Archive for the ‘Ten Years After’ Category

Alvin Robinson

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Listen: Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson
Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson

I saw The Rolling Stones for the first time on October 30, 1965 at the Syracuse War Memorial. I had forged a press pass, a typed note actually, on letterhead from a weekly paper in my little hometown. My Dad had set me up with the pompous owner of it, as I wanted to interview the band for a feature.

Looking back it was quite a good idea on my part, but this self celebrating fellow was nasty and dismissive. Even though I ended up meeting the band, I still loathe him for his attitude, not towards me, but towards my Father. He was so busy being busy, running in and out of his pathetic office, that I just reached over and grabbed a few pages of letterhead when he wasn’t looking. I shook with fear at what I’d done. I was still a good Catholic boy, but too late, I’d done it. So he tells me, “We don’t need a piece on this dirty English combo”, and that was that, or so he thought. Indeed, they didn’t need a a kid in his late single digits writing a review.

To be exact, this was the Canastota Bee Journal, as close as you can get to Mayberry. He and the paper, I’m guessing, are long gone. Still, I composed this laughable letter, claiming to be a writer on assignment and needing to interview them for a feature.

In those days, arenas were filled with hysterical, screaming kids, so how I managed to slide backstage so easily still baffles. An usher fell for that forged letter, and brought me back, where Bill Wyman was wrapping up his cords. Bill reads it, stares me straight in the eye and says in hindsight with a knowing smirk, “Come on and we’ll meet the rest”.

Holy shit. Is this really happening? It was the first time I nearly blacked out. I seriously remember that vividly. We are suddenly walking up the steps to the dressing room, knees weak, where in years to follow, I would meet, more like pester, (here goes, I know this is all a bit name droppy, but it really, really happened. I met all these bands and I’m proud of it): The Mindbenders, Them, The Moody Blues, The Nashville Teens, The Ikettes, The Who, The Pretty Things, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Heads Hands & Feet, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, Caravan, Toe Fat, Derek & The Dominoes, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Frampton’s Camel, Traffic, Wild Turkey, The Faces, Badfinger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Mother Earth, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Chambers Brothers, Sly & The Family Stone, Savoy Brown, Iron Butterfly, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, even Vivian Green, who I worked with decades later, was in that very room when on tour with Maxwell. Talk about coming full circle.

The management knew me and my friends well early on, they must’ve gotten a kick out of these crazy little kids, who’s Mom’s & Dad’s would wait patiently for until the shows ended. Our parents befriended the office staff, and in turn, those nice ladies always let us backstage.

The Rolling Stones were great, so nice. No one was in their dressing room except the band, and one other guy, I’m guess Ian Stewart, the tour manager. No food, nothing but bottles of Coca Cola. They signed my copy of 12 X 5, it probably lasted all of a minute but I still can relive it to this day. Here I was, with this exotic band from England that changed my life, which prior I could only see on TV every three to four months tops. I thought at that very moment, “This is the life for me”. I’m completely convinced it led to my career in music. No question.

Their current album at the time, THE ROLLING STONES NOW, was not a real album at all. In those days, the English labels released singles and EPs, in addition to albums. Not only were the EP tracks not on the LPs, but the singles weren’t either. So the US companies were always dropping off intended LP tracks to make room for the singles and sometimes strong ones from those EPs. For this particular release, London Records basically cobbled together some singles and EP songs, as well as unused UK LP tracks. Remember, the UK LPs were 14 songs compared to our 10-12, thereby creating even more choices.

Probably by coincidence more than design, THE ROLLING STONES NOW actually works as a proper LP. It was certainly a big success, slowly but very solidly scaling the US LP charts and staying Top 10 for ages, as it deserved to. The record’s filled with dark, minor key classics like ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Pain In My Heart’ which they played on that night, Brian sitting at a huge B3 organ, wailing away.

It’s ok if you’re getting tingles. Take your time. You’ll need it. They were back, nine months later, during the AFTERMATH tour, and that’s whole ‘nother post waiting to be written.

This all leads us to ‘Down Home Girl’, a song on THE ROLLING STONES NOW. Little did I know then that it was a cover. I don’t even think I knew what that meant. They were all Rolling Stones songs to us. Years and years later I wised up, seeked out the original, and became a dangerous Alvin Robinson fanatic.

Here’s his version. Get any of his other releases. all of them actually.

King Crimson

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Listen: Cat Food / King Crimson
Cat Food / King Crimson

They’d probably cringe, but even the most hardened album acts like King Crimson made a decent single from time to time. Or the labels, back before creative control was bestowed on the artist, may have heard a hook in the thick of an opus, thereby being able to edit/rearrange a twelve minute album piece into three and change for a 7″ single.

Not sure if that’s the case with ‘Cat Food’. King Crimson’s albums never did hold my attention through a whole side, so I’m not positive if this is the full version. But I sure did love this song when it got some concentrated play from the local college station, WAER. What a surprise to walk into Discount Records, on the Syracuse University campus, and find a few copies of the single in their racks.

That store was a shrine in the late 60′s, when record buying was in full, and I do mean full swing. A beehive of white drugged up students with money to spend on white drugged up rock music made for the ultimate market. Box lots of all the latest releases by Ten Years After, The Nice, Spirit, Pink Floyd and whatnot seemingly evaporated into thin air.

I’d bet the stunning cover art on those King Crimson albums drew in more than one spontaneous purchase. So too did this 7″ picture sleeve, in those days unheard of, particularly from the UK. Between both it’s mini album construction, and the pink inner sleeve housing a matching pink labelled pressing, I found myself committing an exorbitant $1.98 to the cause. Excellent investment, as it turned out.

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Friday, February 4th, 2011

I'm Your Witch Doctor / John Mayall's Bluesbreakers

Listen: I’m Your Witch Doctor / John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
I'm Your Witch Doctor / John Mayall's Bluesbreakers

Back during that second wave of late 60′s blues influenced UK acts like Savoy Brown, Ten Years After and Led Zeppelin, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers constantly evaded my collection. Those first several albums seemed to appear so quickly, and I always needed something other than their releases. Oddly, no one I knew had any copies either.

By ’66, I was already in a pattern of getting un-needed Rock and RnB singles off a little MOR station near my parent’s house. I turned up there one Friday claiming to be from the local Children’s Hospital and seeking out a donation…of records.

I knew about donations, having spent time in physical therapy rehab, learning to walk again, after jumping off our carport roof as a result of a childhood dare. So technically, I was in rehab at six years old. Spent half a year confined to a wheelchair, then another half doing the aforementioned physical therapy. Even though I was reaping great quantities of records as a result of the station’s donations, never once did a John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers single appear in their weekly handouts. Not until late ’67. And ‘I’m Your Witch Doctor’ was it – taken off that very first ANTHOLOGY OF BRITISH BLUES compilation on Immediate which was everywhere. CBS, Immediate’s US distributor, did the job back then as far as getting LPs into the stores.

Wow. What a single. I pretty quickly prioritized some of the band’s releases for purchase, the CRUSADE album in particular, with that top version of ‘Hideaway’. Little by little, I filled in those early London titles. They were pretty hard to find back then too.

Years later, I signed John to Island. He made a terrific album for us, A SENSE OF PLACE. It deservedly got much critical praise and sold well. Amongst the advantages of working at Island was the label’s credibility. John was considered passe at the time, but signing to Island was hip, and because he delivered such a strong album, it was a relatively smooth path to success.

A nicer man you will not meet. Dependable and honest. Generous too. He gave me a beautiful framed print of a photo he’d done. The subject: three of his handmade guitars, pictured many, many times in live shots and on album covers. No reason, just to say thanks for helping him.

Frampton’s Camel

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel

Above / Below: UK Promo Only sleeve (front/back)

All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel

Listen: All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel 01 All Night Long.mp3

Peter Frampton was, unfairly, a guilty pleasure to loads of folks for years. Once he hit the big time it was uncool to like him. Not me. I loved The Herd, and was loyally into Humble Pie. That was a funny one actually. Here you had a signature member of The Herd and Steve Marriott in the same band. If you’re an Anglofile, you give them rope. Their early stuff I liked even though it leaned toward the extended blues rock sludge setting in at the time. Live, they were on fire. Luckily, I saw them open for Ten Years After on that first US tour, not yet Americanized in any way, still kitted out in lime or purple velvet and silk trousers etc. Glued to the edge of the stage in the Livestock Pavilion on the Syracuse State Fair grounds, overjoyed by the fact that we were seeing members of The Small Faces and The Herd, was half the thrill.

Then Peter Frampton went solo. His second, post Humble Pie release was issued as Frampton’s Camel. He’d shed that Humble Pie heaviness. The album didn’t sell. I never heard it anywhere at the time, although the single ‘All Night Long’ got a lot of daytime BBC Radio 1 play that summer ’73 I’d spent in London. It was a perfect seasonal single and has sentimental value.

Listen: (Baby) Somethin’s Happening / Peter Frampton PeterFramptonSmethin.mp3

For the record, the follow-up album, SOMETHIN’S HAPPENING, went fairly undiscovered too. He toured that record with former band mate Andy Bown, from The Herd, on keyboards. Rich Packter, the A&M promotion guy during summer ’74 had set Corinne and I up with Peter and Andy for lunch at the then turquoise and pink circular Holiday Inn restaurant in Downtown Syracuse. Frampton’s Camel were opening for Uriah Heep that night. We both worked at Discount Records, so I’m guessing Rich could justify the meal.

As far as we were concerned, this was lunch with The Herd. It was great fun picking their brains about the past. They both laughed non stop at all my questions, in a most flattering way. And I’m sure Andy Bown was genuinely surprised at the attention. Peter didn’t seem to mind one bit that when push came to shove, these two crazies were there to meet Andy Bown.

So yeah, SOMETHIN’S HAPPENING is a gem too. Soon after, Peter Frampton’s deserved home runs began. The industry calls this process artist development. I call it finally getting a fair shot at radio.

Ten Years After

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Listen: The Sounds / Ten Years After TYASounds.mp3

Abrupt false ending followed by slight reprise, non-musical sound effects, over echoed background vocals: all quickly becoming standard psychedelic production ideas by ’67/’68. Simple to observe now, but then…it was ‘pass the headphones’ stuff.

Mike Vernon, I believe signed Ten Years After to Deram prior to starting probably the best UK blues label in terms of both quality and success, Blue Horizon. I’m guessing it was this band’s original musical style that most likely drew them together.

‘The Sounds’, although recorded as a single during that short period between album one and two, and released spring ’68 (UK B side / US A side), actually marked the beginning of a unique songwriting style that blossomed fully on STONEHENGE, their third full length and first of a flawless trilogy (SSSSH and CRICKLEWOOD GREEN).

Ten Years After were about to be on a roll, due to a wildly blistering performance at Woodstock of ‘I’m Going Home’. It’s original recording was released as a followup 7″ to ‘The Sounds’. Coupled with ‘Hear Me Calling’ meant it became a classic double sider. The Woodstock version made both the film and soundtrack album, hence Ten Years After enjoyed the perfect artist development curve making those (and other albums) deservedly successful and their live draw solid for years.

‘The Sounds’, at time of release, could be found nowhere, and surprise surprise, heard nowhere in the US – certainly not upstate. It took me years to snag a copy, around ’74 I would guess, when then MCA salesman Ed Terracino (former London Records employee) gave me a stack of singles from his basement stash. I am forever grateful Ed if you’re reading.

Never did see them play this one, and maybe they never did. It must have been around SSSSH when they made their way to Syracuse, with Humble Pie supporting. It’s was Humble Pie’s first US tour, and although nowhere near as interested in their boogie rock as the music of the member’s previous bands (The Small Faces and The Herd), I went along, being a huge Ten Years After, but also with the possibility of meeting Humble Pie as a bonus.

I’ll admit, Humble Pie were surprisingly great live, still bean pole skinny, clad in lime, purple and pink velvet pants/suits and little girl blouses, America hadn’t influenced their wardrobe or haircuts yet, so it was well enjoyable.

Ten Years After, on the other hand, appeared bored and sullen. No biggie – it happens. Playing Syracuse understandably nothing to look forward to I guess.

Afterwards, I made my way backstage, really in search of Humble Pie to stalk them for Small Faces and Herd details, when I came across Chick Churchill moping dismissively against a wall. Probably an unpleasant day for the fellow, and I suppose me excitedly getting to the real point of our conversation: where are Humble Pie, didn’t help. Although I loved those Ten Years After albums mentioned above, he did throw a temporary wet blanket on my mission to covert any and all to his band.

Mel Brown

Friday, May 14th, 2010

MelPreacher, Mel Brown, Impulse, Bob Thiele

Listen: Son Of A Preacher Man / Mel Brown MelBrownSonPreacher.mp3

I recall seeing Mel Brown playing guitar with Buddy Guy in a small club near the RIT college campus. Saw Freddie King there quite soon afterwards as well. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the place. It was not glamorous by any stretch and must have made any one of these national acts think ‘how did I end up here?’. But in the well known tradition of blues guys, they’d just blister through it all, eyes closed. It was on that night my interest in Mel Brown was sparked.

I’d seen a few of his Impulse albums in the college station’s library, logically tucked away (as all Impulse releases immediately were) in the jazz section. Most of those albums were in close to mint condition as very few college radio dj’s knew jack about jazz, me included – and certainly none of us played the stuff on our tomorrow’s hip rock music today programs. Wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all still sitting there….clean as a whistle.

Thing was he’s really a blues player, as I discovered that evening. I dug around the piles of singles in the ‘free – take what you want’ boxes back at the station right after the show, positive I’d seen at least one of his in there and sure enough – bingo.

I was a bit bummed discovering it to be a cover of the Dusty Springfield hit, ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ and it sounded all muzak-y, but held on to it anyways. Now I’m glad I did. It makes for a nice breather, and through the years my penchant grew for instrumental covers of big pop hits.

MelBrownChitlins, Mel Brown, Impulse

Listen: Eighteen Pounds Of Unclean Chitlings (Part 1) / Mel Brown MelBrownChitlins.mp3

Along comes this single with a hip title. Like many before it, who can pass up one called ‘Eighteen Pounds Of Unclean Chitlings’. First spin reminded me of just about any track from Ten Years After during their STONEHENGE period. Not a bad thing.

Warning: initial listen might sound a bit ho-hum. Give it a few plays – it really sticks.

Alice Cooper

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

alicecaughtusa, Alice Cooper, Straight, Frank Zappa, Warner Brothers

Listen: Caught In A Dream / Alice Cooper AliceCooperCaught.mp3

I became pretty friendly with a couple of Syracuse University students, Fred Perry and Harry Fagenbaum, via their Sunday evening late night show on WAER, the student run radio station. It was as much a case of me finding them as them finding me.

I couldn’t sleep, it was late on a very cold Sunday night and despite school beckoning the next morning, I started fiddling with the wireless part of the TV/stereo/radio combination counsel, as much a piece of time period furniture as it was a media center. This was 1968, and I was so desperate to hear the new single by The Move, ‘Fire Brigade’, that I actually believed I’d find it on some far away radio station, beaming it’s way to me back when late night signals bounced to unlikely places. Lo and behold, I found my first ever college radio station, and was stunned. These two guys were playing some fantastic music: Ten Years After, John Mayall’s Bluesbreaker and The Kinks. I could not believe my luck.

Twenty minutes into the bliss, onto the air comes ‘Fire Brigade’ by The Move. Holy fucking shit. It was like I was possessed or something. Having tossed and turned, feeling frustrated to be growing up in a town and country where the radio stunk, I get out of bed and find what I was looking for. I know you’re thinking this is being exaggerated to make for better copy, but I swear, it’s true. Yes, be careful what you wish – it can be a little unsettling when it comes true.

So I made a low volume, long distance call to these DJ’s. Not only had I found a weekly oasis for my musical desires, they’d finally found a listener who wanted to hear the stuff. We agreed to meet up and talk English groups.

A year or so later, Harry became the Warner Brothers college rep, and would occasionally let me troll through his trunk full of promos, not anywhere near as often as I wanted, or as often as I’d have let him had the situation been reversed. Still, I was appreciative for the high.

One of those Saturday trunk scores included white label promos by Deep Purple ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’, John & Beverly Martyn ‘Road To Ruin’ and Alice Cooper ‘Caught In A Dream’, back when the name of the band, not the guy, was Alice Cooper. The Zappa partnership still seamed strong, with the WB label prominently including Frank’s Straight logo. Lots of good singles from Alice Cooper were still to come, but I think this one remains their best.