Saturday, March 30, 2024

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2414 (starts 4/1/24) 

    Ever have one of those days where you had no idea where or how things were going to go? Well, this week's show was recorded on such a day. Came out pretty good, for all that.

Artist:    MC5
Title:    Kick Out The Jams
Source:    CD: Kick Out The Jams
Writer(s):    MC5
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1970
    The MC5's association with Elektra Records was cut short when the band took out a full-page ad in a Detroit newspaper saying: "Stick Alive with the MC5, and F*** Hudson's!", prominently displaying the Elektra logo in the ad itself. Hudson's, the city's largest department store chain, had refused to stock the band's debut LP Kick Out The Jams because of the use of profanity throughout the album, including on the intro to the title track. In response to the ad, Hudson's then pulled ALL of Elektra's records from the shelves. Elektra responded by terminating their contract with the MC5. Speaking of the title track, here it is (without the spoken intro, of course).

Artist:    Gentle Giant
Title:    A Cry For Everyone
Source:    CD: Octopus
Writer(s):    Minnear/Shulman/Shulman/Shulman
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    Gentle Giant was a British progressive rock band that evolved out of  the R&B oriented Simon Dupree And The Big Sound. The group initially included brothers Phil, Derek and Ray Shulman, along with Kerry Minnear and Gary Green (all five being multi-instrumentalists) and drummer Martin Smith (a holdover from the Big sound). They started their career as a band by announcing that their goal was to "expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of becoming very unpopular". For their first three albums they did just that. Their music, like many progressive rock bands of the time, incorporated elements of jazz, soul, folk and classical music, but, unlike most of their contemporaries, their classical influences ranged from early baroque to the avant-garde works of modern composers such as Varese and Cage. By the release of their third LP, Octopus, Gentle Giant was on its third and final drummer, John Weathers, who was also proficient on xylophone and other percussion instruments. They had also found a slightly more accessible sound, as can be heard on track like A Cry For Everyone, which, compared with their earlier work, flat out rocks. Lyrically, the song draws on the works of writer Albert Camus.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Deserted Cities Of The Heart
Source:    CD: Wheels Of Fire
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Polydor (original US label: Atco)
Year:    1968
     The most psychedelic of Cream's songs were penned by Jack Bruce and his songwriting partner Pete Brown. One of the best of these was chosen to close out the last studio side of the last Cream album released while the band was still in existence. Deserted Cities Of The Heart is a fitting epitaph to an unforgettable band.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Title:    Everybody I Love You
Source:    CD: déjà vu
Writer(s):    Stills/Young
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    The last track on the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young album déjà vu is a Stephen Stills/Neil Young collaboration that sets the stage for the Stills/Young band a couple of years later. Stylistically it's pretty easy to figure out which part of Everybody I Love You was written by Stephen Stills and which part was written by Neil Young. What's interesting is how well the two parts actually fit together. As far as I know this is actually the first songwriting collaboration between the two, despite being bandmates in Buffalo Springfield since 1966 (and knowing each other even longer).

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Quicksand
Source:    CD: Hunky Dory
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1971
    After rocking out pretty hard with his third studio LP, The Man Who Sold The World, David Bowie mellowed out a bit with his first album for his new label, RCA. Hunky Dory, released in 1971 was actually  recorded at a time when Bowie had no record contract, and features the same lineup that would be heard on his classic Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars album the following year. Unlike the albums that precede and follow it, Hunky Dory puts the emphasis more on Bowie's lyrics on tunes like Quicksand, which reflects Bowie's interest in the occult, as well as the work of Franz Nietzsche.

Artist:    Cheech And Chong
Title:    The Three Little Pigs
Source:    LP: Cheech And Chong's Wedding Album
Writer(s):    Marin/Chong
Label:    Ode
Year:    1974
    Cheech Marin tells a bedtime story.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    War Pigs
Source:    CD: We Sold Our Soul For Rock & Roll (originally released on LP: Paranoid)
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    Originally titled Walpurgis, Black Sabbath's War Pigs, the opening track on their second LP, Paranoid, started off being about the Witches' Sabbath (Walpurgis being the Satanists' analog to Christmas). As Bill Butler's lyrics developed, however, the song ended up being more about how the rich and powerful declare the wars, but send the poor off to die in them. Either way, it's about evil people doing evil things and the rest of us suffering for it. I guess some things never change.

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Light Up Or Leave Me Alone
Source:    CD: Smiling Phases (originally released on LP: The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys)
Writer(s):    Jim Capaldi
Label:    Island
Year:    1971
    Jim Capaldi always wanted to be a front man. In fact, he was the lead vocalist and founder of his own band, the Sapphires, when he was just 14 years old. In 1963 he switched to drums to form the Hellions with guitarists Dave Mason and Gordon Jackson. The following year the Hellions got a gig backing up Tanya Day at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, where he met Steve Winwood, who was staying at the same hotel as a member of the Spencer Davis Group. In 1965 Capaldi became the band's front man with the addition of Poli Palmer as the band's new drummer. Although the Hellions were a successful performing band, none of their four singles (including one in 1966 under the name Revolution) charted. Mason left the band that year and the remaining members recorded a few demos for Giorgio Gomelsky, but they were not released at the time. During this time Capaldi often sat in with Winwood, Mason and flautist Chris Wood for after-hours jam sessions at Birmingham's Elbow Club. In 1967 they officially formed Traffic, with Capaldi and Winwood co-writing the bulk of the band's material. After Winwood left Traffic to join Blind Faith, Capaldi, Mason and Wood tried to get a new band going with keyboardist Mick Weaver, but things didn't work out. In early 1970 Capaldi and Wood accepted Winwood's invitation to help with what was to be his debut solo album, but which ended up being a reformed Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die. With the addition of drummer Jim Gordon on the album Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys, Capaldi finally got a chance to front the band on two songs, one of which, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, he wrote without Winwood's assistance. For the remainder of his life, in addition to continuing to work with Winwood as a member of Traffic and later on his solo albums, Capaldi pursued a successful solo career, scoring several hits on the British charts. His biggest American hit was That's Love, which hit the #28 spot in 1983. Jim Capaldi died from stomach cancer in 2005 at age 60.

Artist:    Larry Coryell
Title:    Stiff Neck
Source:    LP: Lady Coryell
Writer(s):    Larry Coryell
Label:    Vanguard Apostolic
Year:    1968
    Most of Larry Coryell's first album was recorded using the same musicians that Coryell had been working with as a member of the early jazz-rock fusion group Free Spirits. For a couple tracks, however, he enlisted the services of veteran jazz drummer Elvin Jones. One of them, Stiff Neck, sounds to my ear like a seven-minute long jam session with only Coryell and Jones participating (if there's any bass in there, I can't hear it).

Artist:    Santana
Title:    Persuasion
Source:    CD: Santana
Writer(s):    Santana (band)
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1969
    Santana was originally a free-form jam band, but at the insistence of manager Bill Graham began to write more structured songs for their first studio LP. Released in 1969, the album received less than glowing reviews from the rock press, but following the band's successful appearance at Woodstock, the LP eventually peaked at # 4 on the Billboard album charts. One of the lesser known tracks on the album was Persuasion, a good example of the band doing what their manager told them to do.

Artist:    ZZ Top
Title:    Just Got Paid
Source:    LP: The Best Of ZZ Top (originally released on LP: Rio Grande Mud)
Writer(s):    Gibbons/Ham
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: London)
Year:    1972
    Although 1972's Francine was ZZ Top's first charted single, most fans would agree that La Grange, from the 1973 album Tres Hombres was their true breakthrough hit. Interestingly, they chose to put a track from the band's previous album, Rio Grande Mud, on the B side. Even more interestingly, they included that B side, Just Got Paid, on their first "best of" collection.

Artist:     Grand Funk Railroad
Title:     Sin's A Good Man's Brother
Source:     CD: Closer To Home
Writer:     Mark Farner
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1970
     Flint, Michigan, in the mid-1960s was home to a popular local band called Terry Knight and the Pack. In 1969 pack guitarist Mark Farner and drummer Don Brewer hooked up with Mel Schacher (the former bassist of ? and the Mysterians) to form Grand Funk Railroad, with Terry Knight himself managing and producing the new band. With a raw, garage-like sound played at record high volume, Grand Funk immediately earned the condemnation of virtually every rock critic in existence. Undeterred by bad reviews, the band took their act to the road, foregoing the older venues such as bars, ballrooms and concert halls, instead booking entire sports arenas for their concerts. In the process they almost single-handedly created a business model that continues to be the industry standard. Grand Funk Railroad consistently sold out all of their performances for the next two years, earning no less than three gold records in 1970 alone.

Artist:    Curtis Mayfield
Title:    Freddie's Dead
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Curtis Mayfield
Label:    Curtom
Year:    1972
    The 1971 movie Shaft launched an entire genre of films sometimes known as "blacksploitation" movies. One of the most successful of these was the 1972 film Super Fly. The soundtrack music for Super Fly was provided by former Impressions frontman Curtis Mayfield, and released on his own Curtom label. The single Freddie's Dead, adding vocals to the film's instrumental theme, was released ahead of the film and went into the top 5 on both the Hot 100 and Billboard R&B charts. It was also nominated for a Grammy award, but lost out to the Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong piece Papa Was A Rolling Stone, sung by the Temptations.

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