Sunday, December 4, 2022

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2249 (starts 12/5/22) 

    This time around we have two sets. The first is an all-British set from 1969, while the second is a mostly American set from the following year. I say mostly because the week's final track is a classic from another British band, Black Sabbath.

Artist:    Fairport Convention
Title:    Come All Ye
Source:    LP: Liege And Lief
Writer(s):    Denny/Hutchings
Label:    A&M
Year:    1969
    Fairport Convention completed their transition from "Britain's answer to Jefferson Airplane" to the world's premier British folk-rock band with their fourth album, Liege And Lief. Gone were the cover songs of American artists such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, replaced by electric adaptations of traditional English folk songs, many of which were brought to the band by vocalist Sandy Denny, who had replaced the original Fairport Vocalist, Judy Dyble, following the release of the band's first LP. Ashley Hutchings was also instrumental in finding material for the group, much of which came from a collection maintained by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Even the original songs written by band members were in a more traditional folk style, especially tracks like Come All Ye, which opens the album. Not surprisingly, the tune was written by Denny and Hutchings.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Moby Dick/Bring It On Home
Source:    German import LP: Led Zeppelin II
Writer(s):    Page/Plant/Bonham/Jones/Dixon
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    By 1969 drum solos had become pretty much mandatory for rock bands, and Led Zeppelin's Moby Dick, from their second LP, is one of the better ones. Many years later the song got a radical remix that all but obliterated John Bonham's actual solo with special effects. As interesting as that may sound, I still prefer the original, which leads directly into the third and final of the band's Willie Dixon cover songs from 1969, Bring It On Home. Unlike You Shook Me and I Can't Quit You Baby, which were both credited to Dixon on the first Zep LP, Bring It On Home was originally credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant rather than Dixon, despite the fact that the song's beginning and end were a close copy of Sonny Boy Williamson's original 1963 recording of the song. Newer pressings of the album credit the entire song to Willie Dixon, despite the fact that the main body of the song itself (except for the lyrics) is unquestioningly a Page composition.

Artist:     Savoy Brown
Title:     Made Up My Mind
Source:     British import CD: A Step Further
Writer:     Chris Youlden
Label:     Polygram/Deram (original US label: Parrot)
Year:     1969
     To coincide with a US tour, the fourth Savoy Brown album, A Step Further, was actually released in North America several months before it was in the UK, with Made Up My Mind being simultaneously released as a single. Luckily for the band, 1969 was a year that continued the industry-wide trend away from hit singles and toward successful albums instead, at least among the more progressive groups, as the single itself tanked. Aided by a decent amount of airplay on progressive FM radio, however, the album (the last to feature lead vocalist Chris Youlden) peaked comfortably within the top 100 in the US.
Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    17
Source:    CD: Stand Up (bonus track)
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1969
    Jethro Tull was one of the last groups to continue to British practice of not including songs that had been released on 45 RPM vinyl on their albums. As a result, songs such as 17, which were not released in any form in the US, were generally not heard by American audiences. Even when many of the band's UK-only singles were included on the 1973 LP Living In The Past, 17 was not part of the package. An edited version of the track (which originally ran in excess of six minutes), was finally made available on CD as a bonus track on the 2001 remastered edition of the band's Stand Up album, with the full-length version appearing on the 2010 Collector's Edition of the same album. Oddly, the song does not appear on the more recent Elevated Edition of Stand Up, released in 2016.

Artist:    Kinks
Title:    Drivin'
Source:    British import CD: Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire)
Writer(s):    Ray Davies
Label:    Sanctuary (original US label:
Year:    1969
    In January of 1969 Ray Davies was approached by representatives of Britain's Granada TV production company about developing a film for television. The idea was to make it an experimental program with a soundtrack provided by Davies's band, the Kinks. The project was given the green light, and in March the band began working on a soundtrack album for the show. Davies decided to base the story on that of his sister Rosy and her husband Arthur, who had moved to Australia in 1964, citing a lack of job opportunities in England itself. The first track to be recorded for the album, which came to be called Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire), was a song called Drivin', which was released as a single in Europe and the UK in June of 1969. Unfortunately, it became the first Kinks song since the release of You Really Got Me in 1964 not to make the British singles charts. Around that same time, Davies flew to Los Angeles to produce the Turtles' final LP, Turtle Soup, and while there negotiated an end to the Kinks' performance ban enacted by the American Federation of Musicians four years earlier. As a result, the band was able to promote the album in the US with a concert tour, and Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) became the Kinks' most successful LP in the US since 1965.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience II
Title:    Valleys Of Neptune
Source:    CD: Valleys Of Neptune
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Experience Hendrix/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 2010
    Even before the breakup of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969, Hendrix was starting to work with other musicians, including keyboardist Steve Winwood and flautist/saxophonist Chris Wood from Traffic, bassist Jack Casidy from Jefferson Airplane and Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles. Still, he kept showing a tendency to return to the power trio configuration, first with Band of Gypsys, with Miles and bassist Billy Cox and, in 1970, a new trio that was sometimes billed as the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This trio, featuring Cox along with original Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell (with additional percussion added by Jumo Sultan), recorded extensively in the months leading up to Hendrix's death on September 18th, leaving behind hours of tapes in various stages of completion. Among those recordings was a piece called Valleys Of Neptune that was finally released, both as a single and as the title track of a new CD, in 2010.

Artist:    Santana
Title:    Hope You're Feeling Better
Source:    CD: Abraxas
Writer(s):    Gregg Rolie
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    Gregg Rolie's Hope You're Feeling Better was the third single to be taken from Santana's Abraxas album. Although not as successful as either Black Magic Woman or Oye Como Va, the song nonetheless received considerable airplay on progressive FM rock stations and has appeared on several anthology anthems since its initial release.

Artist:    Buddy Miles
Title:    Heart's Delight
Source:    CD: Them Changes
Writer(s):    Buddy Miles
Label:    Miracle/Mercury
Year:    1970
    Like his friend Jimi Hendrix, drummer Buddy Miles got his start as a sideman for acts such as Ruby and the Romantics, the Delfonics and Wilson Pickett. In 1967 he moved to Chicago and helped form the Electric Flag with guitarist Mike Bloomfield and vocalist Nick Gravenites. Although the Flag released two albums in 1968, Miles still found time to sit in as the guest drummer on the song Rainy Day, Dream Away/Still Raining, Still Dreaming on Hendrix's Electric Ladyland album. Following the breakup of the Electric Flag, Miles formed the Buddy Miles Express with future Cactus guitarist Jim McCarty. Hendrix produced four of the tracks on that band's second LP. Late in 1969 Miles began working with Hendrix on some studio tracks, which led to the pair, along with bassist Billy Cox, forming Band Of Gypsys for a series of live shows at New York's Madison Square Gardens from December 31st through January 2nd that were released as an album in early 1970. Not long after that Miles got to work on the album Them Changes. Co-produced by Miles with Steve Cropper and Robin McBride, the album included a mix of cover songs and Miles originals such as Heart's Delight. Oddly enough, the LP charted higher (#8) on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart than on either the R&B or Billboard 200 charts. 

Artist:    American Dream
Title:    Raspberries
Source:    LP: The American Dream
Writer(s):    Van Winkle/Jameson
Label:    Ampex
Year:    1970
    OK, I have to admit that I know very little about the album and band called The American Dream, which was included as an unexpected free gift that came along with a vintage vinyl copy of an album I bought online. Here's what I do know. The American Dream was from Philadelphia. The album was produced by Todd Rundgren. In fact, it was his first time producing a group that he himself was not a member of. Finally, these guys were actually pretty good. How good? Well, take a listen to the album's final (and longest) track, Raspberries, and decide for yourself.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Mark Says Alright
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Farner/Brewer/Schacher
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    Grand Funk Railroad's Live Album, released in 1970, continued the group's pattern of getting universally negative reviews from the rock press while selling millions of copies to the band's fans. Unlike most live albums, the double LP contained no overdubs or remixes, reflecting the band's desire to present an accurate, if flawed, representation of how the band actually sounded in concert. Although most of the songs on the Live Album are also available as studio tracks on their first three albums, one track, the five-minute long instrumental piece called Mark Says Alright, was nearly exclusive to the Live Album. I say "nearly" because the track was also issued as the B side of the album's first single, Heartbreaker.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    War Pigs
Source:    CD: Black Sabbath
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    In the summer of 1971 I moved to the small town of Mangum, Oklahoma, along with guitarist Doug Phillips. We had both just graduated from high school and had spent most of our senior year playing in a band called Friends. The last half of the school year had been complicated by a surprise visit from yet another guitarist named Dave Mason (no, not THAT Dave Mason), whom I had been bandmates with the previous year when both our dads had been stationed at Ramstein AFB, Germany. My dad had been transferred to Holloman AFB, New Mexico that summer, while Dave's had retired to his native Oklahoma a couple of months later. The problem was that Dave, who was a bit of a free spirit, had not fit in well in Mangum; in fact, he had just been kicked out of the local high school for refusing to cut his hair. Dave had formed a new band (using the same band name, Sunn, that we had used in Germany) in Oklahoma, and had made enough money to buy a bus ticket for Vacaville, California (where his longtime girlfriend Jeannie was now living, her dad having been transferred to Travis AFB that fall)...or so he thought. It turned that the band's bass player Jim, who was also acting as their financial manager, had absconded with most of the band's earnings, leaving just enough for a bus ticket from Mangum, OK to Alamogordo, NM, and so, following a phone call sometime around New Year's, Dave showed up at my doorstep. My parents, being basically good people, allowed him to stay with us until he could either a) get enough money  to buy a bus ticket to Vacaville, CA, or b) find a place of his own in Alamogordo. After writing a song called Forty-Eight Sixty (the amount needed for the bus ticket) Dave ended up choosing option b) for awhile. Eventually his parents presented him with option c) by offering to buy him a return ticket to Mangum. After exacting a promise from me that I would join him there following graduation, Dave ultimately chose option c).
    About a week after he left New Mexico Dave called me to say "bring Doug, too", which was kind of a surprise, as I had always considered the two of them to be sort of rivals (although maybe that was only in my head, since Doug was the lead guitarist for Friends, while Dave had asked me to join yet another incarnation of Sunn in Alamogordo, which didn't go over so well with the other members of Friends; I ended up playing in both bands, as they had vastly different styles and there really was no conflict, since gigs were few and far between for both groups). Anyway, a week after graduation Doug and I boarded a Greyhound, arriving in Elk City, OK (the nearest town to Mangum with a bus station) at about 3 in the morning. Of couse, the Elk City bus station was closed at 3AM, so we had to stand outside in a thunderstorm waiting for a ride from a friend of Dave's who had forgotten that he was supposed to be picking us up at the Elk City bus station, which was about a half hour's drive north of Mangum.
    A couple months later we were all members of yet another version of Sunn (#5 by my count) when we got an offer from a local theater owner wanting to be our manager. As we were musically ready to take over the world, but were pretty clueless as to how to line up gigs, we accepted, and found ourselves booked for a Saturday night gig at the only theater in Wellington, Texas, a town about the same size of Mangum known mostly as the scene of Bonnie and Clyde's first nationally reported crime spree (which apparently involved wrecking their car, terrorizing a local family, kidnapping two law enforcement officers and tieing them to a tree with barbed wire cut from a fence, according to the New York Times). Wellington is also the county seat of Collingsworth County, which was, at the time, a "dry" county, which meant that local residents had to make the hour-long round trip to Mangum if they wanted to buy any alcoholic beverages. Not exactly the kind of place where you'd expect to hear a heavy metal cover band (although the term "heavy metal" was not part of the rock vocabulary at that point, so I guess '"underground rockers" would probably be a more appropriate label).
    The gig itself went pretty well, with only a couple dicey moments. One of those involved our cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, which we had learned by listening to the Paranoid album over and over (see, there was a connection to the song in all of this after all). We actually did a pretty kickass version of War Pigs, with Doug and I doing the sirens at the beginning in harmony and me channeling Ozzy quite credibly (or so it seemed at the time while tripping my brains out) throughout the performance. The problem was with Doug's dedication of the song (by title) to the local police force, a move that actually confused me at the time, since the song has nothing to do with cops. The second dicey moment is when I decided to take off the cowboy hat I had been wearing for the first of our two sets, letting my freak flag fly, so to speak, and eliciting an audible gasp from the audience. Still, the gig itself was a success, in fact, probably our best gig ever. We made a decent amount of money and got a great crowd response. Plus, due to a leaky transmission seal in our equipment van (a '54 Ford panel truck missing its front grill that was affectionately known as "The Glump"), we didn't have to pack up our stuff that night, allowing us to take a trip to Altus, OK, the nearest place with an all-night restaurant.
    Since there were no businesses open in either Mangum or Wellington on Sunday (of any type, including gas stations), we did not return to Wellington until Monday evening, after a friend of the band, J.D., gave us a ride in his black '57 Chevy after work. Following a mildly interesting ride that included cresting one of a series of hills only to see a bunch of cows in the road (we didn't hit any) and then noticing shortly thereafter that the headlights in the rear view mirror that had been making us paranoid every time we crested a hill were no longer there, we arrived in Wellington well after dark. As we were loading equipment into The Glump we noticed that a car was blocking our only exit from the alley behind the theater. A closer look revealed various lights and decals indicating that the car might just be the property of the Wellington Police Department. Confirmation soon came in the form of a guy in his mid-50s wearing a badge on his khaki-colored uniform. He  demanded to speak to the guy who "called us pigs". Gary Dowdy (the owner of The Glump) and I were confused at first, until the guy in the khaki-colored uniform with the badge asked which one of us had dedicated a song to the local police force. At about that time I realized what he was talking about, and attempted to explain that Doug, who was the only band member with a local girlfriend, had chosen to spend time with said girlfriend rather than to help with the loading of equipment (come to think of it, I may have been the only actual band member present). The guy with the badge cut me off at the word "Doug", however. In fact, as I recall, his exact words were "Another word out of you and I'll take you down to the station and cut off all of your hair". Luckily Gary Dowdy, who could Good 'Ol Boy with the best of 'em when it was called for, was able to pacify the officer with a promise to pack up quickly, get out of town and never come back. To this day, I have never again set foot in Wellington, Texas.

No comments:

Post a Comment