Monday, November 25, 1974

Nick Drake died: November 25, 1974

Originally posted November 25, 2012.

image from eachnotescure.com

Nick Drake was an English folk singer/songwriter born in Rangoon, Burma, on June 19, 1948. Only three albums were released during his lifetime and each sold less than 5000 copies upon initial release. However, after his death he emerged as a doomed romantic hero. In the mid-‘80s, musicians such as The Cure’s Robert Smith and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck cited him as an influence. The Dream Academy’s 1985 single “Life in a Northern Town” was about Drake.

Drake’s parents were musically inclined, even composing music. At an early age, Nick wrote songs and recorded them on reel-to-reel. He played piano in the school orchestra and learned clarinet and saxophone. In 1967, he won a scholarship to study English literature at Cambridge. He was a bright student who didn’t apply himself. He was more interested in playing and listening to music while smoking marijuana.

He discovered the folk scene via performers like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and began performing in clubs and coffee houses around London. With the help of college friend Robert Kirby and American producer Joe Boyd, Drake recorded Five Leaves Left in 1968.

In the autumn of 1969, Drake moved to London to concentrate on music. 1970’s Bryter Layter sported a more upbeat and jazzier sound and featured John Cale and members of Fairport Convention. In October 1971, Drake recorded songs over two nights for what would become 1972’s Pink Moon. Thinking that the sound of Bryter Layter was too elaborate, Drake opted for a stark collection of bleak songs in which his singing was accompanied solely by his own guitar with one piano overdub on the title track.

He visited a psychiatrist in 1971 and was prescribed antidepressants. He also suffered from insomnia and his friend Kirby worried at one point that Drake was showing early signs of psychosis. In 1972, Drake had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for five weeks. He returned home to live with his parents. Musician John Martyn, who wrote the title song of his 1973 album Solid Air about Drake, described him as the most withdrawn person he’d ever met. Nick died at age 26 on November 25, 1974, of an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant. The death has largely been assumed to be a suicide although some have considered it an accidental overdose.

A Skin Too Few (documentary about Nick Drake)


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Saturday, November 16, 1974

Lynyrd Skynyrd chart with “Free Bird”

Updated 1/21/2019.

image from Wikipedia.org

Free Bird

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Writer(s): Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant (see lyrics here)


Released: Nov. 1974


First Charted: 11/16/1974


Peak: 19 US, 25 CB, 31 HR, 21 UK, 47 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: -- US, -- UK, 2.11 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: 3.0


Video Airplay *: 38.0


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

It “has become a rock and roll joke” to shout out “Free Bird!” at concerts, SF but it is also a tribute to “a towering rock anthem crowned with the mother of all guitar solos” BBC that “has entered hard rock folklore.” HL-104 The song “extend[ed] the influence of Southern rock...started by the Allman Brothers [and was] recorded as a tribute to Duane Allman, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971.” RS500

“‘Free Bird’ is the tale of a restless spirit attempting to explain to his sweetheart” HL-104 “why he can’t settle down and make a commitment.” SF Guitarist Allen Collins’ “steady girlfriend, who realized that the band would always come first, kept asking him questions like, ‘If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?’” KN

He worked on the song on and off for two years. SF When he “first brought it into rehearsals, volatile singer Ronnie Van Zandt was unenthusiastic, claiming it had too many chords.” BBC The band first recorded the song as a ballad BBC in 1972 that clocked in at 7 ½ minutes. SF Club audiences didn’t respond until “the climatic guitar duel” BBC was added to the end, stretching the song to 10 minutes.

The “record company…thought it was too long [for a single]. Even the band never thought this was going to be a hit.” SF After “Sweet Home Alabama” was a chart success, an edited “Free Bird” was released, but “the long version from the album has always been more popular.” SF

“When Skynyrd reformed in the late ‘80s it was performed as an instrumental, with an empty mic stand...adorned with Ronnie’s trademark cowboy hat” BBC as a memorial to him – he “was killed along with two other band members in a plane crash in 1977.” BBC


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

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Monday, November 4, 1974

Nov. 4, 1974: Elton John's first Greatest Hits released

Originally posted February 1, 2011. Last updated September 14, 2018.

Elton John Compilations

These are some of the most prominent Elton John collections released over the years.

  1. Greatest Hits (1970-74)
  2. Greatest Hits Volume II (1971-77)
  3. Greatest Hits Volume III (1979-87)
  4. Greatest Hits 1976-1986 (1976-86)
  5. The Very Best of (1970-90)
  6. Greatest Hits 1970-2002 (1970-2002)
  7. Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits (1970-2007)

You can also check out Elton John’s discography page for detailed chart figures on all the songs from these collections and their sales figures, airplay, and peaks on various charts.

Greatest Hits

Recorded: 1970-1974


Released: Nov. 4, 1974


Sales (in millions): US: 16.0, UK: 0.3, IFPI: --, World: 27.0


Peak: US: 110, UK: 111, Canada: 113, Australia: 15

Greatest Hits Volume II

Recorded: 1971-1976


Released: Oct. 8, 1977


Sales (in millions): US: 5.0, UK: --, IFPI: --, World: 7.0


Peak: US: 21, UK: 6, Canada: 6, Australia: 46

Greatest Hits Volume III

Recorded: 1979-1986


Released: Oct. 3, 1987


Sales (in millions): US: 2.0, UK: --, IFPI: --, World: 2.5


Peak: US: 84, UK: --, Canada: 33, Australia: --

Greatest Hits 1976-1986

Recorded: 1976-1986


Released: Nov. 3, 1992


Sales (in millions): US: 2.0, UK: --, IFPI: --, World: 2.0


Peak: US: --, UK: --, Canada: --, Australia: --

Very Best of

Recorded: 1970-1990


Released: Nov. 3, 1990


Sales (in millions): US: --, UK: 2.7, IFPI: 5.0, World: 18.0


Peak: US: --, UK: 12, Canada: --, Australia: --

Greatest Hits 1970-2003

Recorded: 1970-2002


Released: Nov. 12, 2002


Sales (in millions): US: 2.5, UK: 1.2, IFPI: 2.0, World: 5.7


Peak: US: 12, UK: 3, Canada: --, Australia: 19

Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits

Recorded: 1970-2006


Released: March 26, 2007


Sales (in millions): US: 3.0, UK: 0.3, IFPI: --, World: 3.3


Peak: US: 9, UK: 2, Canada: 10, Australia: 8

Quotable: --


Genre: pop/compilation


Album Tracks (1970-1974):

  1. Border Song (3/70, #92 US) G1, 02***
  2. Your Song (11/28/70, #8 US, #7 UK, #9 AC) G1, V, 02
  3. Levon (12/18/71, #24 US) G2, 02*
  4. Tiny Dancer (3/4/72, #41 US, #35 AC, gold single) G2, 02, R
  5. Rocket Man (4/22/72, #6 US, #3 UK, #39 AC) G1, V, 02, R
  6. Honky Cat (8/12/72, #8 US, #31 UK, #6 AC) G1, V, 02
  7. Crocodile Rock (11/4/72, #1 US, #5 UK, #11 AC, platinum single) G1, V, 02, R
  8. Daniel (1/20/73, #2 US, #4 UK, #1 AC, gold single) G1, V, 02, R
  9. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting (7/7/73, #12 US, #7 UK) G1, V, 02, R
  10. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (9/29/73, #2 US, #6 UK, #7 AC, platinum single) G1, V, 02, R
  11. Bennie and the Jets (2/16/74, #1 US, #37 UK, #15 RB, platinum single) G1, V, 02, R
  12. Candle in the Wind (3/2/74, #6 US, #5 UK, #2 AC) G1, V, 02, R
  13. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (6/1/74, #2 US, #16 UK, #3 AC, gold single) G1, 02

Album Tracks (1974-1979):

  1. The Bitch Is Back (9/7/74, #4 US, #15 UK, gold single) G2, V, 02
  2. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (11/23/74, #1 US, #10 UK, gold single) G2, V, 02***, R
  3. Philadelphia Freedom (3/7/75, #1 US, #12 UK, #32 RB, platinum single) G2, V, 02, R
  4. Someone Saved My Life Tonight (6/23/75, #4 US, #22 UK, #36 AC, gold single) G2, V, 02
  5. Island Girl (10/4/75, #1 US, #14 UK, #27 AC, platinum single) G2, 02, R
  6. Grow Some Funk of Your Own (1/24/76, #14 US) G2
  7. Pinball Wizard (3/20/76, #7 UK) G2, V, 02***, S
  8. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (with Kiki Dee) (7/3/76, #1 US, #1 UK, #1 AC, gold single) G4, V, 02, R
  9. Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word (11/13/76, #6 US, #11 UK, #1 AC, gold single) G2, G4, V, 02, R
  10. Part-Time Love (10/21/78, #22 US, #15 UK, #40 AC) V
  11. Song for Guy (12/16/78, #4 UK) V, 02**
  12. Mama Can’t Buy You Love (6/9/79, #9 US, #1 AC, #36 RB, gold single) G3, G4

Album Tracks (1980-1990):

  1. Little Jeannie (5/3/80, #3 US, #33 UK, #1 AC, gold single) G3, G4, 02*
  2. Empty Garden (3/20/82, #13 US, #51 UK, #18 AC) G3, G4
  3. Blue Eyes (3/27/82, #12 US, #8 UK, #1 AC) G3, G4, V, 02**
  4. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues (4/30/83, #4 US, #5 UK, #2 AC, #22 AR) G3, G4, V, 02
  5. I’m Still Standing (5/7/83, #12 US, #4 UK, #28 AC, #34 AR) G3, G4, V, 02
  6. Kiss the Bride (8/6/83, #25 US, #20 UK) G3, G4, V, 02**
  7. Too Low for Zero (1983) G3
  8. Sad Songs Say So Much (5/26/84, #5 US, #7 UK, #2 AC, #24 AR) G3, G4, V, 02
  9. Passengers (8/11/84, #5 UK) V
  10. Who Wears These Shoes? (9/8/84, #16 US, #50 UK, #11 AC, #18 AR) G4
  11. Nikita (10/12/85, #7 US, #3 UK, #3 AC) G3, G4, V, 02
  12. Wrap Her Up (10/26/85, #20 US, #12 UK) G3, G4
  13. Heartache All Over the World (10/4/86, #55 US, #45 UK) G3
  14. I Don’t Want to Go on with You Like That (6/4/88, #2 US, #30 UK, #1 AC, #13 AR) V, 02*
  15. Sacrifice (11/18/89, #18 US, #1 UK, #3 AC) V, 02, R
  16. You Gotta Love Someone (10/20/90, #43 US, #33 UK, #1 AC) V
  17. Easier to Walk Away (12/15/90, #63 UK) V

Album Tracks (1991-2002):

  1. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (live with George Michael, 11/30/91, #1 US, #1 UK, #1 AC, sales: 0.76 m) 02***, R
  2. The One (5/25/92, #9 US, #10 UK, #1 AC) 02
  3. True Love (with Kiki Dee, 11/20/93, #56 US, #2 UK, #21 AC) 02***
  4. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (5/20/94, #2 US, #14 UK, #1 AC, sales: 0.5 m) 02, R
  5. Circle of Life (8/27/94, #15 US, #11 UK, #2 AC, sales: 0.5 m) 02
  6. Believe (2/20/95, #13 US, #15 UK, #1 AC) 02
  7. Made in England (5/8/95, #52 US, #18 UK, #12 AC) 02**
  8. Blessed (10/21/95, #34 US, #2 AC) 02*
  9. Something About the Way You Look Tonight (9/6/97, #1 UK, #1 AC, sales: 5.4 m) 02
  10. Written in the Stars (with LeAnn Rimes, 1/16/99, #29 US, #10 UK, #2 AC, sales: 0.5 m) 02
  11. I Want Love (10/1/01, #9 US, #6 AC) 02
  12. This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore (1/1/02, #24 UK, #10 AC) 02
  13. Your Song (with Alessandro Safina, 7/1/02, #4 UK) 02***, R

G1 Greatest Hits
G2 Greatest Hits Volume II
G3 Greatest Hits Volume III
G4 Greatest Hits 1976-1986
V Very Best of
02 Greatest Hits 1970-2002
R Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits


Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.

Review:

The Very Best of Elton John was a double-CD anthology released in the U.K. that essentially consolidated three previous single disc compilations into one collection. Most represented is Greatest Hits. “Rarely has a greatest-hits collection been as effective,” E1Greatest Hits is a nearly flawless collection, offering a perfect introduction to Elton John and providing casual fans with almost all the hits they need.” E1

“Released at the end of 1974, after Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Caribou had effectively established him as a superstar, Greatest Hits is exactly what it says it is – it features every one of his Top Ten singles (Your Song, Rocket Man, Honky Cat, Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Bennie and the Jets, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me), plus the number 12 Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting and radio and concert favorites ‘Border Song’ and Candle in the Wind.” E1 Only “Border Song” is absent from The Very Best of.

That collection did skip over “a couple of lesser hits from this era, most notably Levon and Tiny Dancer,” E1 but added them to Elton’s next greatest hits collection, although those same two songs are notable omissions from The Very Best of.

Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 also “adds…The Bitch Is Back, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, ‘Island Girl’, [and] ‘Grow Some Funk of Your Own,’” E2 leaving the last two off The Very Best of.

The second hits collection also had “two non-LP hit singles (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Philadelphia Freedom) and John’s version of Pinball Wizard, taken from the soundtrack to Tommy. In short, it’s an excellent continuation of the first collection, and taken together, they function as an ideal singles retrospective of the most successful singles artist of the early ‘70s.” E2

Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 (1979-1987) is a 12-track overview that compiles the bulk of Elton John’s biggest hits from the ‘80s, including such classic tracks as Little Jeannie, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, Empty Garden, Blue Eyes, I’m Still Standing, and Sad Songs (Say So Much). It also includes…‘Heartache All Over the World’…[and] ‘Too Low for Zero’, which never was a single.” E3

Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 went out of print after John left Geffen for MCA, who issued a replacement package, Greatest Hits 1976-1986, which eliminates those two songs [as does The Very Best of] and adds Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, and ‘Who Wears These Shoes?’ to the remaining ten songs.” E3

Again, The Very Best of falls short of covering everything from this collection. In addition to the aforementioned omissions, ‘Mama Can’t Buy Me Love,’ ‘Little Jeannie,’ ‘Empty Garden,’ ‘Who Wears These Shoes?,’ and ‘Wrap Her Up’ are not included. All were top twenty U.S. hits but had minor impact, if any, on the UK charts, for whom this collection was created.

Another alternative to this collection is the 2-disc Greatest Hits 1970-2002. Omitted are “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Song for Guy,” “Part-Time Love,” “Blue Eyes,” “Kiss the Bride,” “Passengers,” “Easier to Walk Away,” and “You Gotta Love Someone.”

That collection adds “Levon,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Island Girl,” and “Little Jeannie” from the 1970-1990 era. The next decade plus is represented by songs “The One,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Circle of Life,” “Believe,” “Blessed,” “Something about the Way You Look Tonight,” “I Want Love,” “Written in the Stars,” and “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore.”

The collection was released in various reiterations. Songs marked with an * were not included on the 2-disc European version of this album, which substituted those marked with **. Songs marked with *** were included on a third bonus disc, as well as “Levon” and “I Don’t Want to Go on with You Like That,” which were on the original 2-disc American version.

Finally, the Rocket Man collection whittled Elton’s entire career down to one disc. There were many alternate versions of this collection released throughout the world. In the U.S., this was actually retitled Rocket Man: Number Ones, a definite misnomer since these were not all #1’s.


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Awards: G1


Awards: V


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Friday, October 11, 1974

Billy Joel’s Streetlife Serenade released

First posted 5/9/2011; updated 9/21/2020.

Streetlife Serenade

Billy Joel


Released: October 11, 1974


Peak: 35 US, -- UK, 16 CN, 85 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/rock singer-songwriter


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Streetlife Serenader
  2. Los Angelenos
  3. The Great Suburban Showdown
  4. Root Beer Rag (instrumental)
  5. Roberta
  6. The Entertainer (11/30/74, 34 US, 13 CL, 30 AC, 30 CN, 89 AU)
  7. Last of the Big Time Spenders
  8. Weekend Song
  9. Souvenir
  10. The Mexican Connection (instrumental)


Total Running Time: 37:41

Rating:

3.403 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)

About the Album:

With his sophomore album, Billy Joel had achieved success with “Piano Man,” but it threw him. Billy Joel was driven “to deliver an album that established him as both a serious artist and a commercial contender.” AMG While critics didn’t love him, his sophomore album had delivered big with the top-25 success of “Piano Man.” Now he needed to quickly release another album to maintain a high profile, but he’d used his best stuff on Piano Man, so he was short on material.

The resulting third album, Streetlife Serenade, was, therefore, “a bit of a slump.” AMG Still, “since he has skills, he's able to turn out a few winners – Roberta, a love song in the vein of Cold Spring Harbor, the mournful Streetlife Serenader, and the stomping” AMG and “vigorous Los Angelenos,” DB on which he “rocked an electric piano.” DB

“Joel is attempting a grand Americana lyrical vision, stretching from the Wild West through the Depression on ‘Los Angelenos’ and The Great Suburban Showdown.” AMG “Joel’s ruminations on suburban malaise…are at their most overblown.” DB In the end, “it doesn't work, not only because of his shortcomings as a writer, but because he didn't have the time to pull it all together.” AMG

“The presence of two instrumentals screamed, ‘Right – I didn’t have time to write songs for my new album.’” DB “Even if Root Beer Rag, yet another sign of The Sting’s influence, is admittedly enjoyable, they're undeniably fillers.” AMG

Stylistically, it was a reiteration of its predecessor’s” AMG obsession with Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, “spiked with, of all things, Rockford Files synthesizers and ragtime pulled from The Sting.” AMG “It’s no coincidence that the record’s single and best song, The Entertainer, shares a title with the Scott Joplin rag that provided The Sting with a main theme.” AMG

On that “astonishingly bitter” AMG song, “he not only disparages his own role, but is filled with venom over ‘Piano Man’ being released in a single edit, that made the subtext clear: he’d had enough with California, enough with the music industry, enough with being a sensitive singer/songwriter. It was time for Billy to say goodbye to Hollywood and head back home to New York.” AMG

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Friday, August 16, 1974

The Ramones’ first gig at CBGB: August 16, 1974

Originally posted August 16, 2011.



When Hilly Krystal launched his New York club, the intended focus was country, bluegrass, and blues (CBGB). However, the dive bar became perhaps the world’s best-known venue for launching punk rock. Among some of the best loved bands to get at least CBGB assists in their careers are the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, the Talking Heads, and Television.

August 16, 1974 marked the day when Queens, New Yorkers took the stage in jeans, black leather jackets, and Converse high-tops. It was their debut public performance. With a rapid-fire intro of “One! Two! Three! Four!”, the Ramones kicked their career – and the punk revolution into gear. As Legs McNeil, founder of Punk magazine said, “These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new.” TDH


The Ramones at CBGB


The Ramones were “a bracing antidote to the tamed and bloated corporate rock and roll of the mid-1970s.” TDH They went back to the basics with quick, loud blasts of stripped-down rock consisting just of vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. Their shows were showcases for their philosophy of “no makeup, no egos, no lights shows, no nonsense.” RH The group provided the template for future punk bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash.

The Ramones are a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. According to Dave’s Music Database, the group’s 1976 debut is one of the top 100 albums of all time and their 1978 song “I Wanna Be Sedated” is in the top 1000 songs of the 20th century list.




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Monday, June 24, 1974

Lynyrd Skynyrd released “Sweet Home Alabama”

Updated 1/26/2019.

image from radionostalgia.fm

Sweet Home Alabama

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Writer(s): Ed King/Gary Rossington/Ronnie Van Zant (see lyrics here)


Released: 6/24/1974


First Charted: 7/21/1974


Peak: 8 US, 7 CB, 8 HR, 31 UK, 6 CN, 56 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 3.68 US, 0.6 UK, 4.28 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: 2.0


Video Airplay *: 134.0


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

This ode to the state of Alabama was written by three non-natives. Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington both hailed from Jacksonville, Florida, while Ed King was born in Glendale, California. According to Rossington, the three of them came up with the tune while waiting for the rest of the band to get to rehearsal. WK

The song was written as a response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and “Alabama,” songs implying that American Southerners were “racist and stuck in the past.” SF Lynryd Skynyrd responded with “Sweet Home Alabama,” an ode to Southern pride and which included the comment “Well, I hope Neil Young will remember/ A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”

In his 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, Young acknowledged he deserved the attack in regards to his song “Alabama,” admitting the words “are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.” WK Young reportedly loved Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, saying, “‘I’d rather play ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ than ‘Southern Man’ anytime’…The admiration was mutual; Van Zant wore a Young T-shirt on the cover of Skynyrd’s final album, Street Survivors, and according to legend, he is buried in the shirt.” RS500

Lynyrd Skynyrd stirred controversy with lyrics misinterpreted as supportive of George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama and noted supporter of segregation. WK A line seemingly dismissing the Watergate scandal has been interpreted as a commentary by the band that the South wouldn’t judge all northerners by the failure of their leaders in Watergate and that Southerners shouldn’t all be lumped together as contributing to racial problems. WK


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

Awards: