Music (107)

BBC Wales Orders Documentary 'Brian May: The Badger Cull And Me'

Written by 04 September, 2023

Queen guitarist Brian May will be heading up a documentary for BBC Wales entitled Brian May: The Badger Cull And Me.

The documentary will make the case against the practice of badger culling and it will follow the musician's campaign to prove badgers are not the cause of the spread of bovine TB.

As part of the documentary, May will take his case to a skeptical farming community in a bid to stop the cull and help cure the disease.

This is a subject which May is passionate about, and in recent years his wildlife trust has sponsored research into discovering the true causes of the disease. May now believes he has the evidence to prove his theory, stop the cull and help cure the cattle.

"I come from a position where I think it's immoral to be killing badgers, I'll be upfront about that. But if you're a farmer and you believe that the badgers are infecting your cattle, you can understand why they would want to kill them. It's very understandable," said May in a statement announcing the documentary.

"What happened historically is that you get total polarization," May continued. "The farmers are perhaps understandably resentful against the badger because they believe it’s the source of all their problems, and animal campaigners are very resentful of the farmers. But you realize in the end that shouting doesn’t do anyone any good because everybody’s trying to solve the problem. So I thought, let’s try and come together to solve this problem."

"This is a program produced over four years telling the complex story behind the headlines - where farmers have been left ruined by bovine TB and yet there is still so much debate over how to combat it effectively," said BBC Wales commissioning editor Julian Carey. "Brian has been a standard bearer for the animal rights movement and this film sees him trying to bring both sides of the debate together to find the best solution for the animals and the farmers."

May has previously appeared alongside Steve Backshall in the Channel 5 documentary series Meet The Hedgehogs.

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First Look: 'San Francisco Sounds: A Place In Time'

Written by 06 August, 2023

From Jigsaw Productions, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Amblin Television, and Jeff Pollack—the team behind the three-time Emmy-nominated documentary Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time—the series tracks the history of the San Francisco music scene from 1965 to 1975.  

During this time period, there was a creative explosion in San Francisco that catalyzed and solidified a national movement for a whole generation. Incredible music, brilliant poster art, the birth of the FM radio DJ, the new journalism of Rolling Stone magazine, the emergence of growing-breaking live music impresario, Bill Graham, and seminal festivals—Monterey Pop, Altamont, and Woodstock—propelled Bay Area musicians onto a national scene and into the ears of millions. Some of the greatest artists of the ‘60s came out of that scene such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Steve Miller, Santana, Moby Grape and so many more.  

San Francisco Sounds: A Place In Time premieres Sunday, August 20th, 2023 on MGM+

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Former X-Factor UK Contestant Calls For Reality TV Mental Health Fund

Written by 17 July, 2023

In an upcoming memoir, former The X-Factor contestant Lucy Spraggin argues that reality TV production companies should set aside a percentage of their budget for a "mental health pension fund" for contestants, production staff and presenters.

Spraggin - who appeared on The X Factor in 2012 - reveals in her new book that she was raped by a hotel employee following a party thrown to celebrate the birthday of fellow contestant Rylan Clark. She says that a number of X Factor crew were in attendance, which she argues was inappropriate. "How can you fulfil your duty of care when free alcohol is involved?"

While Spraggin did recieve both financial and medical support immediately following the crime, she says she wasn't provided with any mental health assistance during or after the trial of her attacker, who received a ten-year prison sentence.

The show aired in the UK on ITV, which has been the target of several other recent complaints from former reality TV show participants, some of them related to the series Love Island.

In June, former X Factor contestant Rebecca Ferguson revealed she had sent the network a letter in 2021 asking for an investigation of what she referred to as "an abuse of power" when she appeared on the show in 2010.

In a statement released to the press, ITV said "The X Factor was produced by Thames and Syco, who were primarily responsible for duty of care towards all of its programme contributors. ITV as a commissioning broadcaster is committed to having in place suitable and robust oversight procedures, with a view to ensuring that independent producers employ the correct processes to protect the mental health and welfare of participants. We have evolved and improved these oversight procedures since the events in question and we are encouraged to hear that Thames recognises the importance of continuous review and improvement of their own processes."

