Posts Tagged ‘Pete Townshend’

Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Listen: Brother, Can You Spare A Dime / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance

Remember the day when a major label would release a record like ‘Brother, Can You Spare A Dime’? Issuing such an off the wall track in England was one thing, but in the US, quite another.

With hindsight, many will agree the true spirit behind The Faces was indeed Ronnie Lane. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rod Stewart were to admit that thought.

Not sure exactly what those in the know would call Ronnie Lane’s loose-knit signature sound. The music press came up with a few suitables: rag-tag, rural plynth. Whatever, it certainly permeated all of his post Small Faces work, particularly those solo albums with Pete Townshend and Ronnie Wood.

Needless to say, this single got zero airplay, bar a few college stations, but is certainly nice to have, particularly in it’s promo only mono form.

For the UK though, airplay was not the intention initially. As the press release above wishfully indicates, the film, in which the record is heard during the closing credits, also spotlights the song as it’s theme. In somewhat sloppy fashion, said press release neglects to mention the actual name of the film. Revert to the label copy on the stock copy for that detail. In case you couldn’t guess, it’s called BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME.

Listen: Don’t Try To Change My Mind / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance

There were handful of followups from a handful of followup albums. ‘Don’t Try To Change My Mind’ was a double sided marvel. This A side being lifted from the album ONE FOR THE ROAD, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been chosen wearing a blindfold and ear plugs. It’s that unobvious as a single, making the record all the more desirable.

Both the band and album were framed nicely by a genuine gypsy lifestyle from that period, whereby he and his family played out a downmarket version of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, complete with authentic costume and living accommodations.

Listen: Well Well Hello (The Party) / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance

Quite possibly the real gem here is the single’s non-LP B side, ‘Well Well Hello (The Party). In itself a future template for many a Pogues single, I’m shocked this isn’t more widely sought after as an ultimate Ronnie Lane essential, or maybe it is. It’s sure to touch anyone’s weak spot with a bit of sadness.

The Who

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Listen: I’m A Boy / The Who

I was very down on The Who after they played Syracuse back in early ’68. Pete Townshend chose to refuse my friends and I autographs. My pals were a bit more upset than me. You see I wasn’t really feeling ‘I Can See For Miles’, which had been released the previous autumn, but instead was desperate to impress my first girlfriend Mary Ann with their signatures.

No escaping it, ‘I Can See For Miles’ just didn’t hit the way ‘Substitute’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’, ‘Pictures Of Lily’ or ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere’ had previously. The Englishness had been polished off ever so slightly, but enough for me to notice without question.

Our crowd were the only ones buying those non-hits off the little racks in the back of Walt’s Records or at Smith’s Records; both usually stocking five or so copies at the most of US non-hits from UK bands. So when Pete Townshend got into the awaiting station wagon, hung himself out the window, gave us the finger with both his hands and shouted “You got a show for your $6 pricks”, we were speechless. Calm down dog, all we wanted were autographs. I do remember the other band members, who had obliged, looked seriously perturbed.

Fast forward to the first weekend of April 2012. Out of late night boredom, mixed with insomnia from being alone for the night, I Netflix’d up AMAZING JOURNEY – THE STORY OF THE WHO. Honestly, I’d floated along all these decades in arrogant denial at how powerfully great this band was. That documentary certainly sobered me. You must watch it, all three hours. The film will speak for itself. And if you’re in a band, learn a lesson to always treat your fans with respect.

I’ve been playing their first seven or so singles non stop since then, loaded them on the iTouch too. ‘I’m A Boy’ being just one that deserved airplay in the US during it’s day. Funny how all those programmers back then were wrong to keep them off their airwaves at the time. Even funnier how they’ll rewrite history to imply they hadn’t.

Angie / Pete Townshend

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Peppermint Lump / Angie

Listen: Peppermint Lump / Angie
Peppermint Lump / Angie

A few years back, Pete Townshend was suddenly in very hot water. I think he brought a computer in for repair, whereby a bunch of child porn was discovered on the hard drive or some such story. His official response: research. And on his way Pete went.

I thought sure Angie’s record might suddenly get some attention as a result. She was a very young girl who recorded with Pete Townshend back in ’79 for Stiff, and you know how the haters come out pretty easily. If that had happened, at least this terrific single would have been spotlighted and possibly heard at last.

It’s certainly a lost gem in my universe nonetheless. While weeding through the A’s in my wall shelf just now, I stumbled upon it, right there between Angels One-Five on Pye UK from ’73 and the US picture sleeve for The Animals ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ on MGM (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The second I laid my eyes on it, well I couldn’t get over to the turntable fast enough and give it a spin. Loud.

Pete Townshend’s signature playing is all over this as well as his arrangement style and vocals. No denying his gifts, and when he’s in the pocket, just don’t even try to compete.

Below: Stiff Records’ peppermint scented promotional handbill for ‘Peppermint Lump’.

Thunderclap Newman

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Thunderclap Newman USA

Listen: Accidents / Thunderclap Newman
Accidents / Thunderclap Newman

Not enough people seem to appreciate Thunderclap Newman.

For such a British sound, they surprisingly had a pretty big US hit with ‘Something In The Air’. It, and their album HOLLYWOOD DREAM, were produced by Pete Townshend. Word is they were a studio concoction he put together to help John ‘Speedy’ Keen, a roadie for The Who. Speedy Keen had indeed quite a talent for songwriting, doing just that for all but one song on the LP. He later released two solo albums, as well as some great singles including ‘Bad Boys’, a reggae style Chris Blackwell produced favorite of mine.

This track though, was the followup to ‘Something In The Air’. A 9:40 version of ‘Accidents’ can be found on the album, complete with kitchen sink psychedelics during a long middle part, but it’s the 7″ version that out-Englishes the Englishness of ‘Something In The Air’, if you can believe that. If not, just listen.

I dare say it’s a near perfect, or perfect plain and simple, record. Despite that, the single spent only one week in each the UK and US charts: #44 UK / #100 US.

Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was noticeably great. His intertwining parts here, and on every song, are hugely melodic and make all Thunderclap Newman’s material a little more special.

He later joined Stone The Crows and a very obscure band called Blue. They actually scored a minor hit, ‘Capture Your Heart’, when signed to Elton John’s Rocket label once he had departed, but previously had two albums on RSO, the first of which included the single ‘Little Jody’, an absolutely perfect, must own pop record, made even more perfect by his playing.

Later, he joined Wings, debuting on ‘Junior’s Farm’, undeniably one of their strongest singles.

I’m posting the mono single version of ‘Accidents’ here. A stereo version can be found on the cd reissue of that infamous HOLLYWOOD DREAM album, but for some reason they left off the mono. Sloppy….

The Who

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Listen: Happy Jack / The Who WhoHappyJack.mp3

Pull this out and give it a spin. You’re bound to say, “Man I have not heard this in ages”. Well, my guess is you’ll say that. I loved all the singles up through and including ‘Pictures Of Lily’. Then came ‘I Can See For Miles’. Something about that one, it was good but didn’t hit dead center. Was a first real understanding of my body’s reaction to music. ‘I Can See For Miles’ may have been the record that set the template for an A&R career years later: if I didn’t love it – chances were good it’d be a huge hit. Hey, as long as you know how to read the indicators, that’s all that really matters. ‘I Can See For Miles’ was in fact their only ever US Top 10. Hard to believe I know.

Back then, The Who weren’t much different than The Small Faces or The Move when it came to US radio. You never heard them. Yeah radio was much better in the 60′s, but still fairly narrow. These bands just didn’t get national airplay – if they were lucky, regional exposure was usually the extent of it and then maybe a crossover….leads me to an interesting memory about The Who.

I and my Anglophile friends religiously bought every single by The Who. My teenage girlfriend and I missed our junior prom the night I got ‘Substitute’ it was so good – we just played it over and over and fiddled about, as someone once coined. It was the plan anyways.

There were a few shops around town that would get two to five copies of the non hits, or hopeful to be hits – like Walt’s Records or Smith’s Records or that huge record department in WT Grant’s on Salina Street in Syracuse. So starting with ‘I Can’t Explain’, we bought ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’, every single right through and including the immaculate ‘Substitute’, ‘I’m A Boy’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and this one, the psychedelic ‘Happy Jack’, which actually did crack the Billboard chart peaking at #24 in ’67. A few years later when TOMMY was released, everyone noticed a rock opera similarity between that and it’s predecessor, The Pretty Things S.F. SORROW, still we listened to them both regularly during several weekend Parcheesi matches. The Who finally made a return visit after opening for Herman’s Hermits a few years earlier. Even though in my opinion the glow of those earlier singles had dimmed down noticeably, of course I went along. TOMMY admittedly wasn’t bad.

After the show, a few of us waited around for autographs, brought albums, singles, the works. I wasn’t quite as fussed and brought nothing, but seriously, was there something better to do in Syracuse as a teenager than possibly say hello to The Who? When my best friend Denny went up to Pete Townshend proudly with his MY GENERATION album to get signed, the guy turned his nose away, dismissiveley refusing to sign anything. He proceeded to make his way toward their station wagon with band members including Keith Moon and Roger Daltry already inside waiting. Even Keith Moon jumped out of the car to oblige, looking at Pete with a ‘you asshole’ glare, I couldn’t resist. So I spoke up.

“Pete, you know those few copies of the older singles you used to sell in towns like this prior to your hits, we were were the kids that bought them.” As the car pulled away, plain as day, I recall him hanging out the window, wearing a coat that looked like a piece of ghastly ornate drapery, middle finger on both hands projecting at me and shouting “you got a show for your $6 prick”.

Hmm. Not really, you didn’t play any of the aforementioned songs I came to hear. Not one. Still it was rude, certainly embarrassing and I never bought another record by The Who. Big deal, basically my bitterness toward he and unfairly the other guys in The Who went unnoticed and I’m sure Pete Towshend never lost a wink of sleep because of me.

About thirty years later, his keepers were doing the rounds of labels trying to hawk a new, not very good Pete Townshend album. I was at Columbia then but decided to pass on the record, or more specifically on him, his talent to write those gems long ago withered in my opinion. Still, it was a very hard call. You’d be a fool to not want to work with Pete Townshend. Honestly, he is a higher form of life but I’d experienced his temper. Once bitten, twice shy.

‘Happy Jack’ really is a terrific single.