Sunday, March 29, 2020
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2014 (starts 3/30/20)
Well, it's 4/20, and most of us are sitting at home for the entire month, not doing much of anything. I guess we really should have seen that coming.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
Source: CD: Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits
Writer: Bob Dylan
Some of the best rock and roll songs of 1966 were banned on a number of stations for being about either sex or drugs. Most artists that recorded those songs claimed they were about something else altogether. In the case of Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35, "stoned" refers to a rather unpleasant form of execution (at least according to Dylan). On the other hand, Dylan himself was reportedly quite stoned while recording the song, having passed a few doobies around before starting the tape rolling. Sometimes I think ambiguities like this are why English has become the dominant language of commerce on the planet.
Artist: Brewer And Shipley
Title: One Toke Over The Line
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Label: Kama Sutra
Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley might be considered the link between the folk-rock of the late 1960s and the singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s. The two of them had met on more than one occasion in the mid 1960s, doing coffeehouse gigs across the midwest, until both decided to settle down in Los Angeles and start writing songs together in 1968. After recording two albums together, the duo relocated to Kansas City in 1969, spending much of the next two years on the road, playing small towns such as Tarkio, Missouri, which in turn inspired the title for their third album, Tarkio. That album, released in 1971, included what was to be their biggest hit. One Toke Over The Line went to the #10 spot on the charts (#5 in Canada) and prompted the Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, to denounce the song as "blatant drug-culture propaganda". Concerning the origin of the song itself, Mike Brewer had this to say: "One day we were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, “Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.” I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it." He said it was written as a joke as the duo was setting up for a gig.
Artist: Cat Stevens
Source: CD: The Very Best Of Cat Stevens (originally released on LP: Catch Bull At Four)
Writer(s): Cat Stevens
Cat Stevens' Sitting, from his 1972 LP Catch Bull At Four, has been described as "a song about meditation, and the apprehensions that may result from the experiences involving self-realization." Sounds to me like something that might happen when you have to stay at home for several weeks.
Artist: Graham Nash and David Crosby
Title: The Wall Song
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): David Crosby
Such was the popularity of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the early 70s that each of the members, both as solo artists and in various combinations of two or three members, released albums in addition to official group recordings, all of which sold well. One such effort was the 1972 album by Graham Nash and David Crosby. One of the more notable tracks on the album is The Wall Song, featuring (in addition to Crosby and Nash) Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann on guitar, bass and drums. The version heard here is the rare mono mix of The Wall Song, issued as a B side in 1972.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Up To Me
Source: LP: Aqualung
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull's fourth album, Aqualung, was undoubtably the band's commercial breakthrough. The album has, according to bandleader Ian Anderson, sold over seven million copies worldwide, making it their best selling record. Many of the songs on Aqualung have a harder edge that the band's earlier work, but a few, such as Up To Me, would actually fit in well on their previous album, Benefit.
Artist: Cheech And Chong
Title: Pedro And Man At The Drive-Inn
Source: LP: Cheech And Chong's Greatest Hit (originally released on LP: Los Cochinos)
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Ode)
The most enduring characters created by comedy duo Cheech And Chong were Pedro de Pacas (Cheech Marin) and Anthony "Man" Stoner (Tommy Chong). The two characters were featured on several of the longer bits on their early albums that were later adapted for the duo's film debut, Up In Smoke, as well. One bit that did not make it into the movie was Pedro And Man At The Drive-Inn, from their third LP, Los Cochinos. The track follows Pedro And Man as they slowly make their way into a drive-in movie theater with several friends hidden in the trunk of their car. After they successfully get inside the grounds Man accidentally breaks the key to the trunk off in the lock and goes in search of a crowbar to get their friends out, getting sidetracked along the way. Of course things only get more out of control from there, but I decided not to play the entire twelve-minute track this time around.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: The Lemon Song
Source: German import LP: Led Zeppelin II
If I had to choose just one Led Zeppelin song as representative of the band's early work it would have to be The Lemon Song, from their second album. The track has all the elements that made the Zep's reputation: Jimmy Page's distinctive guitar work, John Bonham's stuttered (but always timely) drum fills, John Paul Jones's funky bass line and Robert Plant's gutsy vocals (with lyrics famously derived from classic blues tunes). Squeeze my lemon, baby indeed!
Artist: James Gang
Source: CD: James Gang Rides Again
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
During my senior year of high school I often found myself hanging out at this sort of coffee house in Alamogordo, NM, whose name I have long since forgotten. The place had a room with an old console stereo in it, and a stack of half a dozen albums that someone had donated. Side one of James Gang Rides Again must have been played a hundred times on that thing, often over and over when everybody was too stoned to get up to change the record. By the time I graduated I knew every word of Woman, as well as every other song on that side of the album, by heart.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Strange Kind Of Woman
Source: CD: The Very Best Of Deep Purple (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single and in US on LP: Fireball)
Label: Warner Archives/Rhino (original US label: Warner Brothers)
Strange Kind Of Woman was a top 10 hit when it was released as a single in the UK in 1971. Although it was also released in the US, the single got virtually no top 40 airplay and failed to chart. It was, however, included on the US version of the album Fireball, which in turn led to plenty of airplay on FM rock radio, making it one of Deep Purple's most recognizable tunes.
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: Gonna Run
Source: CD: Watt
Writer(s): Alvin Lee
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
The fifth Ten Years After album, Watt, was somewhat unfairly criticized by the rock press for being "more of the same" from the British blues-rock band. When "the same" refers to an album of the calibur of Cricklewood Green, however, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, some tracks, such as Gonna Run, are at least the equal of any song on the previous album, and show a growing awareness on the part of the band of how to use the recording studio itself to its fullest advantage.
Title: Street Worm
Source: CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer(s): Jay Ferguson
Spirit guitarist Randy California got an opportunity to channel one of his personal heroes, saxophonist John Coltrane, on Jay Ferguson's Street Worm on the 1970 album Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus. It is particularly noticable on the arpeggios at the end of the track.
Artist: Steeleye Span
Title: Allison Gross
Source: LP: Parcel Of Rogues
Writer(s): Trad., arr. Steeleye Span
The idea of a being with supernatural powers exacting vengeance on a spurned lover is a common theme in British folklore. One of the best known examples of this is the folk song Allison Gross, in which "the ugliest witch in the north country" ends up turning the protagonist of the song into "an ugly wurm" (dragon) for spurning her affections. Steeleye Span modernized the musical arrangement for their 1973 album Parcel Of Rogues. The original folk song has additional verses in which the protagonist eventually is cured of his affliction by a passing group of fairies.
Title: I'm The Slime
Source: CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s): Frank Zappa
In 1973, Frank Zappa, along with an array of talented musicians, recorded two albums' worth of material. The first, released as a Mothers album, was Over-Nite Sensation. Strangely enough, a single was released from the album, although it really didn't make much of a dent in the top 40 charts. That single was I'm The Slime, a song that only gets more relevant as time goes on. The song is basically a description of America's top drug of choice, as the opening lyrics make clear: "I am gross and perverted. I'm obsessed 'n deranged. I have existed for years, but very little has changed. I'm the tool of the government and industry too, for I am destined to rule and regulate you. I may be vile and pernicious, but you can't look away. I make you think I'm delicious, with the stuff that I say. I'm the best you can get. Have you guessed me yet? I'm the slime ooozing out of your TV set." Truer words have never been spoken.