Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy birthday, 45 rpm

When RCA Victor introduced the 45 rpm record on this day in 1949 it didn't fool around. It debuted with a proven hit: Eddy Arnold's "Texarkana Baby," which the previous year had become the singer's sixth No. 1 song.

But if you want to win a bar bet you could claim that Spade Cooley's "Spanish Fandango" was the first country record ever released in the 45 rpm format.  Prior to the release of "Texarkana Baby" (RCA 48-0001) the company sent out a seven-record demo set that was color-coded by genre: black for popular, red for classical, green for country and western, etc.

Only a year earlier Columbia introduced the vinyl microgroove 33 1/3 rpm, or LP (long playing record), which held more recorded music and was made of more flexible vinyl than the 78 rpm shellac records that preceded them. But the smaller 45s were the coolest of all because suddenly juke boxes could hold up to 200 songs -- about five times as many as the old 78s. 

The downside of vinyl (as we all remember): the softer material scratches more easily than shellac, resulting in pops and cracks, and the static charge attracts dust that can settle into the smaller grooves and result in skipping.  Despite these issues, analog recordings are arguably superior to today's digital CDs under ideal recording conditions. Which is the reason we find ourselves shopping for a new turntable today on the 62th birthday of the 45.

Now does anybody remember the first 45 rpm they purchased?  Ours was "The End of the World" by Skeeter Davis, followed closely by the Cascades' "Rhythm of the Rain."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Help Japan, expand your musical taste

Here's the complete track list for Songs for Japan, which will be released on April 5.  You can pre-order the 2-disc compilation at for $10.99, plus shipping.  Here's a link

It's an ambitious (38 songs) and eclectic offering, although we're not sure how classics like Bob Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm" and Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" will blend with songs by Eminem and Justin Timberlake.  It's definitely one way to add Justin Bieber to your collection.

The bottom line: Proceeds will benefit victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami.

1. John Lennon “Imagine”
2. U2 “Walk On”
3. Bob Dylan “Shelter From The Storm”
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers “Around The World”
5. Lady Gaga “Born This Way”
6. Beyonce “Irreplaceable”
7. Bruno Mars “Talking To The Moon”
8. Katy Perry “Firework”
9. Rihanna “Only Girl (In The World)”
10. Justin Timberlake “Like I Love You”
11. Madonna “Miles Away”
12. David Guetta “When Love Takes Over”
13. Eminem “Love The Way You Lie”
14. Bruce Springsteen “Human Touch”
15. Josh Groban “Awake”
16. Keith Urban “Better Life”
17. Black Eyed Peas “One Tribe”
18. Pink “Sober”
19. Cee Lo Green “It’s Ok”
20. Lady Antebellum “I Run To You”
21. Bon Jovi “What Do You Got”
22. Foo Fighters “My Hero”
23. REM “Man On The Moon”
24. Nicki Minaj “Save Me”
25. Sade “By Your Side”
26. Michael Buble “Hold On”
27. Justin Bieber “Pray”
28. Adele “Make You Feel My Love”
29. Enya “If I Could Be Where You Are”
30. Elton John “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”
31. John Mayer “Waiting On The World To Change”
32. Queen “Teo Torriate (Let Us Cling Together)”
33. Kings Of Leon “Use Somebody”
34. Sting “Fragile”
35. Leona Lewis “Better In Time”
36. Ne-Yo “One In A Million”
37. Shakira “Whenever Wherever”
38. Norah Jones “Sunrise”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

But hey, the movies were great

Those of us who were alive and kicking in 1977 must have been listening to something.  But it couldn't have been popular music, judging from the singles that dominated play that year. 

The demon Disco had a death grip on the country, but we can't blame it all on the brothers Gibb. Even country sucked, as 30 different songs made it to No. 1 but few ruled for more than a week (with the notable exception of Waylon Jennings' "Luckenbach, Texas," which spent 6 weeks atop the chart and saved the year for us.)

Seriously, how bad was it?  Not quite as bad as the list below suggests.  Here were some albums that spun on our turntable that year: the Eagles' Hotel California, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True, and James Taylor's JT.  Not exactly the motherlode, but hey. We weren't into the Sex Pistols at the time but acknowledge today the greatness of Never Mind the Bollocks.  And blues fans were surely giving Muddy Waters' Hard Again some spins.

But if you look at the top singles it's hard not to believe that 1977 was the absolute low water mark for the music of our time.  Jimmy Carter didn't have a chance in the White House with background music like this:

1. You Light Up My Life, Debby Boone
2. Best Of My Love, Emotions
3. I Just Want To Be Your Everything, Bee Gees
4. How Deep Is Your Love, Bee Gees
5. Theme From A Star Is Born, Barbra Streisand
6. Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder
7. Torn Between Two Lovers, Mary MacGregor
8. Rich Girl, Hall and Oates
9. Star Wars Theme, Cantina Band
10.Got To Give It Up, Marvin Gaye
11. Car Wash, Rose Royce
12. You Don't Have To Be A Star, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.
13. Don't Leave Me This Way, Thelma Houston
14. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, Leo Sayer
15. Dancing Queen, ABBA
16. Southern Nights, Glen Campbell
17. Blinded By The Light, Manfred Mann's Earth Band
18. Hotel California, Eagles
19. I Wish, Stevie Wonder
20. Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky), Bill Conti

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Crazy about YouTube

New Sanctuary contributor Al Tays discovered the genius of David Lindley the same way we did -- watching a live performance by the amazing maxi-instrumentalist. Who cares that it took him 20 years longer than us? Tays has been a little  quicker at the switch with YouTube, the marvelous contraption that allows us to discover and share amazing music videos, including this smoking clip of Lindley doing "Mercury Blues."  Please welcome an old buddy to the fold.

By Al Tays

When the iPod came out, I said it was, along with TiVo, one of the greatest achievements of modern man. The idea of no longer having to have a physical collection of music (no more toting those incredibly heavy crates full of albums around), and being able to carry your entire music library in your pocket was mind-blowing. Not to mention the convenience of buying only the songs you liked.
(The down side, of course, was that you often didn’t get to find out you liked certain songs until you heard them on an album, because they never got any radio play.)

So I’ve been a devoted fan of digital music for quite a while (even though, being an old fart, I came to it fairly late in the game).

But over the past few years, I’ve come to appreciate another source of music even more: YouTube.

I started surfing it a couple of years ago, when circumstances forced me to abandon TV and cable, and I had to find other creative ways to waste time. I found that, unlike back in the dark ages when the only time you could SEE bands was to go to a concert or catch them on Midnight Special or Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, I now could find video clips of virtually any musical performance.

I learned about the great British program, The Old Grey Whistle Test. I re-watched old episodes of Shindig and Hullabaloo and American Bandstand, many of which I probably never watched in the first place. I re-connected with old favorite artists and learned about many great new ones (“new” only to me, as most had been around for years, escaping my notice).

One of my favorite things about YouTube, though, is the comments. Not the flame wars that occasionally flare up, but the genuinely informative and heartfelt comments that more commonly dominate the site.

I recently went to see David Lindley at a small venue in LA. I knew him mostly as a name on the credits of Jackson Browne album covers, and I knew he was a hell of a violinist and slide guitar player. Seeing him live, I learned about the incredible variety of stringed instruments he plays. He finished the concert playing a John Lee Hooker riff on an oud, for crying out loud.

Afterward, I searched out his videos on YouTube and uncovered a wealth of material stretching from the mid-'70s with Browne to today (when he still occasionally sits in with JB). But one clip mesmerized me. It was from the '80s, at a concert in Germany, and he was fronting his own band. They were playing Mercury Blues, and he was just SMOKING on the slide guitar.

I was intoxicated, and I wanted to find out if others were, too. They were. Check out some of the comments:

I wonder how many of us would sell our souls to be able to play like

How loud can a person type AWESOME about this guy's playing?! Hell - I might just buy myself a Mercury now...

this song makes me wanna borrow a car and drive it really fast into a block wall!

Fast Cars and Rock 'n Roll ... it doesn't get any better than this !!

They were feelin’ it, just like I was. Hopefully, you’ll feel it too. But if this type of music doesn’t move you, that’s cool, too. Go and find something that does. And type AWESOME as loud as you can.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Judge not, lest ye be judged

Does anybody know how Steven Tyler is doing these days?  As curious as we've been about the latest season of American Idol, we had to sacrifice some guilty pleasure for Lent, so ...

(For those paying even less attention than us: the longtime Aerosmith frontman is an Idol judge, not a contestant.)

But now we're more curious than ever how Tyler is faring, especially since the most popular description we've heard for him is "Icky!" Hey, let's see how YOU'RE doing at 63.  After what Tyler's been through, and we're talking legendary drugs, sex and hard-smacking rock 'n' roll, it's amazing he can answer the bell -- any bell.  At least he is still among the living.

So let us be among the first to salute Tyler on hitting the mondo seis-tres.  Check out today's impressive Birthday Band, and if you you're not on the wagon hoist one for them tonight:

Joe Loco (1921-88): Jazz musician, arranger
Introduced mambo, cha-cha-cha

Diana Ross (1944): Singer
I Hear a Symphony, Come See About Me, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Richard Tandy (1948): Keyboards, Electric Light Orchestra
LPs: A New World Record, Out of the Blue, Discovery, Time

Steven Tyler (1948): Singer, Aerosmith
Sweet Emotion, Dream On, Walk This Way, Janie's Got a Gun

Vicki Lawrence (1949): Actress, singer
The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

Fran Sheehan (1949): Bass, Boston
More than a Feeling, Long Time, Don’t Look Back

Teddy Pendergrass (1950-2010): Singer
LPs: Teddy, Love Language, Workin’ It Back, Joy

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday on our mind

Is is really possible that Rebecca Black's video "Friday" had 42,586,619 views before we finally saw it?  We acknowledge we are slow here at the Sanctuary with the new stuff,  but that number is startling! (In our defense, at least we aren't manning the control tower at Reagan National.)

More surprising -- and troubling -- is that a harmless video posted on YouTube could generate more than a half-million "dislikes" in such a short time.  Way to go, cyber bullies. It must have been a slow month. 

We're not here to defend "Friday," which is NOT the worst song of all time. But we will defend Rebecca Black, who to us is just a 13-year-old singing a pop song that probably would've gotten her eliminated from American Idol by now. We don't care what she's earning for her part -- we've read $25,000 a week -- she said she'll donate proceeds to the Japan relief fund and her school.

Why must so many people be so annoyed by this?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A throne for a King

Here it is, the first No. 1 record on Billboard's album chart, which debuted on this day in 1945.

The sweet music of the King Cole Trio, consisting of Nat King Cole on piano, Oscar Moore on guitar and Johnny Miller on bass, proved an incredible boon for fledgling Capitol Records.  This first record, which spent 12 weeks atop the chart (it was not updated every week at the start), was actually an album consisting of four two-sided 78 rpm records, and in 1950 would be released on a vinyl LP.

Cole's music at the time was beginning to dominate Billboard's Harlem Hit Parade and his hits were crossing over to the pop charts.  He was an accomplished pianist, but it was his mellow baritone voice that would spark his incredible popularity.  Jack Benny once introduced Cole on his show as "the best friend a song ever had," and we won't argue.

We wouldn't discover Cole until years later when "Ramblin' Rose" made it on radio in backwoods Wisconsin. 

Here were the songs on that first album:

1. Sweet Lorraine
2. Embraceable You
3. The Man I Love
4. Body and Soul
5. Prelude in C Sharp Minor
6. What Is This Thing Called Love?
7. It's Only a Paper Moon
8. Easy Listening Blues

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Catching up with Jules

We’ve always rooted for Julian Lennon. How can we not? Imagine what it has been like walking in those shoes.

We rooted for him to be successful as a musician, an artist, a sailor, whatever propelled him. But especially as a musician, because there is where the unfair but inevitable comparisons lie. And he didn’t get off to a bad start. Here’s what the San Antonio Light wrote after Lennon’s first concert – held on this day in 1985:

“Julian Lennon’s first U.S. tour began with a seamless San Antonio triumph last night, a powerful concert debut that left little doubt the son of the late John Lennon is his own man … The crowd at the sold-out Majestic Theatre loved everything, embracing Lennon and his powerful band … When he and his band bowed to a deafening ovation, it was clear in his smile that he knew he’d arrived on his own terms.”

It is mere coincidence that the Light, a fine afternoon newspaper, vanished a few years later. Lennon, meanwhile, has disappeared from time to time while chasing other dreams, only to reappear and restart a music career that must be considered at least moderately successful.

Lennon's debut album Valotte had a pair of Top 10 hits and earned him a Grammy nomination in 1986 for Best New Artist. (The Grammy went to Sade, but the real surprise that year was Whitney Houston’s exclusion from the New Artist ballot. Despite selling more than 2 million debut albums she was deemed ineligible for previously recording a duet on a Teddy Pendergrass album.)

Lennon produced three more albums before setting aside music in 1991 for other pursuits.  He didn’t reappear until 1998 with Photograph Smile, his last album. That is a long spell. He turns 48 in April. We have been hearing about a new album since last fall when he opened his first photography exhibit to much fanfare at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC. But nothing yet.

Photography apparently has been a smoother road for him. “You never escape the Lennon,” he told a Wall Street Journal reporter at his premiere. “But dad was never a photographer, so there’s this sense of freedom. Photography is another creative level for me.”

We get that. And we’re happy to report that his photography has been very well received. Maybe he'll just stick to that. But if he’s got another album in the can we wouldn't mind hearing it. Curiosity, you know?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reconsidering the Easybeats

Honestly, we didn't even know the Easybeats were from Australia. We assumed they hailed from England, like so many other non-American bands that came into prominence during the British Invasion.

And we are close to being right, as the band members migrated at various times with their families from England, Scotland and the Netherlands.  But their home base became Sydney circa 1964, so it seems fitting and proper that the Aussies claim them as their own.

We're double-dipping on the Easybeats today because it happens to be 65th birthday of Harry Vanda, lead guitarist and co-writer of many of the band's songs.  Vanda and George Young might not make you forget Lennon-McCartney, Jagger-Richards, Goffin-King or Leiber-Stoller, but they were a versatile tandem in their own right, penning the sublime "Friday on My Mind" (No. 16 U.S., No. 6 UK) and several other popular tunes for themselves and other artists.  Vanda -Young continued writing material after the band's breakup in 1969 and also became successful in the studio.

Young, the Easybeats' rhythm guitarist, is probably the more recognizable name when you consider the lineage: He is the older brother of AC/DC band members Angus and Malcolm Young.  But what about that Stevie Wright? The chemistry and exuberance of the Easybeats channels through their lead singer, who was known to do backflips on stage and danced at least as well as the go-go dancers of this era.

Besides the great video above click on the following link to hear the band members introduced by a German announcer (it's worth it), and keep listening if you want to hear their take on "River Deep, Mountain High" ...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Well tan our hides

Quick, tie that kangaroo down!
We don't go Down Under very often, so we weren't even aware there is an organization called the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). And that explains how we missed their 75th birthday bash in 2001 during which they named the Top 30 Australian songs of all time.

There's no argument over their top pick, the Easybeats' "Friday on My Mind." But we can't mask our disappointment over the exclusion of Rolf Harris' "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport,"  which spent three weeks atop Billboard's U.S. Easy Listening chart in 1963 after being a huge hit worldwide.

Apparently the song, which Harris wrote in 1957, contained a slur to Aborigines.  We were blissfully unaware of that fact as we sang along as children to the silly lyrics about wallabies, platypus ducks and didgeridoos.  (We are delighted that Pat Boone's record company declined the singer's request to record the song.)

The APRA Top 10:

1. Friday on My Mind, Easybeats, 1966
2. Eagle Rock, Daddy Cool, 1971
3. Beds are Burning, Midnight Oil, 1987
4. Down Under, Men at Work, 1981
5. A Pub With No Beer, Slim Dusty, 1957
6. The Loved One, The Loved Ones, 1966
7. Don't Dream It's Over, Crowded House, 1986
8. Khe Sanh, Cold Chisel, 1978
9. It's a Long Way to the Top, AC/DC, 1976
10. Quasimodo's Dream, The Reels, 1981

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We love rock 'n' roll

In a 1984 Bam magazine interview Joan Jett talked about the connection she makes with people through her music.

"We played a show for the Olympic athletes (in L.A.). An athlete from Sudan saw me, he was walking down the street in Olympic Village, and he yelled 'I love rock 'n' roll!' I don't think he even spoke English. The feeling that gave me, it's hard to explain to other people."

We get it.

We don't know why producer Mickie Most didn't like "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" when Jake Hooker and Alan Merrill brought the song to him.  Or why it was originally released as a B side for their band the Arrows.  Or why Jett's all-girl band the Runaways didn't fall in love with the song when they saw the Arrows perform it in Britain.

But none of those events dissuaded Jett, who enjoyed a monster hit after recording it with the Blackhearts.  "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" spent seven weeks at No. 1 in 1982. Here was the Billboard Top 5 on this day:

1. I Love Rock 'n' Roll, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
2. Open Arms, Journey
3. Centerfold, J. Geils Band
4. That Girl, Stevie Wonder
5. Sweet Dreams, Air Supply

Of the dozens of videos on YouTube we chose the sweatiest, grittiest version we could find from a concert in Passaic, New Jersey. 'Cause that's rock 'n' roll, and we like it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

So long, Ferlin

We got so wrapped up in March Madness we completely missed the passing of country crooner Ferlin Husky on Thursday. To read the obituary by Peter Cooper of the Nashville Tennessean click here.

Back in December we posted this blog on the occasion of Husky's 85th birthday, and we return now to pay our final respects.  From a farm in Flat River, Missouri to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Husky carved out a fine career as a singer and performer who had a string of hits through the 50s, 60s and 70s, none bigger than "Wings of a Dove" and "Gone," each of which spent 10 weeks atop the Billboard chart.

We found a great video of Husky performing "Gone" on YouTube but the embed code was disabled. You can still get to it by clicking here:

Many artists have covered Bob Ferguson's "Wings of a Dove," but Husky's 1960 recording is the benchmark. He sang these words as if they had been sent from above:

When troubles surround us, when evils come
The body grows weak
The spirit grows numb
When these things beset us, He doesn't forget us

He sends down His love
On the wings of a dove

Friday, March 18, 2011

Satellite radio's loop de loop

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

If we hear these lyrics again this week  -- and if the radio's playing it's going to happen, several times  -- we're gonna round up a posse and have us a hangin' party.

We love satellite radio. Love it!  And we appreciate the opportunity to listen to it during our work week. Yet we can't help but wonder why songs on some stations are played in a continuous loop, day after day after day.  Or so it seems. Is it too much to ask for more variety and less repetition?

Case in point: The Spectrum (Sirius 18, XM 45) gets old in a hurry.  Last week alone they gave 28 spins to Mumford and Sons' "The Cave," from which the lyrics above are taken.  And that was only good enough for ninth on the list of most-played songs. The leader: Abigail Washburn's "Chains," which got 36 spins.

We love Angus and Julia Stone's "Big Jet Plane," or at least we did the first few dozen times we heard it. But that plane took off 23 times last week from The Spectrum's runway.  The chorus of "Big Jet Plane" includes the line "Gonna take her for a ride on a big jet plane" that is repeated 10 times in the song, meaning, well you can do the math.

For those unfamiliar, The Spectrum plays "Adult Album Rock," which is a pretty broad category.  You'll hear everything from the Decemberists and Coldplay to Peter Gabriel and Van Morrison, and a whole lot in between.  There are certainly enough artists and songs to go around.  So why can't we hear something new every day?

