Archive for the ‘The Medicine Label’ Category

The Sir Douglas Quintet

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

The Tracker / Sir Douglas Quintet - US

Listen: The Tracker / The Sir Douglas Quintet
The Tracker / The Sir Douglas Quintet

Like so many bands popping up around the country circa ’64 – ’65, all imitating Britain’s Invasion, The Sir Douglas Quintet appeared. Unlike those others, they had a recognizable sound (perfectly part Bo Diddley, part Pretty Things) and could both write and find great songs, and had the production advantage of Huey P. Meaux guiding them. The band never released a bad single on London Records’ imprint Tribe. They eventually moved to Smash/Philips where their greatness, and the occasional hit single, continued.

‘The Tracker’, followup to their debut smash ‘She’s About A Mover’, was a real favorite despite it’s national stall at #105 in July ’65 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart.

I recall seeing them on SHINDIG, Doug Sahm (Sir Douglas) doing a mean Phil May imitation vocal on ‘The Tracker’ while holding an oversized magnifying glass, kind of roaming around the stage as though following footsteps visible when enlarged, Sherlock Holmes style. Not only did they have the sound down, but the look as well.

Blue Norther / Sir Douglas Quintet - US

Listen: Blue Norther / The Sir Douglas Quintet
Blue Norther / The Sir Douglas Quintet

‘Blue Norther’, the B side, with it’s rather haunting patent Sir Douglas Quintet formula (not to be taken as a bad thing), I like to think is about the train line and totally conjured up nighttime images of a freight winding it’s way through some dark mountain woods or the Texas desert, assuming there is one there.

Listen: In Time / The Sir Douglas Quintet
In Time / The Sir Douglas Quintet

Quickly released that September, no doubt in hopes of refuelling interest after their huge debut, ‘In Time’ stiffed completely. Shame, just listen to it’s perfection. No other US band quite captured their flawless mixture of Texas and England, a recipe that should’ve easily worked. To my knowledge, only KNAC in Salt Lake City charted it for a week in October at #63. Otherwise, klunk

Listen: The Story Of John Hardy / The Sir Douglas Quintet
The Story Of John Hardy / The Sir Douglas Quintet

For the flipside of ‘In Time’, as with Manfred Mann’s rendition of the Lomax/Lomax written ‘John Hardy’ (it too a B side of ‘Sha La La’), the ever present influence of The Pretty Things, marraccas particularly, prevailed. The band’s more folk blues ‘version’, retitled ‘The Story Of John Hardy’, songwriting mischievously credited to Doug Sahm, succeeded in establishing yet again that sound so unique to this band.

Many years later, Doug Sahm formed The Texas Tornadoes and signed to Warner Brothers. I saw him in the office one day (my company, The Medicine Label, was a WB label) and he graciously filled out a jukebox tab for me. It was a chance meeting, so I wasn’t prepared with B side info. I couldn’t remember it, neither could he.

Sir Douglas Quintet - Juke Box Tab

Above: Jukebox Tab filled out by Doug Sahm.

The Pretty Things

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Listen: Havana Bound / The Pretty Things
Havana Bound / The Pretty Things

It’s May 19, technically the anniversary of booking The Pretty Things at my college. I celebrate it every year, well given this also marked my first date with Corinne, it’s impossible to forget. Talk about impressing a girl, this totally did the trick. Yes, our first date was a concert by The Pretty Things, with all the backstage trimmings.

I was the school’s event chairman and conveniently, there was no concert committee. None of the other students were interested. I believe that reality is known as a dream come true. Not only did I worm my way into the campus radio station as music director, I was also booking whoever I wanted with the school’s money. A spoiled freshman, that was me.

Needless to say, only British acts got the slots: Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Rory Gallagher, Atomic Rooster, The Incredible String Band and The Pretty Things. Not a bad lineup for year one.

Given they had a manager that turned down The Ed Sullivan Show, it’s no wonder The Pretty Things never made it to the US during the 60′s. Hard to believe, and neither did The Small Faces.

After having called it quits post their album PARACHUTE flopping in ’70; it was like a miracle that The Pretty Things were reforming to record FREEWAY MADNESS in late ’72. Seemed a lifetime then, and the news was a big deal to the small but already twisted following The Pretty Things had acquired.

Then, on top of that, a premier US tour for spring ’73 was announced. It seemed too good to be true and booking them became my mission in life, School work tabled, getting The Pretty Things to town top of the list. Success, I got the band to play for $500 on May 19th with The James Cotton Band as openers. See the poster below.

Never did I envision at the time that one day, years later, I’d have my own label and actually reissue the FREEWAY MADNESS album. Never ever crossed my mind, but life can take you on the wildest ride if you let it.

Fast forward to ’94, The Medicine Label is up and running out of the Warner Brothers New York office. Mo Ostin, then chairman of both Warner and Reprise, but based in Burbank, would often visit our building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. On one particular trip, we were talking in the hallway, and it just occurred to me that this was the moment, so I asked, could I re-release The Pretty Things album from the catalog, then lying dormant having been unavailable for years.

“Sure. Good idea, just check to see it hasn’t been scheduled by the reissue department.”

I nearly blacked out with excitement, unlike the reissue team, who smelled a potential predator upon hearing the news.

“Not to worry guys, it’s a one-off.” Reissue departments were very cautious of the finite back catalog from which they drew.

Suddenly, with FREEWAY MADNESS on the schedule, the original 1/2″ master tapes were delivered to my office along with cover art films, bios, press shots, studio logs, you name it. There sat history in the Warner Brothers pouch, as it was referred.

Well who better to write new liner notes than Phil May?

Luckily, we’d been introduced a few years earlier by Shannon O’Shea, a UK friend who was managing the band around ’90-’91. I would often stay in Notting Hill Gate, and Phil lived just down the street from my hotel, on Talbot Road. We spent many an afternoon in his local pub. A nicer guy you will not meet, and the recollections. Endless.

So yeah, Phil May was only too happy to write those CD reissue liner notes, and while rummaging for some bits to post here, I found the agreement below between the WB art department and Phil for the job:

The real moment on FREEWAY MADNESS was ‘Havana Bound’. It was picture perfect Pretty Things, and originally the UK B side to ‘Over The Moon’, released in ’72 as the album’s official single.

Huh? The B side? Not to take anything away from ‘Over The Moon’, great great song but come on. What planet did that decision originate from? ‘Havana Bound’ deserved a big red A label.

Well now was my chance to right wrong so we scheduled a US 7″ of ‘Havana Bound’ to promote the CD reissue and service college radio but mostly because I just had to have it on an A side. Few things have been more exciting than the day those box lots arrived from the plant.

Believe it, the record business in it’s heyday was a euphoric free-for-all.

Above: The promo only insert from the ’73 US release of FREEWAY MADNESS
Below: The 8×10 press shot that accompanied FREEWAY MADNESS mailings to US journalists in ’73


Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Listen: Make-Up / Silver

It was on one of the many New York trips Paul Cox from Too Pure had made, whereby he’d stay at Hotel Corinne & Kevin, that I was first introduced to Silver.

You see, Corinne would have it no other way, and like Lindsay Hutton, he’s still one of the few folks who has a virtual life long key to the house, as issued by the boss herself. In true sharing form, Paul, as with Lindsay, always brings loads of very English presents for us both: Battenberg Cakes, Twiglets, pink Smarties, PG Tips in those British boxes, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars wrapped in that purple foil. Unbeknownst to him, the Silver demo cassette more than sufficed on that particular visit.

There was a period shortly after when it felt like Silver might actually jump on board the then steaming forward bullet train known as Britpop, a term all those involved with seem to cringe at now.

Around the time of ‘Make-Up’, they were supporting Gene on a UK tour, and it seemed the red suited singer/songwriter Ian DeZilwa was about to become a very English pop star. By all rights, he should have.

Smart as a button, Ian and his band had one wispy Ray Davies-like song after the other, each with some very Herd or Honeybus moment that we true English group stalkers spotted a mile away. I guess we were indeed a dying breed by then, 1994.

