Everywhere was a song and a celebration

So here we are again at another “50 years ago” milestone — August 15-18, 1969 — the weekend that 350,000 people went to the countryside near Bethel, NY, for “three days of MPW-41582peace and music” at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair.

There have been hundreds of articles and essays written about the event’s epic status as “the apex of the counterculture” and so forth.  There have been critical stories about the mud, the traffic tie-ups, the drug overdoses, the insufficient number of toilets, the mess left behind.  There have also been positive stories about the enormous communal effort, the can-do spirit of the many volunteers, the great vibes, the absence of violence.

Here at Hack’s Back Pages, I’ve got another approach in mind.  I’ve been intrigued that, as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a truly comprehensive look at Woodstock’s raison d’être — the music!

My research over the past week or so has surprised me.  There were SO many more (nearly 15 times more) songs performed during the event’s nearly 72 hours than most people realize, and there were at least a dozen bands who were nowhere to be found in either the original “Woodstock” film or the triple-album “Woodstock” soundtrack.

The film was a box office smash, and the album soared to #1 on the charts in 1970.  But they included performances of only 21 songs as performed by 17 different artists. 220px-Woodstock_Original_Soundtrack_1970Among them are the tracks most often associated with the festival:  Jimi Hendrix‘s astonishing reconfiguration of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Joe Cocker‘s cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Santana‘s “Soul Sacrifice,” Crosby Stills and Nash‘s “Suite:  Judy Blue Eyes,” The Who‘s “See Me, Feel Me,” Ten Years After‘s “I’m Going Home,” Sly and the Family Stone‘s “I Want to Take You Higher” and Richie Havens“Freedom.”

(Subsequent albums — “Woodstock Two,” released in 1971, and the 4-CD “Woodstock 25th Anniversary Collection,” released in 1994 — included a few more of the festival’s performances, but they gained only a fraction of the attention that the original album received.)

I’d love to know the selection process used by film director Michael Wadleigh and the decision makers at Cotillion Records regarding which songs and artists made the cut, but I’ve been unable to find much information about that.  It’s been said some artists (or their managers) asked for too much money.  Others in the lineup were little known and Unknown-53apparently not of much interest to the film director or album producer.  Obviously, Wadleigh chose performances for their visual impact, and the record producer selected a healthy cross section of rock- and folk-oriented bands that more or less accurately reflected the festival lineup.

How strange that Creedence Clearwater Revival, who was hugely popular that year, stormed through an 11-song set but then refused to give permission to include their songs in the film or album.  The Grateful Dead also declined to participate in the film and album, allegedly because of a ragged performance.  Blood Sweat & Tears, another chart favorite that year, played 10 songs but are glaringly absent from the film and album.  Same goes for The Band, who performed 11 tunes.

But I’m here to report that, if you were there from roughly 5:00 pm on Friday until 11:00 am Monday of that landmark weekend, you heard an incredible 310 songs performed by 32 different artists!

I thought my music-loving readers might share my interest in seeing a complete listing of every artist who performed at Woodstock, and the specific songs they played, in the order they were performed (along with some commentary, of course!).

So here we go:


The Friday lineup included eight folk-based artists:

Richie Havens

Pushed into the opening slot because of Sweetwater’s late arrival, Havens valiantly Unknown-56stepped in and proved to be a welcome surprise.  Havens was told to continue playing for nearly two hours because many artists scheduled after him were delayed in reaching the festival venue.  Having run out of tunes, he ended up improvising on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became one of the festival’s anthems, “Freedom.”  Said Havens later, “I’d already played every song I knew and I was stalling, asking for more guitar and mic, trying to think of something else to play – and then it just came to me.  The establishment was foolish enough to give us all this freedom and we used it in every way we could.”

“From the Prison,” “Get Together,” “I’m a Stranger Here,” “High Flying Bird,” “I Can’t Make It Anymore,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Handsome Johnny,” “Strawberry Fields,” “Hey Jude,” “Freedom/Motherless Child”


A little-known L.A.-based band in the psychedelic folk tradition, Sweetwater’s music was reminiscent of early Jefferson Airplane.  I’d never heard of them, and their participation at Woodstock was news to me, as was their music, until I found it Spotify.  You won’t find them in the film nor album.  A couple samples of their music are included in the playlist below.

