Monday, March 30, 2015

March's Picks

1. THE MONKEES-"Goin' Down"
"Floatin' in the river with a saturated liver..." Mickey Dolenz wrote that this was his tribute to Mose Allison in his book and though I find it has more in common with Jon Hendricks I'll take him at his word.  Regardless it's an incredible, clever little piece of cod jazz that's totally alien to anything the Pre-Fab Four ever did.

2. JERRY BUTLER-"I Don't Want To Hear It Any More"
I'm a huge Walker Brothers fan but a few weeks back I heard Jerry Butler's version of this Randy Newman kitchen sink tenement drama and exclaimed "F*ck Scott Walker!".  The Ice Man (as my dad refers to him as) belts it out and his changing inflection on each chorus is just freaking powerful especially when instead of singing "I don't wanna hear it any more" a second time he sings "I  don't wanna hear them any more" and finally in an impassioned outburst wails "I can't stand it here any more".  Powerful stuff.

3. SHERE KHAN-"No Reason"
Recently unearthed by RPM on their killer Truth CD retrospective ("Who's Wrong? : Mod Bedlam 1965-1969") comes this rare as hell single by member Frank Aiello from 1969 on the Tepee label. This magnum opus B-side (the A-side "Little Louise" cropped up on one of the "Le Beat Bespoke" CD's) is the trippiest thing I've heard in ages.  It's like a Gary Walker and The Rain backing Paul & Barry Ryan with orchestration by Les Reed. HEAVY. Anyone who's got a copy to spare hit me up I'll make it worth your while!

4. THE END-"Shades Of Orange"
I've always wondered what "Their Satanic Majesties Request" would have sounded like had The Stones allowed Bill Wyman to contribute more tracks like this monster recorded during down time for the Stone's sessions for said LP.  From it's airy keys, muzaky trumpets, the groovy tabla tapping by Charlie Watts and the Hendrix-inspired guitar bludgeoning during the main chorus this could have been the hit of the Summer of Love but sadly Allen Klein sat on the funds to release it till the following year when everyone wanted to be Peter Green.

5. GRAHAM DAY & THE FOREFATHERS-"You Always Find A Way To Hurt Me"
From the new "Graham Day's greatest hits" LP "Good Things" this is my fave track of the bunch because it breaks free of the riff heavy stuff that seems to be de rigueur on most of his stuff and has a melody that sticks in my craw requiring me to repeatedly play it.

6. THE WALLACE BROTHERS-"Precious Words"
This May 1964 single on the Simms label was covered by Joe Cocker the same year on the flip of his debut 45 (a version of the Fab's "I'll Cry Instead") and though I will digress Joe's version is far better this one it's still a great track in it's basic original form.

7. PENTANGLE-"Light Flight"
John Redbourn R.I.P. Highlighted by the beautiful soaring vocals of the talented Jacqui McShee and topped off by Redbourn's intricate finger picking above a shuffling, almost jazzy feel to it all.  Easily my fave Pentangle track. I don't go for the whole folky, beardy proto Mumford & Sons thing but Pentangle have a few decent tracks and this is one of them.

"The Beat Goes On" outside CBGB's on a weeknight in January 1985

8. THE CROOKS-"The Beat Goes On"
When I was in my early teens and trapped in a rural/backwards hell I used to play this song and daydream about a world where people worked their 9 to 5 jobs and came home got dressed up to the nines and went on on the town to have a good time with like minded/clothed individuals.  Few of my teenage dreams came true, this one did and though this band are still derided as '79 mod bandwagon jumpers this track spoke to me more than Secret Affair or the Chords could ever hope to.

9. THE SPECTORS-"Little Country Shack"
The second 45 (1993) from my old Minneapolis pals whose motto was "Beat Is Murder" still sounds great 20+ years later and always reminded me of a Lee Hazlewood song with balls. Hear it on their Get Hip CD retrospective "Beat Is Murder: Cockfights & Cakefights 1992-1996".

10. SHARON TANDY-"Daughter Of The Sun"
R.I.P. Miss Tandy who took her soulful voice and love of soul music from the stifling Apartheid of her native Soyth Africa to the U.K. where she cut a few blistering sides, especially this witchy one where she's ably backed by the Fleur De Ly's on the flip of the equally potent "Hold On " (U.K. Atlantic 584219 1968).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides:The Truth Do The Left Banke

THE TRUTH-Walk Away Rene/Fly Away Bird U.K. Decca F 12582 1967

Brit 60's duo Steve Jameson and Frank Aiello known collectively as The Truth's 7th (and next to last) single was this unusual choice in covers, The Left Banke's "Walk Away Rene" .  Unusual because the original had been launched in the U.K. in October 1966 (Phillips BF 1517) half a year earlier and failed to rack up a hit like it did here in the States (though The Four Top's version the following year hit #4 in the U.K.).

No matter, it's actually quite good.  Though not a patch on the original it works by substituting it's sweeping, sorrowful strings with some simple, frantic acoustic guitar strumming (with a blistering fuzz guitar solo c/o Jimmy Page, a frequent contributor to Truth singles) and Jameson and Aiello's vocal ability actually make it quite enjoyable by taking it down a few octaves from Steve Martin Caro's on the original.

"Fly Away Bird" is a mellow piece of pop psych ala Twice As Much or Paul & Barry Ryan at their best that picks up a bit with some rocking bits near the chorus, again showcasing the duo's vocal talents. It was penned by Jameson marking the first time a Truth original graced vinyl (it was credited to Gold, Jameson's real name being Steven Gold).

Despite a plug on "Top Of The Pops" (file under lost footage we'd love to see #1001) it failed to chart. This was the band's first Decca 45 after a one off on their offshoot Deram ("Jingle Jangle" b/w "Hey Gyp DM 105)  following a 5 single stint with Pye.  Interestingly their next and final single would be another American cover, The Rascal's "Sueno" (Decca F 112764), but that is a story for another day.

Both sides are available on the excellent RPM Truth CD retrospective "Who's Wrong?: Mod Bedlam 1965-1969" while "Fly Away Bird" was previously issued on Volume 8 of the excellent "Piccadilly Sunshine" CD compilation series.

Hear "Walk Away Rene":

Hear "Fly Away Bird":

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Great Pisstakes On Psychedelia: The L.S. Bumble Bee

PETER COOK & DUDLEY MOORE-The LS Bumble Bee/The Bee Side U.K. Decca F12551 1967

Everyone had a crack at taking the piss out of "contemporary music" in the 60's in the U.K. Even Benny Hill had a great swipe at Dylan with his 1965 Tony Hatch produced single "What A World" (Pye 7N15974) but the greatest one in my estimation is the great raspberry blown at psychedelia in the form of  "The L.S. Bumble Bee" by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore released in January of 1967. I'm told it often popped up on Beatles bootleg LP's in the 70's which is hysterical (possibly on numerous dodgy plain sleeved albums along with The End's "Loving Sacred loving" touted by some as a "rare Beatles/Stones jam session"). Moore was quoted in 1981 as writing:

"The L.S. Bumble Bee", Peter Cook and I recorded that song about the time when there was so much fuss about L.S.D., and when everybody thought that "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was a reference to drugs. The exciting alternative offered to the world was L.S.B.!, and I wrote the music to, in some ways, satirize the Beach Boys rather than the Beatles. But I'm grateful if some small part of the world thinks that it may have been them, rather than us"

Unlike lots of other satires "The L.S. Bumble Bee" actually sounds psychedelic in it's production and gives one the impression that Messrs. Cook & Moore had probably been psychedelically enlightened, either that or they were quite adept at tapping the pulse of what was "IN" (I'd like to think both but more than likely it was the latter). Though one listen to the firmly tongue and cheek lyrics and you will immediately surmise that there was no serious intention here when Dudley Moore coos "Oh druggy druggy" and  Peter Cook says "freak out baby, the bee is coming" among other quotable phrases.  A midst jangling piano strings, multi tracked  vocals, sea gulls, a crying baby and Cook announcing "and this week's ba ba bumble is for  Al Pherber and his Marijuana Brass and their hit waxing Spanish Bee" it's a psychedelic masterpiece, even if it is purely in jest and it all ends with an explosion right out of the sound affects department and Moore saying "Cor that's better".  The number was premiered on the December 26, 1966 episode of the TV show  "Not Only...But Also" (the same episode which featured John Lennon playing a door man at a hip new London night spot situated in a Men's restroom called "The Ad-Lav").

The flip "The Bee Side" is a fairly mundane Pete & Dud routine with the two of them speaking in character about the dangers of drug abuse, again as with the A-side firmly tongue and cheek.  The duo would go one further in psychedelia at the end of 1967 with their amazing "Bedazzled" single from the film of the same name (U.K. Decca F 12710 and U.S. Parrot 45-PAR-3016 respectively) but that, as they say, is a story for another time.

"The LS Bumble Bee" features on "Mojo" magazines out of print psychedelic box set "Acid Drops, Spacedust & Flying Saucers" and the first volume of the psychedelic CD series ""We Can Fly Volume One". "The Bee Side" has yet to surface (to my knowledge anyway) on any compilations.

