Thursday, November 29, 2018

50 years ago: Van Morrison released Astral Weeks

Astral Weeks

Van Morrison

Released: November 29, 1968

Charted: --

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, -- UK, 0.5 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: folk rock


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

  1. Astral Weeks [7:06] (32 CL)
  2. Beside You [5:16]
  3. Sweet Thing [4:25] (2/6/71, --)
  4. Cyprus Avenue [7:00]
  5. The Way Young Lovers Do [3:18]
  6. Madame George [9:45] (31 CL)
  7. Ballerina [7:03]
  8. Slim Slow Slider [3:17]

All songs written by Van Morrison.

Total Running Time: 47:10

The Players:

  • Van Morrison (vocals, acoustic guitar)
  • John Payne (flute, soprano saxophone on “Slim Slow Slider”)
  • Jay Berliner (guitar)
  • Richard Davis (double bass)
  • Warren Smith Jr. (percussion, vibraphone)
  • Connie Kay (drums)
  • Larry Fallon (string arrangements, conductor, harpsichord on “Cyprus Avenue”)
  • Barry Kornfield (acoustic guitar on “The Way Young Lovers Do”)


4.068 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Astral Weeks was the second studio album from Van Morrison, the Northern Irish singer/songwriter who was formerly “the pint-sized head thug for the ruffian R&B combo Them” EK “which achieved immortality with the garage anthem ‘Gloria.’” TL This album was considered a radical departure from his first album, 1967’s Blowin’ Your Mind,which produced “the irresistible singalong ‘Brown-Eyed Girl.’” TL He then signed to Warner Bros. Records and “assembled a bunch of jazz-based players, took them into a New York studio, and emerged two days later with Astral Weeks.” TL It “is generally considered one of the best albums in pop music history,” AMG although Morrison has dismissed such lofty praise. WK

“It is one of rock’s least-likely masterworks;” TL “in fact, it isn’t a rock & roll album at all,” AMG but “a jazz record disguised as a rock record.” JM It also draws from folk, blues, and classical. It has been described as “achingly beautiful,” EK “an emotional outpouring cast in delicate musical structures,” AMG “an ingenious orchestration of poetry and mysticism” RV and “a languid, impressionistic, utterly gorgeous song cycle.” TL

Morrison told Los Angeles Times, “The songs are poetic stories, so the meaning is the same as always—timeless and unchanging. The songs are works of fiction that will inherently have a different meaning for different people. People take from it whatever their disposition to take from it is.” WK

“Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, Morrison sings in his elastic, bluesy voice, accompanied by a jazz rhythm section.” AMG Among the musicians are drummer Connie Kay, who played with the Modern Jazz Quartet; bassist Richard Davis, who worked on Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch; and guitarist Jay Berliner, who worked with Charles Mingus and others. EK In addition, John Payne is on reeds, Warren Smith, Jr. on vibes, and a string quartet is overdubbed. AMG

It “sounded like nothing he had done previously — and really, nothing anyone had done previously.” TL Kay and Davis, “in particular push what are actually pretty simple songs with an empathy that’s seldom seen outside jazz.” EK “The leap from all that to a delicate, graceful musing on romanticism is basically unprecedented. It’s as if Lost in Translation had starred Tony Danza.” EK

Astral Weeks more or less sank without a trace upon its release. It’s mostly through the critical rehabilitation of guys like Lester Bangs that this album achieved its widespread standing.” EK The album isn’t without its detractors with comments like, this “is a rambling record with a heavy jazz influence, lyrics that rival beat poets, and the average track goes on for seven minutes. It’s no wonder no one cared when it came out.” JM

However, the Warner Bros. publicity department hyped it as “the closest rock music has ever gotten to literature.” EK Morrison “spouts stream of consciousness lyrics like the James Joyce of music.” RV “The title track finds Morrison at his most idyllic.” RV He “takes us from slipstreams and viaducts of your dreams to his lady-love doing her kid’s laundry, possibly while our hero is slumped on the couch watching Green Acres. Van has continued to do this throughout his career…but it’s never been quite as seamless” EK as it is here. The song “encompasses a lifetime in a mere five minutes, making the journey from innocence to experience with all of the heartache such a pilgrimage entails.” RV

“Morrison sings of lost love, death, and nostalgia for childhood in the Celtic soul that would become his signature.” TL He crafts “stories about the people of Ireland, characters searching for the solace and companionship that eludes them. Madame George is an ode to an aging transvestite” RV which is “hypnotic and compelling instead of a three-chord drone.” EK Meanwhile Cyprus Avenue could serve as the theme song for obsessive romantics too nervous to speak to their muse.” RV

Astral Weeks’ “mystic poetry, spacious grooves, and romantic incantations still resonate in ways no other music can.” TL Morrison has created “a beautiful sonic painting.” RV “He never made another record quite like Astral Weeks again.” EW


In 2008, Van Morrison performed all eight of the album’s songs live. It was recorded on November 7 and 8 at the Hollywood Bowl and released as an album the next year.

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 11/30/2013; last updated 1/10/2023.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Jimi Hendrix: Top 25 Songs

Posted 5/20/2019.

Legendary psychedelic-blues/rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix (click link for DMDB encyclopedia entry) was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on 11/27/1942 in Seattle, Washington. He was only 27 when he died of a drug overdose in London on 9/18/1970.

He first worked as a sideman with Rosa Lee Brooks (1964), Isley Brothers (1964), Buddy & Stacey and the Upsetters (1965); Little Richard, Curtis Knight, and Ronnie Youngblood. He formed Jimmy James and the Blue Flames in 1965. The next year he was discovered by the Animals’ Chas Chandler at New York City’s CafĂ© Wha? He went to London and formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1966-1969) with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. He also helmed the Band of Gypsys with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Buddy Cox from 1969 to 1970.

His albums Are You Experienced (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968) are featured in the DMDB book The Top 100 Albums of All Time. His cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” (1968) is featured in the DMDB book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era 1954-1999.

To celebrate his birthday, the DMDB compiled a list of his top 25 songs.

1. All Along the Watchtower (1968)
2. Purple Haze (1967)
3. Hey Joe (1966)
4. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) (1968)
5. Little Wing (1967)

6. Crosstown Traffic (1968)
7. Foxey Lady (1967)
8. Fire (1967)
9. The Wind Cries Mary (1967)
10. Red House (1967)

11. The Star Spanged Banner (live, 1969)
12. Are You Experienced? (1967)
13. Freedom (1970)
14. Burning of the Midnight Lamp (1967)
15. Dolly Dagger (1970)

16. Stone Free (1966)
17. Manic Depression (1967)
18. Angel (1970)
19. Up from the Skies (1967)
20. Castles Made of Sand (1967)

21. Like a Rolling Stone (live, 1967)
22. If 6 Was 9 (1967)
23. Gloria (live, 1968)
24. I Don’t Live Today (1967)
25. Wild Thing (live, 1967)

Friday, November 23, 2018

50 years ago: Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man” topped the country chart

Stand by Your Man

Tammy Wynette

Writer(s): Billy Sherrill, Tammy Wynette (see lyrics here)

Released: September 20, 1968

First Charted: October 19, 1968

Peak: 19 US, 23 CB, 19 HR, 11 AC, 13 CW, 13 UK, 15 CN, 9 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 45.86 video, 56.59 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Producer Billy Sherrill had the idea for the song “Stand by Your Man.” He had the title scribbled on a scrap of paper which he carried in his pocket for a year. During a recording session for Tammy Wynette on August 26, 1968, he suggested the title to her. She “had an instant affinity for the concept.” TR The wrote the song in under a half hour. AC Wynette said that Sherrill told her the melody came from a work by Richard Strauss that was in the public domain. TR

The song stirred controversy amongst the women’s liberation movement as an “example of a compliant wife willing to defer to her husband,” SF but “would play well in the Bible Belt.” AC Wynette defended the song “as not a call for women to place themselves second to men, but rather a suggestion that women attempt to overlook their husbands’ shortcomings and faults if they truly love them.” WK Ironically, she was married five times.

Sherrill admitted that he intended the song for women who wanted no part of feminism. TR “Even though to some skeptics it may hint of chauvinism, as far as I’m concerned they can like it or lump it. ‘Stand by Your Man’ is just another way of saying ‘I love you – without reservations.’” TR

The song was her fifth #1 out of 20 country chart toppers. It took five releases in the UK for it to become a hit, but then it went all the way to #1 in 1975. SF It was “the most successful record of Wynette’s career, and is one of the most familiar songs in the history of country music.” WK In 2003, Country Music Television rated the song the greatest in country in music. WK “With the almost cult status of ‘Stand by Your Man,’ Tammy would never again be just another girl singer, and her stature would demand that country charts make room for…powerful women.” AC


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Tammy Wynette
  • AC Ace Collins (1996). The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. New York, NY; The Berkley Publishing Group. Pages 201-3.
  • TR Tom Roland (1991). The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 16.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 10/27/2021; last updated 10/23/2022.

50 years ago: “Hey Jude” spent 9th week at #1, giving Beatles their biggest hit

Hey Jude

The Beatles

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)

Released: August 26, 1968

First Charted: September 4, 1968

Peak: 19 US, 17 CB, 14 HR, 41 AR (1990 live version by Paul McCartney), 12 UK, 13 CN, 113 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 1.06 UK, 10.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 329.03 video, 394.38 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The birth of “Hey Jude” is a story familiar to anyone versed in Rock and Roll History 101: Cynthia Lennon was soon to be the ex-wife of the famous Beatle. To soothe the couple’s young son, Julian, John’s band mate Paul McCartney offered words of encouragement in the best way he knew how – through song. He changed “Jules” to “Jude” because it was “more mellifluous.” JA Julian said Paul hung out with him more than his own dad. TC

However, there are alternative versions of the inspiration for the rock-and-roll era’s greatest single. In his autobiography, Many Years from Now, McCartney confirms that he thought of the song on the way to visit Cynthia and Julian, TC but that the song was really about himself. KL Meanwhile, Lennon concluded the song was Paul’s commentary on the strain that John and Yoko’s relationship put on the bond between John and Paul. RS500

Regardless of its origin, “‘Hey Jude’ kicks ass on a par with Van Gogh or Beethoven in their prime.” PW As the first single from the Beatles’ new Apple Records label, it was history’s highest debut (at #10) on the U.S. charts at that time. FB It became the best-selling single of the sixties JA and the Beatles’ biggest U.S. hit.

At over seven minutes, “Hey Jude” was the longest single ever released at the time. SF More than half the song’s length is borne out of the “na na na“ fade-out coda that repeats 19 times. RS500 Those four-plus minutes alone were more than most radio stations allowed for a single, but “there’s such spirit in the tune and the performance that it’s hard to cut.” TC Interestingly, the featured orchestra was paid double their usual fee just to clap and sing along. RS500 Producer George Martin was wary that radio wouldn’t play “Hey Jude,” to which John cheekily retorted, “They will if it’s us.” RS500 When Lennon’s assumption proved correct, the real winners were DJ’s who could take longer bathroom breaks as the listening public absorbed similarly lengthy hits like “American Pie” and “Layla.”


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Beatles
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 247.
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 239-40.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Pages 74-5.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 143.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/2004). The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • SF Songfacts
  • PW Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Page 137.

Related Links:

Last updated 8/24/2022.