Tuesday Tunes 35: Seventies Albums

Today I reach my first selection of Seventies albums. As I have said several times, the Seventies was the decade when I really began buying albums in earnest, and the singles buying of my earlier youth days came to a grinding halt. Most albums now included the accompanying singles anyway, so I was actually saving money by not buying the singles any more. I have jotted down a list of potential artists for inclusion in this series, and without needing to dredge too far into my memory that list now stands at thirty: and that is artists, not albums. I could probably run this series for a long time! However, for now I’m going to be giving you two weeks, each of six tracks, and then something different will be happening for December. I’ll tell you more when the time comes (I learned all I know from Austin Powers, International Man Of Mystery – which probably explains a lot). As these selections are album tracks I’m hoping that some, at least, will be unfamiliar to you – come with me on a voyage of discovery!

I’ve been listening to a lot of the artists on my list, in a vain attempt to come up with a definitive selection. I decided that it was a hopeless task, so I’m just going to leap in! Getting my Seventies albums collection off to a rousing start, how about this:

A good way to check that your ears are still working, I think, and the energy in that is incredible. Since his first album in 1973, Bruce has released twenty studio albums, nine of which have been #1 in the US and eleven here in the UK. Perhaps surprisingly, in retrospect, this wasn’t one of those, peaking at #3 in the US and #17 in the UK on its release in 1975. But it was undeniably the album which saw his career take off for the stratosphere. The song didn’t fare as well as you might think as a single, either. It reached #23 in the US but didn’t chart here until the days of downloads really began: making #93 in 2009! The live version, from the fantastic triple album Live 1975-1985, was released here as a single in 1987, and got as high as #16 – a little bit of justice, at last!

I’ve mentioned in the past two weeks that former members of Free and Mott The Hoople came together to form the band Bad Company. This was in 1974, which saw the release of their eponymous debut album. Only one song from the album was a hit single – Can’t Get Enough – but, as befits a selection of albums, I’m giving you the title track:

Despite looking hard, I couldn’t find a video of the band from that time – only later versions, which aren’t quite the same. Anyone who, like me, had been a fan of Free took to this album with open arms: the demise of one of our favourite bands had been more than recompensed! That still sounds fresh to me today, and Paul Rodgers has always, for me, had the best voice in rock music. As I said, that wasn’t a hit single, but as the album reached #3 here and #1 in the US I doubt the band were too distressed.

My next video is also a static one: I guess that’s what comes of selecting album tracks from around fifty years ago, before every song had to have a video. This is one of my favourites – of which there are many – from the best album by a former Beatle after the band broke up. All Things Must Pass was a triple album, released in November 1970, filled with songs that showed how remiss Lennon and McCartney had been in not allowing George more inclusion on the band’s albums:

The album was led by the single My Sweet Lord, which was a world-wide #1, as was the album. They showed George coming out of his shell, both as a songwriter and a performer. I could have chosen several other tracks from this amazing album, such as Apple Scruffs, Beware Of Darkness, All Things Must Pass (a real beauty): the whole album is packed with great songs.

My next track this week also suffers from old age, and therefore from being part of the pre-video age. But I have managed to find one that someone has kindly illustrated with some band images:

That was a track from Steely Dan’s 1972 debut album, Can’t Buy A Thrill, which formed a huge part of my university days, along with its follow ups, Countdown To Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic. The best known tracks on the first album are Do It Again and Reeling In The Years, both of which can be found on YouTube in live performances. But I decided to be perverse and choose my favourite track from a great album, though there are so many superb songs on it that choosing just one wasn’t easy. The album charted at #17 in the US and #38 here in the UK: I always felt it deserved better.

All the way back in Tuesday Tunes 3 I shared a song by this next artist, and mentioned both the album from which this came and this track. This is so beautiful that I felt it should also be a part of this series:

As the video shows, that is a track from Gerry Rafferty’s solo debut album Can I Have My Money Back?, which was released in 1971, not long after he had left the duo of which he had previously been a member – The Humblebums, a partnership with a certain Billy Connolly, of whom you may have heard. The album received good critical reviews, but I think I must have bought one of the few copies that were sold! He later went on to be hugely successful with Baker Street and the album it was on, City To City: all of his songs are skilfully written, with some beautiful lyrics. This one is a case in point: Mary Skeffington was his mother’s maiden name, and the song is addressed to her, as comfort for the difficulties she suffered during her marriage to his father. Once you know that background, the song really takes on the beauty and poignancy that has made it one of my all time favourites.

