Archive for the ‘Phil May’ 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.

The Pretty Things

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Listen: Havana Bound / The Pretty Things
Havana Bound / The Pretty Things

It’s May 19, technically the anniversary of booking The Pretty Things at my college. I celebrate it every year, well given this also marked my first date with Corinne, it’s impossible to forget. Talk about impressing a girl, this totally did the trick. Yes, our first date was a concert by The Pretty Things, with all the backstage trimmings.

I was the school’s event chairman and conveniently, there was no concert committee. None of the other students were interested. I believe that reality is known as a dream come true. Not only did I worm my way into the campus radio station as music director, I was also booking whoever I wanted with the school’s money. A spoiled freshman, that was me.

Needless to say, only British acts got the slots: Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Rory Gallagher, Atomic Rooster, The Incredible String Band and The Pretty Things. Not a bad lineup for year one.

Given they had a manager that turned down The Ed Sullivan Show, it’s no wonder The Pretty Things never made it to the US during the 60′s. Hard to believe, and neither did The Small Faces.

After having called it quits post their album PARACHUTE flopping in ’70; it was like a miracle that The Pretty Things were reforming to record FREEWAY MADNESS in late ’72. Seemed a lifetime then, and the news was a big deal to the small but already twisted following The Pretty Things had acquired.

Then, on top of that, a premier US tour for spring ’73 was announced. It seemed too good to be true and booking them became my mission in life, School work tabled, getting The Pretty Things to town top of the list. Success, I got the band to play for $500 on May 19th with The James Cotton Band as openers. See the poster below.

Never did I envision at the time that one day, years later, I’d have my own label and actually reissue the FREEWAY MADNESS album. Never ever crossed my mind, but life can take you on the wildest ride if you let it.

Fast forward to ’94, The Medicine Label is up and running out of the Warner Brothers New York office. Mo Ostin, then chairman of both Warner and Reprise, but based in Burbank, would often visit our building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. On one particular trip, we were talking in the hallway, and it just occurred to me that this was the moment, so I asked, could I re-release The Pretty Things album from the catalog, then lying dormant having been unavailable for years.

“Sure. Good idea, just check to see it hasn’t been scheduled by the reissue department.”

I nearly blacked out with excitement, unlike the reissue team, who smelled a potential predator upon hearing the news.

“Not to worry guys, it’s a one-off.” Reissue departments were very cautious of the finite back catalog from which they drew.

Suddenly, with FREEWAY MADNESS on the schedule, the original 1/2″ master tapes were delivered to my office along with cover art films, bios, press shots, studio logs, you name it. There sat history in the Warner Brothers pouch, as it was referred.

Well who better to write new liner notes than Phil May?

Luckily, we’d been introduced a few years earlier by Shannon O’Shea, a UK friend who was managing the band around ’90-’91. I would often stay in Notting Hill Gate, and Phil lived just down the street from my hotel, on Talbot Road. We spent many an afternoon in his local pub. A nicer guy you will not meet, and the recollections. Endless.

So yeah, Phil May was only too happy to write those CD reissue liner notes, and while rummaging for some bits to post here, I found the agreement below between the WB art department and Phil for the job:

The real moment on FREEWAY MADNESS was ‘Havana Bound’. It was picture perfect Pretty Things, and originally the UK B side to ‘Over The Moon’, released in ’72 as the album’s official single.

Huh? The B side? Not to take anything away from ‘Over The Moon’, great great song but come on. What planet did that decision originate from? ‘Havana Bound’ deserved a big red A label.

Well now was my chance to right wrong so we scheduled a US 7″ of ‘Havana Bound’ to promote the CD reissue and service college radio but mostly because I just had to have it on an A side. Few things have been more exciting than the day those box lots arrived from the plant.

Believe it, the record business in it’s heyday was a euphoric free-for-all.

Above: The promo only insert from the ’73 US release of FREEWAY MADNESS
Below: The 8×10 press shot that accompanied FREEWAY MADNESS mailings to US journalists in ’73

The Pretty Things

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Listen: Midnight To Six Man / The Pretty Things

Happy birthday Phil May.

Acquiring one of the hardest US singles by The Pretty Things, a commercial stock copy of ‘Midnight To Six Man’, evaded me for decades. It became the most exasperating exercise. I had even put a $300.00 eSnipe bid in on the very, very rare occasion that one went up for auction several years ago. The previous day, I changed my eBay password as a standard safety procedure, and neglected to do the same with eSnipe. The bid was rejected due to security reasons. The record, listed by it’s B side as opposed to ‘Midnight To Six Man’, sold for just over $7.00. I was mortified. Even contacted the seller with a bribe, and the winner with hundreds. No luck.

Not so the second time through, and finally got the copy above. Nowhere near the $7 mark, but thrilled just the same. Now I can go to my grave, and this single will come with me.

Above: The Pretty Things perform ‘Midnight To Six Man’ live on the British TV program A WHOLE SCENE GOING March ’66.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Phil May

Phoebe Snow

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Poetry Man / Phoebe Snow

Poetry Man / Phoebe Snow

Listen: Poetry Man (Mono) / Phoebe Snow

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.

Bobby Womack / The J. Geils Band

Friday, March 26th, 2010


Listen: Looking For A Love / The J. Geils Band JGeilsLooking.mp3

I used to pretty much ignore The J. Geils Band during this period, well always if the truth be told. They were a six piece, one too many in my imaginary rule book, and man did they look bad. Endlessly touring, always playing upstate New York, mostly with some up and coming UK band as support. So, I’d go to the show, but usually found my way backstage to talk with said English group, stalking them for obscure info and details while they boogied through their headline set. It was way more exciting to stand in a crowded dressing room talking to Steve Marriott or Phil May than listen to The J. Geils Band’s blues jams.

Now I wish I could have found a way to do both. Eddie & The Hot Rods were big fans, and I started to appreciate them in hindsight. Barrie Masters constantly pestered everyone about them. So now, I can listen and appreciate them a lot more. Please accept my apologies guys, but you did need a visual make over I’m afraid.

BobbyWomackLookinUSA, Bobby Womack, The J. Geils Band, United Artists, Atlantic

BobbyWomackLookin, Bobby Womack, The J. Geils Band, United Artists, Atlantic

Listen: Lookin’ For A Love / Bobby Womack BobbyWomackLookin.mp3

Bobby Womack, on the other hand, was always a favorite. Funny enough, the English group fan in me had a lot to do with that as well. I was very friendly with Rich Fazekas from United Artists’ LA office in the early 70′s, when they had two distinct sounds to their roster: one a bunch of UK bands like The Move, Hawkwind, Brinsley Schwarz and Family; then the other RnB via Ike & Tina Turner, Monk Higgins, Marlena Shaw, Donald Byrd and Bobby Womack.

It was Roger Chapman who cornered me at the label’s LA location on Sunset, giving a stern lecture about both Bill Withers and Bobby Womack. He took me into Marty Cerf’s office and forced several new tracks from Bobby Womack’s then current COMMUNICATION album on me, at the same time recounting he and Family’s first exposure to Bill Wither’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. It was on the car radio somewhere between Houston and Dallas, and they would literally pull over every time it came on, drooling as it played. Being a Family freak, I hung on his every word of advice, hence my initial Bobby Womack crash course and eventual worship.

The Pretty Things

Monday, October 26th, 2009

prettythingsoct26, The Pretty Things, Fontana, Harvest

Listen: October 26 / The Pretty Things PrettyThingsOctober26.mp3

I’ve been unable to even write an entry these past few days due to my loss on eBay. I desperately wanted to win the US Fontana stock copy of The Pretty Things ‘Midnight To Six Man’, which finally appeared for sale last week. In fact, I’ve wanted one my whole life. I have the US wlp, the UK copy etc – but not a US store pressing. Somehow eBay is claiming my user name/password didn’t match – mind you I’ve not changed them in probably ten years since joining. Therefore my $200.00 bid went unplaced, and a lucky fellow in Europe grabbed it for $31.00. I’ve tried emailing him, offering to buy it – but no reply. Not even a sympathy condolence. So I’ve been literally shattered. Anyone know of a copy I could buy? Name your price.

I always sent off to England for their singles starting around ’68. Lucky for me, I have nice copies of every release. I was a bit disappointed in ‘October 26′ upon arrival. It was tired sounding, and by far their weakest track of the period, logically not finding a place on their PARACHUTE materpiece. I figured just to be clever, I’d post it today, due to it’s namesake.

prettythingscoldstone, The Pretty Things, Fontana, Harvest

Listen: Cold Stone / The Pretty Things PrettyThingsColdStone.mp3

However, the B side ‘Cold Stone’ was a whole other story. It made up for the A side’s wimp. Phil May’s addictive vocal in full frontal attack, it couldn’t hide their RnB baby steps. Who the fuck was picking the A sides at Harvest then is what I’d like to know. Peter Jenner….can you answer that question?

The Pretty Things

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

prettythingscryuk, the pretty things, fontana, phil may, the rolling stones, freeway madness, warner brothers, mo ostin, whisky,

prettythingscryusa, the pretty things, fontana, phil may, the rolling stones, freeway madness, warner brothers, mo ostin, whisky,

prettythingscryus, the pretty things, fontana, phil may, the rolling stones, freeway madness, warner brothers, mo ostin, whisky,

Listen: Cry To Me / The Pretty Things PrettyThingsCry.mp3

I don’t need much prompting to give The Pretty Things a shout out. Phil May is one of music’s greatest vocalists. When I was running The Medicine Label at Warner Brothers in the 90′s, I asked then chairman Mo Ostin, during casual hallway conversation, if he’d let me reissue their 1973 FREEWAY MADNESS album, which was ripe for CD format. No problem.

Mo was the ultimate executive, they literally don’t make them that way any more. Prior to getting the green light to set up Medicine, I had a memorable meeting/job interview with him. I wanted details of when he signed both The Kinks and Family, which he ever so graciously recounted. And that was only the beginning of the many fascinating stories.

FREEWAY MADNESS, one of those Mo signings, holds some serious sentimental placemarks. Plus it afforded the band their first US tour. How insane is that? Despite their legendary status almost instantly, it wasn’t until spring ’73 that The Pretty Things played their initial US show, at LA’s Whisky A Go Go. I up and flew to California in April, like the senseless Anglophile that I was. Turned into a fantastic trip. Rich Fazekas, then part of United Artists hip college radio department, put me up for the week and introduced me to old Hollywood. UA had Family, Hawkwind, Ian Whitcomb, Man, The Move, Wizzard, endless Blue Note acts. It was the place to be. We raided, with Greg Shaw, UA’s publishing office, then anxious to dispose of their 7″ library. Talk about timing. We saw Tim Buckley at The Troubadour and of course The Pretty Things at The Whisky several nights straight. One month later, I booked them back at my college. May 19, 1973 to be exact.

Fast forward to last night. At a friend’s for dinner, I became engrossed in THE ROLLING STONES ALBUM FILE & COMPLETE DISCOGRAPHY, by Alan Clayson, that was meant to be casual coffee table glancing. I intended taking a quick look, then couldn’t put it down. Learn something every day – and with this book you’ll learn many somethings. For instance, March 7, 1965. Manchester. Following a stopped Rolling Stones show at The Palace Theater, Keith and Mick taxied across town to leap onstage with The Pretty Things (Brian Jones was a room mate of The Pretty Things at the time) at The Manchester Cavern that evening. Among the songs that Mick duetted with Phil May: ‘Cry To Me’.