Thursday, October 8, 2015

Great Obscure U.K. 60's R&B Sides: Jack O' Diamonds

BEN CARRUTHERS & THE DEEP-Jack O' Diamonds/Right Behind You U.K. Parlophone R 5295 1965

One of the most interesting 60's British r&b 45's was by a guy who wasn't British.  Ben Carruthers (also known as Benny) was a small time American actor based in London who is best known for starring in a John Cassavetes film "Shadows" (1959) . Having managed to cross paths with Bob Dylan during Bob's 1965 U.K. tour via Albert Grossman (as immortalized in the D.A. Pennebaker film "Don't Look Back") Carruthers, according to Action/Mighty Baby member Ian Whiteman, asked the almighty Minnesotan for a song.  The response was a poem that had previously appeared on the back of Bob's "Another Side Of Bob Dylan" album which Whiteman states Bob hastily clacked out on a typewriter on the spot for Carruthers. With help from American born London based producer Shel Talmy a recording session was duly arranged for the Dylan poem now put to music by Carruthers who would be the lead vocalist.  A band was hastily assembled to back him mainly featuring a band of local architectural students called The Deep (Benny Kern-guitar, Ian Whiteman-keyboards, John ?-bass and Pete Hodgkinson-drums).  There is some conflict on exactly who played on the record as mention has been made of Jimmy Page and Nicky Hopkins involvement, which is entirely possible as both were Talmy's favorite hired guns.  Ian Whiteman states that he played a Lowery organ and that Nicky Hopkins played piano (there's no piano on the A-side however). Whiteman also asserts that the guitarist Benny Kern had equal involvement with Carruthers in crafting a song out of the poem despite his not being given song writing credits. In June 1965 the single hit the streets. Despite Great Britain being Dylan crazy at the time it did nothing and went on to become quite collectible. Three years later Fairport Convention would utilize a note for note arrangement of "Jack O Diamonds" on their untitled debut LP.

Fast forward to the spring of 1987 and yours truly is constantly snapping up British 60's LP compilations being prolifically issued by the See For Miles label.  Among them is a 1984 LP called "The R&B Scene" comprised entirely of mid 60's jazz and soul tinged British r&b. Among the gems from the Parlophone/Columbia catalog on this platter is this double sided monster by Ben Carruthers and The Deep. My mind is blown by the subtle, jazzy yet punchy sound of this 45.

"Jack O Diamonds" is a brilliant piece of music. It's coo and jazzy delivered in a hip vocal style with some tough guitars and a funky organ that evokes that mod London Mecca the Flamingo Club.  The jazzy swing and the key charges clash wonderfully with the brash playing making it full of amphetamine angst simmering below it's modern jazz exterior.

"Right Behind You", a Carruthers original that owes much to Mose Allison from it's swing and vocal delivery.  It's far more jazz than the topside with a nifty little guitar solo and some great bits where Carruthers sings along with the melody beneath a nice mix of descending bass line, piano tinkling and organ.

Ian Whiteman states that only one gig was attempted but that any further live gigs were scotched because Carruthers, despite being a "cool dude" could not sing.

Ben Carruthers

Besides being issued on the earlier mentioned LP "Jack O Diamonds" graced one of the best British r&b CD compilations ever, Zonophone's 2007 "Take My Tip:25 British Mod Artefacts From The EMI Vaults".

Hear "Jack O Diamonds":

Hear "Right Behind You":

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Small Faces with P.P. Arnold

Here's the Small Faces on French TV's "Baton Rouge" show with P.P. Arnold. I love the way Marriott and Arnold are going out of their way not to look at each other....

Friday, October 2, 2015

Let's Talk About Girls Part Two: 10 More Cool U.K. 60's Girl Discs

Several years back we came up with ten U.K. 60's female vocalists records outside the usual realm of Sandie, Cilla, Dusty et al.  You can check that out here.  And here's ten more....

1. JULIE GRANT-"Stop" U.K. Pye 7N.15937 1965
Julie Grant's final U.K. single after a lengthy sixteen single and one E.P. run for Pye was this previously unreleased in the U.K. Moody Blues composition (released in the States by The Moodies which we covered here). Sticking to the Moodies arrangement but sweetened by strings and a pastoral oboe solo it's carried equally by her powerfully indignant sounding vocals and the songs incredible catchy "stops" if you'll excuse the pun.

2. THE McKINLEYS-"Sweet And Tender Romance" Parlophone R5211 1964
This Carter/Lewis composition covered by Edinburgh duo Shelia and Jeannette (known collectively as The McKinleys) is best known for it's distinct guitar contributed by session man Jimmy Page but there's much much more to it as you will hear. Have a gander at them on "Ready Steady Go!" plugging it (embedding disabled by request) and see if I'm wrong:

3. SHARON TANDY-"Look And Find" U.K. Atlantic 584137 1967
From South Africa via the U.K. this track by Sharon comes from the flip of her overblown Vanilla Fudge version style treatment of "Our Day Will Come".  The heaviness by her backing band The Fleur De Ly's is held in check and the soulfulness is intact as Sharon's strong voice pulls it all off with backing vocals that sound a bit like The Action.

4. THE CARAVELLES-"Hey Mama You've Been On My Mind" U.K. Polydor  BM 56137 1967
From the duo who brought us the insipid "You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry" comes redemption in the form of this sweeping, mournful, orchestrated folk rock piece (a cover of a track originally cut the previous year in the States by The Restless Feelin's on United Artists). Spearheaded by their angelic voices amidst a bombastic but chilling Spector-esque production courtesy of one Richard Hill (best known for his work with Sharon Tandy) it's spine tingling.

5. TWINKLE-"Mickey" U.K. Instant IN 005 1969
Best known for her 1964 biker teen melodrama hit "Terry" and her Decca records stint, my money is on Twinkle for her late career soulful pop two sider from '69 on Instant (an Immediate records spin off) "Mickey" (and it's flip "Darby And Joan"). "Mickey" is full of lots of  rousing soul  licks and everything under the sun thrown in for good measure (Sweet Inspirations style backing vocals, congas, Foundations style backing brass and loads of "hey hey hey's!").

6. NITA ROSSI-"Untrue Faithful That Was You" U.K. Piccadilly 7N 35258 1965
This Gordon Mills penned 45 (also covered by Mills goldmine Tom Jones on his "What's New Pussycat" US LP) skillfully orchestrated by Johnny Harris is one of my favorite mid 60's British girl angst records.  The strings and shrill flute right before the chorus is damned infectious and Nita's vocals seems to convey that she means every word she's singing.

Barbara Ruskin c/o

7. BARBARA RUSKIN-"Pawnbroker Pawnbroker" U.K. President PT 217 1968
Starting off with an eerie Celtic sounding penny whistle melding with some wiggy fuzz guitar straight off a Strange Things Are Happening CD comp  track "Pawnbroker Pawnbroker" is a perfect slice of post Swinging London gritty social commentary (written by Barbara) showing it wasn't all hip in-crowd night spots, Carnaby Street shopping sprees and trust funds.

8. THE STOCKING TOPS-"I Don't Ever Wanna Be Kicked By You" U.K. CBS 3407 1968
Sounding completely in the vein of The Flirtations first few Deram releases this incredible Kenny Lynch composed and produced number (with arrangements by John Paul Jones in between his new Led Zeppelin commitment) was the product of two sisters Yvonne and Heather Wheatman who'd previously recorded as the duo Sue and Sunny.  It's perhaps the most soulful British female recording I've ever encountered and worth checking out if you like to dance.

9. ANITA HARRIS-"The Playground" U.K. CBS 2991 1967
From the busy bass line intro to the lush orchestration by Alan Tew worthy of any 60's British kitsch film soundtrack Anita Harris coos over an arrangement that verges on supper club pop but with soulful handclaps and thundering drums. Top notch stuff with a catchy ending chorus repeated like a mantra: "and now only wind whistles in and out" over and over with sweeping strings and someone (probably Clem Cattini or Bobby Graham) bashing the shit out of their kit.

10. SIMONE JACKSON-"Where Am I Going" U.S. Only  American Music Makers AMM-00-2 1967
Simone Jackson cut three singles in the U.K. for Piccadilly in '62-'63 then pretty much vanished from any further music releases as far as I can tell.  I'm not entirely sure that this U.S. only release is her but it certainly sounds like it and the Jim Economides production and David Whittaker arrangement tag are a dead giveaway for a U.K. product. Not to be confused with the Tony Hatch composed Petula Clark tune of the same name, "Where Am I Going" is a somber, dreary, rainy day ballad that is layered in overwrought strings and all the pomp and spunk of the best Leslie Gore teen melodrama.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

September's Picks

1. PRINCE BUSTER-"Judge Dread (Judge Four Hundred Years)"
For the past several months I have been on a serious Prince Buster kick which has resulted in my tracking down several of his mid 60's sides on Buster and Blue Beat.  Known to most of you through it's inspiration for The Special's "Stupid Marriage", "Judge Dread (Judge Four Hundred Years") stands as a landmark to both his sense of humor and his biting social commentary.

2. THE JAM-"I Got By In Time"
For ages I failed to draw all the then contemporary references reviewers made to the Who in regards to the Jam's debut LP "In The City".  It was only recently in the midst of my nostalgic Jam rediscovery (interestingly preceded by a similar journey with the Who's '64-'66 catalog) that I discovered how much many of the albums tracks DO resemble the '65 era Who.  "I Got By In Time" with it's call and response backing vocals and soulful chord changes reminds me of The Who doing "Heatwave" or "La La La La Lies".

3. THE LEFT BANKE-"Goodbye Holly"
60's American bands were always quick to claim their devotion as devout Anglophiles but all this usual amounted to was the odd awful fake accent and some ludicrously hideous Swinging London gear. "Goodbye Holly" by the Left Banke shows this was not 100% correct as it sounds entirely like something recorded in the U.K. before pop was dosed with psychedelia.

4. ALEX CHILTON-"Jumpin' Jack Flash"
Few people can pull off Stones covers. Alex Chilton did in 1970.  Admittedly I am not the world's biggest Alex Chilton fan because for the past 30 years I've been force fed  by all and sundry about his "genius" (ditto for Big Star).  But this bare bones, gritty, swaggering take on "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is brilliant in all it's lo-fi, sloppy, stroppy glory.

Released on Deram a full three days before Macca & Co.'s version this glam (or known to some as "boot boy glam") cop of "Jet" sunk without a trace and has become incredibly collectible.  It's brassy, ballsy and full of footstomping fun. I was always curious what Paul thought of it....

6. DUFFY POWER-"There You Go"
This tough unreleased 1965 cut unearthed on Duffy's "Vampers And Champers" CD compilation (previously  released on an LP in 1971 as "Innovations" ) it features some tough/jarring guitar playing from John McLaughlin and Duffy's  unmistakable bluesy vocals and harp blowing.

7. THE SOFT MACHINE-"She's Gone"
Culled from a compilation of possibly slightly dubious nature titled "Jet Propelled Photographs" this '67 Soft's number has none of the meandering, over indulgent 15 minute track constraints the bulk of their work has for me.  Short and sweet it's not too dissimilar to mid 60's U.S. garage bands with a flair for the avant garde.

8. DEE CLARK-"That's My Girl"
My current fave tune at this moment is this incredible flute led soul groover from '64 that owes more than a little to Jimmy Gilmer's 1963 hit "Sugar Shack".  Sadly slated as a "Northern soul classic" for some inane reason it's infectious despite the cheezy Wigan disco connotation.

9. LAMBERT, HENDRICKS & ROSS-"Charleston Alley"
Led by the stellar voice of Annie Ross this track rates as my fave from L, H & R incredibly hip 1962 album "The Hottest New Group In Jazz".

10. THE FACES-"Maybe I'm Amazed"
The Faces studio version of Macca's soulful hit will always be one of my fave tracks by them, from Ronnie Lane's brilliant lead vocals on first verse, Woody's acoustic guitar, Rod's rasping and above all Mac's powerhouse ivory pounding it kicks the guts out of the original in my book.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Alan Bown Set Sound of '66

THE ALAN BOWN SET-Baby Don't Push Me/Everything's Gonna Be Alright U.K. Pye 7N.17084 1966

We talked about the 3rd Alan Bown Set 45 in an earlier post (where you can gather more info on the band). This was their second, released in April 1966.

"Baby Don't Push Me" has always been one of my fave A.B.S. numbers.  It's mid paced accentuated by some great horn section bits and an amazing busy bass line and of course raw vocals by Jess Roden.

"Everything's Gonna Be Alright", though not a patch on the Willie Mitchell version, still works again in no small part due to the stellar horn section but at the same time is sort of...well..pointless because it's pretty much just a tepid note for note cover that's sped up just a little bit?!

Both sides are on the Castle CD of the band's entire Pye catalog titled "Emergency 999" . "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" appeared on Sequel/Castles "Doin' The Mod Volume Two: Jump And Dance" and Past and Presents "New Directions Volume 2".

Hear "Baby Don't Push Me":

Hear "Everything's Gonna Be Alright":

Monday, September 14, 2015

Georgie Fame On The BBC 9/28/15

This just in from the BBC:

“BBC Radio 4 is recording a special programme with Georgie Fame on Monday 28thSeptember 2015.  It is part of the series ibn which John Wilson talks to musicians about a career defining album.  Programmes are recorded at the iconic BBC Maida Vale Studios in front of a small audience.

For this particular programme we will be focussing on Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo.  For free tickets apply here:  Tickets are limited and they will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

The production team is also very keen to get in touch with people who went to the Flamingo Club during the time of Georgie Fame’s residency in the early/mid 1960s.  If you were there (or know of anyone who was) could you please contact the team at

Friday, September 4, 2015

Long John's Blues, with soul....

LONG JOHN BALDRY-Cuckoo/Bring My Baby Back To Me U.K. United Artists UP 1158 1966

Long John Baldry's last 45 for United Artists (his 7th with them if you include his "Long John's Blues" E.P.) before jumping ship to Pye and becoming a full on crooner is today's subject.

"Cuckoo" is possibly the most soulful thing he's even done thanks to some powerful horns that bring to mind Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers and it has a funky little groove to it.   I was halfway expecting it to be a soul cover I was astonished to find it was a Mike D'Abo composition upon closer inspection of the label!

The A-side is a solid killer bit the money for me is on the flip side "Bring My Baby Back To Me" , a Baldry original that starts out as an acoustic folk blues type thing (with some great Davy Graham style picking) but builds to jazzy swing when the sax starts honking ever so faintly and out of nowhere comes the sweetest Miles Davis style trumpet that has an almost trippy feel to it. Wow. Magic. Or Magik!

"Cuckoo"/"Bring My Baby Back To Me"  became Long John's U.S. 45 debut (Ascot  2229 in early 1967). Both sides were compiled on a highly recommended double CD "Looking At Long John Baldry: The U.A. Years 1964-1966".

Hear "Cuckoo":