Wednesday, March 8, 2023

What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat And Tears?

I’ve been hearing LOTS of good buzz about the new Blood, Sweat And Tears documentary “What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat And Tears?”

Our FH Buddy Harvey Kubernik first tipped me off to this film (he of “Docs That Rock” fame) … and then I started reading some of the glowing reviews … and now I can’t wait to see it!

Blood, Sweat and Tears seemed to come out of nowhere in 1969 … and then assumed total chart domination for the next two years.

For a while there, it seemed like they could do no wrong … a string of Top 20 Hits provided the soundtrack for the years 1969 – 1971:  “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” (#2), “Spinning Wheel” (#2), “And When I Die” (#1), “Hi-De-Ho” (#8), “Lucretia Mac Evil” (#17) and then one that just missed, “Go Down Gamblin’” (#21) … and then it was all over.

The band was the brainchild of another FH Buddy of ours, Al Kooper, who conceived the whole concept of putting together a rock band with horns, paving the way for all that followed (including our own pride and joy, Chicago … these guys were so big, they named a whole city after them!)

But Kooper was ultimately ousted from his own band.  (Too bad, too, because “I Can’t Quit Her” from his reign remains one of my all-time favorite rock tunes … and is second only to “Hi-De-Ho” on my list of BS&T favorites.)

This film tells the story of how Blood, Sweat and Tears became the first American band to perform behind The Iron Curtain … at a time where rock and roll music was absolutely taboo there.

Here are just a few quotes from some of the reviews I’ve read …

This is one of the best rock documentaries ever made.

In today's time-challenged on demand I only do what I want culture, I'm stunned that I took two hours out of my day to watch this film, but I was just that interested. Furthermore, even if you've never even heard of Blood, Sweat & Tears you will dig this movie. You should see this movie!

It was pitched to me as a documentary based on footage shot during BS&T's Eastern European, i.e. Communist, tour back in 1970. You know, found footage resurfacing to make a buck.

But that's not what this is.

You have no idea how big Blood, Sweat & Tears was back in '68 and '69, even into the spring of 1970. They were everywhere.

Also, if you were not alive in the era, you have no idea of the sixties counterculture, the protests against Vietnam ... you've read about it, but you've never felt it.

You feel it in this movie.

So with Al Kooper out of the band, the hoi polloi embrace their new lead singer, David Clayton-Thomas … but the fact of the matter is, HE WAS A JUVENILE DELINQUENT! 

And as a result, the U.S. government wanted to deport him. So the band agreed to do this Eastern European tour in exchange for David's green card. That's how the world works, horse-trading.

And according to this film, when the band came back and said how bad it was over there, they were labeled tools of the administration, the hated Nixon administration, and were banned from the counterculture and the bad press ultimately led to the demise of the band.

Just one thing is left out. "Blood, Sweat & Tears 3" was a stiff. It was highly anticipated, and the band did not deliver. The third album was paint-by-numbers, more of what the audience wanted. Only the audience didn't want it anymore.

In the fall of '69, "Led Zeppelin II" expanded the boundaries of what was considered hit music. "Whole Lotta Love" was EVERYWHERE!

And at the same time "Blood, Sweat & Tears 3" was released, so was Traffic's reunion album, "John Barleycorn Must Die," Dave Mason's "Alone Together" and Eric Clapton's very first solo LP. Others were pushing the limits. BS&T were not.

And then there was the political thing.

BS&T were not cool. After all, their big hit album had come out over eighteen months before. In a fast-moving marketplace they shouldn't have waited that long. You don't milk every last dime out of the last album, you cut a new one.  Blood, Sweat & Tears were no longer cool, their moment had passed. Keep innovating or die. The public says it wants something new just like the old, but this is ultimately untrue.

Woven into the story of the band is the story of the Eastern European tour. And it is eye-opening. They're in Romania and the government throws a sh*t fit when the audience for the first night's show won't stop clapping, won't stop cheering for the U.S.A., they've gotten a taste of freedom and they LIKE IT!

