Saturday, October 5, 2013

Burton Cummings Concert Review

I have seen Burton Cummings perform ... as a member of the original Guess Who, circa the early '70's ... throughout their incarnation post-Randy Bachman into the mid-'70's ... as a solo artist (backing up artists as diverse as Melissa Manchester and Alice Cooper ... all the way up through headlining status) ... and as part of various Guess Who reunions (both with and without Bachman) numerous times over the years ... at least a dozen times in all ... and have never been disappointed by one of his performances ... and that track-record remains in full force after seeing his show last Friday Night at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, IL ... simply put, it was one of the best shows I've ever seen.  

Now that's quite a statement considering it's been some 45 years since The Guess Who first burst into our collective consciousness ... and I'm happy to report that Burton still sounds EXACTLY the same. (Check out any number of videos recently posted on youTube ... the guy is simply amazing!)  

And, having had the chance to visit for a little while backstage after the show, I can also tell you that he looks the same, too, and appears to be in great physical shape ... easily appearing 20-25 years younger than his soon-to-be 66 years of age would indicate.  (Colin Blunstone, on the other hand ... two years older than Cummings ... looks like he could step right into the lead role of "Beetlejuice - The Musical" ... without requiring any make-up!!!)   

Of course he gets quite a workout on stage ... by the second song he was drenched and toweling off ... he pours it all into his show, which he proudly told us he can consistently do for two hours a night when performing ... it's just the other 22 hours of the day that take a little recovery time! 

An artist like Cummings bears the burden (the Burton?) of having to carry the whole show ... kind of like the lead actor who is in every scene of the movie ... but I'm happy to report that he rises to the challenge, never wavering for a moment while consistently making "good show" every step of the way. 

His back-up band, The Carpet Frogs (here referred to simply as The Burton Cummings Band) are a group of top-flight musicians and vocalists ... even Frannie (who's not quite as big a fan as I am ... but was clearly won over Friday night) had to admit that if you closed your eyes, you would swear you were listening to the records.  (Don't get me wrong ... she has loved the music of The Guess Who since day one just like the rest of us ... she's just not as crazy, over-the-top about it as I am!  lol)  Her personal favorites Friday night included "Star Baby", "Albert Flasher", "Stand Tall" and "Clap For The Wolfman".  

Actually, as promised in our interview, Cummings fed us most of the hits, also featuring stand-out tracks like "These Eyes", "Laughing", "No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature" (which opened the show), "Hand Me Down World", "Running Back To Saskatoon", "No Time" and (of course) "American Woman".  He also did some of his best-known solo material, including (in addition to "Stand Tall") "My Own Way To Rock", "I'm Scared" and (as a big surprise ... and apparently almost an after-thought) "You Saved My Soul" from the motion picture "Melanie", a film in which he also starred. 

Other surprises?  Several ...

A nice rendition of a J.J.Cale song called "Trouble In The City", a song they learned for their recent appearance at Massey Hall. (Cummings admitted that he has always been a fan of the song-writing talent of the recently-departed Cale ... and then asked "Why bother learning a new song for only one performance.") 

He also did the old 1968 Equals / Eddy Grant Forgotten Hit "Baby Come Back", which he and Randy Bachman resurrected for their "Jukebox" LP a few years back.  But perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the encore ... Cummings explained that he spent WEEKS learning the exact phrasing of this song so that he could sound exactly like the record when he performed it with The Deverons back in the early '60's ... and then proceeded to perform a note-for-note, letter-perfect rendition of the garage band classic "Louie Louie" that would have had The Kingsmen dropping their jaws and scratching their heads back in 1963 ... which is even all that much more impressive considering that it was now 50 years later and he was still able to completely capture the very essence of what made that such a great record in the first place.  The crowd was on its feet (as they were for a major portion of the show ... Burton told me backstage that "After Star Baby, I don't think they sat back down again at all"), which was absolutely true.  A final encore of "Share The Land" closed the show ... and then they were gone. 

Disappointments?  Two ...

He didn't perform anything from his most recent album "Above The Ground".  I've been listening to it virtually non-stop since we did our interview and it truly is a masterpiece.  Granted, most fans might not be familiar with this material ... so I strongly urge you to head over to after you finish the review and sample some of the tracks ... but it still would have been nice to hear something new 'cause this guy's still got it ... it would be a chance to let the fans know, too, that he is still creating great, new music.  My personal favorite is called "Dream" ... and I believe it's Burton Cummings at his best.  Sadly, radio continues to ignore our landmark artists when they release new material ... but this is music you should be aware of.   

And secondly, the pads to his flute stuck and, as such, he was unable to perform "Undun", a long-time favorite of most of the audience (and Guess Who fans worldwide).  Maybe next time.  (I believe he'll be back ... I had told Burton before the show that he was going to LOVE this theater ... and the audience ... and he did.)  The Arcada is an historic treasure ... acts dating back to The Marx Brothers have performed there ... and proprietor Ron Onesti has done an AMAZING job of renovating it and packing it with solid entertainment week after week after week.  Cummings told me afterwards that it's not at all unlike The Burton Cummings Theatre up in Winnipeg (lovingly referred to as "The Burt") ... it, too, has a rich legacy of regal entertainment ... and "there's just something about performing in a theater like this" to what can only be described as a COMPLETELY enthusiastic crowd. 

We missed him on his previous pass through Chicago ... two summers ago Cummings performed at The Arlington Heights Frontier Days Festival on the 4th of July, a day that reached 110-degrees!  Our air conditioner had gone out that same weekend so the prospect of leaving a 120-degree sweat box to go sit in 110-degrees sunlight was, quite honestly, less than appealing.  Instead, we went and sat in an air-conditioned restaurant (and listened to Burton Cummings radio on the CD player on the drive over!  lol)  

But I can strongly advise that if Cummings is coming to your area, THIS IS A SHOW YOU'LL WANT TO SEE!!!  Easily a "12" on a scale of 1 - 10.  (kk) 

A couple of pictures that Frannie snapped of me and Burton Cummings backstage after the show.

A link to our Burton Cummings Interview (if by some chance you still haven't read it!)

And to Burton's website, for all the latest news and appearances:

Friday, October 4, 2013

ZOMBIES Concert Review

I've decided to split my review of last Friday Night's Concert into two parts to cover the co-headliners we saw that night.

There's been nothing but good press for the reunited Zombies, featuring original members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent ... and it's all well-founded. 

Despite a brief career that yielded three Top Ten Hits  ("She's Not There", #1, 1964; "Tell Her No", #6, 1965 and "Time Of The Season", #1, 1969), it seems to be their most recent work that has really turned out the accolades.  

Last year's comeback album "Breathe Out, Breathe In" played to kudos all around from fans and critics alike ... and the title track (which they performed Friday Night along with one other new track from a forth-coming follow-up release) ... showed the band's commitment to grow and remain relevant all these years later.  They succeeded ... pleasing the crowd every step of the way.  (For me personally "Breathe Out, Breathe In" sounds a lot like a Steely Dan track ... had I not known any better and heard this song unannounced on the radio, I absolutely would have thought, "Hmm ... not a bad new Steely Dan single" ... as such, it also resonates timelessness for a band written off by most so long ago ... I mean, they literally took a 40 year break!)

