Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December's Picks (And Everyone's)

1. DR. FEELGOOD-"All Through The City"
My pal John Jorgensen loaned me the Feelgood's documentary "Oil City Confidential"and I immediately busted out and dusted off "Down By The Jetty". This one is one of my faves on it, a great end of the night/coming home with the milkman" tune, something I haven't done in a long, long time!

2.BLUR-"There's No Other Way"
Twenty years ago I was living just two scant miles away from Anorak Manor here and playing the crap out of this CD, and believe it or not 20 years on it still sounds pretty good as I wind down the same lanes I did as a much, much younger and thinner man. From when they wore baggy pants and went through the silly period where they trooped down to the Merc and decided they were mods, silly art school twits.

"Oil City Confidential"sent me also scurrying to revisit Johnny Kidd and company.  There are at least half a dozen U.K. 60's covers of this number that I'm aware of and this has always been my fave thanks to Johnny's voice and Mick Green's brilliant chops on the six string.

4. THE MIKE STUART SPAN-"Children Of Tomorrow"
Bleak, heavy guitar stuff.  These guys are always touted as psychedelic heroes but I see more of a parallel with the equally mislabeled Open Mind or a less wanky Eire Apparent. Regardless this is very powerful stuff.....

Mighty stuff this, hands down my fave version of this tune ever.  The strings and horns make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck every time!! It never fails to make me stop what I'm doing and wait for the crescendo in the middle where it all kicks in much like the bit on "A Day In The Life".

6. THE BUNCH-"Spare A Shilling"
Quirky spot of U.K. mid 60's psych pop unearthed care of the "We Can Fly"series, it's well produced, catchy and bears little resemblance to their previous 45 (see )
where they sounded like a more mod version of The Animals '66.  The horns and organ are still there but there's a touch of "fairy dust" to it and an all around jaunty "feel good" bit to it.....

7. OLIVER NELSON-"Sound Pieces For Jazz Orchestra"
One of the benefits of having a used jazz CD section at my local record shop means I can always walk out with three or four classic 60's jazz discs for under $20.  This CD "Sound Pieces" on Impulse, was a recent catch.  It's sort of all over the place but this particular number a brilliant little piece from '66 that seems to anticipate David Axelrod.

8.JACQUES DUTRONC-"Comment elles dorment"
Boozy, almost country western crooner from Jacques second LP from 1968 (his first three LP's were all untitled) where he sings rather laconically. Like nearly all of his tunes I haven't a f*cking clue what he's on about but he's got a great voice and the music and production are great!

9. THE KINKS-"Do You Remember Walter"
This one is utterly timeless because the older I get and the more lost people get in the shuffle of life the more of an impact this number seems to have on me on days where I'm reflecting on those who I've become disconnected with.

10. THE RICH KIDS-"Ghosts Of Princes In Towers"
Punchy punky power pop care of Glen Matlock and Midge Ure, a million miles away from Glen's previous band's New York Dolls wall of noise guitar style and nowhere near the bleak synth angst of Midge's next big job.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Polydor In The 60's: Home of the Cool-Part Two

1. THE SOFT MACHINE-"Love Makes Sweet Music" Polydor BM 56151 1967
Like the Jack Bruce number mentioned in the previous posting, this track came to me via a dodgy Polydor LP compilation called "Rare Tracks".  It blew me away so much that I snapped up a copy of the single as soon as I saw it on the wall at Rockit Scientist in NYC. Forget any preconceptions of tedious jazzy prog jams you may associate with the Soft's as this 45 will knock you on the ear with it's cheery Blues Magoos style pop.  Oddly I do not think it has ever been legally reissued anywhere yet.  More crimes.

2. THE GODS (Thor-Hermes-Olympus-Mars)-"Garage Man" Polydor 56158 1967
Found on the flip side of the frantic/bluesy style rework of the "Come On Down To My Boat Baby" this pre Ken Hensley/Uriah Heep 45 features the lead guitar talents of a young Mick Taylor shortly before being snapped up for finishing school in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Taylor plays some very Bluesbreakers like runs while the lead singer tells the tale of woe of purchasing a lemon from"the garage man" with some nifty combo organ filling in the background.

Hear it on:
"Echoes From The Wilderness"

3. THE CREATION-"How Does It Feel To Feel" Polydor 56230 1968
Too much has been written on these guys everywhere so I'll suffice to say I was never a fan of a lot of their post Planet material, but this monster is an exception.  Musically it bears no resemblance to the hippie jams that were going around in '68 when this dark 45 hit the streets and Eddie Phillips guitar pyrotechnics and Jack Jone's ominous beat paint the bleakest, meanest tale ever sang about the dark.

