Monday, April 30, 2012

40 Year Itch: Henry, The Hobo and 3 Friends

These are three albums released in April I failed to mention for one reason or another.

Ex-Fairport Convention  Richard Thompson's first solo album has the distinction of being the poorest selling album in the Warner Brothers catalog. But if you judged album quality on sales you wouldn't be reading 1001Songs. Henry the Human Fly reveals all the witty playfulness and intelligence that would be the cornerstone of the 40 year career that followed.


Best known for the the Top 40 hit "City of New Orleans", Hobo's Lullaby also offers an entertaining mix of originals ("Days Are Short" features some fine Ry Cooder lines) and covers from Dylan ("When The Ship Comes In") Arlo's Dad ("1913 Massacre") and a playful sing-along version of the 1925 standard "Ukelele Lady". A grower.

Gentle Giant's third release is a concept album about three friends who go off on separate ways after school.  Gentle Giant isn't for everyone. They are keen musicians who plow into odd arrangements and odd meters  with odd lyrics. But if you're ready for a challenge, give these prog rock legends a try.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

40 Year Itch: Checking the Charts

Checking in with the charts at the end of of April 1972:

USA #1
Top US Debut
 R and B #1
 DAYDREAMING Aretha Franklin
Adult Contemporary #1
USA #1 album

 1. The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face -Roberta Flack
 2. Rockin' Robin - Michael Jackson
 3. Baby Blue - Badfinger
 4. Doctor My Eyes - Jackson Browne
 5. A Horse With No Name - America
 6. Daydreaming - Aretha Franklin
 7. In The Rain - The Dramatics
 8. A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done - Sonny and Cher
 9. The Family Of Man - Three Dog Night
10. Betcha By Golly Wow - The Stylistics

 KQV Radio Top Ten
1 THE FIRST TIME EVER I SAW YOUR FACE (6th Week) Roberta Flack
 3 I GOTCHA Joe Tex
 5 BETCHA BY GOLLY, WOW ! ** Stylistics
 6 CANDY MAN Sammy Davis, Jr.
 7 PUPPY LOVE Donny Osmond
 8 HEART OF GOLD Neil Young
 9 IN THE RAIN Dramatics
 10 COWBOY'S WORK IS NEVER DONE ** Sonny and Cher

UK Pop Chart
 1 Amazing Grace The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
 2 Back Off Boogaloo Ringo Starr
 3 Without You Nilsson
 4 Sweet Talking Guy The Chiffons
 5 Come What May Vicky Leandros
 6 The Young New Mexican Puppeteer Tom Jones
 7 Debora Tyrannosaurus Rex
 8 Run Run Run Jo Jo Gunne
 9 Radancer Marmalade
 10 Until It's Time For You To Go Elvis Presley

#1 UK album
 T Rex - My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows

Australia Album chart
 2. LED ZEPPELIN IV Led Zeppelin

 Australia Singles Chart'
 1. WITHOUT YOU Nilsson
 3. JOY Apollo 100
 5. RANGER'S WALTZ The Mom And Dads

Saturday, April 28, 2012

40 Year Itch: Maidens, Warriors and Sentinels

The year after Wishbone Ash won Melody Maker's Brightest Hope Award, they delivered Argus (on April 28,1972), their third album, a progressive rock classic, and the best selling of their career. Written for the most part on acoustic guitars, songs like "Time Was", "Sometime World" and the classic "Blowin' Free" all build up in intensity and let loose into full blown twin guitar jams --some of which rock out in the spirit of The Who. (Wishbone Ash had opened for The Who on their US tour of Tommy.)

The band's claim to fame was their dual lead guitars ( Andy Powell and Tim Turner) and bassist-lyricist Martin Turner's lyrics, which on Argus involves fair maidens, warriors and leafs and streams. The album cover, by Hipgnosis, was shot with the sentinel dressed in a costume from Ken Russell's film The Devils.

There are moments of exquisite beauty. The folky track "Leaf And Stream" (below)  has lyrics from drummer Steve Upton. But, for an instant feel to the album, check out the second track "Sometime World". Powell told the website ProgSheet it is his favorite track:

 I liked (bassist) Martin Turner’s vocals when he sang naturally like this, instead of the later more contrived Bowie-esque thing he tried towards the end of the 70’s. His chord section and melody gave way to my construction of the fast section which opened with a high A chord to G chord inversion, almost Mexican in flavor. The three part guitar and vocal scat melody over this was a flash of inspiration for which I was responsible, as was the entire contrapuntal bass part which Martin executes admirably. I love Steve Upton’s drumming and the whole thing is overlaid with my solo guitar work - some of the best and most inspired work I’ve ever done. It really captures what I’m about as a player and I love the song for offering me the canvas upon which to show my particular mojo.

Turner remixed the album in 1989. The 2002 version contains three live tracks from the EP Live In Memphis. If you don't know Wishbone Ash, this is the place to start. It was named 1972's album of the year by Sounds Magazine and "Top British Album" by Melody Maker. Argus remains one of progressive rock's greats.

The album's popularity (#3 in the UK) sent Wishbone Ash onto a stadium filling US tour, usually second or third billed,  leading to guitarist Tim Turner retiring with exhaustion

Friday, April 27, 2012

40 Year Itch: Traffic Jams in Santa Monica

Recorded over two nights in January of 1972 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium during a tour to promote Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, a Top Ten album.

 "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" from Low Spark
 "Light Up or Leave Me Alone" from Low Spark
 "John Barleycorn" from John Barleycorn Must Die
 "Rainmaker" from Low Spark
 "Glad"  from John Barleycorn Must Die
 "Freedom Rider"  from John Barleycorn Must Die
 "40,000 Headmen" from Traffic
 "Dear Mr. Fantasy" from Mr Fantasy

 Steve Winwood, vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass; Jim Capaldi, percussion, vocals; Chris Wood, flute, saxophone; Rebop Kwaku Baah, percussion; Roger Hawkins, drums; David Hood,bass.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

40 Year Itch: A Majestic Live Album

 The idea of a rock band playing with a symphony wasn't new. The Beatles had done it and so had the Moody Blues. Both The Nice ( Five Bridges) and Deep Purple (Concerto For Group And Orchestra) had recently recorded live albums with orchestras. Procol Harum's Gary Brooker attended the latter recording.

'I went to see the Deep Purple thing at the Albert Hall, we'd done our bit at Stratford, I wanted to see how other bands approached working with an orchestra, but their thing was so unimaginative. Like maybe for five minutes of the time they were playing together, what they lacked was material.'

So when the general manager of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra invited Procol Harum to play with an orchestra and chorus, Gary Booker and the band decided they'd make a record out of it. It was hardly as easy as that. There's an entire website devoted to witnesses, musicians and the multitude of problems that came up. Arrangements written on the plane. Instruments detained by customs. A new guitarist who had replaced the legendary Robin Trower. A musicians union chief glaring at the clock. Just a day and a half of rehearsals. A conductor who demanded that his name be taken off the album. A quadraphonic recording so costly Procol Harum would have to sell 120,000 copies just to break even. Even so, Brooker had no plans to play the band's only hit, "A Whiter Shade of Pale",

If you're expecting to hear mushy, melodramatic string-laden excess, you're in for a surprise. The album is absolutely majestic, setting the gold standard for symphonic rock. In fact In Concert, released in April of 1972,  went gold in the US where the lead off track, an unrehearsed "Conquistador" went Top 20 as a single. Side 2's epic "In Held 'Twas In I" received a standing ovation. 

The track I suggest you hear is the nearly eight minute "Whaling Stories" (originally released on 1970's Home).This is the band and orchestra's third take on the tune that night. Early on, Brooker and the boys were nervous . They even stopped halfway through the first attempt at "Whaling Stories" when the band and orchestra lost track of each other. But here, they nail it. The Da Camera singers come in at the end and its sheer transcendence.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

40 Year Itch : Big Star's Debut

When ex Boxtops crooner Alex Chilton teamed up with Anglophile Chris Bell,  one thing they shared in common was the love of a classic mid-60's pop song.

"I loved British music myself." Chilton said in a 1987 interview."When I first got interested in rock n roll, it was when all the British stuff first started coming out. ( From) '64 through '66, I thought music was great. But then in '67, when all the psychedelic Californian music started happening, people got more pretentious, but '64 to '66 was still three-minute songs and everything was fairly understandable.

Big Star wasn't the only band reliving the glory years of 60's pop. The Raspberries and Badfinger come immediately to mind. But Chilton and Bell weren't just reclaiming the 60's, they were reclaiming their own youth. Has a song ever better captured the hopelessly romance of first love the way "Thirteen" does? Or the thrills that can be found by passing around a  joint in a car borrowed from unknowing parents ("In The Street")?

The album failed to sell more than 10,000 perhaps , in part, due to poor distribution and possibly because of the singles chosen.  "When My Baby's Beside Me" and  "Don't Lie To Me"  are fairly straight-forward ravers and don't offer much of a glimpse into what a treasure #1 Record is. It took Rolling Stone's Bud Scoppa ten months to get around to reviewing the album but he got it right when he said it's "exceptionally good...even Rundgren hasn't made a whole album as impressive as this one".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

40 Year Itch: Lennon's Feminist Anthem


A lot of men wanted to support women's rights. This single, released on April 24, 1972, probably wasn't the way to do it. The title is based on something Yoko said in 1969. Naturally the BBC banned the song. A lot of radio stations refused to play it and it became the lowest charting single of Lennon's career.

The song may have been offensive to some people but it all fit into Lennon's view of revolution. Here's what he told Red Mole Magazine in 1971:

  The women are very important too, we can't have a revolution that doesn't involve and liberate women. It's so subtle the way you're taught male superiority. It took me quite a long time to realise that my maleness was cutting off certain areas for Yoko. She's a red hot liberationist and was quick to show me where I was going wrong, even though it seemed to me that I was just acting naturally. That's why I'm always interested to know how people who claim to be radical treat women.

 Lennon was proud of the song. He claimed in a Playboy interview it was the first feminist anthem before Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman". Actually Reddy released "I Am Woman" in August 1971. It just failed to so much of anything until September of 1972. By the holiday season "I Am Woman" was #1.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

40 Year Itch : Lean On Me

In "The Forty Year Itch" New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik pronounced a rule about American popular culture: "The Golden Forty Year Rule":

The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between forty and fifty years past.

 In the 1960's, the New Vaudeville Band's 1920-ish megaphone hit  "Winchester Cathedral" won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Recording while Paul McCartney dabbled in Roaring Twenties song craft with tunes like "Your Mother Should Know" and "Honey Pie". In the 1970's, the 30's were hot. Moviegoers flocked to theaters for "The Sting" and "Paper Moon". And the trend continues today, or so Gopnik would have us believe.

Works for me obviously. So instead of trying to nail down whether an album came out on a particular day, week, or month...I'm just going to title posts with "40 Year Itch". Speaking of which, Bill Withers released his only #1 single "Lean On Me" on April 21, 1972. It's one of those songs you might find yourself accidentally playing on the piano. That's kind of how Withers wrote it:

"I bought a little piano and I was sitting there just running my fingers up and down the piano. In the course of doing the music, that phrase crossed my mind, so then you go back and say, 'OK, I like the way that phrase, Lean On Me, sounds with this song.'"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

40 Year Itch: Leonard Walks Off Stage


On April 21, 1972 Leonard Cohen was wrapping up a difficult 20 city tour of Europe and Israel in Jerusalem. The entire tour was plagued by bad sound and Cohen's own doubts as a performer. Director Tony Palmer ( who had also shot Cream's farewell concert and co-directed Frank Zappa's 200 Motels) was given incredible access. He had already witnessed Cohen giving some Oslo fans their money back after a concert. ( Watch below)

“He was very uncomfortable performing,” Palmer told The New York Post. “He felt like, ‘I wrote these songs as meditations between myself and maybe one other person, and now I’m required to do them night after night like a parrot.’ That bugged him a lot.”

On his final night, Cohen just didn't feel it. The crowd seemed to be having a good time especially as Cohen began singing the first lines of "Bird On A Wire". But their applause stopped Cohen cold.

"I enjoy your recognising this song but I'm scare enough as it is up here and I think something's wrong every time you applaud."

Later in the midst of "So Long Marianne" Cohen stopped again quoting Kabbalah and saying "Now look. If it doesn't get any better we'll just end the concert and I'll refund your money because I really feel we're cheating you tonight. You know some nights one is raised off the ground and some nights you just can't get off the ground and there's no point in lying about it. And tonight we just haven't been getting off the ground."

And with that Cohen and his band went back stage to "profoundly meditate in the dressing room".

What you don't see in this clip is that after a lot of tears and refusals, Leonard and his band did come back on stage. The audience greeted them by singing "Shalom Aleichem", a traditional song that welcomes an angel to the table on the eve of the Sabbath. Cohen could have played "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" but instead he delivered an encore that included "Famous Blue Raincoat".

These clips can now be seen fully restored in Palmer's Bird On A Wire , made up of long lost clips found in rusted cans inside a Hollywood warehouse. Now in his late 70's, Cohen is still recording ( His 12th album Old Ideas came out in January) and touring.

Friday, April 20, 2012

40 Year Itch: Gumbo

"In 1972, I recorded Gumbo, an album that was both a tribute to and my interpretation of the music I had grown up with in New Orleans in the 1940s and 1950s. I tried to keep a lot of the little changes that were characteristic of New Orleans, while working my own funknology on piano and guitar."
---Dr John in his autobiography Under a Hoodoo Moon

   Gumbo is certainly among the first five albums anyone with an interest in New Orleans music should own.
The other four are ( and here's where I probably get in trouble)  Mardi Gras In New Orleans, The Meters's Rejuvination, Professor Longhair's New Orleans Piano, and the 52 track Minit Records Story. ( Please argue the case for your own albums in the Comments section below). 

Released on April 20, 1972 Gumbo contains some of the old New Orleans R and B standards Dr John used to play around the Crescent City before he went all psychedelic gris-gris on us and turned into The Night Tripper. The album even features some of the musicians who played on the original hits. Folks like Lee Allen on tenor sax and Melvin Lastie on cornet.Shirley Goodman of Shirley and Lee ( "Let The Good Times Roll") sings some backing vocals. The drummer (very much highlighted in "Junco Partner") is fellow New Orleanian Freddie Staehle and as Dr John pointed out in his book, that was a crucial choice.

Rather than play the one-bar patterns typical of most and even R&B drummers, the New Orleans schooled drummer  will break up the beat into two and four bar patterns ( and sometimes even an eight bar pattern). Two and four on the back beat is sometimes only implied;  sometimes the grooves is felt in cut time, which is one half the tempo, or double time, doubling up the groove.

