Saturday, July 18, 2009

You Won't Believe What I Just Heard ...

Today's Forgotten Hits piece was written on Wednesday and Thursday, after spending several hours of those two days in the car and listening to the radio. Imagine my complete surprise ... and sadness ... to hear on Friday afternoon that Gordon Waller of Peter and Gordon had passed away. PURELY by coincidence, one of the topics I had written about two days before involved hearing one of their rare singles on the radio.

Gordon Waller was a sometimes-contributor to Forgotten Hits over the years ... we had talked about doing an interview after our Peter Noone piece ran but it just never came together. He was pretty good about answering our questions when they came up and was especially helpful when it came to discussing the health condition of his friend Mike Smith of The Dave Clark Five ... in fact, he was helping us to keep tabs on when (or IF) the live concert DVD of the fund-raising tribute concert for Mike was coming out ... despite numerous announcements, it STILL hasn't seen the light of day. (You'd think, at the VERY least, that they'd have released it after Mike's death as some sort of memorial and tribute to this great artist.) How sad it is that after so recently mourning Mike's passing, Gordon has now left us, too.

Frannie and I had the pleasure of seeing Peter and Gordon perform at a Chicagoland Beatles Fest a couple of years ago (I'm sorry, "The Fest For Beatles Fans" ... I STILL don't get that!!!) ... and it was a VERY entertaining performance. The guys were in GREAT voice and it was so nice to finally see some of my earliest musical favorites together again, performing live. I got a notification around 2:20 on Friday that Gordon had passed away ... I don't think the media had even been notified yet ... but within the hour it was pretty much the subject of most of the mail that was coming in. We'll miss you, Gordon!

Peter and Gordon performing at Chicago's Beatlefest, 2006

Here are the first few responses we received, including the pre-media announcement from new FH reader Steve Sorkin:
Hi Kent,
I am a fairly new reader of your great blog. And a faithful listener to KXOK-AM and Johnny Rabbit back in the 60's!
I just had an unusual experience I wanted to "blog" about. It was unusual for me but it is probably now commonplace for many people, especially younger ones, and will become more common all the time. I found out today that Gordon Waller of Peter & Gordon, the old 60's group, died of a heart attack. It still hasn't hit the news wires as far as I can tell -- I found out because my daughter Hannah is a "friend" on Twitter with the daughter of Peter Asher of Peter & Gordon. The daughter is a singer in a modern rock band that Hannah likes, and she tweeted that Gordon had died today. A weird way to get the news but sort of surprisingly personalized! As your readers know, Gordon's passing is just one of several rock deaths in recent weeks. Last week the lead guitarist for Paul Revere and the Raiders, Drake Levin, died. Awhile back Delaney of "Delaney and Bonnie" passed away. Freddie of Freddie and the Dreamers died a few months back. And through the years, the Dave Clark Five is now down to just three. Originally four-member groups the Beatles and the Who are of course now just two, and the Mamas and the Papas only have one person left standing. I guess over 40 years a few people are going to move on. (Although as far as I know only one person from my elementary school class of 1967 has died.) Oldies rock and roll for fans like me has truly become a bittersweet listening experience! Great music and fond memories of good times tempered by the passing of time and the realities of life, and death.
Thanks for letting me invade your virtual space,
Steve in St. Louis, MO

I just heard that Gordon Waller (from Peter And Gordon), passed away early this morning from cardiac arrest. As yet there is no official notice on the P/G web site. I do believe that Gordon was 62. Thoughts and prayers to his friends and family.

YET ANOTHER SAD LOSS! GORDON WALLER -- of the famed British Invasion duo PETER & GORDON -- passed away today (8/17) at the age of 64!
The GRACIE FAMILY extends its heartfelt condolences to GORDON'S family and to our friend, PETER ASHER. The guys were long time fans of Charlie's, dating back to the early days when Charlie began performing in Great Britain. Late last year, the guys invited the entire Gracie Family to their Philly-region concert -- a great honor ... and they put on a wonderful show!
GORDON WALLER actually treated Charlie to his own versions of BUTTERFLY and FABULOUS that night -- something we will treasure for a long time to come.
Here's to the "Everly Brothers of the British Invasion," as they were often dubbed.
Again, our hearts go out to the family, friends and fans of Gordon Waller a wonderful man and musician. May God Bless his soul!

And then this from Ron Smith's website:

The duo's MySpace page has this message: We are deeply saddened to report that some time after 8:00 p.m. last night east coast time, Gordon Waller went into cardiac arrest and was taken to the emergency room. Despite intensive efforts on his behalf by hospital personnel, Gordon passed away early this morning. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. His partner of nearly five decades, Peter Asher, will be issuing a statement shortly. We hope you will join us sending love and condolences to his family.

Peter Asher then left this comment:

Gordon played such a significant role in my life that losing him is hard to comprehend – let alone to tolerate. He was my best friend at school almost half a century ago. He was not only my musical partner but played a key role in my conversion from only a snooty jazz fan to a true rock and roll believer as well. Without Gordon I would never have begun my career in the music business in the first place. Our professional years together in the sixties constitute a major part of my life and I have always treasured them. We remained good friends (unusual for a duo!) even while we were pursuing entirely separate professional paths and I was so delighted that after a hiatus of almost forty years we ended up singing and performing together again more recently for the sheer exhilarating fun of it. We had a terrific time doing so. Gordon remains one of my very favourite singers of all time and I am still so proud of the work that we did together. I am just a harmony guy and Gordon was the heart and soul of our duo. I shall miss him in so many different ways. The idea that I shall never get to sing those songs with him again, that I shall never again be able to get annoyed when he interrupts me on stage or to laugh at his unpredictable sense of humour or even to admire his newest model train or his latest gardening effort is an unthinkable change in my life with which I have not even begun to come to terms.

Here is Ron's official obituary:

Gordon Waller, one-half of the duo of Peter and Gordon, suffered a massive fatal heart attack Thursday night (July 16) at his Connecticut home and died early the next morning at the age of 64. Born Gordon Trueman Riviere Waller in Braemar, Scotland, Gordon met Peter at London's Westminister boarding school as a teen and the two would climb over the school's spiked wall to play at local clubs surreptitiously. After graduation, the two continued their musical careers, helped enormously by Peter's sister's boyfriend -- Paul McCartney -- who wrote three of their hits -- 1964's #1 "A World Without Love", "I Don't Want To See You Again" (#16 - 1964) and "Woman" (#14 - 1966). In fact, six of their first eight American hits were top 20 records, including "Nobody I Know" (12 - 1964), the Del Shannon-penned "I Go To Pieces" (#9 - 1965) and the Buddy Holly composition "True Love Ways" (#14 - 1965). All told, the duo scored 14 American chart records, even after Jane Asher broke off her engagement to Paul. The duo broke up in 1968 as touring (and hits) became difficult. Peter became a talent scout for Apple Records and later produced Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Gordon's attempt at a solo career fizzled, but he did appear as Pharaoh in "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in London's West End and scored the James Dean biographical film, "Race With Destiny." The two reunited in 2005 and played, among other dates, the Buddy Holly memorial at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa this past February. Said Peter: "Gordon played such a significant role in my life that losing him is hard to comprehend -- let alone to tolerate. He was my best friend at school almost half a century ago. He was not only my musical partner but played a key role in my conversion from only a snooty jazz fan to a true rock and roll believer as well. Without Gordon I would never have begun my career in the music business in the first place. Gordon remains one of my very favourite singers of all time and I am still so proud of the work that we did together. I am just a harmony guy and Gordon was the heart and soul of our duo."

(Since I ended up updating this Friday night anyway, I was able to include another great radio surprise that I heard this morning!) Read on ...


With our "No Radios" policy at work, I don't get to listen to much music during the day anymore ... but this week I was out in the car seeing customers and was able to jot down some musical observations:

For starters, while eating lunch at IHOP (where they had a VERY strange mix of music playing) I heard the rare Peter and Gordon version of "To Know You Is To Love You". I don't think that I have EVER heard that song on the radio before ... EVER!!! Despite being a mid-sized hit in 1965 (#24 in Billboard and #32 here in Chicago), it just isn't one I remember hearing. A pretty disappointing version, too, I might add ... especially in light of their EXCELLENT remakes of Del Shannon's "I Go To Pieces" and Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways", their two preceding chart singles. Certainly I was familiar with their version of the tune, thanks to their various Greatest Hits collections over the year ... but it was still a shocker to hear it come on the radio. Talk about your UNEXPECTED Forgotten Hits!!!

Then, the other night when nothing was on TV again (as usual), Frannie and I watched the Randy Quaid / Paul Reiser movie "Bye Bye Love". Heavy on Everly Brothers tunes (including some very nice remakes by artists like Jackson Browne and Timothy B. Schmidt and Dave Edmunds), it was a REAL pleasure to hear The Everlys themselves sing their 1960 Hit "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)", which was used in two different scenes. THAT'S a song that deserves a spin on the radio once in a while ... it climbed to #7 nationally and went all the way to #2 here in Chi-Town. (By the way, the other day in Forgotten Hits we talked about "Don't Worry Baby" remakes ... you'll find one of the better ones on this soundtrack, too, done by The Everly Brothers with The Beach Boys handling the background vocals.)

Another nice surprise was hearing Scott Shannon play "I've Found Someone Of My Own" by The Free Movement from 1971, another #2 Chicagoland Hit that climbed to #5 in Billboard but still doesn't get a whole lot of airplay. This is EXACTLY the kind of song we keep talking about ... one that EVERYBODY knows and will most likely sing along with ... but not one that needs to be played to death every single day. Hearing this one three or four times a year keeps it fresh and makes you appreciate it that much more.

(By the way, am I the ONLY one out there who finds a striking resemblance between "I've Found Someone Of My Own" from 1971 and The Four Tops' hit "Ain't Now Woman Like The One I've Got" from a couple years later? Listen to some of the background arrangements and see if you don't agree!) kk

Speaking of being played to death, while in the car ... and this is the Honest To God Truth ... within fifteen minutes of button-pushing I heard "What I Like About You" by The Romantics THREE TIMES on three different radio stations. Playing around with the buttons again, I heard Free's "All Right Now", Bad Company's "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love", ZZ Top's "La Grange", Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" and "Brother Louie" by Stories TWICE EACH in about a twenty minute time frame. THIS is what I mean by over-saturation ... and TOTALLY unnecessary. Why is radio SO content to play the SAME stuff over and over and over again when they know that every OTHER radio station in town ... and in the rest of the country for that matter ... is playing the same crap?!?!? Why doesn't ANYBODY take that bold step to program something DIFFERENT for a change?!?! Do something that makes you stand out and break away from the pack of the rest of the run of the mill stations!!! It'll make people tune in that much more often to see what OTHER surprises you might come up with later. Instead, we get Tunnel-Vision Radio day in and day out in EVERY city in EVERY state across the USA. To paraphrase The Everlys, "So Sad To See Good Music Go Bad" ... you're making us HATE these songs!!!!!

And here's to the bonehead request of the day ... during the lunchtime hour somebody emailed in a request to one of those All Request Lunch Hour Shows asking for "some early Beatles". Now I'M thinking, OK, this has got to be something pre-"A Hard Day's Night", using that track as the benchmark / cut-off point for what MOST people would consider "early Beatles" ... and then, of course, because my wheels are ALWAYS turning, I try to guess WHICH Beatles song they're going to play before it actually comes on. Imagine my COMPLETE surprise when the airhead DJ on The River played "Hello, Goodbye" from late '67 / early '68!!! EARLY Beatles?!?!? What on earth is THIS chick doing in radio?!?!?

On the plus side, right as I pulled back into the parking lot at work I heard Scott Shannon answer a request for "something by Johnny Tillotson" at which time he played "Poetry In Motion" and then even gave a little update on what Johnny's doing now. OK, now THAT'S more like it. (Hell, I heard him play "The Ballad Of Thunder Road" by Robert Mitchum as somebody's First 45 a few weeks ago!!! AMAZING!!!) Pretty cool feature, that "First 45's" thing, eh?!?!?

Anyway, here's YOUR chance to listen to a few of these rarities here today ... 'cause there's just no telling when you'll hear ANY of them again. ('Cause you just know that there's SOMEBODY in the programming department insisting that "We just GOTTA squeeze in House Of The Rising Sun, Hold On, I'm Comin', Oh, Pretty Woman and Suspicious Minds a few more times today first!!!" So Sad.) kk

ONE MORE THOUGHT: One thing that I HAVE noticed now that I can't listen to music during the day anymore ... my tolerance for this repetitive mix has virtually disappeared ... when I finally AM able to listen, the LAST thing I wanna hear is the same crap we've been complaining about for the past ten years here. Kudos to EVERY jock who made me smile this week by playing something DIFFERENT!!!

I just happened to catch part of Jim Shea's morning show on Friday ... and heard him play his "Real Good, Feel Good" song ... which was The Buckinghams' version of the James Brown tune "I'll Go Crazy", a Top 20 Chicagoland Hit that "Bubbled Under" in Billboard in early 1966 ... and, even COOLER, he followed it up with a vintage 1964 Coca Cola Commercial featuring Roy Orbison. THOSE are the kind of oldies radio surprises that are gonna make you turn the volume up a notch to see if you're really hearing what you can't believe you're hearing!!! WTG, Jim! (kk)