Thursday, July 28, 2016

July's Picks

1. THE FOUR GEES-"Rough Rider"
After knowing this song for three decades (first through The "English" Beat than Prince Buster) I'd long assumed this was a Prince Buster composition. Not so, as I recently learned. It was composed by Equals Eddie Grant, Lincoln Gordon, Derv Gordon and Eddie's brother Patrick and recorded and released as "The Four Gees".  Derv and Eddie's vocals are clear as a bell here and though not as raw as the Prince's version there's still a great rhythm and since its pretty much a '67 Equals record what's NOT to love?

Probably the most rocking/heavy thing The Bonzo's ever did was this 1969 single that's somewhere between Status Quo and Locomotive's "Mr. Armageddon" but with the Bonzo's usual musical hall cheekiness and clever lyrics with some quirky hooks.

3. SERGE GAINSBOURG-"Psychastenie"
On the flip of his brilliant "Reqiuem Pour Un Con" comes this hypnotic raga instrumental driven by sitars, tablas, finger cymbals and nasty throbby bass. One of the few examples of Gallic psychedelia!

4. THE GAME THEORY-"Nine Lives To Rigel Five"
Back in 1984 when college radio was starting to get stale there were still a handful of bands and tracks I would enjoy hearing and along with The Three O'Clock was this little gem.  Though horribly dated by it's awful syndrums and crap 80's production it still has some quirky pop hooks and a cheery feel.

5. MAXINE NIGHTINGALE-"Don't Push Me Baby"
Long before her mega smash "Right Back Where We Started From" Britain's Maxine Nightingale gave us this M.O.R. meets soul 45 in 1969 on the Pye label with backing that sounds straight off a Dusty record or one of Tom Jone's more up tempo upmarket soul sides.

6. THE NEW ORDER-"You've Got Me High"
Props to Scandinavian record guru Jorgen Johansson who hipped me to the original 1965 version of this cut by Sweden's Science Poption a year later (as "You Got Me High"). With some tough/twangy guitars that sound like Beatles/British beat '65 and spot on Association style harmonies it slays the Science Poption version.  Interestingly the lead singer has an accent of some sort although I've read they were from New York!

From their sole LP, "Without Reservations" which caught the band in full fledged super r&b mode with powerful horns and organ and soulful vocals, "Get Off My Bach" is somewhere between Manfred's '66 with horns and post Windwood /pre-pop psych S.D.G.

8. DEAD KENNEDY'S-"Holiday In Cambodia"
I was rarely down with any American punk records my friends were listening to in the early 80's coming up but one will always stick with me: "Holiday In Cambodia".  Maybe it's the ominous guitar licks that recall "Mars Bringer Of War", maybe it's Jello Biafra's shrieking vocals or his poignant lyrics about privileged American brats "listening to ethnicky jazz to parade your snazz on your five grand stereo..." but it sticks in your brain. 36 years later its lyrics still ring true in an age where the feel good fix is to sign online petitions to real world problems and dispense political wisdom from your armchair on social media.

9. LES McCANN & EDDIE HARRIS-"Compared To What"
Originally cut on the 1969 Atlantic LP "Swiss Movement" recorded live in Montreux this is angry black America at it's best put to music. Truncated down to 3:15 and released on 45 by Atlantic it's message is still, sadly yet to be realized 47 year later.

10RODGE MARTIN-"Lovin' Machine"
30+ years ago back on the NY/NJ mod/60's scene a band called The Secret Service wowed us with this one that they'd learned via a live Easybeats version from German TV.  Several years back Larry Grogan over at Funky 16 Corners solved the mystery of it's origin. Cut in '66 on the small Bragg label as a B-side to "When She Touches Me Nothing Else Matters" this funky horn driven southern fried soul is a welcome gem in an all too mined out genre.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Sound of '66: The Jimi Hendrix Experience debut 45

The Jimi Hendrix Experience-Hey Joe/Stone Free UK Polydor 56139 1966

1966 marked the vinyl debut of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, led by the American guitarist brought over to London from New York City by former Animal Chas Chandler and paired up with two English musicians after a period of auditions: Noel Redding (formerly a guitarist with The Loving Kind, now relegated to bass) and John "Mitch" Mitchell (a drummer fresh from a stint with Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames and The Riot Squad prior to that).

I will skip the history of "Hey Joe", you can go to Wikipedia or an assortment of online references for that.  I will suffice to say Hendrix had been playing it in clubs around the Village (that's Greenwich village in New York City for those of you not familiar with the local colloquialism) before Chandler "discovered" him and both Hendrix and Chandler felt it would make a great debut single.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience's reading of "Hey Joe" remains for me the definitive version. With Jimi's bluesy licks and improvisations and cool almost detached lead vocals, Redding's tough and ominous sounding descending bass line and Mitchell's restrained yet powerful drumming it's a slow burner from start to finish .  One of the most interesting parts of the track for me were always the high female backing vocals that add an almost ethereal quality to it for me. There seems to be some consternation who it was exactly.  Many sources credit The Breakaways and others insist it was Maggie Bell and Lesley Duncan. I wasn't there so I'm not sure who it was.

"Stone Free" brings up the flip side.  Lyrically its perfectly tailored for what would dog Hendrix for years to come: groupies, hangers on etc. It's almost prophetic to hear him singing about it all this early in his career. Mitchell's metronome like cowbell sounds like a ticking clock while Hendrix suavely croons with a lilt of despair and disgust to his voice. Like the A-side it has enough guitar pyrotechnics to sound good without going over board like so much other G.H.E. material tends to do.

"Ready! Steady! Go!" December 16, 1966

Of interest the J.H.E. made their TV debut on the next to last "Ready! Steady! Go!" ever performing "Hey Joe" on December 16, 1966 (with The Escorts, Marc Bolan, Keith Relf, The Troggs and The Merseys, what an episode!!) . According to Mitch Mitchell it was recorded a few days prior on the 12th and broadcast on the 16th.

Hear "Hey Joe" live on "Ready Steady Go":

Thursday, July 21, 2016

10 Cool U.K. 60's Songs That You Possibly Haven't Heard Part Four

All entries are U.K. releases unless otherwise noted. All 45 scans courtesy of

1. PEPPERMINT CIRCUS-"I Won't Be There" Polydor 56288 1968
Here's an interesting poppy take on The Equals storming "I Won't Be There". The ska type beat of the original is still there but the tempo is quickened and there's some tasty organ and some blistering guitar licks thrown in that keep it from becoming just another bland 1968 British pop record.

2. GULLIVER'S PEOPLE-"Splendor In The Grass" Parlophone  R 5435 1966
My favorite version of Jackie DeShannon's "Splendor In The Grass" is this incredible multi layered harmony version from UK sunshine pop merchants Gulliver's People. Propelled by sweeping strings and strong female vocals and all the usual top shelf backing studio musicians trick bag delights (and a spooky Joe Meek style Clavoline) it's 100% pleasure.

3. THE HINGE-"The Village Postman" RCA 1721 1968
I love this band name, it sounds like a powerful mod/freakbeat outfit, not so, but they're not bad either. "The Village Postman" is a cheeky/cheery mid tempo pop number with some social observation lyrics, extremely similar to the Keith West/Mark Wirtz opus "(Excerpts From) A Teenage Opera" only 100 times better with some '67-'68 Kinks style key changes (especially one at the bridge) and a jaunty little melody.  Brilliant.

4. THE QUIET FIVE-"I Am Waiting" Parlophone R 5470 1966
I could easily do a post of covers from The Stone's "Aftermath" LP but sadly there are few as good as this simple yet sophisticated version of "I Am Waiting". As their name implies The Quiet Five were a mellow harmony oriented group but there's more than their choral perfection going on in this track. After the chorus there's subtle brass, organ and thundering drums that give the number the edge the original doesn't have and a melody that seems to nick "Do You Hear What I Hear".

5. THE TRIBE-"Love Is A Beautiful Thing" RCA 1592 1967
The Tribe's swipe on The Rascal's "Love Is A Beautiful Thing" doesn't stray too far from the original but injects a poppy feel into the blue eyed soul feel going on here and the "Along Comes Mary" ocarina solo doesn't hurt. I prefer The Quik's blocked out slowed down version but this isn't bad either.

6. ADAM FAITH-"Cowman Milk Your Cow" Parlophone R 5635 1967
This unreleased Bee Gees track cut by Adam Faith in 1967 is nothing short of a British folk rock masterpiece.  With it's jangling guitars and raga riffs (care of The Roulettes!) to backing vocals by the Brothers Gibb it's a powerful number and certainly the best record Adam ever cut in my opinion. The lyrics are pretty "deep" and introspective and this certainly would not have been out of place on The Bee Gees first UK/US LP.

7. ROBB AND DEAN DOUGLAS-"Phone Me" Deram DM 132 1967
Issued on the flip side of Robb & Dean Doulglas debut, the tepid Righteous Brothers schlock of "I Can Make It With You", "Phone Me" is an uptempo but classically English mid 60's record in that it's got the dreadful caterwauling Breakaways style female backing vocals but luckily the kitschy organ and a feel not unlike some more uptempo Paul & Barry Ryan or Truth 45's keep it from being bin material. You can buy my US copy on you can't it's gone.

8. THE PARKING LOT-"Carpet Man" Parlophone R 5779 1969
On the flip of the Rubble/Bam Caruso track favorite "World Spinning Sadly By" is the up tempo Jimmy Webb composition cut with the intended harmony pop intact. Produced with aplomb by former Yardbird Paul Samwell Smith it's an excellent example of the effect of American sunshine pop on Britain and is the bright day to the night of the flip.

9. THE MINISTRY OF SOUND-"White Collar Worker" Decca F 12449 1966
This one off 45 by the studio only "Ministry Of Sound" was the genius of Ivy League member John Carter and as expected is full of layers of precise West Coast styled harmonies (no doubt assisted by his band mates) that one would expect from something associated with him. It was done on the sly as John and The Ivy League were still under contract with Pye at the time of this release and rates as one of the more collectible sides from this genre.

10. TONY RIVERS AND THE CASTAWAYS-"Girl Don't Tell Me" Immediate IM 027 1966
And speaking of West Coast.....Tony Rivers and the Castaways were Britain's best known surf/Beach Boys fanatics. At the time of the release of this tune in the UK (February 18, 1966) The Beach Boys version had been launched a mere week earlier which makes one wonder what Andrew Loog Oldham was thinking. Regardless it's a decent version thanks to the vocal strength of Tony and the boys (in fact it has more intricate harmonies than the original!) and the musical backing is pretty tough sounding. Interestingly it was backed by a cover of "Salt Lake City" on the underside. Dig the Four Season's "Walk Like A Man" chorus during the end.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

10 Cool U.K. 60's Songs That You Possibly Haven't Heard Part Three

All entries are U.K. releases unless otherwise noted.

Scan c/o

1. THE DRAG SET-"Day And Night" Go AJ 11405 1967 
Released on the short lived independent label Go most of you will know this number as it's later re-recording from when the band changed their name to The Open Mind and re-cut it for their untitled 1968 Phillips LP. The Drag Set version is far more enjoyable in my book as it still has the last vestiges of "beat music" to it and a raunchiness the re-recording lacks.

2. THE DAKOTAS-"Seven Pounds Of Potatoes" Page One POF 018 1967
Found on the flip of  the curious titled (and bland Cockney-country ballad) "I'm An 'Ard Workin' Barrow Boy" comes this blistering track cut not too long after The Dak's parted ways with Billy J. Kramer. At this juncture the band were down to Mick Green (guitar), Robin McDonald (bass) and Frank Farley (drums). Led by Mick Green's stellar string twisting and McDonald's understated vocals it's a powerhouse.  The band would cut one more 45, for the decade anyway.

3. THE IMAGE-"Come To The Party" Parlophone R 5281 1965
Written by the famous songwriting team of Stevens/Carter/Lewis , allegedly this 45 marks the record debut of one Dave Edmunds!  "Come To The Party" is a mid tempo, innocuous beat ballad with some sharp harmonies and an interesting interlude with a flute solo and some volume pedal work on the guitar throughout.

4. THE FRUIT MACHINE-"The Wall" US American Music Makers AMM-0021 1968
Yet another John Carter composition (with Russ Alquist). This is a US only 45 by The Fruit Machine with some great pop psych trappings: woodwinds, regal muted horns, phlanging, flashing cymbals and a dreary mood beneath a psychedelic wash with all the trappings and trimmings.

5. CAT'S PAJAMAS-"Camera Man" Direction 58-342 1968
Black British soul/r&b belter Kenny Bernard was known for fronting the r&b stormers The Wranglers  and a host of obscure soul infused 45's. With an entirely different twist this time around he fronted Cat's Pajamas who made two interesting 45's in '68 for Direction.  Starting with some heavy riffing guitars and chunky organ and some well punctuated shouts of "hey!", "Camera Man" is a rocking number that's just heavy enough to work without getting self indulgent. It was also penned by Bernard.

6. TOBY TWIRL-"Movin' In" Decca F 12867 1969
Toby Twirl cut just three singles for Decca, each one was different but they all were great. This was their last one, a magificent infusion of Decca/Deram blue eyed soul with some good old Deram/Decca pop-psych whimsy (horns, strings, blistering guitar bursts, etc). Produced by Wayne Bickerton with orchestration by Mike Vickers. Top shelf.

Scan c/o

7. SHYSTER-"Tick Tock" Polydor 56202 1967
Yet another 45 cut by the Fleur De Ly's under yet another  temporary moniker. The lyrics remind me of "Daughter Of The Sun" (a number they'd back Sharon Tandy on) with it's witchy references and the musical backing is punchy with somewhat funky r&b edges with heavily Anglicized vocals.

8. THE ROULETTES-"Help Me To Help Myself" Fontana TF 876 1967
Starting with some trippy phlanged piano that predates "Odgen's Nut Gone Flake", "Help Me To Help Myself" was the final Roulettes 45. It's akin to late era Unit 4 + 2 (whom two of The Roulettes were playing with at this point) with some somber muted trumpets and a feeling of gloom despite the happy Zombies style harmonies during the easy/kitsch horn solo.

9. THE CHASERS-"Inspiration" Parlophone R 5451 1966
Somewhere between the '65-'66 Yardbirds and the snotty American "garage" music it inspired comes this monster U.K. beat number with a barrage of distorted guitar and tough up front vocals.  Infectious stuff written by Barry Mason and Les Reed and arranged by ex-Riot Squad singer Graham Bonney.

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10. THE MONTANAS-"Roundabout" Pye 7N 17697 1969
Under layers of heavy and catchy guitar/bass licks and precise harmonies The Montanas dish out a very 1970's sounding ditty about a mean/loose girl who discards and ruins all she comes across. It's charm lies in the little breaks where it becomes minimal and then heavy at the blink of an eye.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Yet Even More Stray Rays (Part 3) : 10 Great Ray Davies Covers

Ace records released a new 26 track CD of 60's covers of Ray Davies songs a month or so ago, something I did for several of you years back.  We profiled 10 of our selections here in February 2012 and 10 more a month later here. Never one to shy from a challange we've got 10 more up our sleeve!

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1. LISA RAYNE-"Don't Ever Change" UK 45 Fontana TF 563 1965
Here's a little known cover of one of my fave tracks from the "Kinda Kinks" album but a British female singer.  The musical backing is an interesting mix of horns and organ and the vocal style is decidedly M.O.R. but it's worth a listen just because it's so obscure and I don't think I have ever heard anyone cover this track before.

2. THE CHOIR-"David Watts" Previously Unreleased LP track "Choir Practice" USA Sundazed LP 5009 1994
Long before The Jam took a version of this into the UK Top 20 in 1978 Cleveland's devout Anglophiles The Choir cut this unreleased version in 1967, a lead off track of the Kink's "Something Else" album. It doesn't differ much from the original in delivery but it adds a nice churchy Hammond and has some tight harmonies that turn it into a dose of American '67 Sunshine pop, something you'd never associate The Kinks with!

3. THE SCORPIONS-"So Mystifying"Netherlands 45 CNR UH-9785 1965
"So Mystifying" was obviously a popular tune on the Continent as it was covered by The German Bonds (Germany), The Hep Stars "(Sweden) and both The Jay Jays and The Scorpions in Holland. This version preceded the Jay Jays version by a year.  It's fairly pedestrian stuff and not as raw as The Jay Jays version but worth a listen.

4. GARY LEWIS AND THE PLAYBOYS-"A Well Respected Man" US LP track "Hits Again" Liberty LST 7452 1966
Alongside other covers like "One Track Mind" (The Knickerbockers) and "Look Through Any Window" (to name a few) Gary tackles the Kinks U.S hit (#13) "A Well Respected Man" with British phrasing all intact with interesting results.  It's pretty much a carbon copy of the Kinks arrangement so no points of originality but it's not at all unpleasant.

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5. THE STRANGERS-"I'm On An Island" Pye 7N 17585 1968
Ireland's Strangers are best known for their roaring take on The Monkees "Mary Mary" unearthed on the very first "Le Beat Bespoke" CD eons ago.  That was the first of three singles on Pye, this was their final a 1968 version of "I'm On An Island". The lead singer's Irish brogue shines through distinctly but it works better than Ray's quasi island patois and the musical backing is a bit punchier than the Kinks.

6. THE NOMADS-"Don't You Fret" Australia 45 B-side Parlophone A-8247 1965
Opening with highly resonating,  raw, Link Wray style chords Australia's The Nomads turn "Don't You Fret" from a wistful beat ballad to a raunchy dirge/waltz and knock the Kinks version, thereby bloodied and unconscious by this rendering, into the dirt.

7.  MIKE VICKERS-"Waterloo Sunset" UK LP track "I Wish I Were A Group Again" Columbia SX 6180 1967
Long before the god awful Austin Powers bullshit of the likes of The Mike Flowers Pops ex-Manfred's Mike Vickers defined the kitsch/easy genre with his ground breaking LP "I Wish I Were A Group Again", among the covers of tracks by the ten 25 year old's peers was this interpretation. Starting out with just flute and piano and ascends with trumpet, orchestration and a Ray Conniff style chorus. Don't let that scare you off it's quite kitschy in a non-cheezy way.

8. SONNY & CHER-"Set Me Free" US LP track "The Wondrous World Of.." Atco 33-183 1966
I'm no fan of these two so I was pleasantly surprised when a friend suggested I check their version of this Kinks track out (they also cover The Zombie's "Leave Me Be" on the same LP too). It works quite well as a duet for them and it's not at all schmaltzy as you might think and the no expense spared musical backing is pretty interesting too!

9. LES LIONCEAUX-"Le Jour, La Nuit, Le Jour" French E.P. track Mercury 152 025 MCE 1965
France's Les Lionceaux cut a slew of French language covers of American and British rock n roll covers on a multitude of E.P.'s in the mid 60's (among them a storming "Nowhere To Run" on the first "Le Beat Bespoke" CD). This high octane version of "All Day And All Of the Night" rates as one their best and manages to just barely match the intensity of the original.

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10. THE MAJORITY-"Ring The Bells" 45 B-side Decca F 12313 1966
The Majority had previously had a go at an unreleased Ray composition "A Little Bit Of Sunlight" (which we detailed earlier).  Their next 45 was a take on "Ring The Bells". Swathed in jangly stringed instruments, tubular bells and tack piano it's a perfect vehicle for the band's tight harmony structure and does the number decent justice.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

How Can It Be: Ron Wood's Birds Diary 1965

Birds fans everywhere rejoiced when it was announced that guitarist Ron Wood's journal which he kept in 1965 while a member of The Birds was to be published as "How Can It Be" (named after Wood's original composition which graced the B-side of the Bird's third 45 "No Good Without You Baby").  It soon transpired that it would be printed by Genesis Publications, best known for their $1,000 coffee table rock n roll publications and the rejoicing turned to disgust.

Eventually it was published in a more affordable and smaller hardcover 5.5" X 8" format (I snagged mine used on for $25) for us mere peons to have. To be honest had I known it was going to be an exact reproduction of Wood's journal I might have passed because reading reproductions of hand written entries in pencil and ball point pen becomes a bit tedious. It looks great as an exact reproduction as it is just that from it's light blue bordered pages to a 1965 atlas in the back to Wood's hand scribbled notes, details, addresses, phone numbers and some delightful sketches. Few of you, if any, will learn anything new about the Birds that you didn't already know if like me you'd read the "Ugly Things" piece on them twenty years ago. It's more who Ron had drinks with, what girls were at the party and tidbits about the Birds gigs. There are no revelations in Wood's entries, no juicy rock n roll tales or gossip or music nerd details aside from learning that the band never cut a B.B.C. session because they were "too loud", that nearly everyone in the band spent loads of money on clothes and that The Birds felt a great deal of camaraderie with The Who.  But when you think about it if you were an 18 year old guy in a band keeping a journal what would you write about?  The gigs you went to, the gigs you played, the girls you fancied and who you got pissed with.  Fair enough. There are some photos of The Birds contained, but not a lot and as mentioned earlier lots of drawings Wood did of the band, gigs and other bands (he seemed to go see The Who a lot at the Marquee). My favorite sketch is one of the neighbors gawking as The Birds and Artwoods vans are loaded/off loaded in front of the Wood residence (see below). Quite a spectacle I imagine considering that Ron's older brothers were both in bands, Art fronted the Artwoods and Ted played in the Temperance Seven.

There are some previously unpublished pics from gigs, especially some tasty ones from the Uxbridge Blues and Folk festival (several in color, see the gig poster below) and some pages bear captions and sidebars that were typeset so they're easier to follow on the eyes than Ron's scribbled notes.

All in all if you're a Birds fan like me or a 60's British r&b aficionado and can manage this book on the cheaper side I say go for it, but don't spend a lot on it because it's not going to be something you'll read more than once. My advice for scoring a copy of the "new and used" section on Amazon or Alibris.