50 years on, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut LP still brings the dynamite in both hands

By Steve Newton

1973 sure was a stellar year for guitar-based rock.

Maybe the best one ever.

Mind you, that opinion has a lot to do with how old I was back in ’73 (which just happened to be the same year that Bob Seger released Back in ’72, the one with “Rosalie” and “Turn the Page”.)

I turned 16 in ’73, and my life revolved around the enchanting world of guitar-driven rock. I blew all my lawnmowing money on the latest new sounds. My friends had nice cars; I had nice albums. I was okay with that.

And can you blame me? Have you checked out the list of albums released that year?

They include the disc that first got me heavily into Thin Lizzy (Vagabonds of the Western World), the Allman Brothers‘ wildly popular southern-rock classic Brothers and Sisters, and what I’ve often dubbed the world’s greatest rock album, the Who‘s Quadrophenia.

1973 also spawned what are arguably the best albums by ZZ Top (Tres Hombres), Black Sabbath (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath), Paul McCartney and Wings (Band on the Run), and Johnny Winter (Still Alive and Well).

Not to mention the self-titled debut albums by Queen, Montrose, Aerosmith, and the New York Dolls.

Another debut album of ’73, but one with a tongue-twister of a title, was (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd). Although the title was meant to express the correct way to say the band’s name, all those Ys in Lynyrd Skynyrd really messed people up. Even today you’ll find folks who’ll ask “You got any Lin-yerd Skin-yerd?”.

My three-years-older sister first got me into Skynyrd–and also acts like Steely Dan and Robin Trower (she had good taste). But before long I’d gone out and bought my own copy of Pronounced. I grooved on the cover photo of seven longhaired rock dudes hanging out on the sidewalk, with a lightning bolt coming down just behind the scruffy-lookin’ guy on the far right (guitarist Ed King).

I turned it over to find a pack of cigarettes with a skull and crossbones on the front and the words “Lynyrd Skynyrd Smokes” along the side. I didn’t smoke, but I agreed with the message. Of course they smoked–I’d been totally blown away by hearing them smoke for a very long time on “Free Bird” when my sister first played it for me.

So I got the album home, and opened ‘er up. It had gatefold packaging, so laid out before me on the inside were all the lyrics to all eight songs. The words were nicely written out in longhand, and even looking at it today, right now, these aging eyes can still make them out.

Ever try deciphering the teenie-weenie printing on a CD booklet? Yet another reason why vinyl rules.

Another cool thing about the layout of Pronounced was the way the guitar performances were outlined. I’m not sure why, but for some reason it seemed important for me to know that Allen Collins played the lead guitar on “I Ain’t the One” and “Free Bird”, and that it was Gary Rossington doing the lead damage on “Gimme Three Steps”.

And I suppose I should mention that–despite how the band would later embrace it in concert–there wasn’t a Confederate flag in sight.

Musically, I think “Gimme Three Steps” might have been my fave track at the time–along with “Free Bird” of course. I was a real boogiemeister as a teen; loved boogie bands like Foghat and Status Quo and ZZ Top.

Nowadays, as an oldster, I tend to appreciate the shitkicker blues vibe, old-timey piano, downhome vocals, and funky AF guitar stylings on “Things Goin’ On”.

Pronounced covered quite a lot of musical ground, from flat-out guitar boogie to swampy country blues, but I’m not gonna spend a lotta time here trying to analyze every song and rave about every performance. Most folks reading this already know exactly how incredible the music is.

I’ll just say that, 50 years after hitting the streets, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) is a true testament to the talent and artistry of one of southern rock’s most formidable lineups.

I wouldn’t say that it’s any better, overall, than its 1974 followup, Second Helping–or the 1977 swan song Street Survivors, for that matter–but I for one am gonna take a moment today to send thankful thoughts to the original Lynyrd Skynyrd members–and producer Al Kooper–for creating this timeless piece of work.

To hear the full audio of my 1986 interview with Gary Rossington and Dale Krantz-Rossington subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 375 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with the legends of rock, collected since 1982.

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