Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Voodoo In The Vibes

Atlanta Rhythm Section : So Into You 

On the final week of January 1977, Atlanta Rhythm Section--founded by J.R Cobb and Barry Bailey of Classics IV fame ( "Spooky")-- finally scored a hit single six albums into their career as  "So Into You" entered the Hot 100 at #89. The smooth and smokey tune would peak at #7 at the end of April. Writer C. Eric Banister thinks enough of this tune to rank it #68 in his book Counting Down Southern Rock: The 100 Best Songs : "Carried by the rhythmic guitar interplay of  Cobb and  Bailey, the song carries a seductive swagger, like a rock-and-roll Love Unlimited Orchestra."

Monday, January 30, 2017

Feelin' Ceilin' Blues

Bryan Ferry : This Is Tomorrow

On January 30, 1977 Bryan Ferry's new single "This Is Tomorrow" entered the UK charts at #50, forty nine places below David Soul's "Don't Give Up On Us".  Ferry wrote all the songs on the forthcoming album In Your Mind, casting himself yet again as a romantic wastrel. "This Is Tomorrow" is the best of the songs on the album and peaked at #9 in the UK. And yes, the tasteful guitar licks come via Chris Spedding.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Very Humdrum

Buzzcocks : Boredom

On January 29, 1977 The Buzzcocks released Spiral Scratch, a four song EP of catchy punk songs, on their own label, New Hormones Records. All four songs were recorded and mixed at the same December 28, 1976 session. A few weeks later vocalist and lyricist Howard Devoto announced he was departing the band, which would go on to have six Top 40 UK hits. 

"He said 'I've done what I wanted to do, which is to make a record. Now I want to leave'", guitarist Steve Diggle tells John Robb in Punk Rock: An Oral History.

"I didn't regret it for a moment," Devoto tells Robb in the same publication. "People still think I temporarily lost my senses. I still sense this 30 years on, that people can't quite accept why I left."

Later in the year, Devoto would form Magazine, one of the first and best post punk bands.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Back On The Streets

Hawkwind : Back on the Streets

On January 28 1977, the Lemmy-less Hawkwind released the rockin' single "Back on the Streets". An NME reviewer wrote : "Here you get cranked-out basic chords designed to make your eardrums bleed, lyrics that are unintelligible apart from the chanted title-chorus, and the rhythm section playing like they enjoy feeling those blisters squish against their instruments".

Friday, January 27, 2017

Out Of My Head

The Sex Pistols : Did You No Wrong

On January 27, 1977 EMI officially parted ways with the Sex Pistols, terminating their recording contract after months of obnoxious behavior on the part of the band.Asked whether he would sign up another punk rock group, managing director Sir John Read told the BBC: “Certainly. I am told there is a demand for this style of music and provided we can have groups that don’t attract the adverse publicity this group has had, we’ll certainly want to be in it".

After the EMI fiasco, the Sex Pistols signed with the A and M label on March 10. After more adverse publicity and complaints about their planned single ‘God Save the Queen’, their contract was terminated six days later. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I Spin, I Spiral, and I Splatter

Patti Smith : Ain't It Strange

On January 26, 1977 , while opening for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Patti Smith fell of a Tampa Florida stage during "Ain’t it Strange" and injured  her spine. She had been spinning in a circle on the dark stage and fell backwards over a monitor, tumbling 15 feet to the concrete floor below.  "Actually I felt like an asshole," she told Circus Magazine. " But my doctor told me not to worry, it happens to everybody. You know, he’s the same doctor who took care of Keith Richards when he fell off the stage."  

  After two weeks of bedrest, Smith actually got worst. One doctor told her she would never regain full use of her legs without spinal surgery. Smith opted for physical therapy. During her convalescence, Smith wrote a book called Babel, which contained poems, drawings and lyrics. Among them : "Ain't It Strange" which includes the prophetic lyrics "I spin, I spiral and I splatter".

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Day Punk Died

The Clash : What's My Name

   On January 25, 1977,  The Clash signed with CBS Records. Sniffin' Glue fanzine writer Mark Perry famously declared, “Punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS.” The band was originally planning to sign with Polydor when CBS swooped in with a much better offer, a then outrageous 100,000 pounds. According to Strummer, the big advance wasn't a sign of the punk band selling out, but a credit to sharp manager Bernie Rhodes."We were completely in the dark. We let Bernie handle everything. We were really the people we were supposed to be. What did we know about record companies and contracts?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sorry, Jealousy

Grace Jones : Sorry

For one week in January of 1977, Jamaican supermodel and actress Grace Jones entered the Billboard Hot 100 with her fairly standard disco single "Sorry". It would appear on her debut album, Portfolio, along with her disco-fied version of "La Vie En Rose". She would only get wilder and more interesting as the years danced by, earning the title "The Queen of the Gay Discos".

