A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash – 1969.

May 30, 2013

 Johnny Cash-A Boy Named Sue-1970-single coverThe magnificent Johnny Cash hit #1 on the US singles chart only once.  It was in 1969 with the novelty country song, A Boy Named Sue.

american idol?

If ever I catch a glimpse of American Idol or X-Factor or one of the other Simon Cowell talent shows, I always think of people like Johnny Cash and Neil Young and Lucinda Williams and Macy Gray and Joe Cocker; people who are/were fantastic artists, uniquely talented, prodigious songwriters (well, not Joe), but with voices that, on the face of it, would appear quite uncommercial; and I wonder what the judges would have said to them if they auditioned for the show.

Johnny Cash 1It’s not that people on the Cowell-shows are lacking a tuneful voice. And it’s not that they don’t have talent. But, truly great artists have something more. There is a certain x-factor (‘cuse the pun) setting them apart from the rest. Johnny Cash is a case in point—a man whose music and personality are truly captivating.

san quentin i hate every part of you

On February 24th 1969, Johnny gave a concert for the inmates of San Quentin prison. It was recorded and became his 31st album release. His 30th album being the fabulous live Folsom Prison album.

A short while before the San Quentin concert, Johnny was handed the words of a poem written by comic poet, Shel Silverstein. He thought he’d try it out on the inmates. They loved it. The song was released as a single and became a hit around the world, peaking at #2 on the US singles chart.

sue trivia

The poem, A Boy Named Sue, was inspired by humourist Jean Shepherd, a close friend of Shel Silverstein, who was often taunted as a child because of his feminine-sounding name.

a boy named sue fax

  • A Boy Named Sue was a poem written by Shel Silverstein.
  • JOhnny Cash 4Johnny Cash recorded it for his Live At San Quentin album on February 24, 1969.
  • Peaking at #2 on the US singles chart, A Boy Named Sue was Johnny’s highest charting hit—his only top ten single in the US. He did, however, have numerous top ten and #1 hits on the Country charts.
  • Shel Silverstein also released a recording of “Boy Named Sue” in the same year as Johnny.
  • When originally released, the song was censored. The words, “son of a bitch” were bleeped over and the final line was edited to remove the word “damn”.
  • Shel Silverstein later wrote a follow-up named to A Boy Named Sue, called, The Father of a Boy Named Sue, telling the story from the point of view of Sue’s aging father.
  • A Boy Named Sue lyrics.

a boy named sue – johnny cash – 1969 – video

a boy named sue – shel silverstein – 1969 – video

the father of a boy named sue – shel silverstein – video

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One Toke Over the Line – Brewer and Shipley – 1970

May 23, 2013

Brewer and Shipley-One Toke Over the Line-1970They got in trouble with the US Vice-President, but that didn’t stop Brewer and Shipley going One Toke Over the Line back in 1970.

can you remember when…?

Does anyone remember this song? I remember hearing it as a kid. I knew it was about drugs, but it never occurred to me that anyone would get upset anyone. But people did.

It was banned on some radio stations and, apparently, Spiro Agnew, the Vice-President at the time, put Brewer and Shipley on subversiveness watch, just to make sure they weren’t using this song to plot the downfall of the free world.

Mike Brewer said:

Brewer&Shipley2The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing and introduced it as a gospel song. That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for.

still going strong

Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley are another of those artists who, after all these years, are still together making music.

Hailing from Kansas City, they played with many well-known artists, including Stephen Stills, Bruce Springsteen, Black Sabbath, and Jerry Garcia.

They turned out six albums in the late 60s and 70s, and then another three in the 90s. Of all the music they’ve produced, however, One Toke Over the Line is, by far, the best known and most successful.

one toke over the line fax

  • Brewer&Shipley3One Toke Over the Line was released in 1970 from the album Tarkio. The album featured Paul Butterfield on electric guitar and Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar.
  • One Toke Over the Line spent 14 weeks on the US single charts, peaking at #10.
  • The first chapter of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, contains the chorus of One Toke Over the Line. Raoul Duke’s attorney, Dr. Gonzo, sings “One toke over the line, sweet Jesus, one toke over the line,” while the two of them drive to Las Vegas. The song is also included on the soundtrack of the movie.
  • One Toke Over the Line is also an addiction status in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • Mike said of the song:

We wrote that one night in the dressing room of a coffee house. We were literally just entertaining ourselves. The next day we got together to do some picking and said, ‘What was that we were messing with last night?’ We remembered it, and in about an hour, we’d written ‘One Toke Over the Line.’ Just making ourselves laugh, really. We had no idea that it would ever even be considered as a single, because it was just another song to us. Actually Tom and I always thought that our ballads were our forte.

  • Some radio stations refused to play this song because of the drug references, but not everyone understood that meaning. In 1971, the song was performed on the Lawrence Welk Show by a wholesome looking couple Gail Farrell and Dick Dale, who clearly had no idea what a toke was. Lawrence, at the conclusion of the performance of the song, remarked, without any hint of humor,  “There you’ve heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale.”  Mike and Tom heard about the performance and searched for the footage, but didn’t see it until the clip showed up on YouTube 2007 (see video clip below).
  • One Toke Over the Line lyrics.

one toke over the line – brewer and Shipley – 1970

one toke over the line – gail and dale – 1971

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Baby, I Love Your Way – Peter Frampton – 1976

May 16, 2013

Peter Frampton Baby I Love Your WayFrom one of the highest selling live albums of all time comes Peter Frampton’s 1976 hit, Baby, I Love Your Way.

Peter Frampton 2frampton comes alive!

There aren’t many artists who are better known for a live album than for any of their other works – but Peter Frampton is.

Peter had released five studio albums with average success before Frampton Comes Alive! hit the stores in 1976. Recorded in 1975 at Winterland in San Francisco and the Long Island Arena, New York, the album went on to become one of the best-selling live albums of all time.

Released on January 6, 1976, Frampton Comes Alive! reached #1 on the Billboard 200 in the week ending April 10, 1976. It stayed at #1 for ten weeks, but stayed on the charts for 97 weeks. It was the best-selling album for 1976 (6 million in the US alone), and was Album of the Year in the 1976 Rolling Stone Readers. Poll.

hit singles

Frampton Comes Alive! contained three hit singles;

  • Baby, I Love Your Way,
  • Do You Feel Like We Do, and
  • Show Me the Way.

just for the record

Peter FRampton 3The top selling live album of all time is (drum-roll please), Garth Brooks’ Double Live – over 21 million copies worldwide.

baby, i love your way fax

  • Baby, I Love Your Way was written by Peter Frampton and originally appeared on his album Frampton (1975).
  • The live version was released as a single and peaked at #12 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
  • Baby, I Love Your Way was covered by American reggae band, Big Mountain in 1994. It peaked at #6 and features on the 1994 soundtrack for the movie Reality Bites. In the film itself, Michael Grates (played by Ben Stiller) explains the origins of Peter’s song.
  • Baby, I Love Your Way also appeared in the 1999 movie Hi Fidelity. Lisa Bonet sings it and John Cusak’s character hates the song until he hears her.
  • In 1988, the American band Will to Power created a medley of Baby, I Love Your Way with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s, Free Bird. Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for a week.
  • Baby, I Love Your Way lyrics.

baby, i love your way – peter frampton – 1976 – video

show me the way – peter Frampton – 1976 – video

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Sail on Sailor – The Beach Boys – 1973

May 9, 2013

From an album that was almost never released, comes The Beach Boys’ 1973 song, Sail on Sailor.

Beach boys 1who doesn’t like the beach boys?

Come on! Everyone likes The Beach Boys, don’t they? They’re one of those groups that, even if you don’t cotton onto their particular musical style, you gotta appreciate their musicianship and what they have contributed to music.


Several years ago, I bought an album by The Beach Boys named, Holland. I thought it was great. I played it over and over only to later discover that it was panned by critics and almost didn’t get released! So much for my tastes in music!

Holland was the band’s 19th album. It was recorded in The Netherlands. It seems the band’s manager, Jack Rieley, thought a change of scenery would bring fresh inspiration and maybe even pull Brian Wilson out of his depression – it didn’t!

Turns out everyone became real homesick. They wrote and laid down the tracks as quickly as they could and headed home.


Warner Bros weren’t impressed. The album was rejected for not having any potential hit-singles.  In response, the band dropped the weakest song—We Got Love—and pulled out an old song, Sail on Sailor. They got Blondie Chaplin to take on the lead vocals and the single was born.

sail on sailor fax

  • Sail on Sailor was the first track on the Beach Boys’ 19th album, Holland. It was the last track to be recorded.
  • It was released as a single in 1973, with Only With You on the flip side.
  • Sail on Sailor initially peaked at #79 on the singles charts. When re-released in 1975 it made it to #49.
  • The lead vocals on Sail on Sailor feature Blondie Chaplin.
  • Sail on Sailor has been covered by: Sting and Lulu, Golden Earring, Rick Danko and Paul Butterfield, Jimmy Buffett, Mark Ronson and Sean Lennon, and Ray Charles.
  • Sail on Sailor featured in the Martin Scorsese movie, The Departed,
  • Sail on Sailor lyrics.

sail on sailor – the beach boys – 1973 – video

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Laughter in the Rain – Neil Sedaka – 1975

May 2, 2013

Neil Sedaka Laughter in the Rain 1975 Corny and sentimental, but I like it! Neil Sedaka’s 1975 hit, Laughter in the Rain.

an apology and a confession

Okay, for those of you who are fans of a heavier persuasion, I apologise in advance for this week’s song. But I also have a confession to make—I’ve always been a bit of a Neil Sedaka fan.

Then while out diriving the other day, this song came on the radio—haven’t heard it for a while, but still remembered all the words and sang along full volume – well, who wouldn’t?

In the US, this was Neil’s comeback single. He’d had 11 Top-40 hits from 1960-1963, but couldn’t score a hit after the British Invasion. His fortunes were so bad in the US that this song was at first released only in England, where it was included on an album called Overnight Success. When it was released in America, it re-ignited Neil’s career and he had six more Top-40 hits by 1977.

74 and still going – but not so strong…

Neil is 74 years old now. He began his career in 1957 and, in the years since, has written or co-written over 500 songs; some he recorded himself some were hits for other artists.

In all he had eight #1 hits around the world:

  • “Oh! Carol – (Italy), 1960
  • “Calendar Girl” – (Japan), 1961
  • “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” (1962 version) – 1962
  • “La Terza Luna” – (Italy), 1963
  • “Laughter in the Rain” – 1975
  • “The Immigrant” – 1975
  • “Bad Blood” – 1975-76
  • “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” (1975 version) – 1976

neil trivia

It has been suggested that the words,

Oh Carol

I am but a fool

Darling I love you

Though you treat me cruel

make up what is perhaps the worst-ever rhyme in a popular song.

laughter in the rain fax

  • Laughter in the Rain was recorded and released in 1974. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 1, 1975.
  • Neil Sedaka wrote the music for Laughter in the Rain. The lyrics were written by Phil Cody who said of the song:

Neil had a house in Forestburgh, New York, which is up in the Catskills. We were going to go up there and spend a few days in the summertime and just woodshed. The thing is that I’d met a new love and I didn’t want to go up there. And when I got there, I was kind of hostile to the whole process. I’ve never said anything to Neil about this, but as I think about it, I wanted to just get the songs written and get back to the city and my new girlfriend.

So we got together on a morning and Neil sat down and played me the changes and the melody to ‘Laughter in the Rain.’ I just sat there with a blank stare on my face. I had nothing. I had totally nothing. I excused myself, and I went out and took a walk. We were up in the country so I just took a walk and I sat down in a field near a golf course, smoked a joint, and watched some deer frolicking. I spent about an hour and a half, two hours out in the sun just kind of nodding off under a tree. I got myself up a couple of hours later and walked my way back, and Neil was there. I sat down, picked up a yellow pad of paper and in five minutes I had most of the song done.

  • Laughter in the Rain was recorded at Clover Studios in Los Angeles with the musicians who played on many of James Taylor’s hits, including, Russ Kunkel and Danny Kortchmar on guitars, Levon Sklar on bass, and Brenda Russell singing backup.
  • Laughter in the Rain was covered by Donny Osmond on his 2007 album Love Songs of the ’70s.
  • People have often commented on the similarities between Laughter in the Rain and Ray Davies’, Waterloo Sunset (1964).
  • Laughter in the Rain lyrics.

laughter in the rain – neil sedaka – 1975 – video

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