You may have always believed--as I did-- that Jacob Miller's "Tenement Yard" was a silly song about the gossips of Jamaican ghettos who were always spying on dreadlocks trying to get their smoke on. It does have a childish refrain, but on a deeper level the song reflects a time when Jamaica was near civil war and the government had placed restrictions on out-spoken Rastas, essentially confining them to the tenements and shantytowns. Yes, this is two and a half minutes of a pot smoker's paranoia but that doesn't mean someone wasn't after him.
BONUS TRACK : Jacob Miller's Otis Redding cover, also featured on the Tenement Yard album
Mining the same glam rock meets cabaret vein that made David Bowie and Mott the Hoople famous, Stanford University grad Roderick Falconer apparently became the center of a bidding war between David Geffen and Clive Davis. Geffen won. For whatever reason, after seven albums, the music career fizzled ( perhaps the Nazi imagery on the album cover didn't help) and Falconer became a poet, university professor and screenwriter who is probably best known for the Jodie Foster vehicle The Brave One.
While he may be the embodiment of the phrase "play that funky music white boy," both his erudition and his reclusive independence has set him apart from his peer group - and the audience - who would need to claim him as their own were he to become a pop star.
Songwriter and session musician Ned Doheny once played around LA in a duo with Jackson Browne. He was the first artist signed to David Geffen's label. Hard Candy, released in 1976, is his second album and features some studio help by the likes of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Linda Ronstadt and Tower of Power. Although it's a classic example of blue eyed soul/ yacht rock, and contains the gem "Get It Up For Love", Hard Candy failed to sell and Doheny was dropped by the label. As arranger, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist he would continue to create music with the likes of Average White Band, Chaka Khan and David Cassidy.
There were such high expectations for Harvard grad Andy Pratt's 1976 album, Resolution, Rolling Stone led its July 1 records section not with a review of the new Steely Dan album but with a Stephen Holden review titled "Move Over Beethoven : Andy Pratt Makes Dreams Come True" and featuring the line "By reviving the dream of rock as art and then reinventing it, Pratt has forever changed the face of rock".
That didn't happen of course and Pratt eventually became a Christian artists. You can buy Resolution and the single "Avenging Annie" on the same CD.
Are You Ready for the Country sounds like Waylon Jennings' attempt to crossover from his outlaw roots to something rock fans would buy. Both his Marshall Tucker Band cover, "Can't You See", and the Neil Young title track were Top 10 country hits. Graham Nash contributed background vocals to "Precious Memories" and "Old Friend" is a tribute to Buddy Holly. Jennings played with Holly on the 1959 Winter Dance Party Tour and gave up the seat on the ill fated plane that crashed into a Iowa cornfield killing Holly, Ritchie Valens and everyone else on board. Jennings killed himself the old fashioned way, by smoking six packs of cigarettes a day.
For 16 straight days, beginning at the end of June, the mercury soared over 30C (86F) at Heathrow Airport, kicking off the UK's hottest summer ever. Some parts of the country went without rainfall for 45 days. People were urged to take baths in no more than five inches of water, inspiring sales of a bumper sticker that read "Save water, bathe with a friend". There was even talk of importing water from Norway.
On the UK charts, The Real Thing spent three weeks at #1 with the lightweight soul sounds of "You To Me Are Everything". At #2, ITV'S New Faces winner Our Kid, a Liverpool boy band, made music fans look back on the days when the Osmonds ruled the charts with nostalgia.
1. The Real Thing : You To Me Are Everything
2. Our Kid : You Just Might See Me Cry
3. Candi Staton : Young Hearts Run Free
4. Bryan Ferry : Let's Stick Together
5. Rod Stewart : Tonight's the Night
6. Gallagher and Lyle : Heart On My Sleeve
7. The Shangri-Las : Leader of the Pack
8. Thin Lizzy : The Boys Are Back in Town
9. The Wurzels : Combine Harvester
10. Wings : Silly Love Songs
On June 26, 1976 The Isley Brothers has the #1 R and B album in the US with Harvest For the World, featuring the super funky "People of Today", recorded with the T.O.N.T.O. super synthesizer and a talk box. Like most of the Isley Brothers recordings with the younger brothers and Chris Jasper, this album is a terrific soundtrack for the summertime.
On Black and Blue, Mick Jagger sing about spending a lonely night at the Memory Motel with a woman with a peachy kind of girl who had hazel eyes, a slightly curved nose, slightly curved teeth and a mind of her own. We may never know for sure whom he is singing about but we do know there really is a Memory Motel on Montauk, Long Island, not far from Andy Warhol's place where Jagger spent some of the Summer of 1975 rehearsing for the US tour.