"We continue to evolve our own duty of care processes on programmes we produce to ensure that there are appropriate measures in place to support contributors before, during and after filming. In an event of such a distressing nature, welfare and support towards the victim would always be of the utmost priority."

The statement went on to say the network has the "deepest compassion for Lucy and everything she has endured as a result of this horrific ordeal."

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: 'I Can't Explain' By Yvonne Elliman

Written by 23 September, 2023

Singer Vyonne Elliman is best known for a string of hit singles she had in the 1970s, including "If I Can't Have You," "Love Me" and a remake of the Barbara Lewis hit "Hello Stranger." But she's had a much more interesting career than you might suspect from those familiar tunes.

Elliman's first recording came when she was living in London. She was a virtual unknown and still singing random gigs in clubs when she was hired sing Mary Magdalene's part in an double-album concept version of the new musical "Jesus Christ Superstar." That version is thought to be the best version of the show ever recorded and it led to a Top 30 single with "I Don't Know How to Love Him." She went on to play the role in the original Broadway production of "Superstar" as well as the movie.

While appearing on Broadway, she was hired to sing back-up vocals on the Eric Clapton song "I Shot The Sheriff" and that led to her touring and appearing on a string of Clapton's 1970s albums, including "461 Ocean Boulevard," "There's One in Every Crowd," "E. C. Was Here," "No Reason to Cry," and "Slowhand." In 1977, she released her fourth solo album and that included "Love Me," her first solo hit. By the end of that year, her Bee Gees written and produced single "If I Can't Have You" was her first and only solo hit.

"If I Can't Have You" is a cover of the song by The Who and comes from her 1973 solo album "Food Of Love." It was her second solo album and while it's wildly uneven, it also has some real high points. Thanks to some guitar work from Pete Townsend, this track is a great example of a fun 1970s rock single and it's a shame that it never received the airplay it deserved. A couple of pieces of trivia about the song. It was later sampled for Fatboy Slim's "Going Out Of My Head." And the "Food Of Love" album included the song "Happy Ending," which was the first commercially released recording of a song written by Jim Steinman. He went on to have a string of hits with Meatloaf, Air Supply, Bonnie Tyler and others.

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: The Rumour - 'I'm Gonna Make You Love Me'

Written by 01 July, 2023

Although they're best known as Graham Parker's long-time backing band, The Rumour toured on their own and released three albums: Max (1977),  Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs And Krauts (1979), and Purity Of Essence (1980). They broke up in 1981, but reunited for a one-off reunion with Parker that turned into another run as his band.

The Rumour consisted of founding members Bob Andrews (keyboards), Brinsley Schwarz (guitar), Martin Belmont (guitar), Andrew Bodnar (bass), and Stephen Goulding (drums). The vocals were shared by pretty much every member of the band at some point.

"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" is from the "Max" album, which was named as a weirdly obscure joke referencing the fact Fleetwood Mac had recently released their mega-hit album entitled Rumours. Like most of the group's music, it's a tight and energetic piece of pub rock and unfortunately it's been long out of print. This is one of those songs that makes you want to crank up the music, down a couple of shots and drunk-dial an ex or two.

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: 'Say Goodbye To Hollywood' By Ronnie Spector

Written by 30 June, 2023

Spector's voice is instantly identifiable, and as the lead singer of The Ronettes, she had a string of hits arranged and produced by the infamous Phil Spector. "Be My Baby," "Baby I Love You," "Walking In The Rain" and other singles helped define the pre-Beatles soundtrack of the early 1960s. But the group broke up in 1967 & the following year Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Yvette Bennett) had married Phil Spector. Where she quickly found herself in the grasps of a manipulative, angry psychopath.

She famously left the marriage when she escaped barefoot from his mansion in 1972, but in the years of her marriage she experienced a simply stunning level of abuse from her husband. In her 1990 memoir, "Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness," she detailed years of psychological torment. He surrounded the house with barbed wire, guard dogs and confiscated her shoes to keep her from leaving. On the rare occasions he allowed her out alone, she had to drive with a life-size dummy of Phil. She also claimed he sabotaged her career by forbidding her to perform. 

It wasn't until 1976 that she began an attempt to build a solo career by appearing on the Southside Johnny recording of "You Mean So Much To Me." The track was written by Bruce Springsteen and that association brings us to "Say Goodbye To Hollywood."

