Saturday, January 31, 2015

40 Year Itch : Hope Was All Around Me

Steve Buscemi, Class of 75

   Another nugget from that brilliant Nils Lofgren self-titled album released in January of 1975, "The Sun Hasn't Set On This Boy Yet" is an autobiographical song about a young rocker who heads west to find himself and to find out what life is all about. It was Neil Young who, in 1970,  invited a 19-year old Lofgren to California. Nils would play on After the Gold Rush and later, another album released in 1975, Tonight's the Night.

Friday, January 30, 2015

40 Year Itch : It's Only For Show

    Between Queen gigs, Roy Thomas Baker spent January of 1975 producing the glam super group Jet's 1975 self titled debut. Bassist Martin Gordon and keyboardist Peter Oxendale were once in Sparks and had played on the breakthrough single "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us". Vocalist Andy Ellison and drummer Chris Townson had played with Marc "T.Rex" Bolan and guitarist Davy O'List had played in both The Nice and Roxy Music. The result is fantastic and in the matter of its quirkiness, years ahead of its time.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

40 Year Itch : This Much Madness

Jack Nicholson by Harry Benson, 1975

   After parting ways with Motown and The Temptations, producer Norman Whitfield started his own label, Whitfield Records, and devoted his attention and genius towards fellow Motown refugees The Undisputed Truth ( "Smiling Faces Sometimes"). From 1975's Cosmic Truth comes this psychedelic and funky cover of Neil Young's "Down By the River". There were five session players credited with playing guitar on the album including Dennis Coffey and Melvin "Wah Wah" Ragin, so I dont know who's playing the smoking lines on this tune.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

40 Year Itch : Here Comes the Express

Brooklyn Transit Express followed up their 1974 Top 5 hit "Do It (Til You're Satisfied) with "Express", a mostly instrumental disco-funk tune that spent January and February climbing the pop and soul charts, eventually hitting #1 on the latter. Give it up for the conga player!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

40 Year Itch : Engines Softly Screaming

Helen Mirren in 1975 play based on Janis Joplin,  Teeth 'n' Smiles

  1975 witnessed the emergence of Helen Mirren as not only an immensely talented and beautiful stage actress...but also  as a woman who spoke her mind. During a now infamous interview on Michael Parkinson's show, she responded to his cheeky, clearly sexist questions which lingered on both her figure and a review that described her as "projecting sluttish eroticism".

When he asked her whether her "equipment" got in the way of her becoming a serious actress, she responded:

 "Because serious actresses can't have big bosoms, is that what you mean?"

   Even without Gary Glitter at the microphone, his back up band could produce UK hits. "Goodbye My Love" hit #2 on the UK charts, held off the top spot by Pilot's "January".

Monday, January 26, 2015

40 Year Itch : Crack Baby Crack

   On January 26, 1975, "Cracked Actor", Alan Yentob's documentary about David Bowie, aired on BBC2. Shot on his Diamond Dogs tour of America, the film reveals Bowie in a fragile state, both mentally and physically. Pencil thin, with multi-colored hair, Bowie admits all of the characters he created in the early 70's affected his mental state:

I got lost at one point. I couldn't decide whether I was writing characters or they were writing me, or whether we were all one in the same.

  At about the 51-minute mark, we see Bowie in his identity: as the palest soul singer in Rock history.
With back-up singers, including Luther Vandross, Bowie goes over the future Young Americans track "Right" in a Philadelphia studio.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

40 Year Itch: Creeping!...Crawling!...Crushing!

   From the classic Wishbone Ash album, There's the Rub, comes the throbbing bass and dueling guitar work-out "F.U.B.B." ("Fucked Up Beyond Belief") which might be one way to describe the low budget 1975 monster movie "The Giant Spider Invasion". For the big spider, the production crew dressed up a Volkswagen Beetle and let the VW's red tail lights stand in for the eyes.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

40 Year Itch : A Magic Night in Cologne

   On January 24, 1975, half an hour before midnight,  an exhausted Keith Jarrett, suffering from back pain, sat down at a piano in a sold out Opera House in Cologne and began improvising. A recording of the concert, complete with hoots and cheers from the audience, would become the all time best selling album of solo piano music. It would also, unfortunately, launch thousands of piano noodling imitators. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

40 Year Itch: Miami Sunshine

Helmut Newton photo of models Jerry Hall and and Lisa Taylor Miami 1975

   Betty Wright,  the Queen of Miami soul, described the TK Records sound ( which included on its roster such artists as KC and the Sunshine Band, Little Beaver, Latimore and George McCrae) as "sort of Afro-American-Cuban-Calypso-Funk, with a little bit of sunshine to make your heart feel glad." 

   Wright discovered the Allen Toussaint penned "Shoorah! Shoorah!" on Frankie Miller's 1974 album, High Life, which also contained "Play Something Sweet ( Brickyard Blues)", a hit for Three Dog Night. "Shoorah!" was a UK Top 30 hit for her in 1974 and a Top 40 US R and B hit in early 1975.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

40 Year Itch : Kiwi Stardust

New Zealand had its own androgynous alien who topped the charts while drawing apt comparisons to David Bowie. Yes, you can spend the entire time you listen to Space Waltz, pointing out each and every "Bowie quote".

  His name was Alastair Riddell, and with his band Space Waltz,  he ruled New Zealand for one glamorous rocking year. It was one thing to vamp around stage androgynously in London. Down Under, it was a good way to get your ass kicked.

  When the band broke up Alastair was invited to replace the departed Phil Judd in Split Enz. When he begged off, Tim Finn brought in younger brother Neil. Alastair has his own Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

40 Year Itch : Tucson is the Weird Capital of the World

   January of 1975 saw the wide release of Martin Scorsese's fourth movie, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, featuring an Oscar winning performance by Ellen Burstyn and the debut of Alfred Lutter as her smart-ass son Tommy. The future Bad News Bear, Ogilvie, holds his own in his scenes with  Jodie Foster.

  The movie struck a chord with me as a child of a single mother who also drove around the West taking menial jobs to put food on the table. We even lived in a Phoenix motel for a couple of weeks one summer.

 I've always appreciated the soundtrack which consists of classic rock tunes from Mott the Hoople, T. Rex and Leon Russell. Russell's "Roll Away the Stone" is not the same "Roll Away the Stone" Mott recorded in 1974. Both are originals.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Riddles of the Ages

   Why are we so willing to shelf our intellect if it means we can jump on political --or even sports--bandwagons? That's the question Gil Scott-Heron asks on this groovy track from 1975's The First Minute of a New Day. Dig it!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Six Degrees of Separation : Dr Feelgood to Joan Armatrading

1. The Dr Feelgood track "Keep It Out of Sight", like the best tunes on their 1975 debut Down By The Jetty, is engineered by Dave Charles.

2. Dave Charles was also a drummer with pub rockers Help Yourself. He played on Ernie Graham's  classic 1971 self-titled album with members of Brinsley Schwarz.

  3. The Brinsleys' last album, 1974's New Favourites, was produced by Dave Edmunds.

4. In 1975, Dave Edmunds released Subtle as a Flying Mallet which featured drummer Picque "Pick"  Withers.

5. Pick Withers was the original drummer of Dire Straits. He played on the first four albums, including the 1978 debut which was recorded at Chris Blackwell's Basing Street Studios in Notting Hill, London.

6. In 1974 Joan Armatrading recorded her second album, Back to the Night,  at Basing Street Studios, with future Police drummer Andy Summers among other musicians.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

UK Top 10 January 18, 1975

     The UK charts reveal an unwillingness to let go of Christmas ( There are 5  Christmas songs in the Top 30); of Glam ( 4 Glam rock singles in the Top 10); and the emergence of disco. ( There's even an early K.C. and the Sunshine Band single, "Sound Your Funky Horn", at #30). Wizzard's last Top 10 hit, "Are You Ready to Rock", is climbing the charts -- no doubt helped by the band's preposterous costumes on Top of the Pops. Also, Ralph McTell's classic "Streets of London" peaked at #2.

1. Mud : Lonely This Christmas
2. Ralph McTell: Streets of London

3. Status Quo : Down Down
4. Kenny : The Bump

5. The Wombles : Wombling Merry Christmas
6. Gloria Gaynor: Never Can Say Goodbye
7. Tymes : Ms Grace

8. Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes : Get Dancing
9. Billy Swan : I Can Help
10. Rubettes : Jukebox Jive

Further down the charts:

14. Rod Stewart and Faces : You Can Make Me Dance or Sing or Anything
15. Wizzard : Are You Ready to Rock?

In the US,  "All in the Family" spin-off "The Jeffersons" made its debut on CBS on this date in 1975.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

40 Year Itch : Tangled Up in Blue

Illustration by Lauren Peppiatt via

"What's different about ['Tangled Up In Blue'] is that there's a code in the lyrics, and there's also no sense of time. There's no respect for it. You've got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room, and there's very little you can't imagine not happening"
-Bob Dylan

  On January 17,1975 Bob Dylan released "Tangled Up In Blue, the first single from his forthcoming album Blood on the Tracks. Like the album itself, "Tangled" is about relationships, desire, missed connections, the past and the present of a well-travelled life. It's ranked as the best song Dylan ever wrote in an article by Neil McCormick in the Telegraph in 2014.

   McCormick writes " "The most dazzling lyric ever written, an abstract narrative of relationships told in an amorphous blend of first and third person, rolling past, present and future together, spilling out in tripping cadences and audacious internal rhymes, ripe with sharply turned images and observations and filled with a painfully desperate longing."

Again, the website for the illustrator is

Friday, January 16, 2015

40 Year Itch : Four Fat Mamas That Like to Swing

   A UK#3  hit, "Girls" was recorded by Stang labelmates The Moments and The Whatnauts. In early 1975, the tune peaked at #10 on US Disco charts. All Platinum Records in New York boss Joe Robinson, who owned distribution rights for both "Girls" and "Shame, Shame, Shame"  told Billboard Magazine hard times and high inflation meant record buyers weren't interested in negative music:

   My artists have changed their styles to coincide with today's music trends. Music with an up-swing beat that does not leave the listener depressed is what is selling, so our line is now disco.

    In 1975 $10 could buy you an album or cassette called Picking Up Girls Made Easy.  At first Businessman Mike may be overwhelmed by the Dallas secretaries "taking their Texas-sized titties for a lunch hour exercise walk", then he learns to score by pretending to be an ad executive seeking a model for a TV commercial. Groovy!

   Also former Playboy covergirl Barbi Benton released her first album, Barbi Doll, in January of 1975. It peaked at #17 on the country charts. Rather than post a clip of a songs,  I'd rather share this steamy one minute interview with entertainment reporter Huell Howser in 1980.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

40 Year Itch : We Play Wigwam

    This 1975 image of a Virgin Records store in Plymouth has been making the rounds recently on Twitter. It's probably late Summer 1975, judging by the posters. My eyes are drawn to the Nuclear Nightclub poster and the two green stickers that read "We Play Wigwam".

   This incarnation of Wigwam was an imaginative Finnish prog rock band that knew its way around an infectious pop hook.  The classic album may be 1974's space-jazzy Being, after which two founding members left. 

   The remaining members went commercial on the follow-up, Nuclear Nightclub, which was #1 in Finland, released by Virgin Records in the UK  and has delighted just about every listener who has discovered its quirky tunes. Check out the single  "Freddie Are You Ready".

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

40 Year Itch : A Long Long Way Together

   If Gil Scott-Heron is the godfather of hip-hop, on the mostly forgotten Iron Pot Cooker, poet Camille Yarbrough proves she is the godmother. Released on Vanguard in 1975, the album is based on Yarbrough's one woman show. The highlight is the funky "Take Yo' Praise".

    If it sounds familiar, credit Fatboy Slim who sampled the a capella opening in  "Praise You",  his UK #1 hit and a Top 40 hit in 1999. I think you'll agree the original is better.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

40 Year Itch : De King of the Scene

   The Interview's Seth Rogan and James Franco didn't actually break new ground by satirizing a brutal, murderous despot .  Charlie Chaplin did it in 1940 with The Great Dictator and in 1975 British comedian John Bird and writer Alan Coren did it with a comedy album called The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin

  The single was "Amazin' Man" with the chorus:

 Idi, Idi, Idi Amin, most amazin' man, there's ever been.
 He's de general, de president, de king of the scene,
 Idi, Idi, Idi Amin. 

Warning: if you're a member of the politically correct police, you won't get a moment of pleasure out of this. 

   While there was nothing funny about his corrupt regime, which led to the murder of as many as half a million people, the Uganda leader, his Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Alhaji Dr. Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE ( The last initials stand for  Conqueror of the British Empire) was subject to violent mood swings and erratic behavior.  

   He claimed he was the uncrowned King of Scotland. Time Magazine called him "killer and clown, big-hearted buffoon and strutting martinet".

Monday, January 12, 2015

40 Year Itch: Life Gets Me Higher

The many expressions of Karen Black trying to land the jetliner in Airport'75

     1975's most catchy ear worm came from Scottish popsters Pilot, whose follow-up to "Magic" is "January", their only #1 hit in the UK,  and such a massive smash in Australia, it stayed atop the pop charts Down Under for eight weeks. In the US, however, the tune peaked at just #87.

 In 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, singer David Paton explains that the song is not about this first month of the year.

   " My wife was reading a book and the main character was called January. She told me this and I wrote the chorus with that in mind. The verse was about how I felt at the time with the success of 'Magic'. I didn't write the song in January, it was in October, just after the release of 'Magic.' It was quickly recorded as the next single. We were recording the album, Second Flight, in Air Studios in London when 'January' got to #1. I didn't know the song was #1 until I arrived at the studio where I was greeted with handshakes and congratulations."

January of 1975 also witnessed the chart entry of "January Jones" by country singer Johnny Carver. I'm sure my readers will be upset by all the images of the Mad Men star by that name.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

40 Year Itch : Always Buzzin, Buzzin, Buzzin

   When "Honey Bee" was released, it became known as the Disco National Anthem, because it received so much disco play.
Gloria Gaynor, I Will Survive

    It was the first disco "suite". On the Gloria Gaynor album, Never Can Say Goodbye, released in January of 1975, the three disco songs on side one all segue into each other for some non-stop 20 minutes of dyno-mite dancing action.  That helped propel all three songs to the top of the newly formed disco charts, including future Top 10 single "Never Can Say Goodbye" and a two year old tune called "Honey Bee", which required a new video performance shot atop a New York City skyscraper.

Disco Action Audience Reaction Chart

1. Al Downing: I'll Be Holding On

2. Shirley and Company : Shame, Shame, Shame
3. Jimmy Castor : E-Man Boogie
4. B.T. Express : Express
5 Sister Sledge: Love Don't You Go Through No Changes On Me

6. Gloria Gaynor: Honey Bee/ Never Can Say Goodbye/ Reach Out
7. Carol Douglas : Doctor's Orders
8. Carl Douglas : Blue Eyed Soul
9. Labelle : Lady Marmalade
10. Stylistics: Hey Girl Come and Get It

Saturday, January 10, 2015

40 Year Itch: Kings of the Road

   It was full time country artist/ part time race car driver Marty Robbins who thought it would be a good idea to have some of NASCAR's most popular drivers (Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison et al) get together at Bradley's Barn to record a country album with The Jordanaires and some of Tennessee's top session players. The album, described as a "serious effort to produce a quality product", was sold at racing events. 

      The results? Well, I just hope they had a good time making the record.

Friday, January 9, 2015

40 Year Itch : Got Me Burnin'

   The Towering Inferno topped the box office this week in 1975 on its way to becoming the highest grossing film released in 1974. It was also the set of some intriguing behind the scenes drama between stars Steve McQueen and Paul Newman who both demanded top-billing and the same number of lines in the screenplay.

  To please its stars, the poster for The Towering Inferno offers a pyramid shaped billing compromise that would become a Hollywood standard. Read left to right, McQueen gets top billing, but read from up to down, it's Newman. 

    Fire was a hot subject in January of 1975. The Ohio Players topped the Soul charts with their funky single, "Fire", in late January . They would hit #1 in the Hot 100 on February 8, 1975.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

40 Year Itch : A Hamburger and a Hand Job

  11 million people bought the 1974 Carl Douglas single "Kung Fu Fighting", making it one of the best selling singles of all time. On January 8, 1975 the disco tune was #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart.  But not everybody was a fan.
     On their 1975 comedy album Illegal, Immoral and Fattening, former Turtles turned nationally syndicated radio hosts, Mark "Flo" Volman and Howard "Eddie" Kaylan", riff on the song ( "Boy that song really sucks!") as well as on The Doors epic "The End" and on Jack in the Box. A time capsule gem! See a live performance below beginning at the 3:51 mark.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

40 Year Itch : Put On Your Shaky Wig Baby

   I'm not sure I can handle the enthusiasm of the dancing male vocalist, Jesus Alvarez, who yowls and sings this disco hit with Shirley Goodman ( whose last big hit was "Let the Good Times Roll" 18 years earlier as one half of the New Orleans duo Shirley and Lee). "Shame, Shame, Shame" was the #1 Disco song in January of 1975. All the disco clubs were filling the floor with this number. Especially memorable lyrics:

Got my sun-roof down
Got my diamonds in the back
So put on your shaky wig baby
If you don't I ain't comin' back


Also on this date in 1975, Wheel of Fortune made its TV debut. The host was Chuck Woolery.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

40 Year Itch : Can't Cut Loose Without That Juice

   In their January 6, 1975 issue, Time Magazine declared Saudi Arabia's King Faisal "Man of the Year" because of his role in the recent oil crisis. As Time's editors put it, he "was a principal factor in the quadrupled price of oil and now holds more power than any other leader, power to lower them or raise them anew". 

      Also in January of 1975, Tower of Power released Urban Renewal, perhaps their finest and funkiest album. The lead off cut, "Only So Much Oil in the Ground", is a smart reminder today even as oil prices crash worldwide. Enjoy it while it lasts, motorists, it can only be temporary.

Monday, January 5, 2015

40 Year Itch : One Boy Whose Time Has Come

   When the Rolling Stones were looking for a guitarist to replace Mick Taylor, Nils Lofgren called Keith Richards. He got the number from Ronnie Wood. Lofgren tells the rest of the story in this interview:

   Keith Richards answered. I couldn't believe it. He didn't know me, but was totally honest and open with me. He said, 'Yeah, we want Ronnie but he won't do it. I'm frustrated.' He said the whole band was going to audition guitarists at a cattle call in Geneva or some exotic city and if I wanted to come down, no problem. Then, within the next week or so, Ronnie changed his mind and took the gig. That's the whole story.

   But that story doesn't explain this song from Nils Lofgren's 1975 solo debut, which sounds like a plea to Keith Richards ( who along with Mick Jagger produced albums as The Glimmer Twins) to get healthy and stick around for future Rolling Stones albums and tours. Here's Nils's explanation:

   It is intended to be a giant thank you note to Keith on behalf of all of us fans. The ominous chords and melody, were also a great backdrop to implore Keith to take care of his health for his sake and ours and to continue sharing his great gift with us all.

    I'd just like to point out that Nils Lofgren's solo debut is also a great gift and very easily one of my 10 favorite albums of 1975. Guess I'm not the only one who feels that way:

   In April of 2014, Nils uploaded this acoustic version of "Keith Don't Go" and even if you can't spare the entire seven minutes, you should at least skip ahead to the 3:00 mark for some jaw-dropping guitar playing. 


  On this date in 1975, The Wiz : The Super Soul Musical "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" mades its Broadway debut.