The album was produced by Jerry Wexler and Harold Batiste, the producer and arranger behind such N'Awlins hits as Joe Jones's "You Talk Too Much" and Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya" . It was Batiste who convinced session musician Mac Rebennack to take on the Night Tripper persona in 1968. Dr John plays covers of hits from artists like Earl King, Ray Charles, "Sugar Boy" Crawford, Lloyd Price and Huey Smith and the Clowns. One of the stand out tracks is Dr John's version of Professor Longhair's "Tipitina".

   As he said of the New Orleans anthem  in the Gumbo liner notes:

I heard it played live by 'Fess' a hundred times. My pop used to install and maintain sound systems in different clubs in New Orleans and he used to take me around.... I can play 'Tipitina' with dozens of variations without ever getting away from Professor Longhair; the version I'm playing here is pure classic Longhair.

 Finally Gumbo marks a high point in Y'at culture. Dr John never misses an opportunity to pronounce "turn" as "toin". The accent alone takes me back to New Orleans.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

40 Years Ago : An Acid Folk Masterpiece

Clodagh Simonds and Alison O'Donnell were twelve year old students at the Holy Child Convent School in Dublin when they formed Mellow Candle. Among the first songs Simonds wrote was "Lonely Man" ( which appears on their cult-fave album Swaddling Songs). The lyrics reveal a precocious poet in training:

     Lonely man looking for the day/
     Damns the night whose stars have left him cold.

(For some perspective when I was 12 I wrote a song called "Basketball Star" :
        Here he comes/ Out of his car/ The 6 foot 9/ basketball star)

The first version of Mellow Candle: Alison, Clodagh and Maria White

Alison recently explained Clodagh's lyrics ( which contained allusions to angels, saints, and unicorns) in this way :‘

She was very into — well, we both were in those days — mystical, spiritual things. Clodagh’s writing from her imagination and experience in a way where the premise is true but everything else is invented around it. She’s never too obvious. There are kernels of truth, but she has imagined a lot.’

     The actor David Hemmings helped the girls, then 15 and 16,  record their first single. It fizzled. They toured with Thin Lizzy, Genesis, Donovan and The Chieftains. Four years later, in April of 1972,  taking on the persona of beautifully-voiced acid folkies, they released Swaddling Songs. It also fizzled. The band dissolved and Alison and her guitarist moved to South Africa.

Mellow Candle in 1972

    But decades later, with the help of Mojo Magazine ("Folk rock at its most acidic and velvety. The highpoints of Swaddling Songs are among the most spine-tingling performances from anyone, ever"). and hip music snobs all over the world, Mellow Candle is now considered a cult folk-rock band and their album a progressive folk rock masterpiece. It is truly a grower.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

40 Years Ago Today: Genesis Plays Rome

On an Italian tour to promote their third album Nursery Cryme , the members of Genesis were interviewed backstage at Rome's Piper Club moments before they took the stage. Peter Gabriel was still applying mascara during the interviews. A shaggy Phil Collins talks about the band being a democracy. ( He'd recently been given his first lead vocal on Cryme's "For Absent Friends") Mike Rutherford says the band prefers audiences that sit down and listen to the music. We also listen to the first two songs played that night. "Happy The Man , recorded a week earlier as a single. (Interestingly, it was the A side to Slade's Mama Weer All Crazee Now" on 45's printed for Italian jukeboxes). Later, we hear some of "Stagnation" from the band's Trespass album.

  The rest of the night went like this:

The Fountain of Salmacis (from Nursery Cryme)
Twilight Alehouse ( a future B Side to I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe))
Drum Solo
The Musical Box (from Nursery Cryme)
Return of the Giant Hogweed (from Nursery Cryme)
The Knife ( from Trespass)
Going Out To Get You ( cut from Trespass to make room for The Knife)


Months earlier, on March 20th,  Genesis recorded a half hour concert for Belgium's "Pop Shop". The quality is outstanding and Gabriel is absolutely hypnotic.

 The tracks are in order:

1. Fountain of Salmacus
2. Twilight Alehouse
3. The Musical Box
4. Return of the Giant Hogweed

In August the band began recording one of their greatest albums, Foxtrot,which would be released in October.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

40 Years Ago Today : The Dead Play Denmark

Here's a serious treat for all of you Deadheads:
77 minutes of The Grateful Dead playing live at the Tivoli in Copenhagen Denmark on April 17, 1972.

The video begins a song into the first set, missing out on "Cold Rain and Snow" ( Of course somebody's got it somewhere for download online)
   So what we see and hear ( if I'm not mistaken) is:

   Me and Bobby McGee
   Chinatown Shuffle ( with vocals by Pigpen, just two months before cirrhosis forced him to retire from the Dead. He would die in March of 1973. Keyboardist Keith Godchaux is already playing with the Dead .)
  China Cat Sunflower*
  I Know You Rider*( a trad. blues tune)
Jack Straw*
  He's Gone*
  Next Time You See Me (a Little Junior Parker blues standard)
  One More Saturday Night* ( so viewers did not get Playing In The Band and Casey Jones?)
  Hurts Me Too* ( a Tampa Red blues standard composed by Elmore James)
  Ramble On Rose*
  El Paso ( a Marty Robbins tune from his classic LP Gunfighter Ballads)

  About an hour in, "for the TV cameras",  Bobby and Jerry dress up as though it's Halloween-- much to the delight of the crowd.

 Big Railroad Blues
Truckin/ Epilogue*

Here's where the clip ends. After the Dead's "short break" they came back on stage and played Dark Star, Sugar Magnolia,Caution and Johnny B. Goode. But we don't get to see that.

*song appears on six-sided Europe'72 live album

The next night they performed on the Danish show Beat Club. Check out "One More Saturday Night".

Monday, April 16, 2012

40 Years Ago This Month: The Other Two

While Neil Young was celebrating two weeks at #1 with  Harvest and Stephen Stills was hitting his creative peak with Manassas , the less interesting half of the disbanded CSN and Y knocked out an album of nicely crafted songs and sweet harmonies.It hit #4 on the charts thanks to Nash's singles "Immigration Man" and "Southbound Train". As "Page 43" demonstrates,  Crosby was in his own songwriting world. No Verse Chorus Verse for the original dude. The duo managed to drag into the studio some of the same suspects from Crosby's brilliant 1971 album If I Could Only Remember My Name to help out. Among them, Grace Slick, Jerry Garcia, Joni Mitchell and Stills and Young. Not everyone was impressed. Robert Christgau said the album sounded flat, like "two stars trapped in their own mannerisms."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

40 Years Ago Today: Amazing Grace Hits #1


After five weeks at Number One in the UK, it appeared Harry Nilsson's "Without You" was there for good. Some might have even suggested it would take a new T.Rex or Rod Stewart single if not an army to push Harry out of the way. Actually it was none of the above. All it took was the pipes and drums of a newly formed cavalry regiment made up of the Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards and The Royal Scots Greys.. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards's moving rendition of "Amazing Grace" would stay atop the UK charts for five weeks and it would also hit #1 in Ireland, Australia, Canada and South Africa and #11 in the US.

When we overslept my dad would set the needle on a Royal Scots Dragoon Guards album so my memories may differ slightly from yours.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

40 Years Ago Today; Tumbling Dice

When the Stones recorded "All Down the Line" at Nelcote, the sixteen room mansion Richards rented in the Summer of '71, engineer Andy Johns remembers Mick saying "This is a single. This is the single!" Johns thought Mick was out of his fucking mind:

And I went out and said to him "You're wrong about this. This is not a single?" And he went "Really? Do ya think so?" And that was the first time I realized "Jesus , he'll actually listen to me".

In the end it was "Tumbling Dice" that became the single. Johns recalls:

I think we may have spent two or three weeks just getting the track on that. That was just a performance thing. And the could play really badly,those guys. Most of the time, they were fucking terrible, There must have been some arrangement of it during the period but what I remember is just looking for a magical performance. But it went on and on and on. I had about thirty or forty or fifty reels of tape on that one song"--from Exile On Main St. by Robert Greenfield.
(Between 15 and 25 hours worth)

An early version of the song was recorded during the Sticky Fingers sessions as "Good Time Woman"

The single peaked at #5 in the US. #7 in the UK. But it topped Creem/ Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh's list of the best singles of the year:


 1. Rolling Stones Tumbling Dice
2. Derek And The Dominos Layla
3. Temptations Papa Was a Rollin' Stone
4. Curtis Mayfield  Freddie's Dead
5. Mott The Hoople All the Young Dudes
6. O'Jays Back Stabbers
7. Johnny Nash  I Can See Clearly Now
 8. Al Green  I'm Still in Love with You
 9. The Band  Don't Do It
10. Carly Simon You're So Vain
11. Al Green Look What You Done for Me
12. War Slippin' into Darkness
13. Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes If You Don't Know Me by Now
14. Mel And Tim Starting All Over Again
15. Paul Simon Mother and Child Reunion
16. Luther Ingram  (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right
17. The Stylistics Betcha by Golly, Wow
18. Curtis Mayfield Super Fly
19. The Who Join Together
20. B J Thomas  Rock and Roll Lullaby
21. The Spinners Could It Be I'm Falling in Love
22. War The World Is a Ghetto
23. Michael Jackson I Wanna Be Where You Are
24. Rod Stewart You Wear It Well
25. Todd Rundgren I Saw the Light
26. The Chi-Lites Oh Girl!
27. Alice Cooper School's Out
28. The Spinners  I'll Be Around
29. The Faces Stay with Me
30. The Stylistics I'm Stone in love with You
31. The Hollies Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)
32. Elton John  Rocket Man
33. Michael Jackson Rockin' Robin
34. Timmy Thomas Why Can't We Live Together
35. Arlo Guthrie The City of New Orleans
36. Looking Glass Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)
37. Bread Diary
38. The Staple Sisters I'll Take You There
39. Rick Nelson Garden Party
40. Ringo Starr Back Off Boogaloo

Friday, April 13, 2012

Freak Out Friday : Matching Mole

As Roberta Flack's "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" topped the Adult Contemporary Singles chart for six straight weeks, an arguably even more beautiful song was released by a Canterbury Scene super group called  Matching Mole. The song is "O Caroline", inspired by British artist Caroline Coon, performed by former Soft Machine vocalist/drummer Robert Wyatt and former Caravan keyboardist David Sinclair. There are conflicting reports about whether she was Sinclair's or Wyatt's ex.

But it is Robert who sings:

   David's on piano and I may play on a drum/ and we'll try to make the music work/ We'll try to have some fun/
   But I just can't help thinking that if you were here with me/I'd get all my thoughts in focus/and play more excitingly/
  I love you still Caroline.

Caroline Coon

Machine Mole was very much Robert Wyatt's band. The name is a play on the french phrase for Soft Machine ( Machine Molle). It is a strange album. Lovely  and odd at times. Ear wrenching especially on Side Two.

Matching Mole in 1972

  Wyatt told Wire Magazine's Biba Kopf in 1997:

 The fact is that is I created a skeleton framework upon which I constructed a sequence of events around the wondrous mellotron and so on. Maybe it was a group recording, but the production was where I took the opportunity to take over, and there was nothing the group could really do about it.

Bassist Bill MacCormick ( formerly of Quiet Sun) seemed to agree in a 1995 interview with Stephen Yarwood"

Much of it was improvised and some of it recorded completely solo by Robert. It was rather thrown together and certainly not what CBS were expecting. Eventually Dave Sinclair was eased out, he was never entirely happy with the way we were progressing. It was a bit too free for him. 

Check out a July performance by Matching Mole on the French TV show Rockenstock. Wyatt wears the strange ski mask: Although these songs are from the second album, this is what most of the Matching Mole debut sounds like.

Though the band failed to make any money, Wyatt was planning to record a third album when , during an alcohol fueled party, he fell out of a third floor window and was paralysed from the waist down. Wyatt is still alive and very much one of the great British singer/songwriters of our time.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

40 Years Ago Today: The Jive Artist Hits His Peak

At the height of his creative powers and full of ambition, Stephen Stills teamed up with his friend, Flying Burrito Brother Chris Hillman, pedal steel guitarist Al Perkins and Jamaican bassist Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuels  ( among others) to record a double album full of great rock'n'roll steeped in country, blues, folk and even a little Latin. Though the album has fallen in and out of critical favor over the past 40 years, there's an argument to be made that Manassas is the best thing Stills has ever done.

   Stills seemed to know right from the start he had something special. He told reporters "It's not totally a partnership but it's enough of a partnership that everyone's satisfied. It's better than Crosby, Stills and Nash, Deja Vu and my two solo albums. I'm really proud of it."
  In an 1973 article for Rolling Stone entitled "Stephen Stills: The Reformation of a 'Jive' Artist, Judith Sims suggests his marriage to Veronique Sanson and quitting cocaine helped Stills settle down. The picture she paints of Stills before Manassas isn't pretty:

 It's difficult to name a rock and roll star who's been put down, chopped up, dismissed and generally hated as much as Stephen Stills. Not hated by the public who buy his records and concert tickets, but by those people who've spent more than five minutes dealing with him personally. He's been an ostentatious spendthrift (everything from a $36,000 Mercedes snowplow to expensive microphones he never even unwrapped), a conspicuous consumer of drugs, notably cocaine (allegedly $18,000 a month up his nose), a notorious boozer onstage and an insecure egotist.


Manassas is made up of 21 songs split into four themed sides: "The Raven" is classic Stills rock and is highlighted by "Anyway", "The Wilderness" features country and bluegrass. Here you'll find Stills's last song for "Suite Judy" Collins "So Begins The Task. "Consider" is a bit more folky. This is where the single "It Doesn't Matter" was placed. The final side is "Rock'n'Roll Is Here To Stay" and features an 8-minute fan favorite "Treasure" as well as "The Love Gangster" co-written with The Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman who reportedly briefly considered leaving the Stones for Manassas.

In this year dedicated to 1972, I'd have to say this has been the most rewarding listen so far. Somehow you can buy the entire album on one CD. You should.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

40 Years Ago Today : CCR Goes Out Ugly

Mardi Gras , the seventh and final Creedence Clearwater Revival album, sounds like a 28-minute "F---You" from John Fogerty to band mates Doug Clifford and Stu Cook. Tom Fogerty has already left CCR during the recording of Pendulum after a series of disputes about creative say in the band. With Mardi Gras, Fogerty seems to be saying "after all these years my songs and my singing have carried this band, here's your chance to see what we'd sound like if Creedence were the democracy you guys have been asking for".

Fogerty offered just three songs( "Someday Never Comes", "Lookin' For A Reason", and "Sweet Hitch-Hiker"). Clifford and Cook wrote and sang on the rest with Fogerty only playing rhythm guitar. The album kicks off with "Someday Never Comes", a #25 hit, and like a bad joke Stu Cook's "Take It Like A Friend" follows. It's god-awful. (Though Clifford's "Need Someone to Hold" is a very decent country rock tune). Critics were rough on the album. Rolling Stone reviewer Jon Landau called Mardi Gras "the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band".

The acrimony continues 40 years later. Asked about Fogerty's recent comments that a reunion was possible, Cook and Clifford recently told UnCut Magazine "Leopards don't change their spots. This is just an image-polishing exercise by John. My phone certainly hasn't rung," Cook said. Added Clifford: "It might have been a nice idea 20 years ago, but it's too late."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Six Degrees of Separation: Tommy Keene to The Bangles

For this version of Six Degrees of Separation we're celebrating the jangly pop that made 80's college radio rule.


[Buy Tommy's Retrospective]

From the back of the 9:30 Club, where we CMJ marathoners had gathered, the singer taking the stage looked suspiciously like Alan Thicke who was not the most popular late night talk show host in New Orleans at the time. ( I think that had something to do with the local CBS affiliate's decision to replace David Letterman with Thicke) And now we are really off topic. Start again: power popster Tommy Keene made waves with his 1984 Dolphin Records EP Places That Are Gone, produced by Don Dixon.



Though Dixon made a name for himself by producing or engineering albums by R.E.M. ( Murmer, Reckoning) The Smithereens (Especially For You, Green Thoughts) and Let's Active ( Cypress), he also recorded one of 1985's greatest ear worms, "Praying Mantis". That was the same year he produced an album by the woman who would become his wife, Marti Jones.



The former singer of Color Me Gone's debut album was packed with interpretations of songs by Elvis Costello ( "Element Within Her") and The DB's ("Lonely Is (As Lonely Does)", "Neverland") as well as some very decent songs she'd written herself. Still married to Dixon today, she's also an accomplished painter.



Despite losing co-founder Chris Stamey, The dB's solid 1984 album Like This was one of the most played at my college radio station where we could choose between "Lonely Is ( As Lonely Does)", "Not Cool", a re-issued "Amplifier", "Love Is For Lovers" and the one Bearsville Records was pushing hardest "Spy In The House Of Love". The credit goes to the other founder, Peter Holsapple, who could later be seen on stage backing R.E.M and Hootie and the Blowfish before he joined the Continental Drifters.


Here covering Richard Thompson's Sunnyvista cut "You're Gonna Need Somebody", The Continental Drifters were a kind of an alt-pop super group starring Holsapple, his wife Susan Cowsill, The Dream Syndicate's Mike Walton, and Vicki Peterson of The Bangles ( among others). 



Vicki Peterson may not have had the most playful eyes in the band but she could write and sing great pop songs like "Restless". The 1984 debut album is great fun. A definite college radio staple all the way until January 27, 1986 when The Bangles dropped a little Prince-penned single called "Manic Monday". That's when we college radio hipsters had to move on.

Monday, April 9, 2012

40 Years Ago Today : Elvis On Tour

"My daddy had seen a lot of people who played guitars and stuff and didn't work. So he told me, you should make up your mind about either playing guitar or being an electrician. I never saw a guitar player that was worth a damn." - Elvis Presley, opening lines of Elvis On Tour

The concert footage in the 33rd and final Elvis Presley movie, Elvis On Tour, was mostly shot April 9, 1972 in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The King --who received a million dollars to take part in the film--came out wearing his "blue nail" one piece sequined suit and entertained his audience with the following songs:

See See Rider
Proud Mary
Never Been To Spain
You Gave Me A Mountain
Until It's Time For You To Go
Polk Salad Annie
Love Me (in the classic  movie outtake below, Elvis does NOT ignore the underwear tossed on stage)

 All Shook Up
Teddy Bear
Don't Be Cruel
Jailhouse Rock
One Night
Hound Dog
Help Me Make It Through The Night
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Suspicious Minds
An American Trilogy
For The Good Times
How Great Thou Art
Lawdy Miss Clawdy
A Big Hunk Of Love
Funny How Time Slips Away
Can't Help Falling In Love

The Hampton Roads newspaper, The Daily Press sent reviewer, Kathy Wells - now Kathy Van Mullekom, the gardening columnist - who exclaimed that the performance of "the living legend" wouldn't be forgotten and that it "left sweet memories of a dashing hero."

Check out the trailer for ELVIS ON TOUR

Among the editors working on the film: Martin Scorsese, who oversaw the montages between the concert footage. Three other April concerts were filmed for Elvis On Tour including those in Richmond, Greensboro and San Antonio. Each one ended with the announcer telling the crowd: "Elvis has left the building".

Though still in fighting shape, Elvis gained weight on the tour. He'd soon become addicted to Demerol.  Friends say he never recovered from his separation with his wife Priscilla. The King died in 1977.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

40 Years Ago: The Mac Gets Bare

At first, many of the songs on Bare Trees leave about as much of an impression as the nearly colorless album cover. But there are some great tunes here and, along with Kiln House, 1972's Bare Trees is one of the best albums from The Mac's Post Peter Green/ Pre Buckingham Nicks period. 

     22-year old Danny Kirwan dominates the album with five songs including the galloping title track which features the timeless lyrics "Ba do dah, do dah da do da do". Christine McVie offers two tracks including "Spare Me A Little of Your Love" which sounds like something from the Mac's most popular soft rock era. The song would be a concert staple even on the tour supporting 1977's Rumours. And speaking of 1977,  Bob Welch wrote the sappy "Sentimental Lady" which would become a Top Ten hit when he re-recorded it for his 1977 solo album French Kiss. 

     But back to Bare Trees. It's an album of no set identity --even when the songs come from the same person. Danny Kirwan offered both a gorgeous instrumental, "Sunny Side of Heaven", and perhaps 1972's most scorching guitar sounds at the top of "Danny's Chant". The heavy drinker would be fired from the band on the follow-up US tour after smashing his guitar and refusing to go onstage. Fleetwood Mac would stumble through three more albums before Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Funky Friday : Outa-Space


    By running the sound of a clavinet through a wah wah pedal, Billy Preston created the funky sounds of "Outa-Space", originally a B-Side to the title cut from his 1971 album I Wrote A Simple Song.

    Of course any DJ that actually liked music flipped the disc over to play four minutes of pure funk. Re-released in April of 1972,  "Outa-Space" climbed all the way to #2 on the pop charts, went gold and won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance of 1972.( "I Wrote A Simple Song" stalled at #77.)

 The "Fifth Beatle", Billy played on "Get Back" and on Abbey Road's "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". Among his other major hits were the #1 hits "Will It Go Round in Circles" (1973) and "Nothing From Nothing" (1974). He also recorded with The Rolling Stones and co-wrote Joe Cocker's big hit "You Are So Beautiful" with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and Bruce Fisher.

Billy died in 2006 of an illness related to kidney disease, He was 59.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Terry Hall ( Specials, Fun Boy 3) Picks His Top 10

Terry Hall made this list the March 18, 1982 issue of Smash Hits which I've discovered courtesy of Like Punk Never Happened. At the time the former Specials frontman was promoting the first Fun Boy Three album.

 1. Question Mark and the Mysterians: 96 Tears - my favourite record of all time
 2. Echo And The Bunnymen: A Promise - sing with feeling
 3. Charles Aznavour : She - sung with a french accent
 4. The Buzzcocks : What Do I Get - what do i get?
 5. The Doors : Take It As It Comes - the second best thing to come out of America
 6. The Roches: Hammond Song - i like this for it harmonies
 7. Dave Brubeck : Take Five - my favourite piece of music
 8. Talking Heads : Heaven - it helps me sleep
 9. The Higsons : I Don't Want To Live With Monkeys - it makes me laugh
 10. Ediath Piaf : No Regrets - it sums up my musical career

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

40 Year Ago Today: ZZ Top Gets Muddy

For their second album, released April 4, 1972, ZZ Top stuck to the blueprint that would make them rich and famous: hell-raising, blues-based, beer-soaked boogie. All that's missing is the two-foot Rutherford B Hayes beards, mirrored shades and whatever that twirling gesture was we saw in the MTV videos.

In a 2005 interview with a New Yorker reporter, Billy Gibbons revealed that because of that beard, he has to drink beer through a straw. He also prefers to sleep on the floor of his hotel room. Not sure what his wife, the lovely Gilligan Stillwater, thinks about that.

While Rio Grande Mud's best known cuts are the single "Francine" and the perennial radio fave "Just Got Paid" ( see below), at 1001Songs we like deep cuts... and we like Bar-B-Q.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

40 Years Ago This Month : Lou Lays An Egg

Largely made up of Velvets leftovers (including "I Can't Stand It" and "Ocean", "Lisa Says") Lou Reed was recorded in the same legendary Morgan Sound Studios where Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull and Paul McCartney had laid down tracks. Surrounded by English musicians ( including Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman of Yes and the same drummer who played on Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man"), Lou sounds tentative.

The standout track is "Wild Child", a preview of the art crowd reportage he'd be doing on Transformer's "Walk On The Wild Side" later in the year. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

40 Years Ago: "Oh Babe, What Would You Say"


As Norman Smith, he engineered all the Beatles albums though Rubber Soul. Unflappable, unhurried and always wearing a shirt and tie, he earned the nickname "Norman Normal" from a word-playing John Lennon. Smith also worked with Pink Floyd, producing Piper At The Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets and Ummagumma. His job, apparently, was to keep them thinking more songcraft, less spaced-out atmosphere. With Pretty Things, he produced the rock opera S.F. Sorrow.

But Smith was more than a technician. He could also write songs and, arguably, even sing. At the age of 49, he gave up his "Normal" nickname and went with "Hurricane". In April of 1972, coming off a UK#2 hit called "Don't Let It Die",  Smith scored a Top 5  hit on both sides of the pond with his dance hall throwback "Oh Babe, What Would You Say". The follow-ups failed to make much of an impact and Smith went back to producing and engineering. He passed away in 2008.