Obscure Bands And Great Songs: Argent And Hold Your Head Up

The other day I realized that my Ipod is filled with some great songs from some pretty obscure bands.  One of the great things about the internet, however, is that you can do some quick research  and learn some interesting things that make the bands a bit less obscure.

A good example is the band Argent, and the song Hold Your Head Up.  The song is a classic of early ’70s rock that was a staple of rock radio stations when I was in high school.  A butchered singles version hit no. 5 on the American charts in 1972.  It’s obvious from listening to the song that the band members have some significant musical talent — but from where?

A few Google searches inform us that Argent was named for Rod Argent, its founder.  Argent, a keyboard player, had been a member of The Zombies and had played on songs like Time Of the Season.  (Now that I’ve learned this, I see some parallels between the sound of Hold Your Head Up and the sound of Time Of The Season.)  The lead guitarist, Russ Ballard, and the bassist and drummer all were veterans of other bands.  They clearly had some musical chops, and it shows.

Hold Your Head Up had one of the greatest intros of any rock song of the ’70s.  It starts with an undercurrent of sound from the keyboards, like a musical depiction of a tingle running up your arm.  A simple, thumping bass line joins in, and then a choppy, raggedy sounding guitar.  The beat is slow and deliberate.  The vocals are a bit distant, and at times the moaning, trilling keyboards are almost like a second vocalist.  The lyrics are a few verses, so short they could have been written on a cocktail napkin with plenty of room to spare, that are repeated over and over.  The repetition gives the song a kind of anthem-like quality.  The heart of the song, in my view, is an extended instrumental section with just the organ and a cowbell — and it was this part that hit the cutting room floor when a “single” was produced for release in the States.  Fortunately, in Columbus WCOL-FM played the long version, and that it what I listened to in those days.

Argent recorded another terrific song, called God Gave Rock And Roll To You, which was not a big hit but which featured a great guitar riff and chorus.  It was covered by Kiss and also by a series of Christian rock acts.  Isn’t it amazing what you learn on the internet?