This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
I spent much of 1970 in the San Francisco bay area, initially in Berkeley, and later in Palo Alto and Los Gatos. I got to see and hear a lot of live music that year, at the Fillmore, Winterland, the Family Dog and elsewhere possibly to the long term detriment to my hearing.
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL were generally underrated by critics at the time, but the general public loved them.
Their songs and records have stood the test of time,so once again, the public knew something that the critics didn’t. Each album they released around this time contained what has proved to be classic songs. Down on the Corner may be one of those from the album “Willy and the Poor Boys”.
THE KINKS were the most English of the “British Invasions” bands.
Their songs, even whole albums, were about the minutiae about English life. One song that bucked that trend was probably their biggest hit: Lola. The song was banned by the BBC, not for the general content of the lyrics, but because the song mentioned Coca Cola. Can’t have brand names on the Beeb.
MICHAEL NESMITH was really the only ex-member of The Monkees who had a decent career separate from that group.
He was even productive before the group was formed – he wrote the terrific song, Different Drum. Afterwards, he formed several country rock groups and recorded a number of well regarded albums.
One of those was “Magnetic South” on which the song Joanne appeared. The song is a real earworm (for me anyway). You have been warned.
BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS’ second album produced a number of hits. It was their first without the guiding hand of Al Kooper, who formed the group.
In place of Al, who did most of the singing on that first album, they had the fine baritone David Clayton-Thomas doing the honours. The song And When I Die was written by Laura Nyro and was first recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary. It was also one the hits for BS&T.
1970 saw SIMON & GARFUNKEL at the peak of their creativity.
It also saw their swansong with the album “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The title song was one of the finest ever put on to vinyl. Perversely, I won’t feature that one, but instead here’s El Condor Pasa (If I Could).
By 1970, STEVIE WONDER was starting to make a name for himself as an adult performer rather than just as Little Stevie Wonder, as he was initially known.
It was still a couple of years until he would record his masterpiece album “Innervisions”, however, he was producing fine pop songs like Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours.
On their second album (“Déjà Vu”), Crosby Stills & Nash brought in Neil Young, because on the first album Steve Stills pretty much played all the instruments and it was agreed that a bit of help would be nice. Naturally, they called the group CROSBY STILLS NASH & YOUNG, but you all know that.
The album they recorded was a huge hit as were several of the songs from it, including Teach Your Children. The pedal steel guitar on the song was played by Jerry Garcia.
After hearing the Staple Singers (or some such group) NORMAN GREENBAUM decided that he could write a gospel song, so he did.
Naturally, he imbued it with the sounds of the day – heavy, fuzz-tone guitar and drums to the fore, but in spite of that I’ve always liked it. The song is Spirit in the Sky.
CHICAGO started out as The Chicago Transit Authority and their first album was under that name. However, the real organization with the same name objected and the group reverted to the reduced moniker.
Although somewhat long and self indulgent (it was a double album), a lot of that first record was pretty good. From it we have I'm A Man. This one is typical of the period – heavy wah-wah laced guitar, extended drum solo, a lot of cowbell action, soul-sounding singing. In spite of all that it still sounds good.
By 1970, The Miracles were being billed as SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES, because their main man was the singer, songwriter and producer of the group.
Not just that group, he did the same for many acts on the Motown label. Smokey was hoping to retire from touring but the success of The Tears of a Clown kept him on the road for another couple of years.
MUNGO JERRY was a British group who had an ever changing line up whose one constant was the presence of Ray Dorset.
That’s Ray, third from the left. They had quite a few hits in their home country but only one that really impacted elsewhere. That song is In the Summertime.