Friday, February 29, 2008

Jellyfish -- "That Is Why" (1990)

In the power pop world, Jellyfish is considered the last "great" band of the genre. I'm not kidding. The Colorado-based Not Lame label even sells a double-CD tribute to the band where artists from all over the world contribute songs in the sequential order of the band's two albums.

When the debut album Bellybutton appeared on the Virgin-distributed Charisma label, the "power pop" description didn't enter my mind and it still really doesn't, despite the Not Lame insistence. Many old-time definition power poppers revere the Beatles through Revolver and The Who before Tommy. Jellyfish bares only a passing resemblance to them and the other "great" power pop bands like The Raspberries, Badfinger and Cheap Trick. There are no power chord arrangements wrapped up nicely in three minutes.

Jellyfish is more akin to Ambrosia and XTC -- melodic "art rock" utilizing a spectrum of instruments, both traditional and non-traditional. First of all, the album is called Bellybutton, so you know somehow these guys are pulling your leg in an "off" way. Secondly, look at that cover -- that's not the cover of a power pop band, but really a blend of psychedelics, fantasy, and lots of color.

The San Francisco-based quartet recorded Bellybutton with Alby Galuten, best known for being Barry Gibb's right-hand co-producer for all the last big Bee Gees run in America (including Saturday Night Fever), and his work with Barbara Streisand (Guilty), Diana Ross ("Chain Reaction") and Dionne Warwick ("Heartbreaker). Stylistically, there's nothing those acts had in common with Jellyfish, but they must have been on the same audio and conceptual page.

Bellybutton turned out to be a real "headphone" album, as the mix engineering was truly panoramic for what was an eccentric and slick pop record. You knew that from the very beginning, when you hear a very faint organ playing, and then it launches into the slow bluesy "The Man I Used To Be," with distorted guitar scratches, cinematic strings, and precise high bells like the kind you'd hear in a high school band.

This was a very ambitious band who sought to achieve a singular style unlike anybody else's, although you could certainly hear the influences of 70's acts like Supertramp, Queen and 10cc. It was almost as if they stepped out of that decade through a time machine, dressing in bell bottoms and a Cat in the Hat topper.

Jellyfish produced sophisticated pop which operated both traditionally and experimentally at the same time. Case in point is my favorite song from the album, "That Is Why," which has a breathtaking chorus underscored by Jason Falkner's counterpoint guitar. The verses are bouncy in the literal sense of the word, with Andy Sturmer's toms coming out for what may be best described as "licks" (!) at the end of each line.

Though it's hard to admit it's true
I've come to depend on you
You and your angelic shout
Loud enough for two

And that is why
I'll confide in you the truth this time
That is why
I just can't go on and live this lie

Yesterday all was right as rain
But now the forecast's not
It's partly cloudy with trouser stains
And his copy of enquiring minds

But that never meant that much to her
She chose to keep her nose too clean
She'd rather keep it pointed anyway
In the spine of a magazine

And when you say I trust in you
I promise you the truth
And when you say I bet you won't
You know I will
And it'll be better in the end

So when you think you've got it figured out
Then you know you don't
Like all the rest you'd like to sit and pout
But of course you won't

"That Is Why" was such a terrific song that Rhino included it on its Poptopia power pop compilations in the 90's.

With all kinds of band infighting, Falkner left after Bellybutton to start his own solo career, producing some of my favorite music of the last 10 years (and not enough of it, I may add). As a duo, Jellyfish recorded its second and last album, Spilt Milk, which some people consider an even better album (but not me). Drummer Andy Sturmer went on to produce the great Swedish power pop act The Merrymakers' Bubblegun album (discussed on this blog here), the Japanese pop band Puffy AmiYumi and compose for various animated TV series (like "Teen Titans").

Here are some wonderful Jellyfish videos. First, the official video for "That Is Why." You'll notice that drummer Andy Sturmer stood up while playing so he could sing and perhaps get more power that way. The second is a 1993 in-store all-acoustic version of the song while promoting Spilt Milk in Philadelphia. A third is the band performing their highest charting single, "Baby's Coming Back," live on German TV. The fourth is the official video for another favorite from Bellybutton, "The King Is Half-Undressed," which features outfits straight out of Dr. Seuss. And finally, Jason Falkner-era Jellyfish covering Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" in Frankfurt, Germany (that's the blond guy on the left playing the Telecaster).

"THAT IS WHY" (official video)

"THAT IS WHY" (1993 in-store performance in Philadelphia)

"BABY'S COMING BACK" (live performance on German TV)

"THE KING IS HALF-UNDRESSED" (official video from 1990)

"GO YOUR OWN WAY" (Fleetwood Mac cover, finale of Frankfurt, Germany concert)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Chicago -- "Ballet For A Girl In Buchanon" (1970)

Much like art rock band Ambrosia, which also became symbolic of 70's "soft rock" when they sugar coated their style, Chicago Transit Authority (aka Chicago) was very much a whole different band earlier on. They experienced quite a bit of commercial success early on with their then fresh merger of psychedelic rock, free form jazz, and horns, only to then go through the roof when they added syrupy stuff with each new album.

When they came on the scene in 1969, Chicago was considered very hip because of their unusual sound at the time. Blood Sweat & Tears were also pioneering the jazz/rock genre, except they were a little less on the "rock" and more on the "bebop jazz." Chicago wasn't afraid to let their Hendrix-worshiping guitarist Terry Kath loose with an overheated Strat and lots of feedback.

Although it was technically called Chicago, their second album became known as Chicago II because of the band's habit for numbering their albums. The album's centerpiece, following the wonderful "Fancy Colors," with its unusual multiple-take one chord faded ending, was an 18-minute multi-song epic called "Ballet For a Girl From Buchanon," written by trombonist James Pankow. Several pieces blended into one, some of them short instrumentals, this lengthy workout actually produced two hit singles -- "Make Me Smile," an edit of the song that begins and ends the "Ballet," and "Color My World," a pretty ballad with a flute solo that's right in the middle.

Changing keys and tempo along the way, "Ballet For a Girl In Buchanon" is full of dissonance, angst and conflict, resolved by sheer joy. Chicago took the unusual step of cranking out double albums right from the beginning, Columbia Records allowing them to not hold back the band's creative roll. Not that all of these albums were great from beginning to end... they could have easily been sliced down to one album each.

"Make Me Smile" was notable for drummer Danny Seraphine's acrobatic moves around his kit, the very melodic middle horn break, and Kath's solo during the Em-A7 break. I used to go to music stores, study the sheet music, and then play the whole thing on the piano, solos and all. Starting from the Ab buildup, changing from E major to G major and then three unusual chord stabs, and into C minor. Woosh!

Children play in the park, they don't know
I'm alone in the dark, even though
Time and time again I see your face smiling inside

I'm so happy
That you love me
Life is lovely
When you're near me
Tell me you will stay
Make me smile

Living life is just a game so they say
All the games we used to play fade away
We may now enjoy the dreams we shared so long ago.

I'd put "Color My World" in the same category as Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "From The Beginning" and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" -- a song you had to know to show off your chops on your instrument. For "Color My World," it was the very simplistic Fmaj7-Aminor-Bb, etc. single note pattern, that made it one of the biggest prom songs of the 70's. And you had to know the flute solo as well to make the grade. Yes, this was a corny song, I'm not denying it, but it impressed the chicks.

I give Chicago a lot of credit that to this very day when they tour, they play the entire "Ballet For A Girl In Buchanon," not just the two individual hits, and often open up their shows with it.

From 1970, just as Chicago II was released and "Make Me Smile" was already a hit single, here is the two-part video of "Ballet For A Girl In Buchanon." Note how the band was ragged, long-haired and hippie-ish, with Kath leading the group. The first part ends just as the band is about to go into "Color My World." For whatever you think about Chicago, these videos are a truly invaluable early look at this band's early power and impact with Kath front and center, several years before the charismatic guitarist accidentally shot and killed himself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The B-52's --- "Private Idaho" (1980)

One of the all-time most original rock bands ever, The B-52's remain alive and well to this date, proving that you can be completely true to yourselves and your music, no matter what trends come and go, and have joyful longevity.

Bursting out of the same late 70's Athens, GA rock scene that gave birth to REM, The B-52's couldn't have been more different than what you would envision a rock band to be and sound like. The music blended a number of early 60's influences from surf guitar and girl groups to cheesy garage and frat rock. Doctor Seuss lyrics. A serious love of kitsch. The two women wore tall beehive hairdos you'd expect to find at the corner beauty shop. The lead singer, Fred Schneider, well, he really couldn't sing or perhaps he could, but somehow, it sounded perfect for what they were doing. And who produced this very American band but former Roxy Music keyboardist Brian Eno, before he turned his attention to U2.

They were an interesting counterpart to the Talking Heads at that time, who combined African rhythms and art rock, dressed like students, also had a debatable but distinct singer, and that same love of kitsch (especially tabloid news).

In grad school, my roommates and I came armed with the first two B-52's records to every party we went to, commandeered the turntable and put one of them on, who cared whose house it was. We were not going to tolerate a party where the music was like that mopey Stephen Bishop character who strummed a guitar on a staircase in "Animal House," crooning "I gave my love a cherry, that had no stone!" Hell, no. We wanted a real party and The B-52's were going to deliver.

Heavy on that surf grinding Strat, "Private Idaho" was typical B-52's danceable nonsense, in the best possible sense. That stinging guitar and snappy snare, the girls piping in with their "hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo." Like "Seinfeld," the B-52's were going to teach you nothing. There was no lesson. It was artificial and silly, with a great dance beat.

My favorite part of "Private Idaho" was after every chorus, when there was a rumbling tom-tom surf beat , building up with the twangy guitar and then five monsterously deep slams on the drums before jumping right back in to the song's main riff.

You're living in your own Private Idaho
Living in your own Private Idaho
Underground like a wild potato.
Don't go on the patio.
Beware of the pool,
blue bottomless pool.
It leads you straight
right throught the gate
that opens on the pool.
You're living in your own Private Idaho.
You're living in your own Private Idaho.

Keep off the path, beware the gate,
watch out for signs that say "hidden driveways".
Don't let the chlorine in your eyes
blind you to the awful surprise
that's waitin' for you at
the bottom of the bottomless blue blue blue pool.

You're livin in your own Private Idaho. Idaho.
You're out of control, the rivers that roll,
you fell into the water and down to Idaho.
Get out of that state,
get out of that state you're in.
You better beware.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Knack -- "My Sharona" (1979)

In a way, The Knack was like rock and roll version of the Bee Gees -- for a short while, they absolutely ruled the music charts and radio DJ's, only to be turned on with such ferocious backlash. For the Bee Gees, it didn't kill their careers, but certainly cooled it down while they focused on writing and producing for others. For The Knack, it was practically the knockout blow.

The Knack arrived in what could only be called the most perfect timing. Disco was going full steam in the late 70's. I was heading off for a summer studying journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Little did I know I was veering right into Anti-Disco Central, lead by Chicago radio jock Steve Dahl.

Dahl would count down the top 10 records that week, most of them disco, and while the single was playing, he'd scratch it very slowly with the needle, then slam it into a million pieces against his desk. Dahl led the charge of playing rock and roll, adding in what was becoming New Wave music and then-current hard rock. His radio station sponsored Anti-Disco Nights all around Chicago, and when I stopped by one of them at a bar, the place was filled with cocktail napkins that read: "Kill The Bee Gees."

Rock and rollers were getting kicked off charts and radio by disco. California rock band The Knack is released and all the pieces fall into place for them to lead that backlash against disco. An album full of hyper-sexualized Beatles-influenced rock songs, all immensely catchy with harmonies, snappy musicianship and humor. They dress in the then-requisite skinny ties. They are on the same label as The Beatles -- Capitol -- and the black and white thematic artwork only connect them further with the Fab Four.

With English pop producer Mike Chapman at the helm, who knew a few things about power pop (Blondie, The Sweet, Nick Gilder), The Knack unleash their "My Sharona" single and it's like a nuclear missile on the disco movement. Based on an up and down octave bass riff with Bruce Gary's drums slamming away in precision time, it's an exhausting workout of young lust and innuendo, singer Doug Fieger practically going nuts for the mysterious "Sharona."

"My Sharona" climaxes in Berton Averre's meticulously arranged guitar solo, surely one of the all time great ones in rock and roll. He and the rhythm section play off each other as he goes all over the fretboard until they are one big force ready to explode... then pause... then right into that up and down bass riff... pow! Fieger is audibly panting over the beat that he seems about to explode any second.

"My Sharona" proved that you didn't have to have that 4/4 disco beat and hi-hat to dance -- this was rock music that encouraged those who were staying off the dance floor to come back on. The Knack was the unlikely saviors of rock and roll, saving the world from Sister Sledge, The Village People and Cher.

Carried by an album of great songs, including the second hit single "Good Girls Don't," The Knack were an international sensation. Even Weird Al Yancovic made it official with his parody, "My Bologna." Everything seemed sweet for The Knack until their second album, Even The Little Girls Understand, and then somebody just pulled the plug on them. Suddenly, everything The Knack did seemed cocky and ripped off. Nothing on this record came close to the first. Ah, the sophomore slump.

Years later in 1994, the song was rereleased to some success when it was featured on the soundtrack to the Ben Stiller film "Reality Bites."

YouTube is littered with amateur guitarists doing note for note renditions of Berton Averre's astonishing guitar solo, such as here and here. "My Sharona" appears in the video game "Guitar Hero 2," bringing the song deservedly to a whole new generation.

While I believe "My Sharona" is absolutely a classic and very influential for power pop acts in years to come, The Knack were no ordinary band for that brief shining time when this was their hit.

Below are two "My Sharona" videos -- first is the original 1979 one, followed by a March 2007 appearance by the band on Italian television. What is strange is that they are lip-synching to a song that was almost 25 years old, when they've always been known as a crack live band. However, you have to love all the hot babes dancing with guitars around the stage and the audience wildly up on their feet dancing.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Tubes -- "White Punks On Dope" (1975)

While rock acts have been playing it safe for years with their content and shows, you rarely find one that truly set out to tip the boat from the start. The last act that I can think who set out to provoke outrage and buzz from the starting gate and had great commercial success was probably Frankie Goes To Hollywood ("Relax," "Two Tribes").

In the 70's decade, one of the most head-turning rock acts to climb on the national stage was The Tubes. While their most commercially successful work was in the early 80's when they decided to forgo their outrageousness for actual record sales, you'd find it hard to believe that the band that had the hit singles "Talk To Ya Later" and "She's A Beauty" started off in a completely different direction.

Bursting out of San Francisco with a tailwind of buzz, The Tubes infused heavy satire and theater into rock, casting their targets at the media, consumerism, rock genres and sexual deviancy. The stage was surrounded by a number of actual TV sets, like something out of Max Headroom, where the large band would change costumes frequently between songs.

With dozens of performers, The Tubes staged a mini-musical around each song, a concept that pre-dated MTV music videos and set them squarely ahead of their time. The Tubes was my first rock concert ever when I saw them in Buffalo in 1975, and you just didn't know where to look first.

A paen to S&M, "Mondo Bondage," featured some serious whip action from model-ish backup Re Styles on lead singer Fee Waybill. The marvelous "What Do You Want From Life" mocked social career climbing and blatant consumerism, with all kinds of crazy product props the cast would whip out in synch to the list that "every American citizen" is entitled to, including "a new Matador, a new mastadon, a Maverick, a Mustang, a Montego, a Merc Montclair, a Mark IV, a meteor, a Mercedes, an MG, or a Malibu, a Mort Moriarty, a Maserati, a Mack truck, a Mazda, a new Monza, or a moped, a Winnebago... hell, a herd of Winnebago's... we're givin'em away!" And for a real curve ball, they'd do a fairly straight cover of The Captain and Tenille's "Love Will Keep Us Together."

Every concert's grand finale was Waybill getting into his cross-dressing, drugged-up glam rock character Quay Lude, in sky-high heels, crazy big hair, tight pants with his butt cheeks hanging out, and a huge guitar shaped like the letter Q, all meant to mock David Bowie, Alice Cooper and The New York Dolls. The band broke out into what is certainly their classic anthem, "White Punks on Dope," lampooning bored rich heroin-taking Hollywood kids. Of course, at the number's end, Quay Lude OD's and keels over for good.

Teenage had a race for the night time
Spent my cash on every high I could find
Wasted time in every school in L.A.
Getting loose, I didn't care what the kids say

We're white punks on dope
Mom & Dad moved to Hollywood
Hang myself when I get enough rope
Can't clean up, though I know I should
White punks on dope
White punks on dope

Somehow, legendary producer Al Kooper had to rope this all in to their debut album. The songs were a mixed bag, but a few of them really rose to the occasion like "White Punks On Dope," which was the ideal climatic album closer. In keeping with the band's edginess, a number of lyrics had curses, so they had to be edited down to get some kind of radio play.

You're in for a special treat with Tubes videos because you're never going to see anything like this again. Below is the band performing "White Punks On Dope" on the great British TV series "Old Grey Whistle Test" -- in full costume and props. It's amazing to see this many people on stage playing this song. Then an amazing 1976 local San Francisco news report about the band, and a lengthy wonderful archival montage of early concert performances.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rare Earth -- "Get Ready" (1970)

As time goes on, it seems appreciation for some of the great Motown artists is fading. Not only did Rare Earth have a phenomenal run of hits in 1970 and 1971, but ten years later, I remember playing them at parties and getting a huge reaction. I wonder if that would happen now?

Rare Earth was the first "rock" band signed by Motown, although that label is a misnomer. Just like Santana, Rare Earth combined rock with other genres, but the emphasis here was definitely on 70's funk and jazz. Motown even gave their label the Rare Earth name to emphasize rock acts (or white boys, who knows?).

Look at that album cover and you're not thinking rock band at all. They are so clean cut behind that gauzy lens, you would think they were some pop vocal act singing Paul Anka covers.

Don't judge this book by its cover. These guys totally cooked. Exhibit A is the 21 minute cover version of The Temptations' "Get Ready" that takes up side two of this first Motown album. Rumored to not have enough material, they performed what was their usual final jam from their live show. When the song was released as a single, it was drastically edited down to three minutes or so and became a true smash hit. I think it did even better than the Temptations version (which was released in 1966 and written by Smokey Robinson).

On both the album and single versions, there's a lot of audience noise, screaming and whistling, but I was never quite sure if that was real. I don't believe the album mentions a live venue location, which probably means it was dubbed on.

Motown was constantly recycling its own song catalog for its artists. Even if a song flopped, they'd reuse it with at least another artist to see if it would fly right this time. For example, both "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "Ain't Mountain High Enough" were huge hits twice for different Motown artists. Rare Earth had success with two Temptations hits -- "Get Ready" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You" -- by radically re-arranging the songs.

One of the cooler things about Rare Earth is that the drummer, Pete Rivera, was also the lead singer, and you can see him doing both simultaneously in the early 70's video below. Rivera had a very deep soulful voice that was immediately commanding and irreplaceable when he left the band in 1975.

Below are three videos of "Get Ready." The first is the 45 being played on a turntable, so you can here how this epic jam session was cut down to three minutes of party time soul/rock.

The second is Rare Earth performing the song live in 1973, now with an additional Latino percussionist, firing up a storm as electric as any early Santana show. I'm knocked out by Rivera, who is totally zoned in to his drumming with his eyes closed, singing at the same time, completely getting into the sweaty groove.

Boy, I would have loved to have seen these guys in concert back then. You have to love the days when popular rock acts would perform with their shirts off, like the keyboardist does here (and seems to in just about every Rare Earth video I've found), while Rivera is all muscle shirt. And I'm just digging that whole crowd dancing to the song.

The third is a knockout black and white clip of The Temptations performing "Get Ready" in 1966. Check out the Temps' dance moves, Eddie Kendricks singing lead, and the girls going crazy in the upper part of the stage.

As far as I'm concerned, these last two videos are mandatory viewing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Flash -- "Small Beginnings" (1972)

Yes' "Roundabout" is the prototypical early prog-rock song when one wants to write about an all-time classic of the genre. But I'm starting with this song by Flash because in my mind, it's been an overlooked classic.

Frankly, I was excited that I found a fantastic sounding audio link to the full song below and wanted to use it right away.

In the early 70's, Flash had all the prog rock trademarks for that era: long hair, some glasses, classical music noodling, singer with high voice, elaborate key and tempo changes, epic song lengths, sudden musical shifts, and awesome technical music prowess.

Flash had the extra bonus of two former members of prog rock legends Yes: the original guitarist Peter Banks (from the first two albums, pre-Fragile) and keyboardists Tony Kaye (pre-Rick Wakeman). There was no point reinventing what was already there, so they cut a debut album that sounded amazingly like Yes.

Flash cut three albums but nothing broke out except their first single, "Small Beginnings." It wasn't exactly a chart topper, but back in those days, prog rock was loved so much that it actually made it to the Top 40.

In the morning when you start your day
do you feel yourself quite lost
in a world of countless millions
on the tide of your life you're tossed
don't think you're getting nowhere
you know we all must start
from very small beginnings off to a better part

In the rush and hustle of your day
when all your world seems mad
do you look at ev'rything you see
and know that it's not so fine
just take your time and work it out
you know what's in your mind
from very small beginnings off to a better time

While this song absolutely stands on its own, it does owe something to the numerous parts of "Roundabout" and most prominently, the final section of both songs, which features hard-strummed guitars with multiple vocal layers. I don't care. A great song is a great song. So click play below and listen to one of the best songs of the early 70's prog rock era.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Klaatu -- "Sub Rosa Subway" (1976)

You really have to be a music fan to remember the weird frenzy Klaatu caused when this album appeared in 1976. Certainly in Buffalo, where I was going to college at the time, this was the talk of the radio jocks and music mags.

The buzz was that this album was secretly made by the Beatles. And since the Beatles were the subject of one of the greatest musical hoaxes of all time ("Paul is dead"), it was not much of a stretch to think this was another prank being pulled by some if not all of the Fab Four.

All the hallmarks for this rumor were firmly in place: no photos of any band members, no band members names, the song credits were credited to "Klaatu," and the intricate album artwork with all kinds of hidden characters (and its ever present brown mouse) fed the fuel of the raging rumor mills. For movie buffs, Klaatu was the robot played by actor Michael Rennie in the film "The Day The Earth Stood Still."

Most importantly, the music sounded remarkably like Sargent Pepper/White Album era Beatles, especially when the single "Sub Rosa Subway" came out and it was prototypical Paul McCartney. The story of Alfred Beach, who invented the first underground subway, featured swirling harpsichords, Liverpudlian lead vocals and background harmonies, "laughing horns" (reminiscent of "All You Need is Love"), and smacked tubular bells at the chorus' echoing repetition. During the last 30 to 40 seconds of musical cacophony, you can hear Morse code being tapped out, and that was the Beatles cherry on the cake.

"Sub Rosa Subway" sounded like a really good Paul McCartney song left off Magical Mystery Tour. Of course, the whole album sounded like a 60's psychedelic Beatles record, done absolutely beautifully, with the classic compressed drums in some parts, wide dynamics, masterful studio trickery, and all kinds of Beatles touches that were made for headphone listening.

