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Beatles Reunited – Photographs (1974)

February 22nd, 2018 7 comments

It’s two years after the alternate history Smile Away album of 1972; and here is the 1974 double album. The title of the last album was drawn from a Paul track; this one uses the plural of a Starr-Harrison song.

Another Ringo song comes very close to a being Beatles record in the post-split period: I’m The Greatest it features three Beatles in Ringo, John (who wrote it) and George. The third Ringo number made the cut only by squeezing shut an eye: All By Myself was written by Ringo with Vini Poncia (who in 1964 wrote a song titled Ringo I Love You for Bonnie Jo Mason, who soon after that became known as Cher). Let’s imagine Ringo passed it off as his own track until the album credits had to be written.

For George the period 1973-74 was pretty shallow; he gave three tracks (and his half of Photograph) to this album. I suppose his Sue Me, Sue You Blues might have needed a tweak in lyrics since the band hasn’t broken up and sued one another.

Paul and John obviously dominate here. John gets one song more than Paul, which I’m sure would have caused friction. But Paul could have given The Beatles the superb Live And Let Die, but he had to release it as a solo single (of course he would have)!

Obviously one can argue all night about my choices for this double LP, and even about its title (a quite ferocious critic last time around was quite certain that The Beatles would never have called an album Smile Away. I suspect that his mindreading skills are superior to mine, but, well, in my alternate history they damn well did). Alternate histories aren’t science; the fun is in discussing whether one’s idea of might have been coincide with that of another. But one ought to be civil about it.

These “Beatles Reunited” mixes are in a way inspired by Peter Lee’s commendable alternative-history novel The Life And Death of Mal Evans which is available in print or eBook from avonypublishing.com or from Amazon or Kobo. Also check out Peter’s blog of the book.

The set fits on a standard CD-R and includes very literal covers. PW in comments.

Side 1
1. What You Got (John)
2. Jet (Paul)
3. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) (George)
4. Photograph (Ringo)
5. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (John)

Side 2
6. Band On The Run (Paul)
7. Nobody Loves You When You’re Down (John)
8. Sue Me, Sue You Blues (George)
9. Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple) (John)

Side 3
10. Junior’s Farm (Paul)
11. I’m The Greatest (Ringo)
12. Let Me Roll It (Paul)
13. My Love (Paul)
14. # 9 Dream (John)

Side 4
15. All By Myself (Ringo)
16. Mind Games (John)
17. Helen Wheels (Paul)
18. Dark Horse (George)
19. Steel And Glass (John)

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Previous Beatles Reunited albums:
Everest (1971)
Live ’72 (1972)
Smile Away (1972)

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Any Major Impossible Love

February 13th, 2018 3 comments

In the past few years we have celebrated being happily in love, and happy in love in black and white; we have dealt with the pain of unrequited love. And for this year’s Valentine’s Day, here’s a mix of love that cannot be: the impossible love situations where two people want to be together but, for some reason or another, can’t.

Usually it involves one or both of these people being married, so this genre of love songs can veer into territory of furtive sex. So Billy Paul’s Me And Mrs Jones is usually classified as a cheating song. But I’m not sure it is one. Billy and Mrs Jones meet in a public place: the juke box is playing their favourite, and after some holding hands it’s time for them to be leaving. The relationship may or may noy be consummated; Billy Paul gives us no evidence of that.

Whereas Marilyn McCoo, in the original version of the future Whitney Houston hit, is definitely engaging in adultery. But the act of sex seems to add to the pain and the longing she has for the cad who is playing two women. That storyline is replicated on several songs here.

The Impossible Love genre is dominated by love thwarted by obligations, but there are songs about other reasons for love that cannot be. Class differences, family relations (the Romeo & Juliet theme, which isn’t explored on this mix), sexuality (Karma’s song here might be about same-sex attraction that cannot be acted on), mental illness (Joseph Arthur’s Honey And The Moon hints at that)…

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-lovelorn cover. PW in comments. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

1. Denise LaSalle – Married, But Not To Each Other (1975)
What’s stopping them? A hit for country singer Barbra Mandrell, this is the original by the recently late soul singer who co-wrote the song. The title reveals the romantic dilemma: “You’re tied to her and I’m tied to him. We don’t wanna hurt either one of them. So what can you do?” She finds an ambiguous answer: “Hurry up and love him, hurry up and please him. And when it gets right, you’ve got to leave him. You better leave him.”

2. The Soul Children – We’re Gettin’ Too Close (1974)
What’s stopping them? There’s an affair involving two otherwise attached people, but their love is becoming too obvious: “She’s gonna get hip to you, and he’s gonna get hip to me.” Time to call it off.

3. Billy Butler – I Know The Feeling Well (1977)
What’s stopping them? When you love two people and have to choose — and either way, you lose. Billy knows the feeling well.

