Friday, September 30, 2016

40 Year Itch : Fear for the Laddies

Terry Reid : Brave Awakening

The song begins with a short chuckle. A private joke. A pause and then the strumming of a guitar that sounds like sun rays glinting through golden fields of wild grass. And then comes the voice aged like fine whiskey. The voice of Terry Reid, the first man Jimmy Page offered the role of vocalist in a new band he was forming after the collapse of the Yardbirds. Reid would also turn down Deep Purple and the Spencer David Group.

Even if he never became the next big thing, Terry Reid has made some extraordinary recordings. 1973's River may be the most acclaimed but there is also 1976's Seed of Memory, produced by Graham Nash.

“He did so much more than produce it, and of course he sang wonderful harmonies," Reid tells Uncut Magazine. "He had his own ideas but, it was always give and take. He really nurtured me through it.”

 Reid had moved to California where he lived and worked as a caretaker on a 150 acre property full of old MGM sets, high in the Malibu Mountains. It was here that he wrote the songs for Seed of Memory, recorded, like River,  with slide guitarist David Lindley.

“The places Terry chose to live were really remote,” says Lindley. “In California, if you’re not careful, it’ll suck you in. Resistance is futile. Terry fitted in really well, but he was slightly removed from the main scene. He became part of it but retained his individuality.”

Seed of Memory deserves to be one of the best known albums of 1976 but right after ABC released the album, the label went bottoms up: “I saw it all go down the tubes. ABC simply froze the record and wouldn’t give it back to me. I had three major record companies wanting to take it on. I was broke and busted. Graham helped me out just to get me back on my feet. It’s sod’s law. You have to laugh or that sort of thing could crush you.”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

40 Year Itch : Now the Dogs are Barking

Tom Waits : Tom Traubert's Blues

With songs like "The Piano Has Been Drinking ( Not Me)" and "Bad Liver and Broken Heart", Small Change chronicles a gruffer-voiced Tom Waits exploring the drunken life on skid row. That's something he literally did, according to producer Bones Howe who recalls a phone conversation he had with Waits about the lead off track "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen":

"He said the most wonderful things about writing that song. He went down and hung around on skid row in Los Angeles because he wanted to get stimulated for writing this material. He called me up and said, '  I went down to skid row...I bought a pint of rye. In a brown paper bag -- hunkered down, drank the pint of rye, went home, threw up, and wrote 'Tom Traubert's Blues'. Every guy down there...everyone I spoke to (said) a woman put him there'."

Recorded in five days, Small Change was the first Tom Waits album to chart, peaking at #89. In my mind, this is the best Tom Waits album up until Rain Dogs.

Well, gee. I'd say there's probably more songs off that record that I continued to play on the road, and that endured. Some songs you may write and record but you never sing them again. Others you sing em every night and try and figure out what they mean. "Tom Traubert's Blues" was certainly one of those songs I continued to sing, and in fact, close my show with.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

40 Year Itch : Songs in the Key of Life

On September 28, 1976 Stevie Wonder released the long awaited Songs in the Key of Life, a 21 song collection that would debut at #1 on the Billboard Pop Album charts and hold that position for 13 straight weeks.

 My 40-year old dad bought one of the ten million copies that were sold. He liked to savor albums. He played side three over and over again for days before he explored the rest of the album. Side three begins with "Isn't She Lovely", a song celebrating the birth of his daughter Aisha and featuring her early cries, which delighted my dad.

When I was sent off to boarding school, I joined the Columbia House Record Club and ordered myself a copy of Songs in the Key of Life. Side two has always been my favorite. It begins with the first single from the album, the funky "I Wish".

The rest of the side two appealed to my teenage idea of love. I still carry the wisdom of Wonder's words with me forty years later : "Don't fool yourself /But tell no one else /That it's more than just /An ordinary pain In your heart" and "Say you feel unnecessary pain in your heart /Tell her you're glad/ It's over in fact/ Can she take with her the pain she brought you back.

