Tumbleweed Connection was Elton John’s third album. It was recorded and released in 1970. It contained ten tracks. It went to #5 on the album charts. So here’s a trivia question: which was the highest charting single from the album? Was it “Where to Now St. Peter?” “Burn Down The Mission?” Or “Amorena” the song that played over the opening credits of the Al Pacino film “Dog Day Afternoon”? The answer is: none of the above. And it wasn’t any of the other seven tracks which most listeners of a certain age know almost by heart. As it turns out there were no charting singles from the album. So how is it we know all these songs if they weren’t hit singles? First they were ubiquitous on FM rock radio. This raises the question: how come?
And the answer is: there’s not a bad track on the album. Here’s another bit of trivia: During the sessions for Tumbleweed Connection they also recorded a couple of versions of “Madman Across The Water” which would turn out to be the title track for Elton’s next album. But they didn’t use any if the original versions; they rerecorded it in 1971 with Rick Wakeman guesting on the organ. But today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl features one of the versions from the Tumbleweed Connection sessions, though I’m not sure which one owing to some ambiguously written liner notes. The version we’ll play is nearly nine minutes long with a couple of passages that are so quiet you might think the song is fading out. And that’s where we’ll fade into and out of the “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” a couple of times. At the back end of the set, a song by Ballinjack that I’ve been wanting to play for a long time, from their third album we’ll hear “Try To Relax.” But we’re going to start with one from the album Rolling Stone ranked as #206 on the list of the 500 greatest albums: From Tea For The Tillerman, here’s a “Hard Headed Woman.”
|Cat Stevens||Hard Headed Woman|
|Elton John||Madman Across The Water (part 1)|
|Traffic||Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (part 1)|
|Elton John||Madman Across The Water (part 2)|
|Traffic||Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (part 2)|
|Ballinjack||Try To Relax|
From the album Special Pride, that’s Ballinjack, a group founded in 1969 in Seattle by Luther Rabb and Ronnie Hammon. They had a minor hit on their first album, a song called “Super Highway” and another track from that record, “Found A Child,” also got some play on FM rock radio. Ballinjack played at all the big music festivals in the early 70s and they opened for Jimi Hendrix on the Cry of Love tour but they never broke through to a wider audience for reasons we’ll never know. At the other end of the set, we heard “Hard Headed Woman” but not the one Elvis recorded for King Creole in 1958, instead we went with Cat Stevens from his 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman.
In between those two, we did a little hand mixing in and out of Traffic’s “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” and one of the versions of “Madman Across The Water” that was recorded during the sessions for Tumbleweed Connection, a year before the Madman album came out. The version that ended up as the title track for album was about six minutes long; the version we were playing with was closer to nine minutes and may (or may not) have featured Mick Ronson on the guitar. The liner notes are unclear. And by the way, for the sake of truth-in-advertising, we played Madman off the Tumbleweed Connection CD since that’s the only place you can find it. Everything else in the set was strictly vinyl. By the way, if you see something that looks like a star and it’s shooting up out of the ground, and your head is spinning from a loud guitar you’ve probably been in the Way Back Studios.
And if you’re looking for the set lists or the show commentaries or the photos you’ve heard so much about, drop by my website or the Way Back Studios Facebook page. They’re all linked together for your convenience. I’m Bill Fitzhugh and I’ll be back with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl sooner or later and I hope you’ll join us, right here, in the Deep Tracks.