This week it's 1973 on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion for the first half hour or so, then it's time for Pink Floyd. Wish you were here.
Title: I'm The Slime
Source: CD: Strictly Commercial (originally released on LP: Over-Nite Sensation)
Writer(s): Frank Zappa
Label: Ryko (original label: Discreet)
In 1973, Frank Zappa, along with an array of talented musicians, recorded two albums' worth of material. The first, released as a Mothers album, was Over-Nite Sensation. Strangely enough, a single was released from the album, although it really didn't make much of a dent in the top 40 charts. That single was I'm The Slime, a song that only gets more relevant as time goes on. The song is basically a description of America's top drug of choice, as the opening lyrics make clear: "I am gross and perverted. I'm obsessed 'n deranged. I have existed for years, but very little has changed. I'm the tool of the government and industry too, for I am destined to rule and regulate you. I may be vile and pernicious, but you can't look away. I make you think I'm delicious, with the stuff that I say. I'm the best you can get. Have you guessed me yet? I'm the slime ooozing out of your TV set." Ironically (and no doubt intentionally), Zappa and his band performed the song on his first appearance on NBC's Saturday Night Live.
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Bringing Home The Bacon
Source: Stereo 45 RPM promo single
After the departure of original lead guitarist Robin Trower, the remaining members of Procol Harum continued to record quality albums such as Grand Hotel, although their airplay was limited to sporadic plays on progressive FM stations. One song that probably should have gotten more attention than it did was Bringing Home The Bacon, from the aforementioned Grand Hotel album. The group would experience a brief return to top 40 radio the following year with the release of their live version of Conquistador, a track that originally appeared on the band's 1967 debut LP.
Artist: James Gang
Title: Ride The Wind
Source: CD: Bang
After Dominic Troiano left the James Gang in 1973 to join the Guess Who, vocalist Roy Kenner, drummer Jim Fox and bassist Dale Peters recruited the talented Tommy Bolin to be his replacement. The new lineup made their vinyl debut that same year with Bang, the first James Gang album to be released on the Atco label. As was the case with the band's original guitarist, Joe Walsh, Bolin's songwriting was prominent throughout the album, usually in collaboration with one or more of the other band members. Ride The Wind, which opens side two of the original LP with Bolin's power chords, was co-written by Kenner, and probably should have been chosen for single release, but was passed over in favor of the much inferior Must Be Love.
Title: Yours Is No Disgrace (live version)
Source: LP: Yessongs
By 1973 Yes was one of the most successful rock bands on the planet, and took advantage of that status to release a three-LP live album. Most of the tracks on Yessongs were live versions of songs that had originally appeared on the band's three studio LPs made after guitarist Steve Howe had joined the band, and his versatile guitar work is prominently displayed throughout the album. Original drummer Bill Bruford left the band following the LP Close To The Edge, and many of the tracks, including Yours Is No Disgrace, feature his replacement, Alan White. The live version of Yours Is No Disgrace runs five minutes longer than the original studio version; most of that extra time is taken up by Howe's guitar solo in the middle of the song.
Artist: Marvin Gaye
Title: Don't Mess With Mister "T"
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Marvin Gaye
1972 was a pivotal year for Motown. It was the year that the label shifted its operations from Detroit to its new Hollwood studios, sometimes known as "Hitsville West". It was also the year that a new contract, negotiated following the success of What's Going On, made Marvin Gaye the highest-paid performer in R&B history up to that point, as well as giving him total artistic freedom. Gaye used that freedom to compose his first and only film soundtrack. Part of the reason for Motown's move to Hollywood was to cash in on the popular "blacksploitation" movie trend started by the film Shaft the previous year. The label secured the rights to the crime thriller Trouble Man, and asked Gaye if he would be interested in writing the music for it. He ended up producing the entire soundtrack for the film as well, recording all the music at Motown's studios. The album was a critical success, and further enhanced Gayes reputation as one of the leading figures on the early 1970s music scene.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: Have A Cigar/Wish You Were Here/Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)
Source: CD: Wish You Were Here
Label: Parlophone (original label: Columbia)
One of the most recognizable songs in the entire Pink Floyd catalog, Have A Cigar is an indictment of the hypocrisy, greed and general sleaziness that drives the modern music industry. Recorded in Abby Road's studio 3, the song featured guest vocalist Roy Harper, who was working on an album of his own in studio 2 at the time. Both David Gilmour and Roger Waters attempted to sing the song (which was written by Waters), but were unhappy with the results. Gilmour had already contributed some guitar parts to Harper's album, and decided to ask Harper to return the favor. During the song's fadeout, the sound quality suddenly changes to resemble that of a cheap car radio speaker, and is followed by the sound of a radio dial being retuned to a new station playing the song Wish You Were Here. The song itself is often thought to be a tribute to Syd Barrett, but Waters, who wrote the lyrics, has since said that they were more self-directed. The final track on the album, however, is most definitely a tribute to Pink Floyd's original leader, who had been asked to leave the band in 1968 because of his mental health issues. In fact, Barrett himself showed up in the studio on July 5, 1975 when the band was putting the finishing touches on Shine On You Crazy Diamond. David Gilmour, who had known Barrett since childhood, was getting married later that day, and Barrett had come for the reception, showing up early to visit with his former bandmates. At first nobody knew who the overweight guy with shaved head and eyebrows was, and when Rick Wright, who was the first to recognize Barrett, identified him to the rest of the band, they were reportedly "shocked and horrified" to see the state he was in. Witnesses described Barrett as "not entirely sensible" and "not really there", adding that he didn't seem to realize that he himself was the subject of the song the band was working on. After the wedding reception Barrett left without saying goodbye; it was the last time most of the band members would see him alive.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Sign In Stranger
Source: LP: The Royal Scam
By 1976 Steely Dan had evolved from being an actual band to being a pair of songwriters who recruited the best musicians available to play specific parts on their albums. The credits for their fifth LP, The Royal Scam, included two dozen names, including guitarist Elliott Randall, who plays on Sign In Stranger. Randall had played the guitar solo on the song Reelin' In The Years for Steely Dan's debut LP, Can't Buy A Thrill, in 1972. The piano solo is played by Paul Griffin, a prolific studio musician whose career dates back to at least 1963, when he played on LaVern Baker's version of See See Rider.