After the death Thursday afternoon of Bob Welch -- the guitarist, singer and songwriter best known for his early work with Fleetwood Mac -- a number of peers, former bandmates and colleagues have released statements praising the late musician.
In an interview with Reuters, Mick Fleetwood, who hired Welch in 1971 after the departure of Peter Green, said Welch was a key part of the band's evolution. "He was a huge part of our history which sometimes gets forgotten. Mostly his legacy would be his songwriting abilities that he brought to Fleetwood Mac, which will survive all of us," said Fleetwood. "If you look into our musical history, you'll see a huge period that was completely ensconced in Bob's work."
And although Stevie Nicks and Welch weren't in Fleetwood Mac at the same time, she released a statement Friday morning expressing her admiration and regrets: "The death of Bob Welch is devastating .... I had many great times with him after Lindsey and I joined Fleetwood Mac. He was an amazing guitar player -- he was funny, sweet -- and he was smart -- I am so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac -- so, so sad ..."
This morning Pop & Hiss received a note from songwriter David Adelstein, who served as Welch's keyboard player from 1977 through 1982, just after the release of the "French Kiss" album that propelled Welch into the top 20. "I was hired and we rehearsed at one of Mick Fleetwood's homes in Topanga for the next three months," Adelstein wrote. "In January 1978 the band began rehearsals in a sound stage at Sunset & Beachwood."
Adelstein shared a few recollections of his experience in Welch's band, and, with his permission, are excerpted below:
"For me, they were very exciting times back then. We were the opening act for Dave Mason back around February 12, 1978, our first show at Rocklyn College, NY. A short time later, Bob was leading us up the stairs to what was the biggest crowd I've ever seen, Cal-Jam II. We opened the show with a 10:00 AM call! That was a rush -- 250,000 people in the crowd at the old Ontario Motor Speedway. During that tour, Bob opened shows for not only Dave Mason, but for Jefferson Starship, Heart, Beach Boys, Styx, Allman Bros. and of course [Fleetwood] Mac (a great billing -- the best of both worlds).
"When it came to the follow up album, Bob and his producer, John Carter, gave me my first opportunity to play on that album. When it came around to the third album, Bob gave myself and guitarist Todd Sharp the opportunity to include an original song on the album. This launched my songwriting career.
"All in all, I have awesome memories from my time playing with Welch, sharing dinners at some wonderful restaurants (he appreciated great food), along with his love of music and that included all kinds of music! The circle of friends here in the LA area ... are already missing him much."
As news of the death of former Fleetwood Mac guitarist and singer Bob Welch spread Thursday afternoon, fans began digging into the musical archives as they paid their respects to the 66-year-old and his music.
The L.A. native achieved success with a solo career in the late '70s that spawned a slew of hits including "Hot Love, Cold World," "Ebony Eyes," "Precious Love" and "Sentimental Lady” -- a track originally recorded by Fleetwood Mac but later redone by Welch.
He also formed two other short-lived outfits: a hard rock trio, Paris, that released two albums before dissolving, and Avenue M, which backed him on tour and never released an album.
To give the fans a boost, Pop & Hiss has dug through his contributions to music for few selections. Listen after the jump:
Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist and singer Bob Welch has been found dead in Nashville of an apparent suicide, according to the Nashville Police Department. The musician, who worked with the band in the early 1970s and later had hit solo songs such as "Ebony Eyes," was 66 years old.
Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron said in a statement, "The police department responded to his address at 12:18 p.m., where Mr. Welch was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest." Aaron added that Welch's wife indicated that he had been suffering with health issues. A suicide note was found in the home.
Welch was a member of Fleetwood Mac as the band was transitioning away from being a British blues rock band and into the 1970s powerhouse that it became. As a singer and guitarist, Welch was lesser known than the pair who replaced him -- lead vocalist Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham -- but his work with fellow band mates including Mick Fleetwood and John and Christie McVie prior to Nicks' arrival on albums "Future Games," "Bare Trees" and "Heroes are Hard to Find," among others, set the tone for what was to come.
Welch left the band amid the chaos of the McVie divorce, just prior to mainstream success with the 1975 album "Fleetwood Mac" and then "Rumors," Fleetwood Mac's acclaimed 1977 hit album. The singer went solo, and scored a massive hit with "Ebony Eyes" in 1977. The album from which it was culled, "French Kiss," featured a number of former Fleetwood Mac members, as well as a rendition of "Sentimental Lady," a song originally recorded with Mac but reworked by Welch.
Welch was born in Los Angeles in 1945, the son of successful Hollywood movie producer Robert Welch, best known for his work with Bob Hope on a series of "Paleface" films. A full obituary will appear in the L.A. Times.
It's common knowledge that science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who died Tuesday at age 91, was an inspiration to writers and filmmakers, both of whom used his remarkable ideas as rocket boosters to propel their imaginations. Less obvious, but no less numerous, are the musicians who've drawn on Bradbury's work to fuel songs and concept albums.
Like the space travelers invited to play "white xylophones" -- the ribcages of dead Martians -- during "The Martian Chronicles," musicians can't resist cosmic inspiration. The below list of works inspired by Bradbury no doubt extends much longer than 10 -- but that's what the comments section is for. Feel free to chime in with music we missed.
"Rocket Man" by Elton John and Bernie Taupin
Based on the Bradbury short story "The Rocket Man," John and Taupin's 1972 classic features thematic elements that the writer addressed throughout his work, including the ways in which humans react to the isolation of space travel. "She packed my bags last night pre-flight," sings John, an echo of Bradbury's plot, in which an astronaut leaves his wife and son on Earth as he travels through outer space.
"The Veldt" by Deadmau5
Canadian mouse-helmeted beatmaker Deadmau5 named his recent single "The Veldt" after Bradbury's short story. A bouncing, four-on-the-floor electro-house ditty, the track describes a world in which technology has so consumed culture that the world outside has virtually vanished. "Look what they made/They made it for me, happy technology/Outside the lions roam feeding on remains/We'll never leave look at us now/So in love with the way we are." The song's chorus co-opts Bradbury's original title of the story when first published in 1961, "The World the Children Made."
New York singer Frankie Rose's recent album, "Interstellar," was inspired by Bradbury, whose work not only defined science fiction but also the futuristic ideals of Los Angeles. "A lot of the songs are inspired by old Ray Bradbury sci-fi stories," Rose told Spinner.com in April. "Nobody knows because it's not obvious. It's definitely tracked in a certain order. It was planned in my mind that way." Best known for her work with Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls, Rose on "Interstellar" channels the cosmos.
Pearls Before Swine, "The Rocket Man"
John's writing partner Taupin acknowledged the influence of the Pearls Before Swine song, also called "The Rocket Man," on their better-known composition. Composed by the psychedelic folk band on its 1970 album "The Use of Ashes," this earlier version mirrors much more closely Bradbury's narrative. Songwriter Tom Rapp introduces the mother and son early in the lyrics, and over wistful cello and keyboard, he sings of his father, who "loved the world beyond the world, the sky beyond the sky."
Royal Hunt, "The Mission"
"We are on a mission right now to save rock and roll!," screams lead singer John West during this above live version of the title track to Royal Hunt's 1999 release, "The Mission," a concept album based on "The Martian Chronicles." The release's 13 tracks follow the narrative, with the Danish metal band pounding out fast guitar rock and West belting ridiculous lyrics like, "We gave this pain to the world which we can't understand/Blood disappears like the raindrops when hitting the sand." (Hey, nobody ever said all inspiration is quality inspiration.)
Rush, "The Body Electric"
Canadian power trio Rush draw on Bradbury's collection of short stories from 1969, "I Sing the Body Electric," itself inspired by a Walt Whitman poem, during their song "The Body Electric." Taken from the band's 1984 album "Grace Under Pressure," the song, written by avowed Bradbury fan/drummer Neil Peart, features androids, humanoids, system breakdowns, data overloads, lots of random sci-fi terms and "the mother of all machines," a reference to the plot line of the Bradbury story.
Steel Prophet, "Dark Hallucinations" album
Steel Prophet is a Connecticul heavy metal band (yes, there is such a thing) born in the 1980s and whose 1999 album, "Dark Hallucinations," follows the storyline of Bradbury's "Farenheit 451." Like Royal Hunt's concept album -- apparently, 1999 was a good year for Bradbury/metal marriages -- songs on "Dark Hallucinations" adapt chapters to create their drama.
"Medicine Man" by Barclay James Harvest
"Medicine Man,' written by British folk rock band Barclay James Harvest in 1971, was inspired by "Something Wicked This Way Comes," Bradbury's strange 1962 novel about a cursed carousel in a traveling fair. In the group's version, which of course features the sound of a calliope, singer John Lees refers to the cursed merry-go-round by wondering, "Didn't anybody want to ask the calliope to call the tune the flying horses crooned but did not know?"
Frank Black, "The Cult of Ray" album
In 2005, the Pixies' lead singer, Frank Black, wrote about the experience of interviewing Bradbury for the magazine Alternative Press. In the introduction, Black spoke of the writer's influence on his music. "When my high school English teacher said I could write short stories instead of doing homework, Ray Bradbury was my main source of inspiration. Years later I would absorb what Ray had to say at personal appearances he made at libraries and gymnasiums. I named a record after him [1996’s 'The Cult of Ray'] and squeezed as much of him as I could into my own work. Once I got an autograph and mumbled garbled, humbled praise." The record's Bradbury influence is much less obvious than the metal records above.
