Thursday, March 23, 2017

Whatever Happened to ...?

"Slade was never pretentious. It was just music to them. Pop, rock, was all the same to Slade. They wrote great songs. And, besides, I'd like to raid their wardrobe." - Noel Gallagher (Oasis)

Whatever happened indeed! By the time Slade released its heaviest and hardest rocking album on March 21, 1977, glam rock had all but vanished from the UK charts. Slade had returned from its year long attempt to conquer America with their tails between their legs. Their comeback album , Whatever Happened To Slade,  failed to chart upon its release but years later, it has earned a place of honor among Slade fans. The album was voted #1 of the top three Slade albums in the Slade Fan Club Poll of 1979.  More than a decade later members of Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana would cite the album as influential.

Record Mirror's 3 star (out of 5)  review
If you ever spent an evening, way back in 1972, swaying along with the raunchiest, sweatiest, rudest band in the world, you'll have the same fond memories of Slade as I do. The boys don't seem to have changed that much in five years - Noddy still looks like like a leery, dirty old man, and Dave Hill still has that ridiculous hairdo. This is their comeback album - the one that'll make them or break them. It features their last single "Gypsy Roadhog" which didn't get too far in the charts and most of the other tracks are in the same vein - solid, rocking numbers, just not quite distinctive as "Cum On Feel the Noize" or "Coz I Luv You" did. Part of the problem is that they seem to be trying too hard - laying everything on, instead of sticking with simplicity.  

 The result is that it sounds, heavy, cluttered, even a bit old fashioned. Noddy's voice still sounds great whilst Dave turns in some pretty nifty guitar, but there's just too much of everything. In the old days, the lyrics weren't too important to Slade, but now they're writing songs with meaning, like "Big Apple Blues", a song about New York where Noddy sings "city walls standing tall, if you fall no one hears you call" but finishes up with "the apple ain't bad, it's just bruised and I'm glad that it's there at all". Or, on "Dogs of Vengeance" - "come to my castle and I will unfold some exquisite passion so grand, some torment, the best in the land." (Slade get into sado-masochism?) All very well, but I still prefer the real good old nudge and wink ditties like "It Ain't Love but It Ain't Bad" - "some of them one night stands, ooh ooh, that I've had, keeping me happy all the time I'm on my own, keeping me satisfied when I'm away from home." At the moment Slade seem to be stuck between two fences, no longer making singles guaranteed to make the charts but not quite making it album-wise either. Still, their forte is really playing live, and I won't ever write them off until I've seen if they can still do it up there on stage.

Sound Magazine's review :

Remember those days when punk rockers were affable urchins who would no more have thought of vomiting obscenities into the nation’s living room than they would of leaving for a show with a spare pack of strings? Well those days are back. Back in the highly acceptable form of Slade.’ This is what the biog says and what a load of crap! If Slade are, or ever were a punk rock then John Denver is the next Messiah and Karen Carpenter was stand in for Linda Lovelace in ‘Deep Throat’. And as for the obscenity bit, I vaguely remember a story about Slade in the early days, when they were banned from a series of dates because they used ‘blue humour’ in their act. OK, so they once had bog brush hair do and attempted to project a skinhead image, but it didn’t some off, so what’s the point of a re-take on a campaign that’s failed? Anyway, this is a bloody good album. Whatever Happened to Slade? Well as far as I can make out, the band were always on form when they worked within the most basic of formats. Rock and Roll! Rock should be approached with a Neanderthal feel about it and these guys were one of the prime producers of commercially viable cranium crushing music. The singles were dumb but clever, almost manic in approach yet highly entertaining. The band have obviously been brushing up on their homework, since their self-imposed exile to the US of A. This album is high energy on a primeval scale. It’s got all the ball bustin’ riffs you’ll find nestling comfortably alongside yer ZZ Tops and Nugents. The tracks, run into each other, and it’s got the same suicide pace of the Aerosmith ‘Rocks’ album. Even though some of the chord changes are so old they’re almost heading for retirement, none of it sounds blatantly derivative.

 Basically, it’s all down to the fact that Noddy Holder is a fine rock and roll singer. When it comes to boogie, this guys vocal chords are lethal. So powerful it’s as if he’s got a compressor implanted in his tonsils. The rest of the band aren’t dodo’s either. The drum and bass union of Don Powell and Jim Lea respectively, has an effect similar to a jack rabbit using your head as a practice pad. And I like Dave Hill’s geetar, ‘cause he knows his limitations and doesn’t overstep the mark. Eleven tracks in all, I haven’t listened to the album enough to evaluate how long the initial impact will last. But it’s packed with strong tunes, lotsa potential singles and the lyrical content is more interesting. I never knew that their single ‘Gypsy Roadhog’ was about Rich Man’s marching powder. The production is slightly flat, lacks the necessary sparkle. Basic and effective, producer and manager Chas Chandler has managed to capture and convey the live spirit of the band, but the overall sound lacks that trebly bite that people like Jack Douglas (Aerosmith/Patti Smith) manages to obtain. Slade always remind me of the Beatles at simplistic, gut level. Cold Turkey Trekkin’. I mean, if the fab four have ever decided to go gonzoid heavy metal, then this is what they might have sounded like. Play it when your neighbours are getting on your case, it’ll knock their Sunday dinner clean off the table. Play it when your party starts getting laid back and people are asking for ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’. If you liked ‘Get Down and Get With It’ and the first album, pin back your lugholes, no! staple them to the side of your head, now turn it up! Turn it up! Turn it up!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Motors at the BBC

On March 22, 1977, days after debuting at the Marquee Club, The Motors recorded three songs for John Peel's weekly BBC 1 radio show, "Bringing In the Morning Light", the classic "Dancing the Night Away" and "Emergency". Peel was a big fan and suggested The Motors might be one of those bands fans follow from gig to gig.

Formed by two Ducks Deluxe bandmates, Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster, along with short-lived guitarist Rob Hendry and drummer Ricky Slaughter, The Motors would release a three minute version of "Dancing the Night Away" in September, a UK#42 hit. By then Bram Tchaikovsky had replaced Hendry. A full six minute version of the song leads off the pub rockers debut album 1. A year later they would score a UK#4 hit with "Airport".

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Ninety-Two Decibel Rocking Band

On March 21, AC/DC released Let There Be Rock, the hardest rocking album, in Australia.  All you need to know about this album is what guitarist Angus Young said in an interview with Coundtown about rocking up such a storm that "towards the end, the fucking amp  was smoking. There was smoke pouring out of the back of the fucking amp! (Producer) George (Young) is fucking screaming , 'Don't stop!' I'm there fucking banging away and I could see this fucking smoke filling up the fucking room, It lasted until the end and then this fucking amp , it was just like it gave in --it was 'Blaaah!' It melted. That was an album where it was cooking!"

The album was released to the rest of the world on June 23, 1977 where it peaked at UK#17. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Loneliness Is Haunting Me

On March 20, 1977 Graham Parker and The Rumour's surprising cover of the Trammps's 1975 Top 10 hit "Hold Back the Night" peaked at #24 on the UK charts. It's the lead off track on their Pink Parker EP, which was released March 11 as a between meals snack for fans awaiting album number 3, Stick It To Me. .Brinsley Schwartz was sick the day the band recorded the song in Cologne so Thin Lizzy's Brian Robertson filled in.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On a Summer Day 1951

On March 19, 1977 Andrew Gold's single "Lonely Boy" entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts at #83. The album track from What's Wrong With This Picture? would peak at #7. Up until this point Gold was best known as a studio musician and arranger who helped Linda Ronstadt break into the pop charts. He played nearly every instrument on "You're No Good". 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Idiot

On March 18, 1977 Iggy Pop released The Idiot, a haunting autobiographical album produced by David Bowie. Recorded in Berlin, Pop has described the album's sound  as "Kraftwerk Meets James Brown". Its release coincided with the advent of punk rock and helped earn the fallen star a new title as the Godfather of Punk.

The most autobiographical song on the album is probably "Nightclubbing", with its zombified drum machine shuffle ( later sampled backwards by Trent Reznor for Nine Inch Nails's "Closer"). Pop says it's a comment on what it was like to hang out with Bowie every night."Dum Dum Boys", about meeting The Stooges,  is the album's funniest song : 

The first time I saw 
The dumb dumb boys 
I was fascinated 
They just stood in front 
Of the old drug store 
I was most impressed 
No one else was impressed 
Not at all

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Smorgasbord for the Ear

An arrangemental tour-de-force, a smorgasbord for the ear.”
– Neil Tesser, Down Beat, 1977

In March of 1977, Weather Report released Heavy Weather, the band's most famous album,  and the first to feature bassist Jaco Pastorius as a full time member. We're talking about a jazz record that reached No 30 on the Billboard pop charts, went gold upon its immediate release, and was named Down Beat magazine's "Album of the Year" after earning a rare 5 star review. This may the greatest achievement in jazz fusion.

The album's highlight is Josef Zaniwul's "Birdland", a tribute to the club named for Charlie Parker. If you've never seen the band play "Birdland" you might be surprised that its bassist Jaco Pastorius who plays the melody in the introduction, his fingers on practically the highest notes his bass can play. To some ears, Pastorius dominates the album, almost to a fault.

In his review for Down Beat Neil Tesser complements the sound on the record: 

“Weather Report has never employed the studio-as-instrument as thoroughly or as well as Heavy Weather. The LP literally explodes with the clarity, separation and sheer variety of timbres, and Zawinul’s arsenal of synthesized tonalities is astounding (He’s listed on the liner as ‘producer/orchestrator’). Because of the recording quality, you can hear the smallest details of the intricately arranged layers of sound, with the versatile polyphonic synthesizer creating a vibrant, velvety richness that makes Getty look like a welfare case.

Rolling Stone critic has especially kind words about Jaco :
“Josef Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Co. have wandered far afield from the original Weather Report, assimilating and passing off new drummers and bassists with astounding speed. The wandering in itself is no big deal, for they couldn’t have played the understated and airy music of their early albums forever and kept it fresh… If they have lost anything, it’s the resonant, pulsing space between notes and the remarkable melodies that grew out of non-melodies… Their gains have been more palpable, though, especially since jazz rock has grown lazy. Jaco Pastorius, the bassist who joined them on their last album, has been instrumental in developing their busier, talkative style… [Pastorius is] vital to them now because he fills up the music where it used to diffuse, which suits their apparent aims just fine. There was a time when Weather Report’s music went up and up only; becoming more ethereal as it went; the new bottom makes all the difference in the world.”

And Jaco's friend Pat Methany also has raves :
“To me, Heavy Weather is the best [Weather Report album]. That’s one of the great records of all time. Pretty much from beginning to end, there is not a dead spot on that record. It’s conceptually brilliant and, execution-wise, it’s devastating. Also, the sound on that record is incredible.”

For a lot more about this album visit