Archive for the ‘Philips’ Category

The Sir Douglas Quintet

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

The Tracker / Sir Douglas Quintet - US

Listen: The Tracker / The Sir Douglas Quintet
The Tracker / The Sir Douglas Quintet

Like so many bands popping up around the country circa ’64 – ’65, all imitating Britain’s Invasion, The Sir Douglas Quintet appeared. Unlike those others, they had a recognizable sound (perfectly part Bo Diddley, part Pretty Things) and could both write and find great songs, and had the production advantage of Huey P. Meaux guiding them. The band never released a bad single on London Records’ imprint Tribe. They eventually moved to Smash/Philips where their greatness, and the occasional hit single, continued.

‘The Tracker’, followup to their debut smash ‘She’s About A Mover’, was a real favorite despite it’s national stall at #105 in July ’65 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart.

I recall seeing them on SHINDIG, Doug Sahm (Sir Douglas) doing a mean Phil May imitation vocal on ‘The Tracker’ while holding an oversized magnifying glass, kind of roaming around the stage as though following footsteps visible when enlarged, Sherlock Holmes style. Not only did they have the sound down, but the look as well.

Blue Norther / Sir Douglas Quintet - US

Listen: Blue Norther / The Sir Douglas Quintet
Blue Norther / The Sir Douglas Quintet

‘Blue Norther’, the B side, with it’s rather haunting patent Sir Douglas Quintet formula (not to be taken as a bad thing), I like to think is about the train line and totally conjured up nighttime images of a freight winding it’s way through some dark mountain woods or the Texas desert, assuming there is one there.

Listen: In Time / The Sir Douglas Quintet
In Time / The Sir Douglas Quintet

Quickly released that September, no doubt in hopes of refuelling interest after their huge debut, ‘In Time’ stiffed completely. Shame, just listen to it’s perfection. No other US band quite captured their flawless mixture of Texas and England, a recipe that should’ve easily worked. To my knowledge, only KNAC in Salt Lake City charted it for a week in October at #63. Otherwise, klunk

Listen: The Story Of John Hardy / The Sir Douglas Quintet
The Story Of John Hardy / The Sir Douglas Quintet

For the flipside of ‘In Time’, as with Manfred Mann’s rendition of the Lomax/Lomax written ‘John Hardy’ (it too a B side of ‘Sha La La’), the ever present influence of The Pretty Things, marraccas particularly, prevailed. The band’s more folk blues ‘version’, retitled ‘The Story Of John Hardy’, songwriting mischievously credited to Doug Sahm, succeeded in establishing yet again that sound so unique to this band.

Many years later, Doug Sahm formed The Texas Tornadoes and signed to Warner Brothers. I saw him in the office one day (my company, The Medicine Label, was a WB label) and he graciously filled out a jukebox tab for me. It was a chance meeting, so I wasn’t prepared with B side info. I couldn’t remember it, neither could he.

Sir Douglas Quintet - Juke Box Tab

Above: Jukebox Tab filled out by Doug Sahm.

Ian & The Zodiacs

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Listen: So Much In Love With You / Ian & The Zodiacs
So

Usually not one for the Liverpool sound, even I found the occasional exception. Top of the list would indeed be The Cryin’ Shames, and included somewhere, Ian & The Zodiacs. Yes, despite their twee delivery, I suppose it’s the nostalgia in me that finds this soft spot toward them. Plus I liked their name, and was always a big fan of their label group, Philips/Mercury/Fontana/Smash.

I recall seeing their album in a local shop, it may have even been my introduction to the band. Back in 1965, to be afforded an album, with only a single or two to spark it’s sale, especially when they were stiffs, was rare. But it gave us all a chance to see a color photo of them, itself a treat.

As was the case with Ian & The Zodiacs, their label Philips jumped on the US youth market’s insatiable taste for anything British Invasion related. Hence it seems the whole marketing plan for this band was to simply announce themselves as such, right there on the front cover of their debut, and as it turned out only, album:

“We’re new. We’re from England. We have a new sound”.

The last bit wasn’t really true at all, this debut single being a Mick Jagger / Keith Richards cover, made somewhat famous as the only UK chart hit by The Mighty Avengers, who like The Rolling Stones were also managed by Andrew Loog Oldham.

Also covered by The Herd, ‘So Much In Love’ or ‘So Much In Love With You’, as it’s titled here, possibly to avoid crediting the correct songwriters (Mick and Keith – see label above), is a rather perfect British Invasion, not my term btw, song. At least that’s my opinion.

And so, on July 31, 1965, ‘So Much In Love With You’ sat at #131 on BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart, whatever on earth that meant. Airplay in some small town? A few boxes sold by mistake when the warehouse were meant to ship a much bigger current hit? A nice dinner for the chart compiler at BILLBOARD’s main office? I do recall when working at Elektra during a weekly Wednesday marketing meeting, our company trade publications rep mentioning ‘begging for bullets during her BILLBOARD lunch’. Hmm.

Regardless, hopefully Ian & The Zodiacs basked in their seven days of US fame during that fateful hot July week, as they were never to chart again.

