Archive for the ‘Billboard’ Category

The Moody Blues / St. Louis Union

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Stop / Moody Blues

Listen: Stop! / The Moody Blues
Stop! / The Moody Blues

When it comes to vinyl or artifacts, oddly, The Moody Blues are not a collectible band. I guess the mainstream success of Moody Blues lineup two unfairly squashed that.

But still, lineup one, well that was a very different sounding group and should be a very different story. It’s where the collectible piece is baffling. Not surprisingly, the band were recycling US blues and RnB, not unlike most other collectible UK acts during the mid 60′s. But singer Denny Laine was special, and had an authentic, recognizable voice. The hits disappeared quickly after their second 7″, ‘Go Now’, although the quality of singles did not. All of them should command more worth, being pressed in very limited quantities.

‘Stop!’, a US only 7″, was taken from the Denny Cordell produced debut UK LP and their only full length with lineup one. The US album version was similar but didn’t included ‘Stop!’, presumably because American label London spotted the track as a potential hit.

‘Stop’ received confident airplay throughout the northeast upon release. I heard it often at both my local Top 40′s in Syracuse. The single charted for one week on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at #98 and was a decent snapshot of Winter ’66, basically dreary and cold, just as I vividly remember it and personally preferred.

Listen: Girl / St. Louis Union
Girl / St. Louis Union

Dreary and cold, or dark and downbeat were indeed the sounds de jour. Enter the St. Louis Union’s cover of ‘Girl’. Despite being a nice time piece, the record was part of an already risky strategy: covering Beatles’ songs to achieve hits. The process initially worked for Peter & Gordon, The Silkie and a handful of others, yet the idea had primarily dried by the time post ’65 late comers released theirs.

London tip ad

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

DDDBMTZabadakUSA, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich, Imperial

Zabadak / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

Listen: Zabadak / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Zabadak

In honor of yet another year owning ‘Zabadak’, one of my all time favorite singles by an all time favorite band, I’m continuing my annual tradition of reposting that original entry about the single’s history from December 28, 2008 at SO MANY RECORDS SO LITTLE TIME.

Footnote: In the original post linked above, I mention the single’s strong airplay at the time. Click here after reading the post to check out some of the US Top 40 stations that played and charted the record. This link organizes the airplay by date, and note there are 6 pages of station listings viewable. See upper right corner to scroll though all 6.

The Flirtations

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Listen: Nothing But A Heartache / The Flirtations
Nothing

This is simply the greatest Motown single that was never on Motown. Even though the UK Deram label really didn’t specialize in releases for the soul or RnB market, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ suddenly appeared in mid ’68. Re-released a few months later, with a different B side, the record started to get play in the US, eventually peaking on the Billboard charts at #34. It was overseen by Wayne Bickerton, who had produced the lavish, for it’s day, album by UK band, World Of Oz. Their single, ‘The Muffin Man’, was almost a hit, garnering pretty solid airplay in a lot of US markets during summer ’68, for about two weeks. Literally, every local chart I’ve ever seen it on was for a two week run. I guess the checks didn’t clear and onto the payola victim scrap heap that fantastic single went.

Years later, this Flirtations track became a Northern Soul success. Northern Soul records, in simple terms, are non hit, copy versions of the Tamla/Motown sound. Many were still being recorded into the early ’70′s, after that original era had long past. The clubs in the North of England were insatiable for anything resembling it and hence the tag Northern Soul.

Proof of the song’s validity comes in the fact that, despite being a UK act and UK made record, like most of the Motown singles from the 60′s, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ was only a hit in America.

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 Vibrations

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Listen: Gonna Get Along Without You Now/ The Vibrations
Gonna

According to one of my favorite books ever, THE NORTHERN SOUL PRICE GUIDE, this white label promo, in mint condition, easily goes for £50. Fun reading, but the real deal price guide these days is Popsike.com. There you get the past several years worth of final sale amounts for any record that commanded $25 or more. According to the site, a $52 May 2012 winning bid for the wlp of ‘Gonna Get Along Without You Now’ was it’s highest in three years. That’s as far as the data goes back.

Therefore my £24 (approximately $37) win was indeed a bargain when compared to the prices set in the guide. Never mind, this single’s a bargain at £100 if truth be told.

