Let’s Take A Moment Day 407

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

May 2021 blog

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

I owe you all another apology for skipping over another song I was sure I featured already. I think the oversight was because I shared the story of today’s band-Badfinger-on Day 63 when I chose Harry Nilsson’s version of their song, “Without You”. To recap that post, this was a band that saw the highest of highs & the lowest of lows.

The highs? They were the first group to be signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records label in 1968. Paul McCartney wrote & produced their first hit record (“Come and Get It”) while George Harrison produced today’s song and played slide guitar on it as well. Nilsson’s hit & today’s track were written by Badfinger’s frontman & lead guitarist, Pete Ham, who remained close with Harrison even after The Beatles broke up. The two musicians played together on Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album & his benefit concerts for Bangladesh in NYC in 1971.

The lows? Not one but two members of this incredible band died by suicide: Ham died three days before his 28th birthday in 1975, leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend and a stepson. His bandmate & co-writer of “Without You” Tom Evans, died in 1983 after fighting with another bandmate-Joey Molland-over the royalties of that song, which hit #1 for four straight weeks in 1972. Evans was survived by his wife and son. The band’s trouble with money began after their manager stole all their earnings and left them in financial ruin.

In the end, it was too much for Ham, who was born April 27, 1947 in Wales. We can blame the money issues & perhaps the subsequent legal fallout to the suicides, but a lack of mental stability also contributed to the choices both Ham & Evans made. They convinced themselves that what they lost was far more important than what they created.  That is only part of the damage depression can do.

Today’s song is heartbreakingly beautiful & I felt that way before I ever knew the band’s tragic story. It is a song of lost love & betrayal told in a succinct eloquent way. It is highlighted by Harrison’s stunning slide guitar arrangement, Leon Russell’s piano performance and Ham’s sophisticated vocal. His music is often credited as the start of the power pop ballad sound. Whatever category his music falls into, I am just thankful every day that this man & his talent are part of the musical universe.

I remember holding you
While you sleep
Every day I feel the tears
That you weep
“.

Harrison and Ham

Badfinger

Top: George Harrison and Pete Ham in the recording studio circa 1971. Bottom: Badfinger circa 1971 (L-R): Bassist Tom Evans, guitarist Pete Han, drummer Mike Gibbins and guitarist Joey Molland. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Badfinger: “Day After Day” (1971, written by Pete Ham).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 285

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Shakespeare music

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day.  And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Oscar Levant said, “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity”. In music history one person who crossed that line was Phil Spector, who turns 80 years old today. Born December 26, 1940 in the Bronx, NY, he was highly regarded as the industry’s first auteur and the inventor of one of the defining sounds of the 1960’s. But there is no denying his story has a sad tragic ending. In 2009 he was convicted of the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, which carried a 19 year sentence that will most likely end his life in jail (he will not be eligible for parole until 2024). In 2014 he lost his voice due to an illness that paralyzed his vocal chords and he is also reportedly suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

During Spector’s two trials (the first one ended in a mistrial because of a hung jury) his lawyers argued that his mental decline began in 1974 after he was badly injured in a car crash where he was thrown through the windshield. The serious head injuries he suffered required several hours of surgery with over 700 stitches to his face and the back of his head. He lost his father to suicide when Spector was only nine plus there were reports he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point in his life. However, there was no mention of any type of drug regimen for that illness. None of this justifies the actions he allegedly took which led to Clarkson’s death, but I think anyone who draws a firearm to get someone’s attention as he was reported to have done on more than one occasion is not someone who is of sound mind. For more insight into Spector’s world throughout the trials, I recommend the 2013 HBO movie about him starring Al Pacino. He is riveting in the title role as Spector.

But there is also no denying how powerful his reach was in music. In 1960 he became the youngest person (to that date) to own a record label when he co-founded Philles Records with Lester Sill. Spector was primarily known as a record producer but he was also a musician and songwriter of hits like “To Know Him Is To Love Him”, “Walking In The Rain”, “Chapel Of Love”, “Spanish Harlem” and “Then He Kissed Me”, amongst others. He created the “Wall Of Sound” behind such groups as The Teddy Bears, The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers. And it was Spector who took the songs from the Let It Be sessions and gave us the album of the same name. Whether you appreciated his work on that record or not, without him who knows how long it would have taken for that music to be released. And that was the album that made me fall head over heels in love with The Fab Four, so I cannot help but be grateful to Spector in that respect.

He also worked a lot with John Lennon (as co-producer of several of his solo albums including 1971’s Imagine) & George Harrison (as co-producer of All Things Must Pass and The Concert For Bangladesh, which won Spector his only Grammy Award for Album Of The Year in 1972). He also worked with The Ramones and had fans throughout the industry including Bruce Springsteen, who has often said he worked on his Born To Run album as if he were trying to recreate Spector’s signature sound. He is amongst only a handful of producers to have a number one record in three consecutive decades (1950s, 1960s and 1970s). That is an incredible feat.

Spector’s touch & influence on my musical choices is so clear that without putting any conscience effort into it, I have already shared six songs connected to him. One was produced by him (“Let It Be” Day 26), another was co-produced by him (George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, Day 252) & four were written/co-written by Spector: Darlene Love’s “River Deep, Mountain High” (Day 77) & “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (Day 278), The Ronettes “Be My Baby (Day 147) and The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” (Day 187).

I chose today’s track not only because Spector co-produced it but because it is from my favorite Beatle, George Harrison. And I also love the message of this song that whatever is happening, whatever we are going through, it is only temporary. This, too, shall pass.

Now the darkness only stays the nighttime
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good
At arriving at the right time
It’s not always gonna be this gray
“.

George Phil 1964

George and Phil 1971

Top: George Harrison (L) and Phil Spector (R) circa 1964. Bottom: Harrison (L) and Spector (R) in the studio in 1971. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

George Harrison: “All Things Must Pass” (1970, written by George Harrison).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.