In 1987 Dan Fogelberg released, Exiles, his tenth album. He was in the process of going through a divorce (not one that he initiated) and coping with a seriously broken heart. The album is all about grief with songs that touch on all of its stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Today we are focused on Anger.
Dan wrote all of the songs on Exiles with the exception of It Doesn’t Matter which was written by Stephen Stills and Chris HIllman and originally released by Manassas. We featured the Manassas version our Southern California Sound #13 post but let’s listen again to refresh our memory of what the original sounded like…..
I love this song and, while the lyrics are sad, I never considered it to be angry. If I had to categorize the tone of the Manassas performance it was resigned…..definitely not angry.
Back to Dan and his cover version of the song. Believe it or not, his version is not on YouTube so I put it on my private channel just for you guys. Let’s listen and then we will talk.
Angry, Angry, Angry….the last 90 seconds of this song are amazing. Although I have huge respect for Dan’s guitar skills, I never imagined that he had that solo in him. I don’t know if Dan had screaming matches as part of his divorce but if he didn’t that guitar solo definitely got it out of his system. It was a musical, one sided, all out screaming match and I am willing to bet that he was emotionally spent after recording it. I am seldom surprised by musical performances but this one was an exception.
All I can say is well done Dan……..we miss you very much!
If you haven’t done it already, go back to yesterday’s post and sign the petition to get Dan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Stephen Stills had been a man on a mission since the mid-1960. He wanted a band! Not just any band but a band that was his and his alone. He wanted to be in control.
Buffalo Springfield held promise but it could never really be his band with that pesky Neil Young competing with him and refusing to take his direction, or anyone else’s direction for that matter. He thought he had it made with Crosby, Stills, and Nash but they were more of a vocal group than a band. Hell, he had to play almost all of the damn instruments himself on their first album. In his desperation for a real band he somehow allowed Neil Young to re-enter the picture with CSNY. It was great having Neil as a foil, and someone that was his equal for extended guitar solos, but just like with Buffalo Springfield, Neil refused to cooperate with Stephen’s ambitions. In the end, Neil treated CSN like an alternative backup band to Crazy Horse which was not to Stephen’s liking at all!
In 1971, Stephen took matters into his own hand and formed Manassas, the band of his dreams. Stephen was in charge and the band could really kick ass. This was a group that could comfortably play the country flavored rock that the California sound was famous for as well as the latin flavored music that was Stephen’s secret passion. Although Stephen was in charge, he had a pretty impressive right hand man in Chris Hillman who we have discussed at length as an original member of the Bryds and of the Flying Burrito Brothers. The other musicians were equally impressive in their own right and included Al Perkins (steel guitar), Fuzzy Samuels (bass), Paul Harris (keyboards), Dallas Taylor (drums), and Joe Lala (percussion – the foundation of the latin sound that I mentioned). It was a real band, a big band, and it would be the source of some of the best music of Stephen’s career (and Chris’ career as well). On most days I actually prefer listening to Manassas over CSN or CSNY and that says a lot. So today we are going to celebrate Manassas’ two studio albums with a lot of music….no I mean a whole lot of music. I hope you enjoy it, I am not going to bore you with a lot of my feelings. Quick introductions and then on to the music.
Manassas (double album release in 1972 – an absolute masterpiece)
First up is a song written by Stephen and Chris called Both of Us (Bound to Lose). Chris and Stephen trade of lead vocals and the harmonies are amazing. My favorite Manassas song….
Next up is my second favorite Manassas song, It Doesn’t Matter, which was also written by Stephen and Chris.
Finally, we have a beautiful song written by Stephen called Move Around. In addition to a great vocal by Stephen, this song has an extremely tasty synthesizer backing track.
So far we have highlighted some of my favorite tracks from the Manassas double album but you only have half the story. I mentioned early on that this band could kick ass and now it is time to prove it. We are lucky enough to have a full 35 minute Manassas performance from a German TV show in 1972. The set list from this show includes a number of songs from their double album: Bound to Fall, It Doesn’t Matter, Hide It So Deep, Song of Love, Rock ‘n Roll Crazies, Cuban Bluegrass, Jet Set, Jam, The Treasure. Let’s listen……
If you aren’t sold on Manassas I seriously have to question your musical taste but I am going to give you one more chance. Let’s sample some Manassas’s second (and last) studio album titled Down the Road. This album was pretty much panned by the critics but hopefully you have learned by now that I trust myself over any critic and I feel today like I did in 1973. Down the Road was a great album. Maybe not as good as their first but great in its own right.
