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.

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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.

The Crown Colony of Aden

Aden, Yemen and the surrounding area (including Perim, Kamaran, and Kuria Muria Islands) joined British India in 1858, and officially became a separate colony on 1 April 1937. This port city was very important to British trade, commerce, transportation, fuel, and naval warfare.

Education was provided to both sexes until at least junior high. High school (or its equivalent thereof) and university education was allotted to a select few who qualified for scholarships to study abroad.

Arabic was the language of instruction for elementary school and junior high, while high schools and independent schools taught in Arabic, English, Hebrew, Urdu, and Gujarati. Religious Muslim schools for girls weren’t officially recognized.The colony had three governmental bodies—the Aden municipality (Aden, Ma’alla, Tawali, Crater [Seera]), Sheikh Othman’s Township authority, and Little Aden (1955–67). In spite of having a Muslim majority, secular courts handled everything. There was no Sharia Law.

Unlike other British colonies, Aden was very slow to gain self-government and local participation. Until 1 December 1955, the Executive Council wasn’t elected.

Aden’s economy was largely based upon its role in East–West trade. By 1955, its port had become the next-busiest in the world after only New York’s. Many tourists also flocked to the colony, though tourism began declining in the colony’s final years.

Also during the colony’s final years, much civil unrest reigned. There were many strikes, riots, demonstrations, bombings, and attacks on British authorities, often spurred on by nationalism and politics instead of economic reasons.

On 18 January 1963, the colony was reconstituted as the State of Aden, part of the new Federation of South Arabia. However, most of the problems plaguing Aden didn’t magickally improve upon gaining independence.

The Radfan Uprising began 14 October 1963, when a grenade was thrown at British officials in Aden Airport. A state of emergency was declared immediately, and guerrilla violence reigned. Due to fighting among different rebel groups, more Yemenis than Brits were killed.

The British finally gave up their colony on 30 November 1967, and Aden became part of the People’s Republic of South Yemen. Like other Arab colonies who’d gained their independence, Aden refused to join the British Commonwealth.

South Yemen and the Yemen Arab Republic united on 22 May 1990. It’s hard to believe I’m old enough to remember when there were two Yemens!

Aden’s historic Jewish community did much better for themselves than the rest of Yemen’s Jewish community. Most of Aden Jewry were craftspeople and artisans, and there were seven synagogues. Since they were under British rule, they didn’t have dhimmi status like the Jewish population in the rest of the Arab world.

During the Shoah, many people fleeing Europe for pre-State Israel wound up in Aden, where they were put in refugee camps. In 1942, there was an outbreak of typhus.

In December 1947, shortly after the miraculous U.N. vote approving the Partition Plan, anti-Semitic riots in Aden claimed the lives of 76–82 and wounded 76 more. Much of the Jewish Quarter was looted and burnt.

After this, almost everyone began fleeing to Israel. Between 1947–63, over 4,000 people left. A total of 12,000 people, from both Aden and Yemen, gathered in transit camps after Israel’s miraculous victory in the War of Independence and Egypt’s reopening the Suez Canal and Red Sea.

An average 300 people a day were airlifted in Operation Magic Carpet.

As of April 2017, a reported 50 Jews were left in Yemen, down from what had been 50,000.

During the partial relocation/defection of my character Mrs. Brezhneva’s Kyiv orphanage in 1937, there’s a pit stop in Aden, en route to Iran, to secure British asylum. That way, they’ll have a guarantee of safety, and official permission to enter and settle in Iran.

A representative of the British Consulate, Arkadiy Orlov, who’s there on business from Isfahan, Iran, is among the people sent onto their boat to conduct interviews. He’s assigned to Inna Zhirinovskaya, Mrs. Brezhneva’s second in command and a former orphanage child herself.

The next day at the Consulate, Arkasha (a former prince) gives everyone Nansen passports and gives Inna a parcel which she unwraps on the journey to Iran. It’s a silver necklace with coral beads and a dove pendant with a heart-shaped carnelian in the center, from one of Aden’s Jewish craftsmen.

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!

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.