Levon Helm lost his battle with cancer on Thursday past. He was a unique player on the rock, country, and folk landscape. Helm achieved fame as the drummer and frequent lead and backing vocalist for The Band. His soulful voice was cultivated in the cotton fields of Arkansas, a stones throw from the Mississippi River.
In the late 90s, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer causing severe hoarseness and was advised to undergo a laryngectomy. Instead, Helm opted for a tedious regimen of radiation treatments at Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The tumor was successfully removed but Helm’s vocal cords were damaged. His powerful tenor voice was replaced by a quiet rasp.
Helm’s narration and performance in The Right Stuff.
On April 17, 2012, his wife and daughter announced on Helm’s website that he was “in the final stages of his battle with cancer” and thanked fans while requesting prayers. Two days later, Helm died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Deep Purple enjoyed immediate success when their cover of Joe South‘s, Hush reached #4 on the Billboard Top 100 in the US and #2 on the Canadian charts.
In October of ’68, Deep Purple opened for Cream on their Goodbye tour.
In 1971 the band released their most commercially successful album, Machine Head. The album included the song Smoke on the Water, which included the lyrics, “Frank Zappa and the Mothers, were at the best place around. But some stupid with a flare gun, burned the place to the ground.”
These words are in reference to their recording plans for Machine Head. The band was originally booked to record at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. The Casino always closed in the winter months for refurbishment and Purple arrived on December 3, 1971.
The final Casino concert of the season was the following night when Frank Zappa took the stage. Sometime during the concert a member of the audience fired a flare into the building’s roof. Although there were no fatalities, the resultant fire ruined Deep Purple’s plans. The band retreated to a nearby theatre called the Pavilion, where they recorded a riff by Ritchie Blackmore provisionally named “Title No. 1.” It became one of the most recognizable riffs in rock.
Bass player Roger Glover named it “Smoke on the Water”, in reference to the band’s experience watching the burning down of Montreux Casino. A photograph of the burning Montreux Casino would ultimately be included in the gatefold of Machine Head’s album cover.
Machine Head would be the groups only #1 album. (#1 in UK – #7 US)
In December of 72, DP released Made in Japan, a double album live set.
Deep Purple was at the height of its powers. That double album was the epitome of what we stood for in those days. It wasn’t meant to be released outside of Japan. The Japanese said, ‘Will you please make a live album?’ We said, ‘We don’t make live albums; we don’t believe in them.’ We finally said okay, but said we wanted the rights to the tapes because we didn’t want the album to be released outside of Japan. That album only cost about $3,000 to make. It sounded pretty good, so we said to Warner Bros., ‘Do you want this?’ They said, ‘No, live albums don’t happen.’ They wound up putting it out anyway and it went platinum in about two weeks.
Despite getting to platinum in two weeks, Made in Japan topped out at #6 in the US and #16 in the UK.
This period also marked the beginning of the band’s decline. Roger Glover took an exit shortly after Made in Japan and was replaced by Glenn Hughes. Vocalist Ian Gillian was replace by David Coverdale about this same time.
Blackmore abandoned the band in mid 1975 to be replaced by Tommy Bolin.
Within a few months Deep Purple imploded on the wieght of Bolin’s drug use and Coverdale’s resignation. The breakup was publicized in July of 76. Guitarist Tommy Bolin died of a drug overdose the following December.
In April 1984, eight years after the demise of Deep Purple, a full-scale (and legal) reunion took place with the “classic” early 1970s line-up of Gillan, Lord, Blackmore, Glover and Paice. The reformed band signed a worldwide deal with PolyGram, with Mercury Records releasing their albums in the US, and Polydor Records in the UK and other countries. The album Perfect Strangers was recorded in Vermont and released in October 1984. A solid release, it sold extremely well (reaching #5 in the UK and #17 on the Billboard 200 in the US.)
The guys clicked along with miner skirmishes flaring up between Blackmore and Gillian over the years. Then in November of ’93, Blackmore walked off, guitar in hand, never to return.
Joe Satriani was drafted to complete tour dates in December and stayed on for a European Summer tour in 1994. He was asked to join permanently, but Satriani’s other contract commitments prevented this. The band unanimously chose Dixie Dregs/Kansas guitarist Steve Morse to become Blackmore’s permanent successor.
Morse’s arrival revitalised the band creatively, and in 1996 a new album titled Purpendicular was released, showing a wide variety of musical styles, though it never made chart success on Billboard 200 in the US.
Don Airey joined the group in 2001 to prepare for Jon Lord’s looming retierment from Deep Purple. Through the years there have been many shifts in the lineup but the 2012 Deep Purple looks like this.
Brian Jones left the Stones in 1969. Publicly it appeared to be his decision but legal problems and drug issues surrounding the co-founder had become very divisive and on June 8th of ’69, Jagger, Richards, and Watts, met with Jones to let him know the band would be moving on without him. Jones was replaced by 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor (formerly of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers).
Charlie Watts took over drums in January of ’63. Bill Wyman replaced Taylor at Bass in December of ’62 but retired in January of ’93.
After Wyman retired, Darryl Jones, a noted sessions musician from Chicago was invited to play bass, a position he enjoys today.
Considering the recent tift between Jagger and Richards another tour is questionable. With Jagger and Richards both enjoying a young 68-years-old, if they have one more tour in them they’d better get going. There’s just something about the prospects of 70-year-old rockers playing Carnegie Hall that doesn’t seem quite right.
Rolling Stone magazine is saying a Stones Tour for 2013 is being tentatively planned but everything hinges on Richards’ health.
On this day in 1973, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moonclimbed into the album charts and setup camp. There it stayed year after year finally sliding off in 1988, a total of 741 weeks. On that basis alone it is the most successful rock and roll album of all time.
DSOTM was Pink Floyd’s 8th studio release and featured some of the most sophisticated recording engineering of the time.
The artwork was created by their associate, George Hardie. Hipgnosis offered the band a choice of seven designs, but all four members agreed that the prism was by far the best. The design represents three elements; the band’s stage lighting, the album lyrics, and Richard Wright’s request for a “simple and bold” design. The spectrum of light continues through to the gatefold—an idea that Waters came up with. The DSOTM rainbow prism may be the most recognizable rock brand in the history of modern music.
[box] “I could never aspire to Syd’s crazed insights and perceptions. In fact for a long time I wouldn’t have dreamt of claiming any insights whatsoever. I’ll always credit Syd with the connection he made between his personal unconscious and the collective group unconscious. It’s taken me 15 years to get anywhere near there. Even though he was clearly out of control when making his two solo albums, some of the work is staggeringly evocative. It’s the humanity of it all that’s so impressive. It’s about deeply felt values and beliefs. Maybe that’s what ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ was aspiring to. A similar feeling.” — Roger Waters on Syd Barrett [/box]
[box] “Usually, in the studio, on this sort of thing … you just go out and have a play over it, and see what comes, and it’s usually — mostly — the first take that’s the best one, and you find yourself repeating yourself thereafter.” — David Gilmour on his guitar solo in “Time“[/box]
[box] “We share the same sense of humor, to some extent. We lust after money, to some extent. And we’ve all got a lot of interest in what we’re doing together.” — Nick Mason on the band.[/box]
[box] “We have a very recognizable sound. I mean, anyone who listens to our records will know it’s the Floyd. Where as, anyone who listens to many other bands will know they’re playing blues, or they’re playing this or that.” — Rick Wright on the Pink Floyd sound. [/box]
[box] “Well, they did say, ‘Be more emotional.’ So I started getting this pattern of notes, and they said, ‘Well, that seems the right direction to go.’ And I told them to put the tape on. I knew from past experience… well, I used to be called ‘First-take Torry’ because, very often, the first take I did was the best. And at the end of the first take, Dave Gilmour said, ‘Do another one – but even more emotional.’ So I did another one. And then he said, ‘I think we could do a better one.’ I started, and half way through, I realised that I was beginning to be repetitive; derivative. It didn’t have that off-the-top-of-the-head, instantaneous something. It was beginning to sound contrived. I said, ‘I think you’ve got enough.’ I thought it sounded like caterwauling.” — Clare Torry on her vocals for “The Great Gig in the Sky”. [/box]
[box] “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”[/box]
Thick as a Brick was the fifth studio album from the British progressive rock group Jethro Tull. It released forty years ago in March of 1972.
Unheard of at the time, Thick as a Brick included one continuous track, forty-four minutes of one composition pieced together with a mixture of complex musical structures. It was a tour-de-force, a masterpiece of rock blended with English folk music, sprinkled with classical symmetry, and wrapped from the ground up with ahead of its time sound engineering. Brick stands the test of time and not-by-note presents what music is all about. It’s about taking great lyrics, creative instrumentation, and courageous steps beyond self-imposed boundaries.
Few rock and rollers can be dubbed with the title genius. Ian Anderson is one of them.
Thick as a Brick shot to the top of the album charts and held the #1 slot for a solid two weeks.
The Jethro Tull lineup for TAAB was:
Ian Anderson – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, flute, violin, trumpet, saxophone
The creation of TAAB is pure Ian Anderson genius. Its lyrics are based on a poem written by a fictitious boy, Gerald Bostock, said to have been adapted to music by Jethro Tull. In reality Ian Anderson wrote all the lyrics himself.
A snippet of Thick as a Brick lyrics:
So come all ye young men who are building castles!
Kindly state the time of the year
and join your voices in a hellish chorus.
Mark the precise nature of your fear.
Let me help you pick up your dead
as the sins of the father are fed
the blood of the fools and the thoughts of the wise
and from the pan under your bed.
Let me make you a present of song
as the wise man breaks wind and is gone while
the fool with the hour-glass is cooking his goose
and the nursery rhyme winds along.
The album cover was pure spoof of a local newspaper, entitled The St. Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser, with articles, competitions, adverts, etc., lampooning the parochial journalism still existing in many places. There are hints of certain classical album covers embedded in the paper.
Jethro Tull’s official website explains the mock-newspaper, “There are a lot of inside puns, cleverly hidden continuing jokes (such as the experimental non-rabbit), a surprisingly frank review of the album itself, and even a little naughty connect-the-dots children’s activity.”
The “newspaper”, dated 7 January 1972, also includes the entire lyrics to the poem “Thick as a Brick” (and, thus, to the album of the same name—printed on page 7) as written by a fictional 8-year-old literary prodigy, Gerald “Little Milton” Bostock, whose disqualification from a poetry contest is the focus of the front page story. This article claims that although Bostock initially won the contest with “Thick as a Brick“, the judges’ decision was repealed after a multitude of protests and threats concerning the offensive nature of the poem, furthered by allegations of the boy’s psychological instability.
TAAB2 is to be a full length Progressive Rock “concept” album worthy of its predecessor. Boy to man and beyond, it looks at what might have befallen the child poet Gerald Bostock in later life. Look for Brick II on April 2, 2012.
Jethro Tull performing Thick as a Brick at Madison Square Gardens.
– October 9, 1978
These four guys from El Cerrito, California made up the late 60s musical phenomenon Creedence Clearwater Revival. There was a period of time you couldn’t turn on the radio for more than a few minutes and not hear CCR. Their unique blend of rock, folk and country was a contrast to the psychedelic sound coming out of San Francisco.
I always thought it odd the boys from Berkley made their name singing songs about the south, Louisiana Bayous, The Mississippi River, and catfish. They were southern rock before there was such a thing and the generation loved it.
In 1964 the band signed with Fantasy Records in 1964 as The Blue Velvets but the label immediately changed the name to The Golliwogs, hoping to mimic the success of the British Invasion. It wasn’t to be and in 1967 Fantasy records changed hands. The new owner, Saul Zaentz, saw the potential but never liked the name Golliwog. He asked the guys to come up with ten suggestions each.
It was their first suggestion that made the cut: Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The band took the three elements from, firstly, Tom Fogerty’s friend Credence Newball, (to whose first name Credence they added an extra ‘e’, making it resemble a faith or creed); secondly, “clear water” from a TV commercial for Olympia beer; and finally “revival”, which spoke to the four members’ renewed commitment to their band. Rejected contenders for the band’s name included ‘Muddy Rabbit’, ‘Gossamer Wump’, and ‘Creedence Nuball and the Ruby’, but the last was the start that led to their finalized name.
The group saw their biggest successes between 1968 and 1970 with the release of a half-dozen stellar albums.
There are plenty of successful groups out there with a hit single list of one or two records. CCR had a couple of dozen. They were songs of a generation that still resonate today. Some of my best teen memories are sitting with the headphones wrapped around my skull and CCR songs massaging my eardrums. Great memories.
How many bands besides The Beatles and The Rolling Stones can tout a list of hit singles this long?
Born on the Bayou
Bad Moon Rising
Commotion Fortunate Son
Down on the Corner
Who’ll Stop the Rain
Run Through the Jungle
Up Around the Bend
Long As I Can See the Light
Lookin’ Out My Back Door
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Someday Never Comes
Tearin’ Up the Country
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Good Golly, Miss Molly
CCR was one of the bands to play Woodstock but because Fogerty thought the performance was not up to par he chose not to be a part of the initial soundtrack. The performance at 3:00 in the morning went basically unnoticed by festival-goers.
The weight of long recording sessions and touring took a toll on relationships within the band. Tom Fogerty left CCR permanently in the middle of the Pendulum sessions. It was February of 1971. Pendulum released later that year and the band moved on without Tom. (In September 1990, Tom Fogerty died of an AIDS complication, which he contracted via a tainted blood transfusion he received while undergoing back surgery.)
CCR’s final album, Mardi Gras, was released in April 1972, featuring songs written by Fogerty, Cook, and Clifford and a cover of “Hello Mary Lou.” It received mostly poor, even savage reviews: Rolling Stone reviewer Jon Landau called it “the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band.”
By this point, Fogerty was not only at direct odds with his bandmates, but he had also come to see the group’s relationship with Fantasy Records as onerous, feeling that label owner Saul Zantz had reneged on his promise to give the band a better contract. Cook — who holds a degree in business — claimed that because of poor judgment on Fogerty’s part, Creedence Clearwater Revival had to abide by the worst record deal of any major American recording artist.
On October 16, 1972 – less than six months after the Mardi Gras tour ended – Fantasy Records and the band officially announced the disbanding of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The journey of discourse and law suits from then to now is a rocky road I won’t bore you with here. Just know that one of the great voices of my generation fell silent because personalities collided with ego and ownership and nobody would budge.
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s music is still a staple of American and worldwide radio airplay. It’s common to hear CCR songs as a movie backdrop. The band sold 26 million albums in the US alone. Creedence Clearwater Revival was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. They are ranked at 82 on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest artists of all time.
With the recent death of Monkees singer Davey Jones I pretty much had no choice about this weeks topic. The Monkees were a phenomenon that practically defies explanation. To try to classify them, push them into the proper musical cubby-hole, is a bona fide challenge.
Were they pop? Were they top-40? Were they the Marx Brothers who blended in pop-music with slap-stick comedy? They were a made-for-TV boys band, a quartet of young guys thrown together like shake and bake, and plastered on television to become an overnight sensation.
The Monkees craze began with the recording of their first studio album, July of ’66, rolled out a few weeks after the series launched that September. It was the first of four consecutive U.S. number one albums for the group, taking the top spot on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks.
The first cut was the Monkees theme song which would become ingrained in the musical ear of a generation. We all knew the words and remember the off-beat boys they referred to.
I believe an argument could be made saying The Monkees, despite their commercial upbringing and contrived roots were one of the most influential pop bands of the era standing with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. As a matter of fact in one of the oddest pairings in rock and roll history, Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees for seven concerts in 1967.
Of those concerts Micky Dolenz would later reflect:
“Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps and break out into ‘Purple Haze,’ and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with ‘We want Daaavy!’ God, was it embarrassing.”[/box]
The fact that they haven’t been nominated is the most blatant rock-snobbery since the HOF opened. For every argument about why The Monkees should not be in the hall you can point to a dozen inductees that would lose that same argument. I can only assume it’s a bit of underlying jealously about the success of Nesmith, Dolenz, Tork, and Jones.
In one year The Monkees sold more albums than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. (Their albums and singles have sold over 65 million copies worldwide since 1966.)
The Rock Hall of Fame has an exhibit called: The 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll. With few exceptions, most Hall of Fame inductees on that list only have one song. The Monkees have two. (I’m A Believer and Last Train To Clarksville.)
Davey Jones was the cute one. He was the first crush of many women my age. I know a few who wept openly on the news of his passing. With Davey gone I think it’s high-time the rock elite gets off their high-horse and extend The Monkees their rightful place in the Hall of Fame, because it’s the right thing to do, because they deserve to be there, and because it’s way past time.
Without a doubt it is my favorite and shows a depth and diversity of this historic rock band not reached by any of the previous releases. Physical Graffiti was Led Zeppelin’s true coming of age and a masterpiece of rock that still stands today.
It released on February 24, 1975, a full two years after the previous album, Houses of the Holy. The long hiatus from recording was to give bassist John Paul Jones some time off from touring. Had circumstances been a bit different at the time, JPJ could’ve ended up choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral.
After the time off he returned to the band ready to record.
Jones reflects on this period:
I didn’t want to harm the group, but I didn’t want my family to fall apart either. We toured a huge amount in those early days. We were all very tired and under pressure and it just came to a head. When I first joined the band, I didn’t think it would go on for that long, two or three years perhaps, and then I’d carry on with my career as a musician and doing movie music.
The band returned to Headley Grange in January of ’74 and laid down eight tracks in short order.
We had more material than the required 40-odd minutes for one album. We had enough material for one and a half LPs, so we figured let’s put out a double and use some of the material we had done previously but never released. It seemed like a good time to do that sort of thing, release tracks like “Boogie With Stu” which we normally wouldn’t be able to do… This time we figured it was better to stretch out than to leave off.
Within two weeks of release Physical Graffiti was at the top of the US Billboard chart. It is 16x Platinum in the United States.
By comparison, Led Zeppelin’s next album, Presence was a commercial failure at 3x Platinum and a peak at #1 for two weeks on the U.S. Charts after which it was quickly replaced by The Rolling Stones, Black and Blue.
It’s hard to fathom a “two week, #1 album” as a failure but Physical Graffiti set the bar very high for Zeppelin.
At 37 years old Graffiti stands the test of time and still gets play in this old rock and roller’s music machine.
As a matter of fact, it is, but I was talking about the San Francisco band of the same name..
In 1967 David LaFlamme was the founding member of IABD. Born in Connecticut LaFlamme moved to L.A. when he was very young. As a child he picked up the violin and showed remarkable talent with little instruction.
It was there that LaFlamme met future manager Matthew Katz, who worked with Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape. It was a relationship that brought the band together and ultimately drove them apart. After signing with Katz, their new manager sent them to Seattle to play in a nightclub he controlled – The Encore Ballroom.
The band stayed in the attic of an old house Latz owned by Katz and wrote and rehearsed new songs in between club performances. Few customers saw the band play in Seattle during December 1967.
LaFlamme spoke of their time in Seattle where they wrote their signature song, White Bird.
“We were living in the attic of an old Victorian house in Seattle, and performing at the Encore Ballroom. It was a typical Seattle winter day, rainy and drizzly, and we were looking out from the attic window over the street in front of this old house. It was on Capitol Hill, the old section of town across from Volunteer Park. There was a statue of some famous general right across the street in the park.
“The song describes the picture Linda and I saw as we looked out this little window in this attic. We had a little Wurlitzer portable piano sitting right in the well of this window, and I’d sit and work on songs. When you hear lines like, ‘the leaves blow across the long black road to the darkened sky and its rage,’ it’s describing what I was seeing out the window.
“Where the ‘white bird’ thing came from … We were like caged birds in that attic. We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. It was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way.”[/box]
Upon their return from Seattle IABD saw moderate success performing around San Francisco and the subsequent release of their debut album, It’s a Beautiful Day, produced by LaFlamme in a Los Angeles studio and released by Columbia Records in 1969.
It’s A Beautiful Day – Original lineup
David LaFlamme – Electric Violin
Linda LaFlamme – Keyboards
Mitchell Holman – Bass
Val Fuentes – Drums
Hal Wagonet – Guitar
Pattie Santos – Vocals
By the early 70s the band was starting to become unraveled. Matthew Katz had a death grip on the IABD name and when Laflamme left the group in 74, the band name stayed behind. It would be many years before he would again play under the name of the band he founded.
In 1989 founding member Pattie Santos was killed in a car crash.
It's A Beautiful Day - today
Although no dates are listed on the band’s 2012 touring calendar they remain active and mesmerize crowds whenever they gather on stage.
The Ed Sullivan Show was a fixture on CBS Sunday night TV since launching on June 20, 1948. It was a big deal. Families would gather around the television after the Sunday night meal (pot roast at our house) and watch the show. Sullivan would roll out a various stream of performers to entertain the viewers.
Virtually every type of entertainment appeared on the show; opera singers, popular artists, songwriters, comedians, ballet dancers, dramatic actors performing monologues from plays, andcircus acts were regularly featured. The format was essentially the same as vaudeville, and although vaudeville died a generation earlier, Sullivan presented many ex-vaudevillians on his stage.
If the Elvis appearance on September 9th of ’56 changed the direction of the show, The Beatles 1964 appearance turned it upside down in a Twist and Shout kind of way. Over 73 millions American (more than 40% of the population) were glued to the family set to watch the four from Liverpool make their Ed Sullivan debut.
In late 1963, Sullivan was passing through London’s Heathrow airport at the same time The Beatles were returning from Stockholm. Sullivan was intrigued about how the bands fans were going nuts at their arrival and told his entourage it was the same thing as Elvis all over again. He initially offered Beatles manager Brian Epstein top dollar for a single show but the Beatles manager had a better idea—he wanted exposure for his clients: the Beatles would instead appear three times on the show, at bottom dollar, but receive top billing and two spots (opening and closing) on each show.
There are a handful of events on the Rock and Roll timeline with huge impact — January of ’56, when Sun Records released Elvis Presley’s first single, Heartbreak Hotel, February 3, 1959, when a small plane crash claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, and Feburary 9, 1964, when the Beatles took the Ed Sullivan stage.