Top 5: Hard Drivin' Days
The first thing I did in 1976 when I got my first car was to put a tape player in it--an 8-track player, actually, with an FM converter. (And to complete the 70s cool car trifecta, I also carpeted much of the interior with white whorehouse shag.) The next thing I did was to start making car tapes, which I still do. I've assembled thouands of hours' worth over the years--very few with track lists. I'd rather drop in the tape and be surprised. While traveling last week, I put one in titled "Miscellaneous This & That 3" and had about as much fun in 90 minutes as you can have when you're by yourself. A few highlights--most of which you may never have heard:
"Lady of the Lake"/Starcastle. This band answers the following question: What would it be like if Yes had been from central Illinois? Here and there, pretty good--as on this 10-minute epic from their 1975 debut album. They never had a hit single, but toured with various bigfoot acts of the 1970s, and played a homecoming concert at my college sometime around 1980.
"Hard Drivin' Days"/Head East. Since we are in the realm of Illinois bands largely unknown elsewhere, let's stay there. The 1975 album Flat as a Pancake, originally recorded and released independently, made Head East headliners in the Midwest. This tune is from the 1979 album A Different Kind of Crazy, the group's first after the departure of lead vocalist John Schlitt. It's yer basic rock-star-on-the-road tale, as easy to sing along with as the more famous "Never Been Any Reason" and "Love Me Tonight."
(According to Starcastle's website, they opened for Head East at the Dane County Coliseum here in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 3, 1980. Damn, I miss those days.)
"Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)"/Pat Travers Band. Politically incorrect now, what with it being about a guy who wants to punch out an unfaithful woman, but a great example of what hard rock concerts sounded like in the late 1970s, with lead guitarist Pat Thrall in full chainsaw mode.
"Trapped Again"/Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. The great lost Springsteen record--if it had come along two years later, after Bruce had made the quantum leap to broad superstardom, it might actually have made the charts. Springsteen co-wrote it and sings on it, but the Jukes are the real stars, with guitar licks so sharp you can shave with 'em, and horns that really rock.
(According to Starcastle's website, they were third on a bill with Boston and Southside Johnny in Uniondale, New York, on February 10, 1977, and spent February and March opening for Boston. Damn, I miss those days, too.)
"It's Not a Wonder"/Little River Band. The great lost Little River Band record, from 1979's First Under the Wire, it was overshadowed by "Lonesome Loser" and "Cool Change" on the same album. There's a pretty good live version on Backstage Pass, too.
Not a bad ride, really. And I didn't even mention Tommy Tutone's "Angel Say No" or "The Wish" by Eddie Money.
(According to Starcastle's website, they appeared on a bill with Eddie Money, Ted Nugent, Mahogany Rush, and Journey in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 23, 1978. Damn.)