Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Bloodrock

It’s always pretty weird when you find out someone in your family is freaky.  Well, at least as freaky as you are.  It was quite a shock to think my big sister could be freaky, but what other conclusion could I come to – I found Bloodrock 2 in her bedroom.

Now back in the day, bands like Bloodrock along with their label- and touring-mates Grand Funk Railroad were pretty much reviled by the highbrow music critics.  Music by these bands was considered to be heavy music-lite, manufactured for a teenaged audience much like Hannah Montana and the Jonas Bros. music is today.  It was like teenagers of the early 1970s weren’t mature enough to handle Led Zeppelin or the Jefferson Airplane or Mountain – they needed their own music that was PG-13 (actually back then it was “M” – look it up).  Critics also said the same thing about Black Sabbath when they came out about this time – and look where Sabbath is now (the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).

Bloodrock came from Fort Worth, Texas, and they started out with lead singer Jim Rutledge and a guitar player named Dean Parks.  The band originally called itself The Naturals, then they were Crowd +1; in the late 1960s Parks left to become the musical director for Sonny and Cher’s TV show and he was replaced by guitarist Lee Pickens.  The band changed its name to Bloodrock around 1969 and they linked up with producer Terry Knight.

Now, Knight is the guy also behind Grand Funk – and a lot of Bloodrock’s music does resemble that of Grand Funk.  So … Bloodrock 2.  It came out in 1971, and it was a pretty solid representation of Bloodrock’s sound.  Except for this one song, “D.O.A.”  The song was famed (notorious) in its day, because it’s a spaced-out, first-person account of a grisly accident – it could be a train wreck, a plane crash or a horrific auto smashup, the lyrics never specify which.  The narrator (already dead, apparently) describes his injuries and that of his girlfriend in bloody detail, all while this freaky music and sirens wail in the background.  Far out!  Of course it was popular with stoners – and “D.O.A.” was a bit of a hit single.  Some radio stations refused to play the song because it could offend survivors of accidents (which accidents?  Any accidents, apparently) but the single still managed to get into the Top 40.

“D.O.A.” might have been the most notorious song on Bloodrock 2, but the rest of the album is pretty solid pop-rock of the era.  Drop the needle just about anywhere and you think you’re listening to early Grand Funk Railroad, but with better guitar work.  “Lucky In The Morning,” the album opener, is a pretty representative slice of this band’s work on its second album.  You can almost hear the stirrings of Styx in that organ riff – can’t you?  The album, with only eight tunes, might as well be a party record: “Children’s Heritage” could be playing in the background of any hip early 1970s gathering.  And the album wraps with “Fancy Space Odyssey,” which isn’t nearly as trippy as its title may suggest.

Bloodrock would put out albums for a few more years, Rutledge and Pickens would leave in 1972 and personnel shifts would prevail until the band finally hung it up in 1975.  Some of the guys still tour around and call themselves Bloodrock today. They were pretty popular in places like Texas and Arkansas; Bloodrock may not have been so well known in other parts of the country, I don’t know.  Looking back, I can see where this music was pretty much exactly what the hipper-than-thou scoffers said it was: teen-oriented rock.  But I was a teen in that era, and Bloodrock still sounds just great to me.

MP3: “Lucky In The Morning”

MP3: “Children’s Heritage”

MP3: “Fancy Space Odyssey”

MP3: “D.O.A.”

Bloodrock official website

9 Responses to “Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Bloodrock”

  1. When I was 11, back in 1971, my next door neighbor Russ Butler, who had more cool music (Doors, Zep, Grand Funk, etc.) than anyone I knew, was a big fan of this album and played it all the time as he washed his car or whatever outside. Eventually I talked my parents into buying it for me, and I still dig it out and listen to it to this day. Sure, it’s poor man’s Grand Funk, but it does rock in that early-70s white boy blues-rock way, and there’s not a dull track on the record.

    That said, I don’t recall early 70s blooz-rock types Bloodrock, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and the like being dismissed for being “lite”-ish, Jonas Bros. bubblegum-like fare, especially in favor of Led Zep, of all people, who were critical whipping boys from day one. Maybe it’s because we’re from different necks of the woods, don’t know. I think most of these bands got dismissed pretty equally back then.

  2. 30daysout Says:

    Johnny, after your comment I thought maybe I may have overstated the backlash issue against bands like Bloodrock, Grand Funk and Sabbath … or maybe I had a faulty memory. But I went back a bit to look for other documentation and found this: http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/bloodrock/albums/album/208691/review/5944379/bloodrock_3

    It’s a review of Bloodrock’s third LP by Chet Flippo in Rolling Stone, and he mentions this critical blacklist – and mentions all three of the above bands! But he calls them the “heavy renaissance.” Honestly, I don’t think I recall who these boys thought were so much better – it couldn’t have been Zeppelin, as you correctly point out.

    Yeah, I think it may have been worse in some parts of the country but it was there in some form, and the Flippo item somewhat weakly supports my memory. Does anyone else have a recollection of this?

  3. Ha! Well, sure enough, can’t argue with that. I suppose as far as I go, though, it just seemed like all the cool older kids listened to these bands, and others…but they were 18 and younger, and I was 11-12. So there’s that!

  4. 30daysout Says:

    I think the thing we should leave it with is that it’s pretty telling that we can’t remember who those “cool” bands were from the era, but everybody recalls Grand Funk and Bloodrock. Rock on!

  5. The same Dean Parks who dominated the session scene in the late 70’s, early 80’s?

  6. 30daysout Says:

    Yeah, the same one … amazing, eh? Parks played on a bunch of Steely Dan sessions and did the guitar melody line on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Why wouldn’t he stay with a band that would later become Bloodrock? Guess he did OK anyway.

  7. I seem to remember that Bloodrock played my High School’s Senior Prom when I was a soph. I wasn’t in attendance that night but I think my older siblings were. DOA was ‘heavy’ to me back then.

  8. Bloodrock started out as a band called Fancy Space, and the song Fancy Space Odyssey is the story of their beginnings in a club in Ft. Worth, TX called The Cellar, which naturally was upstairs. I saw them many times there. The lyrics tell the story: “What A Show, What A Show” is what the MC would always yell. ” Watching the wall that’s watching us all,” refers to the wall opposite the bandstand that had a huge eye painted on it. “Artificial rockout” referred to the fact that the place was notorious for serving fake liquor…in other words, no alcohol. “Dancing in a strobe light” refers to the girls dancing…in a strobelight. “Cushion” refers to the fact that the floor in front of the bandstand was covered in pillows and cushions. “As the sun slowly rises in the east, AMF adios motherf*****,” is what the MC would say when the club was closing.
    If you stayed past midnight, the girls would completely strip, and a watch was posted at the head of the stairs. If a cop showed up, the watchman would wave a flashlight, and the girl would get away before they were caught.

  9. Wow, Mike, thanks for the background info! I always liked that song.

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