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Tom Petty: The Beatles On Ed Sullivan "Changed Everything"
Tom Petty

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment

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Tom Petty: The Beatles On Ed Sullivan "Changed Everything"

GRAMMY winner on how the Beatles' earthshaking debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" sent him on a mission for a guitar and how he'll celebrate at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9

GRAMMYs/Feb 8, 2014 - 05:06 am

(On Feb. 9 The Recording Academy, AEG Ehrlich Ventures and CBS will present "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America — A GRAMMY Salute." The two-and-a-half-hour special will celebrate the legacy of the Beatles and their groundbreaking first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" exactly 50 years to the day, date and time of the original event.)

(As told to Paul Zollo)

I was 13, and already somewhat of a music fan. This was the great moment in my life, really, that changed everything. I had been a fan up to that point. But this was the thing that made me want to play music. You saw that it could be done. There could be a self-contained unit that wrote, recorded and sang songs. And it looked like they were having an awful lot of fun doing it.

I watched it with my little brother. My mom and dad were there, but they weren't interested in it. They laughed at it and left the room. But my brother and me, both of us, we just flipped out. We thought it was the greatest thing ever.

It's very hard for people to understand how monolithic it was, looking at it today. But it was absolutely earthshaking. These weren't days when you had rock and roll on television very frequently at all. And [the Beatles] were so ready for it. They're so professional, and they have their act so down. Their presentation is beyond compare. It's amazing, when you watch it now, how aware they are of where the cameras are, and what to do. And their songs were just fantastic, and so original. They were the right people at the right time at the right spot with the right songs.

Culturally, it changed everything in America, and probably the world. The influence on every part of our lives was huge, from social issues to fashion issues to music issues. From that point on, the Beatles were the North Star for me and my generation. And we're very blessed to have had them.

Before them, there were a lot of singers, like Elvis. But it was really great to see a band. I had seen bands around town before, but I never saw one that really did everything, that was a vocal group and an instrumental and songwriting group. The idea of writing songs had never occurred to me before them. I knew that they wrote their songs. I had the little single, "I Want To Hold Your Hand"/"I Saw Her Standing There," before I saw them, with that great photo of them on the front in the grey collarless jackets. "Lennon/McCartney" was prominent under each title, so I knew that they wrote the songs. And I said, "Hey, this can be done. You just need four guys who can play their instruments. And if we do this, we can have a great time."

Really, within weeks of that show, you began to hear the sounds of garage bands on the weekends leaking through the neighborhood — of kids out in the garage playing. And it became my mission to find an electric guitar, and to meet friends who could play with me. And that happened rather organically. So many people were doing it.

I didn't really know what harmony was, but I loved the sound their voices made. I would learn these things from trial and error situations with my friends playing. We eventually figured out how to make that sound, and what a harmony was.

Back then, everyone didn't have a guitar.  Not like now, where anyplace you go, there's a guitar. It was a different world then. Fender sold themselves to CBS that year because the demand [for] guitars just overwhelmed them. 

If you talk to any musician my age, I think we'd all tell you — especially the American ones — that night had a profound effect on the rest of [our] lives. It did have a great profound effect on my life, and I thank them for that. I still think the Beatles [made] the best music ever, and I'm sure I'll go to my grave thinking the same thing.

There will never be another moment like it, I don't think, in music. I don't think you could have another moment like that, because of the innocence of the audience. That innocence doesn't exist anymore. It was just a really great time to be alive, to be a teenager, and to experience that.

It should be celebrated, and I'm glad there's so much attention being given to it. I think that everyone in America with an electric guitar should all hit an open E chord at 8 o'clock on February 9. I'm gonna do it.

(A three-time GRAMMY winner, Tom Petty is the founder of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. In 1988 Petty teamed with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison to form Traveling Wilburys. The all-star quintet won a GRAMMY for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for Traveling Wilburys Volume One. Tom Petty And The Heartbreaker's most recent studio album, Mojo, was released in 2010.)

(Paul Zollo is the senior editor of American Songwriter and the author of several books, including Songwriters On SongwritingConversations With Tom Petty and Hollywood Remembered. He's also a songwriter and Trough Records artist whose songs have been recorded by many artists, including Art Garfunkel, Severin Browne and Darryl Purpose.)

 

John Lennon, Sting, Alicia Keys: 7 Songs For Starting Over In 2018

John Lennon

Photo: Ron Howard/Redferns

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John Lennon, Sting, Alicia Keys: 7 Songs For Starting Over In 2018

With hits from Leonard Cohen, the Byrds, Nina Simone, and more, find the motivation for a brand-new you this New Year

GRAMMYs/Jan 4, 2018 - 11:12 pm

Each New Year offers the opportunity for a fresh new start, whether you're looking to wash away the sins of the previous year or reinvent a better future that follows your ultimate dreams. Starting over isn't an easy task, but we have one recommendation that will help motivate you: music.

Don't be a fuddy duddy. Kick-start 2018 with this playlist of seven songs all about starting over, including hits from John Lennon, the Byrds, Sting, and Alicia Keys, among others.

1. The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

Starting with its lyrics, "To everything (turn, turn, turn)/There is a season," this GRAMMY Hall Of Fame classic is a great reminder that everything is always changing anyway, so now is as good a time as any to give something new a chance. The composition was written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, but the lyrics come almost verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The song didn't hit it big until the Byrds got their turn at it in 1965. Reportedly, it took Roger McGuinn & Co. 78 takes to perfect their folk-rock arrangement.

2. Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

GRAMMY winner Leonard Cohen had a knack for poetry powerful enough to move mountains, and his "Anthem" is one such gem. This 1992 tune about embracing imperfection and marching forward in the face of adversity contains one of Cohen's most-quoted lines: "Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack, a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." And we'll leave you with one final line from the master that encapsulates starting over: "The birds they sing, at the break of day/Start again, I heard them say/Don't dwell on what has passed away/Or what is yet to be."

3. Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"

Taken from his 2010 album of the same name, "I'm New Here" came near the end of Gil Scott-Heron's storied life. The album saw Scott-Heron, according to Drowned In Sound's Robert Ferguson, "pick over the bones of his life, acknowledging the hard times and his own mistakes, but standing proud of all they have led him to become." Embodying this sentiment accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Scott-Heron's bluesy, semi-spoken "I'm New Here" brings out the poignancy of change. Its key lyric, "No matter how far wrong you've gone/You can always turn around," is something to keep in mind year-round, let alone January.

4. Alicia Keys, "Brand New Me"

Alicia Keys went full bore on the empowering messages of her 2012 album, Girl On Fire —  the Best R&B Album winner at the 56th GRAMMY Awards — including the track, "Brand New Me." Co-written with singer/songwriter Emeli Sandé, the soft pop/R&B ballad describes growing as a person and becoming a brand-new version of yourself. "Brand new me is about the journey it takes to get to a place where you are proud to be a new you," Keys wrote on her website at the time of the song's release.

5. John Lennon, "(Just Like) Starting Over"

A quintessential start-anew song, former Beatle John Lennon included "(Just Like) Starting Over" on his GRAMMY-winning 1980 album, Double Fantasy. "(Just Like) Starting Over" was the album's first single because Lennon felt it best represented his return following a five-year hiatus from music. It's also a love song, but the theme of starting over has a universal resonance "It's time to spread our wings and fly/Don't let another day go by my love/It'll be just like starting over." It became Lennon's second chart-topping single in the U.S., reaching No. 1 after his death on Dec. 8, 1980.

6. Nina Simone, "Feeling Good"

"It's a new dawn/It's a new day/It's a new life for me/I'm feelin' good." Could you ask for better lyrics for embarking on a new journey? Nina Simone recorded her version of "Feeling Good," which was originally written for the musical "The Roar Of The Greasepaint — The Smell Of The Crowd," on her 1965 album I Put A Spell On You. While artists such as Michael Bublé, John Coltrane, George Michael, and Muse subsequently covered it, no alternative is quite as powerful — or soulful — as Simone's.

7. Sting, "Brand New Day"

Sting's "Brand New Day" has a lesson for inspiring motivation to start the New Year with fresh eyes: "Turn the clock to zero, buddy/Don't wanna be no fuddy-duddy/We started up a brand new day." The bright, catchy pop tune and its namesake 1999 album resonated with fans, landing it at No. 9 on the Billboard 200. The track (and album) earned Sting GRAMMYs — Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Album — at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards.