Owner Estgher Agtas told Rolling Stone the Stones "were all over the place, walking around" that Summer.
How did she feel, having her 19-unit resort motel immortalized in song? "It's very nice. I just wish they'd send me some royalties".
Inspired by his 1975 tour of Africa where he met Fela Kuti, Jorge Ben's Africa Brasil somehow manages to combine the best of African rhythms and American funk with Brazilian samba. The standout track, "Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma)", is about a mythical African soccer star, playing in the slums. Like a lot of people, I first hear the song on the David Byrne compilation Brazil Classics : Beleza Tropical, a great place for anyone to start their Brazilian collection. The lyrics of Umbabarauma hardy conceal some kind of mysterious intelligence:
Jump, jump, fall, get up, go up and get down
Run, kick, find a hole, thrill and give thanks
See how the whole city empties out
On this beautiful afternoon to watch you play
Jorge Ben revisits his 1972 song "Taj Mahal" on Africa Brasil. This is the song Rod Stewart admitted to "unconsciously plagiarizing " for his 1979 smash "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?".
It was a brief note in the June 19. 1976 issue of Rolling Stone:
Ten years ago, Jonathan Richman strummed his guitar in clubs around Boston, where he once opened for the J Geils Band. From there, he founded the Modern Lovers, a cultishly popular rock group with Velvet Underground undertones. Warners signed them and John Cale produced some tracks including "Pablo Picasso", with lines like "Some people try to pick up girls and get called assholes/ This never happened to Pablo Picasso". The album was not released.
But now Beserkley Records, who've gained access to the tapes, are offering The Modern Lovers on a mail-order basis ( $4.49, Home of the Hits, Box 589V, Berkeley, California 94701). Meantime, Richman, a shiny-cheeked Jerry Mathers lookalike who disdains drugs and once wrote in a questionnaire, " We all have the power of a flaming Nova Star within us," has recorded a new album for Beserkley.
From rock critic dean Robert Christagau:
The Modern Lovers [Home of the Hits, 1976]
These legendary sessions, produced by John Cale for Warners in the early '70s but never released, still sound ahead of their time. Jonathan Richman's gift is to make explicit that love for "the modern world" that is the truth of so much of the best rock and roll: by cutting through the vaguely protesty ambience of so-called rock culture he opens the way for a worldliness that is specific, realistic, and genuinely critical. Not that he tries to achieve this himself--he's much too childlike. Sometimes his unmusicianship adds a catch to a three-chord melody and his off-key singing unlocks doors you didn't know were there. But other times he sounds like his allowance is too big, as worldly as Holden Caulfield with no '50s for excuse--the first rock hero who could use a spanking. A
In the week of June 20, 1976, Hot Chocolate's new single "Man To Man" debuted on the UK charts at #47. In the song Errol Browne pleads --in his most gut-wrenching pleading tone--with his wife's lover to talk to him, "man to man", about whether he's just having fun or whether this affair is worth breaking up a home. For the sake of the children, he asks him to leave her alone. "Man to Man" would eventually peak at UK#14.
To this day, Blondie drummer Clem Burke will tell you their debut single, released on June 17, 1976 was the band's greatest song. Listening to it, you may be hard pressed to disagree.
Originally titled "Sex Offender", the song was written by Deborah Harry and bassist Gary Valentine, based on Valentine's knocking up his underage girlfriend. Their label Private Stock, best known for releasing Frankie Valli's 1975 Number 1 hit "My Eyes Adored You", insisted the name be changed. Deborah Harry rewrote the lyrics so that it would be about a prostitute attracted to the cop who arrested her.
Produced in large part by Craig Leon ( The Ramones, Richard Hell and the Voidoids' Blank Generation), the sound of the single combines 60s girl groups and 70s power pop. This would be the formula that would get Blondie signed to Chrysalis Records and make them one of the biggest bands of the next five years.
On June 19, 1976 26-year old Natalie Cole topped the R and B charts for the third consecutive time with the funky single "Sophisticated Lady ( She's a Different Lady)". Set out to prove she was more than just her father's ( Nat "King" Cole) daughter, Cole would spend a good part of the Summer opening for Bill Cosby at the Las Vegas Hilton in front of a white, middle-aged crowd who might have been put off by the funk. Too bad! Natalie Cole was a self assured performer who was well on her way to winning a second Grammy for this vocal performance.
On June 18, 1976 ABBA debuted their new single "Dancing Queen" in its first live performance during an all-star gala at the Royal Swedish Opera in honour of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and his bride-to-be, Silvia Sommerlath, who were to be married the next day.
Released as a single in August, "Dancing Queen" became ABBA's biggest hit, charting in the Top 10 in 19 countries and peaking at #1 England, West Germany, Australia, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and, in 1977, the United States.
The song is widely considered one of the greatest pop songs ever recorded. Says one fan who goes by the name Indiepopdiary "'Dancing Queen' is the absolute pinnacle when it comes to the '3 minute pop song'. Nothing released before or since comes even close to replicating the sugar rush and sheer bliss that this song inspires, even from it's first second."
Much of that sheer bliss can be seen in the music video for "Dancing Queen", which was shot in March of 1976 while the band toured Australia. The song also spiked the ending of "Muriel's Wedding", also shot in Australia. Absolute perfection!
Sit back and enjoy and entire hour long episode of Top of the Pops, as it aired on June 17, 1976. The show stars T. Rex, Gallagher and Lyle, Ruby Flipper, Peter Frampton (video), Brotherhood of Man, Dolly Parton (video), Mud, Murray Head, Thin Lizzy (video), Liverpool Express, The Wurzels, and Rod Stewart
Recorded in 1972 at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales, and produced by Dave Edmunds --hot off his echo-y US #4 hit "I Hear You Knocking"-- "Shake Some Action" introduces a new version of Flamin' Groovies. Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson, who replaced the departing Roy Loney, shared a love for 60's pop, 12 string guitars and Beatlesque harmonies.
"Shake Some Action" is the band's magnum opus. Recorded in the same session as "Slow Death" and "You Tore Me Down", "Shake Some Action" wouldn't see the light of day until Seymour Stein signed the band to Sire Records and sent the band back into the studio to record enough tracks for an album.
That album--released in June of 1976-- is one of the best of the year. As a college radio DJ, I knew I could always rely on a cut from Shake Some Action to shake things up. If not the title cut, there's "I'll Cry Alone", " I Can't Hide", "You Tore Me Down" and "Yes It's True".
By June 1976, more than 160 Jamaicans had lost their lives in election-related violence that pitted armed vigilantes against cops and soldiers. There were fire-bombings, gunfights and lootings. Against this background Max Romeo wrote one of his best known songs, which he discussed with author David Katz in his book People Funny Boy.
I had this song "War In A Babylon" where me say "It wicked out there, it dread out there". I took it to (producer Lee "Scratch" Perry)said "You like it?" He said "Yeah!" with excitement, "But no dread and no wicked, it sipple out deh!" So I said "Yeah, that have a ring to it," because sipple mean slippery, it's slidey out there." I said "Fantastic idea : War in a Babylon, it sipple out deh", so I record the song. Scratch got $15,000 (JA) for producing the song; after production costs, he gave me $2,500. That's the only money I get to date."
The song so impressed Island records chief Chris Blackwell that he signed Romeo to a record deal. The album War In a Babylon, featuring more classic tunes like "One Step Forward" and " Chase the Devil", would come out in September. Along with Junior Murvin's Police and Thieves and The Heptones' Party Time, War In a Babylon is considered part of the Lee "Scratch" Perry-produced Black Ark "holy trinity".
On June 13, 1976 the T.Rex single "I Love to Boogie" entered the UK Charts at #44. It would spend nine weeks on the charts, peaking at #13. Old school T.Rex fans must have loved Marc Bolan's return to his Electric Warrior roots: three chords, gnarly guitar lines, breathless vocals that mention a car in passing ("Belinda Mae Fender's got a Cadillac Bone"). It would be Bolan's last Top 40 single before his death in September, 1977.
At least one British DJ thought the song sounded a lot like Webb Pierce's "Teenage Boogie", prompting some rockabilly fans to burn copies of the single outside a London pub.
The song's most lasting claim to fame is its use in a much beloved 2000 British dance film called "Billy Elliot".
From May 22 to July 3, The Philadelphia based Trammps topped the US Disco charts with the one-two punch of "Where the Happy People Go" and "Disco Party". At the end of the year they would release their most famous single, "Disco Inferno". The gospel-drenched vocals of Jimmy Ellis and the instrumentation from members of MFSB is what set the Trammps apart from other disco bands of the era.
On June 10, 1976 Alice Cooper collapsed and was rushed to UCLA Medical Center with anemia. Under doctor's orders he canceled a thirty-city tour in support of his new album Go To Hell and, instead, spent two weeks recovering in Barbados before returning to LA where he partied and played golf.
Heavy drinking can cause anemia and there was plenty of drinking in Cooper's life. He liked to boast that he drank a case of beer a day to keep fit. It would all catch up with him in 1977 when he would admit himself into Cornell Medical Centre in New York for nearly a month of sobering up.
Before he would anonymously sing and play guitar with The Rutles, and after he formed the short-lived Boxer, Ollie Halsall may have had his greatest moment on record with his solo on the closing track of ex Soft Machine eccentric Kevin Ayers' 1976 album Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today). On tour, the guitar duties were handled by Andy Summers who would meet an American drummer named Stewart Copeland in the Curved Air dressing room that year. Along with Sting, they would form the Police.
During the second week of June 1976, the title cut from Bryan Ferry's upcoming album entered the UK charts at #34. "Let's Stick Together", which would peak at #4 a week later, is a cover of a fourteen year old Wilbert Harrison tuned performed with members of Roxy Music, Chris Spedding on guitar and, straight from the cover of Siren, Texas supermodel Jerry Hall howling at about two minutes in.
Jerry recreates her performance in the official video below. As for Ferry's slightly rapey pencil mustache, Ferry has said he wasn't ever trying to draw attention to himself. "It's a funny thing being such a shy person yet being a singer in a rock band. It's a sort of contradiction.'"
On the same day The Beatles released Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Moby Grape released its self-titled debut, an album that is growing in reputation with each passing year. In 1966 Tacoma's Jerry Miller and Seattle drummer Don Stevenson moved to San Francisco where they eventually met Los Angeles musicians Peter Lewis and Bob Mosley and Jefferson Airplane outcast Skip Spence. They called themselves Moby Grape. Columbia Records won a bidding war and the band spent thirteen days recording its debut album in the same studio where The Beach Boys were recording "Good Vibrations".
At the very moment Moby Grape should have been one of the biggest bands in the country, it all went to hell. First Columbia put out an unprecedented five singles on the same day, a marketing move that backfired. DJ's didn't know which song to play so most didn't play any of them. Then a drug crazed Skip Spence wound up spending six months in the Bellevue Criminal Ward after taking a fire axe to Miller's hotel room. Finally there were legal woes that prevented the band from using the name Moby Grape. Theirs may be one of rock's legendary hard luck stories but it's all set to the soundtrack of one of the greatest debut albums of all time.
In the interview below, I got a chance to ask Grape guitarist Jerry Miller about the band and to focus on three classic songs from the debut album.
Here are the three songs we focused on.
Jerry : I'd just left my wife. She was gonna go back to Tacoma on the bus and I didn't have no time right then for wives so I'm crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and I ask the guy what time is it and he said 8:05. So I was riding in my 55 Olds Rocket 88 heading towards Sausalito and I said "8:05/I think I'll drive off this bridge/No I won't/Yes I will" but we changed it around.
I went over to Don's and he helped me put the bridge in so we shared the writing on that and we used to share the writing on everything like "Lazy Me", Bob's tune. I put a whole bunch in that and on "8:05" Peter put that beautiful guitar part in front of it.And nobody wanted 5% or 7.5% of this for doing that . It wasn't those types of days. It was "if we can help and make something happen, we'll do it".
Jerry : That started off like ( Slow bluesy) "Hey Grandma/You're so young" and then it ended up being ( faster) "Hey! Grandma! " you know? Put a little youth in there! Skippy ( Spence) was real good at that too. He was full of vinegar.
Jerry : It's just kind of an acid flash, you know (sings at 4:07) "Would you let me/ Walk down the street/Naked if I want to?/Can I buy an amplifier/On time?/Ain't got no money now/But I will pay you before I die"
Some of the people said "No you don't. You pay us way before that."
Jerry Miller has already recorded one perfect album. Now he's trying to make another one. You can help by donating to his kickstarter campaign which ends Friday.
On June 6, 1976 Keith Richards went on stage in Paris with the Rolling Stones shortly after learning his two month old son Tara had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In his autobiography, Life, Richards writes that he is still haunted by the loss of his son but at the time couldn't imagine canceling the concert.
It would be the worst possible thing because there was nowhere else to go. What am I going to do, drive back to Switzerland and find out what didn't happen? It's happened already. It's done. Or sit there and mope and go bananas and get into, what? Why? I called Anita (Pallenberg), of course, and she was in tears, and the details were all confusing...
...All I knew about Tara was this beautiful little baby boy in the cradle. Hey, little bugger. I'll see you when I get back of the road, right? ...It was just a crib death. But leaving a newborn is something I can't forgive myself for. It's as if I deserted my post...I wrote in my notebook when I was writing this book, "Once in a while Tara invades me. My son. He would be thirty-odd now." Tara lives inside me.But I don't even know where the little bugger is buried, if he's buried at all.
James Fox, who co-wrote the book, said “The first time we talked about that, Keith couldn’t get out more than five words. Then we realized we had to go back to it. He told me that he thought about it every week.”
The video above is from a June 5, 1976 show, the day before Tara Richards died.
Produced by Quincy Jones, The Brothers Johnson's Look Out for #1 lived up to its title for almost the entire month of June 1976 by staying at the very top of the American R and B charts. The partnership had began on Q's 1975 album, Mellow Madness, when Jones recorded four Johnson compositions. It continued with Jones producing, composing and arranging the first four Brothers Johnson albums which included the popular hits "Get the Funk Out of My Face", "I'll Be Good To You", "Strawberry Letter #23" and "Stomp".
On June 4, 1976 The Sex Pistols played in front of maybe 40 people at Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It has been called one of the most legendary gigs in rock history, not just because of the band on the stage but also because of the number of future bands that would be formed by members of the audience. Among them: Joy Division, The Smiths, The Fall, and The Buzzcocks.
It was all documented in this scene from the movie 24 Hour Party People, though neither Tony Wilson, Ian Curtis nor Simply Red's Mick Hucknall were actually there (but then neither were the other 7500 people who have since claimed to have seen the Sex Pistols play in a space that couldn't fit more than 150).
A band emerged. Who knows what the drummer, bass player and guitarist looked like. The guy who took centre stage took the mike, took your mind. A swagger to make John Wayne look a pussy. A sneer so dismissive of everyone and everything, of God and civilization, in just one pair of twisted lips. And then they started playing…
They stared, open-mouthed, transported to a place where you didn’t need to pogo (it wasn’t invented till three months later). That place was real life; that place was the clearing in the undergrowth where meaning and elucidation live, that place where the music came from and the place it would take you back to.
But they knew nothing, these forty-odd strangers, gathered by chance and chat, they just knew their world would never be the same again. A past obliterated and No Future.
The band opened with future B side "Did You No Wrong" . The set included future Sex Pistols classics "Seventeen", "Submission", "No Feelings", "Problems" and "Pretty Vacant" as well as covers of Dave Berry's "Don't Give Me No Lip Child", The Monkees' "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone", Small Faces'"What'cha Gonna Do About It", Iggy and the Stooges' "No Fun" and The Who's "Substitute".
Also in the audience was future Smiths frontman Steven Morrissey who penned the following review in a letter to NME.
“I pen this epistle after witnessing the infamous Sex Pistols in concert at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. The bumptious Pistols in jumble sale attire had those few that attended dancing in the aisles despite their discordant music and barely audible lyrics. The Pistols boast having no inspiration from the New York / Manhattan rock scene, yet their set includes, “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”, a number believed to be done almost to perfection by the Heartbreakers on any sleazy New York night and the Pistols’ vocalist / exhibitionist Johnny Rotten’s attitude and self-asserted ‘love us or leave us’ approach can be compared to both Iggy Pop and David JoHansen in their heyday. The Sex Pistols are very New York and it’s nice to see that the British have produced a band capable of producing atmosphere created by The New York Dolls and their many imitators, even though it may be too late. I’d love to see the Pistols make it. Maybe they will be able to afford some clothes which don’t look as though they’ve been slept in.”
On June 3 1976 Frankie Miller played the lead off track from his most recent album, The Rock, before a televised audience in Germany. "A Fool in Love" should have been a big hit. The world needed to hear how much this Scotsman could inhabit the soul of Otis Redding.
Instead it was a much covered song. UFO released their version on the May 1976 album, No Heavy Petting.
Later that year Melissa Manchester released her version.
On June 1, 1976 , one of Glam rock's last gasps came in the form of The Runaways' self-titled debut album, recorded by five teenage girls from Southern California with the help of a deviant impresario named Kim Fowley.
In 1976 Fowley said "They're young, white suburban American girls, a segment of society that hasn't had anyone to identify with. When a boy takes his girl to a Black Sabbath concert, the girl has to keep quiet because it;s his show really. And what do the girls have to relate to? Joni Mitchell singing about Laurel Canyon? Now the guys can drool over the girls and enjoy the music, and the girls can identify with the young white chicks on stage".
A 2015 article investigating the 1975 rape of then 15 year old bassist Jackie Fuchs by Fowley must lead any modern day discussion of The Runaways. But if we're simply going to concern ourselves with the music and the impact of the band at the time, The Runaways were pioneers.
As for the music, it's not punk by a long shot. It's the kind of hard rock the bigger kids were listening to at my school. The kids who sat at the back of the bus. The girls who could, frankly, beat me up if they were so busy smoking cigarettes and making out with their much older boyfriends.