In 1977 former Neu guitarist Michael Rother released his debut solo album, Flammende Herzen (Flaming Hearts). Rother is joined by Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit with former Neu producer Conny Plank at the helm. I should think Neu fans would love this album: soaring guitars and motorik beats to keep you between the fog lines as you race down the autobahn in your mind.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
On April 29, 1977 The Jam released its debut single "In the City" b/w "Takin' My Love". It would be the first of 18 consecutive singles to enter the UK Top 40, peaking at #40 as a matter of fact. A wordy Tony Wilson presents The Jam below:
In the same way The Ramones sped up The Beach Boys and garage rock sounds of the 60's , The Jam sped up the mod rock sounds of The Who, Small Faces and The Kinks. Watch below as The Jam race through the B side "Takin My Love".
Friday, April 28, 2017
In 1977 veteran jazz drummer and converted muslim Idris Muhammad released Turn This Mutha Out, a jazz/funk/disco album featuring both the funky title cut and the sublime disco hit "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This". It was tough choosing which one of those I should feature, but in recent years "Heaven" has been sampled by the likes of Drake, Jamie XX and Chrome Sparks.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
"What are songs but exercises in solitude"
In April of 1977 Van Der Graaf Generator frontman Peter Hammill released Over, an excruciating, enigmatic and very emotional album about the end of a relationship. Believe me, this is the last guy you want to hear complaining about some broad. We've all had our hearts broken, but most of us avoid caterwauling about it.
Hammill described Over to NME thusly :
"It's 75% love songs, end or ending in some way or another. I can't really talk about it."
The album ranks #37 in 1977 among the RateYourMusic crowd, made up of a lot of prog heads to begin with. ( That's ahead of Blank Generation, Damned Damned Damned and Rattus Norvegicus) But more than a few of this album's fans swear Over got them through some bad days.
Here's just one example from someone who was 15 when he found the album:
I was in a very minor relationship with a girl who, at the time, I thought was immensely special. I was naive enough to believe that I'd spend my life with her. Funny, isn't it? Not even a legal adult, and I'm thinking that far into the future. Looking back on that, I literally laugh out loud at how ridiculous I was. At the time, though, laughing was the very last thing that I would do. Luckily for me, I had Hammill to get me through it. Peter Hammill is probably the one and only savior of my personal and overall well-being, and I say this because at the time of my instability, I had numerous battles with suicide. Upon the news that it was over, I asked to be admitted to a psychiatric ward. Yes, I was that taken aback by what happened, and remember: 16. Actually, when it happened, I was 15. My 16th birthday was three days after it ended.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
On April 26, 1977, three days before the release of their first single, The Jam performed four songs for John Peel's BBC sessions .They led with the new single, the future UK Top 40 hit "In The City", followed by a song many in the band believed would be the next single, "Art School". The next tune is "I Changed My Address". All three came from the debut album. They rounded up the set with "The Modern World", another UK Top 40 hit, from their second album. ( The Jam had 18 straight UK Top 40 hits so this is not a surprise.)
The Jam may have owed their energy to the punk scene but their sound is pure updated mod rock. "In The City" shares the same lyrical themes as the lead off track to The Who's My Generation, "Out in the Street" and "The Kids Are Alright". They would later cover songs by The Who, The Kinks and Small Faces.
at 8:55 AM
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
On April 25, 1977 The Adverts, an English punk band, recorded the first of four sessions for John Peel's BBC sessions. They led the set with B side "Quickstep", featuring punk icon Gaye Advert on bass. The next song was future U.K. Top 20 hit "Gary Gilmore's Eyes", followed by their new Stiff Records single debut "One Chord Wonders" ( the first single Ian Brown of Stone Roses claims to have purchased). "New Boys" and "Bored Teenagers" ( soon featured on the Live at the Roxy album) wrapped up the set. It has been just four months since their first rehearsal.
