1975 at a glance:
- US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
- Watergate figures John Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman & John D Ehrlichman sentenced to 2 1/2-8 yrs for conspiracy and obstruction of justice
- The Biological Weapons Convention enters into force
- Microsoft is founded as a partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen
- 47th Academy Awards - "The Godfather Part II", Ellen Burstyn & Art Carney win
- Last US helicopter leaves US embassy grounds, Saigon surrenders
- Ron Wood replaces Mick Taylor as Rolling Stone guitarist
- Peter Gabriel quits Genesis
I was nineteen and twenty years old in 1975
Folks were still wearing bell-bottoms and flares, paisley was still going strong, but love beads had fallen from grace almost completely. Leather and metal studs were in. Chokers were in, and incense still burned faithfully bringing to rooms a sensual hit of sage, sandalwood, or cherry.
The world however, was not so mellow or inviting. As love beads fell from grace, the world seemed to follow suit. The fall of Saigon came with the North Vietnamese Communists overrunning the city. Hasty evacuations from embassys bookmarked American history as a battle that hadn't been won. In fact, it wasn't even resolved. Life wasn't like television or the movies; the good guys didn't always win. Meanwhile, here in the states, politics and Washington weren't much better, nor more stable. Everything felt edgy and uncertain. For the first time in my life I was concerned with taxation, and wondered just where I was heading. Certainly there was no future for me in sheet metal.
With the acquisition of my beautiful Lyle Hummingbird Classic acoustic guitar, I was experimenting with writing my own material while still faithfully covering songs by The Rolling Stones. I was also figuring out on my electric, Pink Floyd songs, and some tunes by Rush with an emphasis on their magnificent LP 2112.
For $35, I bought a brand new Cry Baby pedal for my guitar. It was one of the first innovative wah-wah pedals that mimicked Hendrix' pedal. If you pushed it all the way to the forward position and left it, it sounded just like an electric sitar. That was a great discovery!
Come summer I rented a really nice apartment just off 112th and Division. I recall that the layout was very interesting, and it had a window air conditioning unit in it. The summer was long and hot, and that AC saved my life. I remember reading the book "Jaws" before actually going to see the movie. "Shark mania" had gripped America, and everybody was talking about "Jaws." I read another book called "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud." It was okay, but the movie that followed was disappointing.
In 1975, I discovered a new writer that seemed to be very good. With the novel "Carrie" I was introduced to the wonderful new world of Stephen King. "Shampoo" was an okay movie, and I kind of liked it, but the movie that I absolutely loved was "Rancho Deluxe". I think I went back and saw it twice.
My apartment was upstairs and to the right. It was a 2-bedroom. My bedroom consisted of nothing really than a mattress on the floor, lamp and an alarm clock. It was just for crashing. The other bedroom was empty and made for a great studio to play guitar in. I practiced and learned many of my favorite Pink Floyd songs. I recorded a beefed-up heavy metal version of "House of the Rising Sun" using a Cry Baby pedal and heavy distortion. My friends loved it. It was there that I first became turned on to the likes of Rush, and a British hard rock band called UFO. By fall, when darkness fell much sooner than usual, I was listening to UFO's Force It album, along with Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," the premiere PFM album, and an album called Slow Motion" by Man.
Other favorites at the time were "Warrior on the Edge of Time" from Hawkwind and "Spartacus"by Triumvirate. "Spartacus" was a theme album that was a direct copycat of all the combined works of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Triumvirate could claim barely any originality, with one song being a direct rip-off--not copy mind you--but rip off of EL&P's beautiful song "Trilogy".
Interestingly enough, my discovery of this bootleg album from Pink Floyd called "Ohm, Suite Ohm was a highly sought concert from Fillmore West in 1970. It wasn't until later years with the help of the internet that I learned this was the same concert from a television special that ran on PBS one time in the early 70's. I taught myself how to play most of the songs on this record.
1975 The Perfect StereoOne of my tax returns afforded me the opportunity to buy my dream stereo setup. I had a Marantz 1070 amplifier, Advent speakers, and a Pioneer turntable. It was a belt-driven turntable which turned out to be a mistake. I went through a series of turntables until I finally found an acceptable one. I believe it was a BSR McDonald, but I'm not completely sure. The one component I couldn't afford was a cassette deck, so that had to wait another year.
That stereo system radically changed the way I heard music from then on. I went from a small and cheap little stereo with tinny sound to a fully blown monster that could rock the foundations. The album "Man of Miracles" by Styx was the first album to be played on it.
