Sunday, September 1, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1936 (starts 9/2/19)

    This time around it's another one of those long musical journeys from 1969 to 1976. After that, just a few songs I was really itching to play. First, though, a classic from the Dead...

Artist:    Grateful Dead
Title:    Sugar Magnolia
Source:    LP: American Beauty
Writer(s):    Hunter/Weir
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:     1970
            One of the most popular songs in the Grateful Dead catalog, Sugar Magnolia also has the distinction of being the second-most performed song in the band's history, with 596 documented performances. The song, written by Robert Hunter and Bob Weir, first appeared on the 1970 album American Beauty, but was not released as a single. A live version two years later, however, did see a single release, charting in the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100.

Artist:        Jaggerz
Title:        The Rapper
Source:     CD: Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits-1970 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Dominic Ierace
Label:    Rhino (original label: Kama Sutra)
Year:       1970
    First off, the Jaggerz had nothing to do with the Rolling Stones. In fact the name Jaggerz comes from the Western Pennsylvania slang term "jagger bush", which means, literally, thorny bush. This is entirely appropriate, since the Jaggerz were in fact from Pittsburgh, the largest city in Western Pennsylvania. Led by Dominic Ierace (who later would go by the name Donnie Iris), the Jaggerz were formed in 1964, when Ierace joined up with a band that was then known as Gary and the Jewel Tones. Originally calling themselves the Jaggers, the band changed the last letter of their name to a "z" while recording their first album in 1968 after seeing a magazine ad for another band called the Jaggers. The album, released on the Gamble label (later known as Philadephia International) in 1969, got modest airplay in Western Pennsylvania, but did not chart nationally. Later that year the band signed with the Kama Sutra label, releasing their only major hit single, The Rapper, in December. The song was also included on their 1970 LP We Went to Different Schools Together. Donnie Iris eventually joined Wild Cherry in 1978 and had a moderately successful career as a solo artist in the 1980s.

Artist:    Sugarloaf
Title:    Green-Eyed Lady
Source:    LP: Sugarloaf
Writer(s):    Corbetta/Phillips/Riordan
Label:    Liberty
Year:    1970
    The unwritten rules of radio, particularly those concerning song length, were in transition in 1970. Take Sugarloaf's Green-Eyed Lady, for example. When first released as a single the 45 was virtually identical to the album version except that it faded out just short of the six-minute mark. This was about twice the allowed length under the old rules and it was soon replaced with an edited version that left out all the instrumental solos, coming in at just under three minutes. The label soon realized, however, that part of the original song's appeal (as heard on FM rock radio) was its organ solo, and a third single edit with that solo restored became the final, and most popular, version of Green-Eyed Lady. Meanwhile, though all of this, FM rock jocks continued to play the original album version heard here. Smart move on their part.

Artist:    Crow
Title:    Easy Street
Source:    CD: The Best Of Crow (originally released on LP: Mosaic)
Writer(s):    Larry Wiegand
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Amaret)
Year:    1971
    You might think that being the only successful act on a particular record label would give an artist a certain amount of leverage with said label. Often, however, the opposite is true. Record labels need to sell records to survive, and that puts pressure on the artists to make commercially viable recordings, even if the artists themselves have other priorities. This was the situation that Minneapolis-based Crow found themselves in when it came time to record their third LP, Mosaic. The first album had done quite well, thanks to the inclusion of the hit single Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me), but their followup LP had been plagued by spotty distribution and the lack of a solid hit song. The pressure was on from the label to come up with a clone of their first effort, but the band wanted to record songs like Easy Street, which shows a strong jazz-blues influence. The band won that battle, but when Mosaic topped out at #207 on the charts, the label refused to release a projected fourth LP and Crow soon disbanded.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Supernaut
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits 1970-1978 (originally released on LP: Vol. 4)
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers/Rhino
Year:    1972
    After a string of three outstanding albums, success started to take its toll on Black Sabbath. Their fourth LP was originally going to be called Snowblind, which accurately describes the state the band members were in most of the time while recording the album. Reportedly, entire speaker boxes full of cocaine were arriving at the studio on a regular basis; at the same time, the band was making their first attempt at producing themselves. Despite all this, the album, which ended up being called Vol. 4 after their label rejected Snowblind as the title, has some of Sabbath's strongest songs, including Supernaut, which closes out the LP's first side. Fans of the song included John Bonham, Frank Zappa and Beck (Hansen).

Artist:    John Lennon
Title:    Meat City
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    John Lennon
Label:    Apple
Year:    1973
    John Lennon proved he could still rock out when he wanted to with Meat City, the final track on his 1973 Mind Games LP. The song combines Lennon's impressions of New York with his interest in bringing rock music to China, set against one of Lennon's heaviest backgrounds. Perhaps because of its stylistic opposition to the album's title track, Meat City was chosen to be the B side of Lennon's Mind Games single.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    Little Bit Of Sympathy
Source:    LP: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Robin Trower
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1974
    Released in 1974, Bridge Of Sighs was the second solo LP by former Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower. The album was Trower's commercial breakthrough, staying on the Billboard album charts for 31 weeks, peaking at #7. In addition to Trower, the album features James Dewar on lead vocals and bass, along with Reg Isidore on drums. The album was a staple of mid-1970s progressive rock radio, with several tunes, including album closer Little Bit Of Sympathy, becoming concert favorites.

Artist:    Paul Simon
Title:    50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1975
    Sometime in the early 1970s singer/songwriter Paul Simon picked up the nickname Rhymin' Simon and decided to run with it. He took it to its logical extreme with the 1975 hit 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, his only single to hit the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. After a short introductory verse the song goes into its chorus, where each line ends with two words that rhyme, with the second one being a proper noun, e.g. "back, Jack or "plan, Stan". This actually set off a trend among comedians, who would try to outdo each other coming up with new lines for the chorus.

Artist:    Renaissance
Title:    Ocean Gypsy (live version)
Source:    LP: Live At Carnegie Hall
Writer(s):    Dunford/Thatcher
Label:    Sire
Year:    1976
    Although they are generally perceived as the art-rock band of the 70s with the closest ties to traditional classic music, Renaissance's two most popular albums, including the 1975 release Scheherazade And Other Stories, do not, like their previous LPs, contain any direct quotes from classical pieces. They do, however, contain some excellent tunes like Ocean Gypsy from the Dunford/Thatcher writing team. The song, heard here in live performance at Carnegie Hall, features outstanding vocals from Annie Haslam.

Artist:      Bloodrock
Title:     Fatback
Source:      CD: Bloodrock
Writer(s):    Grundy/Rutledge
Label:     One Way/Cema Special Markets (original label: Capitol)
Year:     1970
     Bloodrock had the mixed blessing of putting out one of the most notorious songs of the year 1970 when they recorded D.O.A.. The song was a huge hit, making them a household name overnight, but soon became an albatross after the novelty wore off. Bloodrock was a discovery of Terry Knight, who took them under his wing, booking them as the opening act for another band he managed, Grand Funk Railroad, on their 1970 tour. The band's first two LPs both were released in 1970. Although Bloodrock 2 was the better seller of the two, thanks to the inclusion of D.O.A., the first LP was a solid debut for the Dallas band. Lead vocalist Jim Rutledge, who had decided to take center stage on Bloodrock 2, was still behind the drum kit on the first LP, singing and playing on songs like Fatback.

Artist:    Stray Dog
Title:    Very Well
Source:    LP: While You're Down There
Writer(s):    Timmy Dulaine
Label:    Manticore
Year:    1974
    Stray Dog started off in Texas as a power trio named Aphrodite, but soon relocated to Denver, where they built up a following and found themselves opening for major acts on tour. They came to the attention of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's manager, who offered them a recording contract with ELP's Manticore label. For their 1974 LP While You're Down There Stray Dog added two new members, including second guitarist and vocalist Timmy Dulaine, who wrote the majority of tunes on the album, including Very Well.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Do It Again
Source:    CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1972
    Although they at first appeared to be a real band, Steely Dan was, in fact, two people: keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen and bassist (and later guitarist) Walter Becker. For their first album they recruited, from various places, guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, drummer Jim Hodder, guitarist Denny Dias, and finally (when they realized they would have to actually perform live, which terrified Fagen) vocalist David Palmer. The first single from the album, Do It Again, was a major hit, going to the #6 spot on the Billboard charts and, more importantly, introducing the world at large to the Steely Dan sound, combining jazz-influenced rock music with slyly cynical lyrics (often sung in the second person). Steely Dan would continue to be an influential force in popular music, and especially FM rock radio, throughout the 1970s.

Artist:    Aorta
Title:    Heart Attack
Source:    German import LP: Underground '70 (originally released on LP: Aorta0
Writer(s):    Donliger/Nyeholt
Label:    CBS (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    Record companies are notorious for promoting bands they have signed as being "the next big thing." Sometimes they even sign multiple groups and promote them as "the next big sound". Such was the case in 1969 when Columbia's Clive Davis simultaneously released albums by four bands from the Chicago area (including one that, ironically, had actually started off calling itself The Big Thing). All four of these "Chicago sound" bands were included on a German LP called Underground '70, a sampler album pressed on purple vinyl that glowed under a black light (yeah, I had a black light back then). Unlike many sampler albums, Underground '70 actually used the strongest tracks from the various bands' respective albums, including Heart Attack from a band called Aorta. Although Aorta's actual album was a commercial flop, Heart Attack is actually a pretty decent tune.

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