“Motherless Child,” “Look Out,” “For Pete’s Sake,” “Day Song,” “What’s Wrong,” “My Crystal Spider,” “Two Worlds,” “Why Oh Why,” “Let the Sunshine In,” “Oh Happy Day”

Bert Sommer

Again, I’d never even heard of the guy nor his music.  It turns out he’d been in The Left Banke (of “Walk Away Renee” fame) in 1966-67, and then released a few solo LPs, none of which charted.  He doesn’t appear in the film nor any version of the album.  On Spotify, there’s a 2010 album but nothing from the Woodstock period, so I didn’t include it on my playlist.

“Jennifer,” “The Road to Travel,” “I Wondered Where You’d Be,” “She’s Gone,” “Things Are Going My Way,” “And When It’s Over,” “Jeanette,” “America,” “A Note That Read,” “Smile”

Tim Hardin

Something of a cult favorite in folk music circles, Hardin recorded several albums on different labels in the mid-’60s but had no chart success.  Two of his songs, “If I Were a Carpenter” and “Reason to Believe,” were recorded by multiple artists like Bobby Darin, The Four Tops, Rod Stewart and The Carpenters.  Hardin is seen in the director’s cut of the film wandering backstage chatting and strumming his guitar, but otherwise, he’s absent from the film and album.

“How Can We Hang On to a Dream?” “Once Touched By a Flame,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Reason to Believe,” “You Upset the Grace of Living When You Lie,” “Speak Like a Child,” “Snow White Lady,” “Blues On My Ceiling,” “Simple Song of Freedom,” “Misty Roses”

Ravi Shankar

Shankar, the Indian music guru who had been introduced to American audiences at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and through his association with The Beatles, also performed at Woodstock, but I never knew that until recently.  I find it puzzling that a short sampling of his 45-minute set couldn’t have been included.

“Raga Puriya-Dhanashri,” “Gat in Sawarital,” “Tabla Solo in Jhaptal,” “Raga Manj Kmahaj”


The Queens-based folk singer had a modest career playing Greenwich Village clubs and had released one album before her Woodstock appearance helped boost her visibility.  She’s best known for two post-Woodstock hit singles, “Lay Down” (1970) and “Brand New Key” (1972).  She is not included in the film or the original LP, but her performances of “Beautiful People” and “Birthday of the Sun” surfaced on “Woodstock Two.”

“Close to It All,” “Momma Momma,” “Beautiful People,” “Animal Crackers,” “Mister Tambourine Man,” “Tuning My Guitar,” “Birthday of the Sun”

Arlo Guthrie

Folk legend Woody Guthrie’s son had achieved fame through his epic story-song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” in 1967.  He made an appearance in the film, walking with the crowd as he arrived, and making a comment or two from the stage later on.  The album and film include his whimsical drug-smuggling tune, “Comin’ Into Los Angeles.”

“Coming Into Los Angeles,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Walkin’ Down the Line,” “The Story of Moses,” “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” “Every Hand in the Land,” “Amazing Grace”

Joan Baez

images-56Baez was one of the two or three biggest names in the folk music scene beginning in the early ’60s, which earned her the spot as headliner on the first night.  I’ve never been too fond of her warbly voice, but she is widely admired for her earnest performances of civil rights anthems and traditional folk songs, two of which are featured in the film and on the original album (and a third on the “Woodstock Two” album).

“Oh Happy Day,””The Last Thing On My Mind,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Joe Hill,” “Sweet Sir Galahad,” “Hickory Wind,” “Drug Store Truck-Drivin’ Man,” “One Day at a Time,” “Take Me Back to the Sweet Sunny South,” “Warm and Tender Love,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “We Shall Overcome”


The Saturday lineup (which spilled well over into Sunday morning!) featured 14 mostly rock-oriented acts:


This regional favorite of the Northeast U.S. secured a slot as opening act on Saturday.  To their misfortune, there was a glitch with the video and audio recordings being out of sync for the duration of their brief set, rendering their footage unusable.  They ended up disbanding after releasing just one LP after the festival, which is long out of print and unavailable on Spotify.

