The Texas International Pop Festival

It was the grooviest of times; it was a total bummer of a time, dudes.

The Texas International Pop Festival was going to rival Woodstock in terms of the talent lined up to perform and, even better than Woodstock, the venue (the newly opened Dallas International Speedway) was actually near civilization and easily accessible - even to a buncha stoned Texas kids. It was happening over Labor Day Weekend, so school and work weren't going to interfere. The Lewisville, Texas chief of police, Ralph Adams had already told the redneck mayor to shove demands for a crack-down on these "filthy, drug-addled perverts" up his ass (and resigned the following Tuesday). Best of all, the promoter, Angus Wynne had conferred with the the folks responsible for Woodstock and so knew just what not to do when getting Texas Pop together. Location was a key. The Speedway was a secure facility, so there would be no major gatecrashing, as had been seen at Woodstock. It was adjacent to Lake Lewisville, so people could escape the Texas heat and bathe, if they liked. The Hog Farm had set up shop in the free camping area and, just as at Woodstock, were providing free, hot meals to all in need, as well as a "Freak Out Tent" for any acid casualties... considering that Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters were in attendance (the group responsible for organizing San Francisco's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests"), this was probably a very good call. Security on the grounds was handled by the "Please Force", which consisted of the entire crowd of 150,000 attendees who were "officially deputized" prior to the opening act. In short, good vibes were in serious abundance and, despite the heat, there was not one arrest or a single violent incident over the course of the three day event.
Oh, that opening act? A relatively unknown band from Flint, Michigan who played for free because they wanted/needed the exposure: Grand Funk Railroad.
A quick look at the poster above tells you all you need to know about the incredible array of talent taking the stage over that long weekend. Rock, soul, jazz, blues... musical paradise, y'all.
Or, so I'm told.
Y'see, even though my cousin Steve, who lived in Bedford, had invited me to ride with him, as long as I had my own money. Oh, and I had money. I'd worked a paper route all summer long for one reason: The Texas International Pop Festival. I was only 15 but already keenly aware of the whole San Francisco scene, the psychedelic music trends, Woodstock and all else that represented the "Summer of Love" era. I was prepared for diving right in to getting high, dropping acid and meeting naked hippie chicks. The only thing I could not do was depend on my dad. After promising on numerous occasions to get me to Bedford on Saturday, he instead woke up at 6:00 A.M. and started knocking back his weekend beers. By 11:00 A.M., when we were supposed to be leaving, I'd already taken a few bucks out of my savings and walked over to Clark's Discount Store (now Billy Bob's Texas in the famed Fort Worth Stockyards District), not far from our home. I knew without asking that my dad wouldn't be taking me anywhere that day, not even the fifteen minute driving distance between our house and Steve's place. It is to Steve's credit that he waited until 1:30 for me to arrive before heading out to camp and he did take a lot of pictures, so I got to "see" the bands (and some naked hippie chicks). Still, I can't think of a single, more disappointing day in my life.
I did learn an important lesson that day, one that has served me well as a parent and one that I need not explain, I think.
I'm pretty sure that most of you get it.


Humble Pie: The Littlest Supergroup

Crawling from the wreckage of The Herd and desperate to shed his "teen idol" label, a young guitarist named Peter Frampton found himself, in 1969, at loose ends. While debating on whether to join another group or strike out as a solo artist, Frampton made contact with another young musician looking to break out of the pop scene and establish his credibility as a rocker. Having recently split from The Small Faces, Steve Marriott  wanted to blend hard rock with R&B and after a visit with Frampton, the two recruited Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley and a young drummer named Jerry Shirley (from the spectacularly unsuccessful "mod" band Apostolic Intervention) to form what the English music press then dubbed a super-group, Humble Pie.
If you recall this particular line up, it likely has to do with their best selling live LP "Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore", released in 1971. The album showcased the band's raw, rock and roll/r&b influences with tracks like "Stone Cold Fever" and their epic version of the Motown tune "I Don't Need No Doctor". The double LP hit #21 on the Billboard charts and, just as the band was about to attain real success in the U.S., Frampton, the group's lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist and best songwriter, finally took a chance and left the group for a very successful solo career of his own.
Given the decision, Humble Pie remained together as a band, recruiting Clem Clempson (formerly of Coliseum) to replace Frampton on guitar. Regrouping in the studio, the band recorded their next album, "Smokin'" in 1972. Hit singles followed with the release of "Hot n' Nasty" and "Thirty Days In The Hole" and the band enjoyed chart success with the follow-up LP, "Eat It".

What casual fans may not know is that Humble Pie's first two albums were released only in England, on the Immediate label. Very different from their later work and, actually, very different from each other. "As Safe as Yesterday Is" and "Town & Country" were issued in 1969, the former being a brute force display of the band's ability to make solid, hard rock music, while the latter showcased the band's acoustic leanings. Both albums were critically acclaimed in England, with "As Safe as Yesterday Is" reaching #16 on the British charts; "Town and Country" failed to ignite any sparks and failed to chart. Around this time, the band changed management, hiring the infamous Dee Anthony to help them break into the U.S. Market. Anthony pushed them to a much harder sound, more influenced by American groups and decided that Marriott would be the band's front man in the studio and on stage. Naturally, it wasn't long after that Frampton left for his solo career.

The success of "Smokin'" led their American label, A&M Records to release those first two LP's as a two-record set titled "Lost & Found" in 1972. Having been a fan of the band since the release of their second American album, "Rock On" and having heard (and loved) the live album, I was absolutely gob-smacked by the talent and versatility displayed on this two disc set. Seguing seamlessly from beautiful acoustic ballads to thundering hard rock and then a slice of what was then called "progressive rock", Humble Pie proved themselves as musicians, songwriters and powerhouse singers, as Frampton and Marriott switched off on lead vocals.

The two LP's have, sadly, been forgotten for the most part. I'm sure that some fans recall the songs but, in the wake of Frampton's monstrously huge success with "Frampton Comes Alive" most only remember the hit singles the band recorded after Frampton's departure. It's a shame, because there is a wealth of good old fashioned hard rock on these two albums and it's well worthwhile to seek them out .

Below is a playlist featuring some of the songs from "As Safe as Yesterday Is" and "Town & Country". Give 'em a listen and let me know what you think, will ya?

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Clarence Clemons

The iconic saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Clarence Clemons, passed away last night at the age of 69. It's a very sad day for those who were just coming of age when the first strains of "Born To Run" came blasting through our car radio speaker. The single, specifically mixed for AM radio, was a blast of rock and roll glory and one of it's highest points was the amazing sax solo played by "The Big Man". Hearing the song then was almost emotionally draining; it seemed as though there was an artist who, through his words and music, had finally captured the rage, restlessness and yearning that churned in our teen-aged souls. The entire album, from "Thunder Road" to the ten minute epic "Jungleland"... this was the album that dominated our Summer and the saxophone of Clarence Clemons was a huge part of the musical engine that could churn up chugging funk, 50's rock and soaring anthems that could always lift you from darkest despair to hope and redemption.
The Big Man was a musical treasure and he will be deeply missed by rockers around the world.
I want to share with you a unique perspective on Springsteen and Clemons... the band as seen and heard through the vision of a then seventeen year old Englishman. It is well written, touching and worth the time to read. You can find it here: Sabotage Times.

                                                         R.I.P., Big Man... and thank you.
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I Want YOU... To Want...ME!

To really appreciate the impact that Cheap Trick had on rock and roll, one need only know that the name of an entire musical genre was coined to describe what they had invented.
Power Pop.
Borrowing liberally from the Big Book of Beatle-Style Hooks, Rick Nielsen added his snarling guitars, Robin Zander's roaring voice, the rumbling bass of Tom Petersson and rock solid drumming by Bun E. Carlos to create  a catalog of songs that have more than stood the test of time.

The band formed in their hometown of Rockford, Illinois in 1973 and, after doing the club circuit for a number of years, finally released their eponymous debut LP on the Epic label in 1977. "Cheap Trick" was a critical success but a commercial flop and while that usually meant a quick trip back to the club circuit, legendary producer Jack Douglas urged Epic to stick with the band. The result was "In Color", an album that, while still not a Top Ten release, did represent the band's talent for writing catchy songs with serious hooks. It also showcased what would become the band's image, with cover art  featuring Zander and Petersson astride Harleys, looking every bit the rock stars, while Nielsen and Carlos are relegated to the back cover, riding (what appear to be) cheesy, motorized bicycles and looking like complete nerds.

The third album, "Heaven Tonight", considered by many to be their best album, suffered a similar fate as it's predecessors; met with great critical acclaim, radio stations didn't feel as though it contained any "hit singles".
Cover of "Heaven Tonight"                          Heaven Tonight
Released as a single, the studio version of  "Surrender" was as close as the band had yet come to a hit, as it peaked at #62 on the Billboard chart.While the first three albums didn't meet with great success in the U.S. It was a totally different story in Japan.
Two singles from "In Color" - the studio version of I Want You To Want Me and Clock Strikes Ten - were both huge hits in Japan and all three albums were certified Gold Records in that country. Deciding to capitalize on that popularity, the band toured Japan in 1978 and were greeted with a kind of frenzied hysteria reminiscent of Beatlemania. Playing sold out houses to riotous audiences, two of those concerts were recorded and the end result was the band's American breakthrough LP, "Cheap Trick Live At Budokan".
Following its release in 1979, one could not walk down the street without hearing the Budokan versions of Surrender or I Want You To Want Me blaring from car stereos, boom boxes and living room windows.
"Live at Budokan" went triple-platinum; the band became internationally famous and began a long period of headlining arenas around the world.

Dream PoliceImage via Wikipedia
The next album, "Dream Police" saw the band leaning in an experimental direction with tracks such as "Gonna Raise Hell" and, while a big success for the band, some fans felt that the band was abandoning their original sound. Despite the fans reactions, the follow-up, "All Shook Up" (produced by none other than George Martin) ventured farther into territory explored on the previous album. It was certified Gold by the RIAA but it disappointed enough fans that the band's popularity began to wane. In fact, during this time, bassist Tom Petersson - unhappy with the band's musical direction and tired of the constant touring, left the group and was replaced by Jon Brant.

One on One (Cheap Trick album)                           Image via Wikipedia
Cheap Trick regrouped in early 1982 and  recorded what I consider their most satisfying album "One on One". Produced by studio ace Roy Thomas Baker (producer for Queen and Journey), the band was able to harness it's need to experiment with their natural gift for writing hooky, melodious power pop. Two minor hits,  If You Want My Love 
and the very (for the time) risque' She's Tight  propelled the album to Gold status. It was, to me, one of the best overall collection of songs since "Heaven Tonight", with songs such as Saturday at Midnight  and I Want Be Man (with nods to the New Wave movement) capturing the best of their experimental side, while other cuts, like One on One, I Want You, Oo La La La and Looking Out For Number One showcased the band's ability to muscle up and rock with the best. The show I saw while they toured to support "One on One" is, I'll say, one of the most transcendent musical experiences I've ever had.

I'll also say - full disclosure, here - that for a long time after, Cheap Trick LP's varied wildly in quality. You'd always find a great song or two per album... but the band seemed lost and unsure of which direction they should follow. Don't misunderstand: LP's such as "The Doctor". "Next Position Please" and the so-called comeback album "Lap of Luxury" (which had two hit singles in The Flame and a cover of Elvis' Don't Be Cruel) were not bad records... they just lacked that certain something which had made the release of a new a Cheap Trick album reason to celebrate.

After a few years of record company wrangles, distribution deals and the establishment of their own record label, the band (with Tom Petersson back on board) began finding their way, once more. The version of Big Star's In The Street, recorded as the theme for That 70's Show, proved that this was a band that still had the power and the chops to make great music. Since 2006, the band has released "Rockford" and "The Latest", two LP's that harken back to their old sound without pandering to fans or giving up the experimental edge that has always marked their musical vision... and they are far from finished. Still a very formidable live act, the band continues to tour and according to a recent Billboard interview, there are some killer projects in the works.

Now, as far as which artists have been most influenced by Cheap Trick, you can start here, with Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Everclear, Extreme, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins, Poison, Enuff Z'Nuff... and go on and on. These bands and many more have given a huge amount of credit to Cheap Trick for helping them figure out that rock and roll is the way to go.

If you get a chance, go see them perform... from the opening notes of  Hello There to the finale, you will be as transported by their music as I was and still am.

Yep... they still  sound great.

Five Neck GuitarImage by OldOnliner via Flickr

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Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Show That Never Ends

Doc S., Summer 1978
As I've mentioned on Egg Radio, I spend most of my days listening to new indie rock because I truly love the many directions rock and roll is taking these days and I'm truly excited by the young musicians who keep reinventing the genre and disproving the old saying that there's nothing new under the sun. These kids are giving us something new and worth listening to almost every single day.
However... I am a proud child of the 1960's/1970's and I have never made apologies for my unabashed love of the music from that era. I know that a lot of people turn up their noses and roll their eyes at the mention of Classic Rock and for good reason: Classic Rock Radio has ruined many of the songs we loved by playing them to fucking death for 15 years; to the point where the very mention of Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd elicit groans.
Now, before you form an opinion, keep this in mind: Classic Rock is NOT defined by the 500 songs that so-called Classic Rock Radio jammed into your brain until you began shutting them out. Classic Rock is MUCH more than "Free Bird", "Stairway To Heaven" and "Comfortably Numb". There were hundreds of artists and thousands of albums released between 1963 and 1978 that were never heard on a Classic Rock station and it is those songs that I plan to present on this blog. Some of these artists you will know, some will be obscure but all will represent an era that has been much maligned and wrongly so.
What I hope to do is remind an older generation of what was great about that time and help a younger generation reach back to the past and hear what they may have missed. Sure, I sound like an old fogey... but I'm NOT denigrating modern rock. Why would I do that when I'm running Egg Radio? I'm just stating the fact that there was a whole lotta good stuff back then and a lot that still sounds good today.
There will be songs to listen to, videos to be watched, some words to be read and maybe, just maybe, some of your own recollections and revelations.
That's what it's all about, y'all.
I hope you like it.

Doc S.