Sunday, June 2, 2024

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2423 (starts 6/3/24) 

    This week we change things up a bit and go with shorter sets, each with its own themes. The first one is a short progression through the years 1973-1975, while the second focuses on the year 1971. We go free-form for a while before finishing up with a pair of tunes from female singer/songwriters, one of whom was also a bandleader.

Artist:    Jackson Browne
Title:    Redneck Friend
Source:    LP: For Everyman
Writer(s):    Jackson Browne
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1973
    Although the Eagles are often thought of as the originators of the "California Sound" of the mid-1970s, those in the know actually credit Jackson Browne as creating the laid-back slightly country style. Not that he didn't have help. Joining him on the song Redneck Friend, the first single released from his second LP, For Everyman, are vocalist Glenn Frey and pianist Elton John (credited as Rockaday Johnnie). Redneck Friend also marks the first appearance of slide guitarist David Lindley on a Jackson Browne record. It wouldn't be his last.

Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Cosmik Debris
Source:    CD: Strictly Commercial (originally released on LP: Apostrophe ('))
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Ryko (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1974
    One of Frank Zappa's most memorable tunes, Cosmik Debris first appeared on his Apostrophe(') album in 1974. The album itself was recorded at the same time as the Mothers' Over-Nite Sensation, and features some of the same musicians, including George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty and Napoleon Brock. The song, like many Zappa compositions, tells a story, in this case one of a mystical con artist and Zappa's refusal to be conned. The song uses the repeated line "Look here brother. Who you jivin' with that Cosmik Debris?", and contains references to other Zappa compositions, including Camarillo Brillo (from Over-Nite Sensation). The song was originally scheduled for release as a single, but instead appeared as the B side of an edited version of Don't Eat Yellow Snow when that track began gaining popularity due to excessive airplay on FM rock radio.

Artist:    ZZ Top
Title:    Heard It On The X
Source:    LP: The Best Of ZZ Top (originally released on LP: Fandango)
Writer(s):    Gibbons/Hill/Beard
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: London)
Year:    1975
    ZZ Top's fourth album, Fandago, was a unique mixture of live recordings and new studio tracks. Among those studio tracks was the somewhat autobiographical Heard It On The X. The "X" refers to the various high-powered AM stations that used to broadcast American top 40 style shows in English from Mexico, where the 50,000 watt legal limit imposed by the FCC on US radio stations did not apply. I don't know specifically which station the trio from Texas listened on, but in southern New Mexico it was XELO, out of Ciudad Juarez. The 150,000 watt station was well-known in the El Paso area as the home of DJ Steve Crosno, who also hosted a popular teen dance show on a local TV station. Daytime programming on XELO was in Spanish until 1972, when a group of American investors bought the station, changing its call letters to XeROK and switching to top 40 programming 24 hours a day. The station ran Wolfman Jack in the evenings and by 1975 was the highest-rated top 40 station west of the Mississippi (some say it had an even bigger audience than New York's WABC).

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Rock And Roll
Source:    45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Page/ Plant/Bonham/Jones
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    According to guitarist Jimmy Page, Rock And Roll, from the fourth Led Zeppelin album, was one of those spur-of-the-moment things that "came together more or less out of nowhere".  The band had been working on another track, Four Sticks, that had a difficult drum part, and, to break the tension drummer John Bonham played the introduction in triplets while Page added a guitar riff. The song came together quickly around a standard 12-bar blues structure and has come to be one of the band's most popular songs.

Artist:    Rory Gallagher
Title:    Sinner Boy
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Live At The Isle Of Wight)
Writer(s):    Rory Gallagher
Label:    Polydor
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 1971
    Many of the tunes on Rory Gallagher's 1971 debut LP had been in the stage repertoire of Gallagher's former band Taste, which had officially disbanded at the beginning of the year. One of the most popular of those tunes was Sinner Boy, which was included on the LP Live At The Isle Of Wight, released throughout Europe, Asia and even South Africa, but not in the Western Hemisphere, after the band had split up.

Artist:    Janis Joplin
Title:    Get It While You Can
Source:    LP: Pearl
Writer(s):    Ragovoy/Schuman
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    The final track on Janis Joplin's last album is, in some ways, a fitting epitaph for one of the greatest vocalists in rock history. Get It While You Can is a powerful tune from Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Schuman, one of the most prolific songwriting teams of the 1960s. Joplin's version of the song originally recorded by Howard Tate showcases both her range and passion in less than three and a half minutes.

Artist:    Firesign Theatre
Title:    The TV Glide
Source:    LP: Dear Friends
Writer(s):    Proctor/Bergman/Asutin/Ossman
Label:    Columbia
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 1972
    In the early 1970s, most US cities large enough to have their own television stations had three or four commercial stations and one member of the Public Broadcasting System. Los Angeles, on the other hand, had a boatload, including three owned by the major networks and four full-service independents, supplemented by a variety of UHF stations carrying more specialized programming. This gave the members of the Firesign Theatre plenty of inspiration for The TB Guide, basically a skit about a bunch of guys trying to decide what to watch, using local listings as a reference point. As the skit goes on, the show descriptions get more and more bizarre, until the guys finally just decide to watch a movie. The bit, which aired as part of the Firesign Theatre's Dear Friends radio program from late 1970 to early 1971, was popular enough to inspire a sequel, the TV Glide, both of which were included on the 1972 album Dear Friends, which compiled the best bits from the radio show.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    The Musical Box
Source:    CD: Nursery Cryme
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1971
    In a sense, the story of the rock band known as Genesis gets underway with the release of the 1971 album Nursery Cryme. Technically it was the third Genesis album. However, the first two albums, From Genesis To Revelation and Trespass, were not really rock albums at all. It was only after the departure of original guitarist Anthony Phillips and his replacement by Steve Hackett, along with the addition of drummer Phil Collins, that Genesis became a true electric rock band, albeit one with a heavy element of British folk music. Although Genesis sounded nothing like harder British progressive rock bands like Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer, their music was every bit as innovative and complex, as plainly can be heard on the ten minute long opening track from Nursery Cryme, The Musical Box. The lyrics of the song are based on a fairy tale by Peter Gabriel about two children in a country house, one of which (a girl) kills the other by beheading him with a croquet mallet. From there, it only gets weirder (and more adult). The Musical Box is considered one of Genesis' s most influential works, and has even inspired a group of young musicians to call themselves The Musical Box.

Artist:    Tim Weisberg
Title:    Cement City
Source:    LP: Hurtwood Edge
Writer(s):    Art Johnson
Label:    A&M
Year:    1972
    Tim Weisberg, born in Hollywood, California, wanted to be a drummer, but when it came time for he and his schoolmates to pick instruments to play, the school went in alphabetical order, and by the time they got to the Ws the only ones left were flute and bassoon. Weisberg took the practical route and decided that the bassoon was too big to be hauling around, choosing the flute instead. Eventually he became a professional flautist, making his recording debut on the 1969 album The Monkees Present (does anyone even remember that one?). He continued to do studio work for the next few years, making his own solo debut in 1971. Weisberg's greatest success came with his 1978 collaboration with Dan Fogelberg called Twin Sons of Different Mothers. Cement City is a track from Weisberg's second solo LP, Hurtwood Edge, released in 1972.

Artist:    Focus
Title:    House Of The King
Source:    45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s):    Jan Akkerman
Label:    Sire
Year:    1970
    Dutch band Focus released House of the King as a single in 1970, between their first and second albums. After getting considerable airplay in Europe and the UK, the song was added to later pressings of their debut LP, Focus Plays Focus (also known as In And Out Of Focus). The song finally appeared on a US LP when Focus 3 was released three years later. Contrary to common belief, the song was not re-recorded for the 1973 album.

Artist:     Beatles
Title:     Abbey Road Medley #2
Source:     CD: Abbey Road
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple/Parlophone
Year:     1969
     The Beatles had been experimenting with songs leading into other songs since the Sgt. Pepper's album. With Abbey Road they took it a step further, with side two of the album containing two such medleys. The second one consists of Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End, with Her Majesty (not included on this week's show) tossed in as a kind of "hidden" track at the end of the album. The End is somewhat unique in that it features solos by all three guitar-playing members of the band, as well as the only Ringo Starr drum solo to appear on a Beatles album.

Artist:    Fanny
Title:    Think About The Children
Source:    LP: Fanny Hill
Writer(s):    June Millington
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1972
    So you're 19 or so, and you see this album on the racks that has four chicks dressed in black turtleneck sweaters against a white background. What do you do? You buy it, of course. It turns out the album in question was called Fanny Hill, and it was the third LP from Fanny, one the first self-contained female rock groups. The band was centered around the Millington sisters, June (guitar) and Jean (bass), who had moved from the Phillipines to Sacramento, California while in their teens. They were eventually joined by drummer Alice de Buhr and keyboardist Nicky Barclay. Released in 1972, Fanny Hill was the most successful album for the band, thanks to a combination of solid musicianship and quality songwriting. One of the most overlooked tunes on Fanny Hill was June Millington's Think About The Children, a song that convey's a deeply felt message about the state of the world without getting overly preachy. June Millington left the group in 1974, however, partially due to pressures from the band's producers to dress more provocatively, which Millington resisted. After one final album without their original leader, Fanny called it quits in 1975.

Artist:     Joni Mitchell
Title:     You Turn Me On I'm A Radio
Source:     LP: For The Roses
Writer:     Joni Mitchell
Label:     Asylum
Year:     1972
     For The Roses was Joni Mitchell's fifth album, and the first to be released on Asylum, the label formed in 1971 by David Geffen and Mitchell's own manager, Elliot Roberts. The album included Mitchell's first top 40 hit, You Turn Me On I'm A Radio, a song she wrote sarcastically in response to a request for a "radio friendly" song from her record company. The song also made the top 10 in Mitchell's native Canada.

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