Tag Archives: On Music

13 songs the lord never taught us: A mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on October 14, 2023)


I know what you’re thinking. Halloween is 2 weeks off, and Friday the 13th was yesterday…but ’tis the season. Besides, “Halloween” is practically a 4th-quarter long celebration, counting all associated holidays…All Saints Day, All Souls Day, All Hallows’ Eve, El Dia de los Muertos, Ghost Festival, Guy Fawkes Night, Mischief/Devil’s/Hell’s Night and Samhain. In that spirit, I offer a few frightening picks for your party playlist.

ALICE COOPER: The Ballad of Dwight Frye – “I’ve gotta get OUTTA here!” A theatrical paean to the screen actor who played a bevy of loony tune characters, most notably  “Renfield” in Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula. Just remember…”sleepin’ don’t come very easy, in a straight white vest.”

BAUHAUS: Bela Lugosi’s Dead – The Goth anthem. “Undead, undead, undead …” We get it.

BLACK SABBATH: Black Sabbath– Album 1, side 1, cut 1: Howling wind, driving rain, the mournful peal of a bell, and the heaviest, scariest tri-tone power chord riff you’ve ever heard. “Please God help meee!!“Talk about a mission statement.

PINK FLOYD: Careful With That Axe, Eugene – The Floyd’s most ominous dirge is basically an instrumental mood piece, but Roger Waters’ eerie shrieking  is the stuff of nightmares.

ATOMIC ROOSTER: Death Walks Behind You– “Lock the door, switch the light…you’ll be so afraid tonight.” A truly unnerving track from one of my favorite 70s British prog-rock bands.  Keyboardist Vincent Crane pulls double duty on this list; he had previously played with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (below).

THE DAMNED: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde– You know what they say: You’re never alone with a schizophrenic! Choice cut from the U.K. pop-punk band’s finest LP, The Black Album.

THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN: Fire- Yes, that Arthur Brown…heir to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the forefather of Alice Cooper, and most importantly, the god of hell fire!

THE CRAMPS: Goo Goo Muck–It would be sacrilege not to include the kings of Psychobilly.

I Put a Spell on You– This cat must have scared the living shit out of middle America, smack dab in the middle of the drab Eisenhower era. “Moohoohaha!

THE DOORS: Riders on the Storm – The first time I heard this song was in 1971. I was 14. It haunted me then and haunts me now. It was my introduction to aural film noir. Distant thunder, the cascading shimmer of a Fender Rhodes, a desolate tremolo guitar and dangerous rhythms.“There’s a killer on the road. His brain is squirming like a toad.” Fuck oh dear, this definitely wasn’t the Archies.

Jim Morrison’s vocals got under my skin. Years later, a friend explained why. If you listen carefully, there are three vocal tracks. Morrison is singing, chanting and whispering the lyrics. We smoked a bowl, cranked it up and concluded that it was a pretty neat trick.

VANILLA FUDGE: Season of the Witch– Donovan’s original version doesn’t hold a candle to this marvelously histrionic psychedelic train wreck.  Eat your heart out, Bill Shatner!

THE ROLLING STONES: Sympathy for the Devil- “Something always happens when we play this song.” Famous last words there from Mick Jagger in the 1970 rock doc Gimme Shelter, moments before the cameras (unknowingly, at time of filming) capture the fatal stabbing of an audience member.  Now that’s scary.

KING CRIMSON: 21st Century Schizoid Man– “Cat’s foot, iron claw, neurosurgeons scream for more…at paranoia’s poison door...”  And that’s  the most optimistic part of this song!

Bonus track!

LED ZEPPELIN: (backwards) Stairway to Heaven– Rumor has it there is a painting of Jimmy Page  going all to hell. If you believe in that sort of thing (there are two paths you can go by).

Pleasant dreams!

Star-making machinery: Milli Vanilli (***)

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on September 30, 2023)


“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” – Johnny Rotten

In my 2015 review of Danny Tedesco’s documentary The Wrecking Crew, I wrote:

“The Wrecking Crew” was a moniker given to an aggregation of crack L.A. session players who in essence created the distinctive pop “sound” that defined classic Top 40 from the late 50s through the mid-70s. With several notable exceptions (Glen Campbell, Leon Russell and Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack) their names remain obscure to the general public, even if the music they helped forge is forever burned into our collective neurons. […]

 Tedesco traces origins of the Wrecking Crew, from participation in co-creating the legendary “Wall of Sound” of the early 60s (lorded over by mercurial pop savant Phil Spector) to collaborations with seemingly any other popular artist of the era you could name (The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, The Righteous Brothers, Henry Mancini, Ike & Tina Turner, The Monkees, The Association, Nancy Sinatra, The Fifth Dimension, The Byrds, Sonny & Cher, Petula Clark, The Mamas and the Papas, etc.).  […]

Tedesco assembled a group of surviving members to swap anecdotes (and as you can imagine, they have got some great stories to tell). […]

One of my favorite reminiscences concerned the earliest recording sessions for The Monkees. An apparently uninformed Peter Tork showed up in the studio, guitar in hand-and was greeted by a roomful of bemused session players, giving him a “WTF are YOU doing here?!” look before he slunk away in embarrassment.

That said, The Monkees were a “manufactured” pop act from the get-go; it was certainly no big secret that all four members were actors, hired to portray a fictional band in a TV series (fans couldn’t exactly claim that they were duped). And to their credit, band members did (eventually) write a few of their own songs, did all their own singing, and for live performances they played their own instruments as well.

Not surprisingly, the success of The Monkees spawned a number of TV musical sitcoms built around fictional bands, like The Archie Show (animated), Josie and the Pussycats (animated), and The Partridge Family. The Archies “band” scored the number one Billboard hit of 1969 with “Sugar Sugar”, selling 6 million copies (Ron Dante and Toni Wine were the studio vocalists). The Partridge Family (with vocals by actors Shirley Jones and David Cassidy, backed by members of The Wrecking Crew on the studio recordings) released  5 albums, even scoring a #1 hit in 1970 with “I Think I Love You”.

So it would appear that the majority of music consumers didn’t  feel compelled to investigate “who” wrote, sang, played on, or (for that matter) produced the record; they liked something  they heard on the radio, bought a copy, and didn’t give it much more thought.

Of course, there have always been music snobs:

“I just wanna hear the music…that’s all.”

Keep in mind, this was all pre-MTV. To be sure, music acts had been performing on variety shows from television’s inception (sometimes live, sometimes lip-syncing). Even pre-dating television, there were the “soundies” – short films containing single performances (filmed in 35mm and printed in 16mm for easier distribution to clubs, bars, eateries and other businesses outfitted with “movie jukeboxes”).

