Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: “I wanna reach out and grab ya”

To be perfectly honest, I’m not fond of 80’s music.

In my view the quality of pop music deteriorated dramatically on January 1, 1980.

There are exceptions of course and I’m going to make a rare 80’s tune as my feature this week. Just don’t, darling wife of mine, get used to it.


June 15th marked the 40th anniversary of the release of the Steve Miller Band‘s 12th studio album, “Abracadabra.” Miller was born in Milwaukee and spent his first five years in Wisconsin, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from his Alma Mater, the University of Wisconsin Madison, and his godfather was legendary guitarist Les Paul.

Written entirely by Steve Miller, “Abracadabra” is a catchy pop song with mild sexual innuendo that rhymed “abracadabra” with “reach out and grab ya.”

“Abracadabra” was a huge hit, spending two weeks at #1 in the US in September 1982. Miller wrote it in 15 minutes.

Back in 1982 MTV was a musical phenomenon. You didn’t need just a great song or an attention-grabbing gimmick to sell records. You needed a video.

“Abracadabra” was the last US Top 40 hit for the Steve Miller Band, and then the group began to fade.

“We were considered a dinosaur group,” said Miller. “Punk was in, new wave, the hair bands – the guys in the green tights and two-foot hairdos – it seemed at the time that our run was over.”

You can see Steve Miller at this year’s Summerfest in Milwaukee. Ann Wilson is canceling her show at Summerfest on Saturday, June 25 at the BMO Harris Pavilion after a band member and four crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Steve Miller Band will now be headlining the BMO Harris Pavilion on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25.

In 2016 Miller was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but wasn’t happy.

UPDATE, 6/25/: SUMMERFEST

The Steve Miller Band has amassed an impressive number of FM radio hits over the years, and the massive crowd at the BMO Harris Pavilion Friday night was clamoring to hear all of them.  

The band, fronted by Milwaukee native Miller, opened with 2017’s driving “Stranger Blues,” followed by a long version of the groovy “Fly Like an Eagle” (which included a wicked solo by keyboardist Joseph Wooten). 

Miller, now 78, acknowledged his godfather, guitar legend and Waukesha native Les Paul, and Paul’s influence on his music career. Then he pulled out a Les Paul guitar and played the riff-heavy “Jet Airliner” — with the crowd belting out the lyrics. 

Other hits included the swaggering “The Stake” and disco-esque “Abracadabra.” The Steve Miller Band also stayed true to its electric blues and psychedelic roots, including on signature hits “Living in the U.S.A.” and “Space Cowboy.”  

— Catherine Jozwik, Special to the Journal Sentinel 

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: 1/2 of lilting vocal harmony

Seals and Crofts (Jim and Dash) had a string of major soft rock hits in the 1970’s. On June 6 Seals died at his home in Nashville. His wife, Ruby Jean Seals, said the cause was an unspecified “chronic ongoing illness.” He was 80.

Seals played acoustic guitar and fiddle while Crofts played electric mandolin and piano.

“Summer Breeze” was the recording that made the duo really famous. The song was written and recorded by Seals and Crofts in 1972.

Texas Monthly reported in February 2020:

Jim Seals sat in a Woodstock, New York, recording studio…It was 1970, and Jim, 28 years old with long brown hair and a full goatee, was taking a break during the recording of his duo’s second album.

By many measures, Seals and Crofts were a successful group. Though their first album hadn’t cracked the Billboard 100, Jim and his partner, Dash Crofts, were opening for acts like Chicago, the Guess Who, and Eric Clapton, getting their music heard by huge crowds in famed venues like the Fillmore East and the Boston Tea Party. But the pair wanted to do more than just play cool tunes. They wanted their placid words and lush harmonies to soothe a world reeling from the nonstop chaos of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the unending riots in the streets. They wanted to make a difference.

The melody that came to Jim that day was simple and sweet, and it nudged a series of images into his mind. Curtains hanging in a window, a newspaper on the sidewalk, music coming from a neighbor’s house, a man walking up the steps and through the front door, a smiling woman waiting for his arrival. Home.

In Jim’s imagination, he was a boy again, before his parents had split up and his life changed forever. The house he was remembering wasn’t anything special, a narrow shotgun shack identical to dozens of others around it. But it was home, a solid, sure thing to a six-year-old boy. The melody and words of this new song carried him back as if he were actually there.

Seals and Crofts went from being a promising opening act to bona fide rock stars, with their own jet plane and thousands of fans waiting at every tour stop. The singles that followed made the duo paragons of a new genre, soft rock, which turned its back on the excesses of sixties hard rock and attempted to establish a peaceful vibe for a new era. Their smiling, bearded faces were everywhere as soft rock was embraced by millions and ruled the pop charts for much of the rest of the seventies—even as it was reviled by critics, who pointed their fingers at Southern California as the likely source of this plague of mellow.

After the upheavals of the late sixties and early seventies—the assassinations, the race riots, the violence at Altamont, the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison, and the ongoing cruelties of the Vietnam War—that seemed to be what millions of people wanted.

But Seals and Crofts would have been just another pair of polite, bearded longhairs if it weren’t for “Summer Breeze.”

The wistful song quickly caught on in Boston; other markets, like Philadelphia and Dallas, soon followed. When Jim and Dash got back to L.A., they heard “Summer Breeze” on the car radio. Not long after, they had a show in Ohio. “There were kids waiting for us at the airport,” remembered Jim. “That night we had a record crowd, maybe forty thousand people. And I remember people throwing their hats and coats in the air as far as you could see, against the moon. Prettiest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Rolling Stone called it one of the “Best Summer Songs of All Time,” a “sublimely mellow, CSN&Y-style ode to lazy, June-time domesticity.”

It’s November 2, 1972, at Hofstra University Auditorium in Hempstead, NY. A taping took place for a segment broadcast later that month on ABC’s In Concert. Seals is in the glasses and cap.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a4/Seals_and_Crofts_1975.JPG

From the NY Times:

“Around 1980, we were still drawing 10,000 to 12,000 people at concerts,” Mr. Seals told The Los Angeles Times in 1991, when the two revived the act. “But we could see, with this change coming where everybody wanted dance music, that those days were numbered.”

Six years earlier, though, the pair had begun to fall out of favor with some listeners and critics because of their sixth album, “Unborn Child,” which was released in 1974 not long after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights. The title track urged women who were considering an abortion to “stop, turn around, go back, think it over.”

Mr. Seals, in a 1978 interview with The Miami Herald, acknowledged that the record damaged the duo’s career.

“It completely killed it for a while,” he said. Radio stations refused to play the record. Some Seals & Crofts concerts were picketed, although there were also hundreds of letters of support. In the 1991 Los Angeles Times interview, Mr. Seals said the pair had never intended the song to be a lightning rod.

“It was our ignorance that we didn’t know that kind of thing was seething and boiling as a social issue,” he said. “On one hand we had people sending us thousands of roses, but on the other people were literally throwing rocks at us.

“If we’d known it was going to cause such disunity,” he continued, “we might have thought twice about doing it. At the time it overshadowed all the other things we were trying to say in our music.”

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: She was washing her hair

Ok. You’re scratching your head. What’s going on here? First the strange headline. Then an editorial cartoon. Isn’t this an oldies blog?

Promise, we’ll tie it all together.

Inflation, the most serious issue according to most Americans, has affected just about everything. That includes matrimony.

The good news is that after COVID, couples have been enthusiastically preparing wedding celebrations, no longer held captive by masks and guest restrictions. The wedding business has come roaring back.

About 2.5 million weddings are expected to take place this year, the highest number of ceremonies since 1984, according to the Wedding Report, an industry trade group. That is nearly double the number of weddings that took place in 2020 and half a million more than last year.

The bad news is inflation. Consumer prices increased 8.3% in the 12 months ending in April, near the fastest pace since 1981. The rising prices are making it less affordable for people to attend weddings.

Kate Edmonds, the founder and president of Kate Edmonds Events, a Manhattan-based wedding planner say while the demand for more extravagant weddings by the hosts has increased, the average size of weddings has decreased. Before COVID-19, Edmonds says a normal wedding for her business might have included 250 to 300. Now, many have just 75 to 150 guests.

The people working at the events themselves are tough to find.  Wages for those workers have increased, putting more pressure on the price of a couple’s big day. Still, wedding bells are ringing loud and clear in 2022.

Many years ago I helped my good friend Jim Kaluzny who had a DJ wedding music business. Many brides and grooms selected as their official first dance together a Frank Sinatra number, a fitting and wonderful choice. The song was first introduced in a film from the 1930’s.

And such a romantic scene. Fred Astaire is one room playing at a piano, singing to Ginger Rogers who’s in another room…

Now there’s nothing wrong with the Sinatra version. But for dance floor purposes I though it just a tad too fast. However I wasn’t about to tell the young lovers they should dump the Chairman of the Board for something else. Unfortunately you only hear this beauty at wedding receptions.

I really like this rendition, just the right tempo. The movie is from 1991. The vocalist is Steve Tyrell.

BTW, about Saturday…

Happy Anniversary Jennifer.

A brief encore.

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: The Green Berets

From military.com:

The Army’s Special Forces (SF) make up a unique, unconventional, combat arms organization. Highly trained and seasoned professionals, they are the most versatile Special Operations (SO) soldiers in the world.

