If you’re looking for a contemporary band with a female-presenting name with roots in the crunchiest part of late 60s and early 70s, allow me to present the actual females of Thunderpussy, and their cover of the Jefferson Airplane classic!
The fact is that I’m nuts about ‘em. Their eponymous debut album last year features prominently in my best of 2018 playlists over on Spotify (the short version here, the longer one here).
They’ve done some stomping covers to start drawing a crowd beyond “Somebody to Love”, including the hardest-rocking version of “Taking Care of Business” you’ll ever hear (sorrynotsorry, BTO), from the movie Fighting With My Family (which I really enjoyed!)….
…but to my point about loving their record, their original songs are really where it’s at.
I’ve offered two covers, so here are two originals.
First, “Speed Queen”, featuring a cameo from superfan Mike McCeady of Pearl Jam, who signed them to his label and produced (and played on) their first single. You won’t miss him, driving the Pontiac Firebird at around the 20 second mark, chauferring the titular Speed Queen. He may pop up a couple more times, but I’ll count on the Pearl Jammies to school me on the rest.
I’m especially fond of bands who not only release eponymous albums, but feature eponymous title tracks.
Here then is “Thunderpussy”, by Thunderpussy, from their album Thunderpussy.
Anyway, anyone who complains that there’s no great rock and roll being produced these days is probably only paying attention to contemporary men, who are in fact mostly really pathetic.
MOST of the best rock and roll being produced today is by women, and, my fondness for Thunderpussy notwithstanding, a lot of the best of it doesn’t owe much at all to the past. Check out those Spotify playlists I linked to above for more details, but in the meantime, turn up the Thunderpussy!
I should note that we’re coming up on a big day for Thunderpussy. Despite dozens of products and companies with Pussy in the name able to receive trademarks, the US Patent and Trademark Office is using Urban Dictionary, of all resources, to deny Thunderpussy’s trademark application because the term is “disparaging”. Not obscene. Just rude. Based on Urban Dictionary.
I’ll be honest, the P word isn’t one I use, nor one that the women in my immediate circle do. If you use it as a slur, please unfollow me.
Otherwise, the point is that other people who do use that word for their companies and products ARE receiving patents, and the one enitity that isn’t is the one entity who’s reclaiming it as a word of power for women. This is neither incidental nor accidental, but another act of hostility against strong women by the legal establishment.
The Supreme Court will be considering this as part of another case, with arguments set to begin this week as I write this (mid-April 2019), after a 5-year fight.
Photo via Seattle Times – check their article on the trademark fight here.
The remarkably unremarkable story behind one of the most remarkable flourishes in pop music history…
…in which music professor David Mason plays a solo so perfect that even his peers didn’t believe he actually did it.
The Beatles were magpies, always looking for sounds they haven’t heard on pop records before, never moreso than in 1966 and 1967. Paul heard the solo played by baroque trumpet (an octave higher than typical ones) in Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto on television one evening, and asked George Martin to track the fellow down and get him to the studio as soon as possible.
David Mason was his name, and he arrived at Abbey Road on the evening of January 17, 1967. As the band walked into the session, David asked, “So, just come from a film set, have you?”, to which John replied, “No, we dress like this all the time.”
(David later playfully crossed John again when he expressed dismay that “Penny Lane” was being relegated to a b-side. “I think it’s better than ‘Strawberry Fields’, said David, standing next to John at the time. “Thanks, mate. *I* wrote that one!” As it turned out, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields” were in fact released as a double-A side single, peaking at #2 on the UK’s official charts, although Melody Maker had it at #1 for 3 weeks, and listed “Penny Lane” rather than “Strawberry Fields Forever” as the band’s 13th #1. The same was true in the US, and indeed, it was only “Penny Lane” that was included on The Beatles’ 2000 anthology 1.)
I’ll let you hear the rest of the story from David himself, noting his reply to the interviewer’s question, “How does it feel when you hear that solo today?” David answers, “Not to be immodest, but some people tell me it makes the song – and I think it does!” No immodesty there, Professor Mason. It does.
