The Greg Brady Project

Welcome to the official Barry Williams' blog

My friends call me Barry. From time to time I also hear the name Greg. Yeah, as in Greg Brady. The Brady Bunch represents a fun time in my life. But it’s only part of the story. There’s more to say and that’s what The Greg Brady Project is all about – a place to say it. So, I’ve invited some friends to join me and share their perspectives on the Brady’s, the 70′s and just about everything else. Now, I’m inviting you…

23 Apr
Eric Greenberg

Hello Again, Hello

written by Eric Greenberg in Blog | 2 comments

It’s been way too long since my last post. Good to see you again. So I had one of those weird TV coincidences the other night. I was watching “The Hills” on DVR and tossing some blog ideas around, thinking I might write an entry about the unpredictable sustainability of Neil Diamond’s career. Pretty random considering Heidi and Spencer may not even know who he is, and most of you reading here probably don’t know who Heidi and Spencer are. How do I get myself hooked on these shows? Anyway, I finished watching and started scanning the channel guide and there was “The Jazz Singer.” It was either a sign that somebody’s mad at me for skipping Passover seder or that this post is meant to be. 

I had actually just seen “The Jazz Singer” for the first time on cable a few weeks ago and what was even more surprising to me is how much I liked it. Here’s some free advice: no matter how much you try to fight it, at some point in life, everyone becomes a Neil Diamond fan. The sooner you accept it, the better off you’ll be.

On paper, Neil Diamond’s popularity doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the same way that the Brady phenomenon doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’m not saying that both aren’t good. I just don’t think that in the beginning, either would have predicted the universal appeal that they continue to have more than 35 years later. 

The beginning is actually right around the same time. Sure, Neil was writing songs for acts like The Monkees back in the 60s, but it wasn’t until the Brady years that his own solo career really started to take off. In fact, “Sweet Caroline” was released just ten days before “The Brady Bunch” first went on the air. Other classics like “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “I Am, I Said,” “Song Sung Blue” and the great “Hot August Night” live album all came during the Brady years.

What’s interesting is that Neil seems to have a similar crossover appeal to “The Brady Bunch.” Neither may be considered the best of all time, but both are enjoyed by almost everyone. It’s a shared experience that’s pretty unique. For instance, if a bunch of people were in a room throwing out references to all-time great TV shows like “Cheers” or “Taxi,” some people would get them, while many wouldn’t. If in that same room though, a girl were to get hit in the face with a football, 90% of the people there would be thinking “Ooh, my nose!” Much in the same way, if the stereo in that room started playing “good times never seemed so good,” 90% of the people in the room would yell “so good, so good.”  

What’s really incredible is how both not only continue to sustain their current fans, but also manage to keep picking up new ones. With the Bradys it at least makes some degree of sense in that at the end of the day, it’s still kids relating to other kids. With Neil, you wouldn’t expect it as much. He hasn’t reinvented himself and stayed “cool” like Springsteen and some of the other huge names from the 70s. He never really went away, so he hasn’t benefited from a supply and demand reunion buzz like The Eagles. Somehow though, he’s managed to become the rare case in which he’s considered cool again just by being Neil and not trying to turn into something he’s not. Sure, it’s a slightly cheesy, forgiving, so uncool it’s cool kind of thing. But it’s still cool nonetheless, and you get the feeling he’s in on it.

That’s not to say his music hasn’t evolved. In fact his last album was very well received by the critics and his upcoming release is again produced by Rick Rubin, who’s known for reinvigorating musical careers. Still, his general vibe, 70s outfits and overall music genre don’t exactly scream out to a younger crowd (or guys in general for that matter). Yet at some point sooner or later, everyone seems to catch on.  

For me, it happened in college. A friend of mine with a bizarre taste in music (and an unhealthy interest in Neil Diamond’s chest hair) used to play him in our fraternity house of all places. Combine that with the “Sweet Caroline” sing along in one of my favorite movies, “Beautiful Girls,” and I was completely blindsided. Beyond the fun of the whole deal, the songs are actually very good in that Neil Diamond sort of way. You just have to allow yourself to like them. Now throw in that “Sweet Caroline” has become an 8th inning staple at Fenway Park, Neil’s cameo in “Saving Silverman” and the simple fact that “Forever in Blue Jeans” is a raise the roof jukebox classic (especially after a few beers), and there’s nothing left to talk about. Plus, girls love him! If I have one complaint, it’s that it’s gotten to be too retro cool to like Neil. The cover band Super Diamond even sells out at regular concert prices, for crying out loud.   

If you’re already a fan or are not yet and would like to turn yourself in willingly, you can catch Neil on tour this summer. If you’re still too cool for school, here are some other 70s acts hitting the road over the next few months (Hit the link for tour schedules):

Boston, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, The EaglesJames Taylor, Jimmy BuffettKC and the Sunshine Band, Robert Plant, Steely Dan, Stevie Nicks, Ted Nugent

Have fun. And Barry, play a little ”Cracklin’ Rosie” for me on Sirius tomorrow!

 

2 Comments

    Dan
    on Apr. 24th, 2008

    And you didn’t even mention the fact that next week is Neil Diamond week on American Idol ….

    Go Neil Diamond!

    Bob Hunt
    on Apr. 24th, 2008

    There are some highly successful artists whose catalog I am almost entirely indifferent to, with the exception of one song. For Neil Diamond, that would be “Forever in Blue Jeans” (though I couldn’t tell you why). Similarly, I can take or leave anything by Don Henley except for “Dirty Laundry”, which is one of my all-time favorites.

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