Happy 50th birthday, Evolution!

Copyright Parlophone; image used solely to illustrate subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Evolution, released 1 June 1967, was the first of two Hollies’ albums to come out in 1967. It was recorded from 11 January–17 March 1967, and is a classic of the psychedelic era. People who perpetuate the myth that The Hollies only did lightweight pop haven’t listened to this album!

The Hollies were always less popular here across the pond than they were in their native U.K., which adds to the lack of familiarity many people may have with it. Of course, there’s also blame to be laid at a certain former bandmember who couldn’t stop talking about how he left because he got too cool for his band.

It reached #13 in the U.K., and is composed entirely of songs written by Allan Clarke (lead singer), Tony Hicks (lead guitarist), and Graham Nash (rhythm guitarist). In addition to serving as the band’s songwriting team, these three also provided their famous harmonies.

Psychedelic photographer Karl Ferris took the photo used on the cover, with the artwork created by The Fool, a Dutch design collective and band. It depicts The Hollies breaking through a membrane to get away from their pop sound into the psychedelic world. They’re pushing into a new musical style and level of consciousness.

Track listing:

“Then the Heartaches Began”
“Stop Right There”
“Water on the Brain”
“Lullaby to Tim” (written for Allan’s firstborn child)
“Have You Ever Loved Somebody?”
“You Need Love”
“Rain on the Window”
“Heading for a Fall”
“Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe”
“When Your Light’s Turned On”
“Leave Me”
“The Games We Play”

The U.S. repackaging, while keeping the title, put the tracks in a different order, remixed everything with heavy echo and reverb, included the single “Carrie-Anne” (the source of my pen name) as the lead-off track, and left off “Water on the Brain,” “Leave Me,” and “When Your Light’s Turned On.”

The U.S. record company also didn’t use The Fool’s overall cover design, wanting the artform to be more consistent with the U.S. psychedelic style. This was The Hollies’ début for their new U.S. record label, Epic.

None of the songs were released as singles in the U.K., and the U.S. only released “Carrie-Anne” (not an original album track) as a single.

My favorite tracks are “Have You Ever Loved Somebody?,” “Then the Heartaches Began,” “Leave Me,” and “Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe.” I highly recommend this if you’re interested in getting to know The Hollies beyond their most overplayed songs.

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Happy 50th birthday, PAC&J Ltd.!

Copyright Colgems; image used solely for the purpose of illustrating the subject for an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 6 November 1967, Pisces, Capricorn, Aquarius, & Jones Ltd. was The Monkees’ fourth album. Like their previous three, it too went to #1. Though picking a favorite Monkees’ album is like picking a favorite child, I’d pick this one in a pinch.

The title comes from the boys’ sun signs. Micky is Pisces, Peter is Aquarius, and Nez and Davy are Capricorn. Since the lattermost two shared a birthday (albeit three years apart), Davy’s surname was also included to avoid any potential confusion.

Track listing and writing credits, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Salesman” (Craig Vincent Smith)
“She Hangs Out” (Jeff Barry)
“The Door into Summer” (Chip Douglas and Bill Martin)
“Love Is Only Sleeping” (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill)
“Cuddly Toy” (Harry Nilsson)
“Words” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart)
“Hard to Believe” (Davy with Kim Capli, Eddie Brick, and Charlie Rockett)
“What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?” (Michael Martin Murphey and Owen Castleman)
“Peter Percival Patterson’s Pet Pig Porky” (Peter)
“Pleasant Valley Sunday” (Gerry Goffin and Carole King)
“Daily Nightly” (Nez)
“Don’t Call on Me” (Nez with John London)
“Star Collector” (Goffin and King)
“Goin’ Down” (stereo mix) (all four Monkees with Diane Hilderbrand)*
“Salesman” (alternate stereo mix)*
“She Hangs Out” (alternate stereo mix)*
“Love Is Only Sleeping” (alternate mix)*
“What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?” (alternate mix)*
“Star Collector” (alternate stereo mix)*
“Riu Chiu” (TV version) (traditional)*
Original first thirteen tracks in mono*
Special Announcement*
“Salesman” (alternate mono mix)*
“Cuddly Toy” (alternate mix)*
“Goin’ Down” (mono single mix)*
“The Door into Summer” (2007 remastered alternate mix)*
“Daily Nightly” (alternate mix)*
“Star Collector” (alternate mix)*

As with their previous album Headquarters, the boys exercised a great deal of creative control, though there were more studio musicians brought in. Nez takes center stage on five of the original tracks, while Micky only sings lead on three. Micky had vocally dominated their previous three albums.