Good for the U.S. Bad for U.S. / Romanian relations.

And this is one place where a picture tells a thousand words.

So you've got the story of politics, both in the U.S. and the Cold War, the story of Blood, Sweat & Tears, and a visual representation of the temperature back then, what it was really like during the sixties and ultimately the dawn of the seventies.

The film is supposed to open in March. Meanwhile, the target audience doesn't even go to the theatre anymore. And documentaries can get lost on streaming television. But I think this one will have word of mouth, because it's visceral and real. And I know you can't see it now, but it affected me so much I wanted to write about it.

Bob Lefsetz


From Rock Cellar Magazine …

The internet has been buzzing lately regarding What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?, a new documentary film from director John Scheinfeld.

As its title suggests, the doc aims to tell the true, unadulterated story of the band, which was a huge deal in 1970 — and became caught up in some truly wild circumstances, the result of influence from the United States government.

Per a news release:

In 1970, Blood, Sweat & Tears became the first American rock band to perform behind the Iron Curtain, doing concerts in Yugoslavia, Romania, and Poland. The tour was sponsored by the U.S. State Department. A documentary film crew accompanied the band and shot over 65 hours of material for what was intended to be a theatrical documentary. The documentary was never released and the film footage disappeared. The music was also captured on tape but never issued or even heard by the band themselves. Upon returning to the states after the tour, the group became victim to the significant societal upheaval and culture wars that were polarizing America. The toxic environment found the band in a crossfire between the Right and the Left and the group suffered greatly as a result.

What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat & Tears? is a film about this tour, this journey and the discovery of the film and music that documented one of the world’s biggest bands at the peak of their powers. Award winning director John Scheinfeld (Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?), The U.S. vs. John Lennon, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary) has once again captivated audiences with a thrilling story that contains amazing never-before-seen film footage and stunning musical performances. It also features interviews with five of the nine band members including distinctive lead singer David Clayton-Thomas, sax player and musical arranger Fred Lipsius, innovative bass player Jim Fielder, outspoken guitarist Steve Katz and drummer and band leader Bobby Colomby.

There will also be an accompanying soundtrack, slated for release on April 21.

The soundtrack album features ten previously unheard performances from the 1970 Iron Curtain Tour, including their biggest hits (“Spinning Wheel,” “And When I Die,” and more) and music from their upcoming not-yet-released third album (Blood, Sweat & Tears 3). Lovingly produced and curated by the band’s founding member Bobby Colomby, this album is a tour de force that never stops surprising or pleasing the listener. Packaging includes liner notes from Scheinfeld and Colomby and photos from various members of the band.

As for the documentary release plan for What The Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?, there’s this from a news release:

What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat & Tears? will be released theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on March 24, 2023, before expanding across North America and Canada via Abramorama. It will include over 25 songs from the Blood, Sweat & Tears catalog, including the ten songs performed live that appear on Omnivore’s original song soundtrack and the nearly 20 minutes of original score that appear on What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat & Tears? – Original Score.

This definitely sounds like a must-watch … stay tuned!

From a soundtrack perspective, we’ve got this from Joe Marchese of The Second Disc ..

What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat and Tears?  That's the question posed by award-winning filmmaker John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs. John Lennon, Herb Alpert Is...) in an upcoming documentary film exploring the band's controversial State Department-sponsored trip behind the Iron Curtain in 1970.  On April 21, Omnivore Recordings will release the soundtrack to the film on CD and digital formats as well as a digital-only companion of its instrumental score.

Though the horn-rock band founded by Al Kooper, Steve Katz, Bobby Colomby, Jim Fielder, Dick Halligan, Randy Brecker, and Jerry Weiss produced some of the most enduring singles of the late 1960s and early 1970s - songs still played on the radio today - the group has long lingered in the shadows of rock's back pages.  Eclipsed in fame by Columbia Records labelmates Chicago, plagued by a series of acrimonious departures from the ranks, and pilloried over the Nixon-sponsored tour, BS&T never earned the classic rock status many felt they deserved.  Scheinfeld's documentary aims to change that.

