THIS BLOG IS ABOUT 7" RECORDS ONLY. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY. EVERY SONG IS CONVERTED TO MP3 FROM MY PERSONAL 45 COLLECTION, AND THERE'S NOT ONE THAT I WOULDN'T RECOMMEND YOU SEEKING OUT. ANY COPYRIGHT HOLDERS WHO DON'T WANT THEIR MUSIC HEARD HERE JUST LET ME KNOW, AND DOWN IT WILL COME. CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE.
It was very early on that I’d learned to depend on certain labels for a consistant style or quality. Many collectors focus on their entire runs, and Chess/Checker is easily one such company. Basically, I was never disappointed by their 60′s output. Must have been an early radio station handout that turned me on to Tommy Tucker, although this did reach #11 in ’64. His Jimmy Reed style was an instant magnet, and I’m happy to this day that I plonked down $5 for his one and only Checker album at the time.
Don Covay also comes to mind, he wrote ‘Long Tall Shorty’, Tommy Tucker’s followup to ‘High Heeled Sneakers’. Covered by The Kinks and The Graham Bond Organization, it was apparently a common staple in the London clubs for a bit. Not a hit at the time, it’s deservedly risen to an equal ‘classic’ position for Tommy Tucker through the years.
Just check my previous two posts. Not hard to guess, I’ve been picking through the various artists section of my wall shelf.
Weirdly enough, this is usually a head scratching process. I don’t do it often, but every time seems to unearth a multi-artist record, usually an EP, that I’d never really noticed before, suddenly falling into the ‘where on earth did I get this from’ category. And honestly, it happens every single time. One source, the UK weeklies, who for a few years there during the late 80′s/early 90′s were including free EP’s, whether it be NME, Music Week or Melody Maker, with each issue. I religiously grabbed every one and stuck them in that VA section for a rainy day. The entire chunk now being a treasure trove of both obscure and focus tracks.
When the Ensign label got all hot and bothered about the Sue Records catalog, which I’m guessing they could suddenly access via their 1983 Island distribution deal, they issued a series of four song EP’s religiously honoring the labels iconic history. Some were single artist compilation EP’s by Ike & Tina Turner or Inez & Charlie Foxx. Others were theme centric: SUE INSTRUMENTALS, THE SUE SOUL SISTERS and this, the latter’s partner, THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS. I played all three in the past few hours and basically did a blindfold drill to choose today’s 31 Days Of December – All EP’s post.
THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS, most likely by design, builds around much covered songs from Sue’s UK catalog. And there were many songs to choose from here, not forgetting, the Sue UK label issued the American Sue releases along with various blues and RnB singles from small and indie US labels. Initially, Juggy Murray, who owned Sue in the US was reportedly furious with Chris Blackwell and Guy Stevens, the day to day guy at Island/Sue in London. Apparently, neither had cleared the idea of picking up product from other US companies and slapping a Sue label on it for the UK.
As a result, other than the bothersome bad blood, Sue’s British catalog and discography rivaled the majors like Decca’s, who bolstered their output and image by repping Atlantic, Monument, Tribe, RCA, Coral and others in Britain. Island became the little indie that could, even harder in the 60′s, when swimming against the tide of Decca, CBS, EMI and Pye was near impossible.
And so, the team at Ensign picked some solid originals here that went on to become widely popular as covers. Loads of bands, including The Who and John’s Children released Derek Martin’s ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’ during the Mod era.
Canned Heat, blues experts themselves, took Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ Top 40 in 1970, delaying their version to give the original a chance to sell and reach #32 on BILLBOARD. In a loose full circle chain of events, John Mayall chose to record Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ for his fantastic, and I do mean fantastic, Island album, A SENSE OF PLACE from 1990.
How do you pick a Kinks single to write about, yet avoid the guilt of the dozens you’re not mentioning? Not possible. But listening back to this week’s PICK OF THE POPS program, on BBC’s Radio 2, where Dale Winton counts down selected Top 20′s from years gone by, spanning the 60′s forward with much accuracy and old style chart excitement, I heard ‘Days’. It was in the 1968 chart that he was featuring.
‘Days’ has always been one of my most cherished records, and I have listened to it undoubtably thousands of times. I had a memorable life moment last November in London, walking from my hotel in Primrose Hill in the cold drizzling rain on a very grey Sunday to have late afternoon tea at my friend’s, when I heard it in the headphones, following Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something In The Air’, played back to back on Radio 2. Being able to listen to the radio is a fascinating privilege not well known here in the States. This, my friends, was heaven.
As much as I loved it when released in summer ’68, and buying it at King Karol’s in NY on a summer excursion to see some bands, Jethro Tull with The Jeff Beck Group at the Fillmore East, I could never 100% enjoy it. I always felt so bitter that ‘Days’ got no airplay anywhere in the US and what a criminal shame it was that America was again being cheated out of such great musical culture by radio, a cancer that worsened year after year. No wonder we have what we have in our charts.
But some justice has been served, Ray Davies still performs and his great songs, like ‘Days’, get used in films etc. and covered. What would have happened if singles like this, and bands like The Small Faces or The Pretty Things had been given a chance back then. No question, things would have been very different here.
Although re-recorded for the ALADDIN SANE album in Fall ’72, this original mono version of ‘The Prettiest Star’ came from sessions at London’s Trident Studios during January ’70 when, with his then backup band Junior’s Eyes and Marc Bolan as guest guitarist, the intent was to followup David Bowie’s first hit, ‘Space Odditiy’.
To his credit, he never gave up trying for that initial success, which took five years in the making, from “Liza Jane’ in ’64 through various attempts with Parlophone, Deram and UK Pye/US Warner Brothers. Every door was shut in David Bowie’s face. Read THE PITT REPORT sometime. It’s an eye opener.
So with ‘Space Oddity’, a #5 UK hit in the Fall of ’69, seemingly positioning him for a much smoother career ride, the original plan was to cut a new version of his final Deram submission ‘London Bye Ta Ta’, which that company had rejected as a fourth single, thereby dropping him. The story goes that during those sessions, ‘The Prettiest Star’ was also recorded and became his choice as followup.
Even more fun is the often documented detail of ‘The Prettiest Star’ selling just under 800 copies when current, a desperately shocking result off the back of a Top 10 hit. That number sounds rather exaggerated now, with even total stiffs moving more copies than 800, given loads of singles were sold regularly then.
Decades later, when included on various compilations, it’s the stereo version of ‘The Prettiest Star’ that’s chosen. To my knowledge, this original mono only ever saw the light of day on those initial pressings like the one above and a BEST OF from ’87.
A few years back, Pete Townshend was suddenly in very hot water. I think he brought a computer in for repair, whereby a bunch of child porn was discovered on the hard drive or some such story. His official response: research. And on his way Pete went.
I thought sure Angie’s record might suddenly get some attention as a result. She was a very young girl who recorded with Pete Townshend back in ’79 for Stiff, and you know how the haters come out pretty easily. If that had happened, at least this terrific single would have been spotlighted and possibly heard at last.
It’s certainly a lost gem in my universe nonetheless. While weeding through the A’s in my wall shelf just now, I stumbled upon it, right there between Angels One-Five on Pye UK from ’73 and the US picture sleeve for The Animals ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ on MGM (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The second I laid my eyes on it, well I couldn’t get over to the turntable fast enough and give it a spin. Loud.
Pete Townshend’s signature playing is all over this as well as his arrangement style and vocals. No denying his gifts, and when he’s in the pocket, just don’t even try to compete.
Below: Stiff Records’ peppermint scented promotional handbill for ‘Peppermint Lump’.
Pawing through my Troggs 7″ collection, jonesing to hear ‘Night Of The Long Grass’, I realized what we all know, this band made a lot of great singles, for ages. I’m not sure why they didn’t have the occasional chart hit as the years progressed. They always toured, and were really good as well.
“Night Of The Long Grass’ was criticized for being bit unsettling musically. Well not by me, but most who heard it. Had a bit of a ‘From The Underworld’ creepiness, a bigger compliment is hard to get by the way. It’s without a doubt the most obscure of their US Fontana releases, especially a stock pressing, which took me years to find. Never seen one since.
Speaking of summer, what better time to talk about the most clever seasonal lyric, maybe ever. With more songs than anyone I can count encompassing schoolboy sexual eye winks, ‘Summertime’ is their true juvenile masterpiece. How this didn’t blow up, given they reunited with producer Larry Page from their Fontana/Page One hit making days, has to be down to one, and only one reason. No airplay.
If you live in America, well definitely New York, hearing ‘Lola’, (nowadays restricted to the oldies or dreaded classic rock formats) is as close as I imagine one can get to an oasis during a tsunami.
I was desperate a few weeks back, having left my iTouch at home during the morning school drop-off drive, all of ten minutes. Still it was one of those rare, aching to hear something decent moments, when suddenly ‘Lola’ appears as a result of my manic dashboard button pushing.
Let me tell you, I couldn’t believe once was a time I’d heard it on the radio so much, I thought I never needed to hear ‘Lola’ again. Do you remember those days? Well they are long gone. It never sounded better. And I finally got round to loading it onto my device tonight, an act I regret not having done before last weekend’s drive to and from Boston.
