Archive for the ‘Denny Cordell’ Category

The Moody Blues / St. Louis Union

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Stop / Moody Blues

Listen: Stop! / The Moody Blues
Stop! / The Moody Blues

When it comes to vinyl or artifacts, oddly, The Moody Blues are not a collectible band. I guess the mainstream success of Moody Blues lineup two unfairly squashed that.

But still, lineup one, well that was a very different sounding group and should be a very different story. It’s where the collectible piece is baffling. Not surprisingly, the band were recycling US blues and RnB, not unlike most other collectible UK acts during the mid 60′s. But singer Denny Laine was special, and had an authentic, recognizable voice. The hits disappeared quickly after their second 7″, ‘Go Now’, although the quality of singles did not. All of them should command more worth, being pressed in very limited quantities.

‘Stop!’, a US only 7″, was taken from the Denny Cordell produced debut UK LP and their only full length with lineup one. The US album version was similar but didn’t included ‘Stop!’, presumably because American label London spotted the track as a potential hit.

‘Stop’ received confident airplay throughout the northeast upon release. I heard it often at both my local Top 40′s in Syracuse. The single charted for one week on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at #98 and was a decent snapshot of Winter ’66, basically dreary and cold, just as I vividly remember it and personally preferred.

Listen: Girl / St. Louis Union
Girl / St. Louis Union

Dreary and cold, or dark and downbeat were indeed the sounds de jour. Enter the St. Louis Union’s cover of ‘Girl’. Despite being a nice time piece, the record was part of an already risky strategy: covering Beatles’ songs to achieve hits. The process initially worked for Peter & Gordon, The Silkie and a handful of others, yet the idea had primarily dried by the time post ’65 late comers released theirs.

London tip ad

Tir Na Nog

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

tirnanogstronguk, Tir Na Nog, Chrysalis, Matthew Fisher, John Martyn, Nick Drake

Listen: Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog
Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog

I was desperate to see Tir Na Nog when they toured the US in ’72. It never happened.

Although being the college concert chairman at the time, having pushed through Rory Gallagher, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Colosseum, Atomic Rooster, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Pretty Things and The Incredible String Band against everyone’s “who the fuck are these people” stances in one school year mind you, it didn’t really allow me any more puts. By then, the budget was spent anyways. Otherwise, they’d have been there.

Tir Na Nog’s second and third albums were released in the States, and I particularly loved that third one, STRONG IN THE SUN. It was, well still is, a seminal recording, right up there with the best from Tyrannosaurus Rex, John Martyn and Nick Drake. Indeed the album includes a cover of his ‘Free Ride’, itself worthy of 7″ status. Tracks like ‘Cinema’ rivaled some of Pink Floyd’s tracks from MEDDLE for being…cinematic, funny enough. If you’d told me Norman Smith, Denny Cordell or Peter Asher had produced some of this stuff, I’d have believed you. The album is that good.

Indeed, Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum was in charge of production, and as with similar duties on Robin Trower’s BRIDGE OF SIGHS, did an A+ job.

When I up and headed for London during summer ’73, I took a night off from The Marquee to see them play a small, sit-down-cross-legged room, God knows the name of it now. But the show remains a vivid memory.

There was a time, around ’85, and Howard Thompson was looking at cover songs for 10000 Maniacs. I guess as a potential single, possibly a one-off film submission or something. I recommended ‘Strong In The Sun’. I thought Natalie Merchant would have done it some beautiful justice and Tir Na Nog could have gotten some well deserved recognition. Didn’t happen. ‘Peace Train’ was chosen instead, against the band’s wishes. Years later, turns out Natalie insisted it be removed from that album. Elektra complied..

There has to be someone out there in need of a great song to revive their sagging career: Nelly Furtado, Jewel, Anna Nalick, Five For Fighting, Vanessa Carlton, Paula Cole or wait, Natalie Merchant.

Georgie Fame

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Daylight / Georgie Fame

Listen: Daylight / Georgie Fame
Daylight

I think this song may qualify as a bit of a guilty pleasure, as it is a touch schmaltzy, although my pal Phil, who has super taste in music, loves it. Then again, it was written by Bobby Womack and now a sought after hit on the Northern Soul circuit. Plus Georgie has such a great voice, and the whole idea that he perfected his sound doing all-nighters at the Flamingo Club on Wardour Street in London during the swinging 60′s alongside Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, is, well, all I really need. Basically he always emulated Mose Allison and conventiently helped invent mod-jazz in the process.

