MONTROSE – Paper Money (That 70’s Guy Retro Review)

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Welcome to another edition of That ‘70’s Guy, where I’ll resurrect yet another classic hidden gem of the 1970’s. This time around, I will give my take on MontrosePaper Money. When one thinks of the band Montrose, songs like “Rock Candy”, “Rock the Nation” and “Bad Motor Scooter” immediately come to mind. After all, they are the timeless classics that are still played on the radio to this day, not to mention nearly every rock band out there in the last 45 years covering at least one of them. The iconic 1st album with the iconic cover, the praise, the glory, the history, man what a treasure. But wait. What about its long lost twin, the ugly sister, the forgotten one, the one that gets no respect?

Let me start with saying that Paper Money is my favourite. Paper Money is where it all started with me and my buddies.

It all started one late night in January 1975 when, as a rule, you sat down to watch the Midnight Special TV programme. This particular night, an unknown (to me) band named Montrose appeared. They absolutely blew me away, as they did my buddy Rod when we exchanged thoughts the next morning. They sang “Space Station #5″ and “I Got the Fire”.  We immediately went and picked up their album Paper Money and the rest was history. They appeared for a second time in March 1975 and sang “Paper Money” and “I Got the Fire” again. It wasn’t until later that we decided to poke around the record stores to find out if there was another album by these guys with “Space Station #5″ on it. Remember, there was no reason to know that there was another record. Since nothing on the first album was played on AM radio and all we had to go on was Creem/Circus/Hit Parader magazines and word of mouth, it was easy for lots to slip through the cracks.

Montrose was from California and consisted (of course) of Ronnie Montrose on guitars, a very young (unknown at the time) Sammy Hagar on vocals, Allen Fitzgerald on bass (who had replaced Bill Church from the first album) and Denny Carmassi on drums. We all know what became of Hagar, but Fitzgerald later became best known for his stint in Night Ranger while Denny played with Sammy and Ted Nugent.

OK, needle down and let’s rock this thing!

Montrose – Paper Money – Released 1974 on Warner Brothers

Side One

  1. “Underground” – my cousin Richard worked at the Civic Centre in Brantford and he was fotunate to be the disc jockey a couple times for public ice skating. Of course he had to play the crowd favourites, but, ever so often, we would sneak in some unknown gems, prompted by us in the peanut gallery. If you’ve been keeping score and following my reviews you know that we were always way ahead on discovring bands before they got popular. This particular night Richard snuck Underground into the mix. I will never forget the looks on some of the skaters while we played air guitar in the stands! A memory of a lifetime and a fantastic song to boot!
  2. “Connection” – written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger this version is a different type of song showing off their softer side with Sammy shining on vocals and some fine acoustics along the way. Mark Jordan adds some nice keyboards to the sound here.
  3. “The Dreamer” – a blusey rocker with some real heavy undertones. Sneaky heavy. Crank this baby with headphones on!
  4. “Starliner”Ronnie shows off why he is one of the the best if not one of the most underated guitarist ever. This instrumental really displays his talents.

Side Two

  1. “I Got the Fire” – let’s first admit rule number 1, that if in any doubt play side 2 and only 2 if time is an issue. Well this is where it started. If this rocker isn’t one of the fastest heaviest songs (especially for 1974 standards), I don’t know what is. Included free of charge is one of the greatest opening riffs and the best blistering solo on record. That’s why it has been covered by countless others, including my favourites by Axe and Iron Maiden.
  2. “Spaceage Sacrifice” – just an amazing song that builds and builds the tension up to one of the greatest hard rocking riffs and chorus’s ever. A real rocker that should be played as much as Rock Candy in my opinion. Sammy and Ronnie as their best! Sweet solo here!
  3. “We’re Going Home” – If someone was to ask me what my fave Montrose song is, well this is it. I had the 45 of this as well. Ironically this song is sang by Ronnie himeslf. (Almost like my favourite Black Sabbath song is not sung by either Ozzy or Ronnie – its sung by Bill WardIt’s Alright). I just love the haunting feel in this emotional work of art. The guitar solo is one of Ronnies best. The amazing mellotron was played by Nick DeCaro. Goosebump worth while reminding me of my first job working after school as a janitor at Mohawk College for Circle Sales. 15 and loving it!
  4. “Paper Money” – Denny Carmassi and Allen Fitzgerald have there signature all over this gem. Always loved the riff leading into the chorus “Take away all my silver, take all my gold…” Glad I got to see them sing this one on late night TV.

There you have it, MY fave Montrose album! Yes the 1st is quintessential, but this is where it all started for me.  Pick it up if you haven’t yet. Paper Money was the band’s highest-charting release, reaching No. 65 on the Billboard 200. Ronnie and Sammy’s relationship hit its peak during their European tour to promote Paper Money, but Hagar parted ways with the band in early 1975 and was replaced by vocalist Bob James.

I followed Ronnie for a few more albums, Warner Brothers Presents and Jump On It and I bought a couple Gamma records as well (I absolutely love their version of The Hollies’I’m Alive”). It was shortly after that, that Ronnie was swallowed up in the onslaught of up and comers of the time. I wish I had a chance to see him live before he passed. You can’t take things for granted, see them while you can. I missed out on both Ronnie and Gary Moore – two of the greatest ever!

Just ’cause I’m skinny, don’t you sell me cheap
I’m as long as a country mile
Well, some like it wide and some like it deep
And guess which ones are my style

I Got the Fire” – Montrose 1974

Check out the grainy video of them performing on the Midnight Special the second time. Paper Money and I Got the Fire. Enjoy!


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