Monday, February 28, 2011

Harpy Tunes

Harp Week: Part 1
And now for something completely different (as Monty Python would say), it's officially Harp Week. As a professional harpist, I'm currently preparing for a big solo harp recital at the end of this week, and my mind is obviously in "harp mode." Although practicing is definitely a priority over blogging at the moment, I will still leave you this week with a couple of small, yet interesting posts about 1960's pop music that includes the harp!

A beautiful, sad song with thoughtful, observational lyrics, "She's Leaving Home" was the first Beatles song to use a female musician on a recording, harpist Shelia Bromberg. From Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the most important albums in rock music history, this song was written by Paul McCartney, who was inspired by a newspaper article about a missing young girl. This baroque pop piece was also one of a few songs by The Beatles in which none of the members actually played on the recording, just lead vocals by Paul, and John Lennon signing the the parents' view in the chorus (Greek chorus). From June 1967, this is a wonderful piece of music with a lovely harp solo in the introduction.

Also from 1967 but with a completely different sound, Tommy James & The Shondells' "Mirage" is a pop rock song with a distinctive harp part. Tommy got the idea for this song from a mistake in the studio: their producer accidentally put the tape of their previous hit, "I Think We're Alone Now," on the player backwards. The band liked the sound of the chord progression, and songwriter Ritchie Cordell wrote the lyrics. Hitting #10 on the charts, "Mirage" is a fun, yet very under-played song (on current "oldies" radio) with a noticeable harp accompaniment, including the infamous harp effect, the glissando.


Coming from the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, this next song is from the psychedelic/rock album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake by the English rock group, Small Faces. One of the biggest original influences on the Britpop movement in the 1990's, the music of Small Faces is still among the most acclaimed British mod and psychedelic music of the late 1960's. From their two-act concept album in 1968, "Happiness Stan" is a whimsical, psychedelic fairy tale that is through-composed (music term for non-repetitive), and is narrated by old British comedian, Stanley Unwin. And so where does the harp come in all this? Well, only at the very beginning of the piece, of course. So I've posted two different videos of this song: the first is just the "Happiness Stan" portion from the Small Faces' performance of the entire Ogdens' album on the TV show Colour Me Pop (although because of the album's complexities, it was a mimed performance, however, their mics were left on to capture little ad libs, which are quite cute). Although it's a fun video, it actually cuts out almost the entire harp solo introduction (with the exception of one glissando), so I had to include an alternative YouTube post (though no video footage) with the entire harp solo at the beginning (just listen to the first 30 seconds). After all, this is Harp Week!

And for now, I'm going to try to stick with less overwhelming posts like that past few weeks, but please check back later in the week to hear more '60s music with harp!

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Outasite, Man!"

Psychedelic Week: Part 3 

Well, Psychedelic Week has quickly come and gone (not to mention, my computer contracted a virus in the midst of my blogging!), and I am without the time to go into further details about the following psychedelic songs. If you've been diggin' this week's music, here are some more groovy tunes for you to enjoy:

From 1967, it's the #1 psychedelic pop hit
, "Incense and Peppermints" by Los Angeles group, Strawberry Alarm Clock (can't get more psychedelic than a name like that!). One of the group's guitarists, Ed King, would later go on to join the band Lyrnyrd Skynyrd. Sorry about the poor video quality.

The English rock band, The Who, also had a hit in 1967 with "I Can See For Miles," their biggest US hit to date. Written by guitarist Pete Townshend, this psychedelic/early hard rock song was difficult to perform live because of the complex vocal harmonies, so this video was a mimed performance from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. One of the greatest rock bands in music history, this isn't the last you'll hear about these guys.


As an Ohio-based psychedelic pop band, The Lemon Pipers had a #1 hit with "Green Tambourine," also released in 1967. Also considered the first bubblegum pop chart-topper, this song has an electric sitar and a cool, psychedelic effect, the tape echo. --------------------------------------------------
Spirit, an American jazz/hard rock/progressive rock/psychedelic rock band from Los Angeles, formed in 1967. Sometimes considered more of an underground band, "I've Got A Line On You" was a big hit in 1969. My dad loves this group and introduced me to this song in more recent years. Spirit (and the band Poco) actually performed at his high school in Orange County around 1969 or '70! How cool is that? Definitely a great tune!


Also from the Los Angeles area, The Electric Prunes were probably the first to gain international success as an experimental psychedelic group. Their second single, “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” was a hit psychedelic rock song released in November 1966, a tune that became influential in garage rock later in the 1970’s. Although I grew up listening to tons of music from the ‘60s, I’m actually more familiar with the cool cover version by Webb Wilder.

Another group influential in the development of heavy metal and progressive rock is the psychedelic rock, Amboy Dukes, from Michigan. From 1968, the group is probably best remembered for their hit single, "The Journey to the Center of the Mind." Groovy stuff, folks!

And before things get too trippy, the last band of the day is the American rock band, The 13th Floor Elevators. Also vital in the history of garage rock and punk rock development, these guys were considered one of the first psychedelic rock groups of the 1960's, releasing "I'm Gonna Miss You" in January 1966.

Well, if that hasn't hit the psychedelic spot, be sure to check out these other bands on YouTube: The Blue Magoos, The Chambers Brothers ("Time Has Come Today"), Cream, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Idle Race, The Moody Blues ("The Best Way to Travel"), early Pink Floyd ("Arnold Layne"), Small Faces, Steppenwolf, Traffic, and The Yardbirds.

Although I pretty much have all the posted tunes on my iPod, I must admit that I'm not the biggest fan of some of the real heavy stuff, however, I appreciate its significance in music history in setting the foundation for many genres to follow. I think seeing "who" influenced "what" is one of the most fascinating things about 1960's pop music. Hopefully, Psychedelic Week has been as interesting to you as it has to me!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Not-So-Usual Suspects

Psychedelic Week: Part 2
As you may have noticed, psychedelic music mainly emerged from the
folk-rock and blues-rock bands of the 60's, which bridged the transition to eventual genres like progressive rock, glam rock, hard rock, and influenced sub-genres like heavy metal. However, psychedelic rock also had an impact on mainstream pop and rock, leading to groups who you wouldn't expect to produce some psychedelic sounds as well.

A group influential in developing the music style of psychedelic rock was the American rock band, The Byrds, with their March 1966 single, "Eight Miles High." From Los Angeles, the group initially founded the genre of folk rock by combining the influence of the British Invasion bands with contemporary and traditional folk music. Later into the 1960's, The Byrds became significant in other genres such as raga rock (East Indian influence) and country rock, in addition to psychedelic, making them one of the most influential bands of the 1960's.

As a kid, a psychedelic pop song I loved listening to on my parents' record player was, "Crimson and Clover," by American rock 'n' roll group, Tommy James and the Shondells. Wanting to change the direction of the group's sound, singer-songwriter/guitarist Tommy James and drummer Peter Lucia Jr. wrote this single and released it in November of '68. The song uses a cool tremolo effect on the guitar that vibrates in time with the song's rhythm, and at the end of the song, they use the same vibrating effect on Tommy's vocal part, "crimson and clover, over and over..." This performance comes from the Ed Sullivan Show in January 1969, one week before the single reached #1 on the charts. By the way, does anyone else find Tommy a little creepy in this performance?

Initially a folk-rock musician, Scottish singer-songwriter, Donovan, was also influenced by the sounds of U.S. West Coast bands (like Jefferson Airplane), which led him to develop a unique style that combined folk, pop, jazz, psychedelia, and world music. After Donovan's first psychedelic record,
Sunshine Superman, became an American chart breakthrough in 1966, Donovan released the psychedelic/folk/acid rock song, "Hurdy Gurdy Man," in May of '68. He wanted to reach a wider audience in the U.S. where hard-rock artists (like Jimi Hendrix) were becoming quite popular, and as hoped, it became one of Donovan's biggest hits. On many of Donovan's recordings, he used session guitarist, Jimmy Page (later, of Led Zeppelin), though it's uncertain which guitarist is on this recording. Using a similar tremolo effect on the vocal part like "Crimson and Clover," "Hurdy Gurdy Man" is a harder rock sound than Donovan's previous music, using a variety of distorted guitars.
-------------------------------------------------------As you will eventually come to find out, I have a soft spot for the American band, The Monkees. Originally created for a zany TV show in 1966 and only allowed to sing on their first two albums, The Monkees fought "the system" and earned the right to write, record, produce, and play their own music. Singer-songwriter Michael Nesmith wrote a poem (full of psychedelic imagery) about the riots in '67 on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, and then set it to music as "Daily Nightly." This song features a Moog synthesizer and comes from The Monkees' fourth album, which was one of the first rock/pop albums to pioneer the use of this new synthesizer. Also one of the first to own this instrument, singer/drummer Micky Dolenz actually had no idea how to play the synthesizer, however, he makes wonderfully creative use of its psychedelic sound in this song, as heard in this video from their (normally in color) TV show. The first time my husband heard this song, he asked if it was Jefferson Airplane. Apparently, Grace Slick and Micky Dolenz have a similar quality to their voices (see last post with the video of "White Rabbit").
Typically a folk rock/sunshine pop band, the American vocal group, The Mamas and The Papas, also ventured into psychedelic territory in the late 60's. Released in May 1968, the group became more experimental with their album The Papas and the Mamas, especially with the Jimi Hendrix-like guitar sound in "Gemini Childe," as well as the more down-beat, darker sound in the song "Mansions" (posted below). Still with their signature sound of four-part vocal harmonies arranged by the band's songwriter, John Phillips, the group recorded "Mansion" in the home of John and his wife, Michelle (also a founding member of the group). Until today, I actually had never heard this haunting song before; I know, what kind of Mamas and Papas fan am I?

And now to finally end this post, it's The Rolling Stones performing, "Paint It, Black" on the Ed Sullivan. Another written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and released in May 1966, this psychedelic/raga rock song was a new direction for the normally rock 'n' roll/bluesy rock group. Also on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, it was the first #1 single to feature a sitar, which was played by the multi-instrumentalist of the group, Brian Jones. Influenced by the use of the sitar in The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," Brian taught himself to play the Eastern instrument after a visit with the sitar-playing Beatle, George Harrison. Definitely a favorite Stones song of mine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic Week: Part 1
After my last post about "Good Vibrations," I think it's a good week to look further into the genre of Psychedelic music. Well, as you could probably guess by the name, psychedelic rock is style of music that was influenced by the psychedelic culture of the mid-1960s, and even tries to imitate the experience of mind-altering drugs (which of course wasn't without its causalities). Other fusions of the genre include psychedelic folk, psychedelic pop, and psychedelic soul. Here are some of this genre's characteristics (from helpful Wikipedia):
- electric guitars, often used with feedback, wah wah and fuzzboxes;
- elaborate studio effects, such as backwards tapes, panning, phasing, long delay loops, and extreme reverb;
-exotic instrumentation, with a particular fondness for the sitar and tabla;
-a strong keyboard presence, especially organs, harpsichords, or the Mellotron (an early tape-driven 'sampler');
-a strong emphasis on extended instrumental solos or jams;
-more complex song structures, key and time signature changes, modal melodies and drones;
-surreal, whimsical, esoterically or literary-inspired, lyrics.

In 1965, when The Beatles began experimenting more with their music in the studio (as well as with "other things"), they were one of the first to use guitar feedback in "I Feel Fine" and the first to use a sitar in "Norwegian Wood" (although actually a folk song, it greatly influenced the further use of Eastern music in rock). However, one of the defining works of psychedelic rock music is "Strawberry Fields Forever." Inspired by The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" (see my last post), The Beatles released this double A-side single (with "Penny Lane") in February 1967.

A new favorite of mine that makes great use of the trademark psychedelic wah-wah guitar sound and the phasing audio effect is "Pictures of Matchstick Men" by the English group Status Quo. Sometimes considered as an example of bubblegum psychedelia, this song was released in January of '68 and was a hit single. This performance was from England's "Top of The Pops" TV show, on which Status Quo performed over 100 times throughout their career.

When I think of the psychedelic '60s, one of the first band that comes to mind is the San Francisco group Jefferson Airplane, and particularly their breakout successes, "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love." And just your luck, I found a video that includes both performances, as featured on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. From the album Surrealistic Pillow released in February 1967, "White Rabbit," a psychedelic/acid rock song, was written by the group's lead female singer Grace Slick, and her husband, Darby Slick, wrote "Somebody To Love;" both are classic songs of the counterculture movement, included in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Alright, so here come some of the "heavies."
A significant 1960's "power trio" (besides Cream with Eric Clapton) was the psychedelic rock group The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Written and originally recorded by folk rocker Bob Dylan, this cover of "All Along The Watchtower" was released in September 1968 and since has been voted the #5 song in Guitar World"s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos, as well as #48 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. One of the greatest electric guitarists in music history, Jimi Hendrix unfortunately died an early death two year later in 1970, but he remains one of the most influential musicians that made use of guitar feedback and wah-wah pedal like never before.

Another sad causality of the psychedelic era was Jim Morrison, lead singer of the American rock band The Doors, who died in 1971. Released in April 1967, one of The Door's first #1 single was the psychedelic/acid rock "Light My Fire," another song on the Rolling Stone's “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. Here's the infamous Ed Sullivan Show performance, after which the group was banned from further appearances on the show because they did not change the word "higher," as requested by the producers.

And finally, my last featured group today is Janis Joplin with the San Francisco-based, psychedelic/blues-rock group Big Brother and the Holding Company, giving a great live performance of "A Piece of My Heart." Although originally recorded by Erma Franklin in 1967, the song gained greater mainstream attention after Janis and the gang released their cover on the summer of '68 album Cheap Thrills, reaching #12 on the U.S. pop chart, and it is another song on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list. Just a few weeks after Jimi Hendrix's death in 1970, Janis was also found dead at the age of 27, the same ages as Jimi and Jim Morrison (as well as Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones; see 27 Club).

Since this is probably only a third of the songs I've picked out for this week, I should probably end this post (finally, right?). Hopefully you're not in psychedelic overload because there's still some great tunes to come!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good Vibrations

On February 17th, 1966 (45 years ago today!), Brian Wilson of the American band, The Beach Boys, began recording the backing track for "Good Vibrations" with L.A. session musicians (The Wrecking Crew). Released later in October of that year, the song became the biggest hit for The Beach Boys, reaching #1 on the U.S. and U.K. charts, and since has been considered one of the best rock singles of all time. Composed and produced by the group's leader, Brian Wilson, with lyrics written by Wilson and Mike Love, "Good Vibrations" set a new standard for musicians and what could be achieved in the recording studio. The song has been referred to as "pocket symphony," as it has as many changes in mood as a half-hour piece of classical music would, and it features unique instruments for a pop song, including the cello and electro-theremin (think of that eerie, 1950's sci-fi movie sound).

Over a six-month period, this song was recorded in about seventeen sessions in numerous studios, using over 90 hours of magnetic recording tape, and ended up costing $50,000 to record. One of the most complex pop productions ever undertaken, Brian Wilson's method of recording became known as the modular approach: he broke the song into sections, intentionally taping several versions in studios for the different sound and ambiance within the studio, and then combined his favorite sections. Previously releasing generally pop and vocal surf rock tunes, The Beach Boys entered the realm of psychedelic rock with "Good Vibrations" (a genre derived from baroque pop, of course!), and this song greatly inspired The Beatles when writing "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "A Day In The Life" the following year. As a child, Brian's mother told him that dogs could pick up vibrations from people, which he turned into the general idea for the song.

Although Brian Wilson was an innovative, musical genius, he had a mental illness that led to his phobia of playing in public, so he is not in the above video from 1967. Although this performance is lip-synced (as most TV performances were in the 1960's, with the exception of the Ed Sullivan Show), it's fun to see the other members of The Beach Boys in action: the adorable Carl Wilson on bass and Denny Wilson on drums (Brian's younger brothers), Mike Love playing the electro-theremin (the Wilson's cousin), and Al Jardin, a Wilson family-friend, on guitar. Playing piano/organ, Bruce Johnston (hardly seen in this video) was brought in to replace Brian Wilson when the band toured.
Next, here's a wacky promo video by the Boys.

When you have heard this song played numerous times throughout your life (as I have), it's sometimes hard to listen to this masterpiece with "fresh" ears. Well, I found this rare audio video on YouTube that includes the actual studio recording for the instrumental backing, and the ORIGINAL, unedited version of "Good Vibrations" with different lyrics. Not only is it too cool hearing the "new" sections within this recording, but it's wonderful to listen to the layers of instruments in the introduction as they record some of their first few takes in the studio. (EDITED 2/11/15: Original video posted has been removed from YouTube, so this is a pretty cool one with rare footage including those studio musicians of The Wrecking Crew).

It's no wonder "Good Vibrations" is the #6 song on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is also included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of songs that shaped rock 'n' roll!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Bach Rock

Baroque Pop Week: Part 2
So continuing with the Baroque Pop theme of the week, I probably should mention other terms interchangeable with this genre include Baroque Rock, Bach Rock, and Chamber Pop/Rock. Also, a related sidenote, the use of classical instrumentation in rock music eventually evolved into another subgenre that developed in the late-1960's called Progressive Rock, which then began drawing influence from jazz and Eastern music, in addition to classical. Prog rock is much more complex in song structure, which eventually led to the development of concept albums and "art rock." (Early progressive rock artists include The Beatles and The Beach Boys, followed by Pink Floyd, Yes, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Frank Zappa, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, and Electric Light Orchestra in the 1970's.) Okay, so this genre is in need of it's own post on another day, but just wanted to distinguish between the two for now.

And now back to Baroque Pop. If you're not sick of it yet, this post is going just slightly hog-wild (again) with more videos from this genre!

I've recently discovered that the English group The Zombies are an extremely under-rated band from the 1960's, seriously. In fact, I'm probably going to dedicate a post to their final album very soon. From May 1969, "Imagine the Swan" was The Zombies' last single, and they had actually long disbanded by the time it was released. During the first part of the verses, you'll notice another Bach-flavored (i.e. The Well-Tempered Clavier ) harpsichord accompaniment, played by keyboard wiz Rod Argent, who was also one of the group's principle songwriters with member Chris White. There are no live performances of this swansong, so here's the audio/slide-show video:

Next up, it's The Move, one of the leading British rock bands of the 1960's (and a main originator of Power Pop) who unfortunately never found much success in the U.S. until the group transitioned into the 1970's group Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) with the help of Jeff Lynne (yeah, that same guy also from The Traveling Wilburys). "Beautiful Daughter" is one of those songs that is on the border between Baroque Rock and early Progressive Rock. Released in February 1970 (I know, I just ventured two months out of the '60s!), this well-written beauty has wonderful vocals by Carl Wayne and was composed by the group's leader and guitarist, Roy Wood. Here is a great live performance, unfortunately, it doesn't include the string accompaniment (no other video available on YouTube).

