Thursday, September 3, 2020

Humble Pie 1970 | Lefsetz Letter

Humble Pie

I know it’s old, but it’s new to me.

I left the house, to go to the periodontist. He charged an arm and a leg for the implant, over three years ago, but he doesn’t bill for the follow-ups, he’s more on it than I am, he wants me to rubber tip for forty five minutes a day, I wouldn’t commit to that, who would?

And the weather is strange in SoCal, it’s definitely fall. The light especially, but also the temperature, suddenly it’s in the seventies, when we haven’t seen that number for over a month, at least not during the day, however it’s supposed to be over a hundred this weekend, oftentimes Labor Day is a last hurrah, I remember one day in the eighties sleeping with the front door open, that’s just how hot it was, having all my stuff stolen was less of a consequence than expiring from heatstroke. In the coming weeks we’ll have the Santa Anas, but then it is cool at night, however warm it gets during the day, but it feels like we’re falling into winter, and that’s how it feels to me, we rise into summer, through spring, but we fall into winter.

And in Beverly Hills everybody is wearing a mask. And in the parking garage I took the stairs instead of the elevator, I’ve been totally home, I don’t want to risk it, I don’t feel that lucky, but when you go out how paranoid do you have to be? I’ve got no clue, I know people who are nearly living normal lives, and they’re Covid-19 free, if only there were leadership, direction, if we were all on the same page, tackling the problem together. But I’m not gonna swerve into politics, it’s just not worth it, today when Trump is telling everybody to vote twice…if you think he’s leaving voluntarily, you’re wrong. Did you read yesterday’s Axios article?

“Exclusive: Dem group warns of apparent Trump Election Day landslide,”

but dig deeper and you’ll find he may win on November 3rd, but when all the mail-in votes are counted he probably won’t, and he’s gonna declare fraud:  And, once again, you’ve got to read Umair Haque on Medium. He’s flummoxed that the Democrats won’t use the dreaded f-word, and I don’t mean the one that connotes sex, but the one that reminds you of Mussolini, i.e. “fascism”:  Trump and the Republicans brand the Democrats all day long, but the Dems are afraid to do it in reverse, who are they afraid of, the 30% who will be up-in-arms who will vote for Trump anyway? There, I got that out of the way, but I must say the “mini-stroke” controversy is cracking me up, funny to see Trump on the defensive, no one said he had mini-strokes, and now he keeps contradicting himself, I’m only laughing because like I said it’s all irrelevant, the horse race, the next two months, the game begins when the results start to come in.

So I came home to some e-mail. I was debating writing about a couple of TV shows, but I wasn’t in the mood. And then I got an e-mail from Richard Griffiths that inspired me to write about “After the Gold Rush,” and then I started compiling next week’s Sirius XM playlist, and that’s when I pulled up “One Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba” by Humble Pie.

I thought it was from the Clem Clempson era, with that title, when the band scraped the bottom of the barrel, played to such a lowest common denominator as to become a joke, irrelevant.

But it was not.

But that’s not what I’m listening to right now, rather it’s the Frampton cut from the same LP, the eponymous “Humble Pie,” from 1970, the first on A&M, after Immediate imploded, after Dee Anthony became the manager, he might have not done well by Frampton financially, but one always has to ask with these acts, would they have broken through without these managers, especially when you needed a conduit to the label and you fought it out on the road and radio for years before you hopefully broke through.

So, this is the white album. If you’re old and spent time combing the bins you’ve probably seen it. But there’s a good chance you haven’t heard it. And after I was stunned by “One Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba,” I played the whole thing. And I’d like to tell you it demands your attention, but the rest of the LP is not as good as these two tracks, not that it’s bad. But listening is such a different experience, because you get it, you understand the music immediately, you don’t need a decoder, it’s right in the pocket, which is astounding because this album was a stiff, at least in America. If only today’s Active Rock acts could cut something as compelling, it’s like a lost formula, and yes, this LP is about the basics, not the tricks, you think at times you can’t be reached by music and then you hear something like this, the listening experience reminds me of nothing so much as “Molten Gold,” the Free anthology which will blow your mind, the band was so underrated.

Now I purchased the follow-up album, “Rock On,” because I was going to see the band at the Fillmore, opening for my beloved Lee Michaels, this was the weekend they were recording the live album, “Rockin’ the Fillmore,” not that we knew this, not that Frampton knew it was going to be such a smash, finally breaking the band through, otherwise he wouldn’t have decided to quit.

And in the summer of ’72, Frampton released his first solo LP, and if you’d listened to “Rockin’ the Fillmore,” you were not prepared for it, “Wind of Change” was anything but bombastic, not that it was wimpy. I loved the opener “Fig Tree Bay,” which no one ever talks about, but the apotheosis, of Frampton’s career as far as I’m concerned, my favorite, that I cannot burn out on, is the second side opener, “All I Wanna Be (Is Your Side),” which survives because an abbreviated acoustic version made it to “Frampton Comes Alive!,” but the original is much more, it’s an opus, an almost seven minute journey that is both quiet and rocking, like “Earth and Water Song.” “Wind of Change” came out of left field from where I sat, but now hearing “Earth and Water Song,” I can see the roots.

“Earth and Water Song” is not as good as “All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side),” but this six minute track has a mood absent from today’s scene, a deeper meaning, a heaviness that used to be de rigueur. Play it twice and you can’t take it off, I must be about eight or nine times into it by this point. And it’s enhanced by the quality, Amazon Ultra HD via my Genelecs. Great sound just makes you feel good, makes you believe the artist is literally in the speakers, there is no scrim, no noise, no distortion blocking the way.

Check “Earth and Water Song” out, but “One Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba” is completely different, yet even better. You’ve got Frampton’s guitar sound, one only an electric can give, that combo of axe and amp with a slight effect…I know this sound, it’s rock DNA, and Steve Marriott’s vocal. And a hook, a riff. And this is almost a completely unknown cut. It sounds like the boogie of the era, but this is on a level above Foghat, who I’ve come to love, but this is Steve Marriott, one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, and Frampton’s guitar, is that an ES-335 or a Les Paul or..?

It’s so basic, so old, yet it’s a revelation. How did the band make an album like this? It’s not like there’s a single. They obviously just went into the studio and laid down what they did, got a representation of their sound so they could go on tour. But “One Eyed Trouser Snake” is more than that, the kind of cut that has you dancing around in your underwear, one that you cannot sit still for during its playback, it just makes you feel good.

And “trouser snake” is a British expression. Not that others cannot understand it, but it’s never used on this side of the pond. And sure, the lyrics are not sophisticated, kind of base, but they’re superfluous, this cut is purely about the sound. How did we lose this? Where did we go wrong? Did metal become so obscure, did the soft rockers become so bogus, did credible acts like Rod Stewart cut standards to stay alive to the point where basic rock and roll evaporated in the avalanche of hip-hop and pop? Would kids really not get this? “One Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba” cannot be ignored, you might insist it be taken off, otherwise you’re on board, nearly immediately. It’s fifty years old, but it still sounds fresh, maybe because it’s just the basics, no frills, no filing off of the rough edges, you can hear the humanity of the playing.

I won’t say I thought I’d heard everything, but something like that, I didn’t think there were that many gems buried, that I was still unaware of. And the truth is most of those records, however big, from the seventies will be forgotten. But “Molten Gold” will be remembered, it’s a blueprint, as great as Paul Rodgers is, and he is, it evidences Paul Kossoff’s talent, Peter Green has been lionized, but Kossoff has not yet gotten his due, even though he wrote one of the most iconic riffs in rock music history with “All Right Now,” but have you listened to “The Stealer”?

This is archaeology. This is life. There will be no renaissance. This is just for you. Not social media. Play these tracks, they just might reach you, they might just give you joy, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for?


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