Friday, December 19, 2008

God Bless Bam Caruso Part One


















THE MIRROR-Gingerbread Man/Faster Than Light Phillips 326 878 BF 1968 Germany

In 1984 or 1985 when I'd firmly decided it was OKAY to call myself a mod and still listen to decidedly "un-mod" music like British 60's psychedelia Mick London (of Mod Fun) turned my pal Rudie and I onto the "Rubble" compilation LP series put out by the good folks at the decidedly strangely monikered Bam Caruso records. The series focused on British 60's psychedelia and freakbeat ( a phrase actually coined by one of the labels founding fathers Phil Smee). Rudie and I duly set out to Vintage Vinyl to seek out these LP's. He purchased "The 49 Minute Technicolor Dream" and I snagged "The Psychedelic Snarl". On my choice there was a poppy little ditty called "Faster Than Light", the sole 45 release by a British band called The Mirror. Despite the 1968 recording/release date it was not at all heavy and sounded distinctly out of place for the era. It also transpires it was the flipside to the semi-ludicrously named "Gingerbread Man".


While original U.K. copies have always been quite scarce German pressings (some even in picture sleeves) were not. At least back in the mid 90's anyway and were not terribly hard to come by. One would assume it had some hit potential in Der Fatherland because there is footage of the band on Beat Club lip syncing the A-side and "Beat Club" did not seem to make a habit of featuring no hope acts. Regardless, let's talk about the record. Despite the daft title, "Gingerbread Man" is not a bad song. The lyrics are typical nonsensical nursery rhyme goobledegook without an ounce of lysergic irony ("lemonade streams and chocolate trees and houses made of sugar...") BUT there's these eerie phased/phlanged horns that brings to mind The Rolling Stone's "We Love You" or The End which are so way out. It's like someone dosed Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers or fed magic mushrooms to Amen Corner. It moves along at a really choppy pace and the middle section features those wiggy horns playing various melodic scales (my favorite part). Flip it over and we're back where we began: "Faster Than Light", the B-side. It begins with an amped up jangly riff and throbby bass and then the uptempo vocals kick in. Imagine The Pre-Fab Four's "Last Train To Clarksville" on a handful of leapers, lyrically it sounds like it could be about a bad trip, but is it? There's a phlanged section in the middle when everything speeds up and the drummer goes Keith Moon style apeshit and it's washed back down to it's beginning speed in a whirl of psychedelic mixing board knob twiddling. Brilliant! "Gingerbread Man" has yet to surface on a legit compilation, but "Faster Than Light" is available in all it's glory on "Rubble One:The Psychedelic Snarl" (don't let the title scare you, go ahead..taste it) or as part of the wonderful box set "The Rubble Collection:Volumes 1-10".


Watch "Gingerbread Man" on German TV's "Beat Club" 1968



Hear "Faster Than Light":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-ig0OTktZ4

Monday, December 15, 2008

60's Brum Beat Part One



MIKE SHERIDAN'S LOT-Don't Turn Your Back On Me Babe/Stop Look And Listen U.K. Columbia DB7798 1966

First off let me start by answering a few questions about my blog: no I won't be posting audio clips with the songs I write about because A.) I don't know how, B.) there's no one to show me how and C.) I don't care. In answer to another question, I only write about 45's I've owned or still own. I've sold off most of my 60's 45 collection so on occasion I have to steal scans from elsewhere because I didn't have the foresight to scan all of the 45's I let go years back when I began the massive analog vinyl divestment.

Here we've got the very last 45 by the Birmingham, U.K. beat group fronted by Mike Sheridan. Formerly known as Mike Sheridan & the Nightriders they became Mike Sheridan's Lot for their previous 45, the brilliant "Take My Hand". The group is also known as the starting point for one Roy Wood, shortly to leave this group and join members of other "Brum beat" acts Carl Wayne & the Vikings and Danny King's Mayfair Set as The Move (in fact the Move were a functioning band for a few months by the time this 45 hit the streets in January 1966).. The A-side is a Jackie de Shannon number. Jackie's tunes were scooped up quite often by British beat acts , usually with fairly decent results and this one is a perfect example of what her tunes were capable of in the hands of competent musicians. This version is especially good because of the gutsy lead guitar riff by Roy (who adds his distinct backing vocals) throughout the number and Sheridan's strong voice. The flipside "Stop Look Listen", while not incredibly good, is not terrible either. It's a mid paced "beat number" not too dissimilar from The Roulettes or The Merseybeats when they tried mid tempo stuff. After Roy Wood's departure for The Move the band became The Nightriders for one final 45 on Polydor (of cover of The Kingsmen's "It's Only The Dog") in late 1966 before morphing (minus Sheridan) into Idle Race following the addition of one Jeff Lynne.

Sadly neither tune has turned up on CD yet and for some odd reason Edsel never issued their complete late 80's Mike Sheridan compilation LP "Birmingham Beat" on CD unlike most of their other titles, leaving these two tunes unheard of by most folks outside of us 60's anoraks.

Hear "Don't Turn Your Back On Me":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bz8OnDYI0XU

White British Long Hairs On Blue Beat



MICKEY FINN and THE BLUE MEN-Tom Hark/Please Love Me U.K. Blue Beat BB203 1964
For those not in the know, Blue Beat was a label set up in the U.K. by an enterprising gentleman named Emil Shalit for the purpose of pressing and releasing Jamaican ska music records in England (the label's best seller was the well known ska legend Prince Buster). Ska was quite lucrative in the U.K. owing to the West Indian expat communities mass consumption of such sounds and to a lesser degree the mod movement's discovery of it care of DJ's at the Roaring Twenties club in London. Chris Blackwell helped score a major hit with the ska flavored "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small on Fontana records in the summer of 1964 and the scene seemed set for mass ska craze in Great Britain.

