Zumwalt Poems Online

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Tyrannosaurus Rex: My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows

After the collapse of John’s Children, Marc Bolan hastily formed a new group to play at the Electric Garden club in Convent Garden, London, interviewing band members just a few hours before it was time to go on stage.  The band was booed off, and Bolan dropped the bass and guitarist, keeping drummer, Steve Peregrin Took, and busking in the tube stations as an acoustic guitar and bongos duo, until, championed by famous DJ John Peel, they recorded their first album, which included John Peel reciting Marc Bolan’s prose on the last track of side two.

Released on July 5, 1968, Tyrannosaurus Rex’s debut album, My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows, starts off with a basic blues number, a composition from Marc Bolan’s earlier days, but still sung with an authenticity hearkening back to blues 78s from the 1920s.  It is after that point in the album, excepting another earlier song, “Mustang Ford”, that the duo of Bolan (assumed last name based on Bob Dylan) and Peregrin Took (yes, assumed last name from the novel, The Hobbit) embark on their own path, a concoction of folk, blues, and sidewalk musicianship that has an otherwordly, mystical flavor and just enough dissonance to make the music sparkle.

Give some credit, also, to producer Tony Viscounti, for capturing the general spontaneous and naturalness of the duo,  yet delivering a polished, finished product.  Viscounti had been working as an in-house producer for the Richmond Organization which produced music by the Weavers, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie,  Georgie Fame, and Anthony Newley as well  as other folk and jazz artists.  Just as one can hear some similarities with Anthony Newley on David Bowie’s first album, there are moments in this T. Rex album that are very much folk, with Viscounti working his magic to create a freshness, vitality and clarity to the music, keeping intact the beauty of the acoustic guitar through this wonderful album.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Marc Bolan.

Side A

No.

Title

Length

1.

“Hot Rod Mama”

3:09

2.

“Scenescof”

1:41

3.

“Child Star”

2:52

4.

“Strange Orchestras”

1:47

5.

“Chateau in Virginia Waters”

2:38

6.

“Dwarfish Trumpet Blues”

2:47

Side B

No.

Title

Length

1.

“Mustang Ford”

2:56

2.

“Afghan Woman”

1:59

3.

“Knight”

2:38

4.

“Graceful Fat Sheba”

1:28

5.

“Wielder of Words”

3:19

6.

“Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)”

5:55

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Also, John Peel, narration on “Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)”

 

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Charles Tolliver: Paper Man

Recorded on July 2, 1968, Charles Tolliver first album as a leader, Paper Man, seems to be one of those overlooked gems of jazz, not easily available today as a CD or LP, though accessible via Amazon streaming or downloadable from Amazon as mp3s.  Tolliver is supported by pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Joe Chambers and, for part of the album, altoist Gary Bartz.  Herbie Hancock is particularly inventive, providing diverse accompaniment and soloing, and Charles Tolliver sounds great!  The title track, perhaps intended for radio air play, is the most conservative, and potentially most commercial of the tracks and ends the album, with the first five tracks all being more adventurous and compelling.  The production quality of this album is very good for 1968, with clear definition of Joe Chambers’ excellent drum work on the left channel and Hancock acoustic piano on the right.  Well worth the effort to track this down, and an album that deserves repeated listening.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Charles Tolliver

  1. “Earl’s World” – 4:23
  2. “Peace With Myself” – 9:37
  3. “Right Now” – 5:47
  4. “Household of Saud” – 6:06
  5. “Lil’s Paradise” – 7:05
  6. “Paper Man” – 6:11

Personnel

Waiting For The Sun

The Doors: Waiting For the Sun

Recorded mostly in the first five months of 1968 and released on July 3, 1968, this third Doors’ album continues along the same path as their second,  however with all but one of Morrison’s cache of original material previously recorded, Morrison and the band had to rush to come up with new music.  Initially, the were going to include a composite piece of earlier Morrison fragments (a version of this can be heard on side four of their live album released two years later), but for whatever reason this was abandoned.  The hit from this album “Hello, I Love You”, was written by Morrison a few years earlier, and was previously recorded in 1965 with an earlier version of the band named Rick & The Ravens. This 1968 version was promoted as the first rock single released in stereo, and it climbed to number one on the pop charts in both the U.S. and Canada.

The album is generally pretty good with Ray Manzarek’s keyboards and Robby Kreiger’s providing interest and substance.  For fans of West Coast jazz, Leroy Vinnegar plays bass on track “Spanish Caravan.”

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by The Doors (Jim MorrisonRay ManzarekRobby Krieger and John Densmore), except as stated.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. Hello, I Love You” (written by Morrison) 2:14
2. Love Street” (written by Morrison) 2:53
3. Not to Touch the Earth” (written by Morrison) 3:56
4. “Summer’s Almost Gone” (written by Morrison) 3:22
5. “Wintertime Love” 1:54
6. The Unknown Soldier 3:23
Side B
No. Title Length
7. “Spanish Caravan” 3:03
8. “My Wild Love” 3:01
9. We Could Be So Good Together 2:26
10. “Yes, the River Knows” (written by Krieger) 2:36
11. Five to One” (written by Morrison) 4:26

The Doors

Additional musicians

 

Southern Rock from Canada and California

Rock was a child of many parents including Rock and Roll — and Rock and Roll was mainly the child of rhythm and blues, but often with some country thrown in, absorbed, stolen, or otherwise incorporated. One permutation of the more traditional rock-and-roll and blues-based rock music family offshoots that had been influenced by country music was what would later be labelled Southern Rock.  In contrast the progressive exploration and aggressive, rebellious pushing of the envelope taking place in 1968, we see an opposite trend in Southern Rock: a more conservative approach to music generally using a limited set of chord progressions, reverting back to a more homophonic or chordal texture, with solo guitar lines providing a large portion of the musical contrast or musical interest.

Amazingly enough, two of the early commercially successful representatives of this style were a California band sounding as if they had come from Louisiana, and a Canadian band that had first provided backup in Toronto for Arkansas-born Ronnie Hawkins and then later served as Bob Dylan’s touring rock band.

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Credence Clearwater Revival: Credence Clearwater Revival

With their three youngest players, including John Fogerty, together since their junior high in Los Cerritos,California, and the fourth being John’s older brother, Tom, who they soon joined up with, the Blue Velvets, played basic rock and roll, eventually signing up with Fantasy Records in 1964, with the unfortunate name of The Golliwogs being thrust on them — which, thankfully, was changed to Credence Clearwater  Revival when Fantasy Records changed ownership.  1960’s rock and roll, blues, rhythm and blues, and country music all contributed components to their first album, titled after the name of the band.

And though this is not the type of music I turn cartwheels over, I have to admit it is pretty good. John Fogerty’s guitar solos are interesting, the production of the album provides clear distinction of the basic rock instruments of drums, bass, rhythm guitar and lead guitar, and music is well crafted and well performed.  The album provided three singles for airplay,  including”Suzie Q”, a “swamp-rock” classic originally recorded and co-written by Dale Hawkins in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1957.  The remaining tracks are also interesting, with the bass and rhythm guitar on the last track, “Walk on Water”, a remake from the earlier days as the Golliwogs, being particularly notable.

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The Band: Music from the Big Pink

It’s easy enough to forget how much bad music was on the AM airwaves in 1968.  When we ask a streaming music assistant like Alexa to play music from the 1968, the fare provided is generally some of the better music, the classic tracks, the music that has survived the more critical scrutiny that occurs over time, as opposed to some of the least palatable numbers that found their way to the charts and on to the portable turntables of some of the teenyboppers that had lesser developed musical tastes.  One of the many annoying singles in 1968, was “The Weight.”  Listening to this again in 2018, I still cringe, despite the high audio quality of the track on the Mobile Fidelity SACD release of The Band’s debut album, Music from the Big Pink.  Listening to the album as a whole,  I hear much that is good, but nothing that excites me musically.

