There are certain moments in American rock when a town or region just seems to capture whatever cultural zeitgeist is in the air. The L.A. hair band scene in the early 1980s, the New York City punk scene of the late 1970s and the Seattle grunge sound in the 1990s propelled a bunch of local bands into the national spotlight. But the scenes that have always fascinated me are the ones that never quite caught fire, despite having a depth of talent as deep as any of the ones that are now household names.
I lived in Chicago in the 1980s and early 1990s and the city had a rock scene that was as strong as any that I've ever seen. But for some reason, the talent was never able to capitalize on the magic. A couple of bands managed a bit of commercial success (like "Off Broadway"), but most of the bands ended up being talented footnotes in rock scene that never quite caught fire.
The Bad Examples was one band that I was certain would be superstars. They were a tight band live and had a pop/rock sound that sounded like a ballsier, less condescending Squeeze. Yet despite releasing several really strong albums, they never managed to get signed to a major label and never really grew past the "really hot in our home town" phase.
"Bad Girl" was one of my favorites to hear live back in the day and listening to the song in 2020, I'm struck by just how radio-friendly the tune sounds in retrospect. It's always hard to determine why an individual song wasn't a hit, but if a radio station was to play "Bad Girl" as part of their 80s/90s format, I think most listeners would just assume it had been a hit and that they had just forgotten about it.
I highly recommend tracking down the band's music, especially the 1991 album Bad Is Beautiful, which includes the radio-friendly "Ashes Of My Heart" as well as their best-known song, "Not Dead Yet." In the end, it's an ironic twist of fate that despite the talent in the band, lead singer Ralph Covert became a success not as a member of The Bad Examples, but for his string of "Ralph's World" children's albums, one of which was nominated for a Grammy.
Most of the time it's pretty easy to ignore rumors about possible upcoming albums, because the truth is that they are almost always wrong. Still, for those of us who are Bruce Springsteen fans, this rumor is one we'd like to see come to pass. Although Springsteen fans have been burned before by album rumors that turned out not to be true.
On Wednesday morning, a West Virginia record store web site and a page on Amazon's U.K. web site briefly promoted a previously unknown Springsteen album, "Letter To You." According to the listings, the 2-album set is set for release on October 23rd.
Within hours, both pages had been pulled. Which mean the album was either some weird unauthorized bootleg or a title that a couple of places announced prematurely.
There was no indication of whether the album set - if it is indeed legitimate - is a solo Springsteen release or one that includes his longtime bandmates, the E-Street Band. Although based on the somewhat unsettling album artwork, it could easily just be a Christmas album. Springsteen had previously said that he had been writing a lot of songs for a new album he hoped to record with his band.
I've reached out to both Columbia Records as well as Springsteen's management company. Neither has yet responded at the time this story was posted.
UPDATE: The web site NJArts.net says it has confirmed more info about the album, which the site says is real and scheduled for release in October.
01 “One Minute You’re Here”
02 “Letter To You”
03 “Burnin Train”
04 “Janey Needs A Shooter”
05 “Last Man Standing”
06 “The Power Of Prayer”
07 “House Of A Thousand Guitars”
09 “If I Was The Priest”
11 “Song For Orphans”
12 “I’ll See You In My Dreams”
The album was reportedly co-produced by Springsteen and Ron Aniello and the tracks include all of the members of the E-Street Band. "Janey Needs a Shooter," "If I Was the Priest" and "Song for Orphans" are new recordings of older songs not included on previous studio albums.
"Janey Needs A Shooter" dates back to 1978 and Springsteen has apparently worked on versions of the song several times over the years. Warren Zevon fell in love with the title after hearing the demo from Springsteen manager Jon Landau and wrote his own song using the title, which he changed slightly to "Jeannie Needs A Shooter."
"If Was A Priest" is even older, dating back to 1972. Springsteen played it for Columbia exec John Hammond at their first meeting and according to Hammond, it was one of the reasons he signed the young singer-songwriter.
"Song For Orphans" is also from 1972 and while it's never been released officially, Springsteen inexplicably played it live once-at a 2005 Trenton, NJ concert that was part of his "Devils And Dust" tour.
There are also rumors that the first single off the album will be released on Thursday, but there aren't any other details so far.
The album cover was taken by photographer Danny Clinch in New York's Central Park in 2018. You can see the original, uncropped original of the photo on Clinch's site here.
On Thursday, Queen + Adam Lambert shared the first track from their forthcoming live album Live Around The World- A rousing version of "The Show Must Go On" from London’s 02 Arena. To coincide with its release, Queen guitarist Brian May has shared some unique history on the writing and recording process of the twelfth and final track on Innuendo, Queen’s final album released during Freddie Mercury’s lifetime, which was completed while Freddie was already in the final stages of his battle against the then incurable horror of AIDS:
The song’s history
As the twelfth and final track on Innuendo, Queen’s final album released during Freddie Mercury’s lifetime, "The Show Must Go On” was completed while Freddie was already in the final stages of his battle against the then incurable horror of AIDS.
Brian May says "Even though we were all aware of Freddie's impending tragedy, we had some inspired and joyful times in the studio, making the Innuendo album. We didn’t speak much about Freddie’s illness - he just wanted to get on with ‘business as usual’ as far as possible. But already there was only a day or two per week when Freddie was well enough to come in and work with us. We grabbed those precious moments and made the most of them. I’d been working on “The Show Must Go On” as an idea, but I was uncertain whether the title was too obvious. Freddie heard it and loved it and dismissed any thoughts that there was a problem with the chorus or the title. He wanted to work on it.
We didn’t discuss what the meaning of the song was, but it was of course evident in the background that it was an attempt to give a voice to the feelings that Freddie’s valiant fight against AIDS created in all of us, and even in Freddie. He was too low in energy to create it himself. But I had one unforgettable special afternoon working together with him on solidifying the lyrics of the first verse of this embryonic song about a clown whose make-up hid his pain, before he slid out to attend another treatment. That gave me enough lyrical material to later expand into the eventual two verses. I finished mapping out the song, sang the whole thing as a demo, including the added “Wings of Butterflies” section, which somehow appeared in my head very late one night, and I played it to him when he was next in the studio. The melody called for some very demanding top notes, and I’d only been able to 'demo' them in falsetto. I said to Freddie … "I don’t want you strain yourself - this stuff isn't going to be easy in full voice, even for you!" He said, "Don’t worry – I’ll f…ing nail it, Darling!”. He then downed a couple of his favourite shots of vodka, propped himself up against the mixing desk, and… delivered one of the most extraordinary performances of his life. In the final mix of TSMGO, when you get to “On with the Show” you are listening to a man who conquered everything to deliver his finest work."
'The Show Must Go On' inevitably took on an additional poignancy after Freddie's death. The tragedy of AIDS denied him the opportunity ever to perform it in a Queen live show. But the song made its stunning on-stage debut in the star-studded Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at London’s Wembley Stadium on 23 April 1992. Elton John took the lead vocal, and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi guested on guitar.
The song has another strong emotional resonance in the history of Queen.
Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon performed the song live for only the second time at the opening in Paris of Maurice Béjart’s ‘Ballet For Life’. Created by legendary choreographer Maurice Béjart in collaboration with Gianni Versace, both now sadly departed, 'Ballet For Life' celebrated the life and work of Freddie Mercury and Béjart’s former principal dancer, Jorge Donn, who also had died of AIDS. Set to music by Queen and Mozart, it was first performed on 17 January 1997 at the Théâtre de Chaillot in Paris. As the finale of the performance, the three surviving Queen band members performed ‘The Show Must Go On’ live with Elton John. It was to be John Deacon’s last live performance with his fellow band members.
The new live version
As the emotive Live Around The World take reveals, ‘The Show Must Go On’ is now very much a contemporary highlight of the Queen + Adam Lambert experience. Adam Lambert says: “’The Show Must Go On’ is a song with a very deeply resonating message. I think we all have moments in life where we feel the odds are against us and the climb is a steep one. I always sense a great cathartic release throughout the audience during this song. I think we all recognize that it was a big statement for Freddie at that point in his journey as well: He was fighting for his life."
This performance of the song was captured at the second of the band’s two spectacular shows at London’s 02 Arena on July 4th 2018. Both concerts attracted widespread critical acclaim, with critics noting that “many thrilled fans leaving the arena were calling it one of their all-time favourite gigs” and declaring “this is as good as live shows get."
This version of ‘The Show Must Go On’ more than attests to that. Played with an undeniable depth of feeling, it’s the perfect showcase for the singular talents of Adam Lambert. Though the singer has categorically stated "There is never going to be another [Freddie Mercury] and I'm not replacing him” on many occasions, Lambert’s bold yet dignified performance of ‘The Show Must Go On’ is enough the stop even the most casual of observers in their tracks. As one prominent critic said, “He is his own man, he brings his own distinctive style, identity and nuances to the songs” and he does this nowhere more so than on ‘The Show Must Go On’.
‘The Show Must Go On’ was created by the band as a tribute to Freddie Mercury’s lust for life even while the Queen frontman’s health was failing, but in this socially-distanced global world of 2020 ‘The Show Must Go On’ - perhaps now more than ever - feels like the perfect anthem for our times.
For drummer Roger Taylor, who with Brian May and Adam Lambert occupy a place of vanguards of rock in the 21stcentury, "the song says it all."
Click here to Pre-order Live Around The World
Joey Molland, the last surviving member of the classic lineup of Badfinger, is releasing a new solo album in October.
"Be True To Yourself" is co-written with producer Mark Hudson and features contributions from Julian Lennon, Micky Dolenz, Jason Scheff and Steve Holley. Lennon also contributed the front and back cover photos for the album.
Here is the track listing from the album, which is set for release on October 16th, 2020:
1. This Time
2. Better Tomorrow
3. Rainy Day Man
5. All I Want To Do
6. I Don’t Wanna Be Done With You
7. All I Do Is Cry
8. Loving You
10. Be True To Yourself
Molland recorded with The Masterminds and Gary Walker & The Rain in the mid-late 1960s before joining The Iveys. That band changed its name to Badfinger and released a series of hit singles and several well-received albums before Molland left the band in 1974. He released an album with former Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley under the name Natural Gas in 1975.
Badfinger disbanded in 1975 following the suicide of Pete Ham. But in 1978, Molland and band guitarist Tom Evans reformed the band and released two albums under the band's name before the two split, with each performing under the band's name until Evan's suicide in 1983.
In the years since, Molland has toured under the Badfinger name or as "Joey Molland's Badfinger." He has also released four previous solo albums, the most recent being 2013's "Return To Memphis." In early 2019, he toured with Todd Rundgren, Micky Dolenz, Christopher Cross and Jason Scheff on a tour entitled "It Was Fifty Years Ago Today – A Tribute to the Beatles’ White Album."
You can pre-order "Be True To Yourself" at Omnivore Recordings.
Certain songs just evoke a certain place or time. That's certainly the case with 1995's "Life Down Here On Earth," from the criminally underappreciated Kevin Welch. The track was the lead single from his album of the same name and his first release after two major label albums on Reprise. Welch had developed a reputation as a thoughtful and distinctive songwriter in Nashville and his 1990 "Kevin Welch" album spawned a string of singles that were almost country hits. If trends were to be believed, "Life Down Here On Earth" should have been the long-awaited commercial success Welch deserved.
And yet for whatever reason, that didn't happen. It's certainly not for a lack of quality. "Life Down Here On Earth" is a rollicking, wry reflection on fate that sounds like it was recorded by the best Deep South roadside band you'll ever hear. It's piano and fiddle-driven beat is the type of music that Dr. John made popular for everyone who was never enough to make it to New Orleans. It's a song that deserves to be heard in a smoky room filled with happy people that are about a half a beer from being too drunk to drive.
Welch has continued to release albums in the years since, including 2018's "Dust Devil." He now lives near Austin, where he also teaches songwriting workshops. There are a lot of great songs Kevin Welch songs to fall in love with and there isn't a better place to start than "Life Down Here On Earth."
I was never much of a fan of the TV series "The Partridge Family." It came out when I was in 8th grade and while I was kinda in love with Susan Dey, she wasn't in enough scenes to make up for the rest of the show. Which was kinda tough to watch if you're a rock & roll-loving teen growing up in the Midwest.
But I've always had an appreciation for David Cassidy's singing. Both in the Partridge Family series and in his subsequent solo career he was often saddled with embarrisingly lame songs. Tunes so bereft of soul that Donny Osmond would have laughed them off as hopelessly "square." But Cassidy could make you care about songs that didn't deserve the attention and there was always something a bit comforting to hear him connect with a song that had a hook ke could latch onto.
This COVID-19 pandemic has been emotionally difficult for everyone at some point. Faced with so much chaos and confusion, we've all reached out to embrace things that comfort our soul. And while some of you fell back on baking or gardening to calm your mind, I've been delving deeply into the blood pressure-lowering magic that is early 1970s pop-rock. Lobo, Seals & Croft, England Dan & John Ford Coley. And going deep down into that rabbit hole, I ended up listening to the Partridge Family.
To be clear, a good 60-70% of the music released under the Partridge Family name is absolute crap. Lame, predictable lyrics that often sounded more like half-baked ideas rejected by other groups. But the music was provided by the famous studio group named The Wrecking Crew, who seemed to play on just about every album recorded in L.A. in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And vocals were provided by a studio group that included veteran singer Robin Ward (who had a hit of her own in 1963 with "Wonderful World"). The original plan was to have David Cassidy just lip sync to someone else's vocals on camera. But he was able to convince producers he could sing, which was good for both the show and his eventual solo career.
The group's first album was the self-titled "The Partridge Family" and it's a really solid example of 1970s pop-soft rock. There isn't really a weak track and it included "I Think I Love You," which not only went to #1, but the single went on to sell more than five million copies, more than The Beatles iconic single "Let It Be." There are a couple of tracks written by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil and another by veteran songwriters & producers Terry Cashman and Tommy West. The album isn't flashy, but I've been a sucker for lightweight ear candy and listening to "The Partridge Family" album is like finding yourself floating in a pool of warm water heated by the sun. It's wholesome enough to wash away the effects of even the most depressing events of the day.
Album number two was 1971's "Up To Date," and while it overall wasn't as musically consistent an album as the group's debut, the album did include the hits "I'll Meet You Halfway," "You Are Always On My Mind" and "Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted." The next album up is "The Partridge Family Sound Magazine,: which is probably the group's most consistent and fun to listen to album. It only spawned one big hit - "I Woke Up In Love This Morning" - but the album included tracks co-written by Paul Anka and Rupert "Pina Colada" Holmes. And several of the tracks are familiar ones to anyone who watched the television show, with highlights including "One Night Stand" and "I Wuld Have Loved You Anyway." The holiday album "The Partridge Family Christmas" followed later that year and is a surprisingly fun and awkwardly earnest good time.
After releasing three albums in 1971, the quality of the albums predictably began to suffer. 1972's "Shopping Bag" included the #20 hit "It's One Of Those Nights (Yes, Love)" and the minor hit "Am I Losing You." But that's about all on the album that is worth listening to. "The Partridge Family Notebook" was released in November 1972, just in time for the holiday shopping season. And fans of the group probably would have preferred a lump of coal, given the slapdash quality of the album. "Looking Through The Eyes Of Love" was a minor hit and to be honest, it didn't deserve its modest success. The rest of the album is a collection of filler tunes and odd cover versions. Although it you've ever wanted to hear The Partridge Family sing "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," here's your chance.
The album "Crossword Puzzle" was released in 1973 and the group's label didn't even bother to release a single from the album. The group's final album "Bulletin Board" was released later that year and the release coincided with the TV show's fourth and final season. Other than the track "Lookin' For A Good Time" (which was a very minor hit), there isn't much to recommend the album.
I ended up putting together a list of tracks that is heavy on the group's hits and songs from the first three albums. And the result is a playlist of sweet, borderline vapid pop songs anchored by David Cassidy's earnest, guileless vocals. It's not fancy and it's probably well in the land of corny. But in a pandemic-filled year that has been emotionally taxing, this a playlist that you can just turn on and let it sweep you away on a wave of warm mindlessness.
The Partridge Family Helps Me Forget The Pandemic
It's common to hear someone describe a piece of music by saying "I can't believe that wasn't a hit!" But with a few rare exceptions (*cough* Big Star *cough*), the reasons why a single or an album didn't find wider commercial success is that while the music might be good, it wasn't any better than dozens of other worthwhile releases.
But when it comes to the 1979 Ian Lloyd album "Goosebumps," it's pretty easy to wonder why the album didn't find an audience. Lloyd had one hit as part of The Stories - the memorable "Brother Louie" - and after a rocky start to his solo career, this album seemed almost guaranteed to be huge. He had a new label, his new manager Bud Praeger also managed the red-hot band Foreigner and the album was produced Bruce Fairburn, who went on to produce Loverboy's biggest albums, Aerosmith's comeback releases and other classic rock iconic albums like Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" and Poison's "Look What The Cat Dragged In."
The band for the album included former Aerosmith guitarist Jimmy Crespo, along with various members of The Cars and Foreigner. And there were original songs from Ric Ocasek, Ian Hunter and Corky Laing and a pre-solo artist Bryan Adams. And there is barely a weak track on the album, especially when you listen to it in the context of what else was on the radio in 1979.
And yet it died a slow, painful death. The Ric Ocasek track "Slip Away" was originally considered for The Cars "Candy-O" album, but as you can tell from the demo track below, he and the band didn't quite have a handle on it. But the version that appeared on "Goosebumps" offers up some subtle nods to The Cars sound, while still allowing Lloyd to make it his own. Add to that bass and backing vocals from Ben Orr as well as backing vocals from Ric Ocasek and you end up with a song that sounds like it would have been a hit in some alternate universe. In fact, a number of the tracks from this album and the follow-up album "3WC" sound like they could be part of some greatest hits album from another reality.