Life at 33 1/3
By Carl Meyer
Betrayal and redemption
Slade, Sladest (Polydor)
Powell (left) of Slade in Norway in 1973.
1971 - Grisly times for people like me who had
grown up with the UK charts and still tried to
stay updated on the latest hits and trends. All
my old heroes preferred albums now, and so did
I. But albums were expensive. The 45 was more
accessible for youngsters without regular
income, and the format still possessed some of
its old magic, even if it was waning fast.
We were subjected to ordeals. In the summer
1971, when I was in London for the first time,
the ordeals were called Middle Of The Road,
Sweet (in “Co-Co” mode), New World, White
Plains, Dawn, New Seekers. Disgusting stuff,
they sounded like Coca Cola ads and looked the
part, brainless smiles and all. The teenyboppers
who turned these nobodies into stars and the hit
parade into a pile of garbage, were actually
destroying the idea of the vinyl single as a
work of art. Civilization as we know it was on
the brink of collapse.
But there were glimmers of hope. Like T. Rex
blasting from all the jukeboxes I came across
during my few weeks in London. I bought their
transitional album, “T. Rex”. And when I
returned to Norway, I quickly purchased the
hit-singles “Hot Love” and “Get It On” too.
T. Rex were the real thing. But even with his
elf-like looks Marc Bolan was an old hero. He’d
been in the game for years. I already had a
couple of the Tyrannosaurus Rex-albums,
hippie-folksongs for Tolkien-heads. Bolan was
one of the rare species, an established artist
focusing on hit-singles while the rest of his
peers had abandoned the format. Singles were for
kids. Albums ruled.
There was another group doing good business on
the jukeboxes of London too. Slade. They were
new to me and looked funny with their short
haircuts, but their singer sounded like a cross
between a chiming alarm and a bull being skinned
alive, they made a lot of noise and played real
rock ’n’ roll. “Get Down And Get With It” was
stomping around in the lower regions of the Top
20, it made an impression. I bought that single
too when I got back home.
Slade were genuine. They sounded fresh and
angry. And even better, I had never seen any
albums by them. I thought this single was their
debut. (It wasn’t, it was their fifth, and they
already had two albums out, but they both
bombed, so I was excused.)
I was on their case now, and the sequel “Coz I
Luv You” convinced me. Slade had more to them
than foot stomping, hollering and electric
guitars. This tune was quirky, playful and
shamelessly catchy in a Beatles sort of way. And
so was the next one, “Look Wot You Dun”.
By now I should have been a fan, but
unfortunately, I was also a patronising snob.
With the group’s enormous breakthrough among the
treacherous teenyboppers, I raised myself above
the group just as I raised myself above T. Rex.
No way I was gonna be caught supporting the same
teams as the silly little girls and boys did.
Slade and T. Rex weren’t cool anymore, they
dominated the front pages of all the glossy teen
mags. I was a fool, my prejudice clouded my eyes
and ears, even more so when the daily newspapers
started comparing the popularity of Slade and T.
Rex with Beatlemania.
Beatlemania it was not. That could never happen
again. I was annoyed. The painful break-up of
The Beatles was still too close for comfort, the
wounds had not yet healed. And now those
unworthy upstarts claimed their throne. How dare
Consequently, I ignored Slade’s most intense
scream, stomp and yell phase, I didn’t care to
investigate, it was all teenybopper-trash to me,
the idiot side of glam. This was 1972. The year
of classic albums like “Exile On Main St.”,
“Machine Head”, “Harvest”, “Manassas”, “Roxy
Music”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Close To The Edge”,
“Black Sabbath Vol. 4”, “Rock Of Ages”,
“Foxtrot”, “Transformer”, and “Made In Japan”.
Go away with your “Crazeee Mamas” and silly top
hats. It took me a full year to come to my
senses. An embarrassing moment. How could I have
missed out on the marvellous power pop of
“Gudbuy T’Jane”, one of the singles of ’72?
