Archive for the ‘Bubbling Under The Hot 100’ Category

Ian & The Zodiacs

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

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.

John’s Children

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Come And Play With Me In The Garden / John's Children

Listen: Come And Play With Me In The Garden / John’s Children
Come

True story: In the early 80′s, I did a weekly two radio hour show called Import/Export for the mainstream rock station in Rochester, WCMF. It was tucked away at midnight on Tuesdays, and in today’s market it’d be deemed as a specialty show, where all the bands/records that are left of center and on the way up get a weekly spin. It was loads of fun.

When the station decided to leave the building they’d been housed in since the 60′s to a much smaller location, their massive record library needed to be eliminated due to space restrictions. Oddly, instead of inviting the staff to help thin it out and take whatever you want, give it away to the needy, or super serve their listeners with a free for all, they instead chose to rent a dumpster and fill it daily until the massive library was eliminated over the course of a week.

On that particular Tuesday, I left the station somewhere around 3am, as I’d always stay awhile and visit with Roger McCall, who was my co-host and did the normal overnight shift that followed. I just couldn’t resist having a look into that dumpster. I must tell you, the area and parking lot were a touch daunting anyways. Being in a very quiet part of town, and not the nicest either, I always made a quick dash to the car.

In fact, I vividly remember getting in, starting it and just staring at the dumpster heaving with records. The junkie in me came out. But suddenly of equal concern was getting caught. Seriously. There was a security camera affixed to the entrance area to allow the dj’s a look at whoever rung the bell before buzzing them in and there’d been a stern directive that no one was to pilfer through the discarded records. Nonetheless, I got out of the car, approached the dumpster, opened the heavy lid, and the very top album, I swear, was ORGASM by John’s Children.

Now if you’re a collector, you are well aware that this is a very, very valuable record. In 1967, it was pressed up promotionally, a result of their one and only US single ‘Smashed Blocked’ becoming a hit on the west coast, even a Top 10 in LA, as well a Bubbling Under The Hot 100 BILLBOARD item (#102). Needless to say, the album title caused more resistance than it was worth and White Whale, the label, cancelled it’s release, hence it’s collectibility to this day.

I was purely convinced it was a set up but regardless of the ultimatum, I wasn’t leaving this record behind. By the time I arrived home, I was fairly comforted in realizing there probably wasn’t a person at the station, other than Roger, with much interest in something so obscure, and hence left my paranoia at the door.

A few years ago, Vicki Wickham rang and asked if I’d like to join her and Simon Napier-Bell, one time manager of John’s Children, and later Marc Bolan who was in the band’s lineup, for a lunch. Vicki is the best at these things, She’s fueled my record collecting habit for ages and is always looking out for me. It was a quite fun hour. In New York for a few days, he was happy to talk about his time with the band, providing I buy lunch, which I did. But sadly he informed me that when leaving the UK for Thailand, he tossed boxes of 7″ singles by John’s Children as well as Marc Bolan ‘A’ labels during his house clear out. It was a pretty sobering moment.

The Doors

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Listen: Break On Through (To The Other Side) / The Doors
Break

Summer nights in July bring back a handful of records I recall from ’67, when the AM Top 40′s in many major markets were feeling a change in the air and responded to it on the air. Albums were becoming youth culture’s most important statement. I guess the Viet Nam War and the tail end of Britain’s music/fashion invasion created a perfect storm. The 45′s role morphed into a vehicle for edited airplay, and the album became the premier sellable asset for bands.

Nothing could have made me happier. All the drug riddled groups, whose names alone appealed to me greatly, still required a 7″ for radio exposure, often promo only. Miracle.

Let’s be serious, every one of them secretly wanted a hit. Generally, their first few singles became loss leaders, and were therefore scarce even when current. The Doors ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ being a prime example. Originally released on January 1, 1967, the record got zero airplay initially. But by early summer, it was one of several I flew around the AM dial in search of nightly during the very late hours, after TV had basically shut down.

In small town upstate New York, you hardly ever heard a car driving by past midnight. Every hour on the hour, a New York Central freight train would sub woofer shake our village, but otherwise, silence. Sorry, silence and crickets. All in all a romantic contrast to the pulse of far away metropolises spilling from my transistor radio, which lay permanently buried beneath the pillow. Yes, those AM Top 40′s by day leaned very underground by night, spinning the records which had begun to crawl onto BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart.

It must be why I associate The Doors with the night. That and Hunter Thompson’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. I read that high on acid while The Doors’ WAITING FOR THE SUN played repeatedly, meaning the spindle arm on my automatic changer was left in the upright position, allowing one’s last selection to track endlessly.

To be accurate, WBZ Boston gave me my first exposure to The Doors. When the deejay front sold ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ my heart nearly stopped. I’d waited six months to hear this record, desperately craved the picture sleeve, and just wanted badly to love The Doors. Good instincts as they turned out.

I never did get that sleeve, well not for seventeen more years. Fast forward to ’84, and I’m working at Elektra in New York. Mark Cohn, our resident runner, tips his head into my office one afternoon, announcing a storage closet full of 45′s had been unearthed and needed clearing. Did I want them?

Turns out the cupboard’s contents were a deep library of every Elektra single, both US and UK, starting with the very first release and continuing through to ’74. Praise be the Lord. Jah Live. Etc.

The Move

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Night Of Fear / The Move

Listen: Night Of Fear / The Move
Night

I think I first noticed The Move in the UK charts section of BILLBOARD. In the 60′s, they used to print Hits Of The World over one page, Top 10′s from all the countries, but always a Top 30 or 50 from the UK. This was of course, during the tail end of the British Invasion, December ’66 to be exact. My local shop, Smith’s Records, in Oneida NY, would save their week old BILLBOARD for me, and on Fridays, when my Mom & Dad would do their shopping, they’d drop me at Smith’s. I’d get to play the new releases in their listening booth and read BILLBOARD at the counter. Basically studying it, especially the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 section. That was always a goldmine for me, ever changing, probably bought mentions by the labels of their new records, all hoping to help them jump into the proper Hot 100 chart. Missing a week meant you might not be aware something was out. Then later, back home with last week’s issue, I’d really comb it over for details.

I still remember seeing ‘Night Of Fear’ by The Move progressing #17 to #2 up that British chart. At this point I had watched it since debuting at #42 the previous week. The Move was simply the best name for a band ever. I needed to hear this group, and see photos, which luckily, I quickly did. Both their sound and look represented the black and white, rainy England that we heard about as kids, an exotic place with the greatest bands, a new perfect one emerging almost weekly.

My loyalty to The Move was blind, only lately can I admit by ’69, they went downhill slowly but steadily, eventually bringing Jeff Lynne in to grind them to a Beatles influenced halt. But their beginning was never to be repeated for me. A week or so later, Dick Clark played the single on his weekly AMERICAN BANDSTAND Rate A Record, two song competition. I have no recollection of the other single played, or which came out on top, but I still have my reel to reel recording of ‘Night Of Fear’ off the TV. I dove for the red record button, mike and recorder permanently positioned by my bedroom TV set. Technically I was a criminal then, that era’s version of file sharing I suppose. I listened to that tape hundreds of times.

You couldn’t buy ‘Night Of Fear’ anywhere. London, Deram’s parent company, clearly wasn’t promoting or payola-ing it at radio and hence the one stops weren’t inclined to stock it. In small town America, the stores all bought from one-stops, so they primarily sold the hits.

It always pissed me off when I’d read in the Melody Maker back then that The Move weren’t big in The States. They weren’t played. Kids here didn’t get to decide.

So my record company letter writing continued. Someone at London in NY had a deal with me, I’d send him $1.50 per record, which was extortion in those days but he’d send whatever I needed. He was basically selling promos through the mail, genius. Worked for both of us. The stuff I bought off this fellow: The Cryin’ Shames, The Attack, The Syn, World Of Oz, The Honeybus, non-hits by Them, The Small Faces, Unit 4 + 2, The Zombies. Even then I knew I should get extras, but I didn’t have the cash. On this particular occasion he sent me the stock copy above of ‘Night Of Fear’, not easily found then or now.

Over the years, I’ve acquired many copies, US and UK. The Dutch picture sleeve above, Roy Wood signed when I got to meet him during Wizzard’s first and only US tour. Then there was the time ten or so years ago, somewhere on Long Island where Duane and I were garage sale-ing very early one Saturday morning. Walking up the driveway I see a pile of singles on a table. The top one is on Deram. Probably White Plains or Procol Harum I think to myself, but it was ‘Night Of Fear’. I froze. I said, “Duane you need to buy this”. I just couldn’t handle the high.

Denny Cordell produced this perfect record. The mp3 post is from my overplayed original $1.50/extortion copy.

The Move 1966

The original lineup of The Move, who played on ‘Night Of Fear’, are pictured above. If there’s a better shot of a band anywhere on earth, go right ahead and send it to me.

The above is a repost, originally from June 8, 2008.

The Zombies

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Listen: I Love You / The Zombies
I

‘Whenever You’re Ready’, one of three non-hit followups to ‘Tell Her No’ in ’65, helped fuel a three year downward spiral for The Zombies, reaching only #110 on BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart. I wonder what might have happened if it’s flip, the Valentine’s Day staple, ‘I Love You’, had been issued as the A side instead. Considering the song’s strength, and ultimate success when covered by People, providing the one hit wonders with a massive Top 40 placement, #14 during an eighteen week chart run in ’68, must bug the hell out of The Zombies to this day. Who wouldn’t have preferred they had taken home that prize instead?

Nothing has ever challenged Colin Blunstone’s voice. By ’69, The Zombies ODESSEY AND ORACLE, now rightfully regarded as one of the most important albums of all time, was the ultimate spotlight for his vocal power and thankfully gave them the multi platinum achievement they deserved. Justice for a change.

Bobby Fuller Four

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

BobbyFullerLetHerDance, Bobby Fuller Four, Mustang, Liberty

Listen: Let Her Dance / Bobby Fuller Four
Let

Released during the summer of ’65, ‘Let Her Dance’ somehow made merely a dent (# 133) on BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100, sadly getting airplay only in Southern California.

Amazingly, the single didn’t spread like wildfire. It’s not like Los Angeles airplay couldn’t break a record. I still can’t believe it wasn’t a hit.

Apparently, more than those at the original label, Mustang thought so too. They proceeded to license it to Liberty Records, clearly expecting to take the song national as Mustang did later in the year with ‘I Fought The Law’. Why it wasn’t re-released as the followup to ‘I Fought The Law’ remains a mystery, given a few trade mentions in March ’66 that indeed it was scheduled. I suppose Liberty insisted if re-released, despite passing on ‘I Fought The Law’ later that year, it be via them or some such wrangle.

To be honest, Little Steven turned me on to this about five years ago. He plays it regularly on his Sirius radio channel. Sounds fantastic on the air as it must have that summer while driving along the Pacific Palisades, surf boards popping out the back of pink or aqua woodies. Foolishly, I hadn’t paid much attention prior.

Missing this when originally issued is indeed an embarrassing admission, but one that makes for endless records to discover as life moves on.

‘Let Her Dance’ remains a haunting record with a suspicious streak, one that blossomed in an unfortunate way. I was never sure why the single appeared on both the Mustang and Liberty labels, so decided to do some research, stumbling on Aaron Poehler’s ‘The Strange Case Of Bobby Fuller’. It’s a must-read.

John’s Children

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Smashed! Blocked! / John's Children

Listen: Smashed! Blocked! / John’s Children
Smashed!

True story: In the early 80′s, I had a weekly two hour radio show called Import/Export for WCMF, the then mainstream rock station in Rochester, NY. It was tucked away at midnight on Tuesdays, and in today’s market it’d be deemed a specialty show, where all the bands and records that were left of center, or both hip and on the way up, got a weekly spin. It was loads of fun.

When the station decided to leave the building they’d been housed in since the 60′s to a much smaller location, their massive record library needed to be eliminated due to space restrictions. Oddly, instead of inviting the staff to help thin it out (take whatever you want – we’re about to toss it anyways), give it away to a library or charity, or God forbid super serve their listeners with a free for all, they instead chose to rent a dumpster and fill it daily until the massive library was eliminated. Still gives me the shivers.

On that particular Tuesday, I left the station somewhere around 4am, as I’d always stay awhile and visit with Roger McCall, who was my co-host and did the normal overnight shift that followed and a very close friend. I just couldn’t resist having a look into that dumpster. I must tell you, the area and parking lot were a touch daunting anyways. Being in a very quiet part of town, and not the nicest either, I always made a quick dash to the car.

In fact, I vividly remember getting in, starting the engine and just staring at the dumpster heaving with records. The junkie in me came out. But suddenly of equal concern was getting caught. Seriously. There was a security camera affixed to the entrance area allowing the on-air dj’s a look at who rang the bell before buzzing them in. Plus there had been a stern directive that no one was to pilfer through the discarded records.

Nonetheless, I got out of the car, approached the dumpster, opened the heavy lid, and the very top album, I swear on my family’s lives, was ORGASM by John’s Children.

Now if you’re a collector, you are well aware that this is a very, very, very valuable record. In ’67, it was pressed up promotionally, a result of their one and only US single ‘Smashed Blocked’ becoming a regional hit on the west coast, even a Top 10 at KHJ in Los Angeles. As well, on January 14 of that year, it peaked on BILLBOARD’s ‘Bubbling Under The Hot 100′ chart at #102, where it had already spent two weeks:

Needless to say, the album title caused more resistance than it was worth and as the single had stiffed just outside of The Top 100, I’m guessing the label, White Whale, cancelled it’s release. Commercial copies were never manufactured, thus it’s collectibility to this day.

At that moment though, I was purely convinced it was a set up, being as critical and lippy of the station’s shit playlist then as I am of some current US radio song choices now. But fuck it. I wasn’t leaving this one behind.

By the time I arrived home, I was comforted in realizing there wasn’t a person at the station, other than Roger, with a thread of knowledge about a record of this obscure, and hence they’d never have even known to place it top of the heap to frame me. I slept fine.

Drafi

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

drafimarbleuka, Drafi, Decca, London, WNDR

drafimarbleus, Drafi, Decca, London, WNDR

Listen: Marble Breaks And Iron Bends / Drafi
Marble Breaks And Iron Bends / Drafi

The first time I heard Wreckless Eric’s ‘Whole Wide World’, I thought how nice of him to borrow the song off Drafi. They sure do sound similar, and if not by coincidence, I’d bet it was meant lovingly.

‘Marble Breaks And Iron Bends’ did well in the northeast during April/May ’66. A big hit in Boston, it spread to upstate New York, as was the pattern. Our tighter playlisted local Top 40, WNDR, played it (see proof below) – and as it was on UK Decca’s US imprint, London, I just assumed this was an English act. Certainly sounded it, despite the now noticeable strangely accented word or two.

The record climbed slowly during a four week run in the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 section of BILLBOARD, then entered at #98. Looking good, it jumped #88 to #80….then, gone. Never to be heard from again. How did these abrupt things happen? We could have used this one to go national.

Drafi Deutescher was actually German, and this was my favorite from a his handful of singles London released in the States.

wndr-5_11_66, WNDR, Syracuse, Drafi

The Buffalo Springfield

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Listen: Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing / The Buffalo Springfield
Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing / The Buffalo Springfield

West coast soft rock, not a fan. It was the anti-christ to British music. Even as some of the UK bands got fascinated by it, started copying it, I still wasn’t buying in. But initially, The Buffalo Springfield looked as though they may have had promise. I wanted badly to hear their first single ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’. The title made me curious, and I wasn’t sharp enough to be put off by the band’s name. There was Lothar & The Hand People, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & The Holding Company, these guys seemed to fit into the nonsensical band name pocket just fine.

Digging through a massive bin of drilled, 39¢ closeout singles, I found a copy only a few months later. This was just before their third 45, ‘For What It’s Worth’, got traction and went Top 40. I got home and did not love this record later that night.

But I did like that a) it was a Bubbling Under The Hot 100 flop (#110), b) was on Atco and c) was an unlikely single.

a) There’s nothing like the endless gems that never reached the Top 100. In retrospect, countless seminal classics populated and peeked on BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart, within it’s #101 – 135 range. All struggling for airplay that never came. Where was the expertise programmers supposedly had in the 60′s and 70′s, we now wonder. Proof that some things never changed.

b) Atco was cool. The younger, but prettier step sister of Atlantic. Amongst it’s early roster of bands that never made it / looked like they weren’t going to: The Vagrants, The Who, The Groupies, The Spencer Davis Group, Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger & The Trinity and The Cream. Yes, this was in the day before groups like The Pink Floyd, The Cream and The Buffalo Springfield managed to drop ‘The’ from their official professional name.

c) There are few things more inviting than a single that made no sense being a single. Like just about any jazz 7″, certainly edited versions of tracks from Miles Davis’ BITCHES BREW album. Not that ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ came close to such an extreme, but it was a real surprise on first spin.

The Buffalo Springfield have now reformed, sans ‘The’, with the remaining living original members, and I would bet the whole house of cards they are not playing this first single live. Just like the setlist for The Cream’s reunion (sans ‘The’) omitted ‘I Feel Free’.

So I won’t be attending, but all said and done, I ended up liking ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ a lot.

Update (6/11/11): John Poole emailed to say they did play ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ during their first reunion appearance at the Bridge Benefit Concert last year. How awesome is that?

The Hollies

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

HolliesAliveUK, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

HolliesAliveUSA, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

Listen: I’m Alive / The Hollies
I'm Alive / The Hollies

Talk about an explosive and immediate intro, here’s one of the most. This tore through my hand sized orange AM transistor radio, an item that almost needed surgically removing from my hand after a couple of years. We went everywhere together, to school, on lunch breaks, to the barber, dentist, shopping for records, the shower and even to bed.

I would wait religiously for the latest single from the UK’s Hit Parade to get an initial airing. Decades before info was a click away, we seemed to know pretty fast about new singles from the English groups, and would wait for that first listen. Many times wait and wait and wait to hear them, unsuccessfully.

I recall writing a letter to Jim O’Brien, the 7-midnight disc jockey on Syracuse’s WNDR, asking would he please play more of the new English bands and he actually read it. This was spring ’66, when playlists were fairly loose but didn’t exist at all to a kid listener. Back then, the stations took and played requests and as well, read letters on-air. I mentioned a few bands, The Alan Price Set being the only one I can recall at this moment. And he read my letter, rattled off all my requests and said “We’d love to play these but they just don’t get released in the USA”.

Not true.

I knew about these records via BILLBOARD. Not only were they printed in the HITS OF THE WORLD section of the publication, whereby they reproduced international Top 10′s and in the case of the UK, their Top 50 chart; but the magazine also listed weekly new US releases in their SINGLES REVIEW section, with label and catalog number. They were all released here, it’s why I wrote the letter.

And so, in hindsight, my mistrust of American radio officially began.

I will say this, Jim O’Brien clearly got some free plays during his shows. For a short period, he did a feature called ECHOES OF ENGLAND, during the British Invasion years. I heard some great stuff on that program: Them, The Silkie, The Yardbirds, The Honeycombs, even The Pretty Things ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’. And for a few weeks in September ’67, he opened most of his shows with The Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’. But he did tell a disappointing fib that night.

Regardless, to his credit, it was the grand man himself who played ‘I’m Alive’ one evening. Holy whoever, did it sound fantastic. Dwarfed the songs on either side of it. I loved ‘I’m Alive’ immediately, and excitedly thought I’d be hearing it often, but never did, not ever again.

It had an equally short lived life nationally, a one week spike at #103 on BILLBOARD’s BUBBLING UNDER THE HOT 100 chart, and that my friends, was that.

Billy Joe Royal

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Listen: Down In The Boondocks / Billy Joe Royal
Down In The Boondocks / Billy Joe Royal

Statistics: Billy Joe Royal had a dozen charting singles during the 60′s. Basically, every single he released either hit the Billboard Hot 100 or Bubbling Under chart. Three of them peaked at #117 even.

That Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart is heaven. I do love those singles that lived their lives strictly between #101 and #135, ultimately became many of the greats in hindsight, too good for the mainstream.

‘Down In The Boondocks’ fit perfectly with the swimming in echo, British Invasion stuff from around ’65, when it peaked at #9.

Written and produced by Joe South, as was ‘Hush’, a #52 in ’67, who knew then that this guy was behind the curtain for a lot of country passing for pop hits, as Billy Joe Royal was officially categorized. Like Sandy Posey or Friend & Lover. The guy even played guitar on Aretha Franklin’s ‘Chain Of Fools’, something you definitely notice as a signature part of that song, as well on Bob Dylan’s BLONDE ON BLONDE. Now there’s a piece of trivia I don’t hear mentioned often.

The Swinging Blue Jeans

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Swinging Blue Jeans - Don't Make Me Over USA

Swinging Blue Jeans - Don't Make Me Over

Listen: Don’t Make Me Over / The Swinging Blue Jeans
Don't Make Me Over / The Swinging Blue Jeans

Who says if you get a song for free, you won’t buy a copy later anyways – for whatever the reason: loyalty to the artist, love of the song, wanting a particular configuration or maybe even just doing your part.

Even though I’d gotten ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ at no charge during one of my early Friday night “I’m here to collect records for the children’s hospital” scams instigated on our local MOR station, WMCR, at an alarmingly young age, I bought a copy anyways. I passed up the stock of ‘She Needs Company’ by Manfred Mann to expend that particular dollar, which in hindsight was a wrong gamble. Never seen one since, although this Swinging Blue Jeans non-charter (actually it did Bubble Under The Billboard Hot 100 at #116) is a bit more common.

It was the heat of the moment. I was overtaken with supporting the team. I really thought I could help it nudge up the chart. The naiveness of youth. I’d actually heard it on my local Top 40, WNDR in March – it was a one listen record. Although Dionne Warwick had a hit with it in ’62, to me it was an unknown track by ’66, when this arrived.

If you grew up in the Northeast, quite possibly songs are seasonal. This was a winter single, along with others at the time that left a life long impression like The Mindbenders ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ or The Walker Brothers ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’.

By May it had struggled onto the local survey (below) with several other greats. And on this particular week – it was the featured record thereby affording the lyrics be printed on the survey’s reverse side.

WNDR Chart 5-13-66

Grapefruit

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Dear Delilah / Grapefruit

Listen: Dear Delilah / Grapefruit
Dear Delilah / Grapefruit

Formed from the remnants of Tony Rivers & The Castaways, and Harmony Grass by George Alexander, birth name: Alexander Young. Brother to George (founding member of The Easybeats) as well Malcolm and Angus (founders of AC/DC). For some reason, the family left him behind in England when the others moved off to Australia. Lucky guy.

Grapefruit issued their first single to much attention as The Beatles had acquired the publishing and hence posed in trade pictures with the band. As with their label, The Beatles tended to be quite good at A&R. Even Brian Jones was in those publicity shots, God knows why. Result, the press were interested.

In the US, the debut single ‘Dear Delilah’ was released via Terry Melcher’s new imprint, Equinox, and hence got a decent push. Mom Doris Day wasn’t about to let son and Beach Boys’ friend Terry flop. But despite being recorded in “new orthophonic high fidelity” and getting some decent airplay, the imaginative psychedelic taint (not my words) of ‘Dear Delilah’ only reached #98 in the Billboard Top 100, and #21 in The UK. A shame.

Listen: Elevator / Grapefruit
Elevator / Grapefruit

The album AROUND GRAPEFRUIT, from which it came, was chocked full of gems including the followup ‘Elevator’. I remember it and The Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’ shockingly being played on my hometown Top 40 one Saturday afternoon that spring. Getting picked up for some daytime airplay so quickly upon release via the generally tight WNDR seemed quite optimistic. I was temporarily content.

It was over before it started though, as both peaked and stalled during the same week (5/11/68) on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart (above, click to enlarge). Nearly failed my finals as a result, the depression was so bad.

Listen: Lady Godiva (Come Home) / Grapefruit
Lady Godiva (Come Home) / Grapefruit

Things took an even sharper left turn for Grapefruit a year or so later in ’70 when the band got a touch too progressive, recording DEEP WATER for new, in US that is, label RCA. It’s one of those blues soul prog rock calamities that sells for a nice price nowadays, but grinds by at snail’s pace once you get it onto the turntable. Second single, ‘Lady Godiva (Come Home)’ wants to be hooky, but some cringing lyrics and slightly Foghat leaning vocals prove punishing. Having said that, I do like a nice clean aural snapshot of a bad single, and this is one. They’re totally fascinating artifacts.

Listen: Universal Party / Grapefruit
Universal Party / Grapefruit

An unexpected, and more than low key reprieve occurred without explanation or commitment by Deram in ’73, when the label issued ‘Universal Party’. First listen will most likely result in a shrug at best, but the faint hint of glam gets a bit more addictive with a few more spins. Given it was Grapefruit and on Deram meant extra rope.

In hindsight, I guess nothing compared to the optimistic sound of those first few releases, which I’m reminded of daily as I eat my grapefruit each and every morning.

2 OF CLUBS

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Walk Tall / 2 Of Clubs

Listen: Walk Tall / 2 Of Clubs 01 Walk Tall.mp3

Another favorite from Cincinnati’s Fraternity label, 2 Of Clubs fall right in line with previous Marc Bolan/Gloria Jones and Jackie DeShannon posts by mimicking the Brill Building songs. Or maybe they were just a normal reflection of the period’s Girl Group sound. Either way, they were great.

All their singles are worth owning, ‘Walk Tall’ being particularly memorable as it got a lot of play in my hometown. Oddly it never became more than a regional hit, peaking at #93 on the Billboard chart in March ’67. By then, this sound was becoming passe, even The Shangri-Las were struggling for hits.

Bubbling Under The Hot 100 - 12.31.66

‘Walk Tall’ really hung in there though, first appearing on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 (click to enlarge) in the last week of ’66. Most of the time, that Bubbling Under chart was more interesting to me than the actual Top 100, with barely a single listed that I didn’t end up adding to my collection.

Maxine Brown

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

maxineohnouk, Maxine Brown, Ace Records, Wand, Manfred Mann, Carole King, Goffin, Fontella Bass, Dusty Springfield, Dee Dee Warwick

Listen: Oh No Not My Baby / Maxine Brown MaxineBrownOhNo.mp3

Infamous Carole King (did you know she married one of The Myddle Class) / Gerry Goffin classic. Like many of their compositions, ‘Oh No Not My Baby’ was recorded by a whole bunch of folks. Cher, Manfred Mann, Fontella Bass, Dusty Springfield and Dee Dee Warwick amongst my favorites.

The US hit version went to Maxine Brown (#24, 1964). Unfortunately, most of her singles for Wand (Pye International in the UK for this one), as well her duets with Chuck Jackson, achieved undeserved low Billboard pop chart peaks, Bubbling Under The Hot 100 entries or non hits whatsoever. Hence, their place in every last Northern Soul price guide.

As with most of her work for the label, Cissy Houston and The Sweet Inspirations provided backups. It had to have been a magical time around the New York studios that catered to the RnB sessions in those days. Seems a day didn’t pass without a classic being recorded, just think of all the unreleased, forgotten songs.

Worth getting: BEST OF THE WAND YEARS, a flawless cd comp from Ace UK with the usual amazing booklet. The details will have you drooling.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Maxine Brown

The Vibrations

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Listen: End Up Crying / The Vibrations VibrationsEndUp.mp3

Been meaning to create a section somewhere on the blog’s layout for great double siders. Once I do, this will reside in a new home. Until then….

I admit it, my knees go weak for the sight of a 60′s Okeh pressing in it’s original company sleeve. Usually I prefer a dj copy of any record, but with a few labels, Okeh being one, I love both.

These records always struggled for pop airplay in those days, well it’s still that way I guess. Just baffles me how something as good as ‘End Up Crying’ didn’t catch fire. Probably down to hindsight being 20/20. At the time, this was most likely considered just another Motown-lite, having peaked at 130 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart in May ’65. If not for that, there’d be no Northern Soul, so give thanks at the end of the day.

Listen: Ain’t Love That Way / The Vibrations VibrationsAintThatLove.mp3

To think though, Carl Davis and Curtis Mayfield were all over Okeh releases, this being just one. Talk about an insurance policy. Despite all eyes and Northern Soul book values focusing on the A side, ‘Ain’t Love That Way’ feels equally deserving of such status. It might be the one I ultimately favor. I think.

Check my previous post on The Vibrations, and how I was lucky enough to see them live as a little kid, vivid memory cells still intact of their on stage somersaults, backdrops and flips.

Until you find your own version of this 7″, I can’t recommend strongly enough getting THE VIBRATING VIBRATIONS:THE OKEH AND EPIC SINGLES 1963-1968, released last year by UK’s Ace/Kent label – if only for the booklet.

The Hullaballoos

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

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Listen: I’m Gonna Love You Too / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosGonna.mp3

Do not mistake this British band as the resident pop group on the US HULLABALOO show from ’65 – ’66. They did appear, six times to be exact, but were only coincidentally sharing a similar name. Admittedly their second album, THE HULLABALLOOS ON HULLABALOO would confuse even the most attentive. Alas, the band’s name was indeed spelled differently than the program’s. So no – they were not the house band.

As with just about every group in those days, we saw their pictures way before getting to hear the music. I was too young to be aware of all the Buddy Holly similarities they shared, so to me, they were completely original. I vividly remember seeing the sleeve to ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ in a local shop and being instantly smitten. Bleach blond, all four – this was even more radical than The Pretty Things, who had the longest hair yet. Hullaballoos’ drummer Harry rivaled any member of The Pretty Things to date, not only in hair length but color too, hence out doing them in my book. My parents were aghast to find I planned to bleach my hair as well. It never happened – not yet that is.

Despite endless stories of infamous thievery directed toward Roulette Records, they did get their singles distributed and heard. ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ got played a bunch initially.

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Listen: Did You Ever / The Hullaballoos
HullaballooosDidYouEver.mp3

The followup, ‘Did You Ever’ was played slightly less, but performed more than any other song on US television.

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Listen: Learning The Game / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosLearning.mp3

Unfortunately, ‘Learning The Game’, my favorite of the four, was not played at all in my hometown. The single made it to the Bubbling Under Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #121 during a short two week run, so some play obviously was achieved. Once I got my copy, I cherished it all the more.

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Listen: I Won’t Turn Away Now / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosWontTurn.mp3

The very hard to get fourth single and sleeve, ‘I Won’t Turn Away Now’ is classic British beat. Little Steven played The Hullaballoos recently. I was in the car and thought, justice after all these years. God bless Sirius.

In the early 80′s, when I started working at Elektra, the lure of free phone calls to the UK were too much to pass up. I called Hull directory information, and secured two of the four Hullaballoos’ phone numbers. Ultimately, I only spoke with Andrew Woonton. Initially our conversation proceeded as follows:

“Hi is this Andrew Woonton?”

“Yes, who’s calling?”

“My name is Kevin, from Elektra Records in New York and I was wondering, were you once a member of The Hullaballoos?”

“Uuuuuum, aaaaah, yes why?”

I launched into being a fan, but later in the conversation he revealed his initial hesitation. Turns out he was still getting calls from creditors wanting payment for hotels, vehicles and other expenses obligated some 20 years prior by Roulette on behalf of The Hullaballoos.

Did this band get what they deserved in any way. No. In fact, their youtube footage recently had the audio removed, apparently by the song publishers. Come on, cut these guys a break.

And I’m still miffed at not seeing the shows they shared with The Zombies and The Nashville Teens back in ’65 at the Brooklyn Paramount.

Below my postcard from their fan club:

hullaballoospostcard

The Alan Bown Set / The Alan Bown!

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

alanbowngonna, 	The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Gonna Fix You Good / The Alan Bown Set AlanBownSetGonna.mp3

What a great idea. Take the band’s leader, put ‘The’ in front of his name – and an exclamation point at the end. Need for band name: solved.

Previously monikered The Alan Bown Set, and then leaning more toward a sometimes noisy soul sound, the band covered Little Anthony & The Imperials’ ‘Gonna Fix You Good (Every Time You’re Bad)’ and proceeded to get Northern Soul love years later. At the time though, ’65 – ’66, they struggled.

alanbowntoylanduka,The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

alanbowntoylandusa, Mike Hurst, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Toyland / The Alan Bown! AlanBownToyland.mp3

Switching labels, name and genre in ’67, and jumping on board the psychedelic train that seemingly overnight had a lot of passengers, they hooked up with the Mike Hurst who did their future productions.

The Alan Bown! recorded a pop-psych classic OUTWARD BOWN (simply titled THE ALAN BOWN! in the US), from which ‘Toyland’ was the second single. Until recently, I had no idea it charted on the Cashbox Top 100, peaking at #96. Usually when a single would get into the 90′s on Cashbox, Billboard or Record World, it would at least ‘bubble under’ the other two publication’s charts. Not the case with ‘Toyland’ in Billboard’s ‘Bubbling Under The Hot 100′ section – hence I missed out on the single’s activity, not having regular access to Cashbox. ‘Toyland’ really did deserve to be heard and become a hit.

In the UK, the week the band got their Top Of The Pops appearance, their current UK label, MGM, had a pressing plant strike – so with no copies in the stores, their single fell out of the NME chart (where it was #26) and that was that.

alanbowngypsyuka, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

alanbowngypsyusa, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Gypsy Girl / The Alan Bown! AlanBownGypsy.mp3

Treading water through ’68 – ’69, they signed with Deram releasing my other favourite 7″ from them, ‘Gypsy Girl’. Singer Jess Roden up and split to go solo, with Robert Palmer replacing him, and re-recording many of the vocals on the new album.

Next stop for The Alan Bown! was Island in ’70, where Robert Palmer’s vocals on the upcoming album, LISTEN were re-recorded by new vocalist Gordon Neville once he chose to leave for a solo career.

This pattern must have gotten pretty boring for Alan Bown himself. An even odder coincidence being that by then, The Alan Bown!, Robert Palmer and Jess Roden were all signed to Island and no doubt seeing each other regularly in the label’s infamous canteen. Can you imagine the unspoken competition?

The Sir Douglas Quintet

Monday, June 28th, 2010

The Tracker / Sir Douglas Quintet - US

Listen: The Tracker / The Sir Douglas Quintet SirDouglasTracker.mp3

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 SirDouglasBlueNorther.mp3

‘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 SirDouglasInTime.mp3

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 SirDouglasJohnHardy.mp3

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.

Cannibal & The Headhunters

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Listen: Land Of 1000 Dances / Cannibal & The Headhunters Cannibal1000.mp3

Often covered through the years, there were two ‘Land Of A Thousand Dances’ floating around during the mid 60′s. Thee Midnighters and this one. For some reason, Cannibal & The Headhunters’ rendition was live with an audience, sounded wilder, and with a band name like that, I couldn’t help it becoming my preferred version. Oddly enough, this wilder take was also the bigger hit, peaking on Billboard’s Hot 100 at #30. Through it’s entire initial chart run the single was always listed on the Rampart label, yet I have both a Rampart and Date pressing in my collection.

I never thought twice about it, just figured the logical explanation was Rampart was a tiny indie (indeed it was – from East LA) and when the record started getting traction, a major, or in this case, a major’s smaller imprint (CBS distributed Date) picked it up to take national. Oddly enough, that’s not what happened. Charting in early ’65 and peaking a few months later in May – for some reason (who will ever know?), Date reissued it a year or so later in summer ’66, when it sort of re-charted, meaning it Bubbled Under The Hot 100 for two weeks, peaking at #106.

Now why should anyone care about this? As far as I’m aware, no one does. But little things, about a record business era gone forever, I find vastly interesting. I wish someone out there was a former Date employee. I’d have a lot more questions about that infamous lime green label.