Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Little Feat; Essential listening

The Secret Museum
Jim Webb & Michael Mooney

Lowell George and his Little Feat

Live at Ebbet’s Field, Denver, July 19, 1973

Lowell George was born in 1945. At age six he already appeared on the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour, playing harmonica. By the mid sixties guitar was his main instrument, which he loved to play in the bottleneck, or slide, style made popular by the Chicago bluesmen. Lowell eventually joined up with Frank Zappa’s Mothers. After a year of touring and recording as a sideman with Frank, he departed, with bassist Roy Estrada in tow, to form his own band. Estrada used to comment on Lowell’s little feet.

Little Feat’s debut album was released in 1971. The excellent Sailin’ Shoes and Dixie Chicken shortly followed. Critics loved the group, but their record sales never did match their acclaim. Estrada left early on, while the band continued to gain a reputation as top players who could handle anything Lowell threw at them, from rock and blues to country and New Orleans-style fatback funk.

Ebbet’s Field was a Denver night cub located in The Brooks Tower near Fifteenth and Curtis. Willie Nelson, Bob Seger, Tom Waits and Lynyrd Skynyrd all played there in the early seventies. This show on July 19, 1973 was one of many from the club that were simulcast on the local FM radio station. It comes from the beginning of Little Feat’s rise to prominence as concert favorites. A solid set all the way through, the highlights truly begin during the last forty-five minutes, when the real gems from Lowell George’s songwriting bag are pulled out. These are some of the finest songs written in the 1970’s.

As the 70’s progressed, what made the band so highly rated as musicians and songwriters began to work against them. By 1977 the ‘I Hate Pink Floyd’ punk crowd was growing and the ability to properly sing or play more than three chords became a liability. You were either for Punk Rock or against it, there was no in between. The divide went sometimes unmentioned, but changes in the music industry were happening fast. What started as Punk soon swelled into the safer marketing campaign of New Wave, and when the major labels realized they could actually make money from it, that Tsunami eventually washed a lot of the old guard away. No musician will ever claim that Punk Rock killed their band. That’s too degrading and painful an admission for an accomplished player to even consider. The standard line is always that drugs, women, whiskey, excessive touring or bad management wrecked most bands. Little Feat might deny that the changing musical tide was the reason, but by 1979 a lot of established bands were suddenly directed to park in the Boring Old Fart’s section for the first time. The music industry has always been fixated on what they can sell you today. If they can make a few bucks from the back catalogue, great, but what you’ve done in the past never matters to the corporate bean counters. We need to find a better way to acknowledge musicians’ dedication and perseverance than the current Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, or senseless award shows like The Grammy’s. Too many musicians who didn’t sell millions of records have been ignored. Sales figures have absolutely nothing to do with an artist’s influence and importance to our American musical heritage.

Lowell George died at the age of thirty-four. Hard living, aka too much drugs and booze, was the unofficial cause; heart attack was printed on the death certificate. The band broke up, and for close to ten years after George’s death didn’t play together. When the all clear finally sounded and the New Wavers had been safely swept back out to sea, Little Feat reconvened. LF without their leader, though, is like The Band without Robbie Robertson. You can call it by the same name, but something’s different, an essential ingredient to the recipe is missing. Seeing Little Feat reformed was like attending a birthday party and knowing that the guest of honor won’t be there to celebrate with you. I don’t blame keyboardist Billy Payne, or anyone else in the band, for wanting to continue, but for me it’s just not the same. From 1965 to 1979 Lowell George paved as much musical road as anyone in this country. He didn’t win any useless awards from Dick Clark during that time, but instead the respect of his peers for his song writing and guitar playing skills.

This performance and thousands of other concerts can be downloaded legally and free of charge at www.archive.org.

Also recommended:
Little Feat (1971)
Feats Don't Fail Me Now (1974)

-Jim Webb

Odds and Sods

Some essential CDs
/ Mooney’s list:

Meet The Beatles, The Beatles’ Second Album, Help (UK), Revolver (UK), Abbey Road
Rolling Stones-Big Hits (High Tides And Green Grass), Between The Buttons (US), Through The Past, Darkly (US), The Kinks- Kontroversy, Face To Face, Something Else, Village Green Preservation Society, Muswell Hillbillies, The Kink Kronikles, The Who- Sings My Generation, Sell Out, Live At Leeds (original), Who’s Next, Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy, History Of The Dave Clark 5, The Ultimate Yardbirds, Small Faces (Deram), From The Beginning, Small Faces (Immediate),, Great Move- The Best Of The Move, Movements (box), The Troggs- Archeology, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons- Anthology, Shangri-Las- Myrmidons Of Melodrama, Here Are The Sonics, Boom, Count V- Psychotic Revelation, The Seeds, Blues Magoos- Psychedelic Lollipop, Electric Comic Book, Basic, Beach Boys-Pet Sounds, Endless Summer, The Velvet Underground and Nico, Pink Floyd-Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Meddle, 13th Floor Elevators-Psychedelic Sounds, Easter Everywhere, Blossom Toes- We Are Ever So Clean, Love- Forever Changes, The Association- Greatest Hits, The 5th Dimension- Everything on Collector’s Choice, New Colony Six- Best Of, Zombie Heaven, Odessey & Oracle, Mighty Baby, Bobbie Gentry- Anything without Glen Campbell, Tony Joe White- Swamp Music (box), Jefferson Airplane- Surrealistic Pillow, Volunteers, Captain Beefheart- Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off, Baby, Os Mutantes- Tecnicolor, Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso- A Little More Blue, Emitt Rhodes, The Best Of Free Design (Cherry Red, though other comps are good, as are the original LPs), Serge Gainsbourg- Comic Strip, Jacques Dutronc- Completement Dutronc, Blue Cheer- Vincebus Eruptum, MC5- Kick Out The Jams, Stooges- Funhouse, Grand Funk Railroad- Live Album, Groundhogs- Split, Blue Oyster Cult- Tyranny & Mutation, Neil Young- Live Rust, Nick Drake- All 3 (or Fruit Tree), Kevin Ayers- Watevershebringswesing, Mellow Candle- Swaddling Songs, The Virgin Prophet, King Crimson- In The Court Of The Crimson King, Jethro Tull- Aqualung, Todd Rundgren- Something/ Anything?, Caravan- In The Land Of Pink And Grey, John Cale- Paris 1919, David Bowie- Hunky Dory, Roxy Music- For Your Pleasure, Focus- Moving Waves, Robert Wyatt- Rock Bottom, Neu!, Amon Duul II- Phallus Dei, Cluster- 71, Faust, Can- Ege Bamyasi, Kraftwerk- The Man Machine, Burning Spear- Marcus Garvey/ Garvey’s Ghost, Culture- Two Sevens Clash, Dread Meets The Punk Rockers Uptown (comp), The Modern Lovers, Ramones, Television- Marquee Moon, Adventure, Pere Ubu- The Modern Dance, Dub Housing, Damned Damned Damned, The Clash (UK), Wire- first 3, Ian Dury- New Boots And Panties, X-Ray Spex- Germ Free Adolescents, Magazine- Real Life, Buzzcocks- Singles Going Steady, Ultravox- Systems Of Romance, The Jam- Setting Sons, Joy Division- Unknown Pleasures, The Undertones, Gang Of Four- Entertainment, Doll By Doll- Remember, Gypsy Blood, Slits- Cut, Peel/BBC Session, Mekons- The Quality Of Mercy…, The Fall- (practically everything),
Television Personalities- And Don’t The Kids Just Love It, The Painted Word, Abba- Gold,
X- Los Angeles, Black Flag- The First Four Years, Damaged, Descendents- Milo Goes To College, The Adolescents, Meat Puppets- II, Minutemen- Double Nickels…,
Kleenex/ LiLLiput, Microdisney- Everybody Is Fantastic, The Clock comes Down The Stairs,
Planxty- Words & Music, Altan, Pale Saints- In Ribbons, The Negro Problem- Post Minstrel Syndrome, Ivy- Apartment Life, Damien Dempsey- Seize The Day, Francois Breut- Vingt a Trente Mille Jours, Juana Molina- Son

Plus any good collection of:

Hank Williams, Wynonie Harris, Louis Prima, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee, Elvis, Bo Diddley,
Chuck Berry, Doo Wop (like the Doo Wop Box), and Surf music (i.e. Cowabunga). Also, Hitsville U.S.A.- Motown singles collection (or any good collection), Nuggets, A decent Petula Clark comp. (several available), The Philly Sound (or other reasonable Philly Soul compilation),

Webb’s list

Them (1965), 13th Floor Elevators- Psychedelic Sounds, Easter Everywhere, Moby Grape- Moby Grape, Velvet Underground & Nico, Love- Forever Changes, Blue Cheer- Vincebus Eruptum, MC5- Kick Out the Jams, Pretty Things- S.F. Sorrow, Nick Drake- Five Leaves Left, Capt. Beefheart- Trout Mask Replica, Nuggets- Garage Rock Compilation, Pebbles- Garage Rock Compilation Series, Amon Duul II- Yeti, Can - Tago Mago, Neu, Popul Vuh- Hosianna Manta, Faust -Faust Tapes, Cosmic Jokers, (any title from the above German bands released between 70-74 is good.), Iggy/ Stooges- Raw Power, N.Y. Dolls, Patti Smith- Horses, Ramones, Modern Lovers, The Clash, The Damned- Damned Damned Damned, Stranglers- Rattus Norvegicus, Television- Marquee Moon, Wire- Pink Flag, Sex Pistols- Never Mind the Bollocks, Great Rock n' Roll Swindle, Pere Ubu – Modern Dance, Devo- Are We Not Men, X- Ray Spex- Germ Free Adolescents, The Jam- Setting Sons, Gang of Four- Entertainment, Undertones, This Heat, Buzzcocks- A Different Kind of Tension, The Fall- Dragnet, Stiff Little Fingers- Inflammable Material, Specials, Only Ones- Even Serpents Shine, Joy Division- Unknown Pleasures, Mekons- Quality of Mercy, X - Los Angeles, Plimsouls, Black Flag- Damaged, Husker Du - Zen Arcade, Minutemen- Double Nickels on the Dime, Barry Blue- Dancin' (On a Saturday Night), Be-Bop Deluxe - Modern Music, David Bowie- Outside, Bevis Frond- North Circular, Clifton Chenier- King of the Bayous, Elvis Costello- My Aim is True, Deep Purple- Burn, Doll by Doll- Remember, ELP- Brain Salad Surgery, Jimi Hendrix Experience- Radio One, Isley Bros- 3 + 3, Kinks- Great Lost Kinks Album, Led Zeppelin- Physical Graffiti, John Lennon- Lost Lennon Tapes, Jerry Lee Lewis- London Sessions, John Mayall/ Eric Clapton- Blues Breakers, Magazine- Real Life, Muslimgauze- Fatah Guerrilla, Bill Nelson- Stargazing With Ranger Bill, Ted Nugent - Tooth, Fang & Claw, Graham Parker- Howlin' Wind, PIL- Plastic Box, Pink Fairies- What a Bunch of Sweeties, Jorge Reyes- Comala, Lou Reed- Berlin, Steve Roach- Dreamtime Return, Rolling Stones- Exile on Main Street, Doug Sahm- Genuine Texas Groover, Steely Dan- Aja, Stiff- Various/ Stiff Records Box Set, Tangerine Dream- Phaedra, Robin Trower- Bridge of Sighs, Johnny Thunders- So Alone, Muddy Waters- Hard Again, Stomu Yamasta/Steve Winwood- Go, Yes- Close to the Edge, Townes Van Zandt- Live at the Old Quarter, Frank Zappa- Hot Rats

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