This month I decided to take a break and hand things over to my two and a half year old daughter for this month's music picks. I've never been a parent who wants to inundate their child with their own personal tastes but I haven't strayed from playing music around my little wonder either. She loves to dance and will start doing so whenever she hears something she likes. These wound up being her favorites over the past two years, with no coercion or suggestions from me or the Mrs. (well she heard "Click Click" by some mediocre band in "Shrek 4" and I decided she needed to hear the original....and she couldn't tell the difference and bursts into spontaneous fits of dance when she hears it on my iPod):
1. THE SCAFFOLD-"Thank U Very Much"
When she was not even two yet this cheeky track inspired giddiness and still does.
2. THE SCAFFOLD-"1,2,3"
Scaffold tracks seem to be child friendly, maybe because they're simple and this one of course has counting, which she likes to do often!
3. OLA & THE JANGLERS-"Alex Is The Man"
My daughter cottoned to this because of the way one of the band members says "George" in a flat out Liverpudlian accent that I've often used when referring to one of her stuffed monkeys who just happens to be named George.
4. THE BEE GEES-"Harry Braff"
Around our house we sing an altered version to the cat.
5. THE ZOMBIES-"A Rose For Emily"
Aka "The Emily Song", another cat inspired tune. I used to feel odd that a two + year old was walking around singing "Emily can't you see" from a tune about an old spinster who dies alone, but we'll laugh at the irony when she reads Faulkner in high school.
6. USHA UTHUP & CHORUS-"One Two Cha Cha Cha"
C/o one of my treasured "In Flight Entertainment" CD's this became an instant "like" and a frequent request on YouTube.
7. HEPCAT-"Pick It Up"
Thanks to "Yo Gabba Gabba" this, along with "Don't Bite Your Friends", is a frequent "request". There's something charming about a two year old chanting "pick it up pick it up pick it up" in Ranking Roger toasting style! And here's the video:
8. THE (ENGLISH) BEAT-"Click Click"
As mentioned above.
9. MONGO SANTAMARIA-"El Pussycat"
A fave, though possibly only because of the cat meows that punctuate it, but there's always some head bopping and shoulder rolling to go along with it when she hears it!
10. YO GABBA GABBA-"Don't Bite Your Friends"
We had a bit of biting going on at school awhile back, this helped set it right and became a fave, but not mine.
ERIC BURDON & THE ANIMALS-Help Me Girl/See See Rider Spain Decca ME 283 1966
Hands down my fave Animals period was after Alan Price left in the summer of '65. I've nothing against Price musically it's just that the period in which ex-Mike Cotton Sound keyboard player Dave Rowberry joined the band they had finally evolved into their own and didn't need those weak Chuck Berry/Jimmy Reed covers. Rowberry also brought some more groovy organ playing and the band got grittier and freakier. Pretty soon ex-Nashville Teen Barry Jenkins was sitting on John Steel's drum stool too (February 1966). Well that period with Rowberry and Jenkins didn't last long either as by the beginning of 1967 Eric had chucked the lot (save Jenkins) and with a slew of new faces they became Eric Burdon & The Animals. The name was confusing applied in the U.S. to a lot of the Rowberry/Jenkins period "Animals" material but today's topic was the first U.K./Euro use of the full "Eric Burdon & The Animals" moniker.
The first 45 by "Eric Burdon and the Animals" was slated to be September 1966's "Help Me Girl" b/w Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not To Come" in the U.K. as Decca F 12502, the press adverts were already running but for some reason the single was cancelled. One month later Decca F 12502 was relaunched with "See See Rider (See What You've Done)" on the flip side (the U.S. would have to wait till March 1967 when MGM released "Help Me Girl" b/w "That Ain't Where It's At" as MGM K13636). Today's copy comes from Spain and was released some time in 1966.
"RAVE" March 1966
"Help Me Girl" shows the sounds that were created when, at the annual Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in August 1965 The Animals (then Burdon, Rowberry, bassist Chaz Chandler, guitarist Hilton Valentine and Steel), launched the one off "Animals Big Band" featuring a four piece horn section. And why not? Burdon was spending a lot of time at all the London 60's "in crowd" night spots (see N.M.E clip below from The Cromwellian) with the likes of Zoot Money, Georgie Fame. Chris Farlowe and a host of other's from the London Hammond n' horns mafia (period pieces from the U.K. music weeklies seemed to include photos of Burdon out on the town as a matter of practice). "Help Me Girl", is, in my estimation, the result of that. With it's full brass section, organ, flute and vibes it sounds akin to anything Georgie Fame was doing at the time. Burdon even pushed the number on one of the final installments of "Ready! Steady! Go!", or so says "Disc & Music Echo", because of course there's no clip left to verify it!!
"See See Rider" of course is an old blues chestnut, often credited to Ma Rainey, among others. Both Chuck Willis and Lavern Baker cut versions of it which no doubt brought it to the attention of Mitch Ryder who covered it first using part of the track in a "medley" of his hit "Jenny Take A Ride" which was released in November of '65. The Animals version is a pure and amazing example of the post-Price period I was raving about earlier. From it's hypnotic organ trills by Rowberry, to Valentine's gritty guitar bashing the whole thing pumps along at a go-go '66 pace that's purely indicative of the brief period before L.S.D. changed it all with it's breaks and imminently danceable groove.
"Oh shit, him AGAIN!": New Musical Express, November 29, 1966
Both sides are available in a host of places, my fave being the faithful and excellent quality (and still in print after 20+ years!) U.S. MGM CD "The Best of Eric Burdon & The Animals 1966-1968".
THE PRETTY THINGS-Talkin' About The Good Times/Walking Through My Dreams U.K. Columbia DB 8353 1968 Scan c/o http://www.45cat.com/
By 1968 The Pretty Things were starting to run out of steam. This was their 11th single, and their second for EMI's Columbia offshoot having left Fontana records in mid 1967. Like it's trippy predecessor "Mr. Evasion"/"Defecting Grey" (Columbia DB 8300) both sides were band originals and were produced by The Pink Floyd's producer Norman Smith and sadly, like it's predecessor put them no closer to the hit parade despite a very "with it" sound. This single would be the last one featuring drummer Skip Allen who would soon be replaced by ex-Tomorrow wild man John "Twink" Alder. At this point in their career the only original members were Phil May (lead vocals) and Dick Taylor (lead guitar) with ex-Fenmen John Povey (keyboards) and Wally Waller (bass) who'd been around since the tail end of their Fontana stint still hanging in there.
And we're so pretty oh so pretty......
I had forgotten all about this 45 until I was meeting my friend Rhea from L.A. in Brit's Pub in Minneapolis back in January and "Talkin'..." came on the P.A. there. Maybe it was the numerous imperial pints of Fuller's E.S.B. and maybe it was catching up with an old friend quite literally "talking about the good times" but it all seemed to work perfectly, like we had our own theme music. I'd immediately remembered how cool this 45 was and made a mental note to blog about it. All to often I forget about groovy 45's I once had and this was sadly, one of them. I had a standard stock copy, black label, that I think came from Craig Morer and went to one of you, possibly, at one of the WFMU record Fairs.
"Talkin' About The Good Times" is a perfect hybrid of all things English, 1967(even though it's from 1968!) and psychedelic. Awash in Mellotron and bombastic guitar overdubs it blends some brilliant West Coast styled harmonies with plinking sitars behind storming drums pounding around a beat not unlike 100's of marching footsteps, very trippy. To say that the Mellotron makes this track would be an understatement, instead of the typical Moody Blues orchestral style this is more akin to the spooky "We Love You"/"2,000 Light Years From Home". The best part is the ending where the whole thing winds down and these perfect sunshiney pop voices croon "good times" in a "Pet Sounds" friendly kinda way before a guitar starts playing a jangly little riff and the psychedelic symphony of madness Mellotron weaves its web again.
"Walking Through My Dreams" is altogether a different fish in a different kettle. It sounds more like a lost track from their third LP "Emotions" (my fave Pretties album actually). No Mellotron, just some faint organ but once again carried by some very strong harmony vocals (the ex-Fenmen members brought their harmonic skills honed in their previous act to the Pretties and were put to good use). There's some backwards guitar to remind us it's still psychedelic and a groovy little guitar solo that's a taste for their next long player, the opus "S.F. Sorrow".
Both sides have been comped on a bunch of places, most recently a double CD of The Prettie's called "The Psychedelic Years 1966-1970" or my fave EMI's "Psychedelia At Abbey Road" CD. "Walking Through My Dreams" was issued on Bam Caruso's "Rubble Volume Two:Pop Psych Dreams" (my first hearing of it) and "Talking About The Good Times" was on "Rubble Volume Three: Nightmares In Wonderland" (ditto).
Messrs Povey, May, Waller, Allen and Taylor, respectively.
THE KINKS-Dandy/Party Line Germany Pye HT 300032 1966
Hello, hello, it's good to be back it's good to be back...or so the creepy man in spangled lurex sang. It's been awhile. My stock of ready to publish blog entries have dwindled and I've been too busy working for the man to punch out any new ones. Lately I've been Kinks mad having finally scored all but one of the deluxe double CD editions of all of the 60's LP's (I still need the "Arthur" one). I'm also rapidly approaching the point where I'm running out of records to write about as I have this rather anal tendency to only want to usually pen about 45's I've actually owned, usually without resorting to stealing (ie using/borrowing) scans from other people because I couldn't be bothered to scan the labels of the 500+ 60's 45's I divested myself of.
