Posted in 1970s, Music

Happy 50th birthday, BOTW!

Image used solely to illustrate subject for purposes of an album review, and consistent with fair use doctrine

Released 26 January 1970, BOTW was Simon and Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album, and was almost the next-last album I listened to in this lifetime. I played it the night before my August 2003 car accident, and when I was finally able to sit in a chair by my record player again, that was the first LP I put on the turntable.

Ever since then, hearing any of the songs can set something off in my psyche and give me a feeling akin to body memories, with my throat getting tighter. It’s not a PTSD trigger, but it brings back memories of those almost being among the final songs I ever heard.

S&G’s last album, Bookends, was released in April 1968, and recording for BOTW commenced in November. However, a long delay arose in January 1969—the filming of Catch-22, in which Art plays Nately. (This is a dreadful, dreadful movie, taking way too many liberties with the classic novel!)

When the duo got back to business in the studio, they had to decline a number of invitations, including Woodstock. Crafting their new album was top priority. In the end, they selected eleven songs. Several other songs, among them “Feuilles-O,” “Groundhog,” and “Cuba Si, Nixon No,” were left in the vault.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (#1 in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, and New Zealand; #2 in Australia, Ireland, and Spain; #3 in Germany; #4 in Austria and South Africa; #5 in Switzerland and The Netherlands; #7 in Norway; #23 in Belgium)

“El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)” (written by Peruvian commposer Daniel Alomía Robles in 1913) (#1 in Belgium, Australia, Austria, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland; #6, #11, and #18 on different U.S. charts; #14 in New Zealand)

“Cecilia” (my third journal’s namesake song) (#1 in The Netherlands; #2 in Spain, Canada, and Germany; #3 in Belgium and Switzerland; #4, #31, and #1 on different U.S. charts; #6 in Australia and Austria; #9 in Belgium; #19 in Rhodesia)

“Keep the Customer Satisfied” (later covered by Gary Puckett as a solo artist)
“So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” (not a fan of the overly long fadeout!)

“The Boxer” (#1 and #3 on different Canadian charts; #2 in Austria and The Netherlands; #3 in South Africa; #4 and #7 on different U.S. charts; #5 in Sweden; #6 in the U.K.; #7 in Ireland; #8 in Australia; #9 in New Zealand and Norway; #10 in Spain; #13 in Zimbabwe; #19 in West Germany)

“Baby Driver”
“The Only Living Boy in New York”
“Why Don’t You Write Me”
“Bye Bye Love” (cover of The Everly Brothers’ original)
“Song for the Asking”
“Feuilles-O” (demo)*
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (demo take six)*

The album reached #1 in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Spain, and Norway. In Italy, it was #4.

While I truly enjoy this album, I don’t rank it in the same territory as PSR&T and Bookends. It’s a little too hit and miss. A truly classic album shouldn’t have so much filler!

Besides the four singles, my favorite tracks are “The Only Living Boy in New York” and “Song for the Asking.”

I originally rated it 4.5 on my old Angelfire site, but now I’d honestly give it 4 stars.

Posted in 1970s, Music, The Who

Forty years ago in Cincinnati

Happy heavenly 101st birthday to Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn!

One of the greatest tragedies in rock music history unfolded in Cincinnati on 3 December 1979, the day before I was supposed to have been born. Had I been born on schedule instead of two weeks later, the headlines on my birthdate would’ve been dominated by news of this preventable tragedy.

My favourite band, The Who, were in the final month of their 1979 world tour, which began on 2 May. They were then in their second U.S. leg of the tour. On 3 December, they played at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum (now Heritage Bank Center). Though the show wasn’t set to start till 8:00 PM, people began congregating outside as early as 1:30. Not just a few diehard fans, but a large crowd.

There were so many people so early because a radio station said festival seating ticket holders would be admitted at 3:00. Of the 18,348 tickets sold, 14,770 were for festival seating (first-come, first-served). Anyone could get a front-row seat if s/he were determined enough.

People expected every door to open simultaneously, but only a pair of doors on the far right to the main entryway opened on schedule. While some concertgoers entered those doors in an orderly fashion, the crowds in front of the other doors continued building.

By 6:30, the crowd had grown to an estimated 8,000. The doors weren’t set to open till 7:00, but many people mistook The Who’s soundcheck for the start of the actual concert. Additionally, it was only 36 degrees, and the windchill from the Ohio River made it feel even more frigid.

The concertgoers wanted in, and now.

People at the back of the line began pushing forward, but this was a short-lived panic (for the moment), as concertgoers quickly realised the doors weren’t open and the concert hadn’t begun. Then people at the head of the lines began pressing forward again and knocked on the doors.

Pandemonium broke out as the crowd heard the Quadrophenia film playing in lieu of an opening act. The mass of humanity began stampeding towards the doors, and many people were trampled, pressed along, swept off their feet, and/or asphyxiated. With only two of 106 doors open, there was nowhere to go but forward, relentlessly forward.

As people in the back continued pushing against the crowd and shouting, they had no way of knowing people in the front were piled up on the ground. Shamefully, the cops refused to do anything, even when begged for help. Some of the doors were guarded by cops with billy clubs.

By the time the so-called lucky ones found their way inside, the crowd was still piling up. People were shoved in through the turnstiles, and ticket-takers seemed to think nothing were amiss. Some people entered through the tops of the doors. Bodies, shoes, clothes, purses, and personal effects worth thousands of dollars were strewn everywhere.

The cops found the first body at 7:54, after about an hour and a half of this horrific stampede. They finally realised just how serious this situation was after the fire department, ambulances, TV crews, the mayor, the fire chief, the city safety director, the Flying Squad from the Academy of Medicine, more cops, and many other people arrived.

Mayor Ken Blackwell, who’d only started his job that day, decided the show must go on, for fear of a riot breaking out inside Riverfront Coliseum. The Who’s manager, Bill Curbishly, also feared a riot and a stampede back out through the plaza. Cincinnati’s fire marshal concurred.

Curbishly knew eleven people had died by the end of the show, and told The Who to be snappy with their encore. When he broke the news after the show, Roger burst into tears.

Many people had previously called out Riverfront Coliseum’s festival seating, which had caused prior stampedes and bottlenecking. Security and fire safety had also previously been found severely lacking. Additionally, there had been calls for gates opening directly into the stadium instead of 106 glass doors.

Mayor Vincent Cianci of Providence, Rhode Island cancelled The Who’s upcoming concert out of fear of more fatalities, despite the fact that the Providence Civic Center had assigned seating. In 2012, Pete and Roger finally returned to Providence and honoured those cancelled tickets.

Cincinnati and many other cities banned festival seating, though Cincinnati later brought it back.

The eleven victims were:

Walter Adams, Jr., age 22
Peter Bowes, age 18
Connie Sue Burns, age 21
Jacqueline Eckerle, age 15
David Heck, age 19, from Kentucky
Teva Rae Ladd, age 27
Karen Morrison, age 15
Stephan Preston, age 19
Philip Snyder, age 20
Bryan Wagner, age 17, from Kentucky
James Warmoth, age 21

May their memories be for an eternal blessing.

“Rock & Roll Tragedy: Why 11 Died at the Who’s Cincinnati Concert,” Chet Flippo, Rolling Stone, 24 January 1980

Posted in 1960s, 1970s, Historical fiction

Writing about the Vietnam draft lottery

Because today would be my Vietnam War draftee character Ricky Carson’s 67th birthday, I decided to discuss the subject of the draft lottery in the U.S. Until I got to Part IV of Little Ragdoll, I had a lot of embarrassing misconceptions about this aspect of the Vietnam War and U.S history.