"You forget how completely poor you were in those days", Gaye Advert tells John Robb in Punk Rock: An Oral History. "If we walked we could afford one beer. If we took the tube we could not afford a beer-that's how it was. We were still poor even after the hit. I had one pair of jeans, with a monthly trip to the laundrette!"
at 8:46 AM
Monday, April 24, 2017
On April 24, 1977 Piero Umiliani's original 1968 version of "Mah Na Mah Na" entered the UK charts, thanks to a performance on The Muppet Show. It would peak at #8. The song was originally written for a Swedish sex-ploitation documentary called Sweden, Heaven and Hell.
The original version charted in the US in 1968. In 1969 Sesame Street used their own version of "Mah Na Mah Na" in a skit
The Muppet Show revisited the skit on the program's first episode in 1976.
Things quickly got weird
Since then, there have been countless versions of the song...
All used for comedic effect...
As recently as last year.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
On April 23, 1977 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed a live set at the Record Plant in Sausalito, CA broadcast by WXRT-FM. The band opened with two songs many fans still don't know: "Surrender" and the Chuck Berry cover "Jaguar and Thunderbird". Al Kooper would join them later in the show to add keyboards to "Listen To Her Heart", "I Need to Know" and a few others.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were working hard to get their debut record played in the U.S. To little effect. In the summer the band would storm the U.K., gracing the cover of music magazines and appearing on TV shows. Suddenly TP and the Heartbreakers would be a happening band.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
On April 22, 1977 NBC broadcast an all star jam that broke out on The Midnight Special, hosted by George Benson. The song was "Moondance" and featured solos by Carlos Santana, George Benson, Dr John, Tom Scott and Etta James. Another impromptu duet of "Misty" combined the talents of George Benson and Van Morrison. Santana and Benson also traded solos on Benson's hit "Breezin'"
Also on this date: The best punk band in the world, The Saints, released their "Erotic Neurotic" single b/w "One Way Street".
Friday, April 21, 2017
With Bruce Springsteen tied up in a lawsuit against his former manager Mike Appel, the E Street Band had enough time on their hands to record this Billy Joel cover with the former lead singer of The Ronettes, Teen Queen Ronnie Spector. Miami Steve Van Zandt produced the single and wrote the B side.
"Steve is the first guy since Phil that knows my voice and knows how to handle me," Ronnie said. "And it's amazing, because I never thought anybody could capture my particular sound on record again like Phil did, in the same way. But Steve did!"
The single should have been a hit, but wasn't.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
On April 20, 1977 Woody Allen released one of my favorite movies of all time. With all the serious Allen films that followed, we forget the oscar winning Annie Hall was his first foray into something more than absurd humor. Allen said he "had the courage to abandon ... just clowning around and the safety of complete broad comedy. I said to myself, 'I think I will try and make some deeper film and not be as funny in the same way. And maybe there will be other values that will emerge, that will be interesting or nourishing for the audience.'"
The film also marks the acting debut of Paul Simon, still smarting from the way his former partner had become a sex symbol after starring in Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge. Simon plays record producer Tony Lacey, who wears a silver coke spoon around his neck.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
On April 19, 1977 Alex Chilton returned to the Ocean Club for a show that featured Big Star tunes, a few new songs , and some interesting covers including Colin Blumstone's "I Don't Believe in Miracles" and The Modern Lovers's "Government Center".
There was another new song, "The Summer Sun", from bassist and future dB Chris Stamey. Earlier in April, Chilton produced Stamey's single for Ork at a studio that charged $5 and hour in Wallingford, Connecticut. Chilton played drums, a little guitar and supplied backing vocals.
By now Chilton has run out of money. He was hoping Elektra Records would sign him, and in the Summer he recorded a demo that included "My Rival" which was financed by the label. But Elektra never signed Alex, who would be virtually homeless by year's end.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
With Get It, released in April of 1977, Dave Edmunds kicks into a high gear he would sustain with the help of former Brinsely Schwarz bassist Nick Lowe over three straight albums of straight-forward, rockabilly rooted music. Eventually Edmunds and Lowe would form a rocking band called Rockpile, which would play on both of their solo albums before releasing its own debut.
