Friday, December 30, 2016

40 Favorite Songs of 1976

1. Flamin Groovies : Shake Some Action

2. Al Stewart : Year of the Cat
3. Stevie Wonder : I Wish
4. 10cc: I'm Mandy Fly Me
5. Thin Lizzy : The Boys Are Back in Town
6. Modern Lovers : Roadrunner

7. Climax Blues Band : Couldn't Get it Right
8. The Nerves : Hanging on the Telephone
9. Nick Lowe: So It Goes
10. Jorge Ben : Ponta de Lanca (Umbabarauma)
11. The Saints: (I'm) Stranded

12. The Ramones : Blitzkreig Bop
13. The Spinners : Rubberband Man
14. Rory Gallagher : Do You Read Me
15. Manfred Mann's Earth Band : Blinded By the Light
16. David Bowie : Station to Station

17. Boz Scaggs: Lowdown
18. Wings : Silly Love Songs
19. Sex Pistols : Anarchy in the UK
20. Dazz : Brick
21. Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band : Cherchez La Femme

22. Radio Birdman :  I-94
23. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers : American Girl
24. Graham Parker and the Rumour : Between You and Me
25. Bee Gees : You Should Be Dancing
26. Junior Murvin : Police and Thieves

27. Penguin Cafe Orchestra : The Sound of Someone You Love Who's Going Away
28. Tim Maia : Nobody Can Live Forever
29. Bob Seger : Night Moves
30. Dave Edmunds : Here Comes the Weekend
31. Sutherland Brothers and Quiver : Arms of Mary

32. Doug Sahm : Give Back the Keys to My Heart
33. Bryan Ferry : Let's Stick Together
34. Todd Rundgren : Love of the Common Man
35. Sherbet : Howzat

36. Four Seasons: December 1963 ( Oh What a Night)
37. Jacob Miller Tenement Yard
38. T.Rex: I Love to Boogie
39. Can: I Want More
40. Hot Chocolate : Heaven is in the Back Seat of my Cadillac

Monday, December 26, 2016

30 Favorite Albums of 1976

1 Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life
2 David Bowie Station to Station
3 The Modern Lovers
4 The Ramones
5 Flamin Groovies Shake Some Action

6 Donna Summer A Love Trilogy
7 Wild Tchoupitoulas
8 The Abyssinians Satta Massagana
9 Jorge Ben Africa/Brasil
10 Joni Mitchell Hejira

11 Graham Parker Howlin Wind
12 Jean Michel Jarre Oxygene
13 10cc How Dare You
14 Invisible El jardín de los presentes
15 Bob Marley and The Wailers Rastaman Vibration

16 Jackson Browne The Pretender
17 James Booker Junco Partner
18 Thin Lizzy Jailbreak  
19 Joan Armatrading
20 Warren Zevon

21 Lou Reed Coney Island Baby
22 The Rolling Stones Black and Blue
23 Penguin Cafe Orchestra Music from the Penguin Cafe
24 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
25 Terry Reid Seed of Memory

26 Ry Cooder Chicken Skin Music 
27 Steely Dan The Royal Scam
28 Tom Waits Small Change
29  Cartola
30 Deaf School 2nd Honeymoon

Friday, December 23, 2016

Best Discoveries of 1976

Living musically in the year of 1976 opened my ears and eyes to some sounds this American kid somehow hadn't stumbled across. 

My biggest eye opener of the year was A Love Trilogy. Teaming up with Moroder was a match made in disco heaven.

The Abyssinians Kniow Jah Today  I had never heard of the Abyssinians until this year and now Satta Massagana is my favorite reggae album of 1976. A big deal!

Radio Birdman : Snake Another track from the year's best EP. Dig the Dolls influence!

The Quick : No No Girl - a delightful blast of Kim Fowley produced power pop.

Cartola : Sei Chorar  A great backstory makes this 1976 album even more amazing. Cartola was a Samba legend who vanished for decades before a journalist found the old man washing cars.

Terry Reid : Faith to Arise  Just feel good California rock from the legendary UK vocalist

Status Quo  : Mystery Song A slow burner from a band I'm only now learning to respect

Invisible : Perdonado (Niño condenado) - a beautiful discovery from Argentina!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pazz and Jop Poll for 1976

Village Voice - Pazz and Jop List for 1976

1. Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life (Tamla) 292 (25)
2. Graham Parker and the Rumour: Heat Treatment (Mercury) 234 (22)
3. Jackson Browne: The Pretender (Asylum) 232 (22)
4. Graham Parker and the Rumour: Howlin' Wind (Mercury) 215 (19)
5. Kate and Anna McGarrigle: Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Warner Bros.) 208 (16)
6. Steely Dan: The Royal Scam (ABC) 182 (14)
7. Joni Mitchell: Hejira (Asylum) 169 (16)
8. Ramones: Ramones (Sire) 153 (15)
9. Rod Stewart: A Night on the Town (Warner Bros.) 150 (15)
10. Blue Oyster Cult: Agents of Fortune (Columbia) 148 (13)
11. Eno: Another Green World (Island) 143 (12)
12. The Wild Tchoupitoulas: The Wild Tchoupitoulas (Island) 136 (14)
13. David Bowie: Station to Station (RCA Victor) 136 (13)
14. The Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers (Home of the Hits) 111 (12)
15. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band: Night Moves (Capitol) 109 (12)
16. Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band: Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band (RCA) 99
17. Bob Marley and the Wailers: Live! (Island) 86 (10)
18. Ry Cooder: Chicken Skin Music (Reprise) 84 (8)
19. Warren Zevon: Warren Zevon (Asylum) 81 (8)a
20. The Dwight Twilley Band: Sincerely (Capitol) 80 (7)
21. Boz Scaggs: Silk Degrees (Columbia) 79 (10)
22. Boston: Boston (Epic) 78 (5)
23. Richard and Linda Thompson: Pour Down Like Silver (Island) 74 (9)
24. Arlo Guthrie: Amigo (Reprise) 68 (8)
25. Thin Lizzy: Jailbreak (Mercury) 66 (6)
26. Bob Dylan: Desire (Columbia) 59 (5)
27. Jeff Beck: Wired (Epic) 58 (5)
28. Andy Pratt: Resolution (Nemporer) 57 (6)
29. Linda Ronstadt: Hasten Down the Wind (Asylum) 55 (4)
30. Patti Smith Group: Radio Ethiopia (Arista)

As I pointed out earlier, had Graham Parker and the Rumour only released one album, instead of splitting the vote, they would have had the number one album of the year. It's a pretty pasty white list with only five acts of any color ( and that includes Thin Lizzy). Over the year, my fondness for Hejira and Station to Station grew. I've always loved Songs in the Key of Life, The Ramones, The Wild Tchoupitoulas and The Modern Lovers albums.

Most Overrated : 
Rod Stewart - So the critics loved "Tonight's the Night"?
Blue Oyster Cult- Not their strongest despite (Don't Fear) The Reaper
Jeff Beck- Blow By Blow's baby brother
Graham Parker's Heat Treatment is NOT better than Howlin' Wind.

Most Underrated:
David Bowie Station to Station
The Modern Lovers

Should've Been on this list:
Jorge Ben Africa Brasil
Tom Waits Small Change
Donna Summer A Love Trilogy
Flamin Groovies Shake Some Action
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Lou Reed Coney Island Baby

Shouldn't Be on This List
Kate and Anna McGarrigle (s/t)
Brian Eno Another Green World
Richard and Linda Thompson Pour Down Like Silver
Bob Marley and the Wailers Live....all 1975 releases.
Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band (s/t). Just one great song really.

Most Forgotten
Andy Pratt 's Resolution. Rolling Stone's review of the songsmith's album was given bigger play than Steely Dan's The Royal Scam in the same issue.

They Got It Right
Bob Dylan's Desire finished #1 on a lot of critics polls but isn't as strong as that. It actually does belong behind Arlo Guthrie's Amigo in my book
Night Moves and Boston are both strong, mainstream rock albums

I Still Don't Get It
Hasten Down the Wind doesn't do anything for me.
I tried to like Radio Ethiopia, figuring my rock cred is on the line and I still don't.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Relax and Float Downstream

801 : T.N.K.

801 was a loose collective formed by Brian Eno and his former Roxy Music bandmate Phil Manzanera. Recorded live, at their final gig on September 3, 1976 at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. 801 Live is highlighted by its spacey rendition of John Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows". Bass player Bill MacCormick nearly steals the show.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Packing Up, Shacking Up

Fleetwood Mac : Go Your Own Way


On December 20, 1976, five days before Christmas, Fleetwood Mac released "Go Your Own Way", our first taste of one of the biggest selling albums of all times, Rumours. Like many songs on the album, which was originally titled Yesterday's Gone, "Go Your Own Way" is inspired by the band's messy personal relations. Every song on the album is about at least one member of the band.

"Go Your Own Way" is Lindsey Buckingham's kiss-off to Stevie Nicks, with the line "Tell me why /Everything turned around /Packing up /Shacking up is all you want to do" especially stinging. 

Nicks told Rolling Stone "I very much resented him telling the world that 'packing up, shacking up' with different men was all I wanted to do. He knew it wasn't true. It was just an angry thing that he said. Every time those words would come onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him. He knew it, so he really pushed my buttons through that. It was like, 'I'll make you suffer for leaving me.' And I did."

You could imagine The Rolling Stones playing this tune, with its tumbling drums and extended guitar solo at the end. The biggest rocker on one of the 70's biggest rock albums.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Two Kids in the Park

Smokie : Living Next Door to Alice

This week in 1976, Smokie hit the UK Top 10 for the third time with a cover of the Australian Band, New World's single, "Living Next Door to Alice", the Yorkshire band's only TOP 40 hit in the United States. In 1995, the Dutch band Gompie added the chant "Alice? Who the Fuck is Alice?" , topping the charts in Netherlands.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

This Fire Down in My Soul

Thelma Houston : Don't Leave Me This Way

On December 18, 1976 Thelma Houston's disco-fueled cover of Harold Melvin and the BlueNotes's single "Don't Leave Me This Way" entered the Hot 100 at #85. It would take 18 weeks, but the tune would top the charts in April 23, 1977. A divorced mother of two teenagers, Houston hadn't had many breaks in her long music career. She had recorded "Do You Know Where You're Going To ( Theme from "Mahogany") three years before Diana Ross, but it was only released in New Zealand!

Sometimes good things come to those who keep at it. Thanks to "Don't Leave Me This Way", Thelma Houston won Best Female R and B Vocal Performance at the Grammys. By the way, that's Henry E Davis of L.T.D. on bass. He would have something to celebrate in 1977 as well: a #1 R and B hit called "(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again".

Friday, December 16, 2016

NME 's Top Albums and Singles of 1976

1. Desire - Bob Dylan
2. Station To Station - David Bowie
3. Stupidity - Dr. Feelgood
4. Heat Treatment - Graham Parker
5. The Ramones - The Ramones
6. Agents Of Fortune - Blue Oyster Cult
7. Kate and Anna McGarrigle - Kate and Anna McGarrigle
8. The Pretender - Jackson Browne
9. Joan Armatrading - Joan Armatrading
10. Cry Tough - Nils Lofgren
11. Elite Hotel - Emmylou Harris
12. Jailbreak - Thin Lizzy
13. The Royal Scam - Steely Dan
14. Fly Like An Eagle - Steve Miller
15. Chicken Skin Music - Ry Cooder
16. Rastaman Vibration - Bob Marley
17. Hejira - Joni Mitchell
18. Man In The Hills - Burning Spear
19. Stretchin' Out - Bootsy's Rubber Band
20. Hard Rain - Bob Dylan
21. Faithful - Todd Rundgren
22. Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows - Neil Ardley
23. War In A Babylon - Max Romeo
24. Old No. 1 - Guy Clark
 Also Recommended: 
 Songs In The Key Of Life - Stevie Wonder
Home Of The Hits - The Modern Lovers
Johnny The Fox - Thin Lizzy
You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind - Joe Walsh
A New World Record - E.L.O.
Kingfish - Kingfish
Warren Zevon - Warren Zevon
Resolution - Andy Pratt
Howlin' Wind - Graham Parker
Those Southern Knights - The Crusaders

