Archive for the ‘Elektra’ Category

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.

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.

Guadalcanal Diary

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Listen: Always Saturday / Guadalcanal Diary
Always

Ever rediscover a single to the point of it becoming a new all time favorite song, the kind you play about twenty times in a row, oddly wanting it to end so you can start it all over again? Love when that happens. And it did earlier with ‘Always Saturday’.

Basically, I’d spent the afternoon digging through boxes of records in my storage space. This, by the way, is pure heaven to me. Forever the hoarder, I’d squirreled away about fifteen copies of this years ago, only to discover them today. So I pulled one out and an added it the play pile. After the first time through on the RCA stacker, I just let the single fly on repeat for a good half hour. A ton of Elektra memories came washing back.

Making for coincidence, Mike Bone called earlier in the week. Cell rings. ‘Mike Bone’ on caller ID. We proceeded to burn up nearly an hour like it was a minute. So pulling out a chunk of Guadalcanal Diary singles a day or two later couldn’t have been more fitting.

Let me set the record straight. Guadalcanal Diary were one of the most fun bands I ever had the chance to work with. Hard working, never a complaint, always smiling, always appreciative. They spoiled me.

This was from the fourth album, the first one they made after I’d left Elektra. Wish I could claim A&R credit for it, but can not. The 45 was on my jukebox for the longest time, and it got played until the grooves turned grey. I love a seriously well played record, they have their own sound to them as well, a kind of lived in ambience.

Well, ‘Always Saturday’ was basically a perfect single, another one that should’ve been a Top 40 hit. Why is US radio so bad?

The Doors

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Listen: Break On Through (To The Other Side) / The Doors
Break

Summer nights in July bring back a handful of records I recall from ’67, when the AM Top 40′s in many major markets were feeling a change in the air and responded to it on the air. Albums were becoming youth culture’s most important statement. I guess the Viet Nam War and the tail end of Britain’s music/fashion invasion created a perfect storm. The 45′s role morphed into a vehicle for edited airplay, and the album became the premier sellable asset for bands.

Nothing could have made me happier. All the drug riddled groups, whose names alone appealed to me greatly, still required a 7″ for radio exposure, often promo only. Miracle.

Let’s be serious, every one of them secretly wanted a hit. Generally, their first few singles became loss leaders, and were therefore scarce even when current. The Doors ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ being a prime example. Originally released on January 1, 1967, the record got zero airplay initially. But by early summer, it was one of several I flew around the AM dial in search of nightly during the very late hours, after TV had basically shut down.

In small town upstate New York, you hardly ever heard a car driving by past midnight. Every hour on the hour, a New York Central freight train would sub woofer shake our village, but otherwise, silence. Sorry, silence and crickets. All in all a romantic contrast to the pulse of far away metropolises spilling from my transistor radio, which lay permanently buried beneath the pillow. Yes, those AM Top 40′s by day leaned very underground by night, spinning the records which had begun to crawl onto BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart.

It must be why I associate The Doors with the night. That and Hunter Thompson’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. I read that high on acid while The Doors’ WAITING FOR THE SUN played repeatedly, meaning the spindle arm on my automatic changer was left in the upright position, allowing one’s last selection to track endlessly.

To be accurate, WBZ Boston gave me my first exposure to The Doors. When the deejay front sold ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ my heart nearly stopped. I’d waited six months to hear this record, desperately craved the picture sleeve, and just wanted badly to love The Doors. Good instincts as they turned out.

I never did get that sleeve, well not for seventeen more years. Fast forward to ’84, and I’m working at Elektra in New York. Mark Cohn, our resident runner, tips his head into my office one afternoon, announcing a storage closet full of 45′s had been unearthed and needed clearing. Did I want them?

Turns out the cupboard’s contents were a deep library of every Elektra single, both US and UK, starting with the very first release and continuing through to ’74. Praise be the Lord. Jah Live. Etc.

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.

Alton Joseph & The Jokers

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Listen: Where’s The Place / Alton Joseph & The Jokers
AltonJosephWhersThePlace.mp3

Anything with Huey P. Meaux’s name attached should heighten your radar immediately. From what I know, he’s never made a bad record.

The former music director from a one of a kind, progressive 60′s / early 70′s Rochester AM Top 40, WSAY, brought me two massive burlap bags of promo 45′s when the station sadly lost steam in ’79, by then churning out a weak country format to deaf ears. The aged and nasty private owner was selling. Everyone was losing their jobs.

It was a drag, this guy was so distraught and worried, yet clearly wanted to share some decency via the truly unexpected gifts. He knew I had drooled over the thousands of singles locked behind management’s doors, and decided to just say fuck them, grabbing me several hundred. At the time, I was a local promotion rep for MCA, and always took good care of him while most others were dismissive and disinterested. It was a massive surprise when he buzzed me from my apartment building lobby, huge burlap bags in each fist and certainly a most kind repayment.

Impossible to wait, halfway up the stairs, I pulled out a couple. ‘Please Stay’ by The Cryin’ Shames on an orange swirl US London was one, this was the other.

About then, my interest in Loma was beginning to fully form, and anything from the label bugged my eyes. Alton Joseph & The Jokers, produced by Huey P. Meaux, well I couldn’t get upstairs and to my turntable fast enough.

This was April ’79. The thirteen year gap between a Spring ’66 release of ‘Where’s The Place’ and my first listen already created a euphoric walk back into time. Nowadays, it’s a total rocket ship ride to the past, in a good way.

I swear, this was a one take, live in the studio natural for these guys.

Listen: The Other Place / Alton Joseph & The Jokers
The

Never could I find any comprehensive information about Alton Joseph & The Jokers, their lineup or origins. Bob Krasnow, who ran Loma and years later, Elektra during my time there, couldn’t remember many details either, barring an almost complete certainty that they were Texas beer joint locals, and broke musician friends of Heuy P. Meaux on the three boogie woogie sets a night treadmill.

‘The Other Place’ might indeed verify Bob’s instinct, given it’s a penny pinching instrumental of the A side, only shortened a bit and given a slighty different mix.

Magic was made.

X

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Listen: The New World / X
The

I saw one of the greatest bands in the solar system tonight at Irving Plaza in New York, and one their greatest shows ever.

X

Seen them many times, worked with them at Elektra, was a fan prior. But let me tell you, there is no other punk band in the universe from the era that a) still exists in the original lineup and b) can even begin to compete. They have scared off all the competition. Deservedly so.

X are presently touring, performing the LOS ANGELES album in it’s entirety, plus a ton of greatest hits. Yes, be relieved, they have survived the hump from has beens to legends. And thank God they did. We lost The Cramps, The Ramones and The Gun Club. The White Stripes and L7 threw in the towel. Only Suicide can stand proudly next to them.

If X come to your neck, don’t fuck up your remaining years on earth and miss this one.

Thankfully, tonight they played ‘The New World’. Funny listening to the recorded version now. It’s so much faster and, dare I say, pop or slick. Still, in it’s day, who was speaking out about injustice and corrupt politics. Maybe there were others. I only remember X.

Elektra UK had half a brain then. Unlike the US side, they released ‘The New World’ as a commercial 7″ (in the US it was serviced as a promo only 12″). Half a brain? Yeah, in the era of picture sleeves, how could the company not house this in one? The UK never took to X. Their loss.

A very rare 7″, but as it probably plays out, not as rare as finding a person that wants one.

Yes, we vinyl collectors are dying off. Someday this 7″ will be in the Smithsonian. Neither of us will be around, but my bet is, it’s a Mona Lisa.

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.

Ike & Tina Turner

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Listen: Tell Her I’m Not Home / Ike & Tina Turner
Tell Her I'm Not Home / Ike & Tina Turner

Embarrassing but true, during all the years I worked for Bob Krasnow at Elektra, I did not know of this record, although there were very many Ike & Tina Turner records I did know. In fact, the day Howard brought me in to meet him, essentially to get his blessing before joining the A&R staff, it was an Ike & Tina Turner single that probably helped get me the job.

I’d pretty much fumbled my way through some lop sided answer to his question, inquiring as to why I wanted an A&R job in the first place. Before leaving, I just had to get some details on one of the Ike & Tina Turner records Bob had produced, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ from OUTTA SEASON, with it’s infamous white faced, watermelon eating cover art. It was clearly of great interest to him that I knew such a detail at all, and thus began our real relationship.

A year or so after young and foolishly leaving Elektra for Island, I stumbled on the UK stock copy, pictured above. How could I not buy any single by Ike & Tina Turner that I didn’t own, but as a great bonus, when the producer was Bob?

Easily, ‘Tell Her I’m Not Home’ stands the test of time as one of their finest, with it’s legendary spoken intro, and use of Tchaikovsky’s ’1812 Overture’ riff, beating The Move to it by a good six months. With both occurring before the song even really starts, what’s not to freak over?

I faxed a scan of the label to Bob’s office a week or so later, feeling a bit timid given we hadn’t had contact since I’d left, basically, complimenting him on my new found favorite song intro, to which he scribbled back something quite friendly. It was a nice moment.

Inspiral Carpets

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Listen: This Is How It Feels / Inspiral Carpets
This Is How It Feels / Inspiral Carpets

Dare I say ‘This Is How It Feels’ is to the 90′s what The Damned’s ‘Grimly Fiendish’ was to the 80′s. I’ll go one further, the song has a remarkable sonic lineage to ‘Arnold Layne’ as well. Fightin’ words, maybe. Yet it’s always how I heard it.

Inspiral Carpets played The Limelight when they were in the limelight, I’m recalling around the time of this single. Signed to Elektra, one can only guess off the back of US success with Happy Mondays and such, a tour or maybe three brought them to town. I loved ‘This Is How It Feels’ so much, I went along. Visually similar to The Fleshtones (only one Three Stooges bowl cut necessary), the boys were a touch too reminiscent of The Swingin’ Medallions
at a time when I personally didn’t need that refresher button hit. But ‘This Is How It Feels’, no denying, it’s one hell of a massive tune.

Del Tha Funkee Homosapien

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Listen: Mistadobalina (Radio Edit) / Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
Mistadobalina (Radio Edit) / Del Tha Funkee Hoosapien

When I started The Medicine Label in early ’92, we were distributed by Warner Brothers for the UK. My first trip to meet the London office turned out to be a collectors dream come true. First off, Gary Crowley had just joined their A&R staff. Like myself, he’d worked at Island prior and also recently migrated.

Day one, Gary takes me to lunch at Bill Wyman’s then new Sticky Fingers Cafe, only a few blocked away from the WB building in Kensington. Now this was some place for both a Rolling Stones fan and general collector alike. Every wall space literally covered with memorabilia: gold record plaques, trade ads and pictures sleeves, hand bills, posters, ticket stubs. The guy saved everything. Sticky Fingers became a favorite stop for a few years. Food was on the dodgy side for a vegetarian, but the scenery made up for it.

Back at the office, Gary walks me through to the head of radio promotion, who’s already been informed of my vinyl issues. He opens his cabinets and says, “take what you want, in fact, take the lot, we don’t get much call for 7′s.” Well, you need only ask me once. His back catalogue was deep, and so I grab one of everything (minimum). A few hundred 45′s later went into the international pouch and got shipped home.

Over the next few weeks, I’d made my way through the lot, and a few things became one-play favorites, like ‘Mistadobalina’. This record probably hasn’t aged as historically well as hoped for, which might explain it’s appeal to me. I definitely have vanilla tastes when it comes to rap.

Gloria Lynne

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Watermelon Man / Gloria Lynne

Listen: Watermelon Man / Gloria Lynne
Watermelon Man / Gloria Lynne

Michael Alago and I worked together at Elektra for ages. We’d first met when he booked The Ritz a few years prior. The great times and mischief we got up to at that label, it’s an HBO series waiting to happen. Michael’s one of the great A&R people out there as well, having signed Metallica, Alan Vega, White Zombie, Nina Simone. It’s pretty hard to top his track record.

There was a moment when we were sent on a mission to find some classic artists for a series of Nonesuch jazz releases, those that might still be active, but hadn’t recorded in a while. This was a perfect reason to have an extended champagne lunch at Bicé on the company card and brainstorm a list. Gloria Lynne came to mind. After a few phone calls, we found she managed herself and got her home number from the fellow who booked The Blue Note at the time, name escapes me. Turns out her’s was the exact same as Michael’s, bar the last digit.

In those days, we used to get back to one of our places, four or five in the morning, fresh from another night at Danceteria or The Ritz, still ready to go; seriously. Sad but true. We’d often dial her number up to that very last digit, deciding it was time to make the call, then chickening out. Thankfully.

Check out her rap at the end of ‘Watermelon Man’. This is so blatant, so nasty. Lil’ Kim has nothing on her.

Tom Paxton

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Listen: The Last Thing On My Mind / Tom Paxton
The Last Thing On My Mind / Tom Paxton

If you didn’t really know folk music in the 60′s, but wanted to get caught up fast, Elektra was the one stop shopping label. So I thought at the time, and indeed, I was right. Tim Buckley, Tom Rush, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton. They were all there for an imaginary trip to MacDougal and Bleecker Streets, right in the comfort of your very own bedroom. You could rest assured you were part of the unrest. And if you had nothing to protest, at least you’d find a lot of songs that would stay around for life.

Acquiring a UK pressing of ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ is a most pleasant recollection.

Not long after starting an entry level A&R job at Elektra in ’84, I found myself immersed in a small but deservedly elite bunch of living, breathing record/music obsessives. Every nook and cranny of the company had kindred spirits to connect with, from the chairman to the mailroom and back. Mark Cohen was our office runner, keeper of the promo cabinet, supplies (many supplies) and more in play than some of the radio guys actually. Topped off with a heart of gold, our vinyl fetish commonplace was quickly and mutually detected.

One day he walks into my office, telling me he’d just been instructed to clean out a jam packed storage closet, and in doing so, discovered several boxes of Elektra library 7″ singles, US and UK. Lots and lots of doubles. Did I want some of them?

Don’t even bother to torture yourself with curiosity. Yes, it was a sick find on his part and a hand of God on my forehead miracle for me.

Amongst them was a pristine, unplayed, untouched thick vinyl UK pressing of ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’. It was one of the last things I thought I’d ever see, not to mention, own.

tompaxtonlastuka, The Move, Tom Paxton, Reprise, Elektra, Tony Visconti

Listen: The Last Thing On My Mind (1972 Re-recording)/ Tom Paxton
The Last Thing On My Mind / Tom Paxton

I like to think this 1972 re-recording, produced by Tony Visconti, was inspired by The Move, who cut a very British version on their album SHAZAM, from 1970. By then, Tom Paxton had moved to London, so it’s not too far fetched to assume he’d heard theirs, and realized what a powerful song he’d written. I must say, when I got this single, and saw the Tony Visconti production credit, I was all set for a repeat of the dramatic, orchestrated style he’d applied to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. But no, it’s actually quite similar to his original from ’64 on Elektra.

You don’t see or hear this version much, sadly, you don’t hear either version much. Despite the similarities of both, it’s hard to ignore the song’s quality.

Journey

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Listen: Just The Same Way / Journey
Just The Same Way / Journey

Yesterday’s post about historic, often unsung producer Owen Bradley had me locked into a historic, often unsung producer funk. Somewhere in my Top 5, Roy Thomas Baker sits.

Well I suppose he’s had various moments in the sun, but not lately. If the great minds decide to ponder the character responsible for inventing corporate rock, then by all means, RTB should get the crown. Seriously, who can touch a production like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?

Weened at the Decca Studios in London as an engineer (check your record sleeves from the 60′s) meant learning how to mic and record accurately was his required foundation. So for RTB to build a skyscraper – piece of cake.

When he ran the west coast office of Elektra in ’85, he’d welcome us junior New York A&R guys every time we made our way to Los Angeles. And the action never, not ever, slowed. Honestly, there was no stopping and certainly no sleeping. It was that simple.

When I pull out Journey singles, there are four or five that eat up the next half hour or so of my life, each getting a couple of spins minimum. Tonight, ‘Just The Same Way’ won hands down. Is there anything that isn’t absolutely perfect about this single?

Steve Perry’s call and answer bits push the bar, one classic inflection after the other. Then there’s the guitar solo, and the tones. It’s an AOR radio masterpiece.

Atomic Rooster

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Listen: Save Me / Atomic Rooster AtomicRoosterSaveMe.mp3

I do recall the excitement of booking Atomic Rooster at my college, December ’72. IN HEARING OF had been released a few months earlier and Elektra were falling all over themselves to support the show, sending loads of extra copies plus posters and glossy 8×10′s to the school radio station. Packaged together with Savoy Brown and Chicken Shack for a two month run, this was an Anglophile’s dream tour.

All three bands shared a common backstage area that night, the men’s locker room, attached to the school’s gymnasium where the show took place. Indeed a fun event for a college freshman concert chairman, but a hard one, forced constantly to decide between watching each band’s respective set or hanging out backstage pestering the crap out of the members. Somehow, I buzzed back and forth, balancing both.

Atomic Rooster had so many revolving door, lineup changes, and for what good I’m unclear. Personally, I liked their clumsy, over done, early 70′s productions. The drum sounds were particularly dreadful, which was common to most low budget Prog rock bands from the period. The more muddy and needlessly over thought the recording/production, the more I liked it. Despite all of leader Vincent Crane’s bad ideas, my interest only increased with each one. I’m guessing others agreed, as I was not alone in the Atomic Rooster cult.

By ’73, the lineup and new album, ATOMIC ROOSTER IV (renamed for the US as an alternative to NICE N GREASY, the UK title), featured Chris Farlowe on vocals, replacing Pete French.

Now here’s where it gets a bit confusing. ‘Save Me’ is actually an updated version of Atomic Rooster’s debut single ‘Friday The 13th’, when Nick Graham was their singer. Either some of his original take, or a newer vocal from Pete French (who replaced Nick Graham prior to Chris Farlowe joining) recorded for the album version of ‘Friday The 13th’, survived.

Hence, either the voice of Nick Graham or Pete French is included on ‘Save Me’. You could loosely say that one of these chaps is dueting, although clearly not by choice, with Chris Farlowe on the above rendition.

Listen: Save Me (Mono) / Atomic Rooster AtomicRoosterSaveMe (Mono).mp3

Just to complicate things further, the US release of ‘Save Me’, here in it’s promo only mono version, features less of Chris Farlowe and more of whoever the fuck sang it prior. You’d logically expect the opposite given a) it was released after the UK single and b) Chris Farlowe was by then the band’s current, full time vocalist.

Vincent Crane clearly over thought all this nonsense. Perfectly bloated (as Prog should be) and quite frankly, hysterically fascinating.

Time eroded their following quite quickly though. As the recordings got messier, so too did trying to stay current with their members. Most fans gave up, as did the entire lineup – all of who walked by the time ATOMIC ROOSTER IV hit the shelves in the US.

Don’t get me wrong though, as I do love the crazy world of Vincent Crane.

Captain Beefheart

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Listen: Click Clack / Captain Beefheart CaptainBeefheartClickClack.mp3

I’m not generally a fan of songs about sitting by train tracks waiting for the such and such to roll by. As a lyrical theme, once was too much. So I tended to pay little attention to ‘Click Clack’.

Just so happens my Captain Beefheart singles don’t get much attention, on a high top shelf and pretty close to The Beatles, a section I rarely browse. But I admittedly found myself wanting to hear ‘Click Clack’, Joey’s brother having just sent a rough mix of a railroad song my way. I recall when Joe had written it, and played it down the phone one afternoon. Finally, a railroad song that captured my interest.

What the hell, I pulled out his 7′s (always a fun browse) and had forgotten how authentic Captain Beefheart’s rendition of the theme worked. Just enough blues juxtaposed against an unlikely bass and drum rhythm. Almost as if the two sections of players weren’t even listening to each other.

Possibly Captain Beefheart’s most commercial 7″ since his initial ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’, I’m not sure why The Magic Band (as they were now known – as opposed to His Magic Band) were excluded from the label copy despite having played on the single.

One morning, around ’85, I got into my office at Elektra around 9:30, and just cranked The Birthday Party’s ‘Release The Bats’ single, then their latest release. Before it was over, Bob Krasnow was standing in my doorway, huge grin on his face. “What the fuck is this, sounds like Beefheart, I love it”. He would know, having produced much of his Buddah releases and ultimately signing him to Reprise. Not long afterwards, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds became Elektra recording artists.

Hey Bob, where are my points?

The Exciters

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Exciters - Little Bit Of Soap

Listen: A Little Bit Of Soap / The Exciters ExcitersSoap.mp3

I’ve had this single for decades. It’s the version of ‘A Little Bit Of Soap’ that introduced me to the song in ’66. I know The Jarmels actually had the big success with it several years earlier, but I was in diapers. Now, when I occasionally hear it on an oldies program, it’s always that Jarmels version, which for me doesn’t compare to this. I guess it’s Brenda Reid, The Exciters’ vocalist, that makes the difference, as she has exactly the kind of voice I love. The Exciters were clearly a Brill Building type of act, having covered songs written by/been produced by/signed by so many of it’s familiar names: Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Bert Russell, Lieber & Stoller and Bert Berns.

In the 80′s, while working at Elektra, Bob Krasnow our chairman had signed Bert’s daughter, Cassandra Berns, and put me in charge of A&R-ing her project. This turned into a real stroke of luck as I got to spend time with the Berns family down in Atlanta and heard many stories of the great days at Bang Records, the label Bert formed with Ahmet & Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry Wexler. His widow Eileen proceeded to run their record and publishing business after he passed away in ’67.

Eileen was an absolute firecracker. I liked her so much, especially when she generously walked me through their studio complex, littered with 50′s and 60′s jukeboxes, which I’m guessing Bert had collected; then into a big closet full of 45′s and said, “Take whatever you want”. Now that is just not what you tell a record junkie.

Bang and Shout (Bang’s offshoot label) obscurities galore and indeed, where this copy originated. Wisely, she had future Bang artists cover this, and many of their catalog’s songs, with continued success. ‘A Little Bit Of Soap’ charted twice more in later years by Nigel Olsson and Paul Davis both on Bang. One winter’s Saturday easily ten years ago, I gave it a spin for old time’s sake and was suddenly bitten by The Exciters bug which is not, by the way, treatable.

The Hullaballoos

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

hullgonnausa
hullimgonnaps

Listen: I’m Gonna Love You Too / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosGonna.mp3

Do not mistake this British band as the resident pop group on the US HULLABALOO show from ’65 – ’66. They did appear, six times to be exact, but were only coincidentally sharing a similar name. Admittedly their second album, THE HULLABALLOOS ON HULLABALOO would confuse even the most attentive. Alas, the band’s name was indeed spelled differently than the program’s. So no – they were not the house band.

As with just about every group in those days, we saw their pictures way before getting to hear the music. I was too young to be aware of all the Buddy Holly similarities they shared, so to me, they were completely original. I vividly remember seeing the sleeve to ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ in a local shop and being instantly smitten. Bleach blond, all four – this was even more radical than The Pretty Things, who had the longest hair yet. Hullaballoos’ drummer Harry rivaled any member of The Pretty Things to date, not only in hair length but color too, hence out doing them in my book. My parents were aghast to find I planned to bleach my hair as well. It never happened – not yet that is.

Despite endless stories of infamous thievery directed toward Roulette Records, they did get their singles distributed and heard. ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ got played a bunch initially.

hulldidusa
hulldidps

Listen: Did You Ever / The Hullaballoos
HullaballooosDidYouEver.mp3

The followup, ‘Did You Ever’ was played slightly less, but performed more than any other song on US television.

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hulllearningps

Listen: Learning The Game / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosLearning.mp3

Unfortunately, ‘Learning The Game’, my favorite of the four, was not played at all in my hometown. The single made it to the Bubbling Under Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #121 during a short two week run, so some play obviously was achieved. Once I got my copy, I cherished it all the more.

hullwontusa
hullwontps

Listen: I Won’t Turn Away Now / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosWontTurn.mp3

The very hard to get fourth single and sleeve, ‘I Won’t Turn Away Now’ is classic British beat. Little Steven played The Hullaballoos recently. I was in the car and thought, justice after all these years. God bless Sirius.

In the early 80′s, when I started working at Elektra, the lure of free phone calls to the UK were too much to pass up. I called Hull directory information, and secured two of the four Hullaballoos’ phone numbers. Ultimately, I only spoke with Andrew Woonton. Initially our conversation proceeded as follows:

“Hi is this Andrew Woonton?”

“Yes, who’s calling?”

“My name is Kevin, from Elektra Records in New York and I was wondering, were you once a member of The Hullaballoos?”

“Uuuuuum, aaaaah, yes why?”

I launched into being a fan, but later in the conversation he revealed his initial hesitation. Turns out he was still getting calls from creditors wanting payment for hotels, vehicles and other expenses obligated some 20 years prior by Roulette on behalf of The Hullaballoos.

Did this band get what they deserved in any way. No. In fact, their youtube footage recently had the audio removed, apparently by the song publishers. Come on, cut these guys a break.

And I’m still miffed at not seeing the shows they shared with The Zombies and The Nashville Teens back in ’65 at the Brooklyn Paramount.

Below my postcard from their fan club:

hullaballoospostcard

Queen

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Listen: Crazy Little Thing Called Love / Queen QueenCrazy.mp3

After their first few singles, and by ’76, Queen officially resided in the ‘not friendly to punk rock’ space. Their music and image fitted totally with the helium sound and mustached look of US AOR radio – so not only did my attention wander, but in fact they were now considered the enemy.

Well I was wrong and my defiance softened. To be fair, they admittedly had singles all along that were secret pleasures. The video for ‘I Want To Break Free’ was a riot and a lot of our crowd realized, these guys are actually okay. Plus who is anyone, least of all me, to deny ‘Under Pressure’ or ‘Radio Ga Ga’?

Vividly remember that moment I sat up and really took notice. It was on an uneventful Saturday evening, watching SNL, as Queen literally unleashed one of TV’s best ever live music performances. ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’, with the added keyboardist (anyone know who that is?) decimated any previous prejudice. A mad dash to the wall shelf followed, checking the Queen 7″ collection – and the filling-in process began the very next morning, bright and early, when I hit the garage sales then moving on to The Record Archive’s backroom.

I turned to Corinne, jaw dropped, spurting out some exclamation. She was nonplussed by Queen during those days, exactly like the rest of us, but in her typical smooth one-up way simply said, and this is an exact quote: “I always loved Queen”. Right.