Sunday, January 1, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2301 (starts 1/2/23)

    This week's edition of Rockin' in the Days of Confusion comes in three parts; the first (following a short introductory piece from the Doors) is a continuation of last week's sampling of tracks from 1972, while the second takes us from 1968 to 1971, one year at a time. From there we go into total free-form mode for the remainder of the show.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Ship Of Fools
Source:    CD: Morrison Hotel
Writer(s):    Morrison/Krieger
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1970
    1969 was, if nothing else, a turbulent year for the Doors. The band had made headlines for a March 1st performance in Miami that resulted in lead vocalist Jim Morrison's arrest for indecent exposure. In July, the group released their fourth album, The Soft Parade, which was heavily criticized for its use of strings and horns and an overall more commercial sound that the band had previously exhibited. That same month Morrison gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine in which he stressed the importance of country and blues to American culture. It was not a big surprise then, that the band's next album, Morrison Hotel, featured a more stripped down sound, perhaps even more so than their first LP. Side one of the album, subtitled Hard Rock Cafe, starts off strong with one of the band's most iconic songs, Roadhouse Blues, and ends on a similar note with Ship Of Fools. The group would continue in this direction and even improve on it on their next LP, L.A. Woman. Sadly, L.A. Woman would be the last Doors studio album before Morrison's death.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Hang Onto Yourself
Source:    CD: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Ryko (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1972
    David Bowie proved that he was quite capable of writing a straight up power pop tune with Hang Onto Yourself from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. The album itself, as the title implies, documents the short career of pop star Ziggy Stardust against a backdrop of the imminent destruction of the world. While most of the songs on the album are about Ziggy Stardust, I've always imagined Hang Onto Yourself as being one of Ziggy's own songs, a hit single along the same lines as Grand Funk Railroad's We're An American Band or Mountain's Mississippi Queen. Interestingly enough, Bowie had released an earlier version of Hang Onto Yourself as a 1971 single under the name Arnold Corns. Was "Arnold Corns" a dry run for Ziggy Stardust?

Artist:    Foghat
Title:    Leavin' Again (Again)
Source:    LP: Foghat
Writer(s):    Peverett/Stevens
Label:    Bearsville
Year:    1972
    The longest track on Savoy Brown's sixth album, Looking In, was the jam tune Leavin' Again, written by vocalist/guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett and lead guitarist and bandleader Kim Simmonds. Not long after the album was released, Peverett, along with drummer Roger Earl and bassist Tone Stevens parted company with Simmonds and formed the band Foghat with guitarist Rod Price. One of the songs recorded for the first Foghat album was a remake of Leavin' Again, with an extra "Again (in parentheses) to differentiate it from the much longer original. Foghat went on to become one of the more successful bands of the late 1970s.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Circle Of Hands
Source:    LP: Demons And Wizards
Writer(s):    Ken Hensley
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1972
    The addition of New Zealand born bassist Gary Thain and former Gods drummer Lee Kerslake to a Uriah Heep lineup that already included vocalist David Byron, guitarist Mick Box and keyboardist Ken Hensley took the band to a whole new level for its fourth LP, Demons And Wizards. With this album, Hensley emerged as the band's primary songwriter, writing or co-writing all but two of the tracks on the LP. His solo compositions on Demons And Wizards include Uriah Heep's biggest hit, Easy Livin' and Circle Of Hands, a six and a half minute long power ballad that closes out the LP's first side.

Artist:    Love Sculpture
Title:    So Unkind
Source:    British import CD: Blues Helping
Writer(s):    James/Sehom
Label:    EMI (original US label: Rare Earth)
Year:    1968
    Before scoring an international hit with his early 70s remake of Fats Domino's I Hear You Knockin', Dave Edmunds fronted one of the best of the late 60s British blues-rock bands, Love Scupture. Their debut LP was made up mostly of electrifying versions of blues standards, such as the Elmore James tune So Unkind. 50 years later, it still rocks!

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Nothing Is Easy
Source:    CD: Stand Up
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol (original US label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    Not long after the release of the first Jethro Tull album, guitarist Mick Abrahams, who was a blues enthusiast, left the group due to musical differences with lead vocalist/flautist Ian Anderson, who favored a more eclectic approach to songwriting. Abrahams's replacement was Martin Barre, who remains a member of the group to this day. One of the first songs recorded with Barre is Nothing Is Easy, a blues rocker that opens side two of the band's second LP, Stand Up. More than any other track on Stand Up, Nothing Is Easy sounds like it could have been an outtake from This Was, the band's debut LP.

Artist:    Steppenwolf
Title:    Who Needs Ya
Source:    45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Byrom/Kay
Label:    Dunhill
Year:    1970
    It's no secret that there are often clashes between members of talented bands. Sometimes these clashes turn pretty ugly, as was the case between Steppenwolf guitarist Michael Monarch and lead vocalist John Kay. On at least one occasion Monarch got so angry with Kay that he stopped playing in the middle of a performance. Finally it got to the point where one of them had to go. Since Steppenwolf was basically Kay's band, Monarch was the one to leave. He was replaced by Larry Byrom, who was a member of the Los Angeles band T.I.M.E. Byrom stayed with with the band for the next two years, co-writing the tune Who Needs Ya, which was released as a single in October of 1970 and appeared on the album Steppenwolf 7.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Into The Void
Source:    LP: Master Of Reality
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    In addition to being James Hetfield's favorite Black Sabbath track, Into The Void was, according to guitarist Tony Iommi, the most difficult song to record for the group's third LP, Master Of Reality. Both vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and drummer Bill Ward had problems with the song's sudden stops and starts and tempo changes. Iommi went on to say that they even tried to record Into The Void in two different studios in an effort to get Ward on track. Eventually everything came together, and Into The Void is now considered a classic example of Black Sabbath in their prime.

Artist:    King Crimson
Title:    The Great Deceiver/Lament
Source:    LP: Starless And Bible Black
Writer(s):    Fripp/Wetton/Palmer-James
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1974
    Much of the material on the sixth King Crimson album, Starless And Bible Black, was recorded live and then supplemented with overdubs in the studio. The only purely studio recordings, in fact, were the album's opening tracks, The Great Deceiver and Lament, which play as one continuous piece on the LP itself. Both pieces were composed by guitarist Robert Fripp and bassist/vocalist John Wetton (who would go on to greater infamy as the frontman for Asia), with lyrics provided by former Supertramp guitarist Richard Palmer-James. Palmer-James's lyrics for The Great Deceiver were inspired by his seeing souveniers being sold in Vatican City, while Lament addresses the dark side of fame. Rounding out the band at that time were drummer/percussionist Bill Bruford and violinist/keyboardist David Cross, who had also appeared on King Crimson's previous album, Lark's Tongues In Aspic.

Artist:    Guess Who
Title:    No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Source:    CD: American Woman
Writer(s):    Bachman/Cummings
Label:    Buddha/BMG
Year:    1970
    Randy Bachman's No Sugar Tonight was not intended to be a hit single. In fact, when he first unveiled the song he was told by his bandmates that it was too short. So, to flesh it out he and Burton Cummings combined No Sugar Tonight with a Cumming tune, New Mother Nature, that was still a work in progress. The resulting medley was included on the 1970 LP American Woman. Additionally, No Sugar Tonight itself, in its short form, was also released as the B side of the American Woman single. It proved so popular that it made the top 40 in its own right. Meanwhile, FM rock stations began playing the full medley, and the shorter single version was soon abandoned by top 40 stations as well. Bachman says the song itself was inspired by an incident that transpired on a California street in which a "tough looking biker" type got publicly dressed down by a five foot tall woman for neglecting his household chores to hang out with his friends. The last words heard before they drove off in her car were "and one more thing, you ain't getting no sugar tonight".

Artist:    Jackson Browne
Title:    Redneck Friend
Source:    LP: For Everyman
Writer(s):    Jackson Browne
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1973
    Although the Eagles are often thought of as the originators of the "California Sound" of the mid-1970s, those in the know actually credit Jackson Browne as creating the laid-back slightly country style. Not that he didn't have help. Joining him on the song Redneck Friend, the first single released from his second LP, For Everyman, are vocalist Glenn Frey and pianist Elton John (credited as Rockaday Johnnie). Redneck Friend also marks the first appearance of slide guitarist David Lindley on a Jackson Browne record.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Cry Baby Cry
Source:    LP: The Beatles
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple
Year:    1968
    Unlike many of the songs on The Beatles (white album), Cry Baby Cry features the entire band playing on the recording. After a full day of rehearsal, recording commenced on July 16, 1968, with John Lennon's guitar and piano, Paul McCartney's bass and Ringo Starr's drum tracks all being laid down on the first day. The remaining overdubs, including most of the vocals and George Harrison's guitar work (played on a Les Paul borrowed from Eric Clapton) were added a couple of days later.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Got This Thing On The Move
Source:    CD: Grand Funk
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    From summer of 1967 to summer of 1970 I lived in Germany as a military dependent (my dad was an NCO in the USAF). This gave me a bit of a different perspective on the state of rock music during those years. For example, the Who, a band I had only barely heard of in the US, was huge overseas. On the other hand, bands like the Grateful Dead were little more than a distant legend in Europe at that time. On my return to the States in summer of 1970, I learned of the existence of a power trio from Flint, Michigan called Grand Funk Railroad.  In the US they were universally hated by rock music critics, yet managed to set all kinds of attendance records throughout 1969 and 1970, pretty much single-handedly inventing arena rock in the process. They also managed to get no less than three albums certified gold in 1970 alone. Despite this, GFR was totally unknown in Europe, leading me to believe that the people who ordered albums for the BX were paying too much attention to the Village Voice and Rolling Stone magazine and not enough attention to actual record sales and concert attendance figures. Anyway, I soon got my hands on the album Grand Funk (aka the Red Album) and was totally blown away by the opening track, Got This Thing On The Move. There's a valuable lesson in there somewhere.

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