Recorded for Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label, Get It, like many of Edmunds classic albums, is made up mostly of covers. That's something Robert Christgau pointed out in his B+ review:
In which Edmunds convenes the Monmouth Rockabilly Seminar, featuring source material both standard (Hank Williams, Otis Blackwell, Arthur Crudup) and arcane (Rodgers and Hart), recent research by Bob Seger and Graham Parker, and new monographs from Nicholas Lowe and Edmunds himself. Great stuff, although studious detachment don't necessarily do it proud.
Dave is another musician who contributes frequently to his Facebook page. You'll find links to his most recent interviews, in which he calmly answers the same questions over and over again about song Bruce Springsteen gave him ,"From Small Things (Big Thing One Day Come)", and the success of The Stray Cats whom he first produced.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Here's a real treat for you! On April 17, 1977 the UK band Metro made its television debut by performing one of the year's most memorable singles, "Criminal World", on the German program Hits A GoGo. Metro was made up of Peter Godwin (who is very engaging on his Facebook page), Sean Lyons and Duncan Browne, whose "My Old Friends" was one of my favorite discoveries a few years back when I was immersed in the music of 1973.
The song has a dark mysterious sexual air around it and sounds at least five years ahead of its time. Godwin said the lyrics (the boys are like baby faced girls/ the girls are like baby faced boys) are a satire of David Bowie's gender bending songs. Bowie did an upbeat cover of the song on 1983's Nile Rodgers produced Let's Dance. As for the look, Godwin says it was inspired by the 1970 French movie "Borsalino" with Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo.
|A still from Borsalino|
Here's what I wrote a few years ago about Browne's album.
With gorgeous melodies from the classically trained guitarist, Duncan Browne features the 1972 UK #23 hit "Journey". Love Nick Drake but want something less dour for your Sunday mornings? Try this fetching collection. One of 1973's gems.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
This week in April of 1977, soul singer Joe Tex returned to the U.K. Top 40 with the disco hit "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)". Thanks in part to a playful performance on Top of the Pops, the song would peak at #2 the week of May 22, held off from from the top spot by Rod Stewart's double A-side "I Don't Want to Talk About It"/"The First Cut is the Deepest". Tex also revisited the Top 40 in the United States, peaking at #12 on the pop charts. This would be the last hit for Joe Tex before his death in 1982 at the age of 47.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
On April 15, 1977 The Stranglers released their debut album Rattus Norvegicus, named after the brown rat or wharf rat mistakenly believed to have spread the bubonic plague. The Stranglers were more interested in spreading their keyboard driven form of misogynistic punk rock, updating The Doors sound if Jim Morrison had a juvenile sense of humor. After all, what else could "Get a Grip On Yourself" be about other than masturbation?
Some of the critics had a hard time embracing the band. While the NME proclaimed "virtually every track is a little masterpiece", Sound Magazine's Chas de Whalley said the debut sounded 'like a force nine gail of bad breath'.
But perhaps the critics missed the point. Maybe The Stranglers were making funny of the men who gamboled on the beaches, looking at the curvaceous women, hoping to see one falling out of her Clitares ( supposedly the name of a french bathing suit though it sounds like something else). And in "Hanging Around", they seem to be commenting on the life of a closeted gay man, hanging around at a leather club called The Coleherne Arms public house ?
Yes The Stranglers are uncouth but I love the meaty bass lines from karate expert J.J. Burnel and most of the swirling keyboard lines from Dave Greenfield. Drummer Jet Black, already 39 in 1977, has a great name and Hugh Cornwell is the man with the gonads to sing these songs. It paid off. Rattus Norvegicus peaked at #4 on the UK album charts.
Friday, April 14, 2017
The most traditional rockers of the CBGBs set, Mink DeVille released its self-titled album ( also known as Cabretta) in the Spring of 1977. Critics caught on quickly, relishing the band's obvious influences which ranged from the Rolling Stones to Lou Reed. Rolling Stone critic John Milward wrote:
Mink Deville shoots for the groin, and given time to more thoroughly digest influences, the group could be a killer.
"Spanish Stroll", the Lou Reed soundalike, was a Top 20 hit in the UK ( and went #3 in The Netherlands). That's bassist Rubén Sigüenza breaking out the Spanish tongue to sask his lady where she's going with his car: "¡Hey Rosita! ¿Dónde vas con mi carro, Rosita? Tú sabes que te quiero, pero tú me quitas todo".
Thursday, April 13, 2017
In April of 1977 Van Morrison returned from a three year absence with A Period of Transition, an album that underwhelmed critics. He had spent the past three years, newly divorced from Janet Planet, in Belfast and California. Four times he tried to record an album, including one with the jazz-funk band the Crusaders. Late in 1976, he found his way to the stage for The Last Waltz before finally recording this album with Dr John playing piano and producing.
Asked by Cameron Crowe if the past three years has been his "period of transition", Morrison answered "All of that. It's been going on for about three years ...it's like, there's been lots of highs and there's been depressions... there's been starts and stops...it's just a period, you know."
The album lacks energy and spontaneity. Its best moment is "Flamingos Fly", a Morrison song Jackie DeShannon has recorded four years earlier. "Joyous Sound" is also classic Van. But if Morrison was expected to reply to the challenges from all the "new Vans" out there ( Springsteen, Graham Parker and a new kid named Elvis Costello), this can't be seen as anything less more than a disappointment.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
On April 12, 1977 The Boys released their debut single, "I Don't Care". Members of The Boys included Matt Dangerfield and Casino Steel, both members of London SS with The Clash's Mick Jones. The Boys made their live debut at London’s Hope and Anchor in October 1976. Mick Jones, Billy Idol, Joe Strummer, Tony James and Gene October were in attendance for The Boys first performance. A mere handful of gigs later, they became the first UK punk band to sign an album deal when NEMS Records snapped them up in January 1977. At the time they were the only UK punk band to have a record deal. The Boys toured with John Cale in support of the single, a brash blast of punk highlighted by a call and response. The debut album came out in September and is considered one of the most melodic of 1977's punk debuts.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
On April 11, 1977 The Beach Boys released The Beach Boys Love You, an album some fans consider a masterpiece because it marks the return of a drug addled, almost child-like Brian Wilson into the fold. Wilson wrote 11 of the 14 songs here. The result is fascinating, disappointing, disturbing and so heavily reliant on keyboards, it has been called the first ever electro pop album.
In his 2016 autobiography, Brian Wilson writes
I was able to use the studio again the way I used it with Pet Sounds, and I wrote some songs that were about how I felt in my thirties , the same way that Pet Sounds was about how I felt in my twenties. I wanted to make a record to help everyone around me feel better.
He also writes about using synthesizer bass lines, using an ARP and a Moog synthesizer ( which you can hear to full effect on "I'll Bet He's Nice").
The way it is on Love You, it's an amazing machine bass sound that just pulls the whole song into it. It's like an undertow. Those were some of the best bass lines I ever wrote.
Many critics were baffled, but Robert Christgau immediately announced his love for the album :
Painfully crackpot and painfully sung, but also inspired, not least because it calls forth forbidden emotions. For a surrogate teenager to bare his growing pains so guilelessly was exciting, or at least charming; for an avowed adult to expose an almost childish naivete is embarrassing, but also cathartic; and for a rock and roll hero to compose a verbally and musically irresistible paean to Johnny Carson is an act of shamanism pure and simple. As with Wild Honey, the music sounds wrong in contradictory ways at first--both arty and cute, spare and smarmy--but on almost every cut it comes together soon enough; I am especially partial to the organ textures, and I find the absurd little astrology ditty, "Solar System," impossible to shake. As for the words, well, they're often pretty silly, but even (especially) when they're designed to appeal to whatever Brian imagines to be the rock audience they reveal a lot more about the artist than most lyrics do. And this artist is a very interesting case. A
Rolling Stone's Billy Altman said the lyrics were often weak but the arrangements made The Beach Boys Love You a "truly wonderful album":
Musically, though, it's an arresting tour de force. The song opens with a piano playing a blues line with chain-gang overtones. Then the organ and synthesizer move in, accompanied by Dennis Wilson's spare snare drum, and near the end, a brief, taut organ interlude of short chords is accented by three short snare shots. It's simply masterful, in the unassuming way of Smiley Smile and Friends.
