Saturday, November 30, 2013

40 Year Itch: Those We Missed from Nov '73





"Mr Bojangles" songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker's Viva Terlingua! must have offered Jimmy Buffet a blueprint for the rest of his career. It's full of good-time, hangover-healing progressive country tunes including the legendary Ray Wylie Hubbard satiric number "Up Against the Wall Red Neck Mother". Other "must hears" are Guy Clark's "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train" and Gary P. Nunn's Austin City Limits anthem "London Homesick Blues" with its unforgettable refrain "I want to go home with the armadillo..."






Somehow, despite constant touring, Irish blues rocker Rory Gallagher found the time to write nine new tunes and record them with his well-honed, now semi-telepathic band. Here's a great starting place to get yourself hooked on this amazing talent, who should be mentioned in the same breath as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.





With the help of Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover as producer, Nazareth broke out in a big way in 1973, releasing the hard rocking Razamanaz followed by Loud 'n' Proud. The rollicking UK#11 single "This Flight Tonight" barely resembles Joni Mitchell's original. There's also a trudging cover of Dylan's "The Ballad of Hollis Brown." The Scottish hard rockers would finally seduce US audiences in 1973 with the two-million selling Hair of the Dog




On the band's fifth album, Carlos Santana continues his jazzier explorations with the help of John McLaughlin, Alice Coltrane and smooth vocalist Leon Thomas. Gone for good were teenage guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Gregg Rolie . They would form Journey. Critics still found ways to rave ("Carlos..has never played better"; "good themes, good  playing, good beat") but fans of Santana's Latin rock sounds were starting to wander away. Still, Welcome went gold.

                   
                                                                           
                                                                           
                   
                                                             [Purchase] 

       The heartbreaking photos on the cover say more about the state of the George Jones Tammy Wynette marriage than the songs. The title cut topped the Country charts while the novelty tune "(We're not) The Jet Set" remains an all-time fan favorite.





                                                                         [Purchase]

              Before the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack was released in 2007 ( selling nearly 8 million copies to date), this two-LP from Bill Monroe's bluegrass festival in Bean Blossom, Indiana was THE bluegrass album to own if you were only going to own one. The CD release offers selections from Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass and more of the top bluegrass acts of the day.



                                                         

Friday, November 29, 2013

40 Year Itch: Happy Times Together



                                                                     [Purchase]

   In November of 1973, The Beach Boys released a critically acclaimed double live album that would  thrust them back into the Top 40. It comes at an interesting point in their career. Although they're still making great music ( Holland had come out earlier that year), the fans were pushing to hear the old favorites. Eventually the fans would win out . The next five charting albums were all greatest hits compilations ( Endless Summer would hit #1 in 1974; Spirit of America #8 in 1975) or live albums.

    Of the twenty songs on Beach Boys In Concert, twelve are from albums dating back to 1967 or earlier. ( Check out the stripped down Pet Sounds tracks like "Caroline No" and the Wild Honey nugget "Let the Wind Blow") The album went Gold and The Boys saw increasing ticket demand for the concerts. Rolling Stone Magazine called the Beach Boys its "Band of the Year" for 1974.




Beach Boys In Concert is the last album to feature Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin. That's Blondie singing the lead off track, "Sail On Sailor", the last Beach Boys tune FM radio could play with confidence. This is the only place you'll hear "We Got Love", the tune that got tossed off Holland to make room for "Sail On, Sailor" .The entire live album has the relaxed vibe of a band at its peak. The Beach Boys probably never sounded this good before, and never would sound this good again. But they'd be playing those golden oldies for the next 40 years.

Of course Brian is a no-show. The surprise is Dennis Wilson never gets a featured vocalist spot . Maybe that's why he's the only member on the cover.  And , no, he's not peeing on the audience; he's just suggestively holding a microphone.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

40 Year Itch : Close Cropped Rockers





In the November 24, 1973 edition of Billboard Magazine an editor noted what appeared to be a new trend: shorter hair among rock stars. 

