The music history books are vast and full of interesting bits of knowledge.

“Big” Jay Sorensen gives you a recap of the biggest and most interesting music news from the week; something from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

This week, Big Jay highlights The Monkees, Linda Ronstadt, and U2.


The 1960s

(AP Photo/George Brich)

(AP Photo/George Brich)

The Monkees
The Monkees

The “Pre-Fab Four” sat at the crest of the Pop LP’s chart during this seven-day survey-phase in ’66 from the Monkees, as it would all the way through the conclusion of that year into the early weeks of ‘67. Their introduction LP (in its fourth week at No. 1) the Monkees, featured the earlier chart-topping 45 RPM, “Last Train To Clarksville” (currently slipping down to No. 10 on the Hot 100) as well as the theme to their NBC-TV series which made its first appearance on September 12, 1966—the same week that Star Trek debuted.

Past child-star and one-time CBS-FM morning air-personality George Michael “Mickey” Dolenz, folk-singer Peter Halsten Thorkelson “Tork”, British former jockey and musical stage performer David “Davy” Thomas Jones and Air Force veteran and singer/songwriter Robert Michael Nesmith each won starring roles after an try-out message appeared in the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety newspapers. Producer Snuff Garrett was pushed to the curb by the project’s musical chief Don Kirshner after Garrett suggested that Davy Jones be the “lead” singer of the group; causing instant dismay with the other new-to-the-job associates. The album was then co-produced by the hand-picked twosome of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, along with songwriter and producer Jack Keller (an associate of Kirshner’s, who had penned TV theme songs for Gidget and Bewitched) and Mike Nesmith. Kirshner was shortly branded as the “Man with the Golden Ears” for his star-making flair. He would later be thrown off the project by Screen Gems producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, when the group (notably Nesmith) was unyielding that the four stars of the show be permitted to perform instrumentally on their recordings, and have participation in picking the material they laid to tape. This Colgems Records album (a division of Columbia Pictures wing Screen Gems in collaboration with RCA) employed members of the incredible L.A. musicians later identified as “The Wrecking Crew” with the knowledge that the songs would be a kind of soundtrack to the TV series; closely patterned after the Beatles motion-picture, A Hard Day’s Night—although a rough summary of the idea for the show was written as early as 1962. The axing of Kirshner happened with the consent of Rafelson and Schneider, who came to grasp that the Monkees were true musicians; as well as actors who played a Rock & Roll band. The TV show was only on the NBC schedule for two seasons, and was not as recognized as the network liked; cancelling the show in ’68. The Monkees have reunited a few times for tours, and after the loss of teen heart-throb Davy Jones on February 29, 2012, they have occasionally performed live as a threesome.

 

The 1970s

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Linda Ronstadt
Simple Dreams

This was the first of five survey-cycles for this album to hit the heights of the Top LP’s & Tape listing for Simple Dreams by Linda Ronstadt. It was one of three LP’s that was able to overtake Fleetwood Mac during the 29 non-consecutive week run of Rumours. Linda’s LP also was No. 1 on the Country LP’s chart; knocking Elvis Presley from the pinnacle after his death sparked incredible sales. Simple Dreams was Ronstadt’s eighth studio album as a solo performer, and fifth to sell over two million copies. Linda was the first female recording artist and the first since the Beatles, to have TWO Top 5 hits during a single chart-phase. Those two songs were: “Blue Bayou” (No. 3 and a two-million-seller) a remake of the Roy Orbison song from ’63, and “It’s So Easy” a remake of a non-charting cut from the Crickets/Buddy Holly, recorded in 1958. I’d like to feature both versions by Ronstadt. First, here’s a live version of “Blue Bayou.”

Now, here’s a live version of the rockin’ “It’s So Easy.”

The album Simple Dreams went on to sell over three million copies in the U.S.A., and featured other singles, including: “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” (No. 31 Pop) written by Warren Zevon, along with “Tumbling Dice” (No. 32 Pop) a remake of the Rolling Stone song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Linda Marie Ronstadt has retired from performing after she discovered she had Parkinson’s disease, and was unable to control her vocal chords. She released a biography in 2013 called Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir.

 

The 1980s

(AP Photo/Wally Fong)

(AP Photo/Wally Fong)

U2
Rattle and Hum

U2’s sixth studio collection (which included live tracks as well) was taking pleasure in its fourth of an ultimate six uninterrupted weeks as the prime album in America this week in ’88 with Rattle And Hum on Island Records. This album included live tracks and some studio releases recorded at a myriad of studios and concert halls. The goal of this record was to pay homage to some of rock’s legends, and explored American roots music. The accompanying documentary was recorded largely at Sun Devil Stadium at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. The first single from Rattle And Hum was a track called “Desire.” With its “Bo-Diddley beat,” that song reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 Singles chart.

The LP starts out with a remake of the Lennon/McCartney song from the The Beatles double-LP (also known as the White Album) “Helter Skelter,” where Bono says, “This song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles… (and) we’re stealing it back.” Subsequent singles included: “Angel Of Harlem” (No. 14 Pop) “When Love Comes To Town” (No. 68 Pop) recorded with the legendary (now deceased) Blues guitarist B.B. King at the equally renowned Sun Studio on Union Avenue in Memphis. One other track was released as a single called “All I Want Is You” which charted quite lowly; but was featured in the Winona Ryder film Reality Bites in 1994 and had a minor impact on the charts. Other legends appeared on Rattle And Hum, including Bob Dylan, Brian Eno, the Memphis Horns and Van Dyke Parks. The album also had an accompanying documentary that was first shown in theaters and then released on video tape; remember that kiddies? The so-called “Rockumentary” was directed by Phil Joanou and produced by Michael Hamlyn. The name of the album was taken from a song called “Bullet The Blue Sky” that was on U2’s record The Joshua Tree from 1987. Most of the songs’ lyrics were written by Bono, with the music composed by the entire band, comprising of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr.

–Big Jay Sorensen/WCBS-FM

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