Posts Tagged ‘Linda Ronstadt’

There, atop the dresser in the photo to the left, is a portion of my record collection circa early 1982, when I was 16; I stored my 45s in a stack beside the turntable as well as in a shoebox on the floor that was situated beside another shoebox filled with cassettes. I also stored some LPs in a small rack near my desk, which was across the room.

After five years of intense music fandom, in other words, my entire music library clocked in at a little less than 100 LPs, about 40 cassettes, and maybe – and I’m likely stretching it – 100 45s. I’d yet to complete my Beatles collection, though – as the posters demonstrate – I was a big Beatles/McCartney fan. I owned the red and blue best-of sets (Christmas gifts both), plus everything from Rubber Soul onward (sans the Hey Jude collection), but it wouldn’t be until late 1987, after graduating college and landing a full-time job, that I owned everything Fab.

Similar situations occurred with other favorite artists. I fell in Mad Love with Linda Ronstadt in 1980 due to “How Do I Make You,” for example, but never picked up her first few LPs until the early 1990s, when they were only available as Japanese import CDs; and in late 1981, I bought my first Neil Young album, re*ac*tor, and then the one that preceded it, Hawks & Doves, but it took me most of the ‘80s to work my way through his backlog. 

It wasn’t that I wanted to wait, but records and cassettes were expensive. By the early ‘80s, new releases generally set consumers back $5.99 (the equivalent to $16 today) – but some were discounted to $4.99 and others priced higher, at $6.99 or even $7.99. Factor in sales tax, which in Pennsylvania was six percent, and buying an album was a major expense for a kid on a budget.

And once you consider other typical teen expenses, such as movie tickets, magazines and fast food, prioritizing a catalog item over a new release was an extravagance (just as hardback books were to paperback editions). That said, as I noted in my piece on Jackson Browne’s Hold Out album, I had a hierarchy of fallbacks whenever I walked into a record store; if A was out of stock, I’d look for B, and then C, and then, often, something totally unrelated would catch my eye and I’d walk out with that, instead. Later that year, I discovered a used record store where $7.41 bought three, four or more LPs instead of one, but the same basic rules applied. Wants waited.

I think of those times often, these days. If the streaming services existed back then, how much money would I have saved through the years? But, hand in hand with that, would I treasure specific artists and their oeuvres the same way I do now? Would the years-long journey that, as I outlined here, took me from the Byrds to Emmylou Harris have ended the same if it had occurred within a few weeks? I doubt it.

Which is to say, I have a love-hate relationship with the streaming services. Artists don’t get their fair share from the proceeds, which is a big concern, but another issue is whether the services actually help or hinder music discovery. As I noted last summer, the algorithms used by Pandora barely scratched the surface when I created a “personalized” station around the Bangles. While the results were fine for background music, they were sad for active listening. This Paisley Underground geek was not impressed.

Apple Music, which I subscribe to for simplicity’s sake – when driving in my car, or even hanging out in my living room, it’s easier to say, “Hey, Siri, play All I Intended to Be by Emmylou Harris” than work my way through the iPhone app – often denigrates the album as an art form, as does Spotify with its emphasis on playlists. I’ve added albums to my library only to discover, at a later date, the songs have been split between various collections or even different editions of the same album or, in the case of Juliana Hatfield, 22 “unknown” albums. (On the flip side, I’ve added specific best-ofs only to find the songs then listed under their original album homes.) It doesn’t impact the listening experience when I ask Siri to play the albums in question, but it does if I select the album through the app – which, if we ever return to our workplaces, is what I do in the office.

Anyway, at its best, music is the currency of the soul, and that soul isn’t as well nourished as it should be. Since 2000 or thereabouts, music artists have seen their revenue streams upended, first through the illegal-downloading craze and now via the streaming services. Live shows and merchandise sales is all they have – and for the young ‘uns, it’s likely all they’ve known. If you watch a live-stream and see a tip jar, and can afford it, send money their way – doesn’t have to be a lot. If an artist you like has set up a Patreon thing, and you can afford it, sign up. 

Don’t, however, feel compelled to blow your budget; and don’t feel guilty if you can’t or don’t contribute. (I’ve been very judicious, myself.) This pandemic’s economic fallout has caused many folks to lose their jobs – and even those of us who aren’t unemployed may well be, at some point, if the global economy continues to deteriorate. In some respects, then, this new reality isn’t all that different than the one many fans experienced during the 1960s, ’70s, ‘80s and ’90s, when every visit to a record or CD store forced us to whittle our wants down from the many to the few or even just one. Me, I always felt guilty heading home with a single LP, but such was life – and is life, again.

Linda Ronstadt’s Live in Hollywood features songs you know – or should know – as performed by the powerhouse singer at the Television Center Studios in Hollywood on April 24, 1980, for an HBO special. Three tracks appeared on the delightful 40th anniversary edition of Simple Dreams and, through the years, all have appeared on bootlegs sourced from the FM simulcast that accompanied the special’s broadcast.

The track list: “I Can’t Let Go”; “It’s So Easy”; “Willin’”; “Just One Look”; “Blue Bayou”; “Faithless Love”; “Hurt So Bad”; “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”; “You’re No Good”; “How Do I Make You”; “Back in the USA”; “Desperado”; and “Band Introductions.”

The night’s set, however, consisted of “I Can’t Let Go,” “Party Girl,” “It’s So Easy,” “Willin’,” “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You),” “Just One Look,” “Look Out for My Love,” “Mad Love,” “Cost of Love,” “Blue Bayou,” “Lies,” “Faithless Love,” “Hurts So Bad,” “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” “Band Introductions,” “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” “You’re No Good,” “How Do I Make You,” “Back in the USA,” “Heatwave” and “Desperado.” 

Eight of those songs are MIA from Live in Hollywood, which is the first official live album in Linda’s canon. Sometimes less is more. In this case? The subtractions shift the focus away from Mad Love, which was released two months prior, and turn the album into something akin to a live best-of. These are songs that, by and large, still get radio play. I heard four on my local oldies station this week, for example.

In any event, backed by a crack band, Linda melds pop, rock, country-rock and the era’s new-wave stylings into a delectable whole. Her cover of the Hollies classic “I Can’t Let Go,” on which she and backup singer (and good friend) Wendy Waldman trade vocals, is a thing of aural beauty. It’s uptempo, fun, and the perfect opener. Another highlight is, as one might expect, “Just One Look.” Here’s the official clip:

The J.D. Souther-penned “Faithless Love” is positively spine-tingling; Linda’s raven-flavored vocals on “Blue Bayou” and “Hurt So Bad” soar into the stratosphere; and her dusky soprano shares the spotlight with the band on a rollicking “You’re No Good.”

That’s the legendary session player Danny “Kooch” Kortchmar on guitar, I should mention –  and hiding behind drummer Russ Kunkel is Linda’s longtime compadre (and producer) Peter Asher on percussion and backing vocals.

In short, Live in Hollywood is an impeccable representation of a singer at the peak of her powers. Definitely check it out.

Last night, I popped a recent find into the DVD player: a grey-market Linda Ronstadt release with the unimaginative title of Rare TV Appearances. Quality-wise, it ain’t much. The box sports a so-so cover picture of Linda at the microphone; and a back cover that advertises “more rare Linda DVDs.” Inside is a stamped DVD, but no insert that lists the featured clips. For that, one needs to either save or reference the disc’s contents from the label’s website.

December 17, 1969 – The Mike Douglas Show: “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”; “Break My Mind”

October 1970 – Darin Invasion: “Long Long Time”

1970 – Something Else: “Baby You’ve Been on My Mind”

November 3, 1973 – In Concert: “Love Has No Pride”; “Fill My Eyes”; “First Cut Is the Deepest”

November 20, 1974 – Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert: “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”; “When Will I Be Loved”; “Heart Like a Wheel”; “You’re No Good”; “You Can Close Your Eyes”; “Faithless Love”; “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”

December 31, 1974 – Rockin’ New Year’s Eve: “Love Has No Pride”; “You’re No Good”

May 23, 1975 – The Old Grey Whistle Test: 12-minute interview

December 6, 1975 – Capitol Theatre, NJ: “When Will I Be Loved”

November 28, 1976 – Hits a GoGo: “Lo Siento Mi Vida”; “That’ll Be the Day”

June 18, 1980 – Studio 3: “Mad Love”

January 8, 1983 – ChampsElysées: “Lies”

February 2, 1983 – Plantine 45: “Lies”

Visually speaking, the collection is akin to watching a worn VHS tape on an ancient tube TV – or, for those too young to remember the bulky cathode-ray wonders of yore, a YouTube playlist that includes clips from a variety of so-so sources. The latter hints at how I discovered it, in fact. Last week, I came across this 1975 interview with Linda…

…and there, in the clip’s description, was an advertisement for this DVD. I figured, for $12.99, why not give it a go? And after viewing it, I can say that – despite the varying video quality – the set is well worth the investment for Ronstadt fans, especially those of us who can never get enough. The disc charts, albeit in a haphazard manner, the evolution of her singing prowess, and includes her jaw-dropping rendition of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is the Deepest.”

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Linda Ronstadt’s Rare TV Appearances.

1) “Break My Mind.” The oldest clip on the disc, Linda’s 1969 appearance (and solo TV debut) on The Mike Douglas Show, is also the worst. The audio is out of sync with the video, which can happen when encoding from videotape. How do I know? For one, it happened to me when I digitalized some old VHS recordings a few years back. For two, here’s one of the two songs she sang that day, and everything lines up as it should:

2) “Long Long Time.” In 1970, Linda had her first taste of solo success with this single, which reached No. 25 on the charts and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Female Vocal Performance. Here, she performs it on The Darin Invasion, a 1970 Bobby Darin TV special. (The performance is available in better quality on the Darin Invasion DVD.) 

3) “Love Has No Pride,” “Fill My Eyes” and “The First Cut Is the Deepest.” The DVD hits its stride with this three-song set lifted from ABC’s late-night In Concert series. All I can say is: Linda’s rendition of “The First Cut Is the Deepest” rivals P.P. Arnold’s. It’s amazing. One wonders if she was contemplating recording it at the time and, if she did, if an outtake exists somewhere in the vaults. (As an aside: The video quality is better on the DVD.)

4) “You’re No Good.” On December 31st, 1974, Linda shared the bill with Tower of Power, Billy Preston and the Pointer Sisters on Dick Clark’s second-ever New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, which was hosted by George Carlin. The quality on DVD is far, far better than this clip, which (as of this writing) is the only YouTube video available for it.

5) “When Will I Be Loved.” Linda performs this classic Everly Brothers’ song, which was a No. 2 hit for her, at the legendary Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, on Dec. 6, 1975.

And one bonus…

The seven-song set lifted from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert is a wonder to behold, but it’s not available in full on YouTube. Here’s one highlight: the J.D. Souther-penned “Faithless Love.”

The good news: I now know my way to and from the local Wal-Mart. The bad news: I now know my way to and from the local Wal-Mart. 

I’m being somewhat facetious, of course, essentially joking to make a larger point: Since arriving in the Tar Heel State last month, I haven’t listened to music in the car – not via the radio or CD, and definitely not via the iPhone-aux jack connection, as my aux jack crapped out late last summer. Instead, my travelin’ companion has been Siri via Apple Maps. “Turn right,” she instructs. Turn right, I do – only to watch the app re-route because I turned one street too soon.

Such is life in the modern age, I suppose.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Finds, Old Souls.

1) Lucy Rose – “Conversation.” The British songstress has a knack for crafting songs that sound like they were lifted fully formed not just from her subconscious, but from yours and mine, too. (It’s as if she taps into the universal synapse, in a sense.) Such is the case with this, the lead single from her forthcoming album, No Words Left, which is due out on March 22nd.

2) Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen.” Van Etten’s looking over her shoulder in this tune, which is a taste of her forthcoming Remind Me Tomorrow album. Sonically speaking, it reminds me of Anna Calvi’s first Bowie-drenched album. (Not a bad thing, in my book.)

3) The Bangles – “Talking in My Sleep.” From the 3×4 compilation, which finds the Bangles, Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade covering each other’s songs. In this case, it’s the Bangles covering Rain Parade. (Side note: I hear my youth reverberating in the grooves…)

4) Juliana Hatfield – “Lost Ship.” Yeah, I offered my first impressions of Weird, the new Juliana album, last week. This song, one of its stellar tracks, has been ricocheting around my brain since I first heard it in mid-December. It’s just freakin’ great.

5) Jade Bird – “What Am I Here For.” The Brit singer-songwriter, who melds Americana with old-fashioned rock and pop, delivers an astounding performance in this month-old clip.

And two bonuses…

6) Linda Ronstadt – “1970s interview.” An excellent interview from The Old Grey Whistle Test in which Linda discusses her career, the Eagles and more. About the songs she sings: “I pick them. They have to be about me, in a way.”

7) Another insightful interview with Linda, this one from 1977: