Category Archives: 1976

Rocks In The Attic #795: Paul Williams – ‘Bugsy Malone (O.S.T.)’ (1976)

RITA#795One of my favourite podcast finds of 2019 is Soundtracking With Edith Bowman. I already subscribe to a couple of soundtrack podcasts, but this one blows everything else out of the water. Presumably using her BBC connections and credentials, Bowman manages to secure interviews with directors and composers, issuing a weekly podcast complimented by score or songs from each guest’s work.

There are currently 161 episodes – yes, I’m late to the party on this one – and so I’ve been making my way through them from the beginning. The other day, I listened to her second interview with director Edgar Wright (episode #47), who threw out this gold nugget of information: the composer and performer of the Bugsy Malone soundtrack, Paul Williams, played Little Enos Burdette in the Smokey & The Bandit films.

RITA#795bIt feels like one of those facts that I should have known growing up, one of the things your Dad tells you as you sit in front of the TV watching Bugsy Malone and Smokey & The Bandit back to back on Boxing Day. But if that ever was mentioned to me, and I don’t think it was, it sure has slipped my mind into adulthood. When Wright mentioned it, it was a like a piece of jigsaw connecting in my brain.

Williams has a small roll in Wright’s Baby Driver – one of my favourite films of 2017, hence the mention in the podcast. He also pops up in 1974’s Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, the Smokey & The Bandit sequels and a couple of Muppet movies. I always knew him as one of those ever-present character actors in film and TV; I just didn’t know that he was a musician and that two films of my youth were so connected. After decades of alcohol and substance abuse, Williams has been an advocate of rehab and recovery, co-authoring Gratitude and Trust: Recovery is Not Just for Addicts, with Tracey Jackson in 2014.

RITA#795aHis unique voice, all over the brilliant Bugsy Malone soundtrack, is one of the reasons he was selected as a guest vocalist on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories album, co-writing and contributing lead vocals to Touch, and co-writing Beyond. “Back when I was drinking,” he explains, “I would imagine things that weren’t there and I’d get frightened. Then I got sober and two robots called and asked me to make an album.”

Bugsy Malone is such a great film, and one I really need to show my kids. It’s got that weird production design – the film was a US / UK co-production – that you wouldn’t normally get out of Hollywood. The abstract splurge guns, I fear, wouldn’t pass muster with most studio executives, yet it’s a touch of brilliance. Of course, it’s a pivotal role for Jodie Foster who would go on to appear in Scorsese’s slightly more grown-up Taxi Driver the same year.

The songs are fantastic, and that’s coming from somebody who doesn’t really do musicals. Some of my best friends from secondary school went to a different primary school than me, and their school did a production of Bugsy Malone, starring my old friends Lyndon as Fat Sam, and Vini as one of the barber customers who gets splurged. It was always spoken highly of, among students who attended that school, and it’s a production I wish I could travel back in time to see.

Hit: Bugsy Malone

Hidden Gem: My Name Is Tallulah

RITA#795c

Rocks In The Attic #748: The Eagles – ‘Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975’ (1976)

RITA#748I’ve never been too much of a fan of pre-Joe Walsh Eagles. It’s all a bit too country, too many jangling guitars. I prefer the edgier twin-guitar RAWK of Don Felder and Joe Walsh, rather than this singer-songwriter stuff.

I’ll still love Hotel California to the day I die, but there’s a reason this greatest hits set has sold so many copies. For a very long time, it was the best-selling album of the twentieth century in the USA, until it was finally surpassed by Michael Jackson’s Thriller following his death in 2009.

Seeing the Eagles live recently – or what is left of the band, having lost Glenn Frey a couple of years ago – I was reminded just how good this earlier material is. When you’re listening to six guys blast out a wall of harmonies, it sounds unbelievable.

Frey’s death at the age of 67 left a gaping hole in the band. Don Henley’s voice is too smooth, too AOR in comparison, and Walsh’s voice is too weird, too out there. Would they get somebody else in to stand in for Frey?

