Archive for the ‘Howard Thompson’ Category

Tir Na Nog

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

tirnanogstronguk, Tir Na Nog, Chrysalis, Matthew Fisher, John Martyn, Nick Drake

Listen: Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog
Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog

I was desperate to see Tir Na Nog when they toured the US in ’72. It never happened.

Although being the college concert chairman at the time, having pushed through Rory Gallagher, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Colosseum, Atomic Rooster, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Pretty Things and The Incredible String Band against everyone’s “who the fuck are these people” stances in one school year mind you, it didn’t really allow me any more puts. By then, the budget was spent anyways. Otherwise, they’d have been there.

Tir Na Nog’s second and third albums were released in the States, and I particularly loved that third one, STRONG IN THE SUN. It was, well still is, a seminal recording, right up there with the best from Tyrannosaurus Rex, John Martyn and Nick Drake. Indeed the album includes a cover of his ‘Free Ride’, itself worthy of 7″ status. Tracks like ‘Cinema’ rivaled some of Pink Floyd’s tracks from MEDDLE for being…cinematic, funny enough. If you’d told me Norman Smith, Denny Cordell or Peter Asher had produced some of this stuff, I’d have believed you. The album is that good.

Indeed, Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum was in charge of production, and as with similar duties on Robin Trower’s BRIDGE OF SIGHS, did an A+ job.

When I up and headed for London during summer ’73, I took a night off from The Marquee to see them play a small, sit-down-cross-legged room, God knows the name of it now. But the show remains a vivid memory.

There was a time, around ’85, and Howard Thompson was looking at cover songs for 10000 Maniacs. I guess as a potential single, possibly a one-off film submission or something. I recommended ‘Strong In The Sun’. I thought Natalie Merchant would have done it some beautiful justice and Tir Na Nog could have gotten some well deserved recognition. Didn’t happen. ‘Peace Train’ was chosen instead, against the band’s wishes. Years later, turns out Natalie insisted it be removed from that album. Elektra complied..

There has to be someone out there in need of a great song to revive their sagging career: Nelly Furtado, Jewel, Anna Nalick, Five For Fighting, Vanessa Carlton, Paula Cole or wait, Natalie Merchant.

Burning Spear

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Listen: Lion / Burning Spear
Listen: Lion / Burning Spear

Most consider MARCUS GARVEY and the accompanying dub version, GARVEY’S GHOST, both from ’76, to be the ultimate introduction to Burning Spear. Not me. The ’77 followup, MAN IN THE HILLS, takes the prize hands down.

Blame it on the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). Howard Thompson sent a copy with a bunch of Island punk and reggae releases in his very first mailing that began our friendship. It was known as a care package in those days, the kind you’d load a new pal up with when you worked at a record company. Just go over to the cupboard and pull one of anything remotely good, then ship it off. And the cupboards at Island were bursting with good stuff back then.

I dare call it life changing. Sure, that sounds way over dramatic. But no, it’s actually not. The records in that big box did just that, not only to me, but to my closest friends and Corinne as well. She for one, dove head first into a reggae addiction from the get go. Took her years to shake, to find a normal balance between it and everyday life, but not before up and going to London to see Burning Spear and Aswad at the Rainbow, with Karen. I think they had some unfinished Eddie & The Hot Rods business on that particular journey as well.

The box. Yes. I can still recall every record in it:

LP’s:
Various Artists THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3)
Eddie & The Hot Rods TEENAGE DEPRESSION
John Cale HELEN OF TROY
The Upsetters SUPER APE
Rico MAN FROM WAREIKA
Jah Lion COLUMBIA COLLY
Aswad ASWAD
Toots & The Maytals REGGAE GOT SOUL
The Heptones NIGHT FOOD
Derek & Clive LIVE
Max Romeo & The Upsetters WAR INA BABYLON
Bunny Wailer BLACKHEART MAN

45′s:
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Writing On The Wall’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Wooly Bully’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Teenage Depression’
Lee Perry ‘Roast Fish & Cornbread’
Dillinger ‘Cokane In My Brain’
Aswad ‘Back To Africa’
Aswad ‘Three Babylon’
Junior Murvin ‘Police & Thieves’
The Heptones & The Upsetters ‘ Sufferer’s Time’
The Heptones ‘Book Of Rules’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Fire’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Carry Go Bring Come’
Kevin Ayers ‘Falling In Love Again’
Sparks ‘Big Boy’
Sparks ‘I Like Girls’
Ultravox ‘Dangerous Rhythm’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘One Step Forward’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘Chase The Devil’
Trevor White ‘Crazy Kids’
The Dwight Twilley Band ‘I’m On Fire’
Fay Bennett ‘Big Cockey Wally’
Leroy Smart ‘Ballistic Affair’
J.J. Cale ‘Travelin’ Light’
The Jess Roden Band ‘Stay In Bed’
Rico ‘Dial Africa’
Agusutus Pablo ‘King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown’
Burning Spear ‘Lion’

Might as well get this over with now: the 7′s were all promo copies. Sorry.

Yeah, go ahead. Take a breather. I tell you what. There was no preparing for that package in real life either. I wasn’t expecting a box, maybe a few records, but not a box. Howard had rung me from his office shortly after receiving a letter I’d sent off to Island, written on WITR stationary. We talked for a bit, he filled me in on Eddie & The Hot Rods, who were my original reason for writing, suggested we trade some records and that we should stay in touch. Little did I know both his package and that phone call would change my life forever.

A week or so later, I just found this large box from Island Records UK in my apartment building’s lobby. Cost something like £40 to ship, a fortune in ’76. Hoisted it upstairs and into our place, could not open it fast enough. Fuck me, a shock to the system indeed, like my heart froze. Yet somehow I’ve lived to tell.

We poured over these records, the bunch of us, for weeks. You couldn’t wait for whatever was playing to end, so you could begin another. Corinne worked nights back then, and I vividly recall staying up until dawn, those first two days in a row, eating white crosses and just playing them, waiting for her to come home. Wow, what a fantastic flashback.

Every track on THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC became anthems to us, every one a badge of honor, knowing we’d found some of the best music of our lives, suddenly a whole new world opened up, and that album did it.

Burning Spear was little known to me at that point. Saw the US copies of those first two albums occasionally, but hadn’t heard either, or even tried to. Reggae had not entered my life. Once this compilation arrived, I became insatiable for it though.

‘Man In The Hills’, the title track, opened Side 2 of the comp. It was instant. Immediately tore through that pile of 7′s, sure I’d seen a Burning Spear single amongst them. The whole day was a blur, it was hard to process this all at once. Yes, there it was. ‘Lion’ / ‘Door Peep’ by Burning Spear

‘Lion’ defines my very favorite style of reggae, where the chorus keeps getting sung over and over and over. Just a lazy, hypnotic swirl that’s hard to fight. The genre has many a unique voice, but Winston Rodney’s, well it’s one of the greatest.

