This posting was inspired by meeting a couple recently who hail from Leicester in England. We were talking about the scene in Britain in 1977 with Kevin Keegan being the top footballer in all of Europe, as well as Keegan sparking a national hairstyle craze among men.
In terms of ex-members of The Fab Four in 1977, a significant event happened. That August Paul McCartney and Wings’ guitarist Denny Laine co-wrote “Mull of Kintyre”, a song which has no significance to people in the U.S. It was recorded by Wings in September and appeared on their London Town album.
The song was inspired by the Kintyre peninsula in Argyll, Scotland where McCartney had a home and recording studio since the Beatle days.
The song was a hit before, during and after Christmas 1977, staying in the # 1 position on the British charts for nine weeks. The song overtook “She Loves You” as the biggest-selling single in British history. “Mull of Kintyre” held this distinction until 1984 when Band Aid scored big with their charity hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” However, “Mull of Kintyre” remains the biggest-selling non-charity single in British history. The 1977 hit was the first single in UK history to sell over two million copies.
Surprisingly, the song was invisible in the U.S., only reaching # 33 on the charts in 1977 and leaving the Top 40 portion of The Billboard Hot 100 after only one week. McCartney has specifically not played the song on concert dates in the U.S., while playing it in Canada and most other countries. For instance, he could do a concert in New York one night and not play the song, then do a concert two nights later in Toronto and play the song.
Almost forty years after its release, “Mull of Kintyre” remains totally unknown to the American general public. Unrelated to the famous song about this beautiful location in Scotland,, an October 8, 2013 article in the Daily Mail entitled “How Mull of Kintyre Lost Its Magic for Paul McCartney” paints an interesting scenario for the location of the Mull of Kintyre, where McCartney has owned his High Park Farm since 1966.
Last Sunday BeatlesHistorian.com had the great fortune of being profiled in a syndicated column in the U.S. “The Word Watch” column by Robert Kyff is one that has been around for 25 years and examines the world of words. Originating in the Hartford Courant, a newspaper in the Tribune Corporation family of publications, this column appears in many other newspapers in the U.S. as well. The article is entitled “Beatles Lyrics Gave Fans Brit Speak to Decipher” and addresses the usage of quirky British terms in lyrics.
In terms of the Americanisms in Beatles lyrics, there is the famous story of when John and Paul finished “She Loves You” in Paul’s house and played it to Paul’s father, Jim McCartney. Jim McCartney was not at all pleased with the refrain “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” and urged them to change it to the grammatically correct “Yes, Yes, Yes”. In a 2012 interview with National Public Radio, Paul repeated the famous story that his father boldly stated, “There are enough of these Americanisms around”.
In the last few months, there have been two novels in which members of The Beatles are central characters, Beatlebone by Kevin Barry and Get Back: Imagine Saving John Lennon by Donovan Day. Both of these 2015 novels have been reviewed many times.
The second novel from Irish writer Kevin Barry, Beatlebone covers a fictitious trip to the west coast of Ireland by John Lennon in 1978. In real life, John Lennon purchased a small island called Dorinish in Clew Bay, County Mayo in 1967 for the sum of 1,550 pounds. A November 22, 2015 review in the New York Times “In Beatlebone, An Imagined Trip with John Lennon” gave interesting insight into the novel, “…..is about John Lennon. It follows him closely for around 200 pages, through a few comically calamitous days in 1978, as he travels through western Ireland to an island off its coast, bought on a lark 11 years earlier……a few days alone on his island, he hopes, will bring him the peace that marriage and fatherhood, though he loves them, haven’t. The poignant knowledge that this is an end-of-life crisis , not a middle-of-life one: that belongs to us not to him.”
The second novel that is a fictional work about The Beatles was also published in late 2015. Get Back: Imagine…..Saving John Lennon by first-time novelist Donovan Day has received equally positive reviews. The plot centers around 17 year-old Lenny Funk who uses time travel to go back to the 1960’s to befriend the Fab Four. One moment it is 2015 and he is listening to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” on his iPod, and the same day he is in London, soon to befriend The Beatles at the height of their fame. The dialogue from 2015 New York to London in the 1960’s is right on target. Showing John Lennon his smartphone and all its features as something from the future, the Beatle is amazed. On the subject of the future, John quizzically asks Lenny, “What is going to happen to me?”
The passage about John being told what a selfie is conveys how successful Lenny is is transitioning from 2015 right back to London in 1964:
“Uh, how about we take a selfie?”
“What in God’s name is a selfie?”
“It’s a photo of us together that we take ourselves.”
He crosses his arms. “Show me.”
I toy with the settings a moment, reach out my arm, and move my head closer to John’s. “Okay, smile.”
Incredibly he does, looking at our image on screen as if mesmerized. I take the photo and show it to him – me and John Lennon side by side. I am ecstatic. This is real proof no one can deny.
………..He smiles proudly. “I don’t know if you are lying to me or if you are a lunatic, but you are different, I’ll say that much. This thing, this phone or camera, or whatever it is? If you invented this thing, you need to come work for us. Brian can set you up in his office.”
Lenny Funk’s travel back to save John Lennon from being murdered on the ill-fated day of December 8, 1980 becomes the focus of the plot and will have readers turning the pages of the book very quickly. The book review “Get Back: A Time-Travel Adventure to Save Lennon” by Shelley Germeaux gives a good appraisal of this young-adult novel.
The fact that John Lennon is a main character in both of the recent novels Beatlebone and Get Back: Imagine Saving John Lennon should be of interest to Beatles fans. Both novels are good reads.
All Beatles fans – and the world at large- know that Yoko Ono is Japanese, but the majority may not know her family’s background. A previous post on this blog, “Linda McCartney vs. Yoko Ono: Rivalry and Comparisons” mentioned the irony that while Yoko and Linda may have had a healthy rivalry, they were similar in so many ways: both came from wealthy families who lived in the posh NYC suburb of Scarsdale, NY; both attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY but both left to pursue their artistic interests prior to earning a degree; both came from wealthy families with a father who was a high-achiever and with a mother who hailed from “old money”. That blog post about Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono gave a glimpse into Yoko’s largely unknown world in Japan.
Born in Tokyo in 1933, Yoko Ono was born into a family that had been well-known throughout Japan for generations. Yoko’s mother was a Yasuda, a family name associated with the powerful zaibatsu, financial, commercial, and industrial worlds that fueled Japan’s business empire. Her great-grandfather was Zenjiro Yasuda, the founder of the Bank of Tokyo.
Yoko’s maternal grandfather was Zensaburo Iomi who married the daughter of Zenjiro Yasuda. Zenjiro Yasuda, the founder of the Bank of Tokyo, was by far the wealthiest businessman in Japan. Upon marrying into the family, Zensaburo Iomi was appointed chairman of the family bank and elected to the House of Peers. Some years later, as was not unheard of in the circle of the wealthy Japanese elite, Zenjiro Yasuda cut his daughter and son-in-law out of his will, which at the time was estimated to be the equivalent of one billion dollars, which was more money than the wealthiest person in the U.S. at the time had. Yasuda cut them out of the will immediately before he was assassinated by a radical leftist in 1921.
Zensaburo Iomi and his wife had to carry on with the stigma of the public knowing they had been cut out of a gigantic fortune. The couple’s eighth and final child, Isoko, grew up in extreme privilege with a mother who was a Yasuda.
Isoko married Eisuke Ono, who though not wealthy was from a long line of famous samurai warriors. The Ono family produced many famous academics, musicians and painters; in addition, Eisuke’s mother, Tsuruko, was considered Japan’s foremost pioneering feminist.
Eisuke Ono was a nationally ranked golfer and classically trained pianist who attempted to pursue a career as a concert pianist prior to choosing the more practical business route. A graduate of University of Tokyo, he spoke English and French fluently, which was a definite asset as he began his banking career with the prestigious Yokohama Specie Bank. He was posted to work in his first overseas assignment in the U.S. in 1933 to run the bank’s operation in San Francisco, which meant he did not see his daughter Yoko until after she was two years old. Ironically, Yoko’s uncle, Kese ,was the first Japanese ambassador to the United Nations.
Eisuke Ono’s career brought him back home to Tokyo in 1937, but then he moved his family back to New York in 1940 and then to Hanoi. The Ono family returned to Tokyo in 1943.
Yoko’s academic career in Tokyo began at the famous Gukushuin school in Tokyo. After returning from New York, she went to primary school at the highly prestigious Keimei Gukuen, an exclusive Christian primary school run by the famous Mitsui family. After the war, Yoko re-enrolled at the Gukushuin, after it re-opened. The school was near the Imperial Palace and one of Yoko’s classmates and close friends was Prince Akihito, who of course was the future emperor.
Yoko’s academics during high school at Gukushuin were impressive enough that she was offered acceptance into Gukushuin University’s philosophy department in 1951, becoming the first woman ever to enroll in the program. However, she only stayed two semesters before leaving to join her parents in Scarsdale, New York, as her father was named president of the Bank of Tokyo in the U.S. and worked in Manhattan’s financial district.
While living in Scarsdale with her parents, she attended Sarah Lawrence College. She left Sarah Lawrence in 1956 without a degree to both pursue her artistic interests and elope to marry famous composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, whom she would formally divorce in 1963 after a couple of years apart. In the age of YouTube, Toshi Ichiyanagi’s vast works are very well represented on the internet.
While most people may not be aware of Yoko Ono’s powerful family background in Japan, needless to say when she connected with and later married John Lennon, people in Japan were totally aware of her family background to say the least.
The George Harrison song “This Song” receives little airplay among the catalog of solo hits by ex-Beatles. It entered the Top 40 of The Billboard Hot 100 and reached # 25. It was the first single released off of the album Thirty-three and 1/3.
“This Song” and Thirty-Three and 1/3 got a boost when Paul Simon hosted the November 20, 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live and George was the musical guest. The video for “This Song” was played on Saturday Night Live, giving the ex-Beatle’s new song national exposure via the medium of rock video some five years prior to the 1981 launch of MTV. On this episode of Saturday Night Live, for the musical segment Simon and Harrison did a duet of both the Simon and Garfunkel classic “Homeward Bound” and the Harrison-penned Beatles classic “Here Comes the Sun“.
George Harrison wrote “This Song” in response to the lawsuit filed against him for alleged plagiarism on account of his 1971 number hit “My Sweet Lord” sounding similar to the “He’s So Fine”, the classic by The Chiffons that topped the charts for four weeks in March/April 1963. It was written by Ronald Mack.
Marc Shapiro’s 2002 biography Behind Sad Eyes: The Life of George Harrison contains the passage, “On September 7, 1976, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Owens found that while he did not feel that George had ‘deliberately’ plagiarized the song ‘He’s So Fine’, there was substantial evidence that he did infringe on the song’s copyright. George was found guilty and ordered to pay damages in the amount of $587,000.”
It quotes George as cynically saying in the aftermath of the court’s decision. “I don’t even want to touch the guitar or piano in case I’m touching somebody’s note. Somebody might own that note, so you’d better watch out.”
A full examination of this notorious copyright infringement lawsuit is not possible in a blog post as the subject matter is too lengthy not to mention controversial. It is safe to say that after a week of testimony in federal court in Manhattan, George Harrison channeled his feelings of frustration and anger in the proper way by writing “This Song”, which is an obvious reaction to the lawsuit.
The following lyrics are a good indication of Harrison’s frame of mind while writing the song immediately after spending a week in the court room:
This song has nothing tricky about it
This song ain’t black or white and as far as I know
Don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright, so
This song, we’ll let be, this song is in E
This song is for you and
This tune has nothing bright about it
This tune ain’t bad or good and come ever what may
My expert tells me it’s okay
As this song came to me unknowingly
This song could be, you could be
This riff ain’t trying to win gold medals
This riff ain’t hip or square, well, done or rare
End up one more weight to bear
But this song could well be
A reason to see that
Without you, there’s no point to this song
But this song could well be
A reason to see that
Without you, there’s no point to this song
After the line, “This song could be”, Monty Python’s Eric Idle chimes in with, “Could be ‘Sugar Pie Honey Bunch’? Naw! Sounds more like ‘Rescue Me’”. In the video, Idle’s line is lip-synched by Ronnie Wood, who the previous year joined The Rolling Stones after the dissolution of Faces. Wood is dressed up as a woman in the video.
The line “This tune has nothing bright about it” is a reference to Bright Tunes, which owned the rights to “He’s So Fine” and initiated the infamous lawsuit.
Olivia Arias, a year away from becoming Mrs. George Harrison, plays Lady Justice, appearing as a blindfolded woman in a toga holding the scales of justice. Veteran drummer Jim Keltner plays the judge.
The next song off Thirty-three and 1/3 was “Crackerbox Palace”, which reached number 17 in the U.S. in the spring of 1977.
When David Bowie tragically died of cancer on January 10, 2016, tributes poured in from fellow rock musicians all over the world, as well as from heads of state and major religions. The most touching tribute came from Yoko Ono who praised Bowie as being a “second father” to her son Sean. Rolling Stone ran an article the day after the flamboyant musician’s death entitled, “Yoko Ono on Bowie: ‘David Was as Close as Family’”, while Billboard published their article “Yoko Ono: David Bowie Was a ‘Father Figure’ to My Son.”
While the strong friendship between John Lennon and David Bowie cannot be adequately examined in a single blog post, this post will cover the song “Fame”, the hit song that was Bowie’s first number one hit in the U.S., and the important role that John Lennon played in the song’s creation and success.
David Bowie met John Lennon in 1974 at a party given in New York by Elizabeth Taylor. Since the ex-Beatle was an early idol of a young Bowie, the two became friendly. At the time, Bowie was experiencing a down phase in his career due to a poor management contract. Bowie’s manager at the time, the famous Tony Defries, and his management company left Bowie financially responsible for tens and tens of thousands of dollars for unsuccessful concert bookings, putting the future superstar on the brink of financial ruin. It was John Lennon who convinced Bowie to break ties with Defries and seek new management.
Bowie and Lennon had many of the same interests artistically, and they identified with their shared Irish Catholic heritage, despite neither one being a Catholic. Both stars had multiple great-grandparents who immigrated to England from Ireland. Bowie regularly spoke of the influence in his early life of his maternal grandfather, James Burns, a retired British military officer who was heavily into Irish culture and heritage.
The song “Fame” was credited to Bowie, Carlos Alomar and John Lennon. Alomar wrote a great riff and Lennon came up with the word “aim” to go along with it. Bowie changed that to “Fame” and the rest was history on the way to Bowie’s first chart-topper on The Billboard Hot 100. In the song John Lennon repeats “FAME, FAME, FAME” through a fast track and then through a slow track. It is reported that the ex-Beatle repeated the word “Fame” 23 times, and each time on a different note.
In his 2008 biography John Lennon: The Life, author Philip Norman described the magnitude of Lennon’s contribution to “Fame”, “The word and the riff gave Bowie his first number one single in America and helped launch the strutting, narcissistic disco style that would dominate record charts and pack dance clubs around the world for years to come. From rock-‘n’-roll nostalgic, John found himself suddenly catapulted to the cutting edge.”
“Fame” entered the Top 40 section of The Billboard Hot 100 on August 2, 1975, spending a total of fourteen weeks in the Top 40. It would top the Billboard charts on September 20, 1975 and stay in the top position for two weeks.
The previous two Bowie entries into the Top 40 did not fare too well. In early 1973, his famous “Space Oddity”, then four years old, was released as a single in the U.S. and climbed to # 15. A few months before “Fame” hit # 1, his “Young Americans”, which featured Luther Vandross on backing vocals and David Sanborn on saxophone, reached # 25 on the Billboard charts in May 1975. “Young Americans” mentioned both the show Soul Train and the hair product Afro-Sheen, which was a major sponsor of the weekly show Soul Train. Small wonder than that a few months later Bowie was invited to perform “Fame” on Soul Train, making him only the second Caucasian to perform on the show; Elton John had broken the race barrier on Soul Train a few months beforehand. Bowie’s famous appearance on Soul Train was covered in a January 16, 2016 Boston Globe article entitled “When David Bowie Played ‘Soul Train’”.
It should also be noted that Bowie’s first entry onto The Billboard Hot 100 was “Changes”, from the 1971 Hunky Dory LP, which was released as a single in the U.S. in January 1972. Despite peaking at # 66 and missing the coveted Top 40 by a long shot, “Changes” over time would be Bowie’s most widely played single in the U.S. The song peaked at # 15 on the UK Singles Chart.
It should be noted that “Fame” had its debut on U.S. national television on November 7, 1975 on The Cher Show. The former number one song at that point was down at number 41 on The Billboard Hot 100, but after its endorsement on national television by Cher, it shot back up to number 20 the following week.
A third single off of the Young Americans album, “Golden Years”, reached number ten on the charts in early 1976.
Bowie’s only other number one hit in the U.S. would come eight years later when “Let’s Dance” topped the charts for the week of May 21, 1983. The Let’s Dance album, produced by producer extraordinaire Nile Rodgers, also yielded the hits “China Girl” and “Modern Love”.
In the 2011 biography David Bowie: Starman, author Paul Trynka addressed Bowie’s strong friendship and working relationship with the ex-Beatle in the aftermath of “Fame”:
“For David, the album marked a happy change of setting; he never officially left Berlin, but he was fired up by his return to New York, where he could hang with a younger generation of arty New Wavers and also resume his friendship with John and Yoko under happier, more relaxed circumstances for both of them. John’s respect for David had only increased with the success of “Fame”, which put the ex-Beatle back on the charts; David still considered John, along with Mick Jagger, a role model, but his admiration for John was not intermixed with rivalry, as it was with Mick. Lennon brought out a better side of David, and he knew it. Happily, John started writing again; David admired the unique lifestyle he’d carved out, with his and Yoko’s elegant, white-carpeted, minimally furnished apartment in the Dakota, by Central Park, where John and Yoko could wander undisturbed.”
John Lennon’s influence on “Fame” is so obvious. He helped write the song, played guitar on the track, provided backing vocals, in addition to receiving a credit as a co-producer.
Yesterday the world received the sad news that Glenn Frey, lead singer/songwriter/guitarist of The Eagles and a co-founder of the band, passed away at age 67 at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Many times over the course of his high-profile career Glenn Frey credited The Beatles with inspiring him to pursue a career as a rock musician.
A teenage Frey was in the audience at Detroit’s Olympia Hall where, on September 6, 1964, he saw two performances by The Beatles, both lasting about 30 minutes each. The 1995 book The Story of The Eagles: The Long Run by Marc Shapiro quotes Frey as saying, “My aunt got tickets to see The Beatles and it was just an amazing experience,’ he recalled not too long ago. ‘You barely heard the beginnings of each song and then it was just these waves of people screaming. The girl in the chair in front of me fell into my arms. She was screaming ‘Paul!, Paul!. I thought ‘Wow! Man! This is really cool!”
