Category Archives: 1973

Rocks In The Attic #700: ZZ Top – ‘Tres Homres’ (1973)

RITA#700Post number 700. I hope my daughters will read this blog in the future to research my taste in music after I’m dead, but they’re more likely to use it to figure out how much my record collection is worth.

If you’re reading this, girls, here’s a history lesson. The year is 2018, and the world is changing. A businessman, rather than a politician, is in the White House, the new Doctor Who is a lady, and there’s talk of the next James Bond not being a privileged white dude.

RITA#700aAnd most surprising of all, one of the late twentieth century’s most popular pub-facts is no more: drummer Frank Beard is no longer the only member of ZZ Top without a beard.

Studio album number three finds the Texan trio hitting their stride and crossing over into the mainstream. After a low-key, blues-driven debut and a rockier, more commercial follow-up, they really find the perfect mix of grit and soul on Tres Hombres. Its Top Ten success would start to turn to the band into a stadium act in their native country, effectively laying the foundation for their seven-year Worldwide Texas Tour in support of Fandango! and Tejas.

Why do I love this record so much? Because after your Sgt. Peppers, and your Dark Side Of The Moons, and all of the other rock albums that everybody and their cat has heard – Nevermind, Hotel California, Led Zeppelin IV, Back In Black, etc – you’re left with a bunch of great records that are invisible to the casual listener, and this is the jewel of that crown. A truly hidden gem (outside of the United States). Just listen to the stuttering opening groove of Master Of Sparks and try and forget it; that particular earworm has been in my brain for the past twenty years.

Hit: La Grange

Hidden Gem: Master Of Sparks

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Rocks In The Attic #673: The Beach Boys – ‘Holland’ (1973)

RITA#673If there was ever a band that was stuck in time, like an insect trapped in the sap of a tree, it’s the Beach Boys. They were the hippest American band between 1962’s Surfin’ Safari and 1966’s Pet Sounds – or more specifically between 1962’s Surfin’ Safari single and 1966’s Good Vibrations. Then Brian stepped back and things changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love records like Surf’s Up and this, their 1973 album, Holland – but it’s not California Girls, is it? Without Brian Wilson’s input on this record – aside from a couple of token writing credits including a 7” fairytale EP in the vein of Nilsson’s The Point! (although nowhere near as charming) – the Beach Boys seem lost at sea. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine them being a band on their own merits, without the genius of Brian, but then you hear those harmonies and you’re instantly reminded of Help Me Rhonda or I Get Around.

The band even looks out of place when you see them in colour around this period – on stage in multi-coloured satin shirts or in white suits. They seem forever to be locked into the antiseptic cleanliness of mid-‘60s teen television, grooving against white infinity screens alongside bikini-clad dancing girls.

Hit: Sail On, Sailor

Hidden Gem: The Trader

Rocks In The Attic #654: Wings – ‘Band On The Run’ (1973)

RITA#654The first time I saw Paul McCartney live in concert. I couldn’t have been closer. It was at Glastonbury 2004, and I endured sets from the likes of Joss Stone and the Black Eyed Peas in the early evening to get to the crash barrier at the very front of the field. It was worth it – getting so close to a living legend.

This time around, in December 2017, I couldn’t have been further away. I went for the cheapest GA standing tickets, not wanting to auction off my remaining kidney for a ticket closer to the stage. It was still a blast, and the hi-def, crystal-clear screens at the side of stage made sure I didn’t miss out on much.

The difference in set-lists between the two times I saw him play was quite interesting. At Glastonbury in 2004, he was playing the hits for what would ultimately be a BBC audience enjoying the festival on the television, sat at home minus the mud and discomfort. In Auckland a few weeks ago, on the final date of the band’s world tour, the set threw up some unexpected numbers.

RITA#654aKicking off with A Hard Day’s Night – ostensibly a ‘John’ song – the set included a couple of other Beatles songs written predominantly by Lennon: Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite and A Day In The Life. Also played were a couple of genuine 50/50 co-written Beatles songs – I’ve Got A Feeling and Birthday – which I was surprised McCartney would even bother with.

Ever since the former Beatle was happy to lean on a Beatles-heavy set-list (post-Flaming Pie?), there’s always been an embarrassment of riches. He can’t possibly play everything, so this time there was no Drive My Car, no Get Back, no Paperback Writer. So it’s even stranger that he made the decision to play some of the songs that he did include. He played Mull Of Kintyre for fuck’s sake!

The Band On The Run record was well represented though. Band On The Run and Jet are probably a feature of the band’s set-list every night, and Let Me Roll It sounds like the kind of song they just love to play live, but it was the appearance of the album’s closer, Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five, that was the most surprising. At four songs, this made Band On The Run the most represented album in McCartney’s back catalogue – not including Beatles compilations of course – a testament to how strong the record is in relation to everything else he has produced in his career.

I prefer Ram, and always will, but it’s clear that Band On The Run is the closest McCartney ever got to replicating the strength of the Beatles’ output.

Hit: Jet

Hidden Gem: Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five

Rocks In The Attic #647: The Guess Who – ‘The Best of The Guess Who Volume II’ (1973)

RITA#647Idea for music festival.

Opening band, to get everybody in the right frame of mind: The The.

Lots of audience participation between performances, with things like cryptic crossword clues that are so illogical they only make the vaguest bit of sense to the LSD-addled stage announcer who makes them up on the spot.

Mid-afternoon sets by Camper Van Beethoven, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Kathleen Turner Overdrive.

Early-evening set by The Guess Who, playing an hour long rendition of American Woman that includes a 27-minute instrumental intro section just as the sun is setting.

Headliners: The Who. Not to be outdone by the Guess Who, the Who pull out all the stops with a 4-hour set including a 53-minute opening section of Who Are You.

Festival name: Wordstock.

Potential crowd-funding opportunity.

Requires further thought.

Hit: Broken

Hidden Gem: Rain Dance

Rocks In The Attic #613: Styx – ‘Styx II’ (1973)

RITA#613One weekend in May of last year I had great fun walking around Sydney, Australia with Styx’s Too Much Time On My Hands blaring out of my iPod. I had been introduced to the band through an awesome parody by Paul Rudd and Jimmy Fallon, which led me to seek out the Paradise Theatre album. I checked out a greatest hits compilation around the same time, and wasn’t overly fond of what I heard. Styx, like a lot of long-surviving American rock bands, had clearly seen the commercial appeal of releasing a multitude of power-ballads as singles.

So when I saw this record in the sale racks of my local record store – alongside the more celebrated Pieces Of Eight, which I picked up at the same time – I thought I’d give it a chance. The band sound young and hungry, but even on the prog-oriented moments of the album they threaten to break into a power-ballad at any moment.

Lady, a power ballad in everything including name, was a belated success for the band. The band recorded two more albums – 1973’s The Serpent Is Rising and 1974’s Man Of Miracles – before Lady hit #6 in the US charts in 1975 and sent its parent album gold. The band moved from Wooden Nickel Records to A&M as a result, and never looked back.

Hit: Lady

Hidden Gem: A Day

Rocks In The Attic #502: The Doobie Brothers – ‘The Captain And Me’ (1973)

RITA#502This isn’t my favourite Doobs album – that would be Toulouse Street – but this is probably the most successful one, if you consider the strength of the individual songs on it. Both Long Train Runnin’ and China Grove were lifted off this record, and they’re amongst the best singles the band ever released.

In 1976, when the band’s first compilation, Best Of The Doobies, was being put together, as well as taking the two hit singles on The Captain And Me, they also took a couple of album tracks – Without You and South City Midnight Lady. As a result, these two songs now sound like hit singles. The end result for The Captain And Me is a record that feels like it’s full of hits.

Of course the thing that makes this a great Doobie Brothers album is the absence of Michael McDonald. He wasn’t tainting the band with his smooth AOR vocals just yet. I’ve criticised him enough in the past though, so I won’t elaborate further on this lest anyone think I have a personal vendetta against the man. <Aside> I do!

The record does mark the first occasion when fellow Steely Dan alumnus Jeff “Skunk” Baxter would appear on a Doobie Brothers album. He would also appear on the following year’s What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, before becoming a fully fledged ‘brother’ on 1975’s Stampede.

Hit: Long Train Runnin’

Hidden Gem: Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corners

Rocks In The Attic #482: Aerosmith – ‘Live At Paul’s Mall, Boston’ (2015)

RITA#482I love this record. It’s perhaps my favourite bootleg; I’ve owned a CD copy of it for years before finally finding it on vinyl a few weeks ago. Dating back to April 1973 (the sleeve incorrectly dates it to March), when the band were touring in support of their first album, it’s the holy grail of live performances for Aerosmith fans.

Excerpts from the show first appeared officially on 1978’s Live! Bootleg, Columbia Records’ attempt at putting a live album in the marketplace to battle against all of the unofficial bootleg performances – including this one – that were switching hands by the late ‘70s.

Most of Live! Bootleg is stadium rock, together with a couple of club performances, but the real highlight is the two tracks from the Paul’s Mall performance – Jimmy Reed’s I Ain’t Got You and James Brown’s Mother Popcorn.

It might seem odd that they’d play these two songs while touring their first album – and perhaps odder still that they’d include the two tracks on an official live album – but there’s method in the madness.

I Ain’t Got You was written Calvin Carter, a songwriter at Vee Jay Records, one of the labels that initially signed the Beatles before Capitol stepped up to the plate. The song was released as a single by both Jimmy Reed and Billy Boy Arnold in 1955, but it was the Yardbird’s 1964 cover of the song (as a b-side to their Good Morning Little Schoolgirl single) that interested Aerosmith.

The Yardbirds were one of the band’s shared influences when they formed in 1970, and it’s nice to see that they were still paying songs from their heroes three years later (they would even record a cover of Think About It on 1979’s Night In The Ruts).

The James Brown cover also betrays the band’s early influences. Prior to joining the band as their stalwart drummer, Joey Kramer was the drummer of a Meters-style funk band. The only white guy in a band full of black funk musicians, his really must have been worth his shit. Aerosmith would of course dabble in funk throughout the ‘70s, on tracks like Walk This Way and Last Child, and their cover of James Brown’s 1969 funk workout should be viewed as an early forerunner of these songs.

The only problem with this bootleg is that it splits the two songs – one appears at the end of side one, the other at the beginning of side two – and presents them in the opposite order in which they were recorded (and presented on Live! Bootleg), presumably for space reasons. As a result, the Kramer kick-drum / Steven Tyler scat segue between the two songs is ruined. Bloody bootleggers, eh?

The rest of the performance is just as strong, with the band cruising through the majority of their first album, and even providing a blast through Tiny Bradshaw / Johnny Burnette’s Train Kept A-Rollin’, which they would record for 1974’s Get Your Wings – again another song that was popularised by the Yardbirds in the 1960s.

Hit: Walking The Dog

Hidden Gem: Mother Popcorn

RITA#482a