Monday, September 10, 2012

Geno! Geno! Geno! Geno!

GENO WASHINGTON AND THE RAM JAM BAND-Water/Understanding/HI! Hi! Hazel/Beach Bash PYE France PNV 24178 1966 

Geno Washington. 60's American "legend" on the British 60's night life club circuit.  Darling to soul happy British mods (often deprived of the "real thing").  Subject of Dexy's Midnight Runner's 1980 45 anthem/tribute "Geno" (and first brought to my attention in a 1980 music magazine article on Dexy's).  You don't meet a lot of Geno Washington fans.  To many (myself included) he was a product of a fearful British record label that knew they didn't have a ghost of a chance of matching American soul/r&b hits and in a sometimes shoddy manner decided they would issue their own "homegrown" version, unfortunately more times then often this involved inferior versions of American stormers.  In a way I felt bad for the British mod/soul 60's fanatics.  Here in the States we had Motown/Stax/Chess acts live galore.  They got a couple of Motown and Stax package tours and Geno butchering "She Shot A Hole In My Soul".

Unlike fellow American ex-pat ex servicemen working the U.K. circuit like Herbie Goins, Geno didn't really have the pipes.  I often wonder if John Schroeder and the people at Piccadilly were like "He's black and he's an American, that'll do, find him a tight backing band and we'll run with it". A lot of his material was often third rate covers of American soul tracks "You Got Me Hummin'" for example (or the above mentioned painful Clifford Curry track).  Live his backing band were the shit as they say: tight, wailing, but again for all his enthusiasm Geno wasn't much of a front man in the lead vocal department.  His vinyl studio sessions expose the flaws in his even more.

Today's copy was his first French E.P. (actually once owned by the DJ Emperor Rosko! See scan below) that compiled his first two Piccadilly U.K. 45's : "Water"/"Understanding" (Piccadilly 7N 35312, April 1966) and "Hi Hi Hazel"/"Beach Bash" (Piccadilly 7N 35329, July 1966) .

"Water" has a solid backing and Geno's voice isn't bad.  Geno himself swore that his recorded live gigs were always better than the studio sessions but I beg to differ.  Without John Schroeder's guiding hand in the studio (he produced virtually all of their 60's studio sessions for Piccadilly/Pye) things were toned down and his voice was kept in check, live he could go beyond his already modest limitations.  "Understanding", not to be confused with The S.F's gem of the same name is my fave on the E.P.  With a nice organ/sax groove backing it on top of a pumping bass line it's easily danceable and well within Geno's ability.  "Hi Hi Hazel" is possibly one of the worst songs ever written. no matter who's doing it's an abomination: Gary & The Hornets, The Troggs, Geno and the boys included....  "Beach Bash" is better known to everyone as "Bush Bash" by The Markeys .  My assumption is that in the spirit of the 60's with Geno having a sizable mod contingent following in light of of the Brighton/Clacton/Margate punch up's it would be clever to rename the number "Beach Bash".  Whereas the original relies on a soulful organ beginning lapsing into a jazzy sax bit then Steve Cropper's twangy Telecaster string pulling The Ram Jam Band pump it up a bit (dexy's?) and leave out the organ solo making it a showcase for the bands twin saxophone attack that resembles a '79 ska record and the guitarist giving it a little Link Wray action before, interestingly swinging the whole band into a ska rhythm!
Geno Washington & Co. rocking out at their home base, The Marquee 1966

All four of the E.P.'s tracks can be found on a variety of CD's. I have them on a double CD "My Bombers My Dexy's My Highs:The Sixties Studio Sessions", which though two discs is a bit much Geno for anyone, can be found on the cheap quite easily.

Witness the mediocrity that is "Hi Hi Hazel":


"Beach Bash":

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