This is one of those songs that comes and goes at very random times. Maybe because so many people have recorded it.
This song is of unkown authorship and is considered a traditional folk song. It may have started out that way, even when Bob Dylan recorded it in 1961 for his debut album. But by the time that The Animals recorded it on 18 May 1964 it was transformed into a “folk rock” hit.
Lead singer of the Animals, Eric Burdon, tells the tale that the group needed a song to end their set while on tour with Chuck Berry, that was different. Not a straight out rocker that most bands were ending sets with. To do this, they took this song, put Eric in a single red spot on stage and rocked it some. The response was so positive they decided to record it over the reluctance of their producer. The song was recorded in one take, all of 15 minutes or so.
The Animals had begun featuring their arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun” during a joint concert tour with Chuck Berry, using it as their closing number to differentiate themselves from acts that always closed with straight rockers. It got a tremendous reaction from the audience, convincing initially reluctant producerMickie Most that it had hit potential, and between tour stops the group went to a small recording studio on Kingsway in London to capture it.
But, that’s not what I came here to tell you about (you were waiting for that line, weren’t you?). Back in the day when I was a worship leader in churches, we used to play around during warm ups by playing Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising Sun. Since it’s a very basic song in A minor, and in 4/4 time, the basic melody and rhythms can accept many other lyrics.
For fun, play in your head Amazing Grace to the tune of Peaceful Easy Feeling or better yet the theme song from Gilligan’s Island.
And now that I’ve got that stuck in your head, my job is done here.
Let’s go back to the summer of 1969. I was a strapping lad all of 10. Of course, I had not heard of this band then, much less this particular song. The name “Fleetwood Mac” didn’t hit my radar until much, much later with their “Rumours” album in 1977. And, like the majority of my male friends, I was trying to get with Stevie Nicks.
But, as usual, that’s not what I came here to talk about. Fleetwood Mac started out, not as a rock or pop band, but as a blues band. We all know, or if you didn’t know, you do now, that rock is very heavily influenced if not down right a derivative of, the blues. And I am very much into the blues.
“Oh Well” was recorded by the first version of Fleetwood Mac, and this a band that has had many changes.
The single’s peak position in the UK Charts was No. 2 for two weeks in November 1969, spending a total of 16 weeks on the chart. In the Dutch Top 40, it peaked at No. 1, staying in the chart for 11 weeks. It also reached the top 5 in Ireland, Norway, New Zealand and France, and the top 10 in Germany and Switzerland. “Oh Well” was a minor hit in the USA, where it reached #55, thus becoming Fleetwood Mac’s first single to reach the Hot 100, as well as their only pre-Buckingham/Nicks song to earn this distinction. The song still received some airplay on many FM rock stations and its reputation has grown in the years since its release. It has been also re-released in many countries as a ‘Golden Oldies’ single.
I am taken by the little guitar riff then the vocals alone. I always thought the juxtaposition of the fast guitars, then a single voice was cool. There are two parts to the song, but both parts were never played live. Each part was released as the A and B side of a single. Peter Green says to have written part two first, and wanted it released as the A side with the now more popular part one as the B side. But that’s not what happened, and as the saying goes… “the rest is history”.
Here is “Oh Well, Part 1”, live from a 1969 BBC TV show. Enjoy!
And since this is St. Patrick’s Day, I give you this:
Yes, I know, I’ve been very quiet lately. The silence was due to two main reasons, I was sick and work has been crazy busy. Plus I’ve been doing lots on my genealogy.
But enough about that.
Last weekend Wifey and I didn’t have the grandkids for a change. So we did “adult” things. Things like, clean the house, wash the cars (and the dog). You, know fun stuff. But instead of having SiriusXM playing all day, I switched it up and played YouTube playlists. If you’re a regular reader of this blog or follow me on Twitter (social media links are below), you know that I use YouTube for most of my video links. Today will be no different.
This particular track has always been a favorite from the first time I laid eyes on the album cover, I was hooked.
The most common video of the song is taken from some TV show, I’m not sure which one. Chances are my brother will text me the answer when he reads this. He’s good that way.
The power of Grace’s voice is just so amazing. P!nk did a wonderful cover, but it’s just not quite the same.
I had so much more to say, but work is calling (again)… “Anyway, my coffee’s cold and I’m getting told that I gotta get back to work”, but then that’s an entirely different song.
Way back in the day (yeah, I’m old), I had this song on a 45 RPM single. Chances are I stole it from my brother gave it to me.
I was totally taken in with the backwards tracked guitar and other wild sounds that start the album.
