Friday, March 27, 2020

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Swinging Blues Jeans US Debut

THE SWINGING BLUE JEANS-Hippy Hippy Shake/Now I Must Go US Imperial 66021 1964
With the onslaught of Beatlemania in the United States there was eventually further interest in all things British, including bands from Liverpool (though mostly only hit makers, at first). The Swinging Blue Jeans had a respectable venture into the UK hit parade starting with their third single,  December 1963's release of a version of Chan Romero's "Hippy Hippy Shake" (His Masters Voice POP 1242) which rose to #2 on the British charts. It was the band's debut US release being launched in February 1964 where it became the band's sole Top 40 placing (#2) and subsequently the title of their only US long player (Imperial LP 9621).

"Hippy Hippy Shake" was first released in July of 1959 by Chan Romero on the Del-Fi label (interestingly it was simultaneously issued in the UK on Columbia as DB 4341). The track was covered by a host of other UK artists (the Beatles covered it in a BBC session long before the Swinging Blue Jeans version was recorded) but The Blue Jeans version remains the most well known.  It does not differ much from the original except that it's a little more frantic and sped up and does not have the gritty and greasy feel of the original. Of interest is that the Blue Jeans sing "the hippy hippy shakes" during the verses whereas the original version merely sings "hippy hippy shake".

The flip side (the same as it's UK release) was an original "Now I Must Go" penned by lead vocalist Ray Ennis. Though it's not awful by any means, it's a fairly inoffensive and pedestrian mid tempo beat ballad.

Both sides have been compiled on several Swinging Blue Jeans compilations, the best place to hear it being the British EMI "At Abbey Road" CD and the American "Hippy Hippy Shake: Definitive Collection" collection.

Hear "Hippy Hippy Shake":

Hear "Now I Must Go":

Friday, March 20, 2020

Anorak Thing Coronavirus Self Quarantine Playlists Are Up!

Anorak Thing is in Spotify for your musical enjoyment with dozens of playlists for you to enjoy. Check us out here.

Island Records Ska Picks Part One

Whilst here on self imposed quarantine due to the Coronavirus I have been going through my various singles and decided to come up with ten ska sides on the Island label for your pleasure!

1. DERRICK MORGAN-"Forward March" WI 011 1962
Released in honor of Jamaica's independence In August of 1962 "Forward March" is a spirited track that begins with a rallying trumpet and a military march cum mid tempo  ska rhythm. It was Morgan's third release on Island after a staggering 22 singles for Emil Shallit's Blue Beat label.

2. JIMMY CLIFF-"Dearest Beverely" WI 012 1962
Jimmy's second UK release after a single on Blue Beat and his debut on Island was this neo doo wop ballad that was a far cry from ska but worth a listen for the historical importance. Fortunately Jimmy went on to cut several far more "ska" sides for the label that were far more interesting.

3. CLANCY ECCLES-"Judgement" WI 044 1963
Clancy Eccles holds the distinction of being on practically ever major U.K. 60's ska label: Blue Beat, Ska Beat, Pama, Doctor Bird and of course Island where he cut two singles, "Judgement" being the first. Delivered at mid tempo with a chugging ska-boggie rhythm it's backed the unusual accompaniment of harmonica and horns.

4. DESMOND DECKER (sic) and BEVERELEY'S ALL STARS-"Honour Your Mother And Father" WI 054 1963
The late great Desmond Dekker's (misspelled here) made his debut on Island (and everywhere else) with this track in 1963. Licensed from Bevereley records in Jamaica it's a curious P.S.A overlaid on a slow boogie woogie rhythm with a ska back beat.

5. TOP GRANT-"Riverbank Coberley" WI 072 1963
The curiously named Top Grant's fourth release for the label was this mid tempo groover backed by some tasty sax and a totally infectious groove that is a welcome breath of air for the periods usual "ska boogie shuffle" sounds.

6. THE VIKINGS-"Six And Seven Books Of Moses" WI 075 1963
The Vikings were an moniker used by The Maytals on their early Island releases. Some of their records have been dubbed "gospel ska" because of their penchant for biblical influenced tracks like this one. Despite my lack of religious interest this one works because of their stellar vocal harmonizing, but only just.

7. BABA BROOKS-"Bank To Bank" WI 096 1963
One time Skatalite and ska trumpet player extraordinaire, Baba Brooks cut a host of sides for Island in between other releases for Black Swan and Ska Beat. "Bank To Bank" is a fairly pedestrian instrumental that's offset by some jazzy solos and a drum beat that threatens to derail the whole number at times!

8. LORD BRISCOE-"Praise For I" WI 131 1964
Licensed through Beverley's records in Jamaica this was Lord Briscoe's debut on the label and like many of his subsequent releases it has a biblical slant. This one carries an unusual mix of horns and harmonica which gives it an interesting feel

9. THE CHARMS-"Carry Go Bring Come" WI 154 1964
The Charms were Justin Hinds and The Dominoes delivering one the most skank-tastic Island ska sides. With amazing double tracked vocals and a solid brass section it doesn't get much better than this to my ears. Even with my two left feet this tune always makes me want to dance!

10. THE SKATALITES-"Guns Of Navarone" WI 168 1965
Possibly one of the most famous ska instrumentals of all time is this number from the short lived but legendary instrumental combo The Skatalites who contained a virtual who's who of 60's Jamaican music. Kicking off with the brilliant vocal percussion "chicka chicka chick" rhythm and the immediately identifiable powerful horns this reading of the film theme tune is eternal.

Friday, March 13, 2020

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: Cat Stevens Debut!

CAT STEVENS-I Love My Dog/Portobello Road US Deram 45 DEM 7501 1966

An 18 year old Londoner of Greek Cypriot/Swedish heritage named Steven Georgiou was rechristened Cat Stevens and became one of Decca records new signings for their brand new off shoot label Deram. His debut 45 "I Love My Dog" b/w "Portobello Road" was launched in the UK by the company for their second single as Deram DM 102 in September of 1966. It was issued here in the US in November.

"I Love My Dog" begins with what would become a template for Cat's first few Deram releases utilizing the formula of a mid tempo pop song with gentle acoustic guitar accompanied by lavish orchestration (care of Alan Tew). It was produced by former Springfield's member Mike Hurst, who conned Decca's Dick Rowe into free studio time (as related here) to cut the track and gain it's release. It reached #28 in the British singles chart, and did nothing in the US where Stevens would have to wait until a label change and the next decade before he scored a hit but paved the way for further successful U.K. hits on the label.

Will Cat Stevens real dog please yelp?

The flip "Portobello Road" was penned by Stevens with help from visiting American Kim Fowley. It's a sparse track with acoustic guitar with the lyrics describing the sights or London's famous street of used items and bric a brac.

Both sides are available as bonus cuts on the current CD issue of his debut LP on Deram "Matthew & Son".

Hear "I Love My Dog":

Hear "Portobello Road":

Friday, March 6, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Paramounts

THE PARAMOUNTS-Poison Ivy/ I Feel Good All Over US The Liverpool Sound LS 903 1964

We talked about the U.K. r&b quartet the Paramount's U.K. debut single way back when over here. Interestingly it received an obscure U.S. release on the short lived The Liverpool Sound label (it was the label's final release behind records by other non-Liverpool artists John Leyton and Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders). I would love to know the story behind this short lived, oddly titled British invasion cash in label! As most of you may know The Paramounts were the nucleus of what later became Procul  Harum. The band's members were: Gray Broker-Vocals/keyboards, Robin Trower-guitar, Diz Derrick-bass and B.J. Wilson-drums

Their version of The Coaster's "Poison Ivy" isn't bad (it beat The Stones out on covering it by a month), Gary Brooker's vocals are great as always, it's just that there isn't much else to it to hold one's attention or warrant repeated plays. Interestingly the Stones made favorable remarks about the band in the music press back in the day!

The "B" side, a cover of The Drifters "I Feel Good All Over" benefits from (once again) Brooker's smooth voice and a nice piano shuffle feel to it (a strong point of the band who were neither the gritty Pretty Things/Stones style r&B nor the mod/jazz of Graham Bond or Georgie Fame).  It's cheery and chirpy and one of my fave Paramounts tracks and like all of their numbers you can actually suss some sort of sense of "passion" for what they're doing.

Both sides are available on the highly recommended Edsel LP/CD "Whiter Shades Of R&B" which compiles all of their 45 and E.P. tracks as well as some unreleased numbers and a rare French E.P. only cut.

Hear "Poison Ivy":

Hear "I Feel Good All Over":

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Best Of Sue Records (U.K.) Part Two

We profiled ten of our favorite UK Sue 45's in an earlier post here, so we came up with ten more for your perusal:

1. SCREAMIN' JAY HAWKINS-"I Hear Voices" WI 379 1965
Screamin' Jay Hawkins U.K. 7" discography is quite slim. This was his second UK 45 and his only one on Sue. "I Hear Voices" is an odd number that is more of a musical essay on paranoia than a song with it's dirge like feel akin to the amphetamine fueled confusion of John's Children's "Smashed Blocked". Hawkin's heavily echoed "vocals" and constant chanting of the word "moan" add to the weirdness, but it's so odd it's enjoyable! It was originally released in the US in 1962 on Enrica (1010).

2. ERNESTINE ANDERSON-"Keep An Eye On Love" WI 309 1964
This smooth and sophisticated quasi bossa nova swinger was one of the UK Sue releases that actually had a US Sue release (September 1963 as Sue 993) it's also incredibly in demand with US pressings reaching $100 and the UK Sue issue near twice that!! Regardless of it's cost "Keep An Eye On Love" is totally infectious, "from Brazil to Sugar Hill...".

3. THE SANTELLS-"So Fine" WI 4020 1966
I don't know much about this group but their reading of Johnny Otis "So Fine" uses an uptempo formula not unlike something by The Newbeats crossed with girl group sensibility of say, The Shangri-La's that really works.  Originally released in the US in 1964 on the Courier label (CR 115) it's UK release came a full two years later.

4. DEREK MARTIN-"Daddy Rolling Stone" Sue WI 308 1964
Mods in the furthest corners of the world will all probably tell you it was the Who's cover version that appeared on the flip of "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" that served as their intro to this song. The Who no doubt learned it from this storming February '64 release (the US version appeared on Crackerjack as 4013 in June 1963). It was Martin's debut solo release having spent time in the Front Notes before bursting out with this killer punctuated by Ikettes style call and response backing vocals, hand claps and a sleazy sax solo.

5. HOMESICK JAMES-"Set A Date" WI 330 1964
American bluesman Homesick James had a slim discography 45 wise but Sue issued two of his singles in the UK.  This was his final release in Britain that saw the label reverse sides of his debut US 45 release (on the Colt label, 632 in 1962). "Set A Date" is a blues shuffle borrowing quite a bit from "Dust My Broom" with some wailing vocals on top of the bluesy guitar, bass, piano and drums set up. One can't help but wonder if it was this that inspired The Yardbird's rewrite "The Nazz Are Blue" or the Elmore James original.

6. HAROLD BETTERS-"Do Anything You Wanna Do" WI 378 1965
Veteran jazz trombonist Harold Better's sole UK 7" release was this 1965 issue of his August 1964 US single (Gateway 45-747). It's a mid tempo jazz number backed by subtle organ/piano, bass and drums with his slide trombone on top kicking it in as a perfect party record.

7. OTIS REDDING-"Shout Bamalama" WI 362 1965
Like most performers once they find fame, previously issued early recordings are immediately dredged up and dashed out again and Otis Redding was no exception as U.K. Sue wasted no time resuscitating his second ever 45, 1962's "Shout Bamalama" (first issued in the States on Orbit 135). It's a far cry from the Stax soul smoothness of Otis and with it's wonky sax, party atmosphere and hysterical lyrics it sounds more like something Bunker Hill would have issued!

8. EFFIE SMITH-"Dial That Telephone" WI 4010 1966
One of the most bizarre UK Sue releases was the re-release of this 1959 spoken word novelty record first issued on Spot (45-103). Over the top of minimal backing Effie sings/talks through one side of an imaginary phone call of a woman with a wayward husband named Henry who stumbles in after a rough night on the tiles.

9. BOB & EARL-"The Sissy" WI 393 1965
The second UK single by soul duo Bob & Earl saw Sue flip the sides of their US Chene 45 (103 July 1964) and put the superior "The Sissy" on the flip and the weaker (to my ears) "Baby, I'm Satisfied" on the A-side. For me "The Sissy" ranks as one of their best with a stellar production, solid musical backing and of course powerful vocals by Messrs Bob Relf and Jackie Lee collectively known as "Bob and Earl".

10. JERRY BUTLER-"I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore" WI 4003 1966
Sue's first UK Jerry Butler 45 took his 1964 (Vee Jay VJ 598) release of "I Stand Accused"/"I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore"and relaunched it. For me the gold was always on the flip, Randy Newman's "I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore". From Butler's powerful voice to the stellar arrangement and in no small part Newman's clever lyrics its a powerful tune as the Iceman croons about the apartment building gossip . The Walker Brothers took note and covered it note for note and lead singer Scott no doubt took notice when writing about a similar scenario in his own "Mrs. Murphy".

Saturday, February 22, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Pretty Things On Laurie

THE PRETTY THINGS-Talkin' About The Good Times/Walking Through My Dreams US Laurie 3458 1968

The Pretty Things had a small run of US singles, six of their nine UK Fontana singles were issued here on the US imprint of the label. Their last was June 1966's "Come See Me" (Fontana F-1550) followed by a two year dry spell before the release of today's subject in July of 1968. It was previously issued in the UK as Columbia DB 8353 in February of 1968 and would only be a one off release for the US Laurie label (home of lots of other off the wall UK releases like Adam Faith's "Cowman Milk Your Cow") before a brief move to Motown's rock n roll Rare Earth spin off for one single and then semi stardom on Led Zep's Swan Song label.

Most 60's British r&b bands fell like Dracula to garlic and a sharpened stake to psychedelia. But like The Stones The Pretty Things weathered the storm easing from r&b into psych (via what I like to call their "mod" period in '65-'66) before getting freaky (much like The Stones and The Yardbirds). To me some of The Stones attempts at psychedelia were sometimes embarrassing with poor track selection (half of "Their Satanic Majesties Request" for instance) and awful production and the Yardbirds to my ears were just bluesmen on acid while Pagey was ripping off Davy Graham and Bert Jansch. But the Pretty Things had a great track selection of originals in their psychedelic period and a great producer in Norman Smith (also responsible for the first Pink Floyd album and two of their three Syd Barrett era 45's and their two post Syd ones) that made them rise to the top of the lot and it all magically happened in just one year.

The coupling of "Talkin' About The Good Times" b/w "Walking through My Dreams" picks up where November '67's "Defecting Grey"/ "Mr. Evasion" 45 (U.K. Columbia DB 8300) left off as far as psychedelia is concerned. The credit for shaping the Pretties psychedelic sound to my ears is owed in no small part to former Fenmen members Jon Povey (keyboards) and Wally Waller (bass) and their backing vocals (and their writing assistance to lead singer Phil May and guitarist Dick Taylor). The Pretties also get high marks for this period for using the Mellotron and much like The Zombie's "Oddysey And Oracle" it's used sparingly and tastefully. 

"Talkin' About The Good Times" is in my estimation the most psychedelic record The Pretties ever cut. I'd prefer to skip any Pink Floyd comparisons that are often thrown about by people on this era that I think is purely based on sharing the same producer/label. It's clockwork guitar/balalaika/sitar intro reminds me of something off of the Tomorrow LP and it's immediately meshed with loads of Mellotron and the band's layers of harmonies (dig the Beach Boys style a capella bit towards the end) and then it fades out with a hypnotic riff from Dick Taylor (and more Mellotron).

"Waking Through My Dreams" is less trippy with subtle organ/piano beneath the bands incredible harmonies, with guitars playing descending licks and crashing drums from Skip Allen (who would depart soon after to be replaced by former Tomorrow drummer John "Twink" Alder). The fade out once again showcases the perfect meshing of their vocal abilities and hypnotic riffs beneath a layered tapestry of sound.

Both cuts are featured on several Pretty Things collections, the most current being "Come Seee:The Very Best of The Pretty Things". "Talkin' About The Good Times" cropped up on Bam Caruso's "Rubble 3: Nightmares In Wonderland" collection while "Walking Through My Dreams" was issued on the "Nuggets II" box set, "Psychedelia At Abbey Road" and  the "Rubble 2: Pop Sike Dreams" compilations.

Hear "Talkin' About The Good Times":

Hear "Walking Through My Dreams":