“Nobody give me trouble, cause they know I got it made”
HMO salutes Dusty Hill who has passed away aged 72. The first album I spun today to celebrate his life was my favourite ZZ Top album Degüello. And I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide is one of my very favourite ZZ Top tunes. It’s the kind of cruising, carefree rock they did so well. Stonesy chords, gutsy guitar and the coolest lyrics: “a bluesman in the back and a beautician at the wheel”. And best of all, Dusty powering the song to a close with a bottom end of monstrously filthy proportions. He was the baddest and waaay more than merely nationwide. A phenomenal bassist, singer and songwriter with a classic career of over 50 years and the owner of one of music’s most famous beards, Dusty was absolutely global.
HMO salutes Pete Way who has sadly just passed away aged 69. He’d played in a few different acts and as a solo artist but round these parts he’ll always be the iconic, polka-dotted delinquent in UFO. I’d usually use a post like this to highlight some sort of instrumental prowess but he wasn’t really that kind of player. His main thing was being larger than life. Cool as fuck outfits. Cool as fuck posing. But that’s not to put down his musical abilities. His playing gave UFO’s songs a good kick up the arse and he was a talented writer too. Check out Too Much Of Nothing. It’s a rare example of a UFO tune that was solely written by Way. Taken from their 1975 album Force It, it’s a dirty down-trodden rocker with a carefree lift in its chorus. And there’s a good bit of the Way persona in the lyrics: overdoses, habits, just rolling along. It’s not one of the band’s standout moments but it’s a great deep cut and it holds its own on an album that is stacked to the gills with classics. So there was more to Way than just throwing shapes. But still… there’s a reason I own a Firebird bass. Because Pete Way was cool as fuck.
HMO salutes Peter Green, who has died aged 73. There are many superb tunes I could pick as a tribute to the gifted guitarist, vocalist and founder of Fleetwood Mac. I toyed with Sandy Mary, Oh Well, Jumping At Shadows, Man Of The World and I Loved Another Woman: all personal faves. But given this is a metal site I’m going to go with The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown). Even if you’re not familiar with Fleetwood Mac, I’m sure you all know this song from Judas Priest’s cover versions on Hell Bent For Leather and Unleashed In The East. They turned it into a great souped-up rocker and their interpretation is very enjoyable. But I don’t think this song was really intended to be enjoyable. It was written during a period of LSD-induced mental health struggles and was inspired by a particularly vivid nightmare which Green interpreted as being about the evil of money and success. The Mac version is as dark, ominous and anguished as its subject matter. Doubly so on this extended live take recorded in Boston in 1970. It’s a musical dark night of the soul. Enjoy!
HMO salutes Paul ‘Tonka’ Chapman who recently passed away aged 66. The Welsh guitarist had played with the Irish Skid Row, Lone Star, Waysted and others but he was most famous as the guitarist that replaced Michael Schenker in UFO. An unforgivable task that Tonka proved more than equal to: recording albums like The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent that remain fan favourites.
I was tempted to pick one of that album’s songs as a tribute but I decided to go for an older, and geekier, recording. After Schenker debuted with UFO on 1974’s Phenomenon the band decided to draft in a second guitarist for live duties and, for a brief period that year, the band featured both Schenker and Tonka on lead guitar! This fascinating and short-lived lineup can be heard on this BBC live recording from London. Rock Bottom was always a live centrepiece due to its extended soloing and here you get to hear both Schenker and Tonka trading wonderful solos. Chapman kicks his off at the 4:25min mark. It’s a cool, wah-tinged solo that makes jazzy use of the passage’s Dorian tonality and there’s a real chemistry between the two guitarists. Chapman was nicknamed ‘Tonka’ because, like the steel toys, he was thought to be indestructible, and he certainly sounded it here.
HMO salutes Bob Kulick who recently passed away, aged 70. He was a veteran session musician who played with tons of great artists and was also known as a producer of star-studded tribute albums. But my main knowledge of him comes from his stint in the short-lived Blackthorne (with vocalist Graham Bonnet) and his involvement with KISS.
Bob was almost recruited to be the original KISS guitarist in 1973 before a certain Ace Frehley staggered in and snatched the job from him. But due to Ace’s rock n’ roll unreliability and wavering levels of commitment to the band, KISS occasionally invited Bob into the studio to replace Ace. Kulick was talented enough to not just mimic Frehley’s playing but also make it sound like Ace was at the top of his game!
Nowhere To Run is my favourite KISS song Bob appeared on. And one of my favourite KISS songs full stop. One of four new songs recorded for the 1982 compilation album Killers, it’s a classic example of Paul Stanley at his rocking and romantic best. The main riff and chorus is totally anthemic, the verses are heroic and impassioned and Stanley sings at the top of his range, giving his voice a cracked sound and vibrato that is just one of my favourite sounds ever. And Bob Kulick helps put the song right over the edge into absolute bliss with his lead playing. By now he was being given more freedom to play his own way but he still attacks this song like Ace would: with tasty, cool, exciting and unforgettable guitar playing.
KISS always said “you wanted the best, and you got the best”. Well, Bob was one of the best.
HMO salutes the pioneer and architect of rock n’ roll Little Richard. I found it almost impossible to decide which song to select for a tribute, since to pick one is to imply that it’s the greatest. But in the mid-to-late 50s Speciality Records era, he released so many classic songs it’s ridiculous. Even narrowing down the selection to songs from his debut album Here’s Little Richard, I’d still have to choose between Ready Teddy, Rip It Up, Slippin’ And Slidin’, Long Tall Sally, Jenny Jenny, and She’s Got It.
What if I narrowed it down to songs with a link with hard rock and metal? There’s the lyrics from Rip It Up and Good Golly Miss Molly winding up in Deep Purple’s seminal Speed King; the drum intro from Keep A Knockin’ that kicks off Led Zep’s Rock N’ Roll; and the cover of Get Down And Get With It that launched Slade’s run of UK hits. “Little Richard,” Lemmy said in a 1994 interview. “That was the first guy I saw where I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
So let’s just start at the beginning of everything: Tutti Frutti. As AC/DC’s Brian Johnson said “there was nothing, and then there was this”. The big bang of rock n’ roll. Souped-up twelve bar boogie woogie, energy, hollering, sex, excitement, outrageousness. It’s timeless. But I could say that about any of the other songs I’ve mentioned in this post.