Sunday, October 20, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1943 (starts 10/21/19)

    Time for another hour of free-form rock from Chicago to San Francisco, by way of London, New York, Los Angeles and Flint, Michigan.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    Prologue, August 29, 1968/Someday (August 29, 1968)
Source:    LP: The Chicago Transit Authority
Writer(s):    Pankow/Lamm
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1969
    In the months leading up to the 1968 Democratic convention the phrase "come to Chicago" was often heard among members of the counter-culture that had grown up around various anti-establishment causes. As the summer wore on it became clear that something was going to happen at the Convention that August. Sure enough, on August 28, with the crowd chanting "the whole world's watching", police began pulling demonstraters into paddy wagons, with a full-blown riot erupting the following day. Around that same time a local Chicago band calling itself the Big Thing hooked up with producer James William Guercio, who convinced them to change their name to the Chicago Transit Authority (later shortened to Chicago). It's only natural then that the band would include a song referencing the events of August 29th on their debut LP. The tracks begin with an actual recording of the chant itself, which leads into a tune written by James Pankow and Robert Lamm called Someday (August 29, 1968). The chant itself makes a short reappearance midway through the song as well.
Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Blind Eye
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Wishbone Ash
Label:    Decca
Year:    1970
    One of the first bands to feature two lead guitarists working in tandem, Wishbone Ash rose to fame as the opening act for Deep Purple in early 1970. After guitarist Andy Powell sat in with Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore during a sound check, Blackmore referred Wishbone Ash to MCA, the parent company of the US Decca label. The band's first LP came out in December of 1970, with Blind Eye becoming the band's first single. Although Wishbone Ash went on to become one of Britain's top rock bands of the 1970s, they were never as successful in the US, despite relocating to the states in 1973.

Artist:    Stephen Stills & Jimi Hendrix
Title:    No-Name Jam
Source:    Promo CD: Selections from Carry On
Writer(s):    Stills/Hendrix
Label:    Atlantic/Rhino
Year:    1970
    For his first solo LP, Stephen Stills brought in several big name guest musicians, including Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Booker T. Jones and Jimi Hendrix. Although Hendrix played on only one track, Old Times Good Times,  on the album itself, a warm up jam featuring both Hendrix and Stills on guitar remained in the vaults for several years, finally seeing the light of day on the 2013 Stephen Stills box set Carry On.

Artist:    Blue Oyster Cult
Title:    Before The Kiss, A Redcap
Source:    LP: Blue Oyster Cult
Writer(s):    Pearlman/Krugman/Lanier/Roesser
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    Before The Kiss, A Redcap, from the first Blue Oyster Cult album, was reportedly inspired by a scene in a singles bar related to the band by their manager/lyricist, Sandy Pearlman, who wintnessed a maning pass a Redcap (Dalmane) to a woman during a kiss (not exactly sure how you could actually see something like that without prying someone's mouth open, but that's what he said happened). Then again, if you are into British folklore you could consider it a reference to a malevolent goblin known for soaking his cap in the blood of his victims.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Cheap Day Return
Source:    CD: Aqualung
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1971
    Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson seemed a bit bemused by the fact that, when he went to visit his critically ill father, the nurse fawned over the younger Anderson and even asked him for his autograph. On the way home he wrote Cheap Day Return (a reference to getting a lower train fare for making a round trip in one day) while waiting for a train. He later claimed that the song was so short (1:21) because the train showed up while he was writing it.

Artist:    Steve Miller Band
Title:    Baby's House
Source:    LP: Your Saving Grace
Writer(s):    Miller/Hopkins
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    One of the most haunting tunes in the Steve Miller Band catalog, Baby's House is collaborative effort between Miller and keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, who briefly joined up with Miller following an appearance onstage with Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock. The song appears on the band's fourth LP, Your Saving Grace, and runs nearly nine minutes.

Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Don't Eat Yellow Snow/Nanook Rubs It/St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast/Father Oblivion
Source:    CD: Apostrophe (')
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1974
    Despite being one of the most prolific composer/performers of the 20th century, Frank Zappa only put three songs on the top 100 charts in his career. The first of these was an abbreviated version of Don't Eat Yellow Snow, the opening track on his 1974 LP Apostrophe ('). On the album itself the song segues directly into the next three tracks, Nanook Rubs It, St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast and the instrumental Father Oblivion to form the suite heard here.

Artist:    Little Feat
Title:    Dixie Chicken
Source:    CD: Dixie Chicken
Writer(s):    George/Martin
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    My very first (unpaid) gig as a radio announcer/disc jockey was a daily two-hour slot on a closed circuit station called the Voice of Holloman. The station was only available in a few barracks on Holloman Air Force Base, as well as through the PA system at the base gym. The station itself was only on for about eight hours a day at its peak during the spring of 1973 and was silent on weekends and holidays. How I got the gig is too long a story to get into here, but it was essentially a sort of internship with the station's manager, Sgt. Tim Daniels, who had been moonlighting as a broadcasting instructor. Tim had recently finished a tour in Viet Nam with the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (yes, the same one that Adrian Cronauer had been at a few years earlier) and programmed the Voice of Holloman as an Adult Contemporary station, which basically meant top 40 minus anything resembling the cutting edge of modern music. Back then the major record labels were in the habit of supplying free promotional copies of just about everything they released to radio stations, in the hopes of getting those records played on the air. Although the Voice of Holloman was, strictly speaking, not an actual radio station, we still got a lot of promo singles, especially from the Warner/Reprise group. These included some of the best new music of 1973, including a single by a band none of us had heard of before: Little Feat. That single was Dixie Chicken, one of the finest swamp rock songs ever recorded. Years later I learned that Little Feat was led by Lowell George, who had led his own underground band, the Factory, during the heyday of the Los Angeles club scene, and had later hooked up with Frank Zappa's Straight label, producing the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously). Little Feat continued to record critically acclaimed albums until George's untimely death in 1979, but even if they hadn't, they will always be remembered as the band that gave us Dixie Chicken.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Rock And Roll
Source:    45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Page/ Plant/Bonham/Jones
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    According to guitarist Jimmy Page, Rock And Roll, from the fourth Led Zeppelin album, was one of those spur-of-the-moment things that "came together more or less out of nowhere".  The band had been working on another track, Four Sticks, that had a difficult drum part, and, to break the tension drummer John Bonham played the introduction in triplets while Page added a guitar riff. The song came together quickly around a standard 12-bar blues structure and has come to be one of the band's most popular songs.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    High Falootin' Woman
Source:    CD: Grand Funk
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    One of the criticisms aimed at Grand Funk Railroad by the rock press was that their songs went on too long and were full of unnecessary jamming. In fact, only one track on their second LP, Grand Funk (also known as the Red Album) is under four minutes in length. That song is High Falootin' Woman. Oddly enough, it is one of the least commercially viable tracks on the entire LP, and was relegated to being the B side of the first single released from the album.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Ball And Chain
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Cheap Thrills)
Writer:    Willie Mae Thornton
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1968
    In June of 1967 Big Brother And The Holding Company, fronted by Janis Joplin, electrified the crowd at the Monterey International Pop Festival with their rendition of Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton's Ball And Chain. Over the years Joplin, both with and without Big Brother, continued to perform the song. One of the finest performances of Ball And Chain was recorded live at the Fillmore in 1968 and included on the band's major label debut, Cheap Thrills. In retrospect the recording marks the peak of both Big Brother and of Joplin, who went their separate ways after the album was released.

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