Friday, October 31, 2014

Those We Missed October 1974

   Bobby Bland was having a hell of a year, releasing Dreamer and touring off his classic California Album. But the blues was hitting a slump with audiences , so Bobby joined "B"on tour. This double album documents their friendship and knowledge of the blues lexicon. Contrary to reviews I've read, this doesn't sound at all like they've been playing together for years. It sounds like two immense talents hanging out informally on stage. And that's pretty cool.

   Al Green's Hi Records label mate Syl Johnson gets the Willie Mitchell/Memphis Horns treatment on Diamond in the Rough.  Setting himself apart from Green wouldn't be easy, especially after his biggest hit was a 1975 note for note cover of "Take Me to the River".

   The most accessible of Carlos Santana's highly spiritual journey into jazz fusion, Borboletta has a Brazilian vibe courtesy of Return to Forever percussionist Airto Moreira and his wife Flora Purim. Bassist Stanley Clarke also performs on a number of songs.  Try this one before Caravanserai, Welcome or Lotus. If it's not your cup of tea, you're not alone. The record label would soon force Santana to go back to the Latin rock that won millions of fans.

   The most enjoyable recording from George Harrison's nascent Dark Horse label is Splinter's The Place I Love.  Harrison produced and played on the duo's debut album, which sounds not unlike, well,  George Harrison. "Costafine Town" was a Top 20 hit in the UK.

   Paul Simon produced this album by the Argentine/Peruvian band he first met when they played with  him on the recording "El Condor Pasa" and then when they joined him on his 1973 Live Rhymin' Tour. Instrumentals all recorded in New York with Phil Ramone engineering.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

40 Year Itch : Way Back in Shady Lane

   On Veedon Fleece, released in October of 1974, Van Morrison returns, in song at least,  to his native Ireland, the place that inspired the masterpiece Astral Weeks. "Going away and coming back are the themes of all Irish writing, " he once said. 

   At the time Morrison was an Irishman in exile -- living the bi-coastal life of an American rock star in both Woodstock, NY and Fairfax, California. As a family man, that made sense. But as an artist he must have been missing something. A three week vacation to Ireland inspired seven songs that appear on Veedon Fleece

Main Street, Arklow

  Lyrically, there are several accounts of Irishmen missing their homeland. "Linden Arden Stole the Highlights" is about a tough Irish lad living in San Francisco. Both "Bulbs' and "Cul de Sac" are about people moving from home.  "Streets of Arklow" is a tribute to the Irish city Morrison visited on his vacation.

The music can wash over you. This is a fine album to play on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Critics weren't so warmly receptive. A Rolling Stone critic, writing that the album "flounders in Morrison's own cliches", calls Veedon Fleece "another aberration in fitfully inspired career."

Morrison's response would be a three year recording hiatus, a period Morrison described as full of highs, depressions, starts and stops. He did no interviews. Van the Man was tired of being the mysterious rock star.

Back in 1974, Morrison's own take on his career was summed up in a "It's the Music, Stupid " quote that appeared in full page ads for the album:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

40 Year Itch : Bowie's "Awful" Live Album

   October 29, 1974  saw the release of David Bowie's first live album, a fairly bland set highlighted by Bowie's version of  "All the Young Dudes", the hit he gave Mott the Hoople.  The low light was probably the TV commercial made for the album.

  Critics were harsh, prompting Bowie's close personal friend Mick Jagger to reportedly say he  thought Knock on Wood was "awful" and "if I got the kind of reviews that he got for that album, I would honestly never record again. Never."

  And with friends like that...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

40 Year Itch : Bucket Full of Sin

   In October of 1974, Tom Waits followed up his critically praised debut, Closing Time, with a brilliant follow-up that inhabits the rainy, late night world of desperado truck drivers, neon lit bars and drive-ins, and rambling beat poets smoking on stage. 

  The Heart of Saturday Night just may be the best album of the early Waits era, before he gave up singing to scat and growl. In his liner notes, Waits lists among his influences Randy Newman, Frank Sinatra and Jack Kerouac.

   That Tom Waits person is captured on a PBS series "Soundstage" shot in 1975. A Tom Waits concert is one part comedy monologue, one part eat poetry jam and one part concert.  Everyone needs to attend at least one of his shows.

  For many artists, the years spent struggling are an obstacle, preventing them from becoming who they are and saying what they want to say. Tom Waits was always paying attention. To the characters that staggered through the Heritage nightclub where he worked the door. To the men and women  he he met in the United States Coast Guard. And to every downcast loser he met on the road. He found the poetry in their lives and is still sharing it with the rest of us.

  What sets Heart apart from Closing Time are the jazz inflected rambling poetry, highlighted by "Diamonds On My Windshield":

  Oceanside ends the ride
  With Sam Clemente cummin up.
  And Sunday desperadoes slip by
  And cruise with a dry buck
  Orange drive-in the neon billin' 
  Theater's fillin' to the brim 
  Slave Girls and Hot Spur
  Bucket Full of Sin 

Monday, October 27, 2014

40 Year Itch : Far Above the Troubled Sky

In the Fall of 1974, Gene Clark, released No Other, a confounding album that cost $100,000 to make, contained no singles, and needed decades to pass before it would be declared one of the great masterpieces of 1970's rock.

   A founding member of The Byrds, Clark had written "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better", "Eight Miles High " and one of my all-time favorites "Here Without You".  He left the band in 1966, at their height,  because of his fear of flying. His country-rock solo recordings with The Gosdin Brothers and Doug Dillard are all worth checking out. In 1973, Clark played on The Byrds, a reunion album, which charted Top 20. His contributions caught the attention of Asylum head David Geffen whose label had become home to some of the best singer-songwriters of the age, including Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan ( for one year at least)  and Tom Waits. 

   Produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, who liked to spend money, No Other sounds like no other album of its time. With session musicians like Butch Trucks, Chris Hillman, Danny Kortchmar and Timothy B Schmidt, Clark ventures into country rock, choral music, psychedelia and blues...often in the same song.  His lyrics are mystical, written as he sat at a window overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  These songs soar and make No Other the ultimate "grower". 

   That the album never sold broke Clark's heart but if you listen closely you will hear the blueprint for future albums by everyone from Fleetwood Mac to the Fleet Foxes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

40 Year Itch: A Reason to Leave Home

   How did a guy we've never heard of get Jackson Browne, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and the best session musicians in the world to play on his album Home At Last, released in October of 1974? I mean guys who worked in Muscle Shoals, Area Code 614,  and with former Beatles ( namely Jesse Ed Davis).  Well, Berry was a well-traveled musician and songwriter who made a lot of friends in the South where he grew up and in LA where he befriended both Browne and members of the Eagles.

   It was Wayne Berry's turn to get a shot and he made the most of it. RCA took out a full page ad in Billboard Magazine . Unfortunately, halfway through touring the album, things fell apart. Badly. His story can be found here. In the meantime, Berry's  highly sought after singer-songwriter classic, Home at Last, sells for more than $100 a copy. Or you could check in with my friend Willard...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

40 Year Itch: Dreadlock Congo Bongo I

   On October 25, 1974 Bob Marley and the Wailers released Natty Dread. This was the first album by Marley since the original Wailers broke up. Their final concerts in England were met with poor attendance and Peter Tosh and Marley came to blows during one argument. ( It has been written that Tosh referred to the bi-racial Marley as a "white man's son"). They played one more gig together, opening for Marvin Gaye at Jamaica's Carib Club in May of 1974. After that both Tosh and Bunny Wailer set off on solo careers.

     Tony Wright, who did the cover art of Traffic's best albums, captured the new Wailers perfectly with his airbrushed portrait of Marley. Natty Dread's cover seems to say Bob Marley IS The Wailers. 

   To make up for the lost harmonies of Bunny and Tosh, Bob Marley is joined by the I-Threes, a vocal trio made up of his wife Rita, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. Their contributions , especially on  "Them Belly Full",, "Bend Down Low" and "Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock)",  are what give Natty Dread that classic sound to these ears.

   The studio version of "No Woman No Cry" doesn't hold up to the Live! version that came out a year later and the album loses some steam on Side Two. But Natty Dread is a great album.

   Recorded at Harry J's studio in Kingston and mixed in London, Natty Dread was also Marley's breakthrough album. Some of the credit may have to go to Eric Clapton who made Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" a worldwide hit ( and even to Barbra Streisand for her cover of "Guava Jelly" on ButterFly)

   Co-producer Chris Blackwell, who mis-named an album that was supposed to be called Knotty Dread, has nothing but praise for Marley :

   The first two records Catch a Fire and Burnin' didn't do too well in Jamaica, but Natty Dread was a hit there and outside. Natty Dread was a killer record. It really delivered the goods. But it was a very different sound from the first two , with Peter and Bunny's harmonies...Natty Dread got everybody talking, and then Catch a Fire and Burnin' start to sell like never before, because it was Natty Dread that made these records popular.

      At the time of the Natty Dread's release, Bob Marley was not the most popular performer in Jamaica. That distinction belonged to Jimmy Cliff, U-Roy or  possibly Marley's rival Peter Tosh. Missing two out of the three co-founders of his band, Marley had a lot to prove and he delivered a home run that would forever make him the King of reggae royalty.

Friday, October 24, 2014

40 Year Itch : The Bonnie Prince of Hard Rock

On October 24, 1974 the heavy-drinking, big time womanizing Bon Scott grabbed the mic and performed  his first gig with AC/DC, replacing the original singer Dave Evans. Within four years the Australian bar band would be one of the world's biggest grossing rock groups.Within six years Scott would be dead. But what a party his life must have been!  Bon Scott probably upset a fair number of parents in his day. It wasn't a bit out of character for him to write a song about his ex-wife called "She's Got Balls".

She's got balls my lady 
Likes to crawl my lady 
Hands and knees all around the floor 
No one has to tell her what a fella is for

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Alvin Stardust Remembered

Singer Alvin Stardust has died aged 72 after a short illness. He had recently been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and died at home with his wife and family around him, his manager said.

It was just a brief item in the October 26th, 1973 issue of Billboard Magazine:

Newly formed Magnet Records will release four singles before Christmas for distribution through CBS. The first, "My Coo Ca Choo" by mystery singer Alvin Stardust has received Powerplay plugging on Radio Luxembourg. Stardust is stated to be a familiar music business figure, but his identity is not disclosed.

Ah! The hype of those early years of Glam Rock! 

Alvin Stardust was none other than Bernie Jewry, a roadie, who in the early 60's replaced the 17 year old namesake of Shane Fenton and the Fentones when the first Fenton dies of rheumatic fever.

When the Fentons disbanded in the early 60's , Jewry vanished from the spotlight . He probably would have the spent the rest of his life playing small nite clubs had he not come up with the mock Glam Rock persona that borrows the black leather look from Elvis Presley's 1968 TV special and the surname of David Bowie's most famous persona Ziggy Stardust.

It may have started as a joke,  but Alvin Stardust recorded seven Top 10 hits from 1973 to 1984. His most famous is "My Coo Ca Choo" which hit #2 in the UK and spent seven weeks atop the charts in Australia. Stardust's follow-up single "Jealous Mind" would top the UK charts in 1974.

Still, he may best be remembered for his somewhat menacing performance in this public service announcement.

   Here's a link to his website

When (Stardust) came on telly, (future Oasis founders Liam and Noel Gallagher) would mime along and pretend to be Alvin and I'd always catch them singing into hairbrushes and playing air guitar
-Thomas Gallagher, their dad

     40 years ago, glam bandwagon jumper Alvin Stardust celebrated his one and only UK#1 single, "Jealous Mind". Born Bernard Jewry, Stardust appropriated just about everything he could from Elvis's 1968 TV special. And the fans bought least for a year or so.

"You, You, You" was another 1974 Top 10 hit.

In 1981, signed to Stiff Records,  Stardust returned to the UK Top 10 with his rockabilly-influenced cover of the Nat King Cole hit "Pretend"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

40 Year Itch : The Demons of Rock

We were all blind men walking in the dark
Gene Simmons on the Hotter Than Hell sessions

   On October 22, 1974 Kiss released their second album, Hotter Than Hell. Though it would barely dent the Top 100 album chart, Hotter Than Hell would eventually go gold in 1977 following the success of the mega-seller Kiss Alive.

   Touring non stop from even before the debut album came out, Kiss recorded its follow-up in Los Angeles, home of Casablanca Records. Right from the start things went wrong. Somebody stole Paul Stanley's electric guitar. The band admits Hotter Than Hell is a compilation of old club songs that pre-date the debut ( like "Goin' Blind" which is apparently about a 93 year old man's affair with a 16 year old girl)  and songs written on the road.

