Archives for posts with tag: music

Nineties Night at Nats Park definitely did not go as planned.  Actually, the whole weekend didn’t go as planned.  Friday’s game with San Francisco was postponed and Saturday’s tilt was delayed…forcing the two teams to play three games in a little over 24 hours.  Let’s just say that Luke Perry didn’t throw out the first pitch on the rescheduled 90’s Night.  Not even Joe E. Tata or the guy who played the Winslow kid on “Family Matters”.

Remember the “Saved by the Bell” episode when Zack injured his knee?  Bryce Harper is more important to the Nats’ title hopes than Mark-Paul Gosselaar.  After slipping on first base Saturday night, the outfielder slips onto the disabled list with a significant bone bruise and hyperextended knee.  Thank goodness no ligaments were torn…although Harper’s agent made comments about slippery bases after rain delays.  File this for the 2018-19 offseason.

Dissecting the Division-  the magic number is now 33 as the Nats own a 14-game lead in the NL East.  Miami’s three-game sweep of Colorado keeps the Marlins not on the fringe of playoff contention, but on the “fringe of the fringe.  They’re 8.5 games behind the Rockies and Arizona for the wildcard, and if those two teams go .500 over the rest of the season Miami would need to finish 31-14.  We aren’t yet to the point where we can pinpoint the champagne celebration, but I’m sure somebody at MASN has a range of dates.

O’s Woes- the Birds climbed back to .500 for the first time since late June with their win last week at the Los Angeles Angels…only to lose two straight against their fellow Wildcard contenders.  Over the weekend against AL West cellar-dwelling Oakland, the Orioles plated 26 runs–only to leave the Bay Area with a split.  While manager Buck Showalter’s team remains 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the AL, they still have four teams to pass before they reach the Halos.  The dreaded west coast swing ends with three games against fellow semi-contender (that is…under .500 but still in striking distance of a playoff spot) Seattle.  The Mariners and Angels both come to Camden Yards later this month.

Last Week’s Heroes- Ryan Zimmerman hit .346 with 3 HR and 7 RBI…breaking Tim Wallach’s franchise record of 905 runs batted in.  Brian Goodwin hit .346 with 7 runs scored…and Howie Kendrick hit that grand slam Sunday night.  Gio Gonzalez won his lone start…allowing one run over 7 innings just two days after the birth of his son.  Sean Doolittle notched 3 saves.

Last Week’s Humbled- Matt Wieters hit .176…while Anthony Rendon hit .130.  AJ Cole went 0-2 with an ERA of 5.73 while Joe Blanton recorded another double-digit ERA for the week (13.50).  The way the weekend was handled amidst the weather was less than ideal;  many of the players had already changed into streetclothes and were leaving the stadium by the time the game was called at 9:48 p.m.  Instead of playing Saturday afternoon (where it did not rain in the area), they played Saturday night (and was delayed three hours) and Sundays day-night doubleheader gave the Giants a great lift as they had to leave for a series in Miami.

Game to Watch- the journey of Edwin Jackson resumes Thursday in San Diego against one of the pitcher’s 11 former teams.  The 33-year old is 3-2 over five starts with the Nats…posting an ERA of 3.30 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 25-to-7.  Problem is, Jackson hasn’t won consecutive starts since August of last year.  Which Edwin will we get?

Game to Miss- another tough call.  You don’t want to miss the two home games against the Wildcard contending Los Angeles Angels.  And even though Max Scherzer pitches at 10:10 on Friday night, every one of his outings is a must-see.  And could we be seeing Stephen Strasburg returning Saturday?  Sorry, Gio Gonzalez–your Sunday start against the Padres draws the short straw.

