Friday, May 31, 2019

Today's Another Day


Electric Light Orchestra : Shine A Little Love


On May 31, 1979 Electric Light Orchestra released Discovery, the band's first #1 album in the U.K.  Nicknamed "Disco Very" because of its whole hearted embrace of the genre, the album spawned five singles including the Top 10 "Shine A Little Love". Of the song Jeff Lynne said 

"A bit of a disco beat on this one, and quite a lot of things going on, forty piece string section and all. It's very jolly and bouncy and I must have been in a very good mood when I wrote it!"


"Don't Bring Me Down" was an even bigger hit peaking at #3 in the U.K. and #4 in the U.S., the band's biggest hit in America.

It's a great big galloping ball of distortion. I wrote it at the last minute, 'cos I felt there weren't enough loud ones on the album. This was just what I was after.

While most of us hear "Don't bring me down, Bruuuce!", Lynne says the word is a made up variation of "Gruß" a Swiss/German greeting he must have heard while recording Discovery in Munich. 


"Last Train to London" is another catchy disco number on the album.


Fun fact: That's comedian/actor Brad Garrett, dressed in Middle Eastern clothes and turban, appearing on the back cover as the menacing palace guard  


Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Few We Missed from May 1979


Frank Zappa : Strictly Genteel


Of the five albums Frank Zappa released in 1979, Orchestral Favorites is the least known. Released by Warner Brothers without his permission this all instrumental album was performed by the 37-piece Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra with Terry Bozzio on drums.    Strictly for completionists. 




Steve Hackett : Every Day


This third solo album by ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett starts off with "Every Day" which sounds like it was plucked right out off a Kansas album. Then it begins to sounds like a scavenger hunt for every musical styling under the sun. The whole thing seems terribly dated to me but Spectral Mornings has fans who swear it's a masterpiece. 



Dolly Parton : Help!


Yes, Dolly goes disco on Great Balls of Fire but she also delivers this bluegrass version of The Beatles "Help!" which deserves to be heard.



Diana Ross : It's My House


Diana Ross teams up with Ashford and Simpson for some sassy diva disco. Robert Christgau gave the album a B writing "Quite smart, quite sexy, but sometimes dull."  





Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Are You Planning a Bootleg LP?


The Specials : Gangsters


On May 29, 1979 BBC Radio 1 broadcast The Specials performing four songs on John Peel's radio show, "Too Much Too Young",  "Concrete Jungle", a cover of the Toot and the Maytals "Monkey Man" and the debut single "Gangsters" of which their label printed up just 5,000 copies.  Originally known as the Coventry Automatics, the Specials were a ska outfit whose "Gangsters" ignited a  2 Tone explosion, providing a launching pad for bands including Madness, Selecter, The Beat and Bodysnatchers. 

Peel was a huge fan of "Gangsters", saying in 1980:

That was The Specials 'Gangsters'. The record of it - one of those records that really changes your life, I mean it actually does, rather like I suppose The Damned's first single, where you wake up the next day and nothing's ever really quite the same again.


A full release of the single came in the summer and "Gangsters" rose to U.K.#6. Both NME and Sounds selected "Gangsters" as the #2 best song of the year, behind The Jam's "Eton Rifles". The song reworks Prince Buster's "Al Capone" , even sampling the car skid from the 1964 ska classic. It's about a tour in France where The Specials were held responsible for damage in a hotel that another English band caused. The hotel manager even took one of their guitars as a deposit. The Specials had to pay the damage, and the situation escalated when the French police came around.  


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Pictures Need a Frame


The Toms : You Must Have Crossed My Mind


In 1979 Tom Marolda released The Toms, a power pop classic that continues to grow in stature with every decade that passes. Marolda recorded the album over the course of three days in a home studio, playing all the instruments. Creem Magazine says the album sold 12,000 copies on word of mouth and when you hear the album you can believe it. "You Must Have Crossed My Mind" is a good introduction to Marolda's talent as a songwriter. Even Graham Gouldman would be jealous of the hooks.


