Archive for the ‘Vee Jay’ Category

Perry & The Harmonics

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Listen: Do The Monkey With Mr. James / Perry & The Harmonics

If you haven’t heard or heard of Perry & The Harmonics, then get to steppin’. For years, I too slept on this single and the sole album from which it came, INTRIGUE WITH SOUL.

Seemingly led by saxophonist Clarence Perry, the ’65 studio-only Perry & The Harmonics attempted to cash in on the extremely successful and then current craze of James Bond / 007. The bulk of the album being soul interpretations of the film’s various theme songs, plus a few originals like ‘James Goes To Soulville’ and then, this spectacular single ‘Do The Monkey With James’.

The album is scarce, and this single even more so. That’s Ed Townsend, possibly most known as co-writer of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’, doing the voice overs, which double as lead vocals, and I doubt a better delivery could have been conjured by anyone. His credits as a songwriter and producer are fairly deep, particularly in the Mercury catalogs, where he was a house producer working closely with Dee Dee Warwick. His label ties included Vee Jay, Capitol and Scepter. As well, as an unsung hero, his writing and producing credits covered Etta James, Big Maybelle and The Shirelles. He was particularly good with the female voice.

The Chants

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Listen: She’s Mine / The Chants

The Chants, despite a very ordinary name, were different than most from the British Invasion era. Basically a five piece vocal group with no musicians in their lineup, their real historical moment came late in ’62 when turning up at The Cavern Club for an audition without a band. The Beatles offered to fill in, but Brian Epstein objected. John Lennon overruled and The Chants made their Cavern dubut in November of that year with his band providing the backing.

Phil Ward turned me on to this one, having been hooked on it big time. At first, I mistook them to have Phil Spector involvement, given ‘She’s Mine’ could double for any number from The Crystals or The Ronettes songbook pretty easily with the arrangements and even production not unlike his.

Released in the US on Interphon got my curiosity up. Being Vee Jay’s subsidiary imprint, created exclusively for UK product, meant The Chants were English. Digging through my hardcore, only for obsessed collectors, research books allowed the plot to thicken and the above piece of trivia to be uncovered. Never knew it until recently.

Why didn’t Interphon market them via that Beatles connection? This was ’64, and anything Beatles was contagious. The label could easily have spread the rumor it was indeed them on the record. What a blunder.

Willie Cobb

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Listen: You’re So Hard To Please / Willie Cobb

Often referred to as Willie Cobbs, his Vee Jay singles all dropped the ‘s’, whereby Willie Cobb had his biggest selling, and most influential release from ’61. To be exact, it was Vee Jay VS 411. That record’s B side, ‘You Don’t Love Me’, unexpectedly became a most covered track half a decade later. Amongst others, The Allman Brothers Band and Quicksilver Messenger Service both lined up to incorporate it as a signature part of their respective sets.

Not being a guitarist myself, I would still venture to say, ‘You Don’t Love Me’ had both a universal message and musical simplicity that attracted many white players from the era. In fact, it was the version by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers that not only drew my attention to the name in the writer’s bracket beneath the song, but also the similarity in guitar tones to that band’s releases around ’65-’66, when Eric Clapton was a member.

The single’s A side, ‘You’re So Hard To Please’, even better exposed the above. Way before exploring details about Willie Cobb was only a few clicks away, my luck meant stumbling on this very single amongst a one-stop salesman’s cast-off pile, often sitting untouched at my uncle’s vending business office on a Saturday morning when my Dad could, I’m sure, take me pestering for a visit no longer. I never did understand what the big deal was. They’d all stand around for a good hour and talk sports and stuff, and I’d clean out the office shelves of those nasty promos no one wanted.

My guess is Vee Jay re-serviced ‘You’re So Hard To Please’ around the time of the B sides’ discovery, thereby hoping to skim off some profits from the British blues frenzy afire amongst US college kids, all blindly insatiable for any electric blues track being hammered by their local underground stations, hence landing the pressing above.

One listen and you’ll agree, if anything was a sonic model for the Eric Clapton era John Mayall’s Bluebreakers, ‘You’re So Hard To Please’ was it.

The Rats

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Listen: Spoonful / The Rats

Ever been curious about a seminal guitarist’s humble beginnings? Well, most folks look towards The Rats version of ‘Spoonful’ as being the one to expose Mick Ronson’s rudimentary start.

Wrong. He joined the band post, but no doubt played this live. Instead, Frank Ince held down the lead guitar fort back in Fall ’64 when this was recorded, and surprisingly released in the US via Laurie Records.

Why surprisingly? Because for such a local, initially independent pressing of a mere 200 copies, the master found it’s way onto a US label’s release schedule prior to an expected English one. This was new territory. Possible explanation being at the height of British Invasion, every label’s marching orders were to acquire whatever they could find, anything, doesn’t matter, as long as it’s English. Being a small independent, Laurie clearly waited in line for the majors to pass, just as Vee Jay had patiently done when US Capitol turned their nose at UK sister company’s signing: The Beatles.

So for fun, here you go. The Rats first single, ‘Spoonful’. In no way a contender against The Cream’s version from ’68, but still a primitive attempt to compete with Hull hometown superstars, The Hullaballoss. For that, anyone gets an out of jail free card.

The 4 Seasons

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Listen: Walk Like A Man / The 4 Seasons
Walk Like A Man / The 4 Seasons

Once upon a time, The 4 Seasons were unavoidable on radio. Top 40 right through the early ’80′s, then the oldies stations. Now I don’t think many, almost literally, any of their records get played at all. Mind you, other than hearing those oldies stations in the occasional diner, I never cross paths with them. Our kids hate the radio, and just try sitting through the local NYC version of oldies radio in the car. It’s unbearable, repeating a very, very short list of titles ad nauseam.

Suddenly The 4 Seasons popped into my head, catching a snippet by them coming out of the TV downstairs, apparently being used in some commercial. Wow. Did it sound good.

They had a bunch of slick but class singles on Philips just after their initial run on Vee Jay. But those first several, something about them just shimmers with the innocence of street corner teenagers from the 60′s. Not sloppy in any way, but not polished.

‘Walk Like A Man’, despite being a huge single (#1), usually got overlooked even on the oldies airwaves in their heyday.

Betty Everett

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

BettyEverettShoopUKA, Betty Everett, Vee Jay, Stateside

Listen: The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss) / Betty Everett
The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss) / Betty Everett

Seems like a ton of people have covered this. Cher comes to mind. A perfect song for her. She could sing the phone book though, and pretty much has.

First things first. Betty Everett did the original and had her biggest solo hit with it too (#6 in ’64). ‘The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)’ as it’s also known, was a soul/girl group staple in ’64. I recall someone, maybe The Chiffons, doing it on SHINDIG. As ubiquitous then on US radio as Linda Lewis (see yesterday’s post) was on UK radio during ’75 with her cover version.

Gladys Knight & The Pips

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

GladysEndRoad, Motown, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Soul, Norman Whitfield

Listen: The End Of Our Road / Gladys Knight & The Pips GladysEndRoad.mp3

Feeling victims, as were The Marvelettes and Mary Wells, of being tossed the leftovers, those songs passed on by Motown’s A level acts (The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations) according to legend, really pissed off Gladys Knight and her Pips (all family members as it turns out). Having moved from Vee Jay to Motown in ’65 with wider success in mind, they quickly found themselves relegated to subsidiary Soul, set up for the more RnB, less leaning pop acts. good call there. From ’66 – ’68, they recorded some of the label’s dirtiest and most raw sides. I’m sure to Berry Gordy’s surprise, ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ became the company’s biggest selling single at that point, leaping to #2 pop and bringing Gladys Knight’s signature rasp to the mainstream.

Even better was “The End Of Our Road’, it’s followup. Peaking at #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100, it was a mighty strong showing for such a picture perfect dirt and grime black single. Their performance, recording and mix are so aggressive, it’s impossible to not be dragged in. Played this a few nights ago at the Otis Clay show – it sounded mighty powerful through that big system, filled the room, every last head and foot surrendering.

John Lee Hooker / Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I really do appreciate Van Morrison for many reasons. He toured about 10 years back, maybe more, with Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames as his band, and John Lee Hooker supporting. I figured the Georgie Fame bit would mean more cohesive song structure as opposed to some of the free form shows he’d done. True, it did. But not before giving Georgie and his band a 4 song spotlight set, whereby they played his biggest US successes (‘Get Away’, ‘Yeh Yeh’, The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde’ and remarkably ‘Daylight’). In addition Van did ‘Gloria’ much to everyone’s surprise, especially as he and Georgie kept it pretty close to the original.

JohnLeeHookerBoom, John Lee Hooker, Vee Jay, Columbia UK

Listen: Boom Boom / John Lee Hooker JLHookerBoomUKA.mp3

Up first was John Lee Hooker, during possibly his last tour. What an unexpected treat. There was none of that new material stuff to endure, instead the classics, played raw and fluidly, all the while seated. No surprise for him to play ‘Boom Boom’, ‘I Love You Honey’ and ‘Dimples’.

JLHookerBigLegs, John Lee Hooker, Vee Jay, Columbia UK

Listen: Big Legs, Tight Skirt / John Lee Hooker JLHookerBigLegs.mp3

Most surprising was when pulling out a more obscure favorite ‘Big Legs, Tight Skirt’. Not only was hearing the song a thrill, but the set up story was hysterical beyond belief. You can just imagine.

GeorgieFameYehUKA, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Imperial, Columbia UK

GeorgieFameYehUSA, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Imperial, Columbia UK

GeorgieFameYehUS, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Imperial, Columbia UK

Listen: Yeh Yeh / Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames GeorgieFameYehYeh.mp3

To be honest, I hadn’t realized Georgie Fame was even involved until a few days prior. Nor did I expect a solo set. To say it was a treat is vastly understating the moment. Voice still perfectly intact, players easily replicating the groove.

But the most unexpected bonus of the night: a jukebox tab.

It was originally set up for Van Morrison to do the honors via management. Rumored to be difficult, I was pretty shocked when a confirmation call came through with instructions to meet stage door right post show, and get escorted in to see Van, which I promptly adhered to. In a small dressing room, Van was standing waiting. This seemed rather bizarre. Why was I so lucky? He’d been briefed on my request, so when he inquired about song choice, I asked would he do one for Them as well. “Sure, just show me what to write and where”. ‘Richard Cory’ was my choice, I indicated clearly where to write what, Van took the penned signed his name (see tab below) and huffed from the room. Although disappointed at being so close to a signed jukebox tab for Them, I thought it was pretty interesting that this signature, and the accompanying story, was how he wanted to be remembered:

VanMorrisonJukeboxTab, Van Morrison

Georgie Fame, on the other hand, was just the opposite, even recalling the B side, which I hadn’t had the chance of researching prior to the show:

GeorgieFameJukeboxTab, Georgie Fame

Rosco Gordon

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

RoscoGordonJustUKA, Roscoe Gordon, Stateside, Vee Jay, Flamingo

Listen: Just A Little Bit / Rosco Gordon
Just A Little Bit / Rosco Gordon

Who knew. Rosco Gordon is cited as having created a style of piano playing known as ‘The Rosco Rhythm’, placing the accent on the off beats, which is credited as the foundation of Jamaican bluebeat and reggae music. Besides which, he lived a few blocks away from me – something I also didn’t know until recently. Maybe I stood behind him Pathmark. How great would that have been?

‘Just A Little Bit’ was a well covered song by London’s Flamingo Club regulars. Even Rory Gallagher did a version around the time of TATTOO, which was eventually included as a bonus on the CD reissue.

RoscoGordonWhatUKB, Roscoe Gordon

Listen: What I Wouldn’t Do / Rosco Gordon
What I Wouldn't Do

His New Orleans blues stylings were way more obvious to me than bluebeat though, as on the single’s B side, ‘What I Wouldn’t Do’.

Betty Everett

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

bettyeverettgettinguk,Betty Everett, Northern Soul, Fontana

Listen: Getting Might Crowded / Betty Everett BettyEverettGetting.mp3

A nice one to have on Vee Jay, but even nicer on UK Fontana. A Northern Soul classic, a Mod favorite, lot’s of descriptions have been pinned on this baby. Part of a healthy chart run in ’65 – she had five BILLBOARD Top 100′s. Pretty much all of her Vee Jay output is worth having. Good songs, most of them have been covered too. This one’s a perfect snapshot of the time period’s all nighter club ambience. Best left alone, kinda like ‘Be My Baby’.