Thursday, December 31, 2015

40 Year Itch: Goodbye 1975 !!

   Thanks for joining me for another year of rehashing the classics and uncovering the nuggets from an entire year in rock and soul. What better way to end than by listening in on the best New Year's Eve Party of 1975: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA? One of several December 1975 shows professionally recorded under the supervision of Jimmy Iovine for a possible live album, this concert featured the last slow version of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" the band would play live for fifteen years. The up-tempo version is always one of the highlights of a Springsteen concert ( and would be released as a single in early 1976) but this is a great song no mater how they play it.

The full set list from that night:


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

40 Year Itch : The 5 worst hit songs of 1975

   It was the 70's so much of what made the Top 40 was awful but nothing was quite so revolting as these top five hits from 1975. 

1. MORRIS ALBERT: FEELINGS -- Over. Wrought. With lyrics so generic they could be about a lost love or a dead pet gerbil.

2. GEORGE BAKER SELECTION and JONATHAN KING :  UNA PALOMA BLANCA --There were two competing versions of this wretched song on the charts at the same time

3. JOHN DENVER WITH OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: FLY AWAY --A song about a depressed city dweller leaping off a building?

4. WING AND A PRAYER FIFE AND DRUM CORPS : BABYFACE --When a 50 year old song gets trashed by disco treatment everybody of every age loses.

5. MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY : WILDFIRE --The dead horse song

Monday, December 28, 2015

40 Year Itch : 40 Best Singles of 1975

Queen Bohemian Rhapsody
10cc I'm Not in Love
Bee Gees Jive Talkin
Earth Wind and Fire Shining Star
David Ruffin Walk Away from Love

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes Wake Up Everybody
Roxy Music Love is the Drug
Bob Dylan Tangled Up in Blue
David Bowie Fame
Bruce Springsteen Born to Run

Hot Chocolate You Sexy Thing
Dwight Twilley Band I'm On Fire
Ohio Players Love Rollercoaster
Augustus Pablo King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown
War Low Rider

Donna Summer Love To Love You Baby
Steve Harley Come Up and See Me ( Make Me Smile)
KC and the Sunshine Band Get Down Tonight
The O'Jays I Love Music
Bruce Springsteen 10th Avenue Freeze Out

Willie Nelson Blue Eyes Crying in in the Rain
Television Little Johnny Jewel
The Four Seasons Who Loves You
Ozark Mountain Daredevils Jackie Blue
Pete Wingfield 18 With a Bullet

Grand Funk Railroad Bad Time
Leon Haywood I Want A' Do Something Freaky To You
The Fatback Band ( Do the) Bus Stop
Dr Feelgood She Does It Right
Max Merritt and the Meteors Slipping Away

Fleetwood Mac Over My Head
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes Bad Luck
Art Garfunkel Breakaway
Sparks Something for the Girl with Everything
James Brown Reality

Gary Wright Dream Weaver
Bachman Turner Overdrive Hey You
Stretch Why Did You Do It
Andy Fairweather Low Wide Eyed and Legless
Captain and Tennille Love Will Keep Us Together

Saturday, December 26, 2015

40 Year Itch : 25 Fave Albums from 1975

Fave Albums of 1975

Patti Smith Horses
Brian Eno Another Green World
Nils Lofgren
Neil Young Tonight's the Night
Dr Feelgood Down By the Jetty

Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger
Roxy Music Siren
Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks
Bruce Springsteen Born to Run
Parliament Mothership Connection

Burning Spear Marcus Garvey
Neil Young Zuma
Steely Dan Katy Lied
Fleetwood Mac
John Cale Helen of Troy

Richard and Linda Thompson Pour Down Like Silver
Hawkwind Warrior on the Edge of Time
Neu '75
The Who By Numbers
Ronnie Lane One for the Road

Bob Dylan and the Band Basement Tapes
Bee Gees Main Course
Wings Venus and Mars
Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti
Amazing Rhythm Aces Stacked Deck

Thursday, December 24, 2015

40 Year Itch: Best Discoveries from 1975

  1975 was a much more fascinating year for music than I initially thought it would be. Here are some of my favorite discoveries this year . ( OK, I knew the Augustus Pablo, Neu and Stealers Wheel tracks before, but they seem to fit into the mix). The ZipFile is a CD length sampler. Thanks to everyone who checked in this year. What will 2016 have in store? I'm seriously considering 1966 as opposed to 1976.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

40 Year Itch : Three We Missed

Andy Fraser : Changed Man

   A founding member of Free and vocalist with The Sharks, bass player Andy Fraser 's "Changed Man" was one of the most played songs in my "1975" iTunes playlist this year. Fraser died in March.

Frankie Miller : A Fool in Love

After his 1975 albums, Fraser tried to start a band with Scottish Otis Redding sound-a-like Frankie Miller, whose "A Fool in Love" came off his album The Rock, recorded in San Francisco.

The Trammps : Hold Back the Night

"Hold Back the Night" was a UK#5 hit in 1975 for the Philadelphia band whose "Disco Inferno" would be part of the mega-selling Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Graham Parker has a Top 30 hit with  "Hold Back the Night" in 1977

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

40 Year Itch : Under Lock and Key

Parliament : Handcuffs

  A deep cut from 1975's funkiest and most out-there album, Mothership Connection. This is the album that had everyone in the know singing "Make my funk a P-Funk I wants to get funked up!" Still putting on the best shows when I caught them twice in the 90's. Once as damn near the only white boy in a Greenville, South Carolina club and the second time in an antiseptic showroom in Lake Tahoe. They burned the roof off the muther both times!

Monday, December 14, 2015

40 Year Itch: White Shining Silver Studs

Patti Smith : Land

   When you consider Patti Smith's Horses from this side of the punk rock explosion, it's a raw, revolutionary debut - a "catalyst" for punk. But consider the year Horses ( with its defiant cover shot by best friend Robert Mapplethorpe) actually came out: 1975. 
      The Captain and Tennille had the year's biggest pop hit and Elton John's Greatest Hits was  the year's top selling album. It was the year of Kiss, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles and Abba. Of 10cc's "I'm Not in Love", KC and the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way ( I Like It)" and Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy".

   Horses was a far different animal. It began with what has been called the greatest opening lines of any album: "Jesus died for somebody's sins /but not mine" and would go on to become one of the most startling debuts in rock history.

   The opening cut reimagines Them's "Gloria" with fragments from a spoken word piece Smith had written called "Oath", performed as early as 1973.

   The band plays garage rock chords around the poet's improvisational, Arthur Rimbaud influenced performance, described later by Bauhaus's Tom Murphy as though she were "possessed and sometimes she goes into hysterical, indecipherable sections which amaze me".

  Guitarist Lenny Kaye was already the professor of garage rock. He helped assemble and wrote the liner notes for Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era and is believed to be one of the first to use the term "punk rock" to describe the music of that era.

   "Kimberly" is a good example of the way Kaye's guitar based pop hooks supported Smith's free-form poetry. My sense had always been that we're hearing of the end of the world and Patti is reaching out to comfort her younger sister. I got the sister right part but as Patti Smith told The Guardian, "Housing developments were a new thing, postwar, they'd build them for poor people in areas that nobody wanted. Ours was literally on a swamp. We lived across the street from an old abandoned barn that got hit by lightning shortly after Kimberly was born. I went outside and I was holding her, watching this barn in fl ames. Hundreds of bats lived in it, and you could hear them screeching, and see bats and owls and buzzards flying out.'"

   So what did the punks really get from Horses? I think it's the bursts of energy you hear in "Gloria" and "Land" and especially in the bonus cut, a live version of The Who's "My Generation", coupled with the sneering vocals--all attitude--from Smith. 
   Horses, produced in fitful weeks of arguments by John Cale,  is the first album to come from New York's punk rock scene. But it's not punk. It's art of the highest order.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

40 Year Itch : Do You Remember the Days of Slavery?

Burning Spear : Slavery Days

    Don't let the trancelike, easy skanking rhythms and bright horns distract you from the powerful lyrics of Winston Rodney ( aka Burning Spear) who appealed to Black Pride by updating the "Back to Africa" messages of Marcus Garvey. On a future album he would castigate an Italian hero with the line "Christopher Columbus is a damn blasted liar". On this one he asks us all "Do you remember the days of slavery?" Rodney, now 70,  remains the consciousness of roots reggae music.

Friday, December 11, 2015

40 Year Itch : Soul Dracula

Hot Blood : Soul Dracula

   Though it made little in the way of impact in the US until it appeared in the 2014 Jim Jarmusch film Only Lovers Left Alive, the German band Hot Blood's 1975 single "Soul Dracula" did find its way in Japan where it sold 600,000 copies becoming that nation's top disco hit of 1976.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

40 Year Itch: Turn the Black Night, Blue

Andy Fairweather Low : Wide Eyed and Legless

   A drinker's lament that hit the top 10 in the UK, thanks in part to the dreamy production of Glyn Johns. The former Amen Corner leader played on Gerry Rafferty's City To City album and is a journeyman musician who could be seen on stage with the likes of Eric Clapton and Van Morrison. Written today, the song about drunkenness might have been called "Pissed as a Fart".

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

40 Year Itch : No More Sleepin' In Bed

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes : Wake Up Everybody

    From the most popular R and B album of  Christmas 1975 comes the title cut "Wake Up Everybody", an epic "message" song written by John Whitehead and Gene McFadden and produced by Gamble and Huff. This is the seven and a half minute album version with the prolonged funky jam that rolls on while Teddy Pendergrass calls out preachers, politicians and cheating businessmen. The song may have topped the soul charts for two weeks in early 1976, but I'm not sure the world actually woke up. The lyrics could have been written last week...which may explain why John Legend and friends recorded a cover version five years ago.

Friday, December 4, 2015

40 Year Itch : He Ain't No Gentleman Jim

   I met the late Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in 1999 when he was doing interviews to promote the Denzel Washington movie, The Hurricane. He was smart and smooth and enjoying the moment. First Bob Dylan ("How can the life of such a man/  Be in the palm of some fool's hand? /To see him obviously framed /Couldn't help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land /Where justice is a game.") , now Denzel Washington were exonerating the twice-convicted accused triple-murderer. Pop culture had fully acquited Carter.

  But even back in 1975, as Dylan's tune was rising in the charts on its way to US # 33, propelled by a Madison Square Garden benefit concert with Muhammed Ali in attendance and the band in white face, at least one of his friends had her doubts.

  Joni Mitchell had talked to Hurricane Carter a few times on the phone "and I was alone in perceiving that he was a violent person and an opportunist. I thought 'Oh my God, we're a bunch of patsy white liberals. This is a bad person. He's fakin' it'."

  Rubin "Hurricane" Carter had been convicted  alongside John Artis of a 1966 triple murder at a Paterson, New Jersey bar. Cops stopped the two men in a car matching witness descriptions with guns the same gauge as those used in the murder. Dylan describes the court case that sent Carter to prison for life : 

All of Rubin's cards were marked in advance 
The trial was a pig-circus he never had a chance 
The judge made Rubin's witnesses drunkards from the slums 
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum 
And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger
 No one doubted that he pulled the trigger 
And though they could not produce the gun 
The DA said he was the one who did the deed 
And the all-white jury agreed. 

   Dylan was inspired to write "The Hurricane" after reading Carter's book , The 16th Round. He and Jacques Levy were convinced Carter had been framed. 

   But by late January of 1976, he quit playing "The Hurricane". The publicity Dylan had drummed up got Hurricane Carter in front a judge who released the boxer from prison in March of 1976. The next day Carter beat up a woman who had spent half a year working on his release. In November, Carter was retried and found guilty. In 1985, he was released on procedural grounds after spending nineteen years behinds bars.

  As The Hurricane movie received more attention during awards season, it became clear that the film had glossed over many of the facts of Carter's life and the case itself.

At the Golden Globes, Denzel Washington put his arm around Carter and said "This man right here is love".

  I'm not convinced one way or another. Sixteen years later, I can't shake the feeling that I might have sat across from a cool killer.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

40 Year Itch: A Dread That Shakes My Body

David Ruffin : Walk Away From Love

  This million-selling single penned by Van McCoy contains what may be the greatest male vocal performance of 1975. Listen how former Temptation David Ruffin ( who sang "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud To Beg")  hits the falsetto notes on "breaks my heart". Disco wasn't just about the beat. There was still room for great vocals and Ruffin delivers on this #1 R and B gem.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

40 Year Itch : Shack Up

Banbarra : Shack Up

  Looking for great beats and breaks?  How about a funky bass line and breathy female background vocals? Sampled by Public Enemy and covered by A Certain Ratio,  Banbarra's "Shack Up" is a new discovery for me and a guaranteed floor filler at your next disco night. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

40 Year Itch : Gettin' Robbed, Gettin' Stoned

AC/DC : It's a Long Way To The Top

  From the AC/DC's second Australia-only release, T.N.T, released December 1, 1975, comes the hardest rocking song to ever feature bagpipes. As you can see in the video below, shot on the back of a pick up--Rolling Stones style--on the busy streets of Melbourne, it is singer Bon Scott who plays the pipes. More than anything else, this rock and roll veteran wanted to get to the top. Now he had the band to get him there.

   Ladies, lock up your daughters. These boys are not up to any good.