Tales of Rock – In Search Of The Forgotten Heroes Of 70s Rock

Oh, I love this so much!

We all know about the 70s. The Beatles quit, glam came along — T.RexBowie, Slade; in the background, Floyd, Zeppelin and Sabbath sold squillions of records as 70s rock icons. Yes, ELP, Mike Oldfield and Genesis did prog for educated chaps. Then disco: ELO, ABBA and Queencompeted with it, then joined it. Punk rebelled, then came post-punk and Joy Division, plus 2-Tone. There was other stuff, like Bob Marley and Eagles. And we wore platform-heeled hot pants. Cool. Perhaps.

But are the 2010s only about Adele and Ed Sheeran? Beneath their mass appeal lies hundreds of other acts making great music. It was the same for 70s rock coulda-beens: brilliant bands rocked audiences of thousands, made fantastic albums, then faded. Fondly remembered by a troupe of diehards, these acts are almost ignored by the rock’n’roll historians — though many deserved to be lauded like their celebrated contemporaries. Here are but a few: remember them with love, or discover them afresh.

It wasn’t enough for Focus to boast a brilliant guitarist in Jan Akkerman; they had a wily way with a tune and succeeded with an unfashionable form of rock: instrumentals. Focus were The Netherlands’ leading 70s rock band. Formed in 1969, they won attention through early single ‘House Of The King’. The theme for four UK TV series(!), the unwary might have mistaken it for a Jethro Tull ditty thanks to the flute of Thijs Van Leer, though his group were very different. Their second album, 1971’s II, was Focus’ breakthrough, delivering an international hit in the fierce ‘Hocus Pocus’. Their third album delivered the elegant descending melody of ‘Sylvia’, winning further fans worldwide, with Akkerman drawing admiration. The guitarist left in 1976 but returned several times; Focus are still on the road.

 

Akkerman wasn’t alone: the 70s adored a guitar hero. Robin Trower, formerly of Procol Harum, was seen by some listeners as the heir to Jimi Hendrix. Trower formed his own power trio in 1973, teasing weeping and wailing from his Stratocaster over a series of fine records, and riding high in the album chart with Bridge Of Sighs in ’74 and For Earth Below in ’75 — chiefly in the US, rather than his native UK. Another notable guitar band were Wishbone Ash, though they went one further, with the double lead axes and vocals of Andy Powell and Ted Turner mesmerising fans. Pilgrimage (1971) and Argus (1972) were 70s rock classics, mixing melody, blues and a mythological element. Their ‘Blowin’ Free’ was banned from some guitar shops which grew sick of budding strummers playing its intro. Among them was Steve Harris, heartbeat of Iron Maiden, for whom the Ash was a major influence.

The second-division 70s rock bands were not remotely generic. Behind the sleeve artwork of famed designer Roger Dean, Osibisa played Afro-rock that mixed Ghanaian highlife, searing rock and Caribbean grooves; ignore their biggest hit, ‘Sunshine Day’, and check out their eponymous debut LP and its ’74 follow-up, Woyaya: both made loon pants rave. The Strawbs blended folk (Sandy Denny was an early member, as was Rick Wakeman) with rock, glam and social comment, hitting with ‘Part Of The Union’ and ‘Lay Down’ in 1972. The band were too diverse for its own good, though Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios (1970) and Grave New World (’72) were widely played and respected. And spare a thought for the Illinois singer-songwriter Emitt Rhodes, a multi-tracking one-man-band given the tag of “the new Paul McCartney”. Gulp. His second, self-titled, album is so full of beautiful, melodic tunes, tending to the baroque, that it’s baffling that it only made №29 in the US in 1970. Talent? You bet.

 

The harmonious progressive rock of California quartet Ambrosia illuminated the second half of the 70s. Their imaginative eponymous debut (1975) adapted a Kurt Vonnegut poem for the single ‘Nice, Nice, Very Nice’, while ‘Holdin’ On To Yesterday’, an orchestrated beauty with the sort of beat now regarded as a downtempo groove, was a big US hit. The following year, Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled sent FM DJs quietly wild; further fame came when the group cut ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ for the Beatles/war documentary oddity All This And World War II. Scoring warm soul-styled hits in the 80s, these alluring soft rockers are still touring.

The wonderful Atlanta Rhythm Section faced one drawback: their acronym was ARS. But they made it. No prizes for guessing where they’re from. They delivered five albums between 1972–76, with little fuss and low sales figures: that changed in 1977 when ‘So Into You’, a cool, steady-chugging chunk of soulful Southern rock, went Top 10 in the US, bringing their A Rock And Roll Alternative with it. The next year they scored again with ‘Imaginary Lover’ and the strolling ‘I’m Not Going To Let It Bother Me Tonight’, both from the platinum-selling Champagne Jam. Further hits came courtesy of ‘Do It Or Die’ and a revival of ‘Spooky’ — two members of the band had been in Classics IV, who’d first hit with the in ’67. ARS were a class act.

Want something that blends with them? Try ‘Jackie Blue’ (1974), the biggest hit by Missouri’s Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Mixing AOR with country-influenced sounds (check out the boogie of ‘If You Want To Get To Heaven’) and a sense of the absurd (their third LP was called The Car Over The Lake Album, and the sleeve showed just that), they were a reliably fine time on vinyl between 1973–80.

 

Staying in the south, Wet Willie were named after a schoolyard prank but were no joke. From Alabama, they boasted five or six core members, plus backing singers The Williettes, who included British solo star Elkie Brooks for a while. Their biggest hit was the laconic, steady-rollin’ ‘Keep On Smilin’’ in 1974, title track to their fourth album. For the full blast of their grittily funky rock, however, try the previous year’s superb live set, Drippin’ Wet. And let’s also recall Manassas, who cut two fine albums in 1972–73. And they would be fine, since they were the vision of a bona fide superstar, Steven Stills, and featured Chris Hillman of The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers amid an array of truly great players. The group’s self-titled debut offered four sides of glorious rootsy country-rock — and whatever else took their fancy. Everyone involved thought the band was amazing, so why weren’t they bigger? Perhaps because fans wanted Crosby, Stills & Nash, instead.

At the opposite end of the fame spectrum, British 70s rock band Brinsley Schwarz, named after their guitarist, were famously over-hyped when flown to NYC to open at the Fillmore East in front of a gaggle of music hacks, but settled into a low-key country-rock and roots vibe that was a cornerstone of London pub-rock. Building a loyal, if small, following, they toured constantly, supported the likes of Wings and Dave Edmunds, but disbanded unheralded in 1975, leaving us half a dozen albums such as the country-inclined Nervous On The Road. Most members went on to success, notably bassist and songwriter Nick Lowe, who produced The Damned and Elvis Costello, was part of Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile, and wrote Dr Feelgood’s biggest hit, ‘Milk And Alcohol’. Another downbeat hero, Scottish guitarist Miller Anderson, breathed blues-fuelled fire into records by Keef Hartley Band, Savoy Brown, Ian Hunter, Jon Lord and many more. His sole solo set of the 70s, Bright City, on Decca’s progressive Deram imprint, was ambitious, thoughtful and had a theme concerning 70s urban life, with brilliant orchestral arrangements. It sold… not at all. A dirty rotten shame, as Anderson’s under-exposed vocal talent deserved exposure.

 

Prog stars Camel, led by guitarist/flautist Andy Latimer and featuring keyboardist Peter Bardens, cut Camel for MCA in ’72, featuring the climactic gem ‘Never Let Go’. Swapping to Deram, Mirage found a following in the US, and 1975’s instrumental suite, The Snow Goose, became a surprise runaway success, despite a dispute with Paul Gallico, the author of the kids’ book of the same name, involving an unseemly mix-up about whether the band were related to the cigarette brand (they weren’t). The following year’s Moonmadness was another hit amid various line-up changes, and the group kept charting until 1984.

Another act who had to earn it, baby, were prog stalwarts Barclay James Harvest, a quartet who got through five albums without pestering the Top 40, finally scoring with Live, a double set that reflected a fanbase built on hard graft. LPs such as Everyone Is Everyone ElseOctoberonand Time Honoured Ghosts are classics of their type, with great songs such as ‘Mocking Bird’ and the wry ‘Poor Man’s Moody Blues’ undeservedly little heard today. Then there’s Gentle Giant, who grew (and grew) from the psychedelic-era act Simon Dupree & The Big Sound (and late-60s curiosity The Moles) into one of the most reliable progressive bands of the 70s. While they barely hit in their native UK, a decade of albums on Vertigo label and Chrysalis won a strong following in the US, with Free Hand going Top 50, and the likes of Octopusand The Power And The Glory proving fascinating those with ears to hear.

 

Finally, two more British 70s rock bands who, sadly, barely registered: Spring, a highly melodious five-piece whose charming self-titled 1971 album is mostly recognised for copious use of the Mellotron (without sounding remotely like The Moody Blues). What ought to be more noted, however, are the heartfelt and distinctive vocals of Pat Moran, who went on to produce Iggy Pop, among many others. And should you think T2 is just a movie, you haven’t heard It’ll All Work Out In Boomland, a legendary progressive album that should have made stars of the trio that recorded it. If you want to know where Neil Young and Bowie meet, hear T2’s singer-drummer Peter Dunton, and you’ll also enjoy the tough guitar stylings of Keith Cross. Despite BBC sessions and an 80s reunion, fame proved elusive for the group. 70s rock fans didn’t know how lucky they were.

This has been one of my favorite Tales of Rock to write. These are glorious songs from my past that were nearly forgotten, but I resurrect them here for you to witness!

Enjoy!

 

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Duncan – Concentrated Dosage – Part 2 – Saturday

“We keep getting older, but they stay the same age.”

I wake up on Saturday morning, and after a day of drinking and activities on Friday, I’m a little banged up. Duncan and I were supposed to go to breakfast at 10am but that wasn’t going to happen.

I rolled over to the Ritz Carlton around 11am Saturday. Duncan was chilling in the lobby. We decided to head down to the movie theater. It was a little cold, but not too bad. Duncan was freezing because he lives in a warm climate and can’t take the cold winters of the Northeast anymore. (Fuckin’ wimp!)

Philly is an incredibly walkable city and we decide to walk all the way down to Columbus Blvd. to the movie theater. It’s right on the Delaware river. (Hence the name, Riverview Stadium) It probably took us about forty minutes to walk down there. The nice thing about walking around Philly is, it gives you time to look at all of the sights and just talk.

I love my time with Duncan this weekend. We’ve really reconnected as friends and as men. He’s been in my life for twenty years and I want to keep him there.

We get to the theater and there’s a line for tickets, but people are in line for everything playing and there. I decide to leave Duncan in line and try the kiosk, because there’s always that person that’s in front of you that is making it their life’s work just to by a couple of tickets to see a movie. That goes for everywhere I go in life. I’m always behind that person that is digging through a coin purse at Rite Aid, or making international transactions at an ATM, or just basically doesn’t ever have their shit together when it comes to doing anything in regard to a retail transaction. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this.

So I hit the ticket kiosk and swipe my card for two tickets to see Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, and I get them! I pull him out of line and we go in. Duncan’s happy that I came through in the clutch because we’re cutting showtime pretty close. The tickets were twenty something by I don’t care. I know what’s going to happen next, and I’m all set.

The theater is huge, and we take the escalator upstairs. We hit the snack bar and Duncan is on the case. He orders a bucket of popcorn. Mistake. No one can eat that much fucking popcorn. Then he gets our drinks. The girl upsells him to the large size because she says we can get free refills. Mistake. No one can drink that much fucking soda. Maybe a couple of dudes that just walked of the face of the Sun, but no human can hold that much liquid in their bodies in one sitting, but I admire her upsell. He gets a box of M&M peanuts for himself and I take the popcorn over to that machine that literally drenches the bucket in butter. It’s probably not even butter, but who cares, it’s delicious. I tell him I want a tray of soft pretzel bites with the spicy cheese sauce and we’re all set. The snacks came to somewhere around thirty-five dollars, and I’ve won. Duncan just bought me a deliciously gross breakfast and the tickets I bought were less that what he paid to feed our sorry hung over asses.

