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Al Forsyth

Posts: 3,488
Reply with quote  #1 
American Dreams

 So this past week we had that birthday celebration again, July 4th (actually voted by Continental Congress on July 2nd, 1776, and signed August 2nd). Oh well.  

In this birthday week we can ask ourselves and the world speaks here at Brian Wilson dot calm as well, what is this American Dream?  All of my relatives who came here and most all of us did in some way,  they had it in their back-pocket – the dream.

Musically there is much to chose from here but we'll iso n but four songs and reasons. 

Let’s begin with some talk about pie, and in this case American Pie by Don McLean.  Most often associated with “the day the music died” in a cornfield in Morehead, Minnesota, is it really abut that?

“American Pie” has been chosen for prestigious honors and awards that have only been given to a select number of songs. The RIAA and the National Endowment for the Arts named “American Pie” as the #5 song on their list of Songs of the Century. The song is also in the Grammy Hall of Fame. And in March of this year (2017), the Library of Congress added “American Pie” to its National Recording Registry, as a musical work that is culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

This ^ from Songwriter Universe:

Next we go north of the American border to the Canadian Provinces and more specifically from the wheatfield soul region of Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman and the Guess Who.  Here’s an interesting explanation of how the song came to be by Randy:

Burton Cummings’ story is different:

The song does receive another life with Lenny Kravitz. 

The original comes in during the ant-war time period (post Woodstock but not yet Kent State).  Who is this American Woman?  Is she us?

When American Woman hit record stores, however, it was the title track that created the biggest stir. Structured around a heavy guitar riff worked up by Bachman during a concert jam, and featuring a menacing vocal from Cummings, the song homed in on what the band viewed as the social and political havoc wreaked by the Nixon administration.

 “A lot of people thought ‘American Woman’ was addressing the woman on the street,” explains Bachman, “but it wasn’t at all. The band had witnessed all the desolation going on in America, where there were hardly any young men in any of the towns we went to. They had all been drafted. We would see 18-year-old guys at the airports, with their buzz cuts and their uniforms, with their fathers telling them how proud they were, and their mothers and sisters in tears. It was heartbreaking. So instead of singing ‘Uncle Sam, stay away from me,’ or ‘Richard Nixon, stay away from me,’ it was ‘American woman.’ RCA actually released a piece of promotion that showed a New York alley filled with litter, and at the back of the alley was the Statue of Liberty, holding up the torch. Fortunately, by the time radio and the government understood that the song was an anti-war song, it had already reached #1,” which it did on May 9, 1970.


So we have a band known affectionately now as America’s Band and we know them well here.  Every summer – the sounds seem to come back as this is what was first created by The Beach Boys – summertime surf music – for the rest of us built usually on luscious harmonies.   So you can have your own Endless Summer listening to the their early music.  In the height of all of this comes an album track that would surface even later in an important role: All Summer Long

Beach Boys’ July 1964 album "All Summer Long," which featured a song by that name as its 2nd track.  Another 1964 song by the Beach Boys that has outstanding sound and production values is “All Summer Long” written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love.  However, this song was not released as a single in 1964.  It was first heard on the Beach Boys’ July 1964 album by that same name, All Summer Long, their sixth studio album.  The song “All Summer Long” was the second track on the album.

     In the U.K., the song was later released as a single in February 1965, but did not become a top hit there.  Even in the U.S., apart from being on the album, the song did not become that well known, making it perhaps one of the more neglected Beach Boys’ songs of that era, yet still among their best work.  One noteworthy fan of the song is film-maker George Lucas, who gave it some notice when he used it as background music over the end credits of his 1973 film, American Graffiti, his ode to the happy days of early 1960s’ rock ‘n roll.

     In a review of this song for, Donald A. Guarisco found it to be one of the classic examples of “sunshine pop” and of Brian Wilson helping to create the California Myth — “an idyllic dream world of sun, surf, and fun that created a potent mental escape hatch for many listeners.”  The lyrics of “All Summer Long” tell a story of a happy summer of sharing between a guy and his girl.  Yet the lyrics seem almost secondary to the song’s smooth musical power, its upbeat tone, and a kind of “take-you-away” easy listening.  The harmonies are outstanding, and the buoyant instrumentation includes piano and some perfectly positioned xylophone.  The All Summer Long album hit No. 4 on the Billboard charts and had a 49-week stay there.  This also occurred during the peak of the “British invasion” of U.S. pop music.

Is this fitting for “America’s Band”? George Lucas sure understood.

And finally we have the anthem songs and here we go to Ray Charles himself.  He lays into/into the song a soulful feeling that gets you feeling it. The video spells it all out but listen to Ray (wait a minute).

Simply, read this:

C & P Purposes
American Pie - Don McLean
American Woman - The Guess Who
All Summer Long - The Beach Boys
America the Beautiful - Ray Charles

A diamond necklace played the pawn...
Tom Tobben

Posts: 1,148
Reply with quote  #2 
Four fine songs, Al. Should be an excellent battle!
John E

Posts: 860
Reply with quote  #3 
This is my favourite take on America!

t bedford

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Posts: 2,004
Reply with quote  #4 
Here's P.P. Arnold's former back up band, the Nice (with Keith Emerson, if you kids don't know), playing a song from West Side Story.

The Nice - America

And here is Steppenwolf's take on the seamy underbelly of the US of A.

Steppenwolf - Monster

I'm not a real billionaire, but I play one on TV!
Lee Marshall

Posts: 2,378
Reply with quote  #5 
Tough week.  4 GREAT songs.  [thankfully]

So let's see...There aren't many who can both sing and interpret a song quite like Ray could.

GOLD.  America.  Ray Charles.  Makes me proud...and I'm not even American.  The best version of THIS specific song...E V E R.  If you live south of Canada and north of Mexico somewhere within the confines of North America and find yourself still to be a racial bigot after hearing THIS version of THIS are NOT a true American.

Silver.  All Summer Long.  BB's.  LOVED this song from the first time I heard it on 1050 CHUM in Toronto.  The album had just been released and they were playing it as what they thought would be the next single..  Signifies summer in America.  This song [and album] were a step forward in terms of Brian's use of the studio and various instruments.  The 'rock on'/'walk on' was in full swing.

Bronze.  Pie/Don.  There is only one reason why this one doesn't come last in this quartet of great tuneage...meanwhile...Don McLean is the only one out of the bunch whom I haven't introduced at least once live on stage as an MC.  The guy's career was very limited though.  Crying, Vincent and Pie...which in and of itself was a tough act to follow.  As a 45...the first half of the song was on side 1...the 2nd half on the 'B' side.   So?  Many of us AM radio types played it as 1/2 a song back in 1972...and then subsequently as a recurrent as well.  The idea of the song is outstanding.  Yet...I find it marginally over-rated and far too long.

Tin.  The interlopers with their anti-American anthem.  The reason why I've placed it last ... less than a week after the big 'do' is because it is quite a negative.  Just over 1/2 of the people inhabiting the united and various states of America are intelligent enough to 'get' it.  They deserve a break today.   [but time will be up in a cupla days]

Burton Cummings-solo- was my most recent MC'in' introduction...a couple of Octobers ago at the Capitol Theatre in Chatham.  The Beach Boys...Mike's contingent?  3 years ago August at Tecumseh Park in Chatham.  [and prior to that as the full touring band in Winnipeg, Toronto X 3 and up at Canada's Wonderland in Vaughan Township...all many moons ago when Carl and Dennis were still a part of the fun]  Ray Charles?  Somewhere in or around the fall of 1986 or 87 at a smallish club near Yorkville in Toronto.  Can't remember the name.  I was there to MC.  The manager informed me that they did their own intros and that my services would not be required.  I was ever-so disappointed as I had been a Ray fan since I was about 8 or 9 year old.  I guess you could hear my disappointment as a voice rose up from back in the pack.

"Bring him over here."  It was Ray himself.  We introduced ourselves to one another.  He asked me what it is that I wanted to do.  I explained that I was from the presenting radio station and that I'd asked to come and represent 590 CKEY at HIS concert.  A few more words were exchanged over approximately 90 seconds.  Ray then announced to his crew that I was good to go and that I would be introducing this show.  What can I say?  Other than Ray also recorded the 100% absolute best version of Sail on Sailor ever.

I like this one too...

Then there's this one which suddenly takes on a whole new life of it's own...or at least it has since late 2016.


Posts: 2,996
Reply with quote  #6 
Gold - The Beach Boys - IMO, the most summer sounding of all of the BB sun drenched songs.   

Silver - Ray Charles - Like Lee said, this is the definitive version of a great patriotic song.

Bronze - Guess Who - Great riff on this one, but suffers from classic rock overplay.  

Tin - Don McLean - One of those songs that's great, but I don't really seek out much. 
John B

Posts: 2,162
Reply with quote  #7 
gotta go with Kds' order.   I did have a brief thought of placing 'American Woman' at 4th place (and would have too, had it been the Jim-Morrison-like live version with all the Burton woman-hating adlibs, e.g., 'American B word!  American C word!' and so forth.  Protest wha?  what revisionist nonsense.  But, I just think 'American Pie' is such a large nothing burger that sounds good.   so.

1.  'All Summer Long'  absolutely great song from a classic album.

2. 'America The Beautiful'  by Ray Charles

thanks, Lee.   it's a hurtful time to be a (USA) American, and yes, also love that 'Sail on Sailor' performance, at the ocean-side restaurant of Elvis' favorite Waikiki-hotel.

3.  'American Woman'  by Burton and the Who

(he actually can sing.  and points for not ending up in some Me-Too story, Mr. Cummings!)

4.  'American Pie'  by Don McLean, who had a hippy thumb. 

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Posts: 1,873
Reply with quote  #8 
Nice week, Al. I think I'm going to have to go with Lee here (well, almost, if you exchange the top two):

Gold - All Summer Long - The Beach Boys
Silver - America the Beautiful - Ray Charles
Bronze - American Pie - Don McLean
Tin - American Woman - Guess Who

And I'll add another Simon and Garfunkle:

And here's a real American Woman for the Guess Who:


What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.”

