Thursday, February 27, 2020

James Taylor, The #43 Artist of the Rock Era

"These are songs that dance on your soul. His music erases pain; it creates emotional bonds to reality"

"An excellent artist."

"His music is universal. What an amazing voice."

"This man is a great musical storyteller."

"In his voice  I hear  a kind , sharing and respectful sensibilities/messages."

"He's a master!"

"He has what has to be one of the smoothest voices of all-time."

"His mellow sound was a healing balm for the nation."

"One of the best songwriters ever."

"His music is so innocent and simple and makes me feel so many emotions."

"Brilliant guitarist and songs from the soul."

"What a legend."

"One of the all-time greats!"

James Taylor was born March 12, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts.  When James was three, the family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina when his father, Isaac, accepted a job as assistant professor at the University of North Carolina.

Taylor played the cello early in his childhood, but switched to guitar in 1960.  James enrolled in Milton Academy, a preparatory school in Massachusetts, in 1961.  The family enjoyed summer vacations on Martha's Vineyard, where James met guitarist and songwriter Danny Kortchmar.  Taylor wrote his first song at age 14, and by the summer of 1963, James and Kortchmar played coffeehouses around the Vineyard, promoting themselves as Jamie & Kootch.  

Taylor wasn't comfortable at Milton and finished his junior year at Chapel Hill High School.  During this time, he played electric guitar with a group that his brother Alex had formed called the Corsayers.  But since James was no long close to his former schoolmates, he returned to Milton for his senior year.
Taylor began applying to colleges but was about to enter a critical stage of his life.  He slept 20 hours a day, his grades went downhill and James fell into depression.  To his credit, James committed himself to McLean Hospital in 1965 and earned his diploma the next year from the hospital's associated Arlington School.  

Taylor (left, above) decided on Elon University, but left after one semester to form a band with Kortchmar that they named the Flying Machine.  Soon, the group played at the Night Owl Cafe in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan, New York.  They recorded one of James' songs, "Brighten Your Night With My Day", which received airplay in the Northeast but did not spread nationally.  Taylor became addicted to heroin during this time and shortly afterwards, the group broke up.

Taylor played guitar in Washington Square Park, but when he ran out of money, James called his father Isaac, who flew to New York City and rescue him, renting a car and driving James back to North Carolina.  James received treatment for six months and made a temporary recovery.

Spending part of a family inheritance, James (above, right with Peter Asher) moved to London in 1967 to begin a solo career.  After recording some demos in Soho, old friend Kortchmar set up a meeting with Peter Asher, formerly part of the duo Peter & Gordon and A&R head of the recently formed Beatles label Apple Records.  Paul McCartney and George Harrison both loved the tape and after hearing him perform live, signed Taylor to a recording contract.  Asher later signed on to be James' manager.

In 1968, Taylor (above, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Taylor) recorded his debut album at Trident Studios at the time the Beatles were recording The White Album.  The line "holy host of others standing around me" in "Carolina On My Mind" refers to the Beatles, as McCartney and Harrison helped him on the song.  

But James reverted to using heroin and methedrine again.  He underwent treatment in England before returning to a New York hospital and finally committing himself again to the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  

The album received good reviews, but did not sell well because James was unable to promote it due to his condition.  Taylor headlined a six-night stay at the famous nightclub The Troubadour in Los Angeles in 1969 and performed at the Newport Folk Festival.  Soon after, however, James broke both hands and both feet in a motorcycle accident on Martha's Vineyard.  While recovering, he continued to write songs and decided to switch to Warner Brothers Records.

James moved to California and recorded his second album there.  In 1970, he released the album Sweet Baby James.  The single "Fire And Rain" is his personal story of trying to break his drug addiction and the suicide of his friend, Suzanne Schnerr.  It was a huge hit, rising to #2 in Canada and #5 in the United States.  

Sweet Baby James has now sold over three million copies worldwide.  James re-released the single "Carolina In My Mind", which he had first issued from his debut album.  It still only peaked at #67, highly underrated considering its popularity today.

Taylor appeared in the movie Two-Lane BlackTop, and in 1971, performed in a Vancouver, Canada benefit concert to raise money for Greenpeace's protests of nuclear weapons tests by U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.  On March 1, 1971, James appeared in a Time magazine cover story.

Taylor released the album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon.  "You've Got A Friend" went to #1 in the U.S., #2 in Canada and #4 in the U.K.  

"You've Got A Friend" earned a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, while King, writer of the song, won Song of the Year.

The album soared to #2 and has sold over 2.5 million copies in the U.S. alone.  "Long Ago And Far Away" gave James a #4 Adult hit.

In 1972, Taylor released the album One Man Dog, which featured King, Linda Ronstadt and Carly Simon.   The single "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" climbed to #3 on the Adult chart and #14 overall. 

Taylor released the album Walking Man, with Paul and Linda McCartney helping out.  With no hits, the album failed to go Gold.

James and Carly recorded "Mockingbird" in 1974, a #3 hit in Canada that reached #5 in the U.S.

Taylor returned to the forefront with the 1975 album Gorilla.  Carly sang backing vocals on the album.  James covered the Marvin Gaye hit "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and scored a #1 hit in Canada and with adults in the U.S.; it peaked at #5 overall.  
The album was certified Gold and there were more positive results--On November 3, Taylor and Simon married. 

