It happened to Zappa – twice! In December of ’71, at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland, “some stupid with a flare gun” fired into the ceiling during his gig and the entire building burnt to the ground. And, yep, there was ‘Smoke on the Water’. A week later, an on-stage intruder pushed Zappa into the orchestra pit where he was severely, almost fatally, injured. With a crushed larynx, fractures, head trauma, and other major wounds, Zappa feared that someone was trying to kill him.
Bizarre fans, fireworks, falling lights, shock hazards, collapsing stages, all can be part of the job for rock and roll bands; any band, for that matter. These men and women sometimes put their body in harm’s way to bring music to our time, and for that, we should thank them. With creative energy and overwhelming passion, they put heart and soul into the music and, occasionally, into the name of the band. Let’s examine a few rock outfits with real body.
Head East began showing up on radio stations throughout the Midwest in 1974 with the release of Flat As A Pancake on Pyramid Records, a label they created themselves. When A&M records got wind of the now-classic single “Never Been Any Reason”, they signed the band and re-released the debut disc the following year. With a diet of steady touring and recording, the band enjoyed mild success during the mid-70’s. Flat As A Pancake earned Gold Record status in 1978, the same year that the group hit the charts (number 46) with “Since You’ve Been Gone”, a song from former Argent vocalist Russ Ballard. As with other long-time bands, the group has gained and lost members and continues to actively tour and record, performing in the U.S. Great Lakes and Midwest regions at a variety of concert venues.
Such a cool name for a band. George Harrison, who produced two albums and two mega-popular singles (“No Matter What” and “Day After Day”) for the band, said the name Badfinger came out of the Beatles relationship with Helga Fabdinger, a stripper in Hamburg. If they sound like the Fab Four, as some have proclaimed the group a ‘Beatles clone’, it’s cause Paul McCartney had a hand in their music as well, producing the debut record (with a fantastic album cover) Magic Christian Music. The band was in good company during their heyday, touring with The Who, The Moody Blues, and The Yardbirds. Over a ten-year period beginning in 1969, Badfinger had seven singles on the Top 100 lists of the U.S., Canada, and the U.K, with “Day After Day” reaching spot number 4 on American charts. Sadly, most of the original members are no longer living, with founder Pete Ham taking his own life early in the band’s history, just three days ahead of his 28th birthday in 1975. Apparently, Ham was a man of his word, since he wrote the Harry Nilsson smash hit “Without You” (“I can’t live, if living is without you…”).
When they heard of a film titled “The Mind Benders” in 1963, the group backing singer Wayne Fontana made the decision to adopt the name and become The Mindbenders. While recording singles they couldn’t make up their mind for a song title so it became “Um Um Um Um Um Um”, a hit for them in England, which led to a tour with Brenda Lee. “Game Of Love” was released a year later and the song hit Number One on the singles chart in the U.S. Following an American tour and a slew of singles that went basically nowhere, Fontana up and quit, walking out in the midst of a concert in 1965. He left too soon – in 1966 The Mindbenders snatched up a Gold Record with the single “A Groovy Kind Of Love”, which rose to number 2 in the U.S. and the U.K. The last tour for the band was as the opening act for James Brown in 1966; the band broke up in 1968 and two former members, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, went on to form the pop-rock band 10cc.
Before he took up “dream weaving”, Gary Wright was introduced to the band Art by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. Wright joined the group who then changed their name to The V.I.P.’s and became one of the very few groups at the time that played using two keyboards, piano and organ. The original line-up stuck around for just two albums before dissolving in 1969. A brief reincarnation of Spooky Tooth made the rounds for a handful of years; in May of ’73, they released the questionably titled You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw, before finally calling it quits again in 1974. The band provided a musical mishmash of members: bassist Greg Ridley moved on to join Humble Pie; later sessions of musical chairs led to a vocal stint by Mick Jones of Foreigner fame; guitarist Luke Grosvenor went on to work with Stealers Wheel and Mott The Hoople. Organist Wright made the U.S. singles charts in 1976 with “Dreamweaver” and “Love Is Alive”.
Over four decades ago drummer and producer Bobby Colomby got together with a group of friends and formed the first popular group to mix rock and jazz into a multi-genre sound and style. They did such a good job that they ended up on stage at Woodstock. Their second album, Blood, Sweat & Tears, hit the top spot on the Billboard charts and bested the Beatles Abbey Road to win a Grammy Award for the 1970 Album of the Year. The record spawned three hit singles, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”‘ “Spinning Wheel”, and the poetic “And When I Die”. The release went on to become a quadruple Platinum Record and is considered their best studio effort. In a period of personnel changes the band released their Greatest Hits disc in 1972, and the album sold well enough to reach #19 on the charts. The band has undergone dozens and dozens of line-ups, and currently, the band’s website hails their newest addition “Bo Bice a well seasoned southern rock singer and semi-finalist on the biggest season of the groundbreaking show American Idol.”
In the Puget Sound area during the late sixties, bassist Steve Fossen started The Army with guitarist Roger Fisher, with Don Wilhelm pulling guitar, keyboard and lead vocal duties, and Ray Schaefer rounded the sound on drums. In 1972, after a series of family-related moves, the group ended up in Vancouver. Singer Ann Wilson joined the band, which officially became Heart in 1974 when sister Nancy Wilson joined the group. While doing gigs on the Vancouver nightclub circuit they met record producer Mike Flicker and soon recorded the debut effort “Dreamboat Anne”. Mushroom Records picked up the album and it sold 30,000 copies in the first few months in the Vancouver area. The decision to sign with the Mushroom label created a quicksand of legal complexities when the band later switched to a CBS Records label and Mushroom filed suit. The conflict eventually went away and Heart released their second album Magazine in 1977, which includes their hit “Heartless”. The band paid tribute to drummer John Bonham when they performed a highly-regarded version of “Stairway To Heaven” during The Kennedy Center Honors in December of 2012. On April 18, 2013, Heart was enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In recent months, the Heart crew has been working on new material, and an album could be in their future.
Just north of Los Angeles in 1969, the group Redbone began with brothers Pat and Lolly Vasquez-Vegas. With nearly nothing in their pockets, they lucked out when Pat won a singing competition held by Coca-Cola. With a recording contract and the ability to travel as a singer, Pat decided to instead move to Los Angeles with his brother Lolly. They had shows in and around Hollywood and landed stints writing, singing, and playing background tracks for local recording studios and musicians such as Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher, and other notable artists. The group was made up entirely of Native American talent, and this idea came from Jimi Hendrix, who came from Cherokee heritage himself. The name of the band comes from the Cajun word for mixed-race people, and two band members were of Yaqui, Shoshone, and Mexican origin. Redbone has a place in world history as performers at the very first Earth Day celebration, and their music history includes the single “Come And Get Your Love”, from 1974, that went to #5 on the Top 100 list. The band released a few more albums that did much better in Europe than in America and today tours with mostly new members and books various engagements in the U.S. and Canada.
At the Rhode Island School Of Design, a trio of students got their heads together and moved to New York to focus on making music. The group initially consisted of guitarist and singer vocalist David Byrne, with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth on drums and bass respectively. After landing a gig as the openers for the Ramones in the legendary New York hot-spot CBGB, the band added keyboardist Jerry Harrison and signed a deal with Sire Records. The group continued to record from 1977 to the early 80’s, including the albums More Songs About Buildings and Food and Remain In Light, from 1980. They have found success for most of their history with albums and singles appearing frequently on music charts and on the airwaves. The members now collaborate and produce for other artists including No Doubt, Crash Test Dummies, Live, and other popular groups. In 2002 they too were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where they reunited for a short performance.
During the mid-sixties in England, a big thing happened to Small Faces: they met manager Don Arden, who helped the band get a record deal with the Decca/London label. In August of 1965, they put out the single “What’cha Gonna Do About It”, which became a hit in the U.K and rose to number 14 on the charts. The following year two more singles gained a following for the clean-cut band and their first album was hurriedly released to little fanfare. The next single, ‘All or Nothing’, hit Number One and stayed for ten weeks; another big single followed, and then band frustration with their manager and record label became an issue. The band felt overworked, with up to three shows per night, so who could blame them. They parted ways with Arden and Decca in late 1966 and took shelter with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham. Small Faces remained active with several other projects before disbanding in 1968; just prior to the break-up a young Peter Frampton attempted to join as a singer but the others rejected the proposal, leaving Frampton and guitarist Steve Marriott to form the legendary Humble Pie.
Frank Zappa avoided the fire and tragedy in Europe to become, in this case, a footnote in rock history. His body of work, his innovative, super-talented and enduring musical influence is found here and, along with the artists previously mentioned, await further exploration at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
Today in 2013 a blue plaque was unveiled at Swansea railway station, Wales, honoring Peter Ham of Badfinger. https://t.co/WRrQv3OlPm
Posted by Boomerswag – Boomer Music and Stuff on Thursday, April 27, 2017
— BoomerSwag.com (@BoomerswagCom) April 27, 2017