So Many Times was easily the best song on Down the Road. Once again it was cowritten by Stephen and Chris. Chris takes the lead vocal with Stephen singing harmony and the result is amazing.
For a change of pace, let’s listen to Down the Road, the title song from the second album. Some wonderful slide guitar from Stephen on this one.
Can you tell I like Manassas??? I hope you enjoyed this extended post of their music.
To wrap things up I am sad to report that Manassas met it demise in 1973 soon after the release of their second album. The cause….Stephen was lured back to CSNY for one of their many short lived reunions. In my opinion Stephen had it all and threw it away. Maybe it was the money, maybe it was the fame, but whatever it was Stephen would never again have a band as good as Manassas or music with the same level of consistent quality. On the other hand, some of the other members of Manassas still had a role to play in the story of The Southern California Sound. We will hear about them in the final post in this long running series.
When we last looked in on the Byrds, David Crosby had been fired and Michael Clarke had quit leaving the group with only two members Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. The remaining Byrds needed a band and moved quickly to hire Kevin Kelley, Chris Hillman’s cousin, as a drummer and Gram Parsons as pianist. The key word here is hired, with both of the new band members coming on board as paid sidemen rather than full members of the group. The group appeared to jell and although not a full member of the group Gram immediately became a major force in the band, quickly moving from piano to guitar. Roger McGuinn was quoted in a May, 1968 article in Rolling Stone (Byrds: New Personnel For Some Old-Time Country Music) as saying “Gram added a whole hunk of country. Gram’s bag is country and we’re going to let him do his thing, and support him and work together on things.” The Byrds headed south, literally and figuratively. A good portion of their upcoming album was recorded in Nashville and their new sound was not the “country rock” sound of Poco but real serious, honest to God, traditional country music. You got a taste of this in Hickory Wind, a Gram song that I posted earlier this week. Here is another taste with Gram and the Byrds tackling Merle Haggard’s Life In Prison.
Just because the Byrds embraced county music, doesn’t mean that Nashville embraced them! You have to remember that this was the 60’s and being a long haired hippie, especially in the south, was taking your life in your own hands. They were soundly booed when they became the first rock group to play at the Grand Ole Opry and they were ridiculed during their appearance on WSM radio.
In the midst of the Byrds move to country music there was a real power struggle going on within the band. Gram was exerting more influence, and from everything that I have read, he was intent on taking over the band but this was never going to happen given that he was not a full member of the group. You could almost sense that things were not going to end well and the situation moved quicker than anyone might have predicted. There is no better way to hear the story than straight from the people that were there and lived it. I think you will enjoy this. (Don’t get confused by the title of the video, it actually traces the whole story of Gram and his time in the Byrds in less than five minutes)
So…Gram was out of the Byrds and the album that he so greatly influences, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, was still two months from being released. Gram wrote the only two original songs on the album and recorded the majority of the lead vocals before his departure; however, his role in the released album was greatly reduced during post-production work on the album prior to its release. The most significant change was that Roger McGuinn erased many of Gram’s lead vocals replacing them with his own. Gram’s vocals on Hickory Wind and Life In Prison were left untouched which is why I selected them for your listening enjoyment.
By now the Byrds were used to dealing with personnel turnover and they kept moving forward hiring Clarence White to replace Gram on guitar. But more change was in the air. Chris Hillman left the band a couple of months after Gram due to financial issues associated with the Byrd’s business manager. This left Roger McGuinn as the last original member of the Byrds, a position that left him in firm control of the band. He,and a revolving cast of sidemen, would go on for another five years and a number of albums before finally calling it quits in 1973. Although there would still be some interesting Byrd’s music to come their career had clearly peaked so we will leave them behind. While the Byrds were coming in for a landing a new group was taking flight on wings made out our tortillas.
It wasn’t long before Gram and Chris hooked up following their individual departures from the Byrds. If you watched Chris on the video above it was clear that he had found a kindred sprit in Gram, so it was really not a surprise to see them team up. They named the new group the Flying Burrito Brothers and recruited “Sneaky Pete Kleinow (steel guitar) and Chris Ethridge (bass) to round out the initial group. They used a variety of different drummers in their early work and eventually hired Michael Clarke (you will remember him as one of the original Byrds) as a full time drummer.