Along the way, David hit a high “E” note that had previously been thought impossible – hence his musicologist expert friends’ mistaken certainty that David had played a standard trumpet, with the tape sped up on playback to raise its pitch (a trick actually employed by George Martin for his own piano solo on “In My Life”, making it sound more like a harpsichord). Needless to say, that high “E” has since become expected from every piccolo trumpet player to this very day.
David recorded twice more with The Beatles, on “All You Need Is Love” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”
And a quick note about the promo video for the song, directed by Peter Goldman. For all that it’s quite simple visually – the lads walking through the East End and Chelsea, with a sequence shot in a park in Sevenoaks, roughly 20 miles southeast of London – it was a significant departure from anything that had come before. No real narrative, no shots of them playing, only a montage of images that are barely related on any rational level, but creating an impressionistic unity that underscores the song’s emotional context.
This is of course what music videos became more as the rule rather than the exception going forward, leading this clip (and the related clip for “Strawberry Fields”, also directed by Goldman) to be identified by the Smithsonian Institution as among the most important of the era.
I’m incredibly flattered when people make requests like this! I feel like it’s saying, “You’re good at finding high-quality pictures that we haven’t seen a million times, so please show me something new and special from one of MY favorite bands.” That’s very sweet! I’m honored!
That said, The Cars, I dunno, friend. I’m not passing any judgements here – most of the people around me describe my musical taste as “kind of annoying” and I have to agree LOL – but The Cars are one of the bands that didn’t do much for me.
Not that I gave them a chance. They featured two of my favorite acts as openers in the early-to-mid 80s – ‘Til Tuesday and Icehouse – and both times, I went to the shows to see THOSE bands and left immediately after their sets. (Both were awesome, btw.) Who knows? Maybe The Cars would have won me over if I’d given them a shot. That’s on me, for sure.
That said, Ric Ocasek did a couple of things that I’m NUTS about, both, it happens, in 1982.
First, after their highly underrated debut album,It’s A Condition,Ric brought the San Francisco-based band Romeo Void to Boston to produce an EP called Never Say Never, released January 1982.
You’ve surely heard the hit version of the title track, a chart-topping smash with a terrific video and a brash chorus with Deborah Iyall’s incantation, “I might like you better if we slept together….never say never” – in other words, “BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT.” LOL
But here’s the thing. The EP version wasn’t the hit! The hit version came from the band’s second LP, Benefactor, released in August ‘82, and is defanged from the original, to say the least . Still tough as nails, still with that dissonant post-rock sax stab, but drenched in echo, cussing removed, two and a half minutes shorter, and generally much more mainstream-friendly.
I do strongly believe in the convergence of punk and disco, and especially in the early 80s, dance punk was my favorite genre. The hit album version in late ‘82 was bouncy, but Ric’s earlier EP production was a punch to the face to distract you from the stiletto sliding between your ribs.
I’ve only found a YouTube clip for the entire EP, which is fine by me. Romeo Void is way too frequently remembered as a 2-hit wonder doing dance pop, but this is hard-core post-punk, as brutal and beautiful as anything from Depeche Mode or New Order, the kinds of bands you should be thinking of when you think about Romeo Void, rather than, say, Blondie or Martha And The Motels (both of whom you know I love, but THIS is not THAT.)
I mean LOOK AT THEM.
They weren’t just posing. They were playing for keeps – and if you don’t think a Monkees shirt is part of a punk band playing for keeps, then you haven’t heard The Sex Pistols’ cover of “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”. Origins matter less than the tale you tell down the road.
(Sorry not to have a better pic, though – the later, cuddlier version of the band is the one that survives.)
The punk community in Boston knew all this, including the band’s terrific first indie post-punk elpee. The place I found the Never Say Never EP was in a local punk record shop (I lived there in Boston in the early-to-mid 80s the first time, and again from 2000-2010), IN THE LOCAL BIN, with a handwritten-note appropriating this album on behalf of Boston post-punk because Boston’s own Ric Ocasek (by way of Baltimore, Cleveland and Bowling Green), produced it in Boston.
Not just “I might like you better if we slept together”, but “This is not my idea of a good time”, “Enjoy the privilege of earning twice as much”, “I’m not sorry”, “We’re not safe”, and twisted tales of predators and louts framing so many other declarations of strength and independence (great quote from Trouser Press: “she sings not only of situations where love is absent, but also of when it should be absent”) – no wonder the record business had no idea what to do with Deborah Iyall!
But Ric Ocasek did, and he helped make this EP a wall to wall masterpiece.
Put on yer headfonez and TURN THIS UP. Really is phenomenal production.
As much as The Cars didn’t move me that much, Ric Ocasek’s 1982 solo debut, Beatitude, very much DID move me. (It looks like Be-atitude, a reference to the Sermon On The Mount, but it was pronounced Beat-itude, which I thought was AWESOME.)
The versions of the songs on the LP were okay, but where they really shined was the 12″ dance remixes. My favorite of these by far was “Connect Up To Me”, which was ONLY released as a 12″ dance remix (no conventional 7″ single release), and frankly went nowhere outside Boston. The whole album disappeared, was never released on CD, and this version of the song didn’t appear digitally until it was included as part of Cars rarities box set.
The album is available on Spotify, though, and lots of it is on YouTube, where I encourage you to dig in. Even though Ric was the primary creative force (albeit far from the ONLY driving force) behind The Cars, there are ways in which this sounds nothing like them. Even moreso on this 12″ single, which has more in common than Gary Numan (WHO HAD A HIT WITH A SONG CALLED “CARS”) or Kraftwerk than The Cars.
I played the ever-loving shit out of this thing. This version of the song, along with his work on the Never Say Never EP point to directions I wished he’d have explored more, but hey, it’s his career, and he did just fine with no help from me beyond the $6 I spent on this single and his share of the concert tickets where I left before he played.
BUT THIS. THIS.
So I ain’t saying that I’ll never get around to posting The Cars – Never Say Never, right? LOL – but I’ll say that I’m WAY overdue posting a couple of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite years, with roots in one of my favorite towns, and I’m grateful that you’ve given me the perfect excuse!
Thanks again for the generosity of spirit in your ask, too! I hope that these tracks are an adequate down payment on returning the favor for now.
Stevie Nicks: “There Is Nothing Better Than Being Inducted Into the Hall of Fame”
I joined Fleetwood Mac at the beginning of 1975. We started talking about the solo album at the end of 1979, so my solo work was just a little over four years behind Fleetwood Mac. It has made my life amazing because I’ve been able to have these two amazing careers and live in two completely different worlds.
How do you feel about being the first woman to enter the Hall of Fame twice? Well, that’s probably the biggest part of it. After the show last night I was talking to the Haim girls. I was saying to them, “Okay, now I’ve opened the door for you. Now each one of you need to go do a solo album really fast and get your solos going so in the next 20 years you’ll be able to do this too and maybe I’ve opened the doors to all the girls in my life that sing and write and play and are amazing.”
I didn’t have children, but I sort of do have a house full of daughters since I have so many women singers around me that are in their twenties all the way up to not quite as old as me that are friends of mine. We discuss music and we talk about it and we’re friends. Every time I play a show they come. That’s because we have so much to talk about and so much to share, just about being women musicians and what we love and what we want to do.
My biggest hope is that I have opened the door due to the fact that there’s 22 men who have gone in twice and zero women. I think that’s really a little off balance. That’s what I’m hoping, that what’s happened here to me will give all the little rock and roll stars that are just waiting out there a little hope that they can also do what I do. Mind you, it took a long time. I’m 70 years old. It took a long time for this to happen, but maybe because of this it won’t take so long for all the other incredibly talented women that I know and that I respect and that I listen to and that I’m friends with. That’s really the nicest thing.
~ Stevie Nicks in Rolling Stone, my gently edited excerpt. You really need to read the whole thing, though, here.
Photo above by Clayton Call, of Stevie in Oakland on October 3, 1981, on her first solo tour.
That quote is from his family’s Facebook posting, announcing Hal Blaine’s passing at age 90.
He played on 40 #1 singles, 150 top 10s, some 6000+ tracks in all. (You’ll see stats that say north of 30,000 but don’t believe the hype. All these guys were union and kept their timecards. When Hal says more than 6000, he knew what he was talking about.)
Hal was the drummer on six straight Grammy Record of the Year winners, 1966 through 1971:
“A Taste of Honey”, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“Strangers In The Night”, Frank Sinatra
“Up, Up, and Away”, The Fifth Dimension
“Mrs. Robinson”, Simon & Garfunkel
“Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In”, The Fifth Dimension
“Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Simon & Garfunkel
Plus if it was a studio recording by The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher, Carpenters, The Association, The Fifth Dimension, or The Partridge Family, the odds are that it was probably Hal.
You don’t need me to cue up Hal’s biggest hits like the ones listed above, or “Be My Baby”, “Good Vibrations” (Hal seen below working on it with Brian Wilson)…
…so I’m going to take you to the first song that made me say, “WHO’S PLAYING THOSE DRUMS?!?!” The song was a deceptively complicated pop trifle called “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe, and it spent four weeks at #1, starting on March 15, 1969 (50 years ago almost to the day as I write this).
I say deceptively complicated because even though it’s basically two verses and the chorus three times (it actually starts with the chorus, which I’m a sucker for.) There’s not even a bridge, but it manages to go through 11 key changes in less than three minutes! And while there are other instruments, I always heard it as a duet between the drums and the strings.
You already know it was Hal Blaine on strings, and the string arranger was another member of the extended family known at the time as The Usuals, Jimmie Haskell. I was delighted to find this, as both Hal and Jimmie were well known to me from so many other albums in the family collection by then. (I was reading album credits before I was reading books.)
This really is an astonishing track. Bubblegum pop on one level, exceptionally baroque on another, and a drums-strings pas de deux the likes of which we’ve yet to hear again. I used to listen to this on repeat for hours, singing at the top of my lungs – including the drum breaks and strings stings (c’mon, you know you sing instrumental parts too!) spinning around and around the room until I was DIZZY.
Check Hal’s snare kicking it off like a gunshot.
I have a couple of other gems of Hal’s that are a little off the beaten path.
I hope that y’all are enough in the know by now to not be pissing on The Partridge Family, who was making absolutely first-rate pop composed by some of the best writers of the day, with pros like Hal Blaine laying down the tracks.
(Plus, c’mon, David Cassidy would have been a singing star without the show, and Shirley Jones WAS a star, an Oscar-winner no less, with one of the great voices that humankind has ever been blessed with.)
“I Can Hear Your Heartbeat” uses Hal’s right foot on the bass pedal as the titular heartbeat, until the whole kit comes swinging in after the first verse. One of the keys to appreciating Hal (or any drummer, really) is to listen to when he starts and stops, and the gaps in between what his hands are doing. This one is a real gem.
(And yes, there’s performance footage of the Partridges of course, but none of the clips SOUND good enough to hear all that Hal is up to.)
Now having sung Hal’s praises, I’ll note again that it’s possible to overstate the case (which Hal encouraged, and participated in more than once). There were plenty of other drummers on the Hollywood studio scene, including Earl Palmer (very likely on more records than Hal in fact), plus a number of times that Hal was one of a couple of drummers on a single track.
This was a Phil Spector trick. Multiple drums, multiple bassists (often one electric and one acoustic), and an army of guitars all playing at once were the key to the Wall of Sound, NOT multitracking. Sure, Phil used that too now and again, but rarely to add depth. More often for polishing, because there’s no substitute for the vibrations in the air when all those players are playing simultaneously. THAT’s the Wall of Sound, and Hal and his friends are the exact musicians Phil used.
Mike Nesmith used this “Wall of Sound” trick to fine effect when he produced one of the best tracks he wrote for The Monkees, “Mary Mary”, so sharp that it appeared in FIVE episodes, yet still manages to be too little known.
“Mary Mary” features FIVE guitarists (Glen Cambell and James Burton both on lead, with Peter Tork among the rhythm players), two bassists (Larry Knechtel and Bob West), and two drummers (Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon, whose name may also be familiar to you from Derek & The Dominoes, George Harrison, Delaney & Bonnnie, et al.), with notable percussive support from Cary Coleman.
This is definitely Hal kicking it off, though, with a snare lick so sweet that Mike looped it three times and added it to the front of the track, making it that much easier to sample, and sampled it was, including on a nifty COVER of this track by Run-D.M.C. (even though they changed Mike’s lyric on the verses, Mike is the only writer credited) that also used Mickey’s vocal singing the words “Mary Mary”.
I should mention that The Monkees’ version of “Mary Mary” was never released as a single in the US, but WAS included as a cardboard cutout single on the back of Honey Combs cereal!!!! Yes, I had it, though, like a fool, I failed to keep up with it.
Anyway, this is GROOVE, kids.
Last but not least, Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” (1968) was so far ahead of its time that it STILL sounds like it’s from the future. Originally recorded early in the year, it was re-recorded for the famed Elvis ‘68 TV special, but scrapped at the last minute. (Hal did in fact appear in the special!) The second version of "A Little Less Conversation” was used to outstanding effect in the 2001 version of Ocean’s Eleven, and a subsequent remix by Junkie XL charted even higher than Elvis’s original, going to #1 in 14 countries including the UK.
And all of ‘em featured Hal’s drums, absolutely swinging.
You’ve surely seen Hal’s name by now in the context of “The Wrecking Crew”, a name that he invented well after the era had finished to describe this loose group of LA studio aces. It was not only NOT used at the time, but explicitly and angrily rejected by many of the folks tagged with that label later (Leon Russell was so furious at the name that he insisted that the chapter of the movie devoted to him be removed, and he’s far from alone in his outrage)…but hey, as long as you keep that in mind, you can still enjoy the documentary of the same name for what it is: a long conversation between some of the folks who made some remarkable music.
You probably know the song “A Little Less Conversation” well enough (although you should check it out if you don’t), but in this little clip from the aforementioned Wrecking Crew movie, you can see 2008 Hal playing along with 1968 Hal for 30 seconds or so.
Watch his right hand in particular. It’s practically floating on air. He’s holding the drumstick so lightly that I bet you could have snuck up behind him and snatched it right out of his hand. Not that 70s rock drummers like Bonzo couldn’t swing plenty, but the death grip on drumsticks as heavy as telephone poles characteristic of later drumming is barely even the same thing as what Hal was doing.
I’m not saying one is better than the other – I hope you know by now that I love light 60s pop every bit as much as heavy 70s rock – but this clip tells you everything you need to know about why drummers in particular revere Hal as one of the greats…even if he pissed them off sometimes, too.
Additional notes: the photo, the quote and some of the stats at the top are courtesy redef, the picture of Hal with Brian Wilson is via forums.stevehoffman.tv, and the single of “Mary Mary” is via 45cat. The rest is from yewchewb, and me obsessively reading the back of albums since 1963.
Here’s a great list of highlights from Hal’s credits. You’re going to be flabbergasted by them. If you have any kind of record collection that dips into the 60s at all, you may have dozens of them.
And while most of Hal’s key work was in the 60s, he did in fact have a terrific 1971, with appearances on two albums each by The Partridge Family (including one of my favorite singles of theirs, “Echo Valley 2-6809″) and Barbra Streisand (Stoney End is one of my favorites by anyone that year), Carpenters (featuring “Rainy Days and Mondays”), and a good-sized handful more.
George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun”, August 1, 1971. From the Concert for Bangladesh of course. You can see at the beginning how nervous George was! Not only his first solo performance, his first concert appearance at all since 1966, featuring his first performances of his own compositions ever – but here, also for the first time on stage, vulnerable and stripped down to an acoustic guitar. George’s little smile as the audience reaches out to him is priceless.
His duet partner, Badfinger’s Pete Ham,later revealed that they hadn’t even rehearsed! “George just wanted to keep it simple,” he said. After George told him the chord changes, Pete ducked into his hotel room to listen to the version on Abbey Road a couple of times, and that’s all there was time for!
The result: magic. And beauty and joy and, yes, sun, sun, sun! Here it comes!
(Mi pequeña, está toda bien!)
(Note that by the time you come across this post, the video may have been taken down. It happens. Here’s the YouTube search for you to find another version. Worth the extra clicks!)
George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If Not For You” before the Sunday afternoon show of the Concerts for Bangladesh, Sunday, August 1, 1971. It’s messy, but adorable.
Like The Beatles, Bob Dylan had quit touring in 1966. Unlike The Beatles, and apart from a 1969 TV performance with Johnny Cash, and an appearance with The Band at the Isle of Wight, Bob had all but disappeared. While he was generally up for lending a hand to George’s effort, he was by no means sure what to sing, and was even less sure if he was going to be able to pull himself together to even show up at the appointed hour. When George introduced him that afternoon, he was by no means certain that Bob would actually walk out.
While they were working out which songs to perform together, “If Not For You” was an obvious place to start. A lovely tune that Bob introduced on New Morning almost exactly a year earlier (August 12, 1970), George covered it on his own album All Things Must Pass, which was the #1 album in the US for the first 7 weeks of 1971, and for the months of February and March 1971 in the UK.
Neither Bob nor George released “If Not For You” as a single, but in May 1971, it was the debut single for 22 year old Olivia Newton-John. Based on George’s arrangement rather than Bob’s, it reached #7 in the UK, and in the US, #25 on the Billboard Hot 200, and eight weeks straight at #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart!
(Yes, I bought it. Yes, I still love it. Yes, I will post it later.)
Our boys passed on performing this for the big show(s), but this rehearsal is an enduring reminder that beyond being two of the all-time giants of popular music, and rock gods, they were also both just so incredibly fucking adorable.
David Bowie during “The Jean Genie” for The 1980 Floor Show, 1973 (his US TV debut), by Mick Rock. The costume originally had a third hand (guess where) that NBC network officials insisted be removed.
That information about the third hand is so important to me
Then you need to see this recent fan re-edit of the original performance by YouTuber Mister Sussex. It’s one of the filthiest things you’ve ever seen. I was 13 when this aired, and it fried my brain for life. LOL It was after midnight (the show was The Midnight Special, which aired from 11:30PM Friday to 1AM Saturday in my time zone), and I was the only one awake in the house. Having snuck out of bed to watch, I was now practically wetting myself with some combination of panic, lust, and sheer joy. LOL
An absolutely lascivious vocal (plus, check that leer into the audience right after “Loves to be loved…”, around 2:20), regularly spreading his legs so we can see his…uhm, leotard LOL, one of Mick Ronson’s most ripping solos (and unlike the UK “Starman” video from 1972, it’s Mick doing the reaching for David this time) – and David aggressively rubbing his penis on the microphone before thrusting it in Mick’s face while they sing practically cheek to cheek! Plus a TRIO of saxophones backing them up!
Again, this was Bowie’s US TV debut. Nobody knew from Ziggy (which was a flop when it was first released), but Aladdin Sane was a hit and Pin Ups was newly in the shops, so we had SOME idea of how crazy this broadcast was gonna get….but it turns out that no, no, we had not the least fucking idea how crazy this was going to get.
I could write a whole book about this broadcast, and I hope somebody does someday. I could certainly write a whole book about how it impacted me. I mean, all the pictures of it we post on tumblr are one thing. But crank this the fuck up, imagine that it’s the first time you’re seeing anything of Bowie besides a couple of album covers, and be amazed.
