Posts Tagged ‘Reprise’

Savoy Brown / The Nice / Family

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Savoy Brown The Nice Family Poster

The Weaver's Answer / Strange Band

Listen: The Weaver’s Answer / Family
The Weaver's Answer / Family

One of the great triple bills from ’70, still trading on the English Invasion angle that was becoming a distant marketing ploy.

No problem here. My friends and I ate it up. Couldn’t leave early enough that morning to make a day of hanging out on the campus, pretending to be college kids. The serious Anglofiles, crowded onto the entrance steps of The Palestra Auditorium for a solid few hours prior to doors opening, provided the ultimate social scene. Everyone opinioning and bragging about one record after the other. It was almost as much fun as the show.

I think it was well attended, up front there was no looking back.

We were very seriously not prepared for the power of Family live. No one in the room was. And I do mean no one. I’d only seen their three albums in the store, never heard them and as much as I wanted ownership of at least one record, some other title always took their purchase slot. Turns out, this was my favorite lineup, having become obsessed as a result of the show and then seeing them many times. Poli Palmer on xylophone most of the night, a stunning player. And John Weider on guitars and violin. It was the first band I saw playing any of these instruments (except Brian Jones on vibes during ‘Under My Thumb’), not to mention changing them up for each song.

The ace in the deck for Family was always Roger Chapman. Definitely an acquired taste vocally, you still seldom see a madman like him, totally possessed. Once you experienced Family in person, their recordings made perfect sense, vividly bringing back his on stage intensity.

They couldn’t catch a break in The States. Bill Graham banned them from The Fillmores. Don’t know why. This particular night the audience was into it, but a few years later, opening for Elton John, things didn’t work out the same. I remember many in the crowd booing. I couldn’t believe such a sophisticated group of great musicians were being booed. I was embarrassed. But the band tore threw it unflinched. This was ’72. Sadly it was to be the last time they toured the US. Props to Elton John for having them.

The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack / The Nice

Listen: The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack / The Nice
The

The Nice were on Immediate. This was a big deal.

Immediate was a serious label to this bunch. A lot of conversation was had earlier on the steps about the greatness of the roster. Everyone was clued into the supposed stage antics of Keith Emerson, still I don’t think we were really ready. When he mauled his organ during ‘America’, it was shocking. Everyone took a step back as the knives came out. All these skinny English people with crazy energy. The flower power stuff from their albums interested me a lot. I think they stopped playing that stuff pretty quickly as the prog symphonic material took center stage, plus I assume Emerson, Lake & Palmer were right around the corner. I remember hearing this tour was simply honoring contractual commitments. Didn’t seem like it being a wide eyed kid upfront.

Made Up My Mind / Savoy Brown

Listen: Made Up My Mind / Savoy Brown
Made Up My Mind / Savoy Brown

Savoy Brown were theatrics-free, but never mind, they tore it up. In keeping with the evening looks wise, the underfed, velvet and stacked heeled Englishness prevailed. Can still remember these fair haired frail guys playing wicked blues. Probably very white, but this was prior to seeing any of the originals, so all new, all impressive. RAW SIENNA had just been released, and their set covered a lot of it plus some prior singles (‘Made Up My Mind’, ‘Train To Nowhere’) and their theme at the time, Muddy Waters’ ‘Louisiana Blues’. Like Family, this was a classic Savoy Brown lineup, with Chris Youlden on vocals and Tone Stevens on bass.

I'm Tired / Savoy Brown

Listen: I’m Tired / Savoy Brown
I'm Tired / Savoy Brown

My vivid memory of Kim Simmonds starting off ‘I’m Tired’ is as plain as day. It was my first time up super close, literally with elbows on the stage, and thinking ‘he makes it look so easy’, the true sign of a great guitarist.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Kim Simmonds

On the way out of town after the show, we stopped at a late night record/head shop near the campus, figuring out who would buy what, strategizing so that collectively we arrived home with records by all three bands. Picked these handout charts up at the counter, with some pretty interesting playlist titles. Yes, the days of underground radio…..and the ‘Super Heavy Sound’ of Janis Joplin. See them below:

WHFM 3-5-70

WHFM 11-5-70

WHFM 12-4-69

Tiny Tim

Monday, November 25th, 2013

tinytimgreatballs, Tiny Tim, Reprise, Richard Perry

Listen: Great Balls Of Fire / Tiny Tim
Great

This was the more familiar version to me than Jerry Lee Lewis’, given I was a toddler when the latter one was current. Like everyone, I was amused by Tiny Tim, and took for granted how something so different and seemingly novel could be heard by the masses. Our present anything-goes society does not, as you know, apply to radio programming. Well, in the 60′s it was different. So I heard this a few times and thought it was pretty rocking. I still think so today. His falsetto, even his hair and shape, all were brought forward twenty years and filled arenas, this time under the coincidentally similar guise of Robert Smith and The Cure.

tinytimmickey, Tiny Tim, Reprise, Richard Perry

Listen: Mickey The Monkey / Tiny Tim
Mickey

Tiny Tim revered the music of the early 20th century, with a reputed encyclopedic knowledge of the work. He certainly seemed a kind and gentle fellow when he turned up at a surprise birthday party Joey Ramone had in the late 80′s. Joe knew everyone, and was right at home having a long conversation with him upon arrival. I was in flying mode, but Duane paid him more attention. I wish now I had too. ‘Mickey The Monkey’ is one of many fine, and by then, ignored follow ups to his Top 40 hit ‘Tip Toe Through The Tulips’. It’s a great example of his authenticity to ragtime ballads.

Ron DeBlasio, who managed X, also worked with Tiny Tim for a while. I recall him telling me that after shows, he would order large, lavish room service meals, and sit eating his serving while carrying on a complete conversation with the invisible person across the table whose meal would logically remain uneaten. A good eccentric indeed.

tinytimwhy, Tiny Tim, Reprise, Richard Perry, Joe Wissert, Miss Vicki

Listen: Mickey Why / Tiny Tim & Miss Vicki
Why

His televised marriage to Miss Vicki is rather well known, but their single ‘Why’ is not.

The Mothers Of Invention / The GTO’s / Wild Man Fischer

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

WPLJ / The Mothers Of Invention

Listen: WPLJ / The Mothers Of Invention
WPLJ

In the late 60′s and early 70′s, it wasn’t only The Beatles and The Rolling Stones who started their own labels, Frank Zappa did as well. In fact when he left Verve and joined Warner/Reprise, they gave him two imprints: Straight and Bizarre.

I think The Mothers were one of the few west coast, Los Angeles to San Francisco, groups that interested me at the time. I was admittedly loyal to the British bands back then. They looked better. It may have been the beards that put me off the US acts. Admittedly, Blue Cheer and Big Brother & The Holding Company always looked great, and so too did Love and especially The Seeds, all coincidentally beard free. But despite the beards and various repulsive elements, I loved The Mothers Of Invention. They looked menacing, and dirty and just plain seedy. The cover of MOTHERMANIA is a particularly fantastic shot. Musically, give me WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY, and many of the early singles and songs as well like ‘Wowie Zowie’, only being a let down in that it never got issued as a 7″.

Frank Zappa always applauded his self love of doo wop, as is exampled on this track from BURNT WEENY SANDWICH, ‘WPLJ’. The style, dreadfully out of step at the time, made for a terrific single. There must have been a radio station with those call letters somewhere….if only they’d played it, which I’d bet they didn’t.

Frank Zappa was obviously an insomniac. I mean who has more double albums? And then to constantly tour and put together two labels. Amazing. Alice Cooper debuted on Straight, Tim Buckley moved there from Elektra. Even Keith joined the roster post ’98.6′.

Circular Circulation / G.T.O.S

Listen: Circular Circulation / G.T.O.’s
Circular

Two of his earliest signings are on singles featured here: The GTO’s and Wild Man Fischer. I always got a kick out of both these tracks, hearing them initially on one of the many $2.00 Warner/Reprise samplers that were everywhere in those days. Both acts had great album sleeves too.

We may want to blame The GTO’s for giving license to a whole slew of twee female singers hiding behind indie rock as an excuse for minimal vocal ability, but ‘Circular Circulation’ is an absolute out of jail free card.

Merry Go Round / Wild Man Fischer

Listen: Merry Go Round / Wild Man Fischer
Merry

Wild Man Fischer has a story and a half going on. Google him – I don’t have enough time to write it all…….but ‘Merry Go Round’ is tops. Sounds like David Byrne picked up some vocal tricks from him.

The Kinks

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Day's / The Kinks

Day's / The Kinks

Day's / The Kinks jukebox tab

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Ray Davies

Day's / The Kinks press-release

Listen: Days / The Kinks
Days / The Kinks

How do you pick a Kinks single to write about, yet avoid the guilt of the dozens you’re not mentioning? Not possible. But listening back to this week’s PICK OF THE POPS program, on BBC’s Radio 2, where Dale Winton counts down selected Top 20′s from years gone by, spanning the 60′s forward with much accuracy and old style chart excitement, I heard ‘Days’. It was in the 1968 chart that he was featuring.

‘Days’ has always been one of my most cherished records, and I have listened to it undoubtably thousands of times. I had a memorable life moment last November in London, walking from my hotel in Primrose Hill in the cold drizzling rain on a very grey Sunday to have late afternoon tea at my friend’s, when I heard it in the headphones, following Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something In The Air’, played back to back on Radio 2. Being able to listen to the radio is a fascinating privilege not well known here in the States. This, my friends, was heaven.

As much as I loved it when released in summer ’68, and buying it at King Karol’s in NY on a summer excursion to see some bands, Jethro Tull with The Jeff Beck Group at the Fillmore East, I could never 100% enjoy it. I always felt so bitter that ‘Days’ got no airplay anywhere in the US and what a criminal shame it was that America was again being cheated out of such great musical culture by radio, a cancer that worsened year after year. No wonder we have what we have in our charts.

But some justice has been served, Ray Davies still performs and his great songs, like ‘Days’, get used in films etc. and covered. What would have happened if singles like this, and bands like The Small Faces or The Pretty Things had been given a chance back then. No question, things would have been very different here.

Jethro Tull

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Listen: Driving Song / Jethro Tull
Driving

Don’t confuse this early lineup of Jethro Tull with what came later. By album four, AQUALUNG, leader Ian Anderson had completely diminished their original swing and power by either eliminating founding members, or torturing them away with a softer, fussy sound, noticeably devoid of any jazz or blues influences.

The Clive Bunker / Glenn Cornick rhythm section were so integral to the swing the band had on THIS WAS and STAND UP, well it was almost criminal seeing it be destroyed at the time. ‘Driving Song’, the B side to ‘Living In The Past’, recorded just prior to the STAND UP sessions, remained a strong example of the live sound, even after adding John Evan on piano, around the time of third album BENEFIT. That was sadly the beginning of the end for their great initial period though, as both BENEFIT and the US dates to promote it began to show signs of the soft rock rot which inevitably came thereafter.

A timeless complaint theme of band being overworked by label/management/agent, ‘Driving Song’ probably felt completely throwaway to the voting members of the team, but in hindsight like anything pre BENEFIT, aged better than all further releases.

Sonny & Cher

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Listen: Baby Don’t Go / Sonny & Cher
Baby

There aren’t many things as lasting as Sonny & Cher. I stumble on their records via radio or in any public place less and less and less. With the exception of ‘I Got You Babe’, and Sirius XM, their older singles are played literally never.

Wasn’t always the case. ‘I Got You Babe’ hit so big and wide that for a year or more, they were everywhere. Appearances on all the TV shows plus each had solo hits right next to their rapid output as a duo. At the peak, past labels were reissuing worthy songs that had flopped only nine to twelve months prior. Such was the case with ‘Baby Don’t Go’.

Damn if I don’t remember this one like yesterday. It was late winter/early spring and I think for a period, this was played more than the current Atco stuff. The two distinctive pieces that make ‘Baby Don’t Go’ so memorable to me are the rather unlikely but perfect harmonica and mandolin combination plus Sonny & Cher’s signature harmonizing, whereby Cher always sang the low parts against Sonny doing the highs.

And there you had it, timeless magic.

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Listen: Ladybird / Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood
Ladybird

These two were a virtual hit machine for a few years there, ’66 to ’68 basically. We’re talking thirteen US chart singles on BILLBOARD’s Top 100. Even her solo releases during the period were written by Lee Hazelwood, who kickstarted an almost cancelled record deal in ’66 with ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. By then, she’d been signed to Reprise for close to five years. Despite her Dad owning the label, even he was about to okay the plug being pulled.

Together with Lee Hazelwood, their duets, often initially B sides, got played regularly, and charted as free standing titles alongside the A’s. The most historic of the bunch being ‘Some Velvet Morning’, then and now considered a page out of some psychedelic bible, particularly it’s cold, almost deathlike theme.

Almost as disturbing for it’s chilly minor key, and always overlooked by the media, ‘Ladybird’ perfectly understated Lee Hazelwood’s omnipresent country song formula and once again combined some unlikely musical parts, giving the two yet another hit (#20 US / #47 UK) in late ’67.

Crazy Horse

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Listen: Dance, Dance, Dance / Crazy Horse
Dance,

It would probably be unfair to suggest Neil Young lifted the idea of this song from Doug Kershaw’s ‘Louisiana Man’, so let’s just say it was a rather obvious influence, possibly a result of Bobbie Gentry’s supreme version which was released a little earlier. Her’s is one of over eight hundred in fact.

Or maybe the song was simply due to Neil Young’s genuine knowledge of cajun music. Regardless, discovering ‘Dance, Dance. Dance’ when released was fascinating. The record really is a great one.

Not surprisingly then, the first Crazy Horse album, possibly a perfect production by Jack Nitzsche and Bruce Botnick, was full of top songs, including several singles, like this UK only one.

Somehow, all the 45′s from the band’s first album mingled nicely with a bunch of others in my collection, mostly English stuff, and my positive opinion of it prevailed despite a general disinterest for the west coast’s growing soft rock sound. Yeah, there’s just something I love about this thick UK promo pressing.

Georgie Fame & Alan Price

Monday, May 21st, 2012

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

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.

The Fugs

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Listen: Frenzy / The Fugs
Frenzy

Thanks Howie Gabriel, my pal who found this, The Fugs first 7″ from ’66, when sorting out his newly sold house for a move. Only friends pass on gems like these. There’s good karma coming your way, Howie.

Although Fugs fans know the track, there’s something forever magical about a familiar song issued on the saint-like 7″ single. Specific to the 60′s, those pressings meant a mono mix, always sounding different, often sounding better. During that period, utmost care was invested into getting the mono version correct, just in case the song needed to squeeze through a handheld transistor radio while clamped to any teenager’s ear.

Funny how in the matter of a few decades, our consumer society went from a palm sized device, to a most cumbersome boom box calamity, and eventually right back to the streamlined handheld, wondering what the fuck were we ever thinking.

My favorite Fugs album, hands down, is IT CRAWLED INTO MY HAND, HONEST from ’68. I admit to being partial towards their Reprise years. Amongst other things, the sleeves were superb, plus the music drastically well recorded without losing too much grime.

‘Frenzy’ frames The Fugs perfectly alongside the garage band royalty from ’66, although seldom revered as such. The Sonics, The Music Machine, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Wailers, the list goes on. Why aren’t The Fugs ever mentioned with their counterparts?

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Friday, December 9th, 2011

I Put A Spell On You ('66) / Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Listen: I Put A Spell On You (’66 Version) / Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
I

“Let me tell you one thing, a leopard don’t change it’s spots.”

That’s what Screamin’ Jay Hawkins had to say about Little Richard’s then recent denouncement of drugs and sex. This was ’85, and he’d just done his first New York show in a long, long time at some short lived venue near Chinatown. He was at a career low. After the performance, he and his wife came out to the front bar for a drink with Eric and Mel, and Corinne and I. The four of us were about the only folks who showed up. We’d looked forward to it for weeks. How could this public indifference be possible?

Didn’t matter to him, his show was full on. Came out of the coffin, the whole ten yards. We sat for a good hour, Eric and I just pouring questions on him, learning that he kept all his stage props at his son’s place in New Jersey when not in use and that included the coffin. I was enthralled with Little Richard since seeing him on The Dick Cavett Show in the late 60′s at which time he was making a bit of a comeback, having just signed to Reprise and was more flamboyant than ever. Just hysterical, really camp and out of control, most likely cocaine fueled. By ’85, Little Richard’s whole drill was about finding God and denouncing his old ways. So I asked Screamin Jay if he knew him, and had he really given up all those fun things. And that was his response.

Having been ripped off royally for publishing and record royalties when ‘I Put A Spell On You’ was originally released in ’58 (it’s rumored to have sold 1M copies for which Screamin’ Jay Hawkins saw zilch), he decided to re-record it for US Decca in ’66, giving it an Otis Redding/Bar Kays soul review rave-up. Not a widely known version, it’s here for a listen.

Voodoo / Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Listen: Voodoo / Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Voodoo

Around ’74, he did a one-off for RCA, ‘Voodoo’. No info on this or if any other tracks were recorded. Who at RCA would have signed him, and why? But thanks still to that brave, unknown A&R executive.

Heart Attack And Vine / Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Listen: Heart Attack And Vine / Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Heart

In ’93, his version of ‘Heart Attack And Vine’, from a UK album BLACK MUSIC FOR WHITE PEOPLE, was used in a Levi’s campaign and charted at #42 in the UK. It was his only ever chart entry there or anywhere. At least he got to experience some justice prior to getting into that coffin one last time.

The Kinks

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Listen: The Village Green Preservation Society (Mono Single Version) / The Kinks
The

Our dear friend Nancy Rose from London recently visited New York, as always, with piles of gifts for the whole family. She has the kindest heart on earth.

We met centuries ago, well in the last one, when we were all Kinks stalkers. Those who worshiped The Kinks, by telepathy or something, all found each other, unswayable from the band’s God-like greatness. Actually, it was Corinne who first befriended Nancy, but before long, her Los Angeles Kinks circle and our east coast one were a team.

When we get together now, we reminisce stories deep and many, and truly become kids again. Yet another power that The Kinks possessed that we didn’t even know about until decades later.

So back to this batch of gifts, included was a BIG ISSUE cover story on the Ray Davies’ curated Meltdown Festival from June. The feature and interview are so, well, so Ray. If you’re a Kinks person, you’ll understand.

The event’s a multi-day, yearly happening. Ray chose to center it around the 60′s and included various acts and speakers from that period, including Vicki Wickham. It culminated with a full London Philharmonic Orchestra presentation of THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY, the infamous 1968 album that flopped on release, charted nowhere, but has gone on through the years to be rightfully revered as one of the greatest recordings of all time.

Presently, it’s The Kinks best selling album ever. Did you get that? Ever. And has been certified platinum in the US.

Ray Davies has recently referred to it as the “most successful flop of all time”. Never give up hope for musical justice.

Maybe the greatest thing the US Musician’s Union ever did was ban The Kinks from performing here for three years, due to reasons no one has ever officialized. Once the ban was lifted, and they returned in October ’69, the stalking began. The press referred to the band and their followers as a cult.

But those three years of not playing America, and not being influenced by Haight Ashbury and the Viet Nam war and all that, meant The Kinks we all now love were born or I should probably say, reborn. To quote Ray Davies from said BIG ISSUE piece: “When we realized we couldn’t go back, I withdrew into complete Englishness and quaintness.”

Thank you United States Musician’s Union.

‘The Village Green Preservation Society’, above in mono, is a different greatness than it’s stereo sister. I love both. Particularly at exactly 2:21, the way Ray sings “Donald Duck”, completely untreated by studio gimmicks, not double tracked or harmonized with Dave, is a real spine tingler for every Kinks person. This I guarantee you.

One of the all time greatest television moments ever comes at exactly :29 – :33, whether by accident or design, the shot of Ray Davies, Dave Davies and John Dalton is perfection. Despite being from a 1972 BBC televised concert, it is the only known early performance of the song to exist. I hope the copyright police don’t ever remove it

Fleetwood Mac

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Listen: The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) / Fleetwood Mac
The

To my recollection, this 1970 non-LP A side was Peter Green’s final, officially planned single with Fleetwood Mac. Almost feels like they were veering toward the sound de jour: those beginnings of heavy guitar arena rock, as Deep Purple and The Jeff Beck Group seemed to happily forge.

In fact, around the same time ‘The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)’ was released, so too was Deep Purple’s ‘Black Night’. And given Peter Green’s imminent departure, that musical default could very well have been Fleetwood Mac’s path of least resistance.

Luckily, guitarist Jeremy Spencer’s love of late 50′s/early 60′s doo wop/ RnR influenced the direction for their next album, KILN HOUSE, and disaster was averted.

Technically, KILN HOUSE was an extension of ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight’, the B side of a previous single, ‘Man Of The World’, their only ’69 release on Immediate Records, issued a year or less, between their periods on Blue Horizon Records and Warner Brothers/Reprise. The band even adopted the comical moniker Earl Vince & The Valiants for that side of the single’s label copy.

If ever you were lucky enough to see the Peter Green lineup pictured above on that beauty of a rarer than rare 7″ sleeve, you know how powerful these five were on a stage. Simply unforgettable.

Peter Green’s closing guitar solo twists and turns once again provided musical fear as only he could.

Sandie Shaw

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Listen: Puppet On A String / Sandie Shaw
Puppet On A String / Sandie Shaw

As a kid growing up in the US, I never quite understood what the Eurovision Song Contest was. I do recall seeing lists of the various entires for a few years running. Seems each country from the mainland had one, and England got their entry as well. Despite that bit of water safely guarding them from being part of Europe when it might not have been convenient, in the case of this competition, the water was ignored.

Pretty much all the entries sounded dreadful and were of no interest to me, except occasionally those UK ones. Or at least the artists performing them.

Must have been ’67 when Sandie Shaw’s ‘Puppet On A String’ was one such entry. Despite anything previously involved with said competition, I loved this one. A backing track that mimicked The New Vaudeville Band playing ska, topped off with Sandie Shaw’s perky sulky voice, provided an unexpectedly wonderful recipe.

Simultaneously, her hip factor went out the window, so unhip an event Eurovsision apparently being. For a few years there, she was a happening, barefooted, Yardley mod girl type. Despite this record hitting #1 in England, suddenly things changed in hipsville.

But like Lulu, the years have treated her miraculously well. Neither of them appear to age, at all, shockingly. Maybe up close, but at even the slightest distance, this pair look like a million bucks.

‘Puppet On A String’ didn’t make it over that two week hump of airplay in America. Getting a true chance to sink into the public’s awareness level and become a hit meant surviving that fortnight of ‘new single’ rotations. So for a brief window, the record sounded spectacular coming through the dashboard of our family’s car, an emerald green ’64 Ford. Both the local Top 40′s gave it some decent spins, keeping me throbbing for one of my then heart throbs.

Miriam Makeba

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Listen: I Shall Sing / Miriam Makeba
I Shall Sing / Miriam Makeba

I will forever regret missing Miriam Makeba when she returned to NY in ’88, supporting her then new album, SANGOMA. It reunited her with the Warner/Reprise label, and I was offered some tickets by Julie Panebianco in the label’s college department one floor down from Elektra. I recall spending that whole evening wondering what was happening only a mile or two away, while I sat home doing something completely unmemorable.

Collecting all the US and UK pressings of her singles proved surprisingly hard, so it became a mission.

‘I Shall Sing’ always escaped me for the longest time, until a few weeks back. Oddly the single isn’t even listed in most Miriam Makeba discographies. Like the album from which it came, KEEP ME IN MIND, the attempt was to bring on a more soul and rock approach, and in the case of ‘I Shall Sing’, a Van Morrison cover helped achieve the purpose. Later recorded by both Art Garfunkel and Toots & The Maytals, hands down, it’s her’s that takes the cake in my book.

Jethro Tull

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Listen: A Song For Jeffrey (Mono) / Jethro Tull
A Song For Jeffrey / Jethro Tull

A very close friend reminded me just the other day that the mention of Jethro Tull still conjures up a cringe amongst many. I get it, but everyone needs to section off their first two albums as being very different to what followed. Even the third, BENEFT, had strong songs in the same style as the previous pair, but the shift in attack on recordings began to reveal itself as softening at that stage.

BENEFIT sounded safe and small. Would bet money a remix that captures Jethro Tull’s wild abandon on stage in ’69 could breathe life into it still, although my guess is Ian Anderson would disagree. Quite soon after it’s release, bassist Glenn Cornick was gone, and the band never regained their sizzle. All soul had been zapped.

‘A Song For Jeffrey’, their UK debut A side single as Jethro Tull, was coupled with second UK single A side, ‘Love Story’ on their double sided US 7″ debut.

Listen: Back To The Family (Mono) / Jethro Tull
Back To The Family / Jethro Tull

The song that best represents this band’s live power at their peak, during the touring cycle for second album STAND UP, was ‘Back To The Family’. I wanted the track to be released as a single so badly then, I just may have beamed it into reality. What a thrill to find it initially mis-pressed on the B side of Reprise 0886, incorrectly labeled ‘Reasons For Waiting’.

Jack Nitzsche

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Listen: The Lonely Surfer / Jack Nitzsche
The Lonely Surfer / Jack Nitzsche

Somewhere in this collection a US copy of ‘The Lonely Surfer’ lurks. Must have taken it out to dj with, because my recollection of it sounding huge and rather scary through the sound system at Brooklyn Bowl is quite vivid.

The sport of surfing was not big in the UK, nor was the musical genre, unsurprisingly. Given that UK pressings of surf singles are thin on the ground, finding this Jack Nitzsche 7″ in a tattered box of 45′s on a freezing October morning along the Portobello Road market indeed felt quite the anomaly.

Jack himself, well he was so entrenched in LA’s recording scene during the early 60′s that coining the ultimate surf anthem isn’t really a shocker. His many credits often included arrangements, something no one really does these days, not exclusively and certainly not for money. The guy kept a lot of plates in the air, working with Phil Spector at Philles, organizing THE TAMI SHOW, taking Doris Day to #1 in the pop charts, arranging for The Rolling Stones when they were at the RCA studios and managing to keep up a solo career on Reprise. There alone his array of releases included Chopin style renditions of then current pop hits to, well, surf anthems like ‘The Lonely Surfer’.

Having arranged and orchestrated Ike & Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ would be a pretty daunting accomplishment for anyone to top, but in many ways that’s exactly what he does on ‘The Lonely Surfer’. From the title to the eerie horns, he’s captured a dark and alarming side of the supposedly sunshine and fun theme. Sorry but this record has always reminded me of seedy old Hollywood, the unsolved Bobby Fuller murder and Sal Mineo’s as well.

By the way, ever noticed that some of the best surf records have the most unhappy horn bits on them.

Tom Paxton

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Listen: The Last Thing On My Mind / Tom Paxton
The Last Thing On My Mind / Tom Paxton

If you didn’t really know folk music in the 60′s, but wanted to get caught up fast, Elektra was the one stop shopping label. So I thought at the time, and indeed, I was right. Tim Buckley, Tom Rush, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton. They were all there for an imaginary trip to MacDougal and Bleecker Streets, right in the comfort of your very own bedroom. You could rest assured you were part of the unrest. And if you had nothing to protest, at least you’d find a lot of songs that would stay around for life.

Acquiring a UK pressing of ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ is a most pleasant recollection.

Not long after starting an entry level A&R job at Elektra in ’84, I found myself immersed in a small but deservedly elite bunch of living, breathing record/music obsessives. Every nook and cranny of the company had kindred spirits to connect with, from the chairman to the mailroom and back. Mark Cohen was our office runner, keeper of the promo cabinet, supplies (many supplies) and more in play than some of the radio guys actually. Topped off with a heart of gold, our vinyl fetish commonplace was quickly and mutually detected.

One day he walks into my office, telling me he’d just been instructed to clean out a jam packed storage closet, and in doing so, discovered several boxes of Elektra library 7″ singles, US and UK. Lots and lots of doubles. Did I want some of them?

Don’t even bother to torture yourself with curiosity. Yes, it was a sick find on his part and a hand of God on my forehead miracle for me.

Amongst them was a pristine, unplayed, untouched thick vinyl UK pressing of ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’. It was one of the last things I thought I’d ever see, not to mention, own.

tompaxtonlastuka, The Move, Tom Paxton, Reprise, Elektra, Tony Visconti

Listen: The Last Thing On My Mind (1972 Re-recording)/ Tom Paxton
The Last Thing On My Mind / Tom Paxton

I like to think this 1972 re-recording, produced by Tony Visconti, was inspired by The Move, who cut a very British version on their album SHAZAM, from 1970. By then, Tom Paxton had moved to London, so it’s not too far fetched to assume he’d heard theirs, and realized what a powerful song he’d written. I must say, when I got this single, and saw the Tony Visconti production credit, I was all set for a repeat of the dramatic, orchestrated style he’d applied to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. But no, it’s actually quite similar to his original from ’64 on Elektra.

You don’t see or hear this version much, sadly, you don’t hear either version much. Despite the similarities of both, it’s hard to ignore the song’s quality.

Little Richard / Quincy Jones

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Listen: Money Is / Little Richard
Money Is / Little Richard

How do you take a period piece blaxploitation style soundtrack composition, and make a proper song out of it, one that might actually get heard and become a radio hit? In the case of turning ‘Money Runner’ (below) into ‘Money Is’ (above): bring up the electric guitar chords, the love hangover Rhodes keys and add a RnR legend. VoilĂ .

Oh, don’t forget one other ingredient. Quincy Jones. Check out his discography sometime. How did he do it all….and when? Did this guy ever sleep?

I bet there’s recordings so obscure, so off his radar, even he doesn’t remember. Troll through your old Mercury soundtracks some time. Or just check credits on Mercury releases from the mid 60′s. Start with Lesley Gore.

Not until filing stuff from last summer’s trip to London did it even come to my attention he’d worked with Little Richard at all. It’s constantly a mad dash against time, sorting through piles of promos every trip to Graham Stapleton’s basement shop in Fulham. I just end up grabbing, then reading the fine print a later.

Listen: Money Runner / Quincy Jones
Money Runner / Quincy Jones

Incidental music for films, many times more experimental and mesmerizing than those intended works meant to push the envelope could ever be. The rare talent of turning actions into sounds, like the ending of ‘Money Runner’, is what separates us common people from Quincy Jones.

I never saw the film, but it sure sounds like a heist to me.

Linda Lewis

Friday, January 28th, 2011

LindaLewisRockUK, Linda Lewis, Raft

LindaLewisDoodleUSA1, Linda Lewis, Reprise, Raft, Jim Cregan
LindaLewisDoodleUSA2, Linda Lewis, Reprise, Raft, Jim Cregan

Listen: Rock A Doodle Doo / Linda Lewis
Rock A Doodle Doo / Linda Lewis

Linda Lewis had a mid-chart UK hit with ‘Rock A Doodle Doo’ during the summer of ’73 (#15). If you were there you’d know, it was played relentlessly for weeks and weeks, almost like Radio 1 wanted to make it sell. Or maybe just because it sounded so good over the air, like in my case, coming out of a 4″ x 6″ green transistor radio (that era’s version of a hand held device), permanently borrowed off my cousin.

She looked super hot on TOP OF THE POPS, like an English Kim Weston or Tammi Terrell, but with a voice much closer to Minnie Riperton. I was well pleased to get a US promo later that fall, but had no hopes I’d ever hear it on American radio, despite Reprise releasing it twice. Unfortunately, I was right.

LindaLewisKissUSA, Linda Lewis, Reprise, Raft, Jim Cregan, Arista

Listen: It’s In His Kiss / Linda Lewis
It's In His Kiss / Linda Lewis

By 1975, she’d left Raft and Reprise for Arista. For once, Clive Davis seemed to be in step with what I’d have done if I were running the label, make Linda Lewis a star in The US. Her first album for him was great, and the lead single ‘It’s In His Kiss’, even greater and a real chance for her to flex the higher range potential of that voice. It should have been a smash here (it peaked at #6 in The UK) and sounded spectacular on the air. I know. I ran my college station and forced even the most die-hard southern rock DJ’s to spin it. They already hated my tastes, so why not flex. It’s fun being the boss sometimes.