Saturday, June 30, 2018

Listen to the Voice of Buddha


The Human League : Being Boiled


In June of 1978, The Human League released its debut single, "Being Boiled". It was an other-worldly bit of electronica, recorded in mono on a two track Sony tape recorder. David Bowie famously hailed the single as "the future of music" and he was right on the money. By the time The Human League topped the American charts in 1982, with "Don't You Want Me ", keyboard players Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh had left the band to form Heaven 17 and the U.K. charts were packed with synth pop hitmakers like Yazoo, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and Blancmange.

That was also the year this four year old song was re-released where it hit Top 10 in both England and Germany.



Friday, June 29, 2018

Back in the Groove



James Brown : The Spank (pt. 1)


A #26 R and B hit for The Godfather of Soul, "The Spank" was named for a popular dance in 1978. The album Jam/1980's received a B+ review from Robert Christgau:

 Free of the pretentious bluster that has marred so much of his work in the disco era, this is the groove album Brown has been announcing for years. He's finally learned how to relax his rhythms without diluting his essence, and the A side is simply and superbly what the title promises, though he may have the decade wrong. The B side is less of the same, and I bet no one who buys this record ever chooses to play it. I also bet they'd get dancing if they did.





Thursday, June 28, 2018

Just a Sip Away


Gary Stewart : Whiskey Trip


From 1978:
Another drinkin' music classic by the king of the honky-tonks. Gary Stewart, who unfortunately lived his songs. "Whiskey Trip" peaked at #16 on the country charts.



From Robert Christgau:

This is a likable album because Stewart is a likable artist, secure by now in his good-humored bad-old-boy persona. But only once--on a version of Ry Cooder's "I Got Mine" that ranks with the greatest Jerry Reed novelties--does he give that persona a shot in the arm. B


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Running Wild And Lookin' Pretty


Nick Gilder : Hot Child in the City


I was doing a story about a serial contest winner in Charleston, South Carolina who quick-dialed his way onto a radio station's hot line. When the DJ answered all he had to do was name the guy who was singing "Danger in the shape of something wild,/Stranger dressed in black she's a hungry child." And he couldn't. Jesus Christ, I'm thinking, it's obviously Nick Gilder.


Gilder says he wrote the #1 song, which first charted in June of 1978,  about teenage prostitution.

"I've seen a lot of young girls, 15 and 16, walking down Hollywood Boulevard with their pimps. Their home environment drove them to distraction so they ran away, only to be trapped by something even worse. It hurts to see that so I tried writing from the perspective of a lecher – in the guise of an innocent pop song."



Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Don't Say There's Nothing You Can Do




Real Kids : Do The Boob


In June of 1978 Boston garage rockers The Real Kids released their debut album, a collection of power pop and punky attitude that owed at least a small debt to The Ramones. Leader John Felice grew up with Jonathan Richman, sharing an affinity for The Velvet Underground. Felice even played off and on with The Modern Lovers. 


Raw ragged righteous rock. Worthy of much more investigation.




Monday, June 25, 2018

You Talk Too Much


Albert Collins : Honey Hush


Back in my college radio days, I picked up the Grammy winning Showdown!, the 1985 album Albert Collins made with Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland. That was my introduction to all three blues guitarists. Had I been more hip to the blues in 1978, I might have picked up Ice Pickin'. It's full of the hard rocking Texas shuffle blues that made Collins a crowd favorite and earned "The Master of the Telecaster"  complements from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Albert King and John Lee Hooker.  


 Robert Christgau gave the album an A- grade writing:

Like Otis Rush, Collins has always been one of those well-respected bluesmen whose records left agnostics unconvinced. But this is the most exciting blues album of 1978. Collins's guitar is clean, percussive, vehement, breaking into unlikely rivulets on the trademark shuffle climaxes, and while his voice is thin his delivery is savvy and humorous. So are his words--unlike most of his colleagues, he seems to know a lot more about sharing life with another person than "Honey Hush."







Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dip Flash


Wire : Dot Dash


On June 23, 1978 Wire released its third single, "Dot Dash", the Morse Code for the letter A ( if you happened to be sending a "wire message"). What's the meaning of the song? I have no idea . But it's an awesome bridge between the pure pink of Pink Flag and the art rick of the follow-up Chairs Missing.





Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rolling The Ball


Kate Bush : Them Heavy People


This must be one of the strangest musical moments of 1978. Two Japanese singers give Kate Bush's "Them Heavy People" the cheesiest of Las Vegas treatments. You seriously may not recognize the tune. 

My God, you're thinking, what would Kate Bush do if she ever heard this mangled version of her song. Well, you soon find out. As though she were in on the joke, she vigorously dances to the instrumental section. 

Perhaps it was the smartest thing she could have done. Bush has remained one of the most popular UK artists to ever perform in Japan. 



Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Remember What I Said


The Wipers : Better Off Dead



In 1978 The Wipers, led by Greg Sage,  released their debut single, "Better Off Dead", on Sage's own Trap Records. The Wipers came out of Portland, Oregon which may be home to all kinds of alt rock bands today, but back then they were isolated, feeding off the West Coast punk DIY scene. The sound of this three song single is roughly five pr six years ahead of its time, anticipating the post punk sounds of SST and Enigma artists recording while I was in college.

Sage is considered one of the era's most eccentric geniuses. He can do it all musically. He plays a left handed guitar with his right hand. He's also a producer, engineer and, according to Spin, a UFOlogist. 


Monday, June 18, 2018

All NIght Drug Prowling Wolf


The Clash : (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais


On June 17, 1978 The Clashed entered the UK charts at #45 with their new single, "White Man in Hammersmith Palais". With a reggae beat, the band takes stock of the London music scene name checking Jamaican artists Dillinger, Leroy Smart and Delroy Wilson while dismissing the new punk rock bands who are just "turning rebellion into money. NME ranked the single as the 8th best of the year. Sounds ranked the single #3 behind Public Image's "Public Image"  and Patti Smith's "Because the Night".


At the time punks and dreads had formed an alliance, as Strummer explained :

England is a very repressive country. Immigrants were treated badly. So these people...understood that maybe we needed a drop of roots culture. And 'White Man in Hammersmith Palais' is a song that was going through my mind while I was standing in the middle of Hammersmith Palais in a sea of a thousand rastas and dreads and natty rebels. That song was trying to say something realistic.


Mick Jones sing the B side, an overlooked Clash classic observing how people caught up in dreary daily rituals can feel like prisoners.




Saturday, June 16, 2018

Talk On the Street


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers : I Need to Know


On June 16, 1978 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had a new single in the Billboard Hot 100 charts, the power pop classic " I Need to Know". The first single from You're Gonna Get It  would peak at #41.




Also entering the Billboard Hot 100 on this date

#73 The Commodores : Three Times a Lady . 
It would knock The Rolling Stones' Miss You from the #1 spot and stay at the top of the charts for two weeks in August.


#81 Wings : I've Had Enough
The second single from London Town  would peak at US#25.


#87 Evelyn "Champagne" King : Shame
The disco hit would peak at US#9.


#90 The Cars : Just What I Needed
This single would peak at #27 in the US.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Sixteen Years


Bob Dylan : Changing of the Guards



On June 15, 1978 Bob Dylan released Street Legal. Despite being dismissed by many critics, the album went gold in the US, peaking at #11 on the Billboard album charts. In the U.K, the album was better received, peaking at #2. And in the annual Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll, Street Legal finished #21 right behind Devo's debut. NME ranked the album #7.

I was never very impressed by the album even after a good friend suggested I check out the 1999 remixed and remastered version. Not much Don DeVito could do with an album recorded live in the studio in just a matter of days. Dylan had been preoccupied by his critically panned film, Renaldo and Clara. He was also in a custody battle following his bitter divorce from Sara.



Still, "Changing of the Guards" is a stand out track. The female backing vocals really shine and give the song a gospel feel ( foreshadowing Dylan's move to Christianity?) . The first line is "Sixteen years", which happens to be the length of Dylan's recording career at the time. But reading much more into the opaque lyrics is a fool's errand. Even Dylan has said "It means something different every time I sing it. 'Changing of the Guards' is a thousand years old'" 



I also like the final track, "Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Darkness)".