Hear it on:
"Our Music Is Red With Purple Flashes"

4. NICKY HOPKINS and THE WHISTLING PIANO-"Mr. Pleasant" Polydor 56175 1967
Yet another "Rare tracks" entry, ace piano session man Nicky Hopkins takes the Kinks cheeky track and adds a bit of knees up to it with his bar room piano treatment with a chorus of slightly off key whistling (ala Whistling Jack Smith).  Unreissued of course!

5. THE SLENDER PLENTY-"Silver Tree Top School For Boys" Polydor 56189 1967
We've discussed this '66 Bowie track elsewhere here numerous times and it was also cut by the Beatstalkers but this is my fave.  It's droning fuzz guitar is faithful to Bowie's original demo while the lyrics campily portray dope smoking at a posh public school (ripped from the headlines after Bowie read of a pot smoking scandal at Lancing College).

Hear it on:

6. THE LION TAMERS-"Light" Polydor 56283 1968
Flipside of a track called "Speak Your Mind", "Light" first came to light thanks to Bam Caruso on the "Rubble Volume 17:A Trip In The Painted World" LP (the only LP volume I missed out on actually, so I had to wait a good twenty years to hear it on CD on the box set). It's whimsical without being too twee with a slight hint of trippiness!

Hear it on:
"Rubble Volume 17:A Trip In The Painted World"

7. THE PEEP SHOW "Mazy" Polydor 56196 1967
These cats were a short lived U.K. psych group managed by none other than one time ace face and High Numbers svengali Peter Meaden. You can read more about the band and Meaden's involvement over here at Kevin Pearce's excellent down loadable blog:

"Mazy", the flipside of the somber "Your Servant Stephen", is a trippy number full of jangling reverberations, hippy Indian flutes, cascading psychedelic effects that rate it as one of the classic British 60's lysergic monsters!

Hear it on:
"Rubble Volume 13: Freakbeat Fantoms" and on "Mazy:The Secret World Of The Peep Show" a Peep Show CD compilation (also available for download from iTunes)

8. STU BROWN & BLUESLOGY-"Just A Little Bit" Polydor 56195 1967
Another inclusion on the old Polydor "Rare Tracks" LP was the final single by Bluesology featuring Reggie "Elton John" Dwight pounding the ivories. Most of you might know this track from the freakbeat version by The Act, which was actually cut almost a year later.  This version is more r&b with some brilliant horns and barrel house piano work trotting along with the driving drum beat.  Again, there's been no sign of any reissue action.

9. JOHNNY GUSTAFSON-"Just To Be With You" Polydor MB 56022 1965
This was the debut solo single by ex-Merseybeat bassist Johnny Gustafson, who left The Merseybeats when Billy Kinsley returned to claim his spot.  Johnny Gus always had the pipes and this soulful outing is a perfect example of that! 

Hear it on:
 A now out of print German Mersey's CD "A and B Sides, Rarities".

10. THE NIGHTRIDERS-"It's Only The Dog" Polydor 56116 1966
We discussed who these guys morphed into over at:

These Brummies chose to cover an obscure non-hit from The Kingsmen (which did not see a U.K. issue), replacing it's near "Louie Louie" meets "Chain Gang" licks with something a bit meatier and far more punchy with some snotty Jagger-esque vocals.  It's been on two different "Electric Sugarcube Flashbacks" LP's  but hasn't, to my knowledge, popped up on any CD reissues or legit comps.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cat Stevens '67 Tribute To The Everyman

CAT STEVENS-Matthew And Son/Granny U.K. Deram DM 110 1966

There are a multitude of cool Deram 45's by Cat Stevens, but this, his second for the label, is my favorite. "Matthew And Son"joins the ranks of loads of great U.K. mid 60's records that tackle the topic of the everyman and his workaday drudgery (The French Revolution "9 Till 5", Rupert's People "Reflections Of Charles Brown", The Kinks "Dead End Street" etc). It's also a classic example of some of the wonderful creative, orchestrated pop singles released on Deram in '66-'67. Like most of these, Steven's tune is sympathetic to the cause of our working stiff protagonist behind an array of brass and strings and his rapid fire vocal delivery with stellar arrangement by the famed "easy" listening arranger/producer/conductor Alan Tew is razor sharp.  It's like the "Smithers Jones" 1966 in my book. It's flip, "Granny", to me is equally as powerful. With it's clockwork tapping behind a subtle build up of strings, brass, piano and some nifty jazzy guitar (dig the licks during the middle brass "solo") the whole thing falls into place.

Pop star Cat rubbing elbows with Cliff, Samantha Juste (aka Mrs. Dolenz) and Micky Dolnez

Both tracks can be found on the Deram reissue CD of his debut LP "Matthew and Son"with a host of other 45 rpm bonus tracks (some in mono and stereo mixes).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The first time

In every modernists life there's always a plethora of "first times": their first bespoke pair of trousers, the first time they heard The Jam, their first parka, the first Small Faces record they bought.  I was recently reminded of my first time I ever saw The Move on video.  In the 80's there was no YouTube, cool 60's videos were something that changed hands so many times they were over-duped to the point where you could hear the audio but you could not determine whether it was The Who or The Kinks you were watched because the quality had deteriorated so badly!  There were few "dealers" selling this stuff and if they were it was the same washed out crap: Cuby and The Blizzards in a zoo with Van Morrison miming "Mystic Eyes", Zachary Thaks in a rehearsal space, etc.

In May 1989 my friend Mike Sin and I took a trip to California for Mods Mayday '89.  We spent the week in San Diego and wound up hanging out with The Funseekers from Minneapolis who happened to be there the same week too.  One night after a Funseekers/Trebels gig at the Casbah Club, Mike Stax invited us all back to his pad to hang out and watch videos and he proceeded to show us live clips from a German TV show called "Beat Beat Beat" and here in crisp, black and white were the Move playing three songs live, rapid fire in their original 5 piece line up. I had never seen any footage of The Move (I also saw, for the first time that evening, live footage of the Small Faces and Creation for the first time as well!), and I was...well "moved".  It was aired on June 27, 1967 (the episodes other guests were P.P. Arnold and Graham Bonney lip synching and The Creation, The Warriors and Cherry Wainer and Don Storer performing live) .  This is classic pre-perm Move, they'd clearly been in their flower power gear for a few months, having ditched the gangster garb that spring and were obviously now more reliant on Roy Wood's quirky originals than the obscure soul/r&b covers that were part of their craft in their op art/mod gear pre-gangster days of their late '66 Marquee Club period.  As you can tell there is still some evidence of their syncopated soul/r&b onstage moves (no pun intended) in this clip that the peace and love flowers and bells have failed to erase, also present are their aggressive stage stance, something they incorporated into their act with their gangster suits and TV/car smashing antics onstage.  Regardless the Summer '67 Move are something to behold as you can see performing live "Walk Upon The Water", "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" and "Night Of Fear":

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Polydor In The 60's: Home of the Cool-Part One

In the U.K. in the 60's Polydor records may not have had the star power that EMI or Decca had but if you go through their discography they had as many cool U.K.  freakbeat/mod/r&b/psych 45's (and loads of U.S. soul/r&b singles as well) as EMI or Decca.  I decided to compile a list of my faves.  It started out as a top twenty then I knocked it back down to ten.  It was no mean feat as there were multiple Creation 45's on the label and I also had to narrow it down to exclusively English acts (sadly forcing me to omit such numbers as Aussie Normie Rowe's Graham Gouldman track "Going Home" , Nederbeat heroes The Golden Earring's "That Day", mega rare Northern soul fave Tony Middleton's "To The Ends Of The Earth" and the Swedish Steampacket's "Take Her Any Time", which was released in the U.K. by The Longboatmen to ensure there was no confusing them with the Long John Baldry crew). I also omitted 45's by The Bee Gees and The Jimi Hendrix Experience for the same reason.  Sadly there is no Polydor compilation of any of these tracks.  There could easily be, like Decca/Deram and EMI did years ago, CD's focusing on the different genres: a psych one, an r&b one etc.

1. THE BETTERDAYS-"Don't Want That" Polydor BM 56024 1965
One of the immediately apparent visions of cool from was this raw slice of '64 Stones/meets '65 Yardbirds.  It's harp wailing is bluesy but the slashing guitar work and Jimmy Page style guitar solo and Nicky Hopkins style piano tinkling reeks of Birds/Who influence and anticipates freakbeat, it's flip a so-so version of 'Here Tis", graced the legendary "Pebbles Vol 6: The Roots Of Mod".

Hear it on:
Bootleg 45 reissue

2. JACK BRUCE-"Rootin' Tootin'" Polydor 56036 1965
Other than the six CD Jack Bruce box set this brilliant debut solo 45 by the then Graham Bond Organization bassman is nowhere to be found on reissue which is absolutely, positively criminal as this single is beyond all shadow of a doubt one of the finest British 60's r&b 45's to have ever been laid down.  Bruce croons in a jazzy Mose Allison style about how hip he is while (presumably) his G.B.O. band mates lay down a solid groove.  It doesn't get better than this mods.

Hear it on:
Jack Bruce "Can You Follow" box set

3.THE DEEJAYS-"Black Eyed Woman" Polydor BM 56501 1965
"Speak it now....", so begins the raw and gritty track by these Swedish based Brit exiles on one of their two British 45 releases. First brought to my attention on one of the "Transworld Punk" LP comps in the 80's this track offers one of those rare moments where frantic U.K. r&b/proto freakbeat crossed wires with the snottiness and D.I.Y of U.S. 60's styled garage music.

Hear it on:
"Rubble Volume 13: Freakbeat Fantoms"

4. JASON'S GENERATION-"It's Up To You" Polydor BM 56042 1966
Backed by the curiously titled "Insurance Co.'s Are Very Unfair" this track first came to my attention in the late 90's on a bootleg CD titled "Purple Hearts From Pastures Gone". Produced by Harvey Lisberg (who managed Graham Gouldman and Herman's Hermits) I don't know a thing about the band.  The track is as a common theme here (unintentionally), very American influenced.

Hear it on:
"Purple Hearts From Pasture's Gone"

5. THE VOIDS-"I'm In A Fix" Polydor BM 56073 1966
The flip side of "Come On Out", this track would easily have been at home on one of the "Back From The Grave" comp albums with it's cheesy fuzzed out main riff, off key vocals and sloppy production that sounds like a bunch of American teenagers in a garage, but alas it was cut by a bunch of British guys and like the people of Stonehenge "No one knows who they were or what they were doing, but their legacy remains".

Hear it on:
"Echoes From The Wilderness"

6. THE SUGARBEATS-"Alice Designs" Polydor 56120 1966
Pure genius.  This Tandyn Almer track (composer of The Action's "Shadows And Reflections" and The Association's "Along Comes Mary") is both unique because no one else covered it in the U.K. (originally cut in the States by the mondo obscure Mr. Lucky & The Gamblers whose version is more frantic and not at all "harmonic") and amazing because of it's layers of West Coast style harmonies, trippy flute and masterful production.  Akin to '67 vintage Action it's one of the greatest tunes of it's genre.

Hear it on:
"We Can Fly Volume 3"

7. GARY WALKER & THE RAIN-"Spooky" Polydor 56237 1968
Though not a patch on Dusty's classic reading of The Classics IV version Gazz and Co.'s version is pretty groovy, though not as strong as their other tracks it merits inclusion here because I think their arrangement is subtle even though it's fairly close to the original.

Hear it On:
"Album No.1" LP reissue on CD with bonus tracks.

8. THE FLEUR DE LYS-"Mud In Your Eye" Polydor 56124 1966
The Fleur De Ly's have a few brilliant freakbeat classics and also a few of duds in their 7 single U.K. discography.  This, alongside their version of The Who's "Circles" and it's flip "So Come On" (Immediate IM IM 032) exemplifies what freakbeat is all about: maniac drumming, crashing guitars, an incessant/driving riff etc  It doesn't get much heavier than this in '66 kids.

Hear it on:
"Reflections", a Fleur De Ly's CD retrospective.

9. THE CARAVELLES-"Hey Mama You've Been On My Mind" Polydor BM 56137 1967
Known here on these shores for their  hit "You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry", this U.K. female duo cut a bunch of unremarkable singles until this one. With it's Spector-esque production and angelic vocal delivery what's not to love?  Not a hit but easily their most in demand and collectible 45.

Hear it on:
"Dream Babes Volume Five: Folk Rock And Faithful"

10. KINGSIZE TAYLOR-"Thinkin'" Polydor 56152 1965
Liverpudlian Ted "Kingsize" Taylor's career was all but limited to Germany (where he spent most of his time) after the Beatles brought Merseybeat into the national spotlight. This was one of his handful of U.K. 45's (actually his last) and was recorded after the dissolution of his back up band The Dominos.  It bears no resemblance to the rock n' roll sounds cut during his Cavern days and is more reminiscent of the smoother more soulful r&b played by the likes of Cliff Bennett in '65-'66.

Hear It On:
"Chocolate Soup For Diabetics Volume Three"