Under The Covers

I wasn’t planning on posting again today, after yesterday’s Tuesday Tunes post and having plans for tomorrow and Friday. But then Timehop reminded me that it is the first anniversary of this post. It hasn’t scored highly on the ‘like’ count, but for some reason it has consistently picked up views: it is my most viewed individual post so far this year, by a distance. I’ve no idea why, but as I rather like it I thought I’d give it another airing for its birthday.

Take It Easy

An intriguing title, I think. But I’m afraid I might be about to disappoint you (at least I didn’t put ‘bed’ or ‘sex’ in the tags for this piece!). Look at the tag line for my blog: yes, this one is about music, and specifically cover versions of songs.

As you may have noticed, I’m given to recycling older posts that I think may well have slipped under the radar with current readers, who wouldn’t have been following this blog way back when. I use an app called Timehop, which is great at reminding me of post anniversaries. Recently it has given me Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma which originates from November 2015 and shared some of my favourite parody versions of songs. That year was the second, following on from 2014, when I took part in National Blog Posting Month – aka #NaBloPoMo – and committed…

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Tuesday Tunes 36: More Seventies Albums

As promised, this week sees my second selection of albums from the Seventies, all of which were a part of the vast collection of vinyl that I amassed. There is no particular theme or connection to them, though it does appear that I was gravitating towards singer-songwriters and American music in those days!

First one this week is from someone of whom I’ve been a fan since the earliest days, both in the duo and as a solo artist:

Apologies for the rap introduction – it’s on the official video, so I had to let it sneak in! That was from Paul’s eponymous second solo album, released in January 1972. I went to university in September of that year and, naturally, the album went with me! It was #1 in the UK and #4 in the US, and is still a favourite of mine to this day – it’s hard to think of a better one that he made, though Graceland has to be up there too. This track was the second single from the album, reaching #15 in the UK and #22 in the US. Despite my crack about rap, I love the video for the song: it is full of life, as befits the tune. Mind you, I’m not sure if the line about “Rosie, the Queen of Corona” has stood the test of time into this year!

This week’s second tune is also from an album that went to uni with me, and is also still a favourite:

That was on Rod’s third solo album, Every Picture Tells A Story, which was a #1 album in both the UK and the US, as well as in several other countries. It was released in May 1971 and was the album that made him a huge star. His previous two solo efforts were both excellent, but it wasn’t until this one that things took off for him – and how! The video is actually taken from his 1993 album Unplugged… and Seated, but as it is so good I didn’t think you’d mind if I cheated a little: the interplay with Ronnie Wood, who had been with Rod in The Faces and played on the original version, is fun to watch. This song was never released as a single, though it was actually the B-side to I Know I’m Losing You. It was very much a radio hit, though: I recall it being played often on Johnnie Walker’s Radio 1 show, which was on during the lunch break in my uni days.

I think my next tune could genuinely be termed ‘obscure.’ The video is one of those static audio-only jobs, and has amassed just over 250 views in six years! The band – Fishbaugh, Fishbaugh and Zorn – made two albums, only one of which was released, and this is one of the tracks from that:

The album came out in 1971: I bought it after hearing this song on the radio, and played it to death. Unfortunately, it also appears to have represented the death of the band, too, as their record company dropped them before the second album could be released. Apparently this song was released as a single but fared no better than the album. The two Fishbaughs were a married couple, Gary and Paula, and Zorn was Pete Zorn: Gary and Pete met whilst both were playing with the New Christy Minstrels. Pete was a multi-instrumentalist who enjoyed a long career as part of Richard Thompson’s backing band, as well as being a member of the Albion Band and Steeleye Span – the latter until his death in 2016. He was much in demand, having also played with Gerry Rafferty, Show Of Hands, Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, to name just a few. In view of the band’s short-lived career and almost instant obscurity I’ll admit to being a little surprised to have found this on YouTube, but I’m glad I could share it with you – I always thought those lovely harmony vocals deserved a wider audience.

This next one comes from a little later – 1976 to be exact. The band is a longstanding one, having released their first album in 1969 and still going today. This was the title track of their ninth album:

It’s a shame that the video faded out, as the full album version of the song lasts another couple of minutes, but hopefully that gave you a taste of how good it is. I was by this time very much into what was known as ‘country-rock,’ having progressed via the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Gram Parsons and others through to the Eagles and Poco. I think I made some wise musical choices! The album reached #59 in the US and #54 in Australia, but didn’t chart here. The song was also released as a single and charted in the same two countries, at #94 and #51 respectively. It was also covered by Emmylou Harris as the title track of her 1981 album Cimarron: unsurprisingly, her version is lovely. The song was inspired by lead vocalist Rusty Young’s reading of an Oklahoma tourist brochure about a beautiful lady called Rose Dunn, who was given this nickname during her younger years, at the end of the Wild West days. Think ‘milkshakes bringing the boys to her yard,’ and you won’t be far off the mark. The other vocalist may look familiar to you: he is Timothy B Schmit, who left Poco not long after this to join the Eagles.

Back to the UK for my next tune. You may have heard the tragic story of this guy, but have you listened to the beauty of his music? If not, I think you should, as you’ve been missing out:

Nick Drake only lived to 26: he died in 1974 from an overdose of the antidepressant drugs he had been prescribed. The coroner recorded a verdict of “Acute amitriptyline poisoning – self-administered when suffering from a depressive illness.” His family, including his sister, Gabrielle Drake – the actress – have always refused to accept that he committed suicide, and I’d prefer to believe them, though some of his friends at the time were of the view that ‘he had given up on life.’ Either way, his is a sad story. Nick released just three albums during his lifetime: this is a track from the second of those, Bryter Later, from 1971 (not 1970, the video is wrong). I love this video: it is a great fit for Nick’s beautiful, delicate music. He sold very few albums while alive, and suffered severe stage fright that curtailed his career as a live performer. However, since his death there has been a resurgence of interest in him and his music, with the release of several albums of unreleased songs, demos and outtakes. One of these, Made To Love Magic, from 2004, even made the UK albums chart at #27, and produced two top forty singles. Many of his songs have been used in tv shows and movies, and even adverts. There is also an excellent book about him, Deeper Than The Darkest Sea, written by Trevor Dann, which offers a sympathetic appraisal of his life and music.

I didn’t want to leave you on a downbeat note, so here’s a rousing finale for you:

That is still the best musical equivalent of a ‘Dear John’ (or ‘Dear Jane’) letter that I know. It was the opening track on the Eagles’ third album, On The Border, released in 1974 – an album that got a lot of play during my uni days, like all of today’s choices (apart from Poco – which was too late). As you can probably guess, if you haven’t already worked it out, I’ve been a big Eagles fan since they started – where do you think I ‘borrowed’ my blog’s name from? The album reached #17 in the US and #28 here in the UK, and this track was also a hit US single, where it peaked at #32. Strangely, to my mind, the Eagles didn’t enjoy huge chart success here until their first Greatest Hits album was released in 1976, became a massive #2 hit, and is still one of the best-selling albums of all time in this country. Go figure!

That’s all for today, and for this stage of my journey back to the Seventies. As I have said a couple of times, next Tuesday will be 1 December and I’m planning something a little different. If the demand continues to be there I’ll bring Tuesday Tunes back in the New Year – we’ll see. Those December plans also include music – no surprise there, then – and I’m intending to drop in on you a couple more times this week too, so I hope to see you again then.

Take care of yourself and those who matter to you. TTFN.

Tuesday Tunes 35: Seventies Albums

Today I reach my first selection of Seventies albums. As I have said several times, the Seventies was the decade when I really began buying albums in earnest, and the singles buying of my earlier youth days came to a grinding halt. Most albums now included the accompanying singles anyway, so I was actually saving money by not buying the singles any more. I have jotted down a list of potential artists for inclusion in this series, and without needing to dredge too far into my memory that list now stands at thirty: and that is artists, not albums. I could probably run this series for a long time! However, for now I’m going to be giving you two weeks, each of six tracks, and then something different will be happening for December. I’ll tell you more when the time comes (I learned all I know from Austin Powers, International Man Of Mystery – which probably explains a lot). As these selections are album tracks I’m hoping that some, at least, will be unfamiliar to you – come with me on a voyage of discovery!

I’ve been listening to a lot of the artists on my list, in a vain attempt to come up with a definitive selection. I decided that it was a hopeless task, so I’m just going to leap in! Getting my Seventies albums collection off to a rousing start, how about this:

A good way to check that your ears are still working, I think, and the energy in that is incredible. Since his first album in 1973, Bruce has released twenty studio albums, nine of which have been #1 in the US and eleven here in the UK. Perhaps surprisingly, in retrospect, this wasn’t one of those, peaking at #3 in the US and #17 in the UK on its release in 1975. But it was undeniably the album which saw his career take off for the stratosphere. The song didn’t fare as well as you might think as a single, either. It reached #23 in the US but didn’t chart here until the days of downloads really began: making #93 in 2009! The live version, from the fantastic triple album Live 1975-1985, was released here as a single in 1987, and got as high as #16 – a little bit of justice, at last!

I’ve mentioned in the past two weeks that former members of Free and Mott The Hoople came together to form the band Bad Company. This was in 1974, which saw the release of their eponymous debut album. Only one song from the album was a hit single – Can’t Get Enough – but, as befits a selection of albums, I’m giving you the title track:

Despite looking hard, I couldn’t find a video of the band from that time – only later versions, which aren’t quite the same. Anyone who, like me, had been a fan of Free took to this album with open arms: the demise of one of our favourite bands had been more than recompensed! That still sounds fresh to me today, and Paul Rodgers has always, for me, had the best voice in rock music. As I said, that wasn’t a hit single, but as the album reached #3 here and #1 in the US I doubt the band were too distressed.

My next video is also a static one: I guess that’s what comes of selecting album tracks from around fifty years ago, before every song had to have a video. This is one of my favourites – of which there are many – from the best album by a former Beatle after the band broke up. All Things Must Pass was a triple album, released in November 1970, filled with songs that showed how remiss Lennon and McCartney had been in not allowing George more inclusion on the band’s albums:

The album was led by the single My Sweet Lord, which was a world-wide #1, as was the album. They showed George coming out of his shell, both as a songwriter and a performer. I could have chosen several other tracks from this amazing album, such as Apple Scruffs, Beware Of Darkness, All Things Must Pass (a real beauty): the whole album is packed with great songs.

My next track this week also suffers from old age, and therefore from being part of the pre-video age. But I have managed to find one that someone has kindly illustrated with some band images:

That was a track from Steely Dan’s 1972 debut album, Can’t Buy A Thrill, which formed a huge part of my university days, along with its follow ups, Countdown To Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic. The best known tracks on the first album are Do It Again and Reeling In The Years, both of which can be found on YouTube in live performances. But I decided to be perverse and choose my favourite track from a great album, though there are so many superb songs on it that choosing just one wasn’t easy. The album charted at #17 in the US and #38 here in the UK: I always felt it deserved better.

All the way back in Tuesday Tunes 3 I shared a song by this next artist, and mentioned both the album from which this came and this track. This is so beautiful that I felt it should also be a part of this series:

As the video shows, that is a track from Gerry Rafferty’s solo debut album Can I Have My Money Back?, which was released in 1971, not long after he had left the duo of which he had previously been a member – The Humblebums, a partnership with a certain Billy Connolly, of whom you may have heard. The album received good critical reviews, but I think I must have bought one of the few copies that were sold! He later went on to be hugely successful with Baker Street and the album it was on, City To City: all of his songs are skilfully written, with some beautiful lyrics. This one is a case in point: Mary Skeffington was his mother’s maiden name, and the song is addressed to her, as comfort for the difficulties she suffered during her marriage to his father. Once you know that background, the song really takes on the beauty and poignancy that has made it one of my all time favourites.

The late, great, Warren Zevon released two of his albums during the Seventies: Warren Zevon, in 1976, and Excitable Boy, in 1978. This gives me the perfect excuse to highlight him here, and to share one of the tracks from the second of those albums. Even if you aren’t a fan of his, you have probably heard of one of its tracks – Werewolves Of London, which I shared in my post Halloween Tunes 2020. This one is just as well known to his fans, of whom I am one:

As you can see from that, Warren was a guest on the Letterman show, as he had been many times over the preceding twenty years. The two became good friends, and this turned out to be Warren’s final appearance on the show, on 30th October 2002. He was the only guest for the show’s whole hour, and played several of his best known songs: this was the final one. After the show, Warren presented David Letterman with the guitar he used on the show, with the words “Here, I want you to have this, take good care of it.” The Excitable Boy album reached #8 in the US, but didn’t chart here. Five tracks from it were released as singles, but this wasn’t one of them, sadly. Warren died of inoperable cancer on 7th September 2003, shortly after the release of his final album. He still hasn’t been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – a shameful omission, in my view, especially when you look at some of those who have found their way in.

This first selection of Seventies albums has flown by for me, and it feels as though I have barely scratched the surface of one of the best decades for music in my lifetime. More of the contents of what used to be my vinyl collection will be coming up next week. As I said, this could take a while though, as I also said, I’m planning something different: keep an eye open for that.

Until next time, stay safe and well. The news here this week is that Boris Johnson is self isolating after hosting breakfast for some of his MPs several days ago, one of whom has tested positive for Covid. Always good to leave you on a positive note, I think 😉