“They Live the Life,” “That’s How I Eat,” “Driftin’,” “Waiting For You”

Country Joe McDonald

images-58McDonald had been in the vanguard of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement since the mid-’60s and had formed a band to spread the message through psychedelic folk music.  I can’t figure out how he managed to get not one but two slots in the festival lineup, first by himself and the next day with his group. His film appearance, performing the notorious “Gimme an F” shout leading into the dark humor of the anti-war protest classic “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” (using a “follow the bouncing ball” gimmick), is memorable.  I could find only the original studio version on Spotify for my playlist, which lacks the festival crowd’s participation and spells “F-I-S-H” instead…

“Janis,” “Donovan’s Reef,” “Heartaches By the Number,” “Ring of Fire,” “Tennessee Stud,” “Rockin’ Around the World,” “Flyin’ High,” “I Seen a Rocket,” “The Fish Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag”


At the time, Santana was unknown outside the Bay Area and hadn’t even released an album yet, but promoter Bill Graham made sure they landed a slot at Woodstock.  Their sound, incorporating Latin and African polyrhythms into blues-rock structures, ignited hqdefault-16the throng and made them one of the biggest sensations of the festival.  Carlos Santana confirmed he had taken mescaline only an hour beforehand, thinking he wasn’t due to perform for another 12 hours.  Instead, the band was told to take the stage at 2:00 pm, and he said, “I clung to my guitar like you hold the hand bars of a roller coaster, and then said a prayer and just held on and enjoyed the ride!”  Their performance of “Soul Sacrifice” is a high point of the film and the original album.

“Waiting,” “Evil Ways,” “You Just Don’t Care,” “Savor,” “Jingo,” “Persuasion,” “Soul Sacrifice,” “Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries”

John B. Sebastian

The man behind The Lovin’ Spoonful was there as a member of the audience, but he finagled his way onto the stage for a quick 30-minute set  that included tunes from his soon-to-be-released solo debut.  His tie-dyed clothes and bare feet made him a memorable sight in the film, which used “Younger Generation” over footage of children playing on the festival grounds and stage.  

“How Have You Been,” “Rainbows All Over Your Blues,” “I Had a Dream,” “Darlin’ Be Home Soon,” “Younger Generation”

The Keef Hartley Band

This loose aggregation of British musicians adopted an old-timey music hall feel mixed with blues that alternately charmed and puzzled the festival crowd doing their five-song set.  They did not appear in the film nor any version of the album.

“Spanish Fly,” “She’s Gone,” “Too Much Thinking,” “Believe in You,” “Halfbreed Medley”

The Incredible String Band

This eclectic West Coast band declined their original lineup slot on Friday night because of the light rain that would play havoc with stringed instruments.  Their Saturday afternoon six-song set was received with a collective shrug, and was not included in the film nor album.

“Invocation,” “The Letter,” “Gather ‘Round,” “This Moment,” “Come With Me,” “When You Find Out Who You Are”

Canned Heat 

Canned Heat emerged from Los Angeles in the mid-’60s, touring relentlessly with their unique brand of blues and boogie music. Their major debut at Monterey and the druggy single “On the Road Again” got them a slot at Woodstock.  Their latest single “Going Up the Country” was used during the film’s opening sequence and on the original album, and a live performance of “A Change is Gonna Come/Leavin’ This Town” appears in the director’s cut of the film.

“I’m Her Man,” “Going Up the Country,” “A Change is Gonna Come/Leaving This Town,” “Rollin’ Blues,” “Woodstock Boogie,” “On the Road Again”


Guitarist Leslie West and former Cream producer/bassist Felix Pappalardi collaborated to form Mountain in June 1969, finding an enthusiastic response from the Woodstock audience, which was only their third gig.  They are absent from the film, but two tracks made it onto the “Woodstock Two” LP.

