Easy Livin’ – Uriah Heep – 1972

January 31, 2013

uriah_heep-easy_livin_1972They never charted in their homeland and only once made the US singles chart (#39), and yet Uriah Heep are considered one of the seminal hard rock bands of the 1970s. Their one, almost, hit was the 1972 song, Easy Livin’.

still packin’ ‘em in in some parts of town

Uriah Heep are a British band who were typical of their time—hard rock, loud guitars, with a keyboard/organ in the background; sort of a poor man’s Deep Purple!

Having released 23 studio albums (around 50 albums in all), the band has had 12 feature on the UK albums chart and 15 on the US album charts. It’s in Europe that the band has made it big, however. Having had hits in Germany and Netherlands, Uriah Heep still plays to packed arenas in Germany, the Netherlands, Russia and Scandinavia, and Japan.

the big four

Such was Uriah Heep’s success in the 70s, people used to mention them in the same breath as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Fans referred to these bands as “The Big 4” of hard rock.

In all they’ve sold over 30 million albums with over 4 million of those in the US.

elton john connection

Within many of the bands who endure across generations there will be one person who remains constant. In Uriah Heep’s case it’s lead guitarist Mick Box. There is a well-known ex-member, however. Elton John drummer, Nigel Olssen was a member of Uriah Heep for a 1/47th of its history (that’s one year, by the way). That was back in 1970.

easy livin’ fax

  • Uriah Heep 4Easy Livin’ was the second single from Uriah Heep’s 1972 album Demons and Wizards (an album that was on high-rotation in my brother’s record collection at the time).
  • Easy Livin’ was Uriah Heep’s only US hit, peaking at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1972.
  • The song did, however, reach #5 in the Netherlands, securing the band enduring popularity throughout Europe.
  • A live version of Easy Livin’, featuring new vocalist Bernie Shaw, was released as a single in the UK in 1988. It was taken from the album Live in Moscow.
  • Easy Livin’ has appeared on 24 Uriah Heep albums and 27 compilation albums. It has been covered by W.A.S.P. and James Last (an instrumental).
  • Easy Livin’ lyrics.

easy livin’ – uriah heep – 1972 – video

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Right Place, Wrong Time – Dr John – 1973

January 24, 2013

dr-john right place wrong time 1973For a musician so well-known, it may surprise many to know that Mac Rebennack, aka Dr John, has only ever once had a song in the top 40 of the US singles chart, and that was Right Place, Wrong Time in 1973.

what’s in a name?

Malcolm Rebennack, Mac for short, began his music career back in the early 50s when he was just 13 or 14 years old. Back then he was a guitarist, and probably would still be today were it not for a stray bullet that injured a finger on his left hand while he was protecting a school friend.

By the age of 16 he’d been hired as a music producer by Ace records. By the time he was 23 he was an accomplished pianist and had moved to Los Angeles to avoid the lure of the many chemical addictions he’d succumb to in his hometown of  New Orleans.

In Los Angeles he quickly became a sought after session musician playing for acts like: Sonny and Cher, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

dr john is born

If you know anything about Dr John you’ll know of his fascination with New Orleans voodoo. When Mac Rebennack moved to Los Angeles he developed a show and persona that reflected that heritage; changing his stage name to Dr John, The Night (Nite) Tripper.

Mac said:

There was a guy the name of Dr. John, a hoodoo guy in New Orleans. He was competition to Marie Laveau. He was like her opposite. I actually got a clipping from the Times Picayune newspaper about how my great-great-great-grandpa Wayne was busted with this guy for running a voodoo operation in a whorehouse in 1860. I decided I would produce the record with this as a concept.

Mac went on to assume the role of Dr. John, calling his first album Gris Gris, after a voodoo healing medicine.

then came the 70s

By the 70s Dr John was an integral part of the West Coast music scene.  He forged his own career while continuing his role as a session musician, playing with people like: The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon and James Taylor (Mockingbird), Neil Diamond (Beautiful Noise), Maria Muldaur, Van Morrison (also as producer on the album A Period of Transition), Levon Helm, Rickie Lee Jones, Willy DeVille, Aaron Neville and the Neville brothers, Harry Connick, Jr., and Gregg Allman.

He played with The Band on their wonderful farewell concert/album, The Last Waltz.

Between July and September 1989 Dr. John toured in the first Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, with fellow musicians, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Nils Lofgren, Jim Keltner, Joe Walsh, Billy Preston and (the wonderful ) Clarence Clemons.

dr john 5best known…

Dr John’s best known songs are Iko Iko, Right Place Wrong Time and Such a Night–the latter he performed on The Last Waltz. Right Place Wrong Time and Such a Night are both from the album In the Right Place.

right place, wrong time fax

  • Right Place, Wrong Time was released by Dr John from his In the Right Place album in March 1973.
  • Right Place, Wrong Time peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 (#54 in the UK).
  • The In the Right Place album was produced by Alain Toussaint and backed by legendary band, The Meters—who featured Art Neville, one of the Neville Brothers, on organ.
  • Right Place, Wrong Time has a place in American popular culture; director Richard Linklater used it to evoke the 1970s throughout the soundtrack to his movie, Dazed and Confused.
  • The song includes the line, “brain salad surgery,” which Emerson, Lake & Palmer used as the name of an album they released later in 1973.
  • Right Place, Wrong Time lyrics.

right place, wrong time – dr john – 1973 – video

such a night – dr john – 1973 – video

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War – Edwin Starr – 1970

January 17, 2013

War-Edwin-Starr-1970Between 1965 and 2001, Edwin Starr released 45 singles, only one had significant chart success, however–War, recorded in 1969 and released in 1970.

from motown to the uk

Edwin Starr was one of Motown’s headliners throughout the 70s.  He had a #1 hit with War before moving to the UK in 1973.

Continuing to make music and release records in the UK, Edwin had a number of minor hits. He continued to tour the Northern England “soul circuit” right up to the time of his death in 2003. He was 61 years old.

war fax

  • War is a hard-hitting soul song written by the Motown writers, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.
  • War first appeared as an album track in 1969, on an record by The Temptations. When people began contacting Motown asking that the song be released as a single, it was decided that releasing The Temptations’ version might “alienate their more conservative fans,” and so, Edwin volunteered to do it.
  • War hit #1 on the US singles chart and, as a blatant anti-Vietnam war song, is listed amongst the most popular protest songs ever recorded. It sat at #1 for three weeks.
  • War re-entered the US singles chart in 1986 when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band released a cover version. Bruce Springsteen said of the song;

If you grew up in the sixties, you grew up with war on TV every night, a war that your friends were involved in.

  • Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, War was placed on the list of post-9/11 inappropriate titles amongst the US media.
  • Edwin was nominated for a Grammy award in 1971 for War (Best R&B Male Vocal)
  • In 1999, Edwin’s recording of War was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • War lyrics.

war – edwin starr – 1970 – video

war – bruce springsteen and the e-street band – 1986 – video

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Miracles – Jefferson Starship – 1975

January 10, 2013

Miracles-Jefferson-Starship-1975It received mixed reviews—many believed Jefferson Starship’s 1975 hit, Miracles, was way too soft compared to their usual rock ‘n’ roll sound.

(And, just for my brother—I’ve included a video of St Charles which he claims is Jefferson Starship’s best song; and he may be right!).

there’s a new station in town…

There’s a new radio station around our parts—well, it’s not that new, I just haven’t mentioned it yet. The great thing about this station is that, not only do the dj’s play 70s and 80s music, they play entire albums from start to finish.

It’s been great hearing albums I once knew so well but had forgotten all about. The amazing thing is, once a song begins, my internal filing system seems to know exactly what cranial folder to reach into to extract the lyrics enabling me to sing along to long forgotten tracks.

I don’t know how many songs there are filed away  in that cabinet but there must be thousands.

airplane, starship, Jefferson

Most of us will know something of the iconic San Francisco band, Jefferson Airplane. Since forming in 1965, they’ve gone through various incarnations as their line-up has changed. By the early 70s they’d become Jefferson Starship. Later that changed to a simple, Starship, before evolving into Jefferson Starship The Next Generation in 1991.


The Jefferson family has, over the years, had some accomplished musicians within its line-up including:

Paul Kantner has been the constant factor in the band but, when I think of the Jefferson family, it’s Grace Slick’s voice springs to mind.

People often put Grace and Janis Joplin in the same basket – together they were, arguably, the first female rock stars. A number of artists have listed Grace as one of their primary influences, e.g. Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith and Florence Welch.

Jefferson Starship 1jefferson trivia

  • In early 1987, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now hit #1 on the US singles chart making Grace the oldest female vocalist to sing on a number-one Billboard Hot 100 hit. She was 47 at the time. That record has since been broken by Cher when, in 1999, at the age 52, she had a hit with Believe.
  • Jefferson Airplane was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

miracles fax

  • Miracles was written by Marty Balin and included on Jefferson Starship’s 1975 album Red Octopus.
  • For three weeks in 1975, Miracles sat at #3 on the US singles chart.
  • Miracles is the highest-charting single the band ever recorded under the name Jefferson Starship–they had three #1 hits under their later incarnation – Starship.
  • The album version of Miracles is 6 minutes 52 seconds. It was shortened to 3 minutes 25 seconds for its single relase and to remove the sexual reference in the line,

I had a taste of the real world when I went down on you, girl.

  • In their book The New Book of Rock Lists, Dave Marsh and James Bernard listed Miracles in their list of, Best Songs to Pass the Censor. In the same book they described the line, “I got a taste of the real world when I went down on you girl,” as the “Most Off-Colour Line in the LP Version of a Number One Hit.” A mistake because Miracles did not reach #1.
  • Reviews of Miracles were mixed. The 2004 New Rolling Stone Album Guide stated “with Marty Balin’s Miracles the band began shifting toward schmaltz. Balin now sounded like a lounge singer…” Meanwhile, Philip Dodd, in The Book of Rock: From the 1950s to Today, described Miracles as “magnificent.”
  • Miracles lyrics.

miracles –jefferson starship – 1975 – video

And just for my brother:

st charles – jefferson starship – 1976 – video

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Layla – Derek and The Dominos – 1971

January 3, 2013

Layla - Derek and the Dominos - 1971Known as one of the great love songs of all time, Derek and the Dominos’ 1971 hit, Layla features a distinctive guitar riff by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman.

reading about slowhand

Derek 1The other day, a friend loaned me Eric Clapton’s self-titled autobiography. It’s an interesting, though not overly riveting read. What it does contain is a pretty candid record of his drug taking; man, it’s a wonder the guy is still living, and without the rather well-worn face of Keith Richards and co.

One thing I learned was what most of you probably already know… where Eric received the nickname, Slowhand.

I always thought it was something to do with his playing and the sustained notes he played, but not so. The way Eric tells it, he gained the name very early on in his music career because he would often break strings while playing live and it took him so long to replace them. The rest of the band and the audience would just have to wait and so, the band named him Slowhand.

we all know the story

The story of Layla is well-known. Eric wrote it for Patti Boyd. Back then she was George Harrison’s wife. Eric was besotted with her and made no secret of it. He hounded her for years until she finally left George. Eric and Patti almost immediately became a couple and later married.

As with many such dreams, the reality of the catch wasn’t quite as exciting as the thrill of the chase, and Eric and Patti later separated.

The clincher is in the opening verses and chorus of the song where Eric challenges Patti who he knows is not happy with George:

What’ll you do when you get lonely

And nobody’s waiting by your side?

You’ve been running and hiding much too long.

You know it’s just your foolish pride.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.

Layla, I’m begging, darling please.

Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

I tried to give you consolation

When your old man had let you down.

Like a fool, I fell in love with you,

Turned my whole world upside down.

derek and the dominos

Derek and the Dominos is one of a number of bands Eric was in before going solo. His major bands were, in order; The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and then Derek and the Dominos.

A couple of things about Derek and the Dominos:

  • Eric was, in his early days, a blues purist. He believed music needed to stand on its own, and so didn’t want his name associated with the music he made. He believed, if it was good, it would sell. It was a theory that didn’t always work in reality.
  • Almost immediately after forming Derek and the Dominos, Eric realised he’d made a mistake. They produced only one studio album. It was a double LP titled, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. All other musicians were American and it featured Jimi Hendrix’s, Little Wing.

Layla fax

  • Layla was written by Eric Clapton and fellow band member, Jim Gordon. It was recorded in late 1970 and released in 1971 by Eric’s band Derek and the Dominos.
  • The musicians on Layla were all American; musicians Eric met while touring with Delaney and Bonnie.
  • The distinctive Layla guitar riff is played by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman.
  • There were two versions of Layla. One contains a contrasting piano coda that stretches the song to over 7 minutes. The single version without the piano coda is just 2:43.
  • Layla is often included in lists of the greatest rock songs of all time. In 2004 it was ranked #27 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • Layla has achieved chart success three times: In 1971 it made no impression on the charts, probably because it was too long. In 1972 it was re-released on the album, The History of Eric Clapton. It peaked at #7 in the UK and #10 in the US. In 1982 Layla was re-released as a single peaking at #4 in the UK. Then, in 1992 it was again released as a single from the acoustic album Unplugged. While it failed to chart in the UK, it peaked at #12 on the US charts.
  • The acoustic version of Layla won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
  • There have been a few cover versions of Layla including: The London Symphony Orchestra’s 1982 instrumental version which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios; and in 2003, the Allman Brothers Band began playing the song in concert.

Layla lyrics.

layla – derek and the dominos – 1971 – video

layla – eric clapton – 1992 – acoustic version – video

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