Wishbone Ash

wishbone ash in concert
Wishbone Ash and their Orange amp rigs in the 1970’s always put on a fantastic show.

Wishbone Ash was a forerunner to the guitar sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Eagles. Wishbone Ash’s album ‘Argus’ was out by 1972, a year before the first Skynyrd album.

Their album ‘There’s The Rub’ has some great guitar work, with melodic solos. A great study for aspiring lead players. High points on the album are ‘Don’t Come Back,’ ‘Persephone’ and ‘Lady Jay.’

The rhythm-guitar parts on ‘There’s The Rub’ are varied and interesting. The rhythm-guitar in Persephone uses 6th and 3rd lines. Persephone is a study in arranging for rock rhythm-guitar.

The King Will Come is probably their biggest hit. It uses a single-line hook instead of a chordal background, like in Clapton’s Sunshine Of Your Love and Hendrix’s Purple Haze. Except this one’s spookier, darker than Love or Haze. The lead is a soaring ‘wah’ solo similar to the feel in Clapton’s solo on Presence Of The Lord.

Blowin’ Free was probably their second biggest hit. This one starts out with a rhythm-guitar riff based on a moving the open ‘D’ chord shape up the neck, and alternating against the open ‘D’ string. (Warning: wicked little-finger stretch if you’re not used to it. May want to barre across three strings instead of just shifting your standard ‘D’ chord shape.) The verse has a unusual open-position rhythm-guitar riff. There’s a slow section with some nice solo guitar lines. This is followed by another solo section that’s a little like Allman or Betts.

This album also has some great material for bass-players. The bass lines jam, they’re all over the place. But they are completely coherent and appropriate to the moment. A little like McCartney and Entwhistle.

According to Wiki, John Wetton played with them after King Krimson, so there’s a direct link with Trapeze and Uriah Heep. More to say about some of these guys in later posts.

Wishbone Ash was a pioneering group that influenced many of their contemporaries. One of the essential high points of 1970’s rock guitar.

Historical notes: Wishbone Ash played at a free outdoor concert in 1975 at Fair Park in Dallas, sponsored by KZEW 98 FM. It was called the ‘Can Jam.’ Admission was a can of food for the local food bank. Radio stations used to do that sort of thing back then. Also performing that day were Freddie King, Blue Oyster Cult, Head East, and Black Oak Arkansas.

ABC’s Wide World Of Sports used instrumental sections of Don’t Come Back as music for a pre-recorded segment in the early 70’s. Another time, WWS used parts of Yes’ Close To The Edge in a segment about ski-jumping.

The King Will Come got air radio airplay in Dallas on KNUS, KZEW, and KRLD (?), and in Houston on KLOL. Blowin’ Free was played on KNUS and KZEW.

 

Funniest Show Ever Made for TV

The series Made In Canada is my vote for the funniest TV series ever made, though it may be a tie with John Cleese's Fawlty Towers.

Okay, this show isn't for everyone. It's about a Canadian production company that makes movies and TV shows. It gives a behind the scenes look at the egos, the hype, the back-stabbing office politics, the boardrooms, and the sets. It's well-written, acted, shot, and edited. (Yes, there's comedy in editing if you do it right.) It may be the most realistic sit-com ever made. The characters and situations are completely believable. The plots are a little complicated, but coherent and to the point with just the right amount of physical comedy, and no loose ends.

Made in the nineties, a lot of references probably wont make sense to people twenty years from now. It ain't all that kid-friendly, but kids probably wont like it anyhow. It ran for 6 seasons. Only season 1 was ever released on DVD.

The first season and a few other episodes are on Youtube at the time of this writing. The 1st, 4th and 6th episodes are especially good.

Season one is great, but season two is the best in my opinion. The episodes NAPTE, Girls Night Out, Damacles Directs, Connect the Dots, and Buy the Book are hilarious! (I don't use exclamation points very often.)

The entire series is on Amazon.

Here is the first part of episode 4. Check out 1 and 3 for the back story.

"I Think That Went Well ..."

I'll feature more of these later just to remind you.

Word of Mouth – A Parable from Tom Robbins


An Excerpt From Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

“Er, ah, this quite an interesting place you fixing up here.” The speaker was Gunnar Hansen, a thirty-fivish pea farmer from down the road a ways.

“Thank you, Mr. Hansen,” smiled Amanda.

“But you folks, your name ain’t Kendrick,” Farmer Hansen said with uncertainty.

“No,” Amanda assured him, “our name is Ziller.”

“Well, er, ah, who’s this Kendrick?” asked Farmer Hansen, trying to sound jocular through an accent the color of a midwinter suicide. He was nodding his tombstone head at the new neon-bordered sign that stretched across the roadhouse facade just below the great giant sausage: CAPT. KENDRICK MEMORIAL HOT DOG WILDLIFE PRESERVE. That’s how the sign read, in letters the height of Jewish ghetto tailors.

“Shame on you, Mr. Hansen,” Amanda said. “You don’t know your local history.”

“Well, I thought I did.”

“Captain John Kendrick. You can look him up in History of the Pacific Northwest by George W. Fuller. Captain Kendrick was one of the first fur trader and explorers to operate in the Puget Sound region. Came here in 1788. On slim evidence he was reported to be the first white mand to navigate the Strait of Juan de Fuca and to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. He did quite a bit of exploring but unfortunately he neglected to leave any record of his discoveries. History repaid him for that oversight by generally ignoring him. After about five years here, he tired of the Northwest skin trade and set sail for the Sandwich Islands. He arrived on December 12, 1794 and was immediately killed by a shot from a British ship which was saluting him.”

‘Oh, awful,” said Farmer Hansen, with a Nordic insensitivity to irony. He drove away in his truck. Farmer Hansen had five children attending public schools in Mount Vernon and Conway. Perhaps that explains why it is now common belief among Skagit County pupils that Capt. John Kendrick invented the weenie sandwich in 1794.

— Tom Robbins from Another Roadside Attraction
Copyright 1971 Thomas E. Robbins
Published by Bantam Dell
A division of Random House, Inc.
New York, New York

Greg’s First Live Show With a New Band

From 2015. This was the first song of Are We Them’s debut gig. ‘Are We Them’ was a tribute to REM. I’m was on bass. We’re playing at the Concert Pub North. We played one other gig there, and two at the House of Blues here in Houston before going our separate ways. The other guys were all in other bands. It was a side project for everyone.

I joined them because I wanted to play a little, but not necessarily play out. I didn’t think they would actually book any gigs. I just liked to get out of the house and jam on REM for a couple of hours Sunday afternoons, when they rehearsed.

I underestimated how complicated some of Mike Mills’ bass parts are. I think Mills used a pick. I played everything fingerstyle, except ‘Radio Free Europe,’ and ‘End of the World.’

The audiences were always great. Fun little project … more to come.

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself …

Greg V performing with Fuzzy Side Up

There are at least two other working bands in the U.S. named “Fuzzy Side Up.” There are two different FSUs with videos on Youtube. One is FSU here in Houston. They’ve been around for more than 15 years. I played with them for 11 years, from 2002 to 2013. The other is in Pennsylvania.

After I left, I produced several videos of FSU Houston with Jeff Ferrier on guitar. So most “Fuzzy Side Up” videos on Youtube aren’t me. I think these are the only ones left — for the moment.

There used to be more videos of us posted. Several really good ones have been removed, for reasons unknown. I have a lot of video unedited. One of my ongoing projects is to get some of those shows edited and posted. By an unexpected turn of events, I’m playing with FSU again, for a little while at least.

Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz cover

I’m A Man – Spencer Davis and Chicago cover

Listen To The Music – Doobie Bros cover

I’m shooting looks at Frank (on drums) because he’s speeding up, but he never looks over at me. This one was taken by the good folks at the Houston Press. The Houston Press is out of print now, but they are still alive and well online. Check them out.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen cover

I like the part I created for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The strummng in the first half follows Brian May’s part. From the second verse on, my part is a lot busier than May’s, including the solo and outro. May’s original part is tasteful, but sparse — too sparse for a live arrangement. I think my lead fills add to the energy overall. I don’t think it walks on James.


I’ve Got A Line On You Babe – Spirit cover


Respect Yourself


Groovin – Rascals cover

Listen To the Music – another take

Baby Baby

 

Below is a fragment from Dan’s birthday party. (A take of ‘Tiny Dancer’ is also floating around out there somewhere.)

 

Songs About the Music Business

Here are three songs recounting the simple joys of life under contract with a major label. Turns out to be a popular lyric theme during this era. All of these songs feature fantastic guitar work. We’ll dig into a few of those parts later. But for now, enjoy three great songs from the ’70s. All on the ‘KZEW 98 FM’ playlist on Spotify.

Pink Floyd – Have a Cigar


Joni Mitchell – Free Man in Paris

The POV in this lyric hinges around the sixth and seventh words, ‘he said.’ Except for this phrase, the rest of the lyric is in quotation marks.


Lynyrd Skynyrd – Workin’ For MCA

Titles in ‘Quotes’ Instead of Italics

I feel like channeling William Safire for a minute. The other day, I noticed a CNN article where song titles were placed in quotation marks. Traditionally, it’s proper style to write the titles of songs, books or movies in italics. I never liked this convention because it decreases readability. ‘Readability’ isn’t a matter of opinion, it’s scientifically measurable.

Italics look okay on paper, but they’re harder to read on screens, especially phones. Bolding italics is distracting and still less readable. Hats off to CNN for adopting this common sense practice.

I’m going to start putting titles in quotes instead of italics in my blog posts. If it’s good enough for CNN, it’s good enough for me. I write titles all the time here. So I’ll reserve italics for emphasis and, I suppose, bold italics as a sort of ‘nuclear option.

 

 

A Great Virtual Station on Spotify – KNUS 98.7 FM Dallas

The first of two new virtual radio stations on Spotify.

The ‘stations’ are recreations of playlists from two Dallas radio stations from the late 1960s through the late ’70s. This is classic rock radio as it really was. These playlists are intended as entertainment, but they’re also historical documents, if based only on my personal recollection.

The Spotify playlist ‘KNUS 98.7 FM DALLAS’ includes music played on the legendary mixed-format station, and spans the years 1968 to 1973. It has more than 380 songs.

KNUS covers the era of the supergroups. The Beatles were the backbone of KNUS’s playlist. They also featured the Doors, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Allman Bros, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Badfinger, Free, Cream, Blind Faith, Traffic, Crosby Still Nash & Young, and Jefferson Airplane, to name a few. Probably 80% of KNUS’s airtime was divided between only about 45 bands.

Dallasites from that time remember KNUS as a psychadelic and hard rock station. True enough. But they forget how jazzy it was. Right next to Deep Purple, the James Gang and Mountain, was amazing new music from Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Brian Auger. And new music from old-school jazzers like Miles, Dave Brubeck and Yusef Lateef’s Detriot.

At still other times, the mood is calm, etheral, contemplative. Like Don McLean’s Vincent, Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic, or Alice Coltrane’s (John’s wife) manic harp strums on her Huntington Ashram Monestary album.

KNUS often included entire albums in their playlists. This is a testament to the strength of some of the albums released at the time. This was before the era when record companies instituted ‘one-hit-per-album’ rules.

A lot of this music was not very well recorded. They just didn’t have the techonolgy at the time. There are a few terrible bass guitar tones on these tracks, because it was really hard to find good bass strings back then. Some problems were just due to carelessness. What about the ‘dropout’ in the guitar track in the opening of Smoke On The Water? Or the crummy upright piano they used to record Colour My World, after the great engineering on Chicago Transit Authority? A lot of great music didn’t make the cut in today’s classic rock radio market because of poor engineering. But in recent years, a lot of those old records have been remastered, and many of them sound better as a result.

There are practically no women artists in this list. Fleetwood Mac was still being fronted by Bob Welch. Linda Ronstadt was still learning the ropes as a solo artist, just out of the Stone Ponies. There was the single hit from Smith. Carole King and Carly Simon each had three of four hits, Judy Collins with her one big crossover hit (Someday Soon), and that was just about it.

The real KNUS included AM radio hits from the ’60s, and occasional bubblegum hits, especially weekday mornings. I’ve excluded the AM hits. This playlist gives you the authentic flavor of the late-great KNUS on a typical afternoon or evening.

More later on the story of KNUS, its importance in radio history, and it’s (sorry to keep repeating this word) legendary creator, ‘The Maverick of Radio,’ and a personal hero of mine, Gordon McLendon.

KNUS 98.7 FM DALLAS Playlist on Spotify

This embedded playlist has only 200 songs. There are more than 380 songs in this playlist if you go on Spotify. If you don’t have the app, just check out the 30 second clips. It’s a great way to sample the flavors of this incredible station from the past.

You can also find KNUS playlists at the HoustonGuitar channel on Youtube.

KNUS Playlist – Part 1 (Skip the first video – don’t shuffle – complete albums at the end of the list)

KNUS Playlist – Part 2  (Cool to shuffle)

Another Spotify playlist, ‘KZEW 98 FM DALLAS’ is comprised of music from the legendary successor to KNUS. “The Zoo” playlist covers the years 1973 to 1978. The real KZEW was around in one form or another until 1989. I chose ’78 as a cutoff point because ’78, give or take, is another stylistic turning point in rock. More about the Zoo playlist another time.

The real KZEW included a lot of songs from the KNUS playlist. To preserve the unique character of each playlist, I have excluded KNUS songs from the KZEW playlist.

 

Yellow Submarine – The Trailer

The trailer for the MCMLXVIII film, Yellow Submarine. A gripping, if not entirely coherent tale of the Yellow forces of Good in their battle to conquer the Blue forces of Evil. For its time, it was original. All these years later, it’s still fun and imaginative.

By 1968, the only notable animated films were from Disney. Comparisons with Disney’s  Fantasia were inevitable. Yellow Submarine uses a simpler animation style than Disney’s films, at times minimalist. New, specialized film/animation techniques in Yellow Submarine influenced later animators like Ralph Bakshi in Fritz the Cat, and Wizards. It also influenced Terry Gilliam and Monty Python. (Python’s John Cleese has a hilarious scene with Beatle Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers in The Magic Christian.)

Many people at the time assumed that Peter Max created the artwork for the film, because the artwork is in the style of Peter Max. Many people still believe that today, though Max had nothing to do with the film. Just like the way that people today still think the Beatles recorded all those Badfinger songs. The art director was a German illustrator, Heinz Edelmann.

The Yellow Submarine album is as unusual as the film. First, it’s unusual to release a studio album by a major band as a film soundtrack. It’s unusual that the band plays on only the first side of an album with only four new songs. The second side is George Martin’s orchestral compositions for the film.

The orchestra on Yellow Submarine was recorded in a way that no one had heard before, by isolating and close-micing some instruments. From the opening measures, there is something different about the tone of the orchestra. Not like anything you’ve ever heard on Deutsche Grammophon, or from the film studios. It still sounds unique today.

Pantomiming live-action with music is usually a bad idea. In The Producers (1967) and Mad, Mad World (1963), for example, the music closely follows the action, and it becomes tiring quickly.

In cartoons, the rules are different. The music almost always follows the action.  Martin’s musical pantomimes always enhance the action and the humor. With Yellow Submarine, Martin joins the ranks of great composers for animation like Carl Stalling for Warner Bros and Scott Bradley for Hanna-Barbera.

About the music itself. Side 2 opens with a musical depiction of Pepperland. It’s quaint, orderly, thoroughly boring, and a little at odds with the visual extravagance onscreen. It seems to set the musical rules, but it’s a sucker-punch.

Tracing the path from order to chaos is a common artistic motif, like the gradual destruction of Col. Ripper’s office in Dr. Strangelove, or the destruction of Pyramid Picture’s offices in Girl’s Night Out (season 2 Made In Canada).

Martin’s score descends into eerie disorder from the first few seconds after  Pepperland. As you progress through the Sea of Time, the Sea of Holes, the Sea of Monsters, the  March of the Meanies, the musical landscapes become steadily more ominous. This sequence culminates in the strangely beautiful Pepperland Laid Waste, before order is restored again in the final track, Yellow Submarine in Pepperland.

If you haven’t heard it before, I hope you’ll check out George Martin’s memorable score on Side 2 of Yellow Submarine.

A lot of Beatles fans deride this album, but in my opinion, those people are simply wrong.