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Friday, May 31, 2013

Marvin Gaye--What's Going On (1971)

     Renaldo "Obie" Benson, bass singer of the Four Tops was hurt and angered by what he witnessed. An anti-war protest turned violent in a lot called, "People's Park" in Berkley, California. Benson watched the brutality by the police and along with lyricist Al Cleveland wrote the beginnings of "What's Going On"
      Meanwhile, back in Detroit, Marvin Gaye was deeply grieving. His singing partner and close friend Tammi Terrell had past just months before from a brain tumor which took her life just five weeks before her 25th birthday. He went into a time of seclusion where he pondered trying out for the Detroit Lions football team (he was not allowed due to potential injury), and accessing his future. He had always felt just a cog in the Motown machine and the resentment was just compounded when the person who had meant so much to him personally and professionally was gone.
      Benson  brought the still unfinished song to his bandmates. They didn't want to mess with it because to them it was a "protest song". At this point, they brought the song to Gaye who liked it and showed interest if he could get songwriting credit. The other writers agreed, and Marvin edited, revised the lyrics, reflecting the anger which Gaye was feeling towards the war as well. He also changed the melody and took it into the studio.
     After it's recording in September of 1970, Marvin flew to California and presented it to Motown president Berry Gordy Jr. Gordy hated it saying it was, "the worst thing I ever heard in my life". The singer at that point chose to go on strike refusing to record another note unless the single was released. Enter at this point executives Harry Balk and Barney Ales who, without Gordy's knowledge, shipped 100,000 copies of the single to stores in January of 1971, then after initial success, another 100,000 additional.
     The song became, at the time, the fastest selling single in the history of the record label. Gordy was stunned by the news and flew back into Detroit, telling Gaye that he could record an entire album of material like that one, if he could do it by the end of March. The album, "What's Going On" was recorded in 10 days and not only became his signature album, it has aged well and is considered by many one of the great albums of the modern rock era.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

David Gates--The Goodbye Girl (1977)

     Before forming Bread in 1967,  David Gates was a well known studio musician and producer. His credits ran from Elvis to Merle Haggard, to Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band. During this time he had also recorded a number of unsuccessful singles, but his pairing with Robb Royer and Jimmy Griffin produced soft rock magic as the group had a number of top ten singles.
     The fact that record label Elektra always chose Gates' songs as singles was a source of antagonism for Griffin who was a fine composer in his own right. Of course one couldn't argue with the fact that all eleven singles were hits, but it entered into the group breaking up in 1973 much to the surprise of fans and record company alike.
     Gates immediately went off and recorded, "First" in 1973, which sounded (not surprisingly) like a Bread album. If you ever find this, give it a listen as several songs equaled what he wrote with his former group. They reunited again in 1975 for one more album, which provided another Gates' penned hit, "Lost Without Your Love" before breaking up once again.
     1977 brought him his biggest hit as a solo artist with this song, the theme from the movie, "The Goodbye Girl" starring Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss who won an Oscar that year for the role. The song itself reached number fifteen. A follow up ("Took The Last Train") reached the top 40, but with the exception of the occasional single and a Bread reunion tour in 1996/97, Gates has enjoyed life on his cattle ranch in Northern California.


Leif Garrett--I Was Made For Dancing (1979)

      Leif Garrett (real name: Leif Per Nervik) began his career as an actor with his first role in a major picture being, "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) at the age of 8. He then began a series of bit roles on television in the mid-70s on shows like Family and The Odd Couple. Garrett also was in all three "Walking Tall" movies.
     The whole teen idol thing began with a role on the CBS show, "Three for the Road" in 1975. The show didn't make it to Thanksgiving but there was a great interest among teenaged girls in the now 14 year old. At this point, teen magazines began to make him a regular in their publications. This led to an interest in music, and a little less than a year later was offered a recording contract with Atlantic Records.
     His first album, "Leif Garrett" contained four singles, all covers of previous hits. After signing a deal in mid-1978 with Scotti Brothers, his second album, "Feel The Need" contained more original material. The best of these was, "I Was Made For Dancing" which reached #10 on the charts in the U.S., and #4 in the U.K. His star didn't shine for long as subsequent singles didn't crack the top forty.
     Although he has been best known lately for his troubles with drugs and the law, Garrett continued acting throughout most of the 1980's and 90's, most notably The Outsiders.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Art Garfunkel--All I Know (1973)

