Saturday, October 10, 2015

40 Year Itch : Idiot Energy

   For a brief moment the Winkies were the shit. That was the moment they were the backing band for Brian Eno's "Seven Deadly Finns" single as well as his short lived five gig tour--the one that ended with Eno in a hospital, recovering from a collapsed lung. Eno contributed to the first Winkies album sessions, but those never made it to an album. Instead we have this debut produced by the erratic Guy Stevens ( Mott The Hoople, Free, some of The Clash's London Calling).  Still, there are moments that shine with what Eno called "idiot energy", a pre-punk, petulant, New York Dolls-like shimmer. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

40 Year Itch : Against The Grain

   Trying to make up for my lack of 1975 boogie, check out some of the best slide guitar of the entire decade from Rory Gallagher's Against The Grain. One of the albums that inspired future Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, it's a showcase for a man who refused to make disposable pop.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

40 Year Itch: Standing in the Dark

Bee Gees drummer Dennis Byron witnessed the beginning of The Helium Years during the recording of the Main Course track "Nights On Broadway". The brothers Gibb liked singing around the same mic .

  Whenever they were together -- especially around a mic--it was like comedy central. They were good at impersonations and could pretty much do anybody. As they were rehearsing the vocals on "Nights on Broadway", they broke into a mad five minutes.  They started singing in strange voices and making strange faces. It was hilarious; everybody in the control room was in stiches.

   Suddenly Arif (Marden, producer) stopped the tape. "Barry, I have an idea. Try singing the chorus in falsetto."
   Karl rewound the tape and Barry started singing in that high voice: "Blaming it all". Robin and Maurice joined in, and we all had chills. Barry was reluctant to change his style of singing at first, but Arif encouraged him. "Experiment with your voice, take it places it's never been."
  When we got home that night we played the rough mix of "Nights On Broadway" into the early hours. This was a hit.

"Nights On Broadway" peaked at #7 in the US. Candi Staton's 1977 cover reached No. 6 in the UK.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

40 Year Itch : One Extra Coastline

   Rock operas made a comeback in 1975 with 10cc's "Une Nuit A Paris ( One Night in Paris)", Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and almost the entire Sparks album Indiscreet, which was released in October. The Mael brothers teamed up with producer Tony Visconti who indulged their Gilbert and Sullivan operetta obsessions on songs like opening track "Hospitality On Parade", "Without Using Hands" and "It Ain't 1918". 

Not all of the critics were impressed but Morrissey was a huge fan, writing in his forward to Visconti's Brooklyn Boy

    "Either the Maels or Tony Visconti, were asking 'What can we show them that is new?'...From a tipsy teatime waltz to unstoppable violins, the pace pulverized the listener, and Russell's mouth seemed unable to close. There are so many latitude and longitude instrumental textures that the masterstroke was almost overcooked."

   The album peaked at #18 in the UK and failed to chart in the US. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

40 Year Itch: A Soundtrack for the Divorce Decade

  On October 6, 1975 Paul Simon released Still Crazy After All These Years, the Grammy award winning Album of the Year which spun off three hit singles and amassed platinum sales. It's a mellow, melancholy album that chronicles the end of Simon's marriage to Peggy Harper, the woman who inspired "Bridge Over Troubled Waters".

Complex chords played on an electric piano dominate the proceedings as Simon muses on his return to life as a lonely, single man:

I'm not the kind of man
Who tends to socialize
I seem to lean on
Old familiar ways

  Simon did socialize though. He would date starlets like Shelly Duvall and his second wife Carrie Fisher. He was also spotted at Studio 54. And there would be no shortage of women who would have said things like:

She said it grieves me so
To see you in such pain
I wish there was something I could do
To make you smile again
 I said I appreciate that

   Outside of the "Slip out the back, Jack" rhyming scheme ( which certainly got old in repeated airplays as "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" went to #1), the album's pretty serious stuff. That would explain Simon's 1976 appearance on his best friend Lorne Michaels's Saturday Night Live in which he sings "Still Crazy" in a turkey outfit.

  "I don't wanna be Mr Alienation. I want to be a regular guy," he explains.

My favorite cut is probably "Have a Good Time". Written for Warren Beatty's Shampoo, it's sung from the point of view of the Beverly Hills hairdresser/lothario is sleeping his way into trouble.:

I've been loving and loving
And loving
I'm exhausted from loving so well
I should go to bed
But a voice in my head
Says "Ah, what the hell"

Monday, October 5, 2015

40 Year Itch : Christgau Nuggets


With fewer than 100 days left to celebrate the best music of 1975, I feel like we'd better play some catch-up. Here are a few mostly forgotten albums that made "The Dean's" list at the end of 1975.

   Following her years in Joy of Cooking, Terry Garthwaite released a funky self-titled album in 1975 Christgau gave the album an A-, writing "Garthwaite emerges as a kind of white, upbeat Esther Phillips, applying a gritty Dinah Washington cast to post-rock lyrics both metaphorical and incantatory. But she's more flexible, happier--her delight in pure sound suggests both scat improvisation and novelty nonsense"

Stoney Edwards, a rare black country singer, released Mississippi You're On My Mind in 1975 which Christgau also graded an A- writing "And though Edwards literally can't read or write, he makes up good songs and picks better ones...He touches all the bases without sententiousness or whoop-de-doo. Country soul indeed."

   Christgau originally gave session musician Randall Bramblett's debut album a B+ writing "A find. Transcending its well-connected professional genre, the slightly distracted passion of Bramblett's singing combines with his oblique fusion of Southern boogie, studio country-rock, and Caribbean polyrhythms to take the edge of privilege off his philosophical fatalism. His music is too warm and funny to sound self-satisfied, and the way he collects images around an aphoristic catchphrase is too open-ended to sound smug. Start with side two."

Sunday, October 4, 2015

US Top Ten : October 6, 1975

   With the exception of the Bowie chart topper and the Sweet single, this truly was a "so bad, it's good" Top 10, highlighted by the cringe-inducing "Run Joey Run", featuring the return of young Michael Vance ( from Clint Holmes's "Playground In My Mind") as the voice of Julie.

1 2 FAME –•– David Bowie (RCA)-15 (2 weeks at #1)
2 1 I’M SORRY / CALYPSO –•– John Denver (RCA)-8
3 3 RHINESTONE COWBOY –•– Glen Campbell (Capitol)-19
4 5 RUN JOEY RUN –•– David Geddes (Big Tree)-10

5 14 MR. JAWS –•– Dickie Goodman (Cash)-5
6 25 BAD BLOOD –•– Neil Sedaka (Rocket)-4
7 9 BALLROOM BLITZ –•– Sweet (Capitol)-17

8 12 DANCE WITH ME –•– Orleans (Asylum)-12
9 11 AIN’T NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY –•– Helen Reddy (Capitol)-9
10 24 ROCKY –•– Austin Roberts (Private Shock)-12