Tag Archives: earth wind & fire

Now That’s What I Call 1975

Paul Fitzpatrick: April 2023

1975 is a year that I always look back on with fondness.

I’d love to be highfalutin and say it’s because it marked the end of the Vietnam War or that it was the year that CAT scans were introduced.
But sadly no, my reasons are a bit more mundane and personal than that.

Fundamentally, 1975 for me was a year of transition, from kidulthood to adulthood.
No more dark sarcasm in the classroom, or for that matter, school dinners in the dining hall – it was time to step-up and earn your own bread and make your own pieces.

Looking back, the transition from school life to the workplace was pretty seamless, one minute you’re sitting at the back of the school bus, observing the worker bees, the next you’re part of their colony, although to be fair, there wasn’t a lot of buzzing going on.

You’ll be familiar with the well coined phrase – “the more things change the more they stay the same” – well I can attest to that.
Hail, rain or shine, you still had to get up in the morning, and just like in double-maths, at certain points of the day, you’d be keeping an eye on the clock.

The big difference of course was that wee bundle of cash you received every Friday.

That weekly windfall was life changing….

For a 16 year old it defined adulthood and represented freedom.

Freedom to go out at the weekend.
Freedom to go on holiday with your mates.
Freedom to buy
nice things.
Freedom to go to the ice-cream-van to buy as many Hobos, Blackjacks and Bazooka Joe’s as you liked!

Of course freedom comes at a price and at a certain point you realised the £10 you were handing over to your mum for your keep, probably wasn’t stretching as far as you thought.

Still, those post-school-years spent living at home offered a gentle pathway into the harsh realities of life, although one of the better realities was having a bit of money in your pocket for the first time.

Our parents weren’t daft, they encouraged us to save, to put money away for a rainy day, to start thinking about our futures but there were too many temptations, too many things we wanted, too many things we needed.

Who’s going up the dancing in a pair of hipster flares when all the cool dudes are wearing high-waist baggies?
Who’s sporting last years Harrington jacket when the dapper Dan’s are wearing satin bomber jackets?

I had good mates who would stay indoors every other weekend in order to invest in the right gear but I never saw the point in working hard all week just to mope about the house and watch the Generation Game on a Saturday night.

Compromises had to be made, which is why a handful of us ended up frequenting ‘Paddy’s Market’ on a regular basis.

Wearing my marketing hat, I’d describe Paddy’s Market today as….
A sustainable, alfresco, one-stop-shop for pre-loved fashion‘.

In reality it was an outdoor market selling second hand clothes down one of Glasgow’s more colourful back streets.
Selfridges it wasn’t, but if you knew what you were looking for and could endure the musty bouquet for long enough, then most visits would end successfully with a couple of additions to your wardrobe for the price of a pint.

It was a period of adjustment alright, however I’m sure most of us remember that first year in the workplace favourably – a time when there were no (formal) 360 degree reviews and ‘team-building’ was a Friday afternoon in the pub.

Usually with a jukebox playing some cracking music in the background.

In terms of music, 1975 is a year that tends to slip through the cracks when critics reflect on the decade.
Mirroring my own circumstances perhaps it’s because 1975 was a transitional year, with the established order of things undergoing change.

The Classic Rock bands who had led the way in the first half of the decade were coming to the end of their cycle – although 75 would see Zeppelin release their last noteworthy studio album, Physical Graffiti, ditto Pink Floyd with Wish You Were Here.

Prog-rock giants like Yes and Genesis were undergoing key personnel changes and a lot of the Melody Maker big-hitters like ELP, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were not shifting albums in the same numbers they used to.

Glam rock had come to the end of its yellow brick road with Bowie moving to the US in search of Fame and his close friend Marc Bolan’s best days were sadly behind him.

Disco was bubbling under but the halcyon days of Studio 54 were still a couple of years off and Disco in 75 was confined primarily to the New York underground gay scene.

Punk, in the meantime, was still a twinkle in Malcolm McLaren’s eye with the first incarnation of the Sex Pistols playing Monkees and Small Faces covers whilst learning to play (or in some cases, hold) their instruments.

One new sound that did come to the fore in 75 was Blue Eyed Soul, a term given to white artists producing a credible R&B sound.

Hall & Oates, the Bee Gees and British acts like the the Average White Band, Robert Palmer and Kokomo were at the fore whilst established artists like Bowie with “Young Americans” and Elton, with his Billy Jean King tribute – “Philadelphia Freedom”, were dipping their toes into the blue-eye lagoon.

Smooth waters that would later be navigated as ‘Yacht Rock’.

Kokomo perform Bobby Womack’s “I Can Understand it” on the OGWT

Another category destined to connect with Yacht Rock, was Soft Rock, a West Coast sound typified by bands like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Jefferson Starship.
1975 proved pivotal for Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles who both recalibrated to a sound which would propel them to mega success soon after, with Rumours and Hotel California.