     It had been three years since Simon and Garfunkel had split. Paul Simon immediately came out of the gate in January 1972 with his first album, "Paul Simon" and two hits which was a logical extension of some of the work he had done on the "Bridge Over Troubled Water" album. May of 1973 brought another album, "There Goes Rhymin' Simon" which solidified him as a top solo artist.
     During this time Art Garfunkel kept a low profile, at least musically.  He was tapped by director Mike Nichols to play in  two movies during this time "Catch-22" (1970), and "Carnal Knowledge" (1971--where he was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor). He also spent a year teaching math at a Litchfield Private School in Connecticut during the 1971-72 school year.
     After a one-off reunion with Simon in behalf of George McGovern's presidential bid, he felt it was time to get back into the studio. With Simon being the primary writer when he was with the duo, Art now had the opportunity to seek out some of this favorite writers and songs. The resulting album, "Angel Claire" contained songs by Van Morrison, Randy Newman, and one from Jimmy Webb, "All I Know".
     This song began a long collaboration with Webb, who had become one of pop music's master songwriters. Just like "Mother and Child Reunion" and "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard" was a direct link for Simon to the 60's work with Garfunkel, "All I Know" did the same for the singer and was a great jumping off point. The song was his highest charting single of his career.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Gallery--Nice To Be With You (1972)

     There used to be a major divide in the early 70's between those who listened to "FM" or album rock, and "AM" top 40 . It seems silly in a way, but there has always been divisions in musical taste like this. For many music fans (and unfortunately those who write about music as well), there is a territorial view of their genre, no matter what it is. Because of all of the different types of music I was exposed to as a child, there has always been a wide range of taste. To me, if it sounds good, I don't care who made it. This did mean however that most of my family didn't know that I have always had a love affair with hard rock music since about the age of 11. On the other hand, most of my peers would not be aware of my favoritism towards John Denver and Barry Manilow.
     Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, the early 70's had a load of groups that would have a very tuneful hit which would come and then go. The Detroit based group, Gallery, not only had one, but had three top 40 hits in 1972 and 73. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Jim Gold, was the man behind the group and the song "Nice to Be With You. It has become a staple of oldies radio, not only because it's tuneful, but it's simple, pleasant sentiment crosses over generations. It's follow up, "I Believe in Music" was another hit written by Mac Davis, who, at the time was still one of the hottest songwriters of the day.
     By 1976, the touring group known as Gallery had folded, but Gold released a couple of solo albums in 76 and 78. He continues to write music today. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday Music Digest--May 18, 2013

Stemming from an "inflamation of his vocal cords," Smokey Robinson postponed his concerts for the rest of May on Friday (May 10).

Little Richard received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia Saturday (May 11). Meanwhile, Macon officials announced Friday that Richard's boyhood home there will be moved to avoid being demolished by a highway construction project. In its new location, the home will become a neighborhood resource center.

Doctors have ordered Aretha Franklin to cancel performances in Chicago May 20 and Connecticut May 26 so she can undergo an unspecified "treatment." The announcement was made Monday (May 13). The 71 year-old's next scheduled performance is June 22 in Clarkston, Michigan. This didn't keep the singer however from making an appearance on American Idol this past week.

Judith Durham, lead singer of the Seekers, suffered a brain hemmorhage Tuesday (May 14) while the group was on tour in Melbourne, Australia. She was hospitalized, but was described as "lucid and comfortable" as she undergoes further tests. The group's 50th anniversary tour has now been scrapped.

Songwriter Ray Whitley, who gave us the Tams' "Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy", "What Kind Of Fool" and "I've Been Hurt" (the latter two also hits for Bill Deal & the Rhondels), died Sunday (May 5) in Gainesville, Georgia at the age of 69. Ray recorded a smattering of unsuccessful singles himself and also wrote songs for-- among others-- Billy Joe Royal, the Swinging Medallions, Joe South and Tommy Roe. He should not be confused with the similarly-named country singer/songwriter who wrote "Back In The Saddle Again."

Bob Dylan did not attend his induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters Wednesday (May 15). He did issue a statement concerning the prestigious membership, which allows only 250 members at a time. Said Bob, “I feel extremely honored and very lucky to be included in this pantheon of great individual artists who comprise the Academy of Arts and Letters. I look forward to meeting all of you some time soon."

A two-day auction of artwork owned by the late Andy Williams brought in $46 million on the first day Wednesday (May 15) in New York. One painting alone by Willem de Koonings garnered $9.7 million.

