May 14 – Turntable Talk 14 : Kiss Brought Some Alive With Joy

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks once again to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. If you’re keeping count, this is our 14th instalment…if you’re wondering about past topics, I indexed the first dozen here. For any new readers, briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columnists from other music sites, sounding off on one particular topic. This month, our topic is Feels Like The First Time. No, no, we’re not going X-rated here, we’re talking about a different kind of first – the first album our guests ever bought.

Today we have Deke , from Deke’s Viny Reviews and More. Deke’s always enthusiastic especially about hard rock and vinyl releases. Has he always been? We’ll find out here:

Thanks to Dave for once again letting me participate with you all. It will come as no shocker, but my first album was KISS Alive II which was released in 1977 but I had not gotten it until sometime in early1978 when I was in Duluth, Minnesota and used my trip money to buy this album.

I was hooked and still am when it comes to anything Hard Rock. KISS had it down pat at the time. Since then I’ve been a fan for 45 years. They have gotten silly in regards to marketing, which I won’t get into but when it comes to reissuing their past albums with demos, live material, I’m still that guy that will go and get the updated versions.

KISS Alive II ,my original copy, is long gone. But about five years ago my daughter Lauren gifted me a reissue copy of Alive II and KISS themselves did the right thing by including the original booklet plus the stick-on tattoos that came with it. Seeing all that took me right back to ’78…

I thought I would talk about most of the songs on here as this was not only my introduction not only to KISS but to that crazy world of Hard Rock/Metal.

KISS growing up in the ’70s were huge. They were in all kinds of print press like Circus and Creem and even teeny bopper magazines like 16. So of course a pal of mine whose name was John Young had the KISS Originals (first three Kiss studio records packaged as a triple set) and when I saw the cover of the “Originals” I drooled. Who are these four Kabuki-like warriors with makeup?

Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter aka Demon, Starchild, Spaceman and Cat.

Let me talk about the songs from this double-vinyl that have basically brainwashed me since 1978!

DETROIT ROCK CITY” Some Kiss guy announces “You wanted the best …..” we know the rest, right? We’re off and there’s the crowd roaring at the opening riff of “Detroit Rock City”. The crowd is jacked. I mean the audio of it. To this day when I listen to it I find the crowd too much even – if it’s a Kiss crowd (or the supposed sample KISS used by The Super Bowl ’77 crowd!) Who knows and I see what KISS is doing, they’re making it seem bigger and better and were louder than all you other acts out there. For me at age 11 going on 12 …it friggin’ worked.

“KING OF THE NIGHTIME WORLD” is launched and the KISS live chops (is it live?)… well for me at that time, they sound live and I’m blown away. Holy geez are Ace/Paul pulling down some dual leads at the end of this tune! Yeah they actually are…

“LADIES ROOM” Next to the Creatures Of The Night album (1982), I would have to say this is Gene Simmons best-sung record and it’s the live one. I mean check out the top left pick of Simmons (front cover) where he has all that blood and guck spewing out of his mouth! Man he’s a mess, but being 12 at the time you would have thought “Mom can I sleep tonight with the light on tonight ?”after looking at that pic.

“CALLING DR. LOVE” KISS sound like they know what they’re doing on this track. Better yet, Peter Criss pulls out the cowbell and by the time I got around to getting the studio albums, it’s evidently clear that these live versions are played at a fast clip compared to the studio offerings. Party stimulants were around I’m sure on that “Kiss Alive II Tour” of 1977.

“SHOCK ME” My favourite Kiss guy, Space Ace Frehley loads up (literally ) and blasts off with his lead vocal and guitar solo on “Shock Me”. It’s a great track and a bunch of mish-mashing notes make up his guitar solo and of course the guitar is smoking during it.

“HARD LUCK WOMAN” & “TOMORROW & TONIGHT”- Were both recorded in the studio and then the live crowd was slapped down in the background so KISS could fill up the live portion of the album without repeating tracks that were on the first Kiss Alive from two years earlier! I wonder what went through Simmons and Stanley’s heads at the time when they did this stunt! Yeah I know and you know what went through their heads, the answer was….$$$$$$$$$$$$ and more $$$$$$$$!

