Archive for the ‘BBC Radio 1’ Category

Suicide

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Above/below: front/back of the ‘Cheree’ Red Star/Bronze UK picture sleeve.

Above/below: Red Star/Bronze UK promo 1977/Demon UK promo reissue 1986

Listen: Cheree / Suicide
Cheree

Occasionally some courageous soul challenges Suicide as pioneers, claiming Silver Apples or Beaver & Krause soldiered through the unexplored industrial wild, wild west before them. Not to take anything away from either, but seriously folks. No one has ever combined menace and grace like Alan Vega and Marty Rev. Not then, not now.

Upon release in ’77, two copies of Suicide’s debut album came into the record shop I worked for. Needing nothing more than one look at the sleeve while checking in that distributor’s shipment, I decided then and there neither were finding their way to the racks. Instead, both came home with me that night, and immediately the second copy went into Howard Thompson’s pile, readying it for mailing off to London as part of our ongoing record exchange pact. Eventually signing Suicide to Bronze UK, Howard also had the guts to issue ‘Cheree’ as a 7″ A side.

Turns out the band were completely accepting of the hostility which awaited them at every stop of their first British tour, supporting both Elvis Costello & The Attractions then The Clash on that initial visit. Much attention has been focused through the years on the violent reactions Suicide successfully provoked, having everything, including an axe, hurdled at them during their sets.

Howard and Bronze, as undeterred as the band, pressed up the now very rare promo only live album, loosely known as 23 MINUTES IN BRUSSELS from two of those nights, complete with the cold blooded hatred the unsuspecting audience spewed, almost as powerfully relentless as Suicide themselves. Almost, being the key word.

Simply one of the greatest live albums ever recorded, additionally, it’s a glaring artifact of how transparent and mainstream media driven many punk audiences really were in ’78 and therein lay the proof.

No surprise that, other than John Peel, BBC Radio 1 wouldn’t touch ‘Cheree’. Bless them. Probably the last thing Suicide needed then or ever, was a hit single. Instead, they’ve graduated to higher forms of life just fine without one.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Alan Vega

Kevin Ayers

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Caribbean Moon / Kevin Ayers

Listen: Caribbean Moon / Kevin Ayers KevinAyersCaribbeanMoon.mp3

In summer ’73, you could hear ‘Caribbean Moon’ incessantly on BBC Radio 1. I know, I spent most days lying in Regent’s Park with a transistor clamped to my ear. Occasionally a policeman would wander by instructing me to turn it off. Radios were not allowed in the Queen’s Parks.

By late afternoon, I’d start my rounds of the used record stands in Soho market, before going to meet my girlfriend Claire as she got off work at the Scotch House on Regent Street. Over to The Ship on Wardour we’d go, to have some beers and maybe a sandwich if money permitted; then onto the Marquee for work.

Yes, my job consisted solely of collecting empty pint glasses for the kitchen. I was not the washing up fellow, so felt a bit of seniority on my side. The obvious perk, in addition to free beers for us both, was seeing the bands. And guess what, this was simply a daily routine for months. I had a job which paid £1 a night, lived in the west end of London and had access to the latest 7″ promo singles daily. It’s seldom been better.

Glued to Radio 1 morning til night meant getting to hear a lot of great records, many of which somehow never charted: The Kinks ‘Sitting In The Midday Sun’, Blue ‘Little Jody’, Writing On The Wall ‘Man Of Renown’, Frampton’s Camel ‘All Night Long’. This Kevin Ayers single unfortunately, was one as well.

I guess it wasn’t only me that thought it should have been a smash, as Harvest reissued it at least twice more within the next few years.

Listen: Take Me To Tahiti / Kevin Ayers KevinTahiti.mp3

There were a few resident dj’s at The Marquee. I want to say Ian Fleming and Jerry Floyd. Well Jerry someone, maybe Lloyd. Both guys were pretty cool, and we had a bit of a rivalry going on as to who could get the latest releases first. I did love when I flanked them after all, they were being serviced by the labels whereas I was slogging around the stalls picking singles up for 10p, maybe even a few they had handed off. All in good fun though.

I recall excitedly getting in one night, with this latest Kevin Ayers release. Radio 1 were already playing ‘Caribbean Moon’, but we were all jonsing to hear it’s B side ‘Take Me To Tahiti’. Everyone I knew was insatiable for Kevin Ayers that summer. Oh Lord did it sound spectacular playing through The Marquee’s sound system. Yes, this very single you see pictured above was the one that got spun at The Marquee that July night. Click on schedule above to enlarge, just to have a look at who was playing that month.

