Archive for the ‘WNDR’ Category

The Hollies

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Listen: Jennifer Eccles / The Hollies
Jennifer

What on earth was Graham Nash thinking? Leaving this band?

Seems every once in a while, some visiting UK group lost a member to the lure of the Los Angeles folk contingent. None of that soft rock ever appealed to me, not to mention their unkept and drab dress sense. But probably in the 60′s, the modern living, mid-century designs that still prevail to this day were so magnetic, who could resist champagne bubble wall dividers, sparkle ceilings and aqua kitchens.

I can’t quite recall when he actually made the move, seems around ’68. Still somehow, The Hollies vocal sound didn’t really change. Not to my ears.

US radio were always very fickle when it came to their records. The wise man’s “be happy with life’s small pleasures” slogan applied here, and at least The Hollies got some airtime. I even recall, shortly after their switch to Epic, with ‘Carrie Anne’ going Top 10, former label Imperial re-released ‘Pay You Back With Interest’ as a 7″. It too got on the air, eventually charting in BILLBOARD (#28).

Luckily, all of the band’s records were played regularly on the upstate New York stations. Even WNDR, the most commercial Top 40 in Syracuse stayed loyal. ‘I’m Alive’ sounded massive over my little orange transistor, and ‘Jennifer Eccles’ was everywhere airwaves-wise during the Spring of ’68. Right there next to my other successful radio request line missions: The Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’, Grapefruit ‘Elevator’ and The Scaffold ‘Thank You Very Much’. Oh, and Madeline Bell too.

Hedgehoppers Anonymous

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Listen: Stop Press / Hedgehoppers Anonymous
Stop

Quite possibly the very first copy of BILLBOARD I ever laid my eyes on had Hedgehoppers Anonymous’ ‘It’s Good News Week’ at #48 in the Hot 100. I know because still have that edition.

Mind you, those early copies of the magazine were life changing. For a youngster desperately obsessed with English music during the 60′s, this publication was a tsunami of joyous information and statistics. BILLBOARD enabled me to actually see Britain’s Top 50 singles chart on a weekly basis. And believe you me, I gunned my way to Smith’s Records after school every Friday to pour over the current week’s edition, and to pick up last week’s now worthless copy from Mrs. Smith herself. I was her chosen charity. I suppose it was me or the rubbish bin, all pre-recycling of course. I cringe to think how many copies were tossed. Regardless, a week old BILLBOARD was useless to even Mrs. Smith in Oneida, NY. The world moved fast back then as well.

Now I’d already seen mention of this band, as with many others, probably in TEEN SCREEN or 16 MAGAZINE. Those publications would all dedicate a page or two toward reprinted miniatures of the record companies’ new band 8×10′s. And Hedgehoppers Anonymous were one such. Their name was hard to forget, especially for this youngster’s unblemished hippocampus.

And so with great excitement, and desperate catch-up, ‘It’s Good News Week’ at #48 made me desperate for an airing. Fate and luck were on my side. Local Top 40 WNDR ran a weekly Tuesday night program, ‘Echoes Of England’, whereby they’d spin all the singles they didn’t, wouldn’t and/or couldn’t play in regular rotation. It’s how I first heard Them, Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville, The Applejacks, The Pretty Things and on this particular occasion, Hedgehoppers Anonymous.

Years, although not that many, later I discovered they were produced and guided by Jonathan King, a big favorite of mine then and now. I honestly don’t recall when I acquired ‘Stop Press’. I’m guessing ’74-ish. Back then I would buy records, via snail mail, from UK dealers out of the set sale pages of, I think, TROUSER PRESS. Whatever, it turned up in the post, most likely all of two weeks and $3.00 (including post) later and I truly loved it. A total package complete with Mick Tinsley’s black and white drizzly English minor key vocal melody and all the noisy drum/tambourine stuff. Properly tagged as percussion, the sound felt like a first to me. Why on earth had no one thought of using that racket prior?

‘Stop Press’ is by far the band’s best and most English record, at least by my not so humble standards.

The Forum

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

The River Is Wide / The Forum

Listen: The River Is Wide / The Forum
The

There was many a single during the year 1967 like this one. Although most acts survived to release three or four, it was usually only one that made a splash, picking up late night pre FM progressive play on the many AM Top 40′s that would go a bit free form in the early hours, especially prevalent during that summer. These singles would many times graduate to daytime play and eventually maintain themselves a several month spread across the US pop stations, and be regarded as signature to the year of flower power, even through to the present.

