July 18th, 2014

Caravan

CaravanLoveToLove, Caravan, London, Decca, Deram

Listen: Love To Love You / Caravan
Love

Talk about being smitten after one play. I had seen a few Caravan albums in the stores, but never managed to own one, not until IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK that is. I’d already decided to spring for a UK copy via mail order that coming April, based entirely on it’s title. Without warning, this US single, coupling ‘Love To Love You’ and ‘Golf Girl’, landed in my weekly stack from WMCR, the local adult radio station that miraculously gave me their ‘unplayable’ rock singles all through my high school years. My eyes bugged out seemingly an inch. I couldn’t get home fast enough, tearing through the traffic and risking my life on a bike one very slippery, slushy, cold Friday in February ’71.

Once home, I must have played ‘Love To Love You’ a dozen times, completely anxious for it to end so I could play it all over again. Why had I kept myself in the dark about this band, sounding more British than the British themselves might tolerate. Nothing like that excited high from realizing there’s a whole new back catalog to acquire, something I began plotting on the spot.

In the days before THE RECORD COLLECTOR PRICE GUIDE and Wikipedia, research needed to be done by hand. Consequently, homework was put aside and out came the back issues of MELODY MAKER and DISC & MUSIC ECHO. I needed every Caravan record. Now.

CaravanGolf, Caravan, London, Decca, Deram

Listen: Golf Girl / Caravan
Golf

Seriously, this next bit is still vivid, like waking up in the middle of the night remembering you forgot to do something and jumping straight out of bed. I’m digging through the magazines looking for Caravan titles and catalog numbers, with the single on repeat. My Dual 1229 turntable came complete with a 45 stacking spindle and was repeat-play capable. A beauty.

Suddenly, boing, it hits me. In all my glee, I haven’t even noticed. Was the single a double A promo, or one with a B side. So midway through, off comes the tonearm and…yes! There’s a B side!

‘Golf Girl’ was just as fantastic, beginning with the “selling cups of tea” lyric. It was almost too good to be true. Another song to check off the Caravan catalog completion list.

LandOfGrayAndPink, Caravan

Saturday morning, straight to the post office, buy the international money order and airmail my advance payment for the full album that day. Come early April, I owned a first pressing of IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK. Everything about that album was magical: the laminated cover, beautiful artwork, pristine deep groove vinyl, inner sleeve, lyrics, production. It even smelled good.

Adding to the magic, Decca moved the band to it’s progressive subsidiary, Deram, and deemed the album an initial release in a new deluxe series, assigning the catalog number SDL – R1 as a reward.

Instantly official, Caravan was now my new favorite band. Next, I had to see them live…but that would be a few years off. 1975 to be exact, when their first US commenced in support of CUNNING STUNTS. Luckily it swung through upstate New York and luckily, they were more British than ever.

CaravanJukebox, Caravan, Pye Hastings

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Pye Hastings

July 14th, 2014

The Ramones

Listen: Baby Sitter / The Ramones
Baby

Tom became a great pal as the years went by. Either with Monte, or often on his own, we’d meet near my place for an Indian buffet. Originally well under the trendy radar, all types of homestyle Northern and Southern Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Korean and Malaysian restaurants super served a massive but unhip clientele in my neck. Good food cheap basically.

Despite gentrification and Yelp, the choice and quality still holds. And so on the occasions when we’d do an impromptu mid-week lunch together, more often than not, all the air would be gasped out of the room as a nearby newbie or hipster table would suddenly realize Tommy Ramone was in the house. Without fail, a nervous approach would result. And Tom would be Tom: humble, shy, friendly, always accommodating to autographs and pictures alike.

One memorable exchange:

Shocked person, “Wow, what are you doing in Queens?”

Tom, “I live here.”

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Tommy Ramone

May 14th, 2014

Larry Williams

larrywilliamsshortfat, Larry Williams, Johnny Guitar Watson, London American, Northern Soul

Listen: Short Fat Fannie / Larry Williams
Short

Larry Williams is seldom respected as an original bad boy of RnR, but he should be. Legend has his underworld activities stretching back prior to these initial recordings. He eventually bit the bullet, literally, a victim of a suicide, although street legend claims otherwise. Having served time in the early 60′s for drug dealing, he hooked up with Johnny Guitar Watson upon release to sleaze out in late night Hollywood, which admittedly may be my self fulfilling fantasy, and also make some of the most authentic Northern Soul tracks known to mankind for Okeh.

I was excited when The Mooney Suzuki, who I looked after while at Columbia, recorded in the same studio on Santa Monica Boulevard that he and Johnny had. I literally thought about it constantly while there. I was pissing in the same toilet as the dynamic duo. No one else seemed to apprciate my excitement.

