Music, October 1971: Parents of rock stars

Clockwise from top left: Zappa, Cocker, Crosby, Clapton

The book Never A Dull Moment by David Hepworth notes a photo display in LIFE magazine in the fall of 1971 called “Rock Stars and their parents.” Among those represented: the Jackson Five, Frank Zappa, Ginger Baker, Joe Cocker, Grace Slick, and David Crosby.

“Eric Clapton was pictured with his grandmother Rose Clapp, who had raised him on behalf of her sixteen-year-old daughter. There was no mention of his actual birth mother. the public wasn’t ready for the complexity of a nonnuclear family.”

While photographer John Olson noted that the rock stars were “uniformly” well-behaved around their parents, they weren’t temperamentally suited for domestic life, having spent years on the road. Moreover, unannounced fans would try to show up on the doorsteps of Bob Dylan, Pete Townsend and others. Paul McCartney was the exception, as he and Linda lived in rural Scotland.

Often even these musicians of means still thought of themselves as creators first, people with homes second. Among the folks with studios actually in their abodes were George Harrison, James Taylor and Graham Nash. Other musicians were impulsive buyers of eccentric structures. Keith Moon’s house had five pyramids. Jimmy Page and John Lennon both needed others to stay in their residences.

As for musical families, the Kinks put out my favorite of their albums, Muswell Hillbillies, Donny Osmond and his brothers were strong on the charts all year since One Bad Apple copped the style of the Motown family’s J5.

The Beach Boys made the cover of Rolling Stones, a wildly successful singles band in the early ’60s who aside from Pet Sounds, were not particularly successful album artists in the latter part of the decade. They were perceived as uncool.

Fortunately, they pieced together the often magnificent Surf’s Up, in a way a tribute to the band’s aura. “Van Dyke Park, who had co-written the title song five years earlier correctly predicted if they used that title, they could pre-sell 150,000 extra copies.

Eventually, though, it was the old songs, first with the Who’s 1971 Meaty Big and Bouncy, then the defunct Beatles, followed by the Beach Boys, post 1973’s American Graffiti, that showed that nostalgia could sell quite well, thank you.

Listen to:

Surf’s Up – the Beach Boys
Coat Of Many Colors – Dolly Parton
Superstar – Carpenters
Old Man – Neil Young
Muswell Hillbilly – The Kinks
Peaches En Regalia – Frank Zappa
Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Tired of Being Alone – Al Green

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Music, September 1971: widely un-bought

“Not all the fresh music made in 1971 made an impact in that year. Some of it didn’t come out until years later the people who made it had made it had moved on, had become different people, or died.” That’s the first sentence in the September chapter of Never A Dull Moment by David Hepworth.

The Modern Lovers included future Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison and leader Jonathan Richman, who is considered by some to be the ‘godfather of punk rock.”

Roxy Music was primarily wanted to be perceived as an art project, as most of the members, including Bryan Ferry, were students. Likewise, David Byrne was meeting up with Chris Frantz at the Phode Island School of Design and thinking about a band called the Artistics; Byrne and Franz would, of course, also help create Talking Heads.

Kraftwerk was formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1969. Their second album had “more in common with the workshopping approach to improvised theater than the performance-oriented approach of traditional rock.”

When the critics suggest who ought to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they often mention this band, certainly not for its commercial success, but its influence. The Wikipedia notes: “Kraftwerk’s musical style and image can be heard and seen in 1980s synthpop groups such as Gary Numan, Ultravox, John Foxx, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Human League, Depeche Mode, Visage, and Soft Cell.”

Alex Chilton had experience some success with a band called the Box Tops, but the experience left him drained. He and some mates ended up starting a band called Big Star. Their album, #1 Record, released in 1972, did nothing, maybe because it was released on the soul label Stax, which had just bought itself out “of a distribution deal with Columbia” [Records] and therefore had to “promote a white rock record through a black promotion and distribution system.”

The records of the Velvet Underground and Big Star, “like those of of the Stooges, MC5 and Nick Drake, were widely available and widely un-bought.” But those artists inspired music that eventually topped the charts.

Listen to

George Jackson – Bob Dylan here or here

Motel Blues – Loudon Wainwright III here or here

Hospital – Modern Lovers here or here

Andy Warhol – David Bowie here or here

Life Is a Carnival – the Band here or here

Music throwback: Stax food choices

The Astors

I was listening to one of my Stax-Volt box sets, which I usually do in the summer, in honor of the label’s co-founder Jim Stewart’s birthday. (His sister Estelle Axton ALSO belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, BTW.) I’ve written about Stax before, including its complicated relationship with Atlantic Records.

I noticed that some of the Memphis soul label artists, especially the more obscure ones – we’re not talking Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas – had tracks with food-related titles.

This is not to say that some of the name artists didn’t ALSO choose a musical culinary route. Booker T and the MG’s had a song about popcorn, e.g. But I picked three songs to highlight, two of which may give you tooth decay.

Candy – The Astors. Composed by Booker T & MG’s guitarist Steve Cropper and Isaac Hayes, this is the only one of the Memphis group’s songs to chart. #12 on the R&B charts, #63 on the pop charts (Billboard) in the summer of 1965.

“As ‘Candy’ moved up the charts, The Astors performed on shows at the Uptown Theater in Philly, the Howard Theater in D.C., The Regal Theater in Chicago, and The Apollo Theater in New York. The other performers on these shows included The O’Jays, The Coasters, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, and Redd Foxx to name a few. The Astors also spent 2 1/2 months performing on tour with The James Brown Review.”

Listen HERE or HERE
***

Sugar, Sugar – The Mad Lads (1966). The song was composed by Alvertis Isbell and Eddie Floyd, the latter a name artist, but, as far as I can tell, the song did not chart. The group is from Detroit.

Listen HERE or HERE
***

Hot Dog- The Four Shells (March 1966). “A Chicago group recording licensed to Stax, produced by Jerry Butler and Eddie Thomas.” I cannot find any chart action for this either.

Listen HERE or HERE

Despite their relative obscurity, these all sound vaguely familiar, as though they were regionally popular, even if they were not always national hits.

Walter Becker of Steely Dan

If you had asked me a couple weeks ago what I thought of Steely Dan, I would have ‘d say I liked them well enough, though I have never blogged about them in the 12+ years I’ve been doing this. But after Walter Becker, half of the core duo with Donald Fagan, died this month at the age of 67 (!), I realized how much more engaged with the band than I had realized.

For one thing, I discovered that I owned all nine of their core albums, The Royal Scam on cassette (!) and all the others pictured here on vinyl, including that greatest hits album and Donald Fagan’s The Nightfly. The latter two Steely Dan albums, which came out after a 20-year hiatus, and a different GH compilation I have on CD.

For another, people were posting lyrics on Facebook, with no citations, and I knew, and loved, them all. “No static at all” – FM, from a movie I’ve never seen. “Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the caaar!” – Kid Charlemagne. And my favorite, “She don’t remember Queen of Soul” – Hey, Nineteen.

The group, which was actually a band, including future Doobie Brother Jeff (Skunk) Baxter, when I first bought Can’t Buy a Thrill around 1973, became a pair with various sidemen, including future Doobie Brother Michael McDonald; I hear his vocal so clearly in songs such as Peg. Only Becker and Fagan are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 2001.

I never saw them perform live, but listen to what is billed as What Is Probably the Greatest Steely Dan Show Ever, in 1974. Also, watch Steely Dan’s Final Concert With Walter Becker. “Group played a career-spanning set in Greenwich, Connecticut on May 27th.”

