Happy 50th birthday, Butterfly!

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

Released 1 November 1967, Butterfly was The Hollies’ seventh album, and my own personal favorite of the Graham Nash era. It also might be my overall favorite, it’s that damn good. I love the psychedelic sound.

This was their third album in a row to be composed entirely of songs by Allan Clarke (lead singer), Tony Hicks (lead guitarist), and Graham Nash (rhythm guitarist).

As with their earlier 1967 release Evolution, none of the songs were released as singles in the U.K., though in the U.S., the lead-off track “Dear Eloise” reached #50. “Try It” was the U.S. B-side of “Jennifer Eccles,” and “Elevated Observations” was the B-side of “Do the Best You Can.”

Track listing:

“Dear Eloise” (for which an early music video, in black and white, was made)
“Away Away Away”
“Maker” (features a sitar)
“Pegasus” (one of the rare times Tony sings lead)
“Would You Believe?”
“Postcard” (no relation to The Who’s later song by the same name)
“Charlie and Fred”
“Try It”
“Elevated Observations”
“Step Inside”

The U.S. and Canadian repackaging, released 27 November 1967, was retitled Dear Eloise/King Midas in Reverse, and used entirely different cover art. It added the single “King Midas in Reverse” and the Evolution track “Leave Me.” Missing from this edition were “Try It,” “Pegasus,” and “Elevated Observations.”

My favorite tracks are “Maker,” “Elevated Observations,” “Would You Believe?,” and “Dear Eloise,” though the entire album is fantastic. The band is in top form, at the height of their creative powers in the Graham Nash era.

People who think The Hollies only made lightweight pop need to listen to this album! They evolved into a new musical style and tried new things, even if you’d never know it from the 4-5 songs left in regular rotation on the average oldies station. This is NOT “I love you, you love me, ooh baby” pablum.

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.

Look beyond the hits

This is a sort of follow-up to my post about the decline of oldies and classic rock radio over the last decade.

Back when there was an album reviews section of thewho.net (which I proudly wrote many reviews for), someone made a comment about how greatest hits collections are for little girls and housewives. I kind of have to agree with that, while recognising the importance a greatest hits tape can have for a potential new fan.

There are some musical acts who were always stronger with singles than albums, while other bands are better-known for their albums than their singles. And other bands were great at both. But you can’t just rest on only knowing a musical act (band, vocal group, duo, solo singer, etc.) if you only know the greatest hits.

Serious fans tend to prefer songs that aren’t so well-known. It’s not that a serious fan never counts any of the popular songs among his or her favourites, or chooses obscure or lesser-known tracks on purpose, but just that a serious fan is more likely to be aware of the under the radar songs.

When I say The Monkees are awesome and criminally underrated, I’m not talking about the overplayed hits like “Daydream Believer” or “I’m a Believer.” I’m talking about the really deep, mature, socially conscious, experimental songs like “Daily Nightly,” “Zor and Zam,” “Shades of Grey,” “Sometime in the Morning,” “The Porpoise Song.” You know, the types of songs you’d never hear on the radio, the types of songs the average non-fan has never heard of. The Monkees were about so much more than simplistic pop heavily marketed to teenyboppers.

The Four Seasons were my second musical love. When I got into them in the Spring of ’93, there were so many more of their songs in rotation on the two oldies stations, basically all their big hits up through 1967. But they also had a number of lesser hits, great B-sides, and some hits from their days of dwindling popularity in the late Sixties—a gorgeous cover of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Tell It to the Rain,” “C’mon Marianne,” a thoughtful cover of The Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Beggin,'” the original “Silence Is Golden,” “Big Man in Town,” the criminally underrated album track “Soul of a Woman.”

These days, I hear only a small sample of the songs that got me into them. I can’t remember the last time I heard “Dawn (Go Away),” “Ronnie,” “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye),” “Candy Girl,” or “Save It for Me.” To be honest, The Four Seasons were never really an albums band (and came too late with their Sixties masterpiece Genuine Imitation Life Gazette to regain their severely shrunken popularity), but they had a lot of damn good singles. A lot more than just the 5-6 songs left in regular rotation.

