Most times you write a song and you never know if anyone’s going to “get” it.
When Mike and I wrote “Gotta Try” I thought it was the third best thing we’d written, just behind “This is It” and “What a fool…” We had high hopes. But we both missed the nerve, and it became the one that got away. (I learned the hard way that when you write with McD, you gotta use him on the recording. Not just singing, but also especially playing! He is unique that way.)
But as to songs like “Gotta Try,” the one thing I’ve learned over the years is that the ones who need that kind of lyric will hear it when it’s time. You got it exactly as we intended it. The timing was perfect.
I was really glad to read that. Thank you.
You might be interested to know that that tradition of writing songs that will hopefully matter to someone continues today with myself, Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman, the three of us calling ourselves Blue Sky Riders. If inclined, feel free to check out a song of ours that Georgia sings on our newest CD, (“Finally Home”), called “Little Victories.” (Here is a link to a fan’s video of a live performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tNQcafH_2k
BSR is a fool’s paradise for me, a chapter three that exists for us to get to keep exercising our creativity and hopefully prolong some inkling of sanity.
So thank you again for understanding “Gotta Try” and writing about it. I feel vindicated now.
Oh…and you should know that Michael’s still writing great songs. Mike is the musical equivalent of dark chocolate, so the world OD’ed on his stuff in the ’80’s. But miraculously, his voice had that amazing comeback when Motown signed him to make a few cover records. But his own compositions were off limits. Hopefully some day he’ll get back to recording his own stuff before his time is up. I consider him an American Treasure.”
The film came out a year after the Fillmores closed, had almost no impact, and neither did this boxed set of highlights, but oh how high those highlights are!
Actually, “Fillmore-The Last Days” was one of the few movies I walked in in the middle of, I’m like Alvy in “Annie Hall,” I’ve got to see it from the beginning, otherwise I’m fearful I’ve missed something, but a concert movie?
Yup, I was worried about this in a concert movie too, but we had tickets for Newport Jazz back when it was in New York and this was the only way the timing worked, my friend Ronnie, who is no longer with us, convinced me.
And the flick shows Bill Graham in action, as well as…
IN A SILENT WAY
This is the definitive version. I know that’s heretical, considering most people consider Miles Davis’s iteration of the Joe Zawinul composition the one and only statement, but most of them have never heard this Santana take.
Yes, I heard Mr. Davis, opening for Laura Nyro at the Fillmore East, during the “Bitches Brew” tour, but I didn’t get it.
This I get.
Hang in there. It’s instrumental music. It changes tempos. It’s best listening alone, as opposed to in a group, which is anathema to the millennials, but back then we were in it together, but at the gig mostly we mind-melded with the act. Check this out, you’ll get hooked.
INCIDENT AT NESHABUR
What the hell, might as well feature this cut which originally appeared on the second Santana LP, “Abraxas.” And that iteration is great, but there’s even more energy in this live take.
POPPA CAN PLAY
Eventually Bill Champlin went to work with Chicago, and he’s barely a footnote, and his original act, the Sons of Champlin, barely broke out of the Bay Area, but this is infectious. It’s loose, at first it seems disconnected, but then you get it, the organ links it together.
You don’t need to take some apple juice in the lobby to enjoy this, you’ll find almost no one else knows it, but I keep singing it in my head decades later. Really.
Lamb. Remember them? You remember, Barbara Mauritz? The albums on Warner Brothers? No?
Anyway, “Hello Friends” is middling, it’s all about “Isn’t It Just A Beautiful Day,” which did not make the album cut, and is usually known as “River Boulevard,” that’s how it’s credited on the initial Pointer Sisters album. Huh?
Now even the Pointer Sisters have been forgotten, other than a couple of hits, and the first LP had “Yes We Can Can,” and they were overnight sensations and we rushed out to buy the record and discovered “River Boulevard.” Which I knew in its previous incarnation from Lamb’s 1971 LP “Bring Out The Sun,” which has been rescued from the sands of time on iTunes, but has not yet migrated to Spotify.
