This week we rummage around the record collection looking for just the right tune. Do we find it? Read on...
Artist: Allman Brothers Band
Title: Midnight Rider
Source: CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: Idlewild South)
Writer(s): Gregg Allman
Label: Polydir (original labels: Capricorn/Atco)
Gregg Allman said it only took him about an hour to come up with most of what would come to be known as his signature song, Midnight Rider. He had problems coming up with lyrics for the third verse, however, and finally turned to Kim Payne, one of the band's roadies, for help. The two of them broke into the Capricorn studios late at night to record a demo of the song, which was later re-recorded by the full Allman Brothers Band and released on their second LP, Idlewild South. The song was released as the second single from the album, but did not chart in its original form, even though that recording is far superior to the various cover versions (including one by Gregg Allman himself as a solo artist) that actually did chart over the years.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Title: Night Bird Flying
Source: CD: First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (originally released on LP: The Cry Of Love)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
Night Bird Flying was one of a handful of fully completed tracks that were slated for the next Jimi Hendrix album when the guitarist unexpectedly passed away in late1970. Naturally, the song was selected for inclusion of the first posthumous Hendrix LP, The Cry Of Love, as well as various CDs over the years, including Voodoo Soup and First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, both of which were attempts to assemble what would have been the fourth Jimi Hendrix studio album. In all cases, however, I think the compilers missed the obvious: Night Bird Flying should have been the second track on the album, following Freedom. Don't ask me how I know this. I just do. Call it a gut feeling if you will, but Night Bird Flying belongs in that #2 slot. Period.
Artist: National Lampoon
Title: Those Fabulous Sixties
Source: CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released on LP: Radio Dinner and as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Uproar (original label: Banana)
Long before he was Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap or Count Rugen (the six-fingered man) in The Princess Bride, Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest was a writer and performer on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. One of his most famous bits was his dead-on imitation of Bob Dylan hawking a record album called Those Fabulous Sixties that appeared on National Lampoon's first LP, Radio Dinner, and was chosen to grace the B side of the first single from that album. A member of the British Peerage, Guest has in recent years gotten more into writing and directing independent films in a style similar to that of This Is Spinal Tap, letting the actors in those films (including such notables as Harry Shearer, Catherine O'Hara and Michael McKean) to improvise the dialogue.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Living In The Past
Source: LP: Living In The Past (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
By the end of the 1960s most UK labels had abandoned the British practice of not including singles on LPs. One notable exception was Island Records, who continued to issue mutually exclusive Jethro Tull albums, singles and EPs into the early 1970s. Among those non-LP tracks was the 1969 single Living In The Past, which would not be included on an LP until 1972, when the song became the title track of a double LP Jethro Tull retrospective. The song then became a hit all over again, including in the US, where the original single had failed to chart.
Artist: Canned Heat
Title: Time Was
Source: CD: The Very Best Of Canned Heat (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Al Wilson
Label: Capitol/EMI (original label: Liberty)
Although not known for their single releases, Canned Heat actually had a reasonable amount of chart success, especially considering that they were essentially a blues band in a rock world. Time Was, written and sung by co-founder and guitarist Al "Blind Owl" Wilson, was one of the last of these charted singles.
Artist: Jerry Garcia
Source: Mono 45 RPM single (promo)
Label: Warner Brothers
In 1972 Warner Brothers gave the individual members of the Grateful Dead the opportunity to record solo albums. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and drummer Micket Hart took them up on the offer. Garcia's effort was unique in that he played virtually all the instruments on the album himself (except for the drum parts, which were played by Bill Kreutzmann). One of the best known songs from that album is Sugaree, which was soon added pretty much permanently to the Dead's concert repertoire.
Artist: David Bowie
Title: Golden Years
Source: CD: Nothing Has Changed (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Station To Station)
Writer(s): David Bowie
Label: Columbia/Legacy (original label: RCA Victor)
Shortly before going to work on the film The Man Who Fell To Earth, David Bowie began writing a new song, Golden Years. After the film was completed, Golden Years became the first song completed for the album Station To Station, and was released in November of 1975 as the lead single from the album (which came out in January of 1976). The song was done in a similar style to Fame, which had been a huge international hit the previous year.
Artist: Moody Blues
Title: In The Beginning/Lovely To See You
Source: CD: On The Threshold Of A Dream
If there is any one band known for their concept albums, it's the Moody Blues. Starting with the 1967 LP Days Of Future Past, every Moody Blues album has been a concept album (except for their live albums, of course). 1969 saw two of these albums being released by the group. The first was On The Threshold Of A Dream, which explores dreams and the inner psyche. The opening track, In The Beginning, consists of a dialogue between Justin Hayward (as a man attempting to define himself as a human being), Graeham Edge (as the voice of technology attempting to usurp the role of humanity) and Michael Pinder (as the inner voice of the original speaker), set against a background of electronic effects created by Edge. Heady stuff, but that' pretty much what the Moody Blues were about in 1969.
Artist: Guess Who
Source: 45 RPM promo single
Writer(s): Burton Cummings
Label: RCA Victor
By 1973 the Guess Who had gone through several personnel changes, with only vocalist/keyboardist Burton Cummings and drummer Garry Peterson left from the band that had hit it big with songs like These Eyes and American Woman. The rest of the band included lead guitarist Kurt Winter, rhythm guitarist Donnie McDougall and bassist Bill Wallace. Orly is pretty much a straight 50s style rock 'n' roll song that takes advantage of more modern recording technology.
Artist: Fleetwood Mac
Title: Searching For Madge
Source: CD: Then Play On
Writer(s): John McVie
Fleetwood Mac was founded by Peter Green in 1967. Green had been a member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and as a Christmas gift, Mayall bought Green some studio time to use as he saw fit. Green used the time to record a set of tunes with drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Jeremy Spencer in the hope that the three of them might form a new band. Green chose the name Fleetwood Mac as a way of enticing Bluesbreakers bassist John McVie into joining the band as well. It wasn't until after the album was released and the new band started getting gigs that McVie did indeed come on board, eventually bringing his future wife Christine Perfect into the band as well. In 1969 another guitarist, Danny Kirwan, joined the lineup for Then Play On, the first Fleetwood Mac LP to be released in the US. It was also Green's last album with the band. Two of the tracks on Then Play On are actually sections of a long jam session, both containing the word Madge in their official title. The longer of these is Searching For Madge, which runs nearly seven minutes.
Title: Borstal Boys
Source: LP: Appetizers (originally released on LP: Ooh La La)
Label: Warner Brothers
By late 1972, a lot of people considered Faces to be little more than Rod Stewart's backup band, a perception that the singer himself did nothing to discourage. In fact, Stewart seemed to be buying into it himself, as demonstrated by the fact that he skipped out on the first two weeks' worth of recording sessions for the album Ooh La La. As a result, the album itself, released in March of 1973, has been referred to as "Ronnie Lane's album". To add insult to injury, shortly after Ooh La La was released, Stewart publicly declared it to be a "stinking rotten album" and "a bloody mess". Despite this, Ooh La La, which would turn out to be the band's last studio effort, went all the way to the top of the British charts, due in part to songs like Borstal Boys, which appears at the end of the original LP's first side.
Title: Incident At Neshabur
Source: CD: Abraxas
Incident At Neshabur is one of many instrumental tracks on the second Santana album, Abraxas. In fact, among rock's elite, Carlos Santana is unique in that nearly half of his entire recorded output is instrumentals. This is in large part because, with the exception of an occassional backup vocal, Santana never sings on his records. Then again, with as much talent as he has as a guitarist, he really doesn't need to.
Artist: Carpe Diem
Title: Laure (L'Or)
Source: French import LP: Cueille Le Jour
The mid-1970s saw the rise of several bands that combined elements of rock, jazz and classical music with the latest electronic technology to create something entirely new. In Germany it came to be called Kraut-rock, while in other countries it went by names like art-rock, prog-rock or space-rock. The French Riviera was home to Carpe Diem (originally called Deis Corpus), who released two LPs. The second of these, Cueille Le Jour, was released in 1977, and features a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks. A good example of the latter is Laure, which for some reason is titled L'Or on the record label itself. Although the album went largely unnoticed when originally released in 1977, it has since come to be regarded as one of the lost classics of progressive rock.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Wring That Neck (aka Hard Road)
Source: CD: The Book Of Taleisyn)
Label: Eagle (original label: Tetragrammaton)
Wring That Neck is an instrumental piece by Deep Purple first recorded for their second LP, The Book Of Taleisyn. The piece served as the band's opening number for live performances, particularly when touring the US in 1968 and 1969. The title refers to the playing styles of guitarist Richie Blackmore and bassist Nicky Simper, who would "wring the neck" of their instruments to "squeeze out" the notes, according to Simper. The band's American label, Tetragrammaton, felt that the title was too violent, however, and had it changed to Hard Road for the album's US release. One of the stops on the band's American tour was San Francisco, home of a band called It's A Beautiful Day. Don And Dewey, the opening track of It's A Beautiful Day's second LP, Marrying Maiden (released in 1970), uses an almost identical signature riff to that of Hard Road. Meanwhile Child In Time, the best-known track on Deep Purple's 1970 LP Deep Purple In Rock, is built around a riff nearly identical to that of Bombay Calling, a popular concert piece from It's A Beautiful Day's 1969 debut album. A double coincidence? I think not.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Everyone's Gone To The Movies
Source: CD: Katy Lied
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
As you may have noticed, I'm not all that much into lyrics. My few years of formal music training were all in instrumental music. As a result, I can appreciate the complexity of Steely Dan's music without having the slightest clue as to what the lyrics are trying to imply. Case in point: Everyone's Gone To The Movies. Even with the lyric sheet in front of me I can't figure out what this one's about. So, I'll just appreciate the musical end of things instead and let the poets have a field day with the lyrics.