Shapiro’s book continues with a passage on how the concert forced the 14 year-old Detroit kid who had been taking piano lessons since age five to switch to guitar:
“In later life he would remember the impact those shows had on his career choice. ‘I had this dream of holding the spotlight as a rock star. That’s when I decided to take up the guitar.’”
Immediately after the experience of two Beatles concerts in one day, he sought out guitar lessons and practiced incessantly.
Needless to say, Frey must have been eternally grateful to his aunt for scoring those tickets to the two Beatles concerts in the same day.
Eliot also wrote a tribute to Glenn Frey on the occasion of his passing entitled “Why Glenn Frey’s Death Shakes Us” that appeared on the CNN website a day after his death. In the article, Eliot mentions three times the influence of The Beatles. The first paragraph reads, “…… for many of us it also signals something more personal: the passing of a time when the Eagles’ Hotel California was the anthem for the youth of America in the ‘70s – the way Beatles music was for the children of the ‘60’s.”
Eliot’s article continues with an observation about the first year of The Eagles playing together, “A few years later in Los Angeles, where the Eagles first played together, they were mostly a derivative band, using material from Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Jack Tempchin, and Tom Waits to help them find their way. (Like the Beatles, Henley and Frey relied on the music of others to learn how to make their own.)”
Another passage in Eliot’s article on Frey’s death states, “But it was Hotel California, released in 1976, that made them a worldwide sensation. The album’s opening track of the same name, co-written by Frey, was the clarion call for the Eagles the way Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had been for the Beatles: it described both the band’s self-destruction by excesses, its awareness of that self-destruction and its inability to stop it (‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave….’)”.
Randy Meisner, bassist and founding member of The Eagles, told this blogmaster a few years ago that The Eagles met Paul McCartney in 1974 in London at a party at Ron Wood’s house while the band was recording their third album, On the Border, in England. Meisner related that the band was in awe of meeting McCartney and found him to be pleasant and totally unassuming. The band was uplifted when McCartney was familiar with their first two albums and gave them praise. At the time, Ronnie Wood was a member of Faces and the following year would become a member of The Rolling Stones following the break-up of Faces.
As is well known, The Eagles broke up in the autumn of 1980. They did not reunite until 1994 with a major world concert tour and live album, Hell Freezes Over, which included four new songs. However, a Beatle may have played a role in reuniting The Eagles. In the summer of 1992, Ringo Starr went on the road with a new configuration of his All-Star Band, which included ex-Eagles Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit. Schmit had joined The Eagles for The Long Run, the band’s sixth studio album, after original bassist Randy Meisner had left the band in 1977 after the world tour for the multi-platinum Hotel California album. Guitarist Joe Walsh had joined The Eagles in 1976 immediately before the recording of Hotel California after original lead guitarist Bernie Leadon left the band before the international leg of their tour for the One of These Nights album.
Having two ex-Eagles onstage together for a concert tour certainly was a positive step in getting The Eagles back together less than two years later.
The inclusion of Timothy B. Schmit into the 1992 tour of Ringo’s All-Starr Band reflects a most unusual irony. Eagles’ co-founder Randy Meisner was the bass player for Poco; when he left Poco in 1970, he was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit. When Mesiner left The Eagles in 1977, coincidentally his replacement was none other than Timothy B. Schmit. What the music world does not know is that Randy Meisner was actually a member of Buffalo Springfield, too. He was hired as the bass player, but a month or so later the band broke up. The original Eagles bassist practiced with Buffalo Springfield during that time, but the band broke up in 1968 before Randy Meisner could appear on an album or in concert. Believe it or not, a very young Timothy B. Schmit also auditioned for the position with Buffalo Springfield that ultimately went to Meisner right before the famed group disbanded.
Randy Meisner was not in any way connected to the 1992 Ringo Starr tour, but a most ironic situation should be mentioned. Former Chicago lead singer/bassist Peter Cetera signed on to the 1992 Ringo tour but had to cancel out right before the tour started. Joe Walsh, who had previously toured with Ringo in 1989, recommended his former bandmate Schmit to take the spot left vacant by Peter Cetera. Though a phenomenally successful band of the 1970’s and 1980’s, it took Chicago seven years of Billboard chart entries before they scored their first number one hit in 1976, “If You Leave Me Now”, which featured Peter Cetera on lead vocals. Ironically, after leaving Chicago in 1986, that year saw Cetera immediately top the charts with his first two solo singles, the ballads “Glory of Love” and “The Next Time I Fall”.
Peter Cetera’s brother, Tim Cetera, was also an accomplished bass player. In 1971, Randy Mesiner was the bass player for Rick Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band and left to pursue other interests. Meisner ended up as part of the four man touring band backing Linda Ronstadt’s 1971 tour, along with drummer Don Henley, guitarist Glenn Frey, and lead guitarist Bernie Leadon; early into this tour, the four made the decision that they would stay together after the tour and form their own band, which they eventually called The Eagles.
When Randy Meisner left Rick Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band on great terms with his friend Nelson, he was replaced by Tim Cetera. Tim Cetera, who also would do extensive studio work as well as touring with his brother’s band Chicago, was Nelson’s bass player at the famous Madison Square Garden oldies concert that would inspire Rick Nelson’s 1972 hit “Garden Party”, which reached # 6 on the charts and represented Nelson’s only entry into the Top 40 that the former teen idol penned himself. Nelson’s 1972 hit has a place in Beatles lore in that while during Beatlemania there were many songs about The Fab Four, “Garden Party” is the only hit song that mentions an ex-Beatle with the lyrics “Yoko brought her walrus/There was magic in the air”, as John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in attendance at the now infamous concert. The fact that the Cetera brothers played into the Randy Mesiner/Timothy B. Schmit equation is interesting to say the least.
Rick Nelson would become a part of Eagles history when he allowed the newly formed and struggling band to practice in the garage of his Malibu home in 1971. Randy Meisner absolutely was in awe of Rick Nelson’s house. When the Eagles scored their first successes, coincidentally Nelson’s house was up for sale and the Eagles’ bass player wasted no time in purchasing it.
Of course, Randy Meisner’s signature song with the Eagles is “Take It to The Limit”, which he wrote and on which he performed lead vocals. This Eagles classic off of One of These Nights reached the number four position on The Billboard Hot 100 in early 1976. Randy had written the song and held onto it for a year. Glenn Frey and Don Henley added the finishing touches and the trio ended up sharing the writing credits. Unfortunately, several great songs that Randy composed himself for The Eagles and on which he sang lead vocals do not receive the airplay they deserve on FM Classic Rock stations, such as “Certain Kind of Fool”, “Is It True” and “Try and Love Again”.
As is well-known, after two tours of duty with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Eagles’ lead guitarist Joe Walsh became part of the Beatles family when he married Ringo’s sister-in-law Marjorie Bach in 2008. Marjorie Bach is the younger sister of Ringo’s wife, American actress Barbara Bach, the “Bond girl”who is famous for her role as Soviet spy Anya Amasova in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. When you happen to see Walsh performing with Paul McCartney at awards shows, you need not think twice about his connection to the ex-Beatle.
Glenn Frey was the leader of The Eagles, and was the catalyst for the music that was and is a soundtrack to a generation. He had the most success on the Billboard charts than any of the other solo Eagles. It is amazing that despite The Eagles scoring five number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1975 and 1979, no member of the band ever scored a number one hit as a solo artist. However, Glenn Frey hit the # 2 position twice in 1985. The five number one hits by The Eagles are “Best of My Love” (1975), “One of These Nights” (1975)”, “New Kid in Town” (1977), “Hotel California” (1977) and “Heartache Tonight” (1979). Frey co-wrote every one of these five number one hits.
In 1985, Frey hit number two on the charts with “The Heat Is On”, the theme song to the Eddie Murphy movie Beverly Hills Cop. Later in the year, Frey co-wrote “You Belong To the City” for the Miami Vice soundtrack, which as the top-selling album of 1985 topped the Billboard album charts. “You Belong to the City” stayed in the number two position for two weeks and looked like it was going to make the jump to the top slot, but was beat out by Starship’s “We Built This City”, which topped the charts for two weeks beginning on November 16, 1985. “We Built This City”, co-written by longtime Elton John writing partner and famed lyricist Bernie Taupin, was named by Rolling Stone magazine in 2011 as “the absolute worst song of the 1980’s”.
With the exception of “The Heat Is On”, every Glenn Frey solo hit was co-written with singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin. This list includes many Top 40 entries, including the hits “The One You Love”, “Sexy Girl”, “Smuggler’s Blues”, and “True Love”. Jack Tempchin wrote the worldwide staple Eagles hit song “Peaceful Easy Feeling” on the 1972 debut album The Eagles as well as co-wrote the FM classic “Already Gone” from On the Border. In addition, Jack Tempchin co-wrote with Frey the Easy Listening hit “The Girl From Yesterday”, one of four original songs from the 1994 Hell Freezes Over live album. In addition, he helped The Eagles with their 2007 two disc CD Long Road Out of Eden, their first studio album in 28 years since 1979’s The Long Run, by co-writing “It’s Your World Now” with Glenn and co-writing “Somebody” with John Brannen. Apart from his 44 year association with The Eagles and Glenn Frey, Jack Tempchin has written many other songs for other artists, most notably the beautiful “Swayin’ To The Music (Slow Dancing)”, which Johnny Rivers took to # 10 on The Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1977.
Strangely enough, the closest a solo Eagle ever came to a number one hit was when Joe Walsh played lead guitar on Andy Gibb’s “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water”, which ruled the top position on the charts for two weeks in March 1978.
