Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Go Tulane!

The week of July 26, 1977 witnessed rock veteran Steve Gibbons entering the U.K.charts with his band's cover of Chuck Berry's "Tulane", a song that would climb all the way to #12. It's here mainly because it name checks my alma mater multiple times.

With Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" at the top, the U.K. charts were pretty exciting this week. Among the singles:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Anything But Love

They were best known as Graham Parker's backing band, but in July of 1977, The Rumour released their won album, the Mutt Lange produced Max. The title was a witty retort to Fleetwood Mac calling their best selling album Rumours ( not unlike Nick Lowe titling his EP Bowi in response to Bowie's album, Low).  

The Rumour were made up of all stars from the pub rock world: Brinsley Schwartz (guitar) and Bob Andrews (keys) cane from the band Brinsley Schwartz, Martin Belmont (guitar) came from Ducks Deluxe, and Andrew Bodnar (bass) and Steve Goulding (drums) came from Bontemps Roulez.

Among the highlights: a cover of Nick Lowe's "Mess Around With Love", Duke Ellington's "So Nothing Till You Hear from Me" and  the Ducks own "Something's Going On".

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Docks The Clocks

On July 24, 1977 Television re-entered the U.K. pop charts, following the title track of Marquee Moon with "Prove It" b/w "Venus". The single would peak at U.K. #25. The song seems to take place on a New York City dock where the singer has woken up before the birds. It's an odd hour to be up, even in New York. 

As Tom Verlaine told a U.K. magazine in 1977, "Living in New York you somehow become very night-oriented. Especially in the summers, when it gets so hot and the streets get so dirty...I've always thought of New York as an inspiration. It isn't for many people, but it is for me. Obviously it was Lou Reed , too. ..New York is a really concentrated microcosm of emotions, you know, and atmosphere. The song do deal mostly with atmosphere, yes; I think that's what art is all about."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

That's Where She Takes Me

On July 22, 1977 just two weeks before the U.S. chart debut of the futuristic synth pop masterpiece "I Feel Love", which he produced for Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder released his own all synth creation. "From Here to Eternity" kicked off an A side that would steam up  disco floors all around the world. As the liner notes state,"only electronic keyboards were used in the making of this album."  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

His Aim Was True

On July 22, 1977 Elvis Costello released is debut album, My Aim Is True. It was my introduction to Costello's music and I was immediately taken by the smart wordplay, the passion and the pub rock sounds. I was thirteen years old and by the time I picked up one of those prerecorded cassettes, I was trying to survive boarding school.

It wasn't as bad as Costello's description of his rehearsal room, Headley Garage:

It was dark when I awoke. I could hear the rats scuttling across the rehearsal room floor. I t was just as I had been warned. If the light went off, the rats came out.
Feeling for my shoes, I edged to the light-switch and illuminated the drinking party passed out on another ragged sofa.
I tried to go back to sleep with the lights on, I was going to make a record the next day.

The future Huey Lewis Band, Clover, may not get as much love as the Attractions but Costello remembers feeling incredibly lucky to be "playing with such great musicians", especially after John McFee came up with the intro to "Alison"

Critics were enthralled. Only the Sex Pistols rated higher in the Village Voice critics poll for that year.

1. Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (Warner Bros.) 412 (32)
2. Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (Columbia) 367 (33)
3. Television: Marquee Moon (Elektra) 327 (26)
4. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Warner Bros.) 318 (26)
5. Steely Dan: Aja (ABC) 266 (23)

From Robert Christgau's B+ review

I like the nerdy way this guy comes on, I'm fascinated by his lyrics, and I approve of his rock and roll orientation; in fact, I got quite obsessive about his two cuts on the Bunch of Stiff Records import. Yet odd as it may seem, I find that he suffers from Jackson Browne's syndrome--that is, he's a little boring. Often this malady results from overconcentration on lyrics and can be cured by a healthy relationship with a band. Since whenever I manage to attend to a Costello song all the way through I prefer it to "The Pretender." I hope he recovers soon.

 From Playboy

About the same time the king of rock put out the big light, we first heard an impressive New Wave import by a Buddy Holly look-alike calling himself Elvis Costello. On his debut LP, My Aim Is True, Costello has captured the rare synthesis that every Sixties rock band dreamed of -- the raw bluesiness of the Stones successfully mixed with a bouncy, early Beatles sound. My Aim Is True taps riffs that span two decades of popular rock. From "Mystery Dance," which sounds a tribute to his namesake's "Jailhouse Rock," to the Bowieish "I'm Not Angry," the album, penned entirely by Costello, effects a stylistic history of rock 'n' roll. Imagine Van Morrison with The Yardbirds produced by Phil Spector and you'll have an idea. Even better: Graham Parker meets Bruce Springsteen in Motown. Confused? Listen to My Aim Is True and tell us where you've heard it all before.

From Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus:

My Aim Is True (the title is a line from "Alison") is in the Top Twenty in Britain; it is likely to go higher, as Costello recently managed to get himself busted for taking his electric guitar into the streets. The LP is already getting airplay on American FM stations, and a tour of sorts is set for late fall. How far Costello can go — especially given the unfortunate timing that surrounds his assumed first name — remains to be seen, but I have a feeling that once he is heard, he is going to shake up a lot of his erstwhile peers and make many musicians whom he would not consider his peers seem quite irrelevant — he has the musical sophistication, which is to say access to the musical credibility, to do that, as, at the moment, the Sex Pistols don't.

From Michael Heatley's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

My Aim Is True was recorded, before the recruitment of The Attractions, in six four-hour sessions in an eight-track demo studio in North London Costello now likens to a telephone booth. It says much for the standard of the songwriting that his debut stands up as a classic. With future Doobie Brother John McFee laying down Byrds-like guitar licks, "Red Shoes" was an obvious single choice. It had been preceded by "Less Than Zero," inspired by British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, and the brilliant (and untypical) ballad "Alison," from whose lyric the album title had come. But it would take "Watching The Detectives" to make the necessary singles-chart mark at the very end of 1977. (Recorded with members of The Rumour, this track was included only on later reissues of the album.) The overriding emotion of My Aim Is True was a lack of satisfaction, openly expressed by "Blame It On Cain" and "Mystery Dance," while "No Dancing" was a second song to equate dancing and sex. 

Producer Nick Lowe, whom Costello had followed round the country when Lowe was frontman with Brinsley Schwarz, added just enough studio fairydust to make this a "proper" record rather than another set of demos, but there was no doubting songs like "Mystery Dance," with its Jerry Lee Lewis vibe, would add a new dimension live when attacked by The Attractions. Few of Costello's songs bar "Alison" have been covered, and this No. 14 album (in the UK), which retains its quirkiness today, suggests why. A heady combination of punk and quality songcraft, it remains unique even by Elvis' standards.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Boy Magazines

On July 22, 1977 Squeeze released their debut record, an EP titled "A Packet of Three". The title comes from a standard package of condoms in the UK, which is a good preview of the kind of humor Squeeze would inflict on listeners during the first two albums.  Inspired by punk  and a good dose of Dr. Feelgood by the sounds of it, the sessions for the three songs were produced by former Velvet Undergrounder John Cale , which shows how small the world is. Squeeze named their band after the 1973 Velvet Underground album whose only recognizable member was Doug Yule. Squeeze are Glenn Tilbrook, Chris Difford, Jools Holland, Harry Kakoulli and Gilson Lavis. The EP helped Squeeze get a deal with A and M Records.

Cale would also produce Squeeze's 1978 debut album, which would be a bit of a mess.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Just Laugh It Off

Finally the boys of BBD do something predictable. They release a live album. Whether you got off on Be Bop Deluxe's Live! In the Air Age,  released in July of 1977, depended on whether you thought the studio sheen was a benefit or hinderance to your enjoyment of their music. Recorded on the Modern Music tour, it was originally released as a two record set, one black vinyl, the other white vinyl.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Go and Do It!

