Posts Tagged ‘Sly & The Family Stone’

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.

Funkadelic

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Listen: I’ll Bet You / Funkadelic FunkadelicBet.mp3

Between all the Parliament / Funkadelic releases, I must admit confusion. I do believe this was their debut single, and if not, certainly an early contributor to launching their tidal wave of output duiring the 70′s.

Vividly recall hearing ‘I’ll Bet You’ for the very first time through the PA at a Sly & The Family Stone concert. What was that! The low end was so dirty. The overall boom of the track dwarfed the songs each side of it. I just asked everyone around me if they knew it. No luck.

Out of desperation, I timidly approached the soundboard, hoping the mean looking character behind it might know. Luckily, fate was on my side. He did, and was rather impressed that a little white kid would even be interested. It was, by the way, the moment I discovered what a good view standing at the mix desk could offer. It’s become my preferred spot through the years. Learn something everyday.

I marched in to Walt’s Records on Salina Street after school the very next afternoon and landed my deep groove pressed copy. Sounds as thunderous now as it did that very moment coming through the PA at the Syracuse War Memorial.

Don’t even bother to ask me how it sizzles in a Rock-Ola or Seeburg.

Sly & The Family Stone

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

SlyStay, Sly & The Family Stone, Epic

Listen: If You Want Me To Stay / Sly & The Family Stone [audio:

http://www.somanyrecordssolittletime.com/records/SlyWant.mp3]

Time for some trainspotting, courtesy Duane Reade. I stopped by to pick up a prescription, and what’s playing over the sound system but ‘If You Want Me To Stay’. Used to be this one was heard everywhere, all the time. That repeated exposure eroded over the years, now it’s a big treat on the occasional occasion, like tonight. It just stood out against all the other overplayed oldies, the intentional lo-fi recording giving it alien character. It was a nice change.

As it was eventually confirmed, Sly Stone scrapped the first version of FRESH, from which this came. He decided to re-record the whole thing: sometimes the instrumental track, others the vocal takes and even others, both; making all the songs noticeably different to the astute fan, but probably not even turning a head amongst the casual listeners.

Listen: If You Want Me To Stay (Scrapped Version) / Sly & The Family Stone [audio:

http://www.somanyrecordssolittletime.com/records/SlyWantOuttakes.mp3]

Proof of the fairly secret first recording came way back, via the album’s first single, ‘If You Want Me To Stay’, as the initial 7″ stock were pressed using that wrong master. It’s visually impossible to tell it from the much more common official version, by the label that is (read on). I didn’t even realize I had a copy of anything particularly rare for years.

At the time, I was working for a one stop record distributor, the whole front half of the warehouse dedicated to 7″ singles. Both store buyers and jukebox operators populated the place constantly, it was a most fantastic hubbub of activity, every last person focused on records. Having grabbed a copy as soon as they arrived from the plant, it was clearly in hindsight that I discovered owning a first pressing. Even at the time, I just assumed it was an intentionally different version for the single. Actually, not until a month or so after getting it did I even notice the version on Top 40 radio sounding different than mine. Then I realized everyone’s copy had a different version from mine. I was baffled for ages.

The only way to tell, as every last detail of the label copy is identical on both pressings, being created for the official version – is to scour the run off groove. Official pressings read: ZZS 158443, whereas the mistake copies read: ZZS 158431.

Happy hunting.

Sly Stewart

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

slyswim,Sly Stewart, Sly Stone, Sly & The Family Stone, Autumn

Listen: I Just Learned How To Swim / Sly Stewart SlySwim.mp3

This Swim dance craze cash-in is a nice low budget rip off of The Downliners Sect’s ‘Little Egypt’, at least to these ears. Sly Stewart was at the time (1965), a hip San Francisco dj as well as overseeing in house production for the city’s Autumn Reocrds and it’s subsidiary imprints, North Beach and Loma. Seemingly more tied to the Anglo rock and psychedelic scene than RnB or soul, it wouldn’t be long before he turned down his legendary path.

slyscat, Sly Stewart, Sly Stone, Sly & The Family Stone, Autumn

Listen: Scat Swim / Sly Stewart SlyScat.mp3

It’s on the single’s b side, ‘Scat Swim’, where those first indications of the funk leanings that would become Sly & The Family Stone can be heard. Check out the bluesy jazz breakdown about one third of the way in, and that first vocal moment of what would soon become Sly Stone.