1975 was kind of a no man's land between the Glam Rock/Singer-Songwriting 70's and Punk. But that doesn't mean the music isn't worthy of all of this attention. Here are some selections from albums released in June of 1975.
"He continually took chances with his life. He'd drive like a maniac, risking accidents. For a couple of years he drank a lot and took downers to the point where it nearly killed him, but he'd always escape. Then he got into this romantic heroin-taking thing. Then his luck ran out."
-Lyricist Larry Beckett
On June 29, 1975 Tim Buckley died of an overdose, apparently by snorting what he thought was cocaine but turned out to be heroin. A coroner's report also found morphine in Buckley's system. The dose was given to Buckley by a friend named Richard Keeling, who would face second degree murder charges that were eventually dropped. Buckley was hurting right away and Keeling got him home where Buckley's wife got him to bed. When she checked in on him again, he was blue.
Buckley left us with nine albums that leap from folkie introspection to far out avant garde rock to four octave sex god yowling, each album so different from the previous one that his audience appeared and disappeared in waves. Never big enough to sell "successful " numbers.
His masterpiece is "Song of the Siren", which somehow found its way on the final episode of The Monkees TV show. In the 1980's, This Mortal Coil's rendition reignited some interest but it was son, Jeff Buckley's, short-lived fame that encourages most fans to pursue this artist's back catalog. There are gems to be sure. I have a soft spot for Greetings From L.A. But most readers will be happy with the two CD anthology Morning Glory.
I can't explain the top five. Maybe only grandparents were purchasing 45's this Summer. ( Ray Stevens? Johnny Nash? Whispering Grass?) Outside of the 10cc smash, we have to wait until we get to the bottom of the Top 20 before anything interesting emerges.
Nazareth's cover of Tomorrow's 1967 hit "My White Bicycle" and Roy Wood's Beach Boys homage "Oh What A Shame" come to mind.
But this week in 1975, session musician Pete Wingfield's very odd doo-wop throwback, "Eighteen With a Bullet", made the most dramatic move, leaping from #44 to #15 in just one week. It would peak at #7 in the UK and after a week at #18 in the US, all the way to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
UK Top 20, June 29, 1975
1. 10cc : I'm Not In Love
2. Johnny Nash : Tears On My Pillow
3. Van McCoy : The Hustle
4.Windsor Davies and Don Estelle : Whispering Grass
5. Ray Stevens : Misty
6. Hamilton Bohannon : Disco Stomp
7. Showaddywaddy : Three Steps to Heaven
8. Gary Glitter : Doing Alright With the Boys
9. The Chi-Lites : Have You Seen Her/ Oh Girl
10. Mud : Moonshine Sally
11. The Osmonds : The Proud One
12. Wings : Listen to What the Man Said
13. Kenny : Baby, I Love You, OK!
14: Gilbert O'Sullivan : I Don't Love You But I Think I Like You
15. Pete Wingfield : Eighteen With a Bullet
16. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel: Mr Raffles (Man It Was Mean)
17. Nazareth : My White Bicycle
18. Donny and Marie Osmond : Make the World Go Away
Originally a self released album, Head East's Flat As A Pancake got picked up by A and M Records in 1975 on the strength of its Midwest radio play, especially for the lead off track "Never Been Any Reason". Peaking at #68 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Never Been Any Reason" predates The Cars's 1978 hits with its catchy guitar and mini moog solos. It remains a classic rock staple. Crank this one up in the car!
"I had been in a motorcycle accident and I'd been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race."
1. On July 29, 1966 Bob Dylan crashed his 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 (like the one above) near his home in Woodstock, NY. The extent of his injuries probably included a cracked vertebrae in his neck and a concussion. For Dylan it was the excuse he needed to take some time off the road ( coming as it did after the "Judas!" tour of the UK) and from producing two albums a year. His road band, The Hawks, were still on his payroll so manager Albert Grossman arranged to have them stay nearby. Three of the band members moved into a house later dubbed "Big Pink". Eventually that house's basement became the makeshift practice and recording studio.
2. All of the songs on The Basement Tapes featuring Bob Dylan were recorded in 1967, eight years before the album was released on June 26, 1975. Had the songs been released the year they were recorded, The Basement Tapes would have hit stores between Blonde on Blonde and John Wesley Harding. Eight of the 24 tunes were recorded just by The Hawks ( by 1975 known officially as The Band). Some were recorded later, possibly as late as 1970. There are even some reports that a few Band numbers ( like "Ain't No More Cane") were recorded in 1975.
