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Archive for the ‘1973’ Category

Where’s That Confounded Bridge?

In 1970s, 1973, British bands, Led Zeppelin, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock on August 12, 2016 at 10:22 pm

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Earlier this week, my 20-sided dice told me to listen to Led Zeppelin’s classic 1973 album, Houses of the Holy. I listened to it several times. I will now report my findings.

I have no specific memories of March 1973. Just hazy impressions.

I was in second grade at a smallish Catholic school in southeastern Pennsylvania. Each morning, I’d eat breakfast while I listened to powerhouse AM Philadelphia radio station WFIL on the radio. After I’d leave my house to walk to school, I would turn around at two or three specific spots to wave to Mom, standing inside the front door. Eventually, of course, there was no looking back, and I’d make the short trek to school.

My second grade teacher had a name that to this day I probably wouldn’t be able to spell. I am sure there was a basic second grade routine, but the details are lost to me now. Friday mornings, all the kids from first through eighth grade would walk in two neat rows over to the church for Mass. Our First Holy Communion would be happening in May, so it’s a safe bet that we were practicing for that.

In short, my life in March 1973 was about as different from that of Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert “Don’t Call Me Bob” Plant’s life that year as you can possibly imagine.

In fact, it might sound improbable, but I think I was unaware of the existence of Led Zeppelin in 1973, despite their lofty status as Rock Gods. I certainly liked music, and my tastes were gradually being formed, but no one was guiding me toward the kind of heaviness that Zeppelin represented. I can safely say that I had no idea that Led Zeppelin had released their fifth album, Houses of the Holy, in the spring of my second grade year.

Despite this, Robert Plant and I did share one common interest in 1973: spinning tales of the endless journeys of thousands of adventurers on some kind of mystical quest.

When school ended each day, I would wait for the old man crossing guard to part the traffic on Concord Road and I’d head down the long catwalk back into our neighborhood. As I walked, I’d often gaze at the ground and imagine that it was the terrain for some kind of epic journey being taken by massive groups of explorers or soldiers, facing danger at every turn. On rainy days, water streaming down the street would become mighty rivers on which imaginary sailors took endless, perilous journeys. Some survived, some did not, but the journey/battle/quest went on forever. At least in my mind. Each afternoon on my way home from school, I’d pick up the story where I’d left off the day before.

Though I certainly hadn’t heard the song, I was essentially acting out “No Quarter,” a dark story song from Houses of the Holy. It’s a mysterious song about a shadowy group of (presumably) men who are facing a raging snow storm and the “winds of Thor,” as they walk “side by side with death,” while “the devil mocks their every step.” The point of the march? To “carry news that must get through” and to “build a dream for me and you.”

I don’t know precisely what Plant was getting at with those lyrics, but hearing them now reminds me of those tales I’d make up during those walks home from school so long ago. Tales that existed completely in my head for more than 40 years, until I mentioned them to my wife Donna last night.

Of course, I guess Robert Plant and I both have Homer to thank for putting these kinds of stories in our heads. And in the head of any kid who ever grew up anywhere over the last few millennia.

I missed out on Houses of the Holy in 1973. When I think of the music from March 1973 that might have resonated with me, I find that it’s the soul songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 from late March of that year that feel the most foundational to my musical tastes. In short, the songs by the Spinners, Stylistics, O’Jays and so many more are the ones that I was probably hearing the most those mornings on WFIL, and they’re the ones that sank deep into me. Bands like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd–whose Dark Side of the Moon was also released in March 1973 and whose popularity has arguably eclipsed that of Houses of the Holy–would have to wait for me to catch up to them.

But I did catch up eventually. I’m sure that I had heard all eight songs from Houses of the Holy on rock stations like WMMR by the time drummer John Bonham’s death brought Zeppelin to an untimely end in 1980. I got over my fear of “heavy” music and began to dive into Zeppelin’s albums, first by borrowing them from my high school classmate Dave, and then by buying them one by one for about $5.00 at my local Listening Booth record store.

And so it was that about 10 years after its release, I heard Houses of the Holy for the first time. I don’t remember the first time I listened to it, beginning to end, but I was likely amazed at how I’d already heard every song from the LP on ‘MMR. Houses of the Holy was just that damn important to the burgeoning “classic rock” culture of the early 1980s.

I don’t know that Houses of the Holy was universally acclaimed at the time of its release, but I think it holds up well. It’s a diverse album, ranging from raging Zep stompers like “Dancing Days,” “Over The Hills and Far Away,” and “The Ocean” to the ethereal “The Rain Song,” still one of the most gorgeous songs Plant has ever sung (and dig those mellotron-generated strings!). Plus, you get a goofy reggae tribute, “D’yer Mak’er” and the James Brown parody, “The Crunge,” both rare displays of a Zeppelin sense of humor. Where is that confounded bridge, anyway?

During my college years, I was falling in love with all kinds of new music, but I wound up burrowing deeper into the classic rock canon as well. More than a few times, Houses of the Holy would be the soundtrack to college dorm backgammon matches. Yes, indeed, I knew how to party.

Houses of the Holy and I sometimes spend years apart, but every now and then I rediscover it and listen to it for days or weeks on end. This is what happened after I met an online friend named Tommy back around 2008 or thereabout. He was a big Zeppelin fan, and he reignited my love for Houses of the Holy. I never met Tommy in real life and he is now sadly gone. But I feel his presence, along with the presence of those still here–Rick and Greg from college, Dave and Joe from high school–with whom I’ve shared the mighty Houses of the Holy through the years. And even the presence of seven-year-old me, telling myself the story of “No Quarter,” as I walked home from school, long before I’d ever heard of “No Quarter,” Houses of the Holy, or even Led Zeppelin itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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333 Words about Abandoned Luncheonette

In 1970s, 1973, Rich's House of Vinyl on November 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Typically I use a chance operation to determine what albums I profile on this blog, but once in awhile there is a good reason to write about a specific LP on a specific day. Such is the case with Hall & Oates’ Abandoned Luncheonette, released 40 years ago today.

A breakthrough album for Hall & Oates, Abandoned Luncheonette provided the duo with a big hit single, “She’s Gone,” though it wasn’t a hit for the duo until both Lou Rawls and Tavares recorded popular covers of it.

In addition to the musical success Abandoned Luncheonette brought its creators, the LP created a fair amount of notoriety for its cover model, the ruins of the Rosedale Diner, which had been a mainstay in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where Daryl Hall grew up, for years. By 1973, what was left of the Rosedale sat along Route 724, just up the road from where I now live.  The success of Abandoned Luncheonette led to many pilgrimages by fans to Route 724 until 1983, when the diners remains was burned by a local fire company.

In more recent times, a guy named Matt Simmons fell in love with the Abandoned Luncheonette album and determined that he was going to travel to 724 and learn more about the Rosedale. He did just that, and probably knows more about the Rosedale than just about anyone.

Given our shared interest and my physical proximity to the site where the Rosedale rested for years, it was probably inevitable that Matt and I should become friends. As is often the case, social media helped us meet and facilitated our friendship to the point where we actually met in person back in August. I was happy to show Matt and his family the Colonial Theater here in Phoenixville and I later joined Matt as he visited the Rosedale site and even found me one of the remaining bits of floor tiles from the diner.

Here’s Matt and me that day, listening to Michael Kropp play at the Phoenixville Farmer’s Market:

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333 Words About 3 + 3

In 1970s, 1973, funk, guitar solos, Isley Brothers, record collecting, records, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock, soul on November 1, 2013 at 2:28 am

The Isley Brothers weren’t midway through their career in 1973, even though they’d been around since the mid-1950s. But they were at the top of their game on that year’s 3 + 3 album.

Hearing this album was a revelation to me. Of course, everyone knows about “Shout” and “Twist and Shout,” as well as “This Old Heart of Mine.” I’m quite partial to “It’s Your Thing,” as well. But 3 + 3 finds the Isleys tapping into the sound and feel of mid-1970s funk and moving the genre along with their own innovations.

The first thing I noticed after listening to the entire album is how it’s pretty evenly divided between excellent Isley compositions and killer cover versions of recent pop hits. The album opens with the insanely catchy hit single, “That Lady,” an Isley original, and the quality never lets up, whether the band is tackling their own songs or those by James Taylor (“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”) and the Doobie Brothers (“Listen to the Music”).  And, though Chris Jasper is credited with playing the “clarinet” on several songs, I’m pretty certain that it’s actually a “clavinet” that he is using to distribute liberal dollops of funk throughout the album.

While the entire album is quite enjoyable, 3 + 3 brings it all home toward the end, with the Isley’s magnificent cover of Seals and Crofts’ proto-yacht rock hit, “Summer Breeze.” The Isleys take their time with “Summer Breeze,” letting it develop at a languid pace that at one point, unexpectedly reminds me of British band XTC. I say unexpected because I would have never imagined that XTC would remind me either of the Isley Brothers or Seals and Crofts. One particular verse though, has a musical and lyrical vibe that would feel right at home on XTC’s classic (and languid) album, Skylarking.

All the languidness (languidity?) is clearly leading up to something: an explosive guitar solo by Ernie Isley that starts about four minutes into the song and rides “Summer Breeze” to a glorious conclusion two minutes later.

Daily Record 1/14/11: Houses of the Holy-Led Zeppelin (1973)

In 1970s, 1973, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock on January 15, 2011 at 1:54 am

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Houses of the Holy, my favorite Led Zeppelin album.

At least today, Houses of the Holy is my favorite Zep record. But it has been many other days as well.

Back when I was in high school, it was pretty easy to obtain the latest repressings of the basic Led Zeppelin discography for about five bucks per album at Listening Booth stores. Physical Graffiti, being a double album, was probably more expensive, which is why it was probably the last one I bought.  

The availability of cheap Zeppelin in the early ’80s was good for me, since that was  just exactly the time I found myself curious about the band. I would have been too young during their heyday to get into them. Plus, the way I remember these things, even the kids in my later grade school classes weren’t exactly into Zeppelin. KISS was ruling the day. Anyway, I got up to speed on the band pretty quickly and I’ve always appreciated the quirky trajectory of Robert Plant’s post-Zeppelin career (I think Plant’s Band of Joy album from last year is excellent).

What I like about Houses of the Holy, I think, is that it’s got all that majesty that’s often associated with Led Zeppelin, but it’s also a personable, welcoming album. The band was comfortable enough to try a few stylistic detours (a sort of stiff funk in “The Crunge” and reggae in “D’yer Mak’er”). They created a beautiful, atmospheric ballad in “The Rain Song” and a monstrously riffy combination of electric and acoustic guitars that is “Over the Hills and Far Away.”

In addition to the big guitar and drum sounds, I noticed today that there lots of sonic details in Houses of the Holy that I really love. For example, it isn’t just what Page plays on “Dancing Days;” it’s what he makes his guitar sound like that makes the album so cool. If that makes sense.

On other days, maybe some other Zeppelin album would be my favorite. But today, it’s clearly Houses of the Holy.