Tuesday, August 4, 2015

40 Year Itch : Rickenbacker Twang

   Pub rockers Starry Eyed and Laughing were ready to take America by storm when founding member and vocalist Tony Poole stepped up to the mic in Atlanta and promptly received an electric shock so strong it knocked him flat on his back. Not realizing this wasn't some form of stage craft, the  rest of the band played around Poole who lat on his back with his Rickenbacker in his arms. Poole spent a night in the hospital as the crew sorted out the problem, an incorrectly wired amplifier. 

Starry Eyed and Laughing spent much of the late Summer and early Fall touring the US, opening for acts as diverse as Dr Hook, Weather Report and Toots and the Maytals.  The band would mix originals with Byrd-like Dylan covers of "Mr Tamborine Man", "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and "Chimes of Freedom". 1975's Thought Talk is a delight! Lead guitarist Ross McGeeney plays some of the sweetest solos this side of Mark Knopfler.

Monday, August 3, 2015

40 Year Itch : Bwana! Bwana!

   Following 12 straight gold records in the US , and getting scalded with hot grits from a woman who then shot herself to death, Al Green was well on his way choosing gospel over soul. On yet another terrific Al Green/Willie Mitchell collaboration, Al Green Is Love, there's even a six minute song called "The Love Sermon" in which the future Reverend Green preaches he wants to do all the things to you/ the married men won't do. But the stand out is "Love Ritual", with its African-percussion meets Memphis strings vibe. Green can even be heard chanting "Bwana Bwana!". As far as I know, he's never revisited this sound which makes it even more fascinating.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lester Bangs : My Top 10 of 1975

Lester Bangs, rock's most radical critic, presented this list to the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics poll for the year 1975. He gave Patti Smith's Horses the highest possible score and was the only critic to even mention Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.

1. Patti Smith:Horses
2. The Dictators: The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!
3. Brian Eno : Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
4. Bruce Springsteen : Born to Run
5. David Bowie: Young Americans
6. Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music
7. Earth Wind and Fire: That's the Way of the World
8. Kraftwerk: Autobahn
9. Roxy Music : Country Life
10. Toots and the Maytals: Funky Kingston

Saturday, August 1, 2015

40 Year Itch : My Yesterday Was Blue

Grey Gardens, 1975

   By the end of the 1950's, the decade Dinah Washington made a Top 10 hit out of  the 1934 tune "What A Difference a Day Makes", Esther Phillips was a has been. As "Little Esther" she topped the R and B charts with "Mistrusting Blues". Now she was drug addict who, in 1954,  witnessed Johnny Ace accidentally shooting himself to death. It was Kenny Rogers of all people who got her back on track in the 1960's. She reached #1 in 1962 with the R and B hit "Release Me".

In the 1960's and 70's she made critically acclaimed albums like 1974's Black-Eyed Blues while battling her heroin addiction. Then, in 1975, she recorded her breakthrough disco hit, with Dinah Washington's old hit., sounding not unlike Billie Holiday in platform shoes.It was such a sensation she performed the song on a new NBC late night show called Saturday Night Live and earned a Grammy nomination. Phillips would record up until the year of her death in 1984.

Friday, July 31, 2015

40 Year Itch : With a Frog in Her Hand

  The Top 20 "New York City" is a return to form for the ex-vegetarian Marc Bolan, whose steady diet of hamburgers and booze has had an alarming effect on his teen idol looks. Fans saw the new Bolan on a July 31, 1975 episode of Top of the Pops. Bolan's raunchy guitar is once again offset by the heavenly backing vocals of Flo and Eddie. Bolan would have just one more Top 20 hit, "I Love to Boogie", before he would be killed in a 1977 car crash two weeks shy of his 30th birthday.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

40 Year Itch : What's an Hour of the Day

Lynda Carter on the set of Wonder Woman

  The brothers Tavares would top both the R and B charts and the disco charts with "It Only Takes A Minute", one of the most memorable US hits of the Summer of '75. Fun fact: in an earlier incarnation as Chubby and the Turnpikes, the New Bedford, MA band had future Aerosmith member Joey Kramer playing drums. 

  One of the best things about Tavares was their stage act. That came courtesy of the legendary Motown choreographer Cholly Atkins who also taught The Temptations, The Supremes and The O'Jays their dance steps.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

40 Year Itch : All Meat!

   Perhaps the highlight of this 1975 $2 Warner Brothers loss leaders is the obscure Harry Nilsson/Cher cover of Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave" B-side "A Love Like Yours ( Don't Come Knocking Every Day)". The single was produced by Phil Spector at the same time he was recording John Lennon's Rock'n'Roll sessions. This is the only album you'll be able to find this song. Other highlights are the Faces last single, "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything",  the title track from ex-Spooky Tooth Gary Wright's The Dream Weaver, and Elvin Bishop's "Juke Joint Jump" from the album of the same name.