In 1976, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band were hobbled by a lawsuit filed by former manager Mike Appel. They were legally prohibited from recording a follow-up to the "Born To Run" album and spent much of their time touring. But members of the E-Street Band did also did some session work, including drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan appearance on Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" album. In January of 1977, Steve Van Zandt decided to take the entire E Street Band into the studios and cut some tracks with Ronnie Spector. The result was a single of Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" b/w "Baby, Please Don't Go." Release on the same CBS-distributed label as Meatloaf (Cleveland International), it was billed as the first single off an upcoming album.

Joel had released "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" in 1976 and was obviously inspired by the Phil Spector Wall of Sound that framed the Ronettes work. So much so that his version of the song began with the same drum intro as their single "Be My Baby." "Baby, Please Don't Go" was written by Steven Van Zandt. Both tracks are magnificent updates of the iconic Ronettes sound as listening to them now, it's hard to believe "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" wasn't a hit. Incessant piano undertones, the incessant Clarence Clemons sax counterpoints and an overall production that is best described as "timeless." There was some level of work done on an album, but in later years, Ronnie Spector said she was distracted by custody issues and other legal problems that prevented her from focusing on her career.

She released several solo albums in the years before her death in 2022, including a 1999 album produced by Joey Ramone and the 2016 album English Heart. But her most recognizable work as a solo act is likely her vocals on the 1986 Eddie Money hit "Take Me Home Tonight."

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: 'Money Honey' By Sweet Dreams

Written by 25 June, 2023

The British top 40 music charts have always been a bit peculiar when compared to the U.S. Sure, they are often on top of new music trends way ahead of the Americas. But their charts are also sprinkled with weird revivals of a song a decade after it was released or there's the embrace of a song that is just too strange to have been a hit in any other country.

That's certainly the case with the short-lived band Sweet Dreams, which in 1974 had a Top Ten British hit with a cover version of ABBA's "Money Honey." The track briefly charted in the U.S. and some other countries, but in every other country than Britain, the original version by ABBA was the clear-cut winner.

The oddest thing about Sweet Dreams is that during the period when the song was a hit in Britain, the female lead singer inexplicably performed the song in blackface.

The song was recorded by Polly Brown, who had previously has a top five U.K. hit in 1970 when she was a member of the pop-rock band Pickettywitch. The "Money Honey" cover was recorded in the same session that also included "Up In A Puff Of Smoke," which was her first solo hit. Brown and her producers decided to release "Money Honey" under the name Sweet Dreams and recruited singer Tony Jackson to perform with her as the male member of the group. They made an appearance on "Top Of The Pops" and eventually released an album.

While "Money Honey" was a hit in the U.K., none of the group's follow-up singles charted and the group broke up after one album, with Brown going on to release "Up In A Puff Of Smoke" under her own name. Jackson's solo career faltered, with the highlight being his recording of the song that was used as the theme for the film The Cassandra Crossing. He found a bit more success as a background singer, performing on hits such as  "Knock on Wood" by Amii Stewart, "Every Time You Go Away" by Paul Young and "Wishing Well" by Terence Trent D'Arby. 

There isn't a lot of documentation about the band, but when the first single was released, Brown decided to give herself the name "Sara Leone" (an apparent reference to the country Sierra Leone) and perform in blackface. It apparently didn't anyone long to decide this might not be the wisest career move and by the time the dup appeared on "Top Of The Pops," Brown was in semi-blackface, wearing a wig and sporting makeup that made her look more deeply tanned than black. Still, it's a weird thing to do and I haven't been able to determine why she decided to do it.

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: 'Frankenstein' By The Edgar Winter Group

If you're a casual classic rock fan, you've probably heard the hit song "Free Ride" by The Edgar Winter Group. Since it was a #14 hot for the band in late 1972, it's been used in countless commercials and movies, thanks to a killer hook ("C'mon, take a free ride") and a guitar riff that's memorable ear candy.

Weirdly, that song wasn't the big hit off the band's album They Only Come Out At Night. The biggest single of the band's career was "Frankenstein," an all-instrumental track that went to #1 on the Top 100 singles charts. At the time, the song was everywhere but over the years its been neglected in favor of the commercial-friendly "Free Ride."