Special Forces, also referred to as the legendary Green Berets, is an elite, multipurpose force for high-priority operational targets of strategic importance.

Their missions often require rapid and discrete responses to unique situations throughout the world. As the Global Scouts for the U.S. military, the Special Forces’ ubiquitous presence generally guarantees that SF is the first on the ground or already at a crisis location as trouble emerges. For this reason, they are experts in unilateral direct-action operations and unconventional warfare, as well as having thorough knowledge of foreign languages, customs and cultures. 

In the mid-60’s Barry Sadler wrote a song to boost morale among the American troops fighting in Vietnam when public opinion was low. Sadler was injured by a punji stick (a type of booby trap), and while laid up in the hospital released the rights to this song so it could be heard.

Sadler was serving as a medic and he nearly had to have his leg amputated after he was injured. While he was recuperating, he wrote songs for other wounded soldiers. “The Ballad of the Green Berets” became a huge hit and was the inspiration for the John Wayne film referred to above.

Following Sadler’s recording success he appeared as a guest on several TV shows.  

February 11, 1966…

Sadler’s patriotic musical tribute reached #1 for five weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in early 1966. It was also a crossover smash, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart and No. 2 on Billboard’s Country survey. 

After being shot in the head in Guatemala Sadler died in 1989 at the age of 49.

BONUS

Pop music history was made this week 32 years ago, on May 26, 1990.

For the first time ever the Top five positions on the US singles chart were held by female artists

#5: Alright-Janet Jackson

#4: Hold On-Wilson Phillips

#3: Nothing Compares 2 U-Sinead O’Connor

#2: All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You-Heart

And #1…





Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Sports in slow motion

Chariots of Fire, a British dramatic film released in 1981, tells the true story of two British runners who brought glory to their country in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.

Greek composer and keyboardist Vangelis wrote the theme and the soundtrack for the movie. His score won an Academy Award.

Vangelis died this week in France of an undisclosed illness at the age of 79.

Forty (40) years ago this month his single from the movie went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Its uplifting piano motif became world-renowned, and the music became synonymous with slow-motion sporting montages. “My music does not try to evoke emotions like joy, love, or pain from the audience. It just goes with the image, because I work in the moment,” he later explained.
—The Guardian

From the Panathenean Stadium in Athens, Greece, the Opening Ceremony of the 6th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 1997…

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: “Well, it’s alright”

The Traveling Wilburys were a supergroup in the late 1980’s made up of Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra), Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan.

This week it was reported that Bob Dylan’s share of the Traveling Wilburys has been acquired by Primary Wave Music, an asset that most people probably did not realize was not included in the Nobel Prize-winning artist’s nine-figure deals with Universal Music Publishing and Sony Music.

Dylan’s master royalties and neighboring rights royalties for both of the group’s albums, as well as a 2007 box set, are included in the deal. Terms were not disclosed.

Powered by songs like “End of the Line” the albums were a surprise pop hit, with the first one winning a Grammy and being certified triple platinum and both reaching top 5 in several countries.

Primary Wave “will look to further the legacy of these iconic musicians and these celebrated and legendary albums using their internal infrastructure that includes marketing, digital strategy, licensing, and synch opportunities.”

The song ” End of the Line” has a railroad theme, as the “end of the line” represents the train’s last stop. Harrison wrote most of the lyrics.

Roy Orbison died before the music video of this song was made, so in memory of him, when his verse comes on the video it shows a picture of him on the train and his guitar on a rocking chair.


Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Naomi

Somewhere buried in my basement is a cassette tape of a speech given in the Milwaukee area by country singer Naomi Judd who died last Saturday at the age of 76 due to a “mental illness” according to a family statement.

Judd appeared here more than 30 years ago to promote her new autobiography. I could be wrong but I think she spoke at the Southridge Mall. I covered her touching remarks for WTMJ Radio. Her publisher wrote at the time:

Here, at last, is the exquisitely personal story of a mother and daughter who sang like angels and fought like the devil – but loved each other through struggle, triumph, and tragedy. For eight glorious years, Naomi Judd and daughter Wynonna lived the American dream. They were signed on the spot to RCA in 1983 in a rare live audition and went on to set the music world on its ear. Their pristine harmonies, unique personalities, and stunning presence captured mainstream America’s heart.

The Judds were country music’s most-honored and top-selling women. They were undefeated as Duet of the Year for eight years, picked up six Grammys, and won a vast array of other awards. In the U.S. alone, they sold over fifteen million albums and were the number one touring act in their industry for 1991. They were on top of the world when Naomi made the shocking announcement that she was being forced to retire because of a life-threatening liver disease. Their Farewell Concert, televised on cable, was the most successful musical show in pay-per-view history. Their last song together broke America’s heart and ended one of the most beloved acts of all time in country music.

Naomi spent the next two years in isolation, reliving her extraordinary life and career for these pages. Love Can Build a Bridge is written with the same raw emotion and candor that made the Judds such electrifying performers. Funny, shocking, wise, inspiring, and vulnerable, this behind-the-scenes look into the Judds’ private lives spares no one and nothing. Love Can Build a Bridge is a soaring paean of what happens when a fairy tale and grim reality collide.

After Naomi and her daughter Wynona rose to the top of country music, they called it quits as a duo in 1991 after doctors diagnosed Naomi with hepatitis C.  Wynonna continued her solo career.

Love that song. No surprise for me.

This guy did it first.

Naomi’s husband for more than 30 years, Larry Strickland, began touring with Elvis in 1974 after joining his group as a backup singer.

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Classical gone pop gone forgettable

I’ve written about artists that take classical themes and transform them into modern music for singles and albums that actually perform well on the pop charts.

A perfect example would be Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven.” Here’s another.

More than 300 years after Bach, a group of studio musicians was formed by multi-instrumentalist and arranger Tom Parker who could play piano, other keyboards, clarinet, saxophone, trombone and trumpet.

At the age of six Parker was playing piano. In his teens he could be found performing in clubs in London. During the 1960s he was a session musician, and was a member of The Animals.

Parker’s group Apollo 100 released their first recording in 1972 that went to #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Number 6 on the Top 100? Not bad. So why not release another single from the same album that featured “Joy?” Made sense.

Someone decided to push the ensemble’s rendition of “Mendelssohn’s 4th Symphony (Second Movement).”

Let’s give a short listen to the classical variety.

Hmm. Could use a little pep you say?

OK Apollo 100…you’re on!

The ears of purists everywhere are bleeding.

So how did the Mendelssohn exercise do? Oy vey.

The 1972 record, released 50 years ago this month, made Billboard’s Hot 100, but got no higher than #94. and was only on the chart for three weeks. Apollo 100 broke up the following year.







Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Do you remember the very first record you bought?

Saturday is National Record Store Day.

Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. The first Record Store Day took place on April 19, 2008. Today there are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.

Remember those old record stores?

Dusty Groove

The first one I ever ventured into was Piasecki’s on Mitchell Street on the south side of MIlwaukee. At Piasecki’s I had one of the greatest experiences of my very young life at the time. My older brother took me, and to this day I’m not sure if he did it willingly or was instructed by mom.

I remember it like it was yesterday. The glass door opened, and 1, 2, 3 steps down to a long, long, narrow aisle of stacks and stacks of wax. My brother helped me find the single I was looking for. I walked up to the counter and took out what I believe was about 30 cents to pay Mr. Piasecki who sported an accountant’s visor and a cigar. The aroma filled the store along with all that wonderful vinyl.

There were other cool places I would buy my 45s on Mitchell Street. In the basement of Woolworth’s. At the top of one of the escalators at Schuster’s. Further down the street at Sears. It didn’t take long to figure out the day and time a new shipment would arrive.

Vinyl has enjoyed a bit of a comeback, but it’s never been the same since the compact disc or CD took over. Small in size, convenient, easy to track, and better sound quality…these qualities made the CD invention of more than 35 years ago a wonder of technology.

The bad news is that the advent of the CD meant the virtual disappearance of a lost art, the great album covers. Those wonderful pictures and designs and occasionally photos or posters stuffed inside.

A fascinating pop culture debate would be what is the best album cover of all-time.

The Beatles Sgt.Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover 960x832 22 Album Covers That Changed The Face of Music
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8163/7471844696_27a96ce9a2_b.jpg
1-ZSz5-UorgGiqXIttkd9CEw
via stereogum.com
via amazon.com

Now, to the very first 45 I ever purchased at Piasecki’s when I was just a kid.

At the time the BBC aired a very popular TV show called “Juke Box Jury” that featured celebrity guests judging recent music releases. John Lennon was a guest judge on one show when he voted the record that was to be my first purchase a “miss” and that the artist was starting to sound “like Bing Crosby.”

“Well, you know, I used to go mad on (the singer), like all the groups, but not now. I don’t like this. And I hate songs with ‘walk’ and ‘talk’ in it – you know, those lyrics. She walks, she talks.’ And I don’t like the double beat. Doom-cha, doom-cha, that bit. It’s awful.”

Lennon turned out to be terribly wrong.

The 1963 record peaked at #3 on the Billboard chart and stayed there for another week before it began to fall. To #9, #17, #42, and eventually completely out of the top 100.

Never to be heard from again.

Right?


And what’s happening locally on Record Store Day?