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.
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.
In the mid 60s, Slippery Rock State College student Dominic Ierace (better known by his stage name Donnie Iris) was in a succession of bands, culminating in a Pittsburgh group called the Jaggers, which was signed by the legendary Philadelphia duo Gamble and Huff. Prior to recording their debut album, they notice there was another group called the Jaggers, so they changed the name to “Jaggerz”. Contrary to what I believed at the time, which was that they were merely, a la Maroon 5, trying to cash in on the fame of Mick Jagger, it turns out that “jagger” is Pennsylvania slang for a thorn bush. Their debut album, produced by the aforementioned Gamble and Huff, was mostly successful only in their native state.
They quickly left Gamble and Huff and signed with Neil Bogart’s Kama Sutra records, where they recorded their second album, We Went To Different Schools Together. The initial single from that album, “The Rapper”, released in December of 1969, went all the way to #2 on the U.S. charts, and, trust me, I was there, was ubiquitous on AM radio for quite some time thereafter. For those saying “wait a minute, the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap song”, ease your worried mind, in the early 1970s “rapping” meant talking, and particularly in the context of this song, smooth talking, as the protagonist is an operator able to talk young ladies into things they might normally not do.
The group had a couple more singles reach the top 100, but quickly faded and are thought of these days as a one-hit wonder. Iris went on to an eerily similar solo career, in that he is known only for the 1981 hit “Ah Leah”. He has continued to perform and record in the Pittsburgh area, and even had his own beer brand for a while, but will forever be known as the “Rapper” and “Ah Leah” guy.