Category: 1971 music

Just Janis Joplin and a guitar: Me and Bobby M…

Just Janis Joplin and a guitar: Me and Bobby McGee demo, July 28, 1970. 

What a gem this is! Janis playfully lamenting that her Texas accent is back, to the delight of producer Paul Rothschild and the fellas in the booth, followed by an achingly intimate first take on “Me and Bobby McGee” that reveals the searing pain that you believe would make her willing to trade all of her tomorrows for a single yesterday. 

She never sounded more vulnerable, more melodic, and not-so-ironically when you think about it, more powerful. Set yourself at the feet of a master storyteller and prepare to be amazed by a song you only thought you knew.

The familiar (perhaps now even too-familiar) Full Tilt Boogie Band version of the single was released on January 11, 1971, and would spend 9 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s surely been played somewhere on earth every hour of the day since then.

The album Pearl was released the same day and also spent 9 weeks at #1 (the last week of February, and all of March and April), winding up as the 4th best-selling album of 1971.

Janis hadn’t quite completed work on Pearl before she passed, but this was hardly the work of bone-picking scavengers capitalizing on her tragedy. On the contrary, this was the celebration of an artist entering a peak whose height we’ll never know. As you’ll hear here, even Janis had no idea what she was about to unleash. 

Unleash she did, nevertheless.

(Tip o’ the hat to the fantastic Barry Feinstein photos in this clip, and the strongest possible recommendation to check out the rest of the gems on the Pearl Legacy Edition, available at your favorite retailer and streaming at Spotify.)

behindthegrooves: On this day in music history…

behindthegrooves:

On this day in music history: September 4, 1971 – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written and produced by Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney, it is the first solo chart topper for the former Beatles bassist. The first number one single for Paul McCartney following the break up of The Beatles come from a number of different sources. It is pieced together from various unfinished song fragments McCartney has lying around. Paul’s uncle, Albert Kendall (married to his Aunt Milly) is also an inspiration while the song is being written. The track is recorded at Columbia Studios in New York City in November of 1970, and features Paul on electric and acoustic guitars, bass, piano, lead and background vocals, Linda McCartney on harmony vocals, Denny Seiwell on drums, Hugh McCracken on electric and acoustic guitars, with members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra playing brass and strings. George Martin actually co-writes the orchestral arrangement for the song with Paul, but is not credited at the time of its original release. After the initial sessions, more overdubs are recorded and final mixing takes place over the next five months. “Uncle Albert” is rush released as a single in the US on August 2, 1971, nearly three months after the album “Ram”, when heavy airplay by American radio stations forces its release. Entering the Hot 100 at #65 on August 14, 1971, it leaps to the top of the chart just three weeks later, making an impressive jump from #12 to #1. The single wins a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) in 1972. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

Don’t forget the remarkable flugelhorn solo by Marvin Stamm! It was incredibly rare for session musicians to be given credits on record sleeves, but Marvin’s contribution was substantial enough that Paul did exactly that.

At 40, Marvin was a big band veteran whose gigs included Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, and Benny Goodman, among many others – but among the session musicians he worked with, he was young enough to be known as “The Kid”.

Here’s his retelling of the “Uncle Albert” recording sessions.

After we had recorded all the written brass parts to Uncle Albert, Paul came over to the trumpet section, which included Ray Crisara, Snooky Young, Mel Davis and me. Paul said he had a little horn tune he wanted someone to play. Mel Davis said, ‘Let the kid play it,’ meaning me. 

“Paul told me that he wanted the solo to sound a bit like it was coming through an old radio cone. Then he sang it to me. I played it back to him several times until he said it was the way he wanted it. Then we recorded the solo. I played it on the flugelhorn. Then he and Phil [Ramone] did whatever sound alteration he wanted in the mixing session.   

“Paul was great to work with. He knew exactly what he wanted from the musicians and was respectful and clear in relating it to us. This was unusual. Most rock stars in those days seldom listed the personnel on their albums. So for about a year, I was the most famous unknown trumpet player in the world.”

(More here.)

He spent most of the 70s touring with Sinatra, then brought out a solo jazz-funk album called Stammpede in 1983. (Yep, I bought it!) At 79, Marvin still tours and leads student workshops. I’m guessing every one of them includes somebody asking about his solo on “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”.

harrisonstories:George Harrison performing Dee…

harrisonstories:

George Harrison performing Deep Blue during a soundcheck before the Concert For Bangladesh. (1 Aug. 1971)

The b-side to his July 1971 single, “Bangla Desh”, a tribute to his mother Louise’s struggle with cancer. If you haven’t heard it, you’re in for a treat, and like all of his Concert for Bangladesh reworkings, the version in the video above is especially sweet.

George at the piano for the single photo!  (This is the French release, via 45cat.) Not that there’s any piano on the track. Just George on acoustic guitars and dobro, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums. It was recorded July 4-5, 1971, exactly a year after George saw his mother for the last time before her passing in 1970 (July 4, the same day he won the Ivor Novello award for “Something”).

“Deep Blue” fell out of print, but was finally released as a bonus track on the Living In The Material World CD. 

spiritof1976: Shocking Blue Shocking Blue’s “S…

spiritof1976:

Shocking Blue

Shocking Blue’s “Shocking You” (1971), featuring Mariska Veres

“We’re shocking you until you turn to blue
We’re shocking you see what we’re gonna do”

Aretha Franklin, “Rock Steady” on The Flip Wil…

Aretha Franklin, “Rock Steady” on The Flip Wilson Show, aired January 20, 1972. 

Released as a single in February 1971, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #2 on the Soul Singles chart, this Aretha-penned track gets a blazing new life just 4 days before the release of the astounding Young, Gifted and Black LP. Not only have you never heard this song like this before, you may never have heard Aretha like this before: pedal to the metal and soaring, even by her own elevated standards. 

It’s also inspiring to see the Queen of Soul, “Natural Woman” resplendent in natural hair and an African-inspired gown in this pivotal TV appearance, as detailed in Rickey Vincent’s Party Music: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers’ Band and How Black Power Transformed Soul Music. 

Aretha herself said, “I believe that the black revolution certainly forced me and the majority of black people to begin taking a second look at ourselves. It wasn’t that we were all ashamed of our ourselves, we merely started appreciating our natural selves…you know, falling in love with ourselves just as we are. We found that we had far more to be proud of.

“I must say that mine was a very personal evolution – an evolution of the me in myself. […] I know I’ve improved my overall look and sound, they’re much better. And I’ve gained a great deal of confidence in myself.” 

(More here, although note that Vincent is off on the date of this broadcast, which I verified here. A great read nonetheless.)

This is the sound of Aretha’s newfound confidence, my friends, with one of 1971′s greatest singles taken to new heights. “Rock steady, baby – that’s what I feel now. Let’s call this song exactly what it is!” 

TURN IT UP!

“My name is Eleanor Rigby!” Aretha Franklin se…

“My name is Eleanor Rigby!” Aretha Franklin setting Eleanor Rigby on fire at the Fillmore West, March 7, 1971. “C’mon girl, do your thing!”

Aretha Franklin, “Rock Steady” on The Flip Wil…

Aretha Franklin, “Rock Steady” on The Flip Wilson Show, aired January 20, 1972. 

Released as a single in February 1971, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #2 on the Soul Singles chart, this Aretha-penned track gets a blazing new life just 4 days before the release of the astounding Young, Gifted and Black LP. Not only have you never heard this song like this before, you may never have heard Aretha like this before: pedal to the metal and soaring, even by her own elevated standards. 

It’s also inspiring to see the Queen of Soul, “Natural Woman” resplendent in natural hair and an African-inspired gown in this pivotal TV appearance, as detailed in Rickey Vincent’s Party Music: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers’ Band and How Black Power Transformed Soul Music. 

Aretha herself said, “I believe that the black revolution certainly forced me and the majority of black people to begin taking a second look at ourselves. It wasn’t that we were all ashamed of our ourselves, we merely started appreciating our natural selves…you know, falling in love with ourselves just as we are. We found that we had far more to be proud of.

“I must say that mine was a very personal evolution – an evolution of the me in myself. […] I know I’ve improved my overall look and sound, they’re much better. And I’ve gained a great deal of confidence in myself.” 

(More here, although note that Vincent is off on the date of this broadcast, which I verified here. A great read nonetheless.)

This is the sound of Aretha’s newfound confidence, my friends, with one of 1971′s greatest singles taken to new heights. “Rock steady, baby – that’s what I feel now. Let’s call this song exactly what it is!” 

TURN IT UP!

Aretha Franklin’s Grammy Award for Best Female…

Aretha Franklin’s Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her 1971 single, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” one of 8 in a row she won from 1968-75, via Billboard

And here’s the performance from that year’s Grammy telecast, which aired March 15, 1972 from New York’s Felt Forum.

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.

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!)