Friday, 3 October 2014

1973 - as usual

I guess that the youth of today feel that the new music of today is the best music that has ever been. You and I know that's not true.  The music from when we were teenagers was far better. I find it strange reading books about music written by people a few years older or a few years younger than me.  They either say that the music died when the Beatles split (Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head) or punk did nothing and it wasn't until the 80's that music got going again (Bob Stanley, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah; Simon Reynolds, Rip it up and Start Again).  A couple of years age difference is a rock and roll generation gap.  In 1975 NME ran a big retrospective of Jim Morrison by Nick Kent.  To my 14 year old mind the late Lizard King was a relic of an ancient past - he'd only been dead four years but was definitely of a previous generation.

It's interesting to look at the rise and fall of The Doors cool ratings.  In The Beginning their cool quotient was high: they looked good, they were great musicians; songs like Light My Fire, The End, When the Music's Over had an epic grandeur.  The first couple of albums had a great mix of pop, jazz, blues, rock, poetry, mysticism, magic. The men don't know but the little girl understands. But they were too pop for the heads and they were too weird for the pop kids and Jim was a bit of a prat.  Thinking about it, I reckon by the third album most people thought of Jim Morrison the way we think of Bono - the God complex overshadows the talent. So the cred was gone. The Soft Parade had its moments but LA Woman was a dull blues bar band.  Although some people liked it.  Morrison went off to find himself, lost himself and died July 1971. Good for sales for a while but over a four period the Doors had gone from Great White Hopes to pretentious has-beens and back a couple fo times.  Forgotten men until 1975 and rehabilitated by Jerry Hopkins' No One Gets Out of Here Alive, An American Prayer and the NME Nick Kent article.  The Doors and the Velvet Underground were the only 60s bands it was ok to like in the late 70s.  And then Oliver Stone's movie, based on Hopkins' book, killed the dream.  The Doors stock plummeted.  Perhaps Ollie would like to make a film about Bono.

None of which has anything to do with 1973.  For anyone my age (plus or minus one or two years) 1973 was the beginning of the greatest period of recorded music, a period which lasted right up until roundabout 1979.  The transition from pop music to rock music (or singles to albums) was easy then. From the Chinnichap brigade - Sweet, Suzi Quatro - it was a small step to Bowie and Roxy Music.  From Bowie to Lou Reed to the Velvets, from Roxy to No Pussyfooting to King Crimson . . .  And the voyage of discovery . . . going to Earlston Library to borrow records.  Working through all the rock albums (there weren't that many) and  moving on to Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and Devadip Carlos Santana and some truly astonishing music.  Being spoilt listening to John McLaughlin at the age of 12 - I could never be impressed by guitar histrionics after that.  After that it was always about the song, not the clever dickery.

So, the stand out song of 1973 - what was it?  Has to be Life on Mars.  Pop music didn't get any better than Life on Mars.  The song was a couple of years old (came out on Hunky Dory) but was released as a single in 1973.  The accompanying video showed the Man Who Fell to Earth - he was a lad insane, he was the starman, laying down some rock n roll, he had your mother in a whirl (she wasn't sure if he was a boy or a girl).  Life on Mars, the song, the video, the perfomer - all have an other worldly feel.  This ain't rock n roll - this is  . . .

The song has the same chord sequence as My Way, which is why Hunky Dory's sleeve notes say "inspired by Frankie".  Or more accurately the song is based on Comme d'Habitude. There will be more on this, courtesy of Mme Akriche soon!

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