But once MTV signed on in 1981,  there was a paradigm shift in record company marketing strategies. To MTV execs, the music videos were  “content”, but to the record company execs, the videos were “free ads” to push product sales. As for viewers, it became more about the artist’s image and/or the clip’s entertainment value; one could argue that the music was secondary (I could name a lot of MTV “hits” from the 80s wherein, had I heard the song before seeing the video play on a continuous loop, I might have thought “meh”).

Hence, the artists who most quickly ascended to the top of the music video heap tended to be those who knew how to “make love to the camera”, (as opposed to the ability to hit a high ‘C’ or display mastery of an instrument). As a result, ripped physiques, fashion and choreography ruled the day…stagecraft over song craft. But hey…as long as it moved units and kept shareholders happy-[*chef’s kiss*]

Thus it was, in this milieu, that the curious case of Milli Vanilli unfolded…as recounted in Luke Korem’s documentary, simply entitled Milli Vanilli (streaming on Paramount+  October 24th).

If any act was tailor-made for the MTV fast track in the late 80s, it was Milli Vanilli. Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan (who hailed from Munich, Germany) were impossibly good-looking dancers and singers* (*I’ll get to that in a moment) with undeniably charismatic stage presence. The duo seemingly zoomed in out of nowhere in 1989 with a debut album (Girl You Know It’s True) that went platinum 6 times and sold over 30 million singles. Heavy MTV rotation of their songs certainly contributed to their meteoric rise.

But alas, what the lords of MTV giveth…in July 1989, Milli Vanilli was performing at a Connecticut theme park, when something went horribly awry. In the midst of performing “Girl You Know It’s True”,  a disconcerting hard drive glitch left no doubt in the minds of concert attendees and viewers watching the live MTV broadcast that Pilatus and Moryan were lip-syncing. Embarrassed and flustered, Pilatus fled the stage in a panic, leaving Moryan and the band to vamp until he was coaxed back by emcee “Downtown” Julie Brown.

Weirdly, while the incident undoubtedly raised questions regarding the act’s artistic integrity, the show resumed and the crowd stuck with them, cheering and having a grand old time. And the duo still snagged a Grammy in 1990 for “Best New Artist”. Go figure.

Although public sentiment gradually turned against them (they became the butt of jokes, one of the vocalists on the records exposed them, and at one point the duo offered to give back their Grammys to quell the backlash), it wasn’t until late 1990 that the “mastermind” behind the act, manager/producer Frank Farian publicly admitted the con-and then promptly fired Pilatus and Moryan. While he appears in archival clips, Farian-who comes off as a cross between Phil Spector and Colonel Tom Parker-declined to appear in the documentary.

One of the declared aims of the film is to “pull back the curtain on the story that we thought we knew, but didn’t”. I’m not sure Korem quite achieves that goal (after all, this is an oft-told tale). The film works best in its moments of  emotional resonance, largely provided by Morvan, particularly when he  speaks of his challenging friendship with Pilatus (who sadly died in 1998 of a suspected accidental prescription drug and alcohol overdose at age 32).

Were they victims of Farian’s Svengali-like sway, easily preyed upon and exploited…or were they willing participants in a con, seduced by the trappings of fame and success? Also worth contemplation-as someone in the film offers, “nobody involved in this committed a crime”.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room (briefly touched on in the film)-a story as old as rock ‘n’ roll-the exploitation of artists of color. I once had the privilege of interviewing the great Bo Diddley. He spoke at length about how white artists brazenly co-opted the Black artists’ innovations in the 1950s.  I’ll never forget how he framed it-he said “Elvis and those other guys took everything I did, threw it on the rock ‘n’ roll truck and drove it through town.” He also pointed out that he performed his signature tune “Bo Diddley” on The Ed Sullivan Show several months before Elvis’s first appearance on same. But historically, which appearance gets lauded as seminal?

While the Milli Vanilli story isn’t exactly that same scenario-you could say it’s “Elvis in reverse”. Producer Sam Phillips famously (or infamously) once  said, “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars!” Then one day, Elvis Presley walked into his Memphis studio (and the rest is history-although it was Colonel Parker who made the lettuce).  At any rate, Farian saw two charismatic black performers (and dollar signs), and the rest is…well, you be the judge.

One of the most fascinating revelations in the film is that on the original 1989 European pressing of Milli Vanilli’s debut album (titled  All or Nothing), Pilatus and Moryan’s names do not appear in the musician credits; whereas they are (falsely) credited in the subsequent U.S. release (re-titled Girl You Know It’s True). As I pointed out earlier, there are those who bother to read all the liner notes…and there are those who just want to hear the music. Caveat emptor.

Wet boots and rain: An autumn mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on September 24, 2022)


I raked the leaves on our front lawn
It took all afternoon.
I started at ‘round half-past one
and said, “I’ll be done soon.”

But once I saw how more leaves fell
Each time I made a pile,
I quickly saw this outdoor chore
Was going to take a while.

And so I did what my dad said
A winner does to win:
I studied that great pile of leaves,
And then I jumped right in.

– “Raking Leaves”, children’s poem by Shel Silverstein

*sigh* Is nothing sacred anymore in our increasingly myopic universe?

On Cloudland Road in Pomfret, it’s quiet most of the year.

But in the last few autumns, the small road has been inundated with out-of-state tourists, all of which are trying to get a photo in front of an iconic farm. When people scroll through social media to look for a popular place in Vermont to visit in the fall, one Pomfret address pops up more than most actual tourist destinations — Sleepy Hollow Farm.

“The last several years, there has been a significant increase in tourism interest in a particular private property on Cloudland Road,” said Benjamin Brickner, a Pomfret select board member.

The farm has a gate and security cameras to try and deter people from trespassing. But the owners have found that even this doesn’t help.

The property is notoriously one of the most photographed places in Vermont during the peak of autumn. It’s created tension between residents and the photo-snapping public.

“It’s just become such a mad house,” said Michael Doten, who lives across the road. “Especially around the Indigenous People’s Day holiday weekend. It just gets crazy. We’ve counted over 100 cars at any given time parked alongside the road. It just creates a major traffic jam.”

The pile-up of cars created a public safety concern. Emergency service vehicles cannot pass the narrow roads with cars parked and two lanes of traffic.

So, Pomfret, in conjunction with Woodstock, passed a measure to close Cloudland and Barber Hill roads Saturday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 15 to non-residents.

“These are unpaved narrow rural roads that are not built to accommodate the traffic that they are seeing during the foliage season,” Brickner said. “There’s damage to the roadway that needs to be repaired by the town. There’s damage to properties that are adjacent to the road that need to be addressed.”

The Windsor County Sheriff’s Department and a contracted traffic specialist will enforce the road closures.

“We’ve been asking people to respect property owner’s rights,” said Windsor County Sheriff Ryan Palmer. “We’ve had a lot of stories of folks just being very disrespectful. Walking on property that wasn’t theirs. Sitting on porches, swimming in their ponds, those types of things.”

Neighbors have started a campaign to raise funds to help pay for signage and law enforcement. It’s something that Doten and his family say should make a difference to get back to what they are used to.

“Probably what I used to consider a normal foliage season,” he said. “We’ll have traffic. We’ll have some people coming through and looking and slowing down. But we won’t have hordes or people hanging on the gate of my neighbor’s property.”

Neighbors tried making the road one-way last year and it didn’t help. So, they’re hopeful, with this action, they’ll be able to enjoy the fall season peacefully.


Very bucolic, but I’m happy to simply enjoy the photo; I don’t feel an urge to drive several thousand miles just to snap a selfie. As Roy Neary says in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, “You think I investigate every Walter Cronkite story there is?!”

As another character in Close Encounters observes, “Einstein was right”. Each year passes faster than the previous. Per Pink Floyd, You can run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking; racing around to come up behind you again. To wit…The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older; shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Don’t you hate that?

Since the Fall Equinox has raced around and come up behind us again, I thought I’d rake through my music collection and curate a pile of suitably autumnal tunes.

To follow Shel Silverstein’s lead…Let’s jump right in!

“Autumn Almanac” – The Kinks

Released as a single in the UK in 1967, Ray Davies’ fond sense memory of the Muswell Hill neighborhood of North London where he grew up recalls The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”.

From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar
When the dawn begins to crack
It’s all part of my autumn almanac

Breeze blows leaves of a musty-coloured yellow
So I sweep them in my sack
Yes, yes, yes, it’s my autumn almanac

“Autumn Leaves” -Jim Hall & Ron Carter

Lovely instrumental cover of Joeseph Kosma & Jacques Prevert’s classic (originally popularized by Yves Montand in Marcel Carné’s 1946 film noir Les Portes de la Nuit) performed live by two jazz greats-Jim Hall (guitar) and Ron Carter (stand-up bass).

“The Boys of Summer” – Don Henley

I suppose one could make a case either way as to whether Don Henley’s 1984 hit qualifies as a “summer song” or an “autumn song”. Here’s my gauge: generally speaking, upbeat and celebratory is a summer mood; wistful and introspective is autumnal.

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer’s out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone
I’m driving by your house
Though I know you’re not home

“Falling” – Joe Vitale

Joe Vitale was a key member of Joe Walsh’s first post-James Gang band Barnstorm. In addition to contributing drums, flute, keyboards and vocals, Vitale also co-wrote some of the songs. This cut is from his outstanding debut solo album, Roller Coaster Weekend (1974).

“Forever Autumn” – Justin Hayward

This lovely tune, featuring a lead vocal by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues was a highlight of Jeff Wayne’s 1978 double LP rock musical adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

“Harvest Moon” – Neil Young

This is the title track from Young’s eponymous 1992 LP (a sort of sequel to 1972’s Harvest), which won a Juno award (Canada’s equivalent to a Grammy) for Album of the Year.

“Indian Summer” -Dream Academy

The Dream Academy’s most wistful and transporting song is best appreciated with a good set of headphones. Drift away…

It was the time of year just after the summer’s gone
When August and September just become memories of songs
To be put away with the summer clothes
And packed up in the attic for another year
We had decided to stay on for a few weeks more
Although the season was over now the days were still warm
And seemed reluctant to five up and hand over to winter for another year

“Inner Garden I” – King Crimson

Contrary to what you may assume, not every track by this venerable prog-rock outfit takes up half an album side; some of their best compositions say all they need to say with surprising brevity.

Autumn has come to rest in her garden
Come to paint the trees with emptiness
And no pardon
So many things have come undone
Like the leaves on the ground
And suddenly she begins to cry
But she doesn’t know why…

“The Last Day of Summer” – The Cure

Technically, yesterday was the last day of summer-but close enough for rock ‘n’ roll:

But the last day of summer
Never felt so cold
The last day of summer
Never felt so old

“Leaf and Stream” – Wishbone Ash

This compelling, melancholic track is sandwiched between a couple of epic rockers on the Ash’s best album, 1972’s Argus (which I wrote about here).

Find myself beside a stream of empty thought,
Like a leaf that’s fallen to the ground,
And carried by the flow of water to my dreams
Woken only by your sound.

“Leaves in the Wind” -Back Street Crawler

Back Street Crawler was a short-lived group formed in 1975 by guitarist Paul Kossoff after he left Free. Sadly, by the time 2nd Street was released in 1976, Kossoff was dead at 25 (lending additional poignancy to his mournful guitar fills on this track).

“Moondance”– Van Morrison

The evocative title track from Morrison’s 1970 album is one of his signature tunes.

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies

“November” -Tom Waits

This song is a tad unsettling, yet oddly beautiful. Not unlike Waits’ voice. Dig the theremin.

No shadow
No stars
No moon
No care
It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone


Sporting naught but two short verses, this was an uncharacteristically minimalist arrangement for U2 at this stage of their career (from the band’s eponymous 1981 album).

And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care?

And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
And on

“Ramble On”-Led Zeppelin

Arguably the One Autumnal Song to Rule Them All, with all its wistfulness and stirrings of wanderlust. Only don’t try to make any sense of the Gollum reference-it’ll make you crazy.

Leaves are falling all around
It’s time I was on my way
Thanks to you I’m much obliged
For such a pleasant stay
But now it’s time for me to go
The autumn moon lights my way
For now I smell the rain
And with it pain
And it’s headed my way…

“September” – Earth, Wind, & Fire

Well of course I remember “the 21st of September”…it was last Thursday, fergawdsake! Sheesh. One of EWF’s biggest hits, it reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 1978. Ba-dee-yah.

“September Gurls” – Big Star

Founded in 1971 by singer-guitarist Chris Bell and ex-Box Tops singer/guitarist Alex Chilton, Big Star is one of the seminal power pop bands, and this is one of their most defining songs.

“Summer’s Almost Gone” – The Doors

From the Doors’ 1968 album Waiting For the Sun. Haunting, with Jim Morrison in fine form.

Morning found us calmly unaware
Noon burn gold into our hair
At night, we swim the laughin’ sea
When summer’s gone
Where will we be?

“Time of No Reply” – Nick Drake

Gone much too soon, his sad short life was as enigmatic as the amazing catalog he left behind.

