Category Archives: 1973

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

Rocks In The Attic #460: 10cc – ‘10cc’ (1973)

RITA#460My parents recently came over to our side of the world for Christmas, and my Dad brought with him a couple of ripe quiz questions. The first one was something along the lines of:

‘Which ‘60s group’s first three singles went to #1 in the UK?’

The answer wasn’t 10cc (they didn’t get release a single as 10cc until the early ‘70s) – it was Gerry & The Pacemakers – but his second question was just as tricky:

‘Which band’s three UK #1s were sung by different vocalists?’

This had me scratching my head for days, thinking it was going to be more of a vocal group like Sister Sledge or somebody like that, rather than a band who play instruments. Of course the correct answer was 10cc – Rubber Bullets (Lol Creme) in 1973, I’m Not In Love (Eric Stewart) in 1975, and Dreadlock Holiday (Graham Gouldman) in 1978.

This lovely reissue of 10cc’s debut from 1973 – in beautiful red vinyl – features some interesting liner notes (remember them?) by Michael Heatley. In his short biography of the band up to this point, Heatley mentions that 10cc, despite the harmonic similarities drawn between themselves and Queen, saw their output to be more in line with Steely Dan. I’ve never considered this, but they’re probably as close as you’re going to get to the UK’s answer to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s clever lyrics.

What isn’t in debate is the quality of 10cc’s output by their first album. No debut jitters here, they sound fully formed and their recent history as songwriters through the late ‘60s serves them well. This isn’t typical boy meets girl material; it’s storytelling with that acerbic and cynical wit typical of Becker and Fagen.

I love Rubber Bullets. Despite its camp charm, it’s got such a hook (similar in tone and subject matter to its partner in crime I Predict A Riot by the Kaiser Chiefs); but it’s by no means the only highlight of the album. Even if you take away the other singles – Donna, Johnny Don’t Do It and The Dean And I – you’re still left with a very strong set of songs; songs that other less-talented bands would probably kill for.

Hit: Rubber Bullets

Hidden Gem: Sand In My Face

Rocks In The Attic #453: Genesis – ‘Genesis Live’ (1973)

RITA#453I’m rather partial to a bit of Watcher Of The Skies – presented here in its live glory as the first song on this ‘inbetween’ record to fill the gap between Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound. That’s not to say I’m a huge Genesis fan. I’m not. There’s just a bit too much in the way of keyboards on the earlier Peter Gabriel material, and I’m afraid to say that the Phil Collins years speak more to me, as disposable as they are.

I recently watched a documentary about the band (Genesis: Together And Apart), and not being a huge fan, two things really struck me. Firstly, how integral Tony Banks was (is?) to Genesis (the band was effectively built around him, not Peter Gabriel as I naively thought); and secondly, perhaps due to that very fact, how much of an absolute arsehole Tony Banks was (is?). Some people just shouldn’t let themselves be filmed. He single-handedly presents the band in a negative light, which I wouldn’t have any idea of if I hadn’t seen the documentary.

I now put Tony Banks in the same middle section of the Venn diagram (‘talented vs. complete arse’) as Don Henley from the Eagles. In the Eagles’ documentary History Of The Eagles, Henley’s recollection of the reasons why he fired guitarist Don Felder simply disgusted me. There are some people who are just so uptight, so against the spirit of rock ‘n roll, that you wonder how anybody in their right minds ever wanted to be in a band with them.

Hit: Watcher Of The Skies

Hidden Gem: The Return Of The Giant Hogweed

Rocks In The Attic #422: Bob Dylan – ‘Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (O.S.T.)’ (1973)

RITA#422When I bought this record, a few years ago at the Auckland record collectors fair, the stall owner thanked me for my purchase by coming around to my side of the counter, leaning into me with the stale breath of the previous night’s beers and giving me a quick burst of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, air-guitar and all.

My knowledge of Dylan after the ‘60s is very limited. I know about the big albums – but in terms of everything else, there seems to be so much chaff among the wheat that it’s almost a minefield, like the musical equivalent of trying to separate the good Woody Allen films from the bad ones.

I haven’t seen the film that this record soundtracks. Coming to a cultural backwater like New Zealand has severely limited my chances of being able to see the film on television or though a friend, so I’m going to need to seek it out through other channels. As I approach the end of my thirties, there’s still a heap of older films I still need to see; only last night I was watching Peter Bogdanovich in The Sopranos and I realised I haven’t seen any of Bogdanovich’s own films. Well, I’ve seen Mask – everybody has seen Mask as the BBC used to play it with alarming regularity – but I haven’t seen any of his other films like The Last Picture Show or What’s Up Doc?, despite reading so much about Bogdanovich and seeing him critique other directors such as Hitchcock and Truffaut. My knowledge of Truffaut films is similarly limited, and ashamedly the only thing I know him from is his appearance in Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

I was speaking to a friend at work the other day and the subject of youthful ignorance came up – the fact that young people today are just so blind, not only to cultural matters, but also in terms of current events and even historical events. I wonder if the rise of technology and social media has had a negative effect on the ability for young people to see the importance of understanding about anything other than themselves. I’ve heard Spike Lee say similar things about young African American kids, but it’s a universal problem – an epidemic of the twenty first century.

Yes, I’m starting to sound very much like an old man. But I ain’t knockin’ on heaven’s door just yet!

Hit: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Hidden Gem: Main Title Theme (Billy)

Rocks In The Attic #409: Montrose – ‘Montrose’ (1973)

RITA#409Released the same year as another stunning rock debut, this self-titled album by Montrose is an oddity. It’s seldom spoke about in the same sentence as heavyweight rock records, yet any self-respecting rock fan seems to be a huge fan. It exists in my collection on its own – I’ve never come across their later albums – and my copy has seen better days, with a sleeve seemingly rebuilt with sellotape by a previous owner.

It’s all good though. The most prominent aspect of this album – aside from Ronnie Montrose’s incendiary guitar playing – is the familiar voice of Sammy Hagar; this being his debut recording. Looking back from the 21st century, after watching Van Halen evolve into a middle-of-the-road nothing of a band – with the vast majority of those questionable years voiced by Hagar – it’s actually nice to hear him front something with a bit of balls.

The highlight here is Rock Candy – a rock staple of the ‘70s and ‘80s (and covered by Bulletboys on the first Wayne’s World soundtrack). The rest of the record is just as strong, and if anything if it feels a little ahead of its time. This isn’t a rock record stuck in the mire of late ‘60s psychedelia, this is a party record, the kind of which were a dime a dozen in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (or twelve for ten cents depending on where you shop).

Hit: Rock Candy

Hidden Gem: Rock The Nation