Sunday, January 12, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2003 (starts 1/13/20)

   This time around we have two sets. The first is a selection of tunes from 1971, while the second follows a musical path from 1968 to 1971. We begin with an early Grand Funk Railroad favorite...

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Into The Sun
Source:    CD: On Time
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    One of my fondest memories of the year I graduated high school was moving to the tiny town of Mangum, Oklahoma for the summer. I was up there to take a shot at rock stardom with a band called Sunn, a group that I had been a founding member of in my junior year of high school. The band had its own road manager, a local guy named Gary Dowdy who was home from college for the summer and drove a red '54 Ford panel truck missing its front grille. In addition to being our main equipment van, "The Glump", as Dowdy called it, was our source of daily transportion around town. It's best feature was an 8-track tape system that Dowdy had installed himself. One of the tapes we listened to most often was Grand Funk Railroad's debut album, On Time. In fact, I don't really recall us listening to any other tapes but that one and the band's second album, Grand Funk. As a result, I pretty much know every song on the album by heart, even though I did not have my own copy of On Time until 2013, when I found a somewhat ratty old copy of the LP at a store in Syracuse, NY, that sells used records. More recently I managed to find a new CD copy of the album, so we can now listen to Into The Sun, the opening track from side two of the original album, without all the ticks and pops.

Artist:    Yes
Title:    Yours Is No Disgrace
Source:    CD: The Yes Album
Writer(s):    Anderson/Squire/Howe/Kaye/Bruford
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1971
    1970 was a transition year for the progressive rock band known as Yes. Their first two albums, Yes and Time And A Word, had not sold well, and their label, Atlantic, was considering dropping them from their roster. Internally, creative differences between guitarist Peter Banks and the rest of the band led to Banks leaving the group, eventually forming his own band, Flash. The remaining members quickly recruited Steve Howe, who was making a name for himself as a studio musician following the breakup of Tomorrow a couple of years earlier. Howe proved to be a more than suitable replacement, as his versatility served the band's experimental style well. With Howe firmly in place, the group got to work on their third LP, The Yes Album. Unlike Yes's previous albums, which had each included a pair of highly rearranged cover songs (following a pattern set by such bands as Vanilla Fudge and Deep Purple), The Yes Album was made up entirely of original material, mostly written by vocalist Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire. Yours Is No Disgrace, however, which opens the album, is credited to the entire band, and gives each member a chance to shine without detracting from the band as a whole. The membership of Yes would continue to fluctuate, however, with keyboardist Tony Kaye, who did not share the rest of the band's enthusiam for the new synthesizers hitting the market, leaving shortly after the album was released, and drummer Bill Bruford following suit following the release of the band's fifth album, Close To The Edge. Eventually even Anderson and Squire would depart the group, leaving Steve Howe currently at the helm of a band containing none of its original members.    

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Gimme Some Lovin'
Source:    LP: Welcome To The Canteen
Writer(s):    Winwood/Winwood/Davis
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1971
    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:    Rod Stewart with Faces
Title:    (I Know) I'm Losing You
Source:    45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Whitfield/Holland/Grant
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1971
    In addition to his role as lead vocalist for the Faces (formerly the Small Faces), singer Rod Stewart had a solo career going at the same time. This made for some awkward situations, since Stewart's solo work appeared on the Mercury label, while the Faces were under contract to Warner Brothers. For one thing, none of the band members received credit on any of Stewart's albums, including 1971's Every Picture Tells A Story, which was in essence a Faces album in all but name. As a result, nobody can say for sure whether the entire band was present for the recording of (I Know) I'm Losing You, although drummer Kenney Jones's participation is indisputable.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Holy Holy
Source:    CD: Sound+Vision Catalogue Sampler #1 (originally released in the UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Ryko (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    One of the most obscure David Bowie tracks ever recorded, Holy Holy was originally released as the A side of a 1970 single, but only in a handful of countries, none of which were in the Western Hemisphere. The song stayed out of print until 1990, when it was included as a bonus track on the CD version of The Man Who Sold The World.

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    A Case Of You
Source:    LP: Blue
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1971
    Like a lot of people my age in the early 1970s, I occasionally enjoyed taping songs off the radio. Unlike most people my age in the early 1970s, I had access to a pair of reel-to-reel tape decks to make those tapes. At that time Alamogordo, New Mexico, did not have any local FM stations. In fact, the only FM station that you could even receive in the area was KRWG, the classical station out of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Sometime in 1971, however, the local cable company started making a handful of El Paso FM stations available to their local subscribers. Among those was KINT-FM, a station that ran Spanish language programs during the day and was experimenting with a progressive rock format at night. KINT-FM's experiment with progressive rock did not last all that long, as they soon adopted a more mainstream top 40 format, but before they made that change I made a tape of one of their broadcasts that included a song called A Case Of You, performed by a young Canadian singer/songwriter named Joni Mitchell. I don't know what happened to that tape, but the song itself, from the album Blue, has been stuck in my head ever since.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Source:    CD: Relics (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Waters/Wright/Mason/Gilmour
Label:    Capitol (original UK label: Columbia)
Year:    1968
    Originally released in the UK as the B side of Point Me At The Sky, Careful With That Axe Eugene went on to become one of Pink Floyd's best known early recordings, thanks in large part to a live performance of the piece being included on the 1969 LP Ummagumma. The original studio version of the tune was included on the 1971 compilation album Relics, which is still in print.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills And Nash
Title:    Wooden Ships
Source:    CD: Crosby, Stills And Nash
Writer(s):    Crosby/Stills/Kantner
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    Among the various legendary characters on the late 60s San Francisco music scene, none is more reviled than Matthew Katz. His mistreatment of It's A Beautiful Day is legendary. Just about every band he managed was desperate to get out of their contract with him, including Moby Grape and Jefferson Airplane. In fact, it was because of the Airplane's fight to get out from under Katz's thumb that Paul Kantner did not get a writing credit for Wooden Ships on the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. David Crosby had this to say on the matter: "Paul called me up and said that he was having this major duke-out with this horrible guy who was managing the band, and he was freezing everything their names were on. 'He might injunct the release of your record,' he told me. So we didn’t put Paul’s name on it for a while. In later versions, we made it very certain that he wrote it with us. Of course, we evened things up with him with a whole mess of cash when the record went huge." Although Jefferson Airplane eventually won their battle with Katz, others weren't so fortunate. Katz's San Francisco Sound still owns the rights to recordings by Moby Grape and It's A Beautiful Day, which explains why it's so hard to find quality copies of those recordings these days. Anyone want to take a guess how much the surviving members of those bands receive in royalties from the CD reissues of their albums? (Hint: at least one member of Moby Grape was known to have been living under a bridge at one point).

Artist:    Grateful Dead
Title:    Uncle John's Band
Source:    CD: Skeletons From The Closet (originally released on LP: Workingman's Dead)
Writer(s):    Hunter/Garcia
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    For many people who only got their music from commercial radio, Uncle John's Band was the first Grateful Dead song they ever heard. The tune, from the 1970 LP Workingman's Dead, was the first Dead song to crack the top 100, peaking at #69, and got significant airplay on FM rock radio stations as well. The close harmonies on the track were reportedly inspired by Crosby, Stills and Nash, whose debut album had come out the previous year.

Artist:     Who
Title:     Behind Blue Eyes
Source:     45 RPM single
Writer:     Pete Townshend
Label:     Decca
Year:     1971
     One of the most iconic Who songs ever, Behind Blue Eyes continues to get played on commercial FM stations, both in its original form and the more recent cover version by Limp Bizkit. Well, I might be wrong about that last part. I mean, I've never heard the Limp Bizkit version played on the radio. Does anyone play Limp Bizkit at all anymore? For that matter why am I even talking about Limp Biskit???

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