By Christmas 1973 everything was different. With
“Merry Xmas Everybody” Slade delivered a rousing
ending to a year that had restored The Beatles
to their former glory with two massive million
sellers, the red and the blue compilations,
“1962-1966” and “1967-1970”. George had done
good business during summer with “Living In The
Material World”, and now Ringo surprised
everyone with “Ringo”, bringing all four
ex-Beatles together again on one album (not on
the same song, however). And Paul finally hit
back after two years of struggle, with “Band On
The Run”. Hell, I even started to like Slade
again, playing their Christmas-anthem to death.
My appreciation of Slade got a new boost in 1974
with the fabulous “Far Far Away”. By then they
were slowly sliding, losing their grip on the
teens. They were learning: Never trust a
teenybopper, they leave you cold when they turn
“Merry Xmas Everybody” probably is the greatest
Yuletide pop single of all time, it’s impossible
to dislike. The fact that I had met the group a
couple of weeks before its release made it even
easier to cave in. Slade visited Norway in
November 1973, playing for a packed indoor
stadium in Oslo. I had the pleasure of
interviewing them for a daily newspaper, and
they appeared to be a very likeable, down to
earth bunch, even forgiving me for having
dismissed them as teenybop fodder: “That’s OK”,
said Noddy, patting me on my head, “we wouldn’t
have liked us either. If we were you, that is.”
I think I was forgiven.
They had a new album out, “Sladest”, a summary
of their career so far. It was my first
Slade-LP. I played it a lot in the coming years
while Slade’s star on teenage heaven slowly
faded, and I became increasingly fond of songs
that had owned 1972 and 1973, but had eluded me:
“Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, “Gudbuy T’Jane,”
“Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Skweeze Me Pleeze
Me”. They were all included on this 14 track
collection, along with my early Slade favourites
from before I betrayed them, “Get Down And Get
With It,” “Coz I Luv You” and “Look Wot You
In addition to these seven classics, the album
offered the transitional hit “Take Me Bak ‘Ome”
(which I’ve never liked), and the three early
misses, “Wild Winds Are Blowing”, “Know Who You
Are” and “The Shape Of Things To Come”, plus
three cleverly picked album tracks. A superb
package and an excellent introduction to a band
that deserved far more honour than they were
given by the critics, contemporary musicians and
people like me.
“Sladest” also contains numerous examples of
what a wonderful song-writing team Noddy Holder
and Jim Lea was.
Slade and T. Rex held the fort during the
difficult years 1971-72 when pop music faded
away, apparently to be reborn as Tony Orlando.
And when T. Rex started running out of fuel,
Slade soldiered on through 1973, spearheading
the rehabilitation of the pop single. Suddenly
it was all fun again.
So let’s drink to Slade. Unassuming,
unpretentious and damned strong on what it’s all
about: Electric guitars, a voice drugged on
life, and choruses made of superglue.
Released: September 28, 1973
Produced by: Chas Chandler
Contents: Cum on Feel the Noize/ Look
Wot You Dun/ Gudbuy T’Jane/ One Way Hotel/
Skweeze Me Pleeze Me/ Pouk Hill/ The Shape of
Things to Come/ Take Me Bak ‘Ome/ Coz I Luv You/
Wild Winds are Blowing/ Know Who You Are/ Get
Down and Get With It/ Look at Last Nite/ Mama
Weer All Crazee Now.
Noddy Holder – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Dave Hill – lead guitar
Jim Lea – bass guitar, violin on “Coz I Luv You”
Don Powell – drums
No crisis after all
Supertramp, Crisis? What Crisis? (A&M)
A photo of the scribe taken in Paris minutes
before the Orient Express left for Venice with Supertramp and a couple of
very thirsty Norwegian journalists onboard.
