Sunday, October 4, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2041 (starts 10/5/20)

    This week's show begins and ends with live performances, from Humble Pie and the Doors respectively. In between we have a 1973 set featuring (among others) Pink Floyd and Procol Harum, and a kind of free association set that takes us from the Guess Who to Frank Zappa.

Artist:    Humble Pie
Title:    I Don't Need No Doctor
Source:    CD: Performance-Rockin' The Fillmore
Writer(s):    Ashford/Simpson/Armstead
Label:    A&M
Year:    1971
    Humble Pie, one of the first rock supergroups, was already beginning to fall apart when their double-LP live album Performance-Rockin' The Fillmore was recorded. In fact, guitarist Peter Frampton had already left the group by the time the album was released in 1971, mainly due to clashes with lead vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott. Regardless, the album was a hit, going to #21 on the US album chart and hitting the top 40 in Britain as well. An edited version of the band's cover of the Ray Charles hit I Don't Need No Doctor was released as a single, becoming the album's best-known track.

Artist:    Grand Funk
Title:    Black Licorice
Source:    CD: We're An American Band
Writer(s):    Farner/Brewer
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1973
    By 1973 Grand Funk Railroad, the first true arena-rock band, was sounding a bit fatigued. The band had released six studio LPs, as well as a double disc live album, over a period of just four years, with guitarist Mark Farner writing virtually all the group's original material, as well as handling all the lead vocals. Having parted company with their original manager/producer, Terry Knight, just prior to recording their self-produced Phoenix album in 1972, the band was seeing a dropoff in sales as well. To get things back on track they brought in a new producer, Todd Rundgren, for their seventh LP, We're An American Band, as well as shortening the band's name to Grand Funk (temporarily, as it turned out). The most noticable change, however, was the rise to prominence of drummer Don Brewer, both as a songwriter and a vocalist. In fact, Brewer took over lead vocal duties on fully half the album's songs, writing or co-writing several of them, including Black Licorice. The album was a huge success, changing the direction of Grand Funk's music forever.

Artist:    Procol Harum
Title:    Bringing Home The Bacon
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM promo single
Writer:    Brooker/Reid
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1973
    After the departure of original lead guitarist Robin Trower, the remaining members of Procol Harum continued to record quality albums such as Grand Hotel, although their airplay was limited to sporadic plays on progressive FM stations. One song that probably should have gotten more attention than it did was Bringing Home The Bacon, from the aforementioned Grand Hotel album. The group would experience a brief return to top 40 radio the following year with the release of their live version of Conquistador, a track that originally appeared on the band's 1967 debut LP.

Artist:    Aerosmith
Title:    Dream Om
Source:    CD: Aerosmith
Writer(s):    Steven Tyler
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1973
    My former bandmate and roomate, the late Jeff "Quincy" Adams, was an Air Force brat like me, although my dad was an enlisted man and his father was a full bird colonel. One of the many places Quincy lived was the Boston area. Quincy once told me about this band that had a practice room down the street from where he lived. As an aspiring guitarist himself he would try to check out this band whenever possible, but as a young teenager he was of course too shy to actually approach any of the band members. Quincy, looking back on those times fifteen years later, swore that one of the songs that band was playing was Dream On, a song that was not recorded until 1973, when it came out on the first Aerosmith album. So was that jam band down the street indeed Aerosmith? Could be.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Time/The Great Gig In The Sky
Source:    The Dark Side Of The Moon
Writer(s):    Mason/Waters/Gilmour/Wright/Torry
Label:    Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1973
    There are very few albums in rock history that have achieved the iconic status of Pink Floyd's Dark side Of The Moon. Listening to the last two tracks on side one, it's easy to see why this album makes the grade. In case you're wondering, the "Torry" in the songwriting credits is Clare Torry, who does all that wordless vocalizing throughout The Great Gig In The Sky. Her name did not originally appear in the credits, but then lawyers got involved...
Artist:     Guess Who
Title:     American Woman
Source:     European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: American Woman)
Writer:     Bachman/Cummings/Peterson/Kale
Label:     Sony Music (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1970
     American Woman is undoubtably the most political song ever recorded by the Guess Who, a generally non-political Canadian band. My family was living on Ramstein AFB, which was and is a huge base in Germany with enough Canadian personnel stationed there to justify their own on-base school. I found myself hanging out with the Canadian kids most of the time and I gotta tell you, they absolutely loved this song. They also loved to throw it in my face as often as possible. I guess that's what I got for being the "token American" member of my peer group.
Artist:    Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Title:    American Girl
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits (originally released on LP: Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers)
Writer(s):    Tom Petty
Label:    MCA (original label: Shelter)
Year:    1976
    American Girl was not a hit when it was originally released as a single, but has since become known as one of Tom Petty's signature songs and is a staple of classic rock radio. It was also the last song ever played live by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, as the encore to their tour-ending performance at the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 25, 2017. Petty claimed the lyrics to the song were inspired by listening to cars on the freeway from his apartment in Encino, California, but the line "she could hear the cars roll by out on 441" was actually a reference to US Highway 441, which was the main highway through Gainesville, Florida, where he grew up, before I-75, which bypasses the city, was constructed in 1964.

Artist:    Rush
Title:    Cinderella Man
Source:    LP: A Farewell To Kings
Writer(s):    Lee/Lifeson
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1977
    Although most of Rush's lyrics were written by drummer Neal Peart, there were exceptions. One of those was Cinderella Man, which was based on bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee's impressions of one of his favorite films, the 1936 classic Mr Deeds Goes To Town. Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson wrote the music for the song.

Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Black Napkins
Source:    LP: Zoot Allures
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1976
    Most of Frank Zappa's recorded work from the mid-1970s until his death in 1993 mixes live and studio performances so seamlessly it's difficult to tell them apart. Black Napkins, from the 1976 LP Zoot Allures, sounds like a studio piece, with clean separation of instruments not often heard on live recordings of the time.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Break On Thru #2
Source:    LP: Absolutely Live
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1970
    The first live Doors album had a close relationship to controversy without itself being particularly controversial. The double LP was made up of performances from the Absolutely Live tour between July of 1969 and June of 1970. At the time the album was released, producer Paul Rothchild claimed that he had to make "over 1000" edits to get acceptable takes of the songs, including splicing part of one performance into part of another. In recent years, however, this claim has been disproven by the Bright Midnight record company, which has issued uncut masters of all of the performances in question over a total of 22 CDs. Audio proofs made by comparing these uncut masters with the original album tracks show there there were fewer than five major edits on the entire album, none of them on the songs themselves. A more personal controversy erupted at the time the album was released over the cover art, which was modified by the record label to include a picture of singer Jim Morrison that did not reflect his 1970 look. None of the band members approved the change from the original artwork, which was a single image of the band in concert against a blue background. Of course, that particular period in time was somewhat controversial for the band itself, as they were experiencing the aftermath of Morrison's arrest for onstage obscenity in Miami, Florida. As a result, the album did not do all that well in record stores, selling only about half as many copies as their most recent studio LP, Morrison Hotel. The CD reissue of the album breaks down the individual tracks differently than the original LPs; Break On Thru #2, for instance, is divided into two tracks: Dead Cats, Dead Rats and Break On Through (To The Other Side). The two pieces were actually one continuous performance recorded in Detroit in 1970.


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