Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What Good Is Your Song

Michael Franks : Chain Reaction

Partly recorded in Brazil, smooth jazz vocalist Michael Franks followed up his popular 1975 album, The Art of Tea,  with Sleeping Gypsy in February of 1977. Franks wrote eight of the ten tracks, but not the one I like the most. "Chain Reaction" is a Joe Sample composition which gives David Sanborn a lot of room to blow the saxophone. I'm actually not a fan of Sanborn's showy style so the fact that I prefer this track disturbs me a little.

To be honest, nobody needs more than one Michael Franks album and The Art of Tea , with "Popsicle Toes" and "Monkey See-Monkey Do", is the one to get.  And ladies, if any guy walks into a room with a bottle of wine, lights a fire and puts Sleeping Gypsy on, look for the nearest exit.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Keef Arrested

On February 27, 1977 Royal Canadian Mounted police arrested Keith Richards after finding 5 grams of cocaine and 22 grams of heroin in his room at the Harbour Castle Hotel. Before they could cuff the lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones, they had to wake Richards up. By law, a suspect has to be conscious to be arrested.

In his memoir Life, Richards writes

It took them forty-five minutes --I'd been up for five days and I'd had a heavy-duty shot and I was out. This was my last rehearsal day, and I'd been asleep for about two hours. My memory of it is waking up and then going slap slap, two Mounties dragging me about the room slapping me. Trying to get me "conscious". Band bang bang bang bang . Who are you? What's your name? Do you know where you are  and do you know why we're here? "My name's Keith Richards, and I'm in the Harbour Hotel. What you're doing here I have no idea." Meanwhile they found my stash. And it was about an ounce. Quite a lot. More than a man needs. I mean it wouldn't feed the city. But obviously they knew their shit, like I knew my shit, and it was clearly not the Canada smack. It had come from England. I'd put it in the flight case.

The amount was enough for the police to charge Richards with trafficking, which meant a minimum seven year sentence. Richards has other things on his mind. He needed his next fix. It was Bill Wyman, of all people, who tracked down a connection.

Richards would avoid jail time by playing a benefit concert for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in 1979 with Ron Wood.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Reading About History

John Cale : Mary Lou

In February of 1977 John Cale released Guts, a compilation of tracks from three previous albums ( Fear, Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy) as well as "Leaving It Up To You" and  the previously unreleased "Mary Lou". Originally scheduled to be on the Helen Of Troy album,"Leaving It Up To You "  was removed because of its reference to Manson murder victim Sharon Tate.

Robert Christgau gave the album an A, writing 

This is how Island makes up for withholding U.S. release on Helen of Troy, and I think we're better off. As a whole, Helen of Troy is sodden and stylized, and while "Pablo Picasso" and "Leaving It All Up to You" are Cale at his mad best, "Mary Lou" and "Helen of Troy" itself almost drag this compilation down. They don't, though. Cale's Island music epitomizes the cold, committed dementia of the best English rock, and side two--comprising "Fear Is a Man's Best Friend," "Gun," "Dirtyass Rock 'n' Roll," and "Heartbreak Hotel"--is a hard-sell advert for the disease. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Telescopic Umbrella

Peter Gabriel : Modern Love 

On February 25, 1977 Peter Gabriel released his self-titled debut, an album that marks the beginning of one of rock's most impressive solo careers. The opening track , "Moribund the Burgermeister", suggests Gabriel's break from Genesis isn't complete. It could be an outtake from Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. More interesting is the single "Solsbury Hill", a joyous tune some fans believe reveals the reasons Gabriel left Genesis.

So I went from day to day 
Though my life was in a rut 
Till I thought of what I'd say 
And which connection I should cut
 I was feeling part of the scenery 
I walked right out of the machinery

As I dive into the depths of the debut, I find myself most looking forward to hearing "Modern Love" if only because of Gabriel's own exuberance and the way it foreshadows "And Through the Wire". I would like to recreate this video but since 911 no airport would let me.

What may trouble some fans is how many Peter Gabriels we hear on this album. "Excuse Me" sounds almost like a vaudeville act ( complete with slide whistle). Gabriel would remain one of the most interesting, multi-faceted artists in the coming decades.

Robert Christgau gave the album a B+, suggesting the album required some work from its listener: 

Even when he was Genesis, Gabriel seemed smarter than your average art-rocker. Though the music was mannered, there was substance beneath its intricacy; however received the lyrical ideas, they were easier to test empirically than evocations of spaceships on Atlantis. This solo album seems a lot smarter than that. But every time I delve beneath its challenging textures to decipher a line or two I come up a little short. 

For NME Nick Kent wrote in 1978 :

A fine record with at least one 24-carat irresistible classic in "Solsbury Hill" and a strong supporting cast of material that, all in all, in a year besmeared with great albums was, in retrospect, sorely underrated. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Rags Of My Life

Ultravox! : Slip Away

Cheap electric guitars made the Sixties possible. The same thing was happening now. Synthesizers has just got cheap. All this stuff had just evolved and I thought this is it. This what I'm interested in .
-John Foxx, founder of Ultravox!

Years before "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes" peaked at #3 in the UK Charts, Ultravox! was a different band, inspired by David Bowie, Roxy Music and aware enough of Krautock to borrow Neu's exclamation point for their own name. To these ears, they even sound a bit like the fledging band in the 2016 film Sing Street. Released February 25, 1977 the album obviously inspired Duran Duran,  especially songs like "The Lonely Hunter".

Although much is made of Brian Eno's involvement in the recording, practically nothing Eno did made the final cut, which failed to capture Ultravox! high powered live show.  "Dangerous Rhythm" was the single. "The Wild, The Beautiful and the Damned" perhaps the most representative of the times, but "I Want to Be a Machine" foreshadowed Gary Numan's sound as well as the mindset that would eventually lead to  Foxx leaving Ultravox in 1979 to be replaced by the more pop conscious Midge Ure.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Truly Out On The Floor

The Jam : Non-Stop Dancing 

On February 25, 1977 Polydor Records signed The Jam, paying the trio a £6,000 advance. Led by 18 year old Paul Weller, the trio favored updating the mod sounds of the Small Faces and Stax and Motown groups rather than join the gobbing punks who were also part of the Class of '77.

 "It was very much a three-piece, with a real fiery energy coming from all of them," sound engineer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven tells The Guardian. "They had unique arrangements and a unique sound, and it was an engineer's dream, trying to capture their raw excitement on vinyl. Vinyl was lovely stuff because you could make it bleed, you could force it to its limits and make the sound really leap out." 

The debut single "In the City" was released in May, followed a month later by the hard charging album of the same name. The Jam had 18 consecutive Top 40 singles in the United Kingdom, from their debut in 1977 to their break-up in December 1982, including four number one hits .

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Story 'Bout A-Raising Hell

The Saints : No Time

"I remember thinking 'This is obnoxious. This is probably the most obnoxious record ever made. Isn't that great?'"
Chris Bailey, The Saints

On February 21, 1977 The Saints released (I'm) Stranded. Hampered by neither the cartoon imagery of The Ramones nor the ad hoc background of The Sex Pistols, The Saints rival The Clash as punk's purest expression. Recorded live over two December days in Brisbane, Stranded is every bit as raw as the 1976 title track, which was famously selected by Sounds reviewer John Ingham as "Single of this and every week". Ed Kuepper's buzzsaw guitar dominates the proceedings, drowning out vocalist Chris Bailey's lyrics. 

Bailey says " I remember both Ed and I saying at the time 'OK. This was a good demo session. When can we record? And the response from EMI was 'No. It sounds just like your single so it must be a record.'"

EMI had just dropped the Sex Pistols and were in desperate need of a credibility.

Early reviews were favorable. Jon Savage calling the album “up there in punk Valhalla with Ramones and Raw Power”. In his B+ review Robert Christgau wrote

With its intermittent hooks, droning feedback, shouted vocals, and oldie about incest, this album from Australia achieves the great mean of punk style. Five years from now, it could sound like a classic or a naive one-shot. At the moment, it's recommended only to addicts.

In May of 1977 The Saints would move to London where they'd play a Roundhouse gig with Talking Heads and The Ramones. But the long haired Ozzies--to their credit-- would never fit in with costumed punk scene. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

No Reason to Die

Elliot Murphy : Anastasia

In February of 1977 "New Dylan" Elliot Murphy released his fourth, and best known album, Just a Story from America. With help from Phil Collins on drums, the album kicks off with "Drive All Night", a song that sounds like something Bruce Springsteen might have just recorded. Live, Murphy would sometimes segue from "Drive All Night" into his old label mate's  "Born To Run".

But the track that got the most attention was "Anastasia", a lovely song about the Russian Czar's lost daughter featuring the Boys Choir of St Paul . The song was a minor hit in France so when Murphy failed to hit the big time in the US, he decamped to Paris where he still lives and performs to this day.

Here's Robert Christgau's C- review of Just A Story From America

If anyone can write a rock ballad to a deposed Russian princess made famous by Ingrid Bergman it's Murphy--the image sums up the F. Scott Fitzgerald/Rhett Butler (and Eva Braun?) side of a boy-man who's also heir to the traditional reverence for Jimi Hendrix and James Dean. Instead, the song is the embarrassing epitome of a record on which Murphy sounds spoiled instead of sensitive, presumptuous instead of ambitious, and about as comfortable with rock and roll as Roderick Falconer.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

On February 19, 1977, on the same page they reviewed Leo Sayer's "When I Need You" and Rose Royce's "I Wanna Gert Next To You"  Billboard Magazine said this about the first Talking Heads single "Love Goes to a Building On Fire" : 
"Strange enough, but not too rough-edged, debut from one of the stalwarts of the New York punk rock scene. The horn trills and surreal lyrics add up to a mid-period Beatles feel."

The song, with its lines like "I've got two loves And they go tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet like little birds" , wasn't a hit but it did foreshadow the debut album that would introduce the world to David Byrne's naive and nervous stage persona. Rock critic Will Hermes named his 2011 history of the New York Music scene Love Goes to Buildings on Fire  and 40 years after the original single was released Japandroids put their cover on a B side .

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Freak That's On Display

The Damned : Fan Club

On February 19, 1977 The Damned released the first "punk" album, Damned Damned Damned. Produced by Nick Lowe, it might actually sound too good to those expecting caustic punk from ne'er do wells. The musicianship is spot on as well, especially the guitar work of Brian James which was likened to Pete Townshend by NME. To promote the album ( which features the classic singles "New Rose" and "Neat Neat Neat") The Damned went on tour with Marc Bolan of T. Rex who proudly claimed to be the godfather of punk.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Them Throw My Mama

Fela : Unknown Solider

On February 18, 1977, infuriated by the scathing remarks of "Zombie" (Go and kill! Joro, jaro, joro/ Go and die! (Joro, jaro, joro)", the government of Nigeria sent 1000 soliders over the walls of  Fela Kuti's Kalakuta compound and savagely beat the residents. Fela himself escaped death, but his activist mother was thrown through a window and broke her hip -- causing an injury that would take her life within the month.

 Fela's response to the incident can be heard in the 1980 albums that followed, including "Coffin for Head of State" and "Unknown Solider".

  "Unknown Solider", titled as such because official government reports blamed the destruction of the compound on an "unknown solider",  has the lyrics that bear witness to the event ( his voice nearly breaking as he sings "Them kill my mama".

Them dey break,
yes Them dey steal,
yes Them dey loot,
yes Them dey fuck some of the women by force,
yes Them dey rape, ....Them break some some head
Them throw my mama
Seventy-eight-year-old mama
Political mama
Ideological mama
Influential mama...
Them throw my mama out from window
Them kill my mama
Them kill my mama

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When I Say I'm Fine

Eddie and the Hot Rods : I Might Be Lying 

On February 15, 1977 Eddie and the Hot Rods played John Peel's BBC 1 show.  This was before the ex Kursaal Flyer Graeme Douglas joined the band as second guitarist. Douglas would co-write the band's biggest hit, the UK #9 "Do Anything You Wanna Do" released July 29, 1977.

This was also the week that Bruce Springsteen had become so discouraged by his lawsuit with manager Mike Appel that kept him out of the recording studio for a year and a half ...that before a February 15 show in Detroit, for the first time in his life, he did not want to get up on stage. 

"At that moment, I could see how people get into drinking or into drugs, because the one thing you want at a time like that is to be distracted—in a big way", he would later tell LA Times critic Robert Hilburn.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I'm Not an Animal

Sex Pistols : Bodies

"If Johnny Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the attitude."
-Malcolm McLaren

On February 15, 1977 Sid Vicious joined The Sex Pistols, replacing Glen Matlock on bass despite the fact that he couldn't play the instrument. What Vicious brought to the stage was charisma, something quite apparent in the video below.

  Sid Vicious had fewer than two full year to live. Hospitalized with hepatitis during the recording  of Never Mind the Bollocks...Vicious played bass and has a songwriting credit on on one of the band's most hated songs"Bodies", but it was later overdubbed by guitarist Steve Jones.  

 The Sex Pistols would play their last gig in January of 1978. By then Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen were full blown heroin addicts. In October of 1978, Vicious was arrested for stabbing Spungen to death. In February 1978, Vicious overdosed on heroin. His mother says she found a suicide note that read :"We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye." 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

And There's Hazel and Mavis

The B 52's : 52 Girls

On February 14, 1977 The B-52s played their first gig at a friend's party in Athens, Georgia. The campy band,was made up of Ricky Wilson, his younger sister Cindy, Kate Pierson, drummer Keith Strickland and an eccentric University of Georgia student named Fred Schneider. They did "Rock Lobster" and "Dance This Mess Around". Both songs appear on their 1979 debut album, which sold half a million copies. As you might imagine, it was a pretty good party.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Raisin’ Cane

Garland Jeffreys : Cool Down Boy

One of the great lost albums of the 1970's, Garland Jeffreys's Ghost Writer came out in early 1977 showcasing an artist equally adept at rock 'n' roll and reggae. In "Cool Down Boy" he does both in the same song. 

Much was made of the fact that Garland Jeffreys is biracial (black father, Puerto Rican mother). 

 "Too black to be white, too white to be black," he told The New York Daily News with a laugh. "I don't want to lean on that issue but it's part of the issue, no question."

Jeffreys himself would sing about race most notably in "Why -O" which takes on busing : "If I were a little black boy, say five years old /I'd ask my mommy please, what's goin' on? /And if I were a little white girl, say six years old /I'd beg my daddy, please, do I belong?" The album also features the original legendary 1973 single "Wild in the Streets".

  Rolling Stone Magazine declared Jeffreys Best New Artist of 1977.

Here's Robert Christgau's A- review of Ghost Writer :

Four years is a long time between LPs; if Jeffreys sounded like a talented cult artist on Atlantic in 1973, by now he's collected so much material he sounds like the most fecund singer-songwriter since whoever. Well, save that for the next time. Meanwhile, the racial paradox is dramatized audaciously, the dreams of showbiz glory rendered with an uncommon knowing subtlety, the reggae natural-born, the voice fuller and more passionate, and the album a great buy.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Street Stalker

The Kinks : Sleepwalker

On February 12, 1977, The Kinks released Sleepwalker, an attempt to win over the American record buying public after years of concept albums and cult status. Their first album for Arista, Sleepwalker would climb all the way up to US 21 on the Billboard album charts and win over critics. Said Ray Davies: "Sleepwalker did all right. One reviewer said it was like raising Lazarus from the dead. Our records sales went up to the 350,000 mark, which is good. Having started a couple of years earlier at 25,000 on Village Green Preservation Society, we were pushing it up."

The tunes were more straight forward but perhaps something else was lost: the characteristic Kinks sound. This really could be just about any band.

One of the more interesting stories from Sleepwalker is Clive Davies insisting that "Brother" get the full "Bridge Over Troubled Water" treatment with strings and backing vocals. Davies thought it would be a major hit but Arista never released "Brother" as a single.

Sleepwalker would finish #18 in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop music critics poll, ahead of Davie Bowie's Heroes and The Ramones' Leave Home.

Billy Altman's "clear cut triumph" review for Rolling Stone:

 Even as a staunch Kinks supporter, I was beginning to have my doubts. Although the band's following has grown steadily since they made it into the Seventies (by the skin of their teeth) with "Lola," they seemed to have peaked with Muswell Hillbillies. Ray Davies seemed hopelessly stuck on a thematic dead-end street (perhaps he had started believing all those notices about personifying the "voice of the little people"). But Sleepwalker — the first Kinks album since Lola that's unencumbered by either a horn section or female vocal chorus — is a clear-cut triumph both for Davies and the band.

A few of these songs smack of the self-righteousness that's hindered Davies' recent writing; but the beautiful "Stormy Sky," in which clouds become a symbol for romantic conflict, and "Full Moon," a scary tune about madness and loss of self-recognition, are among his best efforts. The recurrent themes are fear, depression and failed utopianism; in "Life Goes On," we are warned that "life'll hit you when you least expect it." Yet in the end, there always remains a faint glimmer of hope: "Take that frown off your head/'cause you're a long time dead." "Juke Box Music," which seems strangely set apart from the rest, is the best song here, a rocker about a woman whose entire life is spent living inside the story lines of her favorite records. It should be a pathetic song, yet Davies has us tapping our feet, singing along.

The Kinks' playing on Sleepwalker is easily their most powerful since Lola. Dave Davies' aggressive guitar work is pushed into the forefront, and the intensity of his lead work seems to rouse the entire group. One is continually reminded just what a fine and forceful band the Kinks can be as those ethereal falsetto backing vocals, so long dormant, rise again like the spirit of "Sunny Afternoon" and "Waterloo Sunset."

Robert Christgau's B- review of Sleepwalker :

Ray Davies's temporary abandonment of theatrical concepts may have ruined his show, but it's freed him to write individually inspired songs again. It's also freed his band to play up to its capacity, which unfortunately falls midway between professional virtuosity and amateur fun. Doubly unfortunate, at least half the songs are in a similar range. Recommended: "Jukebox Music" and "Full Moon."

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Fife and a Drum to Play

Jethro Tull : The Whistler

Just as we were about to write off Jethro Tull, they emerge with Songs From the Wood, a swandive into Elizabethan folk rock that was inspired by Ian Anderson's time producing Steeleye Span Now We Are Six and features some lyrics reminiscent of the Penthouse letters, if they had been written on scrolls.

Witness from "Hunting Girl" :
She took this simple man's downfall in hand/ I raised the flag that she unfurled/ Boot leather flashing and spurnecks the size of my thumb/This highborn hunter had tastes as strange as they come/Unbridled passion: I took the bit in my teeth/ Her standing over me on my knees underneath.

Asked by TeamRock.com to name his favorite Jethro Tull songs, Ian Anderson selected the opening track:

"This, the title song of our 1977 album, was unashamedly twee. It's decorative folk rock. It openly extols the virtues of the countryside, and the values you want to impart through this to other people. I suppose it is country rock, but in the British sense. It's all delivered with a fair amount of hefty music. There are big guitar riffs and a lot of flute as well. And it does get a little angry, but with a purpose."

Friday, February 10, 2017

Blue Blue Electric Blue

David Bowie : Sound and Vision

Pretty amazing week in 1977: the release of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, Television's Marquee Moon and David Bowie's "Sound and Vision", all in the span of seven days. Recorded at Château d'Hérouville in September of 1976, the song had a happy vibe, punctuated by producer Tony Visconti's wife, Mary Hopkin's doo-doo-doo-doo-doo vocals. But when it came time to write the lyrics, Bowie's mind went back to his lost, drug fueled time in California.

"Sound and Vision was the "ultimate retreat song", as Bowie would put it. "It was just the idea of getting out of America, that depressing era I was going through. I was going through dreadful times. It was wanting to be put in a little cold room with omnipotent blue on the walls and blinds on the windows."

The intro of "Sound and Vision" is nearly longer than the rest of the song, creating anticipation every time you hear it.  Finally, nearly 90 seconds in, Bowie croons from his lowest register : 

Don't you wonder sometimes
'Bout sound and vision

Blue, blue, electric blue
That's the color of my room
Where I will live Blue, blue
Pale blinds drawn all day
Nothing to do, nothing to say
Blue, blue
 I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision

And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Drifting into my solitude, over my head
Don't you wonder sometimes
'Bout sound and vision

A Top 3 hit in the UK, "Sound and Vision"  was also a top ten hit in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. However, it stalled at No. 87 in Canada and only managed No. 69 in the United States.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Darkness Doubled

Television : Marquee Moon ( alt. take) 

When visiting my cousins on the Upper East side, I liked to head off on my own, speed walking downtown checking my progress by the street signs. 62nd. 56th. 49th. 42nd. I had all the nervous, frenetic energy that came with being thirteen and taking ones life in one's hands, venturing into the dangerous city alone in search of cheap secondhand record stores and bookshops.

 Marquee Moon would have been the perfect soundtrack to such ramblings, but the Walkman was still a few years away and I, like most of America, completely missed Television's debut album. The album actually did chart in the UK, reaching 28 with both an abbreviated title track and "Prove It" entering the UK Top 30.

 History tells us this was a storied time, of a murderer's row in New York City where Patti Smith bellowed from one stage and The Ramones buzz sawed from another. Of Talking Heads, Blondie, Mink DeVille and Suicide. But at most only a few thousand people really knew what was happening at CBGB's. 

 The best musicians of the lot were in Television. They got that way through ruthless practice sessions. Tom Verlaine led the band. His spiraling guitar solos were woven into the discordant lines of Robert Lloyd. The rhythm section was solid : Fred Smith on bass and Billy Ficca on drums. They had all these great songs down cold and recorded them live. Nothing sounded like this before and nothing sounded like this that followed.

Vivian Goldman of Sounds Magazine  gave the album a 5 star review , writing “Even this early on in the year, you don’t have to be a gambler to predict that Marquee Moon is the kind of album you’re gonna listen to in 1980 and say, ‘shit, ’77 was a great year, why can’t people come up with albums like this now.’ ”

Rolling Stone's Ken Tucker was also among the first to write up the album:

Along with Blondie and the Ramones, Television achieved their initial notoriety while playing in the same place (an esophagus of a bar called CBGB, in lower Manhattan), and have been lumped together with other habitués of this joint as purveyors of "punk rock." In their self-consciousness and liberal open-mindedness, these bands are as punky as Fonzie; that is, not at all.

Marquee Moon, Television's debut album, is more interesting, audacious and unsettling than either Blondie's eponymous debut album or the Ramones' Leave Home. Leader Tom Verlaine wrote all the songs, coproduced with Andy Johns, plays lead guitar in a harrowingly mesmerizing stream-of-nightmare style and sings all his verses like an intelligent chicken being strangled: clearly, he dominates this quartet. Television is his vehicle for the portrayal of an arid, despairing sensibility, musically rendered by loud, stark repetitive guitar riffs that build in every one of Marquee Moon's eight songs to nearly out-of-control climaxes. The songs often concern concepts or inanimate objects -- "Friction," "Elevation," "Venus (de Milo, that is) -- and when pressed Verlaine even opts for the mechanical over the natural: in the title song, he doesn't think that a movie marquee glows like the moon; he feels that the moon resonates with the same evocative force as a movie marquee.

 When one can make out the lyrics, they often prove to be only non sequiturs, or phrases that fit metrically but express little, or puffy aphorisms or chants. (The chorus of "Prove It" repeats, to a delightful sprung-reggae beat: "Prove it/ Just the facts/ The confidential" a few times.)

 All this could serve to distance or repel us, and taken with Verlaine's guitar solos, which flirt with an improvisational formlessness, cold easily bore. But he structures his compositions around these spooky, spare riffs, and they stick to the back of your skull. On Marquee Moon, Verlaine becomes all that much better for a new commercial impulse that gives his music its catchy, if slashing, hook. 

Television treks across the same cluttered, hostile terrain as bands like the Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls, but the times may be on the side of Verlaine: we have been prepared for Television's harsh subway sound by a grudging, after-the-fact-of-their-careers acceptance of those older bands.

More than thirty years later, NME 's Alan Woodhouse summed up the growth of Marquee Moon's reputation in this way :

The influence of ‘Marquee Moon’ cannot be overestimated. The post-punk movement certainly took on board numerous aspects of the record – the clinically precise instrumentation, the clean sound and the introspective, vaguely gloomy feel. That filtered through to the indie movement of the ’80s, for whom the record became one of the sacred texts, while even bands like The Strokes have clearly taken inspiration from it. It would not be an overstatement to say that ‘Marquee Moon’ is to the ’70s what ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’ was to the ’60s.

 Marquee Moon topped Sounds magazine's list of the best albums of 1977.  In the Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll, it finished third.

1. Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (Warner Bros.) 412 (32)
2. Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (Columbia) 367 (33)
3. Television: Marquee Moon (Elektra) 327 (26)
4. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Warner Bros.) 318 (26)
5. Steely Dan: Aja (ABC) 266 (23)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Together In Time

Racing Cars : They Shoot Horses Don't They

I have to admit in this year of punk and disco domination, I have developed a soft spot for this soft rock hit by the Welsh band Racing Cars. "They Shoot Horses Don't They" reached number fourteen in the UK Singles Chart in 1977, and was inspired by the film of the same name. Here we discover the familiar story of the hit that was almost never released. 

"'Horses' was the throwaway song on Downtown Tonight," recalled guitarist Graham Williams to Mojo. "Our manager and the record company thought differently - one day during rehearsals our manager walked in and declared, 'I don't want to hear you in the pursuit of excellence, I just want you to give them something, to sing along to."'

Monday, February 6, 2017

That Ain't No Banana

Cerrone : Love in C Minor

French disco drummer Cerrone challenges Giorgio Moroder for the Euro-disco crown with "Love in C Minor", which entered the UK charts in February of 1977. It would peak at #31.  In the US, the tune topped the disco charts. His masterpiece, the album Supernature, was still seven months away. Cerrone would sell 25 million albums in his career.

The 16 minute album version begins with a skit where women are checking out his plumbing : "That ain't no banana".

More about Cerrone :

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fun Facts About Fleetwood Mac's Rumours

 On February 4, 1977 Fleetwood Mac released Rumours, an album that has sold more than 45 million copies. Four of the albums 11 songs were released as singles but only "Dreams", a song Stevie Nicks wrote on a Fender Rhodes she believed Sly Stone once played, hit #1.

 The album's songs were written as the personal relationships between the band's couples hit icebergs. The first single,  "Go Your Own Way", has the nasty Lindsey Buckinghan shot at Stevie Nicks: "Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do" . The Nicks B side "Silver Springs" has a message to Buckingham " I know I could have loved you, but you would not let me". The most important line in Christine McVie's celebratory "Don't Stop" is a pointed "Yesterday's Gone" to her ex John McVie, but the song with the sharpest sting for John might be "You Make Loving Fun", about the band's lighting director with whom she had an affair. ("Sweet wonderful you/You make me happy with the things you do"). 

Fans tried to read the body language on the back cover: Christine looking away from John. Lindsey trying desperately to look like he's having a good time. Mick Fleetwood with an expression that seems to say "I've seen Stevie Nicks naked".

The album spent 31 weeks at Number One. That should take some of the sting out of the lyrics. Over the years, it has become more than just an album that sold a ridiculous amount of copies. Rumours has become a classic. Credit goes to three great songwriters and a rhythm section that could always find the pocket, thanks to decades of playing the blues. 

Or should the credit go to the great 60's California bands like The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the 70's band The Eagles? That's how Rolling Stone's John Swenson heard it.

Rock and roll has this bad habit of being unpredictable. You never can tell when a band will undergo that alchemic transmigration from lead to gold. The medium of transformation is almost always a hit single, but such turnarounds often swamp a band in notoriety it can't live up to.

 But in Fleetwood Mac's case the departure of guitarist Bob Welch -- who'd reduced the band to recutting pointless and pretentious versions of old standards -- amounted to the biggest break they ever had. With that and the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac suddenly became a California pop group; instead of laborious blues/rock jams they started turning out bright little three-minute singles with a hook in every chorus. 

 Christine McVie now leads a classic vocal group working out of the oldest popular tradition, love songs. Vocal harmonies are the meat and potatoes of California's pop identity, and Fleetwood Mac is now one of the genre's main proponents, with three lead singers of comparable range. Taken individually, only McVie's voice has much character, but she anchors their vocal arrangements, since Nicks' low range and Buckingham's high range approximate here dulcet, evenhanded timbre. 

 Despite the interminable delay in finishing the record, Rumours proves that the success of Fleetwood Mac was no fluke. Christine McVie sounds particularly vital on "You Make Loving Fun," which works for the same reason "Over My Head" was a smash. The formula is vintage Byrds: Christine sings the verse simply, with sparse instrumental background, and the chorus comes on like an angelic choir -- high harmonies soaring behind her with 12-string electric guitar counterpoint ringing against the vocals. 

The Byrds touch is Lindsey Buckingham's province, and it's used most successfully on the single, "Go Your Own Way," which employs acoustic guitar backing throughout, with best effect of the choruses. Mick Fleetwood's drumming adds a new dimension to this style. Fleetwood is swinging away, but not in the fluid roll pattern most rock drummers use. Instead of pushing the rhythm (Buckingham's acoustic guitar and John McVie's bass playing take care of that) he's punctuating it, playing against the grain. A touch like that can turn a good song into a classic. 

Buckingham's contribution is the major surprise, since it appeared at first that Nicks was the stronger half of the team. But Nicks has nothing on Rumours to compare with "Rhiannon," her smash from the last album. "Dreams" is a nice but fairly lightweight tune, and her nasal singing is the only weak vocal on the record. "I Don't Want to Know," which is pure post-Buffalo Springfield country-rock formula, could easily be confused with any number of Richie Furay songs. 

Buckingham's other two songs here are almost as good as "Go Your Own Way." "Second Hand News," ostensibly about the breakup of his relationship with Nicks, is anything but morose, and completely outdoes the Eagles in the kiss-off genre. Again the chunking acoustic guitar rhythm carries the song to a joyful chorus that turns average voices into timeless pop harmony. It may be gloss, but it's the best gloss to come along in a long time. "Never Going Back Again," the prettiest thing on the album, is just acoustic picking against a delightful vocal that once again belies the bad-news subject matter. 

Fleetwood Mac's change from British blues to California folk-rock is not as outlandish as some might think. The early Sixties blues scene in England had as much to do with rural American fold music as the urban blues sound, which was predominantly a guitarist's passion anyway. Christine McVie is much closer to a singer like Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny than to any of England's blues shouters. Without altering her basic sensibility McVie moves easily into the thematic trappings of the California rock myth. She's always written love songs, and sings here ballads with halting emotion. "Songbird," her solo keyboard spot on Rumours, is elevated by its context from what would have been referred to as a devotional blues into a pantheistic celebration of love and nature. 

So Fleetwood Mac has finally realized the apotheosis of that early-Sixties blues crusade to get back to the roots. It's just that it took a couple of Californians and a few lessons from the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Eagles to get there.

I didn't buy Rumours until I found a cassette for $1.29 at a pawn shop in 1981. I had been overexposed to the songs in high school. On long drives with my wife, when I hear the sighs that come from too much T. Rex or Roxy Music, I know I can load up this album and all will be just fine in the front seats. Until the kids scream for Michael Jackson again.