Archive for Grand Funk Railroad

Back To Black: Headphone LPs

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2012 by 30daysout

Koss headphones and a porn star mustache got the chicks every time.

Way back in the dark ages (the 1970s) I’d heard that a few albums sounded really great on headphones. Well, my parents had a stereo but we didn’t have headphones. They cost about $12 apiece then, which in today’s dollars would likely be a monthly mortgage payment.

So I borrowed a couple of albums from my good friend Randy Fuller and took ‘em home to experience “true stereo.” My homemade headphones substitute was putting two stereo speakers on the floor facing each other then turning them out at about a 45 degree angle, just enough to slip a pillow and my stupid head in between.

With the volume set real low, it was a great substitute – until a little brother sneaked into the room and jacked it up to threshold of pain level. I still hate those guys.

Back in the day, one used to see magazine ads like this.

Anyway, with Record Store Day approaching, I thought I’d pull out a handful of my favorite “headphone” LPs and give ‘em a spin. These records were best listened to on those big clunky headphones, like the kind the Koss company used to make. You really got good spatial separation and a sense of true depth by listening to rock albums over headphones, and they were great soundtracks to some, ah, chemical stimulation. Or so I have been told.

For me, the granddaddy of all headphone LPs was Fragile by Yes (1971), which was one of the albums I borrowed from Randy back then. It was the group’s fourth album and the first with new keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and these prog-rockers really explored the studio space. “Long Distance Runaround” and “Roundabout” got a lot of radio airplay, but hearing those songs on AM radio really didn’t do them justice. The extended jam “Heart of the Sunrise” would usually send me into space or more accurately, a deep sleep.

The progressive rockers were great for headphone music: Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973), Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues (1967) and In The Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson (1969) are classics. Randy likes Pink Floyd’s Animals (1977) for its crossing, slashing guitars and in 1976 I went for Rush and 2112, considered by many a headphones classic.

Randy remembers Quadrophenia by the Who (1973) as a nice headphone experience, and I always used to go for Electric Warrior by T. Rex (1971). And for some reason: Phoenix by Grand Funk Railroad (1972) got a lot of headphone mileage, but maybe I was just too lazy to take it off the turntable. And let’s not forget: Abbey Road by the Beatles (1969), Ram by Paul and Linda McCartney (1971) and Best of Spirit (1973), all favorites of mine.

Our memory wavelengths converge on one act who always sounded great in stereo: The Firesign Theatre. Not musicians, this was a comedy troupe whose medium was the stereo album. Their stuff is multi-tracked and brilliant, and you can listen to their setpieces over and over again just like a great rock song. Their very best albums – Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers (1970) and Everything You Know Is Wrong (1974) are rich experiences on headphones, but hands down their best for special effects and stereo is the futuristic I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus (1971).

Look at me, going on about all this stuff. I could talk about old records and music all day. And there’s a perfect day to do just that: Record Store Day, April 21 this year. Go out to your independent music store, grab up some special vinyl and see how many people are music freaks just like you and me.

MP3: “Long Distance Runaround” by Yes (from Fragile)

MP3: “Planet Queen” by T. Rex (from Electric Warrior)

MP3: “Flight Of The Phoenix” by Grand Funk Railroad (from Phoenix)

MP3: “A Passage To Bangkok” by Rush (from 2112)

MP3: “Sheep” by Pink Floyd (from Animals)

MP3: “The Breaking Of The President” by the Firesign Theatre (from I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus)

Sex, Drugs and …

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by 30daysout

There’s a new movie out, Get Him To The Greek, which is kind of a rock and roll road movie.  Jonah Hill plays a low-level record company executive charged with babysitting a decadent rock star, played by British comedian Russell Brand.  It’s pretty amusing and fairly entertaining (Brand plays Aldous Snow, reprising his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and as you can imagine it gets all Serious and Introspective at the end.

Although this is a wild comedy, the movie does offer a fairly accurate peek behind the curtains of the rock and roll machinery – or at least, the parts of the machinery that still survive.  A crushing economic reality has smothered the excesses of the music business, and the world you see in Get Him To The Greek doesn’t really exist any more, if it ever did.  But as I said, it’s a comedy …

The film also toys with the idea of what it takes for a person to be a so-called “rock star.”  The characterization of Aldous Snow reinforces the general consensus that rock stars are also insecure, immature and sometimes lonely – just like the rest of us!

After seeing the movie with my son I told him this story: in the 1970s, the Who came through Houston on one of their tours.  There was this party thrown by record execs and the band was supposed to be there but I didn’t see any of the Who for the entire time I was at this party.  Anyhow, I was leaving and trying to find my way out when I came to a large usher dude standing in a doorway.  As he pointed to the exit, I peered into the darkness behind him.

It was a small little room, created by those portable room dividers and inside the room was a “Tommy” pinball machine.  And standing alone, quietly intent on the pinball game, was Roger Daltrey.  All by himself, in a dark alcove, while a big happy party raged just steps away.  That was one little peek into the “real”  life of a rock star, protected and kept in the darkness until it was time for the spotlights to be turned on once again.

MP3: “Turn The Page” by Bob Seger

MP3: “Going Up” by Infant Sorrow

MP3: “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh

MP3: “Star Star” by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “The Clap” by Infant Sorrow

MP3: “What’s Your Name” (live) by Lynyrd Skynyrd

MP3: “We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad

MP3: “Real Good Looking Boy” by the Who

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Bloodrock

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , on December 5, 2009 by 30daysout

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.

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Your Big Sister’s (Record) Rack

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on August 29, 2009 by 30daysout

tn2_almost_famous_4

In the movie Almost Famous, the main character William is a teenager who inherits his rebellious sister’s record collection around 1970.  You know what happens: he listens and the music he hears helps to shape his world, his future and his career.  What a sister – she was played by Zooey Deschanel, after all – she left her brother some really primo stuff.

But that’s the movies.  What did your big sister, or big brother, have in their bedrooms back when you were a kid?  (Uh, I mean music.)  Thank god I didn’t have big brother or sister (I was the oldest; I was that dude, man) but I suspect that elder sibling’s record collection wasn’t as quality as William’s sister’s stack.  She had the Who’s Tommy along with the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, some Stones, some Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love … and the Mothers of Invention!

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