Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Pride of Flint, MI

... and I'm not talkin' about Michael Moore here... On this day in rock history, the members of Grand Funk Railroad sued manager Terry Knight in 1972 for $8 million in unpaid song royalties. John Eastman, brother-in-law of Paul McCartney, was chosen to take over the band’s business affairs. Later that year, Knight showed up at rehearsals for the band’s, In Concert album, and legally confiscated their equipment in the ongoing legal battle. It wasn’t until the summer of 1973 that Grand Funk would hit it big on the singles chart with “We’re An American Band.” “The Locomotion,” “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Bad Time” were other top 10 hits for the band. At the time of the suit, the band was doing well with their E. Pluribus Funk album. It's a real bummer, having your equipment confiscated, legally or otherwise. I remember seeing Grand Funk in the fall of 1970 when they were still a Big Thing. I gotta tell ya, they had to be the LOUDEST band I have ever heard, which was probably a contributing factor to why I wear hearing aids today! At any rate, let's check out Mark, Don and Mel playing "Inside Looking Out" in 1969, before their problems with greedy manager Terry Knight began. As always, thanks to for the info, and keep on rockin'!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm a Soul Man...

... well, maybe not really... Today in rock history, the Blues Brothers made their first appearance as a musical act on Saturday Night Live, in 1978. Paul Schaffer introduced the band, dressed as Don Kirshner, before they tore into “Hey Bartender,” one of the better tracks from their debut album. The "Blues Brothers" was a strange concept; born of a comedy routine and Belushi's recently-acquired obsession with obscure blues, R&B and soul music, coupled with some of the best studio musicians around: Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, Paul "The Shiv" Schaffer, Tom "Bones" Malone, "Blue Lou" Marini, etc., that formed a soul band that was as tight as a fist and as mean as a junkyard dog (ok, I'll stop with the cliches now). It also brought this obscure music - songs like The Chips' "Rubber Biscuit," Floyd Dixon's "Hey Bartender," etc. - to a mainstream audience of rabid SNL fans who perhaps bought their albums, thinking it would be more comedy, and getting this serious soul music instead. Was it all a lark? Well, maybe not: In "Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers", a 1998 documentary included on some DVD editions of the first Blues Brothers film, Cropper noted that some of his peers thought that he and the other musicians backing the Blues Brothers were selling out to Hollywood or using a gimmick to make some quick money. Cropper responded by stating that he thought Belushi was as good as (or even better than) many of the singers he had backed; he also noted that Belushi had, early in his career, briefly been a professional drummer, and had an especially keen sense of rhythm. So - serious music or a big sellout - check this clip out, and you decide...thanks as always, to and for the info, and keep on rockin'!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hey Grandma...

... you're so young... Today in rock history, Alexander "Skip" Spence was born in 1946. Spence was a guitarist in an early line-up of Quicksilver Messenger Service before Marty Balin recruited him to be the drummer for Jefferson Airplane. After one album with Jefferson Airplane, their debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, he left to co-found Moby Grape, once again as a guitarist. You may remember Moby Grape as the band (besides having a great name for a rock band, as Dave Barry would say) with the album with the band posing in front of a funky general store somewhere and one of the band members was giving "the finger." Pretty controversial at the time, and Columbia records later put out another version of the album cover with the offending digit lopped off. I was fortunate to have the original version, which included a poster of the cover, which I promptly put on my closet door - apparently my parents didn't "get it," because they never made me take it down. My album also has the labels reversed, which is I suppose is relatively rare - hey, I wonder how much I could get for it on eBay? No, I think I'll hang on to it, and listen to "Hey Grandma" one more time. It's timeless music, a clever mix of r&b, blue eyed soul, pop, and country. They didn't last too long, as groups in those days came and went, but have left behind a great legacy of recorded music. So let's enjoy their music, and celebrate the life of Skip Spence. Thanks to and for the info, and keep on rockin'!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

British Invasion

Today in rock history, the first album by The Rolling Stones was released in 1964. It hit number 1 in the U.K. two weeks later, and was the first non-Beatles album at the top in exactly one year, following Please Please Me and With the Beatles. Meanwhile, The Beatles claimed fourteen of the top 100 hits on the U.S. singles chart this week. I was all of 13 at the time and remember seeing these strange looking, slightly scary dudes playing rhythm and blues, of all things, when all of the other "pop" groups were playing, well, pop music. Of course, the hayseeds in our town didn't know how cool it was at the time, but I did have a picture of Brian Jones on my closet door. He had the cool hair, see, that we all aspired to. Well, we all know where he is, and the rest of the Stones keep rollin' on. Here's a tune from that era from a Stones show on French television; note the incredibly cheesy guitars that Brian and Keith are playing; and the knowing smirk on Brian's face, that says "We're lipsyncing this song and we don't care!" Thanks to for the info, and keep on rockin!

Friday, April 11, 2008

There is a House...

in Hibbing...Today in rock history, Bob Dylan made his solo performance debut when he opened for John Lee Hooker in 1961. It was held at Gerde’s Folk City in New York, where Dylan also met Joan Baez for the first time. He strummed songs that would appear almost a year later on his debut album, including “House of the Rising Sun” and “Song to Woody.” Dylan would record the album later in the year, after appearing on songs by Carolyn Hester and Harry Belafont√©. Here he is performing "House," which is a tune more usually associated with the Animals, but Bob gives it a good reading nevertheless...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Let Me Take You Down...

... because I'm going to...Today in rock history, producer George Martin was promoted to the Head of A&R (Artists and Repertoire) in 1955 for the Parlophone label, owned by EMI in the U.K. He recorded many soundtracks and comedy albums before beginning work with The Beatles in 1962. Today he is 82 years old and still going strong. He has also passed the torch to a new generation – his son, Giles, is also a producer. He very nearly didn’t end up working with the Beatles, as, after an initial meeting with manager Brain Epstein, he was “rather unimpressed” with the demo tape made at Decca he listened to, but he did like the sound of Lennon and McCartney’s vocals. At a later meeting with Epstein, he was impressed with his enthusiasm and agreed to sign them without seeing them or hearing them play live, which was rather unprecedented in those days. The Beatles auditioned for Martin on 6 June1962, in studio three at the Abbey Road studios. Ron Richards and his engineer Norman Smith recorded four songs, which Martin (who was not present during the recording) listened to at the end of the session. The verdict was not promising, however, as Richards complained about Pete Best's drumming, and Martin thought their original songs were simply not good enough. Martin asked the individual Beatles if there was anything they personally didn't like, to which Harrison replied, "I don't like your tie". That was the turning point, according to Smith, as Lennon and McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay that made Martin think that he should sign them to a contract for their wit alone. Well, witty they were, and talented too, and Martin ended up having a long working relationship with the boys, that continues to this day – Martin was involved with the Beatles Anthology in 1995 and Cirque du Soleil and Love with Giles in 2006. So let’s enjoy the genius of the “5th Beatle” in “Strawberry Fields Forever,” where he and Geoff Emerick turned two very different takes into a single master through careful use of vari-speed (changing the speed on a tape deck) and editing. Thanks to and for the info, and keep on rockin’!