Carlos Santana Inducted Into Vegas House of Blues:

John Densmore Comments on Feud With Doors Bandmates:

Fleetwood Mac Planning To Release More New Music:

Allman Brothers Band Releasing "Brothers and Sisters' 40th Anniversary Box Set:

Jimi Hendrix Invited Paul McCartney For Miles Davis Recording Session:

John Mellencamp Musical To Tour:

The Moody Blues Announce 10-city Tour:

 Harry Nilsson 'The RCA Albums Collection' Box Set Announced:

Lou Gramm Considering Retirement:

New Beach Boys Musical in Planning Stages:

John Fogerty Announces Birthday Bash & Album Release Gig:

Lennon Missed England Prior to Death:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gale Garnett--We'll Sing in the Sunshine (1964)

     Gale Garnett was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and moved to Canada at the age of 11 in 1953. After high school, she chose to go into acting and singing. She got a parts in television shows of the early 60's, and made her New York club debut in 1963. Shortly afterward she was signed to RCA records.
     The song "We'll Sing In The Sunshine" was her own composition and was the single lifted off her first album, "My Kind of Folk Songs". The single went to number 4 on the charts, and won a Grammy in 1965 for best Folk Recording. She spent the rest of the 60's and 70's touring and recording.
      In the years since retiring from singing in the 80's, she continued to act, most notably in 2002's, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", and has also begun to write articles, essays, and book reviews. She has also written four novels since 1999.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Peter Gabriel--Solsbury Hill (1977)

     In the village of Batheaston, Somerset England, there is a small flat top hill known as little Solsbury Hill. It was here that a young Peter Gabriel came to a decision that would influence the rest of his life. He felt the need to separate himself from the band he helped create in 1967 at the age of 17.  Now, 8 years later, the band had become a success but it had come at a cost. Having begun more or less as a musical collective, the press began to focus more on Gabriel as the star, which caused tensions within the band. Secondly, he found himself a bit of a prisoner of his own success by helping create elaborate stage productions to go along with the music. Fans and media both became increasingly expectant of this, and Peter began to become concerned that the focus was getting off the music. Finally, when his then wife Jill was dealing with a difficult pregnancy and childbirth, he chose to stay at home with his ill wife and child rather than going on tour. The subsequent tension caused by all involved led him to the conclusion that it was time to part ways.
     The song itself has been the cause of a lot of speculation over the years. Gabriel himself admits that it was about a spiritual experience while on that hill. As with all of his material, the lyrics give just enough to concede this, but not enough to spell it out. If you are a fan of his (which I am), then you're aware that he is an obviously spiritual man and it is many times reflected in his music. Being a clever songwriter, he also allows you to fit your own version of spiritual things inside the music.
     No matter how you interpret things, this was a time and place which gave him a peace and will to make the break with the band. He made the decision and announced to the group prior to the tour to promote, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." As it turned out, both Gabriel and his former band went on to new heights. It became his first single in 1977 and a hit in the UK. The first solo album was also a hit in the US, and began a string of well received albums that achieves the rarity of garnering critical acclaim and commercial success.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Bobby Fuller Four--I Fought the Law (1966)

     Bobby Fuller was born in Baytown, Texas then as a small child moved to Salt Lake City. Shortly after his move at the age of 12 to El Paso, his life changed forever like many others who heard Elvis Presley. More importantly, he was influenced greatly by fellow Texan Buddy Holly and attempted several independent recordings with local musicians including his brother Randy, who would be the only constant throughout his Fuller's life.
     He build his own recording studio complete with an echo chamber in the back yard. It was a demo sent to Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records in California that got them signed. Keane didn't hear a song that caught his attention, but thought there was potential there. At this time, they were known as either just Bobby Fuller, or Bobby Fuller and the Fanatics, the change over to the Bobby Fuller Four wasn't until 1965 when they became more established.
     The song "I Fought The Law" is actually a cover from The Crickets. It was written in 1958 by Sonny Curtis who brought the song with him when he replaced Buddy Holly on guitar after his death. It was released as a 'b' side of "A Sweet Love" in 1960. Fuller recorded it first in Texas while working on material for Bob Keane. It was re-recorded in 1965 and released in early 66 on the Mustang label which was an offshoot of Del-Fi, just for the group.
     The song went up to number 6 and it's follow up, "Love's Made A Fool Of You" also reached the top 40. By the summer of that year tensions began to build within the band (who's members were never crazy about Fuller being singled out in the band name anyway). When guitarist James Reese received his draft notice, drummer Dalton Powell decided it was time to go home and be closer to his family.
     The band meeting on July 18th where Reese was going to finalize the sale of his Jaguar XKE to Fuller and Powell was announcing his leaving the band went on without Fuller. It was later that day he was found dead in his car of apparent asphyxiation. There was no foul play or signs of struggle, it was considered a suicide, but the case remains open.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Record Review: Rod Stewart--Time (2013)

     It's been dammed difficult at times to be a Rod Stewart fan. In the 70's he was one of the best singer-songwriters that rock music had to offer. His voice was outstanding, but it was the depth of his writing that kept you long after the music and voice grabbed you. Somewhere in the early 80's, he began to stray, seemingly enjoying his fame much more than his craft. Since the late 80's, he has been maddeningly inconsistent in his output, every now and then showing those glimpses of his past, but more often settling for the work of others...and don't even get me started on the "Great American Songbook" stuff. The release of his autobiography spurred him to pick up his guitar and for the first time since the early 90's, wrote almost an entire album full of material. This by itself piqued my interest.    
     What we have with "Time" is one of his best in a long, long time. The songs seems to veer from love songs to his current wife, to songs about the bad relationships along the way. Anyone who knows Rod's story knows he has a large truck full of those (failed relationships that is), and some of them are quite good, even doing what I thought was a great job with the Tom Waits songs, "Picture In a Frame"
     My favorite song on the CD was, "Live the Life". Lyrically it's a bit sappy (although not so much when you compare it to the love songs), but for a brief moment we got the folky Stewart which harkened back to his early 70's output. The other songs veered more toward the adult contemporary which he has been doing for over 25 years now. Other highlights included, "She Makes Me Happy", "Brighton Beach" and "Beautiful Morning". If you don't mind springing for the CD with bonus tracks, it will be well worth your effort as two of the three songs, "Corrina Corrina" and "Legless" (which if you were a fan of Stewart with the Faces, the subject matter will give you a smile), are winners as well.
     My wish however is that Rod would attempt at least one album which harkened back to his 70's output. Before you dismiss this as just a pipe dream on my part, all one has to do is look at what his friend Elton John has done over the last 10 years. At some point, Elton chose to go back to crafting music to suit himself rather than what the style of the day dictated. The result has been a series of albums that perhaps is not as good as his early 70's stuff, but harken back to that day. Rod is still in good voice, and my hope is that this is the beginning of a renaissance of a talent which, in it's day made him one of best. As it stands, this is better than anything he's done in 30 years. My hope is that this upward trend continues.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Saturday Music Digest--May 11th, 2013

     I have become a big fan of twitter. Those are naysayers who grouse about the massive amount of inane stuff posted, but have you looked at Facebook lately? I can assure you as well that most phone conversations are just as useless. We just live now in a newer generation of consumers, where idiocy can be broadcast world-wide. On the other hand, it can and is a powerful tool for getting information out quickly and for those who want to find people of like mind on any subject, in my case, older music.
     There is software that allows you to not only see all of the activity on your twitter account at any time, but also to filter words. For instance, I have 60's music, and 70's music in my filter. Anytime anyone uses those words, anywhere in the world, I get to see it, this allows me to perhaps answer a question, or interject an opinion (which I'm full of those). A very useful tool for those who do not have a marketing budget.
     It also allows me to see trends at times, and there are a couple that I find intriguing and/or amusing, and it gives me cause to address a couple of them, even though given the audience for this blog, I'm probably preaching to the choir.

    The first trend is an odd interest in 70s porn music. First of all, in full disclosure, I've seen a few 70's porn flicks in my life, but cannot remember for the life of me any music in the background. It could have been that the movies I saw had such low standards for production that there was no thought to actually use any music, or was just so gobsmacked by what my eyes were seeing that my ears shut down to allow my vision to capture with the upmost clarity what was going on.
     With so many of the tweets mentioning it's use, I figured that there must be something going on. So I put out a call to my twitter family to see if anyone could give examples. Either thinking that my mind had checked out early for the weekend, or just too embarrassed to admit it in public, there was no response. 
     Having struck out there, I went to You Tube (not to find porn...just to find the music. Perverts.) and found songs from an album called, "Porno Sonic", and a picture of Ron Jeremy on the front. Ron, who has come to the point in career where a woman will not get within a 10 foot pole of his...well...uh...pole, has happily become the Gene Simmons of porn, allowing the likeness (just of his face thank God) to be put on any product that will get him some extra cash.
    The following song is not only humorous, but gives a pretty good example of what those who never actually lived in the 70's, an idea of what this music was suppose to sound like
    It says on the front of the cover that it was, "unreleased" 70's porno music. What audience the producers of this CD were marketing this for, I'm not sure. As far as I can remember this kind of music brought back visions of the 70's like Colt 45 malt liquor and shag carpeting. Just goes to show there is an audience for everything ...especially if  that something didn't actually exist.

    Which brings me to my second observation. I hate to break it to a couple of generations of men and women, but not everyone who grew up in the 60's grew their hair long, wore tie-die, and dropped acid. I hear all the time, "I SOOOO wish I could live back in the 60's where everyone got stoned, and there was so much LOVEEEE all the time.'
     Let me put it to you straight, unless you were white, male and rich, the 60's (outside of the music) wasn't that cool of a place to be. I love Grace Slick's  (singer from the Jefferson Airplane...Starship...etc.) comment on the subject of what it was like to in the "in" crowd; "If you can remember the 60's, you weren't there". I wasn't quite old enough for that era to be exactly in my wheelhouse (I was born in 1960), but can remember that growing hair beyond your collar was a sin, and those who did it, even in the mid-70's, were ostracized. There was a lot of experimentation with pot, but alcohol was the drug of choice, not only because it was more available, but because it was CHEAP. There were lame attempts a 60's fashion in my school, but few pulled it off. Thank God there were no pictures of me in my imitation Nehru jacket that I wore in 5th grade....
     Why is there a  need to always go back to the good ole' days anyway? There are many more answers to that question than I want to delve into in a blog, but just to say the reasons are legion. Our media however (many who are Baby Boomers themselves) has sanitized and sanctified the era to the point where much of the reality has left the building. This is not an anomaly with the 60's however. Growing up, if all I had was the radio and television to decide what the 50's were all about, than it would occurred to me that it would have ROCKED to been a teenager in the 50's. Thankfully I had
older siblings who reminded me that the decade wasn't all that hot either.
     Having said that, what we are left with is how the music of a certain time relates to the good memories that we have, no matter which era we grew up in. It is natural for us to remember the fun times, but even for those times that were not so good, songs and artists frame the era that define our lives. To my younger readers, let me remind you that if your lucky, the music that defines you will be around 30, 40 or more years as well, but don't forget the reality of your life and times now, before the generation of your children or grandchildren attempt to redefine it as well.  

The following is a short digest of the news of classic rock/pop. The first link is a fantastic story about the musicians behind the scenes of many of the classic soft pop/rock albums of the 70s.
The Knights of Soft Rock:

Bon Jovi playing Europe and South Africa without Richie Sambora:

Robert Plant Gets Restraining Order Against Delusional Fan:

Aerosmith Cancel Concert Due to Bomb Threat:

Boston an Aerosmith to perform at Boston Benefit Show:

Foreigner's Lou Gramm Puts and End to Reunion Talk:

Jethro Tull To Release 1970-2005 DVD Set:

Motley Crue Guitarist Gets Tackled On Stage:

Three Donovan Classics to be Reissued:

Grateful Dead to Release Box Set of 1977 Tour:

David Bowie Releases "The Next Day" Featuring Gary Oldman:

Rod Stewart Wants to Reunite the Faces:

Bruce Springsteen Collaborates With The Dropkick Murphys:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Friends of Distinction--Grazing in The Grass (1969)

     The Friends of Distinction were formed by Harry Elston and Floyd Butler who had been members of Ray Charles' backing band, The Hi-Fi's. When this group disbanded in 1966, the other members, Lamont McLemore and Marilyn McCoo went to form the Fifth Dimension. Elston and Butler recruited Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love and in 1968 began to hit some of the clubs in Los Angeles. It was there they met Jim Brown.
     Brown had been one of the best players in the National Football League who had decided to retire in 1966 as an acting career had opened up for him. He heard the group and was impressed by their sound and asked if they would be interested in him becoming their manager. With that kind of clout, they soon signed a contract with RCA records.
     The first single was their biggest hit (#6), but they also produced two more top twenty hits, "Going in Circles" (#15--1969) and "Love Or Let Me Be Lonely" (#6--1970). The group began to slip after Cleaves left to later be a part of Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Parliament. They disbanded in 1975, and Floyd Butler later passed away.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Frida--I Know There's Something Going On (1982)

     The group ABBA never formally disbanded, but just slowly faded away in 1983 with the unfilled promise that the group had not stopped recording. The quartet had basically lost interest, as well as being lured by other new and interesting projects. Frida Lyngstad was the first to take advantage of this as she paired up with the Phil Collins' produced, "I Know There's Something Going On".
     The other three members had one hit a piece in the US as well. Agnetha Falskog had a top forty hit in 1983, "Can't Shake Loose" (#29), and the team of Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson collaborated with Tim Rice to create the music for the musical, "Chess" . A single from that play "One Night in Bangkok" was recorded by Murray Head and reached number 3 on the charts in the spring of 1985.
     Frida, who had never sung rock before was lead by Collins to record an album that was a bit more edgy compared to her work with ABBA. Having come from a background in jazz, this interested her. As you hear this single, Collins' drums almost dominate over the vocals, but the effect is a striking one. She was to collaborate with producer Steve Lillywhite for the album, "Shine". The album (if you can still find it) shows her pushing the envelope even further, but the album went nowhere. She continued to work in Europe, but wasn't heard of again in the states, until the world-wide renaissance, which began again in the 90's. She currently lives in Switzerland.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Frijid Pink--House of the Rising Sun (1970)

     I had been interested in rock music and it's history all my life, but it's been in the last several years since starting the blog and radio show that I've dug under the surface to find endless tributaries that feed into modern rock and pop. One of those feeders come from the city of Detroit where the music scene went much deeper (and arguably more influential) than anything that came out of Motown. The Bob Seger System, The Amboy Dukes, Alice Cooper, MC5, The Stooges, and Grand Funk Railroad laid the foundations for what was to become 70's era rock and in the case of Iggy and the boys, American punk as well.
     One group that doesn't get near the recognition as these I've mentioned is Frijid Pink.The group never rose to 70's prominence like Cooper, Seger and Ted Nugent did, nor did it become influential like The Stooges. They were just a hard rock blues outfit that were stars in their hometown except for this cover of The Animals' hit from 1964.
     The band got it's start in 1967 as a couple members from The Detroit Vibrations combined with other musicians and after touring through the Southeast Michigan for a couple of years signed with Parrot Records. Their first two singles, "Tell Me Why" and Drivin' Blues" (both great songs by the way) went nowhere, but the fuzzed drenched version of "House of the Rising Sun" reached the top ten.
      Subsequent singles didn't do as well, and as lineup changed effected the band, they sank back into obscurity. For those who really like this single, it would do you well to check out their first three albums.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Friend and Lover--Reach Out in the Darkness (1968)

     Sometimes a song can capture a moment in time and frame the zeitgeist of a movement more than any other medium. This song from it's first line, "I think it's so groovy now that people are finally gettin' it together" spells out the short period of time where "flower power" really might have seemed more than just a cloud of pot smoke on the horizon. Coming out between the assassinations of Martin Luther King (in April) and Robert Kennedy (in June), it really was just one last gasp of what seemed a year before to be a viable future.
     Jim Post, who's previous experience had been in folk music had written the song after attending a love-in in New York. Jim and his wife Cathy Conn teamed up to create the song which seemed like a cross between Spanky and our Gang and Jefferson Airplane. The single, which was recorded with the help of Joe South and Ray Stevens, reached number 10 that summer. The song shimmered among the turmoil, anger and bitterness that was the summer of 1968.
     There was another single which broke into the top 100, but it was not many years later that Post and Conn divorced. He was to continue writing and singing on some 20 odd albums over the years. She left the entertainment business and is now a grandmother of three in the New Mexico mountains.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Record Review: Ready To Die--Iggy Pop and the Stooges (2013)

Track List

1. Burn (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:37
2. Sex & Money (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:18
3. Job (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:05
4. Gun (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:07
5. Unfriendly World (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:46
6. Ready To Die (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:06
7. DD's (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:21
8. Dirty Deal (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:42
9. Beat That Guy (Iggy/James Williamson) 3:15
10. The Departed (Scott Asheton/Iggy/James Williamson) 4:36