The Singing Nun / Soeur Sourire

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Listen: Dominique / The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)
Dominique

Out of the blue, I started humming ‘Dominique’ in a restaurant last night, when one of my kids recognized the song. Apparently it was used in a recent episode of FX’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY.

I know we all believe, or want to, that our society has evolved to a higher place than those civilizations before us, even if only measured in decades. Just look at our President, legalized marijuana or gay marriage. But trust me, a record like ‘Dominique’. sung in French by a lesbian Sister of the Catholic cloth would not get airplay on today’s Top 40 stations. Period.

Not so in 1963, when Philips Records managed to get mainstream exposure, no small thanks to The Ed Sullivan Show, thereby taking ‘Dominique’ to #1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100. That’s about where the good stuff ends.

According to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s version of The Singing Nun’s saga, “most of her earnings were in fact taken away by Philips and her producer, while the rest automatically went to her religious congregation, which made at least $100,000 in royalties.”

To recap, she never received any royalties for her work, but instead saw all that income go to the label and her Catholic convent, and one can only imagine the gnarly specimens running that place. But it doesn’t end there, she was hit with a whomping tax debt years later, all for money she never received. Her Catholic convent claimed they never got the cash, though bank statements prove otherwise. Huh? Hasn’t ‘Thou Shall Not Lie’ been in the Catholic church’s Top 10 way before BILLBOARD started compiling charts?

Still, her music prevails. I’ve always loved this track, and I’m sure it’s not because of the virtual walk back to my earliest memories of being a little kid. ‘Dominique’ is just a peaceful, soothing work that transcends any language barrier, as all great music did and still does.

I tucked this NEW YORK POST clipping into the single’s sleeve, just unearthing it last night:

And so with every massive, or even slight hit, come the follow-up. Regardless of if it’s worthy, makes sense or even has/hasn’t a chance. The corporate blueprint is to ring out the dollars, and keep flaming the fire. So too, Philips settled on a second single, from the SINGING NUN album, ‘Tous Les Chemins’. It was not a hit.

Listen: Dominique / The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)
Dominique

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich / The Herd / Scott Walker / Dusty Springfield

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

SWEETIE BRA EP / Various Artists:

Side 1:

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

Listen: I Don’t Want Our Loving To Die / The Herd
I

Side 2:


Listen: Come Next Spring / Scott Walker
Come

Listen: My Colouring Book / Dusty Springfield
My

No, it’s not an ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS artifact, it’s the real deal SWEETIE BRA EP from the British Exquisite Form Brassiere Company in 1968.

If you’re like me, you didn’t know the record existed. I stumbled on a copy years ago, digging through boxes rather early at the Portobello Road Saturday flea market. And by rather early, I mean it was still dark. Getting there at the crack of dawn was, and still is, the only way to find the cardiac arresting level items at low prices or more probably at any price.

I was on a mission that morning, having anticipated it all for a few days leading up. We were staying at the then hopping, now closed, Pembridge Court Hotel, with a back door entrance that literally spilled out onto the starting tip of Portobello Road.

What a place that hotel was. The manager Valerie had two gentle orange cats that happily visited the room and would occasionally stay the night if allowed. Her staff delivered sandwiches with tea and cakes at any hour. It was like staying at a great aunt’s house in old time Ennland. Corinne and I were loyal guests for years, we loved it there.

So on that particular morning, I schlepped out on my own before dawn, flashlight in pocket, to mingle with the aggressive dealers in search of their next slice of income and the collectors, in search of their next fix. No idea why I even pulled the record out of this sleeve to have a look, I guess it was an exercise in being thorough. To my surprise and pleasure, four of my favorite acts were featured. This was clearly a promotional item via some sort of relationship between the bra company and Philips/Fontana Records, given that all the artists were from the company’s roster and the actual label was the Philips signature deep shade of blue.

An amusing introduction starts Side 1, then leads into ‘Zabadak!’, a December 28th landmark in my measly little existence of a life.

Brian Hyland

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Listen: The Joker Went Wild / Brian Hyland
The

Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars, the branded road show which featured some of the most popular acts of the day, began in 1959. Negative speculation ran high. Despite owning his AMERICAN BANDSTAND media partner, so many hit makers all rolled into one evening appeared costly to outsiders. But of course with the most watched teen program in America as both your airplay vehicle and your leverage, the economics of this perfect storm streamlined itself into a goldmine.

On the night of the Kennedy Assassination, the 1963 Caravan Of Stars which included Brenda Holloway, Reparata & The Delrons, The Hondells and Brian Hyland was scheduled to play at the Dallas Memorial Auditorium.

After the event, stories began circulating that the gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, had tickets to the Caravan Of Stars concert. The manager of the Dallas record store that supposedly sold those tickets claims Oswald purchased two sometime before the shooting. However, there is no receipt to verify that Oswald actually had tickets, nor any other detail.

Regardless, Brian Hyland was one of the traveling entourage that worked his way through the crowd, getting a curbside view of the motorcade as it passed by their hotel, just three blocks before the shooting occurred.

By ’66, the world had changed drastically, and in some ways, so too had Brian Hyland. His early 60′s DA haircut had now grown into a contemporary Beatles fringe. Whether or not by design, the overall image update worked. Like Bobby Vee, the occasional single got airplay, and sounded perfectly in place on the radio.

Philips Records paired him with writer, arranger, producer Leon Russell who, as with Gary Lewis & The Playboys, merged then modern day west coast surf with Ricky Nelson influenced vocals to great success. ‘The Joker Went Wild’ made for a favorite spring ’66 anthem around our house. Mom, Dad and sister alike all giving it big thumbs up.

Manfred Mann

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Listen: Ragamuffin Man / Manfred Mann
Ragamuffin

Manfred Mann may hold the record for having massive success with not two, but three different lead vocalists. It’s usually big trouble when that original lead singer is suddenly gone. A few exceptions like AC/DC, Van Halen, The Move and maybe The Small Faces come to mind. But three different ones. Let’s see, that’s a pretty short list. I can only think of The Temptations and Manfred Mann.

Their Mercury/Fontana patch with Mike D’Abo, loosely referred to as Manfred Mann Chapter II, is my favorite, but just. To be fair, I love singles from all the lineups, so it’s probably my involuntary addiction toward anything released on the Philips/Mercury/Fontana labels that swings it. Honestly, I get the shakes around their pressings, especially the promos.

The last 7″ from the Mike D’Abo era, ‘Ragamuffin Man’ has forever been tarnished with fulfilling the final contractual commitment, by then Manfred Mann himself having decided on a jazz direction and new lineup, etc, etc. But seriously, it’s just as strong as the singles preceding it: ‘Semi Detached Suburban Mr. Jones’, ‘Ha Ha Said The Clown’, ‘My Name Is Jack’ and ‘The Mighty Quinn’. The record is great. I still play it a ton.

Got to hand it to him, Manfred Mann could not only pick songs but had a real gift of stamping his keyboard dazzle to every single they ever made. He might even be the earliest guy to successfully bring synths and Moog to mainstream radio.

And for the record, THE MIGHTY QUINN album, assembled for the US only just a few months prior to ‘Ragamuffin Man’ being released, is exceptional. They always used the long-play format to showcase a virtuosity and range of influences away from the world of pop singles. Despite not being an album recorded intentionally as such by the band, it plays like one, and combines all their assets nicely. It’s getting scarce these days, especially in a mint sleeve. I recommend everyone own a copy.

Spanky & Our Gang

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Listen: Like To Get To Know You / Spanky & Our Gang
Like

God, I hated Spanky & Our Gang when they were current. As a kid, they just sounded like safe sonic sludge, a cross between The Mamas & The Papas and The Letterman. Being impatiently addicted to the English group image, this bunch were simply hideous visually, out of shape and way too American.

Add to that, they were signed to the US Mercury/Philips/Fontana labels. As far as I was concerned, any money and manpower directed toward them took away from The Herd, The Troggs, Manfred Mann, The New Vaudeville Band, The Pretty Things and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Trust me, this did not sit well.

Truth be told, I was kind of wrong. Indeed, they probably did rob those other acts of company resources, but musically, they were pristine. To be fair, as the years passed, I found Spanky & Our Gang to be a nagging guilty pleasure, and one that eventually carried no guilt. Their collection of hits and non-hits sound even better with age. In fact, very psychedelic, aided in no small way by some of the earliest stereo 7′ pressings I can recall.

Check out both the production and arrangement of any Spanky & Our Gang single, start with ‘Like To Get To Know You’. This was on the radio constantly in ’68 and rivals Richard Harris’s Jimmy Webb written/produced ‘MacArthur Park’ for the flowery mini symphony slot of the era.

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.

Jackie Lee & The Raindrops / Jacky

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Listen: There Goes The Lucky One / Jackie Lee & The Raindrops
There

Stumbled on this single early on, around ’74. I’d had plenty of radio station scores by then, with no idea there’d thankfully be many, many, many more to come in life. I don’t know of a better high to be honest. Probably similar to most other addictions, you’re always craving the next fix. Well it’s moments like finding a Jackie Lee & The Raindrops single in a healthy stack of dj 7′s that’ll keep you on the drool.

By then, I’d become completely familiar with parent label fonts and layouts, so easily spotted this release as being part of the London Records group. During the 60′s, London distributed loads of small labels, and some larger ones as well, like Deram or Hi.

Anything from London was primo by me, and often meant the act was UK based, given London was indeed the American arm of British Decca. True to form, Jackie Lee, although originally from Ireland, was by then living in England. That was close enough. ‘There Goes The Lucky One’ really sounded like a mix between girl group and late fifties doo wop, plus I wrongly believed the record was from ’65 or so. As it turns out, ’62 was it’s year of release and Jaylee appears to have been a custom imprint. Jackie Lee clearly had a friend high up in the US operation. A custom label and a picture sleeve in 1962, someone worked miracles at the yearly London/Decca confab.

Jim Palmaeri, one of my pals at Discount Records where I worked at the time, fell in love with this. He’d often borrow it for weeks on end, and I became militant about it’s return continually. Despite not having heard the record for years, the chorus suddenly popped into my head, and I was singing it aloud Friday night. Then a dreadful stomach pit formed. Where was the record? I’d been playing the American Jackie Lee’s ‘Baby, Do The Philly Dog’ and ‘The Duck’ just a few nights prior, but didn’t recall seeing it. Checking verified the worst. Jackie Lee & The Raindrops weren’t there between the other Jackie Lee and Leapy Lee. Fuck.

An even greater fear then entered my mind. Did I get the single back from Jim that crucial last time he borrowed it?

Hold on, I did get it back, remembering that during a trip to SXSW in the 90′s, I stumbled on an empty picture sleeve at the record collector’s show which, for years, was part of the annual convention. Upon returning to New York, I reunited the record with it’s sleeve, but hadn’t recalled seeing it since. So the remainder of Friday evening had me wandering about slightly agitated.

Saturday morning, returning home from some early junking with a few new scores to file, I settle in front of the shelves to start alphabetizing and what do I see halfway along the wall section containing the L’s but ‘There Goes The Lucky One’. The records had separated a bit down the line from Leapy Lee to reveal the misfiled Jackie Lee & The Raindrops single. A cold sweat of adrenaline waved over me, and then I could not play this record fast enough. All in all, a happy ending.

Listen: White Horses / Jacky
White

Now I was on a roll. I needed to know more about this single, and what do I discover but this Jackie Lee is indeed the same person who recorded ‘White Horses’ for Philips in ’68, as Jacky.

I had followed it’s chart ascension at the time, quite intrigued by both song title and artist. Plus I was a sucker for anything on Philips. When ‘White Horses’ eventually reached a UK # 10, I got nuts for a copy, a US pressing of which was miraculously scored at Walt’s Records on Salina Street, in their non-hit record rack banished to the back wall of the shop.

By now, I was mowing lawns, cleaning the hallways and foyer of a small apartment building every Thursday after school, plus working weekends at the Chittenango Thruway Restaurant, meaning my visits to Walt’s weren’t limited to one 7″ purchase any longer. ‘White Horses’ came back home in a stack that included The Hollies ‘Jennifer Eccless’, Scott Walker ‘Joanna’, The Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’, Grapefruit ‘Dear Delilah’ and The Love Affair ‘Rainbow Valley’.

Remembering facts for my chemistry tests: useless. Remembering details about records: piece of cake.

The 4 Seasons

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Listen: Walk Like A Man / The 4 Seasons
Walk Like A Man / The 4 Seasons

Once upon a time, The 4 Seasons were unavoidable on radio. Top 40 right through the early ’80′s, then the oldies stations. Now I don’t think many, almost literally, any of their records get played at all. Mind you, other than hearing those oldies stations in the occasional diner, I never cross paths with them. Our kids hate the radio, and just try sitting through the local NYC version of oldies radio in the car. It’s unbearable, repeating a very, very short list of titles ad nauseam.

Suddenly The 4 Seasons popped into my head, catching a snippet by them coming out of the TV downstairs, apparently being used in some commercial. Wow. Did it sound good.

They had a bunch of slick but class singles on Philips just after their initial run on Vee Jay. But those first several, something about them just shimmers with the innocence of street corner teenagers from the 60′s. Not sloppy in any way, but not polished.

‘Walk Like A Man’, despite being a huge single (#1), usually got overlooked even on the oldies airwaves in their heyday.

The James Brown Productions: Bill Pinkney / James Crawford / Anna King

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I Do the Jerk / Bill Pinkney

Listen: I Do The Jerk / Bill Pinkney
I Do The Jerk / Bill Pinkney

There was actually a period in the 60′s when an artist could get away with signing to more than one label at a time, sometimes under different names, sometimes not. Usually, these were all singles deals anyways, I’m guessing, whose shelf life may have been months instead of years. Give someone a few releases and if nothing clicked, keep it all moving and on to the scrap heap they’d go. Not everybody got away with it, specifically James Brown.

As the story goes, while still under obligation to King Records, he upped and signed to Smash, a subsidiary of the Mercury/Philips group. Pretty quickly it was squashed, but as he still owed Smash many sides, James was forced to record as an instrumentalist for the label, specifically playing organ. A big old Hammond at that, thereby helping create amongst other genres, mod jazz, well sort of, as his stuff was mostly a combination of soul & schlock. Kinda black muzak versions you could say. All great listens though, the perfect party soundtrack in it’s day or even now in trendy trust fund pads or retro club nights. Part of his deal with Smash included a production imprint, whereby he did just that, produced other artists for Smash, Mercury and Fontana (another sister label), many bearing the recognizable ‘James Brown Production’ logo. Most famous was Bobby Byrd, his loyal sideman for decades.

Not so famous, but musts nonetheless, found their way, despite little or no marketing/push, onto the Mercury Group’s release schedules.

Like Bill Pinkney’s cash-in, almost Young Rascals rocker, ‘I Do The Jerk’ on Fontana. This was when the Jerk was a dance de jour. Everyone did it, or claimed to know how. Never ever heard ‘I Do The Jerk’ at the time, but mind you, was way to young even if it was played. Most likely, the pop stations went nowhere close, although from tooling the annals of radio playlist history, God bless Google but be prepared to work, some very, very secondary Southern delta markets spun it occasionally.

Strung Out / James Crawford

Listen: Strung Out / James Crawford
Strung Out / James Crawford

The super great, and oddly James Brown similar, James Crawford, released the spectacular ballad ‘Strung Out’ on Mercury. Don’t bother closing your eyes and imagining, you won’t need to. This could easily be the man himself. Quite possibly, buried somewhere in the Universal master tape storage library, which sadly was partially destroyed by fire not that long ago, may exist a James Brown version. Or maybe a vocal guide demo version laid down by producer for artist. Meaning James Brown for James Crawford.

If Somebody Told You / Anna King

Back to Soul / Anna King

Listen: If Somebody Told You / Anna King
If Somebody Told You / Anna King

Which brings this post to the one time featured female vocalist from the touring version of The James Brown Revue. She being Anna King. Good voice, perfect look: processed hair, bullet proofed into place, body tight, sparkle floor length ensembles and no doubt, an onstage sizzling swagger.

She made a few singles, produced by James Brown for Smash. And even an album. As well, she did one 7″ with Bobby Byrd ‘Baby Baby Baby’, which was included on the UK only EP BACK TO SOUL.

Marie Knight

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Listen: Cry Me A River / Marie Knight
Cry Me A River / Marie Knight

Hey thanks Vicki Wickham, for keeping this one since the 60′s. Yes, it was part of her 45 collection that I was gifted by Saint Vicki herself last fall.

You know, I love you Vicki Wickham.

Let’s talk about Vicki Wickham. We first met in ’89, when she managed Phranc during her Island days. I remember exactly where we first shook hands: backstage at the Beacon Theater, in the the very stairway where Ahmet Ertegan took his last spill. Phranc had just hired her, and was at that time on tour with The Pogues.

I was actually meeting thee Vicki Wickham. The one that booked READY! STEADY! GO!, managed Dusty Springfield, co-wrote ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ with Simon Napier-Bell, produced Labelle. The one who not only booked the infamous Saville Theatre series, brought the Motown Review to England, worked at Track Records with The Who, Thunderclap Newman, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Marsha Hunt, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, John’s Children, and yes, The Cherry Smash; but also knew Scott Walker…and Brian Jones. I was nervous and in awe. Vicki Wickham was a higher form of life.

Fast forward. Nowadays, we meet often for lunch, on 9th Ave and 44th Street at Marseilles, possibly her favorite restaurant. She always orders the asparagus omelette and eats about half. I grill her for details: RSG, The BBC during the 60′s, Rediffusion Television, Top Of The Pops not to mention every band and everybody she ever encountered. Did she visit the Immediate Records office, Deram, Philips, Fontana. What was the Ready Steady Go canteen like, did she know Tony Hall, Steve Marriott, Inez Foxx, Joe Meek, Dozy. When did she last speak with Andrew Loog Oldham, P.P. Arnold or Madeline Bell…..we cover, discuss, judge and trash tons of people. Yes, we are guilty. Needless to say, there’s never a loss for topics.

On one such occasion last year, she mentions having just found boxes of 45′s in storage, and the only one she can remember seeing in the whole bunch was the Bessie Banks ‘Go Now’ UK A label pressing. Was I interested in the lot? That’s like asking Alago, Duane, Joe and I if we’d like a free bump in the VIP bathroom at The Ritz in the 80′s. Ahh, yeah.

Vicki, you ARE a saint, and a beloved friend.

And you turned me on to Marie Knight. Praise be.

The Walker Brothers

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

walkerbrosshipuk, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
walkerbrosshipusa, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
walkerbrosshipps, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

US Picture Sleeve: Front (above) / Back (below)

walkerbrosshippsb, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

Listen: My Ship Is Coming In / The Walker Brothers
My Ship Is Coming In / The Walker Brothers

I will never forget the Friday night I walked into Two Guys Department store with my parents. As usual, I headed straight to the record department while they proceeded to do some weekly shopping. The singles were displayed all along the the tops of the album bins, each in their own metal rack holding about 25 copies. I wish I had photos.

There in brilliant full color, was the above Walker Brothers picture sleeved single, ‘My Ship Is Coming In’, a solid 25 copies freshly unboxed. I could hardly breathe. They looked fantastic in bulk. The sleeve just radiated about one hundred times more intensely than anything else in sight, like a messiah. I still get tingles looking at the cover. It brings me right back. I owned it minutes later.

I could not get home fast enough, freaking out in the dark car, holding this masterpiece but only getting to glimpse at it as we passed under traffic lights and street lamps. God knows how many times I played it that night. It was not guitar based British beat, but instead sounded like music grownups listened too. Yet clearly there was something addictive in it’s air. I decided then and there, I was going to love this record. That was that. I did then and I still do.

Years later Scott Walker would reveal that while all his contemporaries in London were modeling themselves after American blues greats, his attention was focused on becoming the next Eddie Fisher. How genius was this guy?

WalkerSunUKA, The Walker Brothers

walkerbrossunuk, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
wlakerbrossunusa, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

Listen: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) / The Walker Brothers
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore) / The Walker Brothers

The world was not ready for the followup to ‘My Ship Is Coming In’. Mine certainly wasn’t. How could The Walker Brothers possibly up the perfection of that record? Then along comes ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’, a flop a few years earlier for Franki Valli. He and The Four Seasons had loads of great records, and he’s no slouch in the vocal department. But Scott Walker he is not, no one is.

I swear, this record can still stop me in my tracks when it comes up on the ipod or BBC’s Radio 2. I heard it on the 60′s Sirius radio channel aboard a JetBlue flight recently. As diverse and truly exciting that the many other songs were, this just grabbed the prize unchallenged.

I saw Matt Pinfield the other day. He had Matt & Kim on his morning WRXP radio show, so I went along. Pinfield is the most kind hearted and passionate music fan, really knows his stuff, loves records. We worked together at Columbia and got connected at the hip. Somehow the subject of ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’ came up. Almost in unison, we both blurted out nearly identical sentences.

“This may be the greatest single of all time.”

Deservedly, it spent a month at #1 in the UK. See the three consecutive NME charts below, reprinted from 40 YEARS OF THE NME CHARTS. Despite not one US TV appearance or live show, it did get played here and had a decent chart run, peaking at #13 in BILLBOARD. It should have, at least, gone Top 10 but given the many singles that never ever charted, there’s some contentment in it’s placing.

nme4_66, 40 Years Of The NME Charts

Julien Covey & The Machine / Wynder K. Frog / Jimmy Miller

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

juliencoveyuk, Julien Covey & The Machine, Wynder K. Frog, The Spencer Davis Group, The Kinks, Ray Davies, Jimmy Miller, Island, Philips

Listen: A Little Bit Hurt / Julien Covey & The Machine
A Little Bit Hurt / Julien Covey & The Machine

I guess you might call them a supergroup. Julien Covey, real name Phil Kinorra, played with Brian Auger in his early days. As well as fronting the band vocally, he also drummed. Amongst it’s members were John Moreshead on guitar, who played with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, The Shotgun Express and The Ansley Dunbar Retaliation. In addition, the band included Peter Bardens (Them, Camel), Jim Creagan (Blossom Toes, Family) and Dave Mason at various times. Their lone release, ‘A Little Bit Hurt’, was co-written and produced by Jimmy Miller in ’67, who brought along his freshly used prodcution techniques, successful on The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin” and applied them to The Kinks ‘You Really Got Me’ riff, to help create this now, Northern soul classic, according the Northern soul classic experts.

wyndergreen,  Wynder K. Frog, Island, Jimmy Miller, Mick Weaver

Listen: Green Door / Wynder K. Frog
Green Door / Wynder K. Frog

Between ’64 – ’67, the sound of the Jimmy Smith/Jimmy McGriff hammond B3 was the prevalent connection that bridged hip rock and soul, bringing the jazzy black Flamingo club stuff (Brian Auger & The Trinity, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, The Graham Bond Organization) to a more mainstream public, as with The Spencer Davis Group. Jimmy Miller’s production played a part. He worked as house producer for Chris Blackwell then and recorded some successful and some less successful, well commercially for the time that is, singles, like the aforementioned Julien Covey & The Machine track, and ‘Green Door’ by Wynder K. Frog. Although not chart records, they became club hits, and apparently still are to this day, on the Northern circuit, wherever that is.

The Persuaders / Junior Tucker

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / The Persuaders PersuadersLuck.mp3

Only in hindsight did I hear The Persuaders version of ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’. God only knows how that happened. I worked at a one-stop in Fall ’73, delivering records to accounts, and to my apartment….bad karma. I thought there wasn’t a 7″ I had left out of those personal allocations, but obviously I was wrong.

Add to that, how did I miss it on the radio? There was nothing else to listen to while doing those said deliveries and this one went pop, peaking at #39 in Billboard that very November.

Eventually, around the Christmas season, I got moved inside, pulling orders and restocking. At this I was a whizz. Could do it in my sleep – and loved it. I was in the LP department – all organized by label, then chronologically by catalog number within each. Can you imagine sections for King, Okeh, Fontana, Sue, Deram, Philips, Parrot, Stax, Smash…….ok enough torture.

The front half of the warehouse was dedicated to the 45′s. Maude did my version of the job up there, and she had a Kevin pile – one of everything. Well, sometimes 5 or 10, depending on varying factors. Once a one hundred count box was full, off to the tape dispenser, then on to the cart, bound for the delivery truck, it went. Oh to go back in time.

Still, I didn’t end up with a copy of this one for years.

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / Junior Tucker JuniorTuckerSomeGuys.mp3

Fast forward. 1980.

Oldest trick in the book: cover classic soul songs in a reggae style. Pretty much works every time. In this case, beyond great.

I fell in love with Junior Tucker’s ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’ upon release. I dare say it got played hundreds and hundreds of times in my record room that year, and on my radio shows.

Corinne and I were both reggae lovers, having been weened on the hard corp Lee Perry and Jack Ruby releases Howard was sending our way starting in ’76. An all time favorite series, THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC, especially Volume 3, became our crowd’s anthem anthology. And I dare say all my best friends from that period can be transported back to some of the greatest times of our lives when we spin it nowadays.

Had I known then, that about ten years after Volume 3′s release, I would one afternoon walk into Chris Blackwell’s office, and suggest reviving the series with a Volume 4 and 5 (Volume 5 exclusive to reggae style RnB covers – this was included), and that he would say “Yes”, my heart would have frozen.

Gary & The Hornets

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Listen: Kind Of Hush / Gary & The Hornets GaryHornetsHush.mp3

Lou Reizner is a name you will notice often if you scour various mid 60′s singles in the Mercury/Philips/Smash/Fontana family. He either produced, A&R’d or both for the company. I’m guessing one of his pet projects, or maybe assignments, were brothers Gary & The Hornets.

Every week several bands suddenly appeared out of nowhere, clad perfectly in wide colorful cords and uncomfortably fitting polka dot or paisley shirts, complimented by the obligatory bowl cut. These kids were no exception.

A hipper looking, but not better sounding, version of contemporaries The Cowsills (sans the Mom), they covered a few well know (Herman’s Hermits ‘Kind Of Hush’) or semi well known (‘The Troggs ‘Hi Hi Hazel’) singles. None with any success.

Listen: Baby It’s You / Gary & The Hornets GaryHornetsBaby.mp3

One such well known track, ‘Baby It’s You’ was recorded by many, including The Shirelles and The Beatles, but the hit went to a female led, more soul/blues white act, Smith. For Gary & The Hornets, it was yet another unsuccessful stab at some Top 40 success.

If I had to guess, the hope was their voices would improve with age – but that wasn’t meant to be. Turns out I have five of their 7′s, and the more recent ones don’t indicate much of an upward trajectory.

Never mind. They were fun at the time, and encouraged many an aspiring youngster to give a go at cutting a single or two, and for that we should give Gary & The Hornets a nod.

BOBBY HEBB

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Listen: A Satisfied Mind / Bobby Hebb BobbyHebbASatisfiedMind.mp3

I hated his hit ‘Sunny’ when it was current in ’66. Absolutely loathed that sucker. Got rammed down everyone’s throat, plus being so safe and mellow it managed to cross all the formats – you literally couldn’t get away from it. Logically it peaked at #2 during it’s healthy fifteen week US chart run.

Yet ‘Sunny’ was so strong that everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and The Electric Flag to Georgie Fame and Les Mc Cann were covering it too. Now I wish I’d had better taste at the time. Not only has it become a favorite through the years (I’ve collected over 30 covers on 7″) but I’m hooked on his voice as well. Like Jon Lucien years later, and probably Mel Torme prior, he has this calming tone that appeals to my valium side. His follow ups were pretty great too. I think he should’ve been around a lot longer.

The followup single, released just after ‘Sunny’, was a great double sider. ‘A Satisfied Mind’, despite possibly being a bit ‘Sunny’ sounding, has held up – I know cause it’s on my jukebox and plays a lot. I never tire of it. Not so with the public, peaking at #39, and lasting only six weeks total on the Billboard Top 100.

Listen: Love Love Love / Bobby Hebb BobbyHebbLoveLoveLove.mp3

The B side, ‘Love Love Love’, is now considered to be his ‘other’ hit – having gained UK Northern Soul success in ’72. When re-released there due to demand, it sold well and charted at #32. Most tracks on his one and only Philips LP, SUNNY BY BOBBY HEBB are worth many listens too. Get it if you can.

Gary Walker & The Rain

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

GaryWalkerSpooky, Gary Walker & The Rain, Polydor, United Artisits, Scott Walker, Allan Clarke, Philips, Charlie Crane, The Cryin' Shames

Listen: Spooky / Gary Walker & The Rain GaryWalkerSpooky.mp3

Is it possible to record a bad version of ‘Spooky’ – especially when Scott Walker is producing, or even just in the studio sharing oxygen with you? Before The Walker Brothers crumbled at the seams and eventually broke up, drummer Gary Walker was making solo singles – the first two, ‘You Don’t Love Me’ and ‘Twinkie Lee’, both becoming UK hits and as importantly, both produced by Scott Walker.

Shortly after that official breakup, Gary Walker & The Rain began what was to be a very desirable and highly collectable band. Members included Joey Molland, who prior was a member of Immediate Records recording artists The Masterminds, and after the breakup of The Rain, Badfinger.

I saw Badfinger in those days, they supported The Moody Blues. Despite their Beatles connection and Beatles sounding singles, I went along anyways – after all, it was two UK bands in my dull hometown of Syracuse. I recall speaking to the band after their set, for some reason they were all wandering around the audience looking depressed. Maybe it was bad acid.

Had no idea then he’d been a member of both The Masterminds and Gary Walker’s band. Lucky for him or the poor guy would’ve ended up running for cover.

GaryWalkerPneumonia, Gary Walker & The Rain, Philips, Charlie Crane, The Cryin' Shames

Listen: Come In, You’ll Get Pneumonia / Gary Walker & The Rain GaryWalkerPneumonia.mp3

An even more interesting member of the lineup was Charlie Crane – a very unsung musical hero of mine. Lead singer with The Cryin’ Shames (UK not US band), it is indeed his voice on their Joe Meek produced anthem ‘Please Stay’, posted elsewhere on this blog. Search it out just to see how incredible this guy’s voice was and additionally, what a terrific compliment it made to that particular tune.

Most likely by accident, seems every single Gary Walker & The Rain released had a connection to another worthy band or artist. In this case, they were neck in neck with The Easybeats’ version of the song, released a bit earlier on United Artists and selling a few more copies, but just a few. Great song, deserved better result regardless of the version.

GaryWalkerFrancis, Gary Walker & The Rain, Philips, Charlie Crane, The Cryin' Shames

Listen: Francis / Gary Walker & The Rain GaryWalkerFrancis.mp3

This B side to ‘Come In, You’ll Get Pneumonia’ was always a favorite and of great interest amongst collectors. Seems the garage fuzz fanatics find it a must. I don’t see the musical connection but do love the track.

GaryWalkerHello, Gary Walker & The Rain, Polydor, United Artisits, Scott Walker, Allan Clarke, Philips, Charlie Crane, The Cryin' Shames

Listen: Hello, How Are You / Gary Walker GaryWalkerHello.mp3

From ’69 to ’75 we jump with Gary (who in the intern was a motorbike messenger delivery fellow – so the unofficial story goes). Having left his Japan-only success, The Rain, behind him now for six years, out of nowhere pops, oddly enough, another Easybeats cover, ‘Hello, How Are You’. Nice idea – I wonder in hope, can we expect ‘Friday On My Mind’ any day? Why not and what a treat that’d be.

In keeping with the aforementioned famous friends attachment, this version was produced by Allan Clarke from The Hollies. Not sure who’s playing on it. Any ideas are welcome.

James Brown

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

JamesBrownBoogaloo, James Brown, Smash

Listen: James Brown’s Boo-Ga-Loo / James Brown
James Brown's Boo-Ga-Loo / James Brown

One day, around ’90, I decided to own every last James Brown single from the 60′s and 70′s. It was a most fun challenge, and surprisingly easy. Don’t forget, we were still in the heyday of folks dumping their vinyl for cd. Despite all the unsolvable problems that began with the onset of the cd configuration, it was absolutely a miracle for the vinyl collector. What could be better than the entire world wanting to unload their records?

James Brown’s temporary switch from the King label to Smash lasted a only year or two. Seems he signed one contract before the previous one expired, ultimately settling it all by agreeing to record only instrumentals for Smash. Some fans seem to downplay their interest in the period – not me. Besides, I’m a sucker for any releases from the Mercury Records Group: Philips, Fontana, Blue Rock, Limelight and of course Smash.

The best part of all this being the public tired of his assembly line, contract fulfilling output, so sales declined faithfully with each release. These last few before returning to King became the hardest to find. Good fun in my book.

‘James Brown’s Boo-Ga-Loo’ came and went completely unnoticed. Although the label copy suggested it’s from his NEW BREED album, it’s not. Well, sorta not. The track is actually an edited version of ‘New Breed’ retitled and easily doubles as incidental music for a B movie. No problem.

JamesBrownJimmyMack, James Brown, Smash

Listen: Jimmy Mack / James Brown
Jimmy Mack / James Brown

Equally enamored with muzak renditions of familiar hits meant many of his singles for the label were prime wants like ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ plus his own covers of ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ and ‘Try Me’ for instance.

The last Smash 7″, and non-LP as well, is a lazy, slightly mundane (and therefore perfect for my tastes) version of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s ‘Jimmy Mack’. As with many of the jazz organists from that period, I bet they all rattled out these one after the other in a day long session, thereby making both recording costs and sales pressure low. Everyone needed a few for party music I guess. Another hard one to find, yet most likely competition is pretty minimal.

MADELINE BELL / BLUE MINK

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Randy / Blue Mink

Listen: Randy / Blue Mink 07 Randy.mp3

She made good pop records with Blue Mink in the late 60′s/early 70′s as one of their two lead singers (songwriter Roger Cook was the other). Anyone into the happening music of the day would turn their nose to them, preferring prog or glam; writing off mainstream radio music as with every generation. Their ‘By The Devil I Was Tempted’ is a great period piece and sounds fine still.

‘Randy’ was a summer ’73 UK smash, it was always on the radio, and I vividly remember it blaring out of the market stalls on Wardour and Rupert Street while trolling for records.

Picture Me Gone / Madeline Bell

Listen: Picture Me Gone / Madeline Bell 01 Picture Me Gone.mp3

Before, during and after the Blue Mink run, Madeline Bell continually released her own solo stuff which soul nuts seem to appreciate, although most of those singles were heavily A&R’d with attempts at pop/RnB crossover. A cult artist she was not being tailored into. In the end, that’s what she became. Partially due to her lack of any chart hits, (‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ was a Top 40 success here in the US), for being a backup voice on many a Dusty Springfield record (and Dusty on hers); but mainly for ‘Picture Me Gone’ which became a Northern Soul collectable. A few others recorded it, but her’s became the official version. It was actually relegated to the B side of ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ in America. Most US shops have no idea it’s valuable, therefore plan to find it for $1 or so. I did that just the other day at Academy here in New York, and this one probably brings the number of copies within 1000 feet of me to ten.