Saturday, February 28, 2015

40 Year Itch: You Have Been My Lighthouse

Photo by Joel Sternfeld

   From Ghosts, among the very finest albums from Strawbs comes the single "Grace Darling". Having a children's choir perform on a rock song had been done ( The Rolling Stones's "You Can't Always Get What You Want") and it would be done again ( Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall"). But this is a special track from "the British Byrds".
    It was recorded in the chapel of the Charterhouse School, where, a decade earlier, the members of Genesis were students. The school's organist actually played on the tune because the band's keyboardist, John Hawken, couldn't adapt to the delay between pressing the keyboards and hearing the sounds.
   There really was a Grace Darling. She was a lighthouse keeper's daughter who helped rescue the survivors of a shipwrecked paddlesteamer. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

40 Year Itch : If He Brings You Happiness

    The ultimate country crossover, Freddy Fender's bi-lingual "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" hit #1 in the Country charts in March of 1975 and #1 on the US Hot 100 two months later. That achievement would be duplicated six times in 1975 ( with "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" by B.J. Thomas; "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell; "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and the two-sided hit "I'm Sorry"/"Calypso" by John Denver; as well as "Convoy" by C.W. McCall).

  The lyrics are so simple. The sentiment is so real. An absolutely timeless classic that apparently did no business in the UK.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

40 Year Itch : Deeper and Down

The Frantic Four's first UK #1 hit is as straight ahead a rocker as you're likely to ever hear...and catchy as hell.  When a song is this simple it all comes down to the feel. And something magical happened on this session. Is there an air drummer out there that doesn't come crashing in with John Coghlan? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

40 Year Itch : I Sure Would Like a Ride!

Another psychedelic funk gem from the 1975 Norman Whitfield produced Cosmic Truth has The Undisputed Truth singing about alien life. Couldn't tell you which of the four session drummers used on this album is playing here but he's something else. Don't be surprised if we visit this album again!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

40 Year Itch : Kashmir

Jack Nicholson follows a guide in The Passenger, 1975

   The stand-out track from Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, released on this date in 1975,  "Kashmir" was inspired not by a visit to the South Asian region but by a drive Robert Plant took through North Africa.

"The whole inspiration came from the fact that the road went on and on and on. It was a single-track road which neatly cut through the desert. Two miles to the East and West were ridges of sandrock. It basically looked like you were driving down a channel, this dilapidated road, and there was seemingly no end to it. 'Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams...' It's one of my favourites...that, 'All My Love' and 'In the Light' and two or three others really were the finest moments. But 'Kashmir' in particular. It was so positive, lyrically."
Robert Plant to Cameron Crowe, 1975.

Musically, "Kashmir" is one of Led Zeppelin's most immediately identifiable tunes, a result of Jimmy page's interest in modal tunings and Eastern music. It is also one of the band's favorite tunes.

In a 1975 interview between William Burroughs and Jimmy Page, set up by Crawdaddy, the two talked more about the origins of "Kashmir"

WILLIAM BURROUGHS: I really, really enjoyed the concert. I think it has quite a lot, really, in common with Moroccan trance music.

 JIMMY PAGE: Yes, yes.

BURROUGHS: I wondered if you consciously were using any of that….

 PAGE: Well, yes, there is a little on that perticular track, “Kashmir”–a lead bass on that–even though none of us have been to Kashmir. It’s just that we’ve all been very involved in that sort of music. I’m very involved in ethnic music from all over the world. 

BURROUGHS:: Have you been to Morocco?

 PAGE: No. I haven’t, and it’s a very sad admission to make. I’ve only been to, you know, India and Bangkok and places like that through the Southeast.

 BURROUGHS: Well, I’ve never been east of Athens.

 PAGE: Because during the period when everybody was going through trips over to, you know, Morocco, going down, way down, making their own journeys too Istanbul, I was at art college during that period and then I eventually went straight into music. So I really missed out on all that sort of traveling. But I know musicians that have gone there and actually sat in with the Arabs and played with them.

 BURROUGHS: Yeah, well they think of music entirely in magical terms. 

PAGE: Yes.

 BURROUGHS: And their music is definitely used for magical purposes. For example, the Gnaoua music is to drive out evil spirits and Joujouka music is invoking the God Pan. Musicians there are all magicians, quite consciously

  According to Mojo Magazine, within two weeks of its release, Physical Graffiti topped the US album charts, selling at 500 copies an hour. All of the band's previous albums also sold well enough so that Led Zeppelin became the first ad ever to have six albums in the Top 200.

Need another example of long term resonance of "Kashmir"? See below.

Monday, February 23, 2015

40 Year Itch: Oh These Sleepless Nights

“I suppose working with Gram (Parsons) was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. There was just something very magical about the experience. It was so much fun to just get up there, sing with him, and not worry about carrying a show myself. Everyone paid all this attention to me and told me how good I was and all that. It was really like being some kind of fairytale princess. Somehow that affected me more than all this that’s happening now. Maybe I’m on time delay.”
Emmylou Harris to Cameron Crowe in 1975

     On her first solo album since the death of country-rock legend Gram Parsons, his devastated singing partner,  Emmylou Harris, carried on in the cosmic country vein. Pieces of the Sky, released in February of 1975,  is an eclectic collection of songs. There's a Beatles cover ("For No One") some recent country hits covered ("Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down,"Coat of Many Colors") and an original, "Boulder to Birmingham", dedicated to Parsons. It was Gram who introduced Harris to the Louvin Brothers and to the Everly Brothers' songwriting team, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. She performs their "Sleepless Nights", a song she and Parson had recorded during the Grievous Angel sessions. You can hear the heartbreak in the simple lines.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

UK Top 10 Feb 22 1975

   Steve Harley, joined by an almost entirely new set of backing musicians making up Cockney Rebel, bounded up the UK charts with this acoustic pop gem that can claim one of the finest Spanish guitar solos ever recorded.

1. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel : Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)
2. Pilot : January

3. The Carpenters : Please Mr Postman
4. Mac and Katie Kissoon : Sugar Candy Kisses

5. Mud : The Secrets That You Keep
6. Glitter Band : Goodbye My Love

7. Shirley and Company : Shame Shame Shame
8. Helen Reddy : Angie Baby
9. Wigan's Chosen Few: Footsee

10. Johnny Wakelin and the Kinshasa Band : Black Superman ( Muhammed Ali)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

40 Year Itch : Better Sex is Fun

   Bookended by two classic singles, "Young Americans" and "Fame", David Bowie's Young Americans has been described as "the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey". The critic is David Bowie, who recorded his Philly Soul album quickly and mostly live in the studio. For that reason, some listeners complain the mix is muddy and that too many songs sound like extended jams.

  My problem is, in two words, David Sanborn. Yes, his saxophone playing--in that screeching and honking Saturday Night Live style is instrumental ( pun) to the sound of the title track but, once you hear that sax in all the other songs ( with the exception of the New York tracks "Fame" and the less than inspired"Across the Universe"), you can't NOT hear it. It's like a gnat you keep wishing you could swat away.

Friday, February 20, 2015

40 Year Itch: Que Beleza

By 1975, Brazilian R and B star Tim Maia had become involved in a religious group called Cultura Racional that held the belief that humans are really dirty aliens who will be rescued by spaceships as long as they find balance in nature by reading a book called Universo Em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment).  He quit drugs and made beautiful music with instructional lyrics. His 1975 album Racional Vol 1 has spoken word interludes that bang you over the head with his cult's messages:   

     “Listen you all we’re gonna tell you the most important thing that you ever heard in your life, you never heard that before. We came from a super world, world of rational energy and we live in the empty world, world of animal’s energy. Read the book, the only book, the book of good, universe in disenchantment and you’re going to know the truth.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

40 Year Itch : Cut Rate Trust

    By 1973, despite or possibly due to, having made it big, I was miserable. Married and the father of two small children, I was never home, drunk a good deal of the time, and apparently felt it necessary to sleep with every waitress in North America and the British Isles. But guess what? All these beans have also been split into song. 
-Rufus Wainwright

From Loudon Wainwright III's fourth album, the half live/ half studio Unrequited, released in February of 1975, "Kick in the Head" is an example of what the singer-songwriter has always done best: breaking your heart while making you laugh. As in the hit 1975 move Shampoo, Wainwright explores the politics of sex.

Well I hear that she told you she'd been shacking up with your best friend
And the kick in the head is she said that she wants to again
Well they was kissin and huggin and doin it right in your bed
Oh this happened to you another foot has the shoe now instead

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

40 Year Itch : Interplanetary Extraordinary Love

Picnic at Hanging Rock, 1975

   The same month John Lennon released the single "Stand By Me", the song Ben E. King had written and scored a #1 hit with 14 year earlier, the soul singer could be heard on both pop and soul stations singing about a one of a kind "interplanetary, extraordinary" love in "Supernatural Thing" which topped the R and B charts in 1975. Co-written by Gwen "Ain't Nothing Going on But the Rent" Guthrie. Later covered by Siouxsie and the Banshees, minus the groove.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

40 Year Itch : You're the One to Blame

Photo by Jurgen Vollmer, Hamburg GER

    In February of 1975, John Lennon released Rock'n'Roll, one part tribute to the music he loved as a teen; one part court settlement for borrowing a few lines from a Chuck Berry song for the Abbey Road track "Come Together".  Lennon especially rocks out on the Fats Domino hit "Ain't That A Shame", clearly inspiring Cheap Trick's version on Live at Budokan.

"Ain't That A Shame" was the first rock 'n' roll song I ever learned. My mother taught it to me on the banjo before I learned the guitar. Nobody else knows these reasons except me.
-John Lennon

   One day, we were listening to John Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album, and one of the songs on there is Ain’t That A Shame. ‘Hey, if it’s good enough for John Lennon…’
-Rick Nielsen, Cheap Trick

By the way, those blurry figures in the photo above are Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stu Sutcliffe, from a photo shot back in the Hamburg days.

Monday, February 16, 2015

40 Year Itch : A Pack of Lies

  February 1975 witnessed the release of The Stepford Wives, a sci fi movie that offered a regressive take on the revolutionary changes happening in the relationships between married men and their liberated wives. As Joanna, Katharine Ross suspects something's going on with the submissive, zombie-like wives in her Connecticut suburb.
    Though never released as a single, The Ducks's "Something's Going On" is one of the pub rock band's best tunes. Members of the Ducks would join The Motors and The Rumour. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

40 Year Itch: US Top 10 for Feb 15, 1975

Natalia LL, Consumer Art, 1975

   Linda Ronstadt celebrated her first #1 hit this week in 1975 while the Ozark Mountain Daredevils'  "Jackie Blue" began its climb to #3. By the way, nothing else the original OMDs did sounded anything like their hit.

1 Linda Ronstadt : You're No Good

2 The Average White Band : Pick Up the Pieces
3. The Eagles : Best of My Love

4. Grand Funk : Some Kind of Wonderful
5. The Doobie Brothers : Black Water

6.  The Ohio Players : Fire
7.  America : Lonely People

8. Stevie Wonder : Boogie On Reggae Woman
9. Frankie Valli : My Eyes Adored You

10.John Lennon : #9 Dream

Saturday, February 14, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Game of a Magician

Monica Vitti and Claudia Cardinale in 1975's 'Qui Comincia L'Avventura'

   Long before saddling us with Celine Dion, Quebec offered us the gently progressive folk sounds of Harmonium. Warm, acoustic, with traces of Beatlesque melodies, 1975's Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison may be one of your favorite discoveries this year. Je vous en prie.

Friday, February 13, 2015

40 Year Itch: Rise of Jamaica's Greatest Deejay

Jerry Hall in Jamaica, 1975. Norman Parkinson for Vogue.

     Beginning in February of 1975, the versatile "I Roy" Roy Reid charted 13 straight singles in the Jamaican Hit Parade. Predating American rappers by years, Jamaican deejays were talk over artists, shouting, rhyming, and entertaining dance halls over what were  mostly well known instrumental tracks, and I Roy was considered among the very best. Among his string of 1975 hits was a highly sexual tune called "Welding". No, the young gal isn't knocking on his door to get I Roy to join metals together. Consider the shape of the welding torch and you'll be on the right track.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

40 Year Itch : Hey Hey Hideho!

   Move over Milli Vanilli! London Glam rockers Kenny scored a UK#3 hit by badly miming "their" version of a Bay City Rollers b-side celebrating the butt bumping dance craze. Session musicians played the instruments and the actual singer, Barry Palmer, would later provide lead vocals for both Triumvirat and Mike Oldfield. Despite the deception, a fun sing along song that could only have come from the mid-70's.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

40 Year Itch : Streets of Starvation

   James Brown gets real funky and real "real" on the title cut from Reality, released in early 1975. Listen to the Godfather offer up some thoughts about salvation, inflation, depression and recession while David Sanborn trades alto sax lines with tenor saxman Joe Farrell.

G. Marshall Wilson photo of James Brown in 1975

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

40 Year Itch : This is my Carnival

Photo by Sidney Smith


 In New Orleans to record the Wings album Venus and Mars, Paul and Linda McCartney masked as a pair of clowns and joined the Mardi Gras crowds on Charles Street and Canal. 20 year old Sidney Smith was asked to be the personal photographer of the McCartneys and documented their stay in New Orleans. Wings recorded at Sea-Saint Studios, co-owned by famed producer Marshall Sehorn and songwriter Allen Toussaint.

   The album doesn't have much of a New Orleans feel, but the band also recorded a Professor Longhair inspired number called "My Carnival", which was released as a B Side to "Spies Like Us" in 1985, and is now one of the bonus cuts on the remastered Venus and Mars.

The McCartneys with Ernie K-Doe

Monday, February 9, 2015

40 Year Itch : Bearing Gifts to Aid Amnesia

Imelda Marcos and bodyguards in 1975

   Another UK Top 20 hit for Sparks, "Something For The Girl With Everything" races through its 2 minute 18 second running time at break-neck speed. To conquer America, the band released "Something" as a double A side with "Achoo". It failed to make much of an impact but a tour of the US and an appearance on a variety of TV shows (even introduced, February 8th,  on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert below by Keith Moon and Ringo Starr) helped propel Propaganda to #63 on the US charts, their highest charting album to date.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

40 Year Itch: Top 10 Albums Feb 8, 1975

   This week in 1975, the Scottish funksters with the self-deprecating name hit the Top 5 of the Billboard album chart with AWB, thanks to "Pick Up the Pieces", which would hit #1 in two weeks.
Thanks to the provocative cover, I hear some people thought A-W-B stood for "A Woman's Butt".

The rest of the Top 10 looked like this.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Latest Tiding from the Tribe

  Could this be the missing link between the Velvet Underground and Pavement? This catchy 1975 track is the result of a merger between the avant garde Slapp Happy and their anti-commercial labelmates Henry Cow. I'm told the rest of the album is nowhere near as accessible.