     It was odd in a way, but very poetic that after the death of Ron Asheton in 2009 that James Williamson became his replacement. Back in 1972, Dave Alexander was edged out of the band, Asheton moved from guitar to bass, and Williamson came in at lead. This group along with Ron's brother Scott on drums recorded the classic, "Raw Power" then broke up, with Iggy taking a couple of years away to kick his heroin habit, and Williamson beginning a path that would eventually lead him to become Vice President of Technology Standards for Sony.
     When The Stooges reformed for a handful of dates in 2003, hope were high for something more after some great reviews and a recorded document of the tour. "Telluric Chaos" had Iggy and the Asheton brothers along with bassist Mike Watt full of energy and sound, with all fans excited after hearing the live document. After that build up, the CD that resulted, 2007's, "The Weirdness", came across as unsatisfying.
     With Ron's death in 2009, Iggy turned to the guitarist who bailed him out last time. Williamson was a bit wary at first. After all, he had not hardly touched a guitar in 30 years, but Iggy convinced him and James took an early retirement from Sony. At first he began playing some concert dates in 2010, then the next year they began the steps that would produce, "Ready to Die".
     One thing that one has to consider first of all is that Iggy is now 65. This doesn't mean he has lost is ability to make a great record, but if your looking for a redo of "Raw Power", this isn't it. There was a passion and anger that came out of every pore of that disc, and it's easy to see listening to that or Fun House, why many consider The Stooges one of the Godfathers of American punk.
     Having said that, it was great to hear Williamson's guitar roaring out of the gate with, "Burn" and shows the guitarist has had no problem picking up where he left off when leaving the band so many years ago. My favorites on this CD consist of :

Sex & Money--Has always been a sucker for the songs where the norm is varied, and while lust is a normal theme, the short insert of the girl chorus and sax gets me every time.

Gun--There has been some discussion about this song. For me it comes across as a parody of our gun obsessed culture in the early 21st century. It would be a funny song if it were not so sad, which is what I think is intended.

Unfriendly World: Slow songs are not their forte, but this one works for some crazy reason. If Leonard Cohan was a punk rocker, I could see him doing something like this.

For those who are fans of the group, "The Departed" will be of interest since it's the only one written by Iggy, Williamson, and Scott Asheton. From what I understand it was the first song written (although the last song on the album) and it deals with the loss of Ron. Also there is "DD's", which is Iggy's ode to well...DD's. 40 years ago this would have would have been great from your normal male leering/rocker perspective. Maybe I'm just getting conservative in my old age as well, but it coming from a 65 year old it sounds slightly on the creepy side.

All in all, if you are a fan of The Stooges and were disappointed with, "The Weirdness", you will find this a much more satisfying recording. There are no suggestions about the future of the group, although Scott was not able to tour a great deal lately because of health issues.  If this is to be the last document of The Stooges, it is a satisfying, if not groundbreaking way to go out.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Saturday Bus Digest--May 4, 2013

This is the first "Saturday Bus Digest". Hopefully we will be a one stop new source for your favorite artists and news of the past week. Included will be commentary on things that are related to music, rock and otherwise.
Remembering George....

This past Thursday Nashville laid to rest one of the last links to old school country. In a very moving service at the Grand Ole Opry, his personal family, colleagues and fans came to say goodbye to the Possum.

I've never made any attempt to hide the fact that Country music isn't my favorite kind of music. However, from my earliest years I had a strong appreciation of the "hillbilly" music of my Daddy's day. He was older than most of the Dad's of my peers (he was 43 when I was born), so his link to Country music was through Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, and especially Hank Williams. He had a double set of Williams' biggest hits, and I can remember playing those albums, impressed by the total honesty and accessibility, yet poetic lyrics of the man. Although my tastes ran mostly to rock, the Country artists of the day impressed me for the same reason, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and especially Dolly Parton.

Watching the funeral I was reminded of how small and close knit this family of Nashville artists are. There is not a genre today that has such a family-like closeness. Much of that has to do with the fact that the vast majority of popular Country music historically has come from one city. That closeness also is felt by all who call Nashville home. Even if you are not a fan of Country music, there is a sense of pride by those who have "made it". At the same time the city is used to it enough to where many artists and stars have made this town their own because there is no fuss over them. It's not unusual to have lunch at the local Mexican restaurant with George and Nancy (which my wife and I have several times), or to go to the movies and be sitting next to Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman (we've done that as well).

George was different, but similar. His long time roots here not only made him an institution, but his story of redemption has also endeared him even more to the city. He never hesitated to give credit to his beloved wife Nancy for saving his life which allowed for a well deserved victory lap as the grand patriarch and standard bearer for "traditional" Country, and also made for some epic music. He wasn't afraid to mix it up with the newer generation as he became close friends to those in the New Traditionalist movement, such as Alan Jackson, Randy Travis and Garth Brooks. As that group moved aside for the likes of Brad Paisley and Kid Rock, he was willing to write and record with them as well.

