Fooled Around and Fell in Love – Elvin Bishop – 1976

January 26, 2012

Elvin Bishop, Fooled around and fell in love coverCatchy tune, great vocals, cool song, but it wasn’t Elvin Bishop who sang the 1976 hit that’s credited to him.

owning up

Okay, I’ll admit it – the first time I heard this song I loved it. And, over 35 years later, I still love it. I think it’s just so cool and so catchy.

 elvin the blues man

Elvin is often thought of as a one hit wonder. Certainly, Fooled Around and Fell in Love often appears on such lists. In terms of charting hits it’s probably a true assessment. However, Elvin has long been an admired player on the blues circuit throughout the US.

Elvin’s music career began in Chicago where, in the early 1960s, he met Paul Butterfield. Together they formed The Butterfield Blues Band.

He later left the band to pursue a solo career. Moving to San Francisco he often performed at The Fillmore with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and B.B. King.

 not even elvin

Here’s the thing though, Elvin didn’t even sing Fooled Around and Fell in Love. He wrote it and immediately sensed he had a hit record. He was concerned, however, that his gravelly voice didn’t really do it justice and so he asked his background singer Mickey Thomas to sing it.

In Elvin’s words:

My voice is very plain. It’s better suited for Blues. It’s been good for me, because it’s made my song writing strong, because to really get over with a voice like mine, which is not a thrill in itself – the quality of the voice – you have to have a strong story and really good words to capture people’s imagination. And that tune, I gave it a try. The producer, Bill Szymczyk, said, ‘We need one more piece of material here. You got anything else lying around?’ I said, ‘Well, there’s this tune I wrote the other day.’ Well, not the other day. I’d actually tried to get a couple of other people to sing it, but somehow it didn’t work out. I said, ‘How about this ‘Fooled Around and Fell In Love’?’ We cut a track; it was a really nice track. I tried singing it, and I said, ‘That’s not buttering my biscuit, my vocal on this. Why don’t we give Mickey a shot at this?’ And the producer said, ‘Well, that’s big of you.’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t think so. It’s just common sense, you know?’ And Mickey just tore it up.”

It was a great move for Mickey. A couple of years later Marty Balin left Jefferson Starship and Mickey was asked to replace him. Two years later Elvin’s drummer, Donny Baldwin (remember that name) joined Jefferson Starship also.

When Paul Kantner left the band in 1984, Mickey became the leader of the, now called, Starship. They produced some wonderful music until Grace Slick left (again) in 1988.

Shortly after the band was forced to cancel a tour and they never really recovered from that. The tour was cancelled because Mickey was viciously attacked in a bar fight and required serious facial reconstruction surgery. The guy who attacked him was, remember I said to remember the name – Donny Baldwin, the band’s drummer.

a piece of elvin trivia

In August 2007, Elvin’s daughter Selina and ex-wife Jennifer Villarin were murdered in August 2000, apparently as part of a scheme to extort $100,000 a couple named Ivan and Annette Stineman.

fooled around and fell in love fax

  • Fooled Around and Fell in Love appeared on Elvin’s 1975 album Struttin’ My Stuff.
  • Fooled Around and Fell in Love was released as a single in 1976.
  • Mickey Thomas, background singer in Elvin’s band is the lead vocalist.
  • Fooled Around and Fell in Love reached #3 on the US singles chart in May 1976. It achieved gold status on June 23, 1976.
  • Fooled Around and Fell in Love has been covered by T.G. Sheppard who reached #21 on the country charts with it. Rod Stewart also covered the song on his 2006 album, Still the Same… Great Rock Classic of Our Time.
  • Fooled Around and Fell in Love has appeared in three movies: Boogie Nights (1997), Invincible (2006) and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008).
  • Fooled Around and Fell in Love lyrics.

fooled around and fell in love video

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A Message to You, Rudy – The Specials – 1979

January 19, 2012

The Specials - A Message for You, Rudy.A typical UK ska track complete with horns and reggae-beat guitar, A Message to You, Rudy reached #10 on the UK charts in 1979.

ska revival

Okay, so I didn’t hear this one on the radio. Our son came home one day having bought the CD, The Specials Greatest Hits. I didn’t even realise he knew who The Specials were!

I’ve listened to the album a couple of times (when I can get my hands on it). I love it, it takes me right back to the UK ska I love but have heard little of for a long time.

the specials aka the specials aka

The Specials, originally known as The Special AKA appeared on the English music scene at the same time as punk bands like The Clash, The Jam and The Buzzcocks were waning or moving onto other things.

The Specials brought something new. They were, as far as I can remember, the first band to produce that wonderful blend of punk and reggae that we call (well, I call) ska. Of course, they weren’t the first ska band – but in bringing it to the UK they added elements that were fresh and new (and loud and rocky and full of horns).

The Specials - UK ska band.BTW – believe it or not, the UK’s first ska hit us usually credited as being, My Boy Lollipop, by Millie, back in 1964.

By 1979, when A Message to You, Rudy was released, the ska resurgence was huge in the UK. In fact, on November 8 of that year three ska bands appeared on the same episode of Top of the Pops – The Specials, Madness and The Selecter. It’s often said that that day is the day UK ska stopped being a cult and become a music sensation.

not a specials original

A Message to You, Rudy is not a Specials original. It was originally released in 1967 by Dandy Livingstone. It achieved success with The Specials in 1979.

a message to you, rudy fax

  • A Message to You, Rudy was originally released in 1964 by Dandy Livingstone.
  • A Message to You, Rudy peaked at #10 on the UK singles chart in 1979.
  • Trombone player Rico Rodriguez played on both The Specials’ version and Dandy Livingstone’s version of the song.
  • The song was originally about social unrest amongst the youth in Kingston, Jamaica. The Specials release was a comment on the UK in the late 1970s, a time of dissatisfaction in the UK political arena that led to a series of strikes and what came to be known as the 1978-79 Winter of Discontent.
  • “Rudy” (or Rudi, Rude boy) is a Jamaican term for criminal juveniles.
  • Technically, A Message to You, Rudy is a rocksteady song. Rocksteady is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around 1966. Bridging a music gap, it was a successor to ska and a precursor to reggae.
  • A Message to You, Rudy lyrics.

a message to you, rudy video

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Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello and the Attractions – 1979.

January 12, 2012

Elvis Costello’s 1979 hit Oliver’s Army is typical of a lot of the music of the late 1970s. Its quirky vocals and staccato piano neatly bridge the divide between 70s punk and mainstream pop.

the english elvis

Elvis Costello’s real name is Declan Patrick MacManus. Elvis’ musical creations are so diverse that one commentator once described him as;

A pop encyclopaedia who has been able to reinvent the past in his own image.

And there is no doubt, Elvis has reinvented himself a number of times as he’s indulged in various musical genres.

In the mid to late 70s Elvis, with his band, The Attractions, were a vital part of the Punk and New Wave scene in London. During this time Elvis gained some renown as a superb lyricist.

Elvis and The Attractions had a number of hit records including: Alison, Watching the Detectives, (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea, Everyday I Write the Book (1983) and, their most successful hit, Oliver’s Army.

elvis meets abba

Part of the success of Oliver’s Army is the bouncy piano which, Elvis admits, was inspired by Abba’s, Dancing Queen.

Commentators generally accept that the song refers to the army of Oliver Cromwell whose New Model Army was a precursor to the British Army of today.

Elvis once said;

I made my first trip to Belfast in 1978 and saw mere boys walking around in battle dress with automatic weapons. They were no longer just on the evening news. These snapshot experiences exploded into visions of mercenaries and imperial armies around the world. The song was based on the premise ‘they always get a working class boy to do the killing’. I don’t know who said that; maybe it was me, but it seems to be true nonetheless. I pretty much had the song sketched out on the plane back to London.

Oliver’s Army refers to a number places around the world that were considered potential trouble spots in the late 70s including: Hong Kong, London, Palestine, China, and Johannesburg.

The song is blatantly anti-war and includes the lyric;

Only takes one itchy trigger

One more widow, one less white nigger

Elvis was warned that those words would prevent the song from charting in the US but he refused to change them. He said of the possibility of causing offence;

That was the aim. A grim heart in the middle of an Abba record.

oliver’s army fax

  • From the album Armed Forces, Oliver’s Army was released on 2 February 1979.
  • Oliver’s Army peaked at #2 on the UK singles chart spending four weeks sitting up there.
  • The music video for Oliver’s Army was aired on the launch day of MTV in the U.S. (1 August 1981).
  • In Q Magazine (March 2008) Elvis said, of Oliver’s Army;

I don’t think its success was because of the lyrics. I always liked the idea of a bright pop tune that you could be singing along to for ages before you realize what it is you’re actually singing. Of course, the downside of that is some people only hear the tune and never listen to the words. After a while I got frustrated at that.

oliver’s army – elvis costello and the attractions – 1979

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Like a Hurricane – Neil Young – 1977

January 5, 2012

One of the best guitar songs of all time by one of the most influential rock musicians of all time – Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane remains an integral part of his live concerts.

no singing – doctor’s orders

In 1975 Neil had an operation to remove nodes on his vocal cords. He was unable to sing or even talk for a while. During that time he began to write Like a Hurricane. It began as a simple guitar lick and the line,

You are like a hurricane, there’s storm in your eye…

As part of his recovery, Neil and some mates went on a road trip. It was on that trip that he and his neighbour Taylor Phelps, sitting in the back of Neil’s DeSoto Suburban, that the song was completed. Although, there are other versions to the story of where Like a Hurricane came from (see like a hurricane fax below).

First released on Neil’s 1977 album American Stars ‘n’ Bars, Like a Hurricane was released as a single on August 8, 1977 and has been included in almost every one of Neil’s live concerts since.

rust never sleeps

So, I’ll never forget the movie Rust Never Sleeps thanks more to the audience than the actual movie. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is great but…

There we are in the Civic watching one of the world’s great guitarists when suddenly there’s a bit of a commotion up the back and all the lights go on. Some old geezer (probably younger than what I am now!) has had a heart attack. So, there are paramedics and stretcher bearers and general panic all around. Fortunately the old boy was okay. He’s carted off to hospital and the movie resumes.

The highlight of the movie, for me, will always be the haunting guitar of Like a Hurricane (although only marginally ahead of the wonderful Cortez the Killer).

It’s obvious others are enjoying this movie because people are standing on their seats dancing! And, as it comes to an end – to the strains of the Jimi Hendrix version of The Star Spangled Banner – and the credits roll up the screen, a section of the audience are clapping, cheering and shouting towards the screen, “more, more, more.”

For the record, Neil doesn’t return to the stage.

NB – The movie was produced by Bernard Shakey, the pseudonym Neil uses for his movie production.

like a hurricane fax

  • Neil wrote Like a Hurricane for a girl named Gail. He’d broken up with his wife, actress Carrie Snodgress, about a year before. He met Gail in a bar. In Neil’s biography Shakey it quotes, Neil’s neighbour Taylor Phelps as saying;

Neil had this amazing intense attraction to this particular woman named Gail – it didn’t happen, he didn’t go home with her. We go back to the ranch and Neil started playing. Young was completely possessed, pacing around the room, hunched over a Stringman keyboard pounding out the song. Neil had just the two lines,

You are like a hurricane, there’s calm in your eye.

It took his band, Crazy Horse, around ten days of work at Neil’s ranch before the song fell into place and was completed.

  • In 1993, Neil recorded an acoustic version for the MTV Unplugged show. The album from that show charted at #4 on the UK album chart and #23 in the US.,
  • Like a Hurricane has been covered by Roxy Music (released the live albums The High Road and Heart Still Beating). Heather Nova and Placebo also recorded live versions. Jeff Healey covered the song on his 2008 album Mess of Blues and Adam Sandler sang it on a 2009 episode of the Late Show with David Letterman to promote the release of Covered, A Revolution in Sound; an album featuring Warner Brothers artists performing cover songs. Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings released an album of cover songs – Bachman-Cummings Jukebox – in 2008 which featured Like a Hurricane. And, finally, Dave Matthews Band sang Like a Hurricane at a concert in August 2011 in reference to their next two shows having to be cancelled by the impending Hurricane Irene.
  • Theresa Andersson sings Like a Hurricane it in the 2006 film New Orleans Music in Exile, a movie that follows the events after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Like a Hurricane lyrics.

like a hurricane – Neil Young – 1977

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