Archive for the ‘CBS’ Category

Wilbert Harrison One Man Band / Prince La La / Derek Martin

Monday, December 30th, 2013

THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS / Various Artists:


Listen: Let’s Work Together (Parts 1 & 2) / Wilbert Harrison One Man Band

Side 2:

Listen: She Put The Hurt On Me / Prince La La

Listen: Daddy Rollin’ Stone / Derek Martin

Just check my previous two posts. Not hard to guess, I’ve been picking through the various artists section of my wall shelf.

Weirdly enough, this is usually a head scratching process. I don’t do it often, but every time seems to unearth a multi-artist record, usually an EP, that I’d never really noticed before, suddenly falling into the ‘where on earth did I get this from’ category. And honestly, it happens every single time. One source, the UK weeklies, who for a few years there during the late 80′s/early 90′s were including free EP’s, whether it be NME, Music Week or Melody Maker, with each issue. I religiously grabbed every one and stuck them in that VA section for a rainy day. The entire chunk now being a treasure trove of both obscure and focus tracks.

When the Ensign label got all hot and bothered about the Sue Records catalog, which I’m guessing they could suddenly access via their 1983 Island distribution deal, they issued a series of four song EP’s religiously honoring the labels iconic history. Some were single artist compilation EP’s by Ike & Tina Turner or Inez & Charlie Foxx. Others were theme centric: SUE INSTRUMENTALS, THE SUE SOUL SISTERS and this, the latter’s partner, THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS. I played all three in the past few hours and basically did a blindfold drill to choose today’s 31 Days Of December – All EP’s post.

THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS, most likely by design, builds around much covered songs from Sue’s UK catalog. And there were many songs to choose from here, not forgetting, the Sue UK label issued the American Sue releases along with various blues and RnB singles from small and indie US labels. Initially, Juggy Murray, who owned Sue in the US was reportedly furious with Chris Blackwell and Guy Stevens, the day to day guy at Island/Sue in London. Apparently, neither had cleared the idea of picking up product from other US companies and slapping a Sue label on it for the UK.

As a result, other than the bothersome bad blood, Sue’s British catalog and discography rivaled the majors like Decca’s, who bolstered their output and image by repping Atlantic, Monument, Tribe, RCA, Coral and others in Britain. Island became the little indie that could, even harder in the 60′s, when swimming against the tide of Decca, CBS, EMI and Pye was near impossible.

And so, the team at Ensign picked some solid originals here that went on to become widely popular as covers. Loads of bands, including The Who and John’s Children released Derek Martin’s ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’ during the Mod era.

Canned Heat, blues experts themselves, took Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ Top 40 in 1970, delaying their version to give the original a chance to sell and reach #32 on BILLBOARD. In a loose full circle chain of events, John Mayall chose to record Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ for his fantastic, and I do mean fantastic, Island album, A SENSE OF PLACE from 1990.

Georgie Fame & Alan Price

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Listen: Rosetta / Fame & Price, Price & Fame Together

By the time these two guys teamed up, they’d outgrown their hardcore, grimy beginnings, especially having to play the late, late, late night white blues and soul clubs that typified 60′s Mod. Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames and The Alan Price Set respectively had done their time in the all-nighter trenches of London’s Flamingo, and other even nastier spots around the UK. Miraculously, even though they were having mainstream hit singles, their labels allowed both to record what each clearly preferred, jazz funk and RnB.

But I guess hits meant tasting success and some money, so by the early 70′s, both Georgie Fame and Alan Price were involved with televsion, films and soundtracks. Somewhere in that mix, a suggested musical partnering reflecting their apparent camaraderie actually took way.

Great plan. Their voices sounded superb together, and the first single released as Fame And Price, Price And Fame Together landed them a #11 UK hit in ’71.

Fuck was I pissed ‘Rosetta’ never got airplay in America. Initially, the single was included in a pile gotten off Harry Fagenbaum, the Syracuse University college radio rep for Warner Brothers. Despite Harry being another Anglophile, he hardly mentioned it. Supposedly, this record was just too adult and schmaltz for him. He wrongly assumed I would agree.

Can recall vividly returning home that Sunday evening, having spent the day trolling the SU campus record shops, then hanging out at Harry’s dorm, listening to The Pretty Things GET THE PICTURE album. Seriously, we played it at least twice, as I still hadn’t scored my copy. That was a damn hard one to get even in ’71. Imports were starting to become more common, but not older titles. So I’d always run straight for it in his wall shelf.

I remember him trying to edge in Ron Nagle’s BAD RICE album, and Deep Purple’s ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’ 7″, both of which he’d just given me. My logic was to promise I’d listen once home, but in the meantime, let’s hear The Pretty Things. And I did check those out that night, as well John & Beverly Martyn’s ‘Primrose Hill’, yet it was ‘Rosetta’ that hands down stole the thunder.

Acid Gallery / The Outer Limits / Roy Wood

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Dance Round The Maypole / Acid Gallery

Listen: Dance Round The Maypole / Acid Gallery

It was December 2000, and I was stranded in England for a few days of Sony meetings. Actually, I was jamming to get home on the Friday, when early that morning I got a call from Will Botwin, then president at Columbia, asking very nicely if I could stay through Monday night for an Emiliana Torrini showcase. Will was always the greatest guy, awesome boss. How do you say no? I mean, he could have just told me I needed to do it. Period. But it was never his way.

So I suddenly found myself with three full days/nights on my hands. Reading the latest MOJO on the flight over, I was annoyed to be missing The Roy Wood Christmas Extravaganza Tour. I should have juggled the trip to take it in but by then it was too late. Now that I was there for a few days extra, I rechecked his schedule.

Sure enough, that evening Roy Wood was a couple hours away, in Wolverhampton. Jackie Hyde in the touring/artist relations department at Sony got me tickets and passes God love her. And I was on the 6 pm train heading north I think, alone. No one was interested in joining me. Grass is always greener.

I get there around 8, and decided to try speaking with Roy Wood. The band/crew etc are all around and tell me Roy has gone down the road to the pub. Ok. I wander off down the wet, deserted streets and find said establishment. Walk in, there propped up against the bar is a lone Roy Wood, nursing a pint. I proceed over, and no problem, he’s as friendly as I’d hoped. All talk about the past welcomed. Really fun guy.

I was always curious about the Acid Gallery single. He wrote and produced it, but it sure did sound like The Move to me. Was it? He confirmed his participation but no, it wasn’t The Move. Instead it was “some guys who were on Deram back then, name escapes me”.

Well was it The Syn, or The Eyes Of Blue, um, Tintern Abbey?

“No, these guys had a hit a few years later with ‘Yellow River’ “.

Bingo: The Outer Limits.

“That’s them” he confirms.

Just One More Chance / The Outer Limits

Listen: Just One More Chance / The Outer Limits

Actually The Outer Limits changed their name to Christie and had that smash with ‘Yellow River’. Main writer in both bands was Jeff Christie and he’d originally written ‘Yellow River’ for The Tremeloes but decided to record it himself after they dragged their feet. The rest is history, I guess. I loved that Outer Limits single, ‘Just One More Chance’ at the time, summer ’67.

Great Train Robbery / The Outer Limits

Listen: Great Train Robbery / The Outer Limits

But the follow up, ‘Great Train Robbery’, holy whatever, talk about British sounding. And on Immediate’s subsidiary imprint, Instant. Even better. Now why Immediate needed another in house label is pretty funny actually. Still very nice label and stock sleeve from Andrew Loog Oldham.

The Roy Wood Christmas Extravaganza was a total treat that night. Twelve piece, all female band. Sounding full scale, Phil Spector live. Reproducing all those Wizzard hits flawlessly. Roy dressed in black teddy boy jacket, purple lapels, purple streaks in the infamous hair and a lavender Strat. Once a star, always a star.

The finales, ‘Blackberry Way’ and ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ being sung along loudly by a full theater audience with fake snow falling on the stage, well it doesn’t get much better.

One last closing bit to the Roy Wood pub conversation:

Will you fill out my juke box tab?

“Sure. No problem”.

The Move Blackberry Way Jukebox Tab

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Roy Wood

Adam Ant

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Listen: Puss’n Boots / Adam Ant

True story. After playing this twice earlier, not to mention regularly for the past twenty eight or so years, I suddenly, for the first time, thought how much ‘Puss’n Boots’ reminded me of Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’. Never before had the similarity occurred to me. Turns out he produced it. Man, did I feel like a dunce.

Nice one there Phil Collins. Despite those massive drum sounds spinning their dated wheels in the early 80′s, they sure do work perfectly for ‘Puss’n Boots’. This song is just full of hooks, as in both traditional songwriting hooks and production tricks.

Plus I do love all the sneaky metaphors that lyrically weave in and out behind the prominent lead vocal parts. Listen closely next time, you’ll see what I mean.

Although a #5 in Britain, I guess ‘Puss’n Boots’ was thematically too English for US programmers. They used to run so hot and cold that bunch. Now their power base has been zapped from under their stubborn musical policies and no one cares, but at the time, I recall being mortified by it’s lack of attention here, despite his overall success streak.

The Love Affair

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

LoveAffairSheSmilesSweetlyUKA, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, Mike Smith, Mike Vernon, Date, Decca, CBS, Philip Goodhand-Tait

Listen: She Smiled Sweetly / The Love Affair

It’s happened hundreds of times through the years. Label takes chance on an act, issues a single or two with no results, then moves on. Same act gets another deal, sometimes only months later and blows up. Around this period, David Bowie bounced from label to label, Marc Bolan too, The Herd, a bunch of them. On the quick path were The Love Affair. Probably signed by Decca in-house blues expert Mike Vernon or assigned to him for production, a good cover choice (Jagger/Richards ‘She Smiled Sweetly’) was released almost simultaneously with The Rolling Stones’ own rendition from BETWEEN THE BUTTONS on February 10, 1967. By the end of the year, the band had moved on to CBS and that label’s debut ‘Everlasting Love’ entered the UK charts in the first few days of January ’68, ending up at #1. Someone had egg on their face, including me.

I was so excited to see a copy in a local department store, and without a penny in my pocket, I decided to shoplift it. Got caught, almost arrested. Threatened to call my folks, which they didn’t, but it did cure me of that one.

LoveAffairRainbowUKPSFront, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, CBS, Date

LoveAffairRainbowPS, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, CBS, Date

Listen: Rainbow Valley / The Love Affair

‘Everlasting Love’, like all their singles, was a cover, this one originally released by Robert Knight. Even U2 have taken a stab at it, but no one has one upped that version by The Love Affair.

The followup, ‘Rainbow Valley’, was just as powerful. In particular, it continued to make obvious the strength of lead vocalist Steve Ellis. I’m sure I’ve read many times that this patch of singles, all Top 10 in the UK, were indeed Steve Ellis with studio musicians, a persistant trend in the 60′s. Probably to great frustration, the calculated pop made the band member cringe but who can say.

LoveAffairDayWithoutUKA, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, Mike Smith, Mike Vernon, Date, Decca, CBS, Philip Goodhand-Tait

LoveAffairDayWithoutUS, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, Mike Smith, Mike Vernon, Date, Decca, CBS, Philip Goodhand-Tait

Listen: A Day Without Love / The Love Affair

New producer Mike Smith had a simple formula down, which with ‘A Day Without Love’, now included recording the songs of non-member, singer/writer Philip Goodhand-Tait.

LoveAffairBringingUSA, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, Mike Smith, Mike Vernon, Date, Decca, CBS, Philip Goodhand-Tait

Listen: Bringing On Back The Good Times / The Love Affair

What seemed to rub the more hip, progressive rock fan of the day wrong is exactly what attracted me to The Love Affair. Big, over the top productions, with loud brass and orchestration, almost Motown-esque, and a perfect showcase for that great Steve Ellis voice.

Nina Hagen

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Listen: Zarah / Nina Hagen

She never sat in my office at Columbia. Nina Hagen was before my time, but during Howard’s. I don’t recall his memories being flattering. Not unlike her records, she was apparently rather primal.

