Aerosmith – Part 1

Philadelphia, PA – 1976-1977

I’ve wanted to write this for a while. Aerosmith is to American hard rock as Star Wars is to SciFi. I’ve loved Aerosmith since I was 13 years old. I’ve not only purchased nearly every album they’ve ever released, but I’ve also bought the same records in different formats. Vinyl, cassette, and CD. So I’ve made all of the payments necessary to this band as a fan.

I’m not going to review them as a band, or as a professional music reviewer. These are my personal opinions based on how old I was, how the music made me feel, what was going on in my life at the time, and what I felt were quality songs. If you want real history on this band, go buy a book or read online about them. I’m not going to get into personalities or anything about the inner workings of this group because that’s not what this is about.

Let’s face it, it’s not the guys, it’s what they did for you and how their music made you feel. I feel I’m warranted to say all of the following things because I’ve made all of the donations I’m ever going to make to this band’s bank accounts by buying their records and seeing them live. I love them, and will always love them for the decades of joy they’ve brought to my heart.

Sometimes I will be harsh with my words, but it comes from a place of pure love. So let’s get started.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerosmith

Aerosmith – Debut album – 1973

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerosmith_(album)

My older sister hung out with a neighborhood band back in 1975/1976. They were called The Grim Reaper. I think because they played that song by Blue Oyster Cult. They also played the song, Dream On’ by Aerosmith and she must have liked that song because she brought this record home. I had heard that song played on the radio for several years but didn’t think much of it or even knew who did it. I was too buried in my love for the band Steppenwolf.

Tales of Rock – Steppenwolf – First Love

Let’s start with the cover of this album. I’ll run through this from left to right. This is a pretty furry band. What’s with Joey Kramer’s mutton chops? Then we have Joe Perry looking like Injun Joe from Twain’s book, Tom Sawyer. Tom Hamilton looks like he cut his hair with kid’s scissors and a razor blade. Steven Tyler looks kinda cool. Brad Whitford looks like a girl no one ever wants to date, let alone be seen with.

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1977

On a side note, the name Injun Joe came from this kid named Tony Riccardi. He was this guy that met my older sister and fell in love with her in the summer of 1977. He would be sniffing around our house trying to get her to go to the beach or take her out on a date and she just wasn’t into him. He was a moderately good-looking Italian guy about a year or so older than me. He was fit and I didn’t get why she wasn’t into him. Except for the fact that he seemed to only own one bathing suit. It was this dark blue and yellow striped speedo-looking thing he wore every day. Sis wasn’t into him, but I got to know him and he seemed nice. We started hanging out a little bit. But I’m thinking now he may have been just spending time with me to get to my sister. Distract the brother, bag the sister.

I noticed he was missing the pinky on his one hand. I asked him about it and he told me that he lost it in a bane saw accident in woodshop at school. My friends and I had all taken woodshop in school and heard all of the horror stories, myths, and legends about mishaps in wood and metal shop at our collective schools, but we never met anybody that some stuff had actually happened to. Tony Riccardi was that man. All that was left of the digit was a little knuckle.

I remember we were sitting in Sam’s Pizza and he asked our waitress for a pen. She gave it to him and went back to waiting tables. “What are you going to do with that?”

“Watch this.”

When the waitress returned to retrieve her pen, Tony asked her if she wanted to meet Herbie.

“Umm… okay.”

Tony held out his fist to her. On the little pinky knuckle stub, he had drawn a smiley face with her pen. He could actually wiggle it and make it say hi.

The waitress turned away in revulsion.

“Ton… I think I’m starting to get why my sister doesn’t want to date you.”

Anyway, Tony Riccardi was the person who upon viewing my records, saw the Aerosmith cover and called Joe Perry, Injun Joe. I never forgot that because he looks dead-on like an angry or sad native American from popular literature.

When you’re 14 years old every guy who is older than you looks like a grown man. All of the guys in Aerosmith were only in their early 20’s but to me, they might have well been in their 30’s.

The album had modest sales and I suppose they had to put, Featuring: “Dream On” on the jacket so people would say, Oh yea, that song’s pretty good.

I was in our basement listening to records on my dad’s stereo and shooting pool on our billiard table. One of the records I put on that day was this one. I’m going to go through this song by song. (Don’t worry, I’ll be brief.)

Make It: Great song. A kick-ass opening and it felt like it was about becoming a rockstar, so I was down.

Somebody: Another great song. Loved it more than Make It.

Dream on: Already tired of it by then.

One Way Street: Great jam song where I got to hear the different guitar playing styles by Joe and Brad. Also some fine harmonica work by Steven.

Mama Kin: Another solid rocker. Yes, I like this song too!

Write Me: I wrote letters to girls back then so I could relate because getting letters from girls in the mail was a big deal back then. Great song.

Movin’ Out: Not bad. It has its moments. (I always liked the little laugh in the beginning)

Walkin’ the Dog: They didn’t write it, but it’s a sweet little closer for the record. My mom loved this song.

This record got me really interested in this band. It was like Steppenwolf, but harder and faster. I really liked the songs and how they made me feel. I was beginning to have some real love for this band.

I eventually learned how to play nearly every song on this album on guitar. But that wouldn’t happen for another 2 years.

Let’s move on.

Philadelphia, PA – 1976.

I was in the garage with my friend Michael and we were listening to various records on my little green and white record player. We were listening to Bill Cosby, George Carlin, and some other rock music records. Out of all my friends back then, Michael was probably my best friend. He was a year younger than me, but we just sort of worked as friends. He lived a few doors down and wasn’t like the other kids in the neighborhood. We had some great times together and were super close. I felt bad for him because unlike me with my zit face Mike had full-blown acne. That’s different. That scars your face for life. Also, his parents never got his teeth fixed and he always had an overbite. I never understood that. but we were good buddies and at some point, I want to write about our adventures together.

I had the first Aerosmith album and we were listening to that and smoking cigarettes. I asked him if his brother Jimmy had any more Aerosmith albums. He said he had this one and their second record. I asked him what it was called.

Mike: “Get Your Wings.”

Me: “I don’t want to listen to Paul McCartney and Wings right now, besides it’s my sister’s and she probably doesn’t want me bringing it out to the garage.”

Mike: “What?”

Me: “What’s Aerosmith’s second record called?”

Mike: “I said, Get Your Wings.”

Me: “But I don’t want… wait, is that the name of the record? Get Your Wings?”

Mike: “I’ve been trying to tell you…”

Me: “That’s a crap name for a record, but yea… go get it. I want to hear it!”

Get Your Wings – 1974

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Get_Your_Wings

So here we are.

Okay, again with the cover. Joe looks cool. Joey Kramer actually looks the most handsome and rugged in the band. Steven looks hungover and on drugs, and why is he showing off his bulge? Brad looks sad or stoned. (Understandable) Tom Hamilton has let his razor cut grow out and looks presentable. (and a bit, impish!) It looks like the title for the record was an afterthought because it’s just this little lame phrase slapped on the cover like a little sticker. Look at it! Crap.

Michael returned with the record. Let’s run down the playlist. But before I do, let me say this. You have your whole life to write your first album. If you get signed to a label by some miracle, you have to come up with 8 to 10 more songs by the next year. Super pressure, and frankly I don’t know how bands did it back then, but maybe that’s why I never ended up in that vocation.

Aerosmith was a relatively new inexperienced act that had some magic between them. I later heard that they brought in some hired guns to play on the album to punch up the tracks but that’s not what this story is about.

Same Old Song and Dance: Cool opening track. Joe always had a knack for coming up with cool riffs and he definitely hits it on this one. A solid opening rocker. I liked it.

Lord of the Thighs: A little long and slow for me back then. But Brad Whitford plays some killer guitar on that tune. I later grew to like this song because of its theme and my adoration of women’s legs.

Spaced: Ahh… it is the title. A little spacey and kind of a dated-sounding song at this point. I wasn’t feeling it. But it has a cool psychedelic late 60’s vibe.

Woman of the World: Too long and lame. It’s a throwaway song that finishes side one, and I just never felt it no matter what it did.

S.O.S Too Bad: They used to play this a lot in concert and I never understood why. Maybe it was to get it out of the way to get to the good songs. Never liked it.

Train Kept a Rollin’: This is a retread of an old Yardbirds tune. They must have performed it live as a young band and people liked it. But I will say this, It’s a great rendition of the song, and Aerosmith went on to make it their own. Their live version is an incredible song and I love it. We played this song in my first band, Renegade so there’s that.

Seasons of Wither: This is the most beautiful song on the album. I love this song. (Renegade played this too) It’s a lovely song and the arrangement is gorgeous. I loved that although I loved Aero for the way they made me feel with the energy, this song was gentle and really touched me. Steven really touched the melancholy sound of the song. Oh god, and the strings on the cello on the second chorus. Bliss!

Pandora’s Box: This is a piece of trash song written by Joey Kramer that is about cunnilingus. It’s cheap and obvious and it’s clear they were out of songs for this record to produce this turd.

To sum up, Same Old Song and Dance. Cool song with a good Perry riff, and good lyrics. Train Kept a Rollin’, very exciting song. Seasons of Wither. Gorgeous.  That’s it for this record. I’m just going to talk about what was happening at the time, and how the songs made me feel.

At this point, I love the first record, but I’m not thrilled with the sophomore effort of this band.

But there is definitely something happening here with this new band.

Tune in next Thursday for the next chapter of the 9 part series!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Tales of Rock -10 Most Notorious Hell-Raiser Rock Bands

Rock ‘n’ roll, as a rule, is not built for the faint of heart. You can be a sensitive soul with a message to get across in your emotionally wrought lyrics, sure, but if you’re looking to live that life, you’ve got to be prepared for a little rough and tumble.

The travel, the expectations, the screaming fans – it can become pretty grueling. And in such circumstances, it’s no surprise that some – most – rockers decide to kick back and party.

There’s indulging in a little carefree leisure time, though – and then there are the extremes to which some of rock’s most legendary hell-raisers take things. The music industry is filled with tales of excess and wild behavior, some of them funny, some of them impressive, some of them downright sinister.

The age of the degenerate, uncontrollable, pure id rockstar seems to be fading away – which may be for the best, given some of the legacies left behind – but with a century of hard-hitting, fast-living cowboys behind us, there’ll always be the stories to revel in, to be wowed by, and often appalled by.

10. Happy Mondays

Few bands have caused so much chaos with such good nature as the Happy Mondays. As part of the Madchester scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s, hedonism was naturally on the cards, and the band embraced the chemicals as much as any raver. And then, they took things that little bit further.

The Mondays’ drug habit was such that they would burn through their record label’s money at an astonishing pace, a lifestyle which has led to several members of the band declaring bankruptcy post-heyday. The uber-mellow ecstasy scene of the band’s early period led to some great psychedelic throwback records.

Things got sinister when the hard stuff set in during the early ‘90s. In an attempt to wean the band off heroin, the 1992 album Yes Please was recorded in Barbados, where Shaun Ryder successfully kicked his habit by transitioning onto crack. The sheer excess of this excursion led to the ruination of Factory Records.

Hearteningly, the majority of the Mondays seem to have come out the other side, and while one might argue that the modern mannerisms of Ryder and Bez show remnants of former drug use, the fact that they’re still in one piece, and still intermittently performing, is impressive indeed.

9. Guns N’ Roses

In a heartwarming postscript to the band’s ‘80s heyday, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash now seems like one of the soundest musicians in rock. Always good for a quip and still clearly in love with what he does, he has, it seems, escaped a grubby scene unscathed.

Things seemed like they could go the other way for a long while. In the 1980s, as well as a brief stint as the biggest band in the world, few acts could have been consuming more booze and gear than Axl and the boys.

Slash took things the furthest when he briefly died in the early ‘90s after overdosing on speedballs. Resuscitated after eight minutes, it was the wake-up call he needed – a scant 15 years later, he got himself clean. Bassist Duff McKagan, meanwhile, managed to drink enough that his pancreas was swollen to the size of a football by age 30.

Most worrying, though, was the behavior of frontman Axl Rose. While less famous for his substance abuse, the man was a ticking time bomb for much of his career, challenging the entirety of Nirvana to a fight, ruining gigs with his timekeeping and temper, and hiring and firing band members at will.

8. Led Zeppelin

The band that wrote the rule book for rule-breaking rock bands, Led Zeppelin had seen it all and done it all before most notable bands had picked up a guitar or a needle. Some of their exploits are classic tales of wild rockers; others are downright sinister and indecent. One thing’s for sure, though: few if any have cleared the bar that Zeppelin set over 50 years ago.

There are particularly famous anecdotes (the mud shark incident, which doesn’t bear repeating, for one), but the band was just excess personified full stop. The hotel room trashing, hard-partying, the fast-living group was given its template by the success of Zeppelin, who only got more successful the faster they lived.

They all had their own vices – John Bonham, booze and fast cars; Robert Plant, ladies and eventually heroin; Jimmy Page, black magick and questionable romantic pursuits (to say the least). They flaunted their chaotic lives while putting out eight good to great albums in 10 years, which isn’t bad going.

They’ll forever be one of the most influential bands ever, but it’s debatable which part of their legacy is more important: the sound, or the decadence.

7. The Beach Boys

The clean-cut California surf enthusiasts may not strike you as the hardest partying outfit, but between the precise harmonies and musical innovation was a shockingly dark side, particularly in its most talented and most charismatic members, Brian and Dennis Wilson.

Brian, the epitome of tortured genius, raised hell primarily in his own mind. With the weight of the group on his shoulders and feeling in direct competition with the Beatles, he pushed himself into increasingly ambitious works through unconventional means, turning his mansion into a recording studio and filling it with sand.

His drug usage made him a hermit for a while, but that streak of self-destruction was more explosive in younger brother Dennis, who embraced the fast living sixties more than most. A major star before his 20s, there was no way he wasn’t going to embrace the lifestyle afforded to him by his group’s success.

So free-spirited was Dennis that he allowed the Manson family, pre-murders, to crash with him for a long while, an association he regretted to his premature death. It doesn’t get much more literally hell-raising than that.

6. Butthole Surfers

The legendary Texas band thrived on pure chaos. Their records are brash and irreverent, at times impenetrable, others brilliant. Their live shows were known and loved for their visceral, unpredictable nature (which later became pretty predictable, with audiences showing up specifically to become embroiled in the chaos).

The band built their own mythology, telling anyone who would listen of their daily routine – LSD-laced cornflakes, whisky, and gin being the regular diet for a six-month-long European tour – but they were no idle talkers. For those caught up in their drift, they were a frightening proposition, with concerts turning into orgies, brawls, or both.

The band’s music has been influential for heavy hitters like Kurt Cobain, but few since have been able to capture the sheer weirdness of the Surfers, who have burned enough bridges to sabotage a dozen careers, but always seem to come bouncing back,

Now well into middle age, the band’s core members have barely changed at all, still more than willing to catch a ban from various prestige festivals through sheer belligerence. Somehow, though, they always seem to bounce back.

5. Aerosmith

You don’t get a nickname like “The Toxic Twins” without putting in some serious mileage. From the late ‘70s to the tail end of the ‘80s, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Stephen Tyler were unstoppably indulgent. Given their status in the scene at the time, they’ve partied to extremes few could afford to top.

Perry, for example, hired a roadie whose sole responsibility was to sort him out with a bump of powder during a performance. Aerosmith had no time for admin – they had the money to ensure that they were fully topped up at all times; they had only to enjoy the spoils of war.

Burnout was inevitable, of course, and the rampant self-destruction led to infighting and a downturn in quality. Gigs were ended prematurely by Tyler, too blasted to notice they’d only just started playing. In due course, the band decided they had too good a thing going to let substances get in the way – they entered rehab and came out an entirely different proposition.

Aerosmith is now the power ballad band, rather than a group of raucous rockers. And while their bank balance and their health have taken a step in the right direction, the danger and the riffs are long gone.

4. The Sex Pistols

It’s no secret that the Sex Pistols, far from the new voice of gritty British discontent, were essentially a manufactured act. While they may have been the image-centric brainchild of Malcolm McClaren, though, they used their status as the country’s most dangerous group to live faster and harder than any other boyband you’d care to mention.

The Pistols were pure combat and codified much of what we now associate with punk: the antagonism, the spitting. Their gigs could turn into brawls, especially when they took the act to the USA, where crowds could be riled into launching glasses at the group, who lapped up the hatred like milk.

Chief among the miscreants was bassist Sid Vicious, hired for his look and attitude rather than his musical skills. While he didn’t contribute much musically, the band’s mythology resolved majorly around him. He attacked journalists, leaped with both feet into the heroin scene, and overdosed not long after (allegedly) murdering his girlfriend – a charming character all around.

They took on the monarchy and won (sort of), and brought unpalatable music and lifestyles to the mainstream. They may have been performatively outrageous (see: the Bill Grundy show), but few acts have made as much of a scene with so little time.

3. Robert Johnson
Wikipedia

Among the most mysterious figures in the history of rock, the famous Robert Johnson story purports that he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his legendary guitar prowess. One of the masters of the Delta Blues, Johnson’s relatively small back catalog means it is his wild and mysterious life that is now better remembered than the music itself.

Johnson spent much of his brief time wandering the earth (or, more specifically, America), peddling his blues and enjoying the fringe benefits afforded to a musician of his caliber. He would form relationships in every town, staying with various women who knew nothing of one another’s existence.

Johnson’s (possibly apocryphal) demise only serves to add to his legend: it is said that the notorious womanizer was poisoned – by a jilted lover, a jealous husband, or a rival, no one can be sure. Historians suggest he may have died of boring old syphilis – which, given his lifestyle, seems believable.

Whether or not he bartered with Satan, Johnson was one of 20th-century music’s first great wildmen, in a time when you could simply split town once you’d pushed your luck too far.

2. Mötley Crüe

Quite bad Mötley Crüe’s film The Dirt shows the group being out-extremed by Ozzy Osbourne, who cheerfully laps up urine and snorts a line of ants to wow the Californian rockers. While that anecdote sees Ozzy come out on top, though, there can be few acts for whom partying took such precedence as the Crüe,

The lifestyle suited the quartet, who embraced every faucet of rock stardom from the off. More groupies, more drugs, more booze. The band’s increased status directly correlated with the scale of their partying. They behaved like monsters for a good decade and got away with it because they were so popular.

Perhaps the most metal moment of their careers came when Nikki Sixx wrote the song “Kickstart My Heart” based on an overdose which led to his heart genuinely being restarted with adrenaline, allowing the Crüe bassist to join Slash in the “has been dead for a bit” club.

In one of the easiest gigs in journalism, author Neil Strauss got a book published simply by writing down all the grotty stuff Mötley Crüe got up to in the ‘80s, and it remains a classic of the genre – basically the Bible for bands whose ambition is to live the rock star cliche.

1. GG Allin & The Murder Junkies

You know you’ve sealed your credentials as a hell-raiser when you’re far, far more famous for being an undeniably disgusting human being than you are a musician. You know you’re not in for a gentle night of cheery tunes when you go see a band called “The Murder Junkies”, but audiences had never seen anything like GG Allin.

Allin would appear on stage, undress, and swiftly soil himself – and that was for starters. Fights with audience members were routine, and if a Murder Junkies gig ended without the frontman filthy, bloodied, and in the bad books of the venue owner, then you’d caught him on an off night.

The music was secondary to the performance, but in his lyrics Allin was ever incendiary, cheerfully throwing in racism and misogyny, ostensibly to provoke controversy and debate, rather than out of any real hatred. Naturally, you’ll find few backers for his discography these days.

Allin died predictably young, and he went out as he would have wanted – with his unpreserved, bloated corpse taking pride of place at a funeral-cum-party, during which his friends got loaded and posed with the carcass. There’ll never be another GG Allin, and that’s probably for the best.

 

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Tales of Rock – What Happened When the Sex Pistols Threw a Christmas Party

A new book showcases a collection of photos that captures the band’s last concert in England—they were in their pomp, on their mission, and fully charged.

The Sex Pistols, avatars of sociopathy, threw an afternoon Christmas party for the families of firefighters on strike. What could be nicer?

By the end of 1977 the Sex Pistols were so drenched in notoriety that, as a band, they could barely function. Punk rock, originally an American import, had activated the imagination of Great Britain at a hysterical, medieval level, and the Pistols—swearing on live TV, getting to Number 1 with the banned single “God Save The Queen” (She ain’t no human being!)—were overnight bogeymen. Pale and twisted, neurally disenfranchised but making a huge, thick, derisive, airwave-jamming noise, they seemed to have limped out of the psychic shadows and seized power. The frontman Johnny Rotten would hang off the mic stand like a licentious scarecrow; the new bassist Sid Vicious, his long limbs clanging, was an icon continually in the process of dismantling itself—a human Jean Tinguely sculpture. Their manager Malcolm McLaren, meanwhile, had an agenda for uproar and no interest whatsoever in the well-being of his charges; for over a year, his provocations and imbroglios had kept the band on the front pages of a gratefully disgusted tabloid press.

And they had reaped the whirlwind: In June, in two separate attacks, Rotten was slashed with a razor and the drummer Paul Cook was beaten with an iron bar. Now, in the depths of winter, a projected U.K. tour had collapsed as the burghers of one municipality after another—local councilmen and members of Parliament—rose up with quivering jowls to denounce, reject, and foreclose these leering scapegoats. Nowhere to play.

Except for Huddersfield. On Christmas Day. At a venue called Ivanhoe’s, in a market town in West Yorkshire, the Sex Pistols would play a benefit show for the Fire Brigades Union, which had recently called its members out on strike in pursuit of a 30 percent wage increase. This was a very McLaren-esque piece of business: The Sex Pistols, avatars of sociopathy, would throw an afternoon Christmas party for the families of striking firefighters. Gifts, games, a cake, a performance, t-shirts for the children. What could be nicer? What could be worthier? Then they would play a second set for their fans.

The first show, the one for the kids, was extraordinary enough. Thank God we have the footage. Pre-teens with soft 1970s hair bounce and jive unselfconsciously, and with even a strange solemnity, as the band rips in gusts of joy through “God Save The Queen” and “Anarchy in the U.K.” No future for YEEEEEW! “Bodies”—She was a girl from Birming-HAM-uh / She’d just had an a-BOR-tion-ah!—acquires the pure and vicious resonance of a playground chant. The kids take the mic, sing along to the chorus: Mum-my! I’m not an animal! Johnny Rotten mashes his face into the Christmas cake during “Pretty Vacant.” The kids wave flags. Credit here the unscrupulous McLaren and his nose for the carnivalesque. An event this wholesomely riotous, this innocently lawless and punk-rock-paradoxical, if it happened today … well, it wouldn’t happen. It would be held in an art gallery.

But it’s the second set, for the grown-ups, that concerns us here. Sex Pistols: The End Is Near 25.12.77 collects the in-show shots of the photographer Kevin Cummins, who was covering the concert for New Musical Express. That afternoon, at his parents’ house, Cummins had committed small-scale anarchy by getting up and leaving in the middle of Christmas lunch. This meant that he was also skipping the Queen’s televised speech, traditionally watched with boozy fealty by every single person in the country. “My father didn’t speak to me for at least three weeks,” he writes in his introduction.

 

No one, not even the ferally alert McLaren, knew it at the time, but this was the last show the Sex Pistols would play in England. Days after the Huddersfield show they would leave for a short, fiasco-filled tour of the U.S., a jaunt across the un-punk-rock South (Atlanta, Memphis, San Antonio, Baton Rouge) that was essentially an extended act of incitement. The band, as an entity, would not survive it. In less than three weeks, at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, the Sex Pistols would explode, fall to bits, end. “Oh bollocks. Why should I carry on?” asked Rotten, pertinently, in the middle of a half-hearted assault on the Stooges’ “No Fun.” All of which adds a film of wistful irony to the power of Cummins’s photographs from Ivanhoe’s, because here are the Pistols in their pomp, on their mission, fully charged.