“Blood of the Sun,” “Stormy Monday,” “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” “Long Red,” “Who Am I But You and the Sun,” “Beside the Sea,” “Waiting to Take You Away,” “Dreams of Milk and Honey,” “Southbound Train”

Grateful Dead 

You can see Jerry Garcia early in the film, chatting backstage about how the event is “some kind of biblical, mythical, unbelievable scene.”  Later, he holds up a joint to the camera and says, memorably, “Marijuana:  Exhibit A.”  But The Dead does not perform in the film, nor appear on any version of the album.  Their 90-minute, jam-oriented set included only five songs (“Turn On Your Love Light” was, by itself, 38 minutes long!).

“St. Stephen,” “Mama Tried,” “Dark Star,” “High Time,” Turn On Your Love Light”

Creedence Clearwater Revival

John Fogerty and Creedence released three classic albums in 1969 (“Bayou Country,” “Green River” and “Willy and the Poor Boys”) and were riding high, but they felt their performance was subpar and subsequently chose not to participate in the film or original album.  Years later, they reconsidered and their live recordings were made available, revealing strong, spirited renditions of 11 of their best tunes, four of which appeared on the 25th Anniversary Collection.

“Born on the Bayou,” “Green River,” “Ninety-Nine and a Half Won’t Do,” “Bootleg,” “Commotion,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Proud Mary,” “I Put a Spell on You,” “Night Time is the Right Time,” “Keep On Chooglin’,” “Susie-Q”

Janis Joplin

Joplin was one of the sensations of the Monterey Pop festival, and she was still a force to reckon with at Woodstock, but curiously, her performances were not included in the original film or album.  Her version of “Work Me, Lord” appears in the director’s cut of the film, and three songs were included on the 25th Anniversary Collection.

“Raise Your Hand,” “As Good As You’ve Been to This World,” “To Love Somebody,” “Summertime,” “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder),” “Kozmic Blues,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” “Work Me, Lord,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Ball and Chain”

Sly & the Family Stone 

Unknown-55Widely regarded as one of the highlights of the festival was the energetic R&B set by Sly Stone and Company.  The 15-minute medley of “Dance to the Music,” “Music Lover” and “I Want to Take You Higher” kept the audience on their feet despite the 3:30-4:30 a.m. time slot.  The performance is pivotal to the film as well as the original album.

“M’Lady,” “Sing a Simple Song,” “You Can Make It If You Try,” “Everyday People,” “Dance to the Music,” “Music Lover,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” “Love City,” “Stand!”

The Who 

47510-the-who-woodstockLargely unknown in America before their explosive debut at Monterey, The Who had greatly broadened their audience through the recent release of the “Tommy” LP and “Pinball Wizard” single only months before the festival.  They performed at 5:00 am, doing most of “Tommy” in their 90-minute set.  The “See Me, Feel Me” portion of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was a prominent moment of the film and album, and “Summertime Blues” appeared in the director’s cut.

“Heaven and Hell,” “I Can’t Explain,” “It’s a Boy,” “1921,” “Amazing Journey,” “Sparks,” “Eyesight to the Blind,” “Christmas,” “The Acid Queen,” “Do You Think It’s Alright,” “Fiddle About,” “Pinball Wizard,” “There’s a Doctor I’ve Found,” “Go to the Mirror,” “Smash the Mirror,” “I’m Free,” “Tommy’s Holiday Camp,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Summertime Blues,” “Shakin’ All Over,” “My Generation”

Jefferson Airplane 

Slated as the headliner on Saturday night, The Airplane didn’t go on until 7:00 a.m. Sunday and were consequently not exactly on their best game.  They’re not in the original film and were limited to one performance (“Volunteers”) on the original album, but they appear in the director’s cut doing “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon.”  Five songs were later included on the 25th Anniversary Collection box set.

