Monday, March 2, 2015

4o Year Itch : Grading Telly Savalas' If Videos

   For two weeks in March of 1975, Telly Savalas's spoken-word performance of the Bread smash "If" rode the top of the UK charts. That put Savalas in the often awkward situation of having to lip sync the tune live on TV. 

   Here, we grade three performances.

   B- : In the least known of his televised  "IF" performances, Savalas begins out of sync and completely falls behind in his desperate efforts to light a cigarette in four seconds. He smiles at his own mistake and quickly shifts back into character but never quite regains sync. Afterwards, withy misty eyes, he gives a polite nod to the crowd and then speed walks off the stage, a dejected, hulking figure.

A- : Savalas gets the cigarette lit right at the top for German TV. This is key to a great "If" performance. Plus, he is synced-up. By now, he knows every nuance of the song. Naturally, your eye is drawn to the blonde who gazes upwards or at the camera apparently without a thought or care in the world. So blank is her expression that when Savalas recites the line "There's no one home", you have to take him at his word.

A+ :  Wearing an Escher-like shirt that screams "I'm a puzzle! Don't try to figure me out!", Telly Savalas walks up to the window with his cigarette already lit and looks upon a young brunette reading a magazine. It's a little creepy. Is she his prisoner? This time Savalas doesn't bother with lip syncing. Simply by taking off his glasses, he sends her thought messages. She gives him a smile and a nod that says "Yes, I'll come inside so you can repeatedly kiss the bridge of my nose". Savalas and his prisoner have brandy by candlelight. He reaches over to kiss her hand, and you know what that leads to: a change of wardrobe for her and solitaire on the floor. Without bothering to look at the cards, he knows the next move. Grabbing her by the throat he plants a few more nose kisses and sets her free Or does he?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

40 Year Itch : Soul Brothers Top 20

   The Soul Brothers Top 20 makes its debut on 1001Songs. It's a chart from the March 6, 1975 issue of Jet Magazine and will probably get featured a bit more this year  because 1975 issues of Billboard Magazine are getting a bit more rare on Google books at this point. 

  The ultra smooth ex-Temptations singer Eddie Kendricks hit #1 on the Hot Soul Charts and had a Top 20 pop hit with "Shoeshine Boy". That's despite some Motown executive who thought a song celebrating shoeshine boys would seem demeaning to blacks. The actual message, courtesy of lyricist Harry Booker, once a shoeshine boy himself,  is to try to do the best at whatever you can.


Also on this date, at the Grammy Awards, sniffing soul man David Bowie gave the award to the top female r and b performance.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

40 Year Itch: You Have Been My Lighthouse

Photo by Joel Sternfeld

   From Ghosts, among the very finest albums from Strawbs comes the single "Grace Darling". Having a children's choir perform on a rock song had been done ( The Rolling Stones's "You Can't Always Get What You Want") and it would be done again ( Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall"). But this is a special track from "the British Byrds".
    It was recorded in the chapel of the Charterhouse School, where, a decade earlier, the members of Genesis were students. The school's organist actually played on the tune because the band's keyboardist, John Hawken, couldn't adapt to the delay between pressing the keyboards and hearing the sounds.
   There really was a Grace Darling. She was a lighthouse keeper's daughter who helped rescue the survivors of a shipwrecked paddlesteamer. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

40 Year Itch : If He Brings You Happiness

    The ultimate country crossover, Freddy Fender's bi-lingual "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" hit #1 in the Country charts in March of 1975 and #1 on the US Hot 100 two months later. That achievement would be duplicated six times in 1975 ( with "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" by B.J. Thomas; "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell; "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and the two-sided hit "I'm Sorry"/"Calypso" by John Denver; as well as "Convoy" by C.W. McCall).

  The lyrics are so simple. The sentiment is so real. An absolutely timeless classic that apparently did no business in the UK.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

40 Year Itch : Deeper and Down

The Frantic Four's first UK #1 hit is as straight ahead a rocker as you're likely to ever hear...and catchy as hell.  When a song is this simple it all comes down to the feel. And something magical happened on this session. Is there an air drummer out there that doesn't come crashing in with John Coghlan? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

40 Year Itch : I Sure Would Like a Ride!

Another psychedelic funk gem from the 1975 Norman Whitfield produced Cosmic Truth has The Undisputed Truth singing about alien life. Couldn't tell you which of the four session drummers used on this album is playing here but he's something else. Don't be surprised if we visit this album again!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

40 Year Itch : Kashmir

Jack Nicholson follows a guide in The Passenger, 1975

   The stand-out track from Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, released on this date in 1975,  "Kashmir" was inspired not by a visit to the South Asian region but by a drive Robert Plant took through North Africa.

"The whole inspiration came from the fact that the road went on and on and on. It was a single-track road which neatly cut through the desert. Two miles to the East and West were ridges of sandrock. It basically looked like you were driving down a channel, this dilapidated road, and there was seemingly no end to it. 'Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams...' It's one of my favourites...that, 'All My Love' and 'In the Light' and two or three others really were the finest moments. But 'Kashmir' in particular. It was so positive, lyrically."
Robert Plant to Cameron Crowe, 1975.

Musically, "Kashmir" is one of Led Zeppelin's most immediately identifiable tunes, a result of Jimmy page's interest in modal tunings and Eastern music. It is also one of the band's favorite tunes.

In a 1975 interview between William Burroughs and Jimmy Page, set up by Crawdaddy, the two talked more about the origins of "Kashmir"

WILLIAM BURROUGHS: I really, really enjoyed the concert. I think it has quite a lot, really, in common with Moroccan trance music.

 JIMMY PAGE: Yes, yes.

BURROUGHS: I wondered if you consciously were using any of that….

 PAGE: Well, yes, there is a little on that perticular track, “Kashmir”–a lead bass on that–even though none of us have been to Kashmir. It’s just that we’ve all been very involved in that sort of music. I’m very involved in ethnic music from all over the world. 

BURROUGHS:: Have you been to Morocco?

 PAGE: No. I haven’t, and it’s a very sad admission to make. I’ve only been to, you know, India and Bangkok and places like that through the Southeast.

 BURROUGHS: Well, I’ve never been east of Athens.

 PAGE: Because during the period when everybody was going through trips over to, you know, Morocco, going down, way down, making their own journeys too Istanbul, I was at art college during that period and then I eventually went straight into music. So I really missed out on all that sort of traveling. But I know musicians that have gone there and actually sat in with the Arabs and played with them.

 BURROUGHS: Yeah, well they think of music entirely in magical terms. 

PAGE: Yes.

 BURROUGHS: And their music is definitely used for magical purposes. For example, the Gnaoua music is to drive out evil spirits and Joujouka music is invoking the God Pan. Musicians there are all magicians, quite consciously

  According to Mojo Magazine, within two weeks of its release, Physical Graffiti topped the US album charts, selling at 500 copies an hour. All of the band's previous albums also sold well enough so that Led Zeppelin became the first ad ever to have six albums in the Top 200.

Need another example of long term resonance of "Kashmir"? See below.