If you’ve gone to see a power pop band in recent years, you might have noticed that most fans are pretty old. If you were ever in a band, went to clubs, spent time in an indie record store, or perused online fora, you might have noticed that some power pop devotees can be surly, limited, and intolerant. To be fair, that’s probably true of any genre, but you might expect that all those hooks and harmonies would leave power pop fans happier. Some people grow out of at least some of their intolerances. Some don’t, and this video has a lot of fun with aging sourpuss power poppers. Your mileage may vary, but I found the whole thing hilarious.
The Smoke seemed destined to be the greatest British band of the 60’s. Read on for their sad tale of record industry greed, radio station indifference, distribution mishaps, managerial exploitation, personal tragedy, substance abuse, mental instability, and an apathetic, capricious and philistine public…
Just kidding! They seem to be a classic 60’s case of one-hit wonders. I’d never heard this song until it popped up in my YouTube feed the other day. It became a big hit in Germany in ’67 (the year I moved, so I never heard it), but in England its progress up the charts was knee-capped by the BBC for drug references (the BBC did such a great job keeping young Brits off drugs). The most remarkable thing about this band is that not one of them did anything noteworthy before or after this song. Usually when you look into British bands with a hit during this period, you’ll find that at least one or two of them before or after played with someone you’ve heard of. But not these guys. Anyway, it’s a pretty good song and worth hearing.
Probably my favorite EJ song. It’s the second half of a medley that opens Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It (along with the opening song, the instrumental Funeral For a Friend) got quite a bit of airplay on FM radio when the album was released. This was the glory days of FM, when stations played deep tracks. You never heard it on AM, which stuck to singles. It gets left out of “best of” compilations, and many EJ fans don’t know it. I don’t get why. This song has everything going for it, including a killer bass line. It’s one of the songs I used to teach myself bass when I got one in 10th grade.
My house went on the market yesterday. My office (that I never use and I threw a bunch of old hifi stuff and a midi controller I had laying around into to stage) has now flicked off almost 2,000 people on Zillow.
…I attended this show, age 12. Upon walking in the coliseum, I asked “what’s that smell?” “That’s pot, you idiot,” replied my friend, who apparently ran with a faster crowd.
It was quite a show, with generous use of a theremin during Heartbreaker and Whole Lotta Love. I’ll admit to getting bored with some of the longer ones, but much of it was stunning. Anyway, you can forgive them for overdoing it, because they loved to play and no one was playing better at the time (I doubt if they ever played as well as they did during these early years; they were clearly not as good by the time they made their concert movie, I think in ’73). They were pumped about playing here, you can hear Robert Plant announce that just before they begin. They’d spent much of the day scoring local rockabilly and blues records that were rare elsewhere, something you could still do fairly easily in Memphis back then.
However, as good as the show was and as well as they played, they did not depart on good terms. The police got very antsy and interrupted them during the last long medley (based around How Many More Times but including Tobacco Road, Honey Bee, and also Memphis TN and That’s Alright Mamma for the occasion) and kept harrassing them to get the crowd to sit down. This was still the era of violent Viet Nam protests, and the cops were just nervous. Before the encore you can hear Plant, at the behest of the police, beg the crowd to sit before a policeman chimes in. Plant obviously didn’t care about the crowd standing, but the band was under threat of arrest at that point. Then Page lashes out the first chords of Whole Lotta Love and the place goes bonkers again. The police had ordered all the house lights turned on during How Many More Times; they just wanted people to leave. But of course no one did, because the band was at full throttle.
Meanwhile, backstage, the promoter was afraid the authorities would ban him from ever staging another show in Memphis, so he pointed a gun at Peter Grant to try to make him stop the show. Grant called his bluff and reportedly looked him square in the eye and said “ya can’t shoot me, ya cunt. They gave us the key to the fuckin’ city.” And they had. Prior to their arrival, Mayor Loeb decided to award an official key “to that Led Zeppelin feller who can sell out the coliseum in an hour” (a record at the time). When the mayor saw their hair, he regretted the decision, but ever the southern gentleman, proceeded anyway in a short, awkward meeting the afternoon of the show.
As for me, I got grounded a few weeks for attending. The newspaper reported the widespread pot use and trouble with the police. When I’d asked permission to go, I said LZ were sort of like the Partridge Family. I had no idea they reviewed rock concerts in the newspapers. It was worth the grounding. I don’t think I saw such an exciting culture clash until the Sex Pistols came through in early ’78.
This tour was in support of Led Zeppelin II. The Memphis date came a few months after the legendary Royal Albert Hall show, so the set is similar but mostly better. They’d toured extensively in between, so they’d perfected it on the road by the time they got to Memphis. Just one of many examples: here’s the RAH version of their opener, “We’re Gonna Groove,” and here’s the Memphis one. Page had added some great guitar fills, and then there’s the extra funk groove in the middle.
If the Russian army has seemed inept to you, that’s because it is.
If you’re interested, here is the best site for war information. It’s geared towards military, and its contributors are mostly data-driven soldiers or wonks. As a result, there wasn’t the usual media and government surprise about the Russians’ difficulties. As far back as November, they were pointing out the Russians’ logistical shortcomings, and this week they reported a Marine Corps University war game that, prior to the invasion, predicted very closely how it would go.
As an old Cold War brat of the 7th Army in Germany, I remember that there was no respect for the Red Army back then. They had scary bombs and large troop numbers, but our army considered them 3rd rate in all other regards. In 2022, the only thing that’s changed is that they’re much smaller. Putin’s “build-up” has been in weapons, not in building a viable army, which hasn’t attempted anything like this since their 70’s-80’s Afghanistan disaster. I don’t think this cold war will be long, because Russia won’t have the money or manpower to sustain one, or even occupy Ukraine (assuming they win). That’s not to say this won’t get very dangerous.
Here’s a radio show of some 60’s-70’s rarities. I love the ones by the Breakers and Flash and the Memphis Casuals. I bet they kicked ass live (I’m not old enough to have seen them, although I did see about half of the others on this list). Unlisted after the Tommy Hoehn song is a pretty terrible cover of “I Walk the Line” by a band called Hot Dogs, who had some good songs; why on earth was that chosen? I find Chris Bell’s acoustic version of “I Am The Cosmos” too slow, sludgy, and depressing–which I guess makes sense, as he was chronically depressed. It’s the sound of Quaalude abuse. The official single version moves along better, although there’s still about as much sludge as I can endure.