Monday, January 23, 2017

This Creeping Malaise

On January 23, 1977 Pink Floyd released Animals. The concept album, loosely based on George Orwell's Animal Farm,  would sell four million copies in the United States alone. Not every reviewer was turned on by its relentlessly depressing message. NME called Animals "one of the most extreme, relentless, harrowing and downright iconoclastic hunks of music to have been made available this side of the sun", and Melody Maker's Karl Dallas described it as "[an] uncomfortable taste of reality in a medium that has become in recent years, increasingly soporific". Rolling Stone's Frank Rose was unimpressed:

For Pink Floyd, space has always been the ultimate escape. It still is, but now definitions have shifted. The romance of outer space has been replaced by the horror of spacing out. 

 This shift has been coming for a while. There was Dark Side of the Moon and "Brain Damage," Wish You Were Here and the story of founding member Syd Barrett, the "Crazy Diamond." And now there's Animals, a visit to a cacophonous farm where what you have to watch for is pigs on the wing. Animals is a song suite that deals with subjects like loneliness, death and lies. "Have a good drown," they shout dolefully as you drop into the pit that is this album: "Have a good drown as you go down all alone/Dragged down by the stone...stone...stone...stone...stone..." Thanks, pals, I'll try.

 It's no use. Like all Floyd records, this one aborbs like a sponge, but you can still hear the gooey screams of listeners who put up a fight. What's the problem? For starters, the sax that warmed Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here has been replaced by a succession of David Gilmour guitar solos -- thin, brittle and a sorry substitute indeed. The singing is more wooden than ever. The sound is more complex, but it lacks real depth; there's nothing to match the incredible intro to Dark Side of the Moon, for example, with its hypnotic chorus of cash registers recalling the mechanical doom that was Fritz Lang's vision in Metropolis. Somehow you get the impression that this band is being metamorphosed into a noodle factory. 

Maybe that shouldn't be surprising. Floyd was never really welcomed into the Sixties avant-garde: space rock was a little too close to science fiction for that. But the extraordinary success of Dark Side of the Moon (released nearly four years ago, it's still on the charts) culminated almost a decade of ever-expanding cult appeal and gave the band an audience that must have seemed as boundless as space itself. The temptation to follow through with prefab notions of what that audience would like -- warmed over, spaced out heavy-metal, in this case -- was apparently too strong to resist.

 Even worse, however, is the bleak defeatism that's set in. In 1968 Floyd was chanting lines like: "Why can't we reach the sun?/ Why can't we throw the years away?" This kind of stuff may seem silly, but at least it wasn't self-pitying. The 1977 Floyd has turned bitter and morose. They complain about the duplicity of human behavior (and then title their songs after animals -- get it?). They sound like they've just discovered this -- their message has become pointless and tedious. 

 Floyd has always been best at communicating the cramped psychology that comes from living in a place like England, where the 20th century has been visibly superimposed on the others that preceded it. The tension that powers their music is not simply fright at man's helplessness before technology; it's the conflict between the modern and the ancient, between technology and tradition. Space is Floyd's way of resolving the conflict.

Of course, space doesn't offer any kind of real escape; Pink Floyd knows that. But spacing out is supposed to. (Spacing out has always been the idea behind space rock anyway.) Animals is Floyd's attempt to deal with the realization that spacing out isn't the answer either. There's no exit; you get high, you come down again. That's what Pink Floyd has done, with a thud. 

From the dean, Robert Christgau :

This has its share of obvious moments. But I can only assume that those who accuse this band of repetitious cynicism are stuck in such a cynical rut themselves that a piece of well-constructed political program music -- how did we used to say it? -- puts them uptight. Lyrical, ugly, and rousing, all in the right places. B+

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Donald Trump White House Playlist

Not be outdone by Obama, President Donald Trump has released his White House playlist. 

1. Ringo Starr : I'm the Greatest

  Everybody says I'm the greatest. I win elections easily. With no collusion. Many people are saying I am great. But the #fakenews mainstream media refuses to call me "the greatest". Sad.

2. David Byrne : My Big Hands

My hands are huge. Ask Melania. There are no concerns in that department. 

3. James Taylor : Shower the People

The liberal media lies about my pee pee showers. #FakeNews. My voters know "things are gonna work out fine if you only will do as I say". Love.

4. Blue Oyster Cult  : Career of Evil

I used to crank this song in the limo. I'd say "Bobby play some Cult!" "I will not apologize/ You're mine for the taking." How many times have I uttered that line? Carnage. It happens.

5. Sparks : Everybody's Stupid

I love the uneducated and the undereducated. I can help them because I am the smartest man I know. I know more than the generals and the "intelligence" agencies. And that's a fact.

6. Betty Everett : Getting Mighty Crowded

More people witnessed my inauguration than any inauguration in history. Period. The streets and parks were packed as far as the eye could see. I'm very popular.

7. Albertos Y Lost Paranoias :  Fuck You

Want to see my taxes? Fuck you. 

8. 10cc : I Wanna Rule the World

"I want to be a boss I want to be a big boss I want to boss the world around I want to be the biggest boss That ever bossed the world around." Making America Great again. One executive order at a time.

9. 10cc : Reds in My Bed

"Who can you trust when the walls have ears?" I can trust anybody who can afford a membership at Merde A Lago. Want to hear state secrets over dinner? To apply have a cashier check for $200,000 paid out to Donald J Trump.

10. Alice in Chains : Wouldn't?

A lot of people say this song is Would?  instead of Wouldn't? I believe the lyrics should have been : "If You Wouldn't, couldn't you? ' I know it sounds like a double negative but that's the way it should have been.

11. The Jam That's Entertainment

 I'm here to entertain you. I have no fundamental belief in anything but myself and my talent to entertain. I'm like a magician. You see me stoking fear and hate right before your eyes but what am I really doing? We shall see my friends. We shall see.

700 Little Records

Emmylou Harris : C'est La Vie

"There are two kinds of men in this world. Those in love with Emmylou Harris and those who have not met Emmylou Harris..."
-Willie Nelson

In January of 1977, Emmylou Harris released her fourth album, Luxury Liner. It would become her best selling album of all time and top the country charts, thanks to her rollicking Chuck Berry cover "C'est La Vie ( You Never Can Tell), "Making Believe"( originally a hit for Kitty Wells) and the first known cover of Townes Van Zandt's 1972 song "Pancho and Lefty".  Listening to the album, ytou'll find yourself in awe of the great musicianship (including rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Rodney Crowell) and the purity of Emmylou's voice. Later in the year she would marry her producer, Brian Ahern. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Crazy Like a Fool

Boney M : Daddy Cool

   Germany, 1977 : David Bowie releases two out of the three classic albums from his Berlin trilogy. Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer team up on their greatest single, "I Feel Love". And impresario Frank Farian turns a Caribbean quartet into a disco band that would rival ABBA in popularity. "Daddy Cool" was the first Boney M. single most of us heard. It's ridiculous. It's brainless.  And it's one of the most infectious singles of the entire decade. 

    There's a good chance we'd never have heard it if Bobby Farrell hadn't taken off his shirt halfway through the group's performance on Musikladen. The song shot up to #1 in almost every European country and kicking off a string of hits. Boney M. are the only artists to appear twice in the top 10 best selling singles of all time in the UK, with "Rivers of Babylon" in 7th place and "Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord" at number 10 

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Competent and Compassionate Government

The Heptones : Mr. President

On January 20, 1977 Jimmy Carter took the oath of office, becoming the 39th President of the United States. In his brief inaugural address, Carter called upon the nation to unify:

You have given me a great responsibility--to stay close to you, to be worthy of you, and to exemplify what you are. Let us create together a new national spirit of unity and trust. Your strength can compensate for my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes.


Let us learn together and laugh together and work together and pray together, confident that in the end we will triumph together in the right. 

 The American dream endures. We must once again have full faith in our country--and in one another. I believe America can be better. We can be even stronger than before. 

 Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our Nation, for we know that if we despise our own government, we have no future. We recall in special times when we have stood briefly, but magnificently, united. In those times no prize was beyond our grasp. 

 But we cannot dwell upon remembered glory. We cannot afford to drift. We reject the prospect of failure or mediocrity or an inferior quality of life for any person. Our Government must at the same time be both competent and compassionate.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Take Off Your Halo

Ultravox : Dangerous Rhythm

Debut Single and Eno Production of the Week. Dangerous Rhythm (Island).
They might be rather like a younger early days Roxy Music but, oh my, what a good model to copy. And their very youth bestows upon them a direct brashness missing in the recent Roxy. Rich emetic bass, precise Ringo drums, synthesiser cascades and Eno’s hand in the production make this the best and most confident debut single since ‘Anarchy’.
Sounds Review
Here is the Record Mirror March 12, 1977 singles review...
Dangerous Rhythm (Island WIP 6375) Cosmic reggae, if that’s possible. Heavier than lead bass and ice-cold vocals. Very weird and wonderful. **** (four stars)
Record Mirror March 12, 1977 singles review
By far their most memorable number, a reggae abstraction, mesmeric, simple, and subliminal, with Ferried vocals. - The New Musical Express

On January 19, 1977, Ultravox released its debut single, "Dangerous Rhythms". Island Records credits the production to Brian Eno who worked with the band, but not in the way they hoped. Drummer Warren Cann says Ultravox hoped Eno would be a technical wizard who could help the band find a unique sound.

   Cann told interview Jonas Warstad :

Eno was far more of a conceptualist—an ideas man. He was quite bold about not giving a damn about what the final result sounded like. He was only interested in the process (which is great for learning, and fine if your musical future doesn’t hinge on public, rather than private, reaction to the “final result”). While we immediately acknowledged the importance of “the journey” as opposed to “the destination,” in our case we were more pragmatic—the “final result,” which would be released for people’s listening pleasure, mattered very much to us! We agreed that it was very cool to do all sorts of unusual things via the recording process, but it still had to end up sounding good. There wouldn’t be a second album for us to make if the first one was less than we were capable of, and all we might say was, “But it was a gas to make!”

 After all was said and done, Eno only worked on three or four songs on the Ultravox debut, and none of his mixes made the final release.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dance With The Boogie

Heatwave : Boogie Nights

On January 17, 1977 one of the year's great singles, Heatwave's "Boogie Nights",  entered the UK charts. It was written by US Army vet Rod Temperton who also composed three songs on both Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album ("Rock With You", "Off the Wall" and "Burn This Disco Out") and Thriller ("Baby Be Mine","Thriller" and "The Lady in My Life"). He died last year a wealthy man, with houses in the South of France, Switzerland  and Fiji.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Vision Is Confused

The Adverts : Gary Gilmore's Eyes

We Were Sentenced to Die The Day We Were Born
-Gary Gilmore

On January 17, 1977 convicted double murderer Gary Gilmore was shot to death by a firing squad, becoming the first American prisoner executed in nearly ten years. Despite requests from his mother, members of various churches and the ACLU that his execution be stayed, Gilmore just wanted to get it over with. "This is my life and this is my death. It's been sanctioned by the courts that I die and I accept that." When asked for any last words, Gilmore simply replied, "Let's do it." 

Within hours of the execution, two people received his corneas. That inspired the UK punk band, The Adverts, to record their UK Top 20 hit "Gary Gilmore's Eyes".

I'm lying in a hospital,
I'm pinned against the bed.
A stethoscope upon my heart,
A hand against my head.
They're peeling off the bandages.
I'm wincing in the light.
The nurse is looking anxious,
 And she's quivering in fright

 I'm looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes.

 The doctors are avoiding me.
My vision is confused.
I listen to my earphones,
 And I catch the evening news.
A murderer's been killed,
And he donates his sight to science.
 I'm locked into a private ward.
I realise that I must be
 Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes.
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes.

 I smash the light in anger.
Push my bed against the door.
 I close my lids across my eyes,
And wish to see no more.
 The eye receives the messages,
And sends them to the brain.
No guarantee the stimuli must be perceived the same
When looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes.
 Gary don't need his eyes to see.
 Gary and his eyes have parted company.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Number Please

The Sylvers : Hot Line

On January 16, 1977 The Sylvers hit the Top 10 for the second time thanks to "Hot Line", an infectious  Top 5 hit for the family vocal group out of Watts, CA who hit #1 a year earlier with "Boogie Fever".

2 I WISH –•– Stevie Wonder
3 CAR WASH –•– Rose Royce
4 YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A STAR (To Be In My Show) –•– Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. 5 DAZZ –•– Brick
6 TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT (Gonna Be Alright) –•– Rod Stewart
8 HOT LINE –•– The Sylvers 
9 AFTER THE LOVIN’ –•– Engelbert Humperdinck
10 STAND TALL –•– Burton Cummings

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Jefferson Avenue

We interrupt this journey back to 1977 with a reader’s request for “Jefferson Avenue”, a song I recorded with my pal James Lien as a Tulane University student in early 1986. The reader, Darren Wexler, remembers hearing this lo-fi rocker on WTUL and writes “ I quoted it to my GF and really thought it was one of Alex Chilton’s bits…I assumed it was some ditty he popped off and sent to TUL as a kindness”.

 Is that not the greatest complement an amateur musician could ever hear?

Alex Chilton lived in New Orleans in the 1980s

 It should come as no surprise that the song came too me while walking from campus to my apartment. I did a lot of walking around New Orleans in those days. I didn’t have a car and didn’t ride the bus. My bank might have been on Jefferson Avenue, but there really isn’t anything of interest on that street except the Newman School attended by Wexler and the Manning boys. Wexler says he always appreciated the shout out to The Newman School, “where everyone’s rich but very cool”.

 I remember recording the song at Lien’s house. I figured we would do more than one take and that he’d play the guitar, but James liked the way the guitar sounded. He thought my ill-fingered bar chords gave the song a Velvet Underground vibe. Chatting with James over Facebook, he remembers his drumming as “famously lame”. I just think they’re a little buried in the mix, which sounds like it was sped up to 1.5X

 James transferred his cassette mix to cart for the radio station and we decided to call ourselves The Now Explosion. A great name! So great we learned there was already an Atlanta band with the same name. With minutes to think up something new, I came up with Hamburger Party. It sounded like the name of a song the Young Fresh Fellows might have recorded. Patriotic, yet fun. I published a self deprecating fanzine with the lyrics and chords, and left piles of them in record stores. There might have been a line asking readers to request the song on WTUL.

There are parts of the tune that make us both cringe. For me, it’s the Duran Duran vocals on the line “But I wouldn’t be home until to-niight”. Shuddering. Every. Single. Time. But, perhaps thanks to the fanzine, we weren’t the only ones to play the song. It was an era for lo-fi college radio rock so maybe it fit in?

Neither James or I play in bands now. I did play songs about girls, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends in a Seattle band. James played in a Dad band that did Guru Guru covers. But every so often we hear from someone who remembers our infectious tune celebrating the least celebrated street in New Orleans.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Another Green Ziggy

David Bowie : What In The World

I had planned to write quite a bit about the first of David Bowie's 1977 albums, Low. But my son really wanted to go to a Monster Truck rally and here we are approaching my bedtime after a long week. So here goes nothing.

It's a bi-polar effort though isn't it? The first side experimental chock full of avant garde rock n roll. And like the Beach Boys albums of the early 70's, most recordings fade out the moment the ideas run out. The second side reflecting the influence of his collaborator, Brian Eno.

“I knew he liked Another Green World a lot,” Eno told The Guardian’s Michael Watts in 1999. “And he must have realized that there were these two parallel streams of working going on in what I was doing, and when you find someone with the same problems you tend to become more friendly with them.”

Side Two was dismissed by Rolling Stone critic John Milward for its "dabbling" : 

Such technosheen music requires a detached master to hold the reins, and Bowie, the cracked actor, is just too much of a ham. The problem is most glaring when his Latin-mass voices are blended into the lunar mix with the subtlety of ripe blue cheese. ( A reference to "Warszawa").

 Bowie lacks the self-assured humor to pull off his avant-garde aspirations. His role playing long ago blew his detached mystique. Low serves as a moderately interesting conduit through which a wider audience will be exposed to Bowie's latest heroes, and in this sense is an interesting addition to his recorded catalog. More importantly, Low fulfills another of Bowie's requirements -- it again washes clean his audience's expectations and allows him to contemplate his next mask.

The dean, Robert Christgau, gave Low a B+.

I find side one's seven "fragments" -- since the two that clock in at less than 2:45 are 1:42 and 2:20, the term must refer to structure rather than length -- almost as powerful as the "overlong" tracks on Station to Station. "Such a wonderful person/But you got problems" is definitely a love lyric for our time. But most of the movie music on side two is so far from hypnotic that I figure Bowie, rather than Eno, must deserve credit for it. I mean, is Eno really completely fascinated by banality? 

As for Billboard Magazine, mostly read by retailers and radio programmers :

Bowie the multi-instrument master emerges on this disk. The emphasis is on eerie, unusual arrangements for well defined, laid-out instrumental journeys into some brooding, mysterious lands. Bowie's singing is significantly down-played here in favor of the overdubbed instruments including synthesizers and other keyboards. 

