Lotta Love – Nicolette Larson – 1979

October 27, 2011

Nicolette Larson Lotta Love - single coverWritten by Neil Young, Nicolette Larson’s hit, Lotta Love, is one of 1979s catchiest tunes.

1979 not music’s greatest year

Reading over the songs I’ve covered in 70s music so far I became aware of how many of them are from the first half of the decade. It got me thinking, surely there are some decent songs from the late 70s?

A quick Google, however, and I’m reminded how bad some of the music was.  Check out these songs from 1979 – who can forget the likes of:

  • Y.M.C.A., Village People
  • Sad Eyes, Robert John
  • When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman and Sharing the Night Together, Dr Hook
  • Tragedy, Bee Gees
  • You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond
  • Just When I Needed You Most, Randy Vanwarmer
  • Somewhere In the Night, Barry Manilow

Of course 1979 did have its highlights, such as Dire Straits’ Sultan of Swing and Ricki Lee Jones’ Chuck E’s in Love. And then there is – one of my favourite all time songs – Lotta Love by Nicolette Larson.

nicolette

Sadly, Nicolette’s parents burdened her with a name that sounds very much like a patch-cure for tobacco addition . Happily, they also ensured she was endowed with a great voice.

Nicolette made her name as a backing singer for artists like Hoyt Axton and Emmylou Harris. While working with Emmylou, Nicolette stuck up a friendship with Emmylou’s friend Linda Ronstadt. One day Linda’s next door neighbour came over and asked Linda if she knew of a decent backing singer an album he was putting together. Linda recommended Nicolette.  The neighbour was Neil Young.

Through her work with Neil, Nicolette was discovered and signed as an artist in her own right. Eight solo albums followed, the best being her debut Nicolette which contained the wonderful Lotta Love.

Rolling Stone Magazine named her Female Vocalist of the year in 1978.

nicolette r i p

Nicolette died in December 1997 as a result of complications arising from cerebral edema. Friends are reported as saying that her fatal seizure was related to her chronic use of Valium and Tylenol.

She was married to the legendary drummer, Russ Kunkel.

lotta love fax

  • Lotta Love was written by Neil Young.
  • Lotta Love peaked at #8 on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 in February 1979.
  • Lotta Love reached #1 on the Easy Listening chart and was ranked at #10 on the list of Best Adult Contemporary hits of 1979.
  • Nicolette first heard the song when driving with Neil Young. She put a cassette into his car’s player. It was a demo of Lotta Love. Neil told her, “that song’s yours if you want it.”
  • Neil’s version of Lotta Love appears on his Comes a Time album.
  • Coincidentally, the albums Nicolette and Comes a Time were released on the same day.
  • A 12 inch disco version single of Nicolette’s Lotta Love was released. As you’d expect, it plummeted into obscurity.
  • Nicolette performed Lotta Love at the renowned No Nukes concerts held at Madison Square Garden in September 1979. Her version, with The Doobie Brothers backing, was included on the No Nukes album but not in the film.
  • In February 1998 a Nicolette Larson tribute concert raised over $165,000 for the UCLA Children’s Hospital. The show was called The Lotta Love Concert and opened with Carole King, Bonnie Rait, Rosemary Butler, and Valerie Carter singing Lotta Love.
  • Lotta Love lyrics.
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Hello It’s Me – Todd Rundgren – 1972

October 20, 2011

Peaking  at #5 on the US Singles chart, Hello It’s Me is Todd Rundgren‘s best-known song – it’s also the first song he ever wrote.

songs no one knows…

Are there any songs from the 70s that you really like but get the distinct feeling that no one else even remembers? (if you do, click on “comment” below and tell the rest of us).

Of course, we all have them. Truth be told, I’ve got a dozen or more, but right up near the top of the list is Todd Rundgren’s, Hello It’s Me.

go todd

Todd is another of those musicians whose name many people will not recognise but he’s had an incredible influence on the music we know and love.

In 1972 he released the double album Something/Anything? which went gold in the US. The album is pop based and, in parts a little psychedelic. By the late seventies and into the eighties he’d changed style and was working with the progressive rock band Utopia. He’s also been a prolific producer and engineer on the work of other musicians.

Todd’s production work includes: Badfinger’s album, Straight Up; The Band’s fabulous song, Stage Fright; Grand Funk Railroad’s, We’re an American Band; and Meatloaf’s, Bat Out of Hell.

