Blue Oyster Cult was another of my favorite bands as a teenager and, along with Black Sabbath, was one of the first heavy metal bands. The first album I bought was Agents of Fortune. While they had released three earlier records, this was the one that crashed through the door to commercial success for the band.
The album’s first single, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” just missed the U.S. Top 10 in the summer of ’76, hitting #12, and the album sold, in large part, based on that one song.
From the Byrds-inspired main riff to the mid-song eruption, it was unlike anything else on the radio at the time. This classic riff was one of the first I learned to play on the guitar.
Don’t Fear The Reaper (Live 1976)
Over time, of course, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” not only became a genuine rock classic but gained another lease on life via the infamous “more cowbell” skit on Saturday Night Live.
Godzilla, from their next and fifth album Spectres, was one of the bands more popular songs, but neither it nor any of the other songs on that record ever made the charts. However, Godzilla did have a very long life on Classic Rock radio
Godzilla (Live 1977)
Blue Oyster Cult continued to be a great concert draw but did not strike big pay dirt again until 1981, when they released the album Fire of Unknown Origin with its smash hit, Burning For You. Burning for you hit #1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart.
Burning For You (Live 1981)
Blue Oyster Cult was one of the few American rock bands that were making videos when MTV launched in 1981. The single version of Burning For You was released in July that year, and when MTV went on air on August 1, they were happy to put it in rotation since they wanted to push a rock format but had little to choose from. Thanks to exposure on MTV, the song rose in the charts, reaching #40 in October.
Bone up on some great American Rock and Roll
As we’re sitting at home, one way to keep from going stir crazy is to check out some of the fantastic Classic Rock music produced during the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
I do a lot of that when I need a break from working on my next book!
Growing up, there was not a lot of agreement as to what constituted great music in my family. My mother grew up on Elvis Presley and liked some rock music, mostly on the lighter pop side. My father, not so much. Both my parents loved Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, opera, and Madrigals. I liked Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, Steppenwolf, Ted Nugent, and even some Kiss. Not a lot of genre cross-over there.
Then one day, I was listening to one of my albums, and my Dad stopped and listened for a moment and then said, “Now, that’s well-orchestrated rock.” Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather!
At the time, I was listening to some Kansas
Carry On Wayward Son
I saw Kansas three times. Twice as a teenager; once in Springfield, MA, once at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga, NY, and then later on in Knoxville, TN, in the mid-1980s.
Everybody liked Dust in the Wind. And it’s a great song. However, not one of my favorites. It is a bit mellow and seems slightly depressing to me. But hey, to each his own.
Dust in the Wind
One of my favorites was, of course, Carry On Wayward Son. And, of course, there were What’s on My Mind and Song for America, to name a few more.
What’s On My Mind
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a live video clip of this song with excellent sound quality. So, here is the version from their first album.
Led Zeppelin was my favorite rock group of all time. In high school, I wore Led Zeppelin T-shirts, had a Led Zeppelin belt buckle, and wanted to play a guitar like Jimmy Page.
I was lucky to see them in concert at the Frankfurt Festhalle in Germany in 1980. Unfortunately, John Bonham, one of rock’s greatest drummers passed away later in 1980 from a tragic asphyxiation accident.
The Thunder of the Gods was laid to rest on October 12, 1980.
The British rock group, Led Zeppelin, was formed in London in 1968 with vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham.
They got the name for this band when Jimmy Page made a comment that their “new” band would probably fly like a “lead balloon.”
Zeppelin is often referred to as the beginning of Heavy Metal rock, and yes, they certainly could rock. Especially with Jimmy Page’s heavy guitar-driven sound. But much of their music defied classification, blending many influences, including blues and folk music.
In fact, Zeppelin’s music was deeply rooted in the blues. The influence of American blues artists such as Muddy Waters and Skip James was very evident on their first two albums
Many of their best songs are blues, and a large number are acoustic. Much of what I considered their best music never received my air time because it was outside the mainstream of commercial rock and roll.
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
This famous folk song written about 1959 by American singer Anne Bredon is about a guy who is letting his lady know that he’s about to “Ramble On” and leave her. It was also recorded by Joan Baez in 1962 and released on her live album, In Concert.
The Rain Song
One of my personal Zeppelin favorites, this was written in collaboration by all four Zeppelin members after George Harrison, a huge fan, told Zeppelin drummer, Bonham, that “the trouble with Led Zeppelin is that they don’t do any ballads.”
Bonham took this comment to the rest of the band, who worked with him to put this song together. It is one of the few Zeppelin songs where all four members shared the composer credit.
Robert Plant has stated this song is one of his best vocal performances with Led Zeppelin. He uses the seasons as a metaphor, starting with the springtime of his love and ending with the coldness of winter, a song about the changing seasons of love.
Upon us all, a little rain must fall.
I can’t Quit You Babe
This is based on a Blues song by Willie Dixon that he wrote for Otis Rush, who recorded it in 1956. Many of Led Zeppelin’s songs were influenced by old blues or folk songs.
Many musicians consider this one of Led Zeppelin’s technically strongest performances, but Jimmy Page admitted that it’s certainly not perfect. In an interview with Guitar Player magazine in 1977, Page stated, “there are mistakes in it, but it doesn’t make any difference. I’ll always leave the mistakes in. I can’t help it. The timing bits on the A and B flat parts are right, though it might sound wrong. The timing just sounds off. But there are some wrong notes. You’ve got to be reasonably honest about it.”
Rock and Roll
As the title suggests, the song is based on one of the most popular structures in rock and roll. That is the 12-bar blues progression (in A). The phrase “Rock and Roll” was a term rhythm and blues musicians used as a metaphor for sex.
The song, Rock and Roll, has been covered by many other artists, including Def Leppard, Heart, and even the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2001, this song was recorded by Double Trouble (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backup band), for their 2001 album, Been A Long Time with Susan Tedeschi singing lead on the track.
The band often used this either as an encore or to open live shows from 1971-1975.
“The Biggest Band in the World” 1971 – 1975
Many consider Led Zeppelin to be one of the most successful, innovative, and influential bands in the history of rock music.
Rock critic Mikal Gilmore said, “Led Zeppelin—talented, complex, grasping, beautiful and dangerous—made one of the most enduring bodies of composition and performance in twentieth-century music, despite everything they had to overpower, including themselves”
Led Zeppelin influenced hard rock and heavy metal bands such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Rush, Queen, Aerosmith, the Black Crowes, and Megadeth as well as progressive metal bands like Tool and Dream Theater.
They also influenced some early punk and post-punk bands, such as The Ramones, Joy Division and the Cult.
Zeppelin was also a significant influence on the development of alternative rock artists who adapted elements from the “Zeppelin sound” of the mid-1970s, including the Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.
Bands and artists from many diverse genres have acknowledged the influence of Led Zeppelin. These include Madonna, Shakira, Lady Gaga, Kesha, and Katie Melua.
Too many achievements to count!
Led Zeppelin has achieved many honors and awards throughout their career. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
Among the band’s awards are an American Music Award in 2005, and the Polar Music Prize in 2006.
Led Zeppelin was the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and four of their recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In the US, Zeppelin has been awarded five Diamond albums, as well as fourteen Multi-Platinum, four Platinum and one Gold album.
In the UK, they have five Multi-Platinum, six Platinum, one Gold, and four Silver albums.
In addition to listing five of their albums among “the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, Rolling Stone named Led Zeppelin the 14th-greatest artist of all time in 2004.
Perhaps the biggest accolade for me was when, not too many years ago, a lady friend and I went to see a Led Zeppelin cover band called Get the Led Out (they are excellent by the way). This wonderful lady was not a big rock and roll fan, being more into classical music and opera, and I am sure going to humor me. During one song, the band got to one of my favorite parts, where the melody shifts key, tempo, and everything else. She looked at me and said, “Oh my God … that was brilliant!”
So, grab your iPhone, stereo, boombox, radio, or whatever you listen to music with, and take a few minutes to get the Led out!
