Once upon a time two brothers, Liam and Noel Gallagher, ruled the world with their legendary rock band Oasis. The brothers Gallagher, along with their merry cohorts, crash landed upon American shores in the mid-1990s with their landmark debut album Definitely Maybe. Born with a voracious lust for life and overconfident pomposity, Liam and Noel could have easily been mistaken for the real life versions of Beavis and Butthead. After all, the feuding siblings’ humorous witticisms and pointless banter actually landed on the charts with their infamous interview recording “Wibbling Rivalry.”
After successfully conquering the United States with their anthemic Britpop hits “Live Forever,” “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova,” the Gallagher brothers seemed determined to record an album which sounded as gargantuan as their enormous egos. Late in the summer of 1997, Oasis unleashed their keenly awaited follow-up the multi-platinum (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Initial reactions seemed to indicate fans were ‘mad fer it’ as the group’s third album, Be Here Now was quickly consumed by the public, selling in excess of 350,000 copies on its first day of release. Despite its initial warm reception, Be Here Now is historically remembered as the beginning of the end of Oasis’ worldwide reign. Although touted by many as “the last, great Oasis album,” Be Here Now is full of infectious hooks, sing-a-long choruses, and big, sloppy guitar riffs, all of which beautifully demonstrate the band’s florid illusions of world domination.
While certainly not Noel Gallagher’s strongest effort lyrically, Oasis’ third album more than aptly says what it says very melodically. Despite its shortcomings, the album triumphs as an over-the-top cataclysmic summation of the visceral bravado projected by Liam and Noel. It proudly revels in its arrogant bombast, while concurrently being excessive, brash, nonsensical and semi-psychedelic, all of which are the exact reasons it is equally loved and loathed. While overly long and dripping with delusional grandeur, it’s 71 minutes is flooded with fist pumping anthems and catchy hooks custom made to fill a stadium. From its massive opener “D’You Know What I Mean,” to the exceedingly tuneful “Stand by Me,” Be Here Now doggedly beguiles by combining nearly symphonic melodies (“Don’t Go Away”) with an intense electric guitar crunchiness (“My Big Mouth”). Each of the album’s magnanimous tracks seethe with a seriously intense insincerity, which continues to be recalled as a distinguishing component within Oasis’ everlasting legacy. And don’t bother trying to deny the irrepressible smile that creeps across your face during the 9-minute opus “All Around the World” as you wickedly imagine Noel insisting the track was to be needlessly extended just to torment Liam during the recording process.
The newly remastered three-disc deluxe edition of Be Here Now makes it worthwhile to revisit this historically divisive album, as it includes the much sought after Mustique demos. Over the years, these mythic recordings have reached legendary status amongst throngs of Oasis fanatics. Also included are the era’s B-sides, and several rarities including a cover of the Beatles’ “Help! (Live in L.A.).” This set is beautifully housed within a case bound book with rare photos and extensive liner notes. A super deluxe limited edition will be released in November, which will include the album on double heavyweight vinyl, an exclusive 7-inch of early demo versions of “Stand by Me” and “Going Nowhere,” the Mustique Demo white label LP, a promo only CD of “D’You Know What I Mean? (NG’s 2016 Rethink),” a 52-page coffee table book, embossed key ring, and a set of four postcards.
Watch Noel Gallagher discuss the making of Be Here Now below:
Fleetwood Mac: Mirage
It’s hard to fathom 34 years have passed since the release of Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage. The stakes were high in 1982 as the highly efficacious lineup of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie was close to imploding. Relationships were strained after a tumultuous tour, in addition to the band’s double LP Tusk failing to live up to the mega-success of the now legendary Rumours. At the time of its release in 1979, Tusk was considered a commercial disappointment, although over the years it has been reevaluated as a misunderstood masterpiece. But back in the days of multi-platinum smashes and music industry excess, if a record sold 20 million copies, its follow-up was misguidedly expected to equal or surpass its predecessor. However, that feat proved impossible to duplicate as Rumours managed to dominate the Billboard chart for 31 weeks, spawned four hit singles, won Album of the Year at the 1978 Grammy Awards, and eventually sold an astronomical 45 million copies worldwide. In contrast, Tusk only sold moderately well in comparison (a respectable 4 million units), but failed to reach number one (peaking at number 4), and delivered only two top-ten hits. Therefore, to say expectations were high for the superstar team’s fourth effort would be somewhat of an understatement.
