Archive for the ‘The Ronettes’ Category

The McGuire Sisters / Connie Francis

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Sugartime / The McGuire Sisters

Listen: Sugartime / The McGuire Sisters

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

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.

Dave & Ansil Collins

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Listen: Double Barrel / Dave & Ansil Collins

Once Desmond Dekker & The Aces’ ‘Israelites’ became a US hit in ’68, occasional ska tracks began getting domestic releases, usually on small indies. Occasionally, as with Johnny Nash or Prince Buster, a major might take a chance, but not often.

Such was the case with Dave & Ansil Collins ‘Double Barrel’. Future Atlantic subsidiary Big Tree, then funded by Apmex Tape, took a shot, so to speak and ended up with a #22 US hit. And believe me, it cleansed the ear palate when it hit the airwaves back then, the song sounded fantastic.

By this time, I was blagging risqué RnB, soul and English rock singles every Friday evening from the local easy listening station, WMCR, who had absolutely no use for them, and certainly no use for ska. Half the fun of the impending weekend for me was tearing out of school right after last period and biking it to the station, rain, sleet or snow. Nothing stood between me and those 45′s. My pile was always waiting, and the anticipation was a buzz in itself. Size did matter here, the bigger the stack, the better.

Other than the evening DJ, and station owner Mrs. Warner, the place was deserted. She’d encourage me to sit in their production studio, complete with two turntables, full broadcast board, headphones, microphone, the works and just play the pile to my heart’s content. Clearly she got a charge out my hysteria for the records, and told me such many times through the years. Honestly, I don’t think records have ever again sounded as good as they did in that fluorescently lit, climate controlled, new equipment, newly pressed vinyl scented studio so many years ago.

Like when this would come on the air of the local Top 40′s after charting nationally, that first listen in the WMCR studio just wiped clean my ears. Ska, blue beat and reggae were in short supply then.

Listen: Double Barrel (Instrumental) / Dave & Ansil Collins

My first knee jerk about the infamous instrumental B sides were that we were getting burned. I recall the flip to Napoleon XIV’s ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haa!’ being the A side backwards. If ever there was an act I wanted to hear another song by, it was him, so it seemed cheating. Same with all those Philles B sides. No Ronettes or Crystals on the flips, instead dreadful instrumentals that took me years to appreciate. And so with this, on first look, I was annoyed.

Turns out the much anticipated dub B side was just ahead, and this instrumental ended up getting played almost as much as the A side that night, and at home. In fact, I probably choose it on the jukebox 2 to 1 over the A.

The Chants

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Listen: She’s Mine / The Chants

The Chants, despite a very ordinary name, were different than most from the British Invasion era. Basically a five piece vocal group with no musicians in their lineup, their real historical moment came late in ’62 when turning up at The Cavern Club for an audition without a band. The Beatles offered to fill in, but Brian Epstein objected. John Lennon overruled and The Chants made their Cavern dubut in November of that year with his band providing the backing.

Phil Ward turned me on to this one, having been hooked on it big time. At first, I mistook them to have Phil Spector involvement, given ‘She’s Mine’ could double for any number from The Crystals or The Ronettes songbook pretty easily with the arrangements and even production not unlike his.

Released in the US on Interphon got my curiosity up. Being Vee Jay’s subsidiary imprint, created exclusively for UK product, meant The Chants were English. Digging through my hardcore, only for obsessed collectors, research books allowed the plot to thicken and the above piece of trivia to be uncovered. Never knew it until recently.

Why didn’t Interphon market them via that Beatles connection? This was ’64, and anything Beatles was contagious. The label could easily have spread the rumor it was indeed them on the record. What a blunder.

The Angels

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Jamaica Joe / The Angels

Listen: Jamaica Joe / The Angels
Jamaica Joe / The Angels

The girl groups from the sixties were the first to catch my attention. It all started really early with The McGuire Sisters’ and their hit, ‘Sugartime’, which had pretty high kid appeal. Then I noticed The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las…….and The Angels.

Their #1, ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ seems to have survived decades of airplay, still spun a lot on the oldies formats. I know because it’s one of the few I can bare if forced to listen on a long trip or something.

The local Syracuse stations played a lot of Angels singles including the national non-hit ‘Jamaica Joe’. Seems they chose this one despite it being relegated to the B side as the sleeve suggests.

The actual promo copy doesn’t indicate an A side which could explain. Well I’m glad they did, I loved it for months at the time and still do. It was my first taste of ska on re-examination. And it went down a storm when I’d spin it out.

Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Above and below: Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band ‘Say Goodbye To Hollywood’ picture sleeve, front and back

Listen: Say Goodbye To Hollywood (Mono) / Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band
Say Goodbye To Hollywood / Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band

Matt recently told me of his experience discovering The Ronettes via Pandora Radio, just a few weeks back. It was his first exposure. I often refer to certain vocalists, like Ronnie Spector, as being from a time period when one had to really sing in order to make records. That technical ability resonated, and upon hearing ‘Be My Baby’ during Pandora’s random, computer logic song choice playlist, got up to check the LED read out. His story concluded with an exclamation of her undeniable singing abilities, and now knowing exactly what I meant.

Every once in a while, along comes a superstar to the rescue of an idol, feeling more than indebted to said legend. Such was the case in ’77 for Ronnie Spector, with Little Steven Van Zandt (using his beyond brilliant alias Sugar Miami Steve) and Bruce Springsteen getting involved.

Recording and releasing Billy Joel’s apparent Ronnie Spector tribute song, ‘Say Goodbye To Hollywood’, as the first single (posted above in promo only mono) from the forthcoming album (Epic PE 34683), a benchmark moment in 45 rpm history occurred. Lending The E Street Band’s entire line-up, signature sound (the group an obvious Phil Spector salute themselves) and services to her avail, a flop seemed clearly impossible. Not.

Leave it to US radio. No airplay was deemed worthy, despite the clout of Bruce Springsteen, Epic, Billy Joel, you name it. What a sacrilegious scar to every programmer involved.

Typically, in major label fashion, that forthcoming album (Epic PE 34683) was shelved, and back to the salt mines/oldies circuit went Ronnie Spector, frustratingly having made yet another timeless single and earning nothing. How fucked up.

The Rolling Stones / Ian Stewart & The Railroaders

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Listen: I Wanna Be Your Man / The Rolling Stones RollingStomesWannaBe.mp3

Like every other kid, I was crazy about The Beatles after seeing their first Sunday night ED SULLIVAN SHOW performance, and that was quite by accident. I knew nothing of The Beatles prior to them appearing on the screen. My folks watched the program religiously, it’s how we ended the weekend basically, it’s 9pm broadcast, then off to sleep.

Most parents regretted the moment that band hit the airwaves, a nationwide frenzy occurred on the spot. Seriously, there was chaos in school that next day. It was like no one could concentrate, and Beatlemania literally avalanched the youth of America. Little did we know, the best was yet to come.

I have forever proudly said, “I loved The Beatles until one minute into ‘Not Fade Away’ on HOLLYWOOD PALACE.” For true, nothing can compare to The Rolling Stones’ US television debut. Suddenly, we’d been hit dead center, this time for real.

Two days later, by the Monday, I had somehow mustered up enough money to buy The Rolling Stones’ full length, ENGLAND’S NEWEST HIT MAKERS and their single ‘Not Fade Away’ at Perrin’s Drug Store. Having eyed multiple copies of each sitting unsold for several weeks prior, I was panicked all day Sunday they’d be gone. Luckily, there they sat, waiting. The album had the poster insert, and the 7″ was in the picture sleeve. I still tingle at the memory. How could I have been so stupid as to leave the others behind?

Along with the great black and whites being printed in 16 MAGAZINE and TEEN SCREEN, the articles mentioned the band’s previous single having been a Beatles song. And this I needed a copy of. Given my cousins were in the jukebox business, they became my prime target for as much Rolling Stones content as possible, and it was my Dad who convinced Uncle Dominick to search out more records for the little pest, me.

Low and behold, he delivered a copy of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, as an A side, a few weeks later. I had often asked about the record’s origination, and was told it came from his regular one-stop. Years later, when I got my first job in a one stop record distributor, it all became clear, as indeed there were always a few piles of promo 7′s in the office, said copies waiting to be auditioned and considered for bulk purchase. Bless them for rescuing this gem from the rubbish bin.

The official US commercial release of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ has forever been in question. Seems the choice was quickly overshadowed by ‘Not Fade Away’ and apparently very few copies, promo or stock, found their way to the public, making this even more cherished.

Listen: Stoned / The Rolling Stones RollingStonesStoned.mp3

As with ‘Now I’ve Got A Witness’ from ENGLAND’S NEWEST HIT MAKERS and ’2120 South Michigan Avenue’ from 12X5, B side ‘Stoned’ grabbed my ear. Where’s the singer?

Yes, I was at first disappointed with the lack of vocals, but there was always so much enjoyment coming off these instrumental tracks, you could just tell the band loved playing this stuff, almost like it was home to them. And having worked very early on with Phil Spector, it’s clear his blessing encouraged them, given so many of his singles by The Ronettes and The Crystals coupled throwaway (at the time) jams on their B sides. Quick on the studio time and easy as a publishing grab.

Listen: Stu-Ball / Ian Stewart & The Railroaders IanStewartStuBall.mp3

When Bill Wyman produced Bobbie Miller’s ‘Everywhere I Go’ for UK Decca in ’66, word is he assembled various Rolling Stones and the band’s life long silent member Ian Stewart for the session. In true Phil Spector fashion, the resulting studio jam yielded B side ‘Stu-Ball’, credited to Ian Stewart & The Railroaders. Unlike earlier instrumentals from The Rolling Stones, this copy took more than a few weeks to land. More like a few decades.

Jan & Dean

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Dead Man's Curve / Jan & Dean

Listen: Dead Man’s Curve / Jan & Dean JanDeanDead.mp3

Right after my little kid fascination with The McGuire Sisters, I moved on to The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. This process seemed an eternity, but was actually only a year or two span. No sooner had the girl groups caught my ear, than surf took hold. Even though we lived in upstate New York, our favorite sport was surfing. At least that’s what we all agreed. I’m not a deeply knowledgeable collector of surf, but I do love a lot of the big hits. Summertime poured out of our transistor radios when any of the many surf singles were played, regardless of the season. Most friends were drawn to The Beach Boys, and indeed ‘Surfin USA’ and ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ still tingle like a first listen every play. But Jan & Dean for me were most consistent. These two singles, over time, have risen to the top. No secret that Brian Wilson co-wrote many of their hits, and that Jan was very involved in Beach Boys recordings too. It must have been an incredible time in LA.

‘Dead Man’s Curve’ is particularly eerie, given the near fatal crash two years after it’s release suffered by Jan Berry very close to the actual dead man’s curve, on Whittier Drive and Sunset Blvd. I have often driven past there, late at night, on my way back from John’s place just the other side of Bel Air, and would creep myself out by blasting this on the ipod. I know the route that the lyrics describe by heart. The fantasy of drag racing along Sunset, past Doheny and onward to the curve in a bright red Corvette is irresistible. Cheap thrills for a non resident basically.

Still all the history of LA and Hollywood never ceases to attract my morbid side. Years ago, Denise Zoom drove Joey and I to where the Tate murders happened. We were pretty buzzed, it was late and feeling adventurous. Halfway up the drive we both started shouting and screaming for her to stop – and back up. Never did make it all the way to the top. We were brave enough to drive past the garage where Sal Mineo was stabbed later that night though.

Ride The Wild Surf / Jan & Dean

Listen: Ride The Wild Surf / Jan & Dean JanDeanRideWild.mp3

Even ‘Ride The Wild Surf’ has a spine chiller element to it. Never could place what. The melody? The strings? The power of the ocean? They all make for an anthemic song not often given it’s dues anymore.


Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Act Naturally / Betty Willis

Listen: Act Naturally / Betty Willis 01 Act Naturally.mp3

In my quest to get all the Phi-Dan singles, this has been the most elusive. Finally snagged it last week and man, was it worth the wait. Although the label was Phil Spector’s, all the releases were not his productions. In fact, Leon Russell took charge on this 1965 single. ‘Act Naturally’ is way better than I was anticipating. It’s over the top RnB meets mock Spector drama, as opposed to a more predictable country rendition. The little known Betty Willis is super hot on this, only her second single in five years, even some of those screeches are forgivable. Great one Betty, I love you.

Soul / Betty Willis

Listen: Soul / Betty Willis BettyWillisSoul.mp3

Then there’s the B side ‘Soul’. In what appeared to be Phil Spector policy, the flip is a jam – an obvious publishing grab. Remember the disappointment when flipping The Ronettes ‘Be My Baby’ to find ‘Tedesco & Pitman’, a real drag of an instrumental at the time? A solid guess would be this here’s Leon on piano – and God knows who else. Great track though.

Bo Diddley

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Crawdad / Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley jukebox tab

Listen: Crawdad / Bo Diddley 01 Crawdad.mp3

I starting collecting artist-signed jukebox tabs when I got my 1st Seeburg. It was an aqua/lavender/chrome 1956 model that held 100 singles, with the records housed in a circular carousel that spun around until the desired choice was located, then an arm would reach for the single and put it onto the spinning platter. The tonearm would proceed to lift & set on to the vinyl, and away we’d go. There’s a youtube video of my actual box playing The Rolling Stones ‘Heart Of Stone’ posted by 25 Million, a good friend of mine. Seek it out to see what I mean. So I got this idea back then, around 1986, to carry blank jukebox tabs with me at all times (which I still do) and get artists to fill them out for a record of my choice that they were on, if and when I’d run into them. It was the start of me collecting autographs I guess. So now I have hundreds. So many amazing ones too: Nina Simone, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, The Creation, Ike Turner, The Move, The Cramps, Love, Ellie Greenwich, Sparks, The Ronettes even Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours. Honestly, loads. A few summers ago I went to see Bo Diddley and was lucky enough to have a word with him. He was just a sweetheart, happily answering questions that would turn into amazing stories. It was at a festival so he was just sitting around. Frail in ways even then, I wasn’t confident I should ask him to do the tab, but finally felt comfortable and did. He was so great about it, saying he wanted to do it, but would it be ok to just fill in his name, as he had a tremble when he wrote. Well sure – no problem. Thankfully, I have this to treasure forever.