Sure, we can turn the channel. And we'll do that tomorrow as soon as we start hearing David Gray's "Fugitive" for the umpteenth time this month. (Grey was the fourth-ranked artist on The Spectrum last week with 43 plays, behind U2's 71 spins.)

We've discovered a lot of great music at The Spectrum, and for that we say thanks. But a station that's thinking about its listeners wouldn't leave us kicking at the end of the proverbial rope.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Paddy's Day bonus

Back in 1999 we were enjoying a sold out concert at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, where Steve Earle was stirring up some serious bluegrass with the Del McCoury Band. They had been touring in support of The Mountain, a damn fine album that received favorable reviews and even had Earle’s most fervent alt-country fans ready to dance a jig. Well, all but one in the Guthrie audience that night.

Some clown behind us kept shouting: “Play ‘Guitar Town!’ Play ‘Guitar Town!’ ” Which was hilarious, since Earle had put a lot of trouble and bad times behind him since his 1986 debut album, and this was a night to feature songs like “Carrie Brown,” “Harlan Man” and “Leroy’s Dustbowl Blues.” Needless to say Earle did not play the request. He did stare the guy down and muttered something with which Del probably took offense.

We can’t for the life of us remember if Earl played “Galway Girl,” which may or may not have been written (it appears on Earle’s 2000 album Transcendental Blues). It certainly would have been appropriate that night, just as it is today.

Thanks to our buddy Psycho Ward for reminding us...

But it's all over now

The video above spotlights the music of the Saw Doctors, a rock'em, sock'em Irish outfit from County Galway whose first No. 1 song "I Useta Lover" is the biggest selling single ever in Ireland. Listen and you'll understand why. Real Irish know how to have fun.

They say that everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, so we might as well belly up to the bar with our brothers and sisters, even if many of them today will be green-clad Scandos, Krauts, Polacks and Serbs. Our favorite local Irish band Dublin O'Shea will be playing at the Delafield Brewhaus tonight but if we're smart we'll stay stay closer to home.

No matter where you are, here's a toast to help get you through the day:

Here’s to a long life and a merry one
A quick death and a easy one
A pretty girl and a honest one
A cold pint… and another one

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Big fella, sad songs

One of the many cool things NPR does with music is its Tiny Desk Concerts.  They've done more than 100 of them at the desk of Bob Boilen, host of All Songs Considered. Here they captured Damien Jurado, an artist with whom we were not familar.  Nothing overpowering, just a big fella singing sad songs and playing simple chords on his Alvarez guitar. 

We'd love to know the story behind "Newspaper Gown," so we'll probably start digging around. Jurado's MySpace pages describes his music as "Down-tempo / Folk Rock / Minimalist" and, well, that's certainly not misleading. We didn't learn a lot more, but after all the guy's a minimalist.

How we hate to chase people away from the Sanctuary, but do yourself a favor and bookmark this link:  It's a great place to discover new music.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why can't War be War?

We wouldn't have an ounce of funk in our souls if we didn't salute Howard Scott today on his 65th birthday.

Scott was a founding member of War (nee the Creators, then Night Shift before Eric Burdon rechristened the band in 1969.) Scott helped write many of the band's most memorable songs and provided the guitar groove for the band's fabulous funkadelic sound, which has been described as "universal street music" by longtime keyboard player Lonnie Jordan, the only original member still using the War name.

Scott broke off years ago with other core members Harold Brown, B.B. Dickerson and Lee Oskar, the Danish harmonica player who had come aboard with Burden in 1969.  (Burdon left after two albums and the No. 3 hit "Spill the Wine.") The foursome, having lost a legal battle to use "War" now goes by the Lowrider Band, after the 1975 hit "Low Rider."  Believe us when we say it's worth checking out the Lowrider webpage at  Looks like it's been a bumpy ride for them!

There's hardly a better way to get your groove on than to play some of War's music.  Their 33 rpm The World is a Ghetto was the top-selling album of 1973 and would be a great place to start.   War had a string of great songs that made the Top 10 on both the Pop and R&B charts:  "The World is a Ghetto," "Cisco Kid," "Gypsy Man," "Low Rider" and "Why Can't We Be Friends."

Thank heavens Scott and Lowrider haven't been barred from performing the music they created. But it just doesn't seem right they can't use the name War, which would be a great advantage to them commercially.  Be sure to give Lowrider's video "Ordinary Man" a look-see and raise a glass to Scott today as he celebrates the big six-five -- and get ready to raise another for Brown, who is just two days younger.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A song that'll put you right

Now when you're feelin' low and the fish won't bite
You need a little bit o' soul to put you right
You gotta make like you wanna kneel and pray
And then a little bit o' soul will come your way

When SoulMan reminded us of all the great songs from 1967 we decided to go back and take a closer look. It was indeed an amazing year for music.  One of the memorable songs, "Little Bit o' Soul" by the Music Explosion, was the Mansfield, Ohio group's only Top 40 hit.  It topped out at No. 2 in July and finished No. 13 on Billboard's year-ending Hot 100.