We've forgotten now how overdue Wonder's first album in 26 months was. It was originally due to hit stores in October of 1975. Motown tried to play off the delay by printing t-shirts that read "We're Almost Finished". In early '76 Rolling Stone magazine, a Stevie Wonder confidant, Ira Tucker, said "Stevie is a Taurus and we were told that '76 was going to be a great year for Tauruses. By releasing it then, maybe we can some of the magic of the stars behind us". 

As part of his record breaking $13 million contract with Motown, Wonder was guaranteed both artistic freedom and the right to determine his release schedule. He put a lot of pressure on himself, writing, producing, composing and arranging every song. He worked long hours in the studio, skipping meals and sleep, to tweak every track.
"If my flow is goin', I keep on until I peak," he said.
When the album finally did come out, Wonder had a message for his fans: "Thank you everyone for being so patient".

Who could have been disappointed ?

Certainly not the critics, most of whom, after wrestling with the 106 minutes of material, proclaimed the album a masterpiece. Stevie Wonder told Q Magazine "Of all the albums, Songs in the Key of Life I'm most happy about. Just the time, being alive then. To be a father and then… letting go and letting God give me the energy and strength I needed."

 Michael Jackson called it his favorite Stevie Wonder album and Elton John said "Let me put it this way: wherever I go in the world, I always take a copy of Songs in the Key of Life. For me, it's the best album ever made, and I'm always left in awe after I listen to it."

In 1977, Stevie Wonder won four out of seven GRAMMY nominations, taking home Album Of The Year, Producer Of The Year, Best Male R and B Vocal Performance, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The album also topped the Village Voice critics poll for best album of the year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

40 Year Itch : A Snake Calling on the Phone

The Saints : (I'm) Stranded

"Rock music in the Seventies was changed by three bands—the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and The Saints"
-Bob Geldorf, The Boomtown Rats

On September 28, 1976 The Saints released the iconic punk rock single "(I'm) Stranded" on their own Australian label Fatal. The single--recorded and mixed in four hours-- came out before any vinyl debuts by The Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Damned. The single might have vanished had the band not sent copies to the UK where Sounds reviewer John Ingham called it the "single of this and every week":

There's a tendency to blabber mindlessly about this single, it's so bloody incredible [...] for some reason Australian record companies think the band lack commercial potential. What a bunch of idiots. You like Quo or The Ramones? This pounds them into the dirt. Hear it once and you'll never forget it. The singing's flat and disinterested, the guitars are on full stun. There's no such thing as a middle eight. It's fabulous

The highly influential BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel played the song on his radio show and EMI signed the band to a three record deal. 

Were the Saints really punks? They certainly refused to dress the part and had, in fact, been playing loud, sped up tunes years earlier.

"The band was a full thing by 1974,"said guitarist Ed Kuepper."Two and a half years later, this incredibly fashionable movement comes along, only an arsehole would have associated himself with that."

"Stranded is an Eddie Cochran riff re-worked," says vocalist Chris Bailey.

Monday, September 26, 2016

40 Year Itch : Tommy Mottola Lives On The Road

Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band : Cherchez La Femme/ Se Si Bon

There really wasn't anything on the radio that sounded like the big band inspired disco of "Cherchez La Femme/ Se Si Bon", one of my very favorite songs released in 1976. It wasn't released as a single until after it became a surpise hit in the discos where it topped the US Dance Charts.

Sophisto-Disco? It really shouldn't work. Credit goes to Stony Browder, Jr and Charlie Calello for the arrangements. Browder wrote the song with his brother August Darnell who saw every song as a "mini-screenplay" and would later form Kid Creole and the Coconuts. And of course Cory Daye has a remarkable voice.

Stony Browder told New York Magazine the Bronx based band's skin tones had a lot to do with their  sound.

"We don't belong. Mulattos never do. Whites don't like us because they think we're niggies. And blacks don't like us because they think we're whiteys. We don't fit anywhere. That's why we've gone off alone, created a totally separate thing."