Blunstone is still in excellent voice as were all of the background harmonies (although the mix could have been better to push Colin's voice out front a bit more.)  They opened with "I Love You", a 1965 B-Side that was later covered (nearly note-for-note) to chart success for the one-hit wonder group People in 1968.  They followed that with their 1965 Hit "Tell Her No" before delving into a few more obscure tracks probably not recognized by much more than the die-hards in the audience.
What they tried to do was present a full career retrospective and, for the most part, it worked.  They even dipped back to their very first LP to recreate their awesome medley of Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" and Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" ... and even fifty years later it still sounded fresh and spot on.   

A fair amount of time was devoted to their critical masterpiece "Odessey and Oracle", an LP that was virtually ignored at the time of its original release back in 1967.  ("Odessey" was reportedly misspelled by the album's art director way back when ... and has appeared this way ever since!)   

They played three tracks from the LP, closing out that short mini-set with the hit single, "Time Of The Season."  It was a letter-perfect rendition ... and I just LOVED the "choreography" that went along with the song.  (lol)  Both Blunstone and Argent gushed about the consistently good reviews this work has received in the 46 years since its first release, often cited as a fan (and band) favorite by new artists coming on the scene, most notably The Foo Fighters, who were mentioned several times Friday Night (and who even covered a track from the LP on their own.)  Without question it has grown in stature and critical acclaim, but there was so much "patting ourselves on the back" going on that casual fans might feel the LP was almost taking on a "Pet Sounds" persona of sorts over the ensuing years ... which is not necessarily the case.   

What they DIDN'T do, however, was explain that at the time of its original release it was deemed such a personal failure that the band actually split up after its release!  It had to be the ultimate disappointment creatively for the band at the time to see this album fail.  They ALSO didn't mention the fact that nearly two years later, while on a talent hunt in England, our FH Buddy Al Kooper discovered this LP and told his bosses at Columbia Records that you've just GOT to put this out here in The States, singling out one track in particular, "Time Of The Season", which went on to top The Pop Singles Chart in 1969, two full years after it was first recorded.  (Columbia Records wasn't as sold as Kooper was ... they stuck it on their Date subsidiary label, usually reserved for soul artists.  Imagine their surprise ... and pleasure ... as the song raced up the charts!)   

By this time the band had split up ... Rod Argent was already in the forming stages of his new band Argent ... but with a hot, hit single to promote, there was talk of perhaps regrouping one more time to see if they could ride out the momentum.  It didn't happen.  Instead, Argent polished off a couple of unfinished tracks to be used as subsequent releases while he concentrated on launching his solo band (which also featured Zombies bassist Chris White in both a song-writing and producing role) while several bogus bands CLAIMING to be The Zombies started gigging around the States trying to cash in on the record's hit status, knowing that the REAL Zombies wouldn't be around to challenge them.  (Note to Readers:  If you saw The Zombies circa 1969 / 1970, you got ripped off ... not a SINGLE member was on board!!!)  Legal action by the original band members and management finally put an end to the rouse.    

Blunstone went on to do guest work on a variety of other artists' LPs, most notably singing a few lead vocals for The Alan Parsons Project.  He performed one of those songs ("Old And Wise" from "Eye In The Sky") to huge audience acclaim Friday Night.  And then, proving that turn-about is fair play, the crowd went absolutely bonkers when the band next performed the Top Five Argent Hit "Hold Your Head Up".  (Argent also gave the crowd a little bit of a singing lesson on this one ... explaining that the lyrics didn't say "Hold Your Head Up, Whoa!, Hold Your Head Up, Whoa!" but rather "Hold Your Head Up, Woman, Hold Your Head Up, Woman" ... and then instructed the crowd to sing it CORRECTLY if they intended to sing along!  (Who knew?!?!?)  This extended-jam performance probably received the biggest single ovation of the night.  (Ironic in a way that it wasn't a Zombies or a Burton Cummings song that did it ... but rather a one-hit wonder by Argent!!!) 

The Zombies closed out their set with their first chart-topper "She's Not There" and then it was on to Burton Cummings.  (More on Burton tomorrow in Forgotten Hits)  

My understanding is that The Zombies were originally booked to perform a solo gig at The Arcada Theatre ... but when that date became a scheduling conflict, they were added to the Burton Cummings gig as the warm-up act.  It was one heck of a bonus for the audience ... a better double bill couldn't have been had.  (In fact, it turned into a TRIPLE bill as The Zombies are currently touring The States with a warm-up group called Et Tu Bruce', who warmed up the crowd Friday Night with there own 35 minute set of music.  Judging by yesterday's reviews, it looks like they won over about half the crowd!  lol)   

Scheduled to play an hour ... but actually performing quite a bit longer ... The Zombies may have over-stayed their welcome by a couple of songs but all in all they put on a very satisfying and entertaining set.  Highly recommended if you have the chance to see them again before they're back off to Europe for more dates.  (The Zombies currently have dates booked throughout January, February and March in the UK)  kk  

Be sure to check out their website for all the latest news and tour dates:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Concert Reviews

We haven't had time to write our own concert review yet ... but heard from a couple of readers who were at The Zombies / Burton Cummings Show last Friday Night at The Arcada Theatre ... including free tickets winner Steve Sarley.  

Today I thought I'd share some of their opinions regarding this incredible double bill ...  

Thanks again for the tickets! What an incredible show!   
I wrote a little story / review of the show which is attached. 
I'm not trying to steal your gig. Just appreciative of everything you do. 
Thank you - 
Steve Sarley

First of all, I’d like to thank Kent Kotal for running a contest to win tickets to the Burton Cummings / Zombies concert at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles. I was the lucky winner. I’d also like to thank the promoter, Ron Onesti, who provided the tickets to Kent. 

Kent’s interview with Burton Cummings, which was incredible work, had me totally pumped to see the show.

The show took place this past Friday night and I thought I’d share my impressions with all of Kent’s loyal readers on this incredibly fantastic website. 

First off, the night opened with a band of youngsters called “Et tu Bruce.” I don’t know how to type the accent mark over the “e” in Bruce, but it is pronounced “Broo-say.” The name comes from the fact that two of the band members have the last name of “Bruce.”  

These Brits have released four albums over there and I don’t know why they haven’t caught on here. They played for about 35 minutes and were excellent. They were definitely pop oriented and some of their songs had very catchy hooks and should have been hit singles. “Never Say Trevor” had top 40 written all over it. 

The Zombies were next to hit the stage. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the Zombies or Argent, a spin-off group. Damn! I really missed out. 

They played for an hour. They played their hit singles, three songs from legendary album, “Odessey and Oracle,” a couple from an album that came out a year-and-a-half ago and one from a forthcoming new album. 

Colin Blunstone is an incredible vocalist and I don’t know how he didn’t make the Rolling Stone top 100 vocalist list. His voice has gotten better with age. Rod Argent is a very underrated organ player. He can hold his own with Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman on the keyboard, but he also is a great showman. That is odd for an organist. Argent’s voice was also strong. The Zombies put on a show that I advise all to see the next time they hit the States. 

Interestingly, both Blunstone and Argent told a number of stories and anecdotes and their speaking voices were soft and gentle. They sounded like they were telling children some bedtime stories. 

After a short intermission, during which I was fortunate enough to share a few words with Kent Kotal, Burton Cummings hit the stage of the Arcada. The guy was at the top of his game. Kent’s interview was spot on. The Guess Who and solo numbers that Cummings played sounded just like the original singles. His voice, at 65, hasn’t changed one iota from what it sounded like when the Guess Who first hit the public airwaves. 

Cummings is a good showman and moved around the stage in the manner of a much younger man. He played piano, harmonica, percussion and guitar. He tried to play his new flute but said that the instrument had a defect. This caused him to skip “Undun,” one of my favorites. 

Cummings played over 20 songs and I knew all but two.  What an incredible catalog of music this guy is responsible for. My favorites were “Laughing,” “Stand Tall,” and “Star Baby,” but everything he played was magnificent.  Cummings’ back-up band was very strong as well. 
All in all, I cannot remember ever seeing a stronger concert from top to bottom. It was great. 

A couple of things struck me about the show. I am always happy to enjoy the bands of my youth, but my fun is mixed with wistfulness as I ponder my age and the age of the performers. Argent, Blunstone and Cummings don’t have a gray hair in their collective heads. I guess that’s a tribute to Clairol or Just for Men and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I did, though, notice something when I looked toward the stage and that was the sea of white hair and bald spots that was in the theater in front of me. Lastly, when Cummings did “These Eyes” at the end of his set, he raised his right hand over his head and swung it widely to the left and right to the tempo of the song. Of course, the audience followed along. I looked to my left about 10 rows in front of me and saw a fan holding his cane up over his head and swaying it back and forth. Oh, to be young again!

-- Steve Sarley

Kent -
What an excellent show! The only thing I could have changed was to omit having the supporting group for the Zombies "Et Tu Bruce" playing ... just not my cup of tea. I would have liked the Zombies and Burton to play a bit more. The Zombies to play a bit of their b sides or a few more cuts from the "Odessey and Oracle" album and Burton to play Rain Dance, Dancin Fool and some deep album cuts.
The Zombies never disappoint!  With original singer Colin Blunstone and organist Rod Argent they sounded as fresh as they did 49 years ago. Their song "Breathe Out, Breathe In" from their new CD of the same name was terrific. If that song is any indication of the CD, it will be on my Christmas list!! I am so glad that "these Zombies never die"What can I say about Burton?  He just keeps rockin! I just wish his flute was in tune so we could have heard Undun". But besides that, this was one of his typical shows of giving the crowd the hits plus some surprises like "Louie, Louie".  No one plays rock and roll piano like Burton!What a double bill Thank you Ron!  (Now how about Lou Christie / Lesley Gore / Kenny Vance and the Planetones triple bill?????????)  

Great night with my wife Jeanette and our friends Vic and Judy. The audience was awesome in their gratitude for the great music these performers provided. Good to see Stuart, Mike and, of course, you, kk ... and thank you for keepin the music alive!  
This old rocker may be down (sciatica) but he is not out!!
Mike De Martino
President of the Lovejoy Music Club

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Some Of Your Mid-Week Comments

The comments continue today in Forgotten Hits ... kicking off with those targeted toward our 1960 - 1963 Countdown.

re:  EARLY '60's MUSIC:  
We expected a mixed bag of comments when we saluted the early '60's ... no less an authority than Sirius / XM's Lou Simon (who does the '60's Satellite Survey Show for the station) told me that, other than within the context of a countdown or special programming, even The '60's Channel only features music from 1964 - 1969.  Music from the '50's and early '60's has all but disappeared from the radio airwaves.  It's a shame.  If the arrival of The Beatles and The British Invasion jump-started the decade (and people seem radically split on this topic ... either music was "reborn" in 1964 when The Fab Four landed on our shores ... or the "good music era" ended forever with the arrival of those long-haired Liverpudlians), then the music released between 1960 and 1963 have now been lumped in with those mid-to-late '50's hits as "The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll" ... or "The Solid Gold Years".  But to discount it completely is WRONG.  As we've seen SO many times (particularly in our recent Top 100 British Invasion Countdown) it was this very music of the late '50's and early '60's that inspired our British heroes to pick up a musical instrument in the first place!  I firmly believe that ANY radio station purporting to be playing "the greatest hits of all time" or "classic hits" or "classic rock" ought to be saluting some of the songs and artists who ruled the charts between 1955 and 1963.  One song an hour ... that's all it'll take ... to help preserve this legacy ... and introduce a whole new generation to the roots of where all of this great music came from.  (kk) 

Meanwhile, here are some of your comments ...   

Hey Kent, 
The 60s.  Oh yeah.  My time!  
Thought you might like this Billboard chart w/"Roses Are Red [My Love]"  @ No.1.  
Enjoyed your countdown. 
# 12 has been very, very good to me!  

As in Paul Evans ... who WROTE "Roses Are Red" ... and scored a few of his OWN hits in the early '60's as well ... like "Happy-Go-Lucky Me", "Midnite Special" and "Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Back Seat".  Thanks, Paul ... good stuff!  (kk)     

Couldn't help but think of a followup that singer Joe Dowell (#92) had in the summer time of the following year. Always did like LITTLE RED RENTED ROWBOAT. It wasn't much better than no boat, but at least it would go when I rowed rowed rowed. At least it would go when I rowed.  The record itself was a SMASH hit here in OKC as well as elsewhere.

Kent ...
This may well be the apocalypse. When I see Joe Dowell turn up on the 60's top 100 with the God awful "Wooden Heart", I have to wonder why I was groovin' so much back in those days.  Isn't a guy like Joe Dowel symbolic of a rock scene that after Elvis, Jerry and Little Richard was striving to become "homogenized" to avoid the wrath of southern religious groups and congress?
Chet Coppock  

Hi Kent,
Just thought I would chime in and let you know how much I enjoyed the first set of tunes in this countdown.
The Tymes' So Much in Love has always been a favorite - so many memories.  And Skeeter Davis' The End of the World was what first hooked me on sad songs.  I just recently purchased Can't Get Used to Losing You on iTunes.
This is music that shaped and still influences at lot of lives.
Looking forward to the rest of the countdown. 

Enjoying your countdown ... little memory capsule complete with pictures from my life.  One person's opinion, I realize, but it is more than a shame that Sam Cooke was murdered ... it is a tragedy.   
Keep up the great work! 

Yes Kent, 
The music before Britain invaded also had / has a great impact.  The thing that sticks with me is that since 'The Day the Music Died' in 1959, the songs being sung seemed to overshadow who was on the record singing them.   The same song was recorded by several different groups ... sometimes being a hit by all ... sometimes only one.  Maybe we were afraid of becoming attached to human forms again for fear of losing them.  I know there were stars, but they were esteemed as single idols, and could replace each other on our whims.  Elvis excluded.  Elvis is his own category. Shelley J Sweet-Tufano   

Dion just amazes me ... his voice was so pure, so smooth, the essence of blue eyed soul. I bought his boxed set a few years back and was just knocked out by how many great deep cuts the guy had. Click on youtube and just hit Dion and you'll hear fifty songs that will have you stompin'.
He is truly a musical genius. Think about it, other than Presley and, perhaps, Bill Medley, how may vocalists could match the sound of Dion DiMuccui? Paul? Lennon?  Dion remains my consummate rock 'n roll hero.
Finally,  I can't understand why "Ruby Baby' didn't turn up in the top 100.
Chet Coppock  

Have you heard any of his most recent work?  His voice has matured in a way that lends itself PERFECTLY to the blues genre that he's been pursuing of late.  Pick up "Tank Full Of Blues" if you don't already have it ... you'll become a fan all over again.  "Bronx in Blue" is every bit as good. 
As for "Ruby Baby", while it's a great track, again this list was determined by each song's actually chart performance at the time of its initial release.  Author Dann Isbell compiled a list based on a point system arrived at by each title's weekly chart status ... in all, he has ranked all 6835 titles to chart in Billboard during the 1960's.  "Ruby Baby" came in at #259 for the decade.  Once we narrowed down the list to those records that charted between 1960 and 1963, we only got as high as #236 ("The Wah-Watusi"), which means that Dion JUST missed making the cut.  (What else stood between him and the #100 spot?  "Moody River" by Pat Boone, "Poetry In Motion" by Johnny Tillotson, "A Thousand Stars" by Kathy Young and the Innocents, "Stay" by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs (certainly in hindsight one of the biggest hits of the early '60's ... but mathematically eliminated nonetheless), "Goodbye Cruel World" by James Darren and "Raindrops" by Dee Clark.  That puts "Ruby Baby" at #107 on the 1960 - 1963 List. 
You can pick up a copy of the complete list (via Dann's book) here: 

Hi Kent,
 When you listened to radio during the early 60's it was great because Top 40 played everything.  You might hear Bert Kaempfert's "Wonderland By Night" or Percy Faith's "Theme From A Summer Place" followed by Roy Orbison, The Orlons, or Bobby Rydell.  If you were looking for variety you got it -- you got everything on one plate.  Today the station formats are so focused, the variety doesn't feel nearly as diverse without pushing buttons.  You may have cleaner sound today but it still all boils down to talent -- the Auto-tune, pitch-correction, effects, and pristine digital audio are all for naught if you don't have great music and great artists -- without the talent it's all homogenized, air-brushed audio.  An Elvis, a Roy Orbison, the Beatles, a Bobby Darin, a Dusty Springfield, a Little Richard, Aretha, a Fats Domino, or a Brenda Lee still only come around once in a lifetime.  A microphone is a just a piece of metal without a great songs by talented artists.  By the way Kent, I love "The End Of The World" by Skeeter Davis, too -- and the harmony of the Orlons! 
And does it get any better when capturing the early 60's than "He's A Rebel"?  Darlene Love -- what a voice!  If these hits you have featured are at the bottom of the Countdown, I can't imagine the frosting on the top! 
Tim Kiley   

Hola Kent,
A terrific week of memories.  I graduated in '63, we are celebrating our 50th in a few weeks ... it couldn't have come at a better time!  I shared your list with my classmates so maybe you will pick up some additional 'hits'. ha ha
The Everlies were never the same when they left for Warner Bros. ):
Thanks for another great compilation.
Proving once again that this music truly WAS "The Soundtrack Of Our Lives".  Thanks for sharing ... you're right ... the timing couldn't have been better.  (Plus it gives you a GREAT batch of tunes to play at your reunion.)  Thanks, Charlie ... have fun!  (kk)   

Various pundits have written scathing essays about the "awful" music we had in the years leading up to the British Invasion. While there were a few tracks without much staying power, this week's FH reminded us that there really were some fabulous acts and some very fine tracks during that time in R&R History. Thanks for the reminder. This was a welcome review.
David Lewis

Sadly, radio ignores the vast majority of this music today ... and I'll agree that a fair amount of it feels "dated" by today's standards.  But I'll betcha in a couple of hours I could pull together a list of 2000 songs that absolutely, positively SHOULD be played on the radio that came out between 1955 and 1963 ... even if featured in an hourly "flashback" piece saluting "The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll".  (A segment like this could also go 90 days without a repeat and then, by rotating these "chosen few", feature different songs in different hours than previously aired so that a whole new generation of listeners could discover them.  Yo radio, talk to me ... I'm game if you are!  (kk) 

Or so says more and more folks covering the media ... in one week alone we received half a dozen new emails chastising radio for its complete lack of relevance these days.  Here are just a couple ... 

Progress?  This speaks volumes!  
Chris Astle 
The March of the Robots.  I can't communicate with robots. Herman King   

Think radio stinks? You're not alone. 
It doesn’t take a team of researchers to tell you that radio has gotten worse. You already know that. 
Two independent studies released this week confirmed that listeners aren’t as happy as they used to be with what they’re hearing on AM and FM.  In an online survey of nearly 1,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 64, 53 percent agreed with the statement: “Radio isn’t as good as it used to be.” 
Radio has lost its way. Competition and creativity were replaced by cost-cutting and voice-tracking. Too many commercials and not enough local talent. It’s all on the cheap.  
Another survey of more than 3,000 listeners, commissioned by Pandora, Spotify and TuneIn, and released this week by Edison Research, showed that for the first time in history, Internet radio is used by a majority of online Americans — 53 percent.  “The data clearly shows that Internet radio is not only a mainstream activity for the majority of online Americans, it’s also essentially expanding the pie for audio media,” said Larry Rosin, president of Edison Research. “The advent of mobile listening, and the proliferation of choices for the types of Internet audio have transformed the medium from niche activity to major media channel in under ten years.”  
Terrestrial radio dinosaurs, are you listening? 
Robert Feder  
Read more here:  Click here: Think radio stinks? You're not alone | Robert Feder   

Here's CBS-FM's attempt to stay creative:
Click here: 20 Fun Facts From September #1s In The Hall Of Fame « WCBS-FM 101.1     

Earlier this week FH Reader David Lewis mentioned hearing an interview with Chicago Radio Legend Dick Biondi, talking about being the first deejay in America to play a Beatles record on the air.  Well, our FH Buddy Larz has a link up on his Chicagoland Radio and  Media website that will allow you to hear the whole thing.
Biondi also speaks openly about the current state of radio today ... and this guy should know ... he's been broadcasting since the beginning of time.  I'll never forget the first time he signed on the air ... Dick manned the mike while Ben Franklin flew the kite with a ring full of keys, trying to pump up the signal up to 50,000 watts ... and soon Biondi could be heard from coast to coast ... BEFORE the days of the Internet!!!
Definitely worth a listen ... there's a lot of truth in his years of wisdom ... of course the guys that matter aren't listening ... and therein lies the BIGGEST problem in radio today.  They have no FEEL for what the medium can and should be doing ... and have blinders on to the history that won over listeners in the first place.  (kk)     

Chicago radio legend Dick Biondi gave an interview to NPR's "Weekend Edition" host Scott Simon recently. In it, Biondi talks about his early days in radio, being the first to play The Beatles' "Please Please Me," and much more about his amazing career. He also talks about the industry today, saying if radio was once considered "show business" that "today's radio forgot the first word and only worries about the second word." Regarding retirement, the 81-year-old icon said "I don't want to retire, because as my Dad told me when I was just a young kid, when you retire, you start to rust. And I don't want to rust." The entire interview can be heard HERE.    

Nope ... not at all like the good old days ... 

I have been out of town for a week and am just getting caught up on old FH postings.  I really enjoyed newbie Mike Long's remembrances of Chicago radio.  It was funny how he used first names to convey his memories of the jocks.  BTW, if I remember correctly, FH member, Bob Stroud grew up in Kalamazoo.
>>>I recently moved from the east side of Michigan over to the Holland area and I've started listening to FM 100.9 out of Kalamazoo as they play oldies and I heard the song and it got me thinking.  I grew up in the South West suburbs of Chicago (LTHS '65, same class as Barb Biondi) and I really got into listening to WLS (and WCFL) between early 1965 and late 1967, when I enlisted in the US Air Force. I remember when this song hit the airwaves, and I will tell you, I'm thinking, 'ok, wow! they are actually playing this song on the air?' I caught the windshield wiper allusion immediately.   (Mike Long)  
WLS and WCFL both charted Lou's "Lightning Strikes" at #1, but because of the lyric, WLS did not chart or air the follow-up, "Rhapsody," choosing instead to play and chart the old CO&CE cash-in 45 follow-up, "Outside the Gates of Heaven."  How convenient to have a choice!  That song went up the WLS chart while "Rhapsody" spent many weeks on WCFL and "Heaven" never reached the CFL top 20. 
>>>Not paying attention to the politics of the time (except for 'They're Coming To Take Me Away', which I'll mention later), I think I remember this song disappearing quickly from the airwaves. Maybe WCFL played it as I was switching over from Clark and Bernie and Dex and Ron and Art and Don (yeah, I'd also listen for a minute at most to Don McNeill from 'High Atop the Hotel Allerton', to Larry and Jim, Barney, and the rest about that time.  (Mike Long)

I have told this story many times.  My brother called me to the tape recorder one day in early 66 to play what he recorded as the number one request on Art Roberts' show the night before.  He just said "Listen to this!"  My first thought (upon hearing the opening drudge drum beat) was "WHY is Bob Dylan's months old "Rainy Day Women" the number one request on Art's show?"  Then I was amazed at what I heard.  I loved it.  In two weeks it was top 10 on both WLS and CFL and then it was gone due to pressure from outside. 
>>>Radio was a blast in those days.  I remember the Top Three requests at 10 PM (WLS or CFL?) when Napoleon 14th's song was #3 the first night it was available in Chicago and then was #1 for the next several weeks until it was banned.  I met several of the dj's of that era, including Bob Hale.  (Mike Long)
I supposedly met Bob Hale in a similar story.  This guy was selling records at a record show in Denver about 20 years ago and I chatted with him about his WLS days and all.  THEN, with the internet, I connected with the REAL Bob Hale once and he said it could NOT have been him that I talked to!  Judging by Mike's visit with a fake Art Roberts, I guess WLS knock-offs are out there!!  I'm sure they must have been influenced by Mother Weber's eldest son, when he started issuing his fake money ("Weber Moolah") back in the early 60's.  I still have one of those bills, which today has probably increased in value by thousands!

When the radio ratings came out this week, columnist Rob Feder ran a special segment on V103, who has led the pack here in Chi-Town for 17 of the last 18 ranking periods.
You may be amazed by some of their programming philosophies ... who would have EVER thought that a radio station giving their listeners what they want to hear could wind up on top ... 17 times!!!  Read on for the highlights:
On the eve of its 25th anniversary as Chicago’s pioneering urban adult-contemporary radio station, WVAZ FM 102.7 has more to celebrate than its groundbreaking format and illustrious history.
Ratings released Monday by Nielsen Audio (previously known as Arbitron) show V103 leading the market with a commanding 6.2 percent share of all listeners and a cumulative weekly audience of 1,128,600.
And that’s no fluke: The Clear Channel station has been No. 1 overall in 17 of the last 18 books.
The station’s ratings dominance is even more remarkable considering how the radio landscape has changed. While most other formats declined when Portable People Meter technology replaced the old diary measurement method five years ago, V103 flourished.
“We took the new measurement system seriously,” said Derrick Brown, director of urban programming for Clear Channel Chicago and program director of V103. “We studied a lot and took the time to understand how the new methodology could affect us as a radio station. It took quite a bit of tweaking, but it’s worked out well for us.”

The secret to the station’s success, Brown said, is listening: “We are absolutely focused on the likes and dislikes of our listening audience, and we do our level best to meet the expectations. What we’ve seen over the years in this industry when you violate expectations, it damages your brand. I think that’s why our brand is so strong — because we listen.”
V103 targets African-American adults between 25 and 54 with a format that combines rhythm-and-blues, Motown and dusties music in a laid-back presentation more typical of adult-contemporary stations. Billed as “The Best Variety of Hits and Dusties — and No Rap,” the station banned anything resembling hip hop in those days. 
Despite the defection of younger listeners, the new V103 was an immediate and huge success. Overnight it jumped to No. 1 among all adult listeners in the market. 
“I think the key to V103’s success then and now is that we’re in a constant state of evolution,” Brown said. “You can’t stay in place because that’s not what our audience is doing. They’re getting new musical tastes. They’re being attracted to new and different technologies. We can’t be the station that we were then. We have to shift and pivot along with our audience.”
Brown describes his station’s “musical recipe” today as a mix of everything from R&B ballads to classic and adult-oriented hip hop, instrumentals and local steppers music, along with a large serving of dusties on weekends. “We encompass everything,” he said. “I think that’s the nature of the urban adult format. That’s what makes it so rich and vibrant.”
To kick off its celebration, V103 will present a 25th anniversary concert, starring Charlie Wilson, Chaka Khan, Robin Thicke and Bell Biv Devoe, Saturday at Allstate Arena. This Saturday also marks the 85th birthday of Radio Hall of Famer Herb Kent, still going strong and spinning dusties every Saturday and Sunday on V103.
-- Robert Feder
Imagine that ... a radio station that LISTENS to its listeners! Man, what a concept!  Then again I wonder how many times a day they must hear "Gee, I wish you'd play more John Mellencamp, Steve Miller and Boston every hour."  (kk)

re:  NEW STUFF:  
Forgotten Hits folks should know about the new documentary Muscle Shoals. I got to see a preview of it and it is one of the best movies about music. Rick Hall of Fame Records has quite a story. There is amazing footage of early recording sessions and many stars of rock and soul take center stage to talk about this magical recording place: Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound in Alabama. Opening in limited release soon and will be available on demand.
Charlie Miller  

Sounds awesome ... will have to watch for this one!  (kk) 

