Wednesday, October 26, 2016

40 Year Itch : Dazz Dazz Disco Jazz

In the final week of October, 1976, the Atlanta funk band Brick made its US Hot 100 debut at #90 with "Dazz", a classic 70's jam that would soon top the US R and B charts for four weeks and peak at #3 on the pop charts at the end of January 1977. "Dazz" is short for disco jazz. The album Good High would be the only album to break up Songs in the Key of Life's string of twenty straight weeks at the top of the R and B charts. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

40 Year Itch : Heard It On The Radio

this is exactly what's going down, i'm alone. there is no hiss by my window...a sonic like to get up and put LA Woman on but i just can't
-Patti Smith, liner notes

On October 22, 1976 The Patti Smith Group released Radio Ethiopia, a more conventional set of rock songs than Horses. Produced by Jack Douglas (Toys in the Attic, Imagine), the album is more band-oriented than a spotlight for the poet/prophet.

Some critics accused Patti Smith of selling out. Not the best ones. Robert Christgau gave the album an A-minus grade which helped Radio Ethiopia squeeze into the 1976 Pazz and Jop Critics poll at #30:

 When it works, which is just about everywhere but the (eleven-minute) title track, this delivers the charge of heavy metal without the depressing predictability; its riff power--and the riffs are even better than the lyrics on this rockpoet experiment--has the human elan of a band that is still learning to play. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

40 Year Itch : Well, Firm and High

On October 22, 1976 Bob Seger released the nostalgia-fueled Night Moves, his first platinum album. The title track always reminds of how shy I was as a 12 year old boy in 8th Grade, as terrified as I was captivated by the girls in middle school. Some already had points of their own, "well, firm and high." Would I soon be "workin' on mysteries without any clues /workin' on my night moves"? 

Well, no. As it turned out. Not for many years.

I recently listened to Night Moves after hearing how Seger had studies Springsteen's Born to Run and that quiet whispered part in "Jungleland" for some song writing inspiration. He told a radio interviewer "(Springsteen) had like a multiple bridge, he had various different things going on, and I thought to myself, 'That's how I'll finish 'Night Moves.'"

Did Seger study anyone else? "Sunburst" sounds like it uses the blue print from "Bargain" off of Who's Next or perhaps "Imagine a Man" from The Who By Numbers. "Ship of Fools" could have been a Rod Stewart song. "Sunspot Baby" might have been a great lost track from The Rolling Stones.

The album got an A- rating from Robert Christgau, one of many rock critics who praised the album: 

I've never had much truck with Seger's myth -- he's always struck me as a worn if well-schooled rock and roll journeyman, good for one or two tracks a year. But this album is a journeyman's apotheosis. The riffs that identify each of these nine songs comprise a working lexicon of the Berry-Stones tradition, and you've heard them many times before; in fact, that may be the point, because Seger and his musicians reanimate every one with their persistence and conviction. Both virtues also come across in lyrics as hard-hitting as melodies, every one of which asserts the continuing functionality of rock and roll for "sweet sixteens turned thirty-one." In one of them, the singer even has his American Express card stolen by a descendant of Ronnie Hawkins's Mary Lou, if not Mary Lou herself. Worrying about your credit card rating -- now that's what I call rock and roll realism. A-

Billboard wrote Detroit's favorite native son rocker has another tasty set of rock'n'roll with an extra bonus of two change-of-pace ballads thrown in. Seger is a tasteful and impressive guitar flash whose singing has improved markedly in fluency and expressiveness. His songwriting also provides no shortage of vehicles for effective rocking. Seger is really as good in this genre as anybody else around today. Best cuts: "Night Moves," "Mainstreet," "Rock 'N' Roll Never Forgets," "Sunspot Baby," "Mary Lou."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

40 Year Itch : Sounds from the Street

On October 23, 1976 The Jam, a trio of "angry young men" led by an 18 year old Paul Weller, played a surprise sidewalk gig in London's Soho market. They were hoping for some free press and they got it. A dismissal from Mark Perry's Sniffin Glue fanzine who called the band "Sixties revivalists" but  from Sounds writer John Ingham something much more thoughtful:

With bands far exceeding the number of London clubs sometimes you really have to take it to the streets. Last Saturday The Jam did just that. Setting up on the pavement outside Soho market about 12.30, they ripped it up for almost an hour. The firemen at the nearby station watched from the roof. The Clash enjoyed their breakfast to the rocking strains. Natives of deepest Surrey, The Jam looked as though they had just been released from school, though their black suits, white shirt, black tie combination could be to invoke the mid-Sixties. Beat Boom correctness. Guitarist Paul Weller must be the quietest guitarist in rock, quite Wilko Johnson Dr Feelgood) influenced, but capable of providing some real excitement. The rhythm section ( Rick Butler drums and Bruce Foxton bass) was solid, but could use less cabaret. Their songs also invoke mid sixties beat boom and could do with a bit more musical originality. There're some good things in there, especially In The City I've a Thousand Things I Want to Tell You. The sun shone, no police came by and the last three songs were hot stuff. Judge for yourself, November 9,  at the 100 Club.

The band would be signed by Polydor Records early in 1977. Their first single "In The City" was released on April 29, 1977. It was the first of 18 straight singles to go Top 40 in the UK, including four #1 hits.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

40 Year Itch : Strange Like a Stormy Sea

On October 22, 1976 The Damned released what has often been cited as the first punk single ever. That they beat the Sex Pistols to the punch was always galling to Johnny Rotten. The Pistols--still five weeks from releasing "Anarchy in the UK-- were recording demos for EMI. the Dutch country trio Pussycat was on top of the charts with "Mississippi".

Recorded in one day, and produced by Nick Lowe, "New Rose" is a teenage love song, which may not actually be the appropriate subject for a punk song. Let the Sex Pistols and The Clash sing about the issues. The Damned's Dave Vanian is singing about love. About the inner storm that rocks your insides when you've got a "new rose" in town.

The B side was a sped up version of The Beatles' "Help". The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" would be released just weeks later.

Friday, October 21, 2016

40 Year Itch : So Deep I'm Gonna Drownnn

In October of 1976, Climax Blues Band raced up the charts with their first song to break into the US Hot 100 in their eight year career. "Couldn't Get It Right" was written after band manager Miles Copeland III ( brother of Police drummer Stewart) demanded Climax Blues Band come up with a single for the new album Gold Plated.

The group gathered together, jammed, and within a few hours described by guitarist Derek Holt as "just a lucky moment in time", came up with this incredibly catchy song based on their late nights touring America. The signs they keep on looking for in the middle of the night are Holiday Inns.

Climax Blues Band has always been known for the dual vocals. One of the special moments in this single is the dual guitar and saxophone solo. One of my favorite singles of the 70's.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

40 Year Itch : I'm in the Phonebooth

In 1976 the Los Angeles based power trio The Nerves released what may simply be the best EP of the year. This chock-full -o'-earworms recording sounds at once 5 years ahead of its time and ten years behind the times. Here is a band that is not afraid to wear its Beatles influences on its sleeves and three piece suits on the stage. Future Plimsoul has that aching voice reminiscent of a young John Lennon on  "When You Find Out". 

But the stand out must be the song most people associate with Blondie, "Hanging on the Telephone". Penned by Jack Lee, this two minute stunner would become a UK Top 5 hit for Blondie. Future Paul Collins Band leader Collins gives us "Working Too Hard". All in all, this is as close to perfection as power pop gets.