Monthly Archives: January 2018

Rocks In The Attic #661: Dean Martin – ‘French Style’ (1962)

RITA#661It is 1962. In the conference room of Reprise Records, Hollywood, California, we find the label’s founder, Frank Sinatra, discussing Reprise’s release schedule with various members of the Rat Pack.

Frank Sinatra: Okay boys, what are we going to put out next for Deano? It’ll need to be something good.

Dean Martin: Let’s just do what we always do, Frank. I can record some numbers with the band. Joe Public will lap it up.

Sinatra: That ain’t gonna cut it, Deano. The kids need something new, something different.

Sammy Davis, Jr: What if he does a country record, Frank?

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about country? I love Country!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. No record label of mine is going to release hillbilly music.

Peter Lawford: What about rock and roll, Frank? The kids go crazy for that stuff. Look what it did for Elvis!

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about rock and roll? I love rock and roll!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. Presley’s a degenerate. All it got him was a stint in the army. What’s the point of making records if it’s just going to get you shot.

RITA#661aJoey Bishop: What about the blues, Frank? Joe Public’d freak out for a blues record.

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about the blues? I love the blues!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. He’s Italian-American; he ain’t no half-blind ni…

Davis, Jr: [clears throat]

Sinatra: …er, I mean, he’s not right for that audience. C’mon, there must be something we’re missing…

The room falls into a hush, as they look to the ceiling for inspiration.

Sinatra: …something new…something different…something with a certain…je nes sais quoi…

Martin: [looks at Sinatra and raises an eyebrow]

Hit: Le Vie En Rose

Hidden Gem: C’est Magnifique

Advertisements

Rocks In The Attic #660: Roger Waters – ‘The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking’ (1984)

RITA#660“Mum, you know I can’t drink that wine!”

“Why not?”

“Durr…” (rolls eyes, points to own stomach) “ – PREGNANT!”

Two nights ago, I saw Roger Waters in Auckland on his Us + Them world tour. I’ve seen him in concert before, six years ago in the same venue, performing The Wall (more on that overheard mother-daughter exchange later). That 2012 was a fantastic show, and something I’ll never forget, but you probably had to be a fan of The Wall to truly enjoy it. This current tour is almost a fully dedicated Pink Floyd greatest hits set, and so there was lots to like.

Opening, of course, with Breathe, the set included the lion’s share of Dark Side Of The Moon, a couple of songs from Wish You Were Here – its title track plus Welcome To The Machine – and the more well-known songs from The WallThe Happiest Days Of Our Lives / Another Brick In The Wall parts 2 and 3, played as one continuous piece, and encores of Mother and Comfortably Numb.

What surprised me though was the portion of the set allocated to Animals – the oft-overlooked 1977 Pink Floyd album (overlooked only in relation to its chronological neighbours Wish You Were Here and The Wall). Up to that point, the concert had been your standard, straightforward arena show: one stage, band playing, big screen at the back projecting images alternating between the band playing, and artful, mind-bending imagery.

But as the band kicked into Dogs, a huge structure descended from the roof of the arena. The four chimneys of the Battersea Power Station emerged telescopically next to an in-scale flying pig, while the sides of the power station were projected onto massive screens. The whole piece looked like the front cover of Animals was floating in the middle of Auckland’s Spark Arena (as a sidenote, the former name of the arena – the Vector Arena – was a more fitting name to host Roger, particularly if Clarence Clemons from the E-Street Band was playing saxophone).

RITA#660a
Dogs segued into Pigs (Three Different Ones), and Waters used this as his opportunity to shame Donald Trump. The band donned pig masks and sat around a dining table sipping from champagne flutes, while a selection of Trump’s inane (or should that be insane?) tweets were projected onto the walls of the power station. ‘TRUMP IS A PIG’ eventually appeared inscribed on the screens as the song climaxed.

RITA#660b

I really appreciate that Waters is still (seemingly) a fan of the Animals record. When it was overlooked as one of the Immersion box sets a few years ago, it seemed to lose some of its cachet. Perhaps it was an absence of decent additional material that could have fleshed out such a set, but it just seemed to be a snub for a record that resonates so much with fans as the last true Floyd album (if you follow the theory that The Wall and The Final Cut are just Roger Waters solo albums in everything but name).

The other highlight of the set for me was the inclusion of One Of These Days, the bass-heavy opening song from 1971’s Meddle. I love this song – it’s in my top 5 Floyd tracks – and so when Waters strummed that first heavily-delayed bass note, I let out a squeal of excitement much to the amusement of my wife.

The rest of the show featured everything you’d expect from a Roger Waters show (or a Pink Floyd show for that matter): laser projections, a school choir for Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, a huge inflatable pig flying around the arena (much more manoeuvrable these days thanks to drone technology), and lyrics to die for. If there’s ever been a finer quartet than ‘And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again / The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older / Shorter of breath and one day closer to death’, I’d really like to know.

My only disappointment was the absence of Shine On You Crazy Diamond – but I presume this was substituted for the Animals suite due to its topicality in terms of world events. Hopefully he’ll return to New Zealand one day and I’ll get to see him play it.

My experience in seeing Roger Waters play live twice now is that he never fails to attract New Zealand’s cream of the bogan crop. When we saw The Wall, I invested in very expensive diamond tickets, just a few rows from the front. We’ll be away from the riff-raff here, I thought. How wrong I was. To my right sat a twenty-something blonde, dressed like a stripper, accompanied by her forty-something mother. They looked so similar – blonde with roots, caked in make-up, stumbling in ridiculously high heels – they could have been sisters. After the older one returned from the bar, forgetting that her daughter was pregnant (she drank the wine regardless), they proceeded to stand-up in their seat, and danced along to the show. Not a huge problem you might say, but the people sat behind them who had shelled out $400 a ticket thought differently. Security was called after they became belligerent and abusive, and they were thrown out.

This time around, we were sat in the cheap seats with a group of drunken bogans sat behind us. Before the show started, one of them kicked a full tray of drinks over, with the resulting liquids spilling under our seats. They apologised, and it wasn’t too much of a problem, so fair enough. The guy sat directly behind me then thought it was acceptable to put his feet up onto the top of my chair, which I just sat back on, his toes digging into my back, until he got the message and stopped.  Then during the show, one of the males spat his drink out, laughing at something one of his companions had said. My wife took the brunt of it to the side of her face, while a lady in front of her stood up and turned around to give him an absolute bollocking. As I was debating whether to notify security – I wasn’t too sure what had happened, or whether it was accidental or a malicious act – one of their party returned from the bar and passed my wife and I a whiskey and coke each to apologise.

I appreciated this greatly – but the exchange did take me by surprise and as a result I missed Roger singing my favourite lines from Wish You Were Here: ‘Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war / For a lead role in a cage?’

Oh well, maybe next time (and I hope there will be a next time)..

I don’t know The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking too well, despite having heard it a number of times. I really need to listen to it more – and probably through headphones so I can pick up on all the little nuances and snippets of dialogue. It’s an album that’s crying out for an accompanying film (like Alan Parker’s 1982 film of The Wall), and while such a project was initially mooted, nothing has emerged in the subsequent 35 years.

Hit: 5:01 am (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)

Hidden Gem: 4:47 am (The Remains of Our Love)

RITA#660c

Rocks In The Attic #659: Bob James – ‘H’ (1980)

RITA#659What’s this? Bob James is hooked on heroin and has written a concept album about the trials and tribulations of his addiction? How can he even play keyboards this well if he’s strung out on smack? “Hey, Bob, you missed the middle eight….Oh….Can somebody please wake Bob up? He’s nodding out again…”

As much as part of me would like to see a drug-addled Bob James – purely to see how insanely it might affect his brand of smooth jazz – I’m happy to report that he’s not a dope-fiend. The H of the title fits with his numbering system of his albums – this is studio album number eight, and ‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet. We’re out of the 1970s now, and so we’re a few years past James’ career high of 1978’s Touchdown, but if there was ever a decade that was ready for the kind of music that he performs, it’s the 1980s.

‘H’ is also, of course, for hot dog – a very tasty looking one, from the looks of it. If only record covers were edible…

Hit: Snowbird Fantasy

Hidden Gem: The Walkman

RITA#659a

Rocks In The Attic #657: Nilsson – ‘Son Of Schmilsson’ (1972)

RITA#657What do you do after you release a mainstream breakthrough like Nilsson Schmilsson? Do you repeat the formula and give the record company the same again – propping up their stakeholders and ultimately creating an even bigger expectation for a more difficult next album? Or do you just do whatever you want, and concentrate on the weirder brand of material such as Coconut from Nilsson Schmilsson?

History tells us that Nilsson took the latter route, using sound effects to comedic effect and burping between takes. Son Of Schmilsson might not have the same hit singles as Nilsson Schmilsson, or even the same boundless energy that that evergreen record does, but it’s still an enjoyable listen. I guess making a few bucks for RCA gives you the power to concentrate on your own path – and you can almost hear the anguish from their frustration at Nilsson not playing ball.

A song as delicate and pure as Turn On Your Radio is as timeless as anything on the record’s more well-known predecessor, something that Brian Wilson would have been more than proud to write.

RITA#657aI recently watched the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talking About Him)? It’s a sad film to watch as you see an artist slowly give his life (and talent) over to drink, but nice to see so many well-respected musicians talk about him positively.

As well as his talent, Nilsson’s death in 1994 also robbed the world of a prominent and dedicated advocate for gun control (initially sparked by John Lennon’s assassination) – something the United States needs so badly at the moment.

Hit: Remember (Christmas)

Hidden Gem: Turn On Your Radio

Rocks In The Attic #656: Rick Dufay – ‘Tender Loving Abuse’ (1980)

RITA#656Rick Dufay was, for one brief period, instantly famous as rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford’s temporary replacement in Aerosmith.

‘Steven [Tyler]’s motorcycle thing happened and everything just stopped,’ Whitford recounts in Walk This Way, the band’s semi-autobiography with Stephen Davis. ‘Nothing was going on and I was bored and very frustrated. We all were. Aerosmith was in chaos, with Steven in and out of drugs and rehab.’

During the Rock In A Hard Place sessions, which began in September 1981, Whitford didn’t gel with Jimmy Crespo, the lead guitarist drafted in to replace Joe Perry. ‘Jimmy was a trained musician, a stickler for getting things precise. I found it hard to work with that attitude. Joe and I, we didn’t have to say two words to each other about the guitar parts. It was a big part of the guitar magic that had sustained Aerosmith for ten years.’ He called the band’s manager and quit the band. ‘Tell the guys, okay? Sorry, man. Goodbye.’

RITA#656aAlthough Whitford had contributed to the sessions, they erased his parts and the resulting album was performed by Crespo with drummer Joey Kramer and bassist Tom Hamilton. Only a guitar part on Lightning Strikes remains as Whitford’s solitary contribution.

The band needed a new rhythm guitarist, and producer Jack Douglas had just the right guy in mind. He had just produced the first solo album of an emerging rock guitarist. ‘So I brought in Rick Dufay, a true character, a kindred spirit. I thought he would mesh well with the band, so we flew him to Florida and he joined Aerosmith. I think he played on one track on the album, Lightning Strikes.’

Dufay couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the quiet, reserved Brad Whitford. ‘Rick Dufay was a friend of Jack’s, a guitar player, a total asshole, and we loved him,’ Tyler remembers. ‘Rick just so defined what a fuckin’ asshole is. He would come up and spit in my face. He would do something brain-dead and just beg Jack to beat the shit out of him.’

RITA#656bIt wasn’t a great combination. By this time, Tyler was strung out on heroin on a daily basis, and Dufay more than anything enabled this kind of behaviour. The lead singer had found a new partner in crime. ‘Rick would try anything. He’d been in a mental institution, broke out of his cell, jumped out of a third-floor window and survived. I used to make him explain this to me over and over. “How high were you? Weren’t you afraid you were gonna kill yourself?” “Yeah,” Dufay replied, “but the birds were calling me.”’

Onstage, things were even worse. ‘Dufay didn’t give a shit,’ Kramer recounts, ‘because for him it was all an image thing. Rick would fix his hair onstage, his guitar just hanging there loose and ringing, while Jimmy’s playing his fuckin’ heart out. It drove Jimmy to drugs.’

When Perry’s manager Tim Collins orchestrated Perry and Whitford’s return to Aerosmith in 1984, the writing was on the wall for Crespo and Dufay. ‘It was obvious what had to happen,’ Hamilton remembers. ‘Rick Dufay was even telling us we had to get back together with Joe. But I still feel kind of bad about Jimmy Crespo. I feel weird that we never sat down with Jimmy and said, “Man, you did so fuckin’ great, but we gotta put the band back together and someday we hope we can make it right for you.” Always meant to call him. Never did.’ [Hamilton’s thoughts on playing with Crespo and Dufay can be found here in this great 1982 interview).

RITA#656cOther than his guitar part on Lightning Strikes – and who knows who played what on that song, between Crespo, Whitford and Dufay – his only other appearance on an official Aerosmith release is in the music video for Lightning Strikes. Here he’s every bit as cocksure and arrogant as his reputation suggests, swaggering through the song looking like his idol Ron Wood. In contrast, Crespo just looks like a reanimated scarecrow. As well as showing the band playing the song in a recording studio, the video is interspersed with cut-scenes in which they stand in a dark alley, hamming it up for the cameras, as a gang of greased-up street punks. It has the charm of early MTV, and bizarrely the guitar solo is accompanied by a montage of exploding cantaloupe melons.

Dufay’s solo album Tender Loving Abuse isn’t the greatest rock record you’ve never heard. It exists purely as a curio for Aerosmith fans. It’s well produced – thanks to Douglas – and is perhaps the most sleaziest, most ­Aerosmith-sounding solo record by any of the band members. Whitford / St.Holmes is too AOR-sounding, and Perry’s run of ever-decreasing-circles solo albums suffer from a number of mediocre lead vocalists. In fact, if anything it’s the vocals which let Dufay’s record down also. He tackles lead vocals himself but it’s clear that he doesn’t have the range to pull off such a feat and as a result, the blistering guitar work is sidelined by his overstretched vocal delivery.

One can only wonder what an Aerosmith album would have sounded like with Dufay contributing to the sessions. Alongside Perry or Crespo, or even in a combination somehow with Whitford, I imagine it would have sounded awesome.

Hit: Love Is The Only Way

Hidden Gem: Straight Jacket

RITA#656d

Rocks In The Attic #655: Richard Hayman & His Orchestra – ‘Marlon Brando’s Great Movie Themes’ (1974)

RITA#655Hey, STELLA!!! I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day. Get the butter!

Hit: Love Theme From The Godfather

Hidden Gem: Last Tango In Paris