Tuesday, April 30, 2013

40 Year Itch: Squeeza Me Tight


Originally conceived as a double album, the eventual Billboard Album Chart topper Red Rose Speedway finds Paul McCartney more interested in creating sophisticated sounds and songs (with a lot of major seventh chords)  than saying anything interesting. Lyrics like "Well, the night is beautiful and mellow/ You said right, made me a happy fellow" probably didn't take Macca a long time to put to paper.

It's telling that my favorite song on the album ( this week) is "Get On The Right Thing". It was recorded two years earlier for Ram.

Still, the chart success of Red Rose and especially of the #1 single "My Love" gave McCartney a necessary boost. Especially coming after 1971's  Wild Life which stalled at #10.

   Critical success was something else. Although Rolling Stone's Lenny Kaye called the album "the most overall heartening McCartney product given us since the demise of the Beatles" he also noted filler like "Loup (1st Indian on the Moon)" and "Single Pigeon". The 11-minute "Medley: Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut" unfavorably recalls side two of Abbey Road. The songs sounds half-assed.

Billboard Magazine ad for "My Love"

But don't lose hope fans! Following a tour, Paul McCartney and Wings would go on a tremendous misadventure to Nigeria. If they got out alive, they'd be bringing back their greatest album by the end of the year.

Monday, April 29, 2013

40 Year Itch: Six April 1973 Releases We Missed


Although it lacks a hit single, Arlo Guthrie's Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys is an artistic success highlighted by some horn solos, fiddle solos and guitar work by Ry Cooder.


Ah! The lean years for Fleetwood Mac. At least the band could always count on Christine McVie for some catchy pop. Bob Welch also adds some intrigue but far too much of this album is filler. Especially dreadful is the "Road Runner" cover sung by one album wonder Dave Walker.

 Seals And Crofts set the standard for what "good" contemporary Christian music is supposed to sound like : Cheery, banal and proselytizing. The duo had it written in their contract that they be allowed to hang out after their concerts to discuss their Baha'i faith with fans. Diamond Girl peaked at #4 on the album charts.

The most interesting thing about the Eagles concept album Desperado ( US #41) is that the title cut was never released as a single. And that's not really very interesting.

The best of the ex Turtles albums, Flo and Eddie has comedy, cover versions of both The Kinks ( "Days"),  and The Small Faces ("Afterglow") and one absolute take down diss of the friend who made them rock and roll's most sought after backing up vocalists. It took years for Marc Bolan to forgive them for "Another Pop Star's Life" and it's one of the things Howard Kaylan ("Eddie") truly regrets after all these years.

The Strawbs most successful and best album, Bursting At The Seams,  features the pub favorite "Part of the Union" ( A UK#2 hit in February of 1973) and the hit "Lay Down".  "Bursting At The Seams" might have been an apt name for the US tour that followed as Richard Hudson , John Ford and Blue Weaver all left the band in the months that followed.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

40 Year Itch : Finding the Next "Dueling Banjos"

Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell : Dueling Banjos


"We simply can't get enough banjos"
    -Seymour Schwartz, Heartbeat Records in April 1973

If something in the entertainment industry works, you can bet it will be replicated over and over again until it doesn't work. Such is the case of the surprise smash hit "Dueling Banjos" which spent four weeks in 1973  at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, right behind Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song".

Weeks after Deliverance hit movie theaters in 1972, "Dueling Banjos" first got radio play in Atlanta thanks to listener requests. It soon went nationwide. It wasn't only the people who saw the movie that wanted to hear it. There was something else about it. When "Dueling Banjos"  became a jukebox favorite bartenders eventually demanded it be taken off the boxes.

Mike Mowers of Radio Doctors told Billboard Magazine "The bartenders said they were going insane. They just couldn't take that nerve wracking music as many times a day as it was being played."

Though falling off the pop charts by April of 1973, "Dueling Banjos" was still a Top 10 hit on the country radio scene. There were cover versions coming out in a flurry. A duo called Jay And Chet knocked out a single called "Dueling Guitars". Radio stations were also getting more requests for classic bluegrass artists like Flatt and Scruggs and The Banjo Barons.

And some successful releases following the bluegrass trend were also hitting the charts.

Here's Charlie McCoy's "Orange Blossom Special", a Top 40 country hit:

And The Cate Sisters with "He Fiddled His Way Into My Heart"

Eventually we all felt like the bartenders.Radio programming consultant Kent Burkhart explained why:

"The tympanic nerve in the inner ear remembers sounds; after people hears the same music over and over again, the nerve actually instructs them to switch radio channels if the music comes on again".

