Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stray Rays: The Truth

THE TRUTH-I Go To Sleep/Baby You've Got It U.K. Pye 7N.17095 1966

This was the fourth 45 by Frank Ailello and Steven Jameson aka The Truth.  On side "A" we have a fairly normal treatment of one of Ray Davie's most famous cast off's "I Go To Sleep".  Long before his paramour Chrissie Hynde and her band The Pretenders cut a version of it the tune was released in the U.K. first by The Applejacks (Decca F 12216 August 1965) and then by Peggy Lee (with a smoky, jazzy version in September 1965 on Capitol CL 15413). The Truth's version in April 1966 was the third (there would be numerous other U.K. versions before The Pretenders got their mits on it).

Strangely The Truth's version is the most faithful to Ray's original living room demo of all the versions I've heard, right down the plonky Joe Meek-ish piano trill and probably my favorite thanks to a stellar arrangement and its swinging yet rocking delivery. "Baby You've Got It" (not to be confused by the Maurice & The Radiants/Action number of the same name) is by far one of the band's strongest numbers.  From its repetitive gritty main riff and total mod/discotheque '66 feel of dancibility it doesn't let up and the raw vocals by the lads are quite soulful.

"Baby You've Got It" was comped on Sequel's "Freakbeat Freakout" CD. Both sides are also available on the Truth CD collection/compilation "Who's Wrong: Mod Bedlam 1965-1969".

Hear "I Go To Sleep":

Hear "Baby You've Got It":

Monday, May 30, 2011

U.S. Only U.K. Pop Sike Pressings Part II

THE IDLE RACE-Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree/My Father's Son U.S. Liberty 55997 1967

Here we have what should have been the U.K. debut single by The Idle Race, a band comprised of ex-Nightriders (Dave Pritchard-rhythm guitar,Greg Masters-bass and Roger Spencer-drums) and new member Jeff Lynne (lead vocals/lead guitar).  The Nightriders had previously backed Mike Sheridan and morphed into Sheridan's Lot .  You can see one of our earliest posts at on them at:

Lead singer Mike Sheridan moved on and lead guitarist Roy Wood joined The Move and the band (plus new lead guitarist Lynne) reverted back to their Nightriders moniker for one last single in the U.K., a cover of the Kingsmen's "It's Only The Dog" b/w "Your Friend" (a Marty Wilde composition previously cut back in 1964 on Piccadilly by Mal Ryder and the Spirits) on Polydor 56116 in November 1966.  The band soon changed their name and rang in 1967 as The Idle Race (after a spell as The Idyll Race).

The newly christened Idle Race were signed to Liberty records in the U.K. and their ex-band mate Roy Wood duly supplied them with one of his compositions "Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree" to be their debut single and hooked them up with producers Eddie Offord and Gerald Chevin. However with The Move's "Flowers In The Rain" (which was backed with their version of "Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree" ) gaining national attention because of a promotional postcard for the single which featured then Prime Minister Harold Wilson (who successfully sued the band and their manager for libel with all proceeds of the record going to charity) Liberty felt it would be best to distance their new signings from The Move controversy and the single was shelved in favor of Lynne's "Imposter's Of Life's Magazine" which became their U.K. debut (Liberty LBF 15206 October 1967).  The label's U.S. parent company however decided to give it an airing in America which ultimately did not attract any attention and it would not be until the 70's and the advent of E.L.O. that Jeff Lynne would be a household name in the States. Strangely enough U.K. 60's psych-pop legends Jason Crest issued a version in the U.K. on Phillips (BF 1687) after the furor had died down in August 1968 with zero chart response.

The Idle Race's version of "Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree" bears little resemblance to The Move's mild string quartet backed pop psych ditty.  It's tempo is doubled and though it still retains a trace of whimsy with it's nursery rhyme-ish keyboard bits its the heavy bass and crack delivery by the band that drives the number and makes it a mid 60's British pop-psych classic.  It features an ending with an abrupt run off where the number stops as if someone had unplugged the turntable! "My Father's Son" displays the eclectic whimsy the band are known for.  It sounds almost like a '67 Kinks ditty with some bursts of bluesy guitar thrown in amongst the almost Moody Blues '67 pop choral backing vocals.

Both sides can be found on the essential Idle Race double CD compilation "Back To the Story".

Hear "Here We Go Round the Lemon Tree":

Hear "My Father's Son":

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cool Foreign E.P.'s Part 31: More Holy Grail Batman-The Artwoods French E.P.

THE ARTWOODS-Oh My Love/Big City/If I Ever Get My Hands On You/Sweet Mary France Decca 457.076M 1965

Sentimental schlock (but we like it that way)

HERMAN'S HERMITS-My Sentimental Friend/My Lady Germany Columbia C006-90151 1969

By 1969 you'd think Herman's Hermits had all but evaporated but they had not.  Somehow they came through psychedelia unscathed in the U.K., though their U.S. hit days were long gone.  Today's subject, April 1969's "My Sentimental Friend" is a watershed of sorts on varying levels for the band. It was the band's highest charting single in England  (#2) since their debut "I'm Into Something Good" (#1) and though they had at least half a dozen Top Ten U.K. hits still in the wings the band were clearly feeling the strains of five years in the industry.The fact that unlike most previous other U.K. 45's that it did not garner an American release in fact marked the end of any more singles by the band being released in the States (where they were third highest selling U.K. act behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones).  It also ushered in a period (as evidenced by the b&w TV clip below) where lead singer Peter Noone was being pushed forward that would lead to the eventual billing as "Peter Noone & Herman;s Hermits" for their last 45 together (November 1970's "Lady Barbara") before both parties went their separate ways, Noone to a few solo hits (including a pre-Ziggy era cover of Bowie's "Oh You Pretty Things", #12 in the U.K. in June 1971) and the cabaret/State fair grind for the Hermits.

"My Sentimental Friend" is sort of schlocky.  It's a ballad but the orchestration and the melody get me in the same way The Easybeat's "Hello How are You" (also a schlocky ballad) does.  In fact the arrangement reminds me a lot of the '69 era Bee Gees stuff with it's grandiose production/orchestration. "My Lady" is not one of their best and really doesn't do it for me, it's not The Troggs/Jet Harris track of the same name and it's mood (and this awful flute)reek of variety show and cabaret.

Both tracks are available on EMI's CD compilation of their work "A's, B's and EP's:Mono"

The band miming to a re-recorded version w/ Noone singing live on "This Is Tom Jones" 1969

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May's Picks

1. IAN McLAGAN & THE BUMP BAND-"Little Black Number"
I'm gearing up for Mac's gig in a town near me next month and hope he plays this one, easily my fave off of "Never Say Never" a boozy little Faces era number with a groovy little "Club Ska '67" horn bit in the middle!

2. THE KINKS-"The Village Green Preservation Society (Live BBC)"
From the essential double CD of The Kink's Beeb sessions comes this take on what's possibly my favorite Kinks song ever. It's resolute, straight forward and nostalgic, something I think I'm guilty of all too often.

3. SONNY CLARK-"Cool Struttin'"
Brilliant bit of jazz featuring the incredible Jackie McLean on saxamophone (as Homer Simpson calls it).

4.THE MONKEES-"Pleasant Valley Sunday"
This was the first Monkees record I ever owned, I got an original 45 of it for Xmas 1975 from my favorite aunt after being turned onto these guys after watching the show (then in syndication) every day after school. Like all of my fave Pre-Fab Four tracks this ones sung by Mickey Dolenz. Regardless of whether they played on it or not I couldn't care it's brilliant, and the kids just don't understand...........

A cheeky 60's inspired pop ditty by a trio who made some very cool records often marred by 80's production and equipment but the melodies were great and the 60's pop hooks were intact.

6. THE BEATLES-"Words Of Love"
I've been listening to a lot of the Fab's box set of all the Mono mixes and marvelling at how fresh and new it makes all of their stuff sound the fifteenth time around!

A cute little bit of Afro-Cuban jazz halfway in between Mongo Santamaria's "El Pussycat" and Ray Barretto's "El Watusi". Thanks Starbucks!

8. TOMORROW-"Auntie Mary's Dress Shop"
A nice bit of kitschy pop-psych about a little old ladies tailoring shop with some piano/harpsichord entwined with an acoustic guitar playing the same lick while there's some jazzy electric guitar chording beneath it all (both c/o a young Steve Howe), brilliant.

I love Sounds Incorporated, they were so dated looking, even watching them on "Beat Club" live from the Tiles in late '66 they look like they're playing some dance hall in '62, but they were one of the most amazing instrumental combos of the 60's, total musos.  This track exemplifies that.

10. THE ACTION-"I'm A Stranger"
Off kilter acid-speak lyrics from the late Reggie King beneath the barrage of a clanging Rickenbacker, thumping piano and proto-Mighty Baby licks, what more could you ask for?

Monday, May 23, 2011

British R&B Rarities:The Gass

THE GASS-Dream Baby( How Long Must I Dream)/Jitterbug Sid U.K. CBS 202647 1967

I've no idea who The Gass were.  I can tell you they were a kick ass mid/late 60's British soul/r&b band.  They cut three singles from 1965-1967, two for Columbia (including a smoking cover of Jimmy Holiday's "The New Breed") and this, their final on CBS.

You'd think a soulful version of Roy Orbison's "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)" would sound lame, but it works, in fact it works very well.  With it's cool horns, funky organ and very soulful vocals this track could easily be mistaken for a track by our mod/Hammond heroes The Quik, ace.  It's flip, "Jitterbug Syd" is a funky Hammond/sax instrumental, worthy of any host of 60's British r&b acts like Wynder K. Frog, it's more sax than organ but still pretty cool.

Neither side has appeared anywhere, in fact I can't even locate a clip on YouTube right now so you'll have to take my word on its greatness!

Heroes of The Hammond: Alan Hawkshaw and The Mohawks

THE MOHAWKS-Pepsi/Mony Mony U.K. Pama PM 757 1969

Forget all of those dumb-ass stories you've heard over the past two decades:

The Mohawks were NOT a band comprised of white British skinheads.
The Mohawks were NOT a  band of Jamaican studio musicians.

The Mohawks WERE the brainchild of U.K. session organist supreme Alan Hawkshaw who concocted a studio only group featuring a host of U.K. "library" music session musicians to create a slew of funky, organ based instrumentals.  Since no major labels were willing to release this relatively obscure product Hawkshaw licensed the tracks through a small U.K. based label called Pama who were primarily a reggae label.  The rest is history.  Their records were always in demand among so called "skinhead reggae" collector's because of the Pama imprint though I'm still at odds to determine how their groovy organ sound fit along with the likes of Alton Ellis, The Crystalites or The Ethiopians!  Rediscovered in the mid 90's their records found fame amongst collectors of funky U.K. studio/library music as well as fans of funk and break beats (which drove the price of their records even higher).  All of these genres have rendered nearly all of their records, especially U.K. pressings like this one, rather expensive.

"Pepsi" is driven along by some congas, guitar, bass and drums before the Hammond blows in creating a funky groove, with Hawkshaw as usual showing he is the master of the instrument. "Mony Mony", a cover of the hit by Tommy James & The Shondells follows pretty much the same formula through Hawkshaw really lets it rip with his organ trills on this one and there's a bit of female backing vocalists who sing "Mony Mony" during the refrain whilst Alan and Co. do their thing.  The track gets even better when the horns start kicking in making the track a full on Hammond and horns explosion!

Both tracks are available on the excellent Vampi Soul legit CD reissue of The Mohawk's LP "The Champ" .

Hear "Pepsi":

Hear "Mony Mony":

Friday, May 20, 2011

10 Good Reads On the 60's

Personal friends and Internet friends alike will know I'm heavily steeped in the 60's and quite often I can be found with my nose in a book and it's a 75% chance that it's about the 60's (and more often than not, Britain in the 60's).  Over the years I've come upon quite a few good reads on the decade of my birth (and favorite music) that don't actually deal with music but the styles, philosophies, arts, trends and characters that went hand in hand with the music.  Granted there is a lot of overlap on some of the material in these but I've decided that I'd pick ten and tell you why.

1. "Revolt Into Style" by George Melly
Melly was/is sort of an "outsider" of sorts coming from the jazz scene but his grasp of the big picture and excellent style of writing make this read a real treat.  Melly has the street smarts of a hipster but also possesses the savvy to suss out b.s. (ie stating that Swinging London was " a caricature of traditional capitalism"), this gives him an edge to discuss what he saw with an open mind, firsthand in the 60's.

2. "Days In The Life: Voices From The English Underground 1961-1971" by Jonathon Green
Green tells the tale of mods, beats, hippies, freaks, revolutionaries etc, often through quotes of those who were involved from the big names to the everyman it's all here.  Green gives us just enough information without becoming so involved that it becomes a boring read.

3. "London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945" by Barry Miles
"London Calling" trods the same ground as both of Jonathon Green's books but since Barry Miles (known by his shorted sobriquet "Miles") is a central figure in both books and was "there" when it all "happened" it's good to hear things from his perspective.  What is interesting about "London Calling" is Miles devotes more time to artists and playwrights than Green does in either of his books and manages to keep me interested even when it's on fairly mundane subjects.  And its a perfect companion to both of the Green books!

4. "Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius" by Gary Lachman
Lachman is also known in the rock n' roll world as Gary Valentine of Blondie.  I read this right after I finished "Days in The Life" and Lachman covers some of the way out, weird and scary stuff Green briefly touched upon in "Days in The Life".  The 60's were of course not all peace and love and marches on the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square.  Lachman lifts up the rock that was the decade and shines at light on all the things crawling away, previously hidden from the sun: cults, sex, drugs, trepanning, and yes murder.

5. "All Dressed Up:The Sixties and Counterculture" by Jonathon Green
A bookend to Green's previous book "Days in the Life" that pretty much covers the same ground though in far greater detail on more specific subjects as opposed to more abstract things, which can be both it's strong point and it's downfall.  At times it becomes a tedious at times (especially on the subject of "Anti-Psychiatry", B-O-R-I-N-G) but still a good read.

6. "Ready, Steady Go! Swinging London and the Invention of Cool" by Shawn Levy
A fascinating mish mash of all the big names in "Swinging London" (David Bailey, Terrence Stamp, Michael Caine, Mick Jagger etc), their women, their friends, where they ate, who dressed them, how they became famous and what became of their hanger on's and disgraced associates at the end of the decade etc.

7. "The Sharper Word: A Mod Anthology" by Paolo Hewitt
Former Weller acolyte and sometime modernist literary dogsbody Paolo Hewitt collects bits and blobs from many a read on the cult that is mod.  You've read a lot of it before in it's original form but some was new to my eyes and very neat to have it all in one place. To me this book should do for new/young mods what "Mods" by Richard Barnes did for me in 1981.

8. "Mods " by Richard Barnes
Okay so maybe this one is more of a pictorial essay than a textual one, but you cannot deny the fact that the amount of information Barnes puts out there was a first birds eye view into the whole 60's mod scene and a jumping off point for many, if not all of us. Personally, this was, and in many ways still is, my bible!

9. "Stoned" by Andrew Loog Oldham
Stones Svengali/early manager/producer Oldham offers a fascinating view on the British music and fashion scene in the early to mid 1960's Britain.  "Stoned" is not necessarily a book about The Rolling Stones or even A.L.O. but more of a hawk's eye view of 1960's Britain before Swinging London and Flower Power (with an especially acute view of the mod scene) ending just as The Stones are recording their debut long player. I'm just bummed that it's sequel "Too Stoned" glossed over everything afterwards (especially Immediate Records!) spending more time on his cocaine exile in Connecticut in the early 70's and his life in South America in the 90's!!

10. "Subculture: The Meaning of Style" by Dick Hebdige
More clinical and textbook worthy than all the others I've listed, "S.A.T.M.O.S" still has it's place because its still a fairly comprehensive overview of teds,mods, rockers, skinheads and punks.  Stiff and sociological at times it nonetheless provides some witty views that you'd fail to see if you were "in" and does so in a manner that's even handed and compassionate.

Welsh Mod/Soul on Deram

THE EYES OF BLUE-Supermarket Full Of Cans/Don't Ask Me To Mend Your Broken Heart U.S. Deram 45 DEM8500 1967

This was the second and final Deram single by Neath, Swansea Welsh soul/r&b aficionados The Eyes of Blue before jettisoning their mod togs for prog land (bah!).  Like it's predecessor, "Up And Down" b/w a kiler version of The Parliament's "Heart Trouble", it was released in both the U.K. and the U.S.

"Supermarket Full Of Cans" has had some degree of popularity as it is somehow popular on the Northern soul scene.  Don't let that put you off it's a great record with its uptempo feel, ace backing vocals and cool breaks (reminiscent of label mates The Quik).  Above all the track is very soulful.  "Don't Ask Me To Mend Your Broken Heart" is hands down my fave track by the band. Once again I can't help but compare them to their mod/soul labelmates the Quik on this one. Maybe its the raw but soulful vocals, or the mix of subtle organ and driving beat with some wiggy backing vocals but this number never fails to impress me, ever.

Six smart as f*ck geezers called The Eyes of Blue
"Supermarket Full Of Cans" graced Decca/Deram's "The Northern Soul Scene" CD but sadly its amazing flipside has eluded compilers, for now. The "A" side has seen multiple 45 rpm releases all over the world, some in ultra groovy picture sleeves!

Hear "Supermarket Full Of Cans":

Hear "Don't Ask Me To Mend Your Broken Heart":

Monday, May 16, 2011

Goodbye to that "Mod" thing....

THE LAMBRETTAS-Good Times/Lamba-Samba U.K. Rocket Records XPRES 48 1981

British '79 Mod bands don't get much more maligned that The Lambrettas (except maybe, The Merton Parkas).  Regardless of whether they were bandwagon jumpers, johnny come latelys or trendies or what have you they made a few decent records.  The band at some point decided that despite having a moniker that would forever align them with the movement, mod was dead and they needed to embrace a new image.  Still slogging it out on Elton John's Rocket label they embarked on an ambitious path to a new sound in 1981.  Gone were the chirpy laddish mod pop songs about "living for today" and "beat boys in the jet age".  The Lambrettas music got a bit more "serious" lyrically with more cynicism creeping into the words of their songs and their sound was quite different from their jumpy power poppy formula.

"Good Times" marked the debut of the "post-mod" Lambrettas.  Following their new "sound" that would be prevalent on their second and final LP "Ambience" (released shortly after this single) the guitar utilizes the jazz chorus effect so loved by Andy Somers of The Police with bits of synthesizer and distinctly "modern" drum sounds (fortunately the band opted for a real drummer and did not use a drum machine or syndrums on this record).  Whats actually good about the track is it's biting delivery and the lyrics.  Lead singer Jez Bird sings with venom and the lyrics reflect disillusion with growing old as it disdainfully eschews nostalgia.  Its akin to the Jam's "Burning Sky" or The Kinks "Do You Remember Walter", though not nearly as cheefrul. The flipside, "Lamba-Samba" is a dreadful instrumental of heavy Police mimicking magnitude. 

The band would cull one more single ("Decent Town") from the "Ambience" LP and then attempting a dreadful Duran Duran styled cover of "Somebody To Love" (their very last 45) in 1982 before calling it a day.

Both sides appear on the double CD retrospective "Da-a-ance:The Anthology", which I've just learned is already out of print.

Nicked By The Walker Brothers:The Motions "My Love Is Growing"

THE MOTIONS-Why Don't You Take It/My Love Is Growing Holland Havoc 116 1966

According to the liner notes of a Pseudonym Motions CD the band met Scott Walker and Walker Brothers associate John Stewart whilst in the U.K. recording their feedback laden mod/freakbeat opus "Everything That's Mine".  The band returned to the U.K. to record their 2nd album "Their Own Way" with Walker and Stewart producing (though it has been stated that Stewart did all the production while Walker napped).  Whilst recording the album which included "My Love Is Growing", Scott Walker liked it so much he indicated that he felt it was right for the Walker Brothers.  The Walker Brothers eventually cut their own version and  released it as the flip side to "Baby you Don't Have To Tell Me" (U.K. Phillips BF 1497) in July 1966.  However instead of crediting the song's composer Robbie van Leeuwen (the band's lead guitarist and main sole songwriter) it was credited to John Stewart!

"My Love Is Growing" is sort of a vocal number, you could say that both sides bear slight resemblances to The Beach Boys or The Walker Brothers but its saved from being too schmaltzy thanks to the crash-bang-wallop musical backing that sounds like The Kinks when they applied the same technique to say "The World Keeps Going Round" with some great key changes done with heavy chording? Lead singer Rudy Bennett sounds groovy as always, soulful even.  "Why Don't you Take It" follows the same formula as the "A" side though less rough edged, it's actually fairly mundane.

Both sides were collected on an essential Pseudonym Records CD collection that compiles their first two albums and singles in between.

Hear "My Love Is Growing":


Hear "Why Don't You Take It":


Friday, May 13, 2011

Who Started The U.K. 60's Moustache Craze?

It has been said that the so called "grenadier guards moustache look" that took Britain by storm was born on Boxing Day (December 26th) 1966 when Paul McCartney (in the company of Guinness heir Tara Browne) had an accident whilst tooling around Liverpool on a moped that resulted in a chipped tooth and a busted up lip.  Macca grew the moustache to cover the slightly unsightly scar and before long everyone in the British pop world sported one too from every one of The Beatles to their roadies and George Martin to even Mick Rowley from The Smoke (who looks like a young Tom Skerrit in the "Beat Beat Beat" clip below) to a young Francis Rossi from Status Quo.  However as you will note, one of these photos clearly predates Macca's famous look!

The original? Macca, January 1967

Freddie Mercury briefly joins The Kinks, but seriously Ray Davies sports a stash April 1967

Denny Laine Deram Records promo photo, Spring 1967

Steve Marriott onstage Blackheath, July 1967

Charlie Watts Manchester September 28, 1966 for a "Daily Mirror" photo shoot.

Carl Wayne of The Move, "Beat Instrumental" 1967

Mick Rowley of The Smoke, "Beat Beat Beat"

Francis Rossi of Status Quo 1968, Macca moustache and Steve Marriott barnett.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getaway with Georgie Fame

GEORGIE FAME- Getaway E.P.: Getaway/See Saw/ Ride Your Pony/Sitting In The Park U.K. Columbia SEG 8518 1966

December 1966's "Getaway" E.P. was an odd move for Columbia as it coupled Georgie's June 1966 U.K. #1 "Getaway" with his very last single for the label, his version of Billy Stewart's "Sitting In The Park" (also released in December 1966 as Columbia DB 8096).  It was possibly also because he had already defected to CBS, broke up the Blue Flames and was about to ditch the band's mix of jazz, blues, soul, r&b and ska for a more straight forward approach that featured mostly jazz sandwiched in between ballads and the dreadful "all round entertainer" moniker.

"Getaway" was a jaunty number, originally written for a gasoline commercial (or so the story goes, though no one has come forth with the jingle, which would be amusing to hear). It was Georgie's first airing of an original composition of his, something of a rarity among his recorded 60's works.  Subsequent TV appearances to promote usually saw Georgie step from behind the Hammond to strum a guitar to promote it (see below). "See Saw", a Don Covay cover, utilizes the usual flair and panache associated with 1966 Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames (who were dissolved by the time this E.P. was released)of a solid and strong  horn section with some typical groovy Hammond work from Georgie.  "Ride Your Pony" follows the same template, though certainly not the band's best soul cover it is saved by the their "Hammond n' horns".  Rather than attempt a carbon copy of Billy Stewart's brilliant soul ballad "Sitting In The Park" Fame chose to rework it a bit starting with a lovely horn intro by trumpeter and long time Blue Flames side man Eddie "Tan Tan" Thorton.  And of course as usual the instrumentation is stellar and Fame instead of choosing to emulate Stewart's falsetto chooses his own tone for the lead vocals.

Promoting "Getaway" on the telly

"See Saw" was recently featured on the excellent Georgie Fame CD compilation "The Mod Years 1964-1966". "Getaway" and "Sitting In the Park" can be found on a budget CD compilation "The Very Best of Georgie Fame" as well as the starting point for many of us back in the day "20 Beat Classics" (which is still thankfully in print!)and also includes "Ride Your Pony".

Hear "Sitting in The Park":


Hear "Ride Your Pony":


Monday, May 9, 2011

The Untamed

THE UNTAMED-Once Upon A Time/I'm Asking You U.K. Parlophone R 5258 1965

This was The Untamed second U.K. 45, their first to be produced by Shel Talmy (who would follow them to Stateside for their next single and then take them over to his Planet label for their next two, which would be their last two).  Following in their r&b tradition both sides of this show a distinct  flavor.

"Once Upon A Time" is a moody/jazzy piece with laid back Georgie Fame inspired vocals, jazzy guiar and combo organ solo. Muir owned up to being very influenced by Georgie Fame's vocal style which of course was a mish mash of King Pleasure, Mark Murphy and Mose Allison! "I'm Asking You" is more upbeat and more akin to something a beat group like The Zephyrs or Jason Eddie & the Centermen would record, but still cool with a slightly risky line for it's time: "is it because I was a fool last night, and got stoned out of my head?"

Both sides appeared on RPM's out of print essential Untamed CD "Gimme Gimme: Singles & Rarities".

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Great Albums of the Sixties: The Koobas

THE KOOBAS-untitled U.K. Columbia SCX 6271 1969

Side One:
1. Royston Rose
2. Where Are The Friends?
3. Constantly Changing
4. Here's A Day
5. Fade Forever

Side Two:
1. Barricades
2. A Little Piece Of My Heart
3. Gold Leaf Tree
4. Mr. Claire
5. Circus

Liverpool's Koobas (Stu Leathwood-vocals/guitar, Roy Morris-guitar, Keith Ellis-bass/vocals and Tony O'Reilly-drums) had barely made a mark on the world despite 6 good singles (one as "The Kubas") and one utterly terrible one ("Sally" Columbia DB 8103, find it on YouTube and prove me wrong).  Yet somehow someone at EMI saw enough promise to allow them a full length LP.  The band spent the latter part of 1968 at EMI's famed Abbey Road studios cutting what would be their one and only long player (produced by David Paramour and engineered by one Geoff Emerick).

Side One kicks off with the Rickenbacker driven "Royston Rose" complete with fuzz guitar, proto-prog breaks and a chunky rhythm, it's also sung by lead guitarist Roy Morris making his vocal debut. "Where Are The Friends" kicks off with a silly/campy vocal intro like some drunk biddy from a tea time orchestra dedicating "To Miss Lucy Nation of 52 Le Shafts Street to her son Stan now serving in the Lebanon....".  With it's high octave Moody Blue's styled backing vocals and tight arrangement it's one of my fave tracks on the LP aided in no part to Ellis' stellar bass runs.  "Constantly Changing" again relies on some spooky Moodies type vocals and is by far the trippiest number on the record with the descending backing vocals interwoven with organ and some precision breaks that just build and build. "Here's A Day" give the band the opportunity to do their salute to Liverpool in a perfect campy '67 Kinks style, all knees up, dripping on the lino and brown ale.  Easily one of the album's most interesting tracks, it's a rock opera of sorts alternating between singing about the everyman ("on the bike ride to the shipyard all the lads a me don't like Mondays...") and a one sided conversation to no one in particular.  "Fade Forever" is sort of a blue eyed soul crooner of sorts, but don't let that fool you it's a great track, starting out with (as many of the albums cuts do) a bizarre spoken intro. The Mellotron makes it's appearance beneath Leathwood's impassioned vocals and stellar playing by the band.  It also features a slightly deadly spot where the volume drops very low and bounces back at an extremely loud level towards the end, it's a bitch the first time it gets you, especially if you were wearing headphones!

The Koobas live in Germany 1968

Side Two bursts forth with the band's ode to civil upheaval, "Barricades", a topical number with the Soviet seizure of Czechoslovakia and student riots in '68 whilst the LP was in the process of being written.  Distorted guitar, keyboards and layers of melodic guitars weave around another heavy but well executed track, with snippets of a Rupert Brooke poem being recited over the barrage of explosions and fuzzed out guitar solo.  Ever since Janis Joplin butchered "A Little Piece Of My Heart" (look for an upcoming post here titled "F*ck You, Janis" on this and similar aberrations) I don't really need to hear anyone else do it, even The Koobas, but considering it's the only non-original track on the whole LP I won't begrudge them their attempt.  "Gold Leaf Tree" starts off with some eerie noise and pitches into something like a Timebox track meets The Fox (of "Secondhand Love" Fontana record LP fame), in fact it's so damned close to Timebox's sound I'm wondering if they were the inspiration (complete with a flute and well structured backing vocals), it's sung by bassist Keith Ellis. "Mr. Claire" is a one sided conversation of a man resigning from the firm set to music.  The LP closes with "Circus", a brilliant little rock opera of sorts focusing on different facets of a circus (ringmaster, clowns, elephants, jugglers, high wire acts etc) each part having their own little 20-30 second song all strung together by a delightful melody and introduced by a rapid fire chorus of multiple voices spewing out well written visual imagery.

Sadly the LP did nothing and The Koobas chucked in it soon afterwards.  Luckily for us it's still in print on CD reissue.

All of the album's tracks can be found on YouTube, one user:


has uploaded all 10 of the Lp's tracks for your listening pleasure along with other Koobas single tracks.

Friday, May 6, 2011

U.S. Only U.K. Pop Sike Pressings Part I

THE FRUIT MACHINE-The Wall/Willow Tree U.S. American Music Makers AMM-0021 1969

Here's one of those weird instances where a mondo obscure U.K. 60's band has a U.S. only release on a mondo obscuro label (the only other artist I can recall on American Music Makers was a 45 by the Grains of Sand).  Today's specimen is a by a band who released two ho-hum singles in the U.K. that both had killer flip sides.  The first was a February 1968 cover of Harry Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy" b/w the stunning freakbeat/heavy opus "Follow Me" (Spark SRL 1003) and the second was April 1969's equally brilliant and blistering "I'm Alone Today" b/w a mediocre version of "Sunshine Of Your Love" (Spark SRL 1027).

For some unknown reason neither side of our release in question was issued in the U.K. or Europe. Both sides do not bear much similarity to the heavy sounding band responsible for "Follow Me" or "I'm Alone Today" (both reissued on the highly recommended Strange Things Are Happening "Circus Days Vol. 2" comp).  That's not to say they're not good they just bear a different slant.  "The Wall" is a mournful pop psych number accented by some orchestration and some muted horns and woodwinds that have a strange effect that makes them sound like they're being played on an old 78 rpm record player.  It's full of great effects (flashing cymbals, regal trumpet, soulful vocals reminiscent of The Apple and a swirl of organ).  It was penned by the band's Spark label mates and pop-sike tunesmiths John Carter and Russ Alquist, famous for a great deal of song composing (like The Californian's psych monster "The Cooks Of Cakes And Kindness" or Friend's "Mythological Sunday") and a one off zany pop sike 45 of their own ("The Laughing Man" Spark SRL 1017, 1968 ).  The flipside "Willow Tree" is in a similar down trodden pop psych vein as The Parking Lot's "World Spinning Sadly" or Feluis Andromeda's "Meditation") and more trippy than the "A" side as it's a bit darker, more of a "comedown" than a full fledged "peak" as far as trip fest records go.

"The Wall" was issued on "Rubble 18: Rainbow Thyme Wynders" (and also on the "Rubble Box Volumes 11-20") while "Willow Tree" was on "Electric Sugarcube Flashbacks Vol. 4" and Tenth Planet's Spark label compilation "The Electric Lemonade Acid Test Vol. 1".

Hear "The Wall":

And for comparison hear their other releases:

"I'm Alone Today":

"Follow Me":

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Alan Bown Set's Last Stab at R&B

THE ALAN BOWN SET-Gonna Fix You Good/I Really Really Care Australia Astor AP-1360 1967

This was the fifth and final single by London r&b connoisseurs The Alan Bown Set (led by ex-John Barry Seven trumpeter Alan Bown) before they took the path that Zoot Money and so many other r&b peers did and went psychedelic.

"Gonna Fix You Good" is a cover of a track by Little Anthony & the Imperials.  I'll have to say I've always given kudos to this band for their soul cover selections as no one else to my knowledge was doing unlike say "My Girl" where there were probably 12 versions of it out there.  Believe it or not I think they do the number justice, bumping the pace up a notch and also no doubt because I think the band's lead singer Jess Roden has a voice that's far more powerful than Little Anthony's fey warbling.  Of course the musical backing is impeccable too, though the backing vocals are a bit much.  The flipside, "I Really, Really Care" is my fave track by the band. It's lead by some very raw (in a good way) vocals by Roden, solid brass backing and an over the top distorted guitar.  I played the hell out of it back in my DJ years at Hub City Soul and elsewhere and it usually went down fairly well on the floor.

Both sides appeared on the Sequel Alan Bown Set "Emergency 999" CD compilation (now out of print) and "I Really Really Care" appeared on Castle's "Doin' The Mod 4 : Ready, Steady, Stop!".

Hear "I'm Gonna Fix You Good":


Hear "I Really, Really Care":