Saturday, November 29, 2014

America, The #41 Artist of the Seventies*

The members of this great trio were all sons of American fathers and British mothers.  Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek met while attending London Central High School in the mid-60's.  They formed the group America with borrowed acoustic guitars and sensational three-part harmony.

The group began playing clubs around London, and in 1970, they landed a break in opening for the Who and Elton John at the Roundhouse.  This exposure helped land them a recording contract with Kinney Records in 1971 and assigned to the U.K. division of Warner Brothers Records.  America brought in Ian Samwell, lead guitarist for Cliff Richard, to produce their first album.  Jeff Dexter, Samwell's roommate, co-produced the album and became America's manager. 

America released their debut album with moderate results.  Samwell and Dexter took the group to Morgan Studios to record a few other songs.  One of them was called "Desert Song".  After several performances, the song was retitled "A Horse With No Name".  It was a worldwide hit early in 1972--#1 for three weeks in the U.S., #2 in Australia, and #3 in the U.K., and was certified Gold.

The album was re-released with the smash added, and it rapidly sold over one million copies, and this time, it became a #1 album.  A second single release kept up the momentum, as the single "I Need You" reached #9 in the United States, #7 on the Adult chart.

Another outstanding track on the album, and a fan favorite, is "Sandman".

The members of America moved to Los Angeles after their first album.  Since Samwell and Dexter lived in the U.K., the group had to get new management.  They decided to produce their second album themselves, and brought in veteran session drummer Hal Blaine and bassist Joe Osborn.  The aim was to evolve into a more rock-oriented style than their acoustic debut, and Peek began playing lead guitar.

America released the album Homecoming in 1972.  The single "Ventura Highway" led the way at #3 among Adults, and #8 overall.


Homecoming has now been certified Platinum as well.  "Don't Cross The River" is another excellent song on the album.  It made it to #23 on the Adult chart.

It had been an amazing year, and America won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards.  This is "Only In Your Heart".

The album Hat Trick (recorded at L.A.'s famous Record Plant) followed in 1973, and more good news for the group.  The original version of "Muskrat Love" landed at #11 on the Adult chart.

Following Hat Trick, America scored a coup in hiring producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick, who both were key players in helping the Beatles become the #1 act of all-time.  The immediate result was the 1974 album Holiday, with Martin taking the trademark acoustic sound of America and adding strings and bass.  The group released "Tin Man", a huge hit at #1 Adult and #4 overall.

Holiday returned the trio to Gold status.  America made it two #1 Adult songs in a row with the single "Lonely People", which also rose to #5 on the Popular chart. (Please click on the "Play" icon in the top left-hand portion of the video...)

In 1975, America released the album Hearts, which featured another of their best songs--"Sister Golden Hair".  It went straight to #1.

Hearts too was certified Gold.  "Daisy Jane" reached #4 on the Adult chart and #20 overall.


Woman Tonight by America on Grooveshark
America was already one of the top acts of the decade, and they released History:  America's Greatest Hits to take full advantage.  The compilation album has now sold over four million copies.  The new single "Woman Tonight" is still a fan favorite.


In 1976, the group recorded the album Hideaway at Caribou Ranch in Colorado, the location where Elton John recorded his popular 1974 album.  The results were not the same, either compared to EJ's Caribou, or compared to previous America albums.  The single "Today's The Day" did top the Adult chart.


"Amber Cascades" peaked at #17 on Adult chart.  Martin and the group recorded the album Harbor on the island of Kauai in Hawai'i in 1976.  Unfortunately, it continued the downward trend for the group, as it was the first America album to not go Gold, and all three singles did not chart.

In May of 1977, Peek renewed his Christian faith after years of recreational drug use.  Peek left the group and began recording Christian music.  Beckley and Bunnell decided to continue as a duo, and signed with Capitol Records.  America scored their final Top 10 song in 1982 with "You Can Do Magic". 

This incredible group enjoyed 14 hits in the Seventies--six of them were Top 10 hits, with two #1's.  America sold 7.5 million albums in the decade.

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