Monday, June 30, 2014

40 Year Itch : Van Plays Montreux


   Every so often, an artist reaches that point where they want to wipe the slate clean, ignore the hits that made them stars, and start all over again. On June 20, 1974 Van Morrison, looking  like John Denver's shaggier brother,  brought a stripped down band to the Montreux Jazz Festival and played a nine-song set. With the exception of the deep cut "Street Choir", all of the songs were unfamiliar to the audience. Listen closely and you can hear a lone voice screaming for "Wild Night". Not tonight. The audience doesn't look thrilled especially after they endure two straight instrumentals with Van playing sax. The band is made up of Crosby, Stills and Nash drummer Dallas Taylor, British Keyboardist Pete Wingfield and bassist Jerome Rimson.



   Here's your set list and eventual album on which the song appeared

1. Twilight Zone   The Philsopher's Stone ( a 1998 archival set)
2. I Like It Like That  Never Released ( written in Them days)
3. Foggy Mountain Top   The Philsopher's Stone
4. Bulbs   Veedon Fleece single
5. Swiss Cheese    Never Released ( instrumental with VM on sax)
6. Heathrow Shuffle   Never Released ( instrumental with VM on sax)
7. Naked in the Jungle The Philsopher's Stone
8. Street Choir   His Band and Street Choir
9. Harmonica Boogie

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Those We Missed from June '74


June 74 Sampler ( there will be others) 

Some great mid 70's funk from bands that never quite became household names and some nuggets --mentioned and unmentioned this month -- from artists we all know ...make up the 12 songs on this ultra generous mp3 sampler.








Friday, June 27, 2014

40 Year Itch : Too Cool to Bluff



   By the time they recorded their seventh album , From the Mars Hotel, released June 27, 1974, The Grateful Dead had become a well-oiled and even better rehearsed band capable of intricate arrangements. For me, the highlight is the concert staple "Scarlet Begonias". Everyone is in the percolating groove, Jerry sings with confidence, guitar lines are sweeping in and out and Donna Godchaux's wailing is kept short and buried in the mix. ( As opposed to the live performance at "the retirement concert" at San Francisco's Winterland that October.)


  Casual fans will recognize the single "U.S. Blues" even though it never charted. True deadheads can spend hours talking about "Unbroken Chain", written and sung by bass player Phil Lesh ( who had also written another of my favorites, "Box of Rain"). Three minutes in, the tune goes all free jazz on your ass and at times it sounds like you're hearing two songs at the same time. No wonder the Dead neglected to play it live much.


The album is named after a Mission District dive where Jack Kerouac once spent a few nights. Hold the cover upside down in the mirror and you'll be able to make out the words "Ugly Rumors" which became the name of  former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's band.







Also, this month Jerry Garcia released his second solo album, Complements,  a curious affair full of uninspired covers. However, the album was reissued in 2005 with some real treats including the funky "I'll Forget You".


Thursday, June 26, 2014

40 Year Itch : The End of Sonny And Cher


   On this day in history 1974, Cher divorced Sonny Bono, four days later, she married guitarist Gregg Allman... only to file for divorce from him just nine days later. They actually stayed married for three years . producing Elijah Blue Allman. In a statement released to the press, Cher said: "I've always believed it best to admit one's mistakes as quickly as possible." Read this earlier post for more on the turmoil in Cher's life

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

40 Year Itch : See You This Summer





   In June of 1974 endlessly touring  Beach Boys released Endless Summer, a collection of hits pre-dating 1966's Pet Sounds. ("Good Vibrations" was added to the CD version). It would spend an astonishing 155 weeks on the Billboard charts, hitting #1 on October 5th, and revitalizing the band's career.

    While The Beach Boys raced off to play their greatest hits, Brian stayed in bed binge eating, drinking and slipping in and out of a drug induced haze.  In July of 1974, realizing the good times had come roaring back for his band, Dennis Wilson bought a 50 foot sailboat, the fateful  Harmony and made Marina Del Ray his home.

  Initial pressings featured the poster below.


   Endless Summer wasn't the first greatest hits release by the Beach Boys so why did it sell so well? You may not be surprised top learn Mike Love takes the credit:

"They were going to do a Best Of The Beach Boys Volume Three in 19- , whatever the hell it was, and I came in there and went, "Wait a second, call it Endless Summer, instead of being Volume Three" which sounded nauseating to me. Endless Summer has a whole other vibe to it and sold several million copies just with the switch of the title. But then I'm a title guy anyway."

BONUS



The winning music video for "Heroes and Villains" from the Beach Boys SMiLE Sessions - Animation by Robert Capria.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

40 Year Itch: The Bitch Is Back


"I could fart and reach Number 1" -Elton John, 1974

   And now the backlash begins for hit maker Elton John whose follow-up to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou --released on June 24, 1974-- is derided as a "startlingly empty experience" in a Rolling Stone review entitled "The Maestro of Mediocrity". 


     Naturally, it would sell double Platinum in the US, vault past Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown to #1 and feature to Top Five singles "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" ( with backing vocals from Toni Tennille and Carl Wilson with help from The Captain)  and "The Bitch is Back" ( with John Lennon on tambourine and backing vocals from Dusty Springfield).


     A confessed rush job, knocked out the Caribou Ranch outside Denver,  Caribou still manages to offer a few deep cuts of interest.  "Ticking" is the stand-out, a haunting, melodramatic account of a teenager who goes on a shooting spree. It's sad to think how much more relevant this tune has become since it was recorded.


Monday, June 23, 2014

40 Year Itch : Stevie's Ladies




[Purchase]

   Just months after winning five Grammys, Stevie Wonder was lending his hit-making magic to the ladies in his life. Under the pseudonym El Toro Negro, Wonder produced Minnie Riperton's comeback album as well as her biggest hit "Lovin' You". The story is, with a song short of a full album, Wonder asked Minnie and husband Richard Rudolph for their most embarrassing song. Minnie immediately thought of the bedtime lullaby she sang to daughter Maya (Rudolph of SNL fame): the US #1 hit "Lovin' You". 


Perfect Angel offers more than sweet ballads showcasing Minnie's epic range. There are two Wonder-penned tunes ( "Perfect Angel", "Take a Little Trip"), a rocker (" Reasons") and a great Summertime jam called "Seeing You This Way".

.


[Purchase]

  Stevie Wonder gave away a sure-fire hit when he met LA funksters Rufus working on their second album.   He liked their recording of  "Maybe Your Baby" on the Rufus debut. Wonder first offered Rufus " Come and Get This Stuff" but Chaka Khan wasn't impressed. So Wonder offered " Tell Me Something Good", which he also produced. He had to convince Chaka Khan to sing the song in his key...which she did in one take. The result is a #3 hit.


   Watching the video, you'll see why Chaka Khan dominated the spotlight. That didn't necessarily sit well with the other members. Many left after the recording was finished. Too bad! Rags to Rufus has more going for it than the hit single. There's the Chaka penned "You Got the Love" and deep cut favorite  "Smokin' Room".




Wonder wrote "Until You Come Back To Me ( That's What I'm Gonna Do" in 1967 but handed it off to Aretha Franklin who hit #3 with the tune. 1974 wasn't much of a year for the Queen of Soul. For the first time ever, She failed to deliver an Atlantic album into the Top 40. On the bright side, Aretha shed 40 pounds thanks to a vinegar and honey diet and replaced her African robes with foxy outfits. 






Last but not least is the album Stevie Wonder produced for and with his ex-wife Syreeta Wright. Among the songs ( there's more smooth soul than funky butt soul here)  are three UK hits and "Come And Get Your Stuff, the tune Chaka Khan turned down. Side Two features an Abbey Road like medley. Because all of the songs were written--or co-written-- by Wonder, his biggest fans say this album, falling between Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First Finale.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

40 Year Itch : Limp Noodles




  For those who wanted to spend the Summer of '74 in a mellow mood, there were plenty of new releases from June of that year from which to choose. 


    By far the most successful album came from an artist whose earnestness was so profound, nobody has recorded a decent cover of his many songs since Peter, Paul and Mary. Let's face it, this guy either really did believe a night in the forest filled up his senses or he was the greatest bullshit artist of his time. My money's on the former theory.


    In 1974 our second artist was having a tough time with drug addiction and  watching his wife top the charts.. which led to an album of brooding tunes, faux rock and no hits. Even with his wife and the McCartneys  laying backing tracks on "Let It Fall Down", the album is just slightly better than One Man Dog. Yet, there are moments that make our hero sound happy in his domestic life and in a few years he would break out of the rut with JT.


   The third tune is not from a bootleg, but from a vinyl only release in Japan of a concert done on this very date in 1974. Apparently the Sam Cooke cover went over so well, our third hero released a studio version  as a single. It went Top 10 in the US and #1 in Canada. 


   The fourth track is a deep cut from the first LP pairing this band with famed Beatles producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick. The band was back on its hit making track at least for now.


  The final track comes from an artist whose formula for cross-over success was already grating the critics nerves when this album was released. Will not give you access to the "God Only Knows" cover for your own good.
   

Saturday, June 21, 2014

40 Year Itch: The Japanese Floyd




They may have arrived on the prog rock scene a bit late, but on their Toho Records debut Isshoku-Sokuhatsu,  the young Japanese musicians who make up Yonin Bayashi released a winner. Listen to the 11 minute track "Omatsuri" ( "Festival") for an amalgamation of influences ranging from Pink Floyd to Camel to Santana.


The album was a hit in prog-crazed Japan but remains a worthy  collector's item outside the island nation. For more on the prog rock scene in Japan and Korea see this earlier post.




Friday, June 20, 2014

40 Year Itch : Before The Flood


    Before the Flood, released June 20, 1974,  captures the furious performances Bob Dylan and The Band conducted on their 40 show, six week tour of the US. ( Specifically February 13 and 14 at the LA Forum). Everything was sped up and Dylan barked his lyrics like the punk he had been when he wrote most of the tunes. The highlight is "Like a Rolling Stone", in which Dylan, The Band and the audience are all yelling "How Does It Feeee-el?". "All Along the Watchtower" is another great moment.




Robbie Robertson is quoted in Down the Highway:The Life of Bob Dylan 

 "Whenever we would so something in the studio it was like one group of musicians. When we played live the music got very dynamic and violent and explosive...When we got together to do the Tour '74 thing, the same thing happened again. We just automatically reverted to a certain attitude towards the songs...it's fast and aggressive and hard and tough."



In his A rated review Robert Christgau writes:

 (Dylan's) voice settles in at a rich bellow, running over his old songs like a truck. I agree that a few of them will never walk again, but I treasure the sacrilege; Uncle Bob purveying to the sports arena masses. We may never even know whether this is a masterpiece. 

   Well we now know the answer. Despite being the highest rated live album in the annual Pazz and Jop Critics' Poll ( finishing #6, ahead of # 16 Velvet Underground, #20 Van Morrison and #22 Lou Reed) Before The Flood has lost much of its appeal as the decades have passed. The Rolling Stone Record Guide dropped the album from 5 stars to 3 and a half in its most recent edition. My guess is it's only because the sides where Dylan and the Band perform together are so strong, the sides with only Dylan and only The Band fall flat in comparison. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

40 Year Itch : Live Soul and Schwarz



On June 19, 1974, Marvin Gaye released Marvin Gaye Live! which features one of the most spine-tingling moments of any live album ever recorded. It's the moment Gaye, vamping over "Theme from Trouble Man", suddenly breaks out into "Distant Lover" reducing the women in the audience into a mass of hysterical shrieks and screams. As a single, the live version of "Distant Lover" reached #28 in the pop charts and #15 in the R and B charts.


  The album was recorded January 4, 1974 at Oakland Coliseum in front of 14,000 fans. Gaye had been reluctant to tour since singing partner Tammi Terrell had collapsed in his arms during a 1967 concert. Terrell died three years later of a brain tumor. 

  Though sometimes undercut by the syrupy string section conducted by Gene Page, a going-through-the motions 11-minute medley of his early hits, and a truly awful song dedicated to his teenage girlfriend Janis Hunter, the live versions of his early 70's classics like "Inner City Blues", "What's Going On" and "Let's Get It On" make this a must-own album.





   Live, The O'Jays stretch out their best known material. There's an 8 minute version of "Backstabbers" and a 7 minute version of "Love Train". The highlight is the funky audience participation number "When the World is at Peace". The lowlight is the bewildering cover of Skylark's "Wildfire". Yep, that "Wildfire".




   Billy Paul's voice isn't strong enough to carry a live album but if you're a fan of his #1 hit "Me and Mrs Jones", you're in luck. Mr. Philadelphia's live version runs nearly nine minutes.




   BONUS



Also on this date in 1974, Brinsley Schwarz performed  at Cardiff Top Rank where Nick Lowe and the boys played "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding" from the forthcoming New Favourites of Brinsely Schwarz. The live recording is immaculate and can be found on the internet.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

40 Year Itch : My Tangled Web of Rhyme




     Considered by many to be their high point, Barclay James Harvest's Everyone is Everybody Else is highly accessible, highly melodic progressive pop that may remind listeners of a less silly, less successful Moody Blues. It is a sign of the band's playfulness that they would later record a song called "Poor Man's Moody Blues" as a result.


   
   Originally signed to Harvest Records ( which took its name from the band), BJH moved to Polydor before releasing this album. Everyone is Everybody Else has a little something for everyone and everybody else: the lyrics offer direct and timely messages ( as in the opener "Child of the Universe": I'm a child of South Africa/ I'm a child of Vietnam /I'm a child of Northern Ireland/ I'm a small boy with blood on his hands), there's some well played mellotron ( from Stewart "Wooly" Wolstenholme), a tune that borrows from the Bee Gees ( "The Great 1974 Mining Disaster") and one that sounds like Crosby, Stills and Nash ("Poor Boy Blues"). 



   The Germans embraced Barclay James Harvest but for the for most part, BJH never grew beyond cult status in the UK and US. This and the band's 1974 live album make a good case it was our fault for ignoring them.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

40 Year Itch : Feeling Like a Bohunk

Ringo ( on far right in shadows) and John in 1974

     On June 17, 1974 Ringo Starr called John Lennon to ask his Beatle buddy for a new song for the follow-up to the platinum best-seller Ringo. The result is the title track "Goodnight Vienna", English slang for "It's All Over". 

    At the time Lennon was wrapping up production on Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats. Lennon recorded a demo and vocal guide of the tune with Ringo on drums and tambourine. Jesse Ed Davis plays guitar on the demo which can be found on the John Lennon Anthology. Ringo's version,  "It's All Down to Goodnight Vienna", begins with Lennon's countdown and features Billy Preston on clavinet. It  reached number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. Lennon was the only Beatle to contribute to the Goodnight Vienna album.

Monday, June 16, 2014

40 Year Itch: UK Top 10 This Week in 1974

Hey Kids! This Rubettes Pic is Big Enough to Use as Desktop Wallpaper
The most shocking thing about the UK Top 10 list this week is only 2 of the songs made any impact on the US charts, both hitting #1. The Rubettes hit is straight out of the "Roy Wood 50's style music meets 70's Glam Rock" playbook.

1. The Rubettes : Sugar Baby Love

  The surest sign the Glam Rock craze was a glittery double decker bus rushing headlong down a Dead End alley into a brick wall. Great pop....but don't listen for the lyrics or if you're prone to cavities.



2. Sparks : This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both of Us

1974's strangest and most brilliant UK hit was actually recorded by a US band



3. Showaddywaddy : Hey Rock and Roll

After the show, pimply boys were allowed to rifle through the sweat stained suits for their proms.



4. Ray Stevens :The Streak

Still not funny


5. R. Dean Taylor: There's a Ghost in My House

A Re-issued 1966 single from Canuck rocker is such a big hit even The Fall record a version


6. Paper Lace : The Night Chicago Died

UK rockers Paper Lace did the right thing by sending a copy of the single to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley who made it known that he hated it. 


7. Cockney Rebel : Judy Teen

Confusing fans, the single was not on the brilliant album released that month, Psychomodo.


8. Mouth and MacNeal : I See A Star

Crushed by Abba's Waterloo", the Dutch entry still made the Top 10 in the UK.


9. David Cassidy : If I Didn't Care

His star quickly fading after a young girl was crushed at a UK concert, Cassidy recorded this classic cover 25 years before Bryan Ferry


10. Status Quo : Break The Rules

Formulaic Status Quo tune that would peak at #8.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

40 Year Itch: I Hate Hate




   Razzy Bailey sold more than half a million copies of this feel-good 1974 jam which offers a nice message for Father's Day. There were two versions: this one and one featuring "The Neighborhood Kids" joining in on the chorus. And you already know I feel about kids singing on pop songs

   Six years prior to this single, Bailey toured around in blue eyed soul bands that played the Southeast dance circuit. That may explain the Archie Bell feel of the single. Bailey found great success as a country artist, with four straight #1 singles in 1980 through '81 beginning with "Loving Up a Storm".




Friday, June 13, 2014

40 Year Itch: Monkey on a Silver String




Before producing Gene Clark's legendary No Other, and after producing Loudon Wainwright III's "Dead Skunk", the eccentric Thomas Jefferson Kaye gathered his best musical friends to make an album that falls in that all so Californian intersection between Eagles twang and Steely Dan finesse. That album is First Grade.


  The Steely Dan force is big on this album, released just months after Pretzel Logic. Dan Producer Gary Katz helms the producer's seat while Walter Becker, Donald Fagen and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter play on some cuts. Most significantly all these years later: Becker and Fagen gave Kaye two of their unrecorded songs, "Jones" and "American Lovers". Dusty Springfield sings on the album. So does Richie Furay and future Eagle Timothy B. Schmit. All star albums were one of the great trends of 1974. Ringo and Ron Wood also made albums with  a surprising collection of  rock stars.


  The Becker Fagen tunes are the easy ones to find on YouTube but the album also contains some Kaye originals. It begins with the lines "My name is Thomas Jefferson Kaye and I was born in North Dakota" on a 1:11 tune called "Northern California" and ends with "One Man Band", a Kaye-penned tune that was a Top 20 hit for Three Dog Night. His choice is covers is impeccable. Listen to "All Cried Out" from Buddy Kaye and Philip Springer:



    First Grade is a grower. It ranked #10 on Robert "The Dean" Christgau's end of year list. Kaye lived the rock n roll lifestyle and died in 1994, two years after gathering another group of stars ( including Eric Clapton, Steve Miller and Joe Walsh) for a final album.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

40 Year Itch: Sad Amps and Smashed Guitars




There's no point being ahead of your time if you're not communicating
Bill Nelson, 1976

  I know everyone says the problem with the Be Bop Deluxe debut, Axe Victim, is that it sounds exactly like the album David Bowie might have recorded as a follow-up to Ziggy Stardust. Well, so what? I love Ziggy Stardust. And I don't really mind hearing "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" replaced two years later by "Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus". But when you do that, Bill Nelson, you can't complain when people call you out.


    For a band that would seem ahead of their time for much of the 70's, Be Bop Deluxe might have begun one step behind. They come across as a Glam Rock band at exactly the time when when silver painted boots and face mask up was going out of style. Maybe they didn't really know who they were. Well we know now. They were Bill Nelson.  In fact, right after a tour with Cockney Rebel, Nelson disbanded Be Bop and replenished the band with entirely new members for the next album Futurama.




    There's a sheen to Be Bop Deluxe albums that you can't find anywhere else. It's in Nelson's vocals : polite if not entirely human ...and his guitar mastery. Every blistering note in the solos hits the mark. Nelson also played keyboards and would soon have a hand in production. It would eventually pay off with the 1976 UK #23 single "Ships in the Night" and swooning fans watching Nelson play flaming guitars.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

40 Year Itch: Sleazy Skirt Lifters





  Ignore the misogynistic cover ( if you can) and just spin the black circle for some of 1974's hardest rocking heavy metal. Had this album come out of Seattle in 1991-- instead of Australia in the mid-70's--  it would have sold half a million copies in the US. I'm serious. Dave Tice sounds like Chris Cornell and , like Kim Thayil, John Baxter is a riffing madman on guitar. Buffalo even recorded a song inspired by Tacoma author Frank Herbert 's Dune sequel Dune Messiah. Less sludgy than Volcanic Rock, Only Want You For Your Body is the kind of high octane metal that can only be played at 11.




  For me, here's where the Buffalo story ends. You don't want to know what happened to the band as it pursued commercial viability without badass Baxter. You really do not.  But if curiosity has the best of you play the clip below.

Monday, June 9, 2014

40 Year Itch : Somewhere South of New York City




   For six weeks in June and July of 1974, Paul and Linda McCartney and the rest of Wings lived, rehearsed and recorded in Nashville, TN. The McCartneys rented  "Junior's  Farm" , a nice stretch of land  belonging to songwriter Curley "Green Green Grass of Home" Putnam, Jr.

Paul's in disguise
 Why Nashville?

"I rather fancy the place. It’s a musical center. I’ve just heard so much about it, that I wanted to see for myself." McCartney told reporters.



  It was a productive time for Wings. They broke in their new drummer Jeffery Brittain and new guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and recorded both the hard rocking "Junior's Farm" and "Sally G", the highest charting Country song McCartney's ever recorded. (It peaked at #51).


   
  It wasn't all business. The McCartneys brought their three daughters, 11-year-old Heather (Linda’s child by a previous marriage), 5-year-old Mary and 3-year-old Stella.

 "They’re always running around naked streaking,’ Linda laughed. Her husband interrupted, "Remember that night they went over to Johnny Cash’s house? Heather (their 11 year old daughter) was playing with Johnny’s son and some animals in the barn."




   McCartney said they hadn't come to Nashville to hide out and even invited reporters to swing by the house sometime. They did of course. And wrote of a man who seemed comfortable with farm life...though not enough to make a permanent move here.



"No, thank you," said McCartney. "I’m British to the core."

  "We’re always being advised to move out of England because the taxes take 90% of everything you earn. But I’m British and Linda’s kind of honorary British. She makes a good cup o’ tea."


McCartney was also asked about his guitarist Jimmy McCulloch whose very first recording with Wings was "Junior's Farm". Apparently Jimmy got into some trouble with the law and had to leave town. "I'd rather not bring that up here" McCartney said.

 He was, however, more than willing to show the reporters his skills on a small motorcycle.



A security guard remarked: "The next headlines he (McCartney) makes will be about a motorcycle wreck. He doesn’t know how to drive that thing."

One more recording of note is "Walking in the Park With Eloise", a tune Paul's father had written. McCartney recorded it with "The Country Hams", Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer. As a B side they also recorded a jazzy demo called "Bridge Over the River Suite".




  He'd met the country stars at the Grand Old Opry where the McCartney attended a Grand Masters Fiddling Contest. Among the contestants was Sam Bush. The McCartneys also met Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner.



As they were leaving Nashville, Linda McCartney summed up the stay:


"We love it," said Mrs. McCartney. "The girls got suntans; I did some shopping at the Nashville stores and we enjoyed visiting places and meeting nice people."

For more memories, photos and mp3s visit this website devoted to Paul's Nashville visit.

Friday, June 6, 2014

40 Year Itch : Walkin' Down This Rocky Road




[Purchase]

This is just like your first group, everything you do excites you
-Mick Ralphs, Rolling Stone 


Walking out of a screening of Casablanca a few decades ago, a friend of mine told me he didn't like the movie. Why? Because, he said, it was wall-to-wall cliches. He felt like he'd seen it before. Well, of course they weren't cliches when Casablanca first came out. The movie has just become so big and influential, you almost never have to see it ...to feel like you've seen it.



The same with the Bad Company debut. Every riff, every solo, every soulful Paul Rodgers wail will sound familiar even if you've never sat down with the album. Bad Company had distilled every great blues-inspired hard rock element into one classic 34 and a half minute album. The result:  at least five of the 8 songs are still getting played on Classic Rock radio. In fact this album would probably sound too straightforward if it wasn't for Rodgers's voice.

\

   Bad Company is made up of two former Free men : Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke. Mick Ralphs of Mott the Hoople plays guitar and contributes to the songwriting. The bass player is a former member of King Crimson,  Boz Burrell, who had to beat at least 15 others who auditioned.




   Signed to Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label, Bad Company took advantage of a lull during Led Zep's recording schedule and knocked out this album in eight days. Mott fans will recognize "Ready For Love" from All the Young Dudes. The "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love" riff comes from the same album's"One of the Boys". Even "Don't Let Me Down" has more than just the title in common with The Beatles tune.





  Still, the album would top the Billboard album charts in late September ( knocking Stevie Wonder's Fullfillingness' First Finale from #1). Bad Company would rule the rest of the 70's and provide a blueprint for many bands to follow.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

40 Year Itch: Nobody's Million Dollar Baby




On June 5, 1974 Patti Smith recorded her first single--also often called the first "punk" single, "Hey Joe" b/w "Piss Factory", at Electric Ladyland Studios in New York City. "Piss Factory" is a spoke word piece that recalls an incident at a South Jersey toy factory where fellow workers shoved her head in a toilet bowl full of piss because she was working too fast. On the A side Patti addresses the other famous Patricia of the 1970's: Patty Hearst, the kidnap victim turned bank robber.