The very first LP I purchased with my own money was Steppenwolf’s self-titled first album, Steppenwolf. I was probably thirteen or fourteen at the time. I was hooked. Born to be Wild was the song that did it. I became a rocker right then and there.
This hit song, destined to become a rock classic and a favorite among bikers, was the first to include the phrase “heavy metal thunder,” and as we know, “heavy metal” later became a commonly used term for hard rock.
Born to be Wild was featured in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, a counterculture classic starring Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda as bikers who ride from Los Angeles to New Orleans. Another Steppenwolf song, “The Pusher,” was also used in the film.
This was written by Mars Bonfire, the stage name of Dennis Edmonton. Dennis’s brother, Jerry, was Steppenwolf’s drummer. Bonfire wrote a few other songs for Steppenwolf as well, including “Ride With Me” and “Tenderness.”
In a Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Songs list, John Kay was quoted as saying, “Every generation thinks they’re born to be wild and they can identify with that song as their anthem.”
Magic Carpet Ride (1968)
This was the second big hit for Steppenwolf and was based on a bass line bass player, Rushton Moreve, came up with. Unfortunately, he only lyrics he had managed to come up with were, “I like my job, I like my baby.”
Lead singer John Kay wrote the rest of the lyrics. He got inspired when he put the demo tape in a home stereo system he bought with the royalties from their first album. That’s where he came up with the line, “I like to dream, right between my sound machine.”
This became the second big hit for Steppenwolf, released on their second album.
The Ostrich was another one of my favorites. As a sophomore in high school English class, we had to bring in and play one of our favorite songs and then give a short talk about what it was about the song that appealed to us. For my presentation, this was the song I choose. I remember getting an excellent grade on this project.
However, that might have been simply because most of the kids in my class brought in the same song, Hotter than Hell, by KISS.
This song is essentially a condemnation of drug dealers. It is one of the first songs to deal with the harsh realities of drug use and portrays “the pusher” as a heartless criminal who is only after your money.
Hoyt Axton, an American folk music singer-songwriter wrote this song after one of his friends died of a drug overdose. Axton has written songs for many artists and genres, including Elvis Presley, The Byrds, and Three Dog Night.
Along with Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” this song was featured in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. The film is considered a landmark of ’60s counterculture, and using this song in the film was significant because it portrayed the downside of doing drugs.
The lyrics of this song certainly “pushed” the limits as far as what was acceptable for broadcast in 1968. It was not the first song to make abundant and obvious drug references, but it was the first major release to include the phrase “God damn,” which appears in the line, “God damn the pusher man.” The following year, the Grateful Dead included this same epithet in their song “Uncle John’s Band.”
Jethro Tull was a British rock band formed in Blackpool, Lancashire, in 1967. Initially, the band played blues rock and jazz fusion. The group later incorporated elements of hard rock and folk to forge a unique progressive rock signature.
Led by vocalist/flutist/guitarist Ian Anderson, over the years Jethro Tull has featured a revolving door of lineups through the years including significant members such as guitarists Mick Abrahams and Martin Barre, keyboardist John Evan, drummers Clive Bunker, Barriemore Barlow, and Doane Perry, and bassists Glenn Cornick, Jeffrey Hammond, John Glascock, and Dave Pegg.
Such great songs as Locomotive Breath, Aqualung, Bungle in the Jungle, Hymn 43, and Thick as a Brick are still favorites of mine.
Aqualung was Jethro Tull’s best -selling album, selling over 7 million worldwide. This album produced two great singles, Hymn 43 and Locomotive Breath, and was well-received by the music critics. It has been included on several different music “best-of” lists.
Locomotive Breath (1982)
Comments from Tull fans!
“Mom, I want to be a rock star.” “No Ian, your dad and I prefer that you take flute lessons.” “Okay, have it your way, Mom”
Ian Anderson always looked to me like a refugee from a Tolkien novel or a 1400s Renaissance Man who somehow transported himself through time to join a rock band!
The band always looked like a group of insane yet highly talented homeless people who somehow got access to a stage. Hilarious and awesome!
Aqualung (London, 1977)
Aqualung by Jethro Tull, live in Golders Green Hippodrome, London, England on February 10, 1977. Covered live by BBC, it was later released on various bootleg DVD versions by fans.
