Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 1976 : Those We Missed

Jerry Garcia: They Love Each Other

   Reflections was supposed to be a solo album but Garcia needed the Grateful Dead to help him finish it. Same groove as Blues for Allah. Just not nearly as memorable.

   Does the brilliance of "Silver, Blue and Gold" make up for the awfulness of the "Young Blood" cover? Discuss.

Grand Funk Railroad : Genevieve

   A contractual obligation album from Flint, Michigan's finest which allowed the band to finally break up. The instrumental "Genevieve" is the stand out track to these ears.

   Bette Midler's third album was a surprising flop even though it contains a rare duet with Bob Dylan --on his own "Buckets of Rain".

James Talley : Forty Hours

   Talley's follow-up to the critically acclaimed Got No Bread, No Milk, No Money, But We Sure Got a Lot of Love would make a good soundtrack on the Bernie Sanders campaign buses. If you like the sound and leftist leanings of  "Forty Hours", you'll like the rest of the album.

Friday, January 29, 2016

40 Year Itch : Octoganic angel

T. Rex : Chrome Sitar

  On January 30, 1976 T. Rex released Futuristic Dragon, a return to form after at least a year or two out of the spotlight, with Marc Bolan living in America and Monte Carlo and blowing his riches on cocaine. 

   "I'm more looney than I was before!" Bolan told a radio interviewer. By now T. Rex was Bolan,  his girlfriend, soul singer Gloria Jones, and whatever session musicians he could find.

   The album is unfairly overlooked, especially the A side which has both the electric warrior- like "Jupiter Liar" and "Chrome Sitar". By the time you get to the second side, these three chord wonders and tremelo vocals might wear on you. His UK tour went down very well much to his relief. Bolan admitted onstage he wasn't sure anyone would show up.

Siouxsie Sioux and Bolan

    Bolan was one of the few rockers who welcomed the oncoming punk explosion. He was a fan of the Damned and even invited Generation X to play on his short-lived 1977 TV show Marc.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

40 Year Itch: Hung Like a Hebrew National

The Return of Ron Fields (language)

   The ultra - cool Bill Murray is late night progressive FM radio DJ Mel Brewer and Christopher Guest is Ron Fields, an English (?) manager who has found a new band in this track from National Lampoon's Goodbye Pop album. For reasons they will hopefully be apparent, this was one of the funniest things my high school friends and I had ever heard.
    The album contains hilarious takes on Bob Dylan, Neil Young and, with "Art Rock Suite", introduces us to Sid Gormless of Dog's Breakfast, an early version of Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel.

Murray and Guest also teamed up on this somewhat comedic preview of the 1976 Super Bowl.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

40 Year Itch: Hey, That's No Way to Treat a Guitar

      On January 26, 1976 Kiss returned to Cobo Hall where they had recorded much of the Kiss Alive! album a year earlier. At the end of the final encore, "Let Me Go, Rock n Roll",  Paul Stanley smashed his guitar. It would become a ritual for years to come. But this is the first time, caught on video ( at 6:40 in) , with Ace Frehley unfortunately blocking the best camera angle.

Monday, January 25, 2016

40 Year Itch : Our Steps Will Always Rhyme

   After writing "Suzanne" in 1966, Leonard Cohen sang the song to Judy Collins over the phone. She recorded the song on her album In My Life, introducing the world to the music of Leonard Cohen. The following year she recorded "Sisters of Mercy" and " Hey, Thats No Way to Say Goodbye" on her highest charting album Wildflowers. On January 1976, Collins invited Cohen onto her PBS show to sing duets.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

40 Year Itch : Insane With Devotion

The Heartbreakers : Love Comes in Spurts (demo)

   The future can arrive in a single day. 

   On January 23, 1976 The Sex Pistols performed two Small Faces covers ( "Understanding" and "What'cha Gonna Do About It") and originals like "Seventeen", "New York" and "Pretty Vacant" at Watford Technical College. It was their eighth gig. By the end of the year they would, according to Mojo Magazine "spearhead the biggest cultural revolution in Britain since The Beatles, creating a frenzy around them that transcended the music they made and changed the attitudes of an entire generation".

   "The Pistols was an amazing coming together of a group of individuals who instantly didn't like each other, who were very suspicious of each other, but somehow managed to make that work for the best " writes John Lydon in Anger Is My Energy. "It became a runaway train of thought."

Porl Thompson and Michael Dempsey of Malice

    On the other side of London, in suburban Crawley, the band Malice met for their first band rehearsal in a church basement. Every Thursday Future Cure members Robert Smith and Michael Dempsey along with two classmates practiced Bowie, Hendrix and Alex Harvey covers along with some originals. They played their first gig in December.

Robert Smith and Michael Dempsey

     And in Yonkers New York, former Television bass player Richard Hell and disaffected ex-New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan, along with Walter Lure, recorded demo versions of songs that would become legendary. They called themselves The Heartbreakers and had already developed a cult following in New York City.

   Hell sang lead on "Love Comes in Spurts" and "Blank Generation". The band also recorded future L.A.M.F. highlights "I Wanna Be Loved" and "Chinese Rocks". The band would soon split up with Hell forming Richard Hell and the Voidoids while the other members retained the Heartbreakers name.  By the end of the year, The Heartbreakers would be touring with Sex Pistols in the UK while back in New York, Hell was shopping around an EP the Voidoids recorded at a studio that cost $10 an hour. It was called  Blank Generation.

"The EP’s like the caveman version," Hell told Uncut Magazine. " Crude. But, then, caveman art is beautiful. "

Friday, January 22, 2016

40 Year Itch : From Kether to Malkuth

David Bowie : Station to Station

    Immersed in music four decades old does have its benefits. In my world, David Bowie is still alive. He's coked out of his mind and paranoid as hell. But he's alive. The man who fell to earth is now hallucinating that corpses are falling past his windows. But he's alive. He's not sure what's worse: the witches trying to steal his semen or Jimmy Page making plans to kill him. But he's alive. 

    And David Bowie is releasing another great album, Station to Station, which bridges his funky Thin White Duke era that began with Young Americans with the Berlin trilogy, inspired by the krautrock/art rock sounds of Neu, Can and Kraftwerk ( whose "Radio-Activity" Bowie cranked up as audiences entered his 1976 concert venues.) It's an album Bowie apparently doesn't remember making thanks to his dark time recovering from his haunting role in The Man Who Fell to Earth with the help of a self inflicted California snow storm (sniff).

  The opening track, "Station to Station", begins with a Krautrock motif: the mechanical rhythms of a locomotive on the move ( Kraftwerk would record Trans Europe Express in the Summer of 1976) and ends with the kind of funk that would get Soul Train dancers out on the floor. And in between, we hear Bowie 's line:

Here are we 
One magical movement from Kether to Malkuth

indicating his interest in Jewish Kabbalah--beating that other rock chameleon Madonna to this school of thought by two decades.

"The "Station to Station" track itself is very much concerned with the stations of the cross, "Bowie told Q magazine. "All the references within the piece are to do with the Kabbala. It's the nearest album to a magick treatise that I've written. I've never read a review that really sussed it. It's an extremely dark album. Miserable time to live through, I must say."

  The first single from Station to Station, "Golden Years",  was climbing the Top 40 the week the album came out. Borrowing a riff from George Benson's "On Broadway", with hopes that the man who shared his birthday, Elvis Presley, might record it, "Golden Years" would peak at #10 in April. The follow-up single "TVC-15" is another classic. ( More on that, later this year)

   The album was released originally to mixed reviews: "the obsessively passionate conviction of his earlier works is missing," bemoaned Rolling Stone's Teri Moris. Always looking at the potential sales figure, Billboard's critic writes "The lyrics don't seem to mean a great deal, and the 10-minute title cut drags. But as a disco dance album, few faults can be found."
   Station to Station peaked at #3 in the US charts. 
  As the years passed, the album's status has grown. In 1999, Brian Eno called it "one of the great records of all time" and the collaborative community of music lovers who make up Rate Your Music have voted Station to Station the best album of 1976 ( over Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life and the Ramones debut).

  Many of the critics looking back at Bowie's astonishing legacy have hopscotched from Ziggy to Young Americans straight to Low. Make sure you don't overlook Station to Station, a cry from deep inside this great artist's temporarily damaged psyche.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

40 Year Itch: One More Silver Dollar

Paul Davidson : Midnight Rider

   Paul Davidson would score a Top 10 hit in the UK with his reggae cover of the Allman Brothers song. But what perhaps had a greater impact on English boys was the January 22, 1976 sight of Pan's People dancing to the song wearing the shortest shorts in the history of broadcast television.

Monday, January 18, 2016

40 Year Itch : Those Suit and Tie Johns

Lou Reed : Crazy Feeling

   After sleepwalking through the recording of his only Top 10 album, Sally Can't Dance, and then giving the world the finger with Metal Machine Music, Lou Reed was in trouble. He owed RCA $600,000. He was in the middle of three lawsuits. He was now entering his fourth year of abusing amphetamines.  He had lost a lot of weight and was often losing his temper. Lou Reed was not just the smartest guy in the room, but the biggest prick as well. 

   If there was a bright spot in his life, it came in the form of a tall, exotic, half Mexican drag queen named Rachel. She would be his muse, his nurse, his companion and, yes, his lover throughout these difficult years. He would dedicate the title cut of his next album to her. 
    Owing RCA a commercial album, Lou moved into the Gramercy Park Hotel with Rachel.He played monopoly, listened to Richard Pryor records and wrote some of the warmest songs of his career. Recorded over a four day stretch with ex Velvet bandmate Doug Yule, and with a slower version of the VU tune "She's My Best Friend", Coney Island Baby is Lou's album of renewal:

"All the albums I put out after this are gonna be the things I want to put out," Lou said. "No more bullshit, no more dyed-hair, faggot-junkie trip. I mimic me better than anyone else, so if everyone else is making money ripping me off , I figure I better get on it. Why not? I created Lou Reed. I have nothing even faintly in common with that guy but I can play him well--really well."

   Critically acclaimed, Coney Island Baby sold well. And yet, Lou would soon owe RCA $700,000. That's when Clive Davis and Arista came calling. By now Lou and Rachel were living in the same Upper East side apartment building as Greta Garbo and Lou could be seen walking his miniature dachshund, The Baron.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

40 Year Itch : Smile Will Bring a Sunshine Day

Osibisa : Sunshine Day

  You don't have to live in Seattle to crave sun breaks in the middle of winter. Swedish twins Yvette and Yvonne Sylvander graced the cover of the January 19, 1976 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue the same week Osibisa's "Sunshine Day" leapt from #46 to #23 in the UK singles charts. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

40 Year Itch : Have Moicy!

Michael Hurley : Slurf Song

Jeffrey Fredericks and the Clamtones : Sweet Lucy

    At the end of 1976 the dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau of the Village Voice, gave only two albums his highest rating of A+: Brian Eno's late 1975 release Another Green World and a certain freak folk show called Have Moicy! featuring the graduates of the 60's Greenwich Village scene artists Michael Hurley, The Unholy Modal Rounders and Jeffrey Fredericks and the Clamtones.

   Christgau praises the "thirteen homemade, chalky, fit-for-78 songs that renew the concept of American folk music as a bizarre apotheosis of the post-hippie estate. No losers, though--just loadsa laffs, a few tears, some death, some shit, a hamburger, spaghetti, world travel, crime, etc. " 

  There's an Amazon reviewer who writes Have Moicy! is "like an Appalachian cubist painting". It is in places goofy, earnest, radical, blasphemous, tongue-in-cheek and full of heart. There are fans who claim it is the greatest rock album ever recorded. And those who listened to half of one side before flinging the disc across the room. Perhaps it is the ultimate  "you had to be there" recording.

   Yo La Tengo would later cover "Griselda" on their phenomenal 1990 album Fakebook, introducing many of us to this bizarre collection of artists.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

40 Year Itch : Without Love

Be Bop Deluxe : Ships in the Night

   On January 13, 1976 Be Bop Deluxe appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test where they introduced viewers to two new songs from their upcoming album Sunburst Finish, including the UK #23 hit "Ships in the Night". As much as I admire leasure-suit laden leader Bill Nelson's dexterity with an electric guitar, I'm left feeling a little cold by the music on the album, which peaked at #17 on the UK charts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"We Miss You Starman"

   My step brother Derek Simonds captured the scene outside David Bowie's NYC apartment today. I'm still deeply saddened by Bowie's death. The only thing that has cheered me a little is a tweet by Simon Pegg ( apparently not the famous actor): If you're sad today, remember the world is over 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.

Monday, January 11, 2016

January 1976 Album of the Month : How Dare You!

10cc : I'm Mandy Fly Me 

"It's as different as any album by the same band can be, and I think it's a progression from the last one. I think there's been a progression on every album and I think we've done it again. It's a strange mixture of songs. There's one about divorce, a song about schizophrenia, a song about wanting to rule the world, the inevitable money song, and an instrumental."
    ---Graham Gouldman ( refraining from mentioning there is also a song about blow jobs) to Melody Maker 

    I've decided to feature one album a month for our look back on 1976. 10cc's How Dare You! edges out David Bowie's critically acclaimed Station to Station for the month of January because if it's not the band's finest hour --that would be Sheet Music--it is 10cc's strangest hour. How Dare You! truly blew my 12 year old mind and remains, to this day, one of my favorite albums of all time.

Coming off of The Original Soundtrack and the smash hit "I'm Not In Love", the band members met to discuss the follow-up album. Drummer Kevin Godley--part of the more avant garde half of 10cc with Lol Creme-- found what was said "quite disturbing":

  "It wasn't like 'let's try a bit of this' and 'let's try a bit of that', it was 'well we need one of those and we need two of those.' It was that attempt to quantify who and what we were that I found slightly troubling. It took the freedom away. It took (away)  the sense that you could just go in there and try things. The need to be fresh was slightly tarnished in a way."

  (Keep in mind where a British man uses the words "slightly" or "quite", an American would probably use "very".)

    How Dare You! would be the last album all four original members recorded before the band split with Godley and Creme pursuing their avant garde notions on albums like Consequences and the brilliant L. But it doesn't exactly sounds like the duo were shackled on this album. 
     They were the ones who gave us "I Wanna Rule the World",  about a monomaniacal little schemer, which contains within its four minutes something like 37 different ideas, including a bombastic speech where the imp declares:

A Brave new world will rise from the ashes 
And there upon a rock titanic, 
I'll cast a giant Shadow on the face of the deep 
And never again will they dare to call me 
A freckled, spotty, specky, four eyed 
Weedy little creep!

   My favorite song on the album is "I'm Mandy Fly Me", a UK #6 hit that I absolutely fell in love with when I got my hands on a promo 45 a Reno radio station donated to the Washoe County library that summer. I would "check out" 45's that never actually had to be returned. In this way, I began my record collection as well as my odd obsession with great songs that never got any radio play.
    At 12, I loved how "I'm Mandy Fly Me"  had movements -- like "Band on the Run" and "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey". That, according to Eric Stewart, was Kevin Godley's idea: 

   He said "I think it just gets too bland, it just goes on, on one plane, your verses and your middles and your der-der-der, they're all going on the one plane. What it needs is someone to go 'Bash' on the side of your head". 
    So we changed the rhythm completely, and we put two whacking great guitar solos in there, in the middle of this quiet, soft, floaty song. Once we'd got that idea in, it, it just gelled into something else. 
   Again, impossible to dance to, as a lot of 10cc tracks were, but once Kevin had put that in, he became the third writer in the song so we were quite democratic in that way.