"Close-cropped hair is cropping up a la Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. The near skinhead is typified by John Lennon on the cover of the current Apple album Mind Games and last week at New York's Academy of Music, the new Hot Tuna band ( new in that Papa John Creach no longer plays with them) found guitarists Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady with G.I. haircuts. "I just got tired of it," claimed Kaukonen, speaking of his former shoulder length tresses which took him nine years to achieve. Mick Jagger surfaced with the look earlier this year at the Nicaraguan benefit in Los Angeles and rumor has a major rock performer, in the deca-rock genre, speaking to his barber.


John

Jorma

Mick




Wednesday, November 27, 2013

40 Year Itch: November 1973's Best Prop Pop Moments





By the time The Electric Light Orchestra recorded their third album, Roy Wood has left them for good to prance about in what was then the much greener grass of Wizzard. Now Jeff Lynne could pursue his Beatles fixation unabashed. It was an admiring John Lennon who called him out on that  regarding "Showdown", the single that may or may not be on the album depending on what you country you bought it:


I call them ‘Son of Beatles’ although they are doing things we never did, obviously but I remember a statement they made when the first formed, was to carry on from were The Beatles left off with Walrus and they certainly did. Now for those people who like to know where licks and things come from, which I do cause I’m always nicking little things myself: This is a beautiful combination of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye and "Lightnin' Strikes" again – Lou Christie-- and it’s a beautiful job with a little ‘Walrus’ underneath

      

   There's still some painful explorations of classically tinged orchestral rock that mars this listener's experience ( especially on Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King"). But on the whole. Jeff Lynne and ELO have found the sound that would make them one of the 70's best-selling rock acts. It's a damn fine album. As a plus, you get Marc Bolan playing some crunchy guitar on  the 1974 single " Ma Ma Ma Belle" .





   Recording at a clip of two albums a year, Manfred Mann's Earth Band left the heavy blues of its amazing debut in the dust, and followed Argent into the organ driven space rock format. Solar Fire opens with a Dylan cover but the rest is of  it is built around a theme not unlike Holst's The Planets. Not surprisingly, the #9 UK hit single, "Joybringer", is partially adapted from Holst's "Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity" movement ( listen to the bit at 1:00 or so) .






Gary Wright and Mike Harrison had broken up the band but returned in 1972 with future Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. For the band's first Island Records release, Spooky Tooth recorded this solid if uninspired hard rocking set, highlighted by the lead off track "Ocean of Power". 


Harrison left after this album to pursue a second solo career.




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

40 Year Itch : Bonjours Caravan




On November 26, 1973, to help promote their new ( and some say best ) album, For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night, progressive rockers Caravan allowed French television cameras to shoot their sold out concert at the Bataclan in Paris. A month later the show was broadcast. You'll hear the classic Plump track "The Dog, The Dog, He's At it Again" in its entirety as well as snippets of Plump's "Memory Lain, Hugh Headloss" and their classic show closer "For Richard" as well as all of Plump's epic "L'Auberge Du Sanglier / A Hunting We Shall Go / Pengola / Backwards / A Hunting We Shall Go (Reprise)". Longtime fans were originally suspicious of the new electric violinist Geoff Richardson, but most were sold on the addition thanks to performances like the one below.
  

Monday, November 25, 2013

40 Year Itch : UK Top 10 November 24, 1973


 

On November 24, 1973 Gary Glitter's "I Love You Love Me Love" enters the UK charts at #1 where it would spend the next four weeks and establish itself as Britain's #1 selling single of 1973. 


The Rest of the Top 10

2. Osmonds Let Me In
3. David Cassidy Daydreamer/Puppy Song


4. David Bowie Sorrow
5. Mud Dynamite


6. Donny Osmond When I Fall in Love
7. Carpenters Top of the World


8. Ringo Starr Photograph
9. Barry Blue Do You Wanna Dance
10. Detroit Spinners Ghetto Child  



Sunday, November 24, 2013

40 Year Itch: Lost in the Cartoon




 In November of 1973, Neil Young was treating fans to a preview of most of the new songs that wouldn't appear on record for another two years. But what a record! Recorded for the most part on August 26, 1973 ,Tonight's The Night is mostly a dark album by an artist grieving the deaths of Crazy Horse's Danny Whitten and Young's friend and roadie Bruce Berry, overshadowing some lighter moments about partying and the birth of Neil's son. Reprise, Neil's label, was too scared to release it so it became the third entry of the bummed-out Ditch Trilogy. 

Nils and Neil


    Onstage Neil's got Nils Lofgren playing guitar, piano ( that's his stunning guitar solo on "Speaking Out") , and accordian; Ben Keith on pedal steel and piano; and Crazy Horse regulars Ralph Molina (drums) and Billy Talbot ( bass). The entire Manchester, England concert on  November 3, 1973 is available from our friends at Aquarium Drunkard .

Saturday, November 23, 2013

40 Year Itch: Sammy!




"All in all, I'd say all my dreams came true"
-Sammy Davis, Jr

On November 16, 1973, NBC and General Electric presented "Sammy!", a TV special starring Sammy Davis, Jr. MGM followed the performance with a soundtrack album. There are moments here that capture the glitz and glitter of 1973 better than anything Marc Bolan or David Bowie did: like this cover of the 1971 Chase hit "Get It On!" 


That's a lot of yellow!


Top Ten Soul Hits This Week:

1. Billy Preston : Space Race



2. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes The Love I Lost
3. Gladys Knight and the Pips Midnight Train to Georgia
4. Temptations Hey Girl ( I Like You Style)
5. Tavares Check It Out
6. Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye You're a Special Part of Me


7. The Jackson 5 Get It Together
8 Johnny Taylor Cheaper to Keep Her


9 Ovations Having a Party
10 Dells My Pretending Days Are Over


Friday, November 22, 2013

40 Year Itch : Oh Cheeky, Cheeky




I didn't think ( Here Come The Warm Jets) deserved the good reviews it got. There was sort of a mystique about it which protected it --made you think that if you didn't like something about it, it was your fault, not mine.
-Brian Eno

In late 1973 Brian Eno released his first solo album, Here Come the Warm Jets, a noisy, weird and inventive onslaught of art-glam that still rewards its listeners every time it's played. Eno had left Roxy Music on June 21st ,1973. The Roxy synth player in charge of "treating" sounds makes his final day sound like one of the best of his life:

    I was absolutely euphoric. I remember leaving my management offices on the King's Road the day I resigned and skipping and leaping down the road in delight.




   He set at once to recording his solo debut, bringing every member of Roxy Music along for the sessions except his nemesis, Bryan Ferry. But his former bandmates had to compete to be heard on an album that also had on hand Chris "Motorbikin'" Spedding and King Crimson's Robert Fripp whose blistering three-minute guitar solo on "Baby's On Fire" is one of 1973's most transcendental moments in music.


   As his diverse musician friends competed for roles in Eno's songs, Eno himself is credited with "snake guitar", "simplistic piano" and "electric larynx". After the tracks were recorded, Eno's real work began: treating the sounds. His approach was playful ( after all the album is named after the act of urination) , and that sense of fun exists forty years later. 



    Listen to "Dead Finks Don't Talk", featuring the fictional back-up singing group "Nick Kool and the Koolaids". Although Eno claims the lyrics were generated randomly, his producer Chris Thomas says the song is about Bryan Ferry ( whose crooning -style is imitated by Eno on the line "You're always so charming/ As you make your way up here".) And listen to the noisy pastiche at the end of the song. How did he do that?



   Critics raved. In the UK the album peaked at #26. In the US Warm Jets failed to fly above #156 despite the cheers of Creem's Lester Bangs who wrote a few months later:

  Eno is the real bizarro warm factor for 1974. It's like he says in "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch" : "By the time I got to looking for some kind of substitute/ I can't tell you what kind, but it rhymes with dissolute"...Meanwhile, the drums are pounding and the guitars are screaming every which away in a precisely orchestrated cauldron of terminal hysteria muchly influenced by, though far more technologically advanced than, early Velvet Underground. Don't miss it; it'll drive you crazy." 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

40 Year Itch : Two Beatlesque Confections




  There was already a glut of post Beatles music on the market when the Lennonesque Stealers Wheel and the McCartneyesque Badfinger released albums in November of 1973. Ringo's album had entered the US charts at #15. Harrison's Material World was still in the charts, at #133. McCartney's Red Rose Speedway was at #167 but his new UK single, "Helen Wheels" had just been released. Lennon's single "Mind Games" was climbing the US  pop charts at #60 with a bullet while The Beatles 1967-1970 ( at #86) and 1962-1966 ( #111) were still selling strong numbers.


