Saturday, January 30, 2010

Before Nick Drake there was........BILL FAY

BILL FAY-Some Good Advice/Screams In The Ears U.S, Deram 45-DEM-8501 1967

Till I'd purchased the 1996 See For Miles CD compilation "Psychedalia:Rare Blooms From The English Summer Of Love" (complete with flower seeds in the CD spine with instructions"Grow Your Own:Free Seeds") I'd never heard of Bill Fay. The CD contained both sides of his debut offering, a 45 on Decca's lovely Deram offshoot, which as you can see above also came out in the United States.

"Some Good Advice" is a somber number ushered in with some piano in a minor key with some gentle/subtle Melotron accompaniment playing behind the ivory tinkling and then this controlled eerie bit of distorted guitar. The whole thing is so simple because it has, really, only three verses but it's got so much going on musically that it's much more interesting bringing to mind Al Stewart's early work in '67-'68. The flip side "Screams In The Ears" is more upbeat with a jazzy swing to it while Fay sings in a rather Dylanesque manner with equally Dylanesque lyrics ("well they told me the budgerigar committed suicide, but it was you, I saw you put that gin in it's water I was standing by your side"). It seems to be an observation about a party and instead of Melotron this time around the piano is tastefully chased along by some faint Hammond organ with a deadpan chorus "will you stop asking me who I am. Go and find someone else to tell your jokes to. What a great party this is".

Sadly the record did not pip the charts making it quite obscure. Bill went on to be signed to Deram's offshoot Nova and under their banner released an untitled debut Lp in 1970 and another LP "Time Of the Last Persecution" on the same label the following year, both have cult followings and have been reissued on CD. Both sides of this single (also his only single) were included. as mentioned on the "Psychedalia" CD and also recently cropped up as bonus tracks on the CD reissue of his untitled debut LP.

"Some Good Advice":

"Screams In The Ears":

Bill's official website:

The Debut of the "Bowie" Moniker

DAVID BOWIE and THE LOWER THIRD-Can't Help Thinking About Me/And I Say To Myself U.K. Pye 7N.17020 1966

When we last left David Jones in August 1965 (see "Anorak Thing" December 19, 2009 entry) he and the Lower Third had issued a record. Fast forward to January 1966 and David Jones was now David Bowie. He was signed to a three record deal at Pye and assigned producer Tony Hatch (this was accomplished through his then manager Ralph Horton, an ex-Moody Blues road manager who through his mutual friend Denny Laine had met Hatch and pitched his act thus securing the Pye contract). The band duly set about recording at Pye's Marble Arch studio where legend has it Bowie was given a tambourine utilized on Hatch's smash "Downtown" by Petula Clark to use on the session.

David Bowie & The Buzz plug "Can't Help.."
on "Ready! Steady! Go!" March 4, 1966

There has long been documentation of Bowie's home life and he himself has admitted it was less than normal. "Can't Help Thinking About Me" is the first time it came out via one of his compositions and concerns the plight of a young protagonist leaving home for "blackening the family name". It has some interesting lines that one wonders weren't real (keeping in mind that in 1964 David had shoulder length blond hair and living at home in suburban Bromley with his mom and dad this must have raised some eyebrows. Bowie would continue to do so until moving to London in late 1966) : "mother says that she can't stand the neighbors talking. I've gotta pack my bags leave this home start walking...". . It starts out with some cool acoustic guitar and one of Bowie's best vocal performances where he croons confidently. It's probably also the only pop song to unitize the phrase "recreation ground". Lyrically it's also one of his finest "remember when we used to go to church on Sundays, I lay awake at night terrified of school on Mondays...". Powerful stuff with the Lower Third (Denis "Tea Cup" Talyor-lead guitar, Graham Rivens-bass and Phil Lancaster-drums) giving it some solid backing. The flip "And I Say To Myself" is an ode to the "wrong girl", slower than the A-side it's got an almost Motown feel to it with some cool "call and response" vocals between David and the boys.

Color still of D.B. on the March 4, 1966
edition of "Ready! Steady! Go!

