Archive for the ‘London Records’ Category

John Mayall

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Listen: Walking On Sunset (Mono) / John Mayall
Walking

I recall vividly awaiting each new album from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers during their vast and frequent output of the late 60′s. There was something very British about it all. Seemingly via coincidental osmosis, to me, this band personified the damp, cold and grimy UK club circuit. Photos of their decidedly uncomfortable, barely heated van imply a situation closer to say, a jail sentence than an accommodating overnight transportation mode. And that’s just the travel bit.

So by the release of the BLUES FROM LAURAL CANYON album, summer ’68, it was well fun to hear a bright, almost happy version of blues rock. In this case, documenting what must have been like the world changing from black and white to color, for an English band usually grinding through the drizzly UK and then suddenly ending up in Southern California performing a week of shows at Los Angeles’ Whisky A Go Go.

John Mayall himself returned, or maybe stayed on for a week or two, and hence the resulting documentation of the trip. References to The Mothers Of Invention, Canned Heat and The GTO’s make for fun musical name checks. But it’s the almost pop-like songs that entertain the most.

‘Walking On Sunset’ was always a favorite, along with ’2401′, a UK 7″. Again, having the promos of these means owning the scarce mono versions, as posted above.

‘Walking On Sunset’, to this day, can still invite you along for the stroll, envisioning what it must have been like, mid century architecture overloading one’s senses from all directions, and a list of upcoming club shows in the vicinity that could rival London’s Marquee with heart stopping effect.

Years later, having morphed from fan to A&R, I signed John Mayall and he made his terrific comeback album for Island, A SENSE OF PLACE. One of the nicest, most dependable, problem free guys you’d ever want to work with quite frankly.

Only a few years back, I ran into he and his family as we both waited for outbound flights at LAX. We sat for a good hour and caught up. John, as always, sharing endless details about those days. Love the guy.

The Handclappers / D. D. T. & The Repellents

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Listen: Three Gassed Rats / The Handclappers
Three

I’m just loving estate sales these past few weeks. Schlepped my tired bones to another one in 5 Towns Saturday morning. I really thought twice about it. Listing his phone number in the post, I called the guy the night before. This fellow was kind of short, probably having gotten so many calls already. I wanted to know, did he have any records, given none where listed in the ad. Seeing as the number was listed, why not ring?

He proceeded to say there were a few, but that his Dad worked for WABC in the 60′s, so most of the good stuff was long gone, plus he ‘knew his stuff’. Oh boy, a little knowledge can be more dangerous than a lot, but I got up, showered, and braved a NYC snow storm. That, by the way, means an inch or so, but the city cripples and these moments make for perfect opportunities to buy records at just this kind of event.

Waiting in line at 7am with a bunch of desperate, unwashed dealers, hoping to make their rent for yet another week is pretty fucking ugly and depressing. Why am I here?

Well guess what, these records are two of about fifty examples of why. Yes, his Dad worked sales for WABC in the early 60′s, and was more fun to talk to than the records he sold me, well almost.

I shudder to imagine the stuff that he unloaded prior, but the remnants were just fantastic. All $1 or less, and in unplayed, untouched, almost unbelievable condition.

‘Three Gassed Rats’ is from ’61, on the London Records distributed Collier, most likely the imprint’s sole release, a surf wannabe. Gassing any animal is not my idea of an ethical procedure, but clearly from title alone, worth a 50¢ gamble. Plus, I love anything to do with London Records. Thinking back, that parent company picked up many a local release, giving each it’s own label identity. Smart move on London’s part. The examples are becoming endless.

What do I know about The Hanclappers’ origins? Nothing. What I do know is this one is a rad Link Wray attempt, and hopefully they were from Kansas or somewhere equally unlikely.

Listen: The Fly Swatter / D. D. T. & The Repellents
The

Oh yes, D. D. T. & The Repellents. no doubt, another regional release scooped up by a major. This literally crosses The Ran-dells ‘Martian Hop’ with The Chipmunks, throwing in a little, very little, Dick Dale. This one pre-dates The Cramps’ ‘Human Fly’ by about fifteen years. I guess you could call it Surf. Don’t know, nor do I know squat about the band.

Generally, I despise when anyone writes on the record label, or even the company sleeve. In this case though, I appreciate the identification. Top of the pile, this former WABC employee’s decided to announce that particular stack, about thirty in total, by price and decade.

I bought them all. And finally, I can say that indeed, DDT did a job on me too.

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.

The Joe Meek Orchestra

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Listen: The Kennedy March / The Joe Meek Orchestra
The

Sounds like everything Joe Meek ever touched musically had at least a streak of haunted or eerie to it. Wouldn’t it be great if someone nowadays had that incredible gift?

This is a rather early recording from him, 1963 to be exact. Not sure what exactly ‘The Kennedy March’ was meant to be the soundtrack for, but as with all of his productions, there’s a thread of the creeps underlying it. And I just love that.

The array of future superstar musicians that passed through his 304 Holloway Road studios is almost as mind boggling as those that played London’s Marquee Club. I wonder who was on this one?

Kraftwerk

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Listen: The Robots (Edited Version) / Kraftwerk
The

A virtue worthy of living by: the holiday is all about giving, and showing the ones you love that you love them. In keeping with that holiday spirit, I’m giving more than usual. Two A sides. They were separately released in the UK as consecutive singles: ‘The Robots’ then ‘Neon Lights’. But in the US, coupled as and A and B. Although in reality, 2 A’s.

Despite ‘The Robots’ reaching #20 in the UK pop charts, of course in the US, it got no airplay. Hey, here’s an act that still isn’t even considered for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Are you a member of that deciding committee? I hope so. Because that means you are reading this and I’m able to tell you: you’re a fucking idiot and/or a coward.

That’s cool actually. Kraftwerk have been so loudly ignored by that self appointed bunch that they’re spotlighted more for not being in than if they were.

Speaking of those committee bozos, when they learned I owned the original London Records sign, the one that graced the doorway of the label’s 539 East 25th Street offices in New York, they asked me to please donate it to the museum. I really couldn’t part with it. Understand, I still have rocks collected in kindergarden, unable to throw anything away. How could I possibly just give this sign to anyone? Well as a result, I was kicked off the voting panel. How great is that?

‘The Robots’, released in the thick of our addiction to punk, was accepted as part of the family. Everyone I knew worshiped it. Corinne was the singles buyer at a one stop then, and ordered a ton of them, hence the jukebox tab below.

And if you have been lucky enough to see Kraftwerk perform this live, well, nothing more needs said.

Listen: Neon Lights / Kraftwerk
Neon

Equally equal in greatness, ‘Neon Lights’ was possibly more palatable for airplay…so I thought. I worked radio promotion at the time. Although my employer was MCA, I spent most of those meetings with program directors talking about worthy records to be considered, usually on competing labels. During that period, Kraftwerk was both my topic of discussion and usually of battle. Little good it did either the record or yours truly, but to end the post as I started it, with a virtue to live by, it was the thought that counted.

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.

Alton Joseph & The Jokers

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Listen: Where’s The Place / Alton Joseph & The Jokers
AltonJosephWhersThePlace.mp3

Anything with Huey P. Meaux’s name attached should heighten your radar immediately. From what I know, he’s never made a bad record.

The former music director from a one of a kind, progressive 60′s / early 70′s Rochester AM Top 40, WSAY, brought me two massive burlap bags of promo 45′s when the station sadly lost steam in ’79, by then churning out a weak country format to deaf ears. The aged and nasty private owner was selling. Everyone was losing their jobs.

It was a drag, this guy was so distraught and worried, yet clearly wanted to share some decency via the truly unexpected gifts. He knew I had drooled over the thousands of singles locked behind management’s doors, and decided to just say fuck them, grabbing me several hundred. At the time, I was a local promotion rep for MCA, and always took good care of him while most others were dismissive and disinterested. It was a massive surprise when he buzzed me from my apartment building lobby, huge burlap bags in each fist and certainly a most kind repayment.

Impossible to wait, halfway up the stairs, I pulled out a couple. ‘Please Stay’ by The Cryin’ Shames on an orange swirl US London was one, this was the other.

About then, my interest in Loma was beginning to fully form, and anything from the label bugged my eyes. Alton Joseph & The Jokers, produced by Huey P. Meaux, well I couldn’t get upstairs and to my turntable fast enough.

This was April ’79. The thirteen year gap between a Spring ’66 release of ‘Where’s The Place’ and my first listen already created a euphoric walk back into time. Nowadays, it’s a total rocket ship ride to the past, in a good way.

I swear, this was a one take, live in the studio natural for these guys.

Listen: The Other Place / Alton Joseph & The Jokers
The

Never could I find any comprehensive information about Alton Joseph & The Jokers, their lineup or origins. Bob Krasnow, who ran Loma and years later, Elektra during my time there, couldn’t remember many details either, barring an almost complete certainty that they were Texas beer joint locals, and broke musician friends of Heuy P. Meaux on the three boogie woogie sets a night treadmill.

‘The Other Place’ might indeed verify Bob’s instinct, given it’s a penny pinching instrumental of the A side, only shortened a bit and given a slighty different mix.

Magic was made.

Big Lucky

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Listen: I’ve Been Hurt /Big Lucky
BigLuckyHurt.mp3

Levester Carter, a native of Choctaw County, Mississippi described his earliest influences as being both a wind-up phonograph and the stack of blues records purchased at Sears-Roebuck that were played on it. He took up guitar in the 50′s while in the Navy, and after playing in various bands around Memphis, sang lead on the two Ed Kirby aka Prince Gabe singles, ‘Blue Nights’ and ‘Mean Old Gin’, released by Sam Phillip’s Sun Records.

Come ’68, local Memphis disc jockey A.C.’Moonah’ Williams put Big Lucky Carter, his then stage moniker, in touch with Hi Records boss Willie Mitchell, who demo’d him at the Hi studios. Liking the result, he coupled ‘Miss Betty Green’ and ‘Stop Arguin’ Over Me’ as the first of two singles for the label’s subsidiary M.O.C. (MOC 670), released April 7, 1969, according to an old production schedule from Hi/M.O.C.’s parent label, London Records, that I have poured over for many hours through the years.

Coupled with ‘Goofer Dust’, ‘I’ve Been Hurt’ (MOC 673) followed as an A Side on Dec 8, 1969. My favorite of the bunch, it sat nicely next to label mate Big Amos Patton’s ‘Going To Viet Nam’ (MOC 665) from a year or so earlier. The two records just go hand in hand despite having nothing in common lyrically.

Like Big Amos, his association with Hi did little to expand Big Lucky’s profile, matching neither Big nor as is his case, Lucky, in real life. Nothing beyond local Memphis airplay resulted and two more greats proceeded into obscurity, making their records even more cherished collectibles.

Marianne Faithfull

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Listen: Go Away From My World / Marianne Faithfull
Go

If you watch early Marianne Faithfull clips on SHINDIG or HULLABALOO, there’s often a sole, seated acoustic guitarist accompanying her. That’s Jon Mark, or Jon-Mark as the name appeared on his solo single, later of The Mark – Almond Band, one of the highest calibre musicianship outfits of their day.

Despite the label misspelling, ‘Go Away From My World’ was his composition, and indeed seems tailor written for her, it’s doom ridden mood unknowingly predicating a fifteen year marketing treadmill for both her personal and musical direction. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

This US only single, in it’s seldom seen picture sleeve above, was her last to ever chart on the BILLBOARD Top 100 in late ’65 at #89.

With thankfully another birthday a few days away, I’m always reminded of my 37th, when Marianne organized an Indian dinner for Corinne and I and some friends, then while cutting the cake, sang me a bit of ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’, adapting the “at the age of thirty seven….” lyrical line to the occasion. How’s that for a birthday present?

Thin Lizzy

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Listen: Whiskey In The Jar (Single Edit) / Thin Lizzy
Whiskey

First thing I’d ever heard by Thin Lizzy was ‘Whiskey In The Jar’. Wow. It sounded fantastic from that initial instant and has never waned. Was a big UK hit during winter ’73, reaching #6, and remained a staple, especially in pubs, through the summer. Couldn’t escape it, and who would want to?

Their following was already a growing multitude of the seriously possessed, and they played The Marquee a few times during my employment at the club that year. Never did speak with them, but even then, their live sound was incredibly different and hugely more powerful than the records. Took several years for the two factions to line up.

Meanwhile, both band leader Phil Lynott and Nick Tauber did the producing during their years with the Decca label in England, and sister outlet, London Records in the US.

Nick Tauber has a very signature, specific to the period, quality. It’s basically, by today’s standards, weedy, even smothering, heavily mid ranged and comes complete with a rather small dry drum sound. I for one, loved it. Attempts at success with harder rock and progressive bands from the early 70′s were as handicapped by these sonic limitations as were the glam acts he worked with. Despite what any English speaking reader might logically interpret from this description, I truly mean it all as a positive. I’m a Nick Tauber fan.

Listen: Things Ain’t Working Out Down At The Farm (Single Edit) / Thin Lizzy
Things

‘Things Ain’t Working Out Down At The Farm’ was a very unsuspecting A side choice for a maxi single Decca released in ’78, after the band had left the label, were having UK/US success on Vertigo/Mercury and punk was completely youth culture’s musical pulse of the period. The song was originally released on the NEW DAY EP between album one and two, during August ’71.

In ’78, Decca released a compilation, THE CONTINUING SAGA OF THE AGEING ORPHANS, and according to it’s sleeve notes, “All the tracks were originally recorded between the years ’71– ’74. Remixes and alterations were recorded at Decca Studio 2, West Hampstead, during Christmas ’77″. So this version is clearly a result of that update. But as a song, it’s rather mundane and was perfectly complimented by a blanket over the speakers production/mix, which even after the ’77 enhancements, hadn’t changed much.

Not a hit, not a big seller, not a single that sold at all really, but I play it often and revel in it’s plainness. Is that a word?

The Moody Blues

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Listen: Everyday / The Moody Blues
Everyday / The Moody Blues

Another case of one band name, but two completely different sounding lineups, making it easily possible to love/hate one and not the other, or something like that.

Me, I was into both. And it began logically, with the first of the two. The Denny Laine years I suppose you could say.

As lead singer, his tenure started May ’64 at their onset, lasting until Fall ’66. This was when you really had to be able to sing in order to get a deal and make records. Denny Laine trained himself on, you guessed it, soul and RnB. At this, he was winner.

All the singles released during his time are equally great. Most surprisingly weren’t hits, but still, they’re classics. The Moody Blues really stalled their momentum after the worldwide smash ‘Go Now’ by issuing a couple of dirge ballads that struggled for airplay. Hey, I loved them, but programmers didn’t.

After which, ‘Everyday’ came, but the mess had been made and it all slowly went flat for the Denny Laine lineup. Too bad. ‘Everyday’ is the kind of record that probably would have helped change their history a bit had it followed ‘Go Now’. All speculation here.

Another top Denny Cordell (not to be confused with the aforementioned Denny Laine) production though. Not that he totally agreed with me on that one. I met Denny at Island, and elsewhere on this blog there’s a more in depth post about all that. Let me tell you this. Denny was a blast, an absolute class act, had great history, impeccable musical taste and instinct, a wonderful soul. I’m still knocked out that we became good friends.

One time, in the days when we had pretty extravagant parties at our place, Denny came along, swirling in through the front door and b-lined toward the kitchen with a plan to whip up some Jamaican dish, and a bag of supplies for just that purpose. He simply crashed right into it all. That was Denny.

Later in the evening, Duane, with a you gotta hear this look on his face, nudged me toward he and Marianne sitting at the then, newly found 50′s wrought iron and glass patio set, a garage sale miracle with a story all it’s own, deep in stuffy English brogue conversation, so upper class thick, you literally had trouble deciphering what the fuck they were saying. The two of them were all giddy, reminiscing about the old days, smuggling hash into England, dishing through folks at Decca, Mick’s parents, you name it, no one was spared. I just sat right down, refilled their margaritas, listened in, a conspicuous fly on the wall. Cool as a cucumber on the outside, fourth of July fireworks inside. Exactly as anyone else would have felt.

Drafi

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

drafimarbleuka, Drafi, Decca, London, WNDR

drafimarbleus, Drafi, Decca, London, WNDR

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

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

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

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

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

wndr-5_11_66, WNDR, Syracuse, Drafi

The Rolling Stones

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Listen: Sad Day / The Rolling Stones
Sad Day / The Rolling Stones

A terribly under rated and overlooked Rolling Stones classic, ‘Sad Day’ got played as much as A side ’19th Nervous Breakdown’ in my bedroom growing up. It wasn’t even name checked on the US picture sleeve (above), and never included as part of a proper album.

Someone at Decca UK had the seemingly good sense/terrible judgement to make it a British A side in April ’73. Huh? Must have been a featured track on one of the many, theme-less compilations Decca were shoveling out at the time.

Corinne hates that I put my foot down recently and situated a small, 45 only, early 60′s RCA stacker on the headboard of the awesome blond Hollywood bedroom set I found at a house sale almost twenty years ago, in factory fresh condition. And ‘Sad Day’ has gotten many more plays in the past few weeks than it’s equally fantastic A side. Just for the record.

Always scour sleeves in used vinyl shops for jukebox tabs. It’s amazing the ones you will find, and the shops could care less about them. A warning though, once you start you’ll have a hard time stopping.

AL GREEN

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

I Tried To Tell Myself / Al Green

Listen: I Tried To Tell Myself / Al Green
I Tried To Tell Myself / Al Green

Al Green’s star had temporarily faded by 1977, and the Hi label’s relationship was grinding to a halt with it’s parent company London. By the end of the year, Hi would move to a new partner, Cream – not exactly a step up. The last few singles he released earlier that winter, during the tail end of those London days, crept into the market quietly and made little impact, despite the impeccable Willie Mitchell production, a long time winning partnership.

al Green’s five plus year hit streak was ending, and the sound of RnB moving on. ‘I Tried To Tell Myself’ deserved much more. A fairly collectible single now, no doubt due to so few pressed, it might be my all-time favorite from him. I was busy filling in my Al Green gaps when I stumbled on this one ages ago, having not even noticed it at the time. It’s a first listen.

Many a friend has left the house after an evening spinning records with it perched atop of their must-find list.

Napoleon XIV/ Lieutenant Pigeon

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa! / Napoleon XVI

Listen: They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa! / Napoleon XIV
Listen: They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa! / Napoleon XIV

Are novelty songs credible? If a record makes you smile or laugh, then it must not be credible, right? Not sure I agree.

When ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!’ started getting airplay in Spring ’66, it was suddenly everywhere. Seriously everywhere. Sometimes being played once an hour on the same station. The intensity was real, but short lived. It lasted a total of six weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at #3. When re-released in ’73, the record re-entered the Top 100 for a few weeks, hovering around the low 80′s.

Mouldy Old Dough / Lieutenant Pigeon

Listen: Mouldy Old Dough / Lieutenant Pigeon
Listen: Mouldy Old Dough / Lieutenant Pigeon

Lieutenant Pigeon’s 1972 UK #1 was not an American hit. US radio had long since lost it’s sense of humor by then. They wouldn’t even play it. God forbid, they might lose their jobs. What a surprise, most of those radio gatekeepers did anyways.

Lieutenant Pigeon was in actuality, a band fronted by Rob Woodward, with his mother Hilda on piano. They went on to release three albums, and a best off. Pretty impressive. Napoleon XIV only managed one.

In today’s world, Napoleon XIV’s legal army might come chasing down Lieutenant Pigeon’s after comparing both record’s intros.

Bobo Mr. Soul

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Listen: Hitchhike To Heartbreak Road / Bobo Mr. Soul
Hitchhike To Heartbreak Road / Bobo Mr. Soul

A story for Record Store Day.

A happy garage sale find this one. It was Whitestone, a typically bad place to find anything. But I was in the neighborhood having trolled better surroundings earlier that morning, and was on a mission. A lesson concerning garage sales I’d taught myself many times prior, never assume what’s on the driveway or lawn is telling you the whole story.

Case in point, after inquiring had they any records, the mom goes into the farthest reaches of the garage and pulls out a hollow glass wall brick that’s packed with about thirty 7″ singles, a perfect fit. They were all London and London label orange swirl promos from the early 70′s. ‘Headloss’ by Caravan was one, and a whole bunch of Hi releases the others. The grilling began instantaneously but alas, no family member ever worked for the company, no other records were in the house and no one had a recollection where they even originated from. Guess they fell out of heaven.

‘Hitchhike To Heartbreak Road’ was first to hit the turntable at home later. How perfect, it’s immediate Northern intro validated an official find and a day most well spent.

Written by Phillip Mitchell, could that be brother to Hi Records staff and alumni Willie Mitchell? Logical assumption but wrong, sort of. According to a published Phillip Mitchell interview, although not an immediate relative, a possible distant one. Who knows, he didn’t really seem to.

Bobo Mr. Jones was the early moniker for Beau Williams, now a gospel artist, after a spell in the mid 80′s for Capitol Records. When Phillip Mitchell was signed to Hi as an artist in the early 70′s, he brought in a version of ‘Hitchhike To Heartbreak Road’ he’d recorded and produced earlier by Curtis Wiggins but with Beau’s vocal re-singing Curtis’ parts instead. The label decided to give this new update a release.

According to Phillip Mitchell: “Curtis was a very similar singer and I produced the record for him in Muscle Shoals. However, we never got a chance to get a deal for it. I then brought in Beau Williams. We called him Bobo Mr. Soul, dubbed his voice on the track and shopped it with Hi Records.”

Lucky for us.

Ann Peebles

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Listen: I Don’t Lend My Man / Ann Peebles
I Don't Lend My Man / Ann Peebles

Hi Records, with their Willie Mitchell led house band, not many labels had anything on them. Between Hi and Stax, the 70′s must have been a fantastic time to live and play in Memphis.

Always having a major soft spot for London Records, and the UK parent company Decca, meant I was interested in all their subsidiaries: Parrot, Deram, Tribe, Press and, despite a very different sound and roster, Hi. I have never passed up a Hi single at a garage or church sale. Can’t physically do it. And if it’s in the company sleeve, well forget it. As a result over the years, I’ve got loads of extras, so many Al Greens, for instance. Hey, they always come in handy: the jukebox, new friends, new neighbors, copies if I ever get that summer house.

Plus it’s led to amassing some crazy obscurities: Big Amos, Quiet Elegance, Bobo Mr. Soul, Erma Coffee, Gene Bowlegs Miller. It’s really how I got hooked on Ann Peebles, collecting the label. Probably owned two or three singles before properly checking her out. Then bang. Her’s is a real treasure trove of material. No denying the greatness of ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’. But when she veers toward the Millie Jackson lyrical sass, that’s when I love her most. ‘I Don’t Lend My Man’ – that title tells you everything you’re about to hear before you start.

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Friday, February 4th, 2011

I'm Your Witch Doctor / John Mayall's Bluesbreakers

Listen: I’m Your Witch Doctor / John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
I'm Your Witch Doctor / John Mayall's Bluesbreakers

Back during that second wave of late 60′s blues influenced UK acts like Savoy Brown, Ten Years After and Led Zeppelin, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers constantly evaded my collection. Those first several albums seemed to appear so quickly, and I always needed something other than their releases. Oddly, no one I knew had any copies either.

By ’66, I was already in a pattern of getting un-needed Rock and RnB singles off a little MOR station near my parent’s house. I turned up there one Friday claiming to be from the local Children’s Hospital and seeking out a donation…of records.

I knew about donations, having spent time in physical therapy rehab, learning to walk again, after jumping off our carport roof as a result of a childhood dare. So technically, I was in rehab at six years old. Spent half a year confined to a wheelchair, then another half doing the aforementioned physical therapy. Even though I was reaping great quantities of records as a result of the station’s donations, never once did a John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers single appear in their weekly handouts. Not until late ’67. And ‘I’m Your Witch Doctor’ was it – taken off that very first ANTHOLOGY OF BRITISH BLUES compilation on Immediate which was everywhere. CBS, Immediate’s US distributor, did the job back then as far as getting LPs into the stores.

Wow. What a single. I pretty quickly prioritized some of the band’s releases for purchase, the CRUSADE album in particular, with that top version of ‘Hideaway’. Little by little, I filled in those early London titles. They were pretty hard to find back then too.

Years later, I signed John to Island. He made a terrific album for us, A SENSE OF PLACE. It deservedly got much critical praise and sold well. Amongst the advantages of working at Island was the label’s credibility. John was considered passe at the time, but signing to Island was hip, and because he delivered such a strong album, it was a relatively smooth path to success.

A nicer man you will not meet. Dependable and honest. Generous too. He gave me a beautiful framed print of a photo he’d done. The subject: three of his handmade guitars, pictured many, many times in live shots and on album covers. No reason, just to say thanks for helping him.

The Nashville Teens

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

 Find My Way Back Home / The Nashville Teens

Listen: Find My Way Back Home / The Nashville Teens NashvilleTeensFind.mp3

Last night’s season premier of MAD MEN ended with The Nashville Teens’ ‘Tobacco Road’, their one decent sized US hit. It reminded me I should share this story.

Back in the late 80′s when I worked A&R for Elektra, a guy came to play me his demo. Nice kid, worked at Colony Records a few blocks away on Broadway. In the 60′s, it was a haven for every release available, and the whole back wall was a 45 only counter manned by several employees – and open until 2AM. Always a hubbub of activity, the clerks were constantly juggling customers and going into the back, searching for whatever single you desired, and usually returning with it in hand.

Problem was they sold everything at list price – then 99¢. Seemed a fortune at the time, so you had to have unsuccessfully scoured all other shops before taking that plunge. I used to coax my Aunt Carm into the shop every summer when she’d take me on my yearly pilgrimage to the city.

Anyways this fellow and I get to talking, and I ask if they still have all those 7′ singles in the back sorted by label (which is how they did in the 60′s – you needed to know which label and preferably it’s catalog # as well). “Yes, they’re still set up that way”. So I tell him some of my favorite ones: Deram, London, Sue, Fontana.

A few days later, he comes back to Elektra. I get a call from the front desk informing me he’s upfront. What the fuck does he want – the demo wasn’t great and I told him so already. Turns out he thought I was a nice guy, and wanted to encourage me to let him return with new songs – so he just grabbed all the old stock on those labels and brought them over as a present. A heart stopper of a moment.

‘Find My Way Back Home’ (on the short lived blue swirl label with the WHITE instead of BLACK London logo) was one of many, many jems.

True story.

The Rolling Stones

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Listen: Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow? / The Rolling StonesStonesMotherShadow.mp3

Today is Mick Jagger’s birthday, and still very much in top form.

The 1966 Rolling Stones were in top form too, dropping double A sided singles every few months, looking better seemingly by the day in paisleys, polka dots, pastel trousers, flowered jackets – you name it. Their summer US tour to promote AFTERMATH, by far one of their greatest (and thee greatest) albums, caused riots everywhere, including my hometown of Syracuse on 7/6/66, where Brian Jones was arrested post show for allegedly dragging a US flag along the ground.

Having made my way backstage, full colour program in hand to be autographed, I’ll testify that I saw no such behavior. The guys talked to me at length having remembered our first meeting that previous fall and all the blues records we enthused over. As they rounded up their bags to get into the awaiting station wagon, I left. Whatever supposedly happened must have occured within the next few minutes. But considering their exit would have been down the same flagless stairway and through the same flagless door I traveled, it’s quite hard to believe. As I exited, I saw their said awaiting car. I did, however, also witness a bunch of pudgy, balding, aggressively intimidating policemen who had earlier been jealously eyeing the flawless visual perfection of Brian Jones and his band upstairs. One of many crooked law enforcement setups that were coincidentally about to plague The Rolling Stones? Quite possibly.

That night’s show opened with ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ (as it had on their previous visit October 30, 1965) before launching into a merciless onslaught of masterpieces: ‘Mother’s Little Helper’, ‘Paint It, Black’, ‘Lady Jane’, ‘Under My Thumb’, ‘Cry To Me’, ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘The Last Time’, ’19th Nervous Breakdown’, ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’, ‘Not Fade Away’….I’m still not fully recovered.

By September of ’66, it was as if AFTERMATH was old hat, and the seminal songs kept coming. This time in the form of a loud, chaotic soundclash of fuzz, brass, piano and tom toms: ‘Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?’. Even the title broke all the rules. It took years for many to realize the superior genius of the track. I spun it dj-ing a month or so back and the freaking place blew up.

A few years ago, I asked Tony King if he knew where the infamous drag shot of the band was taken, having tortured myself for years trying to work out the spot. I could tell from the street and buildings it was clearly NYC. That picture, and a shot of the group in the same location wearing identical outfits as on the Ed Sullivan Show (9/11/66) – most likely shot the same day, made up the front and back sleeve of the US single (compare clip to sleeve):

After a few days, Tony emailed me, having heard back from the original photographer with the location. I hurried over to said spot – lo and behold – there it was. I milled about for some time. It was early evening, quite cold, and either the brisk air or other worldly energy, or both, had me shivering ever so slightly. A true high that I will never forget.

The proof: