Archive for the ‘BBC’ Category

The Pioneers

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Listen: Long Shot Kick The Bucket / The Pioneers
Long

I caught the documentary bug this past week, uncovering several from the UK that I’d had no idea even existed. It all started with BBC 4′s PUNK BRITANNIA. Then noticing several other episodes in the series along the right hand column of the screen, well my free time suddenly evaporated. Each one so good, you almost want to speed them up a bit just to get onto the next.

The series’ producers coincidentally chose The Pioneers ‘Long Shot Kick The Bucket’ to open the REGGAE BRITANNIA edition. For me, it’s easily a song that time machines me right back to the day, or at least how I like to think it all was. Start watching this episode and trust me, you’ll be glued to the screen, much like the first time I recall hearing the record and being glued to the turntable just watching it spin. This was in ROCK ON, March ’77. The record was a common item at the time. And for 50p, it became mine.

Like several ska and reggae singles beginning in the late 60′s, ‘Long Shot Kick The Bucket’ became a UK hit, reaching #21 in ’69, then re-entering in’80 and peaking at #40.

In ’89, to celebrate 25 years of Jamaican Music, Island Records’ UK office compiled a seven LP box set, PRESSURE DROP, which included the track. ‘Long Shot Kick The Bucket’ was originally released on Island’s Trojan imprint in ’69, and as part of that 25 year celebration, it was one of four tracks chosen to promote the box via a 7″ EP on their reggae and world imprint, Mango. As part of Island’s normal policy, a Mango stock sleeve housed the vinyl inside a cardboard outer cover, both pictured above.

REGGAE BRITANNIA:

Robert Miles

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Listen: One And One (Featuring Maria Nayler) / Robert Miles
One And One (Featuring Maria Nayler) / Robert Miles

From the onset, 12″ dance singles triggered an initially slow, then ever increasing decline in demand for 7′s, as pretty much every other genre gained release on the album sized format too. At it’s peak, club music was almost never issued on a traditional 7″ pressing. The resilience of the mighty 7″ record won out in the end, with 12′s waning drastically at present, and the trusty 45 single having weathered a terrible storm yet healthy once again.

Instinctively, I never passed up a promotional, or retail for that matter, 7″ during the 80′s and especially the 90′s, particularly dance and electronic singles.

Almost in fear of insulting tradition, there were a decent handful of limited run, radio/dj 7′s pressed in the UK by the majors. Sometimes friends at the actual labels would have very hard times finding a copy, but the pest in me never let up. This Robert Miles single being an example. I noticed one propped against the board in the on-air studio at BBC London one day when visiting Jim Lahat. I wanted to steal it, but knew better. Good karma paid off, ended up with a copy only a few days later, unplayed. They were long days, by the way.

Released October 28, 1996, there’s a sticker on the back cover, ‘One And One’ became a serious favorite, and I mean a true serious favorite. A stunning example of how, when you think it can get no better, a key change, here at the 2:57 mark, happily proves you wrong. This record sounded great everywhere, on early morning BBC breakfast shows and at night’s end in clubs. I heard it in both places, so I can vouch. When this shuffles up on my ipod, the repeat command immediately gets triggered.

Now here’s a forgotten treasure some up and coming major label chanteuse should give a go to.

Steeleye Span

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Listen: Hard Times Of Old England / Steeleye Span
Hard

I can completely understand why some folks found Maddy Prior’s voice grating. Never really noticed until now, all these years later. Sometimes I’m clearly asleep at the wheel. For instance, during the commercial heyday of southern rock, I couldn’t for the life of me get why the US was not into Roy Wood’s Wizzard or Sparks. So there you go.

Folk rock, as with jazz, seems allowed to deal themselves the occasional out of jail free card. In the case of a voice, there are plenty of folkies who get appreciated, where in any other genre, that same person would be considered unacceptable. The Incredible String Band or The Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee come to mind.

Whatever. ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ was a big favorite when current. I played the hell out of it on my college station, not exactly a fit in upsate New York.

Although the single was not a UK chart success, unlike some of Steeleye Span’s other releases, one would have thought it might turn into an anthem, ever present on pub jukeboxes across the land. A bit like The Strawbs‘ ‘Part Of The Union’.

The record certainly got embraced by the BBC heavily, the public just didn’t buy it.

The Kinks

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Listen: The Village Green Preservation Society (Mono Single Version) / The Kinks
The

Our dear friend Nancy Rose from London recently visited New York, as always, with piles of gifts for the whole family. She has the kindest heart on earth.

We met centuries ago, well in the last one, when we were all Kinks stalkers. Those who worshiped The Kinks, by telepathy or something, all found each other, unswayable from the band’s God-like greatness. Actually, it was Corinne who first befriended Nancy, but before long, her Los Angeles Kinks circle and our east coast one were a team.

When we get together now, we reminisce stories deep and many, and truly become kids again. Yet another power that The Kinks possessed that we didn’t even know about until decades later.

So back to this batch of gifts, included was a BIG ISSUE cover story on the Ray Davies’ curated Meltdown Festival from June. The feature and interview are so, well, so Ray. If you’re a Kinks person, you’ll understand.

The event’s a multi-day, yearly happening. Ray chose to center it around the 60′s and included various acts and speakers from that period, including Vicki Wickham. It culminated with a full London Philharmonic Orchestra presentation of THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY, the infamous 1968 album that flopped on release, charted nowhere, but has gone on through the years to be rightfully revered as one of the greatest recordings of all time.

Presently, it’s The Kinks best selling album ever. Did you get that? Ever. And has been certified platinum in the US.

Ray Davies has recently referred to it as the “most successful flop of all time”. Never give up hope for musical justice.

Maybe the greatest thing the US Musician’s Union ever did was ban The Kinks from performing here for three years, due to reasons no one has ever officialized. Once the ban was lifted, and they returned in October ’69, the stalking began. The press referred to the band and their followers as a cult.

But those three years of not playing America, and not being influenced by Haight Ashbury and the Viet Nam war and all that, meant The Kinks we all now love were born or I should probably say, reborn. To quote Ray Davies from said BIG ISSUE piece: “When we realized we couldn’t go back, I withdrew into complete Englishness and quaintness.”

Thank you United States Musician’s Union.

‘The Village Green Preservation Society’, above in mono, is a different greatness than it’s stereo sister. I love both. Particularly at exactly 2:21, the way Ray sings “Donald Duck”, completely untreated by studio gimmicks, not double tracked or harmonized with Dave, is a real spine tingler for every Kinks person. This I guarantee you.

One of the all time greatest television moments ever comes at exactly :29 – :33, whether by accident or design, the shot of Ray Davies, Dave Davies and John Dalton is perfection. Despite being from a 1972 BBC televised concert, it is the only known early performance of the song to exist. I hope the copyright police don’t ever remove it

Marie Knight

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Listen: Cry Me A River / Marie Knight
Cry Me A River / Marie Knight

Hey thanks Vicki Wickham, for keeping this one since the 60′s. Yes, it was part of her 45 collection that I was gifted by Saint Vicki herself last fall.

You know, I love you Vicki Wickham.

Let’s talk about Vicki Wickham. We first met in ’89, when she managed Phranc during her Island days. I remember exactly where we first shook hands: backstage at the Beacon Theater, in the the very stairway where Ahmet Ertegan took his last spill. Phranc had just hired her, and was at that time on tour with The Pogues.

I was actually meeting thee Vicki Wickham. The one that booked READY! STEADY! GO!, managed Dusty Springfield, co-wrote ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ with Simon Napier-Bell, produced Labelle. The one who not only booked the infamous Saville Theatre series, brought the Motown Review to England, worked at Track Records with The Who, Thunderclap Newman, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Marsha Hunt, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, John’s Children, and yes, The Cherry Smash; but also knew Scott Walker…and Brian Jones. I was nervous and in awe. Vicki Wickham was a higher form of life.

Fast forward. Nowadays, we meet often for lunch, on 9th Ave and 44th Street at Marseilles, possibly her favorite restaurant. She always orders the asparagus omelette and eats about half. I grill her for details: RSG, The BBC during the 60′s, Rediffusion Television, Top Of The Pops not to mention every band and everybody she ever encountered. Did she visit the Immediate Records office, Deram, Philips, Fontana. What was the Ready Steady Go canteen like, did she know Tony Hall, Steve Marriott, Inez Foxx, Joe Meek, Dozy. When did she last speak with Andrew Loog Oldham, P.P. Arnold or Madeline Bell…..we cover, discuss, judge and trash tons of people. Yes, we are guilty. Needless to say, there’s never a loss for topics.

On one such occasion last year, she mentions having just found boxes of 45′s in storage, and the only one she can remember seeing in the whole bunch was the Bessie Banks ‘Go Now’ UK A label pressing. Was I interested in the lot? That’s like asking Alago, Duane, Joe and I if we’d like a free bump in the VIP bathroom at The Ritz in the 80′s. Ahh, yeah.

Vicki, you ARE a saint, and a beloved friend.

And you turned me on to Marie Knight. Praise be.

Propellerheads / Les Rythmes Digitales

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Listen: Take California / Propellerheads
Take California / Propellerheads

In ’96, Wall Of Sound released Propellerheads ‘Take California’. The label had been set up by Mark Jones and Marc Lessner not long before, and had quickly become dependable.

‘Take California’ was one of many singles Gary Crowley played me at his Maida Vale apartment on that London trip. His place was a favorite stop as he gave the best crash course when it came to anything new and worthwhile.

Located literally across the street from the studios used by the BBC to record their live sessions ever since the 50′s, I’d stand in his front bay windows and in my head flip through the almost endless list of acts that walked through those very doorways ahead, as he’d spin his favorite recent releases, always a bit mesmerized by both.

Mind you, it was a pretty good time for dance and electronic music 1996. Much like punk in it’s heyday, there were loads of fun singles coming out weekly. On that visit, Gary played me ‘Take California’ really loud, and it was a jolt. Bless him, I hardly finished asking, before he promptly rang and set me up. Seriously, about an hour later, I was in a cab making my way toward South London to meet Mark Jones at Wall Of Sound’s Farm Lane office. The next night, Gary and I were at Ministry Of Sound to meet Marc Lessner, and see the Propellerheads live. It all happened that fast.

Jonesy, as he likes to be called and we all like to call him, hoisted a stack of records my way, talked for a good two hours and made plans to try working Wall Of Sound into a deal through Columbia for America. I couldn’t wait to take “Take California’ back home and play it for everyone, including Donnie Ienner, our chairman.

His response: “There’s no vocal.”

“Well, that’s the point.” But in fairness, Donnie wanted to explore the idea of representing the label in the US, and we proceeded to try.

Never did succeed, and Jonesy never did find a US partner.

Listen: Kontakte / Les Rythmes Digitales
Kontakte / Les Rythmes Digitales

One of those early Wall Of Sound acts were Les Rythmes Digitales. In essence, it was one guy, Stuart Price. Nice kid, great writer, great producer, great head of spiked out bright red dyed hair. Known professionally at the time as Jacques Lu Cont, as with Les Rythmes Digitales, both names were initially an attempt at attaching to the then current vogue for French house. Stuart went on to great success.

‘Kontakte’ traded on the darker side of dance, similar to Dr. Octagon, and the track would have probably suited 4hero’s ‘Mr. Kirk’s Nightmare’ better as it’s musical bed.

A very nicely packaged, and scarce, 7″ this.

The Jess Roden Band

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Listen: Me And Crystal Eye / The Jess Roden Band
Me And Crystal Eye / The Jess Roden Band

Dream job: pulling singles from – then filing them back into – the BBC master record library. If only the dj’s still played vinyl and there was a full time, 24/7, never ending job doing just that, I’d yank every string I could to land it. But it’s never to be.

So, best pass time in the world: pulling out, then filing back singles at home. Thing is, the whole process can easily turn into an all day/night journey that bounces me from the wall shelves, to segueing 7′s on the turntables, over to my reference books checking chart numbers or values, then pulling out albums, back to the turntables, back to the singles and on and on. And that’s exactly what went down December 19, 2010 right here at home.

Filing away a few 7′s by The Riot Squad and The Rolling Stones meant my fingers did some walking straight to The Jess Roden Band’s section. Having a complete collection of their singles is a very content feeling. In fact there’s not a one Jess Roden’s ever even sang on missing from my library, be it by The Alan Bown!, Bronco, The Butts Band, The Rivets, The Keef Hartley Band, you name it.

If push came to shove, and a favorite Jess Roden single choice was really ever required, say before a firing squad, ‘Me And Crystal Eye’ would win. His white New Orleans funk was always believable, because his voice was kind of unbelievable considering, he was from England.

It’d been a while since I pulled out the albums as well. Today had me spot playing stuff from BLOWIN’, PLAY IT CLASS PLAY IT DIRTY, The Jess Roden Band’s live EP from The Marquee, even the US pressing of THE ALAN BOWN! on Deram. All a result of pulling out ‘Me And Crystal Eye’. A single can be a very powerful thing.

Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This Wheel's On Fire / Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity

Listen: This Wheel's On Fire / Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity 11 This Wheel's On Fire.mp3

This single had a groundbreaking drug feel to it at the time (’68). I remember in the late 77, when my then girlfriend Corinne & I made our first trip to London together, shopping in Hammersmith’s outdoor market, full of cheap clothing stalls, really greasy food, used everything (including records), reggae stalls, fruits/vegetables outdoor market stuff. This was in March, perfectly cold, damp, drizzly, all the dealers drinking tea from chipped stained cups, kleenex stuffed into their cuffs for ever dripping noses and transistor radios going, all blaring BBC Radio 1. On comes ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’. Despite everything I just described, I was in heaven, now especially. We were in England! And that record playing at that very moment is forever burned into my memory. Timing was perfect.

This version is a pretty well known one, and like many songs it got a bit of a deserved break years later when ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS used it as their theme, despite a re-recorded version but still sung nonetheless by Julie but sans Brian Auger. Long before the Ab Fab usage, she was adamant about using her married name, Tippett instead of Driscoll, fair enough I guess. But, I hear she refuses to perform this song live, claims it’s too pop (she only sings jazz now). If that’s true, I say lighten up Jools. For me, it’s her best recorded performance, although the STREETNOISE album is pretty stellar. It’s a double LP, quite rare in those days, and I remember my Aunt Carm, God love her, buying it as a present for passing all my Regents Exams that June. I warned her it was a double album and therefore twice the price. She said I was worth it and just wanted me to be happy, even though she couldn’t really afford it. Is that great or what? As you can see, I’ve never forgotten.