Friday, December 11, 1970

John Lennon released Plastic Ono Band: December 11, 1970

Originally posted December 11, 2012.

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Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Mother (1/9/71; #43 US) / Hold On / I Found Out / Working Class Hero / Isolation / Remember / Love (11/21/82; #41 UK) / Well Well Well / Look at Me / God / My Mummy’s Dead

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world

Peak: 6 US, 11 UK


Review: For his first official solo record, John Lennon serves “an unflinching document of bare-bones despair” TL in “an often painful, soul-baring musical therapy session.” PR He “created a harrowing set of unflinchingly personal songs, laying out all of his fears and angers for everyone to hear.” AMG On “rock & roll’s most self-revelatory recording,” RS500 he purges “just about everything there is to purge” DBW as he “charts his loss of faith in his parents, country, friends, fans, and idols,” AMG “including his own former band (‘I don’t believe in Beatles,’ he sings in God).” RS500 “It was a revolutionary record – never before had a record been so explicitly introspective, and very few records made absolutely no concession to the audience’s expectations, daring the listeners to meet all the artist’s demands.” AMG


“Which isn’t to say that the record is unlistenable.” AMG “It is ultimately life-affirming.” AMG “Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding.” AMG “Always direct, hard-hitting and tender by turns, almost every track here is a gem.” DBW Lennon delivers “harrowing confessionals (Isolation),” JA and “deals with childhood loss in Mother,” RS500 but “there’s also room for a fragile sense of possibility (see Hold On).” RS500


“This is the ultimate in underproduced, but brilliantly written rock.” JA These “stark, minimally-arranged songs” DBW were “recorded with a bare-bones trio [Ringo Starr on drums, Klaus Voorman on bass] and majestically produced by Phil Spector” TL “in the most uncharacteristically minimal way imaginable.” JA Spector “resists the temptation to swamp the songs in saccharine-sweet strings and ethereal choirs, opting instead for a sparse, intimate sound which kept John’s emotionally draining confessional sharply in focus.” PR The album “in its echo-drenched, garage-rock crudity, is years ahead of punk.” RS500

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In addition, Lennon’s “still-underrated singing stands with rock’s finest.” TL and “his melodies remain strong and memorable, which actually intensifies the pain and rage of the songs.” AMG His “writing was never sharper.” TL

Working Class Hero

Lennon also “milks every style he knew to the hilt;” JA “songs range from tough rock & rollers to piano-based ballads and spare folk songs.” TL He delivers “nihilistic protest songs (the masterful Working Class Hero, I Found Out),” JA “raging proto-punk” (Well Well Well), TL and “elegant, understated love songs” (Look at Me, Love). JAPlastic Ono Band continues to be an incredibly moving listening experience” AZ which is “essential for anyone with even a passing interest in Lennon’s work” JA and “a must-own for any rock fan.” AZ


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Saturday, November 28, 1970

11/28/1970: George Harrison charts with “My Sweet Lord”

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George Harrison “My Sweet Lord”

Writer(s): George Harrison (see lyrics here)

First charted: 11/28/1970

Peak: 14, 10 AC, 16 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.9 UK, 5.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 3.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 6.0

Review: While George Harrison’s songwriting talents were overshadowed during his stint with the Beatles by bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney, TB-122 he was the first to have a hit as an ex-Beatle. RS500 That song, “My Sweet Lord,” was nearly given away – and it was later claimed to have never belonged to Harrison in the first place.

Harrison originally gave the song to Billy Preston, who was due to release a single of the song in September 1970. When it was withdrawn, Harrison released his own version. BR1-286 Harrison had wanted to write an uplifting song and turned to the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day” for inspiration. Wary of committing to a specific religious belief, HL-59 Harrison came up with what he called “a simple idea of how to do a Western pop equivalent of a mantra, which repeats holy names over and over again.’” HL-59

The result was a “hook…as catchy as anything he ever came up with in The Beatles.” BBC However, publishers of the 1963 Chiffons’ hit “He’s So Fine” felt like the hook wasn’t Harrison’s to use and sued him for copyright infringement. BBC A March 6, 1971 article in Billboard magazine confirmed that Harrison’s royalties had been halted worldwide until the case was settled. BR1-286