@soundsof71 – it was the first time my parents let me stay up past the time they went to bed. My older brother had been able to stay up to watch the Midnight Special, and he was now driving and allowed to stay out as late as he wanted. I changed into pj’s and settled down in nest of blankets and crocheted granny-square afghans to spend me first Grown Up night.
A vision in blue spandex stepped into the stage. His hair was orange and stood straight up on top. Lipstick! Was that lipstick – on man? One arm was bare – the skin shone as white and luminous as an opal. Flames climbed his torso, appliqued gold and red on blue. One bare leg was painted to look like flames.
And then he opened his mouth.
The sound was raw and urgent and ragged and longing and sweet and aching and raw and … utterly otherworldly. I felt an ache, a longing I’d never felt before. I wanted … but I didn’t even know what it was that I ached for. My breath caught in my throat as the vision of androgynous beauty sang, costume changes with each song. My chest hurt more and more as the hour wore on. My toes curled inside my rainbow-stripped socks. I eventually lay my head down on my crossed arms, dazed and exhausted and troubled.
And then it was over. The National Anthem played – I’d stayed up past midnight for the first time in my life…
the night I became a woman. Thanks to David Bowie.
You’ve heard the 1976 hit version from The Electric Light Orchestra, a pop classic by any measure – but this stripped-down 1971 version by The Move SLAMS! It’s obviously the same song of course, but it really sounds beamed in from another dimension as peeling back all the layers reveals the downright weirdness at its heart.
(Seriously, one of the weirdest songs ever to become a hit.)
Presumably you’ve already hit play and heard the biggest difference between this and the 1976 ELO version: that one had an orchestra and choir, and this one is just composer Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and drummer Bev Bevan BANGING. Although Jeff wrote it, the song’s original title was named for a spontaneous outburst of Roy Wood’s at the end of the song, “Look Out Baby There’s A Plane A-Comin’”. (Yes, that was the original title! I think “Do Ya” works better tho.)
(Tom Petty later told Jeff that he thought “Look out baby there’s a planet coming” was one of the coolest lyrics he’d ever heard, and was disappointed to learn the proper words.)
Although the song had been a staple in ELO’s live sets, they didn’t get around to recording it until 1976, after Todd Rundgren’s cover on Another Live became something of a hit itself in 1975 (with Todd repaying a favor to Jeff, who’d regularly been performing Todd’s early Nazz track “Open Your Eyes”).
In fact, it was this original version’s complete lack of orchestration that landed the song with The Move rather than ELO. (Both Message From The Country and ELO’s debut were recorded more or less simultaneously, with the more orchestral tracks naturally landing with ELO,)
Recorded December 19, 1971, and released as the B-side to “California Man”, it failed to chart in the UK, and in 1972, barely cracked the US Top 100, landing at #98. Its days as a chart-topper were yet to come.
I do love ELO’s 1976 version, and the 1975 version by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia (which I’ll discuss in full another day) might even be my favorite, but there’s something special and irreplaceable about the original “Do Ya” from 1971.
Turn this tf up, play it again, and let me know what you think!
“I sold my first strap to the amazing ROBERT PLANT 1971!” by Jan Nicolas. “I had been working in leather for a while before I started making straps. I had a few beautiful ones hanging in my studio/office. Led Zeppelin were in town at the Continental Hyatt ‘riot’ House Hotel. My friend Linda and I used to spend weekends hanging out in the coffee shop to star gaze. In the evening, they had a line winding through the lobby to accommodate all the people who wanted to meet Rock Stars.
“This was a pretty quiet Saturday afternoon, and I grabbed a strap that I thought would suit RP and we found him hanging out in the lobby with body guards, groupies and photographers.
“I was so shy, that my girlfriend had to call him over to look at the strap. He loved it, he paid $100 for it and gladly posed for a photo. Happily, one of the magazine photographers was a friend, and took this picture for me. I was still in high school, and I was completely overwhelmed when Mr. Plant cuddled right up to me for the picture. Now, it is my all time favorite.”
More here. My edits to the pictures she posted, but do click through for more of her amazing story.