After running copies of some Canadian Top 40 Charts last week, we got this from long-time FH Reader Tom Diehl:
I'm even more shocked to see Sweeter Than Sugar by Ronnie Dove charting on CHNS. This was his debut single for Diamond Records, issued on Apex in Canada (and if anyone out there has a Canadian pressing on Apex, please send me an email to  It is the only Canadian 45 by Ronnie I am missing). It did absolutely nothing when released in America even though there was a trade magazine ad putting Ronnie "in the ring" against the Beatles. The record did also chart on CKLW in Windsor, Ontario and WDGY in Minneapolis - St Paul, MN.
Speaking of Ronnie Dove, Ronnie has announced his retirement after nearly 60 years in the entertainment business (he had started with his group the Ronnie Dove Quartette in 1954). Ronnie has had some ongoing health issues due to asbestos in his lungs, due to the time he spent in the air force changing out asbestos on ship pipes. Ronnie's final concert will be held on December 1, 2013, at the Moose Lodge in Glen Burnie, Maryland. More info can be found at and I encourage fans of Ronnie's music to also check out his new website,, which includes a few newly discovered old songs of Ronnie's that he has not put out on cd elsewhere (and there will be even more added to the site very soon, where the total number of songs on the site is already over 200).
I'm also looking for any old Ronnie Dove pictures people might have, plus any live recordings they might have (or perhaps by any luck, any other unreleased recordings), as well as foreign pressings of Ronnie's singles, so if anyone has anything that they think can help contribute to the Ronnie Dove archives, please contact me.
-- Tom Diehl

Tom has helped us out here in Forgotten Hits more times than I could ever possibly count so I would really like to be able to offer some kind of "payback" here should any of our readers have any Ronnie Dove material of interest to share.  (Tom's email is stated in the piece above.)    

re:  TOMMY ROE:  
Pop Rock Legendary Songwriter, Recording Artist
TOMMY ROE ... Greatest Hits and SOMETHING NEW!!
Dizzy, Sheila, Everybody, Sweetpea, Jam Up and Jelly Tight ... and many more
LIVERPOOL,  UK ***  AUGUST 26, 2014
What more needs be said ... what a legend!
23 BILLBOARD chart singles ... 11 TOP 40, (15 TOP 40 in CANADA) ... 6 top 10, 4 GOLD, 2 International #1 Hits
Dizzy LIVE at EPCOT  MAY, 2013
RICK LEVY manager/bandleader:  904 - 806 - 0817

Here's more on Linda Ronstadt, courtesy of FH Reader Dave Barry, who sent in these two independant articles written by Steven Winn and Chris Willman ...  
Linda Ronstadt rolled her fingers into a fist, forming a pinhole at the center. She held this improvised telescope up to her eye and trained it on a seascape by Eugène Isabey, on view in the "Impressionists on the Water" exhibition at the Legion of Honor.
"I love to do this," she said, squinting into the painting's deep space. "Look at the way the water glitters. And those men on the boat. There's a world in there. This makes it really sharp and bright."
Ronstadt, who lives near the Legion in San Francisco's Richmond District, has been doing a lot of close looking recently, and not only at this Impressionism show she loves so much she's been back to see it seven times. In a new book to be published Tuesday, Ronstadt revisits, with a mixture of fine-grained insight and personal modesty, one of the most remarkable and wide-ranging singing careers in the last century of American popular music.
"Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir" (Simon & Schuster; $26) covers everything from Ronstadt's early folk-rock days with the Stone Poneys to a megawatt solo career that earned her the 1970s "Queen of Rock" label. It winds through startling swerves into Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" on Broadway and lushly orchestrated American standards, and ultimately a return to her family roots with the 1987 Mexican album "Canciones de mi Padre."
Along the way Ronstadt earned 11 Grammy Awards, appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone (the latter six times), and collaborated with Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Nelson Riddle, Kevin Kline and many others.
As her career retrospective arrives in bookstores, Ronstadt at 67 is peering forward into a life dramatically altered by the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease she received nine months ago and made public in an interview last month. "I can't sing a note," she said.
The announcement, though not a surprise to friends, stunned the large and devoted legion of fans for whom "Different Drum," "Heart Like a Wheel," "Blue Bayou," "When Will I Be Loved," "Cry Like a Rainstorm" and numerous other hits cut a treasured groove in their memories. The singer's lustrous and brilliantly controlled tone, which married vibrant power and open-hearted vulnerability, remains, for many, a signal voice of their generation.
Ronstadt began noticing problems with her voice almost a decade ago. Doctors told her there was nothing wrong with her physically. One specialist said she had "the healthiest larynx of any singer who had the kind of career I did." But Ronstadt, a self-scrutinizing perfectionist, knew better.
"My voice cracked," she said matter-of-factly, "at the height of my ability. I couldn't make it do what it had always done." Ronstadt sensed it was more than age or normal wear on her vocal cords. She sang her last concert in November 2009 in San Antonio. "Toward the end I was just shouting." She was devastated but not entirely surprised by the Parkinson's diagnosis. Her vocal difficulties, she now believes, were the early signs of the muscle failures associated with the onset of the disease.
"Holy s- ," she recalled thinking, when her fears were confirmed, "this is not the disease I want to have." Her dark eyes widened for a moment at the memory, and then she moved on.
Friends think Ronstadt will ride out whatever lies ahead with her characteristic high spirits, fierce attention to detail and inner calm. "I've never seen her in a state of despair about anything, including this," said John Rockwell, the former New York Times music critic who has been a friend for close to 40 years. "I know she misses singing. It's been the center of her life. But there is a certain kind of personality that has a cheerful attitude no matter what. That's Linda."
Dressed in a hooded pink sweatshirt, light blue jeans and white running shoes, Ronstadt made her way through the museum apparently unrecognized and undisturbed. She used a pair of stability poles for balance. "I used to go bench to bench. These are better," she said of the poles. She looked at every painting in the show, zeroing in at one point on a sky that reminded her of the Tucson desert where she grew up. Ronstadt fell into one of her spontaneous reveries.
"Oh God," she said, with a luxuriant sigh, "this is fabulous. It moves me completely that someone could sit down and look so closely at something and come up with this."
Back at her house, Ronstadt stretched out on a plush white settee near a fireplace that's steadily in use when she's home. Even on an overcast summer day, the room looked bright and airy. French doors framed a garden brimming with red, blue and yellow blossoms.
"I love everything soft," she said - "cashmere and down. I don't like anything scratchy. My parents were not into comfort."
While the stark Tucson landscape and stiff Indian blankets on her bed formed a rough backdrop, Ronstadt remembers her childhood with a warm glow. The memories are keen - the smell of floor wax and diesel oil in her Mexican-German grandfather's hardware store; a particular cotton print dress her mother wore; the sweet mesquite beans she fed her Shetland pony, Murphy.
Her deepest roots are musical. Ronstadt's paternal grandfather was a brass-band leader. Her father, a baritone, played her 78-rpm records of Grieg's "Peer Gynt" and the flamenco singer Pastora Pavón and took her to one of the few movies she saw as a child, Verdi's opera "Aida."
Her brother Peter was a boy soprano. Family singing, in a house with no TV until Ronstadt was in fifth grade, was the most readily available source of entertainment. It may also be the wellspring of her celebrated gift for harmonizing, exquisitely realized decades later in her three-part singing with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton and duets with the Cajun singer Ann Savoy.
The strict Catholic school she attended turned Ronstadt off formal education. A natural autodidact, she became a voluminous reader, with interests that range from Victorian novels to architecture to politics. Even as she enrolled at the University of Arizona, Ronstadt knew it wasn't for long. She dropped out after a semester and headed for Los Angeles at 18 to seek her musical fortune.
Ronstadt moved from the Stone Poneys to an alt-country and rock solo career that bloomed, albeit gradually, before she was really ready. "It took me 10 years to really learn how to sing," she said. By then, in the mid-1970s, she was already a huge star, playing large arenas at a time when women, aside from Grace Slick and the hard-driving Janis Joplin, didn't reach that level of stardom and fame.
Ronstadt was in some ways an unlikely superstar. Afflicted with stage fright throughout her career, she didn't speak to the audience from the stage for years or write her own songs. "Most of my days I was under the covers, then brushing my teeth, then out onstage looking at the tops of my shoes and the reflection from the microphone stand," she recalled.
"I used to think, 'My God, this show must look so boring' because I was always looking at my feet." Ronstadt giggled and shook her short ruff of dark brown hair.
Life on the road was often lonely. "The smell of the carpet in a hotel room is the same everywhere," she said, with a slight shudder. "My stomach turns over, and I just want to go home." When her daughter, Mary, wanted to hang up a picture of her mother performing, Ronstadt asked her not to. "I don't like pictures of me working." She saved few mementoes of her career.
However self-doubting or isolated she felt, Ronstadt formed powerful and enduring bonds with fellow musicians and managers. John Boylan, who worked with her in the early 1970s, remembers the first time he heard her voice. "Her pitch was absolute, and she could do it without vibrato. As a record producer, I got beyond excited." Boylan continued, "She was always highly self-critical, with the humility to improve herself."
Songwriter J.D. Souther, who wrote her hit "Faithless Love," remembers falling for Ronstadt when he asked her to cook him dinner. "She made me a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich," he laughed. Their romance was short-lived, but they've remained close. "We made a lot of music together, some of the very best after we had broken up. Most our relationship was listening to great music together. She's changed very little since I met her. I still love her dearly."
Ronstadt's romantic life was a source of incessant fascination and speculation when she was in the spotlight. Reports linking her with then- and current California Gov. Jerry Brown and filmmaker George Lucas were accurate. As to the various reported beaux, "some of the others were men I never met," she said drily.
She couldn't avoid addressing some of the stories about her private life in press interviews. As Rockwell writes in an insightful 1978 essay, Ronstadt acknowledged that she was involved with many of her musical collaborators. He described someone who was not a "stubborn holdout for Total Womanhood in an age of guerrilla feminism," but an enlivening "tension of opposites." She was, he wrote, "sensual and clever, sweet and irrational, vulnerable and strong." It's a description that still very much applies.
Marriage, she said, "was never anything I set out to do." Crisply affirming her commitment to "serial monogamy - it's what the culture supports," Ronstadt displayed no ambivalence about her choice not to marry. "It just wasn't necessary for me."
For the most part, Ronstadt has drawn a veil over her private life. "Simple Dreams" is the polar opposite of the pop music tell-all book. She writes lightly and even decorously of her romantic past. "I was keeping company with then governor Jerry Brown," goes a typical line. Asked about her not mentioning Lucas in the book, she said simply, "He had nothing to do with the music." She did offer one affectionately impish joke about Brown, with whom she's still friendly:
"People worry about Jerry spending money in the government. Don't worry about that. He's a tightwad. There's no chance of him spending any money, certainly not his own." Her face went into a mock-innocent deadpan, then beamed open in a smile.
The word "authentic" came up in several of her friends' and colleagues' accounts of Ronstadt's personality. The perception by others who didn't know her that she was "frivolous" bothered her, she said, then promptly complicated the issue: "Sometimes I was frivolous. Did you have some frivolous years? I had to live mine out in public."
In addition to the gossip about her love life, there were the inevitable stories about other recreations. Ronstadt readily acknowledges her past cocaine use, but said she rarely drank. "I'm completely allergic to it. Two glasses of wine, and they had to carry me home."
Quick as she may have been to register her own shortcomings, Ronstadt was singularly decisive about her career choices. When she first heard Anna McGarrigle's "Heart Like a Wheel," she felt like "a bomb had exploded in my head" and spent years persuading someone to record the song she would transform into a pop classic.
She ignored advice not to perform in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of "The Pirates of Penzance," a role that earned her a Tony nomination. Her decision to record traditional Mexican mariachi music drew similar doubts. She proved the experts wrong every time. And as she's eager to point out now, all the very different types of music she performed were things she'd heard at home by the time she was 10.
Ronstadt moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles in the late 1980s and has gone back to a home in Tucson for periods since then. She's owned a number of homes in San Francisco, driven in part by serial homemaking monogamy. She falls in love with one place, then hears the call of a new location.
Her explanation for the move from image-conscious Los Angeles has the kind of pithy, intuitive logic that her friends are used to. "When I moved here I didn't have to have that conversation I got so tired of in L.A.: 'Where did you get your shoes?' " She now gets almost all her sensible, discreetly stylish footwear at Crosswalk Shoes on Fillmore Street.
Even as her career matured and moved in new directions, something was missing. "I feel like I didn't grow up until I had children," said Ronstadt, who adopted Mary, now 22, and Carlos, 19, when she was in her 40s.
"Before that I was like a child wandering in the woods. I followed my own whims, most of them musical. I was very focused on my career, on whatever the next project was. Having children makes you see the world in a completely different way. When you're responsible for those little lives, you can't slough it off or forget about it until later."
Mary lives in a cottage across the garden, in back of Ronstadt's house. Carlos recently moved out to live with his girlfriend south of San Francisco. "I stood in the doorway and watched him go," his mother said, "and wasn't sure what to say. I told him to be kind and try hard."
Ronstadt loves staying home and reading and seeing friends. Ann Savoy, her former collaborator and dear friend, paid a visit recently. The two went to Baker Beach and haunted antique and vintage clothing stores.
"She's a character and a half," said Savoy of her old friend. "She has more on her mind than anyone I know, with that intensity of hers and that sparkle in her black eyes." Ronstadt has "never been one to go out and socialize," Savoy added. "She has this rich inner life and a group of close friends who come to her."
Ronstadt loves the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Symphony. "Every time he raises his baton," she said of Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, "I should be there. It's ridiculous that I don't go more."
She stays in touch, mostly by phone, with a wide range of friends from her musical career. They include the singers Jackson Browne and Aaron Neville, songwriter Jimmy Webb and her longtime recording engineer, George Massenburg. "There's a certain kind of intimacy that happens when you spend so much time polishing a phrase or a harmony part with someone," she reflected, "that never goes away. I feel a special kind of kinship that's different from my other friends, even if it doesn't necessarily move into your daily life. They may be living somewhere else and you hardly ever see them. But you can just pick up right where you left off. It's almost like love. No, it is love."
When her old singing partners Browne and Emmylou Harris joined Joan Baez in a benefit concert in San Jose in July, Ronstadt attended. She went to visit them, somewhat reluctantly, after the concert. "I never like to be backstage," she explained. "I just remember that it was hard to see people out of context. You're on a different wavelength."
One of Ronstadt's favorite paintings in the Legion's "Impressionists on the Water" is "Woman Rowing" by Eugène Delâtre. The figure is draped in shadow as she pulls toward a distant shoreline. "She could be wondering what happened to someone she knows," Ronstadt mused, "or working on her grocery list. When she gets home it's going to be dark in her house. I hope she find a nice warm supper waiting and the lamps already lit for her."
In her only Bay Area book event, Linda Ronstadt will appear in conversation with Roy Eisenhardt at City Arts & Lectures, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes St., San Francisco. (415) 392-4400,
Steven Winn is a San Francisco freelance writer. E-mail:    

Simple Dreams
A Musical Memoir
By Linda Ronstadt
(Simon & Schuster; 242 pages; $26)
As recent news stories about her condition pointed out, Linda Ronstadt doesn't mention having Parkinson's disease in her new memoir, "Simple Dreams," because it went to press before she was diagnosed in June. But there's no certainty she'd have written about it even if she'd known earlier, since Ronstadt guards her privacy just as effectively within the book's pages as she always has without. Readers hoping for a lot of long-delayed insight into any of her nonmusical dreams - or setbacks - might as well hasten down the wind. There may be no more amusingly illustrative passage than the one in which she goes to a Little Feat show in the early '70s and can't wait to meet band leader Lowell George afterward. "Backstage, Lowell walked up to me, opened his fist to reveal a large pill, blinked at me several times, and said 'Hi, want a Quaalude?' No, I didn't want a Quaalude," Ronstadt writes.
"I wanted to know the open tuning to a song of his, about a truck driver, that he had sung in the show. He called it "Willin'." There follows a paragraph and a half about how they agreed that Ronstadt should sing the country-rock classic in an open E tuning instead of his original key of G.
Do drug-related '70s rock anecdotes get any more lurid?
Well, actually, they do, just barely, a couple of times in "Simple Dreams," as Ronstadt reveals how a smack-addled Gram Parsons passed out after teaching Keith Richards "Wild Horses" in Laurel Canyon, rather than give her a ride home in Hollywood as promised. And she's sexually harassed by a producer on "The Johnny Cash Show" and put in a drunken headlock by the abusive sideman Jack Nitzsche, but that's as far as the book delves into sex or drugs.
As for rock 'n' roll? Ronstadt reveals, unsurprisingly, "another reason I approached standards with such fervor" in the '80s: "I never felt that rock and roll defined me. There was an unyielding attitude that came with the music that involved being confrontational, dismissive, and aggressive - or, as my mother would say, ungracious. ... I didn't wear the attitude well."
"Simple Dreams" is nothing if not gracious. Ronstadt was too classy to ever fully embrace the role of rocker chick, a miscasting that was nonetheless to the delight of millions of lads who had her posters on their walls during her '70s heyday. When she gets around to working with orchestrator Nelson Riddle, theatrical legend Joe Papp and the leading lights of Mexican music in the '80s, these have the effect of providing rescue moments in the narrative, even if she's too - you know - gracious to ever completely write off her tenure as the Queen of Rock.
In a book devoted almost exclusively to her professional, not personal life, it's maybe a bit surprising that she all but completely leaps over her commercial peak years, as if they were Bad Dreams. Albums like "Prisoner in Disguise," "Hasten Down the Wind," "Living in the USA," and even the one that provides the book its title go unmentioned or turn up only parenthetically.
Rather than whine about having been a big star, though, she mostly chalks up the nightmarishness of her peak period to bad sound. Singing in arenas and amphitheaters "was kind of like being in a flushing toilet with the lid down," she writes. "There was so much evil slapback ricocheting off the walls and ringing in the rafters, I'd swear I could still hear the lead guitar solo from the band that had played the week before. Those places were filled with zombie sound that simply refused to die."
You can hardly blame anyone with a sensitive set of ears for being driven by the Fabulous Forum and Oakland Coliseum straight into the arms of the Great American Songbook, right?
But not a sentence is expended on how Ronstadt felt about being objectivized as a sex symbol. We kind of know from the historical record that she didn't care much for it, and you think you're going to get some dishiness on the sexism of the period when she quotes fellow artist Judy Henske approaching her at the Troubadour to say: "Honey, I am going to tell you something. In this town there are four sexes: men, women, homosexuals, and girl singers."
But if she has any lingering thoughts about having been almost the sole chick in a world dominated by Eagles, perhaps she thinks it would be unduly ungrateful to share them.
Cataloging the list of seemingly important developments that go unmentioned could take up an entire review. Ronstadt mentions admiring pal Rosanne Cash's recent autobiography, and maybe she took inspiration in the way Cash dealt with her divorce from Rodney Crowell in literally half a sentence. One-time fiance George Lucas? Unmentioned. Jerry Brown and Pete Hamill at least get nods as fellows she was "keeping company with."
She spends a long, long time living with J.D. Souther, but whether it was platonic or not is not our beeswax. Cousins and nephews get mentioned by name, but her two adopted children don't. Did the woman who sang "I Never Will Marry" in the '70s and "Never Will I Marry" in the '90s have any thoughts in-between about ... marrying? Never will we find out. (Her well-known politics get even shorter shift than her personal life.)
"Simple Dreams" deserves attention for more than just its glaring gaps, though, at least if you're a major fan of the brand of inclusive Americana she breathed life into as the counterculture was breathing its last. Whether she's hanging with neighbor Jackson Browne or leaving the about-to-be Eagles in her living room so they can write "Witchy Woman," she's the comely Zelig of early country-rock, and an affectionate witness to the "silverback posturing" that occurred among the males of the SoCal singer/songwriter species. Some good stories come from slightly outside of that bubble, too, as when she goes on a date with tourmate Jim Morrison ... and cheerfully locks the inebriated lizard king out of her apartment just as he's expecting to get lucky.
More than just telling tales of the days when giants walked the Troubadour, Ronstadt also gives a sense of the thoughts that go into being a singer's singer, without ever being immodest about her gifts. (And she knows her limitations, being candid about her unsuitability for the lead role in Puccini's "Boheme," which bombed on Broadway.)
She sums up her vocal philosophy: "If one is singing a sad song, it is better to tell the story as clearly and simply - even as journalistically - as one can. It will have a stronger effect on the listener and seem more emotional than a teary, overwrought delivery."
The rock critics who dismissed her as overly technical over the years may beg to differ, but Ronstadt indeed served to prove that flawlessness is not synonymous with bloodlessness - notwithstanding her influence on perfect but soulless youngsters like Carrie Underwood.
If only that simple, not overtly emotional approach worked as well in this memoir as it did on her best records. If she's not going to shed tears onto the pages, she could at least allude to having tear ducts. But the book's early chapters tell us that, growing up in the tough Arizona desert, she learned that "cowgirls don't cry," a lesson that stuck. Now, as ever, you'll have to look away from her face or the page and deep into the key of E to hear the slightest sob.
Chris Willman has been a frequent contributor to TV Guide, New York magazine, Rolling Stone and other publications. E-mail:   

Wow ... I've never seen a review that so easily convinced me not to bother with a title I've been looking forward to reading!  It sounds like there absolutely NOTHING here that any fan would care about ... which makes me wonder how she got a book deal at all.  Guess I'll just enjoy the fabulous music instead.  (kk)

We've got two more special countdowns to feature during our special salute to the '60's ... we'll let you know when they're running.

And, starting tomorrow, reviews of the Burton Cummings / Zombies concert last Friday Night ... one of the best shows we've ever seen ... so stay tuned!  (kk)