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 Musician John Martyn, who wrote the title song of his 1973 album Solid Air about Drake, described him as the most withdrawn person he’d ever met.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's “Free Bird” flies on to the chart

Free Bird

Lynyrd Skynyrd

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


First Charted: November 16, 1974


Peak: 19 US, 25 CB, 31 HR, 1 CL, 21 UK, 47 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


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


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 128.84 video, 348.6 streaming

Free Bird

Arnold McCuller


Released: September 12, 2000 (album cut on Duets soundtrack)


Peak: 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 0.07 video, -- streaming

Awards (Lynyrd Skynyrd):

Click on award for more details.


Awards (Arnold McCuller):

About the Song:

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 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 “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 in a plane crash in 1977 along with two other band members.

In 2000, the movie Duets focused on karaoke competitions. One of the contestants, Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher), is a convict. While he is performing a stripped-down, emotional version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” the police arrive to arrest him.


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Last updated 8/4/2022.

Saturday, November 9, 1974

BTO hit #1 with “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Writer(s): Randy Bachman (see lyrics here)


First Charted: September 21, 1974


Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 13 RR, 1 CL, 2 UK, 13 CN, 4 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 18.4 video, 145.26 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Randy Bachman made his name as a member of the Guess Who, co-writing their #1 hit “American Woman.” He went on to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive, who built a following and had a #12 hit with “Taking Care of Business.” When Charlie Fach, the A&R guy, listened to the band’s third album, Not Fragile, he liked it but didn’t hear a hit. The band played him “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” and he said “that’s the track. It’s got a brightness to it.” WK

Bachman, however, saw it as an embarrassment. SG He wrote the song making fun of his brother, Gary, who had a stutter and was the band’s original manager. Randy thought, “just for fun, we’d take this song and I’d stutter and we’d send it to him. He’ll have the only copy in the world.” FB It was “the song that the band bangs out while procrastinating on doing their real work.” SG It became “the biggest thing his band would ever make” SG and “the song that defines the band.” SG

Because of his religious beliefs, Bachman maintained strict rules about the band members staying away from drinking, drugs, and premarital sex on the road. SG The irony is that “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is “about a guy who’s so overcome by having the best sex of his life that he basically loses his mind.” SG It became “one of the most giddily horny classic-rock anthems of the ‘70s.” SG

Billboard described the song as a “basic rocker featuring licks of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Jane.’” WK Rock critic Dave Marsh called it “a direct steal from the Who,” but “an imaginative one.” WK Vocally, the stuttering in the song is reminiscent of the Who’s “My Generation.” Bachman did acknowledge the song was made of “stitched-together parts” including the “surging rhythm guitar” of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” “the grand guitar melody” from Dave Mason’s “Only You Know and I Know,” the “bright, sparkly beat” from the Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music,” and the heavy cowbell from Free’s “All Right Now.” SG


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First posted 4/3/2022; last updated 7/24/2022.

Ace “How Long” charted

How Long

Ace

Writer(s): Paul Carrack (see lyrics here)


First Charted: November 9, 1974


Peak: 3 US, 11 CB, 3 GR, 3 HR, 3 RR, 24 AC, 1 CL, 20 UK, 3 CN, 63 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 45.22 video, 38.33 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Singer/songwriter and musician Paul Carrack was born in 1951 in Sheffield, England. The BBC called him “The Man with the Golden Voice.” WC He experienced some success as a solo artist (“I Need You,” “Don’t Shed a Tear”) but has generally achieved his greatest success as part of other people’s groups, including Squeeze (“Tempted”) and Mike + the Mechanics (“Silent Running,” “The Living Years”). He’s also been a touring member with Eric Clapton and Roger Waters and worked as a keyboardist with Roxy Music. Record Collector said, “If vocal talent equalled financial success, Paul Carrack would be a bigger name than legends such as Phil Collins or Elton John.” WC

He was first thrust into the spotlight in the mid-‘70s as the frontman and principal songwriter of Ace from 1972 to 1977. They released three albums, with only the first, Five-A-Side, finding any real success (#11, US). That was primarily due to the song “How Long,” which was a #3 hit in the US and reached #20 in the UK. Phil Collins called the song a “classic single” and ranked it as one of his top 10 favorites. WH

Carrack said the song “lifted Ace out of the London pub-rock circuit.” UCR Most bands were doing covers, but Ace wrote their own material. He wrote the lyrics on the back of a bus ticket while heading to his future mother-in-law’s house. UCR While the song is interpreted as being about adultery, Carrack said it was inspired by a different kind of cheating. His band felt betrayed when they found out bassist, Terry “Tex” Comer, had secretly been working with other groups. The line “friends with their fancy persuasions” is said to refer to the management of the groups Sutherland Brothers and Quiver. WH

The song experienced a resurgence in 2020, topping Billboard’s Rock Digital Song Sales chart after its use in an ad for Amazon Prime titled “Binge Cheat” which featured the song’s opening line (“How long has this been going on?”). UCR


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First posted 12/6/2022; last updated 12/29/2022.

Monday, November 4, 1974

Elton John's first Greatest Hits released

This page has been moved here where the Greatest Hits compilation and other Elton John anthologies are highlighted on one page to offer a career retrospective.