The song has been covered by many artists, even the Ramones, and today we share a live encore clip by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. (BTW, does that girl who stormed the stage get felt up by security, or what?)

"Little Bit o' Soul" is more pop than soul, but you get the idea.  And the song's message was supported up and down the Hot 100 with some great soul and R&B hits like Gladys Knight & the Pips' "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (No. 9), Aretha Franklin's "Respect" (No. 14), Smoky Robinson's "I Second That Emotion" (No. 21) and the quintessential Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" (No. 29).

Now when your girl is gone and you're broke in two
You need a little bit o' soul to see you through
And when you raise the roof with your rock 'n' roll
You'll get a lot more kicks with a little bit o' soul

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Making time for you

You just lost an hour to Daylight Savings. You'll get it back, sure, but who's gonna help you right now?  The Sanctuary, that's who! Today's shortest blog of the year features the shortest No. 1 song ever.  Think of the time we just saved you ...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Boss of the live acts

Rolling Stone asked its readers to pick their favorite live acts and we can't argue with the top of their list. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were runaway winners -- not surprising to anyone who has seen the Boss in action -- and the Rolling Stones finished second.  That's a heckuva 1-2 punch.

We regret we never saw Who, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin in concert, but the footage we've seen of their shows supports their positions at 3-4-5.  Here's the Top 10:

1. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
2. Rolling Stones
3. Who
4. Pink Floyd
5. Led Zeppelin
6. U2
7. Queen
8. Pearl Jam
9. Grateful Dead
10. Kiss

It's a shame video can't adequately capture the electricity and raw emotions of a live Springsteen show.  You just gotta be there... meanwhile, anybody for the Allman Brothers? The Ramones? Talking Heads?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wunnerful, wunnerful

We've trotted out a lot of Birthday Bands but today might take the cake, thanks to an appearance by legendary bandleader Lawrence Welk. 

You didn't like Lawrence Welk?  We can't say we actually watched an entire episode of Welk's popular musical variety show back in the day. But here at the Sanctuary we recognize and salute the important contributions people make to music culture, and Welk made some wunnerful ones.

A personal favorite: the 1970s show during which singers Gail Farrell and Dick Dale performed Brewer & Shipley's "One Toke Over the Line" accompanied by an accordion player. That was grand enough by itself, but to then have Welk summarize the song as a "modern spiritual" provided the frosting on the cake.

We can't help but pop some bubbly tonight to toast Welk and other members of the March 11 Birthday Band. (And if you happen to have a joint let this be your excuse to fire one up!)

Lawrence Welk (1903-1992): Bandleader
Calcutta, Tonight You Belong to Me, Weary Blues

Ric Rothwell (1944): Drums, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
Game of Love, It's Just a Little Bit Too Late

Mark Stein (1947): Keyboards, Vanilla Fudge
You Keep Me Hangin' On, Take Me for a Little While

Bobby McFerrin (1950): Singer, musician
Don't Worry, Be Happy

Jimmy Fortune (1955): Singer, Statler Brothers
Flowers on the Wall, Bed of Roses, Class of '57

Bruce Watson (1961): Guitar, Big Country
Harvest Home, Fields of Fire, In a Big Country

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Find your Magical Musical Connection

Hello 1964, our MMC.
Tired of year-end best song lists that don't come close to matching your musical sensibilities? Take a simple test to determine your Magical Musical Connection (MMC). It's easy and fun -- and we have nothing else for you today!

We should mention that the MMC is a very unscientific exercise.  How unscientific?  We just came up with it after polishing off a bottle of Broke Ass wine, and now we need to tell you how it works before we forget. Here goes:

We'll provide a link to the Top 5 songs from 1946-2010.  Now start with 2010 and go backward until you find a year when you can comfortably say you liked all 5 songs on that year's list.  That's the year you made your magical musical connection.  We're assuming the older you are the farther back you'll have to go to find your MMC, but who knows?  We're the only ones who've tried it, and and it went like this:

We knew we could skip the ranked music of the 21st century, which has not been good to us. But we didn't realize we'd have to go back, back, back to find a Top 5 that appealed to us from 1 through 5 without a hiccup. We whizzed through the Nineties and the Eighties and nearly got through the Seventies before things started to get interesting. In 1971 we were waylayed by the Osmonds (who says one bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch?)  We liked 1970 except for the Carpenters.

Surely the Sixties would hold a winner, but not 1969, not with the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar" in the No. 1 slot.  And not 1968, which included Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" (a song that admittedly grows worse with each listen). We gave serious consideration to 1967 and 1966 but were unable to reach a concensus.  We nearly succumbed to 1965 but could not pull the trigger with Sam the Sham in the No. 1 spot with "Wooly Bully."  (Again, it might be the ceaseless play of a song. Some tunes just wear you out over time.)

Where is a British Invasion when you need one?  That was it!  We finally settled on 1964, which looked like this:

1. I Want To Hold Your Hand, Beatles
2. She Loves You, Beatles
3. Hello, Dolly!, Louis Armstrong
4. Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison
5. I Get Around, Beach Boys

Here's a Top 5 link (with thanks to Bob Borst, who happened to have the list).  Now go find your MMC.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We're still wild about Harry

We miss Harry Nilsson. About this time in 1972 he was sitting atop the Billboard chart with "Without You," a song we previously mentioned here in a posting about Badfinger and the tragic deaths of Pete Ham and Tom Evans.

Ham and Evans collaborated on "Without You," piecing together fragments of two unfinished songs and producing a knockout cut for their album No Dice.  As the story goes, when Nilsson first heard "Without You" he thought it was something by his pals the Beatles. He had to record it, and so he did. And the following March at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville he received his second Grammy award. (His first came three years earlier for the Fred Neil penned "Everybody's Talkin'.")

It would be futile to argue over which version might be best. Both Ham and Nilsson delivered heart-wrenching vocals for the grim weeper.  (Dozens of others have tackled "Without You," most notably Mariah Carey, who had a No. 1 in the UK with it. Kelly Clarkson covered it on American Idol, as did Leona Lewis on X Factor.  It's that kind of song.)

But it was Nilsson's cover that spent a glorious four weeks at No. 1 in 1972, a year that started out amazingly strong with these consecutive chart toppers:

Jan. 15, American Pie, Don McLean
Feb. 12, Let's Stay Together, Al Green
Feb. 19, Without You, Nilsson
March 18, Heart of Gold, Neil Young

To hear Nilsson's treatment of "Without You" click on this link and be amazed:


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monkee business

3/4 Time: Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz.
We won't be scoring tickets to the Monkees' 45th anniversary tour.  We just won't.  But we do think it's time to right a wrong. 

There was a reason the Sex Pistols covered "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," that Paul Westerberg made "Daydream Believer" a staple at his live shows, and that Chekov on Star Trek bore an amazing resemblance to Davy Jones. 

The Monkees were not as lousy as some critics made them out to be.  Let's face it, with a name like that you have a lot to overcome. They may have been a made-for-TV pop group, but you can't argue with their success.  They did learn to play their own instruments and write their own music (but they'll forever be indebted to Boyce & Hart and others who contributed some great material to the cause. Their biggest hit, "I'm a Believer," was written by Neil Diamond.)

Why this sudden interest in the Monkees?  It's Mickey Dolenz's birthday, and the boys have announced a new tour (minus Michael Nesmith, who has always had other irons in the fire). Time to raise a glass to Dolenz and the other members of today's Birthday Band:

Ralph Ellis (1942): Singer, Swinging Blue Jeans
Hippy Hippy Shake

Mickey Dolenz (1945): Drummer, Monkees
I’m a Believer, Last Train to Clarksville, Daydream Believer

Randy Meisner (1946) Bass, The Eagles
Take it Easy, Best of My Love, Take it to the Limit

Mike Allsup (1947): Guitar, Three Dog Night
Easy to be Hard, Eli’s Coming, Joy to the World

Little Peggy March (1948): Singer
I Will Follow Him

Clive Burr (1957): Drums, Iron Maiden
Running Free, Transylvania, Sanctuary

Gary Numan (1958): New Wave musician
Are Friends Electric, Cars

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Get your ticket for the Rock Island Line

The purists among you might revolt at the very notion of a Johnny Cash tribute band. Sacrilege!  We admit it's a touchy topic, and we only arrive at this dark and shadowy doorstep today because Craig Foster led us there.

Foster plays guitar in a McCleary, Washington outfit known as Dan Whyms & Rock Island Line.  There are other bands out there exclusively playing the Man in Black's music, but we're pretty sure Whyms is the closest you will ever come to the real deal.  He bears an eerie likeness to Johnny, he has a rich, deep bass-baritone like Johnny, and he plays guitar and harmonica like Johnny.

Craig Foster, right, with Tennessee 3 drummer W.S. Holland.
And Foster, for his part, does a fine job of capturing the boom-chica-boom phrasings of legendary Cash picker Luther Perkins.

Foster stumbled onto the Sanctuary after a former colleague of ours recommended us on Twitter (thanks O'Malley!). It turns out we have a few things in common.

"The reason I'm writing is that I noticed you put Johnny Cash on the top of your favorite music list and you are in Milwaukee," Foster wrote in an email. "I am in the golf business but also play guitar in a Johnny Cash tribute show with a singer originally from Fond du Lac (Whyms).

"Tribute bands can be can be looked down upon when compared to original artists, but there are good and bad just as in most things.

"Last Labor Day we played a few shows in the Seattle area with some of Johnny Cash's band: W.S. Holland (drums), Earl Poole Ball (piano) and Dave Roe (bass). It was a wonderful experience both playing and hanging out with them. W.S. is full of stories from the early days and is still going strong. He told me some interesting Luther Perkins stories.

Now we'd like to hear a few of those.

It was our turn to check out Dan Whyms & Rock Island Line, so we visited their website at  and downloaded the videos.  Now tell us honestly, what do you think?

Here's what Whyms writes on his Myspace page about playing Johnny's music:  "I'd have to say I've been singing Johnny Cash's songs most all my life. I can remember singing "I Walk The Line" for my mom when I was 8yrs. old. That was in 1956. I'm still singing "I Walk The Line" in 2008, and I hope to continue to sing it for many years God willing. ... Johnny Cash inspired my love of music. He's been the inspiration for me to learn the guitar, to write, and to perform. He was one of a kind.There'll never be another like him. Since John's passing in September of 2003, I've dedicated myself to traveling and playing for his fans young and old. It has been one of my life's greatest pleasures."

Now you can say that Johnny Cash's music will never die and it certainly doesn't need any lookalike practicioners, but just about every artist with a country bent enjoys doing at least a few tunes (we saw one the other night with a Cash decal on his black Ovation guitar).  So if you're faithfully executing the music with good spirit and intrigrity, what's wrong with that? 

Few are doing it better than Dan Whyms & Rock Island Line.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The beginnings of 'It's All Over Now'

How long did it take the Rolling Stones to recognize that "It's All Over Now" could be a hit for them?


It was during their first American tour in 1964 that the Stones were handed a copy of the song, which had been written by Bobby Womack and his sister Shirley and recorded by their family band, The Valentinos.

Nine days later -- just as "It's All Over Now" was charting for the Valentinos -- the Stones went into Chess Studio in Chicago and recorded a version of the song that would become their first chart-topper in the UK (it peaked at No. 26 in the U.S.)

Dozens of artists have recorded the stomper, including Waylon Jennings, Ry Cooder, Rod Stewart and Johnny Winter, but nobody kicked it out like the Stones, who put it on their second American LP 12x5 and made it a staple at their live shows.  They were at their explosive best on this track with the raucous guitar playing of Keith Richards and Brian Jones and the vocal attack of Mick Jagger, who said at the time it was the best single the Stones had recorded.

Today, though, it being Bobby Womack's birthday, we decided to share the original version that made it all possible. Listen to this gem while raising a glass to today's Birthday Band:

Paul Mauriat (1925-2006): Conductor
Love Is Blue, Toccata, Penelope

Miriam Makeba (1932-2008): Singer, civil rights activist
Pata Pata, The Click Song

Eric Allandale (1936-2001): Trombone, Foundations
Build Me Up Buttercup, Baby Now That I've Found You

Bobby Womack (1944): R&B singer, musician
It's All Over Now, Lookin' For A Love, If You Think You're Lonely Now

Chris Squire (1948): Bassist, Yes
Owner Of A Lonely Heart

Chris Rea (1951): Songwriter/guitarist
Fool If You Think It's Over

Ron Moss (1952): Bassist, Player
Baby Come Back

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Free at last

For a senior course in college we worked up an ad campaign for Wrigley's gum, which didn't really need our help at the time.  Hard for some of you kids to imagine, but the Chicago-based company once owned the chewing gum market with its three sugary primary brands: Spearmint, Doublemint and Juicy Fruit.

Our billboard campaign, while clever -- it featured alternating green, yellow and white wrappers as teeth in a broad grin with the slogan "Your Choice Of The World's Best Chew" -- earned an A from the professor but failed to kickstart an advertising career. 

Maybe if we had developed a TV commercial featuring Free's hard-rocking "All Right Now" we wouldn't be panning for blogs this morning.  Oh well.  Wrigley did just that in 1990, reviving the song 21 years after it hit No. 2 in Britain and No. 4 in the U.S.  And damned if the song didn't climb back to No. 2 again in the UK, where the commercial was aired and the record was reissued.  We have no figures on resulting gum sales.

Free is sometimes called a one-hit wonder, which is not really fair.  "All Right Now" was their outright hit, but the band wasn't together long before lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke went off to form Bad Company and contribute many more hits.  Bass player Andy Fraser, who co-wrote "All Right Now" with Rodgers, has a number writing credits including Robert Palmer's "Every Kinda People."  Lead guitarist Paul Kossoff was brilliant (he ranks No. 51 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists) but he was dead by age 25 of a drug induced heart attack.

Check out the great video above of Free in fine fettle.  It'll give you something to chew on.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Seeds of punk

Word has it Sky Saxon wrote "Pushin' Too Hard" in 15 minutes.  Our question today: What took him so long?

We have always loved "Pushin' Too Hard," which used all of two chords and featured Saxon's vocals, the electric piano of Daryl Hooper and a raw guitar solo by Jan Savage.  It peaked on the Billboard chart at No. 36 about this time in 1967, representing the California band's only brush with national fame.

Call it garage rock, psychedelic rock or protopunk, the song provided a nice counterbalance to some of the bizarre music that was receiving mainstream radio play at the time. After an endless dose of songs like "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron," "Winchester Cathedral," and "Sugar Town," we were more than ready for upstarts like the Seeds and the Blues Magoos, who had a Top 5 single with "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet."

What's not to like?