Rock And Roll Time Machine –
Rock And Roll Time Machine takes a journey back in time to feature a variety of songs that date back as far as the late ’60s.
In addition to appearing on the embedded YouTube playlist below, all songs featured on Rock And Roll Time Machine can be listened to individually by clicking on the hyper-linked song titles above each review.
ADAM WALDMAN – (Publisher, Hard Rock Daddy)
BILLY JOEL – “Piano Man” (1973)
“Piano Man” is one of the few songs that multiple generations can sing in its entirety, likely due to the simplicity of the composition. What also makes it so memorable is the story that it tells. Although we can all sing the lyrics together, the beauty of “Piano Man” is that it creates a unique theater of the mind experience for each person.
While nearly everyone knows the lyrics, the backstory behind the song is not nearly as well known.
If not for a dispute with his original record label, Billy Joel’s signature song may never have been written. This is the ultimate example of making lemonade out of life’s lemons.
Joel’s first label, Family Productions, made a significant mastering error with his first album, Cold Spring Harbor. Stuck in a difficult contract, Joel headed for Los Angeles to “hide out” as Colombia Records worked on getting him out of his original deal. Because he was still under contract to Family Productions, Joel couldn’t perform under his name.
William Martin Joel became Bill Martin, a piano lounge singer at The Executive Room bar. The characters in the song are all based on real people, including Joel’s first wife who was “the waitress practicing politics.”
Although we all sing the chorus with fun-loving passion, “Piano Man” is a bittersweet song that touches upon a timeless subject…broken or unfulfilled dreams. Is this song just as relevant 45 years later because of its sing along quality or lyrics that resonate with the masses? I suspect that it’s a combination of both.
There are a number of reasons that Hard Rock Music Time Machine was rebranded as Rock And Roll Time Machine. The ability to feature Billy Joel (one of my favorite artists of all-time) is a big reason for the change. This is the first feature on Joel, but it certainly will not be the last.
ELTON JOHN – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (1973)
Elton John and Billy Joel have more in common than having iconic title tracks on albums released in 1973. These legends, more than any others, brought the piano to the forefront of rock and roll. It’s one of the reasons why they were such perfect touring partners over the years. Although I never got to see them in concert together, I’ve seen each on their own. Memorable shows to say the least.
Whereas “Piano Man” is about broken or unfulfilled dreams, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” explores the downside of dreams actually coming true.
Fans of Elton are well aware of his writing partner, Bernie Taupin. Often times, Taupin’s lyrics were written about Elton, but in the case of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” they seem to be autobiographical. Like the characters in The Wizard Of Oz, Taupin shows in his own way that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side.
Speaking about the lyrics to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Taupin stated…
“It’s funny, but there are songs that I recall writing as if it was yesterday. And then there are those I have absolutely no recollection of, whatsoever. In fact, I’d have to say that for the most part, if someone was to say that the entire Yellow Brick Road album was actually written by someone else, I might be inclined to believe them. I remember being there, just not physically creating.
There was a period when I was going through that whole ‘got to get back to my roots’ thing, which spawned a lot of like-minded songs in the early days, this being one of them. I don’t believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn’t want it. I just don’t believe I was ever that naïve. I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting. My only naiveté, I guess, was believing I could do it so early on. I had to travel a long road and visit the school of hard knocks before I could come even close to achieving that goal. So, thank God I can say quite categorically that I am home.”
There are countless brilliant collaborations between Elton and Taupin, including others from 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I chose to feature the title track to tie in with the title track from Billy Joel’s 1973 release because the two have been linked together for so long.
As far as the performance of the song, what is most notable (aside from the meaningful lyrics) is Elton’s ability to effortlessly transition between his soulful deeper voice and his flawless falsetto.
BOB SEGER – “Turn The Page” (1973)
When you think back to the rock and roll days of the ‘70s, it feels like long hair was commonplace on men. Bob Seger classic’s “Turn The Page” is about life as a touring musician. While it seems glamorous to fans, it is (often times) far from it, especially when having to deal with judgment from closed-minded people.
The story behind “Turn The Page” dates back to a tour through the Midwest in 1972. Seger and the band were driving through a blinding snowstorm in the middle of the night. When they stopped at a truck stop, all but one of the band members (drummer David Teegarden) put their hair up in their hats. They knew from previous experiences that you could be ostracized for having long hair. It wasn’t long before the gauntlet of truckers started commenting… “is that a woman or a man?” Teegarden was furious, but the rest of the band just started laughing.
Seger had been working on “Turn The Page” for a while already. The next night, he played the song for the band, which now included the line… “Oh the same old clichés, is that a woman or a man?”
While the lyrics were inspired by specific events, the signature saxophone intro was inspired by the power of suggestion by rock photographer Tom Weschler. As the story goes, Weschler told sax player Alto Reed to think about it like this…“You’re in New York City on the Bowery. It’s 3:00am. You’re under a streetlamp. There’s a light mist coming down. You’re all by yourself. Show me what that sounds like.”
Even if you don’t know NYC, it’s fascinating to learn the inspiration behind one of the most memorable sax parts in rock and roll history.
There are numerous Seger songs that showcase his smooth, soulful voice bringing lyrics to life like a movie. “Turn The Page” is an incredible song that has stood the test of time, and still gets played on radio 45 years later. Metallica did an outstanding cover of the song in 1998, but for my money, the original is still the best.
ROD STEWART – “Madolin Wind” (1973)
My first exposure (that I can recall) to Rod Stewart was 1978’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” It was one of the biggest hits at the time, and it was all over the radio. Stewart would have a number of other radio hits that were a big part of my youth. Somehow, “Mandolin Wind” escaped me until a few years ago when I heard it on satellite radio. I instantly fell in love with the song, and can listen to it several times in a row without getting tired of it.
Technically, the song came on in 1971, and was featured on Stewart’s third solo studio album, Every Picture Tells A Story. However, it is also featured on his first compilation album, 1973’s Sing It Again Rod. Maybe it’s cheating to include the compilation version, but I’ve been wanting to feature Stewart for a while, and this song has become one of my favorites by him.
There is a cool factor to featuring a song from the compilation album due to the unique cover. Unlike most albums which come in a square sleeve, Play It Again Rod came in a die-cut album sleeve that was shaped like a glass of whisky. You can see Stewart’s smiling face inside the glass.
“Maggie May” is the track that got the majority of the attention in 1971, and it deserved it, but in my opinion, “Mandolin Wind” is just as good. In some ways, I like it even more because it hasn’t been played a million times on classic rock radio. Stewart has a number of amazing love songs, but there’s something about the mandolin that adds another layer of romance to this beautiful ballad.
ROLLING STONES – “Angie” (1973)
Rock fans always appreciate a well-done ballad. A great one has to be heartfelt, but never too sappy, passionate, but never too saccharine. It’s a difficult balance to achieve. Few rock bands are truly adept at pulling it off.
I have always thought of “Angie” as the perfect rock ballad. I doubt that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards could have ever anticipated its impact and longevity when it was released in the summer of 1973. The song is universally loved (even by non-Stones fans).
Up to this time in their career, the Stones had put out some good ballads (“As Tears Go By,” “Lady Jane,” and “Ruby Tuesday” to name a few), but “Angie” is in a league of its own.
This, song has something for everyone, between the beautiful piano accompaniment, the gorgeous string arrangement, the subtle Charlie Watts drums and the instantly recognizable, iconic acoustic guitar intro. And, Jagger’s vocals have never sounded so vulnerable or as perfect. He sings this song with such conviction that you actually believe the sincerity of lyrics coming from someone who is known for being snarky.
“Angie” has stood the test of time as a song that sounds as great today as it did when you first listened to it 45 years ago when it was released. I imagine that it will hold up for the next 45 years just as well.
PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS – “Band On The Run” (1973)
“Band On The Run” was all over the radio in the summer of 1974, but was actually released in December 1973. It is considered by many to be McCartney’s best solo album, the title cut being especially memorable.
Although no band could have hoped to duplicate the success of The Beatles following their breakup in 1970, Paul McCartney & Wings came as close as anyone did in that decade. They had hit after hit at a time when rock music was still played regularly on the pop radio stations.
McCartney was a true rock star in the ‘70s, recording prolifically and touring frequently to sold-out arenas around the globe.
The song “Band On The Run” is a unique masterpiece, flawlessly combining three separate and distinct parts. It opens like a bright summer day with a sublime guitar intro and McCartney’s soothing vocals lulling you into a dreamscape. Just when you start to get lost in the song, in comes the perfectly placed “if we ever get out of here” funky riff (one of McCartney’s best ever). The song closes with a happy-go-lucky verse.
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the rock’s most successful artists and legends. His solo career spans nearly five decades, covering almost all genres from classical to jazz to pop. In addition to recording, he continues to tour with his immensely talented band. I have seen him live three times since 2002. Each time, I’m left astonished by his stamina and devotion to his fans. I cherish the memories of ‘70s “rock star” Paul, and am so thankful that he is still out there, night after night, giving it his all.
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