In August of 1977, Ry Cooder released Show Time, a musical memento of his Chicken Skin Music tour with accordion player Flaco Jimenez and three gospel singers who really shine on "Jesus on the Mainline". We're hearing peak Ry Cooder here and yet it wasn't until this year that I even knew there was a live album from this era. Sometimes you just have to feel blessed we live in the CD age, I guess.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
On August 30, 1977 Barry White released his comeback album the R and B chart topper Barry White Sings for Someone You Love which featured "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me" which held on to the #1 position on the R and B charts for the entire month of October. The song was one of the few hits he didn't write. That credit goes to Ekundayo Paris and Nelson Pigford . If Barry hadn't recorded the si g it would have come across as pure parody.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
In 1977 soul singer O.V. Wright released Into Something (Can't Shake Loose), produced by Hi Records's Willie Mitchell. This is some seriously Southern fried soul. If you've seen the name and wondered where to start, here's the album you want to add to your collection. Among the cuts is a thirteen minute Side Two medley of "God Blessed Our Love" ( which I had first heard on Al Green Explores Your Mind) + Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves a Woman" + a re-visit to Wright's modest 1964 hit "That's How Strong My Love Is".
Monday, August 28, 2017
The death of Elvis Presley may have left Americans all shook up, but the impact of the King's death had almost no impact on the pop charts where the last single during his lifetime, "Way Down", which stalled at #31, now bounced from #53 back up to #35 . This time "Way Down" would peak at #18.
Compare that to the UK charts where "Way Down" immediately took the #1 spot and was followed with seven more singles making a reappearance on the UK charts:
1. Way Down
39. It's Now or Never
41. All Shook Up
43. Crying in the Chapel
44. Jailhouse Rock
46. Are You Lonesome Tonight
48. The Wonder of You
50. Return to Sender
Sunday, August 27, 2017
For all the easy listening contributions Lionel Richie made to The Commodores, that band's signature tune "Brick House" emerged from a jam started by bass player Ronald LaPread and sung by drummer Walter "Clyde" Orange. On the week ending August 27, 1977 "Brick House" entered the U.S. Billboard charts at #72. The song would peak at #5 in November.
So what kind of a lady is a Brick House? Trumpet player William King , whose wife wrote the lyrics after he brought tapes of the jam home, says "Oh, it's about any girl. A girl that's strong. The whole idea was a brick house is any guy's imagination of his girl. Some guys like them tall, some guys like them short. Some guys like a little meat on the body, others like them slim. Some like them top-heavy, some like legs. It's all about what he perceives to be the girl of his dreams. That's what a brick house is."
Saturday, August 26, 2017
I go through jazz phases but it's rare that my pop loving ears can sit through minutes of dissonance. And yet, here we go. Dancing In Your Head just may be the punkiest punk record of 1977. The first thing you hear is some funky electric guitar from Bern Nix and Charlie Ellerbee. There's the bass from Rudy McDowell and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. This is Ornette Coleman's new supporting band, Prime Time, at work. Before you can tap a foot, twelve seconds in, here comes Ornette blasting away with this playground taunt of a tune. It's a bit extreme and not welcome in the car when my wife is sitting next to me.
Interesting to note Wire Magazine listed Dancing In Your Head among the "100 Records That Set The World On Fire (While No One Was Listening)".
Robert Chritsgau gave the album an A to what would be the first jazz album to ever make the final list of the Pazz and Jop Critics poll, finishing #15 ahead of David Bowie's Heroes and Peter Gabriel's debut. Christgau writing:
Some may have hoped the greatest saxophone player alive would go the Weather Report route on his first small-group record since 1971, but I'm reminded more of the programmed synthesizers of Eno and Philip Glass. Basically, the record consists of charged repetitions of one motif from Coleman's symphony, Skies of America. The difference is that where most such music aims for a hypnotic effect, Coleman wants more: a sustained and formally satisfying version of the kind of galvanic intensity John McLaughlin used to create at climatic moments. He gets it, too.
Friday, August 25, 2017
On August 25, 1977 Stiff Records released Wreckless Eric's debut single "The Whole Wide World", a song that had already been featured on A Bunch of Stiff Records.
On October 13, 1976, two days after he dropped off a cassette of demos, 22 year old "Wreckless" Eric Goulden got called back to Stiff Records to sign a contract reportedly in the two figure range. Among the songs recorded at home is "The Whole Wide World", written with just two chords in 1974, and eventually recorded with Nick Lowe on guitar and bass and Rumour drummer Steve Goulding on the skins. Released as a single in 1977, "The Whole Wide World" would rank number 8 in the Sounds critics' singles of the year and receive an 'honourable mention' in the NME critics' chart.
Thursday, August 24, 2017
On the seedy side of Houston you could walk into the "Old Quarter" and see blues artists like Lightnin' Hopkins or cowboy singers like Jerry Jeff Walker. For five consecutive nights in July of 1973, a skinny songwriter , six albums deep in his career, got up on stage with just his acoustic guitar and sang his heart out. You'd never know by the quiet of the room that hundreds of people were packed should to shoulder listening to classics like "Pancho and Lefty" and "If I Needed You". Sitting in a corner, manning a four track portable tape recorder was Earl Willis. The result, released in 1977, is an intimate album, the perfect setting for the stark songs of Townes Van Zandt. The "rosetta stone" of Texas music according to the liner notes.
Van Zandt wasn't always this lucid. He had suffered from manic depression and was treated with insulin shock therapy. The treatment damaged his long tern memory and when he drank, which was often, he had all kinds of problems. He sang in such a sad way he would diminish the pretty melodies he created.
Of course he had his fans. Steve Earle famously called Van Zandt "the best songwriter in the whole wide world, and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that." Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes told Van Zandt biographer John Kruth that he'd been given a copy of the album by Mark Olson of the Jayhawks and that the record "really spoke to me. I listened to it constantly while on a tour of Europe. In rock and roll people tend to forget about the importance of songwriting. Townes really inspired me to become a better songwriter. That motherfucker had his antennas up."
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
In 1977 the Jamaican roots reggae band Culture released their debut album, a worldwide hit called Two Sevens Clash. The Clash were big fans of the album, and not just because of its name. Reggae had become a favorite form of music for punk artists from John Lydon to Joe Strummer to Ari Upp of the Slits.
The album is named for its title cut, a prophecy of doom which might make you wonder whether the album is going to be any fun. After all, the apocalypse doesn't really seem to mix with easy skanking.
The liner notes read:
But what I wanted to say is --despite all the doom and gloom in the title cut--Two Sevens Clash is full of joy. A must own album for any reggae fan.
The legendary rock critic Robert Christgau agrees, giving the album an A+ rating:
Previously U.S.-available only as an import if at all, this even more than early Spear is the wellspring of the roots apocalypse that detonated the lion's share of great late reggae. Imagine a man from the hills sitting on a bus in Kingston and possessed by a vision: 1977, the year of the beast, the two sevens come down in all their numerological fury. No wonder every catchphrase sounds like God's word: this is where the Black Starliner and calling Rastafari became the moon-June-spoon of a music industry. The melodies are indelible, the rhythms early Drumbar, the ululations Winston Rodney gone all childlike and lyrical, at least seven tracks absolute classics. One of the ten best reggae albums ever made, says Shanachie's Randall Grass, but he has to watch his credibility. Bob Marley aside, it's the best, and I've been putting Bob Marley aside for it since 1977.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
In August of 1977, Dennis Wilson released his first and only solo album, the critically-acclaimed Pacific Ocean Blue.
Over the years its status has grown, but right out of the gate Rolling Stone critic Billy Altman had nothing but praise :
Wilson's style, both in terms of singing and songwriting, is unique. His voice somehow manages to be both rough and fragile at the same time, making his vocals strangely powerful and moving. As a songwriter, his strong suit is the ballad, and though the tunes are often little more than fragments, they have a way of taking hold of your emotions. "Farewell My Friend" and "Thoughts of You" demonstrate the intensity of Wilson's songs, although both avoid the verse/chorus/bridge structure of most pop songs. And even on such uptempo numbers as the title track and "Friday Night," there's a sensitivity and vulnerability that is almost irresistible.
To his credit, Wilson did not gather a carload of familiar names to make it through this project -- none of the other original Beach Boys appears here.*Nor did he attempt to mimic the Beach Boys' sound. Yes, there are certain Beach Boy touches here and there, especially in the complex vocal arrangements: "Thoughts of You" has a passage that seems right out of Surf's Up, and "You and I" could easily have been part of Friends. But on the whole, Pacific Ocean Blue is a distinctly personal statement and reveals Dennis Wilson to be a talented and gifted performer in his own right.
