Tag Archives: Joni Mitchell

Rocks In The Attic #787: Jefferson Airplane – ‘Woodstock, Sunday, August 17, 1969′ (1969)

RITA#787To say that they were both the intended headliners (of the Saturday and Sunday nights respectively), both Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix did a hell of a lot of endless jamming during their sets. It’s taken me years to appreciate Hendrix’s set, I fear it may take me even longer to appreciate the Airplane’s.

The sixth individual Woodstock performance LP in my collection (joining Santana, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix), this marks the first time Jefferson’s Airplane early Sunday morning set has been available on vinyl.

RITA#787aThere’s definitely something causing this rambling lack of focus – possibly a mixture of tiredness, the after-effects of drugs, and a general bubbling anger at having to play at such an ungodly hour in the morning. Or maybe it just helps when you’re stone-cold sober and pregnant, like Joan Baez during her far more coherent Friday headline slot.

Still, the Airplane’s set delivers some real gems. Somebody To Love gets rolled out two songs in, and the band preview their upcoming studio album Volunteers by playing the title track and their version of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Wooden Ships (co-written by Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner with Stills and Crosby). This song would also be performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young during the electric part of their set later that day.

RITA#787bBut this is Woodstock, and so the highlight of Jefferson Airplane’s 90-minute set is Grace Slick’s hippy anthem, White Rabbit, which makes an appearance as their penultimate song of the morning. Forget Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock, written later in a fit of regret and jealousy at having missed out on the proceedings, this is the song that defines the festival.

This album is the latest in a range of individual Woodstock performance LPs – long may they continue – with this one released by Real Gone Music. It’s a triple-LP in ‘New Dawn’ transparent blue vinyl, housed in a three-panel gatefold sleeve with liner notes. A free gift came with the album when purchased directly from Real Gone’s website – a Jefferson Airplane pillbox with three sections in the shape of the CND / peace symbol – perfect for storing your brown, green and orange LSD.

Hit: Somebody To Love

Hidden Gem: Volunteers

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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 #623: The Band – ‘Music From Big Pink’ (1968)

RITA#623I recently saw The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s film of the final Band performance in 1976. I don’t know why I had avoided this for so long; perhaps it was the feeling that when you’ve seen one classic rock superstar concert line-up, you’ve seen them all. “Get Eric Clapton on the phone, we’re having a get-together.” Or perhaps it was the suspicion that Scorsese’s presence might taint the Band, just like his sycophancy for the Rolling Stones has left that band a little less dangerous.

Watching the film – which I enjoyed immensely – I was struck by the feeling of how inadequate my collection of Band records is. I have this, their classic debut, and I also have their self-titled follow-up, but that’s it. No more. Zilch.

Of course, I’ve been operating under the illusion that that’s all I needed, and that if I made the effort to check out their later recordings then I’d be disappointed. But watching the 1976 version of the group perform in The Last Waltz, it seems like the Band couldn’t write a bad song if they tried.

My favourite guest star in The Waltz was Joni Mitchell – another artist seriously under-represented in my record collection. I have Ladies Of The Canyon, Blue and The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, but I need more, so much more. I might grow my hair and start wearing flares this summer.

Hit: The Weight

Hidden Gem: Chest Fever

Rocks In The Attic #513: Geoff Love & His Orchestra – ‘Big Bond Movie Themes’ (1975)

RITA#513a.jpgThere’s a reason that Geoff Love isn’t remembered as a great conductor. He and his orchestra had a tidy little earner recording easy listening versions of film themes, commonly released on the Music For Pleasure label. Anything that was cool about the original source material was stripped away, and all that remains is a schmaltzy version of something that sounds weirdly familiar. It’s the same result as you would expect if James Last recorded the collected works of Kraftwerk, or if Nana Mouskouri covered Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

Of course, the Bond films were full of the odd bit of lounge music, so some of it doesn’t sound too far from the truth. John Barry’s scores are full of tiny snippets of easy listening, usually to soundtrack the moment when Bond is about to bed an exotic looking broad. As a result, Geoff Love’s version of the Thunderball theme sounds like it could have been lifted right off the soundtrack to Barry’s Diamonds Are Forever score, particularly the sections set in the Las Vegas casinos. And a theme as eternally cool as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service could be covered by anybody and it’d still be a thousand times cooler than most other pieces of recorded music.

Still, record collecting gives you the opportunity to pick up little curios in charity shops like this for next to nothing. We always had a copy of Geoff Love’s collection of sci-fi themes next to our record player when I was growing up; it’s now long-gone but I’m sure I’ll find a copy of it one day for next to nothing.

RITA#513bWhilst trying to find a photo cover of Love’s Bond compilation to accompany this blog, I found that there are two covers. The original cover features the likenesses of Roger Moore, Sean Connery and Ursula Andress, while the second pressing – the version I have in my collection – has all of these faces either completely obscured (poor Roger) or completely altered. I’m guessing that Music For Pleasure didn’t do their due diligence when it came to securing the rights for what was essentially an unofficial cash-in on EON’s intellectual property.

Hit: The James Bond Theme

Hidden Gem: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Rocks In The Attic #488: Iron Maiden – ‘Killers’ (1981)

RITA#488I saw Maiden in Auckland a few weekends ago. They’re one of the big metal bands I still haven’t seen so I thought I’d put on a black t-shirt and head along. I’ve never been a huge fan of them; they’re a little too much in the realm of puberty and double-denim for me. They did put on a good show though.

Maiden were always a source of ridicule when I was growing up because they were the only band that would actually wear their own band t-shirts on stage. I think it’s pretty sweet for bands to wear other bands’ t-shirts when they’re on stage, you know, as a sign of respect; but to wear your own band’s t-shirt just reeks of narcissism. Surely they wouldn’t still be doing this, I thought as I headed to the arena; but sure enough there was Janick Gers strutting around the stage in a dirty, black Iron Maiden t-shirt. Just him though; damn, I was hoping for a higher score than one out of six. One of the other guitarists Dave Murray usually wears them too, but not on this night.

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The other ridiculous thing about the band, and their contemporaries, is the name of their sub-genre of heavy metal – N.W.O.B.H.M. A ridiculous acronym, standing for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, this was coined by Sounds journalist Geoff Barton to describe the punkier, more uptempo metal bands that rose to prominence as the ‘70s turned into the ‘80s.

I didn’t really know what to expect from their set-list, but I hardly knew any of the songs – and that’s even with listening to the Best Of The Beast compilation once a year or so since it was released. They rolled out The Trooper, Number Of The Beast and Fear Of The Dark, but there was no Run To The Hills, no Two Minutes To Midnight and no Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter, their only number one single. Maybe they’re just one of those bands who don’t like to play their hits.

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Fear Of The Dark
is a great song though – my favourite Maiden song by a mile, ever since I saw a video of them paying the sing at Donington in 1992. I was pleased to hear the audience sing along to all the instrumental parts too, just like on the Donington video.

They’re a funny-looking bunch of blokes though, aren’t they? First you have Bruce Dickinson, the literal pilot of the band and recent cancer survivor. The rest of the band weren’t really aware that the ‘80s had ended, all dressed up in their skin-tight studded leather trousers and sneakers, but Bruce was there in cargo pants and a hoodie. Then there’s Steve Harris, the metaphorical pilot of the band, in his long shorts pogoing up and down on the bass.

The band have three lead guitarists – Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Adrian Smith – a bit of a cheat, I think, when most bands of their ilk can get by fine with just two. Murray looks like a melted version of Joni Mitchell, Gers just looks happy to be there, playing the guitar in his Iron Maiden t-shirt, and Smith is really the only one who looks to be dressed in a decade other than the ‘80s, wearing a fashion scarf around his neck, and a bandana around his forehead. Okay, the bandana is very ‘80s, but somehow it made him look a hell of a lot more modern than the rest of the band.

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Rounding out the sextext is drummer Nicko McBrain, a man so frightening he looks like he could share the dressing room with Eddie, the band’s ghoulish mascot. Check out his name – McBrain! Crikey – I would not want to run into him in a dark alley.

Killers was album number two for Maiden, and their last with original vocalist Paul Di’Anno. The band don’t sound complete without Bruce Dickinson’s high-pitched wail and the record sounds strange as a result. Dickinson’s vocals were a point of difference for the band after this album, and Di’Anno’s vocals – in the same register as a lot of other metal singers – just don’t have that same sort of appeal.

I did like the years in the ‘90s between Bruce Dickinson leaving and re-joining the band. They got Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bayley in on vocals. Now if you’ve heard that thing about your porn name being the name of your first pet and your Mother’s maiden name, then Blaze Bayley – albeit with a difference in spelling – is mine. Wow – a porn career, and a bit of moonlighting singing for Iron Maiden too!

Hit: Purgatory

Hidden Gem: Genghis Khan

Rocks In The Attic #194: Tracy Chapman – ‘Tracy Chapman’ (1988)

RITA#194For a very long time, the hit on this album was undoubtedly Fast Car, but given the more famous cover of Baby Can I Hold You by Boyzone, this latter song now seems to eclipse everything else on here.

I remember having a conversation in the early 2000s with a couple of lesbian friends who were heading out that night to go and see Joni Mitchell play live in concert. I suddenly smelt a rat. Knowing that Mitchell played live very irregularly, I pushed them for more information and eventually found out it was Tracy Chapman they were about to see. Even though she’s no Joni Mitchell, I’d still be happy to see Chapman play live, but what a faux pas to make! Hardly surprising coming from a pair of girls who were so culturally bereft – Tracy Chapman was probably wasted on them.

A friend once told me that you shouldn’t get emotional or nostalgic about music, as it ruins your ability to judge art in a level-headed manner. This album reminds me of a former girlfriend who introduced me to it and used to play it all the time. Despite the happy memories, I still think it’s a good album that’s stood the test of time very well.

Hit: Baby Can I Hold You

Hidden Gem: Behind The Wall