Thursday, April 15, 2021

Songs that Rubble Taught Us: Gordon Waller's Solo Debut

 




















GORDON WALLER-Rosecrans Boulevard/Red Cream And Velvet U.K. Columbia DB 8337 1968

Everyone knows the story of U.K. duo Peter & Gordon and everyone knows that Peter Asher went on to become an A&R man for the Beatle's Apple label (rejecting lot's of submissions, David Bowie among them). But what of his band mate Gordon Waller? Gordon launched his solo career with this release in January 1968 with today's subject (interestingly the duo made more records together for Columbia issuing three more singles following this release). "Rosecrans Boulevard" first came to my ears via a 1986 Bam Caruso "Rubble" compilation LP "Pop Sike Dreams" (Rubble 2), truth be told I frequently skipped the track and spent a better part of a decade (or two and a half) half ignoring it!

"Rosecrans Boulevard", a homage to love lost and a Los Angeles by-way, was penned by Oklahoman wunderkid songwriter Jim Webb and first recorded by The 5th Dimension and released in April 1967 on the flip of their "Another Day, Another Heartache" (Soul City 755) and covered by Johnny Rivers on his 1967 LP "Rewind". Waller's subsequent recording is vastly different from the original. It has far more orchestration that adds an almost Walker Brothers/Scott Walker feel to it and the vocals are delivered faster during the bridge adding an almost edginess to it. And with Waller's somber moodiness in it's vocal delivery and the lush musical backing Scott Walker comparisons cannot be ignored.

























"Red Cream And Velvet", a Waller original, brings up the flip side. To my ears it's a sub par Lee Hazlewood pastiche with it's pseudo C&W lilt and orchestration. Next! Unfortunately for Gordon the single sank without a trace (and was released in Denmark and the Netherlands, both in picture sleeves). He issued two more singles for Columbia before moving on to Bell, but none, in my opinion, shone as bright as "Rosecrans Boulevard". 

"Rosecrans Boulevard" has been reissued on a variety of variations of the various artists comp "Pop Sike Dreams" (Rubble Two). The flipside, thankfully has not. 

Hear "Rosecrans Boulevard":


Hear "Red Cream And Velvet":

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Spencer Davis Group "Keep On Running"

 





















THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP-Keep On Running/High Time Baby U.S. Atco 45-6400 1966

Unlike most British 60's bands America was slow to pick up on the Spencer Davis Group. Their first American single ("I Can't Stand It") slid out on Fontana in late 1964 and wouldn't be until January of '66 before their second U.S. 45, today's subject hit the streets. "Keep On Running" had been their fifth U.K. single issued in November 1965 where it sky rocketed tom the coveted #1 spot. It failed to do so here with zero chart action.

"Keep On Running" was penned by Jamaican singer Wilfred "Jackie" Edwards (he also penned the band's next U.K. smash "Somebody Help Me") who had been brought to the U.K. by Island records head Chris Blackwell. With it's distinct throbbing bass and fuzz guitar intro "Keep on Running" is easily recognizable. Propelled by Steve Winwood's soulful vocals (then all of just 17 years old!) and a pulsating groove accented by hand claps, bluesy guitar and a driving beat it remains one of the band's most popular and strongest tunes. It is of course also famous for taking away the #1 slot in Britain from The Beatles ("We Can Work It Out"). 
















The B-side, "High Time Baby" is a group original penned by Winwood, his older brother Muff and Spencer Davis. Utilizing a similar fuzz tone guitar sound it's almost as powerful as the A-side, almost. Again it's a showcase for the strong pipes that teenage "Little Stevie" Winwood possessed and and features a rollicking little piano solo.

Both sides are available on the indispensable "Eight Gigs A Week: The Steve Winwood Years" CD collection of material the band recorded '64-'66.    

Hear "Keep On Running":


Hear "High Time Baby":


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Humble Pie's Debut

 

HUMBLE PIE-Natural Born Bugie/Wrist Job U.K. Immediate IM 082 1969




















With the dissolution of Immediate records cash cow the Small Faces in the Spring of 1969 Steve Marriott launched his new band Humble Pie in August of 1969 with this release.  He was joined by ex-Herd front man Peter Frampton (who Marriott had wanted to join the Small Faces, to the objection of his then band mates) , former Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley and drummer Jerry Shirley, formerly of Immediate records artists Apostolic Intervention.

"Natural Born Bugie" (retitled "Natural Born Woman" in the U.S.) is not at all what one would expect from either Marriott or Frampton based on their previous bands. It has a groove not unlike a laid back "Get Back". What's most interesting is that three of the members each get to sing a verse, starting with Ridley, then Frampton followed by Marriott. 


























The flip, "Wrist Job" is actually a Small Faces backing track (titled at the time of it's recording "The Pig Trotters") that was cut with the intention of being included on their never finished LP "1862". It's heavy and soulful thanks to Marriott's brilliant voice (perfectly restrained and not too over the top) but what really carries the track for me is Ian McLagan's swirling churchy Hammond organ trills and electric piano that really push this number. Backing vocals by P.P. Arnold add to it's brilliance.

U.S. Pressing





















Humble Pie's Immediate catalog has been horribly over-reissued so these cuts are easily found on any one of the literally hundreds of compilations floating around out there. It would also be the band's sole Immediate 45 release.

Hear "Natural Born Bugie":


Hear "Wrist Job":

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Ten Island Records Greats From The WIP Series

 In 1967 Island records jumped from their WI (West Indies) catalog number series to the WIP series which unlike the WI, was predominantly rock and roll. Here's ten from the WIP series for your listening pleasure:













1. RAY CAMERON-"Doing My Time" WIP  6003 1967

I know absolutely zilch about this record but discovered it via Nick Rossi many years ago. It's got a feel not unlike the sort of brassy sophisticated pop/r&b that Georgie Fame and Zoot Money were leaning towards in late '66/early '67 when they were easing off the soulful r&b. Penned by Cameron and organ whiz Alan Hawkshaw it reminds me of Fame's hit "Getaway" or Zoot Money's "Nick Knack". Lyrically it concerns a prisoner (complete with lots of sound affects) and was released on the heels of a host of high profile HM Prison escapes. 

https://youtu.be/N7KA1Hy0mg0













2. TRAFFIC-"Coloured Rain" WIP 6025 1967

The flip of Traffic's third single "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush", "Coloured Rain" rates as one of their most powerful tracks in my estimation and might have made a better topside. Winwood has never sounded more soulful and the mix of organ and percussion give at hint of what his previous band, The Spencer Davis Group, might have sounded like had he not packed it in and gotten a little more "freaky". 

https://youtu.be/GXHDGjp1Lxs













3. JIMMY CLIFF-"I Got A Feeling (And I Just Can't Stop)" WIP 6011 1967

Jamaica born Jimmy Cliff had a Jekyll and Hyde music career on Island. On one hand he was a reggae artist and on the other he made slightly poppy soul records, a split that must have confused fans and chart compilers alike. "I Got A Feeling" is in the latter category. It reminds me of SDG's "Can't Get Enough Of It" but with uptempo horns and soulful backing vocals not unlike his French E.P. only tune "Let's Dance" (a vocal version of Wyncder K. Frog's "Dancing Frog"). 

https://youtu.be/JsCNm3Ynya0













4. THE V.I.P.'s-"Straight Down To The Bottom" WIP 6005 1967

One of Island's strongest 45's for me will always be the second single for the label by soul/r&b quintet The V.I.P's (it would also be their last using the V.I.P's moniker). Propelled by powerful/soulful call and response vocals/backing vocals it's infectious groove is carried along by almost wonky sounding stride piano and some funky percussion (I swear there's congas buried in there).  Mike Harrison's vocals sound marvelous and the backing vocals shore it all up. Magic! Two months later the band would re-emerge on the label as Art (see below).

https://youtu.be/YUpdq4zMnNE













5. THE SMOKE-"It Could Be Wonderful" WIP 6023 1967

Freakbeat legends The Smoke switched to Island after two singles with Columbia and launched this 45 in November '67. "It Could Be Wonderful" is driven by a mid tempo beat with bursts of raw power chords and a Motown influenced bass line. In the middle bit it gets freaky with a banjo before crashing backing into their trademark power pop gusto adding a Morse code guitar lick reminiscent of "You Keep Me Hanging On" and the bass line doubling as it fades out.

https://youtu.be/aKXlCzoOGYE













6. WYNDER K. FROG-"I'm A Man" WIP 6014 1967

Hammond organ driven r&b legends Wynder K. Frog issued two singles on the label in their distinct red and white WI series before moving to a taste of pink with the WIP series. Their over the top instro reading of the SDG's "I'm A Man" is a full on party committed to vinyl with hand claps, crowd shouts , a raucous football terrace drunken yell of the main chorus and of course wailing Hammond organ. The music press at the time reported that this was recorded live in Paris at Bridgette Bardot's birthday party, keyboardist Mick Weaver subsequently owned up that it was pure fantasy concocted by the band's management. 

https://youtu.be/WiAl3nyIr9Y













7. ART-"What's That Sound (For What It's Worth)" WIP 6019 1967

Two months after the above mentioned V.I.P's 45 "Straight Down To The Bottom" the band changed their name to Art and cut this interesting cover of The Buffalo Springfield's 1966 hit. It adds a heavy riff (that I swear was nicked by Hot Chocolate for their hit "You Sexy Thing") to it that totally revamps the number. Six months later they would add a new member and become Spooky Tooth (see below).

https://youtu.be/1muqnajccgI













8. JOYCE BOND-"Do The Teasy" WIP 6010 1967

West Indian vocalist Joyce Bond had previously cut on single for the label's WI series before this release. Punctuated by a rocksteady rhythm and some very British r&b sounding horns that could easily be from a '67 Georgie Fame 45. "Do The Teasy" is an inoffensive little commercial sounding reggae tune punctuated with the obligatory shouts of "Hey!". It was produced by the famous Harry Palmer, the man behind the decks on The Mohawks Pama 45's.  Never one to miss an opportunity to plagiarize Prince Buster re-cut it as "Take It Easy" the following year.

https://youtu.be/cjGdLbcnPjI













9. NIRVANA-"The Girl In The Park" WIP 6038 1968

Pop psych duo Nirvana released this, their fourth 45 rpm offering on the label in August of 1968. Wrapped in a wonderful production by Muff Winwood and orchestrated by Syd Dale it's a magnificent number with lush strings, harpsichord, angelic sunshine pop choral bliss and brass that would give any Decca/Deram release in the pop-sike genre a run for it's money. My favorite bit as at 2:13 in when the brief "ba ba ba's" come in and carry the number out.

https://youtu.be/uAL4WvE7bUA













10. SPOOKY TOOTH-"Sunshine Help Me" WIP 6022 1968

The ink was barely dry on the label's of Art's Buffalo Springfield cover as WIP 6019 before the band added keyboard player and NJ native Gary Wright and became Spooky Tooth, their third moniker revamp in a year's time. "Sunshine Help Me" is a powerful mix of Small Faces '68 style rocking and soulful shades of the band's previous incarnations. Led by the dual vocals of Wright and the ever soulful Mike Harrison it's mix of churchy Hammond, harpsichord, tabla and blistering guitar that easily make it the most powerful thing they ever did.

https://youtu.be/t6h3dOeZlFs

45 scans of The Smoke and Spooky Tooth courtesy of 45cat.com

Thursday, March 18, 2021

P.P. Arnold and the Small Faces














P.P. ARNOLD-(If You Think You're) Groovy/Though It Hurts Me Badly US Immediate ZS7 5006 1968

Watts, California born singer P. P. Arnold (born Patricia Cole) found herself in London after quitting being an Ikette in Ike & Tina Turner's band and in 1966 was signed to Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate records label through intercession of Mick Jagger. She cut six singles for the label in the U.K. Her fourth was penned by Small Face's Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, "(If You Think You're) Groovy", issued in Britain in January of 1968 it reached #41 in the charts. It was issued the following month here in the U.S. (where it was her second 45, the first being her cover of Cat Steven's "The First Cut Is The Deepest"). 

"(If You Think You're) Groovy" is, in my estimation, her strongest track. Legend has it that the Small Faces recorded their own version, but as this has failed to materialize in subsequent comps I believe this is a myth of sorts. In conversation with the late Ian McLagan many years ago he confessed to me that he wasn't entirely sure that there was a version they did of their own! Regardless of the existence of a Small Face's version the band definitely provide the musical backing on this and the results are nothing short of powerful! Driven by Kenny Jone's explosive signature drum fills and Steve Marriott's wailing backing vocals, "(If You Think You're) Groovy" is the perfect vehicle for P.P. Arnold's fiery voice. She's coolly detached and perfect for the song, which lyrically is the ultimate put down song. There's flute, brass and of course the amazing Small Faces. Immediate did a groovy promo film for the track with P.P. and the SF's cavorting on the beach that you can check out here.
















The flip, "Though It Hurts Me Badly" was penned by P.P. and produced by Mick Jagger. It's nothing spectacular, coming off to my ears like a Dionne Warwick tune with soul. Mick did an amazing production job which makes me wonder why the Stones sounded muddy!?! 

P.P. and the boys












Both tracks are available on a host of P.P. Arnold compilations, which like the Small Faces material for the label are many!

Hear "(If You Think You're) Groovy":

https://youtu.be/usuvbMb4szs

Hear "Though It Hurts Me Badly":

https://youtu.be/46agIURphr0

Thursday, March 11, 2021

A Beginners Guide To Freakbeat: Wimple Winch "Rumble on Mersey Square South"

Scan c/o 45cat.com

My introduction to Wimple Winch's "Rumble On Mersey Square South" came visa Mick London of the N.J. 80's mod band Mod Fun. He recommended Bam Caruso record's "Rubble" compilation albums. My friend Rudie and I traveled to Vintage Vinyl in Woodbridge,NJand  he bought the "49 Minute Technicolor Dream" (Rubble 4) and I snagged "The Psychedelic Snarl" (Rubble 1). On "The Psychedelic Snarl"  were three tracks by a Liverpool quartet called Wimple Winch: "Atmospheres", "Save My Soul" and "Rumble On Mersey Square South". It was the latter which struck me immediately. 

Wimple Winch evolved out of a mid 60's Liverpool beat group called The Four Just Men (a name change was later necessitated as there was a TV series of the same name so the band became The Just Four Men). The band released three singles in the U.K. on Parlophone before changing their name to Wimple Winch in late '65 when a writ was served because there was already another band using the name. The band signed to Fontana where they released just three singles in the short space of just nine months, all of which change hands for huge sums of money these days. "Rumble On Mersey Square South" would be their final release issued in January 1967 as Fontana TF 781. It is of course one of the most sought after singles of the freakbeat genre as a look at this popsike.com entry will attest to.


 










"Rumble On Mersey Square South" is like a gritty Scouse "West Side Story" of sorts with so many breaks and tempo changes and chronicles a fictional gang war battle between the Gasworks gang and "the gang from the West". With Liverpool's "tough" reputation in the 60's it's plausible that the band witnessed such violent scuffles first hand and need not have resorted to imagination. The lyrics are purely amazing coming across like a script to an unnamed gang war movie or an essay from an onlooker hidden from view, like a less sophisticated Dick Hebdige :

"All is peace and quiet in our little town, the police are all tired, their feet don't touch the ground, people watching TV, people eating their tea, they can't see like me, there's trouble coming down, there's going to be a fight, there's going to be a fight, so keep yourselves out of, out of sight, keep your doors locked up, locked up tight because there's going to be a fight, be a fight.

The gang from the Gasworks sure are tough and so are the gang from the West, ????? that's sure enough, I don't know which gang in the best, here they come, see them run see them fight each other, see the sticks, see the stones see them run for cover, some are small some are tall but that doesn't matter, someone stands, someone falls and then someone staggers, leader falls with his hands over his face and someone else is standing there to take his place and there are bodies lying all over the place and they fight (and they fight), and they and they fight (and they fight), how they fight (and they fight) and they fight yeah. Fighting's over who has won the police are here they all begin to run. 

All is peace and quiet in our little town, the police have retired they've put the trouble down, people are all sleeping, people finished peeping, they can't see me creeping, there's no one left around, the stars are shining bright, the stars are shining bright, that's the end of of the fight, that's the end of of the fight, that's the end of of the fight, that's the end of of the fight, not going to Mersey Square, not going to Mersey Square, not going to Mersey Square, I'm not gonna go down to Mersey Square, I'm not gonna go round to Mersey Square...." 

- Lyrics and music by Demetruis "Dee" Christopolus and John Kelmen Musicville Ltd. 1966

My late great friend Don "Woody" Buchanan, though not a purveyor of 60's music like yours truly immediately pointed out that the track reminded him of the Zombies, vocally. Years later I realized that it was musically similar as well, some of the guitar bits were almost reminiscent of the band's freaky June '66 single "Indication". There's subtle bursts of distorted/fuzz guitar, thundering bass and an eerie echo on the drums that give it a desolate feel that make you feel like you're in some vacant, abandoned industrial estate. There's multiple rave up's where the band cuts loose only to cool things down and pull it back to the mellow, Zombie-esque quieter interludes. The structure of the song is delivered like acts in a play, and though I hate to use such hackneyed old rock n' roll phrases, the term "rock opera" can certainly be applied! 

Sadly Wimple Winch would not make any other records and "Rumble..." would be their final release. The band recorded a host of demos in 1967-1968 (the later of which saw them assisted by Herman's Hermits members Keith Hopwood and Derek "Dek" Leckenby) before finally calling it a day. All of their recorded works were compiled by Bam Caruso/RPM records in 2009 as a CD compilation titled "Tales From The Sinking Ship". 

Hear "Rumble On Mersey Square South":

https://youtu.be/lcEk5U4qGPA

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Paul Jones-"Privilege"

 




















PAUL JONES-Privilege/Free Me U.S. Capitol 5970 1967

Former Manfred Mann lead singer Paul Jones broke ranks and went solo in the Summer of '66. His solo career was quite successful in the U.K. but he had zero impact here in the States. His July 1967 single "Privilege" was the title track of a film that he starred in about a pop singer manipulated by the government (alongside Jean Shrimpton). It was Jone's fourth U.S. solo single (it was his third in the U.K. being issued a month prior as HMV PSRS 309 but with a different B-side). 

Penned by Jones and arranger Mike Leander "Privilege" is a powerful number. It's heavily orchestrated and Jone's ability to be a crooner when needed aids him in the track. The track is somber but has a bite when needed (especially during the catchy chorus "it's an honor to be me, an honor to see me, an honor to have that privilege").


Jean Shrimpton and Paul Jones on the set of "Privilege"

























"Free Me" is an equally powerful number (it was used in Guy Ritchie's most recent flick "The Gentlemen"). It was also featured in the film "Privilege" and despite not appearing on a 7" in the U.K. it graced the flip of "Privilege" in at least five other countries. Beginning with almost Gregorian chant style backing vocals it descends into a ballad that increases it's tempos and backing instrumentation with each line (guitar, bass, drums and eventually strings and some churchy organ). Powerful stuff!!

Both sides are available on the Paul Jones CD collection "My Way: Albums, Singles, E.P.'s, Rarities". 

Hear "Privilege":


Hear "Free Me":