Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tony Colton's Debut

TONY COLTON-Lose My Mind/So Used To Loving You U.K. Decca F.11879 1964

Here kids we have a debut 45 by the legendary U.K. singer/song writer Tony Colton (whom with Ray Smith was responsible for writing such tracks as Zoot Money's "Big Time Operator", The Shotgun Express "I Could Feel The Whole World Turn 'Round" and The Merseybeat's "I Stand Accused", among others).  Tony is best known for his 3 hard hitting r&b 45's on Pye, but before those he released a solitary 7" on Decca.

Like many other subsequent releases Tony's vocals are a perfect blend of British 60's beat and the Mose Allison/King pleasure inspired tones of Georgie Fame.  "Lose My Mind" is a perfect example of this sort of thing and the caterwauling of The Breakaways (presumably) on backing vocals (they sang on early Georgie Fame releases) drive Georgie Fame comparison home.  And yes there's a groovy little Animal's style organ solo.  The number has a "call and response" feel to it and reminds me of 60's British beat groups like The Zephyrs or The Untamed who were adept at playing r&b as well. I can't for the life of me tell you what the flip is like, apologies!

"Lose My Mind" has been reissued on the CD compilation "New Rubble Volume Three: Watch Your Step".

Hear "Lose My Mind":

Monday, November 29, 2010

Will the last Manfred out please turn the lights off....

MIKE VICKERS-"I Wish I Were A Group Again" U.K. Columbia SX6180 LP 1967

Side One:
1.Matthew & Son
2. Semi Detached Suburban Mr. James
3. Waterloo Sunset
4. Proper Charles
5. Pretty Flamingo
6.On A Carousel
7. D.D.D. (Dead Beat, Dead Pan, Dead Cert)

Side Two:
1. Sunshine Superman
2. Morgan-A Suitable Case For Treatment
3. Daydream
4. Puff Adder
5. Monday Monday
6. Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear
7. On The Brink

Mike Vickers is a man who wears a coat of many colors: original Manfred Mann guitarist, A&R man for EMI, arranger and producer extraordinaire, composer and the beat goes on. He left Manfred Mann in 1966 and by 1967 he had released his debut LP.  Long before the likes of The Mike Flowers Pops (remember their 15 minutes in the 90's?) Mike's album was, and still is, a kitsch classic.  Utilizing a selection of interpretation's of "easy" versions of then contemporary standards alongside a smattering of his own compositions, "I Wish I Were A Group Again" is slice of 1967 documenting when hip met camp.  What is interesting about it is that Vickers was a 25 year old former member of a pop group, not an old school composer or arranger capitalizing on the "young sound" like Enoch Light or Tony Hatch.

The album opens with a cheeky version of Cat Steven's first big smash, the social commentary ode to the worker bee drone "Matthew And Son" utilizing an array of female and male choral voices, jangling piano strings (Lalo Schifrin style) and flutes.  His ex-band mates most current hit "Semi Detached Suburban Mr. James" is next, following the same formula (as do most tracks on the LP). "Proper Charles", a composition by Vickers follows the then vaguely hip-for-five-seconds 1920's trad jazz trend (ala The New Vaudeville Band), ack.  The Manfred's "Pretty Flamingo", The Hollie's "On A Carousel" and Ray Davie's "Waterloo Sunset" receive pretty much the same treatment.

Side Two's version of Donovan's first "electric" hit "Sunshine Superman" is amazing.  Layer upon layers of vocals are interwoven among flutes, those plucked piano strings, muted trumpets and an interesting part where a male vocalist recites "Milkman,postman, batman,he-man, beggar man etc" almost ad libbing till it's time for the "solo" whereupon the vocals just chant "Dononvan-Donovan" to the tune's melody.  Brilliant stuff.  An interesting version of the theme from "Morgan-A Suitable Case For Treatment" is next with flute, tuba and some regal sounding trumpet that's half jazzy, half kitschy.  The Loving Spoonful's "Daydream" is next, pass.  "Puff Adder" is a Vickers original highly reminiscent of some of the other jazzy Manfred Mann pieces like "The Abominable Snow Man", though a tad more "Steptoe And Son" than Mingus!  A version of the Mamas and Papas hit "Monday Monday" is next and it's a tad too Ray Conniff Singers for my liking. Randy Newman's hit for Alan Price, "Simon Smith And His amazing Dancing Bear" is next with it's "ba-ba-ba-ba's" and tandem saxophone/xylophone with jazzy punctuations in between some slightly off key vocals the sound like they were recorded by a mike down the hall.  "On The Brink" closes the LP.  It had previously been released as a single (coupled with "Puff Adder") in August 1965  as Columbia DB 7657.  Well known to lots of soul types (though I'm not sure why)where it was "covered up" on the Northern Soul scene and retitled "Boogaloo Investigator" by the Matt Parsons Organization.  Yeah I know don't ask me I'm just passing on what I've read.  How in the you-know-what can Northern types dance to this?  Anyway it's one of my faves on the album with it's keyboards and horns playing what sounds like double time and then sped up. Very catchy!

The LP has been reissued on CD by EMI and is still, luckily available.

George Harrison, Mike, George Martin and Macca 1968

Hear "On The Brink" (and tell me if YOU can dance to it):

November's Picks

1. The Cigarettes-"They're Back Again, Here They Come"
A spunky classic '79 mod number from one of the lesser known bands of the era.  Far more punk rock in it's delivery with Johnny Rotten aping lead vocals. The message about the rise of xenophobic fascists still resonates today as we're surrounded by xenophobic racists. From "This is Mod Volume One".

2. The Greenhornes-"Saying Goodbye"
I'm rarely impressed by anything that has been recorded in the past 20 years so when my pal Bob Woj hipped me to this I was blown away at how "mod" it sounded and completely alien to anything else I'd ever heard by these guys before.  Downloaded from iTunes.

3. The Boomtown Rats-"I Never Loved Eva Brown"
Cheeky and almost like something out of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" Modest Bob (or is it Sir Bob?) and Co.'s campy "rock opera" about Adolf and Eva never fails to amuse with it's hysterical lyrics and brilliantly intricate musical delivery. From their "Tonic For the Troops" LP/CD.

4. Dantalian's Chariot-"Recapture The Thrill"
One of the "lost tracks" from Zoot Money and Andy Summer's psychedelic/post r&b combo.  Simple, acoustic and mellow without any of the freak out/mind numbing factors involved in their sole single "Madman Running Through The Fields". From their now out of print LP excellent "Chariot Rising", but I found all the tracks on YouTube!!

5. Marvin Gaye-"No Good Without You Baby"
For 25+ years I've always wanted to hear where The Birds (and everyone who covered their version) got this number from and my friend Chaz came through recently with a CD-R of two of Marvin's 60's LP's and obliged.  Though not as powerful as The Birds cover, the original is still a classic slice of mod friendly Motown, amazing!

6. The Barracudas-"Summer Fun"
No matter what time of the year it is if I'm playing this number I can't help but think of the last day of tenth grade and hitting the beach with a gang of friends as this number blasted from a boom box (well they weren't "boom boxes" then, more like a portable cassette player w/ one speaker).  Infectious stuff. From their LP?CD "Drop Out With The Barracudas".

7. Joe Jackson-"Don't Ask Me"
Back when I was 15 I thought Joe Jackson ranked right up there with The Jam and the Specials or Secret Affair.  And why not?  Skinny ties, vintage suits, short hair and rocking songs with one of New Wave's greatest bass players in the form of one Graham Maby. "Don't Ask Me" was the b-side to the equally cool 1979 45 "One More Time" and is driven by Maby's typically cool, speedy bass line and some mean harp blowing by J.J. before he lost the plot with "Jumpin' Jive".

8. Christopher Colt-"Virgin Sunrise"
From one of the latter Bam Caruso "Rubble" volumes ("Rubble Volume 17: A Trip In A Painted World" to be precise) comes this Eastern flavored 1968 Decca 7" ditty with raga style guitars, Middle Eastern style guitar melodies and a vocal melody reminiscent of a Muslim muezzin's prayer call (one day "Anorak Thing" is going to explore who started this trend in British 60's psych records).  Perfect Autumn music:

"I feel the breath of the morning, tops of the trees are warm with the sun, everything round me is waking chimney's breathing the day has begun, turn down the road on a carpet of leaves hands in pockets and breath like smoke, noise of the living is waking around me like a day in the past when the world awoke....."

9. The Eggy-"You're Still Mine"
This freaky little gem from 1969 was unearthed by the Bam Caruso guys who had reinvented themselves as "Strange Things Are Happening" and issued their "Circus Days Vol. One" LP/CD compilation with this number that provides a detail of split second when freakbeat and bovver boy/glam collided.

10. Syd Barrett-"Wouldn't You Miss Me"
The highlight of the "Opel" LP/CD of lost Syd Barrett cuts, this version is far superior to the previously released "Dark Globe" in my book.  Classic, simplistic solo Syd.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

A selection of European Picture Sleeve 45's for Dave Davies brief "solo" career in the 60's:


A well kiffed looking Dave, Holland


Germany 70's issue

Germany 60's issue




Monday, November 22, 2010

Flower Power!

THE SYN-Flowerman/14 Hour Technicolour Dream U.K. Deram DM 145 1967

The Syn were a five piece who garnered quite a bit of notice with stints at the Marquee club.  You can hardly see an advert for the club in '67 without failing to notice a Syn gig listed.  The book "London Live" by  Tony Bacon chronicles the number of Marquee appearances by band and The Syn according to it, played there a 36 staggering times (even The who with their "Maximum R&B" residency only managed 29 gigs there)!  Like most of their peers The Syn embraced "flower power" head on.  Both sides of this single make it quite clear which side they're on.

This was The Syn's second and final single and it was released in September 1967.  Both sides were group originals. The line-up for the single was: Steve Nardelli (vocals), Peter Banks (guitar/vocals), Chris Squire (bass/vocals), Andrew Jackman (keyboards/vocals) and Gunnar Hakonarson (drums).

"Flowerman" grew (nyuck!) out of a band stage favorite originally titled "Flowerman Opera" (the band were found of using the word "Opera" as they'd also had another cut they did live called "Gangster Opera").  Like The Attack's "Neville Thumbcatch" (Decca F 12725 January 1968) it's subject professes a love of all things green and flowery.  Not so much your peace and love type number but a Kinks style romp about a fella who "make(s) a living yes by giving attention to rhododendrons".  All good fun!  "14 Hour Technicolour Dream" commemorates the famous Alexandra Palace "happening" of  April, 29, 1967 that saw The Syn play amongst a host of other acts of the "class of '67".  The track is one of The Syn's best in my estimation, putting to use their array of vocal talents for some tight harmonies, piercing guitar bursts and strong vocals by Nardelli who sings about the event (name checking super groupie Suzi Creamcheese in the process).

Both sides have been reissued on The Syn "box set" "Original Syn". "14 Hour Technicolour Dream" has appeared on both Decca/Deram's "The Psychedelic Scene" and Rhino's essential box set "Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969".  "Flowerman" has not, to my knowledge been reissued on CD anywhere else.

Hear "Flowerman":


Hear "14 Hour Technicolour Dream":


Mega rare French pressing

The equally scarce German pressing

In Review: An Introduction To Syd Barrett

(Octopus courtesy of M)

An In Introduction To Syd Barrett CD EMI/Capitol

We here at "Anorak Thing" are easily exited by remasters, mono mixes, new stereo mixes etc.  There have been a slew of these resissues in the past few years that sound brilliant: the Mono mix of Pink Floyd's 1st album, the Stereo reissue of The Move's debut LP, the Mono mix of the Small Faces second LP on Immediate, the recent Beatle's British Mono box set and the Mono/Stereo mixes two CD set of David Bowie's debut LP.  So it should be no surprise that we here at "Anorak Thing"  should be all hot an excited at the new EMI CD compilation of Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd material.  Lovingly remixed (on certain tracks) and fully remastered under the supervision of David Gilmour the results of this 18 track CD is stupendous to say the least (plus one bonus download tune available for those who have purchased the CD of the previously unreissued Syd solo track "Rhamadan").  And you even get the lyrics to every track included in a little booklet (another reason why you should buy the actual CD and not the download).  This made for one or two lyrical surprise I can tell you!  Being a total anorak I'm going to go through this one with a fine tooth comb.

1. "Arnold Layne"
I don't notice much different here from the mix that came out on a "bonus" CD E.P. of the first three Pink Floyd singles back in '97 when there was a 30th anniversary Mono edition of the 1st album issued with this 6 cut "mini CD".  There are faint differences, for instance Syd's guitar is a bit more up in the mix bringing to light his "Zippo lighter" technique before and during Rick's Farfisa solo.

2. "See Emily Play"
Again I'm not hearing much, Syd's vocals are a bit more up front but other than that....

3."Apples And Oranges"
This is the first time I've heard this number in Stereo.  I never had the privilege of owning the original UK 45 and my French copy was beyond unplayable and my previous airings were on the Dutch EMI LP "Masters Of Rock" that I bought in 1985 and the Mono mix on the above mentioned "First Three singles" CD E.P.  The first thing that's apparent to me is how much of the track is dominated by Syd's multi tracked guitar bits, quite amazing considering all those dreadful "Syd stories" had him "completely mad" by this point in time.  Rick's organ really soars during the break and I've realised for the first time that bar the wiggy guitar work how much this track resembles The Moody Blues.

4. "Matilda Mother"
This is the alternate version that featured lyrics nicked from a poem by Hilaire Belloc and alternate lyrics by Syd.  It's in actuality the "original version" as it was recorded first and intended for the first album but because the rights could not be secured from Belloc's estate at the time of it's release it did not see the light of day until the 40th anniversary Mono box set reissue of the LP in 2007.  How it differs from the that version is that it's longer, the vocals and guitar work are also a bit forward in the remix.  The extended ending goes on for about a minute longer resembling a Doors track from their debut LP with Syd just noodling around on the E and G strings before Rick throws in some churchy/Ray Manzarek style bits.

5. "Chapter 24"
This track bears little difference to my ears from previous versions, the vocals, as is the case with everything I've heard on this CD, are more up front and Rick's piano is a bit up in the mix as well giving it a "chamber music orchestra" feel.

Maybe it was the toxic air I breathed whilst driving to work when I first played this number (passing numerous sewage treatment plants, two to be exact) but I immediately noticed there is a slight delay in the double tracking in the vocals so that the Syd singing comes out of your right speaker is just ever so slightly followed by Syd's double tracked vocal from your left.  Trippy!  Rick's Johanna thumping is more easily discernible sounding like a piano lesson in a big empty Cambridge house added with the old pump organ, in fact I never realised how lost this track would be without his array of keyboard work!

7. "Terrapin"
One of Syd's most brilliant bits from his debut solo LP "The Madcaps Laughs", simple, unsure, awkward at times but nothing short of enjoyable.  I can't find much here different except maybe the guitar is a bit more "up" in the mix?

8. "Love You"
I've always viewed this as more of a throw away track, not unlistenable but not one I'd play all the time like "Octopus" or my all time Syd fave "Love Song" that seems to pre-empt Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance.  There's not much noticeably different here. It is however a typically Syd number in respect to it's completely out there lyrics.

9. "Dark Globe"
This one's always been a bit hard for me to hear sometimes.  It's sad and it's tragic especially if you read too much into the lyrics that seem to be a plea for help if you choose to interpret them in that way:

"Won't you miss me, wouldn't you miss me at all?"

10. "Here I Go"
Syd's Tele is way up in the mix on this remix.  You can really get a feel where Jerry Shirely was trying to desperately play along with Syd's ever changing-about-to stop-any-second delivery!  Truly a case of someone earning their "fee" to play on a session.  This number always reminded me of a drunk guy fronting a cheezy wedding band trio who aren't familiar with the song he wants to play and him making up the number as it went along. I was partly correct by all accounts I've read on the session(s).

This one's tasty, starts out with Syd's bare, single tracked acoustic guitar before the take dissolves and then it's starts up "proper".  Gilmour has done a fantastic job making these solo LP tracks breathe new air and this track is a shining example bringing Syd's gobbledygook lyrics to the fore (they're actually a William Burrough's style cut up of multiple pieces of poetry and children's story bits as pieced together brilliantly by Rob Chapman in his thoroughly essential book "Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head"). There's a completely different vocal take of Syd's brief "spoken word" part in the middle where he recites "isn't it good to be lost in the wood.." sounding almost like he's reading an official testimony here instead of the sing-song manner on the original take.

