Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Morning Glory

Earth Wind and Fire : Serpentine Fire

In October of 1977 Earth Wind and Fire released the single "Serpentine Fire", a #1 R and B hit for seven weeks and a #13 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

Maurice White explained the idea behind "Serpentine Fire":

 "The Kundalini principle has to do with the fluid in the spine. After 29 days, if used properly, it can be converted into a higher consciousness of energy, which means you can step up or step down, it's your choice. It's called a serpent, because if you tipped the spine out of the body and looked at it, it would look like a serpent - and the fluid is the fire in the spine." He adds, "Nobody knows what I'm talking about, but a lot of kids go out and look it up and immediately it expands their consciousness."

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Latest Craze

The Adverts : Safety in Numbers

On October 28, 1977 The Adverts followed up their single "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" with "Safety In Numbers".  Though self-labeled "one chord wonders" at the birth of punk, the Adverts were getting better and more disdainful of the whole movement. As more neophytes embraced the punk movement, T.V. Smith dismissed the scene with the lines "Here we all are in the latest craze/ Stick with the crowd/ hope it's not a passing phase/ It's the latest thing to be nowhere"

.Michael Dempsey was the band's producer. He beat up a music journalist who have The Adverts a bad review and two years after the band broke up he died after falling off a ladder trying to change a lightbulb while drunk.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

In Love With Janie Jones

The Clash : Janie Jones

On October 29, 1977 two of the year's breakthough bands, The Clash and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, performed at the Apollo in Manchester. Cameras caught the Clash in action and I can't imagine a band more exciting to see in that day. 

Among the songs The Clash played was Janie Jones, the subject of a Caroline Coon story in Sounds Magazine earlier that month:

 DURING THE hot summer of 1976, a No. 31 bus jolts through Notting Hill Gate. On the top deck is Mick Jones, humming a riff. He is pleased. The riff sounds great and a song shapes up as the bus rumbles on. Then, as Mick's eyes flicker over his fellow passengers, two words jump out of the columns of an evening newspaper and, like typographical guerrillas, invade his thoughts. Janie Jones!

 Until that moment Mick had been composing an unspecific rocker about the little guy who gets ground down by dead-end, nine to five office routine. Unexpectedly, and quite spontaneously, Janie Jones sent the song headlong into another dimension.

 The Strummer/Jones writing team has a masterful knack of picking images which rub home the Clash's pointed view. Driven along by sounds like a prophesy of the clamour demolition men will make when they start tearing down tower blocks, their songs are direct and eloquent testimonials to 'ordinary life' and street level oppression. Despite critical sour grapes from some quarters, the band remain committed to emotive lines like "Making tea for the B.B.C", "Being too long on the dole" or "drowning in a sea of T.V." But despite classics like '1977' or 'White Man In Hammersmith Palais' they have yet to evoke the drab lot of the ordinary person more vividly than when, in 'Janie Jones', an office worker is juxtaposed against a rich man's sex symbol....

... Mick wrote 'Janie Jones' three years after Janie herself hit the headlines and, like the rest of the band and countless fans who now grafitti her name across their t-shirts, he knew almost nothing about her. 

 Janie slipped into mythology as The Queen of Vice, the epitome of decadence in high places and surburban tittillation via the Old Bailey and the News Of The World. Instinctively however, Mick knew she was very different from cliched sex symbol/objects like Monroe and Bardot. Enough had filtered through between the media lines for him to realise that she had experienced a personal tragedy played out in political terms. Her name evokes precisely those elements of establishment hypocrisy, class discrimination and double standards which are the Clash's raison d'etre. It amuses Mick to think that Janie's ex-"friends" and peers of the realm are among those calling for a ban on "Obscene!" punk rock.

 In fact, Mick had stumbled across (for want of a better description) another heroine of our times. Janie is in good company. Other names in the Clash pantheon include Anna Mendelson, Leila Kaled and Bernadette Devlin. (No nubiles there! The Stranglers, as usual, have a particularly one-sided view of life.)

 Even so, Mick didn't write ABOUT Janie. "Her name just got slotted in," he says. "But when it did, the song evolved into something that wasn't really meant in the first place. The energy of the song got directed to her."

 As it happened, when the Clash first stormed through the trimphant "woooh's" of the song in question, Janie Jones herself was on her knees scrubbing floors in H.M Prison, Holloway.

 In May 1973 she was sent to jail for seven years for running a call girl system. 

 "I knew too much about too many people and of course, I took the piss out of the Judge in court all the time..." says Janie, trying to give some rationale to her very severe sentence.

 You would have thought four years in Holloway and Style prisons had left some obvious mark on Janie. But no. When she opened the door of her bijou Kensington house, I was surpised. She is thirty-eight, but what few lines there are on her face curl upwards giving the impression not only of youth and laughter but irripressible good fun too. And resilience. No wonder tired business men and superstars found her such good company. 

 While her companion/bouncer Denise (anex-prison warden) mates tea, Janie curls up on the white demask sofa in her gentile sitting room. She talks about her trial as if she had been staring opposite Brian Rix in a Whitehall farce. 

 "The prosecuting council says to me 'you've had a secretary for seven years and you're married. I put it to you Miss Jones that you're bi-sexual!'

 "I said 'no I'm not. I'm tri-sexual. I'll try anything once'. You see, all the way through I was just cracking jokes.

 "The prosecutor said 'all the stars came over to your show business parties and they brought their girlfriends. If they had sex in your bedroom you'd know about it wouldn't you?' And I said 'not really. Unless it was anything unusual'.

 "And the Judge boomed 'what do you mean UNUSUAL!?' And I replied 'Ah well, my Lord, if they had sex swinging from the chandelier I'd probably know about it'. And he said 'wouldn't that worry you'. And I said 'No, I wouldn't be worried about the sex, but I'd be worried about the chandelier'. And the whole court burst out laughing. You see, every time I said something like that it was a couple more years down. Judge King Hamilton (who presided over the Gay News Trial) is completely puritanical – the you-shouldn't-have-sex-before-marriage type." 

 Did she expect to be sent to prison? "Not in a million years. Never that. I couldn't believe it when he said seven years. SEVEN YEARS. I thought he was joking. The judge thought I was terribly wicked. He said 'of all the women I've ever tried, you are the most evil. I thought one woman was really evil, but you leave that woman in the shade'. Well, then I started laughing. It was completely sick. I called him a hypocritical bastard and he demanded an apology. But I refused and they had to drag me from the court". 

 Should prostitution be legalised? "Of course. I don't think what I did was a crime. I knew call girls who wanted to make money so I introduced them to men. And I got seven years for that". 

 Janie was born in Durham, the daughter of a coalminer. He died fifteen years ago of phneumacosis. She liked her parents and still has a steady warm relationship with her mother. "But when I saw all the poverty in the north, I thought 'no, this is not for me. I've got to get out of it'." Her father put up mild resistance and before she finally settled in London she worked for a time as a nurse in a Bedfordshire mental hospital. 

 Her first real show biz engagement was at the Windmill Theatre, Soho. The girls there were troupers in the good old theatrical sense of the word. They danced through five shows a day, smiling and flashing flesh into a sea of leering male faces. The Windmill had the girls under exclusive contract, but Janie, always enterprising, felt restricted. The Cabaret Club was conveniently close and soon Janie was starring in her own show there as well. Her younger sister joined her and for a while they did a double act. Naturally, rich and titled groupies would chat her up but, since she was already well looked after by "The Colonel" – a sugar daddy who bought her the house in Kensington – Janie passed most of them off to other girls in the show. 

 In 1966 she recorded a song, written by her sister, called 'Witches Brew' and it went to No. 7 in the chart. She married Long John Baldrey's friend, song writer Christian Dee and together they went into business promoting his songs, her records and a few groups. Later she found out that her husband was "a crank" (he's now serving ten years in a German jail for attempted murder) but for a while life was very glamorous. If Janie wasn't exactly knocking Shirley Bassey off her cabaret pedestal, her hospitality was much in demand. 

 Her house had become a meeting place and hot-bed of extra marital activity for the sporting elite of showbusiness.

 "It was a kind of private club where they wouldn't be disturbed," explains Janie. "I held parties every two weeks and everybody who was anybody and their friends came. They had a fantastic time. People said they were the greatest parties in London." 

 The good times lasted for about five years until Janie, probably to dodge various clouds looming on the horizon, and certainly because a Japanese millionaire had taken her under his wing, left London for Hollywood. 

 She set up as a P.R. on premises just vacated by Ronald Reagan (ex-film star and ex-Governor of California) and she'd ferry between the office and her exclusive Hollywood Hills home in a Cadillac. Very nice. 

 TWO YEARS later the phone rang and an old "titled friend" was on the line in hysterics.

 "Janie, your parties are on the front page of the News Of The World," he gurgled. "If you don't come back to London on the next plane I'll have a heart attack. It can't come out that I like girls dressed up as school girls with teddy bears. It can't! I'll give you £10,000 to fight the News Of The World and to tell them that the prostitutes are lying." 

 Janie came back to London. But, far from winding down their enquiries, Janie's stand against the News Of The World only made them more determined to run their expose to the limit. You can read about it in Janie's autobiography, suffice to say that central to the whole luric story were allegations of payola involving BBC disc jockeys. 

 It was alleged that Janie got DJ's to play records in exchange for feminine (or male) favours. Eventually the Beeb made their own enquiries and the people involved got a clean bill of health. But Janie wasn't off the hook. She was charged with running a call girl racket and the police got four girls, in return for total immunity and anonymity (the first time this ever was allowed), to act as prosecuting witnesses. They were know in court as Miss A, B, C and D. The titled gentleman was called Mr. Y. 

 'Well', thought Janie, 'if that lot are going to be protected, then all my friends will be too'. Not one of the stars who came to her parties were mentioned by name but, the list was so long that the Clerk of the Court had to go through the alphabet twice – Mr. F, Mr G,Mr. AA2, Mr.BB2 etc... 

 If the trial had its funny side, then Janie makes prison sound like a visit to Butlins.

 "I had to make the best of it. I had to see the funny side of it. If you don't have a sense of humour...Well, I would have committed suicide over and over again. I was in there so I thought I'd see how the system worked. Then I helped the other prisoners do something about it, the legal way. We wrote hundreds of petitions to the Home Office about this and that. Which is perhaps why they kept me in longer. They saw all the petitions and they thought 'she fights the system all the time and she's not conforming. We'll keep her in till she stops'. But I didn't stop." 

 "I'd see girls going mental and cracking up. The physical hardship is bad. But prison is really only and completely mental torture." 

"On the other hand I think you do have to suffer hardships before you can be a good artist. You've got to go through hard times before you can go on a stage and know that every word you sing means something. And I think that will come out in my singing now." 

Janie was released suddenly on May the 2nd. She left Holloway Prison in a battered old mini to escape the hordes of press and TV cameras. On her way up North to her mother's she turned on the car radio – and nearly jumped out of her seat. 'Janie Jones' was blaring over the airwaves. Coincidentally, the Clash album had been released the same week. 

 "They timed it beautifully," Janie laughs. "I'd just got through the prison gates and I heard that. It was incredible." 

 To-day she has an affectionate admiration for the Clash and she was looking forward to meeting them. We motored up to their rehearsal studio after the interview. 

 Janie taps her feet as the band polish up the numbers they'll play on tour. For Mick and Joe, however, singing about someone and meeting them in person are two very different levels of intimacy. They are both shy and nervous. It's the wordly Paul Simonon who takes charge. 

 "Let's go over to the pub," he suggests to everyone's relief. 

 After a round of drinks the ice is broken and Janie has the band bug-eyed with her racy stories. 

 "She's great," says Mick later, regretting even more that 'Janie Jones' was not the Clash's second single. 

 When 'Remote Control' was released instead, Mick and Joe reacted by writing their latest epic, 'Complete Control'. Now they are planning to write a song for Janie. 'Vice Is Nice' is the working title. Let's hope Janie will be free to sing it when she goes on the road next year. 

 You see, there is a slight hitch for her future plans. Not content to send her to prison for seven years, the Judge also fined her £16,000 – £12,000 court costs and £4,000 for the prosecution – with another year inside if she can't pay. 

 Where are all her rich friends now? Commuting between their landed estates and the House of Lords, perhaps? Or flashing from stage spotlights into their limousines and more show biz parties and paid-for fun? A woman's lot is not always a happy one

Saturday, October 28, 2017

So In-Now-In-Now-Inarticulate

Queen : Sheer Heart Attack

On October 28, 1977 Queen released News of the World, an album that must have appealed to every 13 year old boy alive. At that age we are particularly susceptible to the fascist stomp of "We Will Rock You" and the boastful chant of "We Are the Champions". As a 13 year old I found much that appealed to me, especially the album cover by Frank Kelly Freas. 

Bart Testa wrote this review for Rolling Stone.

 Queen makes elaborate music from shards of nostalgia for the British Empire. They push boys' public-school chorales and English martial music through the funnel of hard rock, aiming carefully at romantic crescendos embellished with heavy echo. Apparently, the intention is that the long-tarnished glories of "tradition" will be repolished on the band's hard pumice.

 Most of the songs on News of the World either challenge Queen's artistic enemies or endeavor to establish a vision of the new order. "We Are the Champions" ends with the line, "No time for losers, 'cause we are the champions -- of the world." It's an appropriate comment for a side that also includes "We Will Rock You," which has the atmosphere of a political rally in a Leni Riefenstahl movie and is at once a rock anthem and a commandment. "Sheer Heart Attack" makes Queen the first major band to attempt a demonstration of superiority over punk rock by marching onto its stylistic turf. It works, too, because the power trio behind vocalist Freddie Mercury is truly primitive. Once you've seen Queen onstage , away from the cut and paste of the studio, it's painfully clear that "Sheer Heart Attack" is less a matter of slumming than of warfare among equals in incompetent musicianship. 

The rest of side one uses the elaborate Led Zeppelin approach for which Queen is famous, but the songs go even further into punk sociology, reaching a peak with "Fight from the Inside," which seems nothing less than a Tory's sketch for a junta. It's sung like a slogan fired from a machine gun. This is chilling stuff, but the coldness seems to befit Queen. On side two, the group lolls through a series of songs about sexual failure (hers!), stardom and ennui as they make a mildly persuasive argument for boredom as the proper posture prior to the apocalypse. 

Late sons of the Empire though they may be, Queen has nothing to fear, or to do. In their moneyed superiority, they are indeed champions. Such are the salient fictions of which todays' Top Ten albums are made.

From Billboard:

Queen's characteristic use of grandiosity rising from a basic rock lineup drives the group's latest LP through its soundtrack-like song structure. Alternating between clear melodic piano to solid driving rock guitar force, the songs range from a strolling acoustic samba/ballad to a heavy dose of punk frenzy. Freddie Mercury's crystal operatic voice spearheads vocal contributions from the entire quartet featuring moments of rich harmonic texture. Songs of self-potential realization, youthful searching, frustration and love memories comprise the group's writing and production efforts. Best cuts: "We Are The Champions," "Sheer Heart Attack," "It's Late."

From Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s

1977, the year that punk rock exploded in the UK, saw Queen produce its third blockbusting album in a row. The band's two previous "companion" albums, A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races, had confirmed the four piece as one of the best "pomp" rock acts around, but News Of The World, which reached Number Four in the UK and the third slot in the US, took Queen to the next level, powering them to become one of the world's premier stadium acts. And what better to play in a stadium than an anthem? The album possessed two such epics, in the form of "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions," both of which featured on one single released in the UK and US, hitting Numbers Two and Four respectively in these countries' charts. The single gave Elektra records their first 2,000,000 selling single, while the album spent 37 weeks in the charts.

News Of The World, despite being the band's quickest album to record, is no two-track wonder. It also contains brooding numbers such asd "Spread Your Wings" and the jazz-like "My Melancholy Blues," together with full-speed rock tracks such as "Sheer Heart Attack," seen by many fans the band's riposte to the burgeoning punk movement, which saw in Queen everything that was overblown in rock. The album cover is by the renowned sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas. 

 As of 2004, News Of The World was the #52 best-selling album of the 70s.

Friday, October 27, 2017

I'm Not An Animal

The Sex Pistols : Bodies

If the sessions had gone the way I wanted, it would have been unlistenable for most people. I guess it's the very nature of music; if you want people to listen, you're going to have to compromise.
-Johnny Rotten

On October 28, 1977 The Sex Pistols released their debut album, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's the  The Sex Pistols . I didn't get around to hearing the album for years, but when I did, it both scared and excited me. It also disappointed me because , musically, it didn't really sound as revolutionary as we'd heard. Sure, Johnny Rotten was ferocious, especially those scathing lyrics. I began playing bar chords on my acoustic guitar and enlisted my ten year old sister into writing a song that began "There's a fucking little girl who lives down the street/ All she does is beg and eat".

In the US we had heard of the Sex Pistols but most of us didn't get around to actually hearing the Sex Pistols. I think it's a monument more than monumental. An album that came towards the end of a very specific time.

Here's what Billboard Magazine said about the album at the time of its release:

 Loud, raucous and irreverent, this LP delivers as promised. This is punk rock at its best, with no letup. Once it begins there's no getting up for air until the record ends. It's all simple riffs and elemental chords with a machine gun beat, but nobody does it better. Included here are all the notorious hits that so shocked the English establishment. Once you get past the rawness of it all, it becomes apparent that this band can craft some very relevant tunes. Best cuts: "Pretty Vacant," "God Save The Queen," "Anarchy In The U.K.," "EMI," "Holidays In The Sun."

Here's what the dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau, said in his A rated review:

Get this straight: no matter what the chicmongers want to believe, to call this band dangerous is more than a suave existentialist compliment. They mean no good. It won't do to pass off Rotten's hatred and disgust as role-playing -- the gusto of the performance is too convincing. Which is why this is such an impressive record. The forbidden ideas from which Rotten makes songs take on undeniable truth value, whether one is sympathetic ("Holidays in the Sun" is a hysterically frightening vision of global economics) or filled with loathing ("Bodies," an indictment from which Rotten doesn't altogether exclude himself, is effectively anti-abortion, anti-woman, and anti-sex). These ideas must be dealt with, and can be expected to affect the way fans think and behave. The chief limitation on their power is the music, which can get heavy occasionally, but the only real question is how many American kids might feel the way Rotten does, and where he and they will go next. I wonder -- but I also worry

Ali MacQueen wrote about the album for 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die: 

In a decade of social unrest, the grey façade of 1970s Britain was crumbling under high unemployment and apathy. The entire country seemed in a state of cold turkey, the optimism of the 1960s a distant memory. Along came a kick in the balls, literal as well as titular. 

 As soon as the Pistols played their first gigs, their notoriety was in danger of surpassing the music. This was a feeling intensified by Jamie Reid's luminous cover. With its iconic logo and use of an expletive, stores refused to stock it and a court case came to pass (dismissed after Richard Branson called in a linguistics professor to testify to the non-obscene origins of the word). With style about to overshadow substance, the marching steps that introduce "Holidays In The Sun" were a venomous reminder that beneath the artwork was an album that was about to alter our perception of music, fashion, and generational attitudes. 

 There is the ferocity of "Bodies," with its abortion-based theme, and Steve Jones' simple but devastatingly effective riff on "Pretty Vacant," which gave hope to useless guitarists everywhere.
 "Anarchy In The UK," of course, is the album's most famous rallying cry but "God Save The Queen" matches it all the way as an epicenter of anger. Johnny Rotten bends and sculpts every note into a vituperative, royalty-aimed arrow. Few moments from popular music can ever match Rotten's guttural cry of "no future for you." Years of misery for the nation's youth were encapsulated right there and then.

And from Tom Moon's 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die :

For better or worse, this thirty-nine-minute blast of loud and proud scruffiness has become punk's ground zero. That's not to say it's the best punk record, or even necessarily the first. But it was the first one to tantalize, to terrorize, and eventually galvanize a large part of the rock-speaking world. And it remains an essential document for understanding the music's cyclical upheavals: When the Sex Pistols exploded, rock was mostly Foreigner. Safe stuff, with few aspirations toward rattling the status quo. 

 The Sex Pistols charged into the ring with an unruly sound, and an us-against-them ideology that disaffected kids everywhere understood immediately. These four musicians, barely competent on their instruments, took up the cause of England's unemployed and downtrodden, the legions of young people trampled by bad economics. As John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) said years later: "If we had an aim, it was to force our own working-class opinions into the mainstream, which was unheard of in pop music at the time."

