Saturday, October 12, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Bobby Shafto

BOBBY SHAFTO-She's My Girl/Wonderful You US Rust 5082 1964

Bobby Shafto would have never come across my radar had it not been for the 1985 See For Miles records LP compilation "60's Back Beat" (a delightful collection of UK mid Sixties tracks, most of which had never been compiled, either previously or since!!). Bobby's contribution was an uptempo rocker titled "She's My Girl".

Fast forward to over 35 years later and I'm digging in a local record shop and lo and behold, here's a US pressing of "She's My Girl"! It seems Bobby cut a total of 9 singles in the UK for the Parlophone label between 1962 and 1966. "She's My Girl" was his third U.K. release issued as Parlophone R 5130 in April 1964. It was issued in the US as Rust 5082 approximately one month later (curiously it was his American debut and the label would go on to issue four more singles of his).

"She's My Girl" is a fairly innocuous pop 45 and if it weren't for the blistering lead guitar intro it might just be another mediocre pop tune. It reminds me of a more rocked out/uptempo Honeycombs track, maybe its the offbeat rhythm or the chirpy delivery.

The flip, "Wonderful You", is tepid despite some decent musical backing. Shafto's voice isn't bad it's just a crap song and I'm sure it would be unremarkable no matter who did it (blame composers Geoff Stevens and Mike Leander). Shafto's voice reminds me a lot of Gene Pitney on it.

Poor Bobby gets the share a pin up with Gene Pitney, "Rave" magazine 1965
"She's My Girl" had it's most recent appearance on EMI's CD compilation "Beat At Abbey Road 1963-1965".

Hear "She's My Girl":

Hear "Wonderful You":

Saturday, October 5, 2019

"It Was 40 Years Ago Today": The Sound Of '79-Squire and "Walking Down The Kings Road"

Squire's second single "Walking Down The Kings Road" (released on October 5th 1979) will always loom larger over the heads (and shoulders) of it's peers in the ill fated '79 mod "revival" in my mind. It's distinctly Sixties feel of crunchy Rickenbacker chords and finger snaps and it's psychedelic ending is at odds with the Jam-inspired/punk anthems being offered by their contemporaries. Interestingly it was issued on Secret Affair's I-Spy label (which was distributed via Arista) and it was the label's second release, preceded by Secret Affair's August #13 chart hit "Time For Action" (both the band and the label's debut).

I had the opportunity to chat with Squire's founder and lead singer/guitarist Anthony Meynell recently to pick his brain about this iconic single that turns 40 years old today.

Anorak Thing: I guess to start out with was "Walking Down The Kings Road" something you had written a long time ago or was it penned in 1979?

Anthony Meynell: It was written in '77 or '78, but definitely in our set by '78.

A.T.:How did you manage to hook up with Secret Afffair and their I-Spy label?  Was it through playing with them at the famous Mods Mayday '79 gig at the Bridgehouse?

A.M: It was purely because they'd heard us at the Mods Mayday gig and while mixing the live tracks for the LP (Ed Note: Squire contributed three tracks to the album, "Walking Down The Kings Road" was among them). They wanted another band for their label, I believe their first choice was Back To Zero but they'd already been signed by Fiction so they went with us.

A.T.: I've always been struck by how psychedelic and Sixties influenced "Walkin..." was/is and that it seemed completely at odds with the majority of records by other '79 mod bands. Secret Affair's Ian Page and Dave Cairns produced it, did they have any input on the psychedelic effects and feel to the track or was that your doing?

A.M.: Once we recorded the main track Ian was keen to have an extended ending that he felt should reflect the aural experience of walking down King's Road past all the shops.

A.T.: Brilliant, I've always loved all the backwards bits and sound affects on the end of the track as it always reminded me of "Bike" by The Pink Floyd. Was the line up the same as on the Mods Mayday LP?

A.M.: No, the other guitarist (Steve Baker) had left by then and my brother Kevin came in as the new drummer (replacing Ross Di'Landa). Ian actually played harpsichord on it.

A.T: Was Enzo Esposito still on bass?

A.M.: Enzo was still on bass and and oh it was Ian on organ as well.

The Squire line up from the single: Kevin and Anthony Meynell with Enzo Esposito

A.T.: I'm still fascinated that Ian Page and Dave Cairns would craft such a trippy sounding, obviously Sixties influenced record as it was nothing like Secret Affair were doing and that they would include that on a record. You just finished a 40th Anniversary Mods Mayday tour with Secret Affair actually. I assume you played "Kings Road.."?

A.M.: I can't recall it being recorded at the same time as the music but we added finger snaps to the intro and Ian later went back and added the organ on the intro and the psychedelic coda later on afterwards. Ian was, and still is, quite a musical historian and though it didn't suit Secret Affair he was quite aware of my musical influences. We were just talking on the tour last week (by the way "Kings Road.." closed all of our sets on it) and Ian and I were talking about production and he said he saw Squire as more of a "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" (Ed note: Spencer Davis Group/Traffic 1967 movie soundtrack) meets mod Buzzcocks sound so he still remembers what his original vision for the record was. He was also very aware of Bowie and has an encyclopedic knowledge of prog and psychedelia.

A.T.: Who were your influences at the time on the track?

A.M.: The original rhythm for "Kings Road" was influenced by Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang", at least that's how I explained it to the band but then my brother changed it to a different swing so it became more of a Small Faces "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" thing so it became different between the "Mods Mayday" album and the single version.

A.T.: On the subject of psychedelia,  your later single "No Time Tomorrow" (April 1982) was based it on. You're obviously a big fan of 60's psychedelic pop so was there anyone in particular that influenced that as well as "Kings Road"?

A.M.: I'm a huge fan of 60's psychedelic pop , I can't say any single band influenced "Kings Road" in the same way "No Time Tomorrow" was influenced, backwards solo etc. "Kings Road" was more of a beat group thing but there was always going to be a Beatles influence in there somewhere. It didn't have a middle eight so I suppose it was unusual and the long coda was there just not with all the embellishments at first so I suppose that's a throw back to long Beatles outros like "Hey Jude" or "Ticket To Ride" even.

Anthony with his Rickenbacker 325, 1979

A.T.: I'm a a huge Rickenbacker aficionado, what sort of Rick did you use on "Kings Road"?

A.M.: A 1964 Rick 325, that's the 3/4 scale one (Ed note: See photo above).

A.T.: One last question, I was once told that the boating blazer you had back then came from the same bolt of material that was used to make a suit for Brian Jones. Is that true?

A.M.: Yes, that's true, it's from the same suit he has on the cover of the "High Tide and Green Grass" album (Ed note see photo below).

Photo courtesy of Anthony Meynell 

A.T: Well thank you for your time and patience and talking to us! Anything to add in closing?

A.M.: Anytime! Yes, you might want to note that by Fall there will be a reissued "September Gurls" expanded LP (order here) followed by a re-release of our debut single "Get Ready Go To" (order here).  There's also a "Get Ready" album in the works of pre-Squire material the "Passengers On A Train" solo LP reissue and hopefully next year the "Smash" album will finally emerge! So I'm busy here, all the best!

Hear "Walking Down The Kings Road":

Sunday, September 29, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities (Big In Japan?): Tinkerbell's Fairydust

TINKABELL'S FAIRYDUST-Twenty Ten/Walking My Baby Japan London TOP 1287 1968

One wonders how many mid/late 60's British pop/psychedelic groups would have fallen through the cracks had it not been for the likes of Bam Caruso records and their indispensable "Rubble" series. Case in point are Tinkerbell's Fairydust, a U.K. pop-psych/harmony quartet (they were previously known as The Rush and had cut two singles in the U.K. on Decca). Tinkerbell's Fairydust cut three singles in the U.K. for  Decca from '67-'69 and HIDEOUSLY rare untitled LP (Decca LK/SKL5028 1969) . Their second single "Twenty Ten" (Decca F 12778 May, 1968) graced the "Clouds Have Groovy Faces: Rubble Vol. Six" compilation LP in 1986.

Interestingly it was also released in Japan( two month's after the U.K. issue ) where it was mis-credited to "Tinkabell's Fairydust"! It came in one of those usual Japanese picture sleeves that's just an insert (see above) in a plastic bag with a pic of the band on the back (see below).

"Twenty Ten", if you've not heard it before, is an amazing slice of choral psych pop full of Bach-like harmony perfection with a wah-wah-ed organ, Mellotron and these trippy phased bits that turn it all freaky.

The flip side "Walking My Baby" is a nondescript number that's just the lead singer with acoustic guitar and faint backing vocals, next.

Both sides are available through  iTunes for download as bonus cuts on their LP and the the Grapefruit CD album reissue. The A-side is on the earlier mentioned "Rubble" volume as well.

Both sides were also produced by Vic Smith who besides twiddling the knobs for a host of psych pop band's on Deram and Decca  later renamed himself Vic Coppersmith Heaven and went on to produce The Jam!

Hear "Twenty Ten":

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Animals 1966

THE ANIMALS-Inside Looking Out/You're On My Mind UK Decca F.12332 1966

1966 saw a new era for Newcastle's Animals. They left EMI's Columbia and signed with Decca and new producer Tom Wilson. Their first Decca 45 release would be an explosive one, February 1966's "Inside Looking Out".

Based on a prison work song "Rosie", "Inside Looking Out" was credited to musicologists John and Alan Lomax (who it is alleged discovered the song) as well as band members Eric Burdon and Chas Chandler.  The band performed "Rosie"  at the Fifth National Jazz and Blues Festival at Richmond, Surrey on August 8th 1965 where it was captured by cameras and shown on American television as "Shindig Goes To London" (aired Friday December 4, 1965). I recall seeing a press clipping from 1966 mentioning an Animals track called "My Rebirth" so it's safe to assume this was either an early title or a misunderstanding. Released in February 1966 "Inside Looking Out" rose to #12 on the U.K. charts (simultaneously released in the US as MGM K 13468 it stalled at #34) and lyrically depicts the rigors of being a prisoner in a work camp. Propelled  by the twin attack of Hilton Valentine's taught Rickenbacker and Mike Rowberry's groovy organ it stands as one of the band's most powerful numbers. Burdon's impassioned vocals make you really believe he'd served time and experienced what he's singing about firsthand. It's breaks are punctuated by a lick that evokes a prison work song's pentameter of a hammer striking its target. The whole thing builds to a shimmering crescendo that bursts into a rave up with the Animals cutting a groove that they never topped.  It would also be drummer John Steel's last single with the band.

The flip, "You're On My Mind" is the polar opposite of the dynamic A-side. It's a mellow, slow ballad that's pretty nondescript and bordering on mundane.

Both sides are available on a host of Animals collections, some legit, others...not so much.......

Hear "Inside Looking Out":

Hear "You're On My Mind":

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Solo Scott: A Curious U.S. Debut

SCOTT WALKER-I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore/You're All Around Me US Smash S-2156 1968

The Walker Brothers were but a blip on the pop charts in their home country of the US with nine tunes in the UK Top 40 there were only two in the US. When Scott Walker went solo the music industry in the U.K. hedged their bets that surely the most popular Walker would outstrip his previous band in sales. They were wrong, while still being a big name attraction his chart success was limited.  Back in the US they were slow to attempt to capitalize on "solo Scott" game plan. Interestingly in April 1968 Smash issued the first post Walker's solo Scott 45 by taking two Walkers tracks and issuing them as a single credited to Scott Walker.

I.D. bracelet, aviators, Harrington, sweater. Scott eschews flower power on British TV 1968

The Walker Brother's interpretation of Randy Newman's " I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore" first appeared in the US as a track on their first American long player "Introducing The Walker Brothers" (November 1965). The April 1968 single of "I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore" by Scott Walker is a curious mix using the previously issued Walker Brothers version albeit in edited form. The original track is 3:48 long, this version is trimmed of the first verse with the song beginning with the second verse and with Scott coming in on the "She don't really love him..." line as the introduction. Time wise it comes in at 2:55 long in total playing time. Very curious. One expects that at 3:48 long the original was too long?!?  The B-side, "You're All Around Me" (previously issued in the US as the flip side to The Walker's January 1966 45 "My Ship Is Coming In" on Smash S-2016) retains it's normal 2:36 running time.

Thus far to my knowledge this edited version of "I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore" has yet to surface anywhere else.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

But The Original Is Not The Greatest...

1. THE KELLY BROTHERS-"Crystal Blue Persuasion" US Excello 2308 EXC 1969
The Kelly Brothers cover of Tommy James and The Shondells Spring 1969 hit is probably the best place to start this collection of covers that betters the original. Kicking off in an uptempo groove with a perfect mix of ivory tinkling and percussion and horns that sound straight off a Hugh Masekella or Mongo Sanatamaria record, then those vocals, wow.  It doesn't get any better folks.

2. ROSETTA HIGHTOWER-"Big Bird" UK Toast TT 509 1968
This 1968 UK cover of the Eddie Floyd classic was used as the flipside of an Ashford and Simpson tune "I Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You". Starting off with a raw and gritty guitar and hammering piano this track by the ex-Orlons lead vocalist (recorded in the UK) kicks the guts out of the original by the sheer force of power and soul.

3. THE FACES-"Maybe I'm Amazed" US Warner Brothers 7483 1971
Not to be confused with the live version on their LP "Long Player" this recording was an A-side of an American single (and a few other countries on the Continent).  It starts off with Mac's masterful piano and Woody's Dobro with Ronnie Lane taking the first verse and then Rod joining in before taking the lead. The band's stellar, tight backing (driven by Mac's impeccable piano playing and Woody's solo) and yes, Rod's vocals, blows Macca's clear out of the water!

4. THE COASTERS-"Love Potion No. 9" (1971) US King 45-6385 1971
This funky 1971 revamp of The Clover's 1959 hit gets high marks thanks to its uptempo/uptown groove and the catchy chorus "serve it up and drink it down" shored up by some funky percussion/vibes, horns and a wiggy little flute solo.

5. GEORGIE FAME-"Sitting In The Park" UK Columbia DB 8096 1966
Georgie Fame's 1966 reading of Billy Stewart's 1965 classic "Sitting In The Park" is another example of Fame's ability to take another person's song and make it his own. Kicking off with a beautiful trumpet intro in place of the falsetto intro of the original the vocals are accompanied by some subtle flute and a lovely mix of organ and congas blowing the original, clear out of the park to my ears.

6. DAVY GRAHAM-"Both Sides Now" UK LP track "Large As Life And Twice As Natural" Decca SKL 4969 1968
Forget Joni, forget Julie, the definitive version of this track is by Davy! It starts out with some cymbal flashes and bowed bass and Davy sort of "vocalizing" (coming across like a wiggy  prayer caller), all of this goes on a tad too long but when it finally kicks in his wild guitar picking and the jazz stand up bass/brushes backing grooves it along quite nicely and in the process slays all comers.

7. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD-"How Can I Be Sure" UK Phillips 6006 045 1970
Wrapped in strings and a cheezy but kitsch accordion giving it a decided campy Left Bank flair, Dusty's reading of the Rascal's hit would not remotely be in competition with the original if not for Wally Stott's (also known for his similar magic with Scott Walker) brilliant arrangement.  Add some horns and Dusty's powerful pipes and you have a classic, sorry Young Rascals.

8. ADAM FAITH-"Cheryl's Going Home" UK Parlophone R 5516 1966
Bob Lind's killer double sider of "The Elusive Butterfly" b/w "Cheryl's Going Home" is a tough one to top, but I find Adam Faith's interpretation of the B-side superior.  Here's why. For one I think Faith's vocals are stronger and the orchestration and production are stronger as well (care of the famous Ken Woodman). Despite being a virtual carbon copy of the original arrangement the music is perfectly balanced with Faith's voice in the mix, unlike the original that sounds tinny (production wise) to me.

9. THE ROLLING STONES-"Come On" UK Decca F 11675 1963
I can hear the outrage now, but yes folks I find this freshman effort by The Stones far more enjoyable than Chuck Berry's original. From Wyman's busy, swooping bass runs to Brian Jones poppy gob iron blowing it to the clipped quips of "Come On!" on the backing vocals it verges on Merseybeat. Mick's vocals haven't affected that affected London drawl meets Southern American blue yet and it sounds nothing like what they became in less than a year later and therein lies its charm!

10. THE LOVE AFFAIR-"Everlasting Love" UK CBS 3125 1967
Sorry Robert Knight but the definitive version of your hit for me will always be The Love Affair, well vocalist Steve Ellis and a host session musicians at the direction of arranger Keith Mansfield! From it's thundering brass/strings intro that segues into a wicked bass line this version is 100% high octane with a perfect mix of razor sharp musical backing and Steve Ellis blue-eyed soul get some vocals.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: Manfred Mann Mk. II Part Two

MANFRED MANN-My Name Is Jack/There Is A Man US Mercury 72822 1968
Manfred Mann's "My Name Is Jack" was one the band's last UK hits (the second to last actually, #8). It had no such luck in the US dying at #104 in the June of 1968 (simultaneously launched in the U.K. as Fontana TF 943).

Like The Who's "Substitute", "Mty Name Is Jack" had it's lyrics edited for a US release with the tasteless line "Here comes Super Spade who really puts it on" changed to "Here comes Superman".  Probably not one of my faves, it's a piece of pretty disposable pop music about life in an orphanage ("in the Greta Garbo home for wayward boys and girls"). It's totally inoffensive but just so syrupy sweet that it hurts my teeth to listen to it more than once.  There's some neat harmonies it in but....

Bass player Tom McGuinness's "There Is A Man" brings up the flip. It's a freaky little ditty about a guy in an asylum who hallucinates seeing a man who follows him around ala The Who's "Whiskey Man", only far more sinister thanks to some almost Pink Floyd-ish spacey musical backing!!

Hear "My Name Is Jack":

Hear "There Is A Man":