The Beatles’s ‘Across The Universe’ off 1970’s ‘Across The Universe’.
Beloved by diehard Kinks fans, ‘Strangers’ featured on their 1970 LP Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One, but was never released as a single. The Dave Davies line “If I live too long, I’m afraid I’ll die” was inspired by his old school friend George Harris. They were going to start a band, but Harris succumbed to bad habits and eventually died of a meth overdose. “Strangers on this road we are on/we are not two we are one.”
At about the same time that The Jackson 5 were making waves, the first family of soul, The Five Stairsteps, released the song ‘O-o-h Child’. The family were Betty and Clarence Burke Sr.’s five children: Alohe Jean, Clarence Jr., James, Dennis and Keni. Maybe it’s just me, but that earworm chorus, the drum rhythm and the singing siren (at roughly a minute in) make me wonder why this disc only sold a million copies. Have a great weekend.
Containing one of rock’s greatest guitar riff, ‘Iron Man’ is hard rock personified. Tony Iommi’s riff is slow tempo, mind-blowing and apocalyptic. You won’t like the Iron Man when he’s angry. He featured at the end of the first side of their second album, Paranoid.
While George Harrison was knocking out the hits that he’d been holding back, Sixto Rodriguez was recording his talent for tomorrow. Not at all popular in 1970, Rodriguez would be rightly rediscovered 30 years later. ‘Jane S Piddy’ is off the singer-songwriter’s debut album Cold Fact.
Coldplay and Chris Martin will always be under represented on this blog, but I’ll give him his dues. When suffering a touch of writers’ block, Martin reached for George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. As he sat at the piano trying to play ‘Isn’t It A Pity’, he accidentally found the chord that became ‘The Scientist’. Fine song that it is, it is a pale imitation.
Another track that sticks out for its disquieting string arrangement is ‘Friends’ off Led Zeppelin III. By 1970 had no shortage of pomp. Having returned from an exhausting tour of the US, the band retreated to Bron-Yr-Aur, a small cottage in the Dyfi Valley. Hats off to John Paul Jones. The bass player took the tranquility of their setting and created a string arrangement that would open a creative door – a precursor to ‘Kashmir’.
Now if there’s a cult instrument that I like even more than the cowbell, it’s the monkey sound of the cuíca drum. Enter Jorge Ben’s ‘Oba, Lá Vem Ela’ off his 1970 pressing Fôrça Bruta. Throw in some sweeping strings and what you have is heaven. Jorge Ben, you are the man.
The Motown house band, Funk Brothers, also surreptitiously played on ‘Band of Gold’. The song was written for Freda Payne by legendary Motown songwriters Holland–Dozier–Holland and released on their Invictus label. By 1970, H-D-H had had fallen out with Motown boss Berry Gordy Jr. in grand style over a dispute about royalties. So what were they doing instead? No less than writing and producing the seminal proto disco cut. Have a great weekend.
A low key end to the week – I’m on leave and starting to relax. The hippy, whispery lyrics of Vashti Bunyan’s ‘Diamond Day’ were written at a time when Bunjan’s work had been rejected by the commercial world. Featuring on her debut long player Just Another Diamond Day, the song would become part of commerce itself when providing the backdrop for a T-Mobile Flext advert in the mid-noughties. Have a great weekend.
Off his 1970 album After the Gold Rush, ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ was written for Graham Nash after his split from Joni Mitchell. Nash was Neil Young’s previous bandmate; Mitchell was a colleague who shared the same manager. That intimacy was originally lost on me when introduced to the song through Saint Etienne’s cover 20 years later. Have a great weekend. And Happy Valentine’s Day!
Before the easy of listening of Christmas sets in, I would like to get something more edgy off my chest. First up, ‘Dirt’ by The Stooges. The track is off their 1970 album Fun House, and like much of the rest of the album, this is not a song that you could easily date from initial listen. Producer Don Gallucci recorded Fun House as though it were a live album. The result is raw and abrasive. Iggy spits out his words. This is garage rock; this is proto punk; but Ron Asheton’s hazy guitar solo is also sublimely in tune with its time. You can hear The Doors that so influenced James Osterberg (aka Iggy) and a completely new sound that inspired the likes of MC5, the Ramones and The Damned.