And now for something completely different, this is 1967's "Proper Ornaments" by the New York-based vocal group The Free Design. Made up of members of the Dedrick family (brothers Chris and Bruce and sister Sandy as the original line-up, and later joined by younger sisters Ellen and Stephanie), The Free Design sang jazzy pop music, as well as baroque pop and sunshine pop. With a classically-trained background, they are known for their complex harmonies, jazz-like chord progressions, and off-beat time signatures. It's unfortunate this talented group did not gain much commercial success.

Now an absolute classic from 1967 is "Different Drum" by Linda Ronstadt & the Stone Poneys, written by Michael Nesmith prior to his joining of The Monkees. Although The Stone Poneys were typically a folk-rock group, this song crosses into the baroque pop/sunshine pop territory with the harpsichord/string accompaniment throughout, especially the classical-inspired instrumental interlude. With the fantastic vocals by "The First Lady of Rock," it's no wonder this song remains Linda Ronstadt's most popular recording.

Later this week, check back in to read about one of the most significant songs of the 1960's that shaped rock 'n' roll! Hint: I'm feeling some 'good vibes' about this one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Baroque Pop

Baroque Pop Week: Part 1
So I discovered the term Baroque Pop this past year and although I've always been familiar with the type of songs in this genre, I was delighted to find out this lovely music had a specific name. Originating in the mid-1960s, Baroque Pop is a style of music that uses elements of classical music in rock 'n' roll songs, as well as classical instrumentation such as harpsichord, oboe, cello, French horn, and string quartet. Bands that have produced baroque pop songs include The Beatles, The Left Banke, The Beach Boys (circa 1965-1968), and The Zombies, as well record producer Phil Spector's Wall of Sound productions (one of the first to add classical instruments to pop music, creating more majestic/dramatic sound). At first listen, I assumed that much of The Mamas & The Papas' music was included in this genre as well since they often have string accompaniment, however, their music is considered to be Sunshine Pop (and folk-influenced). These two genres are similar in subject matter, but Sunshine Pop is considered more "sunny"-sounding while Baroque Pop is darker with a more melodramatic edge (more on that genre at another time).

From July 1966 comes The Left Banke's hit song "Walk Away Renée," considered the first recognizable baroque pop single. This beauty was composed by the New York group's then 16-year-old keyboard player Michael Brown and Tony Sansone, and includes a lush string orchestration, a harpsichord accompaniment, a falling chromatic bass line, and flute solo interlude (an idea Mike Brown got from The Mamas & The Papas' song "California Dreamin'").

Okay, so here I go talking about The Beatles again, but their venture into baroque pop was a very significant turning point for the group. Although the song "Yesterday" was their first song to use string accompaniment, it was "Eleanor Rigby" that really continued the band's transformation from a mainly pop-oriented act to a more experimental studio band. Released in August of 1966, this song, written by Paul McCartney (though of course credited to Lennon/McCartney) won the 1966 Grammy for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance. It's double string quartet orchestration was composed by The Beatles' producer, George Martin, and Paul's choice to use strings may have been influenced by his interest in composer Antonio Vivaldi. "Eleanor Rigby" comes from the album Revolver, as displayed in the YouTube post of this song (no video footage, just audio).

Another example of early Baroque Pop is The Rolling Stones' song "As Tears Go By," written by front-man Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, and their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. This was one of the first compositions by Mick and Keith (up until this point, they mostly did covers of blues standards), and it was released in December of 1965. Although it seems to be inspired by The Beatles' "Yesterday" (August 1965) with melancholy lyrics and lush string accompaniment, The Stones actually wrote this much earlier in 1964, but were not the first to make it famous. It was first a popular hit for British singer Marianne Faithfull who released it in '64. Here's The Rolling Stones' performance on The Ed Sullivan Show (but if only those girls would stop screaming!). EDITED: Original video was removed from youtube, but this video is a black and white footage of the same performance with the original recording overdubbed.