It should've been a hit and despite a £250 pound bribe that secured it a #34 placing in the "Melody Maker" singles charts and a full page advert on the cover of "New Musical Express" the single went nowhere. Tired of not making any money and plugging away behind a singer who seemed to garner all the attention (and no doubt miffed at driving back from engagements on New Year's Eve and New Year's day at the Paris clubs Golfe-Drout and Montmarte Bus Palladium in the band's transport, an old Comer ambulance, while David flew home) it wasn't long before the band split after a January 29th gig. The #34 placing was enough to secure them a booking on Redifusion TV's "Ready Steady Go" on March 4th to promote it, where by this time David was being backed by The Buzz ( Derek Boyes-keyboards, John "Hutch" Hutchcinson-guitar, Derek Fearnley-bass and John Eager-drums). The Buzz sans Hutchinson (who would later rejoin Bowie in '68 in a trio called Feathers) provided musical backing for Bowie's debut Deram LP (see "Anorak Thing" October 9, 2008 entry). The band shared the show with The Small Faces and The Yardbirds and like most "RSG" episodes there is no footage in existence. There are however numerous still photos both color and black and white of the appearance, one of each can be seen above. "Can't Help Thinking About Me" was revived by '79 mod band The Purple Hearts on their debut LP "Beat That" and Bowie himself thought so much of it he performed it live on VH-1's "Storyteller's program in August 1999.  It's also the very first David Bowie record to be issued in the United States where it was issued by Warner Brothers (5815) in the spring of 1966.  Both promo and stock copies were issued with the promo copies being more prevalent among collector's these days.

Hear "Can't Help Thinking About Me":

Hear "And I Say To Myself":

US white label promo "A"

US white label promo "B"

The more uncommon US stock issue "A"

The more uncommon US stock issue "B"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Two Sides Of Dusty

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD-How Can I Be Sure/Spooky U.K. Phillips 6006 045 1970

No need to waste your time or my space telling you all about Dusty Springfield here. This was my last fave record by her and is probably also my fave by her! The idea of having both the A and B side as covers of hits by other artists is fairly novel in itself, but being Dusty she pulls them both off.

Her reading of The Rascal's 1967 hit "How Can I Be Sure" works. I've always thought Felix Cavaliere's delivery was a bit "feminine sounding" so who better to cover it than Dusty? Her version is not only vocally stronger it's musically fuller. The accordion has a more distinctly "Left Bank" feel and like all of her records the backing is strong. You can almost bet there were some heavy players on the session. On the flip we have her take of The Classics IV's 1968 hit "Spooky" (and also covered in the U.K. by Gary Walker and The Rain as Polydor 56237 in Feb. '68). If any of you've ever seen the film "Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels" you can attest to Dusty's versions power when it slots in nicely in one particular scene. The mild/muted keys and the softened almost Stax/Atlantic style horns (playing what almost sounds like the riff from "Ninety Nine And A Half (Won't Do)") combined with her sultry delivery make this one of her best performances, subtle but still great.

Both sides have been on a host of Dusty CD compilations so neither is terribly hard to find and I'm certain they're both available on iTunes.
"How Can I Be Sure":


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Generation Me

One Man's Musings On His Youthful Appreciation of Generation X

As a young mod growing up in suburban Monroe Township, N.J. circa 1980's my two best friends were punks. We all shared a lot of each other's musical tastes. My late friend Scott "Rudie" Rosinski's weekly predilection for religiously taping a late night (Wednesday's I think?) punk rock show on a predominantly heavy metal college station (WSOU perhaps?) led him to discovering a track that blew my mind when he played it to me the next day after school. Jokingly scoffing at my obsession with The Who's "My Generation" he said "Here's something better..." and proceeded to play me "Your Generation" by Generation X (sadly I'd never get the opportunity to turn him onto Sham 69's "Whose Generation") as we walked walked "downtown" to nearby Jamesburg. I can still remember blasting it on his tiny/tinny boom box, no doubt probably being chased by some heavies on the way (always a possibilty as Jamesburg was the armpit of the universe, rife with knuckle dragging headbanging low life's who loved to beat people up) . Feeling vibrantly rebellious we played it over and over again as we grabbed a slice of pizza and a Coke.... "the end must justify the means and your generation don't mean a thing to me". Powerful stuff to a bunch of 15 year old's who were pretty much ostracized for dressing "different" and in full "rebel without a brain" mode. We'd heard of them but knew nothing of them and set about buying stuff by them. We discovered they were now (then) called Gen X. Rudie bought their latest single "Dancing With Myself" with lead singer Billy Idol looking sinister while a "Lolita" like girl posed provocatively , I opted for the less risque Gen X EP.

When Gen X broke up Billy Idol became a solo "star" and"Dancing with Myself" was re-released as a solo single in both the U.K. and the U.S. It did little till MTV aided in the launching of his solo career with the much despised "Rebel Yell", which became a monster hit, enabling yet another crack at "Dancing With Myself"which after it's third try, became a hit. Never one to pass up on the mod credo of their "I did it first" ethos I took pleasure in revelling to my classmates that I was indeed there first (well not really, I mean Generation X had been making records since 1977) but like some guy from Woking sang once "don't forget you saw it here first".

The only good thing was that Billy's mega stardom got the re-release of the first Generation X LP in the States with all the cuts that did not grace the U.K. LP and in 1983 I wore the grooves off of it till I'd inadvertently left it on the roof of my car one morning before school (with my lunch, losing both forever). It was chock full of angst ridden anthems that struck me as being just as "mod" as most of the band's I was listening to like Secret Affair, The Chords or the Purple Hearts etc. "100 Punks", "Day By Day", "Your Generation", "Wild Youth", "Kiss Me Deadly" , "Promises, Promises"and "Gimme Some Truth". It wasn't until a VERY clued in classmate/co-worker (at McDonald's) named Mark Andrews informed me that "Gimme Some Truth" was in fact a slightly lyrically altered version of a John Lennon track. Mark was one of the rare breed of guys from Jamesburg who actually had long hair and a moustache who not only was NOT a knuckle dragger but was a friendly, open minded guy who liked a vast spectrum of music and was not remotely interested in kicking the shit out of anyone. That blew me away, and still does. The whole ethos of the punk rock "blank generation" was distaste for rock n' rollers who my pal Larry Grogan would refer to in the mid 80's as "wretched excess". And here they were covering a John Lennon track, granted Lennon didn't really fit with the wretched excess gang but he was firmly part of the old guard who in our young eyes "boring old farts". "Promises Promises" addressed this directly with lines like "we started out with guitars and hate, our heads in the clouds we could hardly wait....our hair was short, we said what we thought, never be scared, never be bought", "do you remember their promises, promises, I doooo.." and the classic line "never sell out like they did". Some non-punk rock friends loving embraced Billy Idol and went to see him play a college gig in 1983. I went along as well, it was cheap and there was nothing else to do and having seen the Vapors at the same university it was familiar ground (we had tickets to see The Professionals there too but a near fatal car crash cancelled the rest of the tour). It was awful. I watched and listened as he and his band bludgeoned a smattering of Generation X songs like "Ready Steady Go" and "Kiss Me Deadly" with heavy metal guitar pyrotechnics and his bad Elvis crooner voice when he wasn't shrieking like some L.A. metal act. In between songs I'd managed to squirm close to the stage . After bragging to my punk friends I was going to pogo and gob on him if he played any Generation x numbers, a threat I did not carry out, I did one better. In the silence in between numbers I yelled with all of the air that my angst ridden 16 year old lungs could propel "Billy, do you remember your promises promises?". His back was to the audience and his head spun round almost Linda Blair "Exorcist"-style in my direction trying to suss out who dared quote one of his songs that now was all too embarrassingly indicative of him now. I yelled again "Well? Do you?" and our eyes locked. He lifted an enraged middle finger at me and glared before again turning his back assuming a Christ-time arms out stance and the band plowed into some god awful tailor made for MTV watching twits number. I was in heaven. I'd called Billy Idol's bluff and pissed him off and got the finger and a "if looks could kill" grimace in return to acknowledge the depth of the wound my words had stirred. 27 years later I feel like sort of a twat. I mean the guy was trying to make a living, but you know what, his music was great, then he went to shit and sold his soul, so *uck him. It wasn't like I was the world's biggest Generation X fan, but unlike 3/4's of those '79 mod bands I can still play that first Generation x LP and enjoy almost every minute of it (except that heavy metal guitar solo on "Youth, Youth, Youth").

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Class of '67 British Psych-Pop Legends!

MARMALADE-I See The Rain/Cry U.K. CBS 2948 1967
One of the most brilliant British 60's pop/psychedelic singles came in the form of September 1967's "I See The Rain" by Scottish harmony wonders Marmalade. How this number never topped the charts is one of the great crimes of the 1960's. The band's precision harmonies and the funky "Hey Joe" style licks (it is alleged that Hendrix called the number "the best English record of 1967") and some tasty phasing on the the main guitar riff giving it that "sound bending technique" gives this one high marks in my book. And it featured an (uncredited) Graham Nash playing guitar!! But as mentioned, it went nowhere, it did however chart in Holland. I seem to recall the Gap using it in a strange TV commercial some years back where Dennis Hopper and Christina Ricci play chess outside by a pool (it was actually directed by the Coen brothers, the other one featured The Beach Boy's "Hang Onto You Ego", this was the 90's when briefly, there were some "with it" people picking tunes out for commercials). It's flip "Cry(The Shoob Dororie Song)" is fairly disposable pop with Hollies like harmonies and a distinctly Dylan impersonating lead vocal, interesting only for the twangy Merseybeat-ish guitar solo though otherwise utterly forgettable, esp. with a monster like "I See The Rain" on the topside"!
Luckily the A-side has been reissued in many places, namely their CD compilation "I See the Rain:The CBS Years" and warranted inclusion on Rhino's "Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond, Vol. 1" set.
Below: Marmalade promote "I See The Rain" on Dutch TV 1967

Ricci & Hopper plug Gap white shirts with a little help from Marmalade: