Welcome Back – John Sebastian – 1976

January 16, 2014

John Sebastian Welcome Back single cover 1976There we were listening to the young ‘uns talking about great American sit-coms from the distant past.  Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Full House, etc.  That’s when the older ones joined in.  “That’s nothing,”  said one “You should have seen Taxi.”  “Cheers,” shouted someone else.  “Bill Cosby Show,” said the next 70s survivor. 

Then someone starts singing, “Welcome back… your dreams were your ticket out…”

welcome back, kotter fax

  • Welcome Back, Kotter was an American television sitcom starring Gabe Kaplan, but which gave John Travolta his first break. It John Sebastian 1was produced from September 9, 1975, to June 8, 1979.
  • The programme featured a teacher who was given a class of difficult students known as “the sweathogs.”
  • Gabe Kaplan is still on TV – these days he is an expert poker player and features on programmes such as World Series of Poker and Poker After Dark.
  • John Travolta has gone on to even greater things!

john sebastian fax

  • John Sebastian was originally known as the frontman for American Band, The Lovin’ Spoonful.
  • The Lovin’ Spoonful where inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and John’s distinctive 60s tie-dyed denim jacket is displayed there.
  • The band’s best known hits were, Do You Believe in Magic, and Summer in the City.
  • John began a solo career when the band broke up in 1968. He appeared at Woodstock.
  • John also has the distinction of being the harmonica on The Doors’ song Roadhouse Blues under the pseudonym G. Puglese. He also played harmonica on Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu.
  • Welcome Back was John’s only top 40 solo hit.
  • Many musicians have covered John’s songs, including: Elvis Costello, Dolly Parton, Helen Reddy, Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash, Bobby Darin, Slade, Joe Cocker, The Everly Brothers, Tom Petty and Jimmy Buffett.

welcome back fax

  • Welcome Back is the theme song to the television sit-com Welcome Back, Kotter.
  • Welcome Back was written and sung by John Sebastian and became a #1 hit on the US singles chart in late 1976. It sold over a million copies.
  • The TV show was originally called, “Kotter.” However, the producers liked John’s song so much that they changed the name of the series to Welcome Back, Kotter, to go with the song.
  • When John performed the song on Saturday Night Live (April 24, 1976), he sang the opening lyrics wrong – he’s been ribbed about it ever since.
  • The song has been sampled by at least three rappers in various songs.
  • Welcome Back lyrics.

welcome back – john sebastian – 1976 – video

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American Woman – The Guess Who – 1970

August 29, 2013

The Guess Who - American Woman - 1970Not about women at all! Back in 1970 when The Guess Who released their hit, American Woman, they copped a fair bit of criticism about it being more than a little chauvinistic – but it’s not about women from America at all…

The Guess who 1discovering live music

The very first live album I purchased was back in 1972 – Live at the Paramont by The Guess Who. I reckon I must have almost worn that piece of vinyl out. It was a great album with the Burton Cummings piano-based, Albert Flasher, and the harmonica of Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon, but the highlight was the B-side’s 16+ minute version of American Woman.

from canada with love

The Guess Who began as The Reflections and evolved to The Guess Who? dropping the “?” in 1968. They had a number of hit records but none came close to the success of American Woman.

As a band they suffered a fair amount of inner turmoil and personnel changes. Through it all, the driving forces in the band were the talents of Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman. Even this relationship was stretched to breaking point, however, when Randy converted to Mormonism back in the early 70s sometime.

Eventually, Randy left to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

The band split in 1975, reunited in 1977, and is still touring today.

double success for randy

The Guess Who was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987. Bachman-Turner Overdrive received the same honour in 2003.

guess who trivia

The Guess who were asked by Richard Nixon to play at the Whitehouse. Mrs Nixon contacted the band to ask that they don’t play American Woman because of the anti-American lyrics.

american woman fax

  • American Woman was recorded on August 13, 1969 and released in January 1970 on the album, American Woman.
  • American Woman was written by The Guess Who band members Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson and Jim Kale.
  • American Woman began as a live jam at a concert. The band were improvising, Burton made up some lyrics, a kid recorded it, everyone liked it… the band asked the kid for the tape and hit the studio to record the song, virtually exactly as it was improvised a few days before.
  • American Woman hit #1 on the US singles chart.
  • Here’s what co-writer Jim Kale had to say about American Woman;

