Treasured by those of us who think Nils Lofgren's solo debut is one of the great albums of 1975, this October 31, 1975 recording of a live radio broadcast at The Record Plant for KSAN-FM is a rollicking collection of songs performed by Lofgren, his touring band and, on some tunes, special guest Al Kooper. The songs are looser. Each tune gives Lofgren room to show why his guitar and piano skills earned him roles as sideman for both Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.
Bob's just an ordinary fucking guy, a great songwriter who got swept up in this whole fame thing and was smart enough to know how to control it, who rode with it and was shrewd, damn shrewd. And now he's just paying everyone back with this tour. It's like a family scene.
- Songwriter David Blue to Rolling Stone
On October 30, 1975 Bob Dylan and a caravan of fellow musicians unknown ( T-Bone Burnett) and known ( Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Ramblin' Jack Elliot) took the stage in front of 1800 fans Plymouth, Massachusetts to perform their first concert of a tour dubbed The Rolling Thunder Revue. The concept: put on a series of shows for the people who missed out on the good house seats taken up by celebrities and music insiders on the last tour. It wouldn't be much of a secret. The cast would mushroom as the tour continued. Joni Mitchell would join for a few nights. Muhammed Ali even appeared onstage with Dylan at Madison Square Garden.
That October night, with a backing band made up of Burnett, Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, guitarist Steven Soles, and bass player Rob Soles, Dylan and guitarist Bob Neuwirth opened with "When I Paint My Masterpiece", "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Hard Rain". Violinist Scarlet Rivera replaced Neuwirth for the Desire cut "Durango". Then Dylan sang "Isis" a capella.
After a break, the curtain rose to reveal Dylan and Joan Baez together. Her song about Dylan, "Diamonds and Rust", would be entering the Top 40 within a week. Roger McGuinn would soon get his turn. Then Dylan would return to perform his future Top 40 single "Hurricane", about the murder conviction of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter which would be released the next day.
As the tour continued, the Desire album were released. Eventually the tour lost steam, but not before a film, Renaldo and Clara, a live album, Hard Rain, and enough good material to fill the two disc The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue were made.
At one point early in the tour Dylan was asked if he knew what "Rolling Thunder" meant to indians.
Dylan thought about that for a moment and said "I'm glad to hear that. I'm real glad to hear that, man."
Singer/songwriting sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle had already been performing in the Montreal folk scene for ten years when their songs found their way onto albums by the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Judy Collins. That's when Warner Brothers invited the sisters to record their debut album, a stunning collection of songs that flow from rock to blues to gospel to a french song with a reggae beat about living outside the Canadian stereotypes. Saint Catherine isn't just the patron saint of single girls. She also gave her name to a Montreal shopping district and a metro station where, back in the day, you might have found one of the marvelous sisters getting warm.
One of reggae's top DJs of the 70's, Big Youth, hits his peak with Dreadlocks Dread, featuring both "Train to Rhodesia" and "Marcus Garvey Dread", which uses the Burning Spear classic for his backing track. In 1975 Rhodesia was on the brink of a race war with the ruling whites outnumbered by blacks 3 to 97.
The best 60's American British Invasion band of the 70's was still a year away from releasing the sensational Shake Some Action when they released the god-awful single "Let The Boy Rock N' Roll" backed with one of the Groovies grooviest grooves,"Yes It's True", as a B side. Both songs would appear on the album. Any resemblance to The Beatles' "Baby It's You" is purely coincidental.
In the week ending October 25, 1975 KC and the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way ( I Like It)" debuted on the Hot 100 at #50. Within five weeks the infectious tune would supplant Elton John's "Island Girl" to take the top spot for two straight weeks in late November.
It wasn't just that teeny bopper crowd who were enthralled by KC and the Sunshine Band. New York Times critic Steve Ditlea praised the band's live show:
In person, they are one of the most exciting groups performing today. On stage KC becomes truly possessed by his rhythms, happily rocking from side to side as he stands hunched over his electric piano, skipping across the floor, proselytizing his listeners to give into the spirit of his fervent sound. This is no insecure Caucasian kid mimicking black inflections, exhorting a crowd to "put your hands together".
Curtis Mayfield brings out the sultry and sexy side of The First Family of Gospel, with a #1 single that sounds like a sequel to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On". The ladies in the audience would scream when Pops Staples sang "Now I like you lady/ So Fine with your pretty hair" but it's Mavis's bedroom appeals that won the heart of the recently deposed heavyweight champion George Foreman. Unfortunately, as Jet Magazine reported, Foreman always fell speechless at the sight of Mavis.
"Let's Do It Again" was the title track of a Curtis Mayfield written and produced soundtrack for a 1975 comedy starring Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby and Jimmie Walker as "Bootney Farnsworth".
One of rock's Zeligs, Henry McCullough played that wonderfully disjointed guitar solo on the #1 Wings hit "My Love" and can be heard on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon saying " I don't know. I was really drunk at the time". He even replaced Wilko Johnson in Dr Feelgood. On October 24, 1975, he released his debut solo album Mind Your Own Business on George Harrison's Dark Horse label. It has the loose feel of the some of the cuts that didn't make the proposed Red Rose Speedway double album, but is apparently now out of print.
On October 24, 1975 Roxy Music released their fifth album, the critically acclaimed Siren. The album kicks off with the hit single "Love Is The Drug"; Bryan Ferry playing up his role as the suave statesman of the over-sexed 70's. But the tunes that follow seem to dismantle his playboy myth to reveal a "sentimental fool" , "mystified and blue" ; "an average man" "shattered by dreams" who "couldn't bear to be alone."
If you haven't already, play Siren with an ear towards John Gustafson's bass which, thankfully, is mixed up front. He propels every song forwards and does some digitus gymnastics along the way. This would be his last of three studio albums with Roxy Music which would disband for four years filled in by the record company with a live album and a greatest hits collection.
My deep track pick is "Sentimental Fool" which begins in an Another Green World haze of Manzanera-tronics and ends with 90 seconds of post punk funk, Ferry crooning in falsetto "Oh once she gets in /Through thick and through thin /She'll show you what living's for". The playboy has been played.
Timed to coincide with the release of Rock of the Westies, Elton John received his Walk of Fame star in front of so many screaming fans Hollywood Boulevard had to be shut down. From a distance Elton looked like a leprechaun, but up close as he approached the microphone, you could see his suit was decked out in stars with names like Joel McCrae.
"I now declare this supermarket open!" Elton said. He posed quickly with his star then dashed into a waiting car telling one journalist he was nervous because it was hard "to think of things to say to the fuckin' pavement."
How did Mike Batt of The Wombles wind up producing Steeleye Span's most successful single? It was guitarist Tim Hart's idea. "I listened to a (Wombles) album out of silliness really," Hart told writer David Burke," and I really couldn't believe the production, because it each track, and each track was totally different--I thought, "This is the producer we've been looking for."
By then Steeleye Span has worked with both David Bowie and Peter Sellars, who played ukelele on the previous album's "New York Girls".
Batt visited the band as they were rehearsing the title cut to All Around My Hat, and recognized the rocking shuffle as the same he used on "Remember You're a Womble", a UK#3 hit in 1974. The Steeleye Span anthem is actually a combination of two English folk songs , "All Around My Hat" and "Farewell He", and as Maddy Prior says "it's still a bloody hard song to sing. It's in a hard key. It requires a lot of energy to sing it. You can't sit back and sing it sweetly. You've got to put everything into it. "
Debuting on the charts at #90 in the last week of October, The Miracles' "Love Machine" would be the group's biggest hit with or without Smokey Robinson ( who had left in 1972). It would take 20 weeks of incessant radio play, but by March of 1976 "Love Machine ( Part one)" would top the US pop charts.
