Category Archives: Music

LOOK! NEW BLOG LAUNCHES TOMORROW!

We’re told that more memories are evoked by way of music and smell than any other … though we’d of course argue that Once Upon a Time in The ’70s could now also be considered a decent shout!

While we work on the development of our next project, a ‘scratch and sniff’ blog, Paul and I have decided to expand the concept of sharing memories from The Seventies, by focusing on Music, in the form of our new blog, 70s Music (70smusic.co.uk )

That’s music of all genres from the decade; from general Chart Pop music, to Soul / Funk & Disco, passing through Classic Rock; Punk; Underground and Progressive music; Glam; Yacht; Singer / Songwriter; Reggae, Ska & Two Tone; Country Rock / Southern Rock.

The lot!

This idea was prompted by the increasing volume of music based posts here on Once Upon a Time in The ’70s. Some of those posts have been reproduced to the new blog, but there are also many new articles for your nostalgic pleasure.

Don’t worry though, we fully intend to keep writing and accepting pieces for Once Upon a Time in The ’70s which will remain open.

70s Music, the blog, will launch tomorrow, Friday 23rd September 2022.

It would be wonderful if you could pop over for a look – we’re pretty sure you’ll return!

Social media links have already been set up for the new blog. We’d love to see you there too. Oh, yeah – and please do tell your friends where to find us.

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

(PINTEREST will be added over the next few days)

Paul and I are sure 70s Music will trigger many happy memories from The ’70s and possibly even lead you to discover some sounds that passed you by at the time.

Have fun!

COLIN & PAUL

Those Guilty, Guilty Pleasures

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, September 2022

Colin and I were once again invited to submit a piece to TURNTABLE TALK on Dave Ruch’s blog, ‘A Sound Day.
Dave’s site covers all genres of music, the articles are interesting, the writing is excellent and it’s well worth a visit,

This time, the subject open for discussion was ‘Guilty Pleasures

According to psychologists, the term Guilty Pleasure tends to be associated with shame or embarrassment rather than guilt itself.

In essence, a Guilty Pleasure is something we enjoy, but we know we’re not supposed to, because liking it, somehow reflects badly on us.
It’s why to this day, there are certain pieces of music we don’t include on shared or public playlists but are happy to listen to in our own ear-space.

Looking back, there were a raft of songs in the 70s that I could never admit to liking at the time….

If you want to talk about guilty pleasures – who was about to risk their credibility to sing the praises of the Starland Vocal Band’s ‘Afternoon Delight’ in 75 when the popular topic of the day was Bonzo’s powerhouse drumming on Physical Graffiti?

Afternoon Delight Anchorman Style

Decades on, I’m happy to admit that there’s loads of tracks in my current music library that I would have once distanced myself from.

Maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe we just mellow with age, but there are quite a few ‘dad-tracks; I remember grimacing to in his car that over time crept into my own music library.

I’m talking mostly about classic easy-listening artists like Glen Campbell, The Carpenters, and Neil Diamond, who’s song ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’, I was astonished to learn, is one of my most played songs – 222 plays to date, according to i-Tunes.

I loved ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’ when it was released but it was a covert romance, Mr ‘forever in blue-jeans’ Diamond was my dad’s music not mine, although, cut forward to 2022 and ‘Sweet Caroline’ has become a UK crowd anthem and Diamond has attained national treasure status.

To make things worse, on its release in November 1970, ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’ shared the UK charts with Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’, Deep Purple’s ‘Black Night’ and Jimi Hendrix’s swansong, ‘Voodoo Chile’, so in the ongoing effort to maintain credibility, as much as I liked it, ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’ was never going to be the song of choice on any jukebox I was putting my hard-earned pocket-money into.

Here’s how tastes change though – according to my i-Tunes data, Paranoid, Voodoo Chile, and Black Night between them, have racked up 95 plays in the past 5 years, whilst ‘Cracklin Rosie’ trumps them with 222 plays….

I stand by the fact that ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’ is a great pop song… a breezy, upbeat track with a good melody. Just under 3 minutes long and with the backing of the exceptional ‘Wrecking Crew’ – the famous LA session players who played on almost every big hit of the 60s/70s.



Figuring out the high number of iTunes plays, it’s a song I include on a lot of playlists, probably because I get a rush of nostalgia on every listen… transporting me back to my youth and time spent with my dad and his 8-track player.

Funnily enough, it’s exactly the same vibe I get when I hear Smokey Robinson’s ‘Tears of a Clown’, or the Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’. Two other sub-3-minute pop classics from the same era, the big difference I guess is that there’s no guilt attached to appreciating Motown greats….

Inspired by the topic I have rustled up a short 70s guilty pleasures playlist.

Looking down the list, I’m bugged that I was embarrassed to declare a fondness for a lot of these songs – they are all well-constructed, melodic, classic, pop songs, however, in context to what we were into at the time, few if any could be discussed, purchased, or even hummed in fear of public humiliation… thankfully we all move on!

Sound And Vision (Music at the Movies)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, September 2022

There’s a lot of hype and excitement surrounding the upcoming David Bowie movie Moonage Daydream…. and why not?
The documentary features previously unreleased footage from Bowie’s personal archives and It’s the first film to gain approval from the Bowie estate.
 
The reviews are all very positive and the movie was well received by critics at this years Cannes Film Festival.

Roger Ebert describes the movie as “a wondrous, dreamy, ambitiously experimental take on the music doc formula” and its already attained a 93% approvals rating on the movie review site ‘Rotten Tomatoes’, by those who’ve seen it.

The trailer does a pretty good job of selling it too.


So if you’re a Bowie fan and you like going to the movies it should be a bit of no brainer then?

Well, you’d think so, except there’s been so many rock/music movies eagerly anticipated, which ultimately disappointed.

Before I get into this let me qualify what I mean by a rock movie.

The Elton John/Queen bio pics are not rock movies.
Fictional music-based movies like Purple Rain or Almost Famous, (great movie btw) are not rock movies.
Musicals like Grease are not rock movies.

By rock movie, I’m referring to performance based or documentary pieces featuring original artists…. like Woodstock or Gimme Shelter.

For example, I couldn’t wait to see Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same on its release in 1976.
They hadn’t toured for 2 years, and this would be an opportunity to see the best live band in the world in their pomp, albeit on the silver screen.

Billed as the ultimate concert movie, the director had cherry-picked and consolidated the best performances from each of their three sold out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1973…. what could go wrong?

Well, for starters you could throw in the farcical fantasy segments (five in all, one for each band member plus manager Peter Grant) and an overblown 26-minute version of ‘Dazed & Confused’.

Robert Plant, who’s fantasy segment involved dressing up as a knight, rescuing maidens and frolicking about in search of the holy grail, probably got it right when he called it “A load of bollocks

Don’t get me wrong, as anticipated, some of the concert footage was electric but the overall viewing experience was unfortunately marred by the movies self indulgence.

Similarly, I remember being coaxed to the cinema to behold T-Rex’s Born to Boogie, another decent concert movie scuppered by off-stage folly.
 
There were several bewildering scenes infiltrating the live performances in this one, unfortunately a couple still linger in my mind 50 years later….
One with Bolan dressed as a nun performing as part of a string quartet at a tea party on John Lennon’s lawn, and a bizarre routine featuring Ringo Starr driving a car dressed as a mouse accompanied by a character described in the credits as ‘car eating dwarf’, who during the course of the scene, starts to…. well, the clue’s in the name!


The film was directed by Starr, inspired by the Beatles 1967 movie, Magical Mystery Tour.
Poor Ringo must have hammered the mushrooms that summer.

Still, the Bolan devotee I saw the movie with absolutely loved it, couldn’t get enough of the monosyllabic Marc and was totally oblivious to the car eating dwarf.  

If we’re talking turkeys however, then perhaps the biggest gobbler of the lot…. (although, not a concert movie as such), is Robert Stigwood’s calamitous, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  


How a movie featuring the music of the Beatles and some of the biggest acts of the decade (Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, Earth Wind & Fire, etc), could turn out to be so bad, is quite an accomplishment.

The trailer should have been enough of a red flag, but back in the day I was partial to a bit of the Bee Gees brand of blue-eyed soul, so I was prepared to give the movie a chance.

I should have listened to that wee voice in my head.

Between the cheesy performances lay a plot so bonkers and convoluted I couldn’t start to explain it, but if I tell you that it features Billy Preston as the magical Mr Pepper, so magical it transpires, that he can turn bystanders into nuns by zapping them with lightning bolts from his fingertips… then you’ll get the picture!

Maxwells Silver Hammer – press play at your peril!!

On top of this, we had to bear witness to Beatles song after Beatles song, being systematically ravaged, including an excruciating version of Maxwells Silver Hammer by a young comedian on the cusp of greatness called Steve Martin.

Even the soundtrack was a mess, with only Earth Wind & Fire’s version of ‘Gotta Get You into My Life’ gaining any credit. This was probably the biggest shock because after his achievements with Saturday Night Fever and Grease, Stigwood was seen as the man with the Midas touch, when it came to soundtracks.

The fact that this rotten movie scored 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, tells you just how rotten it was.

So, enough about the turkeys, what about the best rock movie’s – well off the top of my head I’d say there’s two I’m more than happy to revisit on a regular basis.

The first being The Last Waltz by The Band, directed by the great Martin Scorsese, and described as a lavish, dynamic act of fan worship, on his part.


The concert in question was The Band’s farewell gig, held on Thanksgiving Day in 1976. The event was beautifully captured by Scorsese and is augmented by an incredible supporting cast including – Dylan, Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, The Staple Singers and Van Morrison.

The film is a mix of live performances and studio segments plus interviews with the group reminiscing on their 16 year journey together.

