Archive for the ‘MGM’ Category

The McGuire Sisters / Connie Francis

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Sugartime / The McGuire Sisters

Listen: Sugartime / The McGuire Sisters
Sugartime

My Dad’s cousin, Dominic Bruno, owned a nightclub in the 50′s/60′s called the Three Rivers Inn, somewhere near Syracuse. I suppose it was that period’s version of today’s Casinos, but on a way smaller scale. The acts would do a week or so. The many headliners included Jayne Mansfield, Sammy Davis Jr, Mae West, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, very lounge and nowadays known as Bachelor Pad stuff.

The first act I ever saw live, at the Three River Inn, were The McGuire Sisters. They scored big (#1 in ’57) with ‘Sugartime’, and it appealed to all little kids for years to follow. My Mom and Dad had a copy. It was probably my first discovery of music. How was I to know then that the “sugar in the morning, honey in the evening” being referred to was about sex. Other than their ballads, most of the uptempo ones, like this, were completely rock and roll, especially those clean Chet Atkin’s hollow body solos.

They were the first victims of my record collecting as well. I pestered my parents, even aunts and uncles, to buy me every last record they had out. Anytime a present was due, I wanted a McGuire Sisters record. Whether it be Easter, Halloween, birthday, Christmas, getting a passing report card, you name it, The McGuire Sisters were the gift that kept giving in my world.

Then Mom and Dad faithfully took me along to see them, all arranged through Uncle Dominic, as we knew him. His house was mad, never will I forget the all pink kitchen, including appliances, that he and Aunt Elia had. Whew.

I don’t really know the year of that show, I may have been five, it was the mid 60′s. They were most likely running out of steam career-wise by then. Clearly out of obligation, The McGuire Sisters invited me up on stage. I froze but couldn’t let my folks down, so trembled onwards. I sang along to ‘Sugartime’, probably spoiling everyone’s reason for attending. And the cherry on top was a visit to their dressing room afterwards, a motel room actually, part of the club’s complex, where the three of them were playing cards and eating sandwiches between shows.

Pretty good start, right? My first taste.

Don't Ever Leave Me / Connie Francis

Listen: Don’t Ever Leave Me / Connie Francis
ConnieFrancis.mp3

Shortly thereafter, I got into Connie Francis. This all preceded The Ronettes and Shangri-Las fixations which were just around the corner. Suggestive women in tight skirts was the common thread I guess.

I’m not quite sure what my infatuation with Connie Francis was all about but I went off her pretty quickly, probably due to a chilly and quick dressing room visit right after the show. Hey I was a little kid, lighten up lady. Still, to be fair, it was probably cramping her style. She absolutely made many, many great records.

‘Don’t Ever Leave Me’, her one and only attempt at the girl group sound, written and produced by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the team you went to for just this type of material then, is a keeper. A classic single in fact. (#42, 10/64).

She wore a very nice blue chiffon ensemble that night, that I do remember, and she smelled great.

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.

The M.G.M. Studio Orchestra

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Listen: Bird Bath / The M.G.M. Studio Orchestra
Bird

The Mercury/Philips/Fontana labels were, in my opinion, secretly the best when it came to 60′s soundtracks. The industry elite likely considered United Artists or MGM to be the cream, but I just don’t think so. Those labels were outlets for their sister film divisions, so for quantity, they far outdid the Mercury group, but not quality.

Like Fontana’s BLACK ORPHEUS, the Mercury soundtrack to the Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton clunker THE SANDPIPER is slammed full of period piece background music, almost generically perfect for any B movie all nighter. In fact, despite the film being an MGM release, my guess is the loud thud of the movie’s flop meant their record division hot potatoed the soundtrack. What a God-send for Mercury.

And seriously, this Quincy Jones produced album is all over the map. In fact, via liner notes from the hand of composer Johnny Mandel himself, he intentionally attempted to accomplish something different in soundtrack music, wherein the “wildest possible variety of sounds and tempo….the surf, the grandeur of the mountains, the beauty of the land” were rolled into one whopping must of a vinyl album, not omitting the ultimate schlock standard ‘Shadow Of Your Smile’ along the way.

But it’s the closing track, and miraculously the 7″ single choice, ‘Bird Bath’ that takes the cake and really makes no sense in the context of all the other songs. Bordering on teen beat, late 50′s style, this was beautifully out of step by it’s release in ’65.

Why on earth did anyone at Mercury think this would get airplay and be a hit? Well, whoever made that decision, I sure would like to thank them. ‘Bird Bath’ is magic.

Herman’s Hermits

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Listen: You Won’t Be Leaving / Herman’s Hermits
You

Somehow I found myself pulling out a bunch of Herman’s Hermits singles the other night. I guess I really liked quite a few, but moved along through the years never much remembering them or revisiting either. They are in one of those pockets on the wall shelf that seems to get minimal browsing.

