Archive for the ‘Ed Sullivan’ Category

The Singing Nun / Soeur Sourire

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Listen: Dominique / The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)

Out of the blue, I started humming ‘Dominique’ in a restaurant last night, when one of my kids recognized the song. Apparently it was used in a recent episode of FX’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY.

I know we all believe, or want to, that our society has evolved to a higher place than those civilizations before us, even if only measured in decades. Just look at our President, legalized marijuana or gay marriage. But trust me, a record like ‘Dominique’. sung in French by a lesbian Sister of the Catholic cloth would not get airplay on today’s Top 40 stations. Period.

Not so in 1963, when Philips Records managed to get mainstream exposure, no small thanks to The Ed Sullivan Show, thereby taking ‘Dominique’ to #1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100. That’s about where the good stuff ends.

According to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s version of The Singing Nun’s saga, “most of her earnings were in fact taken away by Philips and her producer, while the rest automatically went to her religious congregation, which made at least $100,000 in royalties.”

To recap, she never received any royalties for her work, but instead saw all that income go to the label and her Catholic convent, and one can only imagine the gnarly specimens running that place. But it doesn’t end there, she was hit with a whomping tax debt years later, all for money she never received. Her Catholic convent claimed they never got the cash, though bank statements prove otherwise. Huh? Hasn’t ‘Thou Shall Not Lie’ been in the Catholic church’s Top 10 way before BILLBOARD started compiling charts?

Still, her music prevails. I’ve always loved this track, and I’m sure it’s not because of the virtual walk back to my earliest memories of being a little kid. ‘Dominique’ is just a peaceful, soothing work that transcends any language barrier, as all great music did and still does.

I tucked this NEW YORK POST clipping into the single’s sleeve, just unearthing it last night:

And so with every massive, or even slight hit, come the follow-up. Regardless of if it’s worthy, makes sense or even has/hasn’t a chance. The corporate blueprint is to ring out the dollars, and keep flaming the fire. So too, Philips settled on a second single, from the SINGING NUN album, ‘Tous Les Chemins’. It was not a hit.

Listen: Dominique / The Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)

The Pretty Things

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Listen: Havana Bound / The Pretty Things
Havana Bound / The Pretty Things

It’s May 19, technically the anniversary of booking The Pretty Things at my college. I celebrate it every year, well given this also marked my first date with Corinne, it’s impossible to forget. Talk about impressing a girl, this totally did the trick. Yes, our first date was a concert by The Pretty Things, with all the backstage trimmings.

I was the school’s event chairman and conveniently, there was no concert committee. None of the other students were interested. I believe that reality is known as a dream come true. Not only did I worm my way into the campus radio station as music director, I was also booking whoever I wanted with the school’s money. A spoiled freshman, that was me.

Needless to say, only British acts got the slots: Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Rory Gallagher, Atomic Rooster, The Incredible String Band and The Pretty Things. Not a bad lineup for year one.

Given they had a manager that turned down The Ed Sullivan Show, it’s no wonder The Pretty Things never made it to the US during the 60′s. Hard to believe, and neither did The Small Faces.

After having called it quits post their album PARACHUTE flopping in ’70; it was like a miracle that The Pretty Things were reforming to record FREEWAY MADNESS in late ’72. Seemed a lifetime then, and the news was a big deal to the small but already twisted following The Pretty Things had acquired.

Then, on top of that, a premier US tour for spring ’73 was announced. It seemed too good to be true and booking them became my mission in life, School work tabled, getting The Pretty Things to town top of the list. Success, I got the band to play for $500 on May 19th with The James Cotton Band as openers. See the poster below.

Never did I envision at the time that one day, years later, I’d have my own label and actually reissue the FREEWAY MADNESS album. Never ever crossed my mind, but life can take you on the wildest ride if you let it.

Fast forward to ’94, The Medicine Label is up and running out of the Warner Brothers New York office. Mo Ostin, then chairman of both Warner and Reprise, but based in Burbank, would often visit our building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. On one particular trip, we were talking in the hallway, and it just occurred to me that this was the moment, so I asked, could I re-release The Pretty Things album from the catalog, then lying dormant having been unavailable for years.

“Sure. Good idea, just check to see it hasn’t been scheduled by the reissue department.”

I nearly blacked out with excitement, unlike the reissue team, who smelled a potential predator upon hearing the news.

“Not to worry guys, it’s a one-off.” Reissue departments were very cautious of the finite back catalog from which they drew.

Suddenly, with FREEWAY MADNESS on the schedule, the original 1/2″ master tapes were delivered to my office along with cover art films, bios, press shots, studio logs, you name it. There sat history in the Warner Brothers pouch, as it was referred.

Well who better to write new liner notes than Phil May?

Luckily, we’d been introduced a few years earlier by Shannon O’Shea, a UK friend who was managing the band around ’90-’91. I would often stay in Notting Hill Gate, and Phil lived just down the street from my hotel, on Talbot Road. We spent many an afternoon in his local pub. A nicer guy you will not meet, and the recollections. Endless.

So yeah, Phil May was only too happy to write those CD reissue liner notes, and while rummaging for some bits to post here, I found the agreement below between the WB art department and Phil for the job:

The real moment on FREEWAY MADNESS was ‘Havana Bound’. It was picture perfect Pretty Things, and originally the UK B side to ‘Over The Moon’, released in ’72 as the album’s official single.

Huh? The B side? Not to take anything away from ‘Over The Moon’, great great song but come on. What planet did that decision originate from? ‘Havana Bound’ deserved a big red A label.

Well now was my chance to right wrong so we scheduled a US 7″ of ‘Havana Bound’ to promote the CD reissue and service college radio but mostly because I just had to have it on an A side. Few things have been more exciting than the day those box lots arrived from the plant.

Believe it, the record business in it’s heyday was a euphoric free-for-all.

Above: The promo only insert from the ’73 US release of FREEWAY MADNESS
Below: The 8×10 press shot that accompanied FREEWAY MADNESS mailings to US journalists in ’73

The Beatles

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Listen: I Want To Hold Your Hand / The Beatles
I Want To Hold Your Hand / The Beatles

A few weeks from now will mark yet another anniversary of The Beatles’ ED SULLIVAN SHOW debut in ’64 on February 9. Yes, forty eight years have passed since. Forty eight years! Scary, especially if you recall it, like I do. I wasn’t alone, but will readily admit it changed my life, like practically everything about it, despite being a little boy in his single digits. I never thought the same way about what I wanted to do when I grew up after that night, despite endless lectures from school guidance counselors to become a Math teacher, and not peruse a career in the record business. I think some of them may still be employed giving out such insightful advice.

Apparently, that first appearance is now considered a milestone in American pop culture and the official beginning of the British Invasion in music. The broadcast drew an estimated 73 million viewers, at the time a record for US television.

The Beatles performed five songs that evening including their then, newly achieved, first US #1: ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. I might be accurate in saying I hadn’t heard this in a good five, maybe ten years. But leave it Little Steven on Sirius, suddenly there it was throbbing out of my dashboard. And it sounded fantastic. I got home and pulled the single right out, still practically untouched in it’s original picture sleeve above from so many years ago.

Not a hardcore Beatles admirer would be understating my self description for sure, but scanning over a singles discography as I did earlier, anyone would be an ignorant fool not to acknowledge their incredible run of endless stellar 45′s. Take a look sometime.

Prior to that US explosion, England was avalanched by Beatlemania during pretty much all of 1963. Having made their first appearance on Britain’s READY STEADY GO! that fall, logically, Vicki Wickham, the program’s talent manager and booker, who became the show’s producer, was serviced all the latest releases from the labels.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving weekend, 2010. Vicki, a dear friend nowadays, rang to say she’s found several thousand 45′s in her Manhattan storage unit, having completely forgotten they existed, and was I interested. Just try to guess how fast I tore over there and I’ll guarantee you it was twice that. Praise be, these were, and still are, the holy grail. I can’t even begin to describe it’s contents and revel in them constantly, filing these gems away ever so slowly. I never want it to end.

So pictured above, from Vicki Wickham’s original collection, not only the actual copy serviced to her at Rediffusion Television’s READY STEADY GO! offices, but one that very conveniently indicates the record’s November 29, 1963 UK release date. It’s also the copy streaming here, yes, the real thing.

Quite probably the same copy that secured them yet another booking on the program. I must ask Vicki to confirm that detail.

The New Vaudeville Band

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band

Listen: Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band
Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band

The New Vaudeville Band did not get their due respect, even though they never made a bad single, and their albums are full of flawless…..vaudeville. A genre cornered successfully by The Bonzo Dog Band and later dabbled into by The Kinks, I’m guessing maybe these guys were just a touch ahead of the credibility curve. Add to that, their first single ‘Winchester Catherdral’ became a worldwide #1 and, even back then, they landed into the mainstream before the press could give them praise, so they didn’t. Never mind, these singles speak for themselves.

The two followups to ‘Winchester Catherdral’ in order were ‘Peek A Boo’ and ‘Finchley Central’.

Although hits in the UK, only ‘Peek A Boo’ made the Top 100 here (#74 in February ’67), due in part to a great performance on the then, newly ‘In Color’ version of popular Saturday night variety show HOLLYWOOD PALACE. Singer Tristam The VII, Earl Of Cricklewood wore a blue sparkley jacket identical to the one Mick Jagger pranced in just a month earlier on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW (January ’67) when they caved, changing the lyrics for the boss, Ed himself, and thereby performing ‘Let’s Spend Some Time Together’ as a worldwide one-off.

Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band UK Picture Sleeve

‘Finchley Central’ Picture Sleeves: Above (UK) / Below (US)

Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band US Picture Sleeve

Listen: Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band
Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band

‘Finchley Central’ followed in late spring. Although not housed in a now very hard to find color UK picture sleeve, indeed US Fontana sprang nonetheless for a cover, except in black and white. Both are pictured above. Despite climbing to #16 in England, for places like Texas and Florida, a single in the style of your parents music (with a vocal that doesn’t even begin until 1:04 into the song, and then lyrically about the London subway system) during the summer of psychedelic ’67 meant…little.

Well actually it did Bubble Under The Top 100 at #102 for a stubborn three weeks. Maybe people equated it to something off SGT PEPPER or YELLOW SUBMARINE and thought it so far out that it was actually in, as it got some play and sold a handful.

See, The New Vaudeville Band were so good even The Beatles wanted to sound like them, and occasionally did.

Big Brother & The Holding Company / Janis Joplin

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company

Listen: Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company
Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company

There are two things about Janis Joplin that annoy me. Neither are her fault.

Firstly, there is so little footage that really captures her power and that the media uses. The clips on a short lived US pop music show, MUSIC SCENE, are the best ones. That was with her Kozmic Blues Band lineup. Then to be fair, the Ed Sullivan and Dick Cavett shows were great as well. But the media always use that shit footage from the Monterey Pop Festival, when she hadn’t yet exploded vocally or visually. By the time she left the Bay area and was playing nationally, her voice was rasp and tortured; and she was visually a ball of color and fire. So heads up: seek out some of the aforementioned performances.

The second is Clive Davis. Why people line up to credit him with her success sickens me. Yes, he signed Big Brother & The Holding Company. And yes, he’s done a lot of things. His resume looks way better than mine. For instance, he let Ray Davies make two awesome Kinks albums, SLEEPWALKER and MISFITS, when most felt he and the band were washed up, signed The Patti Smith Group and let her make two great ones initially as well, plus gave both Lou Reed and Iggy Pop shots on Arista.

But masterminding the break up of Big Brother & The Holding Company with Albert Grossman is not a creative stroke of genius and is definitely unforgivable. How fucking dumb can you be? Their CHEAP THRILLS album soared to #1 in the Billboard charts being a blisteringly perfect document of her and the band’s magnetism.

Big Brother & The Holding Company were the ultimate acid rock group, probably of all time. They were raw and ragged but had swing, a lethally positive combination. Listen to James Gurley’s solo on the version of ‘Down On Me’ I’ve posted. By the time this was released, after her death, Columbia didn’t even have the courtesy to credit the band on the label. I assume the plan was to polish her for mainstream acceptance. Please. The whole point was her wild abandon.

Big Brother & The Holding Company live were an experience I’ll never forget. Friday October 11, 1968. Syracuse University presented the band at The War Memorial, but you had to be a student to get in. I wasn’t an SU student, in fact I was a little boy; no way could I even pass for a college kid. My friend Denny and I begged a security guy to let us in, bless him cause he did! Changed my life.

Big Brother & The Holding Company / Syracuse War Memorial / October 11, 1968

Above and below: Big Brother & The Holding Company / Syracuse War Memorial / October 11, 1968

Janis, October 11, 1968

These two pictures are from that night, snapped with my crap camera. I wish I had the negatives as the prints are fading. Check out how little equipment is up on stage. Still it was loud and out of control. Fantastic. Luckily, Janis played my area many times. I got to see all her line ups through the years. She was amazing. It’s not because I was young and impressionable. Janis Joplin was truly a living legend. And the lasting effect she has over everyone, not just me, proves it.

The Rolling Stones

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Listen: Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow? / The Rolling StonesStonesMotherShadow.mp3

Today is Mick Jagger’s birthday, and still very much in top form.

The 1966 Rolling Stones were in top form too, dropping double A sided singles every few months, looking better seemingly by the day in paisleys, polka dots, pastel trousers, flowered jackets – you name it. Their summer US tour to promote AFTERMATH, by far one of their greatest (and thee greatest) albums, caused riots everywhere, including my hometown of Syracuse on 7/6/66, where Brian Jones was arrested post show for allegedly dragging a US flag along the ground.

Having made my way backstage, full colour program in hand to be autographed, I’ll testify that I saw no such behavior. The guys talked to me at length having remembered our first meeting that previous fall and all the blues records we enthused over. As they rounded up their bags to get into the awaiting station wagon, I left. Whatever supposedly happened must have occured within the next few minutes. But considering their exit would have been down the same flagless stairway and through the same flagless door I traveled, it’s quite hard to believe. As I exited, I saw their said awaiting car. I did, however, also witness a bunch of pudgy, balding, aggressively intimidating policemen who had earlier been jealously eyeing the flawless visual perfection of Brian Jones and his band upstairs. One of many crooked law enforcement setups that were coincidentally about to plague The Rolling Stones? Quite possibly.

That night’s show opened with ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ (as it had on their previous visit October 30, 1965) before launching into a merciless onslaught of masterpieces: ‘Mother’s Little Helper’, ‘Paint It, Black’, ‘Lady Jane’, ‘Under My Thumb’, ‘Cry To Me’, ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘The Last Time’, ’19th Nervous Breakdown’, ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’, ‘Not Fade Away’….I’m still not fully recovered.

By September of ’66, it was as if AFTERMATH was old hat, and the seminal songs kept coming. This time in the form of a loud, chaotic soundclash of fuzz, brass, piano and tom toms: ‘Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?’. Even the title broke all the rules. It took years for many to realize the superior genius of the track. I spun it dj-ing a month or so back and the freaking place blew up.

A few years ago, I asked Tony King if he knew where the infamous drag shot of the band was taken, having tortured myself for years trying to work out the spot. I could tell from the street and buildings it was clearly NYC. That picture, and a shot of the group in the same location wearing identical outfits as on the Ed Sullivan Show (9/11/66) – most likely shot the same day, made up the front and back sleeve of the US single (compare clip to sleeve):

After a few days, Tony emailed me, having heard back from the original photographer with the location. I hurried over to said spot – lo and behold – there it was. I milled about for some time. It was early evening, quite cold, and either the brisk air or other worldly energy, or both, had me shivering ever so slightly. A true high that I will never forget.

The proof:

Rita Pavone

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

ritapavoneps, Rita Pavone, RCA

Listen: Remember Me / Rita Pavone RitaPavone.mp3

Remember Rita Pavone? Something to the effect of a sixteen year old Italian teen sensation. She was on Ed Sullivan many times, or seemingly. How her tomboy, hobo image slotted in so nicely with the English Invasion’s mini skirted and Yardley’s Slickered lipped Twiggy types in hindsight doesn’t make much sense. It didn’t last long anyways.

She did make a decent album, and a couple of good singles. ‘Remember Me’ got some radio traction here, despite the accent, which I found very exotic. The lure of a picture sleeve was too much for me to resist. In a very, very, very small way, I suppose it helped the record’s climb to #26 on the Billboard charts.

You have to hand it to RCA, they were pretty good at handing out full color sleeves: Duane Eddy, The Youngbloods, The Small Faces, Jefferson Airplane, Little Peggy March.