His best-known solo songs are “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light” which remain on high rotation on classic rock radio stations around the world.

hello it’s me fax

  • Hello It’s Me is the first song Todd Rundgren ever wrote.
  • Hello It’s Me was first recorded by Todd’s band, Nazz. Todd re-recorded it as a solo performer.  He used a slower tempo and put it on his Something/Anything? album – it rose to #5 on the US singles chart.
  • Todd’s second best known song is I Saw the Light, also from the Something/Anything? album.
  • Hello It’s Me was originally the B-side to Nazz’s single, Open My Eyes but stations preferred to play Hello It’s Me rather than the A-side.
  • Some people claim Todd played all the instruments on Hello It’s Me. That’s not true. Being a double album, Something/Anything?  had four sides. Todd played all instruments on sides one, two and three but side four featured a number of other musicians.  Hello It’s Me on side four.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, Stevie Nicks does not sing backing vocals on Hello It’s Me, in fact, she had nothing to do with Todd’s music. There are two interesting musicians on this track, however. Drummer John Siomos was drummer for Peter Frampton on his fabulous Frampton Comes Alive album. Mark “Moogy” Klingman who played organ on the track was in Jimi Hendrix’s first band. He also went to school and played music with the brilliant Andy Kaufmann and played keyboards for Bob Dylan.  He produced Buckets of Rain, Dylan’s duet with Bette Midler.
  • Hello It’s Me appeared at the ending to the pilot of That 70s Show. The same clip was also used as the ending to the show’s series finale.
  • In 2009 Hello It’s Me was used in an ad for Tums, a heartburn remedy.
  • Hello It’s Me appears in the 2011 movie Paul.
  • The Isley Brothers covered Hello It’s Me on their 1974 album Live It Up.
  • In 2007 Mary J. Blige recorded a version of Hello It’s Me for the iTunes edition of her album Growing Pains. John Legend also recorded a version.
  • Hello It’s Me lyrics.

Hooked on a Feeling – Blue Swede – 1974

October 13, 2011

Hooked on a Feeling-blue swede-single coverNot many songs have significant chart success three times – but Hooked on a Feeling did.

ooga chaka – hooked on a feeling history

Hooked on a Feeling (sans ooga chaka’s) was a #5 US hit for B.J. Thomas in 1968. It featured the backing of an electric sitar and, I gotta say, shows that whatever else you think of him, B.J. could sing.

The song’s next chart success was in 1972 when Englishman Jonathan King took it to #23 on the UK charts. It was Jonathan who added the ooga chaka chants – apparently B.J. just never thought of it!

Then, in 1974 Blue Swede, a Swedish band, perfected the art of ooga chaka chanting, accentuated them profoundly and took the song to #1.

jonathan or the swedes?

This week the initial dilemma for me was whether to drag you back to 1972 or 1974. Sure Jonathan King’s version didn’t get as high up the charts, but he’s such an interesting guy that he merits some attention. Ultimately two things swung me in the Swedish direction, however; first, some of Jonathan’s background is more than just a little suspect. Second, Jonathan’s version is pretty bad but Blue Swede’s version is even worse – a million times worse – so bad it would be a pity not to talk about it!

but first – a bit about jonathan

Jonathan King is one of those guys few people have heard of but who was huge in the UK music scene as a singer, songwriter, promoter and producer. He’s authored three successful novels and his autobiography was released last year.

As a singer, 13 of Jonathan’s 18 singles got to at least #29 in the UK singles chart. He wrote and had a hit with one of the great songs of the 60s; Everyone’s Gone to the Moon.

As a manager/producer he’s credited with discovering Genesis, The Bay City Rollers, and 10CC. He produced many of their hits.

In 1997 he was awarded the British Phonographic Industry Man of the Year Award.

In 2001 Jonathan was sentenced to seven years in prison for the sexual assault of five teenage boys between 1983 and 1989. He was very vocal in protesting his innocence and released on parole in 2005.

blue swede – not so tarnished but not so talented either!

Blue Swede formed in 1973. Björn Skifs, a top Swedish vocalist, was looking for a band to accompany him during his concerts and Blue Swede was the best he could find! They had a few hits, all of them covers of previous hits – you see, nowhere near as interesting as Jonathan… but, wait ’til I remind you of the song!!

The worrying part is that Björn Skifs is still producing the odd album and, yes, he still performs Hooked on a Feeling from time to time.

hooked on a feeling fax:

  • Hooked on a feeling was written by B.J. Thomas’ childhood friend, American Mark James. Mark James was a professional song writer turning out some pretty well-known stuff including, The Eyes Of A New York Woman, Suspicious Minds (yep, Elvis!), Moody Blue and Always on My Mind. The latter was a hit for Elvis, Willy Nelson and The Pet Shop Boys, and won Mark James a Grammy.
  • Hooked on a Feeling has been recorded by B.J. Thomas, Jonathan King, Blue Swede, Carroll Baker (a Canadian who did a country version and had a #1 hit), David Hasselhoff, and The Offspring (well, they used a sample in their song Special Delivery – just the ooga chaka part).
  • Hooked on a Feeling sung by Vonda Shepherd appears in an episode of Ally McBeal.
  • More significantly, The Blue Swede version is featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs movie Soundtrack (1992). See also blog entry for Little Green Bag.
  • The ooga chaka bit comes from a song by Johnny Preston named Running Bear – a hit in 1959.
  • Hooked on a Feeling lyrics.

a special treat – just for seventiesmusic fans.

Here, assembled together for the first time in one place, are the videos for the Hooked on a Feeling versions by B.J. Thomas, Blue Swede, and David Hasselhoff. You have to watch and see what happens when bad songs go badder! At least make sure you see the Blue Swede version – ooga chaka!!

b.j. thomas

blue swede

david hasselhoff


Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple – 1973

October 6, 2011

Deep Purple Smoke on the Water Single CoverOne of the truly iconic and most immediately recognisable guitar riffs ever – Smoke on the Water was a hit for Deep Purple in 1973, both as a studio and a live version.

the latest technology

So, I’m at my mate’s place – he’s since gone haywire and joined the Moonies but that’s another story – and he’s just gone out and bought; wait for it!! Headphones!!

Yeah, like full cover-your-ears headphones. I’ve never used them before – only ever seen pictures of them in music mag’s. Today that might seem strange but back in 1972 all I’ve got is a mono-ear piece. Stereo headphones are as super high-tech as the iPhone 4S will one day be.

So, I’m at my mate’s place and I’ve got my brand new copy of Machine Head (1972 release), the latest Deep Purple album. I put it on, turn it up – loud – and slip the super high-tech headphones on and…

Well, it’s weird the things you remember, eh? I recall that moment vividly. It was, I guess, the first time I became aware of true stereophonic sound. I recall sitting there with a smile on my face and my mate mouthing to me, “It’s great, eh?!?” And it was.

deep purple

Deep Purple formed in the UK in 1968 and, with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, are often cited as the pioneers of heavy metal. The Guinness Book of World Records cited them as the world’s loudest rock band in the world (a title they subsequently lost to The Grateful Dead, if my memory serves me correct).

The band continues to play today although continual line-up changes mean that drummer Ian Paice is the only member to have been in the band the entire time.

Deep purple Machine head Album covermachine head

Machine Head is one of the great heavy rock albums of all time – my opinion. It begins with Highway Star a brilliantly written song which Richie Blackmore wanted to have a Bach like sound and which heavy music fans often cite as being the pre-cursor to speed metal music.

Of course, being the first song on the album I conclude that this was the first song I ever heard in true stereo, but that’s by the by.

The second side of the album began with one of the most recognised rock songs of all time – Smoke on the Water.

smoke on the water fax

  • Smoke on the Water rose to #4 on the US singles chart in 1973. It rose to #21 in the UK.
  • Smoke on the Water was ranked at #426 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It was ranked at #12 in Q magazine’s 2005 list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks. It was ranked as #4 on the BBC’s Top 20 guitar riffs of all time.
  • The lyrics of Smoke on the Water tell a true story. In 1971 Deep Purple were in Switzerland recording an album using the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio. During the time of recording Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention held a concert at the nearby Montreux Casino. During the show an audience member fired a flare gun into the ceiling;

We all came out to Montreux

On the Lake Geneva shoreline

To make records with a mobile

We didn’t have much time

Frank Zappa and the Mothers

Were at the best place around

But some stupid with a flare gun

Burned the place to the ground…

  • Claude Nobs was the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival. He helped some of the audience escape the fire and is immortalised in the song lyric;

…and Funky Claude was running in and out

Pulling kids out the ground…

  • The live version from the Made In Japan album also became a hit. In a later live version on Deep Purple in Concert, Ian Gillan utters the words, “Break a leg, Frank”. He’s referring to one of the injuries Frank Zappa sustained six days after the Montreux fire when he was attacked onstage by an audience member at a concert in London.
  • In 1983 Deep Purple’s guitarist Ian Gillan toured with Black Sabbath. They performed Smoke on the Water as a part of their encore set – it’s one of the very few cover songs Black Sabbath ever played live.
  • Smoke on the Water has been covered by Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Pat Boone, and Carlos Santana.
  • Smoke on the Water has been used in various video games.
  • Smoke on the Water is in the Guinness Book of Records as the song played by the most guitarists at the same time. The record was originally set in 1994 by 1,322 guitarists in Vancouver, Canada. In 2007 1,721 guitarists in Kansas City USA beat the record. Later that year 1,876 guitarists topped it in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany. The record is currently held by 6,346 guitarists who, in 2009, joined together to play at the Thanks Jimi Festival in 2009. They were, on this last occasion led by Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse.  Click here to see a panoramic photo of the largest guitar ensemble in Wroclaw, Rynek, Poland, on 01 May 2009 (Guinness World Record).  On 30 April 2011, in the same place, 5 601 guitars played Hey Joe.
  •  Smoke on the Water lyrics.