Archive for the 'Bands with one really tall guy' Category

28
Nov
17

Mott the Hoople “All the Young Dudes”

I have a theory that the peak of Western pop culture (music, books, movies) is the year 1973, and 1974 and 1972 come in a close second. I won’t list examples here, you can do that on your own. If I was allowed to pick my favorite things on different days of the week, on one of the seven my favorite rock band would be Mott the Hoople, but that’s mostly based on their last two records: Mott (1973) and The Hoople (1974) (to the uninitiated, it might sound like I’m making this up), and a single, “All the Young Dudes” from 1972. They had been a band since the Sixties (though I never heard of them until I bought the Mott record (as a young dude). The story I’ve heard is that they were a great live band, had a lot of die-hard fans, but their records didn’t sell that well, and they were about to break up in the early Seventies, and David Bowie, a fan, gave them the song, “All the Young Dudes,” which revived their career, got them a new label (Columbia), and led to this 1972 album—and then the two amazing (in my opinion) followup albums.

I might have some details or nuances wrong there, but I want to believe that, because it’s a great story. It’s also a crazy story because “All the Young Dudes” is one of the greatest rock’n’roll songs ever written, and who gives away their best songs when they’re right in the middle of a recording career as well? And it’s one of those songs that you know, the first time you hear it—that it’s going to be a classic. The nice thing is Mott the Hoople did a great version of it, and David Bowie later did an equally good version (which you might like better if you’re a Bowie fan), and no one sued anyone and everyone stayed friends (or so I want to believe). Anyway, the idea of Bowie giving this band that song is something that warms my heart every time I hear it.

I had probably heard the song somewhere, like on the radio, when I was 12, but I didn’t hear this album until many years later. As much as I liked Mott and The Hoople, it’s odd I didn’t seek out the older records, but at that time, I guess, it was looking toward the future, and I did buy the first Bad Company record, a band Mick Ralphs started when he left Mott the Hoople the next year. (The Bad Company hit song “Ready for Love” is on this record.) All the Young Dudes isn’t a bad album, but it’s not that great either; it feels really low-energy to me for some reason, and kind of disjointed. There are lead vocals from three different singers, but Ian Hunter is the one I want to hear. There are songs by Ian Hunter, other members of the band, Mick Ralphs, David Bowie, and even Lou Reed (not the worst cover of “Sweet Jane” anyone’s ever done, but not the best either).

The front album cover looks like it got slapped together in a mix-up with Columbia’s pulp fiction department, and they just decided to go with it. The five individual band pictures on back are all from live performance, but if you isolate their faces they just look sweaty and tired, and kind of sad even, like five guys watching their favorite football team lose. I’m pretty hard on this record, but really, there’s nothing here that indicates how good their next two albums would be, and how inspired Ian Hunter’s songwriting would be on those records. I can’t think of another example in rock’n’roll history where a band’s best two records are their last two. Still, I keep this record around just so I can listen to “All the Young Dudes” on vinyl—what can I say, it’s just really the perfect rock song, and is another one that sounds better right now than in in your memory (and the rhyme of “juvenile delinquent wrecks” and “I need TV when I got T-Rex” is one of the most inspired ever).

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26
Jun
10

Boston “Don’t Look Back”

“Don’t Look Back” is Boston’s appropriately titled second album, from 1978—I mean appropriately for me, since that was the year I traded in my cap’n’gown for the ball’n’chain. I guess I never really thought I’d enjoy the success of a #1 on the charts album, but I did believe, at that time, that I could pursue a life of partying—which was my course of study at Kokomo Community College. This record went virtually unnoticed by my friends and me, I suppose, seeing it as pretty much a continuation of the first record, which we weren’t much interested in after its initial novelty. We were listening to the Sex Pistols at the time, and these bands seemed like night and day. Only now do I realize they weren’t all that different, at least musically: melodic, driving, hard rock with pop hooks. Of course, the vocals have little in common, though I have to admit, today, June 26, 2010, I’m more in the mood to listen to Brad Delp’s voice than Johnny Rotten’s. That said, lyric-wise is really where the difference lies. I’m maybe listening to Boston lyrics for the first time right now. What’s all this about a “golden rabbit” on the title song? Fortunately, this record contains a sleeve with lyrics, so I’m able to see that what sounds to me like “golden rabbit” is actually: “I finally see the dawn arrivin.'”

Side two really picks things up with the terribly catchy “Feelin’ Satisfied”: “So come on, put your hands together/You know it’s now or never, take a chance on rock’n’roll,” which is pretty insipid, but then followed by: “Come on let us give your mind a ride.” Which preceded, by six years, my groundbreaking ‘zine novella, “The Mind Ride.” The next song, “Party” is also a standout. Like I said, were I to answer the classic job interview question at that time—”Where do you see yourself in ten years?”—I guess my honest answer would have been, “Halfway between the keg and the men’s room.”

This album cover opens up and contains some pretty typical snapshot sized concert portraits of members of the band. The credits state that the record was recorded at “Tom Scholz’ Hideaway Studio” which I think meant his garage or basement, or his bedroom, I don’t know. He certainly had it going on as far as recording a hard rock band. You feel like he could have put anybody on the charts. One really interesting thing is there is a little note that says: “No Synthesizers Used/No Computers Used.” Now as far as the synthesizers they are talking about at the time, those now seem quaint and old-fashioned. But it’s an interesting sentiment for the time. As far as computers, though, what exactly was he talking about? Computers weren’t being used in rock music in 1978, were they? It’s not like he’s talking about Protools. When I think back to 1978, computers were like things that took up whole floors of some laboratory somewhere. Bill Gates was still in diapers. Just what, exactly, does “No Computers” mean? Was it a joke? Could Tom Scholz look forward 30 years and see Boston still playing, with considerably less hair and looser pants, and the opening act is some asshole with a laptop?

The album cover is even better than their first one. It takes me right back to our basement party room, with black lights and root beer incense. It folds out to show the spaceship—which was escaping the exploding Earth on the first album—is now landing on another world (you know that because there are two moons). This spaceship, which is like flying saucer with a dome covered city—and says “Boston” on it, so presumably it contains the city of Boston—is designed after an electric guitar, and it has what looks like a tail, which is the guitar neck. They may or may not be taking along the Red Sox, but there sure as hell will be hard rock. (Oh, and the lyrics on the record sleeve are printed over engineering drawings and diagrams of the spaceship, some of them quite detailed!) This new planet seems to be covered with a forest of nasty looking crystals, but the spaceship has found a grassy clearing in which to land. And if you look closely, off to the side, around the base of the crystals, there appears to be some gnarly shrubbery—but I believe it is, in fact, actually, an endless supply of righteous looking bud.

05
Jun
10

Boston “Boston”

It’s really hard to criticize something like this album–I mean it’s like criticizing The Dictionary–though, when I say that, I’m assuming “the dictionary of the English language,” and if you don’t speak English, the book isn’t of much use.

Listen to the record!

That was an attempted allegory. Note: edit out that first paragraph before posting.

Listen to the record!

Everyone knows the story of how Tom Scholz, MIT grad and scientist, was working for GE developing the Doomsday Machine when, while tinkering in his basement workshop, developed all those compressors and distortion devices that– when built into what are known as “guitar pedals” –have allowed future generations of mindless wankers to pick up an electric guitar for the first time and in fifteen minutes learn how to make noise like a goddamn god. When Andy Warhol said that “fifteen minutes of fame” thing, this is exactly what he was talking about.

Listen to the record!

That “Listen to the record!” business is from the liner notes, and I just love liner notes. It makes me so sad to think about all the young people and their MP3s and how they don’t even have an idea of the concept of liner notes. These liner notes discuss how the guys got together, first called their band “Springfield” and when things weren’t happening, changed the name to “Boston” and the rest is history. There is also a discussion of “technology,” but I’m just listening to the record. The song “More Than A Feeling,” despite being seriously in the top ten of alltime overplayed songs, is surprisingly fresh sounding–I mean considering– with that acoustic part and the hard rock part– I know it should sound more stale than it does– well, maybe it’s just been such a “Long Time” since my stereo needle touched vinyl. The song, “Long Time” incidentally, was used in studies. It was found that people of a certain age group (my age) could pick up a guitar for the first time and play the opening guitar part nearly note for note, particularly guitar store employees.

I’m making fun of this record a little, but I have to admit I’m actually enjoying listening to it, so if you’re a fan, old or new, and you want say “Speen thinks it rocks” go ahead, it won’t bug me too much. Really, it’s not entirely these guys’ fault that some of these guitar flourishes are what many of us will hear as we’re dying, coming out of a coma, having sex, or every time we turn the ignition of a car or open a can of Pepsi. Maybe Scholz DID invent the doomsday machine after all. Look at the cover art closely, if it doesn’t cause flashbacks to commence. It looks like the Earth is exploding and entire cities are being saved by being jetted off into space by dome-topped flying saucers. The one closest to us, of course, contains Boston. One wonders if Kokomo made it.

Lyrically–there are no printed lyrics on this particular sleeve, so I’m trying to make them out. Smokin’ indeed rhymes with tokin’. It’s interesting, with all the millions of times I’ve heard “More Than A Feeling” I never heard the “Mary Ann slipping away” part. Who is this “Mary Ann”? Seeing how this record came out in 1976, you have to figure the lyricist must have been watching endless Gilligan’s Island reruns, and how many people had a crush on that Mary Ann? I know I did, but it’s interesting, once I got to a certain age, I switched over from Mary Ann to Ginger. I really believe that’s a sign of maturity. Ask your friends who they prefer– it’s a good test to separate the men from the boys. I’m trying to remember who the eighth person on that island was… Anyway, you KNOW that The Professor could have had a short wave radio rescue transmission going in about five minutes, but he obviously didn’t want to. Thurston had Lovey and The Skipper had Gilligan (don’t pretend you didn’t know) so who else was there to satisfy the two hot women other than Russell “Magic” Johnson (not his real name) who– well they couldn’t really show it on TV then like they could today– got more ass than a makeshift bamboo outhouse.

I would apologize for that last paragraph, but you’ll never see it. I just started drinking coffee again and I’m getting carried away here. Memo to Speen: DELETE the paragraph about lyrics before posting.

Side two starts out with a really corny, compelling, unoriginal and utterly awesome rocker called “Rock & Roll Band” which is probably about playing in a rock & roll band, but I’m not going to fall back into that listening to the lyrics trap. I wasn’t actually able to get to the end of side two because this particular record, which was found on “the street,” seems to have about a kilo of cocaine encrusted in the later grooves of the second side. I would take the initiative to clean it, but I can’t find a hundred dollar bill.




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