Thursday, July 30, 2009

Low Rider

Rock-funk fusion band War was formed in 1969 and fronted by Eric Burdon, former lead singer of the Animals. They were a fusion of two sorts. Their music encompassed rock, funk, jazz, Latin music, R&B and raggae. And the band line up was multi-ethnic; a fusion of races and cultures.

Burdon and War released several hits in the early 70s including the classic Spill the Wine. But Burdon and the rest of the members parted ways while on a European tour in 1970. Luckily for us War still had some great songs in them including Why Can't We Be Friends and the funky Low Rider released in 1975.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Louie, Louie

The vocals by lead singer Jack Ely have been referred to as sounding "like Donald Duck on helium", but regardless The Kingsmen had a hit on their hands in 1963. Louie, Louie was actually a Jamaican love song written in 1955. Several groups covered it, from Paul Revere and the Raiders to Iggy Pop.

The song had notoriety associated with it. Because the Kingsmen's version was virtually unintelligible, some radio stations banned the single because they thought it was laced with profanity. At one point the FBI got involved but after a 31-month investigation reported that they were "unable to interpret any of the wording in the record". After 31 months they still couldn't make out the words!

Nice hat, Jack!

Here's the lyrics from The Kingsmen's 1963 version of the song. This was what the fuss was all about!

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.

A fine little girl, she waits for me.
Me catch the ship across the sea.
Me sailed the ship all alone.
Me never think I'll make it home.

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.

Three nights and days I sailed the sea.
Me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there.
I smell the rose in her hair.

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.
OK, let's give it to 'em right now

(guitar solo)

Me see . . .

Me see Jamaica, the moon above.
It won't be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I'll never leave again.

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go
I said we gotta go now
Let's step on out of here
Let's go!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Off Beat: Surfin Bird

Surf-rock group The Trashmen released Surfin Bird in 1963. The Trashmen may have sounded like they hailed from California but they were actually from Minneapolis.
Surprisingly, The Trashmen released 14 albums but they are most famous for this #4 hit.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm Sorry Neil But You Ripped Me Off

As far as I'm concerned the most anticipated release in virtually all of rock and roll history is a bust. Neil Young's Archives Volume One certainly busted me, and for what?

Oh I thought I was so smart. I convinced my wife to get me a Blu-Ray player for Father's Day in anticipation of the second-coming of box sets. And then, instead of paying $399 Cdn. at the CD store I saved myself $85 by ordering through And then I watched it.

I use the word "watched" advisedly because what I watched, save for one darkly lit "performance disc" (the previously released Massey Hall concert) and his drug-induced 70s film Journey Through The Past, was 7 Blu-Ray discs of turntables turning and reel-to-reel tape machines reeling. And so was I when all was done.

Now don't get me wrong. I love Neil Young. The ex-pat Canadian is right up there with the rest of my holy trinity of rock: Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. And the music on the discs is fascinating, both in terms of audio quality and, as a Neil Young completist, historically, taking us back to his boyhood group The Squires in Winnipeg in the early 60s.

The packaging is great too, as are the so-called hidden features on the discs such as biographical notes, photos and newspaper clippings.

Unfortunately, there's next to no video of performances of Neil. When I heard he was capitalizing on Blu-Ray technology I thought he had some great performance footage to share with fans. Half of the anticipation of this long-awaited collection had to do with seeing how he took advantage of the latest technology available to him. But I was sorely mistaken as is anyone else who bought the over-priced and equally over-hyped DVD or Blu-Ray versions of this box set.

I hope this changes for subsequent volumes. Otherwise, the cheaper CD version of the box set will suffice.

Neil, I saw you perform twice in the last year, and the year before with Crosby, Stills and Nash. I was hoping for more. I'm really disappointed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Running On Empty

This week's 70s Thursday feature looks at Jackson Browne, an artist who struggled significantly until finally making it. Early in his career he was better known for writing songs for other people such as Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Linda Ronstadt, the Byrds and the Eagles.

Browne signed a record deal with Asylum Records in 1971, the home of the "California sound" of the 70s and recorded and released 4 albums before the blockbuster Running on Empty live album. Running on Empty was recorded while on tour but in addition to live concert performances included tunes recorded on his tour bus, backstage and in hotel rooms. Running On Empty was released in 1977. Here's a performance of the title track from 1979...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Don

Eagles founding member, drummer, lead vocalist and co-writer Don Henley turns 62 today. Happy Birthday, Don. Don formed the Eagles in 1972 with Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner after a stint as Linda Rondstat's back-up band. After several line-up changes the Eagles broke up in 1980 and at that time Henley and Frey were supported by Don Felder, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh. The same line up reunited 14 years later with their Hell Freezes Over tour and album.

In the years in between Eagles activity, Henley launched the most successful solo career of the core members of the group, releasing 3 albums between 1982-89 before a contract dispute with his record company prevented him from releasing any more. Today he continues to perform as a solo act and with the Eagles. The following song from his solo catalogue is one of my favoutite Henley tunes...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


One critic called it the greatest live rock solo ever and he was referring to Eric Clapton's guitar solo during a performance of Crossroads by Cream at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom in March of 1968. Cream's original version of the song had bassist Jack Bruce handling the vocals but in this version it was Clapton front and center.

Clapton, Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker formed Cream in 1966. Clapton had left the Yardbirds following the recording of "For Your Love" because he felt the band was forgoing it's blues roots in favour of a more commercial approach.

Cream issued four albums in it's short 2 year life - Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire and Goodbye. Clapton went on to form Blind Faith with Steve Winwood, Rick Grech and Ginger Baker.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Off Beat: My Balogna

The second in our weekly Saturday series of off beat or silly songs is My Balogna by Weird Al Yankovic, a parody of The Knack's 1979 hit My Sharona. Yankovic, who first reached the top ten with the album Right Outta Lynwood and single White and Nerdy in 2006, launched his career close to 30 years ago with My Balogna. He's had some hilarious hits parodying famous artists and their songs over the years but it all started with this video from the pop prankster...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Hangman and the Papist

I first became aware of the Strawbs in the early 70s with the release of their album From the Witchwood in 1971. In those days Rick Wakeman was still with the group before joining Yes. But the group was first formed in the mid-60s by Dave Cousins and known at that time as the Strawberry Hill Boys, a bluegrass group. The line-up has changed over the years. For example, Richard Hudson and John Ford left to from Hudson Ford in 1973 and evolved into The Monks in the late 70s. There is a version of the band that continues to tour to this day and a new album was released last year.

But my favourite incarnation was the version with Wakeman. Here's that line-up performing The Hangman and the Papist from From the Witchwood in 1972.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Friday On My Mind

Anyone remember this catchy song? Friday On My Mind was the first international hit by The EasyBeats, released in 1966. The EasyBeats were an Australian band, formed in 1964 and relocated to London, England two years later. The group broke up in 1969.

Trivia note: Key songwriting member of the EasyBeats George Young is AC/DC's Angus and Malcolm Young's older brother and produced AC/DC's first six albums. He and former band mate Harry Vanda formed another group after the EasyBeats demise, the Australian band Flash and the Pan.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Roger

One of my favourite 60s bands was the Byrds. They wrote and performed great songs and did amazing covers of Bob Dylan tunes such as Mr. Tambourine Man and My Back Pages. A big part of their distinctive sound was Roger McGuinn's unique voice and Rickenbacker guitar. Roger turns 67 today.
There were many permutations of the group from it's inception in 1964 to its disbandment in 1973, including a reunion album of the original members in 1973. McGuinn preserved the franchise as best he could before finally going solo, and playing and touring with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review in the mid 70s. Here's a 1973 performance of Eight Miles High, a tune originally recorded in 1966. Gene Clark of the original Byrds penned the lyrics about an experience on an airplane trip to England. At the time, many listeners - and radio executives - thought it was about drug use and several radio stations banned it. Hey, it was the 60s!

The Byrds Over the Years

Roger McGuinn – guitar, vocals (1964–1973)
Gene Clark – tambourine, guitar, vocals, harmonica (1964–1966, 1967, 1973)
David Crosby – guitar, vocals (1964–1967, 1973)
Chris Hillman – bass, vocals (1964–1968, 1972-1973)
Michael Clarke – drums (1964–1968, 1973)
Kevin Kelley - drums (1968)
Gram Parsons – guitar, piano, vocals (1968)
Clarence White - guitar, vocals (1968–1973)
John York – bass, vocals (1968–1969)
Gene Parsons – drums, vocals (1968–1972)
Skip Battin – bass, vocals (1969–1972)
John Guerin – drums (1972–1973)
Joe Lala - drums (1973

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Off Beat

Today we begin a new feature that, with luck, will appear regularly each Saturday. The title doesn't refer to syncopation but rather silly, novelty or off beat songs. Many of these songs I grew up with in the 50s and 60s. Of course I was just knee-high to a grasshopper in the 50s you understand but many of these songs ran on the radio in those days and helped get me hooked on music.

Our first selection comes from the height of the cold war and the height of the sci-fi craze of the 50s. In 1958 Sheb Wooley capitalized on when our imaginations were piqued by movies about aliens and UFO's with The Purple People Eater...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mohammed's Radio

In the 1970s I discovered Asylum Records, the record label created by David Geffin solely to provide Jackson Browne with a recording contract. Asylum had some pretty great artists in addition to Browne such as The Eagles, Joni Mitchell and Linda Rondstat. But one of my favourites was an artist signed in 1976, Warren Zevon.

Zevon played with the Everly Brothers and toured with Manfred Mann in the 60s and attempted to launch a solo career in the early 70s. His songs were often, dark, sardonic and funny - sort of macabre version of Randy Newman. The big boost to his career was provided by record label mate Jackson Browne who allowed Zevon to perform in the middle of Browne's concerts. That's where the following priceless performance of Mohammed's Radio comes from. Sadly, Zevon died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 56.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Live For Today

The Grass Roots was an American band with a string of hits from the mid 1960's into the 1970's. The group went through several incarnations, the first version being the brainchild of songwriters P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri.

In the so-called "summer of love" (1967) The Grass Roots hit the airwaves with Live for Today. Here's a lip-synced performance from The Holloywood Palace TV Show with a lame introduction by Jimmy Durante. Hey, we had to take our rock n roll where we could find it!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Ringo

We couldn't let this one go by without acknowledgement. Today is Richard Starkey's birthday! Better known as Ringo Starr, the former Beatles drummer turns 68. The key to his success? Act naturally...

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Blues, R&B, country, funk and rock and roll. Little Feat was all of those things. While the band continues to perform to this day, the version with co-founder Lowell George was, for me, the definitive edition Little Feat. Tragically, George died of a massive heart attack at the age of 34, 30 years ago this week - June 29, after a solo concert in Washington, D.C.

George was a member of the Mothers of Invention before starting Little Feat and often told the story of being fired by Frank Zappa for trying to get the Mothers to do a song he had written. Zappa, not a drug user, didn't like the drug references in the song. Many have covered the song over the years but few have matched Little Feat's version of Willin'. Here's a performance of the song from 1977...

I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I'm drunk and dirty, don't you know
And I'm still

And I was out on the road late at night
And I seen my pretty Alice in every head light
Dallas Alice

And I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed

And if you give me
Weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I'll be willin'
To be movin'

I've been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet
Had my head stoved in, but I'm still on my feet
And I'm still

Now I smuggled some smokes and folks from Mexico
Baked by the sun, every time I go to Mexico
And I'm still