The oscillating, reversed guitar which opens the song originated from the rehearsals at Russell’s house, where Williams recorded with a 1958 Gibson Les Paulguitar with a Bigsby vibrato unit. According to Lowe, “We were recording on a four-track, and just flipping the tape over and re-recording when we got to the end. Dave cued up a tape and didn’t hit ‘record,’ and the playback in the studio was way up: ear-shattering vibrating jet guitar. Ken had been shaking his Bigsby wiggle stick with some fuzztone and tremolo at the end of the tape. Forward it was cool. Backward it was amazing. I ran into the control room and said, ‘What was that?’ They didn’t have the monitors on so they hadn’t heard it. I made Dave cut it off and save it for later.”
I remember dancing, well what I would call dancing – I’m sure you’d disagree, around my tiny bedroom with this turned up full volume. Needless to say, my mother was not impressed. The video appears to be from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, although I cannot find it listed on this page. Watching drummer Preston Ritter just pounding the kit, along with vocalist James Lowe (and his autoharp) make me laugh. As was usual for any show such as this one, everything was lip synced. You’ll notice that there are no amps for the guitars. I’ve often wondered how the audience perceived the “performance” by the artists. Could they tell it wasn’t live (nor Memorex)?
Now, this takes me back to high school (shudder – I hated those days). Back in those days, I was a band geek. I stall am a geek, just no longer a member of a band. But in theory, it’s all the same. The reason this song is stuck today is probably because I have a little mini-reunion with some of my high school band members tonight. </sigh>
As a trumpet player the band Chicago (A.K.A. Chicago Transit Authority) was my go to band in my late teens. The way they blended rock, horns and political statements was mesmerizing to me. They used a rather unique lettering or font on the album covers. I even started making any papers I had to turn in at school in this font, at least for any titles and drop cap type of format. Mainly hoping it help hide the usual lame prose I was turning in! Doubt it helped any.
This track is from the first album Chicago Transit Authority released way back in 1969. It was 1970 that I picked up the trumpet, and this song jumped out at me immediately.
According to Cetera, the band was booked to perform at Woodstock in 1969, but promoter Bill Graham, with whom they had a contract, exercised his right to reschedule them to play at the Fillmore West on a date of his choosing, and he scheduled them for the Woodstock dates. Santana, which Graham also managed, took Chicago’s place at Woodstock, and that performance is considered to be Santana’s “breakthrough” gig. A year later, in 1970, when he needed to replace headliner Joe Cocker, and then Cocker’s intended replacement, Jimi Hendrix, Graham booked Chicago to perform at Tanglewood which is considered by some to be a “pinnacle” performance.
The track I’m linking to below is the original album version, not the radio edit. So it has the original piano intro that is cut for radio. But, more important to me, is Lee Loughnane’s trumpet solo, which is where the radio version usually starts. This solo, along with Chuck Mangione and Maynard Ferguson, is the reason I picked up the trumpet, to begin with.
The song was not released as a single until two tracks from the band’s second album, “Make Me Smile” and “25 or 6 to 4“, had become hits. It became the band’s third straight Top 10 single, peaking at No. 7 in the U.S. and No. 2 in Canada. Because the song straddled years in its chart run, it is not ranked on the major U.S. year-end charts. However, in Canada, where it charted higher, it is ranked as both the 59th biggest hit of 1970 and the 37th biggest hit of 1971. The original uncut album version opens with a brief “free form” piano solo performed by Lamm. A spoken verse by Lamm is mixed into the sung final verse of the album version. The single version does not include the “free form” intro, and was originally mixed and issued in mono. A stereo re-edit (beginning from the point where the “free form” intro leaves off) was issued on the group’s Only the Beginning greatest hits CD set. A 2:54 shorter edit (without opening fanfare or piano break, starting at the trumpet solo) was included on the original vinyl version of Chicago’s Greatest Hits, but was not included on the CD version. This shorter edit was included on the CD version of the compilation album If You Leave Me Now. This version was used as a radio edit version. A shorter version at 2:46 (starting midway through the trumpet solo) was issued as a promotional single, which finally appeared on 2007’s The Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition. A live version on the Chicago at Carnegie Hall box set presents an expanded version of the “free form” intro, which itself is given its own track. Various versions of the song receive airplay; the promotional single edit is the version played on certain ‘Classic Hits’ stations and 1970s radio shows. For example, radio station KKMJ would play the promo edit version on its ‘Super Songs’ of the 70s weekend. Classic Hits KXBT would also play the promo edit, and by contrast the True Oldies Channel would play the 3:20 single version. An AM radio station in Boston (WJIB 740 which also simulcasts in Maine as WJTO 730) plays the original vinyl Chicago IX edit.