Monday, November 25, 2019

More Obscure U.K. 45's On U.S. Labels: The Kinks "Mr. Pleasant"

THE KINKS-Mr. Pleasant/Harry Rag US Reprise 0587 1967

The Kink's "Mr Pleasant" was curiously NOT an A-side in the U.K. (though promo copies are known to exist and there is an ongoing debate as to whether they were for export or not). Strangely though it was issued in six European countries and Australia and New Zealand, all bearing "This Is Where I Belong" as the B-side. Issued here in the United States in May 1967 with "Harry Rag" as a B-side it's one of the band's less common releases though not their most difficult US 60's singles to find, that honor belongs to their US debut on Cameo "Long Tall Sally"/"I Took My Baby Home".

"Mr. Pleasant" unsurprisingly did nothing to return the Kinks to the US Top 40 (1966's "Sunny Afternoon" rose to #14, the band's last Top 40 placing until "Lola" in 1970). Like most of their '66-'68 material it was incredibly "too English" in the words of one scribe to make any impact in the U.S. The lyrics are another brilliant Ray Davies exercise in people watching, this time our protagonist is a well to do guy who has everything he could want but his money and popularity mean nothing because he has a cheating wife. It's all very un-1967 style with bar room piano and mild brass farting along giving it a neo-Edwardian feel (session piano player Nicky Hopkins would later cut his own version with whistling instead of singing coming across as an odd companion for Whistling Jack Smith).

If the A-side was "too English" the flip, "Harry Rag", goes on step further with it's Cockney rhyming slang and mannerisms (rag=fag, "fag" being of course a cigarette in the Cockney vernacular). Delivered on top of a military march beat Ray croons about the joys of a good "Harry Rag" and how all walks of life enjoy a smoke. "Harry Rag" is an interesting choice as a B-side as it was culled from the band's 1967 LP "Something Else By The Kinks" and only appeared in 7" form in the US and Canada.

Both sides are available in a variety of places, our favorite being the two CD deluxe edition of "Something Else By The Kinks".

Hear "Harry Rag":

Monday, November 18, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Chad & Jeremy

CHAD & JEREMY-I Don't Wanna Lose You Baby/Pennies US Columbia 4-43339 1965

Brit duo Chad & Jeremy were far more successful in the USA  than back in the homeland , so much so that by 1966 they ceased to release any singles in the UK (and they had but one hit in the UK, "Yesterday's Gone" that peaked at a paltry #37!!).  Today's specimen was their eighth UK 45 (issued in September 1965 as CBS 201814).  It was issued here in the States a few months prior (July to be exact)! Interestingly it reached #35 here in the US Top 40 but I had never heard it before (growing up  US "oldies radio" pretty much stuck to "A Summer Song" and "Willow Weep For Me")!

The A-side is a curious choice , "I Don't Wanna Lose You Baby" was penned by Van McCoy but I can find no evidence of anyone else recording it (but thanks to my pal Larry Grogan over at Funky 16 Corners I have since learned it was originally cut by Tommy Hunt as Atlantic 45-2278 in February 1965). It's an interesting track of orchestrated pop that's somewhere between The Righteous Brothers/The Walker Brothers and The Association (the melody sounds like a cross between "Just Once In My Life" and "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration").

The flip side "Pennies" starts out pretty mundane and the lyrics aren't anything special at first, but it grows on you especially because of the subtle, hypnotic 12 string riff jangling away in the back ground. The song writing credits of "C. Powers" is presumably Chester Powers aka Dino Valenti.

Both sides have been compiled on the Chad & Jeremy collection "The Essential Chad & Jeremy: The Columbia Years".

Hear "I Don't Wanna Lose You Baby":

Hear "Pennies":

Sunday, November 10, 2019

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Yardbirds Go Pop

THE YARDBIRDS-Little Games/Puzzles US Epic 5-10156 1967

By the dawning of 1967 The Yardbirds were in grave danger of becoming has-beens in the U.K., their last major British hit was May 1966's "Over Under Sideways Down" which stalled at #10. It's follow up "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" limped miserably in at #43. New management decided that the band's reliance on group originals was getting them nowhere and a new producer was brought in and a new path needed to be followed. Producer Micky Most had run up a string of successes for Donovan, Herman's Hermits, The Animals et al and was brought in to apply his Midas touch to the Yardbirds. His tenure with the band saw them attempt a far more commercialized/pop sound not unlike previous lead guitarist Jeff Beck's solo foray upon leaving the band (also overseen by Most). The band retained their blues aficionado moniker onstage and on the occasional album track but from now on A-sides would be purely a "pop" affair. Sadly the record buying public thought little of this and the band spent most of their remaining career traversing the United States on tour after tour where the British Invasion was still going strong.

Issued in the US one month earlier than the UK issue "Little Games" appeared in America in March of 1967 where it did nothing in the charts (#51 in the top 100 to be more precise). Despite being the first Yardbirds single to not chart in the UK it is nonetheless leagues above their next three pop fluff thanks to some groovy strings (care of Jimmy Page's future band mate John Paul Jones) interspersed with Page's restrained bursts of guitar which gives it a catchy groove. Curiously the label credits it to one "Wienman"  (it was written by Harold Spiro and Phil Wainman and properly credited on the UK release).

The flip, a Keith Relf original called "Puzzles" is punctuated a nifty dual guitar riff (one of which is a 12 string) that drifts in a trippy little neo-raga haze on the chorus and a way out solo that abruptly fades out like Most got tired of Page's riffing and simply plunged the fader down quickly!

Both sides are available as bonus tracks on a host of CD reissues of the band's 1967 US and Euro only long player "Little Games".

Hear "Little Games":

Hear "Puzzles":

Monday, November 4, 2019

MODS LOVE GREEN ONIONS: 10 Green Onions Versions

1. GEORGIE FAME AND THE BLUE FLAMES- UK 45 B-side Columbia DB 7255 1964
Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames second 45 (and their predecessor to their smash hit "Yeh Yeh") was a version of "Do Re Mi" which saw the Stax classic on the B-side. Fame's use of the Hammond L-100 as his keyboard of choice alters the sound a bit but its the use of The Blue Flames horn section that gives the track its meat.

2. BYRON LEE & HIS DRAGONAIRES-Jamaica 45 Starline 1964
There are those who have laid claim to the above version inspiring Byron Lee's reading. I'm neutral on this as the Byron Lee reading is faster and therefore edgier, lending itself to more of a "mod" amphetamine fueled pace.  The jazzy guitar solo is brilliant as is the trombone solo and compare with later live versions by Booker T when the tempo was doubled to find its distant cousin.

3. KING CURTIS-US 45 Atco 45-6496 1967
Tapped on the bottom of his interpretation of William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water", saxman King Curtis is at times pedestrian as it rarely deviates from the template of the original except for the fact that it includes sax and other horns.  I may raise some eyebrows but Curtis' sax always was too squawky  for me sounding too much like the house band on "Saturday Night Live".

4. BRIAN AUGER TRINITY-UK 45 Columbia DB 7715 1965
Brit Hammond organist extraordinaire's second U.K. solo release was this version issued shortly before he became part of the live act Steampacket.  Auger was relatively new to the Hammond organ, being a pianist prior to buying a B-3 in 1964 and his tasty ivory tinkling instead of an organ solo makes this an interesting choice.

5. THE NEW LONDON R&B BAND-US LP track  "Soul Cookin'" Vocalion VL 73880 1969
I have zero idea about this LP or this band (it was released in three European countries and Downunder as the Soul Extravaganza!). It's a full on affair with a massive horn section and cheezy skating rink organ, unfortunately I can't find it on YouTube to share with you.

6. DOWNLINERS SECT-UK E.P track Contrast Sound Productions RBCSP 001 1964
This version is without a doubt the most curious inclusion here primarily because it's lacking an organ!  Captured live on their rare debut live E.P. British re&b purveyors the Downliner's Sect. It's an interesting version because it comes across as Duane Eddy meets Link Wray and as mentioned probably the only version you'll ever hear with organ!

7. KING SIZE TAYLOR AND THE DOMINOES- Germany E.P track Polydor  21 628 EH 1964 
Liverpudlian Ted "Kingsize" Taylor made his bread and butter in Der Fatherland where this version was issued on an E.P., awash in jazzy guitar and the requsite organ with some wailing sax it's not half bad!

8. THE VENTURES-US LP track "The Ventures Play Telstar, The Lonely Bull" Dolton BLP-2019 1962
Direct from my mother's record collection my introduction to "Green Onions" came via The Ventures where it rubbed shoulders with covers of tracks by Herb Alpert and The Tornados. Strangely the guitar is not as twangy as you'd expect and it's surprisingly good with some organ. But maybe it's because I've listened to a hundred versions while writing this.....

9. MODS '79- UK 45 Casino Classics CC 13 1979
The original Booker T version became quite big in 1979 thanks to it's use in the film "Quadrophenia" and it's inclusion on the soundtrack LP so a hastily conceived cover was thrown together on the ever dodgy Casino Classics label. Folks from back then tell me that many a confused young mod thought this was the original and duly purchased it thinking it was the version heard in the film (the label indicating "This song featured in the film Quadrophenia" was an extremely crass ploy). All chicanery aside it's a fairly competent version even if it is a note for note copy of the original! Atlantic records was spurned into action finally releasing a reissue of the great tune in November 1979 a month later!

10. MONGO SANTAMARIA- US LP track "Soul Bag" Columbia CS 9653 1968
Among a host of other soul covers ("My Girl", "In The Midnight Hour", "Respect" etc) Mongo's 1968 reworking on the album "Soul Bag" of course includes his famous congas but it's the sleazy/reedy sax  that really set this version above all of our other inclusions here today! Then there's this incredible trumpet solo by Luis Gasca that is the proverbial cherry on top!