Category: 1971 music

George Harrison’s demo for Ringo’s 1971 hit “I…

George Harrison’s demo for Ringo’s 1971 hit “It Don’t Come Easy”

Ringo co-wrote the song with George, who also produced this, added background vocals, and played bass and the wonderful guitar that’s so integral to this song’s success.

It’s quite ragged, but this version is AWESOME. There are no horns, and with fewer layers of overdubs, you can really hear backup vocals. George’s guitar is also truly sweet in this version – easily the equal of anything he played on All Things Must Pass. There’s even a bonus “Hare Krishna” chant in the middle!

Play this NOW, thank me later.

The Original! The Move’s 1971 banger, “Do Ya!”…

The Original! The Move’s 1971 banger, “Do Ya!”

You’ve heard the 1976 hit version from The Electric Light Orchestra, a pop classic by any measure – but this stripped-down 1971 version by The Move SLAMS! It’s obviously the same song of course, but it really sounds beamed in from another dimension as peeling back all the layers reveals the downright weirdness at its heart. 

(Seriously, one of the weirdest songs ever to become a hit.)

Presumably you’ve already hit play and heard the biggest difference between this and the 1976 ELO version: that one had an orchestra and choir, and this one is just composer Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and drummer Bev Bevan BANGING. Although Jeff wrote it, the song’s original title was named for a spontaneous outburst of Roy Wood’s at the end of the song, “Look Out Baby There’s A Plane A-Comin’”. (Yes, that was the original title! I think “Do Ya” works better tho.)

(Tom Petty later told Jeff that he thought “Look out baby there’s a planet coming” was one of the coolest lyrics he’d ever heard, and was disappointed to learn the proper words.)

Although the song had been a staple in ELO’s live sets, they didn’t get around to recording it until 1976, after Todd Rundgren’s cover on Another Live became something of a hit itself in 1975 (with Todd repaying a favor to Jeff, who’d regularly been performing Todd’s early Nazz track “Open Your Eyes”). 

In fact, it was this original version’s complete lack of orchestration that landed the song with The Move rather than ELO. (Both Message From The Country and ELO’s debut were recorded more or less simultaneously, with the more orchestral tracks naturally landing with ELO.) 

Recorded December 19, 1971, and released as the B-side to “California Man”, it failed to chart in the UK, and in 1972, barely cracked the US Top 100, landing at #98. Its days as a chart-topper were yet to come.

I do love ELO’s 1976 version, and the 1975 version by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia (which I’ll discuss in full another day) might even be my favorite, but there’s something special and irreplaceable about the original “Do Ya” from 1971.

Turn this tf up, play it again, and let me know what you think!

Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, “Something to Ma…

Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, “Something to Make You Happy” (1971)

Something to make YOU happy! One of the most incandescent singles of 1971, featuring Traffic’s Dave Mason and The Mamas and The Papas’ Cass Elliot embarking on an all-too-brief duo excursion.

A rare co-writing credit for Cass adds another touch of magic to this career highlight for her, its soaring chorus highlighting the ways that she and Dave Mason brought the very best out of each other in this hidden gem from 1971. 

They’d been introduced by mutual friend Gram Parsons soon after Dave’s arrival in LA. As she had for so many other artists before (including another recently solo Englishman, Graham Nash), Cass took Dave under her wing, and it didn’t take long for them to realize that they sounded amazing together. As Cass told Rolling Stone, “I sing better with David because he’s so good. You want to do better. I’m singing notes I never sang with The Mamas & the Papas.” 

Released in March 1971, Dave Mason & Cass Elliot had in fact begun as a Dave solo album, his second after leaving Traffic (to whom he’d return for a brief summer 1971 tour and live album). 

He’d written all the songs and recorded all the lead vocals up to the point that Cass came on, but it was immediately obvious that they had something special together, so Dave reshaped the album more collaboratively from there: adding a couple of songs Cass wrote (indeed, the last time in her career she’d record her own compositions), more lead vocals, lots of harmonies on Dave’s earlier tracks, and joint billing as both performer and producer. 

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They played a few shows together (Santa Monica Civic and Fillmore East, where the photo above was taken by Amalie R. Rothschild) as well as a couple of TV appearances (The Andy Williams Show, The Tonight Show), and while they remained close and spoke about recording a proper collaboration someday, Cass’ untimely passing came first.

In any case, 100% magic for fans of both artists, and one of 1971′s hidden gems.

George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If N…

George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If Not For You” before the Sunday afternoon show of the Concerts for Bangladesh, Sunday, August 1, 1971. It’s messy, but adorable.

