Archive for the ‘The Four Seasons’ Category

The Forum

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

The River Is Wide / The Forum

Listen: The River Is Wide / The Forum
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There was many a single during the year 1967 like this one. Although most acts survived to release three or four, it was usually only one that made a splash, picking up late night pre FM progressive play on the many AM Top 40′s that would go a bit free form in the early hours, especially prevalent during that summer. These singles would many times graduate to daytime play and eventually maintain themselves a several month spread across the US pop stations, and be regarded as signature to the year of flower power, even through to the present.

As with Sagittarius ‘My World Fell Down’, The Avant-Garde ‘Naturally Stoned’, The Third Rail ‘Run Run Run’ or The Strawberry Children ‘Love Years Coming’, The Forum’s ‘The River Is Wide’ has earned this honor. WNDR, the tighter of of the two Syracuse Top 40′s charted it.

Partially MOR, partially Rotary Connection underground soul, a hint of Bill Medley’s Righteous Brothers baritone vocal and some Four Seasons meets Fifth Dimension backgrounds, all produced under the guidance of Les Baxter and Norm Ratner. An unlikely recipe that collided perfectly together and was easily labeled as psychedelic when no other explanation would suffice.

From one of the many stacks WMCR donated my way, it’s fun reading what the label’s promotion guy wrote to the station’s MD on the single’s original company sleeve above.

The Bachelors

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Listen: 3 O’Clock Flamingo Street / The Bachelors
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My Mom always loved these guys, they were Irish and so was she. But then most Moms did. You see, the very square looking Bachelors co-existed effortlessly with beat groups in ’64 and ’65. There were a few others, like The Vogues and The Four Seasons, sporting dreadful hair cuts, who dressed decidedly old yet were accepted by the youngsters and their parents as well. The Bachelors fell into that space. I guess it was the quality of their songs and music that worked. It was good stuff.

Think about it, The Walker Brothers pretty much did the same thing, but they had it down in the image and looks department, hence becoming deservedly seminal in rock history.

’3 O’Clock Flamingo Street’ was The Bachelors first non-charting UK single after a solid three or four year run. Although I remembered it being a bit psychedelic, having heard the single a few times on the radio in summer ’67, it’s acutally not musically psychedelic at all.

Lyrically though, very twisted. There’s a definite implication something sinister was going on at 3AM. That drew me in. This was indeed the summer I was sneaking out and visiting our local cemetery late at night, alone, in an effort to see if spirits would attempt contact. The reasons for that morbid and thankfully temporary attraction are rather unexplainable still. I will say it was fairly terrifying. Anyways, my radar was up for just this type of record.

Alan Tew contributed that UK Decca orchestration and arrangement I so love, sounding not unlike the Cat Stevens ‘Kitty’ and ‘A Bad Night’ singles from that period.

And it was produced by Dick Rowe, now world famous for turning down The Beatles at Decca UK – and subsequently signing The Rolling Stones as penance. In my opinion, therefore, he made two perfect and unbeatable career moves.

The Walker Brothers

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

walkerbrosshipuk, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
walkerbrosshipusa, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
walkerbrosshipps, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

US Picture Sleeve: Front (above) / Back (below)

walkerbrosshippsb, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

Listen: My Ship Is Coming In / The Walker Brothers
My Ship Is Coming In / The Walker Brothers

I will never forget the Friday night I walked into Two Guys Department store with my parents. As usual, I headed straight to the record department while they proceeded to do some weekly shopping. The singles were displayed all along the the tops of the album bins, each in their own metal rack holding about 25 copies. I wish I had photos.

There in brilliant full color, was the above Walker Brothers picture sleeved single, ‘My Ship Is Coming In’, a solid 25 copies freshly unboxed. I could hardly breathe. They looked fantastic in bulk. The sleeve just radiated about one hundred times more intensely than anything else in sight, like a messiah. I still get tingles looking at the cover. It brings me right back. I owned it minutes later.

I could not get home fast enough, freaking out in the dark car, holding this masterpiece but only getting to glimpse at it as we passed under traffic lights and street lamps. God knows how many times I played it that night. It was not guitar based British beat, but instead sounded like music grownups listened too. Yet clearly there was something addictive in it’s air. I decided then and there, I was going to love this record. That was that. I did then and I still do.

Years later Scott Walker would reveal that while all his contemporaries in London were modeling themselves after American blues greats, his attention was focused on becoming the next Eddie Fisher. How genius was this guy?

WalkerSunUKA, The Walker Brothers

walkerbrossunuk, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
wlakerbrossunusa, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

Listen: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) / The Walker Brothers
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore) / The Walker Brothers

The world was not ready for the followup to ‘My Ship Is Coming In’. Mine certainly wasn’t. How could The Walker Brothers possibly up the perfection of that record? Then along comes ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’, a flop a few years earlier for Franki Valli. He and The Four Seasons had loads of great records, and he’s no slouch in the vocal department. But Scott Walker he is not, no one is.

