Yes, I know it's the wrong single but bear with me.
What have I accomplished by selecting the Paul Butterfield Blues Band for the featured single of the day? Apart from coming up with yet another blog entry, I also have come up with a single that’s marginally older than “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later” – the Dylan single was released in February 1966, and this single was released in 1965. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Paul Butterfield – harmonica and vocals; Mike Bloomfield – lead guitar; Elvin Bishop – guitar; Mark Naftalin – organ; Jerome Arnold – bass; Sam Lay – drums) started not too long after Butterfield met Bishop (then a University of Chicago physics student); the two shared a love for the blues and began hanging out with blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Junior Wells. Soon, the pair formed a band by adding Jerome Arnold and Sam Lay from Howlin’ Wolf’s band. The band was signed to Electra Records after adding Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, and before the first album was recorded, they recruited an organ player, Mark Naftalin.
“Born In Chicago” is a Nick Gravenites-penned tune, and is the first track off the first album. The song is a simple 12-bar blues arrangement, with Butterfield’s harmonica and Bloomfield’s guitar being the most identifiable characteristics (Lay’s drum plods along nicely as well). The lyrics are very simple: I count a total of seventeen lines, and four of the seventeen are simply the previous line repeated. The lyrical content is appropriately bleak: “I was born in Chicago in nineteen forty-one/I was born in Chicago in nineteen forty-one/Well my father told me/Son you had better get a gun”. [This probably didn’t reflect the reality of living in Chicago for Butterfield, the son of an affluent lawyer, but he nonetheless does an effective job in laying down the vocal track.] As the song winds down, Butterfield really wails away on the harmonica; indeed, his harmonica dominates the rest of the track up to the fade-out.
“Shake Your Moneymaker” is a cover version of the old Elmore James tune (originally included on the B-side of his 1961 single “Look On Yonder Wall”), and this version is pretty much faithful to the original, with a few notable differences. (1) The Elmore James version starts with the chorus (this one doesn’t). (2) This version has a slightly different chord progression than the original. (3) The guitars are more restrained on the James version (the original had James playing his celebrated slide guitar) and of course Paul Butterfield wails away on the vocal track on the cover version. (4) Check out this lyrical modification: the original first verse goes: I got a girl who lives up on the hill/I got a girl who lives up on the hill/Talk she gonna love me/But I don’t believe she will”. The second couplet is modified to “Sometimes she won’t/Sometimes I think she will”. The second lyric is changed from “I got a girl and she just won’t be true/I got a girl and she just won’t be true/She’s locked to the bridge/She won’t do a thing I tell her to do” to “Go on baby, go on back to school/Go on baby, go on back to school/Your mama told me/You’re nothing but a fool”. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is interesting that the band took such poetic license (more than that maybe: they practically rewrote the lyrics) with the words, perhaps a sign that the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, one of the first blues bands to be fronted by whites, was a force to be reckoned with. Or perhaps they just felt like changing the words. Anyhow, it’s a good tune.
Paul Butterfield performing Born In Chicago live in 1985
Paul Butterfield and Foghat performing Shake Your Moneymaker live in 1978
Rock and Roll picture sleeve
Today’s featured single is a rare instance in which the B-side is as good (or even slightly better) than the A-side because it’s the same song. Well, it’s not quite the same song…but it’s pretty close. The B-side of today’s single is the A-side plus a vocal track (with lyrics). We all have heard about the tragic downfall of Gary Glitter (a.k.a. Paul Francis Gadd): the conviction in the U.K. in the late 1990’s for possession of child pornography, and his subsequent conviction in Vietnam for child sexual abuse. Although his fall from grace has not really been an issue in the U.S., where “Rock And Roll Part II” was his only real hit (and where that song continues to be played at sporting events), in the U.K. he has been virtually purged from radio, even though he had a string of hits over a five-year period over there. But I have not come here to bury Gary Glitter; rather, I am here to praise him; after all, he did record today’s featured single: “Rock and Roll Part 1” b/w “Rock and Roll Part 2”.
Gadd was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England in 1944 and had been performing at London clubs since the age of sixteen. By the time he was eighteen, he had adopted the stage name Paul Raven and had released his first album on Decca Records. A recording contract with Parlophone resulted in two Paul Raven singles being released, but neither of them made an impact commercially and Raven’s career reached an impasse. By 1965, he had joined the Mike Leander Show Band, the brainchild of Michael George Farr (a.k.a. Mike Leander); this would be the beginning of an on again/off again professional relationship between Gadd and Leander that would continue until the latter’s death in 1996. Gadd then formed Boston International, which would tour the U.K. and Germany for the next five years. With the rise of glam rock in the early 1970s, Gadd decided to change his name to Gary Glitter. Signed to Bell Records, both the album “Glitter” and the single “Rock and Roll (Part One)” were released in March 1972, his first releases under the Glitter pseudonym.
