Posts Tagged ‘Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger & The Trinity’

Alvin Robinson

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Buffalo Springfield

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Listen: Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing / The Buffalo Springfield
Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing / The Buffalo Springfield

West coast soft rock, not a fan. It was the anti-christ to British music. Even as some of the UK bands got fascinated by it, started copying it, I still wasn’t buying in. But initially, The Buffalo Springfield looked as though they may have had promise. I wanted badly to hear their first single ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’. The title made me curious, and I wasn’t sharp enough to be put off by the band’s name. There was Lothar & The Hand People, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & The Holding Company, these guys seemed to fit into the nonsensical band name pocket just fine.

Digging through a massive bin of drilled, 39¢ closeout singles, I found a copy only a few months later. This was just before their third 45, ‘For What It’s Worth’, got traction and went Top 40. I got home and did not love this record later that night.

But I did like that a) it was a Bubbling Under The Hot 100 flop (#110), b) was on Atco and c) was an unlikely single.

a) There’s nothing like the endless gems that never reached the Top 100. In retrospect, countless seminal classics populated and peeked on BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart, within it’s #101 – 135 range. All struggling for airplay that never came. Where was the expertise programmers supposedly had in the 60′s and 70′s, we now wonder. Proof that some things never changed.

b) Atco was cool. The younger, but prettier step sister of Atlantic. Amongst it’s early roster of bands that never made it / looked like they weren’t going to: The Vagrants, The Who, The Groupies, The Spencer Davis Group, Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger & The Trinity and The Cream. Yes, this was in the day before groups like The Pink Floyd, The Cream and The Buffalo Springfield managed to drop ‘The’ from their official professional name.

c) There are few things more inviting than a single that made no sense being a single. Like just about any jazz 7″, certainly edited versions of tracks from Miles Davis’ BITCHES BREW album. Not that ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ came close to such an extreme, but it was a real surprise on first spin.

The Buffalo Springfield have now reformed, sans ‘The’, with the remaining living original members, and I would bet the whole house of cards they are not playing this first single live. Just like the setlist for The Cream’s reunion (sans ‘The’) omitted ‘I Feel Free’.

So I won’t be attending, but all said and done, I ended up liking ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ a lot.

Update (6/11/11): John Poole emailed to say they did play ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ during their first reunion appearance at the Bridge Benefit Concert last year. How awesome is that?

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Straight Ahead / Brian Auger's Oblivion Express

Listen: Straight Ahead / Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express
Straight Ahead / Brian Auger's Oblivion Express

Always the ultimate player, Brian Auger seems like he was a pro in the cradle. Go back to his earliest recordings, prior to the big success he had with ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, billed as Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger & The Trinity. You’ll see his virtuosity was fully formed.

In the early 70′s, after Julie Driscoll went her solo route, he toured the world, initially as Brian Auger & The Trinity, quickly morphing into Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, gaining US momentum the whole while. Sharing bills with every type of band (Bruce Springsteen, The Allman Brothers Band., Roland Kirk, Santana, Chick Corea, Led Zeppelin, Earth Wind & Fire, Kiss, Herbie Hancock), they provided just the right amount of high brow musicianship to ecstatically turn both jazz and rock audiences on.

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, their many records fell pretty short on US airplay, but sold well nonetheless.

Fast forward to the present, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express is still playing, dare I say better than ever. I sat smack dab in front of him a few years back, when he shared a bill with an equally stunning Savoy Brown at B.B. King’s in New York, and you could hardly see anything but a blur from those hands.

They just don’t make ‘em like Brian Auger anymore. Sorry.

Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This Wheel's On Fire / Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity

Listen: This Wheel's On Fire / Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity 11 This Wheel's On Fire.mp3

This single had a groundbreaking drug feel to it at the time (’68). I remember in the late 77, when my then girlfriend Corinne & I made our first trip to London together, shopping in Hammersmith’s outdoor market, full of cheap clothing stalls, really greasy food, used everything (including records), reggae stalls, fruits/vegetables outdoor market stuff. This was in March, perfectly cold, damp, drizzly, all the dealers drinking tea from chipped stained cups, kleenex stuffed into their cuffs for ever dripping noses and transistor radios going, all blaring BBC Radio 1. On comes ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’. Despite everything I just described, I was in heaven, now especially. We were in England! And that record playing at that very moment is forever burned into my memory. Timing was perfect.

This version is a pretty well known one, and like many songs it got a bit of a deserved break years later when ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS used it as their theme, despite a re-recorded version but still sung nonetheless by Julie but sans Brian Auger. Long before the Ab Fab usage, she was adamant about using her married name, Tippett instead of Driscoll, fair enough I guess. But, I hear she refuses to perform this song live, claims it’s too pop (she only sings jazz now). If that’s true, I say lighten up Jools. For me, it’s her best recorded performance, although the STREETNOISE album is pretty stellar. It’s a double LP, quite rare in those days, and I remember my Aunt Carm, God love her, buying it as a present for passing all my Regents Exams that June. I warned her it was a double album and therefore twice the price. She said I was worth it and just wanted me to be happy, even though she couldn’t really afford it. Is that great or what? As you can see, I’ve never forgotten.

Steppenwolf

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

SteppenwolfRockMeUKA2, Steppenwolf, Stateside, Dunhill

Listen: Rock Me / Steppenwolf SteppenwolfRockMe.mp3

Some great early albums, one right after the other. Their debut included ‘The Pusher’. Being able to hear anyone sing ‘goddam’ over and over on a record was a big deal at the time. As well, a song about drugs. How awesome was this?

“Rock Me’ was not as cliched as the title suggests. It’s the breakdown at exactly 2:00 lasting over a minute that, despite the cowbell, was almost gospel-like. It sounded way more happening and hip than just about anything getting Top 40 play in 1969. It didn’t take much convincing to purchase a ticket for their show in support of the 3rd album, MONSTER on March 30 of that year. The real miracle came after I’d bought it, the opening act was announced: Julie Driscoll / Brian Auger & The Trinity.