Thursday, March 30, 2017

Great Obscure U.K. 60's R&B Sides: Paul Williams & The Big Roll Band

PAUL WILLIAMS and the BIG ROLL BAND-Gin House/Rockin' Chair UK Columbia DB 7421 1964

Not to be confused with the diminutive American singer/songwriter this Paul Williams was (and still is) a 60's British r&b singer.  He started out singing with the Wes Minster Five before accepting an invitation to join Zoot Money's Big Roll Band on bass (despite not ever having played bass), where band leader Zoot Money had asked him to join based on his vocal skills so that the act could have a second vocalist in the line up.

Today's subject is both Williams first single with the Big Roll Band and the latter's first release on Columbia after just one single with Decca ("The Uncle Willie"/"Zoot's Suite" Decca F 11954 August 1964 credited to just "Zoot Money"). "Gin House" , originally cut in 1928 as "Me And My Gin" by Bessie Smith was something of a British 60's standard with versions cut by The Boston Crabs, The Animals and Amen Corner to name but a few.  The Paul Williams and the Big Roll Band version is the earliest U.K. version, no doubt it was brought to their attention by Nina Simone's reading. The Big Roll Band's version though not as upbeat as Simone's, is still delivered faster than the dirge like feel of subsequent U.K. covers.  Its an interesting version with Zoot's Hammond gently weaving in and out and the powerful horn section building the track bar by bar.

"Rockin' Chair" is an uptempo jumpin' jive affair with an almost ska meets jazz beat to it. Interestingly it musically resembles the jazz/r&b/ska style that William's previous act, The Wes Minster Five had nailed down.

Williams would receive top billing on another 45 with the Big Roll Band the following year as Columbia DB 7768 "The Msany Faces Of Love" b/w "Jump Back" in November.

"Gin House" is on the excellent EMI compilation CD "Take My Tip: 25 British Mod Artifacts From The EMI Vaults" and both sides are on Repertoire's comprehensive Zoot Money singles CD "A's & B's Scrapbook".

Hear "Gin House":

Hear "Rockin' Chair":

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Classic 60's British Labels : Reaction

Set up by Australian Robert Stigwood in the U.K. in 1966, Reaction was a short lived independent label (distributed by Polydor) with just 3 LP's, 18 singles and an E.P. in their brief 18 month existence. Nonetheless they were the home for Cream, The Who and a host of others.  Here's 10 interesting singles from their colorful discography for your perusal.

1. OSCAR-"Club Of Lights" 591003 June 1966
We profiled Oscar's releases on the label in several posts which can be viewed herehere and over here. "Club Of Lights" was his second of three 45's for the label and hands down his punchiest. Penned by future Thunderclap Newman member (and author of The Who's "Armenia City In The Sky") Speedy Keen, "Club Of Lights" is a raving '66 go-goer with a driving beat, horns, fuzz guitars and an amphetamine tempo.

2. LLOYD BANKS-"Look Out Girl" 591008 October 1966
This brass based harmony pop number was the flip of "We'll Meet Again". Falling somewhere between The Tremeloes '67 stuff and The Fortune's poppier side "Look Out Girl" is a decent slice of uptempo '66 pop (with a cool little organ solo in the middle) and a great false ending.

3. BIRDS BIRDS-"Daddy Daddy" 591005 September 1966
After three singles on Decca The Birds changed their moniker to Birds Birds and moved to Reaction for what would be their last 45. Bringing up the rear on the flip of a version of The McCoy's "Say Those Magic Words" is this menacing Ron Wood/Tony Munroe group original. "Daddy Daddy" is  pure unadulterated '66 mod/freakbeat at it's best with plenty of thundering drums, Vox fuzz box licks and detached confusion.

4. THE WHO-"In The City" 591004 August 1966
This Keith Moon/ John Entwhistle ditty was the flip to "I'm A Boy". It's an interesting mix with John's French horn, him and Roger's West Coast harmonies, jangly Rickenbacker and surf music lyrics no doubt care of resident Beach Boys fanatic Keith Moon.

5. WEST POINT SUPERNATURAL-"Time Will Tell" 59103 April 1967
The curiously named West Coast Supernatural's  sole Reaction single "Time Will Tell" is a poppy little ditty with crisp harmonies, a jaunty Kink's '67 feel and a cheery all round feel. I know absolutely nothing about them.  Anyone?

6. BILLY J. KRAMER & THE DAKOTAS-"Chinese Girl" 591014 April 1967
"Chinese Girl" covered the flip side of Billy's solo outing , an unreleased track by Stigwood's charge The Bee Gee's called "The Town Of Tuxley Toymaker Part One". Written by Dakota's Mick Green and Robin Macdonald, it would be Kramer's last work with the Dak's and no doubt his most powerful AND freakiest!

7. THE MAZE-"Telephone" 591009 November 1966
The Maze are best known to Deep Purple historian's as the band that contained singer Rod Evans and drummer Ian Paice. "Telephone", the flip of a version of Barbara Lewis "Hello Stranger", is a semi interesting piece of beat music melded with harmony pop.  At times it's rather tepid and mundane but interesting for historical value and Evan's deep tones.

8. SANDS-"Listen To The Sky" 591007 September 1967
Formerly The Others, Sands "Listen To The Sky" rounded off the unreleased Bee Gee's gem "Mrs Gillespie's Refrigerator" on the top side.  Starting out as a fairly innocuous pop track "Listen To The Sky" earns its spurs with cool harmonies, tough guitars and an ending mashing up guitars imitating an aerial dogfight with air raid sirens thrown in before ominously descending into Holst's "Mars, Bringer Of War".

9. MARIAN MONTGOMERY-"Monday Thru Sunday" 591018 October 1967
The final release by the label was this odd ball 45 release by M.O.R. personality Marian Montgomery. Sounding musically not unlike something Cilla Black would have cut at the same time, "Monday Thru Sunday" starts out with some uptown horns/flutes and is actually not a bad record thanks to it's high end production care of John Shakespeare and the previously mentioned musical accompaniment.

10. CREAM-"Cat's Squirrel" 591007 October 1967
The flip side of Cream's uncharacteristic vinyl debut "Wrapping Paper" was this raw blues instrumental driven by the powerhouse rhythm section of Jack Bruce (bass) and Ginger Baker (drums) and requisite Chicago blues guitar licks by Eric "God" Clapton.  The 45 version is in my estimation far superior to the different recording used on their debut LP "Fresh Cream".

Thursday, March 16, 2017

10 Cool US 60's Tracks You Should Hear

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1. MARCIA STRASSMAN-"The Flower Shop" UNI 55023 1967
The late Marcia Strassman is best known to our American readers as Mrs. Kotter on the 70's sitcom "Welcome Back Kotter".  Unbeknownst to many she had a brief musical career in the 60's where she cut three singles for the UNI label. This somber pop psych ballad was found on the flip of the interestingly titled but musically bland "The Groovy World Of Jack And Jill".

2. MR. LUCKY & THE GAMBLERS-"Alice Designs" Panorama  52 1967
This Tandyn Almer composition was first issued in the U.K. in October 1966 by The Sugarbeats and later in 1967 this Pacific Northwest act (Seattle I've heard?).  They amp it up considerably and almost double the speed taking it from the mod/proto freakbeat feel of the Sugarbeats and turn it out as an uptempo , hard driving, harmony pop tune.

3. THE NEW ORDER-"You Got Me High" Warner Brothers 5816 1966
First brought to me attention via Sweden's Science Poption on Bam Caruso's "Rubble Volume 14: The Magic Rocking Horse", "You've Got Me High" was originally cut in the US by The New Order. Their original is a hard driving delivery that's the bastard child of folk rock, West Coast Association style harmonies and hard edged British beat.

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4. THE TRAITS-"Nobody Loves The Hulk" Queen City QNA-101 1969
Sounding nothing like it's 1969 release date this cash-in on the mean, green Marvel comics anti-hero sounds like a mid tempo snotty 1966 U.S. garage teen record. I first heard it as a kid and little did I know until recently that it made it onto a "Pebbles" volume.

5. SOMEBODY'S CHYLDREN-"I'm Going Back To New York City" Uptown 727 1966
On the flip side of "Shadows" comes this killer track that falls somewhere between garage and British invasion rawness. The best part are the harmonies, which though not terribly tight, are still exciting.

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6. THE RAVIN' BLUE-"Love" Monument 45-968 1966
No doubt inspired by The Who, this rocking cut by Nashville's The Ravin' Blue is a nice slice of Anglophile proto power pop that was even issued in Germany and Italy as well. It's pace reminds me of The Creation's "Biff Bang Pow" or The Who's "Doctor Doctor" with it's uptempo/frantic pace and punctuated shouts of "love!".

7.  THE GUILLOTEENS-"Hey You!" HBR  HBR 446 1965
Memphis, Tennessee's Guilloteen's cut this Kink's influenced monster in 1965 as the flip
side of their debut for Hanna Barberra Records.  Starting out with a great Kinks style 4 chord bashing it's a perfect track and an excellent encapsulate of the impact of tough edged British beat on American teens.

8. THE POOR-"She's Got The Time (Shes Got The Changes)" York 402 1967
Covered in the U.K. by The Affex, this mid tempo, harmony driven groover by California's The Poor featuring future Poco member Randy Meisner on lead vocals was written by Tom Shipley (later of Brewer & Shipley) is an innocuous piece of West Coast pop not unlike  The Merry Go Round.

9. THE JAM-"Something's Gone" Sire S-5001 1968
Spokane, Washington's The Jam issued this solid track on Seymour Stein's budding Sire label in 1968 that was allegedly recorded a year prior to it's release. Beneath a driving beat and subtle organ trills the band layer it with Beach Boys style harmonies over a "My Girl" style progression.  Pure magic.

10. THURSDAY'S CHILDREN-"Help, Murder, Police" International Artists IA-115 1967
Houston, Texas Thursday's Children cut just two 45's on the legendary International Artists label in 1966-1967. "Help, Murder, Police", issued in 1967 is a legendary mid tempo slice of American teen angst that fetches heavy $$$ with a copy recently going for a whopping $475.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Derv Gordon of The Equals East Coast Dates!!

Hey fellas (and chicks) have you heard the news?! The Equals lead singer Derv Gordon is following up his successful California date being backed by So What with two dates with them on the East Coast in New Jersey and New York in May!

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Sound of '67 : Traffic " Paper Sun"

TRAFFIC-Paper Sun/Giving To You UK Island WIP 6002 1967

Emerging in 1967 when the term "super groups" was being bandied about quite frequently in the music presss, I can't say I ever thought Traffic were a super group. Other than Stevie Winwood coming from The Spencer Davis Group his band mates were all decidedly players on B-teams (no offense musically, I'm speaking purely from the commercial aspect). But rock n roll mythology likes to lump them together with everyone else. Regardless their debut was one of the finest singles 1967 unleashed.

Depending on what source you've read "Paper Sun", the debut May '67 45 by Traffic was written allegedly in a hotel lobby or a hotel room in Newcastle by Winwood when he was still in the S.D.G. and Jim Capaldi while he was in Deep Feeling (a band who never released any records but recorded some great material) .  My image of Newcastle is forever muddied by "Get Carter" a film from 5 years later so the idea of Traffic in their hippy garb in 1967 Newcastle must have been quite an unusual one as I imagine it was still all Brylcreem and winklepickers up there in '67. "Paper Sun" is a perfect Summer of '67 tune not just for all of it's sitar and conga trappings but lyrically it was already sussing the expiration date on the trippy hippie carefree lifestyle that was suddenly "the rage". Maybe I'm mis-hearing the lyrics, but that's my interpretation. There's the buzzing woodwinds creating a psychedelic casbah feel meshing up against sitar scales and jarring tambura and tablas tapping, 1967 was here. Feel it.

"Giving To You" starts with a cacophony of voices all shouting and chattering on top of each other before evolving into a mellow jazzy instrumental led by flute before some blistering  British blues guitar licks burst forth and then some B-3 notes. It's interesting because it's a meld of bluesy/jazzy British r&b, a scene all of the band members were clearly moving away from with this band but clearly not far away enough from to still play.

Hear "Giving To You":

North American 60's Covers Of Semi Obscure British Tunes

To say the impact of the British Invasion on the American music scene in the 1960's was phenomenal is an understatement. Certainly the Beatles and Stones launched thousands of bands in the States. But then there were bands that went beyond your Top 40 British bands and covered tracks that weren't in the American hit parade.  Here's a few that leaned towards more obscure bands or titles.

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1. BARBARA EDEN-"Bend It" US 45 Dot 45-16999 1967
Hold the phones, Jeanie of "I Dream Of Jeanie" covering Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky , Mick & Tich?! Damn straight! Okay I'll own up that it's not exactly something you will want to play more than once but it gets extra marks for effort.  Bab's sultry tones and the addition of a sitar didn't launch this into the charts.

2. THE MURMAIDS-"Paper Sun" US 45 Liberty 56078 1968
Another one to file under "What in the f*ck?".  This cheery, sunny cover of Traffic's psychedelic debut 45 is aptly pulled off and works perfectly as a sunny Californian pop record by the Murmaids with some cool fuzz guitar and hard hitting drums beneath the angelic harmonies replacing the buzzing/Eastern feel of the original.

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3. THE KORDS-"Boris The Spider" US 45 Laurie LR 3403 1967
This Florida based band wasted no time cutting this John Entwistle penned Who track from their "A Quick One" album (released as "Happy Jack" here in the US).  It's bouncy, light hearted and driven by some nice fuzz guitar.  Oddly it also got a release in New Zealand on Stateside too!

4. THREE TO ONE-"See Emily Play" Canadian 45 Arc  A 11286 1967
Okay so these folks were Canadian and no offense to our North American cousins in Canada. Hot on the heels of the Canadian 45 release on Capitol (as 72475 in May of '67) Three To One hit the ground running with this cover that sticks fairly close to the original butwith an amusing woman's voice saying "Everyone know how to play?" before some spacey sound affects instead of an organ solo.

5. THE LIVIN' END-"Making Time" Unreleased 1966
Texas garage band The Livin' End cut a version of The Creation's "Making Time" (released in the US in July 1966 as Planet 45-116) that remained unissued until the 90's. Eschewing guitarist Eddie Phillip's violin bow action on the original the Livin' End instead ratchet up the feedback and make a wonderful racket of it with a great Southern accent on the lead vocals too , which kinda works considering the Creation's Kenny Pickett always seemed to have sang one.

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6. THE STILLROVEN-"Little Picture Playhouse" US 45 August AUG 101 1967
Minneapolis, MN's Stillroven take a Simon Dupree & The Big Sound cut from their LP "Without Reservations" (released in the States on Tower ) and run with it. Again kudos for mega obscurity and though it pretty much sticks to the original (sans brass) it's pretty enjoyable. They also later issued a cover of the Small Faces "(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me" as the follow up to this 45.

7. THE STEREO SHOESTRING-"On The Road South" US 45 English 1302 1968
This 45 is not a cover but a complete rewrite of The Pretty Thing's "Defecting Grey" which was never released in the U.S. Issued by the curiously named Texan band The Stereo Shoestring musically "On The Road South" IS "Defecting Grey" but some of the lyrics have been changed and despite bordering on a cacophony it's still an amusing listen.

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8. THE SONS OF ADAM-"You're A Better Man Than I" US 45 Decca 31995 1966
There were no less than 6 American covers of this Hugg brothers composition made famous by the Yardbirds  released in 1966-1967 (possibly more), but this is my favorite.  It's snotty, powerful and though it sticks to the original arrangement it doesn't try to replicate it note for note.

9. BLUES MAGOOS-"I Can Hear The Grass Grow" US 45 Mercury 72838 1968
New York's Blues Magoos took The Move's second single "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" (released in the States in June 1967 as Deram 45-7506) and made it their own by adding some combo organ and making it heavier with a fuller sound reminiscent of fellow American Anglophiles The Nazz.

10. THE JAGGED EDGE-"Midnight To Six Man" US 45 Twirl 2024 1966
New York City's Jagged Edge join the class by covering the Prettie's classic "Midnight To Six" (issued in the US as Fontana F-1540 in February '66) the same month the original was issued here.  Rather than cover it note for note they drench in harp wailing, snotty Jaggerish lead vocals and reverb saturated guitar with loads of echo reminding me of Texan garage legends The Bad Seeds.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones

This past weekend Mrs. Anorak Thing and I caught the travelling Rolling Stones exhibit "Exhibitionism" in the Big Apple where it is running until March 12th where it then moves on to Chicago starting April 15th. Photography was not allowed (though that didn't seem to stop a quarter of the people there who did so unmolested, though with my luck any attempt would've seen me get chucked out).

For those not in the know Exhibitionism is a meticulously  curated collection of Rolling Stones ephemera from the band's private archive (which believe it or not resides in a warehouse in London). The band did not begin storing items until 1972 so items dating before that were loaned by collectors. Tucked away in a drab two story red brick building in NYC's West Village on Washington Street at a space called Industria, there's a host of memorabilia, hand written song lyrics, journals, posters, records, artwork, clothing, musical instruments, recording equipment, amplifiers, interactive mixing desks and a few interesting mock ups.

Outside 102 Edith Grove 1963

The most amusing mock up is a three room recreation of the infamous 102 Edith Grove apartment that Brian, Mick , Keith and James Phelge shared in London's Chelsea neighborhood. Legendary for it's squalor the bedroom (where Mick, Keith and Phelge kipped), the living room (Brian's nest) and the kitchen (such filth has never seen since the scullery in "Withnail & I") are all replicated right down to peeling yellow wallpaper, endless Player's dog ends, empty milk and Carlsberg bottles, half used Heinz tins, blues and r&b records and the requisite filthy linens.

Bill's Framus Star bass

I'm a massive fan of the band's 60's years, especially the mystique that was Brian Jones. Sadly there's not a lot of that but there are some select amazing pieces on display. Starting with instruments, Keith generously loaned at least two dozen of his guitars including his clear Dan Armstrong, his Harmony Meteor, his Epiphone Casino and his hand painted black Gibson Les Paul (in which he quipped "I think I must have been on acid. I was waiting to go to jail. There's not a lot to do when you're on trial") and a host of others. One has the feeling that the majority of Keith's guitars on display are his B-list axes as most his his favorites are understandably not on display.  Brian's gold top Gibson Les Paul as seen in "The Rolling Stones Rock N Roll Circus" is there as is well in a recreation of Olympic Studios during the recording of "Sympathy For The Devil" (complete with Charlie's African drum and his tabla's as heard on "Satanic Majesties.." and our fave The End's "Shades Of Orange"). There's Brian's old Harmony Jupiter guitar as used on their first recordings, Bill's first Framus Star bass (which replaced his homemade one), Brian's dulcimer (missing quite a few strings), Charlie's 1965 Ludwig kit, a Hammond used by Billy Preston and Ian Stewart's old upright. The final piece of the exhibit before the exit is Keith's cassette recorder and Charlie's antique fold up drum kit, as both used on "Street Fighting Man".

1963 in their "stage uniforms"

Then there's the clothing (or stage wear).  There's too much to document so I'll stick to my favorites: Brian's four button black John Stephen suit jacket with velvet collar (which looks so teeny, I'm 6"2 and a size 44 long in jacket, turns out Brian was 5"8), his black and white houndstooth check jacket with velvet collar from the band's one and only uniform (1963) loaned by Linda Lawrence (nee Leitch), Mick's eye catching three color wool 1966 jacket in green, orange and magenta, Mick's famous red grenadier guards jacket as worn on "Ready Steady Go" in 1966 and his Omega sign shirt from the infamous 1969 US tour (with red and black cape) among others.  The wardrobe gets pretty hideous from there especially in the 80's where it's like "Road Warrior" meets David Bowie's "Glass Spider Tour" cast off's.

There's a host of promo posters (including a tasty one for "Their Satanic Majesties Request" album with a cool "freakout" font or Charlie in a leather jerkin for "Beggar's Banquet"), copies of all the band's UK LP's, proof sheets, loads of Warhol Polaroids and paintings from the 70's, stage models that resemble Nuremberg meets the Roman Empire and tons of songs lyrics, journals, contracts etc.

There's a short film in a mini theater about The Stones on celluloid narrated by Martin Scorsese (which oddly starts with Godard's "Plus One aka Sympathy For The Devil" with no mention of either Michael Whitehead's 1965 "Charlie Is My Darling" or the "TAMI Show" which were the band's cinematic debuts) and a mock up of the backstage area of a contemporary Stones show complete with Mick's dressing table and Keith and Woody's guitar cabinets stocked full of axes before your proceed to the final part, a 3-D  version of  "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" live from the band's finale at their July 2013 Hyde Park gig (also featuring Mick Taylor).

If you're a Rolling Stones fan and like me you're easily excited being in the same room as Keith's Epiphone Casino or a houndstooth jacket Brian Jones wore Exhibitionism is your bag. Tickets are $38 plus the usual gouging for "processing".