Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Vision Is Confused

We Were Sentenced to Die The Day We Were Born
-Gary Gilmore

On January 17, 1977 convicted double murderer Gary Gilmore was shot to death by a firing squad, becoming the first American prisoner executed in nearly ten years. Despite requests from his mother, members of various churches and the ACLU that his execution be stayed, Gilmore just wanted to get it over with. "This is my life and this is my death. It's been sanctioned by the courts that I die and I accept that." When asked for any last words, Gilmore simply replied, "Let's do it." 

Within hours of the execution, two people received his corneas. That inspired the UK punk band, The Adverts, to record their UK Top 20 hit "Gary Gilmore's Eyes".

I'm lying in a hospital,
I'm pinned against the bed.
A stethoscope upon my heart,
A hand against my head.
They're peeling off the bandages.
I'm wincing in the light.
The nurse is looking anxious,
 And she's quivering in fright

 I'm looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes.

 The doctors are avoiding me.
My vision is confused.
I listen to my earphones,
 And I catch the evening news.
A murderer's been killed,
And he donates his sight to science.
 I'm locked into a private ward.
I realise that I must be
 Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes.
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes.

 I smash the light in anger.
Push my bed against the door.
 I close my lids across my eyes,
And wish to see no more.
 The eye receives the messages,
And sends them to the brain.
No guarantee the stimuli must be perceived the same
When looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes.
 Gary don't need his eyes to see.
 Gary and his eyes have parted company.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Number Please

On January 16, 1977 The Sylvers hit the Top 10 for the second time thanks to "Hot Line", an infectious  Top 5 hit for the family vocal group out of Watts, CA who hit #1 a year earlier with "Boogie Fever".

2 I WISH –•– Stevie Wonder
3 CAR WASH –•– Rose Royce
4 YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A STAR (To Be In My Show) –•– Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. 5 DAZZ –•– Brick
6 TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT (Gonna Be Alright) –•– Rod Stewart
8 HOT LINE –•– The Sylvers 
9 AFTER THE LOVIN’ –•– Engelbert Humperdinck
10 STAND TALL –•– Burton Cummings

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Jefferson Avenue

We interrupt this journey back to 1977 with a reader’s request for “Jefferson Avenue”, a song I recorded with my pal James Lien as a Tulane University student in early 1986. The reader, Darren Wexler, remembers hearing this lo-fi rocker on WTUL and writes “ I quoted it to my GF and really thought it was one of Alex Chilton’s bits…I assumed it was some ditty he popped off and sent to TUL as a kindness”.

 Is that not the greatest complement an amateur musician could ever hear?

Alex Chilton lived in New Orleans in the 1980s

 It should come as no surprise that the song came too me while walking from campus to my apartment. I did a lot of walking around New Orleans in those days. I didn’t have a car and didn’t ride the bus. My bank might have been on Jefferson Avenue, but there really isn’t anything of interest on that street except the Newman School attended by Wexler and the Manning boys. Wexler says he always appreciated the shout out to The Newman School, “where everyone’s rich but very cool”.

 I remember recording the song at Lien’s house. I figured we would do more than one take and that he’d play the guitar, but James liked the way the guitar sounded. He thought my ill-fingered bar chords gave the song a Velvet Underground vibe. Chatting with James over Facebook, he remembers his drumming as “famously lame”. I just think they’re a little buried in the mix, which sounds like it was sped up to 1.5X

 James transferred his cassette mix to cart for the radio station and we decided to call ourselves The Now Explosion. A great name! So great we learned there was already an Atlanta band with the same name. With minutes to think up something new, I came up with Hamburger Party. It sounded like the name of a song the Young Fresh Fellows might have recorded. Patriotic, yet fun. I published a self deprecating fanzine with the lyrics and chords, and left piles of them in record stores. There might have been a line asking readers to request the song on WTUL.

There are parts of the tune that make us both cringe. For me, it’s the Duran Duran vocals on the line “But I wouldn’t be home until to-niight”. Shuddering. Every. Single. Time. But, perhaps thanks to the fanzine, we weren’t the only ones to play the song. It was an era for lo-fi college radio rock so maybe it fit in?

Neither James or I play in bands now. I did play songs about girls, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends in a Seattle band. James played in a Dad band that did Guru Guru covers. But every so often we hear from someone who remembers our infectious tune celebrating the least celebrated street in New Orleans.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Another Green Ziggy

I had planned to write quite a bit about the first of David Bowie's 1977 albums, Low. But my son really wanted to go to a Monster Truck rally and here we are approaching my bedtime after a long week. So here goes nothing.

It's a bi-polar effort though isn't it? The first side experimental chock full of avant garde rock n roll. And like the Beach Boys albums of the early 70's, most recordings fade out the moment the ideas run out. The second side reflecting the influence of his collaborator, Brian Eno.

“I knew he liked Another Green World a lot,” Eno told The Guardian’s Michael Watts in 1999. “And he must have realized that there were these two parallel streams of working going on in what I was doing, and when you find someone with the same problems you tend to become more friendly with them.”

Side Two was dismissed by Rolling Stone critic John Milward for its "dabbling" : 

Such technosheen music requires a detached master to hold the reins, and Bowie, the cracked actor, is just too much of a ham. The problem is most glaring when his Latin-mass voices are blended into the lunar mix with the subtlety of ripe blue cheese. ( A reference to "Warszawa").

 Bowie lacks the self-assured humor to pull off his avant-garde aspirations. His role playing long ago blew his detached mystique. Low serves as a moderately interesting conduit through which a wider audience will be exposed to Bowie's latest heroes, and in this sense is an interesting addition to his recorded catalog. More importantly, Low fulfills another of Bowie's requirements -- it again washes clean his audience's expectations and allows him to contemplate his next mask.

The dean, Robert Christgau, gave Low a B+.

I find side one's seven "fragments" -- since the two that clock in at less than 2:45 are 1:42 and 2:20, the term must refer to structure rather than length -- almost as powerful as the "overlong" tracks on Station to Station. "Such a wonderful person/But you got problems" is definitely a love lyric for our time. But most of the movie music on side two is so far from hypnotic that I figure Bowie, rather than Eno, must deserve credit for it. I mean, is Eno really completely fascinated by banality? 

As for Billboard Magazine, mostly read by retailers and radio programmers :

Bowie the multi-instrument master emerges on this disk. The emphasis is on eerie, unusual arrangements for well defined, laid-out instrumental journeys into some brooding, mysterious lands. Bowie's singing is significantly down-played here in favor of the overdubbed instruments including synthesizers and other keyboards. 

Side two is the most adventurous and a stark contrast to the few distorted hard rock cuts on side one. This LP emphasizes Bowie's serious writing efforts which only time can tell will appeal to the people who have watched him go through various musical phases. Best cuts: "Warszawa," "Weeping Wall," "Sound And Vision."

Friday, January 13, 2017

The World's Funkiest Sing-Along

If you're just faking the funk, who knows how long your nose is gonna grow.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Another Parking Machine

On January 12, 1977 jazz/ rock bassist Sting moved to London. On the very same day, he sought out Stewart Copeleand, a drummer he met in Newcastle Upon Tyne when Copeland's Curved Air played there.
With guitarist Henry Padovani, they formed a punk band called The Police. One month later they would enter Pathway Studios to record Copeland's single "Fall Out".

"This was one of the first songs Stewart played me. What they [the songs] lacked in sophistication they made up for in energy. I just went along with them and sang them as hard as I could. No, it wasn't false punk. I mean what's a real punk? Our first record was entirely a tribute to Stewart's energy and focus. The band wouldn't have happened without him."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hard Again


"(Hard Again) definitely changed my life, because for as long as I can remember listening to it, it's been my favorite album and it's made me want to play the blues. It inspires me every time I listen to it. It makes me want to run and pick up a guitar and start playing."
- Kenny Wayne Shepherd

What exactly does a 71 year old blues legend have left in the tank? Well, a lot of people think Hard Again , released on January 10, 1977,  is the best album Muddy Waters ever recorded. He made Hard Again with the help of his touring band (pianist Pinetop Perkins, guitarist Bob Margolin, bassist Charles Calmese and drummer Willie Smith), harmonicist James Cotton and producer/ guitarist and Blue Sky label owner, Johnny Winter.

The album has a live feel. There must have been a great spirit in the room. At times, it sounds like too many people are playing at the same time which is why I prefer this version of "I Can't Be Satisfied", performed with dobros and resonator guitars.