We have rules here in the Way Back Studios. We also have exceptions to those rules. More about that in a minute. A few years ago, after long, thoughtful deliberation and a couple of drinks, I reached the conclusion that the music commonly referred to as Classic Rock originated (more-or-less) between 1964 and 1977, roughly from the time of the Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan to the Band’s Last Waltz. For more on that you can read my novel Radio Activity. A little over a decade of music derived from previous decades and previous generations and distinct from what was to come. Around 1977 this era of classic rock began evolving into corporate arena rock while simultaneously being displaced or influenced by punk, new wave, and disco.
As far as I’m concerned, “Classic rock” – in the common use of the phrase – is the music recorded during that time frame by the generation of artists born in the 1940’s: Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Page and Plant – that generation. Musicians who grew up listening to and expanding on the music of two previous generations, the blues men born after the turn of the century, guys like Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters and the generation of rock and roll originators who were born in the 1930’s: guys like Elvis, Duane Eddy, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Regular visitors to the Way Back Studios know that we usually stay within the confines of this definition of classic rock. And that brings us back to what I mentioned at the top because today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl is all about the exceptions to the rules. We don’t usually stray into the mid 80s but here we go. 1985 and 86 saw new albums by Steve Winwood, James Brown, Eric Clapton, and The Pretenders. Of course you can make a good argument that the Pretenders don’t qualify as classic rock artists since they debuted in 1980 and their music was quasi-punk and new wave pop but Chrissie Hynde had all the swagger of Jagger so, for her, we’ll make an exception. The final exception in this set is a group called Guadalcanal Diary who debuted in 1983. Here, they’ll take a riff from the Beatles “I Call Your Name” and turn it into the Fear of God.
|Guadalcanal Diary||Fear of God (part 1)|
|Eric Clapton||It All Depends|
|James Brown||How Do You Stop?|
|Pretenders||Hymn To Her|
|Steve Winwood||The Finer Things|
|Guadalcanal Diary||Fear of God (part 2)|
|The Beatles||I Call Your Name|
Completing a rare set from the mid 1980’s, that’s Guadalcanal Diary, a band out of Marietta, Georgia. We took a track called Fear of God and broke it in half to bookend the set of exceptions to the rules. And yes, that opening guitar lick comes from the Beatles I Call Your Name, a great segue waiting to happen some other time. Before that, the other relative youngster in the set, thirty-five year old Chrissie Hynde at the time, from the Pretenders album, Get Close and the song, Hymn to Her. That’s h-y-m-n, hymn to her.
In the middle of the set, proving this music’s not always a young man’s game, we heard from James Brown who was near sixty when he recorded his album Gravity produced by Dan Hartman who, as it turned out did some background vocal work on forty year old Steve Winwood’s album, Back in the Highlife from which we heard The Finer Things. And in that tangled web we so often weave, that was Steve Winwood playing synthesizer on the James Brown track How Do You Stop?
Elsewhere in the set, forty-something year old Eric Clapton, produced by thirty-something Phil Collins back in 85, the album Behind The Sun, the track It All Depends with Chris Stainton and Peter Robinson doubling up on synthesizers to sound a lot like . . . Steve Winwood. And that concludes our set of exceptions to the rules of the Way Back Studios. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, rooting through the shallower end of the Deep Tracks. Thanks for listening, I’ll be back next time with something else all together right here, on XM 40.