Sunday, May 25, 2014

May's Picks

1. CHUCK JOHNSON-"Competition"
Recorded for the Symbol label in '63 with help from Charlie and Inez Foxx (Charlie wrote it and Inez sings back up and it has a slight "Mockingbird" feel to it) this monster mid tempo r&b stormer was issued on the flip of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush".

2. GENERATION X-"100 Punks"
"Tomorrow's ace faces advertised today...if you ain't got a look you'll never be one"
Bromley contingent veteran Billy Idol and his power pop punk rockers Generation X fire off a 101 mph anthem for the ages full of amphetamine adrenaline, angst, nihilism and above all unlike many of their D.I.Y peers, masterfully executed!

3. DEEP FEELING-"Pretty Colours"
Some of the best tunes from the 60's are ones that folks back then never got to hear, like this proto-trippy number from 1966 cut by a short lived Brum band fronted by Jim Capaldi and virtually a who's who of late 60's British rock n' roll that remained unreleased until a few years ago. Perfectly charts the period where mod/soul-r&b gave way to acid induced mysticism.

4. PETER NOONE-"Right On Mother"
I hear you laughing back there!! This Bowie tune was never cut by the Thin White Duke himself but he gave to Noone (who's previously single was a hit rendition of Bowie's "Oh You Pretty Things").  This cheeky chappie ode to mom understanding her son's a man and living with his girl and it's real was issued on the flip of the less than successful "Walnut Whirl" in October 1971.

5. THE MONKEES-"Daily Nightly"
Even as a dumb as a rock 10 year old I knew what psychedelia was (thanks to a VERY scary health class text book with a creepy horrific two page spread of what an acid trip "looked like") so seeing the pre-Fab Four "play" this eerie tune on an episode after school further cemented my views on it ("The Monkees" were syndicated in the U.S. after school in '75-'76 and Arista even launched a "Greatest Hits" LP to ride the new found wave of "Monkeemania").

  6. DON FARDON-"Hudson Bay"
A bit of mellow stuff from the mighty Don's 2nd U.S. solo LP "I've Paid My Dues". It's distinctly M.O.R. and probably would've been suited for the likes of Gordon Lightfoot (ack!) but Don does some great things with it and the gentle melodic acoustic guitar moves it along rather nicely. Also issued in the U.K. as the flip of his hit "Indian Reservation". 

Brilliant instrumental from this beat/r&b instrumental combo's untitled 1966  LP for the cheezy /muzak meets Swingin' London supper club house band sound of the "easy" label "Studio 2 Stereo" . Unsurprisingly kitsch but surprisingly rocking!!

8. SHE TRINITY-"Yellow Submarine"
There are loads of Fab Four covers from the 60's, especially from the "Revolver" LP . This is one of my faves, strangely issued a week after the Fab's version on EMI's Columbia imprint( were Columbia staff not in communication with Parlophone people)?  It's goofy yes but I love the middle bit where they break into "Wild Thing".

9. DOLPH PRINCE-"You're Gonna Drive Me Crazy"
One of the MANY great things about Ace's "New Breed" series is their digging up old, obscure 50's/60's r&b monsters like this one from 1957.  This one nicely mixes doo-wop, boogie woogie, r&b and blues and currently resides on my "want list:.  Available on Ace/Kent's "New Breed Volume Two".

10. MOD FUN-"Open Your Eyes"
Initially issued on the British LP compilation on Squire's record label Hi-Lo on a compilation of American mod/60's styled bands called "American Heart And Soul", this number dates among the last things recorded by Mod fun before they dropped mod and the Mod Fun tag in the Summer of 1986. A less than sly re-write of the Creation's "Through My Eyes" it's fantastic stuff regardless and is one of the most lysergic records made in the U.S. in the 80's.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shoe-less In America Part Two: Sandie Shaw

SANDIE SHAW-Girl Don't Come/I'd Be Far Better Off Without You U.S. Reprise 0342 1965

This was Sandie Shaw's second U.S. 45 (we profiled her first here) which was launched in February 1965. It was also the closest she ever got to a U.S. hit (#42), her highest and only charting U.S. release in February 1965 . It reached #3 back home in the U.K. where it was originally a B-side to "I'd Be Far Better Off Without You" (Pye 7N 15743 December 1964) but was flipped. "Girl Don't Come" along with it's predecessor "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" were included on her debut untitled U.S. LP (Reprise R 6166) issued in tandem with this.

THE coolest/hottest Sandie Shaw pic you'll ever see.

Both sides were produced and penned by Chris Andrews who would supply her with the bulk of her material. "Girl Don't Come" is one of my fave tunes by her no doubt helped by it's dreary, somber musical backing that's as bright and sunny as a torrential mid-day downpour on Clapham Common.  Sandie's voice is perfect for it and it all works having this almost dreamy and sultry feel to it perfectly suited for a bleak b&w "kitchen sink" film from the same period.  The flip side, "I'd Be Far Better Off Without You" is okay, it's not terrible but it has far too many tempo changes to make it really listenable more than once.  The chorus is catchy but it's one of the most disjointed mid Sixties pop songs that you're likely to hear!!

Sandie in New York 1965

Both sides can be found on the recent deluxe CD reissue of her debut U.K. LP "Sandie" and on an old but faithful double CD "The Pye Anthology: '64-'67 Complete Sandie Shaw ".

Watch Sandie lip sync "Girl Don't Come" on "Ready Steady Go":


 Hear "I'd Be Far Better Off Without You":

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Mods: The New Religion, The Style And Music Of The 1960's Mods"

No book in my life time has garnered more enthusiasm from mod cognoscenti than Paul "Smiler" Anderson's long awaited "Mods: The New Religion, The Style And Music Of The 1960's Mods". Not since Richard Barne's famed "Mods" book has there been such an extensive, in detail mods eye view of the Sixties U.K. mod scene.

What makes this book a notch above all comers is it's largely made up of first hand recollections from the people who were there on both the mod scene AND the music scene.  None of this usual bullshit of some hack spreading the oft told factual musical inaccuracies regurgitated for decades like "Rod Stewart played harmonica on "My Boy Lollipop" or "The High Numbers lifted "Zoot Suit" from "Country Fool" by the Showmen". No, not at all.  The musicians quoted are too numerous to list but to give an example of a few what you get are recollections about the Sixties U.K. mod scene from Ian McLagan, Geno Washington, Derek Morgan, Jimmy James, Eddie Floyd, Siggy Jackson (Blue Beat records founder), Martha Reeves, Chris Farlowe, Zoot Money, Mick Eves ( Georgie Fame's Blue Flames), Owen Grey, Eddie Phillips, Andy Ellison, Phil May, Count Prince Miller (Jimmy Jame's Vagabonds) etc. Interestingly there seems to be an emphasis on bands that are often overlooked in the pro-American r&b/soul element of the mod scene like The Creation, The Birds and The Eyes and strangely, The Love Affair. There are amazing accounts by Motown and Stax musicians about their visits to Britain, their interaction with mods and fans and appreciative British artists. There are stories from British bands about their mod followings, their gigs, recordings and TV show appearances. Entire chapters are devoted to clothes, Motown/Stax, scooters, the Brighton/Margate riots, ska, the "Ready Steady Go" TV program, British home grown r&b, British based record labels devoted to the sounds beloved by mods, record collecting, DJ's and separate chapters on various important mod clubs (ie The Scene, The Birdcage etc) and playlists compiled by club DJ's and regulars for each of the clubs profiled. An even stronger element of the book's musical aspect is the photos.  There are few photos in this book that most of us have seen before. And that goes not only for pics of mods themselves but bands as well.  For instance there's a photo of David Bowie and Buzz on a go cart track, Lemmy hanging out with one of The Birds next to their van etc. And there's a host of scans of 45 labels and 7", LP and E.P. sleeve scans for eye candy on top of gig and club poster reproductions and trade adverts for records.

Then there are the first hand accounts of the mods themselves. There are a slew of personal photos of mods in their finest, on their scooters, in clubs and shops many with corresponding stories and in depth recollections to go along with the photos, all meticulously put together like a historical document with none of the dry academic slant that sadly becomes rather prevalent when authors seek to become so analytical on "mod". Here you get the people who were there in the Sixties talking freely about it all and great snaps straight from personal collections and not news services. None of these personal reminiscences are dry, they're all presented in detail, with passion and  humor.

And like any good story there's an ending too.  The culprits for the demise or decline of mod are often blamed on Swingin' London, flower power, skinheads etc.  Interestingly many of the personal recollections blame it on age and the premise that people simply grew out of it or got married and "settled down", got bored or just moved onto other things like psychedelia and flower power. One indication of this is DJ Jeff Dexter's playlist for the Tiles Club in '67 that sees The Soft Machine, The Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and The Creation nestled among Prince Buster, Roy C, Alvin Robinson and The Temptations!! There's little or no indication of the mod to skinhead transition that's often cited (though they are allotted some mention) but there have already been numerous books to document that.

All in all I have purchased pretty much every large and/or illustrated book on "mod" that's been published in the past 34 years and as mentioned earlier NONE of them since "Mods" have a patch on "this.  If you are a mod, were a mod or plan to be one or have a passing interest in the era you will be no better served than by a book of this caliber which is well worth every penny.

"Mods: The New Religion, The Style And Music Of The 1960's Mods" is available direct from Amazon.

Special credit is due to Mocky Marzan de Cabo from whom I nicked the collage idea photo above from.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels:Neil Christian

NEIL CHRISTIAN-That's Nice/She's Got The Action U.S. RCA 47-8828 1966

The late Neil Christian (born Christopher Tidmarsh) had, to my knowledge, only one U.S. 45 release, an RCA issue of his 4th U.K. single "That's Nice" (U.K. release Strike FH 301, February 1966).  This was his first of many for the Strike label . Incidentally this was his first record of involvement with producer/songwriter Miki Dallon who'd set up the short lived but interesting Strike label. The U.S. issue came out a few months later in May. It was also his sole U.K. hit (reaching #16).

"That's Nice" is a kitschy, brass backed pop song with nothing really special about it, in fact it's rather mundane save Neil's affectations on a few lines.  It's perfectly suited to his campy delivery style/mannerisms however as the German TV mime clip below proves.

Our money is firmly on the B-side. "She's Got The Action" had previously been cut by Coventry's The Sorrows in 1965 on their debut LP on Piccadilly "Take A Heart". Christian's version, though different from The Sorrow's is juiced up thanks to some some horns and a bluesy little lick that repeats throughout the number.  It's a lot more up tempo than The Sorrows and has an amusing part after a horn piece where Christian half sings/speaks "that's niiiiice" followed by some pounding drumming.  Neil went on to be a far bigger name in Germany where he had released far more titles from '66 onward than in his home country, sadly he died in January 2010.

Both sides have been comped in a variety of places, most recently a U.K. CD retrospective titled "That's Nice" whilst "That's Nice"  appeared a few year's back on a U.K. Strike records compilation released by RPM.


 Hear "She's Got The Action":

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Top 10 80's 45's

1. THE SCENE-"Something That You Said" Diamond (U.K.)  DIA 003 1984
When I was in London in September 1984 the band on EVERY mod in town's lips were The Scene.  The late great Jimmy at the Merc was kind enough to spin it for me and I brought six copies home with me to spread among the faithful. Beneath a driving beat and a catchy chorus of "ba ba baaa's" "Something That You Said" swings from start to finish with crashing Rickenbackers jangling out an infectious little groove and in the process shitting all over every other "mod" record at that time.

"Something That You Said" appeared on the now out of print mod CD compilation "This Is Mod Volume 3: A Diamond Collection"  and on the Cherry Red records mod box set "Millions Like Us (The Story Of The Mod Revival 1977-1989").

2. BIFF BANG POW-"There Must Be A Better Life" Creation (U.K.) CRE 007 1984
Coming on as bleak as a b&w early 60's kitchen sink drama this  tune is dosed with a splash of psychedelic technicolor care of some backwards guitar buzzes, Pink Floyd-ish spooky keyboards and disjointed jangling guitars giving it a "Roger McGuinn and Syd Barrett on the Dole" feel. It's depressing as fucking hell but oh how entertaining. Sadly Biff Bang Pow never got the due they deserved but the label and the band's leader Alan Mcgee did of course in time with music that was far beyond my scene or head.

"There Must" Be A Better Life" appeared on the box set "The Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the Second Psychedelic Era 1976-1996".

3. MOD FUN-"I Am With You" New Records (U.S.)  MF 001 1984
From the intro of some dialogue from the 60's "Batman" TV show to the opening musical fluid jazzy bassline and wall of guitar coated in fuzz and distortion "I Am With You" spoke to the mod minority like me who were comfortable with psychedelia and garage sitting alongside more "traditional" (read "stereotype") mod trappings.  Hailing from my home state of New Jersey Mod Fun were my local team from the moment my nearby hip college radio station ("WPRB Princeton") spun them one Friday night in the Spring of 1984 and at last I had an American band I could identify with who weren't from 1965. The music spoke to me.  The lyrics did too: "I got a Rickenbacker baby now, and that's the way it should be. I'm gonna sit right down and play it right now won't you listen to me. I got some 2-Tone records sitting on my shelf and that's the sound for me and you know what you and me we're free to do what we want and what they want to be is what they are not...". And when the NY/NJ 2-Tone mod mafia were not down with freakbeat and garage slant of Mod Fun the lyrics onstage became "I got some 2-Tone records sitting in the trash and that's the place for them and you and me we're free to listen to Syd...".

A remixed version of "I Am With You" appeared on the Get Hip Mod Fun compilation CD "Past Forward" and on the Cherry Red records mod box set "Millions Like Us (The Story Of The Mod Revival 1977-1989").

4. SQUIRE-"No Time Tomorrow" Hi-Lo (U.K.) HI-001 1982
It's February 1982, The Jam are a few months away from jacking it, Secret Affair are running on fumes and The Lambrettas have released a Jefferson Airplane cover that sounds like Duran Duran but my fave '79 mod band Squire are now down to lead singer/main man Anthony Meynell and brother Kevin on drums. Together they trip the light fantastic with some Casio psychedelia kicking in with Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9" (number nine  number nine number nine?), a brilliant "Revolver" style backwards guitar solo and something more lysergic than the I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet kitted out Mood Six WISHED they were musically.

"No Time Tomorrow" is available on the Squire compilation "The Singles Album" and for download from iTunes.

5. THE OPTIC NERVE-"Ain't That A Man" Cryptovision (U.S.) CR-800 1986
This group of NYC garage fellas was the nexus of talented  musicians Bobbie Belfoire and Tony Matura (and revolving bass player/drummer slots worthy of Spinal Tap).  August 1986's "Ain't That A Man" swung forth on the ultra hip Cryptovision label (who already boasted what would be the final Mod Fun products the "Dorothy's Dream" LP and a 45 "Mary Goes Round" as well as 45's by the label owners band The Stepford Husbands).  Under the twin Rickenbacker attack of Bobbie and Tony "Ain't That A Man" swings like Bakersfield, CA folk rock but without sounding like yet another shit 80's band trying to sound like The Byrds (though they did a hell of a good job of looking like them that's for sure).

"Ain't That A Man" appeared on the box set "The Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the Second Psychedelic Era 1976-1996".

6. THE PRISONERS-"There's A Time" Sky Dog Records (France) SKI 6103 1983
In my book The Prisoners were and always will be Medway's finest. This was their somewhat dodgy debut 45 (dodgy not in quality or delivery but origin) from 1983. I'll explain why. When I met Graham Day (their lead singer/guitarist) in 1988 he told me that this 45 ("There's A Time") was put out by "some dodgy Frenchman", meaning the band never saw a dime from it. Regardless it's a monster of a tune from keyboardist Jamie Taylor's frantic Farfisa to Graham Day's growl and his Dave Davies style frenetic mid 60's guitar solo it's one of my faves by the band AND from the 80's.  It was distributed here in the States by Midnight Records, a NY label/company run by a French gent and somehow flooded New Jersey/New York record stores. I sent copies to a pen pal in the U.K. (Debbie Jones) whom I am eternally grateful to for turning me on to these guys because no one in England could find it!

"There's A Time" was issued on the Big Beat Prisoners compilation CD "Hurricane:The Best Of The Prisoners".

7. PLASTICLAND-"Flower Scene" Midnight Records (France/U.S.) MID 4510 1985
Milwaukee's psychedelic connoisseurs and premier U.S. 80's band of that genre issued this 1985 single on Midnight Records and I snagged it hot off the presses as Midnight's Svengali J.D. Martignon was hitting them with the price gun at their now defunct shop on West 23rd Street (just across from the famous Hotel Chelsea).  Written as a homage to a magazine from 1967 called "Flower Scene" brought back from England in the 60's to one of the band members by his sister it has all the usual trippy Plasticland trademarks though there is also a great deal more of an edge to this than usual with some Who-ish power chords underneath the usual freaky lyrics, raga noodlings and "Tomorrow Never Knows" drumming.

"Flower Scene" was issued on a Plasticland compilation titled "Make Yourself A Happening Machine" and is available for download from iTunes.

8. THE GREEN TELESCOPE-"Make Me Stay" ("Two By Two E.P.) Imaginary (U.K.)  Mirage 001 1986
I am eternally grateful to the band's main man Lenny Helsing OR my then turned on pen pal Ivor Trueman for sharing this E.P. with me in 1985.  The mind fades as to which of these gents brought this magical E.P. into my possession but it stands the test of time unlike so many other 80's records by "60's" slanted band.  "Make Me Stay" is haunting. There's this jittery paranoia to it beneath the doomed sounding backing vocals and the incredibly cool combo organ topped off by this 13th Floor Elevators meets freakbeat guitar solo. And the whole thing concludes with this mad wash of feedbacking organ and "make me stay, make me stay" reminding me of the Buzz and their frantic ending of "You're Holding Me Down".

"Make Me Stay" appeared on the box set "The Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the Second Psychedelic Era 1976-1996".

9. THE MILKSHAKES-"It's You" Milkshakes (U.K.) BILK 0 1982
LONG before the whole world became enamored with the low-fi "genius" of Billy Childish it was 1982 and he was just the rhythm guitarist in a little band from Medway called The Milkshakes who at the height of the shittiest time EVER for rock n' roll encapsulated their love for Reeperbahn era Fab Four crossed with the four chord grit of early Kinks/Troggs. "It's You" is a perfect mix of those latter two with it's primitive sharp chords and urgency.

"It's You"  appeared on the box set "The Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the Second Psychedelic Era 1976-1996" and on their essential collection '19th Nervous Shakedown".

10. THE REACTION-"Make Up Your Mind" Waterloo Sunset RUSS 105 1986
I've always loved this record for a variety of reasons. The band were signed to a "mod" label called Waterloo Sunset which was basically the vehicle for teenage mod boy wet dream/poster girl Eleanor Rigby.  On the back cover photo there's three of the usual mod '86 looking blokes and one freak (and I mean that in an endearing way) with long hair, granny glasses and a paisley shirt. The record is AMAZING.  Imagine a "mod"/British Fleshtones, jangly Rickenbacker 12 string, incessant blowing harp and cool vocals straight off of a mid 60's British beat record.  In 1986 when everyone worshiped Makin' Time or The Moment these guys surely were the odd men out.  I don't recall much about them but I do know lots of folks like me loved the record and still do.  And the "freak" with the long hair? He went on to form The Mystrearted in the early 90's with a bunch of other like minded individuals and produced some first class genuine British garage music.

"Make Up Your Mind" is available for download from iTunes on a compilation called "Mod Tunes:A Three Button Legacy"