Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rolling The Ball

This must be one of the strangest musical moments of 1978. Two Japanese singers give Kate Bush's "Them Heavy People" the cheesiest of Las Vegas treatments. You seriously may not recognize the tune. 

My God, you're thinking, what would Kate Bush do if she ever heard this mangled version of her song. Well, you soon find out. As though she were in on the joke, she vigorously dances to the instrumental section. 

Perhaps it was the smartest thing she could have done. Bush has remained one of the most popular UK artists to evert perform in Japan. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Remember What I Said

In 1978 The Wipers, led by Greg Sage,  released their debut single, "Better Off Dead", on Sage's own Trap Records. The Wipers came out of Portland, Oregon which may be home to all kinds of alt rock bands today, but back then they were isolated, feeding off the West Coast punk DIY scene. The sound of this three song single is roughly five pr six years ahead of its time, anticipating the post punk sounds of SST and Enigma artists recording while I was in college.

Sage is considered one of the era's most eccentric geniuses. He can do it all musically. He plays a left handed guitar with his right hand. He's also a producer, engineer and, according to Spin, a UFOlogist. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

All NIght Drug Prowling Wolf

On June 17, 1978 The Clashed entered the UK charts at #45 with their new single, "White Man in Hammersmith Palais". With a reggae beat, the band takes stock of the London music scene name checking Jamaican artists Dillinger, Leroy Smart and Delroy Wilson while dismissing the new punk rock bands who are just "turning rebellion into money. NME ranked the single as the 8th best of the year. Sounds ranked the single #3 behind Public Image's "Public Image"  and Patti Smith's "Because the Night".

At the time punks and dreads had formed an alliance, as Strummer explained :

England is a very repressive country. Immigrants were treated badly. So these people...understood that maybe we needed a drop of roots culture. And 'White Man in Hammersmith Palais' is a song that was going through my mind while I was standing in the middle of Hammersmith Palais in a sea of a thousand rastas and dreads and natty rebels. That song was trying to say something realistic.

Mick Jones sing the B side, an overlooked Clash classic observing how people caught up in dreary daily rituals can feel like prisoners.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Talk On the Street

On June 16, 1978 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had a new single in the Billboard Hot 100 charts, the power pop classic " I Need to Know". The first single from You're Gonna Get It  would peak at #41.

Also entering the Billboard Hot 100 on this date

#73 The Commodores : Three Times a Lady . 
It would knock The Rolling Stones' Miss You from the #1 spot and stay at the top of the charts for two weeks in August.

#81 Wings : I've Had Enough
The second single from London Town  would peak at US#25.

#87 Evelyn "Champagne" King : Shame
The disco hit would peak at US#9.

#90 The Cars : Just What I Needed
This single would peak at #27 in the US.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Sixteen Years

On June 15, 1978 Bob Dylan released Street Legal. Despite being dismissed by many critics, the album went gold in the US, peaking at #11 on the Billboard album charts. In the U.K, the album was better received, peaking at #2. And in the annual Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll, Street Legal finished #21 right behind Devo's debut. NME ranked the album #7.

I was never very impressed by the album even after a good friend suggested I check out the 1999 remixed and remastered version. Not much Don DeVito could do with an album recorded live in the studio in just a matter of days. Dylan had been preoccupied by his critically panned film, Renaldo and Clara. He was also in a custody battle following his bitter divorce from Sara.

Still, "Changing of the Guards" is a stand out track. The female backing vocals really shine and give the song a gospel feel ( foreshadowing Dylan's move to Christianity?) . The first line is "Sixteen years", which happens to be the length of Dylan's recording career at the time. But reading much more into the opaque lyrics is a fool's errand. Even Dylan has said "It means something different every time I sing it. 'Changing of the Guards' is a thousand years old'" 

I also like the final track, "Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Darkness)".

Dave Marsh heard echoes of Elvis Presley on Street Legal. Greil Marcus, who did the review for Rolling Stone,  did not:

It saddens me that I can't find it in my heart to agree with my colleague Dave Marsh that Bob Dylan's new record is a joke, or anyway a good one. Most of the stuff here is dead air, or close to it. The novelty of the music — soul chorus backup (modeled on Bob Marley's I-Threes), funk riffs from the band, lots of laconic sax work — quickly fades as one realizes how indifferent the playing is: "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)," the most musically striking number here, is really just a pastiche of the best moments of the Eagles' Hotel California. Still, I believe some of the songs on Street Legal: those that are too bad to have been intended with anything but complete seriousness. Dylan may have once needed a dump truck to unload his head, but you'd need a Geiger counter to find irony in "Is Your Love in Vain?" or affection in "Baby Stop Crying."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Lost In Shock

In June of 1978, Magazine released Real Life, a debut album that has been called Ground Zero for post-punk. It's got a quirky, inventive sound that still sounds fresh forty years later.

 Founded by ex Buzzcock Howard Devoto, Magazine released an album that includes such classic tracks as "Shot By Both Sides", "The Light Pours Out of Me" and the opener "Definitive Gaze" which must have sounded like the very future of rock n roll. "

Melody Maker declared that "no one that has the slightest interest in the present and future of rock 'n' roll should rest until they've heard Real Life". Upon hearing the first single, "Shot By Both Sides", Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus suggested "Magazine may be the band to fill the vacuum the Sex Pistols have left. You never know, but I can’t wait to find out." 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Live at Napa State Mental Hospital

“We’re The Cramps, and we’re from New York City, and we drove 3,000 miles to play for you people.”


On June 13, 1978 The Cramps performed a psycho-billy concert for the enthusiastic residents of Napa State Mental Hospital. 

Lux Interior:

We always wanted to play at a mental institution because we always had a problem with audiences not being quite what we'd like them to be. We thought if we went to a mental institution, the audience would contribute --and they really did! There were male and female inmates humping each other on the ground. It was the most bizarre show we've ever done. Those people just went crazy -- doing everything you'd imagine people in mental institution would do. There were people licking the walls, people laying on top of each other and coming up and talking to us while we were playing , but mainly it was people dancing the weirdest dances you've ever seen.

It also strikes me as an incredible humane gesture by the Cramps. Is there anything that make people feel more free, or lifts them form their troubles than music? Residents were allowed to share the stage, even the microphone, with the band. There was so little separation between audience and performers, some patients thought The Cramps had come from the T Ward, where terminal patients lived. 11 patients escaped briefly during the show, perhaps seeking even a greater sense of freedom.

The Nomads, a punk band out of the Bay Area, also performed a set that day.