Sunday, August 23, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2035 (starts 8/24/20)

    This week we manage to squeeze 15 tracks (a new record for Rockin' in the Days of Confusion) into two sets. Starting off on a mildly humorous note with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show's most famous recording, we quickly shift to more serious stuff with Joy Of Cooking's cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson's Bad Luck Blues and Savoy Brown's Flood In Houston before moving in a more eclectic direction. A trio of tunes from solo artists kicks off a slightly more subdued set that includes Led Zeppelin's version of Anne Bredon's Babe I'm Gonna Leave You and the ultimate Beatles' six-part harmony song, Because.

Artist:    Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
Title:    The Cover Of  "Rolling Stone"
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Shel Silverstein
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    Much of the success of Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show can be attributed to one man: Shel Silverstein. In addition to writing nearly every well-known Dr. Hook song, including The Cover Of "Rolling Stone", Silverstein was an accomplished cartoonist, having been published regularly in Playboy since the late 1950s, and prose writer whose works included the children's book The Giving Tree. He also wrote songs for such varied artists as Johnny Cash (A Boy Named Sue), Tompall Glazer (Put Another Log On The Fire) and the Irish Rovers (The Unicorn).

Artist:    Joy Of Cooking
Title:    Bad Luck Blues
Source:    British import CD: Castles
Writer(s):    Blind Lemon Jefferson
Label:    Acadia (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1972
    Despite having two strong songwriters in Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite, Joy Of Cooking decided to conclude what would be their last album, Castles, with a cover song. That cover song, however, was a particularly strong rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson' Bad Luck Blues, sung by Garthwaite. Sadly, the album was not a commercial success, a problem that can be traced, at least in part, to Capitol Records' inability to properly promote the group.

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    Flood In Houston
Source:    LP: Getting To The Point
Writer(s):    Youlden/Simmonds
Label:    Parrot
Year:    1968
    Savoy Brown's second LP, Getting To The Point, was the first to feature lead vocalist Chris Youlden. It was also the first Savoy Brown album to have more original material than cover songs on it. These new originals included the album's opening track, Flood In Houston, written by Youlden, along with bandleader/guitarist Kim Simmonds. Youlden would be gone by 1970, one of many to leave Savoy Brown over the years. In fact, Simmonds is the only member to appear on every Savoy Brown album.

Artist:    Patti Smith Group
Title:    Ain't It Strange
Source:    LP: Radio Ethiopia
Writer(s):    Smith/Kral
Label:    Arista
Year:    1976
    Although it appears as the second track on the second Patti Smith album, Radio Ethiopia, Ain't It Strange is actually one of the group's earliest compositions, having been in the band's stage repertoire since before their first album was recorded. Why it wasn't included on that album, Horses, isn't clear, as it is one of their strongest tracks.
Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Cosmik Debris
Source:    CD: Apostrophe (')
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa
Year:    1974
    One of Frank Zappa's most memorable tunes, Cosmik Debris first appeared on his Apostrophe(') album in 1974. The album itself was recorded at the same time as the Mothers' Over-Nite Sensation, and features some of the same musicians, including George Duke and Napoleon Brock. The song, like many Zappa compositions, tells a story, in this case one of a mystical con artist and Zappa's refusal to be conned. The song uses the repeated line "Look here brother. Who you jivin' with that Cosmik Debris?", and contains references to other Zappa compositions, including Camarillo Brillo (from Over-Nite Sensation). The song was originally scheduled for release as a single, but instead appeared as the B side of an edited version of Don't Eat Yellow Snow when that track began gaining popularity due to excessive airplay on FM rock radio.

Artist:    Cheech & Chong
Title:    Evelyn Woodhead Speed Reading Course
Source:    LP: Los Cochinos
Writer(s):    Marin/Chong
Label:    Ode
Year:    1973
    If you never saw one of those Evelyn Wood commercials on late night television in the early 1970s, this thirty-five second comedy bit probably won't make a whole lot of sense to you. Then again it might.
Artist:    Arlo Guthrie
Title:    Week On The Rag
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single B side (promo)
Writer(s):    Arlo Guthrie
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1973
    One of the most popular films of 1973 (second only to The Exorcist) was The Sting, a caper flick set in the 1930s that used songs written earlier in the century by ragtime composer Scott Joplin. The film's popularity set off a ragtime craze that influenced artists such as Arlo Guthrie to write ragtime pieces of their own. Guthrie's Week On The Rag was included on his 1973 Last Of The Brooklyn Cowboys and released as the B side of the album's single, a reworking of Woody Guthrie's Gypsy Davy.

Artist:    Neil Young
Title:    Out On The Weekend
Source:    CD: Harvest
Writer(s):    Neil Young
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1972
    Although overshadowed by other tracks on the album, including Old Man and Heart Of Stone, Out On The Weekend, which opens Harvest, is Neil Young doing country-rock better than many country-rock bands. The song is happy and sad at the same time, which is pretty much what country-rock is all about.
Artist:    George Harrison
Title:    Learning How To Love You
Source:    LP: Thirty Three & ​1⁄3
Writer(s):    George Harrison
Label:    Dark Horse
Year:    1976
    George Harrison originally wrote Learning How To Love You as a kind of tribute to Herb Alpert, and the song was meant to be performed in the same style as This Guy's In Love With You. Harrison's Dark Horse Records had signed a distribution deal with Alpert's A&M Records in 1974, with Harrison's own label debut scheduled for June of 1976, Harrison being under contract to Apple until February of that year. A bout with hepatitis, however, caused the album to be delayed by several months, and led to A&M terminating their relationship with Dark Horse and Harrison recording Learning How To Love You himself. The song has been praised by critics as being Harrison's best love song since Something (from Abbey Road), perhaps even surpassing it in sophistication. The recording features the keyboard playing of Richard Tee prominently, and contains one of Harrison's most highly-regarded acoustic guitar solos of his career.
Artist:    Elton John
Title:    Indian Sunset
Source:    CD: Madman Across The Water
Writer(s):    John/Taupin
Label:    MCA (original label: Uni)
Year:    1971
    Described by Elton John in 2011 interview as a "six-minute movie in a song", Indian Sunset is the first song on side two of John's 1971 LP Madman Across The Water. The song tells the story of a native American Warrior facing inevitable defeat against the far stronger forces of the white man. Bernie Taupin said the lyrics were inspired by a trip he made to a Reservation while visiting the US.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin
Writer(s):    Bredon/Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1968
    It is the nature of folk music that a song often gets credited to one writer when in fact it is the work of another. This is due to the fact that folk singers tend to share their material liberally with other folk singers, who often make significant changes to the work before passing it along to others. Such is the case with Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You, which was originally conceived by EC-Berkeley student Anne Johannsen in the late 1950s and performed live on KPFA radio in 1960. Another performer on the same show, Janet Smith, developed the song further and performed it at Oberlin College, where it was heard by audience member Joan Baez. Baez asked Smith for a tape of her songs and began performing the song herself.  Baez used it as the opening track on her album, Joan Baez In Concert, Part One, but it was credited as "traditional", presumably because Baez herself had no knowledge of who had actually written the song. Baez eventually discovered the true origins of the tune, and later pressings gave credit to Anne Bredon, who had divorced her first husband, Lee Johannsen and married Glen Bredon since writing the song. Jimmy Page had an early pressing of the Baez album, so when he reworked the song for inclusion on the first Led Zeppelin album, he went with "traditional, arranged Page" as the writer. Robert Plant, who worked with Page on the arrangement, was not originally given credits for contractual reasons, although later editions of the album give credit to Page, Plant and Bredon.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Because
Source:    CD: Abbey Road
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple/Parlophone
Year:    1969
    Take Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Turn a few notes around, add some variations and write some lyrics. Add the Beatles' unmistakeable multi-part harmonies and you have John Lennon's Because, from the Abbey Road album. A simply beautiful recording.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Little Wing
Source:    CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Axis: Bold As Love)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    Although it didn't have any hit singles on it, Axis: Bold As Love, the second album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was full of memorable tunes, including one of Hendrix's most covered songs, Little Wing. The album itself is a showcase for Hendrix's rapidly developing skills, both as a songwriter and in the studio. The actual production of the album was a true collaborative effort, combining Hendrix's creativity, engineer Eddie Kramer's expertise and producer Chas Chandler's strong sense of how a record should sound, acquired through years of recording experience as a member of the Animals.

rtist:    The Band
Title:    The Shape I'm In
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Robbie Robertson
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    The Band's third LP, stage fright, is probably their best-known studio effort (Rock Of Ages and The Last Waltz being live albums). The only single from the album was The Shape I'm In. The tune, written by Robbie Robertson, was a not-entirely-flattering portrayel of fellow band member Richard Manuel, whose voice is ironically the most prominent on the recording.

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    Big Yellow Taxi
Source:    LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Ladies Of The Canyon)
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1970
    One of Joni Mitchell's best-known tunes, Big Yellow Taxi was originally released on the 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon. The original studio version of the song hit the top 10 in Australia and the top 20 in the UK and Mitchell's native Canada, but only reached the #67 spot in the US. A later live version of the song, however, cracked the top 30 in the US in 1974. Mitchell says she was inspired to write the song on a visit to Hawaii, where she looked out her hotel window to view a mountain vista in the distance, only to be shocked back to reality when she looked down to see a parking lot "as far as the eye could see".

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