Friday, September 30, 2011

Six Degrees: Richard Hell & The Voidoids to The Ronettes

1. After leaving both Television and Johnny Thunder's Heartbreakers behind, punk poet Richard Hell forms a band with The Voidoids and records the classic 1977 album Blank Generation. The distinctive lead guitar lines are played by the late, brilliant Robert Quine.


2. Quine plays on Lloyd Cole's solo albums including 1995's Love Story produced by the prolific Stephen Street.


3. Street ( best known for his shimmering sheen on albums by The Smiths, Morrissey and The Cranberries) produces Blur's 1994 quadruple platinum concept album Parklife. In 2010, The Royal Mail selects Parklife's cover for a set of "classic album cover" postage stamps.


4.The Royal Mail also selects the cover of Primal Scream's critically acclaimed 1991 album Screamadelica. The lead singer is Bobby Gillespie.


5.Gillespie is the drummer on the first Jesus and Mary Chain album , 1985's Psychocandy. The third single from the album, "Just Like Honey", borrows something from a famous hit song from 22 years earlier.



6. It's Hal Blaine's drum intro to The Ronette's 1963 classic "Be My Baby", declared by Brian Wilson to be "the greatest pop record ever made." Sonny and Cher were on hand to provide backing vocals along with Darlene Love.



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Odds and Sods: James Taylor - Knocking 'Round the Zoo (1968)

James Taylor with sister Kate in October 1968


With the weekly "Odds and Sods" posts, we look at some of rock's oddest songs.

For such a sensitive and brooding singer-songwriter whose lyrics confess to all kinds of melancholy, James Taylor--to his credit-- never sounds like he's whining. Even when it came to his most personal songs.
Known as "Moose" at Milton Academy, a prestigious boarding school, the tall, rail thin 17-year old grew despondent and became suicidal so he checked himself into the McLean Hospital, a mental home in Belmont, MA.

                                                        McLean Hospital today

The brick buildings were the same as at Milton but there were screens (not bars) on the windows and hospital personnel counted up the silverware each night to make sure nobody was concealing a potential weapon.

Just knocking around the zoo on a Thursday afternoon
There's bars on all the windows and they're counting up the spoons
And if I'm feeling edgy there's a chick who's paid to be my slave
But she'll hit me with a needle if she thinks I'm trying to misbehave

Taylor praised his McLean experience in a Time Magazine article:
    "We didn't have that jive nothingness that pushes most kids through high school, " he said. "You can't tell a whole bunch of potential suicides that they must have a high school diploma."

  Nevertheless, Taylor earned his high school diploma at McLean which would become something of a very expensive ( at $30,000/year) tradition. Both brother Livingston and sister Kate also spent some time "knocking 'round the zoo."
The song appears on Taylor's first album, James Taylor,  which was recorded at Trident Studios at the same time The Beatles were recording The White Album. In fact both Paul McCartney and George Harrison played on that album's version of "Carolina In My Mind". It was released on The Beatles' Apple Records label.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#44 Marmalade - Reflections Of My Life (1969)


Though it sounds like a wistful Beatlesque song,"Reflections of My Life" contains some rather grim observations in its lyrics:

The World is a bad place.
A bad place.
A terrible place to live.
Oh, but I don't wanna die.

Bassist Graham Knight suggests that's why the #1 UK hit (and Top 10 in the US) has such lasting power more than 40 years later.

"Everyone can relate to it, " Graham said in a recent interview. "You can relate to the way the world is today with the words of the song. The world is a bad place, isn't it? It's a terrible place."

Oh, but this song is truly a beauty. Great bass lines. Backwards guitar solo. Fantastic harmonies. And just a sample of the great tunes you can find on the Scottish band's Ultimate Collection.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Video of the Week: The Swingers- Counting The Beat (1981)

A #1 hit in both Australia and their native New Zealand, The Swingers's "Counting The Beat" features frontman Phil Judd, formerly of Split Enz. I was turned on to the Swingers by the otherwise forgettable 1982 Gillian Armstrong film Starstruck which I caught at The Prytania Theater in New Orleans. Dig the phasing 15 seconds in!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation: McDonald and Giles to The Velvet Underground

1. After sticking around for the first two King Crimson albums, In the Court of the Crimson King (to which multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald contributed the serene "I Talk to the Wind") and In The Wake Of Poseidon,  McDonald and Michael Giles record the insanely great 1971 prog rock album McDonald and Giles. If you don't own this album, you can't really call yourself a progressive rock fan.


2. In 1976 McDonald is one of the co-founders of the hard rock band Foreigner. He plays guitar, woodwinds and keyboards for the group.Guitarist Mick Jones writes the hit song "Feels Like the First Time" and co-writes "Cold As Ice", and just about any other Foreigner song you've ever heard of... including "Blue Morning, Blue Day" from Double Vision


3. Before Foreigner, Mick Jones spends a few years playing in Gary Wright's band Spooky Tooth. 
Among the albums he plays on : 1973's Witness.The drummer is Mike Kellie.

4. In 1976 Mike Kellie joins Peter Perrett and guitarist John Parry in the legendary power pop band The Only Ones. Parry begins on bass but eventually replaces the original guitarist Glenn Tilbrook.


5. Tilbrook becomes the lead singer and guitarist for those power pop maestro's Squeeze, named after an oft-derided Velvet Underground album called Squeeze.


6 The 1973 album Squeeze, may have been called a Velvet Underground album but not one original member of the band plays on it. It's actually a Doug Yule solo album. (Yule played on the third and fourth VU albums) Polydor Records and VU band manager Steve Sesnick made the sleazy deal to call it a Velvets album.


(Readers Most Popular Songs in order 1. Spooky Tooth 2. Squeeze 3. Only Ones 4.Foreigner 5. McDonald and Giles 6. Velvet Underground )

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Odds And Sods: I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here, 1971

David Crosby and his Dad

The recording of David Crosby's brilliant solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, was haunted by the death of his girlfriend Christine Hinton in a 1969 traffic accident. No cut was more eerie--or more haunted-- than the multi-tracked a capella number that closed the record. Producer Stephen Barncard said it was late at night when Croz started "dicking around with the echo."
He recorded Crosby singing with two tracks each pass. 5 passes in all. No overdubs. No retakes at all.
"15 minutes of cosmic skydrop. " Barncard called it. "I had never seen the Muse work so magically."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

#43 Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band - Michael (The Lover) 1966

Geno Washington ( From Indiana, USA) was stationed in England with the US Air Force when guitarist Pete Gage asked him to join his new group.

Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band had two huge selling albums in the UK during the mid 60's. Both live. Both make you feel like you're surrounded by a young exuberant nearly orgasmic crowd. Just try not to join them when they're chanting "Geno! Geno! Geno!" On the 1966 album Hand Clappin' Foot Stompin' Funky-Butt...Live! they finally relent to their fans' demands and play their Top 40 hit "Michael ( The Lover)".

In 1969 The Ram Jam Band broke up. Geno moved back to the US to study hypnosis and meditation. Now in his own late 60's Geno is back in the UK where he's singing in front of fans who never forgot how to chant "Geno! Geno! Geno!"

Video of the Week: The Go-Betweens "Your Turn, My Turn" (1981)

Brilliant band in their most angular trio years. The single appeared on the 1982 album Send Me a Lullaby.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation: James Booker to Rod Stewart

1. Legendary New Orleans pianist James Booker performs at a live show in West Germany sometime in 1976, around the time his Joe Boyd-produced debut album Junco Partner is released.

2. Three years earlier, Booker plays piano on the Randy Newman penned "Have You Seen My Baby" aka "Hold On" on Ringo Starr's 1973 album, Ringo The guitar player is Marc Bolan of T. Rex.

3. One year earlier, T. Rex scores its fourth and final #1 UK hit with "Metal Guru". Backing vocals are provided by Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan ( Flo & Eddie), formerly of The Turtles.

4.In 1969 The Turtles record "Love in the City" as a single for their album Turtle Soup , produced by Ray Davies of The Kinks.

5. In 1971 The Kinks contribute "All God's Children" to the soundtrack for Percy.Among the stars of the film: Britt Eckland.

6. We're back in 1976. Britt Eckland provides sensual whispers and appears in the video of  US #1  hit "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)" with then-flame Rod Stewart.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Odds And Sods: Who The F**k is Alice?

