Album out 9 April 2021 through Bloodlines
- Let’s Get Together
- So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
- Summer In The City
- Love The One You’re With
- Riders On The Storm
- Eight Miles High
- For What It’s Worth (Hey, What’s That Sound)
- Casey Jones
- Almost Cut My Hair
- Cinnamon Girl
- Music Is Love
- Southern Man
- Midnight Rider
- I Shall Be Released
Richard Clapton is one of our finest songwriters. His iconic songs – ‘Girls On The Avenue’, ‘Deep Water’, ‘Capricorn Dancer’, ‘I Am An Island’, ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’, ‘Lucky Country’, ‘Glory Road’ – have provided the soundtrack to endless Australian summers.
Richard has never released a covers album: until now. Richard Clapton will release Music Is Love (1966 – 1970) on 9 April 2021.
Two years ago, Richard did some shows in San Francisco, going on the hippie trail to Haight-Ashbury, and he came home buzzing. After a gig one night, he was talking about the trip with an old friend, Terry Blamey, who briefly served as Richard’s booking agent in the ‘70s, and who was back in Australia after 30 years living in England managing Kylie Minogue. “You know what you should do,” Terry told Richard. “You should do an album of hippie anthems.”
The album started out as a deeply personal collection, a way for Richard to reconnect with his musical beginnings. “These songs are where I came from,” he says, highlighting his love for Bob Dylan, The Byrds, David Crosby, Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield.
These are songs that defined an era, including Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’, The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s ‘Almost Cut My Hair’, and The Youngbloods’ ‘Let’s Get Together’.
While recording the album, as the world dealt with Trump, COVID-19 and racial unrest, Richard realised there was something happening here. “It struck me that the world needs these songs.”
“I can’t think of anyone more suited to singing an album of anti-establishment counterculture songs than Richard Clapton,” smiles Terry, who serves as the album’s executive producer.
Richard Clapton – Ralph to his mates – has been called “Australia’s favourite hippie”. In his autobiography The Best Years of Our Lives he writes, “I was one lucky hippie”.
During the summer of love, Richard was living in London and Berlin. He owned only two cassettes – Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush and David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name. “I look back at that whole period of my youth and those years 1966 to 1970 and I think, “wow, talk about being born precisely at the right time.””
Music Is Love (1966 – 1970) is Richard Clapton’s 16th studio album. He has lived – and survived – “the money, the fame and the public acclaim”. In the 80s, he did a six-week tour with Neil Young, and after coming off stage one night, Neil put his arm around him and said, “You’re a bad boy, Ralph. My band hasn’t been to bed for two days. I’m gonna change the name of my tour from Rust Never Sleeps to Ralph Never Sleeps!”
The partying is legendary – INXS’s official autobiography noted that “Clapton was known to party like the Eagles wrapped up in one man” – but the music has always been his first love. Like the protagonist in ‘Midnight Rider’, Richard Clapton has spent his life on the road. “And I’m bound to keep on riding… the road goes on forever.” He was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1999.
The working title for this album was Hippie, and Richard considered calling the record Almost Cut My Hair, before settling on Music Is Love. “’Music Is Love’ [by David Crosby] sums up the whole album for me. And the reason for doing it.” Produced by Richard Clapton, and engineered by David “Chippa” Nicholas, Music Is Love is an unforgettable trip to the summer of love.
“We are but a moment’s sunlight, fading in the grass,” Richard sings in the opening track, ‘Get Together’, but these songs will live forever. Music Is Love is a collection of songs from another time. But songs we still need. Now, more than ever.
“If you hear the song I sing, you will understand. Listen! You hold the key.”
‘Let’s Get Together’
“Love is but a song to sing”
Written by: Chet Powers. Originally recorded by: The Kingston Trio (1964). Made famous by: The Youngbloods (1969)
Richard says, “this is the perfect anthem for the times we’re living in right now.”
Written by Chet Powers (aka Dino Valenti), who later became the lead singer of Quicksilver Messenger Service, ‘Get Together’ was first recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1964 as ‘Let’s Get Together’. The song first entered the US charts in 1965 when it was released by San Francisco folk group We Five. In 1966, Jefferson Airplane featured the song on their debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.
But the biggest charting version came in 1969, after The National Conference of Christians And Jews used The Youngbloods’ version to promote Brotherhood Week, and the song charted at #5 in the US and #13 in Australia.
‘Get Together’ was performed at Woodstock by opening act Richie Havens.
Chet Powers sold his rights to the song to pay for a lawyer when he was facing a 10-year stretch in jail after being busted with marijuana and speed. “A lot of people say I was stupid for selling all my rights to the song, but for 10 years of my life, man? I can write another song.”
“Was it all a strange game? You’re a little insane”
Written by: Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn. Originally recorded by: The Byrds (1967)
Richard says, “I was one of those kids standing in front of the mirror with a broom, pretending I was in The Byrds.
Seen as a swipe at the manufactured Monkees, ‘So You Want To Be A Rock ’n’ Star’ was written by The Byrds’ Chris Hillman and Jim McGuinn (Roger McGuinn)
“Some people have accused us of being bitter for writing that song,” McGuinn later reflected. “[But] we were thumbing through a teen magazine and looking at all the unfamiliar faces and we couldn’t help thinking, ‘Wow, what’s happening? All of a sudden, here is everyone and his brother and sister-in-law and his mother and even his pet bullfrog singing rock ’n’ roll.’ So we wrote ‘So You Want To Be A Rock ’n’ Roll Star’ to the audience of potential rock stars, those who were going to be, or who wanted to be, and those who actually did go on to realise their goals.”
Summer In The City
“But at night, it’s a different world”
Written by: Steve Boon, John Sebastian and Mark Sebastian. Originally recorded by: The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
Richard says, “John Sebastian was, and is, amazing. Doing this vocal nearly killed me – I’ve never done a song before with no breath at all! What a song. It’s been with me all my life.”
Twelve months before the summer of love in San Francisco, New York was experiencing an unprecedented heatwave. It was hot, people were protesting the Vietnam War, and relationships were strained. The biggest hit for The Lovin’ Spoonful, ‘Summer In The City’ incorporated real sounds of the city – car horns, traffic and jackhammers.
Love The One You’re With
“And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with”
Written and originally recorded by: Stephen Stills (1970)
Richard says, “There are a lot of songs on this album that are very pointed, topical, socio-political songs. And there are other songs, like this, that are just great pop songs. And credit to Mahalia and Eliza-Janes Barnes and Darren Percival for their incredible backing vocals.”
Legend has it, that Stephen Stills overheard piano man Billy Preston remark, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”, and the song was born. Released as a single in 1970, it became Stills’ biggest solo hit, charting at #14 in the US and #29 in Australia.
Riders On The Storm
“Into this world we’re thrown”
Written by: John Densmore, Robert Kreiger, Raymond Manzarek and Jim Morrison. Originally recorded by: The Doors (1971)
Richard says, “Initially, I thought this song would have been done to death. ‘Roadhouse Blues’ has had heaps of covers, but not this song. And I realised that’s because it’s a difficult song to do – you have to have a great band, and there was a dark, sinister underbelly to the way Jim Morrison sang it.”
The last song recorded by all four members of The Doors, ‘Riders On The Storm’ was recorded in December 1970. It became the last track on L.A. Woman, which was Jim Morrison’s final album with The Doors. It charted at #10 in Australia and #14 in the US.
Eight Miles High
“Nowhere is there warmth to be found”
Written by: Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. Originally recorded by: The Byrds (1966)
Richard: “This song probably meant even more to me in my youth than ‘So You Want To Be A Rock ’n’ Roll Star’. This was hardcore Byrds to me. But I never dropped acid, so I don’t have any stories to tell.”
Hailed as the world’s first psychedelic rock song, ‘Eight Miles High’ was banned by American radio for its drug connotations. The band claimed it was about their flight to London in 1965, but many years later David Crosby admitted, “Of course it was a drug song – we were stoned when we wrote it!”
For What It’s Worth (Hey What’s That Sound)
“Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”
Written by: Stephen Stills. Originally recorded by: Buffalo Springfield (1966)
Richard says, “Some really nasty, heavy-duty stuff was happening during the hippie era and young people had to take to the streets. The story behind this song is very important.”
In 1966, police were cracking down on the rising hippie movement in LA, imposing a 10pm curfew and targeting the Whisky A Go Go club, where Buffalo Springfield was the house band. The Sunset Strip curfew riots, also known as the “hippie riots”, led to Stephen Stills writing ‘For What It’s Worth’. Unsure whether it had hit potential, Stills reportedly presented the song to Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun: “I have this song here, for what it’s worth…”.
“We are stardust, we are golden”
Written and originally recorded by: Joni Mitchell (1970). Made famous by: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
Richard: “This song was a thorny issue for me – I’ve always preferred the Joni Mitchell version, and I wasn’t sure if I could cut it. But Danny [guitarist Danny Spencer] really encouraged me and we kept going. I love the extended ending – I let the band go and they went crazy.”
Joni Mitchell never got to play at Woodstock, but she wrote the defining anthem about the “3 Days of Peace & Music”. Her manager, David Geffen, thought it’d be better for her career if she appeared on The Dick Cavett Show. She wrote the song in her hotel room, watching television reports about the festival. “I had been saying to myself, ‘Where are the modern miracles?’” Joni later explained. “Woodstock, for some reason, impressed me as being a modern miracle … for a herd of people that large to cooperate so well, it was pretty remarkable and there was tremendous optimism.” Three versions of the song were released in 1970 – Joni’s original was the B-side of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, followed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s version, and English band Matthews Southern Comfort.
“Trouble ahead, trouble behind”
Written by: Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. Originally recorded by: The Grateful Dead (1970)
Richard: “I wasn’t really a Deadhead, but I always really liked them. I guess it was the spirit of the Grateful Dead, the whole hippie thing. It always seemed to be all about the music – they didn’t really tip their hat to commerciality. They just wanted to get on stage and jam.”
‘Casey Jones’ appeared on the Grateful Dead’s 1970 album Workingman’s Dead. It was loosely inspired by the real Casey Jones, an American railroader who managed to save the lives of his passengers at the cost of his own, when his train collided with a stalled freight train in Mississippi. Grateful Dead added the references to cocaine and speed. Jerry Garcia said, “I always thought it’s a pretty good musical picture of what cocaine is like. A little bit evil. And hard-edged.”
Almost Cut My Hair
“I feel like letting my freak flag fly”
Written by: David Crosby. Originally recorded by: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
Richard says, “To me, this is the most important song on the album. It’s part of my DNA. We included it in my live set last year and my fans went nuts for it.”
The great dilemma of the Age of Aquarius: cut your hair and conform, or leave it long as a symbol of rebellion? David Crosby’s ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ was on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 album Déjà Vu. Neil Young called it “Crosby at what I think is his best.” David Crosby reflects, “It was the most juvenile set of lyrics I’ve ever written, but it has a certain emotional impact.”
“I could be happy the rest of my life with a cinnamon girl”
Written and originally recorded by: Neil Young (1969)
Richard: I love Neil Young so much, and it was hard picking just two Neil songs for this album. My band plays ‘Cinnamon Girl’ so well, so this was an obvious choice. I got to do a six-week tour with Neil Young in 1985. He treated me incredibly well – insisting that I play for an hour and do encores. He told me that Aussies were his favourite bunch of people because we were so weird and wonderful. One night, he realised that my nickname was Ralph. After I came off stage, he put his arm around me and said, “So you’re Ralph, huh? You’re a bad boy, Ralph. My band hasn’t been to bed for two days. I’m gonna change the name of my tour from Rust Never Sleeps to Ralph Never Sleeps!”
Neil Young was suffering from the flu when he recorded ‘Cinnamon Girl’ (with guitarist Danny Whitten singing the high harmony) for his 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, his first album with Crazy Horse. Is it a reference to heroin or ’60s folk singer Jean Ray? Neil Young has never identified his muse.
Music Is Love
“Everybody’s sayin’ music is love”
Written by: Neil Young, Graham Nash and David Crosby. Originally recorded by: David Crosby (1971)
Richard says, “It’s all in the title – music is love”
‘Music Is Love’ was the opening track on David Crosby’s 1971 debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. In 2010, the Vatican released a list of its “Top 10 Pop Albums of All Time”: The Beatles’ Revolver was at number one, and If I Could Only Remember My Name was number two.
“Southern man, when will you pay them back?”
Written and originally recorded by: Neil Young (1970).
Richard: “Neil Young wrote ‘Southern Man’ in 1970. Fifty years later, we have the Black Lives Matter movement. How can a 50-year-old song still be so relevant and mean so much?”
A song about slavery and racism, ‘Southern Man’ was on Neil Young’s 1970 album, After The Gold Rush. Lynyrd Skynyrd responded with ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, singing: “I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” But Neil didn’t mind, saying: “‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is a great song.”
“And the road goes on forever”
Written by: Greg Allman and Robert Payne. Originally recorded by: The Allman Brothers Band (1970). Made famous by: Gregg Allman (1973)
Richard: “This song is on the album because I felt we needed to spread our wings a bit and head to the south. To me, The Allman Brothers were a consummate hippie band, even though it was southern rock. My mates and I would sit around and listen endlessly to albums such as Eat A Peach.”
Gregg Allman called ‘Midnight Rider’ “the song I’m most proud of in my career”. It first appeared on the second Allman Brothers Band album Idlewild South, and then Gregg re-recorded it for his first solo album, Laid Back.
I Shall Be Released
“I see my light come shining”
Written by: Bob Dylan. Originally recorded by: The Band (1968)
Richard: Bringing it all back home. I could do any Dylan song; this is one of my many favourites. I remember reading an article about Dylan when I was a kid: the journalist asked college kids what they dug about Dylan. I related to one kid’s answer, it was just perfect: “Man, I have all these weird thoughts going through my mind. I think I’m just weird and I wonder, ‘Is it just me?’ And then Dylan comes out and he’s talking about exactly what’s in my head. How does he know that?”
Bob Dylan wrote ‘I Shall Be Released’, but his first recorded version was not released until 1971, on his Greatest Hits Vol. II. Both Joan Baez and Joe Cocker performed the song at Woodstock. The best-known version is by The Band, who did the song on their 1968 debut album, Music From Big Pink.
ABOUT RICHARD CLAPTON
- Richard Clapton’s catalogue includes the classic Australian hits such as ‘Girls On The Avenue’, ‘Deep Water’, ‘Capricorn Dancer’, ‘I Am An Island’, ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’, ‘Lucky Country’, and ‘Glory Road’.
- Inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 1999.
- Inducted into the Australian Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2010.
- ‘Girls On The Avenue’ peaked at #2 on the chart after huge radio support.When Paul McCartney visited Australia in the mid-70s, he heard ‘Girls On The Avenue’ and loved the song so much that he took a copy back to England and asked his brother Mike McGear to cover it.
- Goodbye Tiger (1977) was #15 on the encyclopedia of The 100 Best Australian Albums.
- The Great Escape (1982) featured Ian Moss, Jimmy Barnes, Don Walker, Jon Farris, Andrew Farris, Garry Gary Beers, The Angels’ Buzz Bidstrup, and Sherbet’s Harvey James.
- Helped nurture INXS’ career, producing their very first top-20 hit (‘The Loved One’), and their second album Underneath The Covers.
- Released his autobiography The Best Years Of Our Lives in 2014.
- Debut album Prussian Blue is approaching its 50th anniversary (in 2023).
- Music Is Love (1966 – 1970) will be Richard Clapton’s sixteenth studio album.
- Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Jackson Browne are among Richard Clapton’s fans.
- “Goodbye Tiger was so great, we wanted to capture some of that sparkle, so we got the same producer (Richard Batchens, for Cold Chisel’s second album). What we didn’t realise was the magic on that record was Richard Clapton” – Jimmy Barnes
- “To my mind, the first truly international-sounding Australian album was Richard Clapton’s Goodbye Tiger. I love that record and it sounded like a complete album.” – legendary producer Mark Optiz (Cold Chisel, The Angels, INXS)
- “The album Goodbye Tiger was one of the landmark records of the time and articulated the state of the nation. Clapton became the bard of the decade.” – Toby Creswell
- “You’re a bad boy, Ralph. My band hasn’t been to bed for two days. I’m gonna change the name of my tour from Rust Never Sleeps to Ralph Never Sleeps!” – Neil Young, on their experience touring together.
- “Australia’s favourite hippy” – Terry Blamey, executive producer of Music Is Love (1966 – 1970), who managed Kylie Minogue for three decades.
- “One of the most important Australian songwriters” – Ian McFarlane, The Encyclopedia Of Australian Rock And Pop
- “Richard Clapton is an Australian legend” – Jon Farris, INXS
- Richard himself says, “My music is about the Australian psyche and the Australian soul.When you’re the writer of a song you tend you have a different point of view to the listener. It’s like a two-way mirror – the listener is hearing it one way and you’re hearing it another. Not only did I feel like ‘Girls On The Avenue’ was the perfect song, but Festival Records rejected it six times. They’d say, “what’s the chorus, is it ‘don’t you slip’ or ‘Friday night’?” I don’t know! Why does a song have to have a hook or a chorus? You either like the song or you don’t!”
MUSIC IS LOVE (1966 – 1970) ALBUM OUT 9 APRIL 2021
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