Back when I covered Fleetwood Mac’s album Penguin, I bemoaned the fact that I had none of their records with the Buckingham/Nicks incarnation. But that was before I moved Max’s box and took a look at the cassette tape collection that I had disregarded, and that now I am totally appreciating. Lo and behold, there was Rumors. This was not the first album they released with this group of people, for which they will always be remembered. The old Fleetwood and Mac, Mick Fleetwood and John and Christie McVie (when did she become Christine?), plus the duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, release a self-titled album two years prior in 1975, which was Fleetwood Mac’s second self-titled album. Very telling, don’t you think? And quite bold.
The first album had some really good stuff on it too, but they were just building to the splash Rumors would make. Splash may be somewhat of an understatement, cause this album was freakin’ monumental. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been putting off writing this article. Yes, I confess, I have exercised to Rumors before and didn’t tell you. But I’ve been playing it quite a bit over the past few days and it deserves more research and info than I’m willing to do and present. I don’t want to go into the personal lives or personalities of the artist(s) (Now before you object, Paul McCartney is different. He is after all the major influence on this whole thing.) And Fleetwood Mac is so full of behind the scenes drama, which only seemed to add to the great music and incredible songs they’ve produced. I was more into the Buckingham or Nicks songs on Rumors, and Nicks’ stuff on this and the preceding album is phenomenal. (Don’t worry, I will get to Lindsey Buckingham). Her music, her voice, her looks and her style – how could she not get the recognition she did. Trouble was, and I may have mentioned this before when we worked out to Walter Egan, for the next few years she was all over the place. There she was, backing up this person or dueting with Petty and Henley.
[Aside – In 1981 when Nicks released her Grammy award winning solo album Bella Donna, she was being interviewed on WNEW-FM and I remember her saying that she got the title of her song “Edge of Seventeen” from Tom Petty’s wife, who with her southern accent was telling Stevie that she and Tom met at the age of 17 and Stevie misheard her, and therefore wrote a song. A hit song, by the way.]
Anyway, you’d turn on the radio and hear Stevie Nicks’ voice quite often. I don’t know about you, but I was finding it irksome. It must have been a big kick for her, and I’m sure I’d be doing the same thing with that level of talent and popularity, but for me, it got really annoying. I’ve since gotten over it.
We’re going to have to continue with Fleetwood Mac later. Which is fine, because they are providing me with a decent workout to some fine music.
The only other Facebook group I’ve joined is my high school alma mater’s. That’s not true actually. Before joining the regional WNEW club, I hooked up with a rock ‘n roll group that was so large and kept bombarding me with incessant posts. I made the mistake of responding to a post only to have my cell ding continuously to let me know of the arrivals of email announcing that someone else has also responded. I know there is some way to manage this, but I just got myself out of that group.
My high school group is very tame. A post now and then. Just the way I like it. I had recently been musing over that commercial that features the song “Chicken Fat,” sung by the late actor Robert Preston, best known as The Music Man from stage and screen. That brought back memories. Gym class. Oy. Then someone from my high school asked if we remembered the song and having to exercise to it in elementary school. I wanted to respond, but I’ve learned my lesson. But the other responses told me things I did not know. We always thought it was just a stupid, annoying song, and it was. I didn’t know who Preston was at the time, which made it even more annoying, but I now learn that the song was commissioned in 1961 by then President John F. Kennedy for his President’s Council on Physical Fitness. It was written by Meredith Wilson, composer of the music for The Music Man. I actually didn’t hear the song until years later in junior high school long after Kennedy was assassinated. My elementary school gym teacher didn’t have us exercising to “Chicken Fat” and as I had no idea of its existence at the time, I have no idea why. I can speculate though. Mr. Engel, a big, muscular guy was the gym teacher at my elementary school for years. We had gym once a week, maybe twice, I’m not sure, but I recall it was by class and teacher, of which there were two for each grade. Meaning, gym was co-ed. And I think Mr. Engel was a bit too macho for the girlie “Chicken Fat.” I remember Mr. Engel’s name because I had him for gym throughout elementary school, but when I got to junior high, there were two or three gym teachers per class which were divvied up by grade and sex. We were already too cool for “Chicken Fat,” and neither Presidents Johnson nor Nixon seemed like the type to be concerned about such a thing, but the teacher had us exercising to it anyway. And that’s my “Chicken Fat” memory. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZCHJd0JjpU
And that reminds me of failing gym in high school. How does one fail gym? You don’t go. And I didn’t go for no good reason, but I wound up having to take gym in summer school. It was great, believe it or not. The girls’ summer gym teacher was into tennis, and that’s what we did every day for eight weeks or so, weekends off, maybe Fridays too. And all the other girls were there because of no good reason, and if I wasn’t already friendly with them, we were nodding acquaintances. Accept for the girl I got paired up with that summer. I didn’t know who she was beforehand, and I don’t remember her name now. But we were so well matched physically and had a lot of very good games. I think we both improved our skills because of each other. After that, we had a nodding relationship. Maybe said hi now and then, but we always had that summer.
After morning tennis, I would meet Vicki’s sister during her lunch break from serving on the stage crew for the high school’s summer production of Oklahoma! We would meet each day, sit on the grass somewhere on school grounds and share a raspberry yogurt (they were bigger then, and had more fruit) and a can of coke. I’d go home and she’d go back to work. It was actually a good summer except for the horrible tan lines those stupid bloomer gym suits with their little cap sleeves left.
Remember the closing lines to the old, old TV series The Naked City – “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Well, there are eight million stories in my head. And this was just two or three.
Yeah, you heard me. Boz Scaggs. And I’m damn proud of it too. I’d never heard of him before this album, and didn’t run out and buy it, but I think I did purchase the cassette on purpose. I wasn’t a major Steve Miller fan, except for “Living in the USA,” which now makes me want a cheeseburger, and I just learned that’s where Scaggs has his roots.
Another entry for my most beautiful songs list is Scaggs’ “We’re All Alone,” but not so much Boz’s version but Rita Coolidge’s, as Coolidge has a purer voice and can easily hit the notes Scaggs strains for. Apparently the song was covered by Frankie Valli of Four Seasons fame (Jersey Boys for you young’uns) as well. I’ve never heard that version, nor do I think I want to. Silk Degrees was far from Boz’s debut album in 1976, but it was the one that we all heard of. In addition to “We’re All Alone,” which ends with a strangely disconnected piano piece that is like skipping through a garden, and “What Can I Say,” in which Boz actually sings the words “sock it to me,” (I guess that’s what he can say), is “Lowdown,” one of the coolest songs ever, along with every song on Rickie Lee Jones’ first album. If this were one of my old record albums, it would have made the workout list. Boz Scaggs is also still out there performing and just celebrated his 70th birthday.
I’d just like to say hello to Brazil.
As mentioned in my last post, I joined the WNEW-FM Fan Club. Members ask do you remember this or that. Right up my alley. Aside from my personal “Jenny said” moment (a la Lou Reed), discovering Lee Michaels and just the sound of Alison Steele’s voice, one of my favorite memories of WNEW was listening to Vin Scelsa on Sunday mornings. But am I memory melding here? Because I can find no reference to Vin, or Bayonne Butch as he referred to himself as having been on in the mornings. I have a distinct recollection of laying on the floor Sunday mornings, could be early afternoons, with the New York Times spread out around me, a cup of coffee, or perhaps tea, by my side and maybe an everything bagel with cream cheese and a slice of tomato. Yes, I bought and read the Sunday Times back then. Oh not all of it. Not even most of it. But more than the magazine section and the two crossword puzzles it offered. And I listened to Vin Scelsa on WNEW-FM. I swear I did. I know I’ve listened to him at night, and on another station, but if there wasn’t a Yankee game on, I was listening to Vin, his music, his views and the rather enjoyable Bayonne Butch Book Report. I still have the kazoo I won, well that everyone who entered the contest Vin held promoting an amusing, tuxedo-clad kazoo band won. First prize was tickets to see them and/or their album, plus a tuxedo and a kazoo. Second prize was the tuxedo and kazoo (you know I really wanted the tux), and third was the kazoo and an awfully swell note from Vin, which I’m sure is still around somewhere.
But mostly, I remember Me and Razoo Kelly, a couple of guys who’d write in weekly and tell Vin of their exploits, the letter always starting with the words “Me and Razoo Kelly.” I remember one time the writer referring to going to Shea Stadium (sorry but I will call it Mets Stadium before I call it Citifield or whatever it is these days), and it taking a fan an hour and a half to reach the foul ball that was hit into the stands. The Mets attendance was so poor then the empty seats became empty sections. The letters were funny, often thought-provoking and just a great way to spend a Sunday morning. But then my research on Vin led me to former WNEW DJ Richard Neer’s book FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio, in which Neer implies that the Me and Razoo Kelly letters were not sent to Vin mysteriously by a couple of anonymous fans, but were an invention of Scelsa’s. “They were also a clever way for the always rebellious Scelsa to cast his cynical eye on the rock scene and say things he couldn’t in his role as disc jockey,” Near writes in his book. While it certainly bursts my bubble now, as I do wonder now and then whatever happened to Me and Razoo Kelly, he fooled me then and I can only thank him for the entertainment, and for the kazoo.
When I started the more in depth research for the recent Mrs. Slick article, beyond what I had looked into for the posts on the two Jefferson Airplane albums in the A to Z exercise to album project, I was surprised to learn that Marty Balin was not just a founding member of the group, he was the founder. Paul Kantner always seemed to be the stronger personality, but it wasn’t him. It was particularly confusing to me as I have this distinct memory from the 1970 movie Gimme Shelter about the Altamont free concert, which was probably better known for the violent atmosphere than for the line-up that included The Jefferson Airplane and of course the Rolling Stones. Someone had the brilliant idea to hire the Hell’s Angels as security. That did not work out well. While the Airplane were playing, fans were getting beaten up and Marty Balin jumped off the stage into the crowd and was slugged by one of the security guards. This is the part that adds to my confusion of who the band’s founder was. Slick, on stage and pissed and/or shaken, says into the mike that they just beat up “my singer.” I’ll say no more, mostly because I don’t wish to discuss that fiasco that caused the death of a fan, any further.
