Saturday, February 16, 1974

Gram Parsons’ Grievous Angel charted

First posted 2/24/2008; updated 12/3/2020.

Grievous Angel

Gram Parsons


Charted: February 16, 1974


Peak: 195 US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): 0.14 US, -- UK, 0.14 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: country rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Return of the Grievous Angel (Gram Parsons, Tom Brown) [4:19]
  2. Hearts on Fire (Walter Egan, Tom Guidera) [3:50]
  3. I Can’t Dance (Tom T. Hall) [2:20]
  4. Brass Buttons (Parsons) [3:27]
  5. $1000 Wedding (Parsons) [5:00]
  6. Cash on the Barrelhead (Charlie Louvin, Ira Louvin) [2:12]
  7. Hickory Wind (Parsons, Rob Buchanan) [4:15]
  8. Love Hurts (Boudleaux Bryant) [3:40]
  9. Ooh Las Vegas (Parsons, Ric Grech) [3:29]
  10. In My Hour of Darkness (Parsons, Emmylou Harris) [3:42]


Total Running Time: 36:14

Rating:

4.379 out of 5.00 (average of 15 ratings)


Quotable: Established Parsons as “the patron saint of alt-country.” – Mark Deming, All Music Guide


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Gram Parsons fondness for drugs and high living are said to have been catching up with him while he was recording Grievous Angel, and sadly he wouldn’t live long enough to see it reach record stores, dying from a drug overdose in the fall of 1973.” MD “Released four months after Parsons went to that great nightclub in the sky, Grievous Angel was more than a final bow. It infused the ex Byrd and Flying Burrito Brothers cosmic tang with melancholy soul, breathing new life into both country and rock & roll” BL and establishing Parsons as “the patron saint of alt-country.” MD

“This album is a less ambitious and unified set than his solo debut, but that’s to say that G.P. was a great album while Grievous Angel was instead a very, very good one. Much of the same band that played on his solo debut were brought back for this set, and they perform with the same effortless grace and authority (especially guitarist James Burton and fiddler Byron Berline).” MD

“If Parsons was slowing down a bit as a songwriter, he still had plenty of gems on hand from more productive days, such as Brass Buttons and Hickory Wind (which wasn't really recorded live in Northern Quebec; that’s just Gram and the band ripping it up live in the studio, with a handful of friends whooping it up to create honky-tonk atmosphere). He also proved to be a shrewd judge of other folks material as always; Tom T. Hall’s I Can’t Dance is a strong barroom rocker, and everyone seems to be having a great time on The Louvin Brothers’ Cash on the Barrelhead.” MD

“As a vocal duo, Parsons and Emmylou Harris only improved on this set, turning in a version of Love Hurts so quietly impassioned and delicately beautiful that it’s enough to make you forget Roy Orbison ever recorded it. And while he didn’t plan on it, Parsons could hardly have picked a better closing gesture than In My Hour of Darkness. Grievous Angel may not have been the finest work of his career, but one would be hard pressed to name an artist who made an album this strong only a few weeks before their death – or at any time of their life, for that matter.” MD


Notes: The CD reissue combined this album with Parsons’ debut G.P.

Resources and Related Links:

Tuesday, February 12, 1974

50 years ago: George Gershwin performed “Rhapsody in Blue” for the first time

First posted 2/12/2014; updated 3/19/2021.

Rhapsody in Blue

Paul Whiteman with George Gershwin

Writer(s): George Gershwin


First Performed: February 12, 1924


Recorded: June 10, 1924


First Charted: October 18, 1924


Peak: 3 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 33.62 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“This episodic and jazzy one-movement piano concerto” NPR was “highbrow pop music that became an instant pop standard.” CR It has been called George Gershwin’s “most identifiable masterpiece” and “one of the most enduring pieces of American music.” NPR “The sprawling fifteen-minute tune pulls together classical music and jazz.” CR It is a “landmark in popular music history” which “stands as an eternal symbol of the American ethos.” SS Gershwin himself called the work “a musical kaleidoscope of America.” WK In 1974, it was also one of the eight original inductees to the Grammy Hall of Fame. In How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elijah Wald called the piece “the Sgt. Pepper of the 1920s.“ SS

Gershwin left school at age 16 and five years later had “the biggest hit in the world” CR with Al Jolson’s “Swanee.” He was interested in taking his work beyond Tin Pan Alley and onto a concert stage. Paul Whiteman, “undisputed as America’s most popular bandleader,” SS-16 had similar ideas and asked Gershwin to write a piece for a jazz concerto. SS He sketched out the idea for a rhapsody which he composed in just a few weeks, although he reportedly told a friend at the time that everything he knew about harmony could be put on a three-cent stamp. SS His brother Ira suggested the name after a visit to a gallery exhibition featuring, among other works, the well-known “Whistler’s Mother.” WK Whiteman was so moved by the piece he wept. SS

