Sunday, June 11, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2324 (start 6/12/23)

    As with any excavation, this week's show starts at ground level with a few well-known tunes from well-known artists. As the dig goes on, however, we unearth a few lesser-known classics (such as Fleetwood Mac's original version of Black Magic Woman), eventually finding a few items never heard on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion before. All this and Robin Trower too!

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Break On Through (To The Other Side)
Source:    LP: The Doors
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    The first Doors song to be released as a single was not, as usually assumed, Light My Fire. Rather, it was Break On Through (To The Other Side), the opening track from the band's debut LP, that was chosen to do introduce the band to top 40 radio. Although the single was not an immediate hit, it did eventually catch on with progressive FM radio listeners and still is heard on classic rock stations from time to time.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Iron Man
Source:    LP: Paranoid
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    Black Sabbath tended to write songs as a group, with Tony Iommi coming up with a guitar riff, Ozzy Osbourne figuring out a melody, Geezer Butler writing lyrics and Bill Ward adding the finishing touches with his drum set. One of their most famous tracks, Iron Man, started off exactly that way. When Ozzy Osbourne heard Tony Iommi's riff he remarked that it sounded "like a big iron bloke walking about". Butler took the idea and ran with it, coming up with a song about a man who travels to the future, sees the devastation and returns to his own time to try to change things. Unfortunately he gets caught in a magnetic field that turns him into living steel, mute and unable to verbally express himself. His efforts to communicate are met with indifference and even mockery, angering him to the point that he himself becomes the cause of the destruction he had witnessed. The song is considered one of foundation stones of what came to be called heavy metal. It's continued popularity is evidenced by the fact that it was used in the Iron Man movies, despite having no real connection to the film, other than being the title character's favorite song.

Artist:    Rush
Title:    A Passage To Bangkok
Source:    LP: 2112
Writer(s):    Lee/Lifeson/Peart
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1976
    Bassist and lead vocalist Geddy Lee of Rush described A Passage To Bangkok, the opening track of side two of the landmark 1976 LP 2112, as "a travelogue for all the places in the world that grow the best weed". Need I say more?

Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Excentrifugal Forz/Apostrophe'
Source:    CD: Apostrophe (')
Writer(s):    Zappa/Gordon/Bruce
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1974
    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 featuring Frank Zappa on guitar, Jack Bruce (who would never work with Zappa again) on bass and Jim Gordon on drums.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It)
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Rolling Stones
Year:    1974
    You'd think that after writing such legendary classics as (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, Jumpin' Jack Flash and Honky Tonk Women, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards would be pretty much tapped out for the rest of their lives. But, nope. They had to come up yet another iconic song in 1974, It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It). Hell, the title alone probably should be inscribed over the entrance of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame. The song itself was reportedly written in response to critics who seemed to think that the Stones, Mick and Keith in particular, somehow had a responsibility to be role models, and were not living up to those critics' expectations of how they should be conducting themselves.

Artist:     Santana
Title:     Mother's Daughter
Source:     LP: Abraxas
Writer:     Gregg Rolie
Label:     Columbia
Year:     1970
     Carlos Santana once said that his original lineup was the best of the many bands named Santana. With talented songwriters such as keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie in the band, it's hard to argue with that assessment. Rolie, of course, would go on to co-found Journey.

Artist:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    Black Magic Woman
Source:    LP: The History Of Fleetwood Mac-Vintage Years (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Peter Green
Label:    Sire (original label: Epic)
Year:    1968
    The original version of Black Magic Woman was the third single released by Fleetwood Mac. Written by the band's founder, Peter Green, the song has become a classic rock standard thanks to the 1970 cover of the song released by Santana on the album Abraxas. Many blues-rock purists, however, prefer the Fleetwood Mac original.

Artist:    Zephyr
Title:    Cross The River
Source:    CD: Zephyr
Writer:    Candie and David Givens
Label:    One Way (original label: ABC Probe)
Year:    1969
    The Boulder, Colorado band Zephyr featured the vocal talents of Candie Givens, who had a multi-octave range that would not be equalled until Mariah Carey hit the scene years later. Also in the band was lead guitarist Tommy Bolin, who would go on to take over lead guitar duties with first the James Gang and then Deep Purple before embarking on a solo career. Unfortunately that career (and Bolin's life) was permanently derailed by a heroin overdose at age 28. The rest of this talented band consisted of Robbie Chamerlin on drums, John Faris on keyboards and David Givens (who co-wrote Cross The River with his wife Candie) on bass.

Artist:    Harvey Mandel
Title:    Long Wait
Source:    LP: Cristo Redentor
Writer(s):    Mandel/Goldberg
Label:    Philips
Year:    1968
    Harvey Mandel first came to national attention as the guitarist on Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite's South Side Band, one of the first blues albums to be also targeted to rock listeners. One of the standout tracks on the album was Christo Redemptor, which has come to be considered Musselwhite's signature song. Not long after the album was released, Mandel moved to San Francisco, performing regularly at the Matrix club and often jamming with fellow guitarists Elvin Bishop and Jerry Garcia. A chance meeting with local disc jockey Abe "Voco" Kesh led to Mandel's first solo LP, released in 1968. The album, made up entirely of instrumentals like the blues-based Long Wait, led to Mandel being invited to replace Henry Vestine in Canned Heat the following year.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Four Sticks
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin IV
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    One of the most difficult songs to record in the Led Zeppelin catalog, Four Sticks, from the fourth Zeppelin album, did not have a name until John Bonham's final drum track was recorded. He reportedly was having such a hard time with the song that he ended up using four drumsticks, rather than the usual two (don't ask me how he held the extra pair) and beat on his drums as hard as he could, recording what he considered the perfect take in the process.

Artist:    Rare Earth
Title:    Satisfaction Guaranteed
Source:    LP: Ecology
Writer(s):    Tom Baird
Label:    Rare Earth
Year:    1970
    Ecology is generally considered Rare Earth's best album. Several of the songs, including Satisfaction Guaranteed, were written for the band by co-producer Tom Baird, who would eventually team up with former Rare Earth members Peter Hoorelbeke and Mike Urso to form HUB, which released two albums for Capitol before disbanding after Baird's death in a boating accident in 1975.

Artist:    Iron Butterfly
Title:    New Day
Source:    LP: Metamorphosis
Writer(s):    Iron Butterfly
Label:    Atco
Year:    1970
    Following the departure of guitarist Erik Brann in 1969, the remaining members of Iron Butterfly elected to go with two guitarists to replace him. Mike Pinera had been the lead guitarist for Blues Image, who had opened for the Butterfly on tour, while Larry "El Rhino" Reinhardt had been a member of The Second Coming until two of its key members, Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley, left to help form the Allman Brothers Band. Unlike previous Iron Butterfly albums, all the songs on Metamorphosis, including opening track New Day, were credited to the entire group rather than individual songwriters. The new lineup only lasted for a year or so, with Reinhardt and bassist Lee Dorman going on to found Captain Beyond.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    About To Begin
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Robin Trower
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    Many of the artists featured on FM rock radio in the 1970s had already established themselves in the latter part of the previous decade, getting airplay on underground stations as well as the occasional top 40 hit. Others were newcomers that would go on to become stars in the 1980s. Then there are those few who seem to be exclusively associated with the 1970s. Among this group is Robin Trower, former guitarist of the art-rock oriented Procol Harum. Trower seldom got a chance to shine in the keyboard-dominated Harum, however, and left the group in 1972 to form his own band, Jude. Jude did not last long enough to record an album, but it did provide Trower with the core of his new trio, consisting of Trower himself on guitar, James Dewar on bass and vocals and Reg Isidore on drums. Trower's first solo album, Twice Removed From Yesterday, was fairly well-received by the rock press, but it actually was only setting the stage for what is now considered one of the greatest rock guitar albums ever recorded: 1974's Bridge Of Sighs. Even the lesser-known tracks like About To Begin got at least some airplay, and deservedly so.


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