Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen
Live from Ebbetts Field (Denver Colorado) August 11, 1973
Putting out a live concert album 43 years after the gig certainly reduces the immediacy of the project. But Commander Cody (George Frayne) led one of those early county-rock bands that used boogie-woogie, county, jump blues and swing to express rock and roll energy, and they still resonate. They also had some of the coolest album covers ever, and expanded the musical vistas of the pot smoking boys and girls across America. And just so you know, this “Ebbetts Field” is a bar in Denver and not a baseball park farther east.
This show was broadcast over the radio, and this tape survives. While the sound is marginal, the energy rocks. I suspect this was a two track tape off the mix board; and the publicist approved rumor is this concert circulated as a bootleg for years. As a historical note, today all you do is rip a CD, but in the day people made tape recordings of concerts and if lucky knew someone who could someone actually pressed them onto vinyl. Sound quality was all over the place, but there was a very high cool factor. This recording could well be from that linage. There are pops and mike drop outs, loud passages are often distorted, and the equalization is, to be kind, unique.
But all those sins fade when you hear the energy and fun behind this concert. They play the old time classics (“Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Rave On,” and “Jailhouse Rock”). They do their own semi-classics (“Mama Hated Diesel” and “Daddy’s Drinking’ Up Our Christmas”). There’s a Cajun favorite “Diggy Liggy” and even some sad songs (“All I Have To Offer You” and “4 or 5 Times”). Sure, the mikes drop out, the Commander gets distracted and leaves gaps in the intros, and the band blasts the amps into distortion. But that’s what old time rock is all about: execution over form, energy over technique, and fun over sobriety. Relive the childhood I never had, and remember their mantra: “Smoke, smoke, Smoke that Cigarette, Even If You Smoke Yourself to Death.” And then pass it around…