12. "She Took A Long Cool Look"
I'm going to own up, I never liked this track.  It's one of, sadly, a preponderance of examples where Syd's solo album "genius" is merely a fine line between "cutting room floor crap".  No remixing can shape this up.

13. "If It's In You"
As I mentioned above, some tracks just don't cut it from "solo Syd".  For the past 26 years this number has made me cringe the same as the very first time every time I hear this. The dreadful attempts at Syd trying to hit the opening vocal notes are both embarrassing and painful to hear every time.  Are they a record of how out there Syd was and how musically useless he was becoming?  Possibly. For completists only.

14. "Baby Lemonade"
Not much difference to be noted here other than that there's some more noticeable bass work/organ on the parts preceding the vocals.  More nonsensical lyrics from Syd only this time they're wrapped up in easily listenable vocals from the lad and as usual Jerry Shirely's workman-like drumming holds the whole balloon down.

15. "Dominoes"
This remix sounds vastly different from what I'm used to, the organ is more pronounced, the backwards bits in the background seem to come in earlier and Syd's vocals sound more downtrodden (if that's at all possible?!).  I've always enjoyed this track and it's even better now!

16. "Gigolo Aunt"
This track was one of my faves when I first bought the Harvest double packaging of Syd's two solo LP's back in 1984, I always thought it went on a bit too much but by then Syd was, by all accounts, coming close to the end of his musical AND mental tether. I was dismayed to discover y reading the lyrics he sang "thunderbird shale", for the past 26 years I'd always thought he was singing "thunderbirch ale" which I've long thought would've made a great name for birch beer flavored, high alcohol content mircobrew!!

17. "Effervescing Elephant"
Trivia time here kids, this is the earliest known Syd Barret composition (it was written in his mid teens) AND it's the only Syd solo track that features a "session musician" (outside Jerry Shirely and his ex-band mates) in the form of a tuba player.  Syd's child friendly lyrics and the night time "jungle" sound affects never fail to tickle me.

18. "Bob Dylan Blues"
Another Syd solo track that's composition dates from his pre-Pink Floyd days this number lay in the archives till discovered by David Gilmour a few years back.  Jealously written about Dylan who was then taking 1965 Britain by storm it's perfectly tongue firmly in cheek.  Why it was never used on his solo LP cringe worthy bits like "If It's In You", "She Took A Long Cool Look" or "Masie" were is beyond me.

The bonus point!!:
Long discussed in writing and never heard on the bootleg circuit (to my knowledge anyway, though for quite some time "Lanky Pt. 1" was being circulated  around as "Rhamadan" till 1988's "Opel" came out with "Lanky.." and put all that business to rest) comes this download only track that you can get if you purchased the CD (if you get it via download from iTunes it's only available if you buy the whole bloody album!).  It took me a bit to figure out how because it's written in tiny teeny print on the back of the CD case that pretty much requires a microscope.  Anyway to get it, place your purchased CD in your drive, bring up your web browser and type in:

They're ask you a few questions which you fill out and BAM then Syd's your uncle, for free!

The track itself is more of a long percussive jam that wouldn't have been at all out of place in a groovy early 70's horror film or soft core Euro porn flick(VERY reminiscent of "Vampryos Lesbos").  It's not as unlistenable as many have described it but I can also see why it never made it onto either of Syd's solo LP's, though I do find it unusual that it didn't make it on the Syd box set from way back because, well did we really need another version of "If It's in You"?  I rest my case.  Anyway at a staggering 20:18 it's pretty much bass, drums, percussion and organ/piano/Mellotron in a "free form jam" with the sound affects of a motorcycle tearing off .  Odd thing though, there's no guitar or vocals on it which leads me to ask: how is this a "Syd" track?

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Mojos Last Stand

THE MOJOS-Unitil My Baby Comes Home Again/Seven Park Avenue U.K. Liberty LBF 15097 1968

The Mojos were just another Liverpool band who by some miracle hung on by the skin of their teeth enduring personnel changes and retaining a record contract with Decca for four years before finding themselves out in the cold at the close of 1967. It is often stated in various places that the band broke up in '67, but as you can see by this label scan that was not entirely correct. By some grace and providence their got a one off deal with Liberty which resulted in this single which came out in June 1968.

"Until My Baby Comes Home" bears no resemblance whatsoever to the beat group who scored a minor hit with "Everything's Al' Right" in March 1964 (Decca F 11853), probably because it was four years later and The Mojos FINALLY got "with it", unlike their last Decca releases.  It opens with a melodic yet blistering guitar and some funky bass and electronic piano noodling.  The lead vocalist is purely Steve Marriott influenced.  The flipside, "Seven Park Avenue" is equally cool, repeating the same type of electric piano driven number with less freakbeat guitars with the lyrics concerning a boarder in a rooming house falling in love with his landlady.  The bass and electric piano interplay provides a good groove on this one that reminds me of The Zombies when they really got cooking/swinging on say, "It's Alright With Me" or "Indication".

Strangely only "Until My Baby Comes Home" has seen a reissue and that was on Psychic Circle's "Mix A Fix:U.K. Floor Fillers Volume Two" CD a few years back, which I find odd that such a brilliant track would stay relatively unknown for so long.

