Tuesday, March 31, 2015

40 Year Itch : Lord Don't Take My Whiskey, Rock And Roll

[No Longer Available]

    Thought I'd put together a short mix full of mainstream gems ( and a great Ronnie Lane number) from the first quarter of 1975. My cat may not be impressed, but I think you'll remember most of these tunes and appreciate the deep cuts you don't recall. Enjoy!

Monday, March 30, 2015

40 Year Itch : Dabbling Dangerously with Easy Listening

   The important thing about Blow by Blow... is that Beck seems finally to have found something to do with his talent other than waste it. 
-Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone

    "Scatterbrain" is one of the highlights of Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow, an all-instrumental jazz fusion album released March 29, 1975. Maybe because it's the only number that gave producer George Martin something to do. His string section lifts this rollercoaster ride of a tune into the stratosphere. Both Epic Records and FM Radio loved the album from the outset which was a pleasant surprise for Beck.

   "I didn't really think much of Blow By Blow when we were doing it," he said. "I thought it was probably a middle of the road mistake. But when [Epic] heard it, they rolled out a red carpet that stretched from my house to New York. I just went with it."

    "Scatterbrain" began as a warming up exercise for Beck. The solo was done in one take.

  With an uncredited Stevie Wonder contributing clavinet on "Thelonious",  Blow By Blow peaked at #4 on the US album charts. Yet the album failed to do much business in the UK. That may be due in part to reviews like this one from Melody Maker:

  "Frankly, it's not very good. But then, it's not amazingly bad either. It's just lame, about as lame as all the other guitar instrumentals he's ever done...Blow by Blow is remarkable only for it vacuity"

Years later Beck would agree up to a point, saying "it dabbled dangerously with easy listening."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

US Top 20 This Week in 1975

   "Lady Marmalade" was written by the same team, Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, who wrote last week's #1 tune, Frankie Valli's "My Eyes Adored You".  When you hear the original version, by Nolan's Eleventh Hour, you'll understand why Allen Toussaint is such a great producer. He brought the New Orleans funk, courtesy of members of The Meters.  "Lady Marmalade" was a hit first in the discos, then R and B before finally peaking at #1 on the pop charts.

1 Lady Marmalade by LaBelle

2 My Eyes Adored You by Frankie Valli
3 Lady by Styx

4 Lovin' You by Minnie Riperton
5 Black Water by The Doobie Brothers
6 Have You Never Been Mellow by Olivia Newton-John
7 You Are So Beautiful by Joe Cocker

8 Poetry Man by Phoebe Snow
 9 I've Been This Way Before by Neil Diamond

10 Can't Get It Out Of My Head by Electric Light Orchestra
11 Roll On Down The Highway by Bachman-Turner Overdrive

12 Don't Call Us, We'll Call You by Sugarloaf
13 Shame, Shame, Shame by Shirley And Company
14 Sad Sweet Dreamer by Sweet Sensation

16 I Am Love by The Jackson 5
17 Emotion by Helen Reddy

18 No No Song by Ringo Starr
19 Best Of My Love by The Eagles
20. Once You Get Started by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan

Saturday, March 28, 2015

40 Year Itch: Man, It Was Mean

    Steve Harley's follow-up  to the UK smash "Make Me Smile ( Come Up And See Me)" is another great tune from The Best Years of Our Lives, the UK #13 hit "Mr Raffles (Man It Was Mean)". Harley says the title character refers to the gentleman jewel thief, A.J. Raffles,  in the E.W. Hornung novels ...with some Dylanesque allusions to the devil tossed in.

Friday, March 27, 2015

40 Year Itch : Lovers and Friends I Still Can Recall

Robin Williams  (right) as a mime, 1975


   Critics who have called Two Sides of the Moon an embarrassment or a total disaster may have missed the point. Moon gathered 60 his best friends in the music biz ( including Joe Walsh who was recording down the hall), and spent $200,000 of MCA's money on this huge rock n roll prank. Only his sober cover of the Beatles's "In My Life" doesn't belong in the party and it's hard not to think he had just four more years to live while listening to this.

John Lennon contributed guitar and vocals to "Move Over Mrs L", a song Lennon wrote for Yoko.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

40 Year Itch : Funky Kingston

  "Funky Kingston" is the title cut from a brilliant Toots and the Maytals collection that became a critical success ( #11 on the 1975 Village Voice poll and #378 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest albums of All Time) and minor US hit in 1975. 

  One of Kingston's funkiest moments happened on March 8, 1975. The Jackson 5 opened for Bob Marley and the Wailers at an epic six hour concert at Kingston's National Arena. While on their visit to Jamaica, Michael and his brothers hung out with Marley and his band.

Both were big stars of course. But they would become worldwide sensations in the years to come.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

40 Year Itch : Some Kind Of Gay Blade

   To take advantage of the shocking success of Sally Can't Dance, RCA Records released Lou Reed Live in March of 1975. Made up of left-overs from the same concert that makes Rock'n'Roll Animal one of the essential live albums in rock history, it's really just a footnote. More of the same.
      But RCA's gesture would be met with something truly terrifying come July: the tuneless--and truly vicious-- noise-a-thon Metal Machine Music.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

40 Year Itch: Be Mo' Funk

Parliament : Chocolate City

"They still call it the White House, but that's a temporary condition too. Can you dig it, CC?"

   George Clinton celebrates the demographic shift--chocolate cities/ vanilla suburbs--and predicts a day when an African American with an African sounding name will be President of the United States. No, not Barack Obama. Muhammed Ali ( with Reverend Ike as Secretary of Treasury, Richard Pryor as Minister of Education, Stevie Wonder as Secretary of Fine Arts and Aretha Franklin as First Lady).  By the end of the year, with Mothership Connection,  this band would convince fans to make their funk the P-funk.

Monday, March 23, 2015

40 Year Itch : Looking Like a Long-lost Sheep

Woody Allen, Love and Death, 1975

   When they harmonized together, childhood friends Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan sounded like two Lennons singing through clenched teeth. This is the title cut from their third and final album, as fine as anything else they recorded together. By the time it was released the duo had already broken up for good. This song could be heard as Rafferty's final farewell to Egan. ("I've got to save myself, right or wrong"). Three years later, Rafferty would break out with his City to City album.

Also on this date in 1975: The SNACK concert

   Bob Dylan joins Neil Young and The Band on stage at Kezar Stadium for a benefit concert Bill Graham organized to raise $200,000 for San Francisco public schools. Santana, Tower of Power , The Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship and Jerry Garcia and friends also performed.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

40 Year Itch : Sounds Magazine's 10 Fave Albums of 1975

Jack Nicholson, 1975. Photo by Julian Wasser

    For their year end list of the best albums of 1975,  Sounds Magazine critics made no mention of Springsteen's Born to Run, Patti Smith's Horses or Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. But all is forgiven because the Japanese glam poppers  Sadistic Mika Band made the list with their Chris Thomas produced third album Hot! Menu!. The band supported Roxy Music on a UK tour, including a show at Wembley Stadium. "Suki Suki Suki", performed on the Old Grey Whistle Test,  was just one winner from this album. Another one to watch for is "Hi Jack ( I'm Just Dying)" which is believed to be a tribute to Jack Nicholson.

 1. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns - Joni Mitchell
 2. Blood On The Tracks - Bob Dylan
 3. Natty Dread - Bob Marley And The Wailers
 4. The Who By Numbers - The Who
 5. Still Crazy After All These Years - Paul Simon
 6. Caught Up - Millie Jackson
 7. Back To The Night - Joan Armatrading
 8. Nils Lofgren - Nils Lofgren
 9. Visions Of The Emerald Beyond - Mahavishnu Orchestra
 10. Hot! Menu! - Sadistic Mika Band

Saturday, March 21, 2015

40 Year Itch : You Can Easily Afford the Price

    Dolly's fourth straight single to hit #1 on the country charts despite some radio stations refusing to play a song with lyrics inviting a man to "come inside...you can easily afford the price". It's called a metaphor, cowboy.

Friday, March 20, 2015

40 Year Itch : Stars Above You

This Beach Boys cover is the lead-ff track of the brilliantly titled Shadows album, Specs Appeal, released in March of 1975. The bespectacled Hank Marvin shines on this fab cover.

Hank Marvin/Corbis

Thursday, March 19, 2015

40 Year Itch : Let Your Train Get On My Tracks

   For her third album, Your Mamma Won't Like Me!, Suzi Quatro, Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn brought in horn sections, back up singers Sue and Sonny ( who had sung with Joe Cocker on "With a Little Help From My friends), and a new attitude. 

   "We had never played so well," wrote Quatro in her autobiography Unzipped. "And the band really cooked--funky as funky can be."

   The band enjoyed playing "I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew" so much, they let the tapes roll for ten minutes. The public wasn't so taken. This would be her last charting single, peaking at only #54, until 1977.

  Did Thom Bell hear this single? Sounds like he borrowed the bass sound Suzi played for The Spinners's "Rubberband Man".

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

40 Year Itch : Downhearted and Confused

    For 11 straight weeks,  nearly three months,  in 1975 , this McFadden and Whitehead penned smash by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes was the #1 song on the dance club charts. With MFSB generating that disco sound that would take over radio, Teddy Pendergrass takes on President Ford: 

Saw the President of the United States 
The man said he was gonna give it up 
He's giving us high hopes 
But he still turned around and left all us poor folks behind 

   In the book First Legends of Disco, Blue Note Anthony Brooks says "Some days start off good and turn out to be bad. And you gotta accept it and move on. 'Bad Luck ' just said, simply, 'every day ain't great.' But you gotta get through it. Bad luck is just for a short time. You can have it and you can get over it. And I think people related to that idea. They loved that song. The New Yorkers really loved it because they had problems [ with their economy and city] back then."

In the Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll,  the album To be True  ranked #17, the highest of all R and B albums in the poll.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

40 Year Itch : Steely Dan's Dr Wu

Are you with me Doctor Wu 
Are you really just a shadow
 Of the man that I once knew 
Are you crazy are you high
 Or just an ordinary guy 
Have you done all you can do 
Are you with me Doctor

  Steely Dan's Donald Fagen always maintained the song "Dr Wu", a fan favorite from 1975's Katy Lied,  was about a fictional character. He told reporters "We change the names to protect the innocent." Maybe they do most of the time, but there really was a Dr. Wu.

   Jing Nuan Wu, O.M.D., a noted leader in Traditional Chinese Medicine founded an acupuncture detoxification clinic in Washington DC called The Green Cross Clinic. He helped everyone from prominent politicians to celebrities get over drug addictions. Did one of the members of Steely Dan get treated by Dr. Wu?

   What is clear is that "Dr Wu" isn't a love gone wrong song. It really is about drugs.

Don't seem right 
I've been strung out here all night
I've been waiting for the taste
You said you'd bring to me

  Fagen describes the song as "kind of a love-dope triangle," adding, "I think usually when we do songs of a romantic nature, one or more of the participants in the alliance will come under the influence of someone else or some other way of life, and that will usually end up in either some sort of compromise or a split. In this song the girl meets somebody who leads another kind of life, and she’s attracted to it. Then she comes under the domination of someone else, and that results in the ending of the relationship or some amending of the relationship. In 'Dr. Wu' that someone else is a dope habit. personified as Doctor Wu." 

    Becker told Rolling Stone during their 2009 tour: "It's about that uneasy relationship between the patient and doctor. People put faith in doctors, yet they abuse their power and become dangerous."
There's no evidence the real Dr Wu was anything but, as his obituary states, "widely known and loved for his energy, exuberance, vision, wisdom, and healing skills."

   The sax solo is by jazz musician Phil Woods, who also did the solo on Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" as well as Paul Simon's "Have a Good Time".

 In 1984, the Minutemen covered "Dr Wu" on Double Nickels on the Dime.

Monday, March 16, 2015

40 Year Itch: Burning in my Brain

Elizabeth Ashley in Steven Spielberg's Rancho Deluxe ( 1975)

"Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett were the two most important people in British pop music. Everything that came after came from them."
-Nick Kent, NME

    When the quirky Canterbury hero Kevin Ayers joined forces with  manager John Reid ( Queen, Elton John)  and even got some guest piano work from John for 1975's Sweet Deceiver, critics were bemused. When they saw the "pretty boy" album cover they were incensed. So, just this once,  Ayers traded his prog rock credentials from something more conventional. I still like the title cut every time it pops up on shuffle.

Elton John plays piano on "Guru Banana".

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lloyd Cole's 10 Albums That Shaped His World

   This week, one of all time favorite singer songwriters,  Lloyd Cole,  shared a list he made for a Brazilian blog on his Facebook page. "This does paint a pretty good picture of how you get to be me, I think... maybe...," said Cole. A smart lyricist and acute observer of life and love, Cole has always been at his best when he keeps the music simple and catchy. "Life's a Gas" is a cover of a T.Rex tune from Electric Warrior.

1. Electric Warrior - T.Rex -Made me want to be a pop star.

2.Diamond Dogs - David Bowie Made me realize, at an early age (just 13), how ambitious a project writing a pop song could be.

3.Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen Showed me how language, with the right delivery, could have an emotional, as well as intellectual impact.

4.No Pussyfooting - Fripp and Eno Introduced me to the beauty of the drone.

5.Low - David Bowie Changed everything. Pop music can be anything.

6.Another Music in a Different Kitchen - Buzzcocks Somehow made 16 year old kids in N. England feel that they, too, could make music if they thought hard enough and applied themselves.

7.Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan I was too young when this was released but I had an older girlfriend in London 1979, and nothing has been the same, since then. Language is a virus from outer space, and pianos, guitars don't have to be perfectly in tune so long as they have that Wild Mercury thing.

 8.Hot Buttered Soul - Isaac Hayes The genius doesn’t have to be the songwriter.

 9.Never Mind The Bollocks - Sex Pistols There can be a beauty in brutality.

10.Dirty Mind - Prince OMG, minimalism isn’t just for avant garde Germans.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

40 Year Itch : Crass Displays of Acute Embarrassment

   Canterbury prog pop from the classic 1975 Hatfield and the North album The Rotters Club, "Share It" is smart, quirky and fun. And maybe after 500 listens or so, you might even manage to sing along...with some of it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

40 Year Itch: Childhood Living

     The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia returned to his folky days playing the banjo on this bluegrass side project with David Grisman (mandolin/vocals), Peter Rowan (guitar/vocals) John Kahn on bass and Vassar Clements on fiddle.

     Rowan ( who also wrote "Panama Red") takes the lead vocals on the Rolling Stones cover, recorded live at the Boarding House club in San Francisco with Owsley Stanley manning the board. It would be just one of the outstanding tracks on one of the best selling bluegrass albums of all time. 

    Said Garcia: "It was such a great band and I flattered to be in such fast company. I was only sorry my banjo chops were never what they had been when I was playing continually, though they were smoothing out near the end".

Thursday, March 12, 2015

40 Year Itch : In a Cardboard Town

Seattle pedestrians, 1975


   From an album originally titled God's Greatest Hits comes Harry Nilsson's "Puget Sound", recorded, like the rest of the album, in the midst of a cocaine and alcohol fueled party. Upon first listen to Duit On Mon Dei, released in March of 1975, Nilsson's mother said " Harry, I can hear the ice cubes clinking". The title is from the motto on the front cover of the Ringo album.

For the album Nilsson made the promotional video below at the LA Forum which he paid $800 to rent for three hours.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

40 Year Itch : Love Is A Flower In My Soul

I have been in an arena with 40,000 people, but I was the loneliest man in there.
-Al Green

   Six months after his ex-girlfriend scalded him with boiling grits and then shot herself, Al Green released a single that seemed to say he still believed in the power and glory of love. He would later admit that this was a very lonely and unhappy time. He had a lot of questions, telling Ebony Magazine "What is happiness? To understand the reasons of life itself...things beyond my control. I have been in an arena with 40,000 people, but I was the loneliest man in there." t would find his The extended version on Soul Train is worth seeing for the drummer's theatrics in the final minute.  Later covered by Edywn Collins and Orange Juice.