Archive for the ‘The Pink Floyd’ Category

Jason Crest

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Listen: Turquoise Tandem Cycle / Jason Crest
Turquoise

The most hardcore psychedelic music prioritized itself just as it read: psychedelic first, music second. I loved the insanity of it as much as the next guy, it’s power to baffle the unsuspecting listener was hard to top. Unfortunately, struggling through a whole side of what LSD supposedly sounded like on a compilation, or worse yet an entire cd, always got tedious around these parts.

A 7″ single, freestanding, that was another story. I like to think I was well adept in the style, with The Smoke ‘My Friend Jack’ or The Pretty Things ‘Defecting Grey’ being favorites when current. Compared to the average American teenager, my friends and I were definitely hardcore. But to the true psychedelic addicts, we were lightweight I’m sure. Given the choices were everywhere for a summer or two made stumbling on the obscure not very difficult, especially when, in my case, a cousin in London was happily exchanging UK psychedelic singles for US soul hits.

If I’d read about something, or just saw a trade ad in DISC & MUSIC ECHO or MELODY MAKER, on to my list it would go. And weeks later, for the simple task of mailing off something like The Supremes ‘Reflections’ or Gladys Knight & The Pips ‘The End Of Our Road’, The Accent ‘Red Sky At Night’ or Jason Crest ‘Turquoise Tandem Cycle’ would turn up in my parents postbox. Good deal.

‘Turquoise Tandem Cycle’ certainly could double as a blueprint for sweet shoppe lyrics meets kitchen sink production, all carefully assembled for the psychedelic cause. Add in a large dose of no fun, and ptoff, we have a masterpiece. I’ve seen this record called just that on a few occasions. I don’t necessarily disagree as long as were clear of what kind of a masterpiece.

Having played it many, many times during those long, late summer vacation nights, it will always touch a soft spot. It’s admittedly silly compared to The Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’, but so is Napoleon XIV ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away’ and anyone who snubs that is a moron.

Pink Floyd

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Listen: Julia Dream (Mono) / Pink Floyd
Julia

Here’s how I remember it, and believe me, this is accurate.

Pink Floyd, or The Pink Floyd as they were initially known, took several years to get noticed by many in the US other than hardcore Anglophiles. Their first two American singles, ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘See Emily Play’, were impossible to find at retail. In fact, the only stock copy of ‘Arnold Layne’ I’ve ever seen is the one I own, a special order via Smith’s Records in Oneida, NY. ‘See Emily Play’…I’ve seen three stock copies. Mrs. Smith managed to get me this also, plus two others for the shop. I believe these qualify as a few miracles on Phelps Street, where her store was located.

Their debut full length, PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN sold a bit, but the followup, A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS, never charted, never got played, hardly got distributed. The album was so good, in ways my all time favorite by Pink Floyd. How could this have happened? Not forgetting, they lost Syd Barrett around this period as well. Most bands wouldn’t have recovered.

Now to the point. If getting the aforementioned singles when current sounded, and certainly were, a challenge, imagine the next few.

US only single, ‘The Gnome’, invented the process of sinking without trace. In some ways, it’s the least common. In some ways.

By their fourth, ‘Apples And Oranges’, the 45′s weren’t even charting in the UK. Despite a second appearance on AMERICAN BANDSTAND miming it pitifully, or maybe because of, nobody cared. Not true for this little kid at 334 Roberts Street. I was hyperventilating at the mere mention of it, and found a promo copy amongst a small pile of giveaways reserved for the dance competition winner at the Purple Haze club in Canastota, NY during a WNDR record hop. Basically, I stole it. Seriously, just shop lifted it into my winter jacket. I had no other choice.

By the time of fifth single, ‘It Would Be So Nice’ / ‘Julia Dream’, panic had enveloped. The struggle for US Pink Floyd singles was worsening exponentially. How was I ever to get this one? It had become completely pointless to put in special orders. By now, Tower’s parent company, Capitol, were useless filling my local’s requests for their product. All those little shops bought from the one stops anyway, and if the distributor didn’t agree to order at least a box lot, they weren’t getting the record. As a result, there’d be no way for the mom and pops to get these obscure releases. Radio were typically dismissive of Pink Floyd despite having re-written history on the subject since, and unfortunately my one open source, WMCR (the story of their donations to my record collecting causes are chronicled elsewhere on the blog) didn’t get Capitol service.

Around this time, the bell in my head to call home offices of record companies requesting copies for airplay suddenly chimed off. Problem wasn’t a receiving address, WMCR were cool about that. But the Music Director hated me by this time, complaining constantly about the scrounging. I mean, I was really obsessed and even I became uncomfortable with myself. Enter the station owner, Mrs. Warner, who was forever kind. Not only did she put in the call, she was generous enough to give me my own little inbox on the mail slot rack.

Whoever worked at Tower Records in Los Angeles must have been looking to clear out the cupboards. The resulting package included releases by The Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells, The E Types, Eternity’s Children and some disposable country singles. As a whole, a serious high, but nothing topped ‘Julia Dream’, in mono.

Now knowing how history unfolded meant there was one more Tower single to come: “Let There Be More Light’ / ‘Remember A Day’. I’m leaving that accomplishment for another post.

The Merry-Go-Round

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Listen: Live / The Merry-Go-Round
Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gus Jenkins

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Listen: Chittlins / Gus Jenkins
Chittlins

Damn, I wish I knew more about Gus Jenkins. I know he recorded as early as ’56, under the name Gus Jinkins, and he’s up there as one of the most mysterious raw blues obscurities around.

Someone at Capitol decided to release ‘Chittlins’ via their newly formed subsidiary, Tower, in late ’64.

The Tower label went on until ’68, amassing a small, but fairly collectable bunch of releases, the most famous of course being all the very early US singles by The Pink Floyd. But there were more, Joe Meek masters by Heinz and Tom Jones, Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville, The Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells…pull up a Tower discography sometime. Nice stuff.

Even on first listen, you’ll agree, a wonderfully noticeable amount of Gus Jenkins’ swagger may have influenced The Cramps just a bit, and even more, The Rolling Stones, sounding not unlike any number of tracks from their first few albums.

According to BILLBOARD’s November 14, 1964 RnB DJ Roundup below, along with Jimmy Reed’s ‘I’m Going Upside Your Head’, Ed Wright at WABO Cleveland was spinning it, Ed Hardy over at KDIA in San Francisco chose ‘Chittlins’ as well as Little Jerry Williams’ ‘I’m The Lover Man’, a filthy sleaze fest of a single, a no fucking around must for every collection. And let’s not forget WYLD’s Ed ‘Screaming’ Teamer in New Orleans, who was not only jamming Gus Jenkins and Little Jerry Williams, but was playing the mad great ‘My Country Sugar Mama’ by Howlin’ Wolf.

Inspiral Carpets

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Listen: This Is How It Feels / Inspiral Carpets
This Is How It Feels / Inspiral Carpets

Dare I say ‘This Is How It Feels’ is to the 90′s what The Damned’s ‘Grimly Fiendish’ was to the 80′s. I’ll go one further, the song has a remarkable sonic lineage to ‘Arnold Layne’ as well. Fightin’ words, maybe. Yet it’s always how I heard it.

Inspiral Carpets played The Limelight when they were in the limelight, I’m recalling around the time of this single. Signed to Elektra, one can only guess off the back of US success with Happy Mondays and such, a tour or maybe three brought them to town. I loved ‘This Is How It Feels’ so much, I went along. Visually similar to The Fleshtones (only one Three Stooges bowl cut necessary), the boys were a touch too reminiscent of The Swingin’ Medallions
at a time when I personally didn’t need that refresher button hit. But ‘This Is How It Feels’, no denying, it’s one hell of a massive tune.

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?

The Hollies

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

HolliesAliveUK, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

HolliesAliveUSA, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

Listen: I’m Alive / The Hollies
I'm Alive / The Hollies

Talk about an explosive and immediate intro, here’s one of the most. This tore through my hand sized orange AM transistor radio, an item that almost needed surgically removing from my hand after a couple of years. We went everywhere together, to school, on lunch breaks, to the barber, dentist, shopping for records, the shower and even to bed.

I would wait religiously for the latest single from the UK’s Hit Parade to get an initial airing. Decades before info was a click away, we seemed to know pretty fast about new singles from the English groups, and would wait for that first listen. Many times wait and wait and wait to hear them, unsuccessfully.

I recall writing a letter to Jim O’Brien, the 7-midnight disc jockey on Syracuse’s WNDR, asking would he please play more of the new English bands and he actually read it. This was spring ’66, when playlists were fairly loose but didn’t exist at all to a kid listener. Back then, the stations took and played requests and as well, read letters on-air. I mentioned a few bands, The Alan Price Set being the only one I can recall at this moment. And he read my letter, rattled off all my requests and said “We’d love to play these but they just don’t get released in the USA”.

Not true.

I knew about these records via BILLBOARD. Not only were they printed in the HITS OF THE WORLD section of the publication, whereby they reproduced international Top 10′s and in the case of the UK, their Top 50 chart; but the magazine also listed weekly new US releases in their SINGLES REVIEW section, with label and catalog number. They were all released here, it’s why I wrote the letter.

And so, in hindsight, my mistrust of American radio officially began.

I will say this, Jim O’Brien clearly got some free plays during his shows. For a short period, he did a feature called ECHOES OF ENGLAND, during the British Invasion years. I heard some great stuff on that program: Them, The Silkie, The Yardbirds, The Honeycombs, even The Pretty Things ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’. And for a few weeks in September ’67, he opened most of his shows with The Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’. But he did tell a disappointing fib that night.

Regardless, to his credit, it was the grand man himself who played ‘I’m Alive’ one evening. Holy whoever, did it sound fantastic. Dwarfed the songs on either side of it. I loved ‘I’m Alive’ immediately, and excitedly thought I’d be hearing it often, but never did, not ever again.

It had an equally short lived life nationally, a one week spike at #103 on BILLBOARD’s BUBBLING UNDER THE HOT 100 chart, and that my friends, was that.

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

Kraftwerk

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Listen: The Robots (Edited Version) / Kraftwerk KraftwerkRobots.mp3

Thirty two years. It’s a long time.

Well that number represents two things: how many years ago ‘The Robots’ was released and how many years behind contemporary music just about every commercial radio station in America is. They still have no idea.

Believe me, liking this single or Kraftwerk in 1978 got you many a cross eyed look. No worries, I was used to them. The same facial expression greeted me for loving The Pretty Things first album, The Pink Floyd’s PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN, even that wild and zany Jimi Hendrix Experience. Yes, other kids would shoot stuff at my crowd in the school hallways for our queer tastes. I recall one classmate hassling me for liking “the nigger that wears women’s clothes”. True.

Upstate New York was not a very open minded place in the late 60′s.

Now I guarantee you, most of those ignorants are still listening to these very bands, yes still.

Fast forward to 2002. I’m working at Columbia and our chairman had decided to sign David Bowie. He passed around the demos from HEATHEN, his forthcoming label debut. Settling into a weekly A&R meeting, he asks me what I thought of the songs.

“Garbage. I hate them.”

“What! You never liked Bowie? You didn’t like ZIGGY STARDUST?”

“Boss, when I liked ZIGGY STARDUST, I got laughed at in the hallways and chased home after school by bullies.”

There was no way this guy was into a bloke wearing a fake fur top shaped like two rabbit ears, hot pants, seamed fish net stockings and stilettos in ’72 (David Bowie’s exact outfit at the Syracuse Landmark Theater that very year).

In truth, there was no replacing the pulse of those moments, like championing any of the above in their prime, when you’re insatiable for the sonic palate cleansing these genre inventing acts provided. It was a rush. You felt high every time you listened, and you couldn’t listen enough.

Like Kraftwerk, THE MAN MACHINE. A defining work of music that changed culture, introduced the world to the sound of technology. And a whole bunch of people still don’t even know that it has yet. That’s how far ahead of their time Kraftwerk were/are.

You’re going to be dead for an awful long time, so don’t ever, ever miss them in concert if you can help it. In many ways, there is no better live act. When it comes to electronic music, only The Chemical Brothers come close, and they’re a completely different experience altogether.

Tim Hardin

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Listen: You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Lie / Tim Hardin TimHardinGrace.mp3

There was once a great revolution in US radio programming, when all the underground music in the 60′s – like album tracks and singles by album type artists – started getting aired on FM stations.

Top 40 back then was a life saver compared to now, but was pretty quick to avoid anything considered too colorful or probably drug related. So off the Top 40 airwaves stayed Traffic, The Move, The Nice, early Jimi Hendrix Experience, early Cream, definitely early Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother & The Holding Company, etc. Still many of the major market Top 40s (I got WBZ/Boston clear as a bell) would open up in the evening and definitely after midnight. And to be fair, some acts got converted to regular play.

But it’s those late night listening memories I’m touching on here. Like Joey sang in ‘Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio’: “Do you remember lying in bed / With the covers pulled up over your head / Radio playing so no one can see”. All of us that were addicted did this nightly – especially in the summer when you could sleep in the next day. This is how I discovered The Seeds (‘Mr Farmer’ and ‘Pushin Too Hard’ are still night time records for me), Jefferson Airplane (‘My Best Friend’ is a big favorite), Blue Cheer, Tim Rose (his version of ‘Hey Joe’ was the first I heard and clearly the template for the Jimi Hendrix version) and especially Tim Hardin. Yeah, I was bitten by this haunting single ‘You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Lie’. I even liked that the title was too long and the untimely fade out.

Folk was hip, I always wanted a smattering beyond Bob Dylan and I guess others did too. Did anyone really dislike Joan Baez, Richie Havens or Buffy St. Marie like they pretended? Probably not. But Tim Hardin hasn’t gotten his deserved props either. Listening with one ear attached to my transitor and the other hearing the ambience of late night, small town, upstate NY: crickets, the New York Central freight trains way off in the distance, the occasional drifting of the cars on Thruway also out there. The whole thing still comes right back to me every time, and I mean every time, I play this.

Them

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Richard Cory / Them

Listen: Richard Corey / Them
Richard

Wolf Chart 6-25-66

I religiously collected local radio station charts placed in all the record shops and record departments at the variety stores. Every town had them. They’re really fun to scour nowadays for the national non-hits as well as being a great snapshot of the music you could hear at that given moment. If you search ‘music survey’ at eBay, there are always a bunch listed for auction.

I recall WT Grants on Salina Street in Syracuse had a huge record department, and stocked everything you could want, especially as WOLF, one of the town’s two Top 40 stations was pretty adventurous, playing a lot of obscure English rock and US RnB. This was a God send for me from ’65 – ’67, until they buckled and went all Billboard on us. That said record department had a soda counter attached to it, up a few steps with typical glittery colored American Graffiti style booths looking down on the hustle/bustle of kids pawing through and buying records (today you see the same activity at an Apple store or Game Stop), and they had a great jukebox. It was jammed with all the latest up and comers. I remember investing a dime to hear ‘Bend It’, well not only hear it but watch the single spin round on the store’s lavender/purple Rock-ola, at the same time admiring a factory printed Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich jukebox tab to accompany it. I wonder where that tab ended up. Hate to think.

My only problem with WT Grants or Walt’s being there were so many choices, and not enough money to buy them all on my $1 a week allowance and some cash from mowing lawns. I still get cold sweats hearing a lawn mover. I would literally walk up and back neighbor’s yards behind their mowers deciding what record this torturous act would earn me and I distinctly remember suffering through several yards earning enough to buy The Cream FRESH CREAM. I went cheap, and sprung for the mono pressing as they were $1 less. Who knew then that monos would end up way more valuable than their stereo counterparts. Man, am I happy I bought them: The Pink Floyd PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN, The Jimi Hendrix Experience AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE and Big Brother & The Holding Company CHEAP THRILLS to mention a few that reaped incredible returns. Well if I ever decide to sell them that is. I soon figured out other ways to get all these records and more for free. That saga is covered in my Jack Dupree post for the more curious of you.

Meanwhile, the one record that got played by WOLF (and I bet only by WOLF in the whole of the US as I’ve never seen it on any other local chart, ever) but not stocked, was ‘Richard Corey’ by Them. It’s actually a Paul Simon cover and Van Morrison reportedly hated it.

If you couldn’t find something at Grant’s there was also Walt’s Records, just down a block and right next to a peanut shop, freshly roasting their wares.

Walt’s was a great shrine to obscure stuff, and very RnB heavy. The place smelled fantastic, a constant mixture of vinyl and those roasted nuts. Like Grant’s, I was told they “couldn’t get” this single by Them either. “Couldn’t get”, what the hell does that mean? Turns out the lyric “He went home last night and put a bullet through his head” was a big deal….I’m guessing neither outlet dared stock it just in case. Guns were not cool once. It’s a shame that’s changed. And it took me years to find this as I’m sure not many were pressed. How WOLF got away with playing ‘Richard Corey’ heavily for several weeks without a problem is surprising, but they did.

Little Richard

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Listen: Get Down With It / Little Richard
Get

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.

The Pink Floyd

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Arnold Layne / The Pink Floyd

Arnold Layne / The Pink Floyd

Arnold / The Pink Floyd

Listen: Arnold Layne / The Pink Floyd
Arnold

Tower 333. That was the label and catalog number for The Pink Floyd’s first US single, ‘Arnold Layne’. I heard it played on Dick Clark’s AMERICAN BANDSTAND Rate A Record segment, and taped it on my tiny GE reel to reel, complete with a palm sized hand held microphone and a happening aqua play button. I still have it, in fact I can see it as I type.

Oh fuck, did I want to own this single or what? It was a one listen record. Like involuntary movement, I special ordered it on the phone that very Saturday afternoon from Mrs. Smith at Smith’s Records. And I would anxiously wait week after week but it never did arrive. Took me a few years to get it at all, and then on a UK pressing. That US Tower single was so elusive. In fact, finding a stock copy took 39 long years.

In the meantime, I did drive to New Jersey in a snow storm, a proper blizzard to be exact, with Steve Yegelwel, to buy a DJ copy complete with it’s promo-only picture sleeve for $150 in ’90, a fire sale by today’s standards. I’d seen it listed in GOLDMINE the day the issue arrived, so I immediately call this guy who says he’s just sold it. I double his asking price of $75, offer to drive over the river despite the weather and pay in cash. He accepts. Steve was from Jersey and knew the way. We worked together at Island then.

But it was a few months later that I really struck gold when it comes to ‘Arnold Layne’. The catalog number is without a doubt embossed in my brain. I became obsessed with getting that record at the time and just ordered it from every shop I could. No one ever did get it, but I ended up knowing Tower 333 by heart.

Fast forward to June 23, 1990, which doubles as my wedding anniversary so already in a good mood, I’m walking from the Astor Street subway stop toward the Island office on West 4th Street, which was just one flight up above Tower Records, the retail chain not the label. Conveniently, during both Tower’s and Island’s heydays, a perfect place for a vinyl addict to be located.

Meanwhile across the street from the building entrance, almost to Broadway, I see a massive, and I mean massive, pile of discarded records, both in box lots and loose. All of them 45′s. Must have been an old music publisher’s office that got gutted and curbed, I never did get to the bottom of that one. There’s a few guys sifting through them. Well I went into a whole other gear, my heart revved up, I ran and I dug in. I gouged this pile. I don’t remember for sure but I think the others just backed off as I was acting so irrationally, taking anything remotely interesting, basically being a pig.

I was in a panic and luckily Island was in a doorman building so I motioned to Spike, said doorman, to come watch my heap while I ran upstairs for boxes and help. I’m pretty sure I dragged Yegelwel down, definitely Karen Yee (she still works at Island), Kathy Kenyon, Hugo Burnham and Denny Cordell too. I needed all of them. There was so much to carry. Even Chris wandered downstairs for some amusement when he heard.

Well the tricky part of this adventure was: a big chunk of these were test pressings. Most had, at best, a white label with little to no info hand written in. Then there were acetates, with only catalog and/or stamper numbers in the run-off grooves. Plus there were a couple thousand records so I’m trying to be a touch selective, checking them for any clues, details.

Arnold Layne / The Pink Floyd acetate

One of these acetates, sparkling purple-ish black in the morning sun has ‘T 333 A’ etched in it’s run off groove. Look closely at the scan of it above. No way. Not possible. Don’t even go there. Still, I added it to my mountain just in case and kept it all moving.

Later, in my office, I’m messing with all these records, some people are stopping by, wondering about the stupid commotion. We’re playing half a song, then hurrying on to the next single, there was so much obscure soul, multiple copies, enough for everyone. I’m losing it. Sorting through, I find that T 333 acetate and put it on the turntable, seriously not expecting anything as most of the others were garbage.

Lo and behold, it’s ‘Arnold Layne’. And in stereo. I just froze.

As Russell and Ron Mael wrote on Sparks’ recent seminal single ‘Good Morning’: “Thank you God/For having thought of me/I know your time is tight/But still you thought of me”. So true.

Air

Monday, July 13th, 2009

airsexy, Air, Source

Listen: Sexy Boy / Air AirSexy.mp3

airkelly, Air, Source

Listen: Kelly Watch The Stars / Air AirKelly.mp3

airradio, Air, Source

Listen: Radio #1 / Air AirRadio.mp3

Marc Lessner at Soul Trader in London was a most dependable source when it came to the latest, greatest dance and club releases back in the late 90′s. It was Marc who insisted I pay attention to Air, and gave me their first UK EP, LE SOLEIL EST PRESCE MOI. Despite a French aversion resulting from a few bad trips to Paris, I found Air irresistable. ‘Modular’ on Mo Wax followed and then came ‘Sexy Boy’, with an intro riff shockingly similar to New Math’s ‘They Walk Among You’, which was played down the phone to me by Howard quite early. But it was indeed the song’s similarity to Pink Floyd’s ‘Julia Dream’ that really grabbed my interest. All these years later, and I still don’t think I’ve even heard one mention of Pink Floyd when it comes to Air. Oh, and I do cherish my promo only UK single pictured above, one of many gems from the hands of Lessner. He always had my back when it came to promos bless him.

I excitedly went to see an early, maybe first, New York show at Town Hall soon after ‘Sexy Boy’ became an underground hit. It was very, very disappointing. I was shocked at how dull the whole event was. It put me off ever buying a ticket again, but not from loving the recordings.

Conveniently, despite their club royalty status, many of the singles were issued on UK 7″ vinyl. Both ‘Kelly Watch The Stars’ and ‘Radio #1′ were radio and chart hits in the UK, unlike here in the US. Once again, our programmers chose to grind their tired sounding stations to a cultural halt – I heard today that Boston’s WBCN bit the dust – put themselves right out of business with their stubborn musical policies. Good riddance.

Seems to me the excellent Animal Collective have quite good tastes – the influence Air have had on their records is worn very visibly on their sleeves. All good.

Ruben & The Jets

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Jelly Roll Gum Drop / Ruben & The Jets

Listen: Jelly Roll Gum Drop (Mono) / Ruben & The Jets
Jelly

Proof positive that those mono mixes back in the 60′s were approached very differently than their stereo counterparts. Word has it the importance of the 7″ single, and early indifference towards albums, many times resulted in leaving the stereo mix to one of the studio engineers, while the band and producer focused only on mono. Might explain the radical difference in mono/stereo versions of The Pink Floyd’s PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN and A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS. Not to mention The Pretty Things S. F. SORROW or The Small Faces OGDEN’S NUT GONE FLAKE. If you’re lucky enough to have both versions, a/b them sometime. You’ll hear different vocal takes and even additional instruments throughout.

No exception is this mono version of ‘Jelly Roll Gum Drop’. Like other early mono releases by The Mothers Of Invention, who were one in the same with Ruben & The Jets, this too is radically different, and therefore much desirable in it’s mono 7″ issue.

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Zabadak / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

Listen: Zabadak / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Zabadak

Last year around this time, Bob Lefsetz, who publishes a fascinating subscription letter you should all Google and sign up for, wrote about hearing The Box Tops during Christmas break in Vermont, ’67. It was a nice piece, time traveling me back to that Christmas/New Year’s week, growing up outside of Syracuse, a ten year old obsessed with records. I wrote him a response with much of the following, but don’t know if he ever read it. He never responded.

Everything happens for a reason. It motivated me to start my own blog, so all good.

Basically, I still like the winter weather as it reminds of that week off school as a kid. Everyone wants to escape it here in NY nowadays but I love staying home, hanging around the deserted city, having friends over especially if they bring Christmas cookies, keeping the fireplace going and hoping for snow.

Growing up near Syracuse was pretty drab but we had one remarkable perk: a Top 40 station, WOLF, that from ’64 – ’67 seemed to flawlessly play the good bits of BILLBOARD’s chart alongside national non-hits, most of them British, and many rightfully considered classics today, including several US flops each by The Who, Them, The Move, The Zombies, The Kinks, The Moody Blues, Unit 4 + 2, The Hullaballoos, The Pretty Things and Manfred Mann.

So I’d spend that whole week glued to the radio, crawling the record shops and record departments at W.T. Grants and Woolworths, collecting chart handouts, asking for discarded Billboard magazines and stocking up on deletions.

One of the UK bands whose label, Fontana, didn’t or couldn’t put the needed payola cash behind them on a national level, actually had hits upstate: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Some consider them too pop, or zany, but I just loved their image of paisley pants with flowered shirts and their music.

KHJ chart 1-24-68

Eventually, they switched US labels in late ’67, to Imperial, who made a big attempt at breaking them here and almost did. ‘Zabadak’ got a lot of play, charted in many markets and got great reaction. KHJ in Los Angeles took it Top 10. (See chart above). Both my local Top 40′s were spinning it, and even the adult contemporary one.

I was feeling liberated. Finally Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich were having a hit, and The Small Faces too, ‘Itchycoo Park’ was doing equally well. US radio was about to be on pulse. I didn’t need to find a way to live in England after all.

Then thud. ‘Zabadak’ stalls at #52 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 (above). Seems it’s been all down hill ever since.

December 28th: it’s been 41 years today, the receipt is still in the sleeve, that I bought ‘Zabadak’ at Walt’s Records on Salina Street, doing my part. It’s a fantastic single. All jungle drums with haunting strings and chants. Sounded stunning on the radio then, like nothing else. A lot of stations played it for a few weeks. The kind of record that zaps me right back, hence I always remember the date and I’ll always remember that great record shop.

I can easily visualize the decor and it’s unique record shop smell. I wanted everything in the place, still do. One whole wall was lined with brackets that held 25+ copies of a single, where all the biggest sellers made it. But the obscure records, many of the ones I mentioned, would reside in the back on a four sided carousel that swirled, and had slot like pockets, each able to hold ten or so copies of a single. I would go straight to that unit every visit which was usually once or twice a month, having to decide which two or three singles I could afford on my dollar per week allowance. Some of the ones I had to pass up took me years to locate: The Small Faces ‘All Or Nothing’ with the picture sleeve and The Riot Squad ‘How Is It Done’ come to mind. But there were many I did get like Them ‘Richard Corey’, The Yardbirds ‘Goodnight Sweet Josephine’ and The Herd ‘From The Underworld’.

On December 28, 1967 I tore to that rack and there it was. ‘Zabadak’. My Aunt Nancy, a grand lady, had brought me shopping and kindly paid as a Christmas treat, thereby allowing me to spend my dollar allowance on Inez & Charlie Foxx’s ‘(!-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count The Days’. We went on to visit another relative that afternoon where I was tortured, staring at these jems, jonesing to get home and play them as they did not own a record player.

Now I’m convinced Hot Chip could do a killer remake of ‘Zabadak’.

Oh and one other tid bit about Walt’s. I ran there to buy Traffic’s ‘Hole In My Shoe’ the day after seeing them at Syracuse University’s Jabberwocky Club on their first tour. As I walked in, out came Traffic, with loads of soul and jazz albums. They patiently waited as I bought the single then signed it’s picture sleeve.

MOBY GRAPE

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Omaha / Moby Grape

Omaha / Moby Grape

Listen: Omaha / Moby Grape MobyGrapeOmaha.mp3

When recalling the handful of US 60′s bands I appreciated (at the time that is, I was still pretty buzzed on the British Invasion, it was us-against-them mentality), I always forget Moby Grape. They were a bit wooly looking, yet had a nice splash of psychedelia thrown in, especially on ‘Omaha’ (from their debut LP, MOBY GRAPE), thereby completely tolerable. Initially I probably liked the name and idea of Moby Grape better than Moby Grape themselves. Surprisingly, many UK bands tipped them, with some, like The Move, actually covering their songs live. When the second album, WOW, came out, I felt the compelling urge to buy it. Like Pink Floyd’s UMMAGUMMA, it was a double record, but priced as a single – that helped. The second disc was a jam, and featured Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield, both well respected….jammers. Let’s be honest, I don’t think anyone got through it more than once, although we all claimed to have. The first disc however had some proper songs in there. It was all very Dennis Hopper. The psychedelic angle had vanished but their dark, cold sound increased nicely – and the vocals were a big attraction. In the end, a top rock group.

Blue Cheer

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Feathers / Blue Cheer

Feathers / Blue Cheer

Listen: Feathers From Your Tree / Blue Cheer
Feathers From Your Tree / Blue Cheer

OUTSIDEINSIDE, Blue Cheer’s second album, was their pinnacle. They recorded some of it on a pier in NJ, and had mikes on the NY side of the water as ambient devices. You can really get the resulting effect on tracks like ‘Come & Get It’. This was the most inviting scam yet – at the time. I listened to Side 1 over and over and over. It was a favorite for ages. They had just come off a massive Top 10 single with ‘Summertime Blues’ and album VINCEBUS ERUPTUM. Now let me clue you in: you need both the mono and stereo versions of VINCEBUS ERUPTUM. It is massive in mono and in stereo, well it’s the only album I know of that has complete left/right separation with drums all in the left channel, guitars all right. It sounds fantastic, why others have never followed is a surprise, although probably some have and I’m forgetting.

So OUTSIDEINSIDE was the terrific followup, and everything was all set for world domination. Then clunk. Promotors started blackballing them, beginning with Bill Graham’s Fillmores, because of volume. He seemed to have a mean streak that fellow, he did the same thing to Family. Then radio didn’t play either single from this second album and it all just went cold. Guitarist Leigh Stephens decides to leave. Boom. End of story. ‘Feathers From Your Tree’ was the second single, even came with a picture sleeve – and in headphones (like all the tracks on the album) it was a drug takers dream come true. Right up there with The Pretty Things’ SF SORROW and The Pink Floyd’s THE PIPER AT THE GATES albums. Sounds swirling and switching speakers at record pace. Dickie Peterson is one of the world’s greatest vocalists too, that’s just fact.