Saturday, December 23, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2352 (starts 12/25/23) 

    It's 1973, fifty years after the fact. 'Nuff said.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Montana
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    Montana is quite possibly the most recognizable song Frank Zappa ever wrote. The track first appeared on the Mothers album Over-Nite Sensation and quickly became a concert staple. On the original album version Zappa's guitar solo is followed by a series of vocal gymnastics performed by none other than Tina Turner and the Ikettes, who were recording with Turner's husband Ike in an adjacent studio. According to Zappa it took the singers two days to master the complex melody and timing of the section. Reportedly Tina was so pleased with the result that she invited her husband into the control room to hear the finished section, only to have Ike say "What is this shit?" and walk back out.

Artist:    Eagles
Title:    Outlaw Man
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    David Blue
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1973
    Although all the members of the Eagles are known for the songwriting abilities, some of the earliest singles were actually cover songs, including Peaceful Easy Feeling (by Jack Tempchin) and Outlaw Man (by David Blue). Blue was a recent addition to the Asylum roster, making him labelmates with the Eagles, and Outlaw Man was an obvious choice for inclusion on an album meant to have a modernized wild west theme. The song itself is a first person account of the life of an outlaw, with ambiguous enough lyrics to make it applicable to current times as well as the obvious 19th century.

Artist:    Grand Funk
Title:    The Railroad
Source:    CD: We're An American Band
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol/EMI
Year:    1973
    After six albums working with producer Terry Knight, Grand Funk Railroad switched tracks in 1973, turning to Todd Rundgren, who had received critical acclaim for Something/Anything, a self-produced double LP solo effort from the previous year. The result was We're An American Band, which revitalized the band's career and spawned two hit singles, the title track and Walk Like A Man, both of which were sung by drummer Don Brewer. This was a major departure for the band, as guitarist Mark Farner had previously written and sung all of the band's singles. Farner still wrote and sang much of the material on the LP, however, including The Railroad (ironically the only use of the word "railroad" anywhere on the album, as the band had officially, albeit temporarily, shortened its name to Grand Funk prior to the album's release).

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Over The Hills And Far Away
Source:    CD: Houses Of The Holy
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1973
    Although it was released in 1973 on the album Houses Of The Holy, Over The Hills And Far Away actually dates back to the 1970 songwriting sessions at Bron-Y-Aur that produced most of the music for the Led Zeppelin III album. The band started playing the song in concert in 1972 and released it as a single in advance of the Houses Of The Holy album in early 1973. Although it only got a lukewarm reception from the rock press when it was first released, Over The Hills And Far Away has since come to be regarded as one of Led Zeppelin's top songs, making several "best of" lists over the years.

Artist:    Aerosmith
Title:    Dream Om
Source:    CD: Aerosmith
Writer(s):    Steven Tyler
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1973
    My former bandmate and roomate, the late Jeff "Quincy" Adams, was an Air Force brat like me, although my dad was an enlisted man and his father was a full bird colonel. One of the many places Quincy lived was the Boston area. Quincy once told me about this band that had a practice room down the street from where he lived. As an aspiring guitarist in the early 1970s himself he would try to check out this band whenever possible, but as a young teenager he was of course too shy to actually approach any of the band members. Quincy, looking back on those times fifteen years later, swore that one of the songs that band was playing was Dream On, a song that was not recorded until 1973, when it came out on the first Aerosmith album. So was that jam band down the street indeed Aerosmith? Could be.

Artist:    Faces
Title:    Borstal Boys
Source:    LP: Appetizers (originally released on LP: Ooh La La)
Writer(s):    McLagen/Stewart/Wood
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    By late 1972, a lot of people considered Faces to be little more than Rod Stewart's backup band, a perception that the singer himself did nothing to discourage. In fact, Stewart seemed to be buying into it himself, as demonstrated by the fact that he skipped out on the first two weeks' worth of recording sessions for the album Ooh La La. As a result, the album itself, released in March of 1973, has been referred to as "Ronnie Lane's album". To add insult to injury, shortly after Ooh La La was released, Stewart publicly declared it to be a "stinking rotten album" and "a bloody mess". Despite this, Ooh La La, which would turn out to be the band's last studio effort, went all the way to the top of the British charts, due in part to songs like Borstal Boys, which appears at the end of the original LP's first side.

Artist:    T. Rex
Title:    Born To Boogie
Source:    LP: Appetizers (originally released on LP: Tanx)
Writer(s):    Marc Bolan
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1973
    By 1973, Marc Bolan was growing bored with the formula that had transformed cult band Tyrannosaurus Rex into glam-rock icons T. Rex, so he decided to do something about it for the band's eighth LP, Tanx. For one thing, the LP was far more musically diverse than anything T. Rex had done before. Although British and European audiences took to the new album, which made the top 5 in several countries, Tanx never really caught on in the US, where it peaked outside of the top 100. There were no singles released from Tanx, which did not stop Warner Brothers from including Born To Boogie on Appetizers, the latest album in its Loss Leaders series.

Artist:    Edgar Winter Group
Title:    Frankenstein (second single version)
Source:    LP: Vintage Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Edgar Winter
Label:    Epic
Year:    1973
    In the late 1960s, while playing with his brother Johnny in Texas, Edgar Winter came up with a riff designed to showcase his abilities as an instrumentalist. That riff soon became the basis for a jam known simply as "the instrumental" that became a staple of the band's live performances. After Edgar formed his own band in the early 1960s, the same instrumental was used as a daily warm up in the studio when working on the album They Only Come Out At Night. Producer Rick Derringer convinced Winter to flesh out the tune for possible inclusion on the album itself, and soon they were working on editing together pieces of several session tapes into a usable track. When drummer Chuck Ruff heard an early mix of the various edits he said "Wow, man, it's like Frankenstein." Winter thought that would be a perfect title for what eventually became the most popular track on the album. Initially the band considered the track a throwaway and almost left it off the album altogether. A couple of months after the album was released, a severely edited version of Frankenstein appeared as the B side of the album's opening track, Hangin' Around. The single went nowhere until a few disc jockey's decided to play the flip side instead. A month later a second edited version of Frankenstein was released as a single, this time as the A side. The song went all the way to the top of the charts in the US and Canada and made the top 40 in several other countries as well.

Artist:    Steeleye Span
Title:    Cam Ye O'er Free France
Source:    LP: The Steeleye Span Story (originally released on LP: Parcel Of Rogues)
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Steeleye Span
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1973
    Steeleye Span hit a new commercial high in the summer of 1973, following the spring release of their fifth album, Parcel Of Rogues. As usual, the album was made up entirely of traditional British folk songs updated for a rock audience, yet retaining their original character. Although none of the tunes on Parcel Of Rogues was released as a single, a few, such as Cam Ye O'er Free France, managed to get a decent amount of airplay on both sides of the Atlantic. The song itself dates back to the 17th and 18th century Jacobite movement in Scotland, and the song's lyrics are sung with a Scottish Brogue, making it virtually impossible for people like me to make any sense of them.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    The Cinema Show/Aisle Of Plenty
Source:    CD: Selling England By The Pound
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Rhino/Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1973
    As early as 1973 there were concerns in the UK about the Americanization of British culture, and Genesis took inspiration from a recent Labour Party slogan, Selling England By The Pound, for their next album title. The album itself is considered one of the group's best, thanks to songs like The Cinema Show (about Juliet and Romeo each preparing for their movie date) and Aisle Of Plenty, which takes place in an American-style supermarket. Selling England By The Pound was the fifth Genesis album, and the second to feature the group's "classic" lineup of Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford.

Artist:    Joe Walsh
Title:    Midnight Moodies/Happy Ways
Source:    LP: The Smoker Your Drink, The Player You Get
Writer(s):    Grace/Passarelli/Zoloth
Label:    ABC/Dunhill
Year:    1973
    After leaving the James Gang in late 1971, guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh spent the next several months hibernating in Colorado, eventually forming a new band called Barnstorm. The group's second LP, The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, was bannered as a Walsh solo album, which led to the band's demise. Despite this, four of the album's nine tracks were written by band members other than Walsh, including the instrumental Midnight Moodies from the band's new keyboardist, Rocke Grace, and Happy Ways, a whimsical tune co-written by Barnstorm bassist Kenny Passarelli and Buddy Zoloth, the former road manager of Blues Image.

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