Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Some of the Best Music You May Have Never Heard Of

I've got music on my mind recently. The good news is that my music appreciation blossomed in the late '60s and early '70s, during a time of the rising popularity of what was known as "album rock". These were groups that rarely, if ever, cracked the top 40, and yet due to word of mouth and the popularity of some "progressive rock" stations, they were able to put butts into tens of thousands of seats when they toured. The bad news is that I can't help but note that the vast majority of bloggers out there are younger than I, and many of these performers faded to obscurity as quickly as they rose to popularity.

The good news is that the albums that I buy are more likely than not to be in the bargain bin or at the used CD store.

I suspect that there are going to be a lot of links in this post, and I hope I've picked good representations of the performers that I'll mention here.

As I've mentioned before, a significant portion of my income, disposable or otherwise, went to concert tickets in my youth, and this was back when the average concert cost $7.50. I've certainly seen my share of top-40 performers. My first concert, which cost me the grand sum of $5.50, was Three Dog Night. I think I can still name all 7 members and the instruments they played. I've seen George Harrison, Yes (three times), The Electric Light Orchestra (twice), Paul McCartney & Wings, Kiss, Queen, The Kinks, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Who, The Guess Who, David Bowie (three times), The Edgar Winter Group, Bad Company, Arlo Guthrie, Golden Earring, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, Chicago, Don McLean, The Eagles, The Moody Blues (twice), and many more, some of whom I might be embarrassed to admit to. If you're reading this and you've never heard of some of these groups, let me tell you that packed out large venues in the early '70s.

I saw quite a few groups as opening acts before they were big enough to be on their own tours, including Styx (opened for Kiss, believe it or not), Kansas (Bad Company), Rod Stewart (Three Dog Night), Donovan (The Kinks), Blue Oyster Cult (Uriah Heep) and again, probably many others.

But here are some groups that I've actually paid to hear. How many of them have you ever heard of?

Uriah Heep (3 times)
Deep Purple (Come on... "Smoke On The Water"? You gotta know that.)
Wet Willie
Robin Trower (would it help if I told you he was the lead guitarist for Procol Harum?)
Rory Gallagher
Pavlov's Dog (Yes, David Surkamp really sounds like that in person)
Leon Russell (Even if you don't know the name, I'll wager you know some songs he wrote)

Come on guys. Surprise me. Tell me that you know these groups. Tell me that you saw them in concert. That you got to go backstage and partake of illicit substances with them.

I have no idea whether or not you've enjoyed reading this, but I gotta tell ya I've had a blast putting it together (although it really took me a long time...).

I guess I'm all jazzed because we just got tickets to see Johnny Winter at The Birchmere in November. This'll be my second time seeing him. If you're not familiar with Johnny Winter, you may be more familiar with his brother Edgar ("Frankenstein", "Alta Mira", "Free Ride", etc.). Aside from the fact that they're both albinos (and I've read that the odds of that happening twice in one family are in the trillions), they have very little in common musically. Edgar plays everything from synthesizer to saxophone to drums to whatever else he can get a sound out of. Johnny plays guitar. Johnny plays amazing, blues, slide guitar.

If you're not familiar with Johnny Winter (or even if you are) and you'd be interested in seeing and hearing someone who is arguably one of the slide guitar gods of all time, I'd highly recommend that you get your tickets and come on down The Birchmere in November.

That's all. Maybe I wrote this more for me than for you. I'll try to get back to my regular lunacy soon.


Dixie said...

I'm still incredibly jealous that the majority of music I like (i.e. music you got me to listen to when I was younger) is from bans that are no longer touring/together. I recognized pretty much everything on your list, barring Robin Trower until you mentioned Procol Harum. (Whiter Shade of Pale, yes?)

Thank you so much, though, for my music education. I often feel like I listen to better music than a lot of younger people. However, you'd be happy to know, I think, that a lot of these bands from the top list, if not as many from the bottom, are coming to a new audience via video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. I mean, the "offical" song of Rock Band is Highway Star by Deep Purple.

I end this with a comic:

Go read it. ^_^

Gilahi said...

There are lots of groups that I wish I had seen but didn't, and never will. I thought about including a list of the people that I had seen who are no longer with us (George Harrison, David Byron, Gary Thain, Freddie Mercury, Billy Preston, and the list goes on) but it was just too depressing.

You are most welcome, and I was happy to do it. Something happened between 1975 and 1985 in that it appears that the awareness of a whole decade of music was lost. I was often surprised that people just a few years younger than I had absolutely no knowledge of the music I love. It seems a shame.

Great comic, by the way! I laughed out loud.

GreenCanary said...

Yo! If you want an education in today's music, I'd be happy to pitch in. In return, you can expose me to that which was popular before my time ;-)

Gilahi said...

Canary - Thanks. My wife has always stayed much more in tune with current music than I have, so every time I ride in the car with her I get subjected to it, er, that is, I get to listen to it. Still, I can't tell Nickelback from Train. I have recently stumbled upon Ozric Tentacles and Flogging Molly, both of whom I really like. The latest album from The Waifs is pretty tasty too.

NG said...

I'm more a child of the 80s live music scene myself since that's when I was in high school so I haven't seen many of these bands in concert. But I'm proud to say I know every one of these groups and owned most of the albums. Thanks for the great ride down memory lane.

Gilahi said...

NG - I am SO impressed. You've restored my faith in your generation. I recall once proudly announcing to someone who was probably close to your age that I'd just gotten "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" on CD, and her response was, "Who are they?" Glad to find out that she wasn't completely representative.

The Diarist said...

I'm a music sponge (as you can probably tell from my music posts), but my true love in music lies in many of the acts you've listed (yes, I am familiar with all of their works). There may be a very small handful, like Gerber Baby handfuls, of musicians today who produce the level of quality music that these artists produced during their time in the studio.

Does that mean that I fear for the future of music? Not at all. Life is cyclical and good writing will return with the revenge of a guitar god.

Gilahi said...

Diarist - I've been pleased the people who have told me that they knew all these groups. I don't feel like such a loner now.

Unlike you, though, I do fear for the future of popular music. MTV, videos, the iPod, I fear that all of these have contributed to a horrid downward spiral in the quality (though certainly not the quantity) of music today, and I don't see it getting much better. As mentioned elsewhere, I have recently discovered Ozric Tentacles and Flogging Molly, and I find them to be wonderful, if rare, ports in a storm. The Waifs make some good music, but what's on radio and TV these days is just bland when it's not downright irritating.

The Diarist said...

I place a lot of that blame on the record companies. Over the last 30-ish years, they more than any other force have contributed to the "decline" of music by shoving musicians to the darkest corners and promoting the likes of Britney Spears. Our saving light is that many of the solid bands emerging today (writing and playing music with quality reminiscent of the days of yore) and many of the ... er, rock pantheon? ... such as Prince are foregoing the traditional companies and exploring other avenues to get real music to the masses. This little side-step allows these musicians to maintain their respect, credibility, and control of their music. (Which in turn is what keeps my faith in the future of music alive.)

Gilahi said...

I certainly agree with you about the record companies. Much like book publishers, there's a whole if-it-doesn't-make-a-ton-of-money-as-soon-as-it's-released-then-we-don't-want-it mentality. Add that to the fact that the record companies (interesting that we still call them that) are largely owned by the same folks that own the airwaves, and you have a recipe for pablum.

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