Celebrating The Ox on his 16th Jahrzeit

This year, in honor of the 16th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of The Who’s bassist, John Alec Entwistle, I’m featuring my favorite songs he sang lead on. He was such a dear, special treasure, and often underappreciated. My estrogen Who lists were very active in the early Aughts, and it was rather uncommon for us to get a John girl. Most of us held one of the other three as our fave raves.

My all-time favorite John song! The lyrics are particularly poignant after his premature passing. Yet again, he proved how very deep still waters run.

This is John’s solo lead vocal on Who Are You, though he wrote three of its songs. It’s quite unusual how Roger sings two John songs. Like “When I Was a Boy,” “905” too has extra poignancy since his untimely passing. I also see parallels with Brave New World and We.

One of John’s two songs from A Quick One. It’s so cute how he sings his Rs as Ls and Ws (noticeable in the words “friend” and “drink”) in the hopes that they’ll run together and come out properly. He had a hard time singing his Rs at this early stage.

One of John’s songs from The Who Sell Out. Like so many of his other songs, it’s so full of his trademark dark, quirky, deadpan humor. His sense of humor is one of my favorite things about him.

John’s song on The Who by Numbers (which I’ll be writing a proper review of soon). It’s also full of his trademark quirky, dark humor, and fits so well with the overall mood of the album. While it’s not as dark and depressing as the rest of the songs except the insipid “Squeeze Box,” it still has that same sort of edge and mood. It also brings some levity to the mix, in its own quirky way. I also love the deep Boris voice he uses on the “fairy manager” line.

Originally the lead-off track on Odds and Sods, but moved closer to the end on the CD remastering. The songs (original tracks as well as bonus songs) are arranged in chronological order on the reissue. Yet again, it’s bursting with his trademark style of humor.

Doesn’t everyone love this song? It’s one of John’s classic Who songs, and the reason I named my stuffed spider keychain Boris. The name is truly pronounced Bah-REECE, not BOR-iss, but I can’t help but use the Anglo pronunciation for my spider when that’s the one used in his namesake song.

I’ve got the VHS of their incredible 1970 Isle of Wight show, and watched it so many times in my early twenties. Sadly, I haven’t been able to play it in years, due to not having a VCR at the moment. The Who often opened with “Heaven and Hell.” The lyrics have extra poignancy since John’s passing. The studio version on the remastered Odds and Sods majorly pales in comparison to the live classic. The Who were known as a live band, not a studio one. Even their greatest studio songs gained an extra level of fire onstage.

John’s song on Who’s Next. It’s one of his most belovèd and quintessential, and of course full of his trademark style of humor. So many of his songs are bursting with it.

John’s solo lead vocal on the rather unfairly denigrated Face Dances, though he also wrote “You.” This is one of his signature songs, and perfectly sums up so much about who he was. There are so many parallels between him and George Harrison, starting with the obvious fact that each was labeled The Quiet One of his respective band. Speaking from personal experience, once you’ve been saddled with that label, it’s damn-near impossible to throw it off, and people often don’t take you seriously. We have to prove how very deep still waters can run.

May your beautiful light shine forever, dear sweet Junnykins. The world is a better place because you were in it for 57 years. It was an honor to share Planet Earth with you for 22 and a half of those years.

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Happy 50th birthday, Bookends!

Released 3 April 1968, only 24 hours before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bookends was Simon and Garfunkel’s fourth studio album. I won a vinyl copy for myself on e-Bay as a university graduation present in 2002, after continually failing to find it at any of the record shops in Amherst and Northampton. It was well worth the wait.

The album was #1 in the U.S. and U.K., #3 in Australia and France, and #40 in the two Germanies. Both then and now, the album has generally gotten very good reviews.

Below is the track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Bookends Theme” (instrumental)
“Save the Life of My Child”
“America”
“Overs”
“Voices of Old People” (sound collage)
“Old Friends”
“Bookends Theme” (with lyrics)
“Fakin’ It” (released as a single, but only had moderate AM radio success)
“Punky’s Dilemma”
“Mrs. Robinson” (one of the most overplayed songs on oldies radio!) (#1 in the U.S. and Canada; #4 in the U.K.; #5 in The Netherlands; #6 in Switzerland; #8 in Australia, Belgium, and Norway; #9 in New Zealand; #39 in the two Germanies)
“A Hazy Shade of Winter” (#13 in the U.S.; #14 in New Zealand; #30 in the U.K.)
“At the Zoo” (#18 in the U.S.)
“You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies” (B-side of “Fakin’ It”)*
“Old Friends” (Demo version)*

Side One, which ends with the lyrical “Bookends Theme,” is generally considered to be much stronger than Side Two. The songs are deeper, more mature and complex, really setting the mood of a concept album with a stark, moody, black and white theme. It feels like a journey through life.

Side Two starts with two strong album songs (though some people feel they’re weaker than the ones on Side One), and closes with three singles. By 1968, artists had generally moved away from padding albums out with singles.

I also feel the album would’ve had a stronger closing, with a true sense that this is The End, had the final two tracks been switched. “At the Zoo” is fun and whimsical, but it’s not the kind of track I expect such a good album to close with. It’s just kind of there. “A Hazy Shade of Winter” feels more final.

Bookends was so successful, its volume of advance orders enabled Columbia Records to apply for award certification before the LPs had left the warehouse. Its success was due in part to the release, 10 weeks earlier, of The Graduate soundtrack, and because it came in the immediate wake of MLK’s assassination.

Columbia chairman Clive Davis wanted to raise the price to $5.79 ($41 in 2017), a dollar above normal retail, but Paul Simon dug in his heels and refused. Instead, the duo signed a contract extension with a higher royalty rate.

Though my favorite S&G album is Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (which was almost the third-last album I heard in this lifetime), I think Bookends ties with Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. as my next-fave. My favorite tracks are “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” “Old Friends,” “America,” “Fakin’ It,” and “Bookends Theme.” It’s a beautiful musical portrait of 1968, an album I highly recommend.

Happy 50th birthday, BB&M!

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purpose of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 22 April 1968, The Birds, the Bees, & The Monkees was The Monkees’ fifth studio album, and their first to not reach #1. It reached #3 in the U.S., #5 in Australia, #6 in Canada, #8 in Finland, #28 in the two Germanies, and #44 in Japan. The album failed to chart at all in the U.K.

This album came at a very difficult crossroads in the band’s career. Their awesome TV show had been cancelled (the last episode aired 25 March 1968); their trippy movie Head was a box office flop; and the bulk of their fanbase were starting to move on to other music.

Track listing of the most widely-available remastering, with stars by bonus tracks:

“Dream World” (written by Davy and Steve Pitts)
“Auntie’s Municipal Court” (Nez and Keith Allison; an unusual example of Micky singing lead on a Nez song)
“We Were Made for Each Other” (Carole Bayer and George Fischoff)
“Tapioca Tundra” (Nez) (#34 in the U.S.)
“Daydream Believer” (John Stewart) (#1 in the U.S.; #5 in the U.K.)
“Writing Wrongs” (Nez)
“I’ll Be Back Up on My Feet” (Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell)
“The Poster” (Davy and Steve Pitts)
“P.O. Box 9847” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart)
“Magnolia Simms” (Nez)
“Valleri” (Boyce and Hart) (#3 in the U.S.; #12 in the U.K.)
“Zor and Zam” (Bill and John Chadwick)
“Alvin” (Nicholas Thorkelson)*
“I’m Gonna Try” (Davy and Steve Pitts)*
“P.O. Box 9847” (Early Mix)*
“The Girl I Left Behind Me” (Neil Sedaka and Carole Bayer)*
“Lady’s Baby” (Peter)*

I have a 1996 vinyl reissue with two bonus tracks, “I’m Gonna Try” and an alternate mix of “P.O. Box 9847.” It was sealed, but I had to open it. I normally don’t buy sealed editions, but that was the one and only copy in stock at either branch of Last Vestige Records. This was also 2003, so it wasn’t that old. I never would’ve opened a sealed LP of very old vintage. The plastic wrap is still loose around it.