The late, great, Warren Zevon released two of his albums during the Seventies: Warren Zevon, in 1976, and Excitable Boy, in 1978. This gives me the perfect excuse to highlight him here, and to share one of the tracks from the second of those albums. Even if you aren’t a fan of his, you have probably heard of one of its tracks – Werewolves Of London, which I shared in my post Halloween Tunes 2020. This one is just as well known to his fans, of whom I am one:

As you can see from that, Warren was a guest on the Letterman show, as he had been many times over the preceding twenty years. The two became good friends, and this turned out to be Warren’s final appearance on the show, on 30th October 2002. He was the only guest for the show’s whole hour, and played several of his best known songs: this was the final one. After the show, Warren presented David Letterman with the guitar he used on the show, with the words “Here, I want you to have this, take good care of it.” The Excitable Boy album reached #8 in the US, but didn’t chart here. Five tracks from it were released as singles, but this wasn’t one of them, sadly. Warren died of inoperable cancer on 7th September 2003, shortly after the release of his final album. He still hasn’t been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – a shameful omission, in my view, especially when you look at some of those who have found their way in.

This first selection of Seventies albums has flown by for me, and it feels as though I have barely scratched the surface of one of the best decades for music in my lifetime. More of the contents of what used to be my vinyl collection will be coming up next week. As I said, this could take a while though, as I also said, I’m planning something different: keep an eye open for that.

Until next time, stay safe and well. The news here this week is that Boris Johnson is self isolating after hosting breakfast for some of his MPs several days ago, one of whom has tested positive for Covid. Always good to leave you on a positive note, I think 😉

Halloween Tunes 2020

On Thursday, I posted my usual reminder about not using Halloween as a time to mock mental illness, even if it is unintended. Last year, to show that I’m not a fully fledged grouch – well, not yet – I thought I should show my ‘fun’ side and approach the ‘celebrations’ from the angle of my other main theme: music. It went tolerably well so I thought I’d edit and update the piece for those who won’t have seen it before.

There have been many songs which could be deemed to relate to the usual manifestations of this time of year, by which I mean monsters, ghosts, zombies, witches and general spookery. Most of these are tongue in cheek, and I’ve managed to avoid stretching the links too far: for example, I considered, but rejected, Time Of The Season by the Zombies. It’s a great song, but even my limited abilities at quality control told me that just using the band’s name was pushing it a bit.

Instead, I chose as my starting point a song which is probably the most popular ever for this time of year. Scoring absolutely no points for originality I give you….

That is the shorter version, which just gives you the song. If you want the complete 13+ minute epic, which is the full cinematic treatment, try this:

My second choice is one that was a hit in my childhood, way back in 1962, and was often played on the Saturday breakfast time radio requests show for kids, Children’s Favourites. This video is a homage to the song: watching it brings back lots of happy memories for me, and it is great fun:

Another obvious choice next. It’s probably worth keeping in mind that you may need to rid yourself of ghosts at some point, so do you know who to call? Do you have their number? Are you afraid? I ain’t:

I went for another oldie next. Perhaps this isn’t obviously a Halloween-related song but, on the theme of monsters, who wouldn’t be frightened by a great big one-eyed thing going around eating people? But it does only seem to have it in for purple people, though, so maybe we’re alright:

Another monster favourite of mine is next up. I know this one is stretching it a bit, too, but I like it and didn’t want to leave it out. And the video is fun:

Time to move on to witchcraft now, I think. This choice is very left-field, and is not really about Halloween at all. But it is very much of its time – late 1960s/early 70s, when prog rock was taking shape and there was a renewed interest in the occult. I had this on one of those sampler albums that some of the record companies issued back then: Bumpers was the album, from Island Records. It always intrigued me, and there is something about the insistent rhythm and chanted chorus that attracts me to it. I love this video that has been put together for the song – so many wonderful images!

Another ‘witch’ song now, from 1971. This was a classic one-hit wonder in the UK, and deserves to be included in my collection even if it doesn’t specifically mention Halloween, as it’s a very good depiction of how ‘witches’ can cast a spell over us: in this case with voodoo and black magic. And it’s still a Halloween favourite after all these years:

They say you should always leave the best till last, so that’s exactly what I’m doing. This is another UK one-hit wonder (no.87 in 1987, on re-release), though his albums fared slightly better: two of them charted. Well, they reached our top 200. He was the writer of incredibly original songs – try Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner if you don’t know what I mean – and was taken from us by inoperable cancer in 2003, far too soon. But his legacy lives on, and there have been countless covers of his songs. My no.1 for Halloween is the great Warren Zevon:

I was born and brought up in Kent and am happy to report that I never encountered that character! But, then again, I’m not called Jim so maybe I’d have been alright anyway?

I hope you managed to find something in this selection to enjoy. Do have a great Halloween, however you spend it. I’ll be hunkered down in my flat, pretending I’m out if anyone comes trick or treating and COVID-spreading, but that’s just me showing my ‘fun’ side, isn’t it?😉

🎃🧟‍♂️Happy Halloween!🧟‍♀️🧙‍♀️

Tuesday Tunes 8: Lockdown

As the main news story here over the past few days has been the Government’s ‘new’ guidelines for what we can and cannot do at present, this seemed as good a time as any to make ‘lockdown’ the theme for Tuesday Tunes. Those of a nervous disposition may like to look away now: this piece contains some criticisms of our leaders!

I had thought I might give you a brief rundown of the new guidance but it doesn’t seem very clear: every time a government minister says something about it they are either correcting something someone else has said or are immediately contradicted themselves. Government by chaos. This bears all the hallmarks of our Prime Minister: lurking behind him is his eminence grise – Dirty Dom – who becomes ever more dictatorial, and then they trot out the Prime Clown to make the pronouncements. For those who haven’t seen them, they basically amount to ‘wiffle waffle, piffle paffle, hrmph.’ And we now have the perfectly clear ‘Stay Home’ slogan replaced by ‘Stay Alert.’ What?

A brief summary: on Sunday evening Johnson commandeered the tv screens to make a statement. Except that he didn’t: anyone hoping for a live broadcast would have been disappointed to learn that it was pre-recorded, presumably so that the producers could edit out the inevitable cock ups. Mind you, his cabinet ministers shared in that disappointment, as the whizzo 50 page booklet that they were due to discuss in Zoom cabinet had apparently already been sent to the printers. If he doesn’t even trust his own cabinet, what chance is there for us poor plebs? But good news: there was to be a slight relaxation of the lockdown rules. People who could go to work should do so. But not by public transport. We would now be allowed to meet with one family member (pick between Gran and Grandpa, folks) but only outside at two metres distance, of course. But it was ok to have a carer or cleaner in your home, just not your relatives. Oh, and he forgot to tell us that this wouldn’t all be starting until Wednesday, and one of his sidekicks had to be wheeled out for an instant correction. Asked yesterday by a teacher why it would be acceptable for her to be in a classroom full of children, but not for her to see her own grandchildren, he didn’t have an answer. And that is just the tip of the iceberg – a confusion of Titanic proportions.

At times like this there is only one thing for it: music! I’ve picked two tunes for this week which, by their titles alone, are good complements to this week’s theme. That they are both from favourite artists of mine, and that their lyrics speak of being apart from people or being restricted in what we can do, is a bonus! First up is the late, great Warren Zevon. His slightly gravelly voice may not be to everyone’s taste, but he wrote some great tunes and his lyrics are often masterful. See what I mean from this:

That was on his seventh studio album, Transverse City, and the harmonica and harmony vocals are by Neil Young – Warren may not have set the charts alight but he had a very loyal following and fellow artists knew just how good he was: there are many cover versions of his songs, a particular favourite of mine being Poor Poor Pitiful Me by Linda Ronstadt. The novelist Carl Hiaasen was a big fan, and often featured snippets of Warren’s lyrics in his books: they became good friends right until Warren’s passing in 2003. Hiaasen’s books, like Warren’s lyrics, are full of larger than life characters: I guess, in Warren’s case, that is the product of his upbringing as the son of a Mormon mother and a father who worked for a notorious LA mobster. He once wrote a song called My Shit’s Fucked Up – it’s not hard to see why!

As I said earlier, this week’s second tune is also from a favourite of mine. It’s a Bob Dylan song, but I think the Byrds did it better – as they did with many of his songs. Their version was on Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, which was the only one of their albums to feature the late, great (secondary theme here) Gram Parsons. It has since become recognised as the forerunner of what we now know as country rock, and led to Parsons and Chris Hillman leaving the Byrds to form the Flying Burrito Brothers – I still play both bands’ albums to this day. As a Tuesday Tune for lockdown, it is hard to find a better message than this:

Parsons left the Byrds during a UK tour in 1968, which gave him more time to hang out with his friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richard/s. If you’ve ever wondered where the Rolling Stones’ country influence came from, on tracks like Country Honk and Faraway Eyes, Gram’s your man!

To wrap up this week’s selection, a serious note. I don’t think I was being too disingenuous in my description of the state of guidance here in the UK, and it worries me that things are that unclear. This is vitally important, and is something that has to be got right. I’ve been critical of Johnson et al in their early complacency and lack of response to Covid, and they have to be decisive now: lives have been lost, and more depend on it. There has been a spike in infections in Germany since they eased their regulations last week, and I am fearful of that happening here.. Stay alert (whatever that is supposed to mean), be safe, and take care. Till next week….