Rolled another number for the road. A perfect shot snapped by photographer Henry Diltz with his right hand as he takes the joint from album cover artist Gary Burden who hasn’t yet exhaled. Neil Young, way stoned, probably rolled the reefer. Or I hope he did, anyway. It’s somewhere in rural California, no doubt, sometime in the 70s. Diltz is still very lively and kicking and posts stuff like this on Facebook regularly, incredible photographs and memories of west coast rock’n’roll in the 60s and 70s. Gary Burden died a couple years ago, he did most of the Neil Young albums until Zuma, I think (I’m really aging myself here) and his list of album cover credits is like a playlist of early 70’s FM radio here in LA. I assume the three of them are on their way to a photo shoot.
Think I’ll roll another number for the road, Neil sang, feeling able to get under any load. Though his feet weren’t on the ground, he’d been standing’ on the sound of some open-hearted people goin’ down. I remember, as a teen, having no clue what the hell those last lines meant. Years later, stoned, it dawned on me. Years after that, unstoned, I was finally able to parse it grammatically. Closure.
In 1957 a Philadelphia teenager in black top, black jeans and black boots howls like a wild animal at an Elvis Presley concert. Rock’n’roll had been unleashed. Elvis did a few quick tours that year and they were apparently frenzied affairs, Elvis and his band getting down, the audiences getting crazy. In one city the audience stormed the stage after the the last song and dismantled it, tore it apart. Ha. The problem with going to an Elvis concert is you can get killed, a reporter wrote. This chick has the right idea. And a couple decades later twenty something me would have been drawn to twenty something her like a moth to flame, of course. Must be the Irish in me.
I was born in Long Branch, New Jersey the day before this photo was snapped. I had newborn baby long black sideburns. My rock’n’roll crazed uncle—leather jacket, ducktail, the whole seventeen year old greaser look—brought all his similarly attired hoodlum buddies down to the maternity ward to see his nephew Elvis. They raised hell singing Elvis songs and making Elvis moves until the nurses scooted them out and they drove off in their fifties car to raise hell along the Jersey Shore. I suppose it was an omen.
Picked up this album from 1973 in the back room at Rockaway probably twenty some years ago. Sale day and everything in that room was 75% off and nothing had been over three bucks anyway. This was the nadir of vinyl, everyone was buying CDs and most records weren’t worth much of anything anymore. Those were good days. I’d go full nerd in there, walk out with a stack of records for less than $50. Jazz to die for, nearly all of it mint or unopened. Rock albums people now pay ridiculous money for. Country they couldn’t give away (I remember getting a whole stack of classic Buck Owens in flawless condition for less than a buck a piece). And all kinds of music from all over the world. When records are under a buck you really can’t lose buying whatever. This was one of those. Probably paid six bits for it, unopened. I had never heard it, and his name was only vaguely and very distantly a memory and I had no idea from when or where or how. Later at home I put it on the turntable. This tune caught my ear. Listened to it again. Again. The liner notes gave an interesting backstory, how he’d lived in Liberia for a couple years and this was a conversation he’d heard on the local bus, hence “Overheard”. I put it aside and played some other records, then later went back and played the tune again. And again. And again again. I bet I listened to it—just this song—a dozen times in a couple days. And I just now listened to it now three times in a quick row. Weird how some songs get into your ear and under your skin like that, and you find’ll yourself hearing it from memory at odd times forever after, and have no idea why.
Just love this, Terry Reid—I so dig his voice and guitar playing, both unique as hell—performing ”Dean” at Glastonbury Fayre in 1971. He’s got David Lindley (Kaleidoscope had called it a day in 1970), and that’s Alan White laying down an incredibly loose unYes groove on the traps, and just as the tune is ending a thoroughly psychedelicized Linda Lewis wanders up on stage and carries it along tripping another four minutes (of which she remembers nothing, she confessed later, but she did remember dancing with a tree.) I never did understand why Terry Reid never made it, I suppose his thing was just a little too off center, his groove a little too serpentine and scratchy, even for those days. Oh well, rock’n’roll. This is from the Glastonbury Fayre documentary, which if not Nicholas Roeg’s finest moment is one of those incredibly hippie things with lots of naked muddy way out people way out on acid, and lots of way out great music. Even extremely way out music. Apparently they never got round to tell us who’s playing what, not even band names, which will drive you slightly nuts, but subtities are for squares anyway.
Alas, in the year since writing this, the clip from Glastonbury Fayre has been removed from YouTube, and hence I never posted this. It seemed a shame to throw out such a nice little piece, though, and now someone has posted the audio recording from the Glastonbury documentary so here that clip is. The still is from the film. I heartily recommend purchasing a copy of the film, though. It’s no Woodstock as far as production quality goes, but it still a pretty amazing document.
The 400,000 people at Woodstock were still antsy, high and loud after Santana’s starmaking performance, but the crew didn’t dare put another electric band on stage till the weather settled down. That upstate New York weather. John Sebastian was hanging around back stage just tripping on the acid he’d dosed somehow, when Chip Monck—that’s his voice, introducing him—told him he needed to play. John, way too buzzed, said no. He hadn’t even brought a guitar with him. Not even an autoharp. Someone handed him Tim Hardin’s guitar. (Tim didn’t make the cut for the movie so his guitar is as close as he got to Woodstock movie stardom that day.) Darling Be Home Soon is one of Lovin’ Spoonful’s classics, a hit you don’t hear on the classic rock stations, one of those earnest folkie things, like a Simon and Garfunkel tune, overly arranged, a loud horn section, perfect grammar and sweet melody, rhyming dawdled with toddled and with an unforgettable hook in the melody. He begins the song and the crowd cheers, like they’d been hoping that he’d sing it, and within a few seconds the vast throng is hushed, swaying slightly with the rhythm, quiet as a church, listening to the words, just John Sebastian and a guitar and a melody and the 400,000 people not making a sound. Go, he sings, and beat your crazy head against the sky, the melody somehow soaring like a big rock band, try and see beyond the houses and your eyes, it’s OK to shoot the moon, which a half century later sounds a little clumsy, but in the summer of 1969 in a sea of 400,000 heads and hippies it must’ve sounded like pure poetry, and it wasn’t until he sang the last few words that you can hear the sounds of 400,000 stoned people again, their cheers like waves rolling in from the deep to inundate the stage.
Present at the creation. Well, slightly after the creation, but still way early. Dig all the long hair, the band’s and the audience. Tommy’s is the hippiest. Johnny takes care of his. And everyone looks so nice. Rock’n’roll was still very nice in 1976. It had probably never been nicer. Nice people, nice music. I don’t think anyone had a clue about what was to erupt in a year. Punk rock—were we even calling it that yet?—was still a college kid thing. Not a drop out thing or a fuck up thing or a this close to being put away psycho thing. And it looks like somebody was recording the show on the state of the art portable recording machines (I’d say recorders instead of recording machines but recorders were still those inexpensive little woodwinds that hippies drove us up the wall with). The cassette he recorded would have sounded like he’d recorded inside a blender. Unlistenable. He probably still has it somewhere, Ramones scrawled across it in ball point pen, the venue and the date. Sometimes he finds it in a junk drawer and remembers.
Ronnie Hawkins, RIP. How he made it to 87 the Lord only knows. An genuwine Arkansas rockabilly cat who moved to Canada figuring rightly they were dying up there for the real stomping thing, his fiercely rockin’ 1963 take on the Bo Diddley classic Who Do You Love was one of the very last rockabilly hits. Listening now, though, you can hear how his raw Arkansas sound (played by his crack Canadian bands) was heading well into the tough bluesier rock’n’roll starting to bubble and boil in roadhouses and bars in the States and Britain in the sixties. That nasty guitar here I think was Roy Buchanan, who, like Robbie Robertson afterward, had a sound much shaped by hard years playing in Ronnie’s gritty fired up bands. This wasn’t art, this was rock’n’roll. Just play yer asses off and give the people a show.
Just to age myself even more, I got that Spirit box set which includes the first four albums plus another album and a soundtracks and singles, outtakes and whatever else they could squeeze on five discs. Hot damn this shit is good. Always loved these guys. Poor bastards were not big enough to be really popular but too big to be considered a cult band. Spirit were the band whose manager cancelled their Woodstock appearance so they could play a high school auditorium in nearby Binghamton. Well, they got paid for playing Binghamton, there was that. But imagine playing a set to a few hundred people when you were could have been playing for hundreds of thousands a helicopter flight away. It shall be.
Hearing this tune always reminds me of my pre-punk rock life. If you’re old enough you had a completely different existence before you first heard the Ramones or Sex Pistols. We liked lots of hippie music and had lots of hippie thoughts, though I can’t remember most of them. Anyway, I used to have this album. It was the Traffic album that had what, three songs? Maybe four or five, I can’t remember. Apparently all the touring and drugs was taking its toll on the songwriting. Sometimes I feel so uninspired, Stevie sang in his most mournful rock star voice, sometimes I feel like giving up. Subtle. And then there was Roll Right Stones, which I always assumed was another of those Winwood way cool English jazz hippieisms I never could figure out—the lyrics to Low Spark of High Heeled Boys on the previous record took me years of exegesis. Turns out the Roll Right Stones are actually a trio of megalithic monuments out in the English countryside dating back to the Neolithic. We didn’t have Wikipedia in the seventies, so I just figured it meant cool or groovy or keep on truckin or whatever. I wasn’t the brightest kid. Whatever the title means, Roll Right Stones does eventually cook, even wail a bit, but it felt like half a Dead show before you got there. The fucker takes up about half the record, not so much filling out side 1 as it did slowly ooze over it, filling in just enough grooves to please the record company. OK, maybe that was harsh. But it is a long stoned song. The title track was great, though, and kinda weird. It was the Traffic tune that people who loved Baby’s On Fire liked. You’d hear the tune a lot on FM for a while, though I haven’t heard it in years. Which is odd because I still listen to Traffic pretty regularly, and still love Steve Winwood’s voice, even if you can’t tell by the attitude above. I wrote most of this some time ago, I think during that nasty heat wave, hence the grumpiness. It happens.
Oh, Rebop Kwaku Baah. Almost as fun to write as it is to say. He cooks on the title cut. Rebop Kwaku Baah. That’s twice.
This was the anthem of all us disaffected teens in the early 70s and we had no idea why, it just was, somehow. We hadn’t a clue what it was actually about, we just figured it was about all us shambling young and clueless dudes and dudettes, and it meant, well, who knows. Whatever. Metaphors were still a little beyond us (it’s one of the last linguistic concepts the brain gets a handle on, metaphors, until just before we reach adulthood and there they are, metaphors, and suddenly Bob Dylan makes sense.) No, we were still at that precious age where everything is literal and things are things and dudes were, well, dudes. Its lyrical structure is pretty complicated for an anthem—they’re usually simple, We Shall Overcome, like that—and it’s got a lot of cool rhymes, and that all night/suicide/twenty five/speed jive/stay alive/twenty five it opens with could’ve come right out of Cole Porter. Bowie had never done better word wise, and never did again, not that we could have known that then, we were 15 and didn’t know anything, though we didn’t know that either. All we really knew was that chorus with all the young dudes singing all the young dudes, and we’d join in, all the young dudes joining all the young dudes singing all the young dudes. It was probably the only feeling of being part of a youth movement that wasn’t some old hippie thing we had in the early 1970’s, though what sort of movement that was we hadn’t a clue. Just us dudes singing about us dudes. It was our anthem. And ya know, it still gets me when I hear it, every single time, and it probably always will. I’m a dude, yeah.