1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1969 – 1971

It’s a fact: What goes up doesn’t always come down. All hell broke loose in the late 60s – early 70s, and in spite of (or maybe because of) the chaos, some remarkable music was made. Equally important, we’re now seeing a phalanx of splinter genres reaching maturity: psychedelic, folk rock, country rock, heavy metal, hard rock, acid rock, jazz fusion, jazz rock, progressive and … Continue reading 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1969 – 1971

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not – The Introduction

Over the years I’ve grown exceedingly skeptical and often dismissive of almost any article, book, or list that promotes something the reader “must do.” You don’t have to do anything. However, if you’re interested in the development of rock music as an artistic, historical and/or social movement, there are more than 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, as declared by the popular coffee … Continue reading 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not – The Introduction

Jukebox Antagonist – Episode 4: The Manager

Back in 2007, I briefly managed a bistro-type joint in an unfamiliar neighborhood of San Francisco. The gig lasted about two months before I went back to waiting tables at my old job, which was infinitely more amenable to my lifestyle. Deeply humbled by failure, I was relieved and yet more determined than ever to escape the restaurant industry, once and for all. Anyway, one … Continue reading Jukebox Antagonist – Episode 4: The Manager

The Johnny Cash Show’s Top 20+ Guest Performances

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Johnny Cash as an example of the songwriter I didn’t want to emulate, and nobody said anything and that’s fine. I meant no disrespect. At all. In fact, he didn’t even write “A Boy Named Sue”; that was Shel Silverstein. There are few people who ever lived that I would say you gotta like, but you gotta like … Continue reading The Johnny Cash Show’s Top 20+ Guest Performances

Bob and Ron’s Record Club Radio Archive – Episode 74

Bob and Ron’s Record Club is a mind-altering substance, and Radio Archive Episode 74 has a speedy edge to the “dose.” The latest episode is a potent, high-energy set of amazing tunes and as always, the Record Club conversations of Bob and Ron. Great tracks from Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Devo, Wet Willy, Tommy James, and many more. Don’t worry about getting into this episode, … Continue reading Bob and Ron’s Record Club Radio Archive – Episode 74

Petrology 101: Stevie Wonder

Music of My Mind (1972)
Music of My Mind (1972)
We’ve reached the end of the 101 course level and over the years it’s become a habit to wrap things up with a couple of inter-related personal anecdotes which speak to the material, in this case, Stevie Wonder’s groundbreaking album, Music of My Mind (1972).

At this point, you should probably stop and ask yourself, “What do I know about Stevie Wonder?” For instance, if you did not know that up until he turned 21 in 1971, he didn’t have artistic control of his music, you should probably go ahead and read this:

[From Wikipedia] (Throughout 1971), Wonder independently recorded two albums, which he used as a bargaining tool while negotiating with Motown. Although Wonder had been producing his own recordings, Motown still retained control over the content. Tensions increased as Wonder approached his twenty-first birthday; his contract had a clause which allowed Wonder to void it upon becoming a legal adult. When [Motown President Berry Gordy] approached Wonder about renegotiating his contract, Wonder refused. Eventually the label agreed to his demands for full creative control and the rights to his own songs. The 120-page contract was a precedent at Motown and gave Wonder a much higher royalty rate. Wonder returned to Motown in March 1972 with Music of My Mind. Unlike most previous albums on Motown, which usually consisted of a collection of singles, B-sides and covers, Music of My Mind was a full-length artistic statement with songs flowing together thematically.
Songs in the Key of Life (1976)
Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

OK, great. Sometime in the winter of 1976-77, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life wound up in my parents’ record collection. At this point, my family had a membership in the Columbia Record Club, and I think Songs happened to be whatever record they sent you each month, and somebody forgot to send it back. This is a theory based only on circumstantial evidence.

The Columbia Record and Tape Club’s terms of membership stipulated that X times per year, the company informed each customer of the “Selection of the Month” album. The customer had to respond within 10 days whether or not he or she wanted to buy the record, which was offered at a discount, provided that the response was received by Columbia House “within the specified time.” Failure to respond resulted in the record being shipped at full list price. So that’s what I’m thinking happened with the Stevie record. It’s either that or my mom heard “Isn’t She Lovely” on the radio and actually ordered the record, which is entirely possible, but not at all in character. She was more of a Barbara Streisand-slash-Neil Diamond type of gal. The old man was into Willie Nelson and Hoyt Axton, so at least we can rule him out of the equation.

Continue reading “Petrology 101: Stevie Wonder”