Still, you can hear the live “Fillmore” version by going to YouTube. It comes after Lydia Pense and Cold Blood at 6:50: http://bit.ly/1vOqmno
The truth is I heard the original Lamb studio take on the radio once and never forgot it, kept singing it in my head. And I was stunned to find it on the Pointer Sisters’ album, but my jaw dropped when I was sitting in the theatre and Lamb sang it live in its original arrangement.
You won’t get it, especially in an era where almost everything is at your fingertips. But to have it exhumed years later…
Do kids know this? A stone cold smash from It’s A Beautiful Day’s first album that was ubiquitous back then. The band played my college way back when and my bud John found guitarist Hal Wagenet walking the streets of Middlebury and brought him back to his dorm room with his bottle of apricot brandy and we shot the breeze. And John kept the bottle…
From the Dino Valenti Quicksilver, this was their best cut, but really it’s about the first three albums, without him.
This is a hit in any rendition, but I did not own “Just For Love,” due to its unevenness, and therefore it was great to own this in the Fillmore boxed set.
BACK ON THE STREETS AGAIN
Tower of Power. Their performances were oftentimes better than their material, and this is not one of their best songs, but it’s a killer live take.
BABY’S CALLIN’ ME HOME
Could be the best track in the collection.
To the degree anybody remembers Boz Scaggs these days it’s for his sleek Top Forty hits. This came before that, and this and “Loan Me A Dime” are the apotheosis of his canon.
Check it out, you’ll be amazed.
No one does this anymore. Subtlety is taboo. But this is like a Sunday morning in bed with your loved one, very intimate.
Talk about being forgotten…
If you owned a Grateful Dead album, you owned the initial New Riders of the Purple Sage LP, after all New Riders opened so many of the Dead’s shows.
This is not as good as the studio take, and it’s not my favorite song on their initial LP, but this tale of dope running is a classic, from back when everybody was hip and no one was coming up with a tech solution in their basement, back when computers were still the enemy.
And speaking of the Dead…
They were always rough live, and they’re rough here, but it’s most definitely them, their sound chugging along like the train in this song.
And there’s a Hot Tuna number and some Elvin Bishop work and if you weren’t there, you’ll find yourself scratching your head. This was back when there were no hard drives, never mind tapes, and live was a unique experience and we didn’t go to hear the radio hits, there usually were none, but to revel in the group’s oeuvre.
Chances are if you were alive back then, you’ve never heard this stuff, the collection was overpriced with bad buzz. But picking through you’ll find some stuff that’ll make you smile.
It was a glorious era. With Fillmores on each coast, tickets three, four and five dollars, with triple-headers and the ability to get in if you paid attention.
The shows I saw at the Fillmore East were some of the best I’ve ever attended.
Does this boxed set capture the venue and the era?
Far from perfectly, but you can hear the essence.
And that’s what we were all concerned with, the essence.
So I got up early to battle the traffic to Thousand Oaks, to see the hip doctor.
Actually, he’s not a hip doctor, he’s a physiatrist. I went to the hip doctor, he said I don’t need a replacement.
And I flew out west, but got fearful about my return back east, traffic was backed up for miles where the 101 merged into the 405. How was I gonna get back home?
And with Howard on vacation, I’ve been listening to NPR. And I learned that heroin deaths are spiking in NYC. And at first it made no sense to me, but then I realized that so many have given up hope. They don’t see opportunity but darkness, and they slip under the spell of opiates. How very sad.
And I was shocked to find out that I’m much more screwed up than I thought. Some bursitis, a labrum tear, a collapsed disk and tendon tears.
Surgery is out of the question, the labrum is not that bad, I don’t have a hitch in my gait. And the bursitis is not bugging me. As for the collapsed disk…welcome to my world, that’s why I go to physical therapy every week, keeping disaster at bay, but I was shocked to see the picture, all black, no disk.