Whatever. There I was. Oh right, why was ‘You Won’t Be Leaving’ ever released as a 7″ in the US? Never could quite figure that one out. If you look closely, their string of hits were pretty intense for a few years, with often two or more records in the Top 100 simultaneously, some being released a mere four weeks after the previous one.

As with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, my local Top 40′s would premier a new song as quickly as a copy could be airmailed over from England. ‘You Won’t Be Leaving’ was no exception. As with a few others (‘No Milk Today’, ‘There’s a Kind Of Hush’, ‘Silhouttes’), this was a one listen for me.

Funny enough, it never did get released, but instead found it’s way onto a then current US album that I somehow ended up with, so I was content.

Years later in the late 80′s, an easy find at the Record & Tape Exchange, Notting Hill, for pennies. Not so sure this one time bargain A label would be so cheap nowadays though.

Arthur Alexander / The Gentrys

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Listen: Go Home Girl / Arthur Alexander ArthurAlexanderGoHomeGirl.mp3

If you aren’t familiar with ‘You Better Move On’, probably his most successful song, you can pretty much hear it when listening to ‘Go Home Girl’. Not that this is a bad thing, which one might logically assume. Together with a few others he wrote like ‘Anna’ and ‘Everyday I Have To Cry’, Arthur Alexander is credited with premiering southern country soul. No idea if that’s true, but happy to jump on board.

GentrysEverday, Gentrys, MGM

Listen: Everyday I Have To Cry / The Gentrys Gentrys.mp3

Who doesn’t love The Rolling Stones version of ‘You Better Move On’. As well, The Gentrys rendition of ‘Everyday I Have To Cry’, both released in the mid-60′s.

The way history is written, you’d believe the days when original RnB records reaching white kids by anyone other than Pat Boone ended in the late 50′s. Not really true.

Twice As Much

Sunday, November 14th, 2010


Listen: Step Out Of Line / Twice As Much TwiceAsMuchStep.mp3

Just as there was never any question in my mind who conquerd the decades old Beatles vs. Rolling Stones challenge, so too did that boil over and apply to their respective managers. Brain Epstein vs. Andrew Loog Oldham.

Opinions don’t matter. The facts are the facts.

Brain Epstein’s roster: The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, Cilla Black and The Remo Four.

Andrew Loog Oldham’s roster: The Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull, The Poets, The Mighty Avengers, Vashti and Twice As Much.

Then there was ALO’s Immediate Records roster: The Small Faces, The Nice, The Amen Corner, The Outer Limits, P.P. Arnold, Chris Farlowe and again, The Poets and Twice As Much.

Okay…..I will stop now and show some mercy.

Focusing on the clear champion had me thinking today about Twice As Much. In a constant quest to emmulate Phil Spector’s production style, ALO applied many attempts to the squeaky clean Twice As Much. Possibly going a touch too far by giving them a very California ’67 sound, a year earlier in ’66 funny enough.

On this second single, David Skinner and Andrew Rose were allowed to write both sides, unlike their first and much of their other records, which conveniently slotted in Jagger/Richards and Marriott/Lane songs.


Listen: Simplified / Twice As Much TwiceAsMuchSimplified.mp3

It’s this B side which is their real gem, maybe their best ever. Pretty dependable at picking hits, I’m not sure how Andrew fumbled hiding ‘Simplified’ on a flip side.

I recall my pal Denny getting a copy of this in late summer of that year, and we both played in relentlessly for weeks.

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?

The Gentrys

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Listen: Speard It On Thick / The Gentrys GentrysSpread.mp3

Listen: Brown Paper Sack / The Gentrys GentrysBrown.mp3

I really believe this band got cheated out a of much brighter career due to MGM’s mess up. After having a monster smash (#4) with ‘Keep On Dancing’, one of several local garage band records that caught on regionally, in hometown Memphis, and being quickly scooped up by a major, the single continued it’s ascent to success. Produced by ‘about to be’ super succeassful Chips Moman (The Box Tops, Merrilee Rush, Sandy Posey, Joe Tex, Wilson Picket, Herbie Mann), the label awarded the follow up, ‘Spread It On Thick’, with a full color sleeve (indicating ‘let’s go for it’), but confusingly the equally strong B side ‘Brown Paper Sack’ was afforded premier biling on the other side of the same sleeve (see above).

Talk about mixed signals. Some stations played one side, some the other – immediately splitting airplay reports and sales tallys, thereby watering down either song’s visibility to the all important, major market, tight playlisted Top 40 stations, most of who would seldom jump on a single until it reached at least #40, and then only if accompanied by that infamous brown paper sack.

And so the unravelling of a strong future began.

“Spread It On Thick’ peaked at #50. while ‘Brown Paper Sack’ (the song not the well known, aforementioned envelope slipped to radio PD’s and MD’s with a few honey bees inside. Yes, it’s called payola – still is) stalled at #101. Obviously there were many empty brown paper sacks from MGM for this one.

