“MTV Unplugged” Begins

The first episode of MTV Unplugged made its television debut on Sunday, November 26, 1989. The series would eventually feature many classic episodes and recordings, such as four years later with the November 18, 1993 show featuring Nirvana.

But back in 1989, the show had not established a reputation so the performers on the first episode were not superstars. The show featured Squeeze, Syd Straw, Elliot Easton (of the Cars), and Jules Shear.

Below Shear, Straw, Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, and Elliot Easton come together to cover The Monkees during that first show. Check out “I’m a Believer” from the very first episode of MTV Unplugged.

Many credit Paul McCartney with helping make MTV Unplugged a popular show that would attract major artists. During the second season, after his appearance, he released a recording of the show, Unplugged – The Official Bootleg, which went on to be quite successful.

MTV Unplugged aired regularly between 1989 and 1999. The show appeared less frequently during most of the next decade usually called MTV Unplugged No. 2.0.

Since 2009, MTV has occasionally run the show as a special, sometimes in online-only versions. But for those of us who were around during the decade that was the show’s heyday, it was an important cultural touchstone of that time.

What is your favorite episode of MTV Unplugged? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    World Series Songs: San Francisco Bay Blues

    In honor of a big win by the San Francisco Giants, in this year’s edition of World Series Songs featuring songs related to the championship team’s name or locale, we get the opportunity to look at the timeless song “San Francisco Bay Blues.” Also, check out our past Super Bowl Songs.

    “San Francisco Bay Blues” was written by Jesse Fuller in 1954. Fuller was a type of musician we do not see much of anymore, the one-person band. While it is true today one might find a one-person band using computers and electronics, there was a time before that when a musician would play multiple instruments all at once. I have been lucky a few times to find a one-person band playing at a street fair and found the performances very entertaining. It has been a long while since I have encountered such a performer, making me wonder if these musicians are a thing of the past. But I guess they are still around, and they also have taken on different forms with the advent of technology.

    Jesse Fuller was born in Georgia in 1896 and passed away in 1976 in Oakland, California. After working for a railroad and in a shipyard, he turned to music, playing around the San Francisco bay area where he lived. His most-famous song, “San Francisco Bay Blues” immortalizes his stomping ground as the singer tells about his “best girl” who no longer loves him. In the video below, watch Fuller and his one-man band perform “San Francisco Bay Blues” in 1968.

    “San Francisco Bay Blues” has been covered by a number of artists, ensuring its lasting fame. Eric Clapton performed the song on MTV Unplugged in 1992 during the taping in England. The live album earned six Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.

    Another performer who helped make the song familiar to us is Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Below is one of his performances of the song.

    Finally, one knows one wrote a great song when one of the greatest songwriters of the century decides to cover your song. Here is Paul McCartney singing “San Francisco Bay Blues.”

    In the song, the singer wonders about the woman returning and creating a “brand new day.” For those whose teams did not make the playoffs, we will have to wait until spring for our brand new day. And that’s the story behind the song.

    What is your favorite song about San Francisco? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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