4. Johnny Darrell – Margie’s At The Lincoln Park Inn (1969)
What’s stopping them? The singer (originally Bobby Bare, but Darrell sings it better) is torn: hot passion with Margie in a hotel, or family life with children and teaching Sunday school without bearing the conscience of a hypocrite.

5. Merle Haggard – Always Wanting You (1975)
What’s stopping them? Haggard wrote this about Dolly Parton, at a time when both were married. “Always loving you, but never touching you, sometimes hurts me almost more than I can stand.”

6. Randy Travis – On The Other Hand (1986)
What’s stopping them? On the one hand, in her arms he feels feel the passion which he thought had died. On the other hand is a golden ring…

7. Howie Day – Collide (2003)
What’s stopping them? Here opposites attract in an inexplicable love which the singer would probably prefer to be unrequited: “I’ve found I’m scared to know I’m always on your mind.”

8. Karma – Pachelbel (1998)
What’s stopping them? There’s hope in hopelessness: “And it’s too late to say goodbye, it’s too early yet to think you can’t be mine.” But, chin up, “there is pleasure to be found in this kind of pain.”

9. Jem – Flying High (2004)
What’s stopping them? Jem knows that she and the object of her desire can’t be together, for reasons unstated, and she “can’t pay the price” for acting on the reciprocal feeling, even if they are “so close to giving in”. The situation is painful by this impossible love also makes her giddy, as love tends to do. Hence she is “flying high”.

10. Joseph Arthur – Honey And The Moon (2002)
What’s stopping them? He loves her, she loves him back, they already seem to be together, but “right now, everything you want is wrong. And right now all your dreams are waking up.” He wants to follow her “to the shores of freedom, where no one lives”. It’s possibly a case where depression stands in the way of love’s final fulfilment.

11. Rilo Kiley – Does He Love You (2004)
What’s stopping them? A love triangle: a woman has an affair with her pregnant friend’s husband. He says he’ll leave her, but the protagonist knows he won’t.

12. The Decemberists – We Both Go Down Together (2005)
What’s stopping them? His parents will never consent to this love, for they are rich and the girl is “a dirty daughter from the labour camps” with tattoos (what?). But he’ll hold her hand…

13. Snow Patrol feat. Martha Wainwright – Set The Fire To The Third Bar (2006)
What’s stopping them? Two people are in love, but it’s long-distance. “I’m miles from where you are, I lay down on the cold ground. I pray that something picks me up, and sets me down in your warm arms.” Unlike many others in the impossible love predicament, our two friends may well activate their love fully when they do get together. Or the long distance will break them apart.

14. Bob Dylan – Ninety Miles An Hour (Down A Dead End Street) (1988)
What’s stopping them? Bob’s married, she’s married, and a drunken one-night stand turned into an affair which will end in disaster. “As a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat, going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street… I didn’t want to want you, but now I have no choice, it’s too late to listen to that warning voice.” Kids, don’t try that at home.

15. Conway Twitty – Linda On My Mind (1975)
What’s stopping them? Oh, what complication: Linda had a crush on Conway but Conway loved her friend. Now Conway is tied to her friend but is in love with Linda, who is still in love with him. Who is now, as the title reveals, on his mind. As he is lying in bed next to his crying wife…

16. Hank Locklin – Please Help Me, I’m Falling (1960)
What’s stopping them? A desperate plea in the title, because Hank belongs to another whose arms have grown cold. But he promised “to have and to hold” the wife forever, so he can never be free.

17. Billy Joe Royal – Down In The Boondocks (1965)
What’s stopping them? He loves her and she loves him. But, coming from the boondocks, he doesn’t fit in her society.

18. Luther Ingram – (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right (1972)
What’s stopping them? Our man Luther is having affair and tries to rationalise his bid to have the love that can’t be. It’ll all end in tears, because he is not going to leave his wife, “who needs me just as much”, but he’ll continue his affair (perhaps he’s the cad in the last song on this mix). He asks: “Am I wrong trying to hold on to the best thing I ever had”? Well, is he?

19. Clydene Jackson – Somebody Else’s Love (1975)
What’s stopping them? More falling in love with somebody else’s love. All the playing in pools in the park wouldn’t get them to be together. It was never going to be, so that fling is a thing of the past.

20. The Glass House – Stealing Moments From Another Woman’s Life (1972)
What’s stopping them? The singer has the self-awareness that being with the man of her desire affects another woman, “stealing moments” from her. So now she dumps the guy.

21. Billy Paul – Me And Mrs. Jones (1972)
What’s stopping them? She’s got her own obligations, and so, and so-o-o, does he-e-e-e.

22. Marilyn McCoo – Saving All My Love For You (1978)
What’s stopping them? He says: “Be patient, just wait a little longer”. Which translates to: he’ll never leave his wife.

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Any Major Soul 1976 Vol. 2

February 8th, 2018 2 comments

It’s 1976 in Any Major Soul land, with Volume 2. It was the last really great year for soul of the great soul decade, and therefore arguably the last really  great year for soul.

One artist who appears here made it big in the 1980s. Luther Vandross features as the lead singer of the group Luther, which presumably took its name not as an homage to 16th-century religious performers. Vandross had already enjoyed a career as a session singer, most famously on David Bowie’s Young Americans album, on which he also co-wrote the song Fascination with Bowie. Later he also backed acts like Roberta Flack, Chic, Sister Sledge, Odyssey, Carly Simon, Average White Band, Bette Middler, Chaka Khan, J. Geils Band and others on their hit albums, duetted on two tracks of Quincy Joiners’ Stuff Like That album, joined the group Change, and finally in 1981 released his first solo album, Never Too Much.

Some big names failed to make the cut — Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, The Isley Brothers — but one soul legend had to feature in 1976: Stevie Wonder. Songs In The Key Of Life, released that year, is the opus in a great decade of soul music. That isn’t to say it is flawless. The fusion work-out that is Contusion is misplaced, and some songs go on for double its natural lifespan (basically all of Side 3). But, oh, Side 4! There are many great songs on the album, so the exquisite Knocks Me Off My Feet features here.

The Choice Four was a Washington DC act that was produced by Van McCoy. The band may be remembered better as a disco act, especially for their hit Come Down To Earth (by the time it became a hit, the group had split). They also recorded the first version of the David Ruffin hit Walk Away From Love. Both featured on In Memoriam – July 2017.

The mix kicks off with something rather more obscure. A 12-piece band from Milwaukee, Step By Step released one single album, I Always Wanted To Be In The Band.

Norma Jenkins sounds like a southern soul singer but actually hailed from New Jersey. She released only one album, in 1976, though her recording career went back into the 1960s. After 1976 she disappeared from the music scene.

You may recognise John Edwards as the future lead singer of The Spinners, joining the band in 1977. He led on Working My Way Back to You. He had enjoyed a career before that, enjoying a few hits in the R&B charts. A stroke in 2000 forced his retirement.

The artist who on this mix follows Edwards also has a Spinners connection. Lee Garrett co-wrote the bands hit It’s A Shame. He also co-wrote Stevie Wonder’s Signed Sealed And Delivered (like Wonder, incidentally, Garrett is blind) and Jermaine Jackson’s Let’s Get Serious. As a singer, he enjoyed success with 1976’s You’re My Everything. I picked a different song for this mix.

The cover of Tomorrow’s People’s LP suggests female membership. Not so: the group comprised four brothers. A little gem that was long forgotten (and sought after by collectors), it was re-released on CD recently. With the masters long lost, that CD had to be compiled from various sources. The real highlight of the album is the 20-minute track that fills Side 2.

One of the bright spots in 1990s soul was La Bouche, who were produced in Germany. Hearing their hit Fallin’ In Love invariably puts me in a good mood. That song was originally done in 1975 by AOR  act Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds — their version featured on the Not Feeling Guilty Mix Vol. 4. Here it is covered by The New Birth, in a way that neither recalls the original nor presages the 1990s cover.

It also closes with an obscure outfit, Sounds Of The City Experience. How this New York City band never broke big is one for the Cold Case Files. And it won’t be too difficult to finger the bad guy: mafia frontman and full-time crook Morris Levy, the template for The Sopranos’ Hersh Rabkin (who was rather more likable than Levy). Levy signed this talented band to his tax dodge label. Their one shot at stardom was sabotaged so that it wouldn’t sell, in order to make a scumbag money. Fuck Morris Levy.

As always CD-R length, covers, PW in comments.

1. Step By Step – Cool Days Are Out Of Style
2. The O’Jays – Let Life Flow
3. Zulema – New Day Coming
4. Marlena Shaw – You And Me
5. G.C. Cameron – Include Me In Your Life
6. Al Green – Soon As I Get Home
7. Curtis Mayfield – Only You Babe
8. Stevie Wonder – Knocks Me Off My Feet
9. Al Jarreau – Rainbow In Your Eyes
10. Luther – This Strange Feeling
11. The Choice Four – Just Let Me Hold You For A Night
12. Norma Jenkins – I Did It For Real
13. Carolyn Franklin – From The Bottom Of My Heart (To The Bottom Of Yours)
14. Tomorrow’s People – Hurry On Up Tomorrow
15. Charles Brimmer – Your Man’s Gonna Be In Trouble
16. The New Birth – Fallin’ In Love
17. John Edwards – That’s That
18. Lee Garrett – Heart Be Still
19. Rufus & Chaka Khan – Do You Love What You Feel
20. Sounds Of The City Experience – Keep On Keepin’ On
Bonus track: Vivian Reed – Baby, You’re A Good Thang

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Any Major The Wonder Years

February 6th, 2018 10 comments

Few TV shows ever have so accurately observed the condition of the suburban teenager as The Wonder Years did. One may regard the series, which started its run of six seasons exactly 30 years ago last week (it ran in the US from 31 January 1988 to 12 May 1993), as an exercise in nostalgia. Coming into the middle of a nostalgic  revival that celebrated the 1960s and the beginning of the ’70s, it benefited from fortuitous timing, but as a story of growing up as told by an adult man, the timeframe made perfect sense.

Some may accuse the show of being an apologia for the oppression of nameless bourgeois suburbia, or right-on rhetoric to that effect. Indeed, in the pilot episode the narrator does defend suburban life, arguing that far from being anonymous, suburbia has plenty individual stories to tell. Like that of Kevin Arnold. It may be rose-tintedly nostalgic, it may be middle-class, but it is also profoundly human.

Kevin’s stories are not extraordinary; they are universal, at least for those growing up in similar western middle-class circumstances. Imagine the teen embarrassment at having to take a three-year younger girl to a dance where everybody is a head smaller than you, as Kevin has to in one of my favourite episodes.

 

The Arnold family plus Best-Friend-Paul in The Wonder Years. Who didn’t loath bully brother Wayne?

 

Fred Savage as Kevin was outstanding. The nuances of his body language were as articulate as his delivery of the scripted lines. Daniel Stern narrates as the adult Kevin, and Savage expresses the inner life exposed in the commentary, with a half-smile here or raised eyebrow there. He was wonderfully understated.

And we can recognise the people around him. People much like them existed in our own families or in the circles of our childhood friends. The obnoxious brother Wayne? Know him. Geeky friend Paul? Know him? Grouchy dad Jack? Know him. Kindly mom Norma? Know her. Schoolmate Hobson? Oh dear, yes, I know that son of a bitch too.

I don’t think the female roles are as well realised. Winnie looks like she is going to cry even when she’s full of joy. Nemesis Becky Slater is one-dimensional. Sister Keren too often slides into the realms of caricature. But so does Wayne, even as his obnoxiousness is awesome.

The thing is, we are watching these people exclusively through the filter of Kevin’s memories, with all his biases. So Winnie is soft as a melting marshmallow because that’s how Kevin sees her. Keren is an overcompensating hippie because Kevin remembers her that way. And Mrs Arnold might be sexy, for all we know, but Kevin won’t see her like that, so nor shall we.

 

Kevin Arnold flanked by best pal Paul and marshmallow Winnie.

 

Almost three decades ago, when I first watched The Wonder Years, my empathy resided almost exclusively with Kevin. I was in my mid-twenties, and remembered well being a teenager. Now I have a grown son, and I can identify with the father, too. Well, not entirely. Although Dan Lauria, who played Jack Arnold, was younger than I am now when the show was filmed, he seems to be so much older, at least in my mind (I bet Jack Arnold wouldn’t write blogs about his favourite TV shows). But I can see the father’s point of view better now.

Lauria’s performance was admirably subtle, at least if one looks carefully. There is an almost imperceptible moment in the first season in which Lauria captures the loving father beneath the grumbling gruffness. Kevin and his dad had bonded during a day spent in Jack’s office. Back home at night, Jack lets Kevin look through his telescope. As Kevin looks through the instrument, Jack has his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He gently strokes it with his thumb, as fathers do. It’s a beautiful scene. I somehow grieve Jack’s death, though fictional and post-scripted in the final episode to 1975.

The first four seasons (the first consists of only six episodes) are as good as any half-hour show on TV. By the fourth season, the storylines became more laboured, and by the fifth the steam was beginning to run out. The sixth and final season, in which Kevin suddenly grows up, was one too many.  Still the latter seasons featured the always watchable Giovanni Ribisi (and a more regular future Friends star, David Schwimmer).

In The Wonder Years we were also introduced to Juliet Lewis, as Wayne’s girlfriend, and John Corbett (Northern Exposure, Sex And The City, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as Keren’s libertine hippie boyfriend who gets fiercely interrogated by little Kevin. And Teri from Albuquerque (pictured right), whom Kevin kisses while on holiday in Ocean City in season 3, went on to become porn star Holly Sampson (article here).

Until recently, The Wonder Years was not available on DVD, apparently because of licensing problems with the many songs featured in the show – several repeatedly, such as The Byrds’ Turn Turn Turn, The Temptations’ My Girl, Joni Mitchell’s version of Both Sides Now, Joan Baez’s Forever Young, The Association’s Cherish, Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. The title song, Joe Cocker’s version of With A Little Help From My Friends, was astutely picked — suitably nostalgic with lyrics that invoke the broad premise of the show (that is, the importance of relationships).

The songs were well chosen — not many TV shows were scored with pop numbers back then. The pedantic music fan will, of course, be mildly irritated when scenes are scored by songs that had not yet been released at the time. But evident care was taken to ensure that songs that featured in a storyline – playing in the background on the radio, perhaps, or being referred to by name – already existed at the time the scenes are set in.

And so on to a mix of songs that featured in The Wonder Years. In brackets are the year of the song’s release, followed by the season and episode number it appeared in. As usual, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes covers. PW is in the comments section, where I have retained comments to a previous version of this post in 2011.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends (1968 – 4/68)
2. The Beach Boys – When I Grow Up (To Be A Man) (1964 – 6/111)
3. The Association – Cherish (1966 – 1/6)
4. Lovin’ Spoonful – Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind (1965 – 3/44)
5. Percy Faith Orchestra – Theme from A Summer Place (1960 – 2/23)
6. The Chordettes – Never On A Sunday (1961 – 2/23)
7. Hank Williams – Hey Good Lookin’ (1953 – 4/51)
8. Marty Robbins – A White Sport Coat (1957 – 6/113)
9. Johnny Rivers – Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancin’) (1977 – 6/105)
10. Jackson Browne – Jamaica Say You Will (1972 – 5/70)
11. Elton John – Seasons (1971 – 3/40)
12. The Spinners – Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (1973 – 6/109)
13. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re All I Need To Get By (1967 – 3/37)
14. Fontella Bass – Rescue Me (1965 – 4/58)
15. John Fred & The Playboy Band – Judy In Disguise (With Glasses) (1968 – 5/89)
16. Ronny and the Daytonas – Little G.T.O (1964 – 5/74)
17. Jo Jo Gunne – Run Run Run (1972 – 5/85)
18. Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968 – 2/20 & 3/40)
19. Mott The Hoople – All The Way From Memphis (1973 – 6/106)
20. Johnny Cash & June Carter – If I Were A Carpenter (1970 – 5/73)
21. Randy Newman – I Think It’s Going To Rain Today (1968 – 4/68)
22. Joni Mitchell – The Circle Game (1970 – 3/27)
23. Joan Baez – Forever Young (1974 – 4/47 & 5/83)
24. Pachelbel – Canon In D Major (2/13)

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In Memoriam – January 2018

February 1st, 2018 6 comments

The year started with the Grim Reaper reaping rampantly through the world of music. So much for my plans to cut down on the work this series creates for me…

African liberation hero

In African music, few names were bigger than that of Hugh Masekela, the South African jazz trumpeter and singer whose career spanned six decades. Masekela was one of the first African musicians to make a big impact in the US, particularly when his song Grazing In The Grass became a huge hit in 1968. Along with his fellow exile from apartheid and one-time wife, Miriam Makeba, Masekela not only helped pave the way for other African artists. They were also political activists against the racist regime that forced their exile. They worked for the cultural boycott of South Africa from within the industry, and succeeded. Back home, “Bra Hugh” was a legend not only for his music but also for his social leadership. His early mentor, the Rev Trevor Huddlestone, would have been proud. The priest, himself an anti-apartheid legend, gave Masekela his first trumpet — which he had received from Louis Armstrong!

The last of classic Motörhead

In the space of just over two years, all three members of the classic Motörhead line-up — the Ace of Spades era — have died. Drummer Phil Taylor went in November 2015, Lemmy a month later. And now guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke has been killed by death. Before joining Motörhead in 1976, Clarke had been a member of several bands, and put out a record in 1974 as a member of blues/prog rock band Curtis Knight Zeus. Clarke left Motörhead in 1982 — he blamed Taylor for having him forced out — at the height of the band’s success. The band had success after Fast Eddie left, but never as much as with him. Clarke went on to co-found heavy metal band Fastway.

France’s France for Luxembourg

There is something quite charming about some Eurovision Song Contest winners of the 1960s, and the 1965 Luxembourg winner by the appropriately-named French singer France Gall, Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (penned by Serge Gainsbourg, inspired by Beethoven), was one such song. Gall’s performance that night was off-key, causing her lover at the time, singer Claude Francois, to scream at her in a, let’s say, discouraging manner. The charm of the catchy song with its clever lyrics, and of France Gall herself evidently won over the juries. As the 1960s progressed, Gall evolved from pop puppet to psychedelic chanteuse, recording also some success on the German market.

The great soul producer

The producer Rick Hall’s FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, not only created a sound of his own but also helped build careers of such legends as Otis Redding, Clarence Carter, Wilson Picket, Candi Station, Duane Allman, Mac Davis and Leon Russell — and, above all, Aretha Franklin whom Hall turned from being a jazz crooner into a great soul legend when Atlantic began sending their artists to Muscle Shoals. Like his colleagues at Stax in Memphis, Hall employed musicians and produced with no regard for race. In the 1970s he still produced soul greats, but also the likes of Donny Osmond (and later Marie), Tom Jones, Wayne Newton and Paul Anka. Hall produced Clarence Carter’s Patches, which was originally recorded by the Chairmen of the Board, whose member Danny Woods also died this month.

The Pope’s alt.rock pal

Irish singer Dolores O’Riordan, frontwoman of The Cranberries, had many detractors who didn’t like her music, her yodelling, her often abrasive demeanour. But she also had big fans, many of whom say that her songs accompanied them in dark times. Last year O’Riordan revealed that she had been diagnosed as bipolar depressive, which might explain some of her excessive behaviour and also her unforthcoming nature in interviews. As a Catholic, she played for Pope Francis in 2013, met Pope John Paul II, and had a fan in Princess Diana. After her death at 46, in a hotel while she was in London to record, the Irish prime minister paid tribute to the singer who retained her Limerick accent while singing, even when she became an international star with The Cranberries.

Sex advice from a soul legend

It’s rather a shame that many people will remember Denise LaSalle for her 1985 novelty hit My Toot Toot, an inferior cover of Rockin’ Sydney’s hit. LaSalle was a great soul singer, as her Willie Mitchell-produced hit Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1971) showed, and a highly rated blues singer. She also had a wicked sense of humour: her 2000 song Lick It (Before You Stick It) is an instruction manual dedicated “to all the men out there that don’t seem to know how to keep their woman happy”.

Musician first, Holocaust survivor second

German jazz legend Coco Schumann discovered his love for music, especially swing, in Berlin in 1936. That was not good in 1930s Germany: not only did the Nazis not approve of jazz, but Schumann was Jewish, through his mother (his Christian father was a convert to Judaism). In 1943 Schumann was transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, which the Nazis styled to the outside world as a ghetto were Jews were living in some comfort and exercising their culture. As such Schumann and fellow members of the Ghetto Swingers (!) were filmed playing swing for a propaganda film. Soon after that the musicians, including Schumann, were transported to Auschwitz where all but three were murdered. Schumann, who was forced to play music on Auschwitz’s death ramp, just about survived the Holocaust, unlike most of his family members. His parents survived: the father hid his wife, having declared her dead in a fire.  After the war, Schumann became the first German musician to play an electric guitar. Throughout his career, he insisted: “I’m a musician who was in a concentration camp; not a concentration camp survivor who plays music.” In 2012 his autobiography was turned into a stage musical.

The end of the Smith. Ah.

The problem with doing these write-ups — I was going to cut back on them; the Reaper had other ideas! — manifested itself with the death of Mark E. Smith, the head of The Fall. Smith was significant, influential and fascinating… and somebody about whose craft I’ve always been indifferent. I have to say something and I have nothing much to say about the music. Except that I found his tendency to end every line with an “ah” very irritating. Smith famously was a difficult kind of guy. But since his death, stories of his kindness have emerged. And Smith was a keen sender of Christmas cards, even posting them to his favourite football magazine, the independent When Saturday Comes. Plus he really hated the bigot and all-round disappointment Stephen Morrissey, formerly of (ironically) The Smiths, which is very much a good thing. On the other hand, he was not above assaulting women, which is very much a bad thing.

Oh unhappy day

With his song Oh Happy Day, Edwin Hawkins changed gospel music and the way gospel was perceived by followers of popular music. Hawkins was a pioneer in developing what is now called “contemporary gospel”, and Oh Happy Day — which was an old hymn given a new arrangement — made it fashionable to incorporate gospel sounds in pop. George Harrison said that he was inspired in writing My Sweet Lord not be He’s So Fine but by Oh Happy Day. And when one hears Billy Preston’s original recording of My Sweet Lord, Harrison’s claim sounds true.

You know the flute

Ray Thomas played what may be a contender for the most famous flute solo in rock, on The Moody Blues’ Nights In White Satin. The flute of Thomas, who co-founded the band, would become a common feature of many Moody Blues songs, a large number of which were written or co-written by him. Thomas was a multi-instrumentalist; he also played saxophone, percussions, keyboards and even the oboe, and reportedly composed songs on the glockenspiel.

Austin Powers’ spoken record

British actor Peter Wyngarde, apparently the template for Austin Powers, was not famous for his exploits in the arena of popular music. But he did release one album on RCA, on which Wyngarde’s spoken word recordings were set to music arrangements. It is said that RCA produced the 1970 LP as a tax write-off, imagining that nobody would buy it. But the album sold very quickly, become a cult item (it’s also quite good, certainly when compared to William Shatner’s similar record). RCA refused to press more copies, to Wyngarde’s understandable anger, and did not honour the three-record deal they had signed with the actor. Perhaps song titles like “Peter Wyngarde Commits Rape” diminished RCA’s enthusiasm.

The man who put Mel Brooks to music

Fans of Mel Brooks movies will note with sadness the passing of his favoured film score composer, John Morris, who arranged and conducted the soundtrack of Springtime For Hitler, wrote or co-wrote the music for Blazing Saddles — including the Oscar-nominated title track — and arranged and/or wrote the music for films like Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, To Be Or Not To Be and others. He also wrote the score for The Elephant Man, and wrote and/or arranged for other films such as Dirty Dancing and The Woman In Red. He also wrote the theme song for the TV series Coach.

A tragic story to start the year

The year began with an utterly depressing story. 1960s soul singer Betty Willis, now 76, had fallen on hard times. Being homeless, she was sleeping outdoors when a homeless man sexually attacked her. Willis screamed, whereupon the rapist beat and choked her. By the time people could pull him off Willis, she was dead. Willis began her singing career with a forgotten duet with a guy called Ray, but her debut solo single, the doo-wop style number Someday You’ll Need My Love, earned her some attention. In 1962 she took the lead vocals of the Brian Wilson-produced Rachel & The Revolvers. By the mid-60s she had reinvented herself as a deep soul singer, at one point being something of a protégé of Leon Russell. Apparently her younger sister was Carolyn Willis of The Honey Cone.

The Butter Queen

Occasionally this series may include record label owners or LP cover designers, but it might stretch things a little to include groupies. But if the Rolling Stones mentioned her name in song, and Led Zeppelin dedicated Dazed And Confused to her on several bootleg concerts, then it seems right to mark the death of Barbara Cope, a.k.a. The Butter Queen (because she always carried butter with her as a lubricant). She featured prominently in the documentary on Joe Cocker’s 1970 tour, and is namechecked on the Stones’ Gimme Shelter film (and, in part, inspired the film Almost Famous). David Cassidy recalled in his autobiography that his band and crew “just gasped when they heard that Barbara the Butter Queen was actually coming to do them all”.  The alumna of a school named Bryan Adams High (!) claimed to have slept with 2,000 musicians until her retirement from groupie life in 1972 when she was 21 or 22 (you do the math). Cope died at 67 in a house fire.

One of music’s January dead is not being included; how do you list a convicted child porn fiends who were better known as actors? I’m not sure what I will do when Gary Glitter dies…

Betty Willis, 76, soul singer, murdered on Jan. 1
Betty Willis – Someday You’ll Need My Love (1960)
Rachel & The Revolvers – The Revo-Lution (1962, on lead vocals)
Betty Willis – Ain’t Gonna Do You No Good (1968)

Rick Hall, 85, producer, songwriter, owner of FAME Studios, on Jan. 2
Arthur Alexander – You Better Move On (1961, as producer)
Clarence Carter – Slip Away (1968, as producer)
Laura Lee – Another Man’s Woman (1972, as producer & arranger)
Mac Davis – Rock n’ Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (174, as producer)

Ray Thomas, 76, songwriter, co-founder of The Moody Blues, on Jan. 4
The Moody Blues – Something You’ve Got (1965)
The Moody Blues – For My Lady (1972, also as songwriter)
Ray Thomas – Keep On Searching (1976)

Jerry Van Dyke, 86, comedian and Dick’s brother, occasional singer, on Jan. 5
Jerry Van Dyke – I Wanna Say Hello (1964)

Chris Tsangarides, 61, British producer, on Jan. 6
Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways (1978, as co-producer, engineer)

France Gall, 70, French singer, on Jan. 7
France Gall – Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (1965)
France Gall – Der Computer Nr. 3 (1968)
France Gall – La déclaration d’amour (1974)

Buster Stiggs, 63, drummer of New Zealand bands Suburban Reptiles, The Swingers, on Jan. 7

Denise LaSalle, 78, soul and blues singer, on Jan. 8
Denise LaSalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1972)
Denise LaSalle – Under The Influence (1978)
Denise LaSalle – Lick It (Before You Stick It) (2000)

Moriss Taylor, 93, country singer and TV personality, on Jan. 8

‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, 67, British heavy metal guitarist, on Jan. 10
Curtis Knight Zeus – The Confession (1974, also as co-writer)
Motörhead – Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (1980, also as co-lead singer)
Motörhead – Ace Of Spades (live) (1981)
Fastway – Say What You Will (1983)

Alfred Morris III, 60, guitarist of heavy metal band Iron Man, on Jan. 10

Françoise Dorin, 89, French songwriter and actress, on Jan. 12
Charles Aznavour – Que c’est triste Venise (1964, as co-writer)

Danny Woods, 73, co-founder of soul group Chairmen of the Board, on January 13
Danny Woods – 90 Days In The County Jail (1967)
Chairmen Of The Board – Pay To The Piper (1970)

Barbara Cope, 67, Rock groupie, on Jan. 14
Rolling Stones – Rip This Joint (1972, “…’Cross to Dallas, Texas with the Butter Queen”)

Marlene VerPlanck, 84, jazz singer, on Jan. 14
Marlene VerPlanck – If I Love Again (1955)

Peter Wyngarde, 90, British actor and recording artist, on Jan. 15
Peter Wyngarde – Neville Thumbcatch (1968)

Edwin Hawkins, 74, American gospel musician, on Jan. 15
The Edwin Hawkins Singers – Oh Happy Day (1967)
Melanie with The Edwin Hawkins Singers – Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) (1970)

Dolores O’Riordan, 46, singer of Irish band The Cranberries, on Jan. 15
The Cranberries – Linger (1992)
The Cranberries – Zombie (Unplugged) (1996)

Micki Varro, 75, actress and jazz singer, on Jan. 16

Dave Holland, 69, English heavy metal drummer (Judas Priest, Trapeze) on Jan. 16
Judas Priest – Breaking The Law (1980)

Nathan Jatcko, 31, keyboardist of rock band Pavlov’s Dog (2015-18), on Jan. 17

Christian Burchard, 71, co-founder of Krautrock collective Embryo, on Jan. 17
Embryo – Tausendfüßler (1971, on drums, piano and leslie)

Javiera Muñoz, 40, Swedish singer, on Jan. 18

Steve Nisbett, 69, drummer of British reggae band Steel Pulse, on Jan. 18
Steel Pulse – Can’t Stand It (1989)

Fredo Santana, 27, rapper, on Jan. 19

Jim Rodford, 76, English bassist (Argent, The Kinks), on Jan. 20
Argent – God Gave Rock And Roll To You (1973)
The Kinks – Come Dancin’ (1982)

Mario Guccio, 64, singer of Belgian prog-rock band Machiavel, on Jan. 20
Machiavel – Fly (1980)

Terry Evans, 80, R&B and blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Jan. 20
Terry Evans & Group – Just ‘Cause (1963)
Pops Staples – Love Is A Precious Things (1992, as writer)

Robert Arthur, 89, composer and conductor (Ed Sullivan Show), on Jan. 21

Preston Shannon, 70, blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Jan. 22
Preston Shannon – Midnight In Memphis (1996)

Billy Hancock, 71, Rockabilly singer, songwriter and musician, on Jan. 22
Billy Hancock – All The Cats Join In (1985)

Hugh Masekela, 78, South African jazz trumpeter, on Jan. 23
The Jazz Epistles – Carols Drive (1960)
Hugh Masekela – Grazing In The Grass (1868)
Hugh Masekela – The Boy’s Doin’ It (1975)
Hugh Masekela – Bring Him Back Home (1987, live)

John Morris, 91, film composer, on Jan. 24
The Producers – Springtime for Hitler (1968, as arranger & conductor)
Frankie Laine – Blazing Saddles (1974, as co-writer)

Lari White, 52, country singer, on Jan. 23
Lari White – Now I Know (1994)

Mark E. Smith, 60, English songwriter, singer and leader of The Fall, on Jan. 24
The Fall – Fantastic Life (1981)
The Fall – Immortality (1992)
The Fall – Ride Away (2005)

Fred Bridges, 79, soul musician and producer, announced Jan. 25
The Brothers Of Soul – Dream (1971)

Tommy Banks, 81, Canadian jazz pianist, composer and politician, on Jan. 25

Buzz Clifford, 76, American singer and songwriter, on Jan. 26
Buzz Clifford – Baby Sittin’ Boogie (1961)

Floyd Miles, 74, blues musician and singer, on Jan. 26
Floyd Miles feat. Gregg Allman – Spending Christmas With The Blues (1996)

Grant Fell, 56, bassist of New Zealand band Headless Chickens, on Jan. 27

Neil Harris, 63, guitarist of English punk band Sham 69 (1975-77), on Jan. 28

Coco Schumann, 93, German jazz musician, on Jan. 28
Amiga Star Band – Honeysuckle Rose (1948, on electric guitar)
Helmut Zacharias – Deep Purple (1976, on guitar)

Eddie Shaw, 80, blues saxophonist, arranger and bandleader, on Jan. 29
Eddie Shaw – Blues Dues (1982)

Del Delker, 93, gospel singer, on Jan. 31

Leah LaBelle, 31, Canadian-born pop singer, in car crash on Jan. 31

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