Archive for the ‘Steppenwolf’ Category

Alvin Robinson

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Listen: Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson
Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson

I saw The Rolling Stones for the first time on October 30, 1965 at the Syracuse War Memorial. I had forged a press pass, a typed note actually, on letterhead from a weekly paper in my little hometown. My Dad had set me up with the pompous owner of it, as I wanted to interview the band for a feature.

Looking back it was quite a good idea on my part, but this self celebrating fellow was nasty and dismissive. Even though I ended up meeting the band, I still loathe him for his attitude, not towards me, but towards my Father. He was so busy being busy, running in and out of his pathetic office, that I just reached over and grabbed a few pages of letterhead when he wasn’t looking. I shook with fear at what I’d done. I was still a good Catholic boy, but too late, I’d done it. So he tells me, “We don’t need a piece on this dirty English combo”, and that was that, or so he thought. Indeed, they didn’t need a a kid in his late single digits writing a review.

To be exact, this was the Canastota Bee Journal, as close as you can get to Mayberry. He and the paper, I’m guessing, are long gone. Still, I composed this laughable letter, claiming to be a writer on assignment and needing to interview them for a feature.

In those days, arenas were filled with hysterical, screaming kids, so how I managed to slide backstage so easily still baffles. An usher fell for that forged letter, and brought me back, where Bill Wyman was wrapping up his cords. Bill reads it, stares me straight in the eye and says in hindsight with a knowing smirk, “Come on and we’ll meet the rest”.

Holy shit. Is this really happening? It was the first time I nearly blacked out. I seriously remember that vividly. We are suddenly walking up the steps to the dressing room, knees weak, where in years to follow, I would meet, more like pester, (here goes, I know this is all a bit name droppy, but it really, really happened. I met all these bands and I’m proud of it): The Mindbenders, Them, The Moody Blues, The Nashville Teens, The Ikettes, The Who, The Pretty Things, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Heads Hands & Feet, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, Caravan, Toe Fat, Derek & The Dominoes, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Frampton’s Camel, Traffic, Wild Turkey, The Faces, Badfinger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Mother Earth, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Chambers Brothers, Sly & The Family Stone, Savoy Brown, Iron Butterfly, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, even Vivian Green, who I worked with decades later, was in that very room when on tour with Maxwell. Talk about coming full circle.

The management knew me and my friends well early on, they must’ve gotten a kick out of these crazy little kids, who’s Mom’s & Dad’s would wait patiently for until the shows ended. Our parents befriended the office staff, and in turn, those nice ladies always let us backstage.

The Rolling Stones were great, so nice. No one was in their dressing room except the band, and one other guy, I’m guess Ian Stewart, the tour manager. No food, nothing but bottles of Coca Cola. They signed my copy of 12 X 5, it probably lasted all of a minute but I still can relive it to this day. Here I was, with this exotic band from England that changed my life, which prior I could only see on TV every three to four months tops. I thought at that very moment, “This is the life for me”. I’m completely convinced it led to my career in music. No question.

Their current album at the time, THE ROLLING STONES NOW, was not a real album at all. In those days, the English labels released singles and EPs, in addition to albums. Not only were the EP tracks not on the LPs, but the singles weren’t either. So the US companies were always dropping off intended LP tracks to make room for the singles and sometimes strong ones from those EPs. For this particular release, London Records basically cobbled together some singles and EP songs, as well as unused UK LP tracks. Remember, the UK LPs were 14 songs compared to our 10-12, thereby creating even more choices.

Probably by coincidence more than design, THE ROLLING STONES NOW actually works as a proper LP. It was certainly a big success, slowly but very solidly scaling the US LP charts and staying Top 10 for ages, as it deserved to. The record’s filled with dark, minor key classics like ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Pain In My Heart’ which they played on that night, Brian sitting at a huge B3 organ, wailing away.

It’s ok if you’re getting tingles. Take your time. You’ll need it. They were back, nine months later, during the AFTERMATH tour, and that’s whole ‘nother post waiting to be written.

This all leads us to ‘Down Home Girl’, a song on THE ROLLING STONES NOW. Little did I know then that it was a cover. I don’t even think I knew what that meant. They were all Rolling Stones songs to us. Years and years later I wised up, seeked out the original, and became a dangerous Alvin Robinson fanatic.

Here’s his version. Get any of his other releases. all of them actually.

Rick James

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Listen: Love Gun (Edit) / Rick James
Love

Rick James may as well been a Parliament/Funkadelic alumni in my world. He had the glitzy clothes and all the horn jabs required, even if they were played a little too manically. In fact, his overtly obvious psychedelicness goes way back to bandmates during the late 60′s, including guys from Kaleidoscope , Steppenwolf, The Yellow Payges, T.I.M.E. and The Buffalo Springfield.

There was a time when ‘Love Gun’, being a strictly RnB mid-chart single (late ’79), had no place on my college radio shows, made very clear via the frostbite those other student disc jockeys who populated the stations lobby/lounge, and airwaves, sent my way. Most of them were dabbling in reggae or fumbling through the occasional jazz track, but never funk or anything really hardcore RnB. Seems it all rang very disco to those guys, which is fair enough upon a revisit of the track last night. But to get your back up over Rick James, sorry, I could never understand the unified intolerance.

The only problem I saw with spinning ‘Love Gun’ was trying to find a follow-up in the set. The Ohio Players ‘Love Rollercoaster’ worked, but only dug me deeper down the now what path. Usually rounding off the hour with it, then into the news worked best, almost like a cold shower. That way I could crank it again through the control room monitors while the news room did their five minute drill.

Don Covay & The Goodtimers

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Listen: Sookie Sookie / Don Covay & The Goodtimers
Sookie Sookie / Don Covay & The Goodtimers

Somewhere in Island’s vaults exists a Don Covay album from around ’89. I know, I was there. It was one of many to be shelved during the label’s chaos of being sold to Polygram at the time. With all the majors scrapping the barrel to find sellable masters, you’d have thought this one may have hit the shelves by now. Except of course, most of the shelves are gone these days. Well it’s there somewhere.

I sure do wish I’d spent more time talking with him when he was around the W. 4th Street offices. What a gentleman, and so humble about his greatness. My mistake.

Steppenwolf covered ‘Sookie Sookie’ on their debut album, pretty well too. Now that was a good live band, a mix of biker and English group image, great material and John Kay’s black soul voice. Yeah, they were good.

This original Atlantic vinyl pressing of ‘Sookie Sookie’ is a beauty. You don’t get a warmer sound than on one of these.

Steppenwolf

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

SteppenwolfRockMeUKA2, Steppenwolf, Stateside, Dunhill

Listen: Rock Me / Steppenwolf SteppenwolfRockMe.mp3

Some great early albums, one right after the other. Their debut included ‘The Pusher’. Being able to hear anyone sing ‘goddam’ over and over on a record was a big deal at the time. As well, a song about drugs. How awesome was this?

“Rock Me’ was not as cliched as the title suggests. It’s the breakdown at exactly 2:00 lasting over a minute that, despite the cowbell, was almost gospel-like. It sounded way more happening and hip than just about anything getting Top 40 play in 1969. It didn’t take much convincing to purchase a ticket for their show in support of the 3rd album, MONSTER on March 30 of that year. The real miracle came after I’d bought it, the opening act was announced: Julie Driscoll / Brian Auger & The Trinity.