This week's show starts off with a group of songs meant to set the stage for next week's Independence Day show, but then gets completely sidetracked by a trio of international prog-rock classics from Canada (Rush), the UK (Yes) and Germany (Nektar).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Street Fighting Man
Source: LP: Beggar's Banquet
The Rolling Stones were at a low point in their career following their most psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, which came out in late 1967. As a response to charges in the rock press that they were no longer relevant the Stones released Jumpin' Jack Flash as a single in early 1968, following it up with the Beggar's Banquet album later in the year. The new album included the band's follow-up single, Street Fighting Man, a song that was almost as anthemic as Jumpin' Jack Flash itself and went a long ways toward insuring that the Rolling Stones would have the freedom to make music on their own terms for as long as they chose to.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys
Title: Power Of Soul
Source: LP: Band Of Gypsys
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
1969 was a strange year for Jimi Hendrix. For one thing, he did not release any new recordings that year, yet he remained the top money maker in rock music. One reason for the lack of new material was an ongoing dispute with Capitol Records over a contract he had signed in 1965. By the end of the year an agreement was reached for Hendrix to provide Capitol with one album's worth of new material. At this point Hendrix had not released any live albums, so it was decided to tape his New Year's performances at the Fillmore East with his new Band Of Gypsys (with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox), playing songs that had never been released in studio form. One of those songs is Power Of Soul, which includes an impromptu vocal ad-lib from drummer Buddy Miles toward the end of the track.
Artist: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Title: Power To The People
Source: CD: Lennon (box set) (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): John Lennon
Label: Capitol (original label: Apple)
Written during John Lennon's political period following an interview he gave to left-wing activists Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, Power To The People was recorded in February of 1971, during sessions for the Imagine album, and released as a single the following month. Lennon had this to say about the song at the time: "I just felt inspired by what they said, although a lot of it is gobbledygook. So I wrote 'Power to the People' the same way I wrote 'Give Peace a Chance,' as something for the people to sing. I make singles like broadsheets. It was another quickie." Years later, Lennon would admit that as he got older he found the song "rather embarrassing|", agreeing with Hunter S. Thompson's assessment that the song came along about "ten years too late".
Artist: Stephen Stills
Title: Love the One You're With
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo promo pressing)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Depending on your point of view Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) have either split up several times over the years or have never actually split up at all. It was during one of these maybe split-ups that Stills recorded Love the One You're With, one of his most popular tunes. Presumably he and singer Judy Collins were no longer an item at that point.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: I Want Freedom
Source: CD: Survival
Writer(s): Mark Farner
After being savaged by the rock press for their first three studio albums, Grand Funk Railroad mellowed their hard rocking sound a bit with their 1971 LP Survival. It was the first Grand Funk album to feature keyboards (played by lead guitarist Mark Farner) extensively, as a listen to I Want Freedom, which opens side two of the album, demonstrates.
Artist: Doobie Brothers
Source: CD: What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
Writer(s): Tom Johnston
Label: Warner Brothers
The Doobie Brothers have sometimes been referred to as the musical successor to Creedence Clearwater Revival, inheriting much of the earlier band's audience when the Fogerty brothers parted company in the early 1970s. Songs like Spirit, from the fourth Doobie Brothers album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, lend some, er, credence to that theory. The song itself, written and sung by founder Tom Johnston, follows a typical Doobie Brothers arrangement, with acoustic and electric guitars playing in harmony, laying the groundwork for Johnston's generally positive lyrics. Spirit is often overlooked when lists of Doobie Brothers classics are compiled, but should be considered an essential element of the band's discography.
Source: LP: A Farewell To Kings
Perhaps more than any other rock band, Rush incorporated science fiction into much of their music, especially longer pieces such as Xanadu, which runs a full eleven minutes. The story is based on the legendary city of Xanadu, as described in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan: or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment. In Rush's version, finding Xanadu will grant one immortality, and the song's protagonist does indeed find it, only to find himself gone mad after a thousand years, "waiting for the world to end". Apparently the moral of the story is "be careful what you wish for".
Title: And You And I
Source: LP: Close To The Edge
Recording technology has been evolving since the first recordings were made on wax cylinders over a hundred years ago. That evolution has been anything but steady, however. The process was entirely acoustic until about 1930, when microphones began to replace the large horns that had been previously required to gather in sounds. From there, things stayed pretty much as they were until the late 1940s, when tape technology made it possible to edit recordings for the first time. Stereo came along in the 1950s, but was considered a luxury rather than an industry standard until the late 1960s, when the record labels began to phase out monoraul records altogether. Perhaps the biggest and most revolutionary change, however, was the invention of multi-track technology, or rather the expansion of such technology to more than three or four tracks. As first eight, and then sixteen track machines became common, the artists themselves began to use the recording studio itself as part of the creative process. There were times, however, when the process got a bit too complicated, at least for some musicians. Bill Bruford, the drummer for Yes, absolutely hated the slow development of material in the studio that went into the making of the album Close To The Edge, to the point that it would be his last studio LP as a member of Yes. Only one track on the album was credited to the entire band: And You And I, which was also the only single released (in edited form, since the original runs nearly ten minutes) from the album. The song originated as an acoustic piece by vocalist Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe that was fleshed out by Bruford and bassist Chris Squire in the studio. The edited version of And You And I barely missed the top 40, peaking at #42.
Title: Desolation Valley/Waves
Source: LP: A Tab In The Ocean
Label: Passport (original German label: Bellaphon)
Year: 1972 (US release: 1976)
On the surface it seems like a story you've heard before: a group of young British musicians go to Hamburg, Germany to hone their craft, building up a cult following in the process. But this story is not about the Beatles. It is about Nektar, formed in 1969 by Roye Albrighton on guitars and vocals, Allan "Taff" Freeman on keyboards, Derek "Mo" Moore on bass, Ron Howden on drums, and Mick Brockett and Keith Walters on lights and special effects. The band's first LP, A Tab In The Ocean, was originally released in Germany in 1972 on the Bellaphon label, leading many people to assume Nektar was in fact a German band and an early example of "Kraut Rock". Nektar would eventually become closely associated with the progressive rock movement of the early to mid 1970s, thanks in large part to A Tab In The Ocean finally being released in a remixed form in the US in 1976. Like fellow prog-rockers Genesis and Gentle Giant, Nektar began to commercialize their sound with shorter songs containing fewer time and key changes as the decade wore on; unlike those other bands, however, Nektar did not become more popular because of the changes. Indeed, by 1978, the band had decided to call it quits, although two of the members reformed the band briefly the following year, releasing one album in 1980 before disbanding again in 1982. The nearest thing to a commercial pop song on the album is Desolation Valley, which opens the LP's second side. This piece segues into Waves, a quiet instrumental. Both parts are credited simply to Nektar.
Artist: Neil Young
Title: Heart Of Gold
Source: CD: Decade (originally released on LP: Harvest)
Writer: Neil Young
In the liner notes of his 1977 compilation album Decade, Neil Young had this to say about his hit single Heart Of Gold from the 1972 LP Harvest: "This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there." As a longtime resident of the ditch myself, I say thankya, Neil.