October 8, 2012

20,000 Vinyl LPs 12: The Family Dogg & Sixto Rodriguez

photo by Rom Salicki
I started the Vinyl LP series because I have over 20,000 albums I am selling; each blog entry is about an album from my collection. Inquire for more information.
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In 1972, The View From Rowland's Head by a British group, The Family Dogg, was released.

 (click on any image to see slideshow)
 illustration art by 
Steve Thomas Associates
photo of album cover by Styrous®

Late in 1973 I bought Roland's Head because I was snagged by the graphics (what a surprise!). 

My favorite song from the album is a fantastic and utterly unique rock song, Riker's Island, by Albert Hammond, Michael Hazlewood and Steve Rowland. A syncopated, anvil-like beat starts the song off. The singer is a man in a cell of the infamous prison looking through the bars of his cell at Manhattan. He sings of the horror of prison, the women he's known, the things he's seen and the judge/system that put him there. As the song nears the end it reaches a crescendo of jittery, dissonant, electronic noise/sounds that are an audio reflection of the lights coming on in the velvety dusk as the city descends into night and madness engulfs his mind. Not a pretty but a thought-provoking song! The only song to surpass it is A Day In the Life by The Beatles. By the way, the history of Riker's Island is an incredible topic to read about!

One of the songs on the album, "I Wonder", by Sixto Rodriguez, turned out to have special significance for me at the time I bought it. I had just broken up a love affair because of the wandering eye of my partner at that time (not uncommon, the early seventies was the age of free-love, after all). The affair had involved my moving to Canada to live (love makes you do crazy stuff), so, it was a pretty big deal.

The lyrics of I wonder were particularly pertinent to my situation:

I wonder how many times you've been had
And I wonder how many plans have gone bad
I wonder how many times you had sex
And I wonder do you know who'll be next
I wonder I wonder wonder I do

I wonder about the love you can't find
And I wonder about the loneliness that's mine
I wonder how much going have you got
And I wonder about your friends that are not
I wonder I wonder wonder I do

I wonder about the tears in children's eyes
And I wonder about the soldier that dies
I wonder will this hatred ever end
I wonder and worry my friend
I wonder I wonder wonder don't you?

I wonder how many times you been had
And I wonder how many dreams have gone bad
I wonder how many times you had sex
And I wonder do you know who'll be next
I wonder I wonder wonder I do

I returned to San Francisco when the affair was over and as I listened to the song over and over again in the days, weeks and months following the breakup, I wondered and it became the song for my life at that moment in time. I wept my bitter tears but I kept listening to the song and I kept wondering. And as I wondered and listened I enjoyed the visual pleasures of the album itself.



I loved

 the album 

when opened




 
it was a gatefold album cover
photo of album cover by Styrous®

gatefold album cover interior
photo of album cover interior by Styrous®



flash forward 39 years later . . .



I was watching 60 Minutes last night and they had an article on a "lost" musician named, Rodriguez. His music had reached mythic proportions in South Africa, where he was more popular than Elvis or the Beatles. He'd never been there. No one there knew anything about him. It seems there was a story that he'd set himself on fire onstage during a performance. Even when word spread that he had died, his records continued to sell. South Africans called him the soundtrack to their lives (ironic that one of his songs was for me as well). The amazing part of the story was that no one (except me, apparently) in the United States had ever heard of him. Rodriguez, now 70, was living in poverty in Dearborn, MI, completely unaware of his 40 years of fame.

The television show made me dig into my record collection for the The Family Dogg album because it had six songs on it by Rodriquez, including the one I'd cried over for so many nights.

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez was born on July 10, 1942, in Detroit, MI. He was the son of an immigrant worker from Mexico. Motown producer, Dennis Coffey, discovered him in the late 1960's and co-produced Rodriguez' first album, "Cold Fact".

 Cold Fact album
Ransier and Anderson – photography

The first and second album got good reviews but bombed in the United States and he went into obscurity here. But Rodriguez had become an icon in South Africa. It was the 1970s and under apartheid political repression was at its height. Rodriguez's lyrics resonated with people who were fed up with the system. Stephen "Sugar" Segerman said, "We didn't know what the word anti-establishment was until it cropped up on a Rodriguez song. And then we found out it's OK to protest against your society, to be angry with your society." Rodriguez didn't know his records had been selling like wildfire in South Africa. He never saw a penny from them.

In 1997, Segerman set up a website, called 'The Great Rodriguez Hunt', with the intention of finding information about the mysterious US musician of 'Cold Fact' fame. In the same year Brian Currin established 'Climb Up On My Music', a tribute site to the life and works of Rodriguez. When Rodriguez was "found", both sites were combined into the Rodriguez website.

Then, in 1998, his fans invited him to tour South Africa. During the sold-out concerts, his fans knew and sang the lyrics to his songs. He finally received the adulation that should have been his for so many years. Unfortunately, when he returned to the US, none of this came back with him and he once more sank into obscurity until a new film project was born.

Four years ago, a Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, heard about Rodriguez and decided to shoot a documentary about him. The film, now captivating audiences across the country, is being talked about as a possible candidate for an Academy Award. It's released by Sony Pictures Classics and called "Searching for Sugar Man." Bendjelloul said, "This might be one of the best stories I ever heard. It was like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, or something like that. I never heard a story in my life that was so close to one of those classic fairytales, and had such a wonderful soundtrack, too. You know, it was just-- I was just ah -- I just fell in love with this story."





so, back to The Family Dogg


Besides, I Wonder, The View From Rowland's Head, featured five other songs by Rodriguez: "Like Janis", and "Crucify Your Mind" . . .

photo of record label by Styrous®


 . . . "Inner City Blues", "Forget It" and "Advice to Smokey Robinson".

photo of record label by Styrous®


 Chris Spedding* was session guitarist on the album
 and Madeline Bell* sang backup vocals
 photo of album cover detail by Styrous®


photo of album cover detail by Styrous®

The Family Dogg line-up for The View from Roland's Head was:

Steve Rowland (vocals, guitar, drums)
Albert Hammond (vocals, guitar)
Mike Hazlewood (vocals, guitar)
Gary Taylor (bass, guitars)
Ireen Sheer (vocals)
Sue Lynn (backing vocals)
Chris Spedding (guitars)
Alan Parker (guitars)
Barry Morgan (drums)
Doug Wright (drums)
Tony Carr (percussion)
Phil Dennys (piano, organ)
Christine Holmes (vocals)
P. P. Arnold (vocals)
Doreen De Veuve (vocals)
Pam "Zooey" Quinn (vocals)


* Madeline Bell sang back up for Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Donna Summer (who died this year in May), the French disco group Space, Georgio Moroder and many, many others.


The Family Dogg originated, in Madrid, Spain in 1965 when Steve Rowland and Albert Hammond met. Throughout their career, some of Family Dogg's guest musicians included: Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Elton John (piano), Alan Parker (guitars), Barry Morgan (drums) and PP Arnold (vocals)


Videos

I made a video of The Family Dogg's "Riker's Island" which can be viewed on YouTube.
A medley of "I Wonder", "Ryker's Island", "Like Janis" and "Crucify Your Mind" sung by The Family Dogg can be heard on YouTube.
"I wonder" sung by Rodriguez can be heard on YouTube.
Other songs by Sixto Rodriguez can be heard on YouTube.
Rodriguez did a performance of "I Wonder" at Amoeba Music, a record store in Berkeley. The performance can also be seen on You Tube.

Thanks to Sixto for writing the great tunes and to the Dogg for playin' 'em. I still love them even after 40 years.

And, yes, I still wonder.

The entire collection is for sale. Interested? Contact Styrous®


Styrous ~ October 8, 2012



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2 comments:

  1. The Family Dogg official YouTube channel:

    www.youtube.com/user/TheFamilyDogg

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes Riker's Island has great production and a social conscience like much of the album. My favourite track is Crucify Your Mind for its melancholy and bleakness.

    ReplyDelete

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