It's 1970 for the first half of this week's Rockin' in the Days of Confusion, with tunes from Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles, George Harrison and Spirit, among others. From there we go free-form with a set that includes Yes's most popular song to finish out the hour.
Artist: Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young
Source: LP: déjà vu
Writer(s): Joni Mitchell
It's somewhat ironic that the most famous song about the Woodstock Music and Art Festival was written by someone who was not even at the event. Joni Mitchell had been advised by her manager that she would be better off appearing on the Dick Cavett show that weekend, so she stayed in her New York City hotel room and watched televised reports of what was going on up at Max Yasgur's farm. Further inspiration came from her then-boyfried Graham Nash, who shared his firsthand experiences of the festival with Mitchell. The song was first released on the 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon, and was made famous the same year when it was chosen to be the first single released from the Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young album déjà vu. The CSNY version peaked just outside of the Billboard top 10.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys
Title: Machine Gun
Source: LP: Band Of Gypsys
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
In 1965 Jimi Hendrix sat in on a recording session with R&B vocalist Curtis Knight, signing what he thought was a standard release contract relinquishing any future claim to royalties on the recordings. Three years later, after Hendrix had released a pair of successful albums on the Reprise label with his new band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Capitol records issued the Knight sessions as an LP called Get That Feeling, giving Hendrix equal billing with Knight. Additionally, Capitol claimed that the guitarist was under contract to them. Eventually the matter was settled by Hendrix promising to provide Capitol with an album of new material by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, although it was not specified whether the album be made up of studio or live recordings. While all this was going on, the Experience disbanded, leaving Hendrix bandless and under pressure to come up with new material for his regular label, Reprise, as well as the Capitol album. The solution was to record a set of concerts at the Fillmore East on December 31st, 1969 and January 1st, 1970, and release the best of these recordings as a live album on the Capitol label, freeing Hendrix up to concentrate on a new studio album for Reprise. The live album, Band Of Gypsys, ended up being the last album of new material to be released during the guitarist's lifetime. It features bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles on Hendrix originals such as Machine Gun, as well as material written by Miles.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Black Night
Source: CD: The Very Best Of Deep Purple (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Warner Brothers
Prior to 1970, Deep Purple had achieved a moderate amount of success, but were pretty much ignored in the native England. That all changed, however, with the addition of two new members, lead vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover. Following the experimental Concerto For Group and Orchestra, the band's new lineup released its first studio album, Deep Purple In Rock, on June 3, 1970. Two days later the released a non-album single called Black Night. The song was an instant hit, going all the way to the #2 spot on the British charts and quickly becoming part of the band's concert repertoire, usually as the first encore.
Artist: George Harrison
Title: Wah Wah
Source: LP: All Things Must Pass
Writer(s): George Harrison
Label: Capitol (original label: Apple)
On January 10, 1969, George Harrison quit the Beatles. He had submitted several songs (one of which was Something) for inclusion on their new project, a combination album and documentary film to be called Get Back, only to have them rejected outright in favor of new John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs. His relationship with John Lennon in particular had deteriorated to the point where it had almost come to a physical altercation. So Harrison quit, went home and wrote a very angry song called Wah Wah. Over a year later Wah Wah became the first song recorded for his new album, All Things Must Past. It was also the most energetic piece on the album, although, as Harrison himself said later, the final recording suffers from being over-produced, in part because of co-producer Phil Spector's "wall of sound" approach. The track features a huge roster of musicians, including Harrison and Eric Clapton on electric guitars, three members of Badfinger on acoustic rhythm guitars, Billy Preston and Gary Wright on keyboards, Klaus Voormann on bass, Ringo Starr on drums, and Badfinger's Mike Gibbins playing tambourine as well as the former Delaney & Bonnie horn section of Jim Price and Bobby Keys.
Title: Nature's Way/Animal Zoo/Love Has Found A Way/Why Can't I Be Free
Source: CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Spirit was one of those bands that consistently scored well with the critics, yet was never truly able to connect with a large segment of the record buying audience at any given time. Perhaps their best album was Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, released in 1970 to glowing reviews. Despite this, the album actually charted lower than any of their three previous efforts, and would be the last to feature the band's original lineup. In the long haul, however, Twelve Dreams has become the group's top selling album, thanks to steady catalog sales over a period of years. Unlike many more popular records of the time, Twelve Dreams sounds as fresh and original today as when it first appeared, as can be easily heard on the four-song medley that makes up the bulk of the LP's first side. Indeed, despite never having charted as a single, Nature's Way, a Randy California tune which starts the sequence, is one of the best-known songs in the entire Spirit catalog. Additionally, its ecological theme segues naturally into Animal Zoo, a Jay Ferguson tune with a more satirical point of view. Love Has Found A Way, written by vocalist Ferguson and keyboardist John Locke, can best described as psychedelic space jazz, while Why Can't I Be Free is a simple, yet lovely, short coda from guitarist California. Although Spirit, in various incarnations, would continue to record for many years, they would never put out another album as listenable as Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus.
Artist: Uriah Heep
Title: I Wanna Be Free
Source: LP: Look At Yourself
Writer(s): Ken Hensley
No, it's not the Monkees song.
Artist: It's A Beautiful Day
Title: Wasted Union Blues
Source: CD: It's A Beautiful Day
Writer(s): David LaFlamme
Label: San Francisco Sound (original label: Columbia)
It's A Beautiful Day was founded in the mid-60s by classical violinist David LaFlamme. The group had a hard time lining up gigs at first and eventually hooked up with local impressario Matthew Katz, who had similar deals with Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape. What the members of IABD did not know at the time was that those other bands were desperately trying to sever all ties with Katz due to his heavy-handed management style. LaFlamme and company would soon find out just how bad a deal they had gotten into when Katz shipped them off to Seattle to be the resident band at his own "San Francisco Sound" club from late 1967 through most of 1968. The group was put up in the attic of a house that Katz owned and given a small allowance that barely put food on the table. To make matters worse, attendance at the club was dismal. Still, the adversity did inspire some of LaFlamme's best songwriting, such as Wasted Union Blues from the group's debut LP, released in 1969.
Source: CD: Fragile
Some artists are one-hit wonders. Others have long and productive careers. Most, however, never really achieve the kind of success they hope for. Somewhere in the middle of all that are artists who make it big on the strength of one song, and then manage to stick around long enough to make a more permanent name for themselves. But still, if it weren't for that first big hit they probably would have faded off into obscurity without anyone knowing who they were. Such a band was Yes, and their big hit song was Roundabout. Ask yourself this: if it weren't for Roundabout, do you think anyone would have paid attention to Close To The Edge or Tales From Topographic Oceans? Would Owner Of A Lonely Heart even have been written? Doubtful.
Artist: Peter Gabriel
Title: Moribund The Burgermeister
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single B side (taken from LP: Peter Gabriel)
Writer(s): Peter Gabriel
After leaving Genesis, vocalist Peter Gabriel enlisted producer Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper, to co-produce his self-titled debut. Ezrin assembled a talented group of musicians for the LP, including guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson, bass player Tony Levin (who would eventually be a member of the 1980s version of King Crimson), drummer Allan Schwartzberg, percussionist Jimmy Maelen, guitarist Steve Hunter, keyboardist Jozef Chirowski and Larry Fast on synthesizers and programming. Gabriel relied heavily on Ezrin to handle the harder rocking aspects of the music (in Gabriel's words "the American" parts), while Gabriel handled the softer passages, much as he had done as a member of Genesis. Both aspects can be heard on Moribund The Burgermeister, a highly theatrical song that was chosen to be the B side of the album's lead single, Solisbury Hill.