Her vocal styled in that walking dead voice always took the prize for best dynamic moment on any track, although I’d have to say Mike Thorne was best at dragging that out of her on NUNSEXMONKROCK from ’82, one album and one year prior to ‘Zarah’. In fact, my all time favorite Nina Hagen track from said album, ‘Born In Xixax’, never graced a 7″. Luckily, ‘Zarah’ came in a close second.

Good call on someone’s part paring her with Giorgio Moroder, and, the 80′s version of today’s Mark Ronson fifteen minutes of fame producer, Keith Forsey. The track is superb, soldiering along proudly in the shadow of Sparks ‘Beat The Clock’, another Giorgio Moroder production from three years earlier.

Man, remember when records began to sound really expensive? Looking back, ‘Zarah’ was totally in that fast lane.

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Straight Ahead / Brian Auger's Oblivion Express

Listen: Straight Ahead / Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express
Straight Ahead / Brian Auger's Oblivion Express

Always the ultimate player, Brian Auger seems like he was a pro in the cradle. Go back to his earliest recordings, prior to the big success he had with ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, billed as Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger & The Trinity. You’ll see his virtuosity was fully formed.

In the early 70′s, after Julie Driscoll went her solo route, he toured the world, initially as Brian Auger & The Trinity, quickly morphing into Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, gaining US momentum the whole while. Sharing bills with every type of band (Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brothers Band., Roland Kirk, Santana, Chick Corea, Led Zeppelin, Earth Wind & Fire, Kiss, Herbie Hancock), they provided just the right amount of high brow musicianship to ecstatically turn both jazz and rock audiences on.

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, their many records fell pretty short on US airplay, but sold well nonetheless.

Fast forward to the present, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express is still playing, dare I say better than ever. I sat smack dab in front of him a few years back, when he shared a bill with an equally stunning Savoy Brown at B.B. King’s in New York, and you could hardly see anything but a blur from those hands.

They just don’t make ‘em like Brian Auger anymore. Sorry.

Al Kooper

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Listen: The Monkey Time / Al Kooper
The Monkey Time / Al Kooper

It’s safe to say Al Kooper is a soul fan from way back. Look into his early history of obscure singles. They’re as vital as the well known triumphs, most of which wouldn’t exist without him.

For instance, had he not helped Bob Dylan over his difficulty with ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, well who knows what might have happened, or more likely not.

The effortless version goes to prove the occasional unsung plaudits don’t come his way often enough. I can’t imagine it’s easy, or more accurately, possible to fake this one.

For the record, it’s basically Blue Mink’s rhythm section here, and both Claudia Lennear and Linda Lewis doing those female bv’s.


Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Listen: Strong Me Strong / Yellowman
Strong Me Strong / Yellowman

By the 80′s, reggae seemed to race forward technologically a little too fast, like Jamaica suddenly discovered electricity or something. The deep analog records from the mid 70′s got very syndrum and synth heavy by the end of the decade. Just about every followup to classic albums by Max Romeo, Justin Hines, Aswad or anything involving Sly & Robbie reeked with a shimmer that now is horribly dated.

‘Strong Me Strong’ was indeed so strong, those occasional sonic trappings couldn’t begin to destroy it’s greatness. A pretty brave record for 1984, given that slamming reggae wasn’t exactly in the pocket, or maybe it’s just what was needed. Good signing Howard.

Yellowman’s one off with CBS/Columbia meant white, alternative kids could take notice and rub shoulders with roots music all over again, like in ’77. Yellowman toured the US, playing the exact same venues as the college radio hot indie bands. Not a jaw was left shut once he finished mopping those stages.

Listen: Dub Me Strong / Yellowman
Dub Me Strong / Yellowman

This dub version B side is lightweight but fun, a difficult one to find anywhere but on the original vinyl (I think). Bill Laswell and Material do many things well, but obviously not dubbing. Worth having as a period snapshot though, and still pretty great loud.

Paul Young & The Family

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Listen: Love Of The Common People / Paul Young & The Family PaulYoungCommon.mp3

Howard posted this off with a batch of new releases back in ’82. He worked at Columbia then, having transferred from CBS London to New York. Old habits die hard: he still looked after the UK roster Stateside. I think this was one of the British acts he picked up via an inter-company option, thereby releasing Paul Young & The Family in the US.

As in their homeland, this first version of ‘Love Of The Common People’ didn’t make much noise, and remained a non-chart single. It was of some interest due to Rico finding a seemingly new home as the group’s trombonist. Anything Rico touches just works perfectly. His first solo album, ’76′s MAN FROM WAREIKA is a must have.

Questionable pictures can be harmful. Despite the contemporary ska image of the band, Paul Young’s shirt on the single sleeve really put me off. He looked like a bad stylist’s mistake. I did like the record, but felt a little unhip admitting so.

Listen: Love Of The Common People / Paul Young PaulYoungCommonRemix.mp3

Bottom line is a great voice and equally great song are hard to keep down, despite all the sonic tricks of the moment being applied. That’s how I’d describe the remix, which revived the original single and thankfully kicked it into the charts. Well deserved.

Sounding a bit too glossy in hindsight, it’s down to The Belle Stars African background vocal style and ever dependable Rico saving the day. And of course, Paul Young’s (now sans The Family in typical major label Columbia Records ruthless style) voice.

The Tremeloes

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Listen: (Call Me) Number One / The Tremeloes TremeloesCallMe.mp3

Never liked Liverpool bands. No, that’s wrong. Never liked Merseybeat. I may be mixing up adjectives here though. Sorry Liverpool. Most of The Swinging Blues Jeans singles are good, particularly ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ and ‘Rumours, Gossip, Words Untrue’. They were Merseybeat, I guess. And if The Applejacks or The Cryin’ Shames fall into Merseybeat, then they shouldn’t.

A band that did get that Merseybeat tag were Brian Poole & The Tremeloes. Never followed them, yet once The Tremeloes lost Brian Poole, things got way more updated in keeping with the times. They co-existed alongside the formula pop The Love Affair and The Marmalade, which was fine by me.

It was surprising to hear their first few singles all over the US airwaves and see them in the charts. As time went by (’68 – ’70), the quality of releases stayed high, but the US airplay didn’t. Without reason or logic, The Tremeloes were forced into my ‘I’m pissed off these bands don’t get radio play’ column.

I could name a few of their singles that could have been, should have been. And I’m surprised Epic didn’t use their muscle to turn the momentum from downward to upward. But they didn’t.

‘(Call Me) Number One’ should have been just that. Great Mike Smith production and when the song delivered one more hook than most other songs can muster, another freaking one swings round at you. Try counting them yourself.

The Marmalade

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Listen: Baby Make It Soon / The Marmalade MarmaladeBabyMake.mp3

Apparently, The Marmalade’s ‘I See The Rain’ was one of Jimi Hendrix’s favorite records. Their most collectable release, considered a psych classic, on and on.

All good, a deserved single. Having released a few musically revered but consumer ignored 7′s, UK CBS decided they’d had enough. Onto their pop assembly line The Marmalade went.

Perfect. The more manufactured or schlock, as one friend arrogantly puts it, the singles became, the more I liked them. Indeed, pop/schlock 60′s and 70′s UK singles in general – especially non-hits by nobodies get me excited every time.

‘Baby Make It Soon’ was probably a song the band hated and most likely didn’t even play on. Who cares….it’s a period classic, and many a person’s guilty pleasure. That, I would bet my life on.

Definitely a keeper.

Thelonious Monk

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Thelonious, Thelonious Monk, CBS

Listen: Hackensack / Thelonious Monk TheloniousHackensack.mp3

Phil and I spent the night trolling through boxes of 7′s looking for fun stuff to play this Sunday during Lord Warddd’s Happy Sundays at Brooklyn Bowl residency. As always, even if a record clearly won’t work for a particular dj event, sometimes you still need to listen. A Thelonious Monk UK single from ’62 being the perfect example. We agreed, given that neither of us are jazz fans and probably don’t know good from great, there are occasionally pleasant ones to listen to every so often. And we also agreed this was just that.

An edited version from some album, it makes for a very pleasant 2:58 on the ears, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Like all jazz singles, one of the great things about them – is that they’re pressed up as singles at all.

Mott The Hoople

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Honaloochie Boogie / Mott The Hoople

Honaloochie Boogie / Mott The Hoople

Listen: Honaloochie Boogie / Mott The Hoople MottHonaloochieBoogie.mp3

‘Honaloochie Boogie’ was the first record I heard upon arriving in London, June ’73. My Aunt Tess collected me at Heathrow, we went back to hers, where she prepared me a traditional English fry-up, and then went to meet Uncle Mick at the pub. It was playing when we walked in. I was more excited about racing toward the jukebox than catching up with my relatives. Very wrong.

I knew of the single, it was one of many I planned to hear/acquire while there. Things were off to a great start.

Prior, I had really tried to love Mott The Hoople. Those four albums on Atlantic (Island in the UK) were a bit of a struggle for me – they just felt a little prog rock bloated. My roomates loved BRAIN CAPERS, and so did I. Well liked, not loved, that is. Suddenly the stars lined up for Mott and they were working with David Bowie. New sound and new label (CBS). They segued onto the glam bandwagon pretty seamlessly, no easy feat considering they weren’t young or thin or androgynous. Overend Watts, like Chris Squire from Yes, always looked pathetic in crotch high silver platforms and pastel colors. Plus ‘All The Young Dudes’ was, let’s face it, all about Bowie. Most importantly, they were now making singles.

The initial one from the second album, first post Bowie, was this. And it ignited a run of strong, quite fantastic records to follow: ‘Roll Away The Stone’, ‘The Golden Age Of Rock ‘n Roll’, ‘All The Way To Memphis’ to be exact. I guess ‘Honaloochie Boogie’ is the least heard and appreciated. Maybe it was the moment for me – not sure. I can tell you this, along with Wizzard ‘See My Baby Jive’, Thin Lizzy ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ and at least one Slade single, it was on every jukebox in every pub in London that summer.

I had finally arrived in my natural habitat.

David Essex

Friday, January 1st, 2010

DavidEssexUK, David Essex, CBS, Columbia, Jeff Wayne

DavidEssexRockOnPS, David Essex, CBS, Columbia, Jeff Wayne

Listen: Rock On (Single Version) / David Essex DavidEssexRockOn.mp3

‘A record to cleanse the palate’ I believe was the Melody Maker review in a sentence. Very true. This one sat around for a while prior to picking up any notice in the States, but Columbia clearly smelled a hit from the get go. You could always tell when a picture sleeve was involved prior to 1977. I have a feeling a lot of people might remember the first time they heard it. The immediate response was ‘play it again’, a handy reaction when that initial listen is from your radio.

Forest Hills native Jeff Wayne’s fantastic production (he went on the score WAR OF THE WORLDS) could easily double as incidental music to a James Bond film. You simply don’t hear records this unique very often.

The local oldies station was having a 70′s weekend recently, replaying old Casey Kasem chart countdowns and this came on. Sounded more modern than anything on the modern rock station.

Chicory Tip

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

ChicoryWineUKA, Chicory Tip, CBS, Epic, Giorgio Morodor

ChicoryWineUSA, Chicory Tip, Giorgio Morodor, Epic, CBS

Listen: Cigarettes, Women And Wine / Chicory Tip ChicoryWinesomanyrecordssolittletime.mp3

Having scooped a UK release of ‘Son Of Your Father’ off Giorgio Moroder’s own German version, Chicory Tip ended up at #1 as a result. Not so in the US. Giorgio’s reached #48, while Chicory (as their name was shortened to for that one US single) peaked at #91. Despite the UK coup, Moroder wrote it, thereby still earning off every sale without having to schlep about in glam trousers and platforms, as the band did. In fact, Chicory Tip apparently hated their new found teen success, thus live, would deliver heavy blues rock instead. Bad career move.

Back in the studio, the Chicory Tip camp was smart enough to keep a winning formula going for a few more replicas of that lone #1, right down to having the band cover Moroder songs exclusively as A sides. A few charted, but despite heavy airplay from the influential Radio Luxembourg, BBC’s Radio 1 wouldn’t touch ‘Cigarettes, Women And Wine’, supposedly due to the cigarettes mention. Big cheat. They were a perfect mix of Glam and synth rock, and had they continued mixing the two elements, the result may have been much closer to what Manfred Mann’s Earth Band achieved, especially with Giorgio Moroder as producer.

Their sound certainly pointed to a whole musical revolution that wasn’t too many years away.

The Slits

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

SlitsTypicalUKA, The Slits, Island, Antilles, Dennis Bovell, CBS, Howard Thompson

SlitsTypicalUS,  The Slits, Island, Antilles, Dennis Bovell, CBS, Howard Thompson

SlitsTypicalPS, The Slits, Island, Antilles, Dennis Bovell, CBS, Howard Thompson

Listen: Typical Girls / The Slits SlitsTypical.mp3

Did testing one’s musical tolerance begin in the 60′s via prog rock, or was it an on going process starting with jazz in the 50′s? It certainly hit full swing by the late 70′s. When art met punk, the first requirement seemed to be an inability to play. But the resulting cringe factor was admittedly addicting. There were a bunch of labels that bent over backwards to like the unlikeable, and then it started to spill to the majors.

I ended up being sucked into The Slits despite my intensions otherwise. A strong image, great sense of reggae/dub, spot-on producer choice (Dennis Bovell) and top packaging helped launch their Island period (about a year in length) during ’79. After all, they were the new GTO’s in my book, but to others, it all hid behind No Wave or some such genre.

Most of the plays I give ‘Typical Girls’ still result in a second spin, or lead me on to a couple of other tracks.

SlitsManNextPS, The Slits, Y, John Holt

Listen: Man Next Door / The Slits SlitsManNextDoor.mp3

How does anyone resist a cover of John Holt’s classic ‘Man Next Door’. I love the original. I love Massive Attack’s and I love this.

SlitsEarthbeatUKA,  The Slits, Island, Antilles, Dennis Bovell, CBS, Howard Thompson

Listen: Earthbeat / The Slits SlitsEarthbeat.mp3

Then there’s always ‘Earthbeat’, their fourth single. Have to say, I basically preferred this one. By now they’d absorbed the studio tricks Dennis Bovell had passed along, and working with Nick Launay and Dick O’Dell as producers, seemed to have replicated themselves successfully. It was a time when they were almost mainstream, and could’ve had a hit. After all, John Peel favorites like Killing Joke and The Fall were finding their way into the UK singles charts. Howard Thompson signed this to CBS, if corporate proof is needed of that possibility.

SlitsEarthbeatPS,  The Slits, Island, Antilles, Dennis Bovell, CBS, Howard Thompson

Listen: Earthdub / The Slits SlitsEarthdub.mp3

Definitely search out the 12″, as the B side, dub version, ‘Earthdub’, is worth owning.

Earth, Wind & Fire / Ramsey Lewis

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

EWFMightyUKA, Earth Wind & Fire, Columbia, CBS, Warner Brothers

EWFMightyPS, Earth Wind & Fire

Listen: Mighty Mighty / Earth Wind & Fire EWFMighty.mp3

During the summer of ’74 – summer ’75, I worked at Discount Records, then a northeastern chain, owned by CBS, and heavily stocked in catalog. Most record shops in those days carried lots of….records. This was a time when all the excitement happened right there in the store as opposed any of the other shops competing for the youth dollar.

Today it’s known as an Apple Store. Both had genius bars, well no, that’s a lie. Record shops had counters populated by genius record experts. Same difference.

There were a couple of co-workers who relentlessly hogged the turntable, seemingly for the sole purpose of playing Earth Wind & Fire’s newest album, OPEN OUR EYES. I cringed at it’s polish having preferred their previous two Warner Brothers albums. They were way less refined and more street dirty. After all, leader Maurice White had started his professional career in ’69 as a session drummer at Chess, eventually joining The Ramsey Lewis Trio. Then something happened, literally in mid song, I realized I absolutely loved ‘Mighty Mighty’. It was the last track on one of the sides as I recall, and had just been released as a single. How perfect. It’s been a staple ever since.

