This week, with the exception of our first and last tunes, it's 1972 on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion, with tracks from Roy Buchanan, Steely Dan, T. Rex and several more, including an extended comedy bit from George Carlin's breakthrough album Class Clown.
Artist: Steeleye Span
Title: Seven Hundred Elves
Source: LP: Now We Are Six
Writer(s): Trad. arr. Steeleye Span
One of Steeleye Span's most popular albums, Now We Are Six had a title with a double meaning: it was the band's 6th LP and with the addition of drummer Nigel Pegrum the band now had six members. Not that previous albums had been drumless. Studio drummers had been used extensively on previous albums, but it was felt that the time was right for the addition of a full-time percussionist to further the group's move towards a blend of tradition English folk music and rock. The final track on side one of the original LP, Seven Hundred Elves, combines traditional lyrics with music written by the band members to create a unique hybrid. Steeleye Span's popularity continued to grow until the advent of punk rock turned British audiences against anything perceived as old-fashioned, including the various folk-rock bands that had flourished earlier in the decade.
Artist: Roy Buchanan
Title: Sweet Dreams
Source: CD: The Best Of Roy Buchanan (originally released on LP: Roy Buchanan)
Writer(s): Don Gibson
Although relatively unknown to the general public, Roy Buchanan was one of the most highly respected guitarists in American music history. Born in 1939 in Ozark, Arkansas, he was already making a name for himself at age 16 as a member of the Heartbeats, a group that also featured future Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden. After being stranded in Oklahoma City by an unscrupulous agent who took all the band's money, Buchanan soon found himself performing on Tulsa Bandstand, where he was discovered by the legendary Dale Hawkins, becoming his lead guitarist for the next three years. From there he became a member of Hawkins's cousin Ronnie's band, the Hawks, a group that would eventually become known as The Band. By the late 1960s Buchanan had settled in Washington, DC, playing gigs at local clubs and filling in for just about anyone who asked him to. In 1970 he became the focus of feature articles in both the Washington Star, and later the Washington Post, which led to a 1972 PBS documentary called Introducing Roy Buchanan. It was then that Buchanan signed his first record contract as a solo artist, releasing his self-titled debut on the Polydor label, which was in the process of establishing itself as a player in the US market. The opening track on that album was Sweet Dreams, a song written by Don Gibson and originally recorded by Patsy Cline a month before her death in a 1963 plane crash. Buchanan went on to record several more albums in the 1970s before taking a six-year-long hiatus, returning to the studio in 1985 to record the grammy nominated When A Guitar Plays The Blues. During his lifetime Buchanan was praised by the likes of Eric Clapton and Jerry Garcia and was even invited to join the Rolling Stones (he declined).
Artist: Paul Simon
Title: Mother And Child Reunion
Source: 45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
Paul Simon became one of the first white musicians to incorporate elements of reggae music into a rock song with his 1972 hit Mother And Child Reunion. Before recording sessions commenced, Simon was instructed by members of Toots And The Maytals and Jimmy Cliff's band on the differences between reggae, ska and bluebeat. The song itself was recorded at Dynamic Sounds Studios at Torrington Bridge in Kingston, Jamaica with many of those same musicians. Simon finished the song by adding piano and vocal tracks in New York at a later date.
Artist: George Carlin
Title: Class Clown
Source: LP: Class Clown
Writer(s): George Carlin
Label: Little David
George Carlin was already getting a reputation for his anecdotal humor when he released his album Class Clown in 1972. The album contains his most notorious bit, Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television, as well as the lengthy title track, in which he goes into detail about how he ended up becoming a stand-up comedian.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Only A Fool Would Say That
Source: LP: Can't Buy A Thrill
Steely Dan's first album, Can't Buy A Thrill, is best known for its two hit singles, Do It Again and Reeling In The Years. The album, however, has plenty more good tracks, including Only A Fool Would Say That, which also appeared as a B side.
Artist: T. Rex
Title: Metal Guru
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Marc Bolan
Metal Guru was the fourth and final T.Rex song to top the British charts, hitting the #1 spot in late spring of 1972. By then, glam-rock had already run its course in the Western hemisphere, however, and the song did not chart at all in the US. Singer/songwriter Marc Bolan described Metal Guru as "a festival of life song. I relate 'Metal Guru' to all Gods around. I believe in a God, but I have no religion. With 'Metal Guru', it's like someone special, it must be a Godhead. I thought how God would be, he'd be all alone without a telephone. I don't answer the phone any more. I have codes where people ring me at certain times." I'm not sure what all that means, but there it is.
Artist: Captain Beyond
Title: Mesmerization Eclipse
Source: LP: Captain Beyond
In the early 1970s it was normal for three bands to be on the playbill at a rock concert. Generally the headliner was someone with a hit record currently on the charts, while the middle act was someone on the way up. The opening act was either a popular local band or, in some cases, a brand new group that had just released their first album. It was not entirely uncommon for the second act to actually get a better audience response than the headliner, especially if the headliner turned out to be a one-hit wonder with no staying power. It was extremely rare, however, for the opening act to blow both of the other two bands out of the water. In fact, I can think of only one time that happened when I was in the audience. It was 1972, and I don't even remember who the headliner was. The middle band was Jo Jo Gunne, featuring front man Jay Ferguson, formerly of Spirit. They weren't bad, although the only songs I remember them performing were Run Run Run and 99 Days. The opening act, however, totally blew me away with their outstanding musicianship and strong material. That band was Captain Beyond, formed by former members of Iron Butterfly (bassist Lee Dorman and guitarist Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt), Deep Purple (vocalist Rod Evans) and drummer Bobby Caldwell, who would eventually go on to have a moderately successful solo career. I was so impressed with their set that I went to the record store the very next day and bought their album (which has this really cool 3D cover, by the way). Mesmerization Eclipse, from that debut LP, was written by the entire band, although only Evans and Caldwell got official writing credits on the album, due to Rhino and Dorman still being under contract to Iron Butterfly at the time.
Source: British import LP: The New Age of Atlantic
Writer: Paul Simon
Following the success of the Fragile album and the hit single Roundabout, Yes went into the studio to cut a ten and a half minute cover of Paul Simon's America for a UK-only sampler album called The New Age Of Atlantic. The track was then edited down for single release in the US as a followup to Roundabout. The original unedited track was finally released in the US on the 1974 album Yesterdays, which also included several tracks from two earlier Yes albums that featured an earlier lineup of the band that included guitarist Peter Banks and keyboardist Tony Kaye. Paul Simon's America was, in fact, the only track on Yesterdays that featured the classic Yes lineup of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squires, Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman.
Artist: Edgar Winter Group
Source: LP: They Only Come Out At Night
Writer: Edgar Winter
I remember hearing Edgar Winter's Frankenstein for the first time late at night on KOMA, the Oklahoma City powerhouse that was pretty much the only top 40 station you could pick up after dark in southern New Mexico in 1973. A bunch of us were riding around in a car and getting high (pretty much the usual) when the song came on. We all got into the heavy rock beat and then sat mesmerized during the synthesizer break (that sounded even funkier due to the station's periodic fading out and back in). Of course I had to go out and find a copy of the single, but didn't pick up the album until sometime in the 2010s.
Artist: Uriah Heep
Title: Bird Of Prey (re-recorded British version)
Source: British import CD: Salisbury
Writer(s): David Byron
Although for the most part the practice of drastically altering the track lineup of British albums for US release had been abandoned by 1970, there were still a few exceptions, albeit relatively minor ones. One of these was the first Uriah Heep album, which replaced the song Lucy Blue with Bird Of Prey on the US version. The band re-recorded Bird Of Prey for their second LP, Salisbury, which was in turn replaced in the US by Simon The Bullet Freak, a song that would not be released in the UK for another eight months, when it finally appeared as a B side in September of 1971.