Sunday, February 4, 2024

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2406 (starts 2/5/24) 

    This week's show is half progression through the years (1968-1973) and half free-form. For the most part it's album tracks, although there is one genuine hit single tossed into the mix, along with a couple of instrumental B sides.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Stray Cat Blues
Source:    CD: Beggar's Banquet
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    ABKCO (original label: London)
Year:    1968
    As a  military dependent overseas I had access to the local Base Exchange. The downside of buying albums there was that they were always a month or two behind the official stateside release dates getting albums in stock. The upside is that the BX had a special of the month that was always a new release for sale at something like 40% off the regular album price. The December 1968 special was a classic-to-be from the Rolling Stones called Beggar's Banquet, which I bought for a buck and a half. Full-priced albums that month included new releases by the Beatles (white album), Hendrix (Electric Ladyland) and Cream (Wheels of Fire). Astute readers may have noticed that all of those full-priced albums were double LP sets. Needless to say, by the end of the month I was broke.

Artist:     King Crimson
Title:     21st Century Schizoid Man
Source:     CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Writer:     Fripp/McDonald/Lake/Giles/Sinfield
Label:     Discipline Global Mobile (original US label: Atlantic)
Year:     1969
     There are several bands with a legitimate claim to starting the prog-rock movement of the mid-70s. The one most musicians cite as the one that started it all, however, is King Crimson. Led by Robert Fripp, the band went through several personnel changes over the years. Many of the members went on to greater commercial success as members of other bands, including guitarist/keyboardist Ian McDonald (Foreigner), and lead vocalist/bassist Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) from the original lineup heard on In The Court Of The Crimson King. Additionally, poet Peter Sinfield, who wrote all King Crimson's early lyrics, would go on to perform a similar function for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, including their magnum opus Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends. Other original members included Michael Giles on drums and Fripp himself on guitar. 21st Century Schizoid Man, as the first song on the first album by King Crimson, can quite accurately be cited as the song that got the whole thing started.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Mark Says Alright
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Farner/Brewer/Schacher
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    Grand Funk Railroad's Live Album, released in 1970, continued the group's pattern of getting universally negative reviews from the rock press while selling millions of copies to the band's fans. Unlike most live albums, the double LP contained no overdubs or remixes, reflecting the band's desire to present an accurate, if flawed, representation of how the band actually sounded in concert. Although most of the songs on the Live Album are also available as studio tracks on their first three albums, one track, the five-minute long instrumental piece called Mark Says Alright, was nearly exclusive to the Live Album. I say "nearly" because the track was also issued as the B side of the album's first single, Heartbreaker.

Artist:    Allman Brothers Band
Title:    Statesboro Blues
Source:    CD: Eat A Peach (Deluxe edition)
Writer(s):    Willie McTell
Label:    Mercury
Year:    Recorded 1971, released 2007
    When Mercury released its Deluxe edition of the 1971 Allman Brothers band album Eat A Peach they included, as a second disc, much of the band's final live performance at Bill Graham's Fillmore East, taped on June 27, 1971. As always, the band started off with Willie McTell's Statesboro Blues. It's interesting to compare this performance to the one just three months earlier that starts off the double LP At Fillmore East. Not content to play a song twice the same way, the June performance shows a band continuing to improve with every performance.

Artist:    America
Title:    Ventura Highway
Source:    LP: Homecoming
Writer(s):    Dewey Bunnell
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    The first thing you need to understand about the song Ventura Highway is that there is no such road as "Ventura Highway". There is a Ventura Freeway and a Ventura Boulevard, but no Ventura Highway. So where did Dewey Bunnell of the band America get the title? According to Bunnell himself, it goes back to his childhood, when the family car had a flat tire while traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway near Lompoc, California. As Dewey and his brother waited for their dad to finish changing the tire, Dewey noticed a road sign indicating how far it was to Ventura. The rest of the song's lyrics are mostly based on Bunnell's childhood memories as well.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Dirty Love
Source:    CD: Strictly Commercial (originally released on LP: Over-Nite Sensation)
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    After a series of experimental and jazz-oriented albums, Frank Zappa returned to rock with a pair of albums that defined the direction his live performances would take in the 1970s and beyond. The first, Over-Nite Sensation, was credited to the Mothers of Invention, and was released in 1973. The second was Apostrophe('), which, although recorded at the same time as Over-Nite Sensation, was released as a Frank Zappa solo album the following year. Both albums combine superb musicianship from the likes of George Clinton and Jean-Luc Ponty with Zappa's unique brand of satiric humor, and are among Zappa's most popular releases. One of the highlights of Over-Nite Sensation, Dirty Love, contains the repeated phrase "The poodle bites, the poodle chews it", which also shows up in a track from the Apostrophe(') album, albeit in a different form. In both cases the refrain is sung by the Ikettes, who were, at Ike Turner's insistence, excluded from the album's musician credits, although they did get paid for their work (but, again at Turner's insistence, at the minimum allowable wage rate, or so Turner was led to believe).