After a substantial hiatus, Fleetwood Mac reunited to record the bulk of Mirage at Château d’Hérouville in France, which resulted in an unambiguous divergence from the experimental Tusk. Mirage offered a more radio friendly balance of straight forward pop-rock compositions by Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks, tempered with Buckingham’s idiosyncratic, but infectious concoctions. Not only was Mirage the group’s first release since Nicks and Buckingham launched solo careers to differing degrees of success, but it also served to bridge the gap between the startling Tusk and the more accessible Tango in the Night. Mirage was the group’s conscious attempt to deliver a more focused set, which harkened back to the sounds more akin with the band’s fruitful albums during the mid-1970s. Mirage managed to return the band to Billboard’s top spot for the first time since Rumours, while concurrently serving as the band’s introduction to a new audience via heavy rotation on MTV with a pair of eye-catching music videos; the desert-themed “Hold Me” and the conceptualized storytelling of “Gypsy.” Russell Mulcahy directed the video for the latter, which at the time held the honor as the most expensive music video clip ever made, and was fittingly selected as MTV’s very first “World Premiere Video” in 1982.
While Buckingham continued to eschew the straightforward rock stylings of previous songs like “Go Your Own Way” in favor of continuing draw from his well of inspiration initiated during the Tusk sessions, Mirage currently remains as Fleetwood Mac’s last album to date which sounds like a full-fledged group effort. Although cracks have clearly started to develop within the group’s musical path, all of the band members sound fully present in the mix, as opposed to Tango in the Night, which sounded as if Stevie Nicks’ contributions were edited in as a last minute afterthought.
This newly released deluxe edition provides a much needed sonic upgrade, superbly delivering an enhanced crispness to the previous murkiness and lackluster sound quality heard in its original 1980s release. Mirage has been impeccably remastered, which casts a much needed new light upon the album’s material, especially Christine McVie’s exceptional ballad of longing “Wish You Were Here” and the energetic fizziness of “Love in Store,” as well as Stevie Nicks’ folk-country flavored “That’s Alright” and album-oriented rock gem “Straight Back.”
Other highlights include Nicks’ alternate version of “That’s Alright” and two previously unreleased tracks “If You Were My Love” and “Smile at You,” which recall hints of “Sara” and “Sisters of the Moon.” Also included are remastered versions of the previous B-side “Cool Water” and the outtake “Goodbye Angel,” in addition to the superior subtleties of the original album version of “Straight Back.” The deluxe set also features the original extended music video version of “Gypsy,” work- in- progress demo versions. The super deluxe box set includes a DVD of a newly created 5.1 surround mix, and a vinyl LP of the remastered album.
Mirage is available as a remastered single disc, a two-disc set of the original album plus outtakes and B-sides, and a super deluxe 3 CD/1DVD/Vinyl LP edition which also includes a full disc of live tracks culled from a concert recorded at The Forum in Los Angeles during the band’s excellent but brief 1982 Mirage Tour.
These days, a mysterious cloud of uncertainty hangs over Coldplay’s future as a band. Chris Martin has alleged on more than one occasion the band’s seventh album, A Head Full of Dreams marks “the completion of something.” He’s also proclaimed he doesn’t envision another proper Coldplay full-length in the future. While it doesn’t sound like the band members themselves know for sure what lies ahead for the best-selling rock band of this century, it seems all but guaranteed it’ll be some time before what, if anything comes next.
With all that aside, I had vowed to catch Coldplay’s next tour ever since I viewed the Coldplay Live 2012 concert film in my local theater four years ago. I literally got goosebumps as I watched the debut of the multi-colored LED Xylobands ignite the darkness among thousands of wrists during the documentary, which chronicled the massive Mylo Xyloto Tour of 2011 and 2012. From that moment on, I knew I had to do whatever it would take to be part of the unadulterated euphoria I witnessed throngs of fellow Coldplay fans sharing as I merely looked upon them from the rectangular silver screen.
When word finally arrived of Coldplay preparing to launch 2016’s A Head Full of Dreams Tour, my entire summer was instantly engrossed within a fever-pitched frenzy of anticipation at the thought of seeing Coldplay live again. Although I had caught the band’s impressive act previously during the Twisted Logic and Viva La Vida tours in 2006 and 2009, they had yet to incorporate the Xylobands, which subsequently made me feel as if I’d missed partaking in the full-on Coldplay concert experience. Therefore, I purchased my tickets posthaste.
Finally, after months of waiting, the day of the show arrived. I packed up my car early in the morning and drove to see my favorite band, coincidentally for the second time, in Louisville, Kentucky (I had previously seen Coldplay at Freedom Hall in Louisville during the Twisted Logic Tour back in 2006). During my drive, my mind constantly raced back and forth between the excitement and anticipation, but I also found myself wondering if I’d mentally created impossible expectations for the show. After all, I hadn’t been this zealous to see a concert in several years.
I ultimately made my way to downtown Louisville and was pleasantly surprised to see the concert venue within view from my hotel window. I explored some of the city as I impatiently counted down the hours until the show. I’d allotted enough time to arrive at the KFC Yum! Center just as the doors opened. I eagerly made my way to the merchandise counter and methodically selected my souvenirs. If this was to be my last chance to see Coldplay perform live, I damn well wanted something to commemorate the occasion.
Alas, it was show time. After not so tolerantly waiting through not one, but two, unremarkable opening acts, I felt my chest begin to pound as I nervously adjusted my precious Xyloband, still waiting for it to come alive. Just when I thought I couldn’t wait another minute, the concert hall precipitously filled with Maria Callas’ operatic voice as “O Mio Babbino Caro” echoed within the walls. Then, as the lights went out, the screens lit up with greetings from attendees of the previous show in Chicago, as they sent their regards and introduced “the greatest band in the world…Coldplay!” Suddenly, a collective roar erupted and music began to pour out from the amp stacks. Thousands of Xylobands concurrently ignited the darkness creating a sparkling sea of red and white pulses. Will Champion, Guy Berryman, and Jonny Buckland took their places on stage as an exuberant Chris Martin leapt onto a multi-colored runway encompassing half the venue’s floor section. The foursome opened with the effervescent title track from the band’s seventh album. It was a high-energy opening that climaxed with multiple canons firing a cornucopia of rainbow colored confetti upon the cheering crowd.
(Photo: Annette Allen © 2016 Popmartzoo)
The show progressed into an arena-sized sing-along, culminating into a musical love fest enhanced with balloons, lasers, pyrotechnics, and multiple confetti showers which accentuated, but never over shadowed the hypnotic music. Songs were featured from all of the band’s albums including “Trouble,” “Fix You,” “The Scientist” and “Magic.” Also a few surprises along the way such as a cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” and Johnny Cash’s hit “Ring of Fire.” During the band’s hit “Paradise,” the setting was transformed into a technicolored diamond field, evoking the group’s kaleidoscopic album artwork, which quite frankly took my breath away.
On my right, there sat a mother with her daughter who looked as if they’d never attended a concert before, as they waved and hooted every time Chris Martin looked in our direction, who couldn’t possibly have seen us through the flickering haze of blinding lights. But at least they were in the moment instead of watching it through the screens of their cell phones. To my left, were two twenty-something males who regaled all who’d listen with the tales of their journeys, which thus far entailed seeing Coldplay in Indianapolis, two consecutive rain-soaked nights in Chicago, with Louisville marking their fourth show of Coldplay’s AHFOD Tour within the span of a week. I couldn’t begin to fathom how they’d managed to budget the time and money necessary to follow their favorite band, not with the exorbitant cost of tickets nowadays. I calculated they’d easily dropped a grand on tickets alone by the time they’d trekked their way to Kentucky.
Meanwhile, Martin chatted up the audience as he talked of not being able to resist playing a venue called the “Yum-Yum Center” and mentioned having a somewhat sentimental attachment to Louisville, which led many to speculate about his previous relationship with actress Jennifer Lawrence (as Louisville is Lawrence’s birthplace).
The evening’s two-hour extravaganza continued with a non-stop, hit-packed set list, a plethora of glowing lights, and thousands of voices singing in unison, resulting in a jubilant, other worldly feeling of sensory overload. Before the show concluded, I’d already decided I wanted to, no, I needed to experience it all over again. Cosmic forces must’ve aligned to my will, as I somehow managed to score floor seats to the show in Pittsburgh the following week. I still don’t know why or how, but low and behold there were two (and only two) seats available in the second row of the floor section awaiting me at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center. But was I really willing to drive 10 hours for a concert I’d just seen? You bet your Coldplay-loving ass! The thought of re-living that show from a close-up perspective allowing me to become immersed in the action was all it took to motivate me to do whatever necessary to be a part of my unparalleled concert escapade once again.
I’ve seen a lot of shows over the years, but the most memorable ones have always been when the audience is whole heartedly engrossed and connected to the performance, knowing every word of each song, and ultimately resulting in one big communal experience with the artist, myself, and thousands of like-minded fans intersecting together for one moment of shared space and time. This was one such show, making all others pale by comparison.
As I write this somewhat cathartic purging, it’s been over three weeks since I crossed five states to attend Coldplay’s stop in Pittsburgh. Within that span, not a day has gone by without unflinching ruminations of those two mind-bending concerts. Whenever I close my eyes I still see the shimmering Xylobands, Chris Martin running and jumping into an exploding rainbow storm of confetti, as well as the surreal screen images and backdrops. I can almost hear the spellbinding musical interludes, and remember the iridescent gold hue during “Yellow.” I imagine the various colors of bouncing balloons throughout “Adventure of a Lifetime,” and the countless yards of flying streamers unleashed at the conclusion of “Up&Up.” Every day I revisit key moments I managed to capture in photos and video clips. Within my mind’s eye, I still dream about the thousands of LED lights twinkling along to “A Sky Full of Stars.”
Upon reflection, I now understand why those two dedicated and well-travelled fans next to me in Louisville had attended four shows. The second show I attended in Pittsburgh turned out to be a grueling 23-hour car drive, but I don’t regret a single minute of the seemingly endless journey. Instead, I find myself wondering what it would feel like to experience Coldplay’s music-filled spectral-colored wingding in a gigantic stadium. I can only imagine being amidst a crowd of 90 or 150,000 fellow Coldplay admirers swaying, singing, clapping and lighting up the sky with their flashing Xylobands. If possible, I’d attend each remaining date of what could very well become Coldplay’s final tour.
(Photo: Eric Allen © 2016 PopMartZoo)
Alternative rockers Garbage returned to Music City’s historic Ryman Auditorium last night for the first time since 2005. Ferocious Scotswoman Shirley Manson captivated multitudes of devoted ‘darklings’ during a nearly 2-hour set which mined a contrasting batch of shining jewels from all six of the band’s albums including 1995 hit “Only Happy When It Rains” and the current “Empty.” Although illness related no-fly orders meant Butch Vig was absent from the evening’s performance, drummer Eric Gardener slammed through the blistering set without missing a beat.
Once Manson and company took command of the stage with opener “Supervixen,” it was immediately obvious the band’s global tour promoting Strange Little Birds (Garbage’s latest and darkest album yet) is an unmistakable quest to prove it is possible to defy ageism and successfully make music on their own terms without interference from the politics of a major record label. The rock band’s latest offering is the second full-length released via its own independent Stunvolume record label. Despite its gloomy, misanthropic tone, the critically acclaimed Strange Little Birds easily managed to concurrently claim the number one spots atop Billboard’s Top Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts.
The all but sold-out crowd stood on its feet throughout the evening, never showing signs of fatigue as it cheered and sang along to everything the band’s well-armed arsenal hurled upon everyone in attendance. The audience included spirited twenty-somethings and silver-haired seniors alike, with every age in between disregarding any evidence of a musical generation gap. The steamy, humid night didn’t dampen spirits as the energetic troop danced, sang, and fist-pumped its way throughout the beloved group’s well received set.
As the evening’s performance came to a close with the energetic favorite “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)” the foot stomping masses made it clear they weren’t ready to go home. Luckily, Manson and her faithful bandmates Duke Erikson and Steve Marker happily indulged spellbound onlookers with a generous encore consisting of “Sometimes,” “Empty,” and “#1 Crush.” Hopefully fans won’t have to wait another 11 years until Garbage returns to Nashville.
I Think I’m Paranoid
Automatic Systematic Habit
Blood For Poppies
The Trick Is To Keep Breathing
My Lover’s Box
Sex Is Not The Enemy
A Stroke Of Luck
Even Though Our Love Is Doomed
Why Do You Love Me
Bleed Like Me
Only Happy When It Rains
Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)
Whenever you think of Phil Collins today, it’s all too easy to write him off or simply box him into the overhyped persona that saturated MTV and Top 40 radio during the 1980s and beyond. In fact, it takes quite a bit of effort to recall his early days as a member of Genesis, when he was an avant-garde, prog-rocker and lauded musician. Collins’ avoidance of the spotlight came as an unexpected surprise when he reluctantly stepped up to the mic as Peter Gabriel’s stand-in. In addition to adapting to his new role as front man, Collins began a successful solo career and concurrently earned a reputation as a proficient record producer, crafting international hits as he helmed the board for Eric Clapton, Howard Jones, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
With an illustrious recording career that spans four decades and contains timeless classics including “You’ll Be in My Heart,” “Another Day in Paradise,” “One More Night” and “In the Air Tonight,” now is the perfect time to revisit and rediscover the true genius of Phil Collins. Rhino has recently completed an extensive reissue campaign, which includes Collins’ solo studio albums in deluxe 2-disc remastered editions. The 16-disc box set Take a Look at Me Now contains Collins’ eight original albums, all of which have been impeccably remastered by Grammy-nominated sound engineer and producer Nick Davis. Each title (also available individually) includes newly updated cover art and a bonus disc of demos, B-sides, and live recordings. The original remastered albums have also been released on 180-gram vinyl for the very first time.
Collins personally curated the supplemental material contained in this collection himself, with an emphasis on live recordings he feels shows the evolution of many of his favorite compositions. He has also hinted at the possibility of releasing new material in the future, as well as recently performing his first concert in five years. At last, Collins’ solo catalog, with sales of over 100 million records worldwide, has received the much needed sonic upgrade it so richly deserves.
Prolific superstar and artist extraordinaire Prince was found unconscious in his home on Thursday, April 21, 2016. I’ve now unwillingly committed those words to print, but although it’s been days since I first heard the news, I’m still not wanting to believe it’s true. I keep thinking it can’t be real. How can a seemingly indestructible tour de force leave this mortal world in such a shocking and untimely manner?
Each time we lose an artist, it creates a feeling of loss within us, often triggering a period of mourning. Although we didn’t personally know them, that doesn’t make losing them hurt less. In fact, Prince’s passing allows us to remember how his music became a decades-long part of our lives and in that facet we feel as if we actually did come to know him to some extent in our own personal and private way. Besides, Prince was more than an artist. He was a musical genius, consummate vocalist, gifted songwriter, mega-producer, multi-instrumentalist, actor, mentor, and an electrifying live performer. First appearing on the music scene in the late 1970s with his unique hybrid of funky new wave soul in the late 1970s, he ingeniously communicated the story of his life through his music. That story cunningly contained elements which hinted at his past, present and future.
Prince flirted with controversy, taught us how to party like every day was 1999, gave us a guided tour through Erotic City, made love sexy, schooled us in the art of pussy control, exposed Sheena Easton’s sugar walls, and was the definitive master of double entendre and innuendo. He proved to us that becoming a slave to the machine was unacceptable. He also shared his talent with multiple protégés, often producing hits such as “Nasty Girl” by Vanity 6, “Sex Shooter” by Apollonia 6, and “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre” by Sheila E. He even gave away what was to become one of his biggest hits, “Nothing Compares 2 U” to his side project The Family, featuring his then girlfriend Susannah Melvoin (twin sister of The Revolution band member Wendy Melvoin). And as if all those things weren’t enough, only after his death do we learn he was secretly a giving and selfless philanthropist.
I confess I had somewhat of an atypical journey towards becoming as a Prince fan. The Purple One initially piqued my interest in 1979 with his appearance on American Bandstand. I had already become spellbound by “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” but after watching his intense performance and brief, but coy interview with Dick Clark, I was hooked.
I practically wore the grooves off his eponymously titled second album, but shortly after, I unwittingly put him on the shelf until I heard “1999” blasting from the airwaves a few years later. I’ll also admit I was turned off by the endless hyperbole surrounding the Purple Rain era as well. Sometimes it becomes all too easy to take genius for granted.
In full disclosure, I all but ignored Around the World in a Day and Parade upon their initial releases too. I didn’t consciously pick up the Prince torch again until I heard the Lovesexy and Batman albums. After that, I hurriedly made up for lost time as I fully immersed myself within all things Prince.
It would be an exercise in extreme futility to attempt compiling a worthy list of his musical masterpieces, but songs like “Free,” “The Beautiful Ones,” “The Ladder,” “Sometimes It Snows in April” and “The Holy River” now take on new and deeper meanings.
After being unexpectedly summoned by God to make his final ascent up the ladder to the afterworld, Prince Rogers Nelson was cremated, and a private memorial was held on Saturday, April 23rd. He left our beleaguered souls behind to celebrate him and soothe ourselves with his vast, genre-defying musical legacy. I know I’m not alone in my sorrow, as evidenced by the current iTunes and Billboard charts. In the four days since his death, nearly four million Prince songs and albums have been sold, one million of which were downloaded solely on the day of his reported death.
While we’re lucky he left us with such a highly creative body of work, it’s all too painful to admit the purple reign of His Royal Badness has ended so brusquely. Although we’re never certain when death will call upon any of us, we can’t help but wonder how it will feel and what awaits for us in the afterlife. However, when I try to imagine what heaven is like, I take great comfort in knowing Prince is watching over us from somewhere up there.
“Sometimes I wish life was never-ending, but all good things, they say, never last.”
Whenever springtime rolls around, it annually evokes fond memories of youthful days eagerly counting down to the end of the school year. The anticipation of long, lazy summer days, extended car rides, and family vacations was always palpable. That was the era of AM radio hits which often turned into road trip sing-alongs which served as a much needed reprieve from being cooped up for hours on end in the car. I’m referring to a time when portable electronics were almost non-existent and the only access to music was the standard AM radio that came factory installed in the family owned American automobile. Back then, most everyone subsisted on the familiar sounds of the most popular Top 40 radio hits of the day.
It also reminds me how I’d get excited about going to the grocery store when I was a kid. Yes, the grocery store, because back in those days they used to put records on the backs of cereal boxes. Nothing made me happier than picking out a brand of cereal I’d pretend to like just so I could get a new record by The Archies, The Monkees, or The Jackson 5.
This was the very beginning of my record buying addiction that has lasted since my adolescence and continued throughout my adult life. I can still recall being mesmerized as I’d watch the record player needle play over the faces of Betty, Veronica, Archie, Reggie, Jughead, and Hot Dog as I memorized every word of “Sugar Sugar” and “Jingle Jangle.”
As I gradually grew out of my cereal box record days, my next phase began with collecting actual records in the form of 45 rpm singles, or 45s. I felt like a real grownup as I’d covertly save my lunch money from school and blow my secret stash on records to play on my first real record player, which was Kenner’s Close ‘n Play phonograph. You know, the kind where you’d place the record on the turntable, close the top and it would automatically find the record groove for you. It also had a handle so I could carry it with me everywhere I went. I loved that thing and it became my constant companion until I’d completely worn the needle down to a non-existent nub. Of course, my parents were completely oblivious to my ingenious idea I’d concocted to supplement my allowance.
My next toy acquired to desperately further my pre-pubescent musical experience was the GAF View-Master. This was my very first experience into the world of 3D. The device was nothing fancy in and of itself, but the three dimensional round discs allowed me to “view” some of my favorite shows at will. This gave me the opportunity to watch stills of The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch. This was yet another attempt to immerse myself into the world of some of my favorite musical artists. Yes, The Brady Bunch kids dabbled in music with record albums and musical variety television specials.
Everyone remembers “I Think I Love You” by The Partridge Family, but don’t forget The Brady Bunch delivered pop nuggets such as “It’s a Sunshine Day,” “Keep On” and “Time to Change.” Keep in mind, I was very young and desperate to cleave onto any morsel of musical entertainment I could wrap my ears around. Today’s generation has no idea how limited musical outlets were back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There were no such things as the Internet, downloading, streaming, pay-per-view, or on demand. So my GAF View-Master was one of very few options I had to see “live” performance shots of The Partridge Family at will, or to visit the Grand Canyon with The Brady Bunch.
Next was my full-fledged foray into multimedia. One year for Christmas I’d asked Santa Claus to bring me Kenner’s Give-A-Show Projector and to my delight he happily obliged. I’d lie in my bed every night and project some of my favorite cartoon character’s images upon my bedroom wall and ceiling. I’d stay up well past my bedtime (unbeknownst to my parents) and produce my own private slide shows and concerts starring The Archies, Josie and the Pussycats, H.R. Pufnstuf and Scooby Doo. Most people don’t remember, but Scooby Doo often featured songs that would play in the background as the Scooby gang hysterically chased ghosts and ghouls.
I’d also excitedly arise early every Saturday morning to sit by the television with my inexpensive but reliable Realistic tape recorder from Radio Shack as my companion. I still remember crossing my fingers and hoping no one would noisily come crashing through the room while I was recording, as the small, but sensitive built-in microphone would pick up anything within its vicinity. I’d record all the songs from each week’s episode of my favorite cartoon/musical shows including The Kroft Supershow.
The Kroft Supershow was a children’s variety show created by Sid and Marty Kroft (Lidsville and H.R. Pufnstuf) with programs like Dr. Shrinker, Wonderbug, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. In between the shows, songs were performed by the pseudo-rock band Kaptain Kool and the Kongs, which funnily featured a very young Michael Lembeck who went on to a successful television career directing episodes of several hit shows including Mad About You, Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond.
Back then, AM radio ruled the airwaves with infectious bubblegum earworms and Casey Kasem’s weekly American Top 40 countdown. Prime time television also provided a moderate source of musical entertainment in those days with series such as The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Midnight Special, Donny & Marie, and The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Show. On Saturdays, I’d tune into American Bandstand, Solid Gold, the Grand Ole Opry Live, and Dolly, which starred Dolly Parton whom I became enamored with during my early boyhood days while watching The Porter Wagoner Show with my dad. He was initially upset Dolly Parton had replaced Norma Jean, but I was immediately won over and became a lifelong follower of Dolly’s illustrious career. This fact is something I still bring to my father’s attention and remind him of every chance I get.
The succeeding key source of music for me during this time was my trusty Panasonic Panapet transistor radio. Remember, there were two types: the one which formed a circle that would twist apart while the other style was a round ball with a chain and two silver tuning knobs that looked like eyes. I had the latter in bright, sunburst yellow. I’d wanted the green or blue one, but you never knew which color was inside until you opened the box. It was completely by chance whether you’d procure white, red, yellow, blue, or green. I eventually grew accustomed to the robust yellow and took it with me everywhere I went; in the car, riding my bicycle, walking to 7 Eleven, trips to the beach, or just playing in the yard. Nowadays, it’s hard for me to imagine something that required a 9-volt battery and only had the capability of playing music through a small monaural speaker could bring me so much joy, but boy did I love it. I lived and breathed that silly little thing as if my life depended upon it.
As I grew older, I eventually began collecting vinyl records. During my early teenage years, I readily eschewed all things I thought of as “kid stuff” and began collecting my favorite radio hits on 7-inch 45 rpm. To this day I still associate many of my favorite artists with their associated record company labels. Hearing Elvis Presley or Dolly Parton vividly recalls spending hours watching Nipper spin ‘round and ‘round, as well as the multi-colored butterfly perched upon the big E on the labels of my Carly Simon and Queen records. Just as I perpetually see the rainbow label spinning in my mind’s eye whenever I listen to Elton John, or the spectral colors and palm trees of Casablanca while listening to KISS or Donna Summer.
Slowly I began to shift from 45s to LPs and the timing couldn’t have been better as my commencement of responsibility and commitment arrived in the guise of the Columbia House record club. Remember the ad in the newspaper or TV Guide boasting of getting 12 record albums for a penny? Many people consider them to have been the bane of their existence and the epitome of money scams, but if you were savvy enough, you could beat them at their own game. Anyway, they served their purpose and suited my needs just fine. This was long before I could drive, so being able to shop from home and have records delivered to my door was a real life saver. I can still remember the thrill of receiving a box full of LPs in the mail. Not only did I get a big, fat, pile of albums, but I didn’t even have to leave my house. I can’t count how many times I joined and re-joined that club, making sure to carefully fulfill my minimum commitment so I could cancel my membership, only to re-join and receive another stack of wax. This cycle continued for years, slowly building into an impressive music library, most of which I still have to this day.
It would be impossible to reflect upon my adolescent musical memories without mentioning one of my all-time favorite artists, Captain & Tennille. That’s right, the so-called square version of Sonny & Cher, who made an irresistible and indelible impression upon me during my formative years. Springtime always makes me reminisce fondly about the keyboard and production wizardry of Daryl Dragon alongside the sweet, multi-layered vocals and poetic lyrics of Toni Tennille, as I always seemed to purchase and/or anticipate the release of a new Captain & Tennille album at this time of year. Their California style of pop always made me feel like I was driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, windows rolled down and cool sea breeze blowing through my hair, although it would be several years later before I’d actually do this as my adult self.
The first time I heard “Love Will Keep Us Together” on the radio was one of those unforgettable moments that caused me to promptly investigate who was capable of making such a marvelous sound. Toni and Daryl had proficiently captured pure pop perfection within a three minute aural fantasy. I spent many youthful hours counting down to their weekly variety show, T.V. specials, and rare appearances on American Bandstand and The Midnight Special. I still recall sitting enthralled with my eyes glued to the television screen as Toni and Daryl whisked me away to Hawaii and New Orleans, as well as introducing my young ears to great artists like B.B. King and Ella Fitzgerald.
Captain & Tennille usually released albums near the end of the school year, just as the weather was warming and bringing forth signs of new life by Mother Nature’s design, which made the ideal backdrop for C&T’s uniquely unforgettable sound. The Grammy-winning duo are best known for their biggest hits such as “Muskrat Love,” “The Way I Want to Touch You” and “Do That To Me One More Time,” but it’s their lesser known songs like “Ladybug,” “Love Is Spreading Over the World,” “Back to the Island” and “Come In From the Rain” that still harken to me every spring and summer. To this day, they’re like comfort food to my soul or catching up with old friends.