Doc Alimantado & The Rebels

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Reason / Doc Alimantado & The Rebels

Listen: Reason For Living / Doc Alimantado & The Rebels
Reason For Living / Doc Alimantado & The Rebels

One of the first records Howard Thompson played Corinne and I on our initial visit to his place in Agate Road was by Doc Alimantado & The Rebels. The memory is vivid, and the record probably larger than life because of the moment. This was March ’77, I had waited four years to get back to London. It seemed like an eternity. Corinne had never been.

‘Born For A Purpose’ and it’s flip, ‘Reason For Living’, instantly became her songs. We had a small cassette machine with us, so she recorded the dub B side, ‘Reason For Living’, repeatedly over both sides of a tape at Howard’s that next evening, bringing it back to the hotel room which was literally one foot wider than the mattress on each side. The place was a crammed, uncomfortable but typical bed and breakfast in King’s Cross, very down at heel, as they’d all say. Perfect. A better setting you couldn’t have invented. We loved it.

As I’ve written prior, this ’77 visit was non-stop. London was in orbit, punk was everywhere, but still underground and shocking the mainstream. Howard took us all around, to the Island offices where he worked at the time, to buy clothes in Shepherd’s Bush Market, records in Ladbroke Grove, well everywhere actually; to the Marquee, Red Cow, Dingwalls, Hope & Anchor and Roxy. It was at The Roxy that Don Letts played mostly reggae to the punk crowd. It’s been well chronicled and he was indeed there on those nights, doing then what he does now on 6Music, presenting some of the best records in the solar system to anyone who’s bright enough to listen. Check out a recent show.

I remember hearing the Dr. Alimantado 12″ there several times. Me, I wanted the 7″, and sure enough, it was available. The A side ‘Born For A Purpose’ is pretty trippy, but the flip is total psychedelic dub, a sonic LSD trip one could say. I woke up and fell asleep to that cassette over the next two weeks. There was no escaping her playing it after a night out, where you’d hear it constantly as well. Lots of memories, but all good, so this record’s indeed a true time traveler back to then.

The Coasters

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Listen: Shoppin’ For Clothes / The Coasters
8-21 Shopping For Clothes.mp3

There’s just not a lot I can tell you about ‘Shopping For Clothes’ that the record itself can’t.

But my little story about it is a follows: In ’87 Dan Baird was at the Altantic Studios in New York recording and mixing the second Georgia Satellites album. Howard and I headed over from Elektra, a few blocks away, one late afternoon to hear some of the tracks in progress and we were kind of accosted the second we walked in. Dan was all smiles excited and said you have got to hear something. He sat us down at the the board and hit play. I don’t know if I loved ‘Shopping for Clothes’ or Dan’s face lighting up the room more. It’s certainly the sort of record you just know is going to floor any living soul who hasn’t heard it.

These how the fuck did I get here moments from my record company days, now long gone, seemed to come like miracles, except more often, which as we know miracles don’t. This particular one was a chilling rush, being right there where it was recorded decades before. Imagine that high. I definitely twitched.

We must have played ‘Shopping for Clothes’ half a dozen times in a row, maybe more.

The Heptones / The Upsetters

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

HeptonesBook, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Book Of Rules / The Heptones
Book

Been digging out a lot of reggae stuff lately, combing through the shelves separated out specifically for the genre, well ska and blue beat are on them too.

A Burning Spear post from few years back details my initial introduction to reggae proper, basically via an unexpected crash course box full of seminal records from Howard Thompson when he worked at Island UK in ’76. Fast forward twelve years, I’m employed at Island New York and was given the task of assembling a promotional cd for the label’s reissue series encompassing most of their classic 70′s reggae titles. Both cd and campaign were called 96º IN THE SHADE. It was good fun, and honestly a piece of cake. So this is called a job?

I just started off with Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ and using the Island master printout which chronologically lists every single and album by catalog number, I picked out the gems. It was easy.

And I’m proud to say, the compilation got such good response from the shops that we renamed it GROOVE YARD, changed the cover, squeezed on a few more good ones, and released it commercially. The cd sold well.

Like the rest of the solar system, I don’t use cd’s much anymore. The Airbooks in the house don’t even have disc drives, so most of those compact discs are boxed and in storage, although some I do keep shelved for the car. I grabbed GROOVE YARD on my way out recently and found myself reliving the greatness of quite a few tracks from the era, as well as some sentimental memories of those times.

‘Book Of Rules’ is certainly one of my ten-ish favorite reggae 7′s. Fantastic song, nice clean vocal and lovely production by Chris Blackwell.

HeptonesBookDub, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Book Of Rules (Version) / The Heptones
Book

Released as the single’s B side in ’73, ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ seems to have preceded full on dub by a year or two, when instrumentals with decorative sound effects thrown in were still called ‘version’ and always used as B sides. I’ve always wanted ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ to be a bit more exciting or something more moving but it basically isn’t. Regardless, it’s interesting to hear how dub was getting started.

HeptonesSufferers, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

HeptonesSufferUS, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Sufferer’s Time / Heptones with The Upsetters
HeptonesSufferersTime.mp3

By ’76, Lee Perry is at the controls, The Black Arc in full swing and with The Upsetters doing the tracking, The Heptones were in tune with the times. Another classic, ‘Sufferer’s Time’, is basically perfect in every way. I never spin it just once. Can’t. I’ll even be late for something important to hear the song that one extra time.

The real fun bit here being that Island US, like the UK company, issued it as a 7″. I’m guessing there were pockets of Jamaican communities in some of the major US cities that would warrant say a 1000 or 2000 piece run. Those sales figures are again guesses, and as the manufacturing details were very sloppy at Island. I never could figure out a real number on this nor a few others that had been shockingly issued here on 7″, to my disbelief.

This I can tell you. There weren’t many pressed as I’ve never seen another US copy of ‘Sufferer’s Time’. Just happened to stumble on this while going through some deeply buried boxes in the Island New York mailroom, a process of completion that took a month or two, but I managed them them all and it was well, well, well worth the sleuthing, trust me.

UpsettersSufferersDub, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

UpsettersSufferersUS, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Sufferer’s Dub / The Upsetters
UpsettersSufferDub.mp3

Not only is the A side a heart threatener, but by ’76, proper dub was in serious swing hence this monster example of it on the flip, aptly titled ‘Sufferer’s Dub’. Oddly credited only to The Upsetters despite many Heptones vocal drops, it makes for even more excitement. An American single by The Upsetters. Never been another.

I get very excited by records.

HeptonesParty, The Heptones, Lee Perry, The Upsetters

Listen: Party Time / The Heptones
Party

When ‘Party Time’ first arrived in the mail, dependably hot off the presses from Howard, I was mildly disappointed and that was very stupid of me. It’s a gem.

I had the original UK LP pressing too, but now find only the US Mango copy in my wall shelf. Somewhere in the black hole of unfiled records it does lurk.

Fotheringay

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Peace In The End / Fotheringay

Listen: Peace In The End / Fotheringay
Peace

Turning October Island pink in support of curing breast cancer, I’m reposting Fotheringay from April 6, 2009:

Remember in the very early 70′s Warner Brothers did those $1 and $2 samplers you could send off for from the back pages of ROLLING STONE? Well A&M did one too, and only one if memory serves me well. Titled FRIENDS, it was nicely full of UK bands like Blodwyn Pig, Free, The Move and Spooky Tooth to name a few. Fotheringay were on there, this song in fact. ‘Peace In The End’ was my first taste of the band, which I was well anxious to hear.

I’d loved Fairport Convention, and when Sandy Denny left to join up with Trevor Lucas in Fotheringay, well there was more of them all to love basically. Unlike most fans, my most memorable Fairport Convention period followed her departure. FULL HOUSE, ANGEL DELIGHT and BABBACOMBE LEE were and are hands down favorites. The lineups with Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol are just perfect for me.

I didn’t fall in love with the Fotheringay album, but I sure did fall in love with it’s only single, ‘Peace In The End’. I must have played this hundreds of times.

Years later, during that first London trip Corinne and I made together in ’77, Howard Thompson brought us round to the Island offices, where he did A&R at the time. In the back, there was an up and running company canteen which did hot food all day for staff and whoever was in the studio at the time. It was still operational ten years later when I joined the label.

What an experience that was. Just envision, growing up and living in upstate New York, and to then be suddenly transported to London for a two week vacation, meeting someone in Howard who would unknowingly change our lives forever, well we literally died and went to heaven.

Rico and his band were there rehearsing downstairs, Simon Kirke from Free eating with Jess Roden, various members of Eddie & The Hot Rods and Ultravox. Over in a corner were Trevor Lucas and Sandy Denny. She was very quiet, but extremely sweet when I approached her for a hopeful talk. Her voice as angelic when speaking as in song. ‘Peace In The End’ will forever remind me of her aura on that day.

Jah Lion

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Listen: Soldier & Police War / Jah Lion
Soldier

Next time you scan a list or read an article spotlighting reggae’s masterpiece recordings, guaranteed you’ll find COLOMBIA COLLY by Jah Lion omitted. Despite being amongst Lee Perry’s most revered Black Ark productions during ’76 – ’77, along with albums such as The Congos HEART OF THE CONGOS or The Upsetters SUPER APE, it really is surprising this one is consistently overlooked.

My recollections of 4am listens, waiting for Corinne to get home from her night shift all those years ago, are as plain as day, or night, I suppose I should say. COLOMBIA COLLY was probably the most haunting record in my possession. At times, even in an only slightly paranoia state of pot and speed combination, my regular cocktail as a college kid, I’d seriously need to suddenly take it off the turntable. Combined with the eerie stillness coming through our un-air conditioned windows during those summer nights, the album occasionally gave me the creeps. It was, and still is, that powerful.

I was both shocked and thrilled when Howard Thompson included a newly released Jah Lion single in one of those early Island packages he’d regularly send from his London office. I mean, who exactly thought Jah Lion would sell singles? Chris Blackwell is my guess. God, those were the days, weren’t they?

So hot off the heels of the Lee Perry produced ‘Police & Thieves’ by Junior Murvin came this, his dub variation of that original track, retitled ‘Soldier & Police War’ and released as a British A side by Jah Lion.

But wait, there’s more. Island’s US reggae subsidiary, Mango, also issued this non-LP track as a single. Now this was surely not destined for big things on American radio, but instead released to serve the small but active Jamaican music buyers pocketed in various US cities.

In fact, I’ve never seen another domestic copy, bar the one pictured above, accidentally discovered in the New York Island mailroom amongst a long buried and very dusty 25 box of assorted US Island and Mango reggae 7′s during my years in A&R at the label, late 80′s. Yes, I froze in that discovery position for a good minute or two. And it wasn’t only this record that nearly had me leaving on a stretcher.

Apparently, for US consumers, the somewhat easier to remember title of ‘Police And Soldier’ was afforded it’s very own pressing.

In some ways though, this only further confused the situation, one whereby despite Lee Perry being pictured as the artist on the aforementioned COLOMBIA COLLY album, was indeed not. Jah Lion was actually Jah Lloyd, as Duane taught me. Apparently, as with artist identities, Lee Perry often shuffled songs titles as well.

X

Monday, October 8th, 2012

X - See How We Are

X - See How We Are

Listen: See How We Are / X
See

Let me tell you one thing. We are very, very lucky, because X still exist and tour regularly. In fact, they may be more powerful live than ever. The original lineup of Exene Cervenka, DJ Bonebrake, John Doe and Billy Zoom has been reunited for several years now and are doing deservedly great business. There’s a lot of sense in sticking out that long stretch that usually ends in legend.

Now X certainly are legends. So many reasons: right up there with Johnny and Ivy resides Billy for greatest guitarist, flawless and razor sharp at every given moment. DJ still the powerhouse metronome, Exene the most magnetic and perfect female front person of her generation, and John, one of the greatest voices ever with those ‘desert at night’ tones only Jim Morrison rivaled. When singing or harmonizing together, John and Exene would actually create a 3rd voice, their timbres meshing so perfectly. Two singers, three voices. Pretty unique. And as writers, forget it. Yes living legends. More honest, hard working, and appreciative people you will not find.

Back in the Elektra days, I was very lucky to be their A&R guy, making several albums with them, and over both lineups. After Billy left in ’86, Tony Gilkyson joined, fitting the bill effortlessly. An incredible player as well and guitarist on this track. When Tony left around ’97, Billy rejoined to present. A&Ring them was a two fold experience: always rewarding, always frustrating.

Rewarding because at the studio, you knew this was the best place in the solar system to be, watching John and Exene through the control room window mastering a vocal take on one mic live. Wow. It still gives me tingles.

But frustrating knowing how the promotion department would have a difficult time with programers, and most likely be forced to accept defeat while sharing a $100 bottle of wine with some pampered PD.

Like all the greats, X couldn’t get their fair shake from radio. Bob Krasnow loved this track when he heard it. He walked into my office late one evening around 9 pm. We were all still there, everyone stayed late. It was a company full of people who loved their jobs and glowed in the success of the label that all had contributed to in some way. No one ever got fired. We never worried about that. So Bob says “I hear you brought back some new X ruffs from LA. I want to hear them”. I handed him an unfinished version of ‘See How We Are’ on cassette and he left.

This track was actually started at Capitol Studios on Hollywood Blvd and it was haunting wandering around those halls with Exene, talking about the legends in framed pictures, that had recorded there prior. It was that work-in-progress version I had given him, and I knew the song was ace. Sure enough, ten minutes later he’s back at my door. “This is fucking incredible, they are the voices of rebellion. This, Kevin, is important stuff”.

I can hear his words as plainly now as when he spoke them, God love him. Words from the guy who had produced Ike & Tina Turner and Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, and now in praise of X. For whatever reason, we released ’4th Of July’ as the first single from the SEE HOW WE ARE album against Bob’s instincts. He thought that was too commercial, too formula when played up against ‘See How We Are’, but the radio department felt it was more palatable, singable, like Springsteen. Actually, it was all those things and yes, it too should have been a hit. He said, “You always have to put your best foot forward, you only get one chance”.

He was right. Even though as Chairman, I don’t know why he didn’t force the team to go for this single but he didn’t. Although released as a 12″ to radio, the commercial 7″ was cancelled. Only a handful of finished sleeves (pictured) and three test pressings were made. I think Howard or Alago got the third. I have the other two. You always need a safety copy.

A dealer recently asked how much one was worth to me, he wanted desperately to buy it. I said “It doesn’t have a price tag but for everything else, there’s Mastercard”. He got nasty, called me an arrogant cunt. Seriously, he did. Not exactly the way to get that second copy off me despite his admittedly accurate description of my response.

Listen: Highway 61 Revisited (Again) / X
Highway

Thanks to reader Mark Deming, his suggestion to also post ‘Highway 61 Revisted (Again)’ was a superb one. All this time, I thought it had come out as a bonus reissue track or part of a cd comp. Wrong. So here it it for all X fans to worship, as I do.

Motley Crue

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Wild Side / Motley Crue

Listen: Wild Side / Motley Crue
Wild

In the mid 80′s, Bob Krasnow got handed the keys to a candy shop known as Elektra Records, and proceeded to turn an almost closed label into the industry’s most credible leader, as it once was in the 60′s. He basically cleaned house employee and roster-wise. There was no warm and fuzzy sentimental attachment in his heart when it came to the then withered Los Angeles soft rock of Jackson Browne and The Eagles. The stuff had pretty much seen it’s day in his eyes, so Bob started slashing, moved the entire operation to New York and began hiring. Bringing Howard Thompson in as head of A&R gave me my lucky moment in life. It was not what, but instead who I knew that was the magic key. Suddenly I was working for a best friend and for Bob.

God, Bob hated corporate rock, and it was no secret Motley Crue made that roster cut due exclusively to serious sales power. It was at an A&R meet in New Orleans that Bob premiered the two new tracks he’d just gotten to his assembled team. ‘Wild Side’ was one. It sounded fantastic. I still fantasize about the “East LA at midnight” lyric, and the minor key gives it that dark edge not uncommon to The Doors.

This of course being in the midst of a four day stay at The Royal Orleans in the city’s French Quarter, Bob holding court and sparing no expense to insure we all had the time of our lives, old school record business style. He’d arranged for the best restaurants, took us bar hoping through the funkiest juke joints in nooks and crannies only he knew, treating us to a late night Irma Thomas set in an Old New Orleans saloon, Kras even introducing me to her majesty and grinning ear to ear the entire time, keeping everyone satisfied late into the night in literally whatever way we desired, it was just a time and executive leadership style never to be again. You wanted to deliver for this guy. Yes, Bob really knew how to take care of his people.

So back at the meeting, ‘Wild Side’ was playing, and I couldn’t help but smirk and chuckle a touch, as you do when something is so over the top, but not at all in a dismissive or condescending way. This caught Bob’s eye. And he couldn’t conceal the exact same reaction, nor did he try. We both knew it was all ridiculously ridiculous but we loved it. I’ve never stopped including this one as an all time favorite.

I do declare, you just don’t get record guys like Kras anymore. We all loved Bob then and we still do now and we always will.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Tommy Lee

Lux Interior / The Cramps

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

How Come You Do Me / The Cramps

Listen: How Come You Do Me / The Cramps
Listen: How Come You Do Me / The Cramps

Lux being Lux. (Photo: Dan Blackstone)

Above: Lux being Lux (The Academy, NYC, 11/25/94) (Photo: Dan Blackstone)

The Cramps, Toad's Place, New Haven, CN. 1998 (Photo: Duane Sherwood)

Above: The Cramps, Toad’s Place, New Haven, CN. 1998 (Photo: Duane Sherwood)

Below: A postcard from John Peel in response to receiving The Cramps FLAMEJOB package.

A postcard from John Peel in response to receiving The Cramps FLAMEJOB package.

It took a bit of coaxing to get me to my first Cramps show. They played a club in my college town of Rochester, N.Y., and I wasn’t particularly into their first album, which they were touring at the time. The argument putting me over the edge was based on logic. There wasn’t really anything else to do that night, a typical problem. Coincidentally, we had mutual friends in Eric and Mel Mache from New York City. Eric recommended we go along, see them and say hello. So why not? Thank you Eric. It changed my life. I’ve never been the same.

Why did any band other than The Ramones even bother to get out of bed in the morning to compete? The truly informed didn’t. The Cramps created a sound and a theater that scared off all the competition. It would indeed be silly to imply any part was bigger than the sum, but these parts were bigger than anyone else’s and hence the sum was historical, seminal, other worldly, untouchable. Like Ivy, Lux was a one off. Many have and are professing him to be the greatest front man ever. I agree. His perfect combination of spontaneity, teetering on the edge but never losing control has gone unmatched.

Did you ever see Lux do or say the same thing twice? No.

Did you struggle to watch his every move yet still need to watch Ivy, Kid, Bryan, Candy or Slim? Yes.

Did you relive every show in your mind for days and even years after? Yes. And we all still will.

If you never saw The Cramps, you will forever live in B.C. I am deeply sorry for you.

I was lucky enough to begin a long personal journey with them after that first show. It floored us all, and we were only too happy to say hello and invite them back to our apartments (another friend lived on the same floor) for some food and record playing.

The first of endless and unique Cramps experiences happened that very night. There was a strange noise in our bedroom where Corinne was trying to sleep, having an early wake up call the next day. She came out to the living room where the band and a few friends were gathered, saying something was making a flapping noise, it was giving her the creeps and could we investigate.

Lux and I went in to check it out. It was a bat. How did a bat get into the bedroom? To this day, we have no idea. At the time, The Cramps image was very graveyard/skull & crossbones/old Hollywood’s dark side. The bat seemed strangely relevant as that aura was rumored to follow them around.

Lux segued into an involuntary mode, capturing it in a glass casserole dish. We all had a look, then he set it free out the kitchen window. This actually tells you everything about him. He was instinctive, logical, fearless, strategic, courteous, kind and gentle all at once, truly a person beyond the beyond. We had ordered two pizzas, they never came, it was a quiet city in the late 70′s. Nothing was open, so The Cramps retreated to their hotel hungry, but content and pleasant.

They came back through town again a year or so later, summer ’81, this time to promote PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE. Kid Congo was now in the band, it was one of their classic lineups. Duane Sherwood, a friend like myself from their first time through, and I met up with them prior to the show. We were beyond ecstatic at the mere thought of seeing The Cramps that night, not to mention spending some time together. We went to the venue in the late afternoon. It was a gorgeous June day. The equipment was there but the band had wandered off looking for food, so we waited. Soon, edging their way over the hill leading down to the club were, initially, three spiked/halos of hair, two black and one orange, immediately materializing into the full bodies of Lux, Kid and Ivy. Nick followed, sans the big hair. Even when not trying to make an entrance, The Cramps always would.

They seemed pleased to see us, and did some catching up, even though we didn’t really know them that well. Welcomed into the dressing room as they got ready, Lux and Kid were using industrial strength spray from a case they’d brought along to put their hair in order for the show.

This time, the set was even more jaw dropping than the year before. Nothing was compromised, didn’t matter that they were in a small town, the power was unstoppable. Lux was now on stage and his uncontainable gift was unleashed. The ceiling tiles were dismantled, he sliced himself with glass, removed pretty much every stitch of clothing, this was just how it was, nothing fake, pure raw uncensored Lux.

The Cramps were still at their beginning stages then, not playing big venues, often not working with responsible and respectful professional promoters every night. This show was no exception. A local amateur had brought them in this time, offering transportation from New York, then on to Cleveland to begin the originally scheduled tour itinerary. This was a last minute fill in date. Despite selling out the club, and honoring exactly what they been contracted to do, he chose not to be upstanding and return his professional responsibility, therefore unreachable the next day.

The Cramps were stranded with no credit cards or vehicle to get them on to Cleveland. My phone rang around 11 AM. It was Ivy. She said “Kevin, we’re in trouble. Will you help us?” After a quick update from her, I put the phone down, rang Duane and we high tailed it over to their hotel, each in our separate cars to pick them up and figure out the next move. We all came back to my house. I had an American Express card and literally $110 in the bank. I offered them the use of my credit card to rent a vehicle, the look of relief on Ivy’s face will never ever be forgotten. She promised they would pay for the car in cash once they got to Cleveland and hooked up with their crew. I trusted them. And they didn’t go back on their word, I never for a second thought they would. Our friendship was sealed. Little did that promoter know, he did the band and I the biggest favor ever via his unprofessionalism. He did not have the last laugh.

The whole day was not terrible though. Duane took Lux, Ivy and Nick junk shopping. Kid and I stayed back taping the new Siouxsie & The Banshees album. Kid was thrilled that I owned it, as it had just been released. When they returned, Lux spent some time going through my records, trading obscure anecdotes about many of the singles, seeing the sparkle in each other’s eyes as we drooled over the vinyl. His knowledge was frighteningly deep. He was not a fake. The band treated us to a late lunch before heading out of town. We saw them off, and still relive it to this day.

I would travel to New York and Toronto religiously to catch shows over the next few years. Never did this most important band, the true kings and queens of rock and roll, make me or any of their fans feel uncomfortable, or like second class citizens. By ’84 I had relocated to New York, working A&R at Elektra, then Island. I always wanted to sign them, but could never get the green light.

Then in ’92 I started my own imprint, The Medicine Label, through Warner Brothers. Timing is everything and things happen for a reason, it’s true. This was no exception. Had I been able to do a deal with them prior to Medicine, I would have always been struggling to get them the deserved attention within the label. Now I was in charge of the budgets, and could call some shots. The timing was right. Lux and Ivy agreed and we got into business together. It was one of the greatest periods of my professional and personal life. I knew they were all things good and honorable, but to experience their integrity, self respect, flawless instincts, dedication to their art, confidence in their self image, protection of their musical accomplishments, all done with great dignity, taught me much about business and life. Lux and Ivy included myself and Duane, who came to New York to work with me at Medicine, on the making of the eventual FLAMEJOB album. They had never shared this process with anyone before. I am forever honored.

Lux would spill brilliance at every turn, the littlest things had his mark all over them. He once sent along some works in progress on cassette, labeling it ‘The Cramps On Drugs’, crossing out ‘Drugs’ and writing in ‘Medicine’ above it. One of hundreds and hundreds of brilliant ideas constantly flowing from him. Lyrically, his mind was of a higher form of life.

From DRUG TRAIN: “You put one foot up, you put another foot up, you put another foot up, and you’re on board the drug train.”

From INSIDE OUT AND UPSIDE DOWN WITH YOU: “From your bottom to your top, you’re sure some lollipop.”

When the album was finally finished, Lux and Ivy had me over to their house in Los Angeles to hear it. The three of us sat in their meticulously clean and fantastically furnished home, and listened to FLAMEJOB together. They glowed with pride and they deserved to, having made their best album yet, full of all the fire it’s title accurately describes.

The Cramps were never afforded national TV or any radio play of substance. We released ‘Ultra Twist’ as a first single, and when it entered the alternative charts, the band would actually hear themselves on the radio in some cities. Either Lux or Ivy would be sure we knew. And when our publicist Lisa Barbaris, got them on Conan O’Brien, Lux was over the moon. His band was finally going to be on television, a medium he’d been so influenced by as a teenager. Warmed our hearts to deliver this for them, and they always were thankful. He asked if he should tone it down for the broadcast, “God no, go over the top”. Which he did. But to ask first, again proved his respect for others and his responsibility to those he worked with.

It’s impossible to forget the many, many pulverizing moments of Lux on stage, and also realistically impossible to chronicle them all, but here are three:

1 – Playing The Ritz in New York during the LOOK MOM NO HEAD tour, Lux was hit dead center by a hurled high top sneaker. Seamlessly strutting over to it in very high black heels and what was left of a tattered and stage weary matching pair of synthetic pants, he picked it up, filled it with red wine, drank every drop and returned it deep into the shocked audience without flinching or missing a beat.

2 – At Trenton’s City Gardens, where the stage was accessed via a walk from the dressing room through the crowd, usually along the right wall, Lux began the show in a two piece jungle red, thin rubber ensemble, with matching spikes and a string of pearls. As the mayhem progresses, he eventually breaks a bottle of wine, using the glass to slice up his outfit. First of all, the tight rubber pants, although red, had a skin-like implication, so that as he sliced, the unsettling illusion of tearing his own flesh aghast the crowd. As the pants retreated from the damage, Lux was suddenly wearing a few fringes of rubber, much like popped balloons, shamelessly revealing all. Once the sonic annihilation of encore, ‘Surfin’ Bird’, was complete, the band needed to get back to the dressing room. A bit tricky when you’ve now decimated your clothing. Not a problem for The Cramps though. A spotlight suddenly flashes onto that side wall. Lux leads the band through the now parting sea of a crowd, wearing what’s left: the heels and the pearls, and flawlessly returns to the dressing room, Ivy, Slim and Harry, equally beautiful, following behind.

3 – A real feat was accomplished by Lux over a two night engagement in ’97 at London’s Astoria. The second night being the greatest theater I have ever seen by a band in my entire life. And the first night started the process. Lux then slyly began a slow but steady loosening of the stage floor boards near the drum kit via his legendary mic stand iron works. That second night, he continued the process. Even the sight of a shirtless and joyous John Peel being body surfed atop the mosh pit could not top Lux. By the time of the final encore, ‘Surfin Bird’, Lux had chewed up one of Ivy’s boots, teething it puppy style. He picked Ivy’s strings with his teeth, as she lay on her back, arching herself in a yoga stance with Lux between her legs separated only by the guitar, simulating the most erotic oral sex imaginable, all set to a soundtrack of screeching feedback. He had now abandoned all but his g string and heels along the way. Once that sonic crescendo of white noise feedback had been reached, whereby Ivy, Slim and Harry have left the stage, Lux scales the top of the right PA, partial mic stand and 2 bottles of half drank wine in tow. He proceeds to guzzle one, then the other, pitching both onto the stage’s center, where he began the evening. Of course they smash into shards. He then dives from the PA onto the broken glass, microphone in mouth, howling as you would know him to have coined, lands front torso onto the glass, slithers himself snake-like towards the loosened floor, and with mic stand now doubling as a crow bar, proceeds to undo enough of the remaining bits to make his exit into the darkness of his self made floor cave. No one was ready for this. The roar of those 3000 people still makes me tingle. It has to be the ultimate rock and roll moment of civilization, past, present and future. Backstage after the show, Lux is sitting quietly picking bits of glass from himself, and asks humbly, “How was it tonight?”

Lux knew he was an untouchable performer, but he never used his knowledge of this talent arrogantly. He was just the most amazing spirit and always will be.

Marianne Faithfull

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Listen: Losing / Marianne Faithfull
Losing

Only in France and Germany did they have the sense to release ‘Losing’ as a single, and on 7″. Well oddly enough, in Spain and Austria too.

If the world were a fair place, and work wasn’t so dirty, ‘Losing’ would have broken all previous watermarks for weeks at #1.

Duane and Howard introduced me to the orchestration and arrangements of producer Angelo Badalamenti via TWIN PEAKS, a television program I hadn’t followed. Immediately taken, I suggested to Marianne they should meet, with the possibility of writing together. She was instinctively in. Angelo had the same response.

Off they went for a few weeks, and in no time, returned with one of her milestone works, A SECRET LIFE.

I’ll never forget that phone call, saying she and Angelo were ready to play me the album. Next day, the three of us sat together in his studio, listening in it’s entirety. The two of them, confidant but humble. Me, near speechless.

If you think this is one powerful track, you’d best fucking duck when she performs it live. The entire room sat frozen, silent and in religious awe a few weeks back here in New York during it.

I was ready, but had an identical reaction. I will never forget it.

Justin Hines & The Dominoes

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

JustinHinesCarryUKA, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesCarryUK, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesCarryUS, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Carry Go, Bring Come / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Carry

Back in ’76, when Howard Thompson was still a junior A&R scout at Island UK, we struck up a quick friendship. Well it happened quick but it’s still going today and as strong a friendship as one can have. The first package he sent over, and a big one at that, included the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). His accompanying note implored me to listen, citing the ‘almost psychedelic’ nature of the songs and their production. More accurate words have never been written. That sampler changed my life.

I couldn’t get down the phone fast enough to him. The call was quickly followed by a box, a fucking box, jammed with full length LP’s from just about every act on that comp: Aswad, Jah Lion, Burning Spear, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo & The Upsetters and Justin Hines & The Dominoes’ JEZEBEL – plus a slew of 7 and 12″ singles from all the above and more (Lee Perry, Fay Bennett, The Skatalites, Leroy Smart, Rico, Lord Creator, Millie, Dillinger, Augustus Pablo) each with that vital dub B side. A treasure trove if ever, ever, ever there was one. I’ll never forget ripping that one open. Can you imagine how it blew my mind and my friend’s minds too? Well it did.

There were a couple of singles in there from Justin Hines & The Dominoes. A then current reggae remake of his very own decade old Jamaican ska hit (then listed as Justin Hinds & The Dominoes) ‘Carry Go, Bring Come’. This newer version being my preferred choice.

JustinHinesJezebelUKB, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesJezebelUK, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesJezebelUS, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Jezebel / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Jezebel

It’s flip, ‘Jezebel,’ a confusingly titled non-LP track from the JEZEBEL album, stay with me here, is actually a very nice dub of the A side ‘Carry Go, Bring Come’. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

To my knowledge, it’s never appeared on a reissue of any sort.

JustinHinesFireUKA, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Fire / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Fire

‘Fire’ still reminds me vividly of that summer ’76 when Corinne worked the night shift and I had the place to myself, with not a responsibility in the world between semesters but doing a bunch of play whatever you want radio shows. So I’d spend all night spinning records and drinking tea, then sleeping the morning away once she got back home. Ah the joys of being young.

‘Fire’ in particular was the well worn 7″, a perfect song to overlay onto the backdrop of an alarmingly silent city, all asleep, not even a mouse was creeping on the deserted streets – quite eerie. Jack Ruby, the record’s producer, was indeed known for just such a haunting production quality. I still prefer to think of him as Reggae’s Joe Meek. We’d listen to it at least a few times, religiously, every morning before passing out.

JustinHinesNatty, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Natty Take Over / Justin Hines & The Dominoes
Natty

There’s not a bad track on that JEZEBEL album, yet there is a favorite: ‘Natty Take Over’. A most obvious A side to me, yet relegated as a B, I was just happy it was on a 7″ at all.

It fit in perfectly with the Island promo shirts announcing these reggae releases. The shirts came in many colors. I preferred the purple one with sky blue lettering that said quite simply, REGGAE on the front, with that palm tree Island logo on it’s sleeve. What better thing to wear almost daily during a nice hot summer. I still have that shirt.

J. J. Cale

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Listen: Travelin’ Light / J. J. Cale
JJCaleTravelin.mp3

March ’77, Corinne and I made our first trip to England together for a fortnight of fun. We ended up staying at the then seedy Royal Scott Hotel, way before the area became chic. But seriously, it was heaven to us, a real taste of old London, now long gone.

Most importantly, the visit marked our first meeting with Howard. Who knew then that we’d become life long friends. HT showed us around for two weeks solid, and must’ve been glad to see the back of us.

This was a time almost like no other, with the energy of punk united against the stale old guard, and HT had every night sorted: The Damned, The Jam, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Ultravox, Eater, Johnny Moped, The Sex Pistols, The Heartbreakers, Sham 69, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Rockpile, The Downliners Sect, Generation X, The Clash, The Vibrators. Pretty sick, right?

We would start every morning in one of the many rickety cafes along Argyle Square or Crestfield Street, covering traditional English breakfast fry ups of eggs, chips and mushy peas with plenty of HP Sauce, gagging back several sugary teas, then scouring either the record shops or dumpy street markets, Corinne looking for deco jewelry and vintage clothes, me for used 45′s. By early evening, flying on Cadbury Flakes or Fry’s Chocolate Creams, we’d meet Howard, always in a swinging pub with a happening jukebox.

He introduced me to Andrew Lauder on one of those nights, and we all found quite a lot to talk about simply by scouring through the records in The Hope & Anchor’s jukebox. ‘Travelin’ Light’ was visually playing at the time, meaning the machine was a vintage model, one whereby you can watch the vinyl spinning round. Easily, it made for a lasting memory.

Released by Denny Cordell’s Shelter Records, quite possibly ‘Travelin’ Light’ was a single simply to allow the B side, ‘Cocaine’, availability to jukeboxes and club dj’s. For obvious reasons, that track doubled as bragging rights amongst us all, and along with Dillinger’s ‘Cokane In My Brain’, became our cheap theme.

Still it’s this A side, ‘Travelin’ Light’, that I can play endlessly and never tire of, all the while doubling as a journey back in time, to that jukebox and those incredible two weeks.

Nina Hagen

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Listen: Zarah / Nina Hagen
Zarah

She never sat in my office at Columbia. Nina Hagen was before my time, but during Howard’s. I don’t recall his memories being flattering. Not unlike her records, she was apparently rather primal.

Her vocal styled in that walking dead voice always took the prize for best dynamic moment on any track, although I’d have to say Mike Thorne was best at dragging that out of her on NUNSEXMONKROCK from ’82, one album and one year prior to ‘Zarah’. In fact, my all time favorite Nina Hagen track from said album, ‘Born In Xixax’, never graced a 7″. Luckily, ‘Zarah’ came in a close second.

Good call on someone’s part paring her with Giorgio Moroder, and, the 80′s version of today’s Mark Ronson fifteen minutes of fame producer, Keith Forsey. The track is superb, soldiering along proudly in the shadow of Sparks ‘Beat The Clock’, another Giorgio Moroder production from three years earlier.

Man, remember when records began to sound really expensive? Looking back, ‘Zarah’ was totally in that fast lane.

A Handful Of Cheek

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Listen: I’ll Slap Your Face / A Handful Of Cheek
HandfulCheekSlapFace.mp3

King Of The Hooks, as Jonathan King was known, kept a non-stop flow of pop novelty singles coming from his UK Records imprint during the early 70′s. Initially distributed by Decca and later Polydor, some deservedly became the occasional hit.

Clearly, all these one-off releases were from his own musical pen, when not picking up the occasional left field Reggae (Carl Malcolm), Northern (The Devonnes) or American Soul (Hoagy Lands) master that is.

JK always came up with hysterical synonyms for himself and his hired musicians. In this case, A Handful Of Cheek.

When visiting London in March ’77 with Corinne, we made the rounds of all the labels, blagging records. Howard set us up with Andrew Lauder at United Artists, and folks at Chrysalis, Charisma, etc. No one was about to bother with UK, deemed quite unhip despite 10CC and The Kursaal Flyers. Maybe others looked down their nose at UK, but certainly not me.

Maintaing a small office just near the entrance to Warren Street tube, the very nice receptionist gladly opened the cupboards and pulled out a good fifty singles for me to take back home for my US college station. Bless her. A Handful Of Cheek was among them.

Starting with a glam drum sound, ‘I’ll Slap Your Face’ soon turns into one of my favorite Jonathan King novelties. Dropping in the orchestral backing at the key change is an unexpected and undeniable example of why King Of The Hooks, even if self appointed, is undeniably justified.

Kilburn & The High Roads

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Listen: Crippled With Nerves / Kilburn & The High Roads
Crippled

Having read about this single and the band in the Melody Maker, I somehow special ordered a copy of Kilburn & The High Roads ‘Crippled With Nerves’. I was curious and just knew I needed it, if for no other reason than having spent my first few weeks of ever visiting London in Kilburn with my Aunt Tess and Uncle Mick. Sure am glad I followed through though. In fact, I’m not even really certain who/what/where my source for UK singles was in this particular period, given it being just post my time with Discount Records, where we could order imports through JEM and during my very early RIT days, prior to meeting Howard Thompson, who sent me everything. Probably Greg Prevost at House Of Guitars got it for me.

Anyways, I was really hoping to see more of the band represented, albeit briefly, in the Ian Dury film. Despite that, it’s a wonderful movie, and a not to be missed look into this fascinating genius.

Having only seen him in the States, when he made it over to tour Ian Dury & The Blockheads, I can stand up amongst all others who got to witness their super human live show. One of the best ever.

‘Crippled With Nerves’, an unlikely A side for sure, certainly takes on multiple meanings once you know Ian Dury’s weaving and jarring history, which musically began with Kilburn & The High Roads. This will provide an excellent read for the curious or uninformed.

The Georgia Satellites

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Listen: Sheila / The Georgia Satellites
Sheila

Warning: ignore the questionable 80′s drum sound and over all narrow time period production. Jeff Glixman had a vision as producer, fair enough. But despite Howard Thompson and myself angling to tone the drum sound down, improve it a bit or simply get rid of it’s processed tunnel effect, we did not succeed. It may be why such a potentially seminal band, untouchable as a live act in their day, didn’t stand the test of time as powerfully as they deserved to on record. That’s one opinion.

I tell you what. Dan Baird could write a song or two, or fifty. ‘Sheila’ being proof.

Just pay attention to the lyrics on ‘Sheila’ one time through. They’re the epitome of white trash America, going to the drug store to buy a diamond ring. Come on, it doesn’t get more visual or literal than that. This guy should have been grandfathered into Walgreen stock options, or dare I say, a Wal-Mart profit share.

Not to take away for the greatness of Dan Baird in any way. Good hearted soul, flawless musician, and that rare DNA gift of never ever aging. It’s a little unbelievable.

None of the above can overshadow the other guys by the way. Classic combination of great players, the sum being greater than the very great parts, like The Ramones.

Rick Richard may be one of the best guitarists in the solar system. In fact, he is.

Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Listen: Buffalo Gals (Single Edit) / Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team
Buffalo Gals (Single Edit) / Malcolm McLaren & The World's Famous Supreme Team

Howard Thompson sent me this one the week of release in Britain, or more likely, even before street date. Getting those packages from him provided yours truly the honor of being the first disc jockey in America to play so many great records, ‘Buffalo Gals’ being one.

Back then, I co-hosted a midnight – 2am Specialty show, as they’re referred to nowadays, on the town’s local AOR outlet, WCMF. Those stations were basically the enemy, force feeding the public on mainstream corporate rock only, although in the case of this particular one, with the occasional great record or two thrown into evening rotation.

Their overnight jock, Roger McCall, would always have considerable leeway given his shift, and spun more than a safe number of playlist no-no’s in those early hours. We ended up co-hosting that show together, specializing in all the groovy stuff of the moment, on Tuesday nights.

Every once in a while, there’d be some mind blowing record, often from England and courtesy of Howard, that I’d take in to debut.

Like Howard, Roger and I had musical tastes that were profoundly in synch and we’d play those singles over and over really loudly in the studio while simultaneously doing the show, and of course giving them some needle time as well.

Yes, this was one of those records. Seriously, our jaws dropped on first listen. How could anything possibly be so good?

Years later while working at Island, Chris rang and asked me to take a meeting with Malcolm McLaren, he having originally signed him to the US label and issuing ‘Buffalo Gals’. Malcolm’s reputation certainly preceded him, so I was excited.

Honestly don’t recall what he was shopping at the time, maybe his French voguing record that ended up on Epic. But he was a riot to sit with for half an hour. An absolute storyteller/salesman.

Once we concluded the meeting, I pulled out my jukebox tab with the usual autograph request as part of the ask. Malcolm happily obliged, paying me quite the compliment: “Well, this truly is a new idea”.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Malcolm McLaren

Motorhead

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Listen: Overkill / Motorhead
Overkill / Motorhead

Seminal single. Seminal song actually. Not that I need to tell anyone this. But funny enough, many of the most common records I post get the greatest number of plays. Go figure.

As with lots of singles considered hard core metal, like rap, electronic and dance, a 7″ is fairly uncommon. I don’t see many ‘Overkill’ copies on 45 about, and therefore love this one even that much more.

Listen: Too Late, Too Late / Motorhead
Too Late, Too Late / Motorhead

The A side is certainly well known, but I’m pretty sure ‘Too Late, Too Late’ never made it to an album. Guessing it’s been scraped off the barrel bottom to resell the fans on a ‘Best of’ cd with pretty much material they already own, but as a traditional vinyl B side….here you go.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Lemmy

Now the real point of this Motorhead post is to give you a look at the jukebox tab Lemmy filled out a few weeks back.

Here’s the thing, Lemmy will do anything for Howard Thompson. HT pretty much has carte blanche with him. In short, when no one was interested in signing Motorhead, and I do mean no one, Howard saw the obvious while running A&R at Bronze, gave them a singles deal and the rest is indeed, history.

So tagging along with him to a Motorhead show is a no brainer. Into Lemmy’s inner dressing room we go, complete with all the trimmings. Meaning lots of Jack and coke, and potato chips. And Lemmy of course, gracious as can be.

Hanging out with the man from Motorhead is a major thrill, period. For me, the added value of sitting talking with one of The Rockin’ Vickers is basically priceless.

Pulp

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Listen: Sorted For E’s & Wizz /Pulp
Sorted For E's & Wizz /Pulp

Dave Bedford from Fire Records in London became quite a good friend during my days with Island in the early 90′s, as I’d be in town for two or three week stays at a time. We had, and still do have, similar tastes in both the past and present. Logically, he and I share a vinyl addiction but more importantly, a natural chemistry about so many things. Kind of like that occasional person you meet and within hours, feel as though you’ve known your whole life.

Never did Dave make a suggestion about a band that wasn’t eye to eye with my tastes, so when he nudged me rather relentlessly about seeing Pulp in December ’91, somewhere along Portobello Road near the Rough Trade shop on Talbot, in a small pub, I was interested. Apparently, they were looking to get out of Fire and really worth checking out.

Why not? Howard was in town, so I suggested we all meet up there, see the band and have some food together. Howard brought David Field and a few friends as well. Everyone was in.

Before leaving the Island office, I asked a some of the A&R guys to join. Pulp were deemed damaged goods at that point, having gone from indie label pillar to post for several years, treading water and considered to be at a low point of no return career-wise. My invitations were met with disinterest and I’m sure a few rolled eyes once I turned away. No worries, I was planning my exit a few months down the road to start The Medicine Label. Just trying to be nice fellows.

The pub was miserably empty when Pulp went on, maybe thirty people tops. Most dwindled off after a few songs, even our posse, sans Dave Bedford, decided to go down the road for a drink and wait for us to finish having a look.

I was in awe. They seemed fantastic. Dave was right. Jarvis (one of the best radio presenters in the world at the moment btw) doing his routine, fitted out in a wide wale brown hip hugger corduroy suit replete with white belt. Literally straight out of a Scott Walker photo essay, no surprise there.

Next day in the office, I couldn’t shake the previous night’s show. They were clearly too English to try working with for US only, and the London office were sternly not interested. No one was waiting for me to walk away before rolling their eyes now. So I just drifted off rather defeated, accepting I was born in the wrong place, wrong time to do anything professional with Pulp, just needed to be content staying a fan.

Six months later, I was setting up my label through Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, and the new regime at Island UK were signing Pulp.

Good for them. For my money, the band’s first proper Island album was DIFFERENT CLASS, a picture perfect creative culmination of all their new found confidence yet not so distant hardships at being kicked about for years. DIFFERENT CLASS become a stake in music history’s timeline.

“Sorted For E’s And Wizz’, having maybe the best title ever for a song and despite being spotlighted by the mainstream press as obviously drug related, hurled itself to #2 in the UK singles chart. Not initially, which was frustrating, but eventually pressed on 7″ vinyl, the single finally graced the library shelves. Fun and funny as it is, there’s some chilling lyric bits and all too true. A desert island single. Hands down.

Listen: Disco 2000 / Pulp
Disco 2000 / Pulp

Fuck me, did this sound good compressed as hell via Radio 1′s signal and coming out of the car dashboard. Those opening chords had every shotgun seat occupant diving for the volume dial. Involuntary reaction.

Listen: Disco 2000 (7″ Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (7

I seem to remember this single mix being done for the US. God knows why. I mean, the band came over and supported Blur in ’94, thereby building a nice following and deserved airplay, but of course radio…..

The Blur / Pulp tour played at New York’s Academy. Remembered this well, it was Corinne’s birthday, September 29, 1994. Seeing Pulp was a perfect present, she loved them from day one. Only problem being she wanted to do something or other straight afterwards, hence dragged my ass out just as Blur were hitting their third number. Bummer, but it was her birthday.

Listen: Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp
Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix) / Pulp

Nice thing about the above ‘Disco 2000 (7″ Mix)’: it gave Island an excuse to press up a jukebox single, basically the trend amongst the labels at that time. These singles were low end design, paperless label, large center hole and very limited, literally for jukeboxes.

It was coupled with ‘Disco 2000 (Motiv 8 Discoid Mix)’, a near eight minute techno club version that made it’s way onto a rather nice promo 12″ some months earlier. The 12 was played a lot, like a real lot, in the house on the Dual stacking turntable I’d bought at the Warner Brothers Records used equipment sale for employees. $10, and still works like a charm to this day.

One of Pulp’s crowning moments was headling an all day event at Finsbury Park on July 25, 1998. It was a Saturday, I desperately wanted to get back home after a week in London, but decided it could be worth pushing my flight back by a day. Turned out being one of my better decisions in life.