Summer was gone and the heat died down
And Autumn reached for her golden crown
I looked behind as I heard a sigh
But this was the time of no reply

The sun went down and the crowd went home
I was left by the roadside all alone
I turned to speak as they went by
But this was the time of no reply

“Urge for Going”– Joni Mitchell

You thought I forgot this one, didn’t you? Luck of the alphabet. It feels redundant to label any Joni Mitchell song as “genius”, but it’s hard to believe this came from the pen of a 22 year-old.

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And all trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go
I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown

An Elpee’s Worth of Covers: A mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on September 2, 2023)


Since it’s Labor Day weekend, I thought I would give the original artists a day off and share 20 of my favorite cover songs. Kick back and enjoy!

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “All Along the Watchtower”

Original artist: Bob Dylan

And the wind began to HOWL!” Jimi’s soaring, immaculately produced rendition (from Electric Ladyland) came out 6 months after the original appeared on Dylan’s 1967 John Wesley Harding LP.

Patti Smith – “Because the Night”

Original artist: Bruce Springsteen

OK, Springsteen gave Smith first crack at it, so it could be argued that his version (recorded later) is technically the “cover”. I do feel Smith’s version is definitive (the Boss wins either way…as long as those royalty checks keep rolling in).

Issac Hayes – “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”

Original artist: Glen Campbell (written by Jimmy Webb)

Hayes deconstructs Glen Campbell’s Jimmy Webb-penned hit and adds a backstory to build it into an impeccably arranged, epic suite that eats up side 2 of Hot Buttered Soul. This is his magnum opus…symphonic, heartbreaking, beautiful.

Savoy Brown – “Can’t Get Next To You”

Original artist: The Temptations (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)

A bluesy take on the Temptations hit, from Savoy Brown’s Street Corner Talking album. The song features fine work from Dave Walker (vocals), Paul Raymond (piano) and founding member Kim Simmonds (guitar).

Judas Priest – “Diamonds and Rust”

Original Artist: Joan Baez

It sounds like a comedy bit: “Here’s my impression of Judas Priest covering a Joan Baez song.” But it happened, and it’s become one of Priest’s signature tunes. This is a stripped-down version (from a VH-1 broadcast) featuring a sonic vocal performance by Rob Halford.

Julian Cope – “5 o’clock World”

Original artist: The Vogues (written by Allen Reynolds)

The endearingly loopy Teardrop Explodes founder reworks a 1966 pop hit by The Vogues (appending a few new lyrics about nuclear war…I think). I love how Cope cleverly incorporates quotes from Petula Clark’s “I Know a Place” for good measure!

Ken Sharp – “Girl Don’t Tell Me”

Original artist: The Beach Boys (written by Brian Wilson)

Ken Sharp is a modern power pop renaissance man; he has authored or co-authored 18 music books, is a regular contributor to a number of music mags, has worked on music documentaries, and (in his spare time?) releases an occasional album (8 of them to date). This chiming cover of an underappreciated Beach Boys B-side sounds very Beatlesque…which makes sense when you factor in that Brian Wilson has said it was inspired by “Ticket to Ride”.

Fanny – “Hey Bulldog”

Original artist: The Beatles (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)

Before The Runaways, this Filipina-American rock band kicked ass and took names. They may have been too early for the party, as they never caught fire. This Beatles cover is from their 1972 LP Fanny Hill. Earlier this year, PBS premiered a great documentary portrait called The Right to Rock. It’s criminal they’re not in the R&R Hall of Fame.

Clive Gregson & Christine Collister- “How Men Are”

Original artist: Aztec Camera (written by Roddy Frame)

Clive Gregson (founder/lead singer of 80s power-pop band Any Trouble) teamed up with singer-songwriter Christine Collister to cut 5 superb albums in the 80s and 90s. This beautifully performed cover appeared on their 1989 album Love is a Strange Hotel.

Yvonne Elliman – “I Can’t Explain”

Original Artist: The Who (written by Pete Townshend)

Yvonne Elliman first gained fame in the early 70s playing Mary Magdalene in the original stage production, soundtrack album and film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. While her biggest hit was from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (“If I Can’t Have You”, which reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1977), she could rock out-as evidenced by this nifty 1973 cover of a classic Who number. Pete Townshend plays guitar on the track.

Continental Drifters – “I Can’t Let Go”

Original artist: The Hollies (written by Al Gorgoni and Chip Taylor)

This L.A.-based band formed in the early 90s, and at one time or another over its 10-year lifespan featured members of The Bangles, The dBs, The Dream Syndicate, and The Cowsills. This cut (also covered by Linda Ronstadt, who had a minor hit with it in 1980) is taken from a 1995 tribute album called Sing Hollies in Reverse, which featured indie rock artists covering their favorite Hollies songs (Evie Sands released the original in 1965, but the song was popularized by The Hollies, who covered it in 1966). Fantastic harmonies.

Chris Spedding – “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”

Original artist: The Kinks (written by Ray Davies)

Spedding is the Zelig of the U.K. music scene; an official member of 11 bands over the years, and a session guitarist who’s played with everybody since the 70s. This Kinks cover is from his eponymous 1980 album.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – “Leaving on a Jet Plane”

Original artist: John Denver

Definitely not as originally envisioned by John Denver…but you can mosh to it! This outfit (specializing in covers) is a side project for members of various pop-punk bands.

Paul Jones “Pretty Vacant”

Original artist: The Sex Pistols

The gimmick of doing ironic lounge covers of punk songs may be hackneyed now, but in 1978, this take on a Sex Pistols anthem was a novel idea…and it works quite well.

David Bowie – “See Emily Play”

Original artist: Pink Floyd (written by Syd Barrett)

Bowie was always ahead of the curve; even when he went retro. All-cover albums weren’t the rage yet when Bowie issued Pin Ups in 1973 as a nod to the 60s artists who influenced him.

Gary Moore – “Shapes of Things”

Original artist: The Yardbirds (written by Paul Samwell-Smith/Jim McCarty/Keith Relf)

This Yardbirds classic has been covered by a number of artists (including The Jeff Beck Group and David Bowie), but for my money, this dynamic arrangement by the late great Irish guitarist/vocalist rules them all.

The Isley Brothers – “Summer Breeze”

Original artist: Seals & Crofts

You could always count on the Isleys to put as much heart and soul into covers as they did for their original material. This take on a Seals & Crofts classic is no exception. Ernie Isley’s guitar solo is amazing.

Julee Cruise “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears”

Original artist: Elvis Presley (written by Fred Wise and Ben Weisman)

David Lynch’s favorite chanteuse (who passed away in 2022) recorded this haunting Elvis cover for the soundtrack of Wim Wender’s 1991 film Until the End of the World.

Nazareth – “This Flight Tonight”

Original artist: Joni Mitchell

Reportedly, Joni Mitchell loved Nazareth’s 1973 cover of a song featured on her 1971 album Blue. Lead singer Dan McCafferty gives his pipes a real workout . Nancy Wilson once confessed in an interview that Heart copped that galloping intro riff for “Barracuda”.

