Archive for the ‘Atco’ Category

Brian Auger & The Trinity

Friday, June 16th, 2017

DEFINITELY WHAT! / Brian Auger & The Trinity:

Side 1:

Listen: Red Beans And Rice / Brian Auger & The Trinity
Red

Side 2:

Listen: George Bruno Money / Brian Auger & The Trinity
George

It was February 2001 when my assistant Steve, at Sony, buzzed me about an incoming cold call from a Brian Auger.

“He sounds English” was the helpful detail.

I just figured it was one of my pals lazily playing our game. We’d often ring each other’s office and announce ourselves as an impossibly impossible famous caller, a person from our ultimate wish list.

But shockingly it was the real Brian Auger, making the label rounds via phone, shopping his daughter Ali Auger’s then current album, as well his catalog, including all the full lengths by Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express and even earlier titles like DEFINITELY WHAT!, the first as Brian Auger & The Trinity, from which these two songs come. I still have his letter from the huge package that arrived a few days later.

Atlantic and sister label Atco issued a handful of these 7″ promotional EP’s to radio during the late 60′s and early 70′s, all in similar generic information/picture sleeves with short explanatory notes on the back cover from the head of radio promotion or press. Oddly, most had simply one song per side, thereby not in keeping with the EP’s original configuration of two per side, four total.

In this case though, both tracks from DEFINITELY WHAT!, including Booker T & The MG’s ‘Red Beans And Rice’ were quite long, essentially filling out the same time as two shorter, single length tracks would have.

You don’t see the Atlantic series EP’s much these days, and hardly ever in the rather thin plain paper stock information/picture covers mentioned above.

King Curtis & His Noble Knights

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Listen: Beach Party / King Curtis & His Noble Knights
Beach

I’m struggling to find a King Curtis single that I don’t like. Even his questionable cover choices of current day standards during the late 60′s Atco run like ‘ Harper Valley P.T.A.’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’ are fun spins on a rainy Sunday. Plus they always sound good in the Seeburg.

But few compare to his Capitol debut from ’62 ‘Beach Party’. What other RnB act was segueing straight into the whiter than white surf craze? None. Ok, so James Brown pulled up to the bumper in time to do a ski party appearance, but King Curtis, he was first.

The Coasters

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Listen: Shoppin’ For Clothes / The Coasters
8-21 Shopping For Clothes.mp3

There’s just not a lot I can tell you about ‘Shopping For Clothes’ that the record itself can’t.

But my little story about it is a follows: In ’87 Dan Baird was at the Altantic Studios in New York recording and mixing the second Georgia Satellites album. Howard and I headed over from Elektra, a few blocks away, one late afternoon to hear some of the tracks in progress and we were kind of accosted the second we walked in. Dan was all smiles excited and said you have got to hear something. He sat us down at the the board and hit play. I don’t know if I loved ‘Shopping for Clothes’ or Dan’s face lighting up the room more. It’s certainly the sort of record you just know is going to floor any living soul who hasn’t heard it.

These how the fuck did I get here moments from my record company days, now long gone, seemed to come like miracles, except more often, which as we know miracles don’t. This particular one was a chilling rush, being right there where it was recorded decades before. Imagine that high. I definitely twitched.

We must have played ‘Shopping for Clothes’ half a dozen times in a row, maybe more.

Sonny & Cher

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Listen: Baby Don’t Go / Sonny & Cher
Baby

There aren’t many things as lasting as Sonny & Cher. I stumble on their records via radio or in any public place less and less and less. With the exception of ‘I Got You Babe’, and Sirius XM, their older singles are played literally never.

Wasn’t always the case. ‘I Got You Babe’ hit so big and wide that for a year or more, they were everywhere. Appearances on all the TV shows plus each had solo hits right next to their rapid output as a duo. At the peak, past labels were reissuing worthy songs that had flopped only nine to twelve months prior. Such was the case with ‘Baby Don’t Go’.

Damn if I don’t remember this one like yesterday. It was late winter/early spring and I think for a period, this was played more than the current Atco stuff. The two distinctive pieces that make ‘Baby Don’t Go’ so memorable to me are the rather unlikely but perfect harmonica and mandolin combination plus Sonny & Cher’s signature harmonizing, whereby Cher always sang the low parts against Sonny doing the highs.

And there you had it, timeless magic.

The Bee Gees

Friday, March 30th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Ben E. King

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

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

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

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

Dr. John

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Listen: Right Place, Wrong Time / Dr. John
Right

I recall while living in London during the early 70′s, Dr. John, The Night Tripper, who had by now shortened his stage name, or maybe Atco did the the shortening, to Dr. John, visited London for a handful of shows. The press and beautiful people were drooling. Despite ‘Right Place, Wrong Time’ not being a UK chart hit, unlike in the US, those in the know weren’t fussed. It was a classic, way more important than a chart number. These hommies knew and besides, Dr. John was the real, real, real deal. I believe the show happened at the Rainbow.

Of course, Ronnie Wood couldn’t cut the media line fast enough to be name checked as a supporter. A leopard don’t change it’s spots, as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins once rightfully proclaimed.

But for true authenticity, Charlie Watts stepped into the spotlight to affirm his excitement.

Dr. John has many great singles, basically all of them. ‘Right Place, Wrong Time’ was just one.

Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs / The Fireballs

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Listen: Sugar Shack / Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs
Sugar Shack / Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs

I’m guessing this was submerged into my childhood DNA, because I seem to remember it vividly despite having peaked at #1 in ’63. I can only assume my cousin Peggy played it a lot while babysitting. I get transported back to whenever each time I listen.

Certainly, the obvious similarities with Buddy Holly’s signature sound appeal to me greatly. Given this was recorded at Norman Petty’s Clovis, New Mexico studio, where Buddy Holly had previously launched his career, explains the similarities. But those are all positives.

What kind of keyboard is that anyways? Regardless, ‘Sugar Shack’ makes use of it as the song’s biggest asset, instead of the thousand and one US garage bands from the 60′s that should have been exterminated for just the opposite.

Listen: Bottle Of Wine / The Fireballs
Bottle Of Wine / The Fireballs

Dropping the Jimmy Gilmer moniker, but not Jimmy Gilmer himself, the band signed to Atco and in ’68, released a killer cover of Tom Paxton’s ‘Bottle Of Wine’, complete with finger on the pulse contemporary swagger, swing and sneer.

The Buffalo Springfield

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Listen: Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing / The Buffalo Springfield
Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing / The Buffalo Springfield

West coast soft rock, not a fan. It was the anti-christ to British music. Even as some of the UK bands got fascinated by it, started copying it, I still wasn’t buying in. But initially, The Buffalo Springfield looked as though they may have had promise. I wanted badly to hear their first single ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’. The title made me curious, and I wasn’t sharp enough to be put off by the band’s name. There was Lothar & The Hand People, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & The Holding Company, these guys seemed to fit into the nonsensical band name pocket just fine.

Digging through a massive bin of drilled, 39¢ closeout singles, I found a copy only a few months later. This was just before their third 45, ‘For What It’s Worth’, got traction and went Top 40. I got home and did not love this record later that night.

But I did like that a) it was a Bubbling Under The Hot 100 flop (#110), b) was on Atco and c) was an unlikely single.

a) There’s nothing like the endless gems that never reached the Top 100. In retrospect, countless seminal classics populated and peeked on BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart, within it’s #101 – 135 range. All struggling for airplay that never came. Where was the expertise programmers supposedly had in the 60′s and 70′s, we now wonder. Proof that some things never changed.

b) Atco was cool. The younger, but prettier step sister of Atlantic. Amongst it’s early roster of bands that never made it / looked like they weren’t going to: The Vagrants, The Who, The Groupies, The Spencer Davis Group, Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger & The Trinity and The Cream. Yes, this was in the day before groups like The Pink Floyd, The Cream and The Buffalo Springfield managed to drop ‘The’ from their official professional name.

c) There are few things more inviting than a single that made no sense being a single. Like just about any jazz 7″, certainly edited versions of tracks from Miles Davis’ BITCHES BREW album. Not that ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ came close to such an extreme, but it was a real surprise on first spin.