Side two is the most adventurous and a stark contrast to the few distorted hard rock cuts on side one. This LP emphasizes Bowie's serious writing efforts which only time can tell will appeal to the people who have watched him go through various musical phases. Best cuts: "Warszawa," "Weeping Wall," "Sound And Vision."

Friday, January 13, 2017

The World's Funkiest Sing-Along

Bootsy's Rubber Band : The PinocchioTheory

If you're just faking the sci-fi funk, who knows how long your nose is gonna grow.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Another Parking Machine

The Police : Fall Out

On January 12, 1977 jazz/ rock bassist Sting moved to London. On the very same day, he sought out Stewart Copeleand, a drummer he met in Newcastle Upon Tyne when Copeland's Curved Air played there.
With guitarist Henry Padovani, they formed a punk band called The Police. One month later they would enter Pathway Studios to record Copeland's single "Fall Out".

"This was one of the first songs Stewart played me. What they [the songs] lacked in sophistication they made up for in energy. I just went along with them and sang them as hard as I could. No, it wasn't false punk. I mean what's a real punk? Our first record was entirely a tribute to Stewart's energy and focus. The band wouldn't have happened without him."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hard Again

Muddy Waters : I Can't Be Satisfied


"(Hard Again) definitely changed my life, because for as long as I can remember listening to it, it's been my favorite album and it's made me want to play the blues. It inspires me every time I listen to it. It makes me want to run and pick up a guitar and start playing."
- Kenny Wayne Shepherd

What exactly does a 71 year old blues legend have left in the tank? Well, a lot of people think Hard Again , released on January 10, 1977,  is the best album Muddy Waters ever recorded. He made Hard Again with the help of his touring band (pianist Pinetop Perkins, guitarist Bob Margolin, bassist Charles Calmese and drummer Willie Smith), harmonicist James Cotton and producer/ guitarist and Blue Sky label owner, Johnny Winter.

The album has a live feel. There must have been a great spirit in the room. At times, it sounds like too many people are playing at the same time which is why I prefer this version of "I Can't Be Satisfied", performed with dobros and resonator guitars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Met Her at the Burger King

The Ramones : Oh Oh I Love Her So

By the time The Ramones released their second album, Leave Home, on January 10, 1977, they were one of the hardest working bands in the world. They would play 146 songs in '77, including a European tour with Talking Heads. 

In Commando, Johnny Ramone described life in the Ramones in this way:

We recorded throughout our career whenever we got a break --it was the circuit: record, tour, record, tour. We did well in the studio. I worked fast, and the band was good at it. Joey always took a long time getting lyrics together and doing the vocals, but the songs were written in a certain way, and everyone else's parts were always done quickly.

From Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones,  Dee Dee Ramone remembers:

The first three records are filled with fun memories for me. The record company wasn't putting the kind of pressure on us that they later would to get on the radio. And I wasn't thinking about what the possibilities were. I wouldn't have known how to calculate success even if I chose to. It was like the American dream. We just said, if it isn't available, we'll make it happen. Or we;ll go to war, Or we'll secede, Or we'll go somewhere else. And so we just created the Ramones on a hope and a prayer and on our guts.

Gradually, the music critics realized the band wasn't a one punchline joke. In fact the New Music Express declared "Above all they are the best group on the planet at this moment and time".

Let's face it: nobody in the Class of '77 could keep up with The Ramones.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Harmonize a Song

Kate and Anna McGarrigle : Walking Song

In January of 1977, the sisters followed up their multi-faceted, classic debut with another charming album.  "Walking Song" is such a touching tune. Every time I hear it, I want to call my sister who lives three blocks away and take a stroll with my very oldest friend. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to walk together 
Baring our souls while wearing out the leather 
We could talk shop, harmonize a song 
Wouldn’t it be nice to walk along

Dean Robert Christgau scored the album a rare "A", writing :

Not as tuneful as some might wish, but even a bright melody must strike artists this subtle as unseemly, rather obvious. Rarely has the homely been rendered with such delicate sophistication: these women spend sixty or seventy grand trying to make a studio approximate a living room, or maybe a church basement on production numbers, and succeed! They are prim, wry, and sexy all at once, with a fondness for family life as it is actually lived--a repository of strength, surely, but also a repository of horrors--that is reflected in their version of folk instrumentation. Rather than on-the-road guitars (with their attendant corn about the wimmin at home) they rely on accordion, piano, organ; once when they need a drum they get the kind of oompah beat you still hear in parades. Even better than the debut, albeit harder.