   The inventiveness continues throughout the album. For every melodic "Art For Art's Sake" or "Lazy Ways", there's a wonderfully weird "Iceberg" or "Head Room". The album's final cut ,"Don't Hang Up", about Godley's divorce, inspired the Hipgnosis album cover. It ends, of course, with a dial tone.

   This is the first 10cc album I owned and remains my favorite. The latest CD version comes with single edits of "Art for Art's Sake" and "I'm Mandy Fly Me" as well as a B-side "Get It While You Can" which has some lyrics ("So why be the one/ Who's out in the cold") later recycled on Bloody Tourists' "The Anonymous Alcoholic".

To mark the 40th anniversary of "I'm Not In Love" the BBC produced the 10cc documentary below in 2015.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

40 Year Itch : New to the UK Charts

Slik : Forever and Ever

The Walker Brothers : No Regrets

With Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" still in the midst of its nine week reign at number one, I've decided to take a peek at the newest songs to make the UK Top 40. 

33. The Walker Brothers : No Regrets

The Walker Brothers returned to the UK Top 10 for the first time in nine years with this Tom Rush cover. It would be their last hit.

37. Donna Summer : Love to Love You Baby

  Disco queen Donna Summer would hit the UK #4 with "Love to Love You Baby" despite the BBC's initial reluctance to play the record.

39. Slik : Forever and Ever 

   The Scottish glam rock band Slik would hit #1 in February of 1976 with "Forever and Ever" written by the Bay City Rollers team of Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. This is the first many of us would see and hear from Midge Ure who would later hit #1 with Band Aid ( "Do They Know It's Christmas") and as a solo artist with "If I Was". He would also perform with Visage, Thin Lizzy and Ultravox. His first solo hit, incidently, was a cover of "No Regrets" performed in the style of The Walker Brothers.

40. Donny and Marie : Deep Purple

  With a treatment that might remind some of Nilsson's vocals on The Point, Donny and Marie Osmond revived the 43-year old classic "Deep Purple" and made it a #14 hit in the US and a #25 hit in the UK. Today, that would be like covering a song from way back in 1973.

Friday, January 8, 2016

40 Year Itch : Just Something Real

Harry Nilsson : Something True

   There's not much to recommend listeners to the first of Nilsson's two 1976 albums, Sandman. His famous voice has now long been destroyed. Rolling Stone critic Billy Altman sums it up: "Sandman appears to be more the work of the drunken, disheveled beach bum on the cover than the mysterious, introspective singer/songwriter that Nilsson once was."
     But "[Thursday] Here's Why I Did Not Got To Work Today" is a charming song co-written with everyone's favorite singer-songwriter partner Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar. And "Something True" is a gem, written with Perry Botkin, Jr. whose theme for the soap opera "The Young and The Restless" would be chosen by a Romanian gymnast for her floor exercise at the 1976 Olympic games. That gymnast was Nadia Comaneci. She would win gold as the top all around gymnast and the single, marketed as "Nadia's Theme",  would hit the Top 10 in time for me to give to my younger sister for Christmas.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

40 Year Itch : Frampton Comes Alive!

  "Exqueese me? Have I seen this one before? Frampton Comes Alive!? Everybody's got Frampton Comes Alive!. If you lived in the suburbs, you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide." 
- Wayne Campbell, Wayne's World 2 (1993)

      The success of Frampton Comes Alive, released on January 6, 1976,  is proof that nice guys can sometimes finish first. None of his previous albums had sold beyond the 200,000 mark. The live double album sold six million copies, provided the soundtrack for the bicentennial summer,  and became 1976's top selling album in the US. It was even the top selling live album of all time until Bruce Springsteen's Live/1975-85 album eclipsed it with sales of 13 million.
   Unfortunately, Frampton's bland persona could not hold his audience's attention. He followed the live album with 1977's  I'm In You and by appearing in the much ridiculed 1978 movie Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Within 18 months he vanished from our collective radar.
  Do we think Peter Frampton -- at least once in his life--announced in the midst of a sexual climax "Frampton comes alive!"?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

40 Year Itch : To the Valley Below

   On January 5, 1976 Bob Dylan released Desire, an album that would top the US charts for five weeks and be declared New Musical Express' album of the year.  I'm not a huge fan of this record. Dylan seems to be on the wrong side of history, declaring Ruben "Hurricane" Carter an innocent man framed for murder. He also pays an 11-minute tribute to Mafioso Joey Gallo who was clearly a menace. The whiny chorus for "Joey" is repeated in "Sara".

   So I'll take Dylan's Middle East influenced wailing on the gypsy folk song "One More Cup of Coffee" with Emmylou Harris singing harmony and Scarlet Riviera playing a haunting violin.

Monday, January 4, 2016

UK Top 10 for January 4 1976

   The band that had debuted a year earlier in sailor suits scored a #2 UK hit in early 1976 with "A Glass of Champagne" which was recorded using leader Georg Kajanus' invention, the Nickelodeon, comprised of "back to back Kemble pianos rigged up with a series of synthesisers and glockenspiels". The artsy song drew comparisons to Roxy Music but these Sailors failed to cross the Atlantic and chart stateside. 
  The power of British DJ and tastemaker John Peel is exhibited in the #2 song on this chart. He championed on his Radio 1 evening show. "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" sold a quarter of a million copies in the UK!

1. Queen : Bohemian Rhapsody
2. Laurel and Hardy : The Trail of the Lonesome Pine ft Chilly Wills

3. Greg Lake :  I Believe in Father Christmas
4. Sailor : A Glass of Champagne

5. Chubby Checker : Let's Twist Again/The Twist
6. Andy Fairweather-Low : Wide Eyed and Legless

7. 10cc: Art for Art's Sake
8. David Bowie : Golden Years

9. Dana : It's Gonna Be a Cold, Cold Christmas
10. The Drifters : Can I Take You Home Little Girl

Sailor celebrating their gold record

Sunday, January 3, 2016

40 Year Itch : David and Dinah

David Bowie : Stay

   On January 3, 1976 David Bowie, in his newest incarnation as the "Thin White Duke",  appeared on Dinah! with Dinah Shore, Henry Winkler and other stars. He performed a tremendous version of "Stay" from his upcoming Station to Station album, a dramatic rendition of "Five Years", showed off his karate skills and promoted his upcoming film The Man Who Fell to Earth. The housewives must have been enthralled!

  (All videos have been pulled. Sorry!)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

40 Year Itch : Like A Blind Man Who Lost His Way

The Omen, 1976

Barry White : You See the Trouble With Me

   From Barry White's Let the Music Play, released January 2, 1976, "You See the Trouble With Me" was a massive hit in the UK, peaking at #2. In 2000, Black Legend's updated version of the song hit #1 there despite White's refusal to let them sample his vocals. Instead a man with the stage name Spoonface did the honors.

Friday, January 1, 2016

40 Year Itch : Welcome to 1976 !!!

Sir Doug and the Texas Tornados : Give Back the Keys to My Heart


   As 1001Songs readers know, it was kind of a toss up between going back 50 years to 1966, a truly classic year for garage rock and the British invasion bands, or truly challenging myself to find something worthwhile in 1976, the year of Frampton Comes Alive, "Play That Funky Music ( White Boy)" and "Disco Duck". Well, you can see what I've chosen. 1966 is such well trodden ground that I'd feel it necessary to post at least once a day to keep up with the great music unleashed that year. I can pace myself with 1976, celebrating  as MOJO Magazine put it, "the year that British punk lit a cultural fuse and waited for the explosion". 

   With that in mind, we'll begin the year by posting Doug Sahm's "Give Back the Keys to My Heart" from the out of print Texas Rock for Country Rollers. You may know the version Sahm recorded with Uncle Tupelo in 1993. A song for a love and a television lost to cocaine, it features the lyrics 

Well, you got a friend named cocaine 
And to me he is to blame 
 He has drained life from your face 
He has taken my place