Tuesday, October 30, 2018

David Bowie – "Suffragette City" (1972)

Wham bam, thank you Ma’am!

David Bowie – whose real name was David Jones – got off to a very slow start as a musician.  

He founded the Konrads when he was 15, then moved on to the King Bees, the Mannish Boys, the Lower Third, the Buzz, and Riot Squad – none of whom achieved any success.

To avoid being confused with Davy Jones of the Monks, he changed his name to David Bowie in 1967.  (His decision to rename himself after the 19th-century American frontier hero, James Bowie – who popularized the Bowie knife and died at the Alamo – seems odd.  Of course, pretty much everything about David Bowie seems odd.)

A very young David Bowie
His eponymous debut album, which was released that year, sank without a trace.  I’ve never heard it, but I’m told that it sounds nothing like his later music.

“Space Oddity,” which was released in the UK in 1969, was a top-five hit single there.  But Bowie’s second album – which had the same David Bowie title as his first album – was not a success in either the UK or the U.S.  (The album did better when it was re-released as Space Oddity in 1972, after the release of Ziggy Stardust.)

The next two albums – The Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971) – did better, but it was Bowie’s next album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, that propelled him to superstardom.

*     *     *     *     *

Ziggy Stardust – who was supposedly an androgynous rock star from Mars – may have been conceived as a combination of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed.  Or the character may have been inspired by Vince Taylor (an early-day British rock ’n’ roll singer who thought he was a cross between a god and an alien), the Legendary Stardust Cowboy (an outsider performer from Texas who got started playing psychobilly music in the sixties and still performs today), and/or Kansai Yamamoto (the Japanese designer who created Bowie’s stage costumes).  

In any event, Ziggy and the Spiders from Mars were like nothing the world had seen prior to 1972.  The album was released when I was a junior in college, and my friends and I played it to death.  

It has several notable tracks – “Moonage Daydream” is a personal favorite – but “Suffragette City” is the ne plus ultra of Ziggy Stardust songs.  I don’t know what the hell the point of the song is, but I love it to death.  

If you ask me – and I’m the only one with a vote on the question – it clearly deserves to be in the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” ALBUM TRACKS HALL OF FAME.

*     *     *     *     *

Did you know that Bowie originally offered “Suffragette City” to Mott the Hoople?

Bowie was a big fan of that band, which was close to breaking up in 1971.  He persuaded them to stay together, and said they could record “Suffragette City” if they wanted to.  (Ziggy Stardust had not yet been released.)

Mott turned down “Suffragette City,” but recorded another Bowie song – “All the Young Dudes” – which became their biggest hit.

“All the Young Dudes” is a great song, but it’s no “Suffragette City.”

Click here to listen to “Suffragette City.”

Click the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Traffic – "Freedom Rider" (1970)

By the time you hear that silent sound
Then your soul is in the lost and found

[NOTE: Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die is almost certainly the greatest guitarless classic-rock album.  It's an album with a deep bench, but I've chosen "Freedom Rider" for the inaugural class of the 2 OR 3 LINES "GOLDEN DECADE" ALBUM TRACKS HALL OF FAME."  Here's an updated version of my original 2010 post about that song.] 

Rice University didn't offer a music major when I was a student there – they offered only a music history course and a couple of music theory and composition classes.  (I was born a few years too soon.  Rice's Shepherd School of Music was created the year I graduated, and now is considered once of the top 10 music schools in the United States.)

You could say that the advanced theory and composition class I took as a senior had a very good student-teacher ratio:  I was the only student in the class.

Three times a week, I went to a small rehearsal room and met my professor for what were essentially private lessons in composing and arranging music.

A vintage McIntosh tube amplifier
My music class was at 11 am.  I had an English class at 9, but no class at 10.  So I would head to the library at 10 and work on my music composition homework while listening to reel-to-reel tapes in one of the library's music listening rooms, which were equipped with turntables, reel-to-reel tape players, and state-of-the-art McIntosh tube-type amplifiers.  

*     *     *     *     *

The tape I asked the librarian for most days was Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die.  Because it was a reel-to-reel tape, I usually started at the beginning and listened straight through to the end without skipping or repeating tracks.  It was the antithesis of the way I listen to music on my iPod today. 

That record, which had been released in the summer of 1970, was originally planned as a Steve Winwood solo album.

Winwood was a rock-and-roll prodigy.  He became the frontman of the Spencer Davis Group when he was only 15, and was not quite 19 when Traffic was formed in 1967.

After releasing two remarkable albums, Traffic broke up in 1969, and Winwood joined forces with Eric Clapton to form Blind Faith, which was perhaps the superest of all the "super groups" of that era.  Blind Faith released one album and toured for about three months before it broke up. 

After recording a couple of tracks for his planned solo album, Winwood decided to invite two of his old Traffic mates – drummer and lyricist Jim Capaldi, and saxophone/flute player Chris Wood – to join him.  Winwood took care of everything else (lead vocals, guitar, bass guitar, piano, and Hammond organ). 

*     *     *     *     *

The title song of the album is an English folk song, the earliest known version of which dates back to 1568.  Beer and whiskey were made from barley, and the name "John Barleycorn" was used to personify those alcoholic beverages.

The song describes the sowing and harvesting of barley and the post-harvest processing that turns barley into beer and whiskey as if it were telling the story of a man who is persecuted, tortured, and eventually killed – e.g., "They've hired men with their scythes so sharp to cut him off at the knee."  

Royal Doulton's John Barleycorn jug
Of course, John Barleycorn has the last laugh on his enemies, who are powerless to resist the allure of drink, which has the power to lay even the strongest man low.

A lot of other British groups recorded "John Barleycorn," including Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Jethro Tull, and Fairport Convention.  (The Fairport Convention version used the same tune as the well-known Thanksgiving Hymn, "We Plough the Fields and Scatter.")

*     *     *     *     *

"John Barleycorn" is my least favorite song on John Barleycorn Must Die.  It's clever, and it takes some time for you to see the punch line coming.  But it's not a song that's very interesting or satisfying musically – it's more of a novelty song, a one-trick pony.  And it's l-o-n-g.

But I think the album's other tracks are all very good, although I can't really explain why.  Most of them are relatively long, with lengthy instrumental passages dominated by Winwood's Hammond organ.

If I wasn't required by my own format to start each post off with a few lines of lyrics, I'd be tempted to feature the first track of the album, an instrumental titled "Glad."  Instead, I've featured the song that "Glad" leads right into, "Freedom Rider."

Freedom Riders
The "Freedom Riders" were civil rights activists who rode Greyhound and Trailways buses through the South in defiance of local "Jim Crow" laws requiring segregation in bus station waiting rooms and cafes.  Those laws had been held unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, at least to the extent that they applied to interstate travelers.  

The lyrics of this song appear to have nothing to do with the anti-segregation "Freedom Riders."  But I can't tell you what they do signify -- your guess is as good as mine.     

There's nary a guitar to be found on this track.  Rather, the song alternates between short, transitional saxophone-and-piano bridges and longer passages that feature Chris Wood's inspired flute playing and Winwood's dense, vibrato-heavy Hammond B-3 organ. 

Hammond B-3 organ
And, of course, there's Winwood's singing.  His tenor voice is often husky in the lower registers but becomes pure and clear and piercing when he goes up the scale.  It's a unique vocal instrument, but his style is distinctive as well.  

I'm not wild about his post-Traffic music.  Like Rod Stewart and Steve Miller, he put out a lot of crap in the 80's and 90's.  But John Barleycorn Must Die was the culmination of a long and remarkably productive period – and he was barely 22 when it was released.  

Click here to listen to "Freedom Rider."

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, October 26, 2018

Rolling Stones – "Gimme Shelter" (1969)

Rape, murder!
It's just a shot away!

[NOTE: If I had to pick one rock song as the G.O.A.T. – the Greatest Of All Time –  "Gimme Shelter" would be it.  So you best believe it's in the first group of inductees into the 2 OR 3 LINES "GOLDEN DECADE" ALBUM TRACKS HALL OF FAME.  Here's an updated version of my original 2013 post about the song, which focuses on Merry Clayton's extraordinary backup vocal.]

Great art often comes at a great cost.  But rarely does an artist pay a price as high as backup singer Merry Clayton paid the night she recorded the stunning vocal that made "Gimme Shelter" so extraordinary.

The great rock critic, Greil Marcus, once said that "the Stones have never done anything better" than "Gimme Shelter," which is the opening track – and the best track – on the Rolling Stones' best album, Let It Bleed.  

"Gimme Shelter" begins with a nervous, twitchy guitar solo by Keith Richards (who turned 70 two days ago), but then drummer Charlie Watts – always unsung, but perhaps the most essential of all the Stones – takes over, propelling the song down the tracks as only he can.  Mick Jagger's lead vocal is unusually strong, but the crucial element of "Gimme Shelter" – the one thing that lifts it above just about anything else the Stones ever recorded – is backup singer Merry Clayton.

Here's a photo of a portion of the inner sleeve of my copy of Let It Bleed.  Note the two misspellings:  "Gimmie Shelter" and "Mary Clayton":

You could say that "Gimme Shelter" and the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" are fraternal twins.  Their message is the message of William Butler Yeats' masterpiece, "The Second Coming":

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

Musical anarchy is loosed upon the world when backup singer Merry Clayton tears "Gimme Shelter" a new you-know-what about 2:45 into the song.

Click here to listen to "Gimme Shelter."

*     *     *     *     *

Merry Clayton got her start with Ray Charles, and later sang backing vocals for Joe Cocker, Tom Jones, and Lynyrd Skynyrd ("Sweet Home Alabama").  She is featured in 20 Feet From Stardom, a documentary I recently saw in an almost completely empty movie theater in Washington, DC.  (It was just me and one other person in the whole theater.) 

The movie focuses on a half-dozen or so female backup singers who made their names singing on soul and rock albums in the sixties and seventies – including not only Clayton, but also Darlene Love (who sang on dozens of Phil Spector records, often without being credited), Lisa Fischer (who has accompanied the Stones on every one of their tours since 1989), and Claudia Lennear (a former Ike and Tina Turner "Ikette" who also backed up Joe Cocker and Leon Russell, and was the inspiration for the Stones' "Brown Sugar").

Here's the trailer for the movie:

*     *     *     *     *

Clayton and the Stones didn't know each other before she was picked to do the backing vocal that made her famous.  Years later, she told an interviewer about the night she was called and asked to sing on "Gimme Shelter":

Well, I’m at home at . . . almost 12 o’clock at night.  And I’m hunkered down in my bed with my husband, very pregnant, and we got a call from a dear friend of mine and producer named Jack Nitzsche.  Jack Nitzsche called and said you know, "Merry, are you busy?"  I said, "No, I’m in bed."  He says, well, you know, "There are some guys in town from England.  And they need someone to come and sing a duet with them, but I can’t get anybody to do it.  Could you come?" He said, "I really think this would be something good for you." 

Merry Clayton then
Clayton's husband talked her into going down to the studio – she claims she had no idea who the Stones were.  When she showed up, Keith Richards explained what they were looking for her to do:
I said, "Well, play the track. It’s late. I’d love to get back home." So they play the track and tell me that I’m going to sing – this is what you’re going to sing: "Oh, children, it’s just a shot away." . . . I said, "Well, that’s cool."  So I did the first part, and we got down to the rape, murder part.  And I said, "Why am I singing 'rape, murder'?" . . . They told me the gist of what the lyrics were, and I said, "Oh, okay, that’s cool." 

