In a Beach Boys state of mind

So who the heck was KGB, if not a Soviet spy agency?

brianwilson.tigerOf COURSE, I was going to link to God Only Knows – BBC Music with a whole bunch of folks, including Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Pharrell, Lorde, Dave Grohl, Kylie Minogue, Florence Welch, Chrissie Hynde, Queen’s Brian May, One Direction, Jools Holland, and many others; here’s a list of the participants. Also of interest is some background about the recording.

A lot of debate online about who “should have” been on the recording, starting with Paul McCartney, a huge fan of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album (perhaps he was sick or on tour), and who “should not have”, starting with One Direction. Frankly, I think the speculation is a bit silly/useless.

I did NOT know about Perfect Day- BBC Music with Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Emmylou Harris, David Bowie, Bono, Tom Jones, Joan Armatrading, Robert Cray, Dr. John, and others from 1997. Elton John is the only person I recognized from both recordings.

My blogging buddy Chuck Miller posted songs about sailing. He selected the Beach Boys’ Sloop John B but did NOT pick their Sail On Sailor, because he opted for a cover version by a group called KGB.

So who the heck was KGB, if not a Soviet spy agency? From HERE:

The K was for:

Singer Ray Kennedy, the least known member of the group, had an impressive resume of his own. He’d played sax for Gerry Mulligan, Otis Redding, Brenda Lee and Fats Domino, among others. Kennedy also co-wrote the Beach Boys’ “Sail On Sailor.”

On the KGB album, the song is billed as written by Brian Wilson and Kennedy, while the Beach Boys version had other writers listed.

The G was for:

Keyboard player Barry Goldberg had partnered with [Mike] Bloomfield in Dylan’s back up band, then in The Electric Flag and Supersession. He’d also worked with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Mitch Ryder.

The B, of course, was for:

Guitarist Mike Bloomfield had played with Bob Dylan and served as Paul Butterfield’s main axe man. He formed the Electric Flag in 1967 with Buddy Miles, Barry Goldberg and Nick Gravenites, but struck out on his own a year later.

The group also featured:

[Bassist] Rick Grech career had begun with British rockers Family. He was swiped from their U.S. tour in 1969 by Blind Faith. When Blind Faith crashed, Grech enlisted in Ginger Baker’s Airforce, another supergroup that included former Traffic members Steve Winwood and Chris Wood. When the reformed Traffic needed a bassist, Winwood contacted Grech… Grech went on to record with Rod Stewart, Gram Parsons and Ronnie Lane, among others.


Carmine Appice was one of hard rock’s prominent percussionists. He’d started in the legendary Long Island jam band the Vanilla Fudge, then formed Cactus with ex-Fudge bassist Tim Bogert. The duo hooked up with legendary guitarist Jeff Beck in 1972.

Though buddy Chuck prefers the KGB version of Sail On, Sailor, I am on record that this is one of my favorite Beach Boys songs, as sung by Blondie Chaplin. In fact, one of the very few BB songs I love better is God Only Knows.

Almost on the BBC

International code 44 and all that on my message machine.

bbc-radioI had written this blog post on March 28 about the Adagio, attributed to Albinoni, which also appeared in my Times Union blog the same day. On the latter, I received this comment on April 4 at 7:30 a.m.:

Dear Roger,
I’m making a programme for BBC Radio 4, Soul Music about Albinoni’s Adagio. This series looks at those pieces of music that never fail to move us.
I would love to know more about your choir mom.
Please would you be kind enough to email me with your number so we might have a chat.
With many thanks

ALSO, I had written this blog post on April 2 about Marvin Gaye, which again appeared in that day’s TU, and generated THIS comment, also on April 4, at 9:02 a.m.:

Hello Roger, Great article. I’m trying to get in touch with you for a radio programme I making- could you drop me a line please and I’ll explain more.

I wrote to both of them, letting them know that they had both contacted me, and where the posts had first appeared. Milly wrote back: “Yes I work with Lucy- sorry to trouble you twice! Thanks for getting back to me.” I replied, “I’m not ‘bothered’, just surprised!”

Then I received a telephone call from Lucy on April 6. International code 44 and all that on my message machine. Unfortunately, I was not home. I wrote her back the next day, but never heard back, I gather for time/logistical reasons.

I was only slightly disappointed, but then I thought: “I was considered by the BBC. Twice!”

Moreover, both the granddaughter and the daughter-in-law of Arlene Mahigian, my late choir mom, were touched by the piece.

So it’s all good.

Muhammad Ali is 70

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.


There are certain figures who are, for whatever reason, transcendent. For instance, people knew who Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan were, even if they didn’t follow baseball or basketball. Muhammad Ali was, and is, like that. In a period when the heavyweight championship of boxing still was culturally significant, before an alphabet soup of different boxing authorities stripped the championship of any lasting meaning, Ali was most noteworthy.

I remember that it was the conventional wisdom that Clay could not possibly beat champion Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964, a fight I recall hearing on the radio. Yet, Clay prevailed.

Shortly after the fight, he announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Ultimately, it was that conversion, scorned by some opponents who kept referring to him by what he called his “slave name”, that was the gateway to the next phase of his life: being stripped of his boxing crown and even his boxing license in 1967 for his “refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War.” This was a momentous event, which “inspired Martin Luther King Jr. – who had been reluctant to alienate the Johnson Administration and its support of the civil rights agenda – to voice his own opposition to the war for the first time.” Ultimately, Ali won his US Supreme Court case, but not before he lost nearly four years working at his chosen profession.

This set the stage for three epic fights with the late Joe Frazier, who died late last year. In 1971, Frazier became the first fighter to defeat Ali then “lost two epic rematches including a ferocious battle known as the ‘Thrilla in Manila.'” Ali went on to have another stretch of boxing success. He has regularly been named one of the top one or two boxers of all time.

But it wasn’t just his boxing prowess. It was the poetry of his boxing style, which he described as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.

And it was his name change. Lots of actors have changed their name, but Ali’s action gave other athletes, such as Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, permission to do likewise. Whatever one thought of the theatrical arguing between Ali and ABC Sports’ Howard Cosell, I always liked Cosell because he always called Ali by the name he wished to be called.

I was awestruck at the 1996 Olympics when it was the Parkinson’s disease-riddled Ali who had the honor of lighting the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. One of my favorite Ali memories was when he and his fourth wife, Yolanda, wife were being interviewed by the late Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes.

In 1999, Ali was crowned Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated and Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC.

Happy birthday, Muhammad.

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