Before They Were Great: Thoughts On the Pre-History of Legends

The other day, Adam commented on the blog about the early efforts of rock stars, and how many of the artists we regard as creative titans started out in unlikely places.

He mentioned Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, whose pre-stardom employment included a stint with Jay and the Americans, work at ABC/Dunhill as staff songwriters, and this soundtrack to a low-budget Richard Pryor film from 1971.

The soundtrack isn’t genius – Becker apparently once said that the two did it for the money – but those who love Steely Dan will find it more than momentarily interesting. It’s an artifact from the prehistory, a snapshot of the gifted tandem (and the tremendous guitarist Denny Diaz) at the moment when it’s just beginning to find its stride. Just before Can't Buy A Thrill. That got me thinking: There must be other artifacts of “prehistory” that offer insight into the development of well known singers, composers, performers. If you’ve got one you’d like to share, please feel free. And please include any relevent information – release year, label, whether or not it’s commercially available.

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Comments:

#1 from Adam, New Jersey - 05/14/2009 6:36

Lou Reed was also a Brill Building writer.  Apparently he lead a band called the Primitives.  See the WFMU blog:  http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/07/the-ostrich-mp3.html

Jimmy Page also did a lot of session work (including sitting in on the Who’s I Can’t Explain).

Best of all, perhaps, Leonard Cohen was a published author while Bob Dylan was still going to Hibbing High.

Food for thought - you can purchase tickets to see Steely Dan in Las Vegas later on this summer.  Plus ca change.

#2 from Roger Williamson, Cabot, Arkansas - 05/16/2009 7:31

In the listing for The Allman Brothers Band: Live at Fillmore East you list one of the key tracks as Midnight Rider. Of course it isn’t on Fillmore East but Idlewild South, if I’m not mistaken. Also, that story about Duane hitting a peach truck sounds fishy, but I’ll take your word for it. Still, it wasn’t the peach truck that killed him. I read in a recent biography of Duane that he died from the injuries he sustained when his motorcyle landed on him after he lost control of it swerving to avoid hitting a truck, peach or whatever. Nevertheless, I like your book. I’ve bought a few of the LPs you recommend, and they’re all very good.

#3 from Mike Lizotte, Oshkosh Wisconsin - 06/08/2009 5:11

Stevie Ray Vaughan makes a recognizable impact on David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” (1983).  Blues fans might find the record difficult to listen through, but it is amazing to think that SRV would be the choice for an English glam rocker’s 1980’s monster dance hit record.  The guitar is so clear and his rhythms so foreign to this genre, that it ranks up there with other pop records that added a World Music master to make their sound unique.

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