Tuesday, December 2, 1975

Queen released A Night at the Opera: December 2, 1975

Originally posted December 2, 2012.

image from zona-musical.com

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) War Pigs / Paranoid (8/29/70; #61 US, #4 UK, #25 AR) / Planet Caravan / Iron Man (1/29/72; #52 US, #32 AR) / Electric Funeral Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…) / Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon / I’m in Love with My Car / You’re My Best Friend (5/22/76; #16 US, #7 UK) / ’39 / Sweet Lady / Seaside Rendezvous / The Prophet’s Song / Love of My Life (7/14/79, #63 UK) / Good Company / Bohemian Rhapsody (11/8/75; #2 US, #1 UK, #16 AR, sales: 1.0 m) / God Save the Queen

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.3 UK, 10.0 world

Peak: 4 US, 1 4 UK


Review: Queen’s A Night at the Opera can be simultaneously viewed as the group’s “crowning achievement” PR and “an extravagant indulgence.” PR On the latter front, “this is where the band let its over-the-top tendencies loose.” RS500 The group “celebrate their own pomposity” AMG in “a self-consciously ridiculous and overblown hard rock masterpiece.” AMG In his book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, Tom Moon called it “the campiest rock concept album ever.” TM

On the other front, it was the most expensive album made up to that time, taking months to record in as many as six studios simultaneously. PR That “detailed, meticulous productions” AMG was a mutual effort from Queen and producer Roy Thomas Baker, who “was more than happy to oblige the boys, piling on the overdubs until the analog 16-track tape shed almost all its oxide and literally went transparent.” GW

The Queen sound by definition was filled with electric guitars in harmony, a rock-solid rhythm section, and many layers of vocals,” CRS but even by their own standards, Queen “broke down all the barricades on A Night at the OperaAMG with a mix of “hard rock, wistful ballads, music hall pastiche and perfectly crafted pop with classical trimmings.” PR It was “the disc that established them as a completely unique entity in rock music, quite distinct from the Seventies glam/proto metal pack with which they’d formerly been grouped.” GW “It’s prog rock with a sense of humor as well as dynamics.” AMG

“Delivered with sly winks and high-gloss dazzle, these put Queen closer, sensibility-wise, to the theatrical entertainments of a bygone age than anything on pop radio.” TM “Fully half of the album tends toward camp - there are seafaring sing-alongs (‘39) and vaudeville-style soft-shoe tunes (Seaside Rendezvous) and a few themes that might have been inspired by a toy calliope (Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon).” TM

You’re My Best Friend

However, “tucked between the kitschy, amazingly detailed period pieces are several conventional pop songs.” TM The album “encompasses metal (Death on Two Legs, Sweet Lady), pop (the lovely, shimmering You're My Best Friend)...mystical prog rock (…The Prophet’s Song)” AMG, and “the zooming, cleverly harmonized confession I’m In Love with My Car.” TM They all serve as “head-spinningly intricate, illustrations of Queen’s ability to conjure music of preposterous flamboyance that somehow still manages to flat-out rock.” TM

They “eventually bring it all together on the pseudo-operatic Bohemian Rhapsody.” AMG The group fretted that “this strange song with suicidal overtones, mood changes, and a pseudo-operatic section” CRS “was a bit over the top; it would either be a huge success or an equally huge failure.” CRS It proved to be the former, becoming the group’s most beloved song and one of classic rock’s staples.

Bohemian Rhapsody

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Saturday, November 8, 1975

Patti Smith released Horses: November 8, 1975

Originally posted November 8, 2012.

image from pitchfork.com

Release date: 8 November 1975
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Gloria: In Excelsis Deo/Gloria / Redondo Beach / Birdland / Free Money / Kimberly / Break It Up / Land: Horses/ Land of a Thousand Dances/ La Mer (De) / Elegie

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 47 US, -- UK


Review: A case could be made for Patti Smith, “the waif-like poetess,” WR “as a punk rock progenitor based on her debut album.” AMG She “and her crack band blazed a new trail in this brazen hybrid of literary smarts and feral rock.” UT “The simple, crudely played rock & roll, featuring Lenny Kaye’s rudimentary guitar work, the anarchic spirit of Smith’s vocals, and the emotional and imaginative nature of her lyrics – all prefigure the coming movement as it evolved on both sides of the Atlantic.” AMG “Like a lot of the proto-punk artists, Smith was romanticizing rock ’n roll’s past” EK while also “breaking new ground…the hallmark of great artists.” JM

