Bloodrock's "D.O.A." 45 RPM single
Bloodrock was formed in Fort Worth, Texas in the 1960’s by Jim Rutledge (vocals), Lee Pickens (guitar), Nick Taylor (guitar), Ed Grundy (bass), Stevie Hill (keyboards), and Rick Cobb (drums). Rutledge and Taylor had been together since the early 1960’s; however, their band underwent multiple lineup changes and name changes before they settled on the lineup of Rutledge/Pickens/Taylor/Grundy/Hill/Cobb and the name Bloodrock in 1969. Later that year, Grand Funk Railroad producer Terry Knight discovered the band and soon the band was signed to Capitol Records. Knight produced the first three Bloodrock albums. The first LP, “Bloodrock” (1970), was well-received by fans, but it was the second album, “Bloodrock II”, that would see the band reach its commercial peak. A single was released from this album: “D.O.A.” b/w “Children’s Heritage” The version of “D.O.A.” on the single would be about half the length of the album version (which clocked in at 8 minutes and 22 seconds) and would become the band’s biggest hit, peaking at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100. This single is today’s featured single.
One listen to “D.O.A.” and it’s clear why this is the stronger side, even if it is an unconventional hit. The song begins with an eerie-sounding organ followed by a cymbal, and the sound of guitars. The lyrics open with the chorus: “I remember/We were flying along and hit something in the air/I remember/We were flying along and hit something in the air”. It is unclear whether the lyrics are referring to a plane crash or a car accident: most seem to think that the words “we were flying along” indicate that the main protagonist was in a plane, but “flying along” could mean being high on drugs or alcohol. Pickens said that it was inspired by his seeing a friend die after being in a plane crash. This becomes somewhat academic as the music and lyrics become increasingly gruesome: there’s the mournful-sounding organ (pounding out a three chord bass line and mimicking an ambulance siren at the same time), and the fate of the song’s protagonist looks increasingly grim: “I try to move my arms and there’s no feeling/And when I look I see there’s nothing there”. Unlike some other songs about confronting death (e.g. “Seasons In The Sun”, “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”), there is no sentimentality in this song, just the singer dispassionately describing his condition as he bleeds to death, although he does end the song with “God in Heaven, teach me how to die”. At the end of the song, the siren shuts off, indicating that the patient has indeed died. “D.O.A.” was banned by many radio stations upon its release. And it’s easy to understand “D.O.A.” not getting much airplay on Top 40 radio – compared to some of the popular music of the day, “D.O.A.” would have sounded like the musical equivalent of fingernails running across a chalkboard. Yet the very attributes that caused radio stations to turn their back on the song caused many people to embrace the song. It’s cynical treatment of death made it popular with rock fans jaded by the war in Vietnam; Bloodrock became popular amongst soldiers in Vietnam as well.
“Children’s Heritage” is a straightforward blues-rock number; if the listener didn’t know any better, he might think that he was listening to Steppenwolf or Grand Funk Railroad. The lyrical content is somewhat more interesting than the typical arena rock song, however: Rutledge sums up the generation gap pretty well when he kicks off the song with “I like music; it makes me feel so good/And none of my children are gonna like it like they should/Some don’t like it yes it’s true/They can’t do what they wanna do”. This is a raucous song that gives the impression that Bloodrock is an unstoppable musical juggernaut. The song alternates between sections in which the Bloodrock wall of sound thunders forth, and sections in which their sound is somewhat restrained, in which the bass guitar, keyboard and drums are the only instruments heard. Bloodrock indeed presents the picture of an incredibly tight band, at least on this track. “Children’s Heritage” is definitely worth a listen.
The single (catalog #: 3009) was issued by Capitol Records in early 1971. It featured an orange and yellow label (gone was the swirl featured on Capitol’s 1960’s single releases); there are concentric yellow and orange bands (with the yellow band being closer to the center). Instead of featuring the old-style Capitol logo with the Capitol building, we get a rather generic-looking logo (black with concentric circles) on the left side. The track listing is across the top and the artist name is across the bottom. Publishing information and the catalog number is on the right. Bloodrock would never match the commercial success of “D.O.A.”, although their third album, the aptly-titlted “Bloodrock 3” (1971), briefly became Capitol’s fastest-selling album. This was followed by “Bloodrock U.S.A.” (1972), the first album to be produced by the band without Terry Knight. By now, the band was in a commercial decline, and Capitol released “Bloodrock Live” (1972), featuring a live version of “D.O.A.” After the release of “Bloodrock U.S.A.”, Jim Rutledge and Lee Pickens left the band, and Rutledge was replaced by Warren Ham. Bloodrock changed musical directions, becoming more of a progressive rock band. They would release two studio albums during the Ham era: “Passage” (1972) and “Whirlwind Tongues” (1974). They had recorded a third album, “Unspoken Words”, in mid-1974, but the band broke up before it was released. The band remained inactive for the next 25 years. In 1999, three of the six original members reunited for a fan convention. Rutledge, Pickens, Grundy and Taylor (joined by Chris Taylor, in place of Rick Cobb, on drums) reunited in on March 12, 2005, for a benefit concert for Stevie Hill, who has leukemia. Nick Taylor died on March 14, 2010.