Sunday, September 24, 2017

What Ever Happened to Leon Trotsky

On September 23, 1977 The Stranglers released No More Heroes, the band's second and nastiest album. To help promote the record, The Stranglers appeared on Top Pops in Amsterdam to mime the title track.  After a couple of bad takes, the band switched instruments. Drummer Jet Black playing guitar. J J Burnell attacking the drums. Hugh Cornwell doing a wretched job on keyboards and Dave Greenfield pretending to sing. One of 1977's punkiest moments and absolutely entertaining.

Clearly The Stranglers were out to offend again, with songs like "I Feel Like a Wog" and "Bring on the Nubiles" (Lemme lemme fuck ya fuck ya /Lemme lemme fuck ya fuck ya /Lemme lemme lick your lucky smiles).

Jon Savage savaged the album, writing "The Stranglers offer nothing life force, nothing vital. Not so it's frightening, just dull and irritating"

NME's Tony Parsons adds "Just like gonorrhea, The Stranglers' music is way to catchy for anyone to be certain they will not fall under its lethal spell."

But it was Mick Jagger who had the most read review:

"Don't you think The Stranglers are the worst thing you've ever fuckin' heard?  I do . They're hideous, rubbishy. bloody stupid. Fuckin' nauseatin' they are!"

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Just For One Day

On September 23, 1977 David Bowie released the greatest single of the year, "Heroes" b/w "V-2 Schneider". Though it's often thought of as an ass kicking song about two lovers taking on the world, upon closer inspection it's a sad tune about lovers hanging in there "just for one day".

The backing track Bowie sang on MARC sounded nothing like the final version.

  Though not a big hit upon its release, "Heroes" is the high point of Bowie's Berlin trilogy. The song may have even got its name from the Neu song "Hero". You can hear the Velvet Underground influence as well. Songwriting credit goes to Bowie and Brian Eno. Producer Tony Visconti played a big role and even sings backing vocals. Carlos Alomar plays guitar. George Murray is on bass and Dennis Davis is on drums. But the most famous contribution is from Robert Fripp who layed down three guitar solos the first three times he heard the song. In the clip below Visconti says the solos were pretty but meaningless until he layered all three of them together. These master class stories always fascinate me.

All that was missing were the lyrics. Bowie asked Visconti and others to leave him alone so he could come up with something. Among the inspirations Bowie quoted is the Otto Mueller painting Lovers Between Garden Walls.  

Another bit of inspiration came by accident when Bowie looked out the window and caught the married Visconti in an embrace with backing vocalist Antonia Maas. She would later help Bowie translate Heroes into "Helden", the German version.

Upon its release "Heroes" was not met with widespread praise. The NME's Charlie Gillett famously stated
  "Well he had a pretty good run for our money, for a guy who was no singer. But I think his time has been and gone, and this just sounds weary. Then again, maybe the ponderous heavy riff will be absorbed on the radio, and the monotonous feel may just be hypnotic enough to drag people into buying it. I hope not".

Friday, September 22, 2017

Drink Scotch Whiskey All Night Long

On September 23, 1977 Steely Dan released Aja, the very apex of studio crafted rock perfection; the height of jazz/rock fusion (even if that jazz veers more towards something you'd hear in a lounge rather than at the Village Vanguard.) With the help of nearly 40 musicians, Donald Fagen and the recently passed Walter Becker now come across as older, wiser beatniks without losing their sarcasm, sense of humor or warmth.

Among the album's fans was Ian Dury who said "Well, Aja's got a sound that lifts your heart up.. and it's the most consistent up-full, heart-warming.. even though, it is a classic LA kinda sound. You wouldn't think it was recorded anywhere else in the world. It's got California through its blood, even though they are boys from New York... It's a record that sends my spirits up, and really when I listen to music, really that's what I want."

From Robert Christgau's B+ review:

Carola suggests that by now they realize they'll never get out of El Lay, so they've elected to sing in their chains like the sea. After all, to a certain kind of reclusive aesthete, well-crafted West Coast studio jazz is as beautiful as anything else, right? Only I'm no recluse. I hated this record for quite a while before I realized that, unlike The Royal Scam, it was stretching me some; I still find the solo licks of Larry Carlton, Victor Feldman, et al. too fucking tasty, but at least in this context they mean something. I'm also grateful to find Fagen and Becker's collegiate cynicism in decline; not only is "Deacon Blues" one of their strongest songs ever, it's also one of their warmest. Now if only they'd rhymed "I cried when I wrote this song" with "Sue me if I play it wrong," instead of "Sue me if I play too long." Preferring long to wrong could turn into their fatal flaw

Here's Michael Duffy's review in Rolling Stone :

Aja is the third Steely Dan album since songwriters Walter Becker and Donald Fagen discarded a fixed-band format in late 1974. Since then they have declined to venture beyond the insular comfort of L.A. studios, recording their compositions with a loose network of session musicians. As a result, the conceptual framework of their music has shifted from the pretext of rock and roll toward a smoother, awesomely clean and calculated mutation of various rock, pop and jazz idioms. Their lyrics... remain as pleasantly obtuse and cynical as ever.

 Aja will continue to fuel the argument by rock purists that Steely Dan's music is soulless, and by its calculated nature antithetical to what rock should be. But this is in many ways irrelevant to a final evaluation of this band, the only group around with no conceptual antecedent from the Sixties. Steely Dan's six albums contain some of the few important stylistic innovations in pop music in the past decade. By returning to swing and early be-bop for inspiration -- before jazz diverged totally from established conventions of pop-song structure -- Fagen and Becker have overcome the amorphous quality that has plagued most other jazz-rock fusion attempts.

"Peg" and "Josie" illustrate this perfectly: tight, modal tunes with good hooks in the choruses, solid beats with intricate counter rhythms and brilliantly concise guitar solos. Like most of the rest of Aja, these songs are filled out with complex horn charts, synthesizers and lush background vocals that flirt with schmaltzy L.A. jazz riffs. When topped by Fagen's singing, they sound like production numbers from an absurdist musical comedy.

 The title cut is the one song on Aja that shows real growth in Becker's and Fagen's songwriting capabilities and departs from their previous work. It is the longest song they've recorded, but it fragilely holds our attention with vaguely Oriental instrumental flourishes and lyric references interwoven with an opiated jazz flux. "Aja" may prove to be the farthest Becker and Fagen can take certain elements of their musical ambition.

 Lyrically, these guys still seem to savor the role they must have acquired as stoned-out, hyperintelligent pariahs at a small Jewish college on the Hudson. Their imagery can become unintelligibly weird (Frank Zappa calls it "downer surrealism"); it's occasionally accessible but more often (as on the title song) it elicits a sort of deja vu tease that becomes hopelessly nonsensical the more you think about it. Focus your attention on the imagery of a specific phrase, then let it fade out. Well, at least it beats rereading the dildo sequence in Naked Lunch.

The last album, The Royal Scam, was the closest thing to a "concept" album Steely Dan has done, an attempt to return musically to New York City, with both a raunchier production quality and a fascination with grim social realism. The farthest Aja strays from the minor joys and tribulations of the good life in L.A. are the dreamy title cut and "Josie," which hints ominously about a friendly welcome-home gang-bang. The melodramatic "Black Cow" is about love replaced by repulsion for a woman who starts getting too strung out on downers and messing around with other men. "Deacon Blues" (a thematic continuation of "Fire in the Hole" and "Any World") exemplifies this album's mood: resignation to the L.A. musician's lifestyle, in which one must "crawl like a viper through these suburban streets" yet "make it my home sweet home." The title and first lines of "Home at Last" (presumably a clever interpretation of Homer's Odyssey -- I don't get it) put it right up front: "I know this superhighway/This bright familiar sun/I guess that I'm the lucky one."

 More than any of Steely Dan's previous albums (with the possible exception of Katy Lied), Aja exhibits a carefully manipulated isolation from its audience, with no pretense of embracing it. What underlies Steely Dan's music -- and may, with this album, be showing its limitations -- is its extreme intellectual self-consciousness, both in music and lyrics. Given the nature of these times, this may be precisely the quality that makes Walter Becker and Donald Fagen the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Your Eyes in the Morning Sun

On September 24, 1977 The Bee Gees first single from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, "How Deep Is Your Love", debuted on the U.S. pop charts at #83. This would be the single that would finally knock off Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life"  from the top of the U.S.charts. 40 years later, I still never change the dial when this tune gets played on the radio.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hitchin Up Her Short Skirt

 Boomtown Rats: the band's name says it all. Parasites amid prosperity, rodents on the make in the sewers of power, a great band name from an era of great band names. As much as Clash or Damned or Sex Pistols - or Stranglers, Buzzcocks and Lurkers - the name forever tags the band as part of the class of '77, when the barbarians finally arrived at the gates of an increasingly stratified and stultifying Rock City.
-Charles Shaar Murray, from the liner notes of the remastered CD.

In September of 1977 The Boomtown Rats released their self-titled debut album. Despite Bob Geldof's sneery vocals, the Rats owed more to the Rolling Stones than to anything the punks were up to. Something Geldof addresses in this interview:

Geldof says the purpose of new wave bands like the Boomtown Rats is to re-energize the music scene following what he describes as a blank generation between 1969 and 1975. Forget Pink Floyd, Geldof says it wasn't  until the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, Dr Feelgood and Graham Parker came along that rock got interesting again.  Saint Bob figured The Boomtown Rats were somewhere in between the punkers and the pub rockers.

"Mary in the 4th Form" was the U.K. 15 single in the long tradition of tributes to young girls in uniforms like The Yardbirds' "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl", The Mindbender' "Schoolgirl", and The Police "Don't Stand So Close to Me" . 

"Joey's On the Street Again" is less punk than an Irish take on Springsteen . True Rat fans adore the deep cut  "I Can Make It If You Can". The album peaked at #18 in the U.K. album charts,

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Breaking All The Rules

In September of 1977 Linda Ronstadt released the only album that could knock Fleetwood Mac's Rumours from the top of the Billboard album charts. With the help of singles "Blue Bayou", "It's So Easy"( its second appearance in the blog this year)  and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" (one of two Warren Zevon songs ), Simple Dreams sold three and a half million copies. The only female artist to sell more copies of a single album is Carole King and Tapestry. 

Most critics had good things to say about Simple Dreams, which made the Pazz and Jop critics poll at #27. Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ grade, writing

In which Andrew Gold goes off and Pursues His Solo Career, enabling Ronstadt to hire herself a rock and roll band. She's still too predictable--imagine how terse and eloquent "Blue Bayou" would seem if instead of turning up the volume midway through she just hit one high note at the end--but she's also a pop eclectic for our time, as comfortable with Mick Jagger as with Dolly Parton, interpreting Roy Orbison as easily as Buddy Holly. Even her portrayal of a junkie seeking succor from Warren Zevon's "Carmelita" isn't totally ridiculous. And I admit it--she looks great in a Dodger jacket.

Rolling Stone's Peter Herbst :

 The thing about Linda Ronstadt is that she keeps getting better, and we keep expecting more and more of her. She's always possessed that big, magnanimous voice, but it wasn't Heart like a Wheel that her interpretive and arranging skills (the latter, and perhaps both, due to the felicitous pairing with producer Peter Asher) fully emerged. 

With Hasten Down the Wind, Ronstadt shed some long-lived inhibitions. Given Karla Bonoff's red-hot, baldly emotional material ("Someone to Lay Down beside Me," "Lose Again," "If He's Ever Near"), she responded with her most personal -- even visceral -- singing. It doesn't quite make sense to call her highly charged performances relaxed, but certainly she was a lot less stiff than before. Ronstadt had, quite simply, become rock's supreme torch singer.

 What Ronstadt's blossoming skills suggest is a kind of latter-day Billie Holiday, a woman whose singing constitutes an almost otherworldly triumph over the worst kind of chronic pain. Throughout Simple Dreams (in which Ronstadt and Asher wisely have scaled down the production), the singer evokes a bittersweet world of disappointments, fantasies and cheerfully brazen assertions. What she lacks is the sense of humor and ironic self-effacement that made Holiday such an extraordinarily subtle and intelligent performer.

That flaw, which was most obvious in Ronstadt's sober reading of Randy Newman's outlandish "Sail Away," is evident here on Warren Zevon's darkly ironic "Carmelita." When Ronstadt, going to meet a dealer, sings, "He hangs out down on Alvarado Street/At the Pioneer Chicken stand" without even a smirk, it sounds as if she doesn't know that a joke, however black, is being made.

 And all the way through Simple Dreams' first side (which, except for the rousing opener, "It's So Easy," is made up of ballads), Ronstadt fails to step back and take a look at herself. She's just a little too blue for comfort. But that's a piddling complaint because it's a fine side. Ronstadt sings J.D. Souther's modestly self-pitying "Simple Man/Simple Dream" with a thorough sympathy for and understanding of Souther's message -- that the lover of simple truths is easily ridiculed. She gets Eric Kaz' complex "Sorrow Lives Here" (Kaz, it seems, is getting ready to challenge Leonard Cohen as the world's most morose songwriter) just right. The lines "Everything seems to spin all around/But I can't see/Whether it happens/With or without me" unite emotional and philosophical confusion dramatically, and Ronstadt sings them as if she wrote them. "I Never Will Marry," the great traditional tune to which Dolly Parton's backwoods harmonies add a gorgeous dignity, should become her signature: it frames her independence and loneliness with enormous restraint and power.

