Monday, November 21, 2016
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1647 (starts 11/23/16)
Artist: Neil Young
Title: The Needle And The Damage Done
Source: CD: Harvest
Writer(s): Neil Young
Arguably the most popular anti-drug song of all time, Neil Young's The Needle And The Damage Done was written in response to the epidemic of heroin use among musicians in Southern California. The song was more directly inspired by guitarist Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse, with whom Young had recorded his 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. It was because of Whitten's heroin addiction that Young dismissed Crazy Horse partway through the recording of his next album, After The Gold Rush, finishing the project with various musicians from other bands. It was around this time that Young wrote The Needle And The Damage Done, although it would not appear on vinyl until the 1972 album Harvest. Rather than record a studio version of the song for the album, Young used a live recording from January of 1971 for Harvest.
Artist: Alice Cooper
Source: CD: Electric Seventies (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Love It To Death
Label: JCI/Warner Special Products (original label: Warner Brothers)
Alice Cooper's ultimate teenage anthem Eighteen was kind of a do or die release for the group, who had up to that point been a part of Frank Zappa's Straight Records' stable of oddball artists with little or no commercial potential. In 1970, however, Zappa sold Straight to Warner Brothers, who agreed to release Eighteen that same year, with the stipulation that if the record sold well the group could record an album for the label. The single did indeed do well, propelling Alice Cooper to stardom and allowing them to record Love It To Death, the first in a series of best-selling albums for the label. The song came at a perfect time, as most states were in the process of raising the drinking age to 21 but had not yet lowered the voting age to 18. Furthermore, the military draft was still in effect in 1970, making many 18-year-olds quite nervous, especially those with low lottery numbers.
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Ray Davies
Starting in 1966, Ray Davies started taking satirical potshots at a variety of targets, with songs like A Well Respected Man, Dedicated Follower of Fashion and the classic tax-protest song Sunny Afternoon. This trend continued over the next few years, although few new Kinks songs were heard on US radio stations until the band released the international hit Lola in 1970. One single that got some minor airplay in the US was the song Victoria, from the album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). The B side of that track was Brainwashed, one of the hardest rocking Kinks tunes since their early 1964 hits like You Really Got Me.
Title: Dier Not A Lover
Source: CD: Bloodrock 2
Label: One Way (original label: Capitol)
Although lighter in tone lyrically than their first album (DOA excepted), Bloodrock's second LP, released in October of 1970, continued in the Ft. Worth, Texas band's hard rocking direction established on their debut earlier the same year. According to one review, Bloodrock 2 includes a couple songs with socially conscious lyrics, one of which is Dier Not A Lover. Let's be honest here, though; with a band like Bloodrock, is anyone really paying attention to the lyrics anyway (again, DOA excepted)?
Title: Glad/Freedom Rider
Source: European import LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Label: Island (original US label: United Artists)
Following the breakup of Blind Faith in early 1970, Steve Winwood got to work on his first solo LP, to be called Mad Shadows. After completing a couple of tracks Winwood found that he preferred to work within the band format and invited Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi to join him on the project, which became the fourth Traffic album, John Barleycorn Must Die. Unlike earlier Traffic studio recordings, John Barleycorn Must Die contained longer, improvisational pieces incorporating jazz elements, as can be heard on the album's opening tracks, Glad (an instrumental) and Freedom Rider. The new approach worked, as John Barleycorn Must Die became Traffic's first album to go gold.
Artist: King Crimson
Title: The Court Of The Crimson King
Source: CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Label: Discipline Global Mobile (original label: Atlantic)
Perhaps the most influential progressive rock album of all time was King Crimson's debut LP, In The Court Of The Crimson King. The band, in its original incarnation, included Robert Fripp on guitar, Ian MacDonald on keyboards and woodwinds, Greg Lake on vocals and bass, David Giles on drums and Peter Sinfield as a dedicated lyricist. The title track, which takes up the second half of side two of the LP, features music composed by MacDonald, who would leave the group after their second album, later resurfacing as a founding member of Foreigner. The album's distinctive cover art came from a painting by computer programmer Barry Godber, who died of a heart attack less than a year after the album was released. According to Fripp, the artwork on the inside is a portrait of the Crimson King, whose manic smile is in direct contrast to his sad eyes. The album, song and artwork were the inspiration for Stephen King's own Crimson King, the insane antagonist of his Dark Tower saga who is out to destroy all of reality, including our own.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You
Source: German import LP: Led Zeppelin
It is the nature of folk music that a song often gets credited to one writer when in fact it is the work of another. This is due to the fact that folk singers tend to share their material liberally with other folk singers, who often make significant changes to the work before passing it along to others. Such is the case with Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You, which was originally conceived by EC-Berkeley student Anne Johannsen in the late 1950s and performed live on KPFA radio in 1960. Another performer on the same show, Janet Smith, developed the song further and performed it at Oberlin College, where it was heard by audience member Joan Baez. Baez asked Smith for a tape of her songs and began performing the song herself. Baez used it as the opening track on her album, Joan Baez In Concert, Part One, but it was credited as "traditional", presumably because Baez herself had no knowledge of who had actually written the song. Baez eventually discovered the true origins of the tune, and later pressings gave credit to Anne Bredon, who had divorced her first husband, Lee Johannsen and married Glen Bredon since writing the song. Jimmy Page had an early pressing of the Baez album, so when he reworked the song for inclusion on the first Led Zeppelin album, he went with "traditional, arranged Page" as the writer. Robert Plant, who worked with Page on the arrangement, was not originally given credits for contractual reasons, although later editions of the album give credit to Page, Plant and Bredon.
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: Think About The Times
Source: CD: Watt
Writer(s): Alvin Lee
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
The first Ten Years After I ever bought was Stonedhenge, which I picked up because a) I liked the cover, and b) it was the featured album of the month at the BX, costing a buck and a half instead of the usual $2.50. Not long after that my dad got transferred back to the States, and I somehow missed the release of the next TYA album, Cricklewood Green. A friend of mine had a copy, though, that we spent a lot of time listening to, so when I saw their next album, Watt, on the racks I immediately picked it up. I wore that copy out, and only later learned that the album had gotten mostly negative reviews from the rock press. I think that's when I started to suspect that most rock critics were self-righteous individuals with no talent of their own, because I thought Watt was a good album then and I still think it's a good album. Take a listen to Think About The Times and tell me I'm wrong.
Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: Black Sabbath
Source: LP: Black Sabbath
Label: Warner Brothers
This track has to hold some kind of record for "firsts". Black Sabbath, by Black Sabbath, from the album Black Sabbath is, after all, the first song from the first album by the first true heavy metal band. The track starts off by immediately setting the mood with the sound of church bells in a rainstorm leading into the song's famous tri-tone (often referred to as the "devil's chord") intro, deliberately constructed to evoke the mood of classic Hollywood horror movies. Ozzy Osborne's vocals only add to the effect. Even the faster-paced final portion of the song has a certain dissonance that had never been heard in rock music before, in part thanks to Black Sabbath's deliberate use of a lower pitch in their basic tuning. The result is something that has sometimes been compared to a bad acid trip, but is unquestionably the foundation of what came to be called heavy metal.
Artist: Janis Joplin
Source: CD: I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama
Year: Recorded 1969, released 1999
Not long after the release of the breakthrough Big Brother And The Holding Company album Cheap Thrills, vocalist Janis Joplin announced her attention to leave the band once their current bookings were played out. Within days she began putting together a new band. Unlike Big Brother, the Kozmic Blues Band, as it came to be known, was a large ensemble that included keyboards and a horn section. It was this group that took the stage at Woodstock in 1969 to perform a set of songs that include the Big Brother arrangement of George Gershwin's Summertime. Sam Andrew, the original lead guitarist from Big Brother And The Holding Company, recreates his original licks on this live recording that is included as a bonus track on the I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama CD edition, released in 1999.