The Buffalo Springfield have now reformed, sans ‘The’, with the remaining living original members, and I would bet the whole house of cards they are not playing this first single live. Just like the setlist for The Cream’s reunion (sans ‘The’) omitted ‘I Feel Free’.

So I won’t be attending, but all said and done, I ended up liking ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ a lot.

Update (6/11/11): John Poole emailed to say they did play ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ during their first reunion appearance at the Bridge Benefit Concert last year. How awesome is that?

Brian Auger & The Trinity

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Listen: Black Cat / Brian Auger & The Trinity
Black Cat / Brian Auger & The Trinity

The daunting task of sorting a file drawer full of receipts houses a small pit in my stomach this time every year. The bit I always forget is the opportunity of stacking album sides it provides in the process. That $10 used Dual turntable from the Warner Brothers employee equipment sale in ’94 continues it’s amortization to a jaw dropping calculation. Yeah, the device still works perfectly.

God bless Vicki Wickham. She donated her album collection years ago to a most worthy cause: me. It’s rainy, cold days in March when they take on an even more intense warmth than usual. Now I will tell you, her taste was, still is, a black music timeline and history book of utmost class. Everything from delta folk to roadhouse RnB, it’s all there. And anything British from the era that did quality justice to those many genres, well that’s there too.

As a result, a beautiful original mono copy of Brian Auger & The Trinity’s DEFINITELY WHAT on Giorgio Gomelsky’s Marmalade Records was too glistening to pass over. I ended up playing both sides, and as usual, got sidetracked from the receipts over to the wall shelf, pulling out all Brian Auger related 7′s.

As with the ending of ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, ‘Black Cat’ benefits from his lightning keyboard hand slashing on the fade. It’s signature Brian Auger, and a technique he uses live to this day.

The Who

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Substitute / The Who

Listen: Substitute / The Who
Substitute / The Who

I missed the junior prom because of this record. My childhood sweetheart girlfriend Marianne was an Anglophile like me, most kids were back then really. But the two of us, we were hardcore.

Basically, as soon as I’d get home from school on Fridays I would head to Smith’s Records in Oneida, either on my bike or my Dad would drive me, bless him. Mrs. Smith gave me her week old Billboard magazines like clockwork, and I’d always buy something as well. Occasionally, one of the special orders we’d put through would actually show up. And every time, she’d buy two extras for the shop. Usually either my two friends, Mark or Denny, or Marianne, would buy those copies. Some pretty great things ended up in our collections that way, like The Pink Floyd ‘The Gnome’, The Yardbirds ‘Ten Little Indians’ or The Pretty Things ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’.

On this particular day in May ’66, I was shocked to discover that ‘Substitute’ had come in, only a week after placing the special order. Most records never did turn up as Mrs. Smith was forced to buy from a one-stop, and they’d pretty much stick to the mainstream hits. You had to be set up direct with the major labels to get their obscure non-hits. Being a tiny Mom & Pop store, she could never do enough business for them to be opened up as a direct client. Hence always a surprise when an obscurity arrived at Smith’s.

I tore into her little listening booth seconds after she handed me the single saying “One of your records came in” upon entering the shop. My insides knotted up. I’d wanted this single so much, having seen it scale the UK charts those previous few weeks. The seconds it took to get it out of the sleeve and onto the thick spindle of the automatic turntable, then waiting for it to drop and the tonearm to connect felt like fucking minutes. Half way through, I was losing it. ‘Substitute’ was so good.

That wasn’t to be the last claustrophobic meltdown I’d have in that little booth let me tell you.

The Who were very left of center to programmers then, not having a US hit until the next year with ‘Happy Jack’. They got no airplay to speak of nationally but our crazy local Top 40, WOLF, played all their singles (click on chart below to enlarge). This US only version has the lyric “I look all white but my Dad was black” swapped out for “I try moving forward but my feet walk back”. ‘Substitute,’ being the only US single by The Who available on Atco (6409), was issued with a far superior mix than any other version ever – hands down.

A year or so later, they re-released ‘Substitute’ (as Atco 6509) although via a safer, not so wild mix. Well I think it’s the mix but it may indeed be a less hot, less bright mastering. Neither version has ever appeared on a compilation that I know of.

I called Marianne from the shop, told her it had come in and we ended up spending that evening listening to the single over and over and over. True. We missed the prom.

WOLF Charts May 7, 1966

Heads, Hands & Feet

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

headshandsfeetonewomanuk,Heads Hands & Feet, Atco, Atlantic, Tony Colton, Chas Hodges

headshandsfeetonewomanusa, Heads Hands & Feet, Atco, Atlantic, Tony Colton, Chas Hodges

Listen: One Woman / Heads, Hands & FeetHHFOneWoman.mp3

Albums came in rapid succession during the 70′s. The first by Heads, Hands & Feet was a double, and not long after came it’s followup, TRACKS. These were issued on Island UK and Capitol US, during the era when those Capitol labels were that beautiful lime green. I wasn’t paying much attention to the band, they had an intentionally American sound. I was put off.

Fast forward to summer ’72. They’re third on the bill to The J. Geils Band and Humble Pie. I was certainly not about to miss Steve Marriott. So, we got there early to see Heads, Hands & Feet. After all, they were English. By now, I was becoming a fan. They’d recently switched labels to Atco/Atlantic, and their single ‘One Woman’ was pretty great. I particularly appreciated that lead singer, Tony Colton, doubled as a producer for one of my all time favorite albums: ON THE BOARDS by Taste.

Plain and simple, they were tremendous live. I would say they stole the show, certainly preferring them to the headliner by miles. At this point, Peter Frampton had left second-on-the-bill, Humble Pie, but it was sure fun being invited back to the Holiday Inn by Steve Marriott for a party. More on that in some other post.

So yes, Heads, Hands & Feet ripped up a storm, and their extended version of ‘One Woman’, the show closer, took the cake. I mean these guys were super great musicians. You can hear it in the recordings. Guitarist Albert Lee has been cited as a bit of a virtuoso over the years, and he certainly was on fire that night. Chas Hodges on bass was equally important to that fire, playing off of Albert Lee almost like a second guitarist.

We wormed our way into their crowded dressing room and they seemed somewhat impressed to have a few fans. It was fun complimenting Tony Colton on his work with Taste. I remember him being appreciative, and a bit surprised. All in all, it was obvious they weren’t having a very good time, and I’m pretty sure they called it a day soon afterwards. Too bad.

The Persuaders / Junior Tucker

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / The Persuaders PersuadersLuck.mp3

Only in hindsight did I hear The Persuaders version of ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’. God only knows how that happened. I worked at a one-stop in Fall ’73, delivering records to accounts, and to my apartment….bad karma. I thought there wasn’t a 7″ I had left out of those personal allocations, but obviously I was wrong.

Add to that, how did I miss it on the radio? There was nothing else to listen to while doing those said deliveries and this one went pop, peaking at #39 in Billboard that very November.

Eventually, around the Christmas season, I got moved inside, pulling orders and restocking. At this I was a whizz. Could do it in my sleep – and loved it. I was in the LP department – all organized by label, then chronologically by catalog number within each. Can you imagine sections for King, Okeh, Fontana, Sue, Deram, Philips, Parrot, Stax, Smash…….ok enough torture.

The front half of the warehouse was dedicated to the 45′s. Maude did my version of the job up there, and she had a Kevin pile – one of everything. Well, sometimes 5 or 10, depending on varying factors. Once a one hundred count box was full, off to the tape dispenser, then on to the cart, bound for the delivery truck, it went. Oh to go back in time.

Still, I didn’t end up with a copy of this one for years.

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / Junior Tucker JuniorTuckerSomeGuys.mp3

Fast forward. 1980.

Oldest trick in the book: cover classic soul songs in a reggae style. Pretty much works every time. In this case, beyond great.

I fell in love with Junior Tucker’s ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’ upon release. I dare say it got played hundreds and hundreds of times in my record room that year, and on my radio shows.

Corinne and I were both reggae lovers, having been weened on the hard corp Lee Perry and Jack Ruby releases Howard was sending our way starting in ’76. An all time favorite series, THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC, especially Volume 3, became our crowd’s anthem anthology. And I dare say all my best friends from that period can be transported back to some of the greatest times of our lives when we spin it nowadays.

Had I known then, that about ten years after Volume 3′s release, I would one afternoon walk into Chris Blackwell’s office, and suggest reviving the series with a Volume 4 and 5 (Volume 5 exclusive to reggae style RnB covers – this was included), and that he would say “Yes”, my heart would have frozen.

Millie Small

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Bloodshot Eyes / Millie Small

Listen: Bloodshot Eyes / Millie Small 01 Bloodshot Eyes.mp3

Who can forget ‘My Boy Lollipop’? It was Millie’s big hit during ’64 and still sounds as vibrant now as when it was everywhere that summer. Distinctly recall riding my bike round and round the block, trying to get in with my friend’s older brothers and sisters – all just turning into teenagers, and very into the latest records. Seems everyone of them had ‘My Boy Lollipop’ and I wanted a copy so badly.

I guess Millie Small was a one hit wonder. I’ve just now realized this. Shame. She made a bunch of great singles for several years to follow.

Chris Blackwell was her producer, manager, keeper. I asked him many times for Millie (as she was known outside the US) details but he had few, well none actually.

I’m always on the prowl for those elusive Millie 7′s. The one I want the most and have just never found is ‘A Mixed Up, Fickle, Moody, Self Centered, Spoiled Kind Of Boy’. Does this sound great or what?

Chris did tell me he’d done a two singles production deal with Ahmet Ertegan’s Atco in ’65, one was The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep On Running’ and the other Millie’s ‘Bloodshot Eyes’. It could have fit easily onto the DOCTOR NO soundtrack. By the way, that film was one of Chris’ first jobs. As well, he produced both singles. Good start.

Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This Wheel's On Fire / Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity

Listen: This Wheel's On Fire / Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity 11 This Wheel's On Fire.mp3

This single had a groundbreaking drug feel to it at the time (’68). I remember in the late 77, when my then girlfriend Corinne & I made our first trip to London together, shopping in Hammersmith’s outdoor market, full of cheap clothing stalls, really greasy food, used everything (including records), reggae stalls, fruits/vegetables outdoor market stuff. This was in March, perfectly cold, damp, drizzly, all the dealers drinking tea from chipped stained cups, kleenex stuffed into their cuffs for ever dripping noses and transistor radios going, all blaring BBC Radio 1. On comes ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’. Despite everything I just described, I was in heaven, now especially. We were in England! And that record playing at that very moment is forever burned into my memory. Timing was perfect.

This version is a pretty well known one, and like many songs it got a bit of a deserved break years later when ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS used it as their theme, despite a re-recorded version but still sung nonetheless by Julie but sans Brian Auger. Long before the Ab Fab usage, she was adamant about using her married name, Tippett instead of Driscoll, fair enough I guess. But, I hear she refuses to perform this song live, claims it’s too pop (she only sings jazz now). If that’s true, I say lighten up Jools. For me, it’s her best recorded performance, although the STREETNOISE album is pretty stellar. It’s a double LP, quite rare in those days, and I remember my Aunt Carm, God love her, buying it as a present for passing all my Regents Exams that June. I warned her it was a double album and therefore twice the price. She said I was worth it and just wanted me to be happy, even though she couldn’t really afford it. Is that great or what? As you can see, I’ve never forgotten.

