Monday, December 10, 1973

CBGB Club opened.

CBGB’s was a famous club that opened on 315 Bowery in Manhattan’s East Village in 1973. The site had previously been home to a biker bar and, before that, a dive bar. As far back as the 19th century, the site was a former saloon on the first floor of the Palace Lodging House.

Hilly Kristal founded the club, giving it the full name of CBGB & OMFUG, which stood for “Country, Bluegrass, Blues, and other Music for uplifting Gourmandizers.” The intent was to showcase music from all kinds of genres, but it became the landing place for the American punk and new wave scene. The club is credited with launching the careers of the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Television, and Patti Smith.

A storefront next to the club became a record shop and café known as the CBGB Record Canteen. It was replaced in the late ‘80s with a second performance space and art gallery.

The club closed after a final concert from Patti Smith on October 15, 2006. A retail store opened at the CBGB venue, operating there until the close of the month and then moving to 19-23 St. Mark’s Place on November 1. It stayed open until the summer of 2008. CBGB Radio was started in 2010 on the iheartradio platform and, two years later, the CBGB festival was launched. The latter was the largest music festival in New York City, producing free concerts in Times Square and Central Park and premiering rock movies in Manhattan theaters.

In 2013, the former home of the CBGB club was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Bowery Historic District. That same year, the movie CBGB was released starring Alan Rickman as Kristal.


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First posted 12/6/2023.

Friday, December 7, 1973

Yes Tales from Topographic Oceans released

Tales from Topographic Oceans

Yes


Released: December 7, 1973


Peak: 6 US, 12 UK, 4 CN, 13 AU


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.1 UK, 0.6 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: progressive rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time]

  1. The Revealing Science of God – Dance of the Dawn (Anderson, Howe) [20:23]
  2. The Remembering – High the Memory (Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman, White) [20:35]
  3. The Ancient – Giants Under the Sun (Anderson, Howe, Squire) [18:37]
  4. Ritual – Nous Sommes du Soleil (Anderson, Howe) [21:33]


Total Running Time: 81:14


The Players:

  • Jon Anderson (vocals, harp, percussion)
  • Steve Howe (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Chris Squire (bass, backing vocals)
  • Rick Wakeman (keyboards)
  • Alan White (drums, percussion)

Rating:

3.353 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)


Quotable: “Either the finest record or the most overblown album in Yes’ output.” – Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

About the Album:

“Either the finest record or the most overblown album in Yes’ output. When it was released, critics called it one of the worst examples of progressive rock’s overindulgent nature.” BE Rolling Stone critic Gordon Fletcher called it “psychedelic doodling.” WK

“The album’s concept, a two-disc, four-piece work of symphonic length and scope (based on the Shastric scriptures, as found in a footnote within Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of a Yogi), was their most ambitious to date. The four songs of the album symbolise (in track order) the concepts of Truth, Knowledge, Culture, and Freedom, the subjects of that section of text. According to drummer Bill Bruford in his autobiography (p. 72), former King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir introduced vocalist Jon Anderson to Paramahansa Yogananda's work during Bruford's wedding in March 1973, and therefore had an indirect impact on the album’s concept.” WK

“Jon Anderson’s fascination with Eastern religions never manifested itself more clearly or broadly, but one needn’t understand any of that to appreciate the many sublimely beautiful moments on this album, some of the most gorgeous passages ever recorded by the band.” BE

“Wakeman has often expressed intense dislike of the album, stemming in part from the fact that vocalist Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe constructed the bulk of the album entirely on their own (as the sleeve notes suggest), leaving the remaining three members with relatively little to contribute (which the sleeve notes dispute). The complaints about Anderson and Howe’s studio behaviour were not unprecedented: drummer Bill Bruford had left the band for King Crimson a year earlier for similar reasons.” WK “Wakeman, in frustration, spent much of the time playing darts with Black Sabbath members” WK who were “in the studio recording Sabbath Bloody Sabbath at the same time as Yes.” WK

Bassist “Chris Squire mentions listening to tapes of a live performance some years later and thinking ‘it does go on a bit,’ but then adding that he ‘really enjoyed it.’” WK Wakeman has acknowledged “that he enjoyed some of the musical content of The Ancient, and Wakeman has performed The Revealing Science of God and Ritual with the band often in the years since.” WK Howe has “stated that some of his best guitar work was to be found on Tales from Topographic Oceans.


Notes: A 2003 reissue added studio run-throughs of “Dance of the Dawn” and “Giants Under the Sun.” 2016 edition added a third disc of material, including single edits of each of the four songs.

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First posted 6/7/2011; updated 7/24/2021.

Wednesday, December 5, 1973

Paul McCartney & Wings released Band on the Run: December 5, 1973

Originally posted December 5, 2011.



“The consensus of critics, as well as cold hard sales figures, says that Band on the Run was Paul McCartney’s most successful solo album.” RG “Neither the dippy, rustic Wild Life nor the slick AOR flourishes of Red Rose Speedway earned Paul McCartney much respect, so he made the self-consciously ambitious Band on the Run to rebuke his critics. On the surface, Band on the Run appears to be constructed as a song cycle in the vein of Abbey Road, but subsequent listens reveal that the only similarities the two albums share are simply superficial.” STE

“McCartney’s talent for songcraft and nuanced arrangements is in ample display throughout the record, which makes many of the songs – including the nonsensical title track – sound more substantial than they actually are. While a handful of the songs are excellent – the surging, inspired surrealism of Jet is by far one of his best solo recordings, Bluebird is sunny acoustic pop, and Helen Wheels captures McCartney rocking with abandon – most of the songs are more style than substance. Yet McCartney’s melodies are more consistent than any of his previous solo records, and there are no throwaways; the songs just happen to be not very good.” STE

“Still, the record is enjoyable, whether it’s the minor-key Mrs. Vandebilt or Let Me Roll It, a silly response to John Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep?,’ which does make Band on the Run one of McCartney’s finest solo efforts. However, there’s little of real substance on the record,” STE although it should be noted that the album is “an artistic triumph over very trying conditions – the defection of two-fifths of Wings.” RG Still, “no matter how elaborate the production is, or how cleverly his mini-suites are constructed, Band on the Run is nothing more than a triumph of showmanship.” STE




Awards:
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Saturday, November 10, 1973

Elton John hit #1 with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Elton John


Released: October 5, 1973


Peak: 18 US, 12 UK, 15 CN, 13 AU


Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 0.3 UK, 30.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/classic rock


Tracks:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding [11:08] (2 CL)
  2. Candle in the Wind [3:50] (3/2/74, 6 US, 2 AC, 2 CL, 5 UK, 5 CN, 5 AU) *
  3. Bennie and the Jets [5:23] (2/16/74, 1 US, 37 UK, 15 RB, 1 CL, 37 UK, 1 CN, 5 AU, 2x platinum)
  4. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [3:14] (9/29/73, 2 US, 7 AC, 1 CL, 6 UK, 1 CN, 4 AU, 2x platinum)
  5. This Song Has No Title [2:23]
  6. Grey Seal [3:58] (13 CL)
  7. Jamaica Jerk Off [3:39]
  8. I’ve Seen That Movie Too [5:59]
  9. Sweet Painted Lady [3:52]
  10. The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34) [4:24]
  11. Dirty Little Girl [5:01]
  12. All the Girls Love Alice [5:08] (9 CL)
  13. Your Sister Can’t Twist But She Can Rock ‘N’ Roll [2:42]
  14. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting [4:54] (7/7/73, 12 US, 2 CL, 7 UK, 12, CN, 31 AU, gold single)
  15. Roy Rogers [4:08]
  16. Social Disease [3:44]
  17. Harmony [2:45] (11 CL)

All songs written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin.

* Note: In the U.S. and Canada, “Candle in the Wind” didn’t chart until a live version was released in 1987.


Total Running Time: 76:12

Rating:

4.477 out of 5.00 (average of 21 ratings)


Quotable: It “plays like a greatest hits album, overflowing with classic songs.” – Clark Speicher, The Review


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is is “considered the high watermark of Elton’s reign of popularity,” CRS his “commercial and creative apex,” ZS “his magnum opus.” CS “John had successfully become the biggest hit-maker since The Beatles” CS and this “pretty much defines what made Elton John a superstar in the early ‘70s.” AMG However, this was also where his “personality began to gather more attention than his music.” AMG He “achieved superstardom with this effort and never matched its mastery again.” RV

This is “more musically ambitious than anything he attempted previously.” TM It “holds claim to a lot of brilliant, very pop-savvy music.” AZ “Its individual moments are spectacular and the glitzy, crowd-pleasing showmanship.” AMG “The grandiose rock is filled with an energy unlike any of his other works, giving us a new side to the piano man.” CS This is “piano glam rock at its finest, strutting a supersonic sound with prowess and ease.” CS

It “plays like a greatest hits album, overflowing with classic songs” RV which “remain standards more than 30 years later thanks to Bernie Taupin’s sharpest lyrics, John’s propulsive keyboard skills and vocals that leap into falsetto without losing any of their power.” TL The album “demonstrates the ease with which John and Taupin could write not only the hit singles, but the outstanding album tracks.” ZS

The Triumphs and Perils of a Double Album

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has been called “Elton’s White Album.” ZS Like all double albums, though, there is the danger of being criticized as “overstuffed.” TL Critic Robert Christgau said, “This is one more double album that would make a nifty single.” RC Bill Shaprio echoed that sentiment, noting that there is “some strong material, as well as some pretty forgettable exercises.” BS “Edited down to one disc, this would easily be John’s recorded pinnacle.” BS

However, others would argue that this is a “stunning song cycle with no filler.” ZS The “flamboyant tour de force” ZS has been celebrated as “a recap of all the styles and sounds that made John a star.” AMG In a 1974 review for Circus magazine, Janis Schacht said “Elton John is back and stronger than he’s been on record in many a blue moon. The lush two-record set moves from mood to mood with no apparent effort and a great sense of timing, class and style.” JS A 1973 Billboard review said “John seems able to sing almost any type of material, from rock to country to Jamaican-flavored tunes.” BB In a largely negative review, Rolling Stone’s Stephen Davis acknowledged that the album mixes “straight ultramodern British music hall revue” SD with “plenty of rock synthesized flash and the inspection of the inner feelings of several different versions of Elton John persona.” SD

Bernie Taupin and the Lyrics

On the album’s lyrics, “Taupin ranges far and wide, but always on what he considers the ‘other’ side of the tracks, romanticizing your moderately seamy crowd.” NC “Bernie takes us into the mind of a tired sort of man who does his living vicariously, via Roy Rogers movies on the telly, …into bed with a prostitute…And so on.” NC

The Writing and Recording

The Rolling Stones had just recorded Goats Head Soup in Jamaica and encouraged Elton John to give the “relaxing tropical paradise” SF a chance. However, he and his crew “encountered hostile locals and faulty equipment.” SF “Too frightened to leave his hotel room (things were volatile...) and holed up in his hotel room with a batch of Bernie Taupin's lyrics, Elton wrote twenty-one songs in three days.” CG

Attempts to record in Jamaica were abandoned and then “an equally unsatisfactory spell in New York” CG followed. Eventually, they relocated to France at the Château d'Hérouville where he’d recorded his previous two albums. “Originally intended as a single album, by the time Elton John had finished recording tracks…it was clear -- to him at any rate -- that only a double LP would suffice.” HC

“Funeral for a Friend/Love Likes Bleeding”

The album opens “in a dark and stormy mood. The wind is howling. A lone church bell chimes in the distance, ushering in an eleven-minute faux-goth suite ‘Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.’” TM The first part is “an eight-minute instrumental prologue featuring grandiose and tasteless typhoon whooshings, booming ecclesiastic organ, [and] some stinging guitar.” SD It segues into “‘Love Lies Bleeding,’ a rocker with a soaring, handsome chorus.” SD

The “back-to-back blowouts” CS have been called both a “prog rock epic” AMG and a “Wagnerian-operalike combo.” RS500 “It’s as though the prodigiously talented pianist and his longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin, mean to bust out of the radio-bonbon business.” TM Critic David Prakel praises the song as a “stunner…in which he musters and commands every last musical talent and trick.” DP

“Candle in the Wind”

Of course, song two quickly announces that it will be “all over the map” AMG by immediately careening into the balladry of Candle in the Wind.” AMG The song “follows a fan as he tries to reconcile the myths and legends attached to Marilyn Monroe,” TM although it “took its title from a newspaper cutting about the death of Janis Joplin.” CG

In his 1973 review for Rolling Sone, Stephen Davis called it “prettily solemn and unbelievably corny, a necrophiliac erection.” SD In his review for Stereo Review, Noel Coppage asserts that “EJ has given it such a nice melody ans sings it with such emotional credibility that the words actually do begin to mean something.” NC

Despite any dismissivemness, the general public reveled in the song’s sentimentality. The original version was a single in the UK and a live version in 1987 was a top-10 hit in the United States. In 1997, the lyrics were revamped as a memorial to Princess Diana and it became the second-biggest-selling song of all time, only behind Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”

“Bennie and the Jets”

The third single from the album, this gave Elton his second chart-topper in America after 1972’s “Crocodile Rock.” “The cartoon-like tale of a female sci-fi rock band” CG “was a nod in the direction of Bowie’s Ziggy” TB and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s “about a mythical rock & roll band,” SD complete with “dubbed audience noise.” SD

“The heavy metal groupie immortalized in ‘Bennie and the Jets’…engages in ritualistic animal sacrifice,” TM not exactly your standard top-40 fare. The album marked “the moment when Taupin’s snarling outsider cynicism collides most spectacularly with John’s questioning melodies and dizzying etude-book piano arpeggios.” TM<./sup>

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

This isn’t “a ‘concept’ album in the strictest sense, but Goodbye does have a recurring theme – disillusionment” TM as Taupin lyrically “is pursuing the many facets of a dying Hollywood.” JS The title track tells of a boy stung by the city he once viewed as an Oz.” TM The Circus magazine review asserted that “Elton finally has met his original potential” JS with songs like “the delicate and beautiful ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.’” JS It “harnesses the fantastic imagery of glam to a Gershwin-sweet melody.” RS500 Ballads like that and “Candle in the Wind,” “along with every other hit off this record, have since become staples in pop, turning the record into an early greatest hits collection.” CS

“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”

“Guitarist Davey Johnstone was a rare find when he joined the band” SD and this “omnipresent AM hit…ably testify to his power.” SD “The strutting rock and roll” RS500 of “this “Stonesy rocker” TB “easily finds itself in the top echelon of fist-pumping rock songs that get your blood boiling and your head banging.” CS As the lead single from the album, the song “about Bernie Taupin’s raucous teenage days” CG marked Elton’s fifth trip to the top ten in his native UK. Stateside, he’d already had five top-10s, but this one just missed the mark, landing at #12.

“Grey Seal”

“Grey Seal” was originally released as the B-side to Elton’s 1970 single “Rock and Roll Madonna.” He re-recorded it for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and It shows ““just how stacked this record really is.” CS “Grey Seal” and “This Song Has No Title…had gospel-tinged melodies and progressions.” TB

In his largely negative review, Rolling Stone’s Stephen Davis called this “a fine, fast numbrer, episodic and brilliantly-produced, one of the few large-production numbers here that succeeds all the way through.” SD

“Harmony”

This song’s “downbeat melodicism” AZ “is a change of pace number. Haunting and subtle, it has great mid-sixties three-part harmony (natch) with backup vocals compliments of Davey Johnstone and Nigel Olsson. The song sounds as if it might have been recorded for the first or second Bee Gees’ LP, way back when they were a great band.” JS The “sunny, symphonic pop finale” BW is “a star track and a perfect end for a near-perfect album.” JS

Other Songs

Elsewhere on the record Elton shows off his rock side with “the fairground jive of Your Sister Can’t Twist.” TB Roy Rogers is “sentimental and sensitive without ever slipping into that dangerous songwriter’s trap of banality.” JS All the Girls Love Alice “proved to be a ballad of a teenage lesbian,” CG “possibly the earliest rock song to address lesbianism.” JT

There’s also “the ready-made nostalgia of The Ballad of Danny BaileyAZ which features “Bernie Taupin’s literary pretensions” AMG and “novelties [like] Jamiaica Jerk-Off…and everything in between.” AMG “All of this could only come from the man in the glittery glasses who knew no limits to where his piano could take him, and thank God for it.” CS


Notes: A 2003 Deluxe Edition adds “Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady),” “Jack Rabbit,” “Screw You (Young Man Blues),” and an alternate version of “Candle in the Wind.”

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First posted 3/21/2008; updated 4/12/2021.

Friday, November 9, 1973

Billy Joel’s Piano Man released

First posted 5/9/2011; updated 9/21/2020.

Piano Man

Billy Joel


Released: November 9, 1973


Peak: 27 US, 98 UK, 26 CN, 14 AU


Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, -- UK, 5.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/rock singer-songwriter


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Travelin’ Prayer (8/17/74, 77 US, 36 CL, 31 AC)
  2. Piano Man (2/23/74, 25 US, 1 CL, 4 AC, 10 CN, 20 AU, sales: 3 million)
  3. Ain’t No Crime
  4. You’re My Home (1981 live version: 100 AU)
  5. The Ballad of Billy the Kid (17 CL)
  6. Worse Comes to Worst (6/29/74, 80 US, 42 CL)
  7. Stop in Nevada
  8. If I Only Had the Words to Tell You
  9. Somewhere Along the Line
  10. Captain Jack (11 CL)


