1973


Title: Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma

Artist: Steve Miller Band

Album: The Joker

Year Released: 1973

What It Is: One of the strong cuts from the record that kick started Steve Miller’s career and led him on the path to his huge 1976 albums! Before then, he had some fans, but no one album really stood out and his last couple were, um, OK, BAD! He probably was out of chances, too, after seven previous records, no hit singles and no album charting higher than 22. This had to be it, and while the entire album was just OK, the title track struck gold and THIS song kicked serious boo-tay!

Riffage / Hookage: Miller’s always had the hooks and riffs. (He’s recycled a few in his time too – see “My Dark Hour” and “Fly Like An Eagle”!) Here, it’s a good, poppy hook, some sharp Miller-esque guitar, great drumming from John King and tremendous bass playing by Gerald Johnson (fixed!).

Cowbell?: No, but the drummin’s kinda funky and syncopated at times.

Words Of Wisdom: The song is called “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma” – do the words matter!

Mixology Report: Hell, yeah! You need to keep Miller songs fresh – so only mix the ones that no one knows.

Top Five Genius Results: Midnight Man – James Gang
Mr. Skin – Spirit
Rock ‘N Roll Stew – Traffic
Inside Looking Out – Grand Funk Railroad
First I Look At The Purse – J. Geils Band\

For The Good Of The Order: I saw Miller in concert in the late 80’s and he was great, even though you knew every song he was going to play. However, I picked up a double CD set of his King Biscuit Flower Hour concerts (one in 1973 and one in 1976) and it was phenomenal. The 1973 set had a nascent “Fly Like An Eagle” that sounded a bit different than the one everyone knows. Highly recommended.

Here’s the studio version…

(Yeah, still on a ‘classic’ rock (hate that term) kick, but I need it…man!

Title: Keep Yourself Alive

Artist: Queen

Album: Queen

Year Released: 1973

What It Is: It’s the first single and leadoff track from the first album by Queen. It’s basically the template for most everything they’ve done, including the Brian May guitar army (with its 421 overdubs or so). What’s missing is the Freddy Mercury chorus (featuring May and Roger Taylor). However, that’s not missing from the album (“Liar” is definitely in that mode). This didn’t chart, and the album stiffed in the UK (but broke the top 100 in the US thanks to some FM radio play). They hit it big in the UK with “Seven Seas of Rhye” in 1974, and then and only then did this album chart.

Riffage / Hookage: Well, think about it. What early to mid Queen single didn’t feature a guitar riff of power and majesty at some point. This one is a bit different since it’s phased (or flanged or some other doo-hickeyed) at the beginning. The chorus hook is pretty OK too!

Cowbell?: Nah, but Taylor’s got a drum solo, not bad for a drummer on a debut single!

Words Of Wisdom: “Do you think you’re better ev’ry day?
No I just think I’m two steps nearer to my grave”

This is what Taylor and May sing in their little bridge there, in case you couldn’t understand May’s part. May’s actually a decent singer (see “39” for instance).

Mixology Report: For sure, because most casual users of Queen will not know the song, but KNOW the song, if you get it. It’ll make ’em warm and fuzzy yet it will be new.

Top Five Genius Results: Uriah Heep – Easy Livin’
Alice Cooper – Under My Wheels
Cheap Trick – California Man (studio)
Montrose – Rock Candy
Pat Travers Band – Boom Boom! (Out Go The Lights) (now THAT’S stuck in my head)

For The Good Of The Order: Going back to the fact that it’s their debut, it is odd for a group to emerge (without any known players) fully formed and basically sounding like themselves on their first record. They never really deviated from this album’s formula until “Hot Space” (which was pretty ghastly). I guess Queen II was a bit of a departure, but it sounds similar.

Here’s a young but still recognizable Queen in a promo vid:

Title: Easy Money

Artist:King Crimson

Album: Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (plus about a skidillion live albums from this generation of King Crimson)

Year Released: 1973

What It Is:A relatively accessible piece of prog-rock from one of the bands that started it all. This was probably Fripp’s best group of all of the King Crimson’s he’s put out there. Bill Bruford is an ace drummer, of course, and John Wetton later played with Roxy Music, Uriah Heep (needed the cash, I think), UK, and was the first voice of Asia. David Cross (no, not part of Mr. Show) added a great touch to the mix with his violin (and mellotron). Plus, the studio album features Jamie Muir on percussion, adding a wild card to the proceedings.

Riffage / Hookage:For all of the bad mouthing prog-rock got with critics, the opening riff here is monster rock-and-roll and the transition to the quieter verses is startling and powerful. (It’s funny, the riff reminds me of the riff from “Old Siam Sir” by Wings. Did McCartney nick it?)

Cowbell?:Muir will throw anything on a track, or so it seemed. I can’t say if there is cowbell, but there are bells, triangles, and other things being slapped around, hit, struck, and clattered.

Words Of Wisdom: “Your admirers on the street
Gotta hoot and stamp their feet
In the heat from your physique
As you twinkle by in moccasin sneakers”

I think this is somehow or another a boo-hoo it’s easy money being a rock star song, but really, the lyrics of Crimson aren’t why I pay admission.

Mixology Report: I am always careful about mixing Crimson. It has a hard time snuggling into places nicely.

For The Good Of The Order: You can buy a boatload of live shows from this Crimson era on their web site. They’re available via torrent, for those of you who have the patience for that sort of thing.

Here’s a clip of this Crimson incarnation (without Muir, who left soon after the record. Finding live stuff with Muir is pretty tough). This must have been at a festival or something like that.

Title: Hocus Pocus

Artist: Focus

Album: Moving Waves

Year Released: 1971 (Though not a hit until 1973)

What It Is: Deranged yodeling and flute playing, along with massive, massive guitar and drumming. This has one of the best riffs in rock music history, and of course it’s coupled with, well, whatever you want to call Thijs van Leer’s vocal stylings.

Riffage / Hookage: Jan Akkerman should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for this riff alone.

Cowbell?: No, but Pierre van der Linden (can you tell that they’re a Dutch band?) plays with great aplomb and shines almost as brightly as Akkerman.

Words Of Wisdom: Um….

Mixology Report:Some of us idiots love this stuff. Others shake their head and call you names.

For The Good Of The Order: By the time this song was a hit, Focus had released “Focus 3” and had a minor hit with “Sylvia”. Their normal modus operandi was longish suites mixing all kinds of good arty stuff. Then this hit, for goodness sakes.

I think this is from “The Midnight Special”. Gladys Knight introducing Focus as a “together” group. Right on, sistah!