 NME Singles - 1976 
 1. The Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy
 2. Live At The Marquee (EP) - Eddie and The Hot Rods
 3. Anarchy In The U.K. - Sex Pistols
 4. Don't Fear The Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult
 5. So It Goes - Nick Lowe
 6. Police And Thieves - Junior Murvin
 7. Young Hearts Run Free - Candi Staton
 8. Love And Affection - Joan Armatrading
 9. I'll Be Good To You - Brothers Johnson
 10. Couldn't Get It Right - Climax Blues Band
 11. War In A Babylon - Max Romeo
 12. Take The Money And Run - Steve Miller
 13. Hurricane - Bob Dylan
 14. Lowdown - Boz Scaggs
 15. Let's Stick Together - Bryan Ferry
 16. Little Johnny Jewel - Television
 17. I Want More - Can
 18. Shake Some Action - Flamin' Groovies
 19. Roast Fish And Corn Bread - Lee Perry
 20. Boogie On The Street - Lew Lewis

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Some Head and Shoulders

Blondie : Look Good in Blue


In December of 1976 Blondie released its debut album on the Private Stock label, best know at the time for David Soul ("Don't Give Up On Us") and the "Theme from Laverne and Shirley". Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios with "Hang On Sloopy" writer Richard Gottehrer producing, Blondie documented the band's live set, with songs like "X Offender", "In the Flesh" ( a #3 hit in Australia), and the Velvet Underground-inspired "Rip Her to Shreds".

"Blondie was basically done live with the four musicians playing," says drummer Clem Burke. "The playing is pretty straight," adds singer Deborah Harry. "The only overdubs are one or two keyboard parts and a couple of other lines."
 "To tell you the truth, I never even knew if Deborah could sing until we went in to make the record," admits keyboardist Jimmy Destri. "I could never hear her on the equipment we had to use on stage".

Private Stock publicity figured the best way to market the band was to send out photos of Deborah Harry in a see through blouse. It didn't work. The album promptly vanished off the US radar. It would take the UK rock media to open our eyes and ears, a familiar story in the mid-70's.

 Blondie played a buzz worthy two week stand at the Whiskey a Go Go in February of 1977, opening for another under-achieving band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and then the Ramones. Australian producer Mike Chapman caught the band several times. "I was in hysterics every night, he said. "Sometime later I saw them again and heard they were looking for a producer, and I really wanted to work with them." He would eventually help Blondie make their breakthrough album Parallel Lines.

Most of 1977 would be spent on the road, first with Iggy Pop and David Bowie then Joan Jett. A UK tour paired Blondie up with Television. They spent December touring Australia. Eventually Blondie's manager raised $1,000,000 from Chrysalis to buy out Blondie's contract from Private Stock but the band got swamped in debt. Blondie would spent much of its career dealing with financial problems.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Top 5 Albums of the Year

My Top 5 albums of the year.

1. David Bowie: Blackstar
  I am still gutted by the death of David Bowie, but this isn't just a sentimental choice. Bowie's last release during his incredible life is a great and wise work of art. Look up, he's in heaven.

2. Radiohead : Moon Shaped Pool
     There is depth here that I am still plundering. Very much a return to form for those who feel like the band lost its way with the odd EDM beats. Radiohead's Station to Station perhaps?

3. Car Seat Headrest :Teens of Denial
  A Nevermind for the Millennial set? Very smart, thoughtful, and rockin' in a way that's reminiscent of The Strokes. Extra points for making Seattle their home base.

4. Michael Kiwanuka: Love and Hate
  British folkie channels Pink Floyd on "Cold Little Heart" on Dangermouse production. Still exploring the rest of the album but I' m ready to dive in deep.

5. Teenage Fanclub : Here
  I'm a pop fan at heart and these guys kill me with their three minute songs about love and love lost. There's something charming about hearing a song you might have written yourself in a fit of inspiration.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Shock for the Spaceman

Kiss : Shock Me

"I wrote 'Shock Me' about this event - or at least that's what I always say, even though that song's about sex." -Ace Frehley

On November 12, 1976 Ace Frehley nearly electrocuted himself when he grabbed a metal rail , completing an electrical circuit with his guitar.“If I hadn’t been able to let go, I would have died,” Frehley told the Lakeland Ledger. “My life passed in front of my eyes.” After a ten minute break, Frehley got back onstage and played the rest of the show.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Contemplating a Crime

Al Stewart : Year of the Cat

On December 11, 1976 Al Stewart's biggest US hit , "Year of the Cat",  entered the US Hot 100 at #98. It would peak at #8 in the US. On the most recently released version of Al Stewart's Year of the Cat, there's a terrific track called "Story of the Songs" in which Stewart talks about each of the nine tracks on the album produced by Alan Parsons at Abbey Road Studios. 

Perhaps it makes the most sense if I just let Stewart tell the story of the title track in his own words:

It is a piano piece written by Peter Wood. Now Peter had this riff that he kept playing over and over again all the way through a tour that I was doing in 1975 with Linda Ronstadt. I was the opening act. We went all over the Southern states of America and got to, I think, Cincinnati and I just kept hearing this ( sings piano melody) and eventually I went up to Peter and I said "You know I think this could be a song. Would you like me to put words to it?" And he said "Sure." So he taught me vaguely how to play it and we came off tour and I went back , and I had a piano and I had some idea what the chords were and I started playing this and I could not for the life of me write any words to it. Nothing came. 

I had a girlfriend at the time who had a book on Vietnamese astrology, It was open and there was a chapter called "The Year of the Cat". And so then I had just that: "The Year of the Cat". For a while those were the only words that I had. I tried to write it about the Year of the Cat, got nowhere, gave up, wrote an entire set of lyrics about ( British comic actor) Tony Hancock called "The Foot of the Stage" and they gave that up because no one in America had heard of Tony Hancock, went back to "Year of the Cat" and I think about a year after I began writing the song. I finally nailed down the lyric which is all set in North Africa. It was a very, very long and difficult process of lyric writing. Everything else on this record was easier, but I guess it was good idea

Friday, December 9, 2016

Nobody Can Live Forever

Tim Maia : Nobody Can Live Forever

Fresh out of the Racional cult which held the belief that humans are really dirty aliens who will be rescued by spaceships, Brazilian R and B star Tim Maia made his return to the real world with a funky self-titled album in 1976. Among the best cuts on the album is "Nobody Can Live Forever", which became the title track of the essential Luaka Bop collection.  Talk about your reality check! And what a groove!.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


On December 8, 1976 The Eagles released Hotel California, an album that sold more than 32 million copies worldwide. There are three schools of thought about The Eagles: that they always sucked, that they were always great, or they were only decent after Joe Walsh joined them.His lead guitar dual with Don Felder at the end of the title track is certainly one of the highlights of the band's entire career.

 Don Henley has described Hotel California as a concept album-- a reflection on America in its bicentennial year: a weird country obsessed with sex, violence, fast cars and little care for the environment. Perhaps it was a reflection on a band burned out by five years of non-stop touring. Glenn Frey has said the album "explores the underbelly of success, the darker side of paradise."

 I probably have a soft spot in my heart for "New Kid in Town" ( with Joe Walsh trading his electric guitar for a subdued electric piano), because I was the new kid at my middle school. Not that everybody was talking about me. Nor did I ever catch anyone walking like me.

1001 Albums You Must Hear puts words to a point I also was trying to figure out how to say:

In many ways Hotel California represents everything that punk came to destroy : glassily perfect production, harmonized guitar solos, and "themes".

Rolling Stone's Charley Waters  gave the album a mixed review:

Hotel California showcases both the best and worst tendencies of Los Angeles-situated rock, but more strikingly its lyrics present a convincing and unflattering portrait of the milieu itself. Don Henley, handling five of the eight vocal tracks, expresses well the weary disgust of a victim (or observer) of the region's luxurious excess. 

 Yet the record's firm musical bases cannot be overlooked. Bernie Leadon departed and Joe Walsh arrived; the Eagles have abandoned most of their bluegrass and country and western claims in favor of a more overt rock stance. Walsh's exact effect isn't always obvious, but his record does have subtleties and edges that have sometimes eluded the group. The title cut, for example, incorporates a pinch of reggae so smoothly that it's more felt than heard. "Life in the Fast Lane," propelled by Walsh's guitar and Glenn Frey's clavinet, rocks like it really means it; "Victim of Love" works similarly, though at a slower tempo. Henley is superb on all three. 

The frequent orchestration, however, doesn't always fit. "Pretty Maids All in a Row" employs glistening, high-pitched string synthesizer to good effect, adding a reserved tension to the slowly paced arrangement; but the approach fails on "Wasted Time," an overarranged wash embodying the worst of rock-cum-Hollywood sensibilities. What does work is the elegant fullness of "The Last Resort," whose concluding words sum up Hotel California: "You call some place Paradise...kiss it goodbye."

And from the dean Robert Christgau 's B review:

Speaking strictly as a nonfan, I'd grant that this is their most substantial if not their most enjoyable LP -- they couldn't have written any of the songs on side one, or even the pretentious and condescending "The Last Resort," without caring about their California down deep. But though one strength of the lyrics is that they don't exclude the Eagles from purgatory-on-earth, Don Henley is incapable of conveying a mental state as complex as self-criticism -- he'll probably sound smug croaking out his famous last words ("Where's the Coke?"). I'd also be curious to know what Mexican-Americans think of the title tune's Spanish accent.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pool Hall Punks

Tyla Gang : Styrofoam

When the classic pub rock band Ducks Deluxe bit the dust, some members joined The Motors. Others joined Graham Parker and the Rumour. Roadie turned frontman Sean Tyla formed Tyla Gang. The band's first Stiff Single, labelled "Artistic Breakthrough --Double B Side" and "Brain Damnage Volume Required" reveals a band that knew how to get down and dirty on stage, earning the sobriquet "pool hall punks".

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We Can Rebuild Him

Chris Hill : Bionic Santa

British DJ Chris Hill scores a UK Top 10 hit with the cut-in novelty record "Bionic Santa". Hill managed to avoid copyright infringements by using only artists on the same Phillips label. Then Leader of the Opposition Margaret Thatcher and Prime Minister James Callaghan get name dropped. Worth hearing perhaps once. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Headphone Masterpiece

Jean Michel Jarre : Oxygene Part 6

French composer Jean Michel Jarre created Oxygene, an other-worldly synth album released on December 5, 1976. The son of a famous film composer, Jarre had a studio in the kitchen of the Paris apartment he shared with future wife Charlotte Ramping. There he experimented with synthesizers and tape machines building the tracks that would become Oxygene

In a 2015 interview with Mojo Magazine Jarre was asked if he shared visions with his German electronic contemporaries:

I thought we had opposite visions of electronic music. Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk had a very robotic, mechanical approach. I had a more impressionistic vision -- a Revel.Debussy approach. I was obsessed with the idea that no two sounds on Oxygene should ever be exactly the same. I wanted a heartbeat feel, something human. I also wanted music that had its own European identity , without blues or African roots. When I first heard Kraftwerk, I thought they were an American band singing in German.

It took months of shopping the album around before Disques Motors, an independent label made a deal. Those who bought the album, including a high school classmate of mine, were treated to swirling atmospheric melodies that seemed to float in mid air. Need to escape? Forget Southwest Airlines. Grab a pair of headphones and play Oxygene.

Oxygene , its hit single ("Oxygene, Part 4") and its follow-up, 1978's Equinox, made Jarre the first major electronic music pop star. His shows were high visual and even sexy. In 1979 his Bastille Day concert in Paris drew an estimated one million onlookers, including a bearded Mick Jagger who told Jarre "Man, I never saw anything like that in my life before."

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Listen to the beat

Bohannon : Bohannon's Beat

I was interviewing David Byrne Saturday about his Imelda Marcos disco opera "Here Lies Love" coming to Seattle in the Spring, and our conversation veered into the former First Lady's love of disco, which lead to my confession that I only recently discovered and now adore Donna Summer's A Love Trilogy even though I was firmly on the Rock side of the Rock vs Disco debate back in the day. But I'm still listening to Donna Summer and I'm listening a lot to Bohannon. 
   "Bohannon? He's the minimalist ," the Talking Heads founder said. 
   He's also the artist celebrated in the Tom Tom Club's most famous song "Genius of Love", though I forgot that fact when the name slipped out.
  Yes, Bohannon was a minimalist. All about that beat. That chicken scratch guitar. And no more than one chord if he could help it. ( I could have sworn he was the disco artist with the biggest influence on Talking Heads but perhaps not). From 1976, this is "Bohannon's Beat" from an album whose title could have only come from the disco era, Dance Your Ass Off.

I'll have more about my David Byrne interview later.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dem come fe kill Bob!

On the night of December 3, 1976 at least three assassins stormed Bob Marley's Kingston, Jamaica home firing automatic weapons . Bullets struck Marley, his wife Rita and his manager Don Taylor. To this day the identity of the gunmen and their motives are a mystery.

 What is known is that Marley wanted nothing to do with the politics that had sent the island nation on the brink of civil war. Marley said "Every law is illegal. Every government of the face of the earth is illegal. Only Jaa Law should be followed."

Marley did not trust politicians and one would soon remind him why. The superstar wanted to play a free concert for his countrymen and had to negotiate the venue with the unpopular Prime Minister Michael Manley who was up for election. When they settled on National Heroes Park, the National stadium, Manley announced the election would be held just days after he'd appear onstage with Marley. The appearance was that Marley would seem to be endorsing Manley. That angered Marley but outraged the Jamaican Labor Party faithful.

 There were death threats. And despite having bodyguards in place, the assassins broke into the home, hitting Marley with a bullet in his arm which would be there for the rest of his life. Rita Marley was grazed by a bullet to the head. Lewis was hit several times. Marley played the concert two days after the shooting, and although he would say he recognized at least one of the shooters he never told the police.

 If you're looking for a song that might be a reflection on that night you probably need to go to his Survival album and the track "Ambush in the Night":

Ambush in the night
All guns aiming at me
Ambush in the night
They opened fire on me now
Ambush in the night
Protected by his majesty

Friday, December 2, 2016

Crawling up the Wall

10cc : The Things We Do For Love

On the week of  December 2, 1976 10cc returned to the UK charts at #37 with a new single, "The Things We Do For Love". But there was something missing on the 45 single cover. Actually two somethings : founding members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. Intrigued by their invention, the gizmotron, a device that made electric guitars sound like synthesizers, Godley and Creme bailed on Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman earlier in the year.

Godley recalls why they departed 10cc after four superb albums on the excellent podcast Sodajerker On Songwriting:

When Eric and Graham came in with a song they'd written to begin the next album, it was like "Oh God, that is so fuckin' dreary. It's so predictable and boring. Why don't we just fuck off and do something with the Gizmo? "And of course at that age, you are very ballsy and you take chances and that's what we did.

Stewart recalls his reaction to the split in a BBC radio interview:

We were on such a winning curve, Graham Gouldman and I had to decide, are we going to be 5cc? Are we gonna scrap the name completely? Well, we thought we, no, we'd better carry on because we, this is 10cc, we are 10cc, this band. Two of our members are leaving us and that's not our problem, but we've got to carry it on.   

While Stewart and Gouldman kept the 10cc name and spent the rest of the 70's with hits like "Good Morning Judge" and "Dreadlock Holiday", Godley and Creme explored their artistic indulgences with a sprawling three record set called Consequences, which eventually came out in late 1977.

"It turned into a monster. It turned into our Heaven's Gate," Godley admits. " For God knows how many reasons. And the idea was to make the kind of music that was nothing remotely like 10cc...when we realized that 'Oh.We've actually spent 14 to 18 months doing something that people think is a pile of shite".

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Filth and The Fury

On December 1, 1976 The Sex Pistols outraged British television viewers with shocking language during an interview they were never supposed to do. Queen had been booked on Today With Bill Grundy but backed out at the last minute. So EMI sent their label mates instead.

The Sex Pistols were told to show up at 4 PM for the 6 PM taping. They spent the two hours in the Green Room, taking advantage of the free alcohol. Grundy was there too, drinking and leering at Siouxsie Sioux.

In his memoir Anger is an Energy, John Lydon remembers :

It was actually me that swore first. Grundy goes, "What was that?' "Er, a rude word!"I didn't really want to be the first arsehole out the door with it, but there you go--he goaded me into it, so there it is. "You asked for it. It's not my fault at this point onwards, your honour. I am innocent" If you really understand the way the conversation's going, it's deeply fascinating. It should be in a psychology course, because of all the different things going on in all of our minds at the same time. It amounts to this Harold Pinter kind of scene.

It was guitarist Steve Jones who came on with the most confidence, calling Grundy a "dirty sod", a "dirty old man", a "dirty bastard", a "dirty fucker", and finally, the curiously phrased "fucking rotter".

"It was hilarious, "Jones would say later. "It was one of the best feelings, the next day, when you saw the paper. You thought, Fucking hell, this is great! From that day on it was different. Before then , it was just music, the next day, it was the media."

Manager Malcolm McLaren was less pleased.

Captain Sensible of the Damned says "After the show, (he) really tore into them, He was convinced they'd blown it. He was appalled. "You fuckin' idiots, you've ruined everything. We're finished". He was apparently in tears. He thought it was all over. The vibe was bad for the rest of the day.

For a long while it certainly seemed like McLaren was right. In two days the Sex Pistols were scheduled to headline a UK "Anarchy tour" with The Clash, The Damned and The Heartbreakers ( who arrived at Heathrow that day with Nancy Spungen in tow). The opening night gig at Norwich University was cancelled, as were all but three of the nineteen dates. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tie-Dyed Vibes

Diga Rhythm Band : Sweet Sixteen

Here's a special treat: a song I would play every so often just before sunrise on a 2 AM to 6 AM shift at my college radio station in New Orleans. Diga Rhythm Band is an ensemble led by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla player Zaki Hussain. Jerry Garcia plays on two tracks on the 1976 album Diga (including "Happiness is Drumming", an early version of "Fire on the Mountain"), but this is the eight minute track that elicits the most smiles and actually got some play at discos.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Shake Your Rump

The Bar Kays : Shake Your Rump to the Funk

In the week of November 29, Billboard Magazine designated The Bar Kays' "Shake Your Rump to the Funk" as a power play, leaping ten spots from #52 to #42. The infectiously funky tune not only would peak at #2 on the R and B charts and #23 on the US charts, but would top the charts in Japan! The entire Too Hot to Stop album is tight, a return to form for a band that lost four original members in the same plane crash that killed Otis Redding.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tea at the BBC

The Clash : Career Opportunities

In November of 1976, The Clash spent two days in the Polydor studios where they recorded five songs : "White Riot", "Career Opportunities", "Janie Jones", "London's Burning" and "1977". Their session came after Sounds stringer Kris Needs reviewed their November 18 gig at The Nag's Head : 

"The Clash are now firing with more compressed energy than a flame-thrower at full blast. They play with almost frightening conviction and intensity, each number a rapid-fire statement delivered like a knock-out won't be long before some record company wakes up."

  It was Polydor that woke up first. Guy Stevens, who would later produce London Calling, pushed the band through the sessions. They sound as urgent as ever. Then engineer Vic Stevens convinced Joe Strummer to clearly enunciate the lyrics. He did. "And it sounded like Matt Monroe,"  Strummer would later tell NME. "So I thought 'I'm never doing that again'."
   Polydor has already missed out on signing the Sex Pistols. They wouldn't get The Clash either. CBS Records signed the band on January 25, 1977 ( the day punk died according to the fanzine Sniffin' Glue). But there was more than one hot band in England at the time. Polydor signed The Jam for 6,000 pounds.

The Clash interviewed by Janet Street Porter on Nov 28. 1976.

Joe Strummer said he sounded like Matt Monroe in his Polydor Demo vocals.