British bands were quick to pick up on the ska craze, but others were already there and done with it by then. Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames had previously cut two ska instrumental 45's (J. A. Blues / Orange Street R&B JB 114 and Stop Right Here / Rik’s Tune R&B JB 126) earlier in their career as The Blue Flames for the small ska label R&B in 1963 and were including ska numbers in their live set (and eventually releasing an entire E.P. of ska covers "Rhythm N' Blue Beat" on Columbia SEG 8334 in 1964 ). Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds cut a 45 under the pseudonym of "The Beazers" called "The Blue Beat"(Decca F11827 1964) and the dreadful Migil Five had a hit with a cheezy ska flavored version of "Mockingbird Hill"(who cares what label it was on, it was god awful).

Britain's Mickey Finn & The Blue Men were an odd lot. They'd been playing r&b, had Jimmy Page actually in their band for a time later on and (to my knowledge) hold the distinction of being the only white British band to have a single released on Blue Beat. Their one and only item on the label came in the form of "Tom Hark", a number that was a 1958 #2 U.K. hit for a South African group called Elias and the Zig Zag Jive Flutes. Georgie Fame included his take of it on his "Rhythm n' Blue Beat" EP in 1964 as well, though I still haven't been able to ascertain which act cut it first. Anyone familiar with it's infectious melody will know how hard it is to remove from your head once you've heard it. Mickey Finn & the Blue Men's take is an instrumental that chugs along with a shuffling mid tempo with some lively organ and plonky bass until a very lively sax bursts in joins on for the rest of the song. The arrangement is unusual because the band's next few releases featured no horns. The B-side "Please Love Me", is sadly a dreadful affair delivered by a VERY deep voiced gentleman who would've been better suited singing doo-wop to the mild ska backing similar to the A-side, it was also written by one Alan Hawkshaw! The record failed to dent the charts but the band held firm to their ska influences when they released their next 45 later in the year on Oriole CB-1927 coupling versions of Bo Diddley's "Pills" b/w Jimmy Reed's "Hush Your Mouth, both numbers being cut with a ska rhythm behind them (you can read about that here) . Both sides of the Blue Beat 45 have been legally reissued to the collection of their work "Garden Of My Mind: The Complete Recordings 1964-1967".

POSTSCRIPT 2015:
It was recently revealed in "Ugly Things" that the actual band Mickey Finn and The Blue Men had nothing to do with this record and that it was recorded using session musicians, among them Alan Hawkshaw who would go on to find fame with The Mohawks and as a KPM house musician.

"Tom Hark":


"Please Love Me":

Friday, November 21, 2008

Of Fashion Conscious Long Haired Girls

THE FRESH WINDOWS-Summer Sun Shines/Fashion Conscious U.K. Fontana TF 839 1967

Back in the 80's there weren't very many "legit" compilation Lp's other than the "Rubble" series that focused on U.K. 60's psych and freakbeat. There were many that were of sometimes dubious source quality ("The Perfumed Garden"), prone to skipping or mastered from records that skipped ("Electric Sugarcube Flashbacks") or wrong speeds ("Chocolate Soup For Diabetics Volume Two") . Fortunately the first and third volumes of "Chocolate Soup for Diabetics" were mastered at the right speed (or so I believe, I've long since sold all three of the first volumes) . Volume One featured an intriguing little ditty called "Fashion Conscious" by The Fresh Windows, a number I'd first heard on a cassette comp made by a generous older local hipster/legend named Ron Rimsite ( of "99th Floor' fanzine fame) . Many years later I was able to score an actual copy at the WFMU record show (back when they were at the Elks in Hoboken, NJ to give you an idea of how long ago). But like a buffoon I sold it before I could scan the label so I've been forced to nick a photo from the net.

"Fashion Conscious" is actually the B-side, but since it's certainly the most popular I'll discuss it first. Lyrically it's what I'd like to refer to as a "Dollybird social commentary" track (see The Syn or The Attack's "Created By Clive" for further looks into this scenario) about a "short skirted fashion conscious long haired girl". It's delivered at a moderate pace, nothing flashy or heavy or even bearing a freaky bit of guitar, just a repetitive riff played a mid-tempo like The Trogg's "Our Love Will Still Be There" or The Kinks ""You Can't Win". It's catchy though and the lyrics are sung by a bored, ambivalent sounding guy which makes them all the more delightful. The A-side, "Summer Sun Shines" is far more uptempo with what my pal Tom would call some "skronky" distorted guitar. It's got a sing-song singalong feel to it like The Human Instinct's "Death Of The Seaside" that has a happy quality about it that's distinctly "English '67" with it's chorus punctuated by some softly blowing horns that add a regal air to it. Who they were and what became of them I'll never know. Both sides a credited to a person named "Barrett" leading less informed (read "idiots") to claim a Pink Floyd connection. Anyone who has heard either sides will know better instantly.
Strangely to my knowledge neither side has seen a legitimate reissue and CD versions of "Chocolate Soup For Diabetics Volume One" did not include the "Fashion Conscious" .

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Bunch-More 60's Brit Mod R&B



















THE BUNCH-You Never Came Home/We're Not What We Appear To Be U.K. CBS 202506 1967
In my quest to find the not yet unearthed, not yet comped and the not reissued 600 times on 600 different compilations ("Circles" by Les Fleur De Ly's anyone?) British 60's mod/freakbeat tune I was turned onto this two sided mod/r&b monster by Ivy Vale a lady who ran a wiggy little night in NYC back in the day called "The Mind's Eye". Ivy was always generous with her more than ample 60's 45 collection and I benefited from her many compilation cassettes. Both sides of this one were new to my ears because I'd never heard of it let alone heard it! Long being a fan of Georgie Fame and other "Hammond n' horns" style British r&b combos AND British r&b after everyone realised it was boring covering blues & r'n'r standards this one bit me right off

My fave of the two tracks being the B-side "We're Not What We Appear To Be". It sounds alot like the post Alan Price era Animals where the band grew a pair and started using a Hammond, fuzz guitar and dropped all those boring ass Chuck Berry covers. I'm not sure if it's because the lead singer sounds a bit like Eric Burdon or because there's this cool little fuzz guitar riff shuffling around it, but it reminds me of "Inside Looking Out" or "Cheating". Though the record is from 1967 it sounds like '65 or '66 and the lyrics must've sounded somewhat dated:"We all drive in red sports cars, Sybilla's club at night, Carnaby Street on Saturday mornings until we're out of sight..". Spot on stuff here.

The A-Side "You Never Came Home" has more Burdonesque vocals but there's some cool Hammond and horns interplay here that sounds like my Manchester mod faves The St. Louis Union (more on one of their 45's soon!) meets Georgie Fame. It puzzles me how at the height of psychedelia A&R people at CBS were issuing groovy 45's like this! Sadly the band "got with it" and their next 45 was a weak psych-pop thing, never to return to this groovy formula.

The A-Side popped up on "New Directions Volume 2: Floor Filler Killers" , but side B has eluded compilers for now.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Taxed:A Great "Revolver" track cover version!




















The Loose Ends-Taxman/That's It U.K. Decca F.12476 1966

Covers of Fab Four songs from the 60's were usually ill advised affairs, one just need look at all those limp versions of "Girl" that cancelled each other out in a shot at the charts in the U.K. To counter this I give you The Loose Ends, a brilliant little band who earned that freakbeat/mod-r&b tag bestowed to those nattily attired English 60's bands worthy of it by (former) record collecting nerds like myself. They'd previously cut a raw and exciting version of The Rascal's "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" (complete with a blistering freakbeat guitar solo) b/w a version of an excellent rare Moody Blues tune called "Send The People Away" (or as The Moodie's titled it on it's only release, a French E.P. "People Gotta Go") as Decca F.12437. It failed to do much, but Decca gave them another shot.

This time around the band scored a major coup in covering a thus far unreleased George Harrison composition called "Taxman". However it was released on the very same day that "Revolver" hit the stores; August 5th, 1966. Decca, having turned down The Beatles four years earlier were never known for their brilliant music business masterstrokes. A clipping that I found in "Disc & Music Echo" claimed that the band were going to present a copy to Prime Minister Harold Wilson at No. 10 Downing Street, though I'm inclined to believe this was typical of all the P.R. b.s. bands fed to music weeklies and probably never occurred! The band stick to the Beatles version in melody only, the tempo is amped up considerably (I'd call it amphetamine driven) and has a funky organ giving it a mod/club/soul feel no doubt gearing for groovin' on the floors at in-spots. When Scott Belsky and myself had our own little "in-spot" in the form of Hub City Soul in 1997-1999 I played the crap out of this record and it never failed to keep it moving! The most interesting part that separates it from The Fab's version is that instead of relying on Macca's (that's right Paul played the lead. Don't believe me? Ask him or read Geoff Emerick's book, nailed it one take too!) psychedelic lead The 'Ends have a simplified lick that plays along with some organ trills instead. Throw in some S.D.G. (that's Spencer Davis Group for those not in the know) style percussion and you've got yourself a groover that went nowhere commercially. Flip it over and you've got another mod/r&b number "That's It", which reminds me of The Primitives or one of those other Pretty Things aping Brit 60's r&b bands who got a dash of "soul" on their last records. It's bass and guitar riff is catchy and even faster played than the A-side but the lead vocals and almost call and response backing vocals give it a distinctly "soul" feel. Sadly nothing else was heard of the band after this, pity as it's quite good!

"Taxman" was comped by Decca/Deram on their "Freakbeat Scene" CD whilst "That's It" popped up on their "Mod scene" CD.

"Taxman" for your listening pleasure:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

TONY JACKSON-Portuguese E.P.
















TONY JACKSON GROUP-Portuguese E.P. Estudio EEP 50013 1967

Though I rarely spend any money on 45’s/EPs/LP’s/CDs anymore owing to a tight budget (house, car, et al) there are a few select 7 inchers I’d still buy if they turned up. For many years the object of my desire has been a rare as hell 1967 Portuguese only pressing of a 7” E.P. by The Tony Jackson Group . For those not in the know Senhor Jackson was once the bassist/lead singer for a Liverpool combo called The Searchers . He left the band in 1964 and embarked on a career that left behind eight singles, four each on Pye and CBS respectively. Some credited to Tony Jackson and The Vibrations (best known by garage/60’s/freakbeat enthusiasts for their amped up/searing treatment of “Fortune Teller” which appeared in the late 80’s on a comp. LP called ”Trans World Punk Vol. 2” ), others to the Tony Jackson Group or some just simply as himself. Many of the latter CBS sides change hands for nothing less of $100 while the Pye sides tend to be slightly less.