The Dog Days of Summer begins with a flashback to a post written in 2013…

 

This is a project I’ve long talked and joked about. Every time I’ve made a career transition I’ve mentioned putting the free time towards writing the highly anticipated book about the Moody Blues. This will hopefully be the summer of highly ignored blogs about the Moody Blues-who they were and why one should care?  Were they trying to be funny during the spoken word poems or were they just that high?  What made their albums incredible journeys and why do they deserve long-delayed recognition like being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Yes–one might be able to fathom the Moody Blues exclusion of the R&R HOF. It’s a subjective game. Until you realize that two inferior contemporaries, the Hollies and the Dave Clark 5 are enshrined. Really? I can break down the Moodies rightful inclusion on multiple fronts.

 

Versatility and Longevity– DC5 was hot for 3-5 years churning out derivative hit singles and fizzled as the 60’s came to a close. The Hollies hung in there through the mid-70’s. MB scored a #1 as an R&B band with “Go Now”… turned into a progressive rock band and enjoyed extended success with songs like “Nights in White Satin” (peaking at #2 in 1972)…and enjoyed a resurgence in the 80’s (Your Wildest Dreams reaching #10 on the charts–and #1 on the Adult Contemporary listings). That’s 20+ years of being relevant and dominating three musical regions.

 

Lyrics– DC5’s biggest hit? Arguably “Catch us if You Can”. They say “Catch us if You Can” 14 times in 1:56…and the song would have been even better if they just repeated catch us if you can throughout. The Hollies did write some of their songs but depended on a stable of writers to turn out some of their most memorable hits (“Bus Stop”, “Hey Aint Heavy, He’s my Brother”).  With the exception of “Go Now”, all of the Moody Blues major tunes were self-written. And wouldn’t you rather hear “Nights in White Satin” than “Catch us if You Can”? Don’t answer until you say the title 14 times in succession.

 

Matchups– the beauty is there are five members in each band. So we’ll break down the matchups- basketball style…giving 5 points for first, 3 for second and 1 for third…:

DRUMS– Although the Dave Clark 5 is named after drummer Dave Clark, I’m going with the Hollies Bobby Elliot for making his kit seem like it was the solo instrument more often than not (check out the bridge to “I Can’t Let Go”). MB’s Grahame Edge loses out although he was a presence in “Higher and Higher” and wrote most of their goofy poems.

BASS– MB’s John Lodge dominates not just because he locks in with Edge, but his value as a singer/songwriter creates matchup problems with the late Rick Huxley of DC5 and the Hollies Eric Haydock/Bernie Calvert platoon.

LEAD GUITAR– MB’s Justin Hawyard wrote and sang on most of the MB’s hits… and has DC5’s Lenny Davidson for lunch. Tony Hicks represents the Hollies (his middle verse in “Carrie Anne” plays off Nash and Clarke too well) but comes up short.

FLUTE/SAXOPHONE/HARMONICA– One can’t think of a DC5 song without the late Denis Peyton’s saxophone and his awkwardness playing the instrument on youtube. MB’s Ray Thomas helps “Nights in White Satin” reach that next level with his flute…has one heck of a voice and a killer mustache that would make Magnum jealous. Allen Clarke delivers the harmonica riff on “He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother” and sings the bulk of the Hollies hits. He dances awkwardly (check out concert footage) but not nearly as bad as Thomas did during “Ride My See Saw” on Colour Me Pop (MANDATORY YOUTUBE). The two are exhibit A and B why you give every band member an instrument so they DON’T dance.

KEYBOARDS/RHYTHM GUITAR– Classic matchup between DC5 lead vocalist Mike Smith’s east-west sashaying and effortless smile, MB’s thoughtful and pensive Mike Pinder trying to create art while pioneering an instrument never used before (Mellotron) and Graham Nash’s filling in the gaps vocally with Clarke and Hicks. If Nash actually played the guitar he’d get the call–but we’re going to go three way tie.

So after doing the math, the Hollies win by a close margin over the Moody Blues 18-17 with the Dave Clark Five a distant third at 10.

 

Coming up in this unwelcome journey…roots in R&B…hits and many more misses…and the best re-cast ever.

The storyline of the first half of the Nationals season was three-fold:  explosive offense, solid starting pitching and a flammable bullpen.  One weekend after the All Star Break, little has changed.  The offense pounded out 29 runs (even though Joe Ross is on the DL and headed for Tommy John Surgery instead of on the mound), the starting pitchers tossed 20 and a third scoreless innings while the bullpen notched an ERA of 9.95.  Will the trade for Oakland relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle do something to patch up what’s been a leaky hull (5.31 ERA, worst in the Majors) all season?  If nothing else, it removes Blake Treinen from the equation:  the 6-foot-5 right-hander began the year as the team’s closer but wound up sporting a pre-All Star Break ERA of 5.73.  He’d been more “Blaze” than Blake over the last month. 

Dissecting the Division- pesky Atlanta (nine and a half games back) keeps pace by sweeping their weekend as well, and with Freddie Freeman back in the lineup the Braves could make a run at the postseason.  At least their pitching is consistent–meaning the starter’s ERA ranks 19th in the big leagues and their reliever’s ERA is 20th.  The Nats have six more games against Atlanta this season–all in September.

O’s Woes- the only thing worse than a leaky bullpen is a razed rotation.  After entering the All Star Break on a two-game winning streak, the Orioles proceeded to get swept at home by the defending champion Chicago Cubs.  Pitching was porous:  the starters allowed 21 runs over 11 and a third innings (16.68 ERA).  Some storylines never change. The New York Yankees currently own the final playoff spot in the American League at 47-43…a pace of 85 wins over the full season.  In order to catch them, the O’s would have to finish 43-28.  The team may say they’re buyers as the trading deadline looms…but you have to think they’re going to auction off some pieces for prospects.

Last Week’s Heroes- Anthony Rendon hit .636 with 3 homers and 9 RBI.  Granted, three games is a small sample size but WOW.  Daniel Murphy hit .625 with 7 RBI…while Murph and Bryce Harper both homered twice over the weekend.  Gio Gonzalez tossed 8 and a third scoreless innings while Max Scherzer struck out ten in his start and Tanner Roark had a solid outing for his first win since June 4th.

Last Week’s Humbled- Brian Goodwin went 2-for-13 over the weekend (.077) with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts…not what you want to see from your leadoff hitter but repeat after me, “it’s a small sample size”.  Relievers Trevor Gott (5 earned runs in one inning) and Austin Adams (2 runs allowed without recording an out) may have small sample sizes, but anytime you’re a pitcher who wears a number in the 60’s or 70’s it can’t be good.

Game to Watch- Sunday Stephen Strasburg (9-3, 3.43 ERA) pitches in Arizona against Robbie Ray.  Despite having two first names, the Diamondbacks pitcher is 8-4 with an ERA of 2.97.  He’s also a former Nats farmhand…having been sent to Detroit in the Doug Fister deal.

Game to Miss- Wednesday night the Nats wrap up their series with the Los Angeles Angels as Gio Gonzalez pitches against Ricky Nolasco (4-10, 4.82 ERA).  It’s a 10pm start… meaning you’re likely going to bed after golf’s British Open (or as they insist, “The Open Championship”) tees off.  Golf’s oldest major wins the tiebreaker here.

 

It was fifty years ago June 1st that The Beatles released their best-known album…one that would help mark the second half of their careers.  “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” helped re-set the rock world during the summer of 1967…and has spawned more than a few imitators in the years since.  The landmark LP was more than just what everybody was listening to:  Sgt. Pepper’s was one of the first albums of the rock era to not spawn singles (Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever was released months earlier).

It’s release came at a fortuitous time, because for the first time The Beatles US and UK album track lineups were the same.  Over the previous four years the group’s American (Capitol) and British (Parlophone) releases were similar yet different:  while “Meet the Beatles” was a mish-mash of two albums plus a stand-alone single, Revolver” cut out three Lennon-voiced songs.  By trimming the UK LP’s from 14 to 11 tracks and adding standalone singles into the mix, Capitol was able to generate 11 units from the 7 Parlophone albums.  This also created American LP’s that had no British counterpart…from “Beatles VI” to “Yesterday and Today” (that first featured the famed “Butcher Cover”).  What would Sgt. Pepper have looked like under this landscape?

Under the practice of slapping recent singles and slicing extra tracks to get each album to 11,  I would imagine Capitol would be more than okay with placing “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the LP.  That makes 15 tracks–and candidates to leave Pepperland would be “Getting Better”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite” (Strawberry Fields getting the last spot on side one) and “Lovely Rita”.

 

The modified Sgt. Pepper-

Side 1-

1-“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

2-“With a Little Help from My Friends”

3-“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

4-“Fixing a Hole”

5-“Strawberry Fields Forever”

Side 2-

1-“Penny Lane”

2-“Within You and Without You”

3-“When I’m Sixty-Four”

4-“Good Morning Good Morning”

5-“Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”

6-“A Day in the Life”

 

Sadly, the presence of the Beatles’ latest single would spike sales even more.  This would also give Capitol a head start on their fall product (having been robbed the previous year of no new Beatles LP in November/December like 1964 or ’65).  They’d also have “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” from 1966 still waiting for an LP to be slapped onto.  Add the summer single “All You Need is Love” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” Capitol would be just three tracks shy of a new album.  Padding things out would be songs that didn’t make the “Pepper” cut and were consigned for the “Yellow Submarine” cartoon movie project:  George’s “Only a Northern Song” and “It’s All Too Much” plus Paul’s “All Together Now”.  That smokey big bite of songs would come together to form a late October/early November release by Capitol… “Magical Mystery Tour” be damned.

“Beatles on Safari” track listing-

Side 1-

1-“All You Need is Love”

2-“Baby You’re a Rich Man”

3-“Getting Better”

4-“Only a Northern Song”

6-“She’s Leaving Home”

Side 2-

1-“Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite”

2-“Lovely Rita”

3-“It’s All Too Much”

4-“All Together Now”

5-“Rain”

6-“Paperpack Writer”

I know, this completely messes up the “Magical Mystery Tour”…but I’m sure Capitol would be okay with holding their MMT back until after the film premiered in late December.  Seven tracks would be available…so one could pad the Capitol version with “Jessie’s Dream” (an instrumental never released anywhere) or “Death Cab For Cutie” (performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in the film).  They could also mimic the US versions of “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help” by padding the album with soundtrack instrumentals.  Unless they wanted to wait for the “Lady Madonna”/”Inner Light”/”Across the Universe”/”Hey Bulldog” sessions of February ’68.

 

 

Fifty years ago this month.  Can you believe it was all those years ago that a quartet known for snappy hits and on-stage chemistry came out of the studio with facial hair and unleashed a number one album that would change our perception about them forever?

What’s that, you say?  The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper June 1st?  I’m referring to “Headquarters” by The Monkees. The “pre-fab four” had already posted a pair of #1 albums in 1967 (“The Monkees” and “More of the Monkees”)…but were burdened with the image as a group that didn’t write their material (mostly true) and didn’t play any of their instruments (almost completely true).  This was hardly a unique practice; the Beach Boys used “the Wrecking Crew” to craft most of the backing tracks to “Pet Sounds” and popular TV shows generated albums like “Bonzana: Christmas on the Ponderosa”.  But according to a music press that was beginning to think of itself as reporters of legitimate art, a TV show about musicians releasing an album where the musicians didn’t play their instruments rang false.

That changed with their third album.  Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike doubled down on their hit TV show (that would eventually win the Emmy for Best Comedy) and demanded musical input.  After the dismissal of Donnie Kirshner as their musical director, they had the studio to themselves and brought in former Turtles bassist Chip Douglas to produce.  Faced with the challenge of blending four completely different musical styles (Micky-California rock, Mike-country rock, Peter-folk rock, Davy-Broadway) and a drummer who was still learning (they often had to edit multiple takes by Micky to generate acceptable tracks), they produced a hidden gem.

Headquarters didn’t have any hit singles (although “Shades of Gray” received a ton of airplay and “Randy Scouse Git” was released in the UK as “Alternate Title”)…but went to #1 the week before the Beatles buried the Monkees with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.   One was a record of its time while the other would become a record for all time.

The success of “Headquarters” was both the best and worst thing that could have happened to the Monkees.  It proved that they could piece together an album of their material that they played on…but it also gave them creative control that convinced them to proceed in their separate directions.  “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd.” would be released that fall under the production of Douglas and even though they played all of their instruments on just one track (the Harry Nilsson-penned “Cuddly Toy”) PACJ felt like a unified musical effort.  They chose to produce their next LP and “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” would seem more like multiple solo records instead of one album with four voices.  Combined with the cancellation of their TV series, the run of four straight #1 albums in ’67 ended with Birds & Bees charting at #3.  Future LP’s would chart at #45, #32, #100 and #152 with band members leaving:  Peter first in 1968 and then Mike in 1969 before Micky & Davy finally called it a day after “Changes” in 1970.

The Monkees went from rags to riches to rags in the span of five years…before eventually becoming a pretty productive nostalgia act in the 80’s.  But for one shining moment they went toe-to-toe with the greats of the era…producing music on their own terms and holding their heads high.  Hey, hey…

 

 

Love & Mercy premieres Friday with an in-depth look at the Beach Boys Brian Wilson.  Actually–two looks: Paul Dano plays the Wilson of the 60’s that’s about to lose himself thanks to LSD and John Cusack plays the shattered Wilson of the 80’s. The Beach Boys began as a teenage collection of three brothers, one cousin and a high school buddy catching a ride on the surfing music wave but became so much more…and then so much less.

Five Songs that capture the band’s highs and lows…:

“I Get Around”– the perfect marriage of Mike Love on the verses and Brian Wilson on the choruses.  The energy whips you through 2 minutes and 12 seconds of making every light and changing lanes at just the right time.  You’re left wanting to hear the same song–again and again.  No wonder this was the group’s first #1 hit.

“In My Room”– fantastic harmonies about being isolated.  Brian paints a fantastic picture of isolation.  Despite having a tight circle of family and friends…he often felt the need for solitude and the eventual alienation it resulted in  He often knew he was out of step (“I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” from Pet Sounds)…and here he shuts the door for his own comfort.

“When I Grow Up to Be a Man”– instead of driving fast cars or catching faster waves, the no-longer teenagers focus on “what’s next”.  How will they adjust to the demands of adulthood?  No answers are offered, only more questions (“will my kids be proud or think their old man’s really a square?”).  Brian wrote background vocals that from the second verse on count up “14,15…” through the rest of the song, reaching “30, 31…” in the fade-out.  If only we could get back to “30, 31…”

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”– it wasn’t a #1 hit like “Good Vibrations”…nor was it revered like “God Only Knows”.  But the first track of Pet Sounds set the bar high for the group’s most-famous LP…who else could get away with the lyric “happy times together we’d be spending”?  The Beach Boys at their best were all about possibilities—and this song has Brian on the threshold of happiness.  Even if he never got there, the idea that he could—was pretty nice.

“Kokomo”– hey.  Jefferson Airplane/Starship has their “We Built this City”.  Reduced to a nostalgia act and minus Brian (still under the spell of Eugene Landy) and middle Wilson brother Dennis (the drummer drowned in December 1983), Mike Love combined with a who’s who of 60’s acts (Mamas and the Papas John Phillips, Byrds producer Terry Melcher and “Going to San Francisco” singer Scott McKenzie) to write an insipid tune.  “Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya–Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama”.  They even had Full House actor John Stamos playing bongos in the video.  Instead of rightfully vanishing, the tune stuck and was in the movie “Cocktail”.  Reached number 1.  Brian didn’t sing on the song– although he did contribute vocals to the Spanish-language version.  Even better…