“I go to parties, sometimes until four…”

So, as I was saying, my record player is now working

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The first record on the turntable was Joe Walsh‘s But Seriously Folks, a 1978 release that I bought on a whim, enticed by the bestselling single Life’s been good to me.

Unfortunately, I did not like anything else on the album at the time I bought it and first listened to it, and after almost 40 years nothing has happened to change that. In my defense, this acquisition was at a time when information about a record – especially how it sounded – was thin on the ground. Generally, a decent sounding single was as much as you might know. But after this disaster, I cut back on impulse purchases, and tried to buy only on the basis of recommendations from those people I knew with more extensive musical libraries, and reasonably compatible tastes.

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The single still sounds good, and accompanying the brilliant guitar work, there are some quirky lyrics:

“I go to parties, sometimes until four
It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door.”

I know how he feels.

According to Wikipedia:

The original eight-minute album version of this track was edited down to 4½ minutes for single release and this became Walsh’s biggest solo hit, peaking at #12 on the Billboard chart.

It’s a pleasure to listen to the full version of the song. I also note from the Critical Reception part of that article, that I wasn’t the only one who thought that the rest of the album wasn’t as good – accepting, of course, that all musical taste is relative.

This record does not – as some others do – transport me back to a time and place. Probably that’s because it got so little play compared to other albums; it truly was disappointing. At least that one track is worth a spin. Again. And again.

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Rhapsody in black

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

The Scotsman has a timely piece about the 40th anniversary of one of the most significant pieces of pop music of all time:

Why Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody endures 40 years on

It’s difficult to imagine Queen, one of the biggest-selling, most widely known bands ever, struggling with their career.

But, as drummer Roger Taylor recalls, in 1974, three albums in to their career, the band were broke and having problems with their manager, who wasn’t passing on any of the cash they were making.

“We felt like this was make or break, really,” he says, referring to fourth album A Night At The Opera. “This was a last big shot at it.”

Cue John Reid stepping in. He was Elton John’s manager at the time, and freed them of previous commitments to management and record labels, reassuring them they could do whatever they wanted.

“He said, ‘Go away and make the best record you’ve ever made and I will sort out the money side’,” says guitarist Brian May. “I seem to recall he put us on 30 quid a week instead of 20 – and we were made.”

Of course, there’s a little bit more to it than that. The album they went on to make, named after the Marx Brothers film, was indeed the best album of their career, while one of its songs, Bohemian Rhapsody, changed their lives, and popular music forever.

The song is 40 years old this week, although frontman Freddie Mercury had been working on it for much longer.

It seems like yesterday, I heard it for the first time, and remember seeing the video promotion. Wonderful music, and wonderful memories.

Read the whole piece, here.

Watch and listen to the track, here.

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Mucking about on the keyboards

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Crisis? What Crisis? was the fourth Supertramp album, released in 1975. What drew me to buying this?

I was an irregular viewer of the Old Grey Whistle Test. Sometimes the bands that were on seemed to be just making a noise. But by chance I caught Supertramp performing Dreamer, and that nifty piece of music stuck in my mind. When I saw this album was by the same band, I was hooked.

Musically, it’s quite different from Dreamer and it is interesting to read up on the band’s view that the album was a dud. (See here.) Some – like Rolling Stone magazine – agreed with that view and slated it. But it must have done reasonably well, given that it was released. Of course, in true contrary style, it’s one of my favorites.

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The stand out track (for me) is Another Man’s Woman with a bravura keyboard performance that goes on and on and on, but is just not long enough. Somewhere, sometime – I do not know where, when, or how  – this was described as the band indulging Rick Davies who was ‘just mucking about on the keyboards.’  Listen to that track. It’s quite something.

Other personal favorites here include Easy Does It, Sister Moonshine, and Poor Boy.

I don’t know what the band were doing when they dismissed the album so easily. Were they being overly modest? Playing a prank? Their creative juices were still flowing well, because I think there’s another (later) Supertramp album in my collection.  And as good as this is…

[The musical journey of rediscovery through my record collection continues. Click on “Vinyl” in the Categories, or in the following links, to see previous entries.]

 

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Magnificent Mancunians

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How dare you! was the 1976 album from 10cc, a talented foursome from Manchester who could all sing, play multiple musical instruments, and write music and lyrics. Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley, and Lol Creme were going from strength to strength, as the album proves. There were two hit singles – I’m Mandy Fly Me and Art for Art’s Sake – and the album showcased (again) a wide variety of musical styles, all rendered in tight, professionally produced, packages.

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But this was the last of the real 10cc. It’s said (here) that this was the last album with the original lineup because Godley and Creme felt constrained by the 10cc commercial success format, and wanted to do their own thing. Had the band been able to handle people doing their personal projects, and not feel threatened, maybe the band could have stayed together. But it was not to be.

Playing the album now, to my ears the music is dated in the sense that it does not belong in today’s world. In other words, you are not going to see the same type of music produced today. But, ironically, it’s still fresh. The songs still have a bite and something to say.

My favorite track (then and now): Don’t Hang Up.

“The band went la di da di da
And I got loady do di dodied
Lousy violins began to play
I went no no no
And as the vol-au-vents exploded
I was walking down the aisle the other way”

The opening track that gave the album its name was also one I highly rated. While clever lyrics are all over the album, that instrumental is just fine and dandy.

It’s written somewhere that there was an art-school half of the foursome. That seems to come across in the artwork for the album. It also still stands out and remains memorable. Click on the following thumbnail for the interior artwork, and see if you can spot the band members. Does anybody recognize any other people in the shot?

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Good memories.

[The musical journey of rediscovery through my record collection continues. Click on “Vinyl” in the Categories, or in the following links, to see previous entries.]

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Musical execution

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And so the musical journey of rediscovery through my record collection continues. (For previous entries, see the links at the end of this article.) Next of note on the record player is this 1975 (under appreciated cracker of an) album from the Electric Light Orchestra: Face the Music.

From a sales point of view, the main single releases from the album – Evil Woman and Strange Magic – were a success. I liked them. However, the album did not do too well and the last single release – Nightrider – was a sales flop. Guess what. It’s my favorite track on the album. It features a lyric that remains firmly lodged at the back of my trivia laden brain to this day:

“Hold on, nightrider baby, hold on you’re a nightrider.
Riding the night, searching for what is gone.
Never reaching the end, so you must travel on.”

And the album is also one of my favorite ELO releases.

The other standout track for me is the instrumental Fire on High. Five minutes plus of joy.

Now some information I picked up from a brief look around the web.

The picture above is the back cover of the album. This is the front:
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This, from Wikipedia, is interesting:

The back cover of the record sleeve shows the members of the band with their faces pressed against a glass panel, supposedly watching the “electrocution” depicted on the front cover. The band member who is looking away is Richard Tandy, who didn’t like the idea and didn’t want to participate.

And so is this:

“Fire on High” contains a backwards message in the beginning. When the song is played backwards, the message voiced by drummer Bev Bevan can be heard stating, “The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back.” — ostensibly Jeff Lynne’s shot at backmasking hysteria, after false satanic allegations were made against their song “Eldorado” by Fundamentalist Christianity members.[3] “Down Home Town” also starts with some backmasking: the refrain from “Waterfall” (“Face the mighty waterfall, face the mighty waterfall”). A portion of the string crescendo from “Nightrider” was used backwards on “Evil Woman.”

The question is, since it’s not practical to schlep the record player around, do I cave in and buy an MP3 version of the album so I can hear it in the car or the gym? Or do I stay faithful only to the vinyl? Decisions, decisions…

[Ballroom Blitz, Glasgow Sound.]

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Glasgow sound

If you know what this picture is, you really know Glasgow. (Or, rather, really knew old Glasgow.)

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I often drove past the building – the remains of the building – that hosted this pillar and phone number. But it’s not my photograph of the real thing; it’s from an album cover. One of the best albums ever made by a Scottish band, recorded in Edinburgh and manufactured and distributed by a Glasgow company. Is that enough by way of clues for you?

Here’s the next vinyl wonder that has been on my reinstated record player: Continue reading

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Ballroom blitz

My Linn record player (see here) was one of the few casualties of our aliyah. It never worked after coming out of the container. I never got around to fixing it, and kept putting it off. But Susan made the appropriate arrangements as a birthday present, and last night was the first outing. The neighbors know my hi-fi is working…

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It’s a 1983 (!) purchase from the then mighty Virgin Record Store in Union Street, Glasgow, still in its plastic packaging. I played the B side (!) with two tracks apiece from Gary Glitter, T Rex, and Slade. The sound was superb. The memories even richer. Thank you, Susan.

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My First Hit

It was the first song I heard that hit me. It connected at a level – gave me a buzz, if you like – as no music had ever done before.

It was 1974.

It was Waterloo by Abba.

I remember watching their performance on the Eurovision Song Contest. I liked what I saw. I liked what I heard.

I remember the slightly strange lyrics:

“My my
At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah
And I have met my destiny in quite a similar way”

Let’s put in a little context.

At the time, I liked music. I was an avid listener of Radio One, the BBC’s pop music station. During the holidays, I listened all day long. I followed the charts and knew all the hit songs well enough to recognize them after a few bars. (I would have been a star at any Radio One Summer Roadshow Bits and Pieces competition.) But the music didn’t connect with me in any meaningful way. It was there, it was good, and it was to be enjoyed.

But Waterloo was different. It was a special feeling. Yes, perhaps the good looking girls in the band helped. However, even when I just heard the song on the radio, it still stood out. I could not resist.

“I tried to hold you back, but you were stronger.”

Waterloo opened some kind of gate, and my relationship with music would never be the same. That song gave me a different perspective, inquisitiveness, and wonder. Little did I know, there was another band waiting in the wings, that very soon afterwards was going to make an even bigger impact by sparking a lifelong change.

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My First Record Purchase

It was the first record I bought with my own money, hard earned from my morning paper round.

It was 1973.

It was Brain Salad Surgery, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

I remember the stunning artwork. At the time I had no idea who H R Giger was, but I liked what I saw.

I remember the reworking of Jerusalem:

“…and did those feet, in ancient times, walk upon England’s green and pleasant land?”

And the slapstick comedy of Benny the Bouncer:

“…he’d sell you back all the bits, all for less than half a quid. He thought he was the meanest, until he met with Savage Sid.”

Why did I buy that record? I don’t remember. It’s possible that I wanted something new and fell for the artwork. However, I should also give credit to a couple of my school contemporaries who were much more into music – and mainly music outside of Radio 1 and the Top 20 – and from whom I picked up a couple of tips. So, it’s also possible I bought it on a recommendation from one of these scholars.

It was my first ELP purchase. But the music, enjoyable as it was, did not connect well enough with me to convert me to an ELP fan and make me want more. Therefore, it was also my last ELP purchase. I had heard of Tarkus, for example, but never showed any interest in getting hold of a copy.

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Musical memories

For some time, I have had an idea rolling around at the back of my mind – a dark, dangerous, difficult, and mythical place – to write up some musical memories. Whatever the reasons, going to a funeral yesterday was probably the tipping point to make me stop thinking and start doing. So, following this introductory piece, I will post the first musical memory piece. After that, I’ll probably not post frequently, but just often enough to exercise my long term memory muscles, get the good vibes going, and rediscover some terrific music. (And some not so terrific music.)

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