But the doctor said he was all about treating the pain. And the pain is on the outside of the hip. With those tendon tears. And the preferred method of treatment is PRP, Platelet Rich Plasma, which to make a long story short is about spinning your own blood and reinjecting it, and it’d be almost a surefire success in my case, but I’m not a candidate.
I’m contemplating the cost, I’m thinking about the ten days of inactivity. But when the physiatrist finds out I’ve got CML leukemia he takes the option off the table, saying it can bring the cancer back, he wouldn’t do it.
And I can get a steroid shot, but that just treats the pain, or I can get Traumeel injections and pinpricks, which might have to be done multiple times, but are de rigueur in Europe, but now I’m depressed, because I can’t get the one thing that works.
I took PCH back. The waves were big. But I did not play the radio, I was in shock. They say you can’t be afraid to get better, afraid to see the doctor and find out what is going on and what can be done. But now what? Am I ever gonna recover? Is the pain ever gonna go away? I mean it’s been improving, which is a good sign, but…
And just now I’m driving west on Ocean Park Boulevard, and this Michael McDonald song goes through my brain.
He was one of the biggest stars in the world, back in 1979, his hits on the Doobie Brothers’ “Minute By Minute” album were ubiquitous.
And then he cut a solo album, with another huge hit, “I Keep Forgettin’”, and this…”I Gotta Try,” cowritten with Kenny Loggins, but McDonald’s version came out first, and it’s superior.
Maybe it’s true what they say about it
Maybe we can’t make the ends meet
Life is hard. There’s nothing worse than being unable to pay the bills. And in that case, blind optimism does not help.
Maybe we’ll all have to do without it
Maybe this world’s just incomplete
That’s what they don’t tell you growing up, that sometimes it doesn’t work out, sometimes there are just loose ends, sometimes the sand runs out of the hourglass long before you’re ready, before it’s clear who won or lost.
Still we all look for the truth in our lives
Searching from different sides
Truth. It’s the opposite of delusion. It’s not only facing facts, but looking for them. Sure, the internet can screw your mind up royally, but you can also learn so much.
So hard living in a desperate world
But we all do the best that we can
And boy are things desperate. There’s no respite. From Syria to Ukraine to Ferguson trouble is happening every day. It’s tempting to throw your arms in the air. But the truth is we’ve got to soldier on, it’s in our DNA.
Some people see a change
Some will remain the same
Yup, you can put your best foot forward and still nothing happens. There isn’t always light at the end of the tunnel. But sometimes there is.
Some see the road as clear
Some say the end is here
Which one is it? Upbeat ignorance or depressed honesty?
They say it’s a hopeless fight, well I say I gotta try
Ain’t that the truth. That’s when you know you’re keeping the heroin at bay, when that spark ignites and gets you going once again. And for me that spark is music. There are a zillion songs in my brain and I never know when one will pop up and rescue me.
Michael McDonald’s never reached that peak again, not even close, but you can see him on the road this summer.
I’ve tolerated the pain for two and a half years, I’ve skied, I can soldier on. This might be as good as it’s gonna get. The future path is blurry. But driving along Ocean Park Boulevard during the twilight hour I realized one thing…I GOTTA TRY!
And I will!
It wasn’t your father’s arena show.
You remember the baby boomers, the ones lamenting that today’s music sucks? They weren’t in attendance. Nor were their children. I’d put the average attendee at a bit over 16, the children of Generation X, who might be aware of Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac but don’t even remember when MTV played videos, never mind when Michael Jackson thrilled the world.
This business might be run by old men, but youngsters are running away with it.
Yes, Louis Messina might be the promoter, but there was no one Louie’s age in the building. Then again, Louie’s loaded, but he’s still living the rock and roll lifestyle, burning the candle on both ends, sitting in the bus strategizing with Ed into the wee hours.
That’s how Louie got Ed’s tour. He opened for Taylor Swift. And the audience is the same, and they behave the same, and if you’ve never been you’ll be shocked, THEY KNOW EVERY WORD!