“Crime Of The Century” is a brilliant album, and gave
Supertramp the commercial breakthrough that key members Roger Hodgson and
Rick Davies had been struggling for through five frustrating and sometimes
very miserable years. They’d been down in the deepest valleys, especially on
a disastrous tour in Norway where they lost most of their equipment. It’s to
their credit that they kept going as the future on frequent occasions must
have looked very dim.
Then suddenly, with “Crime Of The Century” everything fell into place. In
September 1974 I was present at the launch in one of London’s small theatres
where they performed the entire album “live”. I was utterly impressed.
By early summer 1975 their record company started pushing for a sequel. They
wanted it released well before Christmas. Not very good news for a band that
had been touring non-stop, and if anything needed a rest. Supertramp was by
now a highly successful unit, and they probably should have refused, but
they didn’t. So in the summer of 1975 they duly entered the A&M studios in
Los Angeles without a single new song to record.
They had no other option but to go through their own waste bins, checking
out discarded material, leftovers and outtakes from the “Crime Of The
Century”-sessions. And this would become “Crisis? What Crisis? “. Actually
there wasn’t even enough material to fill a complete album, so Rick Davis
and Roger Hodgson were forced to write two new songs on the spot.
The group members have never talked nicely about the album. It was a
nightmare to record, and lacked both the cohesion and quality songs that
made “Crime Of The Century” such an impressive work. But the sleeve is
striking, it’s both funny and scary, carrying a message that is just as
valid today as it was 40 years ago.
To be fair, the music has stood the test of time surprisingly well. Their
keyboard-driven prog light with its airy coat of pop has an immediate appeal
to it, boosted even more by the way the two singers’ very different voices
are blended; Davis scruffy and worn, Hodgson bright, almost childish.
The album is very playable on lazy summer mornings. I have a weak spot for
“A Soapbox Opera”. Neither of the single releases - “Lady” and “Ain’t Nobody
But Me” (one of the two new songs) - were hits. But the album sold well
enough, and quite a few of the tracks became fan favourites when performed
Hodgson still plays songs from the album, and they lose none of their appeal
when performed solo, just him and his electric piano. Check on YouTube.
Supertramp never tried to make a new “Crime Of The Century”. They were going
somewhere else, working their way step by step towards the airy and elegant
“Breakfast In America”. To get there they had to shake off some of their
more pretentious habits. Probably not to Rick Davies’ liking as the band
relapsed after Hodgson left them in 1983. Davis now being the group’s sole
writer, took them on a trip to nowhere called “Brother Where You Bound”.
That album was premiered for the press in May 1985 on a chartered train ride
from Paris to Venice with the Orient Express. I was there too. Rick Davis
neither liked me nor my Norwegian colleague. We laughed too much, and kept
hiding in the bar every time they tried to play the record. Don’t think they
ever got through a single track as they had problems with the electricity.
In Venice, introducing the pretentious and extremely tedious 30 minute video
made to accompany the album, Davis uttered these angry words:
- And to the Norwegian journalists I just want to say: This is not a comedy!
And it wasn’t.
Released: September 14, 1975
Produced by: Ken Scott and Supertramp.
Contents: Easy Does It/Sister Moonshine/Ain’t Nobody But Me/A Soapbox
Opera/Another Man’s Woman/Lady/Poor Boy/Just a Normal Day/The Meaning/Two of
Rick Davies – vocals, keyboards
John Anthony Helliwell – wind instruments, vocals
Roger Hodgson – vocals, guitars, keyboards
Bob C. Benberg – drums, percussion
Dougie Thomson – bass
Under the spell of Zelda Plum
Juicy Lucy, Juicy Lucy (Vertigo)
Record sleeves were important back in the old days when
you were 17, browsing through the albums at the local second-hand store, the
miserable amount of cash you could raise burning in your pocket. Some of the
city’s aging music journalists who despised progressive and alternative rock
must have been regular customers, as you could come across brand new records
that had just been reviewed in recent editions of New Musical Express and
Melody Maker. The albums had hardly been played, you could strike gold in
I was a sucker for cool experimental labels like Harvest, Island, Deram,
Charisma and - yes, perhaps the coolest of them all - Vertigo. The early
releases on these labels took you on a trip into the mystic. And the music
was always wrapped in those incredible gatefold sleeves.
Vertigo was introduced to the world in the autumn of 1969. “Juicy Lucy” was
their second release, and you simply couldn’t ignore it. Not with that
sleeve. It probably should have been X-rated. Both the Dutch and the US
versions came in a moderated sleeve design, choosing a less explicit version
of burlesque dancer Zelda Plum and her assorted fruits.
Luckily it was the UK edition that ended up in my local second-hand shop in
Oslo, Norway. And there she lay, Zelda Plum, the ageing dancer in the nude,
slightly covered up in fruits, the juices running down her thighs, eyeing me
under dark and heavy and very English makeup, with a playful expression on
her face. She triggered fantasies of submission and abuse. I was 17 and
Juicy Lucy. What a band name, what a sleeve! I just had to own it. I shall
not dwell too much on the sleeve’s different areas of utilisation, it’s
after all the music that counts. And luckily it was just as dirty and
hard-hitting as I had hoped for. The original British blues boom was fading
by 1969, being replaced by a harder version, still in transition on its way
towards what we now would call heavy rock, the blues fingerprints still
highly visible (as can be heard on the first two Zeppelin-albums, both
released in 1969), and it was getting quite common for groups to take
detours down the side roads to what we now call Americana.
The British electric blues was opening up, some got tougher, some got
rootsier, they didn’t quite know where they were going. That’s what makes
the best recordings from this period so fascinating.
Juicy Lucy’s debut album was a remarkable fresh statement then, and still
is. It sounds very American, gritty, traces of the Deep South, some
blistering guitar performances, the kind that makes your fingers bleed. The
ultimate teaser is the album’s hit single, their version of Bo Diddley’s
“Who Do You Love”, three absolutely sensational minutes where the
combination of Glenn Ross Campbell’s breakneck slide and Ray Owens
bloodcurdling grunt of a voice (Captain Beefheart meets Screamin ‘Jay
Hawkins) delivers savagery times ten.
Californian Campbell already was a cult hero at the time as he had led the
highly influential psychedelic rock band The Misunderstood, that moved to
London in 1966 and had John Peel as their manager. The Misunderstood
unfortunately lived up to their name when it came to commercial success and
eventually disbanded. Campbell then started Juicy Lucy and immediately
became their center-point on stage, thanks to his wild gymnastics on the lap
steel guitar. Search for “Who Do You Love” on YouTube, and you will see what
Of the album’s nine songs, six were written by the band members while the
three covers were picked from Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Miles. It’s
Americana, sometimes with a brutal punch and a snake bite to it, other times
looser, even laidback as in the mandolin-tinged and swampy “Just On Time”
(check out that wonderful, slow swaying horn solo). The album’s longest
track, “Are You Satisfied?”, is also the quietest, a vibrant, slow simmering
mantra, half unplugged, that puts you into a trance-like condition, ready
for Zelda Plum.
The band members play multiple instruments, so Campbell’s signature slide
doesn’t own the soundscape alone (he doubles on mandolin and marimbas),
their keyboard player also blows the saxophone and they got another guitar
player too. But they stay close to the roots at all times, the dust roads
and the swamps of the Mississippi Delta, masterly re-created and preserved
in a recording studio in London in 1969.
A phenomenal debut album. The sequel “Lie Back And Enjoy It”, is not
inferior, but Juicy Lucy was a completely different band by then. People
left and were replaced fast as lightning early in 1970.
Released: October 1, 1969
Produced by: Gerry Bron and Nigel Thomas.