The single "Mexico" rose to #5 on the Easy Listening chart.

Stevie Wonder, David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt and Art Garfunkel helped James with his 1976 album In the Pocket, which gave Taylor another Gold certification.  The single "Shower The People" raced to #1 on the Adult chart but stalled at #22 Popular, making it one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

Taylor released his Greatest Hits collection, which has gone over 10 million in U.S. sales and 20 million worldwide.  In 1977, James switched labels again, signing with Columbia.  In 1977, he released the album JT, which was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.  Taylor took another remake, "Handy Man", to #1 on the Easy Listening chart and #5 overall in the United States and #1 in Canada.

"Handy Man" earned James a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.  His follow-up, "Your Smiling Face", only made it to #20, though it was a #6 Easy Listening hit.

JT has sold over three million copies in the U.S.

James joined Paul Simon and Garfunkel for a remake of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World".  A #1 smash on the Adult Contemporary chart, it's another highly underrated song at #17 overall. 

James appeared on Broadway before releasing the album Flag in 1979.  Taylor's remake of the Drifters smash "Up On The Roof" was a #7 Adult Contemporary hit that stopped at #28 overall.  He was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male at the Grammy Awards.

Taylor and Carly Simon performed at Madison Square Garden for the No Nukes concert, which was released as an album and a movie.
In 1981, Taylor released the album Dad Loves His Work.

The album coincided with a separation from Carly, with the two finalizing a divorce in 1983.  James continued to battle his drug addiction and underwent a methadone maintenance program.  Affected by the deaths of friends Dennis Wilson and John Belushi, James finally kicked his heroin habit.

Taylor's single "Her Town Too", sung with J.D. Souther, represented his personal feelings about the divorce.  The song peaked at #5 AC and #11 overall, another of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs*.

In 1985, Taylor played before 300,000 at the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, and the response from fans rekindled his spirit and desire to continue recording.  James covered the Buddy Holly song "Everyday", which became a #3 Adult smash.

The title song from the album That's Why I'm Here refers to this experience.  
In 1988, James released the album Never Die Young.  In 1991, James released the album New Moon Shine, which went Platinum.

Taylor released the album Hourglass in 1997.  The single "Little More Time With You" rose to #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart and helped the album win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Album.
In 2000, Taylor was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  

In 2002, Taylor released another album that went on to sell over one million copies, October Road.  James was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male at the Grammy Awards and also was honored with the ASCAP Founders Award.  
The next year, the Chapel Hill Museum in North Carolina opened a permanent exhibit dedicated to James and the US-15-501 highway bridge over Morgan Creek, near the site of his family home, was named in honor of Taylor.

In 2003, Taylor joined Country star Alison Krauss to record "How's The World Treating You" and the pair received a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

James released the album James Taylor:  A Christmas Album in 2004.  It featured a #5 AC Hit with James' version of "Deck The Halls".  Taylor earned another Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

In 2005, James received an honorary doctorate of music from the Berkee College of Music.  Later in the year, he performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to Games 2 and 3 of the World Series in 2004.  In 2006, Taylor recorded the song "Our Town" for the animated movie Cars.  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Taylor released the album One Man Band in 2007 through Starbucks.  James performed at the We Are One:  The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Taylor recorded the album Covers in 2008 and received kudos at the Grammy Awards with nominations for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male for his version of the Glen Campbell hit "Wichita Lineman".

In 2009, Taylor received an honorary doctorate of music from Williams College in Willamstown, Massachusetts.
In 2010, Taylor and Carole King embarked on a Troubadour Reunion Tour that took the two superstars to North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.  The tour grossed over $59 million, one of the most successful of the year.

In 2012, James received the "Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" from the Ministry of Culture & Communication of France.

    In 2015, Taylor released the album Before This World on Concord Records, which became his only #1 album and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.  Also that year, James received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama, above.

    JT has scored 22 career hits, with five Top 10 songs and one #1 on the Popular chart although, as noted above, several songs we now know to be highly underrated.  His popularity, however, has always been strongest with adults, which of course make up the vast majority of the Rock Era audience, and on the Adult chart, James had chalked up 38 career hits, with an amazing 24 of those landing in the Top 10 and four going to #1.  
    Taylor has sold over 100 million albums throughout the world.  He had an incredible streak from 1977 to 2007 when he sold over a million copies of every album released during that time.

    James has won five Grammy Awards from 11 nominations and one ASCAP Award.

    Wednesday, February 26, 2020

    Bob Seger, The #44 Artist of the Rock Era

    "Bob rocks!"

    "A true Rock legend."

    "Bob Seger has done dozens of some of the best songs ever."

    "THE GREATEST!!!   Totally insightful of the human spirit."

    "Seger is American Rock and Roll royalty."

    "He was a voice for the times."

    "It doesn't get any better than Seger."

    "A brilliant artist."

    "One of the best songwriters that ever lived."

    "His music touches my heart every time I hear it."

    "Rock and Roll caviar."

    "To this day, his voice melts me."

    "This man IS Rock and Roll."

    "There are no adjectives to describe how great he is."

    This hard-working artist was born May 6, 1945 in Detroit, Michigan and moved with his family to Ann Arbor when he was five.  Bob's father, Stewart, passed on his love of music to Bob after playing several instruments.  Bob was on the track team and graduated from Ann Arbor High School (now Pioneer High School) in 1963.  