“Rock and Roll Part 2” is yet another one of those songs that has reached such an iconic status that one barely knows where to begin a review of the song. Is it even possible to attend a sporting event in the United States without hearing at least a sound byte from the song? The pounding rhythm section is the real strength of the song, but let’s not forget the memorable lead guitar riff. Yet for all of this, what gives the song an edge is the chorus of “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!”. Apparently, the song had its origins in a failed composition by Mike Leander (Glitter’s co-writer and producer) called “Shag Rag, That’s My Bag”. Glitter, Leander and others began jamming to that track, ad-libbing lyrics along the way. Glitter and Leander played the tapes back and found they had essentially created, in the words of Leander, the sort of song they had loved to listen to when they were teenagers. They edited down the lengthy jam to 15 minutes, and then further edited it down into “Rock And Roll” parts one and two. One has to wonder if the success of “Rock And Roll Part 2” (as opposed to part 1) is because the vocals have been stripped from the song; it’s essentially an instrumental with “hey” being the only intelligible word in the entire song. The song eventually was used at a Colorado Rockies hockey game; it took off from there, eventually being used at sporting events throughout the country.
The A-side of this single, “Rock And Roll Part 1” is very similar to part two, but a vocal track has been added with lyrics and parts of the lead guitar track have been stripped out. A horn section has been added (it can first be heard about 1 minute and 40 seconds into the song and it can be heard until the end) to give the track a slightly fatter sound. The chorus of “rock and roll/rock and roll” is the epitome of simplicity – who needs Bob Dylan when you can just listen to “rock and roll” over and over again? The lyrics essentially celebrate the history of rock and roll (Can you still recall in the jukebox hall when the music played/And the world span round to a brand new sound in those far off days”), with an optimistic view of the future of the genre: “Times are changing fast, but we won’t forget/Though the age has past, we’ll be rocking yet”. “Rock And Roll Part I” is a very simple but effective rocker, and it was the even simpler “Rock And Roll Part 2” that would carry the day, but part one is worth a listen.
The single was issued on Bell Records (catalog #: Bell 1216) with the silver-gray Bell label of the early 1970’s (with the Bell logo – a picture of a bell – on the left side, and a monochrome rainbow on the top). As far as I know, no picture sleeve was issued with the single, at least in the U.S. (although it did come with a nice dark-red Bell paper sleeve). However, some foreign counties did get a picture sleeve, as the accompanying image demonstrates.
Gary Glitter performing Rock And Roll Part II (1972)
Gary Glitter performing Rock And Roll Part I
Panama Red picture sleeve
The roots of New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS) can be traced back to the early 1960s folk/bohemian/beatnik scene in San Francisco, where future Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia (then considered one of the best banjo players of the folk revival movement) often played gigs with like-minded guitarist David Nelson. The young John Dawson (nicknamed “Marmaduke”), from a well-to-do family in upstate New York, also played some gigs with Garcia and Nelson while visiting on summer vacation. Dawson went on to college, and Nelson moved to Los Angeles with future Grateful Dead/New Riders lyricist Robert Hunter and tape archivist Willy Legate, while Garcia went on to form the Grateful Dead (then known as the Warlocks) with Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. Nelson returned to the Bay Area in 1966, and the Grateful Dead briefly considered replacing Bob Weir with Nelson. When this failed to materialize, Nelson worked as a journeyman musician, playing anything from electric psychedelic rock to contemporary bluegrass.
Dawson returned to the Bay Area around the same time, where he worked as a solo folksinger for a time. Soon he decided it was his life’s mission to combine the psychedelia of the San Francisco rock scene with his beloved electric country music. By 1969, Dawson and Garcia (who by this time had taken up the pedal steel guitar) were playing coffeehouse concerts when the Dead was not touring. By the summer of 1969, it was decided that a full band would be formed to satisfy Garcia’s creative impulses in this outlet. Dave Nelson, who by this point was a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, was recruited to play electric lead guitar. Dawson would play acoustic guitar. Robert Hunter was recruited to play electric bass and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart rounded out the lineup on drums. Hunter was replaced by Bob Matthews, who did not last long – eventually Phil Lesh replaced him. Thus for the cost of two extra plane tickets, the cash-strapped Dead had a unique opening act.
The New Riders began to tour as the opening act for the Grateful Dead in May 1970. This relationship continued on a regular basis until December 1971. Before the New Riders recorded their debut album in late 1970, Dave Torbert replaced Lesh on bass. After Mickey Hart took a sabbatical from music in early 1971, Spencer Dryden (ex-Jefferson Airplane) replaced him, beginning a ten-year relationship with the band, both as drummer and eventually manager. Their eponymous debut album, issued on Columbia Records in 1971, was a moderate success. In November 1971, Jerry Garcia parted with the group and was replaced by Buddy Cage. With the last of the remaining Dead members now replaced, New Riders could tour independently of the Grateful Dead. Their second album, “Powerglide” (1972), was their first album with the Dawson–Nelson–Cage–Torbert–Dryden lineup, which is considered by many to be the classic NRPS lineup. The New Riders managed to nearly eclipse the Dead in popularity, thanks in part to rampant touring with the parent band. The band released their third album, “The New Adventures of Panama Red” in December 1973, and this became regarded as one of the better country-rock albums of the decade, and “Panama Red” became a staple of FM radio; it was also released as a single with “Cement, Clay And Glass” on the flipside. This is today’s featured single.
“Panama Red” is a Peter Rowan composition which features a relatively simple melody that utilizes a grand total of six chords (Bm/A/G/E7/F#/D) and drug-influenced lyrics (the title refers to a particularly potent cultivar of cannabis). We are informed that Panama Red will “steal your woman/Then he’ll rob your head”. He comes to town “[o]n his white horse, Mescalito” and “[h]e keeps well hidden underground.” There is a brief instrumental break 1 minute and 9 seconds into the song (lasting about 20 seconds) before Dawson sings the last verse, in which he delivers the ultimate double entendre, announcing that he’ll be “searching all the joints in town for Panama Red.” Clocking in at 2 minutes and 49 seconds, the song races along quickly, and soon we have reached the fade-out. Musically this is not an overly complex tune; it’s just the easy-going country rock that defined the early NRPS.
The B-side, “Cement, Clay and Glass”, is a Spencer Dryden/David Nelson composition that seems to be a musical diatribe against development. At least that is the initial impression I got from the opening lyrics: “I live by the side of Rolling Oaks Road/Tract 25, just like the man showed it to me/Nothin’ to hide it, nothin’ beside it/I really can’t fight it, the whole place is blighted/With cement, clay and glass”. The song opens with an acoustic guitar, and has a much slower tempo than “Panama Red”. In addition, the NRPS sound is augmented by a harmonica and a horn section (actually The Memphis Horns, whose claim to fame was their many appearances on Stax Records, and have been called “arguably the greatest soul horn section ever”). Singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is also on hand to provide backing vocals. The song amply demonstrates that the New Riders clearly understand that being purveyors of a more accessible brand of music than the Dead does not mean that they cannot add additional layers to their music to give it a more nuanced sound. In many ways, “Cement, Clay and Glass” is the perfect counterpoint to “Panama Red”, and it is perhaps telling that the band chose “Panama Red” to open the album and “Cement, Clay and Glass” to close it.
This single (catalog #: 4-45976) was issued on Columbia Records in November 1973 (in advance of the album). It was issued with a picture sleeve, and features the same cover artwork as the album, with the band’s name across the top and the track listing. The band would continue touring and releasing albums throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Dave Torbert left the group the following year, to be replaced by Skip Battin. Stephen A. Love would replace Battin in 1976. Spencer Dryden stepped down as drummer to become the band’s manager in 1978 and would be replaced by Patrick Shanahan. In 1982, both Nelson and Cage left the band, leaving Dawson as the only member from the band’s classic lineup remaining. For the next 15 years, Dawson and multi-instrumentalist Rusty Gauthier were the core members of NRPS, working with an evolving lineup of musicians. In 1997, NRPS retired from music and Dawson moved to Mexico to become an English teacher. In 2005, shortly after the death of Spencer Dryden, the New Riders resurfaced, spearheaded by David Nelson and Buddy Cage. An ailing John Dawson, too ill to participate in the reunion, nonetheless gave his blessing to the project. On July 21, 2009, John Dawson died of stomach cancer in Mexico.
The Dave Nelson Band performing Panama Red in 2004
The Grass Roots, circa 1969
The Grass Roots originated in 1965 as the brainchild of the Los Angeles-based songwriter and produc er duo of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. Sloan and Barri had written several songs in an attempt by their record company, Dunhill Records, to cash in on the budding folk rock movement. One of these songs was “Where Were You When I Needed You”, which was recorded by Sloan and Barri and a now-forgotten lineup of studio musicians. Sloan provided the lead vocals and played guitar. The song was released under “The Grass Roots” name and sent, as a demo, to several radio stations in the San Francisco Bay area. Interest in the band grew; the problem was that there were no Grass Roots. The next step was to recruit a band to record under the Grass Roots name. They found one in a San Francisco group name “The Bedouins” and cut a new version with that band: Willie Fulton on lead vocals and lead guitar, Denny Ellis on rhythm guitar, David Stensen on bass guitar and Joel Larson on drums. In 1965, the Grass Roots got their first official airplay on Southern California radio with a version of the Bob Dylan song, “Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)” with “You’re a Lonely Girl” on the B-side. This is today’s featured single.
“Ballad of a Thin Man” is a dark, menacing song originally released on Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” album. The song seems to be about a conventional man (Mr. Jones) who walks into a room of bizarre counterculture types and does not “know what’s happening”. The opening line of the song, “You walk into the room, with a pencil in your hand,” appears to lend credibility to the idea that Mr. Jones is a journalist or music critic. Some say that Mr. Jones is Max Jones, a former Melody Maker critic. Others say that he is Jeffrey Owen Jones (1944-2007), who was a film professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology (and who interviewed Dylan as an intern for Time magazine just before the 1965 Newport Folk Festival). Other possible theories is that Mr. Jones is Brian Jones (1943-1969), then the rhythm guitarist for the Rolling Stones, or that Mr. Jones refers generically to the materialistic American family (“keeping up with the Joneses”). Even more debatable is the exact meaning of the song. It’s possible that the song is about a man coming to terms with his own homosexuality, which would explain several lines that appear to refer to phallic symbols (“a pencil in your hand”, “sword swallower”, “one-eyed midget”, etc.). The Grass Roots version is considerably shorter than the original version. The first verse is skipped, and Fulton sings the second, third, half of the fourth verse and the seventh verse. The piano which drives the Dylan version is replaced by an organ, and the percussion punctuates the sound much more clearly than on the original. The echo effects used on the track enhance the overall gloomy atmosphere created by the song. Overall the feel is of a good, though not top-of-the-line, folk rock song.
The B-side of this single, “You’re a Lonely Girl” turns out to be a hidden gem. It’s a minor-key rocker written by Sloan and Barri that has a melody not unlike the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”. And it rocks just as hard, which shows the versatility of the Sloan-Barri songwriting team. It’s a grungy, garage rock tune with a surf-guitar riff in which the singer gloats about how his ex-girlfriend is a “lonely girl” since they broke up and by partying is just keeping up appearances. Although at the time the Grass Roots were little more than an amalgam of studio musicians, this song represents a creditable addition to their body of work.
The single (catalog #: 4013) was released in 1965 on Dunhill Records, a label that had been formed that same year. No picture sleeve was issued with the single. Although the single failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100 (peak position: #121), Dunhill Records was apparently interested in recording more Grass Roots songs, but the partnership between Sloan and Barri and The Bedouins ended when they wanted to record more blues-rock material than Sloan and Barri would allow. Fulton, Ellis and Stensen went back to San Francisco, with only Larson remaining behind to join a later Grass Roots lineup. In the meantime, a re-recording of “Where Were You When I Needed You” by the Willie Fulton incarnation of the Grass Roots became a Top 40 hit in mid-1966, but the album of the same name sank quickly, in part because there was no longer a band to promote it. Nevertheless, Sloan and Barri recruited a band called 13th Floor (Creed Bratton – lead guitar, lead vocals, Rick Coonce – drums, Warren Entner – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, Kenny Fukomoto – lead guitar, lead vocals) to be the third incarnation of the Grass Roots. Rob Grill replaced Fukomoto when the latter was drafted into the army. The band would have a string of Top 40 hits during the period 1967-72. They never had a number one hit (“Midnight Confessions” was their biggest hit, reaching #5 and an RIAA-certified gold record), but they have the distinction of having been on the Billboard charts for 307 consecutive weeks, still a record. They are also one of only nine artists to have charted twenty-nine or more Top 100 singles. Bratton left in 1969, to be replaced by not one member but three: Dennis Provisor (lead vocals, keyboards), Terry Furlong (lead guitar) and Brian Naughton (lead guitar). In 1971, Provisor, Furlong and Naughton all left and were replaced by Reed Kailing (lead guitar) and Virgil Weber (keyboards). In 1972, the band had it’s last two Top 40 hits: “Glory Bound” and “The Runway”. With subsequent offerings selling disappointingly (and some failing to chart altogether), it was clear that their time had passed. The Grass Roots broke up in the fall of 1975, and their last single, “Out in the Open”, was released in 1976. In the early 1980s, however, with interest in 1960s bands rising, Rob Grill reformed the Grass Roots (know thereafter as “The Grass Roots Starring Rob Grill”), and the band has played a steady schedule of live shows ever since.