Battle of the Bands – JUMP INTO THE FIRE by Harry Nilsson

 

It’s mid-month and that means it’s time for another Battle of the Bands. (If you’re looking for my Monday’s Music Moves Me post, click on it in my sidebar or scroll down). BOTB is simple: i have chosen two covers of a favorite song; You listen to each cover version and vote on which version you like better by telling me in the comment section. And if you care to share, let us know why you chose the way you did. Then I’ll come back in 6 days, tally up the votes and determine & post the winner and the battle votes tally.

“Jump into the Fire” is a song by American singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, released on his 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson. Issued as the album’s second single, after “Without You”, it peaked at number 27 on America’s Billboard Hot 100 chart and at number 16 in Canada.

Written by Nilsson, the song is in the hard rock style – a departure from his previous work. Produced by Richard Perry, it includes a segment in which bassist Herbie Flowers audibly detunes his instrument. “Jump into the Fire” gained further recognition owing to its use in a pivotal scene in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster thriller Goodfellas.

Journalist Matthew Greenwald likened the song’s style to the early 1970s sound of the Rolling Stones. He adds: “Lyrically, on the surface, it’s a hot lovers plea; however, it could easily be taken as a plea to society as a whole. Like a lot of Nilsson’s greatest songs, it works on many different levels.” Stephen Thomas Erlewine describes the track as “surging hard rock”, while James Parker of The Atlantic calls it “livid, dragon-bones funk”.

Nilsson recorded the song in London in 1971 for Nilsson Schmilsson. As with much of the material on the album, it marked a departure from his previous work, as Nilsson was keen for commercial success after years of recognition as a quality artist and songwriter. He later commented: “What do you say to a man who writes ‘The Puppy Song’ and then writes ‘Jump into the Fire’? I really needed [to make that change], too; that was exactly what I was hoping would happen.” Nilsson acknowledged producer Richard Perry was instrumental in this progression.

Musicians on the basic track were Nilsson (piano), Chris Spedding (guitar), Herbie Flowers (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums). Flowers recalls that Nilsson gave only vague instructions: “Lots of tom-toms, a bass riff in D major.” The bass part includes a section where, following Gordon’s drum solo, Flowers detunes as he plays. According to Flowers, he began loosening the bottom string “for a laugh”, believing the performance would be faded on the released recording. Overdubs on this take included Nilsson’s vocals, guitar solos by John Uribe and a rhythm guitar part by Klaus Voormann.

Release

“Jump into the Fire” received substantial airplay throughout the early 1970s. After the international success of Nilsson’s cover of the Badfinger ballad “Without You”, the song was a surprising choice for the second single from Nilsson Schmilsson. It was edited down from around seven minutes to three-and-a-half for this release. The single peaked at number 27 on America’s Billboard Hot 100 chart, number 16 on the RPM singles chart in Canada, number 26 on Australia’s Go-Set National Top 40, and number 34 in West Germany. Later in 1972, Nilsson included “Jump into the Fire” in his musical horror film Count Downe. The film was produced by Ringo Starr and later retitled Son of Dracula for its limited cinema release in 1974.

In 1990, the song was used by director Martin Scorsese as the soundtrack to a frenetic scene in Goodfellas, when Ray Liotta’s character, a cocaine-addicted gangster, fears the authorities are closing in on his illegal activities. Rolling Stone described the effect: “This is what paranoia sounds like … the more the filmmaker fades those ‘Oh oh ooohs’ in and out, the more your own nerves start to fray.” Sean O’Neal of The A.V. Club writes: “I have to admit, even when I play ‘Jump Into The Fire’ today, I keep seeing that same helicopter.”

Michael Gallucci of the website Ultimate Classic Rock lists “Jump into the Fire” at number 3 in his list of the ten best Nilsson songs, behind “Without You” and “Everybody’s Talkin'”.

From the MediaLoper site, an interesting take on the song:

Certain Songs #581: Harry Nilsson – “Jump Into The Fire”

Posted by Jim Connelly in Certain Songs on Jun 30, 2016

Album: Nilsson Schmilsson
Year: 1971

I kinda love that Harry Nilsson chose “Jump Into The Fire” to be the single that followed the massive “Without You,” even though it barely cracked the Top Thirty, because the two songs couldn’t be more different.

Driven by a pumped-up Herbie Flowers bassline and clipped rhythm guitar from Klaus Voormann, “Jump Into The Fire” establishes its groove early and then piles on with crazy-ass lead guitar from John Uribe and a vocal performance from Harry Nilsson that starts at psychotic and only gets more unhinged from there.

Gang, this is a disturbing song on any number of levels.

Take the lyrics, for example:

You can climb a mountain
You can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire
But you’ll never be free
You can shake me up
Or I can break you down
Oh, oh, oohhhoooohhhhh

With Nilsson’s vocals swathed in loads and loads of reverb, we can tell from the start that maybe this guy isn’t in his right mind, and after the lead guitars start clattering and chittering, the chorus — which reads perfectly fine on paper — begins to sound like a veiled threat.

We can make each other happy
We can make each other happy
We can make each other happy
We can make each other happy

What’s left unspoken here, is the “or else.”

And as he shouts and screams and repeats the verses and choruses in ever more unhinged fashion, the guitars futilely rise up against Nilsson to seemingly no avail. He’s too possessed. Too obsessed.

WE CAN MAKE EACH OTHER HAPPY!!!

Eventually it takes drummer Jim Gordon just surrounding him and putting him down as the rest of the musicians look on in awe.

Eventually the guitars and bass return, but Harry Nilsson is nowhere to be found. My assumption is that he used the opportunity to break out of the studio, and is now screaming “WE CAN MAKE EACH OTHER HAPPY!!!!” at random people while running down the street towards the Thames.

One of the greatest songs ever written about obsession, “Jump Into the Fire” is one of those songs that gets periodically recontextualized by seemingly unrelated artists, reminding us just how uncomfortable it remains.

So Martin Scorsese used it to underscore a coke-fueled breakdown in Goodfellas, and LCD Soundsystem covered it on an early single and during their “last” show, and in both cases it fit right in.

Give a listen to this original version and you’ll maybe understand the point the author of this article was trying to get across. And by all means, TURN UP THE VOLUME! But don’t vote for this original: it’s only here for your enjoyment. Battle contenders are below.

 

THE BATTLE SHOWDOWN:

CONTENDER #1:  Low Cut Connie

Low Cut Connie is an American rock and roll band based in Philadelphia which was formed in 2010. The band has been recognized by various media in the US for their records and high-energy live show, of which the Los Angeles Weekly said “Their ferocious live show…is unmatched in all of rock right now.” Frontman Adam Weiner plays a piano named “Shondra,” after a dancer at the Clermont Lounge in Atlanta.

Weiner performed as a solo artist prior to starting Low Cut Connie. While living in New York City, he played piano in gay bars, karaoke bars, restaurants and ballet classes, often under the name Ladyfingers. He toured throughout North America and Europe playing to often unforgiving crowds in dive bars, honky tonks, anarchist squats, warehouses, drag bars, etc. Weiner started the project that would become Low Cut Connie with former members Dan Finnemore (from Birmingham, U.K.) and Neil Duncan (from Gainesville, Florida). The band’s name refers to a waitress who often wore low-cut tops at a restaurant near where Weiner grew up.

The group has released four albums, Get Out the Lotion (2010), Call Me Sylvia (2012), Hi Honey (2015) and their latest, released in 2017, Dirty Pictures (Part 1).

FUN FACTS re: their second album: The band began work on their second album, Call Me Sylvia, with the goal of trying harder to make a “real” album than they were with their debut, when their songs were less arranged. Finnemore moved to the U.S. in advance of the record release. The album was released on September 24, 2012, and currently holds a score of 80% on Metacritic, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. Among these reviews was a four-star (out of five) review from AllMusic‘s Stephen Thomas Erlewine, who praised them for making music in a style that originated in the 1960s, but without seeming outdated. PopMatters also reviewed the album, giving it a score of 7 out of 10 and also noting that the album’s sound resembled that of mid-20th-century music, as well as specifically comparing Weiner’s piano style to Jerry Lee Lewis. The album’s song “Boozophilia” was ranked the 31st best song of 2012 by Rolling Stone, which described it as “like Jerry Lee Lewis if he’d had his first religious experience at a Replacements show.” It was also chosen by President Barack Obama as one of the songs on his Spotify summer playlist in 2015. Weiner posted on Facebook that they were “completely humbled and honored and confused” by Obama doing this. I’d say that’s pretty cool…

Here is Low Cut Connie’s version of “Jump Into the Fire”. These guys are definitely High Energy! They are totally having a blast and really dig performing. And I like what they did with the song, incorporating elements of the Goodfellas scene that utilizes the Nilsson song.

 

CONTENDER #2:  Hollywood Vampires

Hollywood Vampires is an American rock supergroup formed in 2015 by Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry to honor the music of the rock stars who died from excess in the 1970s. The band name derives from The Hollywood Vampires, a celebrity drinking club formed by Cooper in the 1970s which included but was not limited to: John Lennon and Ringo Starr of The Beatles, Keith Moon of The Who, and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. Touring members include or have included Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Guns ‘N Roses fame, as well as Robert DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots.

The band has released one studio album, Hollywood Vampires (2015), featuring guest appearances by Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh, and Christopher Lee among others. Cooper and Perry have discussed plans for a future live album, stating that Depp’s schedule works differently than theirs.

The group’s debut live performances were held at Roxy Theatre (West Hollywood) in Los Angeles across September 16 and 17, 2015. The three core members were accompanied by bassist Duff McKagan, drummer Matt Sorum, rhythm guitarist Tommy Henriksen, and Bruce Witkin on keyboards and additional guitar. Guest performers for both nights were Tom Morello, Geezer Butler, Perry Farrell, Zak Starkey, and Kesha, and Marilyn Manson guesting on the second night. The next week, the group performed at Brazil’s Rock in Rio festival on September 24, 2015, and was webcast live by AOL. Guest performers were Lzzy Hale, Zak Starkey, and Andreas Kisser.

In February 2016, the group performed at the Grammy Award ceremony as a tribute to Lemmy, who had died at the end of 2015. The group also announced their first concert tour, which began at Turning Stone Resort & Casino on May 24 (2016). The group was scheduled to make their first late-night television appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on July 11, 2016; however, lead guitarist and co-founder Perry collapsed on stage during a performance on July 10. The band continued to perform without Perry prior to his return to the tour on July 22.

Current (and founding) band members:

Alice Cooper – lead and backing vocals, harmonica (2015–present)

Johnny Depp – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals, slide guitar, keyboards (2015–present)

Joe Perry – lead and rhythm guitar, backing and lead vocals (2015–present)

Current touring members are Tommy Henriksen – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards (2015–present), Matt Sorum – drums, backing and lead vocals (2015–present), Bruce Witkin – rhythm and lead guitar, keyboards, backing and lead vocals, percussion, bass guitar (2015–present) and Robert DeLeo – bass guitar, backing vocals (2016–present)

Former touring members were Duff McKagan – bass guitar, backing vocals (2015–2016), Kesha – lead and backing vocals (2015), Lzzy Hale – lead and backing vocals, rhythm and lead guitar (2015), Brad Whitford – rhythm and lead guitar (2017) and Glen Sobel – drums (2017)

The Hollywood Vampires version of “Jump Into the Fire” is unique in that it truly highlights the group’s primary mission of honoring dead rock stars: their “Jump Into the Fire” song version starts out with a nod to another of Nilsson’s original songs: “One” (a song written by Harry Nilsson and made famous by Three Dog Night whose recording reached number five on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1969 and number four in Canada. The song is known for its opening line “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do”. Nilsson wrote the song after calling someone and getting a busy signal. He stayed on the line listening to the “beep, beep, beep, beep…” tone, writing the song. The busy signal became the opening notes of the song).

And the Hollywood Vampires version ends in similar fashion by including a bit of one of my favorite Nilsson songs, “Coconut” (a novelty song written and first recorded by American singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, released as the third single from his 1971 album, Nilsson Schmilsson. It was on the U.S. Billboard charts for 10 weeks, reaching #8, and was ranked by Billboard as the #66 song for 1972. It only minorly charted in the UK, reaching #42. “Coconut” did best in Canada, where it peaked at #5).

Here it is. Kick back and give this one a listen.

 

Okay, it all comes down to this:

TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? When you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

Thanks for your participation and your votes! I’ll be back on the 21st to post the results. Until then, Rock On my friends…

 

Battle of the Bands – “Without You”

battle-of-the-bands-botb-top-photo

This is my first Battle of the Bands and I’m so excited to be joining in all the other BOTB participants! Thank You Arlee Bird for inviting me! I decided to join Battle of the Bands because with my recent A-Z Challenge being a Musical Tour of My Life, I wanted to continue incorporating music into my blog in some way. Battle of the Bands gives me the opportunity to do just that twice a month.

Here’s how it works: I’ll be posting two versions of the same song and after you give a listen to each, vote for your favorite version. I’ll tally the votes and post the results 6 days later. Dates are the 1st and 15th of each month for the Battles and the 7th and 21st of each month for the results.

Easy and fun! I hope you enjoy it. Please join me now in considering my first two contenders for the song “Without You.”

I was listening to some Badfinger the other day (Badfinger was a British rock band that was popular in the 70s) and I had forgotten that they wrote and first recorded Without You. The song has quite a backstory which you can read about here if you’d like (or scroll down to be taken to the contestants). Taken from Wikipedia:

“”Without You” is a song written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of British rock group Badfinger, and first released on their 1970 album No Dice. The song has been recorded by over 180 artists, and versions released as singles by Harry Nilsson (1971) and Mariah Carey (1994) became international best-sellers. Paul McCartney once described the ballad as “…the killer song of all time.”

In 1972, writers Ham and Evans received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.

First recorded by the rock group Badfinger, the song was composed by two of its members. Two streams, referring to real events in the songwriters’ lives flowed together to create the song. Pete Ham had written a song originally titled “If It’s Love” but it had lacked a strong chorus. At the time of writing the band shared residence with the Mojos at 7 Park Avenue in Golders Green. One evening, in the midst of the parties, songwriting, touring, in Golders Green, Ham and his girlfriend Beverly Tucker were about to go out for the evening. But just as they were leaving Tom Evans said he had an idea for a song – Ham said, ‘Not tonight, I’ve promised Bev.’ But she thought he would be wondering if he had done the right thing later, if he went out, – she told him – ‘Go into the studio, I’m fine about it…’ He said, “Your mouth is smiling, but your eyes are sad.” The song Ham wrote that night was called ‘If its Love’ and has the verse “Well I can’t forget tomorrow, when I think of all my sorrow, I had you there but then I let you go, and now it’s only fair that I should let you know…if it’s love.” But Pete wasn’t happy with the chorus.”

Events in Evans’ love life would lead to the completion of the track. While Evans was touring in Cologne he had met the woman who would become his future wife, Marianne. She moved to London. It was a sparky relationship. “One evening he went to her friend Karen and told Karen, ‘She’s left me. I need her back. I can’t live without her.’ He flew to Bonn to find her – he wrote a song called ‘I Can’t Live’. Its chorus; “I can’t live, if living is without you, I can’t live, I can’t give any more.” And so the merging of the two songs, Ham and Evans created the hit. Ham’s verse, ‘warm, sweet, sentimental’ and Evans’ chorus, – ‘intense, dramatic, heartbreaking.'” Both Ham and Evans said they did not consider the song to have much potential at the time Badfinger recorded it, and the track was slotted to close Side A of their 1970 No Dice album. Badfinger’s recording of the song, which is more brusque than its successors’ versions, was not released as a single in Europe or North America. In parallel to the song lyrics, both Ham and Evans later committed suicide.” (You can read more about Badfinger’s tragic story in my A-Z “B is for…” post).

I am most familiar with the Harry Nilsson version of the song and I suspect most people are more familiar with his version. Here is that version in case you’re not. NOTE: This is NOT the version in today’s BOTB competition so please don’t choose Harry Nilsson as your pick.

 

 

Instead I’m pitting the original Badfinger version against Maria Carey’s version.

CONTESTANT #1: BADFINGER VERSION:

 

CONTESTANT #2: MARIAH CAREY VERSION:

 

Okay, time to vote! Do you like Badfinger’s version or Mariah Carey’s version? I think both versions are wonderful so I’m going to have a tough time deciding which one I like better. Please vote by commenting below. It would be great to hear why you voted the way you did so please share with us your deciding factors. I’ll add my vote and tally up the results: be sure to come back on the 21st to see who won this battle.

Thanks for participating!

After you’ve voted, be sure to visit the other Battle of the Bands participants and check out their cool competitions. Click here to be taken to a page with a complete list of links to all BOTB participants or simply click below:

Tossing It Out

StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Far Away Series

THE DOGLADY’S DEN

Your Daily Dose

The Sound of One Hand Typing

Mike’s Ramblings

Curious as a Cathy

DC Relief – Battle of the Bands

This Belle Rocks

Book Lover

Cherdo on the Flipside

Shady Dell Music & Memories

Far Away Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

H is for Heart, Head East, the Hollies, Humble Pie, Harry Nilsson, Harry Chapin and Helen Reddy!

H

DISCLAIMER THAT APPEARS AT THE BEGINNING OF ALL A-Z 2015 PAGES:

Welcome to the A-Z Musical Tour of My Life! I have wanted to put something like this together for a long time now and the A-Z Challenge just seemed like the perfect opportunity. I’ve compiled stories, trivia, research, music videos and live concert footage on all the bands and musical artists who have been important to me over the years, especially during my youthful years in the 60s and 70s. At first glance, the posts may seem long – and some of them are due to the number of videos included – but it’s really laid out in a way that will enable you to scroll through and read, see or hear just what you want and then either move on to the next A-Zer or linger and listen to the great music that you’ll find here. By all means, bookmark my blog so you can come back! In addition to individual songs, there are some full albums here for those who may want to enjoy some music while they’re surfing or working. I hope you find that the stories are entertaining, the information educational and the trivia interesting. It would be a tremendous honor if you would bookmark the A-Z Musical Tour of My Life as a resource for great music and music information! Now, let’s get started with…

H is for Humble PieI always liked that name! A band from England formed in 1969, Humble Pie was one of the first 60’s supergroups. (a supergroup is a music group whose members are already successful as solo artists or as part of other groups. In some cases, an act will later be referred to as a supergroup when multiple members from said group end up securing individual fame later on). Humble Pie’s original band lineup were all members from other groups; and as the most notable member, Peter Frampton went on to find success in a solo career.

They are most known for their hits Thirty Days in the Hole and I Don’t Need No Doctor.   

Thirty Days in the Hole from their 1972 album “Smokin”

 

H is for Head East – an American rock band most known for its single Never Been Any Reason.

Never Been Any Reason from their 1974 “Flat as a Pancake” album:

They recorded Since You’ve Been Gone in 1978 but it only achieved nominal success, reaching #46 on the charts.

Love Me Tonight  

 

H is for the Holliesone of the few British pop groups of the early 1960s that have never officially broken up and continue to record and perform. In recognition of their achievements, the Hollies were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. My favorite Hollies song that always gets me up and dancing is their 1972 single Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress:

Probably my first taste of the Hollies was with their 1974 release The Air That I Breathe:

Another Hollies song that evokes emotion in me to this day is the hauntingly beautiful He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother from 1969. The origin of the title is this: In 1884, James Wells, Moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland, in his book The Parables of Jesus tells the story of a little girl carrying a big baby boy. Seeing her struggling, someone asked if she wasn’t tired. With surprise she replied, “No, he’s not heavy; he’s my brother.”

To me, it has a different significance: My brother and I used to be inseparable. We hung out and partied like crazy in the 70s and early 80s. We used to frequent this little neighborhood beer joint called Tanks Tavern. They had a great jukebox there and I used to drop a lot of money every night to hear and dance to my favorite songs. Among the songs that sprang forth from my quarters was He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. And whenever the song came on, my brother and I would find each other in the bar and share a glance, a smile and a raise of our drinks as he knew I played that song as a tribute to him. I love my brother! We were so tight back in the day. And every time I hear that song today, I get a little tear in my eye because it’s so meaningful to me.

Another great Hollies hit is 1966’s Bus Stop:

 

H is for Harry Nilsson – (June 15, 1941 — January 15, 1994) An American singer-songwriter who saw the peak of his success in the early 70s. He is best known for three hit singles featured here: Without You, Coconut and Everybody’s Talkin’. Interestingly, “he was one of the few major pop-rock recording artists of his era to achieve significant commercial success without ever performing major public concerts or undertaking regular tours.

He was awarded Grammys for two of his recordings; best male contemporary vocal in 1969 for ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’, a prominent song in the Academy Award-winning movie Midnight Cowboy, and best male pop vocal in 1972 for ‘Without You.’” (Wikipedia)

Coconut  – very funny music video from 1971 for this very popular and iconic hit:

Everybody’s Talkin’ (1969)

Without You (1972)  SME records CD titled: “Harry Nilsson Without You”, sound recording administered by: SME. Copyright music records SME. © All Copyrights reserved.

 

H is for HeartThe Dynamic Sisterly Duo! Heart is a powerhouse band with sisters Nancy Wilson (guitarist) and Ann Wilson (lead singer) at the center.  They debuted the “Dreamboat Annie” album in 1976 and started their rise to fame in the mid-70s with two hit singles, Crazy On You and Magic Man. 1977 saw the release of the “Little Queen” album with hit singles Barracuda and Kick It Out, as well as the title track Little Queen, becoming their second million seller. Then in 1978, their album “Dog and Butterfly” reached double-platinum status with the title song and Straight On. This is one seriously rockin’ band! I’m posting each one of these singles because you deserve to rock out right now…

Crazy On You – this is their 1977 performance on the Midnight Special:

Magic Man  1976 performance

Barracuda – (1977):

Kick It Out  (from 2005 performance):

Little Queen  Music video by Heart performing Little Queen. (C) 1977 Sony Music Entertainment

Straight On:

Dog and Butterfly  Recorded in Seattle, during the last show of their 2002 Summer Of Love Tour

 

H is for Harry Chapin – an American singer songwriter, best known for his relatable folk-rock style with songs like Taxi, Flowers are Red, W.O.L.D. and the number one hit song Cat’s in the Cradle. Chapin was also a dedicated humanitarian who tragically died in a car accident at the age of 38, when he was at the height of his career. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work in 1987.

With his fantastic story-telling ability, this is the song that is said to have changed, repaired and revitalized relationships between fathers and sons. Here’s Harry Chapin performing Cat’s in the Cradle, with an introduction by his widow Sandy Chapin and his son Josh Chapin:

Another favorite Harry Chapin tune, Taxi :

 

H is for Helen Reddy – Any girl coming up in the 70s was likely ushered by anthems of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the loudest and boldest of which was Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman. Empowering women, this song was proudly belted out by women around the world. In fact, the United Nations declared 1975 to be International Women’s Year and they chose this song as their theme!

Here is Helen Reddy performing this song, her first Number One hit, in 1973 on the Midnight Special:

A great sing-along song, Delta Dawn:

Somewhat eerie, Angie Baby:

And finally, You and Me Against the World. I have no idea when this aired but I do remember seeing Helen Reddy singing this song to Kermit the Frog. I don’t know what I thought of it back then but today it made me smile. So cute!

 

Which of the songs in this post do you like the best? Who are your favorite H bands? Who did I forget??