The Rise of City Pop

In the mid to late 70s, the economy of Japan was booming and a new generation of folks were looking for music to complement their new sophisticated lifestyle. Rising out of the ashes of the country’s folk scene and taking a cue from the blossoming West Coast music scene on the side of the Pacific, City Pop was born.

Blending synth funk, smooth jazz fusion and disco with the slick L.A. sound to create an urban contemporary feel, City Pop became the music choice for upwardly mobile Japanese in the late 70s through the late 80s.

Here’s a sample of some City Pop artists and songs from that time:

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West Coast Music Magazine Special Edition 2017

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The newest edition of West Coast Music Magazine is available to purchase. There are great articles of and interviews with Michael McDonald, Ned Doheny, Hamish Stuart (of the current 360 Band), Geyster, America, Al Sunny and Cool Million. Plus albums reviews from lots of 2017’s NuCoast releases as well as contributions from West Coast DJs, aficionados and lovers all around the world. You can order your issue by going here.

Did The Eagles Steal Some Gold?

This is a question I have often asked myself over the years, especially when I read another article about Don Henley suing someone. Did the Eagles steal the opening drum beat from Andrew Gold’s Never Let Her Slip Away for their own #1 hit, Heartache Tonight? I have never read where they have credited Andrew, acknowledged the influence or paid him any money. The evidence is pretty damning and you can listen to the video below for audio proof.

Here’s the quick story: Andrew Gold was writing songs in late 1977 for his next album, All This And Heaven Too. He and songwriting partner, Brock Walsh, were particularly inspired by Queen’s We Rock With You stomp – bom-bom clap, bom-bom clap – and wanted something similar but softer for a song they wrote about Andrew’s new girlfriend, SNL’s Larraine Newman. That song was Never Let Her Slip Away and when he recorded it, he asked Freddie Mercury to sing back up vocals on it, as well as Timothy B Schmit and J.D. Souther. The song only reached #67 in the Summer of 1978.

Sometime within that year J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey were jamming together, writing songs for the Eagles next LP – the forthcoming The Long Run – when they stumbled upon a future hit, Heartache Tonight. Bob Seger helped out with the chorus and Don Henley helped to polish the song before recording it. Also by now Timothy B Schmit was an official Eagle. Heartache Tonight was released in the Fall of 1979 and became a #1 hit before the end of the year, garnering a Grammy nomination as well. The drum beat after the opening chords is very similar to Andrew’s in Never Let Her Slip Away, so similar that I assumed it was a sample. Hmmmmm….

What’s so ironic is that 2 people – J.D. Souther and Timothy B Schmit – helped to create Andrew’s song which the Eagles seemingly ripped off. Was it a coincidence? Unintentional musical osmosis? Eagles & Andrew were on the same label, Asylum. I feel like they needed to throw Andrew some dollars or some credit or both. But no one sued, it became a non-issue and all was OK, until….

2013 – Haim releases Days Are Gone featuring the song, The Wire, which includes the almost exact same intro as Heartache Tonight with no credits to any of The Eagles. Interestingly no Eagle has sued Haim, to date. I’m guessing that’s because the trail is very muddy and may be better left alone.

So to recap Haim (most likely) stole from the Eagles who (highly probably) stole from Andrew Gold who (didnt really steal, but was inspired by) Queen.

Watch this video for aural proof and tell me what you think:

The Everlasting Presence of Fleetwood Mac

“Energy is contagious – either you affect people or you infect people.” -Anonymous

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I can’t think of a better quote to describe the success of the band, Fleetwood Mac. Although they had many lineup changes, there’s only one that mattered – Bob Welch is replaced by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. In fact their career should be broken down like this: BBN (before Buckingham Nicks) and ABN (after Buckingham Nicks).

The addition of those two musicians didn’t just change the dynamics and direction of the band. It didn’t just help create one of the biggest selling albums in the world to date. It did something even better to create their legacy. It kept Fleetwood Mac as a Top 40 radio presence for a decade and a half.

Factoring out FM radio in the 70s and classic rock radio from the 80s and beyond, Fleetwood Mac and specifically Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had their voices on pop radio for a 15 year span. Stevie’s addition to the band sparked even more creative energy from Christine McVie who wrote some of her best songs during this period. It’s no wonder when Bill Clinton had the band ‘reunite’ to play his inauguration ball in 1993, the sparks flew again, culminating in the #1 1997 live album, The Dance.

Take a look at this run* to see how they never left our ears from 1975-1990:

1975: Fleetwood Mac-Over My Head

1976: Fleetwood Mac-Rhiannon, Say You Love Me

1977: Fleetwood Mac-Go Your Own Way, Dreams, Don’t Stop, You Make Loving Fun

1978: Kenny Loggins-Whenever I Call You Friend (uncredited duet with Stevie), Walter Egan-Magnet & Steel (backing vocals by Stevie & Lindsey), Bob Welch-Sentimental Lady (backing vocals by Lindsey & Christine McVie)

1979: Fleetwood Mac-Tusk, John Stewart-Gold & Midnight Wind (backing vocals by Stevie, guitar by Lindsey)

1980: Fleetwood Mac-Sara & Think About Me

1981: Stevie Nicks w/ Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers-Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, Robbie Patton-Don’t Give It Up (Backing vocals by Christine McVie)

1981/1982: Lindsey Buckingham-Trouble, Stevie Nicks & Don Henley-Leather & Lace

1982: Stevie Nicks-Edge Of Seventeen & After The Glitter Fades, Fleetwood Mac-Hold Me & Gypsy

1983: Fleetwood Mac-Love In Store, Stevie Nicks-Stand Back & If Anyone Falls

1984: Stevie Nicks-Nightbird, Lindsey Buckingham-Go Insane

1985: Stevie Nicks-Talk To Me

1986: Stevie Nicks-I Can’t Wait, Needles & Pins (w/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)

1987: Fleetwood Mac-Big Love, Seven Wonders & Little Lies

1988: Fleetwood Mac-Everywhere

1989: Stevie Nicks-Rooms On Fire

1990: Fleetwood Mac-Save Me

*all songs were Top 40 hits

Westcoast CCM

Since the dawn of Christian rock in the early 70s, CCM (contemporary Christian music) artists have been trying to figure out ways to cross over to the mainstream. TIn the late 70s and early 80s they figured the best way to do it was through the aqueduct of Westcoast smoothness. Outside of Chris Christian’s I Want You, I Need You in 1981none of them had much success, but they still created some funky grooves while spreading their love from above. Eventually after Amy Grant’s pop breakthrough in 1991, other artists, such as Michael W. Smith and Kathy Troccoli, followed her into the Top 40.

Here’s a montage of Westcoast CCM artists from 1978-1984.

A Smooth Thanksgiving

If you like WestCoast pop rock and soul, this was a good week for you. On American Top 40 for the week ending November 21, 1981, Casey was calling them nice and smooth this week. Let’s see where those hits fell:

Coming in at #39 up from #49, it’s Turn Your Love Around by George Benson. This future Top 5 pop and #1 soul hit is like the nexus of Westcoast. Released from George’s new greatest hits ‘collection’ it was written by Bill Champlin, Steve Lukather and Jay Graydon who also produced and plays guitar on it. The Linn drums were programmed by Jeff Porcaro with piano by Jai Winding and synth bass by David Paich. It won a Grammy for Best R&B song.

Moving up 3 spots to #37, we have I Want You, I Need You by Chris Christian, the first and only CCM artist to cross over to the pop charts until Amy Grant in 1985.

At #36 we have a former Top 10 hit, Hard To Say by Dan Fogelberg. Dan’s a borderline WC artist but I put him and this song here because of the backing vocals by Glenn Frey.

We hit some West Coast soul with Stevie Woods at #34 with Steal The Night  then we zoom up to some Fleetwood Mac solo careers – Stevie Nicks with Don Henley at #21 duetting on Leather and Lace and breaking into  the Top 20 at #19, Lindsey Buckingham with the future Top 10 single, Trouble.

Can I take this moment to point out the radio presence that Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks, with and without Fleetwood Mac had? From the moment Fleetwood Mac entered the Top 40 on December 6, 1975 with Over My Head, we heard the combination of LB, SN and/or FM as they had at least one single in the Top 40 for the next 15 years. I’ll save the list for another post. Back to the charts….

Sandwiched between the solo Macs at #20 is the first Top 40 hit for Al Jarreau. We’re In This Love Together was on its way down from a peak of #15.

At #17, The Dude (or Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) Quincy Jones with Just Once with vocals by James Ingram, the 2nd Top 40 hit from his 1981 album which garnered 6 Grammys. James’ duet with Patti Austin, Baby Come To Me was released as his One Hundred Ways was peaking at #14 in the Spring of 1982. It would be another year and a handful of General Hospital episodes later before it would hit #1.

#16 is Barry Manilow with another hit that he didn’t write, The Old Songs. This one was by Westcoast artist David Pomeranz, whose version was on his 1980 LP, The Truth Of Us.

The Top 10 gives us the one-two punch of Mike Post and Christopher Cross. #10 is Mike’s Theme from Hill Street Blues with the jazzy stylings of guitarist Larry Carlton. And #9 is the former #1 hit for Christopher Cross which won him an Oscar – Arthur’s Theme.

The Little River Band keep their Top 10 streak going with The Night Owls down one to #7.

And the #1 song this week, beginning a phenomenal 10 week run – produced by John Farrar, written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick and featuring a guitar solo by Steve Lukather – the biggest song of the 80s – Physical by Olivia Newton-John.

Whether of not you can  remember where your were during that week in 1981, I can guarantee you had a smooth Thanksgiving.

 

West Coast from Around the World

Westcoast music was becoming so popular in the US in the mid to late 70s and its popularity spread as the music was exported around the globe to many other countries. Naturally musicians from those countries became influence by that sound and wanted to give their take on those smooth vibes.

Here’s a montage of West Coast music from outside of the US recorded in the 70s & 80s:

West Coast Soul

In the late 70s, after disco hit the mainstream and washed away most of the funk bands, R&B music was at a crossroads. As the decade turned in 1980, a new genre of West Coast music rose up to prominence: West Coast Soul. Taking a lesson from West Coast pop, it featured an uptown sophisticated sound, a little jazz, a little funk, a little soul and a lot of smooth vibes:

Here’s a montage of some West Coast Soul from the early 80s: