Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Beatles released Abbey Road: September 26, 1969

First posted on 9/26/12. Reposted on 9/26/13.

image from

Release date: 26 September 1969
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Come Together (10/18/69, #1 US, #4 UK, #25 AR, sales: 2.0 m, air: 2.0 m) / Something (10/18/69, #3 US, #4 UK, sales: 2.0 m, air: 5.0 m) / Maxwell's Silver Hammer / Oh! Darling / Octopus’ Garden / I Want You (She’s So Heavy) / Here Comes the Sun (air: 3.0 m) / Because / You Never Give Me Your Money / Sun King / Mr. Mustard / Polythene Pam / She Came in Through the Bathroom Window / Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End / Her Majesty

Sales (in millions): 12.0 US, 1.93 UK, 29.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 111 US, 117 UK


Review: In January of 1969, The Beatles were “exhausted and angry with one another after the disastrous sessions for the aborted Get Back LP,” RS500 a project which resurfaced in the spring of 1970 as the Beatles’ official final album, “the messy, joyless Let It Be.” TL John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono were more interested in promoting themselves as “avant garde peacenik performance artists” JI and the group was feuding over who should control the finances. Even their producer, “the normallly unruffled” George Martin, said “I don’t want to be part of this anymore.” JI

As a result, he was surprised when Paul McCartney asked him to help produce a Beatles’ record “like we used to.” JI “Determined to go out with the same glory with which they had first entranced the world at the start of the decade, the group reconvened at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios.” RS500 “Though the break-up was looming, you'd never know it.” TL Martin said, “It was a very happy record. I guess it was happy because everybody thought it was going to be the last.” RS500 It was: “August 20th marked the last time all four members were together in the studio they had made famous.” RS500

The resulting album was “a collection of superb songs” RS500 which showed the group “still pushing forward in all facets of their art.” AMG Abbey Road echoed “some of the faux-conceptual forms of Sgt. Pepper, but featuring stronger compositions and more rock-oriented ensemble work.” AMG It was “cut with an attention to refined detail;” RS500 indeed, it was the group’s “most polished and crafted long player” TL and “the best sounding Beatles’ record.” JI It made for “a fitting swan song for the group.” AMG

“John Lennon veered from the stormy metal of I Want You (She’s So Heavy) to the exquisite vocal sunrise of BecauseRS500 to the “driving funk of Come Together.” TL

Come Together

“Paul McCartney was saucy (Oh! Darling), silly (Maxwell’s Silver Hammer) and deliciously bitter (You Never Give Me Your Money).” RS500 “Paul’s surging, melodic bass playing alone would make this album a landmark.” TL

Here Comes the Sun

“George Harrison also blossomed into a major songwriter, contributing the buoyant” AMG “folk-pop diamond Here Comes the Sun, written in his friend Eric Clapton’s garden after a grim round of business meetings.” RS500 “The supremely melodic ballad Something…became the first Harrison-penned Beatles hit.” AMG Frank Sinatra called the latter “the greatest love song of the last fifty years.” JI


“A series of song fragments edited together in suite form dominates side two.” AZ McCartney wanted an entire album of songs which linked together while Lennon pushed for each song to be separate, “preferably with all of his on one side.” JI They compromised with Lennon’s approach for the first side and McCartney’s concept for most of the second. That grab bag on the second side “might only be a bunch of bits and scraps stuck together, but it still sounds fantastic.” TL “Its portentous, touching, official close (Golden Slumbers/ Carry That Weight/ The End) is nicely undercut, in typical Beatles fashion, by…McCartney’s cheeky Her Majesty, which follows.” AZ

Golden Slumbers/ Carry That Weight/ The End

“Whether Abbey Road is the Beatles’ best work is debatable, but it’s certainly the most immaculately produced (with the possible exception of Sgt. Pepper) and most tightly constructed.” AMG Also, “Lennon, McCartney and Harrison reputedly sang more three-part harmony here than on any other Beatles album.” RS500 “A worthy last chapter for the greatest band of all.” TL

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons died: September 19, 1973

Originally posted 9/19/11. Updated 9/19/13.

Gram Parsons has been called “the father of country-rock.” STE Writer Radley Balko argues that “Parsons may be the most influential artist yet to be inducted to either the Rock and Roll Country Music Hall(s) of Fame.” WK He was only 26 when he died on September 19, 1973 from an overdose of morphine and alcohol. However, he left behind an immensely influential body of work with his two solo albums as well as work with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

The circumstances surrounding his death make for one of rock and roll’s more unusual stories. Before launching his tour in support of his second solo album, Grievous Angel, he went to Joshua Tree National Monument in California. The spot was a frequent getaway and he’d even told his tour manager, Phil Kaufman, that when he died he wanted his ashes spread there. The resulting chain of events maded for an unbelievable and comic story; it was even turned into the 2003 movie Grand Theft Parsons starring Johnny Knoxville.

Parsons’ stepfather intended the body to be shipped from Los Angeles International Airport to New Orleans for a private ceremony. With a borrowed hearse, Kaufman and Michael Martin, a former roadie with the Byrds, stole the body from the airport and headed to Joshua Tree. Once there, they poured five gallons of gasoline into Parsons’ coffin and threw a lit match inside. It made for an enormous fireball, but not a successful cremation. Kaufman and his friend were arrested several days later and fined $750 for stealing the coffin, but there was no law against stealing a dead body. They were also not prosecuted for the 35 pounds of charred remains they left behind in their failed effort. WK

Parsons came from a wealthy but troubled family. He was born in 1946 to “Coon Dog” Connor, a World War II flying ace, and Avis, the daughter of John Snivley who owned about one-third of Florida’s citrus fields. STE Both parents were alcoholics. Two days before Christmas in 1958, Coon Dog committed suicide. WK Avis moved in with her parents in Florida and a year later married Robert Parsons. STE Tragedy struck again when, on the same day Gram graduated from high school, his mom died from alcohol poisoning.

Musically, Parsons was smitten with music at 9 years old after seeing Elvis Presley perform at his school. As a teen, he was a member of several bands. In his solitary semester at Harvard, formed the International Submarine Band. They released an album, Safe at Home, in 1968 but the group was already defunct by its release.

Parsons met Chris Hillman, the bassist of the Byrds, and was brought into the group. He only lasted one album – 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo, but it is considered one of the most important in the development of country-rock.

He then formed the Flying Burrito Brothers with Hillman. They released two albums, 1969’s The Gilded Palace of Sin and 1970’s Burrito Deluxe. During this era, Parsons became close friends with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. He also dove deep into substance abuse.

After a failed attempt in 1971 to record his first solo album, Parsons released G.P. in late-1972. A second album, Grievous Angel, was released after his death.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Katy Perry hits #1 with “Roar”

Last updated 3/15/2020.


Katy Perry

Writer(s): Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Henry Walter (see lyrics here)

Released: August 10, 2013

First Charted: August 11, 2013

Peak: 12 US, 15 RR, 115 AC, 15 A40, 12 UK, 15 CN, 19 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.2 UK, 13.08 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.14 radio, 3061.79 video, 200.0 streaming


About the Song:

For the lead single for her Prism album, Katy Perry and her songwriting team crafted a message of empowerment, which many saw as a commentary on her failed marriage to Russell Brand. She told BBC Radio 1 “I wrote it because I was sick of keeping all these feelings inside me and not speaking up for myself.” SF Fellow co-writer Bonnie McKee described it as a “pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep going” song. WK Max Martin, another of the songwriters, talked about seeing a video of the staff from a children’s hospital singing the song. “A song finds its way outside the studio and comes to really mean something to people. It’s not every time that I’m proud of a tune, but I am when it comes to a song like ‘Roar.’” SF

Musically, the song “features elements of arena rock” WK while the lyrics reference Muhammad Ali, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” and the “eye of the tiger” phrase from the 1982 movie Rocky III. The movie’s main character, Rocky Balboa, used the phrase as “a mantra of courage and determination.” SF The movie’s theme song, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, topped the U.S. charts for six weeks.

MTV’s James Montgomery called it “one of the more perfect pop songs to come down the pipeline in quite a while.” WK There was controversy over the song’s similarities to Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.” McKee said she’d never heard the song and noted it was written before “Brave” even came out. SF Bareilles said “People got really excited about being angry about something…Katy is an old friend and I had no beef with her.” SF “If I’m not mad, I don’t know why anybody else is upset.” WK

“Roar” hit #1 in 15 countries, SF including the U.S., where it was her eighth #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was only the eleventh song to debut at #1 on the Canadian Hot 100 WK and Australia’s best-selling song of 2013. SF. It was certified for more than ten million sales in the U.S., making her the first act with three songs in that range. WK Perry became the first artist in history to have two videos garner one billion views on Vevo. WK It garnered Peoples’ Choice Awards for Favorite Music Video and Favorite Song. Perry opened her 2015 Super Bowl halftime show with the song and also performed it at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

The video cast Perry as a kind of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. The presence of exotic animals earned criticism from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Spokeswoman Merrilee Burke said that just having them on set exposed the animals to unnecessary stress. SF Perry responded with a letter from the American Humane Society affirming “that no animal was harmed in the making of this music video.” WK

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” spends 12th week at #1

Last updated 3/15/2020.

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke with Pharrell Williams & T.I.

Writer(s): Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris Jr. (see lyrics here)

Released: March 26, 2013

First Charted: April 13, 2013

Peak: 112 US, 110 RR, 7 AC, 16 A40, 116a RB, 15 UK, 113 CN, 18 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.95 UK, 15.60 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.43 radio, 636.0 video, 200.0 streaming


About the Song:

Before 2013, Robin Thicke had a respectable amount of success. He wasn’t a household name like his father, actor Alan Thicke, but he’d released five albums, three of which hit the top 10 on the Billboard album chart. He’d released more than a dozen singles, topping the R&B chart twice with “Lost Without U” in 2007 and “Sex Therapy” in 2009. The former was his only appearance on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #14. Guest appearances from chart-topping American singer and producer Pharrell Williams (#1 twice before) and rapper T.I. (three previous #1’s) gave the song clout, but “Blurred Lines” even trumped their previous successes.

The “disco-influenced funk track” BB topped the charts in 14 countries and hit the top 5 in another 14. WK The song’s dozen weeks atop the Hot 100 made it the longest-running #1 of 2013 in the U.S. and of the second decade of the 21st century. In just over six months, it sold 6 million downloads, faster than any other song in digital history. WK The song also set the record for the highest weekly audience with 228.9 million. BB Jackson Howard of The Michigan Daily said it was “one of Pharrell’s best beats in years…by the time the multilayered and carnal harmonies of the chorus come in, the song is completely on fire.” WK Billboard’s Chris Payne called it a “bubbly bit of disco-shuffling R&B.” WK On the flip side, Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield called it “the worst song of this or any other year.” WK

The song generated controversy on several fronts. A video featuring topless models was initially removed from YouTube, but later restored, although flagged as inappropriate. Thicke’s manager, Jordan Feldstein, said the video was specifically designed to be controversial in the hopes of getting banned and going viral. WK It did – inspiring countless online parodies. BB Thicke said of the video, “What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.” He later said the comments were a bad joke and that the video was tongue-in-cheek. WK He even tried to claim the song was “actually a feminist movement within itself.” SF

In addition, the song’s lyrics were attacked as being misogynistic and promoting date rape. WK Thicke was also sued by the estate of singer Marvin Gaye for the song’s similarities to “Got to Give It Up;” Thicke admitted he wanted to capture the vibe of what he called his favorite song of all time. SF Thicke also generated negative attention when he performed “Lines” as a medley with Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” at the MTV Video Music Awards. It became the most-tweeted-about even in history with 360,000 tweets per minute. WK

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