The mother of all Tony Jackson collectibles is an E.P. recorded in Lisbon, Portugal in 1967 as “The Tony Jackson Group”. The band had decamped there in early 1967 for a change of scenery and to bring British beat to the locals (the Portuguese 60’s scene is all but devoid of a  hip musical “scene” unlike their nearby Spanish neighbors). Legend has it that one of the band’s members had a brother who’s Portuguese girlfriend had a father who ran a radio station and liked what he heard. At his urging, as the story goes, the stations own Estudio label pressed a four song E.P. of the quartet (Tony lead vocals, Ian Buisel on lead guitar, Dennis Thompson on bass and Paul Francis on drums) bashing through four covers of contemporary favorites. For those who haven’t heard it, the E.P. opens with a blinding raw version of Paul Revere & The Raiders “Just like Me” (the whole E.P. was included on a CD of all of Tony’s 7” releases in 1991 on the Strange Things label titled “Just Like Me”, a similar CD was issued by Castle years later called "Watch Your Step: The Complete Recordings 1964-1966"). Tony’s raw vocals and Buisel’s almost sloppy chord chopping make the original sound tepid (esp. after the over the top raga guitar solo). The real treat however, is the next track. Covers of songs by The Small Faces rarely better the original. After hearing the band’s version of “Understanding” you might disagree. Maybe it’s the freshness of it’s delivery, maybe it’s because by the time I heard this version I was sick of The Mighty Midgets, either way it’s a monster. The E.P. then kicks into an amphetamine version of Sam Cooke’s “Shake”, sung by someone other than Tony coming across as a cross between Jimmy Winston and Chris Farlowe . It’s arrangement is pretty standard, akin to that of late mark Animals . The last cut is an odd choice, given that the first three cuts are revved up/crashing stormers a cover of The Byrds folky JFK tribute “He Was A Friend Of Mine” seems, well, weird. The E.P. was pressed as Estudio EEP 50013 and released in the summer of 1967 where it vanished without a trace until resurrected twenty four years later by the folks at the short lived Strange Things Are Happening label(an offshoot of the famous Bam Caruso label). The cuts have since cropped up on a more recent Castle Records CD containing the exact same track listing as the Strange Things release titled "Watch Your Step:The Tony Jackson Group Anthology". Since then it has been something of a unicorn among record collectors. I know of no one who owns one, let alone anyone who has ever seen a copy. Through my research I have been able to ascertain that the Estudio label was primarily an output for contemporary non-rock n’ roll Portuguese artists and fado music (a centuries old uniquely Portuguese style centering on impassioned vocals with lyrics about love, both the loss of or the yearning for, accompanied only by acoustic guitar and a guitarra, an eight, ten or twelve stringed mandolin sized instrument).

After becoming engaged to a Portuguese woman and making a few trips to Lisbon I began to hatch my plans for securing a copy of the fabled E.P. A five year old “Time Out: Portugal” book listed a vinyl only shop called Disc Lecca in Lisbon. Of course it had moved twice since the book’s publishing and thanks to some determined detective work on the part of my fiancée/translator we set off to find the shop in a stream of events that was like a cross between a police investigation and “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”. Nestled away in the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon, finding and getting to the shop was no small feat. The streets and alleyways of Bairro Alto are cobblestone and rise and wind without warning to inclines that require momentary pauses for catching one’s breath and getting one’s bearing (each block within a street has it’s own name, though the street address does not always indicate this). At last we found it, atop a hill of the Calcada do Duque Street. CLOSED till January 4th the sign on the door said. But windows plastered with a Euro Scott Walker 45 sleeve, a French Animals EP sleeve, a Max Roach LP, a Portuguese Mingus gig poster etc told me I might yet be back in luck. A week later we returned on January 4th. The doors were opened and in we walked, the air was loud with the excited near shouts between a group of Portuguese record nerds who looked to be in their late 50’s/early 60’s. I was making a beeline to the stacks of 7” records when in that instant the group of gentlemen got even louder, they were yelling, not in an angry way, but in the jovial/excited manner. I understood little because my Portuguese is limited to greetings and exchanging pleasantries, but two words were being repeated over and over by all and sundry: TONY JACKSON. I sent my fiancée over to eavesdrop. It would seem they were all in disagreement on how much the fabled EP was worth. One said the internet had it listed as this, another offered his theory, no one could agree on it’s value. Obviously I would not be finding a copy in this store, or anywhere in Lisbon after a sheepish inquiry through my interpreter with the stores friendly owner who assured us “it was VERY VERY rare”. Contented I left with a French Georgie Fame EP, a UK LP by him, a Dutch 60’s Who LP and a Brazilian Gilberto Gil 45.When I returned to the States I did some online searching and found the the EP had been offered on E-bay a short time ago in VG condition with a minimum bid of 999 GBP sterling. There were no takers. Further digging revealed that in 2004 a Belgian collector parted with a Mint copy (with a VG+ sleeve) on E-Bay for a final sale of $2,600.00 USD!I might still find a copy, maybe in some milk crate of used records and books on some back street in Lisbon or in some sleepy little Portuguese village within a pile of dusty/destroyed fado records. But I’m not holding my breath……….

For the curious traveler to Lisbon, Disc Lecca offers a small but diverse collection of used LPs/45’s/EP’s from all over the world (especially Portugal and Brazil). There is fair share of Euro/Brit 60’s beat/psych/pop, most of which are in colorful sleeves. The owner is well aware of his merchandise and it’s value, but his prices are quite fair. Disc Lecca, Calacada do Duque, 53-A, 1200-156, Lisboa, PortugalTel:213 471 486

Note: In 1991 Tony Jackson put the Tony Jackson Group back together briefly with aid of drummer Paul Francis billing themselves as "Tony Jackson & The Vibrations" to capitalize on the Strange Things CD anthology comp, but this was short lived. Tony's bouts with alcoholism left him unable to walk without the aid of a cane or able to play bass. He served eighteen months in prison in 1997 for threatening a woman with a pellet pistol and sadly passed away on August 18, 2003 from cirrhosis of the liver.

