Thursday, October 31, 2013

40 Year Itch : Those We Missed October 1973

Bonnie Raitt's third album, Takin' My Time,  is another critically acclaimed gem. Here she broadens her musical canvas to include calypso and dixieland while handing  over all songwriting duties to others ( including Randy Newman , Chris Smither and Jackson Browne). Of the album, often recorded with members of Little Feat,  Bonnie says:

"Takin' My Time is one of my favorite records to listen to, although I started out with Lowell George producing it, and he and I got too close to be able to have any objectivity about it. That's the problem when you're a woman and you get involved with the people you work with - and I just don't just mean romantically. It becomes too emotional. It's hard to have a strong woman telling the man her ideas when, in fact, the man wants to take over the situation. So that album had a lot of heartache in it. At the time it was a difficult one to make, but now I like it."

With leader Nils Lofgren off recording and touring with Neil Young, and the label running out of patience,  this was the swansong for Grin. Fans would have to wait two years for Lofgren's spectacular solo debut

The "one man Beatles" never made any money from his terrific catalogue thanks to a messed up record deal with Dunhill. Farewell to Paradise is the third and final album before Rhodes would abandon his musical career facing tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
"That was it, I didn't want to do it anymore," he told LA City Beat. "I wanted to open a Laundromat and watch the dryers go around."

The former McCoy and member of Edgar and Johnny Winter's bands, killer guitarist Rick Derringer released his debut album featuring his solo version of "Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo"--a song already featured on three albums. Derringer's version hit highest, peaking at #23 in 1974. Edgar Winter, Joe Walsh and Suzi Quatro lend a hand on the album.

John Martyn follows up his classic 1973 album Solid Air with the  even more experimental and jazzier Inside Out, recorded with Danny Thompson and  Stevie Winwood on bass and keyboards respectively. Absolutely hypnotic.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

40 Year Itch : Birth of a Glam Queen

She hasn't owned a dress in years
-Offical Suzi Quatro Bio

    In 1973 Detroit native Suzi Quatrocchio became a household name in the UK--as Suzi Quatro --thanks to a string of huge hits written by the songwriting powerhouses Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. "Can the Can", a two-million seller topped the UK charts in June of 1973. "48 Crash" peaked at #3 in the UK consolidating her position as a big new--if somewhat androgynous, bass playing--star. ( She was quoted in a German magazine saying "Before long, I'll be a guy").  Next came "Daytona Demon" which stalled at #14.

The 1973 debut album Can the Can is a bit of a chore to get through. Chinn-Chapman found a sound for Quatro and they never let up on it . So expect a lot of pounding drums and guitars and a lot of high pitched yowling from Suzi.

   In 1974 Suzi tried to repeat her UK /Australian fame by touring the US where she opened for Alice Cooper. She achieved a few minor US hits with "Can the Can" and "All Shook Up" ( which led to Elvis inviting Suzi to Graceland. She declined.)

Unfortunately, while courting the US, Suzi lost her UK fans. She'd gain fame again as Leather Tuscadero on the hit TV show Happy Days and with her 1979 #4 hit "Stumblin In", recorded as a duet with Chris Norman of Smokie.

   Though a footnote in the history of US rock and roll, Suzi inspired a host of female rockers, most notably Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde, The Runaways, L7, The Donnas ...and the list goes on.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

40 Year Itch : Yes is the Answer

Retreating from the political messages of Some Time In New York City. for Mind Games John Lennon focused on his very best subject for songwriting subjects : himself. Sure, there are the Lennon-esque cries for peace and love and understanding but the more personal songs written for Yoko have far more resonance. The Anthology versions of most Mind Games songs are cleaner and more enjoyable. Though fans will argue this is one of Lennon's most overlooked gems, Lennon himself referred to all albums between Imagine and Double Fantasy as dog shit.

A few weeks after the release of Mind Games, Yoko Ono released her most commercial album, the feminist-themed Feeling the Space, which earned this critical acclaim from Billboard Magazine: "Singing is excellent". 

Monday, October 28, 2013

1973: The Best of Brazil

   The post Tropicalia years offer some of the best music to ever come out of Brazil. While our 1973 retrospective offers a few familiar names from our look at  what happened in 1972, most of the albums we want to focus upon came from a new batch of veteran musicians.

   Light in the Attic recently reissued this funky gem from Rio singer-songwriter Marcos Valle. The Moog features heavily in Previsao Do Tempo which promises to spray bursts of tropical sunshine  (with veiled political commentary )  into your dreariest Autumn and Winter days.

[out of print]

   The "coolest" of Brazil's bossa nova musicians and singers, Edu Lobo expands on the form with a wide array of new ideas and arrangements. The album is impossible to find which is nothing short of criminal. Hope Light in the Attic is paying attention.

   In 1973 the " Father of Brazilian Rock" , Raul Seixas, released his debut album named after a Tarzan war cry.

   Although the album has achieved legendary status, a surprising number of songs are straight-ahead rock and rollers. It's the slower tunes that will stick with you. The late, mystical musician has achieved cult like status in his hometown city of Sao Paulo where his birthday is celebrated with parades featuring Seixas look-a-likes.

   There is no limit to the talent of Milton Nascimento who in just a few years would be performing with Wayne Shorter, Paul Simon and even Duran Duran. Lyrics are buried in the mix ( to avoid military censorship ) on this sumptuous album (translation : Miracle of the Fishes) which blends elements of jazz, rock and MPB.

   My favorite album of  the entire year of 1972 is Os Novos Baianos's Acabou Chorare. So there was no way to personally avoid a let down on the follow-up Novos Baianos F.C. Still better than 68% of the music released in 1973.


   Playful, far out, sometimes sounding deceptively simple, Tropicalia master Tom Ze's fourth album may have been mostly ignored upon its release. Since the David Byrne compilation Brazil Classics 4: The Best of  Tom Ze, this artist's work has been gaining new listeners who are instantly rewarded with a new flavor of ear candy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Goodbye Lou!

Short of words at the moment , I offer pictures and music in memory of Lou Reed.

40 Year Itch: Midnight Train Hits #1

She was so ubiquitous on the radio, some of us may still be taking the enormous vocal talent of Gladys Knight for granted. We really shouldn't. She could do it all. The smooth soul numbers were the ones that charted but dig a little deeper and you'll find some gritty funk as well.

The first Gladys Knight and the Pips album for Buddah Records, Imagination, produced three gold singles including "Midnight Train to Georgia" which hit #1 this week in 1973. The two-time Grammy winning album also contained "I've Got to Use My Imagination" (R and B#1/Pop#4) and "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" ( R and B #1/ Pop #3).

Our fave deep cut from this album is The Pips taking lead vocals on "Window Raisin' Granny".

1973 was a great year for Gladys Knight and the Pips whose previous album Neither One of Us, their last for Motown,  contained the big #2 pop hit "Neither One of Us ( Wants To Be The First to Say Goodbye)", the Top 20 hit "Daddy Could Swear I  Declare" and a funky take on Bill Withers' "Who Is She ( And What is She to You)".

Saturday, October 26, 2013

40 Year Itch : I'm Crazy Ma. Help Me

On October 26, 1973 The Who released their second rock opera, Quadrophenia, in the UK. The project began as an autobiographical tale of the rise of The Who in the early 60's but eventually Townshend settled for a broader tale of a teen-ager named Jimmy growing up in the Mod/Rocker period with four personalities--each representative of a member of The Who. 

There was the tough guy of "Helpless Dancer", representing the former sheet metal worker Roger Daltry. The romantic of "Is It Me?", John Entwistle. The lunatic of "Bell Boy" , Keith Moon and the spiritual beggar/ hypocrite of "Love Reign O'er Me', Townshend himself.

Those without the patience to try to follow the story can settle for the music--some of the band's very best.

Though there are some who never appreciated Quadrophenia--yet another early 70's double album. While praising its ambition and recording quality Lenny Kaye, writing for Rolling Stone said :

On its own terms, Quadrophenia falls short of the mark. Jimmy Livingston Seagull, adrift on a stormless sea, with only his shattered wings and sharded memories to keep him company -- so close, and yet so far"

Jon Tiven of Circus was happier:

It's about time! The Who fell into a gaping hole of Calcutta with Tommy, and I never thought that they'd emerge unscathed. Yet here they are with a hot one, plenty of rhythm guitar a la "Baby Don't You Do It" and Keith Moon is at last well-recorded on a fine piece of music. 

Entwistle plays loud, clean, and well. Daltrey sounds like himself but stronger, Pete's always Pete, and Quadrophenia's almost as good as the Who writing about being horny, but I guess even Mr. Townshend has trouble trying to be a kid again. No matter, this record is the Who's best in practically five years (but nothing will ever top The Who Sell Out), and if you don't own this one, you better just go ahead and trade in your stereo for a bellboy's suit.

Townshend's own take on Quadrophenia:

"The music is the best music that I've ever written, I think, and it's the best album that I will ever write...We never really ever made a truly great album again."

Friday, October 25, 2013

40 Year Itch: Highlights from Billboard Magazine

    For an idea of what was happening musically this week in 1973, we can flip through a copy of the October issue of Billboard Magazine. On page 2, there's a full page ad for Lou Reed's Berlin, citing a Rolling Stone critic's blurb: "Berlin will be the Sgt Pepper of the Seventies". There are also full page ads for Linda Ronstadt's Don't Cry Now, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells ("This is the album that captivated critics and is now a best seller in England") Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On , the first Queen album and two pages celebrating the Island People of Island Records.

There's a brief article about The Wailers embarking on their first US tour with Sly Stone.

There's a full page ad in praise of Todd Rundgren whose "cup runneth over" with his  "Hello It's Me" single and Something/Anything album back on the charts, and his production jobs on Grand Funk Railroad's We're An American Band and the New York Dolls debut both climbing.

There's a glowing review of The Osmonds tour:

Gone is the elaborate staging, the too young, no talent dancing girls and movie picture gimmicks. What is left is pure talent wrapped up in a tremendous show that please everyone.

On the Hot Soul singles chart, where "Midnight Train to Georgia" still rules at the top spot, a new single debuts at #96: Al Wilson's future #1 pop hit "Show and Tell".

Johnny Rodriguez has the #1 Country song : "Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico".

In a review of the new Elton John single "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", a critic writes "At times it's hard to understand Elton, but the sonic impression is still strong and haunting". Among the album reviews is one for the Wailers' Burnin': "a significant venture into the folklore of the Jamaican people"

The #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 is The Rolling Stones's "Angie". which knocked off Cher's "Half Breed" from the top spot. Some big rockers made their chart debuts this week : Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Maker" at #83 ; Steve Miller's "The Joker" at #86 and Aerosmith's "Dream On" at #88.

Goats Head Soup is still the #1 album. Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road debuts at #17. Steve Miller's The Joker debuts at #79.

Finally in the gossipy Inside Track column, it is reported that Lalo Schifrin will compose and conduct the score for The Exorcist (Director William Friedkin would reject that score)...that Elvis Presley's divorce cost him $1.2 million...that Mandrill composed the score for a new Eastern Airlines commercial...and that David Bowie will make his Midnight Special debut on November 16

Thursday, October 24, 2013

40 Year Itch: By the Wings of Dreams

On October 24, 1973 the film Jonathan Livingston Seagull made its world premiere at the Sutton Theater in New York City. Based on the best selling spiritual novella by Richard Bach, the movie managed to become a box office flop and a disappointment to critics. (Roger Ebert wrote "This has got to be the biggest pseudo-cultural, would-be metaphysical ripoff of the year" while The New Yorker's Frank Rich called it "Strictly for the birds").

That didn't seem to have any impact on the soundtrack album by Neil Diamond. His first release for Columbia Records went double platinum in the US where it peaked at #2 on the LP charts and grossed $12 million ( or nearly 12 times what the movie made). The soundtrack won Best Original Score at the Golden Globes Awards and a Grammy. 

   For Diamond, the story of a loner bird seeking his own path had a special appeal. He had also been promised 48 minutes of music would be used in the film. When that didn't happen, Diamond sued the director and stated he wouldn't have anything else to do with movies unless he had complete control.

   Even so, Diamond would soon be be seriously considering starring opposite Barbara Streisand in the remake of  A Star is Born. He eventually passed on the role which went to Kris Kristoffersen.

     That said, forty years later, I find the soundtrack album preachy and overwrought. What does that mean? It means there are people who can't listen to any of these songs with dissolving into a puddle of tears.

The mp3 is from Robert Forster (Go Betweens) whose album of covers, I Had a New York Girlfriend, has both a song called "Bird" ( apt) and a Neil Diamond cover ( Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow). It is up for just a week.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

40 Year Itch : Well I've Been Out Walking

In October of 1973, Jackson Browne released his second album, For Everyman, a collection of songs old and new, recorded with some of the West Coast's most talented musicians including David Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Elton John ( who, as "Rockaday Johnnie",  played piano on the single "Redneck Friend"). 

Among the older songs is "These Days", first recorded by Nico , then Tom Rush, then The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Gregg Allman. It was Allman's version that inspired Browne to slow down the song and let the emotion , and the extraordinary slide guitar of David Lindley, carry the tune.

   For Everyman received all kinds of well deserved critical praise. If you believe author Mark Bego 's Jackson Browne: His Life and Music a lot of the songs are more sexual in nature than you'd guess ...even after years of listening to the record. "Redneck Friend" is apparently Browne's nickname for his penis. (" Honey let me introduce you to my red neck friend") "The Times You've Come", sung with Bonnie Raitt, has a line about lying" in the ruins of our pleasure". And "Ready or Not" is the autobiographical tale of his meeting, defending and impregnating Phyllis Major, the baby who's feeling funny in the morning and having trouble getting into her jeans.

The Allman Brothers were working on their first #1 record Brothers and Sisters at the same time Gregory ( as his friends call Mr Allman) was cutting Laid Back, his first solo album with Johnny Sandlin producing. In his autobiography, My Cross to Bear, Allman writes 

"I told him that I wanted it to sound real swampy, with the image of moss hanging off the trees, alligators and fog, darkness, witches, and shit. That's what I told Johnny, and we took it to the swamp, man."

With Scott Boyer on steel guitar and Allman supplying his own harmonies, this version of "These Days" is more soulful and darker than Browne's. After all, the depths of despair Allman had experienced by the time he recorded the song (with the deaths of brother Duane and bassists Barry Oakley)  was deeper than Browne had so far experienced.( Though God know Browne would have his share) 

 Allman makes one lyrical change at the end of the tune: from 

Don't confront me with my failures/ I had not forgotten them 
Please don't confront me with my failures/.I'm aware of them.

Allman was still experiencing his pain...despite the presence of  new wife Janice Blair ( seen below on the Laid Back sleeve)

Jackson Browne claims he wrote the song when he was 16 years old. He would have been just 19 when the Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico recorded the song for her first solo album, Chelsea Girl, in early 1967. 

It is her version that appeared in the Wes Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

40 Year Itch : The Campus Report

For October 19, 1973

   According to Tulane University's John Abbott, WTUL's Top 3 most played albums this week were

1. Grover Washington Jr : Soulbox

2. Sopwith Camel: The Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon

 3. Tim Buckley Sefronia

While across Freret street, at Loyola University, Thaddeus Jones reported these three albums were the most played

1. The Meters Cabbage Alley

2. Severin Brown (st)

3. Elvin Jones Mr Jones

Finally, Wake Forest's Keith Young says at WFDD-FM the top three albums are

1. Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band Smoke Dreams

2. Robb Kunkel Abyss

3. Spencer Davis Group Gluggo

Monday, October 21, 2013

40 Year Itch: The Mysterious Alvin Stardust

It was just a brief item in the October 26th issue of Billboard Magazine:

Newly formed Magnet Records will release four singles before Christmas for distribution through CBS. The first, "My Coo Ca Choo" by mystery singer Alvin Stardust has received Powerplay plugging on Radio Luxembourg. Stardust is stated to be a familiar music business figure, but his identity is not disclosed.

Ah! The hype of those early years of Glam Rock! 

Alvin Stardust was none other than Bernie Jewry, a roadie, who in the early 60's replaced the 17 year old namesake of Shane Fenton and the Fentones when the first Fenton dies of rheumatic fever.

When the Fentons disbanded in the early 60's , Jewry vanished from the spotlight . He probably would have the spent the rest of his life playing small nite clubs had he not come up with the mock Glam Rock persona that borrows the black leather look from Elvis Presley's 1968 TV special and the surname of David Bowie's most famous persona Ziggy Stardust.

It may have started as a joke,  but Alvin Stardust recorded seven Top 10 hits from 1973 to 1984. His most famous is "My Coo Ca Choo" which hit #2 in the UK and spent seven weeks atop the charts in Australia. Stardust's follow-up single "Jealous Mind" would top the UK charts in 1974.

Still, he may best be remembered for his somewhat menacing performance in this public service announcement.


   At 71, Stardust is alive and well and touring Europe often in the company of Slade and Sweet.

   Here's a link to his website

Sunday, October 20, 2013

40 Year Itch: Really Love Your Peaches Wanna Shake Your Tree

The story of The Joker, the album that finally broke the Steve Miller Band, begins a year earlier, in 1972, when Steve Miller broke his neck in a car accident on the way to the airport, where he was heading on yet another big tour to support a moderately selling album.

 He told me: 

 I fractured a vertebrae.I'm dealing with it right now. I got like three numb little fingers right here and kind of a bad arm over here. 

 Steve spent the next year house bound in Dallas, living with his parents. He had a lot of time to himself and eventually wrote a three chord song looking back over his career. The song refers to the Brave New World track "Space Cowboy" , "Gangster of Love from Sailor and "Enter Maurice..." from Recall the Beginning...A Journey to Eden.

He called the tune "The Joker". 

 All of a sudden, finally, ...last chance: got a big huge number one hit.

The song topped the Billboard charts in early 1974. I got the feeling I wasn't the first person to ask him the meaning of "The Pompatus of Love":

"The Pompatus of Love" is just, you know. I can't tell you man. If I told you I'd ..I just can't do it.

Riding on the success of the #1 single, The Joker peaked at #2 on the charts despite mixed reviews including this one from Rolling Stone's Bud Scoppa:

The Joker, is a lazy slide back into the empty posturing that has marked the second half of Miller's career.

Here's the rest of my Steve Miller interview

Saturday, October 19, 2013

40 Year Itch : Creem Magazine's Top 10 Jazz Albums of 1973

Creem Magazine readers clearly prefer jazz with rock song structure so their Top 10 reads like a Who's Who of fusion ..minus anything with funk overtones like Headhunters or Donald Byrd. At the end of the list see Downbeat Magazine's list.


Considered by many at the time as the best guitarist in the world


Brazilian crossover artist hit the Top 20 Billboard album charts with Deodato 2


Two John Coltrane covers on this lp by Sir Chinmoy devotees


A year after Last Tango in Paris , the Argentinian sax player returns home


Jarrett's first album for Impulse! is out of print


Deodato's first US album featuring the #2 single, a funky take on the 2001 theme "Also Sprach Zarathustra"


It was an album before it was a group.


Weather Report's fourth album and the last to feature founding bassist Miroslav Vitous.


Mahavishnu drummer recorded debut with Jan Hammer and future Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin.


Loud rocking and then delicate fusion . A road map for every other jazz fusion band out there.



Tyner plays keyboards like they are African percussion instruments

Charlie Parker disciple got more experimental as the years went by