“I STOLE YOUR LOVE” Was this not the tour opener? Except for Alive II it’s the opening song on Side 3 ! Good straight ahead rocker track!

“BETH”- So Petey the cat man gets his limelight complete with prerecorded symphony . It’s his time to shine, while Gene And Paul count the $$$$ backstage and Ace… well I dunno…

“GOD OF THUNDER” Demon Gene, the lord of the wasteland, slams forward on this Sabbath-like stomp complete with Peter Criss drum solo which I thought at the time was the greatest drum solo… until I heard Neal Peart in 1981 totally mash his drum set on his solo on YYZ! Anyways Criss does his deal and we’re headed to the finish line with …

“SHOUT IT OUT LOUD” Gene and Paul want us to all “Shout it Out Loud!” You gotta have a party! This song we have all heard and the live portion album ends with Kiss telling us they love us!

So Kiss decides “Hey we got 15 minutes on side 4 lets get the yaya’s out ,so to speak and each guy does a studio tune well except Criss. Listen to Peter’s solo album from 1978 and this will explain to you the listener why there are no studio tracks of his on Alive II!

“AMERICAN MAN” Paulie struts himself and tells us he is an American Man! Ummm, is this really KISS playing on this? Bob Kulick supposedly played all the lead guitar on these tracks except for the Ace tune (coming up)

LARGER THAN LIFE” It’s Simmons and it’s not a bad tune! I’ve heard better (“Radioactive”), heard worse (his whole Asshole solo album). It’s Gene circa ’77, ego included!

ROCKET RIDE” This is why Ace is my fave Kiss guy until he split in 1982! He just rocks out this track. I mean does it get any better in the Frehley Hall Of Fame with lyrics like ” baby wants it fast baby wants a blast she wants a Rocket Ride!” ? Plus his solo is so sloppy it’s cool! Ace in ’77, you were the deal!

ANY WAY YOU WANT IT” Cover tune and Stanley and crew rock it up but yeah its a cover!

In conclusion – Rewind, like I said to early ’79 and Alive II blew my 11-year old mind! Kiss laid down the law with a gimmick and it royally paid off, ’til the public got sick of Kiss and their deal in the early ’80s. Except for me. I still littered Gene and Paul’s pockets with dollars, not cents!



May 7 – Roxy’s Choice of High Road Seemed…Odd

If you’re Canadian you might remember this record from 40 years ago. If you’re not, it likely is long-forgotten even if you were a fan and somehow noticed it in the first place. Roxy Music were sitting at #5 on the Canadian album chart this day in 1983 with The High Road, an oddball release in every way.

Although released worldwide at the time, only Canucks seemed to embrace it. Canada were late to the Roxy party, but arrived en masse in 1982. While “Love is the Drug” had been a big hit for them in Canada in ’76 ( a while after it was in Roxy’s native UK),otherwise they had barely a cult following in the Great White North…until Avalon. Their lush ’82 album went multi-platinum and spent a solid month at #1 there. So perhaps it’s no surprise they’d love this live follow-up, although it seems odd that it really didn’t take off in Europe, where the band had been one of the biggest throughout the ’70s.Particularly because it was only the second live record they’d ever released, and came at the end of an entirely different era in their history than Viva, their first one did.

The High Road was more aptly described as an EP than a full album; it contained only four songs, though it ran almost half an hour. Of the four songs, only one was an actual Roxy Music one, “My Only Love”, off 1980’s Flesh + Blood. There was an almost Roxy one, “Can’t Let Go”, a song Bryan Ferry had released on a solo record in ’78. But the two songs that stood out and seemed the most popular were both cover songs – “Like a Hurricane” and “Jealous Guy.”

Jealous Guy” was no surprise. They’d put it out as a single in 1981 as a tribute to John Lennon and while it was a #1 hit in Britain and Australia, it was all but unnoticed in North America. However, the slightly more robust and dynamic live version was a highlight, and usually encore, of their Avalon concerts. “Like a Hurricane” was a bit more of a surprise, a ’77 song by Neil Young that had become a regular when he performed “electric” sets. There’s no explanation that I can find of why Roxy liked the song and performed it, but their version worked and the passion of it seemed to fit singer Bryan Ferry like one of his tuxedo jackets.

