Sunday, March 24, 2024

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2413 (starts 3/25/24)

    This week Rockin' in the Days of Confusion goes free-form, with several tracks that have never been heard on the show before. The most prominent of these (clocking in at over 23 minutes) is Pink Floyd's Echoes, from their 1971 album Meddle. We start the week, however, with an old favorite...

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
Year:    1976
    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 70s. Personally, I can't hear this track without thinking of the 1994 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand.

Artist:    Joe Walsh
Title:    Turn To Stone
Source:    LP: The Best Of Joe Walsh (originally released on LP: So What)
Writer(s):    Walsh/Trebandt
Label:    ABC
Year:    1974
    Turn To Stone is one of Joe Walsh's better known solo tracks, but his 1974 recording of the tune on the album So What was not his first version of the song. That came two years earlier, on Walsh's first post James Gang LP, Barnstorm. Interestingly, the Barnstorm version credited Terry Trebandt (bassist for the Detroit-based Rationals) as co-writer of Turn To Stone, but was listed as a Walsh solo composition on So What.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Echoes
Source:    CD: Meddle
Writer(s):    Waters/Wright/Mason/Gilmour
Label:    Pink Floyd Records (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1971
    Meddle is often cited as the beginning of Pink Floyd's new direction that would define the band in the 1970s, leaving behind the last vestiges of founder Syd Barrett's influence. The most prominent track on the album, taking up the entire second side, is a piece called Echoes. The piece started off as an experiment; after setting some rough guidelines, each band member recorded their own part independently of the others, without hearing what anyone else in the band was doing. They then assembled some, but not all, of the various fragments into a running order they labeled as Nothing, Parts 1-24. They continued to add new parts to the piece under the working titles of The Son Of Nothing and later The Return Of The Son Of Nothing before settling on Echoes as a final title. The piece was first performed live, as The Return Of The Son Of Nothing, on April 22, 1971, with the final studio version of the track released in November of that year.

Artist:    Elton John
Title:    Sixty Years On
Source:    LP: Elton John
Writer(s):    John/Taupin
Label:    Uni
Year:    1970
    Elton John's self-titled US debut LP was actually his second overall, and, according to producer Gus Dudgeon, was designed mainly as a collection of polished demos meant to showcase the writing talents of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin team, in hopes that more prominent artists might record some of those songs themselves. Although a couple of the tunes did get covered by other artists, the album ended up being the launching pad for what has become a truly stellar career. One of the most overlooked tracks on that album is Sixty Years On, a subtle antiwar piece that opens the original LP's second side.

Artist:    Paul Simon
Title:    Some Folks Roll Easy
Source:    LP: Still Crazy After All These Years
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1975
    Paul Simon thanked Stevie Wonder for "not putting an album out" in 1975 in his acceptance speech at the 1976 Grammy Awards ceremony for receiving the award for best album that year (Wonder had won the two previous years and would win another Grammy the following year as well). The Simon album in question, Still Crazy After All These Years, was recorded as Simon was in the process of getting a divorce, and has emotional overtones that verge on the depressing. Despite its positive sounding title, Some Folks Roll Easy is actually a song about how most people's lives, including the songwriter's, are filled with disappointment.

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    California
Source:    LP: Blue
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1971
    In early spring of 1970 Joni Mitchell, who had been living in California since 1967, decided to take a break from performing and go visit Europe for a while. It wasn't long, however, before she started longing for the creative atmosphere she had experience while living in Laurel Canyon with Graham Nash. She described how she felt in the song California, where she refers to Paris in particular as " too old and cold and settled in its ways". Mitchell recorded the song for her 1971 album Blue, where it became the second single released from that album. Blue has since come to be recognized as one of the greatest albums of all time and has made several "best of" lists, including Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, where it currently ranks #3 (the highest by a female artist), and was chosen by NPR in 2017 as the greatest album of all time made by a woman.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills And Nash
Title:    Helplessly Hoping
Source:    CD: Crosby, Stills and Nash
Writer(s):    Stephen Stills
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    By 1969 there was a significant portion of the record-buying public that was more interested in buying albums than in picking up the latest hit single. This in turn was leading to the emergence of album-oriented FM radio stations as a player in the music industry. Crosby, Stills and Nash took full advantage of this trend. Although they did release a pair of singles from the debut LP (Marrakesh Express and Suite: Judy Blue Eyes), it was their album tracks like Helplessly Hoping that got major airplay on FM radio and helped usher in the age of the singer/songwriter, making the trio superstars in the process.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    I'd Love To Change The World
Source:    LP: A Space In Time
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    Although a favorite with the American counterculture since their appearance at Woodstock, Ten Years After, after five albums, had still not been able to crack the US top 40 charts. That changed in 1971 when the band switched labels from Deram to Columbia and released A Space In Time in 1971. I'd Love To Change The World, the first single released from the album, went into the top 10 in Canada and became the band's only US top 40 hit. It was also, at the time, one of the only songs to get extensive airplay on both AM and FM.

Artist:    Malo
Title:    Nena
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Garcia/Tellez/Zorate
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    Malo (Spanish for Bad) was formed in San Francisco by former members of the Malibus, Arcelio Garcia, Pablo Tellez, and Jorge Santana, along with three members of Naked Lunch, Abel Zarate, Roy Murray, and Richard Spremich. Their style was a synthesis of rock, latino, jazz and blues. Their best known tune, Suavacito, was taken from their self-titled debut LP. The B side of that single, Nena became popular in Central and South America.

Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Uncle Remus
Source:    CD: Apostrophe (')
Writer(s):    Zappa/Duke
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1974
    One of the shortest free-standing songs in the entire Frank Zappa catalogue, Uncle Remus is a bit of a rarity in that it was co-written by another musician, George Duke, who also performs on the track. The song itself has a more serious message than the rest of the tunes on the Apostrophe (') album, dealing as it does with the subject of continuing racism in America, albeit tempered by Zappa's typical sardonic wit.

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