Sunday, May 23, 2021

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2122 (starts 5/24/21)

    This week, following an introduction from Black Sabbath, we take a musical journey backwards through the years, starting in 1975 with a track from Patti Smith's historic debut LP, Horses, and ending up with a track from the equally historic first Doors LP. In between we have all sort of good stuff, including several tracks never heard on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion before this week.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots
Source:    CD: Paranoid
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    As a general rule, Black Sabbath's songwriting process on their first three albums consisted of guitarist Tony Iommi coming up with a basic riff, to which vocalist Ozzy Osbourne would add a melody. Bassist Geezer Butler would then compose lyrics and drummer Bill Ward would add the finishing touches. According to Butler, however, the lyrics to Fairies Wear Boots were entirely the work of Osbourne. Although Osbourne himself says he doesn't remember where he got the idead for those lyrics, Butler has said they were inspired by an encounter Osbourne had with a group of London skinheads who taunted him about the length of his hair by calling him a fairy. Butler added that Osbourne's lyrics often went off on a tangent, however, and that the later verses actually describe an acid trip. US versions of the Paranoid album list the track as being two separate compositions, with the instrumental intro carrying the title Jack The Stripper. This actually does not make a whole lot of sense, since that instrumental theme is repeated much later in the track, but in all likelihood the division was made to increase the amount of royalties the band would receive for the album itself. The Grateful Dead's second LP, Anthem Of The Sun, was similarly formatted for that reason, and both Anthem Of The Sun and Paranoid came out on the Warner Brothers label in the US, lending credibility to the idea.

Artist:    Patti Smith
Title:    Break It Up
Source:    LP: Horses
Writer(s):    Smith/Verlaine
Label:    Arista
Year:    1975
    In spring of 1975 Patti Smith and her band shared a two-month residency at New York's CBGB club with the band Television, led by Tom Verlaine. Around that same time Clive Davis was looking for acts to sign to his new record label, Arista, and he offered Smith a record deal, with work to begin on her debut LP that summer. After early plans to record the album in Florida with producer Tom Dowd fell through, the sessions began in August at New York's Electric Ladyland studios, with the Velvet Underground's John Cale serving as producer. Most of the material on the album was self-penned, including Break It Up, a collaboration between Smith and Verlaine, who also plays guitar on the track. The rest of Smith's band was made up of Jay Dee Daugherty on drums, Lenny Kaye on lead guitar, Ivan Král on bass and Richard Sohl on piano.

Artist:    Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Title:    Sledgehammer
Source:    LP: Not Fragile
Writer(s):    Randy Bachman
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1974
    After ten years as lead guitarist for the Guess Who, Randy Bachman returned to his native Winnipeg and recruited his brother Robbie (on drums) to form a new band called Brave Belt with former Guess Who vocalist Chad Allan. On their first LP Randy Bachman played both lead guitar and bass parts, but soon added C.F. "Fred" Turner as bassist for live appearances. Their second LP saw Allan taking on keyboard duties as well as lead vocals, with Turner providing lead vocals on two of the tracks. Allan left the group shortly after the album was released and another Bachman brother Tim, was added to the group for their next tour. Neither album sold well, and Brave Belt was dropped from the Reprise Records roster while recording a third LP. By the time the band found a label willing to release the album (Mercury) they had changed their name to Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Their second album for Mercury gave the group their first two top 40 hits, Let It Ride and Takin' Care Of Business. For their third Mercury LP, Not Fragile, Tim Bachman was replaced by Blair Thornton as second lead guitarist, and the interplay between the two is in display on songs like Sledgehammer, which opens the second side of the LP. This lineup of the band remained intact until 1977, when Randy Bachman left to work on a solo project. They have since reunited multiple times in various configurations.
Artist:    James Gang
Title:    The Devil Is Singing Our Song
Source:    CD: Bang
Writer(s):    Bolin/Tesar
Label:    Atco
Year:    1973
    The James Gang, following the departure of guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh, could have just called it quits right then and there. Instead, however, bassist Dale Peters and drummer Jim Fox chose to instead add two new members, Canadians Roy Kenner (vocals) and Dominic Troiano (guitar), and carry on in the same vein as they had been. After a pair of albums that failed to catch on, however, Troiano accepted an offer to replace Randy Bachman in the Guess Who. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the James Gang, however, as the addition of former Zephyr guitarist Tommy Bolin revitalized the band for a time. Bolin had a hand in writing much of the material on the band's next LP, James Gang Bang, including The Devil Is Singing Our Song. With a strong signature riff and a gritty guitar solo, the song has a feel to it that presages Bolin's later solo work on his albums Private Eyes and Teaser.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Smoke On The Water (edited live version)
Source:    Mono 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    Based on what is quite possibly the most recognizable riff in the history of rock, Smoke On The Water was released in December of 1972 on Deep Purple's Machine Head album. The song became a huge hit the following year when a live version of the tune appeared on the album Made In Japan. For the single release, Warner Brothers chose to pair up edited versions of both the live and studio renditions of the tune on either side of a 45 RPM record. 

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Can't You Hear Me Knocking
Source:    LP: Sticky Fingers
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Rolling Stones
Year:    1971
    Finally free of the various restrictions imposed on them by their label (British Decca), the Rolling Stones got to work on their first LP for their own record label in early 1970. One of the most popular tracks on the album is Can't You Hear Me Knocking. The song was originally meant to run a shade under three minutes in length, but at the end of the song guitarist Mick Taylor began riffing on a lick that turned into a four and a half minute long jam session. When the recording was played back the band liked it so much they decided to include all seven-plus minutes on the album Sticky Fingers, which was finally released in April of 1971.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    All The Madmen
Source:    CD: The Man Who Sold The World
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    Although most critics agree that the so-called "glitter era" of rock music originated with David Bowie's 1972 LP The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, a significant minority argue that it really began with Bowie's third album, The Man Who Sold The World, released in 1970 in the US and in 1971 in the UK. They point out that World was the first Bowie real rock album (the previous two being much more folk oriented), and cite songs such as All The Madmen, as well as the album's title cut, as the prototype for Spiders From Mars. All The Madmen itself is one of several songs on the album that deal with the subject of insanity, taking the view that an insane asylum may in fact be the sanest place to be in modern times. Whenever I hear the song I think of the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, which makes a similar statement.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    We Used To Know
Source:    CD: Stand Up
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol (original US label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    The first of many personnel changes for Jethro Tull came with the departure of guitarist Mick Abrahams in late 1968. His replacement was Tony Iommi from the band Earth, who joined just in time to make an appearance miming the guitar parts to A Song For Jeffrey on the Rolling Stones' Rock And Roll Circus, a TV special slated for a December airing on British TV, but pulled from the schedule at the last minute by the Stones themselves, who were not satisfied with their own performances on the show. The following month Iommi went back to Earth (who eventually changed their name to Black Sabbath) and Jethro Tull found a new guitarist, Martin Barre, in time to begin work on their second LP, Stand Up. Barre's guitar work is featured prominently on several tracks on Stand Up, including We Used To Know, a song that starts quietly and slowly builds to a wah-wah pedal dominated instrumental finale.

Artist:    Jeff Beck
Title:    Morning Dew
Source:    LP: Truth
Writer(s):    Bonnie Dobson
Label:    Epic
Year:    1968
    With an all-star lineup that included vocalist Rod Stewart, bassist Ronnie Wood and drummer Micky Waller, Jeff Beck's debut solo album, Truth, is considered one of the earliest examples of what would come to be called heavy metal rock. This can be heard on tracks like Bonnie Dobson's Morning Dew, which by 1968 was already becoming well-known as a staple of the Grateful Dead's setlist as well as being a minor hit single for Tim Rose (particularly in the UK) in early 1967.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    The End
Source:    CD: The Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: The Doors)
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    Prior to recording their first album the Doors' honed their craft at various Sunset Strip clubs, working up live versions of the songs they would soon record, including their show-stopper, The End. Originally written as a breakup song by singer/lyricist Jim Morrison, The End runs nearly twelve minutes and includes a controversial spoken "Oedipus section". My own take on the famous "blue bus" line is that Morrison, being a military brat, was probably familiar with the blue shuttle buses used on military bases for a variety of purposes, including taking kids to school, and simply incorporated his experiences with them into his lyrics.  The End got its greatest exposure in 1979, when Oliver Stone used it in his film Apocalypse Now.

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