This version is the best quality one, produced by “Room 101”.
Thick as a Brick (Madison Square Garden, 1978)
I see and hear a lot of comments about Anderson being high on drugs. However, I have never seen anyone on drugs balance on one foot and play rock flute! Have you? Nope! I didn’t think so.
Ian Anderson didn’t drink or use drugs. His one vice was smoking cigarettes. The man was a musical genius, writing the lyrics, the music, playing the guitar and the flute, singing, and giving a great performance.
Freddie Mercury often gets credit for being the most dynamic front-man in rock. Not to take anything away from Freddie Mercury, but no one was as amazing as Ian Anderson.
For me, the best days of Rock music were the 1970s, when lights in the audience were from lighters, not cellphones.
People who knew 70s Rock and Roll knew Blackfoot
Blackfoot is an American Southern rock band from Jacksonville, Florida, formed in 1969. Though they primarily play with a Southern rock style, they are also known as a hard rock act.
The band’s lineup consisted of guitarist and vocalist Rickey Medlocke, guitarist Charlie Hargrett, bassist Greg T. Walker, and drummer Jakson Spires. The group took the name Blackfoot to honor the American Indian heritage of 3 of the 4 founding members.
The group toured frequently during 1979; late during the year they opened for British superstars, The Who, at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.
They had a number of successful albums during the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Strikes (1979), Tomcattin’ (1980) and Marauder (1981).
“Highway Song” is a true classic! Rick Medlocke is definitely the real deal and a complete showman, incredible voice, and highly talented musician. This song and band were underrated and underappreciated.
Train, Train is another great song in which Rick Medlocke showed off his blues slide skills on his Les Paul. The song was actually written by Rick’s grandfather, Shorty Medlocke, and it became their first success and most well-known song.
The original Blackfoot put out some great southern rock music. In the 80s, with the southern rock genre being considered somewhat passe by the pop music press, the band struggled and recreated itself several times with new members, but it was never the same.
Rick Medlocke began touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996. He also reformed the band Blackfoot with all new members and himself acting as producer. He sometimes joins the band on stage during certain concerts.
Rock and Roll! I loved it as a kid. Still do. The other day a young female guitarist showed up on my YouTube feed. Not sure why, except that I sometime listen to “guitar centric” classic rock on YouTube.
I like to take what I call that … “guitar ride.”
Anyway, I was blown away.
A lot of the music kids listen to today is lost on me. I guess it is the absence of a rocking guitar lead! And here was this young Japanese girl rockin’ out to the kind of music I grew up on and still love to listen to!
I started looking around and came up with some pretty amazing videos of kids keeping rock and roll alive. I just had to share some of them here! As a teenager, Led Zeppelin was by far my favorite.
Check out this cover by three young rockers Sina, Alyona Yarushina, and Andrei Cerbu!
John Henry Bonham would be proud!
I thought the drummer was really great (actually, all three of them really are) and then I discovered this drummer, Sina, has her own YouTube channel and has become quite a sensation.
If she’d just add a little Cow Bell here and there! LOL!
Anyway, check out this Boston cover!
Okay, I just had to do one more Zeppelin tune by this trio. Check out this same trio doing Whole Lotta Love!
I looked around a little more and found this young lady, Tina. This girl can shred and has quite a library displaying her talent on her own YouTube channel. Metal, Classic Rock, Classical, you name it!
I chose this one because this was always one of my guitar favorite solos ever!
I noticed girls seem to be leading the pack in keeping rack and roll alive! Where are the guys? I am assuming they are out there to. Maybe just not as prevalent on YouTube or I am not using the right search terms?
I did find one kid who is really amazing. This one is for my good friends in East Tennessee!
And how about WJM, a power-trio of three amazing kids performing at halftime at a Stanford game! I understand this group performed at some kind of UN function and repeated that performance at this Stanford game.
It does my heart good to know that the rock of my generation still has an audience and a group of talented young musicians to carry it into the future! It adds credence to that old line, Rock and Roll will never die!