Sunday, August 6, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2332 (starts 8/7/23) 

    After starting the week off with a bit of political reminiscing, we get a bit on the spacy side before settling into a couple of prog-rock classics. From there it's all free-form.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    Prologue, August 29, 1968/Someday (August 29, 1968)
Source:    LP: The Chicago Transit Authority
Writer(s):    Pankow/Lamm
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1969
    In the months leading up to the 1968 Democratic convention the phrase "come to Chicago" was often heard among members of the counter-culture that had grown up around various anti-establishment causes. As the summer wore on it became clear that something was going to happen at the Convention that August. Sure enough, on August 28, with the crowd chanting "the whole world's watching", police began pulling demonstraters into paddy wagons, with a full-blown riot erupting the following day. Around that same time a local Chicago band calling itself the Big Thing hooked up with producer James William Guercio, who convinced them to change their name to the Chicago Transit Authority (later shortened to Chicago). It's only natural then that the band would include a song referencing the events of August 29th on their debut LP. The tracks begin with an actual recording of the chant itself, which leads into a tune written by James Pankow and Robert Lamm called Someday (August 29, 1968). The chant itself makes a short reappearance midway through the song as well.

Artist:    Manfred Mann Chapter 3
Title:    Mr. You're A Better Man Than I
Source:    LP: Manfred Mann Chapter 3
Writer(s):    Mike & Brian Hugg
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1969
    You're A Better Man Than I, written by Manfred Mann pianist Mike Hugg and his brother Brian, was first recorded by the Yardbirds, and appeared as the opening track on the US-only LP Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds in late 1965. Three months later it was released in the UK as the B side of Shapes Of Things (although many collectors consider the record to be a double A sided release). Later in 1966, the Detroit-based Terry Knight And The Pack, which included future Grand Funk Railroad members Mark Farner and Don Brewer, released the song (using the title Better Man Than I) as a single, making the top 10 on several Midwestern top 40 stations and making the Billboard Bubbling Under The Top 100 list. Chicago's New Colony Six also included the tune on their debut album that same year. Finally, in 1969, Mike Hugg himself sang lead vocals on a heavily rearranged version of the song for the LP Manfred Mann Chapter 3. This version, titled Mr. You're A Better Man Than I, is much slower and spacier than the earlier recordings of the song.

Artist:    Stooges
Title:    We Will Fall
Source:    CD: The Stooges
Writer(s):    The Stooges
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1969
    After submitting a demo of seven songs to Elektra Records, the members of the Stooges were told they needed more "legitimate songs that contain structured lead vocals" by label head Jac Holzman. After assuring Holzman that they indeed had more songs available, the band members quickly came up with four new songs for their debut LP. One of those, based on a chant by bassist Dave Alexander, was the ten-minute long We Will Fall. This one is best listened to under the influence.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    The Fountain Of Salmacis
Source:    Canadian import CD: Nursery Cryme
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1971
    Genesis' original guitarist, Anthony Phillips, left the group following their second LP, Trespass, in 1970. This almost caused the band to break up, but ultimately resulted in a revised lineup consisting of Peter Gabriel (vocals), Tony Banks (keyboards), and Mike Rutherford (bass), along with new members Steve Hackett (guitar) and Phil Collins (drums). Early in 1971 the five got to work on a new album, which eventually came to be called Nursery Cryme. Although the album was not a huge seller in their native England, it found enough of a following in European nations such as Belgium to allow the band to continue on. The Fountain Of Salmacis, the album's closing track, was inspired by the story of a water nymph who becomes a hermaphodite after bathing in cursed water (hey, blame the ancient Greeks for that story).

Artist:    Yes
Title:    Heart Of The Sunrise
Source:    CD: Fragile
Writer(s):    Anderson/Squire/Bruford
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    Although it is the fourth most played song in the Yes catalogue, Heart Of The Sunrise, from the 1971 album Fragile, was never issued as a single. This is due mostly to the fact that the track runs over ten minutes in length, far exceeding even such lengthy tunes as Paradise By The Dashboard Light, American Pie or MacArthur Park. The song was written by Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman, but due to contractual reasons, Wakeman's name had to be left off the credits.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Gramophone Man
Source:    CD: Spirit
Writer(s):    Ferguson/Locke/California/Andes/Cassidy
Label:    Ode/Epic/Legacy
Year:    1968
    Like most of the tracks on Spirit's 1968 debut LP, Gramophone Man combines rock and jazz in a way that has yet to be duplicated. Rather than create a jazz/rock fusion the group chose to switch gears mid-song. After a couple of minutes of a section that can best described as light rock, the song suddenly shifts into a fast-paced bop instrumental featuring Wes Montgomery style guitar work by Randy California and a short Ed Cassidy drum solo that eventually drops the tempo for a short reprise of the piece's main section.
Artist:    Allman Brothers Band
Title:    Midnight Rider
Source:    CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: Idlewild South)
Writer(s):    Gregg Allman
Label:    Polydir (original labels: Capricorn/Atco)
Year:    1970
    Gregg Allman said it only took him about an hour to come up with most of what would come to be known as his signature song, Midnight Rider. He had problems coming up with lyrics for the third verse, however, and finally turned to Kim Payne, one of the band's roadies, for help. The two of them broke into the Capricorn studios late at night to record a demo of the song, which was later re-recorded by the full Allman Brothers Band and released on their second LP, Idlewild South. The song was released as the second single from the album, but did not chart in its original form, even though that recording is far superior to the various cover versions (including one by Gregg Allman himself as a solo artist) that actually did chart over the years.

Artist:    Holy Modal Rounders
Title:    Boobs A Lot
Source:    LP: Dr. Demento's Delights (originally released on LP: Good Taste Is Timeless)
Writer(s):    Steve Weber
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Metromedia)
Year:    1971
    The Holy Modal Rounders started off as just two guys, guitarist Steve Weber and fiddler Peter Stampfel, performing together in the early 1960s on New York's Lower East Side. In 1965 the duo were asked to join the newly created Fugs, as neither of the two founding members knew how to play a musical instrument. They did, staying long enough to record the Fugs First Album, including the song Boobs A Lot, before forming a new version of the Rounders in 1967. The group had gone through several changes of both label and personnel by 1971, when they released their fifth LP, Good Taste Is Timeless, on the Metromedia label. In addition to Weber and Stampfel, the band included John Wesley Annas on bass, kazoo and jug, Michael McCarty on drums and other various percussion and Robin Remaily on mandolin, violin, guitar, clarinet and jew's harp, with all members providing vocals for a new version of Boobs A Lot that was also issued as a B side that year. Two years later, after Dr. Demento began popularizing the recording on his weekly radio show, Metromedia reissued the tune, this time as an A side, but too many stations were reluctant to play the song for it to become a hit.

Artist:    Pink Fairies
Title:    War Girl
Source:    CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Neverneverland)
Writer(s):    Twink aka John Charles Edward Alder
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1971
    The Pink Fairies were formed when three members of the Deviants (Paul Rudolph, Duncan Sanderson, and Russell Hunter), who had fired their own band leader during a disastrous North American tour, decided to hook up with Twink (John Charles Edward Alder), the former drummer of Tomorrow and the Pretty Things. Twink had done a one-shot gig with an ad hoc group of musicians under the name Pink Fairies in 1969, and the new group decided that they liked the name and appropriated it for themselves. The band gained immediate notoriety for putting on free concerts, often just outside the gates of places that were charging premium prices for tickets to see more well-known bands. By the end of 1970 the Fairies had secured a contract with Polydor and releasing their first single late in the year. This was followed by a 1971 album called Neverneverland that featured several tracks originally credited to the entire band, such as War Girl, that on later releases are credited to Twink. Although the Pink Fairies split up in 1976, they still get together from time to time to put on a show.

Artist:    Badfinger
Title:    No Matter What
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Pete Ham
Label:    Apple
Year:    1970
    Aside from the Beatles, the band most closely associated with Apple Records was Badfinger. Originally known as the Iveys, Badfinger was the first band signed to Apple and remained with the label throughout its existence. Led by Pete Ham, Badfinger had a string of successful singles for the label, including No Matter What, a Ham composition from the band's second LP, No Dice. The song, released in 1970, is considered by many to be the earliest example of what would come to be known as power pop later in the decade.

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