Thursday, August 27, 2015

40 Year Itch : 23 Orgasms

   Inspired by the scandalous Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg single " Je T'Aime ( Moi Non Plus)", which had returned to the charts, Summer and producers Georgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte recorded their own racy song. Producers convinced Summer to lie on the studio floor in the dark and moan throughout most of the single and its follow-up, a sixteen minute version that would take up an entire side of the Love To Love You Baby album. The BBC counted up 23 simulated orgasms. Time Magazine only came up with 22. Summer et al began counting up the money as the single hit Top 10 in the US, UK, Australia and half a dozen other countries. Summer became the world's most famous disco queen with multiple hits and Grammys.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

40 Year Itch: You Better Beware

   If Al Green was the king of Hi Records then surely Ann Peebles was the queen. Peaking at just #69 on the R and B charts, "Beware" is one of three singles from her 1975 album Tellin It

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

40 Year Itch : Five Facts about Born To Run

My early albums were about being someplace and what it was like there, Born to Run is about being nowhere at all.
-Bruce Springsteen

   Released on August 25, 1975, Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run remains his most epic statement, a make it or break it album for an artist on the verge of losing his major label record deal. He made it, selling more than six million copies, and the rest is history. Springsteen, 25, would say he was born, grew old and died in the fourteen months it took to make his third album. You can hear the anxiety in every groove, the last chance power try.

Here are five fun facts about Born To Run.

   1. It might have been called The Legend of Zero and Blind Terry. Springsteen was always interested in making a concept album and already had an epic eight minute song in his back pocket called "Zero and Blind Terry" about two runaway lovers hiding from the police. He dropped the song but came up with one that shares similar themes : the album closer "Jungleland". Born To Run is a concept album. Springsteen has said he imagined everything that happens in the album occurs on an endless Summer night.

  2. The single "Born To Run", was first recorded by Allan Clarke of The Hollies. But Springsteen's version was the first to be released, and is the only song on the album produced with his manager Mike Appel and featuring departing members Ernest "Boom" Carter on drums and David Sancious on keyboards. Springsteen spent six months in the studio recording "Born To Run", building a Phil Spector like "Wall of Sound" by laying down as many as 11 tracks of guitar alone. He knew the driving tune would be a hit. 

After playing a tape of the song for Crawdaddy he reportedly punched the air, yelling "WABC!", the top 40 station in New York City. The song did hit the Top 40, peaking at #23 on November 1, 1975.

3.  The album begins with a whiff of Dylan. There's a very Dylanesque harmonica at the very top of the first song, "Thunder Road", which might have given fans and critics pause. Springsteen had survived the "new Dylan" hype. He'd even recovered from the "new Van Morrison" hype, and soon he would face his own hurricane of hype ( Creem Magazine readers voted 1975's biggest fads as 1) Disco, 2) Springsteen and 3) Trying to Kill the President). So he needed to come up with his own sound, one that would go over with the rock n roll kids coming to his concert. 

   That's where rock critic Jon "I Saw Rock and Roll Future and its name is Brice Springsteen" Landau came in, first as a friend, then advisor and finally as co-producer. Landau had once produced the MC5 so he had bona fides. He prodded Springsteen through sessions at the Record Plant that often began at 6 PM and went to 3 AM but states everything on the record is Springsteen's vision.

4. Steve Van Zandt saved the day on 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out'. Bruce wanted some horns to accompany Clarence Clemmons. With the Brecker Brothers in the studio, Roy Bittan tried to help Bruce write horn charts but they didn't sound like anything Bruce had in mind. A visiting Miami Steve was asked to help. His band's often covered Memphis soul tunes. Van Zandt told the musicians to put away their horn charts and sang the parts he wanted them to play. It worked. 

   Springsteen turned to manager Appel and reportedly said "It's time to put the boy on the payroll. I've been meaning to tell you --he's the new guitar player". Miami Steve would be a permanent member of the band for more than ten years.