   
  Gerry Rafferty had quit Stealers Wheel when "Stuck in the Middle With You" hit #2 in the Summer of 1973. He came back. He and Joe Egan fired three members of the band and used studio musicians, including ex Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor, on the Leiber/Stoller produced Ferguslie Park



The "Star" single peaked at #29 in the US and failed to propel the album into big sales. It's one of  a number of songs that seem to criticize the music business. ( Well, that did work on "Stuck"). There's not a lot on this album that will make you bow down to the band's genius, but there are some very worthy songs, including the rocker "Blind Faith" and, our deep cut selection,  Rafferty's "Who Cares". 



                                                       
                                                                    [Purchase]

       With Ass, Badfinger's string of albums for the Beatles' Apple label ends on a mediocre note, which is all the more disappointing when you consider how great the previous album, Straight Up, remains. Badfinger's relationship with Apple was in turmoil, thanks to a dispute over songwriting royalties. Producer Todd Rundgren quit during the sessions. Badfinger's manager was negotiating a $3 million deal with Warner Brothers in what would prove to be a disastrous move. Surely no band was treated as badly as Badfinger, who gave Apple "the finger" with its cover of a giant carrot being dangled in front of a goat and a lead off single, called "Apple of My Eye" which begins "Oh I'm sorry but it's time to move away..."


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

40 Year Itch : Can Anybody Play the Drums?

That's not Moon!

      On November 20, 1973 a fan's biggest dream came to life when he found himself plucked from the audience to play drums with The Who.
       It happened at the Cow Palace outside San Francisco on the opening night of the Who's Quadrophenia Tour...and the moment has been captured for all to see on YouTube. About 70 minutes into the show, just as Roger Daltry makes his ear-splitting scream at the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again", Moon stops playing.
With the lights down, roadies carry the passed out drummer off stage. Townshend provides the
 audience some play-by-play:

    We're just going to revive our drummer. By punching him in the stomach. And giving him an enigma.



    Thirty minutes later Moon is on stage and wrestling Townshend before he's escorted back to the drums for "Magic Bus". And then Moon passes out again. Frustrated, Townshend finally makes a historic appeal to the crowd:
  Can anybody play the drums?
The request is met mostly with laughter but Townshend is serious:
 Can anybody play the drums? I mean somebody good! If he can find a way onstage...we'll start the auditions.
   Volunteered by his buddy, 19 year old Scot Halpin is on his way to the stage when he's stopped by concert promoter Bill Graham. 


Bill Graham

 “Graham just looked at me and said, ‘Can you do it?’ And I said ‘Yes,“‘straight out. Townshend and Daltrey look around and they’re as surprised as I am, because Graham put me up there.”
    Halprin plays three tunes with The Who: "Smokestack Lightning", "Spoonful" and the show closer "Naked Eye". They did not play "Substitute".


“To tell you the truth I was scared to death. Everything was crazy. The size of the drums was ridiculous. The tom-toms were as big as my bass drum. Everything was locked into place; anyplace you could hit there would be something there. All the cymbals overlapped. I started out hitting with the sticks normally but I had to turn them over to the fat end because I wasn’t making any sound. Back then monitors were incredibly awful. All I was hearing was the acoustic sound of the drums.

 Halpin joins the band as The Who takes a bow and goes backstage with them.

“They were very angry with Keith and sort of fighting among themselves..It was the opening date on their ‘Quadrophenia’ tour, and they were saying, ‘Why couldn’t he wait until after the show (if he wanted to get high)?”