And although this wasn't the plan, I'm now going down a bunny-trail by including Marianne Faithfull's Hullabaloo London performance of "As Tears Go By." Although the 17-year-old's vocals are lovely, Marianne's performance is a bit too stoic and she is clearly lip-syncing. The accompaniment is different than The Stones 'version with an English horn (sounds like a low oboe), but still includes the strings. This footage is actually quite bittersweet, especially if you know of the sad drug history that followed this seemingly innocent Marianne.

Okay, I really could keep posting songs all day, but I'll conclude this post with "A Whiter Shade of Pale," the debut song by the British group Procol Harum. Released at the beginning of the "Summer of Love" (May 1967), this baroque rock song reached #1 in several countries and has become an enduring classic (more than 900 versions covered by other artists are known!). Although the instrumental melody on Hammond organ makes clear references to Johann Sebastian Bach's "Sleepers, Wake!" and "Air on the G String," the song is not a direct copy or paraphrase of Bach's music. This is the second video that the group made of this song, as the first video was banned from the Top of the Pops TV show because it had footage from the Vietnam War. Fun seeing footage of 1967's London in this video:

Stay tuned for another overwhelming post of Baroque pop songs later this week!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beatlemania Begins

"Here they are, The Beatles!"
On February 9th, 1964, two days after they had landed in America, The Beatles made their U.S. TV debut on CBS's Ed Sullivan Show., performing five songs including their current American chart-topper, 'I Want To Hold Your Hand.' Over 50,000 applicants were received for the available 728 seats in the TV studio and an estimated 73 million people across the States watched the show (over 40% of the American population). Our boys, John, Paul, George, and Ringo, took America by storm, marking the beginning of Beatlemania in this country!

After a long wait, YouTube has finally made available this infamous performance. One of the best parts of seeing this live footage is hearing The Beatles' fresh sound and raw talent (though Paul is too loud in the mix and John is barely heard). Interestingly, it was Ringo who supposedly came up with the idea to place the drums on high risers for visibility as part of the band.

Not only was their music fun and new, but they were a welcomed diversion in the wake of JFK's assassination just a few months before. And remember, these guys had the longest hair in America (the "moptop"), and their suits were very British and mod. It's easy to forget just what a big deal this band was, musically and socially!

Ed Sullivan chose to have The Beatles perform at the beginning and the end of the program to keep viewership up for the full hour. Another musical act that performed on this same episode was the Broadway cast of the musical Oliver! featuring another Brit, Davy Jones, as the Artful Dodger. This young chap was in awe of The Beatles and their screaming fans, yet it wouldn't be for another two years until Davy would perform before screaming audiences as well with The Monkees (an American band inspired by The Beatles). Talk about a "Daydream Believer" (yuk yuk)!
About 30 seconds into this video, you can see a clip of this performance:

Monday, February 7, 2011

"The British Are Coming!"

Forty-seven years ago on this day in 1964, the Beatles arrived in New York to begin their first U.S. tour. Pan Am flight 101 was greeted by 5,000 fans as it arrived at JFK airport, bringing the Fab Four to the United States for the first time. This historic moment marked the beginning of the British Invasion, which would almost completely take over American music for the next two years.

Ironically, the musical style of British Invasion bands (characterized as blues-based rock music or as guitar-driven rock/pop) was influenced by earlier American rock 'n roll, which had been put on the back-burner of popularity at this time. During the next two years, artists to follow in the Beatles' footsteps included Chad and Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, The Animals, Petula Clark, Herman's Hermits, The Rolling Stones, The Troggs, Donovan, The Kinks, The Dave Clark Five, The Who, and The Zombies. Later in the 60s, a second wave of the Invasion would continue with groups like Cream and Pink Floyd.
Looking forward to featuring several of the bands in the near future!

Check out the actual newsreel of the infamous event!