Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Some things about 'D.O.A.' just can't be explained

1970: Grundy, Pickens, Hill in back; Taylor, Rutledge, Cobb in front

Kind of a funny thing happened the other day when I was preparing to write a piece about the weird song that made Bloodrock a one-hit wonder.

I had my Pandora shuffle station going for awhile when "D.O.A." suddenly appeared. It was the first time in awhile that I had heard that song, and it got me to reminiscing. Bloodrock when I was in high school a half-century ago had become the one band not called The Doors that I most obsessed over. These guys from Forth Worth, TX, knocked out four really good hard-rock albums in 1970 and 1971, and I got down with them a lot on the air guitar I had secretly stashed in my bedroom.

But one little thing nagged at me persistently for that good year or two that seemed like half a lifetime when you're 17 or 18 years old: I couldn't have a conversation about the excellence of Bloodrock without somebody tossing off some comment about how cool that "D.O.A." song is. "Aaaarrrggghhhh," I would roll my eyes. "That song was kinda dumb. You gotta hear their albums to appreciate the deity of these guys."

So anyway, when "D.O.A." popped up out of the blue the other day, I started thinking that I should probably write something about that. Something along the lines of how one odd song can define a band for all these decades. Maybe do some kind of examination of acts that actually were quite prolific but are thought of as one-hit wonders. Or something.

I was still kicking it around how to approach this when I got this thought: Is "D.O.A." the grisliest hit single ever? I couldn't think of one more gruesome off the top of my head. I thought of "Dead Man's Curve," but nah, that doesn't even qualify. I flashed on a handful of Dr. Demento types like "Monster Mash" that were silly instead of gross. And then I thought of "Timothy," the song about three guys trapped in a collapsed mine who eventually emerged as only two -- which Geezer Bob wrote about awhile back. Close, maybe, but the intensely graphic "D.O.A." wins hands-down.

So I was flying along around the Internet looking for some random information on "D.O.A." that I might use. And all of a sudden, I hit something in the air. Some random bulletin-board poster -- maybe it was a user comment on an AllMusic review of Bloodrock 2 or something, I don't remember now -- pointed this out: "D.O.A." and "Timothy" hovered around the popular-music charts at about the same time.

Nah, can't be, I thought. Let's check this out. And I did. And I had a pretty good chuckle when I landed in the Billboard archives and learned that "D.O.A." and "Timothy" not only entered the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week -- the one ending Jan. 2, 1971 -- but they debuted right next to each other. "D.O.A." checked in at No. 94, and "Timothy" edged it out at No. 93.

That got me to wondering: What in the heck was happening in the world during the 1970 holiday season that prompted kids to lay down their cash for these two rather gruesome songs? It was midway through Nixon's first term, a good while after the first moonwalk helped erase the stench of the riots and assassinations a couple years earlier. It would be another few months before Watergate became news. I did a little digging, but I could find nothing specific right at that time that would have had the mood of our nation's teen-agers on tilt. 

So who knows? I'm left to conclude that sometimes a gurney is just a gurney. No particular reason for this pop-charts oddity that a half-century later created this ironic wrinkle in our little Geezerology corner of the universe.

The only thing I know for certain about this is that it sure got me distracted from writing about how "D.O.A." might have been both a blessing and a curse for those kick-ass rockers from North Texas.

Maybe some other time. Or, well, maybe not. I've already spent enough time writing about that creepy song that has become a Halloween staple.

The story behind the song: "D.O.A." times in at 8:30 on Bloodrock 2, released in October 1970. It was edited down to 4:32 for the single release. All six band members -- singer Jim Rutledge, lead guitarist Lee Pickens, rhythm guitarist Nick Taylor, keyboardist Stephen Hill, bassist Ed Grundy and drummer Rick Cobb -- are credited as songwriters. Pickens explained the inspiration for the song: “When I was 17, I wanted to be an airline pilot," he said in 2005, according to Wikipedia. "I had just gotten out of this airplane with a friend of mine, at this little airport, and I watched him take off. He went about 200 feet in the air, rolled and crashed.”

A weird obsession? "D.O.A." wasn't the first Bloodrock song about impending death. "Timepiece," on the self-titled debut, released in March 1970, is sung from the point of view of an inmate counting down the moments to his execution. That one was a cover of a 1968 song by the Churls, a Canadian band that released a couple albums on A&M Records. 

The aftermath: "D.O.A." rode the Hot 100 for 10 weeks, disappearing almost immediately after it peaked at No. 36 in March 1971. Rutledge and Pickens left the band sometime in late '71 or early '72. (I cannot find any documented reason for their departures.) Capitol Records released the two-disc Bloodrock Live in May '72, apparently to complete a contract. A reformed Bloodrock dropped a couple of prog albums in November '72 and April '74 that went nowhere, and the band vanished after that. As far as I can tell, none of the guys had a noteworthy post-Bloodrock music career outside of their hometown. Rutledge, Pickens, Taylor, Hill and Grundy reunited in 2005 for a concert to help Hill pay medical expenses after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Taylor's son Chris played drums. (I can't find any documented reason for Cobb's absence.) Nick Taylor died in an automobile accident in 2010, and Hill succumbed to leukemia in 2013. Rutledge self-published an album in January 2013 with Fort Worth guitarist John Nitzinger titled Bloodrock 2013 that included reworkings of several legacy Bloodrock songs, including "D.O.A." Nitzinger was a friend of the band in the early days who wrote several songs that appeared on Bloodrock albums.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Spammers will not be tolerated. You casino scammers will be reported immediately and your comments deleted.