Total Running Time: 42:51

Rating:

3.490 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)

About the Album:

After failed albums with the Hassles, Attila, and his solo debut, Billy Joel left the east coast for Los Angeles, where he worked as a lounge singer for six months. Thanks to touring and hustling, he landed a contract with Columbia and recorded his second album. “Never mind Movin’ Out – Twyla Tharp should make a Broadway musical out of Joel’s second album, in which a scrappy Long Islander goes West, meets banjo players and decides he wants to be rock’s equivalent of Aaron Copland.” DB

The resulting Piano Man album showed inspiration from James Taylor and Elton John, specifically the latter’s Tumbleweed Connection, both musically and lyrically. AMG With the exception of You’re My Home, a love letter to his wife, he abandoned the more introspective fare of Cold Spring Harbor “for character sketches and epics.” AMG

This is especially notable in the title cut, which became one of Joel’s signature songs. He he offered a fictionalized version of his job as a lounge singer, but rather than focus on himself, he focused on the patrons who inhabited the bar. The song reversed Joel’s fate, reaching the top 40 in the U.S. and putting him on the map.

He still had weaknesses as a lyricist; as evidenced by “mishaps [such] as the ‘instant pleasuredome’ line in ‘You’re My Home’” AMG and “his narratives are occasionally awkward or incomplete” AMG but he “makes it clear that his skills as a melodicist can dazzle.” AMG

He “may have borrowed his basic blueprint from Tumbleweed Connection, particularly with its Western imagery and bluesy gospel flourishes, but he makes it his own” AMG “thanks to his indelible melodies and savvy stylistic repurposing.” AMG Songs like The Ballad of Billy the Kid, which is about more than just the outlaw, showcase how no one other than Elton John “merged such playful grandiosity with so many hooks.” DB

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Saturday, October 27, 1973

“Midnight Train to Georgia” hit #1

Midnight Train to Georgia

Gladys Knight & the Pips

Writer(s): Jim Weatherly (see lyrics here)


First Charted: August 25, 1973


Peak: 12 BB, 11 CB, 3 GR, 11 HR, 2 RR, 19 AC, 14 RB, 10 UK, 14 CN, 52 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 45.58 video, 295.27 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The song started out as “Midinght Plane to Houston” in 1970. It was inspired by a phone conversation songwriter Jim Weatherly had with actress Farrah Fawcett. He’d called to talk to his friend Lee Majors, who’d just started dating Fawcett. He wasn’t home and she explained that she was packing to go visit her parents – she was taking a midnight plane to Houston. After getting off the phone, Weatherly spent 45 minutes writing a song RC which he explained “was about a girl that comes to LA to be successful but maybe she’s not successful but the guy loves her and goes home with her.” TC

Cissy Houston recorded the song in 1972. She described it as “a country ballad that told a good story – about two people in love.” MM However, she wanted to change the title, saying “my people are originally from Georgia, and they didn’t take planes…they took trains.” MM The song also underwent a change in becoming about a woman following her man back to Georgia after his failure to become a star. Her version wasn’t a hit, but in the hands of the Pips it would become their only #1 on the pop charts.

Gladys Knight & the Pips formed in 1952 when she was eight years old. Her siblings Bubba and Brenda and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest rounded out the group, originally known just as The Pips. By 1955, they were performing around Atlanta on the talent show circuit and in 1957 they signed a record contract with Brunswick Records. Two years later, the label dropped the group.

The Pips would go through different members, have a a hit with “Every Beat of My Heart” in 1961 (#6 BB, #1 RB), and another label before signing with Motown in 1966. They picked up two more top-ten pop hits/#1 R&B songs with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “If I Were Your Woman” before leaving the label for Buddha Records in 1973.

The group recorded Weatherly’s song “Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye” and it reached #2 on the pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts. The group asked Weatherly if he had any more songs and he gave them “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Knight said she loved Cissy’s version but wanted “an Al Green thing going…something moody with…horns, keyboards, and other instruments to create texture and spark something in me.” MM

She also changed some lyrics with Weatherly’s blessing and gave it some gospel ad-libs. She struggled with the latter so in the recording studio her brother Bubba fed her lines into her headset. MM It became the fifth R&B chart-topper for the Pips. Critic and author Dave Marsh called it “the best vocal performance of Gladys Knight’s career.” DM


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First posted 1/14/2024.