*****This piece was originally posted on Uppers.org on January 7, 2006*****

Classic Debut LP's: DAVID BOWIE













DAVID BOWIE- David Bowie LP U.K. Deram DM 1007 1967

David Bowie’s mid 60’s career was less than enigmatic. By the onset of 1966 he had racked up three singles (with at least three different backing bands) on three different labels encompassing at least three genres. The later two of the three singles were under the guidance of Shel Talmy , best known for his work with The Who, The Kinks etc. Three more resounding (but brilliant) flops ensued under the producing hand of Tony Hatch on the Pye label left him as a man without a contract. Enter Kenneth Pitt , manager of, at one time or another, Manfred Mann and more recently the one hit wonder Christian St. Peters and hardworking Glaswegian act The Beatstalkers (later to cover three unissued Bowie compositions). Pitt signed on as a manager for the boy from Bromley and set about arranging the recording of demos of him and his then backing band The Buzz featuring Derek “Chow” Boyes(keyboards), Derek “Dek” Fearnly (bass), John “Ego” Eager (drums) and Billy Gray (lead guitar) at the legendary R.G. Jones studio in Morden, Surrey in October 18, 1966. This would be Bowie’s second visit to the studio (famed for their rare acetate label pressings of seven inches that bring heavy money in collector’s circles). With his previous band The Lower Third he had cut a legendary acetate “That’s A Promise”/”Silly Boy Blue” there in October, 1965 . Work with The Buzz at the studio produced three recordings (none of which have seen the light of day in their R.G. Jones demo form) “The London Boys” (previously demoed and rejected by Pye as a fourth single for that label), “Please Mr. Gravedigger” and “Rubber Band”. Eventual success came from Pitt’s footwork just six days after the session when Decca staff producer Mike Vernon heard the demo. Bowie and the band were offered a deal on the brand new Decca offshoot Deram. Despite the popular misnomer that Deram was a progressive label, in 1966 it was run by the same stuffy collective of types that had, years earlier, rejected The Beatles. Regardless Deram was keen to be “cutting edge” and were busy tapping into new artists (among their signings was a Birmingham “super-group” called The Move ) and work ensued on the first David Bowie long player on November 14th. On December, 2nd they released the single “Rubber Band”/”The London Boys” (Deram DM107) alongside 45’s by new hopefuls Cat Stevens and Beverley . But sadly the 7 inch garnered little commercial success. Reviewers were puzzled by Bowie’s sudden shift from mod/Swinging London pop to Vaudevillian shtick and the public agreed. As an aside, copies of this 45 (with an upside down matrix number) now change hands anywhere from $250.00 on up. Nonplussed by this setback the band continued work on the LP with Mike Vernon producing. At some point during this guitarist Billy Gray departed, leaving the back band as a three piece. Bowie himself was quite adept at guitar and it would be his acoustic playing that would be heard on Deram album sessions. The Buzz’s last official gig with Bowie took place on December 2, 1966 but the trio would continue to work throughout the LP’s recording which commenced on February 22, 1967.


















The untitled David Bowie LP was released on June 1, 1967 in the UK as Deram DML 1007. It is worthy to note through no coincidence, that “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released on the same day. Though “David Bowie” failed to chart and it remains to this day one of Bowie’s least favorite LP’s it is (to quote one of former producer Tony Hatch’s compositions) “a sign of the times”. The summer of 1967 was known to many as “The Summer Of Love”, but in David Bowie’s world (then his parents semi-detached at #4 Plainstow Grove in the London suburb ofBromley,) flowers and hippies were far from the mix of Ray Davies like social observations and a picture of an England where village greens, henpecked relatives and child murders sat at ease with in crowd night spots, Eastern religion (Bowie’s Buddhism flirtation was just beginning) and high priced fashion models.

Side One opens with “Uncle Arthur” a paean to an unasserted momma’s boy with medieval sounding strings and woodwinds. The number itself would not have sounded at all out of place on The Kinks “Something Else” or “…Are The Village Green Preservation Society”. “Sell Me A Coat” benefits from strings, horns and Bowie’s acoustic guitar (a harbinger perhaps to his next musical direction as a corkscrewed haired solo performer). A re-recording of his Deram 45 rpm debut “Rubber Band” follows. It is slightly fuller than the single version than the original, a tale of love and loss in wartime to the tune of a brass band. The upbeat “Love You Till Tuesday” is the first version of a tune which would shortly become Bowie’s third Deram (DM 135) little over a month after the LP’s release (and was panned by none other than Syd Barrett in Melody Makers “Blind Date” column as “a joke song”). In “There Is A Happy Land” childhood recollections are rummaged through in a wistful tune that sees Bowie return to some “scat” vocalese (previously explored on the Pye single “Good Morning Girl”). What I wouldn’t have given to be privy to scene in the bedroom on Plainstow Grove (where most of Bowie’s pre-“Space Oddity” demos were born) to hear a voice croak to an acoustic guitar for the first time: “Charlie Brown’s got half a crown he’s gonna buy a kite..”. “We Are Hungry Men” provides an apocalyptic view of 1967. Starting off with a mock news announcer’s report, the number’s tongue and cheek paranoia about over population speaks of abortion and cannibalism (the American branch of Deram got squeamish and left this off the Deram DES 18003 US pressing). This was no doubt quite shocking for 1967, aided in short by a Hitler impersonation during the break, and sits fairly well if one considers the inane humor then bandied about by the legendary Bonzo Dog Band ! Alongside his brilliant Mod/Swinging London observation “The London Boys”, “When I Live My Dream” is the closet Bowie ever came to becoming a full on crooner. It’s lushly and lavishly orchestrated, illustrating perfectly Deram’s willingness to go whole hog in the studio for promising new hopefuls with nary a hit to their credit. It is of sad coincidence possibly that the man responsible for convincing Mike Vernon to sign Bowie (one intrepid gent named Hugh Mendl ) left Deram shortly before David’s recording contract expired!!