Contents: “Mississippi Woman” (Juicy Lucy, Ray Owen)/”Who Do You
Love?” (Bo Diddley)/”She’s Mine” (Ellis, Thomas)/”She’s Yours” (Ellis,
Thomas)/”Just One Time” (Hubbard, Campbell)/”Chicago North-Western”
(Hubbard, Campbell)/ “Train” (Buddy Miles, Rich)/”Nadine” (Chuck Berry)/”Are
You Satisfied?” (Dobson, Mercer, Thomas)
Ray Owen - lead vocals
Chris Mercer - saxophone, organ, piano
Neil Hubbard - electric and acoustic guitars
Glenn Ross Campbell - steel guitar, backing vocals, mandolin, marimba
Keith Ellis - bass, backing vocals
Pete Dobson - drums, percussion
The fine line between love and disgust
Randy Newman, Good Old Boys (Reprise)
cleverly seductive satire and deadly accurate irony has never, before or
after, been given better working conditions than in the sweet sounding songs
on “Good Old Boys.”
The music takes you down memory lane, strolling along the dusty roads of the
Deep South with a soft smile on its face, led by Newman’s playful ragtime
syncopations on the piano. The mood is nostalgic, recreating times and
places when there was no rush and a man’s value was measured by the colour
of his skin, his bank account and his connections within the all white
political system. “N***er” was just a word, as common in everyday life as
“lynching”. Idyllic times. For some.
Randy enters the characters he portrays (with a slight “southern drawl”),
poor whites and governors alike, and turns them into likeable, sympathetic
individuals, until the views they so casually share with the listener start
sinking in. The effect is absolutely terrifying. The marvellous opening
track “Rednecks” sets the mood. It’s the most scary song you’ll ever love.
What impresses me even more is how Newman actually manages to communicate
both a knowledge of and respect for the traditions and values of The South
that has nothing to do with segregation. These are proud people in pain, he
seems to be saying. Time has left them behind, their world is dying, only
their crippled views on life survive. Newman walks a fine line between love
and disgust, and it is some achievement that he succeeds.
As Randy’s journey through the mentality, the prejudices and the ideas of
the white “Deep South” is so lovingly formulated and pleasantly conveyed, it
appears even more vivid and real. I know of no other album that is as funny
and scary simultaneously.
“Good Old Boys” doesn’t leave the listener back in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
With an acidic twinkle in its eye it takes us all the way to the
contemporary United States of 1974, in the wake of the downfall of President
Nixon, the nation still shaken and in shame.
There are many beautiful moments here, but Newman wouldn’t be Newman if he
didn’t inject them with hints of discomfort. As in the two drunkard’s
laments “Marie” and “Guilty”, the latter includes puny doses of self-pity as
well. Sweet songs with a dark twist to them.
The name list of musicians participating on this record is highly
impressive: Ry Cooder, Eagles, Jim Keltner, Willie Weeks, Andy Newmark and
Al Perkins to name a few. But they are used with caution, the arrangements
are stripped down and very organic.
“Good Old Boys” was definitely one of the albums of the year in 1974, and it
has proven to be so durable that it still shines, equally valid, equally
frightening, equally funny and, dear I say it, equally beautiful. Thank you
Released: September 10, 1974
Produced by: Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman
(All songs written and composed by Randy Newman except where noted)
Contents: Rednecks/Birmingham/Marie/Mr. President (Have Pity on
the Working Man)/Guilty/Louisiana 1927/Every Man a King (Huey P. Long,
Castro Carazo)/Kingfish/Naked Man/Wedding in Cherokee County/Back on My Feet
Randy Newman - arranger, conductor, acoustic and electric piano,
Ry Cooder - bottleneck guitar on “Back on My Feet Again”
John Platania - electric guitar
Ron Elliott - acoustic guitar
Dennis Budimir - acoustic guitar
Al Perkins - pedal steel guitar
Russ Titelman - bass
Willie Weeks - bass
Red Callender - bass
Jim Keltner - drums
Andy Newmark - drums
Bobbye Hall Porter - percussion
Milt Holland - percussion
Glenn Frey - background vocals
Don Henley - background vocals
Bernie Leadon - background vocals