Davy sings lead on four, and Peter gets the short novelty song “Peter Percival Patterson’s Pet Pig Porky.”

The album yielded the double B-side “Pleasant Valley Sunday”/”Words,” the former song of which went to #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box Top 100; #2 in New Zealand and Canada; #4 in Norway; #10 in Australia; #11 in Ireland and the U.K.; and #18 in Germany.

“Words” was somewhat less popular on the charts, though it went to a respectable #11 on Billboard.

A Moog synthesizer is famously heard on “Star Collector” (as well as featured in “Daily Nightly” and “Love Is Only Sleeping”). PAC&J was one of the first mainstream, popular albums to feature this instrument, which Micky had discovered and introduced to the band.

My favorite tracks are “The Door into Summer,” “Words,” “Love Is Only Sleeping,” and “Star Collector.” This is an excellent album for new fans to get to know The Monkees beyond their most overplayed singles.

Happy 50th birthday, Headquarters!

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

Released 22 May 1967, Headquarters was The Monkees’ third studio album, and their first with almost complete creative control. The few outside musicians were properly credited, as were the professional songwriters.

Though The Monkees began life as a TV show band, assembled from four guys chosen via auditions, they rebelled against their handlers and became a real band. It was also beshert, destiny, that those four guys were chosen out of everyone who auditioned, and that they meshed together so well.

HQ immediately reached #1, but was dethroned by the most overrated album of all time a mere week later. It stayed at #2 for the next 11 weeks. HQ also reached #1 in Canada and the U.K. In Norway and Finland, it charted at #2.

Track listing, with stars by the 2007 bonus tracks:

“You Told Me” (Nez)
“I’ll Spend My Life with You” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart)
“Forget That Girl” (Douglas Farthing Hatlelid)
“Band 6” (mostly instrumental)
“You Just May Be the One” (Nez, with a chorus line some people have famously misheard as “Oh, Nimbus” instead of “All men must”)
“Shades of Gray” (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)
“I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind” (Boyce and Hart)
“For Pete’s Sake” (Peter and Joey Richards; used as the closing theme for the second season of the TV show)
“Mr. Webster” (Boyce and Hart; reminds me very much of “Richard Cory” on Sounds of Silence)
“Sunny Girlfriend” (Nez)
“Zilch” (a fun nonsense number that’s a group effort)
“No Time” (Hank Cicalo)
“Early Morning Blues and Greens” (Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller)
“Randy Scouse Git” (Famously written by Micky about his wild, exciting experience in London and meeting his first wife. The title translates as “Horny Liverpudlian Jerk,” and was hence retitled “Alternate Title” in the U.K.)
“All of Your Toys” (Bill Martin)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (Nez)*
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (Neil Diamond)*
“She Hangs Out” (Jeff Barry)*
“Love to Love” (Neil Diamond)*
“You Can’t Tie a Mustang Down” (Jeff Barry)*
“If I Learned to Play the Violin” (Joey Levine and Artie Resnick)*
“99 Pounds” (Jeff Barry)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (single version)*
“Randy Scouse Git” (alternate version)*
“Tema Dei Monkees” (Boyce and Hart)*
“All of Your Toys” (early mono mix)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (second version)*
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (mono single remix)*
“She Hangs Out” (mono single mix)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (mono single mix)*
“Nine Times Blue” (Nez; demo version)*
“She’ll Be There” (Sharon Sheeley; acoustic duet)*
“Midnight Train” (Micky; demo version)*
“Peter Gunn’s Gun” (Henry Mancini; jam session)*
“Jericho” (studio dialogue, arranged by Peter)*
“Pillow Time” (Janelle Scott and Matt Willis; demo version)*

I absolutely adore this album, and easily give it 5 stars. The bonus tracks on the most updated reissue are also awesome, though I personally feel like they go on too long and start detracting from the listening experience. The last few bonus tracks are kind of like the endless jam sessions on the third LP of ATMP, where I’d constantly wonder, “Isn’t this over yet?” It would feel less bloated with less bonus tracks, and the rest saved for a boxed set or disc of rarities or outtakes.

HQ is definitely one of the key albums to get acquainted with if you’re just getting into The Monkees!

Vintage soldier photos with a twist

Due to my move and the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, I’ll once again only be posting on Sunday and Monday of this week. To mark Memorial Day, here are some vintage photos of soldiers you may not have seen before.

A U.S. Army medic in WWII takes some time to help civilian children.