I swear, this record can still stop me in my tracks when it comes up on the ipod or BBC’s Radio 2. I heard it on the 60′s Sirius radio channel aboard a JetBlue flight recently. As diverse and truly exciting that the many other songs were, this just grabbed the prize unchallenged.

I saw Matt Pinfield the other day. He had Matt & Kim on his morning WRXP radio show, so I went along. Pinfield is the most kind hearted and passionate music fan, really knows his stuff, loves records. We worked together at Columbia and got connected at the hip. Somehow the subject of ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’ came up. Almost in unison, we both blurted out nearly identical sentences.

“This may be the greatest single of all time.”

Deservedly, it spent a month at #1 in the UK. See the three consecutive NME charts below, reprinted from 40 YEARS OF THE NME CHARTS. Despite not one US TV appearance or live show, it did get played here and had a decent chart run, peaking at #13 in BILLBOARD. It should have, at least, gone Top 10 but given the many singles that never ever charted, there’s some contentment in it’s placing.

nme4_66, 40 Years Of The NME Charts

Timebox

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

timeboxusa,Timebox, Deram, Patto, Mike Patto, The Four Seasons, Record Retailer

Listen: Beggin’ / Timebox TimeboxBeggin.mp3

If only ‘Beggin’ had been a hit for Timebox instead of The Four Seasons. If only any of Mike Patto’s seminal bands, of which Timebox was one, had gotten a break. It’s one of the great shames in the history of music. Now comfortably collectable, I’m sure every member of the band wishes they’d kept a box of ‘Beggin’- as if they’d managed one free copy.

It’s lack of success is indeed baffling, having gotten solid airplay even in the States. I heard it several times before the stations changed over to the now more known Four Seasons version. Hey, The Four Seasons had loads of great singles – no question – it just would have been nice to share a little.

In the UK, it struggled solidly on the lower reaches of the RECORD RETAILER charts (see below) during the summer of ’68, but sadly ended up being at best, a turntable hit.

recordretailer81468, Timebox, Mike Patto, Beggin, The Four Seasons, Record Retailer, Patto

Above: Record Retailer Top 50 / August 14, 1968

The Vogues

Friday, December 4th, 2009

VoguesUK, The Vogues,  American London, Len Berry

Listen: You’re The One / The Vogues VoguesYoure.mp3

One of the member’s vocal style bordered on yodeling and these guys looked not unlike The Four Seasons or The Righteous Brothers aka dreadful. But the early singles: hands down greatness. It’s hard to pick a favorite, as both ‘Five O’ Clock World’ and ‘In The Land Of Milk And Honey’ are close runners up, but I’m going with ‘You’re The One’.

The Vogues eventually moved to Reprise where the schmaltz sound and image got….worse. Suddenly they were more like The Letterman than ever before, although I can admit it, ‘Turn Around, Look At Me’ is an occasional guilty pleasure.

Wayne Bickerton Productions: World Of Oz / Clyde McPhatter / The Rubettes

Monday, December 29th, 2008

The Muffin Man / World Of Oz

Listen: The Muffin Man / World Of Oz
The Muffin Man / World Of Oz

Seems the labels had a stable of in-house producers back in the 60′s. And many times they’d be given the new signings to whip into shape, and record in those infamous four or six hour windows. I’m guessing these producers were either on staff, or had production deals, similar to today’s consultancies. People like Denny Cordell and Mike Hurst come to mind, as does Wayne Bickerton.

I first noticed his name on Decca and Deram releases. A very favorite was ‘The Muffin Man’ by World Of Oz. It got a lot of Top 40 play in the US for a few weeks during summer ’68. Years later, in the Notting Hill Record & Tape Exchange, I stumbled on a copy with this very rare UK sleeve pictured above. My heart just about stopped. I’d no idea it existed as it’s not mentioned in any of the price guides and I’d never seen another. ‘The Muffin Man’ was part of their rather lavish album, lavish for the time that is, apparently requiring a huge budget. I was lucky enough to meet Wayne about four years ago on a New York trip, and meant to ask that budget detail. I had many questions, and he was fantastic about filling in so many blanks, but that one slipped my mind. Always an admirer of his work, it was a fascinating hour or two.

Baby You've Got It / Clyde McPhatter

Listen: Baby You’ve Got It / Clyde McPhatter
Baby You've Got It / Clyde McPhatter

Although an original member of The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter oddly moved to England, and even odder, signed to Deram. Come on, The Drifters were the definition of Harlem Doo Wop and such. Why did this guy pick up and go to London? Was he a closet Anglophile? Luckily, Wayne Bickerton was put in charge and produced his Northern Soul hit ‘Baby You’ve Got It’. Applying his trademark orchestration, the song became Clyde McPhatter’s strongest single ever.

Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes

Listen: Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes
Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes

Occasionally I hear The Rubettes ‘Sugar Baby Love’ and it jumps out every time. A perfect combination of glam and maybe doo wop meets Four Seasons or something. Not only did he produce it, but co-wrote the song as well.