Archive for Michael Nesmith

(More Than) 40 Years Out: Tranquility Base Here

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2012 by 30daysout

Buzz Aldrin on the moon, 1969.

On this day in 1969, man set foot on the moon for the very first time. Looking at the photographs the astronauts shot that day, the moon seems like a fairly peaceful place. In fact, they called the landing site “Tranquility Base.”

Back on Earth, things weren’t so tranquil. Americans marched on Washington, D.C., to protest our involvement in the Vietnam War. The story of the My Lai massacre, where women and children were lined up in a ditch and shot, broke in the news. British troops were deployed to try and calm tensions in Northern Ireland. And so on.

It seemed like, on that one Sunday afternoon and evening, everything and everyone in the world just kind of stopped – if only for a few minutes, while two humans kicked up dust on the lunar surface. Many of us watched the shadowy figures on TV, live and in glorious grainy black and white.

Probably nobody really stopped what they were doing, but a teenager in Texas back then thought it would have been really cool if they did. And if we would have paid attention for a while, maybe we would have stopped fighting and yelling long enough share a little bit of wonder and pride in human accomplishment.

For just a minute or two … then we could get right back to killing each other. Which is what happened anyway.

Maybe one day we’ll go back to the moon, but many people will tell you there are infinitely more important ways to spend our time and money. And I suppose they are right. Still, somebody is going to get back there eventually. Tranquility Base will always be there, ready and waiting for us to start dreaming again.

MP3: “Moonlight” by Bob Dylan

MP3: “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

MP3: “Yellow Moon” (live) by the Neville Brothers

MP3: “Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins” by The Byrds

MP3: “Silver Moon” by Michael Nesmith & the First National Band

MP3: “Halo ‘Round The Moon” by Steve Earle

MP3: “Moon Dawg” by The Beach Boys

MP3: “Man On The Moon” by R.E.M.

MP3: “Moonlight Drive” (live) by The Doors

MP3: “Armstrong” by John Stewart

MP3: “Blue Moon” by Elvis Presley

MP3: “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” by Los Lobos

MP3: “Bark At The Moon” by Ozzy Osbourne

MP3: “Mountains Of The Moon” (live) by The Grateful Dead

MP3: “Brain Damage/Eclipse” by Pink Floyd

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Singles, Part 2

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , , on August 22, 2010 by 30daysout

More singles from the back of my sister’s closet: they’re almost as good as albums!

First up, an all-but forgotten band from the late 1960s-early 1970s era: Seatrain.  Formed from the ashes of the ill-fated Blues Project by two of that band’s former members, bassist Andy Kulberg and drummer Roy Blumenfeld, Seatrain hit its stride with a self-titled album in 1970.  By this second album, there had already been a shift in the lineup – it now included folkie guitarist/singer Peter Rowan.  Anyway, the big hit single was “13 Questions,” which just missed making into the U.S. Top 40.  I remember FM radio used to play Seatrain’s wild version of “Orange Blossom Special,” from the same LP – the band finally broke up in 1973 after its third album.

MP3: “13 Questions” by Seatrain

The band McGuinness Flint was a British counterpart to Seatrain; it was also made up of former members of hit-making bands.  Tom McGuiness played with Manfred Mann, and Hughie Flint played with John Mayall, and their namesake band included songwriters Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle.  And they had a minor U.S. hit with “When I’m Dead And Gone” (although it was big in the U.K.) but subsequent efforts stiffed.  Gallagher & Lyle quit to record as a duo  – in addition to writing “When I’m Dead And Gone,” they later wrote hits for Art Garfunkel, Don Williams and others.

MP3: “When I’m Dead And Gone” by McGuinness Flint

Here’s another band with a similar trajectory: King Harvest, which had its beginnings when four Americans joined forces in Paris, where they happened to be living at the time.  At one point the band had three keyboard players, including Sherman Kelly, who wrote the song “Dancing In The Moonlight.”  It was released as a single in Paris and it failed – but in 1973, the group re-formed in the United States and signed to a new record label.  The label re-released “Dancing” and it became a hit, climbing into the Top 20.  The group could never match this success and after disbanding some of King Harvest’s members including keyboardist Ron Altbach, sax player Rod Novak and guitarist Ed Tuleja toured with the Beach Boys and Mike Love’s Celebration.

MP3: “Dancing In The Moonlight” by King Harvest

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Lost Classics! Michael Nesmith

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on December 30, 2008 by 30daysout
mike_nez2

Mike Nesmith, in the Monkees

In 1970, after the breakup of the Monkees, singer/guitarist Michael Nesmith set out to carve his own solo career in music.  Along the way, he took a country-rock detour that proved to be his most successful period as a solo artist.  Hooking up with a group dubbed the First National Band, Nesmith cut four albums with the band for RCA in 1970-71.

The second First National Band single, “Joanne,” went to No. 21 on the pop charts in 1970.  Followups including the near pure-country “Silver Moon” and the rocker “Nevada Fighter” were nowhere near as successful.  As a songwriter, Nesmith had some songs performed by the Monkees (“Propinquity,” “Listen To The Band”) and a few of his other compositions were hits for other people (“Different Drum” for Linda Ronstadt, “Some Of Shelley’s Blues” for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band).

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