Thursday, March 29, 2012

No kind of love.......

The Psychedelic Furs are one of those bands I enjoyed in the 80's for pretty much just one LP, 1981's "Talk Talk Talk", after that, bah....I liked what I'd heard "live" from bits of "Forever Now" but "Love My Way" was just as disposable as say, The Thompson Twins in my book.  But they somehow have a place in my (very) early 80's nostalgia. They're not in my Top 10 fave 80's bands, in fact I'd be pushing it but I doubt they'd even make the Top 20, maybe mid 30's?! Anyway when I discovered they'd be coming to my all time fave music venue , Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ (here's a plug Todd):

I couldn't resist the idea to see what they were like 30 years later, and my wife liked them more than me and it was a night out so what the hell right?  I'd seen them back in '82 or so plugging whatever LP followed "Talk Talk Talk", they were pretty good.  They had a horn/string section if my memory serves me well (it often doesn't leading to Homer Simpson-esque flights of recollection fancy) and the opening band were...INXS! Anyway....I've been going to Maxwell's since 1985 and there's no finer place to see a band.  Why?  Best jukebox in the world, great bar up front with great stuff on tap and they've got amazing food!  My wife and I mused it'd be a weird gig based purely on demographic, which like the night's music, we'd no idea what to expect since we didn't know a soul that was going.  After a day of bouncing around Hoboken (and drinking) I think by the time the gig arrived we were well knackered having used our child free day/evening to it's fullest.  They came on to a raucous fanfare (both of their gigs at Maxwell's sold out within a week or two of being announced).  Before the show whilst leaving the gents I was stopped by a guy slightly older than me politely inquiring "by some miracle you don't have two extra tickets you're stuck with?".  I didn't but I must have had a kind face.

It was immediately apparent that lead singer Richard Butler and bassist brother Tim were the only original members.  That didn't stop them from sounding great, in fact the opening number, "Into You Like A Train" sounded just like the LP, as did every other tune I knew that they'd played!!  I'm still not sure what I made of them though.  Butler bounced around very cheery (like a clip I found on YouTube below from two nights prior) and seemed very happy, almost too happy in a way, because let's face it, The Psychedelic Furs are not a happy band. His voice was in fairly good form, though after awhile his hand gestures and accentuation's became a bit campy and as a result took on a whole sort of cabaret feel to it because he did it on every single tune, it was almost like an overblown Scott Walker late 60's hand gesticulation parody after awhile. He looked a lot like Gary Oldman channeling David Bowie (I'd forgotten how much Butler owes to the Dame)and his larger black framed glasses gave him an almost Bricktop look! Bassist brother Tim looked like Dwight Schrute (from "The Office") and did that odd thing of mouthing all the song lyrics without actually singing or having a mike in front of him. But it all sounded pretty good 30 years on with a cast of new faces (though it turns out the maniacal sax player and possibly the drummer had been with the band since the late 80's and everybody else has been on board for awhile too).

The crowd were a happy bunch, nearly all were my ages (mid 40's) maybe younger or older but not by much. There was a bit of that "silly hands in the air wave/sway to the music" like I see them do in the dreadful "Oldies" gigs on PBS, where, like tonight, a band is fronted by a few original members fleshed out by newer faces doing all the numbers they're famous for. There was a weird cheezy vibe to it all in a way, maybe it's because all the making fun of "oldies" shows that my parents go to has finally caught up with me because now it's 30 years later and I'm going to "oldies" shows. I somehow must admit that I too, an old(er). Although at least all of these tunes sounded exactly the way they did on record (unlike those"oldies" acts my mom and dad go see)! Having not really been a huge fan of their more commercial/famous stuff ("Heaven" for example) I got listless and bored quickly. I don't know where I was that I was not aware that last year they toured the States doing the entire "Talk Talk Talk" album as a 30th anniversary of it. Also being cramped in one spot on my feet and having been out and about all day when usually I'm well, playing Dad,meant that quite soon I was antsy, my wife confessed the same and 3/4's of the way through the set we were out in the night.......I REALLY need to get my rest game on for May's NYC Weller gig if I want to stand still on my feet for a few hours!!

