If you are a long time reader of this blog you know that I’m a huge fan of everything Canadian. I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada, I love the Canadian people, I love the natural beauty of the country, and most importantly….I love Canadian music. To celebrate that love I have a an amazing Special Performance for you today……Randy Bachman and Neil Young performing two different versions of Prairie Town, one electric and one acoustic and both absolutely great. As a bonus I’ve included a short video from 1987 of a celebration of the music of Winnipeg, Canada that features both Randy, Neil, and Burton Cummings. Enjoy……
Here are some great Bad Company live tracks from circa 1974. There is some really good stuff here but given it’s age the video quality is not what we used to today. Regardless….I think you will enjoy this.
Can’t Get Enough
Bad Company from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert (a US music show from the 70s)
Rock Steady (better video source for Rock Steady from the above concert)
In the spring of 1974 I was finishing up my third year of college and working two jobs. It was a pretty stressful time but the great music releases made everything better. Releases during April, May, and June included new music from some of my favorite artists and a debut release from a new group (see picture above) that would quickly become one of my favorites. Let’s jump right in listen to some great music……
April 1974 Album Releases
Secret Treaties – Blue Oyster Cult
In 1974, Blue Oyster Cult was one of my “go to” groups for “heavy” music. Secret Treaties was their third album and featured a very cool drawing of an German ME262 fighter. Here’s a great cut from that album called Astronomy,,,,,,
Live ‘n’ Kickin – West, Bruce, and Laing
In 1974 West, Bruce and Laing were carrying on a long tradition of three man, power chord based, rock groups. I was a fan of Leslie West and Corky Laing from their time with Mountain and of course was a huge fan of Jack Bruce from his time with Cream so it was only natural that I was a fan of West, Bruce, and Laing. Live ‘n” Kickin was their third and final album as a group and it rocked! Listen to Play With Fire and it will tell you everything you need to know about the group!
Diamond Dogs – David Bowie
After he retired the Ziggy Stadust character, we were all interested to see what Bowie came up with next. When I heard the first single from the record, a glam rock stunner called Rebel Rebel, I knew we were in for a real treat. Have a listen for yourself…..
Second Helping – Lynyrd Skynrd
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s second album, the appropriately named Second Helping, managed to avoid the sophomore jinx that strikes a lot of groups. It was a double platinum hit and features some of their most memorable songs including my favorite, Sweet Home Alabama. Let’s listen……
May 1974 Album Releases
Too Much Too Soon – New York Dolls
I mentioned the glam rock nature of Bowie’s Rebel Rebel single above so it’s only fitting that the New York Dolls, the ultimate glam band, released their second album the month after Diamond Dogs. It was hard to pick a song to feature from Too Much Too Soon but you can’t go wrong with Babylon. Give it a listen and see what you think!
Sheet Music – 10cc
As an illustration of the diversity of rock music in May of 1974, we transition from the glam rock of the New York Dolls to the art rock of 10cc. Sheet music was 10cc’s second release and featured the Wall Street Shuffle, a really catchy radio hit for them. Go back in time with me and do the Wall Street Shuffle as you listen……
June 1974 Album Releases
Bad Company – Bad Company
Bad Company, pictured at the top of this post, was one of the many supergroups that formed in the 1970s from the wreckage of other groups from the late 60s/early 70s. In this case, Bad Company was formed by:
vocalist extraordinaire Paul Rogers from Free
drummer Simon Kirke from Free
guitarist Mick Ralphe from Mott the Hoople
bassist Boz Burrell from King Crimson
While some supergroups proved to be disappointing, this was definitely not the case with Bad Company. They rocked hard throughout the 70s and produced an impressive string of great albums. The song I have for you today is named Bad Company, it comes from the album Bad Company, and was written and performed by the group called Bad Company……very strange…….
Holiday – America
The guys in America were Air Force brats like myself so I had an immediate kinship with them. Their third album, Hat Trick, had been a little of a disappointment from a commercial perspective so the group had a lot riding on Holiday when it was released in 1974. To turn things around the group had recruited George Martin, of Beatles fame, to produce Holiday and he came through for them. Holiday was a huge commercial success starting with Tin Man, the first single released from the album. You have to like this song…..
Walking Man – James Taylor
James Taylor’s Walking Man album was his fifth and was not a commercial success! It even failed to becoming a gold record which is truly shocking but…..to many fans like myself….. it’s still a favorite. Listen to the title track and I think you will understand…….
I’m currently listening to All My Friends, an amazing four hour celebration of the music of Gregg Allman. The album includes performance by an incredible selection of rock/country performers and the man himself. Today’s Special Performance post features one of those performances with Gregg and Jackson Browne joining forces on Gregg’s Melissa. For those of you that don’t know, Gregg and Jackson have been friends since the 60s, having once shared an apartment in LA before either of them were successful. This is a really great performance that you don’t want to miss! Enjoy……
Fifty years ago in 1964 Joan Baez and Bob Dylan were quite an item. Joan, who had been a success since the early 60s, nurtured the young singer/songwriter starting in 1963 by bringing him on stage to perform during her tours and by singing his songs. An intense romantic relationship resulted but was over by 1965. Ten years later Joan wrote one of the best songs of all time about that relationship, Diamonds and Rust. Here is a great 1975 live performance of that song………
I absolutely adore this song. I think the following lines are the most romantic lyrics I have ever heard….
Now I see you standing
With brown leaves falling around
And snow in your hair
Now you’re smiling out the window
Of that crummy hotel
Over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white clouds
Mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there
Fortunately for all of us, Joan continues to tour today….forty years after the performance presented above and fifty years after her 1964 romance with Bob Dylan. Here’s a great Buenos Aires performance of Diamonds and Rust from March of this year……
There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, The Guitar Riff That Changed Rock ‘n’ Roll, that transported me back in time to the day I first heard Whole Lotta Love, a song that absolutely blew my mind. The article, written by Marc Meyers, is great but it’s also mis-titled. The focus of the article is more on the recording of the song than on the amazing opening riff which is fine with me because it was the way the song was recorded that blew my mind! Before I tell you about the article let me tell you about the first time I heard Whole Lotta Love.
In 1970, the only stereo record player that my family had was an old console model. Most people that read this probably don’t know what that is so I’ve included a picture below to show what one looked like.
It was basically a piece piece of furniture that contained a turntable for records and two speakers. My family’s stereo sat in the family living room so I had a narrow window of opportunity to play my music each day. I could listen when I got home from school at 3:30 while my mom was busy making dinner. I had to stop listening around 5:00 before my dad got home from work. My parents were very conservative so even when I could use the stereo to listen to my records I had to keep the volume level very low (our stereo didn’t have a head phone jack and it didn’t really matter because I didn’t have headphones!)
So picture this….I’ve just managed to get my hands on a copy of Led Zeppelin II and I’m getting ready to listen to it in my living room. I’m sitting right in front of the stereo so I can hear it without having the volume cranked up, the album drops onto the turntable, I hear the turntable arm start moving, and then it’s on the album.
There’s the hint of weird little chuckle, Jimmy rips into the most amazing riff I’ve ever heard, and there’s an amazing bass line. As Robert Plant starts to sing it’s like he has positioned himself squarely in front of me singing the hell out of the song. But there’s something else going on here ….Jimmy’s guitar licks seem to start in one speaker and end in the other one. Very cool but that was just the start of the coolness! About a minute and a half into the song…….there’s a breakdown and all hell breaks loose as the song degenerates into a very strange cacophony of sounds (drums, cymbals, vocals snippets, and others that I couldn’t place) that seemingly bouncing from side to side. By this time I was freaking out yet somehow I knew that I was missing the full affect without headphones. The rest of the song was just as amazing but I knew I absolutely had to hear it again with headphones.
I had a friend with headphones and I immediately headed to his house (two streets over from where I lived). Soon I was sitting in front of his family’s stereo system, headphone on, with Whole Lotta Love blasting away, and my mind was immediately blown!. Jimmy’s guitar, and the other strange sounds on the record, were shooting right through my head and at times bouncing around in there. It was amazing and changed my whole perception about what music could be. My friend wasn’t a rock fan but even he had to admit that the the song was pretty cool when listened to with headphones.
The article in The Wall Street Journal last Friday that brought back all of these memories helped me finally understand how/why the sounds in in Whole Lotta Love were created. Here’s an excerpt from the article that focuses on that part of the story…..
Eddie Kramer: The first time I heard “Whole Lotta Love” was in August ’69, when Jimmy and I started working on the album’s final mix at New York’s A&R Sound.
Jimmy and I had first met in 1964, when he was playing on the Kinks’ first album [“Kinks”] at Pye Studios and I was the assistant engineer. I also had heard Led Zeppelin early on in ’68, when John Paul Jones had played me an acetate of Led Zeppelin’s first album, before it was released. I was blown away—it sounded so hard and heavy.
In New York, the recording console at A&R was fairly primitive. It had only 12 channels with old-fashioned rotary dials to control track levels instead of sliding faders and there were just two pan pots [control knobs] to send the sound from left to right channels. But as Jimmy and I listened to the mix, something unexpected came up.
At the point where the song breaks and Robert slowly wails, “Way down inside…wo-man…you need…love,” Jimmy and I heard this faint voice singing the lyric before Robert did on the master vocal track. Apparently Robert had done two different vocals, recording them on two different tracks. Even when I turned the volume down all the way on the track we didn’t want, his powerful voice was bleeding through the console and onto the master.
Some people today still think the faint voice was a pre-echo that we added on purpose for effect. It wasn’t—it was an accident. Once Jimmy and I realized we had to live with it on the master, I looked at Jimmy, he looked at me and we both reached for the reverb knob at the same time and cracked up laughing. Our instincts were the same—to douse the faint, intruding voice in reverb so it sounded part of the master plan.
Mr. Page: I hadn’t heard anything like that before and loved it. I was always looking for things like that when I recorded. That’s the beauty of old recording equipment. Robert’s faraway voice sounded otherworldly, like a spirit anticipating the vocal he was about to deliver.
Mr. Kramer: By adding reverb, we made his faint voice more dynamic, and it became part of rock history. I also used the pan pots on Jimmy’s guitar solo to fling it from side to side, so it would move from one speaker to another. I loved the sonic imagery and I like to think of my mixes as stereophonic paintings.
On the break after the first chorus, where the song gets quiet and we hear Bonzo’s cymbals and percussion and Jimmy’s distortion, Jimmy and I went nuts on the knobs. We had eight dials controlling the levels on eight individual tracks, so we rehearsed the choreography of what we were going to do to create the far-out sounds. Then we did it and printed the result onto the master stereo reel. Because Jimmy was a studio brat, he really understood how we could push the limits. When you have limitations in the studio, you go for it and stretch your imagination.
The remainder of the article is just as interesting and you can read the whole thing at the following link:
I don’t know about you but I just can’t have too much Greg Lake so……….this week I’m resurrecting the Thursday Interview post. Here’s a recent two part interview with Greg which happens to include a couple of great performances woven into the interview. The first part of the interview also has a great story about Lucky Man that you absolutely don’t want to miss.
Before this interview I had never heard Greg speak. I have to say I’m very impressed with his eloquence. If I wasn’t already a huge fan, this interview would have made me one. The second part is just as good….enjoy!
Al Kooper! Now….here’s the story about how Al Kooper saved the day by sitting in on the recording of Like a Rolling Stone without ever having been invited. I pieced this story together from two key sources;
An April 11, 2014 interview with Al that appeared in the Wall Street Journal
The Wikipedia article about Like A Rolling Stone
We will start with the Wikipedia article:
The recording sessions were produced by Tom Wilson on June 15–16, 1965, in Studio A of Columbia Records, 799 Seventh Avenue, in New York City. In addition to Bloomfield, the other musicians enlisted were Paul Griffin on piano, Joe Macho, Jr. on bass, Bobby Gregg on drums, and Bruce Langhorne on tambourine, all booked by Wilson. Gregg and Griffin had previously worked with Dylan and Wilson on Bringing It All Back Home.
On the first day, five takes of the song were recorded in a markedly different style from the eventual release—a 3/4 waltz time, with Dylan on piano. The lack of sheet music meant the song was played by ear. However the essence of the song was discovered in the course of the chaotic session. They did not reach the first chorus until the fourth take, but after the following harmonica fill Dylan interrupted, saying, “My voice is gone, man. You wanna try it again?” This take was subsequently released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991.The session ended shortly afterwards.
When the session re-convened the following day, June 16, Al Kooper joined the proceedings as a guest of Tom Wilson. Al picks up the story from this point in the Wall Street Journal interview…….
Question: How did you manage to play on a session you weren’t invited to: “Like A Rolling Stone?”
I was 21 by that time and because I wrote songs I knew a lot of producers. They would hire me to plan on sessions. So I was friends with Dylan’s producer (Tom Wilson). When he found out I was a Dylan fan he invited me to a session, not to play but to sit in the control room and watch. So I thought, I want to play on that record . I was practicing the guitar to be ready and I got there early–I wanted to pull this off before Tom Wilson could stop it. I got there 45 minutes early. But then like five minutes after I got there so did Dylan and he brought Mike Bloomfield. So I heard Bloomfield play and went into the control room where I belonged. I never heard anyone play like that, much less someone who appeared to be my age.
After a couple of rehearsal takes, Wilson moved Griffin from Hammond organ to piano. Al saw his opportunity and jumped at it but he had a couple of challenges to over come. We will let him continue the story from his Wall Street Journal interview:
Question: Then, long story short, you snuck in and played and Wilson didn’t kick you out. Had you played a Hammond organ before?
Yes, but I didn’t know how to turn it on-it’s very complicated. Also I didn’t know how to use all the controls. But (keyboardist Paul Griffin, who had moved to piano for the track) left it turned on and whatever the settings were that’s what I played.
Now let’s go back to the Wikipedia article to finish the story…..
Wilson, surprised to see Kooper at the organ, nevertheless allowed him to play on the track. Upon hearing a playback of the song, Dylan insisted that the organ be turned up in the mix, despite Wilson’s protestations that Kooper was “not an organ player.”
This session saw 15 recorded takes. The song had by now evolved into its familiar form, in 4/4 time with Dylan on electric guitar. After the fourth take—the master take that was released as a single—Wilson happily commented, “That sounds good to me.” Nevertheless, Dylan and the band persisted in recording the song 11 more times.
So, as they say, the rest was history. Al Kooper, an uninvited participant in the recording process, playing an instrument that he really wasn’t very familiar with, managed to improvise an organ riff that became one of the key elements of what is now widely recognized as one of the best songs of all time. That my friends is one of the best stories in rock history in my opinion.
Al went to to have quite a career but we will save most of that story for another day. Let me leave you with just one more tidbit. One of the great things that Al Kooper did later in career was to discover Lynyrd Skynyrd. The signature track of Lynyrd Skynyrd is a little ditty called Free Bird which happens to have a signature organ introduction. Guess who was in the studio playing that organ……yep it was none other that Al. Let’s listen….
This is the ninth in a long running series of posts that highlight rock songs featuring someone interesting sitting in on the recording session. For this series I post the song on one day and identify who is sitting in the next couple of days. I hope you enjoy the concept and maybe learn some interesting music history in the process.
My selection for today’s post is Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan. This, now iconic, 1965 Dylan song has been named by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest song of all time but getting it down on tape almost 50 years ago ended up being quite a challenge. The session was saved by a musician that wasn’t invited to sit and that ended up playing an instrument that they didn’t even know how to turn on. This is truly one of the great stories of rock music. I will give you all the details tomorrow including the identity of the musician that sat in uninvited and helped make rock history.
In the meantime let’s listen to the song. To listen, click on the link below which will take you to the official video for the song which has some really cool interactive features. I think you will enjoy it!
Now it’s your chance to show off your knowledge of music history. Post a comment with your guess about the identity of the musician that was the hero of the Like A Rolling Stone recording session. I will identify the the first person who gives the correct answer in tomorrow’s post.