James Ray | I Got My Mind Set On You

8 02 2011

Yes, that title should sound familiar to you. That’s because George Harrison had a huge hit with this tune in 1987. “I Got My Mind Set On You” was featured on his otherwise lackluster release Cloud Nine. Considering the popularity of the Harrison version it’s remarkable that so few people are aware that it’s actually a cover. The song was written by Rudy Clark and recorded by James Ray in 1962. No doubt, it’s a great song through and through. Whether you like the Harrison rendition or the original it’s a classic.

Interestingly enough, of George’s three #1 hit singles in the US, this was the only one that was not self-penned and the only one without religious overtones. Also, not only was this the last US #1 hit for ol’ Georgie boy, but it was also the last from any of the other ex-Beatles. To hear Harrison’s version click HERE. As you might expect, I’m partial to Ray’s original…

As enjoyable as that 1987 attempt was, I was floored when I first heard James Ray’s original. It’s just so raw and authentic, especially when compared to Harrison’s version. For me, this was the way the song was intended. The arrangement is so natural feeling that I almost can’t imagine it any other way. How Ray never had his own hit with song remains a mystery to me.

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Missing John Lennon

8 12 2010

December 8th 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I often think about what the New York and the world would be like if John were still around. The man would have been a NYC icon and a great one at that. Imagine if he was around to see the booms of the 80’s & 90’s, 9/11 and everything that has transpired since. Crazy.

Here is the famous announcement of his death by Howard Cosell  on ABC’s Monday Night Football. Apparently, there was an ABC reporter who was at Roosevelt Hospital that night for his own injuries and saw Lennon come into the ER. He immediately called his colleagues in the newsroom, who got to the scene right away and broke the story.

I’ve been listening to a lot of John’s solo material lately, and for that matter all The Beatles’ solo work. He has a ton of great songs but not too many from Double Fantasy, the final album he recorded with Yoko after his 5 year hiatus. Nevertheless, this record intrigues me. Not really the music but what it represents for John. It’s a return to recorded music after taking some much needed time to be a good father and husband, something he didn’t do well while with The Beatles. It was essentially the result of this long period of reflection.

Also, there is the fact that his murder, Mark David Chapman, asked Lennon to sign a copy of the LP the night he shot him. Chapman waited outside Lennon’s home, The Dakota, and made the request as he was leaving for the evening. As he’s one to do, John obliged. Later that night, Chapman killed John as he was returning from the studio. I just saw that that exact copy is going up for auction soon. What a weird piece of memorabilia to own. Touched by both Lennon and Chapman on the night of the murder… creepy.

Anyway, here is some cool audio from the recording session for Double Fantasy. This was captured as they were working out one of the album’s biggest hits, “(Just Like) Starting Over”. It displays John’s process, creativity and sense of humor really well.

Here’s a posthumous music video for “(Just Like) Starting Over”…





The Beatles Catalog Available on iTunes

16 11 2010

FINALLY! What does it take to get one of music’s biggest bands available on the iTunes store? Apparently, all you need is love… and A LOT of lawyers. After years of tension and disputes Apple Corp. has finally allowed Apple Inc. to offer The Beatles’ complete catalog of work online. I get it. I do. But after all that concern over Apple Inc. branching out from computer technology to music distribution and possible conflicts of interest, the whole argument seems futile and moot. After all, we know Paul is down with it, as his music is already on iTunes . He even filmed a commercial for them. How long did it really take for the folks at Apple Corp. to realize that iTunes is clearly one of, if not, the biggest digital music distribution channel? I guess after all those years, today is the day of epiphany. Finally. Check out The Beatles on iTunes HERE.

So, at this point you probably already own every album in various mediums and have even digitized it yourself, but for those that have not… this your chance. You can cherry pick your favorite songs or grab the whole album(s). Or, you can just bite the bullet get the entire box set ($149).  Like any major product roll out, this comes with a lot of fanfare. One of the promotion items they are touting is the complete 1964 Washington D.C. performance in HD (well, as hi-def as I’ve seen). This video exists in snippets all over the internet, some of which has been featured here, but this is the complete unedited release. CHECK IT OUT HERE. There are also some other cool videos that you can browse through while on the band’s artist page in the store.

There are a few ads that the ‘Apples’ collaborated on for this launch. They are pretty straightforward and simple but, if you’re a fan, you will enjoy them nevertheless. You can see all 5 ads below:





Paul McCartney | Teddy Boy

9 11 2010

Today is one of my best bud’s b-days.  Yes, I am talking about you, Teddy boy.  There is a good chance that you are not be familiar with the McCartney tune “Teddy Boy.”  The song was first released on Paul’s first solo album McCartney in 1970 after The Beatles broke up.  However, it was recorded a year earlier during The Beatles’ infamous “Get Back” sessions but never officially released.  A composite version that blends multiple takes did surface eventually on the band’s Anthology III album. I really like Paul’s solo version best but this one is a lot of fun too. Check it out. As simple as this video is, I love it. As a Beatles fan, it’s so cool to get the virtual tour of Apple Studios circa 1969.





