Sunday, November 3, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1945 (starts 11/4/19)

    This week's show starts in 1973, with some decidedly American tracks, before going international with a trip from 1969 to 1974. The return trip, however, gets cut short, as we sadly run out of time for another week.

Artist:     Grand Funk
Title:     We're An American Band
Source:     45 RPM single
Writer:     Don Brewer
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1973
     In 1972 I was the bass player/vocalist in a power trio that played a lot of Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath and the like. Shortly after that band split up I started taking broadcasting classes from Tim Daniels, an Air Force Sergeant who had previously worked for the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (the same station that Adrian Cronauer worked at, although at that time nobody outside the military had ever heard of him). That led to my first regular airshift on the "Voice of Holloman", a closed-circuit station that was piped into the gym and bowling alley and some of the barracks at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico for about four hours a day. One of the hot new records that the station got promo copies of was We're An American Band, pressed on bright yellow translucent vinyl with the stereo version on one side and the mono mix on the other. I snagged one of the extra copies Capitol sent and have somehow managed to hang onto it over the years.

Artist:    Aerosmith
Title:    Walking The Dog
Source:    CD: Aerosmith
Writer(s):    Rufus Thomas
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1973
    The last track on Aerosmith's eponymous 1973 debut LP is a cover of Rufus Thomas's biggest hit, Walking The Dog. Probably not coincidentally, the song was also covered by Aerosmith's idols, the Rolling Stones, on their own 1964 debut album.

Artist:    Cheech And Chong
Title:    White World Of Sports/Basketball Jones
Source:    LP: Los Cochinos
Writer(s):    Marin/Chong
Label:    Ode
Year:    1973
    The rise of FM rock radio in the early 1970s, along with new genres such as prog-rock and heavy metal, was perceived by many as a sign of the maturation of rock music itself. Top 40 radio, on the other hand, had the reputation of being the medium of choice for teeny-boppers and adolescents. The music industry itself responded to this perception by heavily promoting groups that were fronted by adolescent vocalists such as Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond. The trend was successful enough to spawn several imitators, including a Chicago-based vocal group called the Brighter Side Of Darkness, fronted by 12-year-old Darryl Lamont. They released a song called Love Jones, about obsessively addictive romance, in December of 1972. It hit its peak at #16 in February of 1973, becoming the only major hit for Brighter Side Of Darkness. That probably would have been the end of it if not for Cheech And Chong, who decided to parody the song on their third LP, Los Cochinos. The song Basketball Jones (preceeded on the album by a Wide World Of Sports parody) featured an array of musicians who happened to be at the A&M studios working on other projects, including George Harrison, Klaus Voorman, Jim Karstein, Jim Keltner, Carole King, Nicky Hopkins, Tom Scott and Billy Preston. Additional backup vocals were provided by the Blossoms (featuring Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love) and Michelle Phillips. Basketball Jones was released as a single in August of 1973 and peaked in the #15 spot, making it the only song parody ever to outperform the song it was parodying on the top 40 charts.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Got No Time For Trouble
Source:    CD: Bang
Writer(s):    Bolin/Tesar
Label:    Atco
Year:    1974
    In 1974 the James Gang hired their third lead guitarist since the band was formed in 1969. That guitarist was Tommy Bolin, who had first come to national attention as a member of the Boulder, Colorado band Zephyr. Bolin co-wrote several of the tracks on his first album with the James Gang, Bang, including Got No Time For Trouble, which also was issued as the B side of the only single taken from Bang. Lead vocals on the song are by Roy Kenner, who had joined the James Gang shortly after the departure of the band's original guitarist/vocalist, Joe Walsh.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Come Together
Source:    LP: Abbey Road
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple
Year:    1969
    After the Beatles released their 1968 double LP (the so-called White Album), they went to work on their final film project, a documentary about the band making an album. Unfortunately, what the cameras captured was a group on the verge of disintegration, and both the album and the film itself were shelved indefinitely. Instead, the band went to work recording an entirely new group of compositions. Somehow, despite the internal difficulties the band was going through, they managed to turn out a masterpiece: Abbey Road. Before the album itself came out, a single was released. The official A side was George Harrison's Something, the first Harrison song ever to be released as a Beatle A side. The other side was the song that opened the album itself, John Lennon's Come Together. In later years Come Together came to be Lennon's signature song and was a staple of his live performances.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Maggie M'Gill
Source:    CD: Morrison Hotel
Writer(s):    Morrison/Doors
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1970
    1969 was not a particularly good year for the Doors. In March, Jim Morrison got arrested for allegedly exposing himself on stage in Florida, resulting in several tour dates being cancelled. Then, with perhaps too much time on their hands, they came up with the over-produced mess known as The Soft Parade, which got the worst reviews of any Doors album to date. By the end of the year, however, they were starting to get back on track, dispensing with the strings and horns heard on The Soft Parade in favor of a more stripped-down sound typical of the band's early club days for their next LP, Morrison Hotel. They also brought in key guest musicians, including guitarist Lonnie Mack, who can be heard playing bass on the last track of Morrison Hotel, a tune written by the band with lyrics by Morrison called Maggie M'Gill. The song is a good indication of what was to come on what would be their last LP with Morrison, the classic L.A. Woman.

Artist:    Doobie Brothers
Title:    Travelin' Man
Source:    LP: The Doobie Brothers
Writer(s):    Tom Johnston
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    The Doobie Brothers are not exactly what you would call overnight sensations. In fact, they came up the hard way, playing bars all over Northern California and building up a following among members of the Hell's Angels. Their music was built around John Hartman's driving drums, strong harmony vocals and fuzzed-out dual electric guitar work from Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons. When they got the chance to record their first LP, however, they surprised everyone by playing a mix of acoustic and country rock on songs like Travelin' Man, a Tom Johnston composition. The album did not initially sell well, and suffered from weak production values, although in more recent years it has gotten generally favorable, if lukewarm, reviews.

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Blowin' Free
Source:    CD: Argus
Writer(s):    Upton/Turner/Turner/Powell
Label:    MCA/Decca
Year:    1972
    Known to the band's fans as the "Ash Anthem", Blowin' Free is probably the single most popular song Wishbone Ash ever recorded. The song, with lyrics written by bassist Martin Turner before Wishbone Ash even formed, is about Turner's Swedish ex-girlfriend.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    One Day
Source:    LP: Sweet Freedom
Writer(s):    Hensley/Thain
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    Uriah Heep's sixth studio LP, Sweet Freedom, saw the band moving in a more mainstream direction than on previous albums. It also showed signs of internal strife, as Ken Hensley's songwriting had come to dominate the band's sound. Four of the eight tracks on the album were written entirely by Hensley, while two others were collaborations with other band members (in the case of One Day, bassist Gary Thain). The album did well on the charts, but was the beginning of a commercial decline for the band, whose expansion beyond their "progressive metal" sound alienated some of their longtime fans.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    Day Of The Eagle
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Robin Trower
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    Although Robin Trower's first solo album following his departure from Procol Harum went largely under the radar, his second LP, Bridge Of Sighs, was a huge success, spending 31 weeks on the US charts and peaking at the #7 spot. The opening track, Day Of The Eagle, soon became a concert staple for the guitarist and has been covered by other guitarists, notably Steve Stevens on his album Memory Crash. Other artists who have covered Day Of The Eagle include Tesla and Armored Saint.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Dancing Days
Source:    CD: Houses Of The Holy
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1973
    By 1973 Led Zeppelin was already established as the most influential band of the early 1970s. Their fourth album erased any doubts about their staying power, with Stairway To Heaven in particular dominating the FM airwaves. They followed that album up with Houses Of The Holy, releasing the opening track of side two, Dancing Days, as a single in the US. The song was performed often on the band's 1972 tour, but was dropped from their setlist at around the same time the album itself hit the racks.

Artist:    Captain Beyond
Title:    I Can't Feel Nothin'/As The Moon Speaks/Astral Lady
Source:    LP: Captain Beyond
Writer(s):    Caldwell/Evans
Label:    Capricorn
Year:    1972
    Occasionally someone will ask me a question along the lines of "Who was the best band you ever saw in concert?". My standard answer is Captain Beyond, which usually gets a blank stare in response. I then explain that Captain Beyond was the opening act (of three) at a concert I went to in El Paso in 1972. They so totally blew away the other bands that I can't even remember for sure who the headliner was. Essentially a power trio plus vocalist, Captain Beyond was made up of two former members of Iron Butterfly, guitarist Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt and bassist Lee Dorman, Deep Purple's original lead vocalist, Rod Evans, and drummer Bobby Caldwell, who was known for his work with Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer, among others. The band was so tight that I went out the very next day and bought a copy of their album, something I had never done before. Sure enough, the album was every bit as good as the band's live performance, which followed the exact same setlist as the album itself. I should mention here that, mostly to save space, I shortened the song titles a bit on the title line above. The actual full titles of the tracks heard on this week's show are as follows:
I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 1)
As the Moon Speaks (to the Waves of the Sea)
Astral Lady
As the Moon Speaks (Return)
I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 2)
Due to contractual issues, neither Dorman or Reinhardt (who were technically still members of Iron Butterfly) were able to receive songwriting credits on the original album label, although Caldwell has since said that Reinhardt actually co-wrote the songs with Caldwell and Evans, with some input from Dorman.

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