Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January's Picks

1. APHRODITE'S CHILD-"The Four Horsemen"
R.I.P. Demis Rousous.  I was actually turned onto this one years back on a "Mojo" magazine freebie CD called "Heavy Mod" from their 1971 LP "666'.  I never got my head around the album as a whole but I still dig this one in it's witchy/creepy/heavy 70's way.

2. DEL SHANNON-"New Orleans (Mardi Gras)"
My friend Joe Oshman recently loaned me Del's 1968 LP "The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover" after hearing me rave incessantly about his previous LP "Home And Away".  This one is probably the heaviest thing old Del ever cut but it works in a variety of ways thanks to the orchestration, soulful Sweet Inspirations style backing vocals and menacing, funky vibe punctuated by some nice distorted guitar.

3. THE MOODY BLUES-"Jago And Jilly"
I have been completely over the moon with the new double CD of the the debut Moody Blues LP "The Magnificent Moodies".  Disc two is entirely alternate takes/mixes, live BBC tracks and best of all half a dozen songs recorded in late 1966 with Denny Cordell producing shortly prior to Denny Laine's departure.  "Jago And Jilly" is a jazzy yet jangly number that melds the band's '66 pop sensibility with an almost (and I dread to use this phrase) "folk rock feel" leaving their r&b/blues cover  in the dust and makes one wonder what they'd have had on their hands had Denny stuck around.

4. THE EQUALS-"The Guy Who Made Her A Star"
The first time I heard this track it was a cover version by The Purple Hearts on their 1980 "My Life's A Jigsaw" E.P. I eventually scored the Equals U.S. RCA LP "Baby Come Back" which is full of their best sides including this stormer which was first aired as the flip to the god awful "Laurel And Hardy". Easily one of their best in my book!

5. FREDDIE GORMAN-"Just For You"
Big props to my U.K. sister of soulful sounds Samantha Stevens for turning me onto this gritty little 1961 U.S. r&b grabber from Berry Gordy's early/short lived label Miracle. Easily mistaken for a mid tempo King records track this is where it's at for me these days as I can't get enough of this stuff.

6. TUESDAY'S CHILDREN-"Summer Leaves Me With A Sigh"
Fuck this is an amazing track!  From it's barrage of doom leaden fuzz guitar notes to it's Hollie-esque double tracked vocal to it's beat group getting a whiff of the winds of change feel this number is nothing short of incredible.  A 1966 Columbia (UK) 45, it was recently unearthed on RPM's "Keep Lookin'" box.

7. DAVE CURTISS AND THE TREMORS-"You Don't Love Me Anymore"
Hands down the FUNNIEST beat group record you will ever hear with some incredibly witty lyrics about a fella who's girl clearly does not love him anymore as she not only mistreats him but attempts, on multiple occasions, to kill him ("perhaps I got things wrong and acted like a clown and maybe you weren't driving that truck that ran me down but I don't see why a truck should come in through my front door all this leads me to believe that maybe baby you don't love me anymore") . It's backed up by some nifty volume pedal guitar work and is quite infectious.  From Phillips records (U.K.) 1963. Read more about this record in an earlier post here.

8. MAKIN' TIME-"You Crept Up From Behind"
I missed the train at the station on Makin' Time back in the day as I was too busy grooving on The Prisoners, The Times, The Direct Hits et al and viewed them with some suspicion as they were worshiped by all those silly "ankle bracelet on the bottom of skin tight trousers" mods.  What really made me wake up was their 2nd LP "No Lumps Fat Or Gristle Guaranteed" (from which this track originates) which to me sounded a lot more like The Prisoners than Makin' Time (while The Prisoners LP "In From The Cold" sounded more like Makin' Time than The Prisoners)!

9. THE TAGES-"Created By You"
From their amazing 1967 LP "Studio" ( partly recorded in the U.K. although most of the tracks were actually cut in Sweden) that falls somewhere between the first LP Bee Gees, The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" and the prevailing psychedelic pop whimsy of ""Sgt. Pepper etc" but in a way that is in no manner derivative of any of those.

10. SPLIT ENZ-"I Got You"
Has it REALLY been 35 years since I saw this Kiwi band performing this number on ABC'TV's "Fridays"
(see clip above)?  Damn I'm old.  This number aged pretty well which is more than I can say for 90% of the other so called "new wave" music I ingested alongside punk/mod and ska!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Action: Just When I Thought I Had It All They Pulled Me In Again.....

Few here in the States are as Action-mad as me.  They're always in a neck and neck race for the #1 slot of "favorite bands" with The Small Faces for me.  And like The Small Faces whenever new material, alternate mixes etc are discovered out comes the credit card and no matter what I have to have it.

The good folks across the pond at Top Sounds have put out a wonderful 4 song E.P. of previously unissued tracks in both the 10" vinyl format and on a CD E.P. with a stunning cover and a multitude of photos, clippings etc reminiscent of the old Edsel records LP's on an insert with liner notes by Nigel Lees.

The four cuts contained within come from a variety of sources. The version of Martha and The Vandella's "In My Lonely Room" is not the same cut that was their debut single (Parlophone R 5354 October 1965) but an altogether different recording. The source of it's origin is under speculation.  It's quite possible by the degree of echo and the "live" feel to it all that the band were either doing a run through in the studio or (more than likely) a rehearsal or sound check in a large hall (an absence of crowd noises leads one to suspect it was not in front of an audience).  Regardless it's magic.  From Pete Watson's trademark 12 string Rickenbacker intro meshing with Alan "Bam" King's Rickenbacker 6 string chords to the confident/soulful lead vocals by Reg King (not to mention Roger Powell's dynamic drumming and Mike Evan's subdued but fluid bass lines) this is the 100% proof that those of us too young to have seen them live in the 60's that The Action were a band to be reckoned with.  The backing harmonies are spot on and it's now quite easy to understand why a lot of their 60's fans were somewhat dismissive in subsequent mod tomes about how their records failed to capture their onstage  power.

The Action

Their take on The Temptation's "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" was previously only issued as a bonus one track 45 along with the limited deluxe edition Action book "In The Lap Of The Mods" where it came as a  facsimile demo 7". It was recorded as a demo for Decca records with the intent of enticing in house blues champion Mike Vernon( producer of The Artwoods, John Mayall etc). Amped up considerably faster than the original it bears the trademark Action stamp of soulful harmonies and Pete Watson's one man 12 string guitar orchestra which beautifully transposed brass and strings via chiming notes on a Rickenbacker. Never content to just do note for note covers once again this is The Action taking a number and making it their own. Also cut for the Decca demo session is an number previously unheard before now, a version of The Impression's "You'll Want Me Back" (B-side of the famous 1963 single "It's All Right"). Again the dual Rickenbacker attack and soulful harmonies of the band weave their magic and surprisingly they actually slow the number down a bit more than the original making the jazzy/uptempo original into an impassioned blue eyed dirge.  The vocals are a real treat on this one.  Reg King's vocals have never sounded stronger. The final track, "Fine Looking Girl" is a Reg King original composition cut in late 1964 as a demo when the band were still known as The Boys.  The acetate source is in pretty rough shape and there's some interesting tempo changes, both of which remind me quite a bit of Davy Jones (nee Bowie) and The Lower Third's R.G. Jones 1965 demo recording "That's A Promise".

The Boys

Those interested can head on over to Heyday records and get yourself one before they're all gone as previous places I'd intended to link are all out of theirs!

Hear "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" by The Action:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

50 Year Ago Today....The Who "I Can't Explain"

Can you believe it? "I Can't Explain" is 50 today. 50, half a century old!! Well it's not totally true as it was first released here in the States first in December 1964 actually!  BUT it's U.K. launch was January 15, 1965. It was the first record to bear "The Who" imprint though not the band's debut (that was as The High Numbers in July 1964 ""I'm The Face" b/w "Zoot Suit" U.K. Fontana TF 480).

When the Who (who'd recently reverted back to "The Who" moniker after a spell as The High Numbers) were signed the the Decca offshoot Brunswick in late 1964 they set about recording with the then maverick American producer Shel Talmy at Pye studios in London in September of 1964 working on what what be their debut . Talmy had been producing the Kinks since February of that year (an irony not lost on many) and was sought out by Who managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp specifically for that reason. With a simple power chord pprogression of E-D-A chiming from Pete Townsend's Rickenbacker one could easily spot The Kinks influence on the simplistic yet ear catching track that was virtually the birth of power pop. From the high backing vocals (courtesy of U.K. harmony backing trio The Ivy League) , drummer Keith Moon's manic yet disciplined (for Moon anyway) backbeat, Pete Townsend's improvisational jazzy solos (not one but two!) and Daltrey's confident swagger the number has all it needs to became not only dance floor friendly but easily stands the test of time as one of the most powerful records of it's time.  Indeed when it was launched the U.K. Top 10 was awash with the usual crap like Gene Pitney, Cliff Richard, Freddie and The Dreamers (though Georgie Fame & The Blue Flame's "Yeh Yeh" was #7 so it wasn't all hogwash) there was nothing like it in Britain, or anywhere else for that matter.

The Weekend Starts Here: The Who make their debut on
"Ready Steady Go" (albeit miming) with "I Can't Explain"

"I Can't Explain" launched The Who and their debut appearance on Rediffusion TV's famous "Ready Steady Go" program played no small part in it. When the band appeared on television sets across Britain on the evening of Friday January 29th 1965 the match was lit to the powder keg.  It didn't matter that the band mimed on that particular appearance as manager Kit Lambert had stacked the deck by flooding the studio audience with mods from the Marquee club after talking producer Micheal Lindsay-Hogg into giving him 100 tickets to dispense free to the band's "fans".  Sadly there is no footage in existence of the performance but one can only imagine the raucous reception the got when at just two minutes and five seconds the number ended. Judging by the band's smart attire to match their two minutes plus opus to teenage angst one doesn't have to imagine the audience reaction. Pirate Radio picked up on it from the get-go and quite soon it was bubbling into the lower reaches of the U.K. charts at #45 in February.

U.S. pressing released in December 1964

"I Can't Explain" eventually became the band's first chart hit, though a slow boiler at that it's highest chart placing in the U.K. was finally at #8 in April.  Sadly there is little footage remaining of the band playing it other than a recording made live in a TV studio in Twickenham on August 3rd along with versions of "My Generation" and "Daddy Rolling Stone" (with screams later dubbed in) for broadcast on the American TV show "Shindig" (aired on Saturday October 2nd)  which can be viewed below and a promo film made by managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp (also below).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: It Came From Liverpool

THE DENNISONS-Nobody Like My Babe/Lucy (You Sure Did It This Time) U.K. Decca F11990 1964

No one has ever attempted a count of how many beat groups in Liverpool released singles on major labels in the U.K. between 1963 and 1965.  Certainly all the hit makers have been well documented and their material is still easily available. Edsel records did their part in the mid 80's by issuing compilation LP's by The Big Three, The Escorts, The Merseybeats and The Mojos.  But there were plenty more who didn't have enough material to make a full album.  The Dennisons are one.

The Dennisons first came to my attention in 1985 via an LP compilation on See For Miles records called "Liverpool 1963-1964 Volume Two" (that was entirely Decca recordings) with a number called "Lucy (You Sure Did It This Time)", a cover of "Walking The Dog" and an original composition called "Be My Girl". Soon thereafter my pal Dave Woj loaned me a double LP comp called "Merseybeat" (which oddly contained artists from both Decca AND EMI) which I made a regular habit of borrowing.  It contained the flipside to "Lucy.." called "Nobody Like My Babe" which became one of my favorite beat numbers and stayed on my "wants list" for eons.  Fast forward to 2014 and I actually found a copy.

The Dennisons were a five piece from Liverpool.  They had just 5 singles on Decca (you can get the whole discography here). Though not a huge success their version of "Walking the Dog" did clock in at #36 in April 1964.  Their members were: Eddie Parry (lead vocals), Steve McLaren (lead guitar/backing vocals), Ray Scragge (rhythm guitar/lead vocals), Terry "Tex" Carson (bass) and Clive Hornby (drums).  Drummer Horby went on to a successful acting career in the U.K. appearing on "Minder" and "Space 1999" before landing a role as "Jack" in 1980 on the soap opera "Emmerdale" which he played for 28 years till his death in 2008.

Today's subject was their final single released in October 1964 and in my estimation is a classic two sider.
" Nobody Like My Babe" has a soulful feel to it leading me to suspect it's a cover but I've yet to ascertain who it was done by originally.  The theory is entirely possible as Bill Harry's "Sixties City" website mentions that shortly after this single and some personnel changes the group became primarily a soul band. Regardless it's a perfect beat number with a strong vocal effort by Eddie Parry with some great breaks accented by handclaps and call and response backing vocals topped off by a tasty twangy guitar lick.  ""Lucy (You Sure Did It This Time)", a Pomus/Shuman track, is accented by the gravely vocal stylings of rhythm guitarist Ray Scragge  (he'd earlier sung the lead on their version of "Walking The Dog").  The whole number works not just because of the distinct vocalist but the raw feel to it all.

Sadly "Nobody like My Babe" has not been comped since the earlier mentioned EMI LP comp "Merseybeat" in the 80's.  "Lucy (You Sure Did It This Time)" turned up on 2008's Psychic Circle CD compilation "Breaking Point: 20 Hard Edged Diamonds". Even sadder not one of the five members in the band on this record are alive today with Hornby being the last member to pass.

Hear "Nobody Like My Babe":

Hear "Lucy (You Sure Did It This Time)":