So now he's gone, and there are very few from his generation still alive. Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton came several years after George. Willie Nelson is just a year younger, but he is as much a citizen of the world and a product of Austin Texas as to any real ties to Nashville. Watching the funeral Thursday reminds me of that thread of traditional country that still pervades in the genre, also it's not quite as easy to hear because of the strangulation caused by what is today's country radio. My hopes are raised though when you go on the streets of Broadway here in Nashville and not only hear the cover bands play George Jones, but when you slowly hear a return to the kind of songwriting that has more to do with heartbreak, and the joys and sorrows of life than partying on a dirt road or the sexiness of someone's tractor. When that happens, I may just start listening to Country music all over again.

In case you missed are some headlines from the past week in Rock and Roll.

Rick Dees, the late “Tennessee” Ernie Ford and Rufus Thomas, the late Dewey Phillips (the first DJ to play Elvis Presley) and Elvis’ “Memphis Mafia” buddy, George Klein are being inducted Saturday (May 4) into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame in ceremonies in Murfreesboro TN. 

It's been learned that Don Shirley, best-known for his 1961 #40 pop instrumental, "Water Boy," died of complications from heart disease April 6 at his home in Manhattan. The Jamaican-born pianist was 86.

Jeff Hannerman of Slayer Dead at 49:

Bob Weir, 'Unable to Perform in Any Capacity' Further Band Cancels Show:

Lou Gramm says he may reunite with Foreigner for Fairwell Tour:

O' Jays Sue Crown Royal for $1Million:

The Monkees reveal U.S. Summer Tour Dates:

Doors' John Densmore Speaks On Feud With Former Band Mates:

Fleetwood Mac Releases First New Music in a Decade:

Don Henley Calls New Album, 'A Record For Grown Ups':

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts headed back on the road:

Cheap Trick Celebrate at Budokan:

KISS add U.S. Dates to North America:


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Glenn Frey--The Heat Is On (1984)

     Glenn Frey was having a solid career as a solo artist by 1984. Perhaps not to the level of The Eagles, his previous group, but three top 40 hits gave promise to a brighter future. From his late teens, the Detroit native had been at first been in a succession of local groups,  even singing backing vocals on the Bob Seger System's, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" in 1968. Thinking that his future was not going to be in his hometown, he went to California and shortly teamed up with J.D. Souther, a fellow Detroit native and soon formed the group, "Longbranch Pennywhistle". Looking back now, the group looked like a potential who's who of great musicians. Doug Kershaw Ry Cooder, James Burton, Larry Knechtel, and Joe Osbourn.
     The group had no promotion at all, but the connections within the band and in their gigging throughout California would serve Frey well, as he would come into contact with Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. When the band finally folded, Ronstadt contacted him about playing in her backup band to support her nationwide tour in 1971. The band also consisted of Don Henley, Randy Mesiner, and Bernie Leadon. It wasn't long before the four chose to go on their own. It was thought in the music community that Leadon and Mesiner would be the leaders of this group since both had experience with name musicians, however it didn't take long for Henley and Frey to share songwriting duties and take leadership of the band called the Eagles.
     The Eagles is arguably the most popular American band in the 70's. (Fleetwood Mac was 2/5ths American), but as time went on the friction between the members, especially the principal songwriters became too much and they went their separate ways in 1982. Frey's first solo album, "No Fun Allowed" produced two top 40 this, and "The Allnighter" continued the momentum it a song from the movie, "Beverly Hills Cop" to send him into the top 10.
     The song written by Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey, the song was one of five singles off of the soundtrack and contributed to the 80's being considered THE decade for pop hits.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Free--All Right Now (1970)

     The group Free came together in April of 1968, with all four band members being under the age of 20. Bass player Andy Frasier was only 15, guitarist Paul Kossoff 17, and lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke coming in at 18. Despite this, all four members had experience in other bands. After six months, the group produced it's first album, "Tons of Sobs" which actually saw some action in the US charts, but none in the UK.
     Their third release however, "Fire and Water" was an excellent album, containing, "All Right Now", but a solid recording besides. It looked as though the band was primed for word wide success. It was not to be however as the group broke up in 1971 after a a follow up album that wasn't nearly as good, and a grueling tour. There was a period of time after following other projects, the original group again reformed and recorded another album, but Frasier left the band for good, and Kossoff was very inconsistent because of his ongoing struggle with heroin addiction.
     Kossoff would later form the group "Back Street Crawler" until his death from a drug induced heart attack. Frasier would be in several bands with limited success. Rodgers and Kirke would later form Bad Company who would dominate US radio in the late 70s.