Merry Clayton now
So then I had to sit on a stool because I was a little heavy in my belly.  I mean, it was a sight to behold.  And we got through it.  And then we went in the booth to listen, and I saw them hooting and hollering while I was singing, but I didn’t know what they were hooting and hollering about.  And when I got back in the booth and listened, I said, "Ooh, that’s really nice."  They said, well, "You want to do another?"  I said, well, "I’ll do one more," I said, "and then I’m going to have to say thank you and good night."  I did one more, and then I did one more.  So it was three times I did it, and then I was gone.  The next thing I know, that’s history.
Click here to listen to Clayton's isolated vocal track from that recording session.  Listen to her voice crack – and listen to the reaction from the Stones.

*     *     *     *     *

Shortly after leaving the studio that night, Merry Clayton suffered a miscarriage and lost her child.  
“That was a dark, dark period for me,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1986, “but God gave me the strength to overcome it.  I turned it around.  I took it as life, love and energy and directed it in another direction, so it doesn’t really bother me to sing ‘Gimme Shelter’ now.”
Merry Clayton later recorded "Gimme Shelter" on her 1970 solo album of the same name.  Click here to listen to her version of the song.

Click here to watch a video of Lady Gaga doing "Gimme Shelter" with the Stones at a benefit concert in 2012.  I wouldn't say it's bad, but I wouldn't say it's good either.

Click on the link below to buy the original "Gimme Shelter" from Amazon:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Janis Joplin – "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" (1969)

If it’s a dream 
I don’t want
Nobody to wake me

My school had a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good jazz band.  My senior year, we travelled to a state university in a nearby city to take part in a big high-school jazz band contest.  

To prepare for that competition, we had to show up at school early every day for a couple of weeks to rehearse. 

My high school
My mother usually drove me to school, but I’m guessing that our special practice sessions started too early for me to wait for her to give me a ride.  My father left for his job much earlier than she did, so I probably had to go with him – even though that meant I got to school 20 or 30 minutes before I needed to be there for rehearsals.

I have a vivid recollection of killing the time before those practice sessions began by dropping by the school’s journalism room and listening to today’s featured song a few times to get myself psyched up to rehearse.

*     *     *     *     *

“Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” is the first track on Janis Joplin’s I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! album.

I have no idea why there was a copy of that album in the journalism room, which is where the high school newspaper and yearbook staffs worked.  As I recall, there was also a copy of Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers album there.  (The lyrics to one of the songs on that album included the line “Up against the wall, motherf*cker,” so you had to pick your spots if you wanted to listen to it.)

Janis Joplin
I owned both albums, so it’s possible that I had brought those LPs to school.  But I was very protective of my albums, so I don’t see myself bringing those two records to school and leaving them there.

*     *     *     *     *

“Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” doesn’t waste any time.  After a four-bar introduction, Janis Joplin jumps in – applying her trademark melisma to the word “try” – and we’re off to the races.

Producer Gabriel Mekler brings everything he’s got – trumpets, saxophones, keyboards, backup singers – but Janis more than holds her own.

*     *     *     *     *

Gabriel Mekler, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1977 – he was only 35 years old – produced not only Kozmic Blues but also the best Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night albums.

The “I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues
Again Mama!
album cover
Steppenwolf originally called themselves Jack London and the Sparrows.  Mekler suggested they change their name to Steppenwolf after he read the Herman Hesse novel.

As the producer of “Born to Be Wild,” Mekler already had a song in the inaugural class of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” HIT SINGLES HALL OF FAME.  

And now he has one in the inaugural class of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” ALBUM TRACKS HALL OF FAME, too.

Not too shabby.

*     *     *     *     *

Click here to listen to “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder),” which was co-written by Jerry Ragovoy and Chip Taylor.  (Taylor – who was born James Voight and is the brother of actor Jon Voight – decided to give songwriting a shot after failing in his attempt to become a professional golfer.  He also wrote “Angel of the Morning” and “Wild Thing.”)