Like The Beatles, Bob Dylan had quit touring in 1966. Unlike The Beatles, and apart from  a 1969 TV performance with Johnny Cash, and an appearance with The Band at the Isle of Wight, Bob had all but disappeared. While he was generally up for lending a hand to George’s effort, he wasn’t sure what to sing, and was even less sure if he was going to be able to pull himself together to even show up at the appointed hour. When George introduced him that afternoon, he was by no means certain that Bob would actually walk out. 

While they were working out which songs to perform together, “If Not For You” was an obvious place to start. A lovely tune that Bob introduced on New Morning almost exactly a year earlier (August 12, 1970), George covered it on his own album All Things Must Pass, which was the #1 album in the US for the first 7 weeks of 1971, and for the months of February and March 1971 in the UK

Neither Bob nor George released “If Not For You” as a single, but in May 1971, it was the debut single for 22 year old Olivia Newton-John. Based on George’s arrangement rather than Bob’s, it reached #7 in the UK, and in the US, #25 on the Billboard Hot 200, and eight weeks straight at #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart! 

(Yes, I bought it. Yes, I still love it. Yes, I will post it later.)

Our boys passed on performing this for the big show(s), but this rehearsal is an enduring reminder that beyond being two of the all-time giants of popular music, and rock gods, they were also both just so incredibly fucking adorable.

George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun”, August …

George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun”, August 1, 1971. From the Concert for Bangladesh of course. You can see at the beginning how nervous George was! Not only his first solo performance, his first concert appearance at all since 1966, featuring his first performances of his own compositions ever – but here, also for the first time on stage, vulnerable and stripped down to an acoustic guitar. George’s little smile as the audience reaches out to him is priceless.

His duet partner, Badfinger’s Pete Ham, later revealed that they hadn’t even rehearsed! “George just wanted to keep it simple,” he said. After George told him the chord changes, Pete ducked into his hotel room to listen to the version on Abbey Road a couple of times, and that’s all there was time for! 

The result: magic. And beauty and joy and, yes, sun, sun, sun! Here it comes!

(Mi pequeña, está toda bien!)

(Note that by the time you come across this post, the video may have been taken down. It happens. Here’s the YouTube search for you to find another version. Worth the extra clicks!)

George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If N…

George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If Not For You” before the Sunday afternoon show of the Concerts for Bangladesh, Sunday, August 1, 1971. It’s messy, but adorable.

Like The Beatles, Bob Dylan had quit touring in 1966. Unlike The Beatles, and apart from  a 1969 TV performance with Johnny Cash, and an appearance with The Band at the Isle of Wight, Bob had all but disappeared. While he was generally up for lending a hand to George’s effort, he was by no means sure what to sing, and was even less sure if he was going to be able to pull himself together to even show up at the appointed hour. When George introduced him that afternoon, he was by no means certain that Bob would actually walk out. 

While they were working out which songs to perform together, “If Not For You” was an obvious place to start. A lovely tune that Bob introduced on New Morning almost exactly a year earlier (August 12, 1970), George covered it on his own album All Things Must Pass, which was the #1 album in the US for the first 7 weeks of 1971, and for the months of February and March 1971 in the UK

Neither Bob nor George released “If Not For You” as a single, but in May 1971, it was the debut single for 22 year old Olivia Newton-John. Based on George’s arrangement rather than Bob’s, it reached #7 in the UK, and in the US, #25 on the Billboard Hot 200, and eight weeks straight at #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart! 

(Yes, I bought it. Yes, I still love it. Yes, I will post it later.)

Our boys passed on performing this for the big show(s), but this rehearsal is an enduring reminder that beyond being two of the all-time giants of popular music, and rock gods, they were also both just so incredibly fucking adorable.

The Original! The Move’s 1971 banger, “Do Ya!”

The Original! The Move’s 1971 banger, “Do Ya!”

You’ve heard the 1976 hit version from The Electric Light Orchestra, a pop classic by any measure – but this stripped-down 1971 version by The Move SLAMS! It’s obviously the same song of course, but it really sounds beamed in from another dimension as peeling back all the layers reveals the downright weirdness at its heart. 

(Seriously, one of the weirdest songs ever to become a hit.)

Presumably you’ve already hit play and heard the biggest difference between this and the 1976 ELO version: that one had an orchestra and choir, and this one is just composer Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and drummer Bev Bevan BANGING. Although Jeff wrote it, the song’s original title was named for a spontaneous outburst of Roy Wood’s at the end of the song, “Look Out Baby There’s A Plane A-Comin’”. (Yes, that was the original title! I think “Do Ya” works better tho.)

(Tom Petty later told Jeff that he thought “Look out baby there’s a planet coming” was one of the coolest lyrics he’d ever heard, and was disappointed to learn the proper words.)

