Monday, March 12, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1811 (starts 3/14/18)

In case there was ever any doubt, this week's edition of Rockin' in the Days of Confusion should prove, once and for all, that THIS is how we rock.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Manic Depression
Source:    CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Are You Experienced?)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    After miraculously surviving being shot point blank in the head (and then bayoneted in the back for good measure) in the Korean War (and receiving a Silver Star), my dad became somewhat of a minor celebrity in the early 50s, appearing on a handful of TV and radio game shows as a kind of poster boy for the Air Force. One result of this series of events was that he was able to indulge his fascination with a new technology that had been developed by the Germans during WWII: magnetic recording tape. He used his prize winnings to buy a Webcor tape recorder, which in turn led to me becoming interested in recording technology at an early age (I distinctly remember being punished for playing with "Daddy's tape recorder" without permission on more than one occasion). He did not receive another overseas assignment until 1967, when he was transferred to Weisbaden, Germany. As was the usual practice at the time, he went there a month or so before the rest of the family, and during his alone time he (on a whim, apparently) went in on a Lotto ticket with a co-worker and won enough to buy an Akai X-355 stereo tape recorder from a fellow serviceman who was being transferred out and did not want to (or couldn't afford to) pay the shipping costs of the rather heavy machine.The Akai was pretty much the state of the art in home audio technology at the time. The problem was that we did not have a stereo system to hook it into, so he bought a set of Koss headphones to go with it. Of course all of his old tapes were in storage (along with the old Webcor) back in Denver, so I decided that this would be a good time to start spending my allowance money on pre-recorded reel-to-reel tapes, the first of which was Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The Akai had an auto-reverse system and I would lie on the couch with the headphones on to go to sleep every night listening to songs like Manic Depression. Is it any wonder I turned out like I did?

Artist:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    Oh Well
Source:    Mono LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Then Play On)
Writer(s):    Peter Green
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Year:     1969
    Fleetwood Mac had already established themselves as one of Britain's top up-and-coming blues bands by the time Then Play On was released in 1969. The band had just landed a deal in the US with Reprise, and Then Play On was their American debut LP. At the same time the album was released in the UK, a new non-LP single, Oh Well, appeared as well. The song was a top pick on Radio Luxembourg, the only non-BBC English language top 40 station still operating in 1969, and Oh Well soon shot all the way to the # 2 spot on the British charts. Meanwhile the US version of Then Play On (which had originally been issued with pretty much the same song lineup as the British version) was recalled, and a new version with Oh Well added to it was issued in its place. The song itself has two distinct parts: a fast blues-rocker sung by lead guitarist Peter Green lasting about two minutes, and a slow moody instrumental that runs about seven minutes. The original UK single featured about a minute's worth of part two tacked on to the end of the A side (with a fadeout ending), while the B side had the entire part two on it. Both sides of the single were added to the US version of the LP, which resulted in the first minute of part two repeating itself on the album.

Artist:    Doobie Brothers
Title:    Daughters Of The Sea/Flying Cloud
Source:    CD: What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
Writer(s):    Simmons/Porter
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1974
    When I got out of basic training in southwestern Texas I was told to report to duty at my tech school in northern Texas. Now this might seem a fairly short distance; apparently the people making my travel arrangements thought so, because, rather than a plane flight, they put me on a bus. This bus also had several other basic training graduates on it, all heading for the same tech school location. The ride took approximately six hours, as I recall, and one of the guys had used his initial paycheck to buy a boombox and an 8-track tape of the new Doobie Brothers album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. Apparently he didn't realize how big Texas is, as he did not buy any other tapes. And so, for six hours, we listened to the new Doobie Brothers album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, over and over. And over. And over. Luckily, it's actually a pretty decent album, although some songs are more listenable than others, of course. A personal favorite is (are?) the closing track of the original LP, which is actually two songs that merge together, Daughters Of The Sea and the short instrumental Flying Cloud. A good way to end a good album.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    The Width Of A Circle
Source:    CD: The Man Who Sold The World
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    David Bowie had a gift for reinventing himself pretty much right from the start. His earliest albums were largely acoustic in nature, with Space Oddity being about as close to rock as he got. Then came The Man Who Sold The World, which included songs like The Width Of A Circle, a progressive rock piece that borders on heavy metal. The piece had actually been part of Bowie's stage repertoire for several months before recording sessions for the album began, but in a shorter form. For the LP, the piece was expanded to eight minutes in length, with Mick Ronson's lead guitar taking a prominent place in the music. The second half of the piece had somewhat controversial lyrics, describing a sexual encounter with a supernatural being in the depths of Hell. For reasons that are not entirely clear, The Man Who Sold The World was released five months earlier in the US than in the UK.

Artist:    Procol Harum
Title:    Homburg
Source:    Mono LP: The Best of Procol Harum (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Brooker/Reid
Label:    A&M
Year:    1967
    Procol Harum's followup single to A Whiter Shade Of Pale was a now nearly forgotten song called Homburg. Although the song's lyrics were praised by critics and by fellow songwriters such as Elton John, the music itself was perceived as being too similar to the previous single to stand on its own. You can decide for yourself on that one.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    For Your Life
Source:    LP: Presence
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Swan Song
Year:    1976
    Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant was seriously injured in a car accident in 1975, forcing the band to cancel their upcoming world tour. It also gave guitarist Jimmy Page a chance to spend a lot of time with Plant developing new material for their 1976 LP Presence. As a result, the album was completed in only eighteen days once the entire band went into the studio to start recording. Unlike their previous album, Physical Graffitti, Presence is a single disc built around electric guitar riffs, with no keyboard parts at all. For that matter, only one of the LP seven tracks has any acoustic guitar in it, making Presence a sort of back-to-basics album, albeit one born of circumstance rather than intention. Plant recorded most of his vocals for the album, including those for the LP's opening track, For Your Life, while sitting in a wheelchair. The lyrics for the song were inspired by Plant's disgust with the excessive use of cocaine among the minions of the music industry in Los Angeles, where he had gone to recover from his car accident (the accident itself had happened on the Greek island of Rhodes). Because the band was not doing any touring at the time, most of the songs on the album were seldom, if ever, performed live; in fact, the only known performance of For Your Life was for the band's reunion show in December of 2007.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Killing Yourself To Live
Source:    LP: Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    The dangers of the excessive lifestyle experienced by rock stars in the early 1970s is explored in Killing Yourself To Live, from Black Sabbath's fifth studio LP, Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath. Although credited to the entire band, the song was primarily written by bassist Geezer Butler, who had been hospitalized for kidney problems brought on by heavy drinking.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    The Mule
Source:    CD: Made In Japan
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Purple/Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1972
    Every hard rock band in the early 1970s had one song that contained a drum solo. For Deep Purple, perhaps the most successful hard rock band of its era, that song was The Mule. Inspired by the mutant dictator in Isaac Asimov's Foundation And Empire, the live version of the song, from the 1972 album Made In Japan, runs over nine minutes in length, about half of which is taken up by Ian Paice's solo.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Minstrel In The Gallery
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1975
    Following the back-to-back album-length works Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play, Jethro Tull returned to recording shorter tunes for the next couple of years' worth of albums. In late 1975, however, they recorded the eight minute long Mistrel In The Gallery for the album of the same name. The song (and album) was a return to the mix of electric and acoustic music that had characterized the band in its earlier years, particularly on the Aqualung and Benefit albums. A shorter version of Minstrel In The Gallery was released as a single and did reasonably well on the charts.

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