Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ramada Inn on 8th Avenue

Ever wonder some of the stories that went into your favorite albums? Not all albums are just written and recorded. If it were only that simple.

Aerosmith - Rocks Aerosmith's fourth studio album Rocks, could have been entirely different had Steven Tyler not lost the lyrics to it in a cab. Slash, Kurt Cobain, James Hetfield, and Nikki Sixx are just some of the artists that affirm Rocks was one of the albums that pushed them to play music. According to Steven Tyler:
Out of some of the worst times the best songs have come. I had all my ideas to the Rocks album in a manilla envelope. The whole album was finished and I left all the lyrics in a cab. I lost the whole thing, all the words to the songs. I had to go back to the Ramada Inn on 8th Avenue and sit with the headphones and bring it all back. I got about 50% of it. Can you imagine what was in that cab that went into the wastebasket?

Yes, can you imagine. Out of that we got songs like Back in the Saddle, Last Child, Nobody's Fault and Lick and a Promise. Now we have computers of course, but remember back in the 70's it was pad, paper, and lots of tape on the reels.

Paul McCartney and Wings - Band on the Run was recorded, albeit begrudgingly, in Africa. The crew endured the numerous shots needed for travel, band members quitting, poor conditions, tensions with the locals and poor recording sessions. Miraculously, after getting back into the studio in London, it would endure to become one of McCartney's best works. Band on the Run, Jet, Let Me Roll It, and one of my favorites, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five graced this third album by Wings. John Lennon had this to say to Rolling Stone Magazine on the album's release in 1973:
Band on the Run is a great album. Wings keep changing all the time. It doesn’t matter who’s playing. You can call them Wings, but it’s Paul McCartney music – and it’s good stuff.

Doors Morrison Hotel   It's not so much the album but the album cover. 1246 South Hope Street was the location of the Morrison Hotel - and the band snuck in to take the infamous cover shot after the owners declined permission. Roadhouse Blues, Waiting for the Sun, Peace Frog, Blue Sunday, Ship of Fools, Land Ho!, Indian Summer, and Maggie Magill are just some of the gems on this penultimate Doors album recorded with Jim Morrison.  

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik  Recorded in what was rumored to be Houdini's haunted house in 1991, this was the band's breakthrough album. It was that wonky time where grunge and heavy metal were co-existing and then out came this funkadelic, passionate, sexual album (that I had to find at a flea market because it had the parental advisory sticker). Their biggest hit off the album, Under the Bridge, almost didn't make the album. Lead singer, Anthony Kiedis wrote a poem about despondency, tension in the band, and his past heroin addiction. He assumed it didn't fit the overall vibe of the rest of the album when asked to pen a song with the lyrics.

Otis Redding - Dock of the Bay  Some artists never get to see the completion of the album. Otis Redding was working on his album Dock of the Bay in 1967. Three days before Redding died in a plane crash, he recorded (Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay. The whistling at the end of the song was a placeholder for lyrics yet to be written. The producer left it in the recoding that was the first posthumously released song to reach #1 in the US. This version is without the embarrassing overdubs of seagulls.  

Michael Hutchence - Michael Hutchence -Again, this is another posthumously released album. The circumstances surrounding Michael Hutchence leading up to his death were the brunt of all of his lyrics. Songs about love, loss, sadness, and the need for going away filled the album that would be finished by producers and Hutchence's close friend, Bono. The album is his unrequited plea for his soul.

George Michael - Faith Michael's first solo foray was only a success because of the amount of time he spent
perfecting ...every ...single...word. In a time where digital recording was not at the forefront, this was still painful. Songs were written at the microphone because if there was a word that was not seamlessly introduced to the song, it was removed and replaced. And if that replacement meant re-writing a sentence and re-recoding, then so be it.

Clash - London Calling Recorded in a church in North London,  the title's namesake came from when Joe strummer lived in Germany as a child. Each BBC broadcast would begin with "London Calling." The album was recorded in a dire time in England, politically, socially, economically, and musically. The songs are not straight forward punk, but a mix of reggae, jazz, and The album is their legacy, with songs such as London Calling, , Spanish Bombs, Guns of Brixton, and Train in Vain. The cover pays tribute, in a very post-punk era way, to Elvis Presley's first release.

Grateful Dead - Rocking the Cradle, Egypt 1978

We almost didn't get to hear this concert because of the poor quality. However, digital re-mastering be damned, and maybe it was the lunar eclipse on the third night of September 16th,we finally were gifted the tapes and video in 2008. The Dead only ever played in Egypt these three nights in their entire career. They played in the shadow of the Great Pyramids to those, the few who could attend. While not one of the best Dead shows ever played, it captures something (kind of like the Pizza Tapes) that we knew was out there, but just couldn't get our hands on.

Temple of the Dog - Temple of the Dog  This is such an important album in the history of grunge. The band was created in Tribute for Mother Love Bone singer, Andrew Wood, who had died of a drug overdose. The band, and his roommate, Chris Cornell, were all moving on but they wanted to do something. The result was a band and album named after a song lyric from the song Man of Golden Words. The band was an amalgam of Soundgarden and what would become Pearl Jam, including singer Eddie Vedder. While Hunger Strike would be the song that most remember, it was Say Hello 2 Heaven that is most poignant.

And finally - this is an apple amongst oranges, but here is the story behind a song. Written, performed, and recorded only mere days before Janis Joplin would die from an overdose, the song was inspired by a beat poet and written in Port Chester, NY and sung not even a day after it was penned at the now re-opened Capitol Theatre.

So the four of us walked to a bar about three minutes away called Vahsen’s [at 30 Broad St.]. At the table, Janis and Geraldine bonded, and all of us were getting into it. At some point, Janis sang out, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.” Earlier, in San Francisco, Janis had heard Michael McClure’s song and it stuck with her. But she couldn’t remember the rest of it.Wall Street Journal: The Story Behind Janis Joplin's Mercedes Benz. Marc Myers

You never know what history may show up at your show.
*Kudos to my anti-plurite co-worker and Hoaward Stern for inspiring this post.

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