Posts Tagged ‘Chris Blackwell’

Georgie Fame

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Daylight / Georgie Fame

Listen: Daylight / Georgie Fame
Daylight

I think this song may qualify as a bit of a guilty pleasure, as it is a touch schmaltzy, although my pal Phil, who has super taste in music, loves it. Then again, it was written by Bobby Womack and now a sought after hit on the Northern Soul circuit. Plus Georgie has such a great voice, and the whole idea that he perfected his sound doing all-nighters at the Flamingo Club on Wardour Street in London during the swinging 60′s alongside Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, is, well, all I really need. Basically he always emulated Mose Allison and conventiently helped invent mod-jazz in the process.

As with some of his early hits like ‘Get Away’, this was produced by the great Denny Cordell. When I worked at Island in the early 90′s, Chris Blackwell brought Denny in to oversee A&R. Most everybody got their noses out of joint by his arrival but not me. I mean this was the guy who had produced The Move. He did the whistle sound, fingers to mouth, on ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’, helped start Deram and Regal Zonophone, and then Shelter. So we hit it off immediately, and I often think of the many great times and meals we had together. He was a serious cook. Plus he introduced me to so many people from the UK, all of whom would stop by to see him when passing through town. I remember when he brought Tony Colton into my office. He was the vocalist for Heads Hands & Feet who I became an instant fan of when seeing them open for Humble Pie. Tony had also produced a then obscure, now kind of appreciated gem: ON THE BOARDS by Taste. So this was a big deal to me.

Yeah, Denny was a great great pal….he produced this track as part of the 2nd album Georgie made for Island that the company then proceeded not to issue, still. Seriously, what hasn’t been released at this point? Island was a great place in many ways, but they had a very bad habit of making albums and not releasing them. I know of a few still in the vaults from Marianne Faithfull, and unfortunately countless others from The Smoke to Don Covay.

So this track, ‘Daylight’, and it’s B side, ‘Three Legged Mule’ came out in ’77 as 7″ & 12″ singles, and has finally been reissued as part of the ISLAND YEARS ’74 – ’76 anthology.

Wilbert Harrison One Man Band / Prince La La / Derek Martin

Monday, December 30th, 2013

THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS / Various Artists:

SIDE 1:

Listen: Let’s Work Together (Parts 1 & 2) / Wilbert Harrison One Man Band
WilbertWorkTogether.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: She Put The Hurt On Me / Prince La La
She

Listen: Daddy Rollin’ Stone / Derek Martin
Daddy

Just check my previous two posts. Not hard to guess, I’ve been picking through the various artists section of my wall shelf.

Weirdly enough, this is usually a head scratching process. I don’t do it often, but every time seems to unearth a multi-artist record, usually an EP, that I’d never really noticed before, suddenly falling into the ‘where on earth did I get this from’ category. And honestly, it happens every single time. One source, the UK weeklies, who for a few years there during the late 80′s/early 90′s were including free EP’s, whether it be NME, Music Week or Melody Maker, with each issue. I religiously grabbed every one and stuck them in that VA section for a rainy day. The entire chunk now being a treasure trove of both obscure and focus tracks.

When the Ensign label got all hot and bothered about the Sue Records catalog, which I’m guessing they could suddenly access via their 1983 Island distribution deal, they issued a series of four song EP’s religiously honoring the labels iconic history. Some were single artist compilation EP’s by Ike & Tina Turner or Inez & Charlie Foxx. Others were theme centric: SUE INSTRUMENTALS, THE SUE SOUL SISTERS and this, the latter’s partner, THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS. I played all three in the past few hours and basically did a blindfold drill to choose today’s 31 Days Of December – All EP’s post.

THE SUE SOUL BROTHERS, most likely by design, builds around much covered songs from Sue’s UK catalog. And there were many songs to choose from here, not forgetting, the Sue UK label issued the American Sue releases along with various blues and RnB singles from small and indie US labels. Initially, Juggy Murray, who owned Sue in the US was reportedly furious with Chris Blackwell and Guy Stevens, the day to day guy at Island/Sue in London. Apparently, neither had cleared the idea of picking up product from other US companies and slapping a Sue label on it for the UK.

As a result, other than the bothersome bad blood, Sue’s British catalog and discography rivaled the majors like Decca’s, who bolstered their output and image by repping Atlantic, Monument, Tribe, RCA, Coral and others in Britain. Island became the little indie that could, even harder in the 60′s, when swimming against the tide of Decca, CBS, EMI and Pye was near impossible.

And so, the team at Ensign picked some solid originals here that went on to become widely popular as covers. Loads of bands, including The Who and John’s Children released Derek Martin’s ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’ during the Mod era.

Canned Heat, blues experts themselves, took Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ Top 40 in 1970, delaying their version to give the original a chance to sell and reach #32 on BILLBOARD. In a loose full circle chain of events, John Mayall chose to record Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’ for his fantastic, and I do mean fantastic, Island album, A SENSE OF PLACE from 1990.

The Heptones / The Upsetters

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

HeptonesBook, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Book Of Rules / The Heptones
Book

Been digging out a lot of reggae stuff lately, combing through the shelves separated out specifically for the genre, well ska and blue beat are on them too.

A Burning Spear post from few years back details my initial introduction to reggae proper, basically via an unexpected crash course box full of seminal records from Howard Thompson when he worked at Island UK in ’76. Fast forward twelve years, I’m employed at Island New York and was given the task of assembling a promotional cd for the label’s reissue series encompassing most of their classic 70′s reggae titles. Both cd and campaign were called 96º IN THE SHADE. It was good fun, and honestly a piece of cake. So this is called a job?

I just started off with Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ and using the Island master printout which chronologically lists every single and album by catalog number, I picked out the gems. It was easy.

And I’m proud to say, the compilation got such good response from the shops that we renamed it GROOVE YARD, changed the cover, squeezed on a few more good ones, and released it commercially. The cd sold well.

Like the rest of the solar system, I don’t use cd’s much anymore. The Airbooks in the house don’t even have disc drives, so most of those compact discs are boxed and in storage, although some I do keep shelved for the car. I grabbed GROOVE YARD on my way out recently and found myself reliving the greatness of quite a few tracks from the era, as well as some sentimental memories of those times.

‘Book Of Rules’ is certainly one of my ten-ish favorite reggae 7′s. Fantastic song, nice clean vocal and lovely production by Chris Blackwell.

HeptonesBookDub, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Book Of Rules (Version) / The Heptones
Book

Released as the single’s B side in ’73, ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ seems to have preceded full on dub by a year or two, when instrumentals with decorative sound effects thrown in were still called ‘version’ and always used as B sides. I’ve always wanted ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ to be a bit more exciting or something more moving but it basically isn’t. Regardless, it’s interesting to hear how dub was getting started.

HeptonesSufferers, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

HeptonesSufferUS, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Sufferer’s Time / Heptones with The Upsetters
HeptonesSufferersTime.mp3

By ’76, Lee Perry is at the controls, The Black Arc in full swing and with The Upsetters doing the tracking, The Heptones were in tune with the times. Another classic, ‘Sufferer’s Time’, is basically perfect in every way. I never spin it just once. Can’t. I’ll even be late for something important to hear the song that one extra time.

The real fun bit here being that Island US, like the UK company, issued it as a 7″. I’m guessing there were pockets of Jamaican communities in some of the major US cities that would warrant say a 1000 or 2000 piece run. Those sales figures are again guesses, and as the manufacturing details were very sloppy at Island. I never could figure out a real number on this nor a few others that had been shockingly issued here on 7″, to my disbelief.

This I can tell you. There weren’t many pressed as I’ve never seen another US copy of ‘Sufferer’s Time’. Just happened to stumble on this while going through some deeply buried boxes in the Island New York mailroom, a process of completion that took a month or two, but I managed them them all and it was well, well, well worth the sleuthing, trust me.

UpsettersSufferersDub, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

UpsettersSufferersUS, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Sufferer’s Dub / The Upsetters
UpsettersSufferDub.mp3

Not only is the A side a heart threatener, but by ’76, proper dub was in serious swing hence this monster example of it on the flip, aptly titled ‘Sufferer’s Dub’. Oddly credited only to The Upsetters despite many Heptones vocal drops, it makes for even more excitement. An American single by The Upsetters. Never been another.

I get very excited by records.

HeptonesParty, The Heptones, Lee Perry, The Upsetters

Listen: Party Time / The Heptones
Party

When ‘Party Time’ first arrived in the mail, dependably hot off the presses from Howard, I was mildly disappointed and that was very stupid of me. It’s a gem.

I had the original UK LP pressing too, but now find only the US Mango copy in my wall shelf. Somewhere in the black hole of unfiled records it does lurk.

The Anglos

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Listen: Incense / The Anglos
Incense

Who doesn’t love a mystery?

For decades, speculation has surrounded the origins of The Anglos’ lead singer on ‘Incense’, many claiming it to be Stevie Winwood. The single was eventually released on UK Island proper in ’65. Having previously been issued a number of smaller UK and US labels, the confusion is most likely clouded by the Jimmy Miller production. He was working for Chris Blackwell and Island, involved with The Spencer Davis Group, having produced both ‘Gimme Some Lovin” and the ultimate ‘I’m A Man’ masterpiece.

But in fact, the voice here belongs to Joe Webster, from Virginia, as were The Anglos. Frankly, if you listen closely, it’s quite obviously not Stevie Winwood, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he wished it were him.

On a late night trip from London to his country house in Theale, where Chris Blackwell had invited Corinne and I for a weekend, conversation turned to The Anglos. Chris, driving his Rolls and playing the then unreleased Womack & Womack album for us, revealed in no uncertain terms it was absolutely not Stevie Winwood, but instead said fellow, Joe Webster.

We soon pulled up to the Theale cottage, whereby Chris apologized that Jim Capaldi had lazily left his clothes and shoes all round the guest room, assuring us the sheets were clean.

Jah Lion

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Listen: Soldier & Police War / Jah Lion
Soldier

Next time you scan a list or read an article spotlighting reggae’s masterpiece recordings, guaranteed you’ll find COLOMBIA COLLY by Jah Lion omitted. Despite being amongst Lee Perry’s most revered Black Ark productions during ’76 – ’77, along with albums such as The Congos HEART OF THE CONGOS or The Upsetters SUPER APE, it really is surprising this one is consistently overlooked.

My recollections of 4am listens, waiting for Corinne to get home from her night shift all those years ago, are as plain as day, or night, I suppose I should say. COLOMBIA COLLY was probably the most haunting record in my possession. At times, even in an only slightly paranoia state of pot and speed combination, my regular cocktail as a college kid, I’d seriously need to suddenly take it off the turntable. Combined with the eerie stillness coming through our un-air conditioned windows during those summer nights, the album occasionally gave me the creeps. It was, and still is, that powerful.

I was both shocked and thrilled when Howard Thompson included a newly released Jah Lion single in one of those early Island packages he’d regularly send from his London office. I mean, who exactly thought Jah Lion would sell singles? Chris Blackwell is my guess. God, those were the days, weren’t they?

So hot off the heels of the Lee Perry produced ‘Police & Thieves’ by Junior Murvin came this, his dub variation of that original track, retitled ‘Soldier & Police War’ and released as a British A side by Jah Lion.

But wait, there’s more. Island’s US reggae subsidiary, Mango, also issued this non-LP track as a single. Now this was surely not destined for big things on American radio, but instead released to serve the small but active Jamaican music buyers pocketed in various US cities.

In fact, I’ve never seen another domestic copy, bar the one pictured above, accidentally discovered in the New York Island mailroom amongst a long buried and very dusty 25 box of assorted US Island and Mango reggae 7′s during my years in A&R at the label, late 80′s. Yes, I froze in that discovery position for a good minute or two. And it wasn’t only this record that nearly had me leaving on a stretcher.

Apparently, for US consumers, the somewhat easier to remember title of ‘Police And Soldier’ was afforded it’s very own pressing.

In some ways though, this only further confused the situation, one whereby despite Lee Perry being pictured as the artist on the aforementioned COLOMBIA COLLY album, was indeed not. Jah Lion was actually Jah Lloyd, as Duane taught me. Apparently, as with artist identities, Lee Perry often shuffled songs titles as well.

Zap-Pow

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Listen: This Is Reggae Music / Zap-Pow
This

Recorded and originally released in ’73, don’t be surprised if you think ‘This Is Reggae Music’ is blatantly influenced by HELL UP IN HARLEM Blaxploitation soundtrack production. There was a lot of it about. Harry Johnson and Chris Blackwell must have been knee deep in the stuff at the time.

By then, as a result of ‘Shaft’, the worldwide hit single for Isaac Hayes from the film of the same name, the style pretty much became a mainstay at RnB, or Black radio as it was referred to, finding it’s way into everything including reggae apparently.

Lead singer Dwight Pinkney sure does have a voice that later should have been confused for Steve Perry’s from Journey. In fact, that band could have easily pulled off a version of ‘This Is Reggae Music’ had they known and felt a fondness for the genre, which I’m betting the bank they did not.

The other guys in Zap-Pow played on many of Lee Perry’s Black Ark sessions.

Toots & The Maytals

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

TootsA, Toots & The Maytals, Island, Chris Blackwell

Listen: Chatty Chatty / Toots & The Maytals
Chatty

By the time ‘Chatty Chatty’ was released in 1980, reggae seemed mainstream, at least to us collectors. Although the occasional US ska or reggae radio hit of the 60′s had long ended, and it’s resurgence in the 90′s still being a ways off, college stations were playing it pretty heavily. Plus the touring acts would hit all the punk and new wave clubs, drawing primarily the same audiences.

If ‘Chatty Chatty’ sounds similar to Bob Marley & The Wailers’ ‘Could You Be Loved’ it’s not surprising. Chris Blackwell produced both in that same year. On first listen I was convinced Toots & The Maytals had a mainstream smash on their hands, at least in the UK. Wrong. It never charted. None of his singles did. Seems hard to believe.

‘Chatty Chatty’ serves as the perfect springtime single, April 7, 1980 being it’s exact release date. That was something I learned from Chris. He many times saw a song’s first listen as being seasonal. Toots was spring and summer, Marianne Faithfull definitely autumn or winter.

Ray Lema

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Listen: Kamulang (Single Edit) / Ray Lema
Kamulang

In the late 80′s, just starting a five year run at Island, I became pretty obsessed with World Music. We never called it that there or then, but the industry termed the genre as such around the time. It was easily a normal expansion of Island’s musical reach, well, normal to those of us in-house at least.

Chris had noticed my love of the genre, and at one point, suggested I leave the pop side of the company to concentrate exclusively on Mango, Island’s World and Reggae imprint. In some ways, I wish I had, but hey, you can’t do everything. At least, I can’t.

During the process though, I made a few trips to the UK and France, where several of the African acts either resided or performed regularly. One such being Ray Lema. His Mango debut, NANGADEEF, was produced by Paul ‘Graucho’ Smykle, infamous in my world for an identical feat on Black Uhuru’s ANTHEM.

Graucho may as well have lived at Island’s 22 St. Peter’s Square office in London, where we became fast friends. And I loved NANGADEEF. Was I ever pleased to see ‘Kamulang’ on the UK’s single release schedule, which in those days meant a 7 as well as a 12.

It was in Paris, during November ’89, that Ray Lema played to a jammed house inside the Virgin Mega Store. The whole freaking day reeked of romantic. Never one to have a soft spot about Paris nor France, I must admit, hanging around, as excited to meet Ray Lema as I had been about The Rolling Stones a decade and more earlier, with the Eiffel Tower in clear view, was pretty memorable. Musicianship, not volume, being the ultimate asset here, and Ray Lema had both. If you know his work, or simply listen to this track, I can verify, the music was flawlessly reproduced live with an added spiritual euphoria.

Despite the period’s sonic trappings, now all rather dated, there was always a streak of The Soft Machine in there instrumentally. What’s not to like about that?

Nowadays, ‘Kamulang’ holds up just fine for me. Regardless of if I can stretch my World 7″ collection to 50 plus or not, this will always be Top 5.

Grace Jones

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Listen: She’s Lost Control (Single Edit) / Grace Jones
GraceJonesControl.mp3

Somebody, somewhere knew how to pick terrific material for Grace Jones. Possibly it was she herself. For my two cents, this is absolutely one her all time best vocal interpretations. Ever.

I do know the early 80′s musical patch during which Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’, a B side only, was recorded by Alex Sadkin and The Compass Point Allstars, coincided with Jean-Paul Goude’s image reinvention. As a result of that intense visual makeover, Chris Blackwell hung the already completed WARM LEATHERETTE cover art in the studio as the album’s sessions were begun, instructing the entire team to make a record that sounded like the photo looked. He told me this himself.

Eventually released in an extended club version, complete with dub, it’s this original B side ‘She’s Lost Control’ that is most valuable as a 7″. Despite all the other versions finding their way onto bottom of the barrel scraping compilation cds, this single edit has only ever appeared where it originally was issued, on a 7″.

Marianne Faithfull

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Listen: Times Square (Live) / Marianne Faithfull
Times

Over several nights, Marianne Faithfull recorded a live album at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn with an all star cast put together by Hal Winner. I was in charge of A&Ring it, and Marianne graciously gave me an Executive Producer credit on the album. I was beyond flattered and touched. She has a good heart.

A lot of the performances needed some serious weeding and occasionally required confrontation between myself and Hal. At the time, I was under appreciative of his input. But now I realize what an absolutely tremendous contributor and producer he was and is. Thanks Hal.

Playing the final mix of the terrific composition by Barry Reynolds, ‘Times Square’, for Chris Blackwell gave both he and I chills up the spine on that first listen. I will never forget the two of us simultaneously having involuntary spasms at exactly 2:19. Yes, Marianne Faithfull could be a higher form of life without even knowing it. Her performance on this occasion unanimously proved that.

Thankfully, Island Germany chose to release ‘Times Square’ as a picture sleeved 7″ single. I was thrilled and am forever grateful.

Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Listen: Buffalo Gals (Single Edit) / Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team
Buffalo Gals (Single Edit) / Malcolm McLaren & The World's Famous Supreme Team

Howard Thompson sent me this one the week of release in Britain, or more likely, even before street date. Getting those packages from him provided yours truly the honor of being the first disc jockey in America to play so many great records, ‘Buffalo Gals’ being one.

Back then, I co-hosted a midnight – 2am Specialty show, as they’re referred to nowadays, on the town’s local AOR outlet, WCMF. Those stations were basically the enemy, force feeding the public on mainstream corporate rock only, although in the case of this particular one, with the occasional great record or two thrown into evening rotation.

Their overnight jock, Roger McCall, would always have considerable leeway given his shift, and spun more than a safe number of playlist no-no’s in those early hours. We ended up co-hosting that show together, specializing in all the groovy stuff of the moment, on Tuesday nights.

Every once in a while, there’d be some mind blowing record, often from England and courtesy of Howard, that I’d take in to debut.

Like Howard, Roger and I had musical tastes that were profoundly in synch and we’d play those singles over and over really loudly in the studio while simultaneously doing the show, and of course giving them some needle time as well.

Yes, this was one of those records. Seriously, our jaws dropped on first listen. How could anything possibly be so good?

Years later while working at Island, Chris rang and asked me to take a meeting with Malcolm McLaren, he having originally signed him to the US label and issuing ‘Buffalo Gals’. Malcolm’s reputation certainly preceded him, so I was excited.

Honestly don’t recall what he was shopping at the time, maybe his French voguing record that ended up on Epic. But he was a riot to sit with for half an hour. An absolute storyteller/salesman.

Once we concluded the meeting, I pulled out my jukebox tab with the usual autograph request as part of the ask. Malcolm happily obliged, paying me quite the compliment: “Well, this truly is a new idea”.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Malcolm McLaren

Marcia Griffiths

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Listen: Electric Boogie (Featuring Bunny Wailer) / Marcia Griffiths
Electric Boogie (Featuring Bunny Wailer) / Marcia Griffiths

Marcia Griffiths, she of Bob & Marcia from the early 70′s, also spent seven years as a member of The I-Threes, legendary background singers for Bob Marley & The Wailers.

This original version of ‘Electric Boogie’ with Bunny Wailer from ’83, initially turned up as a B side to her Mango single ‘Fever’ (top photo) but as a brewing party track, gained momentum. Within a few years, it was reissued on Island proper, this time as an A side.

Despite being a touch clumsy, possibly meaning rootsy to most, it’s a hard one not to like.

Listen: Electric Boogie / Marcia Griffiths
Electric Boogie / Marcia Griffiths

Like turned to love as a result of the 1989 remake with The Jerks, a sharp three man production team from Florida. Chris Blackwell had done a deal with them, hot off a success with Miami Sound Machine, and their biggest chart hit for Island (#51) came in the form of this new version, by now the signature song for the Electric Slide dance craze, well, sort of craze.

A DJ played this a few months back during an over the top birthday event held in one of those wonderfully generic party houses, complete with salty, over seasoned food, hoodwinking many into believing it was tasty. To be fair, the cake was super special, whipped cream instead of icing and lots of fresh fruit chunks and almond slivers folded in.

The floor lit up when ‘Electric Boogie’ hit the turntable, and I didn’t want it to end.

Thunderclap Newman

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Thunderclap Newman USA

Listen: Accidents / Thunderclap Newman
Accidents / Thunderclap Newman

Not enough people seem to appreciate Thunderclap Newman.

For such a British sound, they surprisingly had a pretty big US hit with ‘Something In The Air’. It, and their album HOLLYWOOD DREAM, were produced by Pete Townshend. Word is they were a studio concoction he put together to help John ‘Speedy’ Keen, a roadie for The Who. Speedy Keen had indeed quite a talent for songwriting, doing just that for all but one song on the LP. He later released two solo albums, as well as some great singles including ‘Bad Boys’, a reggae style Chris Blackwell produced favorite of mine.

This track though, was the followup to ‘Something In The Air’. A 9:40 version of ‘Accidents’ can be found on the album, complete with kitchen sink psychedelics during a long middle part, but it’s the 7″ version that out-Englishes the Englishness of ‘Something In The Air’, if you can believe that. If not, just listen.

I dare say it’s a near perfect, or perfect plain and simple, record. Despite that, the single spent only one week in each the UK and US charts: #44 UK / #100 US.

Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was noticeably great. His intertwining parts here, and on every song, are hugely melodic and make all Thunderclap Newman’s material a little more special.

He later joined Stone The Crows and a very obscure band called Blue. They actually scored a minor hit, ‘Capture Your Heart’, when signed to Elton John’s Rocket label once he had departed, but previously had two albums on RSO, the first of which included the single ‘Little Jody’, an absolutely perfect, must own pop record, made even more perfect by his playing.

Later, he joined Wings, debuting on ‘Junior’s Farm’, undeniably one of their strongest singles.

I’m posting the mono single version of ‘Accidents’ here. A stereo version can be found on the cd reissue of that infamous HOLLYWOOD DREAM album, but for some reason they left off the mono. Sloppy….

The Persuaders / Junior Tucker

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / The Persuaders PersuadersLuck.mp3

Only in hindsight did I hear The Persuaders version of ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’. God only knows how that happened. I worked at a one-stop in Fall ’73, delivering records to accounts, and to my apartment….bad karma. I thought there wasn’t a 7″ I had left out of those personal allocations, but obviously I was wrong.

Add to that, how did I miss it on the radio? There was nothing else to listen to while doing those said deliveries and this one went pop, peaking at #39 in Billboard that very November.

Eventually, around the Christmas season, I got moved inside, pulling orders and restocking. At this I was a whizz. Could do it in my sleep – and loved it. I was in the LP department – all organized by label, then chronologically by catalog number within each. Can you imagine sections for King, Okeh, Fontana, Sue, Deram, Philips, Parrot, Stax, Smash…….ok enough torture.

The front half of the warehouse was dedicated to the 45′s. Maude did my version of the job up there, and she had a Kevin pile – one of everything. Well, sometimes 5 or 10, depending on varying factors. Once a one hundred count box was full, off to the tape dispenser, then on to the cart, bound for the delivery truck, it went. Oh to go back in time.

Still, I didn’t end up with a copy of this one for years.

Listen: Some Guys Have All The Luck / Junior Tucker JuniorTuckerSomeGuys.mp3

Fast forward. 1980.

Oldest trick in the book: cover classic soul songs in a reggae style. Pretty much works every time. In this case, beyond great.

I fell in love with Junior Tucker’s ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’ upon release. I dare say it got played hundreds and hundreds of times in my record room that year, and on my radio shows.

Corinne and I were both reggae lovers, having been weened on the hard corp Lee Perry and Jack Ruby releases Howard was sending our way starting in ’76. An all time favorite series, THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC, especially Volume 3, became our crowd’s anthem anthology. And I dare say all my best friends from that period can be transported back to some of the greatest times of our lives when we spin it nowadays.

Had I known then, that about ten years after Volume 3′s release, I would one afternoon walk into Chris Blackwell’s office, and suggest reviving the series with a Volume 4 and 5 (Volume 5 exclusive to reggae style RnB covers – this was included), and that he would say “Yes”, my heart would have frozen.

Millie Small

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Bloodshot Eyes / Millie Small

Listen: Bloodshot Eyes / Millie Small 01 Bloodshot Eyes.mp3

Who can forget ‘My Boy Lollipop’? It was Millie’s big hit during ’64 and still sounds as vibrant now as when it was everywhere that summer. Distinctly recall riding my bike round and round the block, trying to get in with my friend’s older brothers and sisters – all just turning into teenagers, and very into the latest records. Seems everyone of them had ‘My Boy Lollipop’ and I wanted a copy so badly.

I guess Millie Small was a one hit wonder. I’ve just now realized this. Shame. She made a bunch of great singles for several years to follow.

Chris Blackwell was her producer, manager, keeper. I asked him many times for Millie (as she was known outside the US) details but he had few, well none actually.

I’m always on the prowl for those elusive Millie 7′s. The one I want the most and have just never found is ‘A Mixed Up, Fickle, Moody, Self Centered, Spoiled Kind Of Boy’. Does this sound great or what?

Chris did tell me he’d done a two singles production deal with Ahmet Ertegan’s Atco in ’65, one was The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep On Running’ and the other Millie’s ‘Bloodshot Eyes’. It could have fit easily onto the DOCTOR NO soundtrack. By the way, that film was one of Chris’ first jobs. As well, he produced both singles. Good start.

The Wild Tchoupitoulas / Robert Palmer / Aaron Neville

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Meet Me Boys / The Wild Tchoupitoulas

Listen: Meet Me Boys On The Battle Front / The Wild Tchoupitoulas 02 Meet Me Boys On The Battlefront.mp3

Brother John / The Wild Tchoupitoulas

Listen: Brother John / The Wild Tchoupitoulas 01 Brother John.mp3

Man Smart, Woman Smarter / Robert Palmer

Listen: Man Smart, Woman Smarter / Robert Palmer 03 Man Smart Woman Smarter.mp3

Turns out the legendary album by The Wild Tchoupitoulas was even more legendary than originally thought. It was a bit of a first in it’s day, critics choice and all that. I remember Kathy Kenyon sending an envelope of singles to my college radio station back in ’76. She worked at Island then, left for several years and ended up returning when I started in the 80′s. Small world.

That package included these two Wild Tchoupitoulas 7″s and Robert Palmer’s ‘Man Smart, Woman Smarter’. Seems the label was going through a New Orleans fetish. Robert Palmer’s album (as well as Jess Roden’s then current one) were all recorded there with either The Meters, The Neville Brothers and/or Allen Toussaint contributing. When Chris Blackwell goes for something, he goes for it (reggae, world music, go-go).

Apparently, The Wild Tchoupitoulas project lead to the formation of The Neville Brothers, who until it’s recording, had never played together. Hard to believe they, not only as brothers but a band, started a long career as a result of that very album.

Tell It Like It Is / Aaron Neville

Tell It Like It Is / Aaron Neville

Listen: Tell It Like It Is / Aaron Neville 08 Tell It Like It Is.mp3

For some reason, they reissued the Aaron Neville single ‘Tell It Like It Is’ (originally on Stateside) in England. That pressing was also included in the package. That re-release reminded me of how much I loved it, not owning the original at the time. All in all, a pretty memorable watermark – thanks Kathy.

The Congos

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Listen: Congo Man / The Congos CongosCongoMan.mp3

As with anyone, once you get into a phase, like my recent reggae one, you probably end up trolling through loads of related records. In the case of reggae/ska here at home, they’re all separated into their own shelfs, both singles and albums, unlike any other genre. Reason: Corinne was such a reggae nut, I preferred to keep them separated so as not to have her pawing through all my other records, misfiling and doing harmlessly exactly as every other person would, being a bit sloppy about how they should be housed. Me: I’m immaculately ridiculous. I admit it.

When I stumbled on The Congos (yes it is misspelled on the label) the other day, I had suddenly remembered how extreme, maybe the most extreme ‘Lee Perry at his druggy-ist production ever’ this one and only Black Swan UK single was. And also what apparent controversy surrounded it (coming later).

All that aside, I cranked it, through the big Tannoy speakers. Truth be told, I’m no audiophile, and happily spin singles on either one of the two portable suitcase players I own. Occasionally, I’ll fire up the two turntable, DJ mix set up with all the speakers, either for an evening of playing records with a shortlist of close friends or for reggae. The bass is still amazing on those massive, and probably by today’s current high brow standards, archaic Tannoys.

So out comes ‘Congo Man’, on goes the big system and loud goes the volume. (The house was empty otherwise I’d have not even made it to :20). Wallop. I had forgotten this record’s power. And at 45 rpm, as with all singles, there’s even that much more bite.

Well, this is easy, I’ve just found my next post.

Listen: Congo Man Chant / The Congos CongosCongoChant.mp3

Having no recollection of the dub B side, then verifying it was never included on ARKOLOGY, the basically excellent Lee Perry anthology Island did back in the late 90′s, this flashback was no let down. This dub version could either convert or scare anyone.

I had thought Island’s rejection of The Congos album, only the above single was pressed as a promo only, never given a catalog number (which would be four digits and prefixed with WIP) was the reason Lee Perry burned down his infamous Black Arc studio. So I went to the expert, Duane Sherwood, for confirmation. It was not. His reply is below:

“Congo Man’ was the only single Island deemed suitable for release from the rejected HEART OF THE CONGOS album.
As far as I know, it’s the only serious blunder Chris Blackwell made in his stellar career (although some claim this was more about a business dispute than the music), sheparding Jamaican music thru Island and its sub-labels. The Lee Perry produced album is now in the Top 5, if not #1, on many of the most knowledgeable reggae musicoloigists all time lists. In Jamaica, the single was preceded by ‘Row Fisherman’, which came out a while before the album. Also, in Jamaica, at least three other singles were released from the album, two of them as extended, speaker burning, Black Art 12″s.

The trio, Cedric Myton, Ashanti Roy Johnson and Watty Burnett, introduced Perry to the beginnings of his rasta faith. They got him taking better care of his health, and that’s when the pictures of him with tiny dreads spiking up in his hair began to show up. Backing The Congos were the classic house rhythm section The Upsetters: Mikey Boo Richards on drums, Boris Gardiner on bass, Winston Wright on organ and Ernest Ranglin on guitar. The trio reunited and went on tour when the UK Blood & Fire label reissued HEART OF THE CONGOS in the 90′s, and played the entire album in front of enthralled old timers who never thought they’d see it.

‘Congo Man’ is a relic from the golden era of Perry’s Black Ark studio. Perched behind his house in Washington Gardens, the cinderblock and wood structure had become the coolest place in Jamaica in the mid-70′s, basically making it the coolest place anywhere in the universe at that time. Various up and coming singers hung around, hoping to be the closest one when Scratch suddenly got an idea and was looking for someone to sing it. The established stars of Perry’s stable, such as Junior Murvin, Jah Lion, Augustus Pablo and The Heptones were always about, adding harmonies and parts.

But there were also a growing population of ‘blood-suckahs, pimps and ‘ooligans’ frequenting the studio. Heavy hitter rastas came calling, looking to induct Perry deeper into their organization, which he resisted. He got fleeced by a promoter, who he invested with for a broadway musical about reggae and rasta. A lot of women were about too, and Lee Perry was a mover, despite his wife and family being around. Some of the more orthodox stars like Gregory Isaacs stopped coming, on account of “too much farn-i-cay-teen” on the premises.

The whole vibe, combined with the copious amounts of ganga being passed around and the rum being sipped, was a recipe for trouble. As Island started rejecting many of the full length releases Scratch was continually submitting, frustration started to build. Perry used to hold up an actual Island record with the island of Jamaica at sunset in the background on black vinyl. “See? Chris Blackwell surround the island” he used to say.

At some point, his wife Isha began an affair with Danny Clarke from The Meditations and that set the collapse in motion. Scratch decided he was done with all the hangers on and rasta theologians. He started acting crazy, put a sign on his front gate saying “I’m a Batty Boy” (JA slang for faggot). He started putting a huge piece of pork on the antenna of his car to keep the rastas away when he went out. It was always surrounded by flies in the hot Jamaican sun. He had been writing all over the walls of the studio for a while now, but he began drawing ‘X’s over the writing and everywhere, even burning them into the large leaves of the garden with a magnifying glass. Around this time, as the news started coming in about Bob Marley’s worsening condition, Scratch began walking around town backwards, stopping every so often to strike the ground with a hammer.

It’s generally believed that this is when he burned the studio down, but in actuality that happened several years later. He had left to America, made records backed by American reggae-rock bands like The Majestics, and returned. There are a few versions of the fire story, my favorite being the German tourist that showed up and wouldn’t leave. Perry got so frustrated, he grabbed one of the glass bottles of petrol in the driveway and threw it on the roof, then set it ablaze to scare the tourist off, which it did. Perry turned on the garden hose to put the fire out, but the local water had been turned off for the night. Scratch is said to have immediately sent his son out to buy a bottle of rum, saying “If Black Ark a g’waan burn, we haffa keep a party!”

Listen: Fisherman / The Congos CongosFisherman.mp3

Listen: Can’t Come In / The Congos CongosCantComeIn.mp3

In 1980, The Beat’s ska based, and generically visual leaning label, reissued the album, pulling two more tracks from HEART OF THE CONGOS as a single. They are above.

The Heptones / The Upsetters

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

HeptonesBook, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Book Of Rules / The Heptones HeptonesBook.mp3

Been digging out a lot of reggae stuff lately, combing through the shelves separated out exclusively for the genre, well ska and blue beat are in there too of course.

A few posts back, Justin Hines & The Dominoes to be exact, the story of my initial introduction, basically an unexpected crash course box full of seminal records from Howard, had me pull out a cd compilation I did at Island, created specifically to market, via in store play, the reissue series encompassing most of their classic 70′s reggae titles. Both cd and campaign were called 96º IN THE SHADE. It was good fun, and honestly a piece of cake. I just started with Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ – and using the Island master printout (which chronologically lists every single and album by catalog number – if anyone would like a pdf of it – email me – it’s fascinating) picked out the gems.

And I’m proud to say, the comp got such good response from the shops, that we renamed it GROOVE YARD, changed the cover, squeezed on a few more good ones, and released it commercially. It sold well. I’m pretty sure it’s still in print – no wait – I just checked Amazon – out of print but there’s 1 new copy for sale: $142.00. I need to dig out that box lot from the garage this Saturday.

Like the rest of the solar system, I don’t use cd’s much anymore – the Airbooks in the house don’t even have disc drives, so most of those compact discs are boxed and in storage, although some I do keep shelved for long drives. I grabbed GROOVE YARD on my way out to Stony Brook University to see Matt & Kim the other weekend, and found myself reliving the greatness of quite a few tunes from the era, as well as some sentimental memories of those times.

‘Book Of Rules’ is certainly one of my 10-ish favorite reggae 7′s. Fantastic song, nice clean vocal and lovely production. Well done Chris Blackwell.

HeptonesBookDub, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Book Of Rules (Version) / The Heptones HeptonesBookDub.mp3

Released in ’73, it seems to have just preceded full on dub, hence instrumentals with decorative sound effects thrown in were then called ‘version’ – and often used as B sides. I’ve always wanted ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ to be a bit more exciting or interesting or something moving – but it basically isn’t. I’ve posted it to quench curiosity. Plus it’s interesting to see how dub was getting started.

HeptonesSufferers, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

HeptonesSufferUS, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Sufferer’s Time / Heptones with The Upsetters HeptonesSufferersTime.mp3

By ’76, with Lee Perry at the controls, The Black Arc in full swing and The Upsetters doing the tracking, The Heptones were in tune with the times. Another classic, ‘Sufferer’s Time’, is basically perfect in every way. I never spin it just once. Can’t. I’ll even be late for something important to hear it that one extra time.

The real fun bit here it that Island US issued it as a 7″ too. I’m guessing there were pockets of Jamaican communities in some of the major US cities that would warrant, say a 1000 – 2000 piece run. Those sales figures are again guesses, and the manufacturing details were very sloppy at Island, so I never did figure out a real number on this and a few other jaw droppers (in that I couldn’t believe they’d been issued in the US on 7″) while at the company.

This I can tell you – there weren’t many as I’ve never seen another US copy of ‘Sufferer’s Time’. Just happened to stumble on this while going through some deeply buried boxes in the mailroom – a process of completion that took a month or two, but I got through ‘em all and it was well, well, well worth the sleuthing, trust me.

UpsettersSufferersDub, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

UpsettersSufferersUS, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Sufferer’s Dub / The Upsetters UpsettersSufferDub.mp3

Not only is the A side a killer, but by ’76, proper dub was in serious swing – hence this monster example on the flip, aptly titled ‘Sufferer’s Dub’. Oddly credited only to The Upsetters despite many Heptones vocal drops, it makes for even more excitement in one way – an American single by The Upsetters. Never been another. I get excited by unexpected things admittedly.

HeptonesParty, The Heptones, Lee Perry, The Upsetters

Listen: Party Time / The Heptones HeptonesPartyTime.mp3

When this first arrived in the mail, dependably hot off the presses from HT, I was mildly disappointed. That was stupid. It’s awesome. I had the original UK LP pressing too, but now find only the US Mango copy in my wall shelf. Basically, I know Duane stole it – he always denies it – but it’s plain and simple true. No biggie – at least I know where it is.

But if you try to touch the single Duane, be prepared to pull back a bloody stub.

Womack & Womack

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

WomackMPB, Womack & Womack, Island, Chris Blackwell, Julian Palmer

WomackMPBPS Womack & Womack, Island, Chris Blackwell, Julian Palmer

Listen: MPB (Missing Persons Bureau) / Womack & Womack WomackMPB.mp3

Womack & Womack were a peculiar bunch. The music: always great – always, but there were many eccentricities.

A quite funny incident occurred when delivering their album CONSCIENCE to Island. Now this would have been summer ’88. Chris Blackwell was in town, and a few of us were hanging around his office late that afternoon eating cashews and drinking cold beer as he played one great track from it after the other. Chris always had loads of drinks in his fridge, plus nuts, fruit and good snacks on the front edge of his desk, where at least a couple of chairs would face him – and anyone from the staff could literally hang there, playing music – new singles, demos, mixes, whatever. It was good fun when he’d share stories about Jamaica or Island history, always casual and no stress. Indeed casual was the absolute description of his preferred work environment. Being a top host, it could be a really fun place.

So Maureen from the art department turns up with a packaging proof for his approval. Womack & Womack had done their deal through Julian Palmer in the UK office, I seem to recall. Didn’t matter, Chris would approve all art and so London wanted his okay. He’s looking it over and asks, “Why does it list me as executive producer?”. Maureen got a touch flustered, worried she’d fucked something up and explains that’s how the label copy was submitted. “But I’ve never even met them” he laughs. We all just fell in hysterics as by then the ganga was circulating. “What the fuck’s up with these people?”.

It totally captured the roller coaster twists and turns the project took, ultimately ending after one album, despite massive success.

The Womacks were very much a family operation, and a large one at that. All the kids, even the grandmother, would be on stage making for a fantastic show (their run at The Bottom Line a particularly great memory), but chaotic in most other respects, like when they’d invade the office.

‘MPB (Missing Person’s Bureau)’ was the fourth and final single from the LP. Despite a low chart reading (#92 UK), it didn’t really reflect the song’s popularity. The full length was platinum by then.

Never have I played this with others around and not get the ‘wow, what’s this’ reaction.

The Pink Floyd

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Arnold Layne / The Pink Floyd

Arnold Layne / The Pink Floyd

Arnold / The Pink Floyd

Listen: Arnold Layne / The Pink Floyd
Arnold

Tower 333. That was the label and catalog number for The Pink Floyd’s first US single, ‘Arnold Layne’. I heard it played on Dick Clark’s AMERICAN BANDSTAND Rate A Record segment, and taped it on my tiny GE reel to reel, complete with a palm sized hand held microphone and a happening aqua play button. I still have it, in fact I can see it as I type.

Oh fuck, did I want to own this single or what? It was a one listen record. Like involuntary movement, I special ordered it on the phone that very Saturday afternoon from Mrs. Smith at Smith’s Records. And I would anxiously wait week after week but it never did arrive. Took me a few years to get it at all, and then on a UK pressing. That US Tower single was so elusive. In fact, finding a stock copy took 39 long years.

In the meantime, I did drive to New Jersey in a snow storm, a proper blizzard to be exact, with Steve Yegelwel, to buy a DJ copy complete with it’s promo-only picture sleeve for $150 in ’90, a fire sale by today’s standards. I’d seen it listed in GOLDMINE the day the issue arrived, so I immediately call this guy who says he’s just sold it. I double his asking price of $75, offer to drive over the river despite the weather and pay in cash. He accepts. Steve was from Jersey and knew the way. We worked together at Island then.

But it was a few months later that I really struck gold when it comes to ‘Arnold Layne’. The catalog number is without a doubt embossed in my brain. I became obsessed with getting that record at the time and just ordered it from every shop I could. No one ever did get it, but I ended up knowing Tower 333 by heart.

Fast forward to June 23, 1990, which doubles as my wedding anniversary so already in a good mood, I’m walking from the Astor Street subway stop toward the Island office on West 4th Street, which was just one flight up above Tower Records, the retail chain not the label. Conveniently, during both Tower’s and Island’s heydays, a perfect place for a vinyl addict to be located.

Meanwhile across the street from the building entrance, almost to Broadway, I see a massive, and I mean massive, pile of discarded records, both in box lots and loose. All of them 45′s. Must have been an old music publisher’s office that got gutted and curbed, I never did get to the bottom of that one. There’s a few guys sifting through them. Well I went into a whole other gear, my heart revved up, I ran and I dug in. I gouged this pile. I don’t remember for sure but I think the others just backed off as I was acting so irrationally, taking anything remotely interesting, basically being a pig.

I was in a panic and luckily Island was in a doorman building so I motioned to Spike, said doorman, to come watch my heap while I ran upstairs for boxes and help. I’m pretty sure I dragged Yegelwel down, definitely Karen Yee (she still works at Island), Kathy Kenyon, Hugo Burnham and Denny Cordell too. I needed all of them. There was so much to carry. Even Chris wandered downstairs for some amusement when he heard.

Well the tricky part of this adventure was: a big chunk of these were test pressings. Most had, at best, a white label with little to no info hand written in. Then there were acetates, with only catalog and/or stamper numbers in the run-off grooves. Plus there were a couple thousand records so I’m trying to be a touch selective, checking them for any clues, details.

Arnold Layne / The Pink Floyd acetate

One of these acetates, sparkling purple-ish black in the morning sun has ‘T 333 A’ etched in it’s run off groove. Look closely at the scan of it above. No way. Not possible. Don’t even go there. Still, I added it to my mountain just in case and kept it all moving.

Later, in my office, I’m messing with all these records, some people are stopping by, wondering about the stupid commotion. We’re playing half a song, then hurrying on to the next single, there was so much obscure soul, multiple copies, enough for everyone. I’m losing it. Sorting through, I find that T 333 acetate and put it on the turntable, seriously not expecting anything as most of the others were garbage.

Lo and behold, it’s ‘Arnold Layne’. And in stereo. I just froze.

As Russell and Ron Mael wrote on Sparks’ recent seminal single ‘Good Morning’: “Thank you God/For having thought of me/I know your time is tight/But still you thought of me”. So true.