I’d always hinted to Jack Barrie, the club’s manager, that I should be the dj, but it never did happen.

Micky Moonshine

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Listen: Name It You Got It / Micky Moonshine
Name

My all time favorite Northern Soul compilation, unfortunately available only on CD, is UK Decca’s THE NORTHERN SOUL SCENE. It includes some true hits, and a whole bunch that sonically fit in, but probably weren’t originally very sought after. And through this very disc, I discovered more than a few all time favorite singles: Frankie & Johnny ‘I’ll Hold You’, The Eyes Of Blue ‘Heart Trouble’, Fearns Brass Foundry ‘Don’t Change It’, Clyde McPhatter ‘Baby You Got It’ and The Brotherhood Of Man ‘Reach Out Your Hand’ to name some, and most of which I’ve previously posted.

No surprise, ‘Name It You Got It’ comes in as a top choice as well. According to, I believe, Phil Smee’s excellent liner notes and packaging, Micky Moonshine was indeed the pseudonym of this fellow Chris Rainbow. ‘Name It You Got It’ being his only 7″, and, although never playlisted, apparently the record received a fair share of BBC Radio 1 airplay in ’74. With no resulting sales to speak of, the single was banished to the mark down bins until someone or other resuscitated it’s worthiness on the infamous Northern circuit, a very self celebrated scene of which I personally derive both musical pleasure and great amusement.

So much so was the demand that at one point, toward the end of ’75, Decca reissued the 7″ but mistakenly mispressed it’s A side, ‘Baby Blue’, on both sides of the initial run, despite correctly affixing A and B side labels. So buyers beware. Correct copies have ‘right way up’ inscribed next to the matrix number in the run off groove on the ‘Baby You Got It’ side. Therefore all ebay customers, better verify this tid bit with your seller.

James Brown

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Listen: Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (Remix) / James Brown
Give

Back in the late 80′s, when plundering a label’s master tape library to feed remix mania was prevalent, the UK offices, in particular, had an official field day unearthing soul and funk. They just couldn’t get enough of the stuff, and neither could the British consumer. Polydor’s Urban imprint, in addition to signing new acts that imitated American RnB and hip hop, cornered Polydor’s back catalog remix campaign, with older James Brown material as a flagship.

I can only guess he approved, given it did much to supplement his income, and money can change you, so to speak. Tim Rogers was brought in to do an album’s worth of his remixes, released as IN THE JUNGLE GROOVE during ’88, with ‘The Payback Remix’ reaching #12 in the UK Pop chart when coupled with this, ‘Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (Remix)’ as both a 7″ and 12″ single.

I heard it on Radio 1 almost as much as the A side, and really fell in love with it. I may even prefer it to the original.

Power Pill

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Listen: Pac Man (Mickey Finn’s Yum Yum Edit) / Power Pill
Pac Man (Mickey Finn's Yum Yum Edit) / Power Pill

How strange was that Grammy award acceptance speech from Dave Grohl a few weeks back? Dear me, he doesn’t at all seem comfortable that his Foo Fighters rock music possibly needs a fresh breath to creatively compete with newer genres, much more reflecting the sound of technology and instincts of a younger generation. This either minutes before or after an embarrassing attempt to musically collaborate with Deadmau5.

Yes, he proclaimed some rather curious mentions about singing into a microphone, learning to play your instrument, implying as long as that instrument isn’t a computer, one’s heart, imperfections and all, will prevail with better music resulting.

Huh? I guess to him, his band’s processed and polished output, to these ears at least, all apparently now recorded in his garage then tweaked to old school sonic perfection in a most high end mastering facility, is the real deal. Rock’s new soul. To each his own I suppose.

Point being, soulful music can be made on machines just as with traditional instruments if the creator has the heart he was mentioning, and the talent. His comments were not unlike Mitch Miller dismissing Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones in the early 60′s. Quite disappointing from a guy known to be supportive, friendly and a comrade.

Case in point, Power Pill. This one-off side track from Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, has more relevance today than many of the current metal posing as punk tunes being force fed down the pike by totally tuckered guitar playing 40 somethings. Check the timeline, the ‘Pac Man’ single is twenty years old.

The early 90′s, even the late 80′s, were indeed the formative periods for electronic music’s stronghold beginnings, finally surfacing in the DNA of a generation whose parents opened their ears and record shelves to Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Neu, Can, Henry Cow and many more.

Released by Roger Ames’ brilliant FFRR label, you need both the 12″ and the desperately hard to find 7″ of this one. My favorite version, Mickey Finn’s Yum Yum mix, miraculously made it to the 7′s B side in edited form.

I first heard ‘Pac Man’ on a BBC Radio 1 John Peel evening session program, driving around in Gary Crowley’s car after a rather late night at Jake’s. Never mind. I made it to the Oxford Street HMV that very next morning to scarf one of the five copies in their rack. I know, very short sighted leaving the other four behind.

Antony & The Johnsons

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Listen: You Are My Sister (Edit) / Antony & The Johnsons
You

Vicki Wickham had shopped me an Antony & The Johnsons package while still at Columbia. This must have been ’04. To be honest, I don’t even recall what my first thoughts and reactions were. Well except for one, the voice was other worldly. Without skimming any of clippings or info, I wasn’t even sure if Antony was a guy. Anthony is one name, Antony is another and not quite so established. I was curious.

But Vicki had included a video clip as well, which immediately sealed Antony Hegarty’s future potential at the label. No way. Wouldn’t do this fellow such an injustice as bringing him to an intentionally mainstream environment, even if I’d had the power, which I didn’t. Columbia just wasn’t set up for left field art. Not that I had the insight or talent to help him with his work either.

As it turned out, Rough Trade became a perfect label partner. Well done Geoff Travis.

Quite unexpectedly, ‘You Are My Sister’ was one of the first records I heard on an early ’05 trip to London. Yes, Radio 1 played this midday and it caught me quite off guard. At that very moment, I was unaware of the single’s release. Only in England would you get the mainstream national pop station playing such music, regardless of the obvious controversial possibilities associated with the artist’s lifestyle. Actually, I think they celebrate themselves ever so slightly for such defiant bravery.

As on record, Boy George duetted with them for their Jonathan Ross Show appearance. Where else could such a TV moment push the single higher up the chart? Well, maybe in France it could too.

Fluke

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Listen: Atom Bomb (Edit) / Fluke
Atom

When I excitedly played ‘Atom Bomb’ for a close friend, who also doubles as an electronic music hater, being sure it would be the one to change his mind, he instead proceeded to point out the song’s lack of a chorus. My retort was, the whole song is a chorus. Indeed that’s all it is. Neither of us were accurate of course. But it did frame how a traditional song addict could dismiss this whole genre, based on structure.

That scenario is luckily not my problem. Either it’s good music and I like it, or not.

Never loved a Fluke song before or after ‘Atom Bomb. To be clear, I liked but didn’t love those other singles.

Still can remember my first hearing of ‘Atom Bomb’. Having just landed at Heathrow via the morning flight out of JFK meant an evening London arrival. Once clearing customs, and successfully boarding a modern day miracle known as the Heathrow Express, I fired up my transistor to Radio 1. Don’t forget, this was before Wifi and apps. I was just in time to catch the very last track on Jo Whiley’s and Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session, a UK premier of ‘Atom Bomb’.

Wow, did it sound good. Those first few new records I’d hear once firing up Radio 1 after arriving in London have always made for a memorable moment. In the case of ‘Atom Bomb’, a lasting one.

Kevin Ayers

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Listen: Oh! Wot A Dream / Kevin Ayers
Oh!

You know you’re in England by switching on BBC Radio 1 midday to find this playing. Happened to me. Arriving in the UK, a wide eyed kid finally making it to this fantasy land only previously having dreamed existed, I felt like once and for all, I’d found my natural habitat.

Now such privileged music accessibility is a click away, but in ’73, things were way different.

Never did figure out where that quacking sound helping make up the beat originated from. Might be my first question for Kevin Ayers if ever we meet.

‘Oh! Wot A Dream’ is yet another stellar track from his flawless BANANAMOUR album, a gem worth digging hard and paying highly for.

Kevin Ayers has stated in interviews that ‘Oh! Wot A Dream’ was about his friend, colleague and Harvest label mate Syd Barrett.

“You are the most extraordinary person / You write the most peculiar kind of tunes / I met you floating as I was boating / One Afternoon”.

Pretty much covers it.

The Kinks

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Listen: Sitting In The Midday Sun / The Kinks
Sitting In The Midday Sun / The Kinks

June 26, 1973. The first day these two feet ever touched British soil or more accurately, the carpeting at Heathrow. Just dug through my sock drawer to verify. It’s where all the old passports are kept.

Three days later, ‘Sitting In The Midday Sun’ was officially released in the UK, according to the label copy on the demo pictured above. And that’s probably very accurate, given it was one of the first records heard when I finally, like finally, finally, finally got to hear BBC Radio 1. Believe it, in those days, the great radio of the UK was not a click away.

Now there are many priceless summertime songs, and one could opinion differently, but ‘Sitting In The Midday Sun’ is amongst the very best. Always overlooked, often for The Kinks’ own ‘Sunny Afternoon’, but don’t be fooled. This is the one. The tingle of hearing The Kinks new single on the radio that day in June ’73 was a grand privilege. Despite ‘Lola’ being a massive US hit just three years earlier, by ’73 The Kinks were relegated to finished, has beens, completely washed up by American programmers. But in homeland England, they were still being played on the radio, a kind of musical precursor to open source.

I know exactly the spot where this monumental moment occurred. It was about two hundred yards into Regents Park, sitting up against the first tree to the very left of the park entrance directly opposite the Great Portland Street tube station. This became my good luck spot for making a fake pillow (music was not allowed in the Queen’s Park, as a bobby once gently scolded) out of cousin Dinah’s large transistor radio and spending hours listening almost daily.

Dinah still has that wireless in her kitchen, and lives in the same flat a few blocks away on Cleveland Street, W1. I visit her and the radio every time I’m there.

That spot and that radio introduced Roy Wood ‘Dear Elaine’, Junior Campbell ‘Sweet Illusion’, Linda Lewis ‘Rock A Doodle Doo’, Dave Edmunds ‘Born To Be With You’, Kevin Ayers ‘Caribbean Moonshine’ and The Honeybus ‘For You’, amongst many, to this insatiable teenager.

All great singles but nothing near the direct hit ‘Sitting In The Midday Sun’ delivered. I was still in a swirl from up and moving to England without a plan in the world, and only $200 in my pocket. The beautiful insanity of youth, you have to love it. It was as though Ray Davies was speaking right at me, every last word. A little frightening in one way, given almost all of them applied. Thankfully the song’s calming conclusion helped keep the two pints I’d chugged en route at the Tower Tarvern on Clipstone Street down.

A little over two weeks later, The Kinks played a one day, outdoor festival at the White City Stadium in London. I didn’t want to go, it was expensive and other than Lindisfarne, the few UK bands playing were regulars at The Marquee. Besides, I recall a load of US groups as well, like Edgar Winter, by then quite polished and nothing like the soul review of Edgar Winter’s White Trash from a few years prior. I came to England to escape American bands. But how could I miss The Kinks, especially as I was now possessed by ‘Sitting In The Midday Sun’.

It was a cold day for July. Never will I forget exiting the tube at White City and thinking, “I don’t want to do this”. Literally did an about face and decided to go back, then stopped. What an idiot, coming all this way and already having bought the ticket. Still, something felt not right.

Turned out this was the day Ray Davies quit on stage, just like that. Said he was “Fucking sick of it all’ straight after playing ‘Waterloo Sunset’, and left to the horror of the crowd. Everyone literally looked at each other in fear, was this really happening? Days later, all the music press covers announced the bad news to the world. ‘Ray Davies Quits Kinks’, as the MELODY MAKER headline read. I still have my copy.

Radio 1 stopped playing ‘Sitting In The Midday Sun’.

Listen: Sweet Lady Genevieve / The Kinks
Sweet Lady Genevieve / The Kinks

It was not a good week. Family also announced their breakup. Two of my all time favorites, gone. Still, with glam in full swing, the mind did wander and life did go on.

Miracles can happen. What seemed like an eternity in reality lasted about three weeks. Ray Davies was now out of the hospital, where he’d gone directly following his stage exit that day for a stomach pumping. False alarm, The Kinks were in tact, with a new single in the wings even.

Was it the joy of having The Kinks back that made ‘Sweet Lady Genevieve’ sound even better? I don’t think so. We were all crazy about this record. Well, Corinne and I that is.

By Fall, both of those UK A sides were coupled as a US 7″ on RCA, and an American tour announced. We ventured to New York for the triumphant return of The Kinks at The Felt Forum, and somehow figured out the band’s hotel, The Warwick on 54th Street. So we booked a room there as well.

Never a shy one, she calls the front desk and asks to be connected with Ray Davies, and sure enough, he picks up the phone. Without hesitation, Corinne explained we had traveled hundreds of miles from upstate New York to see the show, and would he be so kind as to play ‘Sweet Lady Genevieve’. My jaw was on the floor.

Did you just talk to Ray Davies? “Yep.”

The Kinks didn’t play ‘Sweet Lady Genevieve’ that night, but between songs, during either one of his Rudy Vallee style renditions or some old dancehall classic, Ray Davies did a quick a cappella verse/chorus from ‘Sweet Lady Genevieve’, and we know to this day, it was just for us.

Mungo Jerry

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Listen: Alright, Alright, Alright / Mungo Jerry
Alright, Alright, Alright / Mungo Jerry

Like McGuinness Flint before them, or Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance just after, Mungo Jerry existed in the own sonic universe while current. A kind of rag tag gypsy dance folk, or even the skiffle side of glam, whatever…it was warm weather music and a fun slop.

‘Alright, Alright, Alright’ found it’s place on Radio 1 summer ’73. Like others I’ve mentioned here, the single was an ever present soundtrack of Soho’s market stalls that season.

Only The Beach Boys can rival them in the ‘forever summer’ category.

Linda Lewis

Friday, January 28th, 2011

LindaLewisRockUK, Linda Lewis, Raft

LindaLewisDoodleUSA1, Linda Lewis, Reprise, Raft, Jim Cregan
LindaLewisDoodleUSA2, Linda Lewis, Reprise, Raft, Jim Cregan

Listen: Rock A Doodle Doo / Linda Lewis
Rock A Doodle Doo / Linda Lewis

Linda Lewis had a mid-chart UK hit with ‘Rock A Doodle Doo’ during the summer of ’73 (#15). If you were there you’d know, it was played relentlessly for weeks and weeks, almost like Radio 1 wanted to make it sell. Or maybe just because it sounded so good over the air, like in my case, coming out of a 4″ x 6″ green transistor radio (that era’s version of a hand held device), permanently borrowed off my cousin.

She looked super hot on TOP OF THE POPS, like an English Kim Weston or Tammi Terrell, but with a voice much closer to Minnie Riperton. I was well pleased to get a US promo later that fall, but had no hopes I’d ever hear it on American radio, despite Reprise releasing it twice. Unfortunately, I was right.

LindaLewisKissUSA, Linda Lewis, Reprise, Raft, Jim Cregan, Arista

Listen: It’s In His Kiss / Linda Lewis
It's In His Kiss / Linda Lewis

By 1975, she’d left Raft and Reprise for Arista. For once, Clive Davis seemed to be in step with what I’d have done if I were running the label, make Linda Lewis a star in The US. Her first album for him was great, and the lead single ‘It’s In His Kiss’, even greater and a real chance for her to flex the higher range potential of that voice. It should have been a smash here (it peaked at #6 in The UK) and sounded spectacular on the air. I know. I ran my college station and forced even the most die-hard southern rock DJ’s to spin it. They already hated my tastes, so why not flex. It’s fun being the boss sometimes.

Pulp

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Listen: Sorted For E’s & Wizz /Pulp
Sorted For E's & Wizz /Pulp

Dave Bedford from Fire Records in London became quite a good friend during my days with Island in the early 90′s, as I’d be in town for two or three week stays at a time. We had, and still do have, similar tastes in both the past and present. Logically, he and I share a vinyl addiction but more importantly, a natural chemistry about so many things. Kind of like that occasional person you meet and within hours, feel as though you’ve known your whole life.

Never did Dave make a suggestion about a band that wasn’t eye to eye with my tastes, so when he nudged me rather relentlessly about seeing Pulp in December ’91, somewhere along Portobello Road near the Rough Trade shop on Talbot, in a small pub, I was interested. Apparently, they were looking to get out of Fire and really worth checking out.

Why not? Howard was in town, so I suggested we all meet up there, see the band and have some food together. Howard brought David Field and a few friends as well. Everyone was in.

Before leaving the Island office, I asked a some of the A&R guys to join. Pulp were deemed damaged goods at that point, having gone from indie label pillar to post for several years, treading water and considered to be at a low point of no return career-wise. My invitations were met with disinterest and I’m sure a few rolled eyes once I turned away. No worries, I was planning my exit a few months down the road to start The Medicine Label. Just trying to be nice fellows.

The pub was miserably empty when Pulp went on, maybe thirty people tops. Most dwindled off after a few songs, even our posse, sans Dave Bedford, decided to go down the road for a drink and wait for us to finish having a look.

I was in awe. They seemed fantastic. Dave was right. Jarvis (one of the best radio presenters in the world at the moment btw) doing his routine, fitted out in a wide wale brown hip hugger corduroy suit replete with white belt. Literally straight out of a Scott Walker photo essay, no surprise there.

Next day in the office, I couldn’t shake the previous night’s show. They were clearly too English to try working with for US only, and the London office were sternly not interested. No one was waiting for me to walk away before rolling their eyes now. So I just drifted off rather defeated, accepting I was born in the wrong place, wrong time to do anything professional with Pulp, just needed to be content staying a fan.

Six months later, I was setting up my label through Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, and the new regime at Island UK were signing Pulp.

Good for them. For my money, the band’s first proper Island album was DIFFERENT CLASS, a picture perfect creative culmination of all their new found confidence yet not so distant hardships at being kicked about for years. DIFFERENT CLASS become a stake in music history’s timeline.

“Sorted For E’s And Wizz’, having maybe the best title ever for a song and despite being spotlighted by the mainstream press as obviously drug related, hurled itself to #2 in the UK singles chart. Not initially, which was frustrating, but eventually pressed on 7″ vinyl, the single finally graced the library shelves. Fun and funny as it is, there’s some chilling lyric bits and all too true. A desert island single. Hands down.

Listen: Disco 2000 / Pulp
Disco 2000 / Pulp

Fuck me, did this sound good compressed as hell via Radio 1′s signal and coming out of the car dashboard. Those opening chords had every shotgun seat occupant diving for the volume dial. Involuntary reaction.

Listen: Disco 2000 (7″ Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (7

I seem to remember this single mix being done for the US. God knows why. I mean, the band came over and supported Blur in ’94, thereby building a nice following and deserved airplay, but of course radio…..

The Blur / Pulp tour played at New York’s Academy. Remembered this well, it was Corinne’s birthday, September 29, 1994. Seeing Pulp was a perfect present, she loved them from day one. Only problem being she wanted to do something or other straight afterwards, hence dragged my ass out just as Blur were hitting their third number. Bummer, but it was her birthday.

Listen: Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp

Nice thing about the above ‘Disco 2000 (7″ Mix)’: it gave Island an excuse to press up a jukebox single, basically the trend amongst the labels at that time. These singles were low end design, paperless label, large center hole and very limited, literally for jukeboxes.

It was coupled with ‘Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix)’, a near eight minute techno club version that made it’s way onto a rather nice promo 12″ some months earlier. The 12 was played a lot, like a real lot, in the house on the Dual stacking turntable I’d bought at the Warner Brothers Records used equipment sale for employees. $10, and still works like a charm to this day.

One of Pulp’s crowning moments was headling an all day event at Finsbury Park on July 25, 1998. It was a Saturday, I desperately wanted to get back home after a week in London, but decided it could be worth pushing my flight back by a day. Turned out being one of my better decisions in life.

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.

The Honeybus

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

She Sold Blackpool Rock / The Honeybus

Listen: She Sold Blackpool Rock / The Honeybus HoneybusBlackpool.mp3

With a name like The Honeybus, you were asking to be overlooked in America. That is unless an Anglophile was in earshot. Then: instant magnet. Funny about that. What exactly is this language that we all understand? Must be in the DNA.

What a job finding ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’, their first US single here at home. Finally begged one out of Deram’s New York office – after a few hand written pleads. Oddly enough, the record was their third release in the UK, but first to chart (#8, March ’68), apparently mustering up enough reason to schedule ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ in the States.

Despite every single being a classic, seems they were too English even for the English themselves, as is quite apparent with fifth single, ‘She Sold Blackpool Rock’, which didn’t chart, nor get a US release. Nonetheless, legendary status.

She Is The Female To My Soul / The Honeybus

Listen: She Is The Female To My Soul / The Honeybus HoneybusSheIsTheFemale.mp3

I wasn’t aware they’d even made a single for Bell in ’71. Only when trolling through the stalls at Cheapo Cheapo on Rupert Street (famous for being the place all the radio DJ’s, pluggers and journalists unloaded their promos for cash) during the summer of ’73 did I stumble upon ‘She Is The Female To My Soul’. The very hot July sun didn’t prevent me from breaking out in a cold sweat, frozen in place on initial glance. Could not get back to the apartment fast enough for a listen. Wow, this sounded fantastic. Vocalist/writer Pete Dello has an immaculate fullness to his voice, and his melodies are….more Ray Davies than the man himself.

For You / The Honeybus

Listen: For You / The Honeybus HoneybusForYou.mp3

Within days of discovering ‘She Is The Female To My Soul’, Radio 1 played a brand new Honeybus release ‘For You’. I remember vividly lying in the grass at Regents Park, ever so quietly listening to BBC 1, when boom.

At the time, radios were not allowed in the Queen’s Park, specifically an oasis of serenity for city dwellers. One needed to lie on the radio with a jacket draped over all corners, a sort of fake pillow – and play music at very low volume. I certainly was not ready for Honeybus shock number two. Despite having a meticulous fact soaking sponge brain when it came to records, and combing through Melody Maker / Disc & Music Echo / NME religiously on a weekly basis, I hadn’t noticed any mention of a new Honeybus single. In fact, there was no indication from the press that the band still existed at all.

Hearing ‘For You’ that first time was a religious experience. I jumped up, and bolted along Great Portland Street crossing Oxford, making my way down Berwick and over to Rupert, knowing a fresh review copy had to be at Cheapo Cheapo. I must have been pushing people aside en route. Honestly, I was in a state. Lo and behold my day, my week, my summer was made. There it was, literally front single in the ‘New Arrivals’ row. ‘For You’ was waiting for me, seriously, we were meant to spend our lives together.

Julie In My Heart / The Honeybus

Listen: Julie In My Heart / The Honeybus HoneybusJulie.mp3

Years later, the continually popular ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ was reissued by Deram’s parent company Decca. This pressing introduced a previously unissued song on it’s B side, ‘Julie In My Heart’, a track worthy of A side status well before hundreds and hundreds of others allocated to such a position. Where is Pete Dello now – where has he been for so many years? Hey MOJO, how about honoring him at one of your yearly do’s?

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.

Leftfield

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Listen: Afrika Shox (7″ Edit) / Leftfield featuring Afrika Bambaataa LeftfieldAfrikaShox.mp3

Paul Daly and Neil Barnes were, in hindsight, very sharp. Forget that they created Leftfield and made two classic albums. Forget that their musical instincts were always pretty spot on. A lot to forget, agreed.

The sharpness refers to how they read senior management at US Columbia with such clarity. You’d swear there was twenty five years of music business experience under their belts, or some such credit.

A poison had set in to the major label/radio monopoly long before Leftfield tested the waters of their UK label’s sister company, Columbia in ’99. Corruption prevented many great records from US airplay, eventually dummy-ing down music as being a big part of culture in America. Sounds heavy and political but look at what happened: endless worthy songs never got heard by the masses. Not until now, given radio’s monopoly has crumbled and their power base fizzled. Funniest bit is these programming gatekeepers and major labels think they’re still in cahoots, controlling what consumers get to hear. I honestly believe many of them don’t realize the internet and synchs have rendered their game over. Double whammy: radio drove their listeners away with stubborn musical policies, fueled mySpace, Hype Machine, Pandora…you name it, plus the rise of acts that don’t need radio at all. You’ve got to love it.

Well, back to Leftfield. They were having no part of the hollow intensions Columbia US dangled their way in an effort to keep happy the UK execs. After all, our team had to patronize the English office somewhat given their US superstars needed proper commitments in Britain to succeed. It was a typical horse and pony dance. In the end, most UK artists who bought in would get burned. Ultimately, they’d owe a lot of money in recoupable tour support, arriving here to find there was no real commitment at radio and hence….clunck. They should have stayed home. Sadly, it happened almost every last time.

Well word got back. Leftfield didn’t bite. Potential fans got cheated out of seeing them play the US, but the guys protected their business model and futures. It was a hard call.

Still, every act needed a US A&R rep, and about the only one on staff with an interest in English bands was me. Perfect. Meant I got to spend time in the UK and get involved in the recording process.

By the time Leftfield’s second album, RHYTHM AND STEALTH was being prepared, Paul invited me to his place in Camden for a playback of the roughs. Both he and Neil were totally down to earth, friendly and inclusive guys. Made it even more awkward to sit there in total awe of what was playing while trying to act casual. You ever get the feeling you’re in the best place the solar system has to offer when at a show or rehearsal or a session? Well, this was one of those times – like how the fuck did I get so lucky? Every track was, well, listen to the album.