The images, from this distance, have an almost fairytale familiarity. Rotten, pint in hand, his hair still matted with cake icing, grins and writhes Uriah Heep-ishly, twisting his body to accommodate the demonic projections of the English unconscious. Steve Jones is slouched red-eyed over his guitar, raffishly infusing his glam rock mega-chords with Chuck Berry’s momentum and heavy metal crunch. Sid Vicious, soon to be infamous, soon to be dead, bass slung super-low, looks like a drawing from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series: His small scowling features are etched blackly onto an empty white face. He’s there and he’s not there, an accident that might have already happened. (McLaren would later characterize Sid’s aura as a “halo of anarchy.”) The current of the performance never seems to slacken. Cummins’s lens catches the band in no instants of shapelessness or non-Sex-Pistols-ness; their art possesses them at all times. Cook, the band’s thunderous timekeeper, is hardly represented, but maybe that’s appropriate; the drummer should be a kind of nonentity. (What a superbly physical drummer he was, though, Paul Cook. His whole kit would quake like the ribcage of some enormous, panting animal).

Towards the end of the show, the end of the reel, Rotten puts on a beret. It suits him, giving him a ghoulish sort of Parisian presence—he looks arty, he looks Left Bank. And there was this weird French strain to the Sex Pistols’ enterprise. McLaren was, or thought he was, or said he was, a devout reader of Guy Debord: all of his various art-acts were somewhere between pop mania and Situationist disruption-of-the-spectacle. But the Pistols were also a rock ‘n’ roll band, a very good one. Left to themselves, who knows what they might have achieved?

The die, however, was cast. The great music writer Paul Morley, in the foreword of The End Is Near that appears to have taken him about 10 minutes to write (although 10 minutes of Paul Morley is worth three weeks of [insert name of the writer]), makes the point that by late 1977 the Sex Pistols had already become “as much a part of British history as Churchill, the Royal Mail post boxes, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare.” They had become more than a band, less than a band—something else. So look upon these images from Huddersfield, and remember them this way: at the depth of ignominy, at the height of glory, making their music.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Tales of Rock – Syd Barrett: How LSD Created and Destroyed His Career With Pink Floyd

An over-reliance on psychedelic drugs drove the rock star from the bounds of reality and forced his bandmates to cut ties to keep their musical dreams alive.

By the spring of 1967, Pink Floyd was at the forefront of the psychedelic rock movement that was pushing its way into mainstream popular culture.

Fronted by lead guitarist and songwriter Syd Barrett, and including bassist Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason and organist Richard Wright, the band cracked the Top 20 in the United Kingdom with their catchy debut single, “Arnold Layne.” In May 1967, they made an indelible impression with the Games for May concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, featuring a quadraphonic sound system, dazzling light show and bubble-generating machine.

As described in Crazy Diamond: Syd Barrett and the Dawn of Pink Floyd, the band was fueled by the creativity of its frontman, known for his cryptic lyrics that mixed mysticism and wordplay, and an experimental guitar style that made use of echo machines and other distortions.

Sadly, the same forces that drove Barrett to artistic breakthroughs also led him down the path of self-destruction, leaving him exiled from the group shortly after they arrived on the charts and rendering him a cautionary tale as Pink Floyd became one of the biggest bands in the world.

Barrett found inspiration through LSD usage
Syd Barrett Pink Floyd

Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd perform in 1966

Photo: Adam Ritchie/Redferns

In 1965, as the foursome that became Pink Floyd were finding their musical footing between classes at London’s Regent Street Polytechnic and Camberwell College of Arts, Barrett had discovered the mind-altering effects of LSD.

The turn to psychedelics had a massive impact on the group’s direction. Taking their cues from their frontman, Pink Floyd began doing away with the R&B covers that were being imitated by countless other bands from the era and embracing original sounds. And the highly intelligent Barrett, already known for marching to his own peculiar beat, began heavily ingesting LSD and producing song lyrics that were seemingly pulled from unknown realms of the cosmos.

It was that combination of original music, stage presentation and lyrical prowess that captured the attention of record companies in the first place, but by the time Pink Floyd was being presented as the next big thing in British rock, Barrett was already losing his tenuous grasp on reality through his incessant drug use.

His old friend and eventual replacement David Gilmour noticed as much when he dropped by the Chelsea Studios in May 1967 for the recording of the band’s second single, “See Emily Play.”

“Syd didn’t seem to recognize me and just stared back,” Gilmour recalled in Crazy Diamond. “I got to know that look pretty well and I’ll go on record as saying that was when he changed. It was a shock. He was a different person.”

The band’s initial success gave way to uneasiness over Barrett’s behavior

Despite the mounting worries about their friend’s mental health, Pink Floyd was thriving. “See Emily Play” became a bigger hit than “Arnold Layne,” reaching No. 6 on the British charts.

Furthermore, Barrett had delivered a string of brilliant songs for the group’s debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. “Chapter 24” was inspired by I Ching, the ancient Chinese text, “Astronomy Domine” and “Interstellar Overdrive” became emblematic of the group’s atmospheric sound and “Bike” showcased its writer’s willingness to embrace the absurd.

However, it wasn’t long after Piper landed in record stores in early August 1967 that Barrett’s deteriorating state began causing headaches for his bandmates. Later that month, it was reported that the drug-addled frontman was suffering from “nervous exhaustion,” forcing the group to cancel its planned appearance at the National Jazz and Blues Festival.

By the time the band departed for a U.S. tour in the fall, it was clear that Barrett’s public presence was becoming a major problem. He stood on stage, detuning his guitar, during a gig at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, and stared catatonically at the hosts during appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and The Pat Boone Show. Alarmed, the band’s managers aborted the tour to avoid additional embarrassing incidents.

Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett

Photo: Andrew Whittuck/Redferns

Barrett’s ongoing unpredictability forced the band to replace him

Meanwhile, Barrett was under pressure to produce a successful follow-up single to “See Emily Play.” “Scream Thy Last Scream” and “Vegetable Man” were deemed too dark for release, and while “Apples and Oranges” finally got the go-ahead in mid-November, it lacked the catchiness of its predecessors and flopped.

The group headed out for a U.K. tour around this time, with Barrett causing more tension by either refusing to exit the tour bus at gigs or walking off before the start of a show. Following a disastrous appearance at a Christmas concert, the band reached out to Gilmour, then fronting another struggling group called Jokers Wild.

Entering 1968 with intentions of continuing as a five-piece band, Pink Floyd tried an arrangement in which Barrett would remain on board as a behind-the-scenes songwriter, before abandoning the idea of dealing with him altogether. By March 1968, Barrett was no longer with the band he co-founded and pushed to prominence.

Within a few years, the remaining members of Pink Floyd were being celebrated as arena rock gods while Barrett’s own musical career was finished, and he spent the rest of his life away from the public eye. His presence on the group’s quirky early records serving as a reminder for what could have been a long and successful career for a unique, gifted artist.

Even though he was no longer a member, Barrett still had an impact on Pink Floyd, and the band’s ninth studio album, Wish You Were Here, was recorded as a tribute to their co-founder.

Tales of Rock: Here Are The 25 Best ’70s Songs To Get High To

As society nervously shifted towards a new decade the times they were a changing. The counterculture was at its zenith, drugs became more wildly accessible and sexuality was being explored in new and wilder ways. That’s not to mention the exquisite originality and implacable power of those ’70s songs that stand the test of time.

Thus we implore you to light up a joint and harken back to the 25 best ’70s songs to get high to.

70s songs

Delve into the 25 most mind-bending, beguiling, or downright beautiful ’70s songs to kick back and light up to. Purple haze, Jesus saves.

25. Bob Marley & The Wailers – No Woman, No Cry

Looking back on the poverty and disenfranchisement of his time in Trench Town, Jamaica, Bob Marley was at his lilting, lyrical best on No Woman, No Cry.

Marley implores people to dry their tears and have faith that things will get better, as he once did to his girlfriend.

24. Genesis – Firth Of Fifth

One of the crowning glories of their live sets. Banks’ classically inclined piano enters the fray drawing you into their complex time signatures and melancholy dueling between Gabriel’s flute and Hackett’s guitar ‘violining’.

Genesis is one of the most ingenious bands of all time and unquestionably one of the best to get high to.

23. Television  – Marquee Moon

A ten-minute single? It was positively unheard of in the Punk scene. However, the spellbinding guitar interplay between Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd made Marquee Moon the incredible single that it was. Television were visionaries there is no doubt about it.

The thoughtful composition and frail vocals have seen Marquee Moon referred to as one of the greatest guitar albums of all time and honestly, we have to agree.

22. Neil Young – Heart Of Gold

Initially criticized by Dylan for sounding too much like him, Heart Of Gold remains a glistening gem for the singer, song-writer genre.

This immaculate confluence of country rock and quivering vocals perfectly embodies the undying essence of Neil Young.

21. Curtis Mayfield – Get On Up

After recently departing from The Impressions, Curtis Mayfield dropped his debut, yearning to find a distinguished voice of his own.

Get On Up wound up spending 10 weeks in the Top 50 of the UK Charts and was the soundtrack for a generation. Not bad for a 9-minute single.

20. Jefferson Starship – St. Charles

After Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick and Paul Kantner went on to form sci-fi funk supergroup, Jefferson Starship, and Spitfire was where they really hit their stride.

St. Charles is a compelling confluence of ’60s rock on the dawn of funk and will certainly leave you reeling from the blow.

19. Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue

Bob Dylan was in a veritable slump during the early 1970s. Afraid of being another ’60s washout, exhausted from relentless touring and recovering from a serious dose of food poisoning, Dylan hit back hard in 1976 with Blood On The Tracks.

Every song on this album is just sublime but opener Tangled Up In Blue is where it’s at.

18. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen’s operatic sensation, Bohemian Rhapsody is and always will be one of the most iconic tunes ever written. Freddie Mercury‘s crystal clear vision and magnificent vocals perfectly reflect his genius, shining proudly against the mountainous triumph of all ’70s songs.

17. James Brown – Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine

Rarely has a song written about sex, been as sexy itself. It’s positively throbbing with a vibe and pulsating with the unmistakable essence of James Brown.

Light up, get down, and feel the funk!