Prior to all that, he wrote ‘Bonie Maronie’, ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’, ‘Slow Down’ and ‘She Said Yeah’, my favorite, as recorded and performed by The Rolling Stones on HULLABALOO:

‘Short Fat Fannie’ goes back to pre Northern, pre Johnny Guitar Watson and pre jail time. It was actually one of his hits (#31 RnB / #35 Pop) in ’57 and comes courtesy of the Tony King Collection.

Original post: August 19, 2009.

April 25th, 2014

The Birds

Listen: No Good Without You Baby / The Birds
No

The Birds, like their leader Ronnie Wood, seemed forever destined to second tier, always in supporting roles. Yet years later, their lack of first division ideas wonderfully tarnished them with a rather perfect time period sound, ideally suited for the musical backdrop of some British beat boom documentary. But after all, they were on Decca, which in hindsight is regarded as one of the holy grail UK labels for the genre.

To many, Decca has forever been saddled as the company that passed on The Beatles. I however say that’s only one of their greatest achievements. Signing The Rolling Stones being the other. Whether by design or accident, it certainly led them down a path that attracted Them, The Moody Blues, The Graham Bond Organization, The Zombies, The Beazers, The Artwoods, The Small Faces, The Nashville Teens, Zoot Money, The Move and other such hard up heroes, of which The Birds were included.

Several years back, while in London for work, I had conveniently scheduled my trip around The Olympia Record Fair. Getting there somewhat early, but not when doors opened, the first dealer I encountered, off to the left most side of the venue, was not surprisingly unbothered by any customers. His make shift boxes of 7′s unattractively assembled across his table, with as many sloppy boxes below, about two dozen in all. No wall hangings highlighting high end items, no colorful signs, no sizzle of any kind. Everything was either £1, £3 or £5.

Having decided to systematically cover the entire event, I began with this fellow, technically the first dealer far left, with every intention of moving right across the entire lot to the other side. Despite his unkept presentation, I reminded myself there was a plan and not to abandon it by skipping his table, before even starting.

Barely through the first box, I realized it’s entire contents were Decca or Decca distributed A Labels. Temporarily skipping to the second and discovering it to be the same, I asked him about his wares, inquiring was it coincidence they were all Decca’s. Turns out he didn’t regularly sell at the fairs, pretty obvious from the shabby boxes alone, but had stumbled on a retired Decca employee with an attic full of records from his 60′s heyday, and here they all were.

Well, I nearly blacked out. Luckily, a friend had come along with me, and immediately had the defensive sense to inform any other customers wandering up that the entire table was being sold. This gave me time to plow through and grab pretty much all of them. In hindsight, I still stress about leaving Les Reed or Ted Heath type singles behind, and wonder constantly if there was something I’d missed.

The unexpected discovery was one of life’s greatest moments, and a reminder to never judge a book by it’s cover. Amongst the many, many, many incredible purchases that day at that table: ‘No Good Without You Baby’ as well the other two Decca singles from The Birds.

The London Olympia Record Fair, which happens regularly, is in fact this weekend. Never ever pass it up.

April 23rd, 2014

The Action

Twentyfourth Hour / The Action

Listen: Twentyfourth Hour / The Action Twenty Fourth Hour.mp3

Melody Maker Top 50

It took a long while to hear The Action. Started reading about them around the time The Move debuted, mid ’66. They seemed to be from the same club scene, both were being touted for strong live shows and regulars at The Marquee. Like The Move, they had a great name and some great photos were about. I was desperate to hear ‘I’ll Keep Holding On’, which charted on the Melody Maker Top 50 during April of that year. But nothing was being released in the US. Then one Friday in May ’67, when I dropped by WMCR to blag some 45′s, there they were in my stack. This had been an agonizingly long wait. Now I was over excited. Couldn’t get home fast enough.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed, this didn’t have that edge I expected. Something seemed missing from their attack. Years later I realized the downfall: George Martin. He produced all their singles. Clean, jangly, immaculately recorded, well crafted, probably did them all wearing that fucking suit and tie. Self celebrated for his work with The Beatles, but in my opinion, George Martin also single handedly tanked The Action’s career. There was no dirt. This guy just didn’t get down. Wouldn’t be surprised if he never even saw them live.

With all his Beatles clout, you’d thought he’d have gotten US Capitol to release more than one single. Nope.

Or pushed Parlophone to release an album. Nope.

The Action only ever had one 7″ here in the US and no LP in the UK.

I actually grew to love ‘Twentyfourth Hour’, their RnB authenticity and a great Reg King vocal won through his pasty white production. If only Denny Cordell had produced.

April 1st, 2014

The Vibrations

Listen: Gonna Get Along Without You Now/ The Vibrations
Gonna

According to one of my favorite books ever, THE NORTHERN SOUL PRICE GUIDE, this white label promo, in mint condition, easily goes for £50. Fun reading, but the real deal price guide these days is Popsike.com. There you get the past several years worth of final sale amounts for any record that commanded $25 or more. According to the site, a $52 May 2012 winning bid for the wlp of ‘Gonna Get Along Without You Now’ was it’s highest in three years. That’s as far as the data goes back.

Therefore my £24 (approximately $37) win was indeed a bargain when compared to the prices set in the guide. Never mind, this single’s a bargain at £100 if truth be told.

Having tastes that always ran toward the mid chart, or better yet, flop follow-ups, likewise my parallel fondness was for the seemingly second division players. Just as Inez & Charlie Foxx sat sideline when Ike & Tina Turner were in reach, so too did The Vibrations when say, The Temptations were around. According to the mainstream that is, but in my world, I coveted any single by either.

It’s seriously hard to recollect a song attempted in more diverse styles through the years than this. Country, reggae, alternative, disco, ska, Euro-dance, rock steady and even Latin via Trini Lopez, which is version that first introduced me to the track. No idea why his was played so heavily in upstate New York at the time (’67). Trust me, it wasn’t often a #93 BILLBOARD peak meant a record got hammered by both our local Top 40′s. And it’s not like there was a Latin scene going on in subzero Syracuse that winter either.

Unfortunately, The Vibrations’ version never graced my ears while current in ’66. Years later I stumbled on it, unable to ignore any Okeh single with their Cadbury purple labels and matching sleeves. One play and boom, the amphetamine mess of an arrangement and speed pitched chorus made me a fan for life.

January 30th, 2014

Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty

You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly / Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty

Listen: You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly / Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty
ConwayTwittyLorettaLynn.mp3

My first real job in the music business, one where I got decent pay, benefits, expenses, etc, was as an MCA local radio promotion rep. I covered New York State excluding NYC, so it was a piece of cake. Pretty small market and whatever play I got was appreciated, but not vital. Brad Hunt hired me, it was ’78. We later worked together at Elektra in the 80′s. Small world and even smaller business.

MCA had a very unhip roster then, especially in rock. It was known as the Music Cemetery of America to insiders. However, the country roster was sweet and gave me a chance to meet many of the greats, particularly Loretta Lynn, who invited me onto her bus for some birthday cake one night. She was touring with Conway Twitty at the time, and we were working a their infamous duet ‘You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly’. Check out her pronunciation of “wires”. What a nice lady.

January 19th, 2014

The McGuire Sisters / Connie Francis

Sugartime / The McGuire Sisters

Listen: Sugartime / The McGuire Sisters
Sugartime

My Dad’s cousin, Dominic Bruno, owned a nightclub in the 50′s/60′s called the Three Rivers Inn, somewhere near Syracuse. I suppose it was that period’s version of today’s Casinos, but on a way smaller scale. The acts would do a week or so. The many headliners included Jayne Mansfield, Sammy Davis Jr, Mae West, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, very lounge and nowadays known as Bachelor Pad stuff.

The first act I ever saw live, at the Three River Inn, were The McGuire Sisters. They scored big (#1 in ’57) with ‘Sugartime’, and it appealed to all little kids for years to follow. My Mom and Dad had a copy. It was probably my first discovery of music. How was I to know then that the “sugar in the morning, honey in the evening” being referred to was about sex. Other than their ballads, most of the uptempo ones, like this, were completely rock and roll, especially those clean Chet Atkin’s hollow body solos.

They were the first victims of my record collecting as well. I pestered my parents, even aunts and uncles, to buy me every last record they had out. Anytime a present was due, I wanted a McGuire Sisters record. Whether it be Easter, Halloween, birthday, Christmas, getting a passing report card, you name it, The McGuire Sisters were the gift that kept giving in my world.

Then Mom and Dad faithfully took me along to see them, all arranged through Uncle Dominic, as we knew him. His house was mad, never will I forget the all pink kitchen, including appliances, that he and Aunt Elia had. Whew.

I don’t really know the year of that show, I may have been five, it was the mid 60′s. They were most likely running out of steam career-wise by then. Clearly out of obligation, The McGuire Sisters invited me up on stage. I froze but couldn’t let my folks down, so trembled onwards. I sang along to ‘Sugartime’, probably spoiling everyone’s reason for attending. And the cherry on top was a visit to their dressing room afterwards, a motel room actually, part of the club’s complex, where the three of them were playing cards and eating sandwiches between shows.

Pretty good start, right? My first taste.

Don't Ever Leave Me / Connie Francis

Listen: Don’t Ever Leave Me / Connie Francis
ConnieFrancis.mp3

Shortly thereafter, I got into Connie Francis. This all preceded The Ronettes and Shangri-Las fixations which were just around the corner. Suggestive women in tight skirts was the common thread I guess.

I’m not quite sure what my infatuation with Connie Francis was all about but I went off her pretty quickly, probably due to a chilly and quick dressing room visit right after the show. Hey I was a little kid, lighten up lady. Still, to be fair, it was probably cramping her style. She absolutely made many, many great records.

