In Memoriam – August 2015

September 3rd, 2015 5 comments

It seems the Reaper took his annual summer holiday in August and left his less enthusiastic minions in charge. Wouldn’t it be nice if he (or she, we must not presume) could retire?

In Memoriam Aug 2015It is fair to say that British people were not united in their grief for Cilla Black. Some saw in her a singer of the golden age of British pop who had hits with Anyone Who Had A Heart, Alfie, You’re My World and the Lennon/McCartney composition Step Inside Love, and a homely star who broke barriers for women on British TV and was a warm fixture in millions of living rooms. Others recall her poor and arrogant treatment of those whom she thought of as her inferiors, with airline staff especially having many stories to tell. And many of her fellow Liverpudlians resent her right-wing politics and outspoken unwillingness to aid striking dockworkers.

In the space of just a few years Bob Johnston, who has died at 83, produced a string of classic and eminent albums for Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen. He accompanied Bob Dylan on six consecutive albums between 1965 and 1970, producing ever track except Like A Rollin’ Stone for Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Blonde on Blonde (1966), John Wesley Harding (1967), Nashville Skyline (1969), Self Portrait (1970) and New Morning (1970). For Simon & Garfunkel he produced Sounds of Silence (1966, with tracks like I Am A Rock, April Come She Will and the title track) and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966, which featured Homeward Bound, Scarborough Fair, For Emily Whenever I May Find Her, The 59th Street Bridge Song, and the still stunning 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night). He also co-produced A Hazy Shade Of Winter for them. For Leonard Cohen he produced Songs From A Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971) and Live Songs (1973). His Johnny Cash productions included At Folsom Prison (1968); The Holy Land (1969); At San Quentin (1969) and Hello, I’m Johnny Cash (1970). He also produced The Byrds’ Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde, Lindisfarne’s Fog on the Tyne, and Loudon Wainwright III’s Attempted Mustache, as well as tracks for The Statler Brothers (including Flowers On The Wall), Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger, Patti Page, Marty Robbins, Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Cliff, John Mayall, The Waterboys and others.

The man who was responsible for some of the best-known country songs has had a wreath placed upon his door. Billy Sherrill is widely credited with being in the forefront of those who helped country music cross over into pop with his productions for artists like George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell and so on. Indeed, he “discovered” Wynette and co-wrote her biggest hit, Stand By Your Man. He also co-wrote The Most Beautiful Girl, a huge hit for Charlie Rich in 1974, and David Houston’s 1966 hit Almost Persuaded. His game wasn’t limited to country: in the late 1950s and ’60s he produced soul-gospel group The Staple Singers, soul acts Major Lance and Peaches & Herb, jazz man Buddy Greco, and pop crooners Cliff Richard and Bobby Vinton. In 1981 he produced Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue country tribute album.

In Memoriam Aug 2015Jazz tenor saxophonist and occasional flautist Harold Ousley, who has died at 86, recorded three mighty solo LPs in the 1970s which mysteriously failed to become jazz classics (plus one in 1961 and another in 2001), but he was better known as a great sideman, especially to Jack McDuff. He also backed, as a young man, Billie Holiday, and later the likes of Dinah Washington, Gene Ammons and George Benson, and played in the bands of Count Basie and Lionel Hampton.

One of the July victims of the Grim Reaper slipped through my round-up last month — despite having lived not far from me. South African singer Crocodile Harris, real name Robin Graham, had a big hit in his country and, more so, in France in 1982 with his anti-war anthem Give Me The Good News, topping the French charts and even winning a prize at the Cannes Music Festival. It wasn’t his biggest hit in South Africa: in 1974 he reached #5 with Miss Eva Goodnight. In 1984 his song The World Is An Explosion was banned in apartheid South Africa. It was surprising that Give Me The Good News, with the line “Dictatorship was never honest”, wasn’t banned as well. I’ll post that track on another mix soon.

Another July death was reported only in early August, that of harmonica player Harry Pitch. He brought his chosen instrument into the British charts on Petula Clark’s 1961 #1 Sailor, Frank Ifield’s wildly popular 1962 chart-topper I Remember You, and in 1964 on Val Doonican’s Walk Tall. One day in 1962 he was minding his own business in the canteen of the Abbey Road studios in London when an unknown youngster asked him to teach him a particular harmonica effect. That youngster was – you guessed it – John Lennon, and the song he wanted advice for was Love Me Do. In 1969 he played the harmonica on the hit Groovin’ With Mr Bloe, a UK #2 in 1970, and generations of British TV viewers know his playing from the theme of the long-running comedy series Last Of The Summer Wine.

 

Crocodile Harris, 64, South African singer-songwriter, on July 7
Crocodile Harris – Miss Eva Goodnight (1974)

Harry Pitch, 90, harmonica player, on July 15
Mr.Bloe – Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe (1969)

Johnny Meeks, 78, lead guitarist with Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps, on July 30
Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps – Say Mama (1958, also as co-writer)

Red Dragon, 49, Jamaican reggae singer, on July 31

Cilla Black, 72, English singer and TV presenter, on August 1
Cilla Black – Step Inside Love (1968)

Billy Sherrill, 78, country songwriter, producer and arranger, on August 4
Charlie Rich – The Most Beautiful Girl (1974, as co-writer)
George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today (1980, as producer)

Sean Price, 43, rapper with Heltah Skeltah, Boot Camp Clik, on August 8

Eddie Cusic, 89, blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter, on August 11

Harold Ousley, 86, jazz saxophonist, on August 13
Harold Ousley – Me And Bobby McGee (1972)
Harold Ousley – The People’s Groove (1977)

Bob Johnston, 83, record producer, on August 14
Bob Dylan – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (1967)
Simon & Garfunkel – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1969)
Johnny Cash – 25 Minutes To Go (live, 1969)
Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat (1971)

Danny Sembello, 52, songwriter and producer, drowned on August 15
The Pointer Sisters – Neutron Dance (1984, as co-writer)

Max Greger, 89, German musician and band leader, on August 15
Max Greger Orchester – Das aktuelle Sport-Studio (1963)

Russell Henderson, 91, Trinidad-born British jazz pianist, on August 18

Doudou N’Diaye Rose, 85, Senegalese drummer, composer and bandleader, on August 19
Doudou N’Diaye Rose – Diame (1992)

Mariem Hassan, 57, Western Saharan singer and activist, on August 22

Yosi Piamenta, 63, Israeli rock musician, on August 23

Joy Beverley, 91, singer with British group Beverley Sisters, on August 30
The Beverley Sisters – I Dreamed (1957)

Hugo Rasmussen, 74, Danish jazz musician, on August 30

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(PW in comments)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 5

August 27th, 2015 6 comments

Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 5

Still not feeling guilty and the music is still great. Several artists here have featured before in this series; some more than once, such as Boz Scaggs, Bill LaBounty, Player, Michael McDonald, Rupert Holmes or England Dan & John Ford Coley. A fair few appear for the first time, and some of those are not very well known.

Rick Mathews is the most obscure of the lot. All I have on the guy is that he released two albums, 1981’s California Cologne and in 1991 Only The Young. California Cologne is a very good AOR album which seems to have made a bit of an impression in Japan. And that’s all I know. Does anybody know more?

The AOR genre was very male-orientated, and these mixes reflect that. Here we have three female voices: those of Stevie Nicks, Valerie Carter and Cathy Cooper. The latter teamed up with Jimmie Ross as Cooper & Ross, both members of a later version of doo wop group The Skyliners. As Cooper & Ross they released a sole LP in 1982, titled Bottom Line. Ross had been a member the Jaggerz, who had a hit in 1969 with The Rapper (he shared vocals with Donnie Iris, who will possibly feature on Volume 6). He has the reputation of being a fine blue-eyed soul singer, but is also a member of the Beaver County Musicians Hall of Fame. He still performs with the reunited Jaggerz. Cathy seems to be the same Kathy Cooper who co-wrote, with Rupert Holmes, the wonderful Echo Valley 2-6809 for The Partridge Family, which featured on Any Major Telephone Vol. 1.

Silver also released only one LP, a country-rock effort in 1976, produced by Clive Davis with the cover designed by the late comedian Phil Hartman. Their label, Arista, didn’t fancy any of the album’s tracks for single releases and instead gave them a song called Wham Bam to record. Given that these guys were serious musicians, they must have felt a bit silly singing “We’ve got a wham bam, shang-a-lang and a sha-la-la-la-la-la thing”. Still, they turned out a very catchy song with which they had their solitary hit, reaching #16 in the US.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments

1. Ace – The Real Feeling (1975)
2. Boz Scaggs – Still Falling For You (1977)
3. Bill LaBounty – Trail To Your Heart (Sailing Without A Sail) (1979)
4. Chris Christian – Don’t Give Up On Us (1981)
5. Ambrosia – You’re The Only Woman (1980)
6. Valerie Carter – Crazy (1978)
7. Rupert Holmes – One Born Every Minute (1981)
8. The Beach Boys – Sail On, Sailor (1973)
9. Cooper & Ross – You’re The One (1982)
10. Greg Guidry – Are You Ready For Love (1982)
11. Bill Champlin – I Don’t Want You Anymore (1978)
12. Robbie Dupree – Hot Rod Hearts (1980)
13. Silver – Wham Bam (1976)
14. Rick Mathews – Movin’ On Up (1981)
15. Player – It’s For You (1980)
16. Paul Davis – I Go Crazy (1977)
17. England Dan & John Ford Coley – Love Is The Answer (1978)
18. Michael McDonald – That’s Why (1982)
19. Dan Fogelberg – Hard To Say Lyrics (1981)
20. Stevie Nicks & Don Henley – Leather And Lace (1981)
21. Firefall – You Are The Woman (1976)

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Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 1
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 2
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 3
Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 4

Any Major B-Side

August 20th, 2015 14 comments

Any Major B-Sides

This mix of great b-sides to (mostly) hit singles will be a one-off from my side. If you nominate enough b-sides in the comments section or on Facebook, I might do a reader’s compilation.

As usual, I set myself a few rules in selecting tracks. The b-side must not have become a hit after being flipped, as many classic songs have been. So, for example, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, originally the b-side to Substitute, doesn’t qualify. I also discounted double a-sides, such as Elvis’ Don’t Be Cruel which in some countries was an actual b-side (and here one might pick an argument whether I ought to have disqualified The Jams’ The Butterfly Collector). B-sides that are famous in their own right, such as The Beatles’ Rain or Beth by Kiss, or are famous album tracks were also excluded.

One track here actually was initially an a-side: The Beach Boys’ Don’t Worry Baby was released in 1964 as the lead, backed with I Get Around. The radio DJs quite rightly flipped the single; as a consequence I Get Around was the a-side in countries outside the US.

Some singles had different b-sides in different countries. My German copy of Blondie’s X-Offender was backed with Man Overboard, but in most countries the flip side was the excellent In The Sun. The single version was a shorter mix of the song that appeared on the debut album. The sublime X-Offender, which was a commercial flop, later appeared as a b-side itself, on the Rip Her To Shreds single.

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Fleetwood Mac’s Silver Springs is perhaps the finest non-hit, non-on-classic-album-featuring b-sides ever. Written by Stevie Nicks for the Rumours album, it was dumped for length, much to Nicks’ frustration, and instrsad used as a b-side to Go Your Own Way. On that great album, it would have been a highlight (maybe instead of Oh Daddy or Gold Dust Woman); latter CD releases include it as a bonus track.

Color Him Father — which featured on Any Major Fathers and Any Major Soul 1969 Vol. 1 — was the Grammy-winning 1969 hit for The Winstons, but it was the b-side that had the impact. The drum break of Amen Brother, an instrumental interpretation of Jester Hairson’s Amen song in the film Lilies of the Field, is said to be the most sampled piece of music ever. Played by Gregory Coleman, it’s 1:23 minutes into the song.

And that’s almost the length of Culture Club’s That’s The Way. A longer version appears on the Color By Numbers album; the version included here is the actual b-side of Karma Chameleon, which ends rather abruptly before Helen Terry’s vocals kick in. I admit that on my own version of this mix, I’m using the LP version.

Al Green’s Strong As Death has a tragic back story. Apparently he wrote the song for his girlfriend Mary Woodson and recorded it on the very day — 18 October 1974 — she threw a pot of boiling grits at the singer, causing the singer second-degree burns on his arms, stomach and back. She then ran to the bedroom and allegedly killed herself with Green’s gun (there are some who claim it wasn’t a suicide). It was this episode that made Green become the Singing Reverend. Other sources say Green recorded Sha La La (Make Me Happy), but that’s not as good a story as a lyric that goes: “We don’t have that much time, there’s no need in us crying. Hey baby, I’m in the mood for love.”

gallery2For a whole bunch of soul b-sides, the “B’ Side blog is your treasure trove.

Now over to you: tell me which b-sides you think should go on Volume of 2! The comments section is yours!

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-flipped covers. PW in comments.

1. Blondie – In The Sun (1976 – b-side of X-Offender)
2. The Jam – The Butterfly Collector (1979 – Strange Town)
3. Depeche Mode – But Not Tonight (Extended Remix) (1986 – Stripped)
4. Culture Club – That’s The Way (1983 – Karma Chameleon)
5. Fleetwood Mac – Silver Springs (1977 – Go Your Own Way)
6. Bruce Springsteen – Shut Out The Light (1984 – Born In The USA)
7. Harry Nilsson – Gotta Get Up (1972 – Without You)
8. Steely Dan – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (1974 – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number)
9. Badfinger – Carry On Till Tomorrow (1970 – No Matter What)
10. Nancy Sinatra – The City Never Sleeps At Night (1965 – These Boots Are Made…)
11. The Beach Boys – Don’t Worry Baby (1964 – I Get Around)
12. The Walker Brothers – But I Do (1965 – Make It Easy On Yourself)
13. The Rolling Stones – Long Long While (1966 – Paint It, Black)
14. The Troggs – I Want You (1966 – With A Girl Like You)
15. The Winstons – Amen Brother (1969 – Color Him Father)
16. Otis Redding – The Happy Song (Dum Dum) (1966 – Open The Door)
17. Al Green – Strong As Death (Sweet As Love) (1975 – Oh Me Oh My)
18. Hot Chocolate – You’re A Natural High (1974 – Disco Queen)
19. KC & the Sunshine Band – I Betcha Didn’t Know That (1979 – Don’t Go)
20. Wham! – Blue (1983 – Club Tropicana)
21. David Bowie – Velvet Goldmine (1972 – on 1975 reissue of Space Oddity)
22. New Order – 1963 (1987 – True Faith)
23. The Smiths – Jeane (1983 – This Charming Man)
24. The Pogues – Wild Rover (1985 – Sally MacLennane)

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Covered With Soul Vol. 21

August 13th, 2015 3 comments

Covered With Soul Vol. 21

Are soul tracks covered by other soul artists much different from the original? On this mix, they are.

This series has shown that soul, more than any other genre, offers the flexibility to interpret a song. Take The Dells’ version of Otis Redding’s Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay; more known for their balladeering The Dells give it a funk twist, with an interlude that sounds inspired by The Beatles or Beach Boys. It’s the dock of the bay, but not as Otis knew it.

Baby Huey reinvents Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come, investing the sort of drama which Isaac Hayes lent his interpretations of Bacharach/David songs. It’s glorious.

And check out New Birth turning Rufus Thomas’ novelty hit Do The Funky Chicken into a jam.

As always, this mix will fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-covered covers.

1. Mary Wells – Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie (1968)
2. Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band – Hold On I’m Coming (1966)
3. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Band – Get Ready (1968)
4. Lyn Collins – Mr. Big Stuff (1973)
5. The Dells – Dock Of The Bay (1969)
6. Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose – Let’s Stay Together (1972)
7. Bunny Sigler – Love Train (1975)
8. Penny Goodwin – Trade Winds (1973)
9. Major Harris – Sideshow (1974)
10. Brother To Brother – I Wish It Would Rain (1974)
11. Zulema – If This World Were Mine (1972)
12. Eddie Floyd – Warm And Tender Love (1967)
13. Baby Huey – A Change Is Going To Come (1971)
14. The Chi-Lites – Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) (1972)
15. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (1973)
16. Smoked Sugar – I’ve Found Someone Of My Own (1975)
17. The New Birth – Do The Funky Chicken (1970)

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(PW in comments)

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Help! Recovered

August 6th, 2015 6 comments

Help Recovered front

Today, exactly 50 years ago, The Beatles released their Help! album in Britain . In the US, a different version was issued a week later. It was a great time for music. A month earlier the Beach Boys released their Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) album; Bob Dylan issued his Highway 61 Revisited on August 30, and two weeks later Otis Redding’s Otis Blue came out.

A few years ago I conducted an experiment to discover which Beatles album was the best, song-by-song. That is obviously different to an album’s conceptual, cultural or historical value. By that token, I might instinctively go for Abbey Road, or Sgt Pepper’s, or Revolver, or Rubber Soul. But here I rated each song on an album out of ten and arrived at an average.

Help! won, just ahead of A Hard Day’s Night, followed by Abbey Road. Song for song, Help! is a most satisfying and likeable album. Even the least great songs (You Like Me Too Much, Tell Me What You See, Another Girl) are pretty good. Only Dizzy Miss Lizzy is a regrettable throwback to the first two albums. (Bottom of the table was With The Beatles).

Cover versions of most songs on Help! are relatively scarce. So I’m rather pleased with this lot. Tim Rose’s version of You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away especially is quite wonderful, with its organ backing by Gary Wright and the insistent guitar and by rolling drumming by Wright’s fellow Spooky Tooth members Mick Jones and Bryson Graham.

Vanilla Fudge go all Summer-of-Love psychedelic on their version of Ticket To Ride, while The Sunshine Company, also in 1967, slow down Harrison’s jaunty I Need You (The Beatles’ original, incidentally, was released as a single in Italy).

You’re Going To Lose That Girl is represented in a French version by an act of which I’ve found out little. Their name, Les Mersey’s, does little to hide their influence. The Quebec foursome issued their first LP in 1964 and their last, of course, in 1970. It seems they frequently covered The Beatles, but they were no cover band.

Help Recovered back

And before the year is out, there’ll be a Recovered version of Rubber Soul to mark that album’s 50th anniversary. But for today, here’s Help! Recovered, with home-made covers, made the night before. PW in comments.

1. José Feliciano – Help (1966)
2. Herbie Mann – The Night Before (1966)
3. Tim Rose – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (1972)
4. The Sunshine Company – I Need You (1967)
5. George Martin Orchestra – Another Girl (1965)
6. Les Mersey’s – Je lai perdue cette fille (You’re Going To Lose That Girl) (1966)
7. Vanilla Fudge – Ticket To Ride (1967)
8. Leon Russell – Act Naturally (1971)
9. Bryan Ferry – It’s Only Love (1976)
10. Hugo & Osvaldo Fattoruso – Me gustas demasiado (You Like Me Too Much) (1969)
11. Teenage Fanclub – Tell Me What You See (2001)
12. Johnny Rivers and his L. A. Boogie Band – I’ve Just Seen A Face (1973)
13. The Dillards – Yesterday (1970)
14. Flying Lizards – Dizzy Miss Lizzie (1984)

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More great Beatles stuff:
A Hard Day’s Night – Recovered
Beatles For Sale – Recovered

Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Any Bizarre Beatles
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2

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In Memoriam – July 2015

August 3rd, 2015 7 comments

gallery_1The man who probably played guitar on Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On has passed away (he was long uncredited, until a CD release listed him and a few others as guitarists). Arthur G. Wright died some time in early July at the age of 78. He played on lots of Motown and soul tracks (including the Foxy Brown soundtrack), as well as for jazz artists like Jimmy Witherspoon or David Axelrod and vocalists like Lee Hazlewood or Jackie DeShannon. As an arranger, he hit it big with Thelma Houston’s version of Don’t Leave Me This Way and Diana Ross’ Lovin’, Livin’ & Givin’. He also arranged, wrote or produced for the likes of the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson, Billy Preston, Syreeta, P.J. Proby, Righteous Brothers, Bettye Swann, Clydie King, Little Richard, Jerry Butler, The Fifth Dimension, Mary Wilson, Stephanie Mills, Jermaine Jackson, The Supremes and even David Bowie (on Hunky Dory’s Fill Your Heart). Very briefly, he also sang, as leader of the Wright Brothers Flying Machine, on their self-titled album, issued in 1979. Their song Leatherman’s Theme appeared on the Thank God It’s Friday soundtrack, on which Wright also produced Sunshine’s Take It To The Zoo.

One of the most prolific songwriters of middle-of-the-road ‘80s soul left us. Michael Masser co-wrote hits for Diana Ross such as Diana Ross’ Do You Know Where You’re Going To, It’s My Turn, I Thought It Took A Little Time and Touch Me In The Morning. Whitney Houston had success with Masser compositions Saving All My Love for You (originally for Marilyn McCoo), All At Once, Hold Me, The Greatest Love of All (originally for George Benson), Didn’t We Almost Have It All, You’re Still My Man and After We Make Love. For George Benson he wrote In Your Eyes, You Are The Love Of My Life and Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You (which was a mega-hit for Glen Medeiros). Other hits included Tonight I Celebrate My Love for Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson and Miss You Like Crazy for Natalie Cole.

In April we lost the songwriter Sid Tepper, who wrote so prolifically for Elvis Presley in the 1960s. In July, his songwriting partner Roy C. Bennett died at the age of 96. Together they wrote more than 300 songs in a partnership that spanned the years 1945 to 1970. Their 1948 breakthrough hit, Red Roses For A Blue Lady, a hit for Vaughn Monroe, was included as a tribute to Tepper in April. In the 1950s they scored hits like Suzy Snowflake for Rosemary Clooney, Naughty Lady of Shady Lane for both Dean Martin and the Ames Brothers, Nuttin’ For Christmas for both Art Mooney and Ricky Zahnd, and Kewpie Doll for Perry Como. The 1960s saw a slew of songs for Elvis soundtracks and perhaps their most abiding hit, Cliff Richards’ The Young Ones. Tepper retired after a heart attack in 1970; Bennett continued writing songs — and computer programmes!

gallery_2There are not many people still alive who had a hand in producing hits in 1938. With Van Alexander’s death at the age of 100 there is one less. Alexander arranged Ella Fitzgerald’s 1938 hit A-Tisket, A-Tasket (1938). He was already a veteran in the business when he helped to write one of the great TV themes, that for I Dream Of Jeannie. By then Alexander had already built a prodigious track record in Hollywood as a composer, arranger and film score conductor, starting in the 1940s. Later he was a frequent Emmy winner for his TV scores and conducted many variety specials on US television.

It really was a bad month for songwriters. In Ernie Maresca we lost one who was responsible for two of the great early ‘60s classics: Runaround Sue and The Wanderer, both massive hits for Dion, who co-wrote the former. Maresca never emulated the success of these two hits, though he wrote a few hits for artists like Jimmie Rodgers (Child Of Clay), The Regents (Runaround), and Bernadette Carroll (Party Girl). His brief recording career yielded one hit, Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out). In the 1970s he was head of publicity of the Laurie Records label. One interesting tidbit about The Wanderer: the line “…I’m as happy as a clown with my two fists of iron, but I’m going nowhere” is much more independently-minded in Maresca’s original lyric: “…with my two fists of iron and my bottle of beer”.

You might see a pattern emerging here: this month we also lost Wayne Carson, the man who co-wrote The Box Tops’ perfect slice of sub-two-minute poop, The Letter and also their hits Neon Rainbow and Soul Deep, as well as Always On My Mind, which was a hit for Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and the Pet Shop Boys, and Gary Stewart’s She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles), among others.

Buddy Emmons, who has died at 78, is regarded by many as the foremost steel guitar player. He didn’t play on many crossover hits, though he did back artists like Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, Judy Collins, Nancy Sinatra, The Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, Sonny & Cher, JJ Cale, Manhattan Transfer and even Paul McCartney (on his unreleased 1974 Nashville sessions). Perhaps most famously, he played the intro to the Carpenters hit Top Of The World (he also played on their Jambalaya). At 18, in 1955, he joined the band of Little Jimmy Dickens, who himself died earlier this year. He went on to play with some of the big names in country, including Ray Price, Ernest Tubb, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins , Buck Owens, June Carter Cash, The Dillards, Bobby Bare, George Jones, Skeeter Davis, Willie Nelson, k.d. lang, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood and Randy Travis.

gallery_3Eric Wrixon didn’t stick around for very long with either of the two legendary bands which he co-founded, but Belfast-born keyboardist has the distinction of having named one of them: Them (after a 1954 science fiction film of that name). Initially he was too young to join the band he had named; once he came of age, he briefly rejoined Them in 1965, then joined R&B band The People and left them, then joined The Wheels, left them too, and in 1969 helped found Thin Lizzy, leaving them too in order to go to Germany.

David ‘Mdavu’ Masondo was a founder member of The Soul Brothers, who were South Africa’s biggest music acts in the 1970s and ‘80s. His name will doubtless live on: he fathered 40 children — though not all by his two wives. The Soul Brothers released 39 albums, most of them best-sellers. Despite being huge in Southern Africa, they never broke internationally. Masondo was about to release a new album with the only surviving original Soul Brother, bassist Moses Ngwenya, when he died of kidney failure on July 5. Four members of the original line-up died before him, all in two separate car accidents.

The accomplished actor Theodore Bikel was the original Captain von Trapp (apart from the real one, of course) in the stage version of The Sound of Music — Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote Edelweiss specifically for him. He also made his mark for his portrayal of Tevye the Milkman in the Broadway production of The Fiddler On The Roof before it became a movie. Bikel was also a performer and composer of Jewish folk songs; with people like Pete Seeger, he co-founded the Newport Folk Festival. Born in Austria, his parents were Zionists who fled to Palestine after their home country voted to join Greater Germany. It was in Tel Aviv that Bikel’s acting career began. He was also a political activist, engaged in the civil rights movement. Within Zionism, he belonged to the social-democratic wing which called for universal human rights, peaceful co-existence with the indigenous people of Palestine and negotiations with Arab states, opposed the annexation of the West Bank and a urged an equitable two-state solution.

 

Bruce Rowland, 74, English drummer (Joe Cocker, Grease Band, Fairport Convention), on June 29
Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends (1969, Live at Woodstock, on drums)

Bob Whitlock, 84, jazz bassist (Gerry Mulligan Quartet), on June 29

Arthur G. Wright, 78, soul and funk session guitarist, writer and arranger, in early July
Lee Hazlewood – Houston (1976, on bass)
Thelma Houston – Don’t Leave Me This Way (1976, as arranger)
Wright Bros. Flying Machine – Leatherman’s Theme (1978, on guitar)

Val Doonican, 88, Irish singer and TV personality, on July 1
Val Doonican – I’m Gonna Get There Somehow (1965)

Red Lane, 76, country singer and songwriter, on July 1
Tammy Wynette – Till I Get It Right (1973, as co-writer)

Roy C. Bennett, 96, American songwriter, on July 2
Dean Martin – The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane (1955, as co-writer)
Elvis Presley – Puppet On A String (1965, as co-writer)

Charanjit Singh, 74, Indian electric music pioneer, on July 3

David Masondo, 67, singer of South African mbaqanga group The Soul Brothers, on July 5
The Soul Brothers – Bazobuya (1991)

Garrison Fewell, 61, guitarist, composer and educator, on July 5

Camille Bob, 77, soul singer with Little Bob & the Lollipops, on July 6
Little Bob & The Lollipops – Agent Double-O Soul (1966)
Camille Bob – 2 Weeks 2 Days Too Long (1972)

Julio Angel, 69, Puerto Rican rock, pop and bolero singer, on July 6

Ernie Maresca, 76, songwriter and singer, on July 8
Dion – The Wanderer (1961)
Ernie Maresca – Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out!) (1962)

Michael Masser, 74, soul and pop songwriter and producer, on July 9
Diana Ross – I Thought It Took A Little Time (1976, as co-writer)
Marilyn McCoo – Saving All My Love For You (1978, as co-writer)

Bunny Mack, 69, Sierra Leone-born funk singer, on July 11
Bunny Mack – Let Me Love You (1981)

Hussein Fatal, 38, rapper with The Outlawz, in car crash on July 11

Javier Krahe, 71, Spanish singer-songwriter, on July 12
Javier Krahe – Camino de Nada (2002)

Tom Skinner, 61, singer-songwriter, on July 12

Eric Wrixon, 68, Northern Irish keyboardist, founder member of Them and Thin Lizzy, on July 13
The Wheels – Kicks (1966)

Joan Sebastian, 64, Mexican singer and songwriter, on July 13

Bob ‘Bumblebee Bob’ Novak, 89, blues musician and artist, on July 13

Dave Somerville, 81, Canadian lead singer with The Diamonds, on July 14
The Diamonds – Little Darlin’ (1957)

Howard Rumsey, 97, jazz bassist and bandleader, on July 15

John Taylor, 72, jazz pianist (Azimuth; Ronnie Scott Quintet), on July 17
Azimuth with Ralph Towner – The Longest Day (1980)

Buddy Buie, 74, songwriter, on July 18
Atlanta Rhythm Section – So Into You (1976, as writer)

Dave Black, 62, guitarist of British rock group Goldie, hit by train on July 18
Goldie – Making Up Again (1978)

Van Alexander, 100, songwriter, film and TV score composer, arranger, on July 19
Ella Fitzgerald feat. Chick Webb Orchestra – A-Tisket, A-Tasket (1938, as arranger)
Hugo Montenegro – Jeannie (1966, as co-writer)

Kyoko, Japanese musician and singer with avant-garde outfit OOIOO, on July 19

Wayne Carson, 72, songwriter, on July 20
Box Tops – Neon Rainbow (1967, as co-writer)
Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind (1987, as co-writer)

Dieter Moebius, 71, Swiss-German electronic musician, on July 20
Cluster – Hollywood (1974)

Mitch Aliotta, 71, bass guitarist of psychedelic soul group Rotary Connection, on July 21
Rotary Connection – Amen (1967)

Theodore Bikel, 91, Austrian-born actor, folk singer and composer, on July 21
Theodore Bikel – Edelweiss (1959)
Theodore Bikel – If I Were A Rich Man (2006)

Justin Lowe, 32, guitarist of metalcore band After the Burial, announced on July 21

Eddie Hardin, 66, rock pianist (Spencer Davis Group, Hardin & York), on July 22
Spencer Davis Group – Time Seller (1967)

Daron Norwood, 49, country singer, on July 22
Daron Norwood – If I Ever Love Again (1994)

Norbert Schwefel, 54, German rock musician, on July 23

Doug Rowe, singer with Australian country-rock band The Flying Circus, announced on July 23
The Flying Circus – Run, Run, Run (1969)

Patsy Stoneman, 90, country music pioneer, on July 23

Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22, singer and daughter of Whitney Houston, on July 26

Rickey Grundy, 56, gospel musician, on July 27

Buddy Emmons, 78, steel guitarist, on July 29
Buddy Emmons – Gonna Build A Mountain (1963)
Carpenters – Top Of The World (1972, on steel guitar)

Lynn Anderson, 67, country singer, on July 30
Lynn Anderson – Keep Me In Mind (1973)

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(PW in comments)

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Should Have Been A UK Top 10 Hit – Vol. 2

July 23rd, 2015 5 comments

Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit - Vol. 2

The second mix of singles that unaccountably failed to make the UK Top 10 starts off with a trio of songs that have become timeless classics since: Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out With Him, Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ Perfect Skin.

Joy Division even had two failed cracks at Top 10 glory, though one expects that reaching the upper reaches of the hit parades wasn’t really the group’s objective. Still, Love Will Tear Us Apart reached only #13 in 1980 and #19 when it was re-released in 1983 on the back of successor band New Order’s success (including a Top 10 hit a couple months earlier with Blue Monday). Happily, Paul Young’s version, also of 1983, wasn’t released as a single in the UK, so we were spared the indignity of his warbled interpretation inevitably going places the original twice failed to reach. Still, Young had Top 10 hits with it in Belgium and the Netherlands.

My selection criteria for this series have mostly excluded underperforming records by serial Top 10 residents. Every run of hits is liable to include an aberration or two. But I include ABBA’s Ring Ring because it was a spectacular flop, peaking at only #32 in 1974, rather than an aberration. Released as a follow-up to the #1 hit Waterloo, its failure (and that of the inferior I Do I Do I Do I Do; #38 in 1975) suggests that ABBA were initially seen as a fleeting one-hit wonder, not as the mammoth gold record accumulating machine they’d become following the release of the sublime S.O.S. in the summer of 1975.

gallery_2The year 1974 was particularly notorious for fine songs missing the Top 10 — and some rotten songs getting there instead. Though even in that year there were times when one could see why there was little room for a song as great as Pilot’s Magic, which really deserved to get to #1, as its lesser follow-up, January, did (in the first week of February ‘75).

As Magic peaked at #11 in the first week of December 1974, the Top 10 included Barry White’s You’re The First, The Last, My Everything; David Essex’s Gonna Make You A Star; Rubettes’ Juke Box Jive; Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet; Eddie Holman’s (Hey There) Lonely Girl; and Queen’s Killer Queen, plus records by Gary Glitter and Elvis and a reggae thing by Rupie Edwards called Ire Feelings (Skanga). Still, why did Hello’s now rightly forgotten Tell Him zoom past Pilot from #12 to 6 in the charts? Where is the justice in that?

I imagine Lynsey de Paul’s Spector-Wall-of-Sound takeoff Ooh I Do was in its anachronistic ways a little ahead of its time. In the mid-1970s the revivalist taste was ‘50s rock & roll, with Sha-Na-Na and Showaddywaddy (though their big hit, Under The Moon Of Love, was a cover of an early ’60s song). The early ‘60s girl-band revival obviously had some traction in 1974, as Hello’s glam-rock cover of The Exciters’ Tell Him shows, but the pastiche of these songs had to wait another six years, when the Ramones hit the Top 10 with Baby I Love You.

I am ready to acknowledge that opinions on Malcolm McLaren’s Something’s Jumping In My Shirt might differ. I hold it to be one of the best pop songs of 1989, so its peak at #29 is inexplicable. The #1 was Black Box’s Ride On Time, and Tears for Fear’s Sowing The Seeds Of Love was featuring in the Top 10 as well. But the great British public also made Top 10 hits of such horrors or lightweight nonsense like Swing The Mood by Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers, Every Day (I Love You More) by Jason Donovan, Blame It On The Boogie by Big Fun (not to be confused with the fine dance song Big Fun by Innercity), I Just Don’t Have The Heart by Cliff Richard and Hey Dj I Can’t Dance To That Music You’re Playing by The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo. McLaren might have had a legitimate grievance…

And when Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out With Him peaked at #13 in late August 1979, ahead of it were, in order from #1 to 12: We Don’t Talk Anymore by Cliff Richard, I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats, Bang Bang by B.A. Robertson, Angel Eyes by Roxy Music, After The Love Has Gone by Earth Wind & Fire, Gangsters by The Special AKA, Duke Of Earl by Darts, Money by Flying Lizards, Reasons To Be Cheerful by Ian Dury And The Blockheads, Ooh! What A Life by the Gibson Brothers, Just When I Needed You Most by Randy Vanwarmer, and Hersham Boys by Sham 69. You decide whether or not Jackson suffered an injustice in that company. The inclusion of the song in this series clues you in on my view.

gallery_1As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-labelled covers.

1. Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him (#13 1979)
2. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (#13 1980 / #19 1983)
3. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin (#26 1983)
4. The Christians – Hooverville (#21 1987)
5. Squeeze – Hourglass (#16 1987)
6. Swing Out Sister – You On My Mind (#28 1989)
7. Malcolm McLaren feat. Lisa Marie – Something’s Jumping In My Shirt (#29 1989)
8. Heatwave – Groove Line (#12 1978)
9. Hi-Gloss – You’ll Never Know (#12 1981)
10. Propaganda – Duel (#21 1985)
11. The The – Heartland (#29 1986)
12. Bad Company – Feel Like Makin’ Love (#20 1975)
13. P.P. Arnold – The First Cut Is The Deepest (#18 1967)
14. The Mindbenders – Ashes To Ashes (#14 1966)
15. Emile Ford & the Checkmates – Them There Eyes (#18 1960)
16. The Bar-Kays – Soul Finger (#33 1967)
17. Abba – Ring Ring (#32 1974)
18. Lynsey De Paul – Ooh I Do (#25 1974)
19. Pilot – Magic (#11 1974)
20. Candlewick Green – Who Do You Think You Are (#21 1974)
21. Daniel Boone – Beautiful Sunday (#21 1972)
22. Barry Ryan – Can’t Let You Go (#32 1972)

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Any Major Disco Vol. 1

July 16th, 2015 7 comments

Any Major Disco Vol. 1

The Any Major Funk series might have ended, but that does not mean that we must pack away our dancing shoes. So here we begin a new series of disco mixes, drawing from the various strands in the genre, using 1982 as an approximate cut-off date.

The first mix coincides roughly with the 36th anniversary of the record burning bonanza at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on 12 July 1979, which gave full expression to the Disco Sucks movement. Several students of music, such as the British journalist Simon Price, have charged that the the anti-disco movement was driven by elements of racism and homophobia. While not all who invaded the pitch in Chicago for the Disco Demolition Night (or applauded from afar or donned their Disco Sucks t-shirts) were motivated by bigotry, the charge has some merit.

The negative reaction to disco was not invariably racist, of course. For starters, a lot of disco was produced by white people; including the unlikely poster boys of disco, The Bee Gees. Just as disco was a diverse collective, so were there different reasons for rejecting it. But at Comiskey Park there was a distinct racist dimension as the mob of sonic reactionaries incinerated records not only by disco acts such as Sister Sledge and Chic, but also those by artists such as Marvin Gaye and, unbelievably, Bill Withers. Records by any black artist who wasn’t Jimi Hendrix were liable to fuel the pyre.

The charge of homophobia is more difficult to substantiate, even if some Village People albums found their way on to the pyre. Nonetheless, let me try.

Disco was a broad movement borne of gay and soul-funk clubs alike. Sartorial flamboyance, funky basslines and synth experiments tended to blend across the sub-genres of what would become known as disco. The homophobia in anti-disco sentiments was not necessarily of a gay-bashing kind, but arguably was grounded in the disco culture’s threat to the prevalent models of masculinity.

When the mob at Comiskey Park burnt Earth, Wind & Fire records — possibly while humming Emerson, Lake & Palmer — a dimension of their unarticulated objection related to flamboyant costumes worn by men who sang in feminine voices. Disco challenged the traditional models of manhood (and, in the case of the Village People, satirised them), and it subverted prevailing social (and sonic) norms. Comiskey Park and the Disco Sucks movement were, in part, a reaction to that.

A few years later this threat to conventional masculinity found expression again when many believed Prince, who already had a prodigious track-record of heterosexual behaviour, to be gay on grounds of his Purple Rain stylings. The effete Prince subverted the standard notions of masculinity. The only explanation many could find for that was to believe Prince was gay.

Across the musical fence, the camp exploits of Dee Snider and David Lee Roth, or indeed Kiss, did not cause infernos of vinyl. But these acts performed their shtick with a nod and a wink which their rock fan constituency could understand and even relate to. The same sort of fans denied, at the pain of death, that Freddy Mercury was gay, and the Kiss make-up was considered not camp but an extension of the members’ individual personae. There was nothing here that threatened concepts of masculinity in the way the unironic flamboyance of many disco stars did.

Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White and Philip Bailey defied the sartorial codes of American masculinity.

Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White and Philip Bailey defied the sartorial codes of American masculinity.

But homophobia and racism surely were not the primary incitement for the Disco Sucks movement. Disco supposedly sucked not because the music was bad (though some of it indisputably was) or because Verdine White played the bass while sporting silver flamingo wings. It sucked because, like punk, it ate itself culturally. The exclusivism of clubs such as Studio 54 caused resentment – even among those who produced disco music. Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards wrote Le Freak after they were denied entry to Studio 54; the original title was Fuck Off. And yet, how could the artists be blamed for the behaviour of those who played their records? Effigies of nightclub owners, not records by the artists, might have made for more appropriate burning matter at Comiskey Park.

The anti-disco sentiment was fed by disco’s ubiquity, starting with Saturday Night Fever (a gritty film which disowns the phoniness associated with the Studio 54 culture, a message usually overlooked in favour of Barry Gibb’s sterility-inducing trousers on the cover of the mega-selling soundtrack). Disco Sucks was also a reaction to the hegemony of the genre and its culture. It was a reaction to the Saturday Night Fever poster and Travolta’s white suit, to Ethel Merman and Sesame Street recording “disco” albums, to acts like Blondie and the Rolling Stones dabbling in disco sounds, to the hedonism of the élite, and to the occasional musical horror produced by cash-in corporates which was falsely considered to be representative of disco.

The anti-disco sentiment was fed by disco’s ubiquity, starting with Saturday Night Fever

The anti-disco sentiment was fed by disco’s ubiquity, starting with Saturday Night Fever.

And here we enter the final error of the Disco Sucks movement: the false notion that disco is a single, homogenous genre. As in rock music, there are common elements. Most disco songs have a 4/4 beat, basslines tend to drive the songs, and so on. And yet, take songs like, say, Love To Love You Baby by Donna Summer and Shoulda Loved Ya by Narada Michael Walden (on Any Major Funk Vol. 3). Both fall broadly within the disco genre, but one is Euro-Disco and the other is what one might call Disco-Funk. They are as different as Sweet Home Alabama is from A Whole Lotta Rosie.

Then there was the pop-disco stuff such as Y.M.C.A. (though I’d be reluctant to call it disco), which is quite different from either Summer or Walden. Blondie’s disco stuff, Heart Of Glass or Atomic, represents yet another separate genre; it’s disco, of a sort, but not in the way Cheryl Lynn’s Got To Be Real (on Any Major Funk Vol. 1) is disco. Like rock, disco is a collective term for many sub-genres.

This series will, I hope, demonstrate just how diverse disco was as a genre — and why the Lynyrd Skynyrd fans at Comiskey Park were thoroughly mistaken: disco never sucked.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-bootyshaken covers. PW in comments.

1. Bee Gees – You Should Be Dancing (1976)
2. Vicki Sue Robinson – Turn The Beat Around (1976)
3. Chic – Everybody Dance (1977)
4. Carol Williams – More (1976)
5. Don Ray – Got To Have Loving (1978)
6. Loleatta Holloway – Hit And Run (1977)
7. Brenda And The Tabulations – Let’s Go All The Way (Down) (1977)
8. Musique – In The Bush (1978)
9. Michael Zager Band – Let’s All Chant (1977)
10. Dan Hartman – Relight My Fire (1979)
11. Santa Esmeralda – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (1977)
12. Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing (1975)
13. Patrick Juvet – I Love America (1978)
14. Grace Jones – La Vie En Rose (1977)
15. Donna Summer – Love To Love You Baby (1975)
16. Rose Royce – Is It Love You’re After (1979)
17. Ben E. King – Music Trance (1980)
18. KC & the Sunshine Band – (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty (1976)
19. Andrea True Connection – What’s Your Name, What’s Your Number (1977)
20. Odyssey – Use It Up And Wear It Out (1980)

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Live Aid – 30 years ago

July 10th, 2015 10 comments

Live Aid: 13 July 1985. Thirty years ago!

The music wasn’t invariably good, the artists tended to be self-serving, we had seats right at the back of Wembley Stadium, and the legacy of the event is questioned by many. And still, for me Live Aid is an unforgettable event, not only as a historic concert, but because for one day there was so such a concentration of goodwill among people.

Indisputably, there were long stretches of tedium (Bryan Ferry!), as some acts performed songs nobody needed to hear. And the creations of mad hairstylists immortalised the decade of my youth as one bereft of elegance. Just look at Bono! But the dull stretches were enlivened by some high point.

And everybody is right, Queen were indeed, well, majestic. Fred made crazy love to the whole of Wembley stadium. Queen’s set provided my abiding memory: the crowds doing that arms-aloft-clap-clap-arms-aloft-clap-clap thing from the video of Radio Gaga – what a sight that was from where I was sitting, overlooking the masses on the pitch – followed by Mercury leading the 80,000 people (or whatever) in vocal exercises. I was not a Queen fan before Live Aid, nor was I a fan after. But on that day, I was a Queen fan. Even today, I marvel at the footage of Queen’s segment.

Queen played six songs in their allocated time. Acts like U2, Dire Straits and The Who played just two, with all of them doodling on forever with one of these. Dire Straits’ Sultans Of Swing seemed never-ending. The Who went into extra-time with Won’t Get Fooled Again (which is a great song, so no complaints here).

U2 also played my favourite of their repertoire, Bad. Suddenly, Bono jumped off the stage, grabbed that girl from the crowd, and danced with her. In a documentary made twenty years later, Bono suggested it was a spontaneous act. It may well be that he hadn’t planned to do this at Live Aid, but he had pulled that stunt — probably stolen from Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark video, the one with Courtney Cox as the dancee — during every concert at the time. I know: I saw three of them in three different countries over successive weeks that summer.

If Queen had not stolen the show, then Elton John’s set might have taken the honours as the best in the London leg. Elton did the right thing: play the hits. And then he introduced George Michael, who came out as a bearded man for the first time. He was magnificent as he sang Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, with the Dame backing him. When he got around to recording it almost a decade later, it had lost its magic.

In Philadelphia, Hall & Oates stole the show. In a pretty soul-free line-up, the blue-eyed soulmen hooked up with bona fide soul legends, singing soul music. Otherwise there were the Four Tops, Billy Ocean and Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass, appearing on stage for the first time since his accident which left him paraplegic. Neither they, nor Run-DMC had a prominent slot. Pati LaBelle did, and her acute histrionics were entirely distressing, even for a soul fan.

I missed Led Zeppelin’s set. Backed by Phil Collins, who had performed in both London and in Philadelphia, they regarded their performance as their worst ever — and blamed poor Phil for it. They have not given permission for the footage to be used since. So it doesn’t appear on the four-disc DVD set. Also missing from it is Duran Duran’s performance of A View Go A Kill, thanks to Simon Le Bon famous croak (see it here).

The embarrassing moments kept coming. Bob Dylan and the two craggies from the Stones (who looked 60-plus then, but were only in their early 40s) contrived to perform an amusing cacophony of Blowing In The Wind, reportedly because they could not hear each other due to some technical mishap or other.

Doubtless many acts on the bill felt deeply about feeding the world and reminding the starving Ethiopians that they were doing their best to ensure that there will be snow in Africa next Christmastime, regardless of the inopportune consequences of such radical climate change. But many of those who took part were also opportunists, wanting in on the cash-in. Some, such as Queen (who might have been sincere or opportunistic or both), revived their flagging careers on the back of Live Aid. In fact, reportedly all but one act who appeared at Live Aid recorded increased sales after the event, the exception being the Adam Ant. Live Aid was at least as much about corporate profiteering as it was about social engagement. Did much of the artists’ profits from increased post-Live Aid sales go to famine relief? Didn’t think so.

Paradoxically, Live Aid was also a bit of a racially problematic event, and the 4-DVD set aggravates that defect. No African artists other than Sade — hardly an artist whom one would file under World Music — appeared in either London or Philadelphia; an oddity when the event was supposed to raise awareness about Africa. As noted above, black artists were very thin on the bill. The DVD set even manages to exclude the Four Tops’ five-song set, as well as that of Billy Ocean.

I don’t buy into the idea that Live Aid was in itself malign. Pragmatically, it raised money which saved some lives, and built clinics and water purification schemes. That is commendable. It did raise awareness on a range of issues concerning famine, albeit imperfectly, and it promoted some sense of social responsibility. In the callous, self-centred 1980s, Live Aid made charity cool. But it also proposed a notion that charity is not selfless, that for your charity you must get something in return, at the very least the option to congratulate yourself. Consumerist charity, one might call it.

Live Aid, at least initially, did not see itself as a solution but as a contribution to facing a problem. Read that way, its contribution was admirable.

Oh, and Bob Geldof never said: “Give me your fuckin’ money.”

London programme cover

And so, here is a compilation of some Live Aid highlights, timed to fit on two standard CD-Rs and including home-pledged covers. PW in comments. Some comments refer to an earlier version of this article.

1. Live Aid – Intro
2. Status Quo – Rockin’ All Over The World
3. Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down
4. Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays
5. Ultravox – Vienna
6. Spandau Ballet – Only When You Leave
7. Elvis Costello – All You Need Is Love
8. Sade – Your Love Is King
9. Phil Collins – Against The Odds
10. Alison Moyet & Paul Young – That’s The Way Love Is
11. Bryan Adams – Summer Of ’69
12. U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
13. Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
14. Queen – Radio Gaga
15. Queen – We Are The Champions
16. Queen – We Will Rock You
17. Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)
18. David Bowie – Heroes

1. Pretenders – Chain Gang
2. The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
3. Elton John – Rocket Man
4. George Michael & Elton John – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
5. Madonna – Holiday
6. Freddie Mercury & Brian May – Is This The World We Created?
7. Paul McCartney – Let It Be
8. Live Aid Wembley Finale – Do They Know It’s Christmas
9. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Teach Your Children Well
10. Eric Clapton – White Room
11. Neil Young – Nothing Is Perfect (In God’s Perfect Plan)
12. Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin – Ain’t Too Proud To Beg
13. Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin – My Girl
14. Bob Dylan with Keith Richards & Ron Wood – Blowing In The Wind
15. Live Aid Philadelphia Finale – We Are The World

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The Ringo Starr Collection

July 7th, 2015 10 comments

Ringo

Today, July 7, is Ringo Starr’s 75th birthday, which gives me a good reason to put up an entirely unscheduled collection of non-Beatles tracks starring Ringo.

If you want to really annoy an expert on drumming, repeat the old John Lennon quip that Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles, and pronounce it as some sort of fact. Those who know about such things will point out that Ringo was an innovative drummer in the Beatles with perfect timing, pointing to songs such as A Day In The Life, All You Need Is Love, Rain, Ticket To Ride and Here Comes The Sun (the time changes in the latter drive strumming guitarists to madness). If it all sounds ordinary now, it’s because other drummers followed Ringo’s lead.

Even the supposedly better drummer in The Beatles calls Ringo his favourite drummer. George Harrison recalled that Ringo was the final piece in the Beatles jigsaw puzzle — without him the Beatles couldn’t have been The Beatles. So what did John Lennon mean with his assumed put-down of Ringo? Presumably that Paul’s technique was better than Ringo’s. But when he recorded his first proper solo album, Lennon had Ringo backing him on every song.

Great drummers such as Jim Keltner, whose career I chronicled lately over two volumes and who became Lennon’s favoured drummer, point to the influence Ringo had on them. Keltner says that he learned from observing Ringo, whom he describes as his “idol”. This is not an apprentice admiring the elder master; Ringo is only two years older than Jim, whose recording career began around the time The Beatles fitst came yo the US. Max Weinberg, the E-Street Band’s drummer, said in 1984 that Ringo’s “influence in rock drumming was as important and wide spread as Gene Krupa’s had been in jazz”.

Ringo Starr in 1962

Ringo Starr in 1962

Ringo is credited with changing the way drummers hold their sticks. He didn’t invent the matched grip (in which both hands hold the stick the same way, as opposed to the traditional grip, where the left hands holds the stick as you would hold a chopstick), but as the first rock drummer to appear prominently on US television, usually on as raised platform, his preferred method caught on and became the default technique in rock.

What Ringo lacks in technique he makes up in application, perfect timing and innovation, much as in soccer most of the great goalscorers don’t necessarily have the technique of keepy-uppy champions (that analogy, I suppose, makes Gene Krupa Pelé and Hal Blaine Lionel Messi).

As a person, Ringo has had a reputation of being the easy-going, fun guy we knew from The Beatles. Occasionally he has shown a petulant side, but few people seem to have bad things to say about the man. As a driving force behind the anti-apartheid Sun City record, as a co-initiator and musically — drumming with his son Zac on the record — his political heart must be in the right place.

Ringo clearly is also not an egomaniac. Many times he is happy to drum alongside another drummer, often Jim Keltner (who in turn doesn’t really like co-drumming). On this mix, he plays alongside Keltner on the tracks by Manhattan Transfer and Keith Moon (on which Ringo also raps). On B.B. King’s Ghetto Woman, Ringo drums with Jim Gordon, subject of two collections in this series (see Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). Also worth noting is Harry Nilsson’s Daydream, on which Ringo’s drumming is supplemented by the work of George Harrison — on cowbells. Harrison also plays alongside Ringo on Leon Russell’s Delta Lady, and wrote the track by Ringo that opens this collection.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a CD-R and includes home-backbeat covers.

1. Ringo Starr – Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond) (1973)
2. Peter Frampton – Alright (1972)
3. Attitudes – Good News (1977)
4. Leon Russell – Delta Lady (1970)
5. B.B. King – Ghetto Woman (1971)
6. John Lennon – Well Well Well (1970)
7. The Band – I Shall Be Released (1978)
8. Carly Simon – More & More (1975)
9. Bobby Hatfield – Oo Wee Baby, I Love You (1972)
10. T. Rex & Elton John – Children Of The Revolution (1972)
11. Keith Moon – Together (1975)
12. Harry Nilsson – Daybreak (1972)
13. George Harrison – When We Was Fab (1987)
14. Paul McCartney – Not Such A Bad Boy (1984)
15. Manhattan Transfer – Zindy Lou (1976)
16. Ian McLagan – Hold On (1979)
17. Tom Petty – Hard To Find A Friend (1993)
18. Guthrie Thomas – Captain Jack (1990)
19. The Alpha Band – Born In Captivity (1977)
20. Artists United Against Apartheid – Sun City (1985)

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Previous session musicians’ collection:
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2

 

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