The album covers to the two "Live at the BBC" editions issued by The Beatles.

The Beatles, the BBC and falling in love with so many great artists

I remember hearing music by The Beatles when I was a young boy. Songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Hey Jude” were in regular rotation, thanks to my folks.

I grew up a fan of the Fab Four’s music. And when I started getting my own music collection started, it makes sense that I gravitated toward The Beatles. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were the cornerstones to my ever-increasing pile of CDs.

In 1995, I celebrated my 15th birthday with a group of friends who spent the night. They brought gifts, we had pizza and we played video games into the wee morning hours. I still smile when I think back to those days and those guys.

My parents, besides hosting the gathering and providing the pizza, also gave me a gift: The Beatles’ “Live at the BBC” CD set. It was released in late 1994, and I’d had it on my radar all those months. Obviously, I was pretty pumped to give it a listen.

Continue reading “The Beatles, the BBC and falling in love with so many great artists”

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The sleeve to The Beatles' single "Can't Buy Me Love" b/w "You Can't Do That," released in March 1964. Courtesy of www.thebeatles.com

B-side the point: Looking at the (superior?) flip sides of singles

When I look at my favorite bands and artists across the years, I recognize the many great singles they’ve released.

These singles are the songs released that gave them the radio hits, prompted tours, helped sell albums, etc.

More often than not, artists from at least the mid 1950s through the early 1990s would release singles where the “A” side was the attempt at a hit, the strongest candidate, the song the artists or producers or record companies thought were the strongest efforts. The flip sides, the “B” sides, would sometimes be filler, or live versions, or songs from older albums. In general, this was content that didn’t have a lot of thought put into it.

Obviously, this isn’t 100 percent true for every single or every artist. Plenty of artists put out killer singles that were great on both sides. Heck, The Beatles and The Beach Boys often put out great double-sided hits (like “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” / “God Only Knows,” for example).

This got me to thinking not just about the hit singles, or the singles that had hit B-sides, but also about singles where I actually prefer the B-side over the A-side of the single. That has happened for many of my favorite acts with some regularity.

Continue reading “B-side the point: Looking at the (superior?) flip sides of singles”

The cover to Styx's 1978 album "Pieces of Eight."

When music becomes a sort of theme song: Styx and “Blue Collar Man”

The last few weeks, I’ve had a particular song stuck in my head.

It isn’t quite an earworm situation. It isn’t annoying by any means, and it’s not like I only have one part of it rattling around in my noggin.

No, I think I have Styx’s “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” running through my mind because I’ve been out of work, and I’m identifying with the content more than I usually would.

I’m a big Styx fan. I’ve written about the group for the St. Cloud Times a few times before. I’ve written about being a fan, even when it isn’t cool to be one. I’ve written about the modern incarnation touring earlier this year. And the group’s “Paradise Theatre” is one of my favorite albums, being the 1981 entry in a music project I did for the St. Cloud Times about favorite albums for every year of my lifetime.

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Paul McCartney's "New" album was released in 2013. This cover is the deluxe version variant.

Career renaissances, revivals, etc. We keep on swinging

Though the year has been hard for its deaths, 2016 also has brought to us a lot of great music. And some of it has come from older artists, not just current favorites.

Take The Monkees, for example. “Good Times!” has been a heck of a return to form. A Tribe Called Quest also came back with the knock-your-socks-off “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.”

If you haven’t heard Ian Hunter’s latest record, “Fingers Crossed,” go track it down. It’s excellent. David Bowie had “Blackstar.” Leonard Cohen had “You Want It Darker.”

The list goes on and on.

Continue reading “Career renaissances, revivals, etc. We keep on swinging”

A cropped photo of the "Slip on Through" b/w "This Whole World" single by The Beach Boys. Courtesy of http://www.beachboys45.nl/

Thoughts and memories of The Beach Boys’ “This Whole World”

For most fans of The Beach Boys, “This Whole World” is a well-known track.

The song is the second entry on the beloved “Sunflower” album from 1970, and it was the B-side on the “Slip On Through” single (talk about another great song, penned by Dennis Wilson). Brian Wilson, author of “This Whole World,” revisited the song on 1995’s “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” video and soundtrack.

Have you heard it? Let’s take a minute and listen to it together.

Have you finished? It’s only 2 minutes, but wow, what a marvel of song construction in that brief amount of time. I remember my first listen, pretty clearly.

Continue reading “Thoughts and memories of The Beach Boys’ “This Whole World””

Queen "On Air"

Queen, and the pleasure of listening to music

Some music has a purity of energy, a clear tonal quality that can pluck images from your mind, or pluck the heartstrings, or remind you of youthful fantasies. This music gives flight to your imagination, and you feel like maybe anything can be possible after all.

I grew up with Queen in the house. My folks had the albums “A Night at the Opera” and “News of the World,” so we were blessed to hear “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “Love of My Life,” “’39,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” “Spread Your Wings” and “It’s Late” on a regular basis.

Despite all of that, It wasn’t until the early 1990s that I started to dig into the band’s albums and develop my fandom.

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Something new, and staying in touch

A selection of vinyl and CDs
Some music I bought in August 2013.

Hi there!

One of the great passions of my life is music. From 2014 through Nov. 17 of this year (2016), I had the good fortune of being a music columnist for the St. Cloud Times. Over that span, I was blessed to be able to write about new releases, old favorites and to go into some depth on ideas and feelings I had about music.

Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, was my last day as a staffer with the St. Cloud Times. I wish the newspaper and all the fine folks at Times Media the very best. I spent 12 years and one month with the company, I made many strong friendships, I met my wife there, I was given the opportunity to do a lot of different kinds of work, things I’ve never tried before. And being a music columnist was one of the most enjoyable and personally rewarding opportunitiesbeing a music columnist was one of the most enjoyable and personally rewarding opportunities. I’m grateful.

nov2016timescolumns-jpg

Please check out my last two columns for the Times around Nov. 10 and Nov. 17. The former is about the upcoming Pink Floyd box set (“The Early Years”) and the latter is me talking about last songs and saying thank you. They’ll be available online on the entertainment section of the Times’ website.

Though I’m still trying to determine what my next chapter will be, as I look for my next job(s) and forge a new path, I still have my passion for music. And I was asked by friends, colleagues and Times readers if I would still write about music and get it out there, somehow, somewhere.

You folks have no idea how much that means to me.

Continue reading “Something new, and staying in touch”