Back in 1870 just beneath the Great White Way
Alfred Beach worked secretly
Risking all to ride a dream
His wind-machine
His wind-machine

New York City and the morning sun
Were awoken by the strangest sound
Reportedly as far as Washington
The tremors shook the earth as Alfie
Blew underground
Blew underground
He blew underground, yeah.

Klaatu kept their mystery for a few albums until it was discovered that they were a small group of fanatical Canadian studio musicians. Ironically, I don't recall any of their names.

Below are some cool and bizarre video treats. First you have a well done homemade video about subway inventor Alfred Beach done to "Sub Rosa Subway." Then there is this super cheesy way-out homemade video done to the debut album's magnificent opening epic "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" (note: the song does start very quietly with the sounds of the outdoors and somebody moving through the brush), followed by The Carpenters (Yes! Karen and Richard) doing their truly kitsch cover from 1977 where you get to see Karen Carpenter floating in space and some alien dudes make a cameo. Oh baby, put on your tie-dyed shirts and space helmets and let's go for a ride!



Friday, February 1, 2008

Ted Nugent -- "Cat Scratch Fever" (1977)

Ted Nugent -- aka "The Nuge" aka "The Motor City Madman" -- always provided the most entertaining funniest interviews in 70's rock magazines, hands down. There were plenty of loud hard rock acts touring incessantly to every arena dump in the land, and plenty of them could come up with dumb double-entendre song titles that could rival any hair metal band.

Nugent, however, had nothing extraordinary about him except his over-the-top personality, worship of hunting, calling everybody else a wussy, and misogynist treatment of women.

Let's just go through some of Nugent's song title catalog to get an idea of what he was contributing to American culture in his first heyday: "Turn It Up," "Hard As Nails," "Violent Love," "Spit It Out," "Snake Charmer," "Bite Down Hard," and the mightily subtle "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" (these are just titles, the lyrics truly open up these concepts!).

So he's touring and making records, and with some luck actually comes up with a few minor FM tunes produced by unsung rock producer Tom Werman ("Dog Eat Dog," "Free For All," "Strangehold").

Along the way, he's the definition of Mr. Quotable in every rock magazine at the time, like this gem from an August 1977 issue of Rolling Stone when Japanese journalists walk into his Philadelphia hotel room: "Tell them Nips that I've never read anything about me from Japan that wasn't disgusting bullshit." Later, he screams at them: "Animals were put here for human beings to use! Anyone who says that man is not a predator is a sap."

One can easily devote an entire web site to Ted Nugent quotes. But I digress from the music....

The stars align for Nugent on the title song of his 1977 Epic album Cat Scratch Fever -- a completely original guitar riff of an A chord climbing up to the C chord keeping the A bass. It's a wicked package of trademark 70's hard rock with a highly distorted solo, the shaker moving in on the solo (an old Rolling Stones trick), and a theatrical double-fake ending. This was his one big breakthrough top 40 hit, deservedly so for the best thing he ever wrote. Oh, and let's sample those lyrics...

Well I don't know where they come from
But they sure do come
I hope they comin' for me
And I don't know how they do it
But they sure do it good
I hope they doin' it for free

They give me cat scratch fever
Cat scratch fever

The first time that I got it
I was just ten years old
I got it from some kitty next foor
I went and see the doctor and
He gave me the cure
I think I got it some more

They give me cat scratch fever
Cat scratch fever

You wanna see a taste of The Nuge in his 70's white-spandex pants, no shirt, spiked amulets, mile long hair, real animal tail hanging off his butt, Gibson-totin' prime? Feast your eyes on the classic 1978 clip when he hosted the "Midnight Special" TV show. Check out the acts performing on the show that night (AC/DC, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Golden Earring, REO Speedwagon, Thin Lizzy!), all announced by the late great Wolfman Jack!