They Only Come Out At Night was the first release by the band, which Winter had assembled after releasing the well-regarded 1970 solo album entrance and two albums released with some musicians from Texas and Louisiana under the name Edgar Winter's White Trash. The second album went gold, but Winter apparently was looking for wider success.

The Edgar Winter Band included Dan Hartman (who sang the vocals on "Free Ride" and later had the 1980s hit "I Can Dream About You"), guitarist Rick Derringer (who had been a member of the McCoys when they had their hit "Hang On Sloopy,"), lead guitarist Ronnie Montrose and drummer Chuck Ruff. Montrose and Ruff had previously worked together in the band Sawbuck, which released their lone album in, 1973, just after both men left the band.

Montrose left the band after They Only Come Out At Night and released a solid string of late 1970s albums under the group name Montrose (the first two featuring Sammy Hagar on vocals). Rick Derringer replaced Montrose on lead guitar for the Edgar Winter Group's follow-up album Shock Treatment. It didn't have the success of the debit album, although the LP was certified gold and the single "River's Rising" went to #33 on the Billboard Top 100 Singles chart. 

The band released the album Jasmine Nightdreams in 1975 and The Edgar Winter Group with Rick Derringer the following year. Derringer had continued to work with the group, although he released a solo album in 1973 that spawned the hit single "Rock & Roll Hootchie Koo."

So let's remember "Frankenstein" one more time, if for no reason because it contains a very 1970s drum solo. And be sure to check out Edgar Winter in this video, who had invented a strap that would allow him to rock out with the rest of the band while playing his keyboard. The downside is that by the 1980s, this setup had evolved into the cheesy keytar.

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: Jim Stafford's Vaguely Homophobic Hit 'My Girl Bill'

Written by 26 June, 2023

With all of the cultural changes the United States has undergone in the past couple of decades, it's easy to forget that there was a time in the not-so-distant past when racism and homophobia was used primarily as a way to get a cheap laugh. A perfect example of that is the 1974 Jim Stafford hit single "My Girl Bill."

Stafford was a fixture on television during the height of the variety TV show boom of the mid-1970s. He even had a short-lived 1975 summer variety series, The Jim Stafford Show. But he's probably best known for a series of hit singles from his brief two album recording career, including the weirdly homophobic "My Girl Bill."

Stafford grew up in Florida and in high school played in a bad that included soon-to-be country rock legend Gram Parsons and Kent LaVoie (who had a string of 1970s hits under the name "Lobo"). Stafford's first brush with fame was in 1968, when he was a performer/supervising writer on the short-lived The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour Revival Show. In 1973, his old bandmate LaVoie produced his first album, which included the creepy creole rocker "Swamp Witch." But most of the album was comprised of the quirky little comedy tunes that would later make Stafford a fixture in Branson, Missouri. "Spiders And Snakes" went to #3 on the Top 100 and was a gold record. The album also included the #7 hit "Wildwood Weed" and "My Girl Bill," which peaked at #12 on the charts.

"My Girl Bill" is an odd song in that the entire punchline of the song is built on the fact that at first Stafford seems to be singing about his "girl" Bill. What!?!? He has a boyfriend?!?! Of course, it turns out that Stafford is simply singing that "she's my girl, Bill." It's the kind of mildly homophobic joke that was pretty common in the world of show business in the 1970s.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

Bill walked me to my door last night
And he said, 'Before I go
There's something about our love affair
That I have a right to know
I said, "Let's not stand out here like this
What would the neighbors think
Why don't we just...step inside
And I'll fix us both a drink"

My girl, Bill
My, my, girl, Bill
Can't say enough about the way I feel
About my girl
(My girl, my girl)
My girl, Bill

William's hands were shaking
As he took his glass of wine
And I could see we both felt the same
When his eyes met mine
I said, "'Who we love and why we love
It's hard to understand
So let's just sit here on the couch
And face this, man to man"

My girl, Bill
My, my, girl, Bill
Can't say enough about the way I feel
About my girl
(My girl, my girl)
My girl Bill

Bill, you know we just left her place
And we both know what she said
She doesn't want to see your face
And she wishes you were dead
Now, I know we both love her
And I guess we always will
But you're gonna have to find another
'Cause she's my girl...Bill

While Stafford first album was a big hit, his 1975 follow-up "Not Just Another Pretty Foot" didn't chart and while both the "Your Bulldog Drinks Champagne" and "I Got Stoned And I Missed It" singles squeaked into the Top 40, Stafford's pop music career was essentially over.

