Rock and Roll is rife with tragic stories of unrealized fullness of potential, from Eddie Cochran to Amy Winehouse. One story that has been lost to the ages is that of a band from Portland, Oregon, The Exploding Hearts.
Coming together in 2001, the band quickly hit the West Coast radar with their mix of influences stemming from 70's New Wave, power pop and British punk. By April of 2003, their debut album, Guitar Romantic, was ready to go and released. Then came July 20, 2003.
On their way back from a gig in San Francisco, bassist Matt Fitzgerald fell asleep behind the wheel, losing control of the van. Vocalist/guitarist Adam Cox and drummer Jeremy Gage were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. They were 23 and 21, respectively. Fitzgerald later died at the hospital, he was 20. Guitarist Terry Six survived, but the band and its future did not.
What was left behind was one album of punk power pop that still stands up, nearly 10 years later. I found this album in 2004 and was absolutely heartbroken to find that this band had come and gone, basically before it got started. I'll let the video speak for itself rather than trying to heap superlatives on something I feel is THE lost gem of the first decade of this century.
As a follow-up to Eric's post about the lovely Maggie Bell -- and to make another Led Zeppelin connection -- this week I've been spinning Superlungs by Terry Reid, one of the forgotten artists from the across the pond.
You can read his full story here, but the long-and-the-short of it is that Jimmy Page offered him the gig to be Led Zeppelin's lead vocalist, an offer which he turned down for a few different reasons. It was probably for the best; while Reid does have an impressive set of pipes, I have trouble placing it in the context of Zep's tunes.
There's a reason the four musicians in Led Zeppelin came together at the time they did. Reid made a few records and toured, built up a following, but then slowly faded into rock's history pages merely a footnote. Here are a few tracks for your listening pleasure.
If I were to tell you there was a singer out there who was considered "the Scottish Janis Joplin", had an album produced by Jerry Wexler, got a record contract thanks to Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant and had the one and only Jimmy Page guest on one of her records, you'd think this singer was all-timer, right? Well, I'm not stupid, I understand what country I live in and thus, hardly anyone has heard of or remembers Maggie Bell.
Maggie first hit the radar in the early 70's as lead singer of Stone The Crows but the band split suddenly after the on-stage electrocution of guitarist Les Harvey, brother of (The Sensational) Alex Harvey (oh wait, never heard of him either, eh America?). After that grisly tragedy, Maggie struck out on her own and was able to secure a recording deal with Atlantic Records with the help of the aforementioned Peter Grant (presumably just beating an Atlantic flunkie senseless until a contract was offered), who brought Jerry Wexler on board to produce this Underrated Album installment, Queen of the Night.
Maggie's well-ranging voice is put front and center on this gem, moving deftly between sounding Rod Stewart-esque in its rough hewn barroom growl to Bonnie Bramlett sweetness on 'Yesterday's Music' a tune co-written by David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Other covers include 'Souvenirs' by John Prine, 'A Woman Left Lonely' popularized by Janis herself and 'After Midnight' by JJ Cale (but better known by Eric Clapton's take), in which Maggie sounds like a soul queen driving a calypso beat.
A year after this record was released, Ms. Bell signed with Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label and released the equally incredible Suicide Sal. From there she fronted a band called Midnight Flyer, closer in step to her past with Stone The Crows in its bluesiness, their lone album not selling well at all. Maggie is still out there at age 67, playing to crowds in Europe, teasing the possibility of an autobiography and leaving fools like me to lament the fact that she's toiling in obscurity.
File this one under "huh?"
I present to you Uriah Heep, one of the corniest and most beloved rock acts from the 1970s that nobody's ever heard of. Led Zeppelin [a band I love dearly] weren't the only ones singing about magic, wizards, kings, birds of prey and other mythical beings.
Check out those wicked screams and harmonies. I think the masterminds behind Spinal Tap had bands like these in mind when they made their 1984 flick.
I'm just in that kind of mood.
Back again with another album that has been lost in the shuffle. Recently added to the Matthews Archive is Them Changes by Buddy Miles.
A little background on Buddy Miles, after playing with folks such as the Delfonics and Wicked Wilson Pickett, Buddy founded The Electric Flag with guitarist Mike Bloomfield (another forgotten hero in the history of rock, a clean, loud guitar in an era slightly obsessed with fuzzy tones) then later being tapped by some dude named James Hendrix to play in his post-Experience venture, Band of Gypsys. Any guy that Jimi wanted to play with, I'm all ears.
Released in 1970, Them Changes was the third album in a largely unheralded career of one of the best drummers that no one ever heard of, lost in a sea of Moon's and Bonham's. The record was recorded shortly after Buddy was unceremoniously dumped from Band of Gypsys (not at Jimi's doing) and shortly before Hendrix 'scused himself to kiss the sky and laid a foundation of funk, soul, blues and jazz. The title track is a stand-out and the attached video is my favorite song on the album. The Neil Young cover ('Down By The River') leaves just a little to be desired, but Buddy's singing on the Allman Brothers classic 'Dreams' is top-notch. Produced in part by music legend Steve Cropper, various guitar work from Jim McCarty (from another unacknowledged early '70's outfit, Cactus and also The Detroit Wheels), bass work from fellow Band of Gypsys member Billy Cox and brass from The Memphis Horns, Them Changes has a great overall groove and can stand shoulder to shoulder with anything that Stax Records was releasing at the time.
Oh people, what have you done?
OK, maybe I shouldn't blame it totally on you. Maybe Eric and I share partly in the fault, having not set up the tournament to avoid this outcome. But we didn't, and then you voted, and here we are.
The greatest Beatles album of all time, according to your votes is:
Abbey Road is where Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band lives
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band lives on Abbey Road
Yep, you tied it up. In a neat little bow that we don't have any rule to untie. It's either completely unsatisfying or completely perfect, I have no idea which.
Thanks for playing along, whatever the outcome! This has been tons of fun for me, and I hope for you, too. We're already considering our next Madness move, probably something a little more light-hearted, like a tournament of 80s One Hit Wonders. We'll take any and all participants, so if you want to play again, or have some friends who have been jealous of your extra bracket to fill out, let Eric or me know and we'll count you in.
This tune was released as a single in the U.S. on this day in 1964, four days later in the UK.
I'll skip telling for whom I'm going to vote. If you've been keeping up with my posts, you should know. It seems that '80s one hit wonders was the decided topic for what was going to come next. I'll create this post just so we can discuss how we're going to establish what songs shall be chosen. Does A Flock of Seagulls' I Ran (So Far Away) count? Flock did have another small, albeit not as successful, hit with Space Age Love Song. What is a one-hit wonder? A group/artist with only one top forty hit? A group/artist only known for their one song?
And how are we to decide songs? Should everybody involved pitch in their five (ten?) favorites to Donna and the sixteen (or thirty-two or sixty-four or eight or however many) with the most votes get seeded properly? Since the Beatles bracket is coming to a close we should discuss this so we can smoothly transition into this deal.