It Should Have Been Me X 2

My friend Rael posted about a girl group called the Fortune Cookies on Facebook. They have a record called It Should Have Been Me. Good song, standard girl group arrangement. The video uses The Graduate well. https://youtu.be/a7da84nRkKY But of course things don’t stop there. There is, it turns out, another song called It Should Have Been Me with a wedding theme, and a totally different sound. Also well worth hearing.

Song of the Week – Wishing Well, Terence Trent D’Arby

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

Back in 1987, Terence Trent D’Arby released an album of organic, neo-soul tracks that stood out from the other R&B of the day due to its lack of artificial sounding instruments and his warm vocal style that reminded listeners of classic soul voices like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.

The album – Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby – was a huge commercial success internationally and in the US.  It was an exceptional album that touched on soul, funk and even a little rock, but it was also hampered by D’Arby’s hubris and conceit.  In interviews he called himself a genius (though not a stable genius) and claimed his album was the most important record since The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The album contained “Wishing Well” that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as their Soul Singles chart, and is today’s SotW.

When I was a club DJ in Boston in the mid/late ‘80s, I always enjoyed spinning this number.  It was a sure fire crowd pleaser, guaranteed to fill the dance floor… and something the DJ could also appreciate.

Enjoy… until next week.

Donnie Fritts Has Died

I’m always feel badly when I learn way too late about a songwriter who wrote a song I really like. Donnie Fritts wrote Breakfast in Bed, which was recorded by Dusty Springfield, with Eddie Hinton. He also wrote, with Hinton, the Box Tops’ Choo Choo Train. There is an obit here, an interesting guy who led an interesting life, never finding the fame but being famous all over.

Song of the Week – Gold, John Stewart

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

I’m writing to you today from southern California, so I thought I’d feature a recording that conveys the SoCal vibe.

I’ve selected “Gold” by John Stewart.

Stewart was born and died in San Diego.  In between, he was a key member of the Kingston Trio – replacing original member Dave Guard.  Stewart was hired by the group to write songs, sing, and play banjo and guitar.

After six years with the Kingston Trio, he wrote “Daydream Believer” which became a #1 hit for the Monkees in 1967.

Next, he began a career with his singing partner, Buffy Ford, who became his wife in 1975.  They remained together for the rest of his life.  After one album together he was off on a solo career, launched with the release of his critically acclaimed album, California Bloodlines (1969).

Stewart continued to record at a pace of about an album a year, but most of them languished in obscurity – until the release of 1979’s Bombs Away Dream Babies. Bombs Away… was co-produced by Lindsey Buckingham, who was hot off the success of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours.  Buckingham also sang and played guitar on the recording; Stevie Nicks sang too.

Bombs Away… featured “Gold;” the song that anchored the disc and reached #5 on the pop charts.  The cut has a mysteriously dark feel.  The bass gallops along, punctuated with electric piano, guitar and, sparse drumming.

The lyrics tell the cynical, satirical tale of an LA musician trying to make it in “the Biz.”  The refrain “Drivin’ over Kanan, singin’ to my soul / There’s people out there turnin’ music into gold” captures the desperation of the singer.

Stewart deserved more commercial success than he attained.  He had many influential and more successful friends in the music industry that held him in very high regard.  For instance, his 1970 album, Willard, featured James Taylor on guitar and Carole King contributed vocals and keys.  This was at the height of their success leading the early ‘70s singer/songwriter movement.

Roseanne Cash thought of Stewart as a mentor and recorded his “Runaway Train” on her 1988 album King’s Record Shop.  It was a #1 hit on the country charts.

So today I salute John Stewart and his contributions to the musical history of southern California.

Enjoy… until next week.

Hit Single

This song helped soften up America for punk. It was a juke box smash at Bumpers, a college bar I frequented in the late 70’s. It reached #47 on the American Billboard chart, higher maybe than any other punk single until the 1990’s. It almost became the actual hit it was in Britain (#8) and especially in the French-speaking countries. The Beach Boys meet Chuck Berry at a construction site. I am the king of the divan.

Song of the Week – Trying to Stay Live, Leon Russell & Marc Benno

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

One of my favorite, obscure albums is Asylum Choir II, by Leon Russell and Marc Benno.  The duo released their first album, Look Inside the Asylum Choir, in 1968.  Russell and Benno played essentially all the instruments on the songs.  That album was released on the Smash record label that didn’t have the marketing heft to get it played or heard, despite decent reviews by rock critics.

For Asylum Choir II, Russell and Benno recruited added help from some great session musicians – Jesse Ed Davis (guitars), Carl Radle (bass) and Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass).  II was recorded as an immediate follow up to Look Inside but didn’t see the light of day until 1971!  This time the disc was released on Shelter Records, another bad choice (though this time Leon could only blame himself since Shelter was a company he co-founded with Denny Cordell).

My choice for SotW is “Trying to Stay Live.”

The lyrics may be a little dated; how’s a guy supposed to make a living if he wants to be a musician “and keep his sideburns too?”

Many of the other songs on the record are period pieces.  “Down on the Base” and “Ballad of a Soldier” are anti-Viet Nam war songs and “Sweet Home Chicago” refers to the riots there at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  Another track, “Hello, Little Friend,” became pretty well known in a version by Joe Cocker on his second album, Joe Cocker!.  (That album also had Cocker’s outstanding take on Russell’s “Delta Lady.”)

But don’t let the time capsule aspect of Asylum Choir II steer you away from listening to the whole thing.  The music and arrangements are tremendous!

Enjoy… until next week.