Posts Tagged ‘The Pretty Things’

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.

Tir Na Nog

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

tirnanogstronguk, Tir Na Nog, Chrysalis, Matthew Fisher, John Martyn, Nick Drake

Listen: Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog
Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog

I was desperate to see Tir Na Nog when they toured the US in ’72. It never happened.

Although being the college concert chairman at the time, having pushed through Rory Gallagher, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Colosseum, Atomic Rooster, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Pretty Things and The Incredible String Band against everyone’s “who the fuck are these people” stances in one school year mind you, it didn’t really allow me any more puts. By then, the budget was spent anyways. Otherwise, they’d have been there.

Tir Na Nog’s second and third albums were released in the States, and I particularly loved that third one, STRONG IN THE SUN. It was, well still is, a seminal recording, right up there with the best from Tyrannosaurus Rex, John Martyn and Nick Drake. Indeed the album includes a cover of his ‘Free Ride’, itself worthy of 7″ status. Tracks like ‘Cinema’ rivaled some of Pink Floyd’s tracks from MEDDLE for being…cinematic, funny enough. If you’d told me Norman Smith, Denny Cordell or Peter Asher had produced some of this stuff, I’d have believed you. The album is that good.

Indeed, Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum was in charge of production, and as with similar duties on Robin Trower’s BRIDGE OF SIGHS, did an A+ job.

When I up and headed for London during summer ’73, I took a night off from The Marquee to see them play a small, sit-down-cross-legged room, God knows the name of it now. But the show remains a vivid memory.

There was a time, around ’85, and Howard Thompson was looking at cover songs for 10000 Maniacs. I guess as a potential single, possibly a one-off film submission or something. I recommended ‘Strong In The Sun’. I thought Natalie Merchant would have done it some beautiful justice and Tir Na Nog could have gotten some well deserved recognition. Didn’t happen. ‘Peace Train’ was chosen instead, against the band’s wishes. Years later, turns out Natalie insisted it be removed from that album. Elektra complied..

There has to be someone out there in need of a great song to revive their sagging career: Nelly Furtado, Jewel, Anna Nalick, Five For Fighting, Vanessa Carlton, Paula Cole or wait, Natalie Merchant.

The Sir Douglas Quintet

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

The Tracker / Sir Douglas Quintet - US

Listen: The Tracker / The Sir Douglas Quintet
The Tracker / The Sir Douglas Quintet

Like so many bands popping up around the country circa ’64 – ’65, all imitating Britain’s Invasion, The Sir Douglas Quintet appeared. Unlike those others, they had a recognizable sound (perfectly part Bo Diddley, part Pretty Things) and could both write and find great songs, and had the production advantage of Huey P. Meaux guiding them. The band never released a bad single on London Records’ imprint Tribe. They eventually moved to Smash/Philips where their greatness, and the occasional hit single, continued.

‘The Tracker’, followup to their debut smash ‘She’s About A Mover’, was a real favorite despite it’s national stall at #105 in July ’65 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart.

I recall seeing them on SHINDIG, Doug Sahm (Sir Douglas) doing a mean Phil May imitation vocal on ‘The Tracker’ while holding an oversized magnifying glass, kind of roaming around the stage as though following footsteps visible when enlarged, Sherlock Holmes style. Not only did they have the sound down, but the look as well.

Blue Norther / Sir Douglas Quintet - US

Listen: Blue Norther / The Sir Douglas Quintet
Blue Norther / The Sir Douglas Quintet

‘Blue Norther’, the B side, with it’s rather haunting patent Sir Douglas Quintet formula (not to be taken as a bad thing), I like to think is about the train line and totally conjured up nighttime images of a freight winding it’s way through some dark mountain woods or the Texas desert, assuming there is one there.

Listen: In Time / The Sir Douglas Quintet
In Time / The Sir Douglas Quintet

Quickly released that September, no doubt in hopes of refuelling interest after their huge debut, ‘In Time’ stiffed completely. Shame, just listen to it’s perfection. No other US band quite captured their flawless mixture of Texas and England, a recipe that should’ve easily worked. To my knowledge, only KNAC in Salt Lake City charted it for a week in October at #63. Otherwise, klunk

Listen: The Story Of John Hardy / The Sir Douglas Quintet
The Story Of John Hardy / The Sir Douglas Quintet

For the flipside of ‘In Time’, as with Manfred Mann’s rendition of the Lomax/Lomax written ‘John Hardy’ (it too a B side of ‘Sha La La’), the ever present influence of The Pretty Things, marraccas particularly, prevailed. The band’s more folk blues ‘version’, retitled ‘The Story Of John Hardy’, songwriting mischievously credited to Doug Sahm, succeeded in establishing yet again that sound so unique to this band.

Many years later, Doug Sahm formed The Texas Tornadoes and signed to Warner Brothers. I saw him in the office one day (my company, The Medicine Label, was a WB label) and he graciously filled out a jukebox tab for me. It was a chance meeting, so I wasn’t prepared with B side info. I couldn’t remember it, neither could he.

Sir Douglas Quintet - Juke Box Tab

Above: Jukebox Tab filled out by Doug Sahm.

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 Hullaballoos

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

DID YOU EVER / The Hullaballoos:

Side 1:

Listen: Did You Ever / The Hullaballoos
Did

Listen: Wouldn’t You Like To Know / The Hullaballoos
HulaballoosWouldntYouLike.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: Beware / The Hullaballoos
Beware

Listen: Who Do You Think You’re Fooling / The Hullaballoos
Who

Lord knows I was crazy about The Hullaballoos from that very first appearance on HULLABALOO. And no, they were not the house band, nor were they named after the show.

They were English and that was enough to grab every American kid’s attention during the British beat group boom. But with shoulder length hair, bleached blond, well The Hullaballoos out did The Pretty Things in some ways. They were Buddy Holly instead of Bo Diddley influenced admittedly, still I didn’t even know that bit. The hiccup vocal was pure Hullaballoos to we youngsters. Basically, none of us were even aware of Buddy Holly’s records then. Music as we knew it went back maybe two years, everyone still in their single digits age-wise.

My eyes were peeled to the TV GUIDE as soon as it arrived in the post weekly, pawing through the listings, checking if a small handful of bands, The Hullaballoos amongst them, were scheduled on the various pop music programs we got over three, yes three, TV channels. Remember, this was 1965. Color TV was barely around, forget about cable.

‘Did You Ever’ was their second single and BILLBOARD entry (#74). The band performed it and the B side ‘Beware’ on their third HULLABALLOO appearance.

Years later, I was put in touch with Harry Dunn through the band’s website. We exchange emails on occasion. If I’d have ever thought as a kid, while pulled up close to the TV, pulse racing with anticipation, that one day I’d be in contact with any member of this band, I’d have left our house in a hearse.

The Spencer Davis Group / The Mindbenders / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich / The Pretty Things

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

THE BIG 4 / Various Artists:

Side 1:

Listen: Keep On Running / The Spencer Davis Group
Keep

Listen: You Make It Move / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
You

Side 2:

Listen: A Groovy Kind Of Love / The Mindbenders
A

Listen: Midnight To Six Man / The Pretty Things
Midnight

And so with the UK EP, given a possible restrictive higher price to the customer, often labels would package recent chart hits together making a purchase seemingly more attractive, musically convenient or both. Unlike Decca, Fontana weren’t regulars in the various artists EP game. But on this occasion, April 1966, THE BIG 4 hit the market to seemingly little response, given it’s absence from the RECORD RETAILER EP Chart.

Given the EP contained a recent #1 ‘Keep On Running’ and three current Top 50′s: #2 ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’, #26 ‘You Make It Move’ and #46 ‘Midnight To Six Man’, one would have expected a different result. Most likely the label did too.

Ultimately it’s hard to guess how many might have sold. I really would love to know. This one surfaces occasionally on eBay and doesn’t sell for much. Despite that, it still has value for the money as the pressing is superb, mastered loudly with great high and low end. Plus all the songs make for a great listen together.

Hedgehoppers Anonymous

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Listen: Stop Press / Hedgehoppers Anonymous
Stop

Quite possibly the very first copy of BILLBOARD I ever laid my eyes on had Hedgehoppers Anonymous’ ‘It’s Good News Week’ at #48 in the Hot 100. I know because still have that edition.