The four-song release came out only on LP and cassette; it would seem to have never yet been put out on CD by itself, although fans can still get it that way as it was incorporated into a later live album, Heart Still Beating. There was also a video of it – VHS then later, DVD – but it was of another concert despite the same name and cover illustration. Odd. (By the way, the record was recorded at a Glasgow concert at the Apollo theatre there, a favorite haunt of at least one of our regular readers).

Allmusic rated it 3-stars but didn’t review it at all besides listing the songs and noting the band went on hiatus after it. The over-100 page special edition of Ultimate Music devoted to them barely mentions it, calling it “an odd affair… almost wilfully obscure.”

Obscure or not, it was a well-produced live record and gave a good peek at the band’s elegant yet energetic sound in the ’80s, with the trio being backed by five additional playing musicians (including Neil Hubbard on guitars and their frequent drummer who was never quite officially a member, Andy Newmark) and three backing singers.

The EP only got to #26 in the UK and a mediocre #67 in the U.S. but hit #13 in Australia and somehow hit it big in Canada, where both “Jealous Guy” and the Canadian-written “Like a Hurricane” found homes on rock and AC radio. Odd? Perhaps not.

April 25 – The Boss Overcomes A Quick Session To Make A Great Record

After over 30 years performing, 13 studio albums, several of them selling well into the millions and numerous world tours, it’s understandable that an artist might want to shake things up a little and not get too comfortable in a routine. And that’s just what Bruce Springsteen did this day in 2006 with the release of We Shall Overcome : The Seeger Sessions. It was a tribute to great folk singer/songwriter Pete Seeger, and shake things up for Bruce it did.

Seeger of course was a renowned folkie in the ’60s who made the old spiritual “We Shall Overcome” a popular rallying cry and wrote a number of hits for other artists like “Turn Turn Turn” and “If I Had A Hammer.” But he also sang many old traditional tunes, and that was the part of his career The Boss wanted to highlight.

The title track had actually been recorded for a 1997, multi-artist tribute to Seeger. Apparently he mentioned doing more and with some encouragement from his daughter, curiously enough, decided to make a full album. He and his wife Patti Scialfa (of his E Street Band) rounded up a number of local session musicians, who dubbed themselves the Sessions Band, including trumpeter Mark Pender who’d played on Max Weinberg’s Tonight Show Band and violinist Soozie Firschner. They got together for just two brief sessions and recorded live. Springsteen himself at times played mandolin, tambourine and organ besides his regular guitar.

The standard edition of it (a double LP or single CD) contained 13 songs often performed by Seeger, although surprisingly enough, not written by him (although a few had been modified from their original form by Pete). They included old chestnuts like “O Mary Don’t You Weep”, “Jacob’s Ladder”, “John Henry” and even “Froggie Went A-courtin’”. It also came out in some deluxe versions which included a DVD and a few extra tracks like “Buffalo Gals.”

You can be forgiven if you didn’t notice it when it came out; Columbia didn’t release any singles off it and hence radio more or less ignored it utterly. But reviewers didn’t, and by and large it got raves. The Guardian and Rolling Stone both graded it 4-stars, Pitchfork 8.5 out of 10; Entertainment Weekly an “A-”. Uncut called it “a great teeming flood of Americana…a powerful example of how songs reverberate through the years.” Pitchfork declared it “a boisterous, spirit-raising throwdown on which The Boss tackles the tangle of war, strife, poverty and unrest without sacrificing joy.” Although there were a few dissenting voices, like The Observer which deemed it “too corny.” Later on, allmusic graded it 4.5-stars noting how quickly it was made and that it “does indeed have an unmistakably loose feel” but was still “unique” because “he has never made a record that feels as alive as this.”

Perhaps the most important opinion was that of Pete Seeger himself. The singer who was 86 at the time called it “a great honor. He’s an extraordinary person as well as an extraordinary singer.”

As for the public, considering how odd it was compared to most of his releases and its lack of single, it did quite well. It reached #3 in the U.S., Canada and Britain and actually went to #1 in Italy. The album was certified gold in both the states and Canada and an impressive double-platinum in Ireland. What’s more, it won Bruce his 14th Grammy, this one for Best Traditional Folk Album… which surprisingly he’d won once before, for The Ghost of Tom Joad in 1997.

March 23 – U2 Say You Can Go Home Again

Forty years ago this week, in March 1983, U2 put out the single “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in continental Europe. In the UK and North America, they picked “Two Hearts Beat As One” as the single instead; rather a “Sophie’s choice” since both were excellent tunes deserving hearing and hit status.

Sunday Bloody Sunday” got to #3 in the Netherlands and did pretty well across Europe and of course, has become one of the band’s enduringly popular songs in their live set. We’ve looked at the song here before, but in summary, the rebel rocker was thought up by guitarist The Edge, inspired by the horrendous Bogside Massacre that occurred in 1972, when the lads in U2 were still children. It was perhaps the tipping point in the years-long civil war in Ireland… and a good starting point for today’s feature.

It might seem like U2 have been quiet for some time now, but that’s actually not the case. In fact, the opposite is true. This week U2 have put out a new album and a TV documentary. Which seemingly are inter-connected.

A Sort of Homecoming is the TV special, the name of a song off their fine fourth album, An Unforgettable Fire, and the shorthand for the documentary’s content. 75 year old fan David Letterman goes to Dublin to visit Bono and The Edge (Adam and Larry from the band were busy elsewhere on other projects) and tour their hometown, meeting some interesting characters along the way and seeing the front side of U2 perform an acoustic concert (sort of U2 “unplugged”) for hometown fans.

The show’s well-worth a watch if you’re a fan, with not only some fine musical performances but interesting interviews with Bono and The Edge (as well as some of their friends in the music world). Bono reveals that the others in U2 get weary of all his activism at times; The Edge talks about his crisis in faith early on – feeling torn between doing something obvious to show his religious faith and being in a rock band – when the idea of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” came to him and he realized that his music could be a platform for change. They talk about – and show – how far Ireland has progressed from their childhood when it was a war-torn, uptight conservative land to now, a modern, rather open-minded society. And Letterman joins them for a spontaneous drop by a real Irish pub.

On the music side, The Edge gives the talk show host chills by demonstrating how he plays “Where the Streets Have no Name” on his usual electric guitar. Otherwise, the songs are stripped down versions of many well-known, and a couple of lesser-known U2 songs through the years, played with just acoustic guitar, an old upright piano and a woman on cello behind them. The pair said they wanted to see if there really was something to their old music, if the bombast of the group was taken away, and for the most part, songs like “Vertigo”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “One” pass the test. They might not be better than the originals we know, but they certainly sound good in the unplugged fashion, and in some cases the lyrics stand out and speak far more than they had before. And yes, they introduce a brand new song in it, ostensibly written in honor of their guest – “Forty Foot Man”. “Many nice things have happened to me in my life, this would be right at the top of my list,” Letterman said and while the song may not go down in their canon alongside “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “Beautiful Day” as an all-time classic, it’s a pretty decent return to form for them… especially for one they supposedly banged off from the top of their heads at 3AM one night!

As for the new album, Songs of Surrender came out on St. Patrick’s Day, fittingly enough, and is their first new product in six years. It is a sort of extension of the Dublin concert, with old U2 songs done newly; reimagined. “We gave ourselves permission to disregard any sense of reverence for the originals,” The Edge says. In all, 40 songs are included, ten picked by each of the members. If you get a deluxe 4LP set. It’s also available in CD, vinyl and believe it or not, cassette tape with 16 songs including “One”, “Invisible” (a little known single from 2013 which was a highligt of the TV show), “Pride” and of course, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, which like a few others, Bono has tweaked the lyrics to. Sadly, no “Forty Foot Man”… but hold on! There are persistent rumors of another U2 album this year, which would be new material.

A Sort of Homecoming is now on Disney’s streaming service. I don’t know when Disney stopped being the one with the talking mouse and white princesses in distress needing saving and became THE music station, but following on the heels of last year’s Beatles doc, Get Back, it’s seeming like a service music fans might grudgingly need to have on their TVs.

November 26 – Show May Not Have Been ‘Cream’ Of The Crop

It was a show to see…although the home version was hardly cream of the crop. Cream played their final regular concert this night in 1968 at Royal Albert Hall in London. It was recorded for British TV viewers and later released for home viewing as the video Farewell Concert.

Cream were, as you likely know, a short-lived but highly influential trio sometimes considered rock’s first “supergroup.” when they formed in early ’66, Eric Clapton was already well-known and respected for his guitar work in the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce came from the Graham Bond Organisation, an early sort of prog/blues rock band which was well-regarded in Britain but lacked any significant commercial success. They quickly put out three albums, the third being the double-album Wheels of Fire, which came out in the summer of ’68. Along the way they’d had some international success with both the albums and singles like “White Room” and “Born Under a Bad Sign.” Wheels of Fire made the British top 10, as did the preceding pair of albums, and made it to the top on North American charts. Cream was touring regularly and a hot act, on the way up.

Nonetheless, they were getting tired of the road, and even more tired of each other… Baker and Bruce especially. Bruce was said to be enthralled by the idea of maximum volume and tried to turn his amps up loud enough as to drown out the drummer. “That last year with Cream was just agony,” Baker would later say. “I’ve still got a hearing problem because of the sheer volume…it just went into the realm of stupidity.” Clapton suggested that many of the shows on their last American tour, in the fall, “mainly consisted of (us) showing off.”

So after winding up the American tour in early-November, they decided to say a proper farewell to their home fans at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London on Nov. 25 and 26. The BBC recorded it, although apparently they only recorded short bits of the first one but the entire second show. Which unfortunately, according to Baker “wasn’t a good gig…Cream was better than that.”

Better or not, the Farewell Concert was what the Brits got to see a few weeks after, in January ’69, on the BBC. The TV show was produced by future record company magnate Robert Stigwood…although some would say not very well. The program ran 51 minutes, with six songs – “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Politician”, “White Room”, “Spoonful”, “Toad” and “I’m so Glad.” That was what was also released on VHS in 1977 but the DVD, in 2005, ran about an extra half hour with three added songs and John Peel bringing them on stage.

Critics had a lot to work with. The sound quality was not considered very good, and at times seemed out of sync with the video. Because the BBC used a variety of cameras, some film and some video, the actual visual quality was uneven, and worse, some shoddy editing involved mixing clips from both shows in one song, resulting in Eric Clapton mysteriously playing a different guitar than he was seconds earlier and Ginger Baker wearing different clothes.

For all that, it was a good souvenir of the band’s last stand. They had a chance to get it right 25 years later, when they appeared at their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, and in 2005 when they played a brief reunion of four shows at the Royal Albert Hall again.

November 21 – ’80s Live, Part 2 : Red Rocks Rocked By U2

Young readers might be surprised to learn that there once was a time when U2 weren’t a particularly “big” band. In the early-’80s they were just one of many post-punk rock acts out there struggling to get any widespread attention. But in a few short years, they’d elevated themselves to status of worldwide superstars, and that began in 1983. Early in the year they put out their third album, War, which was their best-received one to that point and opened the door to the American market for them with the singles “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” A major tour followed, which led to the next step up for them – their first live album. And that one, Live Under A Blood Red Sky, arrived this day 39 years ago.

Some called it an “EP”, others a “mini-album” while most consider it just a regular album, but no matter what the terminology it was a great-sounding record which helped win them more fans and draw attention to what would become their legendary live sets. The record was a trim eight-song, 35-minute effort containing seven of their relatively well-known songs from their existing albums (including the singles off War plus “I Will Follow” from their debut album, Boy) plus a somewhat obscure b-side off a standalone single, “Party Girl.” Although widely thought to be a recording of their concert from Red Rocks in Colorado that summer, in fact only two songs were taken from that show. One was recorded in Boston while five were drawn from a German show. The Red Rocks idea likely comes from the striking cover photo, showing Bono silohuetted “under a blood red sky” and from the video of the same name they released a few months later that was essentially the whole Colorado show. Regardless of the origins, the record seemed seamless…and powerfully impressive.

At the time, Rolling Stone took note and gave it 4-stars. They suggested that it “gives ample evidence of why people are calling U2 the best live band of 1983” and highlighting something not often commented upon – the bass. Producer Jimmy “Iovine’s approach uncovers U2’s secret weapon – the versatile, elastic playing of bassist Adam Clayton.” Later reviews generally concurred; allmusic gives it 3.5-stars, Pitchfork 9 out of 10 and Entertainment Weekly an “A-”. Pitchfork consider it “a key document in understanding U2’s meteoric rise”, an album made when “U2 aren’t yet an arena band but they carried themselves like one”. They noted their talent got more attention two years later when at Live Aid “only Queen and their monumental performance…came off better.”

Although they did put out a single off it, “I Will Follow”, it didn’t make it into the top 40 anywhere, although by reaching #81 in the U.S. it did better than the original, studio release of it. However, the album was eagerly bought up, actually being a #1 hit in New Zealand and #2 in Australia and the UK. Curiously, it somehow only went to #48 in their own Ireland! As it stands, it’s triple platinum or more in the U.S., UK and Australia.

Big fans might want to look for a 2008 re-release of Under A Blood Red Sky. It contains the original album plus an expanded DVD version of the Red Rocks concert, adding in some nine extra songs.

November 21 – ’80s Live, Part 1 – When People Began To ‘Idol’ize Billy

It’s hard to keep a good song down. About six years after he first released a version of it, and about 18 years after it was first a hit, Billy Idol has his only U.S. #1 single this day in 1987 with a live version of “Mony Mony.” The song was a cover version of Tommy James and the Shondells 1968 song, which had been a #1 hit in the UK and top 5 in North America.

Idol had recorded it immediately after leaving punk band Generation X, and released it as a single back in 1981, to little real notice. However, it was a popular part of his live show for years (including the well-known custom of the crowd adding their own , umm, “suggestions” during the chorus) and he decided to put out a live recording of it to tie his fans over between albums, and to promote a forthcoming “best of” album. That time did the trick for Idol, who’d had two prior top 10s in his adopted country. It hit the top in Canada as well, and was a top 10 in a number of other countries including Australia and New Zealand. Coincidentally, the Idol version knocked another Tommy James cover out of the top spot; Tiffany’s version of “I Think We’re Alone Now.

Idol’s been keeping a fairly low profile this decade musically, but was in the news in 2018 when he officially became an American citizen. Around the same time he got together with some members of his old band (Generation X) as well as Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols to do a one-off show as the “Generation Sex” in L.A.

“Mony Mony”, by the way, is a more or less meaningless phrase James came up with when needing a catchy chorus line for a song he had; he came up with it when seeing an illuminated “Mutual of New York” – MONY – sign.

October 8 – Illinois Band’s Road To Fame Ran Through Japan

Live albums are usually throwaway releases designed only for the hardcore fans of the artist or cynical ways for a group to finish off a contractual obligation to a record company without going back to do any work writing or in the studio. Usually. Every once in awhile though, it is something else and actually opens doors for the artist. Such was the case twice in the late-’70s, once with Peter Frampton and his Frampton Comes Alive and then again on this day in 1978 with Illinois’ Cheap Trick. They put out their fourth album, Cheap Trick At Budokan (or “Live at Budokan” as many of us refer to it as) 44 years ago. In Japan.

Which is part and parcel of the band’s story. They’d formed in Rockford, IL around 1973, and had a small following in the Midwest due to relentless touring. But success at home was hard to buy, even with the backing of Epic Records. Their first two albums bombed in North America, and the third, Heaven Tonight would only scratch briefly into the top 50 due to the minor success of the single “Surrender.”

Oddly however, they became a sensation in Japan. A combination of their looks (from the good-looking, well-coiffed Tom Petersson and his 12-string bass and singer Robin Zander to the chubby, old-time drummer Bun E. Carlos who would have looked at home in a barbershop quartet, and the zany bowtied Rick Nielsen, a musical Sheldon Cooper lookalike) and their poppy sound appealed to the Japanese crowd, especially teenage girls there. They scored a #1 hit single there with “Clock Strikes Ten” and their first two albums sold well. No surprise then that they headed there to promote the heck out of Heaven Tonight . Such was their popularity that they were booked for a couple of shows at Tokyo’s Budokan theatre, a sort of Oriental Madison Square Garden built for the 1964 Olympics. The Beatles were the first musical act to play there, so getting a gig at it was a big deal! The two shows were recorded and the best of them were put on a live album for the Japanese fans. Epic couldn’t even be bothered to put it out on this side of the ocean, they were busy trying to get the studio album noticed even a little.

The live album took off in Japan and something strange happened. People in the U.S. heard it and took note. It began to get spun on some radio stations and before you could say “trade tariffs” 30 000 copies had been imported and sold in the U.S! Epic decided it was worth pressing a few copies for release here at that point in February, 1979. That was a good decision!

As allmusic would later say (in a review that graded it a perfect 5-stars), “many of these songs were pleasant in their original form” but lacked… oomph. They only “gelled” played live, and the band’s “ear-shatteringly loud guitars and sweet melodies” influenced a whole range of ’80s metal and ’90s alt rock bands. Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana both claim Cheap Trick as a major influence, for example.

I Want You To Want Me” was one of the inescapable sounds of the summer of ’79 and when all was said and done, the live album had hit #1 in Canada, #4 at home and sold to multi-platinum levels in both countries. They of course, then went on to have a mixed career of hits and misses, but they would forever be a household name (in musical households) and never play to half-empty bars in Kenosha anymore!

They’re still a band, with Nielsen, Zander and Petersson doing their thing, over 40 years later.

September 4 – ‘Nine Tonight’ Did Better Than That On Charts

Many bands have reputations as great live acts. However, few of them carry that over and are able to sell many live albums; Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton were definitely outliers in the ’70s in that respect. But one more exception is Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band. They had a hit with Live Bullet in 1976, when they were just rising to national fame, and took another shot at it five years later with Nine Tonight which came out this day in 1981. Once again, he seemed to hit the winning formula.

It came out a year after Against the Wind, which elevated him to superstar status and the record was pulled from concerts on the tour for that album, one from Boston and one from his hometown of Detroit. And, while two live albums in five years might seem excessive, most of the 16 tracks came from records made after the previous live one. Seger had written all but three tracks and one of the trio done by others was known as “his” song – “Old Time Rock’n’Roll”, written by George Jackson and Thomas Jones. A cover of Chuck Berry’s “Let it Rock” was the finale, and he added in an older soul song, ”Trying to Live My Life Without You.” That one had been done originally a label mate of Al Green’s, Otis Clay in 1973, but despite being performed on Soul Train hadn’t taken off… until Seger got to it! Other tracks included a number of his familiar hits, mostly from the end of the ’70s and Against the Wind, like “Night Moves,” “Her Strut” and “Against the Wind” itself, with a few lesser-known ones like “You’ll Accompany Me.”

The tour it was culled from was their first that crossed Europe, and according to backing vocalist Shaun Murphy, “this was when the frenzy started to kick in…we had crossed the precipice.” She added “you’d look out in the audience and people were all singing all the words. That hadn’t happened to Bob (before)”.

Latter reviews were mixed for it. Ultimate Classic Rock called it his “victory lap” while allmusic gave it 3-stars, significantly less than the first live album’s 5. They didn’t seem to think it was a bad album, but did note “”the live versions here stick pretty close to the studio versions,” although “the cut of ‘Old Time Rock’n’Roll’ included here proves to be better than the original.”

His fans may have thought so too. Either way, the album made it to #3 at home and #6 in Canada, and hit the top 30 in Britain and Australia. Much of that was from “Trying to Live My Life Without You”, which hit #5 – his fifth top 10 hit song – in the U.S. and #11 in Canada. “Feel Like A Number” made it into the top 30 in Canada while the live take on “Hollywood Nights” did reasonably well in the UK. When all was said and done, the release (a double album, but put out later as a single CD with the Chuck Berry song shortened from its 10-minute plus length to make it fit) went 4X platinum at home, the biggest selling live record since the Eagles live one a year earlier.

August 30 – John Said If George Can Do It, So Can I

Call it playing catch-up or call it being a terrific humanitarian…likely both were true, and about 30 000 New Yorkers were all the better off for it this day in 1972. That was the day John Lennon held two concerts, an afternoon and an evening one, at Madison Square Garden. The concerts were quickly arranged benefit shows, and although no one knew it at the time, they’d be the last full concerts Lennon would ever give. He was the only one of the Beatles who never toured as such after the Fab Four split up.

Lennon decided to do the shows to raise money for the Willowbrook School after seeing a TV news story about it. Willowbrook was a state-run school for mentally disabled kids and none other than Geraldo Rivera, an up-and-coming newsman at the time, brought to light stories of both abuse of the children and poor conditions at the school caused by disrepair. Lennon and Yoko Ono felt moved to act, and so the concerts were arranged, with all proceeds going to the school. They brought in Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack and Sha Na Na to play on the bill as well; in a surprisingly magnanimous move, Lennon also invited Paul McCartney, who declined.

The idea was wonderful, but it was also highly reminiscent of a double concert George Harrison had done the year before to raise funds for Bangladeshi relief at the same venue. As even the Beatles Bible point out, “the success of George Harrison’s ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ the previous year may well have influenced his decision.” No doubt it irked him a little to see Harrison come to the Big Apple – John’s adopted hometown – and become a hero, not to mention score a hit record, with a charity event that was exactly the type of thing they’d expect Lennon and Ono to do.

Whether a bit of jealousy played a role or not, it was hard to argue with Lennon’s gesture. They sold tickets at between $5 and $10 (depending on seat location) and both shows sold out quickly. ABC filmed it and turned it into a TV special, paying $350 000 to the cause for the rights.

Lennon and his wife brought in session drummer Jim Keltner, and the Elephant’s Memory Band (a group of session musicians from the New York area who often backed Lennon at the time) to play, with John playing rhythm guitar himself. They rehearsed for three days. After Rivera welcomed them to stage for the afternoon show, it was apparent to some that a bit more practice might have helped. The sound was a bit off, and at one point John joked “welcome to the rehearsal.” They played 17 songs, starting with “Power to the People” through a finale of “Hound Dog”. He powered through his Beatles tour de force “Come Together” and a number of his early hits or near-hits like “Imagine,” “Cold Turkey” and “Instant Karma”. Yoko took center stage to do a couple of numbers, “Born in a Prison” and “Sisters, Oh Sisters.” The evening set apparently sounded a bit better, and had 14 songs, including “Give Peace A Chance” to end it. The two Yoko songs were dropped from the bill, with no record of if any fans felt short-changed because of it.

The shows ended up raising over a million dollars for the school, making it a great humanitarian success. Commercially, it wasn’t a massive, or immediate hit. In 1986 (after John’s death of course) a live album and videotape of it were put out, produced by Yoko.

Two surprises came of that fact. One, she chose the afternoon set to use, which even the musicians themselves thought the lesser of the two, performance-wise, and two, that she had an unusual lack of egotism, basically editing herself out of the record. Her songs weren’t included and on songs where she was singing harmony, her voice was mixed very low so as not to detract from Lennon’s. The video had a different selection of songs. Rolling Stone would say of it while it “could have used a few more hours of practice” it was still a decent listen as “classic Lennon, because it’s all here – his humor, pain, anger and unshakeable faith in the power of rock’n’roll to change the world.” Traits his ex-bandmate George Harrison would no doubt admire. The album was a minor success, hitting #41 in the U.S. and eventually going gold.

What no one there knew of course was that it was going to be the last time to see John do a concert of his own. Even though he was active recording through the ’70s and up until his death in 1980, he gave up playing live entirely after this show. The only exception was a brief appearance, also at Madison Square Garden, to be on stage with his friend Elton John in 1974 at one of his concerts.