Archive for the ‘Red Bird’ 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.

BESSIE BANKS / THE MOODY BLUES

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

bessiebanksuka1, Bessie Banks, Denny Laine, The Moody Blues, London Records, Red Bird

Listen: Go Now / Bessie Banks BessieBanksGoNow.mp3

Listen: Go Now / The Moody Blues MoodyBluesGoNow.mp3

Yes, even the blues and purples of the Decca, London and Soul City labels compliment each other. A lot of purists claim Bessie Banks’ original recording of ‘Go Now’ surpasses The Moody Blues later cover. I say we have endless love for many things, why not multiple versions of songs too?

Bessie Banks sounds so young here, and The Moody Blues vocalist at the time, Denny Laine, has such an authentic delivery, what’s not to like? That band never did replace him, nor did they try. Seems the guys were bright enough to go after a completely different, post Denny Laine sound.

Usually, it’s impossible to mess with the magic of an original song the calibre of Bessie Banks’ ‘Go Now’, especially given this Leiber & Stoller production. But thanks to the courage of The Moody Blues, I guess you could say we ended up with a win/win.

The Shangri-Las

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Listen: He Cried / The Shangri-Las ShangriLasHeCried.mp3

I remember when The Shangri-Las did a record hop at the Oneida Town Armory. I wasn’t old enough to get in. I’m still steaming. Not about the age thing, but that I allowed that to stop me. Dumb.

The lower their singles reached on the US charts, the more I liked them. I’m happy to say public taste for records in the US charts vs. Kevin’s taste are inversely proportionate.

‘He Cried’ peaked at #65, but to be fair, was a pretty big hit around the Northeast where I grew up.

Listen: The Sweet Sounds Of Summer / The Shangri-Las ShangriLasSummer.mp3

In ’67, when their original label Red Bird folded, the girls stuck with producer Shadow Morton (what a name, has there ever been a better one?) and moved to Mercury, and their back catalog, as with Shadow, went along. Mercury issued a GOLDEN HITS album including most, but not all the singles (an annoying and prevalent habit of the majors back then).

‘The Sweet Sounds Of Summer’, illogically released in November of ’66, oddly predated psychedelia by a good six months despite indeed capturing very much that sound. It wilted at a pathetic #123 in January of ’67 – again not an opportune time for a top-down-with-bad-girl Shangri-la in-back-seat single and hence not a surprise. But do check it out. Dark and eerie as usual, there were some great production and arrangement ideas lurking – way ahead of their time.

The Shangri-Las may have stuck with Shadow Morton, but his loyalty was not returned. Moving onto The Vanilla Fudge and The New York Dolls, seems the sound of ‘today’ beat out those hoodlum biker girls in the marketing department I’m guessing.

The Ad Libs

Monday, November 16th, 2009

adlibs, The Ad Libs, Red Bird, Blue Cat

Listen: The Boy From New York City / The Ad Libs AdLibs.mp3

The Ad Libs were basically a Doo Wop act, leftover from a few years and name changes earlier, when the genre was more mainstream. I never got into the style. In hindsight, I’ve ended up collecting several genres I didn’t live through, but not Doo Wop. This sounded quite current, not at all out of place, blaring from my transistor AM radio in ’65. It’s one of those early musical memories that stuck into my little kid’s brain. I loved the line about ‘pockets full of spending loot’. Very 60′s and full of verve.

Lead singer Mary Ann Thomas had a fantastic voice, and I’m surprised the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller at Blue Cat’s parent label, Red Bird, didn’t recognize it.

The Dixie Cups

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Dixie Cups, Red Bird, Pye, Dr. John, Wild Tchopitulas, James 'Sugar Boy' Crawford

Listen: ko Iko / The Dixie Cups
ko Iko / The Dixie Cups

This used to sneak on to my local Top 40 station every once in a while, but not near enough. Although appearing to be a mid-chart hit (it struggled to #20 in ’65), the song has proven seminal. Repeated film, TV and commercial uses turned this percussion (bottles and screw drivers apparently) strut and chant into a multi platinum seller, now straddling four decades.

The Dixie Cups brought a lot of colorful shaking to this year’s Rhythm & Blues Foundation event. You couldn’t mistake them as they made their entrance, looking every bit as exotic as that first time on AMERICAN BANDSTAND running through ‘Iko Iko’.

Even their website sparkles like no other.