Archive for the ‘WMCR’ Category

Caravan

Friday, July 18th, 2014

CaravanLoveToLove, Caravan, London, Decca, Deram

Listen: Love To Love You / Caravan
Love

Talk about being smitten after one play. I had seen a few Caravan albums in the stores, but never managed to own one, not until IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK that is. I’d already decided to spring for a UK copy via mail order that coming April, based entirely on it’s title. Without warning, this US single, coupling ‘Love To Love You’ and ‘Golf Girl’, landed in my weekly stack from WMCR, the local adult radio station that miraculously gave me their ‘unplayable’ rock singles all through my high school years. My eyes bugged out seemingly an inch. I couldn’t get home fast enough, tearing through the traffic and risking my life on a bike one very slippery, slushy, cold Friday in February ’71.

Once home, I must have played ‘Love To Love You’ a dozen times, completely anxious for it to end so I could play it all over again. Why had I kept myself in the dark about this band, sounding more British than the British themselves might tolerate. Nothing like that excited high from realizing there’s a whole new back catalog to acquire, something I began plotting on the spot.

In the days before THE RECORD COLLECTOR PRICE GUIDE and Wikipedia, research needed to be done by hand. Consequently, homework was put aside and out came the back issues of MELODY MAKER and DISC & MUSIC ECHO. I needed every Caravan record. Now.

CaravanGolf, Caravan, London, Decca, Deram

Listen: Golf Girl / Caravan
Golf

Seriously, this next bit is still vivid, like waking up in the middle of the night remembering you forgot to do something and jumping straight out of bed. I’m digging through the magazines looking for Caravan titles and catalog numbers, with the single on repeat. My Dual 1229 turntable came complete with a 45 stacking spindle and was repeat-play capable. A beauty.

Suddenly, boing, it hits me. In all my glee, I haven’t even noticed. Was the single a double A promo, or one with a B side. So midway through, off comes the tonearm and…yes! There’s a B side!

‘Golf Girl’ was just as fantastic, beginning with the “selling cups of tea” lyric. It was almost too good to be true. Another song to check off the Caravan catalog completion list.

LandOfGrayAndPink, Caravan

Saturday morning, straight to the post office, buy the international money order and airmail my advance payment for the full album that day. Come early April, I owned a first pressing of IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK. Everything about that album was magical: the laminated cover, beautiful artwork, pristine deep groove vinyl, inner sleeve, lyrics, production. It even smelled good.

Adding to the magic, Decca moved the band to it’s progressive subsidiary, Deram, and deemed the album an initial release in a new deluxe series, assigning the catalog number SDL – R1 as a reward.

Instantly official, Caravan was now my new favorite band. Next, I had to see them live…but that would be a few years off. 1975 to be exact, when their first US commenced in support of CUNNING STUNTS. Luckily it swung through upstate New York and luckily, they were more British than ever.

CaravanJukebox, Caravan, Pye Hastings

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Pye Hastings

The Action

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Twentyfourth Hour / The Action

Listen: Twentyfourth Hour / The Action Twenty Fourth Hour.mp3

Melody Maker Top 50

It took a long while to hear The Action. Started reading about them around the time The Move debuted, mid ’66. They seemed to be from the same club scene, both were being touted for strong live shows and regulars at The Marquee. Like The Move, they had a great name and some great photos were about. I was desperate to hear ‘I’ll Keep Holding On’, which charted on the Melody Maker Top 50 during April of that year. But nothing was being released in the US. Then one Friday in May ’67, when I dropped by WMCR to blag some 45′s, there they were in my stack. This had been an agonizingly long wait. Now I was over excited. Couldn’t get home fast enough.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed, this didn’t have that edge I expected. Something seemed missing from their attack. Years later I realized the downfall: George Martin. He produced all their singles. Clean, jangly, immaculately recorded, well crafted, probably did them all wearing that fucking suit and tie. Self celebrated for his work with The Beatles, but in my opinion, George Martin also single handedly tanked The Action’s career. There was no dirt. This guy just didn’t get down. Wouldn’t be surprised if he never even saw them live.

With all his Beatles clout, you’d thought he’d have gotten US Capitol to release more than one single. Nope.

Or pushed Parlophone to release an album. Nope.

The Action only ever had one 7″ here in the US and no LP in the UK.

I actually grew to love ‘Twentyfourth Hour’, their RnB authenticity and a great Reg King vocal won through his pasty white production. If only Denny Cordell had produced.

Dave & Ansil Collins

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Listen: Double Barrel / Dave & Ansil Collins
Double

Once Desmond Dekker & The Aces’ ‘Israelites’ became a US hit in ’68, occasional ska tracks began getting domestic releases, usually on small indies. Occasionally, as with Johnny Nash or Prince Buster, a major might take a chance, but not often.

Such was the case with Dave & Ansil Collins ‘Double Barrel’. Future Atlantic subsidiary Big Tree, then funded by Apmex Tape, took a shot, so to speak and ended up with a #22 US hit. And believe me, it cleansed the ear palate when it hit the airwaves back then, the song sounded fantastic.

By this time, I was blagging risqué RnB, soul and English rock singles every Friday evening from the local easy listening station, WMCR, who had absolutely no use for them, and certainly no use for ska. Half the fun of the impending weekend for me was tearing out of school right after last period and biking it to the station, rain, sleet or snow. Nothing stood between me and those 45′s. My pile was always waiting, and the anticipation was a buzz in itself. Size did matter here, the bigger the stack, the better.

Other than the evening DJ, and station owner Mrs. Warner, the place was deserted. She’d encourage me to sit in their production studio, complete with two turntables, full broadcast board, headphones, microphone, the works and just play the pile to my heart’s content. Clearly she got a charge out my hysteria for the records, and told me such many times through the years. Honestly, I don’t think records have ever again sounded as good as they did in that fluorescently lit, climate controlled, new equipment, newly pressed vinyl scented studio so many years ago.

Like when this would come on the air of the local Top 40′s after charting nationally, that first listen in the WMCR studio just wiped clean my ears. Ska, blue beat and reggae were in short supply then.

Listen: Double Barrel (Instrumental) / Dave & Ansil Collins
Double

My first knee jerk about the infamous instrumental B sides were that we were getting burned. I recall the flip to Napoleon XIV’s ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haa!’ being the A side backwards. If ever there was an act I wanted to hear another song by, it was him, so it seemed cheating. Same with all those Philles B sides. No Ronettes or Crystals on the flips, instead dreadful instrumentals that took me years to appreciate. And so with this, on first look, I was annoyed.

Turns out the much anticipated dub B side was just ahead, and this instrumental ended up getting played almost as much as the A side that night, and at home. In fact, I probably choose it on the jukebox 2 to 1 over the A.

The Forum

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

The River Is Wide / The Forum

Listen: The River Is Wide / The Forum
The

There was many a single during the year 1967 like this one. Although most acts survived to release three or four, it was usually only one that made a splash, picking up late night pre FM progressive play on the many AM Top 40′s that would go a bit free form in the early hours, especially prevalent during that summer. These singles would many times graduate to daytime play and eventually maintain themselves a several month spread across the US pop stations, and be regarded as signature to the year of flower power, even through to the present.

As with Sagittarius ‘My World Fell Down’, The Avant-Garde ‘Naturally Stoned’, The Third Rail ‘Run Run Run’ or The Strawberry Children ‘Love Years Coming’, The Forum’s ‘The River Is Wide’ has earned this honor. WNDR, the tighter of of the two Syracuse Top 40′s charted it.

Partially MOR, partially Rotary Connection underground soul, a hint of Bill Medley’s Righteous Brothers baritone vocal and some Four Seasons meets Fifth Dimension backgrounds, all produced under the guidance of Les Baxter and Norm Ratner. An unlikely recipe that collided perfectly together and was easily labeled as psychedelic when no other explanation would suffice.

From one of the many stacks WMCR donated my way, it’s fun reading what the label’s promotion guy wrote to the station’s MD on the single’s original company sleeve above.

The Seeds

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Can’t Seem To Make You Mine / The Seeds

Listen: Can’t Seem To Make You Mine / The Seeds
11 Can't Seem To Make You Mine.mp3

GNP Crescendo not only possessed a great label name, turns out they were one of the small indies with enough taste to issue several of their singles in quality color picture sleeves. Biggest sellers, The Seeds, certainly benefitted most.

Not unlike London’s maraca drenched blues knockoffs epitomized the English sound, The Seeds ruled roost as to what life sounded like in L.A., at least to a little kid growing up in small town New York State.

Never did I hear The Seeds on daytime radio when current, but certainly heard them at night. Whether by choice or reality, my recollection associates the band with summertime ’67, when The Seeds original debut single, ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ got re-released. Yes, late night, warm weather airplay, when the AM Top 40′s went all underground rock in the evenings. Those non hits by Lothar & The Hand People, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Leaves and Country Joe & The Fish rubbed shoulders with The Seeds on every nighttime playlist that summer, both locally and as far off as WBZ from Boston and WOWO in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The band’s interest was peaking, certainly in the world of radio. Depending on the market, each were playing The Seeds, whether it being ‘Mr. Farmer’, ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’, their latest, most psychedelic record yet, ‘A Thousand Shadows’ or ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’.

Just imagine this intro beaming through my transistor for the first time. I tell you in all honesty, the memory is as plain as day. It, and the song, were one listens. I desperately needed the record on the spot.

Praise be, the thrill of finding it in my weekly pile of airplay rejects from WMCR that very Friday. Yet another single which didn’t fit into their adult, easy listening format, much to my miraculous luck.

Pianist Daryl Hooper, already carving the initial model of playing bass on a separate keyboard, not only dominated the overall sound of The Seeds, he also wrote some of their most powerful hooks, all based on simplicity. In my fantasy world, that break in ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ soundtracked driving through the desert by night, heading into the creepy unknown, speeding west on Route 66, just like The Doors long keyboard middle in ‘Light My Fire’. Hearing both for the first time, late on hot summer nights, clearly left deep impressions.

Pink Floyd

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Listen: Julia Dream (Mono) / Pink Floyd
Julia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Swinging Blue Jeans

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Swinging Blue Jeans - Don't Make Me Over USA

Swinging Blue Jeans - Don't Make Me Over

Listen: Don’t Make Me Over / The Swinging Blue Jeans
Don't Make Me Over / The Swinging Blue Jeans

Who says if you get a song for free, you won’t buy a copy later anyways – for whatever the reason: loyalty to the artist, love of the song, wanting a particular configuration or maybe even just doing your part.

Even though I’d gotten ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ at no charge during one of my early Friday night “I’m here to collect records for the children’s hospital” scams instigated on our local MOR station, WMCR, at an alarmingly young age, I bought a copy anyways. I passed up the stock of ‘She Needs Company’ by Manfred Mann to expend that particular dollar, which in hindsight was a wrong gamble. Never seen one since, although this Swinging Blue Jeans non-charter (actually it did Bubble Under The Billboard Hot 100 at #116) is a bit more common.

It was the heat of the moment. I was overtaken with supporting the team. I really thought I could help it nudge up the chart. The naiveness of youth. I’d actually heard it on my local Top 40, WNDR in March – it was a one listen record. Although Dionne Warwick had a hit with it in ’62, to me it was an unknown track by ’66, when this arrived.

If you grew up in the Northeast, quite possibly songs are seasonal. This was a winter single, along with others at the time that left a life long impression like The Mindbenders ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ or The Walker Brothers ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’.

By May it had struggled onto the local survey (below) with several other greats. And on this particular week – it was the featured record thereby affording the lyrics be printed on the survey’s reverse side.

WNDR Chart 5-13-66

Jack Dupree

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Tongue Tied Blues / Jack Dupree

Listen: Tongue Tied Blues / Jack Dupree
Tongue

This was a bizarre discovery from that very first pile of singles I blagged off WMCR, claiming to be from the local Children’s Hospital and needing donations. There were many greats in that stack of about fifty (The Others, The Pretty Things, Inez & Charlie Foxx, The Mickey Finn, The Hullaballoos, Ike & Tina Turner, Jimmy Reed), but this earned an immediate spot.

I played it for everyone, all as baffled as myself on first listen. We were feeling confidently hip to this blues music The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Kinks claimed as their influences, even though we simply were not. A true and pure example had yet to be served our way until that very first spin of ‘Tongue Tied Blues’. Just listen and you’ll understand.

Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Don't Stop Loving Me, Baby / Pinkerton's Assorted Colours

Don't Stop Loving Me, Baby / Pinkerton's Assorted Colours

Listen: Don’t Stop Loving Me, Baby / Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours PinkertonsDontStop.mp3

True story. I know you will think this is a lie, but I swear on a stack of Ramones albums that it is not.

UK manager Dennis Muirhead paid me his yearly visit at Columbia Records in the late 90′s. We’d met back in ’85 when I’d first joined Elektra and he always stopped by when he came through town. One of his clients at the time was Stuart Colman. Stuart lived then in Nashville and had produced many successful country acts, but had prior UK hits with Shakin’ Stevens. Dennis gave me a package including all his producers latest discographies which I browsed while catching up. I noticed Stuart had started his career in the 60′s with The Shadows. So I said to Dennis, hey this guy goes back a bit, is he English? Affirmative. I proceeded to say I wish these fellows would list all those really early engineering jobs they would have started out doing prior to that first producer opportunity. “I mean, Dennis, he could have worked on something obscure like…..Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours or something”. I just grabbed that fun, eccentric example out of my head.

Dennis looks me square in the eye and says “He was IN Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours”. Silence. Neither of us could believe what had just transpired. “You’re not kidding are you, well call him now”. He suggested one better, that I ring his place asking for him as a member of the band, which I did. I let Stuart know fairly fast that Dennis was there with me, and we had a very nice chat. I mailed him this jukebox tab, he autographed it and sent it straight back.

Pinkertons Jukebox tab

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Stuart Colman

As for the group, I was interested because of the name. When I saw their first single ‘Mirror Mirror’ entering the UK charts, I had to hear them asap. But it wasn’t to be for ages. Even though released Stateside, it was nowhere to be heard or found. WMCR, the little station that gave me all those unwanted promo singles at the time, weren’t serviced by London, parent company of Parrot Records – home to Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours. Damn. I was jonesing by the time their second single hit. ‘Don’t Stop Loving Me, Baby’ limped into the UK Top 50 at #50 for one week. I love a good followup flop usually more than the previous hit, so this was reaching fever pitch.

Finally I was successful, finding it in a 25¢ bin at The House Of Oldies on Bleeker Street in NYC when my Aunt Nancy invited me along to visit some relative for a few days. I got a ton of London titles there – The Cryin’ Shames, Lulu & The Luvvers, The Gonks, Hedgehoppers Anonymous and Jonathan King among them – all nice orange swirl promos. This is a great double sider. Not overly special but a solid British staple. Actually, just tonight I realized some similarities to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich thereby explaining a lot of it’s appeal for me.

Will Ya / Pinkerton's Assorted Colours

Will Ya / Pinkerton's Assorted Colours

Listen: Will Ya / Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours PinkertonsWillYa.mp3

The B side ‘Will Ya’ is my favorite of the two, but just. That timid but still wildish fuzz solo is the tie breaker. Mike Goldsmith picked me up the stock copy pictured, only a few months ago, at Academy Records in Brooklyn. I had never seen nor heard of one being pressed as it seemed likely this would never have made it beyond the promo stage – but here it is.

Aretha Franklin

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

ArethaTakeALook, Aretha Franklin, Columbia, Atlantic, John Hammond

Listen: Take A Look / Aretha Franklin ArethaTakeALook.mp3

It’s well known that Aretha Franklin and her family’s musical beginnings were in Gospel. Yet in early 1960, she signed with John Hammond at Coumbia, a historically well respected A&R executive, but oddly a musical mismatch for Aretha. Despite initially scoring a few semi-hits on the Billboard Pop and RnB Singles charts, those initial results began a slow downward spiral of misjudged A&R song choices, bland jazz leaning arrangements, tiringly safe, and quite frankly, dull results. However, by the end of ’66, with little commercial success in those six years with Columbia, they threw her on the scrapheap, a policy that insensitively continued and in fact grew exponentially during my time there.

As the story goes, desperate for a sound of her own, she signed with Atlantic Records to work with producer Jerry Wexler. By ’67, Aretha Franklin issued her first Atlantic single, ‘I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)’, a blues ballad that eliminated the safe musical stench Columbia forced her way, and introduced listeners to her original Gospel influences. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and produced by Wexler, the song became her true breakthrough single, reaching the Hot 100 Top 10 and holding the #1 spot for seven weeks on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart. In fact, the B-side, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, charted on the R&B side as well, and again introduced a more Gospel element to Franklin’s developing sound. It also set a pattern for ballady bluesy B sides ahead.

Her next single, ‘Respect’, written and originally recorded by Otis Redding, instantly became her signature tune for life, reaching #1 on both the RnB and Pop charts—holding the top spot on the former for a then record eight weeks. In the next eighteen months, she released a number of singles we all know and love: ‘Baby I Love You’, ‘Chain of Fools’, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, ‘The House That Jack Built’ and ‘Think’, to name the cream of her early successful, now decidedly upbeat run.

Part of all that fun in the spotlight was, behind the curtain, Columbia’s attempt to ride Atlantic’s successful coat tails by releasing what sure did sound to me like records parallel with her now current sound – from their vaults. Finally, at least, Coumbia was doing some work on her, and doing it pretty well. With just about everyone from the label then now long gone, it’s impossible to ever know if it was astute planning or random desperation.

A first of these, ‘Take A Look’, was a good vault find, and to be fair, probably previously released as an LP track. It was during that summer (’67 – read past post on WMCR to understand) when the little local station, WMCR, was in the full-on groove of giving me all their non-easy listening singles during my regular Friday night visits to their studios. And I ended up loving it, as I did “Ain’t No Way’, B side of ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ – both interestingly recorded and performed in an almost identical style.

ArethaMockingbird, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Wexler, John Hammond

Listen: Mockingbird / Aretha Franklin ArethaMockingbird.mp3

Despite the play to piggy back onto Atlantic’s marketing spend toward making Aretha Franklin a household name, ‘Mockingbird’ was a great choice on Columbia’s part to compete with, yet actually compliment the groove her hits were in.

Written by Inez & Charlie Foxx, who had a Top 10 of their own with it in ’63, Aretha shined on ‘Mockingbird’. Had it been released at the time, things may have turned out differently. A great song, it did Carly Simon no harm when she took it to #4 in ’74.

ArethaSoulville, Aretha Franklin, Columbia, Atlantic, John Hammond

Listen: Soulville / Aretha Franklin ArethaSoulville.mp3

This was originally an A side Columbia issue (reaching #121) in ’64, then reissued in ’68, coinciding timewise with ‘Think’, where it dragged it’s way to a tired #83. But I admit, I picked up the original as a closeout (it’s pictured above) on it’s title alone. In fact it was to be my first Aretha Franklin single, price: 10¢.

Although Columbia tried issuing a few more 7′s, none charted and basically they retreated, tail between legs.

Rotary Connection

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

RotaryAladdin, Rotary Connection, Cadet Concept, Chess, Minnie Riperton, Marshall Chess

Listen: Aladdin / Rotary Connection
Aladdin

Often described as a highly experimental band, Rotary Connection were actually the idea of Marshall Chess, son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess. Marshall was also the culprit behind a new Chess Records subsidiary, Cadet Concept Records, an outlet to focus on psychedelic jazz rock instead of the blues and r’n'r genres which had made the Chess label so popular. Basically, he was a chip off the old block but with his finger on the pulse, as they say.

Despite the left of center commercial attempts, The Rotary Connection were basically unsuccessful at the check out counter, yet their critical and influential imprint grew over time. Looking back on their albums proved a lot more was brewing than most folks gave them credit for. ‘Aladdin’ was in an early stack of promos I picked up at the WMCR one night. I played it every few days for a couple of years. I guess you could say it was in light rotation.

I had no idea Minnie Riperton was their vocalist. At the time, I never even owned the albums, just the 7′s. Years later, the completist in me searched out those long players. Lo and behold, it’s Minnie Riperton. I should have recognized that voice, any time you’re not sure if it’s a piccolo or a person, it’s usually Minnie.

In the mid 90′s, when coffee table trip hop became the must have, hipsters Nuyorican Soul covered Rotary Connection’s ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’, and almost took it mainstream. I think the problem was it was too white for urban radio, and too black for pop, therefore falling into that bottomless crevasse known as ‘almost crossed over’.

Otis Redding

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

OtisPain, Otis Redding, Volt, Atco, Steve Cropper, Upbeat, The Rolling Stones

Listen: Pain In My Heart / Otis Redding
Pain

Leave it to The Rolling Stones, they turned all us really young white kids on to the great RnB and Soul that was right here at home. Yeah it’s the oldest story in the book, but 100% true. I for one, was completely oblivious to Otis Redding until they came along. And so I started to ask for his records at WMCR, the little adult station near my parent’s house that gave me all their unusable Rock and RnB singles. Unfortunately, most of the labels only serviced them with non-RnB stuff, logically as they were playing Eydie Gorme, Dean Martin and such. Atlantic was an example, so I had to buy the occasional one, if I’d find it that is.

The first time I saw The Rolling Stones, see my Alvin Robinson post, they played this. Can remember it like yesterday. I needed this original and within days….it was mine.

OtisDirect, Otis Redding, Volt, Atco, Steve Cropper, Upbeat, The Rolling Stones

Listen: Direct Me / Otis Redding
Direct

His last known TV performance was on Cleveland’s UPBEAT, a weekly pop show that rivaled any national counterpart, in fact preceeded both SHINDIG and HULLABALOO as well as outlasting them (’64 – ’71). Seems everyone passed through town, probably intentionally to get the coverage. I’ve mentioned the show in previous posts, and without question, even a partial list of performers is pretty impressive.

Well it’s hard to forget seeing that episode, watching Otis Redding, knowing what had just happened asit was never broadcast live) Despite being endlessly respected and always name checked, he’s seldom heard. Oldies radio overplaying ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ is almost an injustice. Despite all his classics, ‘Direct Me’ comes in as my favorite. Co-written with Steve Cropper, it may have been a castoff, but I don’t care. Got it in one of those ten for a dollar boxes. Despite the B side status (‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ was the A), the single just holds a memorable place in time for me. Woolworth’s, summer ’69.

There wasn’t a bad record in that box, which also included The Pretty Things ‘Cry To Me’.

The Applejacks

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

ApplejacksTellUK, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

ApplejacksTellMeUSA, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

ApplejacksTellMeUS, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

Listen: Tell Me When / The Applejacks ApplejacksTellMeWhen.mp3

Hard to believe, but once was a time when a color photo of a UK band was a big treat. Color usually wasn’t the first look you’d ever get of a new act in the mid 60′s. Coincidentally, the only exception I can think of is The Applejacks. They were pictured, in color, like all the other bands, on the cover of ENGLAND’S GREATEST HITMAKERS, a benefit compilation album issued by London Records in aid of the Lord’s Tavern Fund, which was an association that helped finance cricket fields in England. My how the causes have become rather more worthy through the years.

There was once talk that bassist Megan Davies was sister to Ray and Dave. The fact that they covered and released as their fifth single an obscure Ray Davies song fueled the rumour for years. Turns out it wasn’t true. But the potentially accurate info at the time made the agony of struggling to hear The Applejacks even more acute. Despite blagging promos from the local adult station, WMCR – and having some really good shops (Walt’s Records, Smith’s Records) that would stock three to five copies of just about any new English band, The Applejacks first few singles were very evasive. Years later, I guess in the early 70′s, I finally scored a coveted US stock copy of their first single ‘ Tell Me When’ (pictured above), which spent one short seven day run on BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart at #135 (6/6/64). And that was their entire chart history in the US. Don’t feel bad, I’m embarrassed too.

‘Tell Me When’ paralled the stereotypical Beat Group sound, leaning a little too close to Freddie & The Dreamers. Still at the time, the wait was so long (almost six months – then a lifetime), that all it’s Mersey leanings were forgiven once a copy arrived from my cousin Anne in London.

ApplejacksBabyJaneUK, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

ApplejacksBabyUSB, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

ApplejacksBabyJane, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

Listen: Baby Jane / The Applejacks ApplejacksBabyJane.mp3

The real surprise was ‘Baby Jane’, it’s B side. More loud and bluesy, this was closer to The Spencer Davis Group or The Downliner’s Sect than any of their eventual tracks. ‘Baby Jane’ is also one of the first released songs from writers Pete Dello and Ray Cane, who would eventually form The Honeybus, so it’s historical value is quite high. I like to think this was indicative of The Applejacks live. Can you imagine how fun that would have been to see?

ApplejacksThreeUK, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

ApplejacksThreeLittleUSA, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

Listen: Three Little Words (I Love You) / The Applejacks ApplejacksThree.mp3

Their third single was also the last to make the UK chart (#23). ‘Three Little Words (I Love You)’ also became their finalt US release, for some reason retitled ‘I’m Gonna Send My Love (Three Little Words)’. Megan was a pretty swinging bassist, you’ll notice her carrying this one along too. The single came into the radio station, I recall seeing on the counter, but not in my stack of weekly rock discards, which would clearly have been headed for the rubbish bin until God put me on earth to save them all. I learned then and there to ask and you will recieve.

ApplejacksByeByeUKA, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

ApplejacksByeByeUK, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

Listen: Bye Bye Girl / The Applejacks ApplejacksByeBye.mp3

1965′s ‘Bye Bye Girl’, like ‘Baby Jane’, has a slightly heavier, early Moody Blues slant that I much preferred to their often Liverpool sounding tracks. By now, cousin Anne was well trained in grabbing The Applejacks’ 7′s week of release. She in turn, wanted The Mamas & The Papas’ singles. No problem. They were everywhere. A more than fair trade.

ApplejacksGameUKB, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

ApplejacksGameUK, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

Listen: It’s Not A Game Any More / The Applejacks ApplejacksGame.mp3

B side, ‘It’s Not A Game Any More’, was another early Pete Dello song. Clearly still finding his footing, practising you could say, on The Applejacks, there are a few signature Pete Dello twists and turns here – if you know his work, they’re easy to spot.

ApplejacksLP, The Applejacks, Decca, London, Megan Davies

There are those who insist the album was never released in North America. Proof above otherwise. A cherished item.

THE PRETTY THINGS

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Don't Bring Me Down / The Pretty Things

Don't Bring Me Down / The Pretty Things

Listen: Don't Bring Me Down / The Pretty Things 04 Don't Bring Me Down.mp3

Don't Bring Me Down / The Pretty Things - WKNX

44 years ago today, a radio station in Detroit actually playlisted this. Can you believe it? It was one of the initial promos WMCR gave me, might have even been in that very first pile. A few years later, I found stock copies at Woolworth’s on Main Street in Oneida, NY, and saved a box (pictured). I bought several over a two or three day period. Lord have mercy. The great singles that were in those boxes.

The Seeds

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

A Thousand Shadows / The Seeds

Listen: A Thousand Shadows/ The Seeds
A

I often find myself referring to records as night time or winter. Chris Blackwell once said of Marianne Faithfull, “She’s very much a wintertime artist”, making me quite happy to hear I wasn’t the only one who thought that way. Probably stems from, particularly in the case of night time, when I’d hear the actual music the most, or at least initially.

With The Seeds, I have confidence I never heard them during the day, not once, when they were current. In the northeast, they only were played at night, when the playlists loosened up a bit. Funny, given that on the west coast, like Love and X, they were pretty much mainstream which came with being local. Those singles by The Seeds are just imprinted as night time records for me, and I like that. They have a darkness and mystery to them, every last one. All a bit menacing, due to the eerie keyboards mostly. Sky Saxon is one of a kind too, you just never mistake his voice. When ‘A Thousand Shadows’ was released in summer ’67, it coincided with my first ever radio show, Friday nights from 6 – 8 pm on the very small, very local AM station WMCR. I had successfully been blagging records off them for about two years at that point.

I lied. Told them I was from the local Children’s Hospital and seeking donations of their unplayed teen records, as their format was adult contemporary at the time. And I mean very adult, your parent’s music if you will: Mel Torme, Steve Lawrence, Eddie Fisher. We turned our nose at this stuff, but would go home and freak out to Scott Walker. In hindsight, it was pretty much the same sound but with a much better haircut admittedly. Mark Warner, then evening DJ while home from college for the summer, got me the job, I think, once he went back to school in the fall. His parents owned the station. They knew all along the donation drill was a scam, but figured they weren’t using the records anyways, and Mark’s Mom coined me that clever little boy that loves his music. That was the last time I ever heard that one, but bless her. I got a radio show out of it instead of being ratted on. Mind you, it only lasted a few weeks into the school year.

About seven years ago, December ’01 to be exact, when I went home to visit my Mom and Dad, I just drove by for the heck of it and decided to ring the bell. It was Christmas Eve, lo and behold, Mrs. Warner was there and still in charge! She was so sweet, welcomed me right inside. The place was pretty much the same, still had the two Gates turntables in the control room. She even took me downstairs to see what was left of the record library. “If you see something you really want now, I’m sure it won’t be missed”. All these years later, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

The Seeds were the first band I played, ever, on the radio. The theme of the show was to pretty much stick with the latest sounds from England, so how The Seeds got the first spin…but they did.