Wednesday, July 1, 2015

40 Year Itch : That Rich White Punk Itch

   You had to see The Tubes perform to get the joke. The San Francisco band weren't really white punks but more of a glam rock/ prog rock/comedy act fronted by a great showman, Fee Waybill (often in eighteen-inch platform shoes and a fright wig), and backed by one of rock's most under-rated drummers, Prairie Prince. Concerts were circuses with as many as twenty extras mingling onstage. Not of all the campy theatrics worked on record of course . Voted "Best New Band" in Creem Magazine's 1975 readers poll, The Tubes topped Bruce Springsteen, The Outlaws and Patti Smith. "White Punks on Dope" is everything you've heard it is.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

40 Year Itch : Those We Missed from June 1975

   1975 was kind of a no man's land between the Glam Rock/Singer-Songwriting 70's and Punk. But that doesn't mean the music isn't worthy of all of this attention. Here are some selections from albums released in June of 1975.

Monday, June 29, 2015

40 Year Itch : Death My Bride

"He continually took chances with his life. He'd drive like a maniac, risking accidents. For a couple of years he drank a lot and took downers to the point where it nearly killed him, but he'd always escape. Then he got into this romantic heroin-taking thing. Then his luck ran out."
     -Lyricist Larry Beckett

   On June 29, 1975 Tim Buckley died of an overdose, apparently by snorting what he thought was cocaine but turned out to be heroin. A coroner's report also found morphine in Buckley's system. The dose was given to Buckley by a friend named Richard Keeling, who would face second degree murder charges that were eventually dropped. Buckley was hurting right away and Keeling got him home where Buckley's wife got him to bed. When she checked in on him again, he was blue.

   Buckley left us with nine albums that leap from folkie introspection to far out avant garde rock to four octave sex god yowling, each album so different from the previous one that his audience appeared and disappeared in waves. Never big enough to sell "successful " numbers.

   His masterpiece is "Song of the Siren", which somehow found its way on the final episode of The Monkees TV show. In the 1980's, This Mortal Coil's rendition reignited some interest but it was son, Jeff Buckley's, short-lived fame that encourages most fans to pursue this artist's back catalog. There are gems to be sure. I have a soft spot for Greetings From L.A. But most readers will be happy with the two CD anthology Morning Glory.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

UK Top 20, June 29, 1975

I can't explain the top five. Maybe only grandparents were purchasing 45's this Summer. ( Ray Stevens? Johnny Nash? Whispering Grass?) Outside of the 10cc smash, we have to wait until we get to the bottom of the Top 20 before anything interesting emerges. 
    Nazareth's cover of Tomorrow's 1967 hit "My White Bicycle" and Roy Wood's Beach Boys homage "Oh What A Shame" come to mind. 

Pete Wingfield

  But this week in 1975, session musician Pete Wingfield's very odd doo-wop throwback, "Eighteen With a Bullet", made the most dramatic move, leaping from #44 to #15 in just one week. It would peak at #7 in the UK and after a week at #18 in the US, all the way to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

UK Top 20, June 29, 1975

1. 10cc : I'm Not In Love
2. Johnny Nash : Tears On My Pillow

3. Van McCoy : The Hustle
4.Windsor Davies and Don Estelle : Whispering Grass 
5. Ray Stevens : Misty
6. Hamilton Bohannon : Disco Stomp
7. Showaddywaddy : Three Steps to Heaven
8. Gary Glitter : Doing Alright With the Boys

9. The Chi-Lites : Have You Seen Her/ Oh Girl
10. Mud : Moonshine Sally
11. The Osmonds : The Proud One

12. Wings : Listen to What the Man Said
13. Kenny : Baby, I Love You, OK!
14: Gilbert O'Sullivan : I Don't Love You But I Think I Like You
15. Pete Wingfield : Eighteen With a Bullet

16. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel: Mr Raffles (Man It Was Mean)
17. Nazareth : My White Bicycle

18. Donny and Marie Osmond : Make the World Go Away
19. Rubettes : Foe-Dee-O-Dee
20. Roy Wood : Oh What A Shame

Saturday, June 27, 2015

40 Year Itch : Did You See Any Action?

Amsterdam, 1975

   Originally a self released album, Head East's Flat As A Pancake got picked up by A and M Records in 1975 on the strength of its Midwest radio play, especially for the lead off track "Never Been Any Reason". Peaking at #68 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Never Been Any Reason" predates The Cars's 1978 hits with its catchy guitar and mini moog solos. It remains a classic rock staple. Crank this one up in the car!

Friday, June 26, 2015

40 Year Itch: Five Facts about The Basement Tapes

"I had been in a motorcycle accident and I'd been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race."

1. On July 29, 1966 Bob Dylan crashed his 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 (like the one above) near his home in Woodstock, NY. The extent of his injuries probably included a cracked vertebrae in his neck and a concussion. For Dylan it was the excuse he needed to take some time off the road ( coming as it did after the "Judas!" tour of the UK) and from producing two albums a year. His road band, The Hawks, were still on his payroll so manager Albert Grossman arranged to have them stay nearby. Three of the band members moved into a house later dubbed "Big Pink". Eventually that house's basement became the makeshift practice and recording studio.

2. All of the songs on The Basement Tapes featuring Bob Dylan were recorded in 1967, eight years before the album was released on June 26, 1975.  Had the songs been released the year they were recorded, The Basement Tapes would have hit stores between Blonde on Blonde and John Wesley Harding. Eight of the 24 tunes were recorded just by The Hawks ( by 1975 known officially as The Band). Some were recorded later, possibly as late as 1970. There are even some reports that a few Band numbers ( like "Ain't No More Cane") were recorded in 1975. 

3. Despite his injuries, Dylan was still writing songs and, by jamming with The Band, he was apparently inspired by the simplicity of folk songs, country songs and all around Americana. With Dylan typing up lyrics right in front of them, they'd make up songs on the spot and record what were essentially demos for other artists. These were songs with a sense of humor. Among them: "The Mighty Quinn", which hit #1 in the UK for Manfred Mann. The Byrds recorded "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and "Nothing Was Delivered" on their Sweethearts of the Rodeo album. 

4. Many of the demos eventually found their way onto one of the world's earliest and most famous bootlegs, Great White Wonder, released in 1969.

In fact, by the time The Basement Tapes came out ( with the cover shot in the basement of a Los Angeles YMCA), most of the songs were well known by rock critics. "Open the Door, Homer" had been recorded by Thunderclap Newman.

"Lo and Behold", "Open The Door, Homer", "Don't You Tell Henry", "Odds and Ends" and "Tiny Montgomery" were all covered brilliantly by Coulson, Dean, McGuinnes, Flint in 1972.

    Rolling Stone critic Paul Nelson listed five tunes he expected to hear on the album ( including "The Mighty Quinn", "I'm Not There", "Get Your Rocks Off","Sign on the Cross" and "I Shall Be Released") before celebrating the unheard "Goin' to Acapulco" which he described as an "cosmic, bawdy" "ace in the hole".

5. So why did Dylan wait eight years before allowing Columbia Records to release The Basement Tapes? One theory is he had finally recorded an album as good as anything he'd done in his classic 60's period, Blood on the Tracks. The album was universally praised, topping the Village Voice's annual critics poll.

Village Voice - Pazz and Jop Lists 1975 Albums 
 1. Bob Dylan and The Band - The Basement Tapes
 2. Patti Smith - Horses
 3. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
 4. Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks
 5. Neil Young - Tonight's The Night
 6. Steely Dan - Katy Lied
 7. Roxy Music - Country Life
 8. Bob Marley and The Wailers - Natty Dread
 9. The Band - Northern Lights-Southern Cross
 10. The Who - The Who By Numbers
 11. Toots and The Maytals - Funky Kingston
 12. Neil Young - Zuma
 13. Roxy Music - Siren
 14. Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years
 15. Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger
 16. Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac
 17. Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes - To Be True
 18. Gary Stewart - Out Of Hand
 19. Nils Lofgren - Nils Lofgren
 20. Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

In 2014 Columbia released a six CD version of The Basement Tapes containing 139 Dylan songs.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

40 Year Itch: Cozy Little Footies On Their Mind

Kids Pajamas were especially creepy in 1975

   From One Size Fits All, one of Zappa's most highly regarded albums of the 1970's, comes "Po-jama People", which displays Zappa and his merry band at the height of their musical skills. This, along with album opener "Inca Roads", got some FM radio airplay in its day. Imagine the talent to arrange a song like this and then stand back in awe at the guitar solo, which may have been played on a fretless electric guitar Zappa was fooling around with at the time. Rated #18 in Rolling Stone's list of the Best Prog Rock Albums of All Time which is a far cry from the original review which suggested Zappa seemed content to merely "shuffle the deck a few times and deal out the same hand" as Apostrophe.

The album should also be noted for its cover, painted from the point of view of a cigar smoking God.