16. Deep Purple – Speed King

Charging down the sonic highway, Deep Purple were progenitors to heavy metal amidst the rock revolution of the 1970s. The immaculate guitar work of Ritchie Blackmore and vocals from David Coverdale make Speed King an undeniable staple of rock greatness.

15. Elton John – Tiny Dancer

Simply one of the best songs ever written, Bernie Taupin was at his most inspired with Elton John at his effortless best.

Opening up their 1971 triumph Madman Across The Water, there is something undeniably magical about Tiny Dancer that has never quite been replicated since.

14. Black Sabbath – War Pigs

When Black Sabbath unveiled themselves to the world in 1970 it’s safe to say they scared a lot of folks. The world wasn’t ready for Sabbath and War Pigs says it all. Pounding drums, political contention, and one hell of a solo from Tony Iommi.

13. Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side

Lou Reed’s only solo hit was a ballad for all the freaks and outsiders out there. Hence why it’s the perfect laid-back tune to light up with on a lazy Sunday morn.

Featuring Reed’s dead-pan wit and ten-ton boredom, no other song better encapsulates his effortless genius than Walk On The Wild Side.

12. David Bowie – Life On Mars

Life On Mars embodies everything we love about David Bowie. His sci-fi exploration, catchy hooks, and memorable song-craft.

Just before the world was introduced to Ziggymania, Bowie laid bare his interstellar questioning and eternal power as an artist.

11. Pink Floyd – Echoes

The monolithic Floyd construction, Echoes is undoubtedly one of the greatest songs to get high to, full stop. This 23-minute rabbit hole is essentially four different songs sewn together by expert surgeons.

The perfect transitional encapsulation of Pink Floyd moving from their avant-garde roots to their psychedelic conceptual maser works, Echoes is a must.

10. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer

Sweating with paranoia, Psycho Killer is vintage Talking Heads. It’s the levee breaking into a flood of new wave genius, with David Byrne at his lyrical and psychotic best.

While David Byrne decided to leave all imagery of the murder out of Psycho Killer it’s still pretty graphic and assuredly one of the best ’70s songs ever written.

9. Derek and the Dominos – Layla

After John Mayall and The Yardbirds. After Cream and Blind Faith. After Dirty Mac and the Plastic Ono Band, Eric Clapton formed Derek and the Dominos for one trail-blazing, hot album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

Inspired by Clapton’s undying love for George Harrison‘s wife Patti Boyd, the emotion is erupting from every note and every word.

Trivia note: In the studio version Duane Allman joins Eric Clapton for an iconic double solo between Gibson and fender.

8. Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi

As Joni Mitchell looked out over the Hawaiian scenery all she saw was concrete and despair. Yet for all the bleakness of the lyrics and theme, the chords are surprisingly warm and optimistic.

Lord knows how Joni must feel now.

7. John Lennon – Imagine

Powerful, poetic, and political. Everything that embodied John Lennon was so effortlessly captured in Imagine.

Arguably the greatest protest song ever written, Imagine hits the nail so squarely on the head as to pin Lennon to the history books for all eternity.

6. Fleetwood Mac – Dreams

Circular chords, poignant lyrics, and aimed like a knife straight at Lindsey Buckingham’s heart, Stevie Nicks wrote Dreams in the next room of the studio they were recording Rumours in, with Sly Stone.

An absolute masterpiece of songcraft and bound to turn on the waterworks when you’re feeling it, this Fleetwood Mac tune is a testament to their timelessness.

5. Grateful Dead – The Other One

If you’ve ever wondered why the Grateful Dead have a cult following The Other One will prove it. Recorded live in 1971 The Other One is an epic, improvised jam inspired by Beat icon Neal Cassidy.

Jerry Garcia‘s playing is a wonder to behold and if you’re high this 18-minute epic is guaranteed to blow your mind.

4. Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven

Arguably the greatest rock anthem of all time, Led Zeppelin constructed a true masterpiece on their fourth album and they knew it.

Even people who hate rock know Stairway To Heaven, all the way through to its rapturous solo and thundering climax.

3. The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar

One of the most controversial songs in rock history, it’s hard to pin down exactly what Brown Sugar is about. Sex, slavery, heroin… who knows?

One this is known though, the groove is hot and this tune is as quintessentially Rolling Stones as a tumbling rock that gathers no moss.

2. The Doors – Riders On The Storm

Just shy of jam rock, The Doors were masters of crafting longer tracks that appeared free form but were actually incredibly well built. From Jim Morrison‘s acid-poetry to Ray Manzarek‘s trickling piano rain it’s all here in spades.

“Send them out to Arizona for some good thunder,” said Jim Morrison during take #9. Thus, one of the greatest ’70s songs was born.

1. Pink Floyd – Time

A quintessential song of the ages, Pink Floyd‘s Time is eternal. Thematically and sonically, there is not a note out of place, and it’s just on the obscure side of commercial to put it in the best of both worlds.

One of the best songs from one of the best albums of all time, both are exceptional experiences in their own right.

 

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