The popular misconception was that it was a chauvinistic tune, which was anything but the case. The fact was, we came from a very strait-laced, conservative, laid-back country, and all of a sudden, there we were in Chicago, Detroit, New York – all these horrendously large places with their big city problems. After that one particularly grinding tour, it was just a real treat to go home and see the girls we had grown up with. Also, the war was going on, and that was terribly unpopular. We didn’t have a draft system in Canada, and we were grateful for that. A lot of people called it anti-American, but it wasn’t really. We weren’t anti-anything. John Lennon once said that the meanings of all songs come after they are recorded. Someone else has to interpret them.

  • American Woman has been covered by, Led Zeppelin, and Lenny Krazitz. Lenny covered it for the movie, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. While it only made it to #49 on the singles chart, it did win a Grammy – Best Male Rock Performance – in 2000.
  • American Woman lyrics.

american woman – the guess who – 1970 – full version video

american woman – the guess who – 1970 – live video

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Theme From Shaft – Isaac Hayes – 1971

June 13, 2013

Isaac Hayes - Theme from Shaft - 1971Supposed to be an album track only, Isaac Hayes’ 1971 hit Theme From Shaft was released as a single and  went straight to #1, winning him an Academy Award.

song writing

Best known for the hit Theme From Shaft, Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr. was a songwriter and record producer of some renown – in 2005, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Of note were the songs he co-wrote for Sam and Dave:

  • 1966: Hold On, I’m Comin’
  • 1967: When Something is Wrong with My Baby
  • 1967: Soul Man

The last song on that list was recognised by the Grammy Hall of Fame as one of the most influential songs of the past 50 years.

song recording

During the late 1960s, Isaac released a number of solo soul albums and began writing movie scores.

enter shaft

The best known of his musical scores is the Academy Award winning, Theme From Shaft. In fact, in 1972, Isaac became just the third African-American, after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel, to win an Academy Award in any field, and (I believe) the first to win for music.

He also won two Grammy’s that year. He won a third Grammy for his album Black Moses.

isaac rip

Isaac died on August 10, 2008. He’d suffered a stroke two years before and was thought to have suffered another while exercising on a treadmill.  He was found deceased on the floor, the treadmill still going next to him.

isaac trivia

Isaac was the voice of Chef on South Park.

theme from shaft fax

  • Theme from Shaft was written and recorded by Isaac Hayes in 1971 – the theme to the movie Shaft.
  • There are two versions; the album version and the shortened single version.
  • Theme from Shaft hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1971. It peaked at #4 on the UK singles chart.
  • Theme from Shaft won the Best Original Song Oscar in 1971. It was the first time the award was presented for a song written and performed by the same person.
  • Isaac only agreed to write and record the Shaft score after the movie’s producer promised him an audition for the lead role—he never got to audition, but wrote the music anyway.
  • Theme From Shaft was considered rather risqué in 1971. In fact, even in 1990, censors thought it too risqué to be sung on The Simpsons, until it was demonstrated that the song had indeed been played on television before).
  • Isaac re-recorded Theme From Shaft for the 2000 movie sequel.
  • Theme From Shaft has featured (or been parodied) on a number of television shows including: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Simpsons, Sesame Street, Scrubs, The X-Files, Father Ted,
  • A cover version of Theme From Shaft was released by Sammy Davis, Jr. and Jay-Z sampled it on his track Reservoir Dogs.
  • Theme From Shaft lyrics

theme from shaft – isaac hayes – 1971 – video – recorded live 1973

theme from shaft – Isaac hayes – 1971 – movie opening

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Hooked on a Feeling – Blue Swede – 1974

October 13, 2011

Hooked on a Feeling-blue swede-single coverNot many songs have significant chart success three times – but Hooked on a Feeling did.

ooga chaka – hooked on a feeling history

Hooked on a Feeling (sans ooga chaka’s) was a #5 US hit for B.J. Thomas in 1968. It featured the backing of an electric sitar and, I gotta say, shows that whatever else you think of him, B.J. could sing.

The song’s next chart success was in 1972 when Englishman Jonathan King took it to #23 on the UK charts. It was Jonathan who added the ooga chaka chants – apparently B.J. just never thought of it!

Then, in 1974 Blue Swede, a Swedish band, perfected the art of ooga chaka chanting, accentuated them profoundly and took the song to #1.

jonathan or the swedes?

This week the initial dilemma for me was whether to drag you back to 1972 or 1974. Sure Jonathan King’s version didn’t get as high up the charts, but he’s such an interesting guy that he merits some attention. Ultimately two things swung me in the Swedish direction, however; first, some of Jonathan’s background is more than just a little suspect. Second, Jonathan’s version is pretty bad but Blue Swede’s version is even worse – a million times worse – so bad it would be a pity not to talk about it!

but first – a bit about jonathan

Jonathan King is one of those guys few people have heard of but who was huge in the UK music scene as a singer, songwriter, promoter and producer. He’s authored three successful novels and his autobiography was released last year.

As a singer, 13 of Jonathan’s 18 singles got to at least #29 in the UK singles chart. He wrote and had a hit with one of the great songs of the 60s; Everyone’s Gone to the Moon.

As a manager/producer he’s credited with discovering Genesis, The Bay City Rollers, and 10CC. He produced many of their hits.

In 1997 he was awarded the British Phonographic Industry Man of the Year Award.

In 2001 Jonathan was sentenced to seven years in prison for the sexual assault of five teenage boys between 1983 and 1989. He was very vocal in protesting his innocence and released on parole in 2005.

blue swede – not so tarnished but not so talented either!

Blue Swede formed in 1973. Björn Skifs, a top Swedish vocalist, was looking for a band to accompany him during his concerts and Blue Swede was the best he could find! They had a few hits, all of them covers of previous hits – you see, nowhere near as interesting as Jonathan… but, wait ’til I remind you of the song!!

The worrying part is that Björn Skifs is still producing the odd album and, yes, he still performs Hooked on a Feeling from time to time.

hooked on a feeling fax:

  • Hooked on a feeling was written by B.J. Thomas’ childhood friend, American Mark James. Mark James was a professional song writer turning out some pretty well-known stuff including, The Eyes Of A New York Woman, Suspicious Minds (yep, Elvis!), Moody Blue and Always on My Mind. The latter was a hit for Elvis, Willy Nelson and The Pet Shop Boys, and won Mark James a Grammy.
  • Hooked on a Feeling has been recorded by B.J. Thomas, Jonathan King, Blue Swede, Carroll Baker (a Canadian who did a country version and had a #1 hit), David Hasselhoff, and The Offspring (well, they used a sample in their song Special Delivery – just the ooga chaka part).
  • Hooked on a Feeling sung by Vonda Shepherd appears in an episode of Ally McBeal.
  • More significantly, The Blue Swede version is featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs movie Soundtrack (1992). See also blog entry for Little Green Bag.
  • The ooga chaka bit comes from a song by Johnny Preston named Running Bear – a hit in 1959.
  • Hooked on a Feeling lyrics.

a special treat – just for seventiesmusic fans.

Here, assembled together for the first time in one place, are the videos for the Hooked on a Feeling versions by B.J. Thomas, Blue Swede, and David Hasselhoff. You have to watch and see what happens when bad songs go badder! At least make sure you see the Blue Swede version – ooga chaka!!

b.j. thomas

blue swede

david hasselhoff


Little Green Bag – The George Baker Selection -1970

August 25, 2011

George Baker Selection - Little Green Bag - CoverOne of my favourite songs of the 70s. The George Baker Selection had two 70s hits – one a goody, the other just terrible!

discovery

For my early childhood music was music. You turned on the radio or threw disc on the old radiogram and what came out was a one-dimensional noise that you could sing along to. Sometime around 1970 I heard a song titled Little Green Bag by the Dutch Band, The George Baker Selection and everything changed.

