Posts Tagged ‘1973

17
Nov
19

Mott the Hoople “Mott”

My random system for picking records to write about landed on this one, which I may have touched on before, and hopefully will again, since it was such a huge record in my life. Then a couple of days later, in a thrift store, I saw this British pressing with a totally different cover—not that rare, or anything, but I’ve never seen it before, in person, somehow. This is the cover with a die-cut head-shape hole (which, I’ve read, was the bust of Augustus printed on transparent plastic! That part now gone. Also, why?)—and inside, a kind of amazing photo collage. The cover also looks like it was half spray-painted this shade of day-glow pink I didn’t think existed in 1973. I still prefer the US version, which is nothing special—four Seventies rock guys standing there with some stage lights—it’s almost comic in its datedness—but for me, pure nostalgia in its magic. I’ve forgotten a lot of my childhood, but I remember Scott Suter telling me to buy this record—we were in 7th Grade—and I did, intrigued by that band name that made no sense. The opening piano on “All the Way from Memphis”—that weird sound, something off about it, almost like the tape is slowed down or slightly manipulated (I’ll read about this somewhere, someday)—it just burned an indelible memory in my brain, and when I put it on now, it takes me right back there. There are a handful of things like that in your life—usually music is involved—and so I value those things like nothing else.

I think Mott the Hoople is the only band whose last two records are their best two, and it’s somehow not coincidental that they were named “Mott” and “The Hoople,” or that they came out in 1973 and 1974 (the two best years of popular culture, at least in the century surrounding my existence). In a way, they were both last records, because this is the last one with Mick Ralphs, who went directly from this to forming Bad Company. “The Hoople” is both remarkably the same and different than this record. I’ve long struggled and finally given up trying to pick my favorite of the two. Both versions of the band are great all the way through, but it’s Ian Hunter who’s at the center of the mess. It’s hard to make any sense of that guy. You can hear the Bob Dylan influence in everything he does, yet he sounds nothing like Dylan. I’ve gone through periods where I thought he was someone else in disguise, or even thought he was actually a woman. The conclusion I’ve finally come to is that he’s the most normal guy in the history of rock’n’roll, and also the strangest. It turns out it wasn’t Bowie who was the space alien, it was Ian Hunter. Though he might not be a space alien, but instead a ghost, or an android. I did something I never do, last year, and went to see an aging rock band live show—which was Mott the Hoople (with three of them from the ’74, “Hoople,” record) and so I did see the 80 year old Ian Hunter in person, and sure I was a few seats away, but it was like, next stop, Jesus. So the mystery just deepened (also hope—for what one can do at 80 years old).

A funny thing about this record is I’ve just kept listening to it over the years, never really got tired of it (though I don’t, you know, play it to death). When I was a lad, I liked the songs that rocked out more, while the ones with those alienating words (Hymn, Ballad) in their titles put me off a little. Now, those are my very favorite songs, just beautiful slower rock songs, with fairly incredible lyrics, worth checking out, if you never have—songs that I will most likely listen to again tomorrow, and next month, and early next year. Those, along with “I Wish I Was Your Mother” are now my favorite songs on the record. The whole thing is listenable, and also quite an oddity. The best rock music, for me, has always been that which is, how would you say it? Ill-fitting. Also, Ian Hunter’s voice, that’s just going to be knocking around in there, in my skull, like a cave painting, for the rest of my days, and after that, who can say.

25
May
19

Mickey Newbury “Heaven Help the Child”

This is a particularly intriguing album cover—it’s a rustic, matte surface, suggesting something real, with a larger than life, full face photo of Mickey Newbury on back, which, while artfully partially obscured in shadows, also exposes pores, divots, blemishes, and misplaced hairs—and remember, this is far before the days of hi-def, when many careers were ended voluntarily, while others just had to say, what the hell, here’s my zits. It immediately says that Mickey is going to open his heart for us. The front cover is trickier—it’s a 7 ½ x 5 ½ inch glossy photo of Mickey sitting on an old chair next to an old lamp in a room that could be a study, or could be a bedroom. This is essentially a cropped photograph, though, because as we remove the inner sleeve, we discover that this is actually a 12 x 12 inch photo that has been framed by the smaller, die-cut opening in the external cover. Now we see the larger room —which still could be a study, a bedroom, a living room, or a rec-room—or is it now too big for a bedroom? Now you can see the expanse of the old carpet, a stained glass window behind him, a couple of large photo albums on the floor, and that he’s wearing cowboy boots. When you remove the inner sleeve, which has lyrics on the other side, there is a smaller, more atmospheric, blurred version of the cover photograph behind—printed on the inside of album cover! You don’t see that too often. What does it all mean?

Mickey Newbury was a respected Nashville songwriter and recording artist who put out a couple dozen records. Even though his music is somber and his lyrics are dark, he’s good-looking in a way that probably appeals to in-laws and pets, as well as people his own age, and you feel like you could leave your kids with him, or would be comfortable in a car he’s driving. This record, from 1973, is not his first, and a company like Elektra doesn’t spring for the die-cut nonsense if they don’t think you’ll sell a few. There are only eight songs—two are three and half minutes, but the rest are long, quiet, pretty, and melancholy. I like them all, and pretty much everything I’ve heard by him, but I don’t know how passionate I’m going to get about the songs on this record—there is an overall flavor of the mainstream—even if it’s not what I’d imagine as “popular.” The other weird thing is there is a dedication scrawled on the large space at the bottom of the album cover in a red pen that matches the red frame around the die-cut hole, leading me to believe that this is part of the cover—yet when I look up images of this cover on the internet, it’s not there. It seems to say, “To a friend”—though I’m not entirely sure—and then a name—it could be Joe, or José, or Lori, or Josie, or even “you.” If you were giving this record as a present, that is not where you’d write a greeting—it’s so front and center—which leads me to believe this was written by the artist, himself. Mickey Newbury passed away, far too young, in 2002. You can find his records. I wonder what happened to the “friend” to whom he presented this record—which will likely outlive me, and find its way into another haunted record shop.

28
Dec
18

Bruce Springsteen “The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle”

I was one of those Springsteen fans who, before I was a fan, was turned off by all the Born to Run hoopla in 1975 but finally bought the Darkness LP in 1978, loved it, became a fan then, then went back to the first three records. I listened to his first six records to death, but after that I wouldn’t give him the time of day (and that’s more about me than him)—so I’m guessing there’s some great music from 1984 on that I missed, but, oh well. Currently he’s “On Broadway”—I know nothing about that, but I’ll guess two things: It’s really good, and I can’t afford it. I rarely look him up on the internet, but I’ve noticed that he uncannily resembles Jello Biafra—maybe they are friends. One thing I feel certain about, even never having met the man, I feel like he possesses a genuineness of spirit that even sainthood can’t diminish. That is based on a couple of live shows I saw in the late Seventies at the Richfield Coliseum (now a ghost) that I attended even after swearing off large venue shows. His concerts are legendary, and for once, legendary got that right. Anyway, I lost all my Springsteen LPs while movin’ around, so I made a point of picking up a copy of this one after I decided it’s the best. Someday I’m going to make a list of all the recording artists whose best record was their second one—there’s a lot! Also, this was from 1973 (as was his first record), further making my point that that was a pretty good year. There are more than a few of us out there, actually, that think this record is Springsteen’s best. We meet once a month in the VFW basement over hardshell tacos and Old Milwaukee Light and Skype with the national chapter, which mostly consists of mini-memorials for our recently passed and dwindling membership.

One reason I wanted a vinyl copy of this record is that I love the album cover (not so much the front, gigantic portrait—though if you isolate his thumb and stare at it, it will make you feel weird) because of the band picture on back—one of my favorite band photos ever. I’m not sure if they were yet called “The E Street Band”—but I liked this lineup even better than the later ones—which is saying something, because they were all good—but I just like the overall playing, production, and sound on this record. And this band photo, it’s the best. (In my opinion, there should only be two things in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: this photo, and a closed/out of business sign.) First of all, it looks like a really hot day, and they were able to maybe move down half a block from the Taste-E-Freeze to take a photo in front of the pawn shop. They all look “bad” (as we used to say), and not surprisingly, Clarence Clemons, the baddest. Garry Tallent looks like he has a leg cramp. Danny Federici looks like he was the only one who knew they were taking a photo that day. And if you didn’t know better, you’d think it was David Sancious’ band. My favorite, though, is Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez, wearing cut-offs and an open Hawaiian shirt—for years I’ve used this photo as my summer fashion icon ideal—I just want to copy his look outright (though at this point, sadly, unless I’m able to trade in my stomach for some hair, it’s not ever going to happen).

Really, this sounds more like someone’s 20th record rather than their second—I mean in that it doesn’t sound like it’s trying too hard to please anyone as much as the people making it, and maybe that’s why I like it so much. There are only seven songs, but the three on side two are like 7, 8, and 10 minutes long! I like the production so much better than the later records, too—I guess it accentuates the songwriting. There’s no grandstanding, it sounds egoless, and it’s not too guitar heavy. On some songs the most prominent instrument is accordion—one of those being “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”—just that title!—which is one of my favorite Springsteen songs ever. Some of these songs—you presume before the record deals that these guys were playing in bars—but in what kind of bars could you play “Wild Billy’s Circus Story?” “Incident on 57th Street” might be prettiest Springsteen song ever, and just listening to it now makes me think about all the hearts he must have broken before getting his picture on the covers of Time and Newsweek. Listening to this record now confirms how much I like it; it’s the one I choose to put on if I’m in the mood for Bruce Springsteen. It’s also making me kind of curious, now, about what led up to the first two records. Maybe I’ll check out his autobiography. Anyway, I guess this record brings back some summer evening in the late Seventies, softly through my Advent speakers while sipping a rum drink, that fragrant, warm evening air, low lights in the “breezeway”—a room off the garage of my parents’ house that really was a time and place, and this record was part of it. Call it pure nostalgia, and I can’t argue with that, but that’s the sweet part of a good cocktail, and mixed with the right proportions of reality and weirdness, you get why the golden ratio is greater than the sum of its parts.

21
Dec
18

Jeremiah People “Buildin’ for the Very Third Time”

I picked up this record at a thrift store with a great deal of anticipation and promise, in spite of its evident Christian bent, as obscure Christian records are often bland for my taste. But it sits alphabetically in my Peaches crate next to two copies of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (one I wore out), and I am a fan of Bob Dylan and Jimmy Swaggart. One always hopes for weirdness and extremes musically, married with obtrusiveness in sentiment. From the first note, this is a pure expression of the Christian spirt, good will, positivity, and cheerfulness. Will I be able to detect a dark side? First of all, I don’t know what “the third time” refers to, but my Christian studies are admittedly rusty. Next, the cover is odd; it’s a house (or church) in the process of being built, used as a makeshift stage—I get that—but why are the band members absent?—it’s just their chairs, with some hats, a shirt, and a tambourine. What does that mean? The label is Light Records from Waco, Texas, and their LP label graphic is excellent. I would steal it for my own record company (if I had one, and if stealing wasn’t wrong). I’ve never been to Waco, but I bet there is some interesting history there. Of course there are also those tragic stories, like the Branch Davidians. Also, that biker shootout at the “Twin Peaks” restaurant, fairly recently. I’m sure Waco doesn’t want to be known for only that stuff. Baylor always has some fine sports teams. Also, I don’t even know if the band is from there, or just the label. In order to find out anything about this band, I would need to go to the “Deep Web” (aka, not on Wikipedia), and I’m not going to. Oh—the other exciting thing is the record is from 1973—which I’m sure people who know me are getting sick of my touting at the pinnacle of Western culture—but it just was, okay?

The best way to approach this record is track by track, and there are ten of them. Side One, track one, gets off to a great start with a soulful electrical piano, a pretty hot song until the corny key change—but still it could have been a very good theme song for a TV show about triumphant persistence—or Jesus, which the song is about. Track two slows it down with a really very beautiful ballad about growing spiritually. Track three, equally quiet, even prettier (these are some good women vocalists)—and then it shifts into a very Seventies, Carpenters sounding thing that could be a radio ad for “the good life.” Track four—let’s just say this one’s going to really discourage regular repeat listenings of this record. Track five is another really compelling one, good melody, very strong—it could almost be a James Bond movie theme, if James Bond was, you know, Jesus. Side Two, track one, then, is a real barn burner, or maybe in this case maybe something about buildin’ a barn is more appropriate. Track two slows it down, another pretty song—I just don’t like the male vocals as much, I guess—creeps me out a bit. Track three is so jaunty that even someone who likes jaunty might find themselves projectile vomiting. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. Maybe you love jaunty, in which case you could play this at your coke-fueled chipmunk wedding on pogo sticks. I had to lift the needle. Track four, then, is another beautiful, soulful, gospel-y song—how could this even be on the same record as that previous song? Track five is another pretty one, though kind of surprisingly melancholy sounding for what is mostly a pretty uplifting record. I mean it’s hopeful, and with a message. Well, that’s it. I hope I was able to give a fair assessment of this record, but it’s based purely on my taste in music, and not taking into account whether you’re on board with the religious message or jumping ship at first sight of a higher power. I know it’s very difficult to separate aesthetics with ideology sometimes, but when you’re reviewin’ the vinyl, sometimes you just gotta take a leap of faith.

03
Nov
18

Herbie Hancock “Headhunters”

I’ve never been a huge Herbie Hancock fan, though I’ve always liked him more or less, but kind of a lukewarm love (Herbie Hancock fans don’t want to hear this)—like, I’ve owned a few of his records over the years, but I’m not usually burning to put them on. But this one has such a weird cover that it kind of screamed out to me (not necessarily a good scream, but a loud and got my attention scream). Anyway, I think HH has done some soundtracks over the years (can’t be entirely sure with no internet to reference) and I can really imagine a lot of this music as a soundtrack—but a really strong one, like, I’d watch that movie just to see a guy driving an early-Seventies LTD thru Harlem with this music playing. In fact, I’m guessing a 1973 LTD, gold with a green faux fabric top—a lot about this whole scenario says 1973 (I’ll see if there’s a date on the disk when it stops spinning…)

The cover is a kind of photo collage of HH at the keyboard with his band behind him in blue shadows, but it’s not HH really—or it is HH, I guess, but instead of his head there’s a huge orange circle, that from a distance looks like an orange with eyes and a mouth and some kind of insect pincers on the top of the head—but upon closer examination it’s evident that the eyes are knobs and the mouth is a VU meter. I can’t tell if the pincers coming out of the tip of the head are like antennas, or grabbers, or if it’s organic or mechanical—regardless, it’s all kind of creepy. I’m listening to the record a few times through as I’m writing, and I’m actually liking it more and more—maybe this is the HH record for me. It’s got some weird instrumentation and some pretty hardcore repetitious grooves (I mean as opposed to all the stopping and starting kind of stuff I don’t like as well). I’ve been working at a grocery store where the muzak system plays such a bizarre mix of about a dozen or 20 songs (seems like less, but is probably actually more) that it could have only been selected by a computer algorithm. But what if they just played this record? I wouldn’t be working, I’d be partying—couldn’t have that.

26
Oct
18

Jimmy Buffett “A White Sport Coat and A Pink Crustacean”

I haven’t been able to listen to Jimmy Buffett since the first time I heard “Cheeseburger in Paradise” for the hundredth time, so I put this record on against my better judgement, but I had my reasons, including the fact that I used to be a huge JB fan, around the time the Changes in Latitudes record came out, which led me to an earlier record, Highway A1A, which inspired my imagination and sense of adventure at the time (once when I was 18, then again 19, and brings back memories of Bocador Rum, CocoRibe Liqueur, Passport Scotch), heading down to Florida on spring break and exploring the Atlantic coastline. He has written some really good songs and goes all out with the lyrics, even if sometimes he goes too all out. The worst thing about Jimmy Buffett, now, I guess, is that he sounds too much like Jimmy Buffett.

It’s not his fault entirely that his name evokes all-you-can-eat crab legs on a cruise ship. A second reason for putting this on is that it’s from 1973, the year I started drinking, and my appreciation of JB goes hand in hand with drinking, preferably rum drinks with a lot of either pineapple or coconut or both—and also, I’ve never heard this record, that I can recall. It occurred to me that a good name for crusty old white guy music might be “Pink Crustacean Music”—which would be inspired by this title. That is also the title of a short liner note on the back cover by Tom McGuane which, if I understand it correctly, is a criticism of the seriousness of the folk movement and an appreciation of JB’s blender of country, fruit juice, show biz, and intoxicants. Plus, how bad can a record be that has songs titled “Peanut Butter Conspiracy” and “Death of an Unpopular Poet”? Also, included here, is the classic bar sing-a-long (credited to “Marvin Gardens”) “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw.” Alas, I’m afraid, for me, the SS Jimmy Buffett has long since sailed.

24
Oct
18

Link Wray “Be What You Want To”

In the half century that I’ve been alive and aware of appreciating awesome things, the fact that not one of my scores of friends and hundreds of acquaintances (not to mention all the rock critics and makers of the “best of all time” lists) had enthusiastically encouraged me to listen to this record points out a fundamental failure in my life. Or maybe I just don’t listen to people. I guess there is the likelihood that the failure is all on me. Whatever the problem was, it’s been resolved in regard to this Link Wray album from 1973. (Which I know I’ve said a hundred times is the most awesome year for culture in my life—though I haven’t figured out yet if it’s something about that year, exactly, or just my relationship to it—maybe because it’s the year I started drinking?) All of these songs have huge, overblown arrangements, some of which might have swallowed up the immediacy, but Link Wray’s singing has a way of not only cutting through all the instruments and production, but bringing it right back to the edge of a garage band. I might easily go on and on, but sometimes the less said the better—just heed my A+ and 5 Stars (of 5) and my rating of 11 on a scale of one to ten, and listen to the record, and if you don’t agree with me then go fuck yourself!




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