  Halpin makes no money for the gig but he does receive a favorable review in the newspaper and Rolling Stone calls him "Pick-up Player of the Year".

Scot Halpin

 Sadly, Halpin died four years ago after a long battle with a brain tumor. Of Halpin, Pete Townshend said:

“He seemed to me to be the most lovely man, with a generous and selfless energy. I measure my life by the great and good people I have occasionally met. Scot was one of the truly great and good ones.”


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

40 Year Itch : Seven Virgins and a Mule



Music with me is an instinctive thing. I can , and have, disciplined it but when you want to put on an emotion such as aggression and the music is not enough to express it, I let myself loose. Sometimes it's sad to think it;s only the visuals that people remember.
-Keith Emerson

On November 19, 1973 Emerson Lake and Palmer released Brain Salad Surgery, the best known of their albums thanks, in large part, to the cover art by Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger and the inclusion of such FM radio staples as the ballad "Still...You Turn Me on" and "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2"  which opens with the line "Welcome back my friends...to the show that never ends".


      The album is not so easy on the ears 40 years later. Today, no band in its right mind would tackle William Blake, Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera and a sci-fi concept album side about man and an epic battle with computers. But ELP--made up of three musical grand standers -- was at its creative peak. The band put the album together, stanza by stanza, in an abandoned London cinema they rechristened Manticore Studios
.



     Below is a terrific 53-minute documentary on ELP in 1973. Fast forward 13 minutes in to see Keith Emerson wrestle his organ. ( Safe for Work despite that description)



My favorite fact about Brain Salad Surgery is its working title: Whip Some Skull On You, which may explain the album cover. Also, the BBC refused to play "Jerusalem" because it was felt the ELP recording "degraded the traditional English song".

Monday, November 18, 2013

Six Degrees of Separation: Deaf School to Death Cab




[Purchase]



1. Liverpool art rockers Deaf School record "Get Set Ready Go" for their debut album 2nd Honeymoon, released in 1976. The band's guitar player and songwriter is Clive Langer.



2. When Deaf School breaks up producer Clive Langer gets Elvis Costello's help with the lyrics to a song he's written called "Shipbuilding". Robert Wyatt has a Top 40 hit with the song recorded as a bonus track for his 1982 compilation album Nothing Can Stop Us.





3. Wyatt is a former member of Soft Machine. So is Kevin Ayers who recorded a solo album in 1970 called Shooting at the Moon with a seventeen year old bass player named Mike Oldfield who is featured prominently on the first track "May I".



4. In 1973 Oldfield records Tubular Bells, the first album for Virgin Records.In the middle of the album "Master of Ceremonies" Viv Stanshall reads a list of instruments being played.



5. Stanshall did something similar on "The Intro and The Outro" for his original group, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. It appears on the Bonzo's 1967 debut album Gorilla . The roll call includes Adolph Hitler on Vibes, John Wayne on xylophone and Roy Rogers on Trigger. This televised version, instead, includes future members of Monty Python.



6.  Performing on the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour TV special, The Bonzos played "Death Cab for Cutie" which became the name of a popular Seattle band whose "You Are A Tourist" is the debut single off the 2011 album Codes and Keys.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Great Mandala





 According to family lore, my Dad was awakened one night by a call from his brother insisting he listen to this song. The next day, my uncle boarded a catamaran, set sail off the coast of Hawaii and was never seen again.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

40 Year Itch : Bowie Does the Midnight Special


By late 1973 David Bowie was one of the biggest rock and roll stars in the UK. In America, not so much. Ziggy Stardust had only peaked at #75 in the Billboard charts. "The Jean Genie" stalled at #71 on the Hot 100 charts. For Bowie, NBC's "Midnight Special" was seen as the best opportunity for a big breakthrough in the U-S.  That meant resurrecting his retired Ziggy Stardust persona for one last wham bam thank you ma'am.

     The result: The 1980 Floor Show featuring one new song, "1984/Dodo", a collection of poorly designed sets, and a bizarre performance from Marianne Faithful in a see-through nun outfit. If the show below doesn't meet your expectations, be thankful you weren't in the studio audience. Writer David Thompson says "It was really disappointing, with him doing the same three songs 40 times."


Friday, November 15, 2013

Stranded in the Slums of Beverly Hills


Let's Make a Deal audience in 1973



Duty calls! I am in Beverly Hills knocking around the city, hoping someone will want to option this blog for a film. Actually, I'm knocking out some interviews for another job. Good news! I will be allowed four minutes in the presence of T Bone Burnett to discuss Inside Llewyn Davis. Bad news! I may not have time to write the rest of this week's 40 Year Itch posts. Stay tuned for a little 1001Songs piece on Llewyn Davis.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

40 Year Itch : Sauntering Around Like a European Elvis


For five weeks, Algerian -French singer Sharif Dean's "Do You Love Me?" was the #1 song in the Netherlands. This week in 1973 it also topped the charts in Rio.

The video, below, is a classic time capsule...with Dean sauntering around like a European Elvis and a Joe Flynn lookalike eating a younger woman's corsage.

Dean, a philosophy and literature major, wrote this song.




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

40 Year Itch : The Inhuman Showman



I don't think any album I've discovered this year has given me more pleasure than Human Menagerie, released in November of 1973. Not even Elliot Murphy's Aquashow. And that is saying a lot!

   The Cockney Rebel debut made no commercial impact in America.  The group's biggest hit, 1975's UK#1 "Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)", only managed to sneak into the Billboard Hot 100 for a week at #96. Well I'm here to tell you the Yanks missed out. Big time! 


Somewhere in the same rock and roll universe where the Bowies, The Roxys and 10cc roamed, you'll come across this treasure: an art rock band with an electric violinist ( Joey Ramone's twin?)  playing lead and a singer named Steve Harley (who clearly inspired Bob Geldof)  recounting the lives of friends and associates named Sebastian, Muriel, Loretta and Ruthy. There's a bit of a cabaret feel to the whole thing. And while it shouldn't work. At all. It does on most cuts. Brilliantly.



Harley began his career as a London busker in the 1970's. He tells Acoustic Magazine:

I would busk mainly with the songs I's been writing, which would later appear on the Human Menagerie album. I really enjoyed busking but I never made any money, though other people seemed to. I'd take their spot on the corner and yet I'd get nothing. And it was mostly because they would be doing folk music like "Blowin' in the Wind" while I'd turn up and sing "Sebastian" and "Muriel the Actor", the songs from the Human Menagerie album which no one understood or recognized. I did that for about a year while on the dole, knowing that playing music was a dream that I had to fulfill and something I never really had any doubt about, especially with the arrogance of youth.



Although Human Menagerie failed to chart, Cockney Rebel and, after a band implosion, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel recorded five albums and twelve singles that made the UK charts.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

40 Year Itch : This Week's New UK Hit Singles




   While David Cassidy held the top spot on the UK charts with his double A side single "Daydreamer/Puppy Song", some noteworthy challengers entered the charts on the week of November 10,  1973.

Debuting at #31, Barry Blue, songwriter behind Lynsey de Paul's "Sugar Me", follows up his #2 hit "Dancin' ( on a Saturday Night) " with "Do You Wanna Dance?" which would peak at #7 in the UK.




Debuting at #33, "Helen Wheels" --the first single from Paul McCartney and Wings' Band on the Run.

 

At #36 debuts Eddie Kendricks's American chart topper "Keep On Truckin"



At #47, Peters and Lee follow up their smash hit "Welcome Home" with "By Your Side", which would peak at #39




And finally Alvin Stardust makes his UK chart debut with "My Coo-Ca-Choo", a future #2 hit.



Monday, November 11, 2013

40 Year Itch : Somebody Bite The Whip




       When it comes to socially conscious soul music, Stevie Wonder's Innervisions and The O'Jay's Ship Ahoy, released November 10, 1973, stand head and Afro above everything else released in 1973. On songs composed and arranged by Philadelphia International's Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, The O'Jays tackle corruption ( "For the Love of Money" #3Soul/#9 Pop), pollution ("The Air That I Breathe") black-on-black crime ( "Don't Call Me Brother") and slavery ( on the cinematic title track). 


Originally intended for the Shaft in Africa soundtrack, "Ship Ahoy" uses sound effects of creaking boards, wind, sea and cracking whips to take listeners to the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade. Songwriter Gamble told Mojo Magazine the lyrics are inspired by a visit to West Africa that came several years before Alex Hailey's Roots.

Huff and I both went to Ghana, (to) the slave castle, We stood in the Door Of No Return that led you right to the slave ship and that was it for you, you were done… finished with your family, your children, your wife, just disconnected from life and you we were in chains and they sold you like you was cattle or a donkey or anything.




 Ship Ahoy also offers  plenty of sugar to attract record buyers. The first single, "Put Your Hands Together", has the same catchy, gospel feel as The O'Jays' 1972 #1 hit" Love Train". That song would peak at #2 in the Hot Soul charts and #10 on the Hot 100. 


     Then came "For the Love of Money" with its catchy bass intro and studio-engineered backwards spliced vocals. Thanks to Donald Trump, most people think the song glorifies wealth. It's actually a warning about that "mean mean green", quoting a Bible verse that reads "For the love of money is the root of all evil".
   "Now That We Found Love" became a  1978 European hit for the reggae band Third World. 
   Ship Ahoy is one of the indispensable albums of 1973. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

40 Year Itch : The Rise of TK Records




On November 10, 1973 Harry Stone's TK Records, out of Hialeah, Florida,  took out a small  ad in Billboard Magazine celebrating the success of some current singles on the Hot Soul Singles chart including one that peaked at #27 on the soul charts called "Blow Your Whistle" by a band called KC and the Sunshine Junkanoo Band.


Harry Stone had mainly been in the record distribution business when he lost one of his biggest clients during the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic merger. For his next move he turned to two guys in the Hialeah warehouse who didn't know how to read or write music: Harry Wayne Casey (aka "KC") and Richard Raymond Finch (a student recording engineer and self taught drummer). 



      As KC and the Sunshine Band they would record 15 chart hits including five #1 pop hits, the first three hitting the #1 R and B chart as well: "Get Down Tonight" (July 1975), "That's The Way I Like It" (October 1975), "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" (July 1976), "I'm Your Boogie Man" (February 1977) and "Please Don't Go" (August 1979), and "Keep It Comin' Love" (#2 pop and #1 Rand B in July 1977). They also wrote "Rock You Baby" a #1 1974 smash hit for George McRae who had all but given up his singing career to support his wife Gwen.


But even that was a year away. And nobody knew what was coming. So it's just a small ad ( made smaller because of my own technical difficulties)  and T.K. ( named after recording engineer Terry Kane who built Stone's 8 track studio) is just a small label.


 The other singles mentioned in the ad  are actually from other small labels Harry Stone owned. Gwen McCrae, on the Cat label, had a single called "For Your Love" which was stalling at #44. Her "Rockin' Chair" would be a Top 10 hit in 1975.


Latimore's cover of the classic "Stormy Monday" was on Stone's Glades imprint label . It would peak at #27 on the Soul charts.  In 1974 his "Let's Straighten This Out" would top the Soul charts.



   And at #78 another Glades artists, Timmy Thomas, who hit #1 on the Soul charts a year earlier with "Why Can't We Live Together", had released a new single from his follow-up album




Friday, November 8, 2013

40 Year Itch : Can I Put My Hands On You?





   Someone's got to come along and say to all of us "all of your ideas about rock and roll, all your ideas about sound, all your ideas about guitars, all your ideas about this and that are a load of wank!"
-Alex Harvey to NME



   Nearly 40 years old, Scotsman Alex Harvey had already played skiffle, R and B and in Hamburg clubs before meeting up with the members of  the prog rock band Tear Gas and forming SAHB, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. In November of 1973 they released their best album, the cult fave Next.


There is something exhilarating about listening to a band just going for it. To hell with people's feelings! To hell with good taste! So of course there is a song with the chorus "Ain't Nothing like a Gang Bang to blow away the blues". And there's the unforgettable title track, a tango about visiting whore houses and contracting sexually transmitted diseases written by Jacques Brel ( whose "Le Moribund would be the following summer's big hit as Terry Jacks's "Seasons in the Sun"), performed with astonishing theatricality on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Watch the videos and just try to think of an artist who does a better job of inhabiting his songs.

  But the album's highlight is "The Faith Healer", which begins with two minutes of an electronic loop.  At the 1973 Reading Festival, Harvey's question "Can I Put My Hands On You?" was met with 30,000 fans raising their hands in a frenzy.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

40 Year Itch: Methedrine and Revolution



"The Pink Fairies make me sick"
Peter Jenner, manager of the Edgar Broughton Band

     In November of 1973 a French TV crew captured The Pink Fairies in all their messy, anarchic glory...stomping their way through what I have to believe is a version of "Uncle Harry's Last Freak Out" ( from their debut album) with former Pretty Things drummer Twink who had rejoined the band he founded for a brief spell. The Pink Fairies had their own sets of rules. They believed in free drugs, free condoms and , most revolutionary of all, free concerts that were often performed outside the gates of the big pop festivals.

  Made up originally of former members of The Deviants, Twink and Steve Peregrin Took of T.Rex on guitar, the Pink Fairies went through far too many line-ups for any sane person to keep track.


Perhaps more than the music it was the idea of the Pink Fairies, banned for life from the BBC,  that inspired future punk rockers. Henry Rollins even covered "Do It" , the opening track from the Fairies 1971 album  Never Never Land


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

40 Year Itch : "Man, What Are You Doin' Here?"


"Joel has a fine shot at establishing himself as consistent AM quality artist with large scale songs and dynamic performing range"--Billboard Magazine, Nov  17, 1973

       Indentured to Artie Ripp's iron clad contract and waiting for a record deal that was supposed to happen any day, Billy Joel was also in need of money so he spent some down time as Billy Martin , lounge pianist at the Executive Room in Hollywood. From his piano, he made observations that helped him write "Piano Man", the title cut of his Columbia Records debut and his first hit single, peaking at #25 in 1974.



    Though Joel would sound like a wanna-be Paul McCartney in later years, here he sounds like a wanna-be Harry Chapin, who, with "Taxi",  also had a hit with semi-autobiographical tale of his lean years.


   "Piano Man" was a new song...and a waltz! But not everything on the album was new, Joel confessed at the time:

   Some of things on Piano Man are old. "Captain Jack", "Billy the Kid" and "Travelin' Prayer" are two years old. The rest of it comes from about six months ago...I'm not sure what I was aiming at with this album. I guess they're just songs.



     Columbia execs were happy with the debut which established Joel as an up and coming pop artist.  Eventually Piano Man would sell more than two million copies, but thanks to one of those criminal recording/management contracts we hear about far too often, Joel himself only netted $8,000 from the debut. Artie Ripp still owned a  piece of Joel's songwriting contract. According to a 1991 Spy Magazine article. Joel had to spend "tens of millions" to get out of his contract but , even then, Ripp was still getting a percentage of every Joel album up to 1986's The Bridge.

Best song:


 



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

40 Year Itch: Carpenters on the Tonight Show


  On November 5, 1973 The Carpenters appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. They were there to promote their greatest hits album, The Singles 1969-1973,  so they smartly performed a medley of hits, sat down for an interview in which they gave an account of recent scare on a small plane, and then performed another song.



  Among the songs in the medley is Leon Russell's "Superstar( Groupie)" which Richard Carpenter first heard Bette Midler perform on The Tonight Show. Karen, already familiar with the tune,  didn't care for the song but their recording hit #2 in 1971. They also perform "Goodbye to Love" with its head melting guitar solo.



In the interview Karen especially comes across as a self-effacing girl next door. She's actually a bit of a nerd. But that voice...!



The final song is a strange choice. From the 1970 album Close to You, "Mr Guder", Richard Carpenter's slap down of a Disney Parks executive,  is a jazzy little number that lets the band stretch out a bit.