Archive for the ‘Little Richard’ Category

H. B. Barnum

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Listen: Heartbreaker / H. B. Barnum

Let’s not forget what seemingly mediocre productions of non charting, weak Motown copy songs from the late 60′s and early 70′s became. They became a genre to themselves: Northern Soul.

Everyone loves the greatest songs ever written. Some people love the dodgy followups and non hits just as much. To be exact, that would be me, and in this particular situation, followers of Northern Soul.

Give a few of these songs two or three listens and you won’t believe what can happen. All those supposedly calculated, devoid of original idea tracks get under your skin in the most addictive way.

Scour the label for writer, arranger or producer credits, plus certain publishers and/or production companies, and you’ll start to find several reoccurring names, some whose careers blossomed later; or critically acclaimed folks that you want to like, but just never really got round to.

For some, the producer of ‘Heartbreaker’, David Axelrod, fits that bill. One of the house production guys at Capitol during the period, you’ll notice him often on label credits. Pay closer attention and a whole new world of untapped records will be come into your life and onto your want list.

Likewise H. B. Barnum, but more so as an arranger, back when songs needed arranging I guess: The Supremes, Little Richard and, in a most hands on capacity, Lou Rawls.

A few of H. B. Barnum’s many non hits spilled over to Northern Soul, like ‘Heartbreaker’, re-released in ’76 as a result of the UK’s insatiable taste for flops from America.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Friday, December 9th, 2011

I Put A Spell On You ('66) / Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Listen: I Put A Spell On You (’66 Version) / Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

“Let me tell you one thing, a leopard don’t change it’s spots.”

That’s what Screamin’ Jay Hawkins had to say about Little Richard’s then recent denouncement of drugs and sex. This was ’85, and he’d just done his first New York show in a long, long time at some short lived venue near Chinatown. He was at a career low. After the performance, he and his wife came out to the front bar for a drink with Eric and Mel, and Corinne and I. The four of us were about the only folks who showed up. We’d looked forward to it for weeks. How could this public indifference be possible?

Didn’t matter to him, his show was full on. Came out of the coffin, the whole ten yards. We sat for a good hour, Eric and I just pouring questions on him, learning that he kept all his stage props at his son’s place in New Jersey when not in use and that included the coffin. I was enthralled with Little Richard since seeing him on The Dick Cavett Show in the late 60′s at which time he was making a bit of a comeback, having just signed to Reprise and was more flamboyant than ever. Just hysterical, really camp and out of control, most likely cocaine fueled. By ’85, Little Richard’s whole drill was about finding God and denouncing his old ways. So I asked Screamin Jay if he knew him, and had he really given up all those fun things. And that was his response.

Having been ripped off royally for publishing and record royalties when ‘I Put A Spell On You’ was originally released in ’58 (it’s rumored to have sold 1M copies for which Screamin’ Jay Hawkins saw zilch), he decided to re-record it for US Decca in ’66, giving it an Otis Redding/Bar Kays soul review rave-up. Not a widely known version, it’s here for a listen.

Voodoo / Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Listen: Voodoo / Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Around ’74, he did a one-off for RCA, ‘Voodoo’. No info on this or if any other tracks were recorded. Who at RCA would have signed him, and why? But thanks still to that brave, unknown A&R executive.

Heart Attack And Vine / Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Listen: Heart Attack And Vine / Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

In ’93, his version of ‘Heart Attack And Vine’, from a UK album BLACK MUSIC FOR WHITE PEOPLE, was used in a Levi’s campaign and charted at #42 in the UK. It was his only ever chart entry there or anywhere. At least he got to experience some justice prior to getting into that coffin one last time.

Little Richard / Quincy Jones

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Listen: Money Is / Little Richard
Money Is / Little Richard

How do you take a period piece blaxploitation style soundtrack composition, and make a proper song out of it, one that might actually get heard and become a radio hit? In the case of turning ‘Money Runner’ (below) into ‘Money Is’ (above): bring up the electric guitar chords, the love hangover Rhodes keys and add a RnR legend. Voilà.

Oh, don’t forget one other ingredient. Quincy Jones. Check out his discography sometime. How did he do it all….and when? Did this guy ever sleep?

I bet there’s recordings so obscure, so off his radar, even he doesn’t remember. Troll through your old Mercury soundtracks some time. Or just check credits on Mercury releases from the mid 60′s. Start with Lesley Gore.

Not until filing stuff from last summer’s trip to London did it even come to my attention he’d worked with Little Richard at all. It’s constantly a mad dash against time, sorting through piles of promos every trip to Graham Stapleton’s basement shop in Fulham. I just end up grabbing, then reading the fine print a later.

Listen: Money Runner / Quincy Jones
Money Runner / Quincy Jones

Incidental music for films, many times more experimental and mesmerizing than those intended works meant to push the envelope could ever be. The rare talent of turning actions into sounds, like the ending of ‘Money Runner’, is what separates us common people from Quincy Jones.

I never saw the film, but it sure sounds like a heist to me.

Otis Redding

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Listen: Shout Bamalama / Otis Redding OtisBamalama.mp3

Recorded in ’60 and issued early the next year as Otis Redding & The Pinetoppers on both the Confederate and Orbit labels, ‘Shout Bamalama’ was quickly picked up by the King subsidiary Bethlehelm. Despite these various pressings, it was a nasty process trying to find a copy. Most common is the later reissue on King proper, released simply as Otis Redding. And even that is damn scarce.

Sue UK picked up ‘Shout Bamalama’ four years later, in ’65, trading off on the frenzy surrounding his live shows and subsequent success of PAIN IN MY HEART entering Britain’s album chart. As with the US King pressing, the record was issued only as Otis Redding.

Sue UK was in full force that year, both as an outlet for US Sue masters and stray singles such as ‘Shout Bamalama’, conveniently available for licensing in England from small American blues and RnB imprints. The label’s release schedule was a jaw dropper.

Listen: Fat Girl / Otis Redding OtisFatGirl.mp3

It was no surprise to read Otis Redding sighting Little Richard as his biggest influence in THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LITTLE RICHARD: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY, certainly not after having heard both sides of this single. It’s pounding, driving, stomping soul review delivery was indeed Little Richard’s blueprint.

‘Fat Girl’ sounds maybe like one of Otis Redding’s earliest songwriting attempts, thankfully not covering his tracks, and thereby parking itself next to ‘Get Down With It’, in my opinion, Little Richard’s shining moment on 7″, and a single I’ve posted previously.

Little Richard

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Listen: Get Down With It / Little Richard

It has been written, by Charles White, that this is the greatest rock and roll record ever recorded in England. Who is Charles White? Good question.

The answer: he’s aka Dr Rock, is the official biographer to Little Richard and author of the books ‘The Life And Times Of Little Richard’ and ‘Killer – The Jerry Lee Lewis Biography’. All of the preceding info I lifted from the liner notes of the cd reissue GET DOWN WITH IT – THE OKEH SESSIONS. But beware.

I was well excited when I saw this one on the Sony release schedule back in 2004. The packaging turned out great. The detail being particularly good. Unfortunately, it’s all the stereo versions which have been restored, remastered, cleaned, polished, shined with every bit of dirt, grime, filth and slime removed. Little Richard without the dirt, grime, filth and slime is just not…very appealing. Try finding the vinyl singles, especially ‘Poor Dog’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Discuss It’, and the LP, THE EXPLOSIVE LITTLE RICHARD, all on the Okeh label instead. If you do buy this cd, keep the booklet but toss the disc.

Even if you accomplish all the above, you won’t be done, because during Little Richard’s tenure with Okeh, he recorded that aforementioned ‘greatest rock and roll record’ in London during December ’66. It was called ‘Get Down With It’. The cd was quite rightly titled after it and that particular single was only ever released in the UK on Columbia, Okeh’s British distributor. God knows why. So basically, to really complete your journey, you’ll need to own this UK 7″. Good luck. I do wish you it, but don’t wait up. It’s a pretty hard one to locate.

Unexpectedly, ‘Get Down With It’ was produced by EMI’s Norman Smith, who also took on said chore for both The Pink Floyd’s PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN and The Pretty Things’ SF SORROW albums. This track perfectly documents that intoxicating and lost in history delta, chitlin’ circuit, sweat and liquor drenched roadhouse sound. To think, this studio version never saw the light of day in the US until the cd came out in ’04. I wonder why they didn’t issue this at the time, and why the mono version of ‘Get Down With It’ wasn’t included as a cd bonus track at least?

As for Charles White’s statement that this is the greatest rock and roll record ever recorded in England, he just might be right.

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.


Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Two For The Price Of One / Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson

Listen: Two For The Price Of One / Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson 01 Two For The Price Of One 1.mp3

These guys teamed up around ’66 and reportedly invented the term ‘party animal’ Hollywood style. Fantastic stories of cocaine and sexual escapades surround the myth. The whole time, they were contracted to the Okeh label, as both solo artists and a duo; as well writers and producers. That label’s output in the the mid 60′s is pretty flawless, and feeds the Northern Soul fetish solidly: Little Richard, Cookie Jackson, Billy Butler & The Enchanters, Sandi Sheldon, The Vibrations etc. The singles and the LP they did together, TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE, are all musts for a proper record collection. The autobiographical 7″ of the same name tells you the story.

Mercy Mercy Mercy / Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson

Listen: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy / Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson Mercy Mercy Mercy.mp3

Then it’s their East LA/Watts version of ‘Mercy Mercy Mercy’ which packs soul grease (as the DISC & MUSIC ECHO review described it) into the otherwise bland Pat Boone style rendition The Buckinghams bravely brought to US Top 40. Not surprisingly, Larry Williams & Johnny Guitar Watson’s version went unheard. Ahh – American radio.