Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Of My Favorite Gigs

Mod Fun at The Dive 1985, pic by Andy Peters

1. Mod Fun The Dive, NYC, NY 1985-1986
Mod Fun's brief "residency" at The Dive (home of New York City's 1980's garage/60's scene) is the stuff of legend for me.  Old heads in the 60's can talk about seeing The Who at the Marquee Club every Tuesday, I'll forever drone on about Mod Fun at The Dive.  New Jersey's Mod Fun by 1985 had shed any vestiges of Jam influence and dove head first into US 60's garage and British 60's freakbeat in both their choice of covers (ranging from The Moving Sidewalks "99th Floor" to The Syn's "Grounded) and 60's inspired originals (one or two of which verged on plagiarism....). Best of all they were a tight, well honed three piece with each member firmly a muso. Interestingly enough there's most a of set of theirs from the club recorded in March 1986 at a gig I was at (shortly before the club unexpectedly closed its doors and shortly before the band hopped in a 1970 Ford Enconline van and undertook their first US tour coast to coast) available to hear on YouTube here (complete with incessant crowd chatter) complete with a zany cover of "Born To Be Wild" and a host of band originals and other covers (notably the trippy "Eyes Getting Louder" fading into their brilliant debut 45 "I Am With You" ).

2. Oscar Brown Jr, Marquis De Lafayette Hotel, The Cape May Jazz Festival, Cape May NJ, November, 10, 2000
The late great Oscar Brown Jr appeared several years in a row a the annual Cape May Jazz festival at this sleepy NJ seaside town. In the midst of confusion of who won the Presidential election Oscar used his classic wit and keen eye for political subterfuge with various well placed remarks throughout the set ("don't bother going back to your room to check the news at the break, I've just come from mine and we still ain't got a god damn President, not the right one anyway") and dedicated "Signifyin' Monkey" to George W Bush! Backed by a small trio (bass, drums, piano) with the later addition of a trumpet player he tore down the house with a host of all his best loved tunes, "Work Song", "The Snake", "Forbidden Fruit" and "But I Was Cool", to name a few.

The Jam, The Trenton War Memorial, Trenton, NJ 5/19/82 photographer unknown

3. The Jam, The Trenton War Memorial, Trenton, NJ May 19, 1982
Kicking off with "Running On The Spot" my one and only Jam gig was largely filled by tracks from their then current long player "The Gift" but filled out by crowd pleasers like "David Watts" (which drew one of the biggest applause's as I recall), "That's Entertainment" (with Bruce Foxton on acoustic guitar), "Start" and a raving version of "Private Hell". Backed up by the added horn/keyboard talents of Steve Nichol and Keith Thomas on select numbers the band were a loud, well oiled machine that gave the first (and final) US airing of the soulful Jam featuring the later recorded medley of "Pity Poor Alfie" (with "Hit The Road Jack" and "Fever") a cover on Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" and a full on "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" inspired funk jam session on "Precious" (complete with strobe during Weller's funky scratch Telecaster licks). Six months later they were gone.

4. The Zombies, The Keswick Theater, Glenside, Pennsylvania October 11, 2015
I'm getting lazy here so you can check out my older review of the gig here.

5. David Bowie, Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY January 9, 1997
An old acquaintance had a free ticket to Bowie's 50th birthday gig at the cavernous Madison Square Garden, my first time in the gigantic NYC venue outside of a zillion trips to the train station beneath it. The gig was sort of an odd event as it featured a host of god awful acts hobnobbing with Bowie as they covered his stuff (Frank Black, Sonic Youth, The Foo Fighters, Robert Smith and a VERY spaced out Lou Reed who lost his way during "White Light White Heat" despite having a music stand in front of him). To the audience's chagrin there was no Iggy Pop to help David celebrate his milestone.  The gig contained a fair amount of material from Bowie's then current long player "Earthling" with the occasional gem performed without any of his jack ass guests ("Heroes" comes to mind) but the crowning moment for the evening was when he appeared onstage with an acoustic guitar saying "I don't know where I'm going from here but i promise it won't be boring" before launching into a majestic version of "Space Oddity" that was free from any of the then contemporary gimmicks as heard on "Earthling".  Regardless of some of the material or more importantly the cast of dreadful contemporary guests Bowie showed that he was, above all, a consummate performer who not only entertained you but made you believe he was enjoying himself doing it.  You can see it here on YouTube, until somebody takes it down.

The Secret Service, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ January 1987

6. The Secret Service various venues NY/NJ/PA/D.C. 1985-1988
Long Island's Secret Service cut a swath through the NY/NJ/PA 60's scene through the last half of the 80's by playing rocking 60's r&b covers and a bit later, spirited originals. Their strength lay in their well honed guitar, bass and drum section and even more so on the soulful vocals of lead singer Wayne Manor (check out their live version of "I Just Don't Understand" from a January 1987 gig at Maxwell's on their CD anthology "Power And Volume" for reference). Their stage presence was equally amazing, Wayne Manor copped dance moves from Allan Clarke and Stevie Wright on old "Beat Beat Beat" VHS clips and guitarist Rob Normandin and bassist Jim Gange studied The Who and Yardbirds for their stage craft while drummer Steve Pepper drove the engine by flawlessly beating the shit out of his kit every night. When Mod Fun chucked it in back in 1986 the Secret Service were poised to take the reins as the top dog East Coast mod band but sadly other than a mini LP they were not prolific enough and split at the end of 1988.  You can catch a few of their tracks live in the Fall of 1986 here and a music video for the mini LP title track here.

7. Ian McLagan and The Bump Band, The Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, Pennsylvania, October 16, 2014
In what would be his last US tour Mac pulled out all the stops as always with his group the Bump Band. Mac's gigs were always a good mix of originals, Ronnie Lane Face's covers and a host of surprises and were always best when he had these guys behind him as they were a tight organization.  The highlights of this gig for me was a rollicking interpretation of Ronnie Lane's  "Kuschty Rye" along with The Face's "Cindy Incidentally", the Small Face's "Get Yourself Together" and my fave track from Mac's 2nd to last LP , the somber "Little Black Number". Two months later on the eve of a tour with Nick Lowe he was gone at the age of 69.

8. Adam & The Antz, Pier 84, NYC, NY September 8, 1981
Adam and the Antz hit NYC at the height of antmania arriving at the gig as part of that Summer's "Dr. Pepper Music Festival" situated on a pier in the Hudson River by pirate ship!!  True story, a small scale pirate ship! Despite the fact that my first day of 10th grade began the very next day they opened with a cover of Alice Cooper's "School's Out". Their set (dogged by constant rain squalls) featured mostly cuts from their "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" album as well as their current single "Stand And Deliver"/"Beat My Guest".  There was also the bizarre Village People "Y.M.C.A" cover "A.N.T.S" and a track from their first LP "Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face"). Soon after I ceased to be interested in being an Adam & The Ants fan.....

9. XTC, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Jools Holland & His Millionaires The Capitol Theater, Passiac, NJ April 11, 1981
My very first rock n roll gig would see me bearing witness to what would be XTC's final full US tour. I don't recall much about Jools Holland other than being ambivalent about his boogie woogie. Joan Jett came on and spat the largest piece of phlegm (how punk rock!) and kicked off "Bad Reputation" and a host of other stuff. Then XTC came on and my head nearly exploded. I want to say they started with "Into The Atom Age" but online forums claim otherwise (or was it "Radio's In Motion"?). Either way they played a tight, energetic set comprised of material from their first 4 albums all delivered in their unique, frantic and well rehearsed manner. What I recall most about the gig was watching Andy Partridge turn beet reed as he sang and jumped around in his grey Civil War style jacket with a frilly white shirt never seeming to stop to catch his breath!

10. The Specials, Pier 26, NYC, NY July 17, 2013
The Specials featuring all their original members (minus a reluctant Jerry Dammers) played a gig on a sweaty, hot summer night on Pier 26 (with shades of the 80's and John Scher's gigs on Pier 84!) on NY's Hudson river. The band played pretty much everything from their debut LP  (10 tracks in my estimation) including a rousing version of "It Doesn't Make It Alright" with remarks from the band about the "stand your ground" shooter George Zimmerman and his young victim, Travon Martin. There were a few cuts from "More Specials" ("Hey Little Rich Girl" and "Stereotype" among them) and a slightly ragged/off kilter "Ghost Town" but for the most part ("Ghost Town " excepted)  the gig was tight and showed the Coventry boys to be the same well oiled machine they were in the footage from '79-'80. To read my musings on The Specials have a pop over here.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Jackie Shane R.I.P.

Word has just come through that transgender soul legend Jackie Shane has passed away at the age of 78.

I can think of no better way to pay tribute to her than listening to this.