It will come as no surprise that the band had a seriously country sound. This sound was highlighted throughout their first album, named The Gilded Palace of Sin, on which all but two of the songs was written by Gram and/or Chris. The album would prove to be incredibly influential over time. It is ranked at 195 on Rolling Stones top 500 album list and was a major influence on all country rock/alt country performers that would follow in their path. Amazingly the album would never achieve any significant commercial success as reflected in the fact that it still has still not achieved Gold record status over 40 years after its release. Enough talking, let’s have a listen to Sin City written by Gram and Chris.
Now let’s listen to my favorite song from the album, Christine’s Tune, which was also written by Gram and Chris. As always, I apologize in advance for the advertisement in the video.
In my opinion that song/video is perfect: the suits; Gram and Chris trading lead vocals; the vocal harmony between Chris and Gram; and the crazy psychedelic sound that Sneaky Pete got out of that steel guitar. I would really like to be able to end this story right here on that high note but unfortunately I can’t.
The band started to come apart pretty quickly. Chris Ethridge left and was replaced by Bernie Leadon. Gram and Chris Hillman started to fall apart as Gram started to go off the deep end with drugs. Their next album Burrito Deluxe was cobbled together in the studio and featured little of the collaborative songwriting that had made the first album so special. Gram left soon after the albums release and as far I am concerned the Burritos that I knew and loved ended at that point. The band would trudge on running through a number of talented musicians (Rick Roberts, Al Perkins, Byron Berline, etc.) some of which will show up in later posts.
Gram will not be discussed in future posts in this series but we will come back to address the remainder of his career in a dedicated post in the future. For now I will give you the Readers Digest version of the sad story. His drug use continued to worsen after leaving the Burritos. He had a short but eventful solo career before dying of a drug overdose in 1973. The events following his death have taken on legendary status. and I will save them for the promised dedicated post in the future.
For now, I will leave you with this trailer from the Fallen Angel documentary about Gram.
After trying out a variety of different names during 1964, Jim McGuinn (now known as Roger McGuinn), Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke, became the Byrds late in the year. Jim, Gene, and David all had a folk background while Chris had country background. This mixture would lead the group in a number of ground breaking musical directions.
The group went into the studio in early 1965 to record their first single for Columbia Records, an updated version of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man. This song: introduced the key elements of their sound (McGuinn’s jangling twelve string guitar and beautiful vocal harmonies); was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard charts; and single handedly created a new musical genre labeled as folk rock. The album of the same name followed and was also a hit producing an additional single with another Bob Dylan cover (All I Really Want to Do). Gene Clark did the majority of the writing by the group for the album, scoring the B-sides of the two singles. One of those B-sides was I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better which gave a glimpse of the writing talent lurking in the group. Lets have a listen.
The group’s next single was a Pete Seeger cover (Turn!Turn!Turn!) which became their second #1 hit and the title song of their second album. The writing credits for the album and for the album singles started to slightly tilt in the direction of the direction of the group with this album. Although Gene Clark continuing to have the majority of the groups writing credits, Jim McQuinn’s contributions were more significant than on the first album, including one song on which he shared writing credit with David Crosby.
Fifth Dimension, the Byrds third album, represented a change in direction for the group and introduced the world to another new musical genre, psychedelic rock with its first single Eight Miles High that was written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, and David Crosby. You have probably heard this one before but it is worth another listen even if you have.
By this time the group was doing most of the writing and David Crosby in particular was starting to step to the forefront. One of his songs on the album is a favorite of mine and in many ways sets the tone of most of the songs that he would write for the remainder of his career. See what you think.
David’s growth as a songwriter was fortunate because Gene Clark quit the band around this time. As noted above, Gene had carried a significant portion of the writing load so his departure required the other band members to step up their games.
Chris Hillman rose to the songwriting challenge with the band’s next album called Younger Than Yesterday. He wrote four of the album songs himself including Have You Seen Her Face.
Chris also co-wrote the Album’s biggest selling single, So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star, with Jim McGuinn. Jim and David each contributed four songs. (Note: One of David’s contribution was Everybody’s Been Burned which we featured a week ago in the Blog post titled I Got You Covered #3.)
On the surface, all was well with the group but we will see in an upcoming post that this was somewhat of an illusion. The next post in the The California Sound series will be coming your way this weekend.