Lonesome.  The use of 1987’s “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” (Permanent Vacation) on Disney’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster ride cemented it as my favorite song by them.

17.Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids

Okay, I am biased as they are from Colorado and I became friends with them in the course of writing a magazine article about the band years ago (thanks again to manager Scott O’Malley for the access).  I don’t care how much I liked them as people, however, if the music wasn’t in the grooves than they wouldn’t be on this list.  I refer you to my Jan. 2016 blog post for a thorough band history.  I can still remember reading a review of their self-titled debut Epic album in a 1973 issue of Phonograph Record Magazine and being intrigued by their wit and devotion to classic rock and roll.  They came to fame playing the high school band in American Graffiti  and kept it up on TV in Happy Days.  Sadly three of the guys in this picture are deceased (Sam McFadin, Kris Moe and Linn Phillips III), but a fine version of the band still hits the sheds on occasion with original bassist Warren “Butch” Knight and longtime sax player Dwight Bement.  They are also known for the single “Did You Boogie (With Your Baby)” that featured Wolfman Jack.  “Good Times Rock And Roll” from the Sons Of The Beaches album (1975) is one of my all-time favorite songs as it speaks to my love of music while rockin’ up a storm.

18.Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

By 1962 when he released “The Lonely Bull”, Herb Alpert had already tried a lot of different roles in music from songwriter and producer for Jan & Dean (“Baby Talk”) to performer under the name Dore Alpert (“Tell It To The Birds”).  This nice Jewish trumpet player hit the big time, however, when he created a new genre of instrumental hits in a Mexican vein.  On Top 40 radio back in the 60s, the charts weren’t just rock and roll and a kid like me got exposed to country and pop hits as well.  Some of that stuff was pretty good and bridged the generation gap between parent and kid.  The TJB were the only group I liked that my dad liked as well so I was allowed to go see them in Fort Collins at Moby Gym at a fine concert.  The TJB I saw in concert were not the TJB I heard on records, however, as Alpert mostly used the guys known as the Wrecking Crew as they knew the studio better.  At their peak in 1966, they had five albums in the Billboard top 20 and at one time they had four in the top 10.  Their two best records were released in 1965 – Going Places (“Spanish Flea” and “Tijuana Taxi”) and Whipped Cream & Other Delights that had a cover remembered fondly by young boys (and their dads) but was pretty tame by today’s standards.  From that latter album, the songs “Whipped Cream” and “Lollipops & Roses” were used on the TV show The Dating Game as intro music.  Alpert finally got a #1 in 1968 with the vocal “This Guy’s In Love With You” and got another with the instrumental “Rise” in 1979 making him the only artist to have a vocal and an instrumental #1 hit.  I guess my favorite song by them was “The Magic Trumpet” from the ’66 album What Now My Love which was a Bert Kaempfert tune so leaned more to Deutschland than Mexico.

 19.The Byrds

As can be seen from this picture, the early Byrds were heavily influenced by the look of the Beatles which is not surprising given that folkies Jim (late Roger) McGuinn and David Crosby switched to the use of 12 string guitars on folkish rock in 1964 after watching the movie A Hard Day’s Night.   McGuinn and Gene Clark had already been playing some Beatles covers at the Troubadour in L.A. (later joined by Crosby).  They added Michael Clarke as a drummer who was a novice at best, but looked the part.  Later came a country mandolin player in Chris Hillman who took up the bass and this version released the folk rock #1 hits “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”.  That latter cover of a Bob Dylan song was their first single and used mostly members of the Wrecking Crew on backing as producer Terry Melcher didn’t think the band was competent enough yet to record (save McGuinn’s 12 string).  Clark was the first to leave beginning a series of line-up changes seen till the group broke up in 1973.  Singles like “Eight Miles High” and “My Back Pages” came out in ’66 and ’67 leading to my favorite Byrds album in Jan. 1968 The Notorious Byrd Brothers which was not a huge chart success but featured great songs like “Goin’ Back” and “Wasn’t Born To Follow” which showed them leaning towards country.  McGuinn and short time member Gram Parsons took the Byrds heavily in to country for the Aug. ’68 album Sweetheart Of The Rodeo which was a pretty radical move for its time (country was seen as music of straight people who supported the war and had short hair).  With a totally new Byrds, McGuinn dove head first from then on in to a country/rock amalgam on excellent records like Ballad Of Easy Rider (1969) and Untitled (1970).  The original band reunited briefly in ’72-73 for a weak album (Byrds) and did reunite off and on over the years (both Clark and Clarke are now deceased).  McGuinn seems content anymore to play as a solo act and release covers of folk songs.  Gene Clarke’s song “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” from their debut 1965 album Mr. Tambourine Man remains my favorite song by them.

 20.Z Z Top

From 1971 till today the three man team of Billy Gibbons (guitar), Dusty Hill (bass) and Frank Beard (drums) have pumped out nasty Texas blues rock and made long beards synonymous with hot cars and leggy women.  They took a bit to grow on me as their early stuff just on London Records just seemed like mostly southern boogie rock – a genre I don’t much like.  I did buy the singles “La Grange” (’73) and “Tush” (’75) but it was a switch to Warner Brothers that got me on board as it seemed to bring out the humor and rumble on songs like “Cheap Sunglasses” and “She Loves My Automobile” from the ’79 LP Deguello.  Between 1983 and 1990 they seemed tailor-made for MTV with a series of story videos to go with their best singles “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Pressure” and “Legs” notably from the classic Eliminator album.  Afterburner and Recycler continued in that vein with songs like “Sleeping Bag” and “Doubleback”.  Releases since have been sparse and less produced but still good bluesy guitar based rock up to 2012’s La Futura.  Concert has been the best way to appreciate the band as they burn pretty good for a three-piece yet still retain their senses of humor (choreographed stage moves, fuzzy covers on the guitar bodies and even moving sidewalks for the guys on stage on one tour – a tip of the hat to Gibbons’ old psychedelic band The Moving Sidewalks).  Every time I hear “Sharp Dressed Man” from Eliminator I have to crank up the car radio and bask in the fuzzy guitar glory.

Honorable Mention – The Wrecking Crew

Though not a band per se, this fluctuating aggregation of talented musicians were the uncredited (at the time) players behind countless many of the hits we loved in our youth.  They played on The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra sessions – Crystals (Phil Spector) and Simon and Garfunkel records.  On and on – the list is staggering and they would really have to be the #1 hit making band on this list.  Their legacy is best appreciated by watching the 2008 documentary The Wrecking Crew put together by Denny Tedesco the son of the late Tommy who played guitar in the band – listen to the flamenco flourishes on the Gary Lewis & The Playboys album version of “Sure Gonna Miss Her”.

The Beatles: What If?

WHAT IF?  Always an exercise in frustration, but fun at the same time – What If?.  You can’t change history, but how many interesting movies, TV shows and books have been devoted to that prospect?  I have to assume that most of us have at some time engaged in speculation about what things would have been like if something from the past were to have been different.  As a for instance, I always contend that if one could have eliminated one of these murders: Martin Luther King, John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, the one that would have perhaps made the most difference was of the person who may have been the least influential at the time – Robert Kennedy.

I have to feel that if Bobby lived, he as a Democrat would have been elected President instead of Nixon the Republican.  This would have likely lead to an entirely different slate of future Presidents and an entire different slate of political agendas.

Ah, but Civil Rights folk/Black activists might argue that the murder of MLK was the biggest game-changer and had he lived the rioting of the late 60s would have at least been less fierce.  He may have even moved into politics himself.

Then again if you think about it in another way, the murder of JFK could have had the biggest impact of them all -but not politically.  His death may have changed the course of music and culture. Why, you ask?  Read on and speculate about THE BEATLES – WHAT IF?

 Throughout the history of the Beatles, there are many chance occurrences, lucky breaks and random crossroads that lead to what we know about our generation’s biggest cultural icons. I have no secret knowledge of what the world would have been like without the Beatles, but I am certainly grateful to have lived through an era when their music existed.

What If Paul and John never meet?

The most legendary concert in the history of the Beatles (and perhaps in music history period) is the July 6, 1957 Garden Fete at Woolton Parish Church for it was there that Paul McCartney was introduced to John Lennon laying the foundation for the Lennon/McCartney partnership plus bringing in Paul’s friend George later.  What if Paul decided not to go and watch the Quarrymen play that day?  Perhaps they would have met some other way, but if they never cross paths would John and Paul have ever been music stars without each other?  As much as John loved music, he also loved art and you can easily see a future for him in that direction if his band never got beyond the talent level of the Quarrymen.  John tended to lose interest in things if he wasn’t getting rewarded immediately.   A creative and satirical artist, his career may have been a struggle, but you have to assume he would have been recognized and become successful.  Paul, on the other hand, has always been a skilled musician with a love for rock and roll but also a love for pop.  One can see a world where Paul joins a dance-band as guitarist and singer then goes out on his own like Cliff Richard did to solo stardom.  Paul’s friend George may well have joined that same band, but without the Lennon/McCartney example to feed on it is hard to see him become more than a quality sideman on guitar.

What If Ringo emigrates to Houston, Texas?

As a teenager, Richard Starkey seriously looked in to moving to Houston and working in a factory.  He was enthralled by cowboys and country music and had seen on the back of a Lightning Hopkins LP that he came from Houston, Texas.   The U.S. Consul told him that you needed a job to emigrate so he was looking at factory work.  As someone slight of build and sickly as a child, Starkey would not have been cut out for hard physical labor so one assumes that after a time he would have attempted to catch on with a country band and it isn’t hard to see his strong steady beat behind some Texas singer.  This of course would have left the Beatles with Pete Best (had they have so decided to not dump him) and perhaps they would have used someone like Bobby Graham in sessions since he played drums on many early hits by the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, etc.  Without the likable Ringo, it is hard to see the Beatles as the four-headed personality monster they became on TV and in the movies, however, so Texas’ loss was our gain.

What If Brian Epstein does not go to the Cavern Club or, worse, goes and hates the band?

On November 9, 1961, two genteel customers attended the afternoon Beatles scrum at the Cavern Club in the personages of Brian Epstein and his assistant Alistair Taylor (looking totally out of place in their smart suits).  The story goes that earlier a young man named Raymond Jones had gone to Epstein’s NEMS record store and requested a copy of the new record by the Beatles – “My Bonnie”.  Finding out that the record was actually by Tony Sheridan with backing by the Beatles, Epstein was intrigued to see the group in person after finding that they were local faves.   Eppie is quoted later as saying “I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humour on stage – and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm.”  When he became their manager, he had the where-withal and credibility to push the Beatles to stardom.  If Brian doesn’t manage the Beatles it is hard to imagine that someone with clout would not have filled the management void eventually.  Whether another person would have had the devotion to the boys and the name recognition (Brian being head of a large record store) to get them signed to a label is hard to say, however.  It is thought that Brian knew enough about the charts to manipulate the sales of the debut single “Love Me Do” making it hit the U.K. at #17 – another manager may not have known about this and the record along with the Beatles may have sunk without a trace.

What If Dick Rowe & Mike Smith signed the Beatles to a recording contract before George Martin?

One of the more famous blunders posited in music history is the rejection by Decca records execs Rowe and Smith of the young Beatles –  instead they chose Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.  Had the Beatles signed with Decca, they would likely still have recorded “Love Me Do” and “P S I Love You” for their first single (though who knows if Ringo would have been in the band since it was via George Martin’s rejection of Pete Best’s drumming that the weaker drummer was ousted bringing in the charismatic Starr).  Even if that single still had gone to the lower rungs of the U.K. charts, the follow-up certainly would have been very different and may have sunk the band’s fortunes.  It is widely reported that Lennon brought a slow Roy Orbison-influenced version of “Please Please Me” to Martin for the next Beatles single and that George M. wisely helped shape the song into a faster snappier pop hit that kicked off Beatlemania.  You can assume that producer Mike Smith may not have been so astute in rearranging Lennon’s dirge thus dooming their 2nd single to be a flop.  More than likely the label would have cut them loose or demanded they record outside material for a do-or-die 3rd single – this would have put a crimp in the growth of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership.  It can’t be stated enough the importance that producer George Martin had in shaping the Beatles.  He became a true fifth Beatle playing keyboards, arranging and helping to create new sounds – something, you assume, the more conventional producer Smith may not have done.   Thank you Decca for not signing the Beatles.  Indirectly this also probably helped out the career of the Rolling Stones who did get signed to U.K. Decca in an attempt to make up for the loss of the Fab Four.