For the final word, here's Martin Mull with  "Dueling Tubas"

Saturday, April 27, 2013

40 Year Itch : Funkybutt Tunes from April 1973

Buddah Records exec Cecil Holmes puts together a funky studio band ( featuring Randy Brecker) to record this all instrumental album full of blaxploitation movie themes. "Slaughter" was a Top 20 R and B tune for Billy Preston in 1972.


With soulful lead singer Lydia Pense, The Bay Area band Cold Blood rivaled Tower of Power in pure funkiness. This Bill Withers cover is driven by the great Sandy McKee on drums.


Motown artist Willie Hutch, who wrote songs for The 5th Dimension, The Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye,  had a Top 20 R and B hit with "Slick" from The Mack soundtrack, which is still considered among the very best of blaxploitation soundtracks from the 1970's.

Friday, April 26, 2013

40 Year Itch: Caviar And Moonlight Wine


Robin Trower had a few moments he was allowed to really shine as a member of Procol Harum. There was "Whiskey Train" on the 1970 album Home and....um...well....

So it was only a matter of time before Trower left the band, eventually teaming up with ex Stone the Crows bassist Jim Dewar and drummer Reg Isidore. With ex Procol member Matthew Fisher working the boards, they recorded 1973's Twice Removed From Yesterday.

  The album , featuring the lead off cut " I Can't Wait Much Longer" and "Daydream",  is a complete triumph despite the fact that critics piled on Trower for his Hendrix -inspired guitar playing and Dewar's Paul Rodgers -inspired singing. Both will astonish today's listeners.

  Seriously, in order to scratch our collective 40 year itch, I'm living in 1973... and this is my favorite discovery of the month.

   I can understand why we're not listening to old boogie albums by Johnny Winter and Humble Pie. They haven't aged well. What Trower did all the way up to 1976's live album is never less than timeless.

Thanks to major American touring on Twice Removed , Trower became a guitar hero when he released the follow-up Bridge of Sighs, a #7 US hit in 1974. Trower is still going strong. He just released a new album called Roots And Branches which made the Billboard Blues charts. You can keep up with the guitar hero on his website TrowerPower.com

Thursday, April 25, 2013

7 Songs with Howard Kaylan of The Turtles

[Purchase Shell Shocked]

For rock fans, Shell Shocked is this year's must-read. It's the ultimate insider's tale of the rock and roll revolution. Howard's a funny guy. He'll take you into swinging London nightclubs where you will sit across from Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. You'll be in Montreux for the infamous Zappa concert that inspired Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" and in the Nixon White House for some rock star antics you may not believe. To promote his insane book, Howard talked about seven songs with us.

1. The Turtles IT AIN'T ME BABE (US #8, 1965) from the album It Ain't Me Babe

The first time I heard "It Ain't Me Babe" I didn't understand what Dylan was talking about. So I just put my own spin on it which was basically to steal the entire approach that The Zombies had used to make their hit record "She's Not There" which was to take a soft minor verse and then blast into a really positive major BAM BAM 4/4 chorus like "She's Not There" and I so admired the singing of Colin Blunstone that I really adopted it. That record is an amalgam of everything we could possibly steal from the time and we shoved it out there on one piece of plastic and it worked.

2. The Turtles OUTSIDE CHANCE (1966) a single that failed to chart-- now on Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968

It's an amazingly overlooked record. I really had high hopes for it. It was so Beatlesque.. It was so clever. ("Outside Chance" songwriter and White Whale label mate) Warren Zevon was such a good friend that we really wanted it to work and I was so sad when it didn't but I'm so gratified now to hear other bands do it and to know that it has a second life after us and that it lives on. Yay!

3. The Turtles HAPPY TOGETHER (US#1, 1967) from Happy Together

It was the worst demo I ever heard in my life. Gary Lewis had turned it down. The Vogues had turned it down. The Lettermen--I mean you name it. Every band in the world had turned it down. It was one guy playing an acoustic guitar and the other guy singing, slapping his knees for the beat and it was nightmarish. But there's something eerie about that verse.It's not talking about a relationship its talking about "imagine" a relationship.
     We flew the songwriters ( Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon) out to LA where we lived so we could hear them sing the song in person. We rented them bungalows at The Beverly Hills Hotel at $2500 a night, sent themchampagne and caviar. Then the next morning we came in to hear them in the studio. It was worse than the demo but we heard it and we worked it and we took that song out on the road with us for 8 months and we refined it and when we went into the studio we knew exactly where every single note was going to fall.
     And it was the only time I've ever left a studio going "This is a #1 record. There's no doubt we have a #1 record."

4. The Turtles LOVE IN THE CITY (US#91, 1969) from Turtle Soup

In Shell Shocked Howard relates how the band hated Ray Davies's original, orchestra heavy mix of Turtle Soup. Davies was so shocked and disappointed he did the remix in one run through, dropping the orchestra to nearly nothing. Listen to "Love In The City " at :59 in. That should be the second coming of Love's Forever Changes. Instead it's just this empty, ghost like section. "We were jerks," Howard confessed to me.

"Love in the City" was a song that Al Nichol wrote. It surprised the heck out of me. As our lead guitar player it shouldn't have been that good. Of course it was reminiscent of the Lovin Spoonful and we wanted to play that up.  Anything "...in the city" is going to be compared  to the Spoonful mega mega hit. but it had its own charm and it had its own mysterious feel to it and it does feel like the city to me. it does feel like Manhattan. When the chorus kicks in I think about my days of early romance among the horse drawn carriages and cherry blossoms and all that stuff as a kid. I see why I fell for it. I never pictured an orchestration that grandiose or spectacular. I really thought it would be more of a group song so to hear it done a la Broadway the way the back of my mind wanted t o be was very gratifying . Still is.

5. T. Rex : GET IT ON (UK#1/US#10, 1971) from Electric Warrior

 Well I loved Mr Bolan. After we sang on "Hot Love" and "Seagull Woman" and the rest of the Electric Warrior album , Marc flew into Los Angeles for the specific purpose of putting our vocals on a new song . my partner (Mark) and I went into a studio on La Cienega Boulevard and  recorded that thing in an hour.  He had done the backing tracks literally the night before. He didn't really have words that he liked yet and he wasn't even sure "Bang a Gong" was going to be what we wound up. but we sang all the vocals there and we loved it from the get go.
      But you have to remember we loved everything he did from the get go . We were such fans that everything sounded like a hit to me. I mean "Jeepster" sounded like it was going to be a giant hit to me and it was abroad. There was something about this country.  And Marc Bolan did it. When he first got popular in the States he made some kind of a satiric remark about "I don't need America, I'm big enough anyway" and the program directors took it to heart and said "OK Pal lets see if you need America" and of course he did he never did have another  giant hit in this country but he was beloved elsewhere and certainly in this house

6. Flo And Eddie : MARMENDY MILL from Flo And Eddie ( 1973)

That was probably the proudest moment of my life recording that song.  In fact we ran so many songs by our producer, Bob Ezrin,   for that album and he was saying "No", "No", "Don't Like That One", "Not rocking enough", "Doesn't have a hook",  and when we got to "Marmendy Mill" it was the last song and I knew it wasn't going to make the record. It was very very long. It had all these sections in it. It was more a little operetta than it was a song and I didn't think my partner (Mark Volman)  was into it very much because it was all about my life and my growing up in Utica, New York and  that kind of thing. And we played it for Ezrin on an acoustic guitar and I'm really a lousy guitar player and the thing ended and he went "That's incredible! I know exactly what to do with it" And his vision was more than I ever hoped. He  made it more theatrical. He had me singing it live in this giant, studio as if we were onstage, on Broadway, and it was a one take thing with Mark standing behind me slightly so he could sing all the "C'mon Howie!" all that back up stuff that he does and the full orchestra. I felt like Sinatra for that experience and I've never had it since.

7. Bruce Springsteen : HUNGRY HEART (US #5, 1980) from The River

We had been recruited to sing with Bruce Springsteen on stage the first day we met him in Cleveland Ohio. He brought  us up to sing with Ronnie Spector and we sang  "Baby I Love You" and "Walking in the Rain" . We had a great time. He remembered that blend--Mark and me --when we sing together have this specific sound. He brought us into the studio with Jon Landau.  We recorded the song "Hungry Heart".  It was the only song on The River that we sang on.  And when we left the studio, Mark and I  looked at each other and went "This is not going to work" This is the most anti-Springsteen song we'd ever heard. There's no Thunder, . There's no Night. There's no Cars. There's no Screen Door Slamming. It doesn't sound like Bruce.  What does he mean "every body's got a hungry heart" What does that even mean?
      And then we heard from Max Weinberg: "I think its going to make the album" and then we heard its definitely on the album.  And then  we heard it was coming out as the first single and we went "Oh no Oh no . We're gonna be responsible for the end of Bruce Springsteen, and then it was a #5 record!
      I still don't hear it  to be quite honest with you compared to every other brilliant thing Bruce has run past these ears. I still listen to that song and I don't hear it. To me its like the #3 hit "She'd Rather Be With Me" for the Turtles. I understand it was a hit.  I understand it was a bigger international hit than "Happy Together" even but i don't hear it.  I didn't hear it when we cut it  and I don't hear it 47 years later I don't hear it and "Hungry Heart" is one of those songs. I will take the gold records. we went on tour with this guy all over the world for the better part of a year trying to get a good live version of it in  Amsterdam and in London and in New York and in LA. So we had a great time but I don't get it

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

40 Year Itch : UK Top 30 for April 28. 1973

While three of the top 6 songs were sung by either an Osmond or David Cassidy, the UK pop chart for April 28, 1973 balanced the shlock with real rock. Geordie --featuring future AC/DC singer Brian Johnson --would soon see "All Because of You" reach #6 on the UK chart. The highest charting debut was another classic : Wizzard's "See My Baby Jive".

1.Tie a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree – Dawn featuring Tony Orlando
2.Hello! Hello! I'm back again – Gary Glitter

3. Get down – Gilbert O'Sullivan
4. Tweedle dee – Little Jimmy Osmond
5.I'm a clown / Some kind of a summer – David Cassidy
6.The twelfth of never – Donny Osmond

7. Power to all our friends – Cliff Richard
8. Drive in Saturday (Seattle - Phoenix) – David Bowie
9. Never, never, never – Shirley Bassey

10. Pyjamarama – Roxy Music
11. All Because of You - Geordie


12. Love Train - The O'Jays
13. Amanda - Stuart Gillies
14. Crazy - Mud

15. My Love - Paul McCartney and Wings
16. Heart of Stone - Kenny
17. Dueling Banjos – Deliverance Soundtrack
18. God Gave Rock And Roll To You - Argent
19. Cum On Feel the Noize - Slade

20. Killing me Softly With His Song - Roberta Flack
21. Brother Louie - Hot Chocolate

22. Why Can't We Live Together - Timmy Thomas
23. Feel the Need In Me - Detroit Emeralds
24. Giving It All Away - Roger Daltry
25. Good Grief Christina - Chicory Tip

26. 20th Century Boy -T. Rex
27. See My Baby Jive - Wizzard
28. Nice One Cyril - Cockerel Chorus

29. Big Eight - Judge Dread
30. The Right Thing to Do - Carly Simon

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

40 Year Itch : Scramble My Eggs, Honey


Now don't touch the knobs now, we're going to have some fun around here
    -Peter Wolf

With Bloodshot, a potpourri of blues, boogie and the reggae influenced #30 hit "Give It To Me", Boston's  J. Geils Band enjoyed their first and only Top Ten album until Freeze Frame went multi-platinum in 1982. Years of touring had helped turn J Geils into the ultimate American house party band.

True fans can boast of owning the original red vinyl pressing of the album.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Top Ten: Stuart Adamson of Big Country


Anticipating the May release of the single "In A Big Country" ( their follow-up to the Top 10 "Fields of Fire") and the album The Crossing, vocalist and guitar player Stuart Adamson provided Smash Hits an eclectic, wide-ranging list of his ten favorite songs. The single was a big hit in the big country of Canada ( #3) and made inroads in the US thanks to MTV.The list comes courtesy of Brian at Like Punk Never Happened.




Sunday, April 21, 2013

40 Year Itch : Stay On The Bus; Forget About Us

You can't go a whole year discussing the music of 1973 without mentioning the year's biggest hit. For 4 weeks beginning April 21st, Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree" was the number one song on the charts. Even country radio stations were playing it! 

       It may be corny but the song is based on the true story of a convicted bad check writer heading home to White Oak,  Georgia by bus and wondering how his wife would respond to a letter he'd written. He wrote that he'd understand if she never wanted to see him again. But if she still loved him could she let him know by tying a yellow ribbon around an oak tree in the city square. As the bus rolled into town, passengers spotted the yellow ribbon and broke into cheers as the writer broke down and cried.

 The story made the AP Wire and inspired songwriters Irwin Levine and L Russell Brown. 

               At first, Tony Orlando thought it was too corny to record ( this from the guy who also sang "Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsie Rose") but he found himself humming the song over and over and finally gave in.

  "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" is the second most recorded song of the rock era ( after "Yesterday") and yellow ribbons themselves have become a symbol to welcome home soldiers, hostages...you name it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

40 Year Itch : Losing Your Love, Acting Foolishly



Call Me ( home to three great singles : "You Ought To Be With Me", "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" and "Call Me ( Come Back Home)" ruled the charts in June and remains one of the highest praised soul albums of all time. Today Al Green is a minister at the Full Tabernacle Church in Memphis but 40 years ago he was sex incarnate. The smoothest ladies man of them all. He didn't belt out choruses like his contemporaries so much as whisper sweet things into the microphone.

     Call Me also stands out for its two soulful covers of country standards--Hank Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away". The album ends with "Jesus Is Waiting". From here on out--a full year before the infamous grits episode--Green offered up at least one sacred gesture among all the profane.

   "I was born again in 1973, " he says. "It wasn't an incident that did it. No. People are silly when they write that. Nothing happened to bring me to Christ except coming into the knowledge of Christ and being transformed in mind and spirit on a particular morning".

Friday, April 19, 2013

40 Year Itch : This Is Our Fork In The Road

The Spinners self titled Atlantic label debut would top Billboard's Soul Album charts for most of May 1973 thanks to its mother lode of singles ("I'll Be Around", "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love", "Ghetto Child", "One of a Kind (Love Affair)" and "How Could I Let You Get Away"). 

 For The Spinners, success was a long time coming. They'd been together for more than ten years with just one hit to show them: 1970's Stevie Wonder produced "It's A Shame" on the Motown VIP label. 

    When they teamed up with Thom Bell at Atlantic they began a hit making streak. It was Bell who made the thinly-voiced but radio friendly Phillippe Wynne the band's frontman. Not sure if Bell would want to take credit for sequencing The Spinners .Typically, you want the lead off track to be the strongest tune. Instead it's the decent "Just Can't Get You Out of My Mind".

 "I'll Be Around" (US #3/ R and B #1) is buried as the last cut on Side One. The rest of the singles can be found on Side Two. Originally a B Side, "I'll Be Around" only became The Spinners's first million selling single because of the deejays who flipped the single. 

To me, The Spinners have always been just faceless enough that listeners could project their songs of love and celebration in their own lives.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

4 Songs with Roger Fisher from Heart

To celebrate Heart's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1001Songs asked guitarist Roger Fisher to talk about four of the band's best known songs: "Crazy On You","Magic Man", "Barracuda" and "Mistral Wind". Tonight Roger and the other original members of Heart will join Ann and Nancy Wilson onstage for the first time in more than 30 years to perform "Crazy On You" so let's start with that one.

Nancy Wilson and Roger Fisher rehearsing together for the first time in more than 30 years

Crazy On You ( from Dreamboat Annie, 1976) --a US#35 hit

Roger Fisher
We all agreed that Nancy should have a guitar solo that goes in front of "Crazy On You" so she started working on it and working on it and working on it. At the time we lived together in an A Frame cottage in Point Roberts ( Washington) which is south of Vancouver and I remember getting up in the morning and seeing her out in the sunshine on the back deck just working away on it and what she came up with is a great guitar part.

Mistral Wind ( from Dog and Butterfly, 1978) a fan favorite 

Roger Fisher
Back when I was still in Heart and Van Halen was in town me and Eddie were in the dressing room playing stuff and he said "Show me how to play those lines in "Mistral Wind" and I showed him and he couldn't play them! Immediately. Of course Eddie Van Halen is a monster and in a few minutes he'd have it down but there was that little moment of satisfaction when even Eddie Van Halen couldn't play my guitar lick!

Barracuda ( from Little Queen, 1977) US #11

Roger Fisher

When we were recording "Barracuda" at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle ,we were under the gun to get this album out as quickly as possible because of the legal situation we were in (Heart broke its contract with Mushroom and signed a contract with CBS subsidiary Portrait Records, resulting in a prolonged legal battle . Mushroom released the partly completed Magazine in early 1977, just before Portrait released Little Queen. Both sides attempted to prevent the other from releasing any Heart music). But when it came to "Barracuda" we were doing take after take after take because we were fine tuning it. This felt like a hit song and we wanted to do it right and man! we just kept doing it over and over . And you don't want to do that normally because the first 2 or 3 times you perform  a song is when you feel it the most but after that it doesn't have the same feeling. But "Barracuda" MAN! By the time we recorded the keeper track it was like this big train running through the room that was so powerful and so in sync with itself. My God! What a force to be reckoned with!

Magic Man (from Dreamboat Annie, 1976) US #9 hit

Roger Fisher

At the end of "Magic Man" where I really take off, there are guitar licks there that are not easy to play. It's comical. Because, you know, I'll sit in with a Heart tribute band. And these guitar players are really good but nobody can play these lines! And of course that's Howard Leese, who was responsible for a lot of the harmony solos in many of the songs, playing the Moog synthesizer. One of the first ones that ever came out.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Interview with the Magic Man : Mike Fisher of Heart

For several years in the mid -70's, Heart, a band that got its start in a Bellevue Washington basement, ruled rock and roll radio. Fans came to hear hits like "Barracuda", "Crazy On You" and "Magic Man" and to see two women--sisters--rock out. In the middle of the crowd--riding the sound board--band manager Mike Fisher felt like he was watching a dream come true.

Mike Fisher and  Ann Wilson

 As a draft dodger living in Vancouver BC, where Heart really took off, Mike Fisher kept a low profile. He has been called the band manager and he's been credited ( on the Dreamboat Annie sleeve) with "Special Direction". Ann Wilson's first great love, Mike inspired the song "Magic Man". At the height of Heart's popularity, Mike and Ann were a couple and so were Nancy Wilson and Mike's brother Roger. Those were great times but the kind of temptation that could blow up Heart's fragile "Brothers Dating Sisters" chemistry waited around backstage after every show. And when the couples broke up so did the band.

As Heart entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mike Fisher granted me his first interview in 30 years.

When you hear "Magic Man" on the radio do you flip the dial or does it take you right back?
Mike ( laughs)
   It's always interesting. I always take note of the time because it's always some kind of amazing coincidence  and it happens at the craziest times.
  What is it like to hear "Magic Man"
Well. there's just so much history associated with everything that went into that song. It's kind of overwhelming to hear any old Heart song for me so I don't really go out of my way to listen to old Heart music because it's so filled with emotion for me I guess.

Ann and Mike

    So what was your role in Heart?
  My role was more like a gardener, an architect or a designer. For me Heart was an artistic creation of mine in a way. Like a master chef creating a fine meal.

   So "band manager" doesn't really say it all
  I never aspired to be a label in the music industry. I just had this vision for what those people could become and I was totally fired up and passionate about it. We all were for a long time. So to realize that dream was really incredible.

Nancy and Ann Wilson

  Heart was already a big deal in the Vancouver area with Ann singing and your brother Roger on guitar. ( Roger's friend Steve Fossen on bass). How did Nancy join the band?
  She came up to visit Ann and they started playing guitars on the couch and My God! It was like "Nancy's got to be in the band too!" It took a while to convince her because she was going to school and doing really well. Straight A's or something. And her parents were totally against it. Especially her mom.

Nancy and Roger

I did what I could to help her overcome that resistance and it didn't hurt that she and Roger kind of liked each other. So that's how that came together.

  Is that what you mean by comparing yourself to a master chef?
  It's such a delicate balance of egos and artistic creative possibilities and all of those things had to come together and it just took such an amazing coaxing and persuasion and everything to get it just right and then to keep it that way which became harder and harder as the group went along. Eventually being impossible.

  What do you remember about the night Heart opened up for Rod Stewart and the Faces in Montreal (October 24, 1975)?( Thanks to constant radio airplay in Canada, the Vancouver band walked onstage to a huge enthusiastic audience that seemed to already know their songs)
  That was the day when we realized that we had built the real thing and we were going to take it out and run it on the highway as fast as she would go.

  But for a while there...
It was really incredible when Ann and I and Nancy and Rog --the four of us being brothers and sisters and lovers and companions-- constantly worked together. It's an amazing bond and I don't know that that has really ever happened before in rock music or if it will ever happen again. It's really hard to get harmony in a group of people and that kind of harmony is really amazing.

Brothers Roger and Mike Fisher working on "One Vision" project
  So tell me about this project you're doing with your brother Roger
Mike Fisher
  We undertook this incredibly ambitious vision of 40 years of music that Roger has written. He never stopped writing music after Heart. He just IS music. And he asked me if I could help him and it was something I always wanted to do and we kept putting it off and putting it off and then a lot of people around me started dying. Including my friends and my parents and I realized I better get started on some of these things I want to do. And It's been a fantastic experience getting together everyday with Rog.

Look for more information about the "One Vision" project, coming out May 18,
 at Roger Fisher. Com

Like this? Try this : Roger Fisher helps us listen to four of Heart's most famous songs with fresh ears

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

40 Year Itch: "James Paul McCartney" Special Airs


On April 16, 1973 ABC aired "James Paul McCartney", a 50 minute special featuring McCartney and his band members singing:

-"Big Barn Bed" to an audience of TV sets;

-a medley of "Blackbird/Bluebird/Michelle/Heart of the Country" during a photo session (the first time McCartney had sung a Beatles song in public);

-an outdoor video of Mary Had a Little Lamb",
-"Little Woman Love", "C Moon", and the new single "My Love" all recorded with an orchestra;
 -a video of "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"(included here but NOT in the original broadcast);
 -a visit to a pub for singalong versions of "April Showers", "Pack Up Your Troubles in an Old Kit Bag" and "You Are My Sunshine";
-a huge musical extravaganza called "Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance" (fulfilling a life long ambition to do some musical theatre

-a music video version of "Live And Let Die" ( notable because (at 35:05) the piano explodes at the end with far greater force than anyone anticipated. Danny Seiwell remembers  the lid of the piano flying over the violin players who were "shouting 'Oh My God! What was that?'
-A Beatles medley of passers by singing "When I'm 64", "A Hard Days Night""Can't Buy Me Love", "She Loves You""Ob La Di Ob La Da", "Yesterday" and "Yellow Submarine"
-live Wings performances of "Mess I'm In" , "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Long Tall Sally"
-And for the credit roll, Paul singing "Yesterday".

The special aired in the UK on May 10.
Critics weren't all kind. Melody Maker calling the special "overblown and silly". Another critic called it "a showcase for Paul's amazing ability to be all things to all men, women and little lambs".
The special has yet to be released on DVD.

Monday, April 15, 2013

40 Year Itch: No Sun Will Shine In My Day

In retrospect, Chris Blackwell's bet on Bob Marley and the Wailers looks like the best $6000 ever placed. Catch A Fire, released April 13, 1973 in its now iconic zippo-shaped record cover, drew rave reviews and set off reggae's greatest band on the track to super-stardom. 

Not that Blackwell didn't hedge his bets.

After paying for the stranded Wailers ( which then also included future stars Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone) to fly home and record Catch A Fire  in Jamaica, Blackwell sweetened the master tapes with input from uncredited American session players like guitarist Wayne Perkins (who would play on the Rolling Stones Black and Blue album and contributes solos and guitar lines on "Concrete Jungle", "Stir It Up" and "Baby, We've Got a Date") and Texan Rabbit Bundrick ( who also played keyboards on The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack). The first ten seconds of "Concrete Jungle" ( and therefore of the album) sound like any number of prog rock acts.

     Like most Wailers albums, there's a good mixture of love songs ("Stir It Up", Baby We've Got A Date") and political songs ("Concrete Jungle", "Slave Driver", Peter Tosh's "400 Years") that will dispel any notions of Jamaica being a vacation paradise.

   Catch A Fire is now considered one of the greatest reggae albums ever made. But the live shows are what made the Wailers stars. The Wailers would make one more record (Burnin')  before Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone left. All would be great forces in making reggae one of the world's most popular forms of music.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Top Ten : Pete Wylie of Wah!

To promote " Hope (I Wish You'd Believe Me) ",the follow up single to his UK #3 "The Story of the Blues", former Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch bandmate Pete Wylie of Wah! provided Smash Hits with this list of his ten all time favorite songs in April of 1983. List comes courtesy of Brian at Like Punk Never Happened

Saturday, April 13, 2013

40 Year Itch: Smack! Baby! Smack!

More urgent and far more challenging than its predecessor, Aladdin Sane (released April 13, 1973) explores stardom from the inside. Many of the songs were written during Bowie's 1972 tour ( "Time" in New Orleans; "Drive-In Saturday" between Seattle and Phoenix) which is why it's been called the American Ziggy Stardust.

Note: Bowie supposedly shaved his eyebrows when Mott the Hoople turned down "Drive In Saturday"

What kind of debauchery did David Bowie witness in America? The album oozes with sex ("Cracked Actor", "Drive In Saturday") violence ("Panic in Detroit") and rock and roll ("Watch That Man"). Mick Ronson's guitar is often higher in the mix than Bowie's voice but it's free form pianist Mike Garson who steals the show with his freaked out solos on the title cut ( starts 2:00 in).

Bowie has been accused of , to put it kindly, borrowing ideas from other artists. "Panic in Detroit" has a Bo Diddley beat. " The Jean Genie" sounds like the Yardbirds doing Diddley. And there's the final cut, the fan favorite "Lady Grinning Soul".

Some say it sounds an awful lot like the Quincy Jones track "On Days Like These" , featured in the 1969 film The Italian Job. I don't really hear it. Can you?

I'll let Bowie off on this one. The cover of "Let's Spend the Night Together" ,however, is an appalling preview of the covers album Pin Ups that would come out in October.

Friday, April 12, 2013

40 Year Itch: That'll Be The Day


Months before American audiences would be seduced by the 1950's nostalgia of American Graffiti, UK audiences got their 1950's fix with That'll Be The Day which made its premiere on April 12, 1973.
The movie, starring David Essex,  was shot on location at Warners Holiday Camp and tells the story of a rock obsessed teen growing up in 1950's Britain.

Two of rock's greatest drummers have roles in the movie: Ringo Starr ( in his best performance on film) and Keith Moon. For Ringo, it was a chance to revisit the camps where he and Rory Storm played. Keith would appear in the sequel Stardust. The soundtrack went #1 in the UK.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

40 Year Itch : Gatherin' Up The Tears

On April 13, 1973 Steely Dan performed their #11 US hit " Reelin In The Year"on the Midnight Special, hosted by Bill Cosby. The dual guitar solos by Denny Dias ( in purple pants) and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is really quite extraordinary. Singer David Palmer was on his way out as Donald Fagen developed his vocal prowess ( and hopefully lost the 'flicking of his head after every line" tic).

 Fanny, Waylon Jennings and Billy Preston also performed that night.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

40 Year Itch: Your Mouth Is Driving Me Mad


With the short-lived Wizzard, Move and Electric Light Orchestra co-founder Roy Wood had an amazing run of UK singles in 1973 beginning with the Top 10 "Ball Park Incident" in January, and two #1 hits "See My Baby Jive" ( peaking for four weeks in May) and "Angel Fingers" (in September) before rounding out the year with the perennial hit "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday". You could hardly escape the vision of this wild man in his star child makeup.( Nor could we in America, when Kiss adopted his look).

Here's where things get weird. Not one of these singles appear on the original album Wizzard Brew ( though all appear on CD releases). This is a strange and inconsistent concoction, as the album's own liner notes make clear:

In this group there might be cellos and such, but never would they give forth the sound of a chamber music quartet. This group was to be coarse, loud, and unruly,  and it would never lose sight of its dedication to primal rock n roll. Yet it would still be experimental because Roy Wood was a man of many ideas.

 All of those ideas come to strange fruition on Wizzard's 13 and a half minute  "Meet Me at the Jailhouse". Ornette Coleman, eat your heart out.

Wood would become a bit of a recluse by the mid 70's but he had one more gift for music lovers of 1973: the extraordinary solo album Boulders, about which we'll write in August.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

40 Year Itch : The Birth of Outlaw Country


                   When the producer-driven Nashville sound reinvigorated country music, Waylon Jennings wasn't happy. It meant producers chose his songs and session players recorded them -- not his band. When his contract came up for renewal in 1972 he and his manager demanded Waylon produce himself. Lonesome On'ry and Mean, which debuted on Billboard's Hot Country LP chart on April 7, 1973,  is the first album under the new deal.

 Honky Tonk Heroes, released later in 1973 is considered the first of the outlaw country albums but Lonesome is where the transition happens. Three songs were recorded before the deal  but the rest were recorded by Waylon Jennings and the Waylons. The sound is more stripped down. The songs are just more "real" than what anybody else was recording.

     Jennings covers Danny O'Keefe's "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues", Mickey Newbury's "San Francisco Mabel Joy" and Kris Kristoffersen's "Me and Bobby McGee".  His cover of the country standard, "You Can Have Her", hit the Top Ten. But the title cut, by renegade Steve Young, captured the new outlaw image that would make Jennings a legend:

Now I'm down in this valley,
Where the wheels turn so low
 At dawn I pray,
to the Lord of my soul
 I say do Lord, do right by me
 You know I'm tired of being lonesome on'ry and mean

Lonesome On'ry and Mean comes with bonus cuts including the previously unreleased single  "The Last One to Leave Seattle".

Monday, April 8, 2013

40 Year Itch : Can You Show Me A Dream

Rod: The Autobiography is far more charming and enjoyable than you might think. Credit "editor" Giles Smith and Rod himself for capturing Stewart's self deprecating humor. Unfortunately, it was that kind of humor that may have doomed the last Faces studio album before it ever came out. By 1973, smart concert promoters were already putting up "Rod Stewart And The Faces" on the marquees, infuriating Stewart's band mates.

Bickering increasingly prevailed. I didn't particularly help the deteriorating atmosphere within the band when, in an interview, I described the Faces' third album Ooh La La as "a bloody mess". I guess that was me and my previously noted tendency to turn against things I had recently done, but it was not the most helpful thing you could hope to hear from a lead singer on the eve of an album's release -- although a true enough reflection of my feelings. I did apologize to the guys, but Mac (Ian McLagan) was clearly thinking, "Typical bloody singer".

Rod did have a point. Ooh La La would have a made a great 5 song EP had it just come with "Silicone Grown", the single "Cindy Incidentally", "Borstal Boys", "Glad and Sorry" and "Ooh La La" ( sung by Ronnie Wood). Part of the problem was a distracted Rod Stewart missing a number of recording sessions. 

Despite all the filler, the album topped the UK charts while "Cindy" went to #2.

Faces would tour through November 1975, but with Ronnie Wood becoming a Rolling Stone and Rod Stewart's superstar solo status, the band's days were numbered. On December  19, 1975, Faces broke up.
If "Glad And Sorry" sounds familiar to 90's rock fans, it was covered by Golden Smog with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and The Jayhawks's Gary Louris singing lead.