There are rockers here: "Roller Skating Child," with a great lead guitar moving behind the three-part singing; "Honkin' Down the Highway" is Jardine's best vocal since "Help Me Rhonda"; "Mona" is two minutes of sheer joy, as Brian sings of his love for Phil Spector and his own version of the wall of sound carries you up and away. There are some beautiful love songs as well: "The Night Was So Young," with that Pet Sounds post-surf guitar off in the background; "I'll Bet He's Nice," with excellent use of synthesizer and Carl's soulful singing in the middle of the track; and "I Wanna Pick You Up," which has everything from an uncharacteristic chorus sung in unison to a five-part a cappella harmony ending.
The Beach Boys Love You is reminiscent of many other Beach Boys albums. Like the best of them, it's flawed but enjoyable. Brian Wilson still isn't singing as well as he used to, but his playing and composing talents have certainly returned from wherever they've been the past few years. Considering what he's been through, it's some accomplishment. Next time, Brian, let's get together and do it again. Okay?
Billboard's review was also positive:
The second Beach Boys album since Brian Wilson's return to musical creativity is something of a return to square one, in the most positive sense of the phrase. Without any overt surfing or auto racing songs, this LP brings back the direct, almost childlike naturalness of the quintet in its classic early period before it tried to get as significant and meaningful as all of the other major groups passing through the tail-end of psychedelic rock. The album provides no less than 14 short, cheerful songs of bouncy love or other good experiences, such as watching the host of the "Tonight Show" do his thing or playing with a baby. The basic rhythm tracks tend towards chugging keyboard/guitar figures that are as irresistible as they are unpretentious. The lyrics may not win any prizes for cleverness or profundity but the chirpy melodies and angelic vocal harmonies make their own in-depth statements. Welcome back, Brian.
The Beach Boys Love You peaked at #53 on the Billboard album charts and finished #28 in the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop Critics Poll. R.E.M.'s Peter Buck is said to always pick up a copy of the album when he sees it to give to a friend. Clearly it's a cult album of the highest order. There isn't much to praise after this one. The Beach Boys became a full time nostalgia act and are the richer for it I suppose. What almost nobody expected was the exceptional release to come from drummer Dennis Wilson later in the year.
Monday, April 10, 2017
In April of 1977, a true curiosity entered UK record stores, a track by track easy listening remake of Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram as performed by a big band orchestra. Why would anyone make such an album? The answer lies in who made the album. Paul McCartney himself.
Recorded in June of 1971, the album is the result of three days McCartney spent in the studio with session players and arranger Richard Hewson, who was responsible for arranging the strings Phil Spector added to "The Long and Winding Road". Ironic because McCartney hated the arrangement.
When McCartney started Wings, he lost interest in the Thrillington recording, which wouldn't see light of day until its release April 29. 1977.
The album came out with mysterious liner notes suggesting Percy Thrillington was a well traveled, extremely wealthy band leader. Sounds like McCartney to me. And there was a further hint.
The art work on the back cover revealed McCartney's reflection. Still it would be many more years before McCartney would confess his role.
In the meantime, record buyers who picked up the album had a collectors item on their hands.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
On April 9, 1977 NME published an article with the headline "WILKO EXITS FEELGOODS". The band's songwriter, guitarist and main focal point busted up the band following a disagreement about what songs should be on the Sneakin' Suspicion album. The title track of the Top 10 album, released in May of 1977, reached number 47 in the UK charts.
Dr Feelgood would continue without Johnson ( and score a Top 10 hit with "Milk and Alcohol" in 1979). Johnson would start his own band, Solid Senders, and play on the hit album Hope and Anchor Front Row Festival compilation as The Wilko Johnson Band before joining Ian Dury and the Blockheads for one album, Laughter.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
The U.K. version of The Clash is the greatest rock and roll album ever manufactured anywhere partly because of its innocence is of a piece -- it never stops snarling, it's always threatening to blow up in your face.
On April 8, 1977 The Clash released their debut album in the UK, considered by many to be the greatest punk album ever released. American audiences had to wait until 1979 before CBS Records released a modified version of the album which exchanged some album cuts for mostly singles.
The MOJO Collection has a review that mentions how the receptionist at CBS Studios mistook the band for workmen because of their paint splattered clothes and that none of the group liked to be the first to arrive so each member would check in and then leave for an hour or two.
From this muddle of inexperience, ideological posturing and amphetamine overload, a magnificent record somehow emerged, one which distilled punk rock's intoxicating brew of anger, boredom and excitement better than any other.
Here's what Rolling Stone wrote in an issue proclaiming the album the 77th greatest in rock history :
Friday, April 7, 2017
In 1977, Mardi Gras Records released the ultimate Mardi Gras compilation, Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide gave this album five stars. You get three tracks from Professor Longhair, four from the Wild Magnolias and a host of others from the Crescent City's finest. Essential.
at 7:07 PM
Thursday, April 6, 2017
In April of 1977, 10cc--now reduced to a duo consisting of the two less eccentric songwriters Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman-- released Deceptive Bends. Stewart especially felt the duo had a lot to prove.
"I had a big challenge ahead of me to prove to the record world that we were not just 5cc, as some of the British media had graciously called us. The music was simpler than some of the previous 10cc albums, it was far more direct, streamlined and positive. The whole album was recorded very (in our terms) quickly. I was on a mission, and flying higher and faster than I had ever been before, and I knew by then that we had a very strong album. The new songs played a big part in the equation of course, I was out to prove also that we could write a hit album without Kevin and Lol ... we did!"
Graham Gouldman told Quietus:
"We were very, very proud of that album, because we felt people would go, "Yeah, right, you've had it now, the creative force has gone," which is ridiculous, but there were things like that going around.
Here's famed album artist Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis discussing the album cover for Deceptive Bends with Gouldman.
For me Deceptive Bends was all part of a great run. I got the album during a period in high school when I considered 10cc my favorite band. I had picked up a copy of How Dare You quite by accident and listened with obsession. I enjoyed "Art for Art's Sake" and Cleverness for the sake of Cleverness.
I think Bloody Tourists was the next album I picked up. I spent the rest of the time filling in the blanks. I even bought the live album Live and Let Live. To this day I'm not sure how to pronounce the title of that one.
I've always been a fan of the well written pop song. Today I see this as a lesser album. I'd rank it behind How Dare You, Bloody Tourists and Sheet Music ( which I found at Woolworth's for $2.99)
"Feel the Benefit" is the epic art rocker and the band's longest studio recording, while "I Bought A Flat Guitar Tutor" is the curiosity. A song in which the lyrics name the chord that is being played. Very tricky, 10cc.
flat = A Flat major (A♭ C E♭) [A flat]
diminished = A Flat diminished (A♭ Cb E♭♭)
Responsibility (responsibilitE)= E Major (E G♯ B)
You're de ninth = D9 (D F♯ A C E)
Person to see = C Major (C E G)
To be suspended = Bsus4 (B E F♯)
in a seventh = A7 (A C♯ E G) [a seventh]
major catastro- = A Major 7th (A C♯ E G♯)
phe = E major (E G# B)
It's a minor = A minor (A C E)
point, but Gee = G major (G B D) [but gee,]
Augmented = G augmented (G B D♯) [Gee, augmented]
by the sharpness of your = G sharp augmented (G♯ B♯ D♯♯)
See what I'm going through (C#) = C# Major A (A) =
A Major to be (B) = B Major (B D♯ F♯)
with you E major (E G# B)
in a = A Major [in a] flat =
A flat by the sea =
C Major,, C Major7,, C 7,, C & ad g
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
In April of 1977, Cat Stevens released his Top 10 album Izitso. While the US Top 40 single "(Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard" is the best known song from the album, the far more interesting track is the bizarre instrumental "Was Dog a Doughnut", one of the first electro, or techno-pop, songs ever recorded. Ask a musical friend to name the famous 70's singer songwriter who recorded this track and chances are you'll stump them.
That is, unless your pal is Questlove. He got a chance to talk to Stevens when he performed on the Jimmy Fallon Show in 2009.