Monday, February 20, 2017

No Reason to Die

In February of 1977 "New Dylan" Elliot Murphy released his fourth, and best known album, Just a Story from America. With help from Phil Collins on drums, the album kicks off with "Drive All Night", a song that sounds like something Bruce Springsteen might have just recorded. Live, Murphy would sometimes segue from "Drive All Night" into his old label mate's  "Born To Run".

But the track that got the most attention was "Anastasia", a lovely song about the Russian Czar's lost daughter featuring the Boys Choir of St Paul . The song was a minor hit in France so when Murphy failed to hit the big time in the US, he decamped to Paris where he still lives and performs to this day.

Here's Robert Christgau's C- review of Just A Story From America

If anyone can write a rock ballad to a deposed Russian princess made famous by Ingrid Bergman it's Murphy--the image sums up the F. Scott Fitzgerald/Rhett Butler (and Eva Braun?) side of a boy-man who's also heir to the traditional reverence for Jimi Hendrix and James Dean. Instead, the song is the embarrassing epitome of a record on which Murphy sounds spoiled instead of sensitive, presumptuous instead of ambitious, and about as comfortable with rock and roll as Roderick Falconer.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

On February 19, 1977, on the same page they reviewed Leo Sayer's "When I Need You" and Rose Royce's "I Wanna Gert Next To You"  Billboard Magazine said this about the first Talking Heads single "Love Goes to a Building On Fire" : 
"Strange enough, but not too rough-edged, debut from one of the stalwarts of the New York punk rock scene. The horn trills and surreal lyrics add up to a mid-period Beatles feel."

The song, with its lines like "I've got two loves And they go tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet like little birds" , wasn't a hit but it did foreshadow the debut album that would introduce the world to David Byrne's naive and nervous stage persona. Rock critic Will Hermes named his 2011 history of the New York Music scene Love Goes to Buildings on Fire  and 40 years after the original single was released Japandroids put their cover on a B side .

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Freak That's On Display

On February 19, 1977 The Damned released the first "punk" album, Damned Damned Damned. Produced by Nick Lowe, it might actually sound too good to those expecting caustic punk from ne'er do wells. The musicianship is spot on as well, especially the guitar work of Brian James which was likened to Pete Townshend by NME. To promote the album ( which features the classic singles "New Rose" and "Neat Neat Neat") The Damned went on tour with Marc Bolan of T. Rex who proudly claimed to be the godfather of punk.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Them Throw My Mama

On February 18, 1977, infuriated by the scathing remarks of "Zombie" (Go and kill! Joro, jaro, joro/ Go and die! (Joro, jaro, joro)", the government of Nigeria sent 1000 soliders over the walls of  Fela Kuti's Kalakuta compound and savagely beat the residents. Fela himself escaped death, but his activist mother was thrown through a window and broke her hip -- causing an injury that would take her life within the month.

 Fela's response to the incident can be heard in the 1980 albums that followed, including "Coffin for Head of State" and "Unknown Solider".

  "Unknown Solider", titled as such because official government reports blamed the destruction of the compound on an "unknown solider",  has the lyrics that bear witness to the event ( his voice nearly breaking as he sings "Them kill my mama".

Them dey break,
yes Them dey steal,
yes Them dey loot,
yes Them dey fuck some of the women by force,
yes Them dey rape, ....Them break some some head
Them throw my mama
Seventy-eight-year-old mama
Political mama
Ideological mama
Influential mama...
Them throw my mama out from window
Them kill my mama
Them kill my mama

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When I Say I'm Fine

On February 15, 1977 Eddie and the Hot Rods played John Peel's BBC 1 show.  This was before the ex Kursaal Flyer Graeme Douglas joined the band as second guitarist. Douglas would co-write the band's biggest hit, the UK #9 "Do Anything You Wanna Do" released July 29, 1977.

This was also the week that Bruce Springsteen had become so discouraged by his lawsuit with manager Mike Appel that kept him out of the recording studio for a year and a half ...that before a February 15 show in Detroit, for the first time in his life, he did not want to get up on stage. 

"At that moment, I could see how people get into drinking or into drugs, because the one thing you want at a time like that is to be distracted—in a big way", he would later tell LA Times critic Robert Hilburn.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I'm Not an Animal

"If Johnny Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the attitude."
-Malcolm McLaren

On February 15, 1977 Sid Vicious joined The Sex Pistols, replacing Glen Matlock on bass despite the fact that he couldn't play the instrument. What Vicious brought to the stage was charisma, something quite apparent in the video below.

  Sid Vicious had fewer than two full year to live. Hospitalized with hepatitis during the recording  of Never Mind the Bollocks...Vicious played bass and has a songwriting credit on on one of the band's most hated songs"Bodies", but it was later overdubbed by guitarist Steve Jones.  

 The Sex Pistols would play their last gig in January of 1978. By then Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen were full blown heroin addicts. In October of 1978, Vicious was arrested for stabbing Spungen to death. In February 1978, Vicious overdosed on heroin. His mother says she found a suicide note that read :"We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye." 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

And There's Hazel and Mavis

On February 14, 1977 The B-52s played their first gig at a friend's party in Athens, Georgia. The campy band,was made up of Ricky Wilson, his younger sister Cindy, Kate Pierson, drummer Keith Strickland and an eccentric University of Georgia student named Fred Schneider. They did "Rock Lobster" and "Dance This Mess Around". Both songs appear on their 1979 debut album, which sold half a million copies. As you might imagine, it was a pretty good party.