The Captain & Tennille Fan Club was the first fan club I ever joined. I can still remember the exhilaration I felt upon arriving home from school to find my C&T fan club membership kit waiting for me. As I ripped the package open, I was elated to find my official membership card, autographed photo, button, and biography. As a member, I’d also receive additional newsletters throughout the year. These were always exciting because the spring editions were always crammed full of photos and facts about forthcoming singles and new album releases. Long before social media and websites existed, fan club newsletters were just about the only way to stay updated on favorite artists. I have to admit, I miss the days of receiving physical items and souvenirs as opposed to the hollow void of today’s Facebook posts and Internet websites.
As I began germinating ideas and jotting down notes to write this piece, Toni Tennille concurrently released her newly written memoir. I was shocked upon reading it to discover she spent the best years of her life unfulfilled while trapped in an unhappy marriage to Daryl Dragon. I always thought of Toni and Daryl as the quintessential happy couple. How tragic it was to learn she was miserable all those years while ironically making millions of fans so happy with her heartfelt compositions and classically trained talent.
It also made me ponder the fact of how so many of my favorite artists may never know how their musical talents and bodies of work leave an everlasting impact upon fans they will never meet. I hope they somehow know their music is still being enjoyed today just as much as it was at the height of their popularity.
Grammy-winning country vocalist Trisha Yearwood will star as Mary, the mother of Jesus, in The Passion: New Orleans, a new modern-day adaptation depicting the life story of Jesus of Nazareth. The 2-hour live musical event airs on Palm Sunday, March 20 on the Fox network at 8 p.m. Eastern and 7 p.m. Central. The one-time only special will be hosted and narrated by Tyler Perry and also stars Seal as Pontius Pilate, Chris Daughtry as Judas, Jencarlos Canela as Jesus Christ and features Yolanda Adams, Prince Royce and Michael W. Smith.
The show’s companion soundtrack recording features five tracks by Yearwood, including contemporary versions of Whitney Houston’s “My Love is Your Love,” Jewel’s “Hands,” Lifehouse’s “Broken,” Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Yearwood is currently in the midst of a massive world tour with her country superstar husband Garth Brooks. Additionally, Yearwood has published three best-selling cookbooks and hosts her own television series, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, which premiered on the Food Network in 2012 and is currently airing its seventh season.
Listen to “Broken” below:
Charles Kelley: The Driver
Lady Antebellum star Charles Kelley strikes out on his own with his first solo record, The Driver. At first, you may be wondering why the member of a mega-successful country trio would willingly leave his band mates in the dust to kick up his boot heels, but you won’t have to listen very long to resolve that burning question.
Kelley’s impressive solo debut features duets with Stevie Nicks, Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert, and contains captivating material from songwriting heavyweights Tom Petty (“Southern Accents”) and Chris Stapleton (“Lonely Girl”). Despite all of that, Kelley remains firmly planted in the driver’s seat on the album as his resounding vocal delivery effortlessly claims center stage.
The album’s shining moments include the haunting hit title track co-written with Eric Paslay and the gorgeous mid-tempo ballad “Round in Circles,” which Kelley co-penned with his singer-songwriter brother Josh Kelley. But it’s the surprising realism of the heart wrenching album closer “Leaving Nashville” that will not only give you chills, but will convince you why it was necessary for Kelley to deliver this first-class and important solo bow. The Driver serves as a much-needed reminder that there are still a few artists who firmly grasp the concept of how to make an album with a vital beginning, middle and end.
Coldplay received NME’s Godlike Genius Award last night and treated the audience to a six-song set which included the hits “Viva La Vida,” “Charlie Brown,” “Clocks,” “Yellow,” Adventure of a Lifetime” and “Fix You.”
NME’s most coveted accolade was presented to the award show headliners by Kylie Minogue Wednesday night at London’s O2 Brixton Academy. Coldplay delighted attendees of annual award ceremony with a mini-concert performance which included LED wristbands, a great deal of confetti, and an unexpected table-top performance by Bring Me the Horizon’s Oli Sykes.
Fresh off of performing a triumphant Super Bowl halftime show, the chart-topping band will kick off its 2016 global A Head Full of Dreams Tour in March. The 2016 global trek will mark Coldplay’s first stadium tour of North America since 2012.