Sunday, August 18, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1934 (starts 8/19/19)

    The late 60s and early 1970s saw the emergence of a new kind of comedy, that took its cues from the emerging counter-culture. Among the most successful of these "underground" comedy groups was the Firesign Theatre. Originally formed as an audio improv group appreaing on an L.A. radio station, the Firesign Theatre soon found itself with a record contract. Their most successful album was How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All, featuring (as the entire second side of the LP) The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger. This week we feature that first Nick Danger adventure in its entirety. As for the rest of the show, read on....

Artist:    Eric Clapton
Title:    Let It Rain
Source:    CD: The Best Of Eric Clapton (originally released on LP: Eric Clapton)
Writer(s):    Bramlett/Clapton
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    Following the breakup of Blind Faith in 1969, Eric Clapton attempted to lower his profile by touring as a member of Delaney And Bonnie (Bramlett) And Friends. Still, he was Eric Clapton, and there was no way his fans or his record company were going to treat him like an anonymous sideman. As a result, the live album released by Delaney And Bonnie And Friends in early 1970 was titled On Tour With Eric Clapton. Nonetheless, the influence the Bramletts had on Clapton was evident on his self-titled solo LP, released later the same year. Many of the same musicians participated in the making of the album and in fact would continue to work with Clapton in his next band, Derek And The Dominos. More than half of the songs on the album were co-written by one or both of the Bramletts, including Let It Rain, which originally was called She Rides and had entirely different lyrics by Bonnie Bramlett. Let It Rain, released in 1972 as a five-minute long single, features a guest appearance on guitar by Stephen Stills, as well as an extended solo by Clapton himself.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Nothing Is The Same
Source:    CD: Closer To Home
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    Grand Funk Railroad's fans continued to defy the rock press by buying copies of the band's albums throughout 1970, despite universally negative reviews. In fact, the band was awarded no less than three gold records that year, including their third studio LP, Closer To Home. The album includes some of their best recordings, including Nothing Is The Same, a hard rocker that includes both tempo and key changes, as well as some of Mark Farner's best lead vocals.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Time To Live (alternate version)
Source:    British import CD: Salisbury
Writer(s):    Box/Byron/Hensley
Label:    Sanctuary
Year:    Recorded 1971, released 2003
    For their second LP, Salisbury, Uriah Heep attempted to explore new ground while maintaining their "heavy" image established on their first effort. For the most part they succeeded. One of the heavier tunes on the album, Time To Live, was actually put together in the recording studio itself, and tells the story of a man being released from prison after serving a 20-year sentence. Obviously, the song was not written from personal experience, since the band members were all in their early 20s at the time. The alternate version of Time To Live heard here was mixed and edited for a possible single release, but never issued. Oddly enough, it is actually about 15 seconds longer than the LP version.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix
Title:    Belly Button Window
Source:    LP: The Cry Of Love
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1971
                Following the death of Jimi Hendrix, Reprise Records got to work compiling tracks for The Cry Of Love, the first of many posthumous Hendrix albums released by the label. The final track on the LP was an unfinished piece called Belly Button Window that featured Hendrix on vocals and electric guitar, with no other musicians appearing on the track.

Artist:    Stevie Wonder
Title:    Superstition
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Stevie Wonder
Label:    Tamla
Year:    1972
    Superstition was not originally meant to be a Stevie Wonder hit record. The song was actually written with the intention of giving it to guitarist Jeff Beck, in return for his participation of Wonder's Talking Book album. In fact, it was Beck that came up with the song's opening drum riff, creating, with Wonder, the first demo of the song. The plan was for Beck to release the song first as the lead single from the album Beck, Bogert & Appice. However, that album's release got delayed, and Motown CEO Barry Gordy Jr. insisted that Wonder go ahead and release his own version of the song first, as Barry saw the song as a potential #1 hit. It turned out Gordy was right, and Superstition ended up topping both the pop and soul charts in 1973, doing well in other countries as well. A 1986 live version of the song by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble continues to get a lot of airplay on classic rock radio.

Artist:    Firesign Theatre
Title:    The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger
Source:    CD: How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All
Writer(s):    Proctor/Bergman/Austin/Ossman
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1969
    The Firesign Theatre, consisting of Phil Proctor, Peter Bergman, Phil Austin and David Ossman, pioneered a type of "counter-culture comedy" that would be followed up on by such stars as Cheech and Chong, George Carlin, and the Credibility Gap (with Harry Shearer and Michael McKean), as well as the National Lampoon Radio Hour (featuring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Christopher Guest and others). Their most famous work is The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger from the 1969 album How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All. The piece itself runs over 28 minutes, taking up the entire second side of the original LP. It is a parody of old-time radio detective dramas, done in a noir style that has itself become a standard comedy trope. The plot itself is secondary to the jokes, many of which are references to counter-cultural icons such as the Beatles. There have been several more Nick Danger pieces by the Firesign Theatre over the years, the most recent being The Bride Of Firesign, released in 2001.

Artist:    ZZ Top
Title:    Waitin' For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago
Source:    LP: The Best Of ZZ Top (originally released on LP: Tres Hombres)
Writer(s):    Gibbons/Hill/Beard
Label:    London
Year:    1973
    There have been a handful of instances in rock history where two consecutive tracks on an album have fit so well together that it's almost impossible to hear one without expecting the other to follow it. The Beatles (Back In The USSR/Dear Prudence) may have been the first, but others, including Led Zeppelin (Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman) and Queen (We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions) are also instantly recognizable. Add to that list ZZ Top, whose one-two punch of Waitin' For The Bus and Jesus Just Left Chicago opened their third album, Tres Hombres, in 1973. It was the group's first collaboration with engineer Terry Manning, who (despite persistent rumors to the contrary) deliberately spliced the two songs together without a break between them when mastering the album. Not coincidentally, Tres Hombres was ZZ Top's commercial breakthrough, proving that a good recording engineer can make a significant contribution to a band's success.


No comments:

Post a Comment