The Very Old, Very False Myth That The Devil Isn’t In The Details, He’s In The Rock N Roll Music

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I was reading something the other day. It was a discussion of all the preposterous rock n roll rumors that have propagated over the years. Naturally my first thought was that myth that Zeppelin was booed off stage in Kansas City. That of course led me to the old rumor that Van Halen were actually Kiss without their make up. Gene Simmons financed their demo tape and on the debut album, Van Halen, they thank him which started the whole story. This was way before Kiss took their make up off on MTV. I know my friend Brewster was incensed by that rumor. He knew Ace Frehley couldn’t play guitar like Eddie. The only preposterous story I ever heard that seemed like it might be true was the story about a woman being murdered and recorded in the background during the recording of “Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players. That primal scream a couple of minutes into the song used to scare the crap out of me.

The preposterous rumor that didn’t scare me when I was a teenager was the oldest story in the book. The myth that Satan was lurking behind all this rock n roll I loved. If anything those kind of rumors might have fueled my desire to hear more rock n roll. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Satanist but neither is rock n roll in any real sense. Of course I have to admit the cover art on the Dio fronted Black Sabbath album Mob Rules did give my mother pause…”What the Hell is this you’re listening to?” I read one time that there was a spike in teen smoking after the they put the “The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health” warning on the packs. We are collectively drawn toward danger and darkness. We thrive on risk. If they outlaw cigarettes only outlaws will smoke… or something like that? I will say, I think the professor in Animal House played by Donald Sutherland is right… The Devil is the most interesting character in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Who doesn’t love a well written villain? Paging Hannibal Lecter… Again, I’m not decrying religion of any nature… but “God makes me nervous when you get him indoors.”

The whole “Satan” thing really reached preposterous levels when I was in junior high. Supposedly, Rush, who had a pentagram in their logo actually stood for Ruled Under Satan’s Hand. It was said they held Satanic rituals in the arenas after concerts. The more I’ve learned about the guys in Rush over the years, they’re the nicest people in music this side of Dave Grohl. The most Satanic thing Rush ever did was brew their own micro beer. They said the same thing about Kiss. It supposedly stood for Knights In Satan’s Service. I mean, come on? The only thing that Kiss was in service of was commerce. Those guys had Kiss Koffins for sale. I’m willing to say that Ace might been a little dark but Gene Simmons was all about the benjamins. When I finally stopped listening to these rumors were when someone told me the exact same story – Satanic rituals after concerts – about… Journey. I was like, Steve Perry? The man has the voice of an angel? Maybe Satan was who he was singing to in “Don’t Stop Believin’?” Sorry folks this is where I get off the Satan bus.

Perhaps the first time the Satan myth popped up was about legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, pictured above. The story goes that he was an average to weak guitar player. He supposedly went down to the crossroads where he met the Devil, who tuned his guitar. After that his playing was amazing. It’s kind of a take on the whole Faustian legend if you ask me. Faust sold his soul to the Devil for ultimate knowledge and pleasure. After this alleged meeting with Satan or possibly Papa Legba, Johnson became quite the legend. I’m guessing the truth is a little different. Likely preachers, upset by the effect Johnson’s music and guitar playing was having on people – especially women – decided there must be demonic forces here. If the pretty woman in town won’t sleep with the preacher but will with the guy singing “Sweet Home Chicago,” the Devil must be at work here. And believe me, Robert was popular with the ladies… The preachers finally began to decry Johnson and blues music as the work of the Devil. And like that cigarette warning label, it probably helped his career.

It was a similar case in the 50s. When what we now call rock n roll sprung up it terrified the conservative establishment. Those folks thrive on fear in the masses. Fear divides us and keeps us docile to the powers that be. Preachers and elder statesmen in the 50s were decrying this new music as the work of the Devil to scare parents. It worked, to a degree. Frightened parents tried to keep their kids away from that primal music. Again I think they were particularly frightened of how women were reacting. Most of our history revolves around keeping women down, if you think about it. Why else would they insist that the Ed Sullivan Show only film the King from the waist up? Elvis the Pelvis as he was known. Anything that sexual has to be bad… at least it did in 50s, Eisenhower America where the female orgasm was still a myth. I’m beginning to think the Devil is the tool of the establishment. If anything parents trying to keep rock n roll away from their kids, making it seem more illicit, made the rebellious music take off like they couldn’t imagine. I know Frank Sinatra was dismayed. By the time the 60s hit, rock n roll helped lead a youth rebellion.

I remember Zeppelin was supposedly Satanic. Anybody that big had to be “in league with Lucifer.” I knew a girl in Arkansas who took my friend Doug and I out to a spot outside of town that she claimed was frequented by Devil worshipers. She said they all sat around listening to Zeppelin. I couldn’t help but think, why not Sabbath? Anyway, these “Devil worshipers” had written “Serve Satin” on the rock wall. I was like, “Satin? Like the sheets?” The young lady said they misspelled Satan’s name as “Satin” because it furthered their blasphemy. Sigh. Maybe they should have furthered their education to work on their spelling? Zeppelin’s lead guitar player Jimmy Page was into the occult and owned the former house of occultist Aleister Crowley. They had songs like “Black Dog” and “In My Time Of Dying” that scared people. This was the 70s where films like The Exorcist and Omen were current hits. There was always scary black dogs running around chewing up the good guys, Rottweilers if I’m not mistaken. Doug’s mother was fond of the movie Devil Dog, Hound of Hell. It was Zeppelin’s iconic track “Stairway To Heaven” that got the attention of everybody. Supposedly if you spun the record backwards you could hear them say “Here’s to Sweet Satan.” I will admit, when we did this when I was in high school I thought I could hear the word Satan but I think it was a coincidence. I don’t think it was planned. I remember jumping up on the couch in fear but I’m a lover not a religious crusader… yeah, I was scared. ELO made fun of it by doing a backward masking thing on “Fire On High.” When played backwards it said, “The music is reversible but time is not.” I don’t think, despite Page’s dark bent, that Zeppelin had anything to do with Satan.

It was Black Sabbath who realized the value of adopting that whole Evil thing. Instead of running away from it they realized that calling themselves Black Sabbath and having scary album artwork could actually work in their favor. Embrace the scary evil and it draws people in. So many heavy metal bands have adopted the same stance. It puts them outside the norms of society and makes them seem like outlaws and/or outcasts which is a vibe all teenagers can gravitate toward it. Let’s face it folks, Satan Sells. That’s why you’ve got Motley Crue singing “Shout At The Devil,” and people like Rob Zombie out there doing whatever you call what he does. We used to laugh at Iron Maiden and their mascot Eddie. We called them, amongst others, “Scary Monster Rock.” But you know what, they were the ones laughing all the way to the bank. The Devil is actually an accountant in a three-piece suit.

The next time you hear your grandmother or some preacher telling you that rock music – if anybody even remembers rock music anymore – is the tool of the Devil, please laugh that off. It’s the most preposterous thing in the world. Anytime the establishment wants to scare you away from something, run toward it. I’m going to spend my weekend cranking Iggy Pop’s new album Every Loser and anything by Jeff Beck, who just passed, that I can get my hands off. Because Jeff Beck played that Devil’s guitar better than almost anybody out there.

Be safe out there but break some rules this weekend. Be naughty because it feels so nice.

Cheers!

Jeff Beck, Guitar Legend, Has Passed Away At 78 – RIP Jeff Beck – Yardbirds, The Jeff Beck Group, ‘Blow By Blow’ – Such A Tremendous Loss

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*Image of Jeff Beck in 2014 above taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

I was in my home office trying to knock out a laborious task for my corporate masters when I took a break to look on-line to see if anything of note had happened today. To be honest, I wanted to check the news and to look at some rock n roll stuff. It was then that I saw the sad news that guitar legend Jeff Beck had passed away from meningitis. Then I read it was a hoax, then I read it was the truth, Beck had passed. Damn internet. It was then that my friend, drummer Blake, reached out with the news. It is with a heavy heart I type these words: Jeff Beck has passed at the young age of 78 years old from a sudden bought of meningitis. He was simply one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine had him in the top 5 all time if that means anything to you. He ranks up there with Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix for me. He could bend the strings…

Obviously, I am a huge fan of Jeff Beck. He had a guitar tone that was instantly recognizable. As most people know, he was one of the “Big 3” guitarist who played in the seminal English, blues rock band The Yardbirds. The Yardbirds started with Clapton on lead guitar but he quit because of his “blues purism.” He thought the band was moving too far into “pop.” Jeff Beck then came in to replace him. Eventually Jimmy Page joined the band. Imagine that dual lead guitar line up – Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck! Eventually they fired Beck and kept Page. Jeff could be, uh, mercurial. After the blues purism of Clapton, Jeff Beck really opened up what the Yardbirds’ sound. If you listen to “Heart Full of Soul” you can hear the psychedelia entering the picture. I think that was the song they’d hired a sitar player to play on, but they didn’t like the sound so Jeff just played the riff it on guitar. There was little he couldn’t do with the instrument. Coincidentally Ozzy Osbourne was able to recruit both Jeff Beck and Clapton to play on his album Patient Number 9 and had actually reached out to Page to play on the record, but he declined. As Meatloaf sang, “Two out of three (Yardbirds’ guitarists) ain’t bad.” Beck plays on the title track (Review: Ozzy Osbourne’s New Song Patient Number 9 With Jeff Beck! On Guitar) of the album and one other song.

After leaving the Yardbirds Jeff formed his own band, The Jeff Beck Group. Guitarists were a huge draw and Beck was to be the focus of the band so they used his name to cash in on his Yardbirds fame. He recruited Ronnie Wood (later of the Faces and Rolling Stones) to play bass guitar and Rod Stewart as his lead vocalist. The theory was Jeff’s guitar would pull the guys into shows and good looking Rod Stewart would draw the women. Jimmy Page, who took Beck’s job in the Yardbirds stole that very blueprint for Led Zepplin with Robert Plant. I loved the Jeff Beck Group and posted on them years ago: Artist Lookback: The (Original) Jeff Beck Group: Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood. They only hung together for 2 albums, Truth and Beckola before constant touring and treating Wood & Stewart like sidemen broke the band up. Ronnie Wood joined the Faces on his chosen instrument, guitar. Rod went solo but soon joined Woody in the Faces. The album Truth is one of the most influential albums in blues rock. It’s a stunning record. I could listen to their version of Howlin Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” and “Blues De Luxe” all day long. “Blues De Luxe” is on my “Rockers Playing the Blues” playlist. The Jeff Beck Group was supposed to play Woodstock but Jeff, who was fond of fast cars, was in a car accident and they couldn’t play. I still wonder to this day what would have happened if they’d made that iconic gig.

After the Yardbirds and the original Jeff Beck Group a lot of people may have lost track of Beck. He formed a couple of different bands and put out records. He carried on as the Jeff Beck Group with an all new line up he put together that included Cozy Powell on drums and Bobby Tench on vocals. Then in 1973 he formed Beck, Bogert, Appice with Tim Bogert on bass and Carmine Appice on drums. Carmine’s little brother Vinny played with the Dio fronted Black Sabbath on Mob Rules. Beck, Bogart, Appice did a version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” on that record that inspired Stevie Ray Vaughn to cover it years later.

While that was already an incredible resume, in the middle 70s Beck decided to eschew working with a vocalist and put out two of the greatest guitar instrumental records ever. In 1975 he put out Blow By Blow which is another personal favorite. He covered the Beatles song “She’s A Woman.” He has a guitar solo titled “Constipated Duck” which may win the most preposterous song title award. He also covers Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” to wonderful effect. He worked with keyboardist Max Middleton who had been in the second incarnation of the Jeff Beck Group and it’s just a great LP. It almost feels like Jazz. He came back in 1976 with Wired, which I believe may be drummer Blake’s favorite. It was also produced by George Martin. They do a cover of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” which is worth the price of admission.

After those highlights I have to admit my knowledge of Jeff’s work is spotty. I remember hearing his version of “People Get Ready” with Rod Stewart and it’s a sublime track:

I know he also guested on Stewart’s LP Camouflage and joined the tour but quit only a few shows in. I know Rod and Jeff Beck talked about trying to record together again for years after that – up until just recently – but they couldn’t get it together. Rod wanted to do blues stuff and Jeff’s musical tastes couldn’t be confined to the blues. It was a missed opportunity if you ask me. Their relationship was a rocky one. As Jeff said when he inducted Rod into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, “Rod and I have a love-hate relationship. He loves me and I hate him.”

