Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Saturday Surveys ( 9 - 6 - 14 )

We've got charts from 1963, 1964 and 1965 to kick things off this week in our Saturday Surveys Feature!

First up ... this KMBY "Swingin' 60" chart from 1963.

The Beach Boys make a HUGE leap from #14 to #1 with their two-sided hit "Surfer Girl" / "Little Deuce Coupe", pushing The Angels hit "My Boyfriend's Back" and Allan Sherman's comedy classic "Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh" back a notch.  Rounding out The Top Five are Trini Lopez (with "If I Had A Hammer" and Inez Foxx with "Mockingbird", a record that would top the charts ten years later for the husband-and-wife team of James Taylor and Carly Simon.

Another fun Top Ten Hit is Wayne Newton's "Danke Schoen", up six places from #15 to #9 ... and I also want to feature one of my personal favorites (and a song that STILL sounds great coming out of your radio ... in the rare instance when they actually play it!) "Sally Go Round The Roses" by The Jaynetts, up ten places from #31 to #21.

Here's another one of those Solid Gold WLS Surveys from 1964, spotlighting not only The Top 20 songs of the week ... but also 20 "Best Selling #1 Records" from years gone by.  (Even in 1964, WLS was celebrating "oldies but goodies" ... this week with a feature called "890 Million Dollars Worth of Memories".)

Del Shannon's remake of "Handy Man" is a Top Ten Hit here in Chicago ... as is something called "Car Hop" by The Exports, a record that never even cracked Billboard's Hot 100 Chart. (You'll also find The Rivieras at #13 with their remake of the 1958 Bobby Day hit "Rockin' Robin".  This one would go all the way to #8 on the 'LS chart, despite stopping at #96 on The Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.)

And finally, here's another WLS Chart ... from 1965 this time.  (We've featured this particular chart a few times before in our Forgotten Hits pages ... check out this week's #20 Hit ... "Yesterday" by Paul McCartney!!!)

Yep, The Beatles are holding steady at #2 with their latest hit "Help!" ... but after the other Fab Three left the stage so McCartney could perform "Yesterday" alone on The Ed Sullivan Show, I guess WLS jumped the gun and referred to this track as a solo Paul McCartney outing.

What's ESPECIALLY odd about this (they had actually been playing the track for the previous five weeks off the British "Help" soundtrack album) is that McCartney's solo Ed Sullivan performance wouldn't air until September 12th ... or nearly ten days AFTER the date on this chart!!!  In fact, the official Capitol single release of this record didn't happen until two weeks after THAT!!! It first premiered in Billboard on their chart dated September 25th!

No one from WLS has ever been able to explain their early push or Top 20 ranking of this song ... a record you couldn't actually BUY yet!!!  (Back in the day, the record stores used to display The Top 20 Hits from WLS ... I wonder how THEY handled all of the requests for this as yet unreleased single!!!)  In fact, in a discussion with Clark Weber and Dex Card several years ago, Dex said he thought this WLS chart was a "fake" as he didn't recall this incident at all ... and HE'S the guy who used to count 'em down five times a week!  I can only assure you that it isn't ... the one's the real deal!  That being said, if there ever was such a thing as a "Sure Fire Hit", "Yesterday" fits the bill.  It became the most recorded song in history almost overnight.

At the bottom of the chart, you'll see that WLS is once again listing their Top 20 #1 Records from years gone by ...  although THIS time NINE new songs titles are listed that didn't appear on this same chart from the year before.  (Most of these were records released AFTER the September 4th Chart from 1964.  One that wasn't was the addition of The Beatles' #1 Hit "Love Me Do".)  In fact, you'll see a decidedly British feel to this new Top 20 ... NINE of The Top 20 Hits listed are by British Invasion Artists ... including SIX by The Beatles alone! (I've got to laugh, too, at the 7 entry ... looks like according to The Big 89, Sister Luc-Gabrielle has started her own group ... her #1 Hit "Dominique" is now credited to The Singing NunS!!!)

Lots of local hits in this week's Top 20, too ... "Little Miss Sad" is at #4 for The Five Emprees, Neil Sedaka's got a #11 Hit with "The World Thru A Tear" (which is a GREAT record, by the way, and should have been a MUCH bigger national hit than it was, peaking at #76 in Billboard) and "Trouble With A Woman" by Kip and Ken (#16) and "Give Me All Your Love" by Gerry and the Pacemakers (#12) may raise an eyebrow or two, too!