Mind you, those early copies of the magazine were life changing. For a youngster desperately obsessed with English music during the 60′s, this publication was a tsunami of joyous information and statistics. BILLBOARD enabled me to actually see Britain’s Top 50 singles chart on a weekly basis. And believe you me, I gunned my way to Smith’s Records after school every Friday to pour over the current week’s edition, and to pick up last week’s now worthless copy from Mrs. Smith herself. I was her chosen charity. I suppose it was me or the rubbish bin, all pre-recycling of course. I cringe to think how many copies were tossed. Regardless, a week old BILLBOARD was useless to even Mrs. Smith in Oneida, NY. The world moved fast back then as well.

Now I’d already seen mention of this band, as with many others, probably in TEEN SCREEN or 16 MAGAZINE. Those publications would all dedicate a page or two toward reprinted miniatures of the record companies’ new band 8×10′s. And Hedgehoppers Anonymous were one such. Their name was hard to forget, especially for this youngster’s unblemished hippocampus.

And so with great excitement, and desperate catch-up, ‘It’s Good News Week’ at #48 made me desperate for an airing. Fate and luck were on my side. Local Top 40 WNDR ran a weekly Tuesday night program, ‘Echoes Of England’, whereby they’d spin all the singles they didn’t, wouldn’t and/or couldn’t play in regular rotation. It’s how I first heard Them, Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville, The Applejacks, The Pretty Things and on this particular occasion, Hedgehoppers Anonymous.

Years, although not that many, later I discovered they were produced and guided by Jonathan King, a big favorite of mine then and now. I honestly don’t recall when I acquired ‘Stop Press’. I’m guessing ’74-ish. Back then I would buy records, via snail mail, from UK dealers out of the set sale pages of, I think, TROUSER PRESS. Whatever, it turned up in the post, most likely all of two weeks and $3.00 (including post) later and I truly loved it. A total package complete with Mick Tinsley’s black and white drizzly English minor key vocal melody and all the noisy drum/tambourine stuff. Properly tagged as percussion, the sound felt like a first to me. Why on earth had no one thought of using that racket prior?

‘Stop Press’ is by far the band’s best and most English record, at least by my not so humble standards.

The Pretty Things

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Listen: Havana Bound / The Pretty Things
Havana Bound / The Pretty Things

It’s May 19, technically the anniversary of booking The Pretty Things at my college. I celebrate it every year, well given this also marked my first date with Corinne, it’s impossible to forget. Talk about impressing a girl, this totally did the trick. Yes, our first date was a concert by The Pretty Things, with all the backstage trimmings.

I was the school’s event chairman and conveniently, there was no concert committee. None of the other students were interested. I believe that reality is known as a dream come true. Not only did I worm my way into the campus radio station as music director, I was also booking whoever I wanted with the school’s money. A spoiled freshman, that was me.

Needless to say, only British acts got the slots: Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Rory Gallagher, Atomic Rooster, The Incredible String Band and The Pretty Things. Not a bad lineup for year one.

Given they had a manager that turned down The Ed Sullivan Show, it’s no wonder The Pretty Things never made it to the US during the 60′s. Hard to believe, and neither did The Small Faces.

After having called it quits post their album PARACHUTE flopping in ’70; it was like a miracle that The Pretty Things were reforming to record FREEWAY MADNESS in late ’72. Seemed a lifetime then, and the news was a big deal to the small but already twisted following The Pretty Things had acquired.

Then, on top of that, a premier US tour for spring ’73 was announced. It seemed too good to be true and booking them became my mission in life, School work tabled, getting The Pretty Things to town top of the list. Success, I got the band to play for $500 on May 19th with The James Cotton Band as openers. See the poster below.

Never did I envision at the time that one day, years later, I’d have my own label and actually reissue the FREEWAY MADNESS album. Never ever crossed my mind, but life can take you on the wildest ride if you let it.

Fast forward to ’94, The Medicine Label is up and running out of the Warner Brothers New York office. Mo Ostin, then chairman of both Warner and Reprise, but based in Burbank, would often visit our building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. On one particular trip, we were talking in the hallway, and it just occurred to me that this was the moment, so I asked, could I re-release The Pretty Things album from the catalog, then lying dormant having been unavailable for years.

“Sure. Good idea, just check to see it hasn’t been scheduled by the reissue department.”

I nearly blacked out with excitement, unlike the reissue team, who smelled a potential predator upon hearing the news.

“Not to worry guys, it’s a one-off.” Reissue departments were very cautious of the finite back catalog from which they drew.

Suddenly, with FREEWAY MADNESS on the schedule, the original 1/2″ master tapes were delivered to my office along with cover art films, bios, press shots, studio logs, you name it. There sat history in the Warner Brothers pouch, as it was referred.

Well who better to write new liner notes than Phil May?

Luckily, we’d been introduced a few years earlier by Shannon O’Shea, a UK friend who was managing the band around ’90-’91. I would often stay in Notting Hill Gate, and Phil lived just down the street from my hotel, on Talbot Road. We spent many an afternoon in his local pub. A nicer guy you will not meet, and the recollections. Endless.

So yeah, Phil May was only too happy to write those CD reissue liner notes, and while rummaging for some bits to post here, I found the agreement below between the WB art department and Phil for the job:

The real moment on FREEWAY MADNESS was ‘Havana Bound’. It was picture perfect Pretty Things, and originally the UK B side to ‘Over The Moon’, released in ’72 as the album’s official single.

Huh? The B side? Not to take anything away from ‘Over The Moon’, great great song but come on. What planet did that decision originate from? ‘Havana Bound’ deserved a big red A label.

Well now was my chance to right wrong so we scheduled a US 7″ of ‘Havana Bound’ to promote the CD reissue and service college radio but mostly because I just had to have it on an A side. Few things have been more exciting than the day those box lots arrived from the plant.

Believe it, the record business in it’s heyday was a euphoric free-for-all.

Above: The promo only insert from the ’73 US release of FREEWAY MADNESS
Below: The 8×10 press shot that accompanied FREEWAY MADNESS mailings to US journalists in ’73

Spanky & Our Gang

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Listen: Like To Get To Know You / Spanky & Our Gang
Like

God, I hated Spanky & Our Gang when they were current. As a kid, they just sounded like safe sonic sludge, a cross between The Mamas & The Papas and The Letterman. Being impatiently addicted to the English group image, this bunch were simply hideous visually, out of shape and way too American.

Add to that, they were signed to the US Mercury/Philips/Fontana labels. As far as I was concerned, any money and manpower directed toward them took away from The Herd, The Troggs, Manfred Mann, The New Vaudeville Band, The Pretty Things and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Trust me, this did not sit well.

Truth be told, I was kind of wrong. Indeed, they probably did rob those other acts of company resources, but musically, they were pristine. To be fair, as the years passed, I found Spanky & Our Gang to be a nagging guilty pleasure, and one that eventually carried no guilt. Their collection of hits and non-hits sound even better with age. In fact, very psychedelic, aided in no small way by some of the earliest stereo 7′ pressings I can recall.

Check out both the production and arrangement of any Spanky & Our Gang single, start with ‘Like To Get To Know You’. This was on the radio constantly in ’68 and rivals Richard Harris’s Jimmy Webb written/produced ‘MacArthur Park’ for the flowery mini symphony slot of the era.

Bobbie Graham

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Listen: Skin Deep / Bobbie Graham
Skin

The mere concept that Bobbie Graham, aka Bobby Graham, played drums on an estimated fifteen thousand singles is mind boggling. Seriously, we probably don’t have time in our remaining years to listen to them all, not to mention the hours it took to record them. His discography, lifted from the official website, is frustratingly short. This abridged version is possibly a good thing though. As with the various drug warnings on television nowadays, the entire song list may cause convulsions or death.

In ’64, Bobbie Graham’s session work with The Pretty Things resulted in him becoming their producer, apparently Fontana’s various in-house staff not having a grasp for the job. A&R manager Jack Baverstock had the good sense to sign him as an artist, issue a few singles, he having recently appeared in a spectacular segment of the film GONKS GO BEAT, playing the blue kit and dressed in a matching blue shirt:

Preceding the film’s release, ‘Skin Deep’ was in the stores. Possibly viewed as a corporate attempt at capitalizing on the beat group sound of the day, it’s bombastic production teeters on overkill and surf all at once. In hindsight, you can’t find a better snapshot of the colorful period.

Listen: Zoom, Widge And Wag / Bobbie Graham
Zoom,

Unlike most throwaway B sides, this one was clearly planned. A co-write between Bobbie Graham and Jimmy Page, ‘Zoom, Widge And Wag’ calculated the access they’d have to a full orchestra while in the studio recording ‘Skin Deep’. Released in January of ’65 meant ‘Zoom, Widge And Wag’ was clearly recorded in ’64, during which time the pair were professionally the most sought after studio team around London. Other than Big Jim Sullivan, it was Little Jim as Jimmy Page was known, who played on just about as many singles as Bobbie Graham.

‘Zoom, Widge And Wag’ spills into surf in my twisted head, not unlike it’s A side. It’s great to think back to a time when instrumentals were positioned into the mainstream. Not until electronic music became Top 40 during the late 90′s, and then in the UK and Europe, did the trend begin to resurface. The US, usually twenty years and five hours behind England when it comes to the radio, is just now surrendering to instrumental dance hits on daytime broadcasts. US programmers. What a bunch of boobs.

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.

Jason Crest

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Listen: Turquoise Tandem Cycle / Jason Crest
Turquoise

The most hardcore psychedelic music prioritized itself just as it read: psychedelic first, music second. I loved the insanity of it as much as the next guy, it’s power to baffle the unsuspecting listener was hard to top. Unfortunately, struggling through a whole side of what LSD supposedly sounded like on a compilation, or worse yet an entire cd, always got tedious around these parts.

A 7″ single, freestanding, that was another story. I like to think I was well adept in the style, with The Smoke ‘My Friend Jack’ or The Pretty Things ‘Defecting Grey’ being favorites when current. Compared to the average American teenager, my friends and I were definitely hardcore. But to the true psychedelic addicts, we were lightweight I’m sure. Given the choices were everywhere for a summer or two made stumbling on the obscure not very difficult, especially when, in my case, a cousin in London was happily exchanging UK psychedelic singles for US soul hits.

If I’d read about something, or just saw a trade ad in DISC & MUSIC ECHO or MELODY MAKER, on to my list it would go. And weeks later, for the simple task of mailing off something like The Supremes ‘Reflections’ or Gladys Knight & The Pips ‘The End Of Our Road’, The Accent ‘Red Sky At Night’ or Jason Crest ‘Turquoise Tandem Cycle’ would turn up in my parents postbox. Good deal.

‘Turquoise Tandem Cycle’ certainly could double as a blueprint for sweet shoppe lyrics meets kitchen sink production, all carefully assembled for the psychedelic cause. Add in a large dose of no fun, and ptoff, we have a masterpiece. I’ve seen this record called just that on a few occasions. I don’t necessarily disagree as long as were clear of what kind of a masterpiece.

Having played it many, many times during those long, late summer vacation nights, it will always touch a soft spot. It’s admittedly silly compared to The Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’, but so is Napoleon XIV ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away’ and anyone who snubs that is a moron.

The Pretty Things

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Listen: Midnight To Six Man / The Pretty Things
Midnight

Happy birthday Phil May.

Acquiring one of the hardest US singles by The Pretty Things, a commercial stock copy of ‘Midnight To Six Man’, evaded me for decades. It became the most exasperating exercise. I had even put a $300.00 eSnipe bid in on the very, very rare occasion that one went up for auction several years ago. The previous day, I changed my eBay password as a standard safety procedure, and neglected to do the same with eSnipe. The bid was rejected due to security reasons. The record, listed by it’s B side as opposed to ‘Midnight To Six Man’, sold for just over $7.00. I was mortified. Even contacted the seller with a bribe, and the winner with hundreds. No luck.

Not so the second time through, and finally got the copy above. Nowhere near the $7 mark, but thrilled just the same. Now I can go to my grave, and this single will come with me.

Above: The Pretty Things perform ‘Midnight To Six Man’ live on the British TV program A WHOLE SCENE GOING March ’66.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Phil May

Tintern Abbey

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Beeside / Tintern Abbey

Listen: Beeside / Tintern Abbey
Beeside

Many years back, in the late 80′s, a friend John Stainze had stumbled on a bunch of Deram singles. I seem to recall them being from a UK Mom & Pop record shop or something. He called asking if I wanted him to pick any up, running a bunch of titles past me. They were around $5 each so I said yes to a few including The 23rd Turnoff record.

Amongst their stock was the sole release by Tintern Abbey, ‘Beeside’, of which they had five copies. I took them all, even though they were $20 a piece back then. When the box arrived, I was bragging to Corinne that I’d gotten five copies of this, and she berated me for wasting even money on more useless records, not to mention multiple copies. One recently sold for $1135 on eBay. She remains unimpressed. Now I just need to unearth the remaining four somewhere in the black hole of extras.

The record is often sighted as classic British psych, to these ears not unlike Love in parts. It’s truly up there with The Smoke, Tomorrow and The Pretty Things ‘Defecting Grey’. But that’s just one useless opinion.

Vacuum Cleaner / Tintern Abbey

Listen: Vacuum Cleaner / Tintern Abbey
Vacuum

Both sides of the record are often compiled on psyche compilations, and it seems many have confused ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ as being the A side, given ‘Beeside’ sounding like a clever play on words I’m guessing.

Not sounding unlike a Shel Talmy production, I suppose in a pinch, it could pass for The Creation.

For the record, drummer John Dalton is not the same John Dalton who played bass with The Kinks for centuries.

Phoebe Snow

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Poetry Man / Phoebe Snow

Poetry Man / Phoebe Snow

Listen: Poetry Man (Mono) / Phoebe Snow
Poetry

The nice thing about double A promo singles, up until the late 70′s, was you got an otherwise unobtainable mono mix on one side. Being a mono collector, these are now coveted.

I hated Phoebe Snow when this single was current. I went to see The Pretty Things in Niagara Falls during their SILK TORPEDO tour, and Carol Hardy, who worked promotion for Atlantic at the time, took me backstage to meet the band. I’d already booked them two years earlier at my college in ’73, which unbelievably was during their first ever US tour. Can you believe this seminal band didn’t tour here until ’73! Still I was well up for hanging out with them.

John Povey, Phil May and I got to talking about current records, and they proclaimed their love of ‘Poetry Man’ and Phoebe Snow, who they’d not heard until arriving Stateside. I was mortified. How could The Pretty Things liked this record?

Didn’t change my mind. I proceeded with nose in the air towards her for years.

But my tastes changed and one day, I just had to hear Phoebe Snow. Just like that. Snap.

Now I worship her voice, it’s huge and thunderous. I love all her Shelter Records releases. Leave it to Denny Cordell.

The Easybeats

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Listen: Make You Feel Alright (Women) / The Easybeats
Make You Feel Alright (Women) / The Easybeats

Having signed a then lucrative five year deal with United Artists for territories outside of homeland Australia in early ’66, part of the plan to launch The Easybeats in the US, I’m guessing, was to immediately release their biggest hit, ‘Make You Feel Alright (Women)’, while new material was being recorded. As a result, in early Spring, UA’s subsidiary label, Ascot, coupled the band’s first #1 at home with another Australian A side ‘In My Book’, and housed the single in a now very scarce picture sleeve.

Some of the Boston stations, like WBZ charted it, but nationally, not much transpired. Except as luck would have it, at WOLF in Syracuse, the hometown life changing Top 40 station forever glued to my ear as a kid. Spring ’66 found this youngster, who should’ve been knee deep in coloring books, instead becoming a fan of The Easybeats, amongst many.

‘Make You Feel Alright (Women)’ reminded me of The Pretty Things ‘Big City’, both depending on bar chords sliding around way up high on the guitar neck, a style and sonic I found ridiculously addictive. The Pretty Things performed ‘Big City’ that way on SHINDIG, and I forever recognized the technique introduced to me by their guitarist Dick Taylor, while sitting about 2 feet from the black and white TV screen.

Have a look at the May ’66 WOLF chart below, and you’ll begin to make sense of how great records like ‘Make You Feel Alright (Women)’ took over my life.

WOLF Charts May 7, 1966

The Hollies

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

HolliesAliveUK, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

HolliesAliveUSA, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

Listen: I’m Alive / The Hollies
I'm Alive / The Hollies

Talk about an explosive and immediate intro, here’s one of the most. This tore through my hand sized orange AM transistor radio, an item that almost needed surgically removing from my hand after a couple of years. We went everywhere together, to school, on lunch breaks, to the barber, dentist, shopping for records, the shower and even to bed.

I would wait religiously for the latest single from the UK’s Hit Parade to get an initial airing. Decades before info was a click away, we seemed to know pretty fast about new singles from the English groups, and would wait for that first listen. Many times wait and wait and wait to hear them, unsuccessfully.

I recall writing a letter to Jim O’Brien, the 7-midnight disc jockey on Syracuse’s WNDR, asking would he please play more of the new English bands and he actually read it. This was spring ’66, when playlists were fairly loose but didn’t exist at all to a kid listener. Back then, the stations took and played requests and as well, read letters on-air. I mentioned a few bands, The Alan Price Set being the only one I can recall at this moment. And he read my letter, rattled off all my requests and said “We’d love to play these but they just don’t get released in the USA”.

Not true.

I knew about these records via BILLBOARD. Not only were they printed in the HITS OF THE WORLD section of the publication, whereby they reproduced international Top 10′s and in the case of the UK, their Top 50 chart; but the magazine also listed weekly new US releases in their SINGLES REVIEW section, with label and catalog number. They were all released here, it’s why I wrote the letter.

And so, in hindsight, my mistrust of American radio officially began.

I will say this, Jim O’Brien clearly got some free plays during his shows. For a short period, he did a feature called ECHOES OF ENGLAND, during the British Invasion years. I heard some great stuff on that program: Them, The Silkie, The Yardbirds, The Honeycombs, even The Pretty Things ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’. And for a few weeks in September ’67, he opened most of his shows with The Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’. But he did tell a disappointing fib that night.

Regardless, to his credit, it was the grand man himself who played ‘I’m Alive’ one evening. Holy whoever, did it sound fantastic. Dwarfed the songs on either side of it. I loved ‘I’m Alive’ immediately, and excitedly thought I’d be hearing it often, but never did, not ever again.

It had an equally short lived life nationally, a one week spike at #103 on BILLBOARD’s BUBBLING UNDER THE HOT 100 chart, and that my friends, was that.

The Who

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Substitute / The Who

Listen: Substitute / The Who
Substitute / The Who

I missed the junior prom because of this record. My childhood sweetheart girlfriend Marianne was an Anglophile like me, most kids were back then really. But the two of us, we were hardcore.

Basically, as soon as I’d get home from school on Fridays I would head to Smith’s Records in Oneida, either on my bike or my Dad would drive me, bless him. Mrs. Smith gave me her week old Billboard magazines like clockwork, and I’d always buy something as well. Occasionally, one of the special orders we’d put through would actually show up. And every time, she’d buy two extras for the shop. Usually either my two friends, Mark or Denny, or Marianne, would buy those copies. Some pretty great things ended up in our collections that way, like The Pink Floyd ‘The Gnome’, The Yardbirds ‘Ten Little Indians’ or The Pretty Things ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’.

On this particular day in May ’66, I was shocked to discover that ‘Substitute’ had come in, only a week after placing the special order. Most records never did turn up as Mrs. Smith was forced to buy from a one-stop, and they’d pretty much stick to the mainstream hits. You had to be set up direct with the major labels to get their obscure non-hits. Being a tiny Mom & Pop store, she could never do enough business for them to be opened up as a direct client. Hence always a surprise when an obscurity arrived at Smith’s.

I tore into her little listening booth seconds after she handed me the single saying “One of your records came in” upon entering the shop. My insides knotted up. I’d wanted this single so much, having seen it scale the UK charts those previous few weeks. The seconds it took to get it out of the sleeve and onto the thick spindle of the automatic turntable, then waiting for it to drop and the tonearm to connect felt like fucking minutes. Half way through, I was losing it. ‘Substitute’ was so good.

That wasn’t to be the last claustrophobic meltdown I’d have in that little booth let me tell you.

The Who were very left of center to programmers then, not having a US hit until the next year with ‘Happy Jack’. They got no airplay to speak of nationally but our crazy local Top 40, WOLF, played all their singles (click on chart below to enlarge). This US only version has the lyric “I look all white but my Dad was black” swapped out for “I try moving forward but my feet walk back”. ‘Substitute,’ being the only US single by The Who available on Atco (6409), was issued with a far superior mix than any other version ever – hands down.

