Sunday, February 14, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
THE TORNADOS-Is That a Ship I Hear?/Do You Come Here Often U.K. Columbia DB 7984 1966
By August 1966, the release date for the final Joe Meek produced Tornados single, the world had well and truly passed by the once innovative producer. In 1966 Meek was still pretty much utilizing his same production techniques in his apartment studio located at 304 Holloway Road that he'd been using since his first hit in 1961 (John Leyton's "Johnny Remember Me"). The Tornados at this time were Tornados in name only as none of the original member's responsible for Meek's 1962 opus "Telstar" (a U.S. and U.K. #1) were left onboard. The Tornados from December '65 until Meek's death on February 2, 1967 were ex-members of another Meek instrumental act called The Saxons. The line up was as follows: John Davis (drums), Robbie Gale (rhythm guitar), Peter Holder (lead guitar), Roger Holder (bass) and Dave Watts (keyboards).
The A-side, an instrumental called "Is That A Ship I Hear?" starts out with sound effects of seagulls and crashing waves and the trademark Meek beat and echoey, warbly guitar licks and what sounds like sleigh bells! Nothing really new or interesting as it bears all the usual Meek trademarks, in fact if you played it to me on my first listen I could not tell it was 1966 and would suspect it was from '62 or '63. The flip "Do You Come Here Often" is a fairly loungey instrumental led by organ and freely restrained from any "weirdness" (that is musical weirdness like most of Joe Meek's other productions). The real "weirdness" comes at about 2:18 minutes in when two band members begin chatting in a very campy mannerism (Gentleman #1:"I see pajama style shirts are in". Gentleman # 2 "Well pajamas are OUT, as far as I'm concerned.."). A thorough listen reveals they are more than likely two gay gentlemen out cruising and comparing notes. The record is quite risqué for it's time considering that in August 1966 homosexuality was still illegal in Great Britain. Meek, a well known homosexual, was notoriously known for cruising London's seedy underworld who fell victim to numerous blackmailers, no doubt probably supplied the dialogue to the band members.
Both tracks can be found on the Repertoire 2 CD Tornados compilation "Telstar:The Complete Tornados" which compiles all of their Decca and Columbia material for the first time in one packaging.
The final line-up of The Tornados
Hear "Do You Come Here Often":
Hear "Is That A Ship I Hear?":
Mike Stax in "Ugly Things" captioned it the best:
"Joe Meek adjusts the weirdness dial".
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
These days seeing an all female rock n' roll band is nothing at all out of the ordinary. Sure there are still the sexist comments about them having a boyfriend or husband who's in a band or the misogynistic attitude that it's all looks and no talent, but knuckledraggers aside in the 60's there weren't too many all girl bands who played on their own records. Certainly not in working class 1962 Liverpool, England where this group were formed. Comprised of the late Pamela Birch-lead vocals/guitar, Mary McGlory-bass/vocals, Valene Gell-guitar/vocals and Sylvia Saunders-drums they moved to Hamburg, Germany (already home to many Liverpool ex-pat rockers like The Remo Four and Lee Curtis, but to name a few) where they became quite successful. They were signed to the Star Club label where they cut two LP's and four singles, one of which, a cover of Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy", went to #5 in the German charts.
"Why Do You Hang Around Me" live on German TV's "Beat Club" 1965:
Sunday, February 7, 2010
1. Could You, Would You
2. Something you Got Baby
3. Call My Name
4. Turn On Your Lovelight
5. I Put A Spell On You
6. I Can Only Give you Everything
7. My Lonely Sad Eyes
8. I Got A Woman
1. Out Of Sight
2. It's All Over Now Baby Blue
3. Bad Or Good
4. How Long Baby
5. Hello Josephine
6. Don't You Know
7. Hey Girl
8. Bring 'Em On In
January 1966 saw the eighth line-up of British based Irish r'n'b act Them. It would rival the "Rock N' Roll Family Tree" book to try to chart who was in the band at this point so we'll suffice to say for those who've been in solitary confinement since 1964 that the band were led by one Van Morrison. The first month of 1966 also saw the release of the band's second LP, which would also be their last as they disintegrated after a U.S. tour that summer (see above photo from their three week long residency at Los Angele's famed Whiskey A- Go-Go).
"Them Again" is an interesting album as it was recorded with various personnel changes (and a number of sessions musicians including, it's alleged, Jimmy Page) and produced by U.K. artist/producer Tommy Scott . It's schizophrenic at best as it follows a variety of genres. Out of it's sixteen tracks only four are Van Morrison originals. The LP opens with Van's impressive tremolo guitar laced "Could You, Would You" and features probably his best vocal work ever, easily my favorite Them song. The guitar sounds ever so similar to "Here Comes The Night" (also see/hear the LP's "It Won't Hurt Half As Much"). Chris Kenner's "Something You Got" is next, fueled by some very tasty sax. Tommy Scott's "Call My Name" is next. The number is classic Them with mid tempo moodiness. It was later covered in August with good effect by the band's former Belfast comrades, The Wheels, who were also U.K. based by this point as the flip to their final 45, a cover of Paul Revere and The Raiders "Kicks" (Columbia DB 7918). A semi-spirited version of "Turn On Your Lovelight" is next. Listening to it you can easily imagine how this became an extended gig closer in the band's live set, but in the studio it is a tad restrained. Screamin' Jay Hawkin's "I Put A Spell On You" is next. Van and Co. turn it into a moody jazz piece with some scat vocals dueling with some mellow sax. Tommy Scott's fuzz guitar/Farfisa organ driven proto-garage anthem "I Can Only Give You Everything" is next. Killer stuff, the number began as a Beatstalker's instrumental "Bass Line" (Decca F 12460) written by Scott and lyrics were later added by one Bill Martin to become the number we're all familiar with today. Listen for the bass player plonking in the wrong key at around 2:02 into the number! Van's poignant "My Lonely Sad Eyes" follows with the LP's trademark vibrato/tremolo (albeit muted) guitar and some nifty acoustic guitar. Ray Charle's "I Got A Woman" is pointlessly boring. Merely filler.
Side Two opens with an equally useless soul cover, this one being James Brown's "Out Of Sight", next. Them's version of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" turned a generation of American garage bands onto Dylan (San Jose's Chocolate Watchband took note and recorded a carbon copy version) and one listen to the atmospheric quality of it shows how Van and the boys made it their own. Van's original "Bad Or Good' is a rollicking mid tempo call and response track that recalls The Impressions at their most uptempo. "How Long Baby" is a slower number with a tasty combo organ riff backed up by some subtle ivory tinkling, Van's impassioned vocals and a blistering tremolo guitar solo. Bert Bern's ballad "(It Won't Hurt) Half As Much" (originally cut by Garnett Mimms) is next, bearing more than an uncanny similarity to Bern's "Here Comes The Night" previously released by the band as a 45 (Decca F 12094 March 1965), a slower number with an almost honky tonk feel. work . Fats Domino's "Hello Josephine" is next, instead of a mediocre version you'd expect it's helped out by a gritty little guitar solo over some bar room ivory tinkling. Tommy Scott's piano/flute lead jazzy masterpiece "Don't You Know" is next with classy results. The number further cemented the Wheels/Them connection as the former had recorded the version the previous year in September as the flipside to their version of "Gloria" (Columbia DB 7682). The flute crops again on's Van's brilliant "Hey Girl" that seems to anticipate the soulful singer/songwriter he'd soon be on the way to becoming. However this track is stellar without a trace of self indulgence. The album closes with Van's "Bring 'Em On In", a rocking number that would've no doubt made a good show closer as it can easily be imagined having room for "improvisation" at 3:42 long with punchy delivery and more scat/sax solo stuff!
The LP tanked, which no doubt had some small effect on Van's growing disenchanment with the group and it's management. All of it's tracks have been included on the indispensable 2 CD Deram collection "The Story Of Them Featuring Van Morrison".
Hear "It's All Over Now Baby Blue":
Hear "I Can Only Give you Everything":
Watch Them perform for the cameras of the U.S. TV show "Where The Action Is":
Friday, February 5, 2010
1. Dancing in The Street
2.I Still Remember
3. Guess Who
4. Get Out Of My Life Woman
5. Jealous Girl
6. In My Dreams
1. Crazy 'Bout My Baby
2. I Got You (I Feel Good)
3. Dirty Mind
4. Those Rumors
5. Leaving Here
"Tages 2" was launched in July 1966. By then the band had embraced their new "mod" image as evidenced by their near shoulder length hair vanishing in favor of center partings and bouffants and their British op-art gear like lead singer Tommy Bloom's Keith Moon style t-shirt seen on the front cover (he's second from the right). Also in keeping with their new mod image the album contained a variety of soul covers, most of which were sadly lifeless. This is no better exemplified than by the LP's opener, a cover of Martha and The Vandella's "Dancing in The Street" is lifeless. It is followed by a band original "I Still Remember", a somber/moody little ballad with some cool jangly arpeggios. "Guess Who", another group original, is mod/power pop/pop art Tages at their best. From it's thundering drum intro to a cacophony of feedback, distortion, slashing guitar and the Nicky Hopkin's style piano tinkling during the rave up it's brilliant pure Who via Gothenberg! An ill advised cover of Lee Dorsey's "Get Out Of my Life Woman" is next, not as soulless as the LP's other efforts thanks to some cool piano and a cheezy organ riff (not to mention some raw playing) but vocally it's still lacking. Next up is a total mod '66 punky cover of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates June 1964 single "Jealous Girl" amphetamine sped up and rocked out complete with a resonating main guitar riff, choppy rhythm chords and thrashing drums. Side A is closed out by another band original "In My Dreams", a folky piece akin the The Searchers more folky sides with acoustic guitars, bongos and some Medieval sounding woodwinds that are straight off of an 1966/1967 Donovan album. Side B is kicked off with "Crazy Bout My Baby" (incidentally their first single in England Columbia DB 8019) a tune that was once best described to me by someone "flamenco on speed", complete with a wiggy little skating rink organ solo! The soulless soul continues with an inept version of James Brown's "I Got You( I Feel Good)". Lucky this is quickly rectified by the next tracks. The next is a passable band original called "Dirty Mind" that has a country feel akin to The Fab Four covering Buck Owens with a bit of harmonica and a blistering twangy Merseybeat style guitar solo. "Those Rumors" is next, another Tages exclusive with a thumping beat not at all dissimilar to '66 pre-psychedelic Hollies and the band's trademark harmonies. Their version of "Leaving Here", like the Johnny Kidd cover is hepped up and no doubt came from hearing The Who cover it (The Tages had played with The Who on stage and TV shows in Sweden where The Who were extremely popular in '65-'67). It's not bad, delivered at double time and driven by a piano and with some thundering drums. "Go" is the closer, a two minute long band original that's sparse and is my fave track on the LP. It contains just bass, an acoustic guitar, vocals, bongos and some tastefully baroque harpsichord (with a harpsichord vs. acoustic guitar solo that I swear sounds like the melody of "The Prisoner" theme at times, impossible as the show did not air until a year later!). It's lyrics concern a loose girl who has broken a string of hearts causing the gentleman community to decide "we don't want to be toys in the game you play, so just listen what I have to say, we have bought you a ticket to Siberia and that's where we want you to stay". The main chorus features the "Rubber Soul" like harpsichord tinkling and the main chorus "we don't want you around us no more".
The LP has not been reissued on CD but it's tracks did turn up a number of years ago on a 29 track EMI CD compilation of their '66 material called "In My Dreams" (featuring a photo of the band in some mod and semi-hideous Swingin' London op art clobber). Though out of print it's still floating around at a decent price and is highly worth the investment.
The Tages performing "In My Dreams" live on German TV's "Beat Beat Beat" 1967:
Hear The Tages version of "Leaving Here":
Hear "Those Rumors":