Although the song had been a staple in ELO’s live sets, they didn’t get around to recording it until 1976, after Todd Rundgren’s cover on Another Live became something of a hit itself in 1975 (with Todd repaying a favor to Jeff, who’d regularly been performing Todd’s early Nazz track “Open Your Eyes”). 

In fact, it was this original version’s complete lack of orchestration that landed the song with The Move rather than ELO. (Both Message From The Country and ELO’s debut were recorded more or less simultaneously, with the more orchestral tracks naturally landing with ELO,) 

Recorded December 19, 1971, and released as the B-side to “California Man”, it failed to chart in the UK, and in 1972, barely cracked the US Top 100, landing at #98. Its days as a chart-topper were yet to come.

I do love ELO’s 1976 version, and the 1975 version by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia (which I’ll discuss in full another day) might even be my favorite, but there’s something special and irreplaceable about the original “Do Ya” from 1971.

Turn this tf up, play it again, and let me know what you think!

George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun”, August …

George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun”, August 1, 1971. From the Concert for Bangladesh of course. You can see at the beginning how nervous George was. Not only his first solo performance, his first concert appearance at all since 1966, featuring his first performances of his own compositions ever – but here, also for the first time on stage, vulnerable and stripped down to an acoustic guitar. George’s little smile as the audience reaches out to him is priceless.

His duet partner, Badfinger’s Pete Ham, later revealed that they hadn’t even rehearsed! “George just wanted to keep it simple,” he said. After George told him the chord changes, Pete ducked into his hotel room to listen to the version on Abbey Road a couple of times, and that’s all there was time for! 

The result: magic. And beauty and joy and, yes, sun, sun, sun! Here it comes!

(Mi pequeña, está toda bien!)

(Note that by the time you come across this post, the video may have been taken down. It happens. Here’s the YouTube search for you to find another version. Worth the extra clicks!)

Richie Havens – Here Comes The Sun (1971) The …

Richie Havens – Here Comes The Sun (1971)

The first time that most people had ever seen or heard Richie
Havens wasn’t at Woodstock. It was when they saw Woodstock the movie.
That’s the thing about Woodstock.
Only a relative handful of people knew much about what happened there – and there
was nothing resembling a consensus on even the basics – until long after the
fact. 

So not in 1969. Not even necessarily 1970. For a lot of people, it wasn’t
even until well into 1971, when Woodstock was awarded the Best Documentary
Oscar in April and the film was subsequently re-released into theaters with a much, much
higher profile than before.

As a result, quite a few of the performers featured in the
film had their chart peaks and released their best-selling albums not in 1969,
not in 1970, but in 1971.
These included performers as varied as Joan Baez, The
Who, and Melanie, among others – like Richie Havens.

Richie been kicking around Greenwich Village since the 50s, when Beatnik poets were still the biggest draws in the local clubs. He wasn’t the first act
scheduled to appear at Woodstock. He was simply the only one there at all by the time the crowds were
starting to get restless, and promoters were already afraid that the whole thing
was about to get away from them.

The legend is that he played the better part of three hours
as staff kept pushing him back on stage to keep the crowd occupied, and
that having sung every song he knew (including “Handsome Johnny”, already on
its way to becoming a standard), he was left to make something up on the spot,
riffing on “Freedom” over the base of “Motherless Child”.

 While the reality is somewhat less dramatic than the legend,
what we saw in the film was jaw-dropping. It translated into chart success in 1971,
with by far his highest charting album, Alarm Clock (peaking at #29; his next album
peaked at just #55, with no others after that breaking into the Top 100), and the
one and only charting single of his long and distinguished career in the spring
of 1971, a glorious cover of
“Here Comes The Sun”.

Richie’s version is so different from The Beatles that there’s
really no point in arguing which is better. They barely seem like even the same song, but I’m glad we live in a world where we have both. I think it’s also safe to say that even if we’d never had The
Beatles version, Richie’s version would have been a hit on its own.
He packed an incredible amount of music into
his 72 years, and this one is one of the true gems.

This live version has an even shaggier charm than the
version on Alarm Clock, and if Woodstock the movie taught us anything, it’s that
the best part of any Richie Havens performance isn’t his soothingly ragged
voice, or the relentless innovation and drive of his open-chord strumming, but
the pleasure of watching him play and sing.

“Here Comes The Sun” spent 14 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart,
peaking at #16 on May 21, 1971, just about a month after Woodstock won its
Oscar. Even more than that one, this is the version you need to hear…and see.

DAVID CASSIDY & THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY MEET …

DAVID CASSIDY & THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY MEET RICHARD PRYOR, LOUIS GOSSETT JR, and “THE BLACK PANTHERS” in “SOUL CLUB” (aired January 29, 1971)

Sure, The Partridge Family was a single-camera comedy with a laugh track, mostly aimed at kids, a barely plausible framework on which to hang some flimsy pop songs – but it never shied away from a variety of social issues, including women’s rights and racial justice.

My favorite episode was “Soul Club”, which first aired in January 1971. It featured one of the show’s better songs, “Bandala”, and a few other things that merit some additional context. 

“Soul Club” also featured RICHARD PRYOR and LOU GOSSETT (as he was credited)!! It was in fact a back-door pilot intended to kick off a series with the two of them that sadly never came to pass.

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Gaze upon Richard and Lou, and think about ABC trying to launch a sitcom for them out of The Partridge Family. Yikes! I’m sorry we never got to see that, but I’m glad we got to see this.

The pair played brothers who had intended to book The Temptations into their inner city Detroit social club (the titular “Soul Club”), only to have the white, white, oh so white, Partridge Family roll up instead.

The Temptations concert had been the brothers’ last hope to save their club. They’d gotten in deep to a loan shark, and were counting on The Temptations to deliver a big payday.

It was immediately apparent that the Partridges weren’t going to be able to help them – ah, until they actually DID help. Heartwarming hilarity ensued as the Partridges played a street fair benefit show. 

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Along the way to saving the day (which they did), Danny Partridge is made an honorary member of “The Afro-American Cultural Society,” a thinly-veiled and highly favorable representation of the Black Panthers.

In fact, when you look this episode up yourself – and you should – many accounts report that the episode DID feature the Black Panthers. (For a start, try Googling “Partridge Family Black Panthers.”)

Even without the actual Black Panthers, a number of scholarly sources have nevertheless cited the “Soul Club” episode as a pivotal moment in American cultural history. That part is absolutely true. This was among the first wholly positive depictions of militant black pride in mainstream media, maybe even the first, and it was A Big Deal. 

After all, these were days when J. Edgar Hoover denounced the Black Panther Free Breakfast Program as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States of America” – not the Black Panthers in general, but free breakfast in particular. 

The Partridge Family, instead, literally normalized the idea of people of color being PEOPLE – parents, kids, volunteer firefighters, musicians – who were politically engaged in improving their communities, a much different picture than the prevailing stereotype of communities of color as bomb-throwers bent on race war.

I didn’t need the perspective of history to tell me that this was a big deal. Watching on that Friday night in 1971, I could FEEL that it was a big deal. 

Don’t forget that Soul Train was still 9 months away from national syndication, and there were few shows on TV at the time featuring any characters of color. (There were two black leads on Room 222 airing the same night as The Partridge Family, and Flip Wilson’s variety show, and on a weekly basis, that was about it in 1971.)

As a result, this may have been the largest collection of black people that most of white America had ever seen in one place, and they were dancing. And trying to improve their community, and otherwise, going about their day’s business. Maybe we didn’t need the FBI crawling all over these communities like we’d been told. Maybe, thought white Americans like me, just maybe, it was enough to support them where we could, and otherwise just let them be, because they’re just trying to make a better life for themselves, same as me. Their advancement is certainly not at my expense.

This was a radical, radical concept at the time. Kinda still is. Again.

None of which would matter in the context of a show about a singing musical family if there wasn’t a great song somewhere in there. And there is: “Bandala,” one of the best in the show’s entire run.

Kind of a kick – members of the Afro-American Cultural Society are shown serving as the song’s string and horn sections! This might have been the only time in the show’s run that it acknowledged that the plethora of sounds that we’re hearing couldn’t possibly have been coming only from the Partridges themselves. 

(Music nerd note: the actual sounds of The Partridge Family’s instruments provided courtesy of The Wrecking Crew! Most often in the form of Hal Blaine on drums, Joe Osborn on bass, and Larry Knechtel on keyboards, including the harpsichord on the Partridges’ ur-hits “I Think I Love You” and “C’mon Get Happy”.)

Wait for Pryor and Gossett to show up around the 2-minute mark in this clip, “giving five” to each other in a variety of creative ways, some involving hip bumps. Yes indeed, friends. Hip bumps.

There are obviously far more than the usual number of nits to pick with an episode like this, but that’s for another time. (Or for your replies. Feel free. It is problematic, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a cultural watershed of its era.) 

In the meantime, I hope you can enjoy the clip above for what it is, a terrific David Cassidy vocal on a nifty pop tune, with some endearing moments in the episode as a whole, featuring a colossal (if in retrospect, gratefully) missed opportunity for Pryor & Gossett, but its very ambitious heart in the right place.

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