Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Q&A: Commander Cody on 'Lost in the Ozone' 40th anniversary

Commander Cody performs Friday at Aces Live

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s first full-length release, “Lost in the Ozone,” debuting in the Billboard 200.

One of the great country-rock albums of all time, it features such classics as the Top 10 hit “Hot Rod Lincoln,” “Seeds and Stems Again Blues” and “Wine Do Yer Stuff.”

Commander Cody, real name George Frayne, recently spoke to the Herald from his Saratoga Springs, N.Y., home about the album.

Frayne and his new band-mates will be performing songs from “Lost in the Ozone” and more favorites on  Friday (March 23) at Aces Live in Bradenton.

While recording your debut album, “Lost in the Ozone,” what did you and your band-mates at the time hope to accomplish?

We were just sort of of trying to be a rockabilly-blues band. We were trying to reach the college kids.”

“Lost in the Ozone” is rightfully cited as one of most important country-rock albums. But Bob Dylan released “John Wesley Harding,” which closed with the country song “I’ll Be Your Baby, Tonight,” in December of 1967. 

The Byrds’ “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” came out in Aug. of 1968 and then Dylan issued “Nashville Skyline” in ’69.  Were you listening to any of these albums?

Oh, yeah. Those albums gave us a sense that the avenues we chose to go down were valid and other people were listening to the same stuff as we were.

I probably discovered “Act Naturally” off a (Buck Owens) greatest hits album in '63 or '64, when we were getting really bored with playing stuff like "Wooly Bully"... Doing “Act Naturally” and (Owens') “Tiger By the Tail,” and then the Beatles doing "Act Naturally" we knew we were doing the right thing.

What inspired you to cover and sing vocals on the classic rockabilly song “Hot Rod Lincoln”?

Here's the thing that happened. Basically, I played piano and booked the band. There was no Lynyrd Skynyrd or Marshall Tucker but for some reason there had to be a Commander and the band decided it would be me. People would say, “Where’s The Commander?"

I couldn’t sing a (expletive) note but sure could talk fast. I found the Johnny Bond version (of "Hot Rod Lincoln") in the 50 cent bin at the farmer’s market in Bay Shore (N.Y.) and just said, "Let’s do it."

"Lost in the Ozone" features a cover of the Willie Nelson chestnut “Family Bible” and fiddle and steel guitar throughout. But at the same time, you had long hair and were singing hippie anthems like the title track. How did country audiences react to your music back then?

They hated us. That’s why he stopped, by 1976 we had broken up. To them we just had long hair and didn’t take a bath and wanted to find a pot party. We played the CMA convention and they booed us off stage.

Another great song from “Lost in the Ozone” is “Seeds and Stems Again Blues.” Does it surprise you that 35 years after co-writing that song, marijuana legalization is still a hot topic?

It should have been legal a long time ago.

The album opens with three killer songs, all credited to you and Billy C. Farlow. Any chance of you and him ever working together again?

No. Billy C. stole some stuff from me so we’re not talking.

What did he steal?

He stole my stash, man. My medical marijuana. If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny.

Details: Commander Cody with S.G. Skin & Bone Band, 9 p.m. March 23, Aces Live, 4343 Palma Sola Blvd., Bradenton. Tickets: $20 (advance), $25 (door). Information: 941-795-3886 or


Mike said...

This great record came out in November of 1971, which makes it 40 years old.

Wade Tatangelo said...

Thanks, Mike. It has been corrected.

Mike said...

Don't forget to change it on the title, too! ;)