Larry Franz

Posts: 555
Reply with quote  #9 
Al -- Great theme & set of songs -- although personally I'm sick of thinking about America these days.

Don't know how to vote, but:

Chuck Berry  "Back in the USA"

Green Day  "Back in the USA" (different song, different view)

The Clash "I'm So Bored with the USA" (with lyrics)

t bedford

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Posts: 2,004
Reply with quote  #10 
GOLD - All Summer Long - The Beach Boys

SILVER - American Woman - The Guess Who

BRONZE - America the Beautiful - Ray Charles

TIN - American Pie - Don McLean

Here's a Canadian (he read the news at Detroit/Windsor AM radio station CKLW when I was a kid). This peaked at #4 in Billboard (1974).

Byron Mac Gregor - Americans

I'm not a real billionaire, but I play one on TV!
Larry Franz

Posts: 555
Reply with quote  #11 
These are four very different songs. It's easier to contrast them than compare them. I still don't know how to vote, but:

Gold - All Summer Long - The Beach Boys -- it's the only one I will go out of my way to listen to 

Bronze - American Pie - Don McLean -- it is too long, but what a burst of creativity

Silver - America the Beautiful - Ray Charles -- someone close to me heard this on the radio recently and started to cry. They weren't tears of joy. It loses points for the lyrics we never sang.

Pewter - American Woman - Guess Who -- Not bad at all. I wonder if many "classic rock" fans agree with its view of the USA.

Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land Is Your Land" partly in response to Kate Smith's "God Bless America". It had three verses we never sang at school or knew about. They're occasionally sung now with variations. Guthrie recorded the first two at least once, but not the third one.
Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn't say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
This performance includes the three little-known verses beginning at 1:50 (with a few changes).

Elizabeth Mitchell  "This Land Is Your Land"

Cindy Hood

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Posts: 1,517
Reply with quote  #12 
Four good ones!  This could be very difficult.

In order of likeness, not lacking in talent in any way, I'll go with:

Gold:  All Summer Long by the Beach Boys.  This song is just so upbeat and fun.

Silver:  American Pie by Don McLean.  A classic!

Bronze:  America The Beautiful by Ray Charles.  Beautiful and patriotic. 

Tin/Pewter:  American Woman by the Guess Who.  Good song, but I wouldn't miss it if I never heard it again. 

It was a tough challenge, but I stand by my answer as final.

"They're not gonna catch us. We're on a mission from God".
Al Forsyth

Posts: 3,488
Reply with quote  #13 
A good start at the weekly Battle!  Wow,  Thanks to Lee, kds, John B, Deb, t, Larry and Cindy.  Seven votes cast and really everyone KNOWS these songs so it's not one of those have to listen a few times. The problem is that I have to vote and I have an order more or less set up but I'm not set.

Larry, maybe this gets us back to thinking about it.   Maybe.  Good stories, Lee.  Interesting votes all!

Okay, I had a few songs queued up for the week and one was Martin Sexton's version WITH the lyric that we know.  I appreciate Ray now staying more true to form.

Martin at the GC:

I always loved his version on Black Sheep. 
Martin takes us on an American diner journey.  Always loved it, hang a louie - his shiny, shiny love! HAPPY song 😉 

He is The American:
(La da dee)

Thanks to everyone for getting the week going.

A diamond necklace played the pawn...
Lisa G/TS

Posts: 803
Reply with quote  #14 
Captain America Forsyth,

Great choices, but I'll get my ballot in early anyway:

GOLD - Ray Charles, America The Beautiful -- Mmm hmmm...what Lee said. Passionate, stirring, emotional and yet a bearable 3 1/2 mins long (not like some of those overbaked, feels 30 mins long "Star Spangled Banner"s at some sports games). A beauty indeed by one of your national treasures.

SILVER -- Beach Boys, All Summer Long -- Nostalgia, whimsy, good times and memories courtesy of more national treasures.

BRONZE -- Don McLean, American Pie -- Suffers only from being too overplayed much like my Tin choice. An honorable/honourable Bronze, however, for it's history and storytelling. 

TIN -- Guess Who, American Woman -- Funny, huh? They hail from "The Peg" as I do, yet I think even a lot of Winnipeggers (or "Winnipegians" as Macca called us at a '93 concert) are a little "meh" by now on it. I do enjoy other tracks of theirs a little more, though.

You want America,Al? You got it....courtesy of Bernstein/Sondheim, featuring the lovely Rita (not meter maid) Moreno, who to this day is STILL quite lovely and talented:

Al Forsyth

Posts: 3,488
Reply with quote  #15 

Lisa - thanks, and Rita is a lovely one!
Still in keeping with Len B.:

Whew, I think in closing out the first day that Ray is chasing the Beach Boys and the Chevy at the levee is holding off American Woman, but wait, the flag waves and Lenny adds:

A diamond necklace played the pawn...
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