Friday, September 5, 2014

50 Years Ago This Weekend

9/4 - 9/5 - 9/6 - 9/7 -   

THE ANIMALS hit #1 on The Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart with THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN, their first American Hit.  BECAUSE by THE DAVE CLARK FIVE, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT by THE BEATLES and HOW DO YOU DO IT by GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS are all still holding on to Top Ten spots at #4, #8 and #9 respectively.  

THE BEATLES also inch up a notch to #12 with AND I LOVE HER while WISHIN' AND HOPIN' by DUSTY SPRINGFIELD takes a major fall from #11 to #23.  THE ROLLING STONES climb to #29 with IT'S ALL OVER NOW and right behind them are THE BEATLES again with AIN'T SHE SWEET. 

THE FAB FOUR are also holding down the #34 spot with I'LL CRY INSTEAD.  (The flipside of that hit, I'M HAPPY JUST TO DANCE WITH YOU, is "bubbling under" at #112!  THE SEARCHERS are up ten places to #46 with their latest, SOME DAY WE'RE GONNA LOVE AGAIN.  TELL ME by THE ROLLING STONES, I'LL KEEP YOU SATISFIED by BILLY J. KRAMER AND THE DAKOTAS, IF I FELL by THE BEATLES, RINGO'S THEME by GEORGE MARTIN, DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY by MANFRED MANN and A SUMMER SONG by CHAD AND JEREMY fill in most of the spots between #50 and #60 this week.  (#50, #51, #53, #55, #58 and #60 to be exact)  

The lower region of the chart includes the hits FROM A WINDOW by BILLY J. KRAMER AND THE DAKOTAS (#64), MATCHBOX by THE BEATLES (new at #81) as well as its flipside, SLOW DOWN by THE BEATLES (at #99).  That still gives British Artists a 20% stranglehold on the US Charts this week.

The WLS Silver Dollar Survey only has 20 spots this week as the station celebrates the Top 20 Best Selling #1 Records of the past four years since switching over to the Top 40 / Rock market. (You'll still find FOUR songs by THE BEATLES in their "recap" Top 7:  I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND, SHE LOVES YOU, TWIST AND SHOUT and LOVE ME DO.)  

THE FAB FOUR are also represented on this week's current Top 20 chart, too … A HARD DAY'S NIGHT is #6, behind BECAUSE by THE DAVE CLARK FIVE (#2) and THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN by THE ANIMALS (#3).  Also making a mark this week:  WISHIN' AND HOPIN' by DUSTY SPRINGFIELD (#9), HOW DO YOU DO IT by GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS (#11) and A SUMMER SONG by CHAD STUART AND JEREMY CLYDE (#14)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rockabilly ... Then And Now

We've been singing the praises of The Cadillac Casanovas ever since the first time we saw them open up the show for Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, Rick Nelson's twin sons who put on the tribute show to their father, "Ricky Nelson Remembered".

These guys are as authentic as they come.  As such, we're treated to GREAT rockabilly classics by artists like Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Dale Hawkins, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and many, many others whenever they perform.

But they ALSO keep the Rockabilly Renaissance alive, too, by featuring recent tracks released by rockabilly aficionados like Queen, ELO, The Stray Cats, Dave Edmunds and more.

Here are a few of my favorites:

CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE by Queen - a #1 Hit that came out of nowhere for the Glam Rock Band who ALWAYS seemed to have something new hidden up their sleeve ... anything from disco/funk like "Another One Bites The Dust" to Rock Opera like "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "Somebody To Love" to rock camp like "Killer Queen" and "Fat-Bottomed Girls" to flat out great pop music like "You're My Best Friend".  We lost Freddie Mercury WAY too soon ... there's no telling what other surprises he may have had in store for us.

STRAY CAT STRUT by The Stray Cat.  Brian Setzer single-handedly brought rockabilly back to the forefront with his early '80's hits "Rock This Town", "Stray Cat Sturt" and "She's Sexy And 17", paving the way for other musically talented fans to follow suit ...

Like LED ZEPPELIN ... (whoever knew that guitar virtuoso Jimmy Page had it in him?!?!)  Yet Robert Plant cut "Rockin' At Midnight" with The Honedrippers in classic '50's style while Page "let 'er rip" on this track from Led Zeppelin's final LP.

