Wednesday, April 26, 1978

The Band’s concert film, The Last Waltz, premiered: April 26, 1978

Originally posted April 26, 2012.

image from

Sparked by a boating accident which left Richard Manuel seriously injured and Robbie Robertson’s desires to stop touring, WK The Band decided in 1976 to call it quits with a farewell concert appearance. It was held on Thanksgiving Day on November 25, 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. “Everything about the event was over the top” TB for “this marketing-man’s dream” TB with “a 38-piece orchestra, three teams of ballroom dancers” TB and “more than a baker’s dozen guest stars.” AMG

Director Martin Scorsese filmed the concert and made it into a documentary which also featured studio segments and interviews with the band. Released in 1978, it was “one of the first (and still one of the few) rock concert documentaries that was directed by a filmmaker who understood both the look and the sound of rock & roll, and executed with enough technical craft to capture all the nooks and crannies of a great live show.” AMG

The film is “listed among the greatest concert films. Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Wilmington calls it ‘the greatest rock concert movie ever made – and maybe the best rock movie, period.’” WKTotal Film concurs, calling it “the greatest concert film ever shot.” WK It received 36 out of 37 positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for a 97% rating. WK

“The Band are in fine if not exceptional form here; on most cuts, they don’t sound quite as fiery as they did on Rock of Ages, though their performances are never less than expert, and the high points are dazzling, especially an impassioned version of It Makes No Difference and blazing readings of Up on Cripple Creek and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Levon Helm has made no secret that he felt breaking up the Band was a bad idea, and here it sounds if he was determined to prove how much they still had to offer).” AMG

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

In the original concert, The Band performed a set and then were joined by a series of guest artists, starting with Ronnie Hawkins, whom The Band used to back. “Ultimately, it’s the Band’s ‘special guests’ who really make this set stand out.” AMG After Hawkins, guest stars included Dr. John, Bobby Charles, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni, Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan.

“It could be argued that you’re better off watching The Last Waltz on video than listening to it on CD, but either way it's a show well worth checking out.” AMG It “remains a landmark not just for its consistently superb music but for…brilliantly manipulative marketing. Sold on the back of one event, we got the triple album, the movie, the home video, the double-CD reissue, the DVD, and the boxset-set four-CD reissue.” TB


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Saturday, April 1, 1978

Journey “Wheel in the Sky” released

Wheel in the Sky


Writer(s): Robert Fleischman, Neal Schon, Diane Valory (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 1, 1978

Peak: 57 US, 52 CB, 52 HR, 3 CL, 45 CN, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 33.2 video, 66.15 streaming

About the Song:

This is the song that introduced Steve Perry as the future lead singer of Journey. When he came on board for the 1978 Infinity album, Gregg Rolie was still handling some vocal duties, but moving forward Journey would be the Steve Perry show. On that same album, the songs “Feeling That Way/Anytime” provided the perfect showcase of old and new. For “Wheel in the Sky,” however, it is all about Steve Perry.

Interestingly, Perry does not have a co-write on the song as he would with every Journey hit moving forward. The song originated as a poem called “Wheel in My Mind” written by Diane Valory, the wife of Journey’s bassist Ross Valory. WK The lyrics explore a narrator lamenting about being gone from home and hoping to reconnect with a girl once home. The term “wheel in the sky” can be interpreted as a metaphor fo “the various twists and turns of the narrator’s life on the road” WK and “how life goes on no matter our personal struggles.” SF

Guitarist Neal Schon and short-lived lead singer Robert Fleischman shaped it into a song with Fleischman writing new lyrics and Schon writing the melody on acoustic guitar. SF Fleischman had been recruited by Journey with the intent of going “a new direction into an edgier sound and…recording simple hard rock pieces.” WK While he was gone by the time the album was released, he still got songwriting credits, such as on “Wheel in the Sky.”

The song became Journey’s first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. Although its #57 peak didn’t light the music world on fire, it did introduce the band who would, over the next few years, take the world by storm. Cash Box said of the song that it had “tight lick guitar work and effective lead and backing vocals.” WK


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First posted 7/8/2022.