How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? (The Beatles in ’67)

On May 11, 1967, The Beatles recorded “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” in 12 takes at Olympic Sound Studios in London. It was the group’s first song that was not recorded and mixed at Abbey Road. The song was added as the B-Side to “All You Need Is Love” and released in July that summer. The single became a #1 hit worldwide and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” even charted to #34 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

“Baby, You’re a Rich Man” is a combination of two separate Lennon and McCartney song snippets: Lennon’s working-title song “One of the Beautiful People” and a chorus McCartney was working on, “Baby, you’re a rich man.” The duo had done a mash-up of their melodies previously on “A Day in the Life” (from the Sgt. Pepper LP).

It’s believed Mick Jagger was present in the studio during the Beatles recording and may have sang on the final mix’s chorus.

The song was intended for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, but Capitol Records added it to its version of the Magical Mystery Tour album for release in the US.

In the UK, Magical Mystery Tour was a four-sided EP (extended play) recording with “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Your Mother Should Know,” “I Am the Walrus,” “The Fool on the Hill,” “Flying” and “Blue Jay Way.”

Capitol in the US packaged the additional Beatles singles that had not appeared on any albums, including the “Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane” pairing (which were actually recorded at the start of the Sgt. Pepper sessions).

“Baby, You’re a Rich Man” gained a new audience with its inclusion in the closing credits of David Fincher’s 2010 film, The Social Network.

Posted in '60s Music, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Now would I say something that wasn’t true? (Eurythmics hit again in 1985)

On April 27, 1985, “Would I Lie to You” by Eurythmics debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at #62. It would spend a total of 19 weeks on the US singles chart, peaking at #5 on July 13. The song reached #2 in Canada, #17 in the UK and was the band’s first (and only) #1 single in Australia.

Eurythmics was the band led by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart. Stewart met Lennox in London in the mid-70s while she was attending the Royal Academy of Music. Lore has it that Stewart’s first words to the Scottish lass were, “Will you marry me?” Lennox and Stewart formed a trio called The Catch with guitarist Peet Coombes. After releasing a single, they recruited bassist Eddie Chin and drummer Jim Toomey and in 1977 became The Tourists.

The Tourists combined folk and New Wave sensibilities with hints of ’60s pop. The band opened for Roxy Music on the UK dates for the Manifesto Tour. When The Tourists split up in 1980, so did Lennox and Stewart’s romantic relationship. But they decided to continue working and recording together.

In 1981, the pair formed Eurythmics. The band’s name is based on the musical teaching theory of Swiss educator and composer Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. Jaques-Dalcroze taught eurythmics as a communication between one’s inner and outer forces, connecting the mind with harmonious bodily movements (rhythms) to awaken musicality and develop musicianship in students. The name is derived from the Greek word eurythmy, meaning “rhythmical order of movement.”

“Would I Lie to You” was the first of three singles released from Be Yourself Tonight — which is either the duo’s fourth or fifth album, depending on whether you count the 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) soundtrack as an official Eurythmics recording. Be Yourself Tonight added a soulful R&B to the synth-pop sounds of previous Eurythmics records.

I love this song. Great horns, a great guitar break, great vocals and an overall great arrangement. The official music video opens with “acting” — I guess to set up a reason for Annie’s angry lyrics and to provide conflict-resolution in the storyline. I’m certain the record label had several meetings over this one, including the dialogue which got bleeped in this clip (the music kicks in at the one minute mark).

Posted in '80s music, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Chemical Brothers’ sophomore effort (1997)

On April 26, 1997, the highest ranked “new entry” on The Billboard 200 album chart belonged to The Chemical Brothers. Their LP, Dig Your Own Hole, debuted at #14, but would go no higher on the US charts (it would get to #4 in Canada).

The Chemical Brothers were DJs Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons from Manchester, England. They began working clubs in the late ’80s, weaving samples of jazz and funk with hip hop and big beats.

Rowlands and Simons originally called themselves the Dust Brothers in homage to the American producers who helped to sculpt the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique. After lawyers contacted them, the duo changed their name.

Dig Your Own Hole was The Chemical Brothers second album (Exit Planet Dust was released in 1995 — the title referencing their abandoned moniker).

The first single, “Setting Sun,” features Noel Gallagher from Oasis (a fan of The Chemical Brothers) on vocals. The single went to #1 in the UK, but only got to #80 in the US. Their second single, “Block Rockin’ Beats” also topped the UK singles charts, but did not make the Hot 100 in the US (peaking at #107).

But radio was not the medium for The Chemical Brothers, nor were music videos (although their visual concepts were always interesting and highly stylized) — the true power of their beats was in the clubs, keeping people on the dance floor.

Posted in '90s Music, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T) — a fusion first, an American classic

On April 12, 1969, after 11 weeks on the Billboard Top LP’s chart, Blood Sweat & Tears had the #1 album in the US. Their album knocked Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman to the #2 position. The band would hold on to the top spot for one additional week, spend subsequent weeks in the Top 5 (mostly at #2 or #3) and return to the #1 position in July.

Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T) was one of the first popular fusion bands in the US, incorporating a foundation of  R&B and jazz with rock, a bit of folk music and healthy portions of classical influences. Their sound could shift from a psychedelic riff one moment to a sizzling brass groove the next, and their arrangements were smart and sophisticated — even when they were going over-the-top with a simple pop tune like “Spinning Wheel.”

The self-titled recording, Blood, Sweat & Tears, was the group’s second release. Their debut, Child Is Father to the Man, peaked at #47 in the spring of 1968. Shortly after its release, lead vocalist, songwriter and keyboardist Al Kooper left the band, as did trumpet players Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss.

Drummer Bobby Colomby and guitarist Steve Katz brought in Lew Soloff, Chuck Winfield and Jerry Hyman to fill out the horn section with Fred Lipsius and Dick Halligan, but still needed a lead singer. They were looking for someone to match the power of the band’s brass.

BS&T rehearsed with Laura Nyro and considered approaching Stephen Stills to join the group. Then Colomby and Katz were told about a Canadian singer performing at a rock club in NYC. The two checked out the band, the David Clayton-Thomas Combine, and were impressed by its leader. Clayton-Thomas was invited to audition and was soon part of the band.

In August of ’68, the now nine-member Blood, Sweat & Tears began rehearsing and performing in Greenwich Village. The band worked on new material (e.g., Katz’s “Sometimes in Winter” or the band’s progressive rock and R&B changes titled “Blues – Part II”) while crafting arrangements of others’ songs: “Smiling Phases” by Traffic, “And When I Die” by Laura Nyro, “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” by Brenda Holloway, “More and More” by Little Milton, and French composer Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie #1 .

Blood, Sweat & Tears generated three hit singles. “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” and “And When I Die” both went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single, “Spinning Wheel” (written by Clayton-Thomas), went to #1.

At the next year’s Grammy Awards, Blood, Sweat & Tears bested the Beatles’ Abbey Road for Album of the Year. The band also received the Pop/Rock/Contemporary-Other award for its “Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie.”

“Spinning Wheel” (album version)


“And When I Die”


“Sometimes in Winter”



Posted in '60s Music, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Carole King’s 300-Plus-Week-Album-Charting Record

On April 10, 1971, Carole King’s Tapestry was a new entry at #79 on the Billboard Top LP’s chart. In 11 weeks, it would go to #1 and remain at the top of the album charts for the next 15 weeks. (Tapestry was finally knocked back to #2 on Oct. 2 by Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story.) For decades, the LP consistently charted as one of the 200 best-selling albums in America, every week, for more than 300 weeks, from 1971 to 2011.

Although Tapestry was Carole King’s second solo album (Writer, her debut LP, had been released in 1970), King had a long history of fame as a songwriter with her husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin.

Goffin-King were part of the Brill Building music collective of writers and publishers. The duo wrote numerous hit songs in the ’60s (“Hi-De-Ho,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chains,” “The Loco-Motion,” “Go Away Little Girl” and “Up on the Roof” to name but a few). Even after their divorce in 1968, King and Goffin continued to write together.

Tapestry generated two singles, with solid B-Sides to complement the A-Side:”It’s Too Late”/”I Feel the Earth Move,” which went to the top of the singles chart for five straight weeks, and “So Far Away”/”Smackwater Jack,” which hit #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. “You’ve Got a Friend” was identified as a potential single, but James Taylor recorded and released his version of King’s song first. Taylor had played acoustic guitar on the Tapestry version of the song.

Carole King received four Grammy awards for her work, including Album of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. “It’s Too Late” was given Record of the Year and “You’ve Got a Friend” was Song of the Year.

Posted in '70s Music, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Cause if my eyes don’t deceive me there’s something going wrong around here (Joe Jackson debuts in 1979)

On April 7, 1979, Joe Jackson’s debut album, Look Sharp, entered the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart at #182. The album had been released in Britain in January and initially generated little fanfare, although the Joe Jackson Band garnered good reviews wherever they toured in the UK.

David Ian Jackson was born Aug. 11, 1954, in Staffordshire, England. He received the nickname “Joe” in the early ’70s from band mates in Edward Bear (yes, the band’s name came from the Winnie-the-Pooh reference) because they thought Jackson resembled Joe 90, the character from a popular TV puppet show (

Joe 90, who gave Joe Jackson his nickname

Joe 90, who gave Joe Jackson his nickname

As a child with asthma, Jackson became interested in books and music. At age 11, he took up the violin and at school became interested in the tympani and oboe. Young Jackson dreamed of one day becoming a composer. His parents bought a second-hand piano so their son could take lessons. At age 16, Jackson formed a jazz trio and began performing in local pubs.

After stints in local bands (Misty Set, Edward Bear) and playing in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Jackson graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London. He continued performing in clubs and cabarets, all the while writing and working on his song demos. Jackson’s classical training and jazz sensibilities were merging with other sounds on the British music scene—punk and reggae. He began incorporating all of these elements into an eclectic style of his own.

In 1978, David Kershenbaum, an American producer who was scouting talent for A&M Records, heard Jackson’s demos and got him signed to the label. The single “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” was released in the UK that October, but failed to chart. The follow-up single, “Sunday Papers,” also failed to chart.

In the spring of 1979, Look Sharp finally broke into the public’s consciousness, going to #20 in the US and eventually to #40 in the UK. The album added Joe Jackson to the roster of up-and-coming new wave artists, which included Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Graham Parker.

“Is She Really Going Out with Him?” earned Jackson a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male.

Posted in '70s Music, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

General Apathy and Major Boredom singing, “Whatever and Ever Amen” (Ben Folds Five and their sophomore effort in 1997)

On April 5, 1997, Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben Folds Five debuted on The Billboard 200 at #90.

Ben Folds Five was a quirky anomaly in popular music for the late ’90s. The group’s namesake, pianist Ben Folds, had a sharp sense of humor and a lyrical mastery that was outrageous and insightful. His sense of humor is immediately evident in the band’s name. Ben Folds Five was a guitar-less, power trio that included Robert Sledge on bass and Darren Jessee on drums. Despite its lack of guitar, the band could rock hard, with Sledge taking his bass to sonic extremes.

The band’s pop sensibilities, harmonies and arrangements are unique, while giving nods to several artists in pop history. You can hear the Beatles, Burt Bacharach, the Beach Boys, Todd Rundgren, Elton John, Joe Jackson, Queen and others in very deliberate moments from their discography.

The origins of Ben Folds Five reside in Chappel Hill, N.C., circa 1994. The trio is said to have described their sound as punk rock for sissies. In 1995, they released their eponymous debut on Caroline Records (a subsidiary of Virgin Records). The album garnered a following in the UK and Japan. Following a successful European tour in the summer of ’96, the band was courted by Sony to join its 550 Music label. The result was Whatever and Ever Amen.

The LP peaked at #42 on the US album charts and generated five singles. The first single, “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” is a wonderful ode to slackers and contains the album’s title in its lyrics. “Battle of Who Could Care Less” went to #26 in the UK and #23 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in the US.

But it was an unfunny and poignant slow song from Whatever and Ever Amen that turned into the “hit” for which the band became known (and, consequently, was rarely performed during their final tour of 1999). “Brick,” a song of despair, abortion and loneliness, was written by Folds and Jessee. The single would go to #19 on the Hot 100, #6 on the Modern Rock Tracks and #26 in Britain.

After years of hauling that baby grand piano from venue to venue, Ben Folds Five disbanded in late 2000. Although each member went on to pursue solo projects, they have regrouped for a handful of performances over the years.

“Battle of Who Could Care Less”


Posted in '90s Music, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment