In this special edition of Fabulous Flip Sides we highlight four related recordings.
GOLDMINE: Your Blue Elan Rediscovered album is filled with some wonderful covers.
JACKIE McLEAN: Thank you so much. It was so fun to make.
GM: The Bee Gees are the overall theme of the article, so let’s please start there. In 1968, The Bee Gees reached the Top 10 in the U.S. for the first time with “I Gotta Get a Message to You” and their second Top 10 hit came early the following year with “I Started a Joke,” both with Robin Gibb on lead vocals hitting some high notes. Later that year, both of those songs were on the first greatest hits album that I bought growing up, Best of Bee Gees, the yellow album, and I understand this is the same album that you also grew up with, decades later.
JM: That’s right, and my copy was on CD. Many of those songs on the collection are among my favorite songs and these 1960s Bee Gees songs versus the 1970s Bee Gees songs are almost like two different bands. I was pleased to be able to include “I Started a Joke” from that 1960s compilation on Rediscovered.
GM: You hit some amazing high notes on the song, too. You and I have recently learned another Bee Gees song, not on Best of Bee Gees, the original flip side of “I Started a Joke” called “Kilburn Towers” from their Idea album.
JM: Yes. I just listened to it for the first time when you sent it over. I like it and think it is catchy, kind of moody and subtle. The lyrics are minimal, not getting in the way of the beauty of the recording.
GM: The beginning, melodically, reminds me of America’s “Ventura Highway” from the 1970s.
JM: Oh. I can hear that.
The Bee Gees
Flip side: Kilburn Towers
A side: I Started a Joke
Top 100 debut: December 21, 1968
Peak Position: No. 6
GM: Another song that I heard for the first time recently is “Your House,” which you taught me. I had a copy of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill on cassette, and it didn’t have that CD bonus track, which is gentle and honest.
JM: I like the story that the song tells too. I’ve always really liked Alanis Morissette. I grew up on “Ironic” and “Head Over Feet” when I was a kid. My babysitter would drive me around a lot with the radio on, so I learned those songs from her. Later, in college, a friend of mine introduced me to “Your House” and I felt like I met Alanis in a different way through that song. She has a couple of versions of “Your House” and the one I first heard was a cappella, sung in an echoey room. It felt so honest and raw and made me want to listen to more of her music and discover some of her other songs, so I kept “Your House” tucked away in my mind until I could do something with it.
GM: Let’s move from “Your House” to “Your Song.” You surprised me at the beginning of your recording of Elton John’s “Sacrifice” by opening with his “Your Song” lines of “It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside. I’m not one of those who can easily hide,” then blending into “Sacrifice.”
JM: That was Kirk Pasich’s idea. He is the co-founder of Blue Elan. I had to ad lib that part in the studio to make that work.
GM: I like the tempo, too, reminding me of Modern English’s “I Melt with You.” “Sacrifice” originally debuted in the Top 40 in 1990 but came from Elton John’s 1989 album Sleeping in the Past, which means that your album includes songs from every decade from the 1950s through the 1990s, making it a broad, encompassing collection.
JM: Aw. That is such a cool way to look at it.
GM: Let’s go back to the 1970s for “If” by Bread, who were primarily a soft rock group, but with your tempo increase, you remind me a bit of Linda Ronstadt on the recording.
JM: Oh. That’s so sweet. That is one of the songs that I didn’t know. Kirk suggested that one, thinking it would work well with my voice. With each of the songs we tried to make them into something new. The tempo change was a way of us trying to reinvent it.
GM: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” has a pretty lounge-type treatment. I saw The Platters perform this 1950s standard in the mid-1970s in a small venue and was reminded of that with your performance. Your ending reminded me of Linda Ronstadt, again, with her “Blue Bayou” high note range and maybe even a touch of Sarah McLachlan, and I love Brockett Parsons’ piano on it, too.
JM: Brockett does the most amazing things with the piano. He is Lady Gaga’s keyboard player and did a lot of these songs with us. On this track it was just him and me, where on most of the other songs it was a full band. I spoke with him ahead of time, saying that I wanted to give the song an off-kilter melancholy sound, and he came up with the accompaniment, which included unusual minor chords and bended notes. I loved “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” as a kid. I used to listen to it a lot with my mom and brother in the car. I remember singing that song at a community fair in a karaoke tent. When it came time to pick songs for the album, I tried to choose songs that would create a universe that I fit into, and that one naturally had a place.
GM: “Your Cheatin’ Heart” has a slow, steady country sound, something fitting for the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. Is this another one that you grew up on?
JM: Yes, I did, in a small town in Maine on the coast. My mom listens to a lot of classic country songs. There are songs that have grown with me as I have become an adult, taking on a richer meaning. This is one that I play in live shows.
GM: I like your version of “Who’s Sorry Now” more than the original Connie Francis version. Your vocal depth is captured so nicely.
JM: Wow! Thank you. Connie Francis was a huge favorite of my mom’s when I was a kid. I loved her, had a few of her albums on CD and would listen to her with my headphones on to “Who’s Sorry Now,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Vacation,” and so many more. “Who’s Sorry Now” was one that I could imagine an updated, almost indie treatment. After we recorded it, I found out that Angel Olsen had also recorded a version, and she is a contemporary favorite of mine.
GM: In addition to your Rediscovered album another cover song that you recorded in 2020 is Chris Cornell’s “Can’t Change Me.” I like the original, bought the CD for that one song in the 1990s, and really like what you did for that special project benefitting the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, helping children.
JM: That is one of my favorites of his. I love to reimagine songs.
GM: We Are the Highway is a nice Blue Elan collection of Chris Cornell songs with you, Chelsea Williams, and other people who I have interviewed in recent years, Janiva Magness, Mustangs of the West, Cherie Currie and Brie Darling, covering his solo and Soundgarden work. I mentioned the group America before. You also just released a very nice cover of their song “Daisy Jane” on Blue Elan.
JM: I am glad to be part of all of this. We also have an album coming out this year and Shawn and I hope to tour when things reopen. Shawn is my partner. We met each other at Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, when I was an undergrad and he was a graduate student. We have been together for almost a decade. When we met each other, neither of us were actively doing music for the first time in both of our lives. I grew up doing musical plays and he grew up being in bands. It wasn’t long after we met that I felt the need and desire to write my own music and perform again and he was there for me. I started writing songs after graduation and he taught himself to play drums to accompany me. When we made our first album, he also taught himself how to engineer and produce. It has been a team effort for us to get our music out and because of that first album, we were able to be signed to Blue Elan, who has given us so much support. It feels like a family and speaking of families, Shawn and I have two daughters, ages six and three, and they are both very smart, kind, creative and into music.
GM: Your six year old filmed your new “I’m Enough” video, a song that reminds me of my favorite Ashley McBride song from 2020, “Never Will,” and is honest and melodic, like what I enjoy from Taylor Swift, too. How is it possible for a six year old to do such a great job filming you singing, while you are walking along the road?
JM: It was a very DIY project. Shawn was driving the car very slowly. Our three year old was in the car seat in the back and our six year old was in the trunk, with the trunk open, holding the tripod and phone on top of the tripod and keeping her eye on the shot, making sure I was in it and in focus. We gave her videography credit. “I’m Enough” is a single only to bridge the gap until the album comes out, which will be a very professional Blue Elan release and I am excited for everyone to hear it. Thank you so much for your interest in all of my music. It has been wonderful talking with you.
Capitol has released Greenfields, a collection of a dozen songs written by The Bee Gees’ Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, performed primarily by Barry Gibb, joined by country artists, with a sound pleasing to both pop and country audiences.
Keith Urban opens with “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” in the same key which Robin Gibb delivered on the original 1968 Bee Gees hit. Dolly Parton’s tender reading of “Words” brings her storytelling style to the forefront, as if she is sitting next to the listener, delivering a duet with Barry, the two legends working together again as they first did with “Islands in the Stream.”
Alison Krauss’ beautiful lead vocal on “Too Much Heaven” is a standout and her harmonies with Barry recall the work she did on the album Raising Sand with Robert Plant. Sheryl Crow also offers a nice blend with Barry’s voice on “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”
Over the years, Little Big Town have performed some amazing covers at their concerts. Here they offer their harmonies on two Bee Gees hits. “How Deep is Your Love” is augmented by strings and a gentle acoustic guitar from Tommy Emmanuel and “Lonely Days” features a full orchestra along with Kimberly Schlapman’s high vocal notes.
The finale is the lesser known “Butterfly,” which The Marmalade recorded in 1969. The song opens with the line, “Greenfields where we used to wander,” hence the album’s title. Gillian Welch shares powerful harmonies with Barry, joined by David Rawlings on guitar, for this wonderful Americana folk offering.
Australia’s Playback Records has released a 27 song single CD named Words, filled with rarities of Gibb brothers compositions, performed by acts from the mid-1960s through early 1970s. Australians are well represented, including the folk rock sound of The Richard Wright Group with “Neither Rich Nor Poor,” “Lady Clarion,” with a sunshine pop treatment, from Johnny Young, who had been a London flat mate of Barry Gibb, the bouncy pop “One Bad Thing” by Ronnie Burns, and The Seekers with their version of the hit “Massachusetts.”
Great Britain is also well represented with Cilla Black’s pretty version of “Words,” the harmonious “When the Swallows Fly” by Nimbo, and “I Started a Joke” by Lulu from 1969, the year she married Maurice Gibb.
U.S. entries include Nina Simone’s powerful rendition of “To Love Somebody” and Jose Feliciano with a southern country rock interpretation of “Marley Purt Drive.” Three members of Chicago’s New Colony Six combine forces under the name Raymond John Michael for the sophisticated and polished “Let There Be Love.”
“Butterfly” by The Marmalade, the single issued immediately before their big hit “Reflections of My Life,” shares that same beauty with Dean Ford’s gentle vocal delivery. “Gilbert Green,” which Gerry Marsden recorded in 1967, post-Pacemakers, is included here through a 1969 recording by Belgium’s Soft Pillow.
The Cyrkle’s final charting single, “Turn of the Century,” is among the standouts, sung by Don Dannemann, who told Goldmine in 2019, “We got to meet The Bee Gees. Our American manager Nat Weiss, who partnered with Brian Epstein, had a relationship with Robert Stigwood, The Bee Gees’ manager, and they got us together. We all met in a hotel room. Nat and our group were very impressed with their album that was released in America called The Bee Gees’ 1st, which opened with ‘Turn of the Century.’”
The CD comes with a 22 page booklet, with stories about the songs and artists, written by Alec Palao, who is currently a member of The Seeds.
Flip side: Butterfly Child
A side: Vampire
Alec Palao produced the new Seeds vinyl single "Vampire" / "Butterfly Child" on Hypnotic Bridge Records, using a method consistent with the group’s 1960s roots, recording both sides of the single live on analog tape with minimal overdubs. Original member Daryl Hooper is heard on keyboards, joined by Alec on bass and guitar, Paul Kopf on lead vocals, Mark Belgraph on lead guitar, and Justin Smith on drums.
“Vampire” is a fun, bouncy A side, with crashing cymbal accents from Justin, written by Alec and inspired by his wife Cindy. The song is fitting for a campy film soundtrack or a new Halloween standard, recalling the lightheartedness of Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs in the mid-1960s, when The Seeds were in the Top 40 with “Pushin’ Too Hard.”
The flip side “Butterfly Child” is filled with beauty in 3/4 time. Paul, who co-wrote the song with Alec, delivers an emotional vocal. Like the A side, Daryl’s keyboard backdrop and Mark’s guitar solo shine in the middle of the recording.
The picture sleeve is colorful, with artwork from Dawn Aquarius being reminiscent of the psychedelic style of Peter Max.