Monday, April 9, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1815 [B 15] (starts 4/11/18)

    This week: political statements from Black Sabbath (including a rather long personal anecdote connected with my own band's performance of the piece in 1971) and Chicago, a dedication to Duane Allman and a half dozen other tasty tunes.

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.

Artist:    Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Title:    Free Wheelin' (Dedicated To Duane)
Source:    LP: Not Fragile
Writer(s):    Blair Thornton
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1974
    Following the departure of original rhythm guitarist Tim Bachman, Vancouver native Blair Thornton joined Bachman-Turner Overdrive as the band's second lead guitarist, giving the band the ability to perform dual leads in a style inspired by the Allman Brothers band. This influence is evident on Free Wheelin' (Dedicated To Duane), the only instrumental track on the third BTO LP, Not Fragile. The tune, one of two Thornton compositions on the album, also appeared as the B side of the hit single You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Reeling In The Years
Source:    45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1972
    My first radio gig (sort of), was volunteering at the Voice Of Holloman, a closed-circuit station that served a handful of locations on Holloman AFB, about 10 miles from Alamogordo, NM. I had been taking broadcasting courses through a community college program that was taught by Sgt. Tim Daniels, who was the NCO in charge of the base Information Office, which ran the station, as well as a free weekly newspaper that was distributed on base. After completing the classes, Tim gave me the opportunity to do a daily two-hour show on the VOH, using records that had been sent to the station by various record labels. We got excellent singles service from some labels (Warner Brothers and Capitol in particular), but virtually nothing from others, such as ABC. This was unfortunate, as one of the best songs out at the time was Steely Dan's Reeling In The Years, from their 1972 Can't Buy A Thrill album. Tim, whose previous gig was with the Armed Forces Vietnam Network, was a big rock fan, however, and went out and bought his own copy of the album, making a copy of Reeling In The Years on reel to reel tape, which we then played extensively until the song had run its course on the charts. Thus the Voice Of Holloman, with its audience consisting mostly of guys working out at the base gym, was playing the longer album version of a song that was also getting airplay on Alamogordo's daytime-only top 40 AM station, KINN, in its edited single form. It was just about the nearest the Voice Of Holloman ever got to being an underground rock station (although I did manage to sneak in some Procol Harum, Little Feat and Deep Purple from time to time from the aformentioned Warner Brothers singles).

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Easy Livin'
Source:    CD: Electric Seventies (originally released on LP: Demons And Wizards and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Ken Hensley
Label:    JCI/Warner Special Products
Year:    1972
    Uriah Heep's biggest hit. 'nuff said.

Artist:    Who   
Title:    Baba O'Reilly
Source:    LP: Who's Next
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    Decca
Year:    1971
    Following the success of the Who's rock opera Tommy, composer Pete Townshend immediate got to work on a project to be called Lifehouse. Like Tommy, Lifehouse was to be a rock opera taking up four album sides. The project, however, was ultimately scrapped, and several of the songs were instead used on the 1971 album Who's Next. Although originally meant to be sung from the point of view of a Scottish farmer gathering up his wife and children for a move to London, Baba O'Reilly, according to Townshend, is about the "absolute desolation" of teenagers at Woodstock, many of whom were "wasted". Baba O'Reilly has proved to be one of the most popular Who songs ever recorded, despite not being released as a single in most markets, including the US and Britain, and has been used in several movie and TV soundtracks over the years, as well as being heard frequently at sporting events.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    War Pigs
Source:    LP: Black Sabbath
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    In the summer of 1971 I moved to the small town of Mangum, Oklahoma, along with guitarist Doug Phillips. We had both just graduated from high school and had spent most of our senior year playing in a band called Friends. The last half of the school year had been complicated by a surprise visit from yet another guitarist named Dave Mason (no, not THAT Dave Mason), whom I had been bandmates with in 1969-70, when both our dads had been stationed at Ramstein AFB, Germany. My dad had been transferred to Holloman AFB, New Mexico in July of 1970, while Dave's had retired to his native Oklahoma a couple of months later. The problem was that Dave, who was a bit of a free spirit, had not fit in well in Mangum; in fact, he had just been kicked out of the local high school for refusing to cut his hair. Dave had formed a new band (using the same band name, Sunn, that we had used in Germany) in Oklahoma, and had made enough money to buy a bus ticket for Vacaville, California (where his longtime girlfriend Jeannie was now living, her dad having been transferred to Travis AFB that fall)...or so he thought. It turned that the band's bass player Jim, who was also acting as their financial manager, had absconded with most of the band's earnings, leaving a total of $48.60 in the band's bank account. It turned out that $48.60 was the price of a bus ticket from Mangum, OK to Alamogordo, NM, and so, following a phone call sometime around New Year's, Dave showed up at my doorstep. My parents, being basically good people, allowed him to stay with us until he could either a) get enough money to buy a bus ticket to Vacaville, CA, or b) find a place of his own in Alamogordo. He ended up choosing option b) for awhile, eventually buying a return ticket to Mangum, after exacting a promise from me that I would join him there following graduation.
    About a week after he left New Mexico Dave called me to say "bring Doug, too", which was kind of a surprise, as I had always considered the two of them to be sort of rivals (although maybe that was only in my head, since Doug was the lead guitarist for Friends, while Dave had asked me to join yet another incarnation of Sunn in Alamogordo, which didn't go over so well with the other members of Friends; I ended up playing in both bands, as they had vastly different styles and there really was no conflict, since gigs were few and far between for both groups). Anyway, a week after graduation Doug and I boarded a Greyhound, arriving in Elk City, OK (the nearest town to Mangum with a bus station) at about 3 in the morning. Of couse, the Elk City bus station was closed at 3AM, so we had to stand outside in a thunderstorm waiting for a ride from a friend of Dave's who had forgotten that he was supposed to be picking us up at the Elk City bus station, which was about a half hour's drive north of Mangum.
    A couple months later we were all members of yet another version of Sunn (#5 by my count) when we got an offer from a local theater owner wanting to be our manager. As we were musically ready to take over the world, but were pretty clueless as to how to line up gigs, we accepted, and found ourselves booked for a Saturday night gig at the only theater in Wellington, Texas, a town about the same size of Mangum known mostly as the scene of Bonnie and Clyde's first nationally reported crime spree (which apparently involved wrecking their car, terrorizing a local family, kidnapping two law enforcement officers and tieing them to a tree with barbed wire cut from a fence, according to the New York Times). Wellington is also the county seat of Collingsworth County, which was, at the time, a "dry" county, which meant that local residents had to make the hour-long round trip to Mangum if they wanted to buy any alcoholic beverages. Not exactly the kind of place where you'd expect to hear a heavy metal cover band (although the term "heavy metal" was not part of the rock vocabulary at that point, so I guess '"underground rockers" would probably be a more appropriate label).
    The gig itself went pretty well, with only a couple dicey moments. One of those involved our cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, which we had learned by listening to the Paranoid album over and over (see, there was a connection to the song in all of this after all). We actually did a pretty kickass version of War Pigs, with Doug and I doing the sirens at the beginning in harmony and me channeling Ozzy quite credibly (or so it seemed at the time while tripping my brains out) throughout the performance. The problem was with Doug's dedication of the song (by title) to the local police force, a move that actually confused me at the time, since the song has nothing to do with cops. The second dicey moment is when I decided to take off the cowboy hat I had been wearing for the first of our two sets, letting my freak flag fly, so to speak, and eliciting an audible gasp from the audience. Still, the gig itself was a success, in fact, probably our best gig ever. We made a decent amount of money and got a great crowd response. Plus, due to a leaky transmission seal in our equipment van (a '54 Ford panel truck missing its front grill that was affectionately known as "The Glump"), we didn't have to pack up our stuff that night, allowing us to take a trip to Altus, OK, the nearest place with an all-night restaurant.
    Since there were no businesses open in Mangum on Sunday (of any type, including gas stations), we did not return to Wellington until Monday evening, after a friend of the band, J.D., gave us a ride in his black '57 Chevy after work. Following a mildly interesting ride that included cresting one of a series of hills only to see a bunch of cows in the road (we didn't hit any) and then noticing shortly thereafter that the headlights in the rear view mirror that had been making us paranoid every time we crested a hill were no longer there, we arrived in Wellington well after dark. As we were loading equipment into The Glump we noticed that a car was blocking our only exit from the alley behind the theater. A closer look revealed various lights and decals indicating that the car might just be the property of the Wellington Police Department. Confirmation soon came in the form of a guy in his mid-50s wearing a badge on his khaki-colored uniform. He  demanded to speak to the guy who "called us pigs". Gary Dowdy (the owner of The Glump) and I were confused at first, until the guy in the khaki-colored uniform with the badge asked which one of us had dedicated a song to the local police force. At about that time I realized what he was talking about, and attempted to explain that Doug, who was the only band member with a local girlfriend, had chosen to spend time with said girlfriend rather than to help with the loading of equipment (come to think of it, I may have been the only band member present). The guy with the badge cut me off at the word "Doug", however. In fact, as I recall, his exact words were "Another word out of you and I'll take you down to the station and cut off all of your hair". Luckily Gary Dowdy, who could Good 'Ol Boy with the best of 'em when it was called for, was able to pacify the officer with a promise to pack up quickly, get out of town and never come back. To this day, I have never again set foot in Wellington, Texas.
Artist:    Serendipity
Title:    Castles (full version)
Source:    British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released in edited form inUK as 45RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Pat O'Nion
Label:    Grapefruit (original label: CBS)
Year:    Edited version: 1969, full version: 2013
    Serendipity was one of many British bands to spend time in Germany (including, in Serendipity's case, a four-month residency at Hamburg's infamous Star-Club) before retutning home to make records. They released two singles on the CBS label, the second of which featured an original tune called Castles on its B side. The record company chose to edit the original recording, which was finally issued in its full-length form on a collection called Love, Poetry And Revolution in 2013.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    It Better End Soon
Source:    CD: Chicago
Writer(s):    Lamm/Parazaider/Kath
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1970
    It may come as a surprise to those familiar with the many "safe" hits cranked out by Chicago from the mid-70s  through the late 80s, that Chicago was originally one of the most political (and hard rocking) bands on the national rock scene. For example, most of the fourth side of the second Chicago LP, released in 1970, is taken up by the hard-hitting It Better End Soon. Written by keyboardist Robert Lamm, the four-movement continuous piece features vocals by guitarist Terry Kath (who shares writing credit on the third movement), and includes an outstanding flute solo from Walter Parazaider, earning him a co-writing credit on the piece's second movement. The lyrics of It Better End Soon appeared on the inner gatefold cover of the double-LP' along with a "Producer's note", stating "This endeavor should be experienced sequentially", and a declaration written by Robert Lamm: "With this album, we dedicate ourselves, our futures and our energies to the people of the revolution. And the revolution in all of its forms."

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Dear Mr. Fantasy
Source:    LP: Welcome To The Canteen
Writer:    Winwood/Capaldi/Wood
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1971
    After disbanding in early 1969, three of the original members of Traffic, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, reunited in 1970 to work on what was meant to be a Winwood solo album. That album, John Barleycorn Must Die, ended up being the first in a series of new Traffic albums. Later that year bassist Rick Grech (who had been in Blind Faith with Winwood) joined the band, followed a few months later by drummer Jim Gordon (of Derek and the Dominos), percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah and, for the third time, Dave Mason. The new lineup released a live album in 1971 called Welcome To The Canteen.  Most of the songs on the album were live versions of earlier Traffic tunes such as Dear Mr. Fantasy, which, at over ten minutes in length, runs about twice as long as the original studio version.

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