Tag Archives: 1973

Rocks In The Attic #786: The O’Jays – ‘Ship Ahoy’ (1973)

RITA#786MoneymoneymoneyMon-ey…………………..MON-EY!

I’ve been after this soul/funk gem for a few years now, and was hoping I’d run into a second-hand copy in the wild somewhere. Instead I managed to find the 2015 reissue at a whopping 30% off in the sale bins at Auckland’s Southbound Records. That’ll do nicely.

Ship Ahoy, the O’Jays’ third studio album finds them following up the Billboard Top 10 success of 1972’s Back Stabbers with a record built around the slavery theme of its title track. Coming three years before the success of Alex Haley’s Roots revitalised the topic for white America, the O’Jays used their prominence in the pop charts to deliver an album full of socially-conscious lyrics set against the grooves of Philadelphia soul.

RITA#786aProduced and (mostly) co-written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the album was released by Philadelphia International Records. Today, For The Love Of Money lives on in the dozens of Hip Hop samples taken from the grooves of Anthony Jackson’s phased bassline and chanting vocals of Eddie Levert, William Powell and Walter Williams. I could listen to that bassline all day.

Hit: For The Love Of Money

Hidden Gem: Put Your Hands Together

Rocks In The Attic #769: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ (1973)

RITA#769The fourth album by prog-rock botherers Keith Emerson, Ricki Lake and – erm – Robert Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery sounds as tuneless and chaotic as anything else I’ve heard by them. The album packaging is a piece of art though, which is why I picked it up.

This is the first time most people were presented with the artistic style of one H.R.Giger. Six years later, Giger’s design of the xenomorph and its organic environs in Ridley Scott’s Alien would bring him worldwide fame.

RITA#769aA couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took part in a trivia night at our kids’ school. The school was celebrating 40 years since it was founded, and so the theme of the night was 1979. A couple of teams turned up as the 4077th from M*A*S*Hone team came as the rock band Kiss, and another team came as the board game Guess Who?

Our team went as the crew from the USCSS Nostromo, from Ridley Scott’s film. My wife borrowed a 3-D printer, using it to make a couple of accurate-looking chest-bursters and a facehugger.  She even made a papier-mâché alien egg, and put a vaporiser inside it which glowed green and emitted a foggy mist. Our brilliant team name, chosen by my clever wife, was ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’.

RITA#769bI was chosen to ‘host’ one of the chest-bursters, and put it through a white t-shirt with red paint for that authentic ‘just given birth’ look. The rest of our team looked fantastic too, particularly one guy who turned up as the science-office Ash, creepily played by Ian Holm in the film.

It was a very messy night. A free bar will tend to do that. However, despite the alcohol and the party atmosphere, our team managed to win the quiz. Thank you H.R.Giger, for having such a fantastically weird mind.

Hit: Jerusalem

Hidden Gem: Benny The Bouncer

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Rocks In The Attic #763: David Bowie – ‘Pinups’ (1973)

RITA#763I just saw Martin Scorsese’s new documentary, covering Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour of 1975 – 1976. I’m not much of a Dylan-head, so it was all new information to me. I’d seen pictures of him playing with a face painted white, but I had no idea what that was all about. And I was surprised to learn that Gene Simmons and Kiss were partly to blame!

Another surprise was spotting a post-Bowie Mick Ronson playing in Dylan’s tour band. I’m not much of a Bowie-head either, so I wasn’t sure what Ronson ended up doing after he left Bowie’s employ. Turns out he was a very busy boy, recording two solo albums and essentially becoming a gun for hire.

Ronson appears in the Scorsese film a couple of times, playing some blistering lead guitar on a couple of songs on stage, and can be glimpsed walking around backstage and in some of more interesting off-stage sections of the film. It really made me realise how much I miss seeing him strutting around with his Les Paul. It was sad to hear Joan Baez recount asking Ronson what Dylan thought of him, and Ronson replied ‘I don’t know; Bob’s never spoken to me’.

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The highlight of the Dylan film for me was seeing Joni Mitchell playing Bob and his entourage the song Coyote, which she had written for the tour. Bob half-heartedly joins in, and you can see his face almost drain at Joni’s use of non-standard tuning and funny chords. It’s the same look of despondency he throws at a pair of CBS records executives when he goes in to ask about them releasing Hurricane as a single (to draw attention to the false imprisonment of boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter). One executive immediately starts talking about markets and the possibility of airplay on black radio stations. Bob just doesn’t care and his face shows it.

