PART ONE – THE BEATLES 100 – JOHN BORACK
Goldmine’s John Borack ranks 100 pivotal moments in Beatles history in The Beatles 100. He touches on pre-Beatles beginnings and goes beyond The Beatles’ band years with solo accomplishments highlighted in short, well titled chapters, where the reader can bounce around the book, based on interest and curiosity. There is linkage too, with a comparison of the theme of The Beatles’ flip side “Rain” to “Mamunia,” the initial flip side of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Band on the Run,” from the album which McCartney stated, “Introduced Wings to a new generation of people who now talk about it as an iconic record. For these people, it’s not Sgt. Pepper, it’s Band on the Run.”
In the chapter on the album Imagine, John Lennon described the gorgeous “Oh My Love” as “a joy to write and a joy to sing and record.” The chapter on Lennon’s assassination is tastefully brief.
From George Harrison’s triple album masterpiece All Things Must Pass, his wife Olivia sited “Run of the Mill” as her favorite song from the collection. Borack states that Harrison’s The Concert for Bangladesh changed people’s perception of rock stars and what rock music could do as a positive force in the world, and shares website information, “The George Harrison Fund for UNICEF continues to support programs in Bangladesh, while expanding its influence to other countries where children are in need.” Harrison also was known for his love of the Monty Python comedy troupe, including his support for their Beatles parody band The Rutles, with key Beatles-sounding songs cited from their 1978 album, “Cheese and Onions,” “Number One,” “Hold My Hand,” “I Must Be in Love,” and “Ouch!”
Borack highlights the concerts which continue from the surviving Beatles with Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band and McCartney’s long-time touring group, including a touching Borack father and daughter concert tale in the foreword.
Reviewing Borack’s favorite ten Beatles songs, less than half were hit singles, and his all-time favorite is “You Never Give Me Your Money” from Abbey Road. For this article, Borack also shared his choice of favorite solo songs from the group and they are four singles from the 1970s, George Harrison’s “What Is Life,” Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Junior Farm,” John Lennon’s “#9 Dream,” and Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy.” Finally, for this article he looked back at a two-sided hit single, “’Paperback Writer’/’Rain’ is one where I loved both sides. One of my favorite things about the flip side is Ringo’s drumming, which I feel is among the most creatively expressive work he’s ever done. Some of those drum fills come from way out of left field and are simply magical.”
Flip side: Rain
A side: Paperback Writer
Billboard Top 100 debut: June 11, 1966
Peak position No. 1 A side / No. 23 flip side
Oakland’s premier psychedelic rock band Sugar Candy Mountain have recorded their version of “Rain,” complete with tempo changes, and it appears on the new dozen song compilation from Cleopatra Records called Legends Play The Beatles.
The album begins with “Here Comes the Sun,” very true to the Abbey Road side two opener, with Deep Purple’s Steve Morse on acoustic guitar and vocals by Richard Page from Mr. Mister. Vocal purity continues with Air Supply’s delivery of The Beatles’ final No. 1 single “The Long and Winding Road.” Howard Jones, known for the mid-1980s Top Five hits “Things Can Only Get Better” and “No One Is to Blame,” beautifully serenades the listener with “And I Love Her.”
A sitar nicely accents Andrew Gold’s “Norwegian Wood” as do the strings on Jack Bruce’s “Eleanor Rigby.” Molly Hatchet’s guitars and piano bring oodles of fun to “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
PART TWO – BEHIND – JIMMY RYAN
Guitarist Jimmy Ryan, who we first heard with The Critters in the 1960s, shares his behind the scenes stories in Behind, a well written, informative and humorous reflection on the past six decades of being in the music spotlight. Ryan takes the reader to worldwide auditions, rehearsals, recording studios, and stages with a great variety of the biggest stars of our lifetime.
Ryan offers a glimpse into the Allegro Sound recording studio in New York City, sharing the creation of The Critters’ beautiful Top 40 single “Mr. Dieingly Sad,” which reached No. 17, written by the group’s Don Ciccone, who would become a member of The Four Seasons in the following decade.
A significant portion of the book centers on Ryan’s long-time association with Carly Simon. He shares their time in London’s Trident studio, recording Carly Simon’s iconic 1972 album No Secrets, surrounded by incredible surprise British guests including Mick Jagger, who Simon told to “make himself useful” which led to Jagger singing on the chorus of “You’re So Vain.” There is a humorous passage where Paul McCartney dropped by the studio and offered his hand on creating harmonies, stating that he heard that they were “in a bit of pickle with backing vocals” and offered to “throw around some ideas,” which worked perfectly on the song “Night Owl,” joined by Paul and Linda McCartney.
In the mid-1970s, Ryan played bass in rehearsals with The Doors as they transitioned into The Butts Band, with Jess Roden as their vocalist. Ultimately both he and Ray Manzarek departed that musical lineup, due to differences in musical tastes, as Robby Krieger and John Densmore were embracing a funk and blues sound, distant from The Doors’ foundation.
Ryan joined Andy Newmark on a private audition for a replacement drummer in Sly & The Family Stone, a tale filled with antics from Sly Stone and his entourage, with Newmark joining the group for a year and a half.
In the early 1980s, after touring as a member of Karla DeVito’s band, performing a mix of her songs and Meat Loaf classics, an unplanned audition for the Broadway musical Pump Boys & Dinettes resulted in Ryan being part of the cast. Many more stories fill the pages of this entertaining musical journey.
Carly Simon stated, “Jimmy and I discovered the music scene together, writing songs and listening to every new album that shouted out to us from the bins of Sam Goody’s. Jimmy led me. He inspired and directed me. He taught me and he made me laugh. We were in Greenwich Village together, along with London, L.A., and as many back stages as you’d care to drop the names of, and it’s all in his book. We cared about each other and continued to throughout those tender years of getting to know ourselves. It could have been other gentle souls or not so gentle souls, but no, I got lucky. It was Jimmy.”
There is guitar part that Ryan brought to the flip side “We Have No Secrets,” which Simon called a sea monster. Ryan told Goldmine, “There was a reference to a beach in the song. By coincidence I had previously gone on a whale watching boat ride and I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to have a whale solo? Using a volume pedal, I played a long note with a mystical sound. The whole solo was nothing but my creation of that whale sound, fading it in with the peddle and putting tons of echo on it.”
Flip side: We Have No Secrets
A side: The Right Thing to Do
Billboard Top 100 debut: March 31, 1973
Peak position No. 17
PART THREE – GUMBALLS & SUMMER SONGS – KAREN JONAS
GOLDMINE: Congratulations on the combination of your poetry book Gumballs and your EP Summer Songs. Reading your poems and then carefully listening to your lyrics, I find a relationship between the two. This is an ambitious and entertaining project.
KAREN JONAS: Thank you. This was my first attempt at a poetry project, so I am glad to hear that it makes sense together.
GM: Let’s begin with the EP of three original songs preceded by your cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.” The original flip side of “The Boys of Summer” was “A Month of Sundays.” It was excluded from his 1984 Building the Perfect Beast vinyl album but was included on the longer cassette version, like what we would see in the next decade with CD bonus tracks.
KJ: I gave that one a listen a couple of times last night, sitting on my back porch, preparing for today’s interview. It is a beautiful story song about a combine harvester builder and is very nostalgic. It felt like a precursor to his song “The End of the Innocence,” almost like a draft for that sonically and in the way the verses moved along.
Flip side: A Month of Sundays
A side: The Boys of Summer
Billboard Top 100 debut: November 10, 1984
Peak position No. 5
GM: It reminds me not only of “Desperado” but also a bit of Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender.” Now let’s talk about “The Boys of Summer.” There was Don Henley in 1984, The Ataris in 2003, and now you, from a female point of view, which seems logical for a female to be singing about the boys of summer.
KJ: It does change everything, doesn’t it? It changes the tone from someone who is sticking around while others are off on adventures to having a Dolly Parton-like sentiment that I will always love you and I will come back but I have to go do some things first.
GM: Your song “Summer Moon” seems to share that theme, where she is waiting for him.
KJ: That’s right. There is a lot of waiting around in love songs. It’s a poignant theme, ha ha.
GM: Getting back to “The Boys of Summer,” Tom Hnatow’s pedal steel guitar is just wonderful.
KJ: I listened to the intro that we did, and I just love it. His pedal steel takes the place of the electric guitar in the Don Henley original, and Tim Bray’s electric guitar takes the place of the synthesizer. I think we hit our rootsy, earthy angle on it compared to the pretty electronic sounding original, which I feel is a nice new take on it.
GM: In the first few seconds it immediately hit me that it was going to be special.
KJ: Thank you. Other than the textures we didn’t take it too far from the Don Henley melody and concept. We wanted to preserve that and give it a fresh sound.
GM: When my daughter Brianna saw you perform in Richmond, she enjoyed your sound and said that your voice reminded her Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine and the late Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries if they had gone country.
KJ: That’s a sweet comparison. It was lovely to meet Brianna at Brambly Park, which is a beautiful spot. The EP and book release shows have been fun.
GM: “Summer’s Hard for Love” is filled with Kacey Musgraves-like tenderness. Seth Brown’s shuffling drumming is really nice.
KJ: He has that cross-stick bit in there. We worked hard on setting the foundation for these songs, having Seth coming in first, building the tracks in the studio. Seth is a real analytical thinker and was able to put together what feels very smooth and natural but is actually complex if you count the patterns and see what he is doing.
GM: My favorite song is “Thunder on the Battery.” It has a haunting folk sound, which I love along with Tim’s fluid electric guitar.
KJ: Tim really set that one on fire with his solo. I am happy that it grabs you like is does for me.
GM: Earlier we touched on “Summer Moon.” This is the one that sounds the most like a unique folk song I might hear from Melanie or Buffy St. Marie.
KJ: Thank you. It’s a songwriter’s song for sure. It gets outside of the standard chord structure, adding some complexities. When we were recording that one, my co-producer, who also happens to be my significant other, E.P. Jackson and I were sitting in the basement after I got home from a late gig. He had all these microphones set up and said, “We’re going to do ‘Summer Moon.’” I played it twice on my gig guitar and then he took that one out of my hands and gave me another guitar, which is harder to play, where the strings slide a little bit more and I think it really added a lot of texture to that guitar part in an interesting way. I was a little nervous about it at first, with a guitar I normally don’t play, but it helped to create more of a mood in that song.
GM: That song ends the EP nicely, so let’s move on to the book and begin with the title poem “Gumballs.” My cousin Bill Kurtz is a pinball expert and has written books on pinball machines. I love your imagery of the pinball rolling around in the machine, and then bowling, which is where Bill learned to play pinball as a young boy, in a Cleveland bowling alley while my uncle was bowling, and finally the gumball machine, which I can imagine him walking over to between pinball games to put a nickel in there. It is creatively astute to compare thoughts to these machines.
KJ: Your cousin is a real-life “Pinball Wizard!” It is a bit nostalgic, isn’t it? In some ways it is about visualizing anxiety about how busy your brain is. If you had a brain scan, would it look like a pinball machine with the silver ball moving around or would it be a very full gumball machine?
GM: I know every reader will choose a different favorite poem in your book, with over sixty to pick from. Mine is “The Center of Everything.” It is magical with a lot of content in a short space, “My bedroom window faces south so that I can see the sun rise” is a great introduction. The colors you describe are vivid and I love how you watch the universe spin outside of your tiny bedroom. I think any of us who grew up in own bedrooms with dreams of the future can relate to that.
KJ: I love that. I had terrible pneumonia in December of 2019 through January of 2020, a six-week health disaster, so I got very friendly with just sitting in my bed for a couple of weeks, where I am usually bouncing around so fast. I’ve got four kids I am wrangling. I’ve got gigs to go to and a house to clean. I got really comfy in my bed. It was winter and the days were short. I watched the sun arc across my window. Once I was able to settle into it, it became dreamlike.
GM: The theme of kindness of strangers appears in a few of your poems whether it was at a social services location or stocking the food banks in “The Best Rich Person,” which I saw firsthand when we lived in Nevada and my wife Donna was a co-director of the local food bank. Then there is the tale of Diana Krall’s brother, which I would call Canadian kindness.
KJ: Tell me what Canadian kindness is.
GM: If you spend time in Canada, it happens repeatedly in a variety of ways. There is even a newer musical play that captures that spirit called Come from Away. For example, I was at a general admission concert in Edmonton to see the Canadian band Trooper and I had a bag with an album in it and a camera, in case there was an autograph and photo opportunity. Two local guys went out of their way to talk with me and shared the table that I had chosen. They watched my stuff when I went to the bathroom and when I came back my stuff and spot was still there with them. Stewart and Ken were very curious about my musical interest in Canadian music, and I have become very good friends with Stewart. Diana Krall is from Canada, so I relate your poetic story to that. You were scared that this guy is following you, which to an American you would think would be a crazy stalker. You learned that he was following you out of kindness, with donations for your kids. He was just being a Canadian.
KJ: I was very scared. Then I felt really terrible when I found out that he had this box of kid things for me, which was stunning. It is an interesting story of kindness.
GM: Five of my favorite poems have a theme of wisdom and advice. In “The End,” you wrote, “The only way is forward. The only time is now.” This sounds like a powerful Jefferson Starship anthem.
KJ: It is very big picture. It may not help if you are in the middle of something very difficult but in some ways to know you are doing the only right thing by moving forward, I think, can be really affirming for someone. I definitely don’t give advice or share wisdom on purpose or suggest that I’m wise. These are all just ideas that I have.
GM: With “The Most Radical Thing” you state, “The most radical thing you can do is tell your own truth, unedited by the shame of ostracism and the satisfaction of acceptance.” This is something that we are encouraged to do now, in a time of a resurgence of racial attacks. People are asked to speak up and not accept cruelty, which you also address in your “Untitled” poem.
KJ: Yes, I definitely think those two poems are related in themes. I think that the satisfaction of acceptance is almost a more present and motivating fear than that theme of ostracism. It is so easy to do things gently that may make people like you, going off your path a little bit in order to maintain that state of acceptance. To stand your own ground and tell people what you think, for me, feels difficult. I don’t like to rock a lot of boats. I don’t like to upset anyone. I like to go along peacefully. I had to do a lot of thinking about that as I was writing this poem.
GM: When Brianna was around four years old, the prior homeowner, the late Mrs. Markle seemed to watch over her in her upstairs bedroom. There was a breeze or draft, and it was comforting to Donna and me, just like in “Kitty the Ghost.” You also introduced me to James Taylor’s Christmas song “Who Comes This Night” through this poem.
KJ: That is the song I was trying to lend to my dad that mysteriously ended up in his truck, even though I swear it was still in my car, which suddenly had the window rolled down three inches, enough for Kitty the Ghost to make that delivery. I appreciate the time you took to read my poems, listen to my songs, and really think about them all. Thank you so much for all your support.