 Force them they did, with help from a rampaging guitar-as-blunt-instrument attack and manager Malcolm McLaren's formidable hype machine. Early gigs were newsworthy for rowdy behavior (the band was known to spit on and taunt its audiences) that led to, in several instances, near-riots. McLaren seized upon the notoriety, using television appearances and outrageous altercations with media to fan the flames, and by the time this album arrived, a sense of full-on revolt was in the air. 

 Never Mind the Bollocks doesn't really need any hype. Its snarled refrains and bellicose chants -- "No future for you!" Rotten sneers throughout "God Save the Queen" -- signal that this is a profoundly different rock and roll enterprise. The songwriting's minimal. There's, like, zero finesse in the playing. And yet when the band lunges into "Pretty Vacant" or "Anarchy in the U.K.," it unleashes an undeniable force, leading to explosions of awesome magnitude that proved key to the then-developing ethos of punk. Fans loved the Sex Pistols because the band's music mirrored and magnified the decay they saw all around them. People who loathed the band considered its music (and its tactics) fresh evidence of society's decline. Both sides, at least, agreed on the existence of a downward spiral.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What the Hell is Wrong With You

999 : Nasty! Nasty!

On October 26, 1977 London's 999 released the classic punk single " Nasty! Nasty!"

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Standin', Oh So Near

The Cars : Just What I Needed (1977 Demo)

In 1977 a nine song demo tape by a local band called The Cars reached Boston radio stations WBCN and WCOZ. They played "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl", both of which became the station's most requested songs. That's all it took for Elektra to sign The Cars who would eventually sell six million copies of their 1978 debut album. If nothing else, this demo should make you appreciate producer Roy Thomas Baker.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Inspiration Drive

The Jam : The Modern World (album version)

On October 21 1977 The Jam released "The Modern World", a four song maxi-single featuring the title track of their second album which would come out in November. I've posted the album version which has Weller spitting out the lyrics "I don't give two fucks about your review". The radio version changed that to the safer "I don't give a damn about your review".  The single included two soul covers recorded live at London's 100 Club. The single peaked at UK #38 and was the only one pulled from the album. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bang A Gong

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers : Egyptian Reggae

On October 23, 1977 the Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers instrumental "Egyptian Reggae" entered the U.K. charts at #49. The charming tune, based on Earl Zero's "None Shall Escape the Judgement", would be Richman's biggest hit, peaking at U.K. #5. That's despite the fact the song is neither Egyptian nor reggae. The video is a delight thanks to Richman's short-lived "Vote For Pedro" mustache and the drummer's inability to bang a gong.  The tune has regained some of its notoriety thanks to its inclusion on the Baby Driver soundtrack. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

It's A Rich Man's World

ABBA : Money, Money, Money

On October 22, 1977 ABBA's "Money, Money, Money" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #84. It would stall at US #56 but hit #1 in seven countries thanks in part to a Cabaret inspired music video directed by Lasse Hallström (My Life As a Dog, Cider House Rules). 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Holy Cow

Meat Loaf : Paradise by the Dashboard Lights

On October 21, 1977 Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell was released to the world, the ninth best selling album of the 1970s. Excessive and campy, it did nothing for me at the time and still fails to stir my soul despite my appreciation of producer Todd Rundgren and the presence of members of the E Street Band. I don't want this much opera in my rock opera and songwriter Jim Steinman leads Meat Loaf to a place that is far too theatrical for me. Apparently the trick to falling in love with this album is to get drunk and sing along with friends ( which is how, I'm convinced, Steinman's  "Total Eclipse of the Heart" has also earned its legendary status).

From Dave Marsh writing for Rolling Stone:

Meat Loaf earned his somewhat eccentric name as a performer in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the theatrical torture, although he had previously spent several years as a rock singer in Detroit, even recording a single or two for Motown. Bat Out of Hell reflects such diversity, but can't resolve it. Meat Loaf has an outstanding voice, but his phrasing is way too stage-struck to make the album's pretentions to comic-book street life real. He needs a little less West Side Story and a little more Bruce Springsteen. 

 Jim Steinman, who wrote an arranged the entire album, needs a lot less of both. Some of the songs here, particularly "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth," are swell, but they are entirely mannered and derivative. Steinman is wordy, and his attempts to recapture adolescence are only remembrances; he can't bring out the transcendently personal elements that make a song like "Night Moves," an obvious influence here. The arrangements aren't bad, although they play into the hammiest of Meat Loaf's postures, and the playing is excellent, led by pianist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg of Springsteen's E Street Band and producer Todd Rundgren's guitars. But the principals have some growing to do.

Billboard's reviewer has no idea the album would sell four million copies:

This debut album has mixed commercial potential. Some driving rock cuts, if shortened, have enough pop appeal to gain AM airplay. But the LP also contains some lengthy tunes that are complex in arrangement and slightly forbidding. Producer Todd Rundgren also contributes guitar work. Best cuts: "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth," "All Revved Up With No Place To Go," "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad."

From 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die

The combination of Meat Loaf (real name Marvin Lee Aday), a larger-than-life actor from Texas with an operatic voice, his surreal songwriting friend from New York, Jim Steinman, and producer Todd Rundgren resulted in an album that, despite never topping the UK album chart, resided there on and off for nearly ten years. Using backing musicians such as Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band plus members of Rundgren's group Utopia, Bat Out Of Hell included three hit singles (the title track, "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth [Hot Summer Night]" and "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad"), which, much like most of the album, were appropriately epic proportions (the fourth label which had been involved in the project). 

 Several extraordinary video clips promoted the album, and "Paradise By The Dashboard Light," a story of lust in a car, included a commentary by Phil Rizzuto on events, which he likened to a baseball game. The songs on the album were written by Steinman for his musical Neverland, a futuristic rock version of Peter Pan, in which Meat Loaf would play the part of Tinkerbell (when asked, he did not deny it, other than to say the character would be called Tink). 

 For some, the real stars of this brilliantly over-the-top extravaganza were the songs, the work of Jim Steinman's highly disturbed, but extremely imaginative mind; Steinman later wrote big hit songs for Bonnie Tyler ("Total Eclipse Of The Heart"), Barry Manilow ("Read 'Em And Weep") and Celine Dion ("It's All Coming Back To Me Now"), among others. But those tracks have never inspired the affection aroused by this high-camp metal musical extravaganza.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Dad Drop Dead

Godley and Creme :  When Things Go Wrong

In October of 1977 former 10cc members Lol Creme and Kevin Godley released Consequences, a boxed triple disc that began as a demonstration album for the pair's invention, the gizmo. The album too 18 months to make, during which the punk scene exploded all over the U.K.

Said Kevin Godley :

"There was a seismic, paradigm shift. I knew we were doomed. We emerged blinking into the light, and everyone was wearing safety pins and bondage trousers. We'd been working on a semi-avant-garde orchestral triple album with a very drunk Peter Cook and me singing with Sarah Vaughan, while outside it was like a nuclear bomb had dropped."

The reviews were devastating. Lol Creme shook them off but he says his partner was hurt by the negative feedback :

"Kevin was heartbroken, I don't think he's got over it yet. He was really, really upset about the way it was received, like a big turkey, really. I didn't take it the way Kevin did, to be honest, because I loved doing it so much and I learned so much, got so much out of it, a totally selfish thing, I didn't give a shit, I really didn't. And I never have, to me it's the doing of something that's the vibe, it's not necessarily the result. It's always a bonus if what you do does well, but it's not that precious, you know. I've always thought like that. "And I could see why it was laughed at, it does look like a pretentious pile of old stuff. We were self-indulgent pop stars, there's no question about it."

I have yet to get through the entire thing without fast forwarding through the dialogue sections. Godley and Creme would make up for their indulgences with a remarkable follow-up in 1978 called L.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Every Time I Turn Around

L.T.D. : Back in Love Again

During the week of October 15, 1977 L.T.D. 's "Back In Love Again" debuted on the Hot 100 Singles list at #88.  The funky disco tune sung by Jeffrey Osborne would peak at U.S. #4 and top the R and B charts for two weeks. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Angel of Darkness

Lynyrd Skynyrd : That Smell

On October 17, 2017, Lynyrd Skynyrd released Street Survivors, an eight song collection of Southern Rock that has been overshadowed by a fatal plane accident three days later that took the lives of singer Ronnie Van Zant,  newcomer guitarist Steve Gaines, his older sister and backing vocalist  Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. The album would go Top 5 in the U.S. thanks to the singles "What's Your Name" (US#13) , "You Got That Right" (US#69) and heavy radio play for "That Smell".

Out of respect for family members of the dead, the cover of Street Survivors would be changed. 

From Robert Christgau's A review :

Some rock deaths are irrelevant, while others make a kind of sense because the artists involved so obviously long to transcend (or escape) their own mortality. But for Ronnie Van Zant, life and mortality were the same thing -- there was no way to embrace one without at least keeping company with the other. So it makes sense that "That Smell" is the smell of death, or that in "You Got That Right" Van Zant boasts that he'll never be found in an old folks' home. As with too many LPs by good road bands, each side here begins with two strong cuts and then winds down. The difference is that the two strong cuts are very strong and the weak ones gain presence with each listen. I'm not just being sentimental. I know road bands never make their best album the sixth time out, and I know Van Zant had his limits. But I mourn him not least because I suspect that he had more good music left in him than Bing and Elvis put together

From Brian Hiatt's ***1/2 review for Rolling Stone upon the release of the reissued 2008 CD which contained extra tracks. 

Three days after the release of Street Survivors in 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines died in a plane crash that severely injured the rest of the band members. 

But even without the added resonance of tragedy, the album's second track, "That Smell," would have stood out in the band's catalog. It bites the chord progression and the apocalyptic vibe of "All Along the Watchtower" for a tale of the "smell of death" that surrounds a character trapped in drug addiction (and a pretty heavy habit at that: The lyrics allude to coke, weed, alcohol and ludes). The swampy groove and Van Zant's bluesy, understated vocals -- listen to his offhandedly contemptuous delivery of the line "stuck a needle in your arm" -- manage to sustain the ominous mood even when the female backing singers harmonize on the phrase "Hell, yeah!" Early versions of "That Smell" (including a slower take that comes in at seven and a half minutes, thanks to epic, "Freebird"-worthy guitar duels) are the highlight of the bonus disc here, which includes a more stripped-down early version of the entire album. Street Survivors was the most meticulously crafted record of the original Skynyrd's eleven-year career and, as a result, their most consistent. Album opener and classic rock-radio staple "What's Your Name" is the second-greatest groupie song of all time (next to "Stray Cat Blues"), and the Allmans-esque "I Never Dreamed" is its flip side, a redneck-emo tale of lady-killer machismo thwarted by love: "I've had a thousand, maybe more/ But never one like you," Van Zant sings, as the lead guitars match him, lament for lament. Perhaps best of all is the band's raucously virtuosic take on Merle Haggard's "Honky Tonk Night Time Man," which overflows with gorgeous country riffs that sound like pure chicken-fried joy. And Van Zant's voice is rich and authentic enough to make you mourn the pure country album he never got to record.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Now I Got A Reason

Sex Pistols : Holidays in the Sun

On October 14, 1977 The Sex Pistols released "Holidays in the Sun". A #8 U.K. chart hit from the forthcoming album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, this would be the last single with John Lydon singing. Lydon says the song was based on a disappointing holiday in Jersey, followed by a visit to rainy Berlin where, at least, they were far away from London:

"Being in London at the time made us feel like we were trapped in a prison camp environment. There was hatred and constant threat of violence. The best thing we could do was to go set up in a prison camp somewhere else. Berlin and its decadence was a good idea. The song came about from that. I loved Berlin. I loved the wall and the insanity of the place. The communists looked in on the circus atmosphere of West Berlin, which never went to sleep, and that would be their impression of the West."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fun Is Second Best

The Jam : I've Changed My Address

On October 15, 1977 The Jam played CBGB's . Drummer Rik Buckler doesn't have fond memories of the bar that became a cornerstone of the American punk and new wave scene:

What I remember most about CBGB's is the cramped dressing room and being visited by one of the Ramones.  I don't know which one it was as they all looked the same, same hair, same jeans and biker jackets. ..Patti Smith also popped in to say "hi"...I was disappointed with CBGB because it was quite small and not how I thought it would be. Everyone was raving about the club being the New York version of London's Marquee, but it was nothing like the Marquee....I remember reading graffiti and stickers on the wall around the club and there just seemed to be a mess everywhere. The toilets were to be avoided too, if you could manage it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Slaughter in the Air

David Bowie : Beauty and the Beast 

On October 14, 1977, the day Bing Crosby died, David Bowie released "Heroes", the second installment of the Bowie/Eno/Visconti Berlin trilogy. This was the third Bowie album I ever owned, following ChangesOne and Aladdin Sane. I was 17 and at first I was put off by the disjointed, angular sounds (courtesy of Robert Fripp, Bowie and Eno) ,  the sinister undertones ( not just a reflection of the album cover) and almost an entire side of ambient experiments. 

How was I to know that I was listening to the future?

A few cool facts : Robert Fripp, who plays lead guitar on six songs, spent a total of six hours in the studio. Some of his tracks were laid down the first time he ever heard the songs.  

Bowie and Eno used Eno's Oblique Strategy cards, drawing inspiration from instructions. For the duet "Sense of Doubt", Eno's instruction was "Try to make everything as similar as possible", while Bowie's was "Emphasize differences". 

 Finally there are quite a few allusions to alcohol, the fuel with which Bowie replaced cocaine:  some songs are all set in bars while the narrator of "Blackout" has been drinking rotten wine. And then there's the line in the title track, "I drink all the time".

The album topped the NME Best Albums list that year, but since then Low has taken its place as the great Bowie album of 1977

From Rolling Stone critic Bart Testa :

Heroes is the second album in what we can now hope will be a series of David Bowie-Brian Eno collaborations, because this album answers the question of whether Bowie can be a real collaborator. Like his work with Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople and Iggy Pop, Low, Bowie's first album with Eno, seemed to be just another auteurist exploitation, this time of the Eno-Kraftwerk avant-garde. Heroes, though, prompts a much more enthusiastic reading of the collaboration, which here takes the form of a union of Bowie's dramatic instincts and Eno's unshakable sonic serenity. Even more importantly, Bowie shows himself for the first time as a willing, even anxious, student rather than a simple cribber. As rock's Zen master, Eno is fully prepared to show him the way. 

 Like Low, Heroes is divided into a cyclic instrumental side and a song-set side. "V-2 Schneider" is an ingeniously robotic recasting of Booker T. and the M.G.'s -- at once typical of Bowie's obsession with pop dance music and a spectacular instance of an Eno R + B "study" (a going concern of Eno's own records). "Sense of Doubt" lines up an ominously deep piano figure with Eno synthesizer washes, blending them into "Moss Garden," an exquisitely static cut featuring Bowie on koto, a Japanese string instrument. Low had no such moments of easy exchange; Bowie either submitted his voice as another instrument for Eno to play the part of art-rock keyboard player.

The most spectacular moments on this record occur on the vocal side's crazed rock and roll. Working inside the new style Bowie forged for Iggy Pop, "Beauty and the Beast" makes very weird but probable connections between the fairy tale, Iggy's angel-beast identity and Jean Cocteau's Surrealist Catholicism, a crucial source for Cocteau's film of the tale. 

 For the finale, Heroes explodes into a trilogy of dark prophecy: "Sons of the Silent Age," "Heroes" and "Black Out." It's a Diamond Dogs set that, this time, makes it into the back pages of Samuel Delaney's post-apocalypse fiction, pushed by a brilliant cerebral nova among the players. Bowie sings in a paradoxical (or is it schizo?) style at once unhinged and wholly self-controlled. With a chill, the listener can hear clearly through Bowie's compressed lyrics and the dense sound. 

 We'll have to wait to see if Bowie has found in the austere Eno a long-term collaborator who can draw out the substantial words and music that have lurked beneath the surface of Bowie's clever games for so long. But Eno clearly has effected a nearly miraculous change in Bowie already.

From the dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau who graded the album with a B+

When I first heart the Enofied instrumental textures on side two, as background music, they struck me as more complex than their counterparts on Low, and they are. Low now seems quite pop, slick and to the point even when the point is background noise; in fact, after I completed my comparison, I began to play it a lot. But what was interesting background on "Heroes" proved merely noteworthy as foreground, admirably rather than attractively ragged. Maybe after the next album I'll get the drift of this one.

And finally from Mark Bennett writing for 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die:

Riding the wave he had found with Low, "Heroes" -- the second part of the so-called "Berlin trilogy" -- saw David Bowie continue his gradual reintroduction to humanity. Fresh from a liberating stint as keyboard player on Iggy Pop's Idiot tour, Bowie was now living with Iggy in West Berlin. Relatively drug-free, the pair immersed themselves in seedy Berlin nightlife, miraculously avoiding falling back into old habits. 

 "Heroes" gives the trilogy its decadent splendor, its dramatic, performance art-influenced black-and-white cover photograph, and the darkly evocative song titles clearly inspired Bowie's new home. Where Low mapped the internal landscape of Bowie's fractured psyche, "Heroes," like Iggy's The Idiot (1977) is all about Berlin, from the denizens of its nightclubs in "Blackout" to the gloomy Turkish immigrant quarter in "Neuköln." 

 Featuring many of the musicians who had played on Low (producer Tony Visconti, collaborator Brian Eno, guitarist Carlos Alomar, and rhythm section George Davis and Dennis Davis) the album was recorded in the summer of 1977 at Hansa Studios, a former Gestapo ballroom near to the Berlin wall. Eno, Visconti, and Bowie distilled their location's powerful atmosphere in view of the Red Army guards at Checkpoint Charlie. 

 Like Low, "Heroes" mixed avant-garde pop songs with ambient instrumentals. Eno's influence is felt on the title track, a Velvets-like stomp taken somewhere different by Fripp's inspired, fluid guitar. Re-contextualized by its performance at 1985's Live Aid concert, the song's current existence as stadium fodder belies the emotional complexity of its pare

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Message to Millions

Nils Lofgren : Keith Don't Go (Ode to a Glimmer Twin)

In October of 1977, Nils Lofgren released a double live album called Night After Night.  Recorded at Hammersmith Odeon, Apollo Theater in Glasgow and The Roxy in Los Angeles, the album captures the diminutive guitar giant at his best.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Just Like Glue

Graham Parker and the Rumour : Stick To Me

In mid October 1977, Graham Parker and the Rumour released Stick To Me. Despite the cover, it's not a live album but a collection of songs hastily recorded after one of the worst production mishaps in rock history. The timing couldn't have been worse. Following Howlin' Wind and Heat Treatment, Stick To Me was one of the most anticipated albums since Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run.

Here's how Graham Parker describes the misadventure.

"...for "Stick to Me," we had an 80-piece string section playing. But the whole album had to be scrapped because the master tape was leaking oxide or something. The producer {Mutt Lange}, again, didn't seem to spot it. We saw this black stuff coming off the tapes but he didn't notice it. When we came to mix it, it was un-mixable. The hi-hat was leaking through all the tracks. It was a nightmare, because we had a tour coming up. In those days I had a manager, and managers are always saying, "We have to play in Sweden now," like that's the most important thing to do. So we re-made the record in a week with Nick Lowe. It's not what I wanted at all. It's a very intense, grungy-sounding record, but I kind of like it now for that reason. I think people are trying to get that sound now, and have been since the late '80s, when we finally got rid of that Phil Collins drum sound and got real again. If a band made a record like that now, it would be hailed as a great low-fi record. But in those days, of course, the American press panned it. They thought I should sound like Boston or Journey or something. They thought I should have a slicker sound. But they had a point."

The Rolling Stone review by Dave Marsh blames Nick Lowe ( who basically came in to rescue the day) for the muddy production but advises fans to stick around.

It is painful enough to be disappointed in this record for the things that are Graham Parker's fault. It is completely unnecessary, however, to again suffer through such an amateurish technical presentation, which veils a great and potentially essential rock talent. If Parker's advisers are devoted to him, they'll get him to a professional recordist, but quick. Graham Parker's talent begs him to conquer the world and spin it on one finger — and he could do it, too. But Stick to Me is only what the title implies — a holding action. Anyone who's heard Parker will hang around, but you'll pardon our impatience: this boy's time is now.

A U.K. Top 20 album, Stick to Me peaked at #125 in the Billboard charts.