Click on the link below to buy today’s featured song from Amazon:

Friday, October 19, 2018

Stooges – "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (1969)

Now I’m ready to close my eyes
Now I’m ready to close my mind

“I Wanna Be Your Dog” is effing relentless, boys and girls.

The song is built around guitarist Ron Asheton’s downward-moving three-chord riff – C, B, Em (inverted) – which is repeated over and over and over.  Producer John Cale joins in on the piano, banging away on an E4 and an E5 (I think) like his instrument has only two keys instead of 88.

The effect is similar to someone rhythmically hitting you on the head with a hammer, if being rhythmically hit on the head with a hammer felt really, really good.

*     *     *     *     *

“I Wanna Be Your Dog” was used to great effect in Guy Ritchie’s 1998 movie, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.  (1998?  That movie is 20 years old?  You’ve got to be kidding me.)

I like Quentin Tarantino’s movies as much as the next guy, but let’s give some love to Guy Ritchie.  Tarantino only wishes he had made two movies as good as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. 

*     *     *     *     *

One more thing about Ritchie: not only did he marry Madonna, he reportedly got something in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 million pounds from her as a divorce settlement.  (That ain’t hay!)

I hope A-Rod was worth it, Madge.

*     *     *     *     *

“I Wanna Be Your Dog” sounds nothing like any of the other songs in the inaugural class of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” ALBUM TRACKS HALL OF FAME.  It’s hard to believe it was recorded in 1969 – it was truly ahead of its time.

Click here to listen to “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

It's a Beautiful Day – "White Bird" (1969)

White bird dreams of the aspen trees
With their dying leaves, turning gold
But the white bird just sits in her cage
Growing old

[NOTE: They don’t make albums like It’s a Beautiful Day anymore.  Its first track, “White Bird,” will do more to relax you in six minutes than a bottle of Xanax, and it clearly belongs in the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” ALBUM TRACKS HALL OF FAME.  Here’s an updated version of my original 2010 post about the song.]

As I'm writing this, we've had two weeks of perfect late-summer weather – it's been warm (but not hot), dry, clear, and calm day after day.  

When I think of my college years, I think of days like these.  (Houston didn't really have winters, and I wasn't there for the hot, humid summers.)

And I think of "White Bird," "Hot Summer Day," and the rest of the It's A Beautiful Day album.

*     *     *     *     *

My residential college was constructed like a 1950s-style motel – it was only two stories high, and the door to every room took you directly outdoors, not into a hallway.  So on quiet afternoons, you could open the door to let the sunshine and breezes in as we read, or sit on the grass of the courtyard and lean back against one of the old trees.  

On an afternoon like that, there was not a better record to have on your turntable than It's A Beautiful Day. It's an unusual album, partly because the lead instrument is a violin instead of a guitar.  The songs are relatively long, and several of them can induce a trance.

There are certain records that can quickly put me to sleep.  That's not a sign of boredom – it's an indication of how relaxed and at peace that music makes me feel.  There's nothing more pleasant than falling asleep while listening to music.  Surrealistic Pillow is probably the best example of a record that has that effect on me.  Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds are other examples, and so is this album.  

I used to be able to fall asleep quite easily while lying on the grass in a park.  I remember lying on the side of a hill in People's Park in Berkeley one warm Sunday afternoon in 1981 and quickly dozing off while reading a Raymond Chandler paperback I bought used somewhere along Telegraph Avenue (The Long Goodbye?  The Little Sister?), but I don't think I could do that today.

It's a Beautiful Day (circa 1969)
Maybe I no longer trust strangers enough to close my eyes and fall asleep out in the open like that.  Or maybe I'm too self-conscious to let my guard down the way you do when you fall asleep – I'm afraid I may snore, or mumble in my sleep, or just look funny.

