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Thursday, 8 December 2016

Revisiting Hotel California - Eagles (1976)

 Hotel California - Eagles
Asylum Records
Produced by Bill Syzmczyk
Released 8th December 1976
US Chart #1
UK Chart #2
Australian Chart #1
Dutch Chart #1
New Zealand Chart #1

US 16x Platinum (Diamond with sales of 10 million)
UK 6x Platinum
Australia 8x Platinum
New Zealand 9x Platinum

    Don Felder – guitars, pedal steel guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    Glenn Frey – guitars, piano, clavinet, synthesizer, vocals
    Don Henley – drums, percussion, synthesizer, vocals
    Randy Meisner – bass, guitarrĂ³n, vocals
    Joe Walsh – guitars, slide guitar, piano, electric piano, organ, synthesizer, vocals

Side 1

Side 2

Singles Released from Hotel California
(Links Below Are For Live Versions)
(Belgian Picture Sleeve)

December 1976
US Chart #1
UK Chart #20
Belgian Chart #19

J.D. Souther had written the chorus the year before and had played it to the band but it wasn't until the recording of the Hotel California album that he sat down with Henley and Frey and they completed the lyrics.

Don Henley said in the liner notes to The Very Best of Eagles album that "It's about the fleeting, fickle nature of love and romance. It's also about the fleeting nature of fame, especially in the music business. We were basically saying, 'Look, we know we're red hot right now but we also know that somebody's going to come along and replace us - both in music and in love'."

There's a nice contribution on the song from Joe Walsh as well but not on the guitar but on piano and organ.

(UK Picture Sleeve)

February 1977
US Chart #1
UK Chart #8

The record label were not very keen to release the Title Track as a single unless it was edited down because it far exceeded the time for singles played on the radio at six and a half minutes. The band took a stand and refused and it was great they did because an edit of the song would have lost some of the magic about it.

The single won the 1977 Grammy Award For Record Of The Year.

There have been a fair few interesting interpretations about the song down through the years (google it I'm sure you'll find most of them).

 Henley has said "It's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about." In the 2013 documentary, History of the Eagles, Henley reiterated:

    "On just about every album we made, there was some kind of commentary on the music business, and on American culture in general. The hotel itself could be taken as a metaphor not only for the myth-making of Southern California, but for the myth-making that is the American Dream, because it is a fine line between the American Dream, and the American nightmare."

(German Picture Sleeve)

May 1977
US Chart #11


On the back of two #1 albums - One Of These Nights (1975) and Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (1976) the Los Angeles based Eagles bounced back into limelight with one of the biggest albums of 1976 (going into 1977) and their fifth studio project Hotel California.

Hard to believe that the album is forty years old today! I know there is always lots of debate regarding the worth of the Eagles and the music that they released over the years and how sometimes the Music Police try and pull you up for liking something that they don't think fits the type of person they assume you are. Well personally I've never really cared too much what the Music Police have to say and although at the time of this release I was beginning to lean towards Punk and New Wave there was no letting go of the fact that here was an album brimming over with musical delights and wonderful songwriting.

I can remember hearing the title track on Nicky Horne's Your Mother Wouldn't Like It Show on Captial Radio and just being floored by the epic guitar coda that finishes off the song to fade (performed by both Walsh and Felder), and sitting quietly and pondering every word of The Last Resort - which to this day I think is one of the best, if not The Best lyric that Don Henley has ever penned! Glenn Frey said that Henley really found himself as lyricist with the song and that "he out did himself".

I'd always been impressed by the wealth of talent the Eagles had in their ranks. Good songwriters, vocalists and musicians and on Hotel California, whilst the majority of lead vocals are by drummer Don Henley (a multi-tasking drummer - almost unheard of today!), Joe Walsh gets a shot at singing his most "unlike Joe Walsh" song - Pretty Maids All In A Row, Bassist Randy Meisner sings his song Try And Love Again, and Glenn Frey takes the lead on New Kid In Town.

With regard to the writing Henley and Frey are the dominant team and with Don Felder they co-wrote Victim of Love and Hotel CaliforniaJ.D. Souther added some touches to Victim of Love and New Kid In Town; Life In The Fast Lane was born from that opening riff played by Joe Walsh in a rehearsal and a song was crafted around it; and then as I already mentioned above Walsh and Meisner each contributed a song. Jim Ed Norman also gets a credit for the instrumental Wasted Time (Reprise) with regard to his String Arrangement on the track.

Just in passing whilst it's in my head, this was actually the first Eagles album to feature Joe Walsh as he replaced founding member Bernie Leadon and also the last album for Randy Meisner who departed the band after some health issues throughout the Hotel California Tour of 1976-77. His replacement would be Timothy B. Schmit (who strangely enough had also replaced Meisner when he departed Poco to join the Eagles!).

Interview with Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Randy Meisner.

Don Felder's Original Demo Cassette for Hotel California

Overall there's not a bad track on the album and forty years later it still sounds great I think, there's not a lot of albums you could still say that about!

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 343 - Eagles

Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 - Eagles
Asylum Records
Released February 1976
US Album Chart #1
UK Chart #2

Side 1

Side 2

Notes on Singles

Take It Easy / Get You In The Mood
May 1972
US Chart #12

Witchy Woman / Earlybird
August 1972
US Chart #9
Peaceful Easy Feeling / Tryin'
December 1972
US Chart #22
(Italian Picture Sleeve)

Tequila Sunrise / Twenty One
April 1973
US Chart #64
(German Picture Sleeve)

Already Gone / Is It True?
April 1974
US Chart #32
(Dutch Picture Sleeve)

Best Of My Love / Ol '55
November 1975
US Chart #1
(Belgian Picture Sleeve)

One Of These Nights / Visions
May 1975
US Chart #1
UK Chart #23

(German Picture Sleeve)

Lyin' Eyes / Too Many Hands
September 1975
US Chart #2
UK Chart #23

(German Picture Sleeve)

Take It To The Limit / After The Thrill Is Gone
November 1975
US Chart #4
UK Chart #12

Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 has the honour of being the first ever album to be awarded Platinum status! Not bad for a Greatest Hits album! It is currently the second highest certified album behind Michael Jackson's Thriller having gone Platinum 29 times in the USA and certified as Diamond (twice)!

Now, it's worth pointing out a particular truth regarding this Greatest Hits collection: The manager of Eagles, Irving Azoff, said: "We decided it was time to put out the first greatest-hits because we had enough hits." Infact the band had actually had 11 hit singles (some outside of the Top 40). However, according to Don Felder, none of the band members had any say in the decision to release the compilation album. The band complained that the album was "nothing more than a ploy by the record company to sell product without having to pay additional production costs". Don Henley was unhappy that songs like "Tequila Sunrise" and "Desperado" (the only track on the album not to be released as a single) were lifted out of the context of original album in a way that he thought detrimental to the nature, quality and meaning of the music. He said: "All the record company was worried about were their quarterly reports. They didn't give a shit whether the greatest hits album was good or not, they just wanted product."

The album actually sold four times as many copies as the band's first four studio albums. Whilst they might have been unhappy with their record label putting the album out and the choices made for the tracklist, I'm pretty sure that I have not read anywhere that they balked at the royalty payments that would be coming their way as a result of it's success!

Now you maybe wondering why on earth I'm posting an Eagles album. I  do not have to justify my choices to anyone let alone the Music Police who always seem to be lurking in the background ready to pounce upon anything they deem as not worthy listening material.

I actually quite liked a number of these early singles back when I was a kid, yes, remember, I was only twelve years old when this album was released! So Mr Music Policeman, incase you are reading I'd like to ask you what you were listening to at 12 years old?

I particularly loved the Take It To The Limit and One of These Nights singles and the others I kind of knew of through hearing them on the radio but the two singles mentioned were probably the first ones that really stuck with me.

Since this album has come out there have been many other Greatest Hits/Best Of /Very Best Of/Collection/Best of the Best/ The Complete Greatest Hits/ Legend of Eagles albums but none of them has come close to selling the amount this very first one has (the Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 2 released in November 1982 has been certified 11x Platinum. It was released two years after the band had broken up and no doubt a "smart move" by the label to cash in on the solo success of both Henley and Frey who had both released Debut Solo albums the same year!). Like I've said before regarding other Greatest Hits collections it is the always the first one that is the standard and also not to be forgotten is that there's not another album that bears the mantle of The Best Selling Album of the Twentieth Century in the USA.

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 342 - The Specials

 BBC Sessions - The Specials
The Archive Series
Released 1998

I tried to find the UK version of The Singles Collection on You Tube but could only find the Canadian version. This version excludes the last track on the UK version (What I Like Most About You Is Your) Girlfriend. Apparently some UK versions are also the track and some versions of the album do not have Rude Boys Outta Jail and Maggie's Farm and have been replaced the tracks International Jet Set and War Crimes.