    While at Ann Arbor, Seger led a band called the Decibels.  They recorded a song at a studio belonging to Del Shannon in 1961.  That song, "The Lonely One" received exactly one play on a local radio station.
    Seger (left, above) then joined the Town Criers, which played several shows.  Along the way, Seger met Doug Brown and soon joined his band, Doug Brown & the Omens.  They too released a single in 1965 called "TGIF".  

    Seger met manager Edward "Punch" Andrews and began writing and producing for some of Punch's other acts, including the Mushrooms, led by Glenn Frey.  He formed the group Bob Seger and the Last Heard and recorded the song "East Side Story" on Hideout Records in 1966.  The song was a local hit, selling 50,000 copies, and led to a contract with Cameo-Parkway Records.  

    In addition to Seger, the band included drummer Pep Perrine (who had been with the Town Criers), guitarist Carl Lagassa and bassist Dan Honaker.  Seger and the Last Heard released four other singles, with "Heavy Music" selling well, reaching #82 in Canada and just missing the Billboard Hot 100.  Promotion of the single suffered when the record label folded shortly after release.
    In 1968, the group signed with Capitol Records, but Capitol insisted that they change their name to the Bob Seger System.  By this time, Lagassa had left and keyboardist Bob Schultz came aboard.  Their first single "2 + 2 = ?" reached #1 in New York City, Buffalo, New York and Orlando, Florida and was another big hit in Detroit.  It also peaked at #79 in Canada.

    The Bob Seger System released "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man", featuring Frey on backing vocals, which went to #17 in the United States.  The album of the same name also charted at #62.  
    Singer/songwriter Tom Neme joined the group and wrote most of the songs on the album Noah.  The album flopped and Seger was so negatively affected that he quit music and enrolled in college.  But the following year, Seger and the System released Mongrel without Neme's help.  Dan Watson replaced Schultz in the group for recording of the album.

    Mongrel received some local praise, but didn't sell well, and the group broke up.  In 1971, Seger released an acoustic album called Brand New Morning.  It too failed to garner attention and Capitol dropped Seger from its roster.

    Bob recorded with Teegarden & Van Winkle, who had enjoyed a minor hit with "God, Love and Rock & Roll".  They released the album Smokin' O.P.'s.
    After a 1972 tour with Teegarden & Van Winkle, Seger formed his own band, with many of those musicians later joining Eric Clapton.  In 1974, Bob released the album Back in '72, recorded with the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.  

    Seger continued to perform in live shows around the Detroit area, forming the Silver Bullet Band:  guitarist Drew Abbott, Charlie Allen Martin on drums, keyboardist Rick Manasa, Chris Campbell on bass and saxophonist Alto Reed.  From their album Seven, "Get Out Of Denver" was a minor hit.

    Capitol reevaluated Seger's music and signed him again in 1974.  Robyn Robbins replaced Manasa for the album Beautiful Loser.  "Katmandu", which peaked at #45 at the time, gets quite a bit of airplay today. 
    Seger was beginning to get a relatively small but loyal following, and two shows at the Cobo Arena in Detroit were recorded and released as the album Live Bullet.  Critis Dave Marsh later said that "Live Bullet is one of the best live albums ever made."  While Seger was a star in Detroit, playing before 80,00 fans at a show at the Pontiac Silverdome, his star had yet to spread.  That would soon change.

    In 1976, Seger and the Silver Bullet Band released the incredible album Night Moves.  "Night Moves" was the song which finally allowed Seger to break through after 15 years of trying, rising to #4.

    "Mainstreet" topped the Canadian chart, but when it peaked at #24 in the United States, came one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.  Seger has many in that category.

    "Rock And Roll Never Forgets" peaked at #41, but did much better than that at most radio stations.

    As music fans bought the album, they discovered great tracks in addition to the singles, a common theme in Seger albums.

    "Sunspot Baby" is another solid song.
    Night Moves has now sold over six million copies in the United States alone.  This also generated interest in Seger's catalog, propelling Beautiful Loser to Double Platinum and Live Bullet to sales of five million copies.

    In 1977, Martin was struck by a car in an accident that took away his ability to walk.  David Teegarden, who had collaborated with Seger previoiusly, replaced him in the group.  In 1978, Seger and the Silver Bullet Band released the album Stranger in Town.  "Still The Same" hit #4.

    "Hollywood Nights", with a peak of #12, is another underrated song.

    "We've Got Tonight" reached #9 in Canada and #13 in the United States.

    One can look throughout the Rock Era and it is difficult to find two back-to-back albums that are as fine as Night Moves and Stranger in Town.  "Old Time Rock And Roll" peaked at #28, another of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs*.  The song was the basis for an iconic moment in film history when Tom Cruise mimed it in the great movie Risky Business.

    "Old Time Rock And Roll" was named one of the Songs of the Century in 2001.
    Stranger in Town has sold over five million units in the United States alone.

    In 1979, Seger co-wrote "Heartache Tonight" for the Eagles, which went to #1.  Craig Frost, formerly with Grand Funk Railroad, replaced Robbins in the Silver Bullet Band.

    Bob released another outstanding album in 1980 with Against the Wind.  The Eagles returned the favor of Seger's work with them the previous year by singing backing vocals on the single "Fire Lake".  It became one of the top multi-format hits of the year, going to #3 in Canada and #6 in the United States.

    The title song hit #5 in the U.S. and #6 in Canada.

    The album matched Night Moves with sales of six million in the United States alone.  The single "You'll Accomp'ny Me" made it to #8 in Canada and #14 in the United States.

    There wasn't a "chart" back then to measure how popular album tracks were, but if there were, "Her Strut" would have dominated it.

    Seger won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for the album and was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for the single.  He also earned nominations for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist and Favorite Pop/Rock Album.  Seger also was nominated along with the other artists who contributed to the great "Urban Cowboy" Soundtrack for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture.

    Seger continued to shine on stage and in 1981, he released the live album Nine Tonight, which has now sold over four million copies.  The Mainstream Rock chart debuted that year, and "Tryin' To Live My Life Without You" took advantage, climbing to #2, with an overall peak of #5.

    "Feel Like A Number" was featured in one of the year's sensational movies, Body Heat.

    In 1982, Seger released the album The Distance.  Abbott left during recording of the album, replaced by Dawayne Bailey.  Teegarden left soon after, replaced by another Grand Funk alum, Don Brewer.  The lead single "Shame On The Moon" advanced to #2 for four weeks overall and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

    "Even Now" advanced to #2 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #12 Popular.

    A third single, "Roll Me Away", also received significant airplay.
    Bob was nominated for Best Rock Performance, Solo at the Grammy Awards for the album.  The Distance is approaching two million in sales.

    Seger recorded "Understanding" for the movie Teachers in 1984.  It hit #4 on the MR chart and #14 overall.

    Two years later, Bob released the album Like a Rock.  The title song gave Bob his first #1 Mainstream Rock hit that peaked at #12 Popular.  It was used for several years by Chevrolet for a popular commercial.  

    The album sold over three million copies.

    Bob played 105 shows before 1.5 million fans.  In 1987, Seger & the Silver Bullet Band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street.

    Seger wrote the song "Shakedown" for the soundtrack to the movie Beverly Hills Cop for longtime friend Glenn Frey.  Frey lost his voice before going into the studio to record it, so Bob recorded it.  Seger rode the song to #1 in the U.S. and Canada.  
    Seger was nominated for Best Rock Performance, Solo at the Grammy Awards, Favorite Pop/Rock Single at the American Music Awards and Best Original Song at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards, and he won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a Film.  Bob also won an ASCAP Music Award for Most Performed Song From a Motion Picture.

    In 1991, Seger released a solid but largely unappreciated album The Fire Inside.  "The Real Love" rose to #4 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #24 overall.

    Seger was nominated for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male and Best Rock Performance, Solo at the Grammy Awards for The Fire Inside.  The title song also landed in the Top 10 on the MR chart.
    In 1994, Seger released his Greatest Hits package, selling nearly 10 million albums in the U.S. alone.

    The 1995 album It's a Mystery went Gold.  Seger promoted it with an extensive tour that ranked as the fourth-largest in terms of number of tickets sold in 1996.

    Seger than concentrated on his family for nearly ten years without recording or touring.  In 2004, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    Bob released the album Face the Promise in 2006.  It has sold over one million copies.

    In 2009, Seger released another compilation Early Seger, Vol. 1.  
    In 2012, Seger was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  In 2014, he released the album Ride Out.

    Bob has racked up 31 career hits.  Six of those have reached the Top 10 although many are underrated, and he has one #1 song to his credit.  Although the Mainstream Rock chart didn't exist for the first 21 years of his career, Bob still charted 16 hits with 11 Top 10 songs and 3 #1's.  Those numbers would triple or quadruple had the chart been around since his early days.

    According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Seger has sold over 50 million albums.

    Seger won one Grammy Award from seven nominations and was nominated for three American Music Awards, one Academy Award, one Golden Globe Award, one MTV Video Music Award and he won an ASCAP Music Award.

    Tuesday, February 25, 2020

    ABBA, The #45 Artist of the Rock Era

    "ABBA was so awesome!"

    "Brilliant music and arrangements."

    "I don't believe there have ever been better melodies.  That is what ABBA excelled at."

    "Great songwriting and singing."

    "Incredible how many great songs they did."

    "ABBA recorded some of the best music ever."

    "One of the great groups in history."

    "They really are amazing."

    "John Lennon said ABBA was one of the best groups ever.  I agree!"

    "Everything by ABBA is great."

    "One of the best bands in history."

    "They were magical."

    "ABBA's music touched the heart."

    This immensely popular Swedish group began when keyboardist Benny Andersson was in the Hep Stars and Björn Ulvaeus led the Hootenanny Singers.  Both acts became familiar with one another as they played at the same venues.  Anderson and Ulvaeus  wrote a song which the Hep Stars recorded.  

    It wasn't a big hit, but Stig Anderson, owner of Polar Music Records and manager of the Hootenanny Singers, liked what he heard and encouraged the pair to write more.  

    In 1969, Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad both competed at Melodifestivalen, the Swedish festival which would select the country's entry to the prestigious Eurovision Song Contest.  

    Lyngstad, who was the only member of ABBA to have been born in Norway, began singing with dance bands at age 13 and formed her own band, the Anni-Frid Four.  When she was 21, Anni-Frid won a national talent competition in Sweden to earn a recording contract with EMI Sweden.  