Hotter Than Hell doesn't sound like a band that has its act together. The musicianship is plodding. Kiss hadn't tasted success yet, having just come off the road as a third billed act to Wishbone Ash. Ace Frehley, the only member to have a hit song as a solo artist, still didn't have the confidence to sing any of his songs.

Frehley's "Parasite" and Stanley's "Mainline" are my faves but they're not exactly the kind of songs that would draw new fans.

The back cover of the album is more interesting than the music. Photographed on an L.A. set after photographer Norman Seeff got the band and models drunk, the shoot became a wild party. To do this day Paul Stanley says he's never been to a party like that one. 

A lot of pictures taken for the back cover have never seen the light of day because some people don't want to be incriminated by  the pictures.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

40 Year Itch : Elvis's Worst Album

    It has been described as the ultimate Elvis throw-away and as an "auto wreck that somehow plowed into a carnival freak show". Having Fun With Elvis On Stage is a live recording of Presley monologues and interactions with the audience. 

There is no music. 

Apparently Col. Tom Parker discovered if Elvis never actually sang a song, RCA Records wouldn't own the rights. So the album was released, in October of 1974, on Parker's own Box Car Records label...with a deceptive cover. Eventually RCA did get the rights to the album. The label was responsible for the tag at the top right: " A Talking Album Only"

Monday, October 20, 2014

40 Year Itch : Play Something Sweet

   In October of 1974, Maria Muldaur followed up her gold-selling debut with Waitress in the Donut Shop. Produced by Joe Boyd and Larry Waronker, Waitress is a showcase for Muldaur's ability to sing jazz, blues, jug-band etc. with both talent and enthusiasm. Guests on the album include Linda Ronstadt, Kate and Anna McGarrigle ( on "Cool River"), Paul Butterfield ( on the single "I'm a Woman") and Dr. John. Allen Toussaint wrote "Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues) which was a hit that year for Three Dog Night.

   It may sounds like a bit of a hodgepodge overall but taken one song at a time, Waitress is a delight. The album just snuck into the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop critics's poll.

The 1974 Pazz And Jop Critics Poll Albums 
1. Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark (Asylum) 186 (14)
2. Steely Dan: Pretzel Logic (ABC) 157 (13)
3. Randy Newman: Good Old Boys (Reprise) 154 (13)
4. Stevie Wonder: Fulfillingness' First Finale (Tamla) 153 (15)
5. Rolling Stones: It's Only Rock 'n Roll (Rolling Stones) 150 (12)
6. Bob Dylan and the Band: Before the Flood (Asylum) 139 (10)
7. Roxy Music: Stranded (Atco) 106 (7)
8. Jackson Browne: Late for the Sky (Asylum) 85 (6)
9. Eric Clapton: 461 Ocean Boulevard (RSO) 83 (7)
10. New York Dolls: In Too Much Too Soon (Mercury) 76 (8)
11. Linda Rondstadt: Heart Like a Wheel (Capitol) 69 (8)
12. Gram Parsons: Grievous Angel (Reprise) 65 (5)
13. Raspberries: Starting Over (Capitol) 50 (7)
14. Bryan Ferry: These Foolish Things (Atlantic) 47 (5)
15. Ry Cooder: Paradise and Lunch (Reprise) 42 (4)
16. Average White Band: Average White Band (Atlantic) 40 (4)
Velvet Underground: 1969 Velvet Underground Live (Mercury) 40 (4)
18. Bob Dylan: Planet Waves (Asylum) 38 (3)
19. Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets (Island) 35 (2)
20. Van Morrison: It's Too Late to Stop Now (Warner Bros.) 34 (3)
21. 10cc: Sheet Music (UK) 28 (3)
22. Willie Nelson: Phases and Stages (Atlantic) 25 (3)
Lou Reed: Rock n Roll Animal (RCA Victor) 25 (3)
24. Spinners: Mighty Love (Atlantic) 20 (3)
25. Blue Magic (Atco) 20 (2)
Little Feat: Feats Don't Fail Me Now (Warner Bros.) 20 (2)
27. Big Star: Radio City (Ardent) 18 (2)
28. Bad Company: Bad Co. (Swan Song) 17 (3)
29. Ohio Players: Skin Tight (Mercury) 17 (2)
Kinks: Preservation Act 2 (RCA Victor) 17 (2)
Maria Muldaur: Waitress in a Donut Shop (Reprise) 17 (2)

   A month earlier, Bonnie Raitt released another solid album, her fourth,  called Streetlights, featuring her signature cover of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" and our second Allen Toussaint tune today, "What is Success". Yet another good Bonnie Raitt album marred by a bad album cover. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

40 Year Itch : The Dead at Winterland

On October 16-20, 1974 The Grateful Dead performed a five night stand at the Winterland in San Francisco. The concerts were filmed and released in 1977, with far out animation,  as The Grateful Dead Movie. The show on the 20th marked drummer Mickey Hart's return to the band full time.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

40 Year Itch: Sixteen Candles Burning on My Wall

   On October 18, 1974 Al Green was scalded by a pot of boiling grits dumped on his bare back by a woman named Mary Woodson. Moments later Woodson shot herself dead in Green's bedroom. The tragedy is said to have been a turning point in Green's life. He would soon renounce his superstardom, become a fully ordained minister, and buy the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis where he continues to preach to this date.

  Green would later admit he had a "spooky feeling" about Woodson, who was, unknown to him, a married mother of two. Woodson was at his house when a flight attendant named Carlotta Williams dropped by. The two women seemed to enjoy each other's company. Williams said good night and retired to a guest bedroom. Woodson was busy in the kitchen. Green was taking a bath:

   After I got in the tub, I soon heard a noise, I looked up and Mary was standing with the steaming pot in both hands. In the next second, my world exploded into a thousand splatters of pure agony. Mary had added grits to the water, making a thick, boiling hot paste. With all her strength, she hurled it at me. The grits scorched my naked back. The pain was so intense that I started screaming.
 Carlotta burst in. "Al!" she screamed. It was then that I saw the egg sized blisters rising on my burned flesh. Mary rushed out of the bathroom.

    Carlotta called a ambulance and was tending to me as best she could-when suddenly, we heard a gunshot. Despite being in pain, I rushed to Mary, she lay on the floor dead, clutching a gun.

  Green was taken to Baptist Hospital where he would receive skin grafts and need eight months of convalescence before he could resume his musical career. By then, he was on a different path.

“I was able to finally put my career into some kind of perspective, placing my music on one side of the scale and my peace of mind and spiritual well-being on the other.” 

   The incident occurred the same month Green released one of his best albums, Al Green Explores Your Mind, which features his iconic version of "Take Me to the River" and the Top 10 hit "Sha La La La ( Makes Me Happy)". I don't know if anybody else has noticed that the Talking Heads version of "Take Me to the River" also borrows its riff from another cut on Explores Your Mind : "One Nite Stand".

   I've always loved this album. It's the second one I bought after the first Greatest Hits compilation.

Friday, October 17, 2014

40 Year Itch: The Godfather of World Music

"Only one artist in the world performed at the three most significant musical events of all time: Monterey Pop, Woodstock, and The Concert for Bangla Desh. Dark Horse Records is proud to present his new music."
-Billboard Magazine ad

   Ravi Shankar, the man George Harrison crowned 'The Godfather of World Music"  released his most successful foray into pop, Shankar Family and Friends, on Harrison's Dark Horse label in October of 1974. The album broke into the Billboard 200, peaking at #176.

    The album is a meeting of East and West with Shankar and members of his actual family, along with some Indian superstars,  recording on an album produced by Harrison with the ex Beatle's favorite musical friends including Tom Scott, Billy Preston and a drummer by the name of Ringo. To Harrison, this was nothing less than having the world's greatest composer agreeing to jam with pop musicians. You can hear his reverence in this snippet from a radio interview:

   Harrison would even bring Shankar and family on his much maligned 1974 tour. Maligned first and foremost because Harrison lost his voice before the tour ever started. But also because he would leave the stage after a few songs so Shankar could perform a long, many thought too long, set. Audiences grew restless with the unfamiliar song structure. But more on that tour later.

   Side One opens with the single "I Am Missing You". This is about as mainstream pop as the album gets . Vocal performances fill out the rest of the side. Side Two is more intriguing and more welcoming to these ears. Originally a score for a ballet split into three parts( DREAM, NIGHTMARE and DAWN), Shankar mixes Eastern and Western music to great effect.

