Monthly Archives: November 2012

Rocks In The Attic #178: Ted Nugent – ‘Ted Nugent’ (1975)

RITA#178Throughout 1995 and 1996 I was infatuated with the soundtrack to Richard Linklater’s Dazed And Confused – a ‘70s rock soundtrack that (mostly) avoids the cliché rock classics that tend to pop up on ‘70s nostalgia films to denote ‘youth’ or ‘attitude’.

As Linklater’s film deals with ‘youth’ and ‘attitude’ with not a great deal of story in-between, he has a lot of screen time to fill with songs like Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold. This is a killer song, with a solid groove laid down for the opportunity of a million and a half lead licks.

I don’t know too much else about Ted Nugent. He was a contemporary of Aerosmith (and played on their version of Milk Cow Blues from 1978’s Texxas Jam), and his singer Derek St. Holmes went on to record an album with Brad Whitford; but apart from those connections and his love of guns, I don’t know a thing about him.

I do know this album however, and it rocks. Simple groove-based guitar rock, with no frills.

Hit: Stranglehold

Hidden Gem: You Make Me Feel Right At Home

Rocks In The Attic #177: Whitney Houston – ‘Whitney’ (1987)

Ever since American Idol started, I’ve always wondered what Randy Jackson has done in his life to award him the opportunity to sit on a panel critiquing the talent of others. Initially I thought he was a lesser-known member of the Jackson clan.

Looking at the liner notes of this album, I now know – his bass playing and synth playing is all over this album! Does his background as a bass player to other, more notable musicians (and I’m not including Whitney Houston in this sentence) means he’s qualified to comment on the hopes and dreams of vacuous teenagers?

Well I guess somebody has to do it, and I guess it might as well be him than anybody else.

Hit: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Hidden Gem: So Emotional

Rocks In The Attic #176: David Bowie – ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ (1971)

One record on from Space Oddity, and a notable step closer to Hunky Dory, but Bowie’s songwriting here is still maturing.

It’s odd that this album sounds quite a bit heavier than both Space Oddity and Hunky Dory, with a rock sound closer to the Ziggy Stardust album. It reminds me of the way the first couple of Queen albums are all heavy sludge without any particular attention to melody.

For an album with no singles, the title song remains the most well-known song – and I guess Nirvana are partly to thank for that. It’s a great song, with an odd timing, similar to Andy Warhol from Hunky Dory.

This record also marks Bowie’s first partnership with Mick Ronson and the start of the band that would go on to become The Spiders From Mars.

Hit: The Man Who Sold The World

Hidden Gem: Black Country Rock

Rocks In The Attic #175: Def Leppard – ‘Hysteria’ (1987)

The band put a lot into this album, especially the drummer. I’ve driven on the country road, Snake Pass between Sheffield and Manchester, where Rick Allen lost his arm – what a horrible thing to happen to a band. I guess anybody in a band losing an arm would be a horrible thing – it just seems that little bit more horrible that it was the drummer.

Growing up as a rock fan, you tend to see the same facts repeated over and over in magazines. One fact always associated with this album is that is the joint best-selling rock album, alongside AC/DC’s Back In Black. Looking at the R.I.A.A.’s list of best-selling albums, that seems to be a load of bollocks. Back In Black is in there, second only to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but Def Leppard are nowhere to be seen in the top 30. Perhaps sales to strip clubs don’t count?

It wouldn’t surprise me if that claim was something started by Joe Elliot – Leppard’s lead singer, and chief ambassador for the band. In interviews, he has bragged about the level of alcohol found in former guitarist Steve Clark’s body when he died, being higher than the level of alcohol found in John Bonham’s body when he snuffed it – as though that makes Def Leppard the better band or something. What an odd thing to talk about. Anyway, with this level of misguided self-promotion, I wouldn’t be surprised if Elliot regularly told the press that his band’s 1987 offering was on a par with Back In Black in terms of sales. The big difference though is that Back In Black has aged well.

Hysteria isn’t a bad album, per se. It has a lot of hit singles – seven in total were taken from the album – but it just reeks of 1987. Their albums prior to this are far more interesting, but from this point onwards, all of their songs are mid-tempo to cater for their drummer’s new set-up.

Hit: Pour Some Sugar On Me

Hidden Gem: Women

Rocks In The Attic #174: Various Artists – ‘Ghostbusters (O.S.T.)’ (1984)

This represents the 200th disc I have reviewed for Rocks In The Attic. Not the 200th post (it’s only the 174th, but it’s the 200th actual disc accounting for all the double albums I’ve covered). Yes, I have a pivot table in Excel to keep  track of this!

