Monday, October 11, 2010

Neil Diamond

Our little tribute to Neil Diamond the other day sparked a few new comments ... as well as several requests to resurrect some OLD ones ... here goes!

First up ... some VINTAGE Neil Diamond stuff, courtesy of FH Reader Clark Besch:

I thought I'd send along a little Neil Diamond stuff after reading how he was on the "sick list" of possible Hall of Fame inductees. I am certainly happy with Donovan and Alice Cooper, while Bon Jovi and J. Geils would deserve consideration if there were about 100 more deserving in there already. The rest? Some are good writers or RNB or rappers or whatever, but not really rock 'n roll.
Donovan deserves it mainly because he was a huge influence on the 60's rock scene, even if most of his songs were more folky. That brings us to Neil Diamond.
Personally, I am sick of this guy's departure from his 60's roots. In the 70's, he went all mellow on us. "Forever in Blue Jeans" was his most upbeat song? He did good songs in the 70's and 80's, but what happened to "Brother Love" and "Cherry, Cherry"?? Oh yeah, the great "Crunchy Granola Suite" was 70's, so he did one, right? Please, NO MORE "Sweet Caroline" at sports events! Neil had great music in the late 60's and great music in the 70's too, but it was just too much mellow stuff.
Bang actually helped us believe in the early 70's by re-releasing old rock songs to battle the new Uni "Walk on Water". It's no wonder "Do It" almost over took the new track, "He Ain't Heavy" when they were released simultaneously. Bang should have warned us of the upcoming schmaltz by reissuing "I Got the Feelin' (Oh No No)".
Neil deserves Hall of Fame votes, but for his 60's days only. The 80's? He was "Headed For The Future and the future was BAD!" Don't get me started on his screaming live concerts today. Maybe you'll "laugh when it (is) all done, for (him) being done to soon"??
On to what I sent along ...
A montage of what made Neil deserve the Hall nomination. First, the PAMS Sonovox Jingle for Neil. Once you've had a Sonovox made, you know you made it! Then, a short bit of "Cherry, Cherry" from a live October, 1968 concert in a Chicago "gymnasium" (as Neil puts it), recorded by my great late friend, Jeff Lind. Then, Jeff with a short, but amazingly cool interview with Neil backstage after the concert. Some fun comments about his early career and his somewhat dry humor. Neil was 27 at the time, Jeff was probably 17 or so and a bit nervous! Neil talks a lot about his new Uni label stuff including the then new "Sunday Sun" as well as the B side of "Brooklyn Roads", "Holiday Inn Blues" and his upcoming first Uni album, "Velvet Gloves & Spit". Hard to believe, but the album did not chart in Billboard's Top 200 Album Charts! From my personally recorded radio tapes, just take a listen to the great Ron Riley of WLS and Chuck Buell and the fun they have playing Neil's records and the excitement his songs exuded being heard on good old AM radio. There's even Ron Riley's best impression of our newly found again FH friend, Screaming Wildman Carl Bonafede presenting Neil Diamond. Hey, just this short bit of radio stuff shows how exciting it was listening to Ron Riley and WLS in the 60's! I lived for it!

Here are a few more Neil Diamond things, all from Psyche Pscene 2/22/71. There's an Octorber, 1967, Chicago concert review from the November "Psyche Pscene" magazine. There is also a cover article on Neil's concert at Milwaukee on Feb 12, 1971. As well as a photo of Neil talking with fans on the Jim Stagg WCFL "Stagg Lines" afternoon show from the same October, 1967 visit. Certainly, Neil's 60's tunes were radio friendly.

Next a backstage photo from the same concert. And finally is a photo of Neil and his Uni records execs at Chicago's "Beavers, Ltd." on North State Street.
Clark Besch

Hey there Kent -
Ken "Furvus" Evans of The Fifth Estate here.
Your piece about Neil Diamond and especially his tune I'm A Believer as done by The Monkees spurred a memory or two about my meeting with Neil leading to our recording of that song also in 1967.
I'm sending The Fifth Estate's version of I'm A Believer done on our 1967 Jubilee album. (un-re-mastered) This followed up a very large hit we had just had with Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead that year.
I guess our management and producers were not quite sure what should go on that album to go along with the lead song?? So we start recording the album in NYC and almost immediately get called by our agent to go on a 2 maybe 3 week Midwestern tour to do rather great places we liked like the Blue Village and some Chicago Old Town blues clubs and theaters. So we had just come back into NYC, after about three weeks of every night harp-blowin' and screaming guitar playin' and often bluesy rock and roll like Back Door Man and Big City Bright Lights, to complete the album, fully intending to put a lot of those songs and other similar ones of our own on the album, and our producers say - hey guys you're going to do these other songs on the album including I'm A Believer just done by The Monkees.
We said WHAT!! It's a great song - but for us - WHAT??
Yep - that's how it was in those days. Well, I was the one who objected to it rather more than the rest of the guys and we all know you can't do too much on this kind of thing unless the drummer is into it. So they have me over to our manger's office the next day (right upstairs over the Ed Sullivan Theater stage) and who is sitting in his office right next to his desk when I walk in ... you got it - Neil Diamond!
I said hello! He said hello! and our manager said, Well Furvus you're going to do Mr. Diamond's tune aren't you. AND I said ------- um. I looked over at Neil who just looked at me. And then I said - Shure I Love It, which I did, but originally just not for us. We had just gotten done playing blues rock in Old Town Chicago!! You know what I mean!? But just that one look from Neil sort of helped me "see the light" I guess and that was it! I became a believer - from my big meeting with Neil Diamond.
We got back into the studio and I said "I love this tune - let's rock the hell out of it though." Wayne said, I hear a clavichord on it and a blue grass guitar pickin background and our producer and me both said WHAT?? I guess he was expecting we would do a true copy as opposed to just our own cover of it as you can hear here, which we learned in about 15 minutes and recorded in a few tries never having played it before. That's the 5 of us 5E teenagers on there. No studio cats!

I also noticed your rather hesitant promo of Charles Rosenay's BEAT EXPO 2010 with lots of big name 60's / 70's people including two of the Monkees! This is rather coincidentally being pulled off in Stamford, CT, the original home town for The Fifth Estate, just outside NYC. Last year was just so great!
Well, I don't know all that happened between you and Charles but let me just say that I know Charles from having dealt with him several times now and he has always been a real stand up and warm hearted guy with us, The 5E.
He is a sincere person in what he is doing - which is promoting the music HE and many others of us so love. He has done it for years. He's a really good guy to work with. I'm sure he'll do right by you and the rest of us in the long run - if not sooner than that!
Meanwhile, here's an update of The Fifth Estate. The recording portion of our new TIME TUNNEL album is just now completed and we are in the mixing phase.
Shel Talmy is working with us on this record and he will mix and master it in LA. Shel, of course, produced The Kinks, The Who, Manfred Mann, Chad and Jeremy, and David Bowie, and has said, "We play his kind of music!" That seems truly cool to me!! We are really happy to be working with him.
Who knows - if we do BEAT EXPO 2010 maybe we would do I'm A Believer with two of The Monkees.
But who's version - hummm?
Ken Evans
Cool Neil Diamond story ... yeah, I imagine it'd be pretty hard to say "no" after that ... especially with Neil sitting right there!!! (lol) And let's face it, "I'm A Believer" is a '60's classic ... great to hear your version.
As for Charles Rosenay, we have been working out our differences ... 'nuff said on that topic. As I stated last week, this guy ABSOLUTELY knows how to throw a party ... and there is absolutely NO doubt regarding his love for this great music. (Biggest difference between him and me, I guess, is that HE'S figured out how to make a buck doing it!!! lol) Sneak peek us a track from the new CD when you can ... it's always cool to feature stuff like that in Forgotten Hits!
Thanks, Furv! (kk)

Scott and Kent,
Glad to see you two team up for the two-day tribute to Mr. Diamond -- and really glad, Kent, to see you mention "Red, Red Wine," a great, often-neglected song that should have been a much bigger hit.
Hoping it makes the cut for one of the days -- at least as an extra.
As usual, I didn't get to listen to very much of this tribute at all ... with our "no radios" policy at work ... and 12-14 hour days lately ... I pretty much missed the whole thing! So, just in case Scott DIDN'T play it, we'll feature Neil Diamond's original version of "Red Red Wine" today on the website. (The #1 Hit came, of course, some 20+ years later when UB40 cut a "reggae" version and took it all the way to the top of the charts!) kk

Kent ...
As long as we're talking about Neil Diamond & the Hall of Fame, let's see if you can answer my Neil Diamond trivia question:
Years ago, during the same week, I went to a Neil Diamond and a Jay Black & The Americans Concert.
Can you tell me what the connection is between these two great artists ?
Frank B.
Well, if I'm not mistaken, the answer to THAT question was up on our website several hours before you sent me this email!!! (lol)
>>>Neil's first chart hit came courtesy of Jay and the Americans, who reached #18 in 1965 with their rendition of "Sunday And Me" (a Forgotten Hit to be sure!) kk

Sorry, but Neil Diamond does not work right with Chinese food lunch.
How about a Don Ho anthology!!! :-)

I love his song with Brian Wilson, Delirious Love!
Click here: YouTube - Neil Diamond & Brian Wilson - Delirious Love

I once worked with Neil in assembling an exclusive three CD box set of his live material for Reader's Digest Music. As a radio programmer or in assembling the ultimate Neil Diamond "Greatest Hits" collection, I would, of course, go for the tracks preferred by the only critics who count -- the fans. However, if I was assembling a Neil Diamond "best of" just for me, I go for the original Bang masters (which Neil bought and then sold to SONY) plus the best of his more rockin' Uni material over the later, more easy listening Columbia / Capitol material. But that's just me. I'd also throw in a few lesser known B sides, like the startling but incredibly effective "Done Too Soon" and his spontaneous, off-the-cuff, one-take gag version of "Hanky Panky."
One time while recording at Bang under the supervision of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Neil -- in a impish mood -- decided to goof off by spoofing one of Jeff and Ellie's most valuable compositions. Jeff and Ellie had tossed together "Hanky Panky" in 1963 simply as a throwaway B side for "That Boy John," one of the singles the duo had recorded under the name The Raindrops. The song became a favorite of 13 year old Tommy James, who recorded it with his original Shondells that year and watched it become a poorly distributed Michigan hit. Three years later, when reissued on Roulette, Tommy's version of "Hanky Panky" became, of course, a national #1 single.
Anyway, as a gag in 1966, Neil spoofed "Hanky Panky" in Jeff and Ellie's presence at one of his Bang recording sessions -- never dreaming for a moment that such a thing would ever get RELEASED. But it was -- in 1968 as the flip side of "New Orleans" -- after Neil had left Bang for the rival Uni label.
Since Neil purchased his old Bang masters, he has refused to allow the reissue of "Hanky Panky." Maybe he considers it an embarrassment, but it's actually a very fun, impromptu track which captures a fun-loving side of Neil not present in any of his other more serious recordings.
Anyway, if I was going to pick out Neil Diamond's BEST and most interesting recordings to me, they wouldn't all be his highest charting singles. In alphabetical order, they'd probably be:
Gary Theroux
"The History of Rock 'n' Roll"
I love Neil Diamond's version of "Hanky Panky" ... ALWAYS good for a laugh (and we've featured it several times in Forgotten Hits over the years ... it actually earned 78 votes in our Favorite, Forgotten B-Sides Poll a few years ago.
Many of the songs on your "favorites" list made ours, too ... as mentioned in our piece, it's a shame that Neil's BIGGEST hits have been the schmaltzy stuff that has helped keep him out of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame thus far. (That's why we went with more of a "Greatest Hits" than a "Biggest Hits" list!) And songs as good as "You Got To Me", "Done Too Soon", "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon", "Shilo" and "Solitary Man" deserve more than the occasional spin (especially when you consider that stuff like "Sweet Caroline" are played virtually non-stop, ad nauseam on a regular basis!) Even a #1 Hit like "Song Sung Blue" is seldom heard on the radio these days. (With 38 Billboard Top 40 Hits, shouldn't at least HALF of them be in radio rotation today? Even something like "Stones" or "Kentucky Woman" or "Holly Holy" or "I Am, I Said" ... or the Robbie Robertson-produced "If You Know What I Mean" would make for a welcome break in the repetitious sounds of "Hello Again", "America", "Sweet Caroline", "Cracklin' Rosie" and "Cherry Cherry"!) kk

Way back in 2001 we did a short piece on Neil Diamond that has remained a list favorite ... in fact, I believe that this is the THIRD time we're rerunning it over the past twelve years.

The piece kicked off with the quote:
"There are two types of people in the world ... those that like Neil Diamond's music ... and those that don't."
-- Bill Murray in "What About Bob"

NEIL DIAMOND Music Is Being Featured In FORGOTTEN HITS Today!!!
The very first concert I ever took a date to was Neil Diamond at the Chicago Civic Opera House in the Summer of 1970. (While that in and of itself is pretty hard for me to admit, Frannie's first concert was The Osmond Brothers, teamed up with Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods ... so I don't feel TOO bad! I guess I could have done worse!) Besides, you've got to remember that back in 1970 Neil was still SINGING his songs instead of narrating them!
Anyway, "I Am, I Said" hadn't even been released as a single yet and he did it that night. In introducing the song, he walked to center stage, paused and then VERY dramatically said: "There are songs....and then there are SONGS" .... a pretty egotistical assessment of his musical talents, I thought. It's a shame, too, because I really did think "I Am, I Said" was one of his greatest achievements .... but that type of comment really should have come from the listener, not the artist ... it should have been OUR assessment, not his ... and I have to admit that I was pretty turned-off to Neil after witnessing that.
After the concert, my date and I were waiting for her parents to come pick us up (being all of 16 at the time, I wasn't driving on dates yet ... or at least not downtown!) when some homeless, very drunk old black man came up to us begging for money. Needless to say, being quite naive and having led very sheltered lives, we both freaked.

After stumbling around and hassling us for about ten minutes, he said:
"I have a problem and I don't know what to do.
I have six children at home and I only have five apples.
What do you think I should do?"

"I don't know," I said, slowing inching away.

"Make applesauce!" he laughed.

Scared as we were, WE laughed, too!!! When our ride FINALLY showed up, I gave him a couple bucks and quickly pushed my date into her father's car! Ahh, America.

"I Am, I Said" eventually peaked at #4 on both the Billboard and the Cash Box chart, and went all the way to #2 here in Chicago in the Spring of 1971. The Neil Diamond album "Gold" (recorded live at The Troubadour and released in August of 1970) was pretty much the concert that I saw that night, just a few weeks earlier. Naturally, I bought it as a memento. Two years later, the same thing would happen with "Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden" ... that LP came out two weeks after I saw him perform the exact same show live at the Chicago Stadium.


Noted Humorist / Journalist Dave Barry says that the inspiration to write his "Book Of Bad Songs" came from one of the newspaper columns he had written regarding songs he didn't particularly care for, which generated such an incredible response that he knew he had tapped into a nerve. The catalyst of all of this was none other than Neil Diamond.

Dave writes: It would not trouble me if the radio totally ceased playing ballad-style songs by Neil Diamond. I realize that many of you are huge Neil Diamond fans, so let me stress that, in matters of musical taste, everybody is entitled to an opinion, and yours is wrong.

He goes on to say: Consider the song 'I Am, I Said,' wherein Neil, with great emotion, sings: 'I am, I said, to no one there. And no one heard at all, not even the chair.' What kind of line is that? Is Neil telling us he's surprised that the chair didn't hear him? Maybe he expected the chair to say, 'Whoa, I heard that!' My guess is that Neil was really desperate to come up with something to rhyme with 'there' and he had already rejected 'So I ate a pear,' 'Like Smokey The Bear,' and 'There were nits in my hair.'

Apparently, the response of hate-mail to his derogatory comment was so overwhelming that he combined them all into one all-purpose-irate-Neil Diamond-fan hate letter:

Dear Pukenose:
Just who the hell do you think you are to blah blah a great artist like Neil blah more than twenty gold records blah blah how many gold records do YOU have, you scum-sucking wad of blah. I personally attended 1,794 of Neil's concerts blah blah What about 'Love On The Rocks,' huh? What about 'Cracklin' Rosie'? blah blah. If you had ONE TENTH of Neil's talent blah blah. So I listened to 'Heartlight' forty times in a row and the next day the cyst was GONE and the doctor said he had never seen such a rapid blah blah. What about 'Play Me'? What about 'Song Sung Blah'? Cancel my subscription if I have one.

(In all fairness, Dave DID finally admit to liking one line of "Play Me": "Song she sang to me, song she brang to me." THAT'S a lyric!)

The piece apparently enticed SO many people that, when all was said and done, he had to write a public apology to all the Neil Diamond fans he offended:

Please stop writing! You have convinced me! Neil is a music god! I worship Neil on a daily basis at a tasteful shrine to him erected in my living room! I love ALL the songs Neil sang to us! Not to mention all the songs he brang to us!
GREAT stuff!


We even found a couple of the original comments that we received when our Neil Diamond piece first ran, way back in 2001!:

Kent ...
Where did you find that Dave Barry article? I remember reading that some 10 years ago! That was hysterical, I loved reading it again. I'm sitting here totally shaking with laughter. Kristy (CGals)
Kristy, we received a number of comments about the Dave Barry article .... personally, I think it's just HYSTERICAL! So did VAGUEMEMORY, AJKARR, SPNNRN, SAYNOCANDO and LUVMYCHAIR.

During the course of our series, we found out that "Brooklyn Roads" is ROXIE1971's favorite Neil Diamond song (it happens to be one of MY favorites, too ... and Scott Shannon recently remarked that HE'S a big "Brooklyn Roads" fan as well ... but so far only FLMYST has admitted to the whole "throwing the panties" thing ... but, hey, it's early! (kk)

Meanwhile, DOMINOGAL blamed it all on her mother:
Now that I'm older I understand why momma liked Neil Diamond so much.

I favor the theory that Neil was captured by aliens about 1973 and replaced by a pod. Only a pod could have come up with the likes of "September Morn" and "Yesterday's Songs."
And "Be" ... and "Skybird" ... and "Longfellow Serenade" ... and "Desiree" ... and "You Don't Brint Me Flowers" ... and "Love On The Rocks" / "Hello Again" / "America" from his "Jazz Singer" movie ... and "Heartlight" (cyst or no cyst!).
It's kinda hard to believe that this guy did some great songs in the '60s when you listen to this dreck! Good news is that songs like "Solitary Man", the huge Monkees' hit "I'm A Believer", "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon", "Holly Holy", "Cracklin' Rosie" and some of the others still get played ... and really DO rank amongst his "classics". (kk)

I'm on a Neil Young list, as you know i'm a huge Neil Young fan, anyway, on the list we refer to Neil Diamond as the 'Anti Neil'. nuff said ... hahahaha!
Yeah, I don't think you'll get TOO many people confusing those two! (kk)

I admit to really liking Cherry, Cherry, although nothing Neil's recorded himself since. OK, I thought I'm A Believer was a good Monkees song.
I also had a personal brush with Mr. Diamond when he cut me off on the Santa Monica Freeway in a Porsche bearing the license plate, "NDLRR." (Neil Diamond loves rock 'n roll? HA!)
I knew a musician -- a man in his late 50's -- who really loved Diamond and was always trying to get me to play his songs on the piano. Two years ago, I heard this man was arrested for counterfeiting, and a few months ago I heard he died. I've tried not to infer a cause / effect relationship.
In any event, thanks for the warning!
"Neil Diamond loves rock and roll?" OK ... sure .... fine ... whatever you say! (Although who REALLY would have thought that he would have done a movie like "The Jazz Singer" in the first place?!?! And, would we REALLY have been any worse off if he hadn't?!?!?) kk

LITTLE KNOWN FACT #1: THE MONKEES almost didn't get to record I'M A BELIEVER, their biggest hit ever. NEIL DIAMOND had planned on releasing it as his own single. His career was just starting to take off after CHERRY CHERRY made the Top 10 and he figured that this song just might be the one to put him over the top. DON KIRSCHNER stepped in and made him an offer he couldn't refuse ... if he let THE MONKEES release I'M A BELIEVER as their next single, he would guarantee NEIL the follow-up single as well ... and, as a result, A LITTLE BIT ME, A LITTLE BIT YOU, another NEIL DIAMOND composition, became their third single. I'M A BELIEVER went straight to #1 and stayed there for 7 weeks ... he made MILLIONS in royalties ... A LITTLE BIT ME, A LITTLE BIT YOU went to #2 in Billboard but #1 EVERYWHERE else ... and, instead of I'M A BELIEVER, NEIL's next single became I GOT THE FEELIN' (OH NO NO) ... OK ... so maybe it WASN'T the greatest deal for NEIL, but I still think he did all-right!

LITTLE KNOWN FACT #2: The single A LITTLE BIT ME, A LITTLE BIT YOU ultimately got DON KIRSCHNER FIRED as THE MONKEES' Musical Supervisor! In fact, a Canadian single version of A LITTLE BIT ME, A LITTLE BIT YOU had to be pulled off the market. Just as it was being released, THE MONKEES gained control of their musical output and had final say on what was being released. The B-SIDE of the Canadian single was SHE HANGS OUT, a song that THE MONKEES would not "officially" release until nine months later on their PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN AND JONES album. The single featured a completely DIFFERENT version with a very funky R&B feel to it; THE MONKEES would eventually re-record this track and release the "pop / doo-de-ron-ron" version we've all come to know and love! They instead substituted MIKE NESMITH's composition THE GIRL I KNEW SOMEWHERE as the B-SIDE, and that's the way the single was released all around the world. (Part of their new deal with COLGEMS RECORDS guaranteed them say-so on their next release ... which HAD to be a MONKEES production! KIRSCHNER's jumping the gun with the SHE HANGS OUT track is what ultimately got him fired!) The R&B version of SHE HANGS OUT became a highly sought-after collectible on vinyl; it has since been released on some of their compilation CDs. (Scroll back to yesterday's FH Page and you can hear BOTH versions back-to-back ... NOW you know why I featured them!!! lol)
THE GIRL I KNEW SOMEWHERE charted on its own, making it to #39 in Billboard. And, by the way, NEIL DIAMOND's version of I'M A BELIEVER NEVER would have made it to #1 for seven weeks ... in comparison, it's a pretty tame version. THE MONKEES simply had SO much momentum going for them at this time that their second single simply couldn't miss ... it became their biggest hit of all-time!


And, finally, DANDYRUBE had a Neil Diamond story of her own to tell:
As Gomer Pyle would say: Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Finally a topic in which I can provide YOU with some extra trivia.
I grew up in Brooklyn in a neighborhood near Neil's family. His parents owned a store named "Diamonds" on Brighton Beach Ave. They were also members of "Brighton Beach Baths," a landmark beach club.
When Neil performed in Carnegie Hall when I was 14 years old, I sat in the FRONT ROW, MIDDLE SEAT. Neil's father gave those 4 tickets to my brother and I (he was friendly with my parents). It was an experience we'll never forget. He stood at the tip of the very low stage - I could have literally stood up and grabbed his leg (no, I didn't).
Most of my Neil Diamond music is on vinyl and I haven't hooked up my turntable since I moved many months ago. It'll be great having some of his songs on the computer and I REALLY appreciate it.
Neil's dad passed away a few years ago, but I bumped into his mom here in Florida a couple of years ago. THANKS AGAIN!!!!


Here ya go ... 'cause I just KNOW you're dyin' to hear 'em!!!

I Am, I Said

Play Me