Dave Marsh heard echoes of Elvis Presley on Street Legal. Greil Marcus, who did the review for Rolling Stone,  did not:

It saddens me that I can't find it in my heart to agree with my colleague Dave Marsh that Bob Dylan's new record is a joke, or anyway a good one. Most of the stuff here is dead air, or close to it. The novelty of the music — soul chorus backup (modeled on Bob Marley's I-Threes), funk riffs from the band, lots of laconic sax work — quickly fades as one realizes how indifferent the playing is: "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)," the most musically striking number here, is really just a pastiche of the best moments of the Eagles' Hotel California. Still, I believe some of the songs on Street Legal: those that are too bad to have been intended with anything but complete seriousness. Dylan may have once needed a dump truck to unload his head, but you'd need a Geiger counter to find irony in "Is Your Love in Vain?" or affection in "Baby Stop Crying."




Thursday, June 14, 2018

Lost In Shock


Magazine : Definitive Gaze


In June of 1978, Magazine released Real Life, a debut album that has been called Ground Zero for post-punk. It's got a quirky, inventive sound that still sounds fresh forty years later.


 Founded by ex Buzzcock Howard Devoto, Magazine released an album that includes such classic tracks as "Shot By Both Sides", "The Light Pours Out of Me" and the opener "Definitive Gaze" which must have sounded like the very future of rock n roll. "


Melody Maker declared that "no one that has the slightest interest in the present and future of rock 'n' roll should rest until they've heard Real Life". Upon hearing the first single, "Shot By Both Sides", Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus suggested "Magazine may be the band to fill the vacuum the Sex Pistols have left. You never know, but I can’t wait to find out." 



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Live at Napa State Mental Hospital


“We’re The Cramps, and we’re from New York City, and we drove 3,000 miles to play for you people.”

The Cramps : Strychnine

[Purchase]

On June 13, 1978 The Cramps performed a psycho-billy concert for the enthusiastic residents of Napa State Mental Hospital. 

Lux Interior:

We always wanted to play at a mental institution because we always had a problem with audiences not being quite what we'd like them to be. We thought if we went to a mental institution, the audience would contribute --and they really did! There were male and female inmates humping each other on the ground. It was the most bizarre show we've ever done. Those people just went crazy -- doing everything you'd imagine people in mental institution would do. There were people licking the walls, people laying on top of each other and coming up and talking to us while we were playing , but mainly it was people dancing the weirdest dances you've ever seen.




It also strikes me as an incredible humane gesture by the Cramps. Is there anything that make people feel more free, or lifts them form their troubles than music? Residents were allowed to share the stage, even the microphone, with the band. There was so little separation between audience and performers, some patients thought The Cramps had come from the T Ward, where terminal patients lived. 11 patients escaped briefly during the show, perhaps seeking even a greater sense of freedom.

The Nomads, a punk band out of the Bay Area, also performed a set that day.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Landlord, Landlord, Landlord


X: We're Desperate


In the Spring of 1978 Dangerhouse Records released a powerful double shot of Los Angeles punk, X's "Adult Books" b/w "We're Desperate". Baltimore native John Doe had decided the New York punk scene has already been too established to enter so he moved out to Los Angeles where he met and became romantically involved with a poet named Christina Cervenka. Guitarist Billy Zoom entered the picture through an add in the weekly Recycler.



From a Brendan Mullen and Marc Spitz article in Spin Magazine

(Doe and Cervenka) penned lyrics that were equal parts Jim Morrison and Raymond Chandler and sang off-key harmonies with impossible conviction. Cervenka rocked a thrift-goddess ensemble that later was almost completely appropriated by "Lucky Star" era Madonna ( who used to buy jewelry from Cervenka's sister Muriel). Zoom played accelerated distortion-drenched Ventures and Chuck Berry riffs, always with his legs straddled apart and a creepy smile across his face; D.J. Bonebreak, hijacked from power pop trio The Eyes, beat the shit out of his snare.





Monday, June 11, 2018

Count the Hours


The Boomtown Rats : Like Clockwork


On June 11, 1978 The Boomtown Rats entered the U.K. charts at #54 with "Like Clockwork". Peaking at UK#6, this second single from A Tonic for the Troops is their first Top 10 hit. With its alarm clock sound effect, "Tick Tock" chant , and Twilight Zone theme reference, you might think this is a silly pop tune, but like a lot of songs on the album (including the upbeat Hitler tune "I Never Loved Eva Braun") it's actually quite dark with lyrics like:

Count the hours, count the months and minutes 
You're born in tears and die in pain and that's your limit 
You're lookin' for a reason but there's none 
There, why don't you admit it 
We'll make the most of what we've got, that's the ticket





Saturday, June 9, 2018

Booze and Pills and Powders


The Rolling Stones : Before They Make Me Run


On June 9, 1978 The Rolling Stones released their last great album, Some Girls. This was my entry point into the entire Stones legend, followed shortly by Hot Rocks and then More Hot Rocks. Rather than leading the way, the Stones take their cues from what's happening around them : disco ( "Miss You"), punk ( "Lies") and country ( "Far Away Eyes"). The title track may have been a joke, but it went over my head and upset various groups.

If Richards was absent from his usual contributions, he showed up in first on "Before They Make Me Run", an all time favorite  often covered live by Steve Earle. 

Great album to play on your earphones as you're wandering around New York City.





From Paul Nelson writing for Rolling Stone :
 Q: Do you think the music of the Rolling Stones has an overall theme?
A: Yeah. Women. - Keith Richards



With Bob Dylan no longer bringing it all back home, Elvis Presley dead and the Beatles already harmlessly cloned in the wax-museum nostalgia of a Broadway musical, it's no wonder the Rolling Stones decided to make a serious record. Not particularly ambitious, mind you, but serious. These guys aren't dumb, and when the handwriting on the wall begins to smell like formaldehyde and that age-old claim, "the greatest rock and roll band in the world" suddenly sounds less laudatory than laughable, you'd better dredge up your leftover pride, bite the bullet and try like hell to sweat out some good music. Which is exactly what the Stones have done. Though time may not exactly be on their side, with Some Girls they've at lest managed to stop the clock for a while.



On the new album the Stones have stripped down to the archetypal sound of two or three guitars, bass and drums, and it's wonderful to hear the group blazing away again with little more than the basics to protect them. Everything's apparently been recorded as close to live as we'd want it, and the overdubbing and extra musicians have been kept to a minimum. "Respectable" takes a close look at the peculiar position of the Stones, circa 1978, and boasts lines like these: 
We're talking heroin with the President 
Yes it's a problem sir, but it can be bent... 
You're a rag trade girl, you're the queen of porn 
You're the easiest lay on the White House lawn... 

before it inexplicably begins to lose interest in itself. "When the Whip Comes Down" and "Lies" are a neat combination of white heat and old hat, while "Miss You," "Imagination" and "Shattered" are a good deal better than that. And the title track is every bit as outrageous ("Black girls just want to get fucked all night/I just don't have that much jam") as everyone says. This song may be a sexist and racist horror, but it's also terrifically funny and strangely desperate in a manner that gets under your skin and makes you care. On "Some Girls," Mick Jagger sounds like he's not only singing like Bob Dylan, but about Bob Dylan: "I'll give you a house back in Zuma Beach/And give you half of what I owe."


"Before They Make Me Run" and "Beast of Burden," Some Girls' hardest-hitting songs, are sandwiched between "Respectable" and "Shattered" on side two. It's probably presumptuous to suggest that these four tracks are about the present predicament of this stormy band, but I think they are. When Keith Richards sings, "Well after all is said and done/Gotta move while it's still fun/But let me walk before they make me run," there's no doubt he's talking about the music, his drug bust and the possible end of the road, about which he writes brilliantly ("Watch my taillights fading/There ain't a dry eye in the house..."). And when Mick Jagger implores, 
Ain't I rough enough 
Ain't I tough enough 
Ain't I rich enough 
In love enough 
Oooo, ooh please. 
 he's got to be thinking about himself and the Rolling Stones, among other things. It's too bad the answer to all his questions isn't an unqualified yes. In a better world, it should be.




From Robert Christgau writing for the Village Voice :

 The Stones' best album since Exile on Main Street is also their easiest since Let It Bleed or before. They haven't gone for a knock-down uptempto classic, a "Brown Sugar" or "Jumping Jack Flash" -- just straight rock and roll unencumbered by horn sections or Billy Preston. Even Jagger takes a relatively direct approach, and if he retains any credibility for you after six years of dicking around, there should be no agonizing over whether you like this record, no waiting for tunes to kick in. Lyrically, there are some bad moments -- especially on the title cut, which is too fucking indirect to suit me -- but in general the abrasiveness seems personal, earned, unposed, and the vulnerability more genuine than ever. Also, the band is a really good one -- especially the drummer. A

Friday, June 8, 2018

Gimme Gimme Your Minds


The Germs : Lexicon Devil


In May of 1978 the LA based punk band, The Germs,  released a three song EP highlighted by "Lexicon Devil". It was the first release by a nascent Slash Records. The Germs, led by the short lived singer Darby Crash and guitarist Pat Smear,  has already achieved punk immortality at a gig in which they smeared themselves and each other with peanut butter.  Bullied in school, Crash was fascinated with the idea of mind control and anarchy. 

That's why "Lexicon Devil" may be the band's ultimate statement:

I'm a Lexicon devil with a battered brain 
Searching for a future the world's my aim 
So gimme gimme your hands gimme gimme your minds 
Gimme gimme your hands gimme gimme your minds
Gimme gimme this gimme gimme that



On December 6, 1980 Crash committed suicide by overdosing on hundreds of dollars worth of heroin. His body was found a day before John Lennon's murder. After playing with Nirvana on tour, Smear is a member of the Foo Fighters.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Father Forgive Us


John Prine : Fish and Whistle


Three years after flirting with some harder rocking tunes on Common Sense, John Prine returned to his classic sound on 1978's Bruised Orange, recorded with the help of fellow Chicagoan Steve Goodman producing. 


While "Fish and Whistle" has always been a favorite song of mine, Prine tells a great story about writing "IF You Don't Want My Love" with Phil Spector:

"It happened on the way out the door. We’d been there for seven hours, jokin’, drinkin’. And by the way, when you go in the house, he’s got two bodyguards on his shoulder. It was just craziness, you know...So I was leaving around four in the morning, and all of a sudden Phil sits down at the piano as I was getting my jacket on, and he hands me an electric guitar unplugged. And I sit down on the bench next to him. I played him 'That’s The Way The World Goes Round', and he really liked it. He said, 'Let’s do this,' and he played the beginning notes of 'If You Don’t Want My Love'. And we came up with the first couple lines and he insisted that we repeat them. Over and over. He said it would be very effective. And we took 'That's The Way The World Goes Round' and took the melody and turned it inside out...And that was on my way out the door. And as soon as he sat down and had a musical instrument, he was normal. That’s the way he was. He was just a plain old genius."




Here's Robert Christgau's B+ graded review:

In the title tune, Prine reports that he's transcended his anger, and I'm happy for him, but a little worried about his music. Common Sense was agitated to the point of psychosis, but it had an obsessive logic nevertheless. Here Prine sounds like he's singing us bedtime stories, and while the gently humorous mood is attractive, at times it makes this "crooked piece of time that we live in" seem as harmless and corny as producer Steve Goodman's background moves; no accident that the closer, "The Hobo Song," is Prine's most mawkish lyric to date. Still, Edward Lear's got nothing on this boy for meaningful nonsense, and just to prove he's still got the stuff he collaborates with Phil Spector on a surefile standard: "If You Don't Want My Love," with lyrics worthy of its title.


Here's Jay Cocks writing for Rolling Stone:

Just for a minute, think about Larry McMurtry's T-shirt. Several years back, feeling passed over and generally bum rapped, McMurtry took to sporting a shirt of his own design, featuring a particularly nettlesome phrase from an unneighborly review emblazoned across his chest: minor regional novelist.
Better than a hair shirt, anyway. But think what John Prine could have done with such a garment. "Faded Folkie" his might have read. "Troubadour without Portfolio." "Bard without a Beat." "Sam Stone Was a One-Shot."

No more call for such an item in the wardrobe. Not for McMurtry, and not, at last, for Prine. Clothes like that are cut for different weather — times when, as Prine sings, "It's a half an inch of water/And you think you're gonna drown." Well, the sun's out and things have cleared. This is a peak record. It has a whole lifetime in it.


Bruised Orange is about getting lost, and being in love, and staying a stray in a world of fixed fates. The last cut on the second side, "The Hobo Song," is part envoi and part curtain speech, a wanderer's warm and desperate memory of an unrouted life on the road. The memory is not firsthand, though, and the image fades to sepia at the center:

There was a time 
When lonely men would wander 
Thru this land 
Rolling aimlessly along 
So many times I've beard of their sad story 
Written in the words
 Of dead mens' songs.

 This is a song about looking for roots in a rootless tradition, and the chorus ("Please tell me where/Have all the hobos gone to...") would cloy if it weren't sung just as Prine sings it: directly and without self-pity, but flirting with a sense of destination.


No matter when you play it, Bruised Orange carries the chill of Midwest autumn beyond autobiography (the title track begins its parable of bleak optimism with the recollection of a wintry childhood) into a kind of personal pop mythology. The chorus of "Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone" owes a lot less to Bob Dylan than to Sherwood Anderson:

Hey look Ma 
Here comes the elephant boy 
Bundled all up in his corduroy 
Headed down south toward Illinois 
From the jungles of East St. Paul.

But, of course, it owes the most to John Prine. This is not an album about a man finally finding his voice; Prine's already done too much good — if erratic — work for that. Rather, Bruised Orange is about a musician taking a chance and finding new limits, fresher expression. This is a man stepping right to the front.

You can hear the change — and the progress — most clearly in the love songs, which are funny and ironic without ever turning the other cheek and getting wise-assed. For Prine, a love affair is a free-fire zone, a combat between two insurgent forces, equally matched. Battles rage with passion and good humor, range from the bemused recollection of "There She Goes" to the wry testimonial of "Aw Heck," a half-sly, half-serious avowal of undying devotion ("I could get the electric chair/For a phony rap/Long as she's/Sittin in my lap"). The tone holds tougher and truer in these anthems sung with a bloody grin than in the morose "If You Don't Want My Love," cowritten with Phil Spector. Prine has better things to say just now about rug burns than about the bruises of misplaced love.


Steve Goodman is likely the best and certainly the most congenial producer Prine has ever had. Bruised Orange shows no strain, comes on a little too well varnished maybe, but sounds snug and comfortable, too. Goodman might have kept Prine from repeating some of his verses so often, but maybe that's just another expression of the good will, guarded and hard won, that pervades this LP. You catch it right away in the opening song, "Fish and Whistle," a sort of unruffled epistle to the Almighty ("Father forgive us/For what we must do/You forgive us/We'll forgive you"), and, more seriously, in the title tune, where the quiet caution of lines like "a heart strained in anger/Grows weak and grows bitter" seems to cut very close, passing through reflection into self-revelation.

This is John Prine's first record in three years. If that particular statistic got past you, it never will again. After Bruised Orange, people will be counting the days.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

An American Queen ?


The Cars : Bye Bye Love


On June 6, 1978 The Cars released their debut album.Thanks to a collection of songs that would make an enviable greatest hits compilation for any new wave band of that era, The Cars would sell millions of copies and spend 139 weeks on the charts.


These days I can't hear side two's one-two punch of "You're All I've Got Tonight/Bye Bye Love"" without remembering the Saturday night dances at my boarding school. What the hell was I doing out there on the dance floor? A tall, skinny teenager with a shaggy haircut and a big nose had no business trying to bust some moves. I still cringe just thinking about it.  ( Bye bye love indeed)

It would have been so much better had I been a tall, skinny teen of mystery who stayed in my room on Saturday nights doing push ups and studying.


Kit Rachlis wrote this review for Rolling Stone:

The first sound you hear on "Just What I Needed," the single from the Cars' debut album, is the repeated thump of bass notes against the short, metallic slash of guitar. It's a magnificent noise: loud, elemental and relentless. But the Cars -- the best band to come out of Boston since J. Geils -- aren't interested in simply travelling the interstates of rock and roll. They'll go there for the rush, but they prefer the stop-and-go quirks of two lanes. Before "Just What I Needed" is over, guitarist Elliot Easton has burned rubber making a U-turn with his solo, and Greg Hawkes' synthesizer has double-clutched the melody. Leader Ric Ocasek once sang that he lived on "emotion and comic relief," and it's in this tension of opposites that he and his group find relief (comic or otherwise) between the desire for frontal assault and the preference for oblique strategies. This is the organizing principle behind not only the single but the entire LP, which is almost evenly divided between pop songs and pretentious attempts at art.


The pop songs are wonderful. (Besides "Just What I Needed," they include "My Best Friend's Girl" and "You're All I've Got Tonight.") Easy and eccentric at the same time, all are potential hits. The melodies whoosh out as if on casters, custom-built for the interlocked but constantly shifting blocks of rhythm, while Ocasek's lyrics explode in telegraphic bursts of images and attacks ("You always knew to wear it well/You look so fancy I can tell"). Neither Ocasek nor bassist Ben Orr have striking voices, but by playing off the former's distant, near-mechanical phrasing against the latter's sweet-and-low delivery, the band achieves real emotional flexibility.



As long as the Cars' avant-garde instincts are servicing their rock and  roll impulses, the songs bristle and -- in their harsher, more angular moments ("Bye Bye Love," "Don't Cha Stop") -- bray. The album comes apart only when it becomes arty and falls prey to producer Roy Thomas Baker's lacquered sound and the group's own penchant for electronic effects. "I'm in Touch with Your World" and "Moving in Stereo" are the kind of songs that certify psychedelia's bad name. But these are the mistakes of a band that wants it both ways -- and who can blame rock and  rollers for that?



From Robert Christgau writing for the Village Voice :

Ocasek writes catchy, hardheaded-to-coldhearted songs eased by wryly rhaphsodic touches, the playing is tight and tough, and it all sounds wonderful on the radio. But though on a cut-by-cut basis Roy Thomas Baker's production adds as much as it distracts, here's hoping the records get rawer. That accentuated detachment may feel like a Roxy Music move in the first flush of studio infatuation, but schlock it up a little and this band really could turn into an American Queen.




Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Book Em Danno. Murder One


Radio Birdman : Aloha Steve and Danno


"Steve I want to say thank you for all you've done for me"

The Australian Birdman pay tribute to the TV series "Hawaii 5-0" and The Ventures theme song in this blistering, kick ass single released in May of 1978. Available on the international version of Radios Appear and on the SubPop compilation .



Monday, June 4, 2018

I Hear Him



Kate Bush : Man With the Child in His Eyes


On June 4, 1978 Kate Bush's second single, "Man With the Child in His Eyes", entered the UK charts at #60. The song would reach U.K. #6 that Summer. About the song, written as early as 1973 when she was 15, Bush has said "A lot of men have got a child inside them, you know, I think they are more or less grown up kids. It's a very good quality. It's really nice to have that kind of delight in wonderful things that children have."

The song was recorded live at AIR Studios with Kate, a piano, and a full orchestra. According to Under the Ivy: The Life and Music of Kate Bush, Geoff Emerick, who worked on all of the Beatles recordings starting in 1966 has said "That was one of my favourite recordings of all time. We knew when we recorded it that it was one of the most beautiful records we'd made in a long time. Those sort of things happen once every 8 or 10 years for me . It made a very deep impression".



Sunday, June 3, 2018

Tonight There's Gonna Be Trouble


Thin Lizzy : Jailbreak (live)


On June 2, 1978 Thin Lizzy released the year's best live album, Live And Dangerous. The tracks were selected from recordings made in London, Philadelphia and Toronto and were then cleaned up with studio overdubs recorded in Paris. How much they were cleaned up has long been a matter of dispute.

 The band's manager Chris O'Donnell has said the recording is "75% live" with most of the overdubs correcting Phil Lynott's overdriven bass and adding backing vocals from guitarists Steve Gorham and Brian Robertson. But producer Tony Visconti says in reality everything was erased except for the drums: "Even the audience was done again in a very devious way...'Southbound' was recorded at a sound check, and I added a tape loop of the audience".

"We are a very loud band," guitarist Brian Robertson responded in Guitar Player in 2012, "me being the loudest of all of us. So how are you going to replace my guitar when it's so loud that it's going to bleed all over the bloody drum kit?"



Such practices were common then. ( How Alive is Kiss Alive really?) That's why NME reviewer Tim Chester declared Live and Dangerous "the best live album we ever heard" despite the alleged overdubs, which he dismissed as irrelevant. Today it's regarded as one of the greatest live albums of all time and the one Thin Lizzy album everybody needs to own.

Here is John Milward's contemporaneous review for Rolling Stone:


Live and Dangerous is Thin Lizzy's first album for Warner Bros. While it effectively documents the boys-with-blazing guitars style of the five previous Mercury discs from which most of these songs were taken, it's also clearly meant to be the breakout, double-LP sampler from a group that failed to consolidate the front-line success of their 1976 single, "The Boys Are Back in Town." Though such a package is ideal for those who passed on the earlier records, it's still a baby step by a band that needs a giant leap.