Tin Tin

Monday, May 10th, 2010

TinTinToast, Robert Stigwood, Tin Tin, Maurice Gibb, Atco, Bee Gees

Listen: Toast And Marmalade For Tea / Tin Tin TinTinMarmalade.mp3

Not to be confused with the solo artist from the early 90′s – although both acts were UK based. This is the band from late ’69, managed by Robert Stigwood, who had a belated hit in early ’71 with ‘Toast And Marmalade For Tea’, even reaching the US Top 20.

Truth be told, they were originally from Australia, but good sense ruled and they relocated to England – just as I should’ve done already. Next life.

A slight wonder of the world this single is in actuality. Like Jonathan King’s ‘Everyone’s Gone To The Moon’ and The Lightning Seeds ‘Pure’, it was SO British sounding that I was never quite sure how it became big in the US. Just goes to show, if when given airplay, people’s tastes aren’t as stubbornly narrow as programmers smother them into appearing.

I liked this one from the title alone, even before that first spin. I couldn’t believe when months later it starting popping up on US Top 40 playlists. Possibly due to the Bee Gees connection and management clout (Maurice Gibb produced). Whatever, a sweet result.
TinTinEngland,  Robert Stigwood, Tin Tin, Maurice Gibb, Atco, Bee Gees

Listen: Set Sail For England / Tin Tin TinTinEngland.mp3

A few singles later, ‘Set Sail For England’ was a nice enough song, a bit lightweight on the lyrics, but a what a message. It’s the thought that counts after all.

Mary Wells

Friday, February 26th, 2010

MaryWellsBeatMeUSA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole
MaryWellsPunchUK, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: You Beat Me To The Punch / Mary Wells MaryWellsPunch.mp3

I agree with those who say Mary Wells was the first lady of Motown, well if I turn a blind eye to Brenda Holloway, Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell that is. I guess because she had the biggest pop crossover hit out of the bunch with ‘My Guy’ sort of justifies it. Whatever, she had the voice and the presence. There are some fantastic shots of her on various UK album sleeves, and that blond hair dye job turned brassy orange – I just love it.

No question, she and Smokey Robinson were a perfect match and gave her the biggest successes. Same with The Marvelettes. It’s just something about his productions, maybe it’s the drum sound or use of vibes combined with handclaps. Some magic recipe was definitely at work, I never could put my finger on it though.

MaryWellsTwoUSA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole
MaryWellsTwoUKA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: Two Lovers / Mary Wells MaryWellsTwoLovers.mp3

Then there’s the lyrical twist, most prevalent on ‘Two Lovers’. It doesn’t get much more clever than this. What happens at the end of this song again, how does the two lovers thing play out? I forget every time.

It’s a drag about the royalty issue that drove Mary Wells from Motown. Once burned, it’s sometimes hard for certain folks to move beyond it – by all counts, that summed up her attitude toward Berry Gordy. And so the downward spiral began.

MaryWellsDearLover, Mary Wells, Atco, Carl Davis
MaryWellsDearLoverUKA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: Dear Lover / Mary Wells MaryWellsDearLover.mp3

The fact that ‘Dear Lover’ was substandard compared to any of the Smokey songs, in a way, became the appeal. I do love a struggle to polish up something fairly mediocre in the world of singles and follow-ups. I find it rather interesting, the way all parties involved go through the motions, hoping no one else will notice that it’s actually not very good.

In the case of ‘Dear Lover’, seems producer Carl Davis basically tried copying the Motown sound – unsuccessfully. Is that a description of Northern Soul or what? Exactly the whole point of the genre, making substandard copy attempts glorious in their own way.

Probably the most Northern of any Mary Wells track, it’s absolutely become a favorite.

Alvin Robinson

Friday, February 19th, 2010

AlvinRobinsonBabyDontUSA, Alvin Robinson, Atco, Holland-Dozier-Holland

Listen: Baby Don’t You Do It / Alvin Robinson AlvinRobinsonBabyDont.mp3

Correct. It’s the Holland-Dozier-Holland hit from ’64 by Marvin Gaye, covered by many a Mod band (The Who, The Poets, The Small Faces) in that heyday, and come late ’68, by Alvin Robinson as well.

Not nearly enough Alvin Robinson circulates on 45, which is both surprising and a shame. His guttural blues vocal style was instantly signature, and copied by some of the best. Plus his guitar playing, then in much studio demand, had a similar swagger. So logically, during sessions with Dr. John, did Atco decide to give him a studio whirl, resulting in this, his only single for the label. Given the purity of his sound, and his legendary New Orleans cred, it’s rather shocking that Ahmet Ertegan and Jerry Wexler didn’t release more sides.

The nice thing about this one is it’s subtlety. You don’t realized how strong a grip it has until you find yourself playing it repeatedly. Well I did at least.

Otis Redding

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

OtisPain, Otis Redding, Volt, Atco, Steve Cropper, Upbeat, The Rolling Stones

Listen: Pain In My Heart / Otis Redding
Pain

Leave it to The Rolling Stones, they turned all us really young white kids on to the great RnB and Soul that was right here at home. Yeah it’s the oldest story in the book, but 100% true. I for one, was completely oblivious to Otis Redding until they came along. And so I started to ask for his records at WMCR, the little adult station near my parent’s house that gave me all their unusable Rock and RnB singles. Unfortunately, most of the labels only serviced them with non-RnB stuff, logically as they were playing Eydie Gorme, Dean Martin and such. Atlantic was an example, so I had to buy the occasional one, if I’d find it that is.

The first time I saw The Rolling Stones, see my Alvin Robinson post, they played this. Can remember it like yesterday. I needed this original and within days….it was mine.

OtisDirect, Otis Redding, Volt, Atco, Steve Cropper, Upbeat, The Rolling Stones

Listen: Direct Me / Otis Redding
Direct

His last known TV performance was on Cleveland’s UPBEAT, a weekly pop show that rivaled any national counterpart, in fact preceeded both SHINDIG and HULLABALOO as well as outlasting them (’64 – ’71). Seems everyone passed through town, probably intentionally to get the coverage. I’ve mentioned the show in previous posts, and without question, even a partial list of performers is pretty impressive.

Well it’s hard to forget seeing that episode, watching Otis Redding, knowing what had just happened asit was never broadcast live) Despite being endlessly respected and always name checked, he’s seldom heard. Oldies radio overplaying ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ is almost an injustice. Despite all his classics, ‘Direct Me’ comes in as my favorite. Co-written with Steve Cropper, it may have been a castoff, but I don’t care. Got it in one of those ten for a dollar boxes. Despite the B side status (‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ was the A), the single just holds a memorable place in time for me. Woolworth’s, summer ’69.

There wasn’t a bad record in that box, which also included The Pretty Things ‘Cry To Me’.

April Stevens

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

aprilstevens, April Stevens, Nino Tempo, Imperial, Liberty, Duffy, Marilyn Monroe

Listen: Teach Me Tiger / April Stevens AprilStevens.mp3

aprilstevens6501,april stevens

Listen: Teach Me Tiger – 1965 / April Stevens AprilStevens65.mp3

Doing her best Marilyn Monroe imitation, ‘Teach Me Tiger’ was too suggestive for 1958 programmers, resulting in little airplay and just making it to #86 on Billboard’s Top 100.

Not content, possibly renewed confidence took over after going to #1 with brother Nino Tempo via their rendition of ‘Deep Purple’ in ’63. April attempted another stab at ‘Teach Me Tiger’ with new label partner, Atco. ‘Teach Me Tiger – 1965′ starts with a rather awkward ‘Leader Of The Pack’ style intro, otherwise you’d swear it was the exact same version as the original. I had no idea this one existed until stumbling on it a few years back in a stack of promos at a garage sale. Still, what a fantastic track either way.

Why doesn’t anyone make singles like this nowadays? Shouldn’t someone like Duffy take a swing at this kind of camp?

And to think, she was from Niagara Falls.