The Weight

Scorsese captures a host of great performances, one of the stand-outs being The Band and The Staple Singers collaboration on ‘The Weight‘.

When all’s said and done however, in my book, there is one rock movie that stands head and shoulders above all others – Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads

I can’t say I was a massive Talking Heads fan before I saw it, but I became one soon afterwards.

Directed and crafted by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme before he became Hollywood royalty (Philadelphia, Slaughter of the Lambs), the film was described as “close to perfect” by famed critic Pauline Kael.

The concert kicks off with a solitary David Byrne on an empty stage with a boom-box and an acoustic guitar and the momentum slowly builds with each song as the other band members join him. Eventually there are nine musicians on a fully dressed stage, with the four core band members supplemented by the cream of P-Funk musicians.

Cinematically it’s great, it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off the enigmatic Byrne, whilst his madcap antics (and wardrobe) all add to the theatre.

I’ve watched this movie at the cinema, I’ve purchased it on VHS, on DVD, and on Blu-ray and I’ve also streamed and downloaded it. I never get tired of watching it and any friend interested in music who comes to my house and hasn’t seen it is encouraged to join me in front of a screen with a supply of cold beers for the next 90 minutes.

So….. I expect I’ll go and see Moonage Daydream when it’s released on the 16th September, although my expectations will be relatively low.

I’ve learned my lesson… you don’t get disappointed that way.

sold on solos

(*Header image by Carvin Audio*)

Guitar.

For those of us frequenting gigs, or ‘concerts’ as they were more often described in the ‘70s, there was always one main talking point on the bus journey back home – the mind-blowing ‘solo.’

In this short, occasional series, we’ll have a listen to some of my favourite, ‘less obvious ‘solos from the ‘70s.

So, let’s …kick out the jams, mofos, and start with the GUITAR!

***

It may have been a rehearsed and integral part of a song; a short impromptu guitar lick; a prolonged jam involving several players taking turns to lead; an awe inspiring drum solo; a smooth sax piece; a finger-blurring burst on the keyboards … whatever. It was generally the highlight of the show.

With particular regard to guitarists, regular visitors to this blog will fully expect me to include at least one example of Rory Gallagher’s searing, blues infused playing. But that would be just too obvious; so too would likes of Allen Collins and Gary Rossington sharing solos on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Fee Bird.’ Or Jimmy Page on any one of a number of Led Zeppelin tracks. Or that Hendrix dude, when it comes to it.

The three I’ve highlighted below are indeed still particular favourites of mine, but for differing reasons. They are by what I’d consider under-appreciated artists in the ‘70s, though I’m sure they’ll be familiar to some. However, I’d say they are not of the ‘household names’ that would spring to mind when asked about the pantheon of great guitarists.

I’m not saying they’re ‘the best’ guitar solos in rock music, but I do regard all three as some of the most enjoyable.

Please feel free to suggest your own / debate the selection in the Comments section below, and / or post your own favourite on our Facebook Group Page.

OK – here we go:

#3: TEN YEARS AFTER: ‘I’m Going Home.’

Guitarist Alvin Lee formed The Jaybirds as a straight-up R&B trio in early Sixties, Nottingham, England. For a while they backed The Ivy League, and in 1966, like so many beat bands of the time, they spent some time developing and playing in Hamburg, Germany. 

They became a popular live act and upon change of management in 1966, also changed their name to Ten Years After – reflecting their new start some ten years after Elvis Presley rose to prominence.

They had released three albums by the summer of 1969, and established a reputation as one of the UK’s most popular bands. However, in August of that year, Ten Years After, really hit the big time, when their appearance at the Woodstock Festival was filmed, highlighting Lee’s speed guitar prowess.

The video above has been edited, I’m sure, for I have a recording of the festival and this song runs to over nine minutes.

Ten Years After would record several more albums throughout the early / mid Seventies, and cement their reputation as possibly the best blues rock band in the country (in truth, second best to Rory Gallagher!) before disbanding in 1975.

I love this particular performance and solos because it’s almost proto-punk in nature, brash and frantic, yet encompasses some raw boogie and classic rock ‘n’roll too.

And yes, I guess I should come clean, there IS a resemblance to many a Rory performance here!

#2: ROY BUCHANAN: ‘Roy’s Bluz.’

I really can’t recall how I came to love the music of Roy Buchanan. I did buy his LP, ‘That’s What I Am Here For’ as a fifteen year old, back in 1973. I presume I must gone down the Blues rabbit hole, having discovered, yes you guessed, Rory Gallagher the year previous!

Roy Buchanan was born in 1939 and brought up in rural communities of both Arkansas and California, where he was heavily influenced by the gospel music of his local churches, and the music heard on his radio.

He would, at age nineteen, record with Dale Hawkins who himself leant heavily on the influences of Louisiana ‘swamp’ music and mixed the blues sound of the local black artists with the ‘new’ rock ‘n’ roll style being popularised by Elvis etc..

Although not widely successful in a commercial sense, Roy Buchanan was held in high regard by fellow musicians, and reportedly, after Brian Jones’s death in the summer of 1969, he was asked to join The Rolling Stones. (So was Rory Gallagher in case you were interested!)

He declined the offer, concerned that he’d become more embroiled in the drink and drugs culture that surrounded the greatest band in the world.  He was also a famously shy man, and suffered some mental health issues. His voice was soft, and he had concerns about playing large venues and so never really became a ‘superstar’ as we’d now regard it.

Sadly, Roy Buchanan took his own life after being arrested following a drunken domestic dispute … though his cause of death remains questioned by his family.

As a lad, I was so enthralled by Roy Buchanan’s playing. I loved Blues music anyway, but his style just seemed so ‘clean’ and unassuming.  Hey – I can’t play a note on any instrument. I don’t do the technical stuff. I just know what I like.

And I still love the music of Roy Buchanan – one of rock’s true unsung heroes.

#1: ALBERT LEE: ‘Luxury Liner.’

I could play this song on endless repeat! (The first video is from a performance by Emmylou Harris and The Hot Band on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1977.)

This particular track convinced me (a) I was in love with Emmylou Harris, and (b) that Albert Lee was at that point, the best guitarist I’d never heard of. I reckon he’s STILL the best many people have never heard of.

Albert Lee grew up in London and first gained recognition playing guitar for Chris Farlowe and his band, The Thunderbirds. He moved on to play with Heads, Hands & Feet for a while, before in 1974 moving to Los Angeles.

This was where he really found his feet, and more importantly, his hands. As a renowned session musician, his finger-picking style of play proved a perfect fit for the rock ‘n’ roll and country based music he’d be booked for. He played on three albums by The Crickets amongst others and for a period towards the end of the Seventies was hired to play with Eric Clapton – no competition there, in my book! 

Albert Lee has played with the great and the good of Rock and Country over the years and was awarded Guitar Magazine’s ‘Best Country Guitarist; five times.

Why do I love Albert’s playing so much? Sheesh! Really ….?

(Here’s  a later video of Albert playing the same song – kid’s still got it!)

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – August 2022)

turntable talk: cover me.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’Jackson of Glasgow – August 2022)

Paul and I were, last week, again invited to join the TURNTABLE TALK chat on Dave Ruch’s blog, ‘A Sound Day.‘ This is an excellent site to visit and satisfy your musical curiosity on all genres of music, mainly focused on the 60s, 70s and 80s. Dave is a prolific writer and the articles are filled with fascinating facts and trivia.

This time, the subject open for discussion was ‘Cover Versions.’ As Paul had coincidentally just posted his take on our blog, I thought I’d offload my thoughts!

Thanks again to Dave for his invitation to the discussion.

Right – here goes:

COVER ME

I really don’t ‘get’ cover versions. Not for the most part at any rate. And here’s why.

Firstly, there’s only one real reason a band or artist would set out to produce an alternative arrangement of a previously released song, and that’s because they feel they can improve on it. This leads me to think perhaps they are being a tad disrespectful to the original artist:

“Yeah, nice song dude. But if you’d done it THIS way, well …..”

Then I wonder what actually possesses some bands to think a certain track can be improved upon. Some songs are simply ‘classic’ from the moment of initial release. They are iconic songs that have already permeated the consciousness of the listening public; they have been embraced by subsequent generations who instantly identify with the original.

So, what the hell were Kiss were thinking when they covered Argent’s ‘God Gave Rock & Roll To You’? All they seemed to have done was strip out the Rod Argent’s bedrock organ playing, scream a little and stick out their tongue a lot. Oh come on! Some things are just simply sacrosanct and should be left well alone.

OK, fair enough, I suppose ‘original / cover’ is a bit like ‘book / film’ in that whatever you saw or heard first has some bearing on preference. I mean, how else can you explain Susan Boyle reaching # 9 in the UK charts in 2009 with a cover of ‘Wild Horses.’ Yeah, that ‘Wild Horses’ written by Jagger / Richards and taken from The Rolling StonesSticky Fingers’ album of 1971. That Wild Horses.’

The Stones didn’t release ‘Wild Horses’ as a single in the UK. Perhaps, then, Susie’s advisors banked on a percentage of non-Stones fans hearing it for the first time and like wild sheep, follow the trend of the time and buy whatever the Britain’s Got Talent star released.

Again, though – who thought it a whizz-bang idea to try and do a fresh spin on a classic Rolling Stones number. (Yeah, all right, it was a decent whizz-bang idea in the end, achieving Top 10 status, but let’s face it, she’s no Marianne Faithful is she?)

One final one while I have my ‘rant’ head on: Eric Clapton was once regarded (incorrectly, obviously) as the world’s greatest guitarist. So what the heck was with him covering Bob Marley’sI Shot the Sheriff’?  

Actually, you know what? I’m not even going to get into this – I can feel my blood pressure already rising to an alarming level.

Aaaand, chill.

I do concede, though, there are some songs can be improved upon, for whatever reason. Two spring immediately to mind:

The Clash really took ownership of the song, ‘I Fought the Law,’ in 1979. I mean, could you really have believed either The Crickets (who wrote and first recorded the song) or The Bobby Fuller Four (who made the song ‘popular’ in 1966) cold have fought their way out a wet paper bag, never mind ‘the law’?

The Clash sing this song like they really mean it. They deliver it with a fair degree of aggression. As the Sex Pistols would say, the give it some bollocks!

The other I allude to comes from the opposite end of the musical scale and turns an already beautiful song into a behemoth of a ballad.

Though it was never released as a single in UK / Europe, had Badfinger’s ‘Without You’ been a stick of rock, it would have had the word ’classic’ embedded throughout its length.

Then of course, Harry Nilsson go hold of it and … well you know the rest. I’m not big on slow, sloppy songs, but Nilsson’s version of this is just epic. The song may have been covered by almost two hundred artists, but none as well as Nilsson – even the original writers and their band.

No – for me, a cover version must offer something either way better, or way different to cut it.

In 1959, Barrett Strong cut the track that would be the first hit for the Tamla label. So – a good, popular song to start with. The Beatles then used the song in 1963 to close their second album, ‘With The Beatles.’ Was their version of ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ any better than the original? Apart from the fact they were The Beatles.

Make your own mind up.

Personally, I don’t think so.

But THIS version certainly is! Now this is what a decent cover version should sound like – familiar enough for you to sing along, but different enough to make you think what the heck song you are actually singing!

Of course, what can be done to a song made famous by The Beatles can also be done to one by The Rolling Stones.  Remember the audacity of Susan Boyle to cover The Stones’Wild Horses’? Well, perhaps if she’d been as inventive as this band, she’d have gotten my approval.

Being a Stones fan, I have to say I was a bit offended the first time I heard this in 1977. However, it quickly grew on me, to such an extent that I ended up buying the next three Devo albums as soon as they were released, and then seeing the band play ‘live’ a couple of times.

So that’s it – my message to aspiring bands and artists is this:

unless you can totally deconstruct and re-assemble an old song, producing something new and inventive … then don’t bother. Don’t give me any of your lazy cover versions – sort yourself out and write your owned damned material!

18 With A Bullet – Suspicious Minds by Elvis

Paul Fitzpatrick: July 2022, London

I went to see Baz Luhman’s ‘ELVIS’ recently, Austin Butler, the guy who plays Elvis is incredible in the role.
Tom Hanks hammy portrayal of Colonel Tom Parker aside, it’s a pretty spectacular piece of cinema.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, big Gordon Ross, a one-man Elvis fan-club who would turn the volume up to the max whenever an Elvis song came on the radio, was the only Elvis fan I knew – to the majority of us The King just wasn’t relevant.

It was understandable really, in the early 70s we still saw Presley through the lens of his lame 60s movies, whilst the ensuing Vegas circus-act of the seventies wasn’t too appealing either.

He may have been The King to some but poor Elvis didn’t stand a chance with our generation against the Jagger’s, Plant’s or Bowie’s.

On reflection, we were too young to appreciate what a pioneer Elvis had once been, and we weren’t to know that with no Elvis, or for that matter no Chuck Berry (pre ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ of course) there would probably have been no Jagger, Plant or Bowie anyway.

Our lack of awareness also blind-sided us to the fact that there was a moment in time when Elvis re-invented himself musically and made some quality recordings that deserved our respect.

By the late 60s Elvis had become sick of the cheesy formulaic movies he was contracted to churn out, his ambition to be the new James Dean thwarted early on by Manager/Svengali – Colonel Tom Parker, who always went for the quick buck.

Elvis & The Colonel

The contract that Parker had seduced a teenage Presley into signing ensured he would pocket 50% of Elvis’s earnings.
Parker also had a colossal gambling habit to support so long-term planning was never part of his strategy.

The turning-point came in 1968 when Elvis decided to return to making the music he loved which was R&B, Gospel & Country.

The Trojan-Horse for this musical comeback would be a corny Xmas NBC Special promoted by Parker.

Parker had envisaged Elvis singing a medley of seasonal ditties around a Xmas tree, surrounded by kids whilst promoting a range of Xmas sweaters, but a reinvigorated Elvis had other ideas.

Clad head to toe in black leather and assisted musically by his original Memphis band of brothers, the ‘68 Special‘ as it became known, showcased Elvis as a contemporary artist and told his life story in music.

Instead of singing a Christmas carol at the finale as initiated by Parker, Elvis debuted a new song, a tribute to his friend, the recently assassinated Martin Luther King called ‘If I Can Dream’, a peach of a song showcasing Presley’s vocal powers, that would go on to give Presley his first top 10 hit in years.

Energised by the positive reaction to the ‘68 Special‘ and motivated to pursue the music he loved, Elvis headed off to Memphis’s own American Sound Studios to work with renowned producer Chip Moman on his next project – From Elvis In Memphis, an album that would include his first number one for many years Suspicious Minds‘.

‘Suspicious Minds’, my all time favourite Elvis track, was written by Mark James who also wrote ‘Always On My Mind‘.
James had initially recorded ‘Suspicious Minds’ for himself, but it tanked, so when Elvis came to town Chips Moman played him the track which Elvis loved, and it became the last track they recorded for the session.

There was a problem though, Colonel Tom Parker only permitted tracks to be released that Elvis (and he) got a percentage of publishing royalties on – even though Elvis had no input in the writing process.

Elvis & Chips Moman

When Parker’s team approached Moman with the ‘offer he supposedly couldn’t refuse’ his response was….
“You can take your f…ing tapes, and you and your whole group can get the hell out of my studio. Don’t ask me for something that belongs to me. I’m not going to give it to you.”

In the end, Elvis had to intervene to tell Parker that he loved the song and wanted it released regardless of any publishing issues.

Suspicious Minds was a platinum selling single which garnered critical acclaim but that made no difference to Parker who never forgot the publishing rights dispute and put the kibosh on Elvis ever working with Chips Moman again – despite the fact Elvis had just made his best and most successful album for many a year.

Now that Elvis had turned his back on movies The Colonel had to find other ways to milk his cash cow and focused instead on Presley’s return to music and touring.
After the critical and commercial success of From Elvis In Memphis, RCA and Parker would cash in by releasing 23 Elvis albums in the next 4 years, including a Christmas album – The Colonel always got his way.

With such prolific output, quality control as you can imagine, was lacking, but there were still a few classic Elvis moments in there – ‘Burning Love’, ‘It’s Only Love’, ‘In The Ghetto’ and ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ – a few of the diamonds that could still be found amongst the rough.

Elvis who’d wanted to take his live show overseas, instead got tied into an exhaustive Vegas residency at the International hotel on the Las Vegas strip.

He would later learn that Colonel Tom Parker was actually an illegal (Dutch) immigrant with no passport. Therefore, if Parker ever left the US he wouldn’t be allowed to return and he wasn’t about to let Presley, his prized asset, out of his sight.

The ‘68 Special‘ and From Elvis In Memphis should have been a creative springboard for Elvis, it was a period where he wanted to get back to making the kind of music he loved, tour overseas and take back control of his career, but he never could free himself from The Colonel’s iron grip and the contract he’d signed as a teenager.

By 1970, Elvis had already been pimped out to Vegas by The Colonel and in December 1976, an exhausted Elvis played his 837th and final show at the International Hotel.

Elvis Aaron Presley would die aged 42 in 1977, in poor health, strung out on a cocktail of tranquillisers, barbiturates and amphetamines, however his legacy lives on and new generations are finding out that there are quite a few gems in The King’s back catalogue…. however, none shine quite as bright as Suspicious Minds

A Wizard, A True Star

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, July 2022

I first came across Todd Rundgren in the early 70s via his blue-eyed-soul classic, ‘I Saw The Light‘.
I heard it late one night as a 14 year old, whilst I was listening to Radio Luxembourg and pretending to be asleep, it was one of those songs that grabbed my attention from the get-go but unfortunately faded into obscurity with no airplay or support from the BBC cartel of the time.

I later learned that Rundgren wrote the song in 20 minutes, always intending it to be a hit single and played every instrument on the track.

Cut forward a couple of years and Rundgren’s name would come to my attention again.

Listening to the new Isley Brothers album Live It Up I was taken by one of the tracks, ‘Hello It’s Me’.
Record sleeves were our Google in these days and as I combed through the credits to find out a bit more about the song, I spotted that the composer was a certain Todd Rundgren.

In fact it was the first song the 20 year old Rundgren ever wrote, for his psychedelic garage-band – The Nazz.

Interestingly, in 1968 ‘The Nazz’ was also being used by a bunch of musicians based in Phoenix, Arizona, with a charismatic lead singer called Vince Furnier.
Once the group realised they couldn’t use the same name as Rundgren’s band, they changed theirs to…. Alice Cooper.

Before & After
Cooper & Rundgren

Rundgren would go on to re-record ‘Hello It’s Me’ in 1972 for his album Something/Anything? prior to the Isley Brothers soulful version, although Todd’s version has plenty of soul too..

Todd – Hello It’s Me
The Isley Bros – Hello It’s Me

I came across another classic Rundgren track in 79 – ‘Can We still Be Friends‘.
Again, the first version I heard of the song wasn’t the original but a cover by Robert Palmer, featured on his Secrets album.

It was another great song, and deeply personal, written about his ex-partner Bebe Buell (more on Bebe below) and it was at this point I realised that this guy was worth investing in.

Todd – Can We Still Be Friends
Robert Palmer – Can We Still Be Friends

As I dug deeper into Rundgren’s back catalogue, I started to realise how prolific he was and what an eventful career he’d had to date.
I knew by now that he was a talented songwriter and musician but I had no idea about his wizardry in the recording studio or his reputation as an innovator.

As it turned out by 1978 this native of Philadelphia had already organised the first television interactive concert, produced the first Sparks album, the first New York Dolls album, (including ‘Jet Boy’), and drum roll please…. produced Meat Loaf’s magnum opus – Bat Out of Hell, as well as playing guitar on most the tracks.

That’s not to mention production credits on albums featuring Badfinger, The Band, Patti Smith, Alice Cooper, The Tubes, Hall & Oates, Grand Funk Railroad and many more.

New York Dolls – Jet Boy
Meatloaf – You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
Badfinger – Day After Day

Even the guys personal life was colourful – in the 70s he was in a long-term relationship with former Playboy Playmate and renowned super-groupie/muse, Bebe Buell who was credited for inspiring the character Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson in Cameron Crowe’s brilliant – Almost Famous.


Bebe Buell is also Liv Tyler’s Mother, and for several years, Rundgren assumed he was her father.

Unbeknown to Rundgren, Buell had an affair with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, giving birth to Liv who Rundgren believed was his daughter.
Liv was initially given the name Rundgren, for obvious reasons, and because Bebe wanted to keep Steven Tyler out of the picture due to his addictions.

Liv would eventually learn who her biological father was when she was 11 and despite Rundgren and Buell’s break up, she has reportedly maintained a great relationship with Rundgren.

Todd, Bebe & Liv
Bebe, Tyler, Liv & Todd, one big happy family

A prolific musician despite his multiple production duties, since his 1970 debut album – Runt, Todd has recorded and released 36 studio albums and 10 live albums of his own or with his band Utopia.

Utopia – Love Is The Answer

Utopia was initially set up as a prog-rock concept however another track a lot of people will be familiar with is ‘Love Is The Answer’ written by Rundgren for Utopia’s 4th album and made into a Yacht Rock classic by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

In a testament to his song-writing skills, Rundgren is still appreciated by todays generation which is why songs like ‘I Saw The Light‘ and ‘Hello It’s Me’ are featured in current movies like Liquorice Pizza and TV shows like Ozark and And Just Like That.

Currently touring with close buddy and fellow Philadelphian Daryl Hall, Todd Rundgren, a wizard and a true star, is still going strong at 74.

Todd Rundgren with Daryl Hall

steely pan

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – July 2022.)

20th Century Steel Band

It must have been around 1976 when Scotland’s premiere funk and soul band Souled Out decided it needed a bit of extra input in a bookings/managerial sense. We’d been a fairly independent unit up until that point but gigs were a bit sporadic. We reckoned we should be performing 3 or 4 times a week.

We had 2 interested parties. One was a guy called Wally who worked for CBS records and his mate – I’ve forgotten his name – who had a modicum of success with the band Middle Of The Road. If I say Chirpy,Chirpy,Cheep,Cheep you might get my drift.

Middle of the Road

Wally gave me a copy of an album of flute music by Thijs Van Leer of Focus which was quite pleasant and I – and the rest of Souled Out – had spent a late evening in the home of Mr Chirpy after a gig at Falkirk town hall. He lived in a substantial bungalow in Fintry, with shag pile carpets, chandeliers and his own recording studio. I thought at the time this would do me.

The other contender was a known booking agent who claimed he could fill our social calendar and as it turned out, his pockets.

Personally I was all for the first two but was out voted by my fellow band members.

So we went with Mr Twenty Percent and initially he did come up with the goods. A weekend tour of Scotland’s north east taking in Banff, Lossiemouth and Nairn was a good little earner if you could put up with eight of you crammed into a small caravan and a diet of endless fish suppers.

And that is why we found ourselves at Aberdeen University.

University gigs were fun and profitable, usually because they were run by Student Unions. The backstage area at Stirling was the lecturers’ common room. Our driver/roadie Jamie, took a liking to a couple of designer lounge chairs and decided to surprise his dear old mum. They would look grand in the front room with a couple of crocheted antimacassars. While we were playing, he made two trips back to Glasgow with his newly acquired soft furnishings. They were large chairs!

What ? The university wouldn’t miss them, there were dozens of them. It’s our tax payers money ! We were just re-appropriating the states assets !

Back at Aberdeen, we were second billing to recent New Faces winners 20th Century Steel Sound, a nine piece steel drum (or pan) ensemble.

20th Century Steel Band

Apparently everybody in Trinidad is a panel beater and can knock up the end of a 55 gallon industrial drum into a melodic idiophone when struck with a rubber tipped stick. From bass to treble – boom, cellopan, guitar pan and pin pong and you’ve got the full orchestra.

The sound induces a delirium in peely-wally folk who feel the urge to don garish board shorts, drink copious Malibu spritzers and try to bend themselves backwards negotiating low slung barriers.

After being picked up from a busy days work and squeezed into the back of a van for over 3 hours, it was welcoming to find a carton of beer waiting for us in our changing room. I thought I should share this revelation with our fellow performers 20CSS so sought out their room backstage and knocked on the door, beer in hand.

The door opened and I was immediately hit by a fug of herbal goodness. Through the thick smoke I could just make out a figure. I was about to share the news of our complimentary refreshments when I saw a six foot stack of beer cartons behind him. He said something which I didn’t quite catch. It could have been his thick Caribbean patois or perhaps the fact that there didn’t seem to be any neural contact between my ears and my brain. I was quickly reaching a higher cerebral plane with every inhalation. The door closed in my face and I started to laugh at the pathetic can of beer gripped in my hand.

We did our thing then made way for Bubbles, Trampas, Bravo, Stomp, Smokey, Ory, Spring, Godfrun and Colin. Why Colin never got a nickname is one of life’s mysteries!  

I really enjoyed their set and so did a great many undergraduates from Aberdeen judging by the numbers on the dance floor. Finishing in the wee small hours we eventually packed up and trundled back down the road again to Glasgow. I was propped outside the shop where I worked waiting for opening time. There was no point in going home. Another eight hour day at the coalface then picked up again for the journey south. Hello Dumfries !

I came across a pannist (that’s what they are called) Andy Narell, some years later and and was impressed how he can really make the instrument sing.

There is also a track from wunderkind bassist Jaco Pastorious‘ solo live album featuring the gloriously named Othello Molineaux on steel drums.

Unfortunately the 20th Century Steel Sound had limited success and split up after a few years. They did have a couple of albums and several singles released.  Heaven And Hell Is On Earth has been sampled 103 times by artistes including Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez, Black Eyed Pees and Grandmaster Flash. I bet the lads didn’t make a penny from it!

I’m happy to say I found a Facebook page dedicated to the band which just goes to show they weren’t a flash in the pan.

almost top of the pops – the motors.

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

20th July 1978

So many destination, faces going to so many places

Where the weather is much better and the food is so much cheaper

Well, I help her with her baggage for her baggage is so heavy

I hear the plane is ready by the gateway to take my love away.

(It’s well seeing Scottish keyboard player Andy McMaster (originally from Calton, Glasgow) wrote the song, ‘Airport’ some forty-four years ago. It would have lost some credibility with all the flight cancellations these days.

Mind you, he may have been able to spend more time with his love, waiting for her to pass through ‘check-in’ and perhaps they could have worked things out.)

***

The Motors were formed a couple of years after bass player Nick Garvey left one of my favourite bands from the mid-Seventies, Ducks Deluxe. (More of them perhaps at a later date.) His immediate new venture didn’t last long and so in 1977, he hooked up with former Ducks Deluxe keyboard player, Andy McMaster and together with Ricky Slaughter (drums) and Rob Hendry (guitar) The Motors were born.

As so often happened around that time, live sessions on John Peel’s radio shows led to a recording contract (Virgin Records) and in the autumn of that year, the band achieved their first chart success with ‘Dancing The Night Away.’ (Bram Tchaikovsky had by now replaced Rob Hendry on guitar, and this line-up would go on to record two albums and a couple more singles.)

This single was, to my mind, was their best release. While still in essence retaining the Pub Rock sounds of Garvey and McMaster’s previous band, they had the image, energy and ‘chant-along’ attitude of a punk / new wave outfit.

Surprisingly, this reached only #42 in the UK charts. Although the Top 20 on 18th September 1977 was more heavily influenced by Disco, bands like Eddie & The Hot Rods stood at #9 while The Adverts and Boomtown Rats were also represented with early hits. Why The Motors didn’t reach these heights is a mystery to me.

Their break came though in June 1978, with the release of ‘Airport.’ This softer sounding song had a distinctive, individual sound and was very radio-friendly.

Me? I still rank this as only their third best song!

To my mind, the follow-up, ‘Forget About You’ was better, though it only peaked at #13.

Shortly after this success, both Bram Tchaikovsky and Ricky Slaughter left the band. They were replaced in due course by Martin Ace and Terry Williams, both of whom I’d seen play as members of Man in the mid-Seventies.

This was like a ‘dream team’ for me: two ex-members of Ducks Deluxe + two ex of Man = The Motors. I could be dancing the night away all over again.

Wrong!

Proving old Aristotle incorrect, the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, the complete opposite was true. They came up with this in 1980, its peak chart position again surprising me …. in that #58 is way higher than I’d have considered achievable. They must have accrued some very loyal fans in their three years as The Motors, is all I can say!

Love and Loneliness’ was lifted from their third and final album, ‘Tenement Steps.’ By that time Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster had agreed that time was up and The Motors were no more.

In the whole scheme of all things music, The Motors were but a momentary flash, not quite fulfilling their undoubted pedigree. However, what they left was a true ‘classic’ that still receives radio / television airplay.

And remember – on this day in 1978, they were ALMOST Top of the Pops. Not all bands can boast even that.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – July 2022)

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