When the U.S. State Department approached the band in 1970, they were on top of the world.  Their eponymous second album, introducing lead singer David Clayton-Thomas' deep, resonant vocals, yielded three smash singles in "You've Made Me So Very Happy," "And When I Die," and the DCT-penned "Spinning Wheel" and bested The Beatles' Abbey Road for the Album of the Year Grammy Award.

Then BS&T was invited to become the first American rock band to perform behind the Iron Curtain (the political boundary dividing Europe into two areas, in place from 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991).  Concerts were staged in Yugoslavia, Romania, and Poland, and a film crew accompanied the band with the aim of producing a documentary film.  More than 65 hours of footage were captured, but the film never materialized.  The band members never saw the footage, and upon their return to the U.S., were caught in the middle of a political fracas as the youth movement saw them as puppets of the Nixon administration.  BS&T endured numerous personnel shifts and continued to record for Columbia through 1976, for a total of nine albums - two more would arrive on the ABC and MCA labels in 1977 and 1980, respectively - but never recaptured their early glory.

Though the band's history has been plagued by acrimony over the years, Scheinfeld's documentary tells the story with the interview participation of five band members including David Clayton-Thomas, saxophonist/arranger Fred Lipsius, bassist Jim Fielder, guitarist Steve Katz, and drummer/bandleader Bobby Colomby.  Omnivore's soundtrack premieres 10 previously unreleased live performances from the Iron Curtain tour including "You've Made Me So Very Happy," "Spinning Wheel," "And When I Die," "Hi-De-Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)," and "I Can't Quit Her."  Other than the band's Woodstock set (released for the first time on the 2019 Rhino mega-box), this marks the only live document of this era of the group; Columbia didn't release a live BS&T album until 1976.

The album has been produced and compiled by Bobby Colomby, who joins Scheinfeld to provide the liner notes.  Colomby has also co-composed the film's original score with David Mann which Omnivore will release as a digital-only title.  The score (amounting to roughly 20 minutes of music) is performed by the current 2023 lineup of Blood, Sweat and Tears, in essence amounting to the band's first studio release since 1980.  (No CD or LP has been announced for this short program.)

What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat and Tears?  arrives in theatres on March 24 in New York and Los Angeles before expanding nationally from Abramorama, with the soundtrack and score release coming on April 21 from Omnivore.  You'll find pre-order links below.

I’m told that Al Kooper’s presence and contribution to the development of Blood, Sweat and Tears is pretty much glossed over in the film (if not completely ignored all together.)

Instead, the film concentrates on the “hit era” when the band was led by Canadian lead singer David Clayton-Thomas.  (While Kooper maintains that he was kicked out of his own band … his biography “Backstage Passes And Back-Stabbing Bastards” is one of the best I’ve ever read! … the film implies that Kooper was invited to stay … just not as lead singer.  Kooper has always maintained that they never liked his singing!) 

Either way, Al Kooper was gone by the second album … which is when everything exploded for the band.

Al has made numerous contributions to Forgotten Hits over the years … his quote “Thank you for spreading the truth” still adorns the cover page of the other Forgotten Hits website at … to this day, I consider it one of the highest compliments I have ever been paid for my efforts. 

Meanwhile, Harvey Kubernik had the opportunity to interview Kooper in 2007 on the 40th Anniversary of the release of the only Blood, Sweat and Tears album he ever appeared on, “Child Is The Father To The Man” … and he has shared this with our readers today … along with the update he did for the 50th Anniversary release …

Here’s another perspective on BS&T – and its forgotten leader (seriously … it’s like they’re trying to erase him from the history of the band that he founded!!!)  kk

Blood, Sweat & Tears Child Is the Father to the Man Celebrates 50th Anniversary 

By Harvey Kubernik ©2018 

The epochal and musical genre-breaking Al Kooper-led Blood, Sweat & Tears 1968 debut album Child Is the Father to the Man was released on February 21, 1968.

When KPPC-FM in Pasadena, California first spun the disc, I quickly bicycled over to Wallichs Music City in Hollywood to get a copy.

In addition, a retail climate and receptive music press existed for BS&T’s Child is the Father to the Man sonic expedition in February, 1968 forged by groups like The Buckinghams, who implemented brass in their recordings.   

[The Buckinghams helped to pioneer the horn sound in rock and roll … their producer, James William Guercio, then took that experience with him to his next big music project … the group Chicago! Incredibly, The Buckinghams NEVER performed live once with a horn section in concert during their repeated climbs up the pop charts back in the '60's! Pretty incredible when one considers that it was such a major part of their sound! – kk]

Keyboardist Ray Manzarek talked about all the Doors seeing Al’s new band at the time, Blood, Sweat & Tears, in ‘68 at The Café Au Go-Go in New York, “and it was probably the best use of horns we’d ever seen up to that point in rock and roll or since then. He captured the essence of the four horns with guitar, bass, drums and keyboard absolutely superbly. I play at the end of my piano solo on ‘L.A. Woman,’ my homage and tip of the hat to Al Kooper. I play a musical quote from ‘House in the Country.’”

In 2007, I conducted an interview with Kooper when the 40th anniversary edition of Child Is the Father to the Man was issued by the Sony Music/Legacy label.

HK (Q): How did you get the idea or concept of putting brass instruments in to rock and roll that gave us Blood, Sweat & Tears? Was it during the Maynard Ferguson on Roulette Records period that blew your mind?   

AK (A): Yeah. That was an immediate transference. I just said, ‘Man, would I love to have a band that could, and I remember the exact words, that could put dents in your shirt from 15 yards.’

They just blew … It was just the most amazing thing I ever saw. It wasn’t like Count Basie or Duke Ellington. It was like modern … almost rock ‘n’ roll. It was fantastic. It was an incredible experience. I was sort of like a groupie. I knew some of the guys in the band and they treated me nicely. I was only about 15 and it was just fantastic. I turned 20 when it was over and Maynard left the country. So I spent from 1959 to 1964, really every time they were in the area of New York, I went to the gig. I hung out. I was friends with the drummer. People were nice to me.

In New York in those years, Birdland was a big deal and one of the great things about Birdland was the best seats in the place were for underage people. They were just to the left side of the stage. And they were the best seats in the house. So you had to be 18 to drink, but somehow, probably because the mob owned it, you could go in anytime. They let underage people in, which was fantastic anyway, just in principle. But not only could you come in, but you had the best seats in the place. So, that was not wasted on me.

Q: You met bass player Jim Fielder at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, who was playing with Buffalo Springfield at that event, and invited him to be in Blood, Sweat & Tears.

A: I was the assistant stage manager at the festival. Two things came out of Monterey ... Jim Fielder. I knew him because of Tim Buckley and Mothers of Invention. These are things that first took place in New York. When I went out to L.A., I was looking for musicians for my new band. I bumped into him and ran it by him. He procured a drummer, Sandy Konikoff, and we played together.

Directly after Monterey, I went to the Big Sur Folk Festival on the grounds of the Esalen Institute and played with Sandy and Jim. We performed some of my new songs — “I Can’t Quit Her” and “My Days Are Numbered.” Then, the Blood, Sweat and Tears album, Child Is the Father to the Man.

I came to Columbia Records in 1967, after the June Monterey International Pop Festival. I assembled BS&T and joined the label as a staff producer. I single-handedly brought BS&T to Columbia.

I went to Jerry Wexler, Mo Ostin and Bill Gallagher at Columbia, because Clive Davis wasn’t in power yet. And I got turned down by Jerry Wexler and Mo Ostin and Bill Gallagher liked it.

So I went to follow it up and Bill Gallagher was gone. And so I ended up with Clive. I played it for Clive, ‘Well, what did Bill say?’ ‘That we were going to have a deal.’ And Clive said, ‘I agree with that.’ ‘Oh fabulous. Great.’ And Clive took me to breakfast and we closed the deal.                  