Patty Hearst, you're standing there in front of the Symbionese Liberation Army flag with your legs spread, I was wondering were you gettin' it every night from a black revolutionary man?


Patti recorded the single with her band, which included guitarist Lenny Kaye ( who produced the single "for Robert Mapplethorpe") , bass player Ivan Kral, drummer  and pianist Richard Sohl. Her performance is breath taking. She's part shaman, part beatnik poet, part rock and roll idol. A born natural. 



   Before Patti Smith ever entered Electric Ladyland she had already made a mark on rock history, contributing songwriting to several Blue Oyster Cult songs ( and vocals on "The Revenge of Vera Gemini" ) as well as a spoken word piece on Ray Manzarek's "If I Wake Up Dreaming".


   The first time her name pops up in the Rolling Stone archives it's for a review she wrote for Todd Rundgren's The Ballad of Todd Rundgren.

  About a hundred years ago the runt of the Sioux tribe breathed his vision on his tribe. They dropped that runt crap and crowned him Crazy Horse. I think it's time 'runt' be dropped from Todd Rundgren

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

40 Year Itch: The Striking Beauty of Mary McCaslin




In 1974 Rolling Stone wrote a short blurb about an"exceptional album which virtually no one will hear". The album is Mary McCaslin's Way Out West, which remains an obscure record beloved by lovers of contemporary folk. She's the real deal: beautiful compositions, alternate guitar tunings and a lovely voice that reminds me of Iris Dement without the edge. The album is linked by a similar theme: a young woman seeking love in the West and running into misadventures that would make Liz Phair blush. 


(If you only have a minute and need a more obvious introduction to Mary, listen to her Beatles cover "Things We Said Today" from a later album). 



    McCaslin made three albums for Philo and still performs near her Santa Cruz home. She even maintains a website. To give Rolling Stone's Ken Barnes the final word: Way Out West is far superior to most of its genre and is well worth the effort of seeking it out.



Monday, June 2, 2014

40 Year Itch: Rebel Insane





“Maybe in six months’ time, some perceptive journalist will say, ‘Didn’t Steve Harley do this a year ago and didn’t we say it was rubbish?’”-Steve Harley to NME , 1974

   On June 2, 1974 Cockney Rebel released its second album, Psychomodo. This follow-up to the sensational Human Menagerie only upped the ante. Psychomodo is an even stranger, sleazier and more sinister soupcon of atmospheric art rock. Good thing too. The band's first hit single, "Judy Teen", had just hit the UK Top 5. Cockney Rebel didn't have to chase the latest pop convention. They'd become it.



 And Cockney Rebel had made it big without the help of NME and Melody Maker whose critics were apparently turned off by Harley's snotty and arrogant gum-chewing attitude. It was NME that called the band "mincing Biba dummies" --Biba being a London fashion term.

         Harley saves his retort for "Sweet Dreams",  the opening cut of the Alan Parsons produced Psychomodo.

       “Pop paper people printing Rebel Insane
      They in my head and digging into my brain“

       He saves another stinger for the final track, "Tumbling Down":

Gee, but it’s hard when one lowers one’s guard to the vultures 
Me, I regard it a tortuous hardship that smoulders
 like a peppermint eaten away
 will I fight, will I swagger or sway?    



       With the help of the #8 single, " My Soft", The Psychomodo went Top 10 in the UK. In the US, nobody bought it so here, once again, we're highlighting one of the great overlooked albums of 1974. This will be in my Top 25 of 1974 so you've been warned.

     Harley's difficult personality and a very long tour of the UK ( with Be Bop Deluxe) had unforseen results. Cockney Rebel "rebelled". The band walked out on Harley.

      But Steve Harley would have the last laugh. In early 1975 his single "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" hit #1 and sold more than a million copies.

 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

40 Year Itch: Rock 'n' Roll Soul


On June 1, 1974 America's biggest hard rock band, Grand Funk Railroad,  played the LA Forum. Their album Shinin On was #7 in the charts. The band's wardrobe consultant was arrested during the concert...by the fashion police. Enjoy!