Sunday, February 2, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2006 (starts 2/3/20)

    This week we have a baker's dozen of classic tracks, including sets from 1969 and 1970 along with a half hour of free-form rock. As an added bonus we have a really long comment (or maybe a really short essay) on a Black Sabbath song that has absolutely nothing to do with Black Sabbath itself.

Artist:    Crow
Title:    Slow Down
Source:    CD: The Best Of Crow (originally released on LP: Crow By Crow and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Larry Williams
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Amaret)
Year:    1970
    Minneapolis-based Crow followed up their successful debut LP, Crow Music, with a second album, Crow By Crow, in 1970. One of the highlights of the album was a cover of Larry Williams' Slow Down, a song more commonly associated with the Beatles. The Crow version rocked out much harder than previous versions, but stalled out short of breaking into the top 100. One major reason for this lack of success was the inability of their label, Amaret, to properly distribute their records. The group tried to switch to another label, but Amaret claimed ownership of the name Crow, which was a deal breaker.

Artist:    Cactus
Title:    Parchman Farm
Source:    CD: Cactus
Writer(s):    Mose Allison
Label:    Wounded Bird (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    I know of at least three versions of Mose Allison's Parchman Farm that came out in the years 1968-70. The first was the feedback-laden Blue Cheer version from their Vincebus Eruptum LP. Next was the jazzy Blues Image version from their 1970 LP Open. By far the most energetic, though, was the frenetically-paced version that opened the first (and best) Cactus album. Although the best-known members of Cactus were bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice from Vanilla Fudge, it was former Detroit Wheels guitarist Jim McCarty that steals the show on this three-minute track. Vocals on the song were provided by former Amboy Dukes member Rusty Day.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    War Pigs
Source:    LP: Black Sabbath
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    In the summer of 1971 I moved to the small town of Mangum, Oklahoma, along with guitarist Doug Phillips. We had both just graduated from high school and had spent most of our senior year playing in a band called Friends. The last half of the school year had been complicated by a surprise visit from yet another guitarist named Dave Mason (no, not THAT Dave Mason), whom I had been bandmates with the previous year when both our dads had been stationed at Ramstein AFB, Germany. My dad had been transferred to Holloman AFB, New Mexico that summer, while Dave's had retired to his native Oklahoma a couple of months later. The problem was that Dave, who was a bit of a free spirit, had not fit in well in Mangum; in fact, he had just been kicked out of the local high school for refusing to cut his hair. Dave had formed a new band (using the same band name, Sunn, that we had used in Germany) in Oklahoma, and had made enough money to buy a bus ticket for Vacaville, California (where his longtime girlfriend Jeannie was now living, her dad having been transferred to Travis AFB that fall)...or so he thought. It turned that the band's bass player Jim, who was also acting as their financial manager, had absconded with most of the band's earnings, leaving a total of $48.60 in the band's bank account. It turned out that $48.60 was the price of a bus ticket from Mangum, OK to Alamogordo, NM, and so, following a phone call sometime around New Year's, Dave showed up at my doorstep. My parents, being basically good people, allowed him to stay with us until he could either a) get enough money to buy a bus ticket to Vacaville, CA, or b) find a place of his own in Alamogordo. He ended up choosing option b) for awhile, eventually buying a return ticket to Mangum, after exacting a promise from me that I would join him there following graduation.
    About a week after he left New Mexico Dave called me to say "bring Doug, too", which was kind of a surprise, as I had always considered the two of them to be sort of rivals (although maybe that was only in my head, since Doug was the lead guitarist for Friends, while Dave had asked me to join yet another incarnation of Sunn in Alamogordo, which didn't go over so well with the other members of Friends; I ended up playing in both bands, as they had vastly different styles and there really was no conflict, since gigs were few and far between for both groups). Anyway, a week after graduation Doug and I boarded a Greyhound, arriving in Elk City, OK (the nearest town to Mangum with a bus station) at about 3 in the morning. Of couse, the Elk City bus station was closed at 3AM, so we had to stand outside in a thunderstorm waiting for a ride from a friend of Dave's who had forgotten that he was supposed to be picking us up at the Elk City bus station, which was about a half hour's drive north of Mangum.
    A couple months later we were all members of yet another version of Sunn (#5 by my count) when we got an offer from a local theater owner wanting to be our manager. As we were musically ready to take over the world, but were pretty clueless as to how to line up gigs, we accepted, and found ourselves booked for a Saturday night gig at the only theater in Wellington, Texas, a town about the same size of Mangum known mostly as the scene of Bonnie and Clyde's first nationally reported crime spree (which apparently involved wrecking their car, terrorizing a local family, kidnapping two law enforcement officers and tieing them to a tree with barbed wire cut from a fence, according to the New York Times). Wellington is also the county seat of Collingsworth County, which was, at the time, a "dry" county, which meant that local residents had to make the hour-long round trip to Mangum if they wanted to buy any alcoholic beverages. Not exactly the kind of place where you'd expect to hear a heavy metal cover band (although the term "heavy metal" was not part of the rock vocabulary at that point, so I guess '"underground rockers" would probably be a more appropriate label).
    The gig itself went pretty well, with only a couple dicey moments. One of those involved our cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, which we had learned by listening to the Paranoid album over and over (see, there was a connection to the song in all of this after all). We actually did a pretty kickass version of War Pigs, with Doug and I doing the sirens at the beginning in harmony and me channeling Ozzy quite credibly (or so it seemed at the time while tripping my brains out) throughout the performance. The problem was with Doug's dedication of the song (by title) to the local police force, a move that actually confused me at the time, since the song has nothing to do with cops. The second dicey moment is when I decided to take off the cowboy hat I had been wearing for the first of our two sets, letting my freak flag fly, so to speak, and eliciting an audible gasp from the audience. Still, the gig itself was a success, in fact, probably our best gig ever. We made a decent amount of money and got a great crowd response. Plus, due to a leaky transmission seal in our equipment van (a '54 Ford panel truck missing its front grill that was affectionately known as "The Glump"), we didn't have to pack up our stuff that night, allowing us to take a trip to Altus, OK, the nearest place with an all-night restaurant.
    Since there were no businesses open in Mangum on Sunday (of any type, including gas stations), we did not return to Wellington until Monday evening, after a friend of the band, J.D., gave us a ride in his black '57 Chevy after work. Following a mildly interesting ride that included cresting one of a series of hills only to see a bunch of cows in the road (we didn't hit any) and then noticing shortly thereafter that the headlights in the rear view mirror that had been making us paranoid every time we crested a hill were no longer there, we arrived in Wellington well after dark. As we were loading equipment into The Glump we noticed that a car was blocking our only exit from the alley behind the theater. A closer look revealed various lights and decals indicating that the car might just be the property of the Wellington Police Department. Confirmation soon came in the form of a guy in his mid-50s wearing a badge on his khaki-colored uniform. He  demanded to speak to the guy who "called us pigs". Gary Dowdy (the owner of The Glump) and I were confused at first, until the guy in the khaki-colored uniform with the badge asked which one of us had dedicated a song to the local police force. At about that time I realized what he was talking about, and attempted to explain that Doug, who was the only band member with a local girlfriend, had chosen to spend time with said girlfriend rather than to help with the loading of equipment (come to think of it, I may have been the only band member present). The guy with the badge cut me off at the word "Doug", however. In fact, as I recall, his exact words were "Another word out of you and I'll take you down to the station and cut off all of your hair". Luckily Gary Dowdy, who could Good 'Ol Boy with the best of 'em when it was called for, was able to pacify the officer with a promise to pack up quickly, get out of town and never come back. To this day, I have never again set foot in Wellington, Texas.
Artist:    Bloodrock
Title:    Gimme Your Head
Source:    CD: Bloodrock
Writer:    Bloodrock
Label:    One Way (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1970
    Bloodrock was a hard rock band out of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area that is best known for recording the song D.O.A., a minor (but notorious) hit in 1971. The group was discovered by Grand Funk Railroad producer Terry Knight, who got the band a contract with Capitol Records and produced their eponymous first album, released in 1970. Additionally, Knight booked Bloodrock as Grand Funk's opening act for their 1970 national tour, assuring the album plenty of promotion. Lead vocalist Jim Rutledge played drums on the album, which featured tunes like Gimme Your Head, but did not yield a hit single.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills and Nash
Title:    Guinnevere
Source:    LP: So Far (originally released on LP: Crosby, Stills and Nash)
Writer(s):    David Crosby
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    By 1969 David Crosby had developed into a first-class songwriter. Nowhere is that more evident than on Guinnevere, from the first Crosby, Still and Nash album. Instrumentally the song is essentially a solo guitar piece. It is the layered harmonies from Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash that make the song truly stand out as one of the best releases of 1969.

Artist:    Taste
Title:    I'm Moving On
Source:    British import CD: Taste
Writer(s):    Hank Snow
Label:    Polydor (original US label: Atco)
Year:    1969
    So. Here we have a trio originally from Cork, Ireland that was part of the London blues-rock scene, covering the first song by Canadian-born singer/songwriter Hank Snow to hit the #1 spot on the US Country & Western charts. I'm Moving On was one of the most popular songs of 1950 and is considered one of Snow's two "signature" songs (the other being I've Been Everywhere). Rory Gallagher formed Taste in 1968, relocating the band to London in 1969, where they signed with the Polydor label. Following the breakup of Taste, Gallagher went on to become one of the most influential guitarists in rock history.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix
Title:    Foxy Lady (live)
Source:    CD: Live At Woodstock
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Experience Hendrix/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1969, released 1999
    Only eight weeks after disbanding the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the guitarist appeared at Woodstock with a (mostly) new band. Unfortunately, they hadn't had a whole lot of rehearsal time, so they relied heavily on Hendrix's ability to improvise. Drummer Mitch Mitchell, having been a member of the Experience, had no problems keeping up with the guitarist. Neither did bassist Billy Cox, who had known Hendrix for years, dating back to their days together playing the "chitlin' circuit" of clubs catering to a black audience in the early to mid 1960s. The other players however, including second guitarist Larry Lee and percussionists Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez, struggled throughout the performance, and their contributions were for the most part excised from the final mix of the Live At Woodstock album, released in 1999. This is evident on Foxy Lady, which sounds like it was performed by the Experience itself. In fact, the trio of Hendrix, Mitchell and Cox were sometimes billed as the Jimi Hendrix Experience during the group's 1970 Cry Of Love tour.

Artist:     Cream
Title:        White Room
Source:    CD: Wheels Of Fire
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:        1968
        Musically almost a rewriting of Eric Clapton's Tales of Brave Ulysses (from Cream's Disraeli Gears album), White Room, a Jack Bruce/Pete Brown composition from the Wheels Of Fire album, is arguably the most popular song ever to feature the use of a wah-wah pedal prominently.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    I'm A Man
Source:    CD: The Chicago Transit Authority
Writer(s):    Winwood/Miller
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    With prolific songwriters like Robert Lamm and James Pankow in the band, it should come as no surprise that Chicago recorded very few cover songs; in fact there was only one on their first ten albums. That one was I'm A Man, originally released as the last single by the Spencer Davis Group to feature Steve Winwood on lead vocals. The Chicago version, from their debut LP, The Chicago Transit Authority, features a drum solo from Danny Seraphine and is the second longest track on the album. I'm A Man was a concert favorite, often used as the band's encore tune. It also got plenty of airplay on FM rock radio stations in the early 1970s, but has generally been absent from classic rock playlists in recent years.

Artist:    Mahogany Rush
Title:    Tales Of The Spanish Warrior
Source:    Canadian import CD: Strange Universe
Writer(s):    Frank Marino
Label:    Just A Minute (original label: 20th Century)
Year:    1975
    Since the tragic death of Jimi Hendrix in 1970, there have been plenty of guitarists that have come along using a similar style to the Experienced One. Only one or two have been able to truly recreate the total Hendrix sound, however, and the most notable of these is Canadian Frank Marino, whose band, Mahogany Rush, was patterned after the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In essence, Mahogany Rush represents one of the many possible directions that Hendrix himself might have gone in had he lived past the age of 27. The album Strange Universe, released in 1975, begins with Tales Of The Spanish Warrior, which manages to capture the Hendrix sound without sounding like any particular Hendrix track.

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    Little Rain
Source:    CD: Anthology (originally released on LP: Blues Project)
Writer(s):    Reed/Abner
Label:    Polydor (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1972
    In 1971 former Blues Project guitarist Danny Kalb and drummer Roy Blumenfeld, along with bassist Don Kretmar recorded an album called Lazarus, credited to the Blues Project. The following year the three added David Cohen (of Country Joe and the Fish) on piano and Bill Lussenden on second guitar to record a self-titled final Blues Project LP. Original lead vocalist Tommy Flanders was also a member of this version of the band, although Danny Kalb handled the lead vocals on a couple of tracks, including the old Jimmy Reed tune Little Rain.

Artist:    Faces
Title:    Cindy Incidentally
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s):    McLagen/Steward/Wood
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    By 1973, vocalist Rod Stewart had achieved superstar status, creating a rift between himself and the rest of his band, Faces. In practical terms this meant that Stewart's participation in the making of the band's fourth and final album, Ohh La La, was minimal at best. As a result, in the words of Ian McLagen, Ooh La La was "Ronnie Lane's album". To make matters worse, Stewart publicly expressed his disdain for the album to the rock press, calling Ooh La La a "stinking rotten album". Lane took the comments personally, and soon left the band that he himself had co-founded in 1965 (as the Outcasts). The group found a replacement bass player and cut a couple more singles, but by 1975 Stewart was showing no interest at all in the band, while guitarist Ronnie Wood was already well on his way to becoming a member of the Rolling Stones, thus ending the saga of one of England's most popular bands. Ironically, Cindy Incidentally, from Ooh La La, ended up being the Faces' biggest British hit single.

Artist:    War
Title:    All Day Music
Source:    Mono 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Jerry Goldstein/War
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1971
    Lead vocalist Eric Burdon left the band War in the middle of their 1970 tour, which they ended up finishing without him. Rather than select a new lead vocalist, the band chose to share vocal among all its members. After finishing the tour they signed a contract with a new label and got to work on their first album without Burdon. Although the resulting LP established the group's sound, it was the follow-up album, All Day Music, that brought the band its first true commercial success. The title track, released ahead of the album itself, was the group's first top 40 without Burdon, and made the top 20 on the R&B chart as well.

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