It’s Johnny’s Birthday

9 10 2010

Today is John Lennon’s birthday. He would have been 70 years old today. I wanted to tack this on to yesterday’s post given this song, “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” was a part of George Harrison’s 3 disc LP All Things Must Pass but then decided it was best served as it’s own dish. It’s a very simple tune that clocks in under a minute long. Based on Bill Marten and Phil Coulter’s song “Congratulations”, Harrison’s tune was just a little tribute to his friend on his birthday. Enjoy…

Happy B-Day Johnny!





George Harrison | My Sweet Lord

8 10 2010

Lately, I’ve been listening to the Beatles’ post-Beatles solo work a lot. As one would expect Paul & John have the strongest catalogs but George & Ringo are not short on great work either. Here is one of George’s solo hits. Probably not my all-time favorite but it’s near the top and comes with a cool little story. “My Sweet Lord” was originally written for one of Harrison’s friends, former Beatle session man Billy Preston. Preston released it on his 1970 album Encouraging Words, which George produced. Just 10 months later, George released his version of the song on his first post-Beatles album All Things Must Pass. I love this album, it was huge. Originally a triple album (3 records/6 sides), it was produced by Phil Spector and featured 23 songs. Some of which were long jams with various guest spots from friends like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, Gary, Wright, Alan White (of Yes), a young Phil Collins, Preston and it is even said that John Lennon appeared on one track, although uncredited. There is also a song co-written with Bob Dylan and then a cover of Dylan’s “If Not For You”. It’s a really great album. “My Sweet Lord” was only released as a single after All Things Must Pass, at which point it went right to the top 5 and then occupied no. 1 for five weeks. It later topped the charts again after Harrison’s death and then again upon the release of a re-mastered anniversary version. Remarkable as that is, it’s not the juicy part of the story.

In 1971, George was sued by The Chiffons for rights to the song as it was incredibly similar to their hit “He’s So Fine”. Harrison later stated that he was actually inspired to write “My Sweet Lord” after hearing the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day”. A US federal court ruled that Harrison had subconsciously copied The Chiffon tune and he had to hand over the majority of his royalties from the song. This ordeal was parodied by The Chiffons afterward in order capitalize on the publicity. In good humor, George would later record his own song about the case, called “This Song”, which featured many direct references. Soon after, he just bought the rights to “He’s So Fine” anyway. So in the end, he owns his song and theirs… right on, George!

If you’re not familiar with this Chiffons tune, here it is. You’ll hear the similarities instantly. So much so, it’s hard not to side with the courts on this one.

One last thing, there is a great version of this song from The Concert For George, with Billy Preston leading an allstar band that includes Ringo, Paul McCartney, Dhani Harrison, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Tom Petty. 

note: If you’re a Billy Preston fan and want hear his original version from Encouraging Words, THIS is a great old live version, true to form.

References:

More info on George Harrison

More info on All Things Must Pass

More info on “My Sweet Lord”

More info on The Chiffons

More info on “He’s So Fine”

More info on Concert For Bangledesh

More info on Concert For George

More info on Billy Preston





Twist & Shout

19 08 2010

It’s a song that almost everybody knows and loves. Made famous by The Beatles, “Twist & Shout” was written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell (aka Bert Berns). It was originally recorded in 1961 by the Top Notes. This original version was considered one of very few Phil Spector flops. It was just a year after he  came to Atlantic Records and had yet to perfect his “wall of sound” style. See if you can even recognize the tune…

In 1962, one of the songwriters, Bert Berns, sought out to revive what he knew was a great song. He thought that Spector and The Top Notes simply didn’t do it justice, missing the feel completely. Berns decided to produce the version he intended with the help of ever popular soul group The Isley Brothers, which went on to reach #17 in the Billboard Hot 100 and was #2 on the R&B charts.

Ultimately, the version that forever lives on as the most popular and recognizable is that of The Beatles. Recorded in 1964 for their debut album Please Please Me, it reached #2 in the charts just a month after the release. Remarkably, that same week each of the top 5 songs were all Beatles tracks. It’s an amazing moment that truly reflected the magnitude and impact of the Beatlemania phenomenon that was sweeping the world. Interestingly, producer George Martin saved this song for the final 15 minutes of the recording session as an attempt to salvage what was left of John’s vocal chords. Lennon’s voice was suffering through the entire 10 hour recording period. Knowing it would take every last bit of energy to get it right, Martin fed it to him with just minutes to spare. John absolutely killed it on the first take. It sounds as though he gives every bit of heart and soul he could muster. Which, was  very fortunate because he later admitted that he couldn’t sing for days afterward so even if they wanted a second take, he never could have done it.

This 1963 live performance (below) from the  Royal Variety Show is a great example of the tune. All the lads sound great but John’s lead is fantastic, as if he was born for  it.

There are plenty of other covers out there. Of them, there are only a few that are worth mentioning. One of which is THIS ONE from The Who. And, probably THIS ONE from Bruce Springsteen. If you look hard enough you can also find versions by The Tremeloes, The Shangri La’s, The Mamas and The Papas, Salt + Peppa, many, many more (including Celine Dion) but compared to The Beatles there is no point in even bothering with them.

References:

More info on “Twist and Shout”

More info on Phil Medley and Bert Russell

More info on The Top Notes

More info on The Isley Brothers

More info on The Beatles

More info on Please Please Me

More info on Phil Spector

More info on Spector’s Wall of Sound








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