Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Best Place For Comfort

William Onyeabor : Heaven and Hell

In 1977 Nigerian electro-funk pioneer William Onyeabor released his debut album, Crashes In Love. It was the first of eight albums he released on his own label in southeast Nigeria, all prized by collectors. Some of the drum beats are simply sensational.

David Byrne, who's Luaka Bop label released a collection of Onyeabor's,  wrote this about Onyeabor in January of 2017, shortly after the musician's death:

His surprising (no other African musician was recording synthesizers then—or, in my mind, creating anything that sounded similar) recordings, his conscious lyrics and messages and his entrepreneurial ambitions (up until selling them late last year, he had his own vinyl mastering and pressing machines!) were all way ahead of their time. He continues to inspire musicians and fans around the world.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Yes I Like It A Lot

Jonathan Richman : Dodge Veg-O-Matic (Extended Version)

On June 28, 1977 Jonathan Richman released Rock'N'Roll With The Modern Lovers, an acoustic album that bounced between ethnic folk songs, tunes for kids and funny ditties about roller coasters, ice cream men and a Dodge that doesn't run. At the time, record buyers didn't know what lo-fi was. They just thought the album sounded like it had been recorded in a garage. But that's what makes it such a fun experience. You do feel like you're sitting in a lawn chair listening to these nuts make up songs on the spot. 

The Greil Marcus review for The Village Voice

The new all-acoustic rock and roll album by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers—Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers—has met with something less than universal acclaim. In fact, I don’t know anyone who likes it very much; some Richman fans, who would probably agree that “Roadrunner” is one of the great significant philosophical statements of our time, positively hate it. Too cute, one hears. Sloppy. Self-Indulgent. Boy’s betraying his talent. Etc. Friends to whom I’ve passed on the record suspect my motives. Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers is the purest rock and roll album I’ve heard this year, rooted as it is in the idea that as long as you keep a good beat, rock and roll is what you can get away with.

 Thus, in the spirit (not the form) of the earliest each and roll records—those Sam Phillips made with Elvis on Sun, those Buddy Holly cut in Clovis, New Mexico, or those Frankie Lymon waxed in New York—Richman and his little rock trio (Leroy Radcliffe on guitar; D. Sharpe on the smallest kit any rock drummer has used since Charlie Watts’s equipment failed to arrive at a San Diego gig on February 6, 1964; Curly Keranen on stand-up bass; one of them or maybe someone else on sax) offer an LP that combines Chinese and South American folk songs, an instrumental called “Egyptian Reggae,” the old children’s song “The Wheels on the Bus” (“Go up and down/All around the town”—there’s also a monster on the bus, however), “Angels Watching Over Me,” plus tunes about leprechauns getting back into rock and roll, the ice cream man, a rollercoaster, and a car called a Dodge Veg-0-Matic—marvelously funny numbers no one else in rock and roll but Richman would have written. The result is not just good rock, but music that sounds like rock and roll in the process of being invented—for the first time or all over again, it doesn’t much matter.

The playing is what first attached me to this record: the band has a natural sense of momentum, orchestrating Richman’s wild, scatter-shot vocals with what sounds like (and can’t be) spontaneous back-up singing, brightly strummed guitar, cracked sax work, and a light, utterly perfect rock and roll beat. The music makes sense of the sometimes crazed stories Richman is telling—why is there a monster on the bus? Why did leprechauns abandon rock and roll in the first place? The loose grasp on reality implicit in a number of the stories makes the music sound rational, though in truth it is just as nervy as Richman’s complete willingness to expose his weirdness to the crowd. 

After a bit, nothing on this record sounds “cute.” The leprechauns are just people relating to… anything; the sudden passion that lifts Richman’s singing in the middle of “Rockin’ Rockin’ Leprechauns” simply refers to the possibilities of passion in the rock and roll vocal. “Roller Coaster by the Sea,” with Richman’s neat asides (“Whee!” “Hmmm, scary”) is on the third time around merely a brilliant rendering of one of the fundamental themes of rock and roll, and of most popular American music, the search for peace of mind. “Dodge Veg-O-­Matic,” while an act of real genius in terms of conception—not to mention execution: “I’m gonna tell you ’bout a car that you won’t like,” Jonathan promises, “It’s my Dodge Veg-O-Matic, there in the parking lot/I like It, I like to watch it rot”—is traditional rockabilly absurdity on the level of “Tongue-Tied Jill” or “Miss Froggy.” Not only has Richman recreated rock and roll, he has recreated for the listener the purity of the original response to rock and roll. I found the appeal of this album obvious when I first heard it, because it seemed to me what rock and roll was supposed to sound like. The very first rock and roll records sounded like that too, to people who heard them in the early fifties, even though at the time those people had likely never heard of “rock and roll.” 

Still, I don’t feel entirely comfortable understanding Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers so easily. When I first listened to Elvis sing “Hound Dog” I heard nothing but a fierce joy, an unbounded sense of delight; the racial contradictions inherent in the music went right past me, and I didn’t catch up with them for close to 20 years. On Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers I hear insanity shaped, by a shared musical tradition, into an authentic style of freedom that is capable of creating delight as intense as that offered by Clyde MePhatter on “Money Honey” or “Honey Love.” That pleasure obscures the troth that the insanity may well be real; that, back in the corners, this may be a very dangerous album—for Rich­man, if not for me or you. The good beat of the music covers up the fact that Richman’s vocals are flights over the cuckoo’s nest; there is a monster on his bus, and it may catch up with him someday; the leprechauns may give up on rock and roll again, and Jonathan might find himself deserted by the fairy-tale audience that lives in his head, the audience to which his songs are ultimately addressed. If that happens, he might well fly tight off into life’s mystery, as he sings at the close of side one of Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers, and just not show up for side two. If the search for peace of mind is a basic theme of rock and roll, that only means that rock and roll is basically a response to chaos—the world’s, or one’s own.

 For the moment, none of this matters. Jonathan Rich­man and the Modern Lovers have made an epochal album, and I think those who cannot hear it now will find their way to it as time goes by. Regardless of what the consumers are doing, the leprechauns are applauding, and, as Jonathan growls at the end of “The Wheels on the Bus”—“Ha! We got rid of that monster!”

Robert Christgau liked the album. He gave it a B+ writing:

This all-acoustic record is even further in general tough-mindedness from Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers than that fey testament was from The Modern Lovers; it defines the difference between a child who is cute and a child who knows adults think children are cute. Sometimes I think I should hate it. But in fact I don't, because its self-indulgence represents not the manipulative arrogance of a star but rather the craziness of an almost powerless case of arrested development, and you can hear that. However unattractive a child Richman may be, he does convey the fragile lyricism only children are capable of. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Johnny Drives a Thunderbird

Steve Winwood : Time is Running Out

In June of 1977, 29 year old Steve Winwood released his first solo album. The idea came after his appearance on Stomu Yamash'ta 's Go project.  "I knew then that I wanted to go back into the studio myself," Winwood told Rolling Stone. "Go was so much of a collaboration. I was playing a sideman role with Yamash'ta and Mike Shrieve. When that was finished I wanted to do an album where I didn't have to argue with anyone over what songs to do and how to have it done." 

Winwood hadn't appeared on any other recordings for thee years which he spent living out in the country running a small livery stable and taking long walks with his dogs. The solo album, recorded with the help of Chris Blackwell and Jim Capaldi,  has the same feel as good Traffic, with "Time Is Running Out" sporting a triple tracked bass by Willie Weeks.

The album--a wonderful surprise to my ears-- received lukewarm reviews back in its day so Winwood again disappeared for about three years. In 1980 he'd return with Arc of the Diver.