A year or so later, they re-released ‘Substitute’ (as Atco 6509) although via a safer, not so wild mix. Well I think it’s the mix but it may indeed be a less hot, less bright mastering. Neither version has ever appeared on a compilation that I know of.

I called Marianne from the shop, told her it had come in and we ended up spending that evening listening to the single over and over and over. True. We missed the prom.

WOLF Charts May 7, 1966

Jack Dupree

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Tongue Tied Blues / Jack Dupree

Listen: Tongue Tied Blues / Jack Dupree
Tongue

This was a bizarre discovery from that very first pile of singles I blagged off WMCR, claiming to be from the local Children’s Hospital and needing donations. There were many greats in that stack of about fifty (The Others, The Pretty Things, Inez & Charlie Foxx, The Mickey Finn, The Hullaballoos, Ike & Tina Turner, Jimmy Reed), but this earned an immediate spot.

I played it for everyone, all as baffled as myself on first listen. We were feeling confidently hip to this blues music The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Kinks claimed as their influences, even though we simply were not. A true and pure example had yet to be served our way until that very first spin of ‘Tongue Tied Blues’. Just listen and you’ll understand.

Dr. Feelgood

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Listen: Another Man / Dr. Feelgood DrFeelgoodAnotherMan.mp3

There’s a load of theories about where punk started. I suppose you can slice and dice it back to anywhere you want, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins or The Pretty Things, or endless garage bands from the mid 60′s. Most self appointed, gatekeeping journalists will flatter each other with either The Stooges or The New York Dolls. My vote goes to Suicide in the US and the Canvey Island bands in the UK, of which Dr. Feelgood were the first superstars.

Their live show stoked Eddie & The Hot Rods and together they lit up London fast and raw. It was indeed the speed of sound and the sound of speed all at once. New bands that clutched to the past and stood in their way were mowed down flat. Hustler and Nutz for example. It was a fun time for house cleaning. Labels like Chrysalis had their rosters fossilized overnight. Seemed like the world turned from black and white to color. Every single released was a new high.

Dr. Feelgood: Lee Brilleaux had a vocal style and stage presense not unlike Roger Chapman, and Wilko Johnson religiously perfected Mick Green’s jagged guitar style into his own. Their second album, MALPRACTICE, is a clean, articulate blueprint of the band’s attack and technique. But when Dr. Feelggod unleashed live, it was unstoppable.

Seeing them between late ’75 through mid ’77 really was life changing. If you did, you’ll know how hearing their records now will still sound different to us, as opposed to those who weren’t as lucky. Over three decades later, that hasn’t changed.

Not one for European pressings, I tell you honestly, my collection has less than a hundred. I make exception for singles like this, when not one but two 7″ worthy songs are issued on a 45. Both ‘Going Back Home’ and ‘Another Man’ (like ‘I Can Tell’, all from MALPRACTICE) were never released as singles in the UK or US. This Dutch pressing being the only exception to my knowledge. In fact, ‘I Can Tell’ has never come out on 7″ anywhere. How did the otherwise faultless Andrew Lauder mess this one up?

Wait. Come to think of it, there were a few numbers from Brinsley Schwarz NERVOUS ON THE ROAD that deserved single status. Andrew Lauder you have some answering to do.

Being an archivist and collector can also mean you’re a pack-rat, depending upon whom you listen to. Ask Corinne for instance and she’ll pick door number three.

Fine, I’m all of them and glad of it, having saved pretty much everything I’ve ever owned, starting with a rock that flew into my hand off my tricycle’s front wheel at about five years old. That’s how extreme, and far back, I can claim the obsession. Good thing, because the records began at age seven. Damn, if only I started at birth.

In the case of this flyer, saving every last item allowed me to pinpoint the exact date and hour when a whole new musical world was revealed behind that invisible curtain. There had been a few jolting revelations before and several after, but that moment when rock as it had been known and loved immediately became the past occured on February 29, 1976. Dr. Feelgood were a blistering no holds barred introduction to pub and punk. Gone was the polish and self indulgence, the bloat and tired outfits. What the music world changed into we all know.

It was a fantastic time to be young and insatiable. And here’s the flyer to stake that very date in my life. Corinne and I, with our dearest friend Karen Kasiner, braved a winter storm to see Dr. Feelgood. I wouldn’t trade that night for anything.