Tag Archives: 1973

Still with us: Jerry Lee Lewis

Our premise, revisited: Since we last gathered here a month ago, we’ve lost even more music greats. Keith Emerson, Sir George Martin and Gayle McCormick, the lead singer of Smith, even Clare MacIntyre-Ross, the woman who inspired the Harry Chapin’s classic song “Taxi.”

Time, then — well past time, really — to appreciate four music greats who are still with us. These are my four. Yours may be different. We started with the eldest, Chuck Berry. We then paid homage to Little Richard. We continue with …

The legend: Jerry Lee Lewis.

Age: 80.

Still performing? Apparently so. There are no dates listed on his website, but his last gig was about six weeks ago in Mississippi. I’ve never seen him play live.

What we must acknowledge but won’t dwell on: The Killer has gone through a whole lot of unsavory business. A scandalous marriage to a cousin who likely was 13 when they were wed in December 1957. Six other wives. Allegations of domestic abuse. Substance abuse. Arrested outside Graceland in November 1976, drunk and waving a gun. Jeebus.

Where I came in: Hm. Not really sure about this, either. Perhaps when he covered “Chantilly Lace” in 1972, or perhaps when “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” crossed over from country radio in 1973. It wasn’t until 1989 that I bought my first Jerry Lee record, the “Milestones” greatest-hits comp released on Rhino Records to coincide with the release of “Great Balls of Fire,” the film in which Dennis Quaid played Jerry Lee.

Appreciate the greatness: I have always loved piano pounders, and Jerry Lee stands with Little Richard as perhaps the greatest of them all. Jerry Lee’s late ’50s hit singles are among the cornerstones of rock ‘n’ roll. That said, here are some other tunes I dig.

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“Live from the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium and the WVOK Shower of Stars, the one, the only, Jerry Lee Lewis!”

They recorded this on July 18, 1964, a Saturday night. (The liner notes incorrectly say July 1.) To hear this astonishing side, Jerry Lee clearly brought the greatest live show on Earth to town that night. In a mere 15 minutes, the Killer rips through covers of tunes by Little Richard, Charlie Rich, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.

“Jenny, Jenny,” “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” “Memphis,” “Hound Dog” and “I Got A Woman,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “The Greatest Live Show On Earth,” 1964. This is Side 1. It runs 14:58. It’s out of print.

Speaking of live shows …

“Well, I’d like to do one for ya now. Ah, hope you enjoy this one. Um, pretty good tune that, uh, has done quite well for a, a lot of artists. But I’m think I’m gonna give it a little treatment here that, that it deserrrrves. I’m gonna throw the old, real, true, down-to-earth, go-gettin’ rock-and-roll beat into this one now. Boy, if you can’t shake it, you better set down because this is one you can really shake it bahyyyy!”

At which point, Jerry Lee and his Memphis Beats tear into …

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“Roll Over Beethoven,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Jerry Lee Lewis: By Request,” 1966. It’s out of print. Recorded live at Panther Hall ballroom in Fort Worth, Texas.

You’ll find both of those live records on “The Greatest Live Shows On Earth,” a 1994 CD.

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My friend Larry introduced me to this one over at his mighty Funky 16 Corners blog. It’s probably the best cut on an otherwise ordinary record on which Jerry Lee seems to have lost his way.

“Shotgun Man,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Soul My Way,” 1967. It’s out of print, but is available on this double CD with “The Return of Rock” LP from 1965.

After turning to country music with some success, Jerry Lee returned to rock with mixed success on some interesting records on the Mercury label in the early ’70s. Here are a couple more rip-roaring covers.

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“Me and Bobby McGee,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “The Killer Rocks On,” 1972. It’s out of print, but is available on this import CD released in 2004.

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“Hold On, I’m Coming,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Southern Roots: Back Home To Memphis,” 1973. It’s out of print, but is available on an expanded Bear Family import released in 2013.

