by Jim McAllister
When one writes about popular music and his/her favorite performers, there will always be a rush of support, a backlash of disagreement, or the shrug of the middle of the roadies who like everyone and can take or leave your opinions. So, as you read this, remember that it is about the music that I particularly enjoyed as I was living those great years of the 1960's and 1970's. It is also the tip of the iceberg as far as what I like. In the future I will cover more as space allows.
As I write this I am listening to KCDX (non commercial rock station available online through their site) play "Do You Feel Like We Do?", a cut from one of my favorite albums by Peter Frampton. For you Frampton freaks, you know this tune well as it comes from the smash live album of 1976, FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE! Pete sold 18 million copies of that album and appeared to be on his way to certain stardom but it never happened. By the 1980's, he was doing complementary work for other stars of the time. It was a case of a guy with a lot of talent being passed by because of the fickle tastes of his fans but for those of us who appreciated his work, we still love the sounds from that great recording made at Winterland in San Francisco thirty years ago. I was never a big fan of live albums until 1976 when FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE! was released and I still get a rush when I hear "Do You Feel Like We Do?", probably the greatest live recording on vinyl.
One of the best bands of the 1960's and 1970's was The Band which featured such rock legends as Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm. These guys were different from anyone else as their roots included a taste of Bob Dylan with an accent on American folklore and primal stuff. Their hit of 1969, "Up On Cripple Creek" is a good example of their style.
The Band was officially formed at Woodstock in 1967 although they had been working together in some form for about seven years before that. Besides Robertson and Helm, the group included Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Rick Danko; four Canadians and a Southerner, an odd mix to be sure!
The Band had a nice run but after sixteen years they decided to call it off in the mid '70s. They had a final concert on Thanksgiving Day of 1976 which has to be one of the best ever as it was a virtual who's who of the pop music scene of the time. Once again taking place at San Francisco's Winterland (the site of The Band's first concert in 1969), stars such as Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, and Dr. John showed up to pay their respects. We are fortunate as a young Martin Scorsese made a wonderful documentary of this concert titled, "The Last Waltz" (released in 1978). Occasionally it shows up on television so don't miss this one for some great music and nostalgia.
So, you say, what is your all time favorite rock act? It would be easy to say Elvis as he was the harbinger of what was to eventually happen in the rock genre. However, picking Elvis is like picking The Beatles. They are both on pedestals as they are the ones who made rock huge in the first place in the '50s and '60s. Anything after them was a copy so when acts like Jerry Lee Lewis and Eddie Cochran followed Elvis in the late 1950's, we thought they were good but they weren't The King. Elvis was the man who swivel hipped his way across the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show and caused CBS to show him from only the waist up. Without him Lewis and Cochran would have been unknown; hence, Elvis will always be the king of rock 'n roll as Clark Gable was the king of the Hollywood movies.