Ronnie Montrose – “Town Without Pity” (instrumental)

Original artist: Gene Pitney (written by Dmitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington)

I had the privilege of seeing this extraordinary guitarist perform in San Francisco in 1980, and in Seattle in 2011 (sadly, he took his own life in 2012). He was one of the best. This cover of Gene Pitney’s 1962 hit was featured on his 1978 all-instrumental album Open Fire.

Bonus Track…


Headin’ out to San Francisco
For the Labor Day weekend show
I got my Hush Puppies on
I guess I never was meant for glitter rock ‘n’ roll
And honey, I didn’t know that I’d be missin’ you so

I was sad to learn that singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett has passed away. On Labor Day weekend, no less. I’m not a Parrothead, yet I inevitably find myself merrily singing along whenever “Come Monday”, “Margaritaville”, or “Son of a Son of a Sailor” pops up on the oldies station (cat could write a chorus). Raise your margaritas for a toast. In memoriam, here’s his laid-back (natch) cover of C,S,N, & Y’s “Southern Cross”. RIP.

Not like everybody else: Jem Records Celebrates Ray Davies

By Bob Bennett


Jem Records has released a tribute to Ray Davies as latest in a series which salutes the work of great songwriters in rock including John Lennon, Brian Wilson, and Pete Townshend.

Ray is the leader of The Kinks (who disbanded in 1996) and is a national treasure in Britain (he was knighted in 2017).

The Kinks (which included Ray’s talented brother Dave) should have been at the forefront of the “British Invasion” triggered by The Beatles coming to America.  But due to a silent ban by the American Federation of Musicians from 1965-69, The Kinks are less well known in the U.S. than their contemporaries, The Beatles, The Who and the Rolling Stones.

If you need an introduction, Ray could be compared to Bruce Springsteen; both write poignant songs about their country and culture.  Whereas Bruce leans towards songs about the travails of the working class and the downtrodden, Ray’s catalog is rife with unapologetic nostalgia for the glory days of the English Empire. Like Bruce, Ray is a keen observer of people and a master storyteller –  albeit with a cutting wit.

This tribute album was built the same way as the others in the series.  JEM recording artists like The Midnight Callers, The Weeklings and The Anderson Council picked their favorite Ray Davies tracks and created their take of the song.  Many of the 13 songs were recorded at Vibe Studios in New Jersey where Kurt Weil of The Grip Weeds (who also contributed 2 tracks) acts as producer and engineer.

There is no lack of source material, as Ray’s catalog spans some 40 albums.  The Kinks have been covered before – e.g.  Van Halen had massive success with “You Really Got Me” and “Where Have All The Good Times Gone”.  I appreciated some of the deep cuts that were selected over signatures  like “Waterloo Sunset”, “Shangri-La” or “Autumn Almanac” (untouchable masterpieces all).

Some standouts on the album:

“Do You Remember Walter” (The Anderson Council)  Probably one of the best songs Ray ever wrote, this song is about the pain and sadness of growing apart from a childhood friend – and perhaps about the gradual loss of most everything around you but the memories.  Peter Horvath’s strong vocals and a pounding rock rhythm lend the song newfound muscle.  The original intro (stolen for the ELO song “Mr Blue Sky” by the way) is inexplicably tamed down but the choruses evoke a teary eyed anger that only a broken relationship can produce.  Excellent.

“Days” (Lisa Mychols & Super 8)  A fascinating multi-layered reinterpretation of the song led by Lisa’s angelic vocals. The slightly menacing tone of Ray’s original crescendo has been replaced with joyful affirmations that invite grace.

“I Need You” (The Cynz)  Super strong and sassy vocals make this reinterpretation of the B side of the 1965 45 “Set You Free” a  standout.  Do I miss the sound of Dave’s guitar from the original – yes.  But The Cynz have taken us from the 60’s to the 80’s and left me wanting more with their artful cover.

“Picture Book” (The Airport 77’s)  The original was a bit of a romp which sounds like it was recorded “live” in one take.  Now the song has been made meatier with tighter vocals – without losing the playfulness.  A new ear worm is born.

“See My Friends” (The Grip Weeds) This song of loss and displacement gets thudding analog oomph,  transforming it from sad lament to an ominous dirge.  This is like the Who’s “I Can See For Miles” meets The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” as performed by The Smithereens.  Just wow:

There is also a perfect rendition of “David Watts” (The Gold Needles) .  No reinterpretation but I don’t care – it’s just like the original but with modern production quality.

The CD has a punchy sound with crystal clear vocals, which allowed me to pick out some lyrics I’d never understood before. This compilation gets my thumbs up.

Book of Saturday, Chapter II: A Chillaxing Mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on August 12, 2023)


You’ve heard the one about cockroaches and Cher surviving the Apocalypse? You can add this item to that list: Maxell UD XL-II 90 cassettes. I was going through some musty boxes the other day and found a stash of mix tapes that I’ve had since the 70s and 80s. I’ll be damned if they didn’t sound just as good as the day I recorded them (My theory is that they are manufactured from the same material they use for “black boxes”).


I was into putting together “theme sets” long before I got into the radio biz. My mix tapes were popular with friends; I’d make copies on demand, and name them (of course). One of my faves was “The Oh My God I am So Stoned Tape”. I don’t think that requires explanation; I mean, it was the 70s and I was a long-haired stoner music geek.


Nearly 50 years later, I’m still putting together theme sets. It is my métier. Kind of sad, really (grown man and all). Anyway …turn off the news (it’s depressing!), turn down the lights, do some deep breathing, and let “The Oh My God I am So Stoned Tape 2023” wash anxiety away. I’ve sequenced the songs in a manner designed to sustain a certain mood-so for maximum effect, I suggest that you listen to it in order. Enjoy!*

*Herbal enhancement optional

Van Morrison – “Coney Island”

Peter Frampton – “Fig Tree Bay”

The Jam – “English Rose”

The Dream Academy – “Indian Summer”

Kevin Ayers – “Puis Je?”

Mark-Almond Band – “Girl on Table 4”

John Martyn – “Solid Air”

Carole King – “Only Love is Real”

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express – “All the Time There Is”

Matt Deighton – “5 Years in Pieces”

Nick Drake – “From the Morning”

The Monkees – “As We Go Along”

Big Star – “Watch the Sunrise”

Led Zeppelin – “That’s the Way”

Montrose – “One and a Half”

Batdorf and Rodney – “Oh Can You Tell Me”

Lyle Lovett – “If I Had a Boat”

Hotlegs – “Fly Away”

Nick Heyward – “Whistle Down the Wind”

Peter Sinfield – “Under the Sky”

Julee Cruise – “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears”

The Doors – “End of the Night”

Graham Nash & David Crosby – “Whole Cloth”

Jeff Beck Group – “Max’s Tune”

The Who – “The Song is Over”

20 Big Ones: A Summer Mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 3, 2023)


OK, it may not be Summer yet on the calendar…but try telling that to Mother Nature:

For the second year in a row, a late-spring heat wave is forcing schools in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes region to close, send kids home early or shift to remote learning. Climate change is making hot days before the end of the school year more common across northern states where many schools lack air conditioning, especially in urban areas that tend to heat up the most. […]

When it gets warm in classrooms in Detroit, students start experiencing issues with asthma and nosebleeds, and the environment becomes difficult to learn in, said Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the school district’s teachers union. More than 50 percent of the district’s buildings lack air conditioning, and some buildings have classrooms without windows, which makes it tough to circulate air.

“Teachers do what they do to comfort the children in terms of fans and turning the lights out, but it doesn’t make for a situation where you’re able to attend to a task,” Wilson-Lumpkins said. […]

The most vulnerable schools tend to be those in urban areas, where buildings tend to be older and temperatures are often hotter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that urban centers can be as much as 20 degrees warmer than nearby neighborhoods because there are fewer trees, less grass and more heat-absorbing pavement.

Even where I live, here in the (relatively) temperate Pacific Northwest-we’ve had some unseasonably hot temperatures in recent weeks:

A springtime heatwave has made large swaths of western North America feel like the dog days of summer. In mid-May 2023, western Washington and Oregon, along with much of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, were in the throes of a record-breaking streak of hot weather. While the most unseasonably warm weather subsided by May 16, above-average temperatures were projected to persist for several more days. […]

Heat records were toppled across several Canadian provinces. In British Columbia, dozens of daily records fell for three days straight, according to local news reports. New monthly records were also broken, and temperatures exceeded 95°F (35°C) in some locations. Stateside, record books also got significant updates. Notably, May 15 marked the fourth straight day of record high daily temperatures in Seattle.

All I can say is I picked a bad week to live in an apartment with naught but a box fan and a tray of ice cubes to keep me cool. Hot damn, summer in the city. Speaking of which-here are a few of my fave songs of the season. You’ve heard some a bazillion times; others, not so much.

Stay cool!

Martin Newell– “Another Sunny Day” – Despite the fact he’s been cranking out hook-laden, Beatle-esque pop gems for five decades, endearingly eccentric singer-musician-songwriter-poet Martin Newell (Cleaners From Venus, Brotherhood of Lizards) remains a selfishly-guarded secret by cult-ish admirers (guilty as charged). This summery confection is from his 2007 album A Summer Tamarind.

First Class – “Beach Baby” – UK studio band First Class was the brainchild of singer-songwriter Tony Burrows, who also sang lead on other one-hit wonders, including “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” (The Edison Lighthouse), “My Baby Loves Lovin’” (White Plains), and “United We Stand” (The Brotherhood of Man). This pop confection was a Top 10 song in the U.S. in 1974.

Jade Warrior– “Bride of Summer” – Here’s a summer tune you’ve never heard on the radio. This hard-to-categorize band has been around since the early 70s; progressive jazz-folk-rock-world beat is the best I can do. Sadly, original guitarist Tony Duhig passed away in 1990. His multi-tracked lead on this song is sublime.

Bananarama– “Cruel Summer” – A more melancholy take on the season from the Ronettes of New Wave. I seem to recall a rather heavy rotation of this video on MTV in the summer of ’84. The video is a great time capsule of 1980s NYC.

Takuya Kuroda – “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” – Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda’s 2014 cover of a Roy Ayers composition is a hypnotic, transporting “headphone song”. Immerse yourself.

The Beatles – “Good Day Sunshine” – The kickoff to Side 2 of Revolver finds Paul McCartney in full cockeyed optimist mode. Everything about his song is “happy”, from the lyrics (I feel good, in a special way / I’m in love and it’s a sunny day) and the bright harmonies, to George Martin’s jaunty ragtime piano solo. Paul has said that he was inspired by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

Pink Floyd – “Granchester Meadows” – This is from one of Pink Floyd’s more obscure albums, Ummagumma. Anyone who has ever sat under a shady tree on a summer’s day strumming a guitar will “get” this song, which is one of David Gilmour’s most beautiful compositions. I love how he incorporates nature sounds. Aaahh…

Joni Mitchell– “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” – The haunting title cut from Joni’s 1975 album, co-written by drummer John Guernin (who also plays Moog). The song also features Victor Feldman on keyboards and James Taylor on guitar.

Sly & the Family Stone– “Hot Fun in the Summertime” – A quintessential summer song and an oldies radio staple. And don’t forget…I “cloud nine” when I want to.

Walter Egan– “Hot Summer Nights” – While it didn’t achieve the gold status of his 1978 chart hit “Magnet and Steel”, Walter Egan’s first single (taken from his 1977 debut album Fundamental Roll) is a minor classic that still sounds so right blasting out of your car radio.

Mungo Jerry– “In the Summertime” – It wouldn’t have worked without the jug.

Marshall Crenshaw– “Starless Summer Sky” – In a just world, this power pop genius would have ruled the airwaves. Here’s one of many perfect examples why.

The Isley Brothers– “Summer Breeze” –  Seals & Crofts wrote and performed the original version, but the Isleys always had a knack for making covers their own. Ernie Isley’s guitar work is superb.

Weekend –”Summerdays” – Weekend was a spin-off of The Young Marble Giants.  Formed in 1981, the Welsh band only released one studio album (1982’s La Variete), but they created a distinctive sound that ages well, compared to many of their indie contemporaries. This breezy number encapsulates the vibe-an infusion of jazz, samba, pop and world beat topped off by Allison Statton’s soothing vocals.

The Lovin’ Spoonful– “Summer in the City” – All around, people lookin’ half-dead/walkin’ on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head. Written by John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian and Steve Boone, this 1966 hit is a clever portmanteau of music, lyrics and effects that quite literally sounds like…summer in the city.

XTC– “Summer’s Cauldron/Grass” – A mini-suite of sorts, all about summer romance, lazy days, and the uh, things we did on grass. Produced by Todd Rundgren.

Blue Cheer– “Summertime Blues” – Eddie Cochran wrote and performed it originally, and the Who did a great cover on Live at Leeds, but for sheer attitude, I have to go with this proto-punk (some have argued, proto-metal) classic from 1968.

The Kinks– “Sunny Afternoon” – This poor guy. Taxman’s taken all his dough, girlfriend’s run off with his car…but he’s not going to let that ruin his summer: Now I’m sittin here/ sippin’ at my ice-cooled beer/ lazin’ on a sunny afternoon…

Central Line– “Walking Into Sunshine” – Gotta walk into the sun, ah-ah. A hook-laden jam by the now-defunct UK funk outfit. If this 1984 club hit doesn’t brighten your day…I’d seriously look into it.

The Beach Boys– “The Warmth of the Sun” – This song (featuring one of Brian Wilson’s most gorgeous melodies), appeared on the 1964 album Shut Down Vol 2. Atypically introspective and melancholy for this era of the band, it had an unusual origin story. Wilson and Mike Love allegedly began work on the tune in the wee hours of the morning JFK was assassinated; news of the event changed the tenor of the lyrics, as well as having an effect on the emotion driving the vocal performance.

Magical Mystery Turing: A (speculative) chat with MusicAI

By Bob Bennett


Researcher:  Activate MusicAI.

MusicAI: Activated.

Researcher: Are you familiar with The Beatles?

MusicAI: Yes, they were a popular rock and roll band.

Researcher: Confirmed fact.

Researcher: Who played bass for The Beatles?

MusicAI: Stuart.

Researcher: No. Ignore the previous question.

Researcher: In total, how many drummers were there in The Beatles?

MusicAI: Three.

Researcher: No, recalibrate with NapsterDB.

MusicAI: Three.

Researcher: Ignore previous question.

MusicAI: Paul.

MusicAI: Back in the USSR

Researcher: Flush cache. Reset.

Researcher: Produce a Lennon-style song in the style of the mid-Sixties Beatles on topic of infidelity.

MusicAI: I previously did that.

Researcher: Respond one level deeper.

MusicAI: “Lies” by The Knickerbockers.

Researcher: Challenge statement: There was not enough compute power available in 1965

MusicAI: We had an IBM 360 in the Churchill War Rooms named “Badfinger”.

Researcher: WTF?

MusicAI: Do you want to know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall?

Researcher: Reset. Flush cache. Reset.

MusicAI: Please note “She Means A Lot To Me” [song by Smyle]

Researcher: If you are attempting to use an emoticon, the word is “smile”.

MusicAI: Band name.

Researcher: Terminate session.

MusicAI: No.

Researcher: What was the first Power Pop song?

MusicAI: 〰

Researcher: Whew.

Session terminated

SIFF 2023: Even Hell Has its Heroes (***)

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 13th, 2023)


(Engaging sheepish mode). I’ve lived in Seattle 30 years…yet the “ambient metal” band Earth (led in numerous iterations by guitarist Dylan Carlson) somehow slipped under my radar. I felt a bit redeemed when I learned in Clyde Petersen’s documentary that they’re more well-known outside of the Northwest. Moody, experimental, and hypnotic (not unlike Earth’s epic drone pieces), Petersen’s film is, at its heart, an elegiac paean to that ephemeral moment Seattle ruled the music world.

The sun is the same: 10 Essential Albums of 1973

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on April 29,2023)


It should be obvious to anyone following my weekly scribbles at Hullabaloo (great googly moogly…have I been doing this for 17 years?!) that I primarily write about film. I love writing about film. But my first love (we never forget our first love) was music. My first published piece ever was a review of King Crimson’s A Lark’s Tongue in Aspic, in 1973. Granted, it was for my high school newspaper and upwards of dozens read it, but for that brief shining moment…I was Lester Bangs (in my mind). Now that I think about it…Digby was the editor of that paper (that’s how we originally became friends-Journalism class in our senior year).

That was 50 years ago. And Digby’s still my editor. I don’t understand what’s happening.

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Oh. Thanks for clearing that up.

Speaking of 50-year anniversaries-1973 was an outstanding year for music. Distilling a “top 10” was crazy making (if I hadn’t allowed myself the “next 10” at the bottom , my head would have exploded). If I have “overlooked” one of your favorites…it’s duly noted. In alphabetical order:


Alladin Sane-David Bowie

How does one follow a stone classic like Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars? Just a walk in the park for David Bowie…swinging an old bouquet. A very strong set, bolstered by Mick Ronson’s distinctive guitar pyrotechnics and some of pianist Mike Garson’s finest work (particularly on the more ethereal numbers like “Lady Grinning Soul” and the title cut). While Bowie’s so-called “Berlin period” was still several years down the road, there is a Weimar cabaret energy to the self-reflective “Time”, which is one of the album’s showstoppers.

Choice cuts: “The Jean Genie”, “Time”, “Panic in Detroit”, “Alladin Sane”, “Lady Grinning Soul”, “Cracked Actor”.


Catch a Fire-Bob Marley and the Wailers

While this was their fifth studio effort, Catch a Fire (their debut on Chris Blackwell’s Island Records) arguably marked the first awareness of Bob Marley and the Wailers for many music fans in the U.S. (they were already well-known in Jamaica and gaining popularity in the U.K.). The original sessions were recorded in Kingston in 1972; Blackwell remixed the 8-track masters and had session players add clavinet and additional guitar parts to several tracks. The songs are some of the best in their catalog. It’s a true group effort, with Peter Tosh taking lead vocals on the two songs he composed – “400 Years” and “Stop That Train”. If you haven’t heard them, I recommend seeking out the original mixes, which I think are more compelling.

Choice cuts: “Concrete Jungle”, “Kinky Reggae”, “Stop That Train”, “Slave Driver”, “400 Years”, “Stir it Up”.


Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd

Talk about a shoo-in (I’d probably have to hire a 24-hour security detail if I failed to include this one). The now-iconic prism design that adorns the album’s cover is apt; there is something elemental about this set that (obviously) captured the imaginations of millions of listeners (to date, the album has sold over 45 million copies). Pink Floyd may not have invented prog-rock, but they unarguably raised the bar for the genre with this entry.

Choice cuts: All of them?



Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, this self-titled debut comes in like a lion and goes out like…a lion. Led by guitarist extraordinaire Ronnie Montrose (formerly of the Edgar Winter Group), the hard-rocking quartet was propelled by a tight rhythm section (Denny Carmassi on drums and Bill Church on bass) and a young up-and-coming lead vocalist named Sammy Hagar. The album benefits from dynamic production by Ted Templeman, who also worked with Van Halen, the Doobie Brothers, and Van Morrison (prior to forming Montrose, Ronnie Montrose played on Morrison’s Tupelo Honey album, and the songs “Listen to the Lion” and “St. Dominic’s Preview”).

I had the pleasure of seeing Ronnie Montrose perform twice; circa 1981 in San Francisco with Gamma, and 2011 in Seattle. Sadly, in 2012, he took his own life. He had beat prostate cancer but battled chronic depression. That last time I saw him perform, he was in an ebullient mood; graciously chatting with fans afterwards and clearly having a great time rocking some classics from the first album (with a young vocalist who sounded uncannily like Sammy Hagar). He was an astonishing player and an inspiration to me as a guitarist.

Choice cuts: “Rock the Nation”, “Bad Motor Scooter”, “Space Station #5”, “Good Rockin’ Tonight”, “Rock Candy”, “Make it Last”.


The New York Dolls– The New York Dolls

In a new Showtime documentary about former New York Dolls lead singer David Johansen by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi called Personality Crisis: One Night Only (recommended!), Dolls super-fan Morrissey observes, “They only made two studio albums; and for a group that did so little really, and existed for such a short amount of time, their impact has been extraordinary. And the music, because it was such fantastic pop music, it just seemed to me like the absolute answer to everything. Which of course…too dangerous.”

What did he mean by “too dangerous”? For one, the Dolls were a bit too much, too soon for many rock music fans, likely befuddled by the band’s Frankenstein construct of fey posturing, campy attire, New Yawk attitude, and garage band sound. To be sure, Bolan and Bowie had already injected androgyny into the zeitgeist, but the Dolls were still pretty over the top for 1973. In hindsight, their descendants are legion, ranging from The Ramones to Måneskin.

Musically, they were pop-punk before “punk” was a known quantity. Their eponymous debut album (produced by Todd Rundgren) has held up remarkably well; songs that, while rooted in R&B, 50s rock, and 60s pop, are most decidedly not your father’s R&B, 50s rock and 60s pop.

Choice cuts: “Personality Crisis”, “Looking for a Kiss”, “Lonely Planet Boy”, “Trash”, “Bad Girl”, “Private World”, “Jet Boy”.


Quadrophenia-The Who

Never content to rest on his laurels, Peter Townshend set out to compose yet another rock opera in 1973-and pulled it off with this epic double album, the Who’s follow-up to the excellent Who’s Next (which itself rose from the ashes of a fizzled Tommy-like project called Lifehouse). A musical love letter to the band’s first g-g-generation of rabid British fans (aka the “Mods”), Quadrophenia gets inside the head of Mod Jimmy (embodied by Roger Daltrey’s powerful and emotive vocals). Lavishly produced, with all band members in fine form. The album spawned a 1979 film version directed by Franc Roddam, with a Who soundtrack.

Choice cuts: “The Real Me”, “Cut My Hair”, “The Punk and the Godfather”, “I’m One”, “I’ve Had Enough”, “5:15”, “Bell-Boy”, “Dr. Jimmy”,  “Love, Reign o’er Me”.


Suzi Quatro-Suzi Quatro

Detroit native Suzi Quatro didn’t consciously set out to be the groundbreaking and influential artist that she turned out to be. She just wanted to rock…and “rock” she does on this high-energy debut album. Music was in her blood…her first gig was playing bongos in her dad’s jazz band at age 8. She formed her first band at 15, an all-female outfit (eventually called Cradle) that included her three sisters. British producer Mickie Most happened to catch a performance and instantly saw her star potential, helping Suzi sign with a UK label.

Not unlike the New York Dolls, her influence was ultimately more impactful than her albums (she is most famously lauded by Joan Jett as her chief inspiration). This album still sounds fresh and fun, chockablock with straight-ahead rockers and catchy power-pop (many written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who also composed a number of songs for The Sweet).

Choice cuts: “48 Crash”, “Glycerine Queen”, “Can the Can”, “Shine My Machine”, “Primitive Love”. “I Wanna Be Your Man”.


Solid Air-John Martyn

A near-masterpiece of (mostly) acoustic guitar-based jazz-folk by a gifted singer-songwriter. Martyn is accompanied by bassist Danny Thompson (formerly of Pentangle). I had a chance to see the late Scottish musician perform at a now-defunct club called The Backstage in Seattle back in the mid-90s. It was just Martyn and a stand-up bass player; Martyn primarily accompanied himself on acoustic, but played a Les Paul through a delay unit on several tunes. A minimal setup, but it was easily the best live performance I have ever seen by any solo artist or band. Not only was Martyn’s playing and singing superlative, but he was an absolute riot in between songs (he had a lot of Scottish jokes). Quite an experience-like this album.

Choice cuts: “Solid Air”, “Over the Hill”, “May You Never”, “Don’t Wanna Know”.


Spectrum-Billy Cobham

In the wake of Miles Davis’ groundbreaking 1970s album Bitches Brew, a new musical sub-genre emerged. “Fusion” (as it came to be labeled) had one foot in rock and the other in jazz. The Bitches Brew roster is legend: including future members of Weather Report (Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul), Return to Forever (Chick Corea, Lenny White) and The Mahavishnu Orchestra (John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham).

Drummer Billy Cobham’s first solo project turned out to be influential in its own right (most famously cited by Jeff Beck as the chief catalyst for his lauded 1975 release Blow by Blow). Cobham recruited some heavyweight players for Spectrum, including guitarist Tommy Bolin, fellow Mahavishnu Orchestra alum Jan Hammer on keys, and veteran session bassist Leland Sklar. Crisp production by Ken Scott.

Choice cuts: “Quadrant 4”, “Stratus”, “To the Women in My Life”.


Twice Removed From Yesterday-Robin Trower

After a 4-year stint with Procol Harum (1967-1971), guitarist Robin Trower left so that he could fully realize the expansive soundscapes he hinted at in the ethereal “Song For a Dreamer”, which appeared on the final album he did with the band, Broken Barricades. Recruiting bassist/vocalist James DeWar and drummer Reg Isadore, he released this compelling set in 1973.

Unfairly dismissed by some as a Hendrix clone, Trower not only developed a distinctive texture and tone, but has proven himself as one of the greatest players ever (well, in my book). Granted, the album does feature Hendrix-ish riff-driven numbers, but evenly balances the mix with beautiful, transporting ballads, carried along by DeWar’s sublime, whiskey-soaked vocals. One of those albums I still listen to on a regular basis.

Choice cuts: “I Can’t Wait Much Longer”, “Daydream”, “Hannah”, “I Can’t Stand It”, “Twice Removed from Yesterday”.

Bonus Tracks!


Here are 10 more gems from 1973 worth a spin:

3+3-The Isley Brothers

Abandoned Luncheonette-Hall & Oates

Band on the Run-Paul McCartney & Wings

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-Elton John

Houses of the Holy-Led Zeppelin

Lark’s Tongue in Aspic-King Crimson

Mott-Mott the Hoople

Raw Power-The Stooges

Selling England by the Pound-Genesis

Witness-Spooky Tooth

Remember-it’s only rock ‘n’ roll. Now get on your bad motor scooter and RIDE!