A U.S. Army medic (45th Infantry Division) and a captured Wehrmacht medic work together on a wounded Wehrmacht soldier, Anzio, Italy, 6 February 1944

U.S. Army medic treating a wounded Waffen SS soldier, 1944

1 July 1944, U.S. Army medics helping a wounded dog found in the rubble of Carentan, France

Some medics (like my character Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov of the Canadian Army) were trained as vets instead of people doctors, so why shouldn’t some human doctors sometimes switch their focus too?

1944, medics’ station

1943, wounded soldiers being evacuated sans ambulance

A Wehrmacht soldier with a soft spot for kittens

A cat hissing at a Wehrmacht soldier

A little boy saying goodbye to his father during WWII

WWI medics helping a wounded dog

He was caught and relieved of his post shortly afterwards, his ultimate fate unknown. It’s hard to believe the Berlin Wall really existed in my own lifetime and that there used to be two Germanys, since there’s been one unified Germany for 75% of my life so far!

Lessons learnt from post-publication polishing, Part III

There’s nothing better than good old-fashioned time in a writer’s journey. We become better writers with the passage of time, and learn what our weaknesses are and how to edit our work. Excellent, experienced critique partners and the most esteemed editor in the world telling us such-and-such is awkward phrasing, an overused word, cluttery chat, overwrought prose, or infodumpy dialogue won’t mean anything if it doesn’t click in our brains. We have to see it for ourselves, not merely be told it’s a problem. Only then can we begin to understand how to improve.

Thus, I noticed a number of shortcomings while editing the second edition of Little Ragdoll. In addition to what I’ve previously mentioned, I also found:

1. Rehashing established information. We already know, for example, everything good Allen has done for Lenore since he gave her a safe place to stay when she was a 15-year-old runaway. Why be reminded of the main points every time Lenore reflects on or talks about their history together?

We also already know all the good things Father and Mrs. Murphy up in Yorkville have done for Lucine and Emeline, and how they adopted oldest sister Gemma’s birth son Giovanni after she divorced her abusive, unwanted husband and started over. There’s no need to be reminded again and again.

2. Pointless, cluttery chat adding nothing to the scene, or coming across like me putting my own viewpoints into characters’ mouths. At one point, Allen is talking about how his parents were very upset when Giovanni was adopted and taken out of their clutches, since they’d been planning to sell him for at least $1,000 on the baby black market. There’s no need to point that out when we already know how black-hearted they are and why Allen doesn’t want them coming anywhere near his kids.

In another scene, when Ernestine, Julie, and the three oldest Ryan siblings are comforting Adicia after her black-hearted, unmotherly mother coerced her into sacrificing her virginity to save her mother from returning to prison, Ernestine and Girl/Deirdre get into a discussion about the repackaging of Beatles’ albums. Though Adicia snaps at them to have this conversation later, and they apologize, it’s still really inappropriate they began discussing that during such an emotional time.

3. If a character is meant as an intellectual or someone very political, make sure that naturally flows with the overall direction of a scene or dialogue. Emeline just wouldn’t be the same Emeline if she didn’t constantly bubble over with chatter about books, philosophy, music, Eastern religions, and vegetarianism. Likewise, Girl/Deirdre, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Ernestine wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t so tuned into politics and social issues. They have to be discussing that for a reason, not out of the blue.

4. Some dialogues and passages don’t lose anything, and are made stronger, by cutting out the fat. This goes for removing overwrought prose, too many details, unnecessary lines, rehashing established information, and polemics which sound more like the author trying to work one’s opinions in than a character naturally expressing such thoughts.

In the scene of Ernestine and the Ryans riding up to Hudson Falls from Poughkeepsie for Thanksgiving 1972, I cut out everything Deirdre said about a certain topic. Now, Adicia begs to talk about something else after she feels Deirdre’s scathing critique of this subject is finished. I similarly cut out the dialogue Ernestine and Deirdre have when revisiting this subject during baking on Christmas Eve.

5. When a story is set during a very political time, conversations of a political nature are kind of inevitable. The first time the subject of the Vietnam War is broached, it leads into Lenore hoping Allen isn’t drafted, and then turns into the girls planning what Lenore will get Allen for his upcoming 21st birthday and trying to get Lenore to admit she has a crush on Allen.

Chapter 37, “The Year the World Went Up in Flames,” is about 1968, and so it naturally follows there will be discussions about things like the presidential election, RFK’s assassination, the feminist protests by the Miss America pageant, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Were I only starting over with this story today, I’d write certain things differently, maybe change wraparound narrative passages into active scenes. Part I in particular might be drastically different. But this is how the story came together, and I can’t alter everything in the impossible quest for perfection.