In 2010, Rhino released a deluxe 3-CD edition, available only online from their website. As far as I can determine, it’s no longer for sale through Rhino, though one can find it through third-party sellers on sites like Amazon and e-Bay (for quite a steep price). This boxed set has the original album in both stereo and mono, along with over 60 bonus tracks, an essay booklet, and a commemorative pin.

My favourite tracks are “Writing Wrongs,” “Tapioca Tundra,” “I’ll Be Back Up on My Feet,” and “Zor and Zam.” The lattermost appears in the final episode of The Monkees, and the end never fails to give me goosebumps. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t heard it. “Zor and Zam” is also powerful evidence for Micky as one of rock’s most underrated male vocalists.

A lot of people trash “Writing Wrongs” as one of the band’s worst songs, but I absolutely adore how trippy and out there it is. The comparison to The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9” is very apt. Many people hate that song too, but I’ve listened to it on repeat many times. You either love or hate it.

BB&M is often called The Monkees’ White Album, with each Monkee doing songs in his own respective style, a band album that’s more like a solo showcase for each. While I’d rate this album 5 stars without contest, I can see how it might not be the most ideal album for a potential new fan. It’s more of an album to save for after one’s fandom is stronger and more established.

“Divine intervention couldn’t keep the word from leaking out”

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine. I really thought I had photos of my own vinyl copy, but I couldn’t find them. Now my entire vinyl collection is 900 miles away, in storage with almost everything else I own.

As discussed in my fandom story, Valentine’s Day 2011 was that magical moment when the switch flipped and I officially became a Duranie (though I was intellectually in denial about it for awhile). It’s hard to believe seven years have already passed!

To mark my seventh Duraniversary, I decided to review their very underrated album Big Thing, released 18 October 1988. Coming after the masses of screaming teenyboppers had petered out, this album came at a time when the musical scene was shifting from the trademark Eighties synth-pop sound to dance music.

To try to get a fair shot at unbiased radio play, the band sent an edited, three-minute version of “The Edge of America” and “Lake Shore Driving” to radio stations, under the title Official Bootleg: The LSD Edit, and credited to The Krush Brothers.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks on the 2010 reissue:

“Big Thing”
“I Don’t Want Your Love” (#4 in the U.S.; #14 in the U.K.)
“All She Wants Is” (a song I found very monotonous until I saw the awesome music video) (#9 in the U.K.; #22 in the U.S.)
“Too Late Marlene”
“Drug (It’s Just a State of Mind)”
“Do You Believe in Shame?” (#30 in the U.K.; #72 in the U.S.)
“Palomino”
“Interlude One”
“Land”
“Flute Interlude”
“The Edge of America”
“Lake Shore Driving”
“I Don’t Want Your Love” (7″ mix)*
“All She Wants Is” (45 mix)*
“I Believe/All I Need to Know”*
“The Krush Brothers LSD Edit”*
“God (London)”*
“This Is How a Road Gets Made”*
“Palomino” (edit)*
“Drug (It’s Just a State of Mind)” (Remix)*
“Big Thing” (7″ mix)*
“I Don’t Want Your Love” (Big mix)*
“All She Wants Is” (U.S. master mix)*
“Big Thing” (12″ mix)*
“All She Wants Is” (Eurohouse mix)*

The album was #15 in the U.K., and #24 in the U.S. While it’s known as the band’s house music album (a popular style of dance music originating in Chicago), there are also lush, beautiful pieces of musical art like “Palomino” and “Do You Believe in Shame?”

The album also contains three experimental instrumentals, “Interlude One,” “Flute Interlude,” and “Lake Shore Driving.” This isn’t the type of album irrevocably date-stamped and immediately announcing its era.

Due to the relatively low chart position of third single “Do You Believe in Shame?,” the planned fourth single, “Drug,” wasn’t released.

My favorite tracks are “The Edge of America,” “Land,” “Palomino,” “Do You Believe in Shame?,” and “Too Late Marlene.” I’d rate this album a solid 4 stars.

Happy 50th birthday to The Who Sell Out!

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

The Who’s third album, released 15 December 1967, came into my own life on 6 December 2000, and is one of my absolute favorites of theirs. They always had a new sound and themes with each album, in spite of the so-called fans who rant and rave about how they dared not do Who’s Next for their entire career.

This, unlike the most overrated album of all time, is a shining example of a consistent concept album. While the concept kind of fizzles out in the middle of the original album, it’s unique and cohesive. The CD remastering improves the concept’s flow.

Sell Out is a spoof of Radio London, a pirate radio station which operated from 23 December 1964–14 August 1967, from a ship anchored in the North Sea. In addition to songs advertising real products, there are also little jingles running between the songs.

The album ended with an instrumental version of a Track Records ad in a locked groove. The CD remastering changed it to a vocal jingle.

Track listing and lead vocals, with stars by bonus tracks:

“Armenia City in the Sky” (using the pronunciation Ar-men-EE-yah, not Ar-MEEN-ee-yah) (written by Speedy Keen and sung by Roger)
“Heinz Baked Beans” (John)
“Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand” (Roger and Pete)
“Odorono” (Pete)
“Tattoo” (Roger)
“Our Love Was” (Pete)
“I Can See for Miles” (Roger)
“I Can’t Reach You” (Pete)
“Medac” (John)
“Relax” (Pete)
“Silas Stingy” (John)
“Sunrise” (Pete)
“Rael” (Roger) (the name of my sixth journal)
“Rael 2” (Pete)*
“Glittering Girl” (Pete)*
“Melancholia” (Pete; famously previously released on Scoop, with the hilarious commentary, “I’m pretty sure The Who never heard this one”)*
“Someone’s Coming” (written by John but sung by Roger)*
“Jaguar” (written by Pete but sung by Keith)*
“Early Morning Cold Taxi” (written and sung by Roger)*
“In the Hall of the Mountain King” (instrumental; written by Edvard Grief)*
“Girl’s Eyes” (Keith)*
“Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand” (U.S. Mirasound version)*
“Glow Girl” (Roger and Pete)*

The album reached #13 in the U.K., and #48 in the U.S. “I Can See for Miles” reached #10 in the U.K., and #9 in the U.S. This was their only Top 10 song in the U.S., and the first Who song I was consciously aware of hearing, back in ’93. Since they were an active band till I was three, I probably heard them on the radio, but “ICSFM” was the first I specifically remember hearing.

My favorite songs are “ICSFM,” “Sunrise” (which a lot of guy fans hate and bash), “Our Love Was,” “I Can’t Reach You,” “Rael,” “Rael 2,” “Glow Girl,” “Tattoo,” and “Silas Stingy.”

Back in the days of Yahoogroups, the main estrogen Who list was called Glow Girls. It contains the genesis of Tommy, with the music that became “Sparks” and “Underture,” and the outro verse “It’s a girl, Mrs. Walker, it’s a girl,” as the girl in the song dies in a horrific plane crash and is reincarnated. “[O]nly of course Tommy was a dear little boy.”

Many people have seen parallels between “Rael” and Israel, both because 1967 was the year of the Six-Day War, and lines like:

“My heritage is threatened/My roots are torn and cornered”
“Rael, the home of my religion/To me the centre of the Earth”
“The country of my fathers/A proud land of old order/Like a goldfish being swallowed by a whale”

The album has received many positive reviews, both then and now, and is widely considered one of The Who’s very best. Interestingly, Roger only sang lead on five of the original tracks, the same number as Pete. Roger still didn’t have the greatest range or vocal confidence yet. Touring Tommy all over the world was what turned him into a vocal powerhouse.

I highly recommend this album!