He opened the Jim Stafford Theatre in Branson in 1990 and was a fixture in that nostalgia country scene until he retired to Florida in 2013.

One other interesting piece of trivia: Stafford was briefly married to famed singer Bobby Gentry in the late 1970s.

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: 'Dancing In The Moonlight' By Boffalongo

Written by 22 June, 2023

Even in the one-hit wonder rich era of the 1970s, the King Harvest hit "Dancing In The Moonlight" was something memorable. It was recorded as a single by the band in 1972 and released as a single in France, but they couldn't interest a label in the song. The band disbanded six months later and more than year after the song was recorded, it was picked up Perception Records, a small label that mostly specialized in jazz and R&B releases.

"Dancing In The Moonlight" eventually went to #13 on the Billboard American Top 40 chart and #5 on Canada's RPM chart. The band recorded an album to accompany the single, but it peaked at #134 on the album charts. And after a follow-up album in 1974 (with a slightly different lineup), King Harvest was no more.

But this version of the song was actually the second time the song had been recorded.

It had been written in 1970 by Sean Kelly, who was a member of an upstate New York band named Boffalongo. He wrote the song while recovering from a vicious assault by a gang:

On a trip to St. Croix in 1969, I was the first victim of a vicious St. Croix gang who eventually murdered 8 American tourists. At that time, I suffered multiple facial fractures and wounds and was left for dead. While I was recovering, I wrote "Dancin In The Moonlight" in which I envisioned an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyful celebration of life. The song became a huge hit and was recorded by many musicians worldwide. "Dancin In The Moonlight" continues to be popular to this day.

In 1971 I ran a night club called "The Grass Shack" in St. Thomas Virgin Islands with Alex Brooks, Larry Hoppen, Bob Leinbach, Milton Jay, Wells Kelly, Paul Lisseck and Bobby Simone, the former road manager for the Mama's & The Papa's, and a host of other friends. After that, I joined a band named "Boffolongo" with Larry Hoppen (later of Orleans) and my brother Wells. My original version of "Dancin In The Moonlight" was on the Boffolongo album "Beyond Your Head" released in 1970, which featured my brother Wells on drums and Larry Hoppen on guitar and myself on lead vocal.

A year later, Wells Kelly was in Paris playing drums in King Harvest, along with former Boffalongo member Dave "Doc" Robinson, who was the band's lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist.

When King Harvest broke up, Wells Kelly went on to be a founding member of Orleans while Sean Kelly struggled with health problems:

Roughly a year later in 1973, while meditating with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at a teacher training course in Spain, I was notified that my old Cornell friends in the band "King Harvest" had a big hit with "Dancin in the moonlight". They invited me to join the group and tour in support of the hit record. Later that year we recorded an album that was never released until 2007 entitled "King Harvest: The Lost Tapes" featuring 5 songs that I wrote or co-wrote and on which I played and sang.

After having toured with King Harvest, I settled down in the Ithaca NY area in 1974. I had some less than successful low back surgery that took me out of commission for many years. I continued to write songs, frequently collaborating with my brother, Wells, who was a brilliant musician. Wells performed and recorded with many great musicians including "Al Kooper", "The Beach Boys", "Bonnie Raitt" and many others. He was a founding member of the group "Orleans" and played and recorded with them for years. During Wells's tenure with the band, I also co-wrote several songs for "Orleans". After his tragic death in 1984, I found it too painful to work on music and pursued other interests. I received a Masters degree in Social Work and Psychotherapy from Syracuse University. For many years, I have been employed as a social worker/psychotherapist.

The Boffalongo version of "Dancing In The Moonlight" is breezy and fun, but you can also see why it wasn't a hit. The King Harvest version is a bit more-stripped down and doesn't include as much jazzy doodling as the original version. But the original is worth hearing and it's a fun look at what might have been.

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