Robert Christgau was one of the unimpressed critics. He gave the album a grade of C -, writing:

Combined with Stomu Yamashta's ersatz electronic classicism on Go, Winwood's chronic meandering seemed vaguely interesting. On its own again, it just seems vague.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Pride That Keeps You Strong

The Isley Brothers : The Pride ( Pt 1 and 2)

On June 25, 1977 The Isley Brothers topped the US R and B charts with their fifteenth album, Go For Your Guns. One of the great Summer soundtracks of '77. ( "Footsteps in the Dark" already featured here).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Concrete Dream

Wire : Lowdown


On June 24, 1977 Harvest Records released The Roxy London WC2, a collection of live recordings from the famed London nightclub. Among the acts on the record : Slaughter and the Dogs, The Adverts, X-Ray Spex, The Buzzcocks and Wire. 

Early reviewers may have called it "a punk rock album of 10 unknown acts who can barely play" but it is now more commonly considered "an essential historical reminder of the power and the glory of punk rock". There are better engineered live albums out there, but there is nothing quite like the stage banter between songs to put you right in the thick of the London punk scene.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Demonstrating Love and Affection

The Emotions : Best of My Love

One of the most exuberant singles of the disco era, the Emotions' Grammy winning "Best of My Love" would top the R and B charts for three weeks beginning  June 25,1977. The song, written by Earth Wind and Fire's Maurice White and Al McKay and performed by members of EWF, would top the US pop charts for five straight weeks. Shout out to Wanda Hutchinson for hitting the big vibrato notes, though all three ladies are taking us to church!

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Passage of Time

James Taylor : Secret O' Life

On June 24 of 1977, James Taylor released his first album for Columbia Records and his biggest selling studio album JT. It was one of the purchases that arrived in my dorm room one winter day after I had joined the Columbia Records and Tapes club with about three million other subscribers. 

The passage of time has streaked by, but I still have great affection for this album. Taylor is in great voice, even though he was still battling his drug demons. The slow songs are extremely thoughtful and rewarding to the close listener while the fast songs actually rock. Sweet Baby James is his best but I'd argue this comes second.

The dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau gave JT a B, writing

 James sounds both awake--worth a headline in itself--and in touch; maybe CBS gave him a clock radio for opening an account there. "Handy Man" is a transcendent sex ballad, while "I Was Only Telling a Lie" and "Secret o' Life" evoke comparison with betters on the order of the Stones and Randy Newman, so that the wimpy stuff--which still predominates--sounds merely laid-back in contrast. Best since Sweet Baby James, shit--some of this is so wry and lively and committed his real fans may find it obtrusive

Rolling Stone's Peter Herbst called JT a welcome comeback album, writing:

JT is James Taylor coming out of his personal closet. In "Looking for Love on Broadway" he sings, "Had my fill of self-pity," and that's epochal stuff for the man who almost single-handedly developed the eyes-affixed-to-the-navel songwriting and performing posture. Yet the album supports Taylor's claim.

 Only one song on JT, "Another Grey Morning," even skirts depression, and that song illustrates Taylor's evolution rather neatly. The form and content of Taylor's most striking work have always reflected an intense duality: the imagery was all "night and day," the singing hauntingly schizoid. Taylor could sound icily calm intoning lyrics such as "Ain't it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind," or couch his most distressingly unhappy lyrics in jaunty tunes like "Sunny Skies."

But "Another Grey Morning" makes no bones about its intentions; it makes no effort to put on a happy front. It's about the effect of one person's depression on another, and Taylor's stirring imagery and singing evoke emotion rather than flatten it. In fact (not to get too academic), his use of gray rather than his traditional black and white signals a psychological and artistic breakthrough.

 There are all kinds of evidence of that breakthrough on JT. The singing throughout is ringingly warm, the phrasing relaxed and intelligent. And the variety of material allows Taylor to span a broad emotional range. On Danny Kortchmar's seething "Honey Don't Leave L.A.," Taylor keys the song with his rough, authoritative reading of the line, "They don't know nothing down in St. Tropez." Taylor is actually a pretty convincing rock singer here, as he is on the album's unabashedly happy opener, "Your Smiling Face." 

 Taylor presses his luck occasionally, but at least he's taking risks. On "I Was Only Telling a Lie" he seems to be imitating Tom Rush's posturing lower register (as in "Who Do You Love?"), and his attempt to evoke a déclassé atmosphere in the same song ("half flat six-pack of lukewarm beer") is a little strained. Strained, too, is his gospel-jazz novelty, "Traffic Jam." Taylor tells us "how I hates to be late," not even realizing, I suspect, the meaning of the use of such archaic black idioms.

 But the risk taking generally pays off. "Bartender's Blues" could have been a sendup of country and  western were its chorus not so utterly convincing. And Taylor's remake of Jimmy Jones' mile-a-minute "Handy Man" is so unlikely that it vitiates the usual criticisms of Taylor's soul interpretations. Taylor's sensually slow version of "Handy Man" is a masterpiece of adaptation and singing. As an uptempo number it was slightly adolescent; through Taylor's gentle cooing the song becomes more overtly, and successfully, sexual.

 JT is the least stiff and by far the most various album Taylor has done. That's not meant to criticize Taylor's earlier efforts — I'm a fan of even his most dolorous work. But it's nice to hear him sounding so healthy.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ev'rything You Fling Rock Stone

Burning Spear : Throw Down Your Arms

The 70's streak continues for Burning Spear who follows up the one-two punch of Marcus Garvey and Man in the Hills with another excellent album, Dry and Heavy.  That's despite the fact that Burning Spear is no longer a trio but Winston Rodney all on his own. Robert Christgau gave the album a B , writing:

 The sweetness of Winston Rodney's vocals here is surprisingly acute--especially on the unselfrighteous nonviolence sermon "Throw Down Your Arms," the generalized love song "Any River," and the title cut, an impressionistically spaced-out reminiscence of his schooldays. But despite the welcome crib sheet I don't find that any of the other tracks holds my attention. That's the way it is with sweetness.

His anti-war song "Throw Down Your Arms" ends with laughter, infusing it with optimism.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Punish the Punks!

The Damned : Stab Your Back

On June 18, 1977, the day The Sex Pistols began recording the rest of the tracks that would make up their classic Never Mind The Bollocks debut album, Johnny Rotten was attacked by a gang of nine men wielding razors and at least one machete outside the Pegasus pub in Islington, London. The attack left him with a slashed arm and tendon damage.

Six days earlier, after the Pistols sabotaged the Queen's jubilee,  The Sunday Mirror ran story with the headline "Punish the Punks!" Apparently some readers took it to heart.

 Johnny Rotten:

Chris Thomas and I were in the Pegasus, just around the corner from Wessex Studios,’[Rotten] says, ‘and as we left, we were attacked in the car park by a gang of knife-wielding yobs, who were chanting, ‘We love our Queen, you bastard!’ Normally I’d say they were National Front, but a third of them were black. They were just lads out for violence. I got some bad cuts from that. It severed two tendons, so my left hand is fucked forever, and as I’m left-handed, I can’t close the fist properly. I’ll never play guitar: there’s no power to it. I jumped into the car and someone jumped after me with a machete and cut me from there [he points to his thigh about a foot down] . . . to there [his knee]. I had on extremely thick leather trousers at the time, thank fucking God, because it would have ripped the muscle out and now I’d be a one-legged hoppity.'”

There were other attacks in June of 1977. Pistols drummer Paul Cook was attacked the next day by six men who struck him with a crowbar. Gaye Advert and TV Smith of The Adverts were beaten up on June 21. At the hospital they were asked what did they expect, dressing up like that? Rotten again was brutalized two days later. On the last day of the month , The Damned's front man Dave Vanian was attacked in his dressing room, sustaining a dislocated shoulder.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Better Off Dead

Grateful Dead : Terrapin Station (Baltimore, 1977)

On June 20, 1977 The Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart was driving his porsche home from a local club when he lost control of his car, crashing through a guardrail. A tree prevented Hart's car from  tumbling down a ravine. Hart emerged with a broken collarbone, smashed ribs and a broken arm. "I opened my eyes [in the hospital] and Jerry was there: 'You look like shit!'" he says.

Hart needed two month of rehab which meant the Dead would not be able to immediately tour to promote their debut album for their new label, Arista. It was called Terrapin Station, named for the epic, side-long suite.

Dead fans had to occupy themselves with The Grateful Dead movie, released earlier in the month. It's a concert film shot over the course of a five night stand  at San Francisco's Winterland.A midnight movie classic, it received rave reviews form the Dead's other drummer Bill Kreutzmann.

"Producing that thing really consumed Jerry’s time, on a day-to-day basis, throughout the hiatus. ... What are you going to do in that situation? Say, 'Okay, you can only have this much money and if the thing’s not complete, who cares, wrap it up?' Or are you going to find more money for it and let it become a really worthy project that your band leader and good friend really believes in?... as Jerry had known all along, it captured and defined our identity, since it had the visual element to go along with the music, the animation to go along with the interviews, and the B-roll that really showed viewers with their own eyes the circus that was a Grateful Dead show in San Francisco circa 1974. ... the part of the movie that ate up the biggest slice of the budget and took the most amount of work – the animated sequence in the beginning – is my favorite part. Back then, animation was all done by hand, frame by frame"

On September 3rd the band returns to the road in front of more than 100,000 people at Englishtown Raceway in New Jersey. They hadn't lost a step.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Oooh My Head Is Spinnin'

Elvis Presley : Way Down

On June 19, 1977 CBS Television taped the Elvis Presley concert in Omaha, Nebraska. It would be one of the last concerts the King would ever perform. There are some good moments to be sure, but after paying $750,000 for the rights to a concert special, CBS executives were shocked by how "off", how sweaty and how out of shape Presley seemed.

By this point Presley was heavily medicated for pain. He had serious constipation problems, going weeks without a bowel movement. And yet he would gorge himself on junk food. It is no accident that he died on the toilet two months later. It is also interesting to note that by age 42, Presley's hair was as white as sheet. He dyed it black.

Some highlights from the video below: 
at 8:30 he admits he's nervous to the delight of the fans
at 23:00 he begins handing towels out to screaming women, something he does throughout the show
29:00 he sing "Little Sister" as part of a medley of hits
at 1:00:00 he gives "Hurt" a heartfelt performance that makes you concerned for his heart.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

You'd Be About 60 Now

Hawkwind : Spirt of the Age

On June 17, Hawkwind released Quark, Strangeness and Charm, an album full of all three qualities. Quark, not to be mistaken for the sound a duck makes, is a scientific term for a subatomic particle. It's the kind of thing science fiction buffs long time Hawkwind associate Michael Moorcock and the band's new vocalist Robert Calvert could spend hours discussing. Moorcock's friend, Michael Butterworth, has just written a SF novel, The Time of the Hawklords, about a fantasy version of the band whose instruments has the power to save the world.

Ignored by Rolling Stone and regarded only as the birthplace of Motorhead by Spin, Hawkwind received little fanfare in America and even less after bassist Lemmy Kilmister . I was one of those who almost didn't bother listening to Quark. So I was surprised by how much I liked this album. It's a new sound for Hawkwind, more poppy especially on the title cut which sounds like a Roxy Music outtake.

For some fans, this is the favorite album. I've actually had a hard time figuring out what song to spotlight. "Hassan-i Sabbah" has a cool Middle Eastern vibe. "Damnation Alley" is a post apocalyptic rocker. But I've settled on "Spirit of the Age" which begins with ear splitting electronic noises before settling into a krautock vibe and lyrics that tell the tale of a space traveler who has to leave his girlfriend on earth:

I would've liked you to have been deep frozen too 
And waiting still as fresh in your flesh for my return to Earth 
But your father refused to sign the forms to freeze you 
Let's see you'd be about 60 now, 
And long dead by the time I return to Earth 
My time held dreams were full of you, 
As you were when I left; 
Still underage
Your android replica is playing up again
Oh, it's no joke 
When she comes she moans another's name

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sometimes You Get So Lonely

David Bowie : Be My Wife

On June 17, 1977 Davie Bowie released "Be My Wife",  his second single from the album Low. It's a curious tune, full of anguish. As James E Perrone noted in his book The Words and Music of David Bowie, "Be My Wife" is a love song that never uses the word "love", even though it proposes marriage. Many believe Bowie is reaching out to  his estranged wife Angie, but Bowie told Melody Maker that it could have been about anybody. Notable in that it was the first Bowie single since 1971 to fail to chart.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The World Owes Me a Living

The Boomtown Rats : Lookin' After No. 1

On June 16, 1977 Dublin rockers The Boomtown Rats opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for five dates on the U.S. band's first U.K. tour.  While the Heartbreakers got the majority of press coverage, The Rats were the topic of a series of graffiti statements that insisted "Rats Eat Heartbreakers".

I wouldn't be surprised if Bob Geldorf himself spray painted the lines. His stage patter at the time consisted of Trump like boasts such as "We're gonna be SO big, you won't believe it" and "We're gonna have three number ones before we come back here". (They did hit UK #1 in 1979 with "I Don't Like Mondays").

NME's Chris Salewicz caughter the Rainbow Theater show on June 19.

Tom Petty now must know exactly how Nils Lofgren was feeling when the punk (sic) from the south supported (sic) from Washington all over Europe and the northerner had to pull out every Barnum and Bailey trick in the rock n roll showbiz book to hang on to his credibility. 

For this little Tom Petty topping jaunt about the British Isles, you see, the boot has been - 'ow you say? - on ze other foot. 

The Boomtown Rats are a Dublin band whose visual points up how almost the only thing that separates Northern soul and Southern Punk images is the width of the trousers, and they have, it is said, been giving Mr Petty certain cause for umbridge in their outing as support band. The stock headliner's prerogatives such as only utterly minimal time permitted for the support band's sound check, have been wielded. This is because, it appears. The Boomtown Rats are a very strong outfit indeed. 

Basically, they play amphetamine hard rock with a lot of soul. In the tradition of provincial English bands with a penchant for the blues, they possess a keyboards player who sticks in great rolling Alan Price - in - the - days - of - the - Animals underlays to each number. They have a very light, black sounding rhythm section, plus twin guitarists who inject heavy metaldersity, though not volume, into the proceedings.

 They also have a very powerful vocalist with an excellent line in Jaggeres que/Iggy onstage movements. Tom Petty's main problem is that he was/is being billed as a punk, at a time of shifting (or, in fact, already long shifted) definitions. But these days, anyway, not even sociologically backward Yanks can get away with selling themselves as that and try wearing a black velvet suit and a pink satin shirt onstage.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Demented Starlings

Al Jarreau : Take Five

In June of 1977 jazz singer Al Jarreau released his Grammy Award winning live album, Look to the Rainbow. His inventive take on "Take Five" is one of the year's great performances. Sounds magazine praises "Take Five" "when his scat shoots blind/wild, like a flock of demented starlings whizzing round a cage" Enjoy! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer of The Ducks

Neil Young and The Ducks : Mr Soul

On June 13, 1977 Neil Young released American Stars and Bars, which featured "Like a Hurricane" and little else of interest to me personally.

Young spent much of the Summer playing in local Santa Cruz nightclubs with The Ducks, a band made up of  Moby Grape's Bob Mosley and others. 

From Wikipedia:

Young  said they could play "Mr. Soul" better than Buffalo Springfield. By mid-June the Ducks began to play, normally two sets a night, three or four times a week. Sometimes there was enough heads-up that they'd be listed in Santa Cruz County’s weekly newspaper the Good Times. The Ducks had become a local sensation.

 The set list for their shows was very democratic. All four could sing and had material, so they took turns throughout the sets in a strict manner. Highlights included "Mr. Soul," a Blackburn tune entitled "Silver Wings," a soul/R and B tune of Mosley's entitled "Gypsy Wedding," and hard Chuck Berry-esque rock and roll sessions sung by Johnny Craviotto. "Comes a Time" was played as a country rocker before turning up in its country-folk studio authenticity. They also did "Homegrown," a cover of Ian and Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds" with Young singing lead, and an instrumental guitar showcase entitled "Windward Passage." Early in the summer "Windward Passage" was done in a kind of psychedelic/surf manner, it grew into a more traditional Young guitar piece as the weeks went on. Young played "Old Black" which sported a Santa Cruz sticker that summer. He usually wore a plaid shirt with drawstring pants that were high fashion at the time. In the smaller clubs the band would shake hands with the crowd at the end. Even in larger venues like the Catalyst which had a maximum capacity of 1,000 people, people would often bump into Young and company waiting in line at the bar between sets. Young was spending some of his big star money that summer on the band, by midsummer they were doing exceptional projections of animations overhead and large mobile recording vans were usually spotted in the alley during most shows. 

 They played all over the Santa Cruz area, from the showcase Catalyst, to the very cozy Crossroads, to down-to-earth spots like the Veteran's Hall. They were not without some rock and roll cliché drama, Craviotto seemed kind of thirsty some evenings, and he passed out behind the drum kit during intermission at a show. Near the end of the summer they played two larger shows, one at the Civic Auditorium that had the current edition of Moby Grape, which the benefit turned out to be their final performance with Young. And an outdoor performance at Cabrillo Community College opening for Elvin Bishop.

   The Ducks managed to end a mere seven weeks after they began. Young's rented house was burglarized and he lost a number of instruments and other items of great sentimental value. As word had spread in the national media about Young joining a local group, crowds increased with out of town "Duck Hunters" less content to let the band have its own identity and more inclined to mindlessly yell for old perennial Neil Young concert favorites. The Ducks continued on for a while without Young and held out hope that he might return, but it did not come to pass.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wo Ist Michael?

U.F.O. : Love to Love 

Just six days before U.F.O's Lights Out tour of America, German wunderpicker Michael Schenker and his Flying V guitar vanished. Even though he was the creative heart of U.F.O., Schenker's relationship with his English bandmates had always been fraught with tension...and the need for a translator. On the road Schenker was a loner and drinking heavily. He would leave the band to be off on his own,  sometimes right in the middle of the show.

  Among the many stories about Schenker;s 1977 disappearance  is the suggestion that he was taking a prescription drug called Heminevrin, a muscle relaxant he mixed with alcohol in the same dangerous way Keith Moon did. 

 The band looked for Schenker is all he usual places. That's how they discovered that he had moved out of his flat and sold his car. There was talk that he might have been abducted by a real U.F.O. It turns out he had just escaped to the South of France with a girlfriend. After Paul "Tonka" Chapman replaced him for the US tour, Schenker returned in September just in time for U.F.O's  tour with Rush.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Your Rubber Ball

KC and the Sunshine Band : I'm Your Boogie Man

On June 11, 1977 KC and the Sunshine Band celebrated their fourth #1 smash hit in the U.S. with "I'm Your Boogie Man".  Only The Jackson 5 had as many #1 hits in the 1970's. KC and the boys probably wouldn't have had as much success if they went with the original lyrics : "I'll be a Song of a Gun, Look What You've Done". On the Part 3 album the song segues into another big KC and the Sunshine Band hit, the US #2 hit "Keep It Comin' Love". 

1 I’M YOUR BOOGIE MAN  –•– K.C. and the Sunshine Band
2 DREAMS –•– Fleetwood Mac 
3 GOT TO GIVE IT UP (Part 1) –•– Marvin Gaye
4 GONNA FLY NOW (Theme From “Rocky”) –•– Bill Conti
6 LUCILLE –•– Kenny Rogers 
7 LONELY BOY –•– Andrew Gold 
9 SIR DUKE –•– Stevie Wonder (1) 
10 COULDN’T GET IT RIGHT –•– The Climax Blues Band

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Mental Anesthesia

Motorhead : Motorhead

On June 10, 1977 Motorhead released its first single. "Motorhead" was the last song Lemmy Kilmister wrote before he was booted from Hawkwind in 1975. The song, about the "wrong kinds of drugs" that Kilmister used until the end of his life,  would provide a blueprint to pretty much everything that followed over the course of the next 40 years. Now that I have a second job I can't possibly find the time to top Jonathan Gold's description of the Motorhead modus operandi in Spin's Alternative Record Guide:

...Distorted bass amped up to the point of insanity, Kilmister's throat-cancer roar, drug-marathon imagery, incomprehensible soccer choruses, and thrashy, trebly, speed-freak guitar crusted over the top like a ripe scab.

Friday, June 9, 2017

No One Cares and No One Knows

J Geils Band : Monkey Island


On June 9, 1977 The J Geils Band released Monkey Island, a surprisingly good sampler of everything the band could bring to the stage. So yes, mostly high energy blues-inspired rock. But I've always been struck by the title cut. Like Springsteen's " The E Street Shuffle", it's got a nice instrumental workout at the top that doesn't sound like anything else in the performer's oeuvre. Robert Christgau hated it but the FM stations around Boston played it all the time in '77.

Christgau was kind about everything else, giving Monkey Island a B+:

 For no good historical reason--1977 is hardly the year of white r and b--this marginally offensive boogie cartoon has suddenly put together twenty minutes of music as consistent as side two of its 1970 debut. A hard one and a soft one and a cover and a closet-intellectual one and a pretty good one--that's their gamut, right? Overdisc, the nine-minute title track bombs and the other originals fail to take off, but the band does a number on Louis Armstrong's "I'm Not Rough," splitting the hard part between Magic Dick's harp and J.'s guitar. So give 'em a hand, folks--they earned it. 

The "cover" was "I Do", the song you've probably heard if you've heard any of the songs on Monkey Island. It's a cover of The Marvelows street corner staple. 

The album opener, "Surrender",  is another good song but not as good as the "Surrender" by The Sharks. Maybe The J Geils Band lost their way in '77, but it's one of the most interesting detours of their long career.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Printed in Real Kiss Blood

Kiss : Christine Sixteen

In June of 1977, Marvel Comics released a super special KISS issued "printed in real KISS blood". I bought a copy because, well, I was a 13 year old boy. Here's a look inside.

The blood was drawn by a registered nurse on February 21st, 1977 at Nassau Coliseum and has been under guarded refrigeration until the day when it was delivered to the Borden Ink Plant in Depew, NY.

Stan Lee was present as members of the band poured their blood at the printing plant.

   Of course it begins with an origin story. An old guy in a yellow t shirt and fur briefs throws Gene and Paul a box. Cornered by bad guys the band hides out in a photo booth and opens the box. Inside are three wood carvings and a black star. 

Smoke fills the booth and suddenly:

They've all got powers. And it doesn't take long before someone wants the so called box of Khyscz ( pronounced Kiss?)

That someone is Dr. Doom.

With the Justice League looking on, KISS win the day. At the end of the month KISS would release Love Gun, their sixth studio album.