This week it's all about the flow from one song to the next, for an entire hour of uninterrupted truly classic rock. As always, there are a handful of tracks you may not recognize mixed in with the more familiar stuff, but hey...that's what free-form is all about, right?
Artist: Blue Oyster Cult
Title: (Don't Fear) The Reaper
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Agents Of Fortune)
Writer(s): Donald Roeser
Label: Sony Music
Guitarist/vocalist Buck Dharma wrote (Don't Fear) The Reaper in his late 20s. At the time, he said, he was expecting to die at a young age. Dharma (real name Donald Roeser), is now in his seventies. Personally, I can't hear this track without thinking of the 1994 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand, although more recently it seems to have become an unofficial COVID-19 theme song.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin
It is the nature of folk music that a song often gets credited to one writer when in fact it is the work of another. This is due to the fact that folk singers tend to share their material liberally with other folk singers, who often make significant changes to the work before passing it along to others. Such is the case with Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You, which was originally conceived by EC-Berkeley student Anne Johannsen in the late 1950s and performed live on KPFA radio in 1960. Another performer on the same show, Janet Smith, developed the song further and performed it at Oberlin College, where it was heard by audience member Joan Baez. Baez asked Smith for a tape of her songs and began performing the song herself. Baez used it as the opening track on her album, Joan Baez In Concert, Part One, but it was credited as "traditional", presumably because Baez herself had no knowledge of who had actually written the song. Baez eventually discovered the true origins of the tune, and later pressings gave credit to Anne Bredon, who had divorced her first husband, Lee Johannsen and married Glen Bredon since writing the song. Jimmy Page had an early pressing of the Baez album, so when he reworked the song for inclusion on the first Led Zeppelin album, he went with "traditional, arranged Page" as the writer. Robert Plant, who worked with Page on the arrangement, was not originally given credit for contractual reasons, although later editions of the album credit Page, Plant and Bredon as the songwriters.
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: Think About The Times
Source: CD: Watt
Writer(s): Alvin Lee
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
The first Ten Years After I ever bought was Stonedhenge, which I picked up because a) I liked the cover, and b) it was the featured album of the month at the BX at Ramstein Air Base, costing a buck and a half instead of the usual $2.50. Not long after that my dad got transferred back to the States, and I somehow missed the release of the next TYA album, Cricklewood Green. A friend of mine had a copy, though, that we spent a lot of time listening to, so when I saw the next TYA album, Watt, on the racks I immediately picked it up. I wore that copy out, and only later learned that the album had gotten mostly negative reviews from the rock press. I think that's when I started to suspect that most rock critics were self-righteous individuals with no talent of their own, because I thought Watt was a good album then and I still think it's a good album. Take a listen to Think About The Times and tell me I'm wrong.
Title: Tried So Hard
Source: British import CD: Camembert Electrique (originally released in France)
Writer(s): Christian Tritsch
Label: Charly (original label BYG Actuel)
It's almost impossible to describe Gong. They had their roots in British psychedelia, founder Daevid Allen having been a member of Soft Machine, but are also known as pioneers of space-rock. The Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, from 1973-74, is considered a landmark of the genre, telling the story of such characters as Zero the Hero and the Pot Head Pixies from Planet Gong. The groundwork for the trilogy was actually laid in 1971, when the album Camembert Electrique was recorded (and released) in France on the BYG Actuel label. The album itself ranges from the experimental (and even somewhat humorous) Radio Gnome tracks to the spacier cuts like Tropical Fish: Selene, and on occasion even rocks out hard on tracks like Tried So Hard, written by the group's bassist, Christian Tritsch.
Title: I've Seen All Good People
Source: CD: The Yes Album
Label: Elektra/Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
I seem to vaguely recall once having a copy of Your Move on 45 RPM vinyl. It always seemed incomplete to me. Of course, that might be because Your Move is actually the first half of I've Seen All Good People, from The Yes Album. Strangely enough, the single actually made the top 40 back in 1971, although I don't recall ever hearing it on AM radio. The long album version, however, has long been a staple of classic rock radio. Hey, I gotta play a hit song once in a while, right?
Title: Roadhouse Blues (live)
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Jim Morrison
Year: Recorded 1970, released 1978
Roadhouse Blues is one of the most instantly recognizable songs in the entire Doors catalog. Indeed, most people can identify it from the first guitar riff, long before Jim Morrison's vocals come in. The original studio version of the song was released on the album Morrison Hotel in 1970, and was also issued as the B side of one of the band's lesser-known singles. That same year the Doors undertook what became known as their Roadhouse Blues tour; many of the performances from that tour were recorded, but not released at the time. In 1978 the three remaining members of the band, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, decided to put music to some recordings of Morrison reciting his own poetry made before his death in 1971. The resulting album, An American Prayer, also included a live version of Roadhouse Blues made from two separate concert tapes from their 1970 tour. An edited version of the album track was released as a 1978 single as well.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: Into The Sun
Source: CD: On Time
Writer(s): Mark Farner
One of my fondest memories of the year I graduated high school was moving to the tiny town of Mangum, Oklahoma for the summer. I was up there to take a shot at rock stardom with a band called Sunn, a group that I had been a founding member of in my junior year of high school. The band had its own road manager, a local guy named Gary Dowdy who was home from college for the summer and drove a red '54 Ford panel truck missing its front grille. In addition to being our main equipment van, "The Glump", as Dowdy called it, was our source of daily transportion around town. Its best feature was an 8-track tape system that Dowdy had installed himself. One of the tapes we listened to most often was Grand Funk Railroad's debut album, On Time. In fact, I don't really recall us listening to any other tapes but that one and the band's second album, Grand Funk. As a result, I pretty much know every song on the album by heart, even though I did not have my own copy of On Time until 2013, when I found a somewhat ratty old copy of the LP at a store in Syracuse, NY, that sells used records. More recently I managed to find a new CD copy of the album, so we get to listen the opening track of the original album's second side, Into The Sun, without all the ticks and pops.
Source: LP: All Together Now
Writer(s): Russ Ballard
Argent had their biggest hit in 1972 with the song Hold Your Head Up, taken from the LP All Together Now. In their native UK the band followed it up with another song from All Together Now. Tragedy was one of two songs on the album written by guitarist/vocalist Russ Ballard, who later went on to become a successful songwriter and record producer.
Artist: Frank Zappa
Title: Excentrifugal Forz/Apostrophe'
Source: CD: Apostrophe (')
Label: Zappa (original label: Discreet)
The material making up side two of the 1974 Frank Zappa album Apostrophe (') actually predates the recordings on the first side of the album, which were from the same sessions as the 1973 album Over-Nite Sensation. Excentrifugal Forz, for example, uses drum tracks originally recorded in 1969 (outtakes from the Hot Rats album) combined with overdubs from 1973 and 1974, while Apostrophe' is basically a jam session by Zappa, bassist Jack Bruce (who disavowed ever having participated in the session) and drummer Jim Gordon.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: A Passion Play- Edit #8
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
On the 1971 album Aqualung, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson took on the religious establishment. The following year the band broke new ground by releasing Thick As A Brick, a single track that took up both sides of a conventional LP record. Both were commercial successes with generally favorable reviews from the rock press. The band's next studio LP, A Passion Play, was another story. Like Thick As A Brick, A Passion Play was one long piece stretched out over an entire album. The problem was that Thick As A Brick was actually a satirical piece that worked on more than one level, while A Passion Play took itself far more seriously. Although commercially successful at first, the album got mostly negative reviews from the rock press, and is generally considered to be the beginning of the band's decline in popularity. As a way of making the album more radio-friendly, a special pressing was sent to stations dividing the piece into 10 numbered edits, with #8 also issued as a single. When it came time for the band to issue a greatest hits album, A Passion Play edit #8 was selected for inclusion. Personally I would have gone with #9, which was issued as the B side of the single. Shows what I know.
Artist: Edgar Winter Group
Title: Frankenstein (edited version)
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: They Only Come Out At Night. Edited version released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Edgar Winter
Label: Sony Music (original label: Epic)
A real monster hit (sorry, couldn't resist).