Archive for the ‘The Birds’ Category

Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band

Monday, April 11th, 2016

ZootWillie, Zoot Money, Decca

Listen: The Uncle Willie / Zoot Money ZootWillie.mp3

If you ever see the double LP, HARD UP HEROES, do yourself a favor, buy immediately. Released on UK Decca in ’74, the compilation is a proper collection of their deep 60′s catalog, mostly gritty blues leaning acts, and packaged beautifully. It was here that I first heard ‘The Uncle Willie’.

As with other tracks by The Graham Bond Organization, Alexis Korner, Them, The Birds and John Mayall, it epitomized what I imagined the seedy clubs of London’s Soho to sound like. I’ll never know, but bet I’m right.

Zoot Money already had his Big Roll Band rolling by then. For whatever reason, their moniker was left off the label copy, but their signature sound was sure there to be heard. Man, did I want to own this single from that first listen. Took me a few years, but I got it. Just as expected, the audio on the 7″ was even more authentic than the LP pressing, which in original mono, sounded pretty great already.

Years later, like thirty or so, a live cd from The Flamingo was issued. This band was clearly full and exciting live, as their rendition of ‘The Uncle Willie’ proved.

ZootBigTime, Zoot Money, Epic

Listen: Big Time Operator / Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band ZootBigTime.mp3

Pretty sure it was 2003, the Maximum Rhythm & Blues Tour, a yearly-ish event, played The Royal Albert Hall, and by sheer luck, I was there for work. Jackie Hyde arranged not only tickets, but passes to the after show. As if having just watched Manfred Mann, with both Paul Jones and Mike D’Abo doing their respective hits, Chris Farlowe, The Alan Price Set and Colin Blunstone wasn’t enough, the post show bit was a corucopia of their musician friends from the 60′s. I’m sure there were guys milling about, by now unrecognizable, that would’ve been great jukebox tab scores, but who could tell.

Not the case with Zoot Money. You couldn’t miss him. Jovial and very approachable, he laid a bunch of Marquee stories my way and had no idea ‘Big Time Operator’ came graced with a picture sleeve in the US.

ZootJukebox, Zoot Money, Jukebox Tab

What a great guy to talk with, and pretty good memory too. Wanting a jukebox tab, I didn’t know the B side to ‘The Uncle Willie’, but he did.

The Birds

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Listen: No Good Without You Baby / The Birds

The Birds, like their leader Ronnie Wood, seemed forever destined to second tier, always in supporting roles. Yet years later, their lack of first division ideas wonderfully tarnished them with a rather perfect time period sound, ideally suited for the musical backdrop of some British beat boom documentary. But after all, they were on Decca, which in hindsight is regarded as one of the holy grail UK labels for the genre.

To many, Decca has forever been saddled as the company that passed on The Beatles. I however say that’s only one of their greatest achievements. Signing The Rolling Stones being the other. Whether by design or accident, it certainly led them down a path that attracted Them, The Moody Blues, The Graham Bond Organization, The Zombies, The Beazers, The Artwoods, The Small Faces, The Nashville Teens, Zoot Money, The Move and other such hard up heroes, of which The Birds were included.

Several years back, while in London for work, I had conveniently scheduled my trip around The Olympia Record Fair. Getting there somewhat early, but not when doors opened, the first dealer I encountered, off to the left most side of the venue, was not surprisingly unbothered by any customers. His make shift boxes of 7′s unattractively assembled across his table, with as many sloppy boxes below, about two dozen in all. No wall hangings highlighting high end items, no colorful signs, no sizzle of any kind. Everything was either £1, £3 or £5.

Having decided to systematically cover the entire event, I began with this fellow, technically the first dealer far left, with every intention of moving right across the entire lot to the other side. Despite his unkept presentation, I reminded myself there was a plan and not to abandon it by skipping his table, before even starting.

Barely through the first box, I realized it’s entire contents were Decca or Decca distributed A Labels. Temporarily skipping to the second and discovering it to be the same, I asked him about his wares, inquiring was it coincidence they were all Decca’s. Turns out he didn’t regularly sell at the fairs, pretty obvious from the shabby boxes alone, but had stumbled on a retired Decca employee with an attic full of records from his 60′s heyday, and here they all were.

Well, I nearly blacked out. Luckily, a friend had come along with me, and immediately had the defensive sense to inform any other customers wandering up that the entire table was being sold. This gave me time to plow through and grab pretty much all of them. In hindsight, I still stress about leaving Les Reed or Ted Heath type singles behind, and wonder constantly if there was something I’d missed.

The unexpected discovery was one of life’s greatest moments, and a reminder to never judge a book by it’s cover. Amongst the many, many, many incredible purchases that day at that table: ‘No Good Without You Baby’ as well the other two Decca singles from The Birds.

The London Olympia Record Fair, which happens regularly, is in fact this weekend. Never ever pass it up.

Eddie Holland / The Birds

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Listen: Leaving Here / Eddie Holland

Bizarre thing this. ‘Leaving Here’ has to be the only song from the entire Motown machine’s output with literally a chorus so weak, you might even declare it has no chorus at all.

Despite seeming like a poor man’s ‘Fingertips’, I always loved the momentum and, I guess you could say, groove of this version, but was never ever able to sing it around the house.

Listen: Leaving Here / The Birds

Along come The Birds, and as part of the British beat boom’s stampede to cover American Motown and soul records, wisely chose to tackle ‘Leaving Here’.

In the process, the band actually write a strong chorus, something that was never needed before, certainly not at Motown, and has probably never happened since. And they don’t even try claiming part of the publishing, which they would have deserved. Chalk it up to the innocence of youth, a weak manager or both I suppose.

Davie Jones & The King Bees

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Listen: Liza Jane / Davie Jones & The King Bees
Liza Jane / Davie Jones & The King Bees

If you don’t succeed, try try again. That’s the story of David Bowie. Took him five long years, a lifetime in youth, to get his first hit with ‘Space Oddity’. Even that was looking like a one hit wonder story waiting to unfold for a few years thereafter. He made a lot of great singles in that initial window, starting with ‘Liza Jane’.

It’s hard to challenge ‘The London Boys’ from ’66 as the ultimate snapshot of that city’s beat group culture, although ‘Liza Jane’ comes close. The song, like the band, rubs shoulders with Them, The Birds and a good half of UK Decca’s roster in the day.