And they sing along as if they were carefree in nursery school, unburdened by financial challenges, embracing the art of someone who does it himself. Yup, Ed Sheeran might sing about the A team, but artistically it’s just him. Yup, Ed Sheeran played Staples ALONE!
Forget calculating the bottom line, with no hotel rooms or salaries for any performers but him, it’s astounding that Ed could keep the assembled multitude in thrall with just his voice and his guitar. And they were on the edge of their seats, when they were not standing. And singing.
This is not how we used to do it. Baby boomers worshipped the acts. They sat in rapt attention. If they sang at all, it was only for the hit. And as the years passed, people only wanted to hear the hit. That’s the bane of the Top Forty artist, once you get beyond the hits…there’s no depth, there’s no fandom.
But Ed Sheeran’s fans were rabid. They knew EVERYTHING! In other words, whether they bought them or streamed them, Ed’s fans played the albums and learned them by heart, because they spoke to their heart, they were necessary items, riding shotgun on the highway of life.
Proving if you’re a superstar, and Ed is, at least amongst his demo, fans want to dig deep. Feel free to put out a lot of material. Even albums.
But if you’re not…
Go to a classic rock show and if the act deigns to play something new the audience starts to chitchat and goes to the bathroom en masse. But the young ‘uns want to go deep. A show is not a hard drive experience replicating the hits, it’s something unique. Ed was nothing if not alive. How he does it, I have no idea, he must not come down for HOURS!
It’s a funny world we live in, everybody’s yelling for attention and after the initial burst of noise they instantly fall off the radar screen. This gives one the impression that nothing lasts, and if you don’t overhype you’ve got no chance.
But that is not true. Ed Sheeran isn’t Ariana Grande, he’s not flavor of the moment. And although there was a burst of publicity when his album came out, that’s died out, plowed under by the endless tsunami of new releases fighting for attention. So a follower of the media would get the impression that he’s not happening.
But that would be untrue.
The truth is no matter how big you become today, it’s about playing to your core, no matter how large that might be. Playing to the media is a fool’s errand. Because the media is in a different game, selling clicks, whereas when music is done right it’s not about trickery, but honesty, to the point where you don’t want to go somewhere else, but stay right here, basking in your favorite.
In other words, the country is not in the throes of Sheeranmania, but it could not have been more palpable inside Staples Center last night.
And these people are not only fans of Ed, but others. During the encores Ed said he was going to play a cover of a song he wish he wrote. This is time for a Motown number, right? Or some classic rock chestnut. Instead he played Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” and Gary Lightbody came out to sing along. Would you recognize “Chasing Cars”? Do you have any idea what Gary Lightbody looks like?
I doubt it.
But you should have heard the whoop of recognition when Mr. Lightbody took the stage.
Because it’s not your father’s music business anymore. The younger generation, who never knew CDs, who never knew MTV, who never knew any of the classic rock constructs, are embracing a whole slew of new acts that speak to them about their personal experiences, and they identify. And that’s what built this city known as rock and roll…the honesty, the identification. Yes, it’s got to be catchy, it’s got to grab you immediately, but it’s got to SAY SOMETHING! And the true stars say and perform it in a way everybody else does not. You can buy insurance from Max Martin and Dr. Luke but it’s like Jennifer Grey getting a nose job, you might now look sleek, but you’ve lost your identity, you’re unrecognizable.
So I’m here to report from the front lines of the music business that we’re experiencing a rebirth, that everything’s healthy, because you can’t keep the younger generation down. You need no degree to make music, you only need to be on the planet to experience life, and if you can fuse music and lyrics to tell your story you can gain a huge fan base that rains down dough.
What could be better?
P.S. Louie only represents one new act a time, he builds and promotes it around the country. Each of his acts has a team. From Taylor Swift to Eric Church to Kenny Chesney to Ed Sheeran. Because despite consolidation music remains a personal service business. And one man on a mission can achieve more than any faceless edifice.
P.P.S. In case you’re unfamiliar with Ed Sheeran’s music, here’s a playlist for you to check out: