Friday, January 8, 2021

A Forgotten Hits Classic: Our Salute To NEIL DIAMOND (circa 2001)

Way back in 2001 (OMG, has it REALLY been twenty years?!?!) we did a short piece on Neil Diamond that has remained a list favorite ... in fact, I believe that this is the at least the fourth or fifth time we're rerunning it now.

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 



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. 

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

Brooklyn Roads


Hanky Panky