Archive for the ‘Billboard’ Category

Washboard Willie

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Listen: Ham Bone / Washboard Willie
Ham

Roger Armstrong played me ‘Ham Bone’ in ’07. I’d never heard the version prior, but hunted for it ever since. Let me tell you, this was one hard record to find. Forget about price, it was all about a copy turning up at all. Subsequently I’d been searching unsuccessfully for ages, but just prior to our London trip last week, the first pressing to list on eBay in years appeared. Not about to lose it, I put in a crazy high bid, and luck was on my side.

Funny enough, the auction closed while I was in the UK, sitting in Camden’s Spreadeagle pub with Roger himself. No lie. What a nice email alert to get anywhere, but nicely full circle in this case.

By far the most successful version, according the BILLBOARD chart number, is that by Red Saunders & His Orch. with Delores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids. Love it as you will, still Washboard Willie’s is clearly in a class of it’s own.

Having turned professional in ’52 at thirty years old, a very late bloomer even then, this full time car washer’s apparent first stroke of genius was to name his band Washboard Willie & The Super Suds Of Rhythm. Now who wouldn’t want every record they made on name alone?

Originally playing only his washboard from work, his second stroke, by ’55 he added a bass and snare drum, his third. Listen to Washboard Willie’s performance on ‘Ham Bone’, from ’64, and you’ll hear how he mastered a most primal idea, thereby achieving for himself a permanent slot in music history.

He was one fascinating guy with a fascinating discography as well.

The Small Faces

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Listen: All Or Nothing / The Small Faces
All

The lack of airplay ‘All Or Nothing’ was afforded upon release in the US goes down as one of the great crimes in our country’s history. It was shocking at the time.

BILLBOARD’s 9/17/66 issue featured the full page RCA industry ad above, not only promoting the single, but also the label’s signing of The Small Faces. Their previous releases had been issued by London Records’ imprint, Press. Of the three, only ‘Sha La La La Lee’ managed a smattering of play, primarily Sacramento (KXOA), San Bernardino (KFXM) and Miami (WFUN) of all, seemingly unsuspecting, places.

A big indicator of RCA’s commitment was reflected in the custom picture sleeve which accompanied ‘All Or Nothing’, also profiled in the aforementioned print ad. I can still feel the jolt my body took upon opening to that page during a Friday evening at Smith’s Records in Oneida, NY, a weekly stop to pour over the store’s current issue.

Unbeknown to us all, Mrs. Smith contributed incredibly toward my formative years of becoming an avid music fan and record collector. Not only did she allow me to monopolize the magazine at the counter, she gave me her expired copies and most patiently wrote down my weekly special order choices as I’d scour the Singles Review page of the magazine.

BILLBOARD broke down most newly issued records into their editorially predicted sections: Top 20, Top 60 or the kiss of death Chart categories. Not surprisingly, many of music history’s classic releases began their painful cult status wallowing in that lonely Chart section, records tipped to scrape into the Hot 100′s lower reaches at best.

In the very same issue, and despite the lucrative ad buy, BILLBOARD drove a nail through the record’s heart with a Chart verdict, surprising given the label’s full page print buy. Mind you, this section was highly influential at the time.

More importantly, did the person or persons responsible for this damnation even listen to it? How on earth do you toss aside Steve Marriott’s unsurpassable vocal? Not only acknowledged as possibly the 60′s greatest white soul singer, his collaborative first division songwriting with Ronnie Lane stamped ‘All Or Nothing’ as one of the undeniably legendary singles from the period. How could a BILLBOARD employee, or more frighteningly their staff, not spot this?

Mrs. Smith never did get my special order for the record fulfilled, and as a result, I innocently passed up the only copy I ever saw when current at my other haunt, Walt’s Records in Syracuse. For true, it was a hard and painful moment that. With only one dollar in my pocket, the default purchase choice became ‘I’m A Boy’ by The Who, fingers crossed firmly my special order for ‘All Or Nothing’ was on it’s way. Wrong.

But all things happen for a reason. During the 70′s, the search for records pre-Ebay was via GOLDMINE’s classifieds. Religiously I would scour the magazine upon arrival. Literally, all things would stop. The process took hot line style priority status. So finally, a copy of ‘All Or Nothing’ in the sleeve was listed by a Texas dealer. I called him immediately, usurped the auction and closed the sale early. To my extreme luck, and possibly as karmic blessing, a sheet of the below factory jukebox tabs was inside the sleeve:

“Oh great joy”, to quote a line from OGDEN’S NUT GONE FLAKE.

Luscious Jackson

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Listen: Naked Eye / Luscious Jackson
Naked

Luscious Jackson never did manage to spin their wheels beyond the college market for very long.

Oh yes, the good old college market as it was once known. You don’t hear that tag being sold much these days, which clearly coincides with college radio’s withered presence. The format was always an interesting free for all when it came to musical selection, but the consistent requirement to allow untrained students airtime meant ultimately, those amateur deliveries put most listeners off. Only the die hards could withstand the dead air and weak back sells in exchange for hearing something different.

‘Naked Eye’ became Luscious Jackson’s temporary out of jail free card, gaining enough play to reach #36 on BILLBOARD’s Top 100. Despite name producers and an old school record label, their homemade, amateur sound was never lost. In fact, as with ‘Naked Eye’, they didn’t really sounded like a group were playing together at all. Despite their attempts at rap coming closer to a suburban high school band than some street toughs from New York’s Lower East Side, their squeaky clean middle class take on Prince basically boiled down to reheated Waitresses, but it kinda worked, and I always found myself fond of their singles.

Charlie Phillips

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Listen: Sugartime / Charlie Phillips
Sugartime

Recorded and produced by Norman Petty in his Clovis, New Mexico studio, ‘Sugartime’ became Charlie Phillips’ debut release as Coral 61908, on the original B side, to be precise. The record’s origins are fascinating, especially the bit about turning up to find Buddy Holly & The Crickets had been booked as the backing band. Themselves newly successful to the charts, the guys were still earning fees playing on Norman Petty’s many studio sessions in ’56, when this was recorded. Norman Petty’s list of credits, as well the studio’s, are stunning.

Soon after ‘Sugartime’ scaled the US Country charts, Petty suggested Coral get the song covered, then release it to the pop audience. The label’s Bob Thiele brought in The McGuire Sisters, whose version (Coral 61924) was issued in short order, immediately entering BILLBOARD’s Hot 100, within weeks hitting #1 during Spring ’57.

This original, with an authentic hillbilly delivery as it was called, has the eerie ability to embody my fantasy of how AM rockabilly radio sounded in rural Texas during the mid-50′s. If only we had the means to time travel back and dig through piles of disc jockey records jammed into the cupboards of any audition studio at just one of those long gone broadcast buildings.

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 Bee Gees

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Listen: (The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts / The Bee Gees
(The

Recalling the first time The Bee Gees got played locally, the disc jockeys at WNDR were promoting the record’s 7PM unveiling for a solid day or two prior. The implication being a new double sided single from The Beatles. Instead, we got The Bee Gees US debut: ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones)’ / ‘I Can’t See Nobody’. In the end, a much better result.

Other than an unfair comparison to The Beatles, from that US premier until taking a dreadful left turn into disco during the mid 70′s, the band had a nice run of British sounding hits, despite growing up and starting their musical career in Australia. Nothing wrong with that by the way, but given they were originally the UK, it was clearly in their water.

During the late 80′s, while working at Island, I often tried to convince Marianne Faithfull to cover ‘(The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts’. The song just seemed made for her timbre. At the time, she was living in Boston, but despite using that logic as ammo, she never did get round to it.

‘(The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts’ is neck in neck with their UK only single, ‘World’, also from ’67, as my favorite. A slight embarrassment, this one only reaching #11 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100, while achieving #1 pretty much around the world. Both a big accomplishment and a contributor to their astonishing, career spanning sales of 220 million records worldwide.

The Olympics / The Young Rascals

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Listen: Good Lovin’ / The Olympics
Good

One of the obscure RnB singles that got Top 40 play on WOLF, the miracle pumping AM radio anomaly transmitting 24/7 in upstate New York from ’64 – ’67. The station is referenced many times on this blog, and introduced endless English bands, as well American RnB acts to it’s teenage listenership. Myself included. Bless whoever was in charge.

‘Good Lovin’ rocked my little red transistor, and always sounded way dirtier being broadcast via a compressed AM signal than off my vinyl pressing at home. The single stalled at #81 nationally, like so many others did when from the wrong side of the tracks. Ironically, these records never seemed to get the BILLBOARD chart moves local airplay implied they should. As a result, The Olympics ‘Good Lovin’ disappeared off the airwaves rather fast and temporarily felt like an anthem never to be.

I picked up my copy in the 39¢ bin at W.T. Grants only weeks after initially hearing it.

Listen: Good Lovin’ / The Young Rascals
Good

Within a year though, the more established Atlantic Records issued The Young Rascals version, a result of band member Gene Cornish allegedly hearing The Olympics’ original and suggesting his band cover it live. Without question, they documented a livelier performance onto vinyl, added some garage rock, and went to #1 on the Hot 100.

Despite The Young Rascals having recorded the wilder, many I say better, version doesn’t take away from The Olympics tempered and understated cool. Both are lifers in this collection, convenient necessities for different occasions.

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.

Ike & Tina Turner

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Listen: Baby – Get It On / Ike & Tina Turner
Baby

Seemingly undaunted by failure, Ike & Tina Turner churned out singles at a hectic, continuous pace for more than a decade.

Come ’75, the number declined, as opposed to say their ’64 – ’68 run. By this point, the tradeoff was certainly more album releases than just about any other act. No doubt encouraged by the United Artists funded, but Ike & Tina Turner owned Bolic Sound in the Inglewood section of Los Angeles, they flooded the market with an endless stream of jam based, second rate songs. Or so it seemed at the time.

Their live draw was at a peak, and in concert, much of what sounded pedestrian on vinyl surely exploded on the stage. Playing so many of those releases, as I often do, their once current but generic, assembly line weakness quite honestly has gotten more and more appealing as both time and distance increase. As do the once unappealing covers.

What some might still consider a careless, bland or demo-like snare sound now stamp a period date smack onto each record. A true hidden charm being the clarity and precision of Ike’s studio technique.

‘Baby – Get It On’ easily exemplifies the above claim, and was to be their last BILLBOARD Top 100 entry, peaking at #88 in ’75.

Don’t care, sounds better than ever to me. Combining Ike’s cliched lyrics, Tina’s ever inspired, dutiful call/response delivery, that drum sound and a clear stereo mix easily allows the sum to become greater than the parts.

What I, and most likely, we all used to pass up at garage and house sales have become eyebrow raisers nowadays. Yes, trust me, Ike & Tina Turner’s mid 70′s United Artists singles are worth grabbing.

Wilson Pickett

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Listen: In The Midnight Hour / Wilson Pickett
In

The UK promo above came from Vicki Wickham’s collection, which she so generously donated my way. Let me tell you one of many things about Vicki, she’s a saint. Who else rings up, finding boxes of forgotten, valuable records, and just offers them to a friend? Not many, maybe no one. Well that’s Vicki.

The way I put it back on her was, there’ll always be yours, and here if you ever need them. She was happy, me too.

Nothing I can tell you about ‘In The Midnight Hour’ that the readers of this blog don’t already know, so hopefully giving it a play now will at least bring you back to when you first heard it. Dare I proclaim, that moment has to be impossible to forget.

Listen: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love / Wilson Pickett
Everybody

It was ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’, another one from her lot, that really brought me back, not only to Solomon Burke, but The Rolling Stones. Yeah, as a little white kid growing up in the no black folks allowed sticks, it made a very deep imprint on my life, opening side one of THE ROLLING STONES, NOW!. An all time favorite album, the origins of that memory are chronicled elsewhere on this blog.

The real flashback though is them opening both their ’65 and ’66 Syracuse shows with it, Mick Jagger pointing in every possible direction around the arena, while singing the lines “I need you, you, you”. Each of those finger points resulting in even louder shrieks from that section than the rest of the venue, all losing their gear uncontrollably regardless.

Not that Wilson Pickett doesn’t reel this in on his own. Man, these guys could sing the phone book and it would be a hit. Released in early ’67, a track from his then brand new THE BEST OF WILSON PICKETT collection, ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ still found a path to #29 Pop / #19 RnB. The power of greatness.

Unit 4 + 2

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Listen: Concrete And Clay / Unit 4 + 2
Concrete

Always loved this band’s name. It pre-dated tags given to electronic music acts by about thirty years or so. As it turned out, their acoustic guitar style had a Flamenco thing about it, I guess. It was a thread pretty common to the majority of Unit 4 + 2′s records, even though as a kid, the wilder, trashier, bluesy guitar stuff appealed the most, especially when maracas were involved.

Anything from Decca UK, and released via their London Records Group in America was moved to the top of my pile though. Even the MOR productions of Tom Jones and The Fortunes were fine by me.

‘Concrete And Clay’ would’ve gone Top 10 here, no doubt, if another competing copy cat version by Eddie Rambeau hadn’t been grabbing airplay and sales simultaneously. So instead of reaching a placing near it’s UK #1 slot, the record topped out at #28 on BILLBOARD, victim to a wank American singer who hadn’t moved on fashion wise since Fabian from about five years earlier.

Nice intro as well, ironically similar to but predating label mates, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Women’ by about three years.

Listen: (You’ve) Never Been In Love Like This Before / Unit 4 + 2
Unit4+2NeverBeen.mp3

Even more appealing was the followup. ‘(You’ve) Never Been In Love Like This Before’, complete with my favorite, an unnecessary bracket within the title, continued their pattern of re-writing the previous single, as ‘Concrete And Clay’ had done with it’s predecessor, ‘Sorrow And Pain’. This can double as either developing a sound, or becoming a perfect target for hater journalists. Both outcomes are common.

Basically, a stiff, it hovered around the lower reaches of the Top 100 for several weeks, eventually topping out at #93. I can still see that unsold chunk in a W.T. Grants record rack, back when vast areas of department store walls were lined with rows and rows of the latest 45′s. There they sat for weeks, until one day, gone. Well, all but the copy pictured above.

Ben E. King

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Listen: What Is Soul? / Ben E. King
What

Bob Gallo’s name, like Ben E. King’s, always draws me in. The two have written together for decades. As well, Bob has produced a bulk of recordings, not only for Ben E. King, but also Atlantic Records, including The Young Rascals’ ‘Groovin’. This guy has basically worked on every kind of music from James Brown & The Famous Flames’ ‘It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World’ to ? & The Mysterians’ ’96 Tears’.

‘What Is Soul’ was oddly a non hit at pop when released in ’66. Despite being the B side to ‘They Don’t Give Medals to Yesterday’s Heroes’, ‘What Is Soul’ suddenly got play in Detroit, New York and Washington DC, so Atco repressed it, changing the label copy to indicate ‘What Is Soul’ as the plug side. It’s under performance from RnB radio’s listeners, entering Billboard’s Soul chart for a mere two weeks, and peaking at #38, discouraged the label to attempt spreading the record Top 40. A very pop leaning song structure may have been the culprit to the hardcore, but I still think, what a missed opportunity every time I play it.

Buster Brown

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Listen: Fannie Mae / Buster Brown
Fannie Mae / Buster Brown

Buster Brown, at 48 years old, had his first BILLBOARD chart hit with ‘Fannie Mae’, scaling #1 on the RnB charts, and #38 Pop in December ’59.

Christmas in that decade meant loads of Lionel train sets under the trees, and plenty of heart attack inducing home baked cookies left out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Plus it must have been a great time to be on Fire Records. Just imagine going into the office, cupboards bulging with records, office staff in that truly giving holiday spirit and inviting you to have a pick through. Honestly, I get shivers at the thought.

Listen: Don’t Dog Your Woman / Buster Brown
Don't Dog Your Woman / Buster Brown

A few years later, he basically rewrote the song lyrically, becoming the brilliant ‘Don’t Dog Your Woman’. Everything about this, especially the harmonica, soon after identified with many of the songs on the first few Rolling Stones albums. I never recall them name checking him, though Roger reminded me that they may have recorded ‘Fannie Mae’ very early on.

Listen: The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man / The Rolling Stones
The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man / The Rolling Stones

I wonder if Buster Brown ever heard The Rolling Stones original composition ‘The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man’ and if so, what he thought of it?

I have a strong feeling they heard his.

The Contours

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Listen: Shake Sherry / The Contours
Shake

The musical chairs surrounding the often interchanging members of The Contours will have your head spinning if you let it. Some of the guys still perform today, and a family tree type timeline is readily available on Wikipedia. But be forewarned, it’s for the clear headed only and I do commend whoever got all those details together.

‘Shake Sherry’, one of the many lyrically intentional dance songs the group recorded, followed up their only Top 10, ‘Do You Love Me’. As with the majority of their other 60′s Gordy label releases, it peaked mid chart (#43). Seemingly in the shadow of The Temptations and The Four Tops, apparently The Contours were the act whose wild live performances on those Motown Revue package tours would truly tear the house down.

Even despite being written by Berry Gordy himself, and getting a top vocal drill by Billy Gordon, the record just didn’t get the muscle at radio from the Motown machine. Who the hell let that happen?

The Contours ended up benefitting from numerous Northern Soul dj’s bringing many of their records justice years later. And in fact, when ‘Do You Love Me’ was used in 1987′s DIRTY DANCING, the re-released single found it’s way back into the US BILLBOARD chart, peaking at #11. As we all know, a very uncommon result in America.

Billy Paul

Friday, November 25th, 2011

billypaulblackenough, Billy Paul, Philadelphia International

Listen: Am I Black Enough For You / Billy Paul
Am

Nothing like getting straight to the point. Pull that band-aid off Billy Paul.

This followup to the RnB and Pop #1 ‘Me And Mrs. Jones’ should have been a near repeat of that previous achievement. Certainly RnB-wise. But no, it stalled at #29, and only hung in for six weeks. Even less impact was made on Pop (#79).

All the elements were there too. This mono edit sounded good on the radio, well the two times I heard it that is. I wanted this single immediately. I was obsessed with all the Blaxploitation/Shaft/Black Caeser stuff, the wah-wah sleeze guitars and metallic bongos. It was the allure of the dirty heroin ghetto that seemed quite romantic from my parent’s house in the white suburbs of Syracuse.

It sure was a lot of fun going round to the record shops in the not so nice part of town. Many of friends wouldn’t join me, so I’d take the bus by myself most of the time. Man, those Mom & Pop shops were bulging with good stuff, and nice business people too. They’d always go out of their way to welcome you in, especially the ladies that ran The Record Shack, just off Salina Street. They were sisters, always cooking and eating, many times sharing their baked macaroni and cheese, or drug like pineapple upside down cake. Never will I forget that dish. I think they got a kick out of this little white kid, always carrying singles from Walt’s Records, my first stop for the English releases. I got many a great, now obscure, down dirty funk single in that shop. The activity, record playing and dancing on the spot echoed the British Invasion of the 60′s. Different music, different clothes, same energy.

Edwin Starr

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Listen: Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem / Edwin Starr
EdwinStarrHellHarlem.mp3

Edwin Starr had some surprising US pop hits quite early on in his career curve. Surprising given they were precursors to Northern Soul, and usually those titles didn’t chart. That was the whole point. But ‘Agent Double-O-Soul’ (#21, ’65), ‘S.O.S. (Stop Her On Sight)’ (#48, ’66) and ’25 Miles’ (#6, ’69) all did well and even at the time, they had that magnetic something special.

By 1970, he switched up labels, leaving Ric Tic Records for Motown. Simultaneously trading in his soul stylings for the intense Vietnam protest diatribe ‘War’, he transformed a Temptations album track into a #1 chart story. But his US success was short lived.

Europe and the UK proved more loyal, and given the nature of his earlier hits, Edwin Starr relocated to England in ’73. Ironically, during ’74, he recorded a very American ‘Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem’, main title of the HELL UP IN HARLEM film, itself an official sequel to BLACK CAESAR.

Despite a slightly cluttered arrangement, the track perfectly snapshots the sound of Blaxploitation, a near official genre, briefly prevalent at that time and very much synonymous with grainy, washed out color cinema.

Jackie Wilson

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Listen: Baby Workout / Jackie Wilson
Baby

It’s strange how time has diminished the apparent power and originality once associated with Jackie Wilson.

Read Doug Carter’s THE BLACK ELVIS: JACKIE WILSON. You won’t be able to put it down, nor will you understand why he didn’t reach legendary status like those who credited him with their inspiration: Michael Jackson, James Brown and Elvis Presley for starters.

On stage, his knee drops, splits, spins, one footed across-the-floor slides became the blueprint from which they, and many others, lifted, crowning him Mr. Excitement. As a result of the book, I found myself trolling through a surprisingly large section of about thirty Jackie Wilson singles, involuntarily amassed through the years, sure that one day, I’d need them. Well that day arrived even before the book’s halfway mark. Didn’t take much to pull out and spin the pristine pressing, on original orange labelled Brunswick, of ‘Baby Workout’, a huge record in ’63 (#5 Pop). Workout being the giveaway word, this title held great potential. No let down there.

House producer Dick Jacobs, ann under appreciated band leader and executive, took responsibility for A&Ring many of Jackie Wilson’s records during the period. His clean, safe backing vocals and big orchestral arrangements, often dismissed and unfairly overlooked, actually helped to bring out the grit in both Jackie Wilson’s voice and songwriting. According to many, the combination of these two talents led to some of the earliest soul recordings, many becoming mainstream hits, like ‘Baby Workout’.

Listen: Soul Galore / Jackie Wilson
Soul

The post Dick Jacobs era resulted in Carl Davis being tasked the Jackie Wilson production responsibilities. One of their first works together, ‘Soul Galore’, got no traction upon release, somehow failing to pick up much airplay, even on the RnB stations. But by the early 70′s, it qualified as one of Jackie Wilson’s biggest Northern Soul successes, thereby being reissued, via the pressing pictured above.

Luckily, a very typical trait of Carl Davis’ was to consistently incorporate pumped up, brass arrangements into swinging soul songs, thereby helping give Jackie Wilson one of his biggest and ultimately final mainstream hits with ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher’ a year or so later in ’67.

Julie London

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Listen: Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast / Julie London
Nice

You can listen to Julie London for the rest of your life if you want, and probably find it hard to get intimately familiar with her entire recorded output: 32 albums. She’s so good, I say give it a try.

She was signed to Liberty Records from ’55 – ’69, yet had only one single that made the BILLBOARD Top 100. Now that’s a commitment to the artist. But what a worthy choice.

Julie London, wife of DRAGNET’s Jack Webb, issued endless suggestive song titles and double entendres, some hysterical now, in the 21st century. Surely at their time of release, they turned many a lonely guy on.

Knowing her own vocal weakness, or strength in my book, she’s qouted as follows: “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.” Now there’s a recording technique tip if I’ve ever heard one.

Wonderfully out of place in the ’67 musical landscape, ‘Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast’ was even, in it’s day, a 50′s throwback to an era when, I guess, it was not talked about that even nice girls did stay for breakfast.

Never mentioned as one of her greats, and she has many, many greats, this single is most elusive. Yes, it’s the title of one of her final albums, but as for the 7″, seldom seen.

The Staple Singers

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

We The People / The Staple Singers

Listen: We The People / The Staple Singers
We

I constantly regret never seeing The Staple Singers when Pops was alive. I actually was obsessed with this single for the longest time, starting around me getting my first jukebox in ’87. It’s actually the B side to their ‘Oh La Di Da’ hit from ’73, peaking at #33 in Billboard’s Pop chart, primarily because of RnB airplay and sales, as I never once remember hearing that song on the radio back then.

I was pretty cautious to put only extra, well played records in the jukebox, as my original Rock-Ola would definitely do a number on them. These titles were no brainers in the good old garage sale days, when you’d pick this stuff up for 10¢ a piece, tops. Not having the strength to pass up even the most marginal single, I ended up with hundreds of doubles, that are still oozing out of my over stuffed garage. Forget about putting a car, bike or anything else in there. Last summer, I would just manage to squeeze a few more records in and rapidly have to slam the door. An episode of Horders looms. I have since organized it all a bit, but they are still stacked pretty much to the ceiling. It does make for a fun afternoon digging in. You forget all the titles you end up with, well I do at least. So there are always gems to put a smile on my face when rummaging through.

Well ‘We The People’ just sounded so hot on the jukebox that I became addicted. I particularly love the lyrics, perfect circa ’72 /’73 with the hot pants references etc. This never shows up on any of their compilations, but is on the album, BE ALTITUDE – RESPECT YOURSELF.

Robert Parker

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

RobertParkerBarefootin, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

RobertParkerBarefootinUKA, Robert Parker, Nola, Island, Sue

Listen: Barefootin’ / Robert Parker
RobertParkerBarefootin.mp3

Robert Parker began his recording career playing with Professor Longhair on ‘Mardi Gras In New Orleans’ in ’49. Over the next decade, this guy worked with just about every New Orleans musician, including Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, and Huey ‘Piano’ Smith. You name it. Hitting his stride in ’66, after signing to the small Nola Records, he and the label delivered a Top 10 (#7) BILLBOARD hit with ‘Barefootin’.

RobertParkerAction, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is) / Robert Parker
RobertParkerAction.mp3

RobertParkerJukebox, Robert Parker

As it turns out, the single was a classic double A side, as ‘Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is)’ became a huge Mod club hit in the UK. It’s cemented his popularity in Europe till this day, where he still can make the occasional appearances and get some royal treatment.

RobertParkerGetTa, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: Get Ta Steppin’ / Robert Parker
Get

Despite lack of national radio and chart success, his musical success never stopped. Released in ’74 ‘Get Ta Steppin’ eventually became known as a southern funk template, determined not only by those in the know but more importantly, via endless sampling.

RobertParkerGetDown, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: Get Right On Down / Robert Parker
Get

Almost as though lightning struck twice, not unlike the ‘Barefootin’ / ‘Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is)’ coupling, ‘Get Ta Steppin’ / ‘Get Right On Down’ proved to be another double side, basically must have in any respectable soul collection, 7″ single.

RobertParkerCountry, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: Give Me The Country Side Of Life / Robert Parker
RobertParkerCountry.mp3

Despite not issuing albums during the 70′s (his only LP is BAREFOOTIN’ from ’66), Robert Parker just proceeded to make a seemingly essential single each year or so, right up through ’76.

RobertParkerLittleBit, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: A Little Bit Of Something (Is Better Than A Whole Lot Of Nothing) / Robert Parker
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As with his 60′s output, career long musical arranger, producer and collaborator Wardell Quezergue was part of ‘A Little Bit Of Something (Is Better Than A Whole Lot of Nothing)’, his final single prior to recording retirement and one I just never see around.