There weren't a lot of artists capable of recording by themselves : Paul McCartney, Emitt Rhodes, Prince and Stevie Wonder are the only ones who come to mind.  Had it not been for a bout of stage fright, Marolda might have toured he album and made a bigger name for himself. Instead he got a job writing music for Paramount Pictures. 

“Most of the time for television shows, if there was a scene, we would actually screen the scene,” he told Community News in New Jersey.. “It was better than reading. When I did Rocky stuff, the script would be, ‘Sly’s running here, and he’s jumping here, and he’s going to hit the Russian in the head, and here is where music comes in.’ That’s what we had to write on. Ace Ventura, we watched the whole movie, and my creative director would say, ‘Okay, they need a piece of music here.’ That’s how that would work. I would just go back to my studio after the screening and start working on material for it.”


Beck and Tom Marolda in 2016.

Marolda has also worked with Imagine Dragons, Cher, the Bee Gees, the Killers, Rod Stewart and Richie Sambora .

The Toms is hard to find, even in CD format. You may find yourself forking over $100. And that may still seem like a bargain. You can also get yourself a digital download from bandcamp.


Manager Robin Garb, Frank Stallone, Harry Nilsson and Tom Marolda.



Monday, May 27, 2019

High Straight in Plainview


Terry Allen : Amarillo Highway


In 1979 the multi-talented Lubbock, Texas songwriter Terry Allen released Lubbock (On Everything), regarded by fans as his masterpiece. Among those fans is David Byrne who wrote the liner notes for the album when Paradise of Bachelors reissued the album in 2016. Like Byrne, Allen is most comfortable as an outsider artist who writes songs, paints, and dabbles in musical and video. The two have become friends. 



Allen's music isn't true country. It's that West Texas sound that have us Buddy Holly, The Flatlanders, Joe ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Byrne describes the music as Americana and goes on to say:

Having sat in with Terry more than once, I know that these songs are not as easy to play as I, for one, might have assumed. Sometimes there is an “extra” bar, and sometimes there’s an “extra extra” bar, as the music often follows the lyrics and the peculiar phrasing of the singer. Terry is a storyteller, after all, and the cadence and timing of the words cue the punchlines. Though the music might be vernacular—a mix of country, Latin, and Texas rock—he blends those genres to fit his own ends. It’s familiar sounding, but at the same time something’s off, and that something is what intrigues; it’s what keeps you paying attention.


Although he had moved to Los Angeles and seen "Amarillo Highway" recorded by Bobby Bare and "New Delhi Freight Train" by Little Feat, Allen moved back to his hometown to record this double album with Joe Ely's band. It's full of cynical humor that may bring to mind Randy Newman, but Allen is one of a kind. 

As Pitchfork summed up in a recent review:

Decades after the Lubbock of Allen’s childhood has passed, this double-LP is still a powerful dreamscape, capturing a West Texas that may never have quite existed, but Lubbock (on everything) certainly makes it feel like it did.



Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Kiss Disco Song


KISS : I Was Made For Lovin' You


On May 26, 1979 the new Kiss single "I Was Made For Lovin' You" entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at U.S.#70. The song would peak at #11 in the United States and top the charts in Canada and New Zealand.

What few people knew is that Paul Stanley was a closet disco freak. He would visit Studio 54. Even though he though the whole scene was a "den of iniquity", as he'd describe it in his memoir Face the Music - A Life Exposed, Stanley would dance all night. He thought the scene was all about living in the moment and he was especially taken by the repetitive drum beats.

I had heard all these 126-beats-per-minute songs and listened to the lyrics and thought Gee, I could do that. I went home and set a drum machine to 126 BPM and sat down and started "I Was Made For Lovin' You".


Among die hard KISS fans, it is known as the disco song, but Stanley makes no apologies.

Was it calculated? Yeah. Was it calculated to succeed? Yes, ultimately it was. But was that a bad thing? It started as a challenge to myself to see whether I could write in that style instead of meat-and-potatoes rock and roll. It was no different from the challenge I gave myself with "Hard Luck Woman". The only difference was the style. No apologies for a hit that people worldwide still want to hear and sing along to.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

To Keep the Dark From the Light


Peter Green : In The Skies


In May of 1979, after spending eight years in obscurity, the original founder of Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green,  reemerged with his first solo album since the beginning of the decade. In The Skies is a soulful record that must have delighted fans of the early Mac. He was the lead guitarist who wrote Fleetwood Mac's 1968 U.K. Top 40 hit "Black Magic Woman", made even more famous by Santana in 1970.


By 1970, the year they released the Top 10 hit "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)", Green had been struggling with LSD, had withdrawn from other members of the band and was talking about giving his money away. In April of that year, he announced his departure from the band: 

"There are many reasons why I'm leaving. The main thing is that I feel it is time for a change. I want to change my whole life, because I don't want to be a part of the conditioned world and as much as possible, I'm getting out of it."  


And he was out of it. 

Green put down his guitar and took menial jobs, even working as a gravedigger. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, institutionalized and given electro shock therapy. He turned down royalty checks and record contracts because he wanted nothing to do with the "devil's money".  Finally, his brother Michael convinced the president of PVK Records to let him spend as much time as necessary noodling around a studio until he came up with the album that would be the atmospheric and very mellow In The Skies. Amidst the frenzy of all things Fleetwood Mac, the album peaked in the U.K. album charts at #32 and received a score of B+ from critic Robert Christgau who wrote:

For a supposed resident of Cloud-Cuckoo Land, Fleetwood Mac's original hitmaker is doing all right... Green's new music goes back even before Then Play On, but it's a lot more confident--simple guitar excursions with a Latin lilt, like Carlos Santana with a sense of form (or limits).


Friday, May 24, 2019

Turnin' Music into Gold


John Stewart : Gold


I did "Gold" for the money and it just was vapid.
-John Stewart

On May 24 1979 legendary folk singer John Stewart was watching in amazement as his new single "Gold" raced up the American charts where it would peak at #5, thanks in part to backing vocals from Stevie Nicks. In his later years, Stewart would stop playing his biggest hit even though he had written it. 

"I just don't do it anymore," he said in 2008, "because it means nothing to me. I did what the record company (RSO Records) wanted me to do and it happened to work...I had an article in People Magazine and I was doing interviews all over the place and I just sat and cried for two days. It was so empty.

"What a great lesson I learned there: Do what I believe in. Don't go for the money".



Stewart's legacy goes back to the 1960's. As a member of the Kingston Trio, he recorded a dozen albums and scored a U.S. #21 hit with "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." Just before the trio split up, Stewart wrote "Daydream Believer", a #1 hit for The Monkees. 


In 1968, Stewart met folksinger Buffy Ford, who is one of my aunt's very best friends. They sang together to warm up the crowds at some of  Robert F Kennedy's campaign stops. 


They recorded California Bloodlines together in 1969, an album I grew up that is highlighted by "July, You're A Woman", one of the first of many love songs Stewart wrote for Buffy. Even by California standards, they were among the most photogenic couples of their time. Here's a link to some photos of John and Buffy by the great rock photographer Henry Diltz. .


Stewart died of a stroke in January of 2008, leaving behind a musical legacy that requires further listening. He is one of the inventors of Americana. Begin with California Bloodlines. If you think you've heard "Never Goin' Back" before, you may be a Lovin Spoonful fan. Then check out 1971's The Lonesome Picker Rides Again for Stewart's take on "Daydream Believer". 1982's Blondes features "The Queen of Hollywood High".



Thursday, May 23, 2019

Spread Your Chickens


Ian Dury and the Blockheads : Inbetweenies


On May 23, 1979 Ian Dury and the Blockheads had high hopes for their follow-up to New Boots And Panties!, especially because Do It Yourself was released in the wake of the chart topping "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". That song did not appear on the original version of the album and neither did the U.K. #3 hit "Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3". Nevertheless, the album reached number 2 on the album charts and sold 200,000 copies, enough to reach platinum status in the U.K. The album was released with 32 different covers each featuring a different kind of wallpaper.



The sessions were not especially easy as Dury's drinking and addiction to pills led to wild mood swings and difficult moments among band mates. Still, most of The Blockheads would hang on for at least another year


The Records : Teenarama


Thanks to one of the greatest power pop singles ever recorded the British band The Records scored a record deal with Virgin who released their debut Shades in Bed in May of 1979. "Mutt" Lange, who also produced AC-DC's Highway to Hell and The Boomtown Rats' Fine Art of Surfacing this year, only helped record a few songs before moving on to another project. The album didn't chart in the U.K but peaked at #41 in the United States on the strength of   "Teenarama"and "Starry Eyes" . Americans preferred the original single recording over the U.K. album's polished version.



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Incitements All Around


Skids : Masquerade

[Purchase]

On May 23, 1979 The Skids had a new single in the U.K. charts, "Masquerade". The track peaked at #14. It might have gone higher but when viewers saw Richard Jobson dance in his red suit on Top Of The Pops they didn’t feel quite so compelled to buy the single for some reason. 





Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Ultimate Discovery


Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark : Electricity


On May 21, 1979 Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark released their debut single, "Electricity". The band, made up of Manchester schoolboys Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, bonded over their love of Kraftwerk and Brian Eno. On this song, they wear their influences on their sleeves. OMD begins the song with a plodding bit of sizzling electronica that sounds like something from Another Green World. Then, 10 seconds in, comes the happiest Kraftwerk-ish sounds ever heard!


Factory Records released the single twice but it never charted, despite DJ John Peel's enthusiasm for it. Still, the single landed OMD a record contract and a spot opening for Gary Numan on his tour. New Music Express called it "the best example of Factory Records to date – excellent, melodic, synthesiser pop" and David Hepworth of Sounds wrote "unlike most synthesiser specialists (no names, no pack drills), these two aren't afraid of a tune and a bit of fun and this bubbling electrobop could see them in the charts.

Monday, May 20, 2019

U.K. Top 20 Singles, May 20, 1979


Blondie : Sunday Girl



On May 20, 1979 New Wave artists finally overtook Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes" as Blondie, Roxy Music and M's "Pop Muzik" topped the U.K. charts at 1, 2 and 3. David Bowie, The Police, The Undertones, Sparks, The Dickies and The Damned also made the Top 20.



1 SUNDAY GIRL  BLONDIE
2 DANCE AWAY ROXY MUSIC
3 POP MUZIK M
4 DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW  ABBA
5 REUNITED PEACHES AND HERB



6 BRIGHT EYES ART GARFUNKEL
7 HOORAY HOORAY, IT'S A HOLI-HOLIDAY  BONEY M
8 BOOGIE WONDERLAND  EARTH WIND AND FIRE WITH THE EMOTIONS
9 BOYS KEEP SWINGING DAVID BOWIE
10 ONE WAY TICKET ERUPTION




11 KNOCK ON WOOD AMII STEWART
12 PARISIENNE WALKWAYS GARY MOORE
13 ROXANNE THE POLICE
14 SHINE A LITTLE LOVE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
15 BANANA SPLITS THE DICKIES



16 JIMMY JIMMY THE UNDERTONES
17 THE LOGICAL SONG  SUPERTRAMP
18 THE NUMBER ONE SONG IN HEAVEN SPARKS
19 NICE LEGS SHAME ABOUT HER FACE MONKS
20 LOVE SONG THE DAMNED

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Wonderful Tonight


Eric Clapton : Wonderful Tonight


On May 19, 1979 Eric Clapton married Patti Boyd, the inspiration for her ex husband George Harrison's "Something", "I Need You" and her new husband's "Layla" and "Wonderful Tonight". Eric and George remained the best of friends despite what happened. At the reception, three of the Beatles reunited on stage for what were reportedly drunken and very loose versions of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Get Back" and "Lawdy Miss Clawdy". Only John Lennon was absent. 

