Back in middle school, my dream was to become a disc jockey at a radio station. Now, that dream was in extreme contrast to what my mother wanted me to become and that was a dentist or a physician. Granted, I did possess some qualities that would have made me a good prospect for all three of those professions. So, when I discovered that DJs were increasingly being told what songs to play, well that went against the artistry I heard on radio stations like Chicago’s WLS-AM. So, that was out.
Next, I realized that I really didn’t want to become a dentist. Let’s simply say that was not my dream. Then the whole physician thing really did appeal to me. For some reason, the whole science part was not an obstacle for me. And, ego-wise, being a physician sounded fulfilling to me. Honestly, however, the whole being a doctor 24/7, whether on call or not, was not my bag, baby. I have a quirk in my personality that requires me to withdraw from humanity and not run toward it. That’s why I could never be a politician even though I love political science.
So, I discovered that I was a paid extrovert, which means that I could be entertaining while conveying the information to others. All of that meant I was born to teach and coach. And, during my down time, I could feed my desire to learn about rock and sports history.
And all of that psychobabble began in 1975. So, let’s get going with the next batch of great albums.
Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975). This album marks the last of the great Elton John albums during his early-Seventies run of classics. And, this was his seemingly most personal album to date. Throughout it, both he and lyricist Bernie Taupin were purging many of the demons that were beginning to plague their lives through the songs on this album. This album was the perfect epithet on an unprecedented run.
Emmylou Harris – Pieces of the Sky (1975). Upon the death of her mentor Gram Parsons, Harris embarked on her legendary career as an unparalleled country singer with this career-defining debut album. Her selection of songs ranged from traditional (the Louvin Brothers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love”) to the sublime (The Beatles’ “For No One”). Today, Harris is considered one of the more important figures in both country music and the current Americana movement.
Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1975). Fleetwood Mac was all ready known as a legendary English blues rock band, having released some of the finest music in the genre during the late-Sixties and early-Seventies. But, the band had become something of a revolving door at guitar, when leader and drummer Mick Fleetwood heard the debut album of a California duo called Buckingham-Nicks. Fleetwood’s genius was the ability to immediately recognize that he needed both parties in a new version of his band. And, the rest, as they say, is history. This version of the Mac became its most well-known and commercially successful, and it all began here on this classic album.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes – Wake Up Everybody (1975). At this juncture in musical history, the smooth R&B sounds of Philly Soul was slowly morphing into disco. And, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes found this transition period to lay down this album over socially conscious lyrics set to a smooth groove. It sounds as if The Spinners teamed with Curtis Mayfield and Barry White to created this beautiful amalgamation.
Heart – Dreamboat Annie (1975). Heart cannot be denied their place in the history books because their creative force was the feminine side of the band. These women were blessed with the skill, ability and talent to navigate through the sleazy sexist world of rock music but to rise amongst the immortals of the world. Lead singer Annie Wilson possesses the most powerful voice in rock’s history, while sister and guitarist is most adept with her Jimmy Page-like playing. Thank God the Wilson sisters broke open that door, setting the stage for the women of the future.
Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow (1975). Just when you think Beck is nothing but a hard rock guitarist, he goes and makes a jazz-rock fusion guitarist’s wet dream. Beck can simply make a guitar sound like a singer. He makes his guitar sign and moan in all the right places while keeping his playing disciplined and innovative. Just a magnificent listen.
Kiss – Alive! (1975). This is the album in which the Kiss Army was assembled. It immediately became my favorite album for most of the year. I don’t care much doctoring was ultimately done to the album (mistakes fixed, crowd noise enhanced, etc.), the packaging and the sound was perfection to every teen boy across the country. And, “Rock and Roll All Nite” is the anthem of 1975.
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975). Physical Graffiti is Led Zeppelin at its most bloated and overindulged, yet it’s most majestic at the same time. Honestly, it’s everything a pre-punk double album should be. Yet, it’s full of immortal songs, led by “Kashmir.” That song alone typifies everything you need to know about this album.
Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975). Creatively, Young seems to have a short attention span, as this album was written and recorded in 1973 in the immediate aftermath of the death of Crazy Horse roadie Bruce Berry. That was the second untimely death in Young’s world in six months, influencing Neil to rip the bandages off his wounds resulting in one of the most mesmerizing albums of his illustrious career. It is a dark trip to take, yet it remains a beautifully poignant trip through one’s grief.
Neil Young – Zuma (1975). After the cathartic exorcising of the demons on Tonight’s the Night, Neil returns to his commercial strengths on this album. And, if you want to hear Young rip through a guitar solo, look no further than “Cortez the Killer.” You gotta admit that Young has had one of the more diverse yet dazzling rock careers of all.
By the way, that album marks the 249th album on my list. Statistically speaking, we are nearly one quarter of the way through this journey. Peace!