1975 was also the year of Funk, with Earth Wind & Fire, The Ohio Players, The Isley Brothers, Hamilton Bohannon, The Fatback Band and George Clinton’s Parliament all finding their groove whilst maintaining the James Brown tradition of playing ‘on the one‘.

Shining Star – Earth, Wind & Fire

So was 1975 a classic year culturally, or just a memorable year for this school leaver?

When critics talk about the great years in music, 1975 rarely warrants a mention with 1971 in particular receiving most of the accolades, but in hindsight I think 75 has a lot going for it.

Pre-punk and post-prog, it was a year of evolution with new sounds and genres coming to the fore and when I was looking through my albums of the year I was struck by how much diversity and quality there was from a year that no one talks about much.

My top 10 albums from 1975

  • That’s The Way of The World: Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Katy Lied: Steely Dan
  • Kokomo: Kokomo
  • Physical Graffiti: Led Zeppelin
  • The Last Record Album – Little Feat
  • The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell
  • Pressure Drop – Robert Palmer
  • Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac
  • Mothership Connection – Parliament
  • Live! – Bob Marley & the Wailers

Honourable Mentions:
Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
Cate Bros: – The Cate Brothers
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

Trenchtown Rock – Bob Marley & the Wailers

Since we’re digging into the culture it turns out 1975 was a pretty special year for Movies too.

Whilst Jaws ensured that everyone from Girvan to Dunoon was counting their toes after heading ‘doon the watter’, the rest of us were perfecting our best French accents in homage to Peter Sellars’ latest escapade as Inspector Clouseau.

Both good films but only one made my top ten.

My top 10 movies from 1975

  • The Godfather Part II
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Race With the Devil
  • Rollerball
  • Shampoo
  • Jaws
  • Hard Times
Young Frankenstein – one highlight of many

I know, I know, any excuse to include a playlist, so here you go, a selection of 1975 highlights….

getting the horn

Dear reader, please don’t turn away in disgust. This is not an entry from the Diary of a Smutty Adolescent but my love and appreciation for the amalgam of wind and brass players that gives your favourite pop or rock songs that extra bit of oomph.

Brass section, horns, call it what you want. It can be anything from a trumpet/saxophone duo to a big band of four or five trumpets, three or four trombones and a five piece saxophone section (two altos, two tenors and a baritone for all those fellow anoraks out there.)

My first experience of hearing a big band live was when I used to sneak out for my lunch break on a Saturday when I worked in a music shop and witness the George McGowan Big Band in a small Glasgow venue called Shadows. The band, all 15 or 16 of them took up about half of the bar and the punters the rest. When George and the lads were at full pelt the sound they made almost pinned you against the back wall. And that was with no amplification. It certainly stirred something in this novice sax wannabe.

I did get the opportunity to play in a ‘section’ with a trumpeter all through the late seventies in a funk/soul band and more recently with a trombonist in a jazz combo.

Havana Horns

My big band work has been sporadic and wrought with anxiety. I filled in on baritone sax at a school music camp that my wife ran and that was fun. A decade earlier I was asked if I could play 2nd tenor for the Strathclyde University Big Band for an up and coming gig. I agreed as long as they could get the sheet music to me so I could practice. My sight reading has always been a bit rusty. A week went by and no music was forthcoming. I was getting a bit nervous as the gig was a few days away. Eventually the music appeared – on the bus going to the gig ! Nauseous with both trying to read on a moving vehicle and from the blind panic I was in, it took every fibre of my being not to puke over my father’s borrowed dinner jacket !

I muddled through the gig, playing quietly and missing out certain sections in the hope the other 4 saxes could carry me through. The last number came and I relaxed a bit only to discover each member of the band was being pointed to by the conductor. Everyone was to be highlighted with an 8 bar solo ! I gave what was the musical equivalent of an incomprehensible mumble barely straying from the route note. I got through it though. Nobody pointed and laughed at me but I did have to return my dad’s DJ resembling a sponge !

I’ll leave it to the professionals. My flute teacher depped or deputised in bands for a living. He recalled one venue where the band were set up on tiered concrete steps. He had a quick change from baritone sax to piccolo. Unfortunately in his haste he hadn’t returned the bari to it’s stand properly and had to watch it unceremoniously bounce down the steps. Ouch !

Australian trumpeter James Morrison on greeting his fellow dozen horn players for a tour by the Philip Morris All Stars exclaimed  Do you realise you are putting two synthesizer players out of work ? Sadly ironic on several levels considering it took the sponsorship of the tobacco industry to put a big band on the road.

But what about the songs we remember from the seventies I hear you ask. Let’s go back a bit further to the sixties when the JB Horns were helping James Brown strut his stuff. They would later appear as the Horny Horns with Parliament. Then there’s Kool & The Gang and Earth,Wind & Fire with their catchy fanfares. Going down the more jazz/funk route were the Brecker Bros.

JB Horns

A song I really liked from an artist I’m a bit indifferent about is Honky Cat by Elton John. I love how the baritone sax scoops up from the bottom. I was convinced it was my old buddies Tower of Power providing the ballsy brass but it turns out they were French session players. Never forget the humble session player be it Muscle Shoals or the Funk Brothers of Motown.

Elton John: ‘Honky Cat.’

Power did provide some classics like What Is Hip? and Squib Cakes. They were certainly horns for hire and were the icing on the cake for that Little Feat classic Spanish Moon.

But the two all time classics must be must be Chicago’s 1970 hit 25 or 6 to 4. (Whatever that may mean. Gran’s favourite bingo numbers perhaps) Long before they churned out syrupy love songs Chicago could really rock. Power chords intro then BLAM full brass attack. And what’s with the crazy chords and the winding down at the end.

Chicago: ’25 or 6 to 4′

The second classic must be the 1968 Blood, Sweat & Tears locomotion Spinning Wheel coming right at ya ! We’ve got merry-go-rounds and folk songs amidst the grittiest of bare knuckle brass. It certainly put songwriter and lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas on the map.

Blood Sweat & Tears: ‘Spinning Wheel.’

So don’t be hard on horns (!) It just might get you going !!

Uncovering The Beatles

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Colin and I recently accepted a request from one of our American blog buddies, Dave at Sound Day, to write a piece about the Beatles.
Colin is fairly ambivalent about the fab 4, so I took on the task and focused on the topic of Beatles cover versions.

Dave’s excellent music blog, ‘Sound Day’ is worth checking out on….

I’ve no idea how many Beatle’s covers exist, but when you consider there are over 1,600 versions of the song ‘Yesterday’ then you’ve got to imagine there’s a fair few kicking around.

Everyone from Alvin & the Chipmunks to Wu-Tang Clan have had a go at covering a Beatles song, which is hardly surprising given how many standards they’ve written.

Growing up in the 60s I started getting into music just as the Beatles were heading towards their long and winding road. Truth be told I didn’t really appreciate their genius until I’d gone through my various Rock, Funk, and Fusion phases, but I got there eventually and learned to appreciate how talented and ground-breaking they truly were.

I have all the Beatles stuff and most of their solo stuff (sorry Ringo) but the fact that there’s a dearth of Fab Four covers in my music library is an anomaly to me.

For that reason, I decided to take a deep dive into the world of Beatles covers in the expectation that there must be a lot of overlooked gems that I’ve missed or ignored over the years.

That’s how I came to spend a tortuous afternoon recently, crunching through my personal music library as well as Apple Music & Spotify, searching for treasures…. truth be told it was a long day.

As an example, I love Aretha Franklin and the Beatles classic, ‘The Fool on The Hill’ is a favourite, so I had high expectations when I came across Aretha’s version. Similarly, I stumbled across a Santana version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps‘, potentially another winning combination, but both versions left me underwhelmed, as did the vast majority of the Beatles covers I listened to that afternoon.

As mentioned previously, there are a zillion Beatles covers out there so I’m sure there will be a few notable omissions from my listings below, for which I apologise in advance…. but like they say, ‘beauty is in the ear of the beholder’

My Top 5 Beatles Covers + 1

1) Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett – Pickett makes the song his own with his rasping vocals, a great Muscle Shoals arrangement and the introduction of a young Duane Allman who marks his recording debut with a blistering guitar solo.

2) We Can Work It Out by Stevie Wonder – When I think of this song I immediately think of Stevie’s version, with the fuzzy clavinet intro and the trademark harmonica solo. Recorded in 1970 when Stevie was on the cusp of greatness and ably backed by the ubiquitous Funk Brothers.

3) With a Little Help from My Friends by Joe Cocker – Another rare case of a Beatles cover being better than the original, a fact endorsed by McCartney himself.
Cocker took this breezy Ringo Starr version from Sgt Pepper and turned it into a soul anthem featuring another cameo from a guitar great, the legendary Jimmy Page.

And of course, this song reminds me of the fabulous ‘The Wonder Years’

4) Got to Get You into My Life by Earth Wind & Fire – Recorded for the Robert Stigwood backed Sgt Pepper project in 1978. The movie bombed and the soundtrack was a flop, but this cover, given the full EW&F treatment with their potent horn section front and centre, was head and shoulders above any other Beatle’s cover on the soundtrack.

5) In My Life by Johnny Cash – The subject matter and the fact that this was one of Cash’s last recordings makes this Rick Rubin stripped-down version even more poignant.

Honourable mentions go to
Eleanor Rigby by Aretha Franklin
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by The Marmalade
Dear Prudence by Siouxsie and the Banshees
Strawberry Fields Forever by Todd Rundgren
Come and Get It by Badfinger (although technically Badfinger released this track before The Beatles)

All of the above are all great versions of Beatles standards but my favourite Beatles cover isn’t available on vinyl or even as an audio download… fortunately though it was captured on film.

The song isWhile My Guitar Gently Weeps and it was performed by an all star band as a tribute to George Harrison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
The band consists of Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Steve Ferrone, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison, George’s son, who looks on in bewilderment as Prince steals the show with a captivating performance and guitar solo that his father (and Clapton) would have been proud of.