‘Afrika Shox’ felt like a first single straight off. I think we played it three times in a row. At five-ish minutes long, how’s it possible to feel no time is passing, then the song’s suddenly over? That’s a dependable sign of greatness. Sure enough, ‘Afrika Shox’ landed at #7 in the UK singles chart and Leftfield were back.

Listen: Phat Planet / Leftfield LeftfieldPhatPlanet.mp3

Yet another entry to the double A sided lifetime achievement list results by coupling ‘Afrika Shox’ with ‘Phat Planet’. I admit, once Annie Nightingale gave this a spin on her BBC Radio 1 late night break beat show, ‘Phat Planet’ never sounded the same. It was a wake up slap in the face to it’s greatness, not the first time Annie has done that to me.

Albert Hammond

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Listen: The Free Electric Band / Albert Hammond AlbertHammondFreeElectric.mp3

Ok, so Albert Hammond made his real mark as a songwriter, credits including The Hollies, Aswad, Blue Mink, The Fortunes, Tina Turner at best. Many of his biggest earners were of the more gack inducing mainstream nuisance types. Songs you could neither stand nor avoid during their reign.

That’s ok, there’s room for everybody I suppose. And given his one international hit, ‘The Free Electric Band’, all is pretty much forgiven.

I think I may actually recall every song I heard on UK radio in ’73. I was that focused on it. Couldn’t get enough. Radio 1 was my non stop soundtrack. Back then, pop music would end at midnight on the BBC or it would have been 24/7.

There were a handful of singles that peaked in the mid teens, like Junior Campbell’s ‘Sweet Illusion’, and this was one (#19) as well. Even better. A nice slow grinder of a climb insured a load of airplay.

Early moog sounds always caught the UK’s ear. Maybe that’s why this worked over there instead of his US smash ‘It Never Rains in Southern California’.

The Future Sound Of London

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Listen: We Have Explosive (7″ Edit) / The Future Sound Of London FSOLExplosive.mp3

May ’97 in London had a few really rainy, cold days. You’d have sworn it was February. Perfect, just as England should be.

I know, I was there. I think it was a trip to hear the new Primal Scream album, maybe meet with them about releasing it through Columbia via Creation Records’ deal with us. And just by coincidence, The Cramps were playing two nights at The Astoria….just by coincidence. Working at major labels, where the entire senior staff were asleep at the wheel musically, did have it’s benefits.

‘We Have Explosive’ had peaked at #12 a few weeks earlier, and was still all over Radio 1. Can vividly remember shivering in Gary Crowley’s car, as he unsuccesfully atempted to coax heat out of the dashboad, on our way to Jakes from the Sony Building, via Marble Arch on a nasty day in nasty traffic, and this one lifting the mood 1000%.

Not only one of the best artist names ever, turns out FSOL were also tops at documenting a precise musical snapshot of that very moment in time.

Jerry Lee Lewis

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

jerryleelewissmashep, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Sirius

Listen: High School Confidential / Jerry Lee Lewis JerryLeeLewisHigh.mp3

“Sounding as good as the day it was recorded”. Bob Dylan thinks so. Me too.

Have you ever listened to Bob Dylan’s THEME TIME RADIO program on Sirius? It is the best radio I have ever heard. Honestly, right up there with a lot of the BBC’s output through the years. Mind you, he has an army of researchers helping out, and credit is due there as well. For true, THEME TIME RADIO is simply worth the price of a Sirius subscription.

So yeah, he played this one the other day – well I heard it the other day – it could’ve been a repeat. I always hoped The Cramps would cover ‘High School Confidential’. They would have shredded it.

This is from a precious, four song, promo only 7′, sent round to radio and press when Smash signed him, and licensed some of his original Sun sides for a GOLDEN HITS package. It’s a beauty, right?

But can you imagine seeing Jerry Lee Lewis in his prime? I saw him play New York about fifteen years ago, he’d signed to Sire at the time. I always say either you’re the real deal or you’re not, therefore age doesn’t really matter. Think, Little Richard vs Candlebox. And Jerry Lee Lewis is clearly the real deal. Obviously the stage show was not as physically chaotic as in the aforementioned heyday, but still he radiated a kind of ‘higher form of life’ glare.

Next day he turned up in the office to see Seymour Stein, who was just down the hall. The glare is even more intense up close, strange odor (not bad, but strange) and his skin was a grey-ish, lavender color. It was all just fantastic.

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.