Monday, September 30, 2013

40 Year Itch: Rolling Stones Saxman Takes a Bath

On September 30, 1973 The Rolling Stones played two shows at the Festhalle in Frankfurt Germany rounding up the first month of their 1973 European tour. Despite the sexy poster, designed by John Pasche from a photo by David Thorper, this tour wasn't as wild as the '72 American Tour. Billy Preston, a big star in his own right and the opening act for the tour, played keyboards. Keith Richards wasn't always keen on his musicianship as he related in his autobiography Life:

There was one time in Glasgow when he was playing so loud he was drowning out the rest of the band. I took him backstage and showed him the blade. "You know what this is, Bill? Dear William. If you don't turn that fucking thing down right now, you're going to feel it." It's not Billy Preston and The Rolling Stones. You are the keyboard player with the Rolling Stones.

   The Frankfurt show is missing saxophone player Bobby Keys. Richards says  found Keys and some French chick  in a bathtub full of champagne and Bobby told Richards he wasn't going anywhere. This was also the last tour to feature Mick Taylor on guitar.

By the way, the Stones had planned to put out a live album of their European tour. They has their mobile recording unit at almost every gig. The talk at the time was of a part live/part studio album ( not unlike Humble Pie's most recent outing) with the studio tracks coming from the same Jamaican sessions that produced Goats Head Soup.

   Below: an out of breath and over-heated Jagger sings the last song of the night.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 1973 : Those We Missed

Eccentric and spotty final album from an eccentric and spotty prog rock band that still couldn't find an American audience despite touring with Elton John and trading in their prog credentials for straight rock and roll.. Weeks after It's Only A Movie came out, Family disbanded at a party in which everybody got thrown into a swimming pool.

Vagabonds of the Western World, Thin Lizzy's third album, is so close to the band's classic mid 70's sound but not quite there yet. Outside Ireland, sales remained flat. This is the last album to feature guitarist Eric Bell who would eventually be replaced by two axemen. Current CD pressings include the 1973 UK #6 hit single "Whiskey in a Jar".

The follow-up to their classic Octopus, Gentle Giant's In A Glass House is lighter in instrumentation yet darker in its themes of imprisonment and, according to Columbia Records, so thoroughly uncommercial it wasn't released in the US until 2004. It was also made after the departure of one of the founding Shulman brothers, Sax player Phil. If you enjoy complex, quirky, clever prog rock you may fall in love this one.

Linda Ronstadt's breakthrough fourth album wasn't an easy one to make. It took a year, $150,000 and three producers before Don't Cry Now was finally completed under the direction of Peter Asher who would be a pivotal force in the launching of Linda to super stardom. "Love Has No Pride", recorded in 1972 by Bonnie Raitt, became one of Ronstadt's signature songs. Do yourself a solid and play the video clip below. You'll see why.

{Out of Print}

Newlyweds Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge team on the album of duets, Full Moon, which would top the Country charts in November of '73. There's a nice cover of the Bobby Charles tune "Tennessee Blues" here.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rock Scene's Readers Super Group Poll

For their December 1973 issue, Rock Scene Magazine published the results of a readers Super Session poll, a kind of fantasy Super Group featuring All Star team of rock and roll artists for that year. Ryan Richardson has uploaded issues of Rock Scene on his website.



SECOND LEAD : Mark Farner ( of Grand Funk Railroad)

BASS: Jack Bruce ( Cream, West, Bruce and Laing)

DRUMS : Neil Smith of  Alice Cooper

KEYBOARDS: Rick Wakeman of Yes

Honorable Mentions
Vocalists : Robert Plant, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger
Guitars : Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix
Drums: Don Brewer, Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker
Bass: Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper), Mel Shacker (Grand Funk Railroad), Bill Wyman
Keyboards : Keith Emerson, Leon Russell, Edgar Winter

Friday, September 27, 2013

Holly and the Italians: My Top Ten

To promote their 1980 single "Tell That Girl To Shut Up", Holly Beth Vincent of the US band Holly and The Italians made this Top 10 list for Smash Hits magazine. The single would be a modest hit...for Transvision Vamp in 1988 but it did help the band land a contract with Virgin Records.

This list, featuring three Cheap Trick tunes and two by The Ramones,  comes courtesy of Brian at  Like Punk Never Happened

Thursday, September 26, 2013

40 Year Itch : Those Famous Teenage Pictures

Glam Rock is just rock and roll with lipstick on 
-John Lennon

1. Wizzard Angel Fingers

Combing Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, the gold lame jackets of the 1950's and the LSD trip gone awry make up of Roy Wood, Wizzard made the most of the UK nostalgia craze of 1973. They celebrated their second #1 single of the year late September. The rest of the UK Top 10 follows:

2 Sweet Ballroom Blitz

3 David Essex Rock On

4 Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers Monster Mash
5 Rolling Stones Angie
6 Rod Stewart Oh No Not My Baby

7 Donny Osmond Young Love
8 Barry Blue Dancing on a Saturday Night

9 Al Martino Spanish Eyes
10 Perry Como For the Good Times
11 10cc The Dean and I

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

40 Year Itch: An Interview With Rock's First Punks

   The Pretty Things were raunchier than their contemporaries, The Rolling Stones, before they embraced psychedelia  ( on Emotions ) rock operas ( on S.F. Sorrow) and Side Two of Abbey Road ( on Parachute). But it was the raunchy tag that stuck, thanks to stories of the band brandishing shotguns and setting fire to a passenger jet in flight. That was the act that got the group a lifetime ban from Australia and New Zealand which was still in effect when this interview aired on September 25, 1973 .

    Freeway Madness, the band's only record for Warner Brothers,  isn't a great album but it does have some cool songs including the melodic single "Over The Moon" and the hard rocking "Havana Bound".

   The interview occurred within week of uber fan David Bowie's Pin Ups release which included two Pretty Things covers:  "Rosalyn" and "Don't Bring Me Down".

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

40 Year Itch: Every Time I See Your Face

On September 24, 1973 Ringo Starr released the future #1 single "Photograph" which he wrote with George Harrison, setting high expectations for the Ringo album that would follow six weeks later. After all, the word was out that all the Beatles played on the album...if not at the same time. The single debuted on the charts at #74 and needed just seven weeks to go Number One. 

The bittersweet lyrics ( Every time I see your face /It reminds me of the places we used to go /But all I've got is a photograph /And I realize you're not coming back anymore) had deeper meaning for Ringo and fans when he performed "Photograph" at the Concert for George in 2002.

"What a night. I loved George and George loved me," he told the crowd. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

40 Year Itch: Shimmy Like A Rattlesnake

It seemed like our audience was teeny boppers and rock critics. The great mass of album buying, trend setting 17-21 year-olds didn't want any part of us. Now we're heroes
Eric Carmen, 1985

If the Cleveland power popsters The Raspberries wore their Beatles influences on their sleeves for their first two albums, on Side 3 they doffed their invisible caps to The Who. Eric Carmen's songs especially. His album closer, "Ecstasy", is like a Who's Who of Who influences. I definitely hear "Pure and Easy".

      On September 26, 1973, The Raspberries headlined a concert at Carnegie Hall. Stories opened. Then The Raspberries came out and played a snatch of  The Beatles "Ticket to Ride" before launching into their set.

"Carnegie Hall was, by far, Raspberries' best date," Carmen says on his website"It was a time when everything—all of the stars and planets—just all lined up. I was very aware when we got the booking that this would be a really incredible moment because we were going to stand on the stage where the Beatles played, where Rachmaninoff played—the same stage, the same hall. You just don't get to do that very often. And a lot of people don't get to do it at all. I can remember the curtain going up and hearing Wally's Rickenbacker and Jim's drums fallin' in. It was just picture perfect. And the audience was dead quiet! You could literally hear a pin drop. It was a great performance, the band was well rehearsed, and the set was carefully constructed. We blew the place apart."

  Even through the band had endeared itself to critics, the public still shrugged. Side 3 stalled at #128 while the single "Tonight"couldn't get higher than #69 on the Hot 100. Members of The band were having their own problems, arguing over singles and the direction the music was taking. Guitarist/bassist Dave Smalley was ejected from the band . Drummer Jim Bonfanti followed.
In 1974 The Raspberries would record one more brilliant album with two new members.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

40 Year Itch: Basketball Jones

Released in September of 1973, the Cheech and Chong single "Basketball Jones featuring Tyrone Shoelaces" peaked at #15 on the Billboard charts.
  Most surprising is the cast of musicians who showed up at the session: George Harrison and Klaus Voorman has been recording next door (with Ringo I wonder?). Carole King showed up to play electric piano while Nicky Hopkins and Billy Preston added their own keyboard flair. While Jim Karsten played drums, the legendary Jim Keltner added percussion. Among "the cheerleaders" were Michelle Phillips, Darlene Love and Ronnie Spector.

  People could not get enough of the far out cartoon version which was released in 1974

The song was actually a parody of The Brighter Side of Darkness hit "Love Jones", which peaked at #16, one spot short of the Cheech and Chong tune.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

40 Year Itch : 1973 in Krautock

Faust in 1973

   1973 was another monster year for Krautrock, though you wouldn't have known it in the United States. I still think the term "Krautrock" is far too vague, encompassing German bands cranking out long 4/4 "motonik" beat numbers like Can and Neu; German ambient fusion jazz groups like Embryo and Ash Ra Tempel; and just purely progressive rock bands who sing in German ( like Message and Agitation Free). We have already discussed Tangerine Dream's Atem and Can's Future Days so let's get right to the one band that seemed to embrace the term "Krautrock", at least enough to record a song by that title.

Faust put out two albums in 1973. The first one, The Faust Tapes, was sold by Virgin Records as a marketing gimmick for 49 pence ( less than a dollar) and found its way into 50,000 British homes. It was basically a collection of odd music the band was working on when they signed with Virgin. The question is: of those 50,000 record buyers, how many actually liked The Faust Tapes?  

          The answer came with Faust IV. The full price follow-up simply didn't sell. Too bad! It sounds like a 42 minute overview of everything happening in Krautrock at the time, from the hypnotic beats of "Krautrock" to the ambient electronica jazz of  "Just a Second". And then there's the odd stuff like "The Sad Skinhead". Today Faust IV is considered a Krautrock classic.

[Out of Print]

"The best Krautrock album in the world ever!"
--Julian Cope

Originally released with a deck of tarot cards, Swiss musician Walter Wegmuller's Tarot is a double album full of spacey cosmic weirdness recorded with Ash Ra Tempel and Klaus Schulze ( More on them later). Great album for freaking out your kids while they try to do their homework.

The German avant garde band, Embryo, produced two jazz rock albums in 1973. Rocksession is a spectacular effort highlighted by the funky "Entrances" and "Warm Canto", written and performed by American jazz pianist Mal Waldron. After adding saxophonist Charlie Mariano, Embryo recorded We Keep On which features all kinds of African rhythms. I listened to both of these albums on a foggy morning driving along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I'll give the nod to Rocksession for sustaining a mood without going all atonal on me the way the later album does in places.

With Cyborg, former Tangerine Dream member and Ash Ra Tempel founder Klaus Schulze gives us 90 minutes of spacey synthesized drone. The perfect soundtrack for visitors to San Francisco's Exploratorium. Teutonic and Neuronic all at the same time! Schulze has recorded 60 solo albums. This is the one to get first.

Is this the ultimate acid trip record? Space prog pioneers Ash Ra Tempel team up with LSD guru Timothy Leary on this bizarre, if underwhelming freak out.

Agitation Free follows up the heralded debut, Malesch, with this album of mostly San Francisco-styled hippie rock and I can dig it!

As you might guess from the album cover, Message's From Books And Dreams contains some heavy handed prog rock. You know its prog because of the saxophone. Side One ends with "Turn Over" which features a disembodied,  heavily accented voice telling listeners to flip the record to the other side : "Turn Over". "Turn Over. "Turn Over".

One of the founding fathers of Krautrock, Neu!, shows us why on the brilliant 11 minute opening track "Fur Immer" ("Forever") .  Unfortunately the band ran out of money so side two is a mish mash of the album's singles played at different speeds and with other audio bits added. The best argument ever for the EP!

Friday, September 20, 2013

40 Year Itch: Never Seems To Be Enough Time

On September 20, 1973, the say before the single "I Got A Name" was released, Jim Croce, the talented guitarist Maury Muehleisen  and four others were killed when their twin engine Beech 18 clipped a tree upon take off and crashed to the ground. The crash was so violent both Croce and pilot Robert Elliot were decapitated.

Croce, 30,  had performed earlier that evening At Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He performed "Rapid Roy (That Stock Car Boy)" and "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues", told funny stories about day jobs he had. He played his hit "Operator", "Roller Derby Queen", "Lover's Cross", "Thursday" and "Speedball Tucker". Then he introduced his new single, the future Top 10 "I Got A Name". He played "Top Hat Bar and Grille" and then finished with his #1 tune "Bad Bad Leroy Brown". At the end of the song Croce said " See You Later" and left.

Croce was more than road weary at this point. He'd promised wife, Ingrid, that he would be around more often to help raise their son A.J. In his last note to her he wrote "When I get back everything will be different...I'm gonna become a public hermit...Remember it's the first sixty years that count and I've got thirty to go".

Thursday, September 19, 2013

40 Year Itch: An Hour of Darkness

At 12:30 AM on September 19, 1973 Gram Parsons was pronounced dead by a doctor in the Yucca Valley emergency ward. The man credited with inventing country rock had spent the night binging on drugs and alcohol at the Joshua Tree Inn in Twentynine Palms,California. He'd fallen unconscious, turned blue, was resuscitated and then died of an overdose of morphine, cocaine and barbiturates. His blood alcohol level was 0.21%. 

What a waste. Had he been able to shake his demons and apply himself to his art, Parsons might recorded some great albums in the league with his Flying Burrito Brothers debut. His solo albums GP  and Grievous Angel , which he'd finished recording days earlier, are good. Some songs are very good. 

But nothing yet matched the brilliance of "Hot Burrito #1" and "Hot Burrito #2". Still, when you're as good looking as Parsons and you die young, leaving behind a collection of songs sung with the saddest voice anyone will ever hear, the legacy is going to grow.

   The days following Parsons death read like a comedic heist movie starring James Franco and Seth Rogan as manager Phil Kaufman and roadie Michael Martin . Remembering Parsons's wish to be cremated in Joshua Tree National Park, the pair steal his body before it can put on a plane bound for New Orleans. The slosh 5 gallons of gas on an open casket and toss a match. BOOM! A funeral pyre that could be seen 5 miles away.

(No sooner do I write these words than I discover there WAS a movie about the heist: Grand Theft Parsons starring Johnny Knoxville, Christina Applegate and is that Michael Shannon? )

    Because there weren't any laws regrading the theft of human bodies, the authorities could only arrest Kaufman and Martin for stealing a casket and burning it without a permit. They paid a $1300 fine.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

40 Year Itch: Ringo Buys John's House

On September 18, 1973 Ringo Starr bought the 16 room Georgian mansion, Tittenhurst Park, from his former Beatle band mate John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 

This has been John and Yoko's home for more than four years. It was also the location of the last Beatles photo session together on August 22, 1969. These shots were used for the Hey Jude album cover

Both John and Yoko had recorded albums at Tittenhurst ( Imagine and Fly respectively) 

But by 1973 John and Yoko were planning to stay in the US. Ringo bought the estate and eventually moved there with his new bride Barbara Bach.

Ringo added a 70 foot tall T-Rex to the grounds. Keith Moon gave Ringo a giant plastic rhino.

Ringo shot a scene for his T Rex documentary "Born To Boogie" on the estate.

Ringo also built a Startling Studios there. 

Among the artists who recorded on the estate: Def Lepperd, Brand X, Judas Priest and Split Enz.

 Ringo would live at Tittenhurst on and off for the next 15 years before selling the estate to HRH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhab in 1988. The sheikh remodeled the entire property and gutted the studio.