Monday, October 16, 2017
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1742 (starts 10/18/17)
Once again the emphasis is on album tracks, as we go deep into such classic LPs as Grand Funk's We're An American Band, the first Black Sabbath album and Traffic's Welcome To The Canteen, among others.
Artist: King Crimson
Title: 21st Century Schizoid Man
Source: CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Label: Discipline Global Mobile (original label: Atlantic)
There are several bands with a legitimate claim to starting the art-rock movement of the mid-70s. The one most other musicians cite as the one that started it all, however, is King Crimson. Led by Robert Fripp, the band went through several personnel changes over the years. Many of the members went on to greater commercial success as members of other bands, including guitarist/keyboardist Ian McDonald (Foreigner), and lead vocalist/bassist Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) from the original lineup heard on In The Court Of The Crimson King. Additionally, poet Peter Sinfield, who wrote all King Crimson's early lyrics, would go on to perform a similar function for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, including their magnum opus Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends. Other original members included Michael Giles on drums and Fripp himself on guitar. 21st Century Schizoid Man, as the first song on the first album by King Crimson, can quite literally be cited as the song that got the whole thing started. Enjoy!
Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: Wasp/Behind The Wall Of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B.
Source: CD: Black Sabbath
Label: Warner Brothers/Rhino
While feedback-laden bands like Blue Cheer are often credited with laying the foundations of what would come to be called heavy metal, Black Sabbath is generally considered to be the first actual heavy metal band. Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward didn't set out to create a whole new genre. They simply wanted to be the heaviest blues-rock band around. After seeing a movie marquee for an old Boris Karloff film called Black Sabbath and deciding that would make a good name for a band, however, the group soon began modifying their sound to more closely match their new name. The result was a debut album that would change the face of rock music forever. Probably the best known track on the Black Sabbath album is N.I.B., which closes out the LP's first side. Contrary to popular belief, N.I.B. is not a set of initials at all, but just the word nib done in capital letters with periods after each letter. According to Geezer Butler, who wrote the lyrics for N.I.B. "Originally it was Nib, which was Bill's beard. When I wrote N.I.B., I couldn't think of a title for the song, so I just called it Nib, after Bill's beard. To make it more intriguing I put punctuation marks in there to make it N.I.B. By the time it got to America, they translated it to Nativity In Black." On the album the song is preceded by a short bass solo from Butler, which in turn segues directly out of the previous track, Behind The Wall Of Sleep. For some reason (possibly to garner the group more royalties) Warner Brothers Records added extra song titles to the two tracks on the album cover and label to make them look like four separate pieces. The original British release, however, lists them as Behind The Wall Of Sleep and N.I.B.
Title: A Hole To Hide In
Source: LP: Foghat (also released as 45 RPM single B side)
When commercially recorded music first became available for public consumption there were two methods of delivery: disc records and cylinder records. Cylinder records, invented by Thomas Edison, were the first to hit the market, and were the main consumer format from the late 1880s until around 1910, when the disc format overtook cylinders in total sales. Edison's cylinders held one song apiece, which made it easy to measure the popularity of individual songs. Discs, however, were usually two-sided, with both songs on a record getting equal consideration. It wasn't until the 1950s that record companies began promoting one side (the A side) of a record over the other. This was mostly a result of general entertainment programs migrating from radio to TV, forcing radio stations to rely more on recorded music, which in turn led to the rise of top 40 radio. With the competition for airplay getting more intense as more records got made, B sides, as a general rule, were ignored by radio programmers, although there were exceptions, most notably on singles by Elvis Presley and the Beatles. In the late 1960s, however, a new kind of radio station began to appear on the previously neglected FM band. These "underground" stations were not being run for profit (indeed, many were being used as a tax writeoff) and thus were more inclined to play B sides and album tracks. This trend continued into the mid-1970s, when FM became available to a larger number of consumers, and stations began to compete directly with their AM counterparts. These days, of course, there are no B sides, since most new music is available as downloads from the internet, one song at a time. Still, in the golden age of FM rock radio we got to hear songs like A Hole To Hide In, which was both an album track and the B side of Foghat's first hit, I Just Want To Make Love To You.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Source: CD: We're An American Band (also released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Mark Farner
Sometimes, as good as a record's A side was, the B side was even better. And let's face it: Grand Funk's We're An American Band, while undisputably one of the biggest rock hits of all time, has been played to death over the years by classic rock stations. So let's hear it for Creepin', the highly-underrated B side of that single.
Artist: It's A Beautiful Day
Title: White Bird
Source: CD: It's A Beautiful Day
Writer: David and Linda LaFlamme
Label: San Francisco Sound (original label: Columbia)
It's A Beautiful Day is a good illustration of how a band can be a part of a trend without intending to be or even realizing that they are. In their case, they were actually tied to two different trends. The first one was a positive thing: it was now possible for a band to be considered successful without a top 40 hit, as long as their album sales were healthy. The second trend was not such a good thing; as was true for way too many bands, It's A Beautiful Day was sorely mistreated by its own management, in this case one Matthew Katz. Katz already represented both Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape when he signed up It's A Beautiful Day in 1967. What the members of It's A Beautiful Day did not know at the time was that both of the aforementioned bands were trying to get out of their contracts with Katz. The first thing Katz did after signing It's A Beautiful Day was to ship the band off to Seattle to become house band at a club Katz owned called the San Francisco Sound. Unfortunately for the band, Seattle already had a sound of its own and attendance at their gigs was sparse. Feeling downtrodden and caged (and having no means of transportation to boot) classically-trained 5-string violinist and lead vocalist David LaFlamme and his keyboardist wife Linda LaFlamme translated those feelings into a song that is at once sad and beautiful: the classic White Bird. As an aside, Linda LaFlamme was not the female vocalist heard on White Bird. Credit for those goes to one Pattie Santos, the other female band member. To this day Katz owns the rights to It's A Beautiful Day's recordings, which have been reissued on CD on Katz's San Francisco Sound label.
Artist: Mighty Baby
Title: A Friend You Know But Never See
Source: British import CD: Mighty Baby
Label: Big Beat (original label: Head)
Mighty Baby is one of the many bands that were better known in the UK than in the US. In fact, they were probably even better known under their previous name, The Action, than as Mighty Baby. Formed in 1964 as the Boys, the changed their name to the Action in 1965 when they signed with the Parlophone label. They released several singles for the label, but were unable to score a major hit, and were dropped from the Parlophone roster in late 1967. After a couple of personnel changes, the re-emerged as Mighty Baby, releasing their first album on the Head label in 1969. The album itself is one of the better examples of the progressive rock movement that was picking up steam in the UK at the time, as can be heard on tracks like A Friend You Know But Never See. As is the case with all the tracks on the album, A Friend You Know But Never See was written primarily by keyboardist Ian Whiteman but credited to the entire band.
Source: LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: First Step)
Label: Warner Brothers
Although credited to the Small Faces in North America, First Step was actually the debut album of Faces, a group combining the talents of Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood (from the Jeff Beck group) with what was left of the Small Faces (Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan) following the departure of bandleader Steve Marriott. Unlike later Faces albums, First Step featured songwriting contributions from all five band members, including Stewart, Wood and Lane collaborating on the album's centerpiece, Flying.
Title: Gimme Some Lovin'
Source: LP: Welcome To The Canteen
Label: United Artists
By 1971 Traffic had undergone a sort of reversal in fortunes. Whereas in their first year of existence they had been extremely popular in the UK, with three top 10 singles and an album in the top 20, they went largely unnoticed in the US, where none of their singles charted and their first LP topped out at #88. The live album Welcome To The Canteen, however, released in 1971, did not even make the British album charts, while it went to #26 in the US. The nearly nine minute version of Gimme Some Lovin', which had previously been a hit for the Spencer Davis Group, was released as a single (split into two parts) in both countries, but only charted in the US. This trend would continue for several more years, as Traffic would not return to the British charts until 1974, when their final album, When The Eagle Flies made it to #31 (it hit #9 in the US).
Artist: Kevin Coyne
Title: Evil Island Home
Source: British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released on LP: Case History)
Writer(s): Kevin Coyne
Label: Grapefruit (original label: Dandelion)
Sometimes known as the "anti-star", Kevin Coyne had one of the most distinctive, yet somehow disturbing, voices on the British blues scene. He was also known for his advocacy for rights of the mentally ill, whom he had dealt with as a social therapist and psychiatric nurse from 1965-68 and later as a drug counselor. His first album, Case History, reflects that background, as can be heard on the track Evil Island Home. One of the last LPs released on John Peel's Dandelion label, the album soon disappeared off the racks when the label went out of business. Coyne went on to have a prolific career, releasing around three dozen more albums before his death in 2004.