Both sides appeared on the 2009 RPM CD Mojos singles retrospective "Everything's Alright". AND "Until My Baby Comes Home" is on the 2012 RPM 3 CD set "Looking Back".
Reader and original Mojo on this record Anthony House contacted us and wrote:
"Hi ,
 Just to put the record straight . The line up of the Mojos in 1968 was , Stu James ( vocals , piano , guitar ) Duncan Campbell ( vocals , bass ) Eddie Harnett (vocals , guitar ) Tony House ( drums ) . This was the line up that recorded the Mojos Liberty release in 1968 at Bob Potter Studios in Camberley , Surrey UK.

Kind regards

Tony House"
MANY thanks Mr. House!!!

Hear "Seven Park Avenue":

Hear "Till My Baby Comes Home":

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Poet's Debut

THE POETS-Now We're Thru'/There Are Some U.K. Decca F 11995 1964

The Poets hailed from Glasgow, Scotland and were the first Scottish "beat" group to make the U.K. Top 40, this single (August 1964). This was their debut single and sadly their only trip into the charts (the single reached #22). This enabled them to appear on all of the major British pop TV shows to plug their hit and even got them filmed for the cutting edge U.S. TV show "Shindig", who routinely filmed British bands in London for use on their show. The single actually even garnered a U.S. release on dynoVox label (dynoVox 201, August 1964). The group went through numerous line up changes throughout their brief six single history (1964-1967) .  The personnel for this 45 were: George Gallacher (vocals), Hume Patton (lead guitar), Tony Miles (rhythm guitar), John Dawnson (bass guitar) and Alan Weir (drums).

The dynoVoice U.S. pressing

Most 60's beat groups have pretty uninspiring tales of their claims to fame but nobody's can beat that of The Poets. In September 1964 Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham flew up to Glasgow (how classy of him not to do it by bus, train or Comer van) to marry his 16 year old girlfriend Sheila Klein (16 was not the age of consent in England I'm guessing).  Whilst in the Glasgow airport he spotted a photo of them decked out in the frilly shirts and dark suits with an article in a local paper on The Poets, whom he duly investigated. Loogy signed them up ASAP after audtioning them and brought them down to London to record this smashing debut which he is credited with producing.

"Now We're Thru" first came to my attention in late 1984 or early 1985 when I scored a copy of the amazing Decca double LP comp "Hard Up Heroes" at Bleeker Bob's where it was nestled amongst my other first introductions to the likes of The Birds and Zoot Money.  It struck me immediately with it's monster echo and hypnotic over-amplified acoustic 12 string (courtesy of lead guitarist Hume Patton) and deliberately drawn out pauses on certain words. Lyrically it's an interesting number, like many 60's beat records it's a "boy loses girl" scenario only this time around the boy is actually acquiescing to losing "her" to another and suggesting she move on!  It's also one of the few 60's records that I think benefited from Oldham's studio ineptitude because it's possible that his desire to be Phil Spector and the resulting over use of echo gave this record it's charm.  And it's even a group original written by Gallacher, Patton and Myles, not many 60's beat groups got that option for their debut! The flip side, "There Are Some" isn't very interesting.  It's a slow piece with some piano, not much there really.  The only highpoint of the record are some interesting drum rolls which were actually the work of a session musician!

Both sides were also included on the dodgy "In Your Tower" CD comp of their material and the hard to get but much better Poets CD comp "Scotland's No. 1 Group".  Strangely neither track surfaced on any of the Decca/Deram "Scene.." CD compilations. In 2011 both sides were compiled for CD on The Poet's "Wooden Spoon:The Singles 1964-1967" which is, just that (no bonus cuts unlike "Scotland's #1 Beat Group").

***Special thanks to Lenny Helsing (Scotland's foremost 60's music expert) for his invaluable information that made this piece possible**********************************************************

Hear "Now We're Thru" :


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Defence Of The Mods From Merton Park......

The Merton Parkas.  Three words that are sure to start sniggering and guffawing in a room full of old mods, like mentioning The Mighty Bosstones around some real skinheads.

The Merton Parkas were slagged off back then ('79) by their peers.  I'm not quite sure why.  Sure "You Need Wheels" is a pretty dreadful record but beyond that I think the band's material is a pretty nice alternative to all the Jam aping "punks in parkas" bands of '79.  Brett "Buddy" Ascott of The Chords observed:

" I don't blame the Merton Parkas, I blame the people who bought it.  I mean come on-'You Need Wheels', that was really our 'Anarchy In The UK'?" ( from "Mod: A Very British Phenomenon" by Terry Rawlings)

I liked the mix of Fender Rhodes (and Hammond towards the end) on their stuff and the up tempo blokey feel of their music, like a sort of mod frat party band that liked Kilburn and The Highroads in addition to Georgie Fame and Motown.  I thought they looked cool as *uck on the cover of their LP on Brighton beach in their suits, hell they even turned me onto the concept of wearing red socks!

For me The Merton Parkas are a magical slice of my "defining moments of mod".  For Xmas 1981 I got their 1st LP.  The three guys I hung out with weren't mods, two were punks, the other did his own thing but they all sort of embraced the mod thing for one shining moment. We all had narrow ties and solid color shirts and parkas with obligatory badges (well only one guy had a parka the other two had US Army field jackets and I had some dark olive green cotton twill thing that looked like a cross between a pea coat and a field jacket, coated in WAY too many badges and patches).  We all trooped down to our friend's house (always our meeting place because his parents never seemed to mind us hanging around playing music till all hours) and his mom took us all to see "Ghost Story" the night after Xmas and we all got kitted out (another chum even wore his grandad's old vinyl black porkpie).  He and I had both gotten black suits for Xmas, granted they were two button but hey we were 15 what did we know?!  Our "host" had just gotten the Lambrettas "Beat Boys In The Jet Age" LP for Xmas and he made a cassette tape of tracks from it along with stuff from my Merton Parkas LP, Secret Affair's "Glory Boys", The Special's 1st LP, stuff from "Absolutely" by Madness and the "Odds Bods Mods & Sods" compilation LP (a big fave with my punk rock inclined crowd).  After coming back from the movies for some odd reason we took his boom box out to the curb and danced in the street beneath a streetlight.  No booze, no drugs, no chicks, just 4 morons in their early teens bouncing around without a care in the world.  And when I hear The Merton Parka's version of  "Tears Of A Clown" or "When Will it Be" I'm a 14 year old on that corner, under that street light, jumping around like a fool with my friends (two of whom are now all no longer with us).

Parka Power!  Lower Binfield, NJ

Okay it's no "Millions Like Us" but it's the only Merton Parkas clip on YouTube.....

Cool Foreign E.P.'s Part Twenty Two

THE HOLLIES-Stop Stop Stop/It's You/Running Through The Night/I Can't Let Go E.P. Portugal Parlophone LEMP 1253 1966

Kenny Lynch Rocks Out

KENNY LYNCH w/ The Laurie Jay Combo-Shake And Scream/Harlem Library HMV POP 1260 1964

Kenny Lynch (O.B.E.) needs no introduction. Most of us here are familiar with his "hit" "My Own Two Feet" and his co-authoring numbers recorded by The Small Faces and The Game (as well as producing the first two singles by the latter). Most of his records are decidedly "square" because he came from an era that owed more to Matt Monroe than to Cliff and The Shadows. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones pretty much laid waste to "entertainers" like him and this 45 was no doubt a vain attempt by him to score some sort of "credibility" with "the kids".

"Shake And Scream" (complete with fake audience sounds dubbed in) is Kenny's cash in on Merseybeat.  It sounds a tad similar to the beat group fave "Twist And Shout", not in the tune itself but how it's structured. "Harlem Library" is clearly influenced by The Rolling Stone's interpretation's of Chuck Berry and American rock n' roll.  The lyrics are fairly ludicrous:

"I said no smokin' you're on private property..... you're not at a party Mister you're in Harlem library.."

What makes it exciting is the musical Rolling Stone's aping and the truly rocking groove that the 45 cuts!

"Harlem Library" has been reissued on the excellent EMI licensed Zonophone CD compilation "Take My Tip: 25 British Mod Artifacts From The EMI Vaults".

Hear "Harlem Library":

Ten Power Pop Records You've Probably Never Heard Of.....

1. HELIUM ANGEL-"Early Clue To The New Direction"
I'd heard a bit about Helium Angel from some pals in CA and I think back in the 90's one of their members(I believe his name was Blake Ricks?) and I had some correspondance when we were both members of this online forum/slugfest called "The Modslist".  Anyway if my memory serves me well I recall Blake popped in a DJ night I was doing in NYC one night when he was in town from California and handed me this CD.  I have never been a fan of "contemporary" music, but this one really grabbed me.  Helium Angel played power pop in a way that wasn't too '79 mod and wasn't too Brit poppy but somehow bridged both.  Best of the bunch "The Crowd Appears", the best record Oasis never made, the Vapors-like "When The Plane Touched Down" and "Soma Book Of The Dead", the "Daily Nighty" of the late 90's.

2. NOEL COWARD'S GHOST-"Peyote Marching Songs Volume One"
The downside of doing a fanzine back in the 80's/90's (that was a printed magazine that you'd compile on your kitchen table with an Exacto knife, a glue stick, bunch of shrunk down xeroxed article done on a typewriter and Letraset rub on lettering) was that everybody and their brother would send you their 45 or Lp or CD in the hopes that you'd review it.  My fanzine was a 60's modzine, so 9 out of 10 times I'd get something like Stuart Brodian (Google him if you're not from NJ) or some other ick that wasn't the least bit related to my mag.  In the 90's I got this CD, for some reason I played it (I'd usually take a look at the sleeve then either bin it after keeping the jewel case or try pawning it off on a record store).  It reminded me of XTC meets The Cleaners From Venus (Google them too if you know what's good for you), very D.I.Y. but quirky with some good pop hooks.  Fave track: "The Lovely Maiden Voygle" which sounds like a lost Andy Partridge demo from The Dukes of Stratosphear era.  Sadly I can't remember any of the other ones, but I liked them all!

3. THE DENTISTS-"Some People Are On The Pitch.."
Back in the 80's I was Medway mad, any band from Medway (Chatham, Kent, U.K.) I dug from The Milkshakes to The Prisoners to The Daggermen.  The Dentists were from Medway and a friend heard about them when they contacted him through his zine.  On a whim I bought their debut LP in early 1986 (produced by Alan Crockford from The Prisoners, who with his band mate Graham Day had produced their brilliant debut 45/E.P. "Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden(And It's Winter Time") in 1985).  It blew me away instantly.  It was all discordant jangling and slightly out of tune guitars, bash it up production and magical harmonies.  The whole LP gave me this feel of an utterly depressing, bleak place (see The Allisons below) and four guys in bad haircuts with vintage guitars and threads (not the least bit "mod" or "60's") kicking up a racket seemed the only way out.  Briefly reissued on CD then out of print five minutes later, all of the album's tracks were compiled on a U.S. Dentists compilation CD called "Dressed".  Picks of the bunch: the West Coast harmonies meets The Mighty Caesars crunch of "I'm Not the Devil", the absolutely cracking/punchy "Tony Bastable V John Noakes", the morbidly depressing yet rocking "Flowers Around Me" and the somber "Kinder Still" (with a clarinet solo by Graham Day!).  When I met Graham in '88 I inquired about The Dentists enthusiastically and he dismissively replied "What them? They're a bunch of poofs".

4. THE CAVEDOGS-"Joyrides For Shut In's"
One of the best CD/LP's to ever come along on Enigma Records (alongside The Smithereen's "Especially For You") was this one by this short lived Boston trio.  All of my friend's back in the world were raving about them while I was off in the army called up for Oil War I (more on that below) in 1990.  I duly acquired the CD and was blown away. Some of the tracks have the urgency of The Jam before Weller began using layers of guitar overdubs while others show some nice complex pop niceties.  Sadly, so I recall hearing, one of the members did not want to quit his day job as the story went and the band imploded after a well received gig at Maxwell's in Hoboken in 1991.  Faves: The Jam-ish teen angst of "Tayter Country" , The La's meets Smithereens hard edged pop of "What In the World" and the cynical "Proud Land" expressing sentiments of being ashamed at the evil super power that is the U.S.(20 years later the lyrics still work).

5. THE ALLISONS-"Untitled"
As mentioned above, I was in the the U.S. Army during Oil War I in 1990 when my reserve untit was mobilized and I was flung into a godforsaken place called Baytown, Texas.  Baytown was and probably still is the *sshole of the Gulf Coast culturally speaking.  Basically an oil town that skirts Houston, very blue collar, very hard, very economically depressed and most likely to appear on an episode of "Cops".  From this wasteland in 1989 came an untitled CD by four locals (two of whom originated from New Plymouth, New Zealand!) who were obsessed with Rickenbackers, 60's pop and most of all The Smithereens.  This knocked me for a loop when I met their lead singer Karl Teten in a record store that he worked at in the San Jacinto Mall (remember when malls actually had stores that sold music?).  Having spent a small part of my junior and senior years of high school cutting class to go to Smithereen's guitarist Jim Babjak's record store in New Brunswick, NJ it blew me away that these guys in Texas were so musically enamoured of someone I knew in passing.  What knocked me for a loop even more was that these guys put together a band knee deep in redneck/ Lee Greenwood loving Texas playing this sort of music.  I purchased their CD that same day and have had it ever since.  Best bits: the driving jangly/harmony pop of "Wild Wild Rain" (like a cross between Billy Bragg and The Byrds),  the melancholy R.E.M.-eqsue "A Second Coming" and the Stems-like "Sixth Dimension Flower".

6. THE AUTUMN LEAVES-"Treats And Treasures"
Minneapolis, Minnesota's Autumn Leaves have released several CD's, this was their debut and my favorite of the bunch and in fact my favorite of this bunch of ten.  The band had released two singles before numerous line up changes (reflected in this albums multitude of players) which led to some delay in this disc's release. Masterfully produced it displays an array of influences all from the pen of lead singer/guitarist David Beckey at the helm with a host of side men/women.  Best of the bunch are the previously released 45 tracks included on the CD: the psychedelic/freakbeat of  "Magic Red Rain Coat" and it's countrified flip "The Ballad of Plum Tucker" and the "new" tracks the eerie "Phantom Girl Blues" (complete with Syd era Pink Floyd guitar solo), "When I Close My Eyes" (a perfect pastiche of Chapterhouse and  60's pop) and the power chord power-pop tour de force "Every Night" (resplendent with Al Kooper-esque organ licks and lsyers of cool stuff going on).

7. THE LOLLIES-"Taste"
The Lollies were a British trio (two gals, one guy) and this was their sole CD offering.  There's no messing around on this disc, everything is punchy, peppy and at times in-your-face and no space wasted with droning, long drawn out songs or guitar hero pyrotechnics(all but one of the tracks are under 3 minutes). At the same time some tracks are not without a sense of campy humor in the best Bonzo-esque sense with clever lyrics and double entendres.  It's D.I.Y. without the "sounds-like-sh*t" tag that comes with most D.I.Y indie pop. Picks of the litter, the late 70's styled new wavey power pop of "Call The Girls" (with some bleak lyrics, hands down my fave track on the CD from the get go), the saccharine pop sweetness of "Imajinary Boyfriend" and the early XTC-esque (complete w/ hand claps) cleverly titled "Jonestown Mascara".

8. THE JETSET-"There Goes The Neighborhood"
What do you get when the drummer from Secret Affair and a few mates start a label to showcase 60's style pop music in mid 80's Great Britain?  I dunno.  But you DID get The Jetset.  Four British guys who wanted so VERY desperately to be the Pre-Fab Four: Mickey, Peter, Mike and Davey.  They wore matching white stripey trou and dark colored shirts with Beatle boots and even drove around in a Jetset mobile (really just a white Cortina).  After a few 7" releases they released this, their debut long player in 1985.  Though it hasn't held up for me much thanks to the dreadful 80's production and use of very "modern equipment" it's the hooks and the 60's pop sensibilities about it all that still keep the songs snappy.   Lead by guitarist Paul Bevoir (the Brian Wilson of 80's Britain!) the best tracks are catchy  "Lover's Playground", the Monkees aping (sorry) "What Can I Say" and my fave of them all, the jangly but lyrically bleak "kitchen sink" pop of "(And That's The) Good News" that wouldn't have been at all out of place on the Manfred's "Up The Junction" LP.  All of the album's cuts have been scooped up by Cherry Red for a two CD Jetset collection titled "Swings And Roundabouts:The Very Best Of The Jetset".

9. BIFF BANG POW-"Pass The Paintbrush Honey"
Long before Creation records became household names with the likes of Jesus and The Boring Chain , Primal Scream and , yes Oasis, they were a total underground D.I.Y organization run on a shoestring by Alan Magee and some mates.  Obviously British 60's pop art/mod legends The Creation played a large part in both the label name and that of Magee's own band, Biff Bang Pow.  This was their debut release in 1985.  I bought it without ever hearing it believing that anybody who dared call themselves Biff Bang Pow and had an LP sleeve with a cat crawling over vintage gear must be good.  I was not disappointed.  Though the band went on to make plenty of other good long players this one is my favorite.  You will have to excuse me for making the "kitchen sink" reference again but like a great deal of mid 80's British music, this LP seems to ooze the despair and nihilism that was the mid-80's Britain.  Kicking off with the grief stricken jangling/ backwards guitar brilliance of "There Must Be A Better Life" (my fave track on the album) it's full of magic, from the weirdly psychedelic mash-up "A Day Out With Jeremy Chester" to the punchy raga/12 string kitsch of "Colin Dobbins" there isn't a song on this LP that fails to entertain me.  Has it been reissued on CD?  I haven't a *ucking clue.

10. THE SHAZAM-"Godspeed The Shazam"
1999's "Godspeed The Shazam" had everyone drawing comparisons between them and  Cheap Trick, maybe my head is too far up my own crevice to know better but I think this CD owes more to late era /pre-E.L.O. Move stuff and okay there are some VERY Cheap Trick like hooks (on "Super Tuesday" for instance) but I hear a bit of Badfinger, Big Star and Who/Kinks on bits (like on my fave of the bunch "Calling Sydney" which is Ray Davies meets Alex Chilton).  Other thumbs up on the disc go to the glammy boyo rabble-rumble  of  "City Smasher" and cheeky power pop "Are U Receiving".  Kudos to my always-contemporary music concious friend Amy Vonk for turning me onto them in 2000.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jeff Beck Flies Solo

JEFF BECK-Hi Ho Silver Lining/Beck's Bollero U.K. Columbia DB 8151 1967

I find it interesting that upon leaving The Yardbirds in November 1966 (after a brief period where the band was graced with both Beck AND Jimmy Page) Jeff Beck was scooped up as a solo performer by Micky Most who sought to groom him as a pop star. It is somewhat ironic that he would soon attempt the same on the Yardbirds flagging U.K. career less than a year later.

In March 1967 the U.K. was treated to the debut "solo" single by Jeff Beck "Hi Ho Silver Lining" (simultaneously a version by The Attack was issued on Decca F.12578).  It's an interesting departure because, well it's a pop song with orchestration, not something you'd expect from an Elmore James disciple!!  It works, not because of Beck's semi flat vocals but from the orchestration and his nifty little trademark distorted solo.  The flip is the stuff of legends.  Recorded while Beck was still a Yardbird it's an adaptation of Ravel's classical piece "Bolero" with Jimmy page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano and Keith Moon on drums.  While it was no secret that Moon was on drums his presence was kept under wraps as he was under contractual obligations to Robert Stigwood's Reaction label as a member of The Who at the time.  The number is one of those crystalized moments of Sixtie's brilliance where what starts off as just a few players having a laugh in the studio becomes legendary when the product is delivered.  Everyone involved gets their chance to shine and Moon goes absolutely batsh*t during the "rave up". "Hi Ho Silver Lining" gave Beck his first Top Ten "solo" hit and the flip was a precursor to many more "superstar" arrangements, namely The Jeff Beck Group, formed less than a year later.

Jeff Beck, scooterboy?

Both sides were collected on his CD collection "Shape of Things: 60's Groups & Sessions".

Scotland's Jam?!

THE JOLT-I Can't Wait/ Route 66 U.K. Polydor 2059 039 1978

The Jolt were often touted as "Glasgow's Jam".  And why not?  They were a spunky/power-punky three piece on Polydor (the same as the Jam), they wore matching suits, were "mod"/60's influenced, produced by the Jam's first producer Chris Parry AND their second producer Vic Smith (later to become Vic Coppersmith-Heaven).  The difference?  The Jolt did not have a Paul Weller figure to write two and a half minute angst ridden 45 rpm barrages and the U.K. was ready for two 3 pieces "J" bands on Polydor in suits embracing the 60's.

That said The Jolt (Robbie Collins-vocals/guitar, Jim Doaks-bass and Ian Shedden-drums) released some pretty good records. Their debut 45 ("All I Can Do"/"You're Cold") was more akin to early Buzzcocks than The Jam in my estimation. This was their third 45 (the second one being an amphetamine fueled swipe at "Whatcha Gonna do About It" ).  "I Can't Wait" is a great slice of teenage power pop with a stiff driving beat, slashing guitars and throby bass.  Vocally Robbie Collins reminded me a lot of 999's Nick Cash and this number is proof enough for me.  The flip is a 100 mph speed freak version of the standard "Route 66", slightly uninspired but not bad either.

Shortly after this single the band added a fourth member and at the height of the '79 mod "revival" issued an E.P. in June called "Maybe Tonight" that featured a then unreleased Paul Weller composition called "See Saw". The band broke up soon thereafter with drummer Ian Sheddon joining the mod band The Small Hours (who he'd been gigging with) full time.

Both tracks are available on the CD reissue of their sole LP on the Captain Mod label which also adds all of their other non-LP tracks.

Hear "I Can't Wait":


Dreadful Singles By Otherwise Decent Bands Part One........

THE MIRAGE-Mystery Lady/Chicago Cottage Belgium Page One POF 078 1968

A Mirage by any other name.........