Listen: Johnny Remember Me / John Leyton
Nothing quite like a Geoff Goddard written, Joe Meek produced early 60′s all black and white and damp and drizzly track on a cold November night.
Listen: Johnny Remember Me / John Leyton
Nothing quite like a Geoff Goddard written, Joe Meek produced early 60′s all black and white and damp and drizzly track on a cold November night.
Listen: Cambodia / Kim Wilde
More Mickie Most productions. Boy, am I late on him. Stupidly never pursued meeting up during all those UK visits, searching for producers and what not. Now looking back, he’s risen to one of my all time favorites in the field.
Predating 21st century programmed/dance/electronic/whatever it’s called Pop, ‘Cambodia’ could have easily been a hit for Abba, or written by them even. No shame here in lifting their successful sound, a normal procedure in the days of Mickie Most’s earlier career timeframe.
Of all Kim Wilde’s hits, both with Mickie Most, ‘Cambodia’ captures the Joe Meek haunt, although probably without any intention. But I hear it loud and clear.
Listen: You’re Holding Me Down / The Buzz
Basically the remnants of Edinburgh’s mini cult legends The Boston Dexters, once they morphed into The Buzz, ‘You’re Holding Me Down’ became their sole release from ’66, produced by Joe Meek and pre-dating summer of love psychedelia by a year or so. Still, it gets regarded as a most collectable classic from the genre, having recently commanded £305 on eBay. Everything Joe Meek touched became an unforeseen crystal ball gaze into the future, still to this day.
Digging through reviews of the record at the time, some called it frantic, others messy.
Many argue these guys were the same group David Bowie used as his back-up band for a while, billing themselves as, surprise, David Bowie & The Buzz. Not true.
Although, that Buzz did include a guitarist with possibly the best stage name ever, T-cup Taylor.
Listen: Monster In Black Tights / Screaming Lord Sutch
Monster In Black Tights / Screaming Lord Sutch
Pictures of this guy frightened me, given I was a really little kid. It was exactly summer 1963, stumbling on him, still spooked by monster movies, Dracula and dead people. My Mom and Dad took me along to Ireland for a visit with the family, and there he was, in the Ballymoney County Antrim Sunday Paper. I guess the lure of that other world was in me early, because I certainly wanted to hear him quite a lot. In hindsight, this was a time when both novelty and monster themed records were welcomed on Top 40, but I wasn’t even listening to records then.
As it turned out, hearing Screaming Lord Sutch was not to be for more several years, by which time I was a growing Joe Meek appreciater. He had coined the extra terrestrial production sound of creepy outer space and graveyards by ’62. What a logical fit then that he produced most of Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages’ output.
Always bugged me that the label copy never credited Screaming Lord Sutch’s band The Savages, unlike the photos, posters and writes ups. Why leave off such a spot on name tag?
As for ‘Monster In Black Tights’, it really has dated. Which makes me like it even more, a nice reminder of what technology has done, good and bad. I do wish I’d been old enough to see them live, the group turning up to shows in a hearse and all.
Listen: Carry Go, Bring Come / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Back in ’76, when Howard Thompson was still a junior A&R scout at Island UK, we struck up a quick friendship. Well it happened quick but it’s still going today and as strong a friendship as one can have. The first package he sent over, and a big one at that, included the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). His accompanying note implored me to listen, citing the ‘almost psychedelic’ nature of the songs and their production. More accurate words have never been written. That sampler changed my life.
I couldn’t get down the phone fast enough to him. The call was quickly followed by a box, a fucking box, jammed with full length LP’s from just about every act on that comp: Aswad, Jah Lion, Burning Spear, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo & The Upsetters and Justin Hines & The Dominoes’ JEZEBEL – plus a slew of 7 and 12″ singles from all the above and more (Lee Perry, Fay Bennett, The Skatalites, Leroy Smart, Rico, Lord Creator, Millie, Dillinger, Augustus Pablo) each with that vital dub B side. A treasure trove if ever, ever, ever there was one. I’ll never forget ripping that one open. Can you imagine how it blew my mind and my friend’s minds too? Well it did.
There were a couple of singles in there from Justin Hines & The Dominoes. A then current reggae remake of his very own decade old Jamaican ska hit (then listed as Justin Hinds & The Dominoes) ‘Carry Go, Bring Come’. This newer version being my preferred choice.
Listen: Jezebel / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
It’s flip, ‘Jezebel,’ a confusingly titled non-LP track from the JEZEBEL album, stay with me here, is actually a very nice dub of the A side ‘Carry Go, Bring Come’. Give it a listen and see for yourself.
To my knowledge, it’s never appeared on a reissue of any sort.
Listen: Fire / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
‘Fire’ still reminds me vividly of that summer ’76 when Corinne worked the night shift and I had the place to myself, with not a responsibility in the world between semesters but doing a bunch of play whatever you want radio shows. So I’d spend all night spinning records and drinking tea, then sleeping the morning away once she got back home. Ah the joys of being young.
‘Fire’ in particular was the well worn 7″, a perfect song to overlay onto the backdrop of an alarmingly silent city, all asleep, not even a mouse was creeping on the deserted streets – quite eerie. Jack Ruby, the record’s producer, was indeed known for just such a haunting production quality. I still prefer to think of him as Reggae’s Joe Meek. We’d listen to it at least a few times, religiously, every morning before passing out.
Listen: Natty Take Over / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
There’s not a bad track on that JEZEBEL album, yet there is a favorite: ‘Natty Take Over’. A most obvious A side to me, yet relegated as a B, I was just happy it was on a 7″ at all.
It fit in perfectly with the Island promo shirts announcing these reggae releases. The shirts came in many colors. I preferred the purple one with sky blue lettering that said quite simply, REGGAE on the front, with that palm tree Island logo on it’s sleeve. What better thing to wear almost daily during a nice hot summer. I still have that shirt.
Listen: Chittlins / Gus Jenkins
Damn, I wish I knew more about Gus Jenkins. I know he recorded as early as ’56, under the name Gus Jinkins, and he’s up there as one of the most mysterious raw blues obscurities around.
Someone at Capitol decided to release ‘Chittlins’ via their newly formed subsidiary, Tower, in late ’64.
The Tower label went on until ’68, amassing a small, but fairly collectable bunch of releases, the most famous of course being all the very early US singles by The Pink Floyd. But there were more, Joe Meek masters by Heinz and Tom Jones, Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville, The Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells…pull up a Tower discography sometime. Nice stuff.
Even on first listen, you’ll agree, a wonderfully noticeable amount of Gus Jenkins’ swagger may have influenced The Cramps just a bit, and even more, The Rolling Stones, sounding not unlike any number of tracks from their first few albums.
According to BILLBOARD’s November 14, 1964 RnB DJ Roundup below, along with Jimmy Reed’s ‘I’m Going Upside Your Head’, Ed Wright at WABO Cleveland was spinning it, Ed Hardy over at KDIA in San Francisco chose ‘Chittlins’ as well as Little Jerry Williams’ ‘I’m The Lover Man’, a filthy sleaze fest of a single, a no fucking around must for every collection. And let’s not forget WYLD’s Ed ‘Screaming’ Teamer in New Orleans, who was not only jamming Gus Jenkins and Little Jerry Williams, but was playing the mad great ‘My Country Sugar Mama’ by Howlin’ Wolf.
Listen: Cry Me A River / Marie Knight
Cry Me A River / Marie Knight
Hey thanks Vicki Wickham, for keeping this one since the 60′s. Yes, it was part of her 45 collection that I was gifted by Saint Vicki herself last fall.
You know, I love you Vicki Wickham.
Let’s talk about Vicki Wickham. We first met in ’89, when she managed Phranc during her Island days. I remember exactly where we first shook hands: backstage at the Beacon Theater, in the the very stairway where Ahmet Ertegan took his last spill. Phranc had just hired her, and was at that time on tour with The Pogues.
I was actually meeting thee Vicki Wickham. The one that booked READY! STEADY! GO!, managed Dusty Springfield, co-wrote ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ with Simon Napier-Bell, produced Labelle. The one who not only booked the infamous Saville Theatre series, brought the Motown Review to England, worked at Track Records with The Who, Thunderclap Newman, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Marsha Hunt, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, John’s Children, and yes, The Cherry Smash; but also knew Scott Walker…and Brian Jones. I was nervous and in awe. Vicki Wickham was a higher form of life.
Fast forward. Nowadays, we meet often for lunch, on 9th Ave and 44th Street at Marseilles, possibly her favorite restaurant. She always orders the asparagus omelette and eats about half. I grill her for details: RSG, The BBC during the 60′s, Rediffusion Television, Top Of The Pops not to mention every band and everybody she ever encountered. Did she visit the Immediate Records office, Deram, Philips, Fontana. What was the Ready Steady Go canteen like, did she know Tony Hall, Steve Marriott, Inez Foxx, Joe Meek, Dozy. When did she last speak with Andrew Loog Oldham, P.P. Arnold or Madeline Bell…..we cover, discuss, judge and trash tons of people. Yes, we are guilty. Needless to say, there’s never a loss for topics.
On one such occasion last year, she mentions having just found boxes of 45′s in storage, and the only one she can remember seeing in the whole bunch was the Bessie Banks ‘Go Now’ UK A label pressing. Was I interested in the lot? That’s like asking Alago, Duane, Joe and I if we’d like a free bump in the VIP bathroom at The Ritz in the 80′s. Ahh, yeah.
Vicki, you ARE a saint, and a beloved friend.
And you turned me on to Marie Knight. Praise be.
Listen: It’s Not Unusual / Tom Jones
Listen: It's Not Unusual / Tom Jones
Everyone knows Tom Jones. Most don’t know that he began his professional life as the powerful front guy in Tommy Scott & The Senators, from home turf Wales. And during that period, the first person who tried bringing him to the public’s attention was Joe Meek. A few of those early recordings they made together, and I believe there were four, surfaced on Tower Records in the US not long after his initial success on Decca UK and their American outlet, Parrot. Someday soon I’ll post one.
Meanwhile, his first release for Decca, ‘Hide And Seek’, got no traction or attention. Second single ‘It’s Not Unusual’ skyrocketed despite the BBC’s lack of belief and airplay for the record. Massive at the time, and well played on the US oldies stations for decades, it wasn’t until a week back, while waiting for Kim to show up for dinner in the bar of The Lodge, did it suddenly come onto their house system. I figured it was an ipod playlist, but upon inquiring, learned it to be a stream from the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora radio. Wow – this whole Pandora thing is clearly becoming a major factor in the rapid listenership decline of foul US commercial radio, satellite’s Sirius/XM excluded. I’m no doubt one of the last to discover this good Pandora news. But with the onset of the Ford’s Focus’ groundbreaking internet ready technology, the hour glass on snail paced commercial FM programming instincts and decision makers has officially been turned over.
After ‘It’s Not Unusual,’ Decca/Parrot released a handful of singles that dwindled chart wise, all in Tom Jones’ forceful, RnB powerhouse vocal style. When Top 5 results evaded his followup 45′s like ‘With These Hands’, ‘Stop Breaking My Heart’ and ‘Sixteen Tons’, the label heads guided him toward daytime radio ballads. Given his undeniable voice, many of these are essentials in my collection too. ‘Detroit City’ and ‘I’m Coming Home’ of particular note.
What I did realize though, ‘It’s Not Unusual’ seems to have passed beyond that cut off date in the oldies radio world, and now, if played, would be a bit of an oasis, as is, say ‘Lola’, these days. That is, of course, if one is forced to endure your short playlist, local oldies station, religiously puking up the same researched standards. At least that’s the case with the very, very tired WCBS-FM here in New York City. Okay, some greats do get spun, but they’re basically overplayed beyond enjoyment (‘California Girls’, ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, ‘I Got You’, ‘Respect’) and so a nice reminder last week of Tom Jones’ greatness via the Pandora death knell to stations like the aforementioned.
Listen: Entry Of The Gladiators / Nero & The Gladiators
Entry Of The Gladiators / Nero & The Gladiators
The mystique of the early 60′s is impossible to shake. A constant return to it seems my endless circle. Instrumentals were a lot more abundant then, as A side singles that is. Electronic and dance records nowadays don’t count. No one expects them to go Top 40.
I’d always assumed Nero & The Gladiators were produced by Joe Meek. These early 60′s singles don’t even mention producers. In fact, label copy went downhill once more than the producer needed crediting. A nice, minimal information label still looks the best.
Come to find out, Joe Meek only did a non-Nero Gladiators single ‘Tovaritch’, their final release in ’63. It’s the intro on this one, ‘Entry Of The Gladiators’ that led me to assume otherwise.
There’s a lot detail involving this band’s musicians through the years: Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, The Ivy League, The Flowerpot Men. In fact, Mike O’Neill, Nero himself, was an original member of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, playing organ in their initial four piece lineup during Fall ’66.
Listen: Martian Hop / The Ran-dells 01 Martian Hop.mp3
This is a very early memory for me – it was really a kids record yet in ’63 sat nicely with the early surf hits, like ‘Surfin’ USA’, ‘Surf City’ and even ‘Wipe Out’ depsite The Ran-dells hailing from New Jersey. A #16 Billboard Pop single, not so surprising – but also peaking at #27 on the magazine’s Black Music charts more of a shocker.
All my pals loved it. Listening these days, I can’t help notice that electronica moment at 1:27, as well as in the opening bit. Extra-terrestrial sounds were finding their way onto vinyl around this time actually. Joe Meek had just gone #1 globally with The Tornadoes’ ‘Telstar’ as well as releasing the UK EP, I HEAR A NEW WORLD.
The Ramones should have covered this one.
Listen: She’s Fallen In Love With The Monster Man / Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages ScreamingLordMonster.mp3
I finally got around to reading the Screaming Lord Sutch feature in the June issue of MOJO. Try to do the same, maybe it’s even online. A few priceless pictures and so many stunning details, I really don’t know where to start. He was everything I already knew and way more as well. Some of the live show descriptions and antics, well we now know where Alice Cooper got more than one idea. Don’t blame him for lifting a few, they’re just too good to waste. Okay, here’s a tiny bit: “cherry food dye, cold scrambled eggs with a few masticated inches of seaside rock and it’ll look like you’re spitting out teeth”.
No question about it, his recordings were made very inexpensively, several produced by Joe Meek, complete with dreadful sound effects – and I mean that in a good way. As the ’70′s arrived, more than one act paid respects. The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The Damned and The Revillos even covered and released as their A side as well, ‘She’s Fallen In Love With The Monster Man’. You’d think the song was written just for them listening to the original above.
Listen: Dracula’s Daughter / Screaming Lord Sutch ScreamingLordDracula'sDaughter.mp3
So many soon to be name musicians passed through the ranks of being Savages in the ’61 – ’63 period, prior to their own later successes. The list, also in the article, is long and fairly jaw dropping. Jimmy Page plays lead on ‘She’s Fallen In Love With The Monster Man’, and Jeff Beck on ‘Dracula’s Daughter’. Even then, in ’64, his style was recognizable and it’s easy to see how much he moulded The Yardbirds’ sound from one listen.
The usually precise MOJO does flub one detail. ‘Dracula’s Daughter’ was not his last for Decca, it was his first for Oriole after being dropped by Decca. While I’m at it, the above Cameo Parkway 7″ is the only US release from his period with The Savages.
Listen: Suspicion / Terry StaffordTerryStafford.mp3
Despite obvious Elvis Presley overtones, the song’s Roy Orbison chorus won me. Not that I was a fan of either during those British Invasion days, given their DA’s and older looks. Perhaps it was my attraction to the record’s Joe Meek production similarities. It’s found a permanent creepy place in my psyche. Perfectly dated, I wouldn’t suggest anyone try remaking it. Impossible.
Listen: I Wanna Talk About My Baby / The Riot Squad RiotSquadIWannaTalk.mp3
Listen: Cry Cry Cry / The Riot Squad RiotSquadCry.mp3
Listen: How It Is Done / The Riot Squad RiotSquadHowItIsDone.mp3
Despite a decidedly dated sound, I have a soft spot for The Riot Squad. A lot of ground was covered during the two or so years they existed. Their prestigious associations included both Larry Page and Joe Meek as producers, plus Mitch Mitchell (pre Jimi Hendrix Experience) and Jon Lord (post Artwoods / pre Deep Purple) as members. 1965′s ‘I Wanna Talk About My Baby’ was a picture perfect reproduction of Georgie Fame’s then current sound – almost to the point of plagiarism. Still, a great track which was afforded a US picture sleeve. Who decided that?
As life should be, I was actually turned on to them when my local Top 40, WOLF, started playing the B side to ‘Cry Cry Cry’ – a Joe Meek production ‘How It Is Done’. This was winter ’66 and it brings me right back to that snow day in March when I first heard it. This track still shines, and captures the romantic British Beat sound that we all craved at the time – well my friends and I that is. Being a major Joe Meek fan, this is a double sided must. Hat’s off to whoever chose to play ‘How It Is Done’. Excellent call.
Sorry for this poor repro of the WOLF chart above (click to enlarge), with The Riot Squad at #19. I don’t own the original, but it’s such a good one, I decided to share it despite the quality.
Listen: Israel / Siouxsie & The Banshees 08 Israel.mp3
Watching Siouxsie & The Banshees really early on didn’t hold any indication they had it, not to mention her. Really, that early show I saw was pretty nasty. But either you’re the real deal, or you’re not. It’s pretty obvious she was. Talk about someone who just grew exponentially, it was amazing. So many incredible singles, one after the other – for years!
She’s still going strong. Seriously, if you can see her – do it. Legend, plain and simple. I get into these grooves whereby I just spin their singles one after the other. I get so excited about the next one up that sometimes I don’t even let the one playing finish out. Do you know what I mean?
This may be my all time favorite. There are many, but this is so haunting, has never dated, and remains gripping – I’m still picking up little things I never noticed. Other-worldly. You’d think Joe Meek had produced it from the grave.