Today’s selection answers the musical question “what if Stevie Winwood had signed on with a hard rock band?”. Singer Kenny Stewart is a vocal dead ringer for Mr. Winwood, but his backing by guitarist John Fraser Binnie, bass player Terry Horbury and drummer John Lee sounds more like AC/DC than Traffic. Formed in 1974 in England, the band released 3 albums on Polydor, starting with the eponymous debut from whence today’s song comes from, and toured in support of some of the biggest hard rock acts of the mid-70s, but never graduated to headliner status. They did become very popular in South Texas of all places, thanks to radio play and at least one tour stop there, but did not get much radio support elsewhere. Unfortunately their recordings never matched the intensity of their live show, and they broke up in 1977 after the release of their third album “Hit & Run”. Some sources indicate that they re-formed and released an album of new material in 2009, but by then the magic was long gone.
Greetings, rock’n’rollers, and welcome. Today’s band hails from Germany, where guitarist Rainer Marz, bassist Gunnar Schäfer and drummer Ringo Funk (gotta be a stage name) formed Jeronimo in 1969. They had their greatest success right off the bat, releasing 2 singles that were hits in Europe, “He Ya” and a cover of Steam’s huge hit “Na Na Hey Hey”. Their first album release was a pink vinyl oddity called Spirit Orgaszmus, which featured one side by Jeronimo and one by Creedence Clearwater Revival. They next released their first true album, Cosmic Blues, which included all 6 of the tunes from Spirit Orgaszmus.
Today’s song comes from their eponymous sophomore effort, 1971’s Jeronimo, with Michael Koch replacing Marz. With its machine-like bassline, it will get under your skin and stay there. For years. I even found a YouTube video of a young kid covering it. I dare you to listen to it and not have it circling thru your brain for the next several hours.
They released one more album, 1972’s Time Ride, before calling it quits. The original line-up reunited in 2001 to play live, but did not record any new material.
Spooky Tooth are one of those bands that are more notable in hindsight than they were in their heyday, due to the accomplishments of their alumni. Greg Ridley (Humble Pie bassist), keyboardist John Hawken (First 2 incarnations (pre-Annie Haslam) of Renaissance), guitarist Mick Jones of Foreigner, and Gary Wright of “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive” fame, all spent time in the group. Jones and Wright play on today’s song, from the group’s 5 studio album You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw (an inspection of the album cover reveals that title is not misogynistic).
The group never achieved the success the aforementioned members gained with their post-Spooky endeavors, with only their second album Spooky Two and You Broke My Heart receiving any sort of acclaim. I remember hearing today’s song on my hometown “alternative rock” station back in 1973 when the album came out, but never heard any of their other albums/songs until years later when they were a historical curiosity due to the fame of the former members. This song is typical of their sound, as one would expect, given Wright’s presence, they leaned towards hard-driving, organ-fueled riffing, a style that was quite popular in that era (think Deep Purple and Uriah Heep). The genre was called “heavy”, which this song certainly is. Enjoy.
And….we’re back! After a much longer than intended hiatus, let’s resume our journey thru the backpages of rock’n’roll history, shall we? Today the ole time machine takes us back to the year 1971. The place is Sydney, Australia. Banshee wailer Neale Johns and guitarist John Robinson have just replaced the original bassist and drummer of their nascent band Blackfeather with Robert Fortesque and Alexander Kash respectively. Their debut album At The Mountains of Madness is released in April of that year, rising as high as #7 on the Australian album charts. Although most of the cuts sound very dated now, today’s pick, Long Legged Lovely, is a terrific rock tour-de-force, with several themes, including some flat-out, balls to the wall rock’n’roll. Both Robinson’s guitar and Johns’ vocals are top-notch, guaranteed to please classic rock aficionados. The band quickly devolved into a revolving door of players, with Johns the only constant, and never regained the popularity they enjoyed initially, but toured as recently as 2015.
As always, there’s rock trivia to be gleaned from researching these long-lost bands. In this case it was quite surprising. When Blackfeather recorded At The Mountains of Madness , one of the songs included was “Seasons of Change” a mid-tempo ballad. Whilst recording the album, they gave the song to some friends of theirs who had a band called Fraternity. Fraternity slowed the song down even further, gave it a medieval touch by adding woodwind instruments, and produced a far superior version. The lead singer of Fraternity? A young, unrecognizable, pre-AC/DC Bon Scott.
Today we visit Switzerland, a first for this series. In 1970, bassist Werner Fröhlich and drummer Cosimo Lampis left the legendary Krautrock band Brainticket as that group was working on the album that became Cottonwood Hill. In Basel, they joined forces with guitarist Vic Vergeat, who had played briefly with Hawkwind, and vocalist Beni Jaeger. Together with the legendary British producer Martin Birch (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden) they recorded their eponymous debut album, which featured the single “Stay”, which, in spite of being VERY hard and heavy, did well on the Swiss charts.
By the time they released their second album, Tomorrow Blue (once again produced by Birch), Jaeger had left, with Vergeat and Fröhlich taking over the vocal duties. Today’s song, “Vampires” from that album, wanders somewhat aimlessly until about the 1:53 mark, when the chorus is first heard, from that point on, it is sublime. Hard-hitting drumming from Lampis, terrific harmonies from Vergeat and Fröhlich, tasty guitar work, and virtuoso bass playing, all masterfully produced by Birch, produce a song that really should have been a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
After one more studio album in 1974, the band was reduced to issuing compilations and live albums. They briefly re-grouped in the Nineties, before calling it quits for good in 1995. Skip all that and enjoy the first 2 albums, which still rock today.
In 1970, after recording the first three classic Jethro Tull albums This Was, Stand Up, and Benefit, bassist Glenn Cornick was fired by the band, as his lifestyle was more social and substance-oriented than that of leader Ian Anderson and some of the other band members. Not missing a beat, Cornick formed Wild Turkey, which after some personnel changes recorded its first album Battle Hymn, released in 1971. With a lineup consisting of Cornick, Jon Blackmore (guitar and vocals), Jeff Jones (drums, formerly of Man), Alan ‘Tweke’ Lewis (guitar), and Gary Pickford-Hopkins (from Eyes of Blue) on vocals, they created a hard rock album that withstands the test of time and is still listenable today.
Today’s song, “Butterfly” features machine-gun drumming, dual lead guitars a la the Allman Brothers, and a solo guitar tone to die for even to this day. With a strong prog-rock vibe, it is reminiscent of both Captain Beyond and the aforementioned Allman Brothers. So what’s not to like about this tune? Nothing, check it out.
In a continuation of last year’s trend of “go see Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famers on their One Last Go-round tour”, I took the whole family to Fleetwood Mac. All in all a really good show, probably better than I expected. I had never seen Fleetwood Mac, in spite of being somewhat of a fan, particularly of Christine McVie’s work. So the years they toured without Christine I just wasn’t interested, like Mike Mills with R.E.M., in my opinion she makes the band. Rather than a blow-by-blow, just some observations –
Neil Finn and Mike Campbell add some much-needed energy to the band, with Finn at age 60 being a decade younger than the youngest (Stevie Nicks) of the classic Mac lineup. Campbell is 69, but he was to many observers the star of the show. Wearing a ridiculous looking hat that was a cross between Roger Glover and Slash, he played the guitar god that he is to the hilt, unlike when he was a sideman to Tom Petty. Everyone knew he was a great, great guitarist, but it was Tom’s show. Lindsey Buckingham is a great guitarist, but I’ve never thought of him as a rocker, Campbell ROCKED. After a couple of songs, Carrie says “that guitar dude is the bomb!”. Well, duh, he played lead for TOM F**KIN’ PETTY for 40 years. Campbell is more than adequate as a replacement guitarist for Buckingham, he nailed the trademark stinging guitar lines on the classics and played top-notch blues rock that no one ever heard Lindsey play on some of the back catalog (more on that in a moment).
I had goosebumps for the whole performance of Don’t Dream It’s Over by Finn, such a great song, he did it full justice. At other times, he bounced around the stage, like Campbell, seemed more exuberant than in his former bands. But hey, if Mick Fleetwood calls you and asks you to join one of the most legendary bands ever, I guess you’d be pretty fired up.
John McVie was a non-entity, standing at the back of the stage, and buried in the mix, he was inaudible. While we’re on that topic, the sound was good, but not great, during the rave-up portions of Oh Well, it was pretty much noise (as it was on the original, we have way better sound technology now, but maybe they were trying to be authentic).
Second Hand News – the band was ultra-tight on this one (as they were throughout the night), it was actually quite rockin’. The 6 member Mac was accompanied by an additional keyboardist, guitarist, percussionist, and 2 female back-up singers.
Black Magic Woman – this was spectacular. Stevie introduced it, even admitting that when she joined the band she had no idea it was a Mac song. Stevie sang, Campbell kicked ass, it turned into an extended jam with Campbell exchanging blues lick with the 75-year-old Christine on keys, I always knew she was a brilliant singer-songwriter, but never knew she had keyboard chops like that.
Tell Me All the Things You Do – Christine introduced this one, it is a Danny Kirwan song. There was a mass exodus for beer/bathroom, including me, fortunately I could still hear it out in the concourse, it is actually a rockin’ guitar song, Campbell and Finn rocked out. Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6iLfnWiLYg
World Turning – one of my favorite Mac songs, in the middle there was a long extended percussion jam between Fleetwood ( who was yelling in tongues the whole time) and percussionist Taku Hirano, who is magnificent. Fleetwood has a lot of energy for his age, but was visibly winded at the end. VERY trippy visuals on the big screen behind the stage during this one, people lit up during this one and the other druggy songs.
Oh Well – Mike Campbell unleashed his inner Peter Green, both singing and playing lead guitar. “Don’t ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to.” Hard rock ecstasy, bounding on heavy metal.
I already mentioned Don’t Dream It’s Over, exquisite, everyone sang along on this one and of course the radio wear-out songs.
Monday Morning – very good, worth mentioning because it was an additional song to the set list they played the night before in Columbia.
Gold Dust Woman – long, very trippy, drugged out head music jam, with Stevie doing her stoned whirling dervish act all over the stage. Excellent.
Go Your Own Way – I’ve been burned out on this song for decades, I loved it the first 4000 times I heard it, then couldn’t stand to hear it. But it was spectacular, they rocked the house in a large way, I had goosebumps throughout this one as well.
Free Falling – very nice tribute to TP, lots of slides of him with Stevie, him with Mike, even one with all 3 of them. Made my eyes water.
That was followed by an uninspired version of Don’t Stop, I think the septuagenarian band members were tiring, the last song was a sappy duet between Christine and Stevie from their worst-selling album, then Mick came out and babbled for about 5 minutes. Both he and Stevie are perma-fried from all the drugs, most awkward moment of the night was after Don’t Dream It’s Over, here’s the Observer’s report on it –
“It is, you know, Oscar night, right? You’re all here, but it’s still Oscar night. So since I really don’t know anybody in Sou — South Carolina,” and here Nicks paused for a millisecond. It felt, at least to me, like that millisecond lasted half an hour — and if it actually had, I would have done everything in my power to get a note to her, warning her of her impending mistake. I think she sensed something was off. But it was too late.
You could almost feel everyone in the arena holding their breaths, getting ready to slap their hands against their foreheads (including Finn), as she spit it out:
“So since I really don’t know anybody in Sou — South Carolina, I would just like to say, ‘The OSCAR GOES TO SOUTH CAROLINA!’” She could probably tell immediately that she’d screwed up, since fans weren’t cheering like she’d surely hoped. We all just muttered some form of “OMG” to our dates, in unison. She quickly blurted out “CHARLOTTE!” But now it was waytoo late.
Finn didn’t know how to save her. And she arguably made things worse by stumbling through an explanation that made practically no sense whatsoever. “North Carolina is in my brain, thank you, because — I think because of the Sturgis Motorcycle Benefit place — big festival, right? That’s like in North Dakota, right? It has nothing to do with this except for the north —”
(Quick side note: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place in South Dakota.)
“We’re covering everybody,” Finn broke in, forcing some laughter. “It’s great. We’ve just got everyone —”
“We are. We’re at the festival, we’re at the Oscars, we’re everywhere tonight!” Nicks said. “So anyway. OK. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Sometimes, you know, five years of speech communication, it’s like — in college, I just have to…” and she trailed off, saying something I couldn’t make out.
Finn laughed nervously again, and suggested everyone take a deep breath. Everyone took a deep breath.
FLEETWOOD MAC’S SETLIST
1. “The Chain”
2. “Little Lies”
4. “Second Hand News”
5. “Say You Love Me”
6. “Black Magic Woman”
9. “Tell Me All the Things You Do”
10. “World Turning”
12. “Oh Well”
13. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (Crowded House cover)
15. “Hold Me”
16. “Monday Morning”
17. “You Make Loving Fun”
18. “Gold Dust Woman”
19. “Go Your Own Way”
20. “Free Fallin’” (Tom Petty cover)
21. “Don’t Stop”
22. “All Over Again”
I must start today’s post with full disclosure: approximately 90% of the time, I have no idea of the rock’n’roll trivia aspects of these songs, I just know I like them, then when researching the history of them I find out the bass player was in such-and-such a band, the keyboard player went on the sell gazillions of records, etc. Today’s band is a prime example of this serendipity.
Guitarist Paul Gardner played in a variety of bands, most notably North London’s Jack’s Union, which favored an onstage instrument-smashing style a la Jimi Hendrix/The Who. He even played very briefly with Hawkwind. But today’s rock trivia person of note is guitarist Alan Warner, who came from, quite unexpectedly given the stark stylistic differences between them and Pluto, The Foundations, of “Build Me Up Buttercup” and “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” fame. Along with ex-Mighty Joe Young drummer Derek Jarvis and then bassist Mick Worth, who owned a Fender Precision bass previously used by no less than John Entwistle of The Who, Gardner and Warner formed Pluto. The band was named after the Disney character, and used a graphic of a dog with a guitar for publicity, but after a threat of legal action from Disney, they elected to use the God of the Underworld on their one and only album cover.
In spite of touring quite successfully, even opening for The Who at one point, they were unfortunately matched with a record label and producer who were firmly rooted in the pop idiom, and didn’t get the nascent hard rock genre, so after their eponymous debut album they disbanded, but not before leaving us with today’s “classic rock” masterpiece. With smokin’ guitars combined with Rare Earth-style percussion, it still rocks today. Enjoy.
Today the ol’ time machine is set for Geoffrey Chaucer’s favorite town, Canterbury, England, in the year 1969, smack-dab in the middle of the “Canterbury Scene”. The scene was of intertwined bands, consisting of a revolving cast of very talented musicians playing a heady mix of progressive rock, psychedelia, and jazz. The most well-known of these bands were Gong, Caravan, Soft Machine, National Health, and Hatfield and the North, with musicians such as guitarist Steve Hillage, keyboardist Dave Stewart (NOT the Eurythmics guy), drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt, and vocalist Daevid Allen playing in those and many other bands.
Today’s band was originally known as Uriel, and consisted of the aforementioned Mssrs. Hillage and Stewart, along with Mont Campbell on bass and Clive Brooks on drums. Hillage left, and the remaining trio renamed themselves Egg. However, after Egg had signed to Decca records, a small record label offered Uriel the chance to record a psychedelic album, so Hillage re-joined, and an eponymous album under the name Arzachel was recorded, with the band members using pseudonyms as well, so as to avoid legal action from Decca. Our featured song was called “Queen St. Gang” on the original 1969 version of the album and was restored to its original name on the 2007 re-issue of the album, which was called Arzachel Collector’s Edition by Uriel. It is a slowed-down, tripped-out, melancholy cover of “Soul Thing” (a.k.a.”Funky Fanfare”) by famed British composer/arranger Keith Mansfield. So we have a song with TWO aliases recorded by a band with an alias – go figure. The song was also covered by Tony Newman and Paul Raven, with Raven’s version even adding lyrics.
Listen to the song and then tell me – did these guys invent Trip Hop/Dubstep? Sure sounds like it to me.
Today’s entry is an oddity even for this blog – a song from an album that was officially released 44 years after it was recorded. In 1971, Kansas City band Bulbous Creation recorded their one and only album, You Won’t Remember Dying, but before they could raise the money to release it, the band broke up. The album was unofficially released in 1995, but it wasn’t until 2014, after 2 of the band members had passed away, that it received an official release on the Numero Group label.
The bulk of the album is downbeat, minor-key, Sabbathoid sludge rock, with today’s tune, a flat-out rocker, being the exception. It’s also one of the few tunes where the guitarist is somewhat in tune, the dude (and the rest of the band and the recording engineer) clearly had tin ears. That said, the album has a live, raw, urgent sound, as there are no overdubs, just a terrific late 60s – early 70s “heavy” music vibe, reminiscent of early pre-Michael Schenker UFO. As was typical of the era/genre, the bass is way up in the mix, think Mel Schacher of Grand Funk Railroad.
If today’s slickly produced dance music, hip-hop and forgettable pop doesn’t do much for you, have a listen to this and know that once there was a time when music was real.