Robin Zander, Tom Peterrson, Bun E. Carlos, and Rick Nielsen made copious amounts of aural nirvana, particularly in the late 70s, as Cheap Trick. The concerts in Budokan were recorded in 1978, but not released in the US until demand became so frenzied that Epic had little choice. Intended solely as a Japanese album, the LP jettisoned the band into the realms of world domination. This was preceded by Heaven Tonight, the band’s greatest studio achievement. Several pieces from this classic are captured here performed live at various venues. Cheap Trick’s highs were nothing short of vertiginous.
Robyn Hitchcock is one of the more prolific and gifted figures in a certain (eccentric) quadrant of music history. After leaving The Soft Boys, a Neo-psych outfit he founded, Hitchcock emerged as a most formidable solo figure. Heavily influenced by Dylan, and Syd Barrett, his compositions tend towards the obscure, the ineffable, the humorous, the surreal. He remains a vital figure to this day.
The Velvet Underground consisted, in their heyday, of vocalist/guitarist Lou Reed, keyboardist/bassist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and Moe Tucker on the drumkit. Doug Yule replaced Cale in 1969, and Teutonic songstress Nico appeared on the group’s debut record.
Often cited as Godfathers of Punk, this hugely influential New York band mixed art rock, minimalism, garage rock, and often quite taboo lyrical subject matter. Brian Eno commented on the group’s initial lack of sales, “Everyone who bought one of those 30,000 albums (referring to the “Banana Album”) ended up starting a band.”
Syd Barrett, co-founder and main braintrust of Pink Floyd until his mental state made his departure inevitable, was without doubt one of the greatest, most original musicians of his time. Until being ousted from the band, he contributed the vast majority of the material.
Embarking on a solo career, Barrett composed and performed a wealth of brilliant, if patchwork, songs. Flashes of his genius abounded, but his increasingly erratic behavior made production quite challenging, indeed. Syd released 2 albums worth of material, then retired to private life for the rest of his days.
Lee Hazlewood came to be known as a songwriter for, and vocalist with, the wonderful Nancy Sinatra. His gravelly baritone was the perfect compliment to Sinatra’s pure-as-gold pipes. But he was far, far more than that. Listening to his solo material, it’s hard not to be won over by the deadpan idiosyncrasies that pervade his songs and delivery. Wry humour, outright quirkiness, and a wistful sense of loss are Lee’s calling cards. A wonderful musician, the leading light of “Cowboy Psychedelia”. But most importantly, he’s utterly, unapologetically himself.
Formed in 1976 by guitar maestro Andy Gill, vocalist Jon King, drummer Hugo Burnham, and bassist Dave Allen, Gang of Four produced some of the most crucial music of the late 70s-early 80s. Acerbic, satirical lyrics that were extremely socially aware were the group’s calling card, as was Gill’s formidable guitar work. The rhythm section generally laid down hard funk grooves, yet the music was spare, angular, jagged. A critical assemblage.
The Australian-born Nick Cave delivers his poetic, visionary compositions with mind-boggling intensity and fervor. Bad Seeds Mick Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, and others support Mr. Cave in his oft-times dark, tormented sojourn through the hinterlands. These performances are fierce, cathartic, electric.
Vocalist/keyboardist Burton Cummings and guitarist Randy Bachman led the Canadian band The Guess Who to legend and lore by the late sixties. Personnel changes ensued, with Bachman leaving to form BTO, and Cummings pursued a solo career. The band, though, touched the skies during their heyday. Randy Bachman’s composing and guitar skills were instrumental. Cummings leaves a legacy as one of the greatest vocalists ever to walk the earth.
In closing…the development of the BTO hit You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet deserves a read. Here.
The Lovin’ Spoonful, led by John Sebastian, and guitarist Zal Yanovsky, was formed in 1965, and produced a cavalcade of very distinctive hits until their 1969 breakup. Sebastian, though, carried on, and had more magic up his sleeve. A great composer, performer, and person.
Badfinger, a Welsh/English group primarily known for their early 70s work, were led by Pete Ham, and featured also Tom Evans and Joey Molland. A truly great, and too-oft forgotten band.