EWFDrumSongUKB, Earth Wind & Fire

Listen: Drum Song / Earth Wind & Fire EWFDrum.mp3

So once my guard was down, I started noticing a bunch of things in there, like LA’s latin sound, which War had coined a year or two prior, sentimentally grabbing my attention via a first visit in ’73. Plus new to me, African beats. Miriam Makeba’s ‘Pata Pata’, shockingly a pop hit several years earlier, was my only exposure at that point. B side of ‘Mighty Mighty’ and album track, ‘Drum Song’ became a favorite even. I was officially a fan.


Listen: Kalimba Story / Earth Wind & Fire EWFKalimba.mp3

Was I happy when ‘Kalimba Story’ was released as a 7″. It was almost too good to be true, being my other favorite from the album. I’ve noticed kalimba on every record they’ve ever made, at least all the ones I know.

RamseyUSA, Earth Wind & Fire, Ramsey Lewis, Columbia

Listen: Sun Goddess / Ramsey Lewis And Earth Wind & Fire EWFSunGoddess.mp3

Full circle to ’75, when Maurice White reunites with Ramsey Lewis to record what would become a #1 Urban classic. These guys had really hit their stride.


Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

sunnydoctors, Sunny, Sue & Sunny, The Brotherhood Of Man, Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Geoff Stephens, CBS

Listen: Doctor’s Orders / Sunny SunnyDoctors.mp3

Basically Sunny has loads of history. Solo artist, one half of Sue & Sunny (both of whom were also members of The Brotherhood Of Man) and background voice on many, many, many hit singles (Dusty Springfield, Elton John, The Love Affair, Lulu, Mott The Hoople, T. Rex, Tom Jones, and Joe Cocker to name but a few bigger ones). She’s probably on more records than even she can remember – let alone you or me.

Often associated with the Cook & Greenaway writer/producer team, it was their song ‘Doctor’s Order’ (co-written with Geoff Stephens, himself claim to a long list of song credits: The Applejacks, Manfred Mann, Scott Walker, Dave Berry, Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters) that became a favorite for literally months in ’74. As into rock and soul as I was in ’74, the occasional pop track would bite me hard. I was never comfortable that Sunny’s version didn’t become the US hit version, it was better and smoother than Carol Douglas’. Rest of world though, the crown went to the awesome Sunny. I want to meet her someday.

The Only Ones

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Out There In The Night / The Only Ones

Listen: Out There In The Night / The Only Ones OnlyOnesOutThereInTheNight.mp3

Trouble In The World / The Only Ones

Listen: Trouble In The World / The Only Ones OnlyOnesTrouble.mp3

I’m a sucker for an atonal vocalist. So The Only Ones’ Peter Perrett is right up my alley. These two singles are by far my favorites from the boys. Never did get to see them, some arrest nonsense cut their US tour short, the one whereby they were playing my town. Hence not much to say about them, except I still love these records. Oh, hold on, the sleeve pictured for ‘Trouble In The World’ was sent along, at the time, by Howard Thompson. He A&R’d the band, by assignment as opposed to choice. He doesn’t reflect fondly on it all. Whether by coincidence or design, ‘Trouble In The World’ echoes Mott The Hoople, with it’s Sue & Sunny background female vocals. Seems like an HT influence to me.

For reasons unknown, the sleeve was scrapped allowing or forcing the record to be issued in a stock CBS bag. The label was quite good at making pitiful judgement calls when it came to picture sleeves. Unlike in the US, picture sleeves were quite uncommon in England until punk. So what did CBS do? They released a bunch of punk singles without them. Although the corporate waste exponentially accelerated by the time I was employed by Columbia in 1995, it seems seeds were planted decades before. Hey, let’s actually manufacture the sleeves then destroy them, why cancel it in the pre-production phase? Kill another tree. No problem.

But the records speak for themselves. Great stuff. And although spelled differently, you have to admit Peter Perrett was pretty hip to choose, for his surname, that of the great US label, Parrot, which included Them, The Zombies, Los Bravos, Lulu & The Luvvers and Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours amongst it’s roster.