There are too many songs that I love to pick a Top 10 list. In addition to FM, they might include these, most of which I won’t find links to, for time’s sake:

Can’t Buy a Thrill – Do It Again, Dirty Work, Reelin’ in the Years
Countdown to Ecstasy – Bodhisattva, My Old School
Pretzel Logic – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
Katy Lied – Black Friday, Bad Sneakers, Doctor Wu
Royal Scam – Kid Charlemagne, The Fez, Haitian Divorce, title track
Aja – Deacon Blues, Peg
Gaucho – Babylon Sisters, Hey Nineteen
Two Against Nature – Gaslighting Abbie, title track

Also, Coverville 1184: Walter Becker Tribute & Steely Dan Cover Story II

Elvis has left the building

“Elvis has left the building” has become such a cliche, or as the Wikipedia puts it, “a catchphrase and punchline,” if you’re young enough, you may not know that people actually said it of Elvis Presley.

It was “announced at the end of [his] concerts to encourage fans to accept that there would be no further encores and to go home. It is now used more widely to indicate that someone has made an exit or that something is complete.”

From Phrases:

“Oddly, although the phrase was routinely used to encourage the audience to leave, the first time that it was announced it was to encourage them to stay in their seats. That first use was in December 1956 by Horace Logan [listen], who was the announcer at the Louisiana Hayride show, in which Elvis was a regular performer.

“Presley had very quickly become very popular with teenagers but had previously taken a regular lowly spot at the Hayride, which was his first big break. He was on the bill quite early in proceedings but after his performance was over and the encore complete, the crowd of teenagers, who weren’t Hillbilly enthusiasts, began to leave. Logan announced: ‘Please, young people … Elvis has left the building. He has gotten in his car and driven away … Please take your seats.'”

Throughout the 1970s, the phrase was captured on record several times, spoken by Al Dvorin.

Now, it is “used to refer to anyone who has exited in some sense. For instance, it might be used when someone makes a dramatic exit from an argument, to relieve tension among those who remain. Baseball broadcasters on radio and/or television sometimes use the phrase as a humorous way to describe a home run, which is typically hit over the outfield fence, leaving the field of play.”

There is a movie called Elvis Has Left the Building (2004): “A fugitive Pink Lady rep hooks up with a bored ad exec as she’s trying to avoid going down for the murder of several Elvis impersonators.”

The phrase is referred to in the Dire Straits song Calling Elvis [listen].

Calling Elvis
Is anybody home?
Calling Elvis
I’m here all alone
Did he leave the building?
Or can he come to the phone?
Calling Elvis
I’m here all alone

The Wikipedia lists several pop references to the phrase, including the films The Usual Suspects and Independence Day. But it doesn’t mention Elvis is Dead by Living Colour [listen], which is the strongest reference for me.

Elvis is dead, 40 years today. Or as I read 40 years ago tomorrow, Elvis HAS left the building. Right? RIGHT?!

Music shaming and Pooh relating

Another from Arthur query for Ask Roger Anything:

Have you ever been chastised by a group you were part of for liking a pop culture performer (band or solo artist)? For example, black people, fellow church members, your group at university, whatever, who collectively disapproved of someone you liked (regardless of whether they knew you liked that act or not). If so, how did that make you feel?

Not that I can recall as a collective. Individuals, I can certainly remember. My sister’s boyfriend in high school who thought my taste in music was too “white”. Then he’d find artists such as Three Dog Night or Blood, Sweat, and Tears and embrace them.

This reminds me that he also liked Bridge Over Troubled Water, the Simon & Garfunkel song, and in fact bought my sister the single. Well, she was disappointed that he had not purchased the album of the same name for her. Shortly thereafter, I bought the LP for me and noticed that the single version and album versions were in different keys! So, thanks, George.

Also, my girlfriend c 1979 had a son who was a teenager, and he really mocked me playing the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever.

I have an extraordinary memory for playing music that I like but that others didn’t: buying my mother Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive, and that was a dud gift. Some of the cast of the production of Boys in the Band finding Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon boring. Friend Carol from high school hated At the Zoo and Strawberry Fields Forever, A DJ I knew giving up on Maybe Tomorrow by the Jackson Five.
***
Tom the Mayor wonders:

Are there any Bands or singers you saw and said to yourself, “I wish they had stayed retired!”

Y’know, I don’t. I figure to let them and/or the marketplace decide. It seems that some artists such as Roger Waters and Fleetwood Mac are doing farewell tours, and that’s cool.