Rachel Bloom, "... Me, Ray Bradbury"
This not-safe-for-work song by L.A. based comedian Rachel Bloom captures the essence of many Bradbury fanatics' feelings toward the writer's output. She's shockingly direct -- and very funny -- in her desires.
Bass singer Herb Reed, who co-founded the Platters in Los Angeles in 1953 and was the last of the original members of the vocal group, died Monday in Boston, his manager told the Associated Press.
Fred Balboni told AP that Reed had been in declining health. Until last year, Reed had been touring and performing with a group that billed itself as Herb Reed and the Platters.
Reed, who was born in Kansas City, Mo., helped form the Platters and took the bass part on such hits as “Only You,” “The Great Pretender,” “My Prayer,” “Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
Tenors Tony Williams and David Lynch, baritone Alex Hodge and Reed formed the original core of the Platters. Paul Robi soon replaced Hodge, and female singer Zola Taylor also joined the group. Over the years, the participants changed many times.
The Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
In hindsight, it's not at all surprising that many people on Monday morning are passing around a clip of the song "Apples and Oranges," which a young Richard Dawson, who died on Saturday at age 79, recorded in 1967, a few years after he became Peter Newkirk on "Hogan's Heroes."
The actor and television personality released the track during the six-year run of "Hogan's Heroes,'" and the Vietnam-era anti-war sentiment within is strong, as is the orchestration: The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" was released the same year, and by adding strange, eerie psychedelia into their music, the Beatles' creation helped push pop in a new direction. Dawson picks up a similarly psychedelic feeling in a song about two other kinds of fruit; "Apples" was released as a B-side to a single called "His Children's Parade."
Why is it being shared so often in the wake of Dawson's demise? Simple: The lyrics to "Apples and Oranges" are sung from the point of view of a recently deceased narrator longing for the corporeal pleasures of fruit picked fresh from the tree.
A minor key ballad in which Dawson sings of produce hanging "high in the tree, I'll pick some for me," the melodramatic ditty features a simple harpsichord melody and Dawson's half-sung, half-spoken voice wistfully longing for something real. But then, halfway through, the bittersweet ditty turns more serious when Dawson lets on that he loves them because they're "far from the blood, so far from the guns," and a new reality sets in.
As the song drives into the climax, Dawson sees the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and wonders once again on the joy of apples and oranges. Then comes the big reveal: "Apples and oranges, pick them for me, because I am ... dead."
It's a spooky conclusion given the sad fact of Dawson's demise -- it really is as though the singer/actor/TV personality is communicating to his fans one last time -- and is certainly worth a listen.
Doc Watson, who died Tuesday at age 89, never had a hit record, and none of his albums ever went gold. This truth, a shame considering his talent, his influence on the guitar and the beauty of his dynamic baritone, should serve as inspiration to any musician interested in the long game, in making music that endures not because of its shock value or its keen marketplace vision but because within its measured tones lies universal truth.
Also reassuring to starving artists should be the notion that the North Carolina-born Watson, who lost his eyesight as a toddler after an infection, didn’t record his debut album until 1964, when he was over 40 and had been simmering in North Carolina, perfecting his craft for over three decades. At the time when a bunch of college kids in New York were falling in love with so-called “folk music,” bringing a name to the American-born acoustic sounds created in the rural South, Watson had been playing backup to banjo player Tom “Clarence” Ashley, learning sounds that Ashley, born in 1895, inherited in rural Tennessee.
Unlike the more guttoral, raw folk stuff created by players like Ashley, Bascom Lamar Lunsford and Dock Boggs, Watson at his best was a sunnier presence, less a conduit to the “old weird America,” as Greil Marcus famously described the raw American folk music of the 1920s and '30s, than the “old resilient America.”
Watson, like Pete Seeger and Burl Ives, sang and played in glorious tune, was a stickler for tone, and conveyed his acoustic lines with a driving fluidity. Listening to his early sides recorded for Vanguard, his work on the seminal celebration of old-time music, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and the music created during his decades on Flying Fish Records, you can hear the work of a master whose style, though refined, was never academic. He never misses a stroke or a strike, singing melodic runs with his voice that move in glorious counterpoint to the notes springing from his guitar.
Guitarist Doc Watson, who died Tuesday at age 89, leaves an extensive legacy that documents his wide-reaching influence in the world of guitar playing and folk music.
"Doc Watson sort of defined in many ways what Americana has become," Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Assn., told The Times. "He played different styles of American roots music."
He received a National Medal of Arts in 1997 and a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy in 2004.
Watson was well into his 40s before he began a serious music career. Ultimately, his example inspired a generation of musicians to upgrade their instrumental technique.
Here are three examples of his artistry in different settings. He was a commanding soloist and an always amenable collaborator. The first video highlights his take on "Black Mountain Rag," which traditionally has featured the fiddle. But Watson transformed it, as he usually did, into a thrilling guitar showcase.
Watson also loved playing in the company of other guitarists, and for decades was accompanied on tour and in the recording studio by his son, Merle. But after Merle died in 1985, Watson continued with his career, often sharing the stage with other masters of the instrument. Here's a 1987 performance from Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion," for which Watson begins with his version of Eddy Arnold's "Just a Little Lovin' (Will Go a Long Way)," then is joined by six- and 12-string ace Leo Kottke for "Last Steam Engine Train."
Finally, in a trio setting, below is a historic string-instrument summit meeting of Watson with bluegrass banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs and neo-traditionalist singer, mandolinist and guitarist Ricky Skaggs from a "Three Pickers" in which they serve up the country gospel traditional "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms":
John McEuen, one of the founding members of the Southern California-based Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, helped forge an early bridge in the 1970s between the then-distinct worlds of rock and country music with the group’s 1972 triple-record set, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” McEuen had a profound interest in traditional country and folk music and found inspiration watching L.A.-area appearances by the Dillards, and banjo player Doug Dillard played a key role in McEuen’s musical education. Here is what McEuen wrote about Dillard after he died last week in Nashville at age 75 after a long illness.
“Douglas Flint Dillard -- my mentor. He is the person who showed me that music was exciting and fun to play onstage for people; the one who was 'impickable' with the execution of his art. Douglas Flint Dillard, whose grin would hit the back of the wall from any stage he was on, has passed away.
“There were many times, after I became a 'hanger on' at 17 years old, that the Dillards allowed me to hang out in their dressing room as they tuned up to go on for yet another sold-out L.A. club show. I would sit there, pretending to read a book, but listen as intently as a hawk watches, trying to pick up new nuances of notes. Often, on the way to the stage, Douglas would turn to me and play an incredible previously unheard lick to impress me, and I would ask where it came from. He'd mention another player he was emulating at that moment, and tell me to check them out, which I did. Then, he’d turn back around, walk onstage and play his own style that kept me mesmerized.
“I went to see them so often, sometimes two to three times a week when they did the L.A. club circuit (usually a week at each place, and there were eight of them), that my mother told me after that first year or two that I should change my last name to Dillard. The fire to be a musical performer had been ignited. As you can imagine, changing my college major from math to banjo was an easy decision that came along with that.
“The Dillards’ albums took me out of Orange County on roads that led to starting a band. Their appearances on 'The Andy Griffith Show' (Mayberry) as the Darling Family were anxiously awaited by all, and Douglas’ session playing on many soundtracks and hits brought the banjo to even more people. Later, he ventured into country-rock, which helped set the tone for that emerging form of SoCal music that I was a part of. The many accolades that Douglas received were always high praise, especially for his friendly, human qualities.
“One night at an after show picking party at a club owner's house, Doug broke a string on his banjo. I always brought mine along, but never played in front of him. I spent many hours studying his attack, strings, setup of his instrument, method of playing, stance and tone, all in vain to try to make mine sound like his. My banjo just did not sound like his. I offered him the use of mine while I changed the string. He started playing it, and it sounded just like his. That is when I learned that, 'it's the archer, not the bow.'
“I am grateful to have been able to call Dillard a friend. There would not have been a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with me in it if it had not been for Doug. Consequently, there would not have been a ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ album if not for him. Thank you, Douglas, for what you did for me.”
Their hits could fill an entire Saturday night, last until the first church bell rang on Sunday morning and provide a sweat-drenched workout on the dance floor that broke only for the slow numbers. Even more remarkable was that each classic gem of the Bee Gees, whose co-founder Robin Gibb died Sunday after a long battle with cancer, would be packed with feeling.
There’s “Jive Talkin’,” the group’s frenetic ode to a lying lover, which highlights a skeptical Gibb’s sweet tenor. “How Deep Is Your Love” finds Gibb, who co-founded the Bee Gees in 1958 with brothers Barry and Maurice (Robin’s fraternal twin), describing him and his lover “living in a world of fools breaking us down,” when they should really just leave them alone. That song alone was responsible for countless dark-corner slow dances.
The climax, of course, would hit with the first few notes of “Staying Alive” from “Saturday Night Fever,” the 1977 double-album soundtrack that made Robin and his brothers international superstars and helped define disco — and the 1970s.