Side Two starts with the almost Dickensian “Little Bombardier” which provides a character worthy of any Ray Davies (or pop-sike ) number. The protagonist is “little” Frankie Mair, a shell shocked R.A.F. veteran who finds peace and solace in harmlessly befriending local children who is, unjustly, suspected of pedophilia and run out of town. Bowie’s real life flirtation with Buddhism provides the back drop for “Silly Boy Blue” (lyrically changed from The Lower Third version cut as a demo in October 1965, which concerns growing old). The song itself is beautiful and melodic but somehow the crooning about Tibet and all things Buddhist comes off a bit stiff from a performer who, as previously indicated, was still living at home with mom and dad in suburban semi-isolation. Nonetheless it is perhaps, a kernel of Bowie’s earliest attempts at lyrically visualizing what he was eager to know. Its sweeping vocal ending is strangely akin to material by the American pop group The Buckinghams , intentional? You decide. It was later recorded a year later by Billy Fury in a bombastic arrangement. “Come And Buy My Toys” is sparse, just Bowie and his acoustic guitar and Fearnley’s bass, reminiscent both lyrically and musically to early Fairport Convention (POSTSCRIPT: it's actually not David Bowie on acoustic guitar but John Renbourn from Pentangle!) . Simplistic at best, it works well against the rest, aide in no small part by Bowie’s nifty Davy Graham style acoustic guitar plucking. His searing cynicism and contempt for “Swingin’ London” is illustrated in the catchy “Join My Gang”. “This clubs called The Web it’s this month’s pick, next month we shall find a club where prices ain’t so stiff” he trills while Boyes, Fearnley and Eager pump out strains of “Gimme Some Lovin’”. Predicting acid causalities, alcoholic singers and (dare I say it) chameleon like performers amidst bar room piano and sitars the number is Bowie at his most socially observant. “She’s Got Medals”, easily one of the albums strongest tracks, concerns a female war hero who disguised herself as a man to serve her country, survived and now drinks with the boys down the local among an almost “Hey Joe” style chord progression chugged along by woodwinds and Boye’s pumping knees up piano. The contemporary people watching continues with “Maid Of Bond Street”, a sneering swipe at the would be starlet “who’s cares are scraps on the cutting room floor” to a sophisticated jazzy backing with a little accordion to give it a French “Left Bank” feel. Strangely, this too is missing from the US pressing. The albums conclusion, “Please Mr. Gravedigger” is a spoken word piece. Devoid of any music the numbers only accompaniment are rain, thunder and digging sound effects. Positively Bowie’s earliest example of both the macabre and black humor, it starts out in what seems to be a first person narrative of an all hearing/all seeing gravedigger. By the “songs” end it is revealed to be the soliloquy of a regretful child murderer who in turn kills the gravedigger who overhears his tormented graveside confession.

Front cover of the US mono LP pressing

                                     
Back cover of the U.S. LP pressing

Though the LP will be forever remembered by critics and Bowie himself with both aversion and dreadful Anthony Newley comparisons, it did not stand a chance commercially. Certainly not because “Sgt. Pepper” was released the same day, but no doubt because, for whatever reason, the world was not yet ready for David Bowie. Within a year he would be dutifully released from his Deram contract after numerous other brilliant attempts (that would go unissued until fame and stardom in the early 70’s brought them forth from the Deram vaults) and left free to be scooped up by Mercury Records and drop into the hit parade in the Summer of 1969 with a number about a wayward spaceman named Major Tom.

**This piece originally appeared on uppers.org on April 27, 2007 **

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

ROD THE MOD


ROD STEWART-The Day Will Come/Why Does It Go On U.K. Columbia DB 7766 1965.



















"Rod The Mod" took a rather strange genre turn after his debut 45 "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl"/"I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town" (U.K. Decca F 11996 1964) when this next release saw him jump from Decca to EMI's Columbia label. Instead of the bluesy r&b of his debut seven incher this one found Rod in the studio full of session men lead by bandleader Reg Guest (best known to you 60's types for his ultra rare 45 and LP as The Reg Guest Syndicate). Both sides were composed by Wigan born songwriter Barry Mason and marked another contrast to Rod's previous single besides just the music. Both the A and B side of Columbia DB 7766 embrace the concept of "social commentary", though such sentiment from a song writing factory like Mason could hardly be deemed as relevant of such tunes by Bob Dylan or Ray Davies. Both sides seem like an ill advised attempt at plucking the heartstrings of Joe Public for the sake of selling a record. The A- side is about the coming of a nuclear war while the B-side explores the downfall of humanity through apathy, violence and moral decay.

Obviously this sounds like a lot of b.s. and I'm sure whoever was handling Rod at the time no doubt nudged him in this direction, but at the bottom of it all both sides are enjoyable. "Why Does It Go On" would've made a stronger A-side with it's soulful intro of heavy bass/handclaps/backing vocals accented by some snippets of cello. Rod's vocals are strong and quite self assured. The B-side, "The Day Will Come" is less soulful but carried by some heavy horn section work with the same backing vocals as the flipside. Musically it wouldn't have sounded out of place amongst some Mark Wirtz material, notably "Theme For A Teenage Opera" and the like.

Rod The Mod quickly returned to his r&b roots with his next Columbia 45 rpm when he enlisted the musical backing of The Brian Auger Trinity......

"The Day Will Come" for your listening pleasure:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaWSVuceCzI

SLADE-Get Yer Boots On Boyo!


















SLADE-Wild Winds Are Blowing/One Way Hotel U.K. Fontana TF 1058 1969

Here's an odd rock n' roll scenario for you, imagine the successful manager/Svengali of one of the biggest names in rock takes an unknown long haired hard rocking band and decides that capitalizing on the skinhead movement will bring them notoriety and then fame, instructs his charges accordingly, gets their nuts (heads) cropped, kits them out in boots and braces but allows them to continue playing their loud and brash brand of r'n'r. Sound like utter b.s? It's true. Ex-Animals bassist/former Jimi Hendrix manager/producer/Svengali Chas Chandler happens upon a Wolverhampton, U.K. band called Ambrose Slade (formerly The N' Betweens) who've been kicking around for a bit. They released on unsuccessful album ("Beginnings" on Fontana in April 1969) and a flop single ("Genesis" culled from the LP). Neither were bad at all, in fact the LP had a few spirited originals as well as a nice mix of covers of songs originally done by The Moody Blues ("Fly Me High"), Idle Race ("Knocking Nails Into My House") and Steppenwolf ("Born To Be Wild") to name but a few.

Chas shortened the band's name to Slade and had them crop their shoulder length hair (to at least a three and half crop), got them in braces, boots and Ben Shermans. The band were all aghast of this new image. There's a great bit on YouTube someplace from a Slade documentary where guitarist Dave Hill shudders about how a band who'd cover "Martha My Dear" w/ their bassist on gypsy violin would go down amongst the hardcore reggae bootboy set. But having played half their career in rough Northern clubs the band agreed and dutifully slogged on. Chandler launched their new name and new look on October 1st 1969 with "Wild Winds Are Blowing"/"One Way Hotel" on Fontana.

"Wild Winds are Blowing" is a (excuse the phrase) balls up straight ahead rocker. Seeing the band on YouTube playing this live on Tyneside TV in '69 in the skinhead gear is probably one of the coolest moments of rock n' roll on the tube (see below, it should still be there). Seeing them then do "Martha My Dear" on the same show in the same gear (w/ bassist Jim Lea playing a violin) is surreal! "Wild Winds..." is a jaunty hard rocking number with lead singer Noddy Holder bellowing like a bootboy Bill Sykes on his way to a post match punch up. The rhythm is jerky full of slash it up guitar licks and catchy stops. It didn't chart but paved the way for the bands future "stomp, clap your hands" style.

"Wild Winds Are Blowing" Live on Tyneside TV 1969:




The flipside "One Way Hotel" (also soon to crop up on the debut "as Slade " album "Play It Loud" in early 1970 in re-recorded form) is almost a polar opposite to the topside. It starts out with a light guitar lick that reminds me of The Jam's "Mr. Clean" intro and turns into a catchy melodic little number with a Beatlesque/Idle Race style bridge. The tune itself is about a man being committed to an asylum.

Both tracks are available on a U.K. CD that packages both "Beginnings" and "Play It Loud" on one disc with assorted a and B side bonus material, or you can download them from iTunes.

"One Way Hotel" for your entertainment:

Virgin Sleep-Love/Haliford House


VIRGIN SLEEP-Love/Haliford House U.K. Deram DM 146 1967

I've long been enamoured by freaky British 60's records cut by straight looking mod guys in immaculate hair, Hush Puppies and Ben Shermans (Herbal Mixture, The Score, The Flies, to name but a few). Enter Virgin Sleep (Tony Rees, Rick Quilty, Alan Barnes and Keith Purnell) from Richmond, Surrey. One look at their photo above would lead you to believe they were just another Small Faces/Action aping "mod" band. One listen and you know right away that this is NOT a "mod" band.

The A-side, "Love" loosely follows a chord progression and tempo not too dissimilar to The Trogg's hit "Love Is All Around". Strangely it's Deram release date was 9/1/67, a month and a day prior to The Trogg's number! It is doubtful that they influenced each other, but still a strange coincidence to note. It's backed by a string section that reeks of The Trogg's hit but also echoes The Left Banke and some of the more orchestral moments of David Bowie's debut LP (also on Deram), while the backing vocals have an eerie Buddhist chant quality to them, with some sitar thrown in there for either good measure or trendiness. The whole mix is absolutely hypnotic and I find it to be among the greatest of British 60's psychedelic singles issued.

The B-side, "Haliford House", is more somber and definitely not a very joyous tune. It's about a mental institution where children's toys are manufactured. It's vocals are monotone, as if the lead singer is heavily sedated and other than a brief, blistering freakbeat guitar rifff here and there it's pretty low key and uneventful.

"Love" has popped up on both the "The Great British Psychedelic Trip Vol. One " CD compilation and Mojo magazine's box set " Acid Drops, Spacedust & Flying Saucers: Psychedelic Confectionery from the UK Underground, 1965-1969", while "Haliford House" has appeared in bootleg form only on one of the "Hen's Teeth" CD compilations.

Hear them both c/o YouTube:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-j1PO7v-6A
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kmu8DrJbeds

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Quik-I Can't Sleep/Soul Full Of Sorrow


THE QUIK-I Can't Sleep/Soulful Of Sorrow U.K. Deram DM 155 1967

These guys were one of those beautiful 60's U.K. bands who dressed mod as hell, stayed true to their soul/r&b roots but were not afraid to get a bit "freaky". Too soul to be freakbeat and too soulful to be psychedelic The Quik were a unique group who'd cut their teeth on two prior Deram releases: a slowed down come-down version of The Rascals "Love is A Beautiful thing" b/w the mother of all mod Hammond dance floor instros "Bert's Apple Crumble (Deram DM 121) and the uptempo Hammond n' horns mix of "King Of The World" b/w a pointless version of "My Girl" (Deram DM 139). Not afraid to break out the B-3 (or was an an L-100?) AND get freaky this was The Quik's last offering anywhere and appeared on October 27, 1967.