I was very young but I have a very clear memory of seeing Ghostbusters when it came out. I don’t actually remember seeing it at the cinema – although I was definitely taken to see it – but I remember being infatuated with it after I had seen it.

I hadn’t heard anything about the film until one day at school when we were playing in the schoolyard. It was winter, we were building a snowman on the hard concrete and one of the other kids pointed to the sorry excuse for a snowman and said “He looks like the Stay Puft marshmallow man!” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but that night I was taken to see the film – I’m guessing at the Roxy cinema in Hollinwood, Manchester. And yes, that’s Hollinwood, not Hollywood. At school, we must have ‘played’ Ghostbusters at break-time for weeks or months after that.

My memory on that snowman incident is very clear – and, weather-wise, seems to tie up with the release date in the UK (7th December 1984). I would have been six and a half at the time, and I think this is one of my earliest memories that I can actually put a date to (thanks, IMDB).

My love for this film has gone through many changes. I initially liked it as a four year old because of the ghosts and special effects. I could never watch that first scene with the ghost in the library because it was far too scary! Growing up, as I saw the film on television, I then found an appreciation for the jokes. Before home video got popular, I remember the film showing on television was such an event to look forward to – I once watched it at a Christmas party or a New Year’s party, dropped off in a bedroom to watch it on a small portable television.

In the last decade or so, I’ve really developed a love for the soundtrack. You don’t tend to notice things like the music in a film when you’re very young – it just washes over you – but I think it sinks into your pores without you noticing, every time you watch it. I bought the soundtrack – I think from Mr. Sifter’s in Burnage, Manchester – on vinyl, and even though I hadn’t listened to the soundtrack before, it was as familiar as Mum’s cooking.

The music is very of-its-time, and there’s a couple of turkeys in there, but overall it’s a fantastic soundtrack. I’ll never be able to consider this collection of songs objectively – the songs are the film in my ears.

Hit: Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.

Hidden Gem: Magic – Mick Smiley

Rocks In The Attic #173: Glenn Miller & His Orchestra – ‘The Unforgettable Glenn Miller’ (1977)

You can say what you want about who the first rock ‘n roll star is. Bill Haley? Elvis? Little Richard? Chuck Berry? Forget about it – as far as I’m concerned, Glenn Miller has as much right to that crown.

Glenn Miller was 40 when his plane went missing during the war, which puts him at the same age as John Lennon when he died. I don’t know about you, but I never see Miller’s face when you see those horrible paintings of ‘pop stars we lost too young’, alongside Lennon, Bob Marley and Jim Morrison. Miller’s only drawback is that he came along twenty years before the advent of pop music.

Okay, he’s a bandleader – and not a songwriter; an arranger – and not a lyricist; but his output is infinitely more interesting (musically) than a lot of twelve-bar blues based early rock n’ roll.

This is a great LP to listen to, with the added benefit that it makes my living room feel like a 1940s serviceman’s lounge for an hour.

Hit: In The Mood

Hidden Gem: Little Brown Jug

Rocks In The Attic #172: Steely Dan – ‘The Royal Scam’ (1976)

This is Steely Dan’s most guitar-heavy album. Given that I’m a guitarist, and I love Steely Dan, this should really be my favourite Steely Dan record. It isn’t (Pretzel Logic is), but I still love The Royal Scam.

Like most fans of the Dan I’d say that Fagen and Becker never put a foot wrong. The one album that people always put forward as their worst – their last one, Gaucho – is always held up as the beginning of the end (after six straight years of churning out an album every year, it took them three years to release Gaucho after the success of Aja). I actually like Gaucho, and it’s by no means my least favourite (Countdown To Ecstasy tends to be, although it’s still a fantastic album).

I haven’t bothered to check out their two ‘reunion’ albums released since 2000. I’ve heard a couple of tracks, and at least they seem to sound like Steely Dan – unlike most bands who release an album after twenty years apart and end up sounding like a bad tribute band (case in point: The Doobie Brothers’ last couple of studio albums in the 1990s and 2000s).

Out of all the bands I love – my top ten favourite bands even – Steely Dan are definitely the most lyrical. Being a guitar player, a lot of lyrics go straight over my head – I’m just busy listening to the band, I just haven’t got the time to try and start deciphering the words – and this is especially true of the Dan.  Their material is just so musically interesting, I just love everything that pours out of the stereo when they’re on.

Hit: Kid Charlemagne

Hidden Gem: The Fez

Rocks In The Attic #171: R.E.M. – ‘Monster’ (1994)

Unlike a lot of R.E.M. fans, I really like this album. It was the first album of theirs to be released after I started listening to music (I had started listening to music obsessively whilst Automatic For The People was oute, but I was too concerned with other bands to pay any notice to R.E.M. or to that album at the time).

A lot of people don’t like this album because it doesn’t sound like R.E.M. The guitars are more distorted than usual, and it comes across as more of a rock album than an alternative album. So what? That sounds perfect!

This was released a year (almost to the day) after Nirvana’s In Utero, which may go some way to explain the direction that band were taking. Even though the two bands are very different, they were both flagbearers for early-‘90s alternative rock, and you would be naive to think they weren’t keeping tabs on each other’s output (Monster even includes a song in tribute to the recently departed Cobain – Let Me In). R.E.M.’s producer Scott Litt had even been hired to fiddle with the sound of In Utero and to remix a couple of the album’s tracks before it was released, so perhaps a large part of the influence was channelled through him.

I have a very clear memory of discussing this album with my good friend Dominic Beresford a couple of years after it came out, when I was at University. The amusing question raised by the album’s opening track, What’s The Frequency, Kenneth, was how Peter Buck was expected the play the backwards guitar solo on the song when they were playing live. The idea of him travelling though time backwards via an onstage teleporter sounded lavish, implausible…but funny all the same.

I did see R.E.M. play live at Glastonbury a few years later – they did play the song, but my memory is sketchy as to what he did across those bars of the song. I did find the answer eventually – at a Simon & Garfunkel show a few years ago, the guitarist played a backwards guitar solo in the break of Hazy Shade Of Winter – without the aid of any Cronenberg-esque teleportation devices. Evidently there is a guitar pedal that replicates a backwards guitar solo. I don’t think Buck would have had that pedal at the time (it would have been reversed on tape in the traditional way), but the album does reek of a certain pedal – half the tracks are drenched in tremolo.

Another odd memory I have of this album is my roommate at University refusing to believe that the band released Bang And Blame as a single off this album. In the world of Google, this sounds like an odd thing to have an arguement about. These days, it’s too easy just to look on Wikipedia and confirm, but back then it was his word against mine. I knew it had been released as a single as I’d seen the music video, but he refused to believe it, I think because he was a huge R.E.M. fan, and this knowledge had somehow passed him by. Wikipedia – thankyou! – confirms it was the second single to be taken from the album.

I like most of this album but the one song I really love, Crush With Eyeliner, became a firm favourite of mine when I used to DJ at Oldham’s 38 Bar / The Castle.

Hit: What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?

Hidden Gem: Crush With Eyeliner

Rocks In The Attic #170: The Rolling Stones – ‘Black And Blue’ (1976)

I’m really loving this album at the moment. To most people, if you said ‘The Stones edging towards funk’, they’d probably tell you to drown yourself: ‘They’re a rock band – the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world! They shouldn’t be dabbling in any other musical form!’

You needn’t worry. Their attempt at a James Brown-esque funk song – the album’s opener Hot Stuff – is superb and the band sounds fresh, stretching themselves into uncharted areas. They sound like their former selves across most of the album – the second track, Hand Of Fate, is back in familiar Rolling Stones territory -but the album has a much looser feel than a typical Stones album. Only their attempt at a reggae song – a cover of Cherry Oh Baby – sounds slightly forced.

Keith Richards would recall this album as the ‘rehearsing guitarists’ album, and I think it sounds all the better for it. I love Mick Taylor’s playing and his albums with the Stones are the highlight of their career for me, but the additional guitar work on this album – by Harvey Mandel and Wayne Perkins – sounds great. Perkins’ solos don’t sound too dissimilar to Mick Taylor’s, but Mandel’s influence, especially the dissonant solo in Hot Stuff, sounds refreshingly different to your regular Stones guitar playing.

This is the first Stones to feature Ronnie Wood as a member of the band – he’s in the group photo on the cover – even though he only plays on a handful of tracks. I do admit, he looks the part – like Keith’s long-lost twin – but I rate Mick Taylor’s playing over his any day. It’s just a shame that Mick Taylor could never fit into the band as seamlessly as Wood did.

Hit: Fool To Cry

Hidden Gem: Hot Stuff

Rocks In The Attic #169: Elton John – ‘Honky Château’ (1972)

This is Elton’s fifth album – and I think I bought it because of Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters, from the great Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous. Rocket Man and Honky Cat are both on here too.

I don’t know why I dislike Elton John so much – but I think I dislike what he has become more than anything else. If he’d died young at 27 (which I think would have meant kicking the bucket some time in 1974), he’d have left a nice little body of work. In retrospect though, it’s hard to listen to something classic like Rocket Man or Tiny Dancer without thinking about his schlock ‘80s material like I’m Still Standing.

I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself is another great song on this album – a great honky-tonk suicide letter, twenty years before Kurt Cobain was writing similar lyrics with far less irony.

Hit: Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)

Hidden Gem: Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters