Sunday, November 18, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1847 (starts 11/19/18)

    This week's show is broken up into two distinct sets. The first, mostly from 1972, is singles oriented, including the rare second single released from Jethro Tull's Passion Play. The second set is pretty much all 1969, although one track, Proud Mary, was (according to some sources) released as a single in December of 1968, and the Mountain song, Theme From An Imaginary Western, was included in the band's Woodstock set, though the studio version wasn't released until early 1970.

Artist:    Norman Rose/Melissa Manchester
Title:    Deteriorata
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released on LP: Radio Dinner)
Writer(s):    Hendra/Guest
Label:    Uproar (original label: Blue Thumb)
Year:    1972
    National Lampoon was a product of its time. Originally a magazine, NatLamp (as it was often referred to) grew to include a weekly radio show, a series of albums, and eventually, a series of movies. Some of the best bits from the radio show were assembled in 1972 on an album called National Lampoon's Radio Dinner. The opening track of this album was a piece written by Tony Hendra (with music by Christopher Guest) that parodied a 1971 spoken word recording by Les Crane of an early 20th century poem by Max Ehrmann called Desirata. The Lampoon piece, Deteriorata, was narrated by Norman Rose, with Melissa Manchester singing.

Artist:    Graham Nash/David Crosby
Title:    Immigration Man
Source:    LP: Graham Nash David Crosby
Writer(s):    Graham Nash
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1972
    A frustrating experience with a US Customs agent was the inspiration for what might well be the best song Graham Nash ever wrote. Immigration Man, from the album Graham Nash David Crosby, was released in March of 1972, and became the duo's only top 40 hit. The song has taken on new relevance in recent years, with immigration becoming a divisive political issue, not only in the US but in several European nations as well.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    A Passion Play (Edit #10)
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1973
    My very first "radio" gig was at a closed-circuit station serving various locations at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. Even though most radio stations got lots of free promo copies of current songs, the Voice Of Holloman was pretty much ignored by the major record labels, with one notable exception: Warner Brothers (and it's associated labels such as Reprise and Chrysalis). Since the Voice Of Holloman was pretty middle of the road, they didn't play Jethro Tull, and I got to snag a copy of the second Tull single taken from A Passion Play. Unlike Edit #8, which got enough airplay to warrant inclusion in Jethro Tull's "M.U" The Best Of Jethro Tull collection, Edit #10 was pretty much dead in the water as soon as it was released. In fact, I have never actually seen a regular copy of the single. My original promo copy is long gone, but I did manage to find one from a reliable source in 2018. Unfortunately, 1973 was the year of the great vinyl shortage (one of the reasons the Voice Of Holloman wasn't getting stuff from most labels), and the promo used poor quality vinyl. Still, it is, to my knowledge, the only source available for this rare edit, so here it is, noise and all.

Artist:    Temptations
Title:    Papa Was A Rolling Stone
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer:    Whitfield/Strong
Label:    Motown
Year:    1972
    One of the longest songs ever to get played on top 40 radio, Papa Was A Rolling Stone was in many ways a climactic recording. It was the last big Temptations hit, and one of the last songs produced by the team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, the so-called "psychedelic soul" producers, before Whitfield left Motown to form his own production company. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it was the last major hit to feature the Funk Brothers, the (mostly uncredited) instrumentalists who had played on virtually every Motown record in the 60s but had been largely supplanted by studio musicians working out of Los Angeles, where the label had relocated its corporate headquarters to, in the early 70s. And on Papa Was A Rolling Stone the Funk Brothers finally got to shine as soloists, with an intro on the LP version that lasted more than four minutes and a long extended instrumental section in the middle of the piece as well. Papa Was A Rolling Stone has been called the last great Motown record. I tend to agree with that assessment.

Artist:    Curtis Mayfield
Title:    Freddie's Dead
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Curtis Mayfield
Label:    Curtom
Year:    1972
    The 1971 movie Shaft launched an entire genre of films sometimes known as "blacksploitation" movies. One of the most successful of these was the 1972 film Super Fly. The soundtrack music for Super Fly was provided by former Impressions frontman Curtis Mayfield, and released on his own Curtom label. The single Freddie's Dead, adding vocals to the film's instrumental theme, was released ahead of the film and went into the top 5 on both the Hot 100 and Billboard R&B charts. It was also nominated for a Grammy award, but lost out to the Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong piece Papa Was A Rolling Stone, sung by the Temptations.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    Mean Mistreater
Source:    British import CD: Johnny Winter
Writer(s):    James Gordon
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    Most of Johnny Winter's first album for Columbia featured the same musicians, Tommy Shannon and Uncle John Turner, that had appeared on Winter's debut LP, The Progressive Blues Experiment. One track, though, featured guest Willie Dixon on upright bass. That tune, Mean Mistreater, was written by James Gordon and also features Walter "Shakey" Horton on harmonica.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    I Can't Quit You/How Many More Times
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin
Writer(s):    Dixon/Page/Jones/Bonham
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    Led Zeppelin has come under fire for occassionally "borrowing" lyrics and even guitar riffs from old blues songs (never mind the fact that such "borrowing" was a common practice among the old bluesmen themselves) but, at least in the case of the first Zeppelin album, full songwriting credit was given to Willie Dixon for a pair of songs, one of which was I Can't Quit You. Still, it can't be denied that messrs. Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones completely revamped the blues classic into something uniquely their own. Like many early Led Zeppelin songs, How Many More Times was originally credited to the band members (except, for contractual reasons, singer Robert Plant). More recent releases of the song, however, list Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) as a co-writer, despite the fact that he and the members of Led Zeppelin had never met. This is because of the similarity, especially in the lyrics, to a 1951 Howlin' Wolf record called How Many More Years. The band tried to trick radio programmers into playing the eight and a half minute song by listing it on the album cover as being three minutes and thirty seconds long. I doubt anyone was fooled.
Artist:    Creedence Clearwater Revival
Title:    Proud Mary
Source:    Simulated stereo LP: Bayou Country
Writer(s):    John Fogerty
Label:    Fantasy
Year:    1968
    Fun fact: Creedence Clearwater Revival never had a #1 hit. They did, however, manage to hit the #2 spot...five times. The first of these #2 hits was Proud Mary, written a week after John Fogerty's discharge from the National Guard. The song updates Mark Twain's portrait of life on a riverboat for the 20th century, a portrait that resonated well with a generation that was just reaching the age where the prospect of spending one's life "working for the man every night and day" was begining to look unavoidable. The song was released at the tail end of 1968 (according to some, early 1969), a year that had seen the idyllic hippie lifestyle of the summer of love give way to the radical politics of groups like the SDS and the Black Panthers, who advocated violence as a response to the continued intractability of the Establishment. The fact that hallucinogenics like LSD and mescaline were being replaced by harsher (and cheaper) drugs like speed and various narcotics was not lost on the members of CCR either, who, according to Fogerty, made a promise to themselves on the floor of the Fillmore that they would be a drug-free band, choosing to "get high on the music" instead. It's likely that the single was prepared separately from the album it appeared on, Bayou Country, since the LP itself uses an electronically rechanneled mono version of the song rather than a true stereo mix.

Artist:    Blind Faith
Title:    Sea Of Joy
Source:    CD: Blind Faith
Writer(s):    Steve Winwood
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1969
    At the time Blind Faith was formed there is no question that the biggest names in the band were guitarist Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, having just come off a successful three-year run with Cream. Yet the true architect of the Blind Faith sound was actually Steve Winwood, formerly of the Spencer Davis Group and, more recently, Traffic. Not only did Winwood handle most of the lead vocals for the group, he also wrote more songs on the band's only album than any other member. Among the Winwood tunes on that album is Sea Of Joy, which opens side two of the LP. Bassist Rich Grech makes a significant contribution to the song as well on the instrumental break, which features him reprising his role as violinist for his former band, Family.

Artist:      David Bowie
Title:     Space Oddity
Source:      45 RPM single (originally released on LP: David Bowie)
Writer:    David Bowie
Label:     RCA Victor (original label: Mercury)
Year:     1969
     When David Jones first started his recording career he was a fairly conventional folk singer. With his second self-titled album (later retitled Space Oddity) he truly became the David Bowie we all know, and the rock world was never quite the same.
Artist:     Mountain
Title:     Theme From An Imaginary Western
Source:     European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Mountain Climbing)
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Windfall)
Year:     1970
     Keyboardist Felix Pappaliardi worked closely with the band Cream in the studio, starting with the album Disraeli Gears, so it was only natural that his new band Mountain would perform (and record) at least one song by Cream's primary songwriting team, Jack Bruce and Pete Brown. If Mississippi Queen was guitarist Leslie West's signature song, then Theme From An Imaginary Western was Felix's, at least until Nantucket Sleighride came along.

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