City to City

Music makes it easy to travel the world. You can listen to Chicago in Berlin or listen to Berlin in Chicago. You don’t even need wi-fi or the Internet. Go old school and put in that L.A. Guns cassette while waiting for your aunt’s train at Brownsville Station. Play some Kansas when you’re stuck in Lodi. Music is global and diverse in songs and bands, and bands take names from countless locations around the world. In our travels today we’re globe-hopping with rock bands from city to city. Our ‘bandemonium’ begins in Boston, home to more than one famous rock and roll outfit. The namesake band first came to national and international fame in the summer of 1976 with their smash debut release. With a style not really heard before, the acoustic and electric and vocal mix found a welcome in American eardrums, and suddenly their music was everywhere. Their second album came out two years later and sold a fraction of the first LP’s mega-platinum total. Another tour followed, and the album’s title track became a Top 5 hit. Overall, Don’t Look Back sold over 7 million records. The group put out a compilation album in 1997 titled Boston: Greatest Hits. The album showcased the band’s hit singles and to this day, after forty years and a half-dozen albums, the band is still touring with an altered line-up. Down south in Doraville, Georgia, a studio and session band with former members of the Candymen and the Classics IV got together and started calling themselves Atlanta Rhythm Section, or ARS. The band was formed in 1971, and after backing up assorted artists for quite some time they struck out on their own. Not nearly as popular as fellow southerners Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers, the group however built up a dedicated and loyal following throughout the South and charted with a steady string of hit singles such as “Doraville”, “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight”, “Champagne Jam”, “So Into You”, and “Imaginary Lover”. Since 1999 four of the band members have passed away, leaving behind a changing patchwork of musicians in their place. The band continues to maintain a website and tours with some of its original members, playing mostly festivals and other nostalgia-themed concerts.
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In the Great Lakes, they took a “rock and roll band with horns”, put it on a public bus, and called it the Chicago Transit Authority. In April 1969 their first record, Chicago Transit Authority, sold over one million copies and was awarded a Platinum album. After the actual Chicago Transit Authority entered into legal proceedings soon after the album’s release, the band’s name was shortened to Chicago. Chicago stood as the leading U.S. singles charting group during the 1970s. They have produced 23 Gold, 18 Platinum, and 8 Multi-platinum albums; in addition, they have five number-one albums and 21 top-ten singles to their credit, and are certainly one of the world’s best-selling groups of all time, with current album sales of over 100 million records, and they are still together. During early 1966, in Toronto, Neil Young happened to make the acquaintance of Bruce Palmer, a Canadian playing bass for a group known as the Mynah Birds. When a recording deal for Palmer fell through the duo headed to L.A. where they met Stephen Stills; days later drummer Dewey Martin was added to the roster, and the group debuted that April at The Troubadour in Hollywood. A few days later, they began a short tour of California opening for The Dillards and The Byrds. In Springfield, Ohio they make steamrollers. The inspiration for the group name was a Buffalo-Springfield steamroller, which was parked in the neighborhood of one of the band members (Frazier Mohawk) in Los Angeles. Frazier is rumored to have pried off the Buffalo-Springfield cast-iron nameplate and nailed it up on the wall of the apartment. Stephen Stills composed his landmark song, “For What It’s Worth”, in November 1966. Stills found his inspiration following police actions against large crowds of young people that were gathered on the Sunset Strip to stage a protest over the closing of a local popular nightclub. In March 1967 the song became a Top Ten hit, and the record company (Atco) re-released the Buffalo Springfield album after adding the track and thus achieving Gold Record sales. From the L.A. music scene head northeast to the ‘Big Apple’ punk circuit to play in the rockers toy-box with The New York Dolls. Two of the group members worked across the street from a toy repair shop called the New York Dolls Hospital, which gave them the idea for their name. The original lineup’s first performance was on Christmas Eve 1971 at a homeless shelter, the Endicott Hotel. The group soon earned a cult following with their reckless style of rock music, however, record companies exercised hesitation in attempts to sign the band due to onstage cross-dressing and their outspoken vulgarity. After attracting a manager and attracting a bit of music industry interest, the New York Dolls got their first big break when Rod Stewart invited them to open for him at a London concert. New York Dolls, the debut album, was produced by Todd Rundgren. Sales were sluggish, especially in the middle US, and a Stereo Review article in 1973 described the Dolls’ guitar playing as the sound of lawnmowers. Audience reaction to the Dolls was mixed, and in a Creem magazine poll, they were elected as both the best and the worst new group of 1973. In 1975, following extended disruptions of drug abuse and interpersonal conflicts, the band finally threw in the towel. Singer Morrissey, a long-time fan of the band and head of the UK fan club (in the 1970s), organized a reunion of the three surviving band members (Johansen, Sylvain, and Kane) staged at the Meltdown Festival in London in 2004. The reunion set the stage for a live LP and DVD on Morrissey’s Attack label and was followed by a film, New York Doll, a documentary based on the life of member Arthur Kane. An ocean away, Nazareth formed in December 1968 and took their name from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, which comes from The Band’s monumental song “The Weight” (“I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead…”). Original members included Dan McCafferty on vocals, Manny Charlton on guitar, bassist Pete Agnew, and drummer Darrell Sweet. The band moved to London in 1970 and released their eponymous debut album the following year. Twelve months later they were opening for Deep Purple and released Razamanaz, produced by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, in early 1973. This collection spawned two UK Top Ten hits, “Broken Down Angel” and “Bad Bad Boy”. Nazareth released Hair of the Dog in April 1975 and the title track, known as ‘Son of a Bitch’, grew into steady airplay during the ’70s on U.S. rock radio. The American version of the album contained a melodic ballad titled “Love Hurts” that eventually turned into a hit single in the UK and America, where it went platinum. The track became the band’s only US Top Ten hit, and was a Top 10 hit in nine other countries, reaching Number 1 in six of them. The song was on the Norwegian chart for 60 weeks. Over the years numerous member changes have occurred, and Nazareth continued to record and tour during the 1980s and 1990s, although their popularity had declined and some albums no longer received either the U.K. or a U.S. release. We’ve covered a few cities and caught up with some of their namesake musical ambassadors-at-large. We’re not beyond resuming our urban rockified tour and adding more groups and their cities as stops along the way. Keep a map handy just in case.
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