The Friday Playlist – Origin Stories


This past week saw the release of the ‘Super Deluxe Edition’ of the album Tommy by The Who. I have been listening to it this week for a review I’m writing up, but it has put me into a bit of a mindset of songs I was listening to in the era when I first heard the entire album.

So for this week’s Friday Playlist? I’m calling it ‘Origin Stories’, but really it is more about some of the music I discovered right in that short transformative period

Let’s start with a REAL origin story … the first 45RPM record I bought! By a British glam-rock band called The Sweet, it was ‘Ballroom Blitz’ that came out in 1973. The Sweet went on to have hits with ‘Fox on the RUn’ and the infectious ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ … but it is the groove and over-the top production of ‘Ballroom Blitz’ that always gets me:

OK, and along the same lines, if there was ever a sure sign I had an affinity for bass-driven funky music, another of my early singles was the 1976 song ‘The Rubberband Man’ by The Spinners:

By the time I heard Tommy in full (thanks Paul Bunson for the use of your parents’ first-run pressing), I owned several of their other albums. My fave at that time remained ‘The Kids are Alright’ due to the scope and breadth of music … though ‘Sell Out’ was quickly becoming a favorite as well.

From ‘The Kids are Alright’, my favorite tracks are ‘Quick One’, ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ and ‘Sparks’ and ‘See Me Feel Me’ from Tommy. Here is the finale (We’re Not Gonna Take It/See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You) from Woodstock:

I was also heavily into the Yardbirds, particularly the Jeff Beck stuff. I have always preferred Beck to Clapton and Page, and as I digested his 70s fusion stuff (and later his late 90s / early 00s techno stuff) that made more sense.

My favorite Yardbirds song? Shapes of Things.

And speaking of Jeff Beck, I loved ‘Beck’s Bolero’ from ‘Truth’ (I bought the double album Truth/Beck-Ola around 1980)

While getting into that stuff, I also discovered Beck’s fusion albums ‘Blow by Blow’ and ‘Wired’. Here is ‘Freeway Jam’ from ‘Blow by Blow’:

Being a huge fan of the bass and also of Beck led me immediately to Stanley Clarke’s ‘Journey to Love’. Here is the classic song ‘Hello Jeff’ featuring Beck and Clarke:

Right around this time Miles Davis re-emerged, and I remember seeing him on Saturday Night Live in 1981. I couldn’t find video from that, but here he is in October ’81 in Japan (pretty close to the same time, and this version ended up on the ‘We Want Miles’ album) playing Jean Pierre with the same band:

While I was heading into jazz quickly and heavily, I was still very much a rock fan. We were playing Rush in Equinox, and I really loved YYZ:

I also loved Emerson Lake and Palmer – if you can’t tell, my preference for heavy instrumental music was pretty well formed. Here is ‘Karn Evil 9’:

Because I was reading Musician and Down Beat magazines, I knew of bassist Steve Swallow, and the first thing I found was the album Shinola from John Scofield. This would lead to a love the music of BOTH guys (including meeting Sco in an elevator heading up to the Regattabar in Cambridge!). Here is Dr. Jackle from Shinola:

Of course I also loved Jaco Pastorius, and between Jaco and Pat Metheny I got totally hooked on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Shadows & Light’ album. Here is Jaco

Another bassist I learned about from Musician and Down Beat was Bill Laswell, and I grabbed his highly recommended debut album Baselines. It was certainly a departure, but I love this album and much of Laswell’s stuff to this day:

While we’re talking about Pat Metheny, here is an amazing live recording of the group playing the song Offramp … this is the stuff of his I fell in love with!

I also got heavily into Anthony Braxton … and here is the entirety of the double album I used to scare our cat (for real, he would walk low to the ground and his eyes got big) – solos alto saxophone from 1979, long out of print.

During the summer of ’81 I remember listening to the radio outside and hearing on WGBH a group called ‘Great Guitars’, with Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd. I regret leaving this music behind after buying one album – had I kept up I would likely have discovered the great Emily Remler and perhaps seen her live before she died in 1991.

One of those trips to Good Vibrations a guy who worked there said ‘if you like good musicians you should check out Frank Zappa’ … and Joe’s Garage was the big new thing. By the time I actually saw Zappa live he had lost much of his humor and was instead rather bitter, but still a compelling live performance.

One other rock group I got heavily into around this time was King Crimson. I have really loved what Tony Levin has done this last few years, and also Bill Bruford’s autobiography … and while the 70s recording is regarded as the ‘golden age of King Crimson’, for me Discipline was the pinnacle:

And finally, in 1981 I saw The Police play live TWICE (thank you $15 concert tickets!). They were super-hot, and the great songs combined with heavy syncopation and musicianship made them a group I could enjoy even as I became an insular avant-garde jazz snob 🙂 My favorite song of theirs was Darkness from Ghost in the Machine:

What is on your Friday Playlist?


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