    Within a month, the two became romantically involved.  In 1971, Andersson began producing her recordings, and Lyngstad scored the #1 Swedish song "Min egen stad" ("My Own Town"), which Benny also wrote and all future members of ABBA sang on.  

    Meanwhile, when the Hep Stars broke up, Andersson and Ulvaeus recorded their first album together, called Lycka, which means happiness, in 1970.  Both Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog, Björn's girlfriend, were in the studio during the recording of the album and added backing vocals.  

    Ulvaeus continued to perform and record with the Hootenanny Singers through 1974.  Fältskog also was an accomplished singer who already had recorded a #1 song in Sweden when she was 18.  She wrote her own songs and had released four solo albums from 1968-71.

    Fältskog and Ulvaeus married July 6, 1971 and sang backing vocals on albums of the other.  In 1972, Fältskog starred as Mary Magdalene in the Swedish production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  

    Björn and Benny recorded "Hej, gamle man", which went to #1 for 15 weeks in Sweden.  More and more, they aided each other in the studio, and in 1971, Fältskog, Andersson and Ulvaeus toured together.

    Stig Anderson continued to be a driving force in spurring Andersson and Ulvaeus to combine their talents.  With Stig's encouragement, the two wrote "Säg det med en sång" ("Say It With A Song") for the 1972 Melodifestivalen.  The song finished third and became a Swedish hit.

    Three Andersson/Ulvaeus songs caught on in Japan, with one becoming a Top 10 hit there.
    In 1972, the duo wrote "People Need Love", with vocals by the women, credited to Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid.  It was a minor hit in Sweden and also received airplay in the United States.

    Now the four artists were as convinced as Anderson that they were on to something.  They released their debut album Ring Ring in 1973 and competed again at Melodifestivalen with the title song.  Once again, they finished third.  

    That year, the group worked on changing their name, finally combining the first letters of their four first names to come up with ABBA.  
    In 1974, ABBA persisted with their goal of getting into the Eurovision Song Contest, which would earn them great exposure.  With "Waterloo", ABBA not only won the Meldifestivalen in Sweden but, in an historic performance, captured first place in the Eurovision Song Contest.

    This led to a tour of Europe and performances on the continent's top television shows.  ABBA traveled briefly to the United States to appear on The Mike Douglas Show and scored their first big hit in the U.S., as "Waterloo" rose to #6.  The song topped charts in the U.K., West Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway. 
    When "Honey Honey" in the U.S. and a re-released "Ring Ring" in Europe failed to generate enthusiasm, there was discussion that ABBA was a one-hit wonder. The group had to cancel some dates of a 1974 tour of West Germany, Denmark and Austria, but Scandinavian audiences loved them later in the year.

    ABBA released "So Long", which also failed, but in 1975, the single "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" had more success.  It went straight to #1 in Australia and New Zealand.  Still, with a peak of #15 in the United States, it is one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

    In 1975, ABBA released their self-titled album and "SOS" reached #1 in West Germany, Australia and New Zealand, #2 in Austria, the Netherlands and Norway, #3 in Ireland and #6 in the U.K.  It was another underrated song in the U.S. at #15, but did receive a BMI Award for airplay.

    "Mamma Mia" rocketed to #1 on the U.K., West Germany, Australia and Ireland and #2 in New Zealand and Norway, but stopped far short at #32 in the U.S.  It is another highly underrated song.
    ABBA was beginning to win fans throughout the world, which radio stations did not fully understand, especially in the United States.  The group released a Greatest Hits album in 1976, even though they hadn't yet enjoyed big success in either the U.S. or the U.K., the two biggest popular music markets.

    To those in the business, the success of the compilation was a huge surprise.  It sold over one million copies in the United States and went to #1 on the U.K. Album chart.  The album contained the new song "Fernando", which exploded into a worldwide sensation, reaching #1 in 13 countries, including the U.K., Australia and West Germany.  In Australia, it held down #1 for 14 weeks, tying the Beatles' "Hey Jude" for the longest-running #1 song.  "Fernando" was either #1 or #2 in every country in the world except the United States, where the bad ears of music directors kept it down at #12.  The song continues to rank as one of the best-selling singles in history in Australia.  

    "Fernando" proved to be the springboard for even bigger things to come.  By 1980, only two other artists in the U.K. had scored more #1 songs--Elvis Presley and the Beatles.  In 1974, ABBA released their worldwide breakthrough album, Arrival.  "Dancing Queen" was the song that finally beat those music directors in the U.S. over the head--the country finally heard what millions around the world already knew--this group was amazing.  "Dancing Queen" was nearly a universal #1 song and sold over one million singles in the United States.

    Arrival still did far better in Europe, but it was certified Gold in the U.S.  The album went to #1 everywhere in the world except Austria, France and the United States.  On "Money, Money, Money", radio stations in the U.S. went back into denial.  While the song hit the Top 3 in every other country in the world, it stalled at #56.

    Even the great song "Knowing Me, Knowing You" peaked at #14 in the United States, despite #1 rankings in the U.K., West Germany and Ireland and Top 10 showings everywhere else in the world.
    By this time, ABBA were superstars in Europe and Australia and the press followed them constantly.  For their last two sold-out shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London, tickets were available only by mail applications.  The box office received 3.5 million requests for the two shows, enough to fill the Hall to capacity 580 times.

