Saturday, December 21, 1974

Harry Chapin “Cat’s in the Cradle” hit #1

Cat’s in the Cradle

Harry Chapin

Writer(s): Harry Chapin, Sandra Chapin (see lyrics here)


First Charted: September 28, 1974


Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 3 RR, 6 AC, 1 CL, 3 CN, 6 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 73.4 video, 108.16 streaming

Cat’s in the Cradle

Ugly Kid Joe


Released: March 25, 1993


First Charted: February 5, 1993


Peak: 6 US, 9 CB, 9 RR, 3 AR, 7 UK, 11 AU, 11 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 49.0 video, 94.85 streaming

Awards (Harry Chapin):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Ugly Kid Joe):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Harry Chapin was rock’s master storyteller. His songs were narrative prose set to music.” FB He said his songs were “stories of oridinary people and cosmic moments in their non-cosmic lives.” FB However, the lyrics for “Cat’s in the Cradle” – his best-known hit – were written by his wife Sandra. He claimed she wrote the “four minute musical guilt trip” SG “to ‘zap’ him” SG but she actually wrote it about her first husband, James Cashmore, and his difficult relationship with his father. Harry didn’t write accompanying music for the song until about a year later – after he missed the birth of his son because he was on the road. It also let him deal with his own feelings about his father, a jazz drummer, who was often on the road as well. SG

“Cat’s in the Cradle” “boils all the complexities of parenthood to the question of whether or not the dad is physically or mentally present. It has a big tearjerking coda about how the adult kid doesn’t have any time to spend with his father…His new job’s a hassle! The kid’s got the flu!” SG The power of the song is how “it hits you in the gut at the right moment…and turn you into a shuddering feelings-puddle.” SG It “doesn’t have all the layers of some of other Chapin’s songs. That’s fine. It sacrifices those layers for pure throat-lump effectiveness.” SG

“Chapin’s got a declarative sing-speaking style, and he slowly tweaks it as the song builds, moving deliberately from distant wonder at his kid’s birth to heavy-hearted intensity. He never overplays any of the song’s big moments. When he reaches his big tearjerking finale – ‘My boy was just like me’ – he could go for high drama. Instead, he holds back, almost murmuring that line to himself, letting the words do the work.” SG

“Musically, ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ is an assured piece of ’70s folk-rock. Those lyrics demand so much attention that it’s easy to neglect all the subtle little flourishes in the arrangement…the vaguely Eastern string-figure, the weirdly catchy electric-sitar riff, the bass that wells up at the exact right moment.” SG

The hair-metal band Ugly Kid Joe covered the song in 1993 and it reached #6. While the idea sounds cringe-worthy, it actually worked pretty well, largely because the band were faithful to the song and didn’t butcher it. It ended up introducing a whole new generation to the age-old father-son guilt dynamic.


Resources:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Harry Chapin
  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Ugly Kid Joe
  • FB Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 386.
  • SG Stereogum (6/18/2019). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia


First posted 7/25/2022.

Thursday, December 5, 1974

Yes Relayer released

Relayer

Yes


Released: December 5, 1974


Peak: 5 US, 4 UK, 22 CN, 15 AU


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US


Genre: progressive rock


Tracks:

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

  1. Gates of Delirium [21:55] (7/1/75, “Soon” – excerpt, --)
  2. Sound Chaser [9:25]
  3. To Be Over [9:08]

All tracks written by Yes.


Total Running Time: 40:09


The Players:

  • Jon Anderson (vocals, acoustic guitar, piccolo, percussion)
  • Steve Howe (guitar, sitar, backing vocals)
  • Chris Squire (bass, backing vocals)
  • Patrick Moraz (keyboards)
  • Alan White (drums, percussion)

Rating:

3.433 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Relayer was the seventh studio album from Yes and the only one to feature Patrick Moraz on keyboards, replacing Rick Wakeman who left after Tales from Topographic Oceans to pursue a solo career. Greek keyboardist Vangelis (later of “Chariots of Fire” fame) was a close contender for the job and later collaborated with Jon Anderson on several albums.

Yes had fallen out of critical favor with Tales from Topographic Oceans, a two-record set of four songs that reviewers found indulgent,” WR but it was still a commercial success so the band “had little incentive to curb their musical ambitiousness.” WR “Critics continued to complain about the lack of concise, coherent song structures,” WR but Relayer still made the top 10 and was a gold seller.

The group did actually trim from Tales, going back to a single-disc album format. The three long songs that comprised the album made this feel more like a cousin to 1972’s Close to the Edge with “a long epic on the first side, and two nine-minute pieces on the second.” WK

However, Relayer “employs a radically different musical style” WK from that album. The “music [is] organized into suites that alternated abrasive, rhythmically dense instrumental sections featuring solos for the various instruments with delicate vocal and choral sections featuring poetic lyrics devoted to spiritual imagery. Such compositions seemed intended to provide an interesting musical landscape over which the listener might travel.” WR

The Gates of Delirium is is a dense, 22-minute piece that was inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace,” WK not exactly a work known for brevity itself. “It features lyrics about the futility of war and a lengthy instrumental middle section portraying ‘battle’ with galloping rhythms, martial melodies, dissonant harmonies, and clashing sound effects . The final section, in which the drive of the previous sixteen minutes is suddenly replaced by a gentle melody and a lyrical prayer for peace, was released as a U.S. single under the title Soon.”

Sound Chaser is a jazzy, mostly instrumental piece that echoes the then-popular jazz fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever. To Be Over, the gentlest piece on the album, features complex, melodic arrangements of guitar and electric sitar (at one point quoting a theme from Tales from Topographic Oceans), and arguably features Jon Anderson’s most straightforward lyrics since the band's second album, Time and a Word.” WK


Notes: The 2003 reissue added a studio run-through of “The Gates of Delirium” as well as single versions of “Soon” and “Sound Chaser.”

Resources and Related Links:

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

Monday, November 25, 1974

Nick Drake died: November 25, 1974

Originally posted November 25, 2012.

image from eachnotescure.com

Nick Drake was an English folk singer/songwriter born in Rangoon, Burma, on June 19, 1948. Only three albums were released during his lifetime and each sold less than 5000 copies upon initial release. However, after his death he emerged as a doomed romantic hero. In the mid-‘80s, musicians such as The Cure’s Robert Smith and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck cited him as an influence. The Dream Academy’s 1985 single “Life in a Northern Town” was about Drake.

Drake’s parents were musically inclined, even composing music. At an early age, Nick wrote songs and recorded them on reel-to-reel. He played piano in the school orchestra and learned clarinet and saxophone. In 1967, he won a scholarship to study English literature at Cambridge. He was a bright student who didn’t apply himself. He was more interested in playing and listening to music while smoking marijuana.

He discovered the folk scene via performers like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and began performing in clubs and coffee houses around London. With the help of college friend Robert Kirby and American producer Joe Boyd, Drake recorded Five Leaves Left in 1968.

In the autumn of 1969, Drake moved to London to concentrate on music. 1970’s Bryter Layter sported a more upbeat and jazzier sound and featured John Cale and members of Fairport Convention. In October 1971, Drake recorded songs over two nights for what would become 1972’s Pink Moon. Thinking that the sound of Bryter Layter was too elaborate, Drake opted for a stark collection of bleak songs in which his singing was accompanied solely by his own guitar with one piano overdub on the title track.

He visited a psychiatrist in 1971 and was prescribed antidepressants. He also suffered from insomnia and his friend Kirby worried at one point that Drake was showing early signs of psychosis. In 1972, Drake had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for five weeks. He returned home to live with his parents. Musician John Martyn, who wrote the title song of his 1973 album Solid Air about Drake, described him as the most withdrawn person he’d ever met. Nick died at age 26 on November 25, 1974, of an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant. The death has largely been assumed to be a suicide although some have considered it an accidental overdose.

A Skin Too Few (documentary about Nick Drake)


Resources and Related Links:


Award(s):


Saturday, November 16, 1974

Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Free Bird” flies on to the chart

Free Bird

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Writer(s): Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant (see lyrics here)


First Charted: November 16, 1974


Peak: 19 US, 25 CB, 31 HR, 1 CL, 21 UK, 47 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 2.11 US, -- UK, 2.11 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 128.84 video, 348.6 streaming

Free Bird

Arnold McCuller


Released: September 12, 2000 (album cut on Duets soundtrack)


Peak: 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 0.07 video, -- streaming

Awards (Lynyrd Skynyrd):

Click on award for more details.


Awards (Arnold McCuller):

About the Song:

It “has become a rock and roll joke” to shout out “Free Bird!” at concerts, SF but it is also a tribute to “a towering rock anthem crowned with the mother of all guitar solos” BBC that “has entered hard rock folklore.” HL The song “extend[ed] the influence of Southern rock...started by the Allman Brothers [and was] recorded as a tribute to Duane Allman, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971.” RS500

“‘Free Bird’ is the tale of a restless spirit attempting to explain to his sweetheart” HL “why he can’t settle down and make a commitment.” SF Guitarist Allen Collins’ “steady girlfriend, who realized that the band would always come first, kept asking him questions like, ‘If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?’” KN

He worked on the song on and off for two years. SF When he “first brought it into rehearsals, volatile singer Ronnie Van Zandt was unenthusiastic, claiming it had too many chords.” BBC The band first recorded the song as a ballad BBC in 1972 that clocked in at 7 ½ minutes. SF Club audiences didn’t respond until “the climatic guitar duel” BBC was added to the end, stretching the song to 10 minutes.

The “record company…thought it was too long [for a single]. Even the band never thought this was going to be a hit.” SF After “Sweet Home Alabama” was a chart success, an edited “Free Bird” was released, but “the long version from the album has always been more popular.” SF

“When Skynyrd reformed in the late ‘80s it was performed as an instrumental, with an empty mic stand...adorned with Ronnie’s trademark cowboy hat” BBC as a memorial to him. He was killed in a plane crash in 1977 along with two other band members.

In 2000, the movie Duets focused on karaoke competitions. One of the contestants, Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher), is a convict. While he is performing a stripped-down, emotional version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” the police arrive to arrest him.


Resources:


Related Links:


Last updated 8/4/2022.

Saturday, November 9, 1974

BTO hit #1 with “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Writer(s): Randy Bachman (see lyrics here)


First Charted: September 21, 1974


Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 13 RR, 1 CL, 2 UK, 13 CN, 4 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 18.4 video, 145.26 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Randy Bachman made his name as a member of the Guess Who, co-writing their #1 hit “American Woman.” He went on to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive, who built a following and had a #12 hit with “Taking Care of Business.” When Charlie Fach, the A&R guy, listened to the band’s third album, Not Fragile, he liked it but didn’t hear a hit. The band played him “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” and he said “that’s the track. It’s got a brightness to it.” WK

Bachman, however, saw it as an embarrassment. SG He wrote the song making fun of his brother, Gary, who had a stutter and was the band’s original manager. Randy thought, “just for fun, we’d take this song and I’d stutter and we’d send it to him. He’ll have the only copy in the world.” FB It was “the song that the band bangs out while procrastinating on doing their real work.” SG It became “the biggest thing his band would ever make” SG and “the song that defines the band.” SG

Because of his religious beliefs, Bachman maintained strict rules about the band members staying away from drinking, drugs, and premarital sex on the road. SG The irony is that “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is “about a guy who’s so overcome by having the best sex of his life that he basically loses his mind.” SG It became “one of the most giddily horny classic-rock anthems of the ‘70s.” SG

Billboard described the song as a “basic rocker featuring licks of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Jane.’” WK Rock critic Dave Marsh called it “a direct steal from the Who,” but “an imaginative one.” WK Vocally, the stuttering in the song is reminiscent of the Who’s “My Generation.” Bachman did acknowledge the song was made of “stitched-together parts” including the “surging rhythm guitar” of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” “the grand guitar melody” from Dave Mason’s “Only You Know and I Know,” the “bright, sparkly beat” from the Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music,” and the heavy cowbell from Free’s “All Right Now.” SG


Resources:


First posted 4/3/2022; last updated 7/24/2022.