This is Jerry Lee at his lewdest, his most lascivious, produced by the equally notorious Huey Meaux. Just filthy.

 

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Filed under March 2016, Sounds

The kid with the red bag

gb record show march 2016

They drove 75 miles just to spend two or three hours digging through all the vinyl at the Green Bay Record Convention on Saturday. A dad and his son.

The son — who seemed to be 13, maybe 14, so probably a seventh- or eighth-grader — carried a red canvas bag. By noon, it was full of his finds.

The kid with the red bag eagerly chatted with Steve, the friendly gent selling bowls made of old vinyl records in one of the far corners of the Eagles Club. They compared notes on all kinds of bands, but mostly vintage metal bands. They chatted for a long time, getting deep into specifics.

I eavesdropped. You recognize it when you’ve been down that road. That laser focus. That tremendous detail. That just might be an Asperger’s kid, I thought. Which is cool.

vinyl record bowls

Thinking that gracious vinyl bowl seller might need a break, I started chatting up the kid with the red bag.

“So, what did you find today?”

The kid starts pulling LPs from his red bag.

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“That’s a good one.”

Then he pulled out a Krokus record. Sorry, I’m not up on my Krokus.

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“That’s another good one.”

Then he pulled out some more — he had about a half-dozen in all — including this record.

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“Oh, that’s a good one, too.”

Then the kid dropped the bomb on me.

“It’s red vinyl,” he said.

“Oh, I gotta see that.”

The kid hands it over, and I pull out the record. Yep, rich, red vinyl.

Gotta be honest. One thought flashed through my head. You know the one. Ooooh, wish I’d found that. Never mind that I’ve had it on black vinyl since the ’70s.

Then, just as quickly, that thought passed.

Nope, it’s more fun for that kid to have that red vinyl.

I didn’t look close enough to see whether that was the original red vinyl from 1973 or last year’s reissue on red vinyl. Doesn’t really matter, and I suspect it doesn’t matter to the kid with the red bag.

As he pulled out his records, a small piece of paper floated to the floor at his feet.

“That your wish list?”

No, the kid said, they’re my notes. Indeed, as he made the rounds at the record show and chatted up dealers, he wrote down their tips on what kinds of music to check out next.

Then Dad turned up, carrying three plastic bags with a couple dozen LPs in them. Dad’s in the picture above. He’s the tall guy in the light blue cap and the adidas jacket, digging away on the left.

Dad and the kid and Steve the friendly vinyl bowl seller chatted for a while longer, again in tremendous detail. Guessing Dad might be Asperger’s, too. A lot of us in the record-digging business might be. Which, again, is cool.

Hope the kid with the red bag enjoys these J. Geils cuts as much as I did. When “Bloodshot” was released in 1973, I wasn’t much older than he is now.

“Back To Get Ya,” “Don’t Try To Hide It” and “Southside Shuffle,” J. Geils Band, all from “Bloodshot,” 1973. Also available digitally.

Be sure to check out the rest of the story!

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Filed under March 2016, Sounds

Know you ain’t going anywhere

Not sure there are any light reads about the Vietnam War.

It’s been years since I read Michael Herr’s “Dispatches,” but I vividly remember that taking forever.

Perhaps it’s the constant reminder — then as now — that there, for the grace of the timing of my birth, go I, and how would I have handled all that. (For the record, I was too young for Vietnam. Saigon fell and the war ended seven weeks before I turned 18.)

My Christmas wish list had two books on it, one of them about Vietnam.

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place book

“We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” examines how American soldiers — white, black, Latino, Native — deeply identified with music and used it to cope while serving in Vietnam in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Our Christmas tree is long gone from the living room, yet I’m still slogging through that book. Maybe it’s best read with all those songs playing in the background.

You also bog down when you come to a passage like this, the story of a soldier named Jeff Dahlstrom, who arrived in Vietnam in September 1970:

“Music played a major part in the sensory overload of Saigon, where Dahlstrom went frequently. … No surprise that Dahlstrom’s memories of the Saigon streets were stirred by the appropriately titled ‘Stoned in Saigon’ by a largely forgotten English group named Free.”

Huh?

It’s a simple mistake by the authors, yet a jolt for those who notice it. “Stoned in Saigon” was released in 1970 by a largely forgotten English group named Fresh.

Don’t think anyone would argue that the great English blues-rock group Free is largely forgotten.

That said, Free isn’t among the many artists mentioned by Vietnam veterans and cited by authors Doug Bradley and Craig Werner, both of whom teach at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Little was “All Right Now” about Vietnam in 1970, when that song also came out.

Still, you wonder whether American soldiers heard and identified with another Free song. Especially one that in early 1973, with the war slogging on and American support for it waning, said:

Take off your hat
Kick off your shoes,
I know you ain’t going anywhere.
Run ’round the town
Singing your blues
I know you ain’t going anywhere.

and

Throw down your gun
You might shoot yourself,
Or is that what you are tryin’ to do,
Put up a fight
You believe to be right
And someday the sun will shine through.

and

But I know what you’re wishing for
Love and a peaceful world.

free heartbreaker lp

“Wishing Well,” Free, from “Heartbreaker,” 1973. Also available digitally.

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Filed under February 2016, Sounds

Gone fishing up north

Memorial Day weekend always summons the same set of memories.

My uncles — my mother’s brothers — and my dad occasionally gathered for a guys’ getaway at the same northern Wisconsin resort on Memorial Day weekend. It seemed that it always was cold and wet, much as yesterday was. Few fish, if any, were caught.

During the summer, some of my uncles and their families reconvened at the same resort. Our family also traveled back up north to be with them. We were at the far end of that S-shaped lake, at a state forest campground. You can figure out who could afford what.

If my dad could start his small boat motor — the one notorious for running only when not in the water — we’d take our small aluminum rowboat down to the resort. More often than not, we drove.

That memory, among the first realizations of haves and have-nots, lingers to this day. As does the memory of there being nothing on the radio.

We took radios up north, but you couldn’t get anything decent. Local shopping shows. Country music. Your only hope was that the atmospheric conditions would allow you to pull in WLS out of Chicago or KAAY out of Little Rock late at night … when everything was supposed to be quiet in the Northwoods.

On Memorial Day weekend 1973, this wholly appropriate song was back on the WLS charts: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Yeah, we tried sometimes. But we just couldn’t, well, you know.

What we needed to get us through those weekends up north was this, something KAAY might have dropped on “Beaker Street” late at night.

“Superstition,” Beck, Bogert & Appice, from “Beck, Bogert & Appice,” 1973. The LP is out of print but available digitally.

This is a heavier version perhaps as envisioned by Jeff Beck, who helped Stevie Wonder write it.

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Filed under May 2015, Sounds

With a little help from his friends

Let’s say a new record came out today. All four Beatles are on that record. That would be a big deal, wouldn’t it?

Let’s say some of their pals are on that new record. You might have heard of them. Klaus Voormann and Billy Preston and Harry Nilsson and Marc Bolin and Nicky Hopkins. The Band, too. That would be quite a big deal, wouldn’t it?

But when that new record came out 40 years ago this month, some lamented it for what it was not, rather than celebrating for what it was.

What it was not, was a new Beatles record. As 1973 came to a close, fans clung to the hope that such a thing might still be possible.

What it was, was this.

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“Ringo,” the third solo LP by Beatles drummer Ringo Starr with a little help from his friends, holds up quite nicely all these years later.

It rose to No. 2 on the Billboard album chart, driven by three hit singles: “Photograph,” which Ringo wrote with George Harrison; “Oh My My,” a Ringo original; and “You’re Sixteen,” Ringo’s cover of the old Johnny Burnette song.

Yet the deep cuts had something for everyone seeking that next Beatles record.

“I’m The Greatest,” a whimsical look at fame written by John Lennon. It’s basically a Beatles track with all parties except Paul McCartney.

“Six O’Clock.” There’s Paul (and Linda), with a regret-filled love song written by them. It channels the Beatles and points the way toward Wings.

“Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond),” written by George. It’s basically Ringo and George fronting The Band with David Bromberg. It sounds like an Irish folk song. Listen closer, consider The Band’s involvement, and you hear another nod to a Beatle’s American influences.

Back then, I had “You’re Sixteen” on a 45. I loved it. I was 16. Some symmetry there. When you flipped it over, you heard this on the B side.

“Devil Woman,” Ringo Starr, from “Ringo,” 1973. Also available digitally, of course.

On which Ringo, working without the rest of the Beatles, rocks out on a song he wrote with Vini Poncia. Which, as 1973 turned into 1974, was not necessarily what everyone wanted to hear. But I dug it then, and I dig it now.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under November 2013, Sounds

Under the Motown covers

Was there ever a record company better at getting mileage out of its songs as Motown?

One artist would cut a song. Then it would be covered by another, and perhaps another, and perhaps still another. The hit version might not necessarily be the first version. That was Motown’s genius.

Hear, then, three examples of familiar Motown songs covered by other Motown artists. All three were written by the great Barrett Strong and the legendary producer Norman Whitfield.

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“War,” the Temptations, from “Psychedelic Shack,” 1970. The LP is out of print but is available digitally.

This is the original version recorded in 1969, but Motown sat on it, preferring to not piss off the Temptations’ fans with such a political song. It was a No. 1 hit for Edwin Starr in 1970.

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“I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” The Undisputed Truth,” from “The Undisputed Truth,” 1971. The LP is out of print. The song is apparently not available digitally. Too bad. This version cooks.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles recorded the original version in 1966, but Motown owner Berry Gordy didn’t like it. It was a No. 2 hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1967. Marvin Gaye also recorded it that year, but Motown didn’t release it as a single until 1968, when DJs started playing it off the “In The Groove” LP. It was a No. 1 hit.

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“Smiling Faces Sometimes,” Rare Earth, from “Ma,” 1973.

The Temptations did the original version in 1971. The Undisputed Truth had a No. 3 hit with it later that year.

Rare Earth’s “Ma” also is featured over on our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, which delivers vintage vinyl one side at a time. Check it out.

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Filed under March 2013, Sounds

Unearthed from deep in the office

You’d think winter in Wisconsin would be a good time to hole up in the office and rip vinyl like mad. But no. In the last five months, I’ve ripped exactly five LPs. Not exactly a breathtaking pace.

One of those records was one I’ve loved since getting it almost 40 years ago. Needing an album side for my other blog, The Midnight Tracker, I ripped Deep Purple’s “Who Do We Think We Are” a few weeks ago.

It was released in January 1973, during my sophomore year in high school. At that time, I didn’t have a lot of records, so I played it a lot. Though I hadn’t listened to it in years, I still knew almost every note and line when I ripped it.

In the latter part of 1972, a worn-out Deep Purple was hurled into studios in Rome and Frankfurt after a year and a half of touring. They slammed out this record, which has only seven cuts and wasn’t well regarded by the critics. “Woman From Tokyo” was the single, but this might be the best cut.

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“Rat Bat Blue,” Deep Purple, from “Who Do We Think We Are,” 1973. (The buy link is to a remastered 2002 CD release with extra tracks. Two more versions of “Rat Bat Blue,” one from the writing sessions and a 1999 remix, are on that CD. It also is available digitally.)

Ritchie Blackmore’s chugging guitar licks drive this one, as you’d expect. That is, until the late, great Jon Lord wrests control halfway through with a gleefully mad prog organ solo. Then you have Ian Gillan’s classic rock-star vocals, sometimes snarled, sometimes screamed.

It all makes for a wonderful trip back in time.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under February 2013, Sounds