As with Sagittarius ‘My World Fell Down’, The Avant-Garde ‘Naturally Stoned’, The Third Rail ‘Run Run Run’ or The Strawberry Children ‘Love Years Coming’, The Forum’s ‘The River Is Wide’ has earned this honor. WNDR, the tighter of of the two Syracuse Top 40′s charted it.

Partially MOR, partially Rotary Connection underground soul, a hint of Bill Medley’s Righteous Brothers baritone vocal and some Four Seasons meets Fifth Dimension backgrounds, all produced under the guidance of Les Baxter and Norm Ratner. An unlikely recipe that collided perfectly together and was easily labeled as psychedelic when no other explanation would suffice.

From one of the many stacks WMCR donated my way, it’s fun reading what the label’s promotion guy wrote to the station’s MD on the single’s original company sleeve above.

Wayne Fontana / Jackie Edwards

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Come On Home / Wayne Fontana

Listen: Come On Home / Wayne Fontana
Come

Wayne Fontana’s version of ‘Come On Home’ came on the radio during the summer of 1966 and it was an instant favorite.

Sixteen months earlier, he was the apparent leader of the first live band I’d ever seen, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. They opened for Freddie & The Dreamers. And so from my initial baptism into the live music world, I had a tendency to favor the support acts, especially if they were English.

By early ’66, they had split into two. It seemed like an eternity at the time. Both had several hits in the UK, with only The Mindbenders getting any real airplay here with ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ and ‘Ashes To Ashes’.

By that summer though, I was over anxious to finally hear a solo record from Wayne Fontana, having scoured the UK singles chart in BILLBOARD as part of my weekly ritual at Smith’s Records each Friday after school and seen one too many by him that had not entered my life.

Alas, ‘Come On Home’ got a few weeks worth of spins locally upon release, but then on the more mainstream leaning Top 40, WNDR, as opposed to the looser and much better WOLF. And yeah, I loved it immediately.

I recall mustering up the guts to shout it out at the London Palladium in April ’01. Along with Dave Berry, he was supporting Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Seriously, he was hysterically funny between songs and pretty great vocally as well. He ignored me when it came to my audience request although.

Listen: Come On Home / Jackie Edwards
Come

Little did I know at the time, ‘Come On Home’ was written by Jackie Edwards, the same guy who’d composed my early favorites by The Spencer Davis Group: ‘Keep On Running’, ‘Somebody Help Me’ and ‘When I Come Home’.

Years later, I discovered his history in ska, duets with Millie amongst others and several pop singles, many of which I’ve managed to obtain over time.

It was while digging through one of the seemingly endless storage cupboards at Island’s St. Peter’s Square office in London that I unearthed an unplayed promotional pressing of his ‘Come On Home’. I still experience a deja vu hot flash to that moment every time I hold this copy.

Keith West

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Listen: Excerpt From A Teenage Opera / Keith West
Excerpt

Keith West, real name Keith Hopkins, had a budding psychedelic career in the 60′s, not only as a member of Four Plus One, The In Crowd and Tomorrow but also solo. When ‘Excerpt From A Teenage Opera’ charted in the UK, getting a copy became my mission. Luckily, my uncle’s jukebox vending office got a US promo pressing, and wow, it was even better than I’d imagined. Way too young to take, not to mention even find LSD, records like these became my way of tripping.

I would call our local Top 40, WNDR, relentlessly requesting this single. Basically, I was begging, completely convinced if only kids could hear it, even once, the record would instantaneously become a smash in America too. I’ll never know if the experiment would have gotten results, they never played it. Not once.

Thus began my suspicion, mistrust and ultimate despise of US radio.

The Bee Gees

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Listen: (The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts / The Bee Gees
(The

Recalling the first time The Bee Gees got played locally, the disc jockeys at WNDR were promoting the record’s 7PM unveiling for a solid day or two prior. The implication being a new double sided single from The Beatles. Instead, we got The Bee Gees US debut: ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones)’ / ‘I Can’t See Nobody’. In the end, a much better result.

Other than an unfair comparison to The Beatles, from that US premier until taking a dreadful left turn into disco during the mid 70′s, the band had a nice run of British sounding hits, despite growing up and starting their musical career in Australia. Nothing wrong with that by the way, but given they were originally the UK, it was clearly in their water.

During the late 80′s, while working at Island, I often tried to convince Marianne Faithfull to cover ‘(The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts’. The song just seemed made for her timbre. At the time, she was living in Boston, but despite using that logic as ammo, she never did get round to it.

‘(The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts’ is neck in neck with their UK only single, ‘World’, also from ’67, as my favorite. A slight embarrassment, this one only reaching #11 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100, while achieving #1 pretty much around the world. Both a big accomplishment and a contributor to their astonishing, career spanning sales of 220 million records worldwide.

The McCoys

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Listen: Beat The Clock / The McCoys
Beat

If ever there was a slogan, ‘Beat The Clock’ may take the cake. I guess it’s what we all try doing throughout life.

The McCoys had endless great singles. I don’t recall a bad one actually.

‘Beat The Clock’ was released spring ’67, and stumbled around the lower rungs of some radio playlists, only managing a pathetic peak of #92 nationally. Unlike with many of the garage bands and English groups nationally, there was a consistent loyalty toward their releases by the local Top 40′s in the northeast, certainly the upstate New York region. In this case, both Syracuse stations, WNDR and particularly WOLF, played every record by The McCoys. ‘Beat The Clock’ was no exception.

I still love the sound of time dripping by via the keyboard intro, and the continual return to it throughout the song.

The McCoys were one of the support acts to The Rolling Stones that previous summer, when they toured the AFTERMATH album. As a little kid, each moment was a lifetime of excitement, and The McCoys’ sing-a-long set was no exception. We all walked out of the place more addicted to The Rolling Stones than ever, but no short changing the other bands as a result. Every friend I knew went out and bought whichever McCoys records they could find within days.

Pink Floyd

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Listen: Julia Dream (Mono) / Pink Floyd
Julia

Here’s how I remember it, and believe me, this is accurate.

Pink Floyd, or The Pink Floyd as they were initially known, took several years to get noticed by many in the US other than hardcore Anglophiles. Their first two American singles, ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘See Emily Play’, were impossible to find at retail. In fact, the only stock copy of ‘Arnold Layne’ I’ve ever seen is the one I own, a special order via Smith’s Records in Oneida, NY. ‘See Emily Play’…I’ve seen three stock copies. Mrs. Smith managed to get me this also, plus two others for the shop. I believe these qualify as a few miracles on Phelps Street, where her store was located.

Their debut full length, PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN sold a bit, but the followup, A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS, never charted, never got played, hardly got distributed. The album was so good, in ways my all time favorite by Pink Floyd. How could this have happened? Not forgetting, they lost Syd Barrett around this period as well. Most bands wouldn’t have recovered.

Now to the point. If getting the aforementioned singles when current sounded, and certainly were, a challenge, imagine the next few.

US only single, ‘The Gnome’, invented the process of sinking without trace. In some ways, it’s the least common. In some ways.

By their fourth, ‘Apples And Oranges’, the 45′s weren’t even charting in the UK. Despite a second appearance on AMERICAN BANDSTAND miming it pitifully, or maybe because of, nobody cared. Not true for this little kid at 334 Roberts Street. I was hyperventilating at the mere mention of it, and found a promo copy amongst a small pile of giveaways reserved for the dance competition winner at the Purple Haze club in Canastota, NY during a WNDR record hop. Basically, I stole it. Seriously, just shop lifted it into my winter jacket. I had no other choice.

By the time of fifth single, ‘It Would Be So Nice’ / ‘Julia Dream’, panic had enveloped. The struggle for US Pink Floyd singles was worsening exponentially. How was I ever to get this one? It had become completely pointless to put in special orders. By now, Tower’s parent company, Capitol, were useless filling my local’s requests for their product. All those little shops bought from the one stops anyway, and if the distributor didn’t agree to order at least a box lot, they weren’t getting the record. As a result, there’d be no way for the mom and pops to get these obscure releases. Radio were typically dismissive of Pink Floyd despite having re-written history on the subject since, and unfortunately my one open source, WMCR (the story of their donations to my record collecting causes are chronicled elsewhere on the blog) didn’t get Capitol service.

Around this time, the bell in my head to call home offices of record companies requesting copies for airplay suddenly chimed off. Problem wasn’t a receiving address, WMCR were cool about that. But the Music Director hated me by this time, complaining constantly about the scrounging. I mean, I was really obsessed and even I became uncomfortable with myself. Enter the station owner, Mrs. Warner, who was forever kind. Not only did she put in the call, she was generous enough to give me my own little inbox on the mail slot rack.

Whoever worked at Tower Records in Los Angeles must have been looking to clear out the cupboards. The resulting package included releases by The Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells, The E Types, Eternity’s Children and some disposable country singles. As a whole, a serious high, but nothing topped ‘Julia Dream’, in mono.

Now knowing how history unfolded meant there was one more Tower single to come: “Let There Be More Light’ / ‘Remember A Day’. I’m leaving that accomplishment for another post.

Drafi

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

drafimarbleuka, Drafi, Decca, London, WNDR

drafimarbleus, Drafi, Decca, London, WNDR

Listen: Marble Breaks And Iron Bends / Drafi
Marble Breaks And Iron Bends / Drafi

The first time I heard Wreckless Eric’s ‘Whole Wide World’, I thought how nice of him to borrow the song off Drafi. They sure do sound similar, and if not by coincidence, I’d bet it was meant lovingly.

‘Marble Breaks And Iron Bends’ did well in the northeast during April/May ’66. A big hit in Boston, it spread to upstate New York, as was the pattern. Our tighter playlisted local Top 40, WNDR, played it (see proof below) – and as it was on UK Decca’s US imprint, London, I just assumed this was an English act. Certainly sounded it, despite the now noticeable strangely accented word or two.

The record climbed slowly during a four week run in the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 section of BILLBOARD, then entered at #98. Looking good, it jumped #88 to #80….then, gone. Never to be heard from again. How did these abrupt things happen? We could have used this one to go national.

Drafi Deutescher was actually German, and this was my favorite from a his handful of singles London released in the States.

wndr-5_11_66, WNDR, Syracuse, Drafi

The Hollies

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

HolliesAliveUK, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

HolliesAliveUSA, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

Listen: I’m Alive / The Hollies
I'm Alive / The Hollies

Talk about an explosive and immediate intro, here’s one of the most. This tore through my hand sized orange AM transistor radio, an item that almost needed surgically removing from my hand after a couple of years. We went everywhere together, to school, on lunch breaks, to the barber, dentist, shopping for records, the shower and even to bed.

I would wait religiously for the latest single from the UK’s Hit Parade to get an initial airing. Decades before info was a click away, we seemed to know pretty fast about new singles from the English groups, and would wait for that first listen. Many times wait and wait and wait to hear them, unsuccessfully.

I recall writing a letter to Jim O’Brien, the 7-midnight disc jockey on Syracuse’s WNDR, asking would he please play more of the new English bands and he actually read it. This was spring ’66, when playlists were fairly loose but didn’t exist at all to a kid listener. Back then, the stations took and played requests and as well, read letters on-air. I mentioned a few bands, The Alan Price Set being the only one I can recall at this moment. And he read my letter, rattled off all my requests and said “We’d love to play these but they just don’t get released in the USA”.

Not true.

I knew about these records via BILLBOARD. Not only were they printed in the HITS OF THE WORLD section of the publication, whereby they reproduced international Top 10′s and in the case of the UK, their Top 50 chart; but the magazine also listed weekly new US releases in their SINGLES REVIEW section, with label and catalog number. They were all released here, it’s why I wrote the letter.

And so, in hindsight, my mistrust of American radio officially began.

I will say this, Jim O’Brien clearly got some free plays during his shows. For a short period, he did a feature called ECHOES OF ENGLAND, during the British Invasion years. I heard some great stuff on that program: Them, The Silkie, The Yardbirds, The Honeycombs, even The Pretty Things ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’. And for a few weeks in September ’67, he opened most of his shows with The Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’. But he did tell a disappointing fib that night.

Regardless, to his credit, it was the grand man himself who played ‘I’m Alive’ one evening. Holy whoever, did it sound fantastic. Dwarfed the songs on either side of it. I loved ‘I’m Alive’ immediately, and excitedly thought I’d be hearing it often, but never did, not ever again.

It had an equally short lived life nationally, a one week spike at #103 on BILLBOARD’s BUBBLING UNDER THE HOT 100 chart, and that my friends, was that.

The Swinging Blue Jeans

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Swinging Blue Jeans - Don't Make Me Over USA

Swinging Blue Jeans - Don't Make Me Over

Listen: Don’t Make Me Over / The Swinging Blue Jeans
Don't Make Me Over / The Swinging Blue Jeans

Who says if you get a song for free, you won’t buy a copy later anyways – for whatever the reason: loyalty to the artist, love of the song, wanting a particular configuration or maybe even just doing your part.

Even though I’d gotten ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ at no charge during one of my early Friday night “I’m here to collect records for the children’s hospital” scams instigated on our local MOR station, WMCR, at an alarmingly young age, I bought a copy anyways. I passed up the stock of ‘She Needs Company’ by Manfred Mann to expend that particular dollar, which in hindsight was a wrong gamble. Never seen one since, although this Swinging Blue Jeans non-charter (actually it did Bubble Under The Billboard Hot 100 at #116) is a bit more common.

It was the heat of the moment. I was overtaken with supporting the team. I really thought I could help it nudge up the chart. The naiveness of youth. I’d actually heard it on my local Top 40, WNDR in March – it was a one listen record. Although Dionne Warwick had a hit with it in ’62, to me it was an unknown track by ’66, when this arrived.

If you grew up in the Northeast, quite possibly songs are seasonal. This was a winter single, along with others at the time that left a life long impression like The Mindbenders ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ or The Walker Brothers ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’.

By May it had struggled onto the local survey (below) with several other greats. And on this particular week – it was the featured record thereby affording the lyrics be printed on the survey’s reverse side.

WNDR Chart 5-13-66

Grapefruit

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Dear Delilah / Grapefruit

Listen: Dear Delilah / Grapefruit
Dear Delilah / Grapefruit

Formed from the remnants of Tony Rivers & The Castaways, and Harmony Grass by George Alexander, birth name: Alexander Young. Brother to George (founding member of The Easybeats) as well Malcolm and Angus (founders of AC/DC). For some reason, the family left him behind in England when the others moved off to Australia. Lucky guy.

Grapefruit issued their first single to much attention as The Beatles had acquired the publishing and hence posed in trade pictures with the band. As with their label, The Beatles tended to be quite good at A&R. Even Brian Jones was in those publicity shots, God knows why. Result, the press were interested.

In the US, the debut single ‘Dear Delilah’ was released via Terry Melcher’s new imprint, Equinox, and hence got a decent push. Mom Doris Day wasn’t about to let son and Beach Boys’ friend Terry flop. But despite being recorded in “new orthophonic high fidelity” and getting some decent airplay, the imaginative psychedelic taint (not my words) of ‘Dear Delilah’ only reached #98 in the Billboard Top 100, and #21 in The UK. A shame.

Listen: Elevator / Grapefruit
Elevator / Grapefruit

The album AROUND GRAPEFRUIT, from which it came, was chocked full of gems including the followup ‘Elevator’. I remember it and The Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’ shockingly being played on my hometown Top 40 one Saturday afternoon that spring. Getting picked up for some daytime airplay so quickly upon release via the generally tight WNDR seemed quite optimistic. I was temporarily content.

It was over before it started though, as both peaked and stalled during the same week (5/11/68) on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart (above, click to enlarge). Nearly failed my finals as a result, the depression was so bad.

Listen: Lady Godiva (Come Home) / Grapefruit
Lady Godiva (Come Home) / Grapefruit

Things took an even sharper left turn for Grapefruit a year or so later in ’70 when the band got a touch too progressive, recording DEEP WATER for new, in US that is, label RCA. It’s one of those blues soul prog rock calamities that sells for a nice price nowadays, but grinds by at snail’s pace once you get it onto the turntable. Second single, ‘Lady Godiva (Come Home)’ wants to be hooky, but some cringing lyrics and slightly Foghat leaning vocals prove punishing. Having said that, I do like a nice clean aural snapshot of a bad single, and this is one. They’re totally fascinating artifacts.

Listen: Universal Party / Grapefruit
Universal Party / Grapefruit

An unexpected, and more than low key reprieve occurred without explanation or commitment by Deram in ’73, when the label issued ‘Universal Party’. First listen will most likely result in a shrug at best, but the faint hint of glam gets a bit more addictive with a few more spins. Given it was Grapefruit and on Deram meant extra rope.

In hindsight, I guess nothing compared to the optimistic sound of those first few releases, which I’m reminded of daily as I eat my grapefruit each and every morning.

Crispian St. Peters

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010


Listen: But She’s Untrue / Crispian St. Peters CrispianUntrue.mp3

Somehow, this B side got a lot of play on both of our Syracuse Top 40′s: WOLF and WNDR. A few singles down the line from ‘The Pied Piper’, it always looked like the story of a Top 5 was about to be repeated, yet ultimately never happened.

‘But She’s Untrue’, in hindsight, was distinctively very Everly Brothers. Those guys were a generation or two ahead of us and unbeknown to any teen then, their sound was very addictive to an untrained ear. Mix in a nice Joe Meek knockoff production and the resulting single becomes a memorable period piece.

Transports me right back to winter ’67 when this was inescapable. Can vividly recall walking back to school in blizzard-like conditions after lunch, ‘But She’s Untrue’ getting played literally everyday at 12:45…for weeks. A cold transistor radio clamped to my frost bitten ear. It was worth the suffering.

The Choir

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Listen: It’s Cold Outside / The Choir ChoirCold.mp3

Tis the season to be…..playing songs about cold weather. ‘It’s Cold Outside’ peaked at #68 in Billboard in early June ’67 and proves all this nonsense about lyrics fitting the season is hollow. Actually, I recall the record picking up airplay ever so slowly when initailly released in December ’66, so I guess the intention was a wintertime hit.

Despite it’s revered spot in garage rock history, it’s more a sentimental memory for me. I used to light up when it came on the air that winter, as it got played quite early in the upstate New York area. The looser WOLF jumped on it straight off, and by spring/summer slow poke WNDR was on board.

Summer ’67, repeated again in ’77 and even ’87, represents many a fantastic single. It was hard to keep up with all the hits and new releases.

But you gotta love this naive, sloppy garage band performance – despite it currently residing a bit too comfortably in the power pop catagory, a genre that usually has me running in the opposite direction.

The Left Banke

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

LeftBankeSheMay, The Left Banke, Smash,

Listen: She May Call You Up Tonight / The Left Banke LeftBankeSheMayCall.mp3

What a nice initial saga. Both ‘Walk Away Renee’ and ‘Pretty Ballerina’, The Left Banke’s first two singles became deservedly sizeable US hits. Although from New York, both their sound and image were very English, and so they caught my ear.

The 3rd single, ‘Ivy, Ivy’ however, didn’t happen, neither at radio nor with the public, (or as if it mattered with me). They seemed to have completely lost the plot. Turns out, there was a bit of a line up shuffle, most of the original band suddenly weren’t invited to participate – both label A&R and manager clearly being pussies, caved, thereby allowing the inferior track to not only be recorded, but worse yet, released, resulting in a ‘game over’ career killer.

Probably hoping whatever lineup nonsense would calm down and all could be salvaged, Smash lifted ‘She May Call You Up Tonight’ from the first album, issuing it as single number 4. Obviously, the shine for the band had really been tarnished by the very weak ‘Ivy, Ivy’ and airplay was scarce. Luckily, not in my hometown. WNDR played it heavily. I couldn’t buy a copy fast enough.

I bet had ‘She May Call You Up Tonight’ been the followup to ‘Pretty Ballerina’, a big hit it would have become.

Los Bravos

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

losbravosblackuka, Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

losbravosblackusa, Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

Listen: Black Is Black / Los Bravos
Black Is Black / Los Bravos

Without a doubt, this was a signature song to my Summer ’66 soundtrack. This guy’s voice was almost scary. Between that and the lyrics, it especially sounded powerful late at night. I spent a week in Brooklyn that August, glued to the various New York City stations and heard this often. Along with The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer In The City’, this song faithfully brings me back to that un-airconditioned summer vacation of listening to the radio by night and dragging my Aunt Nancy round the record shops by day: The House Of Oldies, King Karol and Colony basically. I spent hours in them. Thank God for her patience. Colony was really well stocked, but very expensive – list price: 98ยข! This was huge money for a kid in his single digits. Much more interesting were the shops in the East Village. Most of them sold promos for a quarter. Lots of white label Fontana’s, pink label Decca’s and the London Group’s orange swirls. You could spot those a mile away. I vividly recall getting Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours ‘Don’t Stop Loving Me, Baby’ in one such place.

Los Bravos, from Spain, big in England, well ‘Black Is Black’ was. Now big here. What a concept. Play good music on the radio, people buy it.

You still catch this one occasionally on the Oldies stations in smaller US markets and it does pop right out .

losbravosdontcareuka, Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

Listen: I Don’t Care / Los Bravos
I Don't Care / Los Bravos

The UK followup actually did okay, #16. It was easily a song that band and producer Ivor Raymonde worked hard on. I still would bet my last dime they all knew it wasn’t quite good enough despite the almost good enough parts, yet my guess is they needed something out quick and just went with it, hoping no one would notice.

Their US label, London Records’ offshoot Press, did notice. It never got released Stateside.

losbravosgoingusa,  Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

Listen: Going Nowhere / Los Bravos
Going Nowhere / Los Bravos

Instead, ‘Going Nowhere’ was the US followup to ‘Black Is Black’. Not a big showing chartwise, it peaked at #91. In a very signature Ivor Ramonde production, it sounds identical to his approach with The Fortunes. He had his sound down. I heard this a bit around Christmas of that year (see chart below). Turns out lead singer Mike Kogel was German, adding a great accent to his Gene Pitney vocal style. Spanish band and the first ever to chart in Billboard, German singer, pretty exotic for the day.

losbravosbringusa, Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

Listen: Bring A Little Lovin’ / Los Bravos
Bring A Little Lovin' / Los Bravos

What a surprise. Almost two years later, an eternity then, when no one expected it, Los Bravos finally really followed up ‘Black Is Black’ with a song equal in greatness. ‘Bring A Little Lovin’ sounded fantastic on the radio. I lit up every time I heard that intro. It was everywhere in Spring of ’68. Oddly, it didn’t chart in the UK, making the British pressing a very pricey item. Even US copies are hard to unearth now. Had they come with this straight after ‘Black Is Black’, the sky would’ve been the limit.

wndr_12_4_66, WNDR

Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

ianwhitcombsporting, Ian Whitcomb, & Bluesville, Tower, The Bonzo Dog Band, Tiny Tim

Listen: This Sporting Life / Ian Whitcomb & BluevilleIanWhitcombSporting.mp3

I knew Ian Whitcomb was English, he had a huge hit as part of the British Invasion. It seems he relocated to the US quite quickly during that period. His first recordings, with Bluesville, despite being good attempts at the damp, Soho, St. James Infirmary sound, somehow lacked that final ‘something’, I’m guessing because of his vocal style. ‘This Sporting Life’, also recorded and released by Mickey Finn in ’65, finds him beautifully out of place with the music, actually becoming part of the appeal.

This one crawled slowing upward under Billboard’s Top 100, then placed for one week at #100, before returning to the ‘Bubbling Under The Hot 100′ section for a few more. It’s chart progression was as follows: 134, 122, 101, 101, 100, 104, 104, 124.

Ah the good old days of the Billboard charts, but talk about keeping an artist at the edge of their seat.

ianwhitcombturn, Ian Whitcomb, & Bluesville, Tower, The Bonzo Dog Band, Tiny Tim

Listen: You Turn Me On / Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville IanWhitcombTurn.mp3

The balance between voice and music found the perfect match in ‘You Turn Me On’. The suggestive gasping surprisingly didn’t manage to keep it off the airwaves, and it scaled to #8 in Billboard’s Top 100 during that summer.

ianwhitcombrobinson, WNDR, WOLF, Ian Whitcomb, & Bluesville, Tower, The Bonzo Dog Band, Tiny Tim

Listen: What Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night? / Ian Whitcomb & His Seaside Syncopators IanWhitcombRobinson.mp3

Where Ian Whitcomb really found his footing, and a comfortable vocal home, was with the above single. More suited to the era of vaudeville and silent films, his voice worked perfectly on a remake of Al Jolson’s 1916 hit, and almost became a smash here in the US. Indeed, during the week of November 14, 1966 it was playlisted at both my local Top 40 stations (see their charts below) and sounded fantastic coming out of my transistor. If you told anyone this was a classic version by the deservedly credible Bonzo Dog Band, you wouldn’t be challenged.

66, WNDR, WOLF, Ian Whitcomb
661, WNDR, WOLF, Ian Whitcomb

The Strawbs

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

strawbsbenedictus, Strawbs, Tony Visconti, Tom Allom, A&M

Listen: Benedictus /The Strawbs StrawbsBenedictus.mp3

I heard ‘Benedictus’ on my local Top 40 station, once, in the middle of the afternoon. It was WNDR, the tight playlisted one as well. Huh? It sounded so out of place – and indeed pretty great. In the mix of then current nastiness, like Three Dog Night and Jim Croce, it made me believe there might be hope for the radio again, for a good couple of months even. Not so. As much as I tried to catch it once more at least, I never did. And I could not find the single – no surprise. I’d seen The Strawbs’ albums in stores, and despite my then soft spot for English folk, I never did spring for one, until now. I had to have this song. Years later I found the above promo. Probably not all that rare, so if you see one, get it.

strawbslaydownuka, Strawbs, Tony Visconti, Tom Allom, A&M

Listen: Lay Down / The Strawbs StrawbsLayDown.mp3

‘Lay Down’ was starting to indicate these guys just might be churning out some great 7′s consistantly. By now I was nicely ensconced at my college radio station, where everyone only wanted to play, and steal, albums, so the singles were a free for all. A&M would send out stock copies often instead of promos, and I was so happy when one arrived. Released simultaneously in the UK, where it reached #12, meant I had it before I even had to worry about getting it. I was jonesing to live in England by this point. To walk around the house or drive in the car and be able to hear this stuff on the radio – enough reason to figure out a way to get there. That was around the corner.

strawbspartuka, Strawbs, Tony Visconti, Tom Allom, A&M

Listen: Part Of The Union / The Strawbs StrawbsUnion.mp3

“Part Of The Union’ might be one of those songs that folks in the UK still cringe at, simply because it was played everywhere, forever. A #2 in early ’73, it was still a pub singalong by that summer, when I finally made my way to London. Like Jeff Beck’s ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’, I never did tire of it.

Just a few months prior, in April, I had to make a torturous decision. The Pretty Things and The Strawbs were playing the same night, at different venues. How fucked up was this? I chose The Pretty Things. Til this day, I have never seen The Strawbs.

Warm Sounds

Friday, October 9th, 2009

warmsoundsbirds, Warm Sounds, Deram, Mike Hurst

Listen: Birds And Bees / Warm Sounds WarmSoundsBirds.mp3

In May ’67, my Mom went off to Ireland to visit her sister for a few weeks, armed with my 45 want list. She came back with some life-changers (see my post from October 7th, 2008 titled: The Move / The Who / The Small Faces / The Cream). An added unexpected bonus were two pull-out Top 50 charts from RECORD RETAILER, the UK equivalent of BILLBOARD. If I could scan them for you, I would. They’re too large, purposely made to hang on your shop’s wall so kids can easily identify their purchases. Sliding gently back from a #26 peak (to #27, then #28) was ‘Birds And Bees’ by Warm Sounds. It was on Deram. It had to be good.

The psychedelic summer of ’67 was just about to happen, and the great music that would define it was in full tsunami mode. Every week handfuls of ‘must hears’ were arriving in stores, at the radio stations and in trade magazine listings.

Before I could even worry about it, one of my local Top 40′s, WNDR, was playing ‘Birds And Bees’ (see chart below). Occasionally, they or the more loosely programmed, UK and garage band leaning WOLF, would add a gem that never went on to national success. Unlike WOLF, WNDR wouldn’t stick with them too long, but at least we’d have a chance to get a taste – and usually one of the local shops (Walt’s Records in particular) would stock 5 or 10 copies. You had to move quick to secure one though, there was fierce competition amongst us sickos.

Despite it’s rather mainstream pop leanings, it was undeniably English on first listen, the string breakdowns were perfectly LSD’d out, and the lyrics, so blatant (“don’t be afraid, come with me please, that’s all there is to the birds and the bees”).

I was in. Yet how did the program director not notice those lyrics?

wndrwarmsounds6_12-67, WNDR

Noel Harrison

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

noelharrisonyoungusa, Noel Harrsion, Charles Aznavour, London, Decca, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
noelharrisonyoung, Noel Harrsion, Charles Aznavour, London, Decca, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Listen: A Young Girl / Noel Harrison
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Everyone was drawn to teenage death records, it wasn’t just me. They would even get radio play and chart on BILLBOARD. ‘A Young Girl’ did just that (US #51 in ’66), and got played heavily on my local Top 40, WNDR. Possibly helped onto the airwaves by his role in NBC’s The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., one of many b&w spy/comedies of the mid 60′s, or his famous Dad, Noel Harrison’s English adaptation of this Charles Aznavour song indeed still sounded both very French and rather menacing. If you told me The Pet Shop Boys were influenced by it, I’d believe you.

It was an ear catching song to hear on the radio in the day and has become a perfect period piece, frozen in time while simultaneously disappearing into the black hole of never-to-be-airplayed-again records.