Having tastes that always ran toward the mid chart, or better yet, flop follow-ups, likewise my parallel fondness was for the seemingly second division players. Just as Inez & Charlie Foxx sat sideline when Ike & Tina Turner were in reach, so too did The Vibrations when say, The Temptations were around. According to the mainstream that is, but in my world, I coveted any single by either.

It’s seriously hard to recollect a song attempted in more diverse styles through the years than this. Country, reggae, alternative, disco, ska, Euro-dance, rock steady and even Latin via Trini Lopez, which is version that first introduced me to the track. No idea why his was played so heavily in upstate New York at the time (’67). Trust me, it wasn’t often a #93 BILLBOARD peak meant a record got hammered by both our local Top 40′s. And it’s not like there was a Latin scene going on in subzero Syracuse that winter either.

Unfortunately, The Vibrations’ version never graced my ears while current in ’66. Years later I stumbled on it, unable to ignore any Okeh single with their Cadbury purple labels and matching sleeves. One play and boom, the amphetamine mess of an arrangement and speed pitched chorus made me a fan for life.

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.

The Singing Nun / Soeur Sourire

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Listen: Dominique / The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)
Dominique

Out of the blue, I started humming ‘Dominique’ in a restaurant last night, when one of my kids recognized the song. Apparently it was used in a recent episode of FX’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY.

I know we all believe, or want to, that our society has evolved to a higher place than those civilizations before us, even if only measured in decades. Just look at our President, legalized marijuana or gay marriage. But trust me, a record like ‘Dominique’. sung in French by a lesbian Sister of the Catholic cloth would not get airplay on today’s Top 40 stations. Period.

Not so in 1963, when Philips Records managed to get mainstream exposure, no small thanks to The Ed Sullivan Show, thereby taking ‘Dominique’ to #1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100. That’s about where the good stuff ends.

According to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s version of The Singing Nun’s saga, “most of her earnings were in fact taken away by Philips and her producer, while the rest automatically went to her religious congregation, which made at least $100,000 in royalties.”

To recap, she never received any royalties for her work, but instead saw all that income go to the label and her Catholic convent, and one can only imagine the gnarly specimens running that place. But it doesn’t end there, she was hit with a whomping tax debt years later, all for money she never received. Her Catholic convent claimed they never got the cash, though bank statements prove otherwise. Huh? Hasn’t ‘Thou Shall Not Lie’ been in the Catholic church’s Top 10 way before BILLBOARD started compiling charts?

Still, her music prevails. I’ve always loved this track, and I’m sure it’s not because of the virtual walk back to my earliest memories of being a little kid. ‘Dominique’ is just a peaceful, soothing work that transcends any language barrier, as all great music did and still does.

I tucked this NEW YORK POST clipping into the single’s sleeve, just unearthing it last night:

And so with every massive, or even slight hit, come the follow-up. Regardless of if it’s worthy, makes sense or even has/hasn’t a chance. The corporate blueprint is to ring out the dollars, and keep flaming the fire. So too, Philips settled on a second single, from the SINGING NUN album, ‘Tous Les Chemins’. It was not a hit.

Listen: Dominique / The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)
Dominique

Wilbert Harrison One Man Band / Prince La La / Derek Martin

Monday, December 30th, 2013

THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS / Various Artists:

SIDE 1:

Listen: Let’s Work Together (Parts 1 & 2) / Wilbert Harrison One Man Band
WilbertWorkTogether.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: She Put The Hurt On Me / Prince La La
She

Listen: Daddy Rollin’ Stone / Derek Martin
Daddy

Just check my previous two posts. Not hard to guess, I’ve been picking through the various artists section of my wall shelf.

Weirdly enough, this is usually a head scratching process. I don’t do it often, but every time seems to unearth a multi-artist record, usually an EP, that I’d never really noticed before, suddenly falling into the ‘where on earth did I get this from’ category. And honestly, it happens every single time. One source, the UK weeklies, who for a few years there during the late 80′s/early 90′s were including free EP’s, whether it be NME, Music Week or Melody Maker, with each issue. I religiously grabbed every one and stuck them in that VA section for a rainy day. The entire chunk now being a treasure trove of both obscure and focus tracks.