RITA#748a
The answer is yes…and no. Established singer-songwriter Vince Gill was brought into the band to fill the gap left by Frey’s absence. His guitar playing and singing – particularly a standout performance on Take It To The Limit – more than earned his place alongside Felder and Walsh.

The band’s secret weapon though was a clone of Glenn Frey, in the form of his 25-year old son, Deacon Frey. Young and handsome (next to the old men he shared a stage with), his vocals and acoustic guitar on the songs his father used to tackle – Take It Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone – was uncanny. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And good on him – apparently his first show with the band was at Dodger Stadium, so very much launched into life in the fast lane.

RITA#748b
The big question though was how the guitar solos on Hotel California were going to be handled. Lead-guitarist Steuart Smith was clearly the replacement for Don Felder, but I was curious whether he would play the song on a double-necked guitar as per his predecessor. Worry not, a blast of Mexican trumpet led into the opening 12-string acoustic section of the song, with a solitary spotlight on Smith playing a double-neck. My favourite guitar solo/s didn’t disappoint.

RITA#748cI expected the Eagles greatest hits – and got it! – but what I didn’t expect was the various solo songs by Joe Walsh and Don Henley. This was just as good – Walsh’s In The City, Walk Away, Life’s Been Good, Funk #49 and Rocky Mountain Way, and weirdly as a closer to the night (much to the chagrin of the man sat next to me), Don Henley’s The Boys Of Summer.

I wasn’t sure about seeing the band with so few original members, and not only were the wife and I both sick with head-colds, but we were also sat about 50 seats in from the aisles, which made getting out for refreshments virtually impossible. Despite all of this, it was still fantastic.

Hit: Take It Easy

Hidden Gem: Already Gone

Rocks In The Attic #649: Bryan Ferry – ‘Let’s Stick Together’ (1976)

The one good thing about your wonderful wife bringing home a box of LPs that she picked up at a local car-boot sale is the potential to add something new to your collection; something that you might not have arrived at otherwise. I like everything I’ve ever heard from Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, but I’ve just never got around to buying anything by them. Shame on me.

Three Bryan Ferry solo albums later, and I can finally hear what I’ve been missing out on. This is his third solo album, but his first following the split of Roxy Music. It’s an odd album – comprised of five remakes of existing Roxy Music songs, complimented by six covers – so not a straightforward studio album by any means.

I love the sax-blast of Let’s Stick Together, I always have. Ferry seems to straddle the line between new wave and cabaret, without ever sounding like a product of either genre.

Hit: Let’s Stick Together

Hidden Gem: Casanova

Rocks In The Attic #627: Jean-Michel Jarre – ‘Oxygène’ (1976)

RITA#627It is the year 1976. Or should that be 2076?

Oxygène Part IV – another song recently utilised to great effect on the Grand Theft Auto soundtracks, on the similarly numbered GTA IV.

This record features no song-titles, just Oxygène parts I through VI. In 1997, Jarre released a follow-up, Oxygène 7 – 13, and he’s still going strong, recently releasing Oxygène 3 in 2016, which features Oxygène parts 14 to 20.

Here’s to synths, futuristic French musicians, and a lazy song-numbering system.

Hit: Oxygène Part IV

Hidden Gem: Oxygène Part VI

Rocks In The Attic #626: James Brown – ‘Get Up Offa That Thing ’ (1976)

RITA#626The collector in me breathes a heavy, internal sigh when I think about James Brown records. I’ve always liked the collecting aspect of music, almost as much as the tunes themselves. It started with Aerosmith, and I ingested everything greedily. Then I turned to AC/DC, same deal; then the Beatles. And on and on and on.

It’s too hard with James Brown though – he just has too many records. Wikipedia credits him with having sixty-three studio albums, fifteen live albums and forty-nine compilations (at the time of writing). Of course, there’s a lot of variability in there – a couple of diamonds for every half a dozen lumps of coal.

It’s always worth the effort mining his work though – this, his forty-sixth studio record, features one of his biggest hits, Get Up Offa That Thing / Release The Pressure. The song, released as a two-part single a couple of months before the album dropped, is a dancefloor smash and a worthy addition to the man credited on the sleeve as the Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk. He should add ‘doctor’ to his list of titles, given his medical advice in the song – ‘Get up offa that thing and dance till you feel better!’

RITA#626aI’d like to collect all sixty-three studio records but I think it might be too difficult, particularly considering my location in the world. I’m sure that I’d have a better chance if I was within driving distance of record shops in the Bronx, or other inner-city American areas. There’s always Discogs though, and that helped me greatly when I was collecting all of the James Bond soundtracks.

Perhaps I have another James-related quest in me. Five down, fifty-eight to go…

Hit: Get Up Offa That Thing / Release The Pressure

Hidden Gem: I Refuse To Lose

Rocks In The Attic #587: ZZ Top – ‘ZZ Top’s Worldwide Texas Tour’ (1976)

RITA#587
I saw this record posted in the fabulous Facebook group On The Turntable Right Now last year sometime. And if there’s something I don’t like, it’s finding out that there’s a classic-era ZZ Top album that I don’t own. Laptop. Discogs. Wait. Postman. Open. Needle. Done.

ZZ Top’s Worldwide Texas Tour is a promo-only radio sampler from 1976, designed to promote the band’s world tour in support of 1975’s Fandango! The tour would last through 1976 into 1977, with 1977’s Tejas recorded during breaks in the schedule.

RITA#587aAs a record, it’s the very first ZZ Top compilation and a forerunner to the band’s first official compilation, 1977’s The Best Of ZZ Top. In fact, the tracklisting is virtually identical, with only a couple of changes. Worldwide Texas Tour opts for six songs per side, The Best Of has only five; the extra songs being Precious And Grace and Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings, while The Best Of opts for Francine over Brown Sugar (presumably with the slow blues quota already filled by Blue Jean Blues).

The Worldwide Texas Tour is where ZZ Top’s glitzy image really started. Prior to this tour, the band’s live shows were minimalist operations, concentrating more on the music than anything else. This time around, they wore studded Western suits and toured with a full stage-set including plants, props and a Texan panorama backdrop.

Say what you want about the spectacle of 21st century concert performances, but would you ever see a band like U2 touring with a longhorn steer, a black buffalo, two vultures and two rattlesnakes?

Hit: Tush

Hidden Gem: Heard It On The X

Rocks In The Attic #559: 10cc – ‘How Dare You!’ (1976)

RITA#559.jpgThe more I listen to 10cc, the more I like them. I could do without some of the more dated, twee music hall aspects of their songwriting – and I’m not enough of a 10cc fan to know which of the foursome is responsible for this influence – but in general their pros outweigh their cons.

Album number four starts with the title track, How Dare You – minus the exclamation mark – which acts as an overture of sorts, flipping through passages and guitar riffs from other songs on the record. 10cc really are an amazing band that pass through so many different styles, it’s almost impossible to classify them. They can straddle radio-friendly pop songs like the album’s big hit I’m Mandy Fly Me, but then turn around and deliver a straightforward rocker with a killer guitar riff like Art For Art’s Sake.

The opening tag on Art For Art’s Sake sets 10cc apart from other rock bands of the day – even though it feels disingenuous to refer to them simply as a rock act. Any other band would have hit straight into that guitar hook. Instead 10cc take their time, and build suspense that really pays off when the song kicks in.

Of course, none of this would be possible without their own recording studio – Strawberry Studios in Stockport. This offered the band the luxury of spending Beatle-worthy amounts of time tinkering with songs and producing the hell out of their records. If 10cc were any other band, restricted to the amount of time they could spend doing this, then the overall effect of their records would be so much weaker. Instead, it feels like they spend inordinate amounts of time getting deep album cuts just right, with the end effect being that the records sound balanced as a whole. Other rock acts of the day – take Wings, for a great example – released albums with one or two killer songs, usually lifted as singles, complimented by a raft of weaker album tracks. 10cc avoid this pitfall, and the records are nothing but entertaining as a result.

Hit: I’m Mandy Fly Me

Hidden Gem: How Dare You