Posts Tagged ‘Syracuse War Memorial’

The Vibrations

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Misty / The Vibrations

Listen: Misty / The Vibrations
Misty

There are many, many covers of this classic. Some people will complain it’s a schmaltzy adult bore, or that it’s too camp. But be informed, the greats have done it in varying styles: Aretha Franklin, Donald Byrd, Johnny Mathis, Sarah Vaughan, Richard Groove Holmes, Donny Hathaway, Julie London, Stan Getz even Timebox. I like them all. Interestingly, it can withstand many very different interpretations.

The Vibrations, like The Contours, were in that poor man’s Temptations or Four Tops category. Consequently, both often tipped into Northern Soul. Their version of ‘Misty’ though brings me right back to the Syracuse War Memorial October 30, 1965. The Vibrations, along with Pattie La Belle & The Blue Belles, were opening for The Rolling Stones. Bravely, they performed this clad in shiny purple chino suits; and the power of the vocal had ten thousand restless kids in silent awe. Check out the final high notes here, you’ll see what I mean.

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 Brother & The Holding Company / Janis Joplin

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company

Listen: Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company
Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company

There are two things about Janis Joplin that annoy me. Neither are her fault.

Firstly, there is so little footage that really captures her power and that the media uses. The clips on a short lived US pop music show, MUSIC SCENE, are the best ones. That was with her Kozmic Blues Band lineup. Then to be fair, the Ed Sullivan and Dick Cavett shows were great as well. But the media always use that shit footage from the Monterey Pop Festival, when she hadn’t yet exploded vocally or visually. By the time she left the Bay area and was playing nationally, her voice was rasp and tortured; and she was visually a ball of color and fire. So heads up: seek out some of the aforementioned performances.

The second is Clive Davis. Why people line up to credit him with her success sickens me. Yes, he signed Big Brother & The Holding Company. And yes, he’s done a lot of things. His resume looks way better than mine. For instance, he let Ray Davies make two awesome Kinks albums, SLEEPWALKER and MISFITS, when most felt he and the band were washed up, signed The Patti Smith Group and let her make two great ones initially as well, plus gave both Lou Reed and Iggy Pop shots on Arista.

But masterminding the break up of Big Brother & The Holding Company with Albert Grossman is not a creative stroke of genius and is definitely unforgivable. How fucking dumb can you be? Their CHEAP THRILLS album soared to #1 in the Billboard charts being a blisteringly perfect document of her and the band’s magnetism.

Big Brother & The Holding Company were the ultimate acid rock group, probably of all time. They were raw and ragged but had swing, a lethally positive combination. Listen to James Gurley’s solo on the version of ‘Down On Me’ I’ve posted. By the time this was released, after her death, Columbia didn’t even have the courtesy to credit the band on the label. I assume the plan was to polish her for mainstream acceptance. Please. The whole point was her wild abandon.

Big Brother & The Holding Company live were an experience I’ll never forget. Friday October 11, 1968. Syracuse University presented the band at The War Memorial, but you had to be a student to get in. I wasn’t an SU student, in fact I was a little boy; no way could I even pass for a college kid. My friend Denny and I begged a security guy to let us in, bless him cause he did! Changed my life.

Big Brother & The Holding Company / Syracuse War Memorial / October 11, 1968

Above and below: Big Brother & The Holding Company / Syracuse War Memorial / October 11, 1968

Janis, October 11, 1968

These two pictures are from that night, snapped with my crap camera. I wish I had the negatives as the prints are fading. Check out how little equipment is up on stage. Still it was loud and out of control. Fantastic. Luckily, Janis played my area many times. I got to see all her line ups through the years. She was amazing. It’s not because I was young and impressionable. Janis Joplin was truly a living legend. And the lasting effect she has over everyone, not just me, proves it.

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.

Eddie Floyd

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

eddiefloydraise, eddie floyd, steve cropper, stax, janis joplin

Listen: Raise Your Hand / Eddie Floyd EddieFloydRaise.mp3

It wasn’t hard to love Eddie Floyd’s ‘Raise Your Hand’. The pure grit of his voice would have you enjoying the phone book if he decided to sing it. Like all things Stax, you got the added value of Booker T & The MG’s on backup, and many times Booker T and/or Issac Hayes producing. In the ‘Midnight Hour’ groove of the day, it was a big favorite. Along comes Janis Joplin and her Kozmic Blues Band to hurricane it into a riot inciting opening live number. That’s just what happened on May 2, 1969 at the Syracuse War Memorial. Already an hour and a half late on stage, due, as I found out many years later, to a heroin slump that had tour manager and band dunking her head in buckets of ice water usually reserved to keep the dressing room drinks cold.

Yeah, she had a really great manager, Albert Grossman. Praise has been showered on this many for his guidance of Bob Dylan and The Band. But when it comes to Janis Joplin, it sure does have a stink all over it. Clearly, he didn’t help her, just put her on tour to rake it in. Why not, he’s already destoyed Big Brother & The Holding Comapny with cohort Clive Davis, what’s the point of stopping now?

Well when she hit the stage, the place errupted. There was no stopping the mayhem, even after she pushed a sercurity officer right into the crowd (the world’s first stage dive?) who by now, with about ten others, had engulfed she and the band to try calming the crowd by threatening to end the show early. Not a smart move. Great fun to see as a youngster.


Watch: Raise Your Hand / Tom Jones & Janis Joplin

Just to prove the power of her delivery, check out the above clip with Tom Jones from his 1969 US TV series. Tom’s undeniably a great soul singer, but by the end, even he was indeed no match for Janis. Still hugely powerful on both parts.

eddiefloydbringuka, eddie floyd, steve cropper, stax

Listen: Bring It One Home To Me / Eddie Floyd EddieFloydBring.mp3

I always had a soft spot for Eddie’s ‘Bring It On Home To Me’, despite it’s tame formula. Let’s face it, Stax became a dependable assembly line. Even despite that reality, this was of favorite.