Thursday, April 25, 2019

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Scaffold (Again)

THE SCAFFOLD-Charity Bubbles/The Goose US Bell B-821 1969

Scaffold's seventh UK single was "Charity Bubbles" b/w "Goose", issued in June 1969 as Parlophone R 5784. It was issued in the States in September of that year as their fourth US seven inch.  As with all their American releases it did not chart.

The A-side "Charity Bubbles" is a bit more uptempo than the usual idiosyncratic Scaffold tunes, but it has a rocking backing with some female backing vocals and brass and it's a nice change from what they had previously done. It's infectious even if it's a terribly simplistic number!

The real money for me is on the flip side "Goose", which should have been the A-side to this guys ears! Led by some tasty ivory tinkling by session man extraordinaire Nicky Hopkins it also reputedly features Mike's brother Paul McCartney on guitar. The real meat and potatoes of the song besides it's fantastic groove are the rapid fire lyrics that are savagely delivered about a trend hopping in-crowd interloper with such choice put downs "you say everyone is equal and you love them just the same, but the only person you can love answers to your name.." or "you glide around the pool a sort of hippie dippy queen, you think that you're a part of an imaginary scene...". It's easily one of my favorite Scaffold tracks and quite different from their usual "cheeky chappie" sing-a-long type songs.

Both tracks are available on the essential, still in print U.K. CD collection "Thank U Very Much-The Very Best Of Scaffold".

Hear "Charity Bubbles":

Hear "Goose":

Saturday, April 20, 2019

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: Ray Davies Via Dave Berry

DAVE BERRY-This Strange Effect/Now US London 45LON9781 1965

Dave Berry had little impact on the British charts until July 1964's #5 hit "The Crying Game", he hit the same spot again in March 1965 with Bobby Goldsboro's "The Little Things". His next British 45 was a reading of a previously unissued Ray Davies composition called "This Strange Effect" (though The Kinks would never release a version commercially they did perform it in an August 1965 BBC session). Berry's cover was issued in England as Decca F 12188 in July 1965. Though it failed to chart very high  in Britain (it reached #37) it was a massive hit in both the Netherlands and Belgium where it topped the charts in both countries (and it has been claimed by some sources as being the biggest selling single ever in the former). London records in the US finally issued it in September where it was Dave's third US single, but it failed to do anything.

"This Strange Effect", with it's subtle arrangement by Reg Guest, is a halfway decent ballad which, in retrospect, is hard to believe is a Ray Davies track.  Regardless it works, though just barely to my ears.

"Now" is a mid tempo number punctuated by some funky guitar (no doubt care of Jimmy Page who played on a great deal of Berry's records) but it's completely your garden variety nondescript beat number.

Both sides are collected on a Dave Berry CD compilation called "This Strange Effect: The Decca Sessions Volume One".

Berry's stab at "This Strange Effect":

Hear "Now":

Saturday, April 13, 2019

David Bowie-"Spying Through A Keyhole"

Parlophone has issued a new nine track David Bowie collection of demos from 1968 cut with his former backing band The Buzz's lead guitarist John "Hutch" Hutchinson titled "Spying Through A Keyhole" (the two along with Bowie's then girlfriend Hermione Farthingale would, for a time, perform as a trio called Feathers). The tracks are spread out over four 7 inch 45's set up to look like acetates housed a a box with a bonus 4 X 6 b&w photo (see below). The quality is surprisingly good considering the tracks are 51 years old and were recorded on reel to reel tape in Hutch's apartment! Here's a breakdown of them tune by tune:

I could easily imagine the psych-pop band Turquoise performing this track! Lyrically it owes a bit to "Mother's Little Helper", though certainly more sympathetic to it's overloaded domestic protagonist. It's an unusual number for a David Bowie track because it features some harmonica, but it has potential to be incredibly heavy which is not something you would expect for David Bowie at this period, and the multiple layers of guitars almost going into the red recalls Keith Richard's cassette recording guitar sound on "Street Fighting Man".

Interestingly this demo was recorded between a December 1967 Top Gear session version orchestrated by Arthur Greenslade and the more well known spring 1968 studio version produced by Tony Visconti (which would not see the light of day until Decca's 1970 compilation LP "The World Of David Bowie") so it is obviously NOT the original demo version. It doesn't really offer much except that Bowie sounds like he is straining at the top of his key to get through it in parts and the lyrics are the ones used a few months later in the better known Visconti produced version.

Not to be confused with “Threepenny Pierrot” (see below) this track is quite unremarkable and no doubt explains why none of us have ever heard it before.

Another unremarkable track sounding somewhat like a watered-down Cat Stevens Island Records era tune.

Hear "Goodbye Threepenny Joe" and "Love Is All Around":

Pairing different lyrics from the various "finished" versions available this number takes its name from a conversation David Bowie claims he heard from a departing West Indian family at a Victoria Station or maybe he was confusing it with hearing Paul McCartney discuss the similar origin of "Ob La De Ob La Da". This demo version is rather interesting as it's completely sparse and there's two verses not found in subsequent later versions. The melody was also utilized in a number “Threepenny Pierrot” a track he wrote for a Lindsay Kemp production "Pierrot In Turquoise" around the same time.

David at Tony Visconti's flat, 1968

Here's another one that to my ears is pretty unremarkable. It bears a slight resemblance to something you might have found among the weaker tracks on his second long player.

Same track as above delivered at a more somber softer pace with slightly different lyrics next….

This is quite possibly the very first demo version of the now famous hit single! The lyrics are quite different in places showing the Major Tom of this version to be quite a reluctant participant in his space voyage (“can I please get back inside now if I may?”) and perhaps presaging the Major Tom of “Ashes To Ashes” and his nihilistic view on life on Earth (“though I'm past 100,000 miles I'm feeling very still and I think my spaceship knows what I must do and I think my life on Earth is nearly through”) leading to a far darker characterization of what amounts to suicide by space travel, lyrics that no doubt would have been too "dark" for commercial success.

Hutch, Christian and David, Clareville Road, 1968

This version has lead vocals by David Bowie's companion John Hutch Hutchinson at the introduction with Bowie coming in after the countdown section. It also contains some Stylophone which adds an eerie effect to accompany the acoustic guitars, also noticeable in the background occasionally are the sounds of Hutch's toddler, Christian (Hutch can be heard at the beginning of the track asking "Chrissie, don't talk"). By far this is the most amazing track on the box and contains an interesting melody not found in the final original take but utilized in the primitive version heard in the promotional film “Love You Till Tuesday”. The ending is interesting as the key keeps changing higher and higher and there's a Morse code being tapped out on the Stylophone at the fade out.

Hear both versions of "Space Oddity":

Monday, April 8, 2019

10 Great U.K. Beat Obscurities On U.S. Labels

1. BOBBY SHAFTO-"She's My Girl" Rust 5082 1964
Bobby Shafto cut a number of innocuous pop singles in the UK and "She's My Girl" was his first (and in my estimation best) of his 5 US releases on the obscure Rust label. Led by a blistering guitar lick it reminds me of The Roulettes on one of their more upbeat sides.

2. ADAM FAITH & THE ROULETTES-"I Don't Need That Kind Of Loving" Capitol 5543 1965
Adam Faith released 12 singles in the US, three of them carrying The Roulettes in the credits. "I Don't Need That Kind Of Loving" was his final US 45 to carry a co-credit on the label and is my fave of them.  The backing by The Roulettes is raw and well executed and it's one of Faith's strongest vocal outings in my book.

3. THE ZEPHYRS-"She's Lost You" Rotate 45-5006 1965
The Zephyrs cut a bunch of singles in the UK but the last three on Columbia are where it's at in my book. "She's Lost You" is a powerful number with call and response backing vocals,  combo organ (not unlike the early Animals) and a dance-able groove ! Produced by Shel Talmy. It was their first of two US 45's on the obscure Rotate label.

4.  BOBBY JAMESON-"All I Want Is My Baby" London 45-9730 1964
Cut in the London, US singer Bobby Jameson has a crack at one of Jagger/Richards earlier original compositions not recorded by the Stones with Andrew Loog Oldham at the dials. Any idea who's on it? I've read Bobby Jameson state it's Jimmy Page on guitar (sounds too way out to be Keef), but  I'm all ears to suggestions.  Backing personnel aside it's an amazing tune with beat group sensibilities

5. HEINZ-"Movin' In" Tower 253 1966
Originally cut in 1962 in the UK by Danny Rivers and The River Men (and produced by Joe Meek) ex-Tornado and Joe Meek's golden boy Heinz had a crack at it as his 11th and final 45 (UK Columbia DB 7942). The backing is positively raw with some chicken squawk guitar licks care of Meek's stalwart session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.

6. THE BROOKS-"Poor Poor Plan" London 45-9668 1964
Previously known as The Brooks Brothers, brothers Geoff and Ricky had been cutting 45's as a duo since the late 50's. For their final single they became The Brooks  and cut this up beat stomper on the flip of "Once In A While". With their tandem harmonies and rocking backing it comes off as a "with it Jan & Dean".

7. THE LANCASTERS-"Earthshaker" Titan FF-1730 1964
This crazy Ritchie Blackmore instrumental (which he penned with rock n roll cretin and predator Kim Fowley) was only released in the US on the tiny Titan label (a sister label of Demon records) and last went on Discogs for $511!! Expensive cost aside it's a frantic little rocker with thundering drums and insane guitar playing (slightly reminiscent of "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" to my ears). The other musicians involved were Blackmore's chums from The Outlaws.

8. THE FITZ AND STARTZ-"I'm Not Running Away" Capitol 5356 1965
Best known as the very first vinyl appearance of a young guitarist named Jeff Beck, "I'm Not Running Away" is a chirpy little slice of beat balladry with the aforementioned wiggy guitar runs from Beck and funky high pitched backing vocals with the obligatory double tracked lead vocals.

9.  ME AND THEM-"Show Me You Mean It Too" US Songs US 601 1964
Me And Them cut 3 singles in the UK on the Pye label, this was their second one issued in April of 1964 (it was issued here 5 months later). It's a raucous little rocker with some sax, call and response backing vocals and bursts of twangy guitar.

10. TOM JONES-"Chills And Fever" Tower 190 1965
Not to be confused with a later, re-recorded and much fuller UK version on Decca this version was cut by Joe Meek and slipped out in the US on Tower (along with another Meek production that you can read about here). Buried in echoed guitar and the typical Joe Meek rhythm section mud Tom's vocals sound like he's at the bottom of a well singing for his life!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The John Schroeder Orchestra

THE JOHN SCHROEDER ORCHESTRA-Agent 00 Soul/Nightrider US Cameo C-389 1965

The late British arranger/producer John Schroeder had a vast CV. Coming to fame as the A&R man for the British label Oriole, he was best known for licensing releases from the US Motown label for British consumption on the label before EMI acquired the British distribution rights. Afterwards he moved to Pye where he became a producer and the man behind the commercially successful easy listening venture known as Sounds Orchestral (best known for their international smash  reading of Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate Into The Wind" which rose to # 10 on the pop charts and #1 on the "Adult contemporary" charts).  Schroeder then moved on to supervise Pye's off shoot label Piccadilly whilst continuing to be behind records by Sounds Orchestral as well as producing The Sorrows, David Garrick, The Bystanders, The Ferris Wheel and Geno Washington, to name a few. He also cut several of his own under the moniker of The John Schroeder Orchestra. The latter were, more times than often, kitschy instrumental versions of current contemporary pop/soul hits and occasionally theme tunes to TV shows and movies.  His third UK single, a reading of Edwin Starr's smash "Agent 00 Soul" was issued in September 1965 as Piccadilly 7N35271. It was issued two  months later in the US and was also his American debut.

John Schroeder with Helen Shapiro

"Agent 00 Soul" is characteristic of what would later become Schroeder's instrumental trademark with flutes playing the main riff backed by heavy bass/drums and brass with the only vocals being smooth female voices singing "Double 00 soul" at the breaks and some tasty Hammond in the mix. It is alleged that the track enjoyed a revival on the Northern Soul scene but seeing as that has been said about a host of 60's instrumental tracks I will treat that with a pinch of salt.

"Nightrider" is an instrumental with every thing but the kitchen sink thrown in: organ, bongos, flute, fuzz guitar, jazzy brass, the lot.  It's uptempo but too chaotic to be dance able but still very groovy thanks to the organ and the razor sharp production and arrangement.

Schroeder would later go on to cut the in demand and highly collectible LP "Working In The Soul Mine" the following year which was entirely composed of similar readings of soul/r&b tunes as well as the equally amazing "Dolly Catcher" album in 1967 that utilized a similar formula but with pop covers (and some very cool originals as well). He produced a host of pop-psych and soul/r&b bands as well as a deacdes worth of releases by Status Quo including their smash "Pictures Of Matchstick Men".

"Agent 00 Soul" was included on the 2005 Castle Communications double CD retrospective "Soul Coaxing: The Many Moods Of John Schroeder" while "Nightrider" popped up on the old and essential "On The Brink: Return Of The Instro Hipsters" instrumental CD compilation.

Hear "Agent 00 Soul":

Hear "Nightrider":