Some songs really do have a life of their own. After Smokie's 1976 cover of an Australian band's single "Living Next Door to Alice" became the group's biggest hit (UK#5, Billboard #25), that should have been the end of it. But while visiting a bar called Gompie in the Netherlands, some dutch musicians heard the disc jockey who was playing "Living Next Door to Alice" turn down the volume at "Alice" and the crowd chant 'Alice, who the fuck is Alice?'. They released "Who the F is Alice", as Gompie and had a European hit. Not to be outdone, what was left of Smokie teamed up with foul-mouthed comedian Roy 'Chubby' Brown to record their own version ...which hit #3 in 1995. Smokie now holds  the record as the first group to get a record in the Top Ten with the word "fuck" in it 

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Grunge Hoax

megan jasper today

"Swinging on the Flippity Flop"
 Back in the glory days of grunge, these were just a few of the slang phrases people were slinging around Seattle.
 At least according to The New York Times in a now infamous article.
 In fact, a then 25 year old hyper-caffeinated record rep named Megan Jasper--in a fit of inspiration-- made up the phrases on the spot.
And the reporter asking for the grunge lexicon?
He bought it!

I actually thought the call was a prank at first because it seemed so silly and when I realized it wasn't, I sat there and thought "Oh this will be fun" and I wrote a bunch of words that sounded funny or goofy

So there was Cobnobbler the grunge word for an uncool person.
Tom Tom Club--an outsider. Someone not from Seattle.
Bound and Hagged --someone who stays home on party nights.

These are words also some of us --I mean a couple of us--would use kind of as a joke but I mean that was it. A joke. So we would say lamestain. Or cobnobbler.


 Yes That's a big fat loser.
  With each word that was being translated it got goofier and goofier and I thought the phone call would end with him saying "Oh come on!" you know?

But that never happened. Even when she defined:

Swinging on the Flippity Flop --means "hanging out".

He was concentrating so hard on just getting everything accurately that all I could hear was the typing.

The article ran November 15th, 1992.

I think my mom called up and said " You're in da New Yawk Times" ( laugh)
I was like "What?" so I ran down and got a copy.
I could not stop laughing.I was shocked that that made it into the most prestigious newspaper.

Word of the grunge hoax spread quickly through the Seattle music scene.

Mudhoney's Mark Arm:
One thing that Mudhoney did after that is we made a concerted effort over the new year or so to use those terms as much as possible ( laugh) to kind of keep the thing going.

Today Megan is vice president of Seattle's Sub Pop Records. She's helping people discover the new sounds of Seattle. But the grunge hoax may very well be what she goes down in history for.

Well Thank God it's not something worse ( Laughs)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#42 Ian Gomm "Hold On" 1979

In the fall of 1979, former Brinsley Schwarz rhythm guitarist ( and co writer with Nick Lowe of "Cruel to Be Kind") Ian Gomm had a Top 20 US hit with this terrific tune. Nothing beats a bass that tumbles its way into the tune. Gomm's chart success led to his opening for Dire Straits on their Sultans of Swing tour, more albums and high expectations for a solo career that never really took off.
  But at a time when US radio offered few alternatives to disco (other than The Knack and Styx), it was nice to hear something that involved strumming guitars.The sax line I could have done without.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation: Nick Drake to Donovan

1. In 1970, for his album Bryter Layter, Nick Drake records "Poor Boy" which features backing vocals by UK hitmaker P.P.Arnold.

2. P.P. Arnold also provides the backing vocals on the Small Faces 1967 hit "Tin Soldier", written and sung by Steve Marriott. (Marriott originally wrote it for P.P. Arnold to record but changed his mind.)

3.A 16 year old Steve Marriott--who played the Artful Dodger in the 1960 London stage production of "Oliver!"-- plays the drummer in the 1963 film "Live It Up!". The singer is Heinz Burt. The guitar player is David Hemmings.

4. In the 1966 Michelangelo Antonioni film "Blow Up" Hemmings sees a Yardbirds gig. While Jeff Beck is having all kinds of problems with his guitar, Jimmy Page is chilling on stage. (There's a cleaner version of this scene here .)

5. In his session musician days Page plays guitar on this rockin 1967 cut by singer Dana Gillespie.The song is written by Donovan.

6. There is no evidence Dana Gillespie inspired Donovan's song "Superlungs (My Supergirl) " for his 1969 album, Barabajagal. But one can see how one might make the mistake

Friday, September 9, 2011

Odds And Sods: John Hartford - The Golden Globe Award

I think it's probably fair to assume that John Hartford, best known as the songwriter behind "Gentle On My Mind", is a breast man. The Grammy winning artist played banjo on The Byrds' legendary foray into country music, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and sang on the best selling soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? Somewhere in between, he recorded this tribute to his girlfriend's breasts "Ah, those golden globes, there ain't none better / Gotta have 'em both 'cause they both go together."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#41 Don Covay Mercy, Mercy 1964

Don Covay was the original "double threat". Not only could he sing, he could drive. Covay played chauffeur for Little Richard and sometimes opened for his idol. In return Little Richard produced Covay's debut single "Bip Bip Bip"  which sank like a stone in 1957
Fast forward to 1964 and Covay, finding success as a songwriter for Jerry Butler, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Wilson Pickett gets a young Jimi Hendrix to play guitar on a new record he wrote: "Mercy, Mercy". The single, a short soulful stew of blues, groove and sweat would hit #35 on the Billboard charts.
The Rolling Stones recorded a better known cover version on Out of Our Heads. It's interesting to hear the two versions side by side. If Mick Jagger hasn't transformed himself into Covay,  he sure as hell seemed to be trying his best to make it happen.
Covay also wrote the #44 pop hit "See Saw" and "Chain of Fools" both covered by Aretha Franklin. In 1969, Covay and the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band recorded a brilliant blues-rock album called House of Blue Light. For more on that amazing album, check out this excellent review on The Rising Storm . Despite a debilitating stroke, Don Covay, mercifully,  is still with us.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Six Degrees: Herman's Hermits to The Rutles

1.In 1966 Herman's Hermits recorded "No Milk Today" by songwriter extraordinaire Graham Gouldman.

 2. In 1972 Graham Gouldman formed 10CC with his fellow Strawberry Studio session musicians Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley.

  3 At about the same time they played on two Neil Sedaka albums including 1973's The Tra-La Days Are Over which featured a song Neil wrote called "Love Will Keep Us Together."

4.For four weeks in 1975 Captain and Tennille's cover of "Love Will Keep Us Together" topped the US charts. (They sang "Sedaka is back" in the fade out)

5. The Captain, Daryl Dragon. got his nickname from Mike Love when Dragon played keyboards with The Beach Boys in the early 70's. ( You can see him above). Dragon contributed the orchestrations on tracks Dennis Wilson wrote for the Beach Boys 1972 album Carl and the Passions - "So Tough".

6. Among the vocalists on that album, Holland and the live album that followed is Ricky Fataar who played the "George Harrison" character, Stig O'Hara, on The Rutles mockumentary All You Need Is Cash.
 Fataar also played on the hilarious and exceptionally catchy soundtrack released in 1978.

P.S. Rutles founder Neil Innes' former band, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, had a Top 5 UK hit in 1968 with "I'm the Urban Spaceman" which was produced by Apollo C. Vermouth aka Paul McCartney whose 1982 album, Tug of War, was recorded with the help of Eric Stewart, the 10cc band mate of Graham Gouldman.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Odds And Sods: I've Decided To Join the Air Force Today

                                      The Bee Gees I've Decided to Join the Air Force

From the 1968 album that included the hit singles "I've Gotta Get a Message to You" and "I Started a Joke" comes a song that may have seemed out of place at the height of the Vietnam War... but when, thanks to the draft,  push comes to shove:

   I've seen my friends and they all agree/
   That it's better than joining the army or going to sea

To be honest I'm trying to figure out what to do with this music blog. I enjoy finding buried treasures from the 60's and 70's but The Rising Storm already does a superb job of that. I could offer a series of songs based on a theme but Star Maker Machine ( which I contribute to) and For The Sake of The Song are both brilliant blogs by people who know far more than I do.
    So , for now, I think I will take my cue from my days at my college station where we played anything and everything.
 By the way, if you like what you hear let me know. And please buy the record!!!!