My one very small criticism of Scorsese’s film relates to the only time I’ve seen Dylan play. At the end of the film, in the run-up to the credits, each of Dylan’s tour dates since the Rolling Thunder tour are listed, separated by year. I paused the 2018 list to have a look at the date I saw him play, in Auckland. Not only is the concert listed against an incorrect date, but it’s also attributed to Brisbane, New Zealand – an imaginary combination of locations in the Pacific. Jeez, Scorsese is such a hack director!

Pinups is probably the Bowie album I know the least from his early glam period. I don’t know why; I think I just avoided it in my youth simply for being a covers record. Whenever I do listen to it though, I really enjoy it. It’s nice to see the kind of mainly London-esque material that was making Bowie tick at the time – The Who, The Pretty Things, Pink Floyd, Them, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Mojos, The Easybeats and The Merseys. It’s actually a bloody strong LP, finding Bowie having a lot of fun, backed by Ronson and bass player Trevor Bolder from the Ziggy Stardust / Aladdin Sane albums, and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. Nice to see Twiggy on the cover too.

Hit: Sorrow

Hidden Gem: Here Comes The Night

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Rocks In The Attic #755: Lynyrd Skynyrd – ‘(Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd)’ (1973)

Skynyrd’RITA#755s tragic story is just unbelievably sad. Five records in, with the band still very much in their ascension, a plane crash rips out the nucleus of the group. They’ve limped on ever since, gaining barely more respect than a tribute band, but the glory years were definitely a long time ago. With guitarist Ed King’s death last October, only one of the seven original band members pictured here, guitarist Gary Rossington, remains alive to tell the tale.

In just four short years, the band managed to accomplish a great deal. And they hit the ground running too. Debut album (Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd) from 1973 is a gem of a hard-rock record. Detractors may pigeon-hole it as dumb, sub-Allman Brothers southern rock, but it’s much more than that.

RITA#755aAside from Ronnie Van Zant’s lyrics, and the triple-guitar threat of King, Rossington and Allen Collins, the real star of the show is Dylan alumn Al Kooper, whose production elevates the band to something else. The phased drum intro to album opener I Ain’t The One sets a groove that flows through the record. The Allman Brothers were never this funky. And what sort of band comes pre-packaged with an anthem like Free Bird on their first release?

Last year’s documentary, If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd, offers a good insight into the short-lived glory days of the band. Pieced together with archival footage and interviews alongside talking heads from surviving members, the film is as heartbreaking as you would expect, particularly when the survivors recount the circumstances involving the plane crash.

The doomed 30-year old Convair CV-240 had previously struggled to complete an earlier flight, and members of the band had joked about the flames they had seen shooting out of its ‘spluttering’ engine. They cautiously stepped aboard the flight from South Carolina to Louisiana on October 20th, 1977. With one engine malfunctioning, and the resulting abnormal fuel consumption, the pilots didn’t notice that the plane was running out of fuel.

RITA#755bAttempting to make an emergency landing, the pilots brought the plane down in a swamp just 300 yards short of the small, rural airstrip they were aiming for. Guitarist Gary Rossington remembers the increasing sound of the plane skimming the treetops for 100 yards, before the plane hit the ground.

Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his backup-singing sister Cassie Gaines, the band’s road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray all perished in the crash. ‘Crew inattention to fuel supply’ was ultimately determined to be the cause of the crash, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Hit: Free Bird

Hidden Gem: I Ain’t The One

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Rocks In The Attic #737: Bing Crosby – ‘The Best Of Bing’ (1973)

rita#737What links the smooth-voiced Bing Crosby with Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket?

No, Bing didn’t ever do a tour of Vietnam (even though his comedy partner Bob Hope did). No, Bing didn’t ever struggle through basic training (it seems his talent kept him from the draft). And no, Bing wasn’t ever robbed by a prostitute in Saigon (although who knows about that one?).

No, the answer lies in a horrible moment in Full Metal Jacket where the unit beat the long-suffering Private Pile in the middle of the night with bars of soap wrapped in pillow-cases. I never really understood this, but it turns out that it’s an old trick – when you beat somebody with soap, or even oranges, in a pillow-case, it doesn’t leave marks. The science behind it is that the object used for the beating absorbs the impact before the skin does.

rita#737aAllegedly Bing Crosby used this trick to beat his kids – according to his estranged son, Gary, and if you believe it, a joke on Family Guy. Who knows? I’m just glad I’ve never been aware of the trick until now.

It’s a shame that Crosby was such a stern father – that fact at least was corroborated by his other children. His voice is so warm and friendly, it’s hard to imagine him being so strict. If we knew half the things that went on behind closed doors, we might have very different opinions of those we hold in such high regard. Allegedly, Oprah Winfrey hunts and eats cats in the local park.

Hit: White Christmas

Hidden Gem: Swinging On A Star

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