Sunday, January 24, 2021

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion (starts 1/25/21)

    This week we have a series of singles from 1968 to 1973, followed by a set of longer album tracks to finish out the hour. First, though, a seldom heard tune from Mother Earth's 1970 LP Satisfied.

Artist:    Mother Earth
Title:    Get Out Of Here
Source:    LP: Satisfied
Writer(s):    B. Charles
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1970
    Although formed in San Francisco and originally known for its live performances in the Bay Area, Mother Earth relocated to a country house outside of Nashville, Tennessee soon after the release of their first LP, Living With The Animals. Not all of the original band members made the move, however, and by the time the group's 1970 LP Satisfied was released, only bandleader Tracy Nelson remained from the original lineup. The album itself is made up mainly of cover songs such as Get Out Of Here. I have not been able to find any information on the credited songwriter, B. Charles, however. I suppose it could be a misprint substituting a B for an R, but it doesn't sound much like a Ray Charles song to me, either.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    All Along The Watchtower
Source:    CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Electric Ladyland)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    Although there have been countless covers of Bob Dylan songs recorded by a variety of artists, very few of them have become better known than the original Dylan versions. Probably the most notable of these is the Jimi Hendrix version of All Along The Watchtower from the Electric Ladyland album. Hendrix's arrangement of the song has been adopted by several other musicians over the years, including Neil Young (at the massive Bob Dylan tribute concert) and even Dylan himself.

Artist:    Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title:    Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Source:    CD: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer(s):    Neil Young
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1969
    After releasing a fairly well produced debut solo album utilizing the talents of several well-known studio musicians in late 1968, Neil Young surprised everyone by recruiting an unknown L.A. bar band called the Rockets and rechristening them Crazy Horse for his second effort, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. The album was raw and unpolished, with Young's lead vocals recorded using a talkback microphone normally used by engineers to communicate with people in the studio from the control room. In spite of (or more likely because of) these limitations, the resulting album has come to be regarded as one of the greatest in the history of rock, with Young sounding far more comfortable, both as a vocalist and guitarist, than on the previous effort. Although the album is best known for three songs he wrote while running a fever (Cinnamon Girl, Cowgirl In The Sand, and Down By The River), there are plenty of good other songs on the LP, including the title track heard here.

Artist:    Guess Who
Title:    Bus Rider
Source:    LP: The Best Of The Guess Who (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Kurt Winter
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1970
    When Randy Bachman suddenly quit the band he had co-founded ten years before, the Guess Who frantically searched for a replacement guitarist. They ended up with two, Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw. Both had been members of the Winnipeg-based Gettysburg Address, and Winter had recently formed a power trio named Brother that was considered to be Winnipeg's first supergroup. Winter brought a couple of Brother's songs along with him when he joined the Guess Who, one of which, Bus Rider, was issued as a B side in September of 1970 and included as the opening track on the band's Share The Land album the following month. The song also appeared on The Best Of The Guess Who, released in 1971.

Artist:    T. Rex
Title:    Bang A Gong (Get It On)
Source:    LP: Electric Warrior
Writer(s):    Marc Bolan
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1971
    My memories of my senior year of high school are somewhat spotty. Some things I remember quite vividly, yet have forgotten the context that those memories reside in. For instance, I clearly remember being at my friend Dave's cheap apartment in early 1971 in Alamogordo, NM, listening to the Tyrannosaurus Rex album Unicorn on an even cheaper stereo. What I don't remember is how I got to Dave's cheap apartment that particular night or whether I crashed there or went back to my parent's house. For that matter, I don't even remember if anyone else was there or not that night, not even Dave's kind-of girlfriend, who came and went as she pleased anyway. I do remember, however, discussing with Dave how strange this psychedelic folk music with fantasy-based lyrics sounded compared to rock bands like the Allman Brothers, Ten Years After and Santana, and in particular how weird the singer's voice sounded to us. To us, it was truly underground stuff along the lines of the Incredible String Band, with no commercial potential. Imagine my surprise when, a few months later, I heard that same weird voice on top 40 radio singing Bang A Gong (Get It On). It turns out that Marc Bolan had originally been a lead guitarist with a psychedelic band called John's Children, but had hooked up with drummer Steve Peregrine Took to form Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1967, eschewing electric instruments entirely for three albums' worth of material, the third of which was the aforementioned Unicorn. The two of them had a falling out, however, with Took moving on to other things while a newly re-electrified Bolan added new members and shortened the name of the group to T. Rex. From 1970 to 1973 T. Rex scored 11 consecutive top 10 singles on the British charts, four of them (including Get It On) going to the #1 spot. The actual title of the song, incidentally is Get It On, but, due to a band called Chase having a US hit with a song called Get It On in 1971, it was decided to retitle the tune Bang A Gong (Get It On) for its US release.

Artist:    Mott The Hoople
Title:    All The Young Dudes
Source:    CD: Electric 70s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Warner Special Products/JCI (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1972
    After three years and four albums for Island Records (released on Atlantic in the US), Mott The Hoople was on the verge of breaking up when David Bowie gave them the song All The Young Dudes to record. The single, released in 1972, turned Mott overnight from nearly extinct also-rans to leaders of the glam-rock movement. Oddly enough, Bowie later claimed that the song was not intended to be an anthem at all; rather it was a precursor to his next album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust, and that the "news" that the young dudes were proclaiming was the apocalyptic fact that Earth had five years left, the same message that opens Ziggy Stardust.

Artist:    Temptations
Title:    Plastic Man
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Norman Whitfield
Label:    Motown Yesteryear (original label: Gordy)
Year:    1973
    By 1973 Norman Whitfield had firmly established a reputation as Motown's most experimental producer/songwriter. Working mostly with the Temptations, Whitfield's productions emphasized the musicianship of the label's studio players, known informally as the Funk Brothers. The songs themselves showed the influence of contemporary non-Motown groups such as Sly And The Family Stone and Funkadelic. The album Masterpiece featured a nearly fourteen minute long title track that only had about three minutes' worth of vocals, a ratio that did not sit well with longtime Temptations fans or the group itself. Nonetheless, Masterpiece netted Whitfield and the Temptations a total of three singles that made the top 10 on the R&B charts, including Plastic Man, which went to the #8 spot. The song, a cautionary tune about untrustworthy people, scraped the bottom of the top 40 chart as well.

Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Uncle Remus
Source:    CD: Apostrophe (')
Writer(s):    Zappa/Duke
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1974
    One of the shortest free-standing songs in the entire Frank Zappa catalogue, Uncle Remus is a bit of a rarity in that it was a collaboration with another musician, George Duke, who also performs on the track. The song itself is more serious in tone than the rest of the tunes on the Apostrophe (') album, dealing as it does with the subject of continuing racism in America.

Artist:    Mountain
Title:    Taunta (Sammy's Tune)/Nantucket Sleighride (For Owen Coffin)
Source:    LP: Nantucket Sleighride
Writer(s):    Pappalardi/Collins
Label:    Windfall
Year:    1971
    Mountain, formed in 1970, took its name from Leslie West's 1969 solo album, recorded after the guitarist shortened his name from Weinstein following the breakup of the Vagrants. Just as important to the band's sound, however, was Felix Pappalardi, sometimes known as the "fourth member" of Cream. Pappalardi had produced all but the first Cream album, and, along with his wife Janet Collins, helped write some of their best material, including Strange Brew, which opened the second Cream album, Disraeli Gears. As a member of Mountain, Pappalardi played keyboards and bass, as well as singing lead vocals on several of the band's most popular tunes, including Nantucket Sleighride (For Owen Coffin), the title track of Mountain's second LP. The song is based on the true story of the Essex, a whaling ship that was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in 1820. Owen Coffin, a young seaman on the ship, was killed and eaten by his shipmates following the sinking. The term "Nantucket Sleighride" refers to the experience of being towed along in a boat by a harpooned whale. The song is generally preceded by a short instrumental piece called Taunta (Sammy's Tune), which was named after Pappalardi's pet poodle.

Artist:     Led Zeppelin
Title:     Your Time Is Gonna Come/Black Mountain Side/Communication Breakdown
Source:     CD: Led Zeppelin
Writer(s):    Page/Jones/Bonham
Year:     1969
    One of the great ironies of Led Zeppelin is that half the members of a band that was revered for its live performances were in fact in-demand studio musicians long before they started performing live. Your Time Is Gonna Come and Black Mountain Side, from the debut Zeppelin album was written by those two members, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. The two songs run together on the album, and are immediately followed by the B side of the band's first single, Communication Breakdown. I'm pretty sure that back when the album first came out, some unknown DJ was unable to stop the turntable fast enough to cut off Communication Breakdown and ended up just letting the two and a half minute track play on through. Somebody liked the way it sounded and the three have been played as a continuous set ever since. Who am I to argue with a tradition like that?

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Queen Of Torture
Source:    CD: Wishbone Ash
Writer:    Upton/Turner/Turner/Powell
Label:    MCA (original label: Decca)
Year:    1970
    One of the first bands to use dual lead guitars was Wishbone Ash. When Glen Turner, the band's original guitarist, had to leave, auditions were held, but the remaining members and their manager couldn't decide between the two finalists, Andy Powell and Ted Turner, so they kept both of them. Queen Of Torture, from their 1969 debut album, shows just how well the two guitars meshed.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Moonlight Drive (live version)
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    Vocal tracks recorded 1970, new instrumental tracks added 1983.
    In 1983 Elektra Records compiled a "new" live Doors album made up of performances recorded from 1967 to 1970 called Alive, She Cried. The final track on the album was a 1970 version of Moonlight Drive that incorporates Jim Morrison's poem Horse Latitudes, which had preceded Moonlight Drive on the 1967 studio LP Strange Days. The only source I could find for track information states that Morrison's vocal was from a 1970 live performance, with instrumental overdubs added later.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    The Fool And Me
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Trower/Dewar
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    Guitarist Robin Trower's breakthrough album, Bridge Of Sighs, featured vocals by bassist James Dewar, who also co-wrote a couple of the songs on the LP. The best of these was The Fool And Me, which closes out side one of the original LP. Drummer Reg Isidore completed the trio.

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