I was so infatuated with the song that I sent away for an RCA cassette copy of the album when I was sent away to boarding school. It reminded me of listening to the radio in my room back home. I still have it. It's not a perfect album. The swing meets disco vibe tires me by side two. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

40 Year Itch : The Birth of U2

It was all the drummer's idea. 14 year old Larry Mullen pinned a "Musicians Wanted" ad on the notice board at Dublin's Temple Mount School. It read "Drummer seeks musicians to form band".

'So on Saturday 25th September 1976, ' recalls Larry. 'This odd group of people convened in my kitchen in Artane. And that's where it started.'

The odd group included 16 year old Adam Clayton who bought his first acoustic guitar at thirteen and then convinced his parents to get him a bass.

Clayton wasn't  happy at school and found refuge in music.

 "We would listen to The Who, The Grateful Dead, Kris Kristofferson, Carole King, Neil Young, people that were around at that time, singer- songwriter things and some far-out stuff, Hawkwind, The Edgar Winter Group, Edgar Broughton. And then the prefects at school would listen to Rory Gallagher, The Beatles, The Stones, Eric Clapton, so we'd hear a bit of that, and some American performers like the Doobie Brothers. So I was getting pretty turned on to music and it always seemed to change my mood; it somehow made it bearable to be in that school situation. I remember reading that Clapton hadn't started playing guitar until he was fifteen or sixteen and I thought, 'Well, there's still time for me!'"

15 year old David "The Edge" Evans grew up sharing records with his brother

"Along with our Beatles LP's we got some by Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Yes, Rory Gallagher and Taste. I discovered Derek and the Dominos while staying with my older cousins in Blackpool. It is hard to explain the significance of music for all of the kids in our area. There was nothing else nearly as important in terms of establishing your identity. I would have huge arguments with my friends about who was the best band in the world, or what was the best record ever made. The TV music shows Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test were considered unmissable."

Evans heard about a wild kid called Paul Hewson at a neighboring school.

"He seemed to share our interest in high-explosives: there was some story involving a small fire, and some rivet-gun caps, taken from the building site that was to become our new school. So I heard about Bono a couple of years before I even met him."

16 year old Hewson was already a wild child when his mother died of a brain hemorrhage while attending the funeral of her own father. His musical influences?

 "Before I got to the Who, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, and those kinds of things -- I really remember John Lennon's Imagine. I guess I'm twelve; that's one of my first albums. That really set fire to me. It was like he was whispering in your ear -- his ideas of what's possible. Different ways of seeing the world. When I was fourteen and lost my mother, I went back to Plastic Ono Band.

 "Bob Dylan at the same time. Listened to his acoustic albums. Then starting to think about playing those acoustic songs. My brother had a Beatles songbook -- so trying to teach myself guitar, and him sort of helping.

 "And that song -- which is actually such a genius song, now that I think about it, you're embarrassed the day after you learned it—'If I Had a Hammer.' That's a tattoo, that song."

The band briefly had a fifth member. Evans' brother Dick. They decided to call themselves "Feedback". They would play their first gig at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in October, a messy ten minute set beginning with a cover of Peter Frampton's "Show Me the Way", followed by the Bay City Rollers "Bye Bye Baby",and ending with a Beach Boys medley. For an encore, they played the Rollers tune a second time.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

40 Year Itch : The Stream of Time

Steve Hillage :  It's All Too Much

In September of 1976 ex-Gong guitarist Steve Hillage released his follow up to the fan favorite, Fish Rising. Produced by Todd Rundgren at Secret Sound in Woodstock with Utopia backing, L is bookended by two psychedelic covers, Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and the Beatles' "It's All Too Much". Having recently recorded near perfect note for note covers of 60's classics for Faithful, Rundgren and Utopia provide clean, shiny back up. Fans of great prog rock will find more treasures in deeper cuts.

Gong : Expresso

Gong replaced Hillage with Allen Holdsworth as it dispensed with psychedelia and wit and became a progressive jazz rock band led by percussionist Pierre Moerlen. Opener "Expresso" will wake you up better than anything you can order at  a coffee shop. Tom Moon, calling Gazeuse! a , prog-rock gas, listed the album among his 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die. Still, many say they miss the anarchic days of the flying teapot.

Friday, September 23, 2016

40 Year Itch : Radio On

The Modern Lovers : Roadrunner

The John Cale produced version of "Roadrunner" is one of the greatest songs of our times. Even though it was recorded in 1972, it held great appeal for punk rockers like The Sex Pistols and innovative art bands like Wire who both recorded demos of "Roadrunner" the year the Modern Lovers debut came out. Who can resist a song about driving a car late at night with the radio on?

It's a simple rocking tour of the suburbs of Boston Massachusetts in a car that's going "faster miles an hour" with the radio on. You can hear Richman's infatuation with The Velvet Underground as you head out with him on Route 128 passing the power lines. At a time when art rock usually meant side long epics that quoted gurus or at least J R R Tolkien and featured twelve minute guitar solos, here was a song that might -MIGHT- have three chords. Greil Marcus called it "the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest."

The only conclusion you can reach upon hearing the Sex Pistols demo of "Road Runner" is that it wasn't Johnny Rotten's idea to record it. He really doesn't know the words. " Stop! Stop! Stop!" he calls out. "What's the first line?"


Wire had yet to pair its sound down to the very basics when they recorded their version of "Roadrunner", in future Motors Nick Garvey's basement studio. Still, the band give its all on the track.


It was rare for the acoustic minded Jonathan Richman to revisit his garage rock classic, but he did just that during a birthday party for Joey Ramone in 1998. The song begins at 3:50 in the clip below.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

40 Year Itch : Stompin' Some Rump

Wild Tchoupitoulas : Meet the Boys on the Battlefront

One of 1976's most essential recordings! The Wild Tchoupitoulas combines the music of The Meters with the Mardi Gras indian chants of George "Big Chief Jolly" Landry and the vocals of his nephews, The Neville Brothers. 

Although Landry gets a writing credit for many of these songs, most are based on traditional Mardi Gras indian chants dating back to the turn of the last century. Some are as boastful as anything a modern day rapper would say:

Meet the boys on the battlefront
Meet the boys on the battlefront
Meet the boys on the battlefront
where the Wild Tchoupitoulas gonna stomp some rump

Fueled by alcohol, New Orleans gangs would often wind up shedding blood on Mardi Gras day. But members of indian tribes would try to "stomp some rump" using feathers, sequins, needle and thread.  

Every member of the tribe has a duty. Listening to the album you'll hear about the "spy boys" who fronts the tribe keeping a look out for other tribes. The Big Chief is the leader of the tribe and the most ornately costumed. The chiefs and the tribes face off, exchanging taunts in a symbolic fight. 

And then they move on.

Although the album's title doesn't roll of the tongue (it's Wild Chop-it-too-lus), this is one of 1976's greatest albums, receiving an A rating from Robert Christgau and finishing ahead of both David Bowie's Station to Station and The Modern Lovers  in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

40 Year Itch : Open to Persuasion

Joan Armatrading : Love and Affection

Joan Armatrading sings about love and affection in such honest ways even listeners feel vulnerable. It's not an act.  Even with two albums under her belt, Armatrading was far from the most outrageous musical act producer Glyn Johns had ever seen when he caught her act at the Cellar Door club in Washington DC in 1976.

I remember it was a very small stage with avery large band crammed onto it. The singer was painfully shy, barely lifting her head from her chest to look at the audience, and mumbling incoherently in between songs. The sound was not at all good and she was over-powered by the band.

Johns gave Armatrading a second chance. She brought her acoustic guitar into his office and he within a few bard of the first song, he was hooked. Three weeks later, they started work on Joan Armatrading with the finest musicians Johns could gather, including members of Fairport Convention and Faces.

All she needed in order for her talent to be recognized was a really good band and a sound that did her justice.

The feisty single "Love and Affection" would peak at UK #10 and help Joan Armatrading and the four albums that followed go gold. There are touchstones in every one of her song. In the line 
'Now if I can feel the sun/ In my eyes /And the rain on my face /Why can't I Feel love?" I hear the regret that comes when you're with a good person who just doesn't happen to be the right person.

When people talk about Armatrading, they often fail to mention what an extraordinary acoustic guitar player she is. I won't. Listen to the beginning of "Like Fire". That says more than anything I can write here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

40 Year Itch : The 100 Club Punk Special

On September 20th and 21st, 1976, the 100 Club hosted a two day international punk rock festival, an event which included The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, The Vibrators and a brand new band called Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Subway Sect opened the first night. They were followed by a completely improvised set by the Banshees. Siouxsie sang The Lord's Prayer over noisy instrumentation. The Clash followed. And then came the Sex Pistols.

 Simon Wright was there:
"The first night, like all the early punk gigs I went to, was noisy and physical, but good-humoured. The spitting and the gobbing and the pogo-ing came later."

The second night was rougher. French punks Stinky Toys opened and were followed by Chris Spedding and his under-rehearsed band, The Vibrators. The Damned came on next with The Buzzcocks closing the festival.

Among those in the audience were The Jam's Paul Weller, future Pogue Shane McGowan (seen above with his fanzine Bondage), Chrissie Hynde, future Slit Viv Albertine and, on the second night, a drunken Sid Vicious. Vicious threw a bottle which shattered against a pillar during The Damned set. A young woman was blinded by a shard of glass.

Monday, September 19, 2016

40 Year Itch : A Funky September

Wild Cherry : Play That Funky Music

Love it or hate it, Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" is one of 1976's most memorable songs and, for people of a certain age, a sure way to fill the dance floor. A rock band playing clubs in the disco era,  Wild Cherry kept getting requests for funky music. People wanted to dance.  A former manager of several Bonanza steakhouses, songwriter Robert Parissi knew how to give the customers what they wanted and the result is a single that topped the US charts for three weeks.

Parliament : Do That Stuff

1976 was a break out year for George Clinton and everyone associated with him, including Parliament, Funkadelic, and Bootsy's Rubber Band. On the verge of an arena tour, complete with a UFO stage set, Parliament released its follow-up to Mothership Connection . The Clones of Dr Funkenstein may not be as wild a trip as the cover suggests but this is a band at its peak. Horn-heavy thanks to great arrangements by Fred Wesley.

Funkadelic : Let's Take It to the People

Westbound Records released Tales of Kidd Funkadelic on September 21, 1976  after the band had left for Warner Brothers. Tales is a collection of outtakes so there's no coherent space funk storyline to follow here but there's plenty of funk, highlighted by "Let's Take It To The People", which was sampled by De La Soul for their Low End Theory song "Everything is Fair". Hardcore Jollies is a month away.

Earth Wind and Fire : On Your Face

Coming off of a massive Summer tour, Earth Wind and Fire released Spirit in September of 1976. Producer/Writer/ Arranger  Charles Stepney died of a heart attack during the sessions which feature more slow songs than most Earth Wind and Fire albums. The album peaked at #2 on the US album charts and paved the way for my favorite of their albums, 1977's All 'N All.

Detroit's Dramatics worked with a variety of producers on Joy Ride, a R and B #11 hit, thanks in part to the strangely titled disco cut "Finger Fever".

Sunday, September 18, 2016

40 Year Itch : Queen's huge thank you

"I think that Hyde Park was one of the most significant gigs in our career. There was a great affection because we'd kind of made it in a lot of countries by that time, but England was still, you know, we weren't really sure if we were really acceptable here. So it was a wonderful feeling to come back and see that crowd and get that response."
-Brian May

(click to read review)

On September 18, 1976, a crowd of 150,000 attended Queen's free concert in Hyde Park. For the band, this was a thank you to fans who helped 1975's A Night at the Opera debut at #1 on the UK charts, on its way to selling more than six million copies. Freddie Mercury wore white so the people way in the back could see him. 

 Although the concert was shot by a professional television crew only "White Queen" aired ( on the Old Grey Whistle Test). So all we have is the poorly mastered, poor sounding video below...with one exception."You Take My Breath Away", from the forthcoming A Day at the Races, was remastered for a 2011 Universal Records reissue. There are constant promises that a DVD will be made available someday.

Virgin's Richard Branson organized the concert and made sure his label's Steve Hillage got some stage time to promote L, an album the former Gong guitarist recorded with Todd Rundgren producing. More on that later this month.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

40 Year Itch : 50 Million Years Ago

Alpha Band : Interviews

In late 1976 a band made up of former members of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue released its debut album on Arista. The Alpha Band consisted of Steven Soles, David Mansfield and a born again Christian named T-Bone Burnett, whose song "Interviews" sounds a lot like what Burnett would release on his key 1980s album Proof Through the Night. As a college radio DJ, I knew I had to play something from Burnett at least once every two weeks on WTUL or Tulane would withhold my diploma. So I was delighted to be one of the few people who knew about The Alpha Band.

Back in the day Arista actually tried to promote the trio as the next big thing. They reportedly paid $6 million to sign the trio and label head Clive Davis proclaimed the band the most important since The Beatles. 

"We should have quit then," Mansfield would say. "Our case was hopeless."

Davis would later pronounce The Alpha Band the biggest misfire of his career.

The songs on the debut are smart and sophisticated. They just didn't connect with listeners. 

After three albums The Alpha Band called it quits and Burnett was free to launch himself into a solo career which would bounce from Christian folk to rockabilly to art rock, to teaming up with Elvis Costello as a Coward Brother, to soundtracks like O Brother Where Art Thou and his Oscar winning contribution to Crazy Heart to producing the Counting Crows, Los Lobos, Brandi Carlile, Gillian Welch and of course the Grammy winning Robert Plant and Alison Krauss project Raising Sand.

I have interviewed Burnett once. I got four minutes to talk about Inside Llewyn Davis. And I will tell you what I told him. This conversation could go on for days and I wouldn't run out of things I'd want to discuss. Because when you think about it, Burnett is one of rock's great zeligs

Friday, September 16, 2016

40 Year Itch : Ain't a Single Trouble in Sight

Dr Feelgood : She Does It Right

In September of 1976 Dr Feelgood released Stupidity, a live album that showcased the band's greatest skill: delivering high energy, bluesy rock n roll to the masses. Wilco Johnston's choppy guitar strumming and Lee Brilleaux's growling vocals will transport you back into the mid-70's, beer in hand, standing in a crowd of  long haired fans, hoping the show goes on all night.

Then you open your eyes and realize you're sitting on the morning train heading into the city.

"Our energy was our legacy to the punks," Johnson told author Will Burch for No Sleep Till Canvey Island, Burch's history of pub rock. "It was the violence of our act and the mean look which got to them. They didn't have the knowledge or the technique, but they had the attitude." 

Stupidity is a great album, capturing one of the UK's best live acts at their peak. It was also a popular album, topping the UK charts in October of 1976.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

40 Year Itch: And Cheerio!

Deaf School : What a Way to End It All

"Malcolm McLaren once told us it was just as bad to be too early as too late. "
--Steve Allan, Deaf School

In 1976 Liverpool's Deaf School released its debut album 2nd Honeymoon. Glam pop meets cabaret on this album full of catchy ditties, one of the first I ever taped. It's really quite remarkable that a kid in Sparks, Nevada would wind up listening to such a strange, quirky, eccentric record by a UK band. But it wasn't such a big risk to borrow a record from a library.

And what a record!

 In 2011 The Guardian called Deaf School a "catalyst band", quoting music journalist Paul Du Noyer who wrote : "In the whole history of Liverpool music, two bands matter most: one is the Beatles and the other is Deaf School."

They may not sound like it, but Deaf School revived the Liverpool scene, pacing the way for Echo and the Bunnymen, the Teardrop Explodes, Wah! and a host of 1980 acts including Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

 The original band was open to anyone who wanted to join them on stage. Up to 13 people played on the stages of empty Liverpool clubs. Eventually the band found its sound: Roxy Music and David Bowie meets Cinema Noir.

 Steve Allan, a vocalist whose stage name was Enrico Cadillac, tells The Guardian what happened next:

 "We were soon packing houses in Liverpool, but not getting out of the city. Then the bass player, Steve Lindsay, mentioned an early 70s leftover called the Melody Maker rock and folk contest. We won the bloody thing and were suddenly a big deal. We signed to Warners because their A and R guy, Derek Taylor, had been the Beatles publicist and when he saw us rehearsing in Mathew Street, he cried his eyes out." 

 2nd Honeymoon charted in the UK but the punk revolution swept them away. And yet, the band still plays together every so often, performing in front of crowds the seem to know every word. To my surprise, I would be one of those.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

40 Year Itch : Everybody Plays A Game

Can : I Want More

I guess no self described rock snob is supposed to like the fact that Germany's greatest art rock band only found chart success by going disco, but deep down I'm a pop fan and this UK Top 30 cut makes my shoulders want to shimmy. The album, Flow Motion, is less necessary.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

40 Year Itch : Dylan's Enigma

Hard Rain seemed to come at a time when the Rolling Thunder Revue, so joyful and electrifying in its first performances, had just plain run out of steam.” -Janet Maslin, Rolling Stone

Can you believe there was a time when even Dylan fans thought they were getting too much product?
Between 1974 and 1976, Dylan released four studio albums and two live album, the last of which was Hard Rain. It hit stores on September 13, 1976, timed to coincide with an NBC special and a TV Guide cover story.

(The sound has been removed)

Rolling Stone critic Kit Rachlis joined the pile on, calling it "atrociously recorded".

 "To say that Hard Rain is Dylan's least accessible, most chaotic and contemptuous album since Self Portrait is not enough. It doesn't explain why Dylan has made an album which demystifies the Rolling Thunder Revue instead of memorializing it. The album is an enigma. There is no discernible reason why it's not a double set."

(I hate it but I want to hear more.)

Robert Christgau was kinder.

He wrote "The only reason people are disgusted with this record is that they're sick of Dylan--which is understandable, but unfair to the record. The palookas who backed him on this tour sure ain't the Band, and the music and arrangements suffer accordingly--these guys are folkies whose idea of rock and roll is rock and roll clich├ęs. But the material is excellent, and on a few occasions--I gravitate to "Oh Sister" and "Shelter From the Storm"--Dylan sings very well indeed."

To these ears, Dylan sounds like he's spewing the vocals. His ten year marriage to Sara was over and he's raving like a madman, destroying love songs like "Lay Lady Lay" by changing the lyrics. No longer is this an invitation to a romp on a brass bed. Not with new lines like 

'Why wait any longer for no need to complain, 
 You can have love but you might lose it, 
 Why run any longer when you're running in vain, 
 You can have the truth but you've got to choose it.'  

(You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!)

Monday, September 12, 2016

40 Year Itch : Two Drifters on the Morning Sky

ELO : So Fine

On September 11, 1976 Electric Light Orchestra released A New World Record, the breakthrough album that sold five million copies worldwide thanks to the singles "Livin'Thing", "Telephone Line" (which I bought) and the remake of Lynne's Move contribution "Do Ya". Lynne was on a roll, telling interviewers the songs were coming easily:

"The songs started to flow and most of them came quickly to me. To have all those hits, it was just ...I mean amazing really. Going from doing okay for probably three or four years to suddenly being in the big time, it was a strange but great thing."

Critics like Alan Niester of Rolling Stone agreed :

Lynne has always been rather deft with the melodic hook, and both "Livin' Thing" and "So Fine" are irresistible additions to his list of catchiest tunes. Numbers like "Mission (A World Record)" and "Shangri-la" continue the history of classy orchestral stylings that really rock, and Lynne's dominant vocals are as effectively foggy as ever. As expected, the production is lavish and the musicianship more than adequate to fulfill Lynne's Procol Harum-ish visions. By Christmas, A New World Record should be a staple in a million homes

When I joined the Columbia House Records Club in 1977, I was very tempted to pick up A New World Record. I never did. I already had the "Telephone Line" single and figured I'd get bored of the other songs.

My deep cut choice is "So Fine"just because it was a could have been single. It actually sounds like something the Ricky Gervais character David Brent could have written, until it gets to the bizarre electronic-turned-belly-dancing-music breakdown. On the album it segues deliciously into "Livin' Thing".