Posts Tagged ‘Fontana’

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

DDDBMTZabadakUSA, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich, Imperial

Zabadak / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

Listen: Zabadak / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Zabadak

In honor of yet another year owning ‘Zabadak’, one of my all time favorite singles by an all time favorite band, I’m continuing my annual tradition of reposting that original entry about the single’s history from December 28, 2008 at SO MANY RECORDS SO LITTLE TIME.

Footnote: In the original post linked above, I mention the single’s strong airplay at the time. Click here after reading the post to check out some of the US Top 40 stations that played and charted the record. This link organizes the airplay by date, and note there are 6 pages of station listings viewable. See upper right corner to scroll though all 6.

The Herd

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Listen: The Game / The Herd
The

Public opinion always focuses on Peter Frampton when it comes to The Herd. But let me tell you, as with pre and post Frampton, The Herd were all about Andy Bown. A shockingly unsung hero, it was Andy Bown who rejoined his Herd defector in the early 70′s for a few Frampton’s Camel US tours. Thank the Lord, Jah, The Dahli Lama and whoever else needs praising. Had it not been for that fateful reprieve, I may never have met the man.

The first and last Fontana single by The Herd, post Peter Frampton’s departure, was this, ‘The Game’. It was met with zero welcoming from the press and the public. Don’t forget, hipsters turned their noses toward The Herd during the band’s heyday, assuming them to be manufactured by songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blakley. History proved otherwise.

As if overnight, while still trying to find a seemingly current US copy of ‘The Game’, several were discovered gracing the 10 for 59¢ shrink wrapped deletion boxes sold at Woolworth’s during the late 60′s. Praise be. Those miracle pre packs were always like discovering a desert island while clinging a life preserver at sea or some such analogy. Come to think of it, I acquired my domestic copy of The Herd’s first US single, ‘I Can Fly’ tucked inside one of those extraordinary boxes as well. Stumbling on a warehouse full with unsold skids of those boxes nowadays would have us on a stretcher.

Andy Bown’s intentionally needle pinning production jammed trombones, saxophones, probably other brass too, and loads of “La la la la” background vocals into a typically Herd organ led track. The record reeked of English Pop. I loved it. Always have, always will.

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich / The Herd / Scott Walker / Dusty Springfield

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

SWEETIE BRA EP / Various Artists:

Side 1:

Listen: Introduction – Zabadak! / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Introduction

Listen: I Don’t Want Our Loving To Die / The Herd
I

Side 2:


Listen: Come Next Spring / Scott Walker
Come

Listen: My Colouring Book / Dusty Springfield
My

No, it’s not an ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS artifact, it’s the real deal SWEETIE BRA EP from the British Exquisite Form Brassiere Company in 1968.

If you’re like me, you didn’t know the record existed. I stumbled on a copy years ago, digging through boxes rather early at the Portobello Road Saturday flea market. And by rather early, I mean it was still dark. Getting there at the crack of dawn was, and still is, the only way to find the cardiac arresting level items at low prices or more probably at any price.

I was on a mission that morning, having anticipated it all for a few days leading up. We were staying at the then hopping, now closed, Pembridge Court Hotel, with a back door entrance that literally spilled out onto the starting tip of Portobello Road.

What a place that hotel was. The manager Valerie had two gentle orange cats that happily visited the room and would occasionally stay the night if allowed. Her staff delivered sandwiches with tea and cakes at any hour. It was like staying at a great aunt’s house in old time Ennland. Corinne and I were loyal guests for years, we loved it there.

So on that particular morning, I schlepped out on my own before dawn, flashlight in pocket, to mingle with the aggressive dealers in search of their next slice of income and the collectors, in search of their next fix. No idea why I even pulled the record out of this sleeve to have a look, I guess it was an exercise in being thorough. To my surprise and pleasure, four of my favorite acts were featured. This was clearly a promotional item via some sort of relationship between the bra company and Philips/Fontana Records, given that all the artists were from the company’s roster and the actual label was the Philips signature deep shade of blue.

An amusing introduction starts Side 1, then leads into ‘Zabadak!’, a December 28th landmark in my measly little existence of a life.

The Spencer Davis Group / The Mindbenders / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich / The Pretty Things

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

THE BIG 4 / Various Artists:

Side 1:

Listen: Keep On Running / The Spencer Davis Group
Keep

Listen: You Make It Move / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
You

Side 2:

Listen: A Groovy Kind Of Love / The Mindbenders
A

Listen: Midnight To Six Man / The Pretty Things
Midnight

And so with the UK EP, given a possible restrictive higher price to the customer, often labels would package recent chart hits together making a purchase seemingly more attractive, musically convenient or both. Unlike Decca, Fontana weren’t regulars in the various artists EP game. But on this occasion, April 1966, THE BIG 4 hit the market to seemingly little response, given it’s absence from the RECORD RETAILER EP Chart.

Given the EP contained a recent #1 ‘Keep On Running’ and three current Top 50′s: #2 ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’, #26 ‘You Make It Move’ and #46 ‘Midnight To Six Man’, one would have expected a different result. Most likely the label did too.

Ultimately it’s hard to guess how many might have sold. I really would love to know. This one surfaces occasionally on eBay and doesn’t sell for much. Despite that, it still has value for the money as the pressing is superb, mastered loudly with great high and low end. Plus all the songs make for a great listen together.

Bobby Graham / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Listen: Grotty Drums / Bobby Graham
Grotty

Listen: Hold Tight / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Hold

Possibly you’ll notice a distinct similarity between these two singles. Both on Fontana and both released during February ’66 in the UK.

‘Grotty Drums’, the B side to infamous session drummer Bobby Graham’s second solo release ‘Teensville’, was co-written with Jimmy Page. At the time not only a member of The Yardbirds, but like Bobby aka Bobbie, he was a very in demand session player himself. Both played on hundreds of singles from the era, many recorded for Fontana, the label in common. It’s also one of the loudest cut singles I can think of. Upon close inspection, the grooves resemble a graph of the Dow Jones during a volatile month.

Probably coincidental but fun to imagine one or the other being impressed by the instantaneous drive and swing of that 4/4 attack, and borrowing it a bit.

The Spencer Davis Group

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Listen: I Can’t Stand It / The Spencer Davis Group
I

Imagine my thrill in ’75, stumbling on one of those big tubs full of 10 for $1.00 singles in JM Fields, the massive department store, somewhat a forerunner to Wal-Mart. They were few and far between then, and my memory has zero recollection of it ever happening again.

This was the outskirts of Syracuse and the result of a completely unplanned stop to buy God knows what. No wonder I turned to drugs soon after, it was the only way to replicate the high. I systematically dug through this pile a few times, insuring not one was overlooked. I shudder to imagine what I may have left behind, but regardless, the gem of the day was The Spencer Davis Group ‘I Can’t Stand It’. Rare even then, extinct now.

‘I Can’t Stand It’ was the band’s second UK single, but first in the US, and only release on Fontana. Tame by comparison to later A sides, still Steve Winwood’s undeniable Ray Charles styled vocal surely must have been the envy of every other white singer in England, all desperate to sound black.

Manfred Mann

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Listen: Ragamuffin Man / Manfred Mann
Ragamuffin

Manfred Mann may hold the record for having massive success with not two, but three different lead vocalists. It’s usually big trouble when that original lead singer is suddenly gone. A few exceptions like AC/DC, Van Halen, The Move and maybe The Small Faces come to mind. But three different ones. Let’s see, that’s a pretty short list. I can only think of The Temptations and Manfred Mann.

Their Mercury/Fontana patch with Mike D’Abo, loosely referred to as Manfred Mann Chapter II, is my favorite, but just. To be fair, I love singles from all the lineups, so it’s probably my involuntary addiction toward anything released on the Philips/Mercury/Fontana labels that swings it. Honestly, I get the shakes around their pressings, especially the promos.

The last 7″ from the Mike D’Abo era, ‘Ragamuffin Man’ has forever been tarnished with fulfilling the final contractual commitment, by then Manfred Mann himself having decided on a jazz direction and new lineup, etc, etc. But seriously, it’s just as strong as the singles preceding it: ‘Semi Detached Suburban Mr. Jones’, ‘Ha Ha Said The Clown’, ‘My Name Is Jack’ and ‘The Mighty Quinn’. The record is great. I still play it a ton.

Got to hand it to him, Manfred Mann could not only pick songs but had a real gift of stamping his keyboard dazzle to every single they ever made. He might even be the earliest guy to successfully bring synths and Moog to mainstream radio.

And for the record, THE MIGHTY QUINN album, assembled for the US only just a few months prior to ‘Ragamuffin Man’ being released, is exceptional. They always used the long-play format to showcase a virtuosity and range of influences away from the world of pop singles. Despite not being an album recorded intentionally as such by the band, it plays like one, and combines all their assets nicely. It’s getting scarce these days, especially in a mint sleeve. I recommend everyone own a copy.

Spanky & Our Gang

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Listen: Like To Get To Know You / Spanky & Our Gang
Like

God, I hated Spanky & Our Gang when they were current. As a kid, they just sounded like safe sonic sludge, a cross between The Mamas & The Papas and The Letterman. Being impatiently addicted to the English group image, this bunch were simply hideous visually, out of shape and way too American.

Add to that, they were signed to the US Mercury/Philips/Fontana labels. As far as I was concerned, any money and manpower directed toward them took away from The Herd, The Troggs, Manfred Mann, The New Vaudeville Band, The Pretty Things and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Trust me, this did not sit well.

Truth be told, I was kind of wrong. Indeed, they probably did rob those other acts of company resources, but musically, they were pristine. To be fair, as the years passed, I found Spanky & Our Gang to be a nagging guilty pleasure, and one that eventually carried no guilt. Their collection of hits and non-hits sound even better with age. In fact, very psychedelic, aided in no small way by some of the earliest stereo 7′ pressings I can recall.

Check out both the production and arrangement of any Spanky & Our Gang single, start with ‘Like To Get To Know You’. This was on the radio constantly in ’68 and rivals Richard Harris’s Jimmy Webb written/produced ‘MacArthur Park’ for the flowery mini symphony slot of the era.

Helen Reddy

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Listen: I Am Woman / Helen Reddy
I

To think, in ’72, ‘I Am Woman’, a song about women’s rights, not only got airplay, but reached #1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100. With our US Presidential election only days away, a track like this might not get a chance to be heard for another four years if Romney wins. In fact, this blog might disappear for even saying that. Hopefully, you’ll all vote against such a threat.

Read about Helen Reddy on Wikipedia. Fascinating. Her first record deal in the US was with Fontana, but not until moving to Capitol did she get any traction. I recall Corinne and I being crazy about her around the time of ‘I Am Woman’, and standing for hours in the blazing sun to watch her up close at the New York State Fair summer ’74. Not only did we love the singles, but were knocked out by her words at the Grammy’s, whereby she concluded her acceptance speech famously thanking God “because She makes everything possible”.

Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Listen: Game Of Love / Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
Game

At this late night moment, other than Dave Dee, Dozy. Beaky, Mick & Tich’s ‘Hold Tight’, I can’t think of any other song with a more powerful intro. Well hold on, there’s Inez & Charlie Foxx ‘Count The Days’ and The Cramps ‘Human Fly’ and….

Regardless, no one can deny ‘Game Of Love’. Doesn’t matter what genre you prefer. This single is absolutely top. Admittedly overplayed for thirty odd years but now almost as scarce on the airwaves as the US picture sleeve above, ‘Game Of Love’ also challenges David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ for most perfect use of a metallic tambourine as a no turning back now arrangement accelerator. When that moment occurs at 0:14, the song and the whole world just elevates up a notch. Fact.

Bobbie Graham

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Listen: Skin Deep / Bobbie Graham
Skin

The mere concept that Bobbie Graham, aka Bobby Graham, played drums on an estimated fifteen thousand singles is mind boggling. Seriously, we probably don’t have time in our remaining years to listen to them all, not to mention the hours it took to record them. His discography, lifted from the official website, is frustratingly short. This abridged version is possibly a good thing though. As with the various drug warnings on television nowadays, the entire song list may cause convulsions or death.

In ’64, Bobbie Graham’s session work with The Pretty Things resulted in him becoming their producer, apparently Fontana’s various in-house staff not having a grasp for the job. A&R manager Jack Baverstock had the good sense to sign him as an artist, issue a few singles, he having recently appeared in a spectacular segment of the film GONKS GO BEAT, playing the blue kit and dressed in a matching blue shirt:

Preceding the film’s release, ‘Skin Deep’ was in the stores. Possibly viewed as a corporate attempt at capitalizing on the beat group sound of the day, it’s bombastic production teeters on overkill and surf all at once. In hindsight, you can’t find a better snapshot of the colorful period.

Listen: Zoom, Widge And Wag / Bobbie Graham
Zoom,

Unlike most throwaway B sides, this one was clearly planned. A co-write between Bobbie Graham and Jimmy Page, ‘Zoom, Widge And Wag’ calculated the access they’d have to a full orchestra while in the studio recording ‘Skin Deep’. Released in January of ’65 meant ‘Zoom, Widge And Wag’ was clearly recorded in ’64, during which time the pair were professionally the most sought after studio team around London. Other than Big Jim Sullivan, it was Little Jim as Jimmy Page was known, who played on just about as many singles as Bobbie Graham.

‘Zoom, Widge And Wag’ spills into surf in my twisted head, not unlike it’s A side. It’s great to think back to a time when instrumentals were positioned into the mainstream. Not until electronic music became Top 40 during the late 90′s, and then in the UK and Europe, did the trend begin to resurface. The US, usually twenty years and five hours behind England when it comes to the radio, is just now surrendering to instrumental dance hits on daytime broadcasts. US programmers. What a bunch of boobs.

The Pretty Things

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Listen: Midnight To Six Man / The Pretty Things
Midnight

Happy birthday Phil May.

Acquiring one of the hardest US singles by The Pretty Things, a commercial stock copy of ‘Midnight To Six Man’, evaded me for decades. It became the most exasperating exercise. I had even put a $300.00 eSnipe bid in on the very, very rare occasion that one went up for auction several years ago. The previous day, I changed my eBay password as a standard safety procedure, and neglected to do the same with eSnipe. The bid was rejected due to security reasons. The record, listed by it’s B side as opposed to ‘Midnight To Six Man’, sold for just over $7.00. I was mortified. Even contacted the seller with a bribe, and the winner with hundreds. No luck.

Not so the second time through, and finally got the copy above. Nowhere near the $7 mark, but thrilled just the same. Now I can go to my grave, and this single will come with me.

Above: The Pretty Things perform ‘Midnight To Six Man’ live on the British TV program A WHOLE SCENE GOING March ’66.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Phil May

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.

The Others

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Listen: Oh Yeah! / The Others
Oh Yeah! / The Others

Not to be confused with the Rhode Island band, who’s RCA single from ’65, ‘I Can’t Stand This Love, Goodbye’ could fool anyone into assuming they were indeed the same guys.

‘Oh Yeah’, issued in what seemed a lifetime prior, one year to be exact, was instead by the British band, The Others. It turned out to be their only release.

A possible songwriting inspiration for ‘Gloria’ by Them, this Bo Diddley composition, soon to be a US hit for The Shadows Of Knight, rivaled the later for being one of the most white sounding RnB remakes ever. It was never a hit for The Others, neither in the US or The UK. Unlike The Shadows Of Knight, who had a #41 Billboard placing with it, as the followup to their #10 version of ‘Gloria’. Talk about obvious.

The real fun detail specific to The Others US pressing from my collection is that I bought it for 2¢, which is actually even better than getting a copy for free to be honest. Years back, a friend had a record stall at a local indoor flea/junk/antique market, one of those caged in spots. Always chock full of good stuff, nicely displayed and fairly priced, it was a favorite stop. My pal was no slouch in the value department, but who can know everything. A large 3 for 5¢ bin heaving with 45′s was located just near the entrance. Quite frankly, there were almost too many to sift through. Still, in casual conversation, I sifted away. The only title of worth, even then an obscure garage collectable, was the somewhat worn copy above. I’m sure if time could reverse, and a second opportunity at that pile awaited, more than one choice would today emerge but that’s not happening.

So I make my way out, and hold up the single. His reply was, give me 2¢. Seriously, he rounded it up to the next even penny. I only had a nickel, so suggested he keep the change, which he did.

The James Brown Productions: Bill Pinkney / James Crawford / Anna King

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I Do the Jerk / Bill Pinkney

Listen: I Do The Jerk / Bill Pinkney
I Do The Jerk / Bill Pinkney

There was actually a period in the 60′s when an artist could get away with signing to more than one label at a time, sometimes under different names, sometimes not. Usually, these were all singles deals anyways, I’m guessing, whose shelf life may have been months instead of years. Give someone a few releases and if nothing clicked, keep it all moving and on to the scrap heap they’d go. Not everybody got away with it, specifically James Brown.

As the story goes, while still under obligation to King Records, he upped and signed to Smash, a subsidiary of the Mercury/Philips group. Pretty quickly it was squashed, but as he still owed Smash many sides, James was forced to record as an instrumentalist for the label, specifically playing organ. A big old Hammond at that, thereby helping create amongst other genres, mod jazz, well sort of, as his stuff was mostly a combination of soul & schlock. Kinda black muzak versions you could say. All great listens though, the perfect party soundtrack in it’s day or even now in trendy trust fund pads or retro club nights. Part of his deal with Smash included a production imprint, whereby he did just that, produced other artists for Smash, Mercury and Fontana (another sister label), many bearing the recognizable ‘James Brown Production’ logo. Most famous was Bobby Byrd, his loyal sideman for decades.

Not so famous, but musts nonetheless, found their way, despite little or no marketing/push, onto the Mercury Group’s release schedules.

Like Bill Pinkney’s cash-in, almost Young Rascals rocker, ‘I Do The Jerk’ on Fontana. This was when the Jerk was a dance de jour. Everyone did it, or claimed to know how. Never ever heard ‘I Do The Jerk’ at the time, but mind you, was way to young even if it was played. Most likely, the pop stations went nowhere close, although from tooling the annals of radio playlist history, God bless Google but be prepared to work, some very, very secondary Southern delta markets spun it occasionally.

Strung Out / James Crawford

Listen: Strung Out / James Crawford
Strung Out / James Crawford

The super great, and oddly James Brown similar, James Crawford, released the spectacular ballad ‘Strung Out’ on Mercury. Don’t bother closing your eyes and imagining, you won’t need to. This could easily be the man himself. Quite possibly, buried somewhere in the Universal master tape storage library, which sadly was partially destroyed by fire not that long ago, may exist a James Brown version. Or maybe a vocal guide demo version laid down by producer for artist. Meaning James Brown for James Crawford.

If Somebody Told You / Anna King

Back to Soul / Anna King

Listen: If Somebody Told You / Anna King
If Somebody Told You / Anna King

Which brings this post to the one time featured female vocalist from the touring version of The James Brown Revue. She being Anna King. Good voice, perfect look: processed hair, bullet proofed into place, body tight, sparkle floor length ensembles and no doubt, an onstage sizzling swagger.

She made a few singles, produced by James Brown for Smash. And even an album. As well, she did one 7″ with Bobby Byrd ‘Baby Baby Baby’, which was included on the UK only EP BACK TO SOUL.

Marie Knight

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

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

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

You know, I love you Vicki Wickham.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gloria Lynne

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Watermelon Man / Gloria Lynne

Listen: Watermelon Man / Gloria Lynne
Watermelon Man / Gloria Lynne

Michael Alago and I worked together at Elektra for ages. We’d first met when he booked The Ritz a few years prior. The great times and mischief we got up to at that label, it’s an HBO series waiting to happen. Michael’s one of the great A&R people out there as well, having signed Metallica, Alan Vega, White Zombie, Nina Simone. It’s pretty hard to top his track record.

There was a moment when we were sent on a mission to find some classic artists for a series of Nonesuch jazz releases, those that might still be active, but hadn’t recorded in a while. This was a perfect reason to have an extended champagne lunch at Bicé on the company card and brainstorm a list. Gloria Lynne came to mind. After a few phone calls, we found she managed herself and got her home number from the fellow who booked The Blue Note at the time, name escapes me. Turns out her’s was the exact same as Michael’s, bar the last digit.

In those days, we used to get back to one of our places, four or five in the morning, fresh from another night at Danceteria or The Ritz, still ready to go; seriously. Sad but true. We’d often dial her number up to that very last digit, deciding it was time to make the call, then chickening out. Thankfully.

Check out her rap at the end of ‘Watermelon Man’. This is so blatant, so nasty. Lil’ Kim has nothing on her.

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.

The Pretty Things

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Listen: Come See Me / The Pretty Things PrettyThingsComeSeeMe.mp3

Written about way more times than it ever got played on US radio embarrassingly. ‘Come See Me’ is without question, one of the all time greats. I can’t think of a single that’s cut louder. Seriously, can you? Always on the border of over distorted, but just, I guess it was too good to be a hit. Too good for the average shlump to hear.

And in their 60′s heyday, if they were this good live, it’s no wonder their friends The Rolling Stones never asked them out on tour, even though Brian Jones was their roommate (not that he had much juice apparently). Makes perfect sense.

The Cramps always had the same problem getting support slots. Who in their right mind wanted to go onstage after they played? Nobody.

Although, hold on, to be fair, White Zombie gave them a few slots, like the San Diego Sports Arena. Yep, I saw The Cramps at the San Diego Sports Arena. The front 25% were going bonkers, the remaining 75%, basically silent – not booing, not speaking, just completely baffled. Genius.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Dick Taylor

Gary & The Hornets

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Listen: Kind Of Hush / Gary & The Hornets GaryHornetsHush.mp3

Lou Reizner is a name you will notice often if you scour various mid 60′s singles in the Mercury/Philips/Smash/Fontana family. He either produced, A&R’d or both for the company. I’m guessing one of his pet projects, or maybe assignments, were brothers Gary & The Hornets.

Every week several bands suddenly appeared out of nowhere, clad perfectly in wide colorful cords and uncomfortably fitting polka dot or paisley shirts, complimented by the obligatory bowl cut. These kids were no exception.

A hipper looking, but not better sounding, version of contemporaries The Cowsills (sans the Mom), they covered a few well know (Herman’s Hermits ‘Kind Of Hush’) or semi well known (‘The Troggs ‘Hi Hi Hazel’) singles. None with any success.

Listen: Baby It’s You / Gary & The Hornets GaryHornetsBaby.mp3

One such well known track, ‘Baby It’s You’ was recorded by many, including The Shirelles and The Beatles, but the hit went to a female led, more soul/blues white act, Smith. For Gary & The Hornets, it was yet another unsuccessful stab at some Top 40 success.

If I had to guess, the hope was their voices would improve with age – but that wasn’t meant to be. Turns out I have five of their 7′s, and the more recent ones don’t indicate much of an upward trajectory.

Never mind. They were fun at the time, and encouraged many an aspiring youngster to give a go at cutting a single or two, and for that we should give Gary & The Hornets a nod.