FMF Episode #45 – Freedom

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DJ: “They may take our lives…but they’ll never take…our freedom!” A classic line from Braveheart right there.  Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of Feel Me Flow!  This week marked the 4th of July holiday of Independence Day in the USA.  July 4th, 1776 was the date that the United States signed and adopted the Declaration of Independence. They were declaring independence from England, or as the teacher in Dazed And Confused says, “a bunch of aristocratic white males didn’t want to pay their taxes”.  Love that. Anyway, in honor of the “land of the free” breaking away from King George’s England we’re going to look into songs about freedom.

Launching off the show is Cream.  Cream was one of those “rock gods” bands that kids would draw logos of on their high school notebooks, especially back in the 70s.  “Clapton Is God” was a tag often spray painted or drawn on things to let everyone know who you truly believed in.  Along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, Clapton and the trio would hammer out some of the heaviest music that had been released.  That is, of course, until those demons from Sabbath showed up.  With one of their most known cuts from 1966’s Fresh Cream, here’s Cream with “I Feel Free”.

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DJ: Syl Johnson‘s debut album Dresses Too Short featured the single “Different Strokes”.  Now you may not know the song by name, or might not even know the song really.  But if you’ve listened to hip-hop from the 90s you’ve more than likely heard the tune being sampled.  Wu-Tang Clan’s “Shame On A Nigga” uses the horns from the end of the track.  Syl’s 1970 sophomore LP Is It Because I’m Black? would yield the title track for sampling, a Beatles cover, and “I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout Freedom” among others.

“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” was written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas in the early 60s.  Billy released his own version on his LP Right Here! Right Now! in 1964 and the song would go on to serve as a Civil Rights movement anthem.  Many artists have covered it over the years, from the famous Nina Simone version to cuts by Levon Helm and Solomon Burke.  We played the latter’s rendition of is from his 1968 LP I Wish I Knew.

Even though Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 at that dreaded age of 27, he had recorded an amazing amount of material that would be released later.  The first material released was compiled for the 1970 LP The Cry Of Love, an album named after the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s final tour.  The only single officially released from the album was “Freedom”.  “Freedom”‘s made its way into Jimi’s legacy catalog and is featured on almost all of his greatest hits compilations now.

The Black Keys took some heavy inspiration from the blues-soul stylings of Jimi. With the release of their 2003 sophomore album Thickfreakness, the band would make the move to Fat Possum Records with Epitaph Records co-releasing it in Europe.  That’s how I discovered them, I remember hearing the title track on the Punk-O-Rama Vol. 8 compilation, one that also featured a recent discovery for me at the time; Atmosphere.

Right around that time was when the “The” garage bands were making their push for the mainstream.  The White Stripes, The Black Keys, The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, and more bands made their way into that scene.  The music was a throwback to the rock and roll days where blues still had an influence.  From the down under wonders The Vines, let’s “Get Free”!

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DJ: Neil Young’s critical American anthem “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World” is one of those songs that suffers from the same fate as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA”.  The chorus is so positive and uplifting sounding that those who don’t bother to listen to the verses don’t pick up on the satirical nature of the song.  One of those unaware morons would be none other than Donald Trump, who used it in his announcement that he will run as a Republican candidate for the 2016 presidency. Man, all the signs sure were there America.  Wait, maybe he chose it because he knew of the dire situation he’d be putting us in.  No way.  Of course, Neil said its use was unauthorized; Bernie Sanders would later use it with authorization.

Chicano Batman helped carry the funky middle of our set with the title track from 2017’s Freedom Is Free.  LA’s grooviest neo-psych-tropics band covered Laura Nyro’s “Stone Soul Picnic” for their 2014 LP Cycles In Existential Rhyme, a tune we featured in our 420 show!

One of Jimi Hendrix’s idols was the great Curtis Mayfield.  Curtis’ songs have been sampled by every damn hip-hop artist alive, I swear.  If not Curtis, its Isaac Hayes.  Of course you should sample this guy, though.  The funky-psych sounds of Curtis’ solo efforts from 1970-1973 are just unmatched in the genre.  From his solo debut LP we took “Wild And Free”.  That solo debut also featured the track “Move On Up”, one Kanye West would sample for his single “Touch The Sky” in 2005.

Before Curtis, we heard the Stones and their 1965 track “I’m Free”.  The song closed out the UK version of Out Of Our Heads, but would be featured as the B-side to “Get Off Of My Cloud” and added to December’s Children (And Everybody’s) in the US.  

Our next set is the Set 3 Set Free set, lol.  A few songs asking to be set free followed by some songs about being set free.  Makes sense to me! From the Burger Records new act The Shivas, we’re gonna play “You’ve Got To Set Me Free”.  It has an eerily familiar guitar riff, almost like an old Kinks track or something.  This tune comes from the Closet Trekkie release Freezing To Death

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DJ: After the release of their third LP Dusk and a recorded performance at Third Man Records in 2016, you’d think Ultimate Painting was just about to get their big break.  Not so much.  As fate would have it the band announced in February of 2018 that they’d be splitting up for good and moving on to new projects, altogether scrapping the unreleased but recorded album Up! We played “I’m Set Free” from that final album.

 We heard a tune from Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground before Ultimate Painting. Their third LP was self-titled but the first not to be produced by bassist John Cale.  Doug Yule would step in and be the band’s mainstay producer until their demise, though he would go on to produce Lou’s solo LP Sally Can’t Dance in 1974.  The Velvet Underground played “I’m Set Free” for us from that third LP.

Triptides were the Set 4 Score of FMF’s The Month episode, one where we played 31 songs in continual order beginning on a Friday.  The band has that perfect neo-psych blend that has become prominent in the last few years, especially from Aussie bands.  We heard “Saturday Far Away” in that episode, but today we’re playing “Set You Free” from their sophomore 2013 LP Predictions.

Did you think that The Kinks’ “Set Me Free” sounded a bit like The Shivas‘ “You’ve Got To Set Me Free”? Something about those sliding minor chords makes me think there’s a connection.  Plus, the songs are almost the same title.  Maybe we can land an InFlowences segment with the band and find out if they were inspired by The Kinks’ tune? From The Kinks’ sophomore 1966 LP Kinda Kinks, that was “Set Me Free”.

Coming up in Set 4, we’ve got some free choice, some free freaks, the band whose breakup still hurts to think about, and a great punk rock Set 4 Score.  Let’s start things off with the Akron, Ohio weirdos Devo.  The title track to their 1980 LP Freedom Of Choice points out the fallacy of freedom of choice.  Is it really a choice between sinking or swimming? The bridge describes a poem in Ancient Rome of a dog who has two bones, picks at one and licks the other until it drops dead.  Great choices, indeed!  From the “Whip It” album, here’s Devo!

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DJ: Yes, all good things must come to an end.  That being said, it sure was a heartbreaker to hear about The Thermals breaking up in 2018.  My wife and I saw them while she was pregnant with our son Rigby and to this day they are his second favorite band.  The first, of course, is The Beatles, being his namesake and all.  From their second-to-last LP Desperate Ground that was The Thermals with “You Will Be Free”.

Diners is the creation of Phoenix, Arizona musician Tyler Broderick.  Diners released their third LP Three via Asian Man Records in 2016.  Mike Park started a record label and began releasing music in 1989 as Dill Records, but officially started Asian Man in May 1996. Asian Man has released music from artists like Alkaline Trio, Smoking Popes, Less Than Jake, Screeching Weasel, and a whole bunch more. With the release of Three, Diners set out on tour in 2018; keep an eye out for them this summer!

In 2000, J. Mascis and Mike Watt partnered with Ron Asheton of The Stooges and George Berzman to drum. Iggy Pop heard about them a few years later and decided to reform The Stooges.  The band would record some new material for Iggy’s solo 2003 LP Skull Ring, but would ultimately release a brand new, Steve Albini produced, Abbey Road mastered album in 2007 called The Weirdness.  From that reunion album, we played “Free & Freaky”.

Our Set 4 Score this week goes to the Austin, Texas punk band Flesh Lights.  We’ve now had Flesh Panthers and Flesh Lights as a Set 4 Score feature.  Now if only we could find a band called Panther Lights.  Anyway, Flesh Lights released their debut 7″ in 2010 with the debut LP the following year.  Their sophomore album Free Yourself fits perfectly on your record shelf next to The Only Ones, The Plimsouls, Teenage Fanclub, and other power pop/punk bands.  The difference is, this band can wail when it needs to.

Coming up in our punk/soul set, we’ve got Candi Stanton.  Candi gained major fame in the late 70s with the release of her single “Young Hearts Run Free”.  We’ll play a track from her sophomore LP Stand By Your Man.  Yes, that “Stand By Your Man”.  The title track was a cover of the famous Tammy Wynette tune, though giving it the Rick Hall Fame Studios soul touch sure helped out.  Here’s the album closer “Freedom Is Just Beyond The Door”.

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DJ: Wowzers! Things got pretty intense there for a moment!  The 2001 album from the SoCal punkers Pennywise was their most political one to date. The album featured tracks like “My God” which was obviously about religion, “Fuck Authority” about, well yeah, and the single “The World”.  “The world is a smoking gun that is loaded, soon its gonna blow you away”.  Times haven’t changed, sadly.  Here’s to hope though! From 2001’s Land of the Free?  that was the title track.

NOFX isn’t unfamiliar with the political atmosphere in the punk rock world.  Although they’ve always been critical of politics in some way or another, they turned up the heat when Dubya was elected.  Fat Mike formed the punk voter movement to get Bush out of office but to no avail.  Fat Mike also recently got the band in trouble when he made a tasteless joke in Las Vegas about the shooting that had killed 51 people there.  “At least they were country fans” he chuckled.  Even more recently he announced via Instagram that the band has been blacklisted in the US.  We’ll have to see how that pans out.  Either way, I’m still a fan.  They’ve been making tasteless jokes for 30 years now.  It is what it is.  We played “Freedom Like A Shopping Cart” from their 1996 LP Heavy Petting Zoo.

Ricky and Free Weed chimed in with a track from 2015’s Introducing.  Ricky teamed up with Unkle Funkle in 2016 to record an album of 90s cover songs.  Songs like “Black Hole Sun”, “In The Meantime” and “Man In The Box” were true-to-the-original takes after they’d been acid washed in 20-year-old bathwater.   Similar, yet not the same at all. The latter song closed out the album and sounds the vocals remind me of aliens, or giants, or maybe men in boxes.  Who knows; its legit either way.  Totally worth checking out!

James Carr suffered from bipolar disorder for most of his life and struggled with performing live because of it.  He even froze on stage in front of an audience following an overdose of antidepressants in 1979.  Nevertheless, James recorded some phenomenal soul music in the late 60s, including his biggest hit “The Dark End Of The Street“.  He released “Freedom Train” for Goldwax Records in 1968, but the label would close down shortly after leaving him stranded. 

In our last set of the day, we’ll hear a deep cut from the one hit wonder Fontella Bass.  First, though, we’ve gotta get our Tommy fix. Pete Townshend became quite the follower of Mehar Baba in 1967/68, so much so that his music would be influenced by him for the next few years.  Sort of like George Harrison and The Beatles meeting  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and suddenly adding a sitar to their music, haha.  Pete wanted the concept of Tommy to be about expressing the teachings of Mehar Baba.  The character Tommy was deaf and blind, reminiscent of Mehar Baba’s lifelong silence observation.  Yep, he stayed silent for like 40 years. Anyway, here’s “I’m Free” from Tommy.

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DJ: A few years before that epic scene in Braveheart when Mel Gibson’s character William Wallace screams “freedom”, Zack de la Rocha had already perfected the execution.  The passion behind both yelps was the same, free from oppression.  Rage’s “Freedom” music video was focused on the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM).  Leonard has been the subject of many freedom rights activists’ fights since his incarceration in the late 70s.  As of now, he’ll be in jail for the rest of his life.

Jack White dropped by with his “Freedom At 21” single, the third released as solo material from his debut album.  The single was released during Jack’s creative release phase after starting Third Man Records.  1000 Flexi-Disc “Freedom At 21” singles were attached to blue helium-filled balloons and released into the wild.  According to statistics noted by Third Man, roughly 10% of similar balloon releases were recovered.  According to Discogs, only 37 people own the record.  I’d venture a guess that closer to 100-200 copies were found.  What a waste!

Fontella Bass smoothed out the middle of our set.  You might know her 60s Motown-esque classic “Rescue Me“.  On her solo follow-up album to the smash debut, the 1972 LP Free,  she got more political and civil rights movement inspired, with tracks titled “To Be Free”, “My God, My Home, My Freedom”, and “Talking About Freedom”.  Let’s get some of that freedom with that last one.  Here’s the smooth voice of Fontella Bass and “Talking About Freedom”.

Ty Segall’s aura practically lives here at FMF.  Cheers to him for helping bring back the garage rock that started to fade away as the 21st Century chugged along.  The 2018 release Freedom’s Goblin saw Ty and his backing band The Freedom Band covering an old Hot Chocolate 1978 track; “Every 1’s A Winner”.  We took “I’m Free” from Ty and The Freedom Band’s Freedom’s Goblin. OMG, all that FREE!

Alright everyone, that about does it for us today.  We hope you enjoyed the two-hour freedom fest that was, even though you may be on freedom overload from the Independence Day celebrations earlier this week.  Or maybe you were like me and stayed home to write instead.  Have a great day and we’ll see you next time on Feel Me Flow! 

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