Archive for the ‘Procol Harum’ Category

Tir Na Nog

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

tirnanogstronguk, Tir Na Nog, Chrysalis, Matthew Fisher, John Martyn, Nick Drake

Listen: Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog
Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog

I was desperate to see Tir Na Nog when they toured the US in ’72. It never happened.

Although being the college concert chairman at the time, having pushed through Rory Gallagher, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Colosseum, Atomic Rooster, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Pretty Things and The Incredible String Band against everyone’s “who the fuck are these people” stances in one school year mind you, it didn’t really allow me any more puts. By then, the budget was spent anyways. Otherwise, they’d have been there.

Tir Na Nog’s second and third albums were released in the States, and I particularly loved that third one, STRONG IN THE SUN. It was, well still is, a seminal recording, right up there with the best from Tyrannosaurus Rex, John Martyn and Nick Drake. Indeed the album includes a cover of his ‘Free Ride’, itself worthy of 7″ status. Tracks like ‘Cinema’ rivaled some of Pink Floyd’s tracks from MEDDLE for being…cinematic, funny enough. If you’d told me Norman Smith, Denny Cordell or Peter Asher had produced some of this stuff, I’d have believed you. The album is that good.

Indeed, Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum was in charge of production, and as with similar duties on Robin Trower’s BRIDGE OF SIGHS, did an A+ job.

When I up and headed for London during summer ’73, I took a night off from The Marquee to see them play a small, sit-down-cross-legged room, God knows the name of it now. But the show remains a vivid memory.

There was a time, around ’85, and Howard Thompson was looking at cover songs for 10000 Maniacs. I guess as a potential single, possibly a one-off film submission or something. I recommended ‘Strong In The Sun’. I thought Natalie Merchant would have done it some beautiful justice and Tir Na Nog could have gotten some well deserved recognition. Didn’t happen. ‘Peace Train’ was chosen instead, against the band’s wishes. Years later, turns out Natalie insisted it be removed from that album. Elektra complied..

There has to be someone out there in need of a great song to revive their sagging career: Nelly Furtado, Jewel, Anna Nalick, Five For Fighting, Vanessa Carlton, Paula Cole or wait, Natalie Merchant.

The Move

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Night Of Fear / The Move

Listen: Night Of Fear / The Move

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.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Listen: Debora / Tyrannosaurus Rex

Never will I forget the sight of this first US single by Tyrannosaurus Rex. Their name was so foreign at the time, completely intimidating to all, particularly US programers. Yes, they were full of reasons back then to keep adventurous music off the airwaves too. Add to that the band’s warlock folk, as one reviewer called it. He couldn’t have conjured up a more tempting challenge.

A&M never did release either their first nor second album in the US when current, just this lone 7″, ‘Debora’.

The Los Angeles label had a deal with Regal Zonophone out of the UK, or maybe it was directly with Denny Cordell’s and Tony Secunda’s production company, Tarantula. Basically, the arrangement covered US representation for their UK artists: Procol Harum, Joe Cocker & The Grease Band, The Move and Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The latter two benefiting only from singles being issued in the US, and in the case of Tyrannosaurus Rex, just this one. WOUR were only too glad to have me cart their copy out of the building. That bunch literally had no clue. Bless their studipity.

Listen: Ride A White Swan / Tyrannosaurus Rex

What seemed like a generation later actually was one short year. Their third and fourth albums, UNICORN (’69) and A BEARD OF STARS (’70) were near perfect, still as exhilarating today as then. By this time, Bob Krasnow had picked up the band for his Blue Thumb label. He released both albums in quick succession plus ‘Ride A White Swan’ almost immediately after A BEARD OF STARS.

Although still using the full Tyrannosaurus Rex moniker in the US, Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin-Took had officially shortened their name to T. Rex elsewhere, coinciding with their full on electric and pop path, not unlike Bob Dylan’s gear shift with BLONDE ON BLONDE, bar a name change to B. Dylan.

Almost simultaneously, Bob, as in Krasnow, joined Warner Brothers Records’ A&R department, bringing T. Rex with him. The rest is history.

Whistling Jack Smith

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

WhistlingKaiser, Whistling Jack Smith, Billy Moeller, Noel Walker, Ivor Raymonde, Deram

WhistlingKaiserUSA, Unit 4 + 2, Whistling Jack Smith, Billy Moeller, Noel Walker, Ivor Raymonde, Deram

Listen: I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman / Whistling Jack Smith WJSKaiser.mp3

I know exactly what you’re thinking. Why in the hell is he writing about Whistling Jack Smith? Do I really need to bother visiting this blog again?

Well Billy Moeller aka Whistling Jack Smith (brother of Tommy Moeller who’s band, Unit 4 +2, Billy sometimes roadied for) was on Deram. All things cool in ’67 were on Deram, even The Les Reed Orchestra and Chim Kothari were hip by association – not to mention of course The Syn, The Move, Timebox, The Eyes Of Blue, The Crocheted Doughnut Ring, Tintern Abbey, Warm Sounds, The 23rd Turnoff…you get the point. And I was only too pleased that it had become a hit (#20 Billboard) in the States. I wanted Deram to stay in business, so to me this was good. Plus it was downright fun to hear it on the radio. Harmless, laugh along, don’t be so fucking serious music – nothing like droning funeral parlour label mates Procol Harum.

So yes, I liked Whistling Jack Smith.

And they released an album as well. This was crazy fun now.

WhistlingLittleMiss, Unit 4 + 2, Whistling Jack Smith, Billy Moeller, Noel Walker, Ivor Raymonde, Deram

Listen: Hey There Little Miss Mary / Whistling Jack Smith WJSMary.mp3

Next, the followup. Well a growth in sound was clearly in line if the career was to build the way Decca chairman, and apparently iron clad ruler, Sir Edward Lewis must have decided it should, given an LP was approved in short order, when hitmakers The Move or hipsters The Syn were not so fortunate. Within months of the ‘I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman’s spring/summer UK/US run, seems the public was inexplicably not following WJS’s musical moves and ‘Hey There Little Miss Mary’ was ignored by radio, press as well as said consumers – this despite regrouping the original hit making team, writers Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway with arranger Ivor Raymonde and producer extraordinaire (and he seriously did a LOT of great records) Noel Walker (not to be confused with Scott Walker of course).

Uh oh.

WhistlingJaDa, Unit 4 + 2, Whistling Jack Smith, Billy Moeller, Noel Walker, Ivor Raymonde, Deram

Listen: Ja-Da / Whistling Jack Smith WJSJada.mp3

No worries. There is proven truth to the ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ theory- hence back to a hysterically fun, basic re-write of ‘I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman’. ‘Ja-Da’ so ridiculously similar, I’m surprised Cook/Greenaway didn’t chase the publishing. I’m glad I own it though, cause it is both fun and funny to play on occasion.

Again, not a blip, bubble or hint toward potential success. Sir Edward was not about to let this talent just wither on the branch.

WhistlingLarf, Unit 4 + 2, Whistling Jack Smith, Billy Moeller, Noel Walker, Ivor Raymonde, Deram

Listen: Only When I Larf / Whistling Jack Smith WJSLarf.mp3

Then along comes a big break, just what the label needed and was hoping for, a 60′s version of an iPod commercial: the theme to a movie. The potential box office melter ,’Only When I Larf’.

‘Goldfinger’, ‘To Sir With Love’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ move aside.

Instead trip, stumble, fall. A flop.

The writing was on the wall. Poor Billy should have never left the steady work of moving Unit 4 +2′s gear around. Now not only was he finished, they were between third base and home too, so no going back.

Can you imagine how awesome it would be if Whistling Jack Smith’s career had been allowed grow as it deserved to. He would have been at Live Aid, whistled on ‘We Are The World’, been remixed by Moby, collaborated with super talent MIA, not to mention help global leaders talk through their issues, met the Pope and gotten to put on well deserved weight. Yes he could have been Bono, and I don’t mean Sonny.

Except for one other small detail, he never whistled once on his records, instead The Mike Sammes Singers were brought in for the recordings.

Robin Trower

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

RobinManUK, Robin Trower, Chrysalis

RobinManUSA, Robin Trower, Chrysalis

Listen: Man Of The World (Mono) / Robin Trower RobinTrowerMan.mp3

I don’t really care how dated some folks accuse this era of music to be – or how derivative it all seems now. I agree, you can see how it planted the seeds for mainstream rock radio to go down a wrong way street, yet some of these early bands were very exciting during their beginning days. Robin Trower had just left Procol Harum, he’d had enough of their ‘never have a good day’ music. Nonetheless, camaraderie prevailed and Procol Harum bandmate Matthew Fisher obliged as producer.

I think what set Robin Trower’s band apart was lead singer James Dewar. What a voice. He had a darkness vocally that is reserved for very few: Jim Morrison, Paul Rodgers and John Doe come to mind.

This single preceded the debut album TWICE REMOVED FROM YESTERDAY by seemingly a few months, but I don’t know for sure. I worked for a record distributor at the time, while still in college. All the product was organized by label, and every week about 10-15 copies of this one would move. Slowly but surely, it creeped forward piece count wise – so that by the time it’s followup hit (BRIDGE OF SIGHS), the band were on fire.

Needless to say, the single got no Top 40 play, but like most 7′s back then, their main objective was to focus the album rock dj’s toward something a bit more commercial, and this US white label is from the very tail end of when promos were pressed to include both mono/stereo mixes. For fun, here’s the mono version – not an easy one to find.

RobinFastTrain, Robin Trower

Listen: Take A Fast Train / Robin Trower RobinFastTrain.mp3

Both of those two initial albums still have a spot with me. Dark, maybe minor key and full of great songs, they don’t get a hint of the praise they each deserve.

The B side to ‘Man Of The World’, the non-LP ‘Take A Fast Train’ is very typical: not quite good enough for the album but a ‘must’ for the die hards. I have no idea if the track ever made it’s way onto one of those scrape the bottom of the tape library barrel anthologies, but if not – here you go.