Wednesday, December 30, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Traffic's Debut 45

TRAFFIC featuring STEVIE WINWOOD-Paper Sun/Giving To You US United Artists UA 50195 1967

Emerging in 1967 when the term "super group" was being bandied about quite frequently in the music press, 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 at that time. "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 slide in. 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 for them to still play it.

Trade advert for the single courtesy of

Both tracks are available as bonus tunes on the recent deluxe edition CD reissue of their debut LP "Mr. Fantasy". 

Hear "Paper Sun":

Hear "Giving To You":

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Stop Me If You've Heard These Before....Even 10 More For Your Ears

Here's ten more groovers for your eardrums, hopefully some new to your ears ones!  Al label scans are courtesy of the amazing website!

1. HOUSTON PERSON-"Soul Dance" Prestige 45-713 1969
Jazz sax player Houston Person cut several 45's for the Prestige label (five to be exact) and this was the first. It's a catchy sax versus B-3 instrumental (organ played by Billy Gardener) that's not as funky as the release year might lead you to believe!

2. THE FIVE DU-TONES-"The Chicken Astronaut" One-derful 4824 1964
The Five Du-Tones cut nine singles for the One-derful label from 1962-65. This tune was the flip of their seventh 45 "Cool Bird". It's an upbeat r&b grrover about a reluctant spaceman with some rollicking piano and a danceable groove throughout and a great fade out with someone yelling "I wanna go back to earth so I can shake a tail feather" (in reference to their third single "Shake A Tail Feather").

3. JON HENDRICKS-"Fire In The City" Verve VK-10512 1967
Vocalese jazz legend Jon Hendricks had an interesting career following the break up of his jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. By 1967 he was palling around with a San Francisco act called The Warlocks (later to be known as The Grateful Dead) who backed him on this track, the flip of his final single "Sons And Daughters". "Fire In The City" is not remotely jazz but a catchy bluesy tune with lots of gospel like call and response backing vocals that almost borders on sounding like Creedence Clearwater Revival. Dig the funky guitar solo by Bob Weir!

4. LITTLE SHERMAN & THE MOD SWINGERS-"The Price Of Love" ABC 45-11233 1969
This obscure 45 was cut by a Chicago singer-songwriter named Sherman Nesbary first for the local Sagport label then reissued by ABC. It sounds a great deal like the poppy soul of Sly & The Family Stone with it's upbeat backing and chorus of sunshiney harmonies. 

5. THE BRACEROS-"Sunny" Vault V-930 1966
This 1966 cover of Bobby Hebb's hit "Sunny" is an amazing Latin r&b instrumental that's trumpet led with vibes and some seriously hard hitting drumming making it my favorite version of this track that I have ever heard! I know absolutely nothing about these guys so if anyone could fill in the blanks it would be greatly appreciated!

6. LITTLE EMMETT SUTTON-"Mom, Won't You Teach Me To Monkey" Federal 45-12501 1963
This pricey slow r&b smoker on the Federal label is almost analogous to early Smokey Robinson and The Miracles but a little grittier. It's a perfect mid tempo exercise in beautiful mod/r&b. Anybody got a spare copy for under a Franklin that they want to part with?

7. THE ROOFTOP SINGERS-"Kites" Atco 45-6526 1967
US folk trio The Rooftop Singers are an unexpected appearance here but their September 1967 single is best known by a version from U.K. act Simon Dupree and The Big Sound's (issued here by them in the US on Tower two months later). The U.K. Simon Dupree version came out in October which leads me to suspect this was the original! Forget anything you might think of this band and their folky/elevator jazz muzak this number is pure pop psych brilliance! With regal trumpets, jarring organ, flutes, marimbas and above all pure sunshine pop harmony vocals it's no wonder Simon Dupree and Co. decided to cut this!

8. THE FURYS-"Parchman Farm" Lavender R-1805 1963
Not to be confused with the California R&B vocal group The Fury's, these guys were an act who hailed from Longview, Washington and cut this almost frat rock version of the Mose Allison classic. At times it sounds sloppy, but that's where it's charm lies. My favorite part of the cheezy electric piano!

9. THE GRASSHOPPERS-"Mod Socks" Sunburst SB-104 1965
Cleveland, Ohio's Grasshoppers cut this updated reading of "Short Shorts" as "Mod Socks" in 1965 on the local Sunburst label.  This is a frat rock screamer that's  delivered at 100 mph with a feel that would do vintage Bob Seger proud! The beat is driving and the lead singer is a total screamer. It's hard to believe this hasn't been comped anywhere before?!

10. LEE DORSEY-"Go Go Girl" Amy 998 1967
Soul/r&b veteran Lee Dorsey released this Allen Toussaint penned stormer in September '67. Punctuated with brass blasts and a chorus of "Go Go!" it's extremely catchy upon a first listen and just builds and builds. Worth seeking out!

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Style Council


There's a new Style Council documentary available to view here in the States on Showtime. Fans or anyone with an interest in 80's music would be wise to check it out. The piece rekindled my thoughts on the band and I will direct you to two older posts: "How I Learned Not to Love The Style Council:One Young Mod's Startling 80's Epiphany" and "How I Learned Not To Love The Style Council Chapter Two".

Thursday, December 10, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities: Yen Years After's Debut 45


TEN YEARS AFTER-Portable People/The Sounds UK Deram DM 176 1968

For me Ten Years After will always be pretentious blues rock dinosaurs. Their untitled 1967 Deram LP debut is not without it's charm (with the jazzy organ instro "Adventures Of A Young Organ" or the jug band blues humor of "Losing The Dogs") but overall it failed to grab me in any major way. How strange is it that the band's debut LP was issued before they ever released any singles?  That single is today's item of interest. It was launched in February 1968 in the U.K. (a month later in the USA as Deram 45-85027). I've flipped it for our post because I much prefer the B-side.

"The Sounds" should have been the A-side. Forget any blues pretensions or 20 minute Slim Harpo covers, "The Sounds" is a full on freakbeat gas from start to finish. Curiously it reminds me a bit of Dennis Couldry's "I Am Nearly There" (UK Decca F 12734 issued the same month) with it's downtrodden, morose vocals with lyrics of mental confusion brought on by "the sounds". Is it about paranoia? A bad trip? A man who has just about had enough of life?  You decide. There's occasional bluesy but blistering guitar licks that burst out while the main verses feature a subtle organ and almost Gregorian chant backing vocals that gloomily plod along like a freakout dirge and it just builds and builds. The organ gets funkier and sound affects slowly start to pile on creating a brilliant cacophony of paranoia and confusion. It stops abruptly and slowly creeps back in for a few seconds. Positively trippy, man.

The A-side "Portable People" is not as groovy. It's not as bluesy as the bulk of their LP tracks but it's a laid back affair with music box piano tinkling away that reminds me of a light weight Lovin' Spoonful track or Canned Heat at their most plastic blues. Totally inoffensive but totally disposable too.

Both tracks are available on a deluxe Deram/Decca reissue of their debut LP that is still in print.

Promo advert courtesy of

Hear "The Sounds":

Hear "Portable People":

Thursday, December 3, 2020

David Bowie's "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)" At 40: A Personal Recollection

The "Scary Monsters" album is 40. Damn I'm old. It would be the last Bowie album I really enjoyed coming out in a magical time for me amongst other LP's I loved like XTC's "Black Sea", The Jam's "Sound Affects", The Teardrop Explode's "Kilimanjaro" et al. And though in retrospect he didn't need it, at the time I felt that it "validated" Bowie's existence amongst the whole coterie of new wave/punk/blitz kids whatever (as if there was some imaginary board of "Cool" sitting in judgement of such trivial things)! Recorded in early 1980 at NYC's Power Station with veteran Bowie  producer Tony Visconti at the helm (for what would be his last Bowie LP until 2002's "Heathen") it featured an array of guests, but we're not here to discuss that, you can read all about that elsewhere. But 40 years on it still holds up well and the opening bars of "Ashes To Ashes" will magically always transport me back to the bedroom I grew up in watching a video of it for the first time on "Rockworld" (and later "The Kenny Everett Video Show") on a tiny TV set with the volume down too low so as not to wake my parents.  And juxtaposed against that year's sounds of Ultravox and Gary Numan it germinated a "which came first the chicken or the egg" debate that still hangs in my thoughts. But soon it would be over as fgast as it came in. Goodbye Major Tom, hello MTV. Chart hits and financial success were just around the corner, but so was another three plus decades of mediocrity. But before all that it was "Ashes To Ashes", three minutes and thirty five seconds of genius.

In an earlier post I wrote this about "Ashes To Ashes":
"David Bowie has often been accused of being sharp enough to anticipate a trend and stealing from it before it became mainstream and getting it out there like he invented it, but he has also been credited with fostering lots of them. The bleak/nihilism of the so called "New Romantic/Blitz/Futurist" musical and fashion movement applied to Bowie in both of those situations.  He was canny enough to get in on the ground floor with the movement and used some of it's movers and shakers in the promo video for the track and yet without him one doubts the whole thing would have ever existed and therefore he played both parent and love child to movement. "Ashes to Ashes" is bleak, spooky and full of some positively eerie synthesizer parts whilst musically defiling the memory of dear old Major Tom from his first hit "Space Oddity".

And somehow it still remains the strongest track on the LP. The bleak and almost sinister synthesizers are a final note in what would be a musical year zero for Bowie after an almost musical three year period of musical silence as the world was left to wonder "What will he do next"?.