On February 12, 1924, Gershwin and Whiteman’s Orchestra performed the piece for the first time to a full-capacity Aeolian Hall in New York. Among the crowd were legendary composers Igor Stravinsky, John Philip Sousa, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Most of the show was met with an indifferent response, but “Rhapsody” was greeted with enthusiastic applause. SS In The Nation, Henrietta Strauss declared that Whiteman and Gershwin had “added a new chapter to our musical history.” SS

Whiteman and Gershwin recorded the song that June and it reached #3 before year’s end. Three years later, a new electrically-recorded version hit #7. PM The Glenn Miller Orchestra went to #13 with its version in 1943. PM Woody Allen also used it in his film score for Manhattan.


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for George Gershwin
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Paul Whiteman
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 394.
  • NPR National Public Radio web site (1999). “The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 16.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 172, 312.
  • WK Wikipedia

Saturday, February 9, 1974

Billy Joel charted with “Piano Man”

First posted 4/28/2020.

Piano Man

Billy Joel

Writer(s): Billy Joel (see lyrics here)


Released: November 2, 1973


First Charted: February 9, 1974


Peak: 25 US, 16 CB, 19 HR, 23 RR, 4 AC, 1 CL, 10 CN, 20 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 0.1 US, 0.5 UK, 0.6 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 192.1 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

“Great songs tell a story and…‘Piano Man’ paints a vivid portrait of a specific place and time, every time you hear it.” UCR Joel crafted “an indelible mental portrait of the characters who inhabit a watering hole on a Saturday night.” UCR “You can almost see the haze of cigarette smoke and hear the clinking of glasses.” UCR

The song grew out of Joel’s six-month stint as a lounge pianist in which he “he pecked out standards for lost souls.” RS500 It was 1971 and he performed under the name Bill Martin at the Executive Room in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles. SJ He left his native New York City to perform under an alias in another state and get out of his recording contracts with Ripp and Paramount Records after two failed bands – the Hassles and Attila – and a solo album that bombed. SJ As he said, “It was all right…I got free drinks and union scale, which was the first steady money I’d made in a long time.” RS500

“Piano Man” referenced real people he met while working there – John the bartender, Davy who really was in the Navy, and real estate broker and wanna-be novelist Paul. He also sang about the “Hollywood types” who “put bread in my jar, and say, ‘Man what are you doing here?’” SJ

One of them was Clive Davis, the president of Columbia Records. Davis signed him SJ and the resulting Piano Man album featured the title cut which launched Joel’s career. He was “one of the biggest singers of the next 25 years” UCR and although he had bigger hits – including three pop chart-toppers – “few could be considered more beloved.” UCR


Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, February 2, 1974

Barbra Streisand hit #1 with “The Way We Were”

The Way We Were

Barbra Streisand

Writer(s): Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch (see lyrics here)


First Charted: October 20, 1973


Peak: 13 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 13 RR, 12 AC, 31 UK, 11 CN, 6 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 22.6 video, 33.41 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“The Way We Were” “capped a rare entertainment grand slam” AMG in that the song, album, and movie all hit #1. AMG Streisand was no stranger to the Billboard pop charts, having racked up 20 hits since “People,” taken from the musical Funny Girl, charted in 1964. However, “The Way We Were” was her first chart-topper – she would accomplish the feat four more times – and her second of eight to the adult contemporary charts.

Barbra conveys “the lyric with great passion and style, without resorting to overly sentimental histrionics.” AMG The result was the biggest song of 1974 WHC and one of her “finest performances.” AMG The song is “ingrained into the memory of anyone who was listening to radio in the mid-’70s.” AMG

The movie “starred Streisand and Robert Redford as a pair of opposites who fall in love. They are followed “from college to marriage to divorce and beyond.” BR The use of the word “memories” throughout the song perfectly captures the essence of the film’s focus on “emotions of long-term (and long-lost) love.” AMG

The original movie version of the song was recorded with an orchestral backing which was scrapped in favor of a more pop arrangement for the single and Barbra’s subsequent album of the same name. BB

When awards season hit, the track took home prizes for Best Song at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. The song was also ranked #8 on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 film songs of all time. WK


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Barbra Streisand
  • AMG All Music Guide by Matthew Greenwald
  • BB Billboard (9/08). “All-Time Hot 100
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 356.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 101.
  • WK Wikipedia.org

First posted 2/2/2012; updated 4/30/2021.