Category: folk rock

On this day in music history: July 12, 1965 – …

On this day in music history: July 12, 1965 – “It Ain’t Me Babe” by The Turtles is released. Written by Bob Dylan, it is the debut single release for the pop/rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Originally formed in early 1965 its members are attending Westchester High School in L.A., the band consists of Howard Kaylan (nee Kaplan) (lead vocals), Mark Volman (background vocals), Al Nichol (lead guitar, keyboards), Chuck Portz (bass), Don Murray (drums) and Jim Tucker (guitar). Initially a surf rock band calling themselves The Crossfires, they quickly develop a following. While playing their weekly gig at The Revelaire club in Redondo Beach co-owned by KFWB and KEWB DJ Reb Foster, The Crossfires are approached by two entrepreneurs and ask if they want to make a record. Jumping at the chance, the band change their the sound from surf rock to folk rock, influenced by fellow L.A. contemporaries The Byrds who have helped popularize the genre. The band also change their name to The Tyrtles, as a play on the spelling of The Byrds, but quickly amend it to the regular spelling “The Turtles”. While searching for songs to record at their first session, Kaylan hits upon the idea of covering Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”. A track from Dylan’s fourth album “Another Side Of Bob Dylan”, released the previous year, and with The Byrds then racing up the charts with their first big hit, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, The Turtles create their own arrangement of “Babe”. Recorded at United Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA in June of 1965, the single is released just a few weeks later by White Whale Records. “It Ain’t Me Babe” becomes a smash on local radio in Los Angeles, and quickly hits nationally. Entering the Hot 100 at #76 on August 7, 1965, it peaks at #8 on September 18, 1965, launching The Turtles career, and becoming the first of five top ten, and nine top 40 hits the band have over the next four years.

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On this day in music history: June 28, 1968 – …

On this day in music history: June 28, 1968 – “Feliciano!”, the eighth album by Jose Feliciano is released. Produced by Rick Jarrard, it is recorded at the RCA Music Center Of The World in Hollywood, CA from November 21, 1967 – January 6, 7 & 8, 1968. Born in Lares, Puerto Rico, and raised in New York’s Spanish Harlem, Jose Feliciano demonstrates musical talent early on. Blind since birth (due to glaucoma), Jose is taught how to play percussion by an uncle at three. The turning point comes when Feliciano’s father gives him a guitar at nine. Practicing for hours and hours a day, Jose teaches himself the guitar. Taking some formal classical training while attending the Light House School For The Blind, he drops out of school at seventeen to help support his family. At the height of the folk music movement, he plays coffeehouses in New York, and in other cities. While performing in Greenwich Village in 1964, Feliciano is spotted by Jack Somer, an executive at RCA Victor Records, who signs him. Jose records seven albums between 1965 and 1967, finding success in Latin American countries but not in the US. A move to Los Angeles later in 1967 changes the musician’s fortunes at home, in ways that no one will anticipate. Feliciano is paired producer Rick Jarrard, known for producing the Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” and his work with Harry Nilsson. Looking to find a balance between Jose’s musical influences, and marrying them to pop styled arrangements, they believe that he can reach a wider audience. In the studio, Jose is backed by veteran jazz musicians Ray Brown (bass), Milt Holland (drums, percussion) and Jim Horn (woodwinds). George Tipton and Perry Botkin, Jr. are brought in to write arrangements for the tracks. The album features covers of recent pop songs from everyone including The Beatles, The Mama & The Papas, and Bobby Hebb. Also covered on the album is The Doors’ “Light My Fire” (#2 Pop, #29 R&B). The L.A. rockers chart topper of the previous Summer, is transformed into a soulful and lush Latin flavored ballad. It’s initially released as the B-side of “California Dreamin’”. A DJ at KJR at Seattle, WA flips it and plays “Light My Fire” instead. It becomes a radio smash, selling over a million copies, and turning Jose Feliciano into a huge star worldwide. The album earns four Grammy nominations, winning for Best New Artist and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1969. In time, “Feliciano!” becomes a landmark album, cementing the commercial viability of Latin American musicians. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1994, and is reissued as a 180 gram LP by Speakers Corner Records in 2003. “Feliciano!” peaks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, number three on the R&B album chart, number three on the Jazz chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 26, 1965 – …

On this day in music history: June 26, 1965 – “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Bob Dylan, it is the first chart topping single for the Los Angeles, CA based folk-rock band. The hit single version of the song is actually the second version cut by the band, having previously recorded it in mid 1964. Producer Terry Melcher (son of actress/singer Doris Day) is initially unsure of the entire bands’ musicianship and hire members of The Wrecking Crew including Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, and Larry Knechtel to play along side Roger McGuinn (12-string electric guitar). McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby sing on the track, recorded at Columbia Studios in Los Angeles, CA on January 20, 1965. Entering the Hot 100 at #87 on May 15, 1965, it leaps to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Mr. Tambourine Man” is also a huge hit on the other side of the Atlantic, hitting #1 on the UK singles chart. The Byrds sound make them pioneers of the burgeoning folk-rock movement, becoming highly influential with many acts that follow (We Five, The Mamas And The Papas, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Turtles, The Grass Roots, Barry McGuire, Simon & Garfunkel) scoring hits reminiscent of or directly mimicking them. The Byrds version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.

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On this day in music history: June 22, 1971 – …

On this day in music history: June 22, 1971 – “Blue”, the fourth studio album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from January – March 1971. Issued as the follow up to ‘Ladies Of The Canyon", the deeply introspective album features songs reflecting on relationships, and comes in the wake of Mitchell’s painful break up from longtime boyfriend Graham Nash. Nash had proposed marriage to Mitchell in 1970, and she declines the proposal fearing the constraints that it will put on her personal and artistic freedom, after what she had experienced in her brief first marriage to musician Chuck Mitchell in 1965. Following her split with Nash, she flies off to Europe on vacation and writes many of the songs that turn up on the finished album. One earlier song titled “Little Green” (written in 1967) is a last minute addition. It is about the daughter she had given up for adoption, a fact that is not revealed publicly until they are reunited in 1993. The album is a major critical and commercial success upon its release, and is widely regarded as one of Joni Mitchell’s greatest artistic achievements. Due to its lasting popularity and influence, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1997 (with HDCD encoding), restoring the original cover artwork and lyric sheet. It is also being reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2009. It is reissued again on vinyl by Rhino in January of 2019, as part of their Start Your Ear Off Right series. The limited edition pressing is pressed on translucent blue vinyl, replicating the original tip on gatefold sleeve and blue inner sleeve. “Blue” peaks at number fifteen on the Billboard Top 200, is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 7, 19…

On this day in music history: June 7, 1965 – “You Were On My Mind” by We Five is released. Written by Sylvia Fricker, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the folk rock band from San Francisco, CA. The younger brother of Kingston Trio member John Stewart (“Daydream Believer”, “Gold”), Michael Stewart (guitar, bass, banjo) forms The Ridgerunners in 1964 while attending the University Of San Francisco. Originally a quartet, the band also includes Bob Jones (guitars), Pete Fullerton (bass), and Jerry Burgan (guitars). In early 1965, Stewart is introduced to Beverly Bivens by Terry Kirkman of The Association, who at the time is dating her sister. Impressed by her voice, Mike invites Beverly to join the band. They change their name to the Mike Stewart Quintet and finally We Five. While performing at the legendary Hungry I nightclub in North Beach, they meet Herb Alpert. Also the co-founder of A&M Records, Alpert is looking to expand and diversify the label’s artist roster. With the folk rock music movement reaching its commercial peak, We Five are signed to the label. The band are soon in the studio recording their first album, recording at producer and engineer Frank Werber’s Columbus Recorders in San Francisco. Reflecting their varied and eclectic musical tastes, We Five’s debut album features a mixture of jazz, show tunes and recent pop hits (“Cast Your Fate To The Wind”, “My Favorite Things”, “Can’t Help Falling In Love”). One song that stands out above the rest is “You Were On My Mind”. Written by Canadian born musician and singer Sylvia Fricker, it is originally recorded by the folk duo Ian And Sylvia in 1964. Michael Stewart comes up with a new arrangement. The song becomes a smash over the Summer of 1965. Entering the Hot 100 at #78 on July 24, 1965, it peaks at #3 nine weeks later on September 25, 1965. It also tops the Adult Contemporary chart for five weeks, beginning on September 4, 1965. The success of the single earns We Five a Grammy nomination for Best Performance By A Vocal Group, but lose the award to The Anita Kerr Singers’ “We Dig Mancini”. The band are only able to notch one more Top 40 hit with “Let’s Get Together” (#31 Pop) in 1967, which becomes a much bigger hit, when it is covered by The Youngbloods as “Get Together”. After recording a second album, Beverly Bivens leaves We Five, marrying jazz musician Fred Marshall (formerly of The Vince Guaraldi Trio), and raising a family. We Five continue on with new lead singer Debbie Graf Burgan (wife of Jerry Burgan), but are unable to score another hit before disbanding in 1970. The band reunite on various occasions between 1978 and 1989, prior to Michael Stewart’s death in 2002. Guitarist Bob Jones also passes away in 2013, after battling pancreatic cancer.

 

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On this day in music history: June 1, 1968 – “…

On this day in music history: June 1, 1968 – “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by Paul Simon, it is the second chart topping single for the folk-rock/pop duo from New York City. In mid 1967, director Mike Nichols contacts Paul Simon about writing some new songs for his second film “The Graduate”, as he happens to also be using several Simon & Garfunkel songs as a temporary soundtrack while filming and editing is in progress. When Simon initially writes the song, it is titled “Mrs. Roosevelt” (after former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt), with nostalgic remembrances of times past, also name dropping New York Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio. Playing the song for Nichols, Simon says that it isn’t for the film and that he hasn’t been able to come up with anything else (as S&G are on tour at the time). Eventually the director persuades Simon to change the title to “Mrs. Robinson” and allow him to use it in the film. When the soundtrack to “The Graduate” is released, it contains two alternate versions of the song that are heard in the finished film. The hit version is released as a single and on Simon & Garfunkel’s album “Bookends” in the Spring Of 1968. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on April 27, 1968, it streaks to the top of the chart six weeks later. The single wins two Grammy Awards including Best Contemporary-Pop Performance – Vocal Duo or Group and Record Of The Year, with “The Graduate” Soundtrack earning an additional award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special in 1969. The song is later covered by Frank Sinatra, Billy Paul, Bon Jovi, and The Lemonheads. “Mrs. Robinson” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 25, 1968 – &…

On this day in music history: May 25, 1968 – “Bookends”, the fourth studio album by Simon & Garfunkel hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 7 weeks (non-consecutive). Produced by Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Roy Halee, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studio in New York City from September 1966, January 1967, June 1967, October 1967 – February 1968. The songs on the albums first half have a unifying theme, following life’s journey from childhood to old age. The other half are songs that have mostly been released as singles over the previous year prior to the albums release. It spins off four singles including “Mrs. Robinson” (#1 Pop), “At The Zoo” (#16 Pop), and “A Hazy Shade Of Winter (#13 Pop). It is the last Simon & Garfunkel album to released in both mono and stereo, with the former having noticeable differences over its stereo counterpart, also being pressed in far smaller quantities before being deleted shortly after its release. Original pressings also come packaged with a large fold out poster. The albums iconic black & white cover photo of the duo was taken by famed photographer Richard Avedon, which goes on to be one of the most imitated and parodied of all time. In 2001, a remastered CD of the album will include two bonus tracks including "You Don’t Know Where Your Interests Lie” (the non-LP B-side of “Fakin’ It”) and the demo version of “Old Friends”. Director and screenwriter Cameron Crowe uses “America” in his film “Almost Famous” in 2000. In 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders also uses the song in a commercial as he is running for the democratic nomination for President Of The United States. “Bookends” is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 19, 1969 – &…

