Sunday, May 31, 2015

Those We Missed May 1975

Some of the weird and the wonderful. Most from albums released in May of 75.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

40 Year Itch : Pillage Villages With Verve

Henry Cow : War

    Later covered by The Fall, Henry Cow is heard at the height of its leftist anti Vietnam War rhetoric in the lead off track from In Praise of Learning. Deconstructionist. Avant-Garde. And difficult. Not the first song I'd recommend to anyone with the kind of massive head cold I'm dealing with today. But considered by many to rival another In Praise of Learning track, "Living in the Heart of the Beast", as the Cow's greatest tune.

Friday, May 29, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Gentle Astronaut of Jazz

Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes :  Expansions


"I was trying to expand the consciousness of humanity"
                                                                                           -Lonnie Liston Smith

  Former Miles Davis sideman ( On the Corner and Big Fun) Lonnie Liston Smith offered listeners  cosmic encounters of a jazz fusion kind. The albums may have had New Age titles ( Astral Traveling, Expansions, Reflections of a Golden Dream) but the often funky music connected with soul brothers and sisters everywhere. That's Lonnie's brother David singing on the title track.

In 1988 Brooklyn hop hop group Stetsasonic sampled "Expansions" as well as Donald Byrd's "Fallin Like ( Dominos)" on "Talkin All That Jazz".

Thursday, May 28, 2015

40 Year Itch: Heroes of the Ginza

Queen: Now I'm Here

   After a ten day vacation in Hawaii, following the US leg of their Sheer Heart Attack Tour, Queen arrived in Japan where they were met by 3,000 fans at the airport.
  "Now we were the Beatles" guitarist Brian May would later say. "We literally had to be carried over the heads of these kids...this wasn't a rock band thing, this was being a teen idol".

  Sumo wrestlers were hired as bodyguards during the concerts but they could do nothing to prevent the teenage girls from sweeping over them to the front of the stage. Hysteria followed Queen wherever they ventured so each member was assigned his own bodyguard.

    In August they'd be back in the studio to begin recording A Night at the Opera where the band and producer Roy Thomas Baker would face a phenomenal challenge, recording a long tune with many twists and turns and even some operatic "Gallileo"s tossed in for good measure. It was known to the rest of Queen as  "Fred's Thing". But it would be known to the world as "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

40 Year Itch : Like a Relic From a Different Age

Wings: Rock Show (old version)

   Inspiration meets calculation on this celebration of the rock concert-1970's style. McCartney was planning a US tour in 1976 and presumably "Jet" wasn't the kick ass opening tune he wanted. Along with the acoustic scene setter "Venus and Mars", "Rock Show" kicked off both Venus and Mars (released on this date in 1975)  and the live album Wings Over America

  The rougher "old version" is better in my opinion if only because it reveals McCartney's enthusiasm for his new song. There isn't an ounce of restraint here, especially in his bass playing.  

 For the album version, recorded at Sea-Saint Studios in New Orleans, Allen Toussaint came downstairs from his studio to play. The venues McCartney mentions are The Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Madison Square Garden ( NYC), Hollywood Bowl ( LA) and the Rainbow in London.

  There's also a line about scoring an ounce. I'm guessing that's marijuana which might have cost a concertgoer $50-$60 in 1975,  as opposed to $350-$450 today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

40 Year Itch : It Hides a Nasty Stain

10cc: Good News

        5 Fun Facts About 10cc's "I'm Not In Love"

1. The Eric Stewart/Graham Gouldman song was originally recorded with a Bossa Nova beat, but the other two members dismissed the tune as "crap". Otherwise we might be discussing a song that sounds a little something like this :

2. It was drummer and singer Kevin Godley who suggested the sad song needed a "wall of voices". And Lol Creme, the other Bossa Nova dissenter, who suggested using tape loops. Gouldman, Godley and Creme sang all of those "Ahhh"s.

Each "Ah" was a note which had to be duplicated 16 times by three singers for the choral effect multiplied by the 12 notes on the chromatic scale ( the distance from a D note on your piano to the next D note).

  By moving the switches on the faders up and down for each note, whoever operated the mixing board could form chords. It would take three weeks to build the song

3. Kathy Redfern, the secretary at the 10cc-owned Strawberry Studios, recorded the spoken word lines "Big boys don't cry".

4. The single, released in May of 1975 with the now hard to find "Good News" as the B side, was #1 in the UK but never topped the US Hot 100. It peaked at #2 for three straight weeks as three different artists leapfrogged over 10cc for the #1 spot: Van McCoy's "The Hustle", The Eagles "One of These Nights", and the Bee Gees' "Jive Talkin'"

5. Long before Guardians of the Galaxy renewed interest in the song, "I'm Not in Love" was covered by multiple artists including Richie Havens who I think did the best cover version, The Pretenders, Will to Power, Peggy Lee  and Diana Krall.

