Sunday, February 3, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1906 (starts 2/4/19)

    This week's show starts on a heavy note with White Bird, a song about the desire to be free and, at once point, gets pretty lighthearted with hit singles from Paul Simon and Blue Suede, before switching moods once again. That how it was in the early to mid 1970s. A true Tightrope ride.

Artist:     It's A Beautiful Day
Title:     White Bird
Source:     CD: It's A Beautiful Day
Writer:     David and Linda LaFlamme
Label:     San Francisco Sound (original label: Columbia)
Year:     1968
     It's A Beautiful Day is a good illustration of how a band can be a part of a trend without intending to be or even realizing that they are. In their case, they were actually tied to two different trends. The first one was a positive thing: it was now possible for a band to be considered successful without a top 40 hit, as long as their album sales were healthy. The second trend was not such a good thing; as was true for way too many bands, It's A Beautiful Day was sorely mistreated by its own management, in this case one Matthew Katz. Katz already represented both Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape when he signed up It's A Beautiful Day in 1967. What the members of It's A Beautiful Day did not know at the time was that both of the aforementioned bands were trying to get out of their contracts with Katz. The first thing Katz did after signing It's A Beautiful Day was to ship the band off to Seattle to become house band at a club Katz owned called the San Francisco Sound. Unfortunately for the band, Seattle already had a sound of its own and attendance at their gigs was sparse. Feeling downtrodden and caged (and having no means of transportation to boot) classically-trained 5-string violinist and lead vocalist David LaFlamme and his keyboardist wife Linda LaFlamme translated those feelings into a song that is at once sad and beautiful: the classic White Bird. As an aside, Linda LaFlamme was not the female vocalist heard on White Bird. Credit for those goes to one Pattie Santos, the other female band member. To this day Katz owns the rights to It's A Beautiful Day's recordings, which have been reissued on CD on Katz's San Francisco Sound label.

Artist:    King Crimson
Title:    In The Wake Of Poseidon
Source:    LP: In The Wake Of Poseidon
Writer(s):    Fripp/Sinfield
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    Following King Crimson's tour to support their first LP, In The Court Of The Crimson King, most of the band members left to pursue other projects, leaving only bandleader Robert Fripp and lyricist Peter Sinfield to come up with enough material for a followup album. The first album's bassist, Greg Lake, who was in the process of forming Emerson, Lake & Palmer, agreed to record vocals for the new album in return for possession of King Crimson's PA system, and ended up singing on all but one of the tracks on In The Wake Of Poseidon, including the eight-minute long title track itself. Michael Giles also returned long enough to provide drum tracks, while Fripp's longtime friend Gordon Haskell played bass. Fripp himself ended up playing the mellotron as well as all the guitar parts on the LP. King Crimson would continue to have a fluid lineup throughout its existence, with many of its members going on to become stars in their own right.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    The Approaching Storm/Man Vs. Man: The End
Source:    LP: Chicago III
Writer(s):    James Pankow
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    Chicago's self-titled second album was a huge success. This put pressure on the band to make their third LP an even bigger hit; in terms of chart action they actually succeeded, with Chicago III hitting a higher position than either of its predecessors. However, the fatigue of constant touring was taking its toll, and the album itself has a more world-weary feel than any of their other LPs. The fact that Chicago III was the third consecutive double-LP released by the band only contributed to this weariness. Still, in some ways Chicago III was also the heaviest album ever released by the group. Even the instrumentals, such as trombonist James Pankow's album side length suite Elegy had a darkness to them. The suite itself has a long enough silence between the third and fourth parts that I have chosen to treat them as separate tracks. This week we have the final two parts of Elegy, The Approaching Storm and Man Vs. Man: The End. The titles say it all.

Artist:    Joy Of Cooking
Title:    Bad Luck Blues
Source:    British import CD: Castles
Writer(s):    Blind Lemon Jefferson
Label:    Acadia (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1972
    Despite having two strong songwriters in Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite, Joy Of Cooking decided to conclude what would be their last album, Castles, with a cover song. That cover song, however, was a particularly strong rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson' Bad Luck Blues, sung by Garthwaite. Sadly, the album was not a commercial success, a problem that can be traced, at least in part, to Capitol Records' inability to properly promote the group.

Artist:    Paul Simon
Title:    Kodachrome
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1973
    Paul Simon's Kodachrome was actually banned on some stations, but not for copyright infringement (Kodachrome being a registered trademark of Kodak). Rather, it was banned for the first line of the song: "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all." Apparently "crap" offended some programmers, to the point that one station (New York's WABC) even edited the offending line to "When I think back it's a wonder I can think at all" when they played the song. Not only does that line not make any sense, I can only imagine how that must have sounded with almost four measures edited out (but with one beat left in, just to totally throw off the rhythm of the song). Apparently, though, this kind of stuff is what used to make America great, if current political thought is to be believed.

Artist:    Blue Suede
Title:    Hooked On A Feeling
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Mark James
Label:    EMI
Year:    1973
    By 1974, the novelty record was almost dead. Then again, the Blue Suede version of the 1969 B.J. Thomas hit, Hooked On A Feeling, is almost a novelty record. The single, release in May of 1973 in the band's native Sweden, went all the way to the top of the charts when it was released in the US in early 1974. Not bad for a band that recorded nothing but cover songs (even the famous "ooka-chaka" intro was swiped from a 1971 Jonathan King version of the song). If you are one of the many who hoped never to hear this song again, you can blame Quentin Tarantino, who revived interest in the song when he included it in the soundtrack of his film Reservoir Dogs.

Artist:    Pavlov's Dog
Title:    Fast Gun
Source:    LP: Pampered Menial
Writer(s):    David Surkamp
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1975
    Pavlov's Dog, from St. Louis, Mo., was somewhat unusual in that they had not one, but two keyboardists in the band. In addition to keyboardists David Hamilton and Doug Rayburn, the group included vocalist David Surkamp, guitarist Steve Scorfina, bassist Rick Stockton, drummer Mike Safron, and violinist Siegfried Carver (born Richard Nadler) at the time they recorded their first album, Pampered Menial. The 1975 album was released briefly on the ABC label, then almost immediately on Columbia. Most of the songs on the album were written by either Surkamp or Scorfina, including Fast Gun, a Surkamp original. The band, despite numerous personnel changes, managed to record two more albums before disbanding in 1977. However, Columbia, citing poor sales on the first two LPs, chose not to release the third one.

Artist:    J. Geils Band
Title:    Magic's Mood
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Juke Joint Jimmy
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1976
    My two favorite J. Geils Band tracks are both B sides featuring the harmonica playing of Magic Dick. Both Magic's Mood, from 1976, and 1971's Whammer Jammer are credited to Juke Joint Jimmy. Of course, this writing credit got me curious, so I did a little research and found out that Juke Joint Jimmy (sometimes spelled Jimmie) is actually a pseudonym created specifically for songs written by the entire band. So now I guess I can put Juke Joint Jimmy in the same class as Nanker Phelge and McGannahan Skjellyfetti.

Artist:    Allman Brothers Band
Title:    Revival
Source:    CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: Idlewild South0
Writer(s):    Dicky Betts
Label:    Polydor (original label: Capricorn)
Year:    1970
    The second Allman Brothers band was the first to include songs written by guitarist Dicky Betts. One of those songs, Revival, was also issued as the first single from the album. Originally written as an instrumental, Revival is one of the most easily recognizable songs in the Allman Brothers' catalog, and was the band's first single to hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart, spending three weeks there.

Artist:    Andromeda
Title:    Round House Blues (live)
Source:    British import CD: Definitive Collection
Writer(s):    unavailable
Label:    Angel Air
Year:    Recorded 1967, released 2000
    Andromeda was one of the first bands that made music that can legitimately be called hard rock. The proof is in this 1967 recording from London's Round House Chalk Farm. I don't have any writing credits for Round House Blues, and the recording quality leaves a lot to be desired, but the energy level of the band (and John Du Cann's blistering guitar work) speaks for itself. Andromeda went on to record one proper LP before Du Cann left to join Atomic Rooster.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Tightrope Ride
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Manzarek/Krieger
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1971
    Following the death of lead vocalist Jim Morrison in 1971, the remaining members of the Doors decided to carry on without him, releasing the album Other Voices later that year. Many of the tracks had actually been started before Morrison's death, with the hope being that he would return from Paris to complete the album. When that didn't happen, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger ended up doing the vocals themselves. One single, Tightrope Ride, was released from the album. The tune features Manzarek on lead vocal.

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