Archive for the ‘A&M’ Category

Billy Preston

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Listen: Will It Go Round In Circles / Billy Preston
Will

I had no idea that huge Afro hairdo was a wig during the 1970′s when Billy Preston and his clavinet seemed omnipresent. Like no idea at all. Instead, I just became mesmerized by his seemingly effortless keyboard funk, possibly requiring the word chops be applied to a musician’s style for the first time.

The whole sound and image kind of outdid Sly Stone for me. Sans the seediness, which as it turns out was all there, he was my black Elton John, with the shiny pastel clothes, those glam meets Blaxploitation spade shoes and all the remaining trimmings.

Once I started researching his past, actually around the time of his Apple Records singles, I discovered his early mod organ releases with their wonderfully suggestive titles luring me in, for example THE MOST EXCITING ORGAN EVER and WILDEST ORGAN IN TOWN. Wow, these albums were right up there with Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith, Brain Auger as well.

Like some of his contemporaries, he caught the musical ear of various British acts resulting in both recording and touring partnerships. Most notably were The Rolling Stones, who he worked with throughout the 70′s, all the while donning that fantastically oversized Afro wig. Then there were The Beatles, adding keyboard magic to yet another of their rather dull songs, ‘Get Back’, turning it into something special. Certainly for me the highlight was always his electric piano solo midway through. As soon as it finished, I dove for the dashboard to switch the station.

During his most successful mid 70′s stretch came the A&M years, and several huge singles including ‘Will It Go Round In Circles’. Although a US #1 during ’73, the record never charted in the UK despite heavy airplay on the BBC that summer. I mean, seriously, I was there and know for sure, it was played constantly. Maybe too much, because as a possible result, no one needed to buy it.

Joan Armatrading

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Side 1:

Listen: Side 1 (see label above for song titles) / Joan Armatrading
Side

Side 2:

Listen: Side 2 (see label above for song titles) / Joan Armatrading
Side

Unlike the mp3 giveaways as we know them now, back in the days of vinyl, considerable expense went into the decision of free product for the public. The costs of manufacturing and shipping alone were daunting, then there was the co-op advertising at retail and the process behind the curtain: ‘convincing’ radio.

Occasionally, a label, or label president, would feel so strongly and probably frustrated that a potentially important act was being overlooked. And so a campaign aimed directly at the consumer would be approved. This meant overstepping the stubborn media outlets, usually radio, and getting the music into the hands of the people.

One such example being A&M’s FREE JOAN ARMATRADING initiative. The slogan was twofold. “Free” meant just that. These 6 track EP’s were literally stacked on the counters of record stores around the country. The giveaway vinyl was housed in a two sided quotes sleeve that every artist and competitor of Joan Armatrading should have been envious of, as it was all true. The free EP’s were complimented with print ads, both nationally and locally, as well sale pricing and positioning of her catalog at retail. The plan was to concentrate heavily along her two month US tour routing, and so several of the local Rochester accounts, where I went to school at the time, were targeted given the city was a stop.

Personally, I would have chosen a few other songs to include, like ‘All The Way From America’, ‘Willow’ and ‘Down To Zero’, all from the albums highlighted and possibly more immediate than ‘People’, ‘Back To The Night’ and ‘Tall In The Saddle’. Still A+++ for effort.

The second meaning of the “free” of course meant to pardon her from the closed door, almost stonewalling stance that US radio took toward her, a black lesbian playing guitar music to their straight white audience. Radio never did cave.

Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Listen: Brother, Can You Spare A Dime / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
Brother,

Remember the day when a major label would release a record like ‘Brother, Can You Spare A Dime’? Issuing such an off the wall track in England was one thing, but in the US, quite another.

With hindsight, many will agree the true spirit behind The Faces was indeed Ronnie Lane. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rod Stewart were to admit that thought.

Not sure exactly what those in the know would call Ronnie Lane’s loose-knit signature sound. The music press came up with a few suitables: rag-tag, rural plynth. Whatever, it certainly permeated all of his post Small Faces work, particularly those solo albums with Pete Townshend and Ronnie Wood.

Needless to say, this single got zero airplay, bar a few college stations, but is certainly nice to have, particularly in it’s promo only mono form.

For the UK though, airplay was not the intention initially. As the press release above wishfully indicates, the film, in which the record is heard during the closing credits, also spotlights the song as it’s theme. In somewhat sloppy fashion, said press release neglects to mention the actual name of the film. Revert to the label copy on the stock copy for that detail. In case you couldn’t guess, it’s called BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME.

Listen: Don’t Try To Change My Mind / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
RonnieLaneChangeMind.mp3

There were handful of followups from a handful of followup albums. ‘Don’t Try To Change My Mind’ was a double sided marvel. This A side being lifted from the album ONE FOR THE ROAD, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been chosen wearing a blindfold and ear plugs. It’s that unobvious as a single, making the record all the more desirable.

Both the band and album were framed nicely by a genuine gypsy lifestyle from that period, whereby he and his family played out a downmarket version of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, complete with authentic costume and living accommodations.

Listen: Well Well Hello (The Party) / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
Well

Quite possibly the real gem here is the single’s non-LP B side, ‘Well Well Hello (The Party). In itself a future template for many a Pogues single, I’m shocked this isn’t more widely sought after as an ultimate Ronnie Lane essential, or maybe it is. It’s sure to touch anyone’s weak spot with a bit of sadness.

The Move / Jimmy Miller

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Listen: Blackberry Way / The Move
Blackberry

Certainly one of my favorite singles ever, I dare say one of the greatest records ever released. Fact not opinion.

The recent BBC documentary, THE JOY OF THE SINGLE spotlighted ‘Blackberry Way’ as just that for a teenage Holly Johnson, who relived a long walk to and from a nearby record shop, whereby The Monkees’ ‘(Theme From) The Monkees’ wasn’t available. In fact, that track was never issued on a 7″ when current, luckily. The shop clerk talked him into the latest release by The Move instead, a sale amongst many that would have contributed toward the record reaching #1 on the UK charts.

The program was another in a long list of reminders that pulling out a copy of ‘Blackberry Way’ and letting it play on repeat was yet again, a solid hour well spent in my house.

Along with high school pals Denny and Mark, I sent off to England for copies of this pre-release. We wanted it shipped day one. God knows how we’d hear about these records sentenced to teen life in upstate New York, but we did. In fact, our crowd were so into The Move that there was no messing about by this, the release of their sixth single. And one titled ‘Blackberry Way’, heaven help us, we knew it’d be stunning. I can vividly remember opening that cardboard mailer and playing it for the first time. Stunning doesn’t do the song justice.

Years later, employed in Elektra’s A&R department meant a constant search for new signings and a resulting schedule of meetings with everyone from managers, agents, lawyers and occasionally, name UK record producers with their newest projects. Through the years Gus Dudgeon, Don Arden, Jonathan King, Stuart Colman, Malcolm McLaren, Wayne Bickerton, Hugh Padgham or Shel Talmy might book in while passing through New York. On one occasion, I got a call requesting some time for Jimmy Miller.

His visit was not going to be wasted on me. I was only too keen, as was usually the case, to talk about the less travelled topics covered by most fellow A&R reps, in this instance his more obscure British productions, of which The Move was one. Turns out, he was always happy to recount his histories, including a well repeated run down of that period with The Rolling Stones. But my curiosity in The Move brought out a unexpected tale, all presented with the enthusiasm of a kid.

For starters, ‘Blackberry Way’ was the only song he ever recorded with them, and then just sitting in for the band’s usual producer, Denny Cordell. The details were rather simple and verify the often documented flying by the seat of their pants 60′s music industry. Denny and he were co-workers at Straight Ahead Productions, to whom The Move were signed. Denny was double booked on a session with Joe Cocker & The Grease Band and asked Jimmy to cover for him with The Move. These details, to be clear, were laughingly verified by Denny years later.

As a result, the band’s only UK #1 was produced, not by the guy who worked with them on every other track prior, but by his pal in the next office. A jovial recollection actually.

So as Jimmy Miller sat across from me recounting these details for the first time in my office on the 20th floor of the Warner Brothers building, I pulled out the above copy for an autograph, which seriously pleased him to no end.

John Cale

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Listen: Dead Or Alive / John Cale
Dead

Met John Cale back in ’81 or so, when ‘Dead OR Alive’ was a current single from HONI SOIT. Roger McCall and I were playing it pretty regularly on our weekly show at WCMF, possibly the only play it was getting. The guy was irritated and in a very cross mood. Well so was I. Needless to say, it was not a good recipe. Pretty much steered clear of anything to do with him or his music since. Couldn’t even be bothered to listen to HELEN OF TROY era Island stuff despite a strong fondness for it as a result.

So recently, a friend from the UK sent me a link to this great piece on John Cale in The Guardian, a series of meeting celebrities in restaurants, mixing food with discussion. I was taken back by his intellect and poise. It led me to another current clip on FADER TV. Now I was mesmerized, suddenly so interested in his work, I couldn’t revisit it fast enough.

Being a record hoarder, of course I kept most of his releases, despite never listening. His EMI album from ’05, BLACKACETATE, is spectacular.

Full circle to ‘Dead Or Alive’. God I love this still. Mike Thorne was at his fifteen minutes of fame peak as a producer, having done Nina Hagen’s NUNSEXMONKROCK around then as well. Despite just about every record from this era sounding too 80′s sonically, you can’t beat John Cale’s vocal on this single. By the end, his delivery is some of the best ever committed to vinyl. And the song, well a great song is a great song.

Fotheringay

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Peace In The End / Fotheringay

Listen: Peace In The End / Fotheringay
Peace

Turning October Island pink in support of curing breast cancer, I’m reposting Fotheringay from April 6, 2009:

Remember in the very early 70′s Warner Brothers did those $1 and $2 samplers you could send off for from the back pages of ROLLING STONE? Well A&M did one too, and only one if memory serves me well. Titled FRIENDS, it was nicely full of UK bands like Blodwyn Pig, Free, The Move and Spooky Tooth to name a few. Fotheringay were on there, this song in fact. ‘Peace In The End’ was my first taste of the band, which I was well anxious to hear.

I’d loved Fairport Convention, and when Sandy Denny left to join up with Trevor Lucas in Fotheringay, well there was more of them all to love basically. Unlike most fans, my most memorable Fairport Convention period followed her departure. FULL HOUSE, ANGEL DELIGHT and BABBACOMBE LEE were and are hands down favorites. The lineups with Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol are just perfect for me.

I didn’t fall in love with the Fotheringay album, but I sure did fall in love with it’s only single, ‘Peace In The End’. I must have played this hundreds of times.

Years later, during that first London trip Corinne and I made together in ’77, Howard Thompson brought us round to the Island offices, where he did A&R at the time. In the back, there was an up and running company canteen which did hot food all day for staff and whoever was in the studio at the time. It was still operational ten years later when I joined the label.

What an experience that was. Just envision, growing up and living in upstate New York, and to then be suddenly transported to London for a two week vacation, meeting someone in Howard who would unknowingly change our lives forever, well we literally died and went to heaven.

Rico and his band were there rehearsing downstairs, Simon Kirke from Free eating with Jess Roden, various members of Eddie & The Hot Rods and Ultravox. Over in a corner were Trevor Lucas and Sandy Denny. She was very quiet, but extremely sweet when I approached her for a hopeful talk. Her voice as angelic when speaking as in song. ‘Peace In The End’ will forever remind me of her aura on that day.

Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Listen: Alice Long / Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart
Alice

Specific probably to me alone, ‘Alice Long’ was right up there with the most named checked California songs of all time. This just reeked of an endless summer. Well that’s how I remember it anyway.

During the 60′s, bunches of records got Top 40 play made by guys a little too old to wear fringed haircuts and Carnaby Street fashions, but did regardless. It was even more noticeable once all the hip kids started to sleep in their clothes instead of iron them. Blame San Fransisco. I seem to remember The Association being in that old guys with squeaky clean threads space, Spanky & Our Gang, and yes Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart too. Despite great records, without Top 40 play, these acts were never going to have ROLLING STONE on their side and therefore basically doomed.

Luckily a few by Boyce & Hart did get heard, like ‘Alice Long’. Occasional singles would come on the air and instantly hit the refresh button, decades before a refresh button existed, like this one for me. We’d be riding around after school, wasting our parent’s gas, radio on, windows down and ‘Alice Long’ blaring out of the dash, all compressed up tight via a mono AM signal. Vivid as yesterday.

Why can’t Sirius do an oldies channel that plays mono singles mixes this way, from vinyl?

Long John Baldry

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Listen: When The Sun Comes Shining Thru’ / Long John Baldry
When

Long John Baldry, as with Georgie Fame and Alan Price, was another guy from the early 60′s London blues and soul club circuit. Then known as Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men, he and his band can be found on numerous schedules from The Flamingo and The Marquee clubs, double billing with several similar up and coming American RnB music enthusiasts, all hell bent on reinterpreting their worshiped heroes.

Like with yesterday’s post, he too took a more commercial route as the 70′s approached, successfully achieving mainstream pop hits in England. A switch of labels in both the UK and US, as well a change in musical style and the recruitment of Tony Macaulay as producer resulted in ‘Let The Heartaches Begin’, which went to #1 in Britain during November of ’67. A year later, ‘When The Sun Comes Shining Thru”, written by Manfred Mann’s lead vocalist Mike D’Abo, went Top 30, although neither caught much traction in America.

Around ’68, Tony Macaulay began cornering many of my favorite records, either as writer, producer and in some cases, both. Current day British pop had become his forte with Scott Walker, Pickettywitch, The Marmalade and The Foundations amongst his successes. I guess he had a sound, and quite frankly, in my world, these two were a perfect pair.

Come ’71 though, Long John Baldry had reverted back to his original boogie woogie style, as he called it. Teaming up with Elton John and Rod Stewart as producers, both struggling newcomers in the early 60′s but by then successful superstars, afforded their old friend some decent US traction. Good for John Baldry of course, but for me, the music wasn’t as much fun nor more memorable than that period anchored by Tony Macaulay and ‘When The Sun Comes Shining Thru”.

Blodwyn Pig

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Dear Jill / Blodwyn Pig

Dear Jill / Blodwyn Pig

Listen: Dear Jill / Blodwyn Pig
Dear

Even if you don’t favor late 60′s blues or progressive stuff, you might still appreciate Blodwyn Pig. They were an exception, really quite musical and in fact, still hold up well today.

The band was formed by Jethro Tull’s original guitarist Mick Abrahams, not long after they’d released their debut album, THIS WAS.

Similarly, Blodwyn Pig leaned a bit jazz and like Jethro Tull, were based in more than your standard guitar/bass/drums lineup, with Jack Lancaster on saxes/horns/harmonicas. A particularly strong asset being Mick Abrahams’ effortlessly authentic blues voice. Plus he was a very accomplished acoustic slide player as you can hear.

Pretty amazing to realize this music was written and played by guys in their late teens or at most, early twenties. Saw them once too, along with Chicken Shack, opening for The Kinks. The stellar UK band triple header had me glazing over my school work as I counted down the weeks, then days, then hours until showtime. Man, was it ever worth the agony.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Listen: Debora / Tyrannosaurus Rex
Debora

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
Ride

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.

The Merry-Go-Round

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Listen: Live / The Merry-Go-Round
Live

I think summer ’67 was the sunniest ever. I remember it like yesterday, and can still feel the angst of wanting every last record that was being released. I was insatiable, riding my bike daily, many times twenty miles each way on the back country roads either between Canastota and Oneida, or into Syracuse. Every night as I lay in bed with the transistor under my pillow, listening to AM broadcasts from far away places in the Midwest or way up into the Northeast via Boston or Maine, I’d be scheming out tomorrow’s plan of where to go, looking for, asking for records.

Back then, at dusk, AM stations were required to switch from broad, local signals, to limited radius and directional. This meant those directional beams would make local broadcasts from hundreds and hundreds of miles away sound down the street. And with many of the looser US Top 40′s playing the latest underground and psychedelic releases overnight, new discoveries became a daily occurrence. Whether it be Country Joe & The Fish, The Pink Floyd, Moby Grape, The Move, The Magic Mushrooms, Tim Hardin, The Lewis & Clark Expedition, The Flowerpot Men or The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, I was hearing it all and my want list was endless.

So off I’d go, to the various shops, blagging promo records, last week’s copies of BILLBOARD, CASHBOX and RECORD WORLD, music surveys from the local Top 40′s, inventory check lists the distributors would leave with the store buyers, I hoarded them all.

Wednesdays were when the national record label reps would hit the Syracuse stations promoting their wares. None of my friends dared join me, so I’d wait alone on my bike in the parking lots for them to pull up, and got good at talking singles out of these guys, handing my high school newspaper record reviews to them in exchange for a dig through their latest releases. I’ll tell you truthfully, I’ve tried just about every drug out there, but never have I found a high near the one a free for all through a promotion man’s trunk full of 1967 promo 45′s could provide.

What became known as sunshine pop surfaced amongst the sub genres and regional music scenes during that summer. God, I hated the term and generally cringe when having to admit liking music tagged as such. Along with The Third Rail, Sagittarius, Eternity’s Children, Colours and The Sunshine Company, I guess The Merry-Go-Round’s ‘Live’ inhabited a slot. Their obvious British looking haircuts caught my eye, and when ‘Live’ started to pick up a lot of daytime play quickly, I was hooked. Critics claim a similarity to The Beatles, I don’t hear it. I preferred to associate them closer to The Hollies or The Tremeloes, they certainly looked the part.

‘Live’ almost made it nationally, but stalled just short of Top 50, which was ultimately a real shame.

You know those songs that take you right back? This is one for me.

Joan Armatrading

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Listen: Down To Zero (Mono) / Joan Armatrading
Down

Me, I never tire of Joan Armatrading, and never will. She’s gone through a lot of musical twists and turns, by her own choice, during the last decade. Some of it, quite frankly, is tough for me to tolerate. But like all true greats, meaning seminally true greats, every album contains, minimum, a couple of jems.

During the span of her career, beginning in the early 70′s, I never missed any of her upstate appearances, where she played on a regular basis. After relocating to New York in ’84, I went to every, and I mean every one of her shows. Three nights at The Beacon Theater, I was there for them all. In fact, I’d gladly drive out to Long Island or New Jersey to catch neighboring appearances. There are no plans to end that pattern by the way.

‘Down To Zero’ still slays every female singer/songwriter in sight.

When doing A&R for Columbia in the 90′s, Jewel had her meteoric rise into mainstream ubiquity. Every label, especially Columbia, was looking for their own version of Jewel. So an endless parade of young nursing student types would schlep through the department, many times with an acoustic guitar in tow, or their parents, or worse yet, both. As soon as the sight of this entered my office, I got straight to the point.

“Are you as good as Joan Armatrading?”

To their credit, every last aspiring hopeful knew her, and would always answer, “Well…..no.”

With utmost politeness, I’d ask them not to unpack or even bother playing me their demo, because I couldn’t tell good from slightly better than good, given that greatness had just been established as outside the realm of possibility. Basically, there was no point. Out of courtesy, I’d shuffle them down the hall to others more qualified in the genre.

A few even got signed. None succeeded.

Stealers Wheel

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Listen: Star / Stealers Wheel
Star / Stealers Wheel

I could always handle folky acoustic stuff more if it came out of the UK. Probably just my prejudice.

Stealers Wheel had a few big singles, but they were so overplayed it became hard to revisit them for decades, or listen to their albums even. I did own the first few for a while but don’t recall giving them much of a chance.

‘Star’ seemed to get more airplay than sales justified, but not so much that the record was spoiled like ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’. I’ve only started listening to that one again as of recent.

‘Star’ was played a bunch during the early fall of ’73 on Radio 1. Despite what seems to be an intentional American West Coast sound, the single still reeks of a rundown old palais in Blackpool or somewhere wonderfully as drab, which is all good.

Ron Davies

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel

Listen: It Ain’t Easy / Ron Davies RonDaviesEasy.mp3

Who could resist this sweet UK re-release meant to capitalize on the song’s new found familiarity in ’72, when David Bowie included it on THE RISE & FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, even though it would have been more at home on HUNKY DORY. Nice deep groove pressing added to my already dangerous A&M UK A label dependency.

Important sign: Every last cover version replicates this original.

Joan Armatrading

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Listen: Wrapped Around Her / Joan Armatrading JoanArmatradingWrappedAroundHer.mp3

Six years. That’s how long it was before Joan Armatrading played ‘Wrapped Around Her’ live in New York (August 5, 1999) post the single’s release. It was as unexpected as finding a stack of them in Tower Records’ on Piccadilly Circus one night.

For several years, there was a pattern in place. Take the 9am morning flight out of JFK to Heathrow, get in about 9pm, straight to the hotel, dump the bags and right over to Piccadilly Circus where Tower was open until midnight. Downstairs to the singles department, a true time warp into days gone by. Two solid walls of 7″ records, the entire Top 50 plus every last possible new release you could hope for…and more once you hit the bins.

The labels were by then using 7″ vinyl as loss leaders. Basically, they’d give retail a stack for free, thereby the shop would price them cheaply and the resulting detections would help the song into the charts – all in an effort to sell the cd version or more importantly the full length album. Very handy for a singles addict.

Really, it was like dying and going to heaven working for Island then, being the label was UK based. Meant I needed to make the trip often, sometimes very often. Top it off with an expense account that covered ‘competitive product’ purchases meant I’d burn through those racks like a tsunami, grabbing everything in sight.

On this particular trip, I had no idea ‘Wrapped Around Her’ was even scheduled. Can still vividly remember the very moment my eyes spotted it. Even Corinne stepped aside. You don’t get between me and a new Joan Armatrading record, not ever. There was no way I was not stocking up at 99p apiece. I bought twenty, and they felt so nice all together, a chunk of Joan Armatrading singles. Still have most of them too.

Back to the pattern: by midnight, we’d hit the checkout, then Corinne and I would walk over to my cousin Dinah’s on Clipstone Street, where I basically invited myself to live in ’73. Dinah never minded. She loved the company and we still reminisce constantly about those days. Now, like that night, she’d put on the kettle, force a few cups of sugary PG Tips plus endless slices of soda bread spread with too much Irish butter our way and proceed to have many a good laugh well into the early hours. Dinah’s tea, butter, bread and hospitality have never been topped.

I fired up her gramophone that evening and played ‘Wrapped Around Her’ repeatedly until they were both begging for mercy. Not only is it one of my all time favorite singles by anyone ever, but fuck, do I relive that night every last time it plays.

Frampton’s Camel

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel

Above / Below: UK Promo Only sleeve (front/back)

All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel

Listen: All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel 01 All Night Long.mp3

Peter Frampton was, unfairly, a guilty pleasure to loads of folks for years. Once he hit the big time it was uncool to like him. Not me. I loved The Herd, and was loyally into Humble Pie. That was a funny one actually. Here you had a signature member of The Herd and Steve Marriott in the same band. If you’re an Anglofile, you give them rope. Their early stuff I liked even though it leaned toward the extended blues rock sludge setting in at the time. Live, they were on fire. Luckily, I saw them open for Ten Years After on that first US tour, not yet Americanized in any way, still kitted out in lime or purple velvet and silk trousers etc. Glued to the edge of the stage in the Livestock Pavilion on the Syracuse State Fair grounds, overjoyed by the fact that we were seeing members of The Small Faces and The Herd, was half the thrill.

Then Peter Frampton went solo. His second, post Humble Pie release was issued as Frampton’s Camel. He’d shed that Humble Pie heaviness. The album didn’t sell. I never heard it anywhere at the time, although the single ‘All Night Long’ got a lot of daytime BBC Radio 1 play that summer ’73 I’d spent in London. It was a perfect seasonal single and has sentimental value.

Listen: (Baby) Somethin’s Happening / Peter Frampton PeterFramptonSmethin.mp3

For the record, the follow-up album, SOMETHIN’S HAPPENING, went fairly undiscovered too. He toured that record with former band mate Andy Bown, from The Herd, on keyboards. Rich Packter, the A&M promotion guy during summer ’74 had set Corinne and I up with Peter and Andy for lunch at the then turquoise and pink circular Holiday Inn restaurant in Downtown Syracuse. Frampton’s Camel were opening for Uriah Heep that night. We both worked at Discount Records, so I’m guessing Rich could justify the meal.

As far as we were concerned, this was lunch with The Herd. It was great fun picking their brains about the past. They both laughed non stop at all my questions, in a most flattering way. And I’m sure Andy Bown was genuinely surprised at the attention. Peter didn’t seem to mind one bit that when push came to shove, these two crazies were there to meet Andy Bown.

So yeah, SOMETHIN’S HAPPENING is a gem too. Soon after, Peter Frampton’s deserved home runs began. The industry calls this process artist development. I call it finally getting a fair shot at radio.

Leon Russell

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Listen: Roll Away The Stone / Leon Russell LeonRussellStone.mp3

Despite Denny Cordell cutting his teeth during the 60′s as producer of The Moody Blues, The Move, Beverley and Joe Cocker & The Grease Band, he seemed to take a nasty turn in the period that immediately followed. He set up shop in Los Angeles, forming Shelter Records. Other than issuing a few reggae singles in the States for Chris Blackwell (The Maytals, The Wailers), Denny pretty much shifted gears musically. To this Anglophile, he betrayed his own greatness, suddenly producing and/or releasing super Americana stuff like Phoebe Snow, JJ Cale, Mudcrutch…..and Leon Russell.

I despised everything about Leon Russell. I hated his country boogie blues singalongs, his clothes, his grey hair – every last thing about him. Mind you, I was hard core pro England. The Kinks were the ultimate, Glam was preferred, I was not a believer.

Isn’t it crazy how one’s tastes can change, or in my case, grow. Man, was I wrong about Denny and Shelter. Fast forward a decade, and I’m jonesing for every last act on that roster, catching up on filling in the record collection with the Shelter singles.

Leon Russell’s history ran way deeper than I originally knew, back to Phil Spector’s Philles days where he led his house band, and he performed in the TAMI show and was a regular on SHINDIG and….and….and. Check the writer’s credits on some of those Phil Spector B sides: Leon Russell. Seemingly overnight, I needed everything attached to his long, long discography of contributions.

Well there aren’t many things I like more than a UK A&M A label. All the busy conflicting fonts, the bright yellow label, the red ‘A’ and the onslaught of release date/time/publisher info (Reminder: click on any of the records pictured to enlarge). It became a quest to get all Denny Cordell / Shelter via UK A&M 7′s. Took years but now pretty much complete. One of the first to be issued back on the old 700 series: ‘Roll Away The Stone’.

Do you think Mott The Hoople ever listened to Leon Russell?

Claudine Longet

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Listen: Hello, Hello / Claudine Longet ClaudineHello.mp3

A horribly under appreciated icon, such is Claudine Longet, former wife of Andy Williams (himself not given enough props). Why she is not respected or even revered as one of the great French vocal impressionists is extremely unfair.

It wasn’t always that way, as her first few A&M albums indeed sold well, charted Top 30 and spawned a few much played singles on the adult contemporary stations.

Her cover of this Sopwith Camel hit, ‘Hello, Hello’ in ’67 was one such classic, a perfect mix of The Flying Lizards, Jo Ann Castle and Jane Birkin. As with most AC hits of the day, it struggled to a lowly pop #91 on the Billboard Top 100.

In good company though, as most of the great singles never got much traction on the US pop stations. Unfortunately, that hasn’t changed.

JOAN ARMATRADING

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Listen: This Charming Life / Joan Armatrading JoanCharming.mp3

Tell you what – I have never missed any of Joan Armatrading’s New York shows – ever. Last week was no exception. In a blink, she’s been writing, recording and touring now for 40 years…..40 years!

That’s a lot.

And the new single ‘This Charming Life’ self-celebrates her luck, whereby she can earn a solid living playing music to fans around the world. She appreciates it and has peace with her career. Her words, not mine.

Often coined as difficult, I say she has every right to be, if in fact that’s true. One single after the other, over four decades, not getting a fair shake at radio or mainstream exposure because of her inability to fit in, more like not being afraid to be herself. I’d be difficult too.

I stood in line to get my jukebox tab signed, happy to be a fan. It was truly fun.

When it was my turn to go to the alter, Joan barely looked up as I explained my request. “I only sign my name” was her cold response. Even better. Chose for yourself how you want to be remembered.

Her quick signature was suddenly accompanied by a smile and then, “I know you”. She remembered me! I was a kid again.

The conversation proceeded, and we had a most rewarding exchange. My feet didn’t touch the ground for hours, so enthralled, I forgot to ask her to please fill in the rest of the jukebox tab. Never mind. I’m content.

Joan Armatrading is a higher form of life. We are all lucky that she walks on the face of this earth. Believe it.

Lesley Gore

Monday, April 26th, 2010

LesleyGoreFrench, Lesley Gore, Mercury, Quincy Jones

Listen: Je Na Sais Plus (You Don’t Own Me) / Lesley Gore LesleyFrench.mp3

Truth be told, I try to visit most of the blogs linked on the right pretty much everyday. For one reason or the other, there’s usually something that sparks me to pull out a record or two for a listen in most of ‘em. One of my religious reads is Pop Wars. Well, my friends for um, 30 years or so write it, and they saved SO MANY RECORDS SO LITTLE TIME when I was using Blogspot and overloading their system or something with mp3′s, crashing my browser and a bunch of reader’s browsers as well. Panic. Bless them, they set up this .com, and I’ve never needed to look back.

A few posts ago, Pop Wars linked a youtube clip of Lesley Gore. I’d often thought about posting some of her singles, but was always baffled, there are so many great ones – how do I pick. I pull one, then say no, this would be better. It all goes on for a few minutes and I end up too daunted and move on down the rack. Well with that clip of ‘You Don’t Own Me’ reminding me again of Lesley Gore, I suddenly had the perfect excuse to post: share the French version with everyone. For some reason, they didn’t include it on the superb IT’S MY PARTY – THE MERCURY ANTHOLOGY. The 2 cds are so full of hits that scraping the barrel was nowhere near necessary. Get a copy before cds disappear completely.

How the hell I ended up taking a chance on this as it sat side by side next to the well known English language hit version on the rack at Smith’s Records is actually coming back to me. I was still in my single digits and had but a mere dollar per week allowance – which meant one single every seven days. The week before, I’d gotten the picture sleeved version of ‘You Don’t Own Me’, that I vividly remember. Therefore I couldn’t NOT complete the set. That’s called something nowadays, obsessive compulsive or ADD or whatever – and there are pills for it. Maybe I should get some, as I seriously do plan on becoming a pill freak once I retire. Sit around medicated all day, playing singles til they carry me out on a stretcher. As for that French version, well I sure am glad now that I sprung the buck for it back in ’64.

LesleyImm, A&M, Lesley Gore, Mercury, Quincy Jones

Listen: Immortality / Lesley Gore LesleyGoreImmortality.mp3

Hard to believe, but Quincy Jones produced many, possibly all of her Mercury hits. Yeah, the same guy who did, well hundreds of amazing records like THRILLER even. I prefer his Lesley Gore stuff still.

Long after her early/mid 60′s teen stardom faded, she was, without warning in ’75, back on A&M with a new single and album. What!

This was all quite exciting for me – I realized the childhood crush on her still had a heartbeat. Proceeding to play ‘Immortality’ a lot on my college radio shows – it clearly sounded plenty weird mixed in with all the other rock stuff of the day. Made my obsession for the obscure English groups suddenly more tolerable I’m sure.

I wanted it to be a hit bad – she even reunited with Quincy Jones for the project. I guess I was about the only guy playing it, but unfortunately to a handful of pot smokers who’d actually listen to our little hobby of a radio station, hence sales were not triggered.