Another HUGE fan was Jeff Lynne of The Electric Light Orchestra.  He first showed off his rockabilly prowess on "Hold On Tight", a track you STILL here countless times per day ... but then again on THIS one ... which is every bit as good (yet you rarely hear at all!)

This Rockabilly Son is purebred ... His Daddy was Johnny Burnette and his Uncle was Dorsey Burnette ... so when young Rocky Burnette hit the charts with this one in 1980, he was simply carrying on a Family Tradition!

Separately, Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds were long-time proprietors of the rockabilly genre ... so when the two of them got together, it was a sure thing that magic was going to happen.  The duo cut a VERY faithful tribute with their '80's Everly Brothers EP ... and The Cadillac Casanovas do some damn good Everly Brothers tracks ... but I chose to feature this one that Nick cut with "His Cowboy Outfit" in 1985.

And it doesn't come much more authentic sounding than this ... Lubbock, Texas-born Mac Davis struck rockabilly gold with this 1981 gem, "Hooked On Music"!

Finally, on what ended up being is final LP, Ricky Nelson returned to his rockabilly roots and redid not only some of his biggest hits from the '50's ... but also cut this brand new track that sounded every bit as fresh in 1985.  (This one ABSOLUTELY should have been a hit!)  Nelson was putting the finishing touches on his last LP, "Rockabilly Renaissance", when he died.

You are gonna want to see these guys the next chance you get ... this is NOT a show to be missed.

More info on their website regarding upcoming appearances (along with a couple of live concert videos):  


And let me tell you, they're every bit as much fun to watch as they are to listen to.  Please check them out the next time they hit your area ... you can thank me later!  (The Cadillac Casanovas have just been added to a special Arcada Christmas Show, December 5th, that will feature the return of Matthew and Gunnar Nelson ... as well as The Cowsills.  Put me down for a front row seat to this one!!!)  kk 

Most will agree that The Cadillac Casanovas are just one big break away from busting wide open ... so here's a suggestion, guys!

You need to find a song ... a modern-day, well-known song about as far removed from rockabilly as possible ... and then you need to add your spin to it ... reinvent it, if you will, with a stroke of rockabilly magic ... and make the rest of the music world stand up and take notice.  It's got to be the RIGHT song ... with the right feel ... and when you're done with it, the whole world will be shouting your name.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Another Concert Review: The Beach Boys with Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone

Guest columnist Shelley Sweet-Tufano has written numerous reviews for us over the years ...

Here comes her latest on what sounds like an TERRIFIC double-bill ... 

The Beach Boys with Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone!

Rain again??  On the day of an outdoor concert?? 

Yes, yes, yes.    

Did the Music Magic work this time?   

It had me worried ... ten minutes before the concert started, I was putting on a rain poncho and wondering if I needed to change the batteries and washers in my rain wand, as it was getting to be concert time and this would be a "Rain or No Rain" event.  

It was a ball park, standing room only on the field, reserved seats in the open stands, and everyone currently crowded under the concession table covered areas.  Well, a few of us were in our seats.  I passed around the beach towel I brought to the few around me so that the seats could be dry when they sat down, and watched the stage crew remove plastic, put plastic back up, mop up stage, and repeat a few times.  This does not sound like a very safe environment for performers, but this venue works it this way ... and apparently successfully.  Well, the merchandising tables should be a big hit as they are under cover.  Kudos to Pam for braving the rain and hitting the stands and field with cds for sale.  

'Vindaloo' begins.  More people move down into seats.  The Hermits come out.  More people move down into seats. 'Something Good' begins.  Peter Noone and umbrella come out and ... more people move down into seats.  And THEN!!  The turn-off faucets on my wand begin to work and the rain stops.  Another case of God loving music, and hating spontaneous electrocutions.    

This is a concert of comparing East Meets West.  Way East, over the pond, and Way West, on the Pacific Coast.  This is, for sure, a demonstration of the 60's music.  I never considered classifying them all during the 60's, as did so many others.  Oh, I knew there were different styles, but I either liked the song or I didn't.  I had friends and fellow students who drew lines in the sand (the lines changed frequently).  "If you like the Stones, you CAN'T like The Beatles!"  "The Beach Boys are 'in'.  The Everly Brothers are 'out'!"  So, I kept quiet and played my own records, in my own room, in my own company and those of my two best friends, who also felt the same.  So let me begin from the moment I stepped out of the car.   

Soundcheck is late today.  Probably due to the rain, so at 5:10 or so, I am crossing the parking lot and listening to Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone.  The song?  A Lennon / McCartney tune:  'I Will'.  It is difficult to pin me down to favorites in anything.  Blue is my favorite color, but that shade of green or yellow just totally caught my attention.  Same in music.  Fast songs, dance songs, lyrics, melodies ... I will tell you I like it 'because'.  However, over the years, with more info on the background of the song, easily humming the McCartney melody and enhanced with simply stunning lyrics and meaning ... this is my favorite Beatle song when I am forced to pick.  A strange selection maybe, but also strange to hear it coming from Peter Noone at a soundcheck.  It was beautiful.  Not done for performance reasons so I don't look for a tight unit, but I instantly know I am where I should be right now and all is right.  

The intro to each group is given by someone who really doesn't know much about either one in their current forms so Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone is announced as "the original artists".  Well now!  Each of the Hermits is certainly an 'original' (especially you, Dave) but not original Hermits.  It IS the original Herman.  It is also the original Peter Noone, if you wish.  Try being the non-original Peter Noone. If we only used personal names, there would be no copies.   

I did not hold out much hope for this audience.  If you were on the field, you were already soaked sitting on your blanket.  People were huddled at the top of the stadium, under cover.  Most of the audience did not even show up and I know it had good sales.  AND Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone does not really appear on the tickets or advertising.  It is a Beach Boys show.  So ... it takes a warm-up of 'getting to know you' to awaken this crowd.  Since the field is pretty empty, the stands seem waaaaay far away, and as a performer, it must be lonely out there at second base.  

Both groups handled this very well, and in different ways.  This concert is all about listening to the music as, unless you looked at the large screen, you could not see the musicians and their facial expressions.  We also did not have that experience of a large throbbing oneness to carry us on in unison.  However, the show must go on and, as Peter and his Hermits sang, bantered, smirked, kicked, and jigged,  the field audience moved in, huddled together, swayed, caught cds and T-shirts and pushed in for more music.  Out in the stands, we were lost from that closeness, but pulled in for 'Henry VIII' and all its 19 second-verses.  The crowd around me got in the mood and flow when they realized they knew the songs, even though they did not expect to hear them that night.  I heard the crowd changing over from 'just waiting to hear The Beach Boys' to yelling H-E-N-R-Y with vigor at the end.  The fun grew slowly, but steadily, until the "More" chant for the encore.  Just to be clear here, Peter, the wind was NOT in the favor of the stands when we yelled, as the storm clouds were being pushed from first base to third base, past the stage at second.  I could say 'Thank You' to the audience for making it soggy fun, but as always, it is the performers who pull us out of our comfort zones, back to our youth, and help the children in the audience connect with us.  

So how did The Beach Boys handle this situation?  They had an interactive video on the screen, but I must give more credence to starting out with seven Beach Boys songs non-stop and achieving the school dance feeling that got people up and moving around.  The request for a cell-phone participation sway on 'Surfer Girl' was another good idea.  By this time it was dark, so glowsticks or lights on anything (phones, flashlights) showed clearly.  I have not seen The Beach Boys live since they split into factions so I was eager to enjoy.  A big surprise for me was John Cowsill!  He is an amazing drummer and took the Brian Wilson lead vocals on several songs.  By this time, one of my chicken friends had come down to join me in what had become MY ROW, because I was the only one in it.  She is an excellent photographer (I travel with two) and when Cowsill first starting singing, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston were pictured on the big screen.  It was obvious they were not singing, but the stage was so far away, I could not see who was.  I'm repeating, "Who's singing?  Who's singing?"  She is, in turn, pulling out her camera with the zoom lens so she can try to find out, and then the camera hits on John Cowsill, and I exclaim, "It's John Cowsill!  Hey, he's doing a good job."  OK, I know ... The Cowsills performed as a family and he has a lot of experience, so I should not have been surprised.  But again, I had not ever seen him in performance since he joined the Beach Boys so, like my students, there is much learning to be had.  

I froze in a silent warm embrace as the video paid tribute to Carl Wilson.  Via this video, we were able to see and hear him sing 'God Only Knows' while the band did the instrumentals on a dimmed stage.  Honestly, tears flowed down my cheeks.  I have heard it said, "Carl was the voice of The Beach Boys."  I know his mother referred to him as "an angel" and many performers saw him as the peacemaker for the group.  Whatever the situation, his smile, voice and emotion on this tape is powerful.  This and much of the rest of the presentation may be hold-overs from the reunion tour.  I did not see that show, unfortunately.  I do wish that a tribute had also been made to Dennis.  The only surfer and a vital part of the group, I would have liked to see it.  We could excuse a Brian Wilson tribute as he is still living, and most of the songs sung are tributes to his writing skills.  Would I like to hear a positive reference to him from the stage?  Yes.  But I get it.  Stuff happens.  Part of my teaching encompasses being able to forgive the struggles and embrace the music.  That can be difficult since my own feelings and opinions are involved.  But this music and the presentations by Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and their group was magical, uplifting and FUN!  Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that they brought 'dancers' on stage.  I believe they were children from the audience, although they were dressed in 60's fashions for their participation.  They had a blast!  The music director, and lead guitarist, Scott Totten, strung his guitar around the neck of one lucky lady and then played a solo standing behind her blinded.  

British Invasion Pop riding on the Surf music of California ... Both 60's ... Both successful then and now.  Both bringing forth timeless classics that make the rain go away and melt all the ages watching into one timeless era.  You shoulda' been there.  You should go there.  
-- Shelley J Sweet-Tufano

We were taken to task for parts of our Johnny Rivers review yesterday (scroll back in case you missed it) ... some of it warranted ... some not so much ... 

I read your review and I was in attendance at the show, too.  You have a couple of names wrong.  The drummer is Johnny Rivers' son Michael and the Keyboard Player is Skip Edwards.  Skip was Dwight Yoakam's keyboardist for years.  Darrell Cook is the bass player.  
Some of those obscure songs you mentioned were actually recorded by JR in some recent albums.  
I enjoyed reading your take on the show. 
Ken Rayba
I swear it sounded like he introduced the drummer as "my son, Robbie Rivers".  I looked everywhere trying to find Johnny's son mentioned in ANY publicity for the band and came up empty ... he's not even pictured on Johnny's website!  (Keith Edwards is shown instead ... evidently he's been moved to additional percussion these days ... a role that has less of an impact on their overall live sound than would that of an additional guitar player or some stronger background vocals.)  I apologize for the error ... and for getting Skip Edwards' name wrong.  (Are Skip and Keith related???  And was that Skip's daughter who joined them on stage for the final encore?)  I did get Darrell Cook's name right however ... but ALL of this has since been fixed on the website.)  kk   

For the most part, I thought your review of the Johnny Rivers show was right on the money.  The concert did get off to a slow start and Johnny came across as pissed off (and a bit unprofessional) at the beginning.  However, I also agree that once things settled in, he gave an outstanding performance overall ... and definitely had the crowd going and up on their feet for a good chunk of the show.  
The four song acoustic set provided the perfect opportunity to use the bathroom (which several of us did) ... Johnny should take that as a sign to spread things out a little more.  We probably would have enjoyed the new or unfamiliar material had it been more evenly distributed throughout the show.  (Then again do we really need another version of "House Of The Rising Sun"?)
I think your "5" rating was a little harsh ... for me, the show was definitely a "7".

You should know better :)  
In your review of the Johnny Rivers concert, you mentioned that you wish he had played -- Swaying to the Music. Actually, those words are in parentheses and the real song title is Slow Dancing (Swaying to the Music)
I write this, somewhat seriously, somewhat tongue in cheek, because if you can't get a song title correct, do you really expect people not as into the 60's and 70's music as you are to remember songs? We always want deeper play lists but we have to get the titles correct.
I think if I were going to hand out this severe of a scolding, I would have done some research of my own first.
Actually, YOU'RE the one who's got it backwards ... "Swayin' To The Music" is the title of the song ... "Slow Dancin'" are the words that appear within the parentheses.  (This is the way Billboard charted it as well as the way it appeared on the record label ... and the sheet music and lyric sheet.) In fact, I found several copies of each online after I got your email.
Now in all fairness (and giving you the benefit of the doubt ... would you only do the same for me?), Joel Whitburn's book "Top Pop Singles, 1955 - 2012" DOES state that the record was first released as "Slow Dancin'" on Johnny's own Soul City Record label (catalog number 008) before it was picked up for wide distribution by Big Tree Records (16106) in 1977 ... but it's the Big Tree version that became the national top ten hit ... and, as such, what I (and the rest of the world) know it as.  (kk)

Johnny experienced a similar fate on his follow up record when he recut the Major Lance hit "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" but retitled it as "Curious Mind", sticking the "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" in parentheses again!  (kk)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Johnny Rivers - Live At The Arcada Theatre

Neither one of us had ever seen Johnny Rivers perform live before ... for whatever reason, he just doesn't seem to get up Chicago way very often ... in fact, I can't even remember the last time he was here! ... so Frannie and I were REALLY looking forward to seeing this show.  (Many thanks again to Ron Onesti for his generous hospitality in allowing us to do so ... and from some GREAT seats, by the way!)  

In another stroke of booking genius, Ron hired The Cadillac Casanovas as Johnny's opening act ... and they did a VERY successful job of warming up the crowd and getting them ready for this '60's recording legend.  (We last saw The Cadillac Casanovas when they opened for Matthew and Gunnar Nelson's show, "Ricky Nelson Remembered" ... and they were SO good that night, that The Nelson Brothers invited them back out to finish up the show with them!  I've been a fan ever since and have proudly been telling anybody who will listen that you've just GOT to go check these guys out.)  For the record, you'll have another chance to do so on December 5th ... Ron Onesti has just hired The Cadillac Casanovas to open a Rockabilly Christmas Show that will also feature the return of Matthew and Gunnar Nelson as well as The Cowsills, one of the acts I had to miss this year due to other commitments.  (They played to RAVE reviews the night they opened for Micky Dolenz.)  This should be one INCREDIBLE show ... so you'll want to get your tickets early for this one!  

Anyway, more on The Cadillac Casanovas later (you can read our previous review here:  
Click here: Forgotten Hits: We Had One Hell Of A Rock And Roll Weekend! ... and check out a brand new feature on the band this Thursday) ...    

But for now, let's get down to The Man Of The Hour, Johnny Rivers.  

Rivers built his career on his live performances at California Hot Spots like The Whisky A Go-Go ... his first few album releases were recorded live in concert as he built a tremendous following amongst the young dance crowd and celebrities who frequented these establishments with great regularity back in the day.  As such, there really shouldn't be a more seasoned performer on the circuit ... but the show certainly didn't start out that way. 

Right off the bat, Rivers had some "technical difficulties" with his amp, which he became noticeably agitated and vocal about.  My first thought was, "Oh boy, here we go ... before he even sings his first song, he's already in a bad mood" ... and it did look that way for a little while.  That first song was an almost unrecognizable version of "Midnight Special" in which Johnny completely changed up the melody so that it sounded nothing at all like the hit record he had in the '60's ... or the theme to the late-night television show it later served as.  (Which made my SECOND thought "Oh boy, he's going to do all new versions of the songs we came to hear.")  That was followed by a couple more rather obscure choices after which the audience complained that they couldn't hear Johnny's voice ... the music was too loud.  (It was ... or Johnny's mike simply wasn't turned up enough ... but he was EXTREMELY difficult to hear.) 

Rivers again seemed to take the offensive, this time stating that he was "a little hoarse" but would "try to turn down the music a little" ... which immediately sparked my THIRD thought ... "Oh shit, now we've pissed him off again!"  (lol)  Instead of taking the initiative and having the sound guy turn up his vocals, he indicated that he wouldn't be putting forth any more effort into tonight's performance and would turn the music down instead ... again, not a good start to a show we had long been looking forward to seeing.  

His fourth song was the Al Wilson hit "The Snake", a record that Rivers produced for his Soul City Record Label back in 1968 ... and a Forgotten Hits favorite.  Johnny seemed a lot more animated on this one ... but a lot of that was lost again as you really couldn't hear the vocals. 

And then suddenly Moses stepped out and parted The Red Sea ... and all was right in the world again.  Johnny kicked things into gear with his 1965 Hit, "Seventh Son" (which ironically peaked at #7 on the charts) and the crowd was quickly up on its feet.  Without question in my mind, THIS is where the concert began Saturday Night!  The vocal was clean and clear, PERFECTLY mixed with the music and the crowd went wild.  From this point on, Johnny Rivers sounded like Johnny Rivers again ... and we knew we were going to have a good time the rest of the way. (How unfortunate that things had to begin on such a low note as once it appeared Johnny was having fun on stage, it was infectious enough to take the rest of us all along for the ride!)