The draft lottery only started in December 1969. Prior, guys were drafted by local boards. Notices were sent to guys aged 18–26, though deferments were granted for reasons including being a full-time university student, having certain kinds of jobs, having a lot of dependents, not being in good physical shape, and being a clergyman.

Local drafting ended due in part to accusations of favoring certain members of a community for deferment, exemption, and never being drafted at all, like the son of local bigwigs or a popular college football player.

On 1 December 1969, a national, blind draft was instituted for guys born from 1 January 1944–31 December 1950. There were 366 blue plastic capsules, each with a birthdate. The first number drawn was 14 September, so it was assigned the number one. Capsules continued to be drawn till each birthdate had gotten a number.

The draft lottery continued till 12 March 1975, though the final year draftees were sent to Vietnam was 1972. The final draft call was 7 December 1972. Authority to induct expired 30 June 1973.

After the first year of the lottery, numbers were only drawn for one year of birth. Guys born in 1951 were called in 1971, and guys born in 1952 were called in 1972; i.e., during the year they turned twenty.

Guys with the same birthdate were chosen in order of their last, first, and middle names’ drawing; e.g., James Peter Breiner had 25 for B, 1 for J, and 10 for P.

In my youthful ignorance, I thought guys of all ages were randomly drafted. Two of my characters born in 1930, in my Atlantic City books, escape to Canada when they’re drafted in 1967, though I now know that needs major revamping. It’s an important plot point that they be there for as long as they are, but there needs to be another reason they leave and stay so long.

From the time I thought up the story of Little Ragdoll at age thirteen in 1993, till the time I got to Part IV in very early 2011, Ricky was always Adicia’s age, born in 1954. For the longest time, the vast majority of my couples were in the same graduating year. In my youthful naïveté, I thought even a year of difference was scandalous!

Then I realized I had to make Ricky two years older than Adicia for the big plot twist with the draft to work and be historically accurate. Ricky, born 15 July 1952, has lottery number 88, and loses his student deferment when he withdraws from Columbia to enter a convenience marriage with Adicia and run away to Hudson Falls.

Ricky’s draft notice was mailed in early 1972, when he still lived in Syracuse, but he doesn’t receive it till July, after it’s first been forwarded to New York City and then brought over by his outraged parents after they return from a week-long Hamptons holiday and discover what happened in their absence.

To avoid risking any further trouble for ignoring the notice so long, Ricky goes right to the local draft board and is inducted into the Air Force. By the summer of ’72, there weren’t that many troops left in Vietnam, let alone from the Army. In December ’72, Ricky is involved in the horrific Operation Linebacker II, one of the last major campaigns of the war.

Adicia’s brother Allen, born on D-Day, gets number 110, and enrolls in the Borough of Manhattan Community College to study business. He and his wife Lenore have just welcomed their second child, and Allen is the sole support of their family and his sisters’ substitute father. He needs that draft deferment for many reasons.

Posted in 1970s, Music

The last gasp of a classic sound

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

Released May 1972, Chameleon was The Four Seasons’ only Motown album, after many successful years at Phillips culminating in rapidly waning popularity. Though founding member and lead guitarist Tommy DeVito left after the release of their previous album, Half and Half, the band’s classic sound nevertheless was able to continue for one more album.

While bassist Joe Long and keyboardist Bob Gaudio (both of whom also performed backing vocals) contributed to major comeback Who Loves You in 1975, Chameleon marked their final foray as part of The Four Seasons’ public face and overall style.

By 1972, The Four Seasons’ established voice and style were very out of step with the face of popular music. They’d developed beautifully into a very smooth, mature, adult style, while still staying true to themselves, but it wasn’t what most people wanted to hear anymore.

Songwriters Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe went back to the drawing board to try one final time to get back into the mainstream with an album full of songs people would welcomingly embrace. Their songs were usually such a winning blend of contemporary sounds with the band’s own style, but most of their fans had long since moved on.

Though Chameleon failed to chart in the U.S, it’s very warmly received by both modern fans and critics. It has a wonderful sound, continuing to show how The Four Seasons really hit their creative stride after peak popularity. These albums from the second half of their career show how much deeper they were than their image suggested.

Some of the unused songs ended up on Frankie’s 1975 solo album Inside You, which is composed of Chameleon outtakes and unreleased songs.

Track listing:

“A New Beginning (Prelude)” (instrumental)
“Sun Country”
“You’re a Song (That I Can’t Sing)”
“The Night” (#7 in the U.K. after a 1975 rerelease)
“A New Beginning”
“When the Morning Comes”
“Poor Fool”
“Touch the Rainchild”
“Love Isn’t Here (Like It Used to Be)”

Because the album tanked, Motown’s subsidiary label MoWest (who officially released Chameleon) cancelled a planned follow-up record. In a 2014 interview, Frankie attributed the lack of success to Motown’s nonexistent promotion. The greatest album in the world can fail if it’s not promoted properly, or at all.

Posted in 1970s, Music

A smooth farewell to a classic lineup

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

Released May 1970, Half and Half saw The Four Seasons returning to a more familiar pop and soft rock sound, after the critical success but commercial failure of January 1969’s Genuine Imitation Life Gazette. Longtime fans were confused and angered by this radical departure from their signature sound, and this change in direction did nothing to garner many new fans.

Songwriter Bob Gaudio went back to the drawing board for what turned out to be the band’s final album on the Phillips label, and produced songs that felt like a more mature, updated version of their previous hits. They’re the obvious work of The Four Seasons being themselves, not trying to remake themselves at a very awkward crossroads in popular music history.

Some fans feel the album suffers from its deliberate half-and-half direction (corresponding to the title). Half the songs are proper Four Seasons’ songs, while the other half are Frankie Valli solo. However, I don’t find that confusing or jarring. It’s just how this album came together!

I love how it showcases Bob Gaudio’s continued maturation and evolution as a songwriter. Of course the hits he wrote in the Sixties are awesome, but he couldn’t be expected to keep doing songs like “Dawn (Go Away),” “Sherry,” “Ronnie,” “Candy Girl,” and “Girl Come Running” as he approached thirty. It’s the same reason I no longer write like I did as a teenager, even though the core elements are much the same.

Songwriters, musicians, writers, artists, etc., who stay in the exact same style their entire creative careers are boring. All creators need to grow, evolve, change, mature, and develop over time. It doesn’t mean each project necessarily has a radically different style. One can easily mature and evolve within that same general voice and style. As new elements are added, they naturally mesh with the pre-existing style and voice.

It’s a shame The Four Seasons grew into such a smooth, mature style after their popularity peak. Their albums from 1969–77 are such a wonderful treat, possibly their best work, night and day next to their earliest hits most people associate with them, but most people are completely unfamiliar with them.

Sadly, most people automatically wrote them off as unhip, an embarrassing reminder of a different musical milieu. No matter how much they evolved with the times and tried different things, that could never cut it for people who’d already moved on to newer bands. A lot of artists who’d enjoyed great popularity in the early and mid-Sixties sank in popularity almost overnight in 1968-69, replaced by new bands. I’ve heard it called the British Invasion in reverse.

Half and Half only reached #190 in the U.S., though it did spawn three minor hits. This was also the final album to feature founding member and lead guitarist Tommy DeVito (who’ll turn 91 on 19 June). Truly, a perfect farewell to the second of their two classic lineups.

Track listing:

“Emily”
“And That Reminds Me” (#45 in the U.S.)
“Circles in the Sand” (probably my fave track!)
“Sorry”
“The Girl I’ll Never Know (Angels Never Fly This Low)” (#52 on U.S. Billboard; #32 on the Adult Contemporary chart)
“She Gives Me Light”
“To Make My Father Proud”
“Patch of Blue” (#94 in the U.S.)
“The Morning After Loving You”
“Any Day Now/Oh Happy Day (Medley)”