Friday, August 27, 2021

"Ticket to the Moon" by ELO

Given what I have been though this month, not to mention a certain anniversary coming up this Monday, I feel a bit melancholy today. For that reason, I thought rather than a full post I would leave you with a melancholy song. The song is "Ticket to the Moon," from the Electric Light Orchestra's 1981 album Time.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Late Great Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts, the sharp-dressed drummer of The Rolling Stones, died on August 24 2021 at the age of 80.

Charlie Watts was born on June 2 1941 in Bloomsbury, London. He spent his early years in Wembley. As a boy, Charlie Watts developed an interest in jazz. Among the first records he owned as a boy were ones by Jelly Roll Morton, Charlie Parker, Johnny Dodd, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk. His family eventually moved to Kingsbury. It was when he was thirteen that he became interested in drumming. He received his first drum kit in 1955 from his parents He practised by playing along to the various jazz records he owned. He later enrolled in Harrow Art School. He worked for a time as a graphic designer for the advertising firm Charlie Daniels, and played drums in a Middlesex band called Jo Jones All Stars.

It was in 1961 that Alex Korner invited Charlie Watts to join Blues Incorporated. He played with Blues Incorporated while continuing to work in advertising for the firm of Charles, Hobson, and Gray. It was in 1962 that Mr. Watts met Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, and Keith Richards, who had recently formed a band then called "The Rollin' Stones." It was in January 1963 that he first played with The Stones and in February 1963 that he became The Rolling Stones' permanent drummer. In addition to being The Rolling Stones' drummer, as a graphic artist Charlie Watts would also add artwork to the band's early album sleeves. Ultimately, Charlie Watts drummed on all forty of The Rolling Stones' albums.

Charlie Watts also worked outside of The Rolling Stones. It was in the late Seventies that he formed the boogie woogie band Rocket 88 with Ian Stewart, Alex Korner, and Dick Morrissey. In the Eighties he formed his own big band, The Charlie Watts Orchestra. In 1991 he formed The Charlie Watts Quintet. In 2009 he began performing with the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie. He also owned an Arabian stud farm in Devon. While he never received a driver's licence, he also collected cars.

Both on stage and off stage, Charlie Watts offered a sharp contrast to his band mates in The Rolling Stones. Impeccably dressed in his Saville Row suits and quiet, he avoided much of the drug abuse and infighting that sometimes occurred in the band. He was married to his wife Shirley for 57 years and never strayed from her. On stage he avoided the flamboyance of his band mates as well, his the power of his drum beats, his keeping time, and his sheer speed as impeccable as his suits. Although sometimes he was not counted among the greatest drummers of all time, he truly was one of them. He was easily the match of Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and John Bonham. By his own admission he did not like drum solos, but in truth Charlie Watts never needed them. His talent was obvious on such songs as "Paint It, Black," "Gimme Shelter," "Brown Sugar,' and many, many others. What is more, Charlie Watts wasn't just a great drummer, he was a very versatile one. He was as at home playing The Rolling Stones' songs as he was jazz standards. He was so important to The Rolling Stones that Keith Richards called him, "the Key." What made Charlie Watts even more charming was that he refused to take being part of one of the most legendary rock bands seriously. He did not particularly care to talk about his place in the history of rock music, and he was often self-effacing when he did. In the end, it can be said that Charlie Watts was a class act all the way.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Late Great Don Everly

Legendary musician and singer Don Everly of The Everly Brothers died on August 21 2021 at the age of 84.

Don Everly was born on February 1 1937 in  Brownie, Kentucky. His brother Phil Everly would be born nearly two years later in Chicago. Their parents, Ike and Margaret Everly, were country musicians who moved to Kentucky to Chicago in order to pursue opportunities in the music industry there. It was not long after Phil's birth that they moved to Iowa. Ike would have his own radio show on radio stations  KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah, Iowa, on which both his wife and sons also sang. Don and Phil Everly made their singing debut on Ike Everly's show in 1945. When Don and Phil Everly were teenagers, they left for Nashville to pursue their own careers in music. The two of them were hired as songwriters for Roy Acuff's publishing company. The first hit Don Everly ever wrote would then be "Thou Shalt Not Steal", sung by Kitty Wells. "Thou Shalt Not Steal" went to number 14 on the Billboard country music chart in 1954.

In 1956 The Everly Brothers recorded their first single, the country song "Keep A-Lovin' Me" on the Columbia label. It was in 1957 that they signed with the Cadence label. Their second single, "Bye Bye Love," released in March 1957, turned out to be their first hit. It went to went to #2 on the Billboard singles chart and #1 on the Billboard country music chart. Their third single would prove to be an even bigger hit. Released in September 1957, "Wake Up Little Susie" went to no. 1 on the Billboard singles chart and no. 1 on the Billboard country chart.

In the following years The Everly Brothers would have several hits. "All I Have to Do Is Dream" and "Cathy's Clown" both went to no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Bird Dog", "Devoted to You", "Problems", "(Till) I Kissed You", "Let It Be Me", "When Will I Be Loved", "So Sad", "Walk Right Back", "Ebony Eyes" "Crying in the Rain", and "That's Old Fashioned" all hit the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100. The Everly Brothers may have been ever bigger in the United Kingdom, where they had no less than six no. 1 singles.

In 1960 The Everly Brothers left Cadence for the Warner Brothers label. In November 1961 The Everly Brothers both enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. They would be largely out of the public eye for six months. Their appearance on February 18 1962 edition of The Ed Sullivan Show was one of their few appearances during this era. Perhaps as a result, their career would stall in the United States in 1962. Their last top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 would be "That Old Fashioned" early that year. The would have only two more top forty hits in the United States (in 1964 Gone, Gone, Gone", which went to no. 31, while in 1967 "Bowling Green" went to no. 40). Despite their career having stalled in the United States, The Everly Brothers continued to have several more hits in the United Kingdom.

Despite no longer doing well on the charts, The Everly Brothers continued to be a creative force in music. They recorded the album Two Yanks in England with The Hollies, and combined The Everly Brothers' earlier style with The Hollies' jangly guitars. The album would be considered crucial in the evolution of power pop. Their 1968 album, Roots, would prove pivotal in the development of country rock.

Warner Brothers Records ultimately allowed The Everly Brothers' contract to expire after several years without any hit records in the United States. They signed with RCA Victor in 1971. That same year they also had their own summer television replacement show, The Everly Brothers Show, on ABC. Unfortunately their two albums on RCA Victor would not prove successful. To make matters worse, tensions between Don and Phil Everly had been growing for years. It was at a concert on July 14 1973 that it became obvious that The Everly Brothers would not be recording together any time soon. The two argued between each other on stage until Don finally left with the words, "I'm through being an Everly Brother!" Phil finished the concert by himself.

Even before the break up, Don Everly had recorded a self-titled solo album in 1970. It would be followed by Sunset Towers in 1974 and Brother Juke-Box in 1976. He recorded "Everytime You Leave" with Emmylou Harris for her 1979 album Blue Kentucky Girl.

Don and Phil Everly reunited ten years after their break up at the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 23 1983. The concert was recorded for a live album and for cable television broadcasts. The Everly Brothers recorded three more albums together: EB 84 in 1984,   Born Yesterday in 1986, and Some Hearts in 1988. The Everly Brothers recorded no more studio albums, although they continued to tour together.

The Everly Brothers would record with other artists. They appeared on Johnny Cash's single "Ballad of a Teenage Queen." They performed the song "Cold" for for  a concept album based on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman's musical Whistle Down the Wind. In 2003 and 2004 The Everly Brothers toured with Simon & Garfunkel during the latter duo's Old Friends reunion tour. In 2014 Don Everly performed "Bye Bye Love" at the Annual Music Masters as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  on October 24 2014. In 2018 he made his final appearance, performing with Paul Simon in Nashville on Paul Simon's farewell tour.

The Everly Brothers are legends for a very good reason. Quite simply, they were extremely influential in the development of rock music. Their vocal harmonies could be a major influence on The Beatles, who utilized Everly-style harmonies on their early songs. They would also have an impact on other British Invasion bands, including The Hollies, Freddie and the Dreamers, Peter and Gordon, Herman's Hemits, and yet others. In the United States they would influence such music acts as The Beach Boys, They Byrds, and Simon & Garfunkel.

>Indeed, The Everly Brothers would have an impact on entire subgenres of rock music. Arguably, the genre of power pop would not exist without them, as it is the blend of close harmonies and guitars that define the genre. Folk rock also owes a debt to The Everly Brothers, with two of the biggest folk acts (The Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel) showing the influence of The Everly Brothers. Even their album Roots would have an impact on country rock.

Along with his brother Phil, Don Everly changed rock music forever. The Everly Brothers influenced major artists to come and even led to the development of entirely new subgenres of rock music. It is quite possible that without The Everly Brothers we would not have The Beatles, The Hollies, Simon & Garfunkel, or The Byrds, at least not as we known them. Indeed, to this day The Everly Brothers still hold record for the most hit singles of any duo to reach the Billboard Hot 100. Few music acts have ever been as influential as The Everly Brothers.