What If President Kennedy is not killed?

Many writers, when searching for the reason the U.S. belatedly went insane for the four mop-tops from Liverpool (early in 1964), point to the need for something to come along and snap our country out of the grief gripping us following the tragedy of Nov. 22, 1963.  Up till “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (the fifth single by the Fabs), there was very little interest in the Beatles on our side of the Atlantic.  Capitol records finally released that record nearly a month after it came out in the U.K. when the demand for Beatles product started taking off.  Somehow the killing of Pres. Kennedy has always seemed like an odd excuse to spark Beatlemania in the U.S., but it may well have helped push us into the deep-end quicker then if the President wasn’t killed and we weren’t in a state of depression.  I still believe that we would have inevitably succumbed to the same mania that gripped virtually every corner of the world.  The Japanese, the Greeks, the Malaysians, you name it – they all got caught up in the fever pushing Beatles songs to the top of the charts.  Why would we have been any different? The Ed Sullivan show exposure sure helped push them in to our living rooms Kennedy or no Kennedy.   Cliff Richard was never as big here as in the U.K., you counter.  Well, he simply wasn’t as dynamic on record or in person as the Beatles.  Okay, you say, ABBA were never as big here either.  Sure, but they still managed to become sizable stars in the U.S. just as I believe the Beatles would have been.

What If the Beatles do not take drugs?

Use of benzedrine and amphetamines were common for the young pre-Fabs to conjure enough energy to play long grueling sets in Hamburg.  It’s hard to know what effect that had on their early songwriting or playing.   From then on there are at least three levels of drugs that were taken by at least one member of the Beatles.  The lowest level drug that all four Fabs were involved in was marijuana.  As opposed to former Pres. Clinton, there is no doubt they inhaled.  If you believe what George Harrison said in a 90s interview, he felt that all it did was focus their attention on the music.  In contradiction I have friends that tell me that the use of weed, however, tends to sap your drive and lower your desire to do much more than smoke more drugs.  Looking online they say that side effects are paranoia, memory and relationship problems, lowering of IQ, impaired thinking, etc.  Whether this tended to make them write more languid songs such as John’s “I’m So Tired”  or stupider songs like “Wild Honey Pie” is up for debate.  The next level of drugs, however, had a big impact on the music – LSD.  Without acid perhaps they would have written more classic conventional pop songs like early in their career – or not since they still seemed to want to broaden their subject matter regardless of the chemicals they ingested.  You can obviously pick out the songs of John and to some degree George that would not have come about without mind-altering chemicals (“Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Only A Northern Song” et al).  You wonder if the Indian spiritual side trip the band went on would have happened without LSD.  It is harder with Paul but doubtless it impacted his writing as well perhaps on things like “Fixing A Hole” (we know that “Got To Get You Into My Life” was about marijuana).  Looking at how Brian Wilson, Peter Green and Syd Barrett (to name a few other sad musical examples) had their brains negatively altered by too many trips, it is hard not to assume that some of John’s mental anguish might have stemmed from overdosing his neurons.  It may have robbed him of his drive to top Paul who increasingly took control of the band from Sgt. Pepper on – something the old John would not have simply sat back and let happen.  You figure a clearheaded John would have gone toe to toe in the song writing at least.  This of course was nothing compared to the third level of drugs – the hard stuff.  It seems they all had some relationship with cocaine starting with Paul during the making of Sgt. Pepper.  Articles paint the other three as using a lot of cocaine in the 70s mainly and online it says side effects include euphoria and energy followed by paranoia and anxiety.  Paul seemed to benefit from the increased energy levels around this time but after the Beatles broke up he plunged in to a depression, it is written.  Who knows if drugs played a part.   You certainly can see hard drugs all over John’s behavior and music especially around the Plastic Ono Band time.  That he also used heroin for a time was even worse on his ability to create great music or even function well.    You hate to think that the use of drugs robbed us of alot of great music, but it seems clear that after some sparking of creativity it may have lead to a drop.

What If Brian Epstein doesn’t die?

On Aug. 27, 1967 just a couple of months after the release of Sgt. Pepper (when the Beatles were in Bangor with the Maharishi), their manager either took his own life or accidentally overdosed.  John is later quoted as saying he knew this was the beginning of the end for the Beatles.  Had Brian lived we do know that he had already merged NEMS with Robert Stigwood’s management company which made the Fabs angry as they reportedly despised Stigwood.  For that reason, Epstein continued to manage the Beatles while stepping away from his other acts.  The four lads were fiercely loyal to Brian even though he frankly bungled many of their business dealings (Northern Songs and Seltaeb’s laughable merchandising contracts to name two).  The whole misguided Magical Mystery Tour idea of Paul’s may not have happened or at least have been better organized with Brian and company overseeing.  With a living Epstein, if Apple is still created it is a much tighter ship not bleeding money with him in charge.  Certainly you wouldn’t see Allen Klein ever enter the picture which had nearly as much to do with breaking up the band and their interpersonal relationships as anything else.  I still think they would have split for a time to do solo projects, but under Brian they would have had a clearer incentive to regroup from time to time and make more great music.  As a band they were more than the sum of their parts as is clearly seen by the huge drop-off in quality from 1970 on without JPG&R feeding off each other and hope that they would not have ever released inferior music under the Beatles name.  Oh that “Ebony & Ivory” and Kisses On The Bottom never happened.

What If John Lennon and Yoko Ono don’t get together?

John Lennon wanted a mother apparently.  Seemingly this man felt unresolved abandonment issues from the time of his youth when his mom gave him up to be raised by his Aunt & Uncle (and then was later killed by a car).  Since Paul had also lost his mom at a young age, there was an unspoken connection there.  John’s wife Cynthia must not have fit that role for him and we all know the stories about how he became obsessed with Yoko after a fateful meeting at the Indica Gallery Nov. 7, 1966.  This led to the breakup of his marriage and likely the band he belonged to as well (or at least it didn’t help group harmony any with Yoko wanting to caterwaul as a band member ).   As my friend Dan C posits, what if John climbs up the ladder to look at the tiny word on the ceiling and it says “No” instead of “Yes” (John made a big deal about how positive Yoko’s art was, after all)?  What if he thought this woman whose idea of art was appearing in a plastic bag or putting an apple on display was just another poser and he left vowing to not waste any more time on her?  What if he thought her strangled cat screeching vocals sounded like nails on a chalkboard?  Sadly, it never happened.  It is hard to see John and Cyn staying married even without Yoko as he never really wanted that marriage in the first place and only did ‘the right thing’ when she became pregnant with Julian.  If it wasn’t Yoko it would have been someone else, but maybe he doesn’t feel a need to spend every waking moment with that person or take heroin for his pain.  Maybe that person isn’t so controlling and doesn’t stifle his creativity or pull him away from his friendships within the band.  All four would still have gone their own way for a time.  John would never have played on trash like “Bip Bop” or “Silly Love Songs” so Paul would have had to do solo records.  George would have certainly wanted to do an outside project since he felt stifled within the Beatles (especially by Paul), but loyalty to the brand would have brought them back together off and on.  Listening to Lennon songs like “One Day At A Time” and “Mind Games”, you can hear classic Beatles songs waiting to get out if played with George, Paul and Ringo and produced by George Martin.  One can only dream of a great rock and roll covers album in the 70s since they all loved to rock and did those rockers well – something the solo John couldn’t pull off.  It is reported that Yoko kept Paul from reaching John if you believe many of the books which is a true crime.

What If John Lennon isn’t shot fatally in 1980?

When John was killed, he was one of my heroes.  Other than Abe Lincoln, I now idolize no one, but in death John Lennon has faded as an object of worship after reading about his human foibles (a lazy naivete, aggression that lead to physical outbursts, cruelty to women, etc.).  This is a tragedy as the rest of us have had nearly 37 years to grow as human beings while John is caught in time as being what he was at and before age 40.  Frankly I don’t see him as having a long life anyway since he was a huge chain-smoker and we know how this robbed us via cancer of his musical brother George Harrison at age 58.  During the time we would have had with John going forward, however, you can see him getting much more involved in music again.  It has been reported that he and the other Beatles were planning a 1981 reunion to see about recording – a very exciting and ultimately sad prospect.  He would have patched things up with the band and son Julian.  Indeed you can imagine how proud he would have been to see Julian’s chart run in the mid-80s and likely they would have done some work together just as Brian Wilson and his daughters have done.  Had he lived long enough to work with Sean as well, it is hard to see him allowing the acrimony that developed with Julian and his second family – they would have found a way to make peace you assume.  You can see flashes of the old John coming back musically before his death.  “Grow Old With Me” never got beyond the demo stage, but would have become one of his masterpieces given time to record it properly.  John Lennon was a rocker and you can see him revisiting that music of his youth perhaps working with Carl Perkins as George and Ringo did so winningly in 1985.  A John Lennon/Dave Edmunds collaboration would have been my dream mix.

 There are many other What If speculations you can think of.  What If the police don’t stop the Beatles’ Jan. 30, 1969 rooftop concert?  Were they planning to play more songs or had they essentially finished their set?  If not, then what would they have played?  What If Paul married Jane Asher instead of Linda Eastman?  If nothing else he benefited from his Eastman in-laws handling his money.  What If they don’t go to India?  So much of the double album The Beatles came from there that you have to wonder what direction their next album would have taken without it. What If they do something other than the ill-fated Let It Be film sessions?  Would they still have imploded as a band?  

You can think of more questions and answers – I welcome your comments. 

MUSIC AUTOBIOGRAPHIES

Some of the Rock & Roll Dentist’s fave books are music related autobiographies.  This seems to be an especially ripe time for these sorts of books as more and more artists rush to get their stories in to print after Keith Richards’ 2010 Life which winningly told the story of a (hopefully) former junkie who rips a rock riff like no other can out of his guitar.   Sadly, just as the old VH1 series  Behind The Music would, most every one of these books starts to sound repetitive and predictable with too much attention spent on the inevitable “but then” fall after the initial rise to fame (be it fueled by drugs, drink, money problems, jealousy, sex, etc.).  I can honestly say that after the myriad of these books I have read, by the end I disliked the subject music star nearly unanimously (or at least couldn’t identify with them as people).  The only artists that came off as having been reasonably normal were Pat Benatar (Between A Heart & A Rock Place: A Memoir) and Brenda Lee (Little Miss Dynamite: The Life & Times Of Brenda Lee).  Even then, Ms. Benatar wanted to whine about being marketed as a female sex-pot early on her LP’s though I’m guessing she was happy to have the money we spent on those “exploitative” records – you just wanted to remind her that show biz is as much about look and fantasy as it is about talent.  Ms.Lee, while seemingly very down to earth and likable, also began performing at such a young age that it is hard to imagine her life being much like mine as a kid.   What most of these books told me is that no matter the fantasy of being a rock star, there is a reason I never could have made it in the world of rock and roll.  I liked to sleep in a warm bed and eat regularly plus I had little interest in drugs or alcohol.  By far the biggest gripe I have with virtually every book here is that the only reason I remotely care about these people is their music yet most of their book dwells on everything but the music.  With that in mind, let’s look at some capsule comments about several music books:

 Jimmy Webb – The Cake & The Rain: A Memoir

Just as many of his songs can be pretty obtuse (but rewarding) to grasp, so too was this one of the harder reads in this genre – at least for me.  Usually these books are like eating fast food – basic, quick and salty with some queasiness at the end.  This book was much harder to ingest since Webb’s writing demands a careful read so as not to miss the meaning of each phrase.  He, also, jumps back and forth between years throughout the book requiring a certain amount of compartmentalized recall.  Frankly I wish he just would have spent more time explaining the genesis and meaning for each of his more famous songs (like “Wichita Lineman”) though you do at least come to figure out much on your own if you pay attention to his asides.  As a songwriter, “MacArthur Park” is his most famous output and was open to so many interpretations back when it was “melting in the dark”.  That this song isn’t an entire chapter (or 2) is a pity, but no more so than a lack of any apparent interaction with his biggest interpreter – Glen Campbell.  It would have been nice to know more about the 5th Dimension than “Up Up & Away” – I loved “Carpet Man” and “Paper Cup” yet they don’t deserve even a mention.  What is mentioned WAY too much is his cocaine use and desire for various married women.  That the book doesn’t go beyond his mid-70s Harry Nilsson/John Lennon cocaine bingeathons is a pity as it would have been nice to read about his C&W #1 with The Highwaymen or his recent Kanye West charter.

Bobby Rydell-Teen Idol On The Rocks: A Tale Of Second Chances

The time after both Buddy Holly died and Elvis Presley got tamed by the army, radio seemed to be dominated by hoagie eating teen idols from Philadelphia.  Robert Ridarelli was one of the most successful, charting 26 singles from ’59 to late ’63 when the fab four took over the airwaves and drove his last four chart “hits” to the lower rungs of the hot 100.  This is a simple read and is shows his obvious lack of rock and roll cred and adesire to be a “real” entertainer like a Sinatra.  That he had little to do with the creation of his hits other than singing what the folks at Cameo records  presented him means that he has very little to say about the genesis of each record.  This book is mainly about his time as a performer, his complicated relationship with his mom and his drinking issues which resulted in kidney/liver transplants.  He does talk about Frankie Avalon and Fabian plus his time with Ann-Margret in “Bye Bye Birdie”, but curiously absent is any real interaction with other stars of the time like Chubby Checker  who he even charted a duet with.

 Robbie Robertson – Testimony

It was with some trepidation that I dug in to this book knowing that some former cohorts of his from The Band have accused him over the years of not giving them proper credit for songwriting.  That the book turned out to be one of the better music autobios was a pleasant surprise.  I don’t know how to feel about the accusations leveled by long-dead former friends against Robertson, but he seems to go out of his way to explain his side and not duck the issue (but also not belabor it).  That the book ends with the dissolution of the classic-era version of The Band at The Last Waltz in 1976 is likely fitting, but a bit frustrating as even one chapter about his solo career would have been welcome.  His early times backing Ronnie Hawkins and later Bob Dylan are just as interesting as his 8 years with The Band which helps drive the book through the rough patches like his (alleged) mob relations.  As usual, however, I wanted way more about how songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” went from germ of an idea to grooves in vinyl.  Likely a whole book could be written on just the day to day of recording The Music From Big Pink and The Band.

 John Oates – Change Of Seasons: A Memoir

Talk about trepidation, let’s be honest here – you typically want to read about the main singer/songwriter in an act – not “…and so-and-so”.   That meant Daryl Hall as opposed to John Oates.  That being said, with apologies to Mr. Oates this turned out to be a pretty entertaining read.  Once again, however, here is a risk taker who tells stories aboutsimply heading to England with little money or sleeping in some abandoned structure on the beach with no real means of support – very different than my life and hard to identify with.  The history of Daryl Hall & John Oates’ records is here, but much of the detail is about the early part of their career where they were more equal partners.  As Hall took over more of the hit songwriting, Oates became more famous for facial hair and there is less in the book about the history of those songs (but at least some mention of the mustache).  Oates, to his credit, says up front that this is not a Daryl Hall history and will leave that side of the act to him if he wishes to tell it.  This is one of the few books that also includes a CD of music – pleasant albeit solo John Oates as opposed to hit Hall & Oates.

 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

Going in to a book like this you realize that it will be wordy but that those words should be well-chosen based on the style of the author’s lyrical content.  Mr. Springsteen has dug into his psyche including his need for analysis while at least explaining how his career came to be.  For that it takes alot of words and this is a long read (but good if you like the subject).  As an admirer of his band even more than much of his music, I wanted to read everything I could about the E-Streeters past and present.  Since he has to work with these folks you assume, however, that he can’t say all he has felt about his band-mates over the years.  Here is a guy who from a young age seemingly didn’t have a problem moving in and out of a comfortable existence which shows up in his songs certainly.  Those that hang on his early “New Jersey-ness” will certainly hang on those parts of his life story more than someone like me who frankly likes his newer stuff much better (reflecting a more stable life?).  Mr. Springsteen has never been one to use 3 words in a lyric when 30 tells more of the story and so I actually would like to see him put out a book that talks about every song he has written plus their creation and meaning.  One of the book’s criticism’s I’ve seen leveled is his political stance, but that is the man – take him or not.  I frankly don’t believe that one has to agree politically with someone to enjoy their music and to see their slant on life.  It seems that we as a people (in the U.S.) are suffering from a crisis of intolerance (this from a middle of the roader).  I hope we can get over it, but I fear it is tearing us apart as a nation.

 Phil Collins – Not Dead Yet: The Memoir

Up front I admit to being a huge progressive-era Genesis fan that lost interest as the band became more pop and famous.  I am far less of a Phil Collins solo artist fan as well.  Keeping that in mind, it’s a decent read that shows an artist’s dive into alcoholism as his relationships tanked (which helped to create alot of his music, interestingly).  My biggest gripe with the book is that it needed to come with a slang U.K. English translation dictionary as he throws in a bunch of references and descriptive phrases that meant nothing to me as an American.  Somehow it felt like he was holding back alot of his feelings – especially about fellow musicians who he might still work with again so perhaps if he is still “not dead yet” in another 10-15 years he might write a sequel and dish the real dirt.  That he felt a need in the book to apologize for being ubiquitous and successful for a time is too bad.  Being good wasn’t a crime – not putting out a new Genesis album with mellotron, however, is a (Nursery) Cryme – come on Phil and get the guys back together – and don’t forget Steve Hackett!

 Mike Love – Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy

 Brian Wilson – I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir

That these two books came out a month apart from each other is certainly no coincidence.  You are left as a Beach Boys fan to juxtapose the two stories as told by one man who keeps the band going along with much animus and another told by a tortured genius recovering from mental issues.  I admit my bias, but I have always seen Mike Love as the villain of the band – quick with a lawsuit and overly defensive while Brian Wilson always seems the victim who is afraid to stand up to the bully.  True picture or not, I tend to root for the underdog and hope the front-runner fails.  On dint of a pure reading experience, however, Love wins over Wilson as the former’s book is generally clear and fairly candid while the latter’s jumps all over the place and seems to reflect some schizophrenic lack of focus.  At least you can tell Wilson wrote this book as opposed to his first dubious attempt in 1991 at a life story under the aegis of Eugene Landy (Wouldn’t It Be Nice: My Own Story).  Wilson comes across as a needy childlike figure who at least can be seen as a success story – one who I could never have imagined leading concert tours in his 70s when viewed some 40 years ago.  Love seems an assured controller, but at least he is smart enough to realize it and tries to get you on his side with tales such as trying to deal with Wilson’s current wife which may or may not have helped put an end to the happy 50th anniversary reunion tour.  As painful as it is to say, the Love book is the better read as a life story.  Perhaps a study of the musical history of the Beach Boys is best left to some future dispassionate outside biographer.

 Chrissie Hynde – Reckless: My Life As A Pretender

This might be the most non-musical book about a music star in this whole list.  It is frankly amazing to read how old she was before she took up a guitar in anger and started a band seemingly on a whim (most music stars talk about getting their first guitar as kids and wanting to be Elvis or whatever – not her).  The title is non-factual as the actual part of the book devoted to the Pretenders is fairly short with little if any discussion about their songs and how they were created.  Three quarters of the book was about an aimless life that turned out well strictly by luck it appears.  Maybe she is planning on writing a second book about her career in music?  Her links to the burgeoning U.K. punk scene might interest fans of that music otherwise skip this one.  I found her thoroughly unlikable as a person.

 Michael Nesmith – An Autobiographical Riff

Which finally brings us to this piece of pathetic tripe.  It is simply the worst autobiography I have ever read.  Self-aggrandizing, ego-centric, worthless swill – you take your pick.  Perhaps Mr. Nesmith assumes we already know about the Monkees and his relationship with them plus their music… who knows – which is a pity as I give him alot of credit for the start of country-rock as a popular music form.    You would never know that he did anything of note based on his writing in this book except he takes credit for inventing MTV – even though music videos (notably by the Beatles and even Rick Nelson) existed long before his Elephant Parts video program which admittedly was at least ahead of it’s time.  The fact that he was in the Monkees is the only reason most would care about him, yet he offers very little about his time in the band and nothing about their reunions over the years.  His own music doesn’t fare much better as I saw nothing in the book about the creation of the fun song and video “Cruisin'” (Lucy & Ramona & Sunset Sam go to Venice Beach, if you recall).  Even his family gets shorted –  his mother invented liquid paper which is actually interesting, yet he has little to say about it – I would love to know how she invented it, etc.  Oh, but he has plenty to say when it comes to preaching his own brand of philosophy and hanging with Jack Nicholson.  Spare me – maybe Peter Tork will give us some real insights some day.

 

 

 

POCO – The Sound & The Furay

What follows is an update of an article I had published back in 2001 about the pioneering country-rock band Poco and founding member Richie Furay.  Much has changed in the ensuing decade and a half + which I have tried to add in a condensed form  If I have missed something or misspoken, please feel free to comment (and thanks for reading).

 

A case could be made for the enshrinement of country/rock pioneer band Poco in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  It will likely never happen as an equal case could be made for their enshrinement into the Country Hall Of Fame.  That is even a longer shot to ever happen even though much of what you hear today on country radio directly traces to what a bunch of long-hairs where trying to do with a short-hair music form traditionally closed to them.  To embrace the twang of country and western music when acts like the Doors and Jimi Hendrix reigned wasn’t a smart move commercially or politically.  That style of music was seen as being allied with the conservative slicked-back pro-Vietnam War types – certainly not what hip rock musicians would be caught dead playing.  Yet…

Poco has already been represented in the pages of Goldmine by two fine articles:  August 2, 1985 by Mick Skidmore and August 20, 1993 by William Ruhlmann.  The purpose of this article is not to rehash those pieces, but to color, correct and update the story.  The bulk of the included information comes from separate interviews with founding members Pastor Richie Furay, George Grantham and Rusty Young who are really good guys. That fact doesn’t sell records, but it does make their lack of huge chart success even harder to take.  During a 21 year recording career, Whitburn shows that Poco charted 16 singles and 21 albums in Billboard.  That’s actually pretty darn impressive, but their chart placement and commercial recognition pales next to the Eagles – a band that learned from Poco’s example and even took their bass players.

The story of Poco must begin with the story of Richie Furay.  Paul Richard Furay (5/9/44 – Yellow Springs, Ohio) entered the world of music with the Monks, a folk trio he had while attending Otterbein College to study theatre and dramatics. The details of Furay’s growth as a musician are well handled in his and John Einerson’s 1997 Canadian book For What It’s Worth – The Story Of The Buffalo Springfield (Quarry Press).  Suffice it to say that he met a young talent in New York in the spring of ’64 named Stephen Stills who would join him in the hootenanny group the Au Go-Go Singers.  This act recorded one album for Roulette, They Call Us Au Go-Go Singers, then disbanded.

Furay went to work for Pratt & Whitney, but got the bug to perform again when a friend from the New York club brought a new album to him.  “When Gram (Parsons) brought his record to me, it stunned me.  I had never heard anything like it and I had to get out of there so I sent a letter off to Steve (Stills).”  The story of how the principals that would form the Buffalo Springfield (Furay, Stills and Neil Young) finally got together is amazing and again well covered in the book about the band.  Through dumb luck this volatile group of strong individuals were linked, but only managed one true hit in Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.”

  (1966 version of Buffalo Springfield)

While their first two albums are not country, there are certainly elements present such as Furay’s “A Child’s Claim To Fame.” With the band splintering, producer and engineer Jim Messina (12/5/47 – Maywood, California) was brought into the band as a replacement bassist.  Messina had previously been a guitarist playing in such bands as the Dick Dale influenced Jim Messina and the Jesters (check out “Yang Bu” on the GNP Crescendo CD Bustin’ Surfboards).   Messina and Furay clicked as a team and set about pulling together a final Buffalo Springfield album Last Time Around.  One track they worked on was entitled “Kind Woman” which needed a steel guitar.

The Springfield had a roadie named Miles Thomas who had come to California with the Colorado band the Poor.  To play steel on “Kind Woman” Thomas suggested his friend from Colorado band the Boenzee Cryque – Russell (Rusty) Young (2/23/46 – Long Beach, California).  Young started playing steel guitar at the age of six.  While the Boenzee Cryque was his first rock band, Young actually started playing in country bands at the age of 12.  When Young joined the Boenzee Cryque he played straight six-string guitar as can be heard on the April 1967 Uni single “Sky Gone Grey”/”Still In Love With You Baby” a #1 hit on Denver’s KIMN-AM.  The unusual name came ostensibly from the Benzie-Kricke Sporting Goods company in Denver whose sign intrigued lead singer Sam Bush (note – this accounting is in dispute as some say it was a hardware store with that name).  Bush has been erroneously listed in articles as the player in the New Grass Revival, but this Bush worked for years at a Denver film lab after leaving music.

By the second Uni single in June of ‘67 “Watch The Time,” Young plays a nasty sounding steel guitar that gives the song textures foreign to most garage records of the time. The rhythm section really comes to the fore on this record – bassist Joe Neddo and drummer George Grantham (1/20/47 – Cordell, Oklahoma).  Young’s steel sounds totally wild on the Hendrix-like “Ashbury Wednesday” on the Psych-Out soundtrack (Sidewalk) while the last Boenzee Cryque single “Sightseer” (Dot records – listed under their guitarist’s name, the late Malcolm Mitchell) sounds Springfield-like.  “Sightseer” features something that Young would become known for in Poco and that is playing the steel through a leslie cabinet which would make it sound like an otherworldly organ.

Image result for boenzee cryque

At the time Young received the call to play on “Kind Woman” he was making good money selling guitars and giving lessons at Don Edwards’ Guitar City out on West Colfax, but jumped at the chance to hit the big-time (so to speak).  “I didn’t realize the Springfield was breaking up, but I really admired Jimmy and Richie.  I was a big fan.  We all realized we had a lot in common and maybe we should see if we could put something together.”

Furay and Messina knew they wanted to start a band after their experiences with the Buffalo Springfield where over.  “Jimmy and I kind of connected.  We just appreciated each other.  Jim probably had more of a country vision than I did,” said Furay.  “Sight unseen we brought in Rusty and Jimmy and I liked the way he played and said there’s the guy we want.  Our whole vision included vocal harmonies and Rusty said ‘I got a drummer who can sing’.”  That singing drummer turned out to be Grantham who was still working in Colorado (listen to the chorus of “Watch The Time” for his counterpoint vocals).  That left one unfilled position: bass player.  Furay toyed with the idea of a keyboard player, but auditions didn’t work out with the more R&B influenced Gregg Allman who tried out on organ.

Auditions turned up a good candidate for bassist in Timothy B. Schmidt (10/30/47 – Oakland, CA) from Sacramento band Glad, but there where reservations at the time about his college and draft status.  The bass position instead went to Randall (Randy) Meisner (3/8/46 – Scottsbluff, Nebraska) who was familiar to Grantham and Young from Colorado band the Poor.  Over the years, leader Allen Kemp said that Poor pretty well summed up their economic status after leaving Denver for the ‘riches’ of L.A.  It should be added, however, that Poor does not describe their series of 45’s for York, Loma and Decca.  “Once Again” is a great ballad while “Feelin’ Down” shows off Meisner’s high harmonies.  That Decca single, collectors should note, has “Come Back Baby” on the B-side – written by Randall Meisner.  There are two nearly identical 2003 CDs to attest to the fine records of the Poor (and their predecessor the Soul Survivors – not the band from New Jersey) with the edge going to the 15 track Sound City release over the 13 track Rev-ola import.

The five-man band was christened Pogo after the Walt Kelly comic about a possum.  Their road manager loved the cartoon and it was assumed Kelly would be flattered (like the Buffalo Springfield Steamroller Company had been previously).  After the band’s coming out at Doug Weston’s Troubadour in L.A. (Nov. 11, 1968), the guys found that Kelly wasn’t flattered by the use of his possum’s name for a band; he sued.  Since there was already a following for this new group, Furay asserts that it was decided to simply remove the little horizontal line from the G and make it a C to create a new name:  Poco (which he says sounds better anyway).  Poco means ‘little’ in Spanish (and in exchange for rehearsal space at the Troubadour, the band is paid ‘little or nothing’ for evening shows).

Though A&M had some interest in the band, Poco went with Epic records to facilitate perhaps the first sports-like trade in music.  Furay was still tied to the Atlantic label who wanted Graham Nash of the Hollies (an Epic band) for a new supergroup being formed with David Crosby and Stills.  The trade was made for a Jan. 15, 1969 signing that allowed Poco to begin recording their first album.  It should be added that though there are reports of an audition for Apple records and perhaps even an unreleased recording, neither of the players interviewed for this story would confirm that.

 (Messina, Meisner, Grantham, Furay, Young)

Various stories have been reported about the falling out with bassist Meisner prior to the first album’s release.  What is clear is that he had wanted to attend the mixing sessions for the record but was rebuffed by Furay or Messina (who was producing).  Not feeling properly a part of the band, Meisner quit.

 (Stone Canyon Band – Kemp, Meisner, Nelson, Shanahan, Brumely)

Interestingly enough, an attendee at the Troubadour during Poco’s tenure was former teen idol Rick Nelson.  Nelson was taken by this melding of rock and country music and  decided to put a new band together called the Stone Canyon Band.  Roadie Thomas should get some sort of recognition in the creation of country rock.  Just as he had suggested Young to Furay and Messina, this time he brought members of the Poor to Nelson’s attention.  Drummer Pat Shanahan, guitarist Allen Kemp and bassist Randy Meisner were drafted from the Poor along with a new pedal steel player, Tom Brumley and an LP was recorded live at the Troubadour.  This became the Jan. 1970 Decca record Rick Nelson In Concert (DL 751620).  Meisner left the band but returned for the Rudy The Fifth record before quitting for good to co-found the Eagles.  This was prior to Nelson’s loping countryside hit “Garden Party” in 1972.

 

The loss of Meisner required changes to the completed first Poco album.  Where possible, Messina took over the bass duties and eliminated Meisner’s vocals (though at times his harmonies and playing still appear).  Furay believes that Meisner originally sang “Calico Lady”, but on the released version it is Grantham who takes a rare lead.  The cover also needed changing and the picture of Meisner was replaced by a drawing of a dog.

The album Pickin’ Up The Pieces was very much a Furay record with only one song not at least co-written by him, the Young instrumental “Grand Junction” titled after a town on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies.  A fan of Poco’s, Kathy Johnson, wrote a poem about Poco which Furay set to music becoming the LP intro “Foreword.”  This leads to the very up song “What A Day.” The best introduction to the band, however, comes on side two with Furay’s “Pickin’ Up The Pieces,” Poco’s policy statement.  “We’re bringin’ you back home where folks are happy, sittin’, pickin’ and a-grinnin’.”  The cover is a noteworthy creation by the Institute For Better  Vision with trading card pictures of the band and western drawings on the inside of a digipak.  The songs are great though the recording sounds a bit thin on the old vinyl.

While the title song single went nowhere, the LP did manage to chart June of ’69 as high as #63 in Billboard.  The Parsons-lead Flying Burrito Brothers charted a month sooner, but only managed a placing of #164 for the same A&M label that had wiffed on signing Poco.  While the success of Poco’s debut was good, there were raised eyebrows when Crosby, Stills and Nash soared to #6 with their self-titled record.  The big country-rock record of that summer, however, was Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, a smash at #3.

Messina didn’t want to continue as bassist, so a trip to Sacramento was executed to draft in Schmit who officially joined in early ’70.  Back in August of ’69, however, his “Hard Luck” was used as the flip for a non-charting non-LP single with Furay’s “My Kind Of Love” on the top side.  These songs can be found on the excellent two-CD set The Forgotten Trail (1969 – 74), a 1990 release on Epic Legacy.

For the next LP titled simply Poco, it was decided to harden the sound a bit.  As has been quoted many times since, it was felt that their sound was “too country for rock and too rock for country.”  To get the grooves recorded, however, was a trial since their management at the time had a tiff with label-chief Clive Davis who prevented Poco from recording till it was settled.  The savior turned out to be an agent with the Creative Management Agency, David Geffen, who befriended the guys and interceded on their behalf with Davis.  While Geffen didn’t take on the band as manager, the back of the second LP reads:  “dedicated to David Geffen who ‘Picked Up The Pieces’.”

The second side of Poco was dominated by a new version of “Nobody’s Fool” from the first record followed by an extended jam titled “El Tonto De Nadie, Regresa” (Spanish for “Nobody’s Fool, Revisited”).  The Spanish spelling fits the Latino feel which is obviously influenced by the jams on the contemporary first Santana LP.  Furay confirms that.  “The whole scene was the strobe-light flashing ‘let’s stretch out a little bit’ San Francisco thing and we didn’t want to be left out.  We felt like we had very capable musicianship in the band.”  Indeed, the playing is excellent with Young defying the tradition of country pedal steel by playing it through a leslie cabinet as he did in the Boenzee Cryque.  Furay:  “To this day I think Rusty is the most innovative steel player that there is.  I think he’s one of the finest all-around musicians playing steel, dobro and awesome rhythm guitar.”  It should be noted that the recorded sound of the second record is much louder and denser than the first.

Poco charted during the late summer of ’70 at #58 in Billboard and was helped along by the single “You Better Think Twice” backed with “Anyway Bye Bye.”  While the 45 charted at #72, Messina’s finest moment with Poco deserved far better.  The song careens along like a well-oiled steam engine fed by tasty bursts of Messina’s James Burton-inflected licks and Schmit’s pumping bass.  The wind-down is preceded by Young and Grantham playing in tandem like a racing firetruck.  While all this flailing and picking is going on, the vocal harmonies dance around a very catchy sprite of a melody.  Furay’s bluesy B-side was originally written as a vehicle for Meisner to sing.

The Gary Burden designed cover is distinctive with a striking Henry Diltz band photo superimposed on a Morris Ovsey drawing dominated by mountains, trees and two very large oranges.  But, Furay, what does it mean?  “I don’t have a clue.  I’m not a very visual guy.  Somebody liked it – it’s the one with the oranges on it!”

Sessions for a third studio record did not progress well in July and August of ‘70.  It was decided that since they were building a pretty fair following in concert (especially at colleges), perhaps the best thing would be to record shows for a live album.  October concerts in New York and Boston were used for the record.  Another reason a live recording was used was because Messina had decided that he was the odd man out when it came to placing songs with Poco (since Furay dominated the writing) and tensions were running high in the studio.  When he decided to leave, Messina showed a world of class in a tough time.  Instead of leaving the band high and dry, he helped work his replacement Paul Cotton into the act while rooming with him on the road teaching him the songs.  Furay today shows great respect for Messina.  “That was pretty upstanding  for Jimmy to help get Tim established and then when he knew he was leaving to bring Paul in; he made that transition easy.”  Messina left one other treasure prior to departing, the sweetly soothing “Lullaby In September” which finally saw the light of laser on The Forgotten Trail (originally a gift for Furay’s wife Nancy, then expecting their first child).

Norman Paul Cotton (2-26-45 – Camp Rucker, Alabama) was a rock musician and was brought in to toughen the sound.  His history is well given Cotton’s website http://www.paulcotton.com/.  Raised in a Chicago suburb, Cotton recorded in the early ‘60s with the mainly instrumental outfit the Mus-Twangs (check out their raw 45 on Smash “Roch Lomond”/”Marie” which is very Duane Eddy).  By ’69 he and Kal David fronted the Illinois Speed Press who made two Columbia LPs.  That band was handled by James William Guercio who also had the band Chicago that had a bassist named Peter Cetera (brother of Tim Cetera who took over on bass from Meisner in Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band) who was taking steel guitar lessons from Young of the band Poco who needed a guitarist-singer finding him when Cetera recommended Cotton – dig?.

February ’71 found Poco with their biggest hit to date as the live record Deliverin’ went to #26 with Furay’s “C’mon” hitting #69 on the singles chart.  For many, that remains the Poco LP with an acoustic version of “You Better Think Twice,” reminders of  the first record (“Grand Junction”) and even the Buffalo Springfield (“Kind Woman” and “Child’s Claim To Fame”).  Some of the songs appeared in shortened linked form.  According to Furay, this was because as a frequent opening act they wanted to touch on as many songs as possible so they took to arranging songs in medleys.

In the fall of ’71 Poco was also on the charts with two live cuts on the bloated triple LP The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies: Isle Of Wight/Atlanta Pop Festival.

This mixed Poco fans with those of the Allman Brothers and Johnny Winter in a July 4, 1970 sweatbox of a festival in Byron, Georgia.  “Kind Woman” and a steaming “Grand Junction” show the band in top form.

For the first record with Cotton, Epic paired Poco with producer Steve Cropper of Booker T & the MGs.  While the mix of a country rock band with an R&B guitarist sounds incongruous, the result was excellent.  Furay still has a hard time coming to grips with this record as he was going through a personally difficult time in his marriage.  “We were spending more time on the road than at home and I lost all concept of home.  The band was my family.”  Yet, as has been proven time and again in music, conflict often produces great music and the resulting record From The Inside was no exception.  Cotton brought “Bad Weather” from the Speed Press and a tough rock sound as seen in “Railroad Days.”  The title song was a pretty Schmit ballad while the lead track was a Furay/Young collaboration on the jolly “Hoe Down.”  Furay’s “What If I Should Say I Love You” was a nice ballad with a great rock chorus, but perhaps his greatest moment in Poco was on the single “Just For Me And You” which only managed a charting of #110 in November ’71.  History is littered with singles that went begging for airplay and were cruelly rebuffed as this one was.  That pattern seemed to dog Poco’s history more than most bands.  The song starts with an attractively Beatlish acoustic riff and lopes along like the Eagles’ “Take It Easy” would six months later.

From The Inside managed a placement at #52 and featured a set-piece on the cover constructed by Kathy Johnson (she of the poem on the first LP).  In the middle of the construct is a picture of the band while on the back cover the same picture appears in large form with the band standing next to the set-piece containing the picture (not unlike Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma).  Furay still has the piece hanging at home.

Home for Poco became Colorado around this time.  Boulder and the areas just to the west in the foothills had become somewhat of a musical retreat with notably Guercio building a recording studio at his Caribou ranch (that would become famous a couple of years later via Elton John’s record of that name).  Indeed, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had relocated to that area and took the opportunity to cover Furay’s “Do You Feel It Too” in a faster, less bluesy fashion for their All The Good Times record.  Furay:  “We all knew we wanted to get out of L.A. as the smog was driving us nuts.  San Francisco was our first choice, but only George bought a place.  After we decided to move to Boulder, I remember going up to San Francisco and here’s George on a ladder painting and we tell him that we’re all on our way to Colorado.  Luckily George is a pretty mellow guy and he followed in suit.  Of all the bands I’ve been in, Poco was certainly a family especially when Tim and Paul were a part of the band.”

A new song of Furay’s debuted in concert and held the promise of the biggest success yet for Poco.  “You’d play along at one level, then everything would just go right on up to that song.  I figured we’d finally got it now so we hired Jack Richardson and Jim Mason to co-produce ‘A Good Feelin’ To Know’ for us to release as a single”.  And…nothing!  For some unfathomable reason the song that has today become one of Poco’s standards never charted.  An excellent album of the same name was recorded anyway and it did chart in late ’72 at number #69, but Furay was devastated by the lack of success of one of his finest creations.  “I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star like Neil and Steve and Randy and Jimmy.”  Indeed, ’72 was a watershed year for his friends.  Messina teamed up with Kenny Loggins and had a string of chart successes.  Meisner’s group the Eagles released their debut and soared to gold.  Neil Young reaped the same with Harvest and Stills grabbed gold with Manassas while Poco kept plugging away to middling sales.

Richardson, who had produced the Guess Who, and Mason, who went to gold later recording Firefall, crafted a superb album that rivaled the Eagles’ step for step yet couldn’t gain the same audience.  Cotton’s “Keeper Of The Fire,” Schmit’s heavyish ballad “Restrain” and Furay’s angelic “Sweet Lovin’” all deserve mention.  The standout is probably “Go And Say Goodbye,” a Stills song from the Springfield done in a very catchy style.  Needless to say, as a single it also tanked.

At that point Furay resolved to give up on Poco and recorded the sixth album Crazy Eyes as somewhat of a lame duck.  In this climate, however, some great music transpired.

Cotton set the prototype for today’s country with his tough guitar on “A Right Along” while Young chipped in “Fool’s Gold” another excellent instrumental driven by banjo and Chris Hillman’s mandolin.  That song with Schmit’s ballad “Here We Go Again” appeared as a non-charting single.  Just months before Parsons’ premature death, Furay was strangely drawn to cover one of his tunes, “Brass Buttons.”   The highpoint of the record, however, was a nine minute country rock opus about Parsons that would become the title song for the album.  “Crazy Eyes” benefits from a Bob Ezrin co-arrangement using strings that foreshadowed his work with Kiss.

Crazy Eyes actually did better on the charts hitting #38 in 1973, but Furay’s future was already elsewhere.  “I talked to David Geffen and told him I was disappointed (with the lack of success for “A Good Feelin’ To Know”).  He said ‘let’s get you together with Chris (Hillman) and J.D. (Souther) and have another Crosby, Stills and Nash.’”

That certainly became an epiphany moment for Rusty Young who had previously been content to chip in the occasional instrumental and be a silent musician.  “There was no room for four writers and I see that breaking up bands.  There are two or three turning points in your life and that was one of them for me.  That was the first day I started being a songwriter because it was obvious that was where everything revolved around – the guys writing the songs.”

In retrospect, Young fully understands Furay’s leaving, but has some animosity towards Geffen.  “Geffen threw a lot of money at Richie to quit.  I would have done the same thing (leave Poco for that money).  The only unfortunate thing was Geffen wanted Poco to stop and Richie to carry the entire audience.  He threatened people.”

Rather than throw in the towel, Poco continued as a four-piece and recorded Seven which still managed a #68 chart placement during the summer of ’74.  For the next non-charting single, Cotton’s nice ballad “Faith In The Families” was paired with perhaps the best of all the Young ‘hoe-down’ instrumentals “Rocky Mountain Breakdown.”  This time around, the mandolin was handled by former member Messina with sideman Al Garth chipping in on fiddle (never actually a band member contrary to some reports).  This album moved into even harder territory as seen on Cotton’s guitar workout “Drivin’ Wheel” and Schmit’s “Skatin’.”  Close inspection of the credits showed cover design by a Philip Hartmann whom you may remember from such roles as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz on the Simpsons and Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live.  Young pointed out that “there were three brothers John, Paul and Phil.  John and Harlan Goodman were our management company and Phil was the really talented in-house art guy.  He designed a lot of albums for America, CSN and us.”

A few months later, the self-titled Asylum debut by the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band lived up to expectations by going gold, placing as high as #11 in the charts.  It spawned a medium-sized hit with the hard pop of Furay’s “Fallin’ In Love,” a #27 charter that would not have sounded out of place on a Poco record.  Indeed, the other two songs he placed on the LP would have fit Poco as well:  “The Flight Of The Dove” and “Believe Me.”  How well the latter would have fit was evidenced on The Forgotten Trail CD with a previously unreleased Poco version from the Crazy Eyes sessions.  The Poco version is in some ways superior to the SHF version which is a bit tighter, but perhaps not as raw and fun.  Veteran producer Richie Podolor who Furay credits with coming up with the stutterstep guitar intro to “Fallin’ In Love” handled the radio-friendly production.  Podolor had earlier been tapped by Poco for a post-Messina recording session, but Epic had rejected the results.

That all was not well in the SHF camp was evidenced by their 1975 LP title Trouble In Paradise.  Though it did hit #39 that summer, the music had less energy and less Furay contribution.  He was experiencing problems at home and within the band.  “My life was falling apart again plus J.D., I love him to death, he was more of a solo guy.  Chris was the mediator trying to keep peace while J.D. and I were on opposite sides.  Nancy and I had separated again and were looking heavily at divorce so that second record was a real blur.  Just to get me to the studio up at Caribou was a chore.”  The supergroup broke up, but Furay’s marriage thankfully did not and continues to endure.

Over in the Poco camp, three more albums had been released on two different labels.  Late ’74 saw Cantamos (Spanish for ‘we sing’) chart at #76 with some songs very reminiscent of early Poco like Schmit’s “Bitter Blue” and Young’s “All The Ways.”

One highlight is Cotton’s “Western Waterloo” which he told this author, via his website,“is about how the Native Americans lost the West.”  While Young’s “Sagebrush Serenade” continued in his hoe-down style, his growth in writing shone on the Springfield-like “High And Dry” which appeared as a single (of course it didn’t chart).

Cantamos had a small square cutout on the cover which allowed a picture to show through from the inner sleeve.  Epic played hardball charging Poco for that little bit of artistry, so with their recording contract up for renewal Poco moved over to ABC.  This did not go over well with their old label, said Young.  “I have a framed letter from the head of Epic that when we would release a record on our new label, they would release something to compete and do their best to bury us.”  This competition showed up on the charts in August of 1975 when the first ABC album Head Over Heels was climbing to #43 while a two record set on Epic titled The Best Of Poco was also moving up to #90.

  

Head Over Heels benefited from the liltingly harmonic Schmit ballad “Keep On Tryin’” which charted at #50, their biggest hit yet and first Top 100 charter in over five years.  That this single didn’t go higher is again hard to explain.  Indeed, pockets of the country were more open to the song as seen by Denver’s KTLK-AM pushing the song as high as #23 in early fall 1975 (the same placement as on adult radio nationally).  The next single, Young’s country rocker “Makin’ Love” couldn’t duplicate the chart placement, however.  Cotton continued to hone his style on the fine “Let Me Turn Back To You.”  This album was notable for one more thing, Young’s first recorded lead vocal on “Us.”

A month before the next ABC LP, Epic released a second Poco live record to attempt, no doubt, to undermine the band’s new recordings.  Any questions about Epic’s feelings toward Poco can be read into the cover illustration showing the flank-section of a horse with the band’s name stamped on the rump.

   

While only charting at #169, Live was actually a pretty good record showing they still had the chops in concert to even do a hot version of “A Good Feelin’ To Know” sans the song’s writer.  Summer of ‘76 saw the new ABC record Rose Of Cimarron rise to only #89.  Perhaps the non-descript cover didn’t help with no mention of the band’s name or song titles and an unrecognizable picture of the band.  The title track was a shuffling Young song that slowly built to a symphonic end.  As a U.S. single it only managed #94, but was a big hit elsewhere according to Young.  “That’s our biggest song worldwide.  It was a big hit a lot of places including Australia.  It was covered by a lot of different people including a German group.” (In concert Young related that the Germans changed the lyrics to make the song tell the story of a Luftwaffe pilot flying over the ocean then crashing into the sea).  One of those covers was in ’81 by Emmylou Harris as the lead track to her Cimarron LP.  An overseas single paired the Schmit/Logan ballad “Starin’ At The Sky” with Cotton’s “P.N.S. (When You Come Around).”  PNS doesn’t refer to a medical condition, but rather stands for Paul’s New Song.

That fall, Furay released his first solo record, the Asylum LP I’ve Got A Reason which charted at #130.  “That is one of my favorite records.  During our rehearsal time with SHF, Al Perkins (steel guitarist) had lead me to the Lord and I remember when I went in to record this David Geffen called me in to his office.  He wanted to know if I was gonna give him one of those Jesus records.  I do admit that in 1976 it was probably not the most popular thing a guy in rock ‘n’ roll could do, making a commitment to Jesus Christ.”  With this record, Furay pioneered yet another musical vision that others have taken to greater success.  The radio rock sound grafted to lyrics that could be read as either the love of two people or love of God has lately come to the fore with acts like Jars of Clay and Michael W. Smith.  The title ballad, the driving “Starlight” and the superb Poco-like rocker “Getting’ Through” are among the highlights of I’ve Got A Reason.  One song deserving mention is the rocker “Still Rolling Stones” which slaps at the magazine of that name.  “I was fed up with Rolling Stone always short-changing every band I’ve ever been in.”

A year after Rose Of Cimarron, Poco had a bit more success (#57) with the Indian Summer LP which also spawned a #50 single in the title track.  Donald Fagan of Steely Dan played synths on the record in return for Schmit guesting on their records.  This was the last record with Schmit as Young explained.  “The Eagles made Tim an offer he obviously couldn’t refuse plus George was going through some personal things and needed to take some time off.  After Indian Summer it was just Paul and me and the label dropped us.”   Luckily, ABC changed their minds when Cotton and Young auditioned some new songs they intended for the next record: “Crazy Love,” “Heart Of The Night” and a couple of others.

Young and Cotton auditioned a number of players for a new rhythm section, but settled on two Englishmen who had worked with Leo Sayer.  Due to their having played together previously they were already a tight section which gave them the advantage, according to Young.  Charlie Harrison (4/8/53 – Tamworth, Staffordshire, UK) was in on bass while Steve Chapman (11/14/49 – London) took over the drums for Poco to record the album Legend.

Proving that perseverance pays off, Legend finally rewarded Poco with gold and a #14 placement on the charts.  Young took over from Schmit writing nice ballads as the first single “Crazy Love” went to #17 in early 1979.  Cotton’s “Heart Of The Night” did nearly as well at #20 with the third single, the tough rock title track by Young, only getting to #103.  By this point, Young was playing six-string guitar rather than steel since he felt that it was easier to sing that way.  As a result, this LP was a move away from the country sound yet it was the only time that Poco managed to chart in the country world as “Crazy Love” and “Heart Of The Night” placed at #95 and #96 respectively.  Go figure.

Speaking of figures, the cover art was a very stylish line-drawing of a horse by Hartman which would become the Poco logo.

While there was a new Poco, the old Poco (at least the post-Meisner band) all made guest appearances on Furay’s second solo record Dance A Little Light.

  

A single of the old Drifters song “This Magic Moment” bubbled just under the Top 100 in the summer of ’78.  “James Taylor was doing ‘(What A)Wonderful World’ and I’m playing the game to find something that’s gonna put me back over again – not having enough confidence in my own songs.”  Producer Mason was given some wonderful songs to work with actually.  The title song and “Bittersweet Love” would not have sounded out of place with the old Poco while “Stand Your Ground” is a fine guitar workout with Perkins, Young and Virgil Beckham trading licks like the Beatles did on “The End” of Abbey Road.

In late ’79 Furay released his last secular solo LP (till the download era and his return) with I Still Have Dreams.  This album featured the title track, a pleasant Pocoish ballad that hit #39.  Proving that Furay kept in touch with his past, this record had Souther as a guest and, intriguingly, two ex-Poco bassists (Meisner and Schmit) together on background vocals.

While producer Val Garay fashioned a very slick record including a remake of the old Young Rascals song “Lonely Too Long,” solo success eluded Furay again.  “When it just didn’t happen again I felt ‘Lord, what would you have me to do’ and I really started to put my focus on the ministry.”  He had begun a home Bible study group which escalated to an organized church.  “Today I am a Pastor at Calvary Chapel of Broomfield.”

  

Poco’s new status as a heavyweight was evidenced by an appearance at the September ’79 MUSE concerts protesting nuclear power and weaponry.  The resulting three record set which went gold featured the Doobie Brothers, CSN and an incendiary performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  Poco’s contribution was a long guitar workout to “Heart Of The Night” that also saw a new member in the fold, keyboard player Kim Bullard (5/6/55 – Atlanta, GA).  To cash in on the success of Legend, Epic at this time also released two non-charting LPs:  The Songs Of Paul Cotton and The Songs Of Richie Furay.  Interestingly, another hot record of early ‘80 was a single by the Eagles of the Schmit song “I Can’t Tell You Why” which got to #8.  Young’s response later seems fair in light of all the lack of success Schmit had with similar songs in Poco.  “It got down to a name.  If that had been a Poco record it wouldn’t have been a hit, yet as an Eagles record it was.  It was frustrating.”

For the all-important follow-up to Legend Poco released an even less country oriented LP Under The Gun which hit #46 in late summer ‘80.  Young is very clear about the feelings at the time.  “Boy it was nice to finally have a hit and I guarantee you the motivation was to have another.  Springsteen had hit and country rock was not seen as much of a cool thing anymore.”  The sound of the time was New Wave (the Knack, the Beat, the Romantics) and the look was skinny ties on skinny guys.  The Searchers-like Cotton title track to Under The Gun fell right in line with that sound which in retrospect may have confused fans looking for another “Heart Of The Night.”  Young also felt that the larger label MCA buying out ABC hurt Poco’s momentum.  “When MCA bought ABC, I think Steely Dan never made another record and Tom Petty refused to release his album till they gave him his own label.  MCA made a lot of enemies because they fired a lot of people.”

Poco’s next move may have doomed whatever career momentum they still had according to Young.  “We were really upset with MCA and didn’t want to be there.  Since we owed them two records, we made the huge mistake of recording them really quick just to get off the label.  People go out and spend money expecting to get their money’s worth.  We didn’t give it to them with Blue and Gray or Cowboys and Englishmen although there were some nice songs on each record.”

  

Of the two, the first one is actually pretty good with a Civil War theme running throughout.  Young especially shone on the tough “Glorybound,” the Schmit-like ballad “The Land Of Glory” and the heavy “Widowmaker.”  While that LP charted at #76 in mid-’81, Cowboys and Englishmen probably deserved the paltry #131 placement a few months later.  At the time it felt like a contract fulfillment record though at least it marked a return to country with songs such as “There Goes My Heart” and “Ribbon Of Darkness.”  The only original was a banjo drivin’ medley by Young, “Ashes” and the instrumental “Feudin’.”

In 1982, Furay returned to the record stores with a reissue of his I’ve Got A Reason record on the Christian label Myrrh.  This was followed by a record of new music titled Seasons Of Change.  Half of the songs were of a religious bent while songs like the autobiographical title track were of a piece with his other solo records.  This was also reflected in the cover showing a very Poco looking Furay on the front cover with a cross next to a door on the back.  Of the more secular songs, “Endless Flight” stands out while the banjo gospel of “Rise Up” and the intense “Through It All” shone in the sacred realm.  Poco fans who may have missed this record should look for it at their used vinyl shops.

  

In 1982 Poco turned up on the double album soundtrack to the movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High with the Young composition “I’ll Leave it Up To You.”   The song is pleasant keyboard pop with a Phil Kenzie sax break.  Among solo contributions by Eagles Felder, Henley and Walsh was Schmit’s remake of the old Tymes #1 “So Much In Love.”  That same year, Poco delivered a Christmas present to their remaining fans with the album Ghost Town on a new label, Atlantic (ironic as they had of course traded away Furay to Epic at the start of this puzzle).  A #195 chart placement confirmed that the last MCA album had indeed hurt Poco’s career which is a pity as this was one of their strongest records.  Young’s “When Hearts Collide” had an England Dan and John Ford Coley country pop feel while his “Ghost Town” was one of his best compositions.  While the singles buying public only placed the latter at #108, Young’s ballad “Shoot For The Moon” did better at #50 (#10 Adult Contemporary).  Cotton’s excellent “Break Of Hearts” couldn’t crack the charts at all even with a sound similar to “Heart Of The Night.”  The MCA hits package Backtracks could only manage a dismal #209 chart position at this same time.

Giving it one last shot, Young and Cotton released yet another strong record in 1984’s Inamorata.  As with Ghost Town, the record buying public was not enamored and had finally deserted Poco (the cover was interesting, but what did it have to do with country-rock?).   This last Atlantic LP went to #167 and more’s the pity as fans missed some of the band’s best later-day work; indeed, Cotton’s “Days Gone By” could well be his high-point as a member of Poco.  Of note was the return of full vocal harmonies on “This Old Flame,” “How Many Moons” and “Save A Corner Of My Heart.”  A glance at the back cover shows why as Furay, Schmit and Grantham are listed on vocals.  Furay notes that “Rusty called and said I’d like you to sing on this record.  We sang well together though it was not a reunion yet.  I can’t remember what we sang on, but ‘Save A Corner Of My Heart’ stands out.”  Young also confirms this.  “I think it struck me as kind of an old Poco song.  It was fun just hanging out and singing.  That’s still one of my favorites I’ve written.”  While studio guys did much of the playing, Bullard and Chapman still turned up.  Bassist Harrison was out, according to Young however, due to ongoing personal problems.

With success’ fleeting torch apparently extinguished, Poco was seemingly done in 1984 and Young turned to session work in his new home of Nashville.  Cotton went in search of a solo career in L.A. while his forerunner Messina’s solo career with the LPs Oasis, Messina and the pleasant pop of One More Mile had stalled.  First bassist Meisner had taken a similar dive after the Eagles with One More Song and Randy Meisner at least spawning three chart singles from 1980 to 1982 (notably “Hearts On Fire” with a #19 placement).  Schmit’s solo career hadn’t been much healthier with only the fine record Playin’ It Cool doing any damage on the chart (albeit minor damage at #160 in 1984).  Furay of course had his church work while Grantham did some session work.

Rising like the phoenix, however, Poco had one last (at least as of this writing) chart hurrah when in 1989 they reunited for the Legacy album.  Furay gives Young the credit while Young sees it the other way ‘round, but, no matter the catalyst, there was new life with some caveats as explained by Furay.  “We did have some lengthy discussions about the fact that I wanted to be careful of things.”  Young confirms that those things were too hard to overcome and ultimately resulted in Furay leaving once again.  “Richie has a commitment to his church and that takes priority.  I don’t think we fully understood going in (to the reunion) what that meant.  You can’t approach music on that scale as a part-time job.”  At any rate, the intent to finally record as the first version of Poco (with Meisner) was a commendable idea if ill fated.

As reunion records go, this one did pretty well getting to #40 and spawning two chart hits in “Call It Love” at #18 and “Nothin’ To Hide” at #39.  The latter shared some similarity to Meisner’s “Take It To The Limit” from his Eagles days while the former had a catchy guitar riff, but a rocky genesis.  Both Furay and Young confirmed that the original lyrics were of the adult variety and caused some friction.  Furay:  “If you would have heard the original lyrics, it was essentially “Call It Lust” and it wasn’t Poco.  We never wrote songs like that.”  Singer Young mentioned “I told them (the writers) I can’t sing that.”  Regarding the LP as a whole, both members also confirm it was more of a project and an attempt to make Poco into Richard Marx by manager Allen Kovac.  Again Furay intones that “had we been left alone to do our own music, it would have been fine, but there were some songs on Legacy that didn’t belong there.  I hope I did stand up for the integrity of the band.  I don’t think Poco wanted to be known for those kind of songs.”  Young, Messina and Meisner created the album with studio players essentially.  Grantham was not allowed on drums and Furay played only on his two songs, the autobiographical “When It All Began” and the ballad “If It Wasn’t For You.”  Furay finally exited over objections to the video done for “Call It Love” and was replaced for the tour by a friend of Young’s, Jack Sundred.  Of interest is the success this record had on adult stations as “Call It Love,” “Nothin’ To Hide” and “What Do People Know” got to #2, 10 and 24 respectively according to Whitburn’s Adult Contemporary book (“Crazy Love” was their highest adult hit at #1 with “Heart Of the Night” at #5.)

Young didn’t feel the band ever got their due.  “You had the Eagles, Loggins and Messina and Poco all on one record.  We’re up there at Radio City Music Hall singing “Take It To The Limit,” “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and “Crazy Love.”  It was disappointing that the critical people didn’t jump on the bandwagon and go ‘this is where it all began, guys’.”  Messina, Meisner and Young cut demos for a second LP, but labels weren’t interested and Poco as a recording unit was put back in mothballs.

 (The Sky Kings – Young, Cowan, Simmons, Lloyd)

Young’s next project was to start a new band The Sky Kings.  “A friend here in Nashville, head of A&R at RCA, wanted to put together a project like a country Traveling Wilburys.  We had Bill Lloyd of Foster and Lloyd, John Cowan an amazing singer from the New Grass Revival and I called Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers since he’d written their hit “Black Water” which was very Pocoish.  We cut a great record and they never released it.  The head of the label left and the new head dropped it.”  With the Doobie Brothers reuniting, Simmons left the Sky Kings who cut another record for Warner Brothers.  The single “Picture Perfect” was released from the 1996 sessions, but the album never followed till Rhino Handmade resurrected it in the fall of 2000 in an expanded 24 track version (From Out Of The Blue RHM 7714).

Meisner recorded with Black Tie and returned later with the World Classic Rockers an aggregation of former chartbusters trying to keep their music before the public.  Messina returned to his art and sporadic solo career.  Grantham went back to playing drums with the likes of Ronnie McDowell.  Schmit continued with a reunited.  Cotton issued two solo albums:  Changing Horses in 1990 and Firebird in 2000.

        

Furay released a solo CD on the Calvary Chapel Music (later reissue on Friday Music) In My Father’s House in 1997.  The players on the record were augmented by Sam Bush on fiddle and Young on steel guitar and dobro.  For that reason, it sounds in places like ‘Poco goes to church’.  For his next album I Am Sure (2005 Friday Music),  the names Cotton, Messina and Young again crop up in the credits on what was another fine album of Christian-rock music.  Furay continued his ministry with occasional concerts like a show at a Highlands Ranch, Colo. church which mixed the sacred songs of his newest album with career highlights like “On The Way Home,” “Go And Say Goodbye” and “Pickin’ Up The Pieces.”

For the 2000’s, the lineup of Young, Cotton, Grantham and Sundred went out on the road and to earn your concert (if not your record) dollar.  Heck, this reviewer took his family of four and paid $54 total to see a fine concert while the reconstituted Eagles wanted $125 for one ticket – sheesh.  For one glorious night on July 3, 2001, Furay rejoined his old mates at Hudson Gardens in Colorado and played several songs (during a 2 hour set) including a white hot version of “ A Good Feelin’ To Know” that had the crowd up on their feet roaring at the end.  The five capped the show with a heart-felt and smokin’ Colorado version of Chuck Berry’s “Back In The U.S.A.” accompanied by fireworks.  30+ years on, Poco could still could (country-)rock.

  

It appears that the lure of recording and playing music with his daughter Jesse finally got the best of Furay and in the new millennium he has thankfully again returned to the stage and the studio with some exceptional new music that sounds more like Poco than the current Poco in many ways.  2006 saw his first non-Christian themed album in decades in the outstanding The Heartbeat Of Love which is a Poco album in all but name.  Jeff Hanna of the Dirt Band, Timothy B Schmit, Neil Young, Kenny Loggins, Paul Cotton, Sam Bush, Rusty Young all guest alongside Furay and his daughter.  The packaging is gorgeous and can be found (along with all his other more recent albums) on richiefuray.com along with any news.  The Buffalo Springfield reunion in 2011 was certainly news that was welcome.

In 2008, the Richie Furay Band (including stalwart guitar/banjo man Scott Sellen making it a family affair with son Aaron on bass plus Alan Lemke on drums) released a 2 CD set called Alive which is where best to appreciate any Poco project.

  

The newest Furay album is 2015’s Hand In Hand (with a classic picture on the cover of he and his wife Nancy) leading off with his tribute to Poco “We Were The Dreamers”.  One of the bonus tracks here is a new version of “Kind Woman” (also on The Heartbeat Of Love) featuring the guest vocals of Neil Young and Kenny Loggins.

The Poco discography has grown mostly by live albums which are hard to keep track of, but there have been two studio releases.  The 2002 album Running Horse was a core band of Cotton, Young, Sundrud and Grantham back after a long layoff.

   

This version of the band were augmented by Furay for a great concert at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre on May 20, 2004 that can be heard on the CD Keeping the Legend Alive (also on DVD as Crazy Love – The Ultimate Live Experience).  Not long after that concert, Grantham suffered a stroke which lead to George Lawrence coming in as drummer.

     

The next three albums were live.  The Last Roundup was recorded in 1977 but didn’t get a release after Schmit left the band.  It is a fine record including Furay guesting on two tracks (“Magnolia” and “Hoe Down/Slow Poke”).  The next two were mostly acoustic affairs –  Bareback at Big Sky from 2005 and 2006’s The Wildwood Sessions which was more stripped down musically.  Yet a third live album came out in 2010, but Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/71 was not new material, but rather was the From The Inside band in an intimate family/friends show.

  

Cotton left Poco in 2010 meaning that the 2013 All Fired Up album saw Young, Sundrud and Lawrence joined by Michael Webb on keys/guitars/mandolin.  Grantham got a percussion credit on the title track for old-time sake.  If this is the last studio record of Poco, it has some fine moments including “Regret” (plus on “Neil Young”, Rusty clarifies that he and Neil are not related).  This and many other Poco albums can be found in the store of their website poconut.org (not to mention t-shirts and such).

Poco was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame in 2015 with Cotton, Furay, Schmit and Young performing together for perhaps the last time…but who knows.  Since Young announced his retirement in 2013, the band continues to play sporadic shows proving the end is apparently never the end.  Indeed, looking at the tour section of their website shows a handful of 2017 dates being played by Young, Sundrud and Webb with a new drummer in Rick Lonow.

At this time, all the Poco original albums have been released on CD.  A good overview to their career can be found on the Hip-O release Ultimate Collection, but it still lacks critical early songs like “Just For Me And You” which can best be purchased on the 1999 Epic Legacy set The Very Best Of Poco.  Intense fans of the Epic years are best served by the two CD set The Forgotten Trail while MCA released a Millennium Collection in early 2000 to replace Crazy Loving – The Best Of Poco 1975-1982.

  

While Poco’s success pales next to their contemporaries the Eagles, frankly so does everybody else’s since they currently have the one of biggest selling albums ever with their greatest hits package.  Few countryish acts have ever done well on the pop chart seemingly caught between a rock and a country place.  In that context Poco was as successful as any.  In retrospect, Poco (and their like) created the new country music (which owes much to rock) as opposed to changing the pop charts.  While money and fame are critical yardsticks, bands that dare to color outside of the lines are measured more by the quality they leave behind (small consolation, however, the talents that populated Poco).   In death, many have anointed Gram Parsons as the originator, yet the creation of this style of music was more a collaboration than the creation of one player.  Heck, the Monkee’s Michael Nesmith deserves as much credit as Parsons for turning kids’ ears in a country direction, but he gets ignored as a one-time teenybopper idol.  If the ability to create music is a super-power, than ultimately it can be said the players of Poco used their powers for good rather than evil.

George W. Krieger DDS, the rock and roll Dentist wishes to thank the members interviewed for their help.  In addition: G Brown, Epic Legacy, Jerry Fuentes, Mike & Pat Hawkinson, Ted Scott.

(What follows is a mostly up to date list of Poco records however reissues are not all listed.)

POCO U.S. DISCOGRAPHY

 

SINGLES

Pickin’ Up The Pieces/First Love                              Epic 10501                                1969

My Kind Of Love/Hard Luck                                     Epic 10543                                1969

You Better Think Twice(edit)/Anyway Bye Bye      Epic 10636                                1970

C’mon(edit)/I Guess You Made It(edit)                    Epic 10714                                1971

Just For Me & You(edit)/Ol’Forgiver                                   Epic 10804                                1971

Railroad Days/You Are The One                               Epic 10816                                1971

A Good Feelin’ To Know(edit)/Early Times             Epic 10890       1972  +reissue-1973

Go & Say Goodbye/I Can See Everything                 Epic 10958                                1973

Here We Go Again/Fool’s Gold                                Epic 11055                                1973

Magnolia(edit)/Brass Buttons                                                Epic 11092                                1974

Faith In The Families/Rocky Mountain Breakdown Epic 11141                                1974

High & Dry(edit)/Bitter Blue                                    Epic 50076                                1975

Keep On Tryin’/Georgia, Bind My Ties                    ABC 12126                               1975

Makin’ Love/Flying Solo                                           ABC 12159                               1976

Rose Of Cimarron(edit)/Tulsa Turnaround               ABC 12204                               1976

Indian Summer(edit)/Me & You                               ABC 12295                               1977

Crazy Love/Barbados                                                 ABC 12439                               1979

Heart Of The Night/The Last Goodbye                     MCA 41023                              1979

Legend/Indian Summer                                              MCA 41103                              1979

Under The Gun/Reputation                                        MCA 41269+pic slv                 1980

Midnight Rain/A Fool’s Paradise                              MCA 41326                              1980

The Everlasting Kind/?                                              MCA 51034                              1980

Widowmaker/Down On The River Again                 MCA 51172                              1981

Sea Of Heartbreak/Feudin’                                        MCA 52001                              1982

Ghost Town(edit)/High Sierra                                   Atlantic 7-89970                      1982

Shoot For The Moon/The Midnight Rodeo               Atlantic 7-89919                      1982

Break Of Hearts/Love’s So Cruel                              Atlantic 7-89851                      1983

Days Gone By/Daylight                                             Atlantic 7-89674                      1984

This Ole Flame/The Storm                                        Atlantic 7-89650                      1984

Save A Corner Of Your Heart/The Storm                 Atlantic 7-89629                      1984

Call It Love(edit)/Lovin’ You Every Minute            RCA 9038+pic slv                    1989

Nothin’ To Hide(edit)/If It Wasn’t For You              RCA 9131+pic slv                    1989

The Nature Of Love/interview (?)                             RCA 9138                                 1990

What Do People Know/When It All Began               RCA 2623                                 1990

 

ALBUMS

Pickin’ Up The Pieces                                                            Epic 26460                                1969

Poco                                                                            Epic 26522                                1970

Deliverin’                                                                   Epic 30209 (+Quad)                 1971

From The Inside                                                         Epic 30753                                1971

A Good Feelin’ To Know                                           Epic 31601                                1972

Crazy Eyes                                                                  Epic 32354 (+Quad)                 1973

Seven                                                                          Epic 32895 (+Quad)                 1974

Cantamos                                                                    Epic 33192 (+Quad)                 1974

Head Over Heels                                                        ABC 890                                   1975

The Very Best Of Poco                                              Epic 33537 (2LP)                     1975

Live                                                                             Epic 33336                                1976

Rose Of Cimarron                                                      ABC 946                                   1976

Indian Summer                                                           ABC 989                                   1977

Legend                                                                                    ABC 1099 (+1/2 speed)            1978

Songs Of Paul Cotton                                                 Epic 36210                                1979

Songs Of Richie Furay                                               Epic 36211                                1979

Under The Gun                                                           MCA 5132                                1980

Blue & Gray                                                               MCA 5227                                1981

Cowboys & Englishmen                                            MCA 5288                                1982

Backtracks                                                                  MCA 5363                                1982

Ghost Town                                                                Atlantic 80008                                      1982

Inamorata                                                                    Atlantic 80148                                      1984

Legacy                                                                        RCA 9694-2-R                          1989

Crazy Loving-The Best Of Poco 1975-1982             MCA MCAD-42323                 1989

The Forgotten Trail (1969-74)                                   Epic Legacy E2K 46162 (2CD) 1990

On The Country Side                                                  Sony A26735                            1996

Ultimate Collection                                                    Hip-O  HPD-40136                   1998

The Very Best Of Poco                                              Epic Legacy EK 65731             1999

The Millennium Collection                                       MCA 088 112 224-2                 2000

Running Horse                                                            Drifters Church 0003               2002

The Last Roundup                                                      Future Edge                              2004

Bareback at Big Sky                                                   Drifters Church 0006               2005

The Wildwood Sessions                                             Drifters Church                        2006

Standing Room Only                                                  Sony/BMG Custom                  2007

Live from Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/1971 Collectors Choice                    2010

Setlist: The Very Best of Poco LIVE                         Sony Legacy                             2011

All Fired Up                                                                  Drifters Church                        2013  

Disney Tunes Top 20

A recent Entertainment Weekly issue posted an article listing their top Disney related songs of all-time and while they got a few correct by this blogger’s standards, they blew it on some others.  This, of course, got my hackles up and so I went through literally every Disney show from the 30s till now listening to songs (many previously unheard by this oversized kid).  What follows is an admittedly biased list of my faves from the movie side of Disney.  This means leaving out great songs like “Davy Crockett” (as it was mostly a TV show that was cobbled together for a movie), “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life)” (from a Disney ride) and “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf” (from a 1933 cartoon short).  The bias here is that, as a 60+ year old white male, the music is skewed away from the more recent movie songs like “Let It Go” from Frozen that did nothing for me but would have likely been my #1 if I were a 12 year old girl.  So be it – it’s my list.  Here we go!

1.When You Wish Upon A Star – Pinocchio

The first Disney song to win an Oscar (1940 – Best Original Song), this is essentially the Disney theme song.  The original (sung by Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket) is guaranteed to bring a lump in the throat to this hard-bitten old Dentist every time.  It was written by Leigh Harline (who helped score many Disney movies) & Ned Washington (a lyricist involved with some great tunes like “Town Without Pity” and “Rawhide”).  Cliff Edwards was known as Ukulele Ike and was a popular performer before starting a long string of movie appearances (1929 – 1965).  Over the years it has been covered by a wide range of artists including Glenn Miller, Brian Wilson, Linda Ronstadt and curiously Gene Simmons of Kiss.

2.Zip A Dee Doo Dah – Song Of The South

Another Oscar winning original song (at the 1947 Academy Awards), this song was sung by James Baskett in his role as Uncle Remus.  Baskett was only 44 when he passed away in 1948, but won the first Oscar given to a black male (honorary in his case) for this role.  The movie has been the subject of racial debate over the years, but this is still a great song that was a hit for Johnny Mercer (1947) and for the Phil Spector studio creation Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans (1963).

3.A Spoonful Of Sugar – Mary Poppins

Us baby boomers all remember getting our polio vaccine in school on a lump of sugar – an event that supposedly inspired lyricist Robert Sherman’s idea for this song.  Robert and his brother Richard were responsible for an amazing amount of film music and are perhaps most linked to Disney films and their other projects such as “It’s A Small World”.  They also composed the rock hit “You’re Sixteen” which was big for Johnny Burnette and Ringo Starr.  Julie Andrews sang this catchy number while trying to get Jane and Michael to tidy things up.

4.Heigh Ho – Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

With the mass success of Disney animated features over the past 80 years, one forgets what a big gamble this (his first full-length cartoon – 1937) was at the time.  Thank you Walt (for taking the risk) and for all the great animators, etc. who created a new genre that is frankly my favorite style of movie (and no doubt for all the other kids-at-heart like me).  This was sung by the dwarfs after a hard day of digging jewels at their mine.  It was written by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey.  Churchill composed some great music for Disney (including “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf”) before taking his own life at the age of 40.  Lyricist Morey went on to compose “Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)” (a Burl Ives hit) with Eliot Daniel.

5.You’ll Be In My Heart – Tarzan

Drummer and singer Phil Collins of Genesis seemingly owned the radio in the 80s but by 1999 when this song came out his chart success was winding down (this song placed at #21 – his last top 40 U.S. hit to date).   This up-ballad from Tarzan’s adoptive gorilla mom is meant to soothe her human baby and reassure him that she will always love him.  Over the years Disney songs have done very well at the Academy Awards and this song did win the Oscar that year for best original song.

6.Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo – Cinderella

Not really much of a song, I admit, but it is catchy and was a big hit on the charts back in 1949/50 for artists like Perry Como and Jo Stafford.  Amazingly it took three well-known songwriters to create this mostly nonsense song – Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston and Mack David (not to be confused with his brother Hal David – also a songwriter).  These composers in various combinations were also involved in writing such hits as “Mairzy Doats”, “Baby It’s You”, “(Beware Of) The Blob”, “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)”, etc.  This song was sung by Cinderella’s fairy Godmother (sung by Verna Felton but voiced by Clair Du Brey) while waving her wand to create all the magic that would make mice into horses to pull a pumpkin changed into a carriage among other spells.

7.You’ve Got A Friend In Me – Toy Story (1,2,3)

Randy Newman is an American treasure seemingly able to write in every style of music successfully.  In my collection I have a 1962 45 of his first flop “Golden Gridiron Boy” not to mention later novelty hits “I Love L.A.” and “Short People”.  As a songwriter his biggest hit was for Three Dog Night – “Mama Told Me Not To Come”. One of his best songs is his Emmy award winning theme-song to the TV show Monk which I don’t believe is available on CD, maddeningly.  His film scores have been his strongest works, however, including Ragtime and my favorite The Natural which recalls classic film music of the golden age by people like Elmer Bernstein.  You can quibble that this isn’t pure Disney since it is Pixar but there is no dispute that is a great song that has meaning beyond simply Buzz and Woody (from 1995, 1999, 2010).

8.The Bare Necessities – The Jungle Book

In the year of Sgt. Pepper and the summer of love (1967) came this cute Kipling adaptation less than a year after Walt’s passing.  Terry Gilkyson wrote the song and Phil Harris brought it to life in the guise of Baloo the bear.  It may have seemed old-fashioned at the time, but it has held up better than many of the psychedelic tunes from that year and got a nice update in the 2016 excellent live-action remake.  Gilkyson also was responsible for the 1956 Easy Riders hit “Marianne”.

9.The Circle Of Life – The Lion King

Mixing the music of a performer who has sold more than 300 million records with the lyrics of one of the greats of musical theater is a no-brainer.  Those masters (Elton John and Tim Rice) came up with music that seemed to dominate radio in 1994.  This song opened the movie to a feeling of grandeur that befitted the quality of the whole film.  It was nominated for an Academy Award but lost to our #14 song.

10.Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – Mary Poppins

1964 to us baby boomers will always stand as the year the Brits invaded the U.S. airwaves filling our transistor radios with Beatles and Dave Clark 5 songs (among others).  In late summer of that year, another Brit invaded our cinemas in the person of 28 year old Julie Andrews alongside American comic actor Dick Van Dyke (10 years her senior).  Mary Poppins earned the studio its most Academy Award nominations (13) winning five for the folks at Disney (including Julie Andrews as best actress).  The Sherman brothers remembered this silly word from their childhoods and used it as an uptempo dancing duet betwixt the stars.

11.Whistle While You Work – Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

Twenty one year old Adriana Caselotti came from a musical family (her mom and sister sang opera while her dad was a voice coach).  She was ostensibly paid $970 for her voice work as Snow White in what was at first being called “Disney’s Folly”, however her work was uncredited as they wanted to keep Snow White an illusion.  The song was sung by Snow White to help take the drudgery out of housework (in a very similar vein to “A Spoonful Of Sugar” so you make your choice – eat sweets or whistle).  Frank Churchill and Larry Morey again composed the main songs for this 1937 groundbreaker.

12.Under The Sea – The Little Mermaid

1989’s Little Mermaid returned a mark of quality to Disney animation with a great story and cartooning not to mention a soundtrack chock-a-block with memorable tunes.  Ariel wants to go on land and be with people and, so, her crab friend Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) sings this cautionary calypso urging her to stay in the briny.  The songs to this movie and Beauty & The Beast were composed by the late Howard Ashman & Alan Menken.  This won an Oscar for best original song and is pretty much ubiquitous in Disney parks and cruises today.

13.Winnie The Pooh Theme Song – Winnie The Pooh & The Honey Tree (etc.)

You’re probably crying foul right about now as most of the uses of this song were in featurettes but it has been in so many movies that were at least an hour long that I decided it qualifies (and it’s my list).  The first use of this song was in 1966 after being composed by the Sherman brothers who might be the most underappreciated popular songwriters ever.  The mind of A. A. Milne was responsible for this “tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff”; first appearing in 1926.  Milne wrote the stories for his son Christopher Robin Milne using his stuffed animals as a template for the characters.  Since then the marketing has been unstoppable including a song written by Kenny Loggins (House At Pooh Corner) that appeared on one of the great Americana albums – Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1970).

14.Can You Feel The Love Tonight – The Lion King

This song is originally used in the movie as Simba and Nala are falling for each other while the version over the end titles is performed by one of its composers, Elton John (Tim Rice wrote the lyrics).  It won the 1994 Academy Award for best original song and also earned Reg Dwight a male vocal Grammy (would Elton John have been a success under his real name?).  This was the biggest chart hit from the movie hitting #4 in the U.S.

15.Chim Chim Cher-ee – Mary Poppins

Yet another winner at the Oscars for best original song, the Sherman brothers made the Mary Poppins soundtrack one of the best from any Disney film ever.  The story goes that the composers saw one of the chimney sweep drawings when the film was being planned and were told that there is a tale in British lore that shaking hands with a sweep can bring good luck.  Bert the sweep is played by Dick Van Dyke who in 1964 was in the middle of a successful run playing Rob Petrie on his self-titled hit TV series.

16.The Monkey’s Uncle – The Monkey’s Uncle

Disney studios put out a series of low-budget pleasantly forgettable live-action movies that at times were decent hits (The Absent-Minded Professor, The Love Bug, etc.).  This 1965 movie starred Tommy Kirk as Merlin Jones and likable Mouseketeer turned zaftig singing star Annette Funicello.  The brothers Sherman  wrote a string of innocuous pre-Beatles hits for Annette including “Tall Paul” and “Pineapple Princess” and tried to make this a hit as well.  By 1965 in the face of another year of the British Invasion and burgeoning folk-rock, a nice silly pop song sung by Annette with backing from the Beach Boys wasn’t going to dent the charts (which is too bad as it has always been one of my guilty pleasures).  The lyrics are a series of puns including “I love the monkey’s uncle and the monkey’s uncle’s ape for me” and “what a nutty family tree, a bride – a groom – a chimpanzee” – genius!?

17.A Whole New World – Aladdin

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken began the songwriting for what would have been their third Disney collaboration, but with Ashman’s passing Menken teamed with veteran composer Tim Rice to complete the songs.  This Menken/Rice composition was by far the most memorable of the new songs and is used twice in the 1992 cartoon .  The first version is a duet with Jasmine (sung by Lea Salonga and voiced by Linda Larkin) and Aladdin (sung by Brad Kane with Scott Weigner speaking).  The version over the end credits is the familiar #1 hit version (1993) by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle.  This ended up winning Disney yet another Oscar for best original song plus it also won a song of the year Grammy.

18.I’ve Got No Strings – Pinocchio

The second Disney feature cartoon was based on the Carlo Collodi children’s story about a puppet who longs to be a real boy.  While today many consider it to be one of the greatest animated movies ever, it was a surprising flop at the box office the first time around in 1940 – or maybe it wasn’t a surprise considering much of Europe was at war meaning little or no foreign revenue.  All the subsequent re-releases finally earned to money and acclaim it was entitled to.   This cheerful song was mostly sung by Dickie Jones as the title character interacting with various nationalities of puppets.  Leigh Harline and Ned Washington were the composers.  NSYNC fans will recall that their 2000 album No Strings Attached had a puppet themed cover so this song was used to begin their concerts at the time.

19.Hakuna Matata – The Lion King

The rough translation in Swahili is supposed to be ‘no worries’ and was apparently heard from a native guide while the production team were in Kenya to gain background for use in the movie.  Timon the meerkat (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa the warthog (Ernie Sabella) are the main performers here telling Simba to move on from the death of his father (Mufasa).  The song plays while Simba grows in to an adult.  The Elton John/Tim Rice composition was the third song from the 1994 movie to be nominated for the best original song Academy Award.  As we saw earlier, this song and “Circle Of Life” lost to “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” that year.

20.Colors Of The Wind – Pocahontas

The movie Pocahontas was a heavily fictionalized story supposedly about the relationship of the native American female lead and the Jamestown colonist John Smith.  For this 1995 feature, Alan Menken again composed the music, but his time was paired with lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, etc.) who wrote of respecting nature.  Judy Kuhn sang the song as Pocahontas in the film (Irene Bedard voiced the character), but Vanessa Williams had the #4 U.S. hit.  Remarkably this song was yet another Disney Academy Award winner for best original song.