Tuesday, August 23, 2016

40 Year Itch : Jaco

All of us stand on Jaco's shoulders. - Sting

In August of 1976, 25 year old Jaco Pastorius released his self titled debut album. Pastorius reinvented the bass. He plucked off the frets and created the warmest, most resonant, most expressive voice in the world of jazz. He played the bass as though it were a lead instrument, using harmonics in a way most people had never heard. He was, as his wife told Blood Sweat and Tears drummer Bobby Colomby, "the greatest bass player in the world".

Colomby agreed. He produced the debut album with one goal in mind : "to bring Jaco to as many people as humanly possible". Jaco Pastorius is not a traditional jazz album. The second track, the funky "Come On, Come Over", features the vocal talents of Sam and Dave. Herbie Hancock performs on six of the nine original tracks.

 In the tremendous documentary, Jaco, Hancock says Jaco was able to handpick whoever he wanted to work with. A surprising number of 1976 albums would illustrate that remark. He played bass on Ian Hunter's All American Boy, on debut albums by both Pat Metheny and Al DiMiola, on two tracks of his future band, Weather Report's Black Market ( including Joe Zaniwul's tribute to Cannonball Adderly), and most significantly perhaps, on Joni Mitchell's Hejira.

No discussion of Jaco's brilliance can end without painfully discussing his battle with mental illness and alcoholism. In the Jaco documentary, Flea relates the story of coming across a homeless looking musician in New York City's Washington Square. And then this sad image appears on the screen : the world's greatest bass player playing for spare change.

Monday, August 22, 2016

40 Year Itch : What the Kids Want

On August 21, 1976 Eddie and the Hot Rods released their Live at the Marquee EP, featuring two sides of live rock 'n' roll covers played at lightening speed and as loud as possible. Quite the bargain at a pound, the EP was meant as a gesture to fans who wanted a record of their high energy live shows. When it hit the UK Top 50, the band suddenly found itself on Top of the Pops.

How did it happen?

Then 18 year old bassist Paul Gray explained to NME:

Everybody's got a bit pissed off with everything that's been 'appenin'. There's been nothing new, 'as there, since about the early 70's. Punk Rock's such a big thing. So many bands are doing it,  and so many kids are in it...old men like the Stones can't relate to kids now, they're a completely different generation. So if you're a young band like us you know what the kids want."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

40 Year Itch : Knebworth '76

On August 21, 1976, 250-thousand fans --some naked, some high --attended the Knebworth Festival, including Linda and Paul McCartney and David Gimour. The Rolling Stones headlined the UK rock festival, but the  highlight was Lynyrd Skynyrd's scorching performance. The Alabama rockers followed Utopia on stage. "America's Confederate rockers" would be releasing their live album, One More From the Road, in September and were in peak form. 

They were followed by 10cc, in what I believe is their final performance as the original quartet. They may have had the best sound but they had a hard time winning over the crowd who were anxious to see the Rolling Stones. They rocked out on a ten minute version of  "Rubber Bullets" before saying goodnight.

Conditions at Knebworth were fairly miserable. Long lines for bathrooms and drinking water. A naked hippie raced on stage and pleasured himself in front of the crowd. When he was finished he grabbed a mike and said "Sorry for keeping you waiting for so long".

The Rolling Stones came on hours late, in part because some giant lips had to be inflated above the stage. Finally around 11:30 that night , they opened with "Satisfaction". Billy Preston played keyboards. Ron Wood played some hot licks on lead guitar. Despite the recent Lester Bangs obit* for the band, The Rolling Stones were still alive and still mattered.

*There are two things to be said about the new Stones album before closing time: one is that they are still perfectly in tune with the times (ahead sometimes, trendies) and the other is the heat's off, because it's all over, they really don't matter anymore or stand for anything, which is certainly lucky for both them and us. I mean, it was a heavy weight to carry for all concerned. This is the first MEANINGLESS Stones album, and thank God... I don't even hate Black and Blue like the new Led Zep, which admittedly is unworthy of hatred from anybody except a true patriot who expected more than what you knew you were going to get - what you get here is sweet flow Muzak dentist office conversation piece bright eyes shining in the face of nothing at all which they will not even confront and more power to 'em... So thank you for not aspiring: you are an inspiration to the blank generation whole.

Meanwhile in France,  on the way to the Mont de Marsan punk festival , headlined by Eddie and the Hot Rods, Nick Lowe, The Count Bishops and Pink Fairies, The Damned's Ray Burns buys a shirt with epaulettes and exchanges his nickname "Eats" for "Captain Sensible". The Damned's first single, "New Rose", will be released in two months.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

40 Year Itch : An Overdose of Doctor's Notes

In August of 1976, Dave Edmunds released the single "Here Comes The Weekend" on Led Zeppelin's Swansong label. Edmunds wrote and recorded the tune with his future Rockpile bandmate Nick Lowe whose "So It Goes" single came out the same month. Both are examples of the new sound Lowe described as "clever words over a simple rhythm". The single did not sell in the UK ( though it did peak at #27 in the Netherlands) but "Weekend"  foreshadowed 1977's Get It, arguably Edmunds's best solo album. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

40 Year Itch : Glue Sniff Death Shocker

On August 19, 1976, under the banner headline "Glue Sniff Death Shocker", The Glasgow Evening Times reported on the efforts by Jack Dempsey, MP for Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, to get the first Ramones album banned in the UK following a series of deaths related to glue-sniffing. Among the songs on the debut is "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue"featuring the lyrics

All the kids want to sniff some glue
All the kids want somethin' to do

Manager Danny Fields responded in NME "Why should the song be banned? War films aren't banned on the grounds that they advocate violence."

Dee Dee Ramones said the song was written as a joke. "Shit! It's a good thing we split from those assholes 200 years ago. I hope they don't really think we sniff glue. I quit when I was eight."

On August 26, The Ramones visited Disneyland. Said Johnny Ramone in his autobiography Commando:

I always liked that place, loved riding Space Mountain. I like fast rollercoasters. I don't know that I cared about going with the band, but I did have a good time. I like those parks. I've been to Disneyland three times and to Disney World twenty times. At Disney World, I like to ride I like to ride Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

40 Year Itch : Come Along My Brother

On August 18, 1976 Burning Spear released Man in the Hills, the much-anticipated follow-up to the trio's legendary Marcus Garvey. The title cut --taken literally--is a nostalgic list of errands Jamaican kids in the countryside do for their mothers, from fetching water to washing dishes to gathering brambles for cooking fires. Not the place to start your Burning Spear collection, but eventually Man in the Hills rewards repeat listening.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

40 Year Itch : Tipping Over Backwards

On August 17, 1976 Talking Heads played "The Book I Read" at their gig in the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club in Tribeca. More significantly, it was one of the first times Jerry Harrison performed with the band. The former Modern Lover had quit the music business to lecture at Harvard when his old bandmate, Ernie Brooks, gave Heads bassist Tina Weymouth Harrison's number. She convinced him to see a gig in Boston and later to practice with Talking Heads and even play a few gigs in New York. Harrison would later say "I saw something in them and I knew straight away. I saw what the group needed : me!"

  The live version of "The Bool I Read" features a saxophone solo by Fletcher Buckley.

In November Seymour Stein's Sire Records would sign Talking Heads with a $15,000 advance.

Byrne has already played one fairly legendary show at the Ocean Club in July of 1976. It was a John Cale and Friends show featuring Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Chris Spedding and, in the audience, Andy Warhol. Below they jam together on the Velvet Underground chestnut "I'm Waiting For The Man". More about that gig can be found via Aquarium Drunkard.