‘Don’t Ever Leave Me’, her one and only attempt at the girl group sound, written and produced by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the team you went to for just this type of material then, is a keeper. A classic single in fact. (#42, 10/64).

She wore a very nice blue chiffon ensemble that night, that I do remember, and she smelled great.

January 7th, 2014

Billy Preston

Listen: Will It Go Round In Circles / Billy Preston
Will

I had no idea that huge Afro hairdo was a wig during the 1970′s when Billy Preston and his clavinet seemed omnipresent. Like no idea at all. Instead, I just became mesmerized by his seemingly effortless keyboard funk, possibly requiring the word chops be applied to a musician’s style for the first time.

The whole sound and image kind of outdid Sly Stone for me. Sans the seediness, which as it turns out was all there, he was my black Elton John, with the shiny pastel clothes, those glam meets Blaxploitation spade shoes and all the remaining trimmings.

Once I started researching his past, actually around the time of his Apple Records singles, I discovered his early mod organ releases with their wonderfully suggestive titles luring me in, for example THE MOST EXCITING ORGAN EVER and WILDEST ORGAN IN TOWN. Wow, these albums were right up there with Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith, Brain Auger as well.

Like some of his contemporaries, he caught the musical ear of various British acts resulting in both recording and touring partnerships. Most notably were The Rolling Stones, who he worked with throughout the 70′s, all the while donning that fantastically oversized Afro wig. Then there were The Beatles, adding keyboard magic to yet another of their rather dull songs, ‘Get Back’, turning it into something special. Certainly for me the highlight was always his electric piano solo midway through. As soon as it finished, I dove for the dashboard to switch the station.

During his most successful mid 70′s stretch came the A&M years, and several huge singles including ‘Will It Go Round In Circles’. Although a US #1 during ’73, the record never charted in the UK despite heavy airplay on the BBC that summer. I mean, seriously, I was there and know for sure, it was played constantly. Maybe too much, because as a possible result, no one needed to buy it.

January 4th, 2014

Ian & The Zodiacs

Listen: So Much In Love With You / Ian & The Zodiacs
So

Usually not one for the Liverpool sound, even I found the occasional exception. Top of the list would indeed be The Cryin’ Shames, and included somewhere, Ian & The Zodiacs. Yes, despite their twee delivery, I suppose it’s the nostalgia in me that finds this soft spot toward them. Plus I liked their name, and was always a big fan of their label group, Philips/Mercury/Fontana/Smash.

I recall seeing their album in a local shop, it may have even been my introduction to the band. Back in 1965, to be afforded an album, with only a single or two to spark it’s sale, especially when they were stiffs, was rare. But it gave us all a chance to see a color photo of them, itself a treat.

As was the case with Ian & The Zodiacs, their label Philips jumped on the US youth market’s insatiable taste for anything British Invasion related. Hence it seems the whole marketing plan for this band was to simply announce themselves as such, right there on the front cover of their debut, and as it turned out only, album:

“We’re new. We’re from England. We have a new sound”.

The last bit wasn’t really true at all, this debut single being a Mick Jagger / Keith Richards cover, made somewhat famous as the only UK chart hit by The Mighty Avengers, who like The Rolling Stones were also managed by Andrew Loog Oldham.

Also covered by The Herd, ‘So Much In Love’ or ‘So Much In Love With You’, as it’s titled here, possibly to avoid crediting the correct songwriters (Mick and Keith – see label above), is a rather perfect British Invasion, not my term btw, song. At least that’s my opinion.

And so, on July 31, 1965, ‘So Much In Love With You’ sat at #131 on BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart, whatever on earth that meant. Airplay in some small town? A few boxes sold by mistake when the warehouse were meant to ship a much bigger current hit? A nice dinner for the chart compiler at BILLBOARD’s main office? I do recall when working at Elektra during a weekly Wednesday marketing meeting, our company trade publications rep mentioning ‘begging for bullets during her BILLBOARD lunch’. Hmm.

Regardless, hopefully Ian & The Zodiacs basked in their seven days of US fame during that fateful hot July week, as they were never to chart again.

January 2nd, 2014

The Singing Nun / Soeur Sourire

Listen: Dominique / The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)
Dominique

Out of the blue, I started humming ‘Dominique’ in a restaurant last night, when one of my kids recognized the song. Apparently it was used in a recent episode of FX’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY.

I know we all believe, or want to, that our society has evolved to a higher place than those civilizations before us, even if only measured in decades. Just look at our President, legalized marijuana or gay marriage. But trust me, a record like ‘Dominique’. sung in French by a lesbian Sister of the Catholic cloth would not get airplay on today’s Top 40 stations. Period.