We get into the theater and there aren’t that many people in there. I like that. We take a pair of seats in the back and get situated. We watch a bunch of previews which I love. I’m starving and start ripping into my pretzel bites and the popcorn. The sodas are so enormous I feel like the sheer weight of them will pull the chairs over. My fingers are soaked with butter and I can’t even get a grip on the barrel sized cup in the built-in holder, so like a little kid, I have to go to the straw, rather than pick up the tankard of diet coke. As silly as this is, there is something nostalgic about being a kid at the movies and having all of these treats. It’s breakfast for a couple of men, who are about to watch a new Star Wars movie. We’ve loved them since their inception in 1977.  I’m happy, and I don’t even care that like always, I have dribbled the spicy cheese whiz down the front of me.

We watch the film and it’s glorious. Better than I expected. I’m a film guy, so I won’t reveal a thing, and you’ve all probably seen it. It’s a story that takes place before the original Star Wars movie. It’s a little slow in the beginning but way better than the ones made by George Lucas before this. So if I had to rate the Star Wars pictures I would rate them as follows:

Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope

Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi

Star Wars: Rogue One

I have left off the first 3 prequels Lucas made, because they basically suck. Here’s a classic example of an artist losing sight of his art and original vision. It’s fine. I don’t care. This happens over and over in music, film and art in general. I know the fans are screaming and go wild over the failure of the creators making sub par art and letting them down. It happens. You have to embrace and enjoy how their art made you feel in that moment when you first fell in love with what they did. If you expect the artist to keep making the same art and making you feel that initial rush again at the level you first felt it, it’s just not going to happen.

Look at the band Aerosmith. I LOVED Aerosmith in the seventies when I was growing up. My sister, Janice brought their first record home, because she was hanging out with a band that did their song Dream On. She wasn’t that into Aerosmith, but liked the band that was covering their work. I on the other hand as a fledgling rock guitarist fell in LOVE with Aersmith. It was 1975 and the song “Walk this Way” was playing on the radio from their third record, “Toys in the Attic”.  Their first album is great because like any band, they had their whole lives to write it. But then the studio pushes them for another record and it’s just not as good. The band is great, but the material just isn’t there. They work hard and tour and have a special talent so then they make ‘Toys in the Attic” and it’s a great record. They’re all poor and touring their asses off and doing shitloads of drugs. The lifestyle is changing them and killing them.

People love the song Walk this Way (A nearly perfect FM rock song) and a lot of people buy the “Toys in the Attic”

Then in 1976, Aerosmith puts out a record entitled “Rocks.” A black cover with just the name of the band and the word ‘Rocks’ and picture of five diamonds. It is absolutely one of the most perfect hard rock albums of the seventies. Every song is magnificent.

I love Aerosimth. I wore out the Rocks album. I listened to it everyday and learned how to play every song on that album on guitar. I wanted to be Joe Perry and Steven Tyler rolled into one skinny blonde kid with a guitar.

But you can’t expect them to keep making Toys in the Attic and Rocks every year so you can get your rocks off. Things happen in an artist’s life to change, alter, grow, or fail in some way. So you have Lucas trying his best to make something but the fire and hunger just isn’t there anymore. The heavy metal band Metallica are all wildly rich men. Do you think they can make the powerful angry music they once made? No way. Neither can Aerosmith or George Lucas. Just wrap yourself up in the memory that their art gave you in the beautiful moment of your life and leave it at that. Other people will rise up and take the helm and get you off in a different way.

I’m guilty of this too. Maybe my problem is I keep trying to go back and get that love rush I did when I was younger and I keep dating younger women. It always ends badly, because they want to go forward and get married and have kids and I’ve already done that. Maybe I just need to wrap myself up in my beautiful memories and be done with it.

But Disney has Star Wars now. I don’t listen to Aerosmith anymore except for the old stuff. Marvel Comics is making great films and Star Wars is definitely on the upswing creatively, because someone else is doing it. So for now, I’m going to stick with what Matthew Macoughy said in the film Dazed and Confused, “We keep getting older, but they stay the same age.”

I know it’s wrong, but I want to date a girl that makes me feel like the original Star Wars movie again.

Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion…

 

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Tales of Rock – Keith Moon Blew Stuff Up

“No toilet in a hotel or changing room was safe,”

When Keith Moon was 17 years-old he joined The Who and replaced drummer Doug Sandom. He immediately impacted the band’s sound and became known for his innovative drumming style. Along with Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle, Moon would help The Who become one of the most popular bands of the 1960s and 1970s. The group was known for explosive concerts and destructive behavior. The first such performance occurred in 1964 at the Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone, London, when Townshend accidentally broke the head of his guitar through the ceiling, so he continued to smash it on stage and the crowd loved it. More people came back the next night wanting the band to smash and break something.

Keith Moon had no problem fitting in with the lifestyle of a rock star. He had an erratic personality and gained the nickname “Moon the Loon.” In one famous performance Moon filled his clear acrylic drums with water and goldfish, and dressed like a cat. He was a jokester and Moon’s ability to make his bandmates laugh around the vocal microphone led to him being banished from the studio when albums were being recorded. In response, Moon would sneak into the studio and join in the singing. He can be heard on several tracks, including Bell Boy, Bucket T, and Barbara Ann. He is the high backing vocals on Pictures of Lily.

Keith Moon was known to demolish hotel rooms and was incredibly destructive. He would often throw furniture from high buildings and set objects on fire. However, his favorite hobby was blowing up toilets with explosives. The blasts would destroy the toilet and often times disrupt plumbing to the hotel. It has been estimated that Moon’s destruction of toilets and plumbing ran as high as UK£300,000 (US$500,000). Moon was banned from several hotel chains including all Holiday Inn, all Sheraton, all Hilton Hotels, and the Waldorf Astoria.

According to Tony Fletcher’s biography, Moon was quoted: “All that porcelain flying through the air was quite unforgettable.” Fletcher wrote: “no toilet in a hotel or changing room was safe,” until Moon had detonated his supply of explosives. In one case, hotel management asked Moon to turn down his cassette player. In response, he asked the manager up to his room and blew up the toilet right in front of him. Moon then turned the cassette player back up and said: “This is The Who.”

In 1967, Keith Moon allegedly drove a Cadillac or Lincoln Continental into a Holiday Inn pool. In 1973, The Who was performing at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and Moon passed out during the show. Townshend noticed that he was sleeping and asked the audience, “Can anyone play the drums? I mean somebody good.” An audience member named Scot Halpin stepped up and finished the concert for Moon.

Ringo Starr once told Keith Moon that his lifestyle would eventually kill him. Moon simply replied “Yeah, I know.” Keith Moon died on September 7, 1978 (age 32) after he ingested 32 tablets of clomethiazole (Heminevrin). The digestion of six pills was sufficient to cause his death. The other 26 were found undissolved in his stomach. This caused some to speculate that Moon’s death might have been on purpose. Officially it was ruled a drug overdose.

 

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Tales of Rock – Bowie and Jagger in Bed

David Bowie is an innovative English musician that has sold over 140 million albums. He is an extremely popular singer and has done a lot of work to help fight important world issues. In 1972, Bowie became one of the first popular singers to reveal to the public that he was bisexual. Bowie gave an interview that was broadcast around the world. Since that time he has bounced back and forth on the issue and remains married to Somali-American model Iman.

In 1970, David Bowie was married to a woman named Angela and the couple divorced in 1980. In 1990, after a ten-year gag order ended, Angela Bowie appeared on The Joan Rivers Show and gave some controversial details about her time with David. She is quoted: “I caught him in bed with men several times. In fact the best time I caught him in bed was with Mick Jagger.” At this point, Howard Stern, who was involved with the interview, asked Angela if Jagger and Bowie had their clothes off. She said: “They certainly did.” The accusation became international news and Jagger released a statement that dismissed the claim.

A week after the interview, Angela Bowie went on television and said that although she had seen Mick Jagger and Bowie naked, it didn’t necessarily mean they weren’t sleeping. She clarified: “I certainly didn’t catch anyone in the act.” Some people have linked the event to the 1973 Rolling Stones hit song Angie. However, David Bowie said it best: “About 15 or 16 years ago, I really got pretty tired of fending off questions about what I used to do with my penis in the early ’70s. My suggestion for people with a prurient interest is to go through the 30 or 40 bios on me and pick out the rumor of their choice.”

Check out the video below.

This is the gayest thing I’ve ever seen.

Enjoy!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at 8am EST.

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