Wednesday, September 30, 2015

40 Year Itch : Disco Rex

T.Rex : Dreamy Lady

   On September 30, 1975 Marc Bolan performed his latest single in a whirlwind of soap bubbles for the show "Supersonic". Released under the name T.Rex Disco Party, the "Dreamy Lady" single probably received zero plays at Studio 54 and remains little more than a curiosity thanks to the double B side, Marc's synth laden cover of Bobby Freeman's "Do You Wanna Dance" and wife Gloria's wretched cover of Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay".

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

40 Year Itch: Jackie Wilson Collapses On Stage

Jackie Wilson : ( Your Love Keeps Me Lifting Me) Higher and Higher

   On September 29, 1975, as he was singing "Lonely Teardrops" for Dick Clark’s Good Ol’ Rock and Roll Revue at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, NJ Jackie Wilson suffered a massive heart attack and fell to the stage hitting his head. Backstage, Cornell Gunter of the Coasters knew something was wrong and rushed to Wilson's side to revive him. Wilson was rushed to the hospital where he was stabilized. But by then the lack of oxygen to his brain had caused Wilson to slip into a coma from which he would rarely emerge.  He would die eight years later. In 1987, Wilson was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame.

Monday, September 28, 2015

40 Year Itch : Starry Eyes

Orleans : Dance With Me

   In the final week of September, the Orleans single "Dance With Me" was racing up the charts to #12 on its way to #6. Once hailed as "the best unrecorded band in America" the Woodstock, NY band may have been noted for their radio friendly harmonies and acoustic guitars but their secret sauce was the songwriting team of future U.S. Representative John Hall and then wife Johanna Hall, a former journalist. She told Rolling Stone the songs were written by a woman "but they're sung by men. I think it comes out pretty much down the middle".

Sunday, September 27, 2015

UK Top 20 September 28 1975

Chris Spedding : Motor Bikin'

While the battle of "Paloma Blancas" raged between the original George Baker Selection version and the one by Jonathan King, a shirtless David Essex topped the charts, finally drawing the winds from Rod Stewart's "Sailing"which had spent four straight weeks at #1. The only truly cool song in the Top 20 was "Motor Bikin'" by leather clad session guitarist Chris Spedding. Future punk rockers must have at least liked his look.

1. David Essex : Hold Me Close

2. Rod Stewart : Sailing
3. The Drifters : There Goes My First Love
4. Art Garfunkel : I Only Have Eyes For You

5. Leo Sayer : Moonlighting
6. Jasper Carrott : Funky Moped

7. Showaddywaddy: Heartbeat
8. 5000 Volts : I'm On Fire
9. Carl Malcolm : Fattie Bum Bum
10. Jonathan King: Una Paloma Blanca

12. George Baker Selection : Paloma Blanca

13. Band of the Black Watch : Scotch on the Rocks
14. The Four Seasons: Who Loves You

15. The Chi-Lites : It's Time for Love
16. Abba : SOS
17. Chris Spedding : Motor Bikin'

18. Mac and Katie Kissoon : Like a Butterfly
19. Judge Dread : Big Ten
20. Desmond Dekker : Sing a Little Song

Saturday, September 26, 2015

40 Year Itch : Running Out of Time

Climax Blues Band : Running Out Of Time

   Haven't featured a lot of boogie from 1975 so here's a great track from Stamp Album, The Climax Blues Band album that preceded Gold Plated and the #3 US hit "Couldn't Get It Right". Was Climax Blues Band running out of time? Must have felt that way for the band who were on their eighth album with only one (1974's Sense of Direction)  that had snuck its way into the US Top 40. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

40 Year Itch : Missin' Heaven

Dion : Only You Know

  Two legends of the 1960's, Dion "The Wanderer" DiMucci and Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector team up on Born to Be With You, released only in the UK. Despite some strong songwriting by the likes of Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, early reviewers complained that the album sounded too slow, like a dirge. Apparently Dion felt like he was making a Phil Spector record instead of a Dion album.

  But the album has its champions: Pete Townshend, Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, The Arctic Monkeys ( who would cover my favorite song on the album, "Only You Know"), and now Born To Be With You is featured on both 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and The Mojo Collection. A classic "grower".

Thursday, September 24, 2015

40 Year Itch : Take A Little Trip With Me

War : Low Rider

   On the week of September 20, 1975 , the new War single "Low Rider" entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts at #78. The car customizing anthem would eventually spend two weeks at #7. Some historians see the tune as a good reflection of Black-Chicano relations as more Mexican Americans moved into traditional African American neighborhoods of South Los Angeles. After all the sog begins with the lyrics: "all my friends know the lowrider."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

40 Year Itch : Shopping Like Punks On Kings Road

  The first time I went to Sex Shop I thought it was tacky, awful and it didn't have a toilet
-John Lydon

   Punk Rock was more than a sound. It was a style. And in London's Chelsea District, the style came first. Malcolm McLaren's Sex shop originally sold fetish and bondage wear, then came subversive t-shirts and clothes designed by Vivienne Westwood. Among its employees were Chrissie Hynde ( in the center of the photo above) and Pamela Rooke, aka Jordan, who often sported makeup that gave her raccoon-like eyes.

Adam Ant, Siouxsie Sioux and her bassist Steven Severin all shopped there. In August of 1975, Johnny Rotten auditioned for the Sex Pistols in the store by singing Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen" along with the jukebox.

The clothes were outrageous. The Cambridge Rapist t-shirt seemed to celebrate a local serial rapist's crimes.

It was also outrageously expensive ( 200-pound bondage suits), so many shoppers headed around the corner to the basement boutique run by Don Letts. 

Acme Attractions had a jukebox loaded with reggae, tons of retro 50's era clothes and in"The Don"himself, a good connection for weed.

They sold jelly sandals, plastic see through macs. fluroscent pink drape peg-leg trousers and electric blue zoot suits.

  More importantly for what become the Punk Rock scene, Letts didn't mind people just hanging out at Acme Attractions. The shop became like a club, a place where like minded people could meet. Soon, some of these people would create a brand new soundtrack for the disenfranchised people of England.

 In fact, in an upstairs room of the Rose and Crown in Wandsworth,  the future Sex Pistols were already rehearsing songs like "Pretty Vacant" and "Seventeen".

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

40 Year Itch : George Bounces Back?

George Harrison : Tired of Midnight Blue

   A palate cleanser following the poorly received Dark Horse album and tour, George Harrison's Extra Texture is his only album recorded in Los Angeles. Despite the hit single that kicks things off ( the #20 US/ #38 UK "You" with those hard charging and very flat sax solos), Extra Texture is a bit of a ponderous bore with most songs running one to two minutes longer than necessary. 

     Although Harrison did a surprising amount of press for the album (including the Melody Maker interview with the hopeful headline "George Bounces Back!") eventually he, too came to the conclusion that Extra Texture "was a bit depressing, actually".

The highlight of the album for me is "Tired of Midnight Blue", which actually has some bounce to it.

“Tired Of Midnight Blue was originally called Midnight Blue and as soon as I had it ready Melissa Manchester put out a song with that title and so I changed it to Tired of Midnight Blue. I had been to a Los Angeles club - ended up in the back room with a lot of grey-haired naughty people and I was depressed by what I saw going on there.”
- George Harrison, I Me Mine

Monday, September 21, 2015

40 Year Itch : Where Pub Meets Punk

The Count Bishops: Teenage Letter

   Named for a New York City gang by American vocalist Mike Spenser,  The Count Bishops were a London band that sped up the roots rock sound of the Rolling Stones earning favor with the pub rock crowd who favored Dr Feelgood and Eddie and the Hot Rods over the mellower bands like Kursaal Flyers and Clancy. Punk impresario Malcolm McLaren wondered aloud whether Spenser was the right vocalist for a new band he was putting together, The Sex Pistols.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

40 Year Itch : Between The Lines

Janis Ian : From Me To You

   On September 20, 1975, Janis Ian's Between The Lines topped the Billboard 200 album chart . It is an immaculately produced album, with flawless vocals,  highlighted by the #3 single "At 17" which Ian would sing on the debut of a new NBC program called Saturday Night Live in October. In December she would play Carnegie Hall while putting the finishing touches on the follow-up album. 

  At the very height of her fame and fortune, she was followed around by a Village Voice writer named Cliff Jahr who planned to out Ian in an article called "Janis Ian Comes Out From 'Between The Lines'".

In her autobiography Society's Child Ian remember her reaction:

I freaked. From everything I'd been told, this would spell the end of my career. It might lead to criminal charges in some states. I could be committed to a mental institution in some others. Radio wouldn't play my music. CBS could drop me because of the standard moral clause in my contract. 

I got into bed, pulled the covers over my head. and stayed there until Beth yanked them off and sternly told me to get on with my life.

Beth was right. New Yorkers read the story but, according to Ian,  mainstream media ignored the article. She would come out as a lesbian in her own way with the release of Breaking The Silence in 1993.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

40 Year Itch: Distance Brings Misunderstanding

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson : Johannesburg

   The revolution that would not be televised goes world wide on Gil Scott-Heron's From South Africa to South Carolina. Pan Africanism, pride in African roots, was in vogue and got Gil interested in what was happening to hundreds of millions of brothers and sisters living in Africa. Especially those who lived as second class citizens in South Africa. His report on Apartheid became the subject of "Johannesburg" ( which borrowed its chorus from an old Thunderbird wine jingle "What's the word? Thunderbird"). The conscious raising anthem caught Richard Pryor's attention. He threatened to quit his Saturday Night Live hosting gig if NBC refused to make Gil Scott Heron the musical guest. On December 13, 1975 twenty million people heard the word about Johannesburg.

Friday, September 18, 2015

40 Year Itch : Outside They're Ringin'

John Fogerty : Almost Saturday Night


One of 1975's perfect songs, "Almost Saturday Night", can be found on John Fogerty's self-titled, self-played, self produced, self-everything'd album. It's a power pop classic, echoing some of George Harrison's Help! era guitar lines. Not sure why the Dave Edmunds version is better known.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

40 Year Itch: An Eclectic Masterpiece

Geoff Muldaur : Higher And Higher

   As though he were competing against his fabulously successful ex-wife, Maria "Midnight at the Oasis" Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur recorded jazz songs from the 30's, soul music from the 60's, Fifties rock  and roll and 40's movie soundtracks. And he got a little help. The legendary producer Joe Boyd was on hand, overseeing special guests ranging from John Cale and jazz arranger Benny Carter to Amos Garrett and Richard Thompson who was heard to say "There are only three white blues singers, and Geoff Muldaur is at least two of them". 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

40 Year Itch : Hey Midnight Man

Can : Hunters and Collectors

   If Can's seventh album, Landed, takes off at all, it's on the single "Hunters and Collectors", a song good enough to provide a name for one of my favorite Australian bands. Guitarist/violinist  Michael Karoli sings lead. By all measures, though, we are past Can's prime at this point.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

40 Year Itch : Up Up To The Sky

Silver Convention : Fly Robin Fly (12 version)

    Fifteen years before Milli Vanilli became infamous for lip synching to vocals that weren't their own, another German group pretended to be the original singers of a huge Hot 100 hit. That's because the disco success of "Fly Robin Fly" caught everyone by surprise. By mid-September of 1975 it was either the #1 or #2 hit in New York and Miami discos. The German producers failed to get the original female background singers to agree to terms so they were replaced by three singers already signed to the Jupiter label: Penny McLean, Ramona Wolf and Linda G Thompson. They would tour the world as Silver Convention and watch "Fly Robin Fly" top the US Hot 100 for three weeks. Here's where the Milli Vanilli comparisons end. When it was time to record the follow-up, "Get Up And Boogie",  that really is McLean, Wolf and Thompson singing.

Have you ever seen an audience refuse to get into the spirit of the disco craze like the people below? 

Monday, September 14, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Magic In A Day

Supertramp : Sister Moonshine

   While on tour supporting their surprisingly successful album Crime of the Century, Supertramp pulled over to the side of the road somewhere between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Bouncing around on logs, guitarist Roger Hodgson playfully pushed a roadie who managed to fall and mangle Hodgson's hand, breaking his thumb and index finger badly enough to cancel their final dates.

  When Supertramp was healthy enough they entered an LA studio with mostly leftover songs and recorded Crisis? What Crisis? which sold well enough despite mixed reviews. Again, it is a Rolling Stone critic that pans the album:

   The biggest crisis is trying to get through both sides of the album

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Top Ten by Jim Reid of Jesus and Mary Chain

Happy Mondays : Step On

Jesus and Mary Chain singer Jim Reid presented this fuzzy guitar alt-rock list to Spin Magazine for its Alternative Record Guide published in 1995.

1. Vic Godard and the Subway Sect : A Retrospective (1977-81)

2. Fire Engines : Fond

3. Dr Mix and the Remix : Wall of Noise

4. Happy Mondays : Pills'n'Thrills and Bellyaches

5. Suicide: Suicide

6. Spaceman 3 : Recurring

7. My Bloody Valentine : Loveless

8. Can : Soundtracks

9. Pussy Galore : Right Now!

10. Pastels : Sittin' Pretty

Saturday, September 12, 2015

5 Fun Facts about Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here

    What I'm about to write will probably upset a lot of Pink Floyd fans:  I recorded my first copy of Wish You Were Here on one side of a 60 minute tape. I edited out all the atmospheric stuff and went straight to the vocals and David Gilmour guitar solos. How punk rock of me right? In any case here are 5 fun facts about Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here.

1. Intimidated by the massive success of Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd originally considered making an album called Household Objects, using rubber bands, wine glasses and cake mixers as instruments. Now while that sounds like it would have been a bigger "Fuck You" to the music industry than even Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, what I've heard sounds pretty cool.

2. Instead the suddenly rich and always miserable Roger Waters said "Fuck You" to the music industry with lyrics like the ones Roy Harper sings in "Have A Cigar" : 

   "The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think 
Oh by the way, which one's Pink? 
 And did we tell you the name of the game, boy? 
We call it Riding the Gravy Train. 

3. A great bit of the album is dedicated to the old Pink Floyd leader Syd Barrett, who through drug abuse and/or mental illness had become one of rock's tragic figures. He is the "Crazy Diamond" addressed in the two epic tracks that begin and end the album : 

 You were caught in the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
 blown on the steel breeze.
 Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, 
you legend, you martyr, and shine!

 An unrecognizable Barrett, fat, bald, shorn of eyebrows, visited the studio during the session. Listening to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", he apparently never realized he was the subject of the song.

4. The burning man on the Hipgnosis designed album cover was stunt man Ronnie Rondell ( "Spartacus", "Thelma and Louise"). It took photo retouching specialist Richard Manning quite a bit of work in 1975 to "photo shop" his casual appearance:

   He was covered in petrol that glistened dramatically in the blazing sun. I had to remove all the evidence of the petrol. By using Photo dyes, a mixture of dark grey with touches of magenta and cyan applied delicately to the shiny areas, I was able to gradually build up to match the darkness of the unaffected suit.

He was wearing a flame proof wig and neck protector which I had to remove. First, with a weak solution of bleach, lighten the dark areas on the side of his neck then blend the bleached area with photo dye to match the neck tone. The tarmac round the drain in the foreground needed some tidying up and then some general spotting overall. The scorch mark on the right hand side was a separate Dye Transfer. The background to this print was bleached to white and then put together at the printing stage.

5. Considered a classic album today, with sales over 13 million,  Wish You Were Here was originally met with mixed reviews including one nasty appraisal from Rolling Stone's Ben Edmonds:

"Shine on You Crazy Diamond" is initially credible because it purports to confront the subject of Syd Barrett, the long and probably forever lost guiding light of the original Floyd. But the potential of the idea goes unrealized; they give such a matter-of-fact reading of the goddamn thing that they might as well be singing about Roger Water's brother-in-law getting a parking ticket. This lackadaisical demeanor forces, among other things, a reevaluation of their relationship to all the space cadet orchestras they unconsciously sired. The one thing those bands have going for them, in their cacophonously inept way, is a sincere passion for their "art." And passion is everything of which Pink Floyd is devoid.

  Maybe he should have heard my thirty minute version.

Friday, September 11, 2015

40 Year Itch : Long Live Liberty!

Rejected Album cover for Thin Lizzy's Fighting
Thin Lizzy : Freedom Song

   On September 12, 1975, Thin Lizzy released their fifth album Fighting, the first to chart in the UK, peaking at a dismal #60. It would take one more album, Jailbreak, for Thin Lizzy to find the perfect sound and Top 10 success Phil Lynott and company were seeking. But, man, they were close! And they were already blowing other bands off the stage.

The Should Have Been Rejected Album cover

Thursday, September 10, 2015

40 Year Itch : The Hottest Band in the Land!

KISS: Parasite

"Alive! was the first album I ever bought. And I wasn't alone: you can hear their influence all over metal and punk." 
-Kim Thayil of Soundgraden

  On September 10, 1975 KISS released their Top 10 double live album Alive! 

   But how live was Alive!

  No doubt it was common practice for bands to go back into the studio with their live recordings and over-dub parts here and there. KISS was a band that raced around the stage, posing and preening and spitting blood and fire. Nailing a great vocal was never as a big a deal as putting on the best possible show. That's why, as Ace Frehley writes in No Regrets, KISS took over-dubbing to extremes:

  We all went into Electric Lady, and for the better part of three weeks we tinkered and tweaked...and sometimes completely overdubbed songs. None of us got off the hook completely. There were times when (producer) Eddie (Kramer) was unhappy with Paul's singing or Gene's singing. While he was generally pleased with my solos, I didn't nail every note was well as I might have. Sometimes Peter's tempo was off just a bit on the drums. As the studio sessions went on we became increasingly flexible in terms of what we considered to be acceptable doctoring. We all agreed Eddie had a strong ear and a great production sense. We trusted that he could bring Alive! to life in a way that could please our fans without compromising our integrity.

Does it matter if Alive! was truly a live album? Not to Frehley:

It's a terrific album, true to the KISS spirit in every way. Nothing gives me greater pride than to hear some young guitarist say he learned how to play by listening to Alive! ...Alive! is an iconic album, one that reflects as clearly as possible what it was like to be at a KISS concert in 1975.
  Isn't that what counts?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

40 Year Itch : Cascading Through The Days

Electric Light Orchestra : Waterfall

  On September 9, 1975, Welcome Back Kotter premiered on the ABC network, introducing the world to John Travolta who played the leader of a Brooklyn high school class of under-achievers, Vinnie Barbarino. Sadly, I have to admit I don't think I missed an episode for the first year or two the show aired.
   Also that month Electric Light Orchestra released another classic album, Face The Music, which contained two major Top 20 hits: " Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic". Among the deep cuts worth hearing, I'd suggest the Beatlesque "Waterfall". Gorgeous tune!