For the Eagles’ last number one hit, “Heartache Tonight” in November 1979, Detroit native Frey conspired with two other Detroit natives, J.D. Souther and Bob Seger, to pen the song. This unique Detroit trio wrote the number one hit with Texan Don Henley.
While countless Eagles songs featuring Frey are in regular rotation on radio stations of various formats, two brilliant Eagles songs surprisingly are not in regular rotation on Classic Rock stations. “Outlaw Man”, a song written by David Blue that appears on the band’s second album Desperado, and “Ol’ 55”, a Tom Waits composition from the third album On The Border, amazingly do not get the same airplay as other Eagles classics featuring Glenn Frey. These overlooked gems as are good as the well-known standards.
The worldwide music industry has lost a giant with the sad passing of Glenn Frey. To say that The Eagles provided the soundtrack to a generation is an understatement. The tributes to the departed Eagle given on websites and social media by his fellow Eagles and friends in the entertainment world reflect a person from humble Detroit origins who at age 19 not only moved to L.A., but moved L.A. and the music industry in a compelling direction. Numerous well-known music people are indebted to Frey, but what is more compelling is that countless music fans feel a sense of great loss with the departure of someone who was a major part of their lives.
Despite being from Detroit where the Detroit Red Wings were a force in the NHL during Glenn’s youth, he regularly wore hockey jerseys of the Chicago Blackhawks, both home and away versions, in concerts in the 1970’s. There is little doubt that Glenn has already donned a Chicago Blackhawks jersey to entertain people in his new world. It is with profound sadness that he has passed on to another world, but we feel fortunate to have been the recipients of his immense talents. The world will be a bit of an empty place without him, but it will not affect his songs constantly being played on the radio, which will underscore that Glenn Frey will never leave us.
Thank God his aunt took him to the two Beatles concerts on that same day in September 1964, the day in which he made the irrevocable decision to pursue a career as a rock performer.
“Watching The Wheels” was John Lennon’s answer to the critics of his taking more than five years off from being a rock star. The song has also been invoked by some famous people who have been asked about a transitional or rest period in their careers. Former heavyweight champion boxing contender Gerry Cooney is the most famous example of a celebrity who has publicly identified with the song.
In the spring of 1981, most people were sure that the song “Watching The Wheels” would be John Lennon’s last entry into the Top 40 section of The Billboard Hot 100. It was the la st single released from the Double Fantasy album. However, three years later the song “Nobody Told Me” spent eleven weeks in the Top 40 in early 1984. “Nobody Told Me” appeared on the 1984 album Milk and Honey, which was made up of songs not used for Double Fantasy and songs immediately recorded after the songs for the 1980 album were recorded. The posthumous hit “Nobody Told Me” trumped 1981’s “Watching The Wheels” for the distinction of being the last John Lennon song on the U.S. charts.
“Watching The Wheels” was released on April 11, 1981, reaching number ten in the U.S. and staying in the Top 40 for ten weeks. It only reached number 30 on the UK charts. It was the third and final single released off of the 1980 album Double Fantasty; the first single from the album was “(Just Like) Starting Over” and the second was “Woman”. The album was released on November 1, 1980, exactly five weeks before Lennon’s murder on December 8. On December 27, “(Just Like) Starting Over” topped the charts and stayed in the number one position for five consecutive weeks. It was only the second number one hit for the ex-Beatle. Believe it or not, John Lennon only had one number one hit in his lifetime with “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night”, which hit number one for one week on November 16, 1974. The famous Lennon song “Imagine” only hit number three on The Billboard Hot 100 despite being by far the biggest selling single of Lennon’s solo career.
“Watching The Wheels” addressed the criticism from critics and questions from friends and people in the music industry about Lennon taking a break of over five years from the music business to help raise his son Sean. Before 1980’s Double Fantasy, Lennon’s last album was the Walls and Bridges LP released in 1974. Lennon’s self-proclaimed “househusband” years were from 1975-1980 during which for all intents and purposes he retired from the music industry. The song successfully conveyed that Lennon did not care what other people thought and he was totally happy outside of the music world in the domestic life.
The song “Watching The Wheels” has been invoked by countless people in the last 35 years as a means to explain their periods of personal or professional rest. John Lennon wrote the song to diss critics and people who had questioned the fact that a period of six years had elapsed between the releases of his albums. The opening lines of “People think I’m crazy/Doing what I’m doing/Well they give me all kinds of warning to save me from ruin/When I say that I’m okay, they look at me kinda strange/Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game” speak for themselves.
One celebrity who routinely invoked the song “Watching The Wheels” in interviews with major newspapers and magazines was boxer Gerry Cooney. In 1981, Cooney defeated former world heavyweight champion Ken Norton by knockout 54 seconds into the first round. In 1982, Cooney fought heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and lost in 13 rounds. Prior to the fight for the title against Holmes, Gerry Cooney was seen by many as an underdog in the mold of “Rocky Balboa” from Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky movies. Unfortunately, too many people recklessly added a racial component to the Holmes vs. Cooney fight, and Cooney was not at all pleased to be unfairly labeled “The Great White Hope”.
Four months after the title fight against Holmes, a November 1, 1982 article in the New York Times entitled “The Sting Eased, The Ring Pulls Cooney Back” invoked how the boxer was identifying with the song from the previous year by the late John Lennon. Published a week after Cooney resumed training after a four month layoff, the article quotes Conney’s manager Dennis Rappaport as saying, “There were periods of time when I didn’t know what he would eventually do. I told him he had to do what he felt was best for him. He told me about the John Lennon song ‘Watching The Wheels Go Round’. He said that was what he was doing, watching the wheels.”
Five months later, “Starting Up the Long Road Back” by William Nack, an article in the March 28, 1983 issue of Sports Illustrated, also detailed how Gerry Cooney was identifying with the song. After naming some movies that the boxer was watching over and over while identifying with characters, it stated:
“And he was John Lennon singing. Ever since WBC heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in the 13th round of their title fight in Las Vegas last June 11, Cooney had listened endlessly to Watching the Wheels, Lennon’s song about his dropout from the entertainment world. It sustained Cooney through his dropout from boxing. “Listen to this,” he said one day, springing to his feet. “This was just like me the last nine months right down to the end.” He sang along:
“I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round I really love to watch them roll No longer riding on the merry-go-round I just had to let it go”
Another New York Times article, “Sports of the Times; Wheels Go Round”, was published on August 14, 1985. The article clearly states where Cooney was at that stage in his life and career, and how “Watching The Wheels” continued to be a part of the equation. The aforementioned articles are only a sampling of the articles on Gerry Cooney from that time period in which the 1981 Top Ten Lennon hit was invoked.
While “Watching The Wheels” is obviously not as famous or as big a hit other John Lennon songs, it has resonated with so many people over the years. When the song was in the top ten of the Top 40 in the spring of 1981, John Lennon unfortunately was not around to explain the song in interviews. A year and a half later, though, heavyweight boxing contender Gerry Cooney did a great job of explaining to people through media interviews what the song was all about. Cooney did an excellent job expounding on John Lennon’s sentiments that sometimes people have to step back and do what they want for a bit ……. and not pay any attention to the comments or criticisms of other people.
“Let ‘Em In” is a song that has taken its share of abuse over the years on both sides of the Atlantic. The second single released off of Wings at the Speed of Sound, it reached # 2 in the UK and # 3 in the U.S. in 1976.
The song puts forth a litany of people. “Sister Suzy” is a reference to Linda McCartney, who played Suzy in “Suzy and the Red Stripes”. “Martin Luther” believe it or not is neither Martin Luther nor Martin Luther King, but rather an old nickname for John Lennon, as the other three Beatles used to jokingly refer to him as “John Martin Luther Lennon”; “Brother John” is Linda’s brother, attorney John Eastman, who also looked after Paul’s business interests; “Phil and Don” was an obvious reference to the Everly Brothers. “Auntie Gin” was Paul’s beloved Auntie Gin, who was responsible for hooking up his parents. “Brother Michael” is obviously Mike McCartney, Paul’s younger brother and former lead singer of The Scaffold.
However, in a later verse, Paul eliminates “Brother Michael” and instead says “Uncle Ernie”. Uncle Ernie is a reference to Paul’s good friend, Who drummer Keith Moon. Moon played the character Uncle Ernie in the 1975 film version of the rock opera Tommy.
A well known anecdote is that after Moon listened to the 1973 Wings album Band on the Run, he immediately rang up his friend Paul to inquire as to who was the great drummer on the tracks. Moon was astonished when Paul told him that Paul himself had to handle the drumming chores because original Wings drummer Denny Seiwell quit at the last minute.
Ironically, Keith Moon and his girlfriend dined with Paul and Linda McCartney on the night that Moon died, September 6, 1978. After dinner, the two couples attended a London preview of the film The Buddy HollyStory. Afterwards, Moon returned to his flat he was renting at 12 Curzon Place in London and took way too many Heminevrin pills, which he had been taking to prevent him from drinking alcohol. He compounded the situation by eating food immediately afterwards. This combination caused him to die of an overdose.
Moon died in the same flat and the same room in which Cass Elliot of The Mamas and the Papas had died in 1974. The owner of the flat was Harry Nilsson. Nilsson would lend the flat to friends when he was out of England. Naturally, when these two famous artists died in his flat, many eerie urban legends abounded about “Harry Nilsson’s Death Flat”. Contrary to some of these bogus legends, Nilsson did not die in this flat when he perished from a heart attack in 1994 in California.