Saturday, May 31, 2014

40 Year Itch: Those We Missed from May'74

  More rocking than Preservation Act 1, this sequel is part of that period Ray Davies says he should never have been allowed to put any records out. Preservation Act 2 is an even more inconsistent rock musical, broken up by "Announcements", guest vocalists, Davies's  Marc Bolan impressions, and a dearth of actual songs. As such,  it is one of the most disappointing albums of 1974. Only because it may make you smile, check out Ray Davies's update of "Village Green Preservation Society": the virtually unlistenable "Shepherds of the Nation".

Recorded in early July of 1973 in Japan, Lotus is a three record set that was not only Santana's first official live album but also available only as a costly import. It captures the band at a time when Carlos Santana was leaving behind his Latin Rock sounds to explore the world of  jazz fusion

   But when you're playing in front of a paying audience that came to hear the classics, you better play them. So we get Santana's new band playing tunes from the early albums. The new band arguably features better musicians and a better singer in Leon Thomas. And what they do with the older songs is interesting.

The band truly excels on the tunes they recorded -- like the ones from the platinum album Caravanserai and the gold album Welcome. Still three discs is a lot of music. Overwhelming to these ears.

Interestingly, Rolling Stone's most recent record guide gives Lotus the ultimate 5 star rating while Music Hound gives the album its "woof!" rating, the lowest possible.

If by classic rock, you really mean rock influenced by classic music, then only Emerson Lake and Palmer could rival Renaissance. Turn of The Cards and its predecessor Ashes Are Burning are considered the classic albums. Upon listening you may be either be swooning over soprano Annie Haslam's vocals or realizing why punk rock HAD to happen.

The UK's most successful boogie band could never break into the US market despite heavy touring here. This follow-up to Hello! rocks harder than most and  is considered a lost classic by fans. Album closer "Slow Train" is a three-section boogie monstrosity with drummer John Coghlan having fits!

Friday, May 30, 2014

40 Year Itch: Don't Look Ethel!

When 33 year old advertising executive Robert Opel interrupted the Oscars by streaking across the stage, he started a fad that swept the least for a while.

On an airplane Ray Stevens read an article about streaking and knew he had to record something quickly.

 "There were 15 other streaking records already on the market by the time I got mine out. " he tells Billboard Magazine. "There ended up being 35-40 streaking records altogether. Stores were setting up sections for 'Streak of the Week'. I got the jump on everybody..."

Listening to the song 40 years later, you realize how gad-awful it is. But it's not like a song has to be good to hit #1.

"The Streak" took just five weeks to land atop the Hot 100 where it stayed for three weeks before "Band on the Run" finally moved ahead. Among the other streaking records released that year is this one by Rick Springfield.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

40 Year Itch: A Gift From the Groupies

                                     A Gift From the Groupies If You Know Wot I Mean

                                               (Missed it? That's why you should be following us on Facebook)

                This should make up for a week short of musical gifts. It's kind of a Best of '74 so far.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

1974's Sexiest Album Covers

America's largest record retailer, Sears,  refused to stock Buffy Saint-Marie's MCA debut Buffy because she exposes a breast on the album cover. Buffy said the photo " is a good-natured protest against gloom, as well  as support for any woman's right to take off her own shirt". In that spirit here are a few more of 1974's sexiest album covers.

So scandalous a cover that future American printings only showed the evergreen trees.

Is that hose supposed to represent something?

 Hard rockin' Slavs.

Mood music from popular -tho cheesy- Italian sax player

Chaka Khan is one of the decade's sexiest frontwomen

Robert Palmer's debut, backed by the Meters

The single, "Le Sud", sold a million copies. 

Jimmy Cliff may have been a breast man in the mid 70's

Cannonball Adderly's horoscope influenced horror

When they weren't  playing with George Harrison and Joni Mitchell, they were laying down a groove for future hip hop stars.

German prog

Hard rocking Brits

One of soul's sexiest singers of the decade

Italian singer's debut featured a memorable gatefold

Monday, May 26, 2014

40 Year Itch: Victim of Contrived Hysteria

On May 26, 1974 750 people were hurt at a David Cassidy concert at the White City Stadium. A few days later 14 year old Bernadette Whelan died of heart failure --the first fatality at a British pop concert. Cassidy had already announced his retirement that week.

"I feel burnt up inside," he told the Mail. "I'm 24, a big star ... in a position that millions dream of, but the truth is I just can't enjoy it."

  There were 35,000 fans at the White City concert. When Cassidy made his appearance there was a surge. Some were trampled . Others were crushed.The director of the British Safety Council called it a "suicide concert". Six fans were taken to the hospital.

    In an interview with the Sunday Times, Cassidy put his hands on his heart. `Oh man', he says. `My first reaction was that I was totally brought down. I feel responsible and yet [pause] I don't feel responsible'."

    At the inquest, the coroner called Bernadette a "victim of contrived hysteria" and suggested that "trendy, high platform shoes" were a contributing factor in the number of girls who fell over in the throng.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

40 Year Itch : Lou Reed in Paris

   On May 25, 1974 Lou Reed performed at the Olympia Theatre in Paris. He'd just finished recording his fourth solo album Sally Can't Dance at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios before starting this European Tour. With bleached blond hair, the skinny as a rail Lou is barely recognizable.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

40 year Itch: Beatlesque Popsters

Last year Shindig! made a fab gear list of Beatlesque recordings. Having already featured Stackridge, here are two more from 1974.

They've been called the Malaysian Badfinger. Singapore's Truck released Surprise Surprise in 1974, a re-working of the psychedelic 60's tracks brothers Bal and Jay Shotam, Peter Diaz and Jeremyh Star recorded as The October Cherries. For fans of bands that don't mind wearing the Beatles influences on their sleeves and pant legs.

Produced by Bernie Taupin, Totally Out of Control is a power pop treasure from The Hudson Brothers. They'd find some fame with their own network TV show in the Summer of 74 but here's proof they really were talented tunesmiths. Wanna hear more? Good luck because Totally Out of Control is Totally Out of Print.

Friday, May 23, 2014

40 Year Itch: The Formation of Dark Horse

On May 23, 1974 George Harrison announced the formation of his own record label, Dark Horse Records. For Harrison, who had helped nurture the recording careers of Apple artists Badfinger and Jackie Lomax, this was a way to continue helping artists he admired. The first release from Dark Horse was the Ravi Shankar single " I Am Missing You"

The logo featuring a seven headed flying horse was inspired by a trinket Harrison saw in India. His name is Uchchaisravas, the king of horses. Harrison considered himself a dark horse in comparison to fellow Beatles Lennon and McCartney. 

Some other Dark Horse releases

Thursday, May 22, 2014

40 Year Itch: Such A Sweet Harmony

The quickest way to get on Ry Cooder's nerves is to refer to him as a musicologist. On Paradise and Lunch released in May of 1974, you can hear why so many critics did: you get Gospel, Blues, Salvation Army Band jazz--even Burt Bacharach. But this isn't Ry Cooder's attempt to educate the masses about the history of old time music. He just wants to play music that's feelin' good. The first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide gave this album 5 out of 5 stars. The most recent one dropped its rating to 3 out of 5 and I'm not sure why.

As Cooder told Rolling Stone's Mikal Gilmore in 1979 "Your music should be an exchange with your audience."

Do you know who introduced me to the music of Ry Cooder? Bill Murray. Murray made sure everyone knew what he was playing in that convertible he drove in a 1978 Saturday Night Live special called Things We Did Last Summer. Next time I see him, I'll thank that big ole knucklehead.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

40 year Itch : Musical Dada

We had tremendous fun. We couldn't go wrong. We had to keep ourselves entertained and being the people we were, you couldn't get away with anything. No cliche was allowed unless it was so obvious, we wanted it like that. 
-Graham Gouldman to Mojo Magazine

In May of 1974, 10cc followed up its debut with Sheet Music, an album that left both fans and critics breathless.

Rolling Stone's Charley Walters joined the chorus of besotted critics in this review:

   Sheet Music, a worthy successor to their debut 10cc, includes a McCartneyesque poke at Wall Street, a reggae barn-burner, frequent Beach Boys Harmony, and crisp Fuzz-toned guitar throughout. All are infused with outrageously humorous lyrics which lament burned-out flash guitarists, carry on a dialogue between a jet plane and a time bomb aboard it, and invent a new dance called "The Sacro-Illiac" --not your every day Top 40 fare. But all ten cuts here would sound fine on any DJ's playlist...

Sure, they were studio musicians ( who had just backed up Neil Sedaka on two previous albums). But Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley were not clock-watchers. They were part of this new, weird breed of ADD UK artists like David Bowie, Brian Eno , Sparks and Be Bop Deluxe. And they had their own studio to engage every one of their strange whims.

Already bored with pop conventionalites, 10cc could write hits as easily as play on them. Gouldman had written "For Your Love" for The Yardbirds, "Bus Stop" for the Hollies and "No Milk Today" for Herman's Hermits. Stewart had been a member of the Mindbenders. Sheet Music is the sound of a band bursting with ideas. 

   As NME raved
     The Beach Boys of Good Vibrations; the Beatles of Penny Lane, it defies you to label it mere eclecticism, something akin to musical Dada.

  Finally, 10cc were literally one of the most inventive bands of their day. Guitarist Creme and drummer Godley invented the Gizmo- or Gizmotron-a device that could make an electric guitar sounds like the string section of an orchestra ( used to delicious effect on Sheet Music's "Old Wild Men").

Even more so than Sparks's Kimono My Way, Sheet Music offers its listener surprise after delightful surprise. One of my Top 10 albums of 1974.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hard Rockin May

Recruited from the Scorpions, 18 year old German guitarist Michael Schenker joined Brit space rockers UFO and, despite the language barrier and the constant butting of heads, made them more aggressive and more appealing to teenage boys. Phenomenon is phull of classic rockers. Essential 70's hard rawk.


   The follow up to the monster hit They Only Come Out At Night is an uneven record. Some of it seems to be clearly trying to repeat the previous albums's success (" Queen of My Dreams", "River's Risin'"). Other songs are as strange -and out of place- as Alice Cooper's West Side Story tributes on School's Out ("Easy Street", "Someone Take My Heart Away")


The Welsh rockers follow up their best album, Never Turn Your Back On a Friend, with another album of metal so heavy it sounds decades a-shread of its time. Why is this band not mentioned in the same breath as Sabbath, Zeppelin and Rush? I still think it's because of the tweety name.



Part of a string of solid hit-making hard rocking albums, this Scottish band's Rampant somehow falls short in comparison. Maybe they were tired?

Monday, May 19, 2014

40 Year Itch: Heartbeat, Increasing Heartbeat

Originally based in LA,  former child models Ron and Russell Mael found little commercial success in the US so they relocated to London. There they recruited a new band and scored a UK #2 hit with their Gilbert and Sullivan meets Glam Rock mash-up "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both of Us". One look at the now infamous Top of the Pops clip below, and you'll see the appeal isn't all musical. Vocalist Russell looked like a dreamy pop star while his brother, sporting a Hitler-esque mustache, just glared and glowered at the camera 

    David Bowie may have opened the floodgates a year or two earlier but 1974 witnessed a golden age for Art Rock pop hits . Sparks wasn't the only band making artistic statements in under songs running under four minutes. 10cc, Brian Eno, Cockney Rebel, Roxy Music and Be Bop Deluxe all provided alternatives to the album side statements by prog rock gods like Yes, ELP and Pink Floyd. Most surprisingly, these weird bands had hits.

   40 years later Kimono My House stands up. In part, because it is so weird. Ron wrote his songs on piano and expected his brother to sing whatever his right hand played. These are notes so high that would challenge a counter-tenor vocalist. And then there is Ron's complex wordplay:

Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat
You hear the thunder of stampeding rhinos, elephants and tacky tigers
 This town ain't big enough for both of us
And it ain't me who's gonna leave

Or in the second single "Amateur Hour"

Dance laugh wine dine and talk and sing 
But those cannot replace what is the real thing
It's a lot like playing the violin 
You cannot start off and be Yehudi Menuhin 

   You can hear Sparks's vast influence on New Wave bands all over Kimono My House. The first band that comes to mind is Split Enz. Maybe the Swingers. But even Siouxsie and the Banshees covered "This Town" in 1987 and Morrissey invited Sparks to perform Kimono My House in 2004 at London's Royal Festival Hall.

   Sparks is still performing and still recording. Never bowing down to commercial trends, they've tried their hand at electronic pop music, film making and musicals. But here, on Kimono My House, critical and commercial success merged. If only for one magical musical moment.

For two more cuts and some more personal thoughts about the album, check out this Vinyl Villain post.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

40 Year Itch: The Who Summer of 74 Fest

"Charlton was very disappointing , because when we went out the first thing I felt in the air was violence . It was like a feeling of something not quite right . I dunno what it was but I felt very uneasy for some time . The only way I could get myself together was by shutting out the audience and working with the group "
-Pete Townshend

On May 18, 1974 The Who played before a sold out crowd of 50,000 fans at Charlton Athletic F.C. Despite the bill, the opening acts were Humble Pie, a bleached blond Lou Reed, Bad Company ( whose debut album would come out in a few weeks), Lindisfarne, Maggie Bell  and Montrose. 

There was an ugly period in the 70's when people threw glass bottles at shows. (50 people had been hurt at a Jackson 5 concert at RFK Stadium the week before) There are reports of bottles and cans being thrown at this concert but no performers were hit. Just unlucky members of the audience. 

For more memories of Charlton '74 click this link