3. Despite his injuries, Dylan was still writing songs and, by jamming with The Band, he was apparently inspired by the simplicity of folk songs, country songs and all around Americana. With Dylan typing up lyrics right in front of them, they'd make up songs on the spot and record what were essentially demos for other artists. These were songs with a sense of humor. Among them: "The Mighty Quinn", which hit #1 in the UK for Manfred Mann. The Byrds recorded "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and "Nothing Was Delivered" on their Sweethearts of the Rodeo album.
4. Many of the demos eventually found their way onto one of the world's earliest and most famous bootlegs, Great White Wonder, released in 1969.
In fact, by the time The Basement Tapes came out ( with the cover shot in the basement of a Los Angeles YMCA), most of the songs were well known by rock critics. "Open the Door, Homer" had been recorded by Thunderclap Newman.
"Lo and Behold", "Open The Door, Homer", "Don't You Tell Henry", "Odds and Ends" and "Tiny Montgomery" were all covered brilliantly by Coulson, Dean, McGuinnes, Flint in 1972.
Rolling Stone critic Paul Nelson listed five tunes he expected to hear on the album ( including "The Mighty Quinn", "I'm Not There", "Get Your Rocks Off","Sign on the Cross" and "I Shall Be Released") before celebrating the unheard "Goin' to Acapulco" which he described as an "cosmic, bawdy" "ace in the hole".
5. So why did Dylan wait eight years before allowing Columbia Records to release The Basement Tapes? One theory is he had finally recorded an album as good as anything he'd done in his classic 60's period, Blood on the Tracks. The album was universally praised, topping the Village Voice's annual critics poll.
Village Voice - Pazz and Jop Lists
1. Bob Dylan and The Band - The Basement Tapes
2. Patti Smith - Horses
3. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
4. Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks
5. Neil Young - Tonight's The Night
6. Steely Dan - Katy Lied
7. Roxy Music - Country Life
8. Bob Marley and The Wailers - Natty Dread
9. The Band - Northern Lights-Southern Cross
10. The Who - The Who By Numbers
11. Toots and The Maytals - Funky Kingston
12. Neil Young - Zuma
13. Roxy Music - Siren
14. Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years
15. Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger
16. Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac
17. Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes - To Be True
18. Gary Stewart - Out Of Hand
19. Nils Lofgren - Nils Lofgren
20. Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
In 2014 Columbia released a six CD version of The Basement Tapes containing 139 Dylan songs.
From One Size Fits All, one of Zappa's most highly regarded albums of the 1970's, comes "Po-jama People", which displays Zappa and his merry band at the height of their musical skills. This, along with album opener "Inca Roads", got some FM radio airplay in its day. Imagine the talent to arrange a song like this and then stand back in awe at the guitar solo, which may have been played on a fretless electric guitar Zappa was fooling around with at the time. Rated #18 in Rolling Stone's list of the Best Prog Rock Albums of All Time which is a far cry from the original review which suggested Zappa seemed content to merely "shuffle the deck a few times and deal out the same hand" as Apostrophe.
The album should also be noted for its cover, painted from the point of view of a cigar smoking God.
In the Summer of '75 every issue of Jet Magazine had another story about Isaac Hayes owning somebody money, more than a half a million dollars all told. In the meantime, the kids were jamming out to the dy-no-mite title track from his latest album, the #1 R and B smash Chocolate Chip. It would not be a big enough hit to get Hayes out of his financial woes. He would have to declare bankruptcy at the tail end of the 1970's. Twenty five years later, Hayes would revisit his sweet side on the South Park soundtrack with Chef's"Chocolate Salty Balls".
The US Top 20"Third Rate Romance" was the Amazing Rhythm Aces's big hit and provided a blueprint for every Jimmy Buffet hit to follow, but the debut album Stacked Deck, recorded in Memphis, offers something for everyone who loves the kind of great music that can be found at the intersection of country and soul. A critical favorite, the album is one of those overlooked gems of the 70's that give purpose to this blog.
Last Wednesday I woke up with double vision. It was an interesting commute to get into work . Then the novelty wore off and I realized I'd better see a doctor. That doctor told me to go straight to the emergency room. That's because double vision, or diplopia, can be a sign of a stroke or aneurysm, a brain tumor, multiple sclerosis or some kind of rare disease. It can also just be one of those things that happen without explanation...which is where I am right now. So I am writing this with an eyepatch, expecting any day to get an appointment scheduled with one of three neuro opthamologists in the Seattle area. Not an appointment. An appointment scheduled. I'm told it may weeks before I ever see one of them.
So to make the best of a not very good situation, I took out a gold pen and painted a star on my patch in tribute to New Orleans pianist James Booker, who , 40 years ago, released Junco Partner. The title track is about a junkie. It had already been done by Dr John, but Booker's version runs deeper. It's more wounded. And I can identify with that these days.
Across the Atlantic, Joe Strummer and his pub rock band, the 101ers, was also playing "Junco Partner" in their live set. The Clash would later record a version for Sandinista!
On June 21, 1975 Bob Marley and the Wailers brought their Natty Dread tour to The Manhattan Center in New York City. While the audio featured on YouTube leaves much to be desired, the video has been called the highest quality footage of a Marley performance in existence. 2500 people paid $6 to see The Wailers perform 17 songs including all of the tunes that would appear on the masterful Bob Marley and the Wailers Live album released later in the year. Three days earlier, 15-thousand people saw The Wailers perform at Central Park with Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees and Barry Manilow among others.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Elton John performed before 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium with The Beach Boys, The Eagles, Joe Walsh, Rufus and Stackridge.
On June 20, 1975 a trio called Talking Heads played their first New York City gig, opening for The Ramones at C.B.G.B's. Nervous and wide-eyed, David Byrne stood frozen in place as he sang the opening number "The Girls Want To Be With The Girls".
For many the focus of attention, though, was Tina Weymouth, the cute female bass player with the pixie haircut, who seemed to staring at the back of Byrne's head the entire night. Drummer Chris Frantz kept the beat, minimizing the fills and cymbal crashes most rock n roll drummers were doing. Although no set list exists for the show, it is known that the band also played "With Our Love", "I Want to Live", an instrumental Frantz had written called "Atom a Bomba", and of course "Psycho Killer". They played four straight nights as an opening act for The Ramones.
Like an album length extension of the grief stricken "The Needle and the Damage Done", Tonight's the Night, released on June 20, 1975, explores the dark side of rocking in the free world. In an interview with Rolling Stone's Cameron Crowe, Young explained the circumstances surrounding the making of the album:
Tonight's the Night is like an OD letter. The whole thing is about life, dope and death. When we [Nils Lofgren, guitars and piano, Talbot, Molina and Young] played that music we were all thinking of Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry, two close members of our unit lost to junk overdoses.
The Tonight's the Night sessions were the first time what was left of Crazy Horse had gotten together since Danny died. It was up to us to get the strength together among us to fill the hole he left.
The other OD, Bruce Berry, was CSNY's roadie for a long time. His brother Ken runs Studio Instrument Rentals, where we recorded the album. So we had a lot of vibes going for us. There was a lot of spirit in the music we made. It's funny, I remember the whole experience in black and white.
We'd go down to S.I.R. about 5:00 in the afternoon and start getting high, drinking tequila and playing pool. About midnight, we'd start playing. And we played Bruce and Danny on their way all through the night. I'm not a junkie and I won't even try it out to check out what it's like...but we all got high enough, right out there on the edge where we felt wide-open to the whole mood. It was spooky. I probably feel this album more than anything else I've ever done.
Recorded in August of 1973, the album wasn't released for two years. Young says that's because, with just nine songs recorded, it wasn't finished. But manager Elliot Roberts found two Neil Young songs, "Lookout Joe" and "Borrowed Tune", that fit the feel of the album and a live version of Whitten singing lead on "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown" from 1970.
The result is an album Young describes as both "the most out of tune thing I'd ever heard" and strong in performance and feeling.
It may sound like a bad trip but 40 years on, Tonight's the Night remains one of my most played Neil Young albums. Its off-key honesty is one of the great artistic statements put on record.
A year after topping the charts in France and many other European countries, Bimbo Jet's "El Bimbo" ruled the disco floors of New York City and even managed to peak at #43 on the US pop charts. How do you do the "El Bimbo"? See below and you may be sorry you asked.
Even in 1975, there was still room on the charts for some bubblegum pop, especially when it came from the stars of Saturday morning's The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show. "Rendezvous" peaked at #26 in August of 1975, and then plummeted the week CBS cancelled the show. The talented Hudson Brothers could always find a catchy hook, but the band's career hit the rocks around the same time Bill Hudson married Goldie Hawn in 1976. He's Kate and Oliver Hudson's dad. You'd never forget meeting Mark Hudson. He sports a psychedelic beard.
The Isley Brothers get political, and funky, on the opening cut to The Heat Is On, released in June of 1975. Guitarist Ernie Isley's "Fight the Power", with its line about "all this bullshit going down", would top the R and B charts and peak at #4 on the Billboard 100. One of the classic message songs that could fill the dance floor.
In June of 1975, Jefferson Starship released Red Octopus which features Marty Balin's mellow, keyboard laden classic "Miracles". Peaking at #3 it became the biggest hit of the Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship career until "We Built This City". The single would be released in late August, at half the running time of the album cut and minus the line "I had a taste of the real world when I went down on you, girl", which could have been the most outrageous lyric in a Top 10 single since Lou Reed's "But she never lost her head/ Even when she was giving head " in "Walk On The Wild Side". Fun fact: the word "Baby" can be heard 45 times in the album version.
Red Octopus would top the US album charts on four separate weeks between September and December of 1975 and earn a rare 5 star rating in the 1983 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide.
Marty Balin: "I wrote 'Miracles" about Barbara (his girlfriend at the time), and also about the miraculous powers of Sai Baba. I went to Puttaparti with Barbara and saw Sai Baba. We journeyed through the South Indian desert to the village; the song emerged from that darshan, that experience."
"When I wrote 'Miracles,' I had my love for Barbara and my love for Sai Baba -- two very different forms of love -- running through me. So the song is about both of them. I picked up my guitar and I started singing: 'If only you believe, if only you believe like I believe, we'll get by' The words flowed one after another, along with the music; I got the song written down in one draft, on a sheet of yellow paper."
"Miracles" is also a bit of a cult favorite because of its use at the end of the 2006 film Crank, in which Jason Statham falls to his apparent death. "Apparent" because there is a Crank 2.
It was a good week for some of the most iconic acts of the 1970's, but a spectacular time for Captain and Tennille. The duo's cover of Neil Sedaka's "Love Will Keep Us Together" was leap-frogging its way up the charts, from #25 to #12 and now #2. It would hit #1 the following week where it would stay for four weeks on its way to becoming the top selling single in 1975.
1 SISTER GOLDEN HAIR –•– America
2 LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER –•– The Captain and Tennille
3 WHEN WILL I BE LOVED / IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYMORE –•– Linda Ronstadt
4 BAD TIME –•– Grand Funk
5 OLD DAYS –•– Chicago
6 I’M NOT LISA –•– Jessi Colter
7 LOVE WON’T LET ME WAIT –•– Major Harris
8 THANK GOD I’M A COUNTRY BOY –•– John Denver
9 PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM –•– The Elton John Band
10 GET DOWN, GET DOWN (Get On the Floor) –•– Joe Simon
Played on the BBC's Radio 1 as a tribute to John Peel on the day of his funeral, this Roy Harper tune from 1975's HQ has layers upon layers of melancholy and meaning.
When an old cricketer leaves the crease, you never know whether he's gone If sometimes you're catching a fleeting glimpse of a twelfth man at silly mid-on And it could be Geoff, and it could be John, with a new ball sting in his tail And it could be me, and it could be thee, and it could be the sting in the ale
Harper would also sing lead vocals on Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar", which was recorded at Abbey Road the same time Harper was making HQ.
In 1975 Larry Jon Wilson was a new recording artist in his 30s, craggy-faced, acne-scarred, with thinning hair and a rumbling, smoky voice. Even in the 'funky' mid '70s this was not the most marketable image. ~ New Beginnings Liner Notes
With a deep voice that earned him a decent living doing television voice over work, Larry Jon Wilson could also spin a tale. And that's what he did on his 1975 album New Beginnings. Wilson was a "singer's singer" and a "guitar picker's guitar picker" and he numbered Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson among his admirers. In that sweet spot where country meets funk, Wilson recorded his best songs including "Ohoopee River Bottomland", a tribute to the Georgia gator hole near which he grew . The clip below is taken from a documentary on the outlaw country movement called Heartworn Highways.
With Agnetha and Anni-Frid wearing their now iconic Alley Cat mini dresses, Abba performed seven or eight songs on The Eddy Go Round in Holland on June 11, 1975, including the latest single "S.O.S". Among the other songs are"Waterloo", "Ring Ring", and "I Do I Do I Do" . "S.O.S" would reach the Top 10 in the UK and Top 20 in the US, and is most likely the only Hot 100 single in which both the artist and the hit single are palindromes.