Monday, September 29, 2014

40 Year Itch: The Brothers

In late September of 1974, Paul McCartney's young brother, Mike McGear,  released his second solo album McGear.
   It has often been thought of as the great lost Wings album because an uncredited McCartney helped his brother write most of the songs and his band plays and sings on the album.

    The Paul McCartney-penned single, "Leave It", peaked at #36 in the UK Singles chart. It's a power pop classic. There were two other singles, "Dance the Do" and the Roxy Music cover "Sea Breezes".

McGear had changed his name a decade earlier so he wouldn't appear to be riding his famous brother's coattails. As a member of the English comedy/musical group The Scaffold, he hit #1 in 1968 with  "Lily the Pink". One listen will explain why the band never had a hit in the US. 

  On McGear, the McCartneys limit the silly punning to a few tracks ( "What Do We Really Know, "Norton") and settle in for a ride that will remind listeners of Ram-era rock and roll. Wings stretches some of the tunes beyond the 5-minute mark giving Jimmy McCullough room to show his stuff, especially on "Giving Grease a Ride".

  Full of odd moments, ( "The Man Who Found God on the Moon" could have been taken the wrong way by George Harrison), McGear is too good to be a curiosity. Billboard Magazine's critic even went so far as to tell record store owners "Play this one in the stores and it will sell itself."

   Warner Brothers released the album shortly after signing Badfinger. The talk at the time was McCartney's contract with Apple would soon be up and the label hoped to gain Paul's favor so he'd sign with Warner Brothers next.


Chris Jagger also released his second solo album in 1974 with a little help from his old brother, Mick. It's called The Adventures of Valentine Vox the Ventriloquist. Ten years ago, in an article for The Independent entitled "Why Can't Your Brother Support You?",  Chris dismissed it. " I made an album in the early Seventies but punk washed all that away and I fell musically between rock and roll and punk rock."
    He would wind up driving a taxi and acting a bit before returning to the stage to play swamp music in clubs.   

Sunday, September 28, 2014

40 Year Itch : John Lennon on the FM Dial

  On September 28, 1974 John Lennon was the surprise guest on DJ Dennis Elsas's radio show on WNEW-FM where he discussed the forthcoming Walls and Bridges album, gave the weather forecast,  played a few records, and generally "mucked about".
    This remains a favorite of Beatle historians because Lennon talked about everything from the origibnal butcher cover of Yesterday and Today to Lennon's immigration problems to the possibility of a Beatles reunion . Among the records he played were Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step" from which he borrowed a guitar line for "I Feel Fine", ELO's "Showdown" and Richard Barrett's "Some Other Guy".

Saturday, September 27, 2014

40 Year Itch : John Lennon AM Radio Jock

  On September 27, 1974 John Lennon DJ'd the morning shift at KHJ-AM in LA. He took listener requests ( "It's Only Love" from Rubber Soul, the only song I ever did I didn't like. We might play it. I'll have to suffer) , read live ads, played tracks off his new Walls and Bridges album and generally mucked about. It's a great listen to the wittiest Beatle ...having a great time!

Friday, September 26, 2014

40 Year Itch : The King in Fighting Competition

We got bored easily.
-guitarist Gary Green

   While so many prog rock bands of the 70's wanted their music to wash over you with entire sides devoted to overtures and repeated motifs, Gentle Giant packed as many tunes as possible in a single song . Give a listen to "Playing the Game: from The Power and The Glory, released in September of 1974.

    First and foremost, Gentle Giant was a rock band with a great "rock band" - like stage presence. They got the greatest pleasure playing with rhythms, going contrapuntal so often they were labeled "pretentious" by rock critics. In response, Gentle Giant affixed a huge neon sign that read PRETENTIOUS above the stage. Now THAT is rock and roll!

Derek Shulman
    Released a month after the resignation of President Nixon, The Power and the Glory is a concept album about the inherent corruption in politics

I will steer the helm of all the nation as the captain
take my rewards for all the good I'm doing now, 
and no words that I'm the knave will alter my philosophy 
for if any are heard,
 the games started again 
I'll never ever lose.

  There is virtue in playing music as algebraic as Gentle Giant's. Unfortunately, it's not of the commercial variety. The Power and the Glory charted, but only peaked at #78 in the United States. A shame because this is their best album...and offers a remarkable listening experience.

The most recent reissue of The Power and The Glory is in Hi-Resolution Stereo and 5.1 Surround sound. The Blu-Ray comes with far out visuals.

September 1974 also witnessed the release of Gryphon's Red Queen to Gryphon Three, an instrumental concept album about chess by the prog rockers who had been touring with Yes. This isn't in-your-face prog! It's mostly medieval instrumentation paired with strings.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

40 Year Itch : Nostalgic Wizzardry

In the midst of a 50's rock revival in the UK, Roy Wood (The Move, ELO)  and his band Wizzard recreate the sounds of the artists they grew up hearing: Elvis, Del Shannon, Phil Spector and Gene Vincent. 

There's an enormous amount of craft involved, but this one might have been more fun making than hearing 40 years later. Roy Wood would soon disband Wizzard and record one of his best albums, 1975's Mustard.

Monday, September 22, 2014

40 Yea Itch : Adrift on an Ocean of Loneliness

The young man fumbling his way through love and life has long been a great source of inspiration for books and movies. Who can't identify with that image at any age? On Jackson Browne's Late for the Sky, released in September of 1974, the 26-year old artist shares his own stumbles through heartaches of various stripes.And it's a winner.

If Joni Mitchell's Blue was the great consoling friend for women in the 1970's, Late for the Sky is the earnest male friend who bought the next round and hopes his tales of woe will provide you with hard-earned wisdom  

   This is a "grower". Like the best albums, Late for the Sky gets better with repeated listens. The music gets better and so do the lyrics. While the title cut and "Fountain of Sorrow" ( supposedly about a short-lived love affair with Joni Mitchell) are the best known tracks, "Farther On" might him home the hardest.

In my early years I hid my tears, and passed my days alone 
Adrift on an ocean of loneliness my dreams like nets were thrown 
To catch the love that I'd heard of in books and films and songs 
Now there's a world of illusion and fantasy in the place where the real world belongs 
Still I look for the beauty in songs 
To fill my head and lead me on 
Though my dreams have come up torn and empty 
As many times as love has come and gone

  In your teens and twenties, every relationship has an epic quality. THIS is the stuff of great literature, plays and films.With enough experience, you realize the ideals that you've established are unrealistic and that with time, she won't be who you think she is...and you won't be who she thinks you are. The relationship enters Phase 2 where the drop out rate is greatest.

Life is full of heartache and Jackson Browne would know more than his fair share. But on this singular album, he eloquently,  and with perfect enunciation, provides comfort for millions because he's been there too.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

40 Year Itch : Nightmares

  Boston's greatest bar band gets back to the basics on Nightmares..and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle, released in September of 1974. Riding the #12 hit , "Must Have Got Lost", Nightmares reached the Top 30. The album is packed with punchy tunes as well as a breathless Magic Dick spotlight on "Stoop Down  #39". And that album cover is one of the best of the entire decade! 

Friday, September 19, 2014

40 Year Itch : One Minute Born, One Minute Doomed

“Rock’n’roll people tend to live on the edge. That’s what this album is all about. Rock’n’roll has always been and still is one of the few honest things left in this world. That’s what this album is about … I hope parents will still get scared when they find their daughter listening to this music.” - Elliott Murphy in the liner notes to 1969 Velvet Underground Live with Lou Reed 

   It may have been released by Mercury Records to cash in on Lou Reed's success, but damn the motivations! We got ourselves a live Velvet Underground album, recorded during a 70 date tour in support of "the quiet album". The album is a recording taken from two shows. The rougher sounding tracks were recorded by a fan at a Dallas show. The better sounding tracks were recorded in-house at The Matrix in San Francisco. You can't hear the audience in either case so there's no telling how many people attended these shows. Also, the album jumps back in forth between shows so you never get the sonic feeling you're attending one concert. 

gatefold with liner notes by Elliott Murphy

   But there are some amazing moments caught on tape. "What Goes On" runs nearly twice as long as the studio version, with Lou Reed battering his rhythm guitar until every muscle ached. That's followed by a lovely version of "Sweet Jane", the one the Cowboy Junkies covered. Not a surprise because , for a lot of fans, this was the only VU album they could find in stores. The other albums went out of print.

One more point about the Dallas show before I leave room for someone who was actually there. It begins with Lou Reed making small talk about the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game. The Cowboys won 49-14. "It was ridiculous. You should give our people just a little chance." he says before blasting into "I'm Waiting for My Man" ( as he introduced it)

I just never thought Lou watched football for some reason.

A member of the Rate Your Music community who goes by the name wrayb  says he was at the Dalla performance:

The crowd was small but respectably large on Thursday, big on Friday, the place was jammed on Saturday. Then surprisingly Sunday night I think there were only a handful there who were not directly connected to the staff of the club.

   The club was located in a small strip mall. The performance space seemed to be made of what once were two store fronts, still divided in half by the two by four wall studs. I remember the audience being only a few people who stayed over by the door and a small but noisy group of four to six people who chose to be in the back section, behind the "wall." I and one or two other die hard fans were in the front section. The floor was carpeted, no tables or chairs, with sofa cushions and large odd shaped pillows scattered about. I gathered some up into a little sofa bed of my own and lay back. One amazed 18 year old kid watching a virtually private performance. It seemed that that the older group (twenties as opposed to teens) in the back section were connected to the club. Perhaps the owner and his buddies, male and female.

    Lou's comments about the football game were meaningless to me but I guess he had had little to do that Sunday afternoon except watch tv at the hotel. When Lou commented on the next day being a school day and laid out the option I was puzzled: which would result in the most music? My voice finally joined the responses asking for one long one.

OK, that's my little story. The music is so imprinted on my DNA I have a hard time summarizing it or describing it. From that night I vividly remember small details such as the interplay between Lou and other members of the group. Lou's directing Moe on the pace of the beat. His seeming to be overly enamoured of Doug Yule's contribution to the performance. ( *during band introductions he calls Yule his brother).

    I think Yule and Morrison shared bass duties, changing at least once when Yule playing some slide guitar. Yule played organ when needed. There were times when it was three roaring guitars and Tucker's pounding on the drums.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

40 Year Itch : The Godfather in Africa

James Brown performing as part of Zaire 74, a Don King produced all star concert that was supposed to part of the same weekend Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman. Foreman injured himself training so the fight was delayed by six weeks. Other performers at Zaire 74 include BB King, BVill Withers, The Spinners and the Fania All Stars,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

40 Year Itch : The Dreamer, the Unwoken Fool

    Eldorado, released in September of 1974, is my favorite Electric Light Orchestra album. It's a concept album, made up of mostly short, catchy, progressive pop tunes in the vein of the 1973 ELO hit "Showdown". Jeff Lynne made the most of his opportunity to work with a full orchestra. There are moments of sheer beauty in the stringed interludes of the single "Can't Get It Out Of My Head" and "Boy Blue", the latter sounding like the blueprint of every good to great World Party song.

   The concept is that we're following a Walter Mitty hero as he imagines himself in different scenarios. ( As a member of Robin Hood's band of Merry Men in "Poor Boy"; as a triumphant soldier during The Crusades in "Boy Blue"; as a rock star talking to his therapist in "Illusions in G Major"). Despite the Wizard of Oz still used on the cover, he does not imagine himself as Dorothy Gale. That's an entirely different album.

The influence of The Beatles is prevalent, especially in the "Across the Universe" -inspired melody of "Mister Kingdom". Lynne had met the Beatles when they were making the White Album and , years later, admitted "To be in the same room as the four of them caused me not to sleep for, like, three days."  

Rolling Stone critic Ken Barnes summed up Eldorado in this way :

As a concept album Eldorado is lyrically effective and thankfully not overbearing. The symphonic aspects sometimes get out of hand, but generally work well enough. And as for the rest, Eldorado is the most successful Electric Light Orchestra album to date.

This would be hard one to top.

Monday, September 15, 2014

40 Year Itch : Funkafied In New Orleans

   In 1974, The Meters were on a serious roll. Their own album, Rejuvination, remains an all time favorite soundtrack for New Orleans parties. But the funky foursome of Neville, Porter, Nocentelli and Modeliste were also getting plenty of work as studio musicians .

They played on two albums released in September of 1974:  Robert Palmer's debut album, Sneaking Sally Through the Alley, and Labelle's Nightbirds, both recorded, at least in part, at the legendary Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans.

With Lowell George producing and contributing slide guitar, Sneaking Sally begins with a three song tour de force: a cover of Little Feat's Sailin' Shoes, which out funks the original; the syncopated "Hey Julia" ; and the Allen Toussaint-written title cut. Full of chutzpah and soul,  Robert Palmer, formerly of little-known Vinegar Joe, made a dazzling statement.

The rest of the album can't hold up to that triple play, but you'd be hard pressed to find a 1974 debut album that begins more strongly. For more information check out Dan's post at Home of the Groove


The biggest hit The Meters ever played on was LaBelle's #1 smash "Lady Marmalade", from their 1974 album Nightbirds, produced by Allen Toussaint. The Bob Crewe-Kenny Nolan penned tune has been covered by others but never better than by singers Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash.

Everyone knows the song with the french chorus "Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" But, 40 years later, what makes Nightbirds worth hearing? It's the combination of The Meters's funky instrumentation, the Toussaint arrangements, and the sassy singers who are giving everything they've got. (They probably had to . This was their fourth album and they hadn't scored a hit despite going Glam a year earlier). Other favorite cuts are the second single "Don't Bring Me Down", "Somebody Somewhere" and Toussaint's "All Girl Band" ( which is not at all about LaBelle).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

40 Year Itch : Least Likely to Succeed


1974 was a strange year for Fleetwood Mac. For a spell, there was a fake Fleetwood Mac touring America, the creation of the band's manager Clifford Davies, who told Rolling Stone it was he , and not Mick Fleetwood or John McVie, who owned the name "Fleetwood Mac".

  The lawsuits that followed put the real Fleetwood Mac out of commission for most of the year. Eventually, in September, they released Heroes Are Hard to Find, the first album recorded entirely in America and the  last  to feature Bob Welch. Both Welch and Christine McVie saved Fleetwood Mac through the dry years ( from Future Games to Heroes) and their efforts are the bright spots on this album as well. Welch's catchy  "Angel" will rumble its way into your head. Christine's "Prove Your Love" sounds like it could have been released this year by some indie darling.

Overall, this isn't even among the first ten Fleetwood Mac albums to buy. Sales were disappointing. Could anyone have guessed that the follow-up, with the addition of two California singer-soingwriters, would make Fleetwood Mac one of the biggest bands in the world?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

40 Year Itch : Doot Doot Doot Doot ...



Celebrity hair dresser Monti Rock III,  already an openly gay for laughs fixture of The Tonight Show and Merv Griffin, took on the persona of Disco Tex for this Bob Crewe-written disco anthem that sold seven million copies, netting Rock, he insists, $127. (Crewe wrote another huge 1974 hit with Kenny Nolan, "Lady Marmalade"--more on that later).Rock says the rest of the money paid his room service tabs. An ordained minister and sober, Rock is still waiting for the opportunity to do a one man show on Broadway.

Friday, September 12, 2014

40 Year Itch : On the Wet Side of the Bed

   Flo and Eddie may have moved on to try their comedy routines on their own albums, but Frank Zappa and the Mothers could still provide some freaky laughs, especially live. Roxy and Elsewhere , released September 10, 1974, captures the bandleader conducting some his best stand-up routines and perhaps the best band he ever assembled. There are work-outs here that are so tight and smoking that they must have stunned the audiences present at shows recorded at The Roxy, Chicago and Edinboro State College in Pennsylvania.

  Also present is Zappa's trust in his audience. Live albums are typically greatest hits sets, but Roxy is a double album made up of new material and reworkings of two older songs ( More Trouble Every Day" (from Freak Out's "Trouble Every Day") and "Son of Orange County", a re-working of "The Orange County Lumber Truck" from Weasels Ripped My Flesh

    Listeners may be surprised by the overall funky feel of the album, the breathless tightness of the band ( "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" could have made members of both King Crimson and Gentle Giant cower) and the sweetness of "Village of the Sun", a completely unironic ode to Palmdale, California where Zappa attended high school.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

40 Year Itch : We Talk Real Funny Down Here

I met Randy Newman on a press tour for the Disney film, The Princess and The Frog,  and told him my old college radio station , WTUL-FM ( Tulane University, New Orleans) , probably still plays at least one cut off of Good Old Boys every 24 hours. Newman said that's a good thing, especially if it helps get his son admitted into the school.

   Newman spent some of his childhood in New Orleans and sings with a little bit of a languid Southern drawl. For his follow-up to the critically praised Sail Away, Newman was interested in recording a concept album , or at least a song cycle, to be called Johnny Cutler's Birthday

Cutler is the character who sings one of Newman's most outrageous songs, "Rednecks",  after seeing Georgia's segregationist governor Lester Maddox ridiculed by "a smart-ass New York Jew". (It was actually the very WASP-y Dick Cavett who Newman saw make fun of Maddox on his show in 1972.)
Cutler sits down with a piece of paper and tries to explain his kind:

We talk real funny down here 
We drink too much and we laugh too loud 
We're too dumb to make it in no Northern town 
And we're keepin' the ni**ers down
 We got no-necked oilmen from Texas 
And good ol' boys from Tennessee
 And college men from LSU 
Went in dumb - come out dumb too

(Our favorite line at Tulane, by the way) Then the chorus:

We're rednecks, rednecks
And we don't know our ass from a hole in the ground
We're rednecks, we're rednecks
 And we're keeping the ni**ers down

The 1973 demos for Johnny Cutler's Birthday came out in 2002 as bonus tracks to Good Old Boys. You can hear Newman discussing the  story line and offering sound effects suggestions.

At WTUL, of course,we never played "Rednecks". I'm sure you've figured out why. But the album also has so many beautiful tunes that it's an album a lot of DJs plucked from the shelves.  "Louisiana 1927" was the one we probably played the most, with its chorus "Louisiana, Louisiana, they're trying to wash us away", especially bound  to be play on rainy days. "Marie" is a love song that still bring me to tears and even Randy Newman has trouble explaining "Back On My Feet Again". Is it really about a rich white man trying to pass as a black man to test his girl's fidelity?

Newman tired of the Johnny Cutler song cycle before it was time to go back into the studio. It would have been even more shocking than Good Old Boys, with the inclusion of "Good Morning", in which Cutler's wife literally tells him to "fuck off" repeatedly. Good Old Boys kept 5 or 6 of the Cutler tunes and managed to maintain its Southern theme, in part ,  by performing the Huey Long anthem "Every Man a King" and following it up with "Kingfish", a comical tune about Long. "Mr President (Have Pity on the Working Man)" is yet another commentary on the Nixon White House.

Maybe you're cheatin' Maybe you're lyin'
Maybe you have lost your mind 
Maybe you're only thinking 'bout yourself 
 Too late to run. Too late to cry now 
The time has come for us to say good-bye now 
Mr. President have pity on the working man

    In the Village Voice critics poll of the best albums of 1974, Good Old Boys finished #3 behind Pretzel Logic and Court and Spark.Those of us who lived in the South, or are from Southern families, love the South despite all its faults. Randy Newman does too, I think. So I've always embraced Good Old Boys . I think y'all should too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

40 Year Itch : Crime of the Century

After 1971's wretched Indelibly Stamped, the entire band quit. That's how bad things had become for Supertramp's remaining members, Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies. Worse, their benefactor , Dutch millionaire Stanley Miesegaes, pulled up stakes. He'd already lost $90,000 on Supertramp. He didn't want to lose another dime. Hodgson and Davies had one last shot to save their A and M contract. And they did so with a masterpiece called Crime of the Century.

   First, they had to recruit new members Bob Benberg from the pub rocking band Bees Make Honey and John Helliwell and Dougie Thomson from the Alan Brown Set. At a four month writing and rehearsal retreat on a 17th Century farm , Supertramp found their sound --a combination of progressive rock's imaginative scale and Hodgson's own pop sensibilities.

As Hodgson told Mojo Magazine:

This was the first time something clicked. We knew we had a band , not just a hotch-potch of styles and the music was working.

  The music clicked with UK and Canadian audiences straight away. The catchy single "Dreamer" hit #13 on the UK charts and helped propel Crime of the Century to #4 on the UK charts. Deep cuts like "Hide In Your Shell", "Bloody Well Right"  and "If Everyone Was Listening" will convince you this is the Supertramp album to add to your collection.

American audiences made Crime of the Century more of a cult hit. A and M has to give away a lot of the band's concert tickets. Still the album peaked in the US at #38.  

1979's smash , Breakfast in America,  was a completely different story of course. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

40 Year Itch : Wives In Law

   Inspired by Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Millie Jackson's Caught Up , released in September of 1974, is a brilliant, soulful concept album about a love triangle between a married man, his wife, and his mistress. 

 Side One begins with an 11-minute three song suite, featuring her two-time Grammy nominated single, Luther Ingram's  "(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right ". That classic, sung from the point of view of a mistress who can't let her married man go, segues into "The Rap", a six minute spoke-word "rap" in which she explains herself:

But the sweetest thing about the whole situation is the fact that when you go to the laundromat
you don't have to wash nobody's funky drawers but you're own. And I like it like that. 
I want to keep my situation just the way it is, and to make sure it stays just like that,
 when my man come over two or three times a week to give me my piece 
I set the clock so he can get up and go home on time. Don't want him to be late.
Only you can hear in her voice that she never wants the man to leave her.

   On Side Two, with tunes like "It's All Over But the Shouting" and Bobby Womack's "I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love To You",  Millie sings from the point of the view of the wronged wife. The album ends with Bobby Goldsboro's "Summer (The First Time)", which seems to provide the mistress's back story:

You were 31. I was 17. 
I knew nothing about love. You knew everything

Recorded in Miami and at Muscle Shoals Sound with the Swampers, Caught Up is one of the definitive soul albums of the mid-70's. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

1001 Album Covers : Whipped Cream and Other Delights


   In the 1960's Seattle's doe-eyed Dolores Erickson became one of the nation's top fashion models. But her most famous photo shoot involved little in the way of fashion. In a Los Angeles garage, Dolores smothered herself in shaving cream to pose for one of the most famous and sexiest album covers of all time

"It didn't seem risque to me," Dolores told me decades later in a cafe."You know, a low decolletage has always been in."

  The album cover promised "whipped cream and other delights". For decades men have fantasized about those "other delights" with the tantalizing woman smothered in form fitting foam.

"I had a bikini underneath and at one point it did slip all the way down but I wasn't aware of it."

   Dolores is now an artist living in Kelso Washington. But she'll never shake that sultry image that helped Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass sell eleven million albums.

  "I've done so many wonderful things", she laughs. "I just think it's ironic that this happens to be my ghost."

    For dessert I had the waiter bring out a small cup of whipped cream for Dolores.

  "Mmmm, " she said after a spoonful."It's great.Corny but great".

                                                Photo from Seattle Times

Friday, September 5, 2014

40 Year Itch : Astral-Planing, Floating Free

   If you're only going to buy one Hawkwind album your entire life, it should be Hall of the Mountain Grill, released in September of 1974. It's true that two earlier albums, Space Ritual and Doremi Fasol Latdio,  have achieved more legendary status but they are monochromatic silver-machine sludge fests compared to this album.

   Being a psychedelic space ranger is tough work. Band members would come and go. But in 1974, Hawkwind had something you couldn't find on earlier records: time to get things right.

    Drummer Simon King said "The Doremi album lacked production. I wasn't really happy with the Space Ritual either. But the new one – I'm quite pleased with it. I like side one because I think it's something we haven't done before. Yeah – I'm pleased with half of the new album." 

Side one features both "The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke)","D-Rider" and, on its second cut,"Wind of Change" a rumbling so loud and low you'll believe Hawkwind invented sensurround sound ( coming two month's before the film Earthquake).

  This would be the last album to feature bassist Lemmy Kilmeister , who was booted from the band in 1975, during one of Hawkwind's ill-fated North American tours.  He went on to form Motorhead.

A 1001Songs Top 25 Album of 1974

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

40 Year Itch: Life is a Rock But the Radio Rolled Me

In September of 1974, Reunion, a band made of studio musicians and fronted by Ohio Express singer Joey Levine, released the Top 10 name-checking hit "Life is a Rock ( But the Radio Rolled Me)". Someone went through all the trouble of transcribing the song below.

   Ten years later the Fleshtones did something similar at the end of their single " American Beat '84", ( starting at 2:24) I spent several days trying to convince Peter Zaremba he gave a nod to The Osmonds ( at 2:58). He disagreed and he should know. He was the band's singer ...and I was already losing some of the high end of my hearing thanks to far too many nights at the cubs.30 years later, I'm pretty sure it was the Isleys, he was celebrating.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

40 Year Itch : The Man of Joy

   With The Ramblin' Man, released in September of 1974,  Waylon Jennings continues his roll of excellent outlaw country albums that started with Good Hearted Woman in 1972, and peaked with the Billy Joe Shaver song collection,  Honky Tonk Heroes. The Ramblin' Man had three big singles : "I'm a Ramblin' Man" , "Amanda" and "Rainy Day Woman". There was also a a very Waylonesque cover of the Allman Brothers's "Midnight Rider".

Monday, September 1, 2014

40 Year Itch : Want a Big Hit Record

  On their final album, the Raspberries turned up the amps and made that great rock album synthesizing the best rock of the 60's with that of the 70's. You can hear the Beach Boys harmonies "Cruisin' Music"), the power chords of The Who ("Play On")  and , on "All Through the Night", even a nod to Rod the Mod.

The album kicks off with perhaps the greatest Raspberries tune ever recorded : the epic "Overnight Sensation ( Hit Record)", which peaked at #18 on the singles chart but topped critic Dave Marsh's list of the best songs of '74. Here, finally, is a band honest enough to admit they just want a hit record ( yeh!).

Well the program director don't pull it 
Then it's bound to get back the bullet 
So bring the group down to the station 
You're gonna be an overnight sensation 

   These weren't the same Raspberries that recorded Beatlesque tunes on their earlier album. Bassist/Vocalist Scott McCarl and drummer Michael McBride replaces the departed Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley. Critic Robert Christgau said McCarl provided Eric Carmen with a John to his Paul, while E Street drummer Max Weinberg has said he based her early drumming style on McBride's pounding on Starting Over.

   Starting Over was actually the end for the Raspberries. Eric Carmen would soon be all by himself. By 1975, his single "All By Myself" was on its way to #1 on the Cashbox 100. The Village Voice's year end  Pazz and Jop critics poll for 1974 ranked Starting Over at #13, ahead of Ry Cooder's Paradise and Lunch, the Average White Band's AWB and Bob Dylan's Planet Waves. The Raspberries's legend continues to grow.