Posts Tagged ‘Warner Brothers’

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 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

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

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

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

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.


Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Peace In The End / Fotheringay

Listen: Peace In The End / Fotheringay

Turning October Island pink in support of curing breast cancer, I’m reposting Fotheringay from April 6, 2009:

Remember in the very early 70′s Warner Brothers did those $1 and $2 samplers you could send off for from the back pages of ROLLING STONE? Well A&M did one too, and only one if memory serves me well. Titled FRIENDS, it was nicely full of UK bands like Blodwyn Pig, Free, The Move and Spooky Tooth to name a few. Fotheringay were on there, this song in fact. ‘Peace In The End’ was my first taste of the band, which I was well anxious to hear.

I’d loved Fairport Convention, and when Sandy Denny left to join up with Trevor Lucas in Fotheringay, well there was more of them all to love basically. Unlike most fans, my most memorable Fairport Convention period followed her departure. FULL HOUSE, ANGEL DELIGHT and BABBACOMBE LEE were and are hands down favorites. The lineups with Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol are just perfect for me.

I didn’t fall in love with the Fotheringay album, but I sure did fall in love with it’s only single, ‘Peace In The End’. I must have played this hundreds of times.

Years later, during that first London trip Corinne and I made together in ’77, Howard Thompson brought us round to the Island offices, where he did A&R at the time. In the back, there was an up and running company canteen which did hot food all day for staff and whoever was in the studio at the time. It was still operational ten years later when I joined the label.

What an experience that was. Just envision, growing up and living in upstate New York, and to then be suddenly transported to London for a two week vacation, meeting someone in Howard who would unknowingly change our lives forever, well we literally died and went to heaven.

Rico and his band were there rehearsing downstairs, Simon Kirke from Free eating with Jess Roden, various members of Eddie & The Hot Rods and Ultravox. Over in a corner were Trevor Lucas and Sandy Denny. She was very quiet, but extremely sweet when I approached her for a hopeful talk. Her voice as angelic when speaking as in song. ‘Peace In The End’ will forever remind me of her aura on that day.

Terry Tucker’s Orange Clockwork

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Listen: Overture To The Sun (Part 1) / Terry Tucker’s Orange Clockwork

Sick and twisted futuristic London. Sounded like a great idea for a summer holiday to me. So along came a film about just that, and I was in.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE played at the local university’s campus auditorium when current. Not really sure why, but it did, and was curiously well attended by U of R students and the like. Seems everyone left a bit uncomfortable, I know we did. Besides, everyone kind of expected there’d be rock music in this, not classical. Despite that, the film included some non-classical, neo-classical excerpts, sounding not unlike The Nice or String Driven Thing. So patiently I waited on those end credits to roll.

Hold on, Terry Tucker. I was pretty sure I recognized that guy’s name from one of the many prog titles that were beginning to overwhelm our roommate heavy apartment. The bunch of us either worked for the college station, a local vinyl store, the city’s record distributing One Stop, or in Corinne’s case, a combination of them. Makeshift wood plank and brick shelves crammed all the rooms. Yes, it was paradise. We got home, and I dove in.

Sure enough, there he was, that fellow Terry Tucker, a member of Sunforest, and on Deram no less. This was a major discovery. Their lone album, SOUND OF SUNFOREST is an overpriced collector’s must-have these days. Back then, I recall the other copy that arrived simultaneously with mine sat in the import bin for months, getting tatty.

Turns out “Overture To The Sun’ was re-recorded for A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, then doctored up and released on a UK 7″ under the pseudonym of Terry Tucker’s Orange Clockwork. There’s a certain something about the rather bland fidelity of most late 60′s and early 70′s prog records generally. In hindsight, those dreadful drum sounds and their wimpy mix placement have a quaint appeal, and really do the time period perfect justice.

Deram never did get around to releasing this, nor any Storyteller song on a single, and the origins of ‘Overture To The Sun (Part 1)’ became a well kept secret for years, thereby making copies very scarce. Nobody valued, not to mention saved them at the time.

Mine came courtesy of Rick Conrad. He dropped this and a box full of others off when in London a few weeks back. Out of the blue, just prior to my departure, Rick sends an introductory email, having discovered the blog. Turns out he’s planning to be blocks away from where we’re staying while over, only a few days later. Almost scary the way record people end up finding each other. Thank you Rick.

David Bowie

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Listen: The Prettiest Star / David Bowie

Although re-recorded for the ALADDIN SANE album in Fall ’72, this original mono version of ‘The Prettiest Star’ came from sessions at London’s Trident Studios during January ’70 when, with his then backup band Junior’s Eyes and Marc Bolan as guest guitarist, the intent was to followup David Bowie’s first hit, ‘Space Odditiy’.

To his credit, he never gave up trying for that initial success, which took five years in the making, from “Liza Jane’ in ’64 through various attempts with Parlophone, Deram and UK Pye/US Warner Brothers. Every door was shut in David Bowie’s face. Read THE PITT REPORT sometime. It’s an eye opener.

So with ‘Space Oddity’, a #5 UK hit in the Fall of ’69, seemingly positioning him for a much smoother career ride, the original plan was to cut a new version of his final Deram submission ‘London Bye Ta Ta’, which that company had rejected as a fourth single, thereby dropping him. The story goes that during those sessions, ‘The Prettiest Star’ was also recorded and became his choice as followup.

Even more fun is the often documented detail of ‘The Prettiest Star’ selling just under 800 copies when current, a desperately shocking result off the back of a Top 10 hit. That number sounds rather exaggerated now, with even total stiffs moving more copies than 800, given loads of singles were sold regularly then.

Decades later, when included on various compilations, it’s the stereo version of ‘The Prettiest Star’ that’s chosen. To my knowledge, this original mono only ever saw the light of day on those initial pressings like the one above and a BEST OF from ’87.

The Scaffold

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Listen: Liverpool Lou / The Scaffold

Never modeling themselves as a band, but instead three guys basically doing comedy and poetry routines set to music, gave The Scaffold an out of jail free card in the image department. The fairly logical result of Liverpool and British themed material afforded The Scaffold a very local sound, and became pretty appealing to the Anglophile trait some of us had.

It was with great surprise to suddenly be hearing their first big UK hit, ‘Thank U Very Much’ on American Top 40 stations in the spring of ’68, and somehow it did okay. Probably the last very British sounding record, bar possibly The Kinks ‘Come Dancing’, that performed as such.

Fast forward to ’74, Warner Brothers US issues ‘Liverpool Lou’ that summer. Having lost no part of the pub/soccer singalong characteristics common to most Scaffold singles, it was most likely Paul McCartney’s production that promoted such decision, and the fact that Wings were the backup band.

It has often been said, you never win or lose the race until you enter, so why not give a current UK Top 10 single with Wings in the wings a shot here.

I heard it a lot in Discount Records that summer, where I worked, and at home. Beyond that, not an airing in sight.

The Apollas

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Listen: You’re Absolutely Right / The Apollas

For the longest time, I couldn’t quite understand the addictive cult obsession with Northern Soul, and then one day the light went off in my head. I still can’t explain it easily, but I get it. And God, is it addicting. Like when I get into that moment and I really need a proper Northern tune, nothing else suffices.

The inventory of undiscovered Northern necessities is forever high. Undiscovered not meaning unheard of or without some crazy book value but instead, undiscovered in that I don’t have a copy yet. It’s just not enough to actually hear it via a cd comp or on youtube, but to hear it on record, that’s the mainline.

Another official addiction problem this past year in my little world became Loma Records, the Los Angeles based soul label Bob Krasnow headed up for Warner Brothers in the mid 60′s. And there, in the thick of that incredible catalog, sat an aforementioned, or should I say just described, Northern necessity. The Apollas ‘You’re Absolutely Right’, an early Ashford & Simpson co-write with Jo Armstead, formerly one of The Ikettes.

And this devil escaped me for months on eBay, I kept getting outbid by a dollar or two. Until I’d had quite enough and eSniped a crazy high limit price, resulting in this promo pressing beauty turning up last week while on tour with Matt & Kim. Trust me, I rang the house daily inquiring about it’s arrival. All three family members just stopped answering my calls until on Saturday, Lucy phoned with the news that a record had arrived.

I could not get home from JFK fast enough on Sunday.

Here it is, it’s mine. Life is now complete, temporarily that is.

The Grateful Dead

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Listen: Dupree’s Diamond Blues / The Grateful Dead

Ever hear worse mixes than these early Grateful Dead records? They are also hard to surpass in the wretched drum sound department. In the case of ‘Dupree’s Diamond Blues’, they’re thankfully non existent.

While I’m at it, none of the records were ever cut loud enough. Not only The Grateful Dead’s, Jefferson Airplane’s and Quicksilver Messenger Service’s qualify too. You just can not make these records sound comfortably loud, at least I can’t.

But…if you want an innocent snapshot of wandering around Haight Ashbury, loving the police as they kicked the shit out of you, look no further than one of these singles. ‘Dupree’s Diamond Blues’ will do just fine. Like a travel guide to the San Francisco summer of love sound, and one that has no sell by date. I slap this on the turntable, and boom, instantly envision the bong drenched, head shop busy streets of the 60′s beat movement. Oh what it must have been like, sitting around all day, playing records or listening to Tom Donahue on KMPX, just waiting for The Fillmore West to open.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Listen: Debora / Tyrannosaurus Rex

Never will I forget the sight of this first US single by Tyrannosaurus Rex. Their name was so foreign at the time, completely intimidating to all, particularly US programers. Yes, they were full of reasons back then to keep adventurous music off the airwaves too. Add to that the band’s warlock folk, as one reviewer called it. He couldn’t have conjured up a more tempting challenge.

A&M never did release either their first nor second album in the US when current, just this lone 7″, ‘Debora’.

The Los Angeles label had a deal with Regal Zonophone out of the UK, or maybe it was directly with Denny Cordell’s and Tony Secunda’s production company, Tarantula. Basically, the arrangement covered US representation for their UK artists: Procol Harum, Joe Cocker & The Grease Band, The Move and Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The latter two benefiting only from singles being issued in the US, and in the case of Tyrannosaurus Rex, just this one. WOUR were only too glad to have me cart their copy out of the building. That bunch literally had no clue. Bless their studipity.

Listen: Ride A White Swan / Tyrannosaurus Rex

What seemed like a generation later actually was one short year. Their third and fourth albums, UNICORN (’69) and A BEARD OF STARS (’70) were near perfect, still as exhilarating today as then. By this time, Bob Krasnow had picked up the band for his Blue Thumb label. He released both albums in quick succession plus ‘Ride A White Swan’ almost immediately after A BEARD OF STARS.

Although still using the full Tyrannosaurus Rex moniker in the US, Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin-Took had officially shortened their name to T. Rex elsewhere, coinciding with their full on electric and pop path, not unlike Bob Dylan’s gear shift with BLONDE ON BLONDE, bar a name change to B. Dylan.

Almost simultaneously, Bob, as in Krasnow, joined Warner Brothers Records’ A&R department, bringing T. Rex with him. The rest is history.


Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Listen: Are You Ready To Rock / Wizzard
Are You Ready To Rock / Wizzard

My guess is when you can play every instrument under the sun, most get boring. Combine that with the option your competitors don’t have: the ability to pull a real musical curveball out of your hat, and you’ve unexpectedly just described Roy Wood.

Not totally mind you. Don’t forget that Roy Wood could write hooks and choruses seemingly in his sleep, and decorate the whole thing with an over the top visual to match the over the top audio.

So was the case with his band Wizzard. Not content with having masterminded The Move in ’66, then The Electric Light Orchestra in ’70, Roy Wood outglammed glam via Wizzard in ’72.

Yes, the rainbow haired frontman whipped up a rockabilly meets Beach Boys/Neil Sedaka pop stomp recipe with every Wizzard single. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why the US hadn’t come to their senses and jumped on this train back in ’73 and ’74, when ‘Are You Ready To Rock’ continued a by then, British chart Top Ten onslaught, this one peaking at #8. Really tried convincing every last person in earshot pay attention to this UK national treasure but to no avail.

In hindsight, I understand. The American consumer’s musical tastes were sterilized by lazy, laid back radio programmers, all leaning to southern boogie noodle doodle or California soft rock to fill their playlists, and the future WalMart shoppers were no brighter then than now, hence limping along behind like injured lemmings.

A true multi decade damaging setback for our country. They were not ready to rock, and certainly not to bagpipes.

Ike & Tina Turner

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Listen: Tell Her I’m Not Home / Ike & Tina Turner
Tell Her I'm Not Home / Ike & Tina Turner

Embarrassing but true, during all the years I worked for Bob Krasnow at Elektra, I did not know of this record, although there were very many Ike & Tina Turner records I did know. In fact, the day Howard brought me in to meet him, essentially to get his blessing before joining the A&R staff, it was an Ike & Tina Turner single that probably helped get me the job.

I’d pretty much fumbled my way through some lop sided answer to his question, inquiring as to why I wanted an A&R job in the first place. Before leaving, I just had to get some details on one of the Ike & Tina Turner records Bob had produced, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ from OUTTA SEASON, with it’s infamous white faced, watermelon eating cover art. It was clearly of great interest to him that I knew such a detail at all, and thus began our real relationship.

A year or so after young and foolishly leaving Elektra for Island, I stumbled on the UK stock copy, pictured above. How could I not buy any single by Ike & Tina Turner that I didn’t own, but as a great bonus, when the producer was Bob?

Easily, ‘Tell Her I’m Not Home’ stands the test of time as one of their finest, with it’s legendary spoken intro, and use of Tchaikovsky’s ’1812 Overture’ riff, beating The Move to it by a good six months. With both occurring before the song even really starts, what’s not to freak over?

I faxed a scan of the label to Bob’s office a week or so later, feeling a bit timid given we hadn’t had contact since I’d left, basically, complimenting him on my new found favorite song intro, to which he scribbled back something quite friendly. It was a nice moment.

Carl Hall

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Listen: The Damn Busted / Carl Hall
The Damn Busted / Carl Hall

Wikipedia has this to say about Carl Hall:

Carl Hall was an African-American singer, actor, and musical arranger. A member of Raymond Raspberry’s eponymous gospel group The Raspberry Singers, recording on the US Savoy Records label, he performed in theatre for three decades, beginning with Tambourines To Glory in ’63.

Beyond The Raspberry Singers, he recorded later that decade several singles for Mercury Records and cut the now much sought-after tracks, ‘You Don’t Know Nothing About Love’ / ‘Mean It Baby’ (Loma 2086, ’67) and ‘The Dam Busted’ / ‘I Don’t Want To Be Your Used To Be’ (Loma 2098, ’67) for the Warner Brothers subsidiary label, Loma Records, produced by leading producer Jerry Ragovoy. In ’73, he released a single on Columbia called ‘What About You’ (45813 ). Also appeared on Broadway in the stage production of the musical The Wiz among other shows.

The only thing I can add is his vocal delivery on the first lyric of the very first 45 I ever heard by Carl Hall told me everything I needed to know.

Napoleon XIV/ Lieutenant Pigeon

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa! / Napoleon XVI

Listen: They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa! / Napoleon XIV
Listen: They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa! / Napoleon XIV

Are novelty songs credible? If a record makes you smile or laugh, then it must not be credible, right? Not sure I agree.

When ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!’ started getting airplay in Spring ’66, it was suddenly everywhere. Seriously everywhere. Sometimes being played once an hour on the same station. The intensity was real, but short lived. It lasted a total of six weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at #3. When re-released in ’73, the record re-entered the Top 100 for a few weeks, hovering around the low 80′s.

Mouldy Old Dough / Lieutenant Pigeon

Listen: Mouldy Old Dough / Lieutenant Pigeon
Listen: Mouldy Old Dough / Lieutenant Pigeon

Lieutenant Pigeon’s 1972 UK #1 was not an American hit. US radio had long since lost it’s sense of humor by then. They wouldn’t even play it. God forbid, they might lose their jobs. What a surprise, most of those radio gatekeepers did anyways.

Lieutenant Pigeon was in actuality, a band fronted by Rob Woodward, with his mother Hilda on piano. They went on to release three albums, and a best off. Pretty impressive. Napoleon XIV only managed one.

In today’s world, Napoleon XIV’s legal army might come chasing down Lieutenant Pigeon’s after comparing both record’s intros.

Merle Haggard / The Youngbloods

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Listen: Okie From Muskogee / Merle Haggard
Okie From Muskogee / Merle Haggard

I think it was on the Johnny Carson Show where I first encountered ‘Okie From Muskogee’ and in fact, had initially even heard of Merle Haggard. He and his song became the enemy in three short minutes. It was, at the time, a clear antagonistic attack on youth culture. And I was a member.

Many years later it became obvious that the world of country music was as twisted by drugs and sex as any other. Made Merle Haggard become something like an unregistered hypocrite. And once everyone discovered he’d been in jail and all that, he crumbled into a joke.

As it turns out, he claimed the song to be tongue in cheek, and nowadays, I guess everyone believes him. He’s certainly made a lot of good records since. Who knows – the single is quite funny in the 21st century, even hard to hate.

Listen: Hippie From Olema / The Youngbloods
Hippie From Olema / The Youngbloods

There was some relief in the day though. The Youngbloods shot back with a fantastically hysterical response in the form of ‘Hippie From Olema’, a very under heard, under appreciated non-LP track. I don’t believe it’s ever been compiled.

It was the local Syracuse University station, WAER, that started to spin it heavily. The single was perfect for campus radio. And we all glued ourselves to their frequency, given in the late 60′s, they were the only progressive format in town.

I, for one, loved the station. Half the student disc jockeys were Anglophiles jamming out Blodwyn Pig, Juicy Lucy, Chicken Shack, Taste, King Crimson etc over the airwaves. WAER was a Godsend.

The Youngbloods came to the school’s gymnasium about then as well. Despite their unwashed, American folk rock angle, I always loved their records. Never did they release a bad single either, whether it be the early, more pop intended ones (which Jesse Colin Young often accused RCA of forcing them to do) to later, underground album tracks.

So off to the show we went. Let me tell you, they were a serious live band, incredibly musical and entertaining. Collected every last release ever since.

The closing lyric: “We still take in strangers if they’re haggard” gets a SO MANY RECORDS SO LITTLE TIME lifetime lyrical achievement award for being right up there with both The Ramones’ “I don’t care about poverty, all I care about is me” and Lux Interior’s “From your bottom to your top, you’re sure some lollipop”. Congratulations guys.

Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Listen: Caldonia (What Makes Your Big Head Hard?) / Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express
Caldonia (What Makes Your Big Head Hard?) / Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express

Not sure if this is Dixieland or Swing or whatever. Seems “Caldonia’ gets spelled a little differently depending on who releases it. In fact, it’s even spelled two different ways on this label copy alone.

The James Brown version was my favorite for years and still is, yet lately I’ve been spinning this. Yeah, it’s very SNL but hey, he was the singer of Them and the single sounds just that little bit better given it’s a wlp.

How this was chosen as a single, if hit record was the plan, remains baffling. I do recall reading an interview with Van Morrison one time whereby he claims to deliver albums to the label letting them figure out the rest, a luxury you can bask in if you sell a decent chunk of each release. Does he really pay no attention though?

Listen: What’s Up Crazy Pup / Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express
What's Up Crazy Pup / Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express

Hold on, does Van Morrison play an instrument? Actually, I’ve no idea. Presumably not, so other than shouting out “What’s Up Crazy Pup” a few times, I guess he just enjoyed the band stretching it here.


Friday, December 31st, 2010

Listen: Believe / Cher CherBelieve.mp3

Anyone who says they don’t love Cher is a liar.

Rob Dickens, who ran WEA UK when I was with the company in the 90′s, is a class act in every way. Didn’t know him well, but knew that much nonetheless. Good for him. He signed and A&R’d this period of her career, which gave us all one the best singles ever.

The Honeybus

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

She Sold Blackpool Rock / The Honeybus

Listen: She Sold Blackpool Rock / The Honeybus HoneybusBlackpool.mp3

With a name like The Honeybus, you were asking to be overlooked in America. That is unless an Anglophile was in earshot. Then: instant magnet. Funny about that. What exactly is this language that we all understand? Must be in the DNA.

What a job finding ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’, their first US single here at home. Finally begged one out of Deram’s New York office – after a few hand written pleads. Oddly enough, the record was their third release in the UK, but first to chart (#8, March ’68), apparently mustering up enough reason to schedule ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ in the States.

Despite every single being a classic, seems they were too English even for the English themselves, as is quite apparent with fifth single, ‘She Sold Blackpool Rock’, which didn’t chart, nor get a US release. Nonetheless, legendary status.

She Is The Female To My Soul / The Honeybus

Listen: She Is The Female To My Soul / The Honeybus HoneybusSheIsTheFemale.mp3

I wasn’t aware they’d even made a single for Bell in ’71. Only when trolling through the stalls at Cheapo Cheapo on Rupert Street (famous for being the place all the radio DJ’s, pluggers and journalists unloaded their promos for cash) during the summer of ’73 did I stumble upon ‘She Is The Female To My Soul’. The very hot July sun didn’t prevent me from breaking out in a cold sweat, frozen in place on initial glance. Could not get back to the apartment fast enough for a listen. Wow, this sounded fantastic. Vocalist/writer Pete Dello has an immaculate fullness to his voice, and his melodies are….more Ray Davies than the man himself.

For You / The Honeybus

Listen: For You / The Honeybus HoneybusForYou.mp3

Within days of discovering ‘She Is The Female To My Soul’, Radio 1 played a brand new Honeybus release ‘For You’. I remember vividly lying in the grass at Regents Park, ever so quietly listening to BBC 1, when boom.

At the time, radios were not allowed in the Queen’s Park, specifically an oasis of serenity for city dwellers. One needed to lie on the radio with a jacket draped over all corners, a sort of fake pillow – and play music at very low volume. I certainly was not ready for Honeybus shock number two. Despite having a meticulous fact soaking sponge brain when it came to records, and combing through Melody Maker / Disc & Music Echo / NME religiously on a weekly basis, I hadn’t noticed any mention of a new Honeybus single. In fact, there was no indication from the press that the band still existed at all.

Hearing ‘For You’ that first time was a religious experience. I jumped up, and bolted along Great Portland Street crossing Oxford, making my way down Berwick and over to Rupert, knowing a fresh review copy had to be at Cheapo Cheapo. I must have been pushing people aside en route. Honestly, I was in a state. Lo and behold my day, my week, my summer was made. There it was, literally front single in the ‘New Arrivals’ row. ‘For You’ was waiting for me, seriously, we were meant to spend our lives together.

Julie In My Heart / The Honeybus

Listen: Julie In My Heart / The Honeybus HoneybusJulie.mp3

Years later, the continually popular ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ was reissued by Deram’s parent company Decca. This pressing introduced a previously unissued song on it’s B side, ‘Julie In My Heart’, a track worthy of A side status well before hundreds and hundreds of others allocated to such a position. Where is Pete Dello now – where has he been for so many years? Hey MOJO, how about honoring him at one of your yearly do’s?

Curved Air

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Listen: Back Street Luv (US 7″ Edit) / Curved Air CurvedAirBackStreetUSEdit.mp3

Does being attracted to Moog synthesizers count towards becoming an early techno fan? Seems logical. Don’t recall which band incorporating said device caught my ear initially. Most likely Silver Apples or The Nice, with Curved Air on the list not far behind. ‘Back Street Luv’, that was the first song I managed to hear by them. And believe me, with it hitting #4 in the British charts, I was on the hunt for an airing.

Harry Fagenbaum, the Warner Brothers college radio rep on the Syracuse University campus, gave me a copy. It was part of a 45′s handful, the only other two I can recall were Deep Purple ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’ and Fleetwood Mac ‘Oh Well’. And the Ron Nagle BAD RICE album, which I no longer have. I’m kicking myself to this day for dumping that one.

Boy, did that little care package make my week, but it was not to continue. Harry was very stingy and cut me off. Never got another record from him. Which was really rather mean, and unwise considering the piles of promos I could have returned his way for years to come. Whatever….

Can I tell you how my eyes lit up the Sunday I opened a Syracuse Herald Journal to find an ad for the Emerson, Lake & Palmer / Curved Air concert in spring ’72. Countdown to the day began that very moment.

Even in the 70′s, it was still kind of exotic for a couple of English bands to make their way upstate. Curved Air pulled into town, still clothed in lavender and lime silk trousers, tight blouses, complete with shag hairdos, absolutely genius. In hindsight, the archaic Moog blurting away was rather funny, who knew at the time. We were in awe. Their musical trip through clumsily played classical bits, and singer Sonya Kristina basically barking her way up and down lyrics got a little much, but all was forgiven when ‘Back Street Luv’ closed the set. Some records can transcend you right back to a magical memory, and this is one.