Thursday, April 17, 2014

40 Year Itch : Top 20 Soul This Week in 1974

After backing Billy Paul, The Stylistics, The Spinners, The O'Jays and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes on their hits, the studio musicians who made up Mother Father Sister Brother hit pay dirt with the future Soul Train theme "TSOP". And the disco era was born...

2. Bloodstone : Outside Woman
3. Staple Singers : Touch a Hand, Make a Friend

4. James Brown : The Payback
5. Earth Wind and Fire : Mighty Mighty

6. Barry White, Honey, Please Can't See Ya
7. Gladys Knight and the Pips: Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me
8. The Jackson 5 : Dancing Machine

9. The Temptations : Heavenly
10. Stylistics: You Make Me Feel Brand New

11. Main Ingredient : Just Don't Want to Be Lonely
12. Al Green : Let's Get Married
13. New Birth : It's Been a Long Time

14. Bobby Womack : Lookin' For Love
15. Leon Haywood : Keep It In the Family

16. Joe Simon : Carry Me
18. Sylvia : Sweet Stuff

19. Billy Paul : Thanks for Saving My Life
20. Bobby Blue Bland : Goin Down Slow

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

40 Year Itch: A Peephole in my Brain

Dana Gillespie's Weren't Born A Man album, which received a full page ad in an April 1974  issue of Billboard Magazine features a song David Bowie originally wrote for her. It's called "Andy Warhol" and , yes, it's the same song Bowie recorded for his 1971 album Hunky Dory. This album contains the 1971 version originally cut by Dana with Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson producing.

A longtime friend, lover and backing vocalist of the Thin White Duke, Dana was signed to Bowie's MainMan management company. Years earlier she inspired Donovan's "Superlungs, My Supergirl" for two obvious reasons.

Weren't Born a Man failed to do much in the way of business and Dana reinvented herself as a B movie siren before returning to music. Today she's a British blues singer well worth tracking down.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

40 Year Itch: A Shot of Salvation

  On April 15, 1974 The Rolling Stones concert movie "Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones" made its debut at the Zeigfield Theatre in New York City. The movie shows the Stones at their peak, performing in Texas and at Madison Square Garden during the 1972 American Tour. Originally screened in quadrasonic sound, the movie played limited engagements in select cities (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles) because tons of sound equipment has to be moved and set up at each theater.

Monday, April 14, 2014

40 Year Itch : Turn It Up

On April 15, 1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd released their second album, Second Helping, which featured the band's biggest song ever, "Sweet Home Alabama". Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington admits the song is a response to "Old Neil" Young's songs "Alabama" and "Southern Man":

We listened to Neil Young a lot back then, and "Southern Man" really cut the South--and he's from Canada!. It kind of peeved us, so we wrote that kind of as a joke. We never thought it would be a single, much less a hit...nothing we did was that premeditated.

In fact the lead off single from Second Helping wasn't "Sweet Home Alabama" but  "Don't Ask Me No Questions"... which failed to chart.

While Rolling Stone reviewer Gordon Fletcher complained that the band lacked the "sophistication and professionalism" of the Allman Brothers, both Robert Christgau and the critic at Billboard Magazine cited the band's good taste. Christgau goes on to say "any suspicions that this substantial, tasteful band blew their best stuff on the first platter should fall in the wake of the first state song ever to make top ten, which will expose you to their infectious put-downs of rock businessmen, rock journalists, and heroin." 

  Aside from "Sweet Home Alabama", Lynyrd Skynrd delivers "Workin for MCA", an inside-baseball tune about their record deal that may be more "punk rock" than the Sex Pistols's "EMI". There's also "The Needle and the Spoon" which warns listeners off heroin :

Lord, their gonna bury you boy /
                               Don't mess with the needle

Sunday, April 13, 2014

40 Year Itch: They're Weird and They're Wonderful

Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 for April 13, 1974

1 Elton John Bennie and the Jets

With crowd noises nicked from an Elton John concert in London and Jimi Hendrix's performance at the Isle of Wight, as well as some off beat handclaps, "Bennie and the Jets" gave Elton John his second #1 in the US. He was prouder of the fact the song hit #15 in the R and B charts. One of those few tunes most people could name in one note.

2 Blue Swede Hooked on a Feeling
3 MFSB and the Three Degrees TSOP

4 Sister Janet Mead The Lord's Prayer
5 Redbone Come and Get Your Love
6 John Denver Sunshine On My Shoulders

7 Gladys Knight and the Pips Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me
8 Terry Jacks Seasons in the Sun
9 Ringo Starr Oh My My

10 Carly Simon and James Taylor Mockingbird

Saturday, April 12, 2014

40 Year Itch: Suzi Q Tours the US of A

On April 12, 1974 Suzi Quatro opened her US Tour at the Michigan Palace in front of her parents in her hometown of Detroit. She had already become a UK Glam sensation with three #1 hits--none of which did much business in the US. Still, Suzi and her band of Brits had a great time with, as she related in her autobiography Unzipped..."the endless TV Stations, the hamburger and hot dog stands, the malls, the guitar shops ( even better, the pawn shops where (we ) picked up loads of cheap guitars, the streets of Detroit, Sunset Strip, the huge expressways.

      At one of her final shows, at the Whiskey in LA, Iggy Pop joined Suzi onstage.Problem was he was wasted, so we had to have security "escort" him off. Sorry Iggy, no offence. But if you're gonna get on my stage you'd better be "together", you know what I mean?

  Next stop: Australia where Suzi was such  huge star she couldn't go outside without being surrounded by screaming fans.

   Suzi would finally find fame in the US as Leather Tuscadero on the hit TV show Happy Days and with "Stumblin' In" her Top  5 1978 hit with Chris Norman whose band Smokie also failed to otherwise find a US audience.

Friday, April 11, 2014

40 Year Itch: Oh No, Oh No, Oh No, Oh No

It's not the best film ever made, but I've seen worse.
-Ringo Starr 

   On April 11th, 1974 the soundtrack for the Apple film Son of Dracula was released, eight days before the movie premiered in Atlanta. The movie stars Harry Nilsson who took payment in the form of cosmetic dentistry. It is, by all accounts, abysmal. Ringo Starr financed the whole thing as a tribute to the classic monster movies of Hammer and Universal. He even managed to round up an all star cast of Peter Frampton, Keith Moon and John Bonham to play in the Count Downes, the son of Dracula's band. The movie tanked. Even when it was re-released as Young Dracula to try to cash in on Young Frankenstein's success. ( At least that movie inspired one rock n roll hit: Aerosmith's "Walk This Way").


   The soundtrack is a dud as well. With the exception of the Top 40 single "Daybreak" ( featuring George Harrison on cowbell), all of the songs on the album had been previously released on Nilsson Scmilsson or Son of Schmilsson.