Smith’s vocals are “an acquired taste, and the music is at times a jarring mix of ’60s Nuggetry (thank you Lenny Kaye) and free-form avant-garde” EK fused with “classical verse, feminism, [and] punk.” TL “Art, bohemia, poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, reggae, sex, and salvation crash and burn together.” VB There are “a couple of rather esoteric nine-minute readings…and Patti’s somewhat casual relationship with phonics can make for a challenging listen if you don’t have a lyric sheet right handy.” EK Despite that, she demonstrates an “ability to construct an album that simultaneously looks forward and backward;” JM she also deserves “props for her flair for the theatrical.” JM In addition, John Cale (formerly of the Velvet Underground), deservies recognition for his production which “respected Smith’s primitivism in a way that later producers did not.” AMG

The album’s most important contribution may have been how she was “interested in bringing together high art and low three-chord rock & roll.” AZ While she “emerged from the same punk scene as the Ramones, [this is] a far cry from [their] three-chord jokiness.” RV “The melodies carry the influence of Van Morrison, Wilson Pickett and The Doors.” RV “The loose, improvisatory song structures worked with her free verse to create something like a new spoken word/musical art form: Horses was a hybrid, the sound of a post-Beat poet, as she put it, ‘dancing around to the simple rock & roll song.’” AMG Her “vision of extremist poetry and rock music” BL makes the album “sound like it belongs on a syllabus for a class few people would willingly take.” TL

“Smith’s background as a rock critic and poet is equally in evidence.” NRR “This seems to be the ultimate insider’s album.” EK It is “a rock critic’s dream, a poet as steeped in ‘60s garage rock as she is in French Symbolism.” AMG This is “Rimbaud with punk guitars.” BL

“Despite her obvious mastery of rock ‘n roll,” JM Smith was “some what of an anomaly.” JM “It’s a sad fact that pop music has been, and in many ways continues to be, a boys’ club.” EK However, with Horses, “a woman had finally taken the reins of the rock chariot” JM showing “she could beat the boys at her own game.” JM Her boyfriend, Robert Mapplethorpe, “took the sleeve photo, which showed Smith a creature beyond gender, the music’s perfect pictorial analogue.” WR “Her artistry, honesty and female empowerment paved the way for future femme rockers Liz Phair, Alanis Morrissette and PJ Harvey.” RV


“The album’s most memorable words are its first: ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.’” TL She and her band “swagger through a complete reinvention of Van Morrison’s Gloria.” TL “This song sets the tone of an alienated woman striving for catharsis with naked lyrics and vigorous guitar riffs.” RV “You realize you are in the presence of a master, someone who can take the poetic pretensions of the Lizard King and do them up right. Someone with the same blend of lasciviousness and aloofness as Jagger in his prime.” EK It makes for “one of the greatest side one/track ones of all time.” EK

She reimagines songs like that and Land of a Thousand Dances by adding her own “provocative and unflinching lyrics,” NRR resulting in something which feels “far more romantic and revolutionary than any mere poetry.” TL It “takes a skilled musician to turn the ‘jock rock’ mainstay…into a three-part suite comparable to The Doors’ ‘The End.’” RV


“Smith exposes her soul like no other rocker when she intones, on Break It Up, ‘I ripped my skin open and then I broke through.’” RV The title track I”was an eight minute stream-of-consciousness ending in sonic orgasm.” WR While “some of Smith’s songwriting gets buried in its stylistic affectations (there’s a great song under Redondo Beach’s fake reggae),” AZ this is still “a rock record of overwhelming power” TL built on “Smith’s persona of volume, cunning and exile, and it comes through distinctly.” AZ “Clearly a landmark.” BL

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Queen charted with “Bohemian Rhapsody”: November 8, 1975

This content is taken from the The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at DavesMusicDatabase.com as a standard book or ebook!

Called “one of the most complex singles ever recorded,” KL “Bohemian Rhapsody” begins as a ballad, veers into opera, and ends as rock. Recording took place over three weeks in six studios CR with 180 overdubs. KL More than 70 hours went into the completion of the operatic parts. KL There is a myth TB that the tapes became nearly transparent RS500 from more than 180 overdubs. KL

Theories abound about the song’s meaning. Some say it is about a man calling to God for help on the eve of his execution. WK Others claim it is about Mercury’s attempt to break away from a lover after his first gay encounter. WK It has also been suggested that the lyrics have no meaning; they were just written to fit the music. WK Lead singer Freddie Mercury never did explain it, only saying that it was a about relationships. The band still protects the song’s secret. WK

When record execs wouldn’t release it, Mercury gave a copy to a DJ friend. This prompted fans to try to buy the non-existing single, which finally led to its release. WK It went top 10 in the U.S. and topped the British charts with more than a million sales. MG

The song was so complicated to play live that the band shot a promo clip which has come to be considered instrumental in the dawning of the video era. KL

In the wake of Mercury’s death in 1991 and inclusion in the 1992 movie Wayne’s World, the song re-charted, peaking at #2 in the U.S. In the U.K., it topped the charts again – the only song to ever do so – giving it a total of 14 weeks on top. It also sold another million copies. MG

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Saturday, October 11, 1975

Saturday Night Live premiered: October 11, 1975

Originally posted October 11, 2011.

In 1975, a late night show called NBC’s Saturday Night began its run on television. That show became better known as Saturday Night Live and is still airing 700+ episodes and 37 seasons later. The show has snagged 21 Emmys, a Peabody, and three Writers Guild of America awards. It also been inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and ranked by TV Guide as one of the top 50 shows of all time.

The show was built around sketch comedy featuring the show’s regular cast of “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” alongside weekly guest hosts. Some of the most popular sketches went on to become full-length feature movies such as The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World. However, the show also became well known for its live musical guests.

Among the most frequent musical guests are Beck, Eminem, Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews, Randy Newman, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, and James Taylor, all of whom have appeared at least five times. Dave Grohl has appeared more than any other musical guest – ten in all. In addition to his six appearances with the Foo Fighers, he’s also appeared with Nirvana twice, Them Crooked Vultures once, and with Tomy Petty & the Heartbreakers once.

The shows first episode featured Billy Preston and Janis Ian as musical guests. The first season also featured Abba, Jimmy Cliff, Art Garfunkel, Al Jarreau, Anne Murray, Randy Newman, Martha Reeves, Leon Russell, Neil Sedaka, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Patti Smith, and Bill Withers.

Among the more infamous musical moments on the show are appearances by guests who were banned for their antics. Perhaps the most infamous was Sinead O’Connor’s a cappela performance of Bob Marley’s “War” after which she tore up a picture of the Pope and asked the audience to fight the real enemy.

Early on in SNL’s history, Elvis Costello was banned after playing “Radio Radio” when he was supposed to play “Less Than Zero” on December 17, 1977. However, all was forgiven when he appeared on the 25th anniversary mocking his original appearance. He interrupted the Beastie Boys just as they were starting to play “Sabotage” and then they joined him for “Radio Radio”.

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Monday, September 15, 1975

Pink Floyd released Wish You Were Here: September 15, 1975

Orginally posted September 15, 2012.

image from fanpop.com

Release date: 15 September 1975
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Pts. 1-5 / Welcome to the Machine / Have a Cigar / Wish You Were Here / Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Pts. 6-9

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, -- UK, 21.3 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 12 US, 11 UK


Review: Pink Floyd had been around since the mid-‘60s, finally scoring their commercial breakthrough with 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon. In the wake of Dark Side’s monstrous success, the band were left drained and stressed by the pressure to match it. Singer/songwriter and bassist Roger Waters described the early attempts to record a follow-up as “torturous.” WK Both he and drummer Nick Mason were suffering through marriages which eventually ended in divorce. Singer/guitarist David Gilmour quarreled with Waters over the band’s musical direction and was frustrated with the “general malaise and sense of apathy.” WK

However, in the midst of “these volatile relationships, Waters found his grand theme for Wish You Were Here: the music business itself, and its tendency to crush the dreams of those who pursue fame, fortune and a chance at creative self-expression.” GW It gave him leeway to explore his frustration with the band’s disintegrating camaraderie and the drug-induced mental breakdown of Syd Barrett, one of the band’s founders and its original frontman. Barrett had cracked under the pressure of stardom and Waters painted him as “a messianic martyr to the soulless mechanisms of the music biz.” GW The cover art, which featured two businessmen – one on fire – shaking hands, reflected the idea of people hiding their real feelings out of fear of getting burned. WK

Wish “takes everything the band learned in the studio on Dark Side…to the next level.” IGN “The long, winding soundscapes are constantly enthralling” AMG and make the album “warmer than its predecessor.” AMG The album “is big and ambitious, even bombastic, [but] dodges being pretentious – the Barrett tributes are honest and heartfelt, beneath all the grand gestures and stereophonic trickery.” AZ The album may even be more more impressive musically than Dark Side as it showcases “the group’s interplay and…Gilmour’s solos in particular.” AMG He gets “lots of space for his most lyrical guitar playing ever” AZ and he “shoot[s] rays of light and glimpses of hope throughout the album.” GW The band once again made effective use of synthesizers and studio effects to create a production that was “sparkling, convoluted, [and] designed to sound deeply oh-wow under the influence – and pretty great sober too.” AZ Gilmour and keyboardist Richard Wright have both declared Wish You Were Here their favorite Pink Floyd album. WK

Shine on You Crazy Diamond (live, 1994)

Shine On You Crazy Diamond kicks things off with more than eight minutes of instrumentation before the listener gets any lyrics. It ranks among Gilmour’s “greatest guitar work.” GW Gilmour stumbled across the phrase, but with Water’s positive encouragement, the song was fleshed into the album’s centerpiece. When its two halves are taken together as a whole, the mostly-instrumental twenty-minute piece is similar to the band’s earlier work “Echoes.” The opening four-note guitar phrase reminded Waters of Barrett, so the song became one of “two, long touching [songs] about the band’s vanished friend.” AZ He is fondly recalled via phrases like “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun” and “You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.” Waters said the song wasn’t really about Syd, but that he was “a symbol for all the extremes of absence some people have to indulge in because it’s the only way they can cope.” WK

The “ominous” GW Welcome to the Machine “begins with the opening of a door – described by Waters as a symbol of musical discovery and progress betrayed by a music industry more interested in greed and success. The song ends with sounds from a party, epitomising ‘the lack of contact and real feelings between people’.” WK

Welcome to the Machine

Both that song and the “unctuously disquieting” GW Have a Cigar “rank among Waters’ darkest compositions.” GW Like “Machine,” it lambasts the music business and works with “Shine On” to offer “an apt summary of the rise and fall of Barrett.” WK It also humorously asks “By the way, which one is Pink?,” a question frequently asked of the band. Thanks to Waters’ limited vocal range and the stress he’d already caused his voice recording “Shine On,” Gilmour was asked to sing the song. When he declined, friend Roy Harper was tapped – a move Waters later regretted as he believed he should have sung it himself. WK

Have a Cigar

On Wish You Were Here, Waters not only reflects on Barrett, but his own nature as both an idealist and domineering personality. WK Waters “seems keenly aware of the dangers of falling over the edge.” GW “The opening bars of ‘Wish You Were Here’ were recorded from Gilmour’s car radio, with somebody turning the dial (the classical music heard is the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony).” WK

Wish You Were Here

The album didn’t initially receive uniformly positive critical praise, but was an immediate commercial success. It went straight to the top of the UK charts with advance orders of 250,000. In the U.S., the album’s 900,000 in advance orders were the largest ever for a Columbia release. WK

Legend has it that Barrett made a surprise visit to the studio during the recording of the album. While the band were completing a final mix of “Shine On,” an overweight man with his head and eyebrows shaved entered the room. Initially the band didn’t recognize him. Mason recalled in Inside Out (2005) that Barrett’s conversation was “desultory and not entirely sensible.” WK Storm Thorgerson echoed Mason, saying, Barrett “He sat round and talked for a bit but he wasn’t really there.’” WK Barrett showed up again at Gilmour’s wedding reception, left without saying goodbye, and wasn’t seen again by any of the band.

Clips from various songs (animated video short)

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Saturday, September 13, 1975

Bruce Springsteen starts a “Run” on the charts

image from discogs.com

Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run”

Writer(s): Bruce Springsteen (see lyrics here)

Released: 8/25/1975, First charted: 9/13/1975

Peak: 23 US, 16 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): 39.8

Review: Springsteen took six months to write TB-159 and 3 ½ to record RS500 his bonafide classic. The song underwent fifty pages of fine-tuning in his notebook TB-159 as he crafted his tale of the ficticious Wendy KN and the “young lovers on the highways of New Jersey.” RS500 However, as he told Rolling Stone, “I don’t know how important the settings are…It’s the idea behind the settings. It could be New Jersey, it could be California, it could be Alaska.” RS500

Indeed, “Born to Run” was more about a philosophy than a place. It served as more than just The Boss’ signature song – it was his declarative anthem about outwardly rebelling against whatever held back those young, romantic New Jersians. Part of the reason the song became such a touchstone for people, though, is because of “an equally powerful melancholy; the future seems so bright largely because the present’s so dismal.” MA-23

Beyond the lyrics, though, this was also Springsteen’s ode to the musical giants who’d shaped him. The song comes complete with a “seven-layer Duane Eddy guitar lick with Dylanesque lyrics, Roy Orbison vocal histrionics, ...Stones-style rhythm section, [and a] King Curtis sax break.” MA-23 It’s all stitched together with a Phil Spector-esque Wall of Sound – “strings, glockenspiel, multiple keyboards – and more than a dozen guitar tracks.” RS500 The result is a song with “the audible ambition of recapitulating the first twenty-some years of rock and roll.” MA-23

Springsteen had released two albums to critical acclaim, but low sales. “Born to Run” was what he called his “shot at the title…at the greatest rock ’n’ roll record ever.” TB-159 His first live performance of the song convinced rock critic Jon Landau, who later became Bruce’s manager. When Landau caught The Boss opening for Bonnie Raitt on May 9, 1974, he wrote in the Real Paper out of Boston: “ I saw rock and roll’s future – and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” SF

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.