Not so in 1963, when Philips Records managed to get mainstream exposure, no small thanks to The Ed Sullivan Show, thereby taking ‘Dominique’ to #1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100. That’s about where the good stuff ends.

According to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s version of The Singing Nun’s saga, “most of her earnings were in fact taken away by Philips and her producer, while the rest automatically went to her religious congregation, which made at least $100,000 in royalties.”

To recap, she never received any royalties for her work, but instead saw all that income go to the label and her Catholic convent, and one can only imagine the gnarly specimens running that place. But it doesn’t end there, she was hit with a whomping tax debt years later, all for money she never received. Her Catholic convent claimed they never got the cash, though bank statements prove otherwise. Huh? Hasn’t ‘Thou Shall Not Lie’ been in the Catholic church’s Top 10 way before BILLBOARD started compiling charts?

Still, her music prevails. I’ve always loved this track, and I’m sure it’s not because of the virtual walk back to my earliest memories of being a little kid. ‘Dominique’ is just a peaceful, soothing work that transcends any language barrier, as all great music did and still does.

I tucked this NEW YORK POST clipping into the single’s sleeve, just unearthing it last night:

And so with every massive, or even slight hit, come the follow-up. Regardless of if it’s worthy, makes sense or even has/hasn’t a chance. The corporate blueprint is to ring out the dollars, and keep flaming the fire. So too, Philips settled on a second single, from the SINGING NUN album, ‘Tous Les Chemins’. It was not a hit.

Listen: Dominique / The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)
Dominique

January 1st, 2014

Donald Byrd

Listen: Black Byrd / Donald Byrd
Black

Apparently, purists howled with indignation when Donald Byrd released his BLACK BYRD album, a full-fledged foray into R&B that erupted into a popular phenomenon. He was branded a sellout and a traitor to his hard bop credentials, especially after it became the biggest selling album in Blue Note’s history. What the elitists missed, though, was that BLACK BYRD was the moment when his brand of fusion finally stepped out from under the shadow of his chief influence, Miles Davis, and found a distinctive voice of it’s own.

Never before had a jazz musician embraced the celebratory sound and style of contemporary funk as fully as Donald Byrd did here, not even Miles Davis, whose dark, chaotic jungle funk stood in sharp contrast to the bright, breezy, danceable music on BLACK BYRD. He gives free rein to producer/arranger/composer Larry Mizell, who crafts a series of tightly focused, melodic pieces often indebted to the lengthier orchestrations of Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. adding a funky sense of groove that’s near irresistible.

Hence Blue Note’s decision to edit the album’s title track into an abbreviated single, given the solos are mostly melodic and in the pocket, yet allow the funk to take center stage. Despite the fact that the electric piano, sound effects, and Roger Glenn’s ubiquitous flute date the music somewhat, it’s really part of the charm.

The album and single were state of the art for 1973, when Rich Fazekas at United Artists, who distributed Blue Note, sent me a copy. BLACK BYRD set a new standard for all future jazz/R&B/funk fusions, of which there were many.

Doanld Byrd would continue to redefine his sound on equally essential albums like STREET LADY and the fantastic PLACES AND SPACES, but BLACK BYRD stands as his groundbreaking signature statement.

Thank you Rich Fazekas, Aquarianrealm, Steve Huey and Donald Byrd.

December 31st, 2013

Joan Armatrading

Side 1:

Listen: Side 1 (see label above for song titles) / Joan Armatrading
Side

Side 2:

Listen: Side 2 (see label above for song titles) / Joan Armatrading
Side

Unlike the mp3 giveaways as we know them now, back in the days of vinyl, considerable expense went into the decision of free product for the public. The costs of manufacturing and shipping alone were daunting, then there was the co-op advertising at retail and the process behind the curtain: ‘convincing’ radio.

Occasionally, a label, or label president, would feel so strongly and probably frustrated that a potentially important act was being overlooked. And so a campaign aimed directly at the consumer would be approved. This meant overstepping the stubborn media outlets, usually radio, and getting the music into the hands of the people.

One such example being A&M’s FREE JOAN ARMATRADING initiative. The slogan was twofold. “Free” meant just that. These 6 track EP’s were literally stacked on the counters of record stores around the country. The giveaway vinyl was housed in a two sided quotes sleeve that every artist and competitor of Joan Armatrading should have been envious of, as it was all true. The free EP’s were complimented with print ads, both nationally and locally, as well sale pricing and positioning of her catalog at retail. The plan was to concentrate heavily along her two month US tour routing, and so several of the local Rochester accounts, where I went to school at the time, were targeted given the city was a stop.

Personally, I would have chosen a few other songs to include, like ‘All The Way From America’, ‘Willow’ and ‘Down To Zero’, all from the albums highlighted and possibly more immediate than ‘People’, ‘Back To The Night’ and ‘Tall In The Saddle’. Still A+++ for effort.