What's Your New Year's Music Resolution?

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We Will, We Will Shock You

A collection of shocking album covers that might make you look twice (or look away)

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

As the baby boomer-fueled market moved from singles to albums in the '60s and '70s, artists began using LP covers as a means to create bold visual statements, occasionally using nudity, sexual imagery or striking graphics. Sometimes the purpose was to create art for the ages, while other times it was to push boundaries. Either way, the most controversial covers were often banned or altered by record companies for fear of public or retail outrage. One of the most famous cases of censorship was one of the first — the Beatles' "butcher" cover for 1966's Yesterday And Today, which featured a grinning Fab Four covered in raw meat and plastic baby doll parts. (The cover was reportedly an anti-Vietnam war commentary by the group.) Capitol Records issued a new cover with a less-shocking photo after the original caused an uproar. In the '70s and '80s, German rock band the Scorpions made a series of albums with disturbing sexual imagery, including 1976's notorious (and quickly banned) Virgin Killer featuring a nude young girl. The cover was replaced by a conventional band portrait.

While shocking album covers do still exist, they have occurred with less frequency since the '90s as CDs, which de-emphasized cover art, replaced LPs and pop culture grew more permissive. Now, as album sales shift from physical to digital, the age of shock album covers is starting to seem like a bygone era. Here are a few other album covers that shocked us, and might shock you too.

Moby Grape
Moby Grape, 1967
Shocking fact: Drummer Don Stevenson's (center) middle finger was airbrushed out on later pressings.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Electric Ladyland, 1968
Shocking fact: The British release featured a bevy of naked women on the cover.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, 1968
Shocking fact: Distributors covered the explicit content — nude front and back portraits of Lennon and Ono — in brown paper. Even today, full frontal nudity remains objectionable for many.

The Rolling Stones
Beggars Banquet, 1968
Shocking fact: The band's U.S. and UK labels originally rejected the cover featuring a toilet and graffiti-covered bathroom wall. Today, the cover seems remarkably tame.

Blind Faith
Blind Faith, 1969
Shocking fact: The original cover featured a young nude girl holding a small plane. The replacement cover featured a shot of the band.

David Bowie
Diamond Dogs, 1974
Shocking fact: The cover illustration of Bowie as a (noticeably male) dog had the offending organs edited out.

Ohio Players
Honey, 1975
Shocking fact: The sexually suggestive cover features Playboy Playmate Ester Cordet swallowing honey from a spoon.

Jane's Addiction
Nothing's Shocking, 1988
Shocking fact: An ironic twist to the list. This artsy cover depicts a realistic sculpture, created by frontman Perry Farrell, featuring nude conjoined twins with hair afire.

Millie Jackson
Back To The S*!, 1989
Shocking fact: The take-no-prisoners soul singer poses on a toilet seat with one shoe off while grimacing. Often called the worst album cover ever.

The Black Crowes
Amorica, 1994
Shocking fact: Original cover featured an American flag-printed G-string showing pubic hair.
 

 

John Tavener Dies
John Tavener

Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images

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John Tavener Dies

GRAMMY-winning classical composer dies at 69

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

GRAMMY-winning classical composer John Tavener died Nov. 12 at his home in England. A cause of death was not revealed. He was 69. A native of London, Tavener was trained in piano and organ as a young adult, and subsequently studied composition at London's Royal Academy of Music. He burst onto the public scene with the help of the Beatles, who released his album The Whale via their Apple Records label in 1970. The following year Apple released Tavener's Celtic Requiem. Much of Tavener's later work was inspired by his spiritual journey, including his conversion to Orthodox Christianity and his collaboration with Mother Thekla, a Russian immigrant and nun with whom he composed "Song For Athene" in 1993, which was performed at Princess Diana's funeral in 1997. Tavener earned the lone GRAMMY of his career in 2002 for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for Tavener: Lamentations And Praises, a collaboration with San Francisco-based all-male classical vocal ensemble Chanticleer. "John Tavener was a prolific and eclectic composer whose work reached beyond the bounds of classical music," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "He strived to create compositions that were noble, magnificent and inspirational."