Hearing ‘Lola’ took me also to YouTube, where I was reminded it indeed was the song that, unbeknownst at the time, began signaling an end to that first classic era of The Kinks. Yes, there were several to follow, but as the seminal four piece lineup expanded to five, suddenly including John Gosling on keyboards, The Kinks immaculate 60′s visual perfection began to blemish.
Mind you, despite his un-English rough look, which was initially passable, the transformation was smooth. One could safely call it a soft landing as their sound remained pretty much unchanged, having always incorporated piano into their recordings, unually played by Nicky Hopkins or Ray himself.
Other than lyrically, ‘Apeman’ could have easily fit onto ARTHUR or even THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY for that matter. The mix always bothered me. Had it been as powerful as ‘Lola’, my bet is ‘Apeman’ would have been a bigger hit. The struggle to hear Ray’s vocal annoys to this day, particularly during the intro. Having said that, it’s impossible to ruin such a great song.
Sticking close to the original Kinks sound was also the case with ‘God’s Children’, the last official UK Pye / US Reprise 7″. Technically, in England, as opposed to being an A side, it was the lead track off a 4 song EP pulled from the PERCY film soundtrack, the full album being rejected by Reprise and apparently destroying the band/label relationship.
Whereas, in the US, ‘God’s Children’ became an official and final Reprise single. A later US Reprise 7″ ‘King Kong’ / ‘Waterloo Sunset’ notwithstanding, as it came after the band had moved to RCA, and was released solely to promote THE KINK KRONIKLES double album compilation.
Back to YouTube, ‘Lola’ from TOP OF THE POPS lead me to watch ‘Apeman’, then ‘Autumn Almanac’, ‘Wonderboy’ and ultimately ‘Days’:
For those of you like myself, who waited agonizingly for The Kinks to be allowed back into the US after some musician’s union ban during ’66, our wishes became reality when in ’69, the band returned to promote ARTHUR. Apparently, many of the scheduled shows between the tour’s New York start and it’s conclusion in Los Angeles were cancelled. Lucky was I to see them at the very beginning, New York.
Not only does the above clip capture the absolutely perfect Kinks during the period, it too gives the viewer ultimate Ray Davies moments at exactly :24 – :29, again at 1:02 and then 1:20. Expressions and smirks that addicted many a weak soul to the heroin known as The Kinks in the 60′s.
The clip, in fact, must have been shot within weeks of that infamous US return, as both Dave and Ray are wearing the exact same clothes they had on here at The Fillmore East (October 17 & 18, ’69) and then also in Potsdam NY, at the State college gymnasium on Sunday October 19. I will never, ever, ever forget Ray’s shirt. We were at stage edge, literally speaking out requests to the band.
See said shirt for yourself in the clip above. When uncovered with a jacket, like at the live shows, who could forget it?
I figured finding a US stock copy at of ‘Autumn Almanac’ at the Forest Hills Church In The Gardens white elephant sale was enough to justify this post. Everyone knows the record, but the warm rush of finding it amongst a stack of good, but common, 60′s 7″ donations I bet everyone does not know. It makes me wonder, what else was there before I arrived – or more likely, I got to hit the stack first. Who would leave this one behind?
Despite their clean cut Mersey look, The Searchers made consistently good singles for years. A staple of The English Invasion, like The Beatles and Freddie & The Dreamers, their past haunted them a bit when smaller labels in the US that had issued unsuccessful debut singles trudged them out to compete with more current hits. Didn’t seem to harm them much as ‘Sugar & Spice’ fared equally well next to ‘Needles & Pins’ in ’64.
A short time later, hits became a bit of a struggle (although most were well chosen covers), with spotty airplay hindering P.F. Sloan’s ‘Take Me For What I’m Worth’ unfairly. It’s seven week run that began in January of ’66 got it to only #76. Oddly, it didn’t fare much better back at home (#20).
Maybe the suits needed to go, and the adaption to an image more in line with Them, The Yardbirds or The Kinks would have kept initial fans interested. Even The Beatles dumped that look, probably in their constant effort to unsuccessfully keep up with The Rolling Stones, although for predictably klutzy flower power / Nehru gear. ‘Have You Ever Loved Somebody’, like ‘Take For What I’m Worth’ before it, was highlighted by a very unique vocal harmony that gave both singles something irresistible. Again, US airplay was playing it’s fickle hand and it’s short three week chart run found it stalling at #94, with a similar fate in the UK (#48).
I originally passed up the US ‘Take Me For A Little While’ sleeve upon release, and never ever saw another. Desperate for it as the years past, Mike Goldsmith came to the rescue while at a record fair a few years back. What a relief. Sometime during the 90′s, I stumbled on a UK pressing at London’s Record & Tape Exchange in Notting Hill. This copy appeared to be autographed. How does one ever verify that?
The record itself was most pleasant British Beat at the time, but in no way hinted toward the psychedelic greatness that their ‘First Cut Is The Deepest’ would be. Despite being dwarfed chart-wise by P.P. Arnold’s version, historically it’s equally vital.
You need only get the new cd, GO GO POWER – THE COMPLETE CHESS SINGLES 1961 – 1966, open the booklet and begin your lusting for Sugar Pie DeSanto. The liner notes should be essential reading at Harvard, but they can’t touch the photos. She was more of a firecracker than I’d ever imagined. I missed out on seeing her during the heyday. Luckily, I did get to watch a still sizzling Sugar Pie DeSanto last fall at the RhythmÂ And Blues Foundation Awards in Philadelphia. Yum. Still hot.
Happily there are a bunch of must-haves amongst her Checker/Chess singles. The bump and grind vamp of ‘Use What You Got’ might be one the world’s greatest B sides. It started out as the A side in the States, but was flipped for the UK. This copy’s from the Tony King collection, it dips a toe into the vast pool of RnB pressings he amassed. Musically, not unlike The Cramps, or should I say they were not unlike Sugar Pie and the label’s house band: Leonard ‘Baby Doo’ Caston (organ), Gerald Sims (guitar), Louis Sutterfield (bass) and Maurice White (drums). Listen and you’ll see what I mean.
Two singles in four years. Not a great work ethic. This got a lot of Radio 1 play during summer ’73, for a few weeks that is. I really loved it – sounded so good through the transistor radio in my cousin Diane’s kitchen.
It was a fun summer, trolling the record stalls and stores by day, working at The Marquee by night. I was a regular at One Stop Records on Dean Street. I’d get there by midday to await the arrival of the shipments. Terry and Jeff were Marquee regulars and I’d keep them in pints, so they’d return the favor with…..singles. Just to keep it all tidy, as they’d say, I never left the shop without record in bag. This particular one (pictured below) housed the Writing On The Wall single, not only as it traveled from Dean Street to Diane’s place on Clipstone Street with me, but all the way back to America. I just never separated them.
Writing On The Wall played a few times at the club (see both front & back of the July ’73 schedule below that coincidentally has One Stop on the map side), and were particularly nice guys. With just the right mixture of Status Quo, Audience, Blackfoot Sue, Thin Lizzy and Wizzard, they straddled blues boogie and glam well, as evident on ‘Man Of Renown’. I’m guessing not many agreed though. This was a flop, but cult status awaited. I bet they’d have preferred the money.
Despite a decidedly dated sound, I have a soft spot for The Riot Squad. A lot of ground was covered during the two or so years they existed. Their prestigious associations included both Larry Page and Joe Meek as producers, plus Mitch Mitchell (pre Jimi Hendrix Experience) and Jon Lord (post Artwoods / pre Deep Purple) as members. 1965′s ‘I Wanna Talk About My Baby’ was a picture perfect reproduction of Georgie Fame’s then current sound – almost to the point of plagiarism. Still, a great track which was afforded a US picture sleeve. Who decided that?
As life should be, I was actually turned on to them when my local Top 40, WOLF, started playing the B side to ‘Cry Cry Cry’ – a Joe Meek production ‘How It Is Done’. This was winter ’66 and it brings me right back to that snow day in March when I first heard it. This track still shines, and captures the romantic British Beat sound that we all craved at the time – well my friends and I that is. Being a major Joe Meek fan, this is a double sided must. Hat’s off to whoever chose to play ‘How It Is Done’. Excellent call.
Sorry for this poor repro of the WOLF chart above (click to enlarge), with The Riot Squad at #19. I don’t own the original, but it’s such a good one, I decided to share it despite the quality.
Cops ‘N Robbers ‘St. James Infirmary’ always felt authentic, probably because of that reverb wash. From the first listen, it captured my imagination about the damp seedy blues clubs of London’s Soho, sitting nicely beside the sound of The Downliners Sect or Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds. Plus it was a UK Decca release, hence it’s US issue through sister label, Parrot. With Brian “Smudger” Smith on lead vocals, how can you go wrong? Young “Smudger” (he insisted on the quotes) went on to sing for The Fairies thereby delivering the great Pretty Things mimic ‘Get Yourself Home’. Meanwhile, in what was clearly fair exchange, The Fairies vocalist Dane Stephens made the switch and became Cops ‘N Robbers singer, recording ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ with them for UK Pye/US Coral, nicely retaining their London nightlife aura. Meanwhile drummer Henry Harrison proceeded to form The New Vaudeville Band. Yes much aloof upward nose turning is pointed them, but listen again – they clearly had a lot in common with The Bonzo Dog Band, recording some terrific singles which will be posted soon as proof.