"AAAAAAGGGHHHH!!! Trilogy of Terror"
Wow! A terrific made-for-television movie called "Trilogy of Terror" blew us all away in 1975. It was a 90 minute anthology movie composed of three parts. The first two were okay, but that last one was intense! It was about a woman who buys this "creepy African doll" that suddenly comes to life when she gets it home. This screaming little monster with the razor-sharp teeth and butcher knife gave Karen Black nothing but hell in her apartment. This movie was so talked about, that some of the girls I knew couldn't get it out of their heads for months. I imagine that the sales of relic African dolls of any kind took a radical plunge in 1975.
Another great TV movie from 1975 was called "The Night that Panicked America" about the infamous radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" by Orson Welles. The movie was really interesting, and featured a great performance from Paul Shenar who played Orson Welles.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer Live in Portland, 1975
"Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside. There behind the glass stands a real blade of grass; be careful as you pass, move along, move along. Come inside the show's about to start; it's guaranteed to blow your head apart!"
It's funny, when I think about this event as an older man, I can imagine that to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, their 1975 Portland, Oregon concert was just another stop on their big tour. I'm sure they had no idea how they impacted my life, or what an effect they would have on me for years to come. The "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends" tour was magnificent beyond words. And I can even recall thinking at the show, "they've been on for a real long time, I'm sure it's getting close to being over by now". Those are thoughts I never wanted to have a great concert. I always use the Beatle's Abbey Road as a standard of comparison when describing a band's album. Brain Salad Surgery was EL&P's Abbey Road. This concert featured so much of it, plus so much of their older works. I loved hearing "Take a Pebble" as well as "Karn Evil 9" blended into the show. The big 3-record live set was about as close to this show as one could get. Visually, it was true stunner.
The Cult of The Blue Oyster
Musically, I was growing and growing. Having hit a sort of "dead zone" for new bands, my best friend's wife told me about a band that she thought was really cool. I was apprehensive because her tastes ran from The Ohio Players, Earth, Wind, & Fire, to Bette Midler. All of these were completely out of my rock network. However, she described this group as being "strange," so I thought I'd give them a try. This was one of the greatest discoveries of my life. The band was called Blue Oyster Cult. I eventually bought every album they had, and became a true cult aficionado. This love affair lasted, and continues to last to this day. Blue Oyster Cult was at the very core of hard rock. Their spin was the "dark side," or "netherworld" bowing to a dark master. Their lyrics were as strange as any could be, but their songs were great.
Eric Bloom: lead vocals and guitar, Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser: vocals and lead guitar, Albert Bouchard: drums, vocals and guitar, Joe Bouchard: bass, vocals and guitar, & Alan Lanier: keyboards, guitar and backing vocals were the Blue Oyster Cult.
Whips and chains. With the exception guitarist Buck Dharma who wore white, the cult arrived in black leather, chain belts, studded boots, and too much damned energy for their own good. Songs like "The Red and the Black" and "The Subhuman" were pure standout pieces guaranteed to mystify young cultheads into trying desperately to understand their lyrics. The lyrics were, in a word, strange.
Blue Oyster Cult had one outstanding feature that at the time, no other bands had: all five of them were guitarists, and at one point during their shows, they all get up on stage for a five-man guitar blow out. No drums, no keyboards, just all guitar. This was pretty darned impressive. Their live double album titled "On Your Feet, Or On Your Knees" was a hot live album but suffered from its original mastering. Lead guitarist Buck Dharma's guitar wasn't as strong through one channel, and sounded as though it was coming from a distance. Their studio albums I picked up later, and seemed rather strange in comparison. Their second release "Tyranny and Mutation" seemed so unworthy of their then "Heavy Metal" reputation. The album "Secret Treaties" was the album to buy! The songs and performances were great, offering some of their best material. My favorites in order were: "Flaming Telepaths", "Career of Evil", "Dominance and Submission", and "Astronomy."The albums listed above are what I consider to be their best years. After that, they got a lot of FM air time due to their monster hits "Godzilla," "Don't Fear the Reaper," and "Burnin' For You", but I felt that their style had been messed with. For the raw and unleashed Blue Oyster Cult, check out the albums mentioned above.
New Discoveries, Choice Cuts
New discoveries in 1975 included: Styx, Scorpions, Supertramp and Wishbone Ash. I was very thrilled with Styx, and interested in Supertramp. Out of the bunch, nobody was more powerful than The Scorpions; they were the ultimate. They blew just about everybody out of the water. Even Ted Nugent paled in comparison. Lucifer's Friend was a band that took a bit of getting used to. I started with the album "Banquet", which at first, I hated. After more and more listens I really got to like it. Each album of theirs is more and more different. Their first LP, which I could only get as an import album, was really an outstanding hard rock masterpiece. Of course Wishbone Ash was magnificent with lyrical guitar solos and brilliant songwriting. Like Foghat, I preferred them live.