Sunday, August 28, 2016

August Picks

1. LITTLE GRANTS & EDDIE-"Rocksteady '67"
Eddie Grant of The Equals and his brother released two 45's as "Little Grants & Eddie" that are best described as the Musical Youth of 1967.  This was their best (and final 45) where Eddie toasts name dropping all the ska stars of '67 and adding "1967 was the year of the ska" with a funky groove.

Here you have ladies and gents the lost love child of Link Wray, The Ventures and ska.  With some heavy Drumbago Allstars style percussion vying for attention with some raunchy ass guitar this number is over before your can get your head around all that's going on it guaranteeing repeated listening. This track can be found on the "Dr. No" soundtrack (but it's not actually in the movie).

3. PETULA CLARK-"Colour My World"
When I was a little boy I spent a lot of time at my aunt's house where I was allowed the run of her massive wooden encased hi-fi. She had very few rock n roll records but she had a 45 of this and I played it to death. Four plus decades later it still sounds great not only because of nostalgia but because of the over the top Tony Hatch production. She looks almost wooden and uncomfortable in the video below but at the same time dead sexy in her coolness and confidence.

4. THE MODS-"Days Mind The Time"
The Zombies influence on this Dallas/Ft. Worth Texas combo is immediately apparent and with a beautiful melding of jangly Byrds guitars (especially the "Bells Of Rhymney" inspired guitar solo)  this amazing 1966 single is a perfection combination.

5. HUMBLE PIE-"Home And Away"
In the great post Small Faces follow up competition I've always been a Faces man and always will, but still every now and then I come across a Humble pie tune that I dig. Like this one. Light weight, mid tempo and easily likeable.  Any idea who that is on electric piano?

6.  DORIS TROY-"Please Little Angel"
I think what I dig most about this slow burner is the wiggy Joe Meek style keyboards and the catchy lick where they play along with some muted horns.  And then there's Doris Troy's silky smoove vocals that top it off like the proverbial cherry on top.

7.  THE MURMAIDS-"Paper Sun"
Here's a wiggy one for you, L.A's Murmaids final single, a 1968 cover of Traffic's "Paper Sun" produced by Kim Fowley. Substituting the raga/trippy sitar mysticism of the original with some fuzz guitar and subtle organ beneath their cheery West Coast harmonies it really works!

I stumbled upon this gritty 60's Aussie r&b number on YouTube and was suitably impressed by it's British r&b meets Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels feel. My fave part is the break with the thundering drums, Hammond and hand claps.

9. DIE KNODEL-"Mit Der 42er"
I heard this piece recently as incidental music on NPR recently and was pleasantly surprised it was modern (ie 21st century). It's minimal, jazzy and perfect background music.  I must investigate further!

10. GEORGIA LYNN-"Sugar Shack Queen"
This neat 1963 r&b "answer" to Jimmy Gilmer's hit "Sugar Shack" is on the new RPM 3 CD set "Looking States" and pricks up your ears immediately and the lyrics of course are interesting as well.  "He wears a white Levi's and Hush Puppie shoes..". I ran out and tracked down a copy of the 45 immediately.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

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

1. THE TIMES-"Think About The Times" Columbia DB 7804 1966
This slightly countrified beat/ballad has a swing to it that betrays it's 1966 date and sounds like something from two years prior.  The vocals and shaking tambourine add a chirpy feel to it that makes it very catchy.

2. THE NORTH STARS-"She's So Far Out She's In"  Fontana TF 726 1966
This obscure beat monster from 1966 has a punchy feel like a very early Kinks record and some storming drums and some Gretsch country licks (a regular formula for mid 60's British beat records) that keep your feet tapping the whole time.  It has a great title to boot.

3. THE HELLIONS-"Think It Over" Piccadilly  7N35265 1965
Found on the flip of the third and final 45 ("A Little Lovin') by this pre-Traffic home of Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason , "Think It Over" has every ingredient for a mid 60's UK record: cool harmonies, a raw guitar solo, powerful bashing mod chords and a great melody.  The chorus reminds me of "Fly Me To The Moon".

4. THE SHADOWS-"Trying To Forget The One You Love" Columbia DB  8372 1968
Never one to go with the times or trends The Shadows trod the beat ballad path heavily in the year of super groups and 11 minute guitar jams with a tremolo/vibrato guitar laced punchy little number with precise double tracked harmonies, cracking drums and an excellent dirge like rhythm.

5. A FAIR SET-"Honey And Wine" Decca F 12168 1965
For those familiar with The Hollies excellent reading of this Goffin/King number you're in for a treat here.  The vocals have a strong male lead baritone with some killer male/female backing vocals that add a jazzy swing to it and the guitar work sounds almost identical to Tony Hick's licks on the Hollies version but then kicks into overdrive and surpasses it with some nifty flair. Powerful stuff.

6. THE MOSAICS-"Let's Go Drag Racing" Columbia DB 7990 1966
We could do a whole entry of British mid 60's surf/drag racing numbers.  This title is one of the more obscure ones. Full of plenty of "oooo's" and Beach Boys style harmonies but what really makes this track work is the catchy beat group backing which reminds me of Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders (see below).

7. THE NEWS-"The Entertainer" Decca F 12356 1966
Here's an interesting cover of the Tony Clarke number that works because rather than try to do a carbon copy soul cover these guys turn it into a gutsy beat/ballad with minimal musical backing (bass, drums, guitar and a tasty little electric piano bit).

8. THE NIGHTRIDERS-"It's Only The Dog" Polydor 56116 1966
Rising from the ashes of Mike Sheridan's and the Nightriders last incarnation as Mike Sheridan's Lot these guys take a tongue and cheek number previously cut the The Kingsmen of "Louie Louie" fame (US Wand WND 1107 1965) and add some cocky Jagger style vocals, "Game Of Love" style licks and some female backing vocals (that bring to mind the Downliner's "Glendora"). The band eventually changed their name to The Idle Race and ditched r&b for twee toy town psych.

9. THE WILD ANGELS-"Please Don't Touch" B&C CB 114 1969
With the "rock n' roll" revival in Britain in '68-'69 I am left to assume that's where these guys were coming from.  It totally sounds completely out of place with the last year of the greatest decade and it doesn't deviate much from the Johnny Kidd original but it's still interesting not only in their choice of covers but the gusto in which they deliver it.

10. THE FORCE WEST-"Talkin' About Our Love" Columbia DB 7908 1966
Here's a 1966 beat tune that owes a lot to The Monkees (at least to my ears) and The Shadows on one of their mid 60's vocal sides . This is yet another classic example of how the British music industry had not remotely begun to recognize the "freakout factor" in 1966 and occasionally persevered  making great little records.

All scans are courtesy of

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

U.K. 60's Pop Psych Classics: "King Midas In Reverse"

THE HOLLIES-King Midas In Reverse/Water On The Brain US Epic 5-10234 1967

It is often said that the commercial "failure" of Graham Nash's opus "King Midas In Reverse" was yet another nail in the lid of the coffin that was his career in The Hollies. I'm not sure I completely buy this as it did make #18 in the U.K. when it was released in September 1967 (Parlophone R 5637) and a more disappointing #51 in the United States in the same month. I guess when you're used to Top Ten placings #18 isn't a reason to jump for joy....

Oft retold rock n roll mythology aside "King Midas In Reverse" is one of the Hollies most ambitious recordings ever attempted. Starting off with just a simple acoustic guitar and Nash's vocals it's eventually joined by Allan Clarke's vocals and then the entire band joins in and it builds and builds to a massive pop psych magnum opus.  Eventually when the second verse comes in there's a full orchestra and horns and by the middle there is a brilliant excursion in pop psych with sawing strings, regal horns and Bobbie Elliott's thundering drums and timpani. The lavish orchestration was scored by Johnny Scott with production by the band's own George Martin, Ron Richards. On the fade out of the mix of the U.S. 45 the horns become phlanged and add an even more trippy effect.

C/o Dig Clarkey's Fab Four stache and Hendrix perm!

The U.S. release omitted "Everything Is Sunshine" on the flip and replaced it with "Water On The Brain" from the band's U.K. LP "Evolution" (which is missing from the altered U.S. issue which substituted "Carrie Anne" for "Leave Me" and did not include "When Your Light's Turned On", which would be utilized as the U.S. flip to "Dear Eloise" two months later). Despite the slightly druggy title, "Water On The Brain" is not as trippy as one would expect with archetype Hollies three part harmony brilliance, some bashing guitar chords, and a tuba solo that always reminds me of "The Munsters Theme" (arranged by our hero Mike Vickers) with some high speed bongo percussion adding to it's frenetic effect.

A few years back Graham Nash resurrected "King Midas In Reverse" on his solo tour with interesting results which you can view below.

Hear "King Midas In Reverse":

Hear "Water On The Brain":

Saturday, August 13, 2016

10 More Cool U.K. Mid 60's R&B Songs That You Possibly Haven't Heard

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

1. THE UNTAMED-"So Long" Decca F 12045 1964
The debut single by Lindsay Muir's much vaunted r&b group The Untamed was for some reason absent from RPM's excellent CD compilation of their work a number of years back (since it was not a Shel Talmy production I suspect that's why it was kept off that collection). "So Long" is a bluesy mid tempo number not unlike Georgie Fame covering Fats Domino . Interestingly it's a Muir original.

2. OSSIE LANE-"Come Back" R&B MRB 5006 1966
This track was also done by Edwick Rumbold on CBS (202393) in 1966 so I'm not sure which version came first.  This version was cut on the primarily ska label R&B (the label name came from it's owners Rita & Benny) and differs slightly from the Edwick Rumbold version by substituting the hard/slashing moddy guitars with an early Stax style horn lick reminiscent of "Do The Dog".

3. THE PREACHERS-"Too Old In The Head" Columbia DB 7680 1965
Written by Bill Wyman's old band mate from the Cliftons Tony Chapman and produced by Wyman himself this single is the vocal debut of a teenage Peter Frampton. It's a neat slice of jazzy r&b with some groovy sax and rollicking, bluesy piano and not at all unlike any other mid 60's British Flamingo Club r&b.  Dig Frampton's vocals that are a cross between Mose Allison and Bob Dylan.

Scan c/o

4. TONY RITCHIE-"Comin' On Strong" US GNP Crescendo  GNP-406 1968
Strangely this was a US only release that I swear uses the same backing track as the Don Fardon version (which makes sense as both versions were produced by Miki Dallon). Though the vocals aren't as strong as Fardon's version I like this one because it's a bit more rocking as the fuzz guitar seems to be higher in the mix and Ritchie's vocals remind me of Billy Joe Royal.

5. MIKE STUART SPAN-"Come On Over To Our Place" Columbia DB 8066 1966
The first single by these legendary Brighton based freakbeat/psych monsters was miles apart from the heaviness of "Children Of Tomorrow" or "Remember The Times". Their debut was this soul-ed up cover of The Drifters "Come On Over To Our Place" full of organ and horns that leave the original version at the starting gate. There's a groovy little Farfisa solo and then a voice over that advises "Hey you chicks get on your wheels or walk it to Brighton to meet The Mike Stuart Span".

Scan c/o

6. THE CLAYTON SQUARES-"Imagination" Decca F 12456 1966
Liverpool's Clayton Squares managed just two singles in the U.K. during their brief career (the band were also managed by the infamous Don Arden). "Imagination" was the flip of their final 45 "There She Is". It relies on a heavy, gritty horns infused groove that owes more than a little to  Willie Mitchell's "Everything Is Gonna Be Alright" and a wiggy sax solo.

7. STONE'S MASONRY-"Flapjacks" Purdah 45 3504 1967
Imagine the blistering guitar of Peter Green era John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers and the '66 Small Faces organ led instrumentals and that would pretty much describe this insane instrumental. Released on Mike Vernon's short lived, highly collectible label Purdah it features future Savoy Brown Blues Band/Action/Might Baby guitarist Martin Stone.

8. THE ROGER JAMES FOUR-"Better Than Here" Columbia DB 7829 1966
Beneath some wah wah pedaled Farfisa (that has an almost early Pink Floyd feel to it) and frantic drumming this tough number provides an interesting marriage of beat, r&b and freakbeat (dig the wiggy guitar solo).  I know absolutely nothing about these guys so if anyone knows anything give us a shout.

Scan c/o

9. THE UNIVERSALS-"Hey You" Page One POF 032 1967
The flip of "I Can't Find You" this Larry Page produced number bounces off at a pace /melody not unlike The Move's "Wave Your Flag And Stop The Train" swelled by some razor sharp horns that mesh perfectly with the frantic pace of it and vocals that remind me of John Sebastian.

10. DAVE ANTHONY'S MOODS-"New Directions" Parlophone R 5438 1966
Written by Manfred Mann and Mike Hugg (miscredited as "Mugg" on the label!!) this number offers a stinging "youth anthem"/social commentary not unlike their "Tired Of Trying, Bored With Lying, Scared Of Dying" or "Mister You're A Better Man Than I". Starting off with some jazzy horns and bluesy guitar it's a perfect vehicle for Anthony's detached/sombre vocals . The real power of the number comes from the tried and true mid 60's Brit mod/r&b "Hammond n' horns" formula which makes this number extra punchy.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Sound of '66: The Association "Pandora's Golden Heebie Geebies"

THE ASSOCIATION-Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies/Standing Still US Valiant V-755 1966

The Association were catapulted to stardom in the US when their third 45 (their second for the Challenge label) "Along Comes Mary" burst onto the scene and climbed to #7 which was followed by "Cherish" six months later at #1 .  The follow up to"Cherish" sadly never rose very high, stalling out at #35, which to me is a zillion times better than "Cherish".  The track in question is "Pandora's Golden Heebie Geebies" penned by the bands lead singer/guitarist Gary Alexander. It was released in November 1966.

Seeped in a near eastern feel with what sounds like a koto and layers of precise harmonies that are at some points phased "Pandora's.." is easily the trippiest thing the band ever did. It became a stage favorite of our U.K. patron saints The Action who even did it in a B.B.C. session in 1967 (which unfortunately has yet to materialize). Like most of their material it's safe to say that the musical backing was the work of the Wrecking Crew, but it's the band who provide the stellar vocals that really make the track and of course kudos to producer Jerry Yester for putting it all together.

"Standing Still" is a tad boring, cut from the same cloth as "Cherish" it's more Four Preps than Fab Four.  The vocals are amazing but the song is just plain boring (though the baroque chamber music woodwinds during the guitar solo are pretty nifty). It was written by the band's drummer Ted Blueschel.

The track was included on the band's second LP "Renaissance" (their best in my opinion) along with it's follow up "No Fair At All" (January 1967), which like it's predecessor failed to rise very high (a dismal #51). The band then moved to Warner Brothers where their next three singles all received top ten placings.

Hear "Pandora's Golden Heebie Geebies":

Hear "Standing Still":

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Blue Beat: Ten Picks

Blue Beat were Britain's premier ska label. Launched in 1960 with their first 45 by Laurel Aitken with the Boogie Cats by Emil Shalit as a subsidiary of his jazz/calypso label Melodisc. The label has gone on to become iconic especially due to it's links with ska.  As you will see in some of our 10 picks from the label that they issued a variety of genres in their brief 7 year existence before switching the bulk of their output to a new label, Fab in early 1967.

1. HOPETON LEWIS-"Sounds And Pressure" BB 372 1967
Though credited to "Buster All Stars" this version of "Sounds And Pressure" is in fact Hopeton Lewis singing. Prince Buster would cut a live version on his UK LP "On Tour" which would gain a 7" release in Jamaica on his Buster label that's more soul than ska. The Hopeton Lewis version here is driven by some cool barroom piano and a smooth, steady vocal delivery.

2. BASIL GABIDON-"Iverene" BB 111 1962
Basil Gabidon cut six 45's for the label, this was his third.  Following a boogie woogie shuffle with a ska back beat it resembles a Caribbean influenced Big Joe Turner meets Bobby "Blue" Bland to my ears. My favorite part is the wonky sax/trumpet solo's that follow the record to an unexpected close almost like they turned down the faders just as these guys were letting loose.

3. THE BLUES BUSTERS-"Tell Me Why" BB 102 1962
Duo Phillip James and Lloyd Campbell, known collectively as The Blues Busters cut quite a few innocuous mid tempo ska/r&b sides in the 60's.  They had three singles on Blue Beat, this in my opinion is the best, a decent mid tempo r&b shuffle that make me think they were the Sam & Dave of ska.

4. SYKO AND THE CARIBS-"Big Boy" BB 223 1964
Alleged to include Christine Keeler's brother in their line up Syko and the Caribs were a mixed race band who cut two 45's on Blue Beat. Like our entry below this 45 bears no resemblance to ska on one side and is instead a mid tempo rock n roll number led by some wonky sax on the other! "Big Boy" sounds suspiciously like "Humpty Dumpty" (see #10 below), not terribly rocking but interesting.  I would love to know more about the band if anyone knows anything.

5. THE TOMMY BURTON COMBO-"I'm Walkin" BB 237 1964
Though white British groups on Blue Beat are not totally unheard of here's one that wasn't the least bit connected to ska, at least on this roaring B-side to the tepid "Lavender Blue" (just a notch above the dreadful feux ska of the Migil Five on the stinky cheese factor). We profiled this raw cover of Fats Domino over here for more information.

6. DERRICK MORGAN-"Sunday Monday" BB 76 1962
One of the most prolific artists on Blue Beat Derrick Morgan cut an astounding 41 singles on the label. "Sunday Monday" takes the r&b boogie of Fats Domino with a ska back beat/shuffle to create a winning combination.

7. PRINCE BUSTER-"Judge Dread (Judge Four Hundred Years)" BB 387 1967
No Blue Beat list would be complete without at least one Prince Buster 45. "Judge Dread (Four Hundred Years)" was the first record of the "rude boy in court" genre of ska/reggae that saw (often humorous) verbal dialogue between a judge and an offender to a musical backing.  Buster made many more sequels and the template was copied by loads of other artists like Derrick Morgan.

8. MICKEY FINN & THE BLUE MEN-"Tom Hark" BB 203 1964
We profiled this 45 way back when here, it has recently come to light via "Ugly Things" magazine that the personnel on this 45 were not Mickey Finn and the Blue Men but session men (most likely including Alan Hawkshaw of The Mohawks fame on organ). To my knowledge this was the first of a few of the label's white British acts. Regardless of who it is it's an infectious little groover that's a wonderful ear worm.

9. OWEN GREY BUSTER'S GROUP-"Millie Girl" BB 91 1962
Owen Grey cut a staggering number of U.K. sides. 15 of these were on Blue Beat (whilst interspersed with titles on Island, Starlite, Chek etc). "Millie Girl" was presumably a tongue and cheek ska/boogie ballad for his sometime singing partner Millie Small with musical backing from Prince Buster's All Stars (or as the label credits them "Buster's Group").

Prior to The Skatalite's "Guns Of Navarone", Eric Morris ska reading of the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" was probably the most famous ska tune released in Britain in the 60's.  It was covered by Georgie Fame on his "Blue Beat" E.P. and The Yardbirds played a snippet of it in the middle of "Here Tis" on their debut LP "Five Live Yardbirds". It's simple and sweet and it's cheery disposition makes for an excellent party record, no matter what your age.