As with some of his early hits like ‘Get Away’, this was produced by the great Denny Cordell. When I worked at Island in the early 90′s, Chris Blackwell brought Denny in to oversee A&R. Most everybody got their noses out of joint by his arrival but not me. I mean this was the guy who had produced The Move. He did the whistle sound, fingers to mouth, on ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’, helped start Deram and Regal Zonophone, and then Shelter. So we hit it off immediately, and I often think of the many great times and meals we had together. He was a serious cook. Plus he introduced me to so many people from the UK, all of whom would stop by to see him when passing through town. I remember when he brought Tony Colton into my office. He was the vocalist for Heads Hands & Feet who I became an instant fan of when seeing them open for Humble Pie. Tony had also produced a then obscure, now kind of appreciated gem: ON THE BOARDS by Taste. So this was a big deal to me.

Yeah, Denny was a great great pal….he produced this track as part of the 2nd album Georgie made for Island that the company then proceeded not to issue, still. Seriously, what hasn’t been released at this point? Island was a great place in many ways, but they had a very bad habit of making albums and not releasing them. I know of a few still in the vaults from Marianne Faithfull, and unfortunately countless others from The Smoke to Don Covay.

So this track, ‘Daylight’, and it’s B side, ‘Three Legged Mule’ came out in ’77 as 7″ & 12″ singles, and has finally been reissued as part of the ISLAND YEARS ’74 – ’76 anthology.

Them

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

THEM / Them:

Side 1:

Listen: Don’t Start Crying Now / Them
ThemDontStart.mp3

Listen: Philosophy / Them
Philosophy

Side 2:

Listen: Baby Please Don’t Go / Them
Baby

Listen: One Two Brown Eyes / Them
One

I can see now, very clearly, why Van Morrison grimaces at some of the material recorded with his original band. I read once that he disliked his vocal early on, and from the very first notes of this EP’s lead off track, ‘Don’t Start Crying Now’, I suddenly understand why.

Fast forward to November 30, 1989, Denny Cordell, by then an Island co-worker and a true friend, arranged for us to meet after Van’s Beacon Theater show in order to get my blank jukebox tab signed. Looking back, I’m still amazed. As promised, I was led into one of the small second floor dressing rooms by his tour manager where he was waiting. He’d been previously coached by Denny on my request, to fill in the A and B side songs, as well the artist name, in this case Them, on a blank jukebox tab for my collection and had agreed.

By quick explanation, my entire Seeburg 222 is filled with records whereby the corresponding jukebox tab is filled in, i.e autographed, by the artist or a member of that specific band. I always carry blanks just in case.

Knowing he had a distaste for all things Them, I timidly made my request very clear: I preferred this tab be for one of their singles, so as not to have any issue or weirdness once face to face. I was assured this was not going to be a problem. Disbelief grew but there we were, together in that small room. Van pleasantly asked me which single I wanted it for, I said one by Them please, in essence asking yet again, was that ok. He responded. “Sure, which song?”

“Richard Corey”.

“Okay, do you know what was on the B side, because I can’t remember”.

“Yes, it’s ‘Don’t You Know’, at least on my US pressing”, in an effort to make clear that was the song title as opposed to a cheeky question directed to him.

He took the pen, leaned over the table where the blank tab lay, and again asked, so where do I write the song title, to which I pointed at the top of the tab. He scribbled his name, tossed, didn’t throw nor didn’t gently set down, the pen and strolled out of the room leaving his tour manager and I somewhat baffled, to which he rolled his eyes, shrugging his shoulders with a “he’s unpredictable” or something like that.

I was rather pleased though. The stories about his mere true. How fun. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve gotten to tell people about Van Morrison’s manners.

Jukebox Tab signed by Van Morrison (above).

But they say every cloud has a silver lining. And it applies here.

Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames were Van Morrison’s backing band during this visit. They even were afforded a three song solo spot mid show whereby they performed ‘Yeh, Yeh’, ‘Get Away’ and ‘The Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde’. Let me tell you, this surprise was an unexpected treat for many in the house besides me. Even before meeting up with Van, I was already plotting to find Georgie Fame later for an autographed tab request, which turned out most simple given he was in the very next dressing room. My only concern being, not having had a clue prior he was part of the lineup, I hadn’t prepared myself with B side info. Nonetheless, I proceed.

Georgie Fame was jovial and kindly, excitedly even, agreed to do the autograph on the spot, all smiles asking which song I’d like. ‘Yeh Yeh’ was honestly in my jukebox then, still is, and man does it sound terrific through those tube amps and speakers by the way. But I admitted, I wasn’t sure about the B side.

“No problem mate. It’s ‘Preach & Teach’, at least in England it was.”

Wow, Georgie Fame actually knows his releases all the way back. And he was right. ‘Preach & Teach’ is was.

A solid fifteen minute conversation began, him happily pouring out all kinds of stories about The Flamingo, The 100 Club, former manager Rik Gunnell and in full circle, his producer Denny Cordell, who by now had found us and had joined in. Once the two of them got going, well it was heaven.

Jukebox Tab signed by Georgie Fame (above).

The Move / Jimmy Miller

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Listen: Blackberry Way / The Move
Blackberry

Certainly one of my favorite singles ever, I dare say one of the greatest records ever released. Fact not opinion.

The recent BBC documentary, THE JOY OF THE SINGLE spotlighted ‘Blackberry Way’ as just that for a teenage Holly Johnson, who relived a long walk to and from a nearby record shop, whereby The Monkees’ ‘(Theme From) The Monkees’ wasn’t available. In fact, that track was never issued on a 7″ when current, luckily. The shop clerk talked him into the latest release by The Move instead, a sale amongst many that would have contributed toward the record reaching #1 on the UK charts.

The program was another in a long list of reminders that pulling out a copy of ‘Blackberry Way’ and letting it play on repeat was yet again, a solid hour well spent in my house.

Along with high school pals Denny and Mark, I sent off to England for copies of this pre-release. We wanted it shipped day one. God knows how we’d hear about these records sentenced to teen life in upstate New York, but we did. In fact, our crowd were so into The Move that there was no messing about by this, the release of their sixth single. And one titled ‘Blackberry Way’, heaven help us, we knew it’d be stunning. I can vividly remember opening that cardboard mailer and playing it for the first time. Stunning doesn’t do the song justice.

Years later, employed in Elektra’s A&R department meant a constant search for new signings and a resulting schedule of meetings with everyone from managers, agents, lawyers and occasionally, name UK record producers with their newest projects. Through the years Gus Dudgeon, Don Arden, Jonathan King, Stuart Colman, Malcolm McLaren, Wayne Bickerton, Hugh Padgham or Shel Talmy might book in while passing through New York. On one occasion, I got a call requesting some time for Jimmy Miller.

His visit was not going to be wasted on me. I was only too keen, as was usually the case, to talk about the less travelled topics covered by most fellow A&R reps, in this instance his more obscure British productions, of which The Move was one. Turns out, he was always happy to recount his histories, including a well repeated run down of that period with The Rolling Stones. But my curiosity in The Move brought out a unexpected tale, all presented with the enthusiasm of a kid.

For starters, ‘Blackberry Way’ was the only song he ever recorded with them, and then just sitting in for the band’s usual producer, Denny Cordell. The details were rather simple and verify the often documented flying by the seat of their pants 60′s music industry. Denny and he were co-workers at Straight Ahead Productions, to whom The Move were signed. Denny was double booked on a session with Joe Cocker & The Grease Band and asked Jimmy to cover for him with The Move. These details, to be clear, were laughingly verified by Denny years later.

As a result, the band’s only UK #1 was produced, not by the guy who worked with them on every other track prior, but by his pal in the next office. A jovial recollection actually.

So as Jimmy Miller sat across from me recounting these details for the first time in my office on the 20th floor of the Warner Brothers building, I pulled out the above copy for an autograph, which seriously pleased him to no end.

The Move

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Night Of Fear / The Move

Listen: Night Of Fear / The Move
Night

I think I first noticed The Move in the UK charts section of BILLBOARD. In the 60′s, they used to print Hits Of The World over one page, Top 10′s from all the countries, but always a Top 30 or 50 from the UK. This was of course, during the tail end of the British Invasion, December ’66 to be exact. My local shop, Smith’s Records, in Oneida NY, would save their week old BILLBOARD for me, and on Fridays, when my Mom & Dad would do their shopping, they’d drop me at Smith’s. I’d get to play the new releases in their listening booth and read BILLBOARD at the counter. Basically studying it, especially the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 section. That was always a goldmine for me, ever changing, probably bought mentions by the labels of their new records, all hoping to help them jump into the proper Hot 100 chart. Missing a week meant you might not be aware something was out. Then later, back home with last week’s issue, I’d really comb it over for details.

I still remember seeing ‘Night Of Fear’ by The Move progressing #17 to #2 up that British chart. At this point I had watched it since debuting at #42 the previous week. The Move was simply the best name for a band ever. I needed to hear this group, and see photos, which luckily, I quickly did. Both their sound and look represented the black and white, rainy England that we heard about as kids, an exotic place with the greatest bands, a new perfect one emerging almost weekly.

My loyalty to The Move was blind, only lately can I admit by ’69, they went downhill slowly but steadily, eventually bringing Jeff Lynne in to grind them to a Beatles influenced halt. But their beginning was never to be repeated for me. A week or so later, Dick Clark played the single on his weekly AMERICAN BANDSTAND Rate A Record, two song competition. I have no recollection of the other single played, or which came out on top, but I still have my reel to reel recording of ‘Night Of Fear’ off the TV. I dove for the red record button, mike and recorder permanently positioned by my bedroom TV set. Technically I was a criminal then, that era’s version of file sharing I suppose. I listened to that tape hundreds of times.

You couldn’t buy ‘Night Of Fear’ anywhere. London, Deram’s parent company, clearly wasn’t promoting or payola-ing it at radio and hence the one stops weren’t inclined to stock it. In small town America, the stores all bought from one-stops, so they primarily sold the hits.

It always pissed me off when I’d read in the Melody Maker back then that The Move weren’t big in The States. They weren’t played. Kids here didn’t get to decide.

So my record company letter writing continued. Someone at London in NY had a deal with me, I’d send him $1.50 per record, which was extortion in those days but he’d send whatever I needed. He was basically selling promos through the mail, genius. Worked for both of us. The stuff I bought off this fellow: The Cryin’ Shames, The Attack, The Syn, World Of Oz, The Honeybus, non-hits by Them, The Small Faces, Unit 4 + 2, The Zombies. Even then I knew I should get extras, but I didn’t have the cash. On this particular occasion he sent me the stock copy above of ‘Night Of Fear’, not easily found then or now.

Over the years, I’ve acquired many copies, US and UK. The Dutch picture sleeve above, Roy Wood signed when I got to meet him during Wizzard’s first and only US tour. Then there was the time ten or so years ago, somewhere on Long Island where Duane and I were garage sale-ing very early one Saturday morning. Walking up the driveway I see a pile of singles on a table. The top one is on Deram. Probably White Plains or Procol Harum I think to myself, but it was ‘Night Of Fear’. I froze. I said, “Duane you need to buy this”. I just couldn’t handle the high.

Denny Cordell produced this perfect record. The mp3 post is from my overplayed original $1.50/extortion copy.

The Move 1966

The original lineup of The Move, who played on ‘Night Of Fear’, are pictured above. If there’s a better shot of a band anywhere on earth, go right ahead and send it to me.

The above is a repost, originally from June 8, 2008.

J. J. Cale

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Listen: Travelin’ Light / J. J. Cale
JJCaleTravelin.mp3

March ’77, Corinne and I made our first trip to England together for a fortnight of fun. We ended up staying at the then seedy Royal Scott Hotel, way before the area became chic. But seriously, it was heaven to us, a real taste of old London, now long gone.

Most importantly, the visit marked our first meeting with Howard. Who knew then that we’d become life long friends. HT showed us around for two weeks solid, and must’ve been glad to see the back of us.

This was a time almost like no other, with the energy of punk united against the stale old guard, and HT had every night sorted: The Damned, The Jam, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Ultravox, Eater, Johnny Moped, The Sex Pistols, The Heartbreakers, Sham 69, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Rockpile, The Downliners Sect, Generation X, The Clash, The Vibrators. Pretty sick, right?

We would start every morning in one of the many rickety cafes along Argyle Square or Crestfield Street, covering traditional English breakfast fry ups of eggs, chips and mushy peas with plenty of HP Sauce, gagging back several sugary teas, then scouring either the record shops or dumpy street markets, Corinne looking for deco jewelry and vintage clothes, me for used 45′s. By early evening, flying on Cadbury Flakes or Fry’s Chocolate Creams, we’d meet Howard, always in a swinging pub with a happening jukebox.

He introduced me to Andrew Lauder on one of those nights, and we all found quite a lot to talk about simply by scouring through the records in The Hope & Anchor’s jukebox. ‘Travelin’ Light’ was visually playing at the time, meaning the machine was a vintage model, one whereby you can watch the vinyl spinning round. Easily, it made for a lasting memory.

Released by Denny Cordell’s Shelter Records, quite possibly ‘Travelin’ Light’ was a single simply to allow the B side, ‘Cocaine’, availability to jukeboxes and club dj’s. For obvious reasons, that track doubled as bragging rights amongst us all, and along with Dillinger’s ‘Cokane In My Brain’, became our cheap theme.

Still it’s this A side, ‘Travelin’ Light’, that I can play endlessly and never tire of, all the while doubling as a journey back in time, to that jukebox and those incredible two weeks.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Listen: Debora / Tyrannosaurus Rex
Debora

Never will I forget the sight of this first US single by Tyrannosaurus Rex. Their name was so foreign at the time, completely intimidating to all, particularly US programers. Yes, they were full of reasons back then to keep adventurous music off the airwaves too. Add to that the band’s warlock folk, as one reviewer called it. He couldn’t have conjured up a more tempting challenge.

A&M never did release either their first nor second album in the US when current, just this lone 7″, ‘Debora’.

The Los Angeles label had a deal with Regal Zonophone out of the UK, or maybe it was directly with Denny Cordell’s and Tony Secunda’s production company, Tarantula. Basically, the arrangement covered US representation for their UK artists: Procol Harum, Joe Cocker & The Grease Band, The Move and Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The latter two benefiting only from singles being issued in the US, and in the case of Tyrannosaurus Rex, just this one. WOUR were only too glad to have me cart their copy out of the building. That bunch literally had no clue. Bless their studipity.

Listen: Ride A White Swan / Tyrannosaurus Rex
Ride

What seemed like a generation later actually was one short year. Their third and fourth albums, UNICORN (’69) and A BEARD OF STARS (’70) were near perfect, still as exhilarating today as then. By this time, Bob Krasnow had picked up the band for his Blue Thumb label. He released both albums in quick succession plus ‘Ride A White Swan’ almost immediately after A BEARD OF STARS.

Although still using the full Tyrannosaurus Rex moniker in the US, Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin-Took had officially shortened their name to T. Rex elsewhere, coinciding with their full on electric and pop path, not unlike Bob Dylan’s gear shift with BLONDE ON BLONDE, bar a name change to B. Dylan.

Almost simultaneously, Bob, as in Krasnow, joined Warner Brothers Records’ A&R department, bringing T. Rex with him. The rest is history.

Leon Russell

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Listen: If I Were A Carpenter / Leon Russell
If

Despite rabidly dismissing Leon Russell in his heyday, I always liked his version of ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, turning a blind eye toward the rather embarrassing lyric changes. Actually, it’s surprising Tim Hardin allowed them. He probably needed the money, because heaven knows he didn’t seem to get his fair share.

I never quite knew if Leon Russell’s country hick delivery was serious or an inside joke, right down to his “s” being instead pronounced “sh”.

Over the years, as with many acts, my tastes have changed, particularly when produced by Denny Cordell. He really had it all down when it came to an English fellow loving American delta roots. Besides, Duane Sherwood is such a rabid Leon Russell fan, we’re all forced to sit up and listen or else.

Phoebe Snow

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Poetry Man / Phoebe Snow

Poetry Man / Phoebe Snow

Listen: Poetry Man (Mono) / Phoebe Snow
Poetry

The nice thing about double A promo singles, up until the late 70′s, was you got an otherwise unobtainable mono mix on one side. Being a mono collector, these are now coveted.

I hated Phoebe Snow when this single was current. I went to see The Pretty Things in Niagara Falls during their SILK TORPEDO tour, and Carol Hardy, who worked promotion for Atlantic at the time, took me backstage to meet the band. I’d already booked them two years earlier at my college in ’73, which unbelievably was during their first ever US tour. Can you believe this seminal band didn’t tour here until ’73! Still I was well up for hanging out with them.

John Povey, Phil May and I got to talking about current records, and they proclaimed their love of ‘Poetry Man’ and Phoebe Snow, who they’d not heard until arriving Stateside. I was mortified. How could The Pretty Things liked this record?

Didn’t change my mind. I proceeded with nose in the air towards her for years.

But my tastes changed and one day, I just had to hear Phoebe Snow. Just like that. Snap.

Now I worship her voice, it’s huge and thunderous. I love all her Shelter Records releases. Leave it to Denny Cordell.

The Moody Blues

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Listen: Everyday / The Moody Blues
Everyday / The Moody Blues

Another case of one band name, but two completely different sounding lineups, making it easily possible to love/hate one and not the other, or something like that.

Me, I was into both. And it began logically, with the first of the two. The Denny Laine years I suppose you could say.

As lead singer, his tenure started May ’64 at their onset, lasting until Fall ’66. This was when you really had to be able to sing in order to get a deal and make records. Denny Laine trained himself on, you guessed it, soul and RnB. At this, he was winner.

All the singles released during his time are equally great. Most surprisingly weren’t hits, but still, they’re classics. The Moody Blues really stalled their momentum after the worldwide smash ‘Go Now’ by issuing a couple of dirge ballads that struggled for airplay. Hey, I loved them, but programmers didn’t.

After which, ‘Everyday’ came, but the mess had been made and it all slowly went flat for the Denny Laine lineup. Too bad. ‘Everyday’ is the kind of record that probably would have helped change their history a bit had it followed ‘Go Now’. All speculation here.

Another top Denny Cordell (not to be confused with the aforementioned Denny Laine) production though. Not that he totally agreed with me on that one. I met Denny at Island, and elsewhere on this blog there’s a more in depth post about all that. Let me tell you this. Denny was a blast, an absolute class act, had great history, impeccable musical taste and instinct, a wonderful soul. I’m still knocked out that we became good friends.

One time, in the days when we had pretty extravagant parties at our place, Denny came along, swirling in through the front door and b-lined toward the kitchen with a plan to whip up some Jamaican dish, and a bag of supplies for just that purpose. He simply crashed right into it all. That was Denny.

Later in the evening, Duane, with a you gotta hear this look on his face, nudged me toward he and Marianne sitting at the then, newly found 50′s wrought iron and glass patio set, a garage sale miracle with a story all it’s own, deep in stuffy English brogue conversation, so upper class thick, you literally had trouble deciphering what the fuck they were saying. The two of them were all giddy, reminiscing about the old days, smuggling hash into England, dishing through folks at Decca, Mick’s parents, you name it, no one was spared. I just sat right down, refilled their margaritas, listened in, a conspicuous fly on the wall. Cool as a cucumber on the outside, fourth of July fireworks inside. Exactly as anyone else would have felt.

Leon Russell

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Listen: Roll Away The Stone / Leon Russell LeonRussellStone.mp3

Despite Denny Cordell cutting his teeth during the 60′s as producer of The Moody Blues, The Move, Beverley and Joe Cocker & The Grease Band, he seemed to take a nasty turn in the period that immediately followed. He set up shop in Los Angeles, forming Shelter Records. Other than issuing a few reggae singles in the States for Chris Blackwell (The Maytals, The Wailers), Denny pretty much shifted gears musically. To this Anglophile, he betrayed his own greatness, suddenly producing and/or releasing super Americana stuff like Phoebe Snow, JJ Cale, Mudcrutch…..and Leon Russell.