    ABBA released the film ABBA:  The Movie, accompanied by the release of the studio LP ABBA:  The Album in 1978.  The lead single "The Name Of The Game" landed in the Top 10 in every major country except the U.S., where it peaked at #12, to make it yet another of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

    The Album landed in the Top 10 in every country in the world except France and the United States.  "Take A Chance On Me" rose to #1 in the U.K., Ireland and Austria, #2 in the Netherlands, #3 in the U.S. and West Germany and #8 in Norway and sold over one million copies.

    Later in the year, ABBA started their own studio called Polar Music Studio in Stockholm.  It would later be used by numerous bands, including Led Zeppelin and Genesis.  ABBA released their compilation Greatest Hits Vol. 2, which contained their new song "Summer Night City", a smash in most countries.  

    For the first time in their career, ABBA toured the United States.  On January 9, 1979, the group performed "Chiquitita" at the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations, with proceeds from the song donated to UNICEF.  "Chiquitita" rose to #1 in 10 countries, but once again, the U.S. missed out at #29.
    But in just a matter of days after the UNICEF performance, Fältskog and Ulvaeus divorced.  ABBA members assured everyone they would continue to perform and tour, but Benny and Björn planned a secret trip to the Bahamas to work on the songs for the group's next album out of the limelight.

    The songwriting sessions went well and by April, ABBA released the album Voulez-Vous.  #3 in Ireland and the Netherlands, #4 in the U.K. and #7 in Australia but only #19 in the U.S.  
    Voulez-Vous was a Top 10 smash with the United States being the only country that was left out.

    ABBA pulled another single from Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, "Gimme!  Gimme!  Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)", a #1 smash in Ireland, #2 in West Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, #3 in the U.K. and Austria and #8 in Australia.

    The great song "I Have A Dream" hit #1 in Austria and the Netherlands and #2 in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
    The group performed a select few dates in North America to sold-out crowds, the last time ABBA would set foot on the continent.  They played 23 dates in Western Europe, including six sold-out shows at Wembley Arena in London,  and played 11 dates in Japan, nearly as many as they did in the much-larger United States.

    In 1981, ABBA released the album Super Trouper, the ninth #1 album in the U.K.  The single "The Winner Takes It All" raced to #1, it was the group's 10th #1 song in Ireland, their eighth chart-topper in the United Kingdom and their seventh #1 in the Netherlands.  It also peaked at #2 in Austria, #3 in Australia, #4 in West Germany and #8 in the U.S.

    Unfortunately, the United States missed the boat once again on the big picture--they had the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world in which Super Trouper wasn't a Top 10 album.  The title song went to #1 in the U.K., West Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, #2 in Norway and #3 in Austria.

    Another amazing song, "One Of Us", hit #1 in West Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands and #3 in the U.K. and Austria.  The United States still didn't get it, but they soon would.

    ABBA recorded a compilation of Spanish-language versions of their hits, Gracias Por La Música and released the album that year.

    Andersson and Lyngstad announced they were filing for divorce.  The next year, ABBA released their final studio album, The Visitors, which revealed perhaps Andersson and Ulvaeus' best songwriting of their careers.  

    There was rampant speculation as to the future of the group, especially given that both couples had now split.  In 1982, the group recorded three new songs, but Andersson and Ulvaeus were not satisfied, and the group took a break.  Instead, they released double compilation album The Singles:  The First Ten Years.  

    ABBA recorded new songs for the compilation, including "The Day Before You Came", #3 in Australia and the Netherlands.

    ABBA promoted the release of the album with television appearances.  Andersson and Ulvaeus collaborated with Tim Rice to write songs for the musical Chess and the children's musical Abbacadabra, a French television program featuring ABBA songs, while Fältskog and Lyngstad concentrated on solo albums.

    In 1986, all four members recorded a video performing an acoustic version of "Tivedshambo", the first song written by manager Stig Anderson, for Anderson's 55th birthday.  It was the first time they had all been together in two years.  ABBA performed for the final time on the British television show The Late, Late Breakfast Show.    
    In 1992, ABBA released the compilation ABBA Gold:  Greatest Hits.

    Despite all of their hit records and international sales, management at American radio stations still could not comprehend the popularity of ABBA in the United States.  Something was about to happen that would change all that and would be a slap in the face to those who had been unable to see what their listeners liked.

    In 1994, two Australian movies were released related to ABBA's music--The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding.  ABBA released the four-disc box set Thank You for the Music.

    Several artists did covers of ABBA's songs and compilations did so well there ABBA fans clammored for a comeback by the group.  In 2000, ABBA nonetheless turned down an offer of $1 billion U.S. dollar to perform 100 concerts in a reunion tour.  
    In 2002, ABBA was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.  Andersson and Ulvaeus had been working on a story that would feature ABBA's music, and in 2008, the movie musical Mamma Mia! premiered, starring Meryl Streep.  All four members were on hand for the Swedish premiere on July 4.  

    The movie sparked renewed interest in ABBA's music throughout the world, with the album ABBA Gold:  Greatest Hits remarkably reaching #1 for the fifth time in the U.K., 16 years after its release.  The Mamma Mia!  The Movie soundtrack album went to #1 in the United States, better than any of their studio albums had ever done.
    On January 20, 2016, all four members reunited for Mamma Mia The Party in Stockholm for the first time since the movie premiere of Mamma Mia!.  

    In 2010 ABBA was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

    Also that year, ABBAWORLD, a touring exhibition with interactive and audiovisual activities that allowed fans to relive the story of the group, premiered at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London.  

    In 2015, "Dancing Queen" was included in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
    ABBA collected 20 hits in the U.S., with four Top 10 songs and one #1.  Of all the stories in The Top 100 Artists*, ABBA's is one in which radio station management didn't get it, to put it bluntly.  It wasn't that people in the United States didn't love ABBA; that fact was proven many times over with Mamma Mia, but rather that some radio stations stubbornly refused to play their songs.  With Mamma Mia, ABBA had the last laugh on those radio stations.

    Compare those career chart statistics above with other countries:  in the U.K., which generally prefers a harder style of Rock to the United States, ABBA generated 25 career hits with a sensational 19 of those going Top 10 and nine #1's.  Australia, another country with similar listening tastes, the group landed 30 hits with 16 Top 10 songs and six #1's.  In West Germany, ABBA charted 26 hits with 20 Top 10's and nine #1 songs.  The group had 23 career hits in Ireland, with 19 Top 10's and 12 #1's.  

    We consider all of that in our rankings.  Had ABBA generated more hits or sales in the United States, they would be closer to the Top 10, but as Mamma Mia continues to play to sold-out audiences and sales continue to grow in the U.S., perhaps they will edge closer in the years to come.

    Actual record sales are disputed.  Certifiable sales top 100 million, with some estimates putting the figure at 500 million.  We use certified sales backed by reliable sources--the 100 million figure is the one we used in ranking them among the top artists.

    Monday, February 24, 2020

    Queen, The #46 Artist of the Rock Era

    "This is truly music at its finest."

    "Some of the best Rock vocals ever."

    "Excellent band."

    "These guys are so talented."

    "The real legend."

    "They are sensational."

    "Queen is one of the best bands of all-time."

    "This band is so awesome and inspiring."


    "Geniuses is an understatement!"

    "One of the best bands of the century."

    "Their music is amazing."

    In 1968, aspiring British musicians Brian May (lead guitar) and Tim Staffell (bass) formed a group and after bringing in drummer Roger Taylor, they became known as Smile.

    Staffell met Farrokh Bulsara, a fellow student at Ealing Art College  Bulsara assumed the first name of Freddie and after Staffell left, Bulsara joined the group and suggested they change their name to Queen.
    Queen performed with this lineup for the first time on July 18.  But after trying several bass players, they didn't decide on John Deacon until 1971.  Queen recorded a demo tape but didn't attract any record companies at the time.

    Bulsara changed his stage name to Freddie Mercury and the classic lineup played their first show together on July 2, 1971.  The following year, Queen signed a management deal with Norman Sheffield of Neptune Productions and they signed with EMI Records in 1973.  

    Queen released their self-titled debut album, which didn't do well at the time but has since been certified Gold.  In 1974, the group released Queen II, which received airplay in the U.K., but success was contained there.

    Queen opened for Mott the Hoople on a tour of the United States, but when May collapsed in the opening month and was subsequently diagnosed with hepatitis, the rest of the tour was cancelled.

    May recovered and joined the band in the studio to record their album Sheer Heart Attack, which they released in 1974.  Queen scored their first hit with "Killer Queen", a #2 hit in the U.K. and Ireland, #3 in the Netherlands.  The #12 peak in the U.S. is in direct contrast to the fact that the single went Gold in the U.S., making "Killer Queen" one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

    Tours extended into Canada and Japan in addition to several dates as headliners in the United States.  Queen split with Trident and eventually signed with Elton John's manager, John Reid.
    In 1975, Queen released the album A Night at the Opera, which became the most expensive album ever produced.  Many websites rush to claim it as "one of the best albums ever", but the album's sales stand at three million, an extremely low figure to be considered among the world's greatest albums of all-time.

    The song from the album that did emerge as one of the greatest of all-time was "Bohemian Rhapsody".  While it reached #1 in the U.K. for nine weeks, it didn't attain elite status in the United States until it was re-released years later.  In 1976, the song peaked at #9.  It hit #1 in every other major country in the world except Switzerland, where it peaked at #4, and West Germany, where it reached #7.
    "Bohemian Rhapsody" earned Grammy Award nominations for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chors and Best Arrangement for Voices.  The song is #3 in all-time sales in the U.K. behind "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid and "Candle In The Wind 1997" by Elton John.

    Queen released "You're My Best Friend" as the next single, which stalled at #16 in the United States but entered the Top 10 in most countries.  It is another of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

    In 1976, Queen released the album A Day at the Races, which went to #1 in the U.K. and Japan and #5 in the United States.  The album was similar to its predecessor, as evident on the single "Somebody To Love".  Mercury, May and Taylor recorded their voices on multiple tracks to serve as a 100-voice gospel choir.  It climbed to #2 in Canada, #3 in Ireland, #6 in the Netherlands, #7 in the U.K. and #16 in the United States.

    Queen toured the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan and played before 150,000 at a free concert in Hyde Park of London.  They returned the following year with the album News of the World.  The first single "We Are The Champions" was often preceded on the radio by "We Will Rock You", and both became sports anthems played throughout the world in the 40 years since.  It hit the Top 5 in the U.K., Canada, the Netherlands and the U.S.

    News of the World has now sold over four million copies in the U.S. alone.  In 1978, Queen returned with the album Jazz.  However, the double single "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Bicycle Race" paled compared to previous efforts from the group.  It raced to #5 in the Netherlands and #10 in Ireland, but stalled at #24 in the United States.

    The album Jazz followed in 1979.  "Don't Stop Me Now" was a Top 10 hit in the U.K. and ended up selling over one million copies in the United States.  

    After a tour, Queen released the album Live Killers in 1979, which has sold over two million copies.  Later in the year, they released the single "Crazy Little Thing Called Love".  It rose to #1 in Australia for seven weeks and #1 in the United States for four weeks and also topped charts in Canada and the Netherlands.  
    Queen performed in London at the Concert for the People of Kampuchea, organized by Paul McCartney.

    Queen released the album The Game in 1980, which featured another huge hit, "Another One Bites The Dust".  It gave the group another #1 hit of three weeks and helped The Game go to #1 on the Album chart for five weeks.

      The song won an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Single and Queen was nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group.  Queen also earned Grammy nominations for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Producer of the Year.

      The Game has now sold over four million copies.  "Play The Game" was a hit in some countries and is a worthy track.
      The busy group also recorded the music for the soundtrack to the movie Flash Gordon.  

      Queen expanded their 1981 tour to include South America, playing before 300,000 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  They then recorded the single "Under Pressure" with David Bowie, which was a Top 10 hit in some European countries but success did not spread, falling far short at #29 in the United States.  

      No less than 26 consecutive singles failed to reach the Top 10 in the U.S. until the re-release of "Bohemian Rhapsody".  Eighteen singles have failed since then.
      The band released their compilation album Greatest Hits, now the best-selling album in the history of the U.K. charts.  It has sold over eight million copies in the U.S. and over 25 million worldwide.

      In 1982, Queen released the album Hot Space which was a giant letdown.  The band had to cut an American tour short due to lack of interest.  After the tour, they switched from Elektra Records to EMI/Capitol.

      Unable to fill venues, Queen took a year off from touring.  May and Taylor released solo projects before the group released the album The Works in 1984.  Once again, it failed in the U.S. but was a successful seller in the U.K.  Europe loved "Radio Ga Ga" but it stopped at #11 in Canada and #16 in the U.S.

      Similarly, "I Want To Break Free" reached the Top 10 everywhere except North America.
      Queen's tour included dates in South Africa, a violation of the cultural boycott of the apartheid country.  When they returned, the group was placed on the United Nation's blacklisted artists.

      In 1985, Queen played before 300,000 people on consecutive nights at the Rock in Rio Festival in Rio de Janeiro.  They then played at Live Aid in London's Wembley Stadium later in the year and released the boxed set The Complete Works.
      In 1986, Queen released the album A Kind of Magic before going on tour.  They played before one million people, including a then-record 400,000 in the U.K.

      The band released the album The Miracle in 1989.  The single "I Want It All" reached the Top 10 everywhere except Austria (where it was #11) and the United States, with a peak of #50.

      Meanwhile, Mercury was diagnosed as being HIV positive back in 1987, although he denied to the media that anything was wrong.  Mercury and Queen continued to record and perform as if that was the case, releasing the album Innuendo, now on Hollywood Records, in 1991.  Later in the year, the band released the compilation Greatest Hits II, which has sold over 16 million copies around the world.  

      Finally, Mercury admitted that he had AIDS on November 23.  Within 24 hours, he died.  
      In 1992, "Bohemian Rhapsody" was included on the soundtrack to Wayne's World and renewed popularity led to the re-release of the single.  This time, it rocketed up to #2 for five weeks in the United States and Queen earned an MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a movie.  The compilation Classic Queen reached #4 and sold over three million copies.

      In 1995, Queen released the album Made in Heaven, which contained work done by Mercury prior to his death.  The single "Heaven For Everyone" did not generate significant worldwide interest, but it is still a worthy track.

      After performing "The Show Must Go On" with Elton John in Paris, Elton encouraged Queen to go out on tour again.  In 1999, the group released the album Greatest Hits III.  Queen were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.  
      In 2002, Queen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6358 Hollywood Boulevard and "Bohemian Rhapsody" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.  

      May and Taylor announced a reunion and that they would tour with Paul Rodgers, lead singer of Bad Company and Free, replacing Mercury as lead vocalist.  Deacon decided to stay in retirement.  Queen performed in the U.S., Europe and Japan.  
      The arrangement with Rodgers worked out well and the new lineup released the album The Cosmos Rocks in 2008.  In 2011, Queen received the BMI Icon Award.  

      Queen then hired Adam Lambert to sing lead onstage and they played in England, Russia, the Ukraine and Poland in 2012. Queen performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and with Lambert aboard, toured the U.S. in 2014.

      The band released the album Queen Forever with three new tracks.  They toured Europe and Asia in 2016.
      Queen collected 24 career hits, with four of those reaching the Top 10 and two going to #1.

      Estimates of Queen sales range from 100 million to 300 million.  

      The group won one American Music Award out of two nominations, was nominated for five Grammy Awards and won one MTV Video Music Award.