Sunday, July 1, 2018
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1827 (starts 7/4/18)
Once again we have reached the halfway point of the year, and, for Americans, that means it's 4th of July week. We start off, appropriately enough, with our national anthem.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Title: Star-Spangled Banner
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer(s): John Stafford Smith
Label: Rhino (original label: Cotillion)
When the Woodstock film and soundtrack album was released, right-wingers across the nation decried the disrespect inherent in the Jimi Hendrix interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner. Looking at it another way, however, it was a US Army veteran playing his country's national anthem on guitar in the style he was famous for. Is that any less patriotic than Whitney Houston singing that same anthem in her own style years later?
Source: LP: Elegy
Before Emerson, Lake And Palmer became one of the hottest acts on the progressive rock scene, there was a band called the Nice that featured Keith Emerson on keyboards. The group released several singles and albums, including a hard rocking instrumental version of Leonard Bernstein's America (from West Side Story) in 1968. Emerson famously burned a US flag during the performance of the piece at a charity performance at the Royal Albert Hall in July of that year. As a result, the Nice was permanently banned from that venue. By 1970 Emerson had left the Nice to join up with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer. This did not stop Mercury Records from issuing, in 1971, an album called Elegy (credited to Keith Emerson and the Nice) that included a live version of America.
Source: CD: Yesterdays (originally released in UK on LP: The New Age of Atlantic)
Writer: Paul Simon
Following the success of the Fragile album and the hit single Roundabout, Yes went into the studio to cut a ten and a half minute cover of Paul Simon's America for a UK-only sampler album called The New Age Of Atlantic. The track was then edited down for single release in the US as a followup to Roundabout. The original unedited track was finally released in the US on the 1974 album Yesterdays, which also included several tracks from two earlier Yes albums that featured an earlier lineup of the band that included guitarist Peter Banks and keyboardist Tony Kaye. Paul Simon's America was, in fact, the only track on Yesterdays that featured the classic Yes lineup of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squires, Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman.
Artist: Graham Nash/David Crosby
Title: Immigration Man
Source: LP: Graham Nash David Crosby
Writer(s): Graham Nash
Anything I could say here would only detract from the point of this song, and the reason I'm playing it.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Immigrant Song
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin III
Although the third Led Zeppelin album is known mostly for its surprising turn toward a more acoustic sound than its predecessors, the first single from that album actually rocked out as hard, if not harder, than any previous Zeppelin track. In fact, it could be argued that Immigrant Song rocks out harder than anything on top 40 radio before or since. Starting with a tape echo deliberately feeding on itself the song breaks into a basic riff built on two notes an octave apart, with Robert Plant's wailing vocals sounding almost like a siren call. Guitarist Jimmy Page soon breaks into a series of power chords that continue to build in intensity for the next two minutes, until the song abruptly stops cold. The lyrics of Immigrant Song were inspired by the band's trip to Iceland in 1970.
Title: We're Not Gonna Take It
Source: CD: Tommy
Writer(s): Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
The final track of the Who's landmark rock-opera Tommy is We're Not Gonna Take It. The track actually has two distinct parts, with the more famous "See Me Feel Me" section leading into a repeated chorus that slowly fades out. This week, though, we present the first half of the track, where Tommy's followers finally say enough is enough and refuse to follow his ridiculous directives any longer. Seems to me we could use a bit of that right now ourselves.
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Despite its title, Cream's Politician, from the Wheels Of fire album, is really not the kind of scathing indictment you might expect from a track from 1968. Indeed, the song's lyrics are actually gentle satire rather than overt criticism. Eric Clapton's guitar work, however, is always a treat, and on Politician he knocks out not one, but two overdubbed solos at the same time, along with his basic guitar track. Controlled chaos at its best!
Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: War Pigs
Source: LP: Black Sabbath
Label: Warner Brothers
Originally titled Walpurgis, Black Sabbath's War Pigs, the opening track on their second LP, Paranoid, started off being about the Witches' Sabbath (Walpurgis being the Satanists' analog to Christmas). As Bill Butler's lyrics developed, however, the song ended up being more about how the rich and powerful declare the wars, but send the poor off to die in them. Either way, it's about evil people doing evil things and the rest of us suffering for it. I guess some things never change.
Title: It Better End Soon
Source: CD: Chicago
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
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."