In any case, Balin had the idea, from what I have read, to form a six piece band, five guys, one “girl,” that plays folk music with electric instruments. Looking for band members, Balin first approached Kantner, who came on board, then the rest was assembled. Grace Slick was their second “girl” singer, replacing the original who left the group to start a family. Slick stole the spotlight, but Balin was the leader and wrote most of the songs. I had read that Balin actually didn’t like Slick’s stage antics, nor her voice, and that Jorma Kaukonen didn’t like something or other that Balin was doing. Yes there was tension in the group, yet their voices and styles complemented each other. They were a bunch of wonderful musicians who made some great music there for a while. They started breaking up and Balin left the band and cut an album called Bodacious DF (who remembers the Snuffy Smiff theme song? I’ll start. Ar, ar, ar…) with another group, rejoined Kantner in the Jefferson Starship for a bit, as did Slick, had some hits and left again. Unlike Slick, Balin continues to perform, and Kantner is still with a revamped Airplane.
I recently joined the Facebook group WNEW-FM Fan Club, which is pretty enjoyable. Someone shared a Gibson Guitar article on the Top 50 Guitar Solos of All Time. Missing from it was Jorma’s “Embryonic Journey.” Also missing was Alvin Lee’s “Going Home” solo that was a highlight of the Woodstock movie. And now that I hear it again, Jorma on “We Should Be Together” from Surrealistic Pillow is really swell. But these kind of lists are just annoying. Who says, anyway?
That said, thinking back to all the albums and songs, how many times have I written that a particular song was the most beautiful song I had ever heard? Here is the list as I remember: Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” The Association’s “Cherish,” The Dave Clark Five’s “Because,” the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” and Marty Balin’s “Today” from Surrealistic Pillow. “Comin’ Back to Me” is nothing to sneeze at either, whatever that means. (I don’t have any Chicago albums, but honorable mention goes to “Color My World.”)
Remember my first dilemma when I found that the next album on deck to exercise to was George Carlin’s comedy album AM/FM? I’m reminded of that today as I try to express thanks to Dick Cavett for all he’s done for rock ‘n roll, and what he’s done for me as a rock fan. One of Carlin’s skits is an homage to Ed Sullivan, whom I have mentioned a number of times before for those of you who are too young to rememberT. Sullivan was important to rock ‘n roll, and while he looked like the proverbial stuffed shirt, he knew about the vast world of entertainment. He brought us Elvis and the Beatles and the Stones, and so many other groups that performed on his stage (now the stage on which David Letterman performs, at least until sometime next year) throughout the years he was on. And let’s not forget his role, his acting role in Bye Bye Birdie, in which the song “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” is an ode to him.
In Carlin’s bit called “Ed Sullivan Self Taught,” he talks about the fact that after 23 years on the air, The Ed Sullivan Show was canceled during summer reruns so nobody knew that the last show of that season was the last show ever. Carlin said: “I would’ve liked to have been there just to say ‘Thanks Ed.’ Thanks for all the crazy acts. Thanks for the Beatles…” Ed Sullivan allowed us to see our rock ‘n roll icons perform, as did the late Dick Clark and Johnny Carson, but Dick Cavett allowed us to talk to them, and have them talk to us using Cavett as a conduit. He brought us some of the biggest names in rock ‘n roll at the time, and while he didn’t look like a rocker himself, far from it, he came across as someone genuinely interested in the stories they had to tell. He didn’t just have them on once, have them perform their latest hits and leave, he had conversations many times with the likes of Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and John and Yoko. He listened and so did we. We got into their heads and they were happy to share. And the respect seemed mutual.
I have three specific Dick Cavett Show memories. First, there was the Woodstock show that featured guests The Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills and David Crosby (where Graham Nash was, I don’t know), during which Crosby said his astrological sign was Leo and Joni Mitchell remarked that he looked like a lion. Not a monumental memory, but it stuck in my head. There was another time when Jimi Hendrix couldn’t converse because he said he was tired and left. I thought he was just rude, but it turned out he was just very high, and Cavett had him back again for a more lively chat. This is not rock related, but Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), who had once been married to Woody Allen, was the guest and brought up that while married to Allen, Cavett would be a frequent dinner guest and he ate so slow that both Lasser and Allen would leave Cavett at the table still eating, and go watch television. I could relate. I too was once an excruciatingly slow eater, and would often find myself out for dinner with friends who would have moved on to dessert while I was still eating my main course. One of my friends had said that I was so thin because by the time I was done eating I was probably already fully digested. Also, going without dessert in favor of finishing my meal didn’t hurt.
Anyway, on behalf of rock ‘n roll fans everywhere, particularly we younger baby boomers, I’d like to say Thank You Dick Cavett. Thanks for the many wonderful conversations, and I loved you in Beetlejuice.