Archive for the ‘NME’ Category

The Walker Brothers

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

walkerbrosshipuk, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
walkerbrosshipusa, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
walkerbrosshipps, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

US Picture Sleeve: Front (above) / Back (below)

walkerbrosshippsb, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

Listen: My Ship Is Coming In / The Walker Brothers
My Ship Is Coming In / The Walker Brothers

I will never forget the Friday night I walked into Two Guys Department store with my parents. As usual, I headed straight to the record department while they proceeded to do some weekly shopping. The singles were displayed all along the the tops of the album bins, each in their own metal rack holding about 25 copies. I wish I had photos.

There in brilliant full color, was the above Walker Brothers picture sleeved single, ‘My Ship Is Coming In’, a solid 25 copies freshly unboxed. I could hardly breathe. They looked fantastic in bulk. The sleeve just radiated about one hundred times more intensely than anything else in sight, like a messiah. I still get tingles looking at the cover. It brings me right back. I owned it minutes later.

I could not get home fast enough, freaking out in the dark car, holding this masterpiece but only getting to glimpse at it as we passed under traffic lights and street lamps. God knows how many times I played it that night. It was not guitar based British beat, but instead sounded like music grownups listened too. Yet clearly there was something addictive in it’s air. I decided then and there, I was going to love this record. That was that. I did then and I still do.

Years later Scott Walker would reveal that while all his contemporaries in London were modeling themselves after American blues greats, his attention was focused on becoming the next Eddie Fisher. How genius was this guy?

WalkerSunUKA, The Walker Brothers

walkerbrossunuk, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash
wlakerbrossunusa, The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker, Philips, Smash

Listen: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) / The Walker Brothers
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore) / The Walker Brothers

The world was not ready for the followup to ‘My Ship Is Coming In’. Mine certainly wasn’t. How could The Walker Brothers possibly up the perfection of that record? Then along comes ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’, a flop a few years earlier for Franki Valli. He and The Four Seasons had loads of great records, and he’s no slouch in the vocal department. But Scott Walker he is not, no one is.

I swear, this record can still stop me in my tracks when it comes up on the ipod or BBC’s Radio 2. I heard it on the 60′s Sirius radio channel aboard a JetBlue flight recently. As diverse and truly exciting that the many other songs were, this just grabbed the prize unchallenged.

I saw Matt Pinfield the other day. He had Matt & Kim on his morning WRXP radio show, so I went along. Pinfield is the most kind hearted and passionate music fan, really knows his stuff, loves records. We worked together at Columbia and got connected at the hip. Somehow the subject of ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’ came up. Almost in unison, we both blurted out nearly identical sentences.

“This may be the greatest single of all time.”

Deservedly, it spent a month at #1 in the UK. See the three consecutive NME charts below, reprinted from 40 YEARS OF THE NME CHARTS. Despite not one US TV appearance or live show, it did get played here and had a decent chart run, peaking at #13 in BILLBOARD. It should have, at least, gone Top 10 but given the many singles that never ever charted, there’s some contentment in it’s placing.

nme4_66, 40 Years Of The NME Charts

The Honeybus

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

She Sold Blackpool Rock / The Honeybus

Listen: She Sold Blackpool Rock / The Honeybus HoneybusBlackpool.mp3

With a name like The Honeybus, you were asking to be overlooked in America. That is unless an Anglophile was in earshot. Then: instant magnet. Funny about that. What exactly is this language that we all understand? Must be in the DNA.

What a job finding ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’, their first US single here at home. Finally begged one out of Deram’s New York office – after a few hand written pleads. Oddly enough, the record was their third release in the UK, but first to chart (#8, March ’68), apparently mustering up enough reason to schedule ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ in the States.

Despite every single being a classic, seems they were too English even for the English themselves, as is quite apparent with fifth single, ‘She Sold Blackpool Rock’, which didn’t chart, nor get a US release. Nonetheless, legendary status.

She Is The Female To My Soul / The Honeybus

Listen: She Is The Female To My Soul / The Honeybus HoneybusSheIsTheFemale.mp3

I wasn’t aware they’d even made a single for Bell in ’71. Only when trolling through the stalls at Cheapo Cheapo on Rupert Street (famous for being the place all the radio DJ’s, pluggers and journalists unloaded their promos for cash) during the summer of ’73 did I stumble upon ‘She Is The Female To My Soul’. The very hot July sun didn’t prevent me from breaking out in a cold sweat, frozen in place on initial glance. Could not get back to the apartment fast enough for a listen. Wow, this sounded fantastic. Vocalist/writer Pete Dello has an immaculate fullness to his voice, and his melodies are….more Ray Davies than the man himself.

For You / The Honeybus

Listen: For You / The Honeybus HoneybusForYou.mp3

Within days of discovering ‘She Is The Female To My Soul’, Radio 1 played a brand new Honeybus release ‘For You’. I remember vividly lying in the grass at Regents Park, ever so quietly listening to BBC 1, when boom.

At the time, radios were not allowed in the Queen’s Park, specifically an oasis of serenity for city dwellers. One needed to lie on the radio with a jacket draped over all corners, a sort of fake pillow – and play music at very low volume. I certainly was not ready for Honeybus shock number two. Despite having a meticulous fact soaking sponge brain when it came to records, and combing through Melody Maker / Disc & Music Echo / NME religiously on a weekly basis, I hadn’t noticed any mention of a new Honeybus single. In fact, there was no indication from the press that the band still existed at all.

Hearing ‘For You’ that first time was a religious experience. I jumped up, and bolted along Great Portland Street crossing Oxford, making my way down Berwick and over to Rupert, knowing a fresh review copy had to be at Cheapo Cheapo. I must have been pushing people aside en route. Honestly, I was in a state. Lo and behold my day, my week, my summer was made. There it was, literally front single in the ‘New Arrivals’ row. ‘For You’ was waiting for me, seriously, we were meant to spend our lives together.

Julie In My Heart / The Honeybus

Listen: Julie In My Heart / The Honeybus HoneybusJulie.mp3

Years later, the continually popular ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ was reissued by Deram’s parent company Decca. This pressing introduced a previously unissued song on it’s B side, ‘Julie In My Heart’, a track worthy of A side status well before hundreds and hundreds of others allocated to such a position. Where is Pete Dello now – where has he been for so many years? Hey MOJO, how about honoring him at one of your yearly do’s?

The Alan Bown Set / The Alan Bown!

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

alanbowngonna, 	The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Gonna Fix You Good / The Alan Bown Set AlanBownSetGonna.mp3

What a great idea. Take the band’s leader, put ‘The’ in front of his name – and an exclamation point at the end. Need for band name: solved.

Previously monikered The Alan Bown Set, and then leaning more toward a sometimes noisy soul sound, the band covered Little Anthony & The Imperials’ ‘Gonna Fix You Good (Every Time You’re Bad)’ and proceeded to get Northern Soul love years later. At the time though, ’65 – ’66, they struggled.

alanbowntoylanduka,The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

alanbowntoylandusa, Mike Hurst, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Toyland / The Alan Bown! AlanBownToyland.mp3

Switching labels, name and genre in ’67, and jumping on board the psychedelic train that seemingly overnight had a lot of passengers, they hooked up with the Mike Hurst who did their future productions.

The Alan Bown! recorded a pop-psych classic OUTWARD BOWN (simply titled THE ALAN BOWN! in the US), from which ‘Toyland’ was the second single. Until recently, I had no idea it charted on the Cashbox Top 100, peaking at #96. Usually when a single would get into the 90′s on Cashbox, Billboard or Record World, it would at least ‘bubble under’ the other two publication’s charts. Not the case with ‘Toyland’ in Billboard’s ‘Bubbling Under The Hot 100′ section – hence I missed out on the single’s activity, not having regular access to Cashbox. ‘Toyland’ really did deserve to be heard and become a hit.

In the UK, the week the band got their Top Of The Pops appearance, their current UK label, MGM, had a pressing plant strike – so with no copies in the stores, their single fell out of the NME chart (where it was #26) and that was that.

alanbowngypsyuka, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

alanbowngypsyusa, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Gypsy Girl / The Alan Bown! AlanBownGypsy.mp3

Treading water through ’68 – ’69, they signed with Deram releasing my other favourite 7″ from them, ‘Gypsy Girl’. Singer Jess Roden up and split to go solo, with Robert Palmer replacing him, and re-recording many of the vocals on the new album.

Next stop for The Alan Bown! was Island in ’70, where Robert Palmer’s vocals on the upcoming album, LISTEN were re-recorded by new vocalist Gordon Neville once he chose to leave for a solo career.

This pattern must have gotten pretty boring for Alan Bown himself. An even odder coincidence being that by then, The Alan Bown!, Robert Palmer and Jess Roden were all signed to Island and no doubt seeing each other regularly in the label’s infamous canteen. Can you imagine the unspoken competition?

Sharks

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Kung Fu / Sharks

Listen: Kung Fu / Sharks Sharks.mp3

Being an avid fan of British bands during the 60’s and 70’s meant I’d find a way to hear just about everything. Working at college stations and record shops helped immensely. I’d give anything a chance, and having wide tastes allowed me to get excited about a whole slew of things that never got traction, many times despite deserving it. Sharks were a mini super group to us hardened Anglofiles. Andy Fraser from Free seemed at their core – and followers of Free know he was a key member, despite ‘only’ being the bassist. He wrote songs and his playing style was specific. Sharks benefitted from this recognizable strut. Add in Snips, a vocalist with a dash of both Jim Morrison and Paul Rodgers, plus Chris Spedding, a much accomplished guitarist who’d played with all the right people – and you’ve got something of a recipe. The NME and Sounds both anticipated their debut, and so did I. The two albums they made were patchy and there was little fanfare about the live shows. Missed them when they played The US – in fact don’t really recall it, but their bio says otherwise. Nonetheless, this single was a favorite and still is. The lyrics are a touch simple, but that never put me off. Don’t care much about lyrics unless they are particularly quotable. Block them out and just listen to the music – not a problem. The Asian slant was always pretty fun I thought, especially that piano line.