Enjoy the wedding album below:


There's Paul and Linda McCartney ( dragging on a cigarette unfortunately) at :42 in. Apple Publishing manager and longtime Beatles associate Terry Doran, George Harrison and his wife Olivia appear at :44.  And there's Paul, George and Ringo together with the King of Skiffle, Lonnie Donegan at :51.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Bit Roughed Up


David Bowie : Red Sails



“Brian (Eno) and I did play a number of ‘art pranks’ on the band. They really didn’t go down too well though".
-David Bowie

On May 18, 1979 David Bowie released Lodger. It is often considered the last of the fabled Berlin Trilogy recorded with Brian Eno even though the album was recorded in New York and Montreux where Bowie had homes. Still, Eno's impact on the album can be heard to an even greater degree than on Low and Heroes, especially in the way his Oblique Strategies cards encouraged accidents in the studio. Not all of the musicians enjoyed the experiments. Carlos Alomar called some of Eno's ideas "bullshit...I totally, totally resisted it"


Adrian Belew played guitar on most of the tracks:

“When I arrived they had about twenty tracks already done: bass, drums, rhythm guitar, but no vocals. They said, ‘Adrian, we’re not going to let you hear these songs. We want you to go into the studio and play accidentally – whatever occurs to you’ ... I would just suddenly hear ‘One, two, three, four’ in the headphones and a track would start ... I didn’t even know what keys the songs were in or anything. The one particular song where I remember I lucked out on was ‘Red Sails’, ‘cos I started the guitar feeding back and it was right in key. Anyway, they would let me do this maybe two or three times and by then I might know something about the song, so it was over.”


Some of the songs on Side One reflect Bowie's travels. "African Night Flight" is about a group of German fighter pilots Bowie met in Kenya. "Yassassin" combines Turkish melodies with a reggae beat. "Red Sails"  sounds like Neu recording a song set in the South China Seas. Side Two contains the hits ( "Boys Keep Swinging" and "D.J." as well as the final single from Lodger, "Look Back In Anger") . David Mallet returns to direct the music video.


RCA exec Mel Ilberman came out with the early spin on Lodger:

“It would be fair to call it Bowie’s Sergeant Pepper, a concept album that portrays the Lodger as a homeless wanderer, shunned and victimized by life’s pressures and technology.”

But, of course, record execs don't write the reviews. Writing for Rolling Stone Greil Marcus hoped for something bigger on the even of the 80's:

Lodger might have been an event, if only as a record we would someday look back on as work that mapped the territory between past and future. Instead, it’s just another LP, and one of his weakest at that: scattered, a footnote to “Heroes“, an act of marking time.

Robert Christgau was more taken with the album, giving Lodger a grade of A-:

I used to think Bowie was middlebrow, but now I'd prefer to call him post-middlebrow--a habitue of prematurely abandoned modernist space. Musically, these fragments of anomie don't seem felt, and lyrically they don't seem thought through. But that's part of their charm--the way they confound categories of sensibility and sophistication is so frustrating it's satisfying, at least if you have your doubts about the categories. Less satisfying, actually, than the impact of the record as a whole. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Headin' For A Spin


Patti Smith Group : Dancing Barefoot


On May 17, 1979  Arista Records released Wave, the Patti Smith Group's fourth album. Produced by Todd Rundgren, the album's best known track is "Dancing Barefoot". Patti wrote about the song on her website PattiSmithLand.com :

I wrote the lyrics for Dancing Barefoot in late 1978 and it was recorded for Wave in 1979. The music stemmed from some ideas that Ivan Kral recorded on a cassette tape and gave to me. He had written "Rock and Reggae" on it. The music that became Dancing Barefoot was from an acoustic guitar riff that he wrote and that we developed as a band.



I had the concept to write a lyric line that would have several levels - the love of one human being for another and the love of ones creator. So in a sense, the song addresses both physical and spiritual love. Truthfully I always imagined Jim Morrison singing it, which resulted in me singing and recording it in a lower vocal register. I wanted the verse to have a masculine appeal and the chorus to have a feminine one. 

Our producer, Todd Rundgren, had a strong input, influencing the sounds of the guitars and Richard Sohl's keyboard line. Todd also wrote and played the bass line. The song was extremely popular in Europe and with the people of America, but in 1979 it was considered too provocative for American radio. 

The use of the word "heroine", which of course is used in the context of the song as the feminine of HERO, was objected to. It was suggested that I change the word "heroine" and consult the thesaurus for a suitable replacement. I am happy with my decision to let it stand as written.




The album begins with the first single,  the "Prove It All Night" sound-a-like "Frederick", written about her husband-to-be Fred "Sonic" Smith.  When the album failed to sell the way Easter did, the group broke up and Patti moved to Michigan with her husband and raised two children. She wouldn't return to recording until 1988's Dreams of Life.



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Don't Care About History


The Ramones and Paley Brothers : Come On Let's Go


In May of 1979 Sire Records released the soundtrack to Rock N Roll High School, months before the August release date. The album kicks off with four Ramones performances including the title track, "I Want You Around", and a five song Ramones medley. There is also the curious teaming with Sire labelmates The Paley Brothers on a cover of Ritchie Valens's "Come On, Let's Go", recorded when Joey Ramone was too sick for the session. The Paley Brothers needed the career boost but it did nothing to help the power poppers make the charts. They broke up later in the year.



The film itself is entertaining thanks to PJ Soles and the Ramones, who are so clearly out of their element. Dee Dee needed 40 takes to finally master the line "Oh boy, pizza!"


The soundtrack features more than The Ramones. It serves as a great introduction to some superb artists like Nick Lowe, Eddie + The Hot Rods, and Devo.


And the soundtrack likely introduced legions of future music snobs to Brian Eno, although 1977's "Energy Fools the Magician" probably didn't get much attention in this context.


The album also features two hits : Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and "Smokin' In The Boy's Room" by Brownsville Station". And from 1974, there's Todd Rundgren's ballad, "A Dream Goes On Forever", a song that may have been overlooked from that quirky double album Todd.




Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wake Up To Your MakeUp


The Undertones : True Confessions


In May of 1979, The Undertones released their eponymous debut album, a collection of short and catchy songs about classic teenage concerns (girls, summers, weekends), by a band growing up in Northern Ireland in the midst of The Troubles. "True Confessions" (It's hard to wake up to your makeup) is a boy confronting a girl about whether she's been faithful. 


Part of the charm of this performance on The Old Grey Whistle Stop , a month after the album's release,  is that the boys didn't dress up. They didn't care about fashion and they didn't share their politics. The result is a timeless batch of songs, most written by rhythm guitarist John O'Neill who would later for That Petrol Emotion with his brother and Undertones lead guitarist Damian.


The debut album offers 14 songs in 29 and a half minutes. Small wonder they were called The Irish Ramones. In September they would tour the US with The Clash.




The album came in #17 in the 1979 NME Best Album Poll, #6 in Melody Maker and #9 in Sounds. 
Smash Hits critic Red Starr wrote 

"Unimpressive on first hearing, further plays reveal an album full of little gems of sharp, bouncy pop songs. Very distinctive in style, especially with Feargal Sharkey's unique trembly voice".

The album was finally released the the United States in January of 1980. The dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau, gave The Undertones a B+ writing

Nice lads, nice lads--suddenly the world is teeming with nice lads. I like their punky speed and adolescent authenticity, but I'd prefer the reverse--among adolescents these days the speed takes care of itself, while finding something besides teendom to write about is a problem.

It is included in the book 1001Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Poison Child


The Teardrop Explodes : Bouncing Babies

[Purchase]

On May 14,1979, Teardrop Explodes recorded their second single "Bouncing Babies", which would be backed with "All I Am Is Loving You".  



The singer tells the story of how, born a bouncing baby, he has became a bouncing bomb that needs defusing. 




I'm not sure how many copies of the single Zoo Records distributed, but apparently not enough. 


In June of 1981 The Freshies would release a single called "I Can't Get 'Bouncing Babies' By The Teardrop Explodes.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Breakin' Rocks


The Clash : I Fought the Law


On May 13, 1979 The Clash’s The Cost of Living EP entered the U.K. charts at #35. The set is highlighted by a powerful cover of the Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought The Law".  Joe Strummer and Mick Jones discovered the song on a jukebox at The Automatt in San Francisco where they had been recording overdubs.


The variety of musical styles on the three other  tracks has led some critics to suggest its a preview of London Calling ( but without the quality). "Groovy Times" is better than the name suggests, but it didn't bring "groovy" back into the vernacular. "Gates of the West" celebrates The Clash's visit to New York City, including a nod to The Record Plant where the band recorded the song:

I should be jumpin' shoutin' that I made it all this way 
From Camden Town station on to 44th and 8th


The final song is a remake of 1977's "Capital Radio" that ends with Strummer singing "You're the One that I Want" in an extended coda. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Floating Out on the Tide


Art Garfunkel : Bright Eyes


On May 10, 1979 Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes" was riding high, in the midst of its six week run at the top of the U.K. charts. Mike Batt of The Wombles was asked to writer a song about death for the animated film Watership Down, based on the novel by Richard Adams. Although a million people bought the single in the U.K., making it the biggest-selling song of 1979, Richard Adams was not a fan. As you can see in the letter below, he went so far as to say "I HATE Bright Eyes!"






Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Clock A Clock A Clock


The Raincoats : Fairytale in the Supermarket


In the Spring of 1979, Rough Trade Records released The Raincoats debut single "Fairytale in the Supermarket". Listen to it more than once. It's a grower. With the exception of violinist Vicky Aspinall, this all female band is made up not of virtuoso musicians but smart art school students who discovered their own distinctly uncommercial take on punk rock. 

In the liner notes for the debut album that followed, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain wrote why the band's music moved him:

When I listen to the Raincoats I feel as if I'm a stowaway in an attic, violating and in the dark. Rather than listening to them I feel like I'm listening in on them. We're together in the same old house and I have to be completely still or they will hear me spying from above and, if I get caught – everything will be ruined because it's their thing.



Comedian Danny Baker was not impressed. He said "they are so bad that every time a waiter drops a tray we'd all get up and dance".

The B side "In Love" made Pitchfork's list of the 200 best songs of the 1970's :

“In Love” is The Raincoats’ most direct song, and yet it describes the most indirect feeling ever, one called “lovesick” for a reason that “In Love” proves. It is the sound of infatuation that crawls under your skin and makes you delirious, of butterflies that possess you.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Stopped Short Grinding Halt


The Cure : Grinding Halt


On May 8, 1979 The Cure released Three Imaginary Boys, the band's debut album. Recorded at Morgan Studios, where The Who had recorded "Pinball Wizard", Yes at recorded Tales from Topographic Oceans and Rod Stewart had recorded Every Picture Tells a Story, the inexperienced trio allowed producer Chris Parry and engineer Mike Hedges to take control of the recording.

Robert Smith later told Spin's Adam Sweeting:

A lot of it was very superficial – I didn't even like it at the time. There were criticisms made that it was very lightweight, and I thought they were justified. Even when we'd made it, I wanted to do something that I thought had more substance to it.


Drummer Lol Tolhurst, who used a drum kit borroeed from the Jam's Rick Buckler, described the sessions in his book Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys:

It didn't take long for us to record the basic versions of the songs for Three Imaginary Boys. After all we had played and rehearsed them so many times before we went into the studio. With the exception of "So What" , we had all the lyrics worked out before we got to the studio. For that song Robert just had a sugar bag and read off the back of that, along with a sheet of lyrics I had given him. Very Dadaesque, I thought.


The band were left out of the mixing process, spending time at the back of the room drinking beer or visiting a nearby cafe at the studios where they'd see Gary Moore and Iron Maiden hanging out. 

Tolhurst again:

We tried to add our two cents worth to the sessions, especially Robert, who reasoned--not unreasonably-that Chris has signed us based on the demo we had made.We were ignored, as we were his new signing and he was running the show. He had just signed the Jam, who had some success, so his views prevailed.


The album may sound more spare and more post punk than the goth albums to come, but critics were impressed at the time.

Sounds' Dave McCullough praised it in a 5-star review: "The Cure are going somewhere different on each track, the ideas are startling and disarming". McCullough adding "Grinding Halt" is a "pop song that reminds you of the Isley Brothers or the Buzzcocks". Red Starr, writing in Smash Hits, described the album as a "brilliant, compelling debut". However, NME's Paul Morley didn't share the same point of view and wrote: "Most of the time, it's a voice catching its breath, a cautiously primitive riff guitar, toy drumming and a sprightly bass".