COMMANDER CODY AND HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN-COMMANDER CODY AND HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN/TALES FROM THE OZONE/WE’VE GOT A LIVE ONE HERE.

COMMANDER CODY AND HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN-COMMANDER CODY AND HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN/TALES FROM THE OZONE/WE’VE GOT A LIVE ONE HERE.

By 1975, it was all change for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. After releasing four albums for Paramount, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen moved to Warner Bros. They were hoping this would mark a change in Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen fortunes. Their story began in 1967 Ann Arbor, Michigan.

That was when George Frayne and John Tichy decided to form a new band. This was nothing new. The pair had been in bands since 1964. However, by 1967, they wanted to form a band that reflected their shared interest in the different sub-genres of country music. Their new band they called Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, after the character in a 1952 Flash Gordon film. With a name for their new band, all George Frayne and John Tichy needed were some musicians.

Soon, they were joined by a rhythm section of drummer John Copley; double bassist John Farlow and rhythm guitarist Steve Schwartz. They were joined by Steve Davis on pedal steel guitar; Andy Stein on fiddle; Billy C. Farlow on harmonica and lead guitarist and vocalist Bill Kirchen. This was the first lineup of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and lasted until 1968.

The first lineup of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen proved a popular live band, and played mostly around the Ann Arbor area. However, soon, the band’s future was in jeopardy, when George Frayne accepted a job as assistant professor or art at Wisconsin State University.

Wisconsin was seven hours away from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the rest of the band lived. Despite this, George Frayne made a fourteen hour round trip to play live with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. However, when Bill Kirchen moved to San Francisco in 1968, the band’s future was at stake.

After Bill Kirchen moved to San Francisco, it looked like the Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen story was over. Then after a summer living in San Francisco, Bill Kirchen convinced George Frayne, Steve Davis and Billy C. Farlow to join him. The three friends resigned from their jobs and moved to San Francisco, where they discovered country and folk was enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

It looked as if Lady Luck was smiling on the four friends, and before long, they began putting together the second line-up of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. New members were recruited, including drummer Lance Dickerson and bassist Paul “Buffalo” Bruce Barlow. With a new rhythm section in tow, the second lineup of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen began to establish a reputation in San Francisco.

For the next two years, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen played all over San Francisco. It was then that Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen began to use country rock as a starting point for their ‘sound’. To that, they added jump blues, rockabilly, rock ’n’ roll, Western swing and combine them with boogie woogie piano. This genre-melting sound proved popular, as Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen met some of the leading lights of city’s music scene.

This included Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt and promoter Bill Graham, who asked Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen to audition for him. That was where The Grateful Dead saw Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and asked them to open for them in August 1969. After a year in the city,  Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were already rising stars of San Francisco’s thriving and vibrant music scene.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, January 1970 found Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in Detroit, playing a benefit show for the John Sinclair Defence Fund. The venue was the Eastown Ballroom, in Detroit. That was where Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, MC5, Mitch Ryder and The Rationals all played their part in raising $8,000 for the John Sinclair Defence Fund. However, this wasn’t the last benefit show Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen would appear at for the John Sinclair Defence Fund. They returned in December 1971. By then, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen had signed to Paramount and released their debut album.

When Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen signed to Paramount in 1971, they were a popular draw in San Francisco’s live scene. Paramount must have been hoping that the band’s popularity would translate into record sales. 

Lost In The Ozone.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s debut album from Paramount was Lost In The Ozone, which was released in November 1971. Most of the reviews of Lost In The Ozone were positive, and this augured well for the release of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s debut album. 

On the release of Lost In The Ozone, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s genre-melting album reached number eighty-two in the US Billboard 200 and seventy-five in Canada. The album also featured two hit singles. 

When Lost In The Ozone was released as the lead single, it failed to chart. The followup, Hot Rod reached number nine in the US Billboard 100. Then  Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar reached eighty-one on the US Billboard 100. For Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, the success of Lost In The Ozone was regarded as a starting point and something they could build upon. 

Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favourites.

Six months after the release of their debut album, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen returned with their sophomore album Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favourites. It was described “as an ode to truckers.” Each of twelve tracks were either about trucking, or perceived by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen as favourites of truckers. However, how would Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favourites be received by non-truckers?

On its release in May 1972, the reviews of Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favourites were mostly favourable. A few critics felt that Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favourites didn’t match the quality of music on Lost In The Ozone. Record buyers had the casting vote. 

Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favourites reached just ninety-four in the US Billboard 200 charts, and never troubled the Canadian charts. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s sophomore album hadn’t matched the success of his debut album. Their third album looked like being an important album in Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s nascent recording career.

Country Casanova.

A year passed before Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen returned with their third album Country Casanova. It was released in May 1973, and proved a controversial album.

The controversy surrounded Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s cover version of Everybody’s Doin’ It. It transpired that Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen dropped the F-Bomb several times during the song. Later, George Frayne claimed that the Modern Mountaineers’ original version verbatim. By then, Everybody’s Doin’ It had been banned by several country stations. This meant a large part of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s target audience weren’t hearing their music. For Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen this was a minor disaster.

When Country Casanova was released in May 1973, the reviews were mostly favourable. Just like with Cold Steel and Truckers Favourites a year earlier, there were a few dissenting voices among critics. They felt Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen had failed to reach the heights of their debut album. Record buyers agreed.

When Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen released Country Casanova, it was their least successful album. It reached 104 in the US Billboard 200. One small crumb of comfort was that Country Casanova reached forty-seven in the US Country charts. Then when Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) was released as a single, it stalled at ninety-four in the US Billboard 100 charts. It must have been a frustrating time for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and executives at Paramount. Country rock was a popular genre, but Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen who were regarded as one of its finest exponents, were still struggling to make a breakthrough after three albums. Little did Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen time was running out for them at Paramount.

Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas.

Although Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s albums weren’t selling in huge quantities, the band was still a popular draw live. That was apart from the time Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen played in country music’s spiritual home, Nashville.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were perceived by the audience as a bunch of long-haired, dope-smoking hippies. They were booed off the stage, with the denizens of Nashville calling Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen “freaks” and telling them to “get a haircut.” Their visit to Nashville hadn’t gone to plan. Fortunately, the Nashville concert wasn’t being recorded for a live album. Instead, a concert recorded in the Lone Star State became Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas.

Recording of Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas took place in November 1973. Just five months later, and Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas was released in March 1973. Reviews were mainly positive, with Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas regarded as a one of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s best albums.

Despite this, when Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas was released in March 1973, the album stalled at just 105 in the US Billboard 200. This was the least successful album of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s Paramount years. Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas was also the final album  Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen released for Paramount. Their next album would be released on Warner Bros.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Having left Paramount, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen signed to Warner Bros, where they released just three albums. These three albums are  Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Tales From The Ozone and We’ve Got A Live One Here! They all feature on a double CD which was recently released by BGO Records. It documents  Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s Warner Bros. years.

Now signed to Warner Bros, work began on what became  Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. It would feature a mixture of cover versions and new songs. The cover versions included Southbound, Don’t Let Go, California Okie, Lowell George’s Willin’, House Of Blue Lights, Four or Five Times and That’s What I Like About the South. Four news songs were penned by members of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Billy C. Farlow, George Frayne, Michael J. Richards, Andy Stein and John Tichy cowrote The Boogie Man Boogie; Billy C. Farlow, Ernie Hagar, Michael J. Richards and Andy Stein penned Hawaii Blues; Billy C. Farlow, John Tichy wrote Keep on Lovin’ Her and George Frayne, John Tichy cowrote Devil and Me.  These eleven songs became Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Recording of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was recorded at the Record Plant, Sausalito, California, between  September and October 1974. By then, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s lineup numbered eight. The rhythm section featured drummer Lance Dickerson;  bassist Bruce Barlow; rhythm guitarist John Tichy and guitarist Bill Kirchen. They were joined by Ernie Haga on pedal steel guitar; Andy Stein on fiddle and saxophone; Billy C. Farlow on harmonica and lead vocal. George Frayne who had dawned the role of Commander Cody played piano and added vocals. Tower Of Power added horns. Producing Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was John Boylan. Once the album was recorded, it was mixed at the Record Plant, in Los Angeles.  It became Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, which was released in 1975.

As Warner Bros. prepared for the release of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in 1975, review copies were sent to critics. When they received Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s Warner Bros. debut, it came complete with a futuristic cover that looked like it belong in  the cartoon that lent the band its name. However, there was nothing futuristic about the album.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was an album where everything from country rock and Americana, rubbed shoulders with jump blues, Western swing and rock ’n’ roll. So did traditional folk and country songs, plus songs from the pen of pioneers of country rock like Lowell George and members of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Essentially, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was an album that took the music of the past, and combined it with the music of the present.  

Highlights of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen included the jump blues Don’t Let Go and Lowell George’s country ballad Willin’. It was transformed by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and takes on new meaning. Then The Boogie Man Boogie and House Of Blue Light allowed Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen to stretch their legs, and showcase their brand of good time music. Keep On Lovin’ Her and That’s What I Like About The South, which closes Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, both have their roots in country music’s distant past. However, they were both brought up to date by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and feature a newly reborn band.

It seemed Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s move from Paramount to Warner Bros. had reenergised the band. There was a spring in their step on their genre-melting Warner Bros. debut. It was well received by critics, who regarded Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen as one of the band’s finest albums. Record buyers agreed.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen reached number fifty-six on the US Billboard 200, upon its release in 1975. The album also reached ninety-five in Canada. Then when Don’t Let Go was released as a single, it reached number  fifty-six on the US Billboard 100. For Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, it was a promising start to their time at Warner Bros.

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Tales From The Ozone.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were keen to build on the success of their eponymous album, so later in 1975, returned with Tales From The Ozone. It followed a similar formula, featuring ten cover versions and  just two songs written by members of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. These songs became Tales From The Ozone.

Among the cover versions on Tales From The Ozone were: Minnie The Moocher, Connie, I Been To Georgia On A Fast Train, Honky Tonk Music, Tina Louise. Other tracks included Hoyt Axon’s Lightnin’ Bar Blues and Paid In Advance. Cajun Baby had been written by Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr; while Leiber and Stoller wrote The Shadow Knows and Mel McDaniel penned Roll Your Own. The two songs written by members of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were It’s Gonna Be One Of Those Nights which Bill Kirchen, Billy C. Farlow and George Frayne cowrote; and Andrew Stein’s Gypsy Fiddle. These tracks were recorded at Kendun Recorders, Burbank, California.

At Kendun Recorders, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were joined by Tower Of Power. Again, they provided the horn section. There was one difference though. Hoyt Axton was drafted in to produce Tales From The Ozone. When it was recorded, it was released in late 1975.

When Tales From The Ozone was released most of the reviews were positive.  Some critics remarked that the songs were tailor made for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. The consensus amongst the majority of critics was that Tales From The Ozone was one of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s finest albums.

Tales From The Ozone picked up where  Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen left off. It was another genre-defying album where Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen switch seamlessly between country rock, jazz,  jump blues, Western swing and rock ’n’ roll, on an album that oozed quality.

That proved to be the case from the opening bars of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s cover of Minnie The Moocher. It opens Tales From The Ozone, and is one of the best versions of an oft-covered song, and gives way to It’s Gonna Be One Of Those Nights. Already Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen are at their best, and are putting all their years of experience to good use. They continue to do so throughout Tales From The Ozone. 

Among the album’s highlights are  I Been To Georgia On A Fast Train and Lightnin’ Bar Blues and Paid In Advance. It comes complete with soaring, gospel-inspired harmonies, and shows another side of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. So does their cover of  Connie, which is an authentic country ballad full of heartache. Later, Cajun Baby is reworked and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen pay homage to Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr. However, one of the best tracks on Tales From The Ozone is Roll Your Own, where Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen combine blues and country, to create an irresistible cover of the Mel McDaniel’s song. Closing Tales From The Ozone was the haunting and beautiful Gypsy Fiddle. It’s very different to the rest of Tales From The Ozone, but showcases Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s versatility on what was one of their  finest albums, Tales From The Ozone.

Sadly, record buyers didn’t agree and Tales From The Ozone reached a lowly 168 in the US Billboard 200. This was Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s least successful album. To rub salt into wound, the single It’s Gonna Be One of Those Night failed to chart. For Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen their career at Warner Bros. was at a crossroads. 

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We’ve Got A Live One Here!

Never again, did Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen record another studio album for Warner Bros. Their swan-song was the 1976 the live double album We’ve Got A Live One Here! Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were determined to bow out of Warner Bros. in style.

Recording of We’ve Got A Live One Here! took place and during a tour of Britain in winter 1976. Three shows were recorded. The first took place on January 24th 1976 at the Town Hall, Aylesbury. Then the following night,  January 24th 1976, the show at London’s Hammersmith Odeon was also recorded. A week later, when Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen played at the Oxford Polytechnic, on February 2nd 1976 the tapes were running. These three shows became We’ve Got A Live One Here!

A total of eighteen songs found their way onto the live double album We’ve Got A Live One Here! Most of the songs had featured on Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s five studio albums. However, live in concert, Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were a totally different band. The original song was merely the starting point. That was the case from One Of Those Nights right through to Lost In The Ozone. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were at their genre-melting best, as they worked their way through eighteen cover versions and new songs. During these songs, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen put their nine years of experience to good use and win over the English audiences. By the time, We’ve Got A Live One Here! is over, the audience realise they’ve witnessed one of the great country rock bands at the top of their game. Sadly, when We’ve Got A Live One Here!  was released, the album wasn’t a commercial success.

That’s despite receiving plaudits and praise from critics. Alas, We’ve Got A Live One Here! struggled to just 170 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Sadly, We’ve Got A Live One Here! was the end of an era.

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We’ve Got A Live One Here! was the last album Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen released for Warner Bros. They arrived at Warner Bros. in 1974, and left in 1976. During that period, they released some of the best music of their career. It can be heard on  Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Tales From The Ozone and We’ve Got A Live One Here! They all feature on a double CD which was recently released by BGO Records. It documents  Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s Warner Bros.

The Warner Bros’. years were when Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen came of age musically. They were tight, talented band,  who seamlessly could switch between musical genres. Other times, they combined disparate musical genres to make something new. Often familiar songs were reimagined, and took on new meaning.  Especially when Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen played live. The original song was merely the starting point, before Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen reinvented oft-covered songs. However, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen also featured some gifted songwriters. Sadly, though, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen never enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim their music deserved.

In 1977, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen signed to Arista, and released Rock ‘N Roll Again (Midnight Man). It reached just number 163 in the US Billboard 200. After this, none of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s thirteen albums charted, and they became the nearly men of country rock. However, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen could’ve and should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. One listen to  ommander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Tales From The Ozone and We’ve Got A Live One Here! and you’ll realise why.

COMMANDER CODY AND HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN-COMMANDER CODY AND HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN/TALES FROM THE OZONE/WE’VE GOT A LIVE ONE HERE.

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1 Comment

  1. Julian (Slick) Creese

    Hi, I recently bought “We’ve got a live one here!” on original double vinyl (records perfect, sleeve slightly scuffed). l bought it for their version of “Hot Rod Lincoln” as I love the track!
    Having played the albums all the way through, I noticed that the sleeve is labelled up with the tracks in the order as shown on Amazon & other websites BUT the records have been both PRESSED & LABELLED as : Side 1 / Side 3 and Side 2 / Side 4.
    Would you know if this makes it a rarity or if it was done as some ‘in joke’ of which I am unaware?!
    If you see this & reply, could you PLEASE put “Commander Cody” in the ‘title box’ of the email as it will go straight into ‘junk’ but I will spot it if you do that!
    Many thanks, Regards, Slick.

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