It’s time for another 1970’s classic album to be resurrected from the vault and given a spin. This time around we dig through the time capsule of 1976 for Yesterday and Today’s self-titled debut album.
Yesterday and Today were formed in Oakland California in 1974 and consisted of singer/guitar player extraordinaire Dave Meniketti, bassist Phil Kennemore, rhythm guitarist Joey Alves and drummer, Leonard Haze. The debut album was released in 1976 on London Records.
As most know by now that Yesterday and Today morphed into Y&T in 1981 with Earthshaker and never looked back while becoming one of the 1980’s most underrated, unappreciated and (mostly in Canada) – unknown true rock bands of all time. But you really have to put it in perspective when considering this album came out at the same time (or before) debuts by Heart, Boston, Foreigner, Van Halen and Journey – their bay area teammates. This album also had release dates coinciding with Hotel California, Frampton Comes Alive, Destroyer and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. They were by far not just another 1980’s hair band.
Let me take a moment and return you to one hot summer night in 1976 on the shores of Lake Huron in Sauble Beach Ontario, Canada. Sauble Beach was a resort town that we frequented as young teens. We roamed the streets and campgrounds looking for that next party, that next group of females or as in this case that next hit song. On this particular night, we drove down to the beach at night and decided to walk in the sand and stargaze – most likely under the influence. As always someone had a ghetto blaster with them (back then they were simply called a “tape deck”). During the late night hours and on a clear night up there you could get a clean reception of AM stations from the far reaches of Michigan and Windsor. This night we had on CKLW out of Windsor who by being a border town always seemed a step ahead of our local Toronto and Hamilton stations when it came to new and obscure music. I remember hearing “It’s Begun to Rain” by Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush back to back with this dreamy guitar ripping song called “My Heart Plays Too” by a band called Yesterday and Today. Of course, you just had to stop in your tracks and wait patiently and pray that the DJ comes on and names the songs he just played.
Well, that started it all for me. I returned home, raced to Sam the Record Man and searched this band out. Luck would have it, despite an unknown band, the album was at Sam’s. I brought it home and the rest is history. I spent many nights at different bush parties when everyone was listening to Aerosmith, I was yelling “put on Yesterday and Today”!
Ok so, let’s do that, let’s give it a spin now……
Yesterday and Today – S/T – Released 1976 on London Records
- “Animal Woman” – a perfect song to get the juices flowing. One thing that stands the test of time is Dave’s vocal style and extremely (long and wild) guitar solos. A little bit of that good ole Y&T boogie rock!
- “25 Hours a Day” – an instant fave right from the get go. I loved the title – what a novel idea? How ironic was it that Triumph’s first album out that same year had a song called “24 Hours a Day” on it? Dave really lets it rip with about 3 guitar solos in this one with some fine intertwined vocal/guitar ripping that would be mastered by EVH a year later. If you are lucky they still pull this one out every so often live.
- “Game Playing Woman” – heavy, heavy, heavy – fantastic song has it all. Great melodies, fabulous riff, unbelievable guitar shredding all kept together with Leonard Haze’s amazing drum work. Early metal at it’s finest!
- “Come On Over” – a great rockin song that showcases that the rhythm section lead by Joey Alves could really pound out some heaviness.
- “My Heart Plays Too” – just to add to what has already been said – Dave makes the guitar sing that only a few up to that point could do. Only legends Uli Jon Roth, Mick Box, Frank Marino, Paul Naumenn and Ernie Isley come to mind. That is why I have said basically all my life that Meniketti is one of the most underrated axemen of all time. A prequel to “I Believe in You” possibly? The solo in this song is next to none! Brilliant!!
- “Earthshaker” – Classic in your face song in the vein of “Hurricane”, “Squeeze” and “Struck Down”. Fast paced, guitar blazing, no holds barred rocker!
- “Fast Ladies (Very Slow Gin)” – OK so, I’ll pass on the gin part as many nights of underage drinking binges of gin still makes my stomach queasy but the fast ladies were always welcome. Great song, killer chorus and oh yeah a wicked solo!!
- “Alcohol” – a real party song that would start a tradition with them – “Barroom Boogie”, “Nasty Sadie”, “Down and Dirty” etc. A classic early Y&T crowd favorite sung by drummer Leonard Haze.
- “Beautiful Dreamer” – perfectly named closer. One thing that Y&T never got credit enough for was their beautiful background harmonies. Long before Def Leppard created the trend that every 80’s band copied, Y&T already had it mastered. And yet another tremendous screeching guitar solo from Dave to finish it off.
So there you have it, a true classic rock album as raw as it gets. What many may not know including me, was that they released one more album under the name Yesterday and Today. 1978’s Struck Down. I too had to backtrack after Earthshaker and search this one out.
Another side note about this album has to do with the album cover itself. Back when I was young I used to draw and I drew a lot. I made up bands and created a whole fantasy world of make believe bands and songs. For much of the artwork I drew of these made up bands, I mimicked the positions of the guys on the back of this album cover. I spent many nights listening to the album while studying each and every inch of that album inside and out. I still get excited looking at those poses. Well done. It is also funny that Dave still does those poses to this day! Well that was Yesterday. Today I still consider Y&T my second favorite band of all time (next to Scorpions). And while they only came to Toronto once (supporting Motley Crue in 1985), I never had a chance to see my heroes until I ventured onto the inaugural Monsters of Rock Cruise solely on the premise of seeing them. By then the band only consisted of original member, Dave Meniketti. I still remember that moment on the pool deck stage when they came on and my eyes landed on Dave for the first time in my life. I will NEVER forget that moment for the rest of my life. I also remember yelling just as he was about to start another song and in a split second of silence I yelled: “My Heart Plays Too”! Out of the corner of his eye, he looked my way and for a wee fleeting moment, we had a connection. I’m sure he was thinking “good luck buddy, I haven’t played that song in 100 years”. I still find it shocking that not only is he the only current member but that last one still alive. I have now seen them many times and they are simply put – amazing with 2 and ½ hour shows spanning an endless career of hits and memories.
So when you hear me play
You know my heart plays too
My heart plays too,
My heart plays too, yeah.
Brian “That 70’s Guy” Ronald