I got interested in The Who at thirteen, began to really like them at fourteen, and started to love them and hold them as my favourite band and fourth musical love at twenty. Oldies radio has never really played any of their songs, though they actually played more of their songs back in my early teens. Classic rock radio tends to play the same 5-6 songs over and over again. I freaking hate “Pinball Wizard” because of this, and for a long time was sick of “Behind Blue Eyes” as well. This was really a band I had to go out and discover on my own, since they’re so criminally underplayed, at least where I’ve lived. Although the classic rock station out of Springfield, MA seemed to be a bit better with variety.

My original favourite Hollies’ song was “Stop Stop Stop,” because of that hypnotic banjo. When was the last time the local oldies station even touched that song? It was a Top 10 hit! And what happened to other hits like “On a Carousel,” “Look Through Any Window,” “Jennifer Eccles,” “The Air That I Breathe”? They were always much more popular in the U.K., but why perpetuate that now that their entire catalogue is available on both sides of the pond and it’s stood the test of time? And why not play some album tracks instead of gearing up “Long Cool Woman” or “Bus Stop” for the millionth time?

The only relative exception are The Beatles. Most radio stations do play a lot more of their songs than other bands, including B-sides, album tracks, and lesser hits, from all periods of their career. Still, there are a lot of songs that aren’t played as much as they used to be, or are never played.

Big hits can be the hook that draws one in and gets one interested in a band. The album tracks, B-sides, and lesser hits are the glue that makes one stay.

What’s Up Wednesday

WUW Winter

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

Not really much, since I have so much editing to focus on.

What I’m Writing

Well into editing Part IV of Little Ragdoll and down to 383,000 words.  The frontal matter (table of contents, dedication, title pages for each Part, etc.), the list of characters, and the names of the chapters are about 3,000 words, so I just subtract 3,000 when I hit the word count bar to see what’s up.

The completed first draft was 397,000, and eventually brought down to 387,000. I actually did take out more than 10,000 words, but some words were added in since I needed to write in left-handedness for many characters. I’m embarrassed that detail completely slipped my mind the first time around.

It’s so special to fall in love with a story and characters all over again, and once more go on the journey of seeing them all grow up, going from children or teenagers to adults. Even little Justine goes from six months to fifteen years old. I also still get the feeling that I’m really in Manhattan during the Sixties and early Seventies, with the city like another character. The Troys and their friends are probably the last old Manhattan generation, with family roots there for generations and strong native accents, instead of being recent transplants who don’t talk like native New Yorkers.

My release of Little Ragdoll is 20 June, the 50th anniversary of the release of The Four Seasons’ song “Rag Doll.” It’s such a special, auspicious day. I’m hoping to donate some of my proceeds to the Bowery Mission, which features several times.

What Inspires Me

I never really thought about this before, but given I’m using the same soundtrack for editing Little Ragdoll as I used for writing it, it dawned on me that I’ve fallen for a lot of bands who’ve been skewered in the press or written off as insubstantial, not serious enough. And yet, the press has always been proven wrong with enough time.

There are still people who bash The Monkees, and it’s hardly a secret that that pompous, élitist ass Jann Wenner is keeping them out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet they’ve proven themselves over the decades as more than meaningless pop for teenyboppers. The Four Seasons were largely ignored and mocked when serious scholarship of Sixties music began, yet they’ve held up and been vindicated by the critics, enough so to merit a popular Broadway musical.

The Hollies were often bashed as too clean-cut, not as cool or deep as The Beatles or other bands. Jann Wenner kept them out of the Hall of Fame until 2010, which was a huge insult and oversight. (And yes, it was really embarrassing when Terry Sylvester drunkenly crashed the stage and grabbed the microphone from the guest vocalist.) But anyone who listens to their music knows they weren’t some band of pansies, and had a lot of really deep, mature, hard-rocking, psychedelic stuff.

I’m a Herman’s Hermits fan too; in fact, the second part of my pen name came from their song “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” Believe it or not, they were a real band, in spite of all the screaming teen girls. Anyone who’s listened to their later albums There’s a Kind of Hush and Blaze knows they weren’t just a flimsy pop act for the teenies. And until I became a Duranie three years ago, I really thought they were just a bunch of prettyboys who were only around in the Eighties, not an actual band who never broke up, with lots of really deep, mature, poetic, dark songs, like “Secret Oktober,” “Out of My Mind,” “Friends of Mine,” “The Seventh Stranger,” “To the Shore,” “Sin of the City.”

I guess I’m drawn to underdogs, dark horses, through an unconscious force, recognising them on a deeper level.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

My computer has been dying for awhile now, and I’ve been thinking about a new one. Going back to a desktop would save a lot of money, and force me out of the habit of writing in bed, but I’ve gotten used to using a laptop and being able to take it everywhere. It’s nice to be able to use it at the library, in class, or on holiday. It’s probably going to be a new MacBook Pro.

I have a 30-year relationship with the Mac. Using anything else would be blasphemy, a psychological leap I could never make. Macs may be a bit more expensive, but they’re higher-quality and more user-friendly than PCs. The basics of finding one’s way around haven’t changed much since 1984.

What’s Up Wednesday

WUW Winter

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

The beautiful coffeetable book Living in the Material World, full of pictures and quotes. As if I needed any more reasons why George is my favourite solo Beatle, or to be in awe of what an amazing soul he had.

What I’m Writing

Up to 593,300 words on my WIP, and not spending as much time on it lately to focus on the first two books I’m publishing this year. I’ve done a lot of reading and quick learning about formatting for e-books, which basically means unlearning a lot of what I’ve been taught about how to create documents. I’m going to remove autohyphenation last, since it just looks weird to have no hyphenation. When I put out the print versions, the headers, hyphens, and page numbers will go back in.

This added time away from Little Ragdoll has helped me to see where I need to get rid of excess verbiage, unnecessary lines, clunky phrasing, and other things I didn’t catch while going through it before. Shaving even 30,000 words off will just be a drop in the bucket when it’s about 387,000 words, but there’s only so much one can excise in such a deliberately long book and have it remain the same story.

What Inspires Me

As I’ve mentioned before, I mostly listened to The Hollies and The Four Seasons while writing Little Ragdoll from November 2010-February 2011. (Yes, I wrote a 397,000-word first draft in only three months.) Since it worked so well the first time, I’m spending quality time with The Hollies again for editing. My Hollies’ playlist on YouTube is now in tatters, with a lot of videos/songs deleted or made private, but Spotify doesn’t have that problem.

Finally, I get to listen to the albums from their classic years, after never being able to find anything pre-1969 in record stores in all the years I’ve been into vinyl. I consider myself fortunate for how I first got into Sixties and Seventies music in 1993, when there were two local oldies stations, and they played a fair bit more variety than they do today. They played so many songs I only hear these days on Dick Bartley’s Saturday night show. So when I became a Hollies’ fan in 1993, it was based off a lot more than just the 4-5 songs the one remaining oldies station plays into the ground now. (Seriously, I could go the rest of my life without hearing “Long Cool Woman” or “Bus Stop” ever again, though Allen and Lenore do meet at a bus stop on a rainy night in homage.)

If you’re interested, their best albums are For Certain Because…, Evolution, and Butterfly. They’ll introduce you to a whole new side of the band, which you’d probably never guess from the handful of songs in endless radio rotation. Songs like “Leave Me,” “Have You Ever Loved Somebody,” “Tell Me to My Face,” “Heading for a Fall,” “Would You Believe.” As I’ve said, thanks to the soundtrack for this book, I picture Ricky as a very young Graham Nash.

What Else I’m Up To

Waiting 4-6 weeks to hear back about whether I can quote from lyrics from the George Harrison songs “Crackerbox Palace” and “Be Here Now.” If I get permission, hopefully it won’t be too expensive. I found out that seeking permission for “Blessed” involves calling Paul Simon’s small office in NYC, not contacting a large publishing company. Apparently he’s very careful/choosy about whom he grants permission to. So either way, a famous person will know I exist after I make that call. I’d like to think that it might help my case that I’m just asking for some lines from a lesser-known song and not a huge blockbuster like “BOTW.”

Purim Katan (Mini-Purim) was Saturday night. Since it’s a leap year, there are two Purims this year, and the big one will be during spring break. Spring break at SUNY Albany has been made earlier since the Kegs and Eggs incident of 2011. On St. Patrick’s Day, students in Pine Hills smashed car windows, broke TVs and other appliances, and fought drunk in the street. The yearly Fountain Day was also cancelled indefinitely because of this.

I reused my nun costume from Halloween, and a few people didn’t even recognise me at first. I suppose that says something about how easily I could pass for a real nun!