I realize that this album is considered a true rock classic by many, and though I don’t deny its historical influence, I don’t particularly celebrate that influence either.  To my ear these songs seemed to have started with a sequence of chord changes,  fairly ordinary chord changes, on which lyrics where imposed with the melody derived from the meter of the lyrics and the underlying chords.  Or perhaps, the lyrics were written first in some cases, perhaps in the case with the three Dylan songs on this album, and the music was something provided to support the lyrics.  However, this was put together, it doesn’t strike me as carefully crafted final set of music and lyrics, but something produced from the output of a series of casual jam sessions consolidated into shorter songs.

That first CCR album and this first album by The Band, along with a few other albums of 1968, such as the August 1968 Byrds album, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” and the two 1968 albums by Canned Heat, are early examples of country rock and more blues-based rock bands that would become more popular and prevalent in the 1970s, possibly as an alternative to the apparently less-accessible and more complex progressive rock that it would co-exist with.  One should also consider the influence of The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, psychedelic rock, blues rock and hard rock on this genre.  As always, pasting labels on music is perhaps effective for display or marketing purposes, but does little to further the enjoyment or understanding of such music. Never let anyone else’s opinion of something influence your innate desire to explore the vast expanse and richness of music left to us by previous or current generations of composers and musicians.

 

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Comments on: "Fifty Year Friday: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Charles Tolliver, The Doors and more" (10)

  1. I am not a big fan of Tyrannosaurus Rex (only after they transitioned into T. Rex and Bolan wrote the fun epic that is Electric Warrior), but that was a nice write-up on that record.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matt, thanks! Appreciate the feedback. Have you heard A Beard of Stars? (That is the last Tyrannosaurus Rex album before the first T. Rex album.)

    Like

  3. “Never let anyone else’s opinion of something influence your innate desire to explore the vast expanse and richness of music left to us by previous or current generations of composers and musicians.”

    Perish the thought! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Of these mentioned I owned three back in the day: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Doors, and The Band. Within a year or two, I really became enamoured with Tyrannosaurus. I liked their Unicorn album the best, it had wonderful fragmented textures. Hard to imagine they got all that sound variety out of two guys, basically. Steve Took was at top of his percussive game for Unicorn, Marc Bolan’s vocals and lyrics most evocative. And who can forget that narrated fairy tale just preceding the mysterious ‘Romany Soup’? I thought their 4th album was the beginning of the end, their gradual decline. Some excitement from the electric guitar stuff, but the magic dissipated.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great write-up and great artists to spotlight! My favorite Tyrannosaurus Rex album is Unicorn, with A Beard of Stars taking a close second. I have a substantial collection of tabs and other stuff for both Tyrannosaurus Rex and T.Rex on my blog (nakedonastrangeplanet.com) if anyone is interested.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the enjoyable read.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great block of music. I love The Band so much. (Yes, I’m one of those who revere this album.) What an unlikely grouping of musicians and a funky stew of styles. Side two of Music From the Big Pink is mesmerizing–too me. (I think The Weight is a work of art.)
    Then with Credence, I’m a huge fan. Doug Cliffard is such a fantastic drummer. I have never been able to choose between Dale Hawkins Suzie Q and Creedance’s. They owe a big chunk of their career to Dale Hawkins. I much prefer their version of I Put a Spell on You to the original from Screamin Jay Hawkins.
    Not too much of a Doors fan though I like some of their singles. I’ve always been partial to Spanish Caravan. It’s got that swinging bass anchor that is so lacking in The Doors music.
    Though I can tell our taste will diverge, as it has in this post, I’m happy to be following your blog. You clearly know your stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • allthingsthriller,

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Yes, tastes will diverge! Many consider The Big Pink one of the best, if not the best album of 1968. It’s so interesting how music resonates so individually with any given person. Even among highly skilled musicians and world class composers, one finds a wide divergence of what music they like!

      Liked by 1 person

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