Set list (thanks to for Maxwell's 3/24/12:
Into You Like A Train
Alice's House
Pretty In Pink
Only You & I
Imitation Of Christ
It Goes On
The Ghost In You
Like A Stranger
My Time
Highwire Days
Love My Way
Heartbreak Beat
President Gas
Forever Now

Monday, March 26, 2012

March's Picks

1. THE CLIQUE-"Doormouse"
Balding 90's mods in hipsters and old New Untouchables (or was it still just "Untouchables" back then?) darlings who came and went with a brilliant little CD/LP "The Self Preservation Society" oddly filled with North American 60's garage covers and spirited originals like this one.  It has a nice juicey Ian McLagan styled Hammond and a trippy Syd's Floyd '67 Binson EchoRec guitar solo, what more could I need?

2. NEIL DIAMOND-"Two Bit Manchild"
Rocking track from Neil's groovy "Velvet Gloves And Spit" LP, often overlooked.  A big thanks to Lisa Furlong, who among many other things in the mid 90's turned me onto this album and this catchy, infectious acoustic guitar/handclaps driven groover.

3. THE TIMES (U.K. 60's)-"Think About The Times"
Not to be confused with Ed Ball's 80's lot, this U.K. 60's band had three 45's on Columbia in England. This was their second from early 1966, a mid tempo beat number that's catchy and melodic. Criminally none of their stuff has been reissued, officially anyway!

4. GENE VINCENT-"Born To Be A Rolling Stone"
From Gene's famed 1967 sessions for Challenge records comes this tune with a jangly folk rock feel to it accented by some horns and a groovy little jazzy vibes bit in the middle.  I can't help wondering if the line "I went over to London, lordy what a swingin' town, but a fast talkin' phony with a big cigar tried to bring me down" was directed at Don Arden.

I'm always resistant to that singer/songwriter "genius" tag hipsters and record nerds heap on people and I'll have to say I am finally transcending all their pretentious musical soapboxing and digging Nilsson.  I dug this track up after hearing it by the Alan Price Set on a BBC session and Billy J. Kramer's version.  Of course the Nilsson original is far superior with it's regal horns, Nilsson's stellar pipes and almost autobiographical nature of the lyrics (rent "Who Is Harry Nilsson And Why Is Everybody Talking About Him?" and see why). My old pal Larry Grogan blogged about Billy J's version which you can read here:

6. THE EVIL EYES-"Mr. Mysfified"
One of the crown jewels of the brilliant Swedish 60's compilation CD "Who Will Buy These Wonderful Evils Volume Two" is this punchy 1966 track.  The Who were huge in Sweden and their impact (along with swatches of The Creation's first two singles) was not lost of this band who incorporate a bit of both in this stellar track.

7. RANDY NEWMAN-"I Had A Dream" (Single Version)
Any of you who are around children alot have no doubt seen all three of the "Toy Story" flicks and will therefore sympathize with me when I exhort the war cry "Bring me the head of Randy Newman".  Let's face it his tunes for these films are soulless, bland and so boring.  There's a great "Mad-TV" skit of him writing crap tunes for "Star Wars" on YouTube.  Anyway this was a trippy single of his from '69 with over the top distorted guitars and black, ominous psychedelic sounds akin to late U.K. 60's psychsters Writing On The Wall.  One wonders if he was trying to cash in or thumbing his nose at the whole hedonistic late 60's druggy California vibe put to an end on with screams in the night on August 9th, 1969.

8. BILLY J. KRAMER & THE DAKOTAS-"When You Walk In The Room"
Recorded well after The Searchers gave their interpretation of this well known Jackie DeShannon number, Billy J.'s version was only released on the hodge podge U.S. 1965 Imperial LP "Trains and Boats and Planes".  Eschewing the more "folk rock" delivery of The Searchers The Dakotas bludgeon the number.  The main riff is double tracked by some piano (George Martin) while Mick Green bashes away with some power pop power chords on his Telecaster making the number sound almost desperate AND menacing.

9. PAUL WELLER-"Green"
Try as I may this is the only track from the Modfather's brand new product "Sonik Kicks" that I've really managed to get my head around.  It's a bit odd and I think why I like this track is because it honestly reminds me of "All Stood Still" by Ultravox, from, in my estimation, their last good LP "Vienna" with it's electronic/synthesizer  growls and all.  I'm in a dilemma because my U.K. peeps tell me his Roundhouse gig last week was pretty much the entire new LP and I've got tickets to see him playing in the Big Apple in May (my first Weller gig since '92 or '93).  I fear I am destined to be part of, as Pete Parphides says in the latest "Mojo":"fortysomething men in Fred Perry tops, arms folded, wondering what arty mini-suites like Trees are playing at".

10. THE LYRICS-"They Can't Hurt Me"
Imagine if Mick and Keef had never crossed paths that day at the Dartford railway station and The Rolling Stones had never born born.  Never mind the ramifications of them never existing as band, imagine if you will, the ramifications of a whole genre never existing: "garage".  The Rolling Stones were the father of American 60's garage music and is no better exemplified by this snotty tune complete with Jaggeresque style vocals, Keef style blues licks and wailing harp.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Stray Rays:10 More Great Ray Davie's 60's Covers

1.The Knack (U.K. 60's)-"Who'll Be the Next In Line" U.K. Decca F 12234 1965
There were loads of bands called The Knack, this variety were a 60's U.K. act who had six singles, the first two were on Decca, the last four were on Piccadilly.  This specimen was their debut from September '65 , odd as The Kinks had used it as a B-side for "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy" in January (Pye 7N15813), but seeing as both bands were involved with Larry Page (he produced this) I guess it's not that odd.  It's a tad sped up but differing very little from the original in any other way, but still interesting.  Of more interesting (but Kinks unrelated) note is that it's flip side, "She Ain't No Good", had been previously released by The Clique (Pye 7N1586), another Larry Page production, in February. Strangely the B-side of the next Knack single, "It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)" (Decca F12278 November 1965) would be "Time Time Time", the flip side of The Clique's "She Ain't No Good"!

2.Herman's Hermits-"Dandy" U.S. MGM K13603 1966
Ray's ballad of a wayward playboy first graced a 45 by The Rocking Vickers (U.K. CBS 262241) in August of 1966, The Kink's version would not surface until October on "Face to Face".  Peter Noone and Co. issued their version in the States and on the Continent in September (a U.K. version was finally issued on an E.P. titled "Dandy"as SEG 8520 in April 1967).  Noone's chirpy chippy cheery vocals on the number take away the sneer of Ray's original (don't get me started on the awful cod-country version issued by Clinton Ford in October '66, U.K. Pye 7N35343). The strings add to the "cheery/cheekie" affect, though it's still my fave version of the track in my estimation.  Available on any number of Herman's Hermits "Best Of.." CD's.

3.The Honeycombs-"Something Better Beginning" U.K. Pye 7N15827 1965
Joe Meek's one hot wonders launched their interpretation of The Kink's "Kinda Kinks" LP closing track as their fourth U.K. single in March 1965. It did not trouble the charts as it was hoped (the band had previously toured with The Kinks and Manfred Mann in Asia in January 1965). It's not your typical Joe Meek production as there is a fleeting trumpet burst heralding the end of certain verses while the tempo is increased a bit from the original. It's actually quite interesting arrangement wise and definitely busier than the Kinks take. The band would later go on to record another Ray Davies composition "Emptiness" for their December 1965 long player "All Systems-Go!".

4.The Sneekers-"I Just Can't Go To Sleep" U.K. Columbia DB 7385 1964
Best known for it's use of the volume pedal note bending antics of Shel Talmy's fave hired gun Jimmy Page (with Talmy's composition "Bald Headed Woman" on the flip side) on this session, this single was one of the earliest Ray Davies covers being released the same month (October 1964) that the band's original version graced their untitled debut LP (it was however not Ray's first cover version, that honor goes to Liverpool's The Orchid's January 1964 45 "I've Got That Feeling", Decca F 11861).  Other than Page's guitar pyrotechnics there's little to distinguish it from the original save it's amped up pace.

