Saturday, August 16, 2008

1973: Brain Damage

Pink Floyd: Brain Damage


I couldn't let the week go by without at least acknowledging the triumphant pentultimate track to 1973 Prog Rock masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon, a heavily thematic tour de force which produced some pretty catchy set of tunes but which, ultimately, best displays its power as a concept album, best listened to straight through, as the premature ending of this track belies.

That said: though it cuts off abruptly, I like this track -- it's a powerful anthem and denouement all in one. But if for some odd reason you've never heard the album the way through, find someone with a likely dorm room, make sure you've got the right... um... "supplies", and bliss out for an hour or so.

Also, if my childhood memories serve me well, Brain Damage is the second Pink Floyd track most summer camp counselors learn on the guitar, just after their friends get thoroughly sick of them playing Wish You Were Here.

Then again, there's this, just for fun:

Austin Lounge Lizards: Dark Side of the Moon
[live recording]

1973: Doug Sahm/Jerry Wexler Edition

Doug Sahm & Bob Dylan: Wallflower [purchase]

Doug Sahm: Ain't That Loving You* [purchase]

Doug Sahm: Me And Paul [purchase]

Doug Sahm: Blue Horizon* [purchase]

"I worked with a lot of musicians over the years and had been very fortunate. There was something about Doug, though, that really intrigued me. The fact that he could not only play just about every style of Texas music, but play it with so much soul and intensity was something that always amazed me. I never got tired of listening to him pull out song after song and just pour it on."
--Jerry Wexler on Doug Sahm

"Jerry Wexler always used to tell me how he could holler and scream with the promotion people, but if their hearts weren't into it, they just weren't into it. Now Atlantic is a small part of the Warner monster and Wexler can't do that soulful thing with all his new people anymore. It's like a new era had dawned: the new people go the new way. And Wexler resigned, bless his heart."
--Doug Sahm on Jerry Wexler

This post is dedicated to the memory of Jerry Wexler, who died yesterday morning at the age of 91. I've often said that if I could be any person in history, Wex would be that guy. He worked with Ray Charles at his peak, worked with Aretha at her peak, got Memphis out of Dusty Springfield, was the brains behind Derek And The Dominos (and other assorted love songs), was at Atlantic during that label's prime, coined the term "rhythm & blues" while working at Billboard, ran sessions at Cosimo Matassa's New Orleans studio in the mid-'50s, saw every western swing and bebop innovator in the heyday of both genres, midwifed Willie Nelson's move from Nashville outsider to Austin visionary, and was the mastermind behind two of Doug Sahm's best albums, both released in 1973. Hell, Doug and Wex actually convinced Bob Dylan to be in the band. Here's a sampler platter of their collective genius, two from Doug Sahm And Band and two from Texas Tornado. You lived a full life, Jerry. RIP.

For another great read on Wexler's career ... by way of Wilson Pickett's "Soul Dance Number Three" single ... please visit The B-Side.

*Two of the songs I posted originally weren't actually recorded under Jerry Wexler's supervision. Ever the stickler, I replaced those two songs ("Someday" and "Juan Mendoza"), with two other tracks from the Texas Tornado LP, both featuring Wex behind the boards.

1973: I Can't Stand the Rain

Ann Peebles: I Can't Stand The Rain


Though we're solid on the wide segment of the musical spectrum that calls itself rock and roll, and plenty strong on the country/folk/blues, we trend light on the true soul music here at Star Maker Machine. But I suspect we've each got a few horn-heavy favorites in the streaming slipstream, a couple of hidden (or not-so-hidden) sultry pleasures on the CD rack. After all, as the plethora of grammy nominees and chart toppers cracking multiple categories shows, like so many other genres, soul is a big tent, which runs from pop to jazz and back again. And in the end, it doesn't matter what you call it: good soul is good soul.

1973 was a dire year for Memphis Soul. Otis Redding was long gone; Wilson Pickett's career was slipping; Sam and Dave were playing smaller clubs; Isaac Hayes was moving towards a funk sensibility; Al Green would chart twice that year, but his sales -- and his chart presence -- would begin to fade by year's end. Disco was on the rise, and as it did, it's candy-coated poppiness ate away at the authenticity of the heavy horns and melodic organ and bass which typified the "shimmery, sultry" Memphis sound. The virtual collapse of standard-bearing label Stax was still a year away, but the the writing was on the wall, and the books were already falling deep into the red.

Still, there were a few great songs to be wrung from the proverbial stone. Exhibit A: I Can't Stand The Rain, written and performed by rising star Anne Peebles, released on Memphis-based soul and rockabilly label Hi Records. The song, which John Lennon reportedly cited as his favorite record of all time, had crossover appeal from its release as a 1973 single, charting as both Pop (#38) and R&B (#6); its popularity went a long way towards the subsequent success of Peebles' 1974 album of the same name, which planted the title track right up front in the hopes that folks would keep the record spinning.

But the Stax/Hi Records sound was waning in popularity, and in the end, I Can't Stand The Rain -- both single and album -- would represent the pinnacle of a career. Though Peebles continues to perform today, her greatest hit is best known among the rising generations for its cover versions, its commercial placement, and other recycled use in culture. It is telling, in fact, that in 1997, 24 years after the original topped out at #6 on the charts, Missy Elliot's very first single, an "interpolation" of I Can't Stand The Rain entitled The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly), peaked even higher than Peebles' original, hitting number 3 on Billboard's Hot Dance Singles chart.

Here's some bonus covers, a few favorites among a very large series: below-featured Little Feat frontman Lowell George at his slow, funky R&B best, and Cassandra Wilson with a sparse, jagged, bluesy jazz interpretation. Just to show how far soul goes.

Lowell George: I Can't Stand The Rain [purchase]

Cassandra Wilson: I Can't Stand The Rain [purchase]

Friday, August 15, 2008

1973: The Cover Of The Rolling Stone

Dr. Hook: The Cover Of The Rolling Stone


One of my favorite songs from 1973 is this Dr. Hook gem penned by by the inimitable Shel Silverstein.

In very humorous fashion, the lyrics tell a tale of wretched rock'n'roll excess--1973 style:

Well we are big rock singers, we've got golden fingers
And we're loved everywhere we go
We sing about beauty and we sing about truth
At ten thousand dollars a show
We take all kind of pills to give us all kind of thrills
But the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll get you when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rolling Stone


I've got a freaky old lady name o' Cocaine Katy
Who embroiders on my jeans
I've got my poor old gray-haired Daddy
Drivin' my limousine
Now it's all designed to blow our minds
But our minds won't really be blown
Like the blow that'll get you when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rolling Stone


We got a lot of little teenage blue-eyed groupies
Who do anything we say
We got a genuine Indian guru
He's teachin' us a better way
We got all the friends that money can buy
So we never have to be alone
And we keep gettin' richer but we can't get our picture
On the cover of the Rolling Stone


For more great songs written by Shel Silverstein, check out this post over at my home blog: Writer's Block: Shel Silverstein.

1973: I Thought I Was A Child

Jackson Browne: I Thought I Was A Child


My introduction to Jackson Browne's music came when my middle brother brought home Browne's masterpiece, Late For The Sky, in 1974. Browne's follow-up was an album where somebody got him to agree to the worst excesses of 1970s production for The Pretender, and a perfectly good batch of songs was ruined by a wall of unnecessary strings and other unneeded touches. At that point, my brother gave up on Jackson Browne, and never looked back. But I didn't give up, and I was buying my own music by then, so I could do something about it.

To this day, when I discover an artist, I don't just wait around for their next release. I also check out their back catalog. In the case of Jackson Browne, this led me to 1973's For Everyman. The best known song on the album is the lead track, Take It Easy. A co-write by Browne and the Eagles' Glen Frey, technically neither version is a cover, but of course the Eagles had the hit with it.

But For Everyman is a deeper album than that. Here we find Jackson Browne experimenting, still not sure of his sound. He could have taken things in a number of directions from here, and I would have been along for the ride. So For Everyman is not the most cohesive album, but the songs are all good to great.

Obviously, I Thought I Was a Child is a favorite of mine. Listen to the interplay of the piano and the accoustic guitar. It's like watching Fred Astaire and Cyd Charise dancing together in the moonlight. Beautiful.

Side note: there was one other time Jackson Browne was the victim of bad production. The album World in Motion suffers from the worst excesses of 1980s production. If anybody has an mp3 of Pops Staples' version of the song World in Motion, with Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt helping out on vocals, please post it in the comments. Thanks.

Submitted By Darius

1973: Angie

First of all, as almost certainly the youngest contributor here at SMM, I feel slightly discriminated upon, exiled if-you-will, by this week’s theme. You see, I wouldn’t be born for another 11 years when 1973 rolled around. Now, I can’t say that I don’t appreciate, even marvel, at music before my time – but music from this era wasn’t even my parents’ music. You could say that the glory of 70’s Rock N Roll was skipped by the generations in my family. The folks kept the car radio on Oldies, which I can recite like the 100 lines of Shakespeare I had to memorize freshman year. My sister was, and still is, an 80’s child – a Madonna freak. I had to build my musical foundation on the crap that was spewed out in the early 90’s – commercial country, spineless pop-rock, and during basketball season – gangsta rap. If I would have only known the world of Alt-country burgeoning somewhere north of me, I may have been saved. So forgive me if this choice seems too easy – but remember you not only have extra years on your side, but also the luxury of living with the music. Plus…. it’s THE STONES, man.

The Rolling Stones: Angie


As the title and album cover might suggest, Goats Head Soup has a darker, more somber sound than its predecessor, Exile on Main Street. Nearly forced to record on the island of Jamaica – due to Richards’ drug-related international banishments - the band was able to book extended studio time to work over songs. This recording luxury created a well-put together, soulful Stones album.

1973: Killing Me Softly

Lori Lieberman: Killing Me Softly With His Song


Roberta Flack: Killing Me Softly With His Song


The Fugees: Killing Me Softly With His Song


I don't normally do more than one contribution per theme but the entire week has passed and nobody has posted the Grammy winner for "Song of the Year" in 1973.

To quote Gomer Pyle, "For shame, for shame, for shame".

While kids today probably think this is a Fugees song the truth is it was originally recorded in 1971 by Lori Lieberman. The song was inspired by the poem, "Killing Me Softly with His Blues", which she wrote after seeing a then-unknown Don McLean perform the song "Empty Chairs" live. Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel turned the poem into a song for her 1971 debut album, Lori Lieberman. Roberta Flack would cover it for use as the title track on her 1973 release, Killing Me Softly. Roberta not only rode the song to #1 on the Billboard 100 for 4 weeks she cashed in on three Grammy's with it: Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Female Performer.

See y'all next week.

Submitted by Autopsy IV

1973: Ramblin' Man

The Allman Brothers Band: Ramblin' Man


In 1973, the Allman Brothers were touring in support of Brothers and Sisters, and they became the first band I ever saw live. So I have no choice but to love the album. Luckily, it happens to be a good one.

Brothers and Sisters is also a landmark album, one of the first southern-rock albums, although no one recognized that at the time. I have mixed feelings about that.

1973 marked the end of blues rock, which I love. Cream had broken up. Bands like the J Geils Band, the Climax Blues Band, and Fleetwood Mac had changed their lineups or their sound, and were no longer playing the blues. (Side note: did you know that Fleetwood Mac started as a blues band? Maybe I'll find a way to do a post on that someday.) Even John Mayall, who had nurtured so many blues rock legends in his bands, had moved to California, and was adding pop elements to his sound.

As for the Allman Brothers, Brothers and Sisters was the first full album they recorded without Duane Allman, who had died in a motorcycle accident. Original member Berry Oakley died during the Brothers and Sisters sessions, appearing on only two tracks. So Greg Allman and Dickie Betts decided to take the band in a more pop direction. On Brothers and Sisters, they succeeded, and the album still sounds great today. But they never again equaled this artistic or commercial success. Ironically, a band which found its first fame jamming on blues based tunes, and then toned the jamming way down as they remade themselves, has now found a niche in the current marketplace by re-remaking themselves as a jam band.

Submitted by Darius

1973: Grievous Angel

Gram Parsons: Return of the Grievous Angel

Gram Parsons: Love Hurts


1973 is the year Gram Parsons died. He did so just a few weeks after he finished recording his final album, Grievous Angel. These two tracks both come from that album and feature harmonies from Emmylou Harris.

The father of country-rock, or Cosmic American Music as he called it, Gram Parsons is simply one of the most influential artists within the genre of music we now call Americana. His tragic story has been told many times, so I'm not going to do so here. I will mention a fabulous Parsons biography that was published last year for anyone who wants to find out more about the man and his music. Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and his Cosmic American Music by David Meyer is available at Amazon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

1973: Rock On

David Essex: Rock On


Rock On was written for the movie That'll Be The Day, which was part of a pair of films (the other being Stardust) about the fictional character Jim MacLaine, played by singer/actor David Essex. If you love British Invasion music, I highly recommend the two. They're a bit hokey, but they give a great glimpse into the world of UK Rock musicians of the day and what it took to get to the toppermost of the poppermost. It's also chock full of Pop Culture icons and musicians of the times - Adam Faith, Larry Hagman, Marty Wilde, Edd Byrnes and Ringo Starr, among others. Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds and Essex play in a combo named The Stray Cats, Brian Setzer later used the name for his own band. If you look closely in this YouTube clip from Stardust, you'll catch a young Nick Lowe.

What I find most attractive about Rock On is the stripped-down approach - it never hurts for notes in a Pop song to have some breathing room. It hit #5 in the US charts, #3 in the UK. Rock On is one of those tunes you might not know by name but recognize within a few notes - a true one-hit wonder from David Essex.

1973: Loves Me Like a Rock

Paul Simon: Love Me Like A Rock


My first two posts this week came from albums I love without reservation. That is not the case here. I knew Paul Simon from his days with Art Garfunkel. This time, my brothers were not to blame; I had a best friend who was a year younger than me, but started buying albums before I did. The Simon and Garfunkel albums had a variety of production touches, but nothing that didn't suit the songs.

When I think of the 70's, I think first of insipid overproduced ballads. Then, I remember the horrors of disco. In 1973, disco was still far off, but the bland productions had begun. Here Comes Rhymin' Simon suffers from this to a degree. The slow songs especially have a wash of smooth backing vocals that serve only to make the songs sound more like musical wallpaper, and there are extraneous instruments, (most notably the electric piano), which do nothing to help the songs. This is all the more aggravating because the songwriting is really good.

But then, towards the end of the album, there is Loves Me Like a Rock. With a full band and gospel vocals, you could say there is no more heavy handed production on the album. But here it all works. The song may be called a secular gospel song, and it is a blast. This actually was my introduction to the gospel style, and it definitely inspired me to explore further.

Submitted by Darius

1973: Doolin Dalton

Mothers Day, 1973 the world is blessed with my birth.
Secretariat wins the Triple Crown.
Watergate comes to a head and the DEA is formed.

Amidst all of this a group of California musicians release a little concept album focused around the outlaw Bill Doolin and his life with the Dalton gang. The song and album would largely end up forgotten while the band would go on to get inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Eagles: Doolin Dalton


If this snippet has peaked your interest; tomorrow on my personal blog,, I plan on go into greater depth on the album and the characters that appear in it.

Submitted by Autopsy IV

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

1973: I'm One

The Who: I'm One


I'm pretty sure that Quadrophenia was the first record released in 1973 to find its way into my collection.

I had just a casual interest in music as a kid until the day I heard The Who and realized that music is important. Twenty Five years later I'm still blogging about it, so it must have had a pretty big effect on me.

This song about trying to find your place in the crowd probably has a timeless attraction to teenagers, though I really have no idea what the kids are listening to these days.

Townshend sounds great on vocals and guitar.

I've got a Gibson without a case,
But I can't get that even tanned look on my face
Ill fitting clothes and I blend in the crowd
Fingers so clumsy, voice too loud ...

But I'm one.

1973: Smokin' In The Boys Room

Brownsville Station: Smokin' In The Boys Room


Just about the worst thing that could happen to a school kid in 1973 was to be caught smoking cigarettes in the boys room. Nowadays, that seems pretty provincial - ciggies likely be the least thing most school faculty would be worried about finding there.

Smokin' In The Boys Room is a great relic of those days. More importantly, one of the writers was Cub Koda, a member of Brownsville Station. He was an important figure in the American Blues scene, helping keep the genre alive with his books and compilations. Sadly, Cub died in 2000, after suffering from a kidney disease.

Check out the video below - nothin' beats 1973 style. Watch it enough times and you'll find yourself yearning for a mullet.

Monday, August 11, 2008

1973: Outlaw Country Edition

Jerry Jeff Walker: Sangria Wine [purchase] [AMG Review]

Willie Nelson: Devil In A Sleepin’ Bag [purchase] [AMG Review]

Waylon Jennings: Honky Tonk Heroes [purchase] [AMG Review]

Billy Joe Shaver: Old Five And Dimers Like Me [purchase] [AMG Review]

Tompall Glaser: Charlie [purchase] [AMG Review]

1973 was an important year in the development of Outlaw Country.

Jerry Jeff Walker gave us the recipe for a good party. Willie Nelson began, in earnest, the second phase of his distinguished career with a brilliant LP. Waylon Jennings released a classic album of songs penned by Billy Joe Shaver that might be my favorite country LP of all time, and Billy Joe released a classic of his own. Finally, outlaw Tompall Glaser released one of his most acclaimed albums, which appears to be out of print at the moment.

1973: Watermelon Man

Herbie Hancock: Watermelon Man


It's interesting that the first year prompt that I've been here for is 1973. 1973 marked the end of my musical childhood. In 1974, I entered high school, and began to buy my own music. But in 1973, my musical taste was almost entirely a product of what I was exposed to by my two older brothers.

Nowadays, if you say fusion jazz to me, I'm likely to fake snoring. Somehow, the idea of combining rock instrumentation with jazz sensibilities has become a recipe for the musical wallpaper which has replaced Muzac. But in 1973, the idea was still radical and new, and the resulting music was still exciting.

So when one of my brothers brought home Herbie Hancock's album Head Hunters, the effect on me was like a bolt of lightning. I believe the event began with a warning about the music not having words. I became somewhat anxious. The album started with the opening bass figure of "Chameleon". Ok, I guess. The album continued with several repetitions of the bass figure. Is this going somewhere? But the song very gradually began to change, and I grew fascinated. Sixteen minutes later, at the end of "Chameleon", I was sold. And then something astonishing happened. This weird, if undeniably musical sound came out of the speakers. "Do you know what that is?" my brother asked, "it's somebody blowing on bottles". It sounds every bit as amazing to me now as it did then.

And that was my introduction to jazz.

Submitted by Darius

Sunday, August 10, 2008

1973: Some of Shelly's Blues

Michael Nesmith: Some of Shelly's Blues


Michael Nesmith was a member of The Monkees... but don't hold that against him. I will admit to being a fan of the "Pre-fab Four," as I was still an impressionable child during the Monkees revival of the '80s. I loved the show, loved the music... still do. It's a guilty pleasure.

Nesmith was the only member of the group who had a background in music before the Monkee phenomenon of the 60's. In fact, Nesmith fought for the right to have some of his own songs included on the early Monkees albums when the other members of the group couldn't even play their instruments. Some of those songs ("Papa Gene's Blues" "Mary Mary" "The Kind of Girl I Could Love") were among my favorites as a kid.

Twenty years later, I found out that Michael Nesmith also had a solo career and was at the vanguard of the country-rock movement in the 1970's. This song appears on Nesmith's 1973 release Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stache. It's probably my favorite Nesmith solo tune.

Bonus Michael Nesmith fun facts:

Nesmith formed the multimedia company Pacific Arts in 1974 and helped pioneer the music video as an art form. Nesmith was awarded the first Music Video Grammy in 1981 for his home video Elephant Parts.

Nesmith's mother, Bette, invented Liquid Paper.

1973: Bodhisattva

Steely Dan: Bodhisattva


A jamming, loose, eminently danceable tune, paced out as a 1950s jitterbug and famous for its guitarwork, this classic hit from the masters of otherwise-smooth, high-arrangement jazzrock has frenzied ecstasy all over it. But mind the sparse yet direct anti-heroic lyrics, and pay close attention to the tension of the instruments -- both the slight acceleration of drumpace in the first few measures as the rest of the band piles on for the ride, and the way the guitars seem to teeter on the verge of losing control whenever they leave the basic riff behind for their solos. The mood here is quite carefully constructed to reflect a general tone of hysterical, almost desperate upheaval and unpredictability just on the other side of the suburban picket fence.

In fact, this sense of the modern ego as tempted by affluence and spiritualism, and of the world as under siege from prophets and power, pervades Countdown to Ecstasy, Steely Dan's 1973 classic, from the alt-countrified Razor Boy to the more typically seventies "classic rock" of the anti-nostalgic, anti-ivory-tower My Old School. But though other cuts are equally catchy in their own way, Bodhisattva has always struck me as among the greatest, rawest demonstrations of the carefully crafted genius that is Steely Dan at its best, the perfect song for the as-yet-unconverted. Just try not to grin, even in the face of such dubious fortune. And make sure you've got your air guitar handy.