The second meaning of the “free” of course meant to pardon her from the closed door, almost stonewalling stance that US radio took toward her, a black lesbian playing guitar music to their straight white audience. Radio never did cave.

December 30th, 2013

Wilbert Harrison One Man Band / Prince La La / Derek Martin

THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS / Various Artists:

SIDE 1:

Listen: Let’s Work Together (Parts 1 & 2) / Wilbert Harrison One Man Band
WilbertWorkTogether.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: She Put The Hurt On Me / Prince La La
She

Listen: Daddy Rollin’ Stone / Derek Martin
Daddy

Just check my previous two posts. Not hard to guess, I’ve been picking through the various artists section of my wall shelf.

Weirdly enough, this is usually a head scratching process. I don’t do it often, but every time seems to unearth a multi-artist record, usually an EP, that I’d never really noticed before, suddenly falling into the ‘where on earth did I get this from’ category. And honestly, it happens every single time. One source, the UK weeklies, who for a few years there during the late 80′s/early 90′s were including free EP’s, whether it be NME, Music Week or Melody Maker, with each issue. I religiously grabbed every one and stuck them in that VA section for a rainy day. The entire chunk now being a treasure trove of both obscure and focus tracks.

When the Ensign label got all hot and bothered about the Sue Records catalog, which I’m guessing they could suddenly access via their 1983 Island distribution deal, they issued a series of four song EP’s religiously honoring the labels iconic history. Some were single artist compilation EP’s by Ike & Tina Turner or Inez & Charlie Foxx. Others were theme centric: SUE INSTRUMENTALS, THE SUE SOUL SISTERS and this, the latter’s partner, THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS. I played all three in the past few hours and basically did a blindfold drill to choose today’s 31 Days Of December – All EP’s post.

THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS, most likely by design, builds around much covered songs from Sue’s UK catalog. And there were many songs to choose from here, not forgetting, the Sue UK label issued the American Sue releases along with various blues and RnB singles from small and indie US labels. Initially, Juggy Murray, who owned Sue in the US was reportedly furious with Chris Blackwell and Guy Stevens, the day to day guy at Island/Sue in London. Apparently, neither had cleared the idea of picking up product from other US companies and slapping a Sue label on it for the UK.

As a result, other than the bothersome bad blood, Sue’s British catalog and discography rivaled the majors like Decca’s, who bolstered their output and image by repping Atlantic, Monument, Tribe, RCA, Coral and others in Britain. Island became the little indie that could, even harder in the 60′s, when swimming against the tide of Decca, CBS, EMI and Pye was near impossible.

And so, the team at Ensign picked some solid originals here that went on to become widely popular as covers. Loads of bands, including The Who and John’s Children released Derek Martin’s ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’ during the Mod era.

Canned Heat, blues experts themselves, took Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ Top 40 in 1970, delaying their version to give the original a chance to sell and reach #32 on BILLBOARD. In a loose full circle chain of events, John Mayall chose to record Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ for his fantastic, and I do mean fantastic, Island album, A SENSE OF PLACE from 1990.

December 29th, 2013

Slim Harpo / Lazy Lester / Leroy Washington / Lightnin’ Slim

EXCELLO ROCKERS / Various Artists:

Side 1:

Listen: Shake Your Hips / Slim Harpo
Sahke

Listen: I’m A Lover Not A Fighter / Lazy Lester
LarryLesterLoverNotFighter.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: Wild Cherry / Leroy Washington
Wild

Listen: Hello Mary Lee / Lightnin’ Slim
Hello

EP’s came along from the labels for many reasons. Besides being generally rare due to their overall lack of substantial sales, as only the very biggest shifted sizable quantities, many were issued as promotional only. As a rule, they went to radio and the press, but on some occasions, to retail for in-store play, the latter being prevalent in the US during the early 1970′s.

EXCELLO ROCKERS wasn’t really any of the above though. It was about this time that England’s Ace Records issued a series of Excello artist compilations as indicated on the EP’s back cover. So what better reason was needed to create a classy promo only treat for the most informed industry friends and clients of the label? None. Clearly much care was taken in it’s preparation, right down to the cobalt blue and tangerine tri-centered pressing.

Three of the four acts here were amongst Excello’s best known and seemingly biggest sellers, given the number of singles each released during the label’s most active ten years, from 1962.

Then there’s Leroy Washington. His backwoods moonshine style was a template for so much of the mid and late 60′s output by the white British blues bands that I’m surprised he’s never name checked. Or maybe they didn’t even know he was their guy. Sounds to me like he, let’s say, rubbed off on many of his contemporaries. Perhaps without knowing, it could have been Leroy Washington who influenced Freddie King who influenced Peter Green or Kim Simmonds who influenced….the dominoes tip from there.

‘Wild Cherry’ was Leroy Washington’s first on Excello in 1958 with only two more to follow for the label during ’59 and ’60. The track is really blues on it’s way to becoming rockabilly, and wouldn’t have been out of place on the The Cramps BLUES FIX EP.

December 28th, 2013

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich / The Herd / Scott Walker / Dusty Springfield

SWEETIE BRA EP / Various Artists:

Side 1:

Listen: Introduction – Zabadak! / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Introduction

Listen: I Don’t Want Our Loving To Die / The Herd
I

Side 2:


Listen: Come Next Spring / Scott Walker
Come

Listen: My Colouring Book / Dusty Springfield
My

No, it’s not an ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS artifact, it’s the real deal SWEETIE BRA EP from the British Exquisite Form Brassiere Company in 1968.

If you’re like me, you didn’t know the record existed. I stumbled on a copy years ago, digging through boxes rather early at the Portobello Road Saturday flea market. And by rather early, I mean it was still dark. Getting there at the crack of dawn was, and still is, the only way to find the cardiac arresting level items at low prices or more probably at any price.

I was on a mission that morning, having anticipated it all for a few days leading up. We were staying at the then hopping, now closed, Pembridge Court Hotel, with a back door entrance that literally spilled out onto the starting tip of Portobello Road.

What a place that hotel was. The manager Valerie had two gentle orange cats that happily visited the room and would occasionally stay the night if allowed. Her staff delivered sandwiches with tea and cakes at any hour. It was like staying at a great aunt’s house in old time Ennland. Corinne and I were loyal guests for years, we loved it there.

So on that particular morning, I schlepped out on my own before dawn, flashlight in pocket, to mingle with the aggressive dealers in search of their next slice of income and the collectors, in search of their next fix. No idea why I even pulled the record out of this sleeve to have a look, I guess it was an exercise in being thorough. To my surprise and pleasure, four of my favorite acts were featured. This was clearly a promotional item via some sort of relationship between the bra company and Philips/Fontana Records, given that all the artists were from the company’s roster and the actual label was the Philips signature deep shade of blue.

An amusing introduction starts Side 1, then leads into ‘Zabadak!’, a December 28th landmark in my measly little existence of a life.

December 27th, 2013

Marianne Faithfull

GO AWAY FROM MY WORLD / Marianne Faithfull:

Side 1:

Listen: Go Away From My World / Marianne Faithfull
Go

Listen: Yesterday / Marianne Faithfull
Yesterday

Listen: Sally Free And Easy / Marianne Faithfull
Sally

Side 2:

Listen: Summer Nights / Marianne Faithfull
Summer

Listen: Last Thing On My Mind / Marianne Faithfull
Last

Listen: Mary Ann / Marianne Faithfull
Mary

Another in the short series of London Records / Seeburg jukebox EP’s from the mid 1960′s.

As with The Rolling Stones post on 12/18, all these 33 1/3 true stereo EP’s, made with the endorsement of Seeburg and basically designed for their machines, had blank, white back covers. The Seeburg 45/33 1/3 compatible boxes had four framed glass windows into which these covers were meant to slip, thereby providing maximum real estate for the featured mini albums. As a result, there was no need for a back sleeve, thereby saving on print costs.

Besides, jukebox tabs, like the one below, were provided with the EP’s, from which all the song selections could be had.

Marianne Faithfull was just beginning her descent as a successful US Top 40 singles act around the time of this EP, GO AWAY FROM MY WORLD, and her second US album of the same name. The previous single, ‘Summer Nights’ included here, was the last to receive blanket pop airplay, peaking at #24 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100. The followup, ‘Go Away From My World’, despite it’s beautiful full color picture sleeve, got minimal exposure and only struggled to #89.

I love that description, struggled. Real chart nuts, ones that make me appear normal and perfectly acceptable for mainstream society, use it all the time. It so nicely sets a sombre tone. But I do recall how dark and gloomy ‘Go Away From My World’ sounded on the air. It was the whole point, and the whole appeal as well. Material ladened with misery always suited her the best.

She got a ton of radio play in upstate New York. In fact, even I thought her singles peaked higher nationally recollecting now on how concentrated the exposure was.

December 21st, 2013

Ike & Tina Turner

WHAT YOU HEAR IS WHAT YOU GET – LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL / Ike & Tina Turner:

Side 1:

Listen: I’ve Been Loving You Too Long / Ike & Tina Turner
IkeTinaLovingYouToo.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Everyday) / Ike & Tina Turner
A

Listen: Respect / Ike & Tina Turner
Respect

In 1971, United Artists released Ike & Tina Turner’s tenth live album WHAT YOU HEAR IS WHAT YOU GET – LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL in the US. Despite being a double record and rather too padded with current soul covers, it still peaked at #25 on BILLBOARD’s Top 200, their highest ever chart entry along with WORKIN’ TOGETHER from the previous year.

They were hot off their biggest (#4) and only US Top 10 single, ‘Proud Mary’, of which a live version was included.

But seriously, how lopsided are those details? Ike & Tina Turner had one Top 10 single and only managed to reach #25 in the album chart, despite being amongst of the biggest live attractions in America and around the world during the 60′s / early 70′s?

Well, their records didn’t get much mainstream exposure on Top 40 radio, a permanently damaging mark on Phil Spector’s career and psyche, although rumor has it his ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ production was blackballed by the then venomous payola demanding radio community.

Or possibly, Ike & Tina Turner’s act was just too raw, too suggestive and too hard hitting. Reality wasn’t always a friend of the mainstream.

Some of their previous, should have been hit singles were included on the double set. Two being ‘Ive Been Loving You Too Long’ and ‘A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Everyday)’, both part of the three song jukebox only EP above.

December 19th, 2013

Little Stevie Wonder

I CALL IT PRETTY MUSIC…BUT THE OLD PEOPLE CALL IT THE BLUES / Little Stevie Wonder:

Side 1:

Listen: I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues (Part 1) /Little Stevie Wonder
I

Listen: I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues (Part 2) /Little Stevie Wonder
I

Side 2:

Listen: Workout Stevie Workout / Little Stevie Wonder
Workout

Listen: Monkey Talk / Little Stevie Wonder
Monkey

When it comes to hitting puberty and it’s accompanying voice change for males, I often wish Little Stevie Wonder had never grown up to be Stevie Wonder. Michael Jackson’s keepers allegedly had the good sense to castrate the fellow in order to avoid losing that money printing vocal ability.

So when speaking of voice alone, I prefer the early days as exemplified on this EP, hand’s down.

Although ‘I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues’ may be one of the best song titles ever, it pales as rather standard early Motown next to ‘Workout Stevie Workout’ and ‘Monkey Talk’.

Now these two songs have the imaginary ability to transport me outside the window ledge at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, looking in. The songs are like a soul steam bath, possibly amongst the greatest examples of the assembly line sweat shop known to produce the Motown sound and all their wonderfully tambourine heavy swinging singles.

And then, there’s Little Stevie Wonder toiling away his publishing and performances in the middle of it all. Nowadays that might be considered a child labor offense. I never did follow the blow by blows of the label’s financial abuse accusations towards their artists, but he has stayed with the company for his entire career, so go figure.

It’s not hard to see why all those English soul nuts clamored over this initial UK EP release, with it’s aforementioned musical content and period piece primitive artwork.

December 17th, 2013

The Rolling Stones

THE ROLLING STONES, NOW! / The Rolling Stones:

Side 1:

Listen: Side 1 (see label above for song titles) / The Rolling Stones
Side

Side 2:

Listen: Side 2 (see label above for song titles) / The Rolling Stones
Side

Another variation of the EP, in the US that is, was the two or three song per side jukebox pressing.

London Records issued four by The Rolling Stones, essentially compiling about half of a then current album configured as a 7″ replica of the full length 12″ version. The front covers literally lifted the album artwork, catalog number and all, while the back was left blank. These presumably were popular with the various Rock-Ola and Seeburg models that could switch speeds from 45 to 33. When a small holed EP hit the turntable, the disc would flatten down the large hole 45 center adaptor and flip the speed down to an accommodating 33rpm.

I don’t recall seeing the selections by The Rolling Stones in any of the local soda fountains we’d frequent after school, instead seeing Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra options, both very underplayed if at all by the assembled teenagers we fantasized being like one day.

I do however remember getting up the nerve to visit a downtown Syracuse one stop, whereby we marched bravely to the front counter that separated customer from all records behind it. The jukebox operators and mom ‘n’ pop retailers would turn up weekly, maybe even daily, knowing what they wanted or needed and exactly who to ask for. My best friend Denny and I showed up as though we belonged there, not knowing what to expect or how to behave. We didn’t stay long, and got informed that the outlet was not open to the public but only for dealers. Good try.

The magnitude of seeing quantities, box lots and bulk copies of records on endless shelves left a lasting impression on me as a kid. I knew that someday, I wanted to have the chance to be on that side of the counter and literally dreamt about it for years.

What I do vividly remember during the minute or less we actually stood amongst the beehive of activity of this busy barter type scene were all four London Records Rolling Stones jukebox EP’s, sitting in a cardboard counter rack designed specifically for their display. It was when inquiring could we please buy one of each that we were denied and asked to leave. In addition to a job at a one stop, I left also wanting all four records badly.

Through the years, every one of those goals were luckily achieved. And like with the actual albums from which the EP’s originated (12X5, THE ROLLING STONES NOW!, OUT OF OUR HEADS and THEIR SATANIC MAJESTY’S REQUEST), it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. But if forced to before a firing squad, I’m pretty sure I’d choose THE ROLLING STONES, NOW!