Archive for the ‘Wild Turkey’ Category

Alvin Robinson

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Listen: Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson
Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson

I saw The Rolling Stones for the first time on October 30, 1965 at the Syracuse War Memorial. I had forged a press pass, a typed note actually, on letterhead from a weekly paper in my little hometown. My Dad had set me up with the pompous owner of it, as I wanted to interview the band for a feature.

Looking back it was quite a good idea on my part, but this self celebrating fellow was nasty and dismissive. Even though I ended up meeting the band, I still loathe him for his attitude, not towards me, but towards my Father. He was so busy being busy, running in and out of his pathetic office, that I just reached over and grabbed a few pages of letterhead when he wasn’t looking. I shook with fear at what I’d done. I was still a good Catholic boy, but too late, I’d done it. So he tells me, “We don’t need a piece on this dirty English combo”, and that was that, or so he thought. Indeed, they didn’t need a a kid in his late single digits writing a review.

To be exact, this was the Canastota Bee Journal, as close as you can get to Mayberry. He and the paper, I’m guessing, are long gone. Still, I composed this laughable letter, claiming to be a writer on assignment and needing to interview them for a feature.

In those days, arenas were filled with hysterical, screaming kids, so how I managed to slide backstage so easily still baffles. An usher fell for that forged letter, and brought me back, where Bill Wyman was wrapping up his cords. Bill reads it, stares me straight in the eye and says in hindsight with a knowing smirk, “Come on and we’ll meet the rest”.

Holy shit. Is this really happening? It was the first time I nearly blacked out. I seriously remember that vividly. We are suddenly walking up the steps to the dressing room, knees weak, where in years to follow, I would meet, more like pester, (here goes, I know this is all a bit name droppy, but it really, really happened. I met all these bands and I’m proud of it): The Mindbenders, Them, The Moody Blues, The Nashville Teens, The Ikettes, The Who, The Pretty Things, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Heads Hands & Feet, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, Caravan, Toe Fat, Derek & The Dominoes, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Frampton’s Camel, Traffic, Wild Turkey, The Faces, Badfinger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Mother Earth, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Chambers Brothers, Sly & The Family Stone, Savoy Brown, Iron Butterfly, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, even Vivian Green, who I worked with decades later, was in that very room when on tour with Maxwell. Talk about coming full circle.

The management knew me and my friends well early on, they must’ve gotten a kick out of these crazy little kids, who’s Mom’s & Dad’s would wait patiently for until the shows ended. Our parents befriended the office staff, and in turn, those nice ladies always let us backstage.

The Rolling Stones were great, so nice. No one was in their dressing room except the band, and one other guy, I’m guess Ian Stewart, the tour manager. No food, nothing but bottles of Coca Cola. They signed my copy of 12 X 5, it probably lasted all of a minute but I still can relive it to this day. Here I was, with this exotic band from England that changed my life, which prior I could only see on TV every three to four months tops. I thought at that very moment, “This is the life for me”. I’m completely convinced it led to my career in music. No question.

Their current album at the time, THE ROLLING STONES NOW, was not a real album at all. In those days, the English labels released singles and EPs, in addition to albums. Not only were the EP tracks not on the LPs, but the singles weren’t either. So the US companies were always dropping off intended LP tracks to make room for the singles and sometimes strong ones from those EPs. For this particular release, London Records basically cobbled together some singles and EP songs, as well as unused UK LP tracks. Remember, the UK LPs were 14 songs compared to our 10-12, thereby creating even more choices.

Probably by coincidence more than design, THE ROLLING STONES NOW actually works as a proper LP. It was certainly a big success, slowly but very solidly scaling the US LP charts and staying Top 10 for ages, as it deserved to. The record’s filled with dark, minor key classics like ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Pain In My Heart’ which they played on that night, Brian sitting at a huge B3 organ, wailing away.

It’s ok if you’re getting tingles. Take your time. You’ll need it. They were back, nine months later, during the AFTERMATH tour, and that’s whole ‘nother post waiting to be written.

This all leads us to ‘Down Home Girl’, a song on THE ROLLING STONES NOW. Little did I know then that it was a cover. I don’t even think I knew what that meant. They were all Rolling Stones songs to us. Years and years later I wised up, seeked out the original, and became a dangerous Alvin Robinson fanatic.

Here’s his version. Get any of his other releases. all of them actually.

Sassafras

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Listen: Wheelin’ ‘n’ Dealin’ / Sassafras Sassafras.mp3

’73 – ’74 London was in full swing Glam mode. Didn’t mean the tail end of Prog or country/boogie/blues rock had let go just yet though. Less fashion driven, although they all had their platform heels and tight velvet pants uniform down pat, you could say they were more bent on “good, solid, tasty music”. That description, lifted from a Melody Maker review of ‘Wheelin’ ‘n’ Dealin” will make you gag I know, but it’s kind of accurate.

I particularly liked all these B division bands, signed to majors yet still slogging around the London clubs, grasping for Monday/Tuesday nights at the Fulham Greyhound or Marquee, where yours truly worked picking up empty pint glasses for washing. Mind you, this was one of the greatest jobs I ever had. Would give up a lot to go back in time to do it all over again.

Sassafras had their beginnings that year, and played the Marquee a few times during my tenure, double billing with other Chrysalis acts like Wild Turkey and Bedlam mostly, as I recall it.

Not until ’75 did their career changer 7″ above see light of day…..yet I could swear they were playing it live for a while. Yes, a guilty pleasure here. I was a fan. It’s one of the bands that can conjure up mental, visual and even aromatic memories (beer stenched Marquee carpet, Cornish pasty dispenser, scotch eggs) of that great era.

The Eyes Of Blue

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Listen: Heart Trouble / The Eyes Of Blue
Heart

THE ESSENTIAL NORTHERN SOUL PRICE GUIDE describes this one as ‘Pop Northern Soul’, proceeding to, well, split hairs, describing it and them as “pop records by pop artists (usually white) that have the necessary beat and are recognisable as being non-soul singers”. Huh?

One of the things I loved about this single was Gary Pickford-Hopkins’ soulful voice, sounding not unlike Darrell Banks to me. But no worries, I live by that price guide and I recommend it highly. It’s the good book you curl up with in front of the fireplace during a blizzard, but then that’s just me.

I got ‘Heart Trouble’ upon release, specifically because it was on Deram. Predictably, the record was very English, due in part to the backup vocals and was produced by Deram in house guy, Noel Walker. He had a sound that I liked a lot.

In ’72 I got to meet Gary Pickford-Hopkins and talk with him about The Eyes Of Blue. By then he was the vocalist for Wild Turkey, Glenn Cornick’s band after leaving Jethro Tull. Regrettably named, they were good live and I loved their first album, BATTLE HYMN. I think I may have been the only person on earth who did, or at least admitted it. That night Wild Turkey were supporting Black Sabbath and not unusually, I was more into the obscure opening UK band than the headliner.

Nowadays, both Eyes Of Blue Deram singles are Northern Soul collectables, listing for $40-60 each. I bought many copies back in the 70′s, all for less than a dollar. In fact one for a mere penny off of Tom Kohn’s Bop Shop. He gave me change for my nickel.

I just couldn’t pass them up though. The lesson here is, you can never have enough spares, plus one day…they may be worth something.