   Five years later Shankar produced something even more widely welcomed by Western ears: a daughter who would grow up to record by the name of Norah Jones.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

40 Year Itch : Rats On The Sell Out

    On October 16, 2014 The Rolling Stones released It's Only Rock 'n Roll, their 14th US album and the last one to feature Mick Taylor on lead guitar.

    Though Taylor would complain that he left after a dispute on songwriting credits, his lead guitar work is less than inspired. But then he didn't have much to work with on this album. The ballads, "Till the Next Goodbye" and "If You Really Want to Be My Friend" are bores. The second one runs over six minutes in length. 

    "Luxury" is an embarrassment . It sounds like the Glimmer Twins took notes from the drivers and maids they met on a Jamaican resort. "Dance Little Sister" repeats its title more often than even Bob Seger would dare. And "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" ain't too good a cover version.

"Fingerprint File" is the sole bright note, a preview of the underrated funk of Black and Blue. More relevant than ever, the song could be the anthem of the post 9/11 citizen surveillance. There some great bass runs by Wyman before it breaks its spell and gets silly.

At the time, critics fawned over the album. These were, after all, The Rolling Stones! Goats Head Soup may have been underwhelming but surely the greatest rock n roll band in the world wouldn't release a second dud.

Jon Landau called the album "one of the most intriguing and mysterious, as well as the darkest, of all Rolling Stones records" while Robert Christgau gave the album a B  and claimed he heard "enough hooks for here ordinary albums".

Only Lester Bangs called it right, calling the album "false. Numb"

The solution to the Stones problem "inspired" the title cut, guitarist and the best friend of just about every UK rocker, Ronnie Wood.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

40 Year Itch : My Life, My Heart, My Home

    Jamaican Ken Boothe would hit #1 in the UK with his cover of Bread's "Everything I Own", a song David Gates wrote about missing his late father. Surely the blueprint for UB40's Labour of Love. Boothe recalls the reaction to his performing the song, then #5 in the UK charts, on TV.

   The week after I did the show it went up in the Top 10. And I did so many Top of the Pop shows.  After about three weeks when they counting down, all the Jamaicans in England was at the radio listening to hear where 'Everything I Own' was. And when them hear it is number one, the amount of phone call I got from Jamaica, all over the world, congratulating me ...and thanks to all the people who really love that song and make it reach where it reach.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

40 Year Itch : Crocodile Nasties

Remember: Tull rhymes with dull.
   -Jim Miller, Rolling Stone 

   On October 14, 1974 Jethro Tull released WarChild, their follow-up to the critically slammed sidelong epic suites of A Passion Play. The songs, including FM staple "Bungle in the Jungle" and the pre Passion Play recording "Skating Away ( on the Thin Ice of the New Day)", are shorter while Ian Anderson remains a complex, cynical lyricist.

The album climbed to #2 on the US charts but 40 years later, I just can't get excited about the WarChild.

Monday, October 13, 2014

40 Year Itch : Miles of Frankfurters

   In response to rampant bootlegging such as the 1973 live album below, John Entwistle, the only member of the band not ensnared the in the Tommy film project,  was given the mission of rummaging through The Who's back catalog for a collection of lost recordings. The result is one of the most entertaining albums of the band's career, Odds and Sods, released on October 12, 1974.

   "I tried to arrange it like a parallel sort of Who career - what singles we might have released and what album tracks we might have released," Entwistle said. Among the tracks are the band's first single,"I'm the Face", recorded as The High Numbers in 1964. And the anthemic "Long Live Rock", a 1979 single originally recorded by Billy Fury in the movie That'll Be the Day.

     One of the highlights of the collection is the liner notes written by an all too honest Pete Townshend.

    Of "Faith in Something Bigger", Pete writes "God, this is embarrassing. I don't know where to hide. Well I mean, the whole thing about HIM is that HE is everywhere isn't HE? A modest beginning to the musico-spiritual work of the irreligious Who. The guitar solo is the worst I've ever heard."

   Of the anti-smoking tune "Little Billy", recorded in 1968,  Pete writes "Now if I might take a little liberty here, this is a masterpiece. Written and recorded for the American Cancer Society in exchange for world wide success and fame it ended up not saving lives, but moldering unheard in some executive's office for six years."

   I've always liked album opener, "Postcard", written by John Entwistle for an EP that was never released. Said Pete: "'Postcard is a John Entwistle song about touring on the road. He describes in luscious detail the joys and delights of such romantic venues as Australia (pause to fight off temporary attack of nausea), America (pause to count the money) and, of course, that country of the mysterious and doubting customs official, Germany (pause, whether they like it or not, for 'God Save The Queen'). Listen out for the field sound effects ACTUALLY RECORDED IN THE COUNTRIES WE TOURED. 'Postcard' was originally recorded in my house for a maxi single. They were EP's that only cost as much as a single. Ours unfortunately never got released. I engineered this one with one hand on the controls and the other on the guitar. That's why I only play one chord throughout the whole song." 

   That would have been the "Water" EP, also featuring "Don't Know Myself" and  "Naked Eye", the latter also appears here.

   The extended Odds and Sods CD has 23 cuts including an alternative take of "Mary Anne with the Shaky Hands" and that awesome cover of the Rolling Stones's "Under My Thumb".

Sunday, October 12, 2014

40 Year Itch : "Kung Fu Fighting" is #1 in the UK

    In October of 1974, Jamaican Carl Douglas's "Kung Fu Fighting" hit #1 in the UK on its way to selling 11-million copies worldwide. On October 12, 1974 "Kung Fu Fighting" entered the Billboard Charts at #94. By early December the tune would top the US charts. "Kung Fu Fighting" was originally recorded-in just two takes- as a B-side. But somebody knew a hit when he heard it. Kung Fu was hugely popular then.  Curtis Mayfield and The Sharks both recorded songs called "Kung Fu". But they didn't have the HAHs and the HUHS that had the entire world making slashing gestures every time they heard it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

40 Year Itch : A Song from the Moon

    In October of 1974, MCA Records released Keith Moon's "first and greatest single", a cover of the Beach Boys's "Don't Worry Baby". With the help of Flo and Eddie ( The Turtles)  and John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful), Keith Moon recorded what has often been described as his favorite song -- one that offered hope for redemption. Moon needed help singing so Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan provided guide vocals...and patience.

"Keith was Keith. There was nothing you could do. You couldn't say 'Sing that better'. It was a song he had always wanted to sing, he always wanted to be a Beach Boy. This was a fantasy record for him. And drumming wasn't part of his fantasy ( that was handled by future actor Miguel Ferrer). Drumming was his job so he didn't want to make a record where his job cam einto play.
-Howard Kaylan

The song would appear on Keith Moon's only solo album, Two Side of the Moon. As would "Move Over Mrs L", a cover of the John Lennon song about Yoko that was dropped from Walls and Bridges at the last minute.

Friday, October 10, 2014

40 Year Itch : In a Snake Back Situation

   The son of Rand B  legend Johnny Otis (who wrote both "Hound Dog" and Willy and the Hand Jive"), musical prodigy Shuggie Otis recorded four albums before Epic dropped him for lack of sales. Lack of sales, maybe. But the quality of his recordings, especially the last one, Inspiration Information, is the reason why this album in among my Top 25 recordings of 1974. Otis plays everything ( and he was a good enough guitarist to be approached by the Rolling Stones). He writes, sings and arranges everything too. Taking lessons learned by listening to Sly Stone albums ( and possibly the more recent percussion box dominated "Why Can't We Live Together" by Timmy Thomas), Otis has to wait 30 years for this album to proclaimed one of the great lost masterpieces of the 70's. The re-release contains "Strawberry Letter #23" and other tunes from 1971's Freedom Flight.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

40 Year Itch : Telling Stories to the Peacocks

"We aren't so much a stage act as a movie"
-Alex Harvey

    In October of 1974, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band followed up their landmark LP Next with The Impossible Dream. It's an uneven but entertaining set from these eccentric art rockers that had to be recorded a second time when the original producer Shel Tamby ( The Kinks, The Who) failed to help them produce a commercial album. Actually, Tamby seemed to be falling asleep behind the board. Not inspiring! With "Sgt Fury" and opening track "The Hot City Symphony Part 1 - Vambo", SAHB visits Blue Oyster Cult's favorite subject outside aliens: comic book heroes. Commercial success would not come with this album...even after the band toured Europe with Deep Purple. But there's not a Scotsman alive whose heart doesn't flutter in response to the bagpipes playing on album closer "Anthem".

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

40 year Itch : Barb Does Bowie

   In October of 1974, Barbra Streisand released her first album in three years, ButterFly. Produced by Barb beau Jon Peters, the album features covers of Bob Marley's "Guava Jelly" and David Bowie's "Life On Mars". Of Barbra's version, Bowie told Playboy Magazine “Bloody awful. Sorry, Barb, but it was atrocious.” Barb apparently agreed. In 1992 she told Larry King ButterFly was her least favorite album.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

40 Year Itch : A Belly Full of Lust

    Rod Stewart had settled into a formula by the time he released Smiler : an oldie (Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Rock'n'Roller") few rockers ("Sailor", the first single, an Elton John duet called "Let Me Be Your Car"), an R and B classic or two ( Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me/ You Send Me") and a Dylan tune ( "Girl From the North Country"). American critics weren't as impressed as though in the UK. NME critics ranked Smiler #12 for 1974. NME readers voted Smiler the best album of 1974. 

  To me the most interesting cut is the Paul and Linda McCartney composition "Mine For Me" because 1974 was a year Paul especially revealed a generous spirit. He produced and wrote songs for his brother's album, McGear. He gave Peggy Lee "Let's Love" and now "Mine For Me", with uncredited backing vocals by the couple. The album's second single, "Mine For Me" peaked at #91 in the US. The album hit #1 in the UK twice on its way to selling a million copies worldwide.

Monday, October 6, 2014

40 Year Itch : Blue Wicked and Wild

  Its fans, who numbered among them the late Kurt Cobain, have called King Crimson's dark, heavy, and musically rich Red the first grunge album. I don't know about that. I do know King Crimson had come off a frustrating tour of the US when they entered the studio as a trio. Violinist David Cross, having departed right after the tour, does contribute to the live track "Providence" which was recorded in the Rhode Island state capitol. 

   Robert Fripp was ready to disband King Crimson. As the Beatles did with Abbey Road, the members of King Crimson wanted to make their last album something special. At the same time, Crimson's only founding member, Robert Fripp, made the decision not withhold all judgement on the proceedings.

  Drummer Bill Bruford is quoted in The Mojo Collection :
      Robert had 'decided to withhold the passing of my opinion' which meant you'd do a take and you'd say ' What do you think, Robert?' Nothing. Nothing at all. He had decided the way to Nirvana was not to express an opinion - and it seemed to ( bassist, vocalist) John Wetton and I more or less moved his hand about on the fretboard.

Fripp's opinions are in his guitar work which is absolutely furious. It would be seven year before Fripp and King Crimson would record another album. Red remains one of progressive rock's most resounding statements. But maybe I wouldn't play it for your mom.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

40 Year Itch : What Richie's Been Up To

On Mixed Bag II, the hard strumming Richie Havens covers The Five Stairstep's classic "Ooh Child", Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" and Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run", the last of which is barely a curiosity. Much more fascinating is the concert the BBC shot in 1974.

Friday, October 3, 2014

40 Year Itch : Ah Bowakawa Pousse Pousse



Recorded during the so called "Lost Weekend", Walls and Bridges reveals John Lennon missing his then estranged wife Yoko ( "Bless You", "Going Down on Love" "Move Over Ms. L", which was dropped the last minute) and, perhaps, missing The Beatles ("#9 Dream" has Jesse Ed Davis mimicking George Harrison's slide guitar and there's some jabberwocky nonsense reminiscent of "I Am the Walrus"). His companion at the time, May Pang, has said one of my favorite songs on the album,  "Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradise)" , is about her. His spirits may have been down, but this was hardly a creative slump for a Beatle that had recorded two solo albums, produced another ( Nilsson's Pussycats) and worked on a third ( the Phil Spector project Rock n Roll)

      The big single from the album is "Whatever Gets You Through the Night", a rocking duet with Elton John who bet Lennon it would be his first #1 hit. To pay off the bet, Lennon made what would be his last concert appearance November 28 performing the single, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Saw Her Standing There" at Madison Square Garden.


John and Julian Lennon visit the set of Happy Days