I won't say there weren't a few other instances that fell flat ... for one thing, Johnny's back-up band is pretty sparse, and didn't contribute much in the way of background vocals all night long.  (At one point Johnny again instructed the sound engineer "Can somebody PLEASE turn on this man's mike?")  And it was RIDICULOUSLY hot in there that night, something else that Rivers wouldn't let go unnoticed with biting comments like "Hey Ron ... time to put another log on the air conditioner" and, at one point, asking the audience if they'd be willing to "take up a collection and buy this place some air conditioning."  (To be fair, this has been an ongoing issue at The Arcada on these hot summer nights ... it's a very OLD theater and as such, heats up VERY quickly ... especially with a near sell-out crowd on hand ... but if the artists themselves start to complain about being uncomfortable or start refusing to come back to perform, then it's ALSO an issue that needs to be addressed.)   

On the other hand, Johnny did have some fun, light-hearted moments, too ... like when he introduced the members of the band and got to the drummer and said "I've known this man since the day he was born" ... which was true, because Johnny's drummer was his son Michael Rivers, who's been drumming since the age of six!  The band is rounded out by Skip Edwards on keyboards (who really did an excellent job of filling in the gaps as Johnny's songs tended to be quite "produced" back in the day, making the lack of background vocals ... especially those of the female persuasion ... and instrumentation seem a little weak at times during his live show), Darrell Cook on bass and Keith Edwards on percussion.  Johnny also joked that a good chunk of the audience was probably there that night just to see how much older he looked.  (Actually, he looked pretty good ... check out the photos below taken by Official Arcada Photographer Luciano Bilotti!)  

When Johnny stuck to the hits, the crowd responded with pure enthusiasm.  An extended four-song acoustic set lost a few of us ... we expect an artist to mix in some newer or alternate material now and then ... but four songs in a row of unfamiliar material is asking a lot for an audience to retain interest.  I will say this, however ... on more than one occasion Saturday Night, he brought the crowd back up to their feet when he went from something "off the list" to a track like "Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Flu" and "I Put A Spell On You", both performed to perfection (and to a rousing response). 

Rivers scored 21 Top 40 Hits between 1964 and 1978 ... and over the course of the evening I'd have to say he performed about half of them ... and each and every time he did, the audience rallied around him once again to show their support.  

He took a little bit of flack back in the '60's in that most of his hits were simply remakes and covers of previously recorded songs.  In fact, the one time he DID decide to write a song for himself, it went straight to #1 ... Johnny's only #1 Record was "Poor Side Of Town", written with Producer Lou Adler.  Other than that, his hit repertoire consists of a lot of Motown and Chuck Berry remakes ... he was kind of like the original Linda Ronstadt ... before there was a Linda Ronstadt!!! 

His four-song encore was outstanding ... "Route 66", "Memphis", "Maybelline" and, of course, "Secret Agent Man" insured that we'd be on our feet from start to finish.  (In that heat, he probably regretted his decision to go out and sign CD's for the crowd after the show ... but he's got a couple of new CD's to plug and this is the way to do it.  Both are also available through his website:  Click here: Johnny Rivers - Official Website - Live at Cache Creek). 

Checking the site, it looks like there are not a lot more shows lined up ... as I said, he doesn't seem to perform much these days (although the couple in front of us told us that this was their SEVENTH Johnny Rivers concert, including one recently in Michigan [where they live, meaning they made about a 3 1/2 hour drive to the Arcada show!] as well as a recent 70th Birthday Party Concert held for Johnny in New York City ... which kind of surprised me since he's actually 72!!!)  If you've ever wanted to see him live, do it NOW as I'm not sure how many more shows he's going to do.  (I will say this ... once all the bugs were worked out Saturday Night, Rivers genuinely seemed to be having a good time up on stage.  Had it been about 20 degrees cooler, he might have played another half hour, giving us some of those OTHER hits we missed out on during this particular show!) 

Overall rating (on a scale of 1-10):  5 

Concert Highlights:  Seventh Son; Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu; I Put A Spell On You; Mountain Of Love; Summer Rain; Memphis; Secret Agent Man

Could Have Been Better:  The Tracks Of My Tears (although this one stuck in my head all night long!); Baby I Need Your Lovin'; Poor Side Of Town (and all of these weaknesses I would attribute to the lack of sufficient musical and vocal backing)

Sorely Missed:  Swayin' To The Music; Where Have All The Flowers Gone; Help Me Rhonda