Listen: Kings And Queens / Silver

‘Kings And Queens’ on every third listen, had me convinced it should’ve been the lead track. Nice thing about Ian DeZilwa’s songs were not only the hooks but lyrics. Don’t worry, I’m really not a lyric guy, except on occasion, so no plans to start quoting them. To be clear, his were nicely British.

Phil Vinal produced both sides here. Like Britpop itself, all but three or four bands and their producers alike seemed to weather the backlash storm, all disclaiming the press invented genre as an early career catalyst.

In the case of the remaining others, like Phil Vinal, Britpop involvement became the mark of the devil for their futures. No idea what evolved for him after his fifteen minutes, of which the Silver single was probably minute twelve or thirteen.


Monday, October 17th, 2011

Listen: Temple Of Dreams / Messiah

Not to be confused with Switzerland’s death metal band, this Messiah formed in ’88 during London’s acid house craze by college friends Ali Ghani and Mark Davies. When the pair met at an Iggy Pop concert, they decided to purchase some electronic equipment and make music for fun. According to the band’s bio, it was then that their musical chemistry became evident, coinciding with the English rave scene. The duo’s brand of techno encompasses the aggression and volume of punk as well, the diva vocals of house music. So there you have it.

By the early 90′s, several of those acid house anthems began to surface into the mainstream, and even found their way onto the occasional US major label. Such was the case with ‘Temple Of Dreams’ in ’92. Rick Rubin’s American Records, then distributed by Warner Brothers and just down the hall from Duane and I at Medicine, picked up Messiah for the US, and issued ‘Temple Of Dreams’ as an initial single on his techno offshoot, WHTE LBLS.

Everyone loved this on the floor. I don’t think any of us could get enough of it, or the various mixes that seemed to be commissioned weekly.

But the back story was as intriguing as the single. In ’83, This Mortal Coil released a cover of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’, a track from his STARSAILOR album (’70), as a UK single. Peaking at #66 in the Pop Charts, the record went on to spend a total 101 weeks in the UK Indie Chart, a run that ranked 4th during the entire 1980′s, after three classic long-selling records: ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ / Bauhaus (131 weeks), ‘Blue Monday’ / New Order (186 weeks) and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ / Joy Division (195 weeks).

Messiah actually sampled This Mortal Coils version heavily, adding their own blips and bleeps plus a bunch of new shouty vocal vamps.

Despite having played this white at the time, I hadn’t heard it for years until tonight while doing some therapy filing. It’s on about the tenth repeat play at this point.


Monday, August 15th, 2011

Listen: Film Star / Suede
Film Star / Suede

Easily my favorite British act from the 90′s, and one of my favorites of all time. Favorite hardly describes it really. We’d met when they were unsigned, looking for a deal, having recorded their demo with Ed Buller, then resident engineer, in the Island demo studio at 22 St. Peter’s Square, during my last few months at the label.

By then, I was plotting my new venture through Warner Brothers, The Medicine Label, back in New York, but still spent a lot of time in London. I would soon try to sign them to my company for the US. Didn’t happen, but never mind, it not once blemished my love for their music.

It was during those months in early ’92 that I did my A&R drill, showing up at several of their shows around England, where they were playing to bulging crowds in small pubs and clubs, booked only a month or so prior to the frenzy. One night after a show at the Princess Charlotte Pub in Leicester, Brett, Mat and I rode back to London together, Brett dj-ing David Bowie’s HUNKY DORY the entire trip. In my opinion, Suede never took their eyes off it as one of the band’s great inspirations.

Third album, COMING UP unexpectedly took everyone off guard. Having replaced their original guitarist, the naysayers were naysaying big time. Big surprise, new guitarist Richard Oakes was a much better musician and ultimate band catalyst. As well, COMING UP established Mat Osman as one of rock’s very most accomplished bassists. After the album’s cycle, which by it’s finishing stretch had delivered five Top 10 UK singles, the non-believers were silenced. A fantastic work.

‘Film Star’ was the fifth of those five, a #9 in England.

Del Tha Funkee Homosapien

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Listen: Mistadobalina (Radio Edit) / Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
Mistadobalina (Radio Edit) / Del Tha Funkee Hoosapien

When I started The Medicine Label in early ’92, we were distributed by Warner Brothers for the UK. My first trip to meet the London office turned out to be a collectors dream come true. First off, Gary Crowley had just joined their A&R staff. Like myself, he’d worked at Island prior and also recently migrated.

Day one, Gary takes me to lunch at Bill Wyman’s then new Sticky Fingers Cafe, only a few blocked away from the WB building in Kensington. Now this was some place for both a Rolling Stones fan and general collector alike. Every wall space literally covered with memorabilia: gold record plaques, trade ads and pictures sleeves, hand bills, posters, ticket stubs. The guy saved everything. Sticky Fingers became a favorite stop for a few years. Food was on the dodgy side for a vegetarian, but the scenery made up for it.

Back at the office, Gary walks me through to the head of radio promotion, who’s already been informed of my vinyl issues. He opens his cabinets and says, “take what you want, in fact, take the lot, we don’t get much call for 7′s.” Well, you need only ask me once. His back catalogue was deep, and so I grab one of everything (minimum). A few hundred 45′s later went into the international pouch and got shipped home.

Over the next few weeks, I’d made my way through the lot, and a few things became one-play favorites, like ‘Mistadobalina’. This record probably hasn’t aged as historically well as hoped for, which might explain it’s appeal to me. I definitely have vanilla tastes when it comes to rap.


Monday, January 24th, 2011

Listen: Sorted For E’s & Wizz /Pulp
Sorted For E's & Wizz /Pulp

Dave Bedford from Fire Records in London became quite a good friend during my days with Island in the early 90′s, as I’d be in town for two or three week stays at a time. We had, and still do have, similar tastes in both the past and present. Logically, he and I share a vinyl addiction but more importantly, a natural chemistry about so many things. Kind of like that occasional person you meet and within hours, feel as though you’ve known your whole life.

Never did Dave make a suggestion about a band that wasn’t eye to eye with my tastes, so when he nudged me rather relentlessly about seeing Pulp in December ’91, somewhere along Portobello Road near the Rough Trade shop on Talbot, in a small pub, I was interested. Apparently, they were looking to get out of Fire and really worth checking out.

Why not? Howard was in town, so I suggested we all meet up there, see the band and have some food together. Howard brought David Field and a few friends as well. Everyone was in.

Before leaving the Island office, I asked a some of the A&R guys to join. Pulp were deemed damaged goods at that point, having gone from indie label pillar to post for several years, treading water and considered to be at a low point of no return career-wise. My invitations were met with disinterest and I’m sure a few rolled eyes once I turned away. No worries, I was planning my exit a few months down the road to start The Medicine Label. Just trying to be nice fellows.

The pub was miserably empty when Pulp went on, maybe thirty people tops. Most dwindled off after a few songs, even our posse, sans Dave Bedford, decided to go down the road for a drink and wait for us to finish having a look.

I was in awe. They seemed fantastic. Dave was right. Jarvis (one of the best radio presenters in the world at the moment btw) doing his routine, fitted out in a wide wale brown hip hugger corduroy suit replete with white belt. Literally straight out of a Scott Walker photo essay, no surprise there.

Next day in the office, I couldn’t shake the previous night’s show. They were clearly too English to try working with for US only, and the London office were sternly not interested. No one was waiting for me to walk away before rolling their eyes now. So I just drifted off rather defeated, accepting I was born in the wrong place, wrong time to do anything professional with Pulp, just needed to be content staying a fan.

Six months later, I was setting up my label through Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, and the new regime at Island UK were signing Pulp.

Good for them. For my money, the band’s first proper Island album was DIFFERENT CLASS, a picture perfect creative culmination of all their new found confidence yet not so distant hardships at being kicked about for years. DIFFERENT CLASS become a stake in music history’s timeline.

“Sorted For E’s And Wizz’, having maybe the best title ever for a song and despite being spotlighted by the mainstream press as obviously drug related, hurled itself to #2 in the UK singles chart. Not initially, which was frustrating, but eventually pressed on 7″ vinyl, the single finally graced the library shelves. Fun and funny as it is, there’s some chilling lyric bits and all too true. A desert island single. Hands down.

Listen: Disco 2000 / Pulp
Disco 2000 / Pulp

Fuck me, did this sound good compressed as hell via Radio 1′s signal and coming out of the car dashboard. Those opening chords had every shotgun seat occupant diving for the volume dial. Involuntary reaction.

Listen: Disco 2000 (7″ Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (7

I seem to remember this single mix being done for the US. God knows why. I mean, the band came over and supported Blur in ’94, thereby building a nice following and deserved airplay, but of course radio…..

The Blur / Pulp tour played at New York’s Academy. Remembered this well, it was Corinne’s birthday, September 29, 1994. Seeing Pulp was a perfect present, she loved them from day one. Only problem being she wanted to do something or other straight afterwards, hence dragged my ass out just as Blur were hitting their third number. Bummer, but it was her birthday.

Listen: Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp

Nice thing about the above ‘Disco 2000 (7″ Mix)’: it gave Island an excuse to press up a jukebox single, basically the trend amongst the labels at that time. These singles were low end design, paperless label, large center hole and very limited, literally for jukeboxes.

It was coupled with ‘Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix)’, a near eight minute techno club version that made it’s way onto a rather nice promo 12″ some months earlier. The 12 was played a lot, like a real lot, in the house on the Dual stacking turntable I’d bought at the Warner Brothers Records used equipment sale for employees. $10, and still works like a charm to this day.

One of Pulp’s crowning moments was headling an all day event at Finsbury Park on July 25, 1998. It was a Saturday, I desperately wanted to get back home after a week in London, but decided it could be worth pushing my flight back by a day. Turned out being one of my better decisions in life.

Captain Sensible

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

CaptainSensibleWot, Captain Sensible, A&M, The Damned

Listen: Wot! / Captain Sensible

As Seymour Stein once loudly yelled down the hall to a certain snooty A&R guy, “Don’t lie to me you liar”.

The action never ended on that 21st floor of 75 Rockefeller Plaza, home to the Warner labels for decades. Our Medicine office was conveniently smack dab in the middle of a long hallway anchored on one end by the Warner/Reprise A&R staff and at the other, Seymour and the Sire staff. Duane and I had the best seats in the house.

And anyone who tells you they never liked The Damned is also a liar. Not mentioned as often as they should be, the band were easily an equal to The Sex Pistols when it comes to the UK punk crown. A tie.

Captain Sensible never could, never will, do any wrong. He’s hysterical, a fantastic entertainer, front man, side man, guitarist, bassist, songwriter and an all around good guy. He was a big friend of Joey Ramone’s, and it was The Damned who were the only UK band that flew themselves over from England to honor his life at Hammerstein Ballroom a month after he passed away. His Mom, brother and all his close friends never forgot.

Sometimes the good ones do get their just rewards. Who wasn’t pleased when Captain’s first solo single ‘Happy Talk’ topped the UK charts? Captain Sensible at #1! Yes.

The followup, ‘Wot!’, also a chart success, was even better. It was pure Sensible humor. Hearing it is seeing him in that two piece pink shag rug suit. Great records make you visualize the artist. Here’s the proof.

CaptainSensibleGlad, Captain Sensible, A&M, The Damned

Listen: Glad It’s All Over / Captain Sensible

Two years later, when it was looking like the solo Captain Sensible moment had passed, ‘Glad It’s All Over’, with it’s mischievous Kid Creole & The Coconuts fake intro, barreled to a UK #6. Great song, great production, great news. Again, hats off to the Captain.

This was ’84 and towards the end of a six year run, late night weekly FM radio specialty show I co-hosted with Roger McCall. We both found ourselves to be so sick of the ghettoized midnight to 2 AM life sentence of a time slot that the WCMF programmers inflicted on music which should’ve been heard all day. And so we’d end every show with ‘Glad It’s All Over’. They were so in the dark, they never did catch on.