On this day in music history: May 19, 1969 – “Clouds”, the second album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell and Paul A. Rothchild, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from January – March 1969. Though her debut album “Song For A Seagull” charts and sells only modestly, Joni Mitchell finds her public profile growing rapidly during this time. With numerous artists covering her already significant catalog of songs, she is a consistent public presence, through touring extensively. Looking to take more control of her music in the studio, Mitchell is largely given free reign to produce her second album. Veteran producer Paul A. Rothchild (The Doors, Janis Joplin), produces only the track “Tin Angel”, with Mitchell producing the rest on her own. Recording engineer Henry Lewy provides valuable assistance in committing her musical ideas on tape. The project is the first of a long and productive collaboration between the pair, which lasts for a decade. Much like her first album, Joni’s sophomore effort is musically spare with the musician accompanying herself on guitar and or piano on many tracks. The only other musician who appears on the album is friend Stephen Stills, who contributes guitar and bass to some tracks. Full of vivid lyrical imagery buoyed by Mitchell’s soaring mezzo-soprano voice, listeners are immediately enchanted. Among the centerpiece tracks on “Clouds” are “Chelsea Morning”, which had been previously recorded by Judy Collins and Fairport Convention, and “Both Sides Now”, also recorded by Collins. Released in the Spring of 1969, it heightens Joni Mitchell’s profile significantly, earning the prolific singer/songwriter her first Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1970. Like its predecessor, “Clouds” features cover artwork painted by Mitchell herself, rendering a self portrait that becomes iconic in its own right. In time, the album becomes one of her most popular, marking the beginning of a string of musically innovative and influential albums, that Mitchell creates during the 70’s and beyond. Originally released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 2000, with HDCD encoding and restoring the original artwork and printed lyrics to the packaging. To date, the vinyl edition of the album has yet to be reissued. “Clouds” peaks at number thirty one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 17, 1967 – T…

On this day in music history: May 17, 1967 – The documentary film “Don’t Look Back” is released. Directed by D.A. Pennebaker (“Monterey Pop”, “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”), the film documents Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK, and provides a rare, intimate glimpse into the personal life of the prolific, but enigmatic musician. It also features appearances from numerous people in Dylan’s inner circle including manager Albert Grossman, Joan Baez, Donovan and poet Allen Ginsburg. The opening scene of the film includes the now iconic “music video” for the song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” featuring Dylan standing in an alley way displaying cue cards of various lyrics from the song. This segment is often parodied over the years by various artists. The film has its premiere screening at the Presidio Theater in San Francisco, CA. “Don’t Look Back” is  selected for preservation by the United States National Registry by the Library Of Congress in 1998 for its historic and cultural significance. In November of 2015, The Criterion Collection releases a fully restored version of the film on DVD and Blu-ray disc, featuring a new 4K high definition transfer from the original camera negative and ¼ inch monuaral soundtrack masters.  

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On this day in music history: May 12, 1963 – M…

On this day in music history: May 12, 1963 – Musician Bob Dylan withdraws from an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Scheduled to make his national television debut on the highly rated variety show, Dylan is told during rehearsals by the CBS network “head of program practices” that he cannot perform the song “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”, a song from his about to be released second album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. The executive tells Dylan that the network believes that the song criticizing the John Birch Society (an ultraconservative anti-communist group, also known to have highly xenophobic and racist underpinnings), is potentially libelous. Rather than comply to the network’s wishes, Bob Dylan walks off of the show, and does not perform on US network television until he appears on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969. As a result of his declining to appear on Ed Sullivan,  "Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues" along with three other songs are removed from the “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album and are replaced by four other songs. The initial pressing of the album featuring the deleted songs becomes one of the most valuable LP’s of all time, since nearly all copies are destroyed before being shipped to record stores. An original stereo copy of “Freewheelin’” sold at auction for over $35,000 in recent years.

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