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    She Shook Me Cold
Source:    LP: Metrobolist (originally issued as The Man Who Sold The World)
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    Primarily due to a lack of promotion by his record label, David Bowie's self-titled 1969 album was a commercial failure, despite the presence of the hit single Space Oddity. Seeing his career as a solo artist beginning to falter, Bowie decided that his next album would be a band effort, and recruited guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Tony Visconti and drummer Woodmansey to form a band called Hype. The album was to be called Metrobolist, but at the last minute Mercury Records, without Bowie's knowledge or permission, changed the title to The Man Who Sold The World, modifying the cover art as well. Bowie, a newlywed, was somewhat preoccupied with his new wife Angie during sessions for the album, and according to Visconti most of the songs were "written by all four of us. We'd jam in a basement, and Bowie would just say whether he liked them or not." One song in particular, She Shook Me Cold, has been singled out as an example of this process, with Bowie's lyrics (filled with veiled references to oral sex) added after the instrumental tracks had been recorded and arranged by Ronson and Visconti. In the end, however, all the songs on the album were credited solely to Bowie, who nearly thirty years later was quoted as saying  "I really did object to the impression that I did not write the songs on The Man Who Sold the World. You only have to check out the chord changes. No-one writes chord changes like that."

Artist:    Rush
Title:    What You're Doing
Source:    CD: Rush
Writer(s):    Lee/Lifeson
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1974
    The first Rush album, released in 1974, featured the band's original drummer John Rutsey, who left the band due to health issues not long after the album was released. All but one of the songs on the album, including What You're Doing, were co-written by guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, and reflect the influence of bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream and Yes on Rush's early style. The album was originally released in Canada on Rush's own label, Moon Records, in March of 1974 before being picked up for international distribution by Mercury Records later that year.

Artist:    Jeff Beck
Title:    Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Source:    LP: Wired
Writer(s):    Charles Mingus
Label:    Epic
Year:    1976
    One of Jeff Beck's most celebrated tracks is his cover of the Charles Mingus classic Goodbye Pork Pie Hat from the 1976 LP Wired. The tune remained a centerpiece of Beck's stage repertoire for the rest of his career.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Space Child/When I Touch You
Source:    CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer(s):    Locke/Ferguson
Label:    Epic/Legacy
Year:    1970
    Spirit keyboardist John Locke used a combination of piano, organ and synthesizers (then a still-new technology) to set the mood for the entire Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus recording sessions with his instrumental piece Space Child. The tune starts with a rolling piano riff that gives bassist Mark Andes a rare opportunity to carry the melody line before switching to a jazzier tempo that manages to seamlessly transition from a waltz tempo to straight time without anyone noticing. After a short reprise of the tune's opening riff the track segues into Jay Ferguson's When I Touch You, a song that manages to be light and heavy at the same time.

Artist:    J. Geils Band
Title:    Magic's Mood
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Juke Joint Jimmy
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1976
    My two favorite J. Geils Band tracks are both B sides featuring the harmonica playing of Magic Dick. Both Magic's Mood, from 1976, and 1971's Whammer Jammer are credited to Juke Joint Jimmy. Of course, this writing credit got me curious, so I did a little research and found out that Juke Joint Jimmy (sometimes spelled Jimmie) is actually a pseudonym created specifically for songs written by the entire band. So now I guess I can put Juke Joint Jimmy in the same class as Nanker Phelge and McGannahan Skjellyfetti.

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