Yours truly pays Dudley Moore a visit in Scotch Plains, New Jersey December 2014

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Mindbenders- 10 Top Tunes You Should Know

Manchester's Mindbenders career without Wayne Fontana was brief, barely three years. The trio were: Eric Stewart (Lead vocals/guitar), Bob Land (bass) and Ric Rothwell (drums). As short lived as they were they managed quite a few amazing tracks in this period after just two U.K. LP's and just 9 singles.  Since they are not terribly well known I decided it would be amusing to profile 10 of their more interesting recordings.

1. "My New Day And Age" single B-side U.K. Fontana TF 869 1967
Released as the flip to the band's cover of The Box Top's smash "The Letter" this group original (composed by lead singer/guitarist Eric Stewart) was allegedly written for Family (who presumably never cut a version). By far the band's most progressive tune thanks to some very 1967 effects (backwards guitars, a buzzing raga guitar solo, phlanging etc) and would've made a far better A-side which as you will read was often the case with this group.

2. "Schoolgirl" single U.K. U.K. Fontana TF 877 1967
Far punchier than the orchestrated version that was later recut for the band's 2nd LP "With Woman In Mind" this single allegedly skirted controversy at the time for it's lyrics (via Graham Gouldman) about a grad student who gets seduced, deflowered, knocked up and abandoned.  It's delivery is punchy accented by some near Eastern sounding licks, a fierce driving rhythm section and some high backing vocals.

3. "It's Getting Harder All The Time" single U.S. Fontana F-1595 1967
From the film "To Sir With Love" (where the band can be seen performing this at the end of term dance scene) this tune was released as a single in the U.S. (with "Off And Running", another tune heard in the film as it's flip). It's one of their most powerful numbers with some almost ska like chopping chords, a blistering/distorted solo and solid vocals.

Whatta gig! July 1966

4. "Uncle Joe The Ice Cream Man" single U.K. Fontana TF 961 1968
This Graham Gouldman track was the band's last U.K. single before disintegrating (Gouldman had recently joined the band which by now had new members Jimmy O'Neill on bass and Paul Hancox on drums). A Mindbenders CD I have states that the band were cutting this track at Olympic studios when Mick  Jagger (who was working on "Beggars Banquet" at the studio) strolled in and said "Why are you singing this shit?".  Regardless of Sir Mick's assessment this number is a decent candy floss type pop-psych song with some great pop hooks, strings and groovy harmonies.

5. "Can't Live With You, Can't Live Without You" single U.K. Fontana TF 967
The band's second 45 after their debut "Groovy Kind Of Love" (their biggest hit, #2 in both the U.K. and U.S.A) failed to live up to the chart potential of it's schlocky predecessor.  Nevertheless it's a decent beat/ballad relying on a nifty little riff and some standard slick Mindbenders harmonies.

6. "The Morning After" single B-side U.K. Fonana TF 780 1966
Profiled in an earlier entry this B-side of the band's version of The Zombie's "I Want Her She Wants Me" (released two years prior to The Zombies) is the Mindbenders strongest track in my book, hands down.  From it's freakbeat guitar licks to it's "ba ba baa" backing chorus it's damned infectious and sticks in your cranium instantly when you hear it.

7. "Far Across Town" single B-side U.K. Fontana TF 806 1967
This flip of the soppy "We'll Talk About It Tomorrow" was written by bassist Bob Lang and is one of the handful of original compositions the band did. It's a perfect melding of "beat" and "freakbeat" with a powerful delivery and cool backing harmonies that recalls what The Searchers could've sounded like with a little more "ooomph!" in 1967.

8. "Yellow Brick Road" single B-side U.K. Fontana TF 910 1968
Starting out with this funky percussion groove reminiscent of The The Turtle's "I'm Chief Kamanawanalea (We're The Royal Macadamia Nuts)" this flip of  the plastic soul meets harmony pop of "Blessed Are The Lonely" is an interesting number.  It's quirky with weird phlanged piano and a funky groove thanks to some fluid basslines and some Beatle-esque bits (and a psychedelic requirement: a nonsensical spoken word bit in a Home Counties accent), despite it's cod psychedelia it's an outstanding track .

Portuguese E.P. 1967

9. "Airport People" U.K. LP track "With Woman In Mind" Fontana TL 5403 1967
This  Martin/Coulter composition from the band's April 1967 2nd LP was oddly also covered by The Roulettes on Fontana on the flip of the next to last 45 (TF 822). I think it's far more suited for The Mindbenders than The Roulettes because it's tempo fits their style and they really make an otherwise mundane number work.  Sadly I can't find a clip of it on YouTube!

10. "Love Is Good" single B side U.K. Fontana TF 644 1965
The Mindbenders debut might have been the sappy "Groovy Kind Of Love" but if you were to flip it over you'd find this jazzy rocker underneath.  Eric Stewart (also the track's composer) sings in a jazzy style while the whole number pumps away in a perfect mid 60's British r&b style.  Easily one of their most rocking songs right up there with "The Morning After"!