Posts Tagged ‘Mother Earth’

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.

Big Maybelle

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Listen: I’m Getting ‘long Alright / Big Maybelle
BigMaybelleGettingLong.mp3

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

‘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.

Big Mama Thornton

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

BigMamaStonedUSA, Big Mama Thornton

Listen: Let’s Go Get Stoned / Big Mama Thornton BigMamaStoned.mp3

Covered by everyone from Manfred Mann to Ray Charles via his infamous version, ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ is as ubiquitous as “Strangers In The Night’ or ‘Satisfaction’.

During the late 60′s/early 70′s, during the heights of electric blues rock’s success, seems every last band dug up some deserving song, and in hindsight rather obvious classic from the genre, added on some whitewash and brought it successfully to the masses, tunes like ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ were everywhere. Add to that, the phenomenon of Janis Joplin – and you’ve get many a previously struggling original blues artist, particularly female ones, suddenly sharing bills with the biggest album selling underground bands of the day at The Fillmores, Avalon Ballroom, in War Memorials and college gymnasiums around the country. Big Mama Thornton was no exception.

Signed to Mercury and released around the time of Mother Earth’s almost breakthrough success, her renewed version of the surprisingly-penned-by Ashford & Simpson classic got some FM play in my neck of the woods. Never ever expecting a soul to buy it, I was well pleased to find a promo in the local used record bin for a quarter. Still sounds authenically ruff and tumble to this day.

Mother Earth / Willie Nelson & Tracy Nelson

Friday, July 17th, 2009

motherearthmeusa, mother earth, tracy nelson, mercury

Listen: Mother Earth (Single Edit) / Mother Earth MotherEarthEdit.mp3

motherearthdownsolowusa, mother earth, tracy nelson, mercury

Listen: Down So Low / Mother Earth MotherEarthDown.mp3

motherearthdidmypartuka, mother earth. mercury, wille nelson, tacey nelson

Listen: I Did My Part / Mother Earth MotherEarthIDidMyPart.mp3

A best friend in high school, Mark, literally fell in love with Tracy Nelson. This wasn’t just fandom. He wrote her letters, and when Mother Earth finally came to the Northeast playing Syracuse with Three Dog Night. For some unexplainable reason, the mere idea of being in a room with her, despite the other nine thousand strong concert goers, gave him the shakes. To be young and in love with your idol is a great combination.

Mother Earth’s debut album, LIVING WITH THE ANIMALS spawned the perfect 7′s: the band’s namesake signature ‘Mother Earth’ and one of the greatest white gospel/blues songs ever ‘Down So Low’. The chances of them being hits were slim, but to focus your trusty overnight stoner underground radio DJ on just the right LP tracks to spin, they did the trick. Hearing both ‘Down So Low’ and ‘Mother Earth’ from the transistor stuffed in my pillow gave them a far away exotic attraction, coming off even more stripped down than early Big Brother & The Holding Company. Tracy Nelson and Janis Joplin captured and held down the white blues fort. Plain and simple: none of the other female voices in the US underground movement could touch them.

Tracy Nelson was beautiful and her country blues voice was not to be messed with. All of her recordings with Prestige, Mercury, both as a member of Mother Earth and solo, as well as Reprise are permanent fixtures in my library.

motherearthrevolution, mother earth, tracy nelson, united artists, revolution soundtrack

Listen: Revolution / Mother Earth MotherEartRevolution.mp3

Likewise Mother Earth’s theme song to the REVOLUTION film on United Artists. UA seemed to be home of the soundtrack albums (Goldfinger, Dr. No, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush), which they always released singles from. ‘Revolution’ was perfect political slant for the band, given their kind of dark blues image.

tracynelsonwhiskey, mother earth, mercury, wille nelson, tracy nelson

Listen: Whiskey River / Willie Nelson & Tracy Nelson WillieTracy.mp3

In ’74, I suddenly found myself holding a 45 by her and Willie Nelson. Many times a year Jack Riehle, the WEA salesman for upstate NY, unloaded his boxes of unwanted 7′s my way. Those were much anticipated bi-annual moments as I do recall. With no warning, here was a fantastic two sider, and my first thought was they must be related, Not true. It’s B side, ‘Whiskey River’ became our favorite. Corinne and I named our first cat Whiskey, and I’d play it over and over for him, ears always perking on Willie’s first deep ‘Whiskey’ intro. We still smile about that.