 Simple Dreams' second side is better paced and begins with the song, "Blue Bayou," that caused me to compare Ronstadt to Billie Holiday. The transition she makes from the introduction to the chorus ("I'm going back someday, come what may to Blue Bayou") is simply electrifying. What starts out as an ordinary love song becomes a passionate cry for escape that completely transcends the song. Like Holiday, Ronstadt has developed an ability to invest her material with far more than it brings to her -- the wonderful jump to falsetto with which she ends "Blue Bayou" is a great deal more than merely wistful.

Simple Dreams could have used more rockers like the second side's "Tumbling Dice" and Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me." Both are strongly male, and Ronstadt's substitution of a female presence (something that occurs throughout the LP and serves as a sort of sub-theme) is a joyous "anything you can do" statement. She moves through Zevon's role reversals convincingly, substituting a nicely assonant verse for a more graphic one that she might not have gotten away with. 

Ronstadt's well-placed grittiness on "Tumbling Dice" (whose brilliant, highly salty lyrics are finally intelligible) matches the song's sense of risk and its keenly expressed bawdiness. "Tumbling Dice" might seem a strange choice of material for Ronstadt, but what she's telling us, I think, is that she can live on the edge with the best of them. And she's damned convincing.

Finally from Playboy:

Reviewing a Linda Ronstadt album is not unlike writing ad copy for the Holiday Inn: The only surprise is that there are no surprises. Simple Dreams follows the formula concocted by producer Peter Asher almost five years ago -- a dash of country, a dash of J.D. Souther, a dash of old-time rock 'n' roll. The band sounds the same, even without Andrew Gold, and still is as good as you get. The production is the same (though this time out, Ronstadt's voice seems to be mixed above the instruments. In the past, there was a more luxuriant blend. But maybe our stereo's on the fritz). The only thing left for a reviewer to comment on is the selection of songs. The duet with Dolly Parton on "I Never Will Marry" will break your heart. (Say it isn't so, Linda!) The inclusion of Roy Orbison and Joe Melson's "Blue Bayou" and the Mexican-flavored Warren Zevon tune "Carmelita" suggests that Ronstadt is trying to follow in Jimmy Buffett's country-and-ocean wake. Her update of The Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice" leaves a lot to be desired: to be exact, Mick Jagger. Ronstadt can't carry the hard edge that song requires -- nor, for that matter, the irony on which "Carmelita" and another Zevon song, "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," depend. Still, we'd pay to hear Ronstadt sing "Jingle Bells."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sitting Here All Alone

In September of 1977 The Babys, fronted by John "Missing You" Waite, released their  single "Isn't It Time". Commericial? Yes. And melodramatic too. But the 13 year old version of myself bought the single when he had a couple bucks to spend.

 Can you name another hit song in which the  backing vocalists sing the chorus?  Lisa Freeman-Roberts, Myrna Matthews and Pat Henderson are superb and Waite, in full glam pop attire, hits a home run.

Surprisingly, "Isn't It Time" barely cracked the UK Top 50. It went to #13 in the US and #1 in Australia.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Gift of the Wind

On September 16, 1977 Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane released Rough Mix, an album the two collaborated on with the help of Eric Clapton, John Entwistle, Ian Stewart and Charlie Watts. I picked up a cassette copy of this album at a Reno pawn shop for a couple of dollars in 1981 while I wS on a bit of a run on Who albums. It is clearly a high point for both artists, even with its relaxed atmosphere.

The album may sound relaxed but not all of the sessions were. Although both were followers of the Meher Baba, Lane had a mouth on him and he and Townshend got into at least one fight that got physical. Road crew member Russ Schlagbaum recalls running into a studio to fund Lane curled up in a ball and Pete Townshend kicking him with big Doc Martin boots. Rough Mix indeed.

It was during the February 1977 sessions that Ian Stewart and his wife convinced Ronnie to see a doctor. Ronnie would wake up mornings with his hand too numb to hold a pen. He blamed all of his physical ailments on drinking and was shocked by the MS diagnosis even though his mother had it. He would live for 21 years with the disease.

Rough Mix was released to critical praise and low sales.

Robert Christgau was among those who loved the album, giving it an A- grade and writing:

Meher Baba inspired psalmody so plain and sharply observed, maybe he was all reet after all. Three of Townshend's contributions--"Keep Me Turning," "Misunderstood," and an unlikely song of adoration called "My Baby Gives It Away"--are his keenest in years, and while Lane's evocations of the passing scene are more poignant on his Island import, One for the Road, "Annie" is a suitably modest folk classic. Together, the two disciples prove that charity needn't be sentimental, detachment cold, nor peace boring. Selah.

 Rolling Stone's  Dave Marsh was also a fan of the album, which received a 5 star review in one of the Rolling Stone Album Guides.  He wrote:

It's almost impossible to avoid describing Rough Mix as devotional music, but it's equally difficult to reconcile that description with some of the album's components. Townshend's stinging guitar on "My Baby Gives It Away," the chugging. Faces-like title instrumental and the wailing saxophone coda on Lane's Fifties-style "Catmelody" are hardly typical of spiritual music. But then matters meditative have never before been fully integrated into the ugly, angry sounds we call rock and roll. Their juxtaposition here, in fact, might be one meaning of Rough Mix; it certainly ain't smooth. 

 The Who's Townshend and former Face Lane come by their rock and roll inclinations honestly, and obviously, but spiritual inclination is their long suit here. Both men are followers of Meher Baba, the Indian spiritual master who died in 1969, and this has given the album a sort of humility — not to say modesty — which is its special virtue. 

 Not surprisingly, almost everything Townshend does here owes a debt to the Who. "My Baby Gives It Away" is one of his improbable sexual misadventures, like "I'm a Boy" or "Pictures of Lily." "Misunderstood" is more understated musically — just voice, guitar, harmonica, cowbell and a drum machine — but belongs with his best boasts, in the tradition of "My Generation." "Just one want to be misunderstood/Want to be feared in my neighborhood." Ten years ago, this probably would have been called a Dylan parody, but the resolution of the lyric is actually a lot closer to the self-doubt of The Who by Numbers

 "Street in the City" is helped by Townshend's marvelous acoustic guitar, but it is dominated by an utterly unlikely horn and string arrangement. It is schmaltzy enough to pass for an outtake from Days of Future Passed, and as the album's longest track, it is simply its most vexing. 

 "Keep Me Turning" is a spiritual parable that is undoubtedly much clearer to its author than to any other listener. The organ, guitar and drum interplay makes the song exciting, but what draws me back time and again is the yearning and vulnerable quality of Townshend's vocal. This is spiritual rock and  roll in the very best sense: it doesn't always make sense except in the heart, which won't ignore it. Its wit and charm strike beyond the confusion of its verses to the heart of the chorus, where the devotional imagery is most complete, and the guitar part at the bridge, which is among the most supple and liquid Townshend has ever done.

 Lane's songs reflect his recent work with Slim Chance; his last album, which has not been released in the U.S., had a hint ("Harvest Home") of what is fully realized here. Lane has moved past straight rock and  roll — although he makes his share of it on "Catmelody" and "Rough Mix" — into a merger of rock with Irish ballads and Scottish and English folk music. There is a kind of wisdom and assurance to these songs, and when he sings, "God bless us all," or, of "all of my family and all of my friends," he does so with sincere conviction. More wonderfully, there is no distance, no sense of trying to recapture something lost in a modern age. In addition, as John Prine once said of Jackson Browne. I don't know where Lane gets his melodies. but I'd sure like to go there. 

 Lane makes his music with guitars, fiddles, banjos, drums, harmonica, electric bass. Although that sounds like a formula for folk rock, there is nothing of the haunted quality or joyousness of the greatest folk rock. Instead, there is a meditative air to the music, captured eloquently in the opening verse of his best song here, "Annie," which might merely be "Harvest Home" with lyrics:

 Old rocks stand tall, Annie 

Seen the world grow small, Annie 

 But when they fall, Annie 

 Where will they be? 

 What Lane does is hardly unprecedented. Dylan's soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Eric Clapton's 461 Ocean Boulevard, even Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" share a part of its wise and ancient spirit. (Clapton brings a blues guitar to "April Fool" that is its prettiest touch.) Townshend has made his share of songs with a similar feeling — silly as it was, The Who by Numbers' "Blue, Red and Grey" had it — as has Lane himself: listen to the Faces' "Debris." What's important is that the dedication and beauty of the music is as crucial as the homage it pays to its masters and traditions. 

 So the final numbers on Rough Mix, among the few true collaborations on the record, have a special flavor. Don Williams' "'Til the Rivers All Run Dry" is a country love song, but in this context — and considering Baba's love for Jim Reeves' "There's a Heartache Following Me," which Townshend did on his first solo album — it is clearly a tribute to the master.

 "Heart to Hang Onto," written by Townshend but on which Lane sings the verses and Townshend the choruses, wears an even thinner veil. There's a brutal war going on in the song's midsection between Townshend's Tommy-like guitar and John Entwistle's brass arrangement. This is the perfect musical expression of the cosmic quest — this is the real "The Seeker." The lesson here is stated through a series of metaphorical characters, the most tragic of whom is Danny: "Danny, he wants to save for a new guitar/He's gonna learn to play but he won't get far." Implicitly, Danny's not going anywhere because he hasn't made the connection; he has no "heart to hang onto," which is to say he lacks the spirit to make the music move.

 The glory of this album and of the work of Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane throughout their careers is that art and the deepest spiritual aspiration are completely intertwined. Often, of course, that makes for a rough mix, and a rougher life. But it's worth the turbulence, for it touches closer to the heart of the rock & roll experience than almost anything I know.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Death of a Cosmic Dancer


In the early morning hours of September 16, 1977 , T.Rex star Marc Bolan was killed when the car his wife Gloria Jones was driving slammed into a sycamore tree. The self-titled "elder statesman of punk" had re-energized his career in 1977, touring with The Damned in March and hosting a TV show, Marc, on Granada Television. He was 29 years old.

He ended each show with the line "Keep a little Marc in your heart. See you next week, same Marc time, same Marc channel".

Bolan's funeral was attended by David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Tony Visconti, and Steve Harley.  A swan-shaped floral tribute was displayed outside the service in recognition of his breakthrough hit single "Ride a White Swan". 

Notably absent from the funeral was Marc's common law wife who was still in hospital, with her jaw wired shut and a cast on a leg. It wasn't until the day of the funeral that her brother told her her about Marc's death. She would move back to the U.S. with their son.

Baby Rolan Bolan is now 42 years old.
Marc never got his own drivers license. He told friends he was afraid he'd die in a car accident. On tour in 1967 he told his manager Simon Napier-Bell. “Of course, I’d have to die in a car crash like James Dean or Eddie Cochran then my records would sell much more.” 
“In a Rolls-Royce?” Napier-Bell asked. 
“No,” he replied, “in a Mini.”

It was the car's passenger side that took the brunt of the impact, killing Marc instantly as it tossed him into the back seat of the little car.

There are many hip Americans who still haven't heard of T.Rex. My introduction was the song "Jeepster", which Martin Scorsese used in his film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. That led me to ignore the Rolling Stone Record Guide's three star review when I found Electric Warrior in a used record store. It has been one of my favorite albums ever since.

After Electric Warrior, I travelled backwards in time to pick up a cut out record featuring older T.Rex tunes like "Debora", "Salamanda Palaganda" and "Ride a White Swan".

Eventually I bought The Slider, probably thanks to Lloyd Cole's indulgence in covering the tunes for B sides.

My 12 year old son's favorite T.Rex song is "I Love to Boogie", thanks to Billy Elliot. I think it's great he even has a favorite T.Rex song at that age.

The crash site has become home of a memorial. I'll probably never visit, so I'll just crank Electric Warrior all day.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Qu'est-ce Que C'est

On September 16, 1977 Talking Heads released its debut album, Talking Heads:77.  No album from this eventful year means as much to me as this one. The very first song I played on my radio show at WTUL was "Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town". At my boarding school, I remember the walls shaking from Tina Weymouth's "Psycho Killer" bass and leaping down the stairwell to find out what I was hearing. I bought the cassette and played it to death. 

Here, in David Byrne, I had found someone just as obsessed, and just as confused, by girls as I was. And I was absurdly confused. (I am horrified at the memories that swarm in front of me). Yes, this was a soundtrack to my lonely and awkward years in boarding school.

 To this day, there are lines from songs that will pop up in my mind like thought bubbles:

They say compassion is a virtue but I don't have the time.

I go visiting, I talk loud I try to make myself clear

Go talk to your analyst, isn't that what they're paid for You walk, you talk, you still function like you used to It's not a question of your personality or style Be a little more selfish, it might do you some good.

You're talking a lot, but you're not saying anything When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed Say something once, why say it again?

Enough about me.

From Stephen Demores of Rolling Stone:

 Talking Heads are the last of CBGB's original Big Four to record (following Patti Smith, the Ramones and Television), and their debut is an absolute triumph. Dressing like a quartet of Young Republicans, playing courteously toned-down music and singing lyrics lauding civil servants, parents and college, Talking Heads are not even remotely punks. Rather, they are the great Ivy League hope of pop music. I can't recall when I last heard such a vital, imaginatively tuneful album.

 David Byrne's music is refreshing, abundantly varied and fun to listen to. He takes the buoyant, post-Beatles singles format of the Sixties -- brisk pacing, great hooks, crisp playing, bright production -- and impulsively veers off on unexpected tangents that are challenging without becoming inaccessible.
This is the band that had its early critics talking about minimalism and like Jonathan Richman. Talking Heads do indeed triumph by the economy of their sound. But where the ingenuous Richman is dangerously precious there is no nonsense about Talking Heads. Byrne's spare guitar patterns, Jerry Harrison's modest keyboard fills, Martina Weymouth's understated bass and Chris Frantz' efficiently Spartan drumming convey a taut earnestness that's bursting with energy.

 "The Book I Read," like so many of their songs, burbles with excitement, a feeling of expansion overcoming restraint. "Pulled Up" is the real champ, though, a fiercely exhilarating rush of aural amyl nitrate.

 Vocally, Byrne's live-wired personality vibrates his precise musical framework like a caged tiger rattling its bars. (That he sings in a stiff, reedy, "bad" voice, grasping or higher notes like a drowning man lunging for air, only heightens the drama.) Exploring the logic and disorientation of love, decision making, ambition and the need for selfishness, he gropes for articulation like a metaphysician having difficulty computing emotions.

 Given his relatively unlyrical nature, Byrne's burgeoning persona is not in the least tentative. "No Compassion" asserts all the impatience of Lou Reed in a band mood, while "Psycho Killer" pulses with vehemence.

 For me, the direct, crisp, jaunty Talking Heads and the abstracted, unrestrained, fiery Television stand as the Beatles and Rolling Stones of the restless, displaced Seventies. Not only is this a great album, it's also one of the definitive records of the decade.

From Robert Christgau's A- review:

A debut LP will often seem overrefined to habitu├ęs of a band's scene, so it's not surprising that many of CBGBites felt betrayed when bits of this came out sounding like Sparks or Yes. Personally, I was even more put off by lyrics that fleshed out the Heads' post-Jonathan Richman, so-hip-we're-straight image; when David Byrne says "don't worry about the government," the irony is that he's not being ironic. But the more I listen the more I believe the Heads set themselves the task of hurdling such limitations, and succeed. Like Sparks, these are spoiled kids, but without the callowness or adolescent misogyny; like Yes, they are wimps, but without vagueness or cheap romanticism. Every tinkling harmony is righted with a screech, every self-help homily contextualized dramatically, so that in the end the record proves not only that the detachment of craft can coexist with a frightening intensity of feeling -- something most artists know -- but that the most inarticulate rage can be rationalized. Which means they're punks after all.

The album made number 60 in the 1978 UK album charts, and single “Psycho Killer” peaked at position 92 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Stains On Your Jeans

1977's most momentous day must have been September 16, 1977. Marc Bolan dies in a car accident. Talking Heads releases their debut album '77 and Pete Townshend and his pal Ronnie Lane release Rough Mix.  It was on that day, as well, that Pete Shelley added his vocals to four brand new Buzzcocks tunes: "What Do I Get", "Oh Shit", "What Ever Happened To" and "Orgasm Addict". 

   We'll give Pete Shelley the last word about the single which he says "is embarrassing. It's the only one I listen to and... shudder".

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Life Without a Hitch

In September of 1977, Carlsbad California punk rockers The Dils released the single "I Hate The Rich".  After a few years of creating beautiful noise all over the San Francisco scene, The Brothers Kinman would form Rank and File in the 1980's.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Gave the Finger to the Moon

In September of 1977, Tom Waits released Foreign Affairs. I've always thought that was Rickie Lee Jones on the cover, but it's Marsheila Cockrell, who worked at the box office of The Troubadour in Los Angeles. (Didn't Rickie tell me that was her in an interview?)

The first three tracks of the album might have you wondering if Waits, singing in the style of  Louis Armstrong,  is trying to make the sequel to Frank Sinatra's moody classic, In The Wee Small Hours. There is even a gin-soaked barfly duet with Bette Midler on "I Never Talk to Strangers".

Then comes track four: "Medley: Jack And Neal/California, Here I Come"  where Waits reestablishes his link to his true spiritual brothers, The Beats, with lyrics most Sinatra fans wouldn't sit still for:

Just then Florence Nightingale dropped her drawers
And stuck her fat ass half way out of the window
With a Wilson Pickett tune and shouted 
Get a load of this and gave the finger to the moon

There are better Waits albums but die-hard fans will find much to enjoy here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Street Is A Mirror

;"> On September 11, 1977 The Jam rocked the London's 100 Club in a performance broadcast to the United States. The band drew heavily from their first album and from sped up covers of Motown classics like "Heatwave", "Back In My Arms Again" and soul nuggets like "Sweet Soul Music" and "In the Midnight Hour". This evening's version of "In The City" wound up on the Jam's live album Dig The New Breed.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Keep Your Silly Ways

At the end of the summer of 1977, Ian Dury and the Blockheads released their first single, the often quoted "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll".