With that in mind today's topic is a German pressing (with a decidedly dated looking '65 Kinks on the sleeve) of a Kinks track that sadly never got an A-side release in the U.K.: "Dandy" (it was found in the U.K. on their "Face To Face" LP along with it's flip side "Party Line"), where it went to the #1 slot in late 1966. I first became aware of the track as a 10 year old on a cousin's yard sale score of their "A Kind Of Hush" U.S. LP before I even knew who Ray Davies or The Kinks were. To me the track seems to somehow epitomise the somewhat stereotypical lad about town in Swinging London (no doubt fueled by too many viewings of "Alfie" or even any host of U.K. film characters from "The Knack And How To Get It", "Blow Up" "The System" or even Micheal York's "Tom Swift" in "Smashing Time"). For a time many, many, many years ago, I somehow felt this was a personal anthem of sorts as I flitted around doing things with a rather gauche but gentlemanly manner. I often think that Ray wrote this about brother Dave who was being Jack The Lad while he was stuck in his prefab with a wife, a baby and one more on the way. It was not released, as we mentioned, on a U.K. single but it was an A-side in Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Holland, to name but a few.
As we've mentioned in earlier posts "Dandy" was recorded by a host of other artists which you can have a peek at here:
The Kink's version, in my book is the superior version. Ray's vocals are almost ambivalent, with an almost jealous -but-couldn't-care-less attitude to them as he writes and sings in one of his best modes: social observation. Pete Quaife's bass and Nicky Hopkin's slight piano chords rock it out in an almost "Sunny Afternoon" style descending chord progression and it ends with Ray (finally) singing with a sad bit of jealous resignation "and Dandy, you're alright...".
"Party Line" harks the end of the old raving Kinks ala "Come On Now" or "It's Alright" at a time when things were becoming increasingly more quaint, introspective and whimsical. Kicking off with a phone ringing and manager Greenville Collin's posh clipped quip "Hello who's that speaking please?" it's a proper bash up, as one man said. It's still fun though and Dave's voice is always perfect for these sort of numbers. To be truthful as much as I like the "raving" Kinks I think the '66-'69 "quintessential Kinks" (as I like to term them in that period) are my fave because they created something different and carved out their own niche, whereas the earlier stuff seemed akin to say The Troggs or The Sorrows. But the number works as they bash their way through and Dave plays some very melodic bits underneath it all.
Both tracks are of course on their brilliant fourth LP "Face To Face".
Gustav Holst's classical suite "The Planets" (with seven movements, each named for a planet) was first heard by the public in 1918 in London to a small audience. It has been stated in some places that the classical piece was a failure because of it's ominous tone and since World War One (or The Great War as it was known as prior to 1939)was underway it has been suggested that the public did not want something so dark and bleak sounding. It sadly never brought fame or fortune to it's composer in his lifetime. The piece obviously played a very large part in the orchestration for the very first "Star Wars" film in 1977 by John Williams.
My favorite movement from the suite has always been "Mars, Bringer Of War", which has been utilized quite a bit in our little 60's British psych/mod/freakbeat segment of 60's music as you can read below. It's ominous tones seem to lend itself perfectly to the genre as our examples will hopefully rightly attest.
British 60's band Sand's (formerly The Others of "Oh Yeah" fame) sole 45 output was this September 1967 single on Robert Stigwood's Reaction label (591017). Found on the B-side of a previously unissued Bee Gee's cover, "Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator", "Listen To The Sky" is a brilliant track. Telling the tale of a reluctant aviator going off to war it degenerates into mod/freakbeat oblivion with air raid sirens, machine gun bursts and diving planes (replicated by sliding a pick up and down a guitar string) ending with the entire band striking up with a power pop/mod section of "Mars, Bringer Of War" in a style not unlike the Who's reading of "Hall Of The Mountain King".
The debut single by the British band Family, "Scene Through The Eye Of A Lens" (Liberty LBF 15031) from October 1967 utilized "Mars Bringer Of War" during the end of the track in the midst of it's near Eastern Trafffic-esque groovy cacophony. The incessant riff played on a woodwind is both hypnotic and demented as it becomes sort of a freak out klaxon and meshes perfectly amid the thumping percussion's, phased backing vocals and out of nowhere, but perfectly segueing in comes a fuzz guitar playing the crescendo of "Mars, Bringer Of War" .
Davy Jones & The Lower Third onstage at the Marquee Club September 1965
It has been reported in both Kevin Cann's excellent Bowie book "Any Day Now: The London Years" and Nicholas Pegg's essential "The Complete David Bowie" that David Bowie (as Davy Jones) and his band The Lower Third, ended many of their 1965 performances at London's Marquee club with a feedback ladden version of "Mars, Bringer Of War". Bowie and members of the band have asserted that the group was known for being excessively loud (it has been suggested in some circles that this was to over compensate for their lack of musical ability) so one wonders if their reading was a good or bad thing to behold! Sadly no audio of these performances is known to exist.