Segarini: When Radio and Records Ruled the World Part 9 – Explaining Jimi Hendrix to your Grandmother
Part 8 can be found here
As big an upheaval as the one between 1962 and 1965 had been for pop culture, radio, records, and almost everything else, the years between 1966 and 1970 would be much more intense and culturally explosive. Several unconnected events would lead to changes that had been unimaginable just months earlier. Most would center around the San Francisco Bay Area, but 2 of them would happen 341 miles south of The City by the Bay in a sleepy little town called Los Angeles and a tiny strip of county roads collectively known as Hollywood.
On September 8, 1965, two highly respected entertainment trade publications, Daily Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter, ran an ad seeking “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in a new TV series.” Had I been living in L.A at the time I would have joined the 400 or so other ‘folk and roll’ musicians that tried out for the 4 roles available, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t.
The result of what must have been a nightmare for the casting people, 400 rock musicians trying to act and be ‘wacky’, would have made lesser men turn violent, gave birth to the Pre Fab Four, better known to screaming teenage girls everywhere as the Monkees. And the Monkees, my friends, were much more important than what most people made them out to be.
After realizing the band would not be ready to record as a unit in time to start the sessions that were planned, studio players were hired to cut the tracks, a standard practice back in the day, and extra writers were brought onboard to compliment the original material that was being written by the Monkees themselves. The first release, Last Train To Clarksville, written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (pictured here) went straight to number one in August of 1966, a full month before the TV series began to air. It was the music, not the show that introduced the Monkees to the public. Radio, knowing that NBC, Don Kirshner, RCA and Screen Gems/Colpix were behind the project 100%, went on the record out of the box, and the rest is a tribute to Mickey Dolenz’s memorable vocal, Boyce and Hart’s infectious song, and a public that just couldn’t get enough Brit-Influenced music. Radio and records continued to work in consort and all was well in the world.
The Family Tree (pictured here at RCA), my first recording band met the Monkees in early 1967 when we started to record at RCA’s Hollywood studios where the Monkees also recorded. They were in one of the smaller studios every day, rehearsing constantly to become a better live band and be able to play on their next album, “Headquarters”, without so many studio musicians underfoot. They were extremely dedicated, and serious about their music. We jammed with them a few times, got into a water gun fight that escalated into an all out war that was stopped by RCA security when we started taking fire extinguishers off of the walls while a photographer ran after us in the halls who then sold the pictures and a ridiculous story to one of the teen magazines. It was a great time, and they were great guys, deserving of much more respect than they ever got. As Nesmith pointed out years later, “ We were actors that became a band, Robert Young (Marcus Welby M.D) never became a real doctor.”, which I’ve seen quoted as “We were actors not a band, and Marcus Welby isn’t a real doctor.” Either way, they became a band and remain a very interesting story. A year after the Monkees broke up, I would find myself living across the street from Mickey Dolenz, who was as fine a neighbor as you could hope for.
Not far from RCA’s studios, another band had had their first record played on mostly by session players but went on to prove themselves as not only good musicians, but innovative ones as well by the time they cut their first album in March of 1965. A year before the Monkees formed, in January of 1965, the band changed their name from the Beefeaters, a British Invasion inspired moniker, to the Byrds, and combined the sound of British rock with the folk music of Bob Dylan. Folk Rock was born. Suddenly, with the success of Tambourine Man and their follow up releases, and Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone and Subterranean Homesick Blues, AM radio found itself playing songs with lyrics that had a political bent or cried out against the Vietnam War or social injustice along with records concerned with dating, sex, and falling in love. A rift was slowly taking shape.
By December of 1965, the Byrds had grown bored with folk rock, which was now so popular it had spawned dozens of rock band imitators and folk artists that followed their lead as well as Dylan’s and traded in their Martin Guitars for Fender and Gibson electrics. Martin even made electric guitars for a time to appease the demand from their acoustic devotees. The record companies were going nuts. So many new artists, so much great music being made, and radio would play as much as they could, even though their playlists were beginning to shrink. Records were now being played in different ‘rotations’. The most popular would be played more often, the next most popular would be played less often, and new songs would get a chance once or twice a day, moving up the ladder as their requests and sales mounted. Everyone was happy…except the Byrds. They were bored.
The Byrds solution to their boredom was to go into the studio and create something new. Adding touches that could have only come from the world of jazz, the Byrds added a new dimension to their music. A similar move was happening simultaneously in England with artists like Donovan and the Yardbirds pushing the existing envelopes of their genres but it wasn’t just jazz that was impacting on these artists music…It was drugs.
At first it was just pot. Marijuana was nothing new in music circles. Gene Krupa had been busted for weed back in the ‘40’s, and jazz musicians had been smoking it for decades. The Beat generation had been smoking it in basements and dimly lit apartments, and rock bands had discovered its ability to heighten the senses and make music a little more vivid, although it could also make something less than good sound wonderful taken in larger quantities. Bands, spending so much time on the road, sleeping on floors, and living in the vans they traveled in also used it to take the edge off as well as cross tops, a crude form of methamphetamine, to drive all night or put on an energetic show. On the west coast and in New York, psychedelic drugs began to surface. Psilocybin, Mescaline, Psilocybe mushrooms and cocaine and heroin attracted musicians who were experimenting, trying to expand their minds and music, not knowing the dire consequences that lie ahead for some of them. No one knew that drug use was addictive or threatening, it was just another tool to make your music better, deeper, and more meaningful. A slow start in 1965 became a fast track to ecstasy and problems by the end of 1966.
Even though the Byrds experimental song, Eight Miles High, did less than great in the charts and on radio, they were determined to pursue the new direction.
According to Wikipedia: The Byrds’ third album, Fifth Dimension, released in July 1966, built on the new sound the band had created, with McGuinn extending his exploration of jazz and raga styles on tracks such as “I See You” and Crosby’s “What’s Happening?!?!”. The campaign in U.S. radio to clamp down on “drug songs” affected several of the tracks, including “Eight Miles High” and “5D (Fifth Dimension)“, and limited the album’s commercial success (#24 US).
Allegedly irritated by the overnight success of manufactured groups such as The Monkees, the group next recorded the satirical and slightly bitter dig at the music business, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star“, which again broke new ground musically and featured a trumpet part played by the South African musician Hugh Masekela (pictured here). The song, now regarded as a rock classic, was written by McGuinn and Hillman and achieved modest success as a single, as well as being the opening track on their fourth album, Younger Than Yesterday. The LP was more varied than its predecessor and has been widely praised for tracks such as Crosby’s haunting ballad “Everybody’s Been Burned”, a cover of Dylan’s “My Back Pages” (later released as a single), and a quartet of Chris Hillman numbers which showed the bassist emerging fully formed as an accomplished country-oriented songwriter (“Have You Seen Her Face“, “Time Between”, “Thoughts And Words”, “The Girl With No Name”).
On one hand, music genres were continuing to blend and some artists were trying to create new and exciting forms of music and expression, and on the other, radio and record companies continued to sign and play music that sounded familiar and non threatening, some still vibrant and exciting, but more and more records were being recorded and played to feed an existing demand. Commerce was beginning to prove a difficult obstacle to some of the more ‘adventurous’ artists and writers. Still, the labels recognized the immediacy of the new music, and continued to sign and nurture these artists secure in the knowledge that they were making important contributions to the musical landscape. People started finding these records not by hearing them on the radio, but by hearing the bands live or hearing about them from friends who had heard or seen them. A following soon developed for what was being called ‘psychedelic music’.
Meanwhile in San Francisco…
At the beginning of the decade, radio in San Francisco sounded like this. Along with Bobby Mitchell, KYA also sported Bill Drake, the father of top 40 radio, and Tom ‘Big Daddy’ Donahue, who we will come back to in a bit. Notice Mitchell’s references to the record race and his disappointment that a record he knew was a smash didn’t win, and the insane prices at the drive in IN San Jose and the teen dances going on in the Bay Area. Great radio in the early ‘60’s, but by late 1966, things had begun to change. Not in the public eye, but in radio control rooms and record libraries. Like all cities in those days, San Francisco had a happening local music scene, and local radio stations would play the local acts knowing there was already a following for the music, and that meant new listeners tuning in to hear their hometown favourites. Donahue, like other jocks before him, even started a successful label Autumn Records, that would have major hits with the Beau Brummels and We Five, and regional hits with bands like the Mojo Men and the Vejtables. But Tom was interested in some records that were coming out of Los Angeles like the Doors first LP, and something he was hearing coming out of an old auditorium in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, a few clubs around town and a hall called the Avalon Ballroom as well as some one off concerts at the Longshoreman’s Hall and the California Ballroom. The music filling these venues wasn’t on the radio, and very little of it had been recorded…and what was available on record was being ignored by radio stations, even the one he was on. After having trouble playing more Dylan than what was being offered, and playing an edited version of Eight Miles High and other ‘suspect’ records, he decided to do something about it.
