Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

The Moody Blues / St. Louis Union

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Stop / Moody Blues

Listen: Stop! / The Moody Blues
Stop! / The Moody Blues

When it comes to vinyl or artifacts, oddly, The Moody Blues are not a collectible band. I guess the mainstream success of Moody Blues lineup two unfairly squashed that.

But still, lineup one, well that was a very different sounding group and should be a very different story. It’s where the collectible piece is baffling. Not surprisingly, the band were recycling US blues and RnB, not unlike most other collectible UK acts during the mid 60′s. But singer Denny Laine was special, and had an authentic, recognizable voice. The hits disappeared quickly after their second 7″, ‘Go Now’, although the quality of singles did not. All of them should command more worth, being pressed in very limited quantities.

‘Stop!’, a US only 7″, was taken from the Denny Cordell produced debut UK LP and their only full length with lineup one. The US album version was similar but didn’t included ‘Stop!’, presumably because American label London spotted the track as a potential hit.

‘Stop’ received confident airplay throughout the northeast upon release. I heard it often at both my local Top 40′s in Syracuse. The single charted for one week on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at #98 and was a decent snapshot of Winter ’66, basically dreary and cold, just as I vividly remember it and personally preferred.

Listen: Girl / St. Louis Union
Girl / St. Louis Union

Dreary and cold, or dark and downbeat were indeed the sounds de jour. Enter the St. Louis Union’s cover of ‘Girl’. Despite being a nice time piece, the record was part of an already risky strategy: covering Beatles’ songs to achieve hits. The process initially worked for Peter & Gordon, The Silkie and a handful of others, yet the idea had primarily dried by the time post ’65 late comers released theirs.

London tip ad

The Birds

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Listen: No Good Without You Baby / The Birds
No

The Birds, like their leader Ronnie Wood, seemed forever destined to second tier, always in supporting roles. Yet years later, their lack of first division ideas wonderfully tarnished them with a rather perfect time period sound, ideally suited for the musical backdrop of some British beat boom documentary. But after all, they were on Decca, which in hindsight is regarded as one of the holy grail UK labels for the genre.

To many, Decca has forever been saddled as the company that passed on The Beatles. I however say that’s only one of their greatest achievements. Signing The Rolling Stones being the other. Whether by design or accident, it certainly led them down a path that attracted Them, The Moody Blues, The Graham Bond Organization, The Zombies, The Beazers, The Artwoods, The Small Faces, The Nashville Teens, Zoot Money, The Move and other such hard up heroes, of which The Birds were included.

Several years back, while in London for work, I had conveniently scheduled my trip around The Olympia Record Fair. Getting there somewhat early, but not when doors opened, the first dealer I encountered, off to the left most side of the venue, was not surprisingly unbothered by any customers. His make shift boxes of 7′s unattractively assembled across his table, with as many sloppy boxes below, about two dozen in all. No wall hangings highlighting high end items, no colorful signs, no sizzle of any kind. Everything was either £1, £3 or £5.

Having decided to systematically cover the entire event, I began with this fellow, technically the first dealer far left, with every intention of moving right across the entire lot to the other side. Despite his unkept presentation, I reminded myself there was a plan and not to abandon it by skipping his table, before even starting.

Barely through the first box, I realized it’s entire contents were Decca or Decca distributed A Labels. Temporarily skipping to the second and discovering it to be the same, I asked him about his wares, inquiring was it coincidence they were all Decca’s. Turns out he didn’t regularly sell at the fairs, pretty obvious from the shabby boxes alone, but had stumbled on a retired Decca employee with an attic full of records from his 60′s heyday, and here they all were.

Well, I nearly blacked out. Luckily, a friend had come along with me, and immediately had the defensive sense to inform any other customers wandering up that the entire table was being sold. This gave me time to plow through and grab pretty much all of them. In hindsight, I still stress about leaving Les Reed or Ted Heath type singles behind, and wonder constantly if there was something I’d missed.

The unexpected discovery was one of life’s greatest moments, and a reminder to never judge a book by it’s cover. Amongst the many, many, many incredible purchases that day at that table: ‘No Good Without You Baby’ as well the other two Decca singles from The Birds.

The London Olympia Record Fair, which happens regularly, is in fact this weekend. Never ever pass it up.

Billy Preston

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Listen: Will It Go Round In Circles / Billy Preston
Will

I had no idea that huge Afro hairdo was a wig during the 1970′s when Billy Preston and his clavinet seemed omnipresent. Like no idea at all. Instead, I just became mesmerized by his seemingly effortless keyboard funk, possibly requiring the word chops be applied to a musician’s style for the first time.

The whole sound and image kind of outdid Sly Stone for me. Sans the seediness, which as it turns out was all there, he was my black Elton John, with the shiny pastel clothes, those glam meets Blaxploitation spade shoes and all the remaining trimmings.

Once I started researching his past, actually around the time of his Apple Records singles, I discovered his early mod organ releases with their wonderfully suggestive titles luring me in, for example THE MOST EXCITING ORGAN EVER and WILDEST ORGAN IN TOWN. Wow, these albums were right up there with Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith, Brain Auger as well.

Like some of his contemporaries, he caught the musical ear of various British acts resulting in both recording and touring partnerships. Most notably were The Rolling Stones, who he worked with throughout the 70′s, all the while donning that fantastically oversized Afro wig. Then there were The Beatles, adding keyboard magic to yet another of their rather dull songs, ‘Get Back’, turning it into something special. Certainly for me the highlight was always his electric piano solo midway through. As soon as it finished, I dove for the dashboard to switch the station.

During his most successful mid 70′s stretch came the A&M years, and several huge singles including ‘Will It Go Round In Circles’. Although a US #1 during ’73, the record never charted in the UK despite heavy airplay on the BBC that summer. I mean, seriously, I was there and know for sure, it was played constantly. Maybe too much, because as a possible result, no one needed to buy it.

The Contours

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Side 1:

Listen: Can You Jerk Like Me / The Contours
Can

Listen: That Day When She Needed Me / The Contours
That

Side 2:

Listen: Can You Do It / The Contours
Can

Listen: I’ll Stand By You / The Contours
ContoursIllStand.mp3

Looking back, The Contours probably released more dance instruction songs than anybody, with a possible exception being Chubby Checker. ‘Can You Jerk Like Me’ was one of their earliest.

They were never an act to achieve much more than lower chart success in the US, and excepting the reissue of ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’, none in the UK. They mirror The Marvelettes in Motown’s history books. That being, there was always some other act getting the best songs from their in-house writing machines, and ultimately the push at radio.

And like The Marvelettes, for my two cents, that became a benefit. Not to take away from The Four Tops or The Temptations, clearly on the A list then, but the quick in/quick out studio policy meant The Contours’ records remained unpolished and messier in the best way.

So in Berry Gordy’s world, if The Marvelettes were to The Supremes as The Rolling Stones were to The Beatles, let’s take it a rung lower in the case of The Contours. They were to The Temptations what The Pretty Things were to The Beatles.

Hence I covet every single they ever recorded. And heavens knows, no price is too high for their only EP.

The Marvelettes

Friday, December 6th, 2013

THE MARVELETTES / The Marvelettes:

Side 1:

Listen: Too Many Fish In The Sea / The Marvelettes
Too

Listen: He’s A Good Guy (Yes He Is) / The Marvelettes
MarvelettesGoodGuy.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: You’re My Remedy / The Marvelettes
MarvelettesRemedy.mp3

Listen: Little Girl Blue / The Marvelettes
Little

If you believe all the accusations contained in the handful of detailed Motown history books on the market, The Marvelettes got the second tier of important songs coming off the in-house songwriting assembly line. The cream of the most obviously commercial works went to The Supremes. It had been deemed early on that they were the label’s female superstars, and so The Marvelettes had fewer home run hits, but in the end, came off more intellectual. One might even slot them in as Motown’s biggest cult group.

Mind you, The Supremes were great, I loved them. The world loved them. But The Marvelettes, they had the darker slant, minor key at times, thereby giving them edge, even a touch of danger.

Their patch of Smokey Robinson written and produced ’66 to ’68 singles rate amongst Motown’s highest calibre. ‘The Hunter Gets Captured By THe Game’ and ‘My Baby Must Be A Magician’ to name a few.

But this EP, with earlier songs from ’63 – ’64 and their accompanying Motown bounce, mark a time when all things were a bit more juvenile and created a bit more equal, and the first division songs went around to all.

In the end, my two cents maintains The Marvelettes were to The Supremes what The Rolling Stones were to The Beatles. And I just love that.

Annette & The Afterbeats

Monday, May 13th, 2013

AnnetteTaulPaul, Annette Funicello, Annette & The Afterbeats, Disney

Listen: Tall Paul / Annette & The Afterbeats
Tall

Who were The Afterbeats? I’ve never been able to find out.

Being 1959, I’m guessing studio musicians the lot. But it’s nice to think that maybe soon-to-be members of The Standells or some such band, that five or so years later would try posing as teenagers during the crossover from Surf to English Invasion, were actually the players.

Annette was my first crush, probably like every other little kid who watched THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB. Her singles are some of my earliest memories of owning records, once I graduated from those 5″ yellow shellac nursery rhyme jobs. It wasn’t long before I’d move on to Phyllis McGuire, I can now see where it was all heading. Meanwhile, ‘Taul Paul’ had to have driven my parents mad. Who knows how many millions of times I played it.

Not a singer with any power or confidence, it was Disney staff producer Tutti Camarata who coaxed her into recording stardom, according to Annette herself. Having worked with Billie Holiday, among others, his greatest innovation may have been the creation of what became ‘The Annette Sound’. His solution to the limitations of her teenage voice was to record her vocals twice, the second time with large amounts of echo thrown in; a technique apparently so successful that others like Connie Francis, Shelley Fabares and even The Beatles began to borrow it.

Correct, George Martin did not invent the wheel. More importantly, he destroyed The Action with his shit production. See my post on that one.

Tell me, do you ever, ever hear Annette on oldies radio, bar Sirius?

AnnetteFirstNamePS, Annette Funicello, Annette & The Afterbeats, Disney

Listen: First Name Initial / Annette & The Afterbeats
First

Predating the surf craze that seems to have musically started around ’61/’62 by about two years, you can definitely detect ‘First Name Intital’ moving into that direction. Sounding undeniably RnR 50′s style, it still reaked of sock hops and malted shakes, but in a good way.

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 Bachelors

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Listen: 3 O’Clock Flamingo Street / The Bachelors
3

My Mom always loved these guys, they were Irish and so was she. But then most Moms did. You see, the very square looking Bachelors co-existed effortlessly with beat groups in ’64 and ’65. There were a few others, like The Vogues and The Four Seasons, sporting dreadful hair cuts, who dressed decidedly old yet were accepted by the youngsters and their parents as well. The Bachelors fell into that space. I guess it was the quality of their songs and music that worked. It was good stuff.

Think about it, The Walker Brothers pretty much did the same thing, but they had it down in the image and looks department, hence becoming deservedly seminal in rock history.

’3 O’Clock Flamingo Street’ was The Bachelors first non-charting UK single after a solid three or four year run. Although I remembered it being a bit psychedelic, having heard the single a few times on the radio in summer ’67, it’s acutally not musically psychedelic at all.

Lyrically though, very twisted. There’s a definite implication something sinister was going on at 3AM. That drew me in. This was indeed the summer I was sneaking out and visiting our local cemetery late at night, alone, in an effort to see if spirits would attempt contact. The reasons for that morbid and thankfully temporary attraction are rather unexplainable still. I will say it was fairly terrifying. Anyways, my radar was up for just this type of record.

Alan Tew contributed that UK Decca orchestration and arrangement I so love, sounding not unlike the Cat Stevens ‘Kitty’ and ‘A Bad Night’ singles from that period.

And it was produced by Dick Rowe, now world famous for turning down The Beatles at Decca UK – and subsequently signing The Rolling Stones as penance. In my opinion, therefore, he made two perfect and unbeatable career moves.

The Chants

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Listen: She’s Mine / The Chants
Chants.mp3

The Chants, despite a very ordinary name, were different than most from the British Invasion era. Basically a five piece vocal group with no musicians in their lineup, their real historical moment came late in ’62 when turning up at The Cavern Club for an audition without a band. The Beatles offered to fill in, but Brian Epstein objected. John Lennon overruled and The Chants made their Cavern dubut in November of that year with his band providing the backing.

Phil Ward turned me on to this one, having been hooked on it big time. At first, I mistook them to have Phil Spector involvement, given ‘She’s Mine’ could double for any number from The Crystals or The Ronettes songbook pretty easily with the arrangements and even production not unlike his.

Released in the US on Interphon got my curiosity up. Being Vee Jay’s subsidiary imprint, created exclusively for UK product, meant The Chants were English. Digging through my hardcore, only for obsessed collectors, research books allowed the plot to thicken and the above piece of trivia to be uncovered. Never knew it until recently.

Why didn’t Interphon market them via that Beatles connection? This was ’64, and anything Beatles was contagious. The label could easily have spread the rumor it was indeed them on the record. What a blunder.

The Rats

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Listen: Spoonful / The Rats
Spoonful

Ever been curious about a seminal guitarist’s humble beginnings? Well, most folks look towards The Rats version of ‘Spoonful’ as being the one to expose Mick Ronson’s rudimentary start.

Wrong. He joined the band post, but no doubt played this live. Instead, Frank Ince held down the lead guitar fort back in Fall ’64 when this was recorded, and surprisingly released in the US via Laurie Records.

Why surprisingly? Because for such a local, initially independent pressing of a mere 200 copies, the master found it’s way onto a US label’s release schedule prior to an expected English one. This was new territory. Possible explanation being at the height of British Invasion, every label’s marching orders were to acquire whatever they could find, anything, doesn’t matter, as long as it’s English. Being a small independent, Laurie clearly waited in line for the majors to pass, just as Vee Jay had patiently done when US Capitol turned their nose at UK sister company’s signing: The Beatles.

So for fun, here you go. The Rats first single, ‘Spoonful’. In no way a contender against The Cream’s version from ’68, but still a primitive attempt to compete with Hull hometown superstars, The Hullaballoss. For that, anyone gets an out of jail free card.

Herman’s Hermits

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Listen: You Won’t Be Leaving / Herman’s Hermits
You

Somehow I found myself pulling out a bunch of Herman’s Hermits singles the other night. I guess I really liked quite a few, but moved along through the years never much remembering them or revisiting either. They are in one of those pockets on the wall shelf that seems to get minimal browsing.

Whatever. There I was. Oh right, why was ‘You Won’t Be Leaving’ ever released as a 7″ in the US? Never could quite figure that one out. If you look closely, their string of hits were pretty intense for a few years, with often two or more records in the Top 100 simultaneously, some being released a mere four weeks after the previous one.

As with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, my local Top 40′s would premier a new song as quickly as a copy could be airmailed over from England. ‘You Won’t Be Leaving’ was no exception. As with a few others (‘No Milk Today’, ‘There’s a Kind Of Hush’, ‘Silhouttes’), this was a one listen for me.

Funny enough, it never did get released, but instead found it’s way onto a then current US album that I somehow ended up with, so I was content.

Years later in the late 80′s, an easy find at the Record & Tape Exchange, Notting Hill, for pennies. Not so sure this one time bargain A label would be so cheap nowadays though.

The Beatles

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Listen: I Want To Hold Your Hand / The Beatles
I Want To Hold Your Hand / The Beatles

A few weeks from now will mark yet another anniversary of The Beatles’ ED SULLIVAN SHOW debut in ’64 on February 9. Yes, forty eight years have passed since. Forty eight years! Scary, especially if you recall it, like I do. I wasn’t alone, but will readily admit it changed my life, like practically everything about it, despite being a little boy in his single digits. I never thought the same way about what I wanted to do when I grew up after that night, despite endless lectures from school guidance counselors to become a Math teacher, and not peruse a career in the record business. I think some of them may still be employed giving out such insightful advice.

Apparently, that first appearance is now considered a milestone in American pop culture and the official beginning of the British Invasion in music. The broadcast drew an estimated 73 million viewers, at the time a record for US television.

The Beatles performed five songs that evening including their then, newly achieved, first US #1: ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. I might be accurate in saying I hadn’t heard this in a good five, maybe ten years. But leave it Little Steven on Sirius, suddenly there it was throbbing out of my dashboard. And it sounded fantastic. I got home and pulled the single right out, still practically untouched in it’s original picture sleeve above from so many years ago.

Not a hardcore Beatles admirer would be understating my self description for sure, but scanning over a singles discography as I did earlier, anyone would be an ignorant fool not to acknowledge their incredible run of endless stellar 45′s. Take a look sometime.

Prior to that US explosion, England was avalanched by Beatlemania during pretty much all of 1963. Having made their first appearance on Britain’s READY STEADY GO! that fall, logically, Vicki Wickham, the program’s talent manager and booker, who became the show’s producer, was serviced all the latest releases from the labels.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving weekend, 2010. Vicki, a dear friend nowadays, rang to say she’s found several thousand 45′s in her Manhattan storage unit, having completely forgotten they existed, and was I interested. Just try to guess how fast I tore over there and I’ll guarantee you it was twice that. Praise be, these were, and still are, the holy grail. I can’t even begin to describe it’s contents and revel in them constantly, filing these gems away ever so slowly. I never want it to end.

So pictured above, from Vicki Wickham’s original collection, not only the actual copy serviced to her at Rediffusion Television’s READY STEADY GO! offices, but one that very conveniently indicates the record’s November 29, 1963 UK release date. It’s also the copy streaming here, yes, the real thing.

Quite probably the same copy that secured them yet another booking on the program. I must ask Vicki to confirm that detail.

The Ramones

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Listen: Babysitter / The Ramones
Babysitter

Historically, there are endless B sides worthy of the preferred A side status. In the 50′s and 60′s, many were played and charted alongside their flip side counterpart. Certainly The Beatles and often The Rolling Stones achieved this.

For instance, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ was originally relegated as the flip to ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, but due to the resulting lyrical controversy over ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, combined with the undeniable songwriting strength and band arrangement/performance of ‘Ruby Tuesday’, the latter ascended up to a US #1.

Well, ‘Babysitter’ went to #1 in my world, and that of many Ramones fans as well. Despite being originally designated to the B side of ‘Do You Wanna Dance’, and never included on an album at the time, it’s arguably one of the very best songs from the Tommy Ramone era. I mean, there are so many, without a doubt, but ‘Babysitter’, well it’s hard to believe it’s seldom sighted as important. No explanation for that one.

Despite it’s intended second fiddle status, I thought it a great way to ring in the new year. Have a great 2012.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Tommy Ramone

The Mamas & The Papas

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Listen: Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) / The Mamas & The Papas
Twelve

Never in my life did I expect to say I fell in love with Mama Cass, but the day has come. Yes, reading DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME: THE LIFE OF CASS ELLIOT by Eddi Fiegel allowed me to realize how much was missed during my empty life. Cass was clearly a great soul and this is a great book.

In their time, The Mamas & The Papas were everywhere, and despite the good songs, this Anglophile blotted the vision of them completely out of view. I mean, they looked pretty rough in comparison to The Small Faces, let’s say. And their name. Dreadful.

Having trolled through the world wide web as a result of my new found affection for Mama Cass, I did notice someone, somewhere, claiming they were America’s answer to The Beatles. No way. They deserve much more credit.

Combing back through their singles, anyone would need to admit, they were flawless. One classic after the other. A few still get heard today.

Not so with ‘Twelve Thirty’. Not in my world that is, but I never listen to terrestrial radio. I do have the balls to criticize it nonetheless, and am happy to take the risk of proclaiming ‘Twelve Thirty’ gets no play on the oldies format, bar Sirius. My brother-in-law Mitch argued differently just now, but I’m not buying it.

Written of course by John Phillips, it’s easy in hindsight to understand why the royalty of their 60′s and 70′s peers watched in awe of their output. The hooks, melodies and string arrangements that intertwine this, and all of his songs, remain unchallenged. Just when you think you know the track like you know your own being, another new, how the fuck did I not hear that before, twist slams you.

Possibly my favorite song at this very moment in time.

The Merry-Go-Round

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Listen: Live / The Merry-Go-Round
Live

I think summer ’67 was the sunniest ever. I remember it like yesterday, and can still feel the angst of wanting every last record that was being released. I was insatiable, riding my bike daily, many times twenty miles each way on the back country roads either between Canastota and Oneida, or into Syracuse. Every night as I lay in bed with the transistor under my pillow, listening to AM broadcasts from far away places in the Midwest or way up into the Northeast via Boston or Maine, I’d be scheming out tomorrow’s plan of where to go, looking for, asking for records.

Back then, at dusk, AM stations were required to switch from broad, local signals, to limited radius and directional. This meant those directional beams would make local broadcasts from hundreds and hundreds of miles away sound down the street. And with many of the looser US Top 40′s playing the latest underground and psychedelic releases overnight, new discoveries became a daily occurrence. Whether it be Country Joe & The Fish, The Pink Floyd, Moby Grape, The Move, The Magic Mushrooms, Tim Hardin, The Lewis & Clark Expedition, The Flowerpot Men or The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, I was hearing it all and my want list was endless.

So off I’d go, to the various shops, blagging promo records, last week’s copies of BILLBOARD, CASHBOX and RECORD WORLD, music surveys from the local Top 40′s, inventory check lists the distributors would leave with the store buyers, I hoarded them all.

Wednesdays were when the national record label reps would hit the Syracuse stations promoting their wares. None of my friends dared join me, so I’d wait alone on my bike in the parking lots for them to pull up, and got good at talking singles out of these guys, handing my high school newspaper record reviews to them in exchange for a dig through their latest releases. I’ll tell you truthfully, I’ve tried just about every drug out there, but never have I found a high near the one a free for all through a promotion man’s trunk full of 1967 promo 45′s could provide.

What became known as sunshine pop surfaced amongst the sub genres and regional music scenes during that summer. God, I hated the term and generally cringe when having to admit liking music tagged as such. Along with The Third Rail, Sagittarius, Eternity’s Children, Colours and The Sunshine Company, I guess The Merry-Go-Round’s ‘Live’ inhabited a slot. Their obvious British looking haircuts caught my eye, and when ‘Live’ started to pick up a lot of daytime play quickly, I was hooked. Critics claim a similarity to The Beatles, I don’t hear it. I preferred to associate them closer to The Hollies or The Tremeloes, they certainly looked the part.

‘Live’ almost made it nationally, but stalled just short of Top 50, which was ultimately a real shame.

You know those songs that take you right back? This is one for me.

Billy Preston

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

billyprestongotusps, billy preston, apple, george harrison, doris troy, beatles, sue records, capitol, sunny, bobby hebb

Listen: All That I’ve Got (I’m Gonna Give It To You) / Billy Preston
All

1968. The Beatles starting Apple Records, and even better, turning into A&R guys who immediately proceeded to over spend on their friends. Thankfully they kept George Martin well clear of their roster.

Seems it was primarily George Harrison who got in there signing, writing, playing, producing. His works with Jackie Lomax, Doris Troy, and Billy Preston all proved to be good ones.

Maybe it was the Abbey Road studios, where I’m guessing they were all recorded. Not sure, but something gave every one of those records a roomy, live sound. A decidedly American Delaney & Bonnie & Friends communal feel identified this particular single. Like my previous Billy Preston post, his releases were a touch classy, oddly polished and unpolished alike, and kinda too good for mainstream consumption. What else is new?

The New Vaudeville Band

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band

Listen: Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band
Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band

The New Vaudeville Band did not get their due respect, even though they never made a bad single, and their albums are full of flawless…..vaudeville. A genre cornered successfully by The Bonzo Dog Band and later dabbled into by The Kinks, I’m guessing maybe these guys were just a touch ahead of the credibility curve. Add to that, their first single ‘Winchester Catherdral’ became a worldwide #1 and, even back then, they landed into the mainstream before the press could give them praise, so they didn’t. Never mind, these singles speak for themselves.

The two followups to ‘Winchester Catherdral’ in order were ‘Peek A Boo’ and ‘Finchley Central’.

Although hits in the UK, only ‘Peek A Boo’ made the Top 100 here (#74 in February ’67), due in part to a great performance on the then, newly ‘In Color’ version of popular Saturday night variety show HOLLYWOOD PALACE. Singer Tristam The VII, Earl Of Cricklewood wore a blue sparkley jacket identical to the one Mick Jagger pranced in just a month earlier on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW (January ’67) when they caved, changing the lyrics for the boss, Ed himself, and thereby performing ‘Let’s Spend Some Time Together’ as a worldwide one-off.

Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band UK Picture Sleeve

‘Finchley Central’ Picture Sleeves: Above (UK) / Below (US)

Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band US Picture Sleeve

Listen: Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band
Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band

‘Finchley Central’ followed in late spring. Although not housed in a now very hard to find color UK picture sleeve, indeed US Fontana sprang nonetheless for a cover, except in black and white. Both are pictured above. Despite climbing to #16 in England, for places like Texas and Florida, a single in the style of your parents music (with a vocal that doesn’t even begin until 1:04 into the song, and then lyrically about the London subway system) during the summer of psychedelic ’67 meant…little.

Well actually it did Bubble Under The Top 100 at #102 for a stubborn three weeks. Maybe people equated it to something off SGT PEPPER or YELLOW SUBMARINE and thought it so far out that it was actually in, as it got some play and sold a handful.

See, The New Vaudeville Band were so good even The Beatles wanted to sound like them, and occasionally did.

The Miracles

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

MiraclesHoldUKA, Miracles, Smokey Robinson, Tamla, Motown, Oriole, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones

Listen: You Really Got A Hold On Me / The Miracles
You Really Got A Hold On Me / The Miracles

I do think The Beatles cover version on a very early US album turned me on to ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’. Not one for The Beatles after about two minutes into The Rolling Stones ‘Not Fade Away’ in ’64, it must have been their second album at most. Long gone from my collection, I can’t verify. Never mind – it did the job.

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, as time would eventually refer to them, indeed made many great singles – it’s virtually impossible to pick a favorite. But this I remember as one of those first times in life. I still feel the exact same wonderment with every listen. It has never gone away and there are very few records I can say that about.

Grapefruit

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Dear Delilah / Grapefruit

Listen: Dear Delilah / Grapefruit
Dear Delilah / Grapefruit

Formed from the remnants of Tony Rivers & The Castaways, and Harmony Grass by George Alexander, birth name: Alexander Young. Brother to George (founding member of The Easybeats) as well Malcolm and Angus (founders of AC/DC). For some reason, the family left him behind in England when the others moved off to Australia. Lucky guy.

Grapefruit issued their first single to much attention as The Beatles had acquired the publishing and hence posed in trade pictures with the band. As with their label, The Beatles tended to be quite good at A&R. Even Brian Jones was in those publicity shots, God knows why. Result, the press were interested.

In the US, the debut single ‘Dear Delilah’ was released via Terry Melcher’s new imprint, Equinox, and hence got a decent push. Mom Doris Day wasn’t about to let son and Beach Boys’ friend Terry flop. But despite being recorded in “new orthophonic high fidelity” and getting some decent airplay, the imaginative psychedelic taint (not my words) of ‘Dear Delilah’ only reached #98 in the Billboard Top 100, and #21 in The UK. A shame.

Listen: Elevator / Grapefruit
Elevator / Grapefruit

The album AROUND GRAPEFRUIT, from which it came, was chocked full of gems including the followup ‘Elevator’. I remember it and The Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’ shockingly being played on my hometown Top 40 one Saturday afternoon that spring. Getting picked up for some daytime airplay so quickly upon release via the generally tight WNDR seemed quite optimistic. I was temporarily content.

It was over before it started though, as both peaked and stalled during the same week (5/11/68) on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart (above, click to enlarge). Nearly failed my finals as a result, the depression was so bad.

Listen: Lady Godiva (Come Home) / Grapefruit
Lady Godiva (Come Home) / Grapefruit

Things took an even sharper left turn for Grapefruit a year or so later in ’70 when the band got a touch too progressive, recording DEEP WATER for new, in US that is, label RCA. It’s one of those blues soul prog rock calamities that sells for a nice price nowadays, but grinds by at snail’s pace once you get it onto the turntable. Second single, ‘Lady Godiva (Come Home)’ wants to be hooky, but some cringing lyrics and slightly Foghat leaning vocals prove punishing. Having said that, I do like a nice clean aural snapshot of a bad single, and this is one. They’re totally fascinating artifacts.

Listen: Universal Party / Grapefruit
Universal Party / Grapefruit

An unexpected, and more than low key reprieve occurred without explanation or commitment by Deram in ’73, when the label issued ‘Universal Party’. First listen will most likely result in a shrug at best, but the faint hint of glam gets a bit more addictive with a few more spins. Given it was Grapefruit and on Deram meant extra rope.

In hindsight, I guess nothing compared to the optimistic sound of those first few releases, which I’m reminded of daily as I eat my grapefruit each and every morning.

The Rolling Stones / Ian Stewart & The Railroaders

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Listen: I Wanna Be Your Man / The Rolling Stones RollingStomesWannaBe.mp3

Like every other kid, I was crazy about The Beatles after seeing their first Sunday night ED SULLIVAN SHOW performance, and that was quite by accident. I knew nothing of The Beatles prior to them appearing on the screen. My folks watched the program religiously, it’s how we ended the weekend basically, it’s 9pm broadcast, then off to sleep.

Most parents regretted the moment that band hit the airwaves, a nationwide frenzy occurred on the spot. Seriously, there was chaos in school that next day. It was like no one could concentrate, and Beatlemania literally avalanched the youth of America. Little did we know, the best was yet to come.

I have forever proudly said, “I loved The Beatles until one minute into ‘Not Fade Away’ on HOLLYWOOD PALACE.” For true, nothing can compare to The Rolling Stones’ US television debut. Suddenly, we’d been hit dead center, this time for real.

Two days later, by the Monday, I had somehow mustered up enough money to buy The Rolling Stones’ full length, ENGLAND’S NEWEST HIT MAKERS and their single ‘Not Fade Away’ at Perrin’s Drug Store. Having eyed multiple copies of each sitting unsold for several weeks prior, I was panicked all day Sunday they’d be gone. Luckily, there they sat, waiting. The album had the poster insert, and the 7″ was in the picture sleeve. I still tingle at the memory. How could I have been so stupid as to leave the others behind?

Along with the great black and whites being printed in 16 MAGAZINE and TEEN SCREEN, the articles mentioned the band’s previous single having been a Beatles song. And this I needed a copy of. Given my cousins were in the jukebox business, they became my prime target for as much Rolling Stones content as possible, and it was my Dad who convinced Uncle Dominick to search out more records for the little pest, me.

Low and behold, he delivered a copy of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, as an A side, a few weeks later. I had often asked about the record’s origination, and was told it came from his regular one-stop. Years later, when I got my first job in a one stop record distributor, it all became clear, as indeed there were always a few piles of promo 7′s in the office, said copies waiting to be auditioned and considered for bulk purchase. Bless them for rescuing this gem from the rubbish bin.

The official US commercial release of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ has forever been in question. Seems the choice was quickly overshadowed by ‘Not Fade Away’ and apparently very few copies, promo or stock, found their way to the public, making this even more cherished.

Listen: Stoned / The Rolling Stones RollingStonesStoned.mp3

As with ‘Now I’ve Got A Witness’ from ENGLAND’S NEWEST HIT MAKERS and ’2120 South Michigan Avenue’ from 12X5, B side ‘Stoned’ grabbed my ear. Where’s the singer?

Yes, I was at first disappointed with the lack of vocals, but there was always so much enjoyment coming off these instrumental tracks, you could just tell the band loved playing this stuff, almost like it was home to them. And having worked very early on with Phil Spector, it’s clear his blessing encouraged them, given so many of his singles by The Ronettes and The Crystals coupled throwaway (at the time) jams on their B sides. Quick on the studio time and easy as a publishing grab.

Listen: Stu-Ball / Ian Stewart & The Railroaders IanStewartStuBall.mp3

When Bill Wyman produced Bobbie Miller’s ‘Everywhere I Go’ for UK Decca in ’66, word is he assembled various Rolling Stones and the band’s life long silent member Ian Stewart for the session. In true Phil Spector fashion, the resulting studio jam yielded B side ‘Stu-Ball’, credited to Ian Stewart & The Railroaders. Unlike earlier instrumentals from The Rolling Stones, this copy took more than a few weeks to land. More like a few decades.