Archive for the ‘Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville’ Category

Hedgehoppers Anonymous

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Listen: Stop Press / Hedgehoppers Anonymous

Quite possibly the very first copy of BILLBOARD I ever laid my eyes on had Hedgehoppers Anonymous’ ‘It’s Good News Week’ at #48 in the Hot 100. I know because still have that edition.

Mind you, those early copies of the magazine were life changing. For a youngster desperately obsessed with English music during the 60′s, this publication was a tsunami of joyous information and statistics. BILLBOARD enabled me to actually see Britain’s Top 50 singles chart on a weekly basis. And believe you me, I gunned my way to Smith’s Records after school every Friday to pour over the current week’s edition, and to pick up last week’s now worthless copy from Mrs. Smith herself. I was her chosen charity. I suppose it was me or the rubbish bin, all pre-recycling of course. I cringe to think how many copies were tossed. Regardless, a week old BILLBOARD was useless to even Mrs. Smith in Oneida, NY. The world moved fast back then as well.

Now I’d already seen mention of this band, as with many others, probably in TEEN SCREEN or 16 MAGAZINE. Those publications would all dedicate a page or two toward reprinted miniatures of the record companies’ new band 8×10′s. And Hedgehoppers Anonymous were one such. Their name was hard to forget, especially for this youngster’s unblemished hippocampus.

And so with great excitement, and desperate catch-up, ‘It’s Good News Week’ at #48 made me desperate for an airing. Fate and luck were on my side. Local Top 40 WNDR ran a weekly Tuesday night program, ‘Echoes Of England’, whereby they’d spin all the singles they didn’t, wouldn’t and/or couldn’t play in regular rotation. It’s how I first heard Them, Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville, The Applejacks, The Pretty Things and on this particular occasion, Hedgehoppers Anonymous.

Years, although not that many, later I discovered they were produced and guided by Jonathan King, a big favorite of mine then and now. I honestly don’t recall when I acquired ‘Stop Press’. I’m guessing ’74-ish. Back then I would buy records, via snail mail, from UK dealers out of the set sale pages of, I think, TROUSER PRESS. Whatever, it turned up in the post, most likely all of two weeks and $3.00 (including post) later and I truly loved it. A total package complete with Mick Tinsley’s black and white drizzly English minor key vocal melody and all the noisy drum/tambourine stuff. Properly tagged as percussion, the sound felt like a first to me. Why on earth had no one thought of using that racket prior?

‘Stop Press’ is by far the band’s best and most English record, at least by my not so humble standards.

Gus Jenkins

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Listen: Chittlins / Gus Jenkins

Damn, I wish I knew more about Gus Jenkins. I know he recorded as early as ’56, under the name Gus Jinkins, and he’s up there as one of the most mysterious raw blues obscurities around.

Someone at Capitol decided to release ‘Chittlins’ via their newly formed subsidiary, Tower, in late ’64.

The Tower label went on until ’68, amassing a small, but fairly collectable bunch of releases, the most famous of course being all the very early US singles by The Pink Floyd. But there were more, Joe Meek masters by Heinz and Tom Jones, Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville, The Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells…pull up a Tower discography sometime. Nice stuff.

Even on first listen, you’ll agree, a wonderfully noticeable amount of Gus Jenkins’ swagger may have influenced The Cramps just a bit, and even more, The Rolling Stones, sounding not unlike any number of tracks from their first few albums.

According to BILLBOARD’s November 14, 1964 RnB DJ Roundup below, along with Jimmy Reed’s ‘I’m Going Upside Your Head’, Ed Wright at WABO Cleveland was spinning it, Ed Hardy over at KDIA in San Francisco chose ‘Chittlins’ as well as Little Jerry Williams’ ‘I’m The Lover Man’, a filthy sleaze fest of a single, a no fucking around must for every collection. And let’s not forget WYLD’s Ed ‘Screaming’ Teamer in New Orleans, who was not only jamming Gus Jenkins and Little Jerry Williams, but was playing the mad great ‘My Country Sugar Mama’ by Howlin’ Wolf.

Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

ianwhitcombsporting, Ian Whitcomb, & Bluesville, Tower, The Bonzo Dog Band, Tiny Tim

Listen: This Sporting Life / Ian Whitcomb & BluevilleIanWhitcombSporting.mp3

I knew Ian Whitcomb was English, he had a huge hit as part of the British Invasion. It seems he relocated to the US quite quickly during that period. His first recordings, with Bluesville, despite being good attempts at the damp, Soho, St. James Infirmary sound, somehow lacked that final ‘something’, I’m guessing because of his vocal style. ‘This Sporting Life’, also recorded and released by Mickey Finn in ’65, finds him beautifully out of place with the music, actually becoming part of the appeal.

This one crawled slowing upward under Billboard’s Top 100, then placed for one week at #100, before returning to the ‘Bubbling Under The Hot 100′ section for a few more. It’s chart progression was as follows: 134, 122, 101, 101, 100, 104, 104, 124.

Ah the good old days of the Billboard charts, but talk about keeping an artist at the edge of their seat.

ianwhitcombturn, Ian Whitcomb, & Bluesville, Tower, The Bonzo Dog Band, Tiny Tim

Listen: You Turn Me On / Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville IanWhitcombTurn.mp3

The balance between voice and music found the perfect match in ‘You Turn Me On’. The suggestive gasping surprisingly didn’t manage to keep it off the airwaves, and it scaled to #8 in Billboard’s Top 100 during that summer.

ianwhitcombrobinson, WNDR, WOLF, Ian Whitcomb, & Bluesville, Tower, The Bonzo Dog Band, Tiny Tim

Listen: What Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night? / Ian Whitcomb & His Seaside Syncopators IanWhitcombRobinson.mp3

Where Ian Whitcomb really found his footing, and a comfortable vocal home, was with the above single. More suited to the era of vaudeville and silent films, his voice worked perfectly on a remake of Al Jolson’s 1916 hit, and almost became a smash here in the US. Indeed, during the week of November 14, 1966 it was playlisted at both my local Top 40 stations (see their charts below) and sounded fantastic coming out of my transistor. If you told anyone this was a classic version by the deservedly credible Bonzo Dog Band, you wouldn’t be challenged.

66, WNDR, WOLF, Ian Whitcomb
661, WNDR, WOLF, Ian Whitcomb