It was fifty years ago this week that 1972 was coming to a close, and this week on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion we present a sample of what various FM rock radio stations around the country were playing. Unlike today, where virtually every commercial radio station in the country adheres to a nationally determined playlist, FM rock stations in 1972 were still figuring out what worked and what didn't in their particular markets. A song that received multiple requests in Cleveland might go virtually ignored in Sacramento, and vice versa. This week Rockin' in the Days of Confusion presents a sampling of tracks heard on various stations from coast to coast. Some songs, such as our opening track from Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show (as they were then known), were national hits, while others, such as Lou Reed's Wild Child, were more regional in their appeal. We even have a couple of unreleased tracks tossed in, along with several album tracks and B sides.
Artist: Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
Title: The Cover Of "Rolling Stone"
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Shel Silverstein
Much of the success of Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show can be attributed to one man: Shel Silverstein. In addition to writing nearly every well-known Dr. Hook song, including The Cover Of "Rolling Stone", Silverstein was an accomplished cartoonist, having been published regularly in Playboy since the late 1950s, and prose writer whose works included the children's book The Giving Tree. He also wrote songs for such varied artists as Johnny Cash (A Boy Named Sue), Tompall Glazer (Put Another Log On The Fire) and the Irish Rovers (The Unicorn).
Artist: Bob Weir
Title: Mexicali Blues
Source: CD: Skeletons From the Closet (originally released on LP: Ace)
Label: Warner Brothers
In 1972 Warner Brothers gave all the members of the Grateful Dead an opportunity to record solo albums. Three of them, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart and Bob Weir, took the label up on their offer. Unlike Garcia, who played many of the instruments on his album himself, Weir chose to use the other members of the Dead (with the sole exception of Ron "Pigpen" McKernan) on his LP, entitled Ace.
Artist: Bert Jansch
Title: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Source: LP: Appetizers (originally released on LP: Moonshine)
Writer(s): Ewan MacColl
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
British folk singer and political activist Ewan MacColl wrote The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face for his then-girlfriend (and later wife) Peggy Seeger in 1957, after she asked him to come up with a song for a play she was in at the time. She later said that MacColl, whose own repertoire reflected his political leanings, had taken the challenge to go outside his comfort zone and write a love song for her. The ahem, first time the song was recorded was when Bonnie Dobson included it on her 1961 debut LP. The Kingstone Trio recorded the first mainstream version of the tune in 1962, with several other folk artists following suit. MacColl himself hated all the various cover versions of the song, and even had a special section in his record collection for them called the "chamber of horrors". He described Elvis Presley's version as being like Romeo singing at the bottom of the Post Office Tower (from 1964 to 1980 the tallest building in London) to Juliet at the top, nearly 600 feet away. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face became an international hit in 1971, when Clint Eastwood used Roberta Flack's slowed down 1969 version of the song in his film Play Misty For Me. The following year renowed British folk artist Bert Jansch included it on his Moonshine album. A Celine Dion version of the song made the British and Scottish top 20 in 2000, with later versions by Leona Lewis and Matt Cardle also showing up on the British charts as recently as 2012.
Artist: Mark Fry
Title: The Witch
Source: British Import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released in Italy on LP: Dreaming With Alice)
Writer(s): Mark Fry
Label: Grapefruit (original label: IT)
One of the most obscure albums ever released, Dreaming With Alice is sometimes considered the ultimate example of acid folk. Recorded in 1971 by teenaged British art student Mark Fry and released only in Italy on RCA's IT subsidiary, the album includes a track called The Witch, which is described in the book Galactic Ramble as "one of the creepiest songs you'll ever hear". Personally I don't really find anything creepy about it at all, although the track itself is quite hypnotic and highly listenable.
Title: Witchy Woman
Source: LP: Their Greatest Hits (originally released on LP: Eagles)
The Eagles made their debut in 1972 with an album that included three charting singles. The second of those singles, Witchy Woman, was the first Eagles song to hit the top 10, peaking at #9. Witchy Woman was originally conceived by guitarist Bernie Leadon in 1971 while he was still a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and fleshed out with the help of drummer Don Henley, who provided the lead vocals on the Eagles' recording of the tune.
Artist: Lou Reed
Title: Wild Child
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Lou Reed)
Writer(s): Lou Reed
Label: Sony Music (original label: RCA Victor)
Lou Reed's first album after leaving the Velvet Underground was made up mostly of new recordings of songs the VU had already recorded but not released, using British session musicians and members of other bands such as Yes. Familiar names on songs such as Wild Child include Steve Howe and Caleb Quaye on guitars and Rick Wakeman on piano.
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 LP, however, has plenty more good tracks, including Only A Fool Would Say That, which also appeared as a B side.
Title: Did You See His Name?
Source: CD: The Kink Kronikles
Writer(s): Ray Davies
When the Kinks suddenly switched their US distribution to RCA, the people at Reprise responded by compiling a two LP set called Kinks Kronikles that spanned the years 1966-1971 and included several tracks that had only been released in the UK. There was even one previously unreleased track: a Ray Davies composition called Did You See His Name, recorded around the same time as 1968 LP The Village Green Preservation Society.
Artist: Kevin Coyne
Title: Evil Island Home
Source: British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released on LP: Case History)
Writer(s): Kevin Coyne
Label: Grapefruit (original label: Dandelion)
Sometimes known as the "anti-star", Kevin Coyne had one of the most distinctive, yet somehow disturbing, voices on the British blues scene. He was also known for his advocacy for rights of the mentally ill, whom he had dealt with as a social therapist and psychiatric nurse from 1965-68 and later as a drug counselor. His first album, Case History, reflects that background, as can be heard on the track Evil Island Home. One of the last LPs released on John Peel's Dandelion label, the album soon disappeared off the racks when the label went out of business. Coyne went on to have a prolific career, releasing around three dozen more albums before his death in 2004.
Artist: Richie Havens
Title: Handsome Johnny
Source: B side of 45 RPM bonus record included with LP: Richie Havens On Stage
Label: Stormy Forest
When it became obvious that the amplifiers needed by the various rock bands that were scheduled to perform on the opening Friday afternoon at Woodstock would not be ready in time, singer/songwriter Richie Havens came to the rescue, performing for several hours as the new opening act. One of the highlights of Havens' performance was Handsome Johnny, a song that he had co-written with Lou Gossett and Lou Gossett, Jr. and released on his debut album. A new live recording of the song (along with Freedom, another Woodstock highlight) was included as a bonus single with the 1972 LP Richie Havens On Stage.
Artist: National Lampoon
Source: CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released on LP: Radio Dinner)
Label: Uproar (original label: Blue Thumb)
National Lampoon was a product of its time. Originally a magazine, NatLamp (as it was often referred to) grew to include a weekly radio show, a series of albums, and eventually, a series of movies. Some of the best bits from the radio show were assembled in 1972 on an album called National Lampoon's Radio Dinner. The opening track of this album was a piece written by Tony Hendra (with music by Christopher Guest) that parodied a 1971 spoken word recording by Les Crane of an early 20th century poem by Max Ehrmann called Desirata. The Lampoon piece, Deteriorata, was narrated by Norman Rose, with Melissa Manchester singing.
Artist: Elton John
Title: Slave (alternate version)
Source: CD: Rare Masters
Year: Recorded 1972, released 1992
As originally conceived, Slave was a high-energy piece earmarked to be the B side of Elton John's single version of Hercules. The plans for the single got cancelled, however, and Slave was destined for the reject pile until someone came up with the idea of recording a slower version of the song. That version ended up being included on the 1972 LP Honky Chateau, while the original version (which everyone considered too fast) sat on the shelf for 20 years until being included on Elton John's Rare Masters collection.
Artist: David Bowie
Title: Suffragette City
Source: CD: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): David Bowie
Label: Ryko (original label: RCA Victor)
Arguably the most popular song from David Bowie's 1972 breakthrough album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Suffragette City was originally released as the B side of Starman a month and a half ahead of the album itself. Suffragette City had originally been offered to Mott The Hoople, who decided to instead record All The Young Dudes. Showing the influences of such diverse sources as Little Richard and the Velvet Underground, as well as the novel A Clockwork Orange, Suffragette City was one of the last songs recorded for the album by Bowie's band, the Spiders From Mars, which included Mick Ronson on electric guitar, piano, synthesizer and backing vocals, Trevor Bolder on bass and Mick Woodmansey on drums. Bowie himself, in addition to providing lead vocals on Suffragette City, also played an acoustic 12-string guitar on the track.
Artist: Wishbone Ash
Source: British import CD: The Collection (originally released on LP: Argus)
One of the first bands ever to feature two lead guitarists was Wishbone Ash. The story goes that following the departure of their original guitar player, bassist Martin Turner and drummer Steve Upton auditioned several lead guitarists and got it down to two finalists, Andy Powell and Ted Turner (no relation to either Martin Turner or Jane Fonda), but could not decide between the two. At that point they decided just to keep both of them, and a heavy metal tradition was born. Whether the story is true or not, the two definitely traded off leads for the next three years and five albums, including their third and most successful LP, Argus. One of the album's best-known songs, Warrior, is built around classical Greek literary themes and features shared lead vocals from Andy Powell and Martin Turner, as well as simultaneous lead guitar tracks from Powell and the other Turner.