Monday, August 31, 2015

40 Year Itch: You've Blown It All Sky High

Jigsaw : Sky High

   Coventry's Jigsaw developed a following with poppy tunes and an explosive live show that often ended with the drummer setting his kit on fire. Songwriters Clive Scott and Des Dyer had already had a taste of the charts by writing "Who Do You Think You Are", hits for both Candlewick Green and Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods . "Sky High", which entered the pop charts at #88 on August 30, 1975,  was written for the opening credits of the martial arts thriller The Man From Hong Kong starring former James Bond actor George Lazenby. A worldwide hit, "Sky High" hit #1 in Japan, peaked at #3 in the US and made the UK Top 10.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

US Top 20 : August 30, 1975

K.C. and the Sunshine Band : Get Down Tonight

   K.C. and the Sunshine Band snags the first of their five #1 hits on this date, leading a remarkably diverse chart. There is cross-over country, easy listening, hard funk, rock n roll and disco.

1 GET DOWN TONIGHT –•– K.C. and the Sunshine Band
2 FALLIN’ IN LOVE –•– Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds
3 RHINESTONE COWBOY –•– Glen Campbell

4 ONE OF THESE NIGHTS –•– The Eagles
5 HOW SWEET IT IS (To Be Loved By You) –•– James Taylor
6  JIVE TALKIN’ –•– The Bee Gees

7 AT SEVENTEEN –•– Janis Ian
10 FIGHT THE POWER (Part 1) –•– The Isley Brothers

11 FAME –•– David Bowie
12 COULD IT BE MAGIC –•– Barry Manilow

14 FEEL LIKE MAKIN’ LOVE –•– Bad Company
15 THAT’S THE WAY OF THE WORLD –•– Earth, Wind and Fire

18 THIRD RATE ROMANCE –•– The Amazing Rhythm Aces
19 LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER –•– The Captain and Tennille

20 I’M SORRY / CALYPSO –•– John Denver

Saturday, August 29, 2015

40 Year Itch : Sleepin' In The Noon Day Sun

Leon Redbone : Lazybones

“I think with the first few records, some had dubbed what I did as camp. Of course, these were insensitive people who didn’t understand the ‘depth of my artistic passion'.
         ~Leon Redbone ( somewhat sarcastically)

   In 1975, my father received two copies of Leon Redbone's debut album, On The Track, on his birthday.  His friends knew my father loved songs from The Jazz Age. He had played ukulele and jazz guitar in high school bands and still brought them out for rare jam sessions. 

Dad as a teenager

      So I grew up hearing this album quite a bit, especially Redbone's cover of the Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer tune "Lazybones". My dad would sing it , mimicking Redbone's baritone, when I forgot to feed the dog, do my homework, or did a poor job of mowing an unfortunately expansive backyard.

   Redbone has achieved cult status thanks to his albums and appearances on television. Unfortunately poor health has recently forced Redbone to retire from touring. If you can, you should buy the albums from his website. You can get some of his album on vinyl and autographed "with complements Leon Redbone".

Friday, August 28, 2015

40 Year Itch : A Star Spangled Rodeo

Glen Campbell : Rhinestone Cowboy

   Glen Campbell was a movie acting, golf playing, pill popping, marriage vow breaking has-been when he heard Larry Weiss's "Rhinestone Cowboy" on the radio. He identified with the singer forced to sing the same old songs and doing loads of compromising. With the help of producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, he recorded the chart-topping hit and the similarly themed "Country Boy ( You Got Your Feet in LA) for his career resurrecting Rhinestone Cowboy album.

Campbell does a wonderful version of Randy Newman's "Marie" on the album as well. Here he performs the love song on the Tonight Show.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

40 Year Itch : 23 Orgasms

Donna Summer : Love to Love You Baby

   Inspired by the scandalous Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg single " Je T'Aime ( Moi Non Plus)", which had returned to the charts, Summer and producers Georgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte recorded their own racy song. Producers convinced Summer to lie on the studio floor in the dark and moan throughout most of the single and its follow-up, a sixteen minute version that would take up an entire side of the Love To Love You Baby album. The BBC counted up 23 simulated orgasms. Time Magazine only came up with 22. Summer et al began counting up the money as the single hit Top 10 in the US, UK, Australia and half a dozen other countries. Summer became the world's most famous disco queen with multiple hits and Grammys.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

40 Year Itch: You Better Beware

Ann Peebles : Beware

   If Al Green was the king of Hi Records then surely Ann Peebles was the queen. Peaking at just #69 on the R and B charts, "Beware" is one of three singles from her 1975 album Tellin It

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

40 Year Itch : Five Facts about Born To Run

My early albums were about being someplace and what it was like there, Born to Run is about being nowhere at all.
-Bruce Springsteen

   Released on August 25, 1975, Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run remains his most epic statement, a make it or break it album for an artist on the verge of losing his major label record deal. He made it, selling more than six million copies, and the rest is history. Springsteen, 25, would say he was born, grew old and died in the fourteen months it took to make his third album. You can hear the anxiety in every groove, the last chance power try.

Here are five fun facts about Born To Run.

   1. It might have been called The Legend of Zero and Blind Terry. Springsteen was always interested in making a concept album and already had an epic eight minute song in his back pocket called "Zero and Blind Terry" about two runaway lovers hiding from the police. He dropped the song but came up with one that shares similar themes : the album closer "Jungleland". Born To Run is a concept album. Springsteen has said he imagined everything that happens in the album occurs on an endless Summer night.

  2. The single "Born To Run", was first recorded by Allan Clarke of The Hollies. But Springsteen's version was the first to be released, and is the only song on the album produced with his manager Mike Appel and featuring departing members Ernest "Boom" Carter on drums and David Sancious on keyboards. Springsteen spent six months in the studio recording "Born To Run", building a Phil Spector like "Wall of Sound" by laying down as many as 11 tracks of guitar alone. He knew the driving tune would be a hit. 

After playing a tape of the song for Crawdaddy he reportedly punched the air, yelling "WABC!", the top 40 station in New York City. The song did hit the Top 40, peaking at #23 on November 1, 1975.

3.  The album begins with a whiff of Dylan. There's a very Dylanesque harmonica at the very top of the first song, "Thunder Road", which might have given fans and critics pause. Springsteen had survived the "new Dylan" hype. He'd even recovered from the "new Van Morrison" hype, and soon he would face his own hurricane of hype ( Creem Magazine readers voted 1975's biggest fads as 1) Disco, 2) Springsteen and 3) Trying to Kill the President). So he needed to come up with his own sound, one that would go over with the rock n roll kids coming to his concert. 

   That's where rock critic Jon "I Saw Rock and Roll's Future and its name is Bruce Springsteen" Landau came in, first as a friend, then advisor and finally as co-producer. Landau had once produced the MC5 so he had bona fides. He prodded Springsteen through sessions at the Record Plant that often began at 6 PM and went to 3 AM but states everything on the record is Springsteen's vision.

4. Steve Van Zandt saved the day on 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out'. Bruce wanted some horns to accompany Clarence Clemmons. With the Brecker Brothers in the studio, Roy Bittan tried to help Bruce write horn charts but they didn't sound like anything Bruce had in mind. A visiting Miami Steve was asked to help. His band's often covered Memphis soul tunes. Van Zandt told the musicians to put away their horn charts and sang the parts he wanted them to play. It worked. 

   Springsteen turned to manager Appel and reportedly said "It's time to put the boy on the payroll. I've been meaning to tell you --he's the new guitar player". Miami Steve would be a permanent member of the band for more than ten years.

5. Springsteen hated all ten Jimmy Iovine masters of Born To Run. He even threatened to toss out half of the album and record the rest live at an upcoming gig. But Landau talked him out of it, saying "You're not supposed to like it. You think Chuck Berry sits around listening to 'Maybelline'?...C'mon it's time to put the record out". 

Two weeks later, Born To Run came out.

Your reward for reading today's post: The Born to Run documentary, Wings for Wheels.

Monday, August 24, 2015

40 Year Itch : Shook Me Like A Landslide

Dr Feelgood : Back in the Night

    In the Summer of '75, the Wilko Johnson penned single "Back In The Night" was our first glimpse at Dr Feelgood's  forthcoming follow-up to its superb debut, Down By The Jetty. No the UK single didn't sell but it's a good one : another R and B single with just enough aggro to inspire punk rockers in the year ahead. It's a love/lust song about a working class guy who's probably got just one thing going for him, a woman who's willing to invite him back to her place every night.

  At the start of 2013, diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Wilko Johnson was given ten months to live. His calm, almost Buddha like response, was to do a farewell tour, much of which is captured in the new Julien Temple documentary The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson. Then a funny, glorious thing happened. Johnson didn't die. He recorded an album with Roger Daltrey. He made cameos on Game of Thrones and eventually he had a huge tumor removed in a nine hour operation. Last October Johnson was declared cancer-free.

Johnson tells The Guardian "I feel like I’m parachuting back into the land of the living and looking around thinking, 'Oh well'"

Sunday, August 23, 2015

40 Year Itch: Gabriel Leaves Genesis

     In August 1975 Peter Gabriel wrote the following bizarre letter announcing his departure from Genesis. He delivered it personally to the English press:

   I had a dream, eye’s dream. Then I had another dream with the body and soul of a rock star. When it didn’t feel good I packed it in. Looking back for the musical and non-musical reasons, this is what I came up with:

    OUT, ANGELS OUT – an investigation.

    The vehicle we had built as a co-op to serve our songwriting became our master and had cooped us up inside the success we had wanted. It affected the attitudes and the spirit of the whole band.  The music had not dried up and I still respect the other musicians, but our roles had set in hard. To get an idea through “Genesis the Big” meant shifting a lot more concrete than before. For any band, transferring the heart from idealistic enthusiasm to professionalism is a difficult operation.

    I believe the use of sound and visual images can be developed to do much more than we have done. But on a large scale it needs one clear and coherent direction, which our pseudo-democratic committee system could not provide. As an artist, I need to absorb a wide variety of experiences. It is difficult to respond to intuition and impulse within the long-term planning that the band needed. I felt I should look at/learn about/develop myself, my creative bits and pieces and pick up on a lot of work going on outside music. Even the hidden delights of vegetable growing and community living are beginning to reveal their secrets. I could not expect the band to tie in their schedules with my bondage to cabbages. The increase in money and power, if I had stayed, would have anchored me to the spotlights. It was important to me to give space to my family, which I wanted to hold together, and to liberate the daddy in me.

    Although I have seen and learnt a great deal in the last seven years, I found I had begun to look at things as the famous Gabriel, despite hiding my occupation whenever possible, hitching lifts, etc. I had begun to think in business terms; very useful for an often bitten once shy musician, but treating records and audiences as money was taking me away from them. When performing, there were less shivers up and down the spine.

   I believe the world has soon to go through a difficult period of changes. I’m excited by some of the areas coming through to the surface which seem to have been hidden away in people’s minds. I want to explore and be prepared to be open and flexible enough to respond, not tied in to the old hierarchy.

  Much of my psyche’s ambitions as “Gabriel archetypal rock star” have been fulfilled – a lot of the ego-gratification and the need to attract young ladies, perhaps the result of frequent rejection as “Gabriel acne-struck public school boy”. However, I can still get off playing the star game once in a while.

    My future within music, if it exists, will be in as many situations as possible. It’s good to see a growing number of artists breaking down the pigeonholes. This is the difference between the profitable, compartmentalized, battery chicken and the free-range. Why did the chicken cross the road anyway?

    There is no animosity between myself and the band or management. The decision had been made some time ago and we have talked about our new direction. The reason why my leaving was not announced earlier was because I had been asked to delay until they had found a replacement to plug up the hole. It is not impossible that some of them might work with me on other projects.

    The following guesswork has little in common with truth:

 Gabriel left Genesis

 1) To work in theatre.

 2) To make more money as a solo artist.

 3) To do a “Bowie”.

 4) To do a “Ferry”.

 5) To do a “Furry Boa round my neck and hang myself with it”.

 6) To go see an institution.

 7) To go senile in the sticks.

 I do not express myself adequately in interviews and I felt I owed it to the people who have put a lot of love and energy supporting the band to give an accurate picture of my reasons. So I ask that you print all or none of this.

  This may have all been breaking news to the rock press, but the rest of Genesis knew Gabriel was leaving a year earlier.

  "In fact," Phil Collins tells NME," Peter first said he was going to be leaving about a year ago, just after Lamb Lies Down. I don't to go into his reasons too much--he did that himself in the Press last week--but for several reasons he decided to stay on until now."

 The other members of the band has already what would be A Trick of the Tail which would become a UK #3 and US #31 hit. Genesis would be fine even now that they were three.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

40 Year Itch : One-Two-Three-Four-Five-Six

Jonathan Richman  : Roadrunner (Twice)

   On August 22, 1975, a year before Berserkley Records released the magnificent and oft-delayed Modern Lovers album, they unleashed upon the world a revolutionary single: Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner (Twice)", featuring Richman backed up by Beserkley labelmates The Greg Kihn Band. 
   It's a simple rocking tour of the suburbs of Boston Massachusetts in a car that's going "faster miles an hour" with the radio on. You can hear Richman's infatuation with The Velvet Underground as you head out with him on Route 128 passing the power lines. At a time when art rock usually meant side long epics that quoted gurus or at least J R R Tolkien and featured twelve minute guitar solos, here was a song that might -MIGHT- have  three chords in "Roadrunner". Greil Marcus called it "the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest." 

   As you might have guessed, this isn't the first version of "Roadrunner". That would be "Roadrunner (Once)", as recorded in 1972 by The Modern Lovers with John Cale producing. No, this is "Roadrunner ( Twice)", the most successful version. It reached #11 on the UK Charts even though it was all but ignored in the United States. Some credit the tune with inspiring Punk Rock. It was recorded by both The Sex Pistols and Joan Jett.

   By 1975, The Modern Lovers ( featuring future members of The Cars and Talking Heads) had been broken up for a year and Richman had told record executives he was sick of the songs and wouldn't perform them live. But at least for one moment, and one song, Beserkley truly was the "home of the hits".

Friday, August 21, 2015

40 Year Itch : THAT Album Cover

   French make up artist Pierre Laroche had already designed David Bowie's Aladdin Sane and Pin-Ups look, as well as Tim Curry's make up for Rocky Horror Picture Show. Daryl Hall and John Oates should have known what was coming. 

  "He was a very flamboyant Frenchman," Oates told VH1's Behind The Music."I remember his exact words: 'I will immortalize you!'. Well, he sure did." 

  The cover of their RCA debut Daryl Hall and John Oates features the duo in heavy make up.

  "I said 'Oh my God, this looks like every girl I ever wanted to go out with," Hall laughs.
   "The cover caused all kinds of controversy," manager Tommy Mottola said."Everybody thought the two of them were gay. They thought they were lovers living together which in a lot of ways was a great PR sort of move."

   The first single was a tepid cover of the reggae tune "Soldering" but DJ's preferred the B side, "Sara Smile", inspired by Hall's girlfriend Sara Allen. "Sara Smile" would become the duo's first Top 10 hit, peaking at #4 in 1976. Deep Cut "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" features George Harrison on slide guitar and Sara Allen on backing vocals.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

40 Year Itch : All Duded Up For Saturday Night

Manfred Mann's Earth Band : Spirits in the Night

   A year before taking Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light" to the top of the Billboard 100, Manfred Mann's Earth Band released a keyboard heavy cover of his "Spirits In The Night" which would peak at #97. Both of the songs come from Springsteen's debut Greetings From Asbury Park ( as would "For You", which they recorded in 1980 for Chance.)Most of the album, Nightingales and Bombers,  is made up of what Robert Christgau called "space doodling", although there is also a cover of Joan Armatrading's "Visionary Mountains".

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

40 Year Itch : Say It Ain't So

Robert Redford in 3 Days of the Condor

Murray Head : Say It Ain't So Joe

   Recorded in 1975 and produced by the former Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, Murray Head's "Say It Ain't So Joe" was a huge hit in France and achieved cult status elsewhere even before Roger Daltrey made it it a UK hit in 1977. Baseball fans will recognize the title from the infamous Black Sox scandal which often came up in conversations about Watergate. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

40 Year Itch : Neu Wave Musik

Neu! : E-Musik

   Following the worldwide success of Kraftwerk's Autobahn, Neu!, made up of former Kraftwerk members Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, reunited for one final Krautrock statement, their masterpiece Neu! '75. On that album's greatest cut, "E-Musik" ( short for ernste or "serious" music), two drummers play the almost robotic phased "motorik" beat, while Rother and Dinger play guitars and synthesizers for ten minutes that would inspire everyone from David Bowie and Brian Eno to Public Image Ltd and Radiohead. In fact Rother would soon decline an invitation to play on one of Bowie's Berlin albums.

Monday, August 17, 2015

40 Year Itch : Beware of the Dog!

Hound Dog Taylor : Let's Get Funky

    Born with six digits on his hand in Natchez, Mississippi in 1915, Hound Dog Taylor played the guitar with more raucous abandon than pure skill. The live version of "Let's Get Funky" is the sound of a man and a band unleashing every inner demon to rip the joint. Taylor would succumb to cancer before the live album, Beware of the Dog, was released.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

UK Top 10 August 16, 1975

   To escape what would have been an 83% income rate in the UK, Rod Stewart moved to Los Angeles where he applied for American citizenship. On August 15, Stewart released the Tom Dowd produced Atlantic Crossing. Side One rocks hard with songs like "Three Time Loser" ( is he really singing 'While I'm jacking off reading Playboy on a hot afternoon?') and "Stone Cold Sober", but it was the last song on Side Two, a cover of the Sutherland Brothers's "Sailing" that would be the biggest UK hit of Stewart's entire career. On this date 40 year ago, the single leaped 24 places to #2. It would be the #1 song for four straight weeks and then return to the Top 10 a year later.

    This was also the month the Bradford bar band Smokey took the Nicky Chinn /Mike Chapman written and produced single "If You Think You Know How To Love Me" to #3 on the UK charts. Facing a lawsuit from Smokey Robinson, the band changed the spelling of their name to Smokie. They are still recording today


Saturday, August 15, 2015

40 Year Itch : A Bollywood Plunge

R.D. Burman/ Asha Bhosle : Mera Pyar Shalimar

    My list of the Top 5 soundtracks of 1975 failed to include Rahul Dev Burman's score for the Bollywood film Aap Ki Kasam. My fault. 

    R.D. Burman revolutionized Hindi film scores by incorporating western spy movie music, rock 'n'roll and even disco with Indian folk and classical music. He worked on more than 300 films between the 1960's and the 1990's . The book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die highlights Burman's Shalimar which it says came out in 1975. Actually it was 1978. Even so, it's a worthy soundtrack in which to take the Bollywood  plunge. The song "One Two Cha Cha Cha" quotes K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way ( I Like It)" and Burman's wife, the heralded Asha Bhosle, sings on "Mera Pyar Shalimar".

Friday, August 14, 2015

40 Year Itch : Hill Country Honky Tonk

Presidio, Texas, 1975 by Stephen Shore
Guy Clark : Rita Ballou

    By the time Guy Clark released his critically praised 1975 debut, Old No 1, his song "L.A. Freeway" had already been a hit for Jerry Jeff Walker. Walker had also recorded "Desperados Waiting For the Train".  It's an album full of characters and moments straight out of Clark's life spent in a small West Texas town called Monahans where he was raised by his grandmother who owned a small hotel. Clark enlisted a few stars to help him with the debut, including Randy Crowell, Emmylou Harris and Sammi Smith. This is country without strings attached and that may have been one of the reasons countrypolitan soaked country radio ignored what is now considered a classic. For more information ( and more mp3's) check out this post from The Rising Storm.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Boss Plays The Bottom Line

    The ten-show stand at the Bottom Line early in the (Born to Run) tour remains a rock date to rival James Brown at the Apollo or Dylan at Newport. At the Bottom Line, Springsteen became himself. By adding Van Zandt as a second guitar player, he was liberated from some of his musical duties, and he became a full-throttle front man, leaping off amps and pianos, frog-hopping from one tabletop to the next. ~ David Remnick, The New Yorker

   On August 13, 1975, twelve days before the release of Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band began a five night, ten show stand at The Bottom Line. This was a new E Street Band, with keyboardist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg replacing David Sancious and Ernest "Boom" Carter, respectively. Steven Van Zandt, who'd played in an earlier band with Springsteen, joined as second guitarist.

    Columbia Records executives were frustrated by Springsteen's lack of success. They purchased a quarter of the tickets at the 500 seat venue and distributed them to music industry types to get the word out.  Even so, not all of the shows were sold out until after WNEW-FM broadcast the fifth show. After that, people were lined up around the block to get in.

    There are bootlegs of these shows all over the internet. Listening, you have to remind yourself how little known some of these legendary songs were at the time . In "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out", during the second show, when Springsteen sings "And the Big Man joined the band", there is absolutely no reaction from the crowd. A week later and from then on, it would become one of the great applause lines of every show.

   Robert De Niro, in New York shooting Taxi Driver, caught one of the Bottom Line shows. He watched as the crowd yelled "Brruuuuuuce!" and Springsteen responded with "You talkin' to me?".
De Niro would make that line his own in an improvised scene shot within the next couple of days.

   The shows had their desired effect. Ken Tucker wrote in the Soho Weekly News "I have just come from the best rock and roll performance I've ever seen in my long, decadent life". The Village Voice's Paul Nelson responded in the affirmative to his cover story " Is Springsteen Worth The Hype?": "On my feet, clapping, never wanting it to end, I ask myself when I've ever been so moved by a concert."
   "It was our coming-out party," Springsteen says. "And some sort of transformation occurred over those five nights. We walked out of that place in a different place."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

40 Year Itch: Guess I'll Call It A Day

The Spinners : Games People Play

   By August of 1975, their 19th year as a singing group, The Spinners were finally making money, buying houses and Cadillacs and having babies. And they did it by trading off singing parts, free of egos, under the direction of Thom Bell. 

Phillipe Wynne and his cars

Promoting the new album, Pick of the Litter, would be the biggest test of egos yet. Especially when they lip-synced the new hit single "Games People Play" on Soul Train

   That's because some of the lines were sung by female background vocalist Evette Benton. Henry Fambrough did the honors. Not an ounce of shame or even a wink in his performance. Henry is the last surviving member of the original Spinners.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Blame For Making Me Blue

Freddy Fender : Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

    In August of 1975, Freddy Fender had the top selling country single, a remake of his 1960 hit "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" as well as the top selling album, Before the Next Teardrop Falls. The last time his "Wasted Days" was a hit, in 1960, Fender and his bass player were arrested and sent to Louisiana's notorious Angola prison farm. 

Fender in 1960

   He was released after three years on the condition he stay away from bars. Fender became a mechanic and might have vanished for good had it not been for a record producer named Huey P Meaux, aka "The Crazy Cajun". Meaux asked Fender to overdub some vocals on an instrumental version of a minor country hit  written in the late 1960's. Fender sang the song in English and then Spanish and thought nothing of it. That song was the #1 country and #1 pop hit, "Before The Next Teardrop Falls". Fender's follow-up nearly duplicated "Teardrop"'s success selling a million copies in the US where it became a Top 10 pop hit.  

In New Zealand the song topped the pop charts for twelve weeks.