"Fashion" seemed almost American radio friendly with it's funky beat, but Robert Fripp's jarring guitars scotched any chance of hearing it book-ended between Billy Joel or The J. Geils Band on FM Top 40 radio (though it did in fact gain some airplay from AOR stations).  I remember one of my friends, Don Buchanan, gleefully exclaiming "He's singing about punk" when Bowie sang "There's a brand new dance but I don't know it's name, That people from bad homes do again and again. It's big and it's bland full of tension and fear, they do it over there but they don't do it here" in "Fashion". Like he'd spotted us in the audience and was waving to us, never mind that punk was already four years old at this point, we were clueless rural teenagers seeking any form of gratification AND validation that we could snatch, borrow or appropriate. And what of the lyrics? What did they mean? "WE are the Goon squad and we're coming to town". There are multiple schools of thought on this as referenced elsewhere on the Internet. Who were the Goon squad? Right wing fascists or so called "fashion Nazis", those pretenders of hip who decide what is "in" and what is "out" with the flick of a pen or stoke of a key.  I would be willing to lean towards the latter as the rest of the lyrics imply trends and smack of sarcasm and disdain for " the next big thing." as 1980 saw the 2-Tone movement and it's cousin the mod revival sputtering on their last gasps and the new romantics about to spring from their dark corner. As with it's 45 rpm predecessor "Ashes To Ashes" it has a kitschy video (also directed by David Mallet who did the brilliant "Ashes To Ashes" one).

Bowie and producer Tony Visconti at the Power Station, NYC, NY during the recording of "Scary Monsters..."

The LP's title cut, "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)" vocally sees Bowie harking back to that British accent that he dared to use on his debut 1967 LP . His voice also sounds slightly like Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs in his disinterested tone. Again it's Fripp's shrieking guitars that power the track as Bowie sings in a detached manner about a woman going off the deep end..."when I looked in her eyes they were blue and nobody home.." pierced by an array of weird effects. Even the music itself seems to set the template for The Psychedelic Furs and a host of other quirky new wave bands. 

"Up The Hill Backwards" is a hark back to Bowie's post Ziggy soul boy phase, the multitracked vocals sound almost soulful like a blitz kid Voices of East Harlem but with again, Fripp's fret histrionics blowing it out. The track is truly a fish out of water with it's feel good mantra/chorus "up the hill backwards it'll be alright..." that sounds almost new age against the bleak nihilism that surrounds it on this album. 

But for me "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)" would be Bowie's last great album and the one and only time I was aware AND appreciative of a long player he did. There would be a track here and there that caught my fancy over the remaining years, but nothing as consistent and as a whole like this album did.

Friday, November 27, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Traffic


TRAFFIC-Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush/Coloured Rain US United Artists UA 50232 1968

Traffic's third American single was the title track of the 1968 Swinging England Clive Donner romp about a young man's quest to lose his virginity. The single was issued in February of 1968 (in the U.K. it was also their third single but was previously released in November of '67 as Island WIP 6025). Like Traffic's two previous 45 releases in America it made absolutely no impact on the charts whatsoever.

Written by the entire band, "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush" is a departure for Traffic and their pop psych whimsy and almost sounds like it would be better suited for the likes of Island records label mates Nirvana. It starts out with a bit of pop psych whimsy thanks to the regal feel of the organ but the vocals have an air of "sing along" to them that for some reason puts me off.

Bringing up the B-side we have "Coloured Rain". In my humble opinion it's one of the most powerful things the band ever cut. From Winwood's soulful opening lines to the way it all neatly falls together the track is nothing short of amazing. It has a swirling Hammond combining B-3 jazz and church, near eastern feeling woodwinds, Latin percussion, Roland Kirk style freak out sax and an almost ominous heavy lick that sees the track off whilst dueling with some gorgeous Hammond. Magic!  It easily would have made a better A-side.

"Hear We Go Round The Mulberry Bush" can be found on the CD release of the film soundtrack and as a bonus track on the CD reissue of their second LP "Traffic", while "Coloured Rain" is available as a bonus track on the CD reissue of their debut LP "Dear Mr Fantasy". 

Hear "We Here Go Round The Mulberry Bush":

Hear "Coloured Rain":

Thursday, November 19, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Moody Blues Mk.II US Debut


THE MOODY BLUES-Fly Me High/I Really Haven't Got The Time US London 45-LON-20030 1967

By 1967 our intrepid British r&b disciples The Moody Blues had undergone a major metamorphosis. In 1966 bass player Clint Warwick was replaced by Rod Clark, formerly of a beat group called The Monotones. The band had also began a slight shift away from r&b and playing jangly, poppy tracks as indicated on their later singles (and a host of brilliant unreleased '66 tracks issued in the deluxe version of their debut LP "The Magnificent Moodies"). Later in the year lead singer Denny Laine would be gone too with a short lived but brilliant career on Deram to follow. The Moodie's seemed finished but by 1967 like a phoenix rising from the ashes they returned fronted by Justin Hayward on lead vocals and guitar (formerly of Marty Wilde's backing group) and John Lodge on bass. Decca wasted no time racing the band into the studio in March of 1967 to begin what would become the new line up's vinyl debut. The new mark Moodies made their 45 debut in the U.K. in May of 1967 with this release as Decca F 12607. It was issued here in the States in July. 

"Fly Me High", a Hayward original is nothing short of ethereal brilliance. It's a mellow tune with just acoustic guitar, bass, drums and piano but it's the amazing harmonies (that would become this new line up's trademark) that carry the number. Hayward admitted in the Moodie's documentary "Legend Of A Band" that the track was "about pot". There's a catchy piano lick in it as well that has a hit of edge to it with a slight reverb/phlange on it (check out the new line up besuitted Moddies doing this crazy earlier live version cut for French TV in '66 with combo organ instead of piano).

The flip, "I Really Haven't Got The Time" was penned by keyboardist Mike Pinder. An earlier unreleased until version was cut in '66 with Denny Laine and Rod Clark and this line up performed it on several European TV shows (Germany's "Beat Club" among them). This version was unearthed for the deluxe edition CD reissue of "The Magnificent Moodies". The re-recorded version here is a bit different but not by much. It's jaunty and the piano has a bar-room ivory tinkling to it and a catchy happy go lucky feel to it. The high backing vocals are a bit more restrained (Clarke's backing vocals on the first recording always grated on me). It's not unlistenable but not something I would want to play again and again.

The single did nothing chart wise on either side of the Atlantic and it would be the band's last US single on London before moving to Deram as London opted to not release the band's next (and final) UK Decca single, the powerful "Leave This Man Alone" . Curiously several European pressings of "Fly Me High" featured picture sleeves of the old Lane/Warwick line up and it would take awhile for their art departments to step up their game.

Both cuts were issued on a strange 1968 catch all Moodie's comp LP (obviously not catch all enough as none of the unreleased tracks from the above mentioned deluxe edition of "Magnificent..." are on it) along with a host of later era Laine tracks. Both sides are also on a budget CD of all the band's Decca/Deram A and B sides titled "The Singles" and an even earlier CD release called "Prelude". 

Hear "Fly Me High":

Hear "I Really Haven't Got The Time":

Thursday, November 12, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Billy J. Kramer Does Harry Nilsson


Billy J. Kramer-1941/His Love Is Just A Lie US Epic F-10331 1968

By 1968 Billy J. Kramer's days in the hit parade had long since vanished, he briefly was the co-host of a short lived music show "Discotheque" and was stuck in the unexciting cabaret circuit. His recording career in '68 was inaugurated with today's release.  In a much earlier post we had discussed his previous 45, a freaky 1967 one off for Robert Stigwood's short lived Reaction label. Kramer had been one of the few Liverpool acts (along with Cilla Black and of course The Beatles) who Brian Epstein retained in his stable of artists. When Robert Stigwood was brought into Epstein's NEMS company he was given Kramer which ultimately resulted in the previously mentioned 45 after Kramer's contract with EMI expired.  After Epstein's passing his brother Clive, along with Stigwood launched a record label in Britain called NEMS. Stigwood was eventually replaced in the organization by Vic Lewis and the label's debut release came in March 1968 with Billy J. Kramer's release of a Harry Nilsson composition "1941" (Nems 56-3396). NEMS did not issue any American releases so Kramer's new 45 was launched two months later in the U.S. by Epic.

American singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson was, like Randy Newman, slowly taking Britain by storm with a host of covers of his tunes thanks in no small part due to the patronage of The Fab Four who loved his debut 1967 LP "Pandemonium Shadow Show". Kramer was the first artist to cover "1941" though The Alan Price Set played it in a live BBC session. His version differs little from the original, in fact it took me a few listens to both versions back to back to make sure it wasn't the same backing track! The musical accompaniment on this version is slightly more martial and regal, with some subtle differences in the horns. Kramer's vocals have more of a bite in parts and regardless of it's lack of originality the whole thing really works for me!

Mrs & Mr. Kramer at home, 1968.

The flip "His Love Was Just A Lie" is a pedestrian orchestrated pop track. It sounds like one of those nameless tracks used as filler on one of the volumes of the "Piccadilly Sunshine" CD comp pop series right down to it's vibraphone and cello.

To my knowledge neither side has been comped anywhere, which is unfortunate in the case of The A-side!

Hear "1941":

Hear "His Love Was Just A Lie":

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Only In America! 10 U.S. Only Pressings Of U.K. 60's 45's Part Three

1. THE SUMMER SET-"Cos It's Over"  Roulette R-4766 1967
The Summer Set were a tight British West Coast styled harmony group who forever seemed to be on every bill at the Marquee Club in '66. Their sole American single was an October 1967 U.S. only cover version of The Flower Pot Men's U.K. hit "Let's Go To San Francisco" (issued here by Deram in August). It's pedestrian, but the guts are on the B-side, "Cos It's Over" a strong rocker powered by some great harmonies and a full on "Fleur De Ly's style" freakbeat backing. The coupling was also issued in Italy and Germany.

2. THE HILL-"Sylvie" Immediate ZS7-5016 1968
The Hill were former late era members of Chris Farlowe's backing band The Thunderbirds (they later cut an LP with Farlowe in 1970). They cut this one off 45 that was only issued in the U.S. and Canada for some reason. "Sylvie" is a slice of pop sike perfection with sweeping harmonies, orchestration and is pure pop perfection not too dissimilar to label mate Duncan Browne.

3. THE MONOTONES-"When Will I Be Loved" Hickory 45-1306 1965
U.K. beat act The Monotones cut four singles back home for the Pye label during '64-'65, and three in the U.S., two of which were not issued in Britain. The first of these was this rocked up treatment of the Everly's "When Will I Be Loved" with some Jimmy Page style volume pedal effects on the guitar, combo organ and an almost C&W feel to the vocals. Bassist Rod Clark was briefly a Moody Blues member when he replaced Clint Warwick in 1966.

4. THE KONRADS-"I Didn't Know How Much" Decca 32060 1966
The Konrads would have been just another no name/no hope British beat combo had their sax player not gone on to become David Bowie. By the time the band were signed in 1965 their former sax player was already on his third band and third record, but that didn't stop the rumor mill and unscrupulous record dealers from insisting he was on this U.S. only release in the early 2000's when "Mojo" attempted to claim some possible D.B. involvement. All hype and conjecture aside their U.S. only release "I Didn't Know How Much" is not unlistenable, but it's not something I would play repeatedly. It kicks off with some powerful fuzz guitar and shows promise with interesting use of vibes but sadly turns into a weak Gary Lewis and The Playboys affair.

5. IAN & THE ZODIACS-"Why Can't It Be Me" Phillips 40343 1965
Liverpool's Ian & The Zodiacs were far bigger in Germany than at home and as a result they had far more releases over there (releasing five singles and three LP's in Der Fatherland). They also had five singles released in the U.S., among them was their fourth 45 "Why Can't It Be Me", a tough beat group rocker with a catchy riff that sounds not dissimilar to that of Roy Orbison's hit "Pretty Woman". Check out the clip of them performing it live on German TV's "Beat Club" here

6. TONY RITCHIE-"Coming On Strong" GNP Crescendo GNP-406 1968
Singer Tony Ritchie, like former Sorrows front man Don Fardon was a protege of singer/producer Miki Dallon. This powerful fuzz guitar driven go-go mover by him was not released in the U.K. or Europe and remains a U.S. only issue and is quite in demand as a result of both of those factors. Curiously Don Fardon cut a version using the same backing track, but with the fuzz mixed down considerably hence lacking the bite and power of this record.

7. BEST OF THE BEATLES (PETER BEST)-"The Way I Feel About You" Happening HA 1117 1966
Like a previous entry's post on The Undertakers U.S. only 45 "I Fell In Love (For The Very First Time)" this 45 was recorded in New York City at the Talentmasters Studio (later the site of the Who's 1967 recording of tracks for "The Who Sell Out" LP) under the guidance of Bob Gallo who brought both bands over to capitalize on the Beatles craze. "The Way I Feel About You" sounds like a 60's U.S. garage track with it's cheezy combo organ and slightly out of tune guitars. The vocals are not by Pete Best but by Wayne Bickerton, later to become a producer and A&R man with band mate Tony Waddington for Deram/Decca in the U.K. where they were responsible for a host of pop-sike masterpieces as well as The Flirtations entire Deram output. 

8. THE LIVERBIRDS-"Why Do You Hang Around Me" Phillips 40288 1965
Like Ian & The Zodiacs, The Liverbirds were a Liverpool group who prospered more in Germany, in fact they had no records ever released in the U.K! "Why Do You Hang Around" me is a perfect moody, beat/ballad that's everything The Delmonas/ Headcoatees wish they were. Downtrodden lyrics, morose backing vocals and a powerful yet subtle delivery proving that The Zombies were not the only masters of young love angst! It also was the simultaneous B-side to their U.S. single "Peanut Butter" which shared the same catalog number as this release (this copy was the A-side with a version of "Diddley Daddy" on the flip).

9. THE SOUND OF JIMMY NICOL-"Roaring Blue" Parrot 45-9752 1965
Drummer Jimmy Nicol's lucky day came while drumming for Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and the call came to deputize for Ringo Starr (who was having his tonsils out) on a series of European and Australian live dates. Three singles were released after his short Beatles tenure in the U.K. and two were issued in the U.S. The last "Sweet Clementine" was released in both countries, but with different B-sides. The U.S. flip "Roaring Blue" bears more than a striking resemblance to Sounds Incorporated and Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames. It's an instrumental with brass and some wild organ that at times sounds like "One Mint Julep".

10. ONE-"Enter Into My World" Columbia 4-44256 1967
Former Undertakers lead singer/bassist Jackie Lomax released this U.S. only 45 as "One" after returning to Britain at Brian Epstein's suggestion after being adrift in NYC following The Undertakers split. The band were known as The Lomax Alliance and recorded almost an LP's worth of material which is where these tracks came from and had a U.K. single a few months prior, why it was released here as "One" is anybody's guess (They had been called The Lost Souls while gigging in NYC). The band' evaporated with the death of their sponsor a week after this record was released. "Enter Into My World" is an incredibly brief tune, but amazing with it's rugged guitar riff, catchy melody and cheery disposition.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Geno Washington Part Two


GENO WASHINGTON AND THE RAM JAM BAND-Hi Hi Hazel/Beach Bash US Congress CG-273 1966

U.K. based American born singer Geno Washington burst onto the British music scene in 1965 with a rare as hell Columbia records cover of "Shake Shake Senora" before switching to Pye records in 1966 under the guidance of John Schroeder. Today's subject was his third UK 45 issued as Pye 7N 35329 in July 1966, a U.S. release arrived at the same time where it was his second American release. 

"Hi! Hi! Hazel" came from the pen of songwriter's Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. All of my research indicates that Geno and Co. were the first artists to record this number. Regardless of who did it first it's a god awful tune. It's mundane and tepid and ranks among one of the most unlistenable tracks by the band.

Fortunately there is redemption in the form of the B-side, a cover of a 1964 instrumental single by The Mar-Key's called "Beach Bash".  The Ram Jam Band's arrangement sticks fairly close to the original, though the horns carry less power. Of interest however is the fact that this version adds a ska back beat and a blistering bit of guitar (the reminds me of The Remo Four's amazing 1966 version of "Peter Gunn"). There's also an organ higher up in the mix, which the original lacks.

Geno and the boys tearing it up onstage somewhere in the U.K. 1966

Both sides are available on the highly recommended double Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band CD retrospective "My Bombers My Dexys My Highs: The 60's Studio Sessions" on Castle Music.

Hear "Hi! Hi! Hazel" (or don't):

Hear "Beach Bash":

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Searchers "Take Me For What I'm Worth"

THE SEARCHERS-Take Me For What I'm Worth/Too Many Miles UK Pye 7N.15992 1965

We could fill and entire post talking about The Searchers and their "folk rock" sound, but I'm not going to do that. What we are going to discuss is their twelfth U.K. single, "Take Me For What I'm Worth". The band's drummer Chris Curtis was well known for his "ear" for potential hits to cover and he dug up this P.F. Sloan track for them to cover (he later suggested in an interview with journalist Spencer Leigh that it was "probably the first gay anthem"). Strangely enough Sloan's version appeared on a French E.P. one month before this version hit the streets in England in November of '65 (December in the US). 

"Take Me For What I'm Worth" ranks as one of The Searcher's strongest numbers in my estimation. It was their next to last visit to the British charts clocking in at #20 (the last would be their version of The Stone's "Take It Or Leave It" which would climb to #31). Kicking off with a mournful guitar lick and Mike Pender's equally downtrodden vocals it's powered by some amazing guitars and a powerful strumming that resembles the chording of The Jam's later hit "That's Entertainment". And of course there's P.F. Sloan's brilliant "don't get mixed up with me I'm bad news" lyrics delivered by Pender at times with an almost venomous lilt. 

The B-side "Too Many Miles"was penned by all four Searchers (Frank Allen, Chris Curtis, John McNally and Mike Pender respectively). It's a mellow number with this almost baroque feel that reminds me of something off The Move's first LP! Not their best track but certainly an interesting touch for 1965! The woodwind solo is clearly ahead of it's time.

Both sides are available on a host of Searchers collections that thanks to the likes of Castle Communications are NEVER out of print. I highly recommend their 1965 LP "Take Me For What I'm Worth" which contains both sides of this single. 

Hear "Take Me For What I'm Worth":

Hear "Too Many Miles":

Friday, October 16, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Heinz


HEINZ-Questions I Can't Answer/The Beating Of My Heart US Tower 110 1964

U.K. producer Joe Meek's "golden boy" and one time Tornados bassist Heinz Burt had a host of 45's issued in the U.K. as a solo artist. London issued his debut US 45 "Just Like Eddie" (45-9619 ) in October 1963 but 1964 saw Heinz joining the host of Meek acts who's material would be leased for U.S. release through Capitol records Tower outlet (we profiled a Tornados release on the label here and a Tom Jones one here). 

"Questions I Can't Answer" was Heinz's sixth U.K. 45 (issued as Columbia DB 7374 in October 1964). It was issued simultaneously here on Tower and like all of Meek's other singles on the label it failed to chart. "Questions I Can't Answer" is an interesting number, kicking off with some sax and a "Louie Louie" style beat. It's one of Meek's more sophisticated productions, but that is in no small part due to arranger Ivor Raymonde who "sweetened"the track up (as he did with many Meek releases transforming his muck into something more commercially viable). The drums are unmistakably Meek's trademark sound but there's an interesting almost phased/backwards piano effect at about 0:10 in that's incredibly ahead of it's time followed by ivory tinkling and female backing vocals. 

The flip "The Beating of My Heart" is a full on over the top Meek production with lots of echo, spacey backing vocals, that archetype drum sound etc. None of this can save the number for me despite the great intro as it, to my ears, descends into a mundane ballad worth it only for the freaky arrangement and a blistering guitar solo (Richie Blackmore?).

Billy J. Kramer with Heinz, 1964, photo by Lewis Morley

The A-side appeared on the Castle Music Joe Meek two CD compilation "Joe Meek: The Alchemist Of Pop", and both sides appear on a 2013 double CD collection "Heinz: The Essential Collection". 

Hear "Questions In Can't Answer":

Hear "The Beating Of My Heart":

Friday, October 9, 2020

Top 10 80's 45's Part Two: Britannia Rules The (Air) Waves!

Many years ago we profiled my ten favorite 1980's 45's here, in this post I have decided to explore a further ten. 

1. DEPARTMENT S-"Is Vic There?" US Stiff TEES 7-02 1981
I'm not entirely sure how I found out about this record, I suspect I had heard it on college radio but I know for a fact that my copy came from a U.K. pen pal (Debbie Jones phone home!), even more amusing as my copy is in American pressing. Regardless of how or where I first heard it "Is Vic There?" is unique and unlike anything else that was in the air (Spandau Ballet's "Chant No.1", Adam & The Ants etc). With a catchy beat backed by reverberating, jangling, feedbacking guitars, atmospheric organ, disinterested lead vocals by one Vaughn Toulouse and a haunting/hypnotic guitar lick "Is Vic There?" is not easily forgotten and entirely difficult to remove from one's head. 

2. THE SPECIALS-"Ghost Town" UK Two Tone CHS TT17 1981
Music can be a time capsule and for me "Ghost Town" will always bring me back to my first trip to the U.K. in August of 1981 when this was just bumped off the #1 slot by Spandau Ballet. The nation wide riots were only days previously and things were still tense and everywhere I looked (in the Tube especially) there were packs of skinheads with the ominous tramp of boots and all the cops looked tired and freaked out. And along came the Specials with a Tchaikovsky "Swan Lake" style intro and the powerful horns playing off the flute and with the powerful lyrics painting a bleak picture of the then deplorable conditions in the U.K., not remotely ska it's the best thing they've ever done to this man's ears and will never be bettered.

3. DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS-"Geno" UK Late Night Feelings R 6033 1980
I can't recall whether it was "Rolling Stone" or "Creem" magazine that sang praises of these guys and gave some background to this track for my impressionable young mind to absorb (the same article explained the phenomena of "Northern Soul" as well). "Geno" is a tribute to the American born 60's British soul legend Geno Washington, who with his Ram Jam Band wowed audiences all over the British Isles with their no holds barred r&b/soul music show. The power behind "Geno" is not it's powerful brass section (which interestingly sounds more like a marching band then a Stax horn section) but lead singer Kevin Rowland's impassioned delivery and lyrics. It speaks volumes of a personal conviction and the epiphany that was seeing Geno Washington play:

"Back in '68 in a sweaty club (Oh Geno) before Jimmy's Machine and the rocksteady rub (Ohhhh Geno) on a night when flowers didn't suit my shoes after a week of flunkin' and bunkin' school, the lowest head in the crowd that night just practicing steps and keepin' out of the fights.
Academic inspiration you gave me none, you were Michael The Lover, the fighter that won, and now just look at me as I'm looking down on you, though I'm not being flash it's what I'm built to do".

Powerful stuff.

4. DAVID BOWIE-"Ashes To Ashes" US RCA PB-12078 1980
David Bowie has often been accused of being sharp enough to anticipate a trend and stealing from it before it became mainstream, but he has also been credited with fostering lots of them. The bleak/nihilism of the so called "New Romantic/Blitz/Futurist" musical and fashion movement applied to Bowie in both of those situations.  He was canny enough to get in on the ground floor with the movement and used some of it's movers and shakers in the promo video for the track and yet without him one doubts the whole thing would have ever existed and therefore he played both parent and love child to movement. "Ashes to Ashes" is bleak, spooky and full of some positively eerie synthesizer parts whilst musically defiling the memory of dear old Major Tom from his first hit "Space Oddity".

5. THE TIMES-"Red With Purple Flashes" UK Whaam WHAAM 2 1981
One time Television Personalities member Ed Ball started his own neo-60's influenced band The Times in 1981 where they burst onto the scene with this debut 45 on Dan Treacy of the TVP's brilliant Whaam label. Taking it's name from a description that the 60's band The Creation gave their music, "Red With Purple Flashes" is less 60's influenced than you would expect and at times suffers because of it's absolute shit production and recording but it's Ed Ball's clever lyrics and their attempts to make a very 60's record (fuzz guitar, phlanged drums and plenty of "doo doo doo's" in the chorus) that win the struggle, but only just barely.

6. BAD MANNERS-"Walking In The Sunshine" UK Magnet MAG 197 1981
Bad Manners were a different kind of ska band. They were pickled eggs and cream pies in the face to Madness pints of bitter or The Specials razor across the cheek. "Walking in The Sunshine" seemed like their first record that was "serious" after songs that almost sounded geared to appearances on "Tis Was" (a British children's TV program) like "Can Can" or their debut "Ne-Ne Na-Na-Na Na-Nu-Nu". It's powerful brass section and moody Hammond trills sound almost positively sinister alongside it's slightly funky rhythm that at times brings to mind UB40, all punctuated by lead singer Buster Bloodvessel's bellowing vocals. 

7. THE REVOLVING PAINT DREAM-"Flowers In The Sky" UK Creation CRE 002 1984
One of the earliest releases on Biff Bang Pow leader Alan McGee's Creation label "Flowers In The Sky" is probably one of the most psychedelic records of the 80's, certainly at least in Britain, outside The Dukes of Stratosphear of course (see below). The "Tomorrow Never Knows" drum beat, backing vocals and buzzing/backwards guitars evoke 60's British psychedelia at it's best while the wall of noise, airy vocals and production show where Ride and My Bloody Valentine AND Brit pop came from. 

8. THE JAMES TAYLOR QUARTET-"Blow Up" UK RE-Elect The President FORD 1 1987
The James Taylor Quartet were formed from the ashes of Medway 60's influenced/garage legends The Prisoners with their keyboardist James Taylor and bassist Allan Crockford. The JTQ did a multitude of things, first off they introduced something that was distinctly non-80's sounding  and (most importantly) they gave lots of mods an introduction to Hammond jazz (myself included). Their Booker T. styled reworking of the theme for the film "Blow Up" led one mod to pump coins into a jukebox one Friday night at Maxwell's so that punters would have to hear it endlessly as he sipped his pint of Double Diamond. Taylor's Hammond and twangy guitars care of his younger brother David give it a distinct Stax feel, something that was positively lacking anywhere in the 80's, especially in the land of Jesus and the Mary Chain and The Smiths

9. THE DUKES OF STRATOSPHEAR-"The Mole From The Ministry" UK Virgin VS 763 1985
The most psychedelic record of the 80's came from the three remaining members of XTC and bassist Colin Moulding's brother on drums who decided to play 1967 dress up and created a fake psychedelic band that topped anything and everything that was aping the era. While bands from the Groovy Cellar like The Mood Six were dressing like The Move and making records that sounded like Talk Talk or A Flock Of Seagulls The Dukes were a full on legit 60's act with zero traces of 80's recording techniques or effects. "The Mole From The Ministry" is every bit as much as The Rutle's "Piggy in The Middle" as it is the Fab's "I Am The Walrus" but there's snippets of Pink Floyd '67 vintage as well as a host of other British psychedelic gems thanks to Mellotron, varispeed effects on singing and speaking, Lennon-esque vocals , backwards bits, hidden dialogue and the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure! Recorded on a lark it spurned and mini LP and a full length LP two years later.

10. THE BARRACUDAS-"Summer Fun" UK Zonophone Z5 1980
This number will always remind me of the last day of school in 1982 heading to the beach with a bunch of friends in the back of a pick up truck blasting this on a boom box on the way there. With their 60's American West Coast sound the Barracudas added something interesting to new wave and in a classic case of "Coals to Newcastle" (or in this case "Steel to Pittsburgh") their poppy surf beat and high Beach Boys harmonies towards the end of this number perfectly encapsulated an era long gone by while still sounding "modern". The Plymouth Barracuda commercial at the beginning is a gas and the "ba ba bap ba ba ba ba" chorus is totally infectious and those fucking harmonies!