Q: What did you learn from John Simon as a producer who did your BS&T LP? 

A: In answer to that question, I would honestly have to say … everything. I learned how to be a record producer. I mean, if I go in to produce a record, it’s really based on what I learned on those sessions from him.

Q: But I know you were active in the music world from 1958-1968 before John Simon, who co-produced produced Songs of Leonard Cohen and Bookends for Simon & Garfunkel and produced Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Company, entered your action.  

A: I know, but John just had it all together. He was perfect. He just couldn’t have been better.

John Simon. The thing that he did that helped the most was the person he chose for the engineer, Fred Catero.  When I became a producer there, I used that guy whenever I could. When I watched John Simon produce the Blood, Sweat & Tears album, I learned everything there was about producing. I didn’t know a fuckin’ thing until I watched him work. He was fantastic. And that album could not have been as good as it was without him.  The most important thing for me was he understood how deep my involvement was in terms of writing the songs and singing the songs, arranging the songs. And he worked with me.

He didn’t work with the band. And we made that record together. To the point where I brought that ‘Modern Adventures of Plato,’ when I brought that in the band, under the direction of Bobby Colomby, refused to record that song. And we had a big fight at my house. And then there was a band meeting the next day. And he stupidly let it be decided by John Simon whether we recorded the song. And John said, ‘Not only should we do this song I’ll write the string arrangement.’

This is the telling moment in the whole thing. I went to visit Paul Simon, as you know I sort of grew up with Paul. So, I went to visit Simon and Garfunkel at the Bookends session and John said to me, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Well, I’ve written a bunch of songs that are screaming to me to have horns on them.’

On a break, I played him a couple of things. Maybe ‘I Can’t Quit Her’ and maybe ‘I Love You (More That You’ll Ever Know.’

And I said ‘I had to leave the Blues Project because they wouldn’t let me have horns on the songs. The songs are screaming, ‘we want horns.’ So he said, ‘Well, if you get a deal, let me know. Those are great songs. I’d like to be involved them.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Yeah!’ And that’s what happened. And he had an understanding of the singer / songwriter.

He was an erudite musician. And that was the important thing. That was the thing I learned from him. How to use that in the production of the record. And I couldn’t have made that record without him.

When we did ‘Without Her,’ I didn’t even think twice about, ‘You should play piano on this.’ He said, ‘You don’t want to play piano?’ ‘No, I do, but you can play this much better than me.’ And he did and he’s credited for it. There was no question in my mind he could do what I couldn’t do.

We made Child is the Father to the Man in three weeks from start to finish. However, we were very rehearsed. But the first thing did was he took us in the studio and he said, ‘Play every song you are considering recording.’ And he recorded it, I think in mono, and he took those tapes and he picked the songs that would be on the album.

Q: You found the Randy Newman tune, “Just One Smile’, “Without Her” by Harry Nilsson and Tim Buckley’s “Morning Glory.”  

A:  Well, first of all, Randy Newman and I wrote for the same publisher, January Music, and I played on a version of ‘Just One Smile’ (Gene Pitney), and so I knew the song very well. And I knew all of Randy’s songs by the demos I’d get up at the publisher. I knew Randy Newman way before you did, or anybody did. And I never met him but the demos were so wacky, it was just compelling, because his voice was so strange, and the whole conception was so strange. I just was really floored by it. So, I always wanted to do that song. So that was my chance.

Q: “Without Her” from Harry Nilsson?

A: At the time that we did the album that was my obsessive song, ‘Without Her.’ His version. I played it all the time. I could not get sick of it. It was incredible. And I wanted to record it and so I had to write another arrangement because, you know, ‘cause his was fantastic. So, I made it into a bossa nova.

Q: And what about “Morning Glory” from Tim Buckley?    

A: That was just a question of finding a song for (guitarist) Steve (Katz) to sing, so I suggested that to Steve and he bought it.

