Proof that Led Zeppelin weren’t afraid to get a little funky, or take the piss, The Crunge being a song of search – a song in search of its bridge, which it never finds, it just keeps crunging crunchily along.
“It was 1974 sometime, so I would’ve been fourteen or fifteen, a weekday night. I’m in my room doing homework or whatever, and suddenly there’s this song on the radio I can’t ignore. Sort of Bob Dylan, sort of Van Morrison, sort of the Band. But it’s its own thing. The singer feels younger, more hopeful, even if he is telling a sort of tragic tale, and he’s definitely telling a tale – love and violence, despair and romance. And then the DJ says the guy’s name but it’s kind of weird, and I promptly forget it. Which is no big deal, it’s a great song, I’ll hear it again soon enough. Except I didn’t. Because FM radio was turning to shit in those days, getting taken over not by music loving DJs, but coldhearted consultants who knew neither love nor grace. So it took maybe three years (and the breakthrough of Born to Run) before I finally discovered I’d been listening to a song called Incident on 57th Street, from Bruce Springsteen’s second album, The Wild the Innocent + the E Street Shuffle. Things just moved slower in those days.” (Philip Random)
“In which angular German hippies Neu! do their bit to invent punk a good three or four years before the fact. Of course, I wouldn’t discover Neu! until at least ten years later, so for me, they had more to do with providing an overall blueprint for the future of everything. Just lock that beat and lay down some music mixed with noise, because we’ll always need a beat, and there will always be noise, and music just makes everything better.” (Philip Random)
As evolutions go, the outfit known as Renaissance worked a weirder one than most. Originally formed out of the meltdown of the Yardbirds (Keith Relf and Jim McCarty wanting to try their hand at something a little more sophisticated) it would, in time, pull what’s known as a Ship of Theseus (the Theseus’ paradox being a thought experiment, first posed in the late first century, that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object). In Renaissance’ case, that meant all the original members were long gone by the time 1973’s Ashes Are Burning came along. And that “more sophisticated” sound – it had evolved into a mostly acoustic prog rock that was nevertheless not afraid to get very big and dramatic, if required, with Ashes Are Burning (the song) about as epic as they ever got. And soaring above it all, you had the inimitable voice of Annie Haslam, classically trained and as strong and vast and high and ghostly and beautiful a sound as has ever been heard on any kind of so-called rock song.
One of those Leonard Cohen songs you just never seem to hear. Possibly because it’s too long, though more likely because it’s thus far eluded the grasp of half-baked MOR interpreters. “Some people seem to hate this song. Probably because it tells the truth, as simple as a man with his hand out on the winter street, bitterly cold, barely hanging on, and all he asks is that you not ignore him, that you not just pass him by one more time.” (Philip Random)
“There ought to be a law that when a band changes its sound as thoroughly as the Doobie Brothers did in the mid-1970s, it should also be required to change its name, if only, so future generations don’t get forever stuck confusing the cool, rocking stuff with the soft, latter day sponge ball stuff. Anyway, for the record, the Doobies peaked in about 1973 with an album called The Captain and Me that didn’t just boast mega-hit rockers like China Grove and Long Train Runnin’, it also had a stretched out mini-epic called Clear As The Driven Snow. Apparently it’s about cocaine abuse, but it’s always been more of a marijuana fave of mine.” (Philip Random)
The story of the Cosmic Jokers goes something like this. Germany 1973, a guy named Dieter Dierks is throwing cool parties in his studio, all musicians welcome. Just show up, gobble some acid, lay down tracks. And he gets some top players throwing in. Manuel Göttsching and Klaus Schulze of Ash Ra Tempel, Jurgen Dollase and Harold Grosskopf of Wallenstein. Later on, Dierks would do more drugs, muck around with the tapes, get his girlfriend to speak over some of it, then release it without telling anybody, or cutting them in on any royalties. Which got lawyers involved, and Cosmic Jokers relegated to the extremely rare Krautrock category. But it remains fun in a spaced and groovy sort of way.
Manfred Mann started with jazz in his native South Africa, switched to the blues in early 1960s Britain and eventually had a some international pop success, but come the 1970s, the spots were changing again. Now it was Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and things were getting expansive, progressive even, with Pluto the Dog a funky little number that included A. a sample from long before there was even a name for such things, and B. the kind of wigged out synth freakout that the free world has never had enough of, then or now.