Archive for the ‘The Downliners Sect’ Category

J. J. Cale

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Listen: Travelin’ Light / J. J. Cale

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.

The Bo Street Runners

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Listen: Bo Street Runner / The Bo Street Runners BoStreetBoStreet.mp3

If you recall the period (’64 – ’65), literally every week there were more English and US garage, blues based bands releasing singles, and some of us were twitching increasingly by the day. It was impossible to keep up, and the really obscure singles (like The Bo Street Runners), were probably hard enough to find around the UK, forget about in America and definitely in upstate New York. I’d seen a photo of this band in 16 Magazine – the publication always had one page toward the back with about 8 new band photos per issue, accompanied by a sentence or two (most likely press photos that arrived at the office with a record/bio).

The Bo Street Runners’ blurb mentioned winning a READY STEADY GO competition and releasing ‘Bo Street Runner’ via UK Decca as a result. Little did I know that years later RSG producer Vicki Wickham would become a close friend and gift me her entire record collection. True story. Good thing, I’d have been one of the first kids, in his single digits, to keel over from a heart attack.

Up there with some of the better tracks from The Yardbirds, Them, The Downliners Sect or The Pretty Things. ‘Bo Street Runner’, surprisingly an original song, is pure blue eyed RnB, right down to the maracas and obligatory tambourine keeping time with the beat.

Listen: Baby Never Say Goodbye / The Bo Street Runners BoStreetBabyNever.mp3

In hindsight, some signature names passed thought the ranks of their lineup, including a few guys from both Timebox and Patto, as well as Mick Fleetwood. His timeline is right up there with Ron Wood’s, having been with not only The Bo Street Runners, but also The Peter B’s, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and the original Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.

Although a rather long standing BSR member, he only ever played on ‘Baby Never Say Goodbye’, the competitive cover of the Unit 4 + 2′s original and charting composition.

Sly Stewart

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

slyswim,Sly Stewart, Sly Stone, Sly & The Family Stone, Autumn

Listen: I Just Learned How To Swim / Sly Stewart SlySwim.mp3

This Swim dance craze cash-in is a nice low budget rip off of The Downliners Sect’s ‘Little Egypt’, at least to these ears. Sly Stewart was at the time (1965), a hip San Francisco dj as well as overseeing in house production for the city’s Autumn Reocrds and it’s subsidiary imprints, North Beach and Loma. Seemingly more tied to the Anglo rock and psychedelic scene than RnB or soul, it wouldn’t be long before he turned down his legendary path.

slyscat, Sly Stewart, Sly Stone, Sly & The Family Stone, Autumn

Listen: Scat Swim / Sly Stewart SlyScat.mp3

It’s on the single’s b side, ‘Scat Swim’, where those first indications of the funk leanings that would become Sly & The Family Stone can be heard. Check out the bluesy jazz breakdown about one third of the way in, and that first vocal moment of what would soon become Sly Stone.

Benny Spellman

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

bennyspellmanfortuneuka, Allen Toussaint, London, Decca, Benny Spellman, The Rolling Stones

Listen: Fortune Teller / Benny Spellman BennySpellmanFortune.mp3

One hit wonder – but what a hit. An early staple for many a London RnB combo in the mid sixties, ‘Fortune Teller’ proved essential for The Rolling Stones, The Merseybeats, The Who and The Downliners Sect.

Hailing from Florida, Benny Spellman had a foot in both blues and rockabilly, via New Orleans. It was writer Allen Toussaint who provided the song, somewhat reminiscent of Bo Diddley. I guess it was the maracas. Originally released by LA’s Minit label, word is Benny was signed during the thriving New Orleans RnB goldrush at the turn of the decade.


Sunday, December 7th, 2008

St. James Infirmary / Cops 'N Robbers

Listen: St. James Infirmary / Cops 'N Robbers 23 St. James Infirmary.mp3

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue / Cops 'N Robbers

Listen: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue / Cops 'N Robbers 01 Its All Over Now Baby Blue.mp3

Get Yourself Home / The Fairies

Listen: Get Yourself Home / The Fairies 21 Get Yourself Home.mp3

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.