"I Can't Sleep" is a strange number. It features a swirling chorus awash in phased organ and sound effects with wiggy lyrics :"Moonbeams flying high, I can't catch them if I try..." on it's first time around and then "stars, sky everything high everything good goes flying by..." chanted repeatedly like a mantra of someone trying not to let the music take them away on the final chorus (or a talk down from a bad trip?). It breaks into a brief vocal interlude on the bridge where the lead singer slows down for some Lloyd Price style crooning and is accompanied by a flute. It's chorus, is at best, one of those mod numbers that seems to evoke an amphetamine breakdown or early psyhcedelic trip (much like John's Children's "Smashed Blocked" with it's anxiety ridden intro). Fortunately this all works and the number is nothing short of amazing.











The flip "Soul Full Of Sorrow" is less trippy but still has it's weird lysergic moments thanks to some out of place chord changes amongst the Hammond n' horns (including one bit where a sax noddles around and incorporates the melody from Dobie Grey's "mod" anthem "The IN Crowd") amidst the angst ridden lead vocals. The somber mood with constant sax and organ reminds me of The Graham Bond Organization's last two (U.K.) Columbia 45's. The vocalist sounds slightly reminiscent of Eric Burdon when he gets (got?) all bluesy and sullen too!

Both sides wound up on a CD comp See For Miles did in the late 90's called "Psychedalia" of various Deram/Decca/Fontana U.K. 60's/early 70's "psych" sides (complete w/ free seeds in the CD spine to "start your own psychedelic garden") and I'm certain it's been bootlegged by those clever sorts who've put out all these classic U.K. 60's 45's w/ convincing labels and large sized U.S. 45 style holes in the center!

"I Can't Sleep":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnqyMLEFZNk

"Soul Full Of Sorrow":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n27C-CLMzWw

The Pyramid-The Summer Of Last Year/Summer Evening

The Pyramid-The Summer Of Last Year/Summer Evening U.K. Deram DM 111

The United Kingdom was particularly enamoured with the American "West Coast sound" in the mid 1960's. True there were loads of Beach Boys covers, but some bands went beyond the covers and struck out to create their own home brand. The songs needn't have always been about surfing, beaches or blondes in convertibles, but some were.

Enter The Pyramid. A band who released this one off single on the Decca offshoot label Deram. Produced by the pop maestro Denny Cordell,it evokes everything you'd expect from a bunch of English guys who dug The Association and the like. I could easily imagine them onstage in their all white get ups with sunflower medallions and shades prompting some cat call from some oik as they loaded their gear in the dismal grey night of some unwritten Northern English town "California's that way mate...". The record was reportedly released (according to an article in "Record Collector") in the un-summery month of January 1967. As the scan of my promo copy will attest by it's release date this is entirely correct. Probably not the brightest move by Deram's production department, it was also sandwiched in between Cat Steven's smash "Matthew & Son" and Whistling Jack Smith's "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" (shudders in Sideshow Bob style sniggering all around). Needless to say the record sank without a trace.

"The Summer Of Last Year" is a low key multi layered harmony number relying on some nice fuzz bass (played by none other than John Paul Jones it's reputed), guitar, drums and a faint organ. The lyrics evoke the joys of summer, the backing vocals remind me of The Who's Entwistle and Moon on one of the band's surfy B-sides ("In the City"). All in all it's pleasant and catchy because of the bass, the vocal perfection and the way the crescendo builds when the combo organ kicks in. Good stuff.

The flip "Summer Evening" plumbs the same seasonal sentimentality lyrically but it's slower and has an almost raga feel to it's gentle guitar work. I also swear I can hear a tabla on it, but I'm not sure in adittion to some organ. Both sides also feature the drumming talents of one Ian Pratt-MacDonald(later Matthews) later to pop up in Fairport Convention.

The A-side did turn up on a U.K. 60's psych/pop CD collection called "Fairytales Can Come True Volume One") and both sides featured on the late 80's Decal LP compilation "Deram Days".

POSTSCRIPT: The band were a trio consisting of Steve Hiett, Albert Jackson and Ian Pratt-McDonald. They were assisted in the studio by John Paul Jones who played bass and possibly organ and arranged by Mike Lease (who also provided backing vocals) . Lease would later crop up in the band Freedom (who's line-up boasted to ex-Procul Harum members) in 1968 responsible for the brilliant "Where Will You Be Tonight" single (UK Mercury MF 1033). Special thanks to "Record Collector" magazine and Nigel Lees for these last bits.


Further addendum's from original member Mike Lease:This recording was the culmination of an elaborate stage act, involving 2 non-stop sets of at least 45 mins. each [!], testing the breath control of the singers to the limit, I was the musical directer of this ambitious project which ran for 18 months or so... Albert Jackson was the 3rd vocalist. I played the organ on the recording, not John Paul, aka John Baldwin. The brilliant Pete Trout was on drums, Big Jim Sullivan on guitar.... - Mike Lease

I might have got the guitarist on the A side wrong... - Pete Trout thinks it was John McGlaughlin, with Big Jim on the B side... Maybe.... - Mike Lease

Yet another thought just occur ed to me about this track.... It could have been Big Colin Pincott on guitar, side "A"... I'm really unsure and don't want to misrepresent anyone... - all that's certain is that Big Jim Sullivan was on the "B" side, John Paul Jones - bass, Pete Trout - drums, myself - organ, keyboards, and I can't remember who played congas on the "B" side.. - Mike Lease.

Hear "The Summer Of Last Year":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-U7Nge5bTw