Q: It seems like you were playing team ball.

A: I might disagree with you. When I started with the band, I said, ‘Listen, I have this idea. I know what to do.’ I said, ‘You guys just got to let me do it.’ They said, ‘Yeah, Al. Right on, we’re with you. Yes Al.’ Like that.  And then, you know, all of a sudden, they were saying, ‘Get lost.’

So, I really stink at politics. So my thing was I was just into the music and I just wanted to do the music, I knew what to do, just leave me the fuck alone and let me do what it is that I do. And they couldn’t do that. They really couldn’t do that and so it became very unpleasant for me and I walked. They made it unpleasant for me and I walked with no regrets.

Because I had had similar problems with the Blues Project and I just said to myself ‘This is not what you should do. You should not be in bands because there’s a problem.’ And so that was it.

Now the good part is that it helped me tremendously as a record producer when I worked with bands to understand how a band worked, because I already knew, because I had been in two really horrible situations and it helped me tremendously to understand how to deal with bands when I was producing them. So it was not a wasted bad thing. I learned from it and used it for good.

So in retrospect, it’s OK. Getting out of Blood, Sweat & Tears at that time really preserved my reputation. What they did after that I did not want to be involved with. So everything worked out for the best. They had their thing. And the first thing I did after that was Super Session, which was very successful, and it worked out great for both of us.

Q: “I Can’t Quit Her” … Did you always have such a hard percussive piano style?

A: No. I was just really a heavy-handed piano player. That’s what it was.

Q: Where did you write this terrific song? Not in New York!      

A: I wrote it in Hollywood at the 9000 Building on Sunset Blvd. in a songwriting office. And I remember I stopped in the middle when I was writing the bridge because I came up with the thing ‘proselytized,’ and I didn’t know what it meant so I had to go find a dictionary in the building and looked it up and it meant exactly what I wanted it to mean. It was serendipitous.

Q: And one of your co-writers on “This Diamond Ring,” Irwin Levine, you co-wrote “I Can’t Quit Her” with. 

A: That started as a girl group song, ‘I Can’t Quit Him.’ ‘I Can’t Quit Him. No No No…’ And then it went into something else that had nothing to do with that. So I wrote a new song that really just had the melody of the title, ‘I Can’t Quit Her,’ which is from ‘I Can’t Quit Him,’ and so I gave him 25 per cent of the song for that, although he was not there when I wrote it. So that was a moral generosity on my part. I could have just done that and I don’t think there would have been any repercussions. I could have like taken it 100 percent but I felt guilty. So I didn’t do that.  

Q: I’ve heard Donny Hathaway covering your tune “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” and your original is contained your collection Rare and Well Done. Talk to me about the genesis of the tune from the writing, to the demo, and how that specific song came together?

A: I pretty much wrote it about my second wife, who I was married to at the time. I wrote it in my apartment on Waverly Place on a piano. It was pretty much musically influenced by the song ‘It’s Man’s World’ by James Brown. And lyrically it was inspired by the song ‘I Love You More Than Words Can Say’ by Otis Redding. So, it’s kind of an amalgam of those two songs, neither of which I had the nerve to sing, so I had to write my own.     

Q: “My Days Are Numbered” is a song on the first BS&T LP. Lovely tune.

A: Well you know, there’s a really good cover of it on my solo album Soul Of A Man. Actually, I even like it better than the original. It’s a live version from The Bottom Line in New York.

Q: Did you originally bring it in as a demo and do it with BS&T?

A: These songs were all, with the exception of ‘The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes, and Freud,’ which I wrote during the session, all these songs were written and they were the reason why I formed the band because I had this group of songs that needed horns.           

I’m really not happy with the vocals on them. Really not happy with the vocals on that. The singing at that point in my career was my weakest card and it hurts me to hear my singing until about maybe five years ago. It’s tough for me. I’m very self-critical.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this one!  (kk)


My two favorites ...


And two that have definitely become Forgotten Hits ...