5. Springsteen hated all ten Jimmy Iovine masters of Born To Run. He even threatened to toss out half of the album and record the rest live at an upcoming gig. But Landau talked him out of it, saying "You're not supposed to like it. You think Chuck Berry sits around listening to 'Maybelline'?...C'mon it's time to put the record out". 

Two weeks later, Born To Run came out.

Your reward for reading today's post: The Born to Run documentary, Wings for Wheels.

Monday, August 24, 2015

40 Year Itch : Shook Me Like A Landslide

    In the Summer of '75, the Wilko Johnson penned single "Back In The Night" was our first glimpse at Dr Feelgood's  forthcoming follow-up to its superb debut, Down By The Jetty. No the UK single didn't sell but it's a good one : another R and B single with just enough aggro to inspire punk rockers in the year ahead. It's a love/lust song about a working class guy who's probably got just one thing going for him, a woman who's willing to invite him back to her place every night.

  At the start of 2013, diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Wilko Johnson was given ten months to live. His calm, almost Buddha like response, was to do a farewell tour, much of which is captured in the new Julien Temple documentary The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson. Then a funny, glorious thing happened. Johnson didn't die. He recorded an album with Roger Daltrey. He made cameos on Game of Thrones and eventually he had a huge tumor removed in a nine hour operation. Last October Johnson was declared cancer-free.

Johnson tells The Guardian "I feel like I’m parachuting back into the land of the living and looking around thinking, 'Oh well'"

Sunday, August 23, 2015

40 Year Itch: Gabriel Leaves Genesis

     In August 1975 Peter Gabriel wrote the following bizarre letter announcing his departure from Genesis. He delivered it personally to the English press:

   I had a dream, eye’s dream. Then I had another dream with the body and soul of a rock star. When it didn’t feel good I packed it in. Looking back for the musical and non-musical reasons, this is what I came up with:

    OUT, ANGELS OUT – an investigation.

    The vehicle we had built as a co-op to serve our songwriting became our master and had cooped us up inside the success we had wanted. It affected the attitudes and the spirit of the whole band.  The music had not dried up and I still respect the other musicians, but our roles had set in hard. To get an idea through “Genesis the Big” meant shifting a lot more concrete than before. For any band, transferring the heart from idealistic enthusiasm to professionalism is a difficult operation.

    I believe the use of sound and visual images can be developed to do much more than we have done. But on a large scale it needs one clear and coherent direction, which our pseudo-democratic committee system could not provide. As an artist, I need to absorb a wide variety of experiences. It is difficult to respond to intuition and impulse within the long-term planning that the band needed. I felt I should look at/learn about/develop myself, my creative bits and pieces and pick up on a lot of work going on outside music. Even the hidden delights of vegetable growing and community living are beginning to reveal their secrets. I could not expect the band to tie in their schedules with my bondage to cabbages. The increase in money and power, if I had stayed, would have anchored me to the spotlights. It was important to me to give space to my family, which I wanted to hold together, and to liberate the daddy in me.

    Although I have seen and learnt a great deal in the last seven years, I found I had begun to look at things as the famous Gabriel, despite hiding my occupation whenever possible, hitching lifts, etc. I had begun to think in business terms; very useful for an often bitten once shy musician, but treating records and audiences as money was taking me away from them. When performing, there were less shivers up and down the spine.

   I believe the world has soon to go through a difficult period of changes. I’m excited by some of the areas coming through to the surface which seem to have been hidden away in people’s minds. I want to explore and be prepared to be open and flexible enough to respond, not tied in to the old hierarchy.

  Much of my psyche’s ambitions as “Gabriel archetypal rock star” have been fulfilled – a lot of the ego-gratification and the need to attract young ladies, perhaps the result of frequent rejection as “Gabriel acne-struck public school boy”. However, I can still get off playing the star game once in a while.

    My future within music, if it exists, will be in as many situations as possible. It’s good to see a growing number of artists breaking down the pigeonholes. This is the difference between the profitable, compartmentalized, battery chicken and the free-range. Why did the chicken cross the road anyway?

    There is no animosity between myself and the band or management. The decision had been made some time ago and we have talked about our new direction. The reason why my leaving was not announced earlier was because I had been asked to delay until they had found a replacement to plug up the hole. It is not impossible that some of them might work with me on other projects.

    The following guesswork has little in common with truth:

 Gabriel left Genesis

 1) To work in theatre.

 2) To make more money as a solo artist.

 3) To do a “Bowie”.

 4) To do a “Ferry”.

 5) To do a “Furry Boa round my neck and hang myself with it”.

 6) To go see an institution.

 7) To go senile in the sticks.

 I do not express myself adequately in interviews and I felt I owed it to the people who have put a lot of love and energy supporting the band to give an accurate picture of my reasons. So I ask that you print all or none of this.

  This may have all been breaking news to the rock press, but the rest of Genesis knew Gabriel was leaving a year earlier.

  "In fact," Phil Collins tells NME," Peter first said he was going to be leaving about a year ago, just after Lamb Lies Down. I don't to go into his reasons too much--he did that himself in the Press last week--but for several reasons he decided to stay on until now."

 The other members of the band has already what would be A Trick of the Tail which would become a UK #3 and US #31 hit. Genesis would be fine even now that they were three.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

40 Year Itch : One-Two-Three-Four-Five-Six

   On August 22, 1975, a year before Berserkley Records released the magnificent and oft-delayed Modern Lovers album, they unleashed upon the world a revolutionary single: Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner (Twice)", featuring Richman backed up by Beserkley labelmates The Greg Kihn Band. 
   It's a simple rocking tour of the suburbs of Boston Massachusetts in a car that's going "faster miles an hour" with the radio on. You can hear Richman's infatuation with The Velvet Underground as you head out with him on Route 128 passing the power lines. At a time when art rock usually meant side long epics that quoted gurus or at least J R R Tolkien and featured twelve minute guitar solos, here was a song that might -MIGHT- have  three chords in "Roadrunner". Greil Marcus called it "the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest." 

   As you might have guessed, this isn't the first version of "Roadrunner". That would be "Roadrunner (Once)", as recorded in 1972 by The Modern Lovers with John Cale producing. No, this is "Roadrunner ( Twice)", the most successful version. It reached #11 on the UK Charts even though it was all but ignored in the United States. Some credit the tune with inspiring Punk Rock. It was recorded by both The Sex Pistols and Joan Jett.

   By 1975, The Modern Lovers ( featuring future members of The Cars and Talking Heads) had been broken up for a year and Richman had told record executives he was sick of the songs and wouldn't perform them live. But at least for one moment, and one song, Beserkley truly was the "home of the hits".

Friday, August 21, 2015

40 Year Itch : THAT Album Cover

   French make up artist Pierre Laroche had already designed David Bowie's Aladdin Sane and Pin-Ups look, as well as Tim Curry's make up for Rocky Horror Picture Show. Daryl Hall and John Oates should have known what was coming. 

  "He was a very flamboyant Frenchman," Oates told VH1's Behind The Music."I remember his exact words: 'I will immortalize you!'. Well, he sure did." 

  The cover of their RCA debut Daryl Hall and John Oates features the duo in heavy make up.

  "I said 'Oh my God, this looks like every girl I ever wanted to go out with," Hall laughs.
   "The cover caused all kinds of controversy," manager Tommy Mottola said."Everybody thought the two of them were gay. They thought they were lovers living together which in a lot of ways was a great PR sort of move."

   The first single was a tepid cover of the reggae tune "Soldering" but DJ's preferred the B side, "Sara Smile", inspired by Hall's girlfriend Sara Allen. "Sara Smile" would become the duo's first Top 10 hit, peaking at #4 in 1976. Deep Cut "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" features George Harrison on slide guitar and Sara Allen on backing vocals.