It wasn’t until 1976 BBC that a judge ruled that George was innocent of stealing KL-168-9 but was guilty of “unconscious plagiarism.” BBC Bright Tunes music got more than a half million dollars from the settlement. SF George has responded saying, “I still don’t understand how the courts aren’t filled with similar cases…as 99 per cent of popular music is reminiscent of something or other.” HL-59

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Friday, November 27, 1970

George Harrison released All Things Must Pass: November 27, 1970

Originally posted November 27, 2011.

As the first triple album issued by a solo artist, WK All Things Must Pass shredded George Harrison’s reputation as “the quiet Beatle,” proving that he had plenty to say. Originally the album was packed as two LPs for the vinyl release and then a third album, called Apple Jam, collected informal jams which Harrison led with accompaniment by some of his famous musician friends. This latter material makes for the albums only “significant flaw: the jams… are entirely dispensable, and have probably only been played once or twice by most of the listeners that own this record.” RU

However, in all other ways this is “a very moving work” RU that is, “Without a doubt, Harrison’s…best.” RU “Harrison crafted material that managed the rare feat of conveying spiritual mysticism without sacrificing his gifts for melody and grand, sweeping arrangements. Enhanced by Phil Spector’s lush orchestral production, and Harrison’s own superb slide guitar, nearly every song is excellent: Awaiting on You All, Beware of Darkness, the Dylan collaboration I’d Have You Anytime, Isn’t It a Pity, and the hit singles My Sweet Lord and What Is Life are just a few of the highlights.” RU

Harrison had accumulated songs from as far back as 1966. WK In 1968, Harrison crafted more songs when he visited Bob Dylan and The Band in Woodstock, New York. “I’d Have You Anytime,” co-written with Dylan, came out of this period. Harrison would also tackle a Dylan cover, If Not for You, a result of Harrison’s participation in Dylan’s starting sessions for the 1970 album New Morning. WK

During the Beatles’ 1969 Get Back sessions (work that would eventually become 1970’s final Beatles’ album, Let It Be), Harrison introduced early versions of the title track, Let It Down, and Window, Window. Harrison also wrote Wah-Wah during this tense period in which he temporarily departed from the Beatles. WK

While touring with Delaney & Bonnie in late 1969, Harrison began writing “My Sweet Lord.” Delaney & Bonnie’s backing group would also become an important entity to Harrison as he would use them on All Things. WK That collective included Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, and Jim Gordon – who would all participate in the Clapton-led Derek & the Dominos project.

The album would start coming together between August and September of 1970. Harrison enlisted Phil Spector, who worked on the Beatles’ Let It Be album, to give the album “a heavy and reverb-oriented sound,” WK although Harrison would later regret the decision, saying in the press kit for the album’s 30th anniversary reissue that it resulted in “too much echo.” WK

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Saturday, November 21, 1970

11/21/1970: Elton John charts with “Your Song”

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Elton John “Your Song”

Writer(s): Elton John, Bernie Taupin (see lyrics here)

Released: 10/26/1970, First charted: 11/21/1970

Peak: 8 US, 9 AC, 7 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.18 UK, 0.18 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 7.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 138.9

Review: Elton John established himself as one of the legendary singers in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, fed by a steady diet of lyrics supplied by Bernie Taupin in one of the great musical partnerships. The two met by chance when both responded to a talent ad placed by Liberty Records in New Musical Express. TB-123 The label wasn’t overly impressed with either of them individually, but saw potential in pairing them. They hit it off immediately “and one of pop’s most enduring collaborations was born.” BBC

As is common with successful artists, the pair’s first hit was the one that become their most beloved. BBC Taupin was all of seventeen when he crafted the words over a breakfast of scrambled eggs at Elton’s mother’s house. TB-123 Still, it took four years before the song became a hit. BBC In the meantime, Elton released three albums and five singles. TB-123 “Your Song,” released in conjunction with John’s second U.S. visit, TB-123 finally gave them their breakthrough and “put Elton John on the map.” CR-827

The song is built around “Elton’s uncomplicated music” BBC and “Taupin’s unpretentious lyrics,” BBC which, in this case, were “unusually direct.” CR-827 The “hugely romantic, everyman love song” MC is “playfully self referential, deliberately awkward, mock inarticulate.” MC No one but an awkward teenager, who as Taupin said, “had never got laid in his life,” BBC could have captured the striking innocence behind the song. BBC While Taupin insisted that the song wasn’t directed at anyone particularly, Elton has maintained that one of Bernie’s old girlfriends was the inspiration. RS500

Producer Gus Dudgeon and string arranger Paul Buckmeister also deserve some credit for the song. They were able to give the song “a lush soundscape that was neither saccharine middle-of-the-road nor too avant-garde.” CR-827

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Derek and the Dominos charted with Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: November 21, 1970

Originally posted November 21, 2012.

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Chart date: 21 November 1970
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) I Looked Away / Bell Bottom Blues (2/27/71, #78 US) / Keep on Growing / Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out / I Am Yours / Anyday / Key to the Highway/ Tell the Truth / Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad? / Have You Ever Loved a Woman? / Little Wing / It’s Too Late / Layla (3/27/71, #10 US, #4 UK) / Thorn Tree in the Garden

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, -- UK, 0.5 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 16 US, 68 UK


Review: By 1970, Eric Clapton had already become a superstar thanks “some of the most stunning, groundbreaking blues-based guitar work of the rock era” PK in stints with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Yardbirds, Cream, and Blind Faith. Between that and a solo album, “Clapton’s deification had become such a burden to him…that he felt forced to seek anonymity.” PR Fresh off a tour with Delaney & Bonnie, “a roughshod hippie honky-tonk band,” VH1 he headed back into the studio with their keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, drummer Jim Gordon, and bassist Carl Radle. When Duane Allman signed on as well, the resulting Derek and the Dominos essentially amounted to a supergroup.

Allman’s “spectacular slide guitar pushed Clapton to new heights” AMG and the pair’s “wondrous guitar interplay…backed by a tight (but not showy) backing band” IGN gave Clapton “his greatest album” AMG and made for “one of the all-time classic dual-guitar albums.” VH1 Working with Delaney & Bonnie helped Clapton “reconcile his spiritual connection with the American South that had given birth to Clapton’s beloved blues.” VH1 The Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs album was their only studio recording, but it proved to be “one of the few blues-based classic rock albums which avoids dull predictability or Led Zep-ish testosterone riffs.” PK


Clapton was going through hell during recording, having fallen in love with Patti Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison. As a result, “pain drips from the grooves of this seminal record that has something for everyone – hard-driving rockers, stormy blues, wailing solos.” ZS Of course, the standout is the title track with its “stunning opening riff,” ZS but the album also “yielded such memorable classics as…Bell Bottom Blues and the band’s cover of the Jami Hendrix staple Little Wing.” IGN

Bell Bottom Blues

However, a big part of what makes this “such a powerful record is that Clapton, ignoring the traditions that occasionally painted him into a corner, simply tears through these songs with burning, intense emotion. He makes standards like Have You Ever Loved a Woman and Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out) into his own, while his collaborations with Bobby Whitlock – including Any Day and Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad? – teem with passion.” AMG

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Friday, September 25, 1970

The Partridge Family debuted on TV: September 25, 1970

Originally posted September 25, 2011.

This American TV sitcom lasted four seasons, running 96 episodes on ABC. The show focused on a widowed mother and her five children embarking on a music career. The show was loosely based on The Cowsills, a music family who’d earned fame in the late ‘60s. The Partridge family focused on a recently widowed mother played by Shirley Jones. Her five children enlist her help to record a pop song. Her ten-year-old son Danny even hires a manager and the family musical group even hit the road for a tour.

Jones’ real-life stepson David Cassidy played Keith, the oldest of the kids. The other Partridges were played by Susan Dey (Laurie), Danny Bonaduce (Danny), Jeremy Gelbwaks (Chris), and Suzanne Crough (Tracy). When Jeremy’s family moved out of the Los Angeles area after the first season, Chris was recast with actor Brian Forster.

The Partridge Family produced eight albums, six of which went gold and three of which went top 10. David Cassidy and Shirley Jones were the only cast members actually featured on the recordings, singing lead and backup respectively. Studio musicians rounded out the group. The group charted nine Hot 100 hits, including the top 10 hits “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” and “I’ll Meet You Halfway”. The group’s debut single, “I Think I Love You”, charted on October 10, 1970 and went to #1. The song was written by Tony Romeo, who had written some of the Cowsills’ hits.

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Friday, September 18, 1970

Black Sabbath released Paranoid: September 18, 1970

Originally posted September 18, 2012.

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Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) War Pigs / Paranoid (8/29/70; #61 US, #4 UK, #25 AR) / Planet Caravan / Iron Man (1/29/72; #52 US, #32 AR) / Electric Funeral / Hand of Doom / Rat Salad / Fairies Wear Boots

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, -- UK, 4.0 world

Peak: 12 US, 1 1 UK


Review: Black Sabbath’s second album is “monolithic and primally powerful,” AMG “heavier than seven lead elephants [and] metaller than a fork factory.” VB It was the group’s most successful record and “stands as one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time.” AMGParanoid refined Black Sabbath’s signature sound – crushingly loud, minor-key dirges loosely based on heavy blues-rock – and applied it to a newly consistent set of songs with utterly memorable riffs, most of which now rank as all-time metal classics.” AMG The album “perfectly captured the rage, confusion and, yes, paranoia of the Vietnam era.” GW “Nearly every heavy-metal and extreme rock band of the last three decades…owes [it] a debt of worship.” RS It “set the standard against which all heavy music would forever be judged.” GW Quite simply, “Paranoid defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history.” AMG

When the album was released, “the world was convinced that these working class chums from Birmingham, England (originally called the Polka Tulk Blues Band) were either satanists or an incredible facsimile.” TL Frontman Ozzy Osbourne’s biting-the-heads-off-bats incident didn’t come until he’d embarked on a solo career, but he had people nervous with his “declaration that he had sat through The Exorcist a gazillion times.” TL

Mostly, though, the band owed its infamous reputation to their creation of “a primal howl of fear and loathing” GW via “Tony Iommi’s crushing, granite-fuzz guitar chords, the Visigoth rhythm machine of Bill Ward and Geezer Butler’s” RS “massive bass riffs,” TL and Ozzy’s “agonized bray.” RS When he “screams, he sounds like he wants to drag you down to the bottom of the ocean and eat your brain.” VB

“The anxieties behind the music simply demanded that the band achieve catharsis by steamrolling everything in its path.” AMG “Iommi’s stump-fingered leads and down-tuned riffs provided the perfect platform for songs about war-mongering generals, boots-wearing skinheads and nuclear fallout.” GW Throughout the album “the subject matter is unrelentingly, obsessively dark, covering both supernatural/sci-fi horrors and the real-life traumas of death, war, nuclear annihilation, mental illness, drug hallucinations, and narcotic abuse. Yet Sabbath makes it totally convincing, thanks to the crawling, muddled bleakness and bad-trip depression evoked so frighteningly well by their music.” AMG

War Pigs

“Where the extended, multi-sectioned songs on the debut sometimes felt like aimless jams, their counterparts on Paranoid have been given focus and direction, lending an epic drama to now-standards like” AMG the “apocalyptic songs…War Pigs and Iron Man which are no less great for being totally incomprehensible.” TL The latter “sports one of the most immediately identifiable riffs in metal history” AMG and found a whole new audience as the title song for 2008’s super-hero movie, Iron Man, starring Robert Downey, Jr.

Iron Man

That song and the album’s title track even “scraped the U.S. charts despite virtually nonexistent radio play” AMG in an era “when it was far more fashionable to sing gentle acoustic songs about ‘getting back to the garden.’” GW The title cut, “a three-chord classic dashed off as last-minute album filler,” GW isn’t only a heavy-metal classic, but “presaged the coming of punk rock.” GW


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