Straight outta Worcester, MA, the J. Geils Band was a vital reminder that rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be fun and sweaty. From the hard R&B of their early albums, to their New Wave-influenced hits in the early ‘80s, these fellas always delivered the goods. So, let’s get down, no?
34 years ago today, The Doobie Brothers released One Step Closer, their ninth studio album and – as it turned out – the last studio album they’d release before disbanding for more than half a decade.
All things being equal, it’s possible that it was time for the Doobies to call it quits for a while, anyway: by the beginning of 1981, there wasn’t a single founding member of the band left in their lineup, and those who remained were well aware that it was only a matter of time before Michael McDonald kicked off a solo career. (Given that McDonald’s unmistakable voice could already be heard in so many other people’s songs, from Christopher Cross’s “Ride Like the Wind” to Nicolette Larson’s “Let Me Go, Love” to Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It,” it often seemed as if he’d already done so.)
It’s not that One Step Closer didn’t sell well (it hit #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and went platinum) nor that it didn’t feature any hit singles (“Real Love” went to #5, the title track made it into the top-40, and even “Keep This Train A-Rollin’” was a minor hit), but it’s clear that there’d been a major shift in the creative control of the band, and…well, fine, we’ll just go ahead and say it: there’s something not quite right when the rock ‘n’ roll band responsible for “Listen to the Music,” “Long Train Runnin’,” and “Black Water” kicks off an album with a song co-written by Paul Anka.
29 years ago today, The Waterboys released the album that their leader, Mike Scott, has called “the record on which I achieved all my youthful musical ambitions,” but we’d sum it up thusly: on the band’s first two albums, you saw the crescent, but with This Is The Sea, you saw the whole of the moon.
Mick Fitzsimmons of the BBC once wrote that This Is The Sea “may well be listed in the dictionary under the word epic,” and it’s a fair cop: The Waterboys’ self-titled debut was good, their sophomore effort, A Pagan Place, definitely didn’t see the band suffering any sort of slump, but it’s this, their third album, that’s the first true classic of their early career…and, if we’re to be honest, it wouldn’t be so terribly improper to say that it’s still one of the best albums they’ve ever released. Maybe it’s not as front-to-back brilliant as the follow-up, Fisherman’s Blues, but you wouldn’t likely have many fans disagreeing with the premise that it features one of the best Waterboys songs of all time…even if they’d probably concede that Mr. Scott didn’t exactly do everything he could to promote it.
Five years ago today, the world of folk music lost one of its most famous female icons, a rare member of the Greenwich Village music scene who actually grew up in Greenwich Village, and, yes, the woman who put the “Mary” in “Peter, Paul and Mary.”
Mary Allin Travers was born on November 6, 1936, in Louisville, Kentucky, to parents who were both journalists and organizers of the trade union known as The Newspaper Guild, so it should hardly be surprising to anyone that she found herself drawn toward singing protest songs. Travers and her family moved to New York City when she was two years old, but it wasn’t until she was almost into her twenties when she made her first major foray into a career in music by joining the Song Swappers in 1955.
The Peter, Paul and Mary story, however, didn’t begin until 1961, when manager Albert Grossman created the group through a series of auditions. After trying out Travers, Noel (Paul) Stookey, and Peter Yarrow as a trio by having them perform shows in Boston and Miami, Grossman got them a hometown gig at The Bitter End, and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history: in short order, Peter, Paul and Mary’s self-titled debut album was atop the Billboard Top 200, spending seven weeks there overall, and the band’s singles “Lemon Tree” and “If I Had a Hammer” were both top-40 hits, with their covers of “500 Miles” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” quickly becoming folk standards as well.
Soul. R&B. Funk. With a little LA smooth and late 70s synths for good measure. This is the September Jukebox. This edition pays tribute to both the late greats: Bobby Womack, Jackie Shane, Terry Callier, Nina Simone and those who are still with us.
Six years ago today, the music world lost one of the founding members of Pink Floyd: Rick Wright, best known for his vocal contributions and his work on keyboards…and by “keyboards,” of course, we mean piano, Farfisa and Hammond organ, Mellotron, Minimoog, and various and sundry other synthesizers. In other words, if it’s a Pink Floyd song featuring an instrument involving keys of any sort, then you’ll find that it was Mr. Wright doing the playing far, far more often than not.
Born in 1943 in Middlesex, England, Richard William Wright started his music career in self-taught fashion, figuring out for himself how to play guitar, trumpet and piano before he was even into his teens. Wright soon got professional help by taking private lessons at the Eric Gilder School of Music, but it was at a different educational institution altogether – Regent Street Polytechnic, to be precise – where he first crossed paths with his future bandmates Roger Waters and Nick Mason. In the end, Wright didn’t last long at the school, instead opting to attend the London College of Music, but within a couple of years, he was part of Pink Floyd, which likely proved more to be a far more financially lucrative career than architecture ever would have.