*     *     *     *     *  

The majordomo of It's A Beautiful Day was David LaFlamme, a classically-trained violinist from Salt Lake City who had played in the Utah Symphony Orchestra.  In the 1960s, he moved to San Francisco, where he played with Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia (among others) and was one of the founders of the original Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks band. 

LaFlamme and his keyboard-playing wife, Linda, formed It's a Beautiful Day in 1967 – the year of the "Summer of Love" in San Francisco.

"White Bird" was apparently inspired by their experiences with their manager, Matthew Katz, who also managed the Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape.  (Katz is still alive.  In 2010, when he was 80 years old, he was a candidate for the Malibu (CA) City Council.)  

Katz discouraged the band from performing in San Francisco, booking them instead at a Seattle club he controlled.  While in Seattle, the group lived in the attic of an old house owned by Katz while writing and rehearsing new songs. 

According to LaFlamme, 

We were living in the attic of an old Victorian house in Seattle, and performing at the Encore Ballroom. It was a typical Seattle winter day, rainy and drizzly, and we were looking out from the attic window over the street in front of this old house . . . 

The song describes the picture Linda and I saw as we looked out this little window in this attic.  We had a little Wurlitzer portable piano sitting right in the well of this window, and I'd sit and work on songs. When you hear lines like, 'the leaves blow across the long black road to the darkened sky and its rage,' it's describing what I was seeing out the window.  

Where the 'white bird' thing came from . . . we were like caged birds in that attic.  We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. It was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way.  

The group members eventually returned to San Francisco and began playing at a few clubs without Katz's approval. The band got its first big break when offered a chance to open for Cream at the Oakland Coliseum on October 4, 1968.  This album was released the next year.

The LaFlammes split up shortly thereafter, and Linda did not perform on the group's next album.    

Click here to listen to "White Bird."

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Undisputed Truth – "Smiling Faces Sometimes" (1971)

Smiling faces, smiling faces
Sometimes they don't tell the truth

Are you a University of Maryland student looking for a cheap way for you and your buddies to get  absolutely sh*t-faced this weekend?

If so, I’ve got some great news for you!

Anheuser-Busch recently shipped hundreds of 77-packs of Natural Light beer to its local distributor for delivery to liquor stores in College Park, Maryland – home of the University of Maryland’s 30,000-student flagship campus.

(Why a 77-pack?  Because the Natural Light brand was introduced in 1977.)

Those 77-packs are selling for about $30.  That’s only 39 cents a can, or less than $10 a case.  (To quote the Who, “I’d call that a bargain – the best I ever had!”)

Here’s a report on the 77-packs from a local TV station:

*     *     *     *     *

Anheuser-Busch deserves the thanks of young binge drinkers, but let’s give credit where credit is due and thank A-B’s local distributor, Bob Hall LLC, as well.

After all, they’re the guys delivering those 77-packs to the local stores – who I hope are checking IDs carefully.  (After all, we don’t want any 77-packs falling into the hands of underage Georgetown Prep students!)

One down, 76 to go!
Eric Best, the general manager of Bob Hall, was thrilled by the positive consumer response to the bargain 77-packs.  “It was selling out as our guys were delivering it off the trucks,” Best told the Baltimore Sun.  So he quickly got on the phone to the Natural Light brand manager to beg them to send him some more.  

Bob Hall hoped to deliver 1400 cases of the 65-pound behemoths to local stores in time for tailgating and homecoming parties.

That’s 107,800 cans of Natural Light, boys and girls.  (I’d be surprised if there was a single one of those 107,800 cans left unopened by the end of Maryland’s homecoming.)

I’m sure it was high fives all around at Bob Hall LLC when they saw just how fast those 77-packs were flying off the store shelves.  Ka-ching, ka-ching!

*     *     *     *     *

Not that the good folks at Bob Hall want people to consume Natural Light  irresponsibly.  “It’s a party pack,” said a Bob Hall spokesman. “It’s not an individual challenge to drink 77 beers.”

