Beatles Reunited – Everest (1971)

October 8th, 2015 3 comments

Beatles - Everest

On Friday John Lennon would have turned 75; a rather frightening thought, since John has stayed forever young, (no) thanks to Mark Chapman.

So this is a good occasion to begin the alternative history of Beatles album as they might have been had the band not split in 1970. I did something like that a few years ago, but not very well. In revisiting the idea I was inspired by Peter Lee’s marvelous alternative history The Death and Life of Mal Evans: A Novel, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, with a Beatles concert “from 1972”.

In his book, Lee recreates Beatles albums through the 1970s, employing rather stricter criteria than I do (his selection process alone is worth getting the book for). The title of this first imaginary Beatles album, set in 1971, is borrowed from Lee’s book. The Beatles actually considered the title Everest for the LP they’d call Abbey Road, on account of the brand of cigarettes smoked by sound engineer Geoff Emerick (whose 2006 book Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles is a classic in the Beatles canon).

Such was the wealth of quality which the four produced between 1970 and 1972, that this set is a double LP. The “next album” will be released in “1972” (with hold-overs from George’s All Things Must Pass and John’s Imagine albums).

Some of these tracks might have been Beatles tracks. Jealous Guy was demoed under a different title during the White Album sessions; the version of All Things Must Pass featured here is, in fact, a Beatles demo; Apple Scruffs was another Beatles reject.

In Peter Lee’s book, the first imaginary Beatles album included Lennon’s scathing attack on McCartney, How Do You Sleep. To even things out, I’ll let John have that for his solo album but include Paul’s veiled stab at John, Too Many People.

Ringo released two albums in 1970, both comprising cover versions of standards and country songs respectively. The Beatles didn’t do covers after 1965, but we’ll indulge Ringo with one song, Stardust, which was arranged by McCartney. There was one other contender, the Ringo-penned Coochy Coochy. It didn’t make the cut on account of it not being very good.

I tried to keep Yoko and Linda out of these proceedings, which wasn’t entirely possible, since McCartney’s Ram album was credited to him and Linda (so her voice on, say, Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, is unavoidable. But imagine all that with John’s harmonies!). But no Oh Yoko, and no Long Haired Lady. However, seeing I let Linda sing, I let John’s song to Yoko, Hold On, pass. It sounds like a Beatles song, and includes the most unexpected Sesame Street reference ever.

The whole thing fits on a standard CD-R. Covers included; PW in comments.

Side 1
1   Instant Karma (We All Shine On) (John)
2   What Is Life (George)
3   Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul)
4   Every Night (Paul)
5   Apple Scruffs (George)
Side 2
7   Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Paul)
8   Stardust (Ringo)
9   All Things Must Pass (George)
10  Isolation (John)
11  Ram On (Paul)
12  Jealous Guy (John)
Side 3
12  Mother (John)
13  Wah-Wah (George)
14  The Back Seat Of My Car (Paul)
15  Hold On (John)
16  Love (John)
Side 4
17  Too Many People (Paul)
18  Working Class Hero (John)
19  Isn’t It A Pity (George)
20  Junk (Paul)
21  How? (John)


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In Memoriam – September 2015

October 2nd, 2015 5 comments

In memoriam 091With the death of Wilton Felder, only one original Crusader is left standing, Stix Hooper. As the saxophonist of The Crusaders, Felder was responsible for one of my favourite moments in music: the one-minute note he held in the live version of So Far Away. It’s an impressive feat, made greater by how the band falls in at the end of that note. Felder was not only a gifted sax player, but also a sought-after bassist. In that capacity he played on Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On (the song and the LP), Joan Baez’s Diamonds And Rust (also song and album), Billy Joel’s Piano Man and Michael Franks’ Monkey See-Monkey Do, as well as for Randy Newman, Seals & Croft, Shuggie Otis, Jackson Browne, The Four Tops, Steely Dan (Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied), Dusty Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray, Al Jarreau, Minnie Riperton, Millie Jackson, Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, John Cale, Bobby Womack, Tina Turner (whose version of Help he also produced), James Ingram and many others. He also played on several Motown tracks, including (according to Wikipedia, so caveat emptor) the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back and The Love You Save.

The sole survivor of the plane crash that killed Otis Redding has passed away at the age of 67. Trumpeter Ben Cauley, founding member of The Bar-Kays, also lost four bandmates in the crash on December 10, 1967. The account of his survival is dramatic: he awoke as bandmate Phalon Jones looked out of the window and exclaimed, “Oh no”, realising the impending disaster. Cauley unbuckled himself, freeing him from his seat as the plane crashed into the icy Lake Monona. Clutching his seat pillow, he survived 20 minutes in the water — longer than was deemed possible even for insulated divers. After the crash he and fellow co-founder James Alexander (who is still alive, in large part due to it having been his turn to miss out on the Otis flight) refounded the group, continuing their backing work at Stax and recording in their own right. Cauley left the Bar-Kays in 1971, going on to back acts such as Isaac Hayes, Dobie Gray, Candi Staton, Denise LaSalle, Joe Tex, Bobby Womack, The Doobie Brothers, Donovan, Al Green, Millie Jackson, BB King, Boz Scaggs and more.

Peggy Jones, who has died at 75, was the mother of all rock women with guitars. As rhythm guitarist in Bo Diddley’s band, the affectionately called Lady Bo blazed a trail at a time when women musicians in rock & roll were rare, never mind black teenage girls. Trained in tap, ballet and opera, Jones was also a bandleader, and later backed acts such as and later backed James Brown and Sam & Dave.

In memoriam 092Few pop stars go from a successful career in pop and TV to one in academia teaching law. But so it was with Frederick Greene, who was a singer with Sha Na Na and best known as the brainy “Denny” in the group’s TV show. In the movie Grease, it was Greene who sang Tears On My Pillow at the school dance. He also appeared with his group at Woodstock. In 1971 he had obtained a BA in law from Columbia. After Sha Na Na, he obtained his masters at Harvard and a JD from Yale. For a while he worked as a movie executive. At the time of his death from cancer at 66, Greene was a professor of law at the University of Dayton, Ohio.

Ska fans will have mourned the death of Rico Rodriguez, the Cuban trombonist who played on many records which fed the genre’s revival in Britain in the early 1980s, and played on records of the Two Tone movement’s main purveyors, the Specials and Selecter. A Rastafarian who had moved from Cuba to Jamaica in the 1950s, Rodriguez also played on many reggae records, including by Bob Marley, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Toots & The Maytals, Burning Spear, Prince Buster and Junior English. He also played on pop and rock records, backing among others Joan Armatrading, Godley & Creme, Ian Dury, Jim Capaldi, John Martyn, Paul Young (including the hit Love Of The Common People), Peter Gabriel, Ocean Colour Scene, Super Furry Animals, Amy Winehouse (on Teach Me Tonight), and Tom Jones & Jools Holland

It was a star of the jazz scene who played one of the great sax solos in 1970s pop. Phil Woods had already been an established figure in jazz since the 1950s, as a sideman to some of the biggest names ijn the genre (including the likes of Gillespie and Monk) as well as in his own right. In the 1950s he was seen as a successor to Charlie Parker, whose widow he later married. In the 1970s Woods began to guest on soul and pop songs, backing acts such as Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Phoebe Snow and his old collaborator Quincy Jones on the Sanford & Son theme. But his most famous bit of playing is that marvellous sax solo on Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are in 1977. He also played on Steely Dan’s Doctor Wu, on which fellow sax man Wilton Felder played the bass. So two session musicians on the same song died within a couple of days of one another…


Boomer Castleman, 70, singer-songwriter, guitarist, inventor of the palm pedal, on Sep. 1
Boomer Castleman – Judy Mae (1975)

Brianna Lea Pruett, 32, singer and songwriter, suicide on Sep. 2
Brianna Lea Pruett – Shine For You (2014)

Don Griffin, 60, guitarist of The Miracles (1974-78), in traffic accident on Sep. 3
The Miracles – Love Machine (Part 1) (1975)
Anita Baker – Been So Long (1986, on guitar)

Rico Rodriguez, 80, Cuban-born trombonist of British ska band The Specials, on Sep. 4
Rico Rodriguez – Ska Wars (1977)
Specials – A Message To You Rudy (1979)
Godley & Creme – Englishmen In New York (1981)

Graham Brazier, 63, singer of New Zealand group Hello Sailor, on Sep. 4
Hello Sailor – Blue Lady (1977)

Hal Willis, 82, Canadian country singer, on Sep. 4
Hal Willis – My Pink Cadillac (1956)

Frederick ‘Denny’ Greene, 66, singer with Sha-Na-Na, on Sep. 5
Sha Na Na – Tears On My Pillow (1978)

Guillermo Rubalcaba, 88, Cuban pianist, bandleader and composer, on Sep. 7

Augusta Lee Collins, 69, blues musician, in traffic accident on Sep. 7

Bryn Merrick, 56, bassist of British punk band The Damned (1983-88), on Sep. 12
The Damned – Grimly Fiendish (1985)

Gary Richrath, 65, guitarist and songwriter with REO Speedwagon, on Sep. 13
REO Speedwagon – Only The Strong Survive (1979)

Martin Kearns, 38, drummer of British death metal group Bolt Thrower, on Sep. 14

Peggy ‘Lady Bo’ Jones, 75, American guitarist, on Sep. 16
Bo Diddley – Hey! Bo Diddley (1957, on rhythm guitar and backing vocals)
Eric Burdon & The Animals – San Franciscan Nights (1967, on percussions)

Guy Béart, 85, French singer-songwriter, on Sep. 16
Guy Béart – L’eau vive (1958)

Daniel Kyre, 21, member of Internet music-comedy phenomenon Cyndago, suicide on Sep. 18

Ben Cauley, 67, trumpet player and singer with The Bar-Kays, on Sep. 21
The Bar-Kays – Soul Finger (1967)
Doobie Brothers – Here To Love You (1978)

Victor Démé, 53, Burkinabé singer-songwriter, on Sep. 21
Victor Démé – Djôn’maya (2008)

Ray Warleigh, 76, Australian-born saxophonist and flautist, on Sep. 21
Nick Drake – At The Chime Of A City Clock (1970, on alto sax)

Jamie ‘Brooklyn’ Prefontaine, 30, member of Canadian hip-hop group Winnipeg’s Most, on Sep. 22

Wilton Felder, 75, saxophonist of The Crusaders and session bass player, on Sep. 27
The Crusaders – So Far Away (live, 1974)
Steely Dan – Doctor Wu (1975, on bass; Phil Woods on sax)
Wilton Felder feat. Bobby Womack – (No Matter How High I Get) I’ll Still Be Looking Up To You (1984)

Denise Lor, 86, singer and actress, on Sep. 27
Denise Lor – If I Give My Heart To You (1954)

Frankie Ford, 76, pop singer, on Sep. 28
Frankie Ford – Sea Cruise (1959)

Phil Woods, 83, jazz and session saxophonist and clarinetist, on Sep. 29
Phil Woods – How’s Your Mama (1991)
Billy Joel – Just The Way You Are (1977)

(PW in comments)

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Any Major Soul 1974 – Vol. 1

September 24th, 2015 6 comments


If 1972 and ’73 were the zenith years of soul music, then 1974 was not that far behind in quality. This collection has some marvellous songs, as will the second volume. I think only two songs here are well-known, those by Ann Peebles (covered in the 1980s by Paul Young) and Betty Wright’s anthem to virginity-losing Tonight Is The Night, which now is better known in its glorious live version.

It always is a bit of a gamble starting off a mix with a track by an obscure group; here it is justified with Executive Suite’s delicious slice of Philly Soul. There’s not much to tell about this band which never made a breakthrough after having a bit of a disco hit with the featured track, When the Fuel Runs Out, written and produced by Philly Soul notables Norman Harris, Alan Felder and Bunny Sigler. Their lack of success is a pity; the self-titled LP was pretty great. In the early 1970s the group, then still called The Millionaires, had occasional vocal contributions from a young white singer by the name of Darryl Hall, who actually suggested the name-change to Executive Suite.

If the song Goodbye Nothing To Say by The Javells featuring Nosmo King sounds familiar, it is because Maxine Nightingale’s big 1976 hit Right Back To Where We Started From “sampled” heavily from it. Arguably it shouldn’t be on a soul mix: it appeared on the b-side of an English pop record titled Teenage Love by Nosmo King (the name is a wordplay), a pseudonym for one Stephen Jameson, who now plies his trade as a comedian. Apparently Jameson introduced his song to DJs on England’s Northern Soul circuit, which picked it up. So it does belong here.

New York band The Ace Spectrum released only three albums, of which 1974’s Inner Spectrum was the first. It was produced by songwriter, arranger and producer Patrick Adams whom you may know for his co-composition When You Wake Up Tomorrow for Candi Staton or Cathy Dennis’ 1991 hit Touch Me (All Night Long).

If you have not heard her before, you may well find Bettye Crutcher to be one of the discoveries of this set. Her Long As You Love Me album, released on Stax (for whom she was a staff composer), might have felt two years behind the times in 1974, when much of soul was breathed on by the upbeat vibes of disco. That might explain its lack of success, but, my, what an album it is!

Crutcher co-produced and co-wrote most of the songs with Mack Rice (him of Mustang Sally fame). It was her only album, and received barely any promotion from Stax. When Stax collapsed, Crutcher moved to England and became an antiques dealer. Her songwriting credits, alone or with others, include tracks such as Johnny Taylor’s much-covered Who’s Making Love and Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed , Barbara Mason’s From His Woman To You, William Bell’s My Whole World Is Falling Down, and Betty Wright’s (and later Ted Taylor’s) I’m Gonna Hate Myself In the Morning.

As ever, CD-R timed, covers, PW in comments.

1. Executive Suite – When The Fuel Runs Out
2. The Joneses – Hey Babe (Is The Gettin’ Still Good) Pt 1
3. Ace Spectrum – Don’t Send Nobody Else
4. The Javells feat. Nosmo King – Goodbye Nothing To Say
5. Major Harris – Two Wrongs
6. Betty Wright – Tonight Is the Night
7. Ann Peebles – I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down
8. The Soul Children – It’s Out Of My Hands
9. Lamont Dozier – Rose
10. Johnny Bristol – Reachin’ Out For Your Love
11. Grady Tate – I Wouldn’t Have You Any Other Way
12. Bettye Crutcher – Up For A Let Down
13. Lim Taylor – Isn’t It Wonderful
14. William DeVaughn – You Can Do It
15. Margie Joseph – Sweet Surrender
16. Gloria Scott – What Am I Gonna Do
17. The Manhattans – Don’t Take Your Love From Me
18. Blue Magic – Stop To Start
19. Gene Redding – I Can See The Lovelight
20. Candi Staton – Here I Am Again
21. Sidney Joe Qualls – Run To Me
22. The Four Tops – Right On Brother
23. Brother To Brother – Hey, What’s That You?


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A Life In Vinyl: 1982

September 16th, 2015 15 comments

Life in Vinyl 1982

As I was writing this post, I received an e-mail from a company asking whether I’d write about their product. I get many of these; almost all of them I ignore because this isn’t that kind of site. This one, however, grabbed my attention: a gift crate comprising toys and sweets which Americans of a certain age would have known as they grew up in the 1970s and ’80s.

The company had good timing: I’ve had opportunity to immerse myself in the years 1976-82 through a treasure trove of old magazines. There’s nothing like childhood/teenage nostalgia. The e-mail got me thinking what I’d like included in a crate like that, since most of the articles in the gift crate are specifically American. I won’t bore you with my ideas, but the idea is great. So, without wanting anything from and taking a What The Hell attitude towards dishing out a free plug, I refer you to

Which brings me to 1982, the year I turned 16 and during which my family left Germany to move to South Africa (an idea which I opposed due to apartheid, but I was in no position to negotiate a different destination).

82 gallery_1The Neue Deutsche Welle, or German New Wave, had begun to hit in 1981, with bands like Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, Extrabreit and Ideal making an impact in a country where the tired, hackneyed Schlager had nothing new to offer. It peaked quickly in 1982. There was a lot of great stuff: Falco, Joachim Witt, Fehlfarben and Spliff were particularly good; the godfathers of Neue Deutsche Welle, Kraftwerk, had a fine hit with Das Model. The lyrics ranged from the abstract to the cheeky to the anarchic. Falco and Spliff sang about drugs, Extrabreit about burning schools, the Spider Murphy Gang about a prostitute. And all that hit high in the charts.

But then the silly novelty acts crept in with their novelty hits, and what had been exciting quickly became annoying. Still, NWD changed Germany’s stodgy music mainstream. Two tracks are included in the mix; two more (by Spliff and a dance classic by Joachim Witt are there as “bonus tracks”).

I clearly had eclectic tastes in 1982. On this mix we have new wave, heavy metal, MOR, pop, soul, disco etc. Not represented is the jazz fusion stuff I got into that year: Eric Gale, Spyro Gyra, Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour and so on. The closest to jazz this mix comes is track 2 from Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly album. I remember how I had to look up four record shops to find it; Fagen’s solo debut had been sold out in the other stores.

But my favourite LP of 1982 was Dexys Midnight Runners“Too-Rye-Ay” (and I demonstrate my devotion to it by the correct application of quotation marks, which are part of the title). Of course I loved Come On Eileen, a sing which I insist is ridiculed so widely not for what it is but for what people have made it. Anyhow, I feature a better track here. Also an album track in this collection is the one by Yazoo (or “Yaz”, as they are known in the US); Didn’t I Bring Your Love Down should have been a hit.

82 gallery_2Two tracks here are South African. Crocodile Harris’ anti-war ballad Give Me The Good News was only a #14 hit in South Africa, where airplay trumped sales in the compilation of the charts, but in France it apparently topped the charts and sold 650,000 copies. Another South African who was huge in France is Johnny Clegg, English-born honorary Zulu with his bands Juluka and Savuka. He recorded Scatterlings Of Africa with both. I prefer the version by latter, from 1987, but the Juluka version is the classic. It would always bring down the house at Juluka/Savuka concerts.

I mentioned above how I think Come On Eileen is a misunderstood song. The same applies to Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, not helped by the absurd video. Here Marvin is not doing a sleazy seduction routine through the medium of medicine. The lyrics are, in fact, quite disturbing. According to David Ritz’s excellent biography of the man, Gaye was into some joyless sexual stuff at the time, including what seems to have been an extreme porn addiction, which would also explain the masturbation reference. Within that context, Sexual Healing is not a seduction number, but a rather desperate plea for actual healing.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-cooked covers. PW here. You are invited to leave a message about your Life in Vinyl in 1982 there. One reason it took so long for me to do 1982 in this series was that the scarcity of comments discouraged me from carrying on with it.

1. Human League – Don’t You Want Me
2. Falco – Der Kommissar
3. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Maid Of Orleans
4. Fehlfarben – (Ein Jahr) Es geht voran
5. J. Geils Band – Centerfold
6. Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills
7. Toto – Rosanna
8. Johnny Cougar – Jack And Diane
9. ABC – The Look Of Love
10. Imagination – Just An Illusion
11. Fat Larry’s Band – Zoom
12. Crocodile Harris – Give Me The Good News
13. Billy Joel – Allentown
14. Donald Fagen – Green Flower Street
15. Dexys Midnight Runners – Let’s Make This Precious
16. Yazoo – Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I)
17. Juluka – Scatterlings Of Africa
18. Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
19. Joe Jackson – Breaking Us In Two
Bonus tracks:
Spliff – Déjà vu
Joachim Witt – Tri tra trullala (Herbergsvater)


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The Beatles: Reunited and live

September 10th, 2015 3 comments


Did The Beatles break up just in time? My view is that the timing, though arbitrary, was pitch-perfect. The four split just after they released their best album and just as their audience was changing — from there on it was going to be diminishing returns.

Author Peter Lee, whom you may know from his Hooks & Harmony blog. seems to disagree. In his newly-published book The Death & Life of Mal Evans, Lee introduces us to an alternate universe in which The Beatles didn’t split in 1969/70, and charts their imagined story through the 1970s.

His narrative device is the revivified life of Beatles road manager/general assistant Mal Evans, who was shot dead by police in 1976. In Lee’s book, Evans restarts his life just before the point at which the Beatles break-up became inevitable, in September 1969. What follows is a series of events and incidents — real, invented and reinterpreted — which covers the career of John, Paul, George, Ringo and Mal.

3dbookThis includes, of course, the release of new Beatles albums. For this Lee had to construct tracklistings of existing songs. That kind of thing is always good fun — I did that in a well-received three-parter in 2008, which forms the basis for this new “updated” series of notional Beatles LPs.

Lee’s selections were subject to stringent criteria: the earlier songs had to have been written for actual Beatles albums, or at least at when The Beatles were still together, before they appeared on solo albums (such as Lennon’s Jealous Guy or Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Apple Scruffs); or they had to feature more than one Beatle on the solo recording (such as Ringo’s I’m The Greatest); or they must sound like they could have been Beatles songs.

In Lee’s alternate universe, George improves Paul’s majestic Maybe I’m Amazed with a blistering guitar solo, and later John’s Women includes the harmonies of Paul. Listen to these songs again and you can imagine it (talking of which, in Lee’s story Imagine was originally an acoustic guitar track; the way Lennon recorded it live in 1972 at Madison Square Garden).

The narrative requires Lee to take some liberties with timelines; Beatles fans — the novel’s obvious target readership — will quickly spot them. So Paul’s Wings release a critically panned album titled London Town in 1975. The Wings album by that name, of course, came out in early 1978, though nothing in the texts suggests that it was the same collection of songs. And in an alternate-universe story, which by its nature asks us to suspend disbelief, it is quite permissible to play with timelines.

There are small quibbles: the way Lennon’s nasty How Do You Sleep worms itself on to the first post non-breakup LP is not entirely convincing. But the narrative, which is exclusively from Mal Evan’s perspective, is loose enough to allow the reader to ascribe plot holes to the narrator’s subjective understanding of events.

Mal Evans reads the news today, oh boy. The gentle giant, who would have turned 80 in May, is seen here with Paul McCartney.

Mal Evans reads the news today, oh boy. The gentle giant, who would have turned 80 in May, is seen here with Paul McCartney.

The plot moves so fast that one is not held up by such details. The Death & Life of Mal Evans is a page-turner. We know how the Beatles story ended, how John died, and so on. We do not know how the story ends in Lee’s alternate reality. It is intriguing to anticipate the career path of the Beatles, as a group and individually, and especially to look forward to the new album releases. In that way Lee skillfully builds up a lot of suspense. (SPOILER ALERT: John does not get murdered by Mark Chapman!)

Lee gives a voice to one of the very few people in the Beatles environment whose experiences have not been widely disseminated. At the time of his death, Evans was preparing to write a memoir of his experiences with The Beatles, going back to the times of the Cavern Club. A bullet from a police pistol on January 5, 1976 put an end to that idea.

Lee gets into Mal Evans’ head and renders him as a believable character who lived for The Beatles, and who was rudderless when he was no longer needed by them. It is not only the imagined “history” of The Beatles that makes this novel so appealing, but also the story of redemption for one of the least understood and most likable characters in the Beatles story.

The Death & Life of Mal Evans by Peter Lee is available in print or eBook from or from Amazon or Kobo. Also check out Peter’s blog of the book.

Beatles Live '72_b

And soon I will revisit and rework my old three-part series of mixes that imagine that The Beatles never broke up. In the meantime, here’s The Beatles’ live double LP. (PW as usual, or look here)

1. Drive My Car
2. Dizzy Miss Lizzie
3. It Don’t Come Easy
4. Lady Madonna
5. Something
6. Maybe I’m Amazed
7. Come Together
8. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
9. Blackbird
10. Yesterday
11. Here Comes The Sun
12. Hey Jude
13. Imagine
14. Bangla Desh
15. Wah-Wah
16. I’ve Just Seen A Face
17. Yer Blues
18. Instant Karma (We All Shine On)
19. Octopus’s Garden
20. Let It Be


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In Memoriam – August 2015

September 3rd, 2015 8 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

(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)


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 16 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.


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)

(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)



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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