Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Death of the Memphis Monarch

On August 16, 1977 Elvis Presley, the king of rock'n' roll, died. The stunning news swept around the world where he was worshipped by millions of fans.

I was a 13 year old boy riding with a family friend who was negotiating the streets of San Francisco when we heard about the king's death on the radio. She had to pull over. Her eyes filling with tears. 

He had so many fans and yet , after turning "forty and fat", Elvis distanced himself from almost everyone in his life. He died alone in a bathroom in his 23-room mansion, 14-acre estate in Memphis, Tennessee, called Graceland, and is buried there along with his parents and grandmother. 

I visited on winter day in 1995 when I stopped in Memphis on the way to a new job in Colorado. There are messages from fans on the stone wall outside Graceland. His gravesite adorned with flowers year round and I even caught a photo of a man who still dresses like Elvis.

By then I was enough of a fan to know what I liked about Elvis : his comeback albums Elvis Is Back! (1961) and From Elvis in Memphis (1969); his gospel album His Hand in Mine (1960) and everything that makes up The Sun Sessions. At his best, Elvis was an incredibly inventive singer, charming, good looking, sexy, and soulful. 

Of course he was not at his best in 1977. On stage he was sweating profusely, his prematurely white hair dyed shoe polish black, carrying around several pounds of waste that he couldn't defecate without pain, That's why he died on the toilet in the middle of the night. 

On the tenth anniversary of Elvis's death , I wandered the streets of Charleston, South Carolina asking people for their memories. "He loved his mama," one lady said. "Elvis loved his mama".

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

There's The Stars

On August 15, 1977 Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope picked up a 72 second transmission that still baffles scientists today... and may be the strongest proof yet of an alien radio transmission. SETI Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman discovered the signal days later, writing "Wow!" on a computer print-out. The Alien Wow Signal has never been heard again.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ain't No Joke

In the Summer of '77 The Meters released their final album together, the curiously named New Directions. Curious because, if anything, this was a return to the classic Meters sound, after the disco grooves of Trick Bag the year before. New Directions is a mixed bag, but when they get funky ( on tracks like "No More Okey Doke", "Funkify Your Life" and "Give it What you Can ", they capture some of that Rejuvination sound. When New Directions failed to sell, The Meters broke up with Art Neville, Cyril Neville ad Art's brother Aaron forming The Neville Brothers.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Home, Home And Dry


On August 13 1977,  two years into his "househusband" period, John Lennon recorded a demo version of a new song called "Free As A Bird". It's a bare bones cassette recording with Lennon accompanying himself on piano in the Dakota. And yet, to me,  it has twice the emotional punch as the reunited Beatles (Threetles) version from 1994. Earlier that year, Yoko gave Paul a few demos. She would say later 

"I did not break up The Beatles, but I was there at the time, you know? Now I'm in a position where I could bring them back together and I would not want to hinder that. It was kind of a situation given to me by fate. "

Friday, August 11, 2017

Don't Wanna' Do Nothin'

In 1977, LA punkers The Zeros released their first single, "Wimp" b/w "Don't Push Me Around",  on Bomp Records. Formed in 1976 in Chula Vista, California, just 5 miles north of the Mexican border, the four members attended Chula Vista High and Sweetwater Union High. Soon they were a tight little band playing their first gig in Rosario Beach, a town south of Tijuana. Before long they were regulars on the L.A. punk scene. Among the founding members: Javier Escovedo (younger brother of Alejandro Escovedo) and Robert Lopez (later known as El Vez). They cited The Ramones, New York Dolls and The Standells as influences.  Peter Case of The Nerves was an early supporter. It is truly worthwhile to watch their appearance on this San Diego TV Show.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mum's The Word

In August of 1977, the artsy makeup-wearing New Zealand band Split Enz released their third album, the first without co-founding members Phil Judd and Mike Chunn. It was named Dizrythmia, which is another name for "jet lag", something with which the boys must haven been familiar. After all the Kiwi's were recording in England . Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick is the producer.  Our hero Neil Finn has now joined the band, bringing the pop sensibilities he shares with brother Tim. No writing credit for Neil yet. The big single is the cabaret-esque "My Mistake", peaking at #15 in Australia and #21 in the band's native New Zealand. The follow-up, though it sounds like it was recorded underwater, is more interesting to my ears.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Like a Heavenly Choir

On August 9 1977, during a break from recording London Town, Wings recorded "Mull of Kintyre", named after the Scottish peninsula where McCartney has owned a farm since 1966.

"I certainly loved Scotland enough, so I came up with a song about where we were living: an area called Mull of Kintyre," McCartney said. " It was a love song really, about how I enjoyed being there and imagining I was traveling away and wanting to get back there ."

McCartney recorded the guitars outside and brought in the Campbeltown Pipe Band to ply bagpipes. The single would hit #1 over Christmas on its way to selling a record two million copies, the biggest selling hit single until Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?".

The song would later be covered by Glen Campbell.