“The Other Side of This Life,” “Somebody to Love,” “3/5ths of a Mile in 10 Seconds,” “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon,” “Eskimo Blue Day,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “Wooden Ships,” “Uncle Sam Blues,” “Volunteers,” “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” “Come Back Baby,” “White Rabbit,” “The House at Pooneil Corners”


The Sunday lineup (which lasted until nearly 12:00 noon Monday!) featured 10 artists from across the spectrum of rock-folk genres:

Joe Cocker 

Joe-CockerCocker opened the third day’s lineup with a 90-minute set, climaxed by the epic cover of The Beatles tune “With a Little Help From My Friends,” which is a highlight of both the film and the original album.

“Rockhouse,” “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring,” “Dear Landlord,” “Something Coming On,” “Do I Still Figure In Your Life,” “Feelin’ Alright,” “Just Like a Woman,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” “I Don’t Need a Doctor,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Hitchcock Railway,” “Nothing to Say,” “With a Little Help From My Friends”

Country Joe and The Fish

Following the huge thunderstorm that soaked the crowd and delayed the show for more than an hour, McDonald returned with another set of different songs, one of which, a forgettable ditty called “Rock and Soul Music,” appeared in the film and on the album.

“Rock and Soul Music,” “Love,” “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine,” Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Summer Dresses,” “Friend, Lover Woman, Wife,” “Silver and Gold,” “Maria,” “The Love Machine,” “Ever Since You Told Me That You Love Me (I’m a Nut),” “Crystal Blues”

Ten Years After

Alvin-LeeAlvin Lee had established himself as one of the fastest guitarists in the business, and his 60-minute set with his band Ten Years After didn’t disappoint.  The 10-minute performance of “I’m Goin’ Home” is a key moment in both the film and the original album.

“Spoonful,” “Good Morning Little School Girl,” “Hobbit,” “I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes,” “Help Me,” “I’m Goin’ Home”

The Band

Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and the boys were residents of the burgeoning music scene in the actual community of Woodstock (60 miles from the eventual festival site in Bethel), and had been Bob Dylan’s backing band for a few years before going out on their own in 1968.  Their one-hour set was strong, but they felt slighted when the director offered them only half their standard fee for the rights to use the concert footage.  They didn’t appear on the album either, although three tracks did appear on the 25th Anniversary Collection.

“Chest Fever,” “Don’t Do It,” “Tears of Rage,” “We Can Talk,” “Long Black Veil,” “Don’t Ya Tell Henry,” “Ain’t No More Cane,” “This Wheel’s On Fire,” “I Shall Be Released,” “The Weight,” “Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever”

Johnny Winter 

Blues guitarist Winter emerged from Texas in 1968 just in time to catch the attention of the folks at Woodstock.  Winter performed a sizzling eight-song set with help from younger brother Edgar (who weren’t on to greater fame in the early ’70s), but he was not featured in the film or the album. Winter’s manager had opted for a flat fee rather than be in the movie because, as Winter wrote in his autobiography, “he thought it was gonna be a drag so he didn’t want us to be on it.  Of course, it helped a lot of people’s careers.  I wish I could have been in it.  Later on he admitted he fucked up.”

“Mama, Talk To Your Daughter,” “Leland Mississippi Blues,” “Mean Town Blues,” “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now/Mean Mistreater,” “I Can’t Stand It,” “Tobacco Road,” “Tell the Truth,” “Johnny B. Goode”

Blood, Sweat and Tears

The band was riding high on the singles and album charts at the time, yet the group’s manager decided not to allow the band to be filmed, partly because the horn section was having trouble staying in tune because of the humidity that night, so they’re not in the movie.  Nor does BS&T appear on the original LP, but some of the songs from their one-hour set surfaced many years later on other releases.  

“More and More,” “Just One Smile,” “Something Comin’ On,” “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” “Spinning Wheel,” “Sometimes in Winter,” “Smiling Phases,” “God Bless the Child,” “And When I Die,” “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

The group, performing for only the second time (“We’re scared shitless”), won the hearts 91v64R3QP4Lof the crowd, even at 4:00 am Monday morning.  They performed without Neil Young for a half-dozen songs, and “Judy Blue Eyes” (complete with out-of-tune acoustic guitar but on-the-money harmonies) became a film and album highlight.  Young joined them for the electric numbers but refused to be filmed, so he’s absent from the movie.  A few tracks with Young appeared on the original LP (“Sea of Madness” in its only version), and additional songs showed up on “Woodstock Two.”  The studio version of “Long Time Gone” is used in the film’s opening sequence, and CSN&Y’s rocking rendition of Joni Mitchell’s haunting song “Woodstock,” released in March 1970 on their “Deja Vu” LP, was used over the closing credits.

