The emphasis this week is on debuts, including tracks from the first album's of bands like Wishbone Ash, Black Sabbath, and others. We also have a track from Jimmy Miller's first album as the Rolling Stones' producer and Hawkwind's first demo (recorded when they were still calling themselves Hawkwind Zoo), plus a cut from the first album ever to include a giant rolling paper. It all starts with the first record to feature Neil Young and Graham Nash together without Crosby or Stills.
Artist: Neil Young/Graham Nash
Title: War Song
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: Neil Young
Around the same time that Neil Young was working on his Harvest LP he recorded War Song with Graham Nash and the Stray Gators. It was never released on an LP, although it did appear on CD many years later on one of the various anthologies that have been issued over the years.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Stray Cat Blues
Source: CD: Beggar's Banquet
Label: ABKCO (original label: London)
As a military dependent overseas I had access to the local Base Exchange. The downside of buying albums there was that they were always a month or two behind the official stateside release dates getting albums in stock. The upside is that the BX had a special of the month that was always a new release for sale at something like 40% off the regular album price. The December 1968 special was a classic-to-be from the Rolling Stones called Beggar's Banquet, which I bought for a buck and a half. Full-priced albums that month included new releases by the Beatles (white album), Hendrix (Electric Ladyland) and Cream (Wheels of Fire). Astute readers may have noticed that all of those full-priced albums were double LP sets. Needless to say, by the end of the month I was broke.
Artist: Rick Derringer
Title: Rock And Roll, Hoochie Coo
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Rick Derringer
Label: Blue Sky
In the summer of 1965, 17-year-old Rick Derringer and his band the McCoys were hired to open for the Strangeloves, a group of New York songwriting record producers who were passing themselves off as the sons of Australian sheepherders and had a hit single out called I Want Candy. Not wanting to be the Strangeloves forever, they were already looking for an actual band to perform a new song they had written called My Girl Sloopy. After the show they asked Derringer if he might be interested in providing vocals and guitar parts for My Girl Sloopy. After convincing them to change the title to Hang On Sloopy, Derringer agreed, and the record was credited to the McCoys, despite the fact that the backing tracks had already been recorded by studio musicians. Although the song was a #1 hit worldwide (and is still a standard on oldies stations) it became a bit of an albatross for the band later in the decade, when the McCoys were trying to establish themselves as a serious rock band. In 1970, minus their keyboardist, they teamed up with blues guitarist Johnny Winter to become Johnny Winter And (originally intended to be Johnny Winter And The McCoys). The album, released in September, included four songs written by Derringer. According to Derringer, "The first song I wrote for Johnny was 'Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo'. 'Rock and Roll' to satisfy the rock 'n' roll that I was supposed to be bringing into the picture, and 'Hoochie Koo' to satisfy the king of blues sensibility that Johnny was supposed to maintain." The song was later re-recorded for Derringer's 1973 debut solo LP All American Boy and became Derringer's only top 40 hit in early 1974, peaking at #23.
Artist: Wishbone Ash
Source: CD: Wishbone Ash
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
The first Wishbone Ash album was characterized by the dual lead guitar work of Andy Powell and Ted Turner. This is particularly notable on the album's showcase piece, the ten and a half minute long Phoenix. Unfortunately, the lack of a powerful lead vocalist kept Wishbone Ash from becoming a first-tier band.
Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: A Bit Of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning
Source: CD: Black Sabbath
Label: Warner Brothers
According to Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, the band's debut LP was recorded in one day, in a marathon 12-hour session, and mixed the following day. Most of the tracks, including the 14-minute long Warning, were done in one take with no overdubs. The tune itself is listed on the US album cover as three separate tracks, even though it is the same continuous piece that appeared on the original UK version of the album. The reason for this is probably so the band could get more in royalties for three compositions than they could for just one. The Grateful Dead did essentially the same thing on their 1968 album Anthem Of The Sun with the 18-minute long track That's It For The Other One. Both albums appeared in the US on the Warner Brothers label.
Artist: Hawkwind Zoo
Title: Hurry On Sundown (demo version)
Source: Mono British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution
Writer(s): Dave Brock
Year: Recorded 1969, released 2013
The first single by Hawkwind was a tune called Hurry On Sundown, which was also included on their first LP in 1970. The previous year the band had recorded a demo of the song while they were still calling themselves Hawkwind Zoo. That recording remained unreleased until 2013, when it appeared on the British compilation box set Love, Poetry And Revolution.
Artist: Geronimo Black
Title: Low Ridin' Man/Siesta
Source: LP: Geronimo Black
Q: When is a supergroup not a supergroup? A: When the group is made up of lesser-known members of well-known bands. Case in point: Geronimo Black, formed in 1972 by former Mother Jimmy Carl Black ("The Indian of the group") and named after his firstborn son. Other members of the group included:
• Andy Cahan, keyboards, from Dr. John & Richard Souther's bands.
• Tjay Contrelli (John Barberis), saxophone, from Love
• Bunk Gardner (John Leon Guanerra), horns, from The Mothers of Invention
• Buzz Gardner (Charles Guanerra), horns
• Tom Leavey, bass
• Denny Walley, guitar, from The Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart's Magic Band.
The band didn't last long, however. After recording only one album for MCA's Uni label, the group found themselves banned from the MCA lot for excessive debauchery and general rowdiness.
Artist: Cheech And Chong
Title: Ralph And Herbie
Source: LP: Big Bambu
Conventional wisdom dictates that if you want to project a family-oriented image, use kids and dogs as props. Cheech and Chong turned that truism on its ear with Ralph And Herbie, a track from their second LP, Big Bambu, that includes such canine behavior as humping, chasing cars and "pinching a loaf".
Artist: Blues Image
Title: Leaving My Troubles Behind
Source: LP: Blues Image
Writer: Blues Image
Miami's Blues Image was highly regarded by critics and musicians alike. Unfortunately, they were never able to translate that acclaim into album sales, despite recording a pair of fine albums for Atco. One of the highlights of their self-titled debut LP was a track called Leaving My Troubles Behind. Sung by conga player Joe Lala (who would eventually turn to acting, appearing on TV shows like Miami Vice and doing a ton of voice work for animated shows and video games), the song has all the earmarks of a rock standard, but for some reason never truly caught on. After a second LP charted even lower than the first one, guitarist Mike Pinera left Blues Image to replace Eric Brann in Iron Butterfly, and after yet another commercially unsuccessful album the group disbanded.