On July 19, D-I-Y evangelists The Desperate Bicycles released their second self-released single, "The Medium Was Tedium", a song that seemed to be a response to the question the English punk rockers must have been asked the most: how did they make a record. The answer is in the refrain: "It was easy/It was cheap/Go and do it"! 

The drummer on the track was 14 years old.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Winter Is Here

On July 18, 1977 The Ramones followed up "Sheena is a Punk Rocker", a UK #22 hit,  with a new single, "Swallow My Pride" b/w "Pinhead". The new single would peak at #36, a number they'd fail to reach again until 1980 with "Baby, I Love You". Even the biggest Ramones fans might not know "Swallow My Pride" had ever been a single. "Pinhead", with its "Gabba Gabba Hey" chorus, is far better remembered forty years later.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The New Wave

On July 17, 1977 The Sunday Times published an article entitled "Good Clean Punk" about The Clash and their fans:

For most people, "punk rock" still means four-letter words, safety-pin jewelry, and a rude song about the Queen. After the Sex Pistols' infamous language on TV, concerts were cancelled, contracts were torn up, and righteous outrage swept the land. Punk, it seemed, was sunk. But eight months is an eon in pop; the record companies, hungry for a genuine youth phenomenon, have swallowed their misgivings and re-opened their cheque books. Punk, deodorised and re-packaged as the "New Wave", is here to stay - at least for half an hour.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Rotten Radio Show

On July 16. 1977 Capitol Radio broadcast a half hour show of music Johnny Rotten picked out. The show was called "A Punk and his Music" Among the songs on the playlist : Tim Buckley's "Sweet Surrender", David Bowie's "Rebel  Rebel", Neil Young's "Revolution Blues",  Gary Glitter's "Doing Alright With The  Boys", Kevin Coyne's "Eastbourne Ladies", Captain Beefheart's "It's The Blimp and a surprising amount of reggae including Aswad's "Jah Wonderful" , Dr Alimantado's "Don't Determine My Right", and Culture;'s "I'm Not Ashamed".

Hear the first part of the show here:

Rotten may have surprised listeners by denouncing the punk scene on the show:

A lot of it's rubbish, I mean real rubbish. Pathetic. And just giving it all a terrible bad name. A lot of bands are just ruining it. They're either getting too much into the star trip or they're going the exact opposite way. Neither way is really honest. If you know what you're doing you can completely ignore the whole damn thing.  

Part Two here:

Friday, July 14, 2017

Prog Lives

Yes : Wondrous Stories


In July of 1977, The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, Jonathan Richman and The Saints may have entered the U.K. singles charts, but album sales still very much belonged to prog rock veterans. That month, both Yes and Styx released some of their most successful albums, neither of which gave even the slightest inclination that punk had entered their musical vocabulary. And why should it? Both bands had developed their sounds through years of practice, practice, practice. Every member of Yes was a prodigy and, God, did they make that clear over the years. Going For the One had some nice melodies like the catchy title cut and "Wondrous Stories", but it also had a naked man's ass on the cover and I'm betting there were thousands of American teens who wouldn't take anything like that to the cash register.

Styx : Come Sail Away


Chicago's Styx released The Grand Illusion on July 7 . Their breakthrough album sold three million copies thanks to the top ten hit "Come Sail Away" and "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" which contains the masturbatory lines "You've got it all in the palm of your hand/But your hand's wet with sweat and your head needs a rest " .

Thursday, July 13, 2017


On June 13, 1977 lightening strikes left the city of New York without power for 25 hours.  According to the New York Times because of the power failure, LaGuardia and Kennedy airports were closed down for about eight hours, automobile tunnels were closed because of lack of ventilation, and 4,000 people had to be evacuated from the subway system. ConEd called the shutdown an "act of God", enraging Mayor Abe Beame, who charged that the utility was guilty of "gross negligence."

Beame said "We've seen our citizens subjected to violence, vandalism, theft, and discomfort. The Blackout has threatened our safety and has seriously impacted our economy. We've been needlessly subjected to a night of terror in many communities that have been wantonly looted and burned. The costs when finally tallied will be enormous. "

Meanwhile at the Bottom Line, NRBQ played an all acoustic set, using flashlights taped to their microphone stands.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Black Soul Brothers

It's Brazilian. It's funky. It's Miguel De Deus of Bahia who founded the band Os Brazões. I know nothing else about this much sampled nugget from 1977.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Macho Types Wanted

In July of 1977, Village People released their first single, "San Francisco (You've Got Me)", a Top 50 hit in the U.K. , a #1 song in U.S. dance clubs in September and a gay anthem to this date.

 The band was the brainchild of French composer Jacques Morali. He hired Victor Willis to sing his songs and then ordered a casting call for dancers willing to fit the gay fantasy archetypes.the ad read "Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance And Have A Moustache". Morali hired dancers to be an American Indian, a solider, a construction worker, a cowboy and a leatherman. Willis dressed up as a cop.

The fact that America accepted The Village People was a huge step for the gay culture in the 1970's. You can open a lot of minds just by having fun.

Monday, July 10, 2017

In Love With Massachusetts

On July 10, 1977 Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner" , the world's greatest driving song, entered the U.K. charts at #33. It would peak at #11. There are at least three versions of "Roadrunner" worth discussing. There is the 1972 John Cale produced original Modern Lovers version which I would like to call "Roadrunner (Once)". There is the UK hit version, recorded with Bezerkley label mates The Greg Kihn Band in 1974. That's "Roadrunner (Twice)". There is also "Roadrunner (Thrice)", an eight minute live version that was released as a B side in 1977.

In any case the tune conjures up some memories of driving through New England towns in the dead of winter. Boston is still a city I don't know so well. Can we feel nostalgic about a place we've never visited? I think the answer is yes.

When Top of the Pops couldn't get the now acoustic Jonathan to perform Roadrunner on their show, Legs and Company slapped together this silly dance routine. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Disturb The Calm

On July 9, 1977 The Only Ones released their classic "Lovers of Today" single on their own label, Vengeance Records. The tune was immediately named the "Single of the Week" by three out of the four major U.K. music mags. A year later The Only Ones would be signed to CBS Records.

  Songwriter Peter Perrett was a member of the Velvet Underground sound a likes England's Glory. Scottish bassist Alan Mair had been in The Beanstalkers, guitarist John Parry was an ex-Rat and drummer Mike Kellie , at age 30, was the old man in the band, a veteran of Spooky Tooth. Kellie died in January of this year.

Peter Perrett would always sound detached from his own songs. He was certainly uncomfortable with being attached to the punk scene, telling an interviewer in 1977 "To the hippies we were punks and to the punks, we were hippies.". Listen closely and you'll hear Perrett declare the death of the flower power generation:

We ain't got feelings /We've got no love /We ain't got nothing to say/ We're lovers of today.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Youth Explosion

On July 8, 1977 The Jam released their second single, the U.K. #13 hit "All Around the World". The rocker hit record store just six weeks after the Jam's debut album, but it didn't come from the In The City. It was a brand new tune.

Weller was given the opportunity to review the single for Record Mirror and he raved about it like a teen age fan:

I was hoping for 'Modern World' as the new single from The Jam. I love them. Seen them play about 15 times and this is no disappointment. In fact they make records that sound like anthems Weller's guitar explosion in the middle is like a quick journey to the centre of the earth. Single of the week and number one. 'Carnaby Street' is on the B side. 

Introduced above as "JAM" by Marc Bolan, Rick Butler loses his drumstick at the 2:21 mark. 

There was no second take either, so once it was filmed that was it. And I still don't know what happened to that drumstick. Maybe it's still there because I don't remember it coming down.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Echo And Sway

Oh, oh I said, "I'm so happy I could die" 
She said "Drop dead" then left with another guy

On July 7, 1977 Elvis Costello released his third single, "(The Angels Wanna Wear) Red Shoes". In Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, Costello writes about the moment a year earlier on a train when the song came to his mind, fully formed. 

What surprised me was this visitation by angels. Who were these cats? Were they gatekeepers to a land of acclaim and immortality that still seemed so unattainable? I can't tell you. I simply wrote it down and heard all the accompanying music playing in my head, The words arrived as fast as I could scribble them down in my notebook as the train juddered to a slower speed on the final approach through the Liverpool suburbs.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Yeah Hup

Next to The Saints, Sydney's Radio Birdman were the loudest and hardest rocking punk band in Australia. One of the founders of the band, Deniz Tek,  is actually a Michigan native who grew up hearing the Motor City's maddest bands like The Stooges and MC 5. 

Birdman's debut album, Radios Appear,  named for a Blue Oyster Cult lyric, opens with a Stooges cover. Like their EP Burn My Eye, the album doesn't let up, even when acoustic guitars come into the fray as on "Love Kills".

The first single was "New Race". It was hoped that the teen anthem lyrics would catch on. Lines like 

There's gonna be a new race 
Kids are gonna start it up 
We're all gonna mutate 
Kids are saying yeah hup 

Unfortunately some critics thought the song smelled a bit like a fascist anthem. Nevertheless, the Australian version of Rolling Stone gave the album its highest rating and The Ramones label, Sire. soon came calling.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The 30 Year Old Whore

Recorded by the legendary producer Shel Talmy, who had recorded both The Who and The Kinks,  The Damned's new single "Stretcher Case Baby" was released in July of 1977 by Stiff Records as a thank you to the fans. The song had been part of the regular set since March when Rat Scabies wrote the lyrics over a Brian James riff. "I tried to get it to sound like the early records by The Who - a band I liked a lot. I don't know a stretcher case baby is. You'd have to ask Rat," said James.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Goodbye Valentine

On the 4th of July, 1977, Blondie bassist Gary Valentine ( far right in the photo above) split from the group. He had given Blondie their first single, "X-Offender", and the band's 1978 hit "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear". But, as he told Rolling Stone, he had some artistic integrity issues with Chris Stein and Deborah Harry. "I would write six songs, and they would say, 'Okay, we'll do this one.'" 

Valentine would move to L.A., form a band called The Know and write books and articles, many of which would deal with mysticism and occultism. An interest that would surface in "Prescene" with lyrics like "Floating pass the evidence of possibilities /We could navigate together, psychic frequencies /Coming into contact with outer entities /We could entertain each one with our theosophies".

In the 90's he returned to New York to play with Blondie. The reunion didn't last. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Blue Flowers Echo

On July 3, 1977 The Brothers Johnson single "Strawberry Letter #23" entered the U.K. pop charts at #42 and the U.S. charts at #71. Originally composed and recorded by Shuggie Otis in 1971, the Quincy Jones produced tune would top the US R and B charts,  peak at #7 on the U.S. pop charts and peak at #35 in the U.K. Is it funkier than Shuggie's version? It certainly has a bridge of cascading electric guitars that would make Yes jealous. One of those songs that defines 1977.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Your Cheap Comment

On July 1, 1977 The Sex Pistols released their third "Pretty Vacant", with high hopes they would have another huge hit on their hands. After all they weren't disrespecting the queen this time. That said, it does seem like Johnny Rotten is really hitting the CUNT in the word VACANT.  NME magazine made it their Single of the Year in 1977.  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Best Place For Comfort

In 1977 Nigerian electro-funk pioneer William Onyeabor released his debut album, Crashes In Love. It was the first of eight albums he released on his own label in southeast Nigeria, all prized by collectors. Some of the drum beats are simply sensational.

David Byrne, who's Luaka Bop label released a collection of Onyeabor's,  wrote this about Onyeabor in January of 2017, shortly after the musician's death:

His surprising (no other African musician was recording synthesizers then—or, in my mind, creating anything that sounded similar) recordings, his conscious lyrics and messages and his entrepreneurial ambitions (up until selling them late last year, he had his own vinyl mastering and pressing machines!) were all way ahead of their time. He continues to inspire musicians and fans around the world.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Yes I Like It A Lot

On June 28, 1977 Jonathan Richman released Rock'N'Roll With The Modern Lovers, an acoustic album that bounced between ethnic folk songs, tunes for kids and funny ditties about roller coasters, ice cream men and a Dodge that doesn't run. At the time, record buyers didn't know what lo-fi was. They just thought the album sounded like it had been recorded in a garage. But that's what makes it such a fun experience. You do feel like you're sitting in a lawn chair listening to these nuts make up songs on the spot. 

The Greil Marcus review for The Village Voice

The new all-acoustic rock and roll album by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers—Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers—has met with something less than universal acclaim. In fact, I don’t know anyone who likes it very much; some Richman fans, who would probably agree that “Roadrunner” is one of the great significant philosophical statements of our time, positively hate it. Too cute, one hears. Sloppy. Self-Indulgent. Boy’s betraying his talent. Etc. Friends to whom I’ve passed on the record suspect my motives. Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers is the purest rock and roll album I’ve heard this year, rooted as it is in the idea that as long as you keep a good beat, rock and roll is what you can get away with.

 Thus, in the spirit (not the form) of the earliest each and roll records—those Sam Phillips made with Elvis on Sun, those Buddy Holly cut in Clovis, New Mexico, or those Frankie Lymon waxed in New York—Richman and his little rock trio (Leroy Radcliffe on guitar; D. Sharpe on the smallest kit any rock drummer has used since Charlie Watts’s equipment failed to arrive at a San Diego gig on February 6, 1964; Curly Keranen on stand-up bass; one of them or maybe someone else on sax) offer an LP that combines Chinese and South American folk songs, an instrumental called “Egyptian Reggae,” the old children’s song “The Wheels on the Bus” (“Go up and down/All around the town”—there’s also a monster on the bus, however), “Angels Watching Over Me,” plus tunes about leprechauns getting back into rock and roll, the ice cream man, a rollercoaster, and a car called a Dodge Veg-0-Matic—marvelously funny numbers no one else in rock and roll but Richman would have written. The result is not just good rock, but music that sounds like rock and roll in the process of being invented—for the first time or all over again, it doesn’t much matter.

The playing is what first attached me to this record: the band has a natural sense of momentum, orchestrating Richman’s wild, scatter-shot vocals with what sounds like (and can’t be) spontaneous back-up singing, brightly strummed guitar, cracked sax work, and a light, utterly perfect rock and roll beat. The music makes sense of the sometimes crazed stories Richman is telling—why is there a monster on the bus? Why did leprechauns abandon rock and roll in the first place? The loose grasp on reality implicit in a number of the stories makes the music sound rational, though in truth it is just as nervy as Richman’s complete willingness to expose his weirdness to the crowd. 

After a bit, nothing on this record sounds “cute.” The leprechauns are just people relating to… anything; the sudden passion that lifts Richman’s singing in the middle of “Rockin’ Rockin’ Leprechauns” simply refers to the possibilities of passion in the rock and roll vocal. “Roller Coaster by the Sea,” with Richman’s neat asides (“Whee!” “Hmmm, scary”) is on the third time around merely a brilliant rendering of one of the fundamental themes of rock and roll, and of most popular American music, the search for peace of mind. “Dodge Veg-O-­Matic,” while an act of real genius in terms of conception—not to mention execution: “I’m gonna tell you ’bout a car that you won’t like,” Jonathan promises, “It’s my Dodge Veg-O-Matic, there in the parking lot/I like It, I like to watch it rot”—is traditional rockabilly absurdity on the level of “Tongue-Tied Jill” or “Miss Froggy.” Not only has Richman recreated rock and roll, he has recreated for the listener the purity of the original response to rock and roll. I found the appeal of this album obvious when I first heard it, because it seemed to me what rock and roll was supposed to sound like. The very first rock and roll records sounded like that too, to people who heard them in the early fifties, even though at the time those people had likely never heard of “rock and roll.” 

Still, I don’t feel entirely comfortable understanding Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers so easily. When I first listened to Elvis sing “Hound Dog” I heard nothing but a fierce joy, an unbounded sense of delight; the racial contradictions inherent in the music went right past me, and I didn’t catch up with them for close to 20 years. On Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers I hear insanity shaped, by a shared musical tradition, into an authentic style of freedom that is capable of creating delight as intense as that offered by Clyde MePhatter on “Money Honey” or “Honey Love.” That pleasure obscures the troth that the insanity may well be real; that, back in the corners, this may be a very dangerous album—for Rich­man, if not for me or you. The good beat of the music covers up the fact that Richman’s vocals are flights over the cuckoo’s nest; there is a monster on his bus, and it may catch up with him someday; the leprechauns may give up on rock and roll again, and Jonathan might find himself deserted by the fairy-tale audience that lives in his head, the audience to which his songs are ultimately addressed. If that happens, he might well fly tight off into life’s mystery, as he sings at the close of side one of Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers, and just not show up for side two. If the search for peace of mind is a basic theme of rock and roll, that only means that rock and roll is basically a response to chaos—the world’s, or one’s own.

 For the moment, none of this matters. Jonathan Rich­man and the Modern Lovers have made an epochal album, and I think those who cannot hear it now will find their way to it as time goes by. Regardless of what the consumers are doing, the leprechauns are applauding, and, as Jonathan growls at the end of “The Wheels on the Bus”—“Ha! We got rid of that monster!”

Robert Christgau liked the album. He gave it a B+ writing:

This all-acoustic record is even further in general tough-mindedness from Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers than that fey testament was from The Modern Lovers; it defines the difference between a child who is cute and a child who knows adults think children are cute. Sometimes I think I should hate it. But in fact I don't, because its self-indulgence represents not the manipulative arrogance of a star but rather the craziness of an almost powerless case of arrested development, and you can hear that. However unattractive a child Richman may be, he does convey the fragile lyricism only children are capable of. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Johnny Drives a Thunderbird

In June of 1977, 29 year old Steve Winwood released his first solo album. The idea came after his appearance on Stomu Yamash'ta 's Go project.  "I knew then that I wanted to go back into the studio myself," Winwood told Rolling Stone. "Go was so much of a collaboration. I was playing a sideman role with Yamash'ta and Mike Shrieve. When that was finished I wanted to do an album where I didn't have to argue with anyone over what songs to do and how to have it done." 

Winwood hadn't appeared on any other recordings for thee years which he spent living out in the country running a small livery stable and taking long walks with his dogs. The solo album, recorded with the help of Chris Blackwell and Jim Capaldi,  has the same feel as good Traffic, with "Time Is Running Out" sporting a triple tracked bass by Willie Weeks.

The album--a wonderful surprise to my ears-- received lukewarm reviews back in its day so Winwood again disappeared for about three years. In 1980 he'd return with Arc of the Diver.

Robert Christgau was one of the unimpressed critics. He gave the album a grade of C -, writing:

Combined with Stomu Yamashta's ersatz electronic classicism on Go, Winwood's chronic meandering seemed vaguely interesting. On its own again, it just seems vague.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Pride That Keeps You Strong

On June 25, 1977 The Isley Brothers topped the US R and B charts with their fifteenth album, Go For Your Guns. One of the great Summer soundtracks of '77. ( "Footsteps in the Dark" already featured here).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Concrete Dream


On June 24, 1977 Harvest Records released The Roxy London WC2, a collection of live recordings from the famed London nightclub. Among the acts on the record : Slaughter and the Dogs, The Adverts, X-Ray Spex, The Buzzcocks and Wire. 

Early reviewers may have called it "a punk rock album of 10 unknown acts who can barely play" but it is now more commonly considered "an essential historical reminder of the power and the glory of punk rock". There are better engineered live albums out there, but there is nothing quite like the stage banter between songs to put you right in the thick of the London punk scene.