During the Moody Blues' five year hiatus, lead singer Justin Hayward and bass player John Lodge scored a UK #8 hit with "Blue Guitar", a song featuring members of 10cc as both musicians and producers.
It was actually recorded years earlier when Hayward was visiting his friend Eric Stewart whom he had known since Stewart's days in the Mindbenders. Stewart said there was an open date at the 10cc-owned Strawberry Studios, Hayward had a song, and so they recorded "Blue Guitar" which, with some sweetening strings and bass lines from Lodge, entered the UK charts in October of 1975.
Hayward and Stewart remained friends. It was on a vacation to Jamaica together that they faced a scary incident that would inspire 10cc's "Dreadlock Holiday".
A soulful, seminal 1975 single from one of the best of the close harmony groups, The Mighty Diamonds. Ready to expand your reggae collection beyond Bob Marley and Peter Tosh? Start here. The trio, Tabby, Bunny and Judge, are still going strong.
There were a few other bands exploring the avant-garde ( Henry Cow comes to mind), but no other American single released in 1975 suggested such big and noisy changes were on the horizon. The riff may make you think of Sabbath, but Ozzy never wrote such poetic, disturbed lyrics. And then the whole tune implodes for minutes of noise. Had the punks followed Pere Ubu's lead instead of the Ramones, what would we have been hearing in 1977?
Released originally as a B side to "Blue Night" in October of 1975, Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing" would peak at #2 in the UK and at #3 in the US in 1976. Campy or not, it remains one of my all time favorite funky singles of the decade.
Interestingly, "You Sexy Thing" was poised to top the charts when Queen released its legendary video for its then #9 single, "Bohemian Rhapsody". Queen leaped to the top spot where they would be for nine straight weeks.
Until his third album, at least, Art Garfunkel remains one of the great background voices -- nothing more.
-Dave Marsh, reviewing Garfunkel's second album, Breakaway, for Rolling Stone
Released within days of Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years and also featuring "My Little Town", Art Garfunkel's Breakaway was bound to draw comparisons. Garfunkel is not a songwriter so his albums should be judged on song choice, production and performance.
I've only recently owned the album and I'm impressed by the song choice. Garfunkel recorded the first version of Gallagher and Lyle's "Breakaway, a #1 Easy Listening hit, with backing vocals by David Crosby and Graham Nash. "99 Miles From LA" was another #1 Easy Listening hit for original author Albert Hammond. Bruce Johnson's "Disney Girls" was originally recorded by The Beach Boys for their Surf's Up album. The big single was a Flamingos cover, "I Only Have Eyes For You", a UK#1 hit. Andrew Gold played all the instruments on that song and many on the rest of the album.
Richard ( Carly Simon, Ringo Starr) Perry's production is perfect but lacking in any kind of edge. The same can be said of Garfunkel's performance. If 1975 was the mellowest year in rock, Breakaway may be the year's quintessential recording. And it goes down smooth with an evening cocktail.
Of all the love songs released in 1975, this one might be my favorite. It's from A Little Easier, an album released by New Zealand artist Max Merritt and The Meteors in October of 1975. Merritt had been rocking out for 16 years by then, but nothing he recorded was so full of heartache.
Too many covers for my taste, but many Feelgood fans believe Malpractice, released in October of 1975, is the band's best. "Because You're Mine" is apparently written by Wilko Johnson and fellow pub rocker Nick Lowe. Wilko's choppy guitar playing must have inspired Gang of Four's Andy Gill as well as The Jam's Paul Weller.
1975 was the year of the Sedaka. The chubby 35 year old had written three #1 songs that year: "Laughter in the Rain", Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together", and "Bad Blood", his duet with Rocket label owner Elton John which sold 1.4 million copies and was number one for three weeks beginning October 11th. Aside from Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" nothing in the Top 20 actually rawks.
1 BAD BLOOD –•– Neil Sedaka (Rocket)-5 (1 week at #1)
2 CALYPSO / I’M SORRY –•– John Denver (RCA)-9
3 FAME –•– David Bowie (RCA)-16
4 MR. JAWS –•– Dickie Goodman (Cash)-6
5 MIRACLES –•– Jefferson Starship (Grunt)-8
6 BALLROOM BLITZ –•– Sweet (Capitol)-18
7 DANCE WITH ME –•– Orleans (Asylum)-13
8 AIN’T NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY –•– Helen Reddy (Capitol)-10
9 ROCKY –•– Austin Roberts (Private Shock)-13
10 LYIN’ EYES –•– The Eagles (Asylum)-5
11 FEELINGS –•– Morris Albert (RCA)-17
12 IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE –•– Tavares (Capitol)-12
13 THEY JUST CAN’T STOP IT THE (Games People Play) –•– The Spinners (Atlantic)-10
14 WHO LOVES YOU –•– The Four Seasons (Warner Brothers)-8
15 RHINESTONE COWBOY –•– Glen Campbell (Capitol)-20
16 BRAZIL –•– The Ritchie Family (20th Century)-11
17 RUN JOEY RUN –•– David Geddes (Big Tree)-11
18 HEAT WAVE / LOVE IS A ROSE –•– Linda Ronstadt (Asylum)-6
19 SOMETHING BETTER TO DO –•– Olivia Newton-John (MCA)-4
20 WASTED DAYS AND WASTED NIGHTS –•– Freddy Fender (ABC / Dot)-17
For a brief moment the Winkies were the shit. That was the moment they were the backing band for Brian Eno's "Seven Deadly Finns" single as well as his short lived five gig tour--the one that ended with Eno in a hospital, recovering from a collapsed lung. Eno contributed to the first Winkies album sessions, but those never made it to an album. Instead we have this debut produced by the erratic Guy Stevens ( Mott The Hoople, Free, some of The Clash's London Calling). Still, there are moments that shine with what Eno called "idiot energy", a pre-punk, petulant, New York Dolls-like shimmer.
Trying to make up for my lack of 1975 boogie, check out some of the best slide guitar of the entire decade from Rory Gallagher's Against The Grain. One of the albums that inspired future Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, it's a showcase for a man who refused to make disposable pop.
Bee Gees drummer Dennis Byron witnessed the beginning of The Helium Years during the recording of the Main Course track "Nights On Broadway". The brothers Gibb liked singing around the same mic .
Whenever they were together -- especially around a mic--it was like comedy central. They were good at impersonations and could pretty much do anybody. As they were rehearsing the vocals on "Nights on Broadway", they broke into a mad five minutes. They started singing in strange voices and making strange faces. It was hilarious; everybody in the control room was in stiches.
Suddenly Arif (Marden, producer) stopped the tape. "Barry, I have an idea. Try singing the chorus in falsetto."
Karl rewound the tape and Barry started singing in that high voice: "Blaming it all". Robin and Maurice joined in, and we all had chills. Barry was reluctant to change his style of singing at first, but Arif encouraged him. "Experiment with your voice, take it places it's never been."
When we got home that night we played the rough mix of "Nights On Broadway" into the early hours. This was a hit.
"Nights On Broadway" peaked at #7 in the US. Candi Staton's 1977 cover reached No. 6 in the UK.
Rock operas made a comeback in 1975 with 10cc's "Une Nuit A Paris ( One Night in Paris)", Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and almost the entire Sparks album Indiscreet, which was released in October. The Mael brothers teamed up with producer Tony Visconti who indulged their Gilbert and Sullivan operetta obsessions on songs like opening track "Hospitality On Parade", "Without Using Hands" and "It Ain't 1918".
Not all of the critics were impressed but Morrissey was a huge fan, writing in his forward to Visconti's Brooklyn Boy.
"Either the Maels or Tony Visconti, were asking 'What can we show them that is new?'...From a tipsy teatime waltz to unstoppable violins, the pace pulverized the listener, and Russell's mouth seemed unable to close. There are so many latitude and longitude instrumental textures that the masterstroke was almost overcooked."
The album peaked at #18 in the UK and failed to chart in the US.
On October 6, 1975 Paul Simon released Still Crazy After All These Years, the Grammy award winning Album of the Year which spun off three hit singles and amassed platinum sales. It's a mellow, melancholy album that chronicles the end of Simon's marriage to Peggy Harper, the woman who inspired "Bridge Over Troubled Waters".
Complex chords played on an electric piano dominate the proceedings as Simon muses on his return to life as a lonely, single man:
I'm not the kind of man
Who tends to socialize
I seem to lean on
Old familiar ways
Simon did socialize though. He would date starlets like Shelly Duvall and his second wife Carrie Fisher. He was also spotted at Studio 54. And there would be no shortage of women who would have said things like:
She said it grieves me so
To see you in such pain
I wish there was something I could do
To make you smile again
I said I appreciate that
Outside of the "Slip out the back, Jack" rhyming scheme ( which certainly got old in repeated airplays as "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" went to #1), the album's pretty serious stuff. That would explain Simon's 1976 appearance on his best friend Lorne Michaels's Saturday Night Live in which he sings "Still Crazy" in a turkey outfit.
"I don't wanna be Mr Alienation. I want to be a regular guy," he explains.
My favorite cut is probably "Have a Good Time". Written for Warren Beatty's Shampoo, it's sung from the point of view of the Beverly Hills hairdresser/lothario is sleeping his way into trouble.:
I've been loving and loving
I'm exhausted from loving so well
I should go to bed
But a voice in my head
Says "Ah, what the hell"
With fewer than 100 days left to celebrate the best music of 1975, I feel like we'd better play some catch-up. Here are a few mostly forgotten albums that made "The Dean's" list at the end of 1975.
Following her years in Joy of Cooking, Terry Garthwaite released a funky self-titled album in 1975 Christgau gave the album an A-, writing "Garthwaite emerges as a kind of white, upbeat Esther Phillips, applying a gritty Dinah Washington cast to post-rock lyrics both metaphorical and incantatory. But she's more flexible, happier--her delight in pure sound suggests both scat improvisation and novelty nonsense"
Stoney Edwards, a rare black country singer, released Mississippi You're On My Mind in 1975 which Christgau also graded an A- writing "And though Edwards literally can't read or write, he makes up good songs and picks better ones...He touches all the bases without sententiousness or whoop-de-doo. Country soul indeed."
Christgau originally gave session musician Randall Bramblett's debut album a B+ writing "A find. Transcending its well-connected professional genre, the slightly distracted passion of Bramblett's singing combines with his oblique fusion of Southern boogie, studio country-rock, and Caribbean polyrhythms to take the edge of privilege off his philosophical fatalism. His music is too warm and funny to sound self-satisfied, and the way he collects images around an aphoristic catchphrase is too open-ended to sound smug. Start with side two."
With the exception of the Bowie chart topper and the Sweet single, this truly was a "so bad, it's good" Top 10, highlighted by the cringe-inducing "Run Joey Run", featuring the return of young Michael Vance ( from Clint Holmes's "Playground In My Mind") as the voice of Julie.
1 2 FAME –•– David Bowie (RCA)-15 (2 weeks at #1)
2 1 I’M SORRY / CALYPSO –•– John Denver (RCA)-8
3 3 RHINESTONE COWBOY –•– Glen Campbell (Capitol)-19
4 5 RUN JOEY RUN –•– David Geddes (Big Tree)-10
5 14 MR. JAWS –•– Dickie Goodman (Cash)-5
6 25 BAD BLOOD –•– Neil Sedaka (Rocket)-4
7 9 BALLROOM BLITZ –•– Sweet (Capitol)-17
8 12 DANCE WITH ME –•– Orleans (Asylum)-12
9 11 AIN’T NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY –•– Helen Reddy (Capitol)-9
10 24 ROCKY –•– Austin Roberts (Private Shock)-12