Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 3/22/18
Each Thursday, Hard Rock Music Time Machine takes a journey back in time to feature a variety of songs that date back as far as the ’70s.
In addition to appearing on the embedded YouTube playlist below, all songs featured on Hard Rock Music Time Machine can be listened to individually by clicking on the hyper-linked song titles above each review.
ADAM WALDMAN – (Publisher, Hard Rock Daddy)
BLACK SABBATH – “You Won’t Change Me” (1976)
The legend of Black Sabbath has only continued to grow in recent times. Without question, they are one of the pioneers of heavy metal. For my money, they are the driving force behind all hard rock and metal subgenres that have come after them. That being said, not every album in the band’s illustrious catalog is revered, even by the most diehard Sabbath fan.
1976’s Technical Ecstasy is arguably the least favorite Black Sabbath album of not only critics and fans, but the band themselves. Amazingly, the band that was the ultimate influencer found themselves in the position of chasing trends during this time period. Afraid of being labeled “has-beens” during the emergence of bands like The Clash and Sex Pistols, Sabbath veered away from the path that led them to glory. Ozzy Osbourne was far from thrilled with the direction of the band at this point, going so far as to having a t-shirt made with the words “Blizzard Of Oz” on it during the recording sessions. Tony Iommi, who was forced to produce the album because the band no longer trusted anyone outside of their circle, thought that the band needed to sound more like Foreigner or Queen. According to Osbourne’s biography, I Am Ozzy, he thought that it was strange that the bands that they were once influencing had become their influences.
Technical Ecstasy was not the end of the Osbourne era of Black Sabbath, but it set the wheels in motion. Truth be told, I’ve never spent much time listening to this album. It just kind of exists in the background of an otherwise storied career. However, “You Won’t Change Me” has been getting a number of spins on Ozzy’s Boneyard on SiriusXM recently. Far removed from all of the negativity surrounding the album, I’ve found myself looking forward to hearing the song come on the radio. In what may eventually be looked back upon as the most divisive time in American history, this song seems to perfectly capture the black and white nature of political leanings.
Aside from the lyrical relevance, “You Won’t Change Me” has a lot to offer for all fans of hard rock and metal. It is unlike anything else by Black Sabbath, or Osbourne’s solo albums for that matter. While the band supposedly felt forced to go in a different direction, this song doesn’t sound like punk or the more commercial artists mentioned above.
If anything, the intro is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed And Confused.” From there, the song transitions into a more psychedelic rock sound, with haunting, trippy keyboards setting the tone for Osbourne’s bittersweet vocals. The typical heavy, stoner rock vibes of most Sabbath songs are replaced by impressive bluesy solos that conjure up thoughts of Ritchie Blackmore.
“You Won’t Change Me” is (most likely) a Sabbath song that hasn’t lost its luster for fans who are tired of hearing the same songs ad nauseum on classic rock radio. If you’re among those who have ignored anything from Technical Ecstasy, you should go back and give this one another listen. If you’re like me, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for a different side of Sabbath.
ALTER BRIDGE – “Rise Today” (2007)
“Rise Today” was the lead single off of Alter Bridge’s sophomore release, Blackbird. While it remains a fan favorite, it is still “myles” away from the epic title track when it comes to popularity. To be fair, that’s like comparing any other song off of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album to “Free Bird.” Some songs are just transcendent and historic. That doesn’t diminish the brilliance of “Rise Today” in any way. The song is classic Alter Bridge at their best.
If you are a regular reader of Hard Rock Daddy, you already know that AB is held in the highest regard. They are woefully underrated, both as a unit and individually. Even though Myles Kennedy has gained more recognition since he began collaborating with Slash, his vocal prowess is not properly appreciated by the masses. The same can be said of guitarist Mark Tremonti. Of course, knowledgeable fans and other musicians are well aware of both of these virtuosos.
According to Tremonti, “Rise Today” is about “asking yourself what you can do to change the world for the better, what you can do to make the world a better place, and how you can be a better person.” It was misinterpreted by many when it came out as an anti-war song, but it’s more of the positive variety.
The band has continued to deliver their brand of uplifting personal messages in recent years. In a time when it feels like things are falling apart at the seams, songs like “Rise Today” offer a reminder that we all have a responsibility to do our part to make the world a better place.
SUZANNE BRACKEN – HRD Music Scout
LED ZEPPELIN – “Communication Breakdown” (1969)
Metal’s beginnings can be traced to many origins, but “Communication Breakdown” is a great place to start for any rock historian. Unlike many classic rock songs, this one never gets old (for me). It has one of the best opening riffs ever, and for a song recorded almost 50 years ago, it has retained its original power better than almost any other hard rock song that I can think of.
Like many ‘70s kids, I started with Led Zeppelin’s “untitled” fourth album, which features “Stairway to Heaven.” As with most artists, one song led us to a particular album, which then inspired us to collect back catalogs.
While I love the more bluesy cuts on the first album, as well as the acoustic beauty of “Black Mountainside,” I tend to favor the harder, edgier cuts like this one and “Good Times Bad Times.”
“Communication Breakdown” is a straight-forward assault, which is probably one of the reasons that it has been covered by everyone from the Fleshtones to Iron Maiden. My personal favorite cover is by Wolfmother, who showed that something old can be made new again (while still paying respect to the original).
This video for this song captures the mighty Zep in all of their glory…the beginning of what would become one of the greatest success stories of all time. Robert Plant, the rock god, Jimmy Page, the virtuoso, John Paul Jones, the brilliant technical master, and John Bonham, pounding away with strength never witnessed before or since.
THE WHO – “The Punk And The Godfather” (1973)
While I’ve liked and respected the Who over the years (as well as both Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey’s solo work), they are not among my favorite bands. In all honesty, they’re not even in my top 25. However, I can say without a doubt that Quadrophenia is near the top of the list of my favorite albums. You need not know the story behind the concept of this album to feel its unbridled power.
The rock opera double album was released in 1973. The film adaptation came out in the theaters in 1979 when I was a (somewhat rebellious) teenager. My friends and I went to see it together. We were captivated by the timeless story of adolescent angst which truly holds up as well today as when it was released. We had more than a little difficulty understanding the strong British accents, but were captivated by the whole mods/rockers subculture references, the fashion, the violence, and the life struggles. While the movie was brilliant, it’s the music itself that holds up 45 years later. I can’t think of another album that’s held up better. The story is as timeless as it is spiritual.
When I heard that Quadrophenia was coming to the iconic Metropolitan Opera House (in New York) last September, I discussed it with my friend’s husband in passing at their pool in the summer. I never really explored purchasing tickets though, because I thought that it would be significantly out of my budget. We never discussed it again until my friend (who is not a rabid music fan like me) and I were having dinner on a Friday night before the show. She told me that her husband really wanted to go, and was disappointed that we hadn’t made a plan. I told her (half kidding around) that I would go if he still wanted to. She called my bluff a few hours later, and told me that they purchased tickets for the show the following night.
Not even 24 hours later, we were off to the show. As we approached the Met, where I have seen only classic operas with my Italian aunts, I knew that we were in for a completely unique experience. The venue itself is incredibly beautiful. While walking to our seats, we could feel the true excitement in the air. We saw people of all ages…Baby Boomers, kids with their parents, as well as teenagers and young adults who were not born when the album and the movie were released. The true magic began when the house lights went down.
To see and hear this incredible work of art performed by a full orchestra (and accompanied by British tenor Alfie Boe) was one of the most memorable concert experiences that I have ever had. Watching Boe perform these songs with such passion, literally leaping around on stage, was great to witness. As was seeing him singing with Townshend and Billy Idol. Their happiness and onstage chemistry was contagious, and they appeared grateful to be performing these songs as they were meant to be heard.