Monday, May 25, 2015

My Top Ten by Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks)

Three O'Clock : Jet Fighter

   Like most power pop icons, Fastbacks guitarist and songwriter Kurt Bloch is an artist way either ahead or way behind his times. One thing he could always do ( and still does) is play a guitar loud...and melodically. This Top 10 list he made for Spin's Alternative Record Guide (1995) shows he appreciates others who can do the same. 

  If you visit the Gibson guitar showroom in Seattle, you might be lucky enough to run into Bloch. He's a guitar tech there.

1. Pixies : Bossanova

2. Toy Dolls : Dig That Groove Baby

3. U.K. Subs :Brand New Age

4. Wipers :Youth of America

5. Three O'Clock : Sixteen Tambourines

6. Didjits : Hey Judestar

7. Urge Overkill : Americruiser

8. XTC :Black Sea

9. Buzzcocks: Another Music in a Different Kitchen

10. Bad Brains : I Against I 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

40 Year Itch : Led Zeppelin Plays Earls Court

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, in magic dragon suit. May 1975

   At the height of their power, less than two months following their American tour, Led Zeppelin performed a five night stand at Earls Court Arena in London on May 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25.

Critic Chris Welch is among those who claim these are the best Led Zeppelin concerts ever. He writes :

The band played with tremendous fire, possessed by an almost demonic power, amidst clouds of smoke pierced by green laser beams. Jimmy Page flailed his violin bow against the guitar strings, producing eerie, echoing gothic howls. 

At the time, I wrote in a review that "Robert Plant maintains an essentially human, chatty approach to audiences, almost like a guide taking us through the story of the band, a jester at the wheel of some fearsome juggernaut, offering sly asides and poetic ruminations between moments of terrible power." 

... The band enjoyed the Physical Graffiti material far more than the old war horses, and the best moments from the previous albums came in the shape of ballads and acoustic songs

  There were 40 tons of concert gear shipped in for the show: 100 speaker cabinets, 40 microphones, 200 spotlights all powered by generators capable of illuminating every neon sign on London's West End.

  What the 17,000 fans at Earls Court didn't know is that they were witnessing the band's UK swansong.
  They wouldn't return until 1979s Knebworth Music Festival.
And in the years between, tragedy and alcohol and drug abuse would all take their toll.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

40 Year Itch : Five Facts about Captain Fantastic

1. In May of 1975, it debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200 , the first album ever to do so, and stayed atop the charts for seven weeks

2. Bernie Taupin says it's a concept album about the early days of his songwriting career with Elton John, from their meeting in 1967 to the release of Empty Sky. John is "Captain Fantastic" and he is the "Brown Dirt Cowboy".

3. Elton John told Cameron Crowe in a 2006 interview "I've always thought that Captain Fantastic was probably my finest album because it wasn't commercial in any way.  Captain Fantastic was written from start to finish in running order, as a kind of story about coming to terms with failure—or trying desperately not to be one. We lived that story."

4. The cover was designed by Alan Aldridge who also did The Who's A Quick One and edited and did many illustrations for The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics.

5. Just prior to the album's release, Elton John surprised  guitarist Dee Murray (center) and drummer Nigel Olsson (right) by sacking them. They had been with John for the five most glorious years of his career. John later admitted it was a mistake, telling a BBC DJ " I can't really understand why I did it. In retrospect, it was part of me trying to change things musically. Maybe we had gone as far as we could."

Friday, May 22, 2015

40 Year Itch : In The Twilight Glow

Donald Sutherland and Karen Black in Day of the Locusts ( 1975)

Willie Nelson : Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

   In a recording so spare the record company thought it was a demo, Willie Nelson sings a thirty year old song about a final goodbye. The song, from the most critically acclaimed country album of 1975, Red Headed Stranger, would top the country charts in October of that year. No other country album sounded anything like this. It would top the country charts, sell more than three million copies,  and ensure that Willie Nelson would always be able to make the music he wanted. And our lives have all been made richer because of it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

40 Year Itch : Atlanta Please Make Up With Me

Bill House : Atlanta

Bill House : You're No Better Than a Common Thief

   Produced by Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnson of the Beach Boys, California songwriter Bill House's debut Give Me a Break got a very nice review from Tom Nolan of Rolling Stone who likened his singing style to middle period Todd Rundgren, called his melodies as deceptively simple and pronounced each song sounded better than the last. The conclusion: "we have been presented with someone quite special who should not be ignored."

What happened next?

Well, have you heard of Bill House?

  When I look at the cover I think: what if Al Franken -and not Mike Myers-had come up with Wayne's World? But readers know I'm a sucker for well crafted pop and I think Give Me a Break deserves a break. Seek it out!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

40 Year Itch : Music is Her Lover

Bianca Jagger at Studio 54

Hot Chocolate : Disco Queen

   Two years after their interracial breakthrough "Brother Louie" and nearly a year after "Emma" hit Top 10 comes the Hot Chocolate floor filler "Disco Queen" (UK#11/US#28) . Love the drum break in the 3:36 version. Rest in Peace Errol Brown!

For the drum break go 3:00 in:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

40 year Itch : Her Father's Name is Macintosh

Mudcrutch : Depot Street

When the first single from Tom Petty's band Mudcrutch was released on Leon Russell's label in February of 1975, Billboard Magazine called it a "goo reggae cut that fits in with the current commercial standards as well. Closest thing to actual reggae to have a chance to be a major AM radio hit to come along in some time." 

Until Petty's multi disc box set Playback came out, that was the last anyone heard of Mudcrutch, which broke up. Petty quickly sidled up to guitarist Mike Campbell to make sure whatever happened next, they'd do it together.

Here's more from Petty

"The only Mudcrutch record released from a year of frustrating studio work was this single, probably named from a road in Gainesville. 'When we first met him, Denny Cordell was really into reggae,' Petty explains. 'He had been down to Jamaica with Chris Blackwell and they had just started this label called Mango and signed up a lot of people.' Mango had a huge impact on bringing reggae to the U.S. around this time with 'The Harder They Come.' 'He was playing us these reggae records and it was my attempt really to try to put some kind of reggae thing into it. There was hardly anyone doing it at the time, and I think Cordell really grooved on that, that we were trying. But I think we were really successful at it or that it's one of the better things we did. But that's what he liked for the single.'

The B side, "Wild Eyes",  was closer to the future Heartbreaker sound:

 'It did nothing,' Benmont recalls. 'The folks at the record company were kind of like, "See - 'Philadelpia Freedom' - this is what a single should sound like. 'Depot Street' is what a single should not sound like"'"

Monday, May 18, 2015

40 Year Itch : You Lost It Somehow

Bachman Turner Overdrive : Hey You


Seriously, who doesn't love a song with phased guitar, power chords, hand claps and lots of "Woo's!"

   Directed at his Guess Who bandmate Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman's gloating "Hey You" (The music's gone now / You lost it somehow) hit the charts in May of 1975 where it would peak at just short of the US Top 20. 


   Cummings was the more adept songwriter and vocalist in the Guess Who while Bachman could always be expected to come up with a a good chorus. Together they ruled the radio.  But tensions within the band grew and when Bachman fell ill during a 1970 tour, the band he founded replaced him. 

    It had been a long climb back to the top for Bachman whose band would sell 7 million albums, but it would be short-lived. By 1977 Randy left BTO to his brother other bandmates for a solo career that didn't amount to much. By 1982, he'd be $1 million in debt.

In 2006 Bachman and Cummings toured Canada together ( leading to the somewhat uncomfortable moment above where Cummings gleefully plays cowbell to a song that insults him) but that may never happen again thanks to a dispute over music publishing. In his autobiography Tales From Beyond the Tap, Bachman writes:

He was a kid when I invited him into the band. I was his big brother picking him up for gigs and bringing him home as his mother insisted. I taught him about publishing and shared everything equally with him in our little publishing company. Then having him grab it all and not tell anybody was hurtful. He needs to fix it. Look at the money he made off Lenny Kravitz’s cover of “American Woman.” If he would make it right I’d play with him tomorrow.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Human League's Phil Oakey : My Top Ten

Giorgio Moroder : Oh What a Night

  Phil Oakey compiled this list for the UK music mag Smash Hits in the Summer of 1981 when "Love Action (I Believe in Love)" would peak at #3 in the UK pop charts. By the end of the year the band would release the worldwide smash hit "Don't You Want Me". The Human League recorded loads of catchy hits that combined disco and techno, but this list reveals Oakey's true passion was for dance music. And it should be pointed out Oakey would get to work with Moroder on the UK#3 hit  "Together in Electric Dreams".

Saturday, May 16, 2015

40 Year Itch: Boring Occupations, Dull Conversations

The Kinks : When Work is Over

Soap Opera was wonderful. I was a man who was imagining I was an accountant imagining that he was me 
-Ray Davies

   After ten years as a rock star, and the last few fumbling through crisis after crisis, Ray Davies must have been intrigued by the anonymous lives of ordinary 9 to 5 working men. The concept album Soap Opera is about a rock star named Starmaker who exchanges lives with an ordinary accountant. He has a wife ( voiced by actress June Ritchie), a 9 to 5 job making decisions that will affect no one, and the need of a good stiff drink or two before he heads home for Shepherd's Pie.