GentrysEveryday, Gentrys, MGMGentrysEverday, Gentrys, MGM

Listen: Everyday I Have To Cry / The Gentrys Gentrys.mp3

Somebody at MGM believed in The Gentrys and had juice, as they were allowed to struggle along, releasing more good singles and a second album, GENTRY TIME, from which ‘Everyday I Have To Cry’ comes.

No idea whatsoever where I picked up the promo of this, but only just now realized it must have come from a radio station library, and indeed one that used the Billboard chart positions as reference.

Have a look at each number crossed off in red. It’s the record’s chart progression on the Hot 100, when in it’s final week, whereby it peaked at #77, there are a couple of black, instead of red, lines through the number. Was the station’s coding system to use black as a way to indicate a record’s position during it’s final week? Who knows, but I like to speculate yes. NO ONE else on earth would care mind you.

I certainly heard this more than a few times on the air, and went for it straight away. What a great song, right down to the untouched Memphis accents.

Janis Ian

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

janisianfriends, Janis Ian, MGM, Verve Forcast, Verve, Joan Armatrading

Listen: Friends Again / Janis Ian JanisIanFriends.mp3

I also find it hard to believe I love this record, given my dislike for the female singer/songwriter, should have never quit nursing school types. When I did A&R at Columbia in the early 90′s, with acts like Jewel and Sheryl Crow gaining huge success stories, there were an endless stream of wannabe-light versions coming by to play their demo – or worse yet – perform for you in the office, while manager and occasional friend/sister/brother tapped their toes and smiled along with the music. I got smart fast and soon, before they’d even start, I’d say “Are you as good as Joan Armatrading?”. Of course they would consistently wither out a “no” – so I’d politely say let’s not bother. Made it easier for everyone.

Still, I do play ‘Friends Again’ often. It wasn’t a hit, never even graced the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart. Expecting more political songwriting risk post her ‘Society’s Child’ smash, I suppose this just seemed like fluff. But it’s a happy song about friends, and everyone wants them, so what’s the problem? At least my local Top 40 played it a few times (see chart below). That’s how I heard it. And at 1:42, it never wears out it’s welcome.

wndr9_13_68, WNDR, Janis Ian

Spyder Turner

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

spyderstand, MGM, Spyder Turner, Billy Stewart, Ben E. King, Sirius, James Brown, Eddie Kendricks

Listen: Stand By Me / Spyder Turner Spyder.mp3

This version of ‘Stand By Me’ is the one way too many people overlooked or more likely, sadly never heard – despite it being a big US hit (#3 Pop, #12 RnB) in ’67. The accompanying album is great too. If you stumble on a copy, buy it.

Credit to Sirius Radio. I caught this one while listening during a recent JetBlue flight. I don’t recall the station’s name, maybe The Joint or something like that.

A possible blame for his short career may indeed be MGM Records. They just didn’t have the roster, and therefore the leverage, when it came to RnB. A+ for trying though.

Listen through until the end – he does some killer vocal impersonations. The Billy Stewart take is spot on and Jackie Wilson’s is priceless. They’re all pretty sweet.

Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

samtheshamjujups, Sam The Sham, Sam The Sham & The Pharoaohs, MGM, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Dr. John, ? & The Mysterians, The Sir Douglas Quintet, The Mothers Of Invention

Listen: Ju Ju Hand / Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs SamTheShamJuJu.mp3

samtheshamring,samtheshamjujups, Sam The Sham, Sam The Sham & The Pharoaohs, MGM, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Dr. John, ? & The Mysterians, The Sir Douglas Quintet, The Mothers Of Invention

Listen: Ring Dang Doo / Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs SamTheShamRing.mp3

Throw together the music of Dr. John, The Sir Douglas Quintet and ? & The Mysterians, a bit of The Mothers Of Inventions’s intimidating looks and bang, you end up with Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs. Deservedly, they had some huge hits. You can probably still catch ‘Wooly Bully or ‘Lil Red Riding Hood’ on the oldies stations. But I guarentee you – don’t hold your breath waiting for ‘Ju Ju Hand’ to get played.

Polishing their style as resident house band at the perfectly named Congo Club in Louisiana, the self pressed ‘Wooly Bully’ blew up, selling three million singles in ’65, and was pretty quickly licensed to MGM. Expectations for ‘Ju Ju Hand’, it’s followup, were clearly high. You can always tell when the label would spring for a full color sleeve. Probably a touch too Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, it stalled at #26 and quickly fell back. Oddly, it’s followup, the heavily played ‘Ring Dang Doo’ repeated the process hitting #33.

Then Sam, real name Domingo Samudio, revamped those original Pharoahs, or maybe they quit – whatever – and the remaining releases (still lots of good ones) proceeded with lineups anew.