The Singles Collection - The Specials
Chrysalis (Canada)
Released 1991

1 Gangsters    
2 Rudi, A Message To You    
3 Nite Club    
4 Too Much Too Young (live)    
5 Guns Of Navarone (live)    
6 Rat Race    
7 Rude Boys Outta Jail    
8 Maggie's Farm    
9 Do Nothing    
10 Stereotype    
11 Ghost Town (12" Version)    
12 Why?    
13 Friday Night, Saturday Morning    
14 Racist Friend    
15 Free Nelson Mandela (Extended Version)
(UK Version went to #10 on the Album Chart)

Notes on Singles
The Special A.K.A. - Gangsters / The Selecter - The Selecter
March 1979
UK Chart #6

October 1979
UK Chart #10

January 1980
UK Chart #1

May 1980
UK Chart #5

Stereotype / International Jet Set
September 1980 
 UK Chart #6

December 1980
UK Chart #4

June 1981
UK Chart #1

August 1983
UK Chart #60

February 1984
UK Chart #9


Formed in 1977 The Coventry Automatics (not wanting to be confused with the band also called The Automatics who had signed with Island Records) got a real break when they were invited to play with The Clash during the On Parole Tour of 1978.

Their blend of Punk infused Ska set them apart from pretty much all of the bands doing the rounds at the time but in Birmingham and North London The Beat and Madness were also perfecting their sound that drew its inspiration from Ska and it seemed obvious at some point all of these bands along with fellow Coventry band The Selecter would join forces and be part of the Two Tone movement.

It's kind of strange listening to these two albums today in the light of the current political climate with the rising once again of the Facism in the UK and beyond. You almost get the impression we have been caught up in some kind of Time Space Continuum that has hurled us all back to the late 1970s when the National Front were running riot everywhere and groups like Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League were gathering forces against them! The attitudes of the whole Two Tone movement came down on the side of fighting against such thuggery despite the concerts being disrupted by the Bulldog Breed and violence toward any who disagreed with them!

More than ever we need to get back to a place where we do not discriminate against people because of their colour or their place of birth and even their religion. The recent vote in the UK to pull out of Europe was built on the divise rhetoric of facist beliefs and even the election of Trump in the USA - supported by the Ku Klux Klan - should cause us all to be just a little bit more worried about these issues.

Whilst hate crimes and racism abound in our society we should not be just giving up and letting it happen as if it is the "new norm". History is on the side of those who rise up against the neo-nazis, alt-right or whatever disguises and banners they go under today.

The music of The Specials to me is a reminder that, to use the words of an old Men They Couldn't Hang song, "with courage we can beat the black shirts down".

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Albums of the Year for 2016: The Sound of Stax

They say that there is no sound sweeter than the sound of Stax Soul and this year two wonderful albums were released on the classic label. Both made the list of my Albums of the Year 2016.

 Where I Live - William Bell

Produced by William Bell

Released 8th July 2016

Like Dion DiMucci, who we just posted, William Bell was also 77 years old this year and released his first album for decade and it was an absolute beauty.

This was his first album for Stax since 1974 and a return to the place he called home for many years starting in 1961.

His gift for crafting a good lyric was rewarded often when his Born Under A Bad Sign (co-written with Booker T. Jones) was covered by Cream, Etta James, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy and even old Homer Simpson! The song was originally a hit for Bluesman Albert King. Bell had recorded it himself many years ago (1969 actually) and on Where I Live he brings it back to life again.

He still sounds great as well and you'd never guess he was 77 years old at all!

MEmphis Rock and Soul - Melissa Etheridge


Produced by John Burk and Melissa Etheridge

Released 7th October 2016

The second album released on Stax that really impressed me this year comes from Melissa Etheridge and she also revives Born Under A Bad Sign (and Any Other Way & I Forgot To Be Your Lover - both also written by William Bell) as well as a whole bunch of Stax classics. Included among them is a new version with some added lyrics of the old Staple Singers classic Respect Yourself that used the original backing track recorded at Muscle Shoals by the in-house band affectionately known as The Swampers. There's some Otis Redding numbers including a magnificent version of I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop) and my favourite Otis song Dreams To Remember. Add to that Sam & Dave's Hold On I'm Coming, Memphis Train (Rufus Thomas), Who's Making Love (Johnnie Taylor), I'm A Lover (Staple Singers), Rock Me Baby (Otis Redding but originally done by B.B, King), and Wait a Minute (Babara Stephens)
Covers albums can sometimes be a bit tacky but from start to finish this one is a cracker.

Albums of the Year for 2016: New York Is My Home - Dion

  New York is My Home - Dion
Instant Records
Produced by Dion DiMucci and Jimmy Vivino
Released 12th February 2016

1 Aces up Your Sleeve
2 Can't Go Back to Memphis
3 New York Is My Home (with Paul Simon - Promo Video)
4 The Apollo King
5 Katie Mae
6 I'm Your Gangster of Love
7 Ride with You
8 I'm All Rocked Up
9 Visionary Heart
10 I Ain't for It 

I decided this year that I wasn't going to do that whole Best Album of the Year that I've done in the past but rather just share some of albums I've heard this year that have made a big impression on me. So the choices are quite diverse as you have seen thus far and this one is again a little different.

2016 has been a bit of a bad year for the passing of various musical geniuses but it's also been a good year for some of the "elder Statesmen of Rock and Roll"! 

You just don't expect someone at the age of 77 (76 when it was released) to still be making great music but Dion DiMucci has done just that with a remarkable little album New York Is My Home.

The album sees Dion revelling in his love for Rock and Roll and the Blues. Across the ten tracks (not a bad one in the bunch at all!) there's some reflection on seeing the Great Sax man Big Al Sears in The Apollo King and Visionary Heart is a look back to Buddy Holly. The Gangster of Love throws up an image of another one of the characters like The Wanderer or The King of The New York Streets that Dion has a lot of fun singing about.

The title track sung with Paul Simon also features as a bonus track on Simon's latest album Stranger To Stranger

Dion said of the song:
"Paul Simon and I have been friends a long time. I was at his apartment back when there was a terrible downturn in the country and Paul wanted to do something special for the city. Well, he put together that wonderful concert in Central Park. He thought the city needed a touch of friendship. I thought it was off the Richter scale doing something for our city. When I wrote “New York Is My Home” I thought this is a way to have New Yorkers fall in love with their city all over again. I thought of Paul. ... Early on I knew I had to sing it with Paul Simon. We share a love for rock 'n' roll street music the way it was done when we were kids. I knew Paul would get this song. And he did. Soon after I sent it to him, he called and said he’d become obsessed with it. He added his own distinct touches to the production. He’s from Queens, I’m from the Bronx. We’re both at home in New York. What a trip, a labor of love for us."

I have said elsewhere that Dion DiMucci is one of my musical heroes dating all the way back to when I was a kid and I'm blown away that he's still singing 60 years after beginning on the street corners and the clubs of the Bronx. He has rarely failed to delight me with his releases, especially in the past 16 years or so.

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 341 - Big Country

Through A Big Country: Greatest Hits - Big Country
Released April 1990
UK Chart #2

CD Version with Bonus Tracks

Original Vinyl Tracklist
A1 Save Me    
A2 In A Big Country    
A3 Fields Of Fire    
A4 Chance    
A5 Wonderland    
A6 Where The Rose Is Sown    
A7 Just A Shadow

B1 Look Away    
B2 King Of Emotion    
B3 East Of Eden    
B4 One Great Thing    
B5 The Teacher    
B6 Broken Hearts (Thirteen Valleys)    
B7 Peace In Our Time

CD Version includes three extra tracks
15 Eiledon    
16 The Seer    
17 Harvest Home

Single Taken from Through A Big Country

Save Me / Pass Me By / World On Fire
April 1990
UK Charts #41

Notes on Singles 
Links in this section are Live, TV or Promo Vids
Harvest Home / Balcony / Flag of Nations (Swimming)
17th September 1982
UK Chart #91

Fields Of Fire / Angle Park
18th February 1983
UK Chart #10
US Chart #52

In A Big Country / All Of Us
20th May 1983
UK Chart #17
US Chart #17

Chance / Tracks Of My Tears
26th August 1983
UK Chart #9 

Wonderland / Giant
13th January 1984
UK Chart #8
US Chart #86

East Of Eden / Prairie Rose
21st September 1984
UK Chart #17

Where The Rose Is Sown / Belief In The Small Man
23rd November 1984
UK Chart #29

Just A Shadow / Winter Sky
18th January 1985
UK Chart #26

Look Away / Restless Natives
April 1986
UK Chart #7

The Teacher / Home Came The Angels
6th June 1986
UK Chart #28

One Great Thing / Song Of The South
September 1986
UK Chart #19

King Of Emotion / The Travellers
 August 1988
UK Chart #16

Broken Heart (Thirteen Valleys) / Soapy Souter Strikes Back
October 1988
UK Chart #47

 Peace In Our Time / Promised Land (The R.E.L. Tapes)
January 1989
UK Chart #39

Through A Big Country was the first of a number of Best of/Greatest Hits of Big Country. Over the years pretty much most of the Singles released by Big Country charted in the UK and a few also in other countries around the world.

Most of the singles had been drawn from their first four albums: The Crossing (1983), Steeltown (1984), The Seer (1986) and Peace In Our Time (1988).

I was never a huge Big Country fan myself. I really took note of them because I had always like Stuart Adamson as a guitarist when he was in The Skids and was quite interested as to what he would do next especially being the frontman and main songwriter. I did buy a good number of the early singles that are featured on this Greatest Hits album. They did actually make a few really brilliant singles in their time.

The only single missing from the Album is Hold The Heart (November 1986, UK Chart #55) which they could have added to the CD along with the debut single Harvest Home instead of including The Seer and Elledon. That's really the only negative point regarding the album for me.

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!

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