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Blackbird,” “Helplessly Hoping,” “Guinnevere,” “Marrakesh Express,” “4+20,” “Mr Soul,” “I’m Wonderin’,” “You Don’t Have to Cry,” “Pre-Road Downs,” “Long Time Gone,” “Bluebird Revisited,” “Sea of Madness,” “Wooden Ships,” “Find the Cost of Freedom,” “49 Bye Byes”

Paul Butterfield Blues Band

The Chicago-based blues band played for an hour as the sun was coming up Monday.  Their performance of “Love March” appears on the original album but they’re not in the film, although Butterfield is interviewed at one point about what makes a successful festival (“Organization”).

“Born Under a Bad Sign,” “No Amount of Loving,” “Driftin’,” “Morning Sunrise,” “All in a Day,” “Love March,” “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”

Sha Na Na

Simultaneously reviving and parodying Fifties music was this NY-based band’s calling card from the get-go.  Appearing as the second-to-last act of the festival, Sha Na Na’s silly but energetic rendition of “At the Hop” appeared in the movie and on the original LP.

“Get a Job,” “Come Go With Me,” “Silhouettes,” “Teen Angel,” “Marie’s the Name (His  Latest Flame),” “Wipe Out,” “Book of Love,” “Teenager in Love,” “Little Darlin’,” “At the Hop,” “Duke of Earl”

Jimi Hendrix

The festival’s best paid and most revered performer went on so late — 9:00 am Monday Jimi-Hendrixmorning, when the exhausted crowd of 350,000 had dwindled to only 30,000 — that his set was almost anticlimactic.  But his incendiary take on our National Anthem, in which he made his guitar mimic the screaming sounds of warfare, became perhaps Woodstock’s most memorable performance of all.

“Message to Love,” “Hear My Train A-Comin’,” “Spanish Castle Music,” “Red House,” “Lover Man,” “Foxy Lady,” “Jam Back at the House,” “Isabella,” “Gypsy Woman/Aware of Love,” “Fire,” Voodoo Child (Slight Return)/Steppin’ Stone,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Purple Haze,” “Villanova Junction”


The playlist below is not as comprehensive as I would like because some tracks I was looking for weren’t available on Spotify.  For some reason the original “Woodstock” LP isn’t there in its entirety, although many tracks could be found elsewhere.  Sometimes, I had to substitute another version of a crucial song.  But I did the best I could!


A little bit of this, a little bit of that

This week, I’ve gathered some interesting anecdotes, historical notes, strange coincidences, amusing back stories and personal reflections from rock music’s golden years to share with you all.


On May 13, 1950, a boy was born prematurely in Saginaw, Michigan, and put on oxygen treatment in an incubator.  Evidently, an excess of oxygen aggravated a rare visual images-54condition known as “retinopathy of prematurity,” which caused total, irreparable blindness.  The lack of sight seemed to turn to an advantage, as the boy realized his heightened sense of hearing allowed him to acutely absorb music of all kinds.  He sang in the church youth choir at age four.  In rapid succession, he learned piano, drums and harmonica, all by age nine.  No one could have possibly predicted the dizzying heights this prodigy would attain by his mid-20s.  Stevland Hardaway Judkins — later Stevland Morris when his mother remarried — became, by 1962, “Little Stevie Wonder,” a true phenomenon who evolved into Stevie Wonder, one of the two or three most important musical artists of our time.


Wild Cherry was a straight-ahead rock band in 1975, struggling along as they played Unknown-50nightly gigs in clubs around their native Pittsburgh.  One night, a group of black patrons approached them during a break and said, “Hey, are you white boys going to ever play any funky music tonight?”  Lead singer Rob Parissi immediately sat down and wrote a song around that thought.  The group worked on it over the next week, coming up with a dance groove they liked, and found a sympathetic producer at Epic/ Cleveland International to record it.  Two months later, “Play That Funky Music” was the #1 song in the nation, ultimately snagging two Grammy nominations in the year disco began its rule of the airwaves.


When James Taylor was a young unknown songwriter on the East Coast in the 1967-1968 period, he had little luck getting noticed by record labels and music industry types.  Struggling with his insecurities and a predilection for drug use, Taylor decided to go to images-55London for a while to see what opportunities might happen there for him.  Sure enough, Peter Asher, a talent scout working for The Beatles‘ new label, Apple Records, heard Taylor’s demos and brought them to the attention of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, who both agreed they should sign him.  When Taylor came into the studios to record his music, some of the songs were still incomplete and in need of tweaking.  As he worked on “Carolina in My Mind,” he couldn’t help but notice McCartney, Harrison and Ringo Starr in the control booth listening in.  Naturally, this unnerved him, but it gave him the lyrics he needed for the bridge:  “And with a holy host of others standing ’round me, still I’m on the dark side of the moon, and it looks like it goes on like this forever, you must forgive me…”


In 1974, Genesis was in the process of writing and recording its opus, “The Lamb Lies Unknown-49Down on Broadway,” when Peter Gabriel was approached by film director William Friedkin, who was then riding high with his hugely successful movie “The Exorcist.” Friedkin images-53was keen on making a science fiction film and was looking for “a writer who’d never been involved with Hollywood before.”  As a fan of Genesis, he had read the sleeve notes on the back of the “Genesis Live” LP — a typically fantastical short story by Gabriel — and thought maybe they could collaborate.  Gabriel was excited about it, but the other members of Genesis weren’t receptive to him putting the band, album and tour on hold for this side project.  When Friedkin heard his offer might result in the demise of Genesis, he backed off, since his sci-fi project was still just a nebulous idea and, as a big fan of Genesis, he wanted the group to continue.  We’ll never know what Friedkin and Gabriel might’ve come up with.


In late 1974, Fleetwood Mac‘s guitarist/singer Bob Welch announced he was departing, leaving remaining members Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Christine McVie in a bind.  They had lost guitarists before; founding member Peter Green had abandoned the group four years earlier, as did Danny Kirwan in 1972.  But this time, they had just relocated to L.A. from their native London and were in precarious trouble financially.  Maybe this was the end of the line for the once top-ranked British blues band.  Fleetwood Unknown-48was determined, though, and went to visit a new recording venue called Sound City.  While he was there, he heard a guitar player named Lindsay Buckingham working on material in one of the studios.  Intrigued, he introduced himself, and within the hour, he asked Buckingham if he’d like to join Fleetwood Mac as their new guitarist.  “That sounds great, we’d love to,” he replied, “because my girlfriend comes with me.”  He was referring, of course, to Stevie Nicks, the singer-songwriter who had been his lover and professional partner for several years.  Fleetwood hesitated about accepting Nicks as well but then decided, what the hell, let’s go for it.  Eighteen months later, the group that had never managed much chart success in the US had the #1 album in the country.


David Robert Jones, born in working-class England in 1947, showed an interest in music Unknown-46at an early age, learning recorder and ukulele and singing in the school choir.  He especially shone in a “music and movement” class that presaged his mesmerizing stage shows.  His father changed his life the day he brought home a stack of 45s by American R&B artists.  “I thought I’d heard God,” said the boy when he heard “Tutti Frutti.”  He moved through a number of ragtag rock bands in his teen years, playing saxophone and guitar and often handling lead vocals, even winning a contract or two along the way, but nothing came of the records from that period.  In 1966, Davy Jones of The Monkees became a celebrity, so David Jones knew he’d better change his name and, in honor of “the ultimate American knife” he’d always admired, he became David Bowie.


Some people are so damn talented.  Steve Winwood was only 15 when he joined his older brother in the Spencer Davis Group, where he played keyboards and sang with an images-52.jpegexpressive, high, bluesy voice that even then drew comparisons to the great Ray Charles. At 18, he wrote two songs with Spencer Davis that became Top Ten hits in the US and the UK, “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man.”  At 19, he formed Traffic, one of the most inventive British bands of the late ’60s.  At 21, he joined forces Unknown-45with Eric Clapton in Blind Faith, producing amazing tunes like “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Sea of Joy.”  He then reformed Traffic at 22 to produce more classic albums like “John Barleycorn Must Die” and “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” By the time he was only 26, he disbanded Traffic and took a well-deserved break for a few years.  Then at 32, he finally kicked off a hugely successful, Grammy-winning solo career.  Incredible.


Savvy bands know that relentless touring is the best way to increase awareness and support for their music.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, following the release of Unknown-44their breakthrough LP, 1979’s “Damn the Torpedos,” certainly knew this, and their venues and crowds got commensurately bigger as they did so.  As the group returned to the studio, MCA Records decided they would (literally) capitalize on the band’s success by slapping a $9.98 “superstar pricing” on the next release (“Hard Promises”) instead of the then-customary $8.98.  Petty balked at the obvious greed, and withheld the master tapes in protest, which helped make the issue a popular cause among music fans.  When he threatened to rename the album “$8.98” to drive home his point, the label reluctantly backed down.


Everyone has heard the story about how the introduction of Yoko Ono into John Lennon’s life was a key factor leading to the breakup of The Beatles.  Probably less known is the story of how singer Rita Coolidge played a role in the premature breakup of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  To be fair, CSN&Y was a volatile mix of egos from the get-go, with each member brimming over with musical talent and confidence.  They each felt their songs were better than those of the others, and each wanted more than just two Unknown-43songs apiece per album, and more time in the spotlight during concert performances.  In the midst of this tense atmosphere, Stephen Stills met Coolidge, had become very attracted to her, and was eager to build a relationship with her.  The twosome arrived at a party one night, and within minutes, Graham Nash turned on his British charm and spirited Coolidge away.  This enraged Stills, and it proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  He swore he would never work with Nash again, and headed off to pursue a solo career.  CSN(&Y) split up weeks later, and though they would reunite years later, the momentum they’d built was lost, and things were never quite the same between them.


Unknown-47In the election year of 1972, shock-rocker Alice Cooper was getting plenty of exposure with the single “Elected” and its just-in-fun lyrics about running for president.  The rock journalists knew the whole thing was just a joke, but a few hard news reporters from Time Magazine and The Washington Post starting asking him his opinion on the political issues of the day.  One demanded to know which candidate he intended to support in November.  He laughed out loud and responded, “If you’re listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you’re a bigger moron than they are.”


In the early ’60s, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon had Unknown-51been playing club gigs using the name The Detours and, for a brief spell, The High Numbers.  Nobody was particularly enchanted with those names, but they kept on until something better came to them.  One night, Townshend, who still lived at his parents’ house, was heading out the door to see another band play at a local club.  His hard-of-hearing grandmother, who also lived in the Townshend household, asked him where he was going.  When he mentioned the name of the band, his grandmother shot back, “You’re going to see the who??”  A light bulb went off in Townshend’s head, and after a quick huddle with the rest of the group, The Detours officially became The Who.


In 1969, a band known as Steam recorded a song called “It’s the Magic in You Girl,” selected by their label as a potential hit.  They were then told, “Okay, now record Unknown-52something else, anything at all, to put on the B-side of the single.  It can be instrumental, it doesn’t matter.  Whatever you want.”  They started doing a light, accessible groove, jamming for 20 minutes while the singer added a bunch of “na na na”s and other off-the-cuff lyrics, and they were done.  The producer edited it down to the best three minutes, slapped it on the back of “It’s the Magic in You Girl,” and shipped it out. As it turned out, DJs thought the A-side was lame and ignored it, but they were taken by the catchy ditty on the B-side.  Within a few weeks, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” was the #1 song in the country.