    It all began as a teleplay for Granada TV. Apparently the concept worked better onstage that in the album which was blasted by critics. Unfairly in retrospect. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

40 Year Itch : Kiss Cranks Up The Promotion Machine

   On May 15, 1975, in the midst of their Dressed to Kill tour,  Kiss devoted the day to publicity for the upcoming Kiss Alive album by shooting a promo video for Casablanca Records and posing for photographer Fin Costello at an otherwise empty Michigan Palace.


As Costello tells Blabbermouth

I got them to do the 'STATUS QUO' pose (Gene's words) a few times, which is where the shot came from. At that time we were just shooting every idea that came to mind. I was still thinking we would get the cover shot at the actual gig." 

For the promo video, the band gave it everything they had. No shortage of energy or stagecraft despite the fact they were playing to an empty room. They cut in shots of the audience from the Cobo  Hall show in Detroit the following night

The following night rock critic Jaan Uhelszki , in full makeup and costume, went onstage with the band. She wrote about the once in a lifetime experience in an article for Creem called "I Dreamed I Was Onstage with KISS in My Maidenform Bra"

  Countdown. Then the shove and I’m on stage, moving like I’m unremotely controlled. Forgetting completely that I ‘m in front of 5,000 people participating as one fifth of this sadistic cheerleading squad, bobbing and gyrating in instinctively, I no longer hear the music, just a noise and a beat. On cue I strut over to Simmons’ mike and lean into it and sing. Singing loud without hearing myself, oblivious to everything but those four other beings onstage. Gene whispers for me to “shake it” and I loosen up a little more, until I feel like a Vegas showgirl going to a go go. Suddenly it strikes me: I like this. And I venture a look at the crowd, that clamoring, hungry throng of bodies below me. All I can think at that moment is how much all those kids resemble an unleashed pit of snakes, their outstretched arms bobbin and nodding, as if charmed by the music. I wonder if they will pick up on the hoax? But they keep screaming and cheering, so I might just as well be Peter Criss, unleashed from his drum kit, as anyone. The only difference is, I am the only KISS with tits.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

40 Year Itch : They Called Him Boss Jack

Curtis Mayfield : Billy Jack

In this funky dispatch from the inner city, Curtis Mayfield tells us how he learned of the death of an old friend, "Boss" Jack. Shot from across the room and left to die on the floor as everyone else bolted out of the room. His friend's epitaph : 

Up in the city they called him Boss Jack
But down home he was a alley cat
Ah! Didn't care nothin' bout being Black

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

40 Year Itch : A Technicolor Carving Knife

Tatum O'Neal and Cher get into Cher's Ferrari. Hollywood, 1975

Elliot Murphy : Hollywood

   The single and lead off track from Elliot Murphy's second album Lost Generation has the singer-songwriter name-dropping James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol and Greta Garbo. His debut, Aquashow convinced many rock critics Murphy was the second coming of Bob Dylan. It was one of my favorite albums from 1973. This is more of the same--without the benefit of being a surprise--and record buyers were unconvinced. Murphy's third album, 1976's Night Life, would be even better.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

40 Year Itch : State of Confusion

Fela Kuti : Confusion

"Who are these world leaders? Destroyers, man. Not builders. Not creators. But destroyers." - Fela Kuti

   A 1975 Afro-Beat epic in which Fela Kuti equates post colonial Nigeria's poor government with its capitol city's horrible traffic jams. At its worst, it can still take 12 hours to get 40 miles through Lagos. In extreme situations, you will find people "warring" over bus seats.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Steve Jobs : My Top 10 Albums

“I grew up in the apricot orchards that later became known as Silicon Valley, and was lucky enough to have my young spirit infused with the social and artistic revolution of the day called rock and roll. It has never left me.”

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs was in his mid teens when most of his top ten albums were released. That is a sweet spot for most of us. Jobs was obsessed with Dylan, collecting hundreds of hours of bootlegged shows from 65 and 66. ( His fave Dylan song: "One Too Many Mornings"from The Times They Are A-Changin) By the time Some Girls came out in 1978, Jobs was two years into Apple and probably far too busy to listen to a lot of new music with the same passions he had in his teens.

1.Bob Dylan : Highway 61 Revisited

2. Cat Stevens : Tea for the Tillerman

3. The Grateful Dead : American Beauty

4. Glenn Gould : Bach -The Goldberg Variations
5. Jackson Browne : Late for the Sky

6.  John Lennon : Imagine
7. Miles Davis : Kind of Blue

8. Peter Paul and Mary : Around the Campfire
9 Rolling Stones : Some Girls

10. The Who: Who's Next