Posts Tagged ‘Track Records’

John’s Children

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Come And Play With Me In The Garden / John's Children

Listen: Come And Play With Me In The Garden / John’s Children

True story: In the early 80′s, I did a weekly two radio hour show called Import/Export for the mainstream rock station in Rochester, WCMF. It was tucked away at midnight on Tuesdays, and in today’s market it’d be deemed as a specialty show, where all the bands/records that are left of center and on the way up get a weekly spin. It was loads of fun.

When the station decided to leave the building they’d been housed in since the 60′s to a much smaller location, their massive record library needed to be eliminated due to space restrictions. Oddly, instead of inviting the staff to help thin it out and take whatever you want, give it away to the needy, or super serve their listeners with a free for all, they instead chose to rent a dumpster and fill it daily until the massive library was eliminated over the course of a week.

On that particular Tuesday, I left the station somewhere around 3am, as I’d always stay awhile and visit with Roger McCall, who was my co-host and did the normal overnight shift that followed. I just couldn’t resist having a look into that dumpster. I must tell you, the area and parking lot were a touch daunting anyways. Being in a very quiet part of town, and not the nicest either, I always made a quick dash to the car.

In fact, I vividly remember getting in, starting it and just staring at the dumpster heaving with records. The junkie in me came out. But suddenly of equal concern was getting caught. Seriously. There was a security camera affixed to the entrance area to allow the dj’s a look at whoever rung the bell before buzzing them in and there’d been a stern directive that no one was to pilfer through the discarded records. Nonetheless, I got out of the car, approached the dumpster, opened the heavy lid, and the very top album, I swear, was ORGASM by John’s Children.

Now if you’re a collector, you are well aware that this is a very, very valuable record. In 1967, it was pressed up promotionally, a result of their one and only US single ‘Smashed Blocked’ becoming a hit on the west coast, even a Top 10 in LA, as well a Bubbling Under The Hot 100 BILLBOARD item (#102). Needless to say, the album title caused more resistance than it was worth and White Whale, the label, cancelled it’s release, hence it’s collectibility to this day.

I was purely convinced it was a set up but regardless of the ultimatum, I wasn’t leaving this record behind. By the time I arrived home, I was fairly comforted in realizing there probably wasn’t a person at the station, other than Roger, with much interest in something so obscure, and hence left my paranoia at the door.

A few years ago, Vicki Wickham rang and asked if I’d like to join her and Simon Napier-Bell, one time manager of John’s Children, and later Marc Bolan who was in the band’s lineup, for a lunch. Vicki is the best at these things, She’s fueled my record collecting habit for ages and is always looking out for me. It was a quite fun hour. In New York for a few days, he was happy to talk about his time with the band, providing I buy lunch, which I did. But sadly he informed me that when leaving the UK for Thailand, he tossed boxes of 7″ singles by John’s Children as well as Marc Bolan ‘A’ labels during his house clear out. It was a pretty sobering moment.

Thunderclap Newman

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Thunderclap Newman USA

Listen: Accidents / Thunderclap Newman
Accidents / Thunderclap Newman

Not enough people seem to appreciate Thunderclap Newman.

For such a British sound, they surprisingly had a pretty big US hit with ‘Something In The Air’. It, and their album HOLLYWOOD DREAM, were produced by Pete Townshend. Word is they were a studio concoction he put together to help John ‘Speedy’ Keen, a roadie for The Who. Speedy Keen had indeed quite a talent for songwriting, doing just that for all but one song on the LP. He later released two solo albums, as well as some great singles including ‘Bad Boys’, a reggae style Chris Blackwell produced favorite of mine.

This track though, was the followup to ‘Something In The Air’. A 9:40 version of ‘Accidents’ can be found on the album, complete with kitchen sink psychedelics during a long middle part, but it’s the 7″ version that out-Englishes the Englishness of ‘Something In The Air’, if you can believe that. If not, just listen.

I dare say it’s a near perfect, or perfect plain and simple, record. Despite that, the single spent only one week in each the UK and US charts: #44 UK / #100 US.

Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was noticeably great. His intertwining parts here, and on every song, are hugely melodic and make all Thunderclap Newman’s material a little more special.

He later joined Stone The Crows and a very obscure band called Blue. They actually scored a minor hit, ‘Capture Your Heart’, when signed to Elton John’s Rocket label once he had departed, but previously had two albums on RSO, the first of which included the single ‘Little Jody’, an absolutely perfect, must own pop record, made even more perfect by his playing.

Later, he joined Wings, debuting on ‘Junior’s Farm’, undeniably one of their strongest singles.

I’m posting the mono single version of ‘Accidents’ here. A stereo version can be found on the cd reissue of that infamous HOLLYWOOD DREAM album, but for some reason they left off the mono. Sloppy….

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Listen: Devil’s Grip / The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
Devil's Grip / The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown

If you’ve been reading these posts during the last few days, it’s obvious the July 4th weekend leaned prog rock. Our excursion into the depths of upstate New York had me driving randomly through small towns in search of the ultimate garage sale. Look and you shall find, or something like that. We stumbled on two with massive amounts of prog vinyl, about one hundred miles apart. Very unexpected and a bit baffling. At $1 each, it was hard to pass up stacks of valuables that included various Vertigo swirls and Harvest titles.

Forget all the lengthy album tracks that littered prog long players, even more bizarre are the 45′s from the genre, all attempting to make playable versions of non-songs into songs. Fun stuff.

The mid 60′s mod organ style, hugely influenced by both Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, was still evident on ‘Devil’s Grip’, the ’67 debut single from The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. The record tipped toward it’s followup, ‘Fire’, which despite it’s shrill sonic onslaught, became a massive worldwide hit in summer ’68.

Turns out Vincent Crane’s Hammond shaped the band as much as Arthur Brown’s voice and theatrics. Their sole album is a struggle to listen to often, if ever, these days. The sleeve was great, and live, the band were a blast, but being perfectly honest meant everyone I knew regretted having laid out the cash to buy it.

‘Devil’s Grip’ may not be the greatest song, but at times, the non-LP track swings more than any other on the album.

Listen: Give Him A Flower / The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
Give Him A Flower / The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown

Way more importantly, B side ‘Give Him A Flower’ is a gem. Borrowing from vaudeville and I’m guessing, coincidentally from The Bonzo Dog Band, the track may be their one and only example of getting a little loose in the pub before heading to the studio, sense of humor in tact.

The Who

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Listen: Happy Jack / The Who WhoHappyJack.mp3

Pull this out and give it a spin. You’re bound to say, “Man I have not heard this in ages”. Well, my guess is you’ll say that. I loved all the singles up through and including ‘Pictures Of Lily’. Then came ‘I Can See For Miles’. Something about that one, it was good but didn’t hit dead center. Was a first real understanding of my body’s reaction to music. ‘I Can See For Miles’ may have been the record that set the template for an A&R career years later: if I didn’t love it – chances were good it’d be a huge hit. Hey, as long as you know how to read the indicators, that’s all that really matters. ‘I Can See For Miles’ was in fact their only ever US Top 10. Hard to believe I know.

Back then, The Who weren’t much different than The Small Faces or The Move when it came to US radio. You never heard them. Yeah radio was much better in the 60′s, but still fairly narrow. These bands just didn’t get national airplay – if they were lucky, regional exposure was usually the extent of it and then maybe a crossover….leads me to an interesting memory about The Who.

I and my Anglophile friends religiously bought every single by The Who. My teenage girlfriend and I missed our junior prom the night I got ‘Substitute’ it was so good – we just played it over and over and fiddled about, as someone once coined. It was the plan anyways.

There were a few shops around town that would get two to five copies of the non hits, or hopeful to be hits – like Walt’s Records or Smith’s Records or that huge record department in WT Grant’s on Salina Street in Syracuse. So starting with ‘I Can’t Explain’, we bought ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’, every single right through and including the immaculate ‘Substitute’, ‘I’m A Boy’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and this one, the psychedelic ‘Happy Jack’, which actually did crack the Billboard chart peaking at #24 in ’67. A few years later when TOMMY was released, everyone noticed a rock opera similarity between that and it’s predecessor, The Pretty Things S.F. SORROW, still we listened to them both regularly during several weekend Parcheesi matches. The Who finally made a return visit after opening for Herman’s Hermits a few years earlier. Even though in my opinion the glow of those earlier singles had dimmed down noticeably, of course I went along. TOMMY admittedly wasn’t bad.

After the show, a few of us waited around for autographs, brought albums, singles, the works. I wasn’t quite as fussed and brought nothing, but seriously, was there something better to do in Syracuse as a teenager than possibly say hello to The Who? When my best friend Denny went up to Pete Townshend proudly with his MY GENERATION album to get signed, the guy turned his nose away, dismissiveley refusing to sign anything. He proceeded to make his way toward their station wagon with band members including Keith Moon and Roger Daltry already inside waiting. Even Keith Moon jumped out of the car to oblige, looking at Pete with a ‘you asshole’ glare, I couldn’t resist. So I spoke up.

“Pete, you know those few copies of the older singles you used to sell in towns like this prior to your hits, we were were the kids that bought them.” As the car pulled away, plain as day, I recall him hanging out the window, wearing a coat that looked like a piece of ghastly ornate drapery, middle finger on both hands projecting at me and shouting “you got a show for your $6 prick”.

Hmm. Not really, you didn’t play any of the aforementioned songs I came to hear. Not one. Still it was rude, certainly embarrassing and I never bought another record by The Who. Big deal, basically my bitterness toward he and unfairly the other guys in The Who went unnoticed and I’m sure Pete Towshend never lost a wink of sleep because of me.

About thirty years later, his keepers were doing the rounds of labels trying to hawk a new, not very good Pete Townshend album. I was at Columbia then but decided to pass on the record, or more specifically on him, his talent to write those gems long ago withered in my opinion. Still, it was a very hard call. You’d be a fool to not want to work with Pete Townshend. Honestly, he is a higher form of life but I’d experienced his temper. Once bitten, twice shy.

‘Happy Jack’ really is a terrific single.