5.The Ugly's-"End Of The Season" U.K. Pye 7N17178 1966
This was the 4th and final Pye single by Birmingham's Ugly's (they later recorded one a piece for CBS and MGM) and captures one of the more wistful/reflective tunes on The Kink's fifth album "Something Else".  Interestingly The Ugly's version preceded The Kink's by a week shy of a year!  It's more somber than the Muswell Hill lad's version, lacking the tweeting birds and the supper club/jazz dance band shuffle and though the vocals have a distinct  upper crust accent to them they're not nearly as "toff" as Ray's.  The band were the home of Brummie "musician's musician" Steve Gibbons.

German P.S.

6.The Pretty Things-" House In The Country" U.K. Fontana TF 722 1966
One ponders the wisdom of the Pretties (or their management) in issuing a Ray Davies track (as in several of our examples, unissued by The Kinks) as a single as I'd have thought R.D. tunes were for less established acts.  It is perhaps sad to mention that it proved to be their last charting U.K. single (#50). Though not as rocking as The Kinks subsequent take it's worth it just for Dick Taylor's atmospheric little licks and Phil May's sneeringly suave vocals!

7.Gates Of Eden-"Too Much On My Mind" U.K. Pye 7N17195
This October '66 debut by the U.K.'s Gates Of Eden stems from the Kink's "Face To Face" LP and is perhaps the most telling, introspective piece by Ray Davies from the period of his nervous breakdown.  The Gates Of Eden's version differs little from The Kink's in fact it contains a whimsical harpsichord and similar Dave Davies and Rasa Davies (Ray's wife who assisted Dave Davies on backing vocals on many Kink's '66-'67 sessions) backing vocals!  The only major difference being the bass being mixed up high in the mix and being the most pronounced instrument on the track, still not half bad.

8.The Lancastrians-"The World Keeps Going Round" U.K. Pye 7N17195 1966
The Lancastrians cut 6 singles for Pye, this was their 5th, preceding an ill advised cover of "Ballad Of The Green Berets".  Released in January 1966, this cover from The Kink's November '65 LP "Kontroversy" actually surpasses the original in my book.  It's ped up a bit, the vocals have an interesting dejected feel and the guitar breaks chime in a cool little pop/art Who-ish fashion topped off by a nice vibro-trem guitar solo.

Scan c/o

9. Steve Darbishire-"Holiday In Waikiki" U.K. Decca F12553 1967
There were a whopping 7 U.K. singles culled from 7 tracks from The Kinks October 1966 "Face To Face" LP by other artists between July 1966 and January 1967.  Nearly all made attempts to differ from the original, and this is the wildest of them all.  This was Mr. Darbyshire's 5th and final Decca 45, I've no idea who he was but judging by this disc he was a character.  The vocal delivery eventually degenerates into a full on Elvis impersonation type thing but in an almost comical sense as he's obviously not trying to be serious about it (ala Terry Stafford's "Suspicion"). One the fourth verse he can't bothered to finish the line before convulsing into a Charles Nelson Reilly style campy tremor all the while a fuzzed out guitar plays the ukulele lick and the track ends with him replicating the guitar lick vocally before bursting forth with some King-like improvisations!  Sadly it has not been reissued!

10.The Attraction-"Party Line" U.K. Columbia DB 8010 1966
The topside of the November 1966 freakbeat favorite "She's A Girl" (reworked in the 80's by our local/home team Mod Fun as "Mary Goes Round") was this "Face To Face" Dave Davies belter.  It is sped up considerably and is aided by the main riff being a distorted jolt of fuzz (that has an almost raga feel to it) and characterised by a overblown posh female voice echoing the verse after the middle while the sound effects of a party ensue!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Buzz

THE BUZZ-You're Holding Me Down/I've Got A Buzz U.S. Coral 62492 1966

Holly cow Batman, can you believe this insane slice of Joe Meek produced freakbeat mayhem got a U.S. release?  Originally released in the U.K.  on April Fool's Day 1966 as Columbia DB 7887 it stands as one of Joe's more far out productions (for more on that topic have a peek at this older posting):

The Buzz (not to be confused with David Bowie's backing outfit who were playing the clubs at the same time this 45 was released) hailed from Edinburgh and made just one record, today's item in question. Reconstituted from the remnants of the Boston Dexter's they were: the late Tam White (lead vocals), John Turnbull (lead guitar), Brian Henderson (bass) and Mike Travis (drums). "You're Holding Me Down" is the stuff of legends.  It's perhaps the perfect companion to Meek's speed induced paranoia and mania manifesting itself in the three minute pop song.  Though the genre moniker did not exist at the time of it's release the record implies freakbeat in every sense of the aesthetic! The insane over compression production, the manic intensity of the tune's delivery and the sheer savage brutality of the "fuck you" lyrics are magical.  The band's sound encompasses the way out beat sounds of, say, The Honeycombs at their finest while there's enough wigginess of The Creation or The Who at their top of the game pop art auto destruction period to perfect peg this as "freakbeat". It honestly doesn't get any freakier than this and it's right up there with the likes of "Rumble On Mersey Square South" by Wimple Winch or "She's Got Eyes That Tell Lies" by Him and the Others. I first heard this track on the "Searching In The Wilderness" bootleg LP comp in the mid 80's. Bam Caruso later slapped it on "Rubble 13: Freakbeat Fantoms" in better quality with it's complete maddening speed fueled paranoia ending equaled only by John's Children's "Smashed ! Blocked!" in my estimation.  The U.S. pressing ends earlier leaving out several seconds of the demented fade out echoes of "go back, go back...". The flip side, "I've Gotta Buzz" is a boring cod-country music track penned by Joe Meek, even some Jimmy Page-like volume pedal guitar work can't salvage this, probably written by Meek during a booze and pills inspired moment when he was daydreaming about his favorite scenario of homo erotic rough trade cowboys.

"I hear a new world", and it sounds like "You're Holding Me Down".

Both sides were on the more recent highly recommended CD comp "Joe Meek's Freakbeat: You're Holding Me Down", while "You're Holding Me Down" has appeared on over half a dozen other CD's!

The Buzz 45 was not the only odball Coral release of a U.K. obscurity, the label also issued The Richard Kent Style's monster mod/freakbeat classic "Go Go Children" (62504).

Hear "You're Holding Me Down":

************45 label scan c/o Reynaldo Moldonando******************
Thanks to Keith Patterson for additional assistance.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

THE SMOKE-My Friend Jack/We Can Take It Germany Metronome B1662 1967

Thank you Ron Rimsite!! Through Mod Fun's Mick London you brought into my hands a cassette comp called "Carnaby Classics" in early 1985, and on there was a track by the Smoke called "My Friend Jack".  Within a few months I'd secured a reissue of their LP "It's Smoke Time" on the Gull label in their "Star Power" series (complete with dodgy looking high school art class sleeve instead of just doing a straight copy of the cool full color original sleeve)! In 1988 Ron provided me with a copy of the German single in it's picture sleeve (above) at a wonderfully discounted price along with a German Creation 45 P.S., a Yugoslavian Equals E.P. and a Yugoslavian Walker Brothers 45 P.S., all in trade for a well worn battered copy of "Jump And Dance" by The Carnaby.  The Smoke were one of those classic British bands who were pretty much ignored on their home ground and made a name for themselves gigging and releasing a lot of records on the European Continent.  Today's specimen comes from Germany on the Metronome label, who released 4 singles by the band in the 60's as well as their German only 1967 LP "It's Smoke Time"(  Metronome MLP 15279, which currently will set you back anywhere from $300-$500 for a VG+ and upwards copy of a first pressing).

"My Friend Jack" seems pretty, well, pedestrian nowadays. In fact I'm surprised it hasn't been used in some semi-mainstream movie like "Making Time" was.  It's not terribly exciting to me because I've heard a zillion times and it's on at least, and I kid you not, a dozen different CD's I own.  But there was something wonderfully magical about it when I first heard it 27 years ago.  From the searing vibro-term guitar intro by guitarist Mal Luker accented by brash power chords the rest of the number grooves along, otherwise, peacefully, while Tom Skeritt lookalike Mick Rowley sings in a none too subtle manner about his friend Jack who eats sugar lumps. "We Can Take It" is pretty tame.  It's more or less built around a groove laid down by Mal Luker that's more or less a jangly scale.  Not nearly as powerful as the A-side it's still not a bad track.

"My Friend Jack" climbed to a modest #45 on the U.K. singles chart (Columbia DB 8115) in February 1967 and to #2 in the German charts.  The band would enjoy much success in Germany and on the Continent but would never again chart with any other subsequent 45 releases.  Both sides have appeared on so many Smoke CD's that my head would spin attempting to locate them.  A cursory glance at tells me that the most currently "in print" is the Repertoire CD reissue of "It's Smoke Time" with bonus tracks (which has been my old standby these past 20 years).

An alternate version of "My Friend Jack" exists with a different verse in the main chorus.  Instead of singing "My friend Jack eats sugar lumps, he's been travellin' everywhere" Mick Rowley sings "My friend Jack eats sugar lumps, oh what beautiful things he sees".

There were multiple 60's groups called The Smoke in addition the the British band: an excellent freakbeat/punk band from New Zealand who appeared on the "Wild Things: Wild Kiwi Garage 1966-1969" CD series with their rare as hell '67 RCA N.Z. 45 "Never Trust A Woman"/"No More Now" and an American group who released a pleasant pop/psych untitled LP in 1968 on the Tower Records offshoot Sidewalk (which had, allegedly some Kim Fowley/Michael Lloyd involvement).

The band miming "My Friend Jack" on "Beat Club", from a special "live" edition taped at the Marquee Club 3/11/67 (with The Who, Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers, Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, all of whom played live, why did The Smoke mime?):

The band playing "High In A Room" and "My Friend Jack" live 9/18/67 on yet another German TV show, this time "Beat Beat Beat" and this time it's actually "live":

Hear "We Can Take It":

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Let Me Tell You 'Bout The Manfreds.....

MANFRED MANN-The One In The Middle/Watermelon Man/What Am I To Do/With God On Our Side U.K. HMV 7EG 8908 1965
You can't go wrong with Paul Jones era Manfred Mann in my book.  While I do enjoy a bit of the Mike D'Abo era stuff I find that the jazzy/harder r&b of  the Manfred's Mk.I is far more appealing in my book. This was the band's third of seven E.P.'s they did on HMV while Paul Jones was at the helm, hitting the streets in the Summer of 1965.

It kicks off with the cheeky band musical autobiography "The One In The Middle", composed by lead singer Paul Jones. It's a fully rollicking mid 60's British r&b record if ever there was one with catchy guitar licks, blues wailing harp, funky organ and Paul Jone's strong vocals, a full on party! And of course the lyrics are amusing too. The band then tackle Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" via Jon Hendrick's vocalese version, nicely accented by some sweet sax from in house multi-instrumentalist Mike Vickers.  At times Paul Jone's sounds a tad unconvincing in his efforts to vocally replicate an American black man, but I don't take it as any form on insincerity on his part.

The band on one of many "Ready Steady Go" appearances, 1965.

Side two of the E.P. opens with the soulful reading of "What Am I To Do", a track written by Phil Spector and Doc Pomus. Once again Paul Jones shines in the vocal department, crooning away soulfully and during the chorus the band show their chops beneath Manfred's atmospheric piano interspersed with some churchy organ on the solo.  Magic.  The E.P. ends with Bob Dylan's "With God On Our Side".  The band had a history of recording a lot of the big D's stuff in fact their next single would be a reading of his "If You Gotta Go, Go Now".  But this tune is where it all began and kicked off the band's long standing relationship with covering Dylan tracks (it's been suggested that Mr. Zimmerman enjoyed their interpretations of his tracks, I'm still holding out for a second volume of his "Chronicles" autobiography series to see if he mentions them in any way).  The sparse and simple bass, drums, thumping piano arrangement suits the number perfectly as Paul Jones sings with soul and conviction on what is, beyond all doubt, the most poignant Dylan track ever written. Bitingly cynical yet straight and to the point, a fine anti-war statement brilliantly delivered by a top notch British r&b band, who once again, prove they can be both cheeky and serious.

All four tracks are available in a variety of places, the best and most complete being the 4 CD set "Down The Road A Piece: 1963-1966" which spans every single track they ever recorded for the HMV label.

Hear "The One In The Middle":

"Watermelon Man" on "Shindig":

Hear "What Am I To Do":

Hear "With God On Our Side":