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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I Fix My Fish

The Soft Boys : Wading Through a Ventilator

On November 27, 1976 Robyn Hitchcock introduced his band, The Soft Boys", on a stage in Cambridge. 

His explanation for the new name: "I'd had this concept of this thing called the Soft Boys, like a William Burroughs amalgam. Soft Machine  and the Wild Boys. The implications were kind of homo-erotic and seedy, kind of crawling, bloodless, colorless things that crawled around like filleted human jellyfish around the corridors of power. Soft Boys controlled things but they had no spine. Basically insidious people and basically that's what we were."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

No Dogs Body

Sex Pistols : Anarchy in the UK

On November 26, 1976 the Sex Pistols released "Anarchy in the UK". The single reached #38 in the UK charts and is one of the greatest single of the punk era. After all, it is a true punk song and not just a loud, fast-paced love song ( like "New Rose" for Christ's sake).

Among the legendary lyrics :
I am an anti-Christ 
I am an anarchist
 Don't know what I want 
But I know how to get it
 I want to destroy the passerby 
'Cause I want to be anarchy 
No dogs body *
Anarchy for the U.K. 

*A dogsbody is a someone who does grunt work in the Royal Navy.

In his memoir, Anger is an Energy, John Lydon explains the lyrics of "Anarchy in the UK" in depth:

 With those opening lines, 'I am an antichrist/I am an anarchist", I wasn't trying to set myself up as some kind of bogeyman. I never thought of that at all. No, no, no, somewhere deep inside me, I was thinking I'd be seen as the victim of all of this, and great sympathy and outpourings of love and joy would be bestowed upon me! Honest! I had no concept of being the naughty bugger. It wasn't about that, and to my mind it certainly wasn't just about me. It was about us. We're being given an opportunity here -lets tell it like it really is, shall we? 

 Of course, everyone around the band at the time was saying, "Why don't you write a love song? Why don't you just write a hit single?" It'll be great then, everyone'll love you!""What, don't they already? Oh." To this day that's all I keep hearing from the business end and its utter nonsense they're talking...

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Last Waltz

The Band : Up on Cripple Creek

On Thanksgiving night in 1976, at San Francisco's Winterland, The Band called it quits in the biggest way possible --with an all-star concert celebration starring Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Bobby Charles, Paul Butterfield, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, Ron Wood, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Ronnie Hawkins and the Staples. Oh, and for some reason, Neil Diamond. Movie director Martin Scorsese filmed the farewell concert, which was billed as The Last Waltz.  

In his recently released memoir, Testimony, guitarist Robbie Robertson writes about the moment they launched into "Up On Cripple Creek", the first song of the night:

The sound on the stage felt powerful and clear. Levon was knockin' on wood -- his drums were punching right through Garth's electric jew's harp sound and my rumbling guitar tone. We were all adjusting to the altitude and finding our footing. I looked over at Rick and Richard, and they were both in the zone. Levon's vocal was strong and authentic, and he did the yodel section at the end of the song with a grit I'd never heard before. Okay. This was it, I let go of the rope and never looked down.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Black and Ragged

Joni Mitchell : Black Crow

My life has totally reoriented itself around one center : music. It is in me and around me, always. I couldn't even have children because it would interfere with my work.
-Joni Mitchell, 1976

Released in November of 1976, Joni Mitchell's Hejira is one of the great road albums, a travelogue of her heartbroken wanderings and wonderings with the amazing Jaco Pastorius performing bass on five tracks. Mitchell has been on the road constantly, touring with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, an experience that left her exhausted. That was followed by a solo road trip of the United States, in which she wore a red wig and stayed in hotels under a false name. ("I'm so glad to be on my own" she sings on the title track). The album was written on a guitar that I imagine was stuffed in the back seat.

The highlight for me might be "Black Crow", in which Joni sees herself in a black crow diving down to pick up shiny things. Mitchell's own observation about Hejira might be the best: "the poet took over the singer".

Billboard, 1976:

The magical, hypnotic singing and songwriting style of Mitchell here gets one of its most fully-rounded, deepest-conceptualized workouts yet. The sound is purely distilled Joni: the high, ethereal voice; the slightly eerie chord tunings and Mitchell's rolling guitar arpeggios; the increasingly inventive use of spare, jazzy rhythm combo backings. The melody lines swirl and cascade like oriental tapestry patterns as Mitchell's voice smoothly fits seemingly impossible-to-sing lyric phrases into a distinctive music.

The underlying idea here that holds together the songs and the surrealistic black-and-white cover photography is that of the wanderings of a free-spirited female who must always look back half-yearningly at the chances for lasting security she has passed up.

A key image song in the LP development is "Black Crow," where the singer compares herself to a bird always "diving down to pick up on every shiny thing." Her cover photo costume emphasizes this black-wing look, along with other song images of the endless highway, childhood ice skating and dreams of the pertect marriage. Best cuts: "Blue Motel Room, " "Black Crow," "Song For Sharon," "Coyote," "Hejira."

Robert Christgau :

Album eight is most impressive for the cunning with which Mitchell subjugates melody to the natural music of language itself. Whereas in the past only her naive intensity has made it possible to overlook her old-fashioned prosody, here she achieves a sinuous lyricism that is genuinely innovative. Unfortunately, the chief satisfaction of Mitchell's words -- the way they map a woman's reality -- seems to diminish as her autonomy increases. The reflections of a rich, faithless, compulsively mobile, and compulsively romantic female are only marginally more valuable than those of her marginally more privileged male counterparts, especially the third or fourth time around. It ain't her, bub, it ain't her you're looking for. B+

Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll

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)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Those Tears Again

Jackson Browne : Here Come Those Tears Again

In November of 1976, Jackson Browne released The Pretender, his first album since his wife Phyllis Major, a beautiful but troubled model, committed suicide in March by taking overdose of barbiturates. Devastated, Browne spent much of the year caring for their son Ethan and inside Hollywood’s Sound Factory composing songs in this raw state of grief.

If you’re looking for songs about his wife, Browne says there is only one, “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate” with its lines “The times when we were happy/ Were the times we never tried” and “Oh God this is some shape I’m in/ When the only thing that makes me cry/ Is the kindness in my baby’s eye”. “Here Comes Those Tears Again” was actually written earlier with some lyrical help from Major’s mother.

 Browne had no shortage of friends helping him through his grief and to record the album. David Crosby, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley and the ever present David Lindley were all on hand. Jon Landau produced. The highlight of the album for me is the title cut, a classic rock staple. While I can only pretend to play the happy idiot at odd intervals, I do board a train every morning to face my daily struggle for the legal tender.

Robert Christgau:

This is an impressive record, but a lot of the time I hate it; my grade is an average, not a judgement. Clearly Jon Landau has gotten more out of Browne's voice than anyone knew was there, and the production jolts Ol' Brown Eyes out of his languor again and again. But languor is Browne's best mask, and what's underneath isn't always so impressive. The shallowness of his kitschy doomsaying and sentimental sexism is well-known, but I'm disappointed as well in his depth of craft. How can apparently literate people mistake a received metaphor like "sleep's dark and silent gate" for interesting poetry or gush over a versifier capable of such rhyming-dictionary pairings as "pretender" and "ice cream vendor" (the colloquial term, JB, is "ice cream man")? Similar shortcomings flaw the production itself -- the low-register horns on "Daddy's Tune" complement its somber undertone perfectly, but when the high blare kicks in at the end the song degenerates into a Honda commercial. Indeed, at times I've wondered whether some of this isn't intended as parody, but a sense of humor has never been one of Browne's virtues. B

Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone :

Like most performers who transcend their genre, Jackson Browne often seems more a symbol than an artist. Singer/songwriter fans find in him the fulfillment of the style's promise: Browne's songs really do merge poetic vision and rock. But there are also those (like my friend who suggested that this albums's proper title is The Pretentious) who find the genre symptomatic of all of rock's current weaknesses. Browne is the epitome of everything they find disagreeable, both lyrically and musically.

It is odd that Browne is surrounded by such certainty of opinion, for ambivalence is the hallmark of his style. He has managed to make confusion an advantage, partly because he never hedges: he knows he doesn't know. The Pretender, the most complete development of his music, is bounded by contradiction. In "The Fuse," the record's first song, Browne professes: "There's a part of me.../Alive in eternity/That nothing can kill." In "The Pretender," the final number, he dismisses such spiritual hope: "I'm going to be a happy idiot/And struggle for the legal tender." Both of these statements are naive; for Browne they are equally true and false. So he admonishes his son, in "The Only Child": "Let your illusions last until they shatter."

If Browne has been heralded as a songwriter, this is due mostly to his lyric gift. The music itself has usually been ignored (at least by his admirers) and for a good reason. His three earlier albums are sluggish and cluttered, a hodgepodge of California studio effects, without a solid center.

 The Pretender uses identical rudiments, but focuses them. The results are often moving and compelling. The album's spareness is accentuated by passages of almost dreamy lushness (the strings on "Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate") and echoing vocals, which are a recurrent mannerism. Part of the improvement can be attributed to producer (and Rolling Stone collaborating editor) Jon Landau, although it is also indicative of the artist's increased maturity. Browne's voice is notoriously weak, for instance, but the strength of the rhythm section forces the signing past its limits. On "Sleep's Dark," "The Pretender" and "The Only Child," the vocals have a new passion, equal to the themes.

 Still, much of this album is the mellow California rock of which the Eagles are the alternate prototype. If Browne's music has more backbone than the rest, the genre itself is not very challenging. There is a tendency to blandness, even in a song as strong as "Your Bright Baby Blues." So "The Pretender," which uses the same musical conventions to achieve the dramatic force of Rod Stewart's "The Killing of Georgie" or Bob Seger's "Night Moves," is all the more remarkable.

If Browne were a different sort of performer, one might think he's outgrowing his environment. But all his music, perhaps even the singing, is functional. The focus is always lyrical. The arrangements and performances are successful precisely to the degree that they bring our full attention to the emotions and ideas he articulates.

 And it is Browne the lyricist who is often taken as a symbol, and most often misunderstood. He has been condemned as a rampant sexist, and with good reason: cowriting the Eagles' chauvinistic anthem, "Take It Easy," was inexcusable. But his romantic perspective is considerably more complicated. His affairs are never casual, not even when he's dismissive, as in "Linda Paloma." And in "Here Come Those Tears Again," he uses his confusion to greatest advantage. The role of the singer isn't clear: is he anticipating the return of a lover who has jilted him, or is he imagining the reaction of a lover he's just jilted? Perhaps both. For this song, at least, his vision of love turns on something rare: friendship.

 Browne may also be the apocalyptic visionary, the questing hero in search of the Big Bang of final romance that his hardcore cult sees him as. But as someone who's always had reservations about admiring him, I find that Jackson Browne touches me most deeply when he's most specific, least cosmic. Writing about mortality and parental roles, he is as mature as any writer in rock, and more cogent than most. The metaphysics are there, all right, but it is the characters and experiences on which they are based that make them compelling.

 The most striking songs on The Pretender are concerned with death and parenthood, subjects not necessarily unrelated (see the earlier "For a Dancer"). Often, his apocalyptic imagery is merely a way of getting at his feelings of mortality -- the crumbling towers of Babylon in "The Fuse" are as much about the inevitable erosion of time as anything else. And parenthood is seen as a symbol of the middle-class life he has experienced: it's both a joy and a trap. In "Daddy's Tune," he reaches out to his father, long ago alienated in order to share with him the turmoil of advising his son in "The Only Child." In a way, this is his ultimate dilemma -- to be a father, or to be a son. And his ultimate triumph is to realize and reconcile the parent and the child in each of us.

 Such song-to-song concordances are not unusual. Lines and images overlap: the drum in "The FUse" and "Daddy's Tune," and the opening lines of "Your Bright Baby Blues," and "Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate," which is about both the horror of a marriage gone bad and man at his most mortal: "The only thing that makes my cry/Is the kindness in my baby's eye." And all of these cross-references come rushing to a climax in "The Pretender."

 "The Pretender" is a breakthrough. Browne has always had traces of cynicism in his writing, but about romance he has remained firm. Love can make a difference, all of his songs say. But "The Pretender" is a song about why even that won't work, in the long run. In its most shattering moment, the hero imagines what he and his dreamlover will do, if ever they manage to meet:
And then we'll put our dark glasses on
And we'll make love until our strength is gone

Daniel Blank, the irrational murderer of Lawrence Sanders' novel, The First Deadly Sin, also made love wearing sunglasses. This is what he found: "For me, it was a revelation, a door opening... I can never forget it. It was the most sexually exciting thing I'd ever done in my life. There was something primitive and exciting about it. But it shook me. I wanted to do it again." The next week, he begins strolling the streets, murdering strangers with an ice ax.

 "The Pretender" cruises a similar street, but with a different aim. As a romantic he wants only love, but as a modern, middle-class southern Californian, he's unsure what to do with it. Clawing at the world, trying to make sense of something, one choice seems almost as good as another. The happy idiot who struggles for the legal tender is finally as free as the romantic fool who waits for love to change everything -- and both are equally trapped. Each has only one certainty: "Get up and do it again. Amen."

 This is the prayer we are asked to say for the Pretender, "who started out so young and strong/Only to surrender." It is a prayer for Everyman, as much as any other prayer. What makes the song work, though, are its specifics, the way that even the junkman, pounding his fender, becomes a part of this cosmic cycle. The images are tied to a time and a place, as the best of any writer's work is -- and the horror is in just such detail: the house beside the freeway, the packed lunch, the work, the endless evenings. Getting up and doing it again, seen this way, is not so very mystical, but simply the way each of us -- even the artist -- lives his life.

 Repeating this inhumane cycle, which defines humanity, we are left with very little. Perhaps only that particle: "Alive in eternity/That nothing can kill." Jackson Browne's contradictions, his ambivalence, are not resolved, but they are reconciled. One might say that this is the end of the hero's quest. But there is no end to searches such as this. They repeat themselves from generation to generation, year to year, day to day. Just as all of our illusions last, until they shatter.

1976 Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll

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)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Show Me

Eddie and the Hot Rods : Show Me

On November 22, 1976 Eddie and the Hot Rods released the album Teenage Depression, a rowdy collection of high speed pub rockers that anticipated new wave. The CD version includes B sides and the Live at the Marquee EP, making it a must own. The Rods would top this one in 1977 with Life on the Line which would feature two of their greatest songs "Do Anything You Wanna Do" and "Quit This Town".

Monday, November 21, 2016

Stick Shifties

George Harrison : It's What You Value

It should have come as relief to millions of Beatles fans to see George Harrison grinning ear to ear in the video to his first single on Thirty Three and 1/3, released in November of 1976. By all accounts it had not been an easy year for the quiet Beatle, still stinging from bad reviews of his American Tour and for albums like Extra Texture. His record label sued him for "non-delivery" of an album, he had a bout of hepatitis to battle all Summer, and the owner of "He's So Fine" successfully sued for more than $1.6 million over similarities to "My Sweet Lord."
 "(The ordeal) has put me through a real bad period of paranoia though," Harrison told NME."Every time I pick up the guitar to play something I think 'Uh-oh, this sounds like...'I can't help it. I do it all the time now."

 Still, there's George making light of the whole thing on the video to"This Song":

This tune has nothing Bright about it (the case was called Bright Tunes Vs. Harrisongs)
This tune ain't bad or good and come ever what may 
My expert tells me it's okay 

The song that delighted my thirteen year old self ( and my 11 year old son these days) is "Crackerbox Palace". My kid asked me what the song was about and I said I thought it was a whimsical tune about Harrison's huge estate, Friar Park. Turns out it's about Harrison's favorite comedian, Lord Buckley's,  nickname for his Los Angeles home.

Both "This Song" and "Crackerbox Palace" videos made their debut on the November 20, 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live.

Overall, the critics weren't much kinder about the new album, which nonetheless peaked at US #11 and sold enough copies over the holiday season to go gold. 

 From Robert Christgau :

 This isn't as worldly as George wants you to think -- or as he thinks himself, for all I know -- but it ain't fulla shit either. "Crackerbox Palace" is the best thing he's written since "Here Comes the Sun" (not counting "Deep Blue," hidden away on the B-side of "Bangla-Desh," or -- naughty, naughty -- "My Sweet Lord"), and if "This Song" were on side two I might actually play the record again. B-

From Ken Tucker of Rolling Stone
The most accessible tracks on Thirty-Three and 1/3 are "Woman Don't You Cry for Me" and "This Song," the latter an attempt to make light of George Harrison's recent plagiarism case. To the extent that he includes these fast, cheerful numbers, and smiley oddities such as Cole Porter's "True Love" and the impenetrable fable "Crackerbox Palace," Harrison seems hoping to achieve fresh popularity. In pursuit of the commercial, the sitar is banished and replaced by a horn section. But Harrison's concept of the popular also leads him to use Tom Scott as an "assistant" in producing the album, and the overall sound of Thirty-Three and 1/3 hums with Scott's presence: it is music with the feeling and sincerity of cellophane. Also unfortunate is George's persistent preaching. 

He essays his lessons in "See Yourself," "Learning How to Love You" and "It's What You Value," each of whose melodies is superseded by a fatuous pronouncement on morality or fidelity or worldly gain or something. Now more than ever, George is living in the material world, and if anything, seems less reconciled to it. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

40 Year Itch : Boogie on the Street

Lew Lewis : Boogie on the Street

Ex Eddie and the Hot Rods harpist and vocalist Lew Lewis teams up with Dr Feelgood ( under assumed names like Peter Zear and Johnny Ocean) on this fifth single from Stiff Records. The B side "Caravan Man" is better known.

 In 1987 Lewis would be given a seven year jail sentence for holding up a post office with a fake gun.

Friday, November 18, 2016

40 Year Itch : The King of the Lower East Side

Richard Hell : Blank Generation

On November 18, 1976 Richard Hell and the Voidoids made their CBGBs debut. For the former bass player of Television and then The Heartbreakers--the man whose torn clothes held together by safety pins inspired UK punk fashion--this was the beginning of the peak of his musical career:

"I still remembered what I was there for and I has the means to express it," he writes in his memoir I Dreamed I was a Very Clean Tramp. "One could say I'd been good, as well as happy, for five minutes in the Neon Boys/Television, ten minutes in The Heartbreakers and I would be happy and good for twenty minutes in the Voidoids" .

November would also see the release of the Ork label EP "Another World", which featured one of his punk anthems "Blank Generation", written way back before the Television days and the title cut of his upcoming Sire Records debut. You can't overestimate the importance of the brilliant guitarist Robert Quine's offbeat guitar lines on any of the Voidoids recordings. 

It wasn't enough for Hell to be part of the CBGBs "new sensibilities" scene. He considered himself its lynchpin:

Patti (Smith) was the only other writer/performer/conceptualist/bandleader who rivaled me in that way. She was more charismatic than me and a better performer and drew bigger crowds but she was also full of shit in many ways, and a hypocritical, pandering diva, and her band was generic and mediocre.

I was full of shit in many ways too, and self-important, and uneven musically, but I had endless ideas and vision that had been central to shaping everything that went into making up the culture and style, musically and otherwise,  of CBGB and naturally that music and culture and style excited me, since I had been responsible for originally expressing a lot of it, and just as naturally that culture like me back.  I sometimes felt like the king of the Lower East Side...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

40 Year Itch : Cabbage Head

Serge Gainsbourg : Lunatic Asylum

On November 18, 1976 Serge Gainsbourg released L'Homme a Tete De Chou (The Man with a Cabbage Head) , an album Serge-o-philes compare favorably with the classic Histoire de Melody Nelson. Like Melody, this is a concept album about a romantic entanglement with a younger woman. This time her name is Marilou and she is a shampoo girl who is willing to play along with the narrator's sexual fantasies until he gets so jealous he goes mad, kills her and winds up spending his final days in a lunatic asylum. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

40 Year Itch : Raunchy Bag of Bones

Flamin' Groovies : Slow Death

So what if the songs were originally recorded in 1972? The Slow Death EP was released by The Flamin Groovies  November 19, 1976 and that's all the excuse I need to take a moment to salute this legendary band and one of its most rockin' cuts ( produced by Dave Edmunds) .

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

40 Year itch : Unfinished Progression

SBB : Niedokonczona Progresja

From a band that has been described as a Polish King Crimson comes SBB's 1976 masterpiece, Pamięć (Memory)  . I'm featuring the track "Unfinished Progression" because I've been needing to hear something Eno-esque this wet and chilly week. This is certainly one of those albums you have to live with before it grows on you. 

What the hell! Here's another track ( Reko-Reko) because listening to one tune doesn't truly give you a feel for the diversity of the album.

Monday, November 14, 2016

40 Year Itch : Two UK Nuggets in November

Kursaal Flyers : Little Does She Know

Two new singles entered the UK  Top 50 on November 14, 1976: The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver's "Secrets" debuted at #49 and Kursaal Flyers' "Little Does She Know" at #50.

Arranged by Mike Batt, "Little Does She Know" gets the kind of production treatment that might have made even Phil Spector blush.  The keen lyrics (When she finished her laundry she was all in a quandary/ And made it for the street like a hare/ Her escape was so urgent, she forgot her detergent/ And dropped all her clean underwear) were just one hint of the talent involved in the Southend-on-sea band Kursaal Flyers. They wouldn't last but drummer Will Birch would write "Starry Eyes" for his new band, The Records,  and guitarist Graeme Douglas would write one of the greatest songs of all time,  "Do Anything You Want To Do"  when he joined  Eddie and the Hot Rods.  

Sutherland Brothers and Quiver : Secrets

1976 was a great year for the Sutherland Brothers whose "Arms of Mary" became a UK Top 10 hit. In November of 1976, Rod Stewart's version of their "Sailing" returned to the UK Charts where it had hit #1 in 1975. And to top it all off, their bouncy new single , "Secrets", was also getting a lot of radio play. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

40 Year Itch : The Waves turn the Minutes into Hours

Gordon Lightfoot : The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald 

Exactly one year after the Great Lakes freighter, SS Edmund Fitzgerald,  sank in a Lake Superior storm, with losses of all 29 crewman aboard, Gordon Lightfoot's ballad was riding high in US charts at #3 on its way to #2,  blocked from the top by Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night". 

Lightfoot says he was inspired to write the song after noting Newsweek magazine had misspelled the name as "Edmond Fitzgerald". He felt the dead deserved better than that. Lightfoot's tribute is six minutes long and full of lyrics that put your right alongside the ill-fated sailors:

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound 
And a wave broke over the railing 
And every man knew, as the captain did too, 
T'was the witch of November come stealin' 

When you write a song about a true life tragedy, you inherit a great deal of responsibility. Lightfoot has changed some of the lyrics in live performances.

From the original:

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck
sayin' Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya
At seven pm a main hatchway caved in,
he said Fellas, it's been good t'know ya


"At 7 p.m. it grew dark, it was then he said...".

His explanation:

It absolves some of the deckhands who were in charge of those hatch covers because I've been in touch with these people for years. The mother and daughter of two of the deck guys who would have been in charge of that have always cringed every time they've heard the line. And they will be very pleased. And they know about it and they're happy about it. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

40 Year Itch : Rock Your Bodyline

Toots and The Maytals : Reggae Got Soul

Produced by Island Records owner Chris Blackwell, the title of the biggest 1976 single from Toots and the Maytals is a pretty good description: "Reggae Got Soul". The album that followed was produced by Joe Boyd. Pretty much feel good music all the way through. 

On the video below, he does a good job of providing his own smoke machine.

Friday, November 11, 2016

40 Year Itch : A Child of the Water

Kiss : Hard Luck Woman

On November 11, 1976 Kiss released their fifth studio album, a barely thirty minute long collection of tunes called Rock and Roll Over. The most interesting track is probably the single "Hard Luck Woman", which many radio listeners likely guessed to be a Rod Stewart song. Nope! Paul Stanley wrote it and the drummer, Peter Criss, sang that bad boy all the way to US #15.

And speaking of hard luck women! I feel bad for Hillary Clinton, who showed, in a concession speech, that very human side she always kept hidden from the public. And I feel bad for my country, my daughter, my friends and myself.

  But I also feel bad for Donald Trump.

  I don't think he really wants the job. He just wanted to win the ultimate reality show, the Presidential election. And he didn't play to make friends. He played to win, even if it meant coming across as a villain. 

So what has he won?

I've written this open letter to spell it out:

Dear President Elect Donald Trump;


You just got the world's hardest job and took a pay cut to do it! We're praying for your/our success!

No more rallies! No more cheering crowds! 14 hour days in meetings and reading policy papers well into the night.  Hounded, hounded, hounded by naysayers for the next four years!

And the stress ! My God, the stress ! The stress of the next four years will age you at three times the speed of life . You'll be 74 in 2020, but feel like you're 82.

And shit is going to go wrong. Bad shit. People will die in some calamity and do you know who is going to get blamed for it? You, grandpa!  

Golf? Remember those carefree days of playing golf? Of buying golf courses and breaking then in. Or just taking a day off and spending it with the wife and kids. Maybe not Eric, but Ivanka has always worshipped you! And Barron! He thinks you're the greatest man in the world! How's it going to make him feel when he sees you ridiculed every single night on television or the internet or in some chat room?

But let's face it! You're a winner. You won the ultimate reality show game! The Presidential election. You have made history, champ.

And as a reward, for the next four years you are a public servant. A Servant to the public! You work for me, buddy. And not just for me  but for all the hotel maids, bus boys, doormen, cab drivers, sanitation workers, secretaries, bus drivers, fast food servers, and  construction workers in the US. 

This is the part where you have to let out a chuckle. I mean it's funny, isn't it?  You're this big shot billionaire and you traded a cushy retirement to become a servant.

Well, you better get it right, Bud. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

40 Year Itch : What Goes Up ...

Chris Spedding and The Vibrators : Pogo Dancing

Released November 19, 1976, Chris Spedding's "Pogo Dancing" sounds like a quick cash-in attempt at the latest dance craze sweeping the punk rock scene. The talented session guitarist teamed up with the Vibrators,  a punk rock band made up of mostly pub rock vets, for this simplistic single. In seven months, The Vibrators would released one of punk rock's biggest gems, Pure Mania.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

40 Year Itch : Raised on Promises

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers : American Girl

On November 9, 1976 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their self-titled debut on Leon Russell's Shelter Records label.

In the Peter Bogdanovich four hour documentary Runnin' Down a Dream, Petty remembers it this way : "The record came out. It pretty much did nothing. Then, like a bolt of lightning, bam! It hits in England, comes out in England. And it's an enormous success right out of the box. I mean they're writing whole page reviews and just going mad for it in England."

It's true the album went Top 20 in England and even sold well in France and Germany before anyone in the US took notice of the band.  Besieged by disco, the UK responded to the authentic rock and roll band that brought back the swagger of the Beat bands, the cool of fellow Southerner Elvis Presley, the nasally wail of Bob Dylan and, on "American Girl", the jangly guitar of The Byrds.

"He was about the only American music that was acceptable in Britain," remembers Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. "It was the one band that people were like 'Oh yeah, they're cool'."

"Anything That's Rock'n'Roll" was the UK single, peaking at #36 in 1977. But back in the United States, the band would have to tour relentlessly to make a name for themselves. By the time "Breakdown" cracked the Top 40 in February of 1978, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had already recorded their second album.

American Girl would be the last song Petty ever perfomed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

40 Year Itch : Hillary

Hillary Clinton in 1976

The Quick : Hillary

I've been saving this song all year.

I voted as though the world depended on the outcome of the American election because I believe the future of the world really is at stake. Tonight I will watch the election results with my wife and while my stomach is churning, I believe enough of the American voting population will come to their senses to elect the pragmatic, constantly triangulating, not immediately likable less than totally honest politician over the vile, racist, deceptive, misogynistic, egotistical self-proclaimed pussy grabber. 

"Hillary", which is actually a song about a dominatrix ( You show me that there must be bad with good/Salt and sugar, pain and pleasure/Old tricks, well as new) comes from The Quick's 1976 cult classic Mondo Deco. The Quick were an LA- based power pop band, led by the songwriting guitarist Steve Hufsteter and the angel-voiced Danny Wilde, whose biggest claim to fame is singing the Friends theme "I'll Be There For You" as a member of The Rembrandts. Drummer Danny Benair would go on to play with Paisley Underground faves, the Three O'Clock.

With the help of Kim Fowley, The Quick signed with Mercury Records and recorded Mondo Deco with the founding guitarist of Sparks, Earle Mankey, producing. Listeners will pick up some Sparks influences I'm sure. To these ears, Mondo Deco sounds like a new wave recording, years ahead of its time, by a band confident enough to cover The Beatles's "It Won't Be Long".

The album flopped and is practically impossible to find these days. The import only Untold Rock Stories is a collection of demos for the album. I would suggest an internet search if you want the real thing.