Monday, November 28, 2005

Stephen Stills bands defined 'Supergroup'

Stephen Stills guitar work on the Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird" awakened a generation that acoustic guitar on a rock song could be melodic and beautiful. Yet when Stills played his famous wah-wah guitar break on Donovan's "Season Of The Witch," he played one of the decade's most famous solos. Photo shot on stage in San Antonio in 1971 by (c) Phillip Rauls.

There is something very rewarding about entering your office on Monday morning after a long strenuous road trip only to discover the answer to your doldrums awaiting you in the form of a new record album laying on your desk. Funny how the endorphin levels rise within oneself when a truly remarkable piece of music scores on all sensitivity levels. While reading the album credits I was reminded of the in-house rumors floating around about one of the company's top acts. Seemed the music god's were being nice while apparently Atlantic's chief executive Ahmet Ertegun had salvaged his West Coast pet project after the stormy breakup of the legendary country-rock band, The Buffalo Springfield. Plucked from amongst the artistic squabbling between Neil Young and Stephen Stills, Atlantic held on the Stills contract by entering into an additional project by signing his new band.

But the project didn't come without a fight. As the story goes, a young talent agent from The William Morris Talent Agency named David Geffen had approached the label with the intent of a obtaining a release of Stephen Stills' contract. Geffen, manager to Stills and several other prominent artist, demanded that his terms be met when he threatened to take his artist to Columbia Records. This didn't sit well with the Atlantic brass whereas the label apparently had Stills' rock group, The Buffalo Springfield still under an existing contract. Well, after a shouting match ensued between Geffen and Atlantic's Jerry Wexler, Geffen was promptly shown the door. And via Wexler's boot. Startled employees were peeking from behind doors when Ahmet Ertegun intervened and safely secured Geffen's solicited project. And rightly so, as the band contained members from The Byrds, The Hollies and Stills' Buffalo Springfield.

Patched-up, re-fragmented and joined at the microphone, Crosby, Stills and Nash were now Atlantic's newest group. Their debut album released in the summer of 1969 was arguably the one of the best releases of the decade and presented to an audience growing old to a dwindling psychedelic scene. Not truly certain of the impact that this vocal trio would have on an ever-changing radio market, Atlantic would soon bask in the limelight from this timely signing. Crosby, Stills and Nash acoustical arraignments complimented with their self-penned enduring songs quickly attracted the medias attention that referred to them as a "Supergroup." That was bold new terminology coming from the traditionally critical music press but Atlantic had scored big time and was destined for a conquest of label domination. Powerful songs like "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", "Marrakesh Express" and "Long Time Gone" would blanket the airwaves on both AM and FM formants by their pleasant compositions. Radio embraced the music of Crosby, Stills and Nash as it reached the coveted mass appeal audience.

Imagine being a promotion man for Atlantic Records and going into a radio station representing Crosby Stills and Nash, The Allman Brothers Band and Eric Clapton's latest release by Derek and The Dominos. Always supported by the fact that I was treated with professional respect, I might add that radio stations didn't generally greet promotion people with a red-carpet treatment. Most stations had a set of rules whereas station personnel had set aside one day a week when they would interact with record promoters and other than that, or on special occasions, they refrained from making playlist additions. Most stations had policies for record promoters requiring them to book an appointment in advance and having them wait in the lobby until the Program or Music Director is available, then allowing the promoter only a few moments to play their new releases and share information. And then after that, you're done, that's it, your time is over until next week. Believe me, this process could be a royal pain in the butt. But now, with this new release by Crosby, Stills and Nash, plus pivotal albums by Derek and The Dominos and The Allman Brothers Band, the pendulum had finally swung to my advantage. Ah, the sweet sound of redemption.

There's an old saying in the music business: "A promotion man is only as good as his product." Well, let me tell you something. All of a sudden, my briefcase was full of these new blockbuster releases when suddenly I was treated like, 'King of The Hill.' My oh my, what a difference a hit record can make.
Crosby, Stills and Nash self titled debut LP was in my opinion the most brilliant album ever to be released featuring acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies. Stephen Stills perfection of the Martin guitar is high-lighted throughout this splendid album.

Stephen Stills, often dubbed as a musical genius, was the driving force behind the Buffalo Springfield. His first solo LP which includes the hit single "Love The One You're With" was considered by many as his best work. The album was recorded with help from Booker T. Jones, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

Album cover photos by Henry Diltz

Friday, November 11, 2005

Gratifying oneself was the fad of the day

Towards the end of the 60's decade, Pop Culture was spreading it's lifestyle across the country like a prairie fire. With music as its messenger, the record business continued to sizzle with activitiy supported by an unprecedented stage of retail traffic. In an on-going effort to maintain this economic drumbeat and attract new customers, record companies began offering more diverse forms of music into the market; particulary Rock Fusion, Progressive Jazz, varying forms of Folk and Classical Rock and Middle Eastern music. Labels also introduced innovative marketing techniques by featuring extravagantly designed album covers in addition to jackets being canvassed by famous artist in lieu of catching the eye of the art lover. The purchase of a record now offered a variety of new experiences whereas a record buyer could view attractive art on the jacket and read the song's lyrics from the insert while being entertained by the music's content. Additionally, the marketplace introduced supporting products such as larger stereo systems with technical gadgetry along with non-conventional items such as lava lamps , bean bags and water pipes. Gratifying oneself at home was the fad of the day and was easily provided by these trendy creature comforts.

The birth of the Flower Power generation had been born and in addition to being active record buyers they had also adopted marijuana as the drug of choice. Despite its reputation of ill repute, marijuana produced astute awareness to the user's senses while listening to music. Certainly, I make no claim to mirror Timothy Leary here, but smoking pot seemed to trigger additional senses towards enjoying a records' intensity. Every puff magnified the powerful trance of enjoying music combined with the overwhelming urge to indulge in a bag of Doritos. Once under the influence, your confidence level escalated while your instinctive judgment went on Spring break. Achieving herbal fulfillment might entice you to engage in a series of daring experiments such as attempting to communicate in a normal voice after inhaling a balloon filled with Freon gas. Another trendy exercise was streaking naked across the college campus in full view of classmates. Never one to be outdone, my former roommate's favorite prank was blowing marijuana smoke into his dog's face only to witness his aroused pet drool slobber on his pants while humping his leg. We enjoyed doing all the wrong things right.