Month: November 2014

Beside gray lakes of lead she’s harnessed to a kneeling form

Rock the Day Album of the Year?

November 30, 1969: There is a myth that Rolling Stone magazine on this date names Parachute by the U.K. group Pretty Things the album of the year. Fact is, Parachute isn’t mentioned in the pages of Rolling Stone until years later, when Stephen Holden labels it an “obscure underground classic.” In the early 1960s, Pretty Things grows out of groups named Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, which consist of Dick Taylor, fellow Sidcup Art College student Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger. When Brian Jones recruits for his own band, all three join Brian and Ian Stewart and are dubbed “Rollin’ Stones” by Jones. Taylor briefly plays bass guitar in the nascent Rolling Stones, who employ a variety of drummers during 1962. Taylor quits the Stones several months later when he is accepted at the London Central School of Art, where he meets Phil May and they form Pretty Things. Their LP Parachute is recorded at Abbey Road Studios and deserves a spot next to the much-better-known Abbey Road LP by The Beatles. Even though it is the first British group signed by Motown Records, Pretty Things never breaks through in the U.S. (shame on U.S.), but it is hugely successful elsewhere. You should take the time to listen to the full Parachute album, below. If you don’t have that much time, you can click through the tracks. I’m partial to #3, She Was Tall, She Was High, and #8, Cries from the Midnight Circus.

 

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Got the power of the devil, I’m the conjurer guy

Rock the Day John Mayall

November 29, 1933: British blues pioneer John Mayall is born in a village not too far from Manchester, England. He grows up listening to his father’s blues records and popular boogie-woogie piano tunes. At the age of 14 he enrolls in the Manchester Junior School of Art, which gives him access to a piano. He masters keyboards and guitar and harmonica. He never loses his passion for music, but makes his living as a graphic artist until the U.K. blues-rock explosion of the 60s inspires him to move to London and form a band he calls the Bluesbreakers. What great good fortune that is for us. John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers over the years will include musicians such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor, among dozens of others. Mayall is touring and recording to this day.  Here’s the 1965 hit single I’m Your Witchdoctor, featuring Clapton’s guitar and Mayall’s vocals:

 

Also on this day: On the topic of the U.K., this is a cardinal day for The Beatles.

 

I met him at the candy store

Rock the Day Teen Tragedy Hit

November 28, 1964: One of those “teen tragedy” songs, Leader of the Pack by the Shangri-Las hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Teen tragedy? Think Teen Angel, Moody River, Last Kiss, Seasons in the Sun — get it? Leader of the Pack is written by producer George “Shadow” Morton with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. The song is written for the Goodies (also known as the Bunnies), but instead it is needed as a follow-up to the Shangri-Las’ hit Remember (Walking in the Sand). The song gets no airplay in the U.K., perhaps because it romanticizes a biker, perhaps because of its death theme. In the 80s, Twisted Sister does a cover that is, well, Twisted Sister. Here’s the original and Twisted Sister’s nicely done version:

Two riders were approaching

Rock the Day Hendrix!

November 27, 1942: Johnny Allen Hendrix is born at 10:15 a.m. at Seattle’s King County Hospital. His mother is Lucille Jeter, 17. His father, James “Al” Hendrix, is in the U.S.Army, stationed in Camp Rucker, Alabama. When he is 4 years old, Dad changes the kid’s name to James Marshall. We will come to know him as Jimi Hendrix, a sparkling shooting star of a blues guitarist/vocalist. We will, of course, lose him all too soon. So many memories of him. Here is his powerful cover of Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower:

I won’t worry when I see you lying

Jethro_Tull_Logo.svgRock the Day Introducing Jethro Tull

November 26, 1968: This Was, the debut album from Jethro Tull, is released. Much more R&B and jazzy than the U.K. group’s later progressive rock, the album gains note in the U.S. Two cuts from This Was, Beggar’s Farm and Serenade to a Cuckoo, can be heard over the PA in the background between live sets on the Woodstock concert film.

Also on this day in ’68: Farewell to Cream.

What they need’s a damn good whacking

Rock the Day White

November 24, 1968: The Beatles release The Beatles (The White Album), two vinyl discs of songs written during the group’s stay in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi earlier in the year. It is the group’s ninth studio album. Notable for its solid white sleeve and a slew of irreverent and satirical songs, the album immediately goes to #1 on the charts despite a lukewarm reception from music critics. A bootleg of the opening track, Back in the U.S.S.R., becomes an underground hit in the Soviet Union. Recording sessions at Abbey Road studios from May to October mark the first appearances of John Lennon’s future bride Yoko Ono.  It is the autumn of the Hong Kong flu pandemic, which kills more than a million people and brings an early close to the fall semester at colleges and universities nationwide.  The flu virus, H3N2, remains in circulation. So, too, this album. The Beatles call them Piggies.  Much later, they’ll come to be known as the 1%:

My personal favorite:

If you have an hour and a half, here’s the entire album:

Greenwich Village or bust

Rock the Day Instrumental Lyricism

November 23, 1963: Washington Square, an instrumental by the Village Stompers, peaks at #2 on Billboard Hot 100. It is the week of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The song that keeps Washington Square out of the #1 spot is I’m Leaving It Up to You by Dale and Grace. Washington Square is named after the famous park in New York City, and will be covered by many artists, including The Ventures in an upbeat version and The Sunbeams with vocals added. Washington Square is so mesmerizing, in part, because it shares the same metre as many popular hymns, known as 86.86D or CMD [Common Metre doubled]. To go with your Sunday morning coffee, here’s the original and two covers.