Sunday, August 21, 2011

Heart of Gold

Out-of-Towners: Part 2

Our second and final day of "foreign" musicians continues with a wide variety, as usual. Forming 1965, Los Bravos were a Spanish beat group based in Madrid, however, the lead singer, Mike Kogel, was from Germany. Attempting to tap into the success in the European market by making English-language pop music, the group released "Black is Black" in 1966 as their debut single. Reaching #2 in the UK, #4 in the U.S., and #1 in Canada, Los Bravos became the first Spanish rock band to have an international hit single. Because Kogel's lead vocals sounded very similar to American singer Gene Pitney, many listeners assumed this song was a Pitney single. Remember the Clear Channel Communications' post about the blacklisted songs after 9/11? For whatever reason, this song was also on that list. Well, it's definitely a groovin' classic in my book.
Next up, it's The Bee Gees, a popular recording group for over 40 years consisting of three brothers: Barry Gibb and twins Robin and Maurice. Yes, I realize that the The Bee Gees were really a British group, but what you may not know is that they actually began their music career in Australia. Initially raised in Manchester, England, the Gibb Family moved to Brisbane, Australia in the late 1950s, where they began performing as The Bee Gees. After scoring their first Australian chart success in 1967, they returned to England, and shortly after, became international stars. Since, they have become one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with record sales totaling more than 220 million. Before becoming one of the biggest acts of the disco era in the late 1970s, The Bee Gees also had an exceptional career as a pop group in the late 1960s and early '70s. Written by Barry Gibb as a soulful ballad in the style of Sam & Dave, The Bee Gees released "To Love Somebody" in July of 1967, becoming one of the trio's early hits on the UK and US charts.

Okay, this next one is by no means significant among "the out-of-towners," but I'm adding it in purely for personal kicks. As I married into a Greek family, I thought I'd just throw in a little song by some Greeks, not to mention, my daughter has the same name as the lead singer. So this is Zoe & the Storms (possibly translated "Stormies") performing in a Greek movie in 1966. Zoe Kouroukli was a popular Greek film and theater actress who first gained attention after winning the title of Miss Greece at 15 years old in 1959. The bassist, Demis Roussos, was also a popular Greek singer in the '60s and '70s, known for his musical partnership with Greek film composer Vangelis (who wrote the infamous theme to the 1981 film "Chariots of Fire"). Incidentally, Vangelis can also be seen playing keyboards in this video. Although this song is in English, I'm guessing "Yuppi Ya Ya" is just a nonsensical term, especially since 'ya-ya' (or "yia yia") really means 'grandma' in Greek. As referenced in the film's opening credits, here's Zoitsa Kourkouli & the Storms performing "The Yuppi Ya Ya Song."
And something else entirely, you may remember me mentioning Neil Young in a post featuring Crosby, Stills, & Nash (here), however, it looks like this Canadian singer-songwriter deserves a bit more acknowledgment as he is one of the most influential musicians of his generation. Listed among the 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Young experimented with various musical styles and is known for his distinctive guitar work, personal lyrics, and unique tenor/falsetto voice. First beginning as a solo artist in 1960 in Canada, he moved to California in '66 where he co-founded Buffalo Springfield (revisit here), and later joined as the occasional fourth member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young in '69. During his time with CSYN, he was simultaneously playing with another group he formed called Crazy Horse. I was planning on posting a video of Young with CS&N performing "Down By the River" from his 1969 Crazy Horse album (here), but when I think of Neil Young, this next song always comes to mind. Released on the 1972 album Harvest, "Heart of Gold" became Young's only #1 hit, gaining him mainstream popularity (my parents had this album, and as a kid, I thought he was singing "par de go," whatever that meant!). Featuring backup vocals by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt in the recording, this song was one of a series of acoustic pieces that Young wrote because of a back injury (he couldn't stand for long periods of time playing electric guitar, so he returned to acoustic which he could sit and play). If you can get over his creepy/grouchy looks, you'll hear why this is among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
And finally, we'll conclude with the Australian Easybeats with adorable Stevie Wright. You may recall seeing these guys performing the energetic "Friday On My Mind" during my "Song For Each Day of the Week" week, which is their best known song that gained them international fame. Formed in 1964 with the British Invasion as their inspiration, this Sydney-based group is regarded as the greatest Australian pop band from the 1960s. Originally performed by Ike and Tine Turner in 1966, this next video features The Easybeats performing "River Deep - Mountain High" live in 1967, however, the song would become even more popular the following year after Eric Burdon & The Animals covered it. Although known for their high-energy concerts, it doesn't look you'll see any of Wright's onstage backflips in this video, but a bit of his 'mod' dancing shows through. What a fun bunch of Aussies.

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