I despised everything about Leon Russell. I hated his country boogie blues singalongs, his clothes, his grey hair – every last thing about him. Mind you, I was hard core pro England. The Kinks were the ultimate, Glam was preferred, I was not a believer.

Isn’t it crazy how one’s tastes can change, or in my case, grow. Man, was I wrong about Denny and Shelter. Fast forward a decade, and I’m jonesing for every last act on that roster, catching up on filling in the record collection with the Shelter singles.

Leon Russell’s history ran way deeper than I originally knew, back to Phil Spector’s Philles days where he led his house band, and he performed in the TAMI show and was a regular on SHINDIG and….and….and. Check the writer’s credits on some of those Phil Spector B sides: Leon Russell. Seemingly overnight, I needed everything attached to his long, long discography of contributions.

Well there aren’t many things I like more than a UK A&M A label. All the busy conflicting fonts, the bright yellow label, the red ‘A’ and the onslaught of release date/time/publisher info (Reminder: click on any of the records pictured to enlarge). It became a quest to get all Denny Cordell / Shelter via UK A&M 7′s. Took years but now pretty much complete. One of the first to be issued back on the old 700 series: ‘Roll Away The Stone’.

Do you think Mott The Hoople ever listened to Leon Russell?

Denny Laine / Trevor Burton

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

DennyLaineSayUK, Denny Laine, Trevor Burton, Denny Cordell, The Moody Blues, The Move, Balls, Deram, Epic
DennyLaineSayUS, Denny Laine, Trevor Burton, Denny Cordell, The Moody Blues, The Move, Balls, Deram, Epic

Listen: Say You Don’t Mind / Denny Laine
Say

In 67, when The Moody Blues ditched the blues, they ditched Denny Laine with it. Lead singer extraordinaire, his voice is the one we heard on ‘Go Now’, ‘Everyday’ and ‘Stop’, three favorites. Their version of ‘Go Now’ still holds it own against the Bessie Banks original. What were these guys thinking?

To this day, current members refuse to acknowledge that first lineup, excluding any of their tracks from Greatest Hits and anthology packages. Lighten up guys.

Still apparently signed to Decca, Denny Laine resurfaced on their newly formed subsidiary Deram, this being the first of two singles and getting a US release. Denny Cordell, The Moody Blues original producer, went in the layoffs too, so decided to stick with the other Denny. Their work together was terrific. Just listen for yourself.

TrevorBurtonFightUSA, Denny Laine, Trevor Burton, Denny Cordell, The Moody Blues, The Move, Balls, Deram, Epic
TrevorFightUS, Denny Laine, Trevor Burton, Denny Cordell, The Moody Blues, The Move, Balls, Deram, Epic

Listen: Fight For My Country / Trevor Burton
Fight

Within a year or so, Trevor Burton left The Move, teaming up with Denny to form Balls. Their lone single, ‘Fight For My Country’, was released in the US under his name, as a one-off for Epic. Unlike the UK version, which ran upwards of five minutes, the US promo and stock were edited down to under three, making for a better track which would not have been out of place on SHAZAM. It’s power deserves the attention much lesser records have achieved, packing so hard a punch, it knocked the wind out of both the band and Trevor’s solo career.

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.

The Move

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Listen: Night Of Fear / The Move
Night Of Fear / The Move

A reoccurring event: ‘Night Of Fear’ moving in and out of the slot known as my all time favorite single. THE BEST OF THE MOVE was the only cd in the car this past week, so when the iPod ran out of juice during a four day break out of town, in went the disc.

‘Night Of Fear’ had charted in England during December ’66. Just after Christmas day I ventured to Smith’s Records, my local, to pour over BILLBOARD. The Hits Of The World section to be exact. It was always a first stop once picking up any issue, as well, the singles review page and Bubbling Under The Hot 100. The record had jumped from #42 to #17, and with a band named The Move, I was already sold. Unlike today’s just-a-click-away reality, the long wait to hear this one began then and there.

I’m pretty sure the first time was on AMERICAN BANDSTAND in February, the Rate A Record segment to be exact. I’d always have my reel to reel poised for this bit, you could count on at least one gem to be played. Thinking about the programming and record company politics of the day, I’m guessing Rate A Record was much like today’s Specialty Show play, where radio will squeeze in some not yet proven releases that deserve an airing. Regardless, I was ready, and played that taped version, with Dick Clark talking over the intro and outro, easily hundreds of times. I still hear his delivery subliminally during each play of the actual record to this day.

I know Roy Wood hates ‘Night Of Fear’, he told me so. When I asked him to do me a jukebox tab, he was totally agreeable. But when I said ‘Night Of Fear’, a dreadful grimace crossed his face and he asked me to please pick any other song. I chose ‘Blackberry Way’ but prodded. Apparently, he never thought ‘Night Of Fear’ was very good at all, hated the recording and despised it being an A side. No amount of complimenting him otherwise changed his stance. What a shame. He should be so proud.

Well, I loved this song. All it’s twists and turns hold memories of the time, the weather, what was going on at school, what other records I was anxious to hear and own, how fun life was just being a little kid. Lots of reasons to play it over and over all these years later.

Wayne Bickerton Productions: World Of Oz / Clyde McPhatter / The Rubettes

Monday, December 29th, 2008

The Muffin Man / World Of Oz

Listen: The Muffin Man / World Of Oz
The Muffin Man / World Of Oz

Seems the labels had a stable of in-house producers back in the 60′s. And many times they’d be given the new signings to whip into shape, and record in those infamous four or six hour windows. I’m guessing these producers were either on staff, or had production deals, similar to today’s consultancies. People like Denny Cordell and Mike Hurst come to mind, as does Wayne Bickerton.

I first noticed his name on Decca and Deram releases. A very favorite was ‘The Muffin Man’ by World Of Oz. It got a lot of Top 40 play in the US for a few weeks during summer ’68. Years later, in the Notting Hill Record & Tape Exchange, I stumbled on a copy with this very rare UK sleeve pictured above. My heart just about stopped. I’d no idea it existed as it’s not mentioned in any of the price guides and I’d never seen another. ‘The Muffin Man’ was part of their rather lavish album, lavish for the time that is, apparently requiring a huge budget. I was lucky enough to meet Wayne about four years ago on a New York trip, and meant to ask that budget detail. I had many questions, and he was fantastic about filling in so many blanks, but that one slipped my mind. Always an admirer of his work, it was a fascinating hour or two.

Baby You've Got It / Clyde McPhatter

Listen: Baby You’ve Got It / Clyde McPhatter
Baby You've Got It / Clyde McPhatter

Although an original member of The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter oddly moved to England, and even odder, signed to Deram. Come on, The Drifters were the definition of Harlem Doo Wop and such. Why did this guy pick up and go to London? Was he a closet Anglophile? Luckily, Wayne Bickerton was put in charge and produced his Northern Soul hit ‘Baby You’ve Got It’. Applying his trademark orchestration, the song became Clyde McPhatter’s strongest single ever.

Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes

Listen: Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes
Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes

Occasionally I hear The Rubettes ‘Sugar Baby Love’ and it jumps out every time. A perfect combination of glam and maybe doo wop meets Four Seasons or something. Not only did he produce it, but co-wrote the song as well.

Beverley

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Happy New Year / Beverley

Listen: Happy New Year / Beverley 01 Happy New Year (01) (01) 1.mp3

The year was 1966. UK Decca are about to launch their hip subsidiary Deram. The first release was a now period piece by Beverley, before she married John Martyn and became one half of the Island act, John & Beverley Martyn. ‘Happy New Year’ was the first of two solo singles, both on Deram and both produced by Denny Cordell. The record is so ‘live’ and was mastered so loudly – it’s just the ultimate vinyl sound with some very extreme production ideas – not out of line for Denny Cordell.

Luckily I got to work with him years later at Island. He was just full of stories and info. Never a day would pass without him dropping some tidbit my way. He knew I was a trainspotter and fed it well. You know the loud techno sound in The Move’s ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ at exactly 2:08? I asked him once how he got such an other worldy electronic sonic back then. He simply raised his two little fingers to the corners of his mouth and whistled. Exactly like on the single. Awesome.