(Hopefully someone in your frat
has a car with a really big trunk)
Heaven forbid!  Like the man said, those 77-packs are for parties.  If four dudes get together with an equal number of babes, there’s enough in one of those 77-packs for everyone to have nine-plus beers.

Which should be more than enough to get the job done!

*     *     *     *     *

All this is going on as the “Task Force to Study State Alcohol Regulation, Enforcement, Safety, and Public Health” is assessing the Old Line State’s current system of regulating the sale of alcohol.

The preamble to the statute that established that task force makes a number of excellent points:

– For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol use is responsible for approximately 1321 deaths annually in Maryland, not to mention $5 billion in economic costs.

– As the CDC also points out, “alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States.”

– Also, excessive alcohol use is commonly involved in sexual assault because “excessive alcohol consumption increases aggression.”

*     *     *     *     *

Given all that, it may come as a bit of a surprise to you that one of the members of the esteemed Task Force is none other than Eric Best, the general manager of the aforementioned Bob Hall beer distributorship.

Haven't decided on your
 Halloween costume yet?
After all, he’s as responsible as anyone for those 1400 cases of bargain Natural Light 77-packs that are flooding the University of Maryland campus this weekend.

Why in the world would the leadership of the Maryland legislature appoint one of the biggest sellers of cheap beer in the state to a task force that claims to be the sworn enemy of excessive alcohol use – especially excessive alcohol use by Maryland youth?

To paraphrase the 18th-century English poet, William Cowper, our legislative leadership moves in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform.

*     *     *     *     *

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” was written by the greatest of all the Motown producer/songwriter teams, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong (who also penned “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” and many other Motown classics).

The song was originally recorded by the Temptations, who released a 12-minute version of “Smiling Faces Sometime” on a 1971 album.  Shortly thereafter, the Undisputed Truth recorded a much shorter version of the song, which made it all the way to #3 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”

The Temptations returned the favor the very next year.  After the Undisputed Truth’s recording of “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” stalled at #63 on the “Hot 100,” the Temptations’ cover made it all the way to #1.

Click here to listen to “Smiling Faces Sometimes.”

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon.  Unless you’ve spent all your money on Natural Light 77-packs, of course.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Led Zeppelin – "Dazed and Confused" (1969)

Been dazed and confused for so long it's not true
Wanted a woman, never bargained for you

[NOTE: Led Zeppelin may have stolen “Dazed and Confused” from Jake Holmes.  But it’s still the best track on what may be the best classic rock album ever, so it should come as no surprise that I chose it for the inaugural class of the 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” ALBUM TRACKS HALL OF FAME.  Here’s a mashup of three 2015 posts I did on three different recordings of “Dazed and Confused.”]

The Yardbirds went through three of the greatest guitarists in rock music history – Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page – in their five-year history.

When Clapton decided to leave the Yardbirds in 1965, Page was asked if he wanted to replace him.  Page declined the offer but recommended his friend Beck, and Beck was hired.

Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck
In May 1966, Beck went into the studio to do some solo recording.  He called on Page to help him work up some songs to record.  

Page came up with the idea of basing an instrumental on Maurice Ravels famous 1928 composition, Boléro (which became enormously popular when it was featured in the Bo Derek movie, 10).

Beck then recruited disaffected Who members Keith Moon and John Entwistle to play drums and bass.  Moon showed up for the session, but Entwistle did not, and John Paul Jones – who later joined Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin – played bass instead.

Keith Moon
The recording of Becks Bolero went so well that Beck, Page, Moon, and Jones talked about forming a group and doing more recording.  According to Page, Moon quipped “Yeah, that'll go down like a lead Zeppelin,” which gave Page the idea for the name of the group he did form after the eventual breakup of the Yardbirds.  (John Entwistle has also claimed credit for the quip.) 

Page got the songwriting credit for Becks Bolero,” although Beck later said that he should have shared that credit.  Page also claimed that he was the record's actual producer, but he did not get the producing credit.

Click here to read more about Becks Bolero.

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After Becks Bolero was recorded, Page was invited to join the Yardbirds.  During the few months when both Beck and Page were in the group, Beck played lead guitar and Page shifted to bass.

The only comparable situation that comes to mind is seven-time All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez shifting to third base when he joined the Yankees, leaving shortstop to Derek Jeter.

A-Rod and the Captain
The popularity of the Yardbirds was declining by the fall of 1966, when Beck was fired from the band and Page took over as lead guitarist.  

The band finally broke up in July 1968.  Drummer Jim McCarty and singer Keith Reif authorized Page and bassist Chris Dreja to put together a new group – to be called the New Yardbirds – to fulfill a contractual commitment to play a series of shows in Scandinavia that fall.

Page wanted Terry Reid to be the new groups lead singer.  Reid said no, suggesting that Page use Robert Plant instead.  Plant then recommended his former Band of Joy bandmate, John Bonham, to be the drummer.  When Dreja decided to drop out of the new group, Page recruited John Paul Jones -- the bassist on Becks Bolero.

The New Yardbirds played the Scandinavian dates, then went into the studio and recorded an album in just nine days.  Dreja threatened legal action if the group continued to call itself the New Yardbirds, so they became Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin
Atlantic Records signed them to a contract without ever having seen them perform.  The first Led Zeppelin album was released in January 1969, and the rest . . . is history.

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That album included a song called “Dazed and Confused, which also was the title of a song from a relatively obscure 1967 album by Jake Holmes. 

Holmes opened for the Yardbirds at the Village Theatre in New York City on August 25, 1967.  Holmes performed “Dazed and Confused that night, which he later described as the night that his song fell into the loving arms of Jimmy Page.

The Yardbirds drummer, Jim McCarty, said years later that he was so impressed by “Dazed and Confused that he bought the Holmes album the next day so the group could work up a cover of the song.  

But the author of a book about the Yardbirds quotes a man who says he saw Jimmy Page himself buying the Holmes album at a particular record store on Bleecker Street.

The Yardbirds never recorded “Dazed and Confused in the studio.  But there are several recordings of them performing the song live before they disbanded.  Click here to view one of them.

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Led Zeppelin recorded “Dazed and Confused with entirely new lyrics – except for the words of the songs title.

But the arrangement was recognizable as the same basic arrangement that the Yardbirds had used.  Thats not surprising since Page was largely responsible for the Yardbirds arrangement.) 

I think most people would say that Jake Holmes“Dazed and Confused is the same song as Led Zeppelin“Dazed and Confused.  But Led Zeppelin did not give a songwriting credit to Jake Holmes.  

Although Holmes heard Led Zeppelin“Dazed and Confused shortly after it was released, he didnt do anything about it for for more than a decade.  

When Holmes did finally write to Page to ask for a shared songwriting credit and some do-re-mi, he never heard back.

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Led Zeppelin has been sued several times for copyright infringement.  In 1985, veteran blues musician Willie Dixon sued the band, alleging that Whole Lotta Love infringed not just one, but two of Dixons songs.  (The case was settled out of court.)  More recently, the estate of the late Randy California claimed that Stairway to Heaven infringed California's composition, Taurus, which was recorded by the band Spirit in 1967.

Holmes finally sued Page in 2010.  His complaint was eventually dismissed – probably because the two parties agreed to an out-of-court settlement.  

While the terms of any such settlement have never been released, it appears that Holmes won at least a partial victory.  The Led Zeppelin reunion concert album, Celebration Day – which was released several months after the presumed settlement of the Holmes lawsuit – contains this songwriting credit for “Dazed and Confused:  Jimmy Page; inspired by Jake Holmes.

To read more about the controversy over the authorship of “Dazed and Confused, you can click here – or you can click here -- or you can click here.

Click here to listen to the Led Zeppelin recording of “Dazed and Confused. 

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon: