Archive for the ‘The Nashville Teens’ Category

Alvin Robinson

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Listen: Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson
Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson

I saw The Rolling Stones for the first time on October 30, 1965 at the Syracuse War Memorial. I had forged a press pass, a typed note actually, on letterhead from a weekly paper in my little hometown. My Dad had set me up with the pompous owner of it, as I wanted to interview the band for a feature.

Looking back it was quite a good idea on my part, but this self celebrating fellow was nasty and dismissive. Even though I ended up meeting the band, I still loathe him for his attitude, not towards me, but towards my Father. He was so busy being busy, running in and out of his pathetic office, that I just reached over and grabbed a few pages of letterhead when he wasn’t looking. I shook with fear at what I’d done. I was still a good Catholic boy, but too late, I’d done it. So he tells me, “We don’t need a piece on this dirty English combo”, and that was that, or so he thought. Indeed, they didn’t need a a kid in his late single digits writing a review.

To be exact, this was the Canastota Bee Journal, as close as you can get to Mayberry. He and the paper, I’m guessing, are long gone. Still, I composed this laughable letter, claiming to be a writer on assignment and needing to interview them for a feature.

In those days, arenas were filled with hysterical, screaming kids, so how I managed to slide backstage so easily still baffles. An usher fell for that forged letter, and brought me back, where Bill Wyman was wrapping up his cords. Bill reads it, stares me straight in the eye and says in hindsight with a knowing smirk, “Come on and we’ll meet the rest”.

Holy shit. Is this really happening? It was the first time I nearly blacked out. I seriously remember that vividly. We are suddenly walking up the steps to the dressing room, knees weak, where in years to follow, I would meet, more like pester, (here goes, I know this is all a bit name droppy, but it really, really happened. I met all these bands and I’m proud of it): The Mindbenders, Them, The Moody Blues, The Nashville Teens, The Ikettes, The Who, The Pretty Things, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Heads Hands & Feet, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, Caravan, Toe Fat, Derek & The Dominoes, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Frampton’s Camel, Traffic, Wild Turkey, The Faces, Badfinger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Mother Earth, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Chambers Brothers, Sly & The Family Stone, Savoy Brown, Iron Butterfly, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, even Vivian Green, who I worked with decades later, was in that very room when on tour with Maxwell. Talk about coming full circle.

The management knew me and my friends well early on, they must’ve gotten a kick out of these crazy little kids, who’s Mom’s & Dad’s would wait patiently for until the shows ended. Our parents befriended the office staff, and in turn, those nice ladies always let us backstage.

The Rolling Stones were great, so nice. No one was in their dressing room except the band, and one other guy, I’m guess Ian Stewart, the tour manager. No food, nothing but bottles of Coca Cola. They signed my copy of 12 X 5, it probably lasted all of a minute but I still can relive it to this day. Here I was, with this exotic band from England that changed my life, which prior I could only see on TV every three to four months tops. I thought at that very moment, “This is the life for me”. I’m completely convinced it led to my career in music. No question.

Their current album at the time, THE ROLLING STONES NOW, was not a real album at all. In those days, the English labels released singles and EPs, in addition to albums. Not only were the EP tracks not on the LPs, but the singles weren’t either. So the US companies were always dropping off intended LP tracks to make room for the singles and sometimes strong ones from those EPs. For this particular release, London Records basically cobbled together some singles and EP songs, as well as unused UK LP tracks. Remember, the UK LPs were 14 songs compared to our 10-12, thereby creating even more choices.

Probably by coincidence more than design, THE ROLLING STONES NOW actually works as a proper LP. It was certainly a big success, slowly but very solidly scaling the US LP charts and staying Top 10 for ages, as it deserved to. The record’s filled with dark, minor key classics like ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Pain In My Heart’ which they played on that night, Brian sitting at a huge B3 organ, wailing away.

It’s ok if you’re getting tingles. Take your time. You’ll need it. They were back, nine months later, during the AFTERMATH tour, and that’s whole ‘nother post waiting to be written.

This all leads us to ‘Down Home Girl’, a song on THE ROLLING STONES NOW. Little did I know then that it was a cover. I don’t even think I knew what that meant. They were all Rolling Stones songs to us. Years and years later I wised up, seeked out the original, and became a dangerous Alvin Robinson fanatic.

Here’s his version. Get any of his other releases. all of them actually.

The Birds

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Listen: No Good Without You Baby / The Birds
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The Birds, like their leader Ronnie Wood, seemed forever destined to second tier, always in supporting roles. Yet years later, their lack of first division ideas wonderfully tarnished them with a rather perfect time period sound, ideally suited for the musical backdrop of some British beat boom documentary. But after all, they were on Decca, which in hindsight is regarded as one of the holy grail UK labels for the genre.

To many, Decca has forever been saddled as the company that passed on The Beatles. I however say that’s only one of their greatest achievements. Signing The Rolling Stones being the other. Whether by design or accident, it certainly led them down a path that attracted Them, The Moody Blues, The Graham Bond Organization, The Zombies, The Beazers, The Artwoods, The Small Faces, The Nashville Teens, Zoot Money, The Move and other such hard up heroes, of which The Birds were included.

Several years back, while in London for work, I had conveniently scheduled my trip around The Olympia Record Fair. Getting there somewhat early, but not when doors opened, the first dealer I encountered, off to the left most side of the venue, was not surprisingly unbothered by any customers. His make shift boxes of 7′s unattractively assembled across his table, with as many sloppy boxes below, about two dozen in all. No wall hangings highlighting high end items, no colorful signs, no sizzle of any kind. Everything was either £1, £3 or £5.

Having decided to systematically cover the entire event, I began with this fellow, technically the first dealer far left, with every intention of moving right across the entire lot to the other side. Despite his unkept presentation, I reminded myself there was a plan and not to abandon it by skipping his table, before even starting.

Barely through the first box, I realized it’s entire contents were Decca or Decca distributed A Labels. Temporarily skipping to the second and discovering it to be the same, I asked him about his wares, inquiring was it coincidence they were all Decca’s. Turns out he didn’t regularly sell at the fairs, pretty obvious from the shabby boxes alone, but had stumbled on a retired Decca employee with an attic full of records from his 60′s heyday, and here they all were.

Well, I nearly blacked out. Luckily, a friend had come along with me, and immediately had the defensive sense to inform any other customers wandering up that the entire table was being sold. This gave me time to plow through and grab pretty much all of them. In hindsight, I still stress about leaving Les Reed or Ted Heath type singles behind, and wonder constantly if there was something I’d missed.

The unexpected discovery was one of life’s greatest moments, and a reminder to never judge a book by it’s cover. Amongst the many, many, many incredible purchases that day at that table: ‘No Good Without You Baby’ as well the other two Decca singles from The Birds.

The London Olympia Record Fair, which happens regularly, is in fact this weekend. Never ever pass it up.

The Hullaballoos

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

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Listen: I’m Gonna Love You Too / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosGonna.mp3

Do not mistake this British band as the resident pop group on the US HULLABALOO show from ’65 – ’66. They did appear, six times to be exact, but were only coincidentally sharing a similar name. Admittedly their second album, THE HULLABALLOOS ON HULLABALOO would confuse even the most attentive. Alas, the band’s name was indeed spelled differently than the program’s. So no – they were not the house band.

As with just about every group in those days, we saw their pictures way before getting to hear the music. I was too young to be aware of all the Buddy Holly similarities they shared, so to me, they were completely original. I vividly remember seeing the sleeve to ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ in a local shop and being instantly smitten. Bleach blond, all four – this was even more radical than The Pretty Things, who had the longest hair yet. Hullaballoos’ drummer Harry rivaled any member of The Pretty Things to date, not only in hair length but color too, hence out doing them in my book. My parents were aghast to find I planned to bleach my hair as well. It never happened – not yet that is.

Despite endless stories of infamous thievery directed toward Roulette Records, they did get their singles distributed and heard. ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ got played a bunch initially.

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Listen: Did You Ever / The Hullaballoos
HullaballooosDidYouEver.mp3

The followup, ‘Did You Ever’ was played slightly less, but performed more than any other song on US television.

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Listen: Learning The Game / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosLearning.mp3

Unfortunately, ‘Learning The Game’, my favorite of the four, was not played at all in my hometown. The single made it to the Bubbling Under Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #121 during a short two week run, so some play obviously was achieved. Once I got my copy, I cherished it all the more.

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Listen: I Won’t Turn Away Now / The Hullaballoos
HullaballoosWontTurn.mp3

The very hard to get fourth single and sleeve, ‘I Won’t Turn Away Now’ is classic British beat. Little Steven played The Hullaballoos recently. I was in the car and thought, justice after all these years. God bless Sirius.

In the early 80′s, when I started working at Elektra, the lure of free phone calls to the UK were too much to pass up. I called Hull directory information, and secured two of the four Hullaballoos’ phone numbers. Ultimately, I only spoke with Andrew Woonton. Initially our conversation proceeded as follows:

“Hi is this Andrew Woonton?”

“Yes, who’s calling?”

“My name is Kevin, from Elektra Records in New York and I was wondering, were you once a member of The Hullaballoos?”

“Uuuuuum, aaaaah, yes why?”

I launched into being a fan, but later in the conversation he revealed his initial hesitation. Turns out he was still getting calls from creditors wanting payment for hotels, vehicles and other expenses obligated some 20 years prior by Roulette on behalf of The Hullaballoos.

Did this band get what they deserved in any way. No. In fact, their youtube footage recently had the audio removed, apparently by the song publishers. Come on, cut these guys a break.

And I’m still miffed at not seeing the shows they shared with The Zombies and The Nashville Teens back in ’65 at the Brooklyn Paramount.

Below my postcard from their fan club:

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The Nashville Teens

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

 Find My Way Back Home / The Nashville Teens

Listen: Find My Way Back Home / The Nashville Teens NashvilleTeensFind.mp3

Last night’s season premier of MAD MEN ended with The Nashville Teens’ ‘Tobacco Road’, their one decent sized US hit. It reminded me I should share this story.

Back in the late 80′s when I worked A&R for Elektra, a guy came to play me his demo. Nice kid, worked at Colony Records a few blocks away on Broadway. In the 60′s, it was a haven for every release available, and the whole back wall was a 45 only counter manned by several employees – and open until 2AM. Always a hubbub of activity, the clerks were constantly juggling customers and going into the back, searching for whatever single you desired, and usually returning with it in hand.

Problem was they sold everything at list price – then 99¢. Seemed a fortune at the time, so you had to have unsuccessfully scoured all other shops before taking that plunge. I used to coax my Aunt Carm into the shop every summer when she’d take me on my yearly pilgrimage to the city.

Anyways this fellow and I get to talking, and I ask if they still have all those 7′ singles in the back sorted by label (which is how they did in the 60′s – you needed to know which label and preferably it’s catalog # as well). “Yes, they’re still set up that way”. So I tell him some of my favorite ones: Deram, London, Sue, Fontana.

A few days later, he comes back to Elektra. I get a call from the front desk informing me he’s upfront. What the fuck does he want – the demo wasn’t great and I told him so already. Turns out he thought I was a nice guy, and wanted to encourage me to let him return with new songs – so he just grabbed all the old stock on those labels and brought them over as a present. A heart stopper of a moment.

‘Find My Way Back Home’ (on the short lived blue swirl label with the WHITE instead of BLACK London logo) was one of many, many jems.

True story.

The Zombies

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

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Listen: You Make Me Feel So Good / The Zombies ZombiesGood.mp3

The fact that my blog is pushing the two year mark, and I’ve yet to write about The Zombies is pathetic. Thought about it often, so in case I croak, now I’ll rest easier.

Luckily much praise and appreciation, despite years of delay, has been afforded this band – to the point whereby they can tour the world consistently and get the admiration for ODESSEY AND ORACLE they deserve.

‘You Make Me Feel So Good’, the B side to ‘She’s Not There’, may indeed be the first seed planted that years later would spawn androgynous 70′s rock and 90′s Britpop, who can say. But the swish and swagger in Colin Blunstone’s delivery is not deniable. At the end of the day, it was basically his normal vocal styling and not too much needed to be read into it. There’s something about the combination of his voice and Rod Argent’s hollow electric keyboard tones that are as magical as Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek’s.

In ’65, The Zombies played The Brooklyn Fox Theater with The Nashville Teens and The Hullaballoos. Way too young to even know it was happening, my parents lucked out, because I would have tortured them into taking me.

zombiesindicationusa, The Zombies, Parrot, Decca, The Nashville Teens, The Hullaballoos, Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent

zombiesindication,  The Zombies, Parrot, Decca, The Nashville Teens, The Hullaballoos, Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent

Listen: Indication / The Zombies ZombiesIndication.mp3

Of their several overlooked later Parrot / Decca singles, ‘Indication’ was my favorite, an indeed hard call to make. Subsequent anthologies and reissues all use the longer, stereo take with an extended keyboard solo at the end. This US mono 7″ version (streamed above), I think, works best.
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Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Colin Blunstone

Colin Blunstone

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Misty Roses / Colin Blunstone

Listen: Misty Roses / Colin Blunstone ColinBlunstoneMisty.mp3

I still obsess about missing the US tour by The Zombies / The Nashville Teens / The Hullaballoos. I lived in a wrong city – one the tour did not play. Long before ODESSEY & ORACLE was recorded, Colin Blunstone established his greatness in my world. The very first Zombies single, ‘She’s Not There’ tells all. Every song that ever followed was instantly recognizable because of Colin Blunstone’s other worldly voice. In hindsight, Colin was – still is – one of the greatest interpretive singers of all time. Up there with Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Scott Walker, Dusty Springfield – name anybody and he will stand equal. If not for him, would Rod Argent’s great songs have succeeded as they did? Who else could do justice to ‘Time Of The Season’?

Mercifully, years later, Rod reconnected with the struggling Colin to spin their partnership together into a dazzling and deserved business – going as far as to reform The Zombies for ODESSEY & ORACLE in it’s entirety. Sharing some of that songwriting wealth to the voice that made it all valuable, Rod will now be allowed into heaven.

Once The Zombies dissolved, and Colin abandoned his three single career as Neil MacArthur, he was back to being Colin Blunstone. Signed to Epic in 1971, he began releasing a series of under appreciated albums. A few spawned the occasional hit in the UK but not here. His version of Tim Hardin’s ‘Misty Roses’ was issued as the US B side to ‘Caroline Goodbye’. How lucky for those owning it. Just listen.

In ’72, he toured The US. Epic made a bit of effort, and presented him at a college radio convention showcase I got to attend in Washington DC. It was stunning. No idea who was in the band, but his voice and persona alone filled the room. Magnificent.

Wonderful / Colin Blunstone

Listen: Wonderful / Colin Blunstone ColinBlunstoneWonderful.mp3

I heard ‘Wonderful’ on BBC’s Radio 1 just before leaving England to return home after an extended London stay in ’73. It was one of the last singles I bought before boarding the plane. The 7″ version clocks in at 3:20, proving the power of editing. I think it works much better than the five minute plus album track.