When the Ensign label got all hot and bothered about the Sue Records catalog, which I’m guessing they could suddenly access via their 1983 Island distribution deal, they issued a series of four song EP’s religiously honoring the labels iconic history. Some were single artist compilation EP’s by Ike & Tina Turner or Inez & Charlie Foxx. Others were theme centric: SUE INSTRUMENTALS, THE SUE SOUL SISTERS and this, the latter’s partner, THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS. I played all three in the past few hours and basically did a blindfold drill to choose today’s 31 Days Of December – All EP’s post.

THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS, most likely by design, builds around much covered songs from Sue’s UK catalog. And there were many songs to choose from here, not forgetting, the Sue UK label issued the American Sue releases along with various blues and RnB singles from small and indie US labels. Initially, Juggy Murray, who owned Sue in the US was reportedly furious with Chris Blackwell and Guy Stevens, the day to day guy at Island/Sue in London. Apparently, neither had cleared the idea of picking up product from other US companies and slapping a Sue label on it for the UK.

As a result, other than the bothersome bad blood, Sue’s British catalog and discography rivaled the majors like Decca’s, who bolstered their output and image by repping Atlantic, Monument, Tribe, RCA, Coral and others in Britain. Island became the little indie that could, even harder in the 60′s, when swimming against the tide of Decca, CBS, EMI and Pye was near impossible.

And so, the team at Ensign picked some solid originals here that went on to become widely popular as covers. Loads of bands, including The Who and John’s Children released Derek Martin’s ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’ during the Mod era.

Canned Heat, blues experts themselves, took Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ Top 40 in 1970, delaying their version to give the original a chance to sell and reach #32 on BILLBOARD. In a loose full circle chain of events, John Mayall chose to record Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ for his fantastic, and I do mean fantastic, Island album, A SENSE OF PLACE from 1990.

Marianne Faithfull

Friday, December 27th, 2013

GO AWAY FROM MY WORLD / Marianne Faithfull:

Side 1:

Listen: Go Away From My World / Marianne Faithfull
Go

Listen: Yesterday / Marianne Faithfull
Yesterday

Listen: Sally Free And Easy / Marianne Faithfull
Sally

Side 2:

Listen: Summer Nights / Marianne Faithfull
Summer

Listen: Last Thing On My Mind / Marianne Faithfull
Last

Listen: Mary Ann / Marianne Faithfull
Mary

Another in the short series of London Records / Seeburg jukebox EP’s from the mid 1960′s.

As with The Rolling Stones post on 12/18, all these 33 1/3 true stereo EP’s, made with the endorsement of Seeburg and basically designed for their machines, had blank, white back covers. The Seeburg 45/33 1/3 compatible boxes had four framed glass windows into which these covers were meant to slip, thereby providing maximum real estate for the featured mini albums. As a result, there was no need for a back sleeve, thereby saving on print costs.

Besides, jukebox tabs, like the one below, were provided with the EP’s, from which all the song selections could be had.

Marianne Faithfull was just beginning her descent as a successful US Top 40 singles act around the time of this EP, GO AWAY FROM MY WORLD, and her second US album of the same name. The previous single, ‘Summer Nights’ included here, was the last to receive blanket pop airplay, peaking at #24 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100. The followup, ‘Go Away From My World’, despite it’s beautiful full color picture sleeve, got minimal exposure and only struggled to #89.

I love that description, struggled. Real chart nuts, ones that make me appear normal and perfectly acceptable for mainstream society, use it all the time. It so nicely sets a sombre tone. But I do recall how dark and gloomy ‘Go Away From My World’ sounded on the air. It was the whole point, and the whole appeal as well. Material ladened with misery always suited her the best.

She got a ton of radio play in upstate New York. In fact, even I thought her singles peaked higher nationally recollecting now on how concentrated the exposure was.

Ike & Tina Turner

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

WHAT YOU HEAR IS WHAT YOU GET – LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL / Ike & Tina Turner:

Side 1:

Listen: I’ve Been Loving You Too Long / Ike & Tina Turner
IkeTinaLovingYouToo.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Everyday) / Ike & Tina Turner
A

Listen: Respect / Ike & Tina Turner
Respect

In 1971, United Artists released Ike & Tina Turner’s tenth live album WHAT YOU HEAR IS WHAT YOU GET – LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL in the US. Despite being a double record and rather too padded with current soul covers, it still peaked at #25 on BILLBOARD’s Top 200, their highest ever chart entry along with WORKIN’ TOGETHER from the previous year.

They were hot off their biggest (#4) and only US Top 10 single, ‘Proud Mary’, of which a live version was included.

But seriously, how lopsided are those details? Ike & Tina Turner had one Top 10 single and only managed to reach #25 in the album chart, despite being amongst of the biggest live attractions in America and around the world during the 60′s / early 70′s?

Well, their records didn’t get much mainstream exposure on Top 40 radio, a permanently damaging mark on Phil Spector’s career and psyche, although rumor has it his ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ production was blackballed by the then venomous payola demanding radio community.

Or possibly, Ike & Tina Turner’s act was just too raw, too suggestive and too hard hitting. Reality wasn’t always a friend of the mainstream.

Some of their previous, should have been hit singles were included on the double set. Two being ‘Ive Been Loving You Too Long’ and ‘A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Everyday)’, both part of the three song jukebox only EP above.

Julie London

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

CRY ME A RIVER / Julie London:

Side 1:

Listen: Cry Me A River / Julie London
Cry

Listen: I’ll Cry Tomorrow / Julie London
JulieCryTomorrow.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: Baby Baby All The Time / Julie London
Baby

Listen: Shadow Woman / Julie London
Shadow

To think that during it’s heyday, camp bachelor pad music was simply referred to as Easy Listening. Did life really sound like this in Los Angeles during the mid 50′s? Was it really a world of smokey cocktail lounges and leopard print furniture and pastel colored cars and perfect weather? I guess so.

Despite her suggestive, alluring vocal distinction and the timeless sexual drenched sonic of producer/husband Bobby Troup’s recordings, apparently this couple lived a pretty normal and uneventful lifestyle, avoiding Hollywood’s social dramas and remaining together until his death in 1999.

‘Cry Me A River’ went Top 10 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 in 1955, with the accompanying album, HER NAME IS JULIE, reaching #2. Of her vocal style she was quoted as saying, “It’s only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.”

Simple formula. Add to it, simple and crystal clear production, some playful lyric sass and bang, 32 albums later, you’re a well deserved legend.

This US EP, unlike those in the UK, represented a trimmed back version of then current albums, many times using identical cover art. In some instances, including Julie London’s, an entire album might be issued over three or four 7″ EP’s, as was the case with her CALENDAR GIRL full length.

Leroy Pullins

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Listen: I’m A Nut / Leroy Pullins
LeroyPullinsNut.mp3

Novelty country, one hit wonder. Those are about the only historical remembrances of Leroy Pullins. Orginally the leader of Kentucky garage band, The LeSabres, he relocated to Nashville in ’65 to peruse success. ‘I’m A Nut’ was the first from a short string of singles on Kapp Records, and the only one to chart, peaking at #18 in ’66 on BILLBOARD’s Country Top 50. It’s UK counterpart via Kapp’s distribution agreement with Decca, provided his only international release.

In the day, Top 40 regularly spiced up their intentionally zany, fast paced, wildcard afternoon disc jockey slots with novelty records, many based on outer space alien invasions or mental illness. I recall hearing this one on occasion between British invasion releases and early Motowns.

Mitty Collier

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Listen: I Had A Talk With My Man / Mitty Collier
I Had A Talk With My Man / Mitty Collier

The oddest things can happen, and will.

Mitty Collier got pop play on my local Top 40 when I was a kid. Now, her records were strictly black hits, even though ‘I Had A Talk With My Man’ did cross to some pop outlets in major cities. I did not, however, grow up in a major city. But WOLF, as I’ve raved on about before, was indeed an educational source in it’s day. Right there next to The Rolling Stones and Them we could hear The Vibrations, Irma Thomas and yes, Mitty Collier, thanks to their programming excellence.

Basically, the single was a secularised version of James Cleveland’s gospel song ‘I Had A Talk With God Last Night’ and reached #41 on Billboard’s Top 100.

Gloria Lynne, who had jazzier material and therefore more grown up appeal, grabbed some airplay on the easy listening formats, as it was referred to then. So my parents’ stations played her, and I regularly heard ‘Watermelon Man’ at our local barbers. There’s a definite resemblance between their voices, both full and heavy.

I actually bought ‘I Had A Talk With My Man’ at Walt’s Records instead of a new Searchers single one particular week. If you’re listening, this is it, rough around the edges but still intact.

Listen: Free Girl (In The Morning) / Mitty Collier
Free Girl (In The Morning) / Mitty Collier

Despite being a freezing November Saturday, ‘I Had A Talk With My Man’ brings back warm, vivid winter memories of rushing from the bus into Walt’s, desperate to find this record. Once back home, I played it over and over. But in the weeks that followed, B side ‘Free Girl (In The Morning)’ ended up grabbing my attention and by Christmas break, I probably made everybody nuts with it.

These RnB records really did go over the heads of my friends. Motown was way okay, but the hardcore stuff, not so easily tolerated. A twisted little kid, yes, happy to have been one.

Listen: Together / Mitty Collier
Together / Mitty Collier

Keeping up with the B side infatuations, ‘Together’, the flip to her next single ‘No Faith, No Love’, was really a gem. A most obvious similarity between ‘Together’ and ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ is undeniable. I wonder which of the two was written first.

Not long after releasing her final records for Chess, Mitty Collier was stricken with throat problems, polyps, which ultimately threatened to end her career. Never to sing again, she became completely devoted to her Christian beliefs. By ’72, there was an unexpected turn of events, Mitty’s voice regained strength and her ability to sing restored.

One of the first recordings as a result: ‘I Had A Talk With God Last Night’. Gospel albums followed. She established a Bible Study Telephone Prayer Line and a community outreach program, “Feed-A-Neighbor” (FAN), for which she received the key to the city of Birmingham in 1987.

Mitty Collier became a preacher, and was ordained in 1989, later being appointed pastor of the More Like Christ (MLC) Christian Fellowship Ministries in Chicago. She has received a number of humanitarian and other awards, including the National Council Of Negro Women (NCNW) and Woman Of Wonder Award 2000.

If that doesn’t warm someone’s heart, nothing will.

The above UK demo gifted to me by Vicki Wickham, a living saint. Thank you dearest Vicki. XXX

The Hollies

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Listen: Jennifer Eccles / The Hollies
Jennifer

What on earth was Graham Nash thinking? Leaving this band?

Seems every once in a while, some visiting UK group lost a member to the lure of the Los Angeles folk contingent. None of that soft rock ever appealed to me, not to mention their unkept and drab dress sense. But probably in the 60′s, the modern living, mid-century designs that still prevail to this day were so magnetic, who could resist champagne bubble wall dividers, sparkle ceilings and aqua kitchens.

I can’t quite recall when he actually made the move, seems around ’68. Still somehow, The Hollies vocal sound didn’t really change. Not to my ears.

US radio were always very fickle when it came to their records. The wise man’s “be happy with life’s small pleasures” slogan applied here, and at least The Hollies got some airtime. I even recall, shortly after their switch to Epic, with ‘Carrie Anne’ going Top 10, former label Imperial re-released ‘Pay You Back With Interest’ as a 7″. It too got on the air, eventually charting in BILLBOARD (#28).

Luckily, all of the band’s records were played regularly on the upstate New York stations. Even WNDR, the most commercial Top 40 in Syracuse stayed loyal. ‘I’m Alive’ sounded massive over my little orange transistor, and ‘Jennifer Eccles’ was everywhere airwaves-wise during the Spring of ’68. Right there next to my other successful radio request line missions: The Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’, Grapefruit ‘Elevator’ and The Scaffold ‘Thank You Very Much’. Oh, and Madeline Bell too.

Hedgehoppers Anonymous

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Listen: Stop Press / Hedgehoppers Anonymous
Stop

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.

Wayne Fontana / Jackie Edwards

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Come On Home / Wayne Fontana

Listen: Come On Home / Wayne Fontana
Come

Wayne Fontana’s version of ‘Come On Home’ came on the radio during the summer of 1966 and it was an instant favorite.

Sixteen months earlier, he was the apparent leader of the first live band I’d ever seen, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. They opened for Freddie & The Dreamers. And so from my initial baptism into the live music world, I had a tendency to favor the support acts, especially if they were English.

By early ’66, they had split into two. It seemed like an eternity at the time. Both had several hits in the UK, with only The Mindbenders getting any real airplay here with ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ and ‘Ashes To Ashes’.

By that summer though, I was over anxious to finally hear a solo record from Wayne Fontana, having scoured the UK singles chart in BILLBOARD as part of my weekly ritual at Smith’s Records each Friday after school and seen one too many by him that had not entered my life.

Alas, ‘Come On Home’ got a few weeks worth of spins locally upon release, but then on the more mainstream leaning Top 40, WNDR, as opposed to the looser and much better WOLF. And yeah, I loved it immediately.

I recall mustering up the guts to shout it out at the London Palladium in April ’01. Along with Dave Berry, he was supporting Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Seriously, he was hysterically funny between songs and pretty great vocally as well. He ignored me when it came to my audience request although.

Listen: Come On Home / Jackie Edwards
Come

Little did I know at the time, ‘Come On Home’ was written by Jackie Edwards, the same guy who’d composed my early favorites by The Spencer Davis Group: ‘Keep On Running’, ‘Somebody Help Me’ and ‘When I Come Home’.

Years later, I discovered his history in ska, duets with Millie amongst others and several pop singles, many of which I’ve managed to obtain over time.

It was while digging through one of the seemingly endless storage cupboards at Island’s St. Peter’s Square office in London that I unearthed an unplayed promotional pressing of his ‘Come On Home’. I still experience a deja vu hot flash to that moment every time I hold this copy.

Manfred Mann

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

If You Gotta Go, Go Now / Manfred Mann

Listen: If You Gotta Go, Go Now / Manfred Mann
If

Manfred Mann may have been the first rock band to successfully lose a lead singer, yet bounce back as popular as ever. Not once but twice. Therefore, there are several Manfred Mann lineups to write about. This was the first. Lead vocalist, Paul Jones, was from the blues blueprint prevalent at the time. His authenticity rings true to this day, as he still hosts one of the most popular and longest running BBC Radio 2 shows……about the blues.

This lineup released many greats. Despite ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ and ‘Sha La La’ being huge in ’64 – ’65, dependably wretched American radio just stopped playing their followups. It wasn’t possible to these ears that ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’ didn’t get traction in the States. Luckily, there were pockets of radio loyalty, and my hometown was one.

She Needs Company / Manfred Mann

Listen: She Needs Company / Manfred Mann
She

Wolf All American Survey 5-7-66

The very, very underplayed ‘She Needs Company’ was Top 5 on WOLF, see chart above. I foolishly passed up buying the only stock copy I’d ever seen at W.T. Grants on Salina Street for The Swinging Blue Jeans ‘Don’t Make Me Over’. Well, foolish is an unfair word given that record is life support necessary as well, it’s just a bit easier to find than a stock ‘She Needs Company’, which is plain and simple pretty impossible.

Thank God I had a few promo copies, as it took me until 2011 to find an elusive Manfred Mann stock.

Pretty Flamingo / Manfred Mann

Listen: Pretty Flamingo / Manfred Mann
Pretty

Some airplay reprieve was granted Manfred Mann as ‘Pretty Flamingo’ did well during the summer of ’66. I always thought it sounded better than just about any other record current at the time, so its BILLBOARD peak of #29 was rather unsatisfying. To Manfred Mann, on behalf of all the deaf programmers during the period, I apologize.

On a side note, check out the Airheads Radio Survey Archive. It’s a website that has attempted to gather and document charts positions from many local stations in the 60′s. It’s easy to use and unfortunately horribly addicting.

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.

Helen Reddy

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Listen: I Am Woman / Helen Reddy
I

To think, in ’72, ‘I Am Woman’, a song about women’s rights, not only got airplay, but reached #1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100. With our US Presidential election only days away, a track like this might not get a chance to be heard for another four years if Romney wins. In fact, this blog might disappear for even saying that. Hopefully, you’ll all vote against such a threat.

Read about Helen Reddy on Wikipedia. Fascinating. Her first record deal in the US was with Fontana, but not until moving to Capitol did she get any traction. I recall Corinne and I being crazy about her around the time of ‘I Am Woman’, and standing for hours in the blazing sun to watch her up close at the New York State Fair summer ’74. Not only did we love the singles, but were knocked out by her words at the Grammy’s, whereby she concluded her acceptance speech famously thanking God “because She makes everything possible”.

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.