Saturday, June 16, 2018

Talk On the Street

On June 16, 1978 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had a new single in the Billboard Hot 100 charts, the power pop classic " I Need to Know". The first single from You're Gonna Get It  would peak at #41.

Also entering the Billboard Hot 100 on this date

#73 The Commodores : Three Times a Lady . 
It would knock The Rolling Stones' Miss You from the #1 spot and stay at the top of the charts for two weeks in August.

#81 Wings : I've Had Enough
The second single from London Town  would peak at US#25.

#87 Evelyn "Champagne" King : Shame
The disco hit would peak at US#9.

#90 The Cars : Just What I Needed
This single would peak at #27 in the US.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Sixteen Years

On June 15, 1978 Bob Dylan released Street Legal. Despite being dismissed by many critics, the album went gold in the US, peaking at #11 on the Billboard album charts. In the U.K, the album was better received, peaking at #2. And in the annual Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll, Street Legal finished #21 right behind Devo's debut. NME ranked the album #7.

I was never very impressed by the album even after a good friend suggested I check out the 1999 remixed and remastered version. Not much Don DeVito could do with an album recorded live in the studio in just a matter of days. Dylan had been preoccupied by his critically panned film, Renaldo and Clara. He was also in a custody battle following his bitter divorce from Sara.

Still, "Changing of the Guards" is a stand out track. The female backing vocals really shine and give the song a gospel feel ( foreshadowing Dylan's move to Christianity?) . The first line is "Sixteen years", which happens to be the length of Dylan's recording career at the time. But reading much more into the opaque lyrics is a fool's errand. Even Dylan has said "It means something different every time I sing it. 'Changing of the Guards' is a thousand years old'" 

I also like the final track, "Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Darkness)".

Dave Marsh heard echoes of Elvis Presley on Street Legal. Greil Marcus, who did the review for Rolling Stone,  did not:

It saddens me that I can't find it in my heart to agree with my colleague Dave Marsh that Bob Dylan's new record is a joke, or anyway a good one. Most of the stuff here is dead air, or close to it. The novelty of the music — soul chorus backup (modeled on Bob Marley's I-Threes), funk riffs from the band, lots of laconic sax work — quickly fades as one realizes how indifferent the playing is: "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)," the most musically striking number here, is really just a pastiche of the best moments of the Eagles' Hotel California. Still, I believe some of the songs on Street Legal: those that are too bad to have been intended with anything but complete seriousness. Dylan may have once needed a dump truck to unload his head, but you'd need a Geiger counter to find irony in "Is Your Love in Vain?" or affection in "Baby Stop Crying."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Lost In Shock

In June of 1978, Magazine released Real Life, a debut album that has been called Ground Zero for post-punk. It's got a quirky, inventive sound that still sounds fresh forty years later.

 Founded by ex Buzzcock Howard Devoto, Magazine released an album that includes such classic tracks as "Shot By Both Sides", "The Light Pours Out of Me" and the opener "Definitive Gaze" which must have sounded like the very future of rock n roll. "

Melody Maker declared that "no one that has the slightest interest in the present and future of rock 'n' roll should rest until they've heard Real Life". Upon hearing the first single, "Shot By Both Sides", Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus suggested "Magazine may be the band to fill the vacuum the Sex Pistols have left. You never know, but I can’t wait to find out." 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Live at Napa State Mental Hospital

“We’re The Cramps, and we’re from New York City, and we drove 3,000 miles to play for you people.”


On June 13, 1978 The Cramps performed a psycho-billy concert for the enthusiastic residents of Napa State Mental Hospital. 

Lux Interior:

We always wanted to play at a mental institution because we always had a problem with audiences not being quite what we'd like them to be. We thought if we went to a mental institution, the audience would contribute --and they really did! There were male and female inmates humping each other on the ground. It was the most bizarre show we've ever done. Those people just went crazy -- doing everything you'd imagine people in mental institution would do. There were people licking the walls, people laying on top of each other and coming up and talking to us while we were playing , but mainly it was people dancing the weirdest dances you've ever seen.

It also strikes me as an incredible humane gesture by the Cramps. Is there anything that make people feel more free, or lifts them form their troubles than music? Residents were allowed to share the stage, even the microphone, with the band. There was so little separation between audience and performers, some patients thought The Cramps had come from the T Ward, where terminal patients lived. 11 patients escaped briefly during the show, perhaps seeking even a greater sense of freedom.

The Nomads, a punk band out of the Bay Area, also performed a set that day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Landlord, Landlord, Landlord

In the Spring of 1978 Dangerhouse Records released a powerful double shot of Los Angeles punk, X's "Adult Books" b/w "We're Desperate". Baltimore native John Doe had decided the New York punk scene has already been too established to enter so he moved out to Los Angeles where he met and became romantically involved with a poet named Christina Cervenka. Guitarist Billy Zoom entered the picture through an add in the weekly Recycler.

From a Brendan Mullen and Marc Spitz article in Spin Magazine

(Doe and Cervenka) penned lyrics that were equal parts Jim Morrison and Raymond Chandler and sang off-key harmonies with impossible conviction. Cervenka rocked a thrift-goddess ensemble that later was almost completely appropriated by "Lucky Star" era Madonna ( who used to buy jewelry from Cervenka's sister Muriel). Zoom played accelerated distortion-drenched Ventures and Chuck Berry riffs, always with his legs straddled apart and a creepy smile across his face; D.J. Bonebreak, hijacked from power pop trio The Eyes, beat the shit out of his snare.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Count the Hours

On June 11, 1978 The Boomtown Rats entered the U.K. charts AT #54 with "Like Clockwork". Peaking at UK#6, this second single from A Tonic for the Troops is their first Top 10 hit. With its alarm clock sound effect, "Tick Tock" chant , and Twilight Zone theme reference, you might think this is a silly pop tune, but like a lot of songs on the album (including the upbeat Hitler tune "(I Never Loved) Eva Braun") it's actually quite dark with lyrics like:

Count the hours, count the months and minutes 
You're born in tears and die in pain and that's your limit 
You're lookin' for a reason but there's none 
There, why don't you admit it 
We'll make the most of what we've got, that's the ticket

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Booze and Pills and Powders

On June 9, 1978 The Rolling Stones released their last great album, Some Girls. This was my entry point into the entire Stones legend, followed shortly by Hot Rocks and then More Hot Rocks. Rather than leading the way, the Stones take their cues from what's happening around them : disco ( "Miss You"), punk ( "Lies") and country ( "Far Away Eyes"). The title track may have been a joke, but it went over my head and upset various groups.

If Richards was absent from his usual contributions, he showed up in first on "Before They Make Me Run", an all time favorite  often covered live by Steve Earle. 

Great album to play on your earphones as you're wandering around New York City.

From Paul Nelson writing for Rolling Stone :
 Q: Do you think the music of the Rolling Stones has an overall theme?
A: Yeah. Women. - Keith Richards

With Bob Dylan no longer bringing it all back home, Elvis Presley dead and the Beatles already harmlessly cloned in the wax-museum nostalgia of a Broadway musical, it's no wonder the Rolling Stones decided to make a serious record. Not particularly ambitious, mind you, but serious. These guys aren't dumb, and when the handwriting on the wall begins to smell like formaldehyde and that age-old claim, "the greatest rock and roll band in the world" suddenly sounds less laudatory than laughable, you'd better dredge up your leftover pride, bite the bullet and try like hell to sweat out some good music. Which is exactly what the Stones have done. Though time may not exactly be on their side, with Some Girls they've at lest managed to stop the clock for a while.

On the new album the Stones have stripped down to the archetypal sound of two or three guitars, bass and drums, and it's wonderful to hear the group blazing away again with little more than the basics to protect them. Everything's apparently been recorded as close to live as we'd want it, and the overdubbing and extra musicians have been kept to a minimum. "Respectable" takes a close look at the peculiar position of the Stones, circa 1978, and boasts lines like these: 
We're talking heroin with the President 
Yes it's a problem sir, but it can be bent... 
You're a rag trade girl, you're the queen of porn 
You're the easiest lay on the White House lawn... 

before it inexplicably begins to lose interest in itself. "When the Whip Comes Down" and "Lies" are a neat combination of white heat and old hat, while "Miss You," "Imagination" and "Shattered" are a good deal better than that. And the title track is every bit as outrageous ("Black girls just want to get fucked all night/I just don't have that much jam") as everyone says. This song may be a sexist and racist horror, but it's also terrifically funny and strangely desperate in a manner that gets under your skin and makes you care. On "Some Girls," Mick Jagger sounds like he's not only singing like Bob Dylan, but about Bob Dylan: "I'll give you a house back in Zuma Beach/And give you half of what I owe."

"Before They Make Me Run" and "Beast of Burden," Some Girls' hardest-hitting songs, are sandwiched between "Respectable" and "Shattered" on side two. It's probably presumptuous to suggest that these four tracks are about the present predicament of this stormy band, but I think they are. When Keith Richards sings, "Well after all is said and done/Gotta move while it's still fun/But let me walk before they make me run," there's no doubt he's talking about the music, his drug bust and the possible end of the road, about which he writes brilliantly ("Watch my taillights fading/There ain't a dry eye in the house..."). And when Mick Jagger implores, 
Ain't I rough enough 
Ain't I tough enough 
Ain't I rich enough 
In love enough 
Oooo, ooh please. 
 he's got to be thinking about himself and the Rolling Stones, among other things. It's too bad the answer to all his questions isn't an unqualified yes. In a better world, it should be.

From Robert Christgau writing for the Village Voice :

 The Stones' best album since Exile on Main Street is also their easiest since Let It Bleed or before. They haven't gone for a knock-down uptempto classic, a "Brown Sugar" or "Jumping Jack Flash" -- just straight rock and roll unencumbered by horn sections or Billy Preston. Even Jagger takes a relatively direct approach, and if he retains any credibility for you after six years of dicking around, there should be no agonizing over whether you like this record, no waiting for tunes to kick in. Lyrically, there are some bad moments -- especially on the title cut, which is too fucking indirect to suit me -- but in general the abrasiveness seems personal, earned, unposed, and the vulnerability more genuine than ever. Also, the band is a really good one -- especially the drummer. A