Paul McCartney At Frank Erwin Center
Paul McCartney performs at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas

Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

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Paul McCartney At Frank Erwin Center

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Lynne Margolis
Austin, Texas

Though Paul McCartney may be 70 in chronological years, we need a new unit of measurement to describe the McCartneys, Mick Jaggers, John Fogertys, and Bruce Springsteens of the world. We should call it rock and roll years, because rock is certainly what's keeping these GRAMMY winners (and women such as Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson) vital and exciting to watch well into their so-called "golden years."

On May 22 at Austin's Frank Erwin Center, McCartney reaffirmed this truth: Rock and roll keeps you young. In two hours and 45 minutes, he and his band delivered 36 hits and favorites from his Beatles, Wings and solo eras (38 if we count the Abbey Road medley of "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End"; he also slipped in a bit of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady."

With his usual good humor, McCartney told stories, dropped a few clever punch lines and even gave the occasional hip shake and soft-shoe shuffle — though he wore Cuban-heeled Beatle boots below his black jeans and cropped pink jacket. When he removed the jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves, he joked, "That's the big wardrobe change of the evening."

But the sold-out audience of more than 12,000 didn't come to see fancy outfits and elaborate sets; they came to hear the biggest living icon in pop music history, and perhaps revisit fond moments of their own histories through the musical touchstones he created. The savvy McCartney, in his first-ever performance in Austin, didn't disappoint.

For the most part, he faithfully reproduced beloved versions of hits such as "Eight Days A Week," "Paperback Writer," "Lady Madonna," "Another Day," "Band On The Run," and "Live And Let Die," which brought one big special effects moment during the show — jets of fire and showers of sparks so intense the heat could be felt 15 rows back on the floor.

Nostalgic Beatles montages, artful geometrics and audience shots popped up on massive screens behind him as he switched between various guitars, his Hofner bass and two pianos. He performed several Beatles songs he'd never done live, including "All Together Now," "Lovely Rita," "Your Mother Should Know," and "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!"

Only "My Valentine" was performed from his 2012 GRAMMY-winning album Kisses On The Bottom. But with a catalog that includes some of the most beautiful songs ever written, he knew what mattered: gems such as "And I Love Her," "Blackbird," "All My Loving," and "Maybe I'm Amazed," the latter written for his late wife, Linda. Flubbing the opening, McCartney joked, "It proves we're live!" 

Perhaps the most touching moments were his homages to fellow Beatles — the ukulele-plucked "Something" (written by George Harrison) and a song he wrote for John Lennon, "Here Today." Noting he wished he had conveyed its sentiment to Lennon before it was too late, he added afterward, "The next time you want to say something to someone, just say it." He was answered by a shout of, "I love you, Paul!"

Even if he'd only performed the songs delivered in his second encore — a still-astonishingly beautiful "Yesterday," a rocking "Helter Skelter" and the timeless Abbey Road medley — he still would have earned that love.

To catch Paul McCartney in a city near you, click here for tour dates.

Set List:

"Eight Days A Week"
"Junior's Farm"
"All My Loving"
"Listen To What The Man Said"
"Let Me Roll It"/"Foxy Lady" (Jimi Hendrix cover)
"Paperback Writer"
"My Valentine"
"Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five"
"The Long And Winding Road"
"Maybe I'm Amazed"
"I've Just Seen A Face"
"We Can Work It Out"
"Another Day"
"And I Love Her"
"Blackbird"
"Here Today"
"Your Mother Should Know"
"Lady Madonna"
"All Together Now"
"Lovely Rita"
"Mrs. Vanderbilt"
"Eleanor Rigby"
"Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!"
"Something"
"Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da"
"Band On The Run"
"Back In The U.S.S.R."
"Let It Be"
"Live And Let Die"
"Hey Jude"
"Day Tripper"
"Hi, Hi, Hi"
"Get Back"
"Yesterday"
"Helter Skelter"
"Golden Slumbers"/"Carry That Weight"/"The End" 

(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR-affiliate KUTX-FM's "Texas Music Matters," regional and local magazines, including Lone Star Music and Austin Monthly, and newspapers nationwide. She has previously contributed to the Christian Science Monitor (for which she was the "go-to" writer for Beatles stories), Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine. A contributing editor to the encyclopedia, The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen From A To E To Z, she also writes bios for new and established artists.)