From Wikipedia: “KMPX’s daytime schedule was heavy with ethnic programming, the midnight-6 AM slot was open. On February 12, 1967, on-air personality Larry Miller was given the shift, where he played his preferred folk rock music programming.
A month later, Donahue, a well-known local Top 40 Disc Jockey on KYA, record label owner and concert promoter, was looking for an opportunity to do something unique on the radio. According to his then-girlfriend (and future wife) Raechele’ s recollection, mentioned in Jim Ladd’s book ‘Radio Waves’, after spending a night listening to The Doors first album at home, Donahue wondered why radio stations weren’t playing it. He soon started calling around town to local stations on the less-desirable FM dial. When he found that KMPX’s phone was disconnected, he decided to approach the owner Crosby with his plan, as he felt the station had nothing to lose. Donahue proposed to take over some of KMPX’s programming and replace the brokered foreign-language shows with freeform album based rock music declaring, “no jingles, no talkovers, no time and temp, no pop singles.” Advertisers would come in the form of local businesses serving the local hippie and Haight Ashbury communities. As Donahue was a well-known and respected person in local radio, Crosby hired him.
On Friday, April 7, 1967, Donahue went on the air at KMPX for the first time, working from 8 PM to midnight, leading into Miller’s show. The station’s programming evolved over the weeks and months that followed, and Donahue sought out air personalities who fit what he envisioned for the format. Early staffers included Edward Bear, Dusty Street, and even future actor Howard Hessman (pictured here). Donahue’s rock music format expanded to full-time on August 6, 1967, as the last of the foreign-language program contracts expired. The station at the time employed an unheard-of all-female studio engineer staff. The presentation of music on the station stood in stark contrast to most other stations of the day. Instead of a hit music-dominated playlist, KMPX played more album cuts, local, emerging and cutting-edge artists, and a wide mix of genres such as rock, blues, jazz and folk music. Some of the music played in the Spring of 1967 included Jefferson Airplane’s album Surrealistic Pillow, the first Grateful Dead album, Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced and The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which KMPX played uninterrupted in its entirety.”
Up until Donahue took over KMPX, FM radio had been the home of classical music, ethnic programming, and dead air. It wasn’t even available in your car unless you got it as an option in some upscale models, but that was going to change. Somehow, Donahue had foreseen the future, and his vision was one hundred percent accurate. So while you could still tune in to stations in the Bay Area like KSOL featuring a young Sylvester ‘Sly Stone’ Stewart, one of Tom’s and Autumn Record’s keen eared record producers, and with-it top 40 giant KFRC in 1967, now you could hear something that didn’t resemble AM radio in the slightest, in fact, as this early KMPX show with Tom Donahue and the Grateful Dead illustrates, no one had ever heard anything like this before.
While Tom Donahue and KMPX were changing the face of radio, the Monkees were dominating television, the British music scene was evolving into a similar experimental hotbed like Los Angeles and San Francisco were, and hip, young music fans were becoming hippies, embracing drugs, free love, and outlandish clothing, the rest of the world happily danced to the sound of hit singles, stuck by the Beatles even as the band out grew them, and turned a curious eye toward San Francisco and Golden Gate Park, some questioning the growing lifestyle, and others leaving their home towns across the world and traveling to the musical and pop culture Mecca that was quickly replacing London as the-place-to-be to see what the fuss was all about. Two of the Monkees were also curious enough to check out what was happening in San Francisco, and in June, Mickey Dolenz (pictured here at Monterey) and Peter Tork made the trip to the Monterey International Pop Festival, and were swept up along with everyone else who was there. The Monkees had already contributed many subtly subversive and drug culture oriented messages into their chart topping television program, and were about to present an even more subversive artist to the unsuspecting mainstream audience who viewed them as a cute and clever faux Beatles with fun pop songs and wacky skits. If you have ever seen their feature film, Head, you know how wrong the public was to think that way. What Tork and Dolenz decided in Monterey would bring them both notoriety…and one great story to tell.
While 1966-67 was going swimmingly for those in San Francisco, L.A was having a much different experience with the same societal changes and musical experimentation, culminating in an almost Orwellian fall at the end of 1966. By mid 1967, the new bands were fast gaining attention, but the acceptance of the music and the cultural changes that were so readily facilitated in San Francisco were not as easily adapted by the sprawling metropolis to the south. There was friction between the Hippies and the establishment everywhere, but not as bad as it was in Los Angeles, and with the Manson murders in 1969, the friction would escalate even further.
Meanwhile in London…
He was just a journeyman guitar player in 1965, but after being spotted by ex Animal bassist, Chas Chandler and brought to England, this Seattle native would inspire every guitar player in rock, redefine the instrument, and scare the bejeesus out of middle class America. Clapton would get a perm to look like him, Jimmy Page would worry that he would be a second rate competitor, and Jeff Beck, God bless him, would welcome him and just keep playing. Jimi Hendrix is in da house…and the Monkees would make sure everybody knew it.
In 1967 radio was faced with an increasing amount of releases that were pushing the tried and true forms of popular music off to the side for many of their listeners…and alienating others at the same time. For some, the new music was an exciting and revolutionary departure from what had gone before. To others, it was simply an annoyance and referred to by many as “That hippie crap…” Like it or not, the new music was about to change the course of radio history, and open the door to the wealth of music that most young people had never been exposed to.
The only way to put the Monkees/Hendrix tour into perspective would be to imagine a Lady Ga Ga tour with the Allman Brothers as the opening act. One, a pop culture phenomenon whose prescence was elevated by her visual accesibility and show business savvy, the other, a group of musicians whose sole selling point was the incredible music they make and their complete lack of artifice. Not to say that Jimi’s concept of showmanship was lacking…far from it. An intimidating black man dressed like a peacock who would make sexual references with his guitar, play it behind his back or with his teeth, and occasionally set it on fire at the beginning of his career in London and when he followed The Who at Monterey (which he reportadly hated and quit doing as soon as people started showing up at his performances to see him torch a Strat instead of listen to his music) his main interest was playing, reinventing his material time and time again, jamming it out and wringing every possibility out of the material, and the instrument he played it on. A lion brought to sheep provided by a musically motivated, but comparitively lightweight enabler, The Monkees.
The Monkees core audience at the time were tweenage girls and the mothers and grandmothers that accompanied them to concerts. You can imagine the dropped jaws, raised eyebrows, and shocked (not to mention uncomfortable) reaction when Jimi strutted onto the stage instead of four fresh faced, well scrubbed television approved teen idols whose series was all pastels, running and skipping, and dressing up like the Three Stooges and getting into trouble which would always have a happy ending by the time the episode was over. At least on the surface.
The Monkees were wonderfully, insidiously, subversive, their drug references and sexual energy subtly infused in their program, that worked subliminally with the more astute hip crowd, but lay just beneath the surface for most. And let’s face it, there never would have been a public outcry about Hendrix if some grandmas and moms didn’t feel a twinge ‘down there’ and be terrified that little Debbie just might get one too. Hypocricy aimed at Jimi, ignored in the case of non threatening boys like the Monkees, even though everybody was getting laid by teens, moms and grandmas left and right. It was the ‘60’s, baby, and being a musician was like having money and power without all the bullshit. Kind of like being a ‘celebrity’ is now.
In a nutshell, Jimi and the Monkees did not mix well. Like gin and rootbeer, they were destined not to be. Hendrix lasted 7 shows, most of which consisted of his set being interrupted by teenyboppers screaming for individual Monkees, and although the Monkees themselves were in awe of him, Jimi had had enough and in New York, gave the finger to the audience in mid set, and walked off stage. The Monkees let him leave the tour, which was no longer worth the trouble for Hendrix because he was finally starting to break in North America. Radio had discovered The Experience and he could now tour on his own.
For an absolutely fascinating (and accurate) sumnation of this event, go here.
One of the reasons radio had begun playing Jimi’s single was due to a little FM radio station in San Francisco called KMPX. Record companies on both sides of the Atlantic were popping out albums and singles in ‘record’ numbers from bands no one had ever heard of, and the tastemakers and musos, especially the members of existing, well known acts, were touting this stuff to anyone who would listen.
The Beatles had already reacted (and had been an inspiration to some extent) to the new music with Sgt. Pepper, and the Rolling Stones had added a psychedelic element to their music with Her Satanic Majesty’s Request, throwing out an existing album-in-progress after hearing Sgt. Pepper and starting all over again. The Monkees were spreading the word and adding depth to their music as well. Kootch and I spent more than one night jamming with The Monkees in studio C at RCA playing music that Monkee fans would have choked on.
In England, the Yardbirds, Donovan, Cream, Arthur Brown, Pink Floyd and others were making waves. In Canada, the Paupers, Kaleidoscope and more were making headway, and in America, bands like the Blues Magoos, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Vanilla Fudge and the Doors were having hits. Even with all of that, traditional AM radio was ignoring a huge amount of material that just didn’t fit in with their now structured formats. All of that music was being played on KMPX, and AM was paying attention, cherry picking what worked for them, and leaving the rest behind, even creating edited versions of songs like Light My Fire to shorten them so they would fit into the current radio format.
While AM radio was skimming the top of the new musical force that had been unleashed by playing selected tracks they thought would break through to their mainstream audiences, Tom Donahue’s little FM station was tearing a rift in the very fabric of what music radio was all about. Artists would hang out at his station whenever they could, bringing newly recorded records to whoever was on the air, and more often than not, be invited to sit in, play the music, and chat about their band or songs or whatever.
I was listening to KMPX one night when someone I had worked with, Mike Olsen, better known to older rock fans as Lee Michaels, walked into the station with his new (and first) LP called Carnival of Life. It was around midnight. Did he drop off the LP? Did it go into a music meeting the next week? Did he sit in the lobby waiting to talk to someone?
He was ushered into the control room, invited to sit in, and spent the next hour or so on the air with the disc jockey playing every track on the album and discussing the music and taking calls between songs. Imagine that.
This was common practice at early FM ‘underground’ stations in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, and The Family Tree, Roxy, and The Wackers, the touring bands I was in in those days, saw the inside of the many FM stations that sprang up in the wake of KMPX’s successful arrival in 1967. Record promo guys, radio people and artists got to know one another, friendships developed, and the simbiotic relationship between the was enhanced by the shared love of music, and the desire to be around like minded people who followed the latest acts and genres. The first time I was ever in Montreal, the WEA (Warner Atlantic Electra) rep, Roger DeJardien, picked us up at our hotel and took us to the groovy record stores like Phantasmagoria and Caravan Records, and to the local FM outlet, CHOM, a statio that had started out simulcasting it’s sister AM station, CKGM, switched to beautiful music in 1963, and re-invented itself as an ‘Underground’ station in 1969. The disc jockeys became close friends, and the station itself became a home away from home when we were in Montreal. The bands, the stations, the record companies, we were all part of a community. Not one artist in those days could brag he had been shot 9 times as a selling point for his music. We were all interested in each other’s music, hanging out with one another whenever tours took us to friends home towns, running into each other on the road, and depending on local jocks and record reps who had befriended us earlier to plug us into whatever was going on in their cities while we were there. There were even AM stations like CKOC in Hamilton Ontario and jocks like Pete Daly that would allow interviews at night, and play album cuts when you were a guest, but during the day, you sat in the lobby, cooling your heels, until someone had a minute to see you.
Musically, things were moving pretty fast. After Sgt. Pepper, everybody just went nuts. You never knew what kind of music would be on an album from artists you were familiar with, let alone new artists. Experimentation, trying new things, cross breeding genres…it was open season on complacency, and creativity was the weapon of choice. Some artists were re-inventing themselves with every release.
By the end of the ‘60’s the pyschedelic movement gave way to pure musical adventurism. Artists who had had their minds opened to new possibilities by the rampant drug use and cross pollinating musical influences began to take this new information and knowledge and apply it to their preferred genre of music. Interesting things began to happen.
There was a sudden plethora of ‘Power Trios’, brought about by the success of Jimi Hedrix and then Cream, there were bands that had embraced country influences like Gram Parsons, who impacted greatly on the Rolling Stones and the Byrds…and there was a return to American Blues, but with the added elements from the journey through psychedelic music, drug fueled experimentation, and plain old devotion to a respected and much loved form of music. Clapton took his love of blues to Cream, Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart made a defining album called ‘Truth’, and Jimmy Page reformed the Yardbirds by combining folk music, blues, and hard rock into something that was much more than just another band. It was the cornerstone of the Rock Era.
When I was in the Family Tree we played a lot in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. One of the best shows we ever did in Vancouver B.C was a big concert at PNE, the Pacific National Exhibition. Our good friends (and extraordinary band) the Magic Fern, were opening the show, we were on next, and then the headliners. I was sitting in the penalty box area of the venue, smoking Lark cigarettes and nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels waiting to do a sound check. I can’t remember where everybody else was, but it was just me and a skinny guy pacing back and forth in front of me while the Fern did their souncheck.
The constant pacing started to get on my nerves, so I asked the guy if he wanted a haul on the bottle of Daniels. When he came over to accept my offer, I asked him what he was pacing back and forth about.
“Bloody fucking guy” he began, He’s killing them at the Marquee and me friends are saying he’s the greatest guitar player they’ve ever seen.”
“So?”, I responded.
“I’M THE GREATEST GUITAR PLAYER THEY’VE EVER SEEN!”, He cried, spitting Jack all over the bench I was sitting on.
Whoa…this guy is intense.
“What’s his name?”, I asked him, wiping the Jack off my pants.
“Jimi Hendrix” the answer came back.
“My name’s Bob”, I said, sticking out my hand, “What’s yours? “
“Jimmy Page. I’m the guitar player in the New Yardbirds.”
The headlining band.
Jimmy’s concern was well founded, but he really didn’t have anything to worry about. Driven by the competition, he would rise to the occasion over the next several months and, along with Eric Clapton’s Cream, give Hendrix a run for his money. That night I saw the New Yardbirds, and Page blew the roof off the place.
From Wikipedia… The beginning of Led Zeppelin can be traced back to the English blues-influenced rock band The Yardbirds. Jimmy Page joined The Yardbirds in 1966 to replace the original bassist, Paul Samwell-Smith, who had decided to leave the group. Shortly after, Page switched from bass to lead guitar, creating a dual-lead guitar line up with Jeff Beck. Following the departure of Beck from the group in October 1966, The Yardbirds, tired from constant touring and recording, were beginning to wind down. Page wanted to form a Supergroup with himself and Beck on guitars, and The Who‘s rhythm section—drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwhistle. Vocalists Steve Winwood and Steve Marriott were also considered for the project. The group never formed, although Page, Beck and Moon did record a song together in 1966, “Beck’s Bolero” which is featured on Beck’s 1968 album, Truth. The recording session also included bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones, who told Page that he would be interested in collaborating with him on future projects.
The Yardbirds played their final gig in July 1968. However, they were still committed to performing several concerts in Scandinavia, so drummer Jim McCarty and vocalist Keith Relf authorised Page and bassist Chris Dreja to use the Yardbirds name to fulfill the band’s obligations. Page and Dreja began putting a new line-up together. Page’s first choice for lead singer, Terry Reid, declined the offer, but suggested Robert Plant,a West Bromwich singer. Plant eventually accepted the position, recommending a drummer, John Bonham from nearby Redditch. When Dreja dropped out of the project to become a photographer (he would later take the photograph that appeared on the back of Led Zeppelin’s debut album), John Paul Jones, at the suggestion of his wife, contacted Page about the vacant position. Being familiar with Jones’ credentials, Page agreed to bring in Jones as the final piece.
Page could not have put together a more perfect band for the times. This was a group of seriously talented musicians, and a singer who continues to inspire rock singers 40 years later. And that is the secret of Led Zepplin. They are great players, Plant is a great singer, and that is what resonates still, those incredible records and performances. The material they played? Almost all of it borrowed and altered to accommodate their style. It wasn’t about the songs with Zeppelin…it was about what they did with them, making them their own to the point where audiences still believe those are “Zeppelin songs”. Quite an achievement.
Here’s how the process works. The Original, the arrangement, and the finished “Zeppelin Song.” Zeppelin proved you didn’t have to write a song to make it your own, so much so, that most fans of the band don’t believe that anyone other than the members of Zeppelin had anything to do with the songs they made famous.
If not for FM radio, chances are good that Zeppelin would have disappeared after the first album. AM radio gave the single, “Good Times, Bad Times” a bit of airplay, but little else. Music fans, word of mouth, and FM radio made the band hugely powerful and well known, and for the first time, AM radio had little to do with the enormous success of a musical entity embraced by young people. Things were changing, and even further differences would separate AM and FM over the next few years.
Part 10: Southern Rock and Disco add to the confusion…
Segarini’s regular column appears every Monday
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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, andnominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late GreatMovies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.