A pun I’ll admit – as you can’t Fireballet on Focus. And somehow the James Gang doesn’t fit in there but will in the show.
That brings us to compositional length. In the early to mid 1960s, most radio material seldom exceeded 3 minutes. That all changed with commercial Progressive FM radio in the latter part of that decade.
The James Gang took advantage of it as did the Dutch rock group Focus. Fireballet, unlike Focus, was a distant stepchild in radio airplay - if they received any at all. Still the N.J. group did a stunning setting of Night on Bald Mountain mixing in a healthy dose of Debussy. Like many others in N.Y., my first focus on Focus came from their FM hit Hocus Pocus. It was a grand decade of Mahahvisnu Orchestra, Tull, Traffic, Gentle Giant, the Dregs and others who threw song time to the wind and simply created.
But even in that context, FM began its mild revolt. The angry rabble of $$$ reared its head demanding more of its troops in the air and less of music’s. I never recall hearing Focus’ Eruption on the radio (you will this saturday night). I don’t like the term de-volution but that is where we are in product nowadays – commercial radio wants mindless pap that will wrap around ads. We’re now in that down curve again (outside of public radio) where stations boast 50 minute blocks commercial free. Wow. We do 59 minutes or the max. With studio technology those who call themselves “recording artists” don’t even need to sing in pitch – its all taken care of in the mix. A far cry from prog rock virtuosi who dominated the late ’60s into the 1970s and are still remembered for their efforts. So this week our spotlight shines on the past efforts of Focus, Fireballet and the James Gang. It could be a trip down memory lane... or... an education. And an hour of unrestrained creativity as the artists, not corporate suits, saw fit.
The Electric Croude airs every late Saturday at midnight EDT on WCVE Public Radio and streams simultaneously on ideastations.org/radio.
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