Wednesday, May 29, 2019

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: Manfred Mann Mk. II

MANFRED MANN-Each And Every Day/Semi Detached Suburban Mr. James US Mercury 72629 1966

Manfred Mann's Mk. II (I call them Mk. II as they included new vocalist Mike D'Adbo, father of the lovely Olivia, as their lead vocalist) second US release was an interesting combination. Released in October 1966 it featured "Each And Every Day", a Mike Hugg original that would later become a May 1967 U.K. hit for Simon Dupree and the Big Sound as "Day Time Night Time" (curiously the Simon Dupree cut would not get a US release until July 1968!) as the A-side. This track was not released in the UK by Manfred Mann and got it's first airing here (and subsequently as an E.P. track in France and Portugal). Even more curious was the flip side, "Semi Detached Suburban Mr. James" which was released at the same time as an A-side in the UK! It was later issued as a double sided promo only 45 here in April '67. Adding further interest the track was later issued in the US only two months later by a British band Herbie's People who recorded it with it's original intended title "Semi Detached Suburban Mr. Jones" (changed to "James" by the Manfreds to avoid any drama as the Manfred's had recently lost Paul Jones as their lead singer)!!

"Each And Every Day" does not harness the power and upbeat chirpy feel as Simon Dupree and Co's cover but it still works.  Delivered much slower and with a more sparse musical backing it's selling point is Mike D'Abo's blue eyed soul vocals (and it's driving ivory tinkling by Manfred) and of course a Mellotron coming in and making it slightly off kilter playing the bits that were later done by a French horn in the Simon Dupree version.

And speaking of Mellotron, there's the flip, "Semi Detached Suburban Mr. James" which is probably the first British top ten hit to kick off with a Mellotron in it's opening notes! From the pen of Geoff Stevens and John Carter it's a pop classic about sour grapes as the protagonist cynically wishes his lost love good luck with her new life with a cheeky gallows humor infectious chorus of "so you finally named the day" that slightly resembles a good time knees up at the boozer.

Both sides are contained on the excellent US CD compilation "Chapter Two: Best Of The Fontana Years" and on the CD reissue of the LP "Mighty Garvey!" which is still in print.

Hear "Each And Every Day":

Hear "Semi Detached Suburban Mr. James":

Thursday, May 23, 2019

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: Dave Dee Etc Get Saucy

DAVE DEE, DOZY BEAKY, MICK AND TICH-Bend It/She's So Good US Fontana F-1559 1966

60's UK quartet Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich released a host of singles in the UK but few of these were issued in the USA.  Today's topic "Bend It" was their fourth US release, being issued in October 1966 (a month after it's release in the UK as Fontana TF 746, which it reached #2 , their highest charting 45 at that time). There were stories in the UK music press at the time of it's release that US d.j.'s were complaining that the songs lyrics were too "lewd" (Wikipedia cites "N.M.E" while I am in possession of an issue of "Disc & Music Echo" stating something similar, god knows where it is, if I dig it up I shall include a scan of it here later). It is claimed that a separate version was issued with different lyrics in the US to assuage the offended d.j.'s concerns but in my 30 years of owning records by them I have yet to come across an alternate version on a 45.  However I did recently stumble upon a great piece on the amazing So Many Records So Little Time blog on the subject, which clears things up on the matter stating that there were indeed two versions issued. In the US the version with new lyrics can be differentiated from the original by a simple comma in the band's name on the label!  The copy shown above is the original "uncensored" version with a comma missing between "Dozy Beaky", subsequent "cleaned up" versions contain a comma between "Dozy Beaky"!!

Meanwhile outside the Marquee club...
"Bend It" for those who have never had the pleasure features an electric mandolin as it's main instrument giving the track a "Zorba The Greek" feel. It's not among my favorites by them because it's, well I think it's sort of a one trick pony. Not as dreadful as some of their later stuff, but it's certainly no "Hold Tight" or "Hideaway" to my ears. It was utilized in 2010 in an episode of the Fox animation series "Futurama" in the 100th episode "The Mutants Are Revolting".

The money for me is the flip, "She's So Good". Driven by some very heavy bass  it's one of their most powerful tracks with some great harmony breaks and an infectious groove thanks to that over the top bass line (the band's bassist Trevor "Dozy" Davies went to the "John Entwistle school of lead bass" which gave the band their distinct sound)!!

It was recently brought to my attention by one of my Instagram followers that the "cleaned up" version of "Bend It" with amended lyrics popped up on a 1967 US Fontana records LP compilation of songs on the label by British bands titled  "England's Greatest Hits" (MGF-27570). It's also available as a bonus track on a Repertoire CD reissue of their untitled debut 1966 U.K. LP.

Here's a pristine British Pathe promo film for "Bend It"!!:


 Hear "She's So Good":

Friday, May 17, 2019

Warren Lee R.I.P.

Warren at the decks, Empire State Soul Club, The Mercury Lounge, NYC, Summer 1994
Word filtered through yesterday that Warren Lee, the legendary NYC soul DJ and founding member of the Empire State Soul Club passed away and I decided it was only fitting to pay tribute to the man who kept the dance floor packed.

Mod Nite December 30, 1984

I first encountered Warren Lee when him and Weems DJ-ed a mod night organized by members of a NYC mod band called The Scene at Danceteria on December 30, 1984. I remember the date because it was like the gathering of the tribes as far as mods were concerned and I met so many people that night who I know to this day. Stepping into that room was like walking onto a 60's film set with mods everywhere, dancers on elevated podiums and Dobie Grey's "Out On The Floor" pumping through the sound system.  I did not encounter Warren again until the Empire State Soul Club rolled into Maxwell's in 1988. A whole gang of us besuitted mod types joined the ESSC that night and got our light blue membership cards and stylish Empire State building soul club badges and the stage was set.  There were never any consistent DJ nights in New York at that time, it was more about bands and here was an opportunity to dance into the wee hours to DJ's spinning 60's soul. In my opinion there was never a better soul night in the Big Apple and there never will be! Eventually I got to know Warren from their gigs at the Mercury Lunge and The Norther River Bar. He was always patient, kind and perfectly willing to indulge my barrage of questions about what he spun and was my go-to guy when I heard some British band doing a soul cover and I needed to know who the original was. Then there was Jones, a now defunct little eatery/bar on Great Jones Street in NYC where Warren bar tended and most importantly, stocked the juke box ensuring that even when the E.S.S.C. was on hiatus his tunes were still being heard! In a genre where snobbery  and pretension eventually prevailed and everyone and their grandmother is now a DJ Warren Lee stood for what it was all about: an unpretentious guy who spun music not to impress or show off his records but to keep the dance floor packed and if Warren was spinning at the E.S.S.C. I was never at the bar I was always on the floor.

My E.S.S.C memorabilia.

For more recollections and tributes to Warren please pop on over to one of our fave blogs,  Shake Some Action.  This one's for you Warren, god speed:


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Moquettes

THE MOQUETTES-Right String Baby But The Wrong Yo-Yo/You Came Along US MGM K13272 1964

My introduction to the two tracks on this 45 came via a 1965 cheesy US MGM records album compilation titled "Micky Most Presents British A Go-Go" (issued again a year later as "Micky Most Presents British In Groups"), a shoddy attempt at throwing a few hits he produced by The Animals and Herman's Hermits on an LP with a host of obscure productions by the likes of The Cherokees, The Symbols and these two cuts by The Moquettes (previously issued as a 7" in the UK as Columbia DB 7315 in 1964).  Sadly I can't tell you a thing about them other than that the two tracks on this 45 represent their sole musical output and that they were from Reading.

"Right String Baby But The Wrong Yo-Yo" dates back to the 1930's, but Carl Perkin's 1958 reading was no doubt the source for this cover. Delivered at an insane tempo with organ and wailing harmonica it's a brilliant interpretation  and a perfect encapsulation of gritty 1964 British r&b.

The b-side, "You Came Along", is a brilliant combination of r&b meshing with beat music that falls somewhere between The Zephyrs and The Animals. As on the A-side the combo organ really makes the number.

"Right String Baby But The Wrong Yo-Yo" has appeared on the compilations "That Driving Beat Volume One" and more recently "Beatfreak 2" while "You Came Along" is on "That Driving Beat Volume Two" and "Beatfreak ".

Hear "Right String Baby But The Wrong Yo-Yo":

Hear "You Came Along":

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Reggae Ska/Travel

Grab a ticket and climb on board we're going for a ride....

1. (THE) ETHIOPIANS-"Train To Skaville" UK Rio R 130 1967
Possibly the most famous Ethiopian's number, this ska classic from 1967 pops along at an imminently dance-able shuffle and is the perfect track to kick off our ska/reggae ode to travel!

2. TOMMY MCCOOK & STRANGER COLE-"Last Flight To Reggie (sic) City" UK Unity UN 501 1968
Mistitled "Reggie" instead of "Reggae", this flute led groover is narrated by one "Captain Streggae" with loads of witty lyrical observations ("and you'll be flyin' at 45 rpm...") on top of a funky rocksteady beat.

3. DESMOND DEKKER-"Rude Boy Train" UK Pyramid PYR 6011 1967
Desmond continued on the "rudie" theme after "Rudie Got Soul" with this mid tempo scorcher punctuated by some sharp brass and the famous "dibby dibby doo" chorus.

4. THE PYRAMIDS-"Train Tour To Rainbow City" UK President PT 161 1967
The Pyramid's debut 45 was this Eddie Grant penned tongue and cheek number with the lead singer acting as a tour guide/conductor ("for a moment if you care to look out the window you will see the house of the famous Judge 400 years, better known as Judge Dread" and "carefully to the right you will see the house of Prince Buster, he is a man that has given me competition so rest up") all on top of a nifty little groove punctuated by silly banter.

5. THE CHARMERS-"Skinhead Train" UK Explosion 2045 1971
One of the many skinhead "exploitation" records (and possibly one of this last) from the early 70's scene is this heavy duty and rare as hell 45 by The Charmers, their first for the Explosion label after a host of releases in the UK dating all the way back to 1961! No doubt it was lyrically influenced by Laurel Aitken's "Skinhead Train" (see below).

6. LAUREL AITKEN-"Skinhead Train" UK Nu Beat NB 047 1968
The godfather himself toasts over a funky rocksteady groove that's in part owed to "Train To Skaville" with some sharp brass accenting the bouncy/funky beat and his laid back improvisational vocals.

7. EWAN AND JERRY-"The Rock Steady Train" UK Giant GN 9 1967
Vocally not the strongest, this one owes almost a bit more to doo-wop/r&b than it does to ska and it's 1967 release date seems terribly dated, but still with a listen for the brilliant horn part!

8. SYMARIP-"Must Catch A Train" UK Treasure Isle TI 7050 1969
The Pyramids incognito (Symarip is Pyramids backwards...) debut was the boisterous rewrite of Derek Morgan's "Moon Hop" rejigged as "Skinhead Moonstomp". The flip was this mild reggae number that's nowhere near as brilliant as it's topside, but still worthy of inclusion here.

9. KEITH AND TEX-"Stop That Train" UK Island WI 3091 1968
Taking things down slow as we pull into the station....this rocksteady number from Keith Rowe and Tex Gibson dates from 1968, the last year Island used their iconic red and white label WI series.

10. KEN BOOTHE-"The Train Is Coming" UK Island WI 3020 1967
"The Train Is Coming" was one of the earliest ska tunes I heard when a teenage skinhead girl put it on a 90 minute cassette compilation of 60's ska. It's part ska and part boogie woogie shuffle with subtle hints of New Orleans r&b.

Friday, May 3, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Spectrum

THE SPECTRUM-London Bridge Is Coming Down/Tables And Chairs US RCA Victor 47-9593 1968

UK pop quartet The Spectrum had slogged around for a bit and scored a European hit with their 2nd single, the pop slush that was "Samantha's Mine". They also cut the end title theme for the Gerry Anderson animated TV show "Captain Scarlet". But for me their big one will always be their fifth UK single (RCA 1700 June 1968) "London Bridge Is Coming Down", which was issued in the US as their third 45 in August 1968.

For anyone who's never heard it before "London Bridge Is Coming Down" takes the melody of the old children's nursery rhyme "London Bridge Is Falling Down" and changes the lyrics to be about London Bridge which was dismantled in 1967 and eccentrically transported to Arizona where it was reassembled. It's delivered rapid fire with a cool guitar lick, tight harmonies, some organ and a crisp production with a catchy chorus "London Bridge is coming down, coming down it's off to Arizona...".

Portuguese E.P.

The B-side "Tables And Chairs" is your typical flip side late 60's boredom.  Orchestrated elevator pop music, lots of harmonies, orchestration and heavy on the mediocre!

"London Bridge Is Coming Down" was finally comped on the Past And Present CD "Piccadilly Sunshine Part 3" and both sides are available on the Grapefruit double CD "All The Colours Of The Spectrum: The Complete Recordings 1964-1970".

TRIVIA: Drummer Keith Forsey became a producer under the wing of  Giorgio Moroder and later produced Billy Idol's first solo 45's.

Hear "London Bridge Is Coming Down":

Hear "Tables And Chairs":