I AM amazed that the Rolling Stones are still at it, though.

What Character in Winnie The Pooh Are You? I read an article years ago that every Pooh character is a personality type.

My knee-jerk reaction was to say Eeyore. But I decided to take one of those highly scientific tests on Facebook. The results: Eeyore:

“You may be the ‘Debby-Downer’ of your group of friends, but that’s just because you’re realistic. You tend to be pessimistic and gloomy at times, but you know when to pull out your smile at the perfect moment. Being very cute doesn’t hurt either.”

W is for Junior Walker and the All-Stars

Among the wealth of artists that performed on the Motown labels in 1960s, I probably know about Junior Walker the least. He was born Autry DeWalt-Mixom, Jr. in Blythesville, Arkansas on 14 June 1931. He grew up in South Bend, Indiana.

He started his band, the Jumping Jacks, and his good friend, drummer Billy Nicks, had a group, the Rhythm Rockers, but the two would play on each other’s gigs. Since Nicks had a local TV show in South Bend, he asked Walker to join his band.

When Nicks got drafted, Walker convinced the group to move to Battle Creek, Michigan. After some personnel and name changes, the All Stars were signed by Harvey Fuqua to his Harvey records. “Fuqua’s labels were taken over by Motown’s Berry Gordy, and Jr. Walker & the All Stars [the usual spelling] became members of the Motown family, recording for their Soul imprint in 1964.”

The group’s first big hit was “Shotgun” in 1965, which “uses only one chord throughout the entire song — A-flat seventh. Other songs featuring this same structure (or non-structure) are Chain of Fools and Land of 1000 Dances.” The song is in the Grammy and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. The All Stars were in a particular groove. The song appeared in several movies, including Malcolm X.

I have this Motown LP box set that explains that there was a songwriter – it doesn’t identify who, but it was either Johnny Bristol, who discovered the group; Fuqua, who took Bristol’s suggestion; or a guy named Vernon Bullock. The songwriter pitched the song to Junior, but he said it wasn’t his thing.

The next year, the songwriter said he still had that song, and Walker reluctantly agreed to record “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” in 1969. “A Motown quality control meeting rejected this song for single release, but radio station DJs made the track popular, resulting in Motown releasing it as a single.”

Junior Walker died of cancer on 23 November 1995 at the age of 64 in Battle Creek.

Listen to:

Shotgun, #4 pop, #1 rhythm & blues for four weeks in 1965 here or here

(I’m A) Road Runner, #20 pop, #4 r&b in 1966 here or here

How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), #18 pop, #3 r&b in 1966 here or here

What Does It Take (To Win Your Love), #4 pop, #1 r&b for two weeks in 1969 here or here

These Eyes, #16 pop, # r&b for two weeks in 1969 here or here

Urgent (Foreigner, with Jr. Walker on sax solo), #3 pop in 1981, here or here

Urgent, 1983, appears in 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan, here or here

Round 20 of ABC Wednesday.

Musicians I have seen perform live

Y’know, just a torrent of people were doing this thing on Facebook, and presumably elsewhere, where one picks out nine concerts they’ve been to, and one they have not.

And it’s made me cranky. It’s not just that it is a litmus test about “How well you know me?” It’s the premise of something going viral based on lying, I guess, that’s put me off. Or maybe I’m just a contrarian.

The pushback I’VE seen about this phenomenon has been more about that it’s braggadocio, which I understand. I’ve just been lucky, I reckon. I used to go to the certain festivals where I listened to multiple artists, so that helped, a LOT. Also, there have been some great series of FREE music in Albany over the years.

Making the list has also been a real test for me to recall how many artists I actually HAVE seen, because memory. Suddenly it’s “Oh, yeah, I saw Don McLean at the Dutchess County Fair in the 1970s!” Or “Roberta Flack was at the Palace Theatre on First Night in Albany in the 1990s!”

I never saw the Grateful Dead, but I WAS at this show:

November 6, 1975 Elting Gym, SUNY, New Paltz, NY Kingfish/Keith and Donna
Kingfish and Keith and Donna toured the East Coast in November. In the Bay Area, with Jerry Garcia a regular in nightclubs since 1970, Deadheads were very casual about the opportunity to see Grateful Dead spinoffs. In the East, however, the chance to see 4 members of The Dead (Weir, Kreutzmann, Keith and Donna) plus an ex-New Rider (Dave Torbert) in the same night was somewhat of a big deal. The Kingfish/Keith and Donna bill played medium sized theaters that neither band could have played at home.

So I’ve decided that you can try to guess which of these artists, who I have been present when they performed live at some point in my life, that I’ve seen more than once. Or not, it’s up to you. I THINK it’s five, but, you know, that memory thing again.

Joan Armatrading
Joan Baez
Bridget Ball and Chris Shaw
Marcia Ball
Tony Bennett
Blotto
David Bromberg
Jackson Browne
Dave Brubeck
Marc Cohn
Judy Collins
Chick Corea
Elvis Costello
Crosby, Stills, and Nash
Bob Dylan
Jonathan Edwards
Roberta Flack
Bela Fleck
The Four Tops
Keith and Donna Godchaux
The Go-Go’s
The Grand Slambovians
Nanci Griffith
Herbie Hancock
John Hiatt
Joe Jackson
Elton John
Billy Joel
Kingfish
Diana Krall
Alison Krauss
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Amos Lee
Sean Lennon
Lyle Lovett
Paul McCartney
Bobby McFerrin
Don McLean
Joni Mitchell
Neville Brothers
No Doubt
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Jean-Luc Ponty
Billy Preston
John Prine
The Roches
Linda Ronstadt
Santana
Boz Scaggs
Seals and Crofts
John Sebastian
Pete Seeger
Paul Simon
The Slambovian Circus of Dreams
The Specials
Bruce Springsteen
Slam Stewart
Sweet Honey in the Rock
Talking Heads
James Taylor
Koko Taylor
Livingston Taylor
The Temptations
They Might Be Giants
McCoy Tyner
Loudon Wainwright III
Lucinda Williams
Maria Zemantauski

And if you know I’ve left off someone, please let me know. It’s not just possible, it’s extremely likely.

If I HAD participated, the band I would have lied about was The Who, who were in Albany, maybe three blocks from where I was was working in 1995, but I didn’t see them.

My complaint notwithstanding, there are some clever variations on the theme, such as the “nine professions that I dated (one lie).” Or “Here are nine people who will lose their protected coverage under AHCA/Trumpcare and one who won’t. Guess which one.” Choice #10 being “Any member of the US Congress.”

V sign is for victory, peace, plus Bobby Vee

British wartime leader Winston Churchill with his famous V for victory sign. Image from the archives of Press Portrait Service, 1946 image.

Odd that the V sign can signify both war and peace. From the Wikipedia:

“The V sign is a hand gesture in which the index and middle fingers are raised and parted, while the other fingers are clenched. It has various meanings, depending on the cultural context and how it is presented.

When displayed with the palm inward towards the signer, it has long been an offensive gesture in some Commonwealth nations. In the 1940s, during the Second World War, a campaign by the Western Allies to use the sign with the back of the hand towards the signer (U+270C ✌ Victory hand in Unicode) as a “V for Victory” sign proved quite effective. During the Vietnam War, in the 1960s, the “V sign” was widely adopted by the counterculture as a symbol of peace. Shortly thereafter, it also became adopted as a gesture used in photographs, especially in Japan.

ca. 1960 — Pop singer Bobby Vee. — Image by © Michael Levin/Corbis


Bobby Vee was born Robert Thomas Velline in Fargo, ND on April 30, 1943. He died October 24, 2016.

From the Wikipedia:
“Vee’s career began in the midst of tragedy. On February 3, 1959… three of the four headline acts in the lineup of the traveling Winter Dance Party— Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper — were killed in the crash of a V-tailed 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza airplane, along with the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson. (Dion DiMucci… had opted not to travel on the plane.) It crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, en route to the next show on the tour itinerary, in Moorhead, Minnesota.

