Saturday, October 31, 2009

Off Beat - Troglodyte

"What we're gonna do right now is go back..." to 1972 and that crazy off beat song from The Jimmy Castor Bunch - Troglodyte.

Castor began his career as a do-wap singer in the late 50s in New York and replaced Frankie Lymon in The Teenagers before switching to the saxophone in 1960. In 1972 he formed the Jimmy Castor Bunch who reached their peak with the release of their first album and a cut from that LP called Troglodyte otherwise known as "Cave Man".

Troglodyte, which hit #6, was the groups highest charting effort. This video is a hoot...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do You Feel Like We Do?

At 18, having already spent 3 years as lead singer and guitarist of The Herd, Peter Frampton joined up with Steve Marriott of the Small Faces in 1968 to form Humble Pie. Three years and 5 albums later Frampton embarked on a solo career.

In 1973 he released Frampton's Camel, a moderately successful LP that contained a tune called "Do You Feel Like We Do". A catchy tune, Frampton featured it in his live performances where it received significant crowd reaction, prompting him to include it on 1976's "Frampton Comes Alive". The album became the #1 selling live album of all time where it sat in the record books until it was eclipsed by - in order - live sets by Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles.

The track and the album defined his sound for the rest of his career. I recall it being the first time I'd ever heard the "talk box" although Frampton picked up on it in some session work for George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass".

In 1975, Prior to the release of Frampton Comes Alive, he performed the song on Burt Sugerman's Midnight Special, staple weekend viewing for any serious rock fan because of it's excellent and eclectic rock performances... This is a classic performance!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jennifer Eccles

Since their formation in the late 60s, Graham Nash has been an integral part of the various incarnations of groups bearing his name: Crosby, Stills, Nash; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; and Crosby and Nash - not to mention his solo efforts from time to time. But prior to the supergroup known as CSN and its legendary spin-offs, Nash was also an integral part and founding member of The Hollies.

Formed in the early 60s, the group charted their first tune in Britain in 1963 and their first American album the following year. The British music media often dubbed them "the third group" after the Beatles and the Stones and in the early days they recorded "made-to-order" songs written by such folks as Graham Gouldman, later of 10CC. Between 1963 and 1969 the Hollies placed a phenomenal 20 hits into Britain's Top 40, many of them co-written by Nash, along with band-mates Allan Clarke and Tony Hicks.

Of course, Nash left the Hollies in 1968, met up with David Crosby and Stephen Stills and the rest is musical history. Before he departed he co-wrote his last Hollies' tune, one of the most popular in their songbook to date.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Off Beat - Do The Freddie

In the 1960's there were some truly weird and wacky rock acts. Some achieved success due to a certain look or gimmick. One such group was Freddie and the Dreamers, a band associated with the British invasion of the early to mid 60s. The Dreamers managed to sustain their popularity for about 3 years with top 10 hits such as I'm Telling You Now and You Were Made For Me.

The group, though, was oriented more to teeny boppers, much like Herman's Hermits say, than to rock and roll fans of other British bands such as the Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones.

And Freddie and the Dreamers really scraped bottom when they attempted to create a dance craze in the States based on their song "Do The Freddie". Their 1965 album of the same name even included diagrams and instructions from dance instructor Arthur Murray.

1980's Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll says of the group:

"...Freddie and the Dreamers [had] no masterpiece but a plentitude of talentless idiocy and enough persistence to get four albums and one film soundtrack released ... the Dreamers looked as thuggish as Freddie looked dippy ... Freddie and the Dreamers represented a triumph of rock as cretinous swill, and as such should be not only respected but given their place in history."

Witness for yourself...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Boxer

Tom and Jerry, more famously known by their real names Simon and Garfunkel were perhaps the most popular folk/rock group of the 60s. Tom and Jerry formed in 1957 but it was Simon and Garfunkel that achieved success in 1965 with the single Sounds of Silence. An acoustic version appeared on their debut album Wednesday Morning 3A.M. But the title track of their next album Sounds of Silence, added electric guitars and drums. In 1967, their music formed the soundtrack to the film The Graduate further rocketing the duo to fame. I remember my Grade 11 English class studying Simon and Garfunkel lyrics. Listening to those songs in the classroom wasn't like school work at all.

In 1970 they issued Bridge Over Troubled Water, their sixth and last LP. It won them Grammies for best song and best album in 1971. In 2004 Rolling Stone ranked them #40 in the 100 Greatest Artists Of All Time. Simon and Garfunkel have each enjoyed successful solo careers, Simon perhaps more so. And, for lucky fans, they've reunited for several special performances and recordings.

One of my favourite cuts off Bridge Over Troubled Water has to be The Boxer. In a bit of a change-up today, I'm sharing a cover-version performance of our highlighted song. Alison Krauss and Shawn Colvin are a couple of angel-like songbirds who really do this tune justice. And we don't often highlight women here, so I'm righting a past wrong. The performance also features dobro player extraordinaire Jerry Douglas. It all takes place in 2007 when Simon was awarded the first-ever Gershwin Prize For Popular Song.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Monday night New York's Empire State Building was apparently lit up in tie-dye colours to honour the Grateful Dead. In my 60s mind all I could think was "Far out, man." The Dead was one of those bands that creeped into America's (and Canada's) consciousness first in the mid to late 60s and on throughout the 70s and 80s. They have a catalogue of far out music. Stories of their group home in Haight-Ashbury, their days on the road and Dead Heads abound.

Jerry Garcia shunned the spotlight as the band's leader and spokesperson but this role fell to him nevertheless. Hey, why not? After all he named the band. The story goes that Garcia, high on some chemical, plunked his finger down (his good one) into either the dictionary or Encyclopedia Britannica and it came to rest on grateful dead. The rest is rock and roll history.

One of my favourite Dead tunes is Ripple. It's a track from one of the iconic Dead albums American Beauty, which showcased the first pairing of Garcia and mandolinist David Grisman. It wouldn't be the last time they made sweet music together either as part of the Dead or in several side projects.

According to Wikipedia, Ripple is widely considered one of the best Grateful Dead songs and one of the most beautiful and poetic songs in popular music. You'll get no argument from me...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Off Beat - I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again

He's perhaps best associated with with the country music outlaw movement of the 70s, but Willie Nelson was a struggling, yet successful Nashville songwriter in the 60s and an iconic American performer for the last several decades. His run ins with the law are well documented from tax evasion to getting busted for pot possession in 2006 at the age of 73. Indeed, it was his predilection for pot that inspired Toby Keith and his songwriting partner Scotty Emerick to pen Weed With Willie. It was released on Keith's 2003 album Shock'n Y'all.

The song is based on an incident when Toby and Scotty visited Willie on his tour bus to talk about Willie and Toby doing a duet of Beer For My Horses. Willie agreed, the song went to #1 but not before the trio had a smokey night to remember and the inspiration for a song.

There's a story about the marijuana advocate saying he'd cut back on his weed intake. When asked if he'd done it for his health, Willie said "No, it's just getting harder to find the good stuff."

I always heard that his herb was top shelf
I just could not wait to find out for myself
Don't knock it til' you tried it, Well I tried it my friend
And I'll never smoke weed with Willie again

I learned a hard lesson in a small Texas town
He fired up a fat boy and passed him around
The last words that I spoke before they tucked me in
Was I'll never smoke weed with Willie again

I'll never smoke weed with Willie again
My party's all over before it begins
You can pour me some old whiskey river my friend
But I'll never smoke weed with Willie again

I hopped on his old bus, the Honey Suckle Rose
The party was Vegas it was after the show.
Alone in the front lounge with just me and him,
With one parting puff grim creeper set in.

I'll never smoke weed with Willie again
My party's all over before it begins
You can pour me some old whiskey river my friend
But I'll never smoke weed with Willie again

Now we're passing the guitar and telling good jokes
I know ones a-comin' cause I'm smelling smoke
No I do not partake, I just let it pass by
With a smile on my face and a great contact high

I'll never smoke weed with Willie again
My party's all over before it begins
You can pour me some old whiskey river my friend
But I'll never smoke weed with Willie again
In the fetal position with drool on my chin
I messed up and smoked weed with Willie again

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm Your Captain

In 1972, I shelled out a couple of bucks of my hard earned money on a double album called Mark, Don and Mel - 1969-71. Mark, Don and Mel were, of course, Grand Funk Railroad and the LP captured the power-trio's hits to date in studio and live performances.

The band came together in 1968 in Flint Michigan with Mark Farner on guitars, keyboards and lead vocials; Don Brewer on drums and lead vocals, and; Mel Schacher on bass. Their big break came as the result of a dynamite perfomance at 1969's Atlanta Pop Festival. By 1970 the group was selling more albums than any other American band and while the critics loathed them the fans loved them, making the group a major rock concert attraction.

In 1972 the band added Craig Frost on keyboards. In a case of "what might have been", the group's first choice to add to their sound was Peter Frampton. But Framption had just signed a solo contract with A&M Records.

I'm Your Captain first appeared on Grand Funk's Closer to Home album in 1970. Luckily for me it closed out my double-album purchase in 1972.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not Fade Away

In 1964, the Rolling Stones released their first album The Rolling Stones - England's Newest Hitmakers. The first cut on their first album was the Buddy Holly, aka Charles Hardin, hit Not Fade Away.

The song wasn't even on the earlier British version of the untitled album. Indeed, it was first released as a single with Nanker Phelge/Phil Spector penned Little by Little on the B-side in Britain and Lennon/McCartney's I Wanna Be your Man in the US and Canada. Unless you're a Stones fanatic you may not know Nanker Phelge was the name affixed to tunes written by all 5 Stones.

Not Fade Away was the Stones' first Top Five hit in the UK.

Most of the tracks on the album reflect the Stones affinity for American rhythm and blues, including tunes by Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry. Tell Me was the only Jagger/Richards song on the LP. Who knew that would change and these guys would still be rockin' 45 years later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Off Beat - I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow

I just loved this movie, particularly the soundtrack. For me, one of the musical highlights of the film was George Clooney performing I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow with his two cronies who as a trio called themselves the Soggy Bottom Boys...

The song is a traditional American folk song first recorded in the early 1900s. In O Brother Where Art Thou the Soggy Bottom Boys are actually Alison Krauss and Union Station, more specifically group member Dan Tyminski.

The song was a hit in the movie for the Soggy Bottom Boys and in real life receiving the CMA for single of the year and a Grammy.

The song has been covered by hundreds of artists including Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Waylon Jennings, Rod Stewart, Denny Laine, Jerry Garcia and The Dillards.
And it was covered by Bob Dylan on his self-titled first album from 1962.

Here, Dylan performs the song on his first televised appearance in 1963.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Genesis - Part II

While on tour to promote The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in the mid 70s, Peter Gabriel told his band mates he'd be leaving the group at the end of the tour. The band decided to carry on without him.

After auditioning over 400 lead singers to find a replacement, Genesis reached within and promoted drummer and back-up singer Phil Collins to take over lead singer duties. To help out on drumming duties the group engaged Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford for their 1976 tour, hiring former Weather Report and Zappa drummer Chester Thompson in 1977.
The four-man line-up's first album was A Trick of The Tail. Recorded in October and November of 1975 and released in February of 1976, the LP hit #3 in the UK and remained on the charts for 39 weeks - more popular than any Genesis album to date.

Entangled is a moody, melancholy track from Trick Of The Tail written by keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist Steve Hackett marked by the jangling of several 12 string guitars and Bank's Mellotron. It's apparently Bank's favourite track on the album. Here's a live performance from 1976.

Hackett left Genesis in 1977. And then there were three...and have been ever since.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Genesis - Part I

Genesis is one of those groups I and my CD player revisit periodically. There's a lot to revisit as they've been around for over 40 years and the group has gone through several line-up changes as they've refined their sound.

They came together in 1967 and issued two albums before guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins joined Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Peter Gabriel in the "classic" Genesis line up in 1970.

The "Gabriel era" from 1970 to 1975 is one of my favourites, characterized by lengthy tracks on theme and concept albums and stage shows with elaborate costumes and lighting effects. This incarnation of Genesis released 4 albums: Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound and the epic double-LP The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

Nursery Cryme is seen as a not very polished album compared to the production values of the albums that followed. But it is seen as a significant departure from the group's previous album, likely due to the influence of Hackett and Collins

Released in 1971, Nursery Cryme produced the 10 minute The Musical Box which was to become a staple of the group's live performances. The following clip is from a Belgian television performance in the early 70s. It runs close to 10 minutes so a little patience is required here. But from a rock music historic artifact the performance is amazing. Note Gabriel's flute and base drum playing...

We'll continue our Genesis two-parter Thursday with a look at the group post-Gabriel.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Off Beat - Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother

Ronald Clyde Crosby was born in 1942 in Oneonta, New York. However, he's better known for where he took up residence in the 70s - Austin, Texas - and by his stage name - Jerry Jeff Walker.

Walker calls his style of music "cowjazz" and is usually associated with the country-rock outlaw genre popularized by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.
His best known and most often covered song is Mr. Bojangles. But one of my Jerry Jeff Walker favourites is the Ray Wylie Hubbard-penned classic Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother.

He was born in Oklahoma,
His wife's name's Betty Lou Thelma Liz
And he's not responsible for what he's doing
Cause his mother made him what he is.

And it's up against the wall Redneck Mother,
Mother, who has raised her son so well.
He's thirty-four and drinking in a honky tonk.
Just kicking hippies asses and raising hell.

Sure does like his Falstaff beer,
Likes to chase it down with that Wild Turkey liquor;
Drives a fifty-seven GMC pickup truck;
He's got a gun rack; "Goat ropers need love, too" sticker

And it's up against the wall Redneck Mother,
Mother, who has raised her son so well.
He's thirty-four and drinking in a honky tonk.
Just kicking hippies asses and raising hell.

M is for the mudflaps you give me for my pickup truck
O is for the Oil I put on my hair
T is for T-bird
H is for Haggard
E is for eggs, and
R is for REDNECK.

Up against the wall Redneck Mother,
Mother, who has raised her son so well.
He's thirty-four and drinking in a honky tonk.
Kicking hippies asses and raising hell.

He's up against the wall Redneck Mother,
Mother, who has raised her son so well.
He's thirty-four and drinking in a honky tonk.
Just kicking hippies asses and raising hell.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


One of my favourite Dylan periods has got to be the mid-70s. If the Bootleg Series Volume 5 from 2002 had have been issued on vinyl I surely would have worn out the grooves. Volume 5 of the acclaimed bootleg series documents the fall 1975 tour of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. The tour has been referred to as a travelling caravan and included such musicians as Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Roger McGuinn, the fabulous Scarlet Rivera, David Bowie's former lead guitarist Mick Ronson, Kinky Friedman and T Bone Burnett.

Before heading out on tour, Dylan had just completed recording his 17th album Desire. Many of the musicians on the album were retained for the Rolling Thunder Revue. Emmylou Harris, who sang on the album, was unfortunately unavailable to tour. While the album wasn't released until January of 1976, much of it's content was played on the tour.

Dylan hired Sam Shepherd to make a movie about the tour, focusing both on and off stage. The resulting Renaldo and Clara, released in 1978, bombed. But the tour was a huge success, at least thefall leg of it. A spring follow-up not so much. Dylan, in the moment as it were, would often paint his face for his performances. Those performances included the Desire LP closer Sara.

Sara has been referred to as Dylan's most public display of his private life. It was written for his then wife in the hopes of saving a faltering marriage. Married in 1965, Bob and Sara Dylan finally divorced in 1977.