 The chorus may sound like it's a championing a life of excess,  something Dury knew well. Perhaps because polio had decimated his left arm and leg, he was always out looking for a good time. His close friend Fred "Spider"Rowe told The Mirror too much drink spoiled nearly every encounter with Dury.

 "Ian was like a different person when he'd had a drink. One time, in 1978, it got so bad I threatened to take him outside, remove his trousers and leg brace and leave him on a snowy hill. That shut him up! 
"Every night was like a party - him and the rest of the band would call me Hitler because it was me who had to put them to bed if we had to be up to travel the next day. Some mornings I had to roll them out of bed. 
"There were times Ian would get drunk and want to go out on the town and I had to protect him. If he fell over, his thin leg or arm could have broken like matchsticks and he'd have been in plaster for months. I'd take him to his hotel and nick his leg brace. He'd rant and rave, but it was for his own good." 

Dury stole the hook of the song from a Charlie Haden bass solo that appears at about 4:40  in Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin'". BBC Radio banned the single based on the title alone. As notorious as "Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll" may be, it never charted.

Still, for a short spell, Ian Dury was the poet of the punks. He followed this single with "Sweet Gene Vincent", "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" and "Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part Three". By the early 80's his career was done. Ian Dury died young, aged 57, in 2000. 10 years later, Andy Serkis portrayed Dury in a feature film called Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll.

At the end of the year the single made a number of poles

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Is There Rock After Punk?

On September 9, 1977 Iggy Pop released his second David Bowie produced album of the year. While The Idiot was a dark reflection of where Iggy was in the years before he teamed up with Bowie, Lust For Life sounds like a man who has found a new reason to live. There are still some dark moments, including the title track and "Tonight" which deals with his heroin abuse: I saw my baby/ She was turning blue/ Oh, I knew that soon/ Her young life was through".

Lust For Life is Iggy Pop's best selling album of all time and his only gold record.

For Rolling Stone, Billy Altman wrote:

Iggy Pop's second comeback album leaves one with ambivalent feelings: glad that Iggy is alive, apparently well, writing, singing and performing again, but upset because his new stance is so utterly unchallenging and cautious. Taken purely on its own terms, Lust for Life is a successful album. Side one is quite good, starting with the title cut, which rocks with a Sandy Nelson-like drum style while Iggy delivers his survivor message to the masses, and continuing to the closing track, "Tonight," easily the most straightforward pop song Iggy has written. Side two is considerably weaker, with a pair of overdrawn ballads, an infectious throwaway and one bona fide winner, the ominous "Neighborhood Threat."

 Were this just another album by just another artist, that might be the end of it, but Iggy Pop has never been just another entertainer. As rock's truest bad boy, Iggy led the Stooges with a vision of frustrated, depressed and angry young adult life that will probably never be seen (or dared) again. That he has come back from the edge relatively intact is almost a miracle. With David Bowie as producer and guide, he is actually realizing a career for the first time. Like Lou Reed, Iggy is most likely headed on a course just left of center, bizarre enough to attract those inclined toward something different but safe enough not to scare them away. 

 It is questionable, though, whether Iggy has anything important left to say. To make any art in the future, he would probably have to start self-destructing, and neither he nor any of us really want to see him crawling through the broken glass again. Here comes success, Iggy, and you deserve it more than just about any perform I've ever seen or heard. I just wish there were some way that your music could be important and your life happy at the same time.

Robert Christgau gave the albim an A minus grade , writing:

If The Idiot exploits the (trance-prone) affinity for the slow rocker that Bowie evinced on Station to Station, this reestablishes the (apollonian) affinity for the dionysiac artist Bowie made so much of five years ago on Mott's All the Young Dudes. Like most rock and rollers, I prefer this to The Idiot because it's faster and more assertive -- which means, among other things, that the nihilistic satire is counteracted by the forward motion of the music itself. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

I'll Make You Crawl

In September of 1977 The Saints released the One Two Three Four EP, featuring four tracks, Two were originals, "One Way Street" and "Demolition Girl". The other two were covers, "Lipstick On Your Collar" ( originally by Connie Francis) and an almost unrecognizable "River Deep, Mountain High" ( made famous by Ike and Tina Turner). Now comes as bonus tracks on The Saints Stranded CDs.