The British James Brown Appreciation Society

James Brown was probably one the the most oft covered 60's soul artists in the U.K. I mean think about it, Motown was huge in the UK but can you narrow it down by artist when it comes to who was covered the most?  Nah, J.B. nails it every time, I had six different versions of "I'll Go Crazy" to choose from for Pete's sake!  With that in mind I thought it would be neat to dig up 10 U.K. 60's J.B. covers and give you a bit about each of them, in no particular order.

1. GEORGE FAME AND THE BLUE FLAMES-"The Night Train" UK E.P. track "Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo" Columbia SEG 8382 1964
Kicking off both the live E.P. and live LP of the same title starting with an introduction by manager Rik Gunnell, Georgie Fame and Co.'s storming version of "Night Train" oozes mid 60's mod/r&b Soho cool. Punctuated by enthusiastic yelps by U.S. servicemen in the crowd (who were, for a time, Flamingo regulars) this version has an almost jazzy swing to it thanks the The Blue Flames stellar horn section and Fame's Hammond even if it sounds like the microphones were in the tube station down the street.


2. THE UNDERTAKERS-"Think" UK 45 Pye 7N 15690 1964
Issued on the flip of their 4th and final UK 45, a version of The Drifters "If You Don't Come Back", Jackie Lomax and his merry band of Scousers  turn "Think" into a totally British r&b affair removing any misconceptions that The Undertakers were just another beat group. This is thanks in no small part to sax player Brian Jone's (not the Rolling Stones guy) wailing and the band's snappy presentation that easily fits alongside any hip "mod" London r&b band.


3. THE UNTAMED-"I'll Go Crazy" UK 45 Stateside SS 431 1965
UK 60's r&b act the Untamed made six singles on four different labels in Britain with more line up changes than Spinal Tap had drummers.  Lead by constant lead singer/guitarist Lindsay Muir they were produced by their faithful patron Shel Talmy. Their version of "I'll Go Crazy" came out the same month as the Moody Blues version on their debut LP (see below) and is interesting in that it's probably one of the more poppy versions of a J.B. tune on this list.  Muir's voice is not suited for James Brown aping so he's restrained and the faint combo organ and the gritty/bluesy guitar solo gives it a feel like something the '64-'65 Alan Price era Animals would have done or my fave obscure beat group The Zephyrs.


4. THE WHO-"Shout And Shimmy" UK 45 B-side Brunswick 05944 1965
No one in the British Isles were bigger proponents of the music of James Brown than The Who. Their first J.B. cover was this reading of "Shout And Shimmy" issued on the flip side of their third UK 45 "My Generation". They would later include versions of his "Please Please Please" and "I Don't Mind" on their debut LP "My Generation" and cover "Just You And Me Darling" on a 1965 BBC session. "Shout And Shimmy" has an almost frat rock feel to it from it's sophomoric party atmosphere thanks to Pete Townshend and John Entwistle's white boy falsetto backing vocals, not to mention Keith Moon's slapdash drumming.  Roger Daltrey's lead vocals are incredibly soulful and he's clearly the one carrying the water on this tune.


5. THE BO STREET RUNNERS-"And I Do Just What I Want" UK 45 Columbia DB 7488 1964
The Bo Street Runners were such J.B. fans that they cut "Tell Me What You're Gonna Do" backed by this stab at "And I Do Just What I Want" on the B-side. From the gritty volume pedal guitar licks, swatches of sax and groovy combo organ and John Dominic's punky lead vocals it's a worthy addition to our list here. R&b with attitude!


6. THE BLUE ACES-"Tell Me What You're Gonna Do" UK 45 Columbia DB 7755 1966
Reputedly a showband originally, The Blue Aces are known for their soulful 1966 mod freakout "That's All Right". They cut this J.B. tune on the flip of their previous single "All I Want". The lead vocalist has a jazzy style that reminds me of The Peddlers singer Roy Phillips while the horn work sticks to the original as does most of the arrangement but it's still halfway decent, though no where near as good as The Bo Street Runners version.


7. THEM-"Out Of Sight" UK LP track "Them Again" Decca LK  4751 1966
Though technically from Northern Ireland Them WERE based and recorded in the U.K. so....
"Out Of Sight" is a fish out of water on the mixed bag that is "Them Again", their second and final long player cobbled together with material cut from no less than at least four different line ups!! Its also interestingly one of the few Them cuts with horns, but it works even though at times it sounds somewhat ham fisted and Van Morrison isn't exactly the world's greatest soul singer.


8. GEORGIE FAME-"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" UK LP track "Sound Venture" Columbia SX 6076 1966
Cut for Georgie's predominantly jazz LP (and final album of his Columbia period) with The Harry South Big Band "Sound Venture", the inclusion of "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" on the long player is quite a square peg in a round hole and allegedly Georgie had to lobby hard for it's inclusion.  The horns add an interesting big band feel which actually really works making it an interesting interpretation.


9. THE MOODY BLUES-"I Don't Mind" UK LP track "The Magnificent Moodies" Decca LK 4711 1965
"I Don't Mind" was covered by The Who on their debut LP but The Moodies beat them to it on theirs by five scant months. Theirs is a somber affair with lead vocals not by lead singer Denny Laine but by keyboardist Mike Pinder and it's his jazzy ivory tinkling and Laine's twangy guitar that make the number different from The Who's and the mediocre version by The In Crowd.


10. ALEXIS KORNER'S BLUES INCORPORATED-"Please Please Please" UK 45 B-side Parlophone R 5206 1964
One of the more interesting James Brown reading's is this flip side by the grandaddy of British r&b Alexis Korner. The brilliant jazzy horns/guitar interplay give it a slightly blues feel to it that totally takes it into new territory as far as James Brown covers are concerned. Stellar!


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Only In America U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Mindbenders

THE MINDBENDERS-It's Getting Harder All The Time/Off And Running US Fontana F-1595 1967

One of the Mindbenders best single releases in my estimation was today's subject from the 1967 film "To Sir With Love". Both tracks are featured in the film, the A-side "It's Getting Harder All The Time" is mimed by the band in one of the ending scenes where they are appearing at a school dance and the flip "Off And Running" is heard playing on a transistor radio in an earlier scene. Curiously the single was only released in the United States.  Both tracks also appeared on the soundtrack LP (which was issued in over half a dozen countries).

"It's Getting Harder All The Time" ranks for me as one of my favorite Mindbenders tracks (have a peek at my 10 faves by them here). From it's driving beat accented by some choppy guitar with an almost ska rhythm on the offbeat to it's precise backing harmonies topped off by a blistering neo-raga full on freakbeat guitar solo it's a killer track.  Eric Stewart's double tracked lead vocal is equally strong.  The fact that it was not issued as a single anywhere else but the US is both perplexing and a crime. The band can be glimpsed lip syncing it in the school dance scene towards the end of "To Sir With Love" where Sidney Poitier grooves with pupil Judy Geeson.

Lip syncing the A-side in "To Sir With Love"

It's flip "Off And Running" was previously issued as a flop A-side by Lesley Gore the preceding year  in May 1966 (Mercury 72580). It was penned by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager who provided The Mindbenders with their first hit "A Groovy Kind Of Love" as well as their third UK single "Ashes To Ashes". The Mindbenders version of "Off And Running" is a frantic beat track that clocks in at just over two minutes, with a brief but tasty solo by Eric Stewart.  It's far more punchy than the Lesley Gore version.

Of interest in 1982 SCTV did a "To Sir With Love" spoof called "Teacher's Pet" (complete with Andrea Martin doing the Lulu meets Brenda Lee title track) where "Off And Running" can be heard playing. Musical guests "The Boomtown Rats" (looking much like UK Groovy Cellar heroes The Mood Six) perform "Elephants Graveyard".

Both tracks can be found on a UK CD compilation "A Groovy Kind Of Love: The Complete LP & Singles 1966-1968".

Hear "It's Getting Harder All The Time":


Hear "Off And Running":


Monday, February 11, 2019

Euro 60's Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Ola & The Janglers (Again)

OLA & THE JANGLERS-What A Way To Die/Let's Dance US GNP Crescendo GNP-427 1969

Sweden's Ola & The Janglers previously released their debut American 45 "I Can Wait" on London in November 1967. It would be two more years until a release was to surface by them again in the US. In March 1969 the GNP Crescendo label issued a double sided promo of a cover of Chris Montez "Let's Dance" (GNP-423). There would be two more releases bearing the same catalog number.  The next was the following month with a tune called "Strolling Along" as the flip to "Let's Dance" while also in April another single was issued featuring "Let's Dance" on the flip and "What A Way To Die" as the A-side!! "Let's Dance" was originally issued in Sweden in September 1968 as Gazell  C-220 (where it bizarrely came out in well over a dozen different sleeve variations!). It was also issued in at least 8 different countries!  "What A Way To Die" had previously seen a release back in Sweden in February 1968 as Gazell C-212.  One is left to scratch their head in contemplation as to why GNP Crescendo issued so many variants of "Let's Dance" (they also released a US LP titled "Let's Dance/What A Way To Die" GNPS 2050 in 1969, featuring a bizarre mix of awful soul covers, a version of "Little Green Apples" and a host of other equally cringe worthy tunes).

"What A Way To Die" however is a brilliant track and in my estimation is their final decent track. It owes more than a bit to "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" (and Rupert's People's "Reflections Of Charles Brown" too) with it's classical/Bach chords.  It's nothing short of a pop psych masterpiece with it's strings, regal trumpets (ala "Penny Lane"), churchy organ and impassioned vocals. It was produced by Gus Dudgeon which leads me to suspect it was recorded in the UK? Anyone have any information on it?

And then there's the flip.....a dreadful, unnecessary bludgeoning of Chris Montez "Let's Dance".  The funky organ on it isn't too bad but the vocals (double tracked with extra echo added) are absolutely lifeless and tepid!!

Both tracks are available on a Swedish two CD reissue of a 1980's Ola & The Janglers double LP collection titled "1964-1971!" (issued in a series with similar LP's by The Shanes, The Tages, The Hep Stars and The Mascots).

Dig this Swedish TV video for "What A Way To Die":

Hear "Let's Dance" (if you dare):


Friday, February 1, 2019

January's Picks

If you've heard Manfred Mann's version of "My Little Red Book" and dig it then you'll appreciate this version just as much if not more. Tony Middleton is of course known by one and all for his $$$ "To The Ends Of The Earth" and "Paris Blues", his vocals on this combined with Bacharach's instrumental backing is nothing short of amazing (though the female backing vocals are a bit too high in the mix).


2.  JOHN WALKER-"So Goes Love"
After reading the excellent Walker Brothers book "The Impossible Dream" I began checking out some of John Walker's post Walker Brother's solo material.  Not a lot if it jumped out at me but I was blown away by his reading of this Goffin/King number from his debut 1967 LP "If You Go Away".  His voice is instantly recognizable from Walker's tracks and the Ladybirds style backing vocals and wiggy fuzz guitar and woodwinds make it work.


A brilliant mix of r&b and ska this 1966 single is amazingly infectious, especially the hypnotic "whatta bam bam" chorus and the layers of vocals/instrumentation with some great toasting/ad libbing vocals.


4. THE MASQUERADERS-"I Don't Want Nobody To Lead Me On"
Garden State Soul Club DJ Scott Boyko turned me on to the funky little soul nugget on Thanksgiving Eve, having previously only known the slightly reggae cover by The Exotics.  Released on the Wand label in 1967.


This early Creation records single (their second 7" 45 release actually) is one of the most psychedelic things I've ever heard from the 80's.  It's a perfect bridge between the '81 Groovy Cellar psychedelic scene and proto Brit pop (and the trippy early sounds of My Bloody Valentine).


6. SANDIE SHAW-"Lay Lady Lay"
From her in demand 1969 LP "Reviewing The Situation" this Bob Dyal cover eschews the pedal steel of the original and has Hammond, thundering drums and flute that sound straight off the soundtrack of "Vampyros Lesbos" film.  Her vocals are almost too fey at times but thanks to the atmospheric musical backing it's incredible.


7. THE SEARCHERS-"Crazy Dreams"
Long after their hits dried up the Searchers were floundering in the twilight nether world of the UK cabaret and university circuit and occasional European tours. Somehow Pye records still had faith in them. In 1967 they issued their last single on the label, "Secondhand Dealer" and on the flip was this groovy number with a tough backing and lyrics like "I don't care cos I'm high...". One wonders if they would have made more like this if Pye kept them.


From 1958's "Down To Earth (Music From The Soil)" LP comes this groovy reading of the traditional number "John Henry". It's driven by it's subtle delivery and Eldee Young's groovy stand up bass and Red Holt's drums with Ramsey's ivory tinkling falling in on top.


9. DEPARTMENT S-"Is Vic There?"
Every now and then I forget about a song from the old days and I rediscover it and I'm blown away all over again. Case in point is this eerie little groover from 1981.


10. BLOSSOM DEARIE-"Long Daddy Green"
According to the Walker Brothers book I just read "The Impossible Dream", Blossom wrote this funky little piece about Scott Walker!  She also included tracks called "Sweet Georgie Fame" and "Dusty Springfield" (the former is great but the latter is cringe worthy) along with "Long Daddy Green" on her in demand 1970 UK Fontana LP "That's Just The Way I Want It To Be"!