Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Singles, Part 3
Let’s spin some more singles – today, some lesser-known singles from big artists and one really big hit for a band late in its career.
They don’t get any bigger than Bob Dylan, and in 1986 he formed a rock-and-roll summit with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. While they were on tour in Australia, Bob and Co. cut “Band Of The Hand,” to be used on the soundtrack of a movie by the same name. With Petty producing, Dylan’s song reflected the ruthless attitude of a vigilante gang cut loose in the drug world – “It’s hell time, man,” he sings. Stevie Nicks is one of the female backing singers, along with Debra Byrd, who worked with Dylan on a number of sessions. “Band Of The Hand” came out on a 45-rpm single, a 12-inch single and on the movie soundtrack LP – but it’s never been on a Bob Dylan album.
In the early 1970s, nobody really knew what to do with Joni Mitchell. An acclaimed singer/songwriter, she put out the critically acclaimed Blue but when she signed with Asylum Records some suit told her she needed a “radio hit.” So she wrote “You Turn Me On I’m A Radio” sarcastically and it appeared on 1972’s For The Roses. Guess what – it was a Top 40 hit, Mitchell’s first as a performer. With her next album, 1974’s Court And Spark, Joni would refine that “radio hit” thing (“Help Me” and “Free Man In Paris”).
Just a few doors down from Joni Mitchell’s Laurel Canyon hangout was Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young), who ruled music in 1972. But they’d just completed a big tour and record exec David Geffen wanted another big folk-rock smash: why don’t we get the original Byrds together? So we have the Byrds, trying to get off the ground with Crosby as the pilot. The Byrds (1973) turned out to be a sorry echo of past glory, but the single “Full Circle,” written and sung by Gene Clark (with soaring harmony from Crosby) was one of the album’s few high points.
This one’s actually a ringer – it was a No. 1 hit in 1975 for the then-reconstituted Four Seasons. “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)” was written by Bob Gaudio, who penned almost all of the Four Seasons’ hits in the 1960s. By the 1970s, however, long-time frontman Frankie Valli was in the background, and on this song drummer Gerry Polci and bass player Don Ciccone handled most of the vocal work with Valli joining in on the choruses. It turned out to be not only the Four Seasons’ last hit, it also was their biggest – it was re-released in 1994 with new percussion and remixed vocals and climbed into the Top 20 once again.
And finally, let’s jump uncharacteristically into the 1980s to take a look at another late-career resurgence, this time by the Everly Brothers. The Bros had a string of hits in the late 1950s, got really popular as a touring act in the 1960s then split up around 1973. Phil and Don didn’t even speak to each other for about 10 years but in 1983 they reunited for a big concert in London and a new album produced by British rocker Dave Edmunds. The centerpiece of their album EB ’84 was “On The Wings Of A Nightingale,” written by Paul McCartney. The song was a minor hit in the States and in the U.K., and the Bros even did an MTV video for the song. Both Phil and Don are alive today, they still occasionally perform together.