“Velline, then 15 years old, and a hastily assembled band of Fargo schoolboys (including his older brother Bill) calling themselves the Shadows volunteered for and were given the unenviable job of filling in for Holly and his band at the Moorhead engagement. Their performance there was a success, setting in motion a chain of events that led to Vee’s career as a popular singer.”

Take Good Care Of My Baby – #1 pop for three weeks in 1961, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King
The B-side, which got to #2 pop, was Run To Him

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, which went to #3 pop, #2 adult contemporary, and even #8 soul in 1963

Come Back When You Grow Up, #3 pop in 1967 with The Strangers

T is for The Twist

From Billboard: “On December 16, [2016] Chubby Checker releases a newly-remixed physical version of his iconic hit, ‘The Twist,’ the Billboard Hot 100’s all-time No. 1. The update had arrived for digital purchase September 16, but now fans can own a hard copy of it.”

As all American pop music junkies should know, Chubby Checker’s version of the tune is the only one to go to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in two non-consecutive years. The writing credits are somewhat in dispute, as you can read in the Wikipedia, but certainly from within the group Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, based on other tunes.

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters “originally recorded a loose version of the song in a Florida studio for Vee-Jay Records in early 1958… They did not get around to recording the released version until November 11, 1958, when the Midnighters were in Cincinnati. Ballard thought ‘The Twist’ was the hit side, but King Records producer Henry Glover preferred the ballad ‘Teardrops on Your Letter’, which he’d written himself.”

After the song became popular in Baltimore and Philadelphia, the song was destined for American Bandstand, but either Ballard was unavailable for the show (Wikipedia) OR, per Songfacts, “[AB host Dick] Clark loved the song but was wary of Ballard, who was known for raunchy songs like ‘Sexy Ways’ and ‘Work With Me, Annie.”

Clark looked for his own artist to break the song. He found a young man who was a chicken plucker and great impersonator. According to the Chubby Checker official site: “Ernest Evans was born in Spring Gulley, South Carolina, but grew up in South Philadelphia, where he lived with his parents and two brothers.”

Clark’s wife suggested that Evans use a variation on Fats Domino: Fats=Chubby Domino=Checker. “It was his version that raced up the charts. The cover was so convincing that when Hank Ballard first heard the song on the radio he thought it was him – ‘They cloned it’ were Hank’s words. Ballard was not bitter toward Checker or Clark when his version was left behind, especially since Ballard’s record company had no faith in the song. Since he was the songwriter, Ballard earned massive royalties when Checker’s version became a huge hit.”

“This started a dance craze that got so popular because it was so easy to do. Even the severely rhythm-challenged could do The Twist… This helped bridge a generation gap since both kids and adults could do it.

“In late 1961 and early 1962, the twist craze belatedly caught on in high society. Sightings of celebrities doing the dance made the song a hit with adults… This new interest… marked a major turning point for adult acceptance of rock and roll music.”

There were lots of other twist-related songs on the charts in the early ’60s, including “Let’s Twist Again” (#8) and “Twistin’ U.S.A.” (#68), both by Checker, before the re-released “The Twist” hit #1 on January 13, 1962, and stayed there for 2 weeks. It was replaced by “Peppermint Twist – Part I” by Joey Dee and The Starliters, which held the top spot for 3 weeks. Checker re-recorded his biggest hit numerous times.

In this interview: Checker said, “Before ‘The Twist,’ you danced in rhythm with the song. With ‘The Twist,’ suddenly you’re dancing apart from the beat, and not with your girl. Now, you see a girl across the floor that you’ve never seen before, you’re nodding your head, you’re seeing her dance … By the time the song is over … whew,” Checker says, chuckling at the song’s impact on not only the development of early rock ‘n’ roll and dance, but perhaps also on relations between the sexes ever since. Check out this podcast as well.

“The song has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress on March 21, 2013 for long-term preservation.”

Listen to The Twist:
Hank Ballard & the Midnighters (1959)
Chubby Checker on American Bandstand (1960)
The Fat Boys with Chubby Checker (1988)
Chubby Checker (2016)