While I lost touch a bit with Jeff’s work over the years I know he did quite a few critically acclaimed records over the years like Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop and Who Else!. Drummer Blake turned me onto the video – that I recommend highly – Live At Ronnie Scott’s. If you watch the audience on that DVD you’ll spot all kinds of rock royalty there to listen to Jeff’s guitar wizardry. While I didn’t keep up as much with his solo work, he was a guest guitarist on so many other artist’s records: Mick Jagger, Ozzy, Paul Rodgers and Roger Waters just to name a few. His amazing guitar skills were much sought after.

Rock and roll in the 60s was built on the backs of guitar giants like Jeff Beck. Of the three Yardbirds guitarists, Jeff probably gets the least attention. His records – from the Yardbirds to the Jeff Beck Group to his solo stuff – should be on everyone’s turntable.

It may be a Wednesday night – and I avoid drinking on weeknights – but tonight I see a tumbler of the good stuff with Truth, Blow By Blow, Wired and Beckola on the stereo. “I’ve been drinkin’ again, thinkin of when you left me.” We’ve lost a true legend today, and way too soon. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “The guy could play.”

RIP Jeff Beck, guitar legend, 24 June 1944 – 10 January 2023. It’s a sad day indeed. You will be missed.

Time is short folks. Cherish every day.

Cheers!

Playlist…We Kick Off 2023 By… Looking Back 50 Years – 1973

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I know we’re already a few days into this brand spanking new year and I may be late on this, but let me wish all of you a Happy New Year! It’s 2023 which when I was kid would have sounded like a date from the reruns of Star Trek we all watched religiously after school… I can almost hear Captain Kirk saying, “Star Date 2023… and I’ve just met a captivating green woman…” I don’t know if other families are like mine when it comes to Christmas, but right around Thanksgiving the Rock Chick suddenly morphs into Mrs. Claus. A tree pops up fully decorated and there are lights strung everywhere. Suddenly gone from the stereo are the latest LPs from the Cult or Bush replaced by (gads) Mariah Carey and Bing Crosby. Xmas is a terribly frightful time for me even if I am a reformed Grinch. I only like a little of the Xmas music…so I suffer most of it. But once the relatives have gone home and our daughter heads to the airport the Rock Chick shuts Xmas down like somebody threw a light switch or a referee has blown a whistle. Down comes the tree and the lights. The forest of poinsettias gets mowed down like somebody struck oil in the living room. That’s one thing about the Rock Chick, she’s not sentimental. Once Christmas passes, it’s pull off the red, green and white band-aid time.

Then we enter that weird week between Xmas and New Year’s Day. The Rock Chick, who literally single-handedly does everything for Xmas, sort of collapses in exhaustion. I wander around the house wondering which day of the week it is. It’s during this time that I go into a deep fog of heavy reflection. Typically that produces my year end “best of” list for the previous 12 months and 2022 was no exception. But of course the range of my reflection goes well beyond just music. I ruminate over tumblers of dark, murky liquids about everything. I think most people get a little reflective during that week between the holidays…nothing to do at work, might as well ruminate. There’s nothing that reminds us more of the ticking of the clock than the end of one year and the beginning of the next. As Jackson Browne famously sang, “I’ve been aware of the time going by, they say in the end it’s a wink of an eye.” Questions like “What did I accomplish this year?” or “How far have I come in life?” are naturally rolling around our heads during that time.

Then New Year’s Day hits and everyone is slightly hungover and it’s time to look forward towards the future. People start asking different questions like “What will I accomplish this year?” or “How can I improve myself this year?” and so on. This is the time that everybody starts making New Year’s Resolutions. I usually do the dreaded “Dry January,” but not this year. Dry January was easy to do when the Kansas City Chiefs weren’t competitive. Now that they’re in the playoffs most January’s it’s virtually impossible for me to stay completely sober down the stretch. I have to do my part to help them win, which typically means consuming beer and pacing in front of the TV.  I considered giving up coffee but… why? I have noticed my local gym is now packed with new people and will likely remain so until mid-February when all of this New Year/New Me mania wears off.

While most people start thinking about the future I can’t help myself, I’m always a little stuck in that reflective mode in January, looking backward. I’ve come to realize over the years that the only thing I can change about the past is how I look at it or how I react to it which helps frame it (or perhaps tame it is more appropriate). Naturally all of this reflection eventually leads me back to music. A couple of years ago (2021) I read an article about 1971 being the greatest year ever in music. Many of the albums released in ’71 were celebrating 50th anniversaries and I have to admit it was an amazing year for music. I actually put together a 1971 Playlist culled from those landmark LPs released that year and really enjoyed doing so. Last year, 2022, I looked back again to 1972 (complete with playlist) and again, I really enjoyed it. 1971 to me was really the last gasp of the era we identify as the 60’s and 1972, to me anyway, was the real birth of the 70s. I don’t subscribe to the theory that when the calendar goes from a year that ends in “9” to a year that ends in “0” music and culture just change on a dime. There’s usually a slow fade of one decade and a slow blossoming of the new.

In that spirit, I thought I’d look back 50 years again, this time to 1973. Let me be real clear though, in 1973 I was still counting years in single digits. I had very few clear memories from ’71 or even ’72. 1973 is the first year I can admit to remembering… well, I remember hearing some of the songs on this list anyway. So much of this music from 1973 was in high rotation when I started listening to music years later, it’s almost iconic. I joked when listening to all that great music from 1971 I needed a leather, fringe jacket ala David Crosby to satisfy my hippy Jones. Listening to music from ’73 makes me remember riding around in mom’s green Ford with the AM radio cranked. What I’d need to celebrate my 70s Jones would probably be a polyester leisure suit that curiously matches what my brother has on.

1973 was such a tumultuous time for the world. It started off on a bummer when Nixon was inaugurated for his second term. Even then Watergate hung over his Administration. Later in the year we saw what is now known as the Saturday Night Massacre where Nixon fired his Attorney General and Deputy AG in order to circumvent the rule of law. Fun times. OPEC started an oil embargo and I remember seeing long lines at gas stations. The Vietnam Peace was still being negotiated in Paris. Thug Spiro Agnew resigned as the VP of the U.S. and was replaced with clumsy Gerald Ford. Pinochet came to power in Chile to tragic consequences. There was a war in the Middle East on Yom Kippur. George Foreman beat Joe Frazier and became the heavy weight champ… Ali was watching and working up his rope-a-dope act even then I suppose. The Godfather, one of my absolute favorite movies came out that year. I still like to say, when something’s gone wrong, “You have to answer for Santino, Carlo.” We’d shifted away from the hippy good vibes of the 60s and the Me Generation took root. It all sounds like a drag… at least we had some great music in 1973.

There were a lot of great, legendary artists who put out their debut albums in 1973: Springsteen (who put out 2 LPs that year), Aerosmith, Tom Waits, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Queen. Talk about a list of artists who shaped the 70s, that’s it. Many artists put out 2 LPs in ’73: Elton John, Al Green, Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac (in pre-Buckingham/Nicks configuration), Bob Marley and Bowie. We got great LPs from huge acts like Zeppelin and the Who which didn’t happen in ’72. All four ex-Beatles put out solo LPs in ’73 as did other acts who emerged from 60s bands: Paul Simon, Gram Parsons (posthumously), David Ruffin, and Stephen Stills (with Manassas). The world discovered Bob Marley & the Wailers as they started their time with Island Records and went international. While many may crinkle their noses at 1973 as compared to ’71 or ’72, I have to admit there were so many great albums put out in that year I had over 110 songs to start this thing. I had to make really hard choices to winnow it down to these 70 tracks because as wonderful as my pithy comments on the tracks are, no one wants to read 110 song comments… That many great albums has gotta say something about the quality of the music from ’73. And I didn’t even include anything from Neil Young’s Time Fades Away or Bob Seger’s Back In ’72 because neither of those albums are available on Spotify…

As usual I based this list on tracks from LPs released in ’73. If a song was released in ’72 and reigned the charts in ’73 you won’t find it here. I’m into LPs. There are a few exceptions – singles I couldn’t resist putting on here – but they were all released in 1973. I tend to gravitate toward deep tracks but for ’73 I put more “hit” songs on here than usual. You can find this playlist on Spotify under “BourbonAndVinyl. 1973” and as always if you have additions you’d like me to make, mention them in the comments and I’ll add them on the Spotify list. I always look at these playlists as “our” playlists. I always play these on “shuffle.”

  1. Bruce Springsteen, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., “Spirit In The Night” – From the Boss’ debut. A group of youngsters go out to a local lake and party.
  2. Aerosmith, Aerosmith, “Dream On” – This song, which didn’t really get popular until a few years later when Aerosmith broke big in 75/76 may have invented the power ballad.
  3. Little Feat, Dixie Chicken, “Dixie Chicken” – I love Little Feat and this is their most famous song. Boy meets girl, girl leaves with a guitar player… a story as old as time.
  4. Elton John, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, “Elderberry Wine” – I went with this deep track that I’d also used on our Drinking Playlist because it’s one of my favorite Elton deep tracks. I like the line, “the bottle went round like a woman down south, passed on from hand to hand.”
  5. Gram Parsons, G.P., “She” – Gram Parsons, a Southerner, writing about his mama and how she could sing.
  6. Deep Purple, Who Do We Think We Are, “Woman From Tokyo” – One of my favorites from Deep Purple.
  7. Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” – I could have picked about any track off this album, my favorite from Alice Cooper. It does sort of capture the Alice persona.
  8. The Stooges, Raw Power, “Search And Destroy” – Iggy Pop and the Stooges with an iconic hard rock song that helped inspire a lot of punk bands.
  9. Dr. John, In The Right Place, “Right Place Wrong Time” – Sadly, we lost Dr. John recently (2020). B.B. King later did a nice cover of this. I have literally always been in the right place at the wrong time.
  10. Dusty Springfield, Cameo, “Tupelo Honey” – Dusty covering Van Morrison. Not as epic as the original but still a great song.
  11. David Ruffin, David Ruffin, “(If Lovin’ You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” – The former front man of the Temptations and one of my favorite singers. Rod Stewart covered this song later in the 70s and hearing this you can absolutely hear the influence.
  12. Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon, “Money” – The album that changed everything for Pink Floyd. Iconic.
  13. The Doobie Brothers, The Captain And Me, “Dark Eyed Cajun Lady” – I went with this deep track vs the myriad hits on the album as it’s just a great country rock track.
  14. Tom Waits, Closing Time, “Ol’ 55” – I love this LP, but I’m partial to debut LPs. This version is so much better than the one by the Eagles done a few years later.
  15. The Byrds, The Byrds, “Full Circle” – From the final reunion of the original members of the Byrds. It was a dud commercially but this is a great Gene Clark song.
  16. Led Zeppelin, Houses Of The Holy, “Over The Hills And Far Away” – Probably the best known track from the album. I almost went with “The Ocean” a favorite of the Rock Chick.
  17. Faces, Ooh La La, “Cindy Incidentally” – The Faces’ last gasp. It was the single, although the title track should have been. This LP is much better than it’s reputation.
  18. Fleetwood Mac, Penguin, “Remember Me” – A really pretty track from the late Christine McVie.
  19. Johnny Winter, Still Alive And Well, “Silver Train” – Johnny shaking his magic blues dust on a Stones track. Great Stones cover.
  20. J. Geils Band, Bloodshot, “Give It To Me” – This track starts off with a reggae vibe and turns into a guitar jam. It’s loose and perfect.
  21. David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, “The Jean Genie” – A song I used to nickname my good friend Jeanne… Aladdin Sane gets attention for it’s iconic cover, but trust me, pull the record out and put it on the turntable. I almost picked “Panic In Detroit” from this one.
  22. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Catch A Fire, “Stir It Up” – If you haven’t explored Marley any deeper than the greatest hits Legend, you need to. Start with this LP.
  23. Eagles, Desperado, “Tequila Sunrise” – From the second album. I left the title track for Linda Ronstadt below.
  24. Stephen Stills (Manassas), Down The Road, “Isn’t It About Time” – The second Manassas LP gets overlooked but this is a great Stills tune.
  25. Wings (Paul McCartney), Red Rose Speedway, “My Love” – From the first of 2 albums in ’73. Paul waxing on about his love does him good.
  26. Al Green, Call Me, “Call Me (Come Back Home)” – Even when he’s singing a break up song, Al sounds happy. One of his best tracks here.
  27. The Marshall Tucker Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, “Can’t You See” – Still one of my favorite train songs.
  28. Paul Simon, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, “Kodachrome” –  I can close my eyes when I hear this and I’m in the back seat of mom’s car as she careens through traffic.
  29. George Harrison, Living In The Material World, “Give Me Love, (Give Me Peace On Earth)” – If you remove the ex-Beatle expectations Harrison faced, this album would have been much bigger. It’s fantastic a real gem.
  30. Joe Walsh, The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get, “Rocky Mountain Way” – One of the greatest rock anthems of all time.
  31. Sly & The Family Stone, Fresh, “If You Want Me To Stay” – I’m not a huge Sly fan but I’ve always loved this track.
  32. Bob Dylan, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (Soundtrack), “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Dylan’s iconic song later covered by Eric Clapton, Guns N Roses, and Warren Zevon to name a few.
  33. Queen, Queen, “Keep Yourself Alive” – I forget how hard Queen rocked in those early days.
  34. Grand Funk Railroad, We’re An American Band, “We’re An American Band” – A little patriotic rock n roll!
  35. ZZ Top, Tres Hombres, “La Grange” – From their best LP.
  36. New York Dolls, New York Dolls, “Personality Crisis” – I love the New York Dolls. This is basically early American punk rock.
  37. Steely Dan, Countdown To Ecstacy, “My Old School” – One of Steely’s best tracks from their second album. It’s based on a true story when Messrs Becker and Fagan were in college.
  38. Golden Earring, Moontan, “Radar Love” – This is one of those rock anthems that grabbed me in ’73 even before I’d started listening to music. I think this band had only 2 hits and this one is my favorite.
  39. Stevie Wonder, Innervisions, “Higher Ground” – Later covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers which the Rock Chick likes better. Don’t tell her but I’m partial to the original.
  40. Lynyrd Skynyrd, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), “Gimme Three Steps” – Great song about talking to the wrong woman in a bar.
  41. The Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” – I could have gone with “Angie” but we’ve all heard that one 100 times.
  42. The Allman Brothers Band, Brothers And Sisters, “Jessica” – Their finest instrumental. I love when the piano solo kicks in, played by Chuck Leavell who later played with Eric Clapton and the Stones. I could have gone with “Ramblin’ Man” but this is a personal favorite.
  43. Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On, “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin has left behind the worldy concerns of 1971’s What’s Going On for more…temporal concerns.
  44. Van Morrison, Hard Nose The Highway, “Warm Love” – A great song from an uneven album.
  45. Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” – An epic that became a concert staple for years. This is my absolute favorite Springsteen album.
  46. Thin Lizzy, Vagabonds Of The Western World, “Whiskey In A Jar” – Thin Lizzy never got their due. This track was later covered by Metallica.
  47. Linda Ronstadt, Don’t Cry Now, “Desperado” – It was Ronstadt’s cover of “Desperado” that helped make the song a hit for the Eagles.
  48. Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, “Bennie And The Jets” – From his second legendary LP of the year. I could have picked almost any track on the album but I’m partial to this one for sentimental reasons.
  49. Fleetwood Mac, Mystery To Me, “Hypnotized” – This one is a great track from Bob Welch.
  50. Grateful Dead, Wake Of The Flood, “Eyes Of The World” – I had to have some Dead on here. It’s 1973.
  51. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Burnin’, “Get Up, Stand Up” – I may like Burnin’ even better than Catch A Fire.
  52. Montrose, Montrose, “Bad Motor Scooter” – The world’s introduction to Sammy Hagar. A young lad is afraid of his girlfriend’s dad but still wants her to come out for a motorcycle ride.
  53. Steve Miller Band, The Joker, “The Joker” – A song that takes me back to college… but those records are sealed.
  54. Peter Frampton, Frampton’s Camel, “Do You Feel Like We Do” – Frampton never seemed to find the magic in the studio but the more I go back and listen to original versions of tunes that we all heard live for the first time on Frampton Comes Alive the more I like them.
  55. Rick Derringer, All American Boy, “Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo” – A song he originally did when he was in the Johnny Winter band.
  56. Jackson Browne, For Everyman, “These Days” – Jackson’s 2nd album was mostly comprised of songs he’d written for other people prior to getting his own record contract. “These Days” had been covered by Nico and Gregg Allman and is truly one of his greatest songs.
  57. Gregg Allman, Laid Back, “Midnight Rider” – A complete re-imagining of the original. I probably like the band version better but I love this version as well.
  58. Ringo Starr, Ringo, “Photograph” – It’s nice to think that Ringo used to have hits.
  59. J. Geils Band, Ladies Invited, “The Lady Makes Demands” – Another great song from J Geils Band. They were just too loose and groovy in the early days to hit it bit. Too bad, it’s all great music.
  60. Paul McCartney & Wings, Live And Let Die Soundtrack, “Live And Let Die” – The name is Bond, James Bond.
  61. Billy Joel, Piano Man, “Piano Man” – From his second album which is considered his debut by many. Autobiographical.
  62. John Lennon, Mind Games, “Mind Games” – Lennon’s solo work is often called “uneven,” but I love this song.
  63. Alice Cooper, Muscle Of Love, “Teenage Lament ’74” – A ballad from their second LP of the year.
  64. Electric Light Orchestra, On The Third Day, “Showdown” – I like to give my friend Doug shit about being an ELO fan but I love this song. A lover telling his lady, “there’s gonna be a showdown” baby. Sadly been there.
  65. Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” – Such a great, heavy tune. Their first five LPs are perfect.
  66. Wings (Paul McCartney), Band On The Run, “Jet” – Again, I could have picked any song on this album. I just like this one.
  67. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, “If You Wanna Get To Heaven” – I live too close to the Ozarks not to have included this one. I took this as gospel… so I raised a little Hell. Well, maybe a lot of Hell.
  68. Sweet, Released as a single, “Ballroom Blitz” – A great great single. Iconic.
  69. T. Rex, Released as a single, “20th Century Boy” – I’ve only recently gotten on the T Rex bandwagon but I think this is one of their best songs outside of “Bang A Gong.”
  70. The Who, Quadrophenia, “Love Reign O’er Me” – The perfect end for this playlist and the album it came from. I remember feeling this way once upon a time…

There it is folks, 1973 in song. Again, if I missed one of your favorites – and believe me I had to remove a bunch of songs and this is still my longest playlist ever – just mention your tune in the comments and I’ll add it to the playlist.

Again, Happy New Year and I hope that 2023 is a serene and happy year for everybody.

B&V’s Best of 2022: Our Favorite New LPs & Vault/Re-Released/Live Releases

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The beginning of every year is like a rebirth. It’s always something new and different despite U2’s old insistence that “nothing changes on New Year’s Day.” Whether it’s changes at work or the implementation of self-improving New Year’s Resolutions, the New Year always seems to bring the possibility of exciting change and rejuvenation and 2022 was no exception on that front. For me this year, I moved to a new residence, completely changed my job responsibilities at work (reducing my stress) and spent those early days in 2022 listening to David Bowie’s vault release Toy. No matter how different every New Year’s beginning seems to be, the end of each year tends to be exactly the same for me and like the beginning of the year, 2022’s end is no exception on that front either. Every year after the dreaded Christmas Holiday passes I find myself stuffed with leftovers and floating around the house like I’m Baron Harkonnen from Dune with a mug full of what remains of the eggnog, mired in reflection. Here it is the waning days of 2022 and I’m back in the same old mindset I was in last year…and the year before that one…and the one before that one, and so on… It’s like those old cartoons with Father Time holding Baby New Year to symbolize the passage of time. I hate to think of the end of the year is the opposite of the rebirth we feel on New Year’s Day… what would we even call that? But I have to admit with each passing year I hear Hannibal Lecter in my ear saying “Tick tock, Clarice.” It was Steve Miller who sang, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future,” and I can verify, he wasn’t kidding. Maybe that’s why I also spent early 2022 listening to my playlist of songs from 1972…always looking both forward and backwards.

I feel like I was happier in 2022 but there were so many bad things that happened over the course of this year. I’m still staggered that in the year 2022 there was a land war started in Europe. The immoral, illegal and insane Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a cloud over the entire year. There were elections in many countries that gave us uniformly terrible commercials and mixed results. The shadow of authoritarianism still lurks strong in the world. The world population reached 8 billion this year which sounds like too many people and yet we aren’t taking very good care of this planet of ours… there is no Planet B folks. In the world of rock n roll we lost the beautiful voice of Christine McVie who seemed like the only nice person in Fleetwood Mac. We lost so many other rockers, some who I wasn’t a big fan of: Meatloaf, Jerry Lee Lewis and Olivia Newton John and some who I liked: drummer Alan White of Yes, Ronnie “The Hawk” Hawkins who was backed by the Band when they were young and Pub Rock guitarist Wilko Johnson.

At least we had music. With the pandemic mostly behind us I finally got to return to going to concerts semi-regularly. I saw the Cult in both Denver and Kansas City, Starcrawler in a small venue, and I returned to my first big arena show in 3 years, Roger Waters. I can’t overstate how great it is to be standing in a darkened room – whether it’s a 20,000 seat arena or a bar – with like-minded rockers, facing the stage, arms raised and singing along. Although admittedly I feel sorry for anybody whose within earshot of my belting out any tune. There were some big acts who didn’t release albums but gifted us with a single this year. Beck covered Neil Young’s great song “Old Man.” Unfortunately it was for an NFL commercial and we know Neil hates rock n roll being used in commercials (crank up “This Notes For You” if you doubt me). It was still a great cover but then I love cover songs. And speaking of covers, Stevie Nicks dropped a cover of the Stephen Stills penned, Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth.” With women’s rights being infringed upon from Iran to Ohio it’s a very resonant version and one that the Rock Chick surprisingly loved. Best of all, Pink Floyd reunited for the first time since 2014 (well, David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason anyway, Roger Waters was clearly not invited) to release a protest song to raise money for the Ukrainians, “Hey, Hey, Rise Up.” Other than Beck these great songs were done in support of something important proving that rock n roll remains a force for good in the world.

As I do every year in this reflective mood, looking back on the year that was, I can’t help but compile lists of my favorite albums of the year. It was a really nice year for rock n roll and many artists put out new albums. A few acts like Springsteen and the Smashing Pumpkins managed to somehow disappoint me. Like the past few years the vaults of some of our favorite classic rockers opened up and we got to hear unreleased gems, enhanced anniversary versions, and overlooked live performances from long ago. As I did last year, I split these lists between the new albums and the vault/live/re-released stuff. This year there were two EPs that I didn’t include on these lists of LPs, but deserve honorable mention as some of my favorite music of the year: The Black Crowes released a great EP of cover songs from 1972 (“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” might be my favorite) and Billy Idol released an EP of his best music in years, The Cage. Check out both of those!

Without further delay, here is our look back at the year that was 2022. These are in no particular order and this is not to be seen as a ranking… and as usual, please, no wagering. Maybe once I get these 2022 lists out of my system I’ll be free to look forward into 2023…

B&V Best New Albums of 2022 – New Music

  • Eddie Vedder, EarthlingEddie has always seemed a reluctant solo artist. He’s released stray singles, a soundtrack album and a full album of songs on ukulele so this feels like his first actual solo album. Produced by my current favorite producer Andrew Watt this is a great LP that shows the range of the things Eddie can do.
  • Scorpions, Rock BelieverA blast of classic 80s style hard rock/heavy metal. These guys still have plenty left in the tank and this album was great start to finish.
  • Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, External CombustionIf you’re like me and you miss Tom Petty, his guitarist Mike Campbell can scratch that itch for you. This is good, straight up rock n roll which we can all use these days.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, Unlimited Love and The Return of the Dream CanteenMy Chili Pepper cup runneth over this year. The lads in the RHCPs celebrated the return of guitarist John Frusciante with not one but two double albums. As the cliche goes, there was probably a great single album lurking in each of these records but I’ll take all the Chili Peppers I can get. If pressed I’d probably say the better album was Dream Canteen, but there is plenty to like across the 34 new songs over both LPs. Only Prince would release this volume of music at one time…
  • Black Keys, Dropout BoogieThe Black Keys are so consistently good they don’t always get the attention they deserve. This was a great record and should be played at max volume.
  • Jack White, Entering Heaven AliveLike the Chilis, Jack White was prolific in 2022 and released two LPs. The first LP, Fear of the Dawn, was a crazy sound experiment that I just couldn’t connect to. I did like the single “Taking Me Back,” but felt I shouldn’t comment on the album as a whole, such was my dislike. This second, less experimental, mostly acoustic album was the best thing White had done in years. I knew from the first single, “If I Die Tomorrow” this was going to be a classic Jack White album.
  • Ozzy Osbourne, Patient Number 9This is another one produced by Andrew Watt (keep an eye on that guy) and features a laundry list of great guitarists: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi, Zakk Wylde, and Mike McCready. A true heavy metal feast! Rumor has it Ozzy tried to get Jimmy Page to play on a song (which would have given Ozzy the ex-Yardbird trifecta) but alas he declined.
  • The Cult, Under the Midnight SunA truly sublime listening experience. They’ve come a long way from “Fire Woman” but I find what the Cult do a fascinating listen. I like to play this thing as a whole vs just a track at a time.
  • Bush, The Art of Survival – I had almost forgotten about these guys and then they release this heavy riff gem. If you’ve given up on Bush, give this album a spin, it will change your mind. They aren’t surviving, they’re thriving.
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse, World RecordNeil & Crazy Horse (Nils Lofgren/guitar, Billy Talbot/bass, Ralph Molina/drums) return with their third winning LP in a row. This one is focused on the Ecology but also has a 10-plus minute jam about a Chevy. Who’d have expected Neil would be having a creative resurgence this far down the road?

B&V Best Archive/Re-Releases/Box Sets/Live Albums

  • David Bowie, Toy (Box Set)Early in the millennium Bowie went back and rerecorded songs he’d written back in the 60s. He got push back from the record company so went back to the studio and recorded the amazing Heathen. Toy was often bootlegged but finally saw the light of day with this great box that also has demos and different takes on the songs. Bowie was clearly enjoying revisiting these obscure tunes from his early songwriting days.
  • Keith Richards, Main Offender 30th AnniversaryKeef revisiting his oft overlooked but still sensational second LP complete with an unreleased concert. The X-Pensive Winos always brought it live.
  • Rush, Moving Pictures 40th Anniversary Deluxe EditionRevisiting Rush’s masterpiece 1981 album. This box has a complete concert from the accompany tour which puts Exit Stage Left to shame. The live disc is worth the price of admission.
  • The Rolling Stones, Live At the El Mocambo – This legendary club show recorded in 1979 finally sees the light of day! The Stones are loose in a club setting but play like the hungry young kids who took over London’s blues rock movement of the 60s. This is a must for Stones fans.
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse, ToastAnother lost LP from the vaults for Neil with Crazy Horse. He went in and cut these songs but felt they were too personal to release so shelved the album. He ended up doing lesser versions of some of the songs for the album Are You Passionate? but to me these versions with the Horse are definitive. I love Neil’s vaults are releasing a torrent of previously unreleased music!
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival, Royal Albert Hall, April 14, 1970The Beatles had just broken up and CCR arrive in London for their first concert tour of Europe and proceed to tear the roof off the Royal Albert Hall like it was a Mississippi juke joint.
  • The Beatles, Revolver – Super DeluxeThe Beatles masterpiece, where they really came into their own in the studio, with outtakes and early versions of the tracks. The stereo version of the album here produced by Giles Martin (George’s son) may be the definitive version but just in case the mono version is included too.
  • Guns N Roses, Use Your Illusions Box SetWhile it lacks any unreleased studio stuff (which is disappointing) the two concerts from that era/tour are worth it. I like the New York show better than Vegas… but you decide. It’s a mess but it’s a hot mess.
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, L.A. Forum April 26. 1969 (Live)The Hendrix Experience were just that – an experience – especially when you saw them live. That’s why every show recorded is worth a listen. This is a very jam forward set for a very unruly crowd and some very uncomfortable cops.
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Live At the Fillmore 1997Great compilation of live cuts from their legendary 20-night residency at the Fillmore West in San Francisco in Jan – Feb 1997. They scrap the arena set lists and play a ton of covers and deep tracks with unbridled joy. A must have for Petty fans and perhaps their greatest live document.
  • Paul McCartney, 7′ Singles Box (*Streaming Only) – I considered listing this one under “honorable mention” but it deserves at least a mention here. I would never recommend anybody paying $600 for a crate full of vinyl singles. But streaming these 159 songs gave me a real appreciation of how ingrained in my rock n roll life McCartney has been. There are some b-sides you may not get into… skip em. The overall body of work is extraordinary.

There you have it, our “best of 2022.” I hope everybody had a great Xmas and that some of these gems were wrapped under the tree for you. I hope everybody had a good and safe ’22. While I’m still looking backward in this reflective mood I’m in, I’m actually really looking forward to 2023. We already know we’ll see releases from Iggy Pop and Metallica in the near term, they’ve both released singles (“Frenzy” and “Lux AEterna” respectively). I appreciate everybody’s continued support and reading of B&V. I hope ’23 brings all of you only good things!

Happy & Safe New Year to all of you. See you next year at B&V and of course, Cheers!

Review: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, ‘Live At the Fillmore, 1997’ – A Truly Joyous Rock N Roll Live Album!

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I wish I could tell you how happy I am about finally having Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Live at the Fillmore, 1997 to listen to. In the interest of full disclosure I can’t tell you that I’m holding this live box set in my hands yet… The sketchy character known as “Santa” is supposed to bring it to me. I have a strong feeling that it’s wrapped and under my tree already. In that sense I do own it right now but I just can’t get to it for another few weeks… 12 days and counting. I will say, if you haven’t asked Santa for this music you best get on the horn to the North Pole asap and get it on your rock n roll list. In the absence of holding the physical album in my hands I’ve been streaming this amazing live document of a band at one of their true zeniths almost constantly. Other than Neil Young’s latest LP World Record, it’s literally all I’m listening to right now.

Part of the excitement I feel over this package is I can remember Petty, when he was still alive, talking about it. The two projects I’d hear him mention in interviews before we alas, lost him, were a live album culled from their 1997 20-concert residency at San Francisco’s venerable Fillmore theater and the expanded version of Wildflowers that more accurately portrayed his original vision of that record as a double-LP. I have to say that Adria Petty (Tom’s daughter) and whoever else she’s working with has done a nice job on the posthumous releases they’ve done to celebrate the life of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’ll be the first to admit there was some skull-fuckery on her part around Wildflowers And All The Rest. I bought the deluxe 4-CD edition and it didn’t have the B-side everybody wanted, “Girl On LSD.” Well, there was a live version. That song, amongst a few others were held out for inclusion on a bonus “fifth disc” that a bunch of people spent a lot more money than I did purchasing. Then, chastised, they released that fifth disc separately as Finding Wildflowers. The folks that bought the 5-disc All The Rest were pissed and well, so was I just because Petty was never greedy like that. He once fought the record company to keep his albums priced at $8.98 vs the $9.98 the record company wanted to charge. That part aside, the Wildflowers And All The Rest was ultimately a very satisfying box set.

The other box set Adria (with help from some Heartbreakers, notably guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench) put out to honor Tom – and to release a treasure trove of released and unreleased stuff – was 2018’s American Treasure. Man, do I love that box set. It was truly a different path through Petty’s amazing career than provided by his officially released albums. If you haven’t checked that out yet again, you might wanna call the North Pole. American Treasure finally saw the release of what I consider the definitive version of “Breakdown” recorded live at the Capitol Studios.

Now we finally have the live LP that Petty never got around to releasing, Live At the Fillmore, 1997. While he talked about it occasionally, I’m not sure Petty was a big live LP enthusiast the way we are here at B&V. I remember him describing live albums as being greatest hits played way too fast. As longtime readers know, I love live albums. I actually bought and still own Petty & the Heartbreakers first live album, the double vinyl Pack Up The Plantation. It was from the tour to support Southern Accents and coincidentally was the first tour I actually saw Petty live. I don’t know what took me so long. The whole Plantation theme and the big Confederate Flag as a stage backdrop were probably ill-conceived and Petty said later in his career he had some regrets about that. I really liked that live album but it was overshadowed for most folks as Springsteen released his mammoth live LP Live ’75 to ’85 at around the same time. And while I liked Plantation even I’ll admit I don’t think it’s representative of the true live spirit of the Heartbreakers. They had a horn section and back up singers on that tour and thus on the album. Petty eventually put out an epic live album of his own ala Springsteen with the 5-CD Live Anthology. It remains a favorite here at B&V.

As much as I loved Live Anthology, now that I’ve heard Live At the Fillmore, 1997 I might have to go back and change my post on our favorite live LPs, BourbonAndVinyl Comes Alive: The Epic List Of Essential Live Albums to include this one. When the Heartbreakers decided to hole up for a 20 night residency at the Fillmore in San Francisco in early 1997 things were changing a bit for the band. Longtime drummer Stan Lynch had split – last performing on the two bonus tracks on the Greatest Hits album – to be replaced with Steve Ferrone. They’d added multi instrumentalist Scott Thurston somewhere along the line to round out their sound. Luckily bassist Howie Epstein (who also provides delightful harmony vocals) was still with us and plays/sings on this live album. Of course guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench are here in all their glory. The band had just put out their soundtrack Songs and Music From “She’s The One” in August of 1996 and were three years away from recording Echo. These performances were to be the Hearbreakers only live shows in 1997 but man, what shows it sounds like they were.

Instead of the usual set list of songs a band plays on a big tour the Heartbreakers mixed it up quite a bit on this residency. I saw the Stones in ’81 in Houston and and then Kansas City and they played the exact same songs, in the same order and looked utterly bored doing so. I mean, that has to get old right? This is like listening to the best house band ever in a small bar. If I lived out in California I’d have tried to go to as many of these shows as I could have. Instead of playing the usual big hits and time worn crowd favorites Petty and the Heartbreakers turn to playing the music that inspired and influenced them in the first place. You can tell what an absolute kick they get out of that. It’s like a resurgence of energy. The sheer joy pouring out of the speakers on these performances makes this essential Petty listening. It’s like capturing a moment in time forever in amber. Who among us wouldn’t want that? Some people might be put off at the lack of hits here but give me the Heartbreakers honoring Chuck Berry by way of the Stones by blasting through “Around And Around” all day long.

Early on, after blasting through “Jammin’ Me” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream” they crank up Little Richard’s “Lucille” and I am here for it! They follow that up with J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze” and that point on the album they’d played more covers than originals. The band sounds loose and happy but they are tight as Hell here. “I Won’t Back Down” gets an airing but it’s very stripped down. Petty plays “a song (he) learned at camp” which turns out to be “You Are My Sunshine” which leads into a soulful Bill Withers’ cover “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I feel like I’m standing in a bar, beer in hand, jaw agape thinking “I’m glad I came out tonight.” The band takes us in so many wonderful directions here.  They even dip into the early, early Mudcrutch catalog for “On The Street.” They dig pretty deep on the choice of covers with “Hip Hugger,” an instrumental by Booker T. and the MGs. Anything goes! A fan actually calls out a request for “Hearbreakers’ Beach Party” – a Playback obscurity – and the band obliges him and plays the song which Petty admits the band had heretofore never played live.

“Even The Losers” and “American Girl” appear but merely as acoustic renditions which was fine with me! They do the James Bond theme “Goldfinger” which no one wants to acknowledge was a song done by Mike Campbell’s side project (the Blue Stingrays). Eventually they welcome original Byrd Roger McGuinn onto the stage for a mini-Byrds set of tunes. The Heartbreakers were always compared to the Byrds so why not invite Roger to the party. Eventually John Lee Hooker comes out for some smokin’ blues. It’s fantastic and I’m so thrilled they included the guest stars on the record.

You name an influence on the Heartbreakers and there’s probably a song here by them: the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Byrds, Blues music, the Grateful Dead, Them (Van Morrison), the Everly Brothers…the list goes on. This is like Tom and the guys are still just a small band playing the biggest ballroom in Gainesville like back in the early days. There is just so much joy and great music on this live album. There’s so much that is great on this thing I can’t even begin to list it all. I can’t recommend this thing highly enough. It’s been a real treat to let myself get absorbed in these performances. It’s clear to me that Petty and the Heartbreaker’s were at an absolute peak at this stage of the game. Everyone should hear this album. It should be taught to all new bands… learn this great set of rock songs and you’ll always have a job.

Petty says at one point on the album he considered the shows they were doing at the Fillmore as one of the true highlights of his career and goes on to say “It’s going to be hard to get us off the stage…” Thank Heaven it was!

Cheers!

Album Lookback: Wilko Johnson (12 July 1947 – 21 November 2022, RIP) & Roger Daltrey, 2014’s ‘Going Back Home’

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This piece is dedicated to my dear friend T.A. who is heroically battling cancer.

As long time readers know I was inspired to start B&V out of my sheer love of rock n roll music and the joy that it has and continues to bring me. Doing this blog sort of guides my listening. If I’m “researching” an artist or an album it typically means I’m sitting in the B&V music lab sipping something dark and murky, listening to music and prepping my thoughts about it. Although admittedly, events other than LP releases can drive my subject matter. I’ve been away for a week for the American holiday Thanksgiving so I’m a bit behind. This year the Rock Chick informed me we’d be sharing a cabin with our daughter and her boyfriend and his parents “up in the mountains.” Close quarters indeed. Not exactly my “thing.” I mean, I saw Deliverance, rural spaces make me nervous.  Roughing it to me means staying in a hotel without room service… Anyway, I didn’t hear much rock n roll this past week… and I don’t know, I just sort of feel better when music is around (if I may paraphrase the movie Barfly). I did manage to hear Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” one of the greatest songs ever but there weren’t many musical interludes on Thanksgiving.

While I was up in the mountains in this cabin, in what I considered the middle of nowhere, much occurred in the world. Petty released his long awaited live box set Fillmore ’97. Bowie put out another vault release centered on the creation of Hunky Dory, entitled Divine Symmetry. Both those items will likely find their way to these pages in the near term. Although I may have to wait for Santa’s Little Helpers and Xmas Day for those sets. It always makes for conflict on Xmas when the family is standing around sharing eggnog and I’ve disappeared into the music room to rock out on the new stuff. “Take off those headphones and get down here and help me…” Holidays require compromise or so I’ve learned… but again I’m getting off track here. While I was out “roughing it” I heard the sad news that one of rock n roll’s unsung heroes, guitarist Wilko Johnson (nee John Peter Wilkinson) had finally succumbed to his long battle with cancer and had passed away. In this case it appears B&V is once again driven by sad events rather than just the simple joy of music. Rest In Peace Wilko!

As long time readers also probably know, I like to tell stories about my experience with the artist and their music. I’ve talked about the first time hearing peak mid-70s Aerosmith or Guns N Roses’ Use Your Illusion albums or having my mind blown by the Beatles on Revolver. Listening to music really has two components – the personal and the shared experience. I am attempting in these pages, by sharing my feelings about albums and artists, to take my personal experiences and put them in that shared place in the hopes that others have experienced similar things. And if by reading something here you manage to discover something you haven’t heard before and dig it (as the hippies say) then my job is more than successful. However, in the case of Wilko Johnson I don’t have a long history with him or his music. I’d like to tell you I got in on the ground floor of the genre of music known in England as “pub rock.” I mean, was there ever a more perfect genre for B&V to get into than pub rock? I love to hang out in bars (or pubs) and listen to rock music. Pub rock was apparently a return to stripped down, raw, R&B rock. It was meant to be a rebellion against over produced, slick music, particularly Prog rock. It was largely considered a precursor to punk rock. I’d love to tell you I secretly compiled all of the albums put out by Wilko Johnson’s band Dr. Feelgood and how much it meant to me. Unfortunately, I have heard some Dr. Feelgood, but not a ton. Most people are likely to know Wilko more for his small part in Game Of Thrones as Ilyn Payne who I think was the executioner who cut off Ned Stark’s head.

I do have one connection to Wilko Johnson’s music. Back in 2013 Johnson found out he had cancer. Doctors gave him less than year to live. Rather than give up he kept gigging. He went to an awards show where he sat next to Roger Daltrey of the Who. They hit it off immediately. The next thing you know they’re in the studio together. They knocked out the 2014 album Going Back Home in a week. Wilko had written a handful of new tunes and he wanted to cover Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window” but this album is predominantly a collection of covers from Dr. Feelgood (Wilko’s aforementioned first band) with one track from another of Wilko’s bands, the Solid Senders. I remember when this album came out, I bought it immediately. It went to No 3 in the UK. It may have been a sad diagnosis that propelled this album but it is unabashedly joyful rock n roll. I hadn’t heard Roger Daltrey rock out like this on a collection of 3-minute rock songs since he was a young Mod on My Generation. Wilko’s stuff was more blustery and ballsy than stuff written by the at times overly self-analytical Pete Townshend and you can tell Daltrey is having a blast rocking out. Wilko certainly holds up his end. His guitar is at turns crunchy and snarling then soulful. Wilko and Daltrey are the perfect foils for each other.

There is not a dull track on this record. The title track “Going Back Home” starts things off and it just jumps out of the speakers at you. You immediately can tell these guys are older but maybe (hopefully) not wiser. Daltrey’s husky voice engages me immediately. This is no holds barred rock n roll. Steve Weston’s harmonica punctuates the tune perfectly. “Ice On the Motorway” is a chugging rocker and keeps the party going. Dylan Howe’s drumming drives the great “I Keep It To Myself.” Wilko’s guitar is outstanding on this one as well. Listening to this music reminds me of the old dudes at the end of the bar who are talking and laughing too loud but nobody fucks with them. I put “Won’t You Climb Out Your Window” on my Dylan Covers playlist and I’m glad I did. “Turned 21” is a nice change of pace ballad. Wilko alternates between subtle playing and shredding on guitar on “Keep On Loving You.”

“Some Kind of Hero” jumps and struts. I love the line, “I was lookin’ for a good girl, somehow I ended up with mine.” “Sneaking Suspicion” is another “my baby is up to no good” tune. “Keep It Out of Sight,” and “Everybody’s Carrying a Gun” (that recalls some of Dylan’s early electric stuff to my ears) keep things rolling. “All Through The City” ends the album on a rocking note. If you haven’t checked this album out before, here’s the link:

The best news of all is that Wilko didn’t pass in 2014 as the doctors suggested he might. The man held on through 2022. It’s sad we’ve lost this underappreciated, unsung hero but good for him fighting cancer and winning for almost a decade. And for me the best way to commemorate the loss is to crank this album up as loud as I can. It conjures to mind a small, sweaty bar where the band is cooking and the dance floor is full of people with their arms in the air in front of the band and nobody’s dancing, they’re rocking out. That’s not a bad image to leave behind as a rock n roller.

I started off by saying that Wilko’s passing was a sad event and that it was sadness driving this post. But as I sit listening to this album, I realize there is a lot of joy in this music and maybe that’s what’s driving me to post this, joy.

Cheers! and of course, RIP Wilko Johnson!

 

Review: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ‘Los Angeles Forum – April 26, 1969 (Live)’ – An Evening of Loose Jams For An Unruly Crowd

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Only a few days ago I posted about the new Guns N Roses box set celebrating the Use Your Illusions albums. I’m still waking up with the words “With your bitch slap rapping and your cocaine tongue you get noooooothing done…” lodged in my head every morning and yet here I am already posting again. Knowing I’m headed to points out West for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday I holed up all weekend in the B&V labs listening to the new archival live album put out by the folks down at Experience Hendrix – who really do a nice job with Jimi’s legacy – entitled Los Angeles Forum – April 26, 1969 so I could post before I leave. I think I’m like most folks when I think about Hendrix, I just think about Jimi the Guitar God. I tend to overlook the fact that it wasn’t just Hendrix, it was the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And the Experience were quite a band. Listening to this live album one might say that seeing them live was quite, well, an experience. Joining Jimi in the band were Noel Redding (a frustrated guitarist) on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. One of our very first posts was about a Hendrix live album/documentary, Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival (Live). Although by that show in Hot’lanta on the Fourth of July 1970, Noel Redding had split and had been replaced by Billy Cox on bass. We do so love our live LPs here at B&V.

Ah, April 1969, what a time to be alive! Well, technically I was alive in 1969 but I was just an infant so not really cognizant. I’d have probably been frightened by the sound of an electric guitar turned up to 11. It was a stressful time for Jimi and the Experience. They’d released Electric Ladyland in 1968 and it was an absolute masterpiece. But the follow-up proved to be elusive. Jimi was searching for something. He had built his Electric Ladyland studio in New York, a state of the art facility which he felt he needed to get the sounds he wanted. However the recording process was terribly erratic. They’d go out on the road for a few days, fly back to New York and record for a day or two and then back out on the road. Touring was still a bit of a hodgepodge in those days, not the organized machine it is today. They couldn’t really just focus on making a record. Hendrix would often go out to clubs to party and end up at the studio in the wee small hours with a bunch of hangers on and try and record. It was tough to get anything done and Noel Redding for one was very frustrated with the chaos. By April of ’69 when this concert was recorded Redding was a mere two months away from leaving the Experience.

I know that many of you are thinking, What another live album from Hendrix? At this point it seems like Jimi could have dropped a guitar in 1970 and if it made a sound through the amplifier that was recorded in anyway, it’s been remixed, remastered and released on a record. Every note the guy played that was committed to tape is out there somewhere – some on bootleg, some officially released. This show from the L.A. Forum has been around on bootleg for a long time but it’s new to me and I can only assume the sound quality is much improved over any boot. I love any live stuff we can get from Hendrix because every show and every solo was different. Listening to the Experience live – or later incarnations of Hendrix’s bands – is like listening to jazz masters jamming and improvising. Every nuance is wrung out of every song but different every time. Hendrix was a rock star with a jazz guy’s approach to live performing. So for me the short answer is, Yes! Another live album from Hendrix! If you’re a fan of Hendrix or a fan of guitar, this album is for you.

I get the feeling from listening to Los Angeles Forum – April 26, 1969 that the crowd was pretty unruly that night. The cops come over the PA a few times and Hendrix himself addresses the crowd to mellow out so the band could keep playing. It was spring and I imagine that’s a pretty wild time in California. Especially in ’69. With Redding frustrated and probably contemplating leaving it’s not a stretch to suggest this is the sound of a band who weren’t getting along. Although even that doesn’t stop Hendrix from laying down some tasty riffs. Listening to this album what jumped out at me was how great a drummer Mitch Mitchell was. I don’t ever hear his name mentioned in the same whispered tones of reverence that Keith Moon or Charlie Watts are, but the guy is feral on the drums. He and Hendrix soar on this record while the aforementioned Noel Redding plays the bass almost like a time keeper. Redding’s bass acts as the foundation here while the Hendrix and Mitchell play off each other like Jimmy Page and John Bonham.

I don’t know if it was the chaotic energy of the crowd pressing up against the stage but this album is a loose, jammy affair. There are several long (over ten or fifteen minute) jams. The band is introduced and much like another live LP by the Experience that I have, Winterland, Hendrix comes out and has to apologize while he gets his guitar sorted out. I don’t know if Jimi was too cheap to hire a proper guitar tech or they couldn’t find one but did he ever get on stage ready to play? Once he sorts out his instrument they launch into what must have been a live staple for them, a long, jammy instrumental “Tax Free.” It’s also the opener on the aforementioned Winterland. The song even come with a drum solo. It’s interesting to listen to the guys play off each other but it’s not going on the greatest hits album. I wonder if that tune is just how the band warmed up?

After the jam, they launch into a compact, snarling yet slinky version of “Foxey Lady.” I love Hendrix’s solo at the end of the track. Hendrix was quite chatty that evening. He seems to be having a lot of fun despite the crowd issues. The version of “Red House” is worth the price of admission in my mind. It’s a long, extended blues tune and I am here for it. It gets almost jazz like in the middle. I could listen to that track all day on a repeating loop. Hendrix then dedicates “Spanish Castle Magic” to the police at the show. It’s an impressive version of the Axis: Bold As Love track. Hendrix then launches into his soon to be iconic “Star Spangled Banner” which segues into the righteous riffage of “Purple Haze.” Once again with the cops on his mind he sings, “Excuse me while I kiss this policeman.” The extended fiery solo could possibly melt your face off. After that searing song Hendrix has to ask the crowd to mellow out again. They must have been rushing the stage again. He asks everybody to sit down which I think would be impossible at a Hendrix show.

Mitch Mitchell unleashes some tribal drumming on “I Don’t Live Today.” This is a wildly chaotic version of the track which probably fit right in on this particular night in front of these unruly hippies. The show wraps up with my all time favorite riff from Hendrix on “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” which segues into “Sunshine Of Your Love,” a Cream cover and then back into “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” While the second half of “Voodoo Child” is only three minutes it’s some of Hendrix’s most ferocious solo’ing of the show.

While the setlist is shorter than other live sets I’ve seen from Hendrix – I’m guessing they had to cut it short because of the lack of crowd control – there is still a lot to love here. I’m always up for a good Hendrix live concert recording. Like I said, if you’re a fan of the guitar – and especially hearing what the absolute farthest someone can take the instrument – or of Hendrix this will be essential listening when you’re trying to drowned out your fractious Thanksgiving dinner conversation. “What Uncle Tim, you think serving the meal family style is socialist? Frankly, I think Mitch Mitchell is a criminally underrated drummer…” Or something like that.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there who are celebrating this week in the States. Even if you’re not celebrating Thanksgiving we have a lot of to be grateful for in this life not least of which is rock n roll music. Be kind to each other. Eat a whole lot this Thursday, drink something brown and murky and play this one loud!!

Cheers!

Lookback: The True Peak of Aerosmith – 1975 – 1976, ‘Toys In The Attic’ and ‘Rocks’ – Spectacular Rock N Roll

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I was at a party a while back and I got into a discussion with this guy about rock n roll, per usual. I was talking with this guy a little younger than me – although not much younger than me – and he wanted to talk about Aerosmith. I’m always down to talk rock n roll and especially Aerosmith – Steve Tyler/vocals, Joe Perry/lead guitar, Brad Whitford/guitar, Tom Hamilton/bass and Joey Kramer/drums – who I consider to be one of the greatest rock bands America ever produced. This guy I was talking to was trying to convince me that Aerosmith’s 1989 album Pump was the greatest rock album ever. The guy was about 10 years younger than me so it makes sense, Pump was big when he was coming of age. I had managed to get on their bandwagon in the late 70s quite a bit before Pump. I had to tell the guy Pump wasn’t even one of Aerosmith’s greatest albums let alone one of the greatest rock albums of all time… “The conversation,” as Bob Dylan once sang, “was short and sweet.”This is why I don’t go to many parties any more.

It makes sense that Aerosmith has different sets of fans or perhaps better said fans of different eras of the band. They had a meteoric, incredible run through the 70s and then fell apart as drugs, ego, exhaustion from touring and infighting all took their toll. By the time I was in high school in ’80 we were already asking, “What happened to Aerosmith?” Both guitarist Joe Perry and Brad Whitford split, Perry for his Joe Perry Project and Whitford formed Whitford St. Holmes with Nugent’s old rhythm guitarist/vocalist Derek St. Holmes (check out the tune “Sharpshooter,” great stuff). Aerosmith finally put out another album Rock In A Hard Place in 1982, a three year gap since 1979’s A Night In The Ruts which was an unheard of amount of time between albums in those days. At that point they had Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay on guitar. Most bands were on the album-tour-album-tour treadmill and put out an album every year. My roommate bought Rock In A Hard Place and other than the song “Lightning Strikes” it was a disappointment. Tyler looked perilously thin in the video for “Lightning Strikes.”

Then something utterly improbable happened. Perry and Whitford returned. The band toured at that point and I saw the mighty reconstituted Aerosmith at Starlight Theater over on the East side of town. They were amazing that night but when we went to rush the stage, one of my buddies passed out. I had to baby sit him from back in the cheap seats while my other two friends stood in front of the stage basking in the power of Aerosmith. The place was only half full that night. They finally got off drugs – Tyler and Perry delighted in using cocaine and heroin such that their nickname was the Toxic Twins – and then they made what may be the greatest comeback in rock history. Personally I really dug Done With Mirrors, it was more of an old school Aerosmith album, but the comeback didn’t really take hold until Permanent Vacation which came out when I was just out of college. That led to a pretty big run from the late 80s to the late 90s. That second era of success for the band tends to dwarf that run in the 70s where Aerosmith established their reputation.

As we sit here now when Aerosmith hasn’t put out an album in 10 years – and really haven’t put out an interesting album in over 20 years – it’s easy to forget about those great Aerosmith days in the 70s. Today the guys in Aerosmith with their highlighted, poufy hair and flowing clothes look more like the Scary Housewives of Rock N Roll than the menacing rock band of the 70s. I don’t think these guys get along very well anymore. I think drummer Joey Kramer even sued the band. Why can’t hard rock bands get along the way Rush did? With all these horrible ballads like “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” a song so garish I once hurt myself lunging at the radio to change the station when it came on, it’s easy to overlook their killer hard rock origins. Like this guy I was talking to at the party many people think that late 80s to late 90s run was the entirety of the Aerosmith story. Well, I for one, have not forgotten those glory days. I have not forgotten the true peak of Aerosmith – 1975 to 1976.

I didn’t get into music, as I’ve shared, until I was in junior high so about 1978 or 1979. While we didn’t know it, by ’79 Aerosmith was musically a spent force… at least in terms of their initial run. A Night In The Ruts was widely considered a disappointment to their hardcore fans. The cover song “Remember (Walking In The Sand)” was the only track that got radio play. They had made the mistake of joining the cast of the 1978 musical movie Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with Peter Frampton and gads, disco kings The Bee Gees. At least they did a great cover of “Come Together.” Even though they were fading at the time, when I was in junior high Aerosmith still cast a long shadow. They were huge to us. They were menacing and seemed dirty and druggy. Everything a junior high kid in the late 70s could ask for. Tyler’s lyrics often sounded nonsensical but we read all sorts of innuendo into them. The first record of theirs I ever bought was their 1978 live album Live Bootleg. I listened to that a few weeks ago and it’s still mighty. But then I love live albums.

While Aerosmith’s eponymous debut LP was widely overlooked upon it’s release it’s one of my favorites. Their second album Get Your Wings was even better. The constant touring and playing finally began to jell in terms of their songwriting. It was in the mid 70s that Aerosmith finally burst through the clouds and into the stratosphere. If they’d never recorded again after the two albums they recorded in 1975 and 1976 respectively they would still be considered one of the greatest rock bands in American history. So dude at the party – these are the two greatest albums Aerosmith ever put to tape and thus, are two of the greatest rock albums ever.

Toys In The Attic (1975)

For Aerosmith, it turns out the third time was the charm… Everything came together here. This album contains not one but two of their greatest rock anthems, “Walk This Way” (the original, not the one ruined by Run D.M.C.) and “Sweet Emotion.” When people think of 70s rock and think of Aerosmith, this is the music they think of. Let’s look at the tracks.

  • “Toys In The Attic” – The album’s rollicking opening track. A statement about their mental health at the time. This thing is a “meet me at the finish line” kind of racing rocker. It’s such a nasty riff. There’s no Pump type polish here.
  • “Uncle Salty” – This may be one of my favorite deep tracks from these guys. It’s midtempo but gritty. The sad tale of a fallen woman. “And when she cried at night, no one came…”
  • “Adam’s Apple” – A song where Steven Tyler teaches us about the Garden of Eden. Another great riff rocker. Eve gets a bad rap but when it comes to the apple… “she ate it and Lord it was love at first bite…”
  • “Walk This Way” – Joey Kramer’s drums start us rocking but then the guitar comes in like a Howitzer. Aerosmith were always considered a poor man’s Rolling Stones but I sure hear a lot of James Brown in their music… “I was high school loser never made it with the ladies” was a lyric that resonated more than it should have when I was in high school.
  • “Big Ten Inch Record” – Resurrecting a tune from 1952, this is one of the rare moments of comedy from Aerosmith. I still love the tune. Great harmonica solo. “Liquor just make her flinch…”
  • “Sweet Emotion” – I rank this up there with Joe Walsh’s “Turn To Stone” as one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time. “Talking ’bout things and nobody cares” could describe most of my conversations these days…
  • “No More No More” – Another great deep track with heavy riffage and boogie woogie piano.
  • “Round And Round” – One of the hardest tracks they’ve ever done. This points the way toward where they would go on Rocks.
  • “You See Me Crying” – A lovely piano ballad and I’m told Liv Tyler’s favorite Aerosmith tune. I don’t know why I like this ballad more than most of their late period balladry. With the piano and strings this almost sounds like Queen.

Rocks (1975)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than Toys In The Attic Aerosmith returned with the amps turned up to 11. This is their hardest rocking statement ever. It makes their 80s stuff look like the Bay City Rollers.

  • “Back In The Saddle” – The Rock Chick’s favorite Aerosmith song, to her credit. “A lusty cowboy song.” Joey Kramer is drumming like he’s barely keeping the guitars connected to the earth. Perry and Whitford’s guitars careen off each other. Amazing tune… “Barkeep give me a drink, that’s when she caught my eye…” is almost the story of when I met the Rock Chick.
  • “Last Child” – The funkiest hard rock you’ll ever hear. Maybe it’s just me but I feel the influence of James Brown here. A song about getting out in the country. “Hands on the plow and my feets in the ghetto.”
  • “Rats In The Cellar” – This track seems like an inherent sequel to “Toys In The Attic.” If I ever have a heart attack, throw me on a speaker and turn this racing rocker on the turntable and crank it up.
  • “Combination” – Another heavy rock riff tune. Tyler sounds like he’s being tortured on the vocal.
  • “Sick As A Dog” – One of their best, most overlooked tunes. “Sick as a dog, cat got your tongue?” I love the live version on Live Bootleg as well. This song should have been a monster hit.
  • “Nobody’s Fault” – Side 2 kicks off with this ominous rocker. I don’t know what happened but it sounds like somebody is in trouble and is very sorry. Another tortured vocal from Tyler over Perry and Whitford’s equally tortured guitar.
  • “Get The Lead Out” – I’ve always wondered if this funky rocker was a sly nod to Zeppelin. They were friends with Page and had covered the Yardbirds’ “Train Kept A’Rollin’.” I love the first line, “Got good boogie…” Yes they did. You can move to Aerosmith, I defy you to try and sit still during this record.
  • “Lick And A Promise” – They rock this one so hard and fast the band sounds like they’re on the verge of collapse.
  • “Home Tonight” – Like Toys In The Attic we end with a ballad. Perhaps my favorite mellow tune from Aerosmith.  A tune so longing in getting home it was on our Songs of Home playlist… gorgeous track.

If you’re ever at a party and someone starts talking about the hard rock artistry of Get A Grip or Nine Lives, sneak over to the stereo and crank one of these albums and simply behold the majesty and the power of the true peak of Aerosmith. And know, that in that moment I am somewhere out there on the dark road flashing the Devil Horns for you… “and I’ll be home tonight…”

Cheers!

Playlist: Happy Labor Day Weekend – Songs For All The “Working Stiffs” & The Saga Of My Summer Jobs

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*Image above taken from the Internet and likely copyright

I can’t believe it’s already Labor Day Weekend. I guess Steve Miller was right, “time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” This coming Monday is Labor Day, a day to celebrate Labor and working people and is generally a day of vacation for people. Labor Day was established as a Federal holiday in the U.S. as the first Monday in September in 1894. Prior to that 30 states had an official state holiday honoring Labor. Oregon was the first state to declare a state holiday for Labor Day so good on them. Most other nations celebrate Labor on May Day, or May 1st. It’s comforting to know that we pause as a nation and celebrate working people. For a long time I thought Labor Day was just a holiday that signaled the end of summer. I mean, how else would local municipalities know it was time to close the city pool? Memorial Day is the start of summer in the U.S. and Labor Day wraps it up.

I’m a white collar guy now but I still consider myself a working class dog, as Rick Springfield once sang. As awful as my current job can be at times it beats being a coal miner but then I’m claustrophobic. I have the utmost respect for Labor – it’s working people who built this country. Organized Labor helped build the middle class in America between 1932 and 1980. Even though I’m now merely a traveling salesman (see playlist) I still think back to my younger, high school/college days when I had to work every summer to pay for school. I had a number of difficult, dirty jobs.

My first job ever lasted exactly two weeks. There had never been a discussion at the house with my father, nicknamed The Hard Guy, telling me I had to get a job. My buddies were starting to get jobs and they always had walking around money for illicit beer purchases and vinyl records. Ever ambitious I felt I had to follow suit and applied for and got a job at my local Dairy Queen. While the surprised Hard Guy muttered approvingly when I got the job, the owner/manager was a sociopath with eyes that looked in two directions at once. He was not a nice man. Were it today, I would have suspected meth amphetamine abuse. The heat and grease that hung over the grille while I attempted to cook burgers and fries did wonders for my acne. I looked like a burn victim. Finally after the boss descended into a screaming fit because I didn’t clean up something properly I decided the culinary arts were perhaps not my chosen path.

Despite that, my next endeavor was as a busboy at a steak joint in the mall. I wore a white shirt, a bow tie and a leather tunic. I was the fastest busboy they had. I could clean a table in the blink of an eye. Although I must admit I started having nightmares that I was trundling my cart out into the dining room and all the tables were covered in dirty dishes… I’d wake up sweating from trying to dream bus tables… dreams are crazy. Perhaps that was a sign I wasn’t going to handle stress well. The steak joint had the advantage of actually having female employees. I met a bunch of girls who went to different high schools than I did which was an advantage, believe me. The steak joint was managed by a bunch of reprobates which may explain why they’d only seem to hire pretty girls… The cops came into the restaurant during a lunch rush one Saturday and arrested one of the assistant managers… he’d found an abandoned car along the highway and allegedly stole the license plate. We never saw him again. We would typically spend our breaks at the restaurant on night shifts standing in the walk-in cooler drinking beer and talking trash to the hostesses. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. I worked at that place on and off even through my early college years.

While those indoor jobs were fine and dandy there wasn’t much over the “minimal” wage in those jobs. The real money lie in working outside. My buddy Brewster was always an enterprising young lad and he stumbled upon a yard crew mowing an apartment lawn and asked the guy for a job. The next thing I knew, Brewster got me hired and after school every day I’d jump in his car and we’d go mow lawns until it got dark. The guy paid like $5/hour vs the $3.50 an hour I was getting at the mall. I was in the tall cotton now. Never mind the fact that I ruined a number of pairs of blue jeans turning them green. Mom wasn’t thrilled but the Hard Guy seemed to enjoy those evenings at the house while I was out working a little more. The outfit was known as Lewis’ Quality Lawn Service (name changed to protect the innocent). His hiring practices were somewhat suspect… I’m pretty sure there were more than one convict on the crew. At one house in the rich neighborhood we serviced, an old lady approached Bob (the owner/foreman), Brewster and I and asked “Who took a shit in my window well?” Sure enough…someone did. Brewster always said it was a guy named Sanchez (name changed to protect the truly innocent) but I wouldn’t put it past him to do such at thing. Brewster, if you’re out there, time to confess.

It was in that lawn mowing job I began to realize the class system in the U.S. was alive and well. One house we mowed, the guy had a white Rolls Royce and he’d park it in the circle drive out in front of the house all the time to show it off, I guess? It was a Friday and one of the neighbors was throwing a party, merely houses away just down the street. I mean, even I could walk down there to the party and I’d been mowing lawns all day. The son of the Rolls owner was about my age. And he came out front cradling an iced tea, watched us mow for a second and then yelled in the screen door, “Daaaadddy are we taking the Rolls to the party?” I was like dude, c’mon, don’t be such a douche bag, you can walk. Or at least offer us some damn iced tea. Ends up the family took the Rolls to the party. I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to drive… probably because I was sweaty and dirty. It was tough work but man what a tan I had.

Finally, in college my best bud Doug saved me from hustling to find a job and got me work with his dad’s company. They built and resurfaced tennis courts. It was hot sweaty work on sizzling asphalt but it paid well and again, the tan was spectacular and that’s how I really judged these things. I typically worked with a guy named Howard and a couple of bikers he’d hired… well until one of the bikers was killed, but that’s another story… Dave was a nice guy and I was truly sad about that… Anyway, when I took the gig I thought I’d be working with Doug on a more regular basis. I love the man but frankly when it came to physical labor I realized he was insane. He would describe days where he put in 12 hours or more as “Iron Days.” I would describe 12 hour-plus days as a “Nightmare.” My job was to work hard for 8 to 10 hours and then go spend that money on beer. Or better yet, shower and take my girlfriend to the Motel 6, but those records are sealed.

The worst part of the tennis court gig was working with wet cement and this paint that was called, I believe, Plexipave. You mixed the Plexipave with sand and cement and if you got a dab of it on you it turned hard on your legs enveloping your leg hair. I’d come home with sandy, hard, green lumps on my legs. My mom would make me take off my work clothes in the garage. I’d wrap myself in a towel and head up to sit in a bath tub – and I was strictly a shower guy – so I could soak the Plexipave off my leg hair instead of tearing the hair out by the root. I don’t know how women get waxed… it’s painful. The struggle is real and beauty is hard, ladies.

Despite all of that pain, sunburn, acne and burns from a hot grille, I wouldn’t trade one day of my checkered history as a working stiff. Those were glorious summers either at the mall or in some giant rich guy’s yard, mowing or resurfacing his tennis court. I actually ended up at a party at one of the houses we mowed… I kept thinking, what if she found out I mowed her dad’s lawn. There’s something to be said about hard work and how good it feels at the end of the day to crack a cold beer and realize that you’d accomplished something. There was no worrying about the job at night – save for those crazy busboy nightmares. It was a glorious time.

I felt it was essential to honor all of you out there doing actual hard work with a Labor Day Playlist. It can be found currently on Spotify under “BourbonAndVinyl.net Labor Day” (I’m looking at moving off Spotify, finally, in support of Neil Young). Here are some of my favorite songs about working and working people. I’m not a “9 to 5” or “Take This Job And Shove It” guy, so those songs aren’t here. It works playing straight through or on shuffle, dealer’s choice. It’s not meant to be exhaustive and if you have a song you’d like me to add, please put it in the comment section. As you grille hot dogs and hamburgers and drink some cold beer this weekend celebrating the unofficial end of summer, enjoy cranking up these tunes!

  1. The Beatles, “Hard Days Night” – Always great to kick off with a Beatles track. “I’ve been workin’ like a dog…” I’ve always liked the Beatles but ever since the Get Back documentary, Let It Be box set and the roof top concert came out it seems to have reignited my Beatles fandom.
  2. The Clash, “Career Opportunities” – “Career opportunities, the ones that never knocks.” I can relate to that. I am currently at the zenith of a mediocre career.
  3. Dire Straits, “Money For Nothing” – Where two working guys delivering appliances envy the lifestyle of Rock Stars in videos. So 80s…
  4. Huey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ For a Living” – Rare that I’d turn to Huey and his News but couldn’t resist this track. “I’m takin’ what their giving as I’m workin’ for a living.” Truth.
  5. Styx, “Blue Collar Man” – As I’ve grown older I’ve grown more conflicted about Styx but this Tommy Shaw tune – like most of the stuff he wrote – is a little tougher and more guitar forward.
  6. Lou Reed & John Cale, “Work” – This is the weirdest track here. But I couldn’t resist Lou Reed singing about Andy Warhol lecturing him on his work ethic. Even artists have to put in the sweat.
  7. Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Work” – Everyone should explore Marley’s work beyond just the greatest hits compilation Legend. This is a great track that spirals itself around my mind. “Everyday is work – work – work – work.” Bob knew the struggle was real.
  8. Elvis Costello, “Welcome To The Working Week” – The ultimate Monday morning song.
  9. Bob Dylan, “Union Sundown” – Great blues-rock track where Dylan laments the decline of unions which fought so hard for the American worker, and the sad fact that most of what you buy is made elsewhere. “Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore, My flashlight’s from Taiwan, My tablecloth’s from Malaysia.”
  10. Randy Newman, “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)” – Randy Newman, the greatest satirist of his time, making a plea to the President for the working man.
  11. Pete Townshend, “Keep On Working” – Pete encouraging us all to just keep on working…
  12. The Rolling Stones, “Dirty Work” – Not exactly a fit but who can resist a great Stones’ deep track. “You let somebody do the dirty work, find some loser, find some jerk.” Somehow I can relate to this in my working life…
  13. The Who, “Dirty Jobs” – Great track about bad jobs from Quadrophenia, my favorite of their many “concept albums.
  14. Genesis, “Just A Job I Do” – A song about being either an assassin or a spy or perhaps both. Collins hits the drums hard to simulate a gun shot. Impressive. It sums up how I feel about work, it’s not a career it’s just a job I do.
  15. Lou Reed, “Don’t Talk To Me About Work” – Sometimes when you get home you just don’t want to talk about your job. Time to crack a beer and forget about it. “I’m up to my eye balls in dirt, with work.”
  16. Chris Rea, “I’m Workin’ On It” – This is one of my favorite tracks here. I know I could say this to my boss, “I got eight little fingers and only two thumbs, Will you leave me in peace while I get the work done.”
  17. Van Halen, “Get Up” – One of those early “trying-too-hard” rock tracks from the early Van Hagar era. “Get up and make it work.”
  18. Rush, “Working Man” – This is the ultimate song for the working man. Epic rock from one of the greatest bands of all time. Check out the live version on the Moving Pictures – 40th Anniversary Edition.
  19. Bachman Turner Overdrive, “Takin’ Care of Business” – Who could resist a little Bachman Turner Overdrive, “B – T – O!”? “I love to work on nothin’ all day.”
  20. Bruce Springsteen, “Working On The Highway” – Great track about building infrastructure until a young girl enters the picture. Very similar story to “Darlington County.”
  21. Prince, “Let’s Work” – This work doesn’t sound like what I’m talking about here but it’s Prince… get funky, baby.
  22. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Workin’ For MCA” – I would think having a record contract and “working” for a record company would be good news for a band but clearly Skynyrd didn’t dig it.
  23. The Police, “Dead End Job” – Rare early track about well, not wanting a dead end job. Sting was a teacher, maybe he’s talking about that? Helluva fast pace.
  24. Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm” – Where our narrator laments the working conditions on a family-owned agriculture concern. “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”
  25. David Crosby and Graham Nash, “Fieldworker” – Great track honoring the folks who work on big farms asking for dignity and to be “treated like a human.” Good stuff from Graham Nash here.
  26. Neil Young, “Union Man” – This track won’t be on the playlist because, well, Spotify. “Loud music is better, bumper stickers should be issued.”
  27. Jim Croce, “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” – This one is for my folks. My dad was a huge Jim Croce fan and he may have been the only artist who the Hard Guy owned more than one record from.
  28. Bon Jovi, “Livin’ On A Prayer” – Where a young dock worker and his girlfriend, a waitress, struggle against the vicissitudes of capitalism and turn to religion and prayer.
  29. Van Morrison, “All Work And No Play” – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull chap.” That sums it up. Slip out early and have some fun this Labor Day.
  30. Bob Seger, “Makin’ Thunderbirds” – Great track about the American autoworker and lamentations on how we don’t build Thunderbirds anymore.
  31. Gary U.S. Bonds, “Out of Work” – With unemployment at a record low, one can only hope that most people can find a job. And that it pays a living wage…
  32. Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, “Solidarity” – This lyric means the world to me: “Everybody wants to work for a living, Everybody wants to keep their children warm.” Indeed, everybody wants to work and take care of their family and earn a livable wage.
  33. Warren Zevon, “The Factory” – Warren Zevon, backed by R.E.M. on this album, singing about the hard life that factory workers face.
  34. R.E.M., “Finest Worksong” – Speaking of R.E.M., this is a great song from the first LP from them that I ever bought, Document. It actually is a fine work song.
  35. Bob Dylan, “Workingman’s Blues #2” – Dylan returning to the subject of the workingman. Does Dylan get enough credit for his mastery of the blues?
  36. Paul McCartney, “On My Way To Work” – McCartney reminiscing about his pre-Beatles working days.
  37. Godfathers, “Birth, School, Work, Death” – I was late to the Godfathers’ LP Birth, School, Work, Death but the title track sums up the circle of life for most of us.
  38. Todd Rundgren, “Bang The Drum All Day” – While I have no rhythm I’d rather bang a drum all day than work.
  39. Van Halen, “Beats Workin'” – Whatever you’re doing this Labor Day, it’s gotta beat workin’. What’s that bumper sticker, “The worst day fishing beats the best day workin'”? Truth. While Roth’s vocals could be described (as they were by my friend Dr. Rock) ” as the sound of a pet store full of animals burning down,” Eddie’s guitar work is always singular.
  40. Sam Cooke, “Chain Gang” – Sam singing about the deplorable practice of putting prisoners to work in chains. Watch the movie Cool Hand Luke if you have any doubts that this was a horrible thing.
  41. The Rolling Stones, “Factory Girl” – Dedicate one to the ladies… Rosie the Riveter, may I have this dance?
  42. Bruce Springsteen, “Factory” – Bruce writing about his dad and how hard he worked down at the factory.
  43. Van Morrison, “I’ve Been Working” – A great track that Bob Seger used to cover live. Funky, powerful… “I’ve been workin’, I’ve been workin’ so hard.” Even after a day of hard work, Van just wants to come and get some love.
  44. Chuck Berry, “Let It Rock” – A track where Chuck describes railroad workers and an impending accident. Where was OSHA?
  45. Steely Dan, “Dirty Work” – Again, a bit of reach here, as this is about a relationship instead of an actual job. But, if you think about it, relationships can be a lot of work. One of those early David Palmer on lead vocals Steely songs.
  46. Tom Waits, “I Can’t Wait To Get Off Work (And See My Baby On Montgomery Avenue)” – Beautiful ballad. I remember getting off whatever job I had, running home to shower and heading to see my baby. I love the lyric, “Don’t do this, don’t do that,” and then he speaks the line, “Tom don’t do that.”
  47. Neil Young & The Bluenotes, “Ten Men Working” – I listened to this on vinyl last night. It remains amongst those records maybe only I enjoy. This is a great track though.
  48. Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up” – Beautiful ballad with Peter sharing lead vocals with Kate Bush who has recently seen a resurgence through the series Stranger Things. The song chronicles the doubts and despair of a working man and his wife offering words of encouragement, “Don’t give up, I know you can make it…” The devastating loss of and search for work is palpable. It’s a dialogue between husband and wife that is so intimate it feels like eavesdropping.
  49. Pearl Jam, “Unemployable” – Great Pearl Jam deep track. About a man whose frustrations about his precarious work situation has led to violence and perhaps even a loss of his religious faith. That’s a lot for a 3 minute rock song to take on. “I’m scared of life, near death.” Heavy themes set to heavy rock.
  50. U2, “The Hands That Built America” – The ranks of Labor – many of whom were immigrants – built the skyscrapers the 1% could hide away in while forgetting about us.
  51. Billy Joel, “Allentown” – The classic Rust Belt song.
  52. Loverboy, “Workin’ For the Weekend” – I don’t like Loverboy although admittedly we all listened to them back in the day and this isn’t a bad song. I knew if I omitted this song, it’d be one of the first to be recommended so I bit the bullet and added it. More cowbell!
  53. Bruce Springsteen, “Workin’ On a Dream” – I included this on my Playlists about the Surreal Realm of Dreaming, and hesitated to add it to this one, but this lyric jumped at me, “Rain pourin’ down, I swing my hammer, My hands are rough from working on a dream…” That’s working, man.
  54. ZZ Top, “Just Got Paid” – Why do we work? To get paid. When I heard, “If you believe I like workin’ hard all day, Just step in my shoes and take my pay,” I realized it totally fit. This riff is greasier than a bacon sandwich on Wonder bread. Turn it up and pass the napkins.
  55. John Lennon, “Working Class Hero” – This is one of the most nakedly honest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s tough but he’s not wrong.
  56. Merle Haggard, “Workin’ Man Blues” – I saw Merle Haggard live opening for Dylan and his voice was like smooth, aged whiskey. I rarely include any country songs – outside of Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson – but this is a great song. Come for his voice, stay for lyrics like “I’ll keep workin’ as long as my two hands are fit to use, I’ll drink my beer in a tavern and sing a little bit of these working man blues.” Barkeep, another round for the working man at the end of the bar.

There you go! Again, turn this one up loud and enjoy your day off, God knows you’ve earned it. I welcome any and all suggestions for additions to the list in the comment section. Be safe this weekend!

Cheers!

Review: The Rolling Stones, ‘Live At The El Mocambo’ – The Legendary Concert Finally Released

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I wish I could tell you how happy all of us down here at B&V are that the Stones have finally released an official version of the entire legendary 1977 show from Toronto’s El Mocambo Club (March 5, 1977). The album, creatively titled, Live At El Mocambo dropped a few Fridays ago – 45 years after the actual shows. In the interest of full disclosure I purchased this one on CD. The $149 price tag on the vinyl was too rich even for this avid, obsessed Stones’ fan. Hearing this live album I have to say, it ranks up there with Get Yer Ya-Yas Out as one of the Stones’ finest live LPs. The Stones have been around so long, different live albums tend to capture/conjure different eras in the band’s storied history. Ya-Yas captured them at their career peak with Mick Taylor still on lead guitar. I’ve always been fond of Live At the BBC: On Air  released only a few years ago, but that one really captures the early-Stones, Brian Jones era. Now we have Live At the El Mocambo to give us a taste of the mid-70s, Ronnie Wood-just-joined-the-band era. Of course this early Ronnie Wood era had already been documented on the Stones’ 1977 Love You Live, another Stones live album I love… maybe I just truly love Live Albums.

The Stones were at a cross roads in the mid-70s. After the tour for 1974’s It’s Only Rock n Roll Mick Taylor, lead guitarist extraordinaire, quit the band. Taylor played on what many consider to be the peak of the Stones’ career on albums that include Exile On Mainstreet and Sticky Fingers. When Taylor was in the band there seemed to be a strict division of guitar labor, Taylor played the solo’s and Keith was allowed to become the “Riffmeister,” strictly rhythm. By the time Taylor left the Stones it was largely believed that their classic period had ended and the Stones had become more decadent and less focused on the music. Critics lamented they were a spent creative force. It didn’t help that disco and punk were nipping at their heels. Supposedly, Jagger was fascinated with being a star and Keith was fascinated by, well, heroin. If you ask me Goat’s Head Soup and It’s Only Rock n Roll are still pretty “classic” Stones albums but I’m a pretty big fan. But for the Stones there was never any serious consideration given to quitting when Taylor split. Nothing can stop the Stones, man.

They were ready to record a post-Taylor album so they used those sessions to audition a new lead guitarist. They were probably thinking, “Hey, we need to jam with some new guys, let’s record it and try and get an album out of it. ” Many guitarists auditioned including Jeff Beck and Peter Frampton to name drop a few. Others included Steve Marriott, Rory Gallagher, Wayne Perkins and Harvey Mandel. Finally they decided on Ronnie Wood, who in retrospect was the perfect choice. Wood and Richards’ guitars meld together so well. There would be no more guitar division of labor, these two would practice what Keef calls “the ancient art of weaving,” where their guitars snake in and out of each other’s. Plus Ronnie was a good drinking buddy for Keith. The ensuing LP, recorded as a guitar audition, was Black And Blue. The critical reception was mixed but the album spent a whole month at number one in 1976. I love the record but when a college buddy asked me about it I just said, “It’s more for fans.” Over the years I’ve regretted that as I love the songs on that record. It’s long on grooves and jams but… what’s wrong with that? It also has two of their greatest ballads, “Fool To Cry,” and my favorite “Memory Motel.” The album includes contributions from Mandel, Perkins and Ronnie… but alas no Jeff Beck who left his audition and said, “We jammed for 2 hours and I only played three notes.” Jeff Beck, sigh.

Despite the success of Black And Blue, and the ensuing tour in support of it, critics couldn’t help but continue to decry that things “were over” for the Stones. They were still considered a spent creative force. To make matters worse Keith and his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg kept getting busted for coke and heroin possession. And of course, Keith traveled with such a large quantity of drugs – for his and Anita’s use – that he was charged with trafficking. He could have ended up doing real time. He eventually received a suspended sentence… but they were so nervous Keith and Mick took the band into a studio in Paris at the end of 1977 and recorded enough music to fill Some Girls, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You. The Stones apparently – when you back them up against the wall – DELIVER. But, I’m losing the thread here…

The Stones made a great choice in Ronnie Wood. The guy’s enthusiasm for rocking out, evinced by his time in the Faces, is contagious. He brought a sense of fun and excitement back to the Stones who were suffering from a bad case of ennui. They were going to follow Black And Blue up with a live album and while they had stuff recorded from both the ’75 and ’76 tours, it was decided they needed to go to Toronto to record a show in a small club, the El Mocambo. Toronto has become the Stones’ home away from home over the years. The Stones now do little club shows at the beginning of almost every tour but in 1977 they hadn’t played a small club since their days the Marquee Club in Richmond 15 years prior. They’d been filling stadiums for almost a decade. It was Wood who lobbied for a club show. It was also Ronnie’s idea that the Stones go back and mix up the set list, playing old blues numbers and some of their shorter classic tracks. I still wonder how they talked Mick into this. It was just the band (Mick/Keith/Ronnie with Bill Wyman on bass and Charlie Watts on drums) with Billy Preston and Ian Stewart on keyboards and Ollie Brown on percussion. There was no horn section or back up singers (save for Keith and Ronnie). This is as straightforward as you’re going to get from the Stones at this point in their career.

Oddly, they used some of the El Mocambo stuff on the ensuing live album, Love You Live, but only 4 tracks. It was, for you vinyl cats out there, side 3 aka “The El Mocambo” side. I can’t help but think it might have been better to just release the entire El Mocambo show back then? I will admit Love You Live has a lot of great moments. They played the entire album on the Houston rock radio station the night after I saw the Stones for the first time with my buddy Brewster, who was apparently upset with the Stones’ set list that night. He said, “What album is this?” I didn’t know at the time. And he said, “At least they’re playing everything I wished they’d played tonight.” Drinking warm beer in the Astrodome parking lot in 1980 I will say, Brewster could always be incisive.

I have to say, first and foremost, Live At The El Mocambo sounds fantastic. I don’t know if its the intimate setting – it only sat 300 people but it feels like you’re there. The Stones had kept the gigs a secret. They faked a radio contest – what would you do to see the Stones? – and the winners would see April Wine live. The opening act was the Cockroaches… aka the Stones. People showed up and were surprised, the Stones were the actual headliners. Mick Jagger sounds like he’s having an absolute blast during this show. At one point he tells the small crowd that Ronnie Wood is inviting them back to his hotel room after the show… but they have to bring their own beer. The band is really tight on these performances – as if this was an escape from all the turmoil off the stage – and the tighter they play the more relaxed and fun Jagger becomes. Or maybe they’re just responding to playing in a tiny club. Keith has always said Mick could rule a stage from a stadium to a phone booth. Ronnie Wood’s lead guitar is also searing on this album. I couldn’t turn it up loud enough.

The Stones start off with a bit of a lumbering version of “Honky Tonk Woman.” It’s like they’re getting their bearings. Then they take off with “All Down The Line” one of my favorites from Exile On Mainstreet. Everything seemed to come together from there. What’s so great about this album is they not only took Ronnie’s suggestion to play older tracks and blues tunes but they play almost the entire Black And Blue album, something that you’re never gonna hear again. They played one of their earliest “Route 66” and its great but around that they play three tracks from Black And Blue. “Hand Of Fate” is a forgotten rock masterpiece as is “Crazy Mama,” but Jagger sounds IN TO IT. I love the ballad “Fool To Cry” (although I’m broken-hearted they didn’t do “Memory Motel”) but I’ve always been a sucker for ballads and sad songs… ask anybody whose dated me. I used to sing the lyric from “Fool To Cry” to this girl I used to date who lived downtown behind the old blood bank on Armour, “I gotta woman, she live in the poor part of town, I go and see her sometime, we make love so fine…” She’d always say the same thing, “This isn’t the poor part of town.”

“Mannish Boy,” and “Crackin’ Up” are two old blues covers that actually ended up on Love You Live but while I enjoyed the El Mocambo side, the songs just seem more in context here. “Dance Little Sister” and “Tumblin’ Dice” just snarl here. “Hot Stuff” from Black And Blue leads off the second disc. “Star Star” is still the most vulgar Chuck Berry-type track ever. They do a couple of blues tracks and it felt like I was back in Richmond (although I’ve never been to Richmond). “Worried Life Blues” is a track I’ve never heard the Stones do and I loved it. They did “Little Red Rooster” which also amazing… I think they took that to number 1 in England. I mean, you just don’t hear these songs at a Stones show. “It’s Only Rock N Roll” and “Rip This Joint” rock with such a ferocity you think things are going to slip the rails.

After they return to more predictable fair to end the March 5th, 1977 set with “Brown Sugar” and “Jumping Jack Flash,” they’ve tacked on three songs from the March 4th show. It may seem weird but it almost feels like an encore. If the encore was obscure songs that I would be allowed to pick. “Melody,” another great Black And Blue track and gives Billy Preston a chance to share lead with Mick. Then they play “Luxury” a reggae thing from It’s Only Rock n Roll. The final track is a very early version of “Worried About You” a song that didn’t see the light of day until Tattoo You, side 2 (and yes, I know there are Tattoo You, side 2 freaks out there…I’m one of you).

This is the sound of the Greatest Rock N Roll Band in the World discovering the joy in playing a concert again. You can hear the joy they find in the music. I do think a lot of that comes from Ronnie Wood’s almost childlike, joyful attitude. This is a treat for big Stones fans and more casual fans alike. It would be another year before the Stones emerged, defiant and triumphant with Some Girls, an album that silenced the “they’re done” talk. That album also happened to awake a rock n roll obsession in a young man living in the Kansas City suburbs…but that’s another post.

I can already tell this album is going to get a lot of airplay here at B&V this summer… Cheers!