To read this post, please click on this link to take you through to our new ‘sister’ blog, 70s Music.
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.
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.
(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.
COLIN & PAUL
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?
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!
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!
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.
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.
Yup – that’s right. It’s time to load up the car; prepare the stock of Heinz Sandwich Spread sandwiches; buy the Beano Summer Special and an I-Spy book for the journey, and head off to Blackpool for our Summer Holidays!
Actually, I DO wish I was going to Blackpool this week, because the annual Rebellion punk festival is back on this weekend coming after an absence of three years. But that’s by the by.
As we did last year, Paul and I are gong to rest up on the blog for a few weeks … BUT WE WILL BE BACK IN EARLY SEPTEMBER with more nostalgia and memories of the Greatest Decade, the ’70s.
Thanks again to all who have contributed over the eighteen months or so since we launched, and thanks also to those who have read and enjoyed the posts.
Have fun, the last few weeks of summer (I think our summer, here in the west of Scotland, was a week past on Tuesday) and we’ll be back soon.
(Remember – the Facebook Group will still be available for any ’70s discussions, so feel free to make pertinent posts.)
Sorry to leave you with this, but it HAD to be done!
JACKIE & PAUL
(*Header image by Carvin Audio*)
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)
(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:
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 Stones ‘Sticky 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’s ‘I 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.
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!
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.
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.
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‘
(Post by Mark Arbuckle of Glasgow – July 2022)
Let me offer (my first) full disclosure….
I loved being in the Cubs!
I loved the uniform, the cap and badge covered sweater. I even liked ironing my neckerchief every week and hunting for my woggle (Ooer Matron!
I was part of The 7th Clydebank Wolf Cub Scout Pack who met each week in the local school hall.
I enjoyed the singing and the games and all the rough and tumble. It wasn’t all harmless fun though as I saw one cub accidently crash his hand through the swing glass door of the hall….and pull it back out causing horrendous lacerations and a lot of blood!
I also really enjoyed the annual sports day and playing football against the other local Cub Packs. The only time we went ‘camping’ we slept in wooden huts with real beds!….Result!
However, I certainly didn’t enjoy waiting in the rain with hundreds of fellow cubs, scouts and girl guides to ‘see’ the Queen at Glasgow Green! After two hours of sitting on the wet grass a large black limo sped past and we saw a tiny gloved hand wave briefly from the window! WTF!
But I digress…..
I also mostly enjoyed the annual Bob-A-Job week. Every year we visited local houses and offered to do household jobs for them for payment of a Bob…One Shilling….Five Shiny New Pence!
Myself and my pal Michael had been knocking on doors for about 4 hours and had been pretty successful. Most of my neighbours were friendly and happily gave their Bob and sometimes more, and maybe even a biscuit, then gave us an easy to perform.
In return they got a ‘Job Done’ sticker for their front window.
We decided we’d try the ‘big house’ at the top of the street. It had a large gate and grounds leading to an imposing dwelling.
Our confidence was high so we marched up to the front door and rang the bell.
Our chirpy ‘Bob-A-Job!’ stuck in our throats as a very tall, Rees Mogg like, figure opened the door and glowered at us!…….’Bob-A-Job’ I squeaked……
‘Aaah Yesssss. Verree well then’ the tall man said and led us through the porch into a dark square hall.
Michael and I exchanged an ‘Anaw whit huv we dun!?’ look as the tall man pointed to the open door of a very large living room and said ‘Clean out the fire ashes and then fetch coal and wood to build a fresh one. Then I’ll see what else can be done!’
Eager to escape his looming presence we half ran towards the fire place. ‘The quicker we do this the quicker we can get away’ whispered Michael.
We didn’t have a clue what to do, then I spotted an old metal bucket and decided that’s where the ashes should go.
We made a hell of a mess which of course we had to clean up then we were shown outside to collect the coal and wood.
We worked there for well over an hour and at the end we were tired, sweaty and very dirty!
Rees Mogg finally dipped into his leather purse and gave us a shilling each and I gave him a sticker for his front window.
To ensure no other unsuspecting Cubs would approach this slave driver’s house I stuck a few more on the outer storm door as we left!
Full disclosure Number Two….
When I was 10/11 I had a massive crush on our Akela, the leader of the Wolf Cub pack. She was probably in her early thirties and worshipped her from afar!
When I was promoted to a Sixer (there were 6 Sixers in the pack of 36) and then to flag bearer I was overjoyed as it meant I was ‘closer’ to her.
One Cubs’ night, just as we were finishing, Akela asked me if I could come to her house on the following Saturday!
I was to cook breakfast for Akela and her Mum as part of my Home Proficiency Badge or something……I wasn’t really listening after she said ‘Come to my house!’
I couldn’t sleep for three nights and I badgered my Mum into a crash course on how to fry eggs, bacon and sausage! And how to make tea! I’d never even boiled a kettle!
Saturday morning arrived and wearing my Cub uniform, I nervously walked the half mile to her house.
Akela and her Mum were very nice to me and I kinda overcame my fear and nervousness. They didn’t even complain that I burst the fried eggs’ yolks, undercooked the bacon and ‘stewed’ the tea.
After I’d washed the breakfast dishes Akela told me I had attained my merit badge and I was ecstatic as I
floated home on cloud nine. Or…..
‘Riding Along On The Crest Of A Wave’
if you prefer.
I left the Cubs a few months later but the wonderful memories remain with me even after 50+ years
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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 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.