Friday, June 10, 2022

More: More Than a Feeling


purchase [ Boston ]

The band named Boston doesnt seem to have been dissected much here and maybe that's not such a surprise. Most folks - if they know the band at all - probably associate them with this, their best-known song.

Like the 17 million other people who purchased Boston's first album, I still love this song. Like an apparently large number of that number, I feel a twang of guilt for loving a song that is almost corny; it has been a staple of FM radio ever since it came out. If you're one of these, rest assured: most music critics note that aside from the song being included in most lists of "bests", they also commend the song on many counts. From Rolling Stone critic Paul Evans: "an uncommonly resonant emotional note", and from Cash Box: "a sophisticated melody that makes good use of minor chords".

There is a lot about the song that seems familiar (and some that actually is more or less picked from other sources - but what music isn't?). But again, there are no pending legal issues related to the song. See Joe Walsh/James Gang and The Left Banke for inspiration.

It's a Tom Scholz composition that took him several years to finalize. Apparently, that is kind of typical of his methodology (it takes him years to get something to the point where he is ready to release it).

Tom Scholz himself is worth a study in and of itself. MIT student who then built his own music studio, tried again and again to get the music inuistry to take him on, eventually succeeded, and then for most every album after had to butt heads. Rarely credited as more or less the sole driving force behind is band and the only remaining original member, his last name ought to be Boston.

A cover from Hindley Street Country Club:

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

More: I Love You More Today Than Yesterday

Spiral Starecase: I Love You More Today Than Yesterday

My blogging lately has really slowed. Typically, around this time every year, I tend to take time off to recharge my batteries, but I’m going to try to keep going this year without a true “blogcation,” to coin a very bad phrase. Since this is a labor of love, I do it in my spare time, and lately, that spare time has been occupied by work relating to my 40th college Reunion, which took place a couple of weeks ago. I was on the organizing team, and I’m also my class secretary, a job which I’ve somehow expanded to such a point that I’ve been swamped lately, creating video slideshows and other content for my classmates. It’s another labor of love, but I hope that the extra work I created for myself is winding down, and I can try to get back to regular writing here. And maybe even elsewhere. 

I have written before that 1969 really was the year that I started listening to music, and it was that year that Spiral Starecase released their one hit, “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday,” a bouncy, fun, maybe even a little sappy profession of love. I think that the comment in the Allmusic bio of the band about their “one-hit wonder” status is great: “The Spiral Starecase may be a one-hit wonder group, but if you're only going to be allotted one, then their “More Today Than Yesterday” is the type of solitary charter you want as your lasting legacy.” And it is true. It’s a song that I remember hearing constantly over the years. It’s been covered by artists as diverse as Sonny and Cher, Lena Horne, Nick Carter, Diana Ross, Kermit Ruffins, the 2012 version of Chicago, and Goldfinger. And many others. 

The Spiral Starecase was formed in the early 1960s in Sacramento as the Fydallions, and featured lead singer Pat Upton, who has a great voice. Columbia Records strongly suggested that they change their name before signing them, and they made a small spelling change to the title of an old movie, and voila, they had a name. And maybe that sort of misspelling was considered cool in the psychedelic era, not that the band was at all psychedelic. 

They had a couple of regional hits in the Phoenix area, but when working on their first album, Upton was encouraged to write, and contributed the feature song, which he had written while the band was playing at the Flamingo in Las Vegas. And there is a little bit of Vegas lounge singer in the song, isn’t there? Despite the quality of the tune and its longevity, it only reached 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, although 1969 was a great year for singles

Due to the dynamic duo of musical failures, poor management and disputes over finances, the band disbanded after the release of one album and a few more singles (somehow they escaped the third reason that good bands fail—problems with the record label). 

An Upton-less version of the band toured in the 70s and 80s, proving that you can be successful with one famous song, even if the original singer isn’t singing it. Upton became a session musician, eventually hooking up with Ricky Nelson as a backup singer, and in 1985 declined to get on the flight that killed Nelson, five members of his band, and others. He died in 2016, at the age of 75.

Sunday, June 5, 2022


Huh, me and my headings, eh, always the smart arse..... But, y'know, I think the performers of this song would want that, being ineffably smart, as they arse around, enjoyment their gift to listeners. So then, is this the debut of the Wonder Stuff to SMM? It sure looks that way. Let's hear the song.

 Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More

Anyone familiar with the term "Grebo"? Actually a word that is better known as a word rather than necessarily for its meaning, let me here explain. Or, let the Guardian explain. I like Stourbridge. It isn't that far away from me, a good deal nearer when I lived in Birmingham, the U.K. one. In fact the brother of an ex-squeeze lived there, owning a parrot that pecked a big hole in one of my fingers, but that's another story. A fading town on the edge of the Black Country, the old heartlands of the Industrial Revolution, smog and smoke the rationale for the soubriquet, rather than the influx of afro-caribbeans and asians across the West Midlands in the '60s  and onward. Which is what the latter-day ignorant have tended to think. Actually, and I apologise to anyone resident reading, it was much less a hub for newcomers than its neighbours, thus retaining a good old sheen of white trash, which contrasted with the relative affluence of the town, at least compared to other towns nearby. It even has a posh grammar school, attended by Robert Plant. But the main clim to fame of late has been the residency of the bands mentioned in that article and, for the purposes of this piece, The Wonder Stuff. For it is they who wrote and sang the featured song.

Size of a Cow

The Wonderstuff, arguably the brainchild of main songwriter and singer, Miles Hunt, came together in 1986, in, of corse, Stourbridge. A traditional four pice, guitar, guitar, bass and drums, at least to start, they kicked off with a flourish, releasing a slew of singles, including the featured song. Debut album, The Eight Legged Groove Machine, collated these and more, and stamped their mark on a interested market. If none of the songs actually broke the charts wide open, it was enough to establish a headlining tour. No shortage of material, with 15 trucks, rising to 19 on a later re-release, rising to 24 for the 20th anniversary re-re-release. Second album, Dup, has them first breach the top 20, with lead single, Don't Let Me Down Gently. More to the point, for this listener, the album added fifth member, Marin Bell, on fiddle and banjo, both instruments guaranteed to spark my enthusiasm. By the time album three came along, led by the single, Size Of A Cow, I was hooked. This their peak period, although a fourth album appeared, it never quite hit the same heights. The band split in 1994.

Welcome to the Cheap Seats

I was disappointed never to catch them live, maybe a little wary of their reputation for a well-lubricated and lively fan base; in the 90's I was still pretty much Mr. Straight. I didn't even catch the first of their inevitable reformations, Hunt never quite able to replicate the mood and memory of the band on his own or in subsequent projects. However, after their second, possibly third break up, I did catch Hunt as part of a duo. In around 2005, Martin Bell left the still extant Wonderstuff, leaving the fiddle position open. Erica Nockalls, a violin prodigy trained at Birmingham's Conservatoire, was spotted busking in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and was in, albeit to a band that was about to fizzle out once more. Hunt and Nockalls then toured considerably, as a duo, performing both old hits and new stuff, and it was they I caught. The acoustic guitar and violin arrangement suited the material, with Hunt's self-deprecating sneer foiled by the charm and skill of Nockalls. Since then the duo and a version of the band have continued, in turns, to tour and, intermittently, release new material, the duo often touted as Wonderstuff Acoustic.

Be Thy Name

More, More, More (Give, Give, Give Me)

P.S. So what about the other original grebo triumvirate?