*Some of the other Beach Boys actually did contribute. Carl helped write "River Song" and Mike Love helped with the title cut. Carl, Bruce Johnston and Ricky Fataar also played on one or more songs.
In his autobiography I Am Brian Wilson, Dennis's big brother wrote about the album:
Monday, August 21, 2017
On August 21, 1977 Jean Michel Jarre's year old "Oxygene, Part IV" entered the U.K. charts at #22 during a summer the Brits were enthralled with spacey synthesizer songs ( like "Magic Fly" by Space and "Fanfare For the Common Man" By Emerson, Lake and Palmer). Jarre's single would peak at #$ and help the frenchman sell 15 million copies. In 1978 Jarre married the actress Charlotte Rampling.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Guest Post By Donald John Trump :
I want to APPLAUD the very talented Alan Parsons Project for this song. It was great! We love you Alan. Thank you.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
In August of 1977, EMI signed Tom Robinson Band, waiting until Ray Davies released the "prince of the punks" from his Konk recording contract under the agreement that Davies would get 10% of everything Robinson earned over the next two years. Robinson and Davies did not part under the best of circumstances. In "Prince of the Punks", Davies snarls "He acts working class but it's all bologna/He's really middle class and he's just a phony/He acts tough but it's just a front,/He's the prince of the punks. "
It was a heady time for Robinson who would soon have a UK#5 hit called "2-4-6-8 Motorway"
"Within nine months we'd made the transition from signing on at Medina Road dole office to Top of the Pops, Radio One, EMI Records and the giddy heights of the front cover of the New Musical Express".
But there's still some drama awaiting EMI and Robinson who wanted his next single to be the year old "Glad To Be Gay". Was the world ready?
Friday, August 18, 2017
Bob Marley and the Wailers' Exodus may be the best known of the reggae albums to come out of 1977, but Heart of the Congos may be the most beloved. Produced by Lee Perry and featuring the falsetto vocals of Cedric Myton and the tenor tones of Roydel Johnson, Heart of the Congos has finally been recognized as a roots rock masterpiece. The songs are spiritual and mystical and they run twice as long as typical reggae tunes so you may find yourself drifting off into dub-land as they wash over you.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
In the Summer of '77, The London punk band named after England's emergency telephone number released their self-financed debut single "I'm Alive b/w Quite Disappointing". "I'm Alive" remains one of '77's most memorable singles and led to the band's signing with United Artists Records right after The Buzzcocks. Nick Cash sings a bit too much like Pete Shelley. For one reason or another , 999 would remain a second tier punk band. Perhaps because they didn't bring any thing new to the genre...and suspiciously played too well. Imagine how things might have turned out, if 999 agreed to let Chrissie Hynde join the band.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
On August 16, 1977 Elvis Presley, the king of rock'n' roll, died. The stunning news swept around the world where he was worshipped by millions of fans.
I was a 13 year old boy riding with a family friend who was negotiating the streets of San Francisco when we heard about the king's death on the radio. She had to pull over. Her eyes filling with tears.
He had so many fans and yet , after turning "forty and fat", Elvis distanced himself from almost everyone in his life. He died alone in a bathroom in his 23-room mansion, 14-acre estate in Memphis, Tennessee, called Graceland, and is buried there along with his parents and grandmother.
I visited on winter day in 1995 when I stopped in Memphis on the way to a new job in Colorado. There are messages from fans on the stone wall outside Graceland. His gravesite adorned with flowers year round and I even caught a photo of a man who still dresses like Elvis.
By then I was enough of a fan to know what I liked about Elvis : his comeback albums Elvis Is Back! (1961) and From Elvis in Memphis (1969); his gospel album His Hand in Mine (1960) and everything that makes up The Sun Sessions. At his best, Elvis was an incredibly inventive singer, charming, good looking, sexy, and soulful.
Of course he was not at his best in 1977. On stage he was sweating profusely, his prematurely white hair dyed shoe polish black, carrying around several pounds of waste that he couldn't defecate without pain, That's why he died on the toilet in the middle of the night.
On the tenth anniversary of Elvis's death , I wandered the streets of Charleston, South Carolina asking people for their memories. "He loved his mama," one lady said. "Elvis loved his mama".
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
On August 15, 1977 Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope picked up a 72 second transmission that still baffles scientists today... and may be the strongest proof yet of an alien radio transmission. SETI Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman discovered the signal days later, writing "Wow!" on a computer print-out. The Alien Wow Signal has never been heard again.
Monday, August 14, 2017
In the Summer of '77 The Meters released their final album together, the curiously named New Directions. Curious because, if anything, this was a return to the classic Meters sound, after the disco grooves of Trick Bag the year before. New Directions is a mixed bag, but when they get funky ( on tracks like "No More Okey Doke", "Funkify Your Life" and "Give it What you Can ", they capture some of that Rejuvination sound. When New Directions failed to sell, The Meters broke up with Art Neville, Cyril Neville ad Art's brother Aaron forming The Neville Brothers.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
On August 13 1977, two years into his "househusband" period, John Lennon recorded a demo version of a new song called "Free As A Bird". It's a bare bones cassette recording with Lennon accompanying himself on piano in the Dakota. And yet, to me, it has twice the emotional punch as the reunited Beatles (Threetles) version from 1994. Earlier that year, Yoko gave Paul a few demos. She would say later
"I did not break up The Beatles, but I was there at the time, you know? Now I'm in a position where I could bring them back together and I would not want to hinder that. It was kind of a situation given to me by fate. "
Friday, August 11, 2017
In 1977, LA punkers The Zeros released their first single, "Wimp" b/w "Don't Push Me Around", on Bomp Records. Formed in 1976 in Chula Vista, California, just 5 miles north of the Mexican border, the four members attended Chula Vista High and Sweetwater Union High. Soon they were a tight little band playing their first gig in Rosario Beach, a town south of Tijuana. Before long they were regulars on the L.A. punk scene. Among the founding members: Javier Escovedo (younger brother of Alejandro Escovedo) and Robert Lopez (later known as El Vez). They cited The Ramones, New York Dolls and The Standells as influences. Peter Case of The Nerves was an early supporter. It is truly worthwhile to watch their appearance on this San Diego TV Show.
at 8:48 AM
Thursday, August 10, 2017
In August of 1977, the artsy makeup-wearing New Zealand band Split Enz released their third album, the first without co-founding members Phil Judd and Mike Chunn. It was named Dizrythmia, which is another name for "jet lag", something with which the boys must haven been familiar. After all the Kiwi's were recording in England . Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick is the producer. Our hero Neil Finn has now joined the band, bringing the pop sensibilities he shares with brother Tim. No writing credit for Neil yet. The big single is the cabaret-esque "My Mistake", peaking at #15 in Australia and #21 in the band's native New Zealand. The follow-up, though it sounds like it was recorded underwater, is more interesting to my ears.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
On August 9 1977, during a break from recording London Town, Wings recorded "Mull of Kintyre", named after the Scottish peninsula where McCartney has owned a farm since 1966.
"I certainly loved Scotland enough, so I came up with a song about where we were living: an area called Mull of Kintyre," McCartney said. " It was a love song really, about how I enjoyed being there and imagining I was traveling away and wanting to get back there ."
McCartney recorded the guitars outside and brought in the Campbeltown Pipe Band to ply bagpipes. The single would hit #1 over Christmas on its way to selling a record two million copies, the biggest selling hit single until Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?".
The song would later be covered by Glen Campbell.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
When the Brits couldn't get enough of that European synthesizer sound, these French cats would score a U.K. #2 hit with "Magic Fly". Made even more famous 30 years later by a singing cats video. "Velvet Rape" was the unfortunate name of another song on the album.
Monday, August 7, 2017
On August 7 1977, Thin Lizzy returned to the U.K. charts with the single "Dancing in the Moonlight". The catchy tune would peak at #14 in the British charts and at #4 in the Irish charts. Bowie and T.Rex producer Tony Visconti would call "Dancing" one of the sexiest songs he'd ever produced. The band recorded the single and the album Bad Reputation in Toronto. The recording eventually saw the return of guitarist Brian Robertson who had been injured in a brawl and had missed the majority of the most recent tour.
Robertson was back and you'll see him below, to the right of Phil Lynott, in the official video for "Dancing in the Moonlight", filmed at an empty Hammersmith-Odeon. The sax solo is played by Supertramp's John Helliwell.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
On the weekend of August 5 and 6, 1977, punk rock fans and the curious one again gathered at Mont de Marsan for what must be called a legendary line-up of bands. The Clash, The Damned, The Jam, The Police, Rich Kids, Eddie and the Hot Rods...well, you can see the poster above so I'll just stop.
French bands opened each day. The Damned came out with their newest member, a second guitarist named Robert "Lu" Edmonds. His purpose was to fatten the sound, but that was the kind of thing the former pub rockers were supposed to be doing, not punk bands. In a month The Damned would record a second album. It wouldn't sell. By January they would be the fifrt major punk band to break up
The Clash came out with fury, opening with "London's Burning" before trying out a cover of Toots and the Maytals' "Pressure Drop". Damned bassist Captain Sensible interrupted the performance by tossing smoke bombs on the stage and unplugging amps. He was roughed up by security.
The Police were still a four piece band. Original guitarist Henry Padovani was far more punk than the ten year older Andy Summers, late of Kevin Ayers. But it looked as though Henry saw what direction the Police were heading, as he stood still on a corner of the stage watching the others.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
On August 5, 1977 T.Rex released its final single before Marc Bolan's untimely death the following month. "Celebrate Summer" failed to chart, but Bolan really didn't have time to worry about that. He had been hired by Granada Television to host a six part series of music shows called Marc. The shows featured bands like The Jam, Generation X, and Eddie and the Hot Rods as well as Marc's old friend David Bowie.
Friday, August 4, 2017
If punk was more about attitude than musical ability then The Slits may have been the punkiest punk band the U.K. ever unleashed upon the world. The Slits were made up of guitarist Viv Albertine, drummer Palmolive, bassist Tessa Pollitt and German vocalist Ari Up, who was John Lydon's 15 year old stepdaughter. On August 5, 1977 The Slits were filmed at The Vortex. They're raw. To the point where maybe you have to admire their chutzpah for just going on stage and giving it everything they've got. Ari Up would also make history for peeing on this very stage. Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren liked what he saw. John Peel caught their early bass-heavy sound in a September Peel session.
By the time The Slits recorded their first album, the legendary Cut, they has traded their finest songwriter, Palmolive, for a tighter drummer and a more polished sound.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
It may have been one of Manchester's "scuzziest" nightclubs, but on August 3, 1977 , hometown faves The Buzzcocks wowed the crowd and those behind the video cameras with a new song about the loneliness of sleeping in a half empty bed. Recorded the following month, "What Do I Get" would provide the Buzzcocks with their U.K. chart debut, peaking at #37 in early 1978.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
In August of 1977 The Animals released a surprisingly good reunion album which I remember seeing rated four stars in one of the original Rolling Stone Record Guides. They hadn't played together since Alan Price left in 1966. Critics liked it. Dave Marsh called it "a surprisingly successful [...] one-shot, with the original group, again dominated by Price and Burdon, turning in fine, hard-nosed blues performances." and Robert Christgau gave the album a B- writing:
Not bad for a reunion LP--a lot more authentic sounding than the Byrds'. But then, the Animals weren't as good as the Byrds. And the only time Eric Burdon really recaptures that old white magic is on "Many Rivers to Cross," such a cliche by now that only a singer as crude as Eric, with his desperate key changes and random enthusiasm, can bring it to life. Me, I'll take "Sky Pilot."
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Still living with his parents, Return to Forever's Al Di Meola wrote "Mediterranean Sundance" with the intent on recording it for his second album with the brilliant Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. A nervous Paco showed up at Electric Ladyland, knowing not a single word of English. One of Di Meola's friends scored some pot and, after a smoke, Paco and Al went to work, recording the song in two takes.
"And that tune became a hit single in many countries," Di Meola remembers. "It was on the radio as if it were a pop song. It really helped to propel the whole spectacle of the record, and Elegant Gypsy turned out to be probably my most popular record."
A version of "Mediterranean Sundance" opened the best-selling Friday Night in San Francisco live album, recorded as a trio by De Lucia, Di Meola and John McLaughlin. in 1980.