Posts Tagged ‘Marc Bolan’

John’s Children

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Come And Play With Me In The Garden / John's Children

Listen: Come And Play With Me In The Garden / John’s Children

True story: In the early 80′s, I did a weekly two radio hour show called Import/Export for the mainstream rock station in Rochester, WCMF. It was tucked away at midnight on Tuesdays, and in today’s market it’d be deemed as a specialty show, where all the bands/records that are left of center and on the way up get a weekly spin. It was loads of fun.

When the station decided to leave the building they’d been housed in since the 60′s to a much smaller location, their massive record library needed to be eliminated due to space restrictions. Oddly, instead of inviting the staff to help thin it out and take whatever you want, give it away to the needy, or super serve their listeners with a free for all, they instead chose to rent a dumpster and fill it daily until the massive library was eliminated over the course of a week.

On that particular Tuesday, I left the station somewhere around 3am, as I’d always stay awhile and visit with Roger McCall, who was my co-host and did the normal overnight shift that followed. I just couldn’t resist having a look into that dumpster. I must tell you, the area and parking lot were a touch daunting anyways. Being in a very quiet part of town, and not the nicest either, I always made a quick dash to the car.

In fact, I vividly remember getting in, starting it and just staring at the dumpster heaving with records. The junkie in me came out. But suddenly of equal concern was getting caught. Seriously. There was a security camera affixed to the entrance area to allow the dj’s a look at whoever rung the bell before buzzing them in and there’d been a stern directive that no one was to pilfer through the discarded records. Nonetheless, I got out of the car, approached the dumpster, opened the heavy lid, and the very top album, I swear, was ORGASM by John’s Children.

Now if you’re a collector, you are well aware that this is a very, very valuable record. In 1967, it was pressed up promotionally, a result of their one and only US single ‘Smashed Blocked’ becoming a hit on the west coast, even a Top 10 in LA, as well a Bubbling Under The Hot 100 BILLBOARD item (#102). Needless to say, the album title caused more resistance than it was worth and White Whale, the label, cancelled it’s release, hence it’s collectibility to this day.

I was purely convinced it was a set up but regardless of the ultimatum, I wasn’t leaving this record behind. By the time I arrived home, I was fairly comforted in realizing there probably wasn’t a person at the station, other than Roger, with much interest in something so obscure, and hence left my paranoia at the door.

A few years ago, Vicki Wickham rang and asked if I’d like to join her and Simon Napier-Bell, one time manager of John’s Children, and later Marc Bolan who was in the band’s lineup, for a lunch. Vicki is the best at these things, She’s fueled my record collecting habit for ages and is always looking out for me. It was a quite fun hour. In New York for a few days, he was happy to talk about his time with the band, providing I buy lunch, which I did. But sadly he informed me that when leaving the UK for Thailand, he tossed boxes of 7″ singles by John’s Children as well as Marc Bolan ‘A’ labels during his house clear out. It was a pretty sobering moment.

David Bowie

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Listen: The Prettiest Star / David Bowie

Although re-recorded for the ALADDIN SANE album in Fall ’72, this original mono version of ‘The Prettiest Star’ came from sessions at London’s Trident Studios during January ’70 when, with his then backup band Junior’s Eyes and Marc Bolan as guest guitarist, the intent was to followup David Bowie’s first hit, ‘Space Odditiy’.

To his credit, he never gave up trying for that initial success, which took five years in the making, from “Liza Jane’ in ’64 through various attempts with Parlophone, Deram and UK Pye/US Warner Brothers. Every door was shut in David Bowie’s face. Read THE PITT REPORT sometime. It’s an eye opener.

So with ‘Space Oddity’, a #5 UK hit in the Fall of ’69, seemingly positioning him for a much smoother career ride, the original plan was to cut a new version of his final Deram submission ‘London Bye Ta Ta’, which that company had rejected as a fourth single, thereby dropping him. The story goes that during those sessions, ‘The Prettiest Star’ was also recorded and became his choice as followup.

Even more fun is the often documented detail of ‘The Prettiest Star’ selling just under 800 copies when current, a desperately shocking result off the back of a Top 10 hit. That number sounds rather exaggerated now, with even total stiffs moving more copies than 800, given loads of singles were sold regularly then.

Decades later, when included on various compilations, it’s the stereo version of ‘The Prettiest Star’ that’s chosen. To my knowledge, this original mono only ever saw the light of day on those initial pressings like the one above and a BEST OF from ’87.

The Love Affair

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

LoveAffairSheSmilesSweetlyUKA, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, Mike Smith, Mike Vernon, Date, Decca, CBS, Philip Goodhand-Tait

Listen: She Smiled Sweetly / The Love Affair

It’s happened hundreds of times through the years. Label takes chance on an act, issues a single or two with no results, then moves on. Same act gets another deal, sometimes only months later and blows up. Around this period, David Bowie bounced from label to label, Marc Bolan too, The Herd, a bunch of them. On the quick path were The Love Affair. Probably signed by Decca in-house blues expert Mike Vernon or assigned to him for production, a good cover choice (Jagger/Richards ‘She Smiled Sweetly’) was released almost simultaneously with The Rolling Stones’ own rendition from BETWEEN THE BUTTONS on February 10, 1967. By the end of the year, the band had moved on to CBS and that label’s debut ‘Everlasting Love’ entered the UK charts in the first few days of January ’68, ending up at #1. Someone had egg on their face, including me.

I was so excited to see a copy in a local department store, and without a penny in my pocket, I decided to shoplift it. Got caught, almost arrested. Threatened to call my folks, which they didn’t, but it did cure me of that one.

LoveAffairRainbowUKPSFront, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, CBS, Date

LoveAffairRainbowPS, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, CBS, Date

Listen: Rainbow Valley / The Love Affair

‘Everlasting Love’, like all their singles, was a cover, this one originally released by Robert Knight. Even U2 have taken a stab at it, but no one has one upped that version by The Love Affair.

The followup, ‘Rainbow Valley’, was just as powerful. In particular, it continued to make obvious the strength of lead vocalist Steve Ellis. I’m sure I’ve read many times that this patch of singles, all Top 10 in the UK, were indeed Steve Ellis with studio musicians, a persistant trend in the 60′s. Probably to great frustration, the calculated pop made the band member cringe but who can say.

LoveAffairDayWithoutUKA, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, Mike Smith, Mike Vernon, Date, Decca, CBS, Philip Goodhand-Tait

LoveAffairDayWithoutUS, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, Mike Smith, Mike Vernon, Date, Decca, CBS, Philip Goodhand-Tait

Listen: A Day Without Love / The Love Affair

New producer Mike Smith had a simple formula down, which with ‘A Day Without Love’, now included recording the songs of non-member, singer/writer Philip Goodhand-Tait.

LoveAffairBringingUSA, The Love Affair, Steve Ellis, Mike Smith, Mike Vernon, Date, Decca, CBS, Philip Goodhand-Tait

Listen: Bringing On Back The Good Times / The Love Affair

What seemed to rub the more hip, progressive rock fan of the day wrong is exactly what attracted me to The Love Affair. Big, over the top productions, with loud brass and orchestration, almost Motown-esque, and a perfect showcase for that great Steve Ellis voice.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Listen: Debora / Tyrannosaurus Rex

Never will I forget the sight of this first US single by Tyrannosaurus Rex. Their name was so foreign at the time, completely intimidating to all, particularly US programers. Yes, they were full of reasons back then to keep adventurous music off the airwaves too. Add to that the band’s warlock folk, as one reviewer called it. He couldn’t have conjured up a more tempting challenge.

A&M never did release either their first nor second album in the US when current, just this lone 7″, ‘Debora’.

The Los Angeles label had a deal with Regal Zonophone out of the UK, or maybe it was directly with Denny Cordell’s and Tony Secunda’s production company, Tarantula. Basically, the arrangement covered US representation for their UK artists: Procol Harum, Joe Cocker & The Grease Band, The Move and Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The latter two benefiting only from singles being issued in the US, and in the case of Tyrannosaurus Rex, just this one. WOUR were only too glad to have me cart their copy out of the building. That bunch literally had no clue. Bless their studipity.

Listen: Ride A White Swan / Tyrannosaurus Rex

What seemed like a generation later actually was one short year. Their third and fourth albums, UNICORN (’69) and A BEARD OF STARS (’70) were near perfect, still as exhilarating today as then. By this time, Bob Krasnow had picked up the band for his Blue Thumb label. He released both albums in quick succession plus ‘Ride A White Swan’ almost immediately after A BEARD OF STARS.

Although still using the full Tyrannosaurus Rex moniker in the US, Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin-Took had officially shortened their name to T. Rex elsewhere, coinciding with their full on electric and pop path, not unlike Bob Dylan’s gear shift with BLONDE ON BLONDE, bar a name change to B. Dylan.

Almost simultaneously, Bob, as in Krasnow, joined Warner Brothers Records’ A&R department, bringing T. Rex with him. The rest is history.