 The attractions are the same: the twin guitars of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham combine the power-chord dynamics of British blast with the single-line harmonics common to Southern and California rock, as the smooth segue from Bob Seger's pile-driving "Rosalie" to "Cowgirls' Song" deftly illustrates. Singer Phil Lynott, captured in his characteristic daddy-longlegs pose on the cover, is in fine form, though like the group's arrangements, he rarely adds new color or direction to material we've already heard. But that's okay, because the band thankfully has erased most of the excess that crippled their live shows after the release of Jailbreak. The songs here are lean and tough, with lethal firecrackers like "Don't Believe a Word" performed with breathtaking brevity. 

 Live and Dangerous works as a cogent commercial vehicle by avoiding filler, not because anything significant has been added. But the holding pattern that Thin Lizzy established with Jailbreak is indicative of the stylistic problems inherent in many solid but unarguably derivative rock groups. These guys have their roots down cold, and have embroidered them with a neat, guitar-toting street-gang image. But so far, they've yet to give us an album upon which future rockers will build.


Saturday, June 2, 2018

From Monroe to Angeline


Bruce Springsteen : Prove It All Night


"When I was making this particular album, I just had a specific thing in mind. It had to be just a relentless...just a barrage of that particular thing." - Bruce Springsteen

I was listening to Marc Maron's WTF podcast with Steven Van Zandt who talked about the album that took Bruce Springsteen three years to finally make, Darkness on the Edge of Town, which was released June 2, 1978. Springsteen had been battling with his manager Mike Appel, trying to regain control of his publishing and make the follow-up to an album that put him on the covers of Time and Newsweek.

"Darkness to me was a tragedy," Van Zandt said, who, for one thing, didn't like the way the drums were closely mic'd instead of mic'd for the room. " I thought it had some of his best songs. Some of his classic songs and I hated the way that thing sounded. Because we didn't know what we were doing. I begged (Springsteen) to let me at least remix it. 'Can I please remix it?' He said, 'Are you nuts? People have gotten used to this thing by now.' It never bothered him. It never bothered anybody but me."



It certainly didn't bother the critics who raved.

Dave Marsh from Rolling Stone began his review with:

Occasionally, a record appears that changes fundamentally the way we hear rock and roll, the way it's recorded, the way it's played. Such records — Jimi Hendrix' Are You Experienced, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, Who's Next, The Band — force response, both from the musical community and the audience. To me, these are the records justifiably called classics, and I have no doubt that Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town will someday fit as naturally within that list as the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" or Sly and the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music." 




 One ought to be wary of making such claims, but in this case, they're justified at every level. In the area of production, Darkness on the Edge of Town is nothing less than a breakthrough. Springsteen — with coproducer Jon Landau, engineer Jimmy Iovine and Charles Plotkin, who helped Iovine mix the LP — is the first artist to fuse the spacious clarity of Los Angeles record making and the raw density of English productions. That's the major reason why the result is so different from Born to Run's Phil Spector wall of sound. On the earlier album, for instance, the individual instruments were deliberately obscured to create the sense of one huge instrument. Here, the same power is achieved more naturally. Most obviously, Max Weinberg's drumming has enormous size, a heartbeat with the same kind of space it occupies onstage (the only other place I've heard a bass drum sound this big).


In the UK, the album was ranked at No. 1 among the "Albums of the Year" for 1978 by NME. The album finished #6 in the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop Critics Poll, where the dean, Robert Christgau, have the album a  B+ writing

"Promised Land," "Badlands," and "Adam Raised a Cain" are models of how an unsophisticated genre can illuminate a mature, full-bodied philosophical insight. Lyrically and vocally, they move from casual to incantatory modes with breathtaking subtlety, jolting ordinary details into meaning. But many of the other songs remain low-color pieces, and at least two -- "Something in the Night" and "Streets of Fire" -- are overwrought, soggy, all but unlistenable. An important minor artist or a rather flawed and inconsistent major one.



On my most recent listen, I was struck by several things:  how little Clarence Clemons can be heard on Darkness (only on "Badlands", "The Promised Land" and "Prove It All Night");  the power of Springsteen's blistering guitar solos on "Prove It all Night" and "Badlands"( they are also the best things about "Adam Raised a Cain" "Candy's Room" and "Streets of Fire"). If you want to know why The Boss is considered one of rock's great all time guitarists, listen to Darkness. He really takes his guitar to the edge...of town.