I recall vividly hearing this song and having an “aha” moment. As listened I recognised the multi-dimensional nature of almost all recordings. I heard the bass-line. Then the tambourine over top, a quick drum beat, a voice saying, “Yeah,” a few more vocals, a build up in the drums, a guitar playing an upbeat G-chord – put them all together and you got music!

philosophising

Okay, so it makes me sound like a nut but, since that time, I have always attempted to dissect any song I’m listening to. I try to listen for the individual instruments, identify them and workout what they’re playing. And, this is the amazing thing about music – there is nothing new and yet, everything is new… There are only a certain number of keys on a piano, and only a certain number of frets on a guitar but, every song known to humankind can be found on there somewhere – magic.

you can’t win them all

The George Baker Selection had two hits, one is a classic (this one), the other is, in my opinion, terrible.

Can you recall their second hit? It was called Paloma Blanca. I don’t blame you if you forgot it. If you remember it, please forgive me, it probably means you liked it… but, let me repeat, it was ghastly!

Reservoir Dogsquentin tarantino

I hadn’t heard Little Green Bag for such a long time then in 1992 I went to see the Quentin Tarantino movie Reservoir Dogs and there, in that wonderful opening scene, is Little Green Bag. The movie has a strong cult following and that scene is known as one of the great opening movie scenes.

btw

Reservoir Dogs contained another wonderful 70s song – Stealer’s Wheels’ – Stuck in the Middle With You.

whatever happened to george?

George Baker continues to perform as a solo artist. His last album, Lonely Boy, was released in 2009.

little green bag fax

  • Little Green Bag was released in 1969. It was written by two Dutch musicians, Jan Visser and Hans Bouwens. Hans went by the name George Baker, hence the band’s name.
  • Little Green Bag reached #9 position in the Dutch Top 40 and #21 in the Billboard Top 100 in the U.S.
  • In 1991 Little Green Bag reached #1 in Japan after it was used in a Japanese whiskey commercial.
  • In 1999, Tom Jones covered Little Green Bag on his album Reload. He was joined by Canadian band, Barenaked Ladies.
  • Little Green Bag has also appeared in The Simpsons and Red Dwarf, and been used in commercials for Toyota (in Australia) and Heineken beer.
  • Finally, the song also features in the international trailer for the film Despicable Me.
  • Little Green Bag lyrics.

Stayin’ Alive – The Bee Gees – 1978

August 18, 2011

Stayin' Alive - The Bee GeesStayin’ Alive,  The Bee Gees’ 1978 hit, epitomises the Disco era.

disco – the 70s phenomenon

Disco bopped in in the 70s and bopped straight back out before the decade was over. And riding the crest of the wave were The Bee Gees. Up until Disco they were a pop band. Three brothers, born in The Isle of Man, emigrated to Australia, started a musical career, moved back to the UK, made it as a pop band, moved to the US and made it big there as Disco kings – that’s The Bee Gees’ story.

disco – you either loved it, or you had some sense of decent musical taste

Disco was a phenomenon some loved but most of us detested. Today Disco seems to merge with so much other music but, at the time, it cut through the existing genres and polarised listeners.

That The Bee Gees were so eager to jump on the Disco bandwagon was a mystery to many. They were pop singers and, early in their career, produced some fabulous songs as Spicks and Specks (their first song), Massachusetts, I Started a Joke (a wonderful song), and Words.

The story goes that, after some disagreement in the group about the band’s management seeming to prefer Barry as the lead singer over the other two, and after a couple of break-ups and getting back togethers, the boys felt they were in a rut. Eric Clapton suggested they relocate to Florida, USA.

Once on the left side of the Atlantic, the band produced more rhythmic songs such as Jive Talkin’ and Nights on Broadway. Then came the movie, Saturday Night Fever.

and here’s the bit that will surprise many people

The “Disco break” came for The Bee Gees with the release of the movie, Saturday Night Fever.  But, surprisingly, The Bee Gees were not involved in the movie until it was completed. Originally the dance scenes featured songs by people like Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs. When the decision was made to create a soundtrack comprising new songs, The three Gibb brothers were commissioned. They were given a basic script and sent away for the weekend. The songs were written almost entirely in those three days.

What happened next is history. Disco took off. Although Bill Oakes, who supervised the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, insists that, contrary to popular opinion, the movie had nothing to do with creating the Disco craze.

Disco had run its course. These days, Fever is credited with kicking off the whole Disco thing–-it really didn’t. Truth is, it breathed new life into a genre that was actually dying.

Whatever the truth is, three Bee Gees singles from the movie – Night Fever, How Deep Is Your Love, and Stayin’ Alive – reached #1 in the United States and charted highly in most countries around the world. Disco may have been dying but, thanks to Barry, Robin, and Maurice, it was about to enter its most popular period. (The album also contained Yvonne Elliman’s #1 hit, If I Can’t Have You).

a final word on disco

Disco polarised music fans in a way few other genres – if any – ever have. Some stars embraced elements of it. e.g. Rod Stewart and David Bowie. Others, particularly New Wave and Punk devotees, were derisive of it. So much so that, as the Disco light dimmed bands such as New Zealand’s Hello Sailor loudly proclaimed, Disco’s Dead.

July 12, 1979 came to be known as “the day Disco died.” Believe it or not, an anti-Disco demonstration was held in Chicago. The Chicago White Sox baseball team were playing a double header and, between games, a couple of local DJ’s staged what they called, Disco Demolition Night.

The stadium was declared a Disco free zone and Disco records were set fire to. Others were fired out of cannons and exploded. Unfortunately, the crowd got a little carried away. They tore out seats and invaded the pitch. In short, there was a riot! People were arrested and so much damage was done that the White Sox were forced to default their second game.

and then it was gone…

On July 21 1979 all songs in the top six of the US singles chart were Disco. Two months later, there were no Disco songs in the Top 10. The media pronounced that Disco was dead and Rock ‘n’ Roll was back where it belonged.

stayin’ alive fax

  • Stayin’ Alive was released on December 13, 1977. It sat at #1 on the American charts from February 4, 1978 until February 25, 1978 – four weeks. It also reached #1 in twelve other countries including, Canada, Australia, UK, New Zealand, and South Africa.
  • Stayin’ Alive plays over the opening credits of the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever while John Travolta’s double (no, it’s not really him) struts through the streets of New York City.
  • Stayin’ Alive’s tempo was deliberately set at 103 beats per minute because that’s the average standard tempo of walking pace. A team from the University of Illinois medical school suggested that this would be the ideal song to listen to while performing chest compressions on someone who’s just suffered a heart attack. The American Heart Association stated that the optimum tempo at which to perform CPR on someone is 100 beats a minute. The research team highlighted this song because, at 103 beats per minute, it has almost the perfect rhythm to help jump-start a stopped heart. BTW – Queen’s, Another One Bites The Dust, has the same tempo but it doesn’t seem quite as appropriate.
  • Stayin’ Alive and the majority of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was recorded in France for tax reasons.
  • The mother of The Bee Gees’ drummer, Dennis Byron, died in the middle of recording the movie soundtrack. They couldn’t find a replacement. A drum machine was used but didn’t sound right. In the end, the producer selected two bars from the song Night Fever. He re-recorded them to a separate track, and those two bars are repeated over and over in “Stayin’ Alive”. Hence, the unchanging rhythm throughout the song.
  • As a joke, the Bee Gee’s listed the drummer as Bernard Lupe. Bernard became a highly sought-after drummer – until it was discovered that he didn’t exist.  (He ‘played’ on three songs on Barbara Streisand’s album, Guilty, also).
  • The record company wanted the song to be called, Saturday Night. The band refused. They felt the album already had a song with the word “night” in the title and there were too many well known songs with “Saturday” in their titles.
  • The Gibb brothers confess to having mixed feelings about the song. Sure, it brought them incredible fame (and cash!) but it also led to their being stereotyped as a Disco act.
  • Stayin’ Alive provided the title to a follow-up movie to Saturday Night Fever. The movie came years after Disco had faded and it bombed.
  • Stayin’ Alive was recorded by Dweezil Zappa for his album Confessions. Ozzy Osbourne provided led vocals. Ozzy’s record company didn’t want it released, however, so Donny Osmond’s vocals were used instead. An audio track of Ozzy’s version can be found on YouTube.
  • Stayin’ Alive lyrics.