Posts Tagged ‘Harry Fagenbaum’

Big Maybelle

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Listen: I’m Getting ‘long Alright / Big Maybelle

I can not lie. I get weak around any Okeh single, particularly in it’s matching stock sleeve. This certainly must have something to do with purple foil and paper wrapped chocolate bars from that first trip to Ireland when only in my single digits. We spent the summer with my aunt and grandmother in the house where my Mom grew up. Ballymoney, County Antrim. I don’t recall much, except for getting caught dipping my hand into a neighbor’s purse. The result was most unpleasant, but I needed a Cadbury marzipan bar, a flavor long since discontinued. The experience dented my brain permanently.

This Big Maybelle single from 1954 still glistens as a true visual artifact of color and design, and it’s a frequent choice when flipping through the wall shelves looking for something to play.

As with Bessie Smith, I became smitten by Big Maybelle soon after discovering both Janis Joplin and Tracy Nelson. Big Brother & The Holding Company were just releasing their first singles on Mainstream Records then, with Mother Earth, Tracy Nelson’s band also based out of San Fransisco, doing the same on Mercury shortly thereafter. Given they repeatedly name checked Bessie Smith and Big Maybelle as inspirational influences, my curiosity ran high.

Big Maybelle singles were easy and inexpensive finds for years. Album culture was fully prevalent during the late 60′s so singles simply became passé to most music aficionados of the day. This presented me with great joy as the pickings were euphoric. Marked down 7″ records being commonplace meant you could acquire the most amazing titles for a nickel or a dime. This single was one such find.

Her voice, great. The sound quality of these recordings, great. The subject matter, wow. So many Big Maybelle singles just reeked of sex. And comically presented. Surprisingly, Janis Joplin never nicked the idea, or more likely, conservative Columbia Records wouldn’t allow it.

I have to believe a sausage lyric version exists somewhere, with this cleaned up chicken take recorded specifically for the single, given ‘I’m Getting ‘long Alright’ was it’s A side.

Listen: My Big Mistake / Big Maybelle

‘My Big Mistake’, being formula bar room blues, allowed her to stomp and bully through the song in presumably very few takes. I recall hearing Fred Perry and Harry Fagenbaum play this straight into Mother Earth’s ‘Down So Low’ on their overnight college radio show, when underground album rock began overtaking the FM dial. WAER, Syracuse University’s student station gave all night shifts to nocturnal speed freak students who thankfully proceeded to pollute our ears with the wildest and most eclectic records around.

I bought Mother Earth’s LIVING WITH THE ANIMALS album the very next afternoon, a Sunday. We made our weekly trip to the SU campus, hanging around Discount Records or Record Runner on Marshall Street for hours, juggling what to buy. It became my purchase choice that weekend. Once home I discovered Mother Earth had modeled the majority of the album after Big Maybelle’s delivery style on records like ‘My Big Mistake’. maybe even that very song.

Georgie Fame & Alan Price

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Listen: Rosetta / Fame & Price, Price & Fame Together

By the time these two guys teamed up, they’d outgrown their hardcore, grimy beginnings, especially having to play the late, late, late night white blues and soul clubs that typified 60′s Mod. Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames and The Alan Price Set respectively had done their time in the all-nighter trenches of London’s Flamingo, and other even nastier spots around the UK. Miraculously, even though they were having mainstream hit singles, their labels allowed both to record what each clearly preferred, jazz funk and RnB.

But I guess hits meant tasting success and some money, so by the early 70′s, both Georgie Fame and Alan Price were involved with televsion, films and soundtracks. Somewhere in that mix, a suggested musical partnering reflecting their apparent camaraderie actually took way.

Great plan. Their voices sounded superb together, and the first single released as Fame And Price, Price And Fame Together landed them a #11 UK hit in ’71.

Fuck was I pissed ‘Rosetta’ never got airplay in America. Initially, the single was included in a pile gotten off Harry Fagenbaum, the Syracuse University college radio rep for Warner Brothers. Despite Harry being another Anglophile, he hardly mentioned it. Supposedly, this record was just too adult and schmaltz for him. He wrongly assumed I would agree.

Can recall vividly returning home that Sunday evening, having spent the day trolling the SU campus record shops, then hanging out at Harry’s dorm, listening to The Pretty Things GET THE PICTURE album. Seriously, we played it at least twice, as I still hadn’t scored my copy. That was a damn hard one to get even in ’71. Imports were starting to become more common, but not older titles. So I’d always run straight for it in his wall shelf.

I remember him trying to edge in Ron Nagle’s BAD RICE album, and Deep Purple’s ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’ 7″, both of which he’d just given me. My logic was to promise I’d listen once home, but in the meantime, let’s hear The Pretty Things. And I did check those out that night, as well John & Beverly Martyn’s ‘Primrose Hill’, yet it was ‘Rosetta’ that hands down stole the thunder.

Curved Air

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Listen: Back Street Luv (US 7″ Edit) / Curved Air CurvedAirBackStreetUSEdit.mp3

Does being attracted to Moog synthesizers count towards becoming an early techno fan? Seems logical. Don’t recall which band incorporating said device caught my ear initially. Most likely Silver Apples or The Nice, with Curved Air on the list not far behind. ‘Back Street Luv’, that was the first song I managed to hear by them. And believe me, with it hitting #4 in the British charts, I was on the hunt for an airing.

Harry Fagenbaum, the Warner Brothers college radio rep on the Syracuse University campus, gave me a copy. It was part of a 45′s handful, the only other two I can recall were Deep Purple ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’ and Fleetwood Mac ‘Oh Well’. And the Ron Nagle BAD RICE album, which I no longer have. I’m kicking myself to this day for dumping that one.

Boy, did that little care package make my week, but it was not to continue. Harry was very stingy and cut me off. Never got another record from him. Which was really rather mean, and unwise considering the piles of promos I could have returned his way for years to come. Whatever….

Can I tell you how my eyes lit up the Sunday I opened a Syracuse Herald Journal to find an ad for the Emerson, Lake & Palmer / Curved Air concert in spring ’72. Countdown to the day began that very moment.

Even in the 70′s, it was still kind of exotic for a couple of English bands to make their way upstate. Curved Air pulled into town, still clothed in lavender and lime silk trousers, tight blouses, complete with shag hairdos, absolutely genius. In hindsight, the archaic Moog blurting away was rather funny, who knew at the time. We were in awe. Their musical trip through clumsily played classical bits, and singer Sonya Kristina basically barking her way up and down lyrics got a little much, but all was forgiven when ‘Back Street Luv’ closed the set. Some records can transcend you right back to a magical memory, and this is one.

Alice Cooper

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

alicecaughtusa, Alice Cooper, Straight, Frank Zappa, Warner Brothers

Listen: Caught In A Dream / Alice Cooper AliceCooperCaught.mp3

I became pretty friendly with a couple of Syracuse University students, Fred Perry and Harry Fagenbaum, via their Sunday evening late night show on WAER, the student run radio station. It was as much a case of me finding them as them finding me.

I couldn’t sleep, it was late on a very cold Sunday night and despite school beckoning the next morning, I started fiddling with the wireless part of the TV/stereo/radio combination counsel, as much a piece of time period furniture as it was a media center. This was 1968, and I was so desperate to hear the new single by The Move, ‘Fire Brigade’, that I actually believed I’d find it on some far away radio station, beaming it’s way to me back when late night signals bounced to unlikely places. Lo and behold, I found my first ever college radio station, and was stunned. These two guys were playing some fantastic music: Ten Years After, John Mayall’s Bluesbreaker and The Kinks. I could not believe my luck.

Twenty minutes into the bliss, onto the air comes ‘Fire Brigade’ by The Move. Holy fucking shit. It was like I was possessed or something. Having tossed and turned, feeling frustrated to be growing up in a town and country where the radio stunk, I get out of bed and find what I was looking for. I know you’re thinking this is being exaggerated to make for better copy, but I swear, it’s true. Yes, be careful what you wish – it can be a little unsettling when it comes true.

So I made a low volume, long distance call to these DJ’s. Not only had I found a weekly oasis for my musical desires, they’d finally found a listener who wanted to hear the stuff. We agreed to meet up and talk English groups.

A year or so later, Harry became the Warner Brothers college rep, and would occasionally let me troll through his trunk full of promos, not anywhere near as often as I wanted, or as often as I’d have let him had the situation been reversed. Still, I was appreciative for the high.

One of those Saturday trunk scores included white label promos by Deep Purple ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’, John & Beverly Martyn ‘Road To Ruin’ and Alice Cooper ‘Caught In A Dream’, back when the name of the band, not the guy, was Alice Cooper. The Zappa partnership still seamed strong, with the WB label prominently including Frank’s Straight logo. Lots of good singles from Alice Cooper were still to come, but I think this one remains their best.