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Any Major ABC: 1970s

July 26th, 2018 13 comments

 

This week we launch a new series of mixes which take us through a decade through the medium of the alphabet: from A-Z, each letter gets a song. So it’s all quite random and great fun; a bit like listening to an oldies station.

And it was fun — and torture — to choose songs for this mix. None of these are necessarily the best or even favourite tracks by the acts whose name begins with the particular letter. The only set song was the one that will kick off the A-Z of the 1960s, which gave me the idea for the concept. But I can’t run the 1960s yet because I have no representative for the letter X — I can think of no band that begins with X, nor a solo act whose first name begins with that letter.

The 1950s is even tougher: I have an X, but no U and no Z. The 1940s lack a Q — if anybody has any good ideas to fill these gaps, the comments are the place…

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

1. Archie Bell & The Drells – Let’s Groove (1975)
2. Bay City Rollers – You Made Me Believe In Magic (1977)
3. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have You Ever Seen The Rain (1970)
4. Darts – Come Back My Love (1977)
5. Electric Light Orchestra – Livin’ Thing (1976)
6. Fortunes – Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again (1971)
7. Giorgio Moroder – From Here to Eternity (1977)
8. Hues Corporation – Rock The Boat (1974)
9. Ike & Tina Turner – Nutbush City Limits (1973)
10. Jam – The Eton Rifles (1979)
11. Kiss – Beth (1977)
12. Love Unlimited – It May Be Winter Outside (1973)
13. Mr. Bloe – Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe (1970)
14. New York City – I’m Doing Fine Now (1973)
15. Osmonds – Crazy Horses (1973)
16. Python Lee Jackson feat. Rod Stewart – In A Broken Dream (1972)
17. Quantum Jump – The Lone Ranger (1979)
18. Rodriguez – I Wonder (1970)
19. Sweet – Fox On The Run (1975)
20. T. Rex – Metal Guru (1972)
21. Undisputed Truth – Smiling Faces Sometimes (1970)
22. Vicky Lawrence – The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia (1975)
23. Wings – Live And Let Die (1973)
24. XTC – Making Plans For Nigel (1979)
25. Yvonne Elliman – If I Can’t Have You (1977)
26. ZZ Top – Tush (1974)

https://rg.to/file/5181e7a4c30152087788b55e98e54f7c/ABC70.rar.html

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Any Major Guitar Vol. 2

July 19th, 2018 3 comments

 

 

The second mix of great guitar bits that I really dig. As with Any Major Guitar Vol. 1, I make no claims of the featured tracks belonging in any hierarchy. It’s all entirely subjective, as it usually is in music.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and it includes home-strummed covers.

 

1. Prince – Let’s Go Crazy (1984)
Byoong moment: 2:40. Prince was such a genius at so many things that his guitar beroics are easily forgotten. But just listen to tracks like When Doves Cry, Purple Rain, I Wanna Be Your Lover or his out-claptoning solo on a live cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps to know that he ranks among the great axemen.

2. Thin Lizzy – Whisky In The Jar (1971)
Byoong moment: 2:19. Before Gary Moore, there was Eric Bell in Thin Lizzy. It’s Bell’s guitar which turns this Irish folk-song into a rock classic, with that opening line, that guitar riff, and that minute-long solo that sounds thoroughly rock as well as faithful to the song’s Irish pipes.

3. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – Come Up And See Me (1977)
Byoong moment: 1:50. A false ending, with a rather long pause, then Jim Cregan’s gorgeous flamenco acoustic solo kicks in. A story has it that the solo had been captured on tape during a soundcheck and later inserted by producer Alan Parsons later. A good story but probably not true.

4. Blondie – (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear (1978)
Byoong moment: 1:18. The great musician in Blondie is drummer Clem Burke (just listen to him here), though they were all much more accomplished musicians than the punk label suggested. Chris Stein’s guitar on Presence Dear shimmers and illuminates his girlfriend, Deborah Harry, much as it did on X-Offender, which was another contender.

5. The Smiths – This Charming Man (1984)
Byoong moment: 2:26. I have a theory that it wasn’t so much Morrissey’s lyrics that inspired a generation of alienated, misunderstood youths (many of the lyrics are embarrassingly bad, especially from a man who belittled others for writing “awful poetry”), but Johnny Marr’s guitar which could steer your emotions, from uplifted to dejected (that whine on How Soon Is Now, which might have featured here). There are many Marr moments to pick from; I’ll land on the jolly line he plays at 2:26.

6. Aztec Camera – Oblivious (1983)
Byoong moment: 1:48. A perfect pop song with delightful little guitar arpeggios interspersed throughout, leading us to a joyous guitar solo by singer-songwriter Roddy Frame.

7. Colin Hay – Overkill (acoustic) (2003)
Byoong moment: 1:48. Here the singer of the Men At Work hit cools things down with a superb vocal performance. It’s the simple but lovely acoustic guitar solo, also by Colin Hay, that signals an increase in intensity.

8. John Mayer – Gravity (2006)
Byoong moment: 2:05. Put aside John Mayer’s douchebag persona and you’ll find a very good guitarist. Often, there’s a lot of gurning self-indulgence in Mayer’s white bluesman’s guitar work, but sometimes he shows restraint and it is quite beautiful, as it is here.

9. Chris Isaak – Blue Hotel (1987)
Byoong moment: 1:52. The riff brings to mind the kind of Mexican border settings of shows like Breaking Bad, and James Calvin Wilsey‘s solo could soundtrack the gruesome but satisfactory killing in the desert of an evil drug kingpin. Wilsey also played the solo on Wicked Game, another contender for inclusion.

10. Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street (1977)
Byoong moment: 4:47. The obvious star of Baker Street (featured here in its LP version) is the late Raphael Ravenscroft’s alto sax, so the terrific guitar solo by Hugh Burns often is overlooked. Still, it inspired Slash’s solo for Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine. Hugh Burns’ other famous guitar performance was also on a song dominated by a saxophone: George Michael’s Careless Whispers (he also played on sax-less Faith and Father Figure).

11. Rod Stewart – Sailing (1975)
Byoong moment: 2:15. The first song I slow-danced to with a girl I liked, so the simple but lovely acoustic guitar intro still gives me butterflies; by the time of the guitar solo I’m as deeply in love as a 11-year-old can be. Both guitars are played by Muscle Shoals session man Pete Carr, who also might have featured for Bob Seger’s Against The Wind.

12. Santana – Samba Pa Ti (1970)
Byoong moments: 0:00. It’s all guitar here, starting with those mournful notes and becoming progressively more joyous. Carlos Santana gets great support from keyboardist and co-writer Gregg Rolie.

13. The Allman Brothers Band – Blue Sky (1972)
Byoong moments: 1:07 & 2:37. Two great solos for the price of one. First Duane Allman, in the last thing he played before his death in a motorcycle accident, lets his guitar sing. Then at 2:37 Dicky Betts gets his welcome turn. His distinctive guitar style has, by default, become synonymous with British small-world blokey bigotry through the instrumental Jessica, the theme of Top Gear.

14. The Doobie Brothers – China Grove (1973)
Byoong moment: 2:24. Tom Johnstone’s guitar riff deserves an entry on its own — but then, if you are going down the Doobie route, Long Train Running would be your first stop. But no Doobies song has a solo quite as delicious as that by Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter.

15. Status Quo – Rockin’ All Over The World (1977)
Byoong moment: 0:55 & 2:38. It’s easy to laugh at Status Quo’s three-chord career, as if they were musically limited. Don’t be fooled. Rockin’ All Over The World is a great pop-rock record, and it’s lifted higher by those joyous guitar solos, especially the increasingly insistent solo led by Rick Parfitt towards the end, with Francis Rossi providing the high-pitched fills, that sees out the song.

16. Chuck Berry – Too Much Monkey Business (1957)
Byoong moment: 1:17. It could have been any number of Chuck Berry songs to feature here. Truth be told, I’m a bit tired of the overplayed ones — Johnny B Goode, Roll Over Beethoven etc. Two solos here: the first is classic Berry; the second a throw-away effort.

17. Elvis Presley – Hound Dog (1956)
Byoong moment: 0:50 & 1:22. To white ears reared on Perry Como, Hound Dog must have been a shock: so much ferocious noise! Even now, 62 years later, Hound Dog is punk. Elvis’ raucous vocals, J.D. Fontana’s brutal drum rolls, the relentless bass, and Scotty Moore’s insolent guitar breaks. Moore later didn’t know himself how he produced that sound; he remembers being pissed off at the countless takes Elvis had the musicians play (Presley was the de facto producer of the song). In the end there were 31 takes; Elvis chose Take 18. It may well be the greatest rock & roll record of them all. (See the Hound Dog Song Swarm)

18. Jim Steinman – Love And Death And An American Guitar (1981)
Byoong moment: none. There’s no guitar here, nor any instrument, but it’s all about a guitar. Jim’s guitar has “a heart of chrome and a voice like a horny angel”, but he doesn’t know how “to treat an expensive musical instrument”. Steinman was not famous for his comedy nor for his mastery understatement, so this has to be one of the best unintentionally funny things ever committed to record.

19. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1977)
Byoong moment: 6:09. And from there we move to Steinman’s greatest production, the gloriously overblown, operatic Bat Out Of Hell. Meat Loaf might own the song, but the real star of the show is Todd Rundgren’s guitar which not only scores the emotions and fills solo needs, but most importantly provides the sound-effect for the revving motorbike. It might well be the greatest guitar solo of all time, as this superb account of the recording, mainly true but embellished for effect, claims.

https://rg.to/file/608da0e68d839ce743938f6065228d75/guit_2.rar.html

 

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Great Covers: Darkness On The Edge Of Town (1978)

July 12th, 2018 10 comments

 

 

I first wrote this post seven years ago. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of 1978’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town, so it seems a good idea to revive my appreciation for the LP and its cover work, the latter by the words below, the former by a collection of cover versions of its songs, in the proper track order.

One track, Prove It All Night, isn’t a cover, but such a reworking that it might as well be, from Springsteen 1978 tour (from the Agora Ballroom gig in Cleveland, bootleg fans). Just as I was putting this set together, it was announced that Springsteen has released a remastered version of his legendary gig from the same tour at the Roxy in LA. One track here has featured before: the Flying Picket’s a capella version of Factory, which was on the Any Major Springsteen Covers mix that accompanied my review of Bruce’s autobiography.

For many years Darkness On The Edge Of Town, in my view Bruce Springsteen’s greatest album, was rather underrated. The trouble might have been that it produced no hit single, and nothing as exuberant as Born To Run on the preceding album of the same name or Hungry Hearts on 1980’s The River. The album’s title suggests an existential sense of alienation, a loss of hope and a ferocious anger, which is reflected in the songs, in their sound and in their words. The hope of Thunder Road on Born To Run gives way to the despondent resignation of Racing In The Streets on Darkness. The guitar-driven elation of Born To Run here becomes the guitar-driven anger of Candy’s Room or Adam Raised A Cain.

In the publicity blurb for the de luxe CD/DVD set of Darkness, Springsteen describes the album has his “samurai” record. I think of it as his Scorsese album. Mean Streets, the name of Martin Scorsese’s 1973 film, might have been a great alternative title for Springsteen’s only Carter-era LP. The cover complements the feel of the album perfectly. A tired-looking Bruce stands in what looks like a rather dreary apartment. His dishevelled hair calls to mind Al Pacino in Serpico, his penetrating stare Robert de Niro’s. One almost expects John Cazale to lurk behind the closed blinds, ready to embark on some ill-fated adventure or other (alas, that wonderful actor died on 12 March 1978, exactly a week before the completion of the recordings for Darkness , which begun in October 1977).

 

 

Rarely does an album cover condense in one simple photo the whole direction of an album. Photographer Frank Stefanko’s iconic photo of Springsteen did just that – without having heard the songs or knowing what they were about.

Stefanko, who also shot the cover of 1980’s The River, met Springsteen through Patti Smith, who had a big hit in 1978 with Because The Night, one of the many songs Springsteen had recorded for Darkness and then rejected. It was the beginning of a friendship that has survived the intervening three decades. In an interview with Pitchfork, Stefanko recalls doing a test shoot at his home in Haddonfield, New Jersey. More shoots followed, but it was that initial session that generated the cover art for Darkness.

Stefanko told Pitchfork that “the original shoot was just done with my perception of how I thought he wanted to look or how I wanted him to look […] From what I understand, when he looked at the photograph he said, ‘That’s the person that I’m writing about. That’s the person that is the Darkness on the Edge of Town character and that’s what I want on my cover.”

Springsteen recalled the shoot in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian: “He [Stefanko] was a guy who’d worked in a meat-packing plant in south Jersey. He got the 13-year-old kid from next door to hold a light. He borrowed a camera. I don’t know if he even had a camera! But when I saw the picture I said, ‘That’s the guy in the songs.’ I wanted the part of me that’s still that guy to be on the cover. Frank stripped away all your celebrity and left you with your essence. That’s what that record was about.”

In fact, Stefanko, who in 1978 was 32, had owned a camera since he was seven years old, and had been taking photos on a serious basis since the 1960s.

 

 

The Darkness photos may seem casual, snapshots taken on the fly. They were, in fact, the product of a long shoot. On the picture used for the cover, Springsteen wears a white t-shirt. On other photos taken during the same session, he wears a black shirt, and then a hideous purple paisley shirt with the leather jacket he wears on the front cover.

“We were trying to recreate these middle America, working class families; guys that were looking for redemption. It could have been done in the 70s or 50s or even the 40s. The idea was that these people transcended time or space,” Stefanko told Pitchfork. “But we were trying to get something to look like an old Kodacolor snapshot. There were a lot of black and white photographs taken in those sessions too which were very striking in their own right. But the idea of this color photograph that could have been a snapshot in somebody’s drawer worked for the album.”

From all that we learn that Stefanko had pretty awful taste in wallpaper in 1978. The new owners of the house took the right decision to paper over it, but neglected to sell scraps of it, thereby missing one of the great opportunities for profiteering from a photographer’s ugly wallpaper.

Of course this mix easily fits on a standard CD-R. I haven’t made home-gigged covers for this set. PW in comments.

1. Dropkick Murphys – Badlands (2012)
2. Jeff Healey Band – Adam Raised A Cain (1994)
3. Aram – Something In The Night (1997)
4. Maria McKee – Candy’s Room (2005)
5. Emmylou Harris – Racing In The Streets (1982)
6. Frans Pollux – Belaofde Land (Dutch version of Promised Land) (2013)
7. The Flying Pickets – Factory (1984)
8. Graziano Romani – Streets Of Fire (2001)
9. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Prove It All Night (live, 1978)
10. The Winter Blanket – Darkness On The Edge Of Town (2005)

https://rg.to/file/7d16442d45bbe5bdff2b48fb7e8d3f46/Darkness_rec.rar.html

 

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In Memoriam – June 2018

July 3rd, 2018 2 comments

The man behind Elvis

Did rock & roll drumming take off with Elvis Presley’s drummer D. J. Fontana? No doubt, his stickwork on hits like Hound Dog — which must have sounded like punk to 1950s ears — helped create a template for the future. During a Louisiana Hayride tour in 1955 he joined a drummer-less group called the Blue Moon Boys — guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black and rhythm guitarist and singer Elvis Presley. He’d remain with Elvis for the next 15 years, playing on most of his hits and backing him on the 1968 comeback TV special. He was the last surviving of the four.

End of a 79-year career

In 1939, at the age of nine, Clarence Fountain was one of the founding members of the gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama. He remained with the group, even during a ten-year-long attempt to make it as a solo artist, until 2007 when he retired from performing; but even then continued to record with them. In the process he and his bandmates, almost all of them actually blind, became legends in the genre of gospel. Their first recording was 1948’s I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine. As soul music pushed gospel to the margins, the band was tempted to go secular but refused. Fountain said they were contented with what they had and remained committed to singing for the Lord. They steadily released gospel albums, but were “rediscovered” in the 1990s, winning a number of Grammys, leading to profitable collaborations with secular acts. Their version of Tom Wait’s Down In The Hole served as the theme for The Wire for a season. Fountain is survived by fellow founding member Jimmy Carter, who still performs with the band.

The Blues Brother

In the movie, the henpecked Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy didn’t think what he was going to do to Aretha Franklin and went on to join The Blues Brothers on their Mission of God. Murphy had played with The Blues Brothers — a supergroup of blues and soul session men fronted by actors Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi — after a long career playing with the greats of blues, from Ike Turner and Howlin’ Wolf to Chuck Berry, Memphis Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Etta James, Otis Rush and so on.

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘unsung hero’

Guitarist Danny Kirwan has been called the “forgotten hero of Fleetwood Mac”, the band he belonged to from 1968-72. It’s his slide guitar that supports Peter Green’s lead on the band’s early instrumental hit Albatross, but in their coked-up LA pomp Fleetwood Mac were rather a different band from the blues-rock outfit Kirwan and Green were part of. The flip-side of Albatross, titled Jigsaw Puzzle Blues, was written by the then-18-year-old. Kirwan has been described as a crucial creative force in the band prior to his involuntary 1972 departure. He released some solo material but increasingly struggled with mental illness and alcoholism, culminating in homelessness at one point.

The Veteran guitarist

Guitarist Bob Bain, who has died at 94 on an unspecified day in June, backed some of the great vocalists, including Billie Holiday (among others, on God Bless This Child), Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole (apparently on Unforgettable), Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Davis, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke and others. He also played for Henry Mancini (apparently also on the Peter Gunn and Mission:Impossile themes) and on several TV scores. For 22 years he played in Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show Band. He made his last recording in 2008 and last played on stage in 2015, some 70 years after debuting with Harry James and his Orchestra.

The jazz guardian

She was not a musician, but Lorraine Gordon made an indelible contribution to jazz, first as the wife of Blue Note co-founder Alfred Lion, whom she married in 1942, and then as the wife of Max Gordon, owner of the career-making Village Vanguard jazz club in New York’s Greenwich Village. After Max’s death in 1989 she closed the club for a day, and re-opened it the following day under her management. A peace and women’s activist in the 1960s, Gordon also wrote to keep the memory of jazz alive.

The doo wop legend

The Jive Five came on to the doo wop scene rather late in the genre’s heyday, but they turned out to be one of its longer-running acts, in part thanks to the band’s ability to jump on to the soul train in the mid-1960s. With the death this month of lead singer Eugene Pitt, I think only one member of the original line-up is still alive, Billy (Thurmond) Prophet. I was working on a mix of songs featuring in The Sopranos just days before I learnt of Pitt’s death; the Jive Five’s 1961 song What Time Is It? is very much in contention (it featured in Season 1, the scene where Tony dreams of getting head from Dr Melfi).

The Catholic satanist

You wouldn’t expect a devout Roman Catholic to play in a band called Deicide, which is led by a professed Satanist, and proclaim as his favourite song one whose title calls for the death of Jesus. Yet, so it was with metal guitarist Ralph Santolla, who has died at 51 following a heart attack. Many Deicide fans, who unsurprisingly are hostile to the Christianity, apparently didn’t really like Santolla and reportedly even issued death threats against him over his Catholic ways. But Santolla said he’d not betray his faith just to be liked. When he eventually left Deicide, it was over mundane business matters.

 

Demba Nabé, 46, member of German dancehall/rap group Seeed, on May 31

Eddy Clearwater, 83, blues singer and guitarist, on June 1
Eddy Clearwater – I Wouldn’t Lay My Guitar Down (1980)

Clarence Fountain, 88, founding member of gospel band The Blind Boys of Alabama, on June 3
The Blind Boys of Alabama – I Can See Everybody’s Mother But I Can’t See Mine (1948)
Clarence Fountain – Ain’t No Way (1974)
The Blind Boys of Alabama – Way Down In The Hole (2001)
The Blind Boys of Alabama with Lou Reed – Jesus (2009)

Marc Ogeret, 86, French protest singer, on June 4
Marc Ogeret – Le chant des partisans (1990)

Norman Edge, 84, jazz double-bassist, on June 4
Gene Ammons – Ca’ Purange (Jungle Soul) (1968, on double-bass)

Brian Browne, 81, Canadian jazz pianist, on June 5

Teddy Johnson, 98, English singer, on June 6
Teddy Johnson & Pearl Carr – Sing, Little Birdie (1959)

Ralph Santolla, 51, heavy metal guitarist, on June 6

Jimmy Gonzalez, 67, singer with Tejano band Mazz, on June 6

Stefan Weber, 71, Austrian singer, on June 7

Danny Kirwan, 68, British guitarist (Fleetwood Mac 1968-72), on June 8
Fleetwood Mac – Jigsaw Puzzle Blues (1968, also as writer)
Fleetwood Mac – Sands Of Time (1971, also as writer)
Danny Kirwan – Hot Summer Day (1975)

Gino Santercole, 77, Italian singer and songwriter, on June 8
Gino Santercole – Questo Vecchio Pazzo Mondo (1966)

Lorraine Gordon, 95, owner of NYC jazz club Village Vanguard, on June 9
Wynton Marsalis Septet – Midnight In Paris (Live At The Village Vanguard, 1999)

Ras Kimono, 60, Nigerian reggae musician, on June 10

Neal E. Boyd, 42, America’s Got Talent winner 2008, on June 10

Jon Hiseman, 73, English drummer, producer and engineer, on June 12
John Mayall – Sandy (1969, on drums)
Colosseum II – Secret Places (1976, as drummer, writer, producer)

Wayne Dockery, 76, American jazz double bassist, on June 12

D.J. Fontana, 87, rock & roll drummer (Elvis Presley), on June 13
Elvis Presley – Hound Dog (1956, on The Milton Berle Show, on drums)
Elvis Presley – Return To Sender (1962)
Scotty Moore & D.J. Fontana feat. Steve Earle – Hot Enough For Ya (1997)

Santos Blanco, 46, singer of Spanish pop group Locomía, on June 13
Locomía – Locomía (1984)

Matt Murphy, 88, blues guitarist, on June 14
Chuck Berry – Jaguar And Thunderbird (1960)
Koko Taylor – Don’t Mess With The Messer (1969)
The Blues Brothers – Think (1980, on guitar)

Nick Knox, 60, drummer of The Electric Eels and The Cramps, on June 14
The Cramps – Bikini Girls With Machine Guns (1986)

Rebecca Parris, 66, American jazz singer, on June 17
Rebecca Parris – Never Let Me Go (2001)

Delia Bell, 83, bluegrass singer, on June 18
Delia Bell & Bill Grant – Sad Situation (1984)

XXXTentacion, 20, rapper, shot on June 18

Jimmy Wopo, 21, rapper, on June 18

Lowrell Simon, 75, soul singer and songwriter, on June 19
Lowrell – Mellow Mellow (Right On) (1979)

Bansi Quinteros, 41, Spanish keyboardist of Dutch trance duo GMS, on June 19

David Bianco, 63, record producer, engineer and mixer, on June 20
Bruce Springsteen – Trapped (Live) (1980/85, as co-producer)
Lisa Loeb – I Do (1997, as engineer)
Tift Merritt – Another Country (2008, mix)

Vinnie Paul, 54, founding drummer of heavy metal band Pantera, on June 22
Pantera – Cemetery Gates (1990)
Pantera – Revolution Is My Name (2000)

Geoffrey Oryema, 65, Ugandan musician, on June 22
Geoffrey Oryema – Umoja (1993)

Violeta Rivas, 80, Argentine singer and actress, on June 23
Violeta Rivas – Chim Chimenea (1965)

Bob Bain, 94, jazz guitarist, in June
Harry James and his Orchestra – It’s Been A Long, Long Time (1945, on guitar)
Bob Bain – Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
Carpenters – I Can Dream Can’t I? (1975, on guitar)

George Cameron, 70, drummer and co-lead singer of The Left Banke, on June 24
The Left Banke – She May Call You Up Tonight (1967)

Big Bill Bissonnette, 81, jazz trombonist, drummer, producer, on June 26

Fedor Frešo, 71, Slovak rock and jazz bassist, on June 26

Steve Soto, 54, bassist of punk bands Agent Orange, The Adolescents, on June 27
Adolescents – Amoeba (1981)

Joe Jackson, 89, father and manager of The Jackson 5, on June 27

Eugene Pitt, 80, singer with doo wop band The Jive Five, on June 29
The Jive Five – My True Story (1961)
The Jive Five feat. Eugene Pitt – Sugar (Don’t Take Away My Candy) (1968)

Smoke Dawg, 21, Canadian rapper, shot dead on June 30

Alan Longmuir, 70, founder and bassist of the Bay City Rollers, on July 2
See yesterday’s post

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Pissing off the Taste Police with the Bay City Rollers

July 2nd, 2018 15 comments

 

To mark the passing today of Bay City Rollers co-founder Alan Longmuir, I’m recycling this article, originally posted on 28 August 2008. I stand by its content.


It was inevitable that the Bay City Rollers would be regarded as the apogee of uncool, even in their pomp. The screaming, barely pubescent girls at their concert one might have overlooked – after all, the Beatles survived that. Even the outfits – tartan and stupid sock-revealing bell bottoms – might have been forgivable. But the juncture of both was too much to accept for the self-respecting music fan. That, and the name of the bassplayer, Stuart “Woody” Wood. Woody!

My rejection of the Bay City Rollers coincided, quite naturally, with the nascent sprouting of pubic hair. Once I had bravely (or obliviously) paddled against the informed mainstream which held BCR in the sort of contempt which two decades later would later be directed at the hapless Hanson. Where I once regarded BCR’s I Only Wanna Be With You as the definitive version of the song – and, well, the only one I knew – I now wished Leslie, Eric and Derek ill. Not on Woody, though, because I liked Woody. I laughed when their post-Leslie McKeown career, with South African teen idol Duncan Faure at lead vocals, flopped.

Still, BCR were my introduction to pop fandom. I don’t know why I chose them, and not, say, Sweet, who had much better songs and whose Poppa Joe was a favourite when I was six. It can’t have been the outfits. Perhaps I just liked Woody’s feather-mullet. But my pre-pubescent band they were. The girls loved them, which seemed to me a good reason to emulate them. So when I read that the Scottish idols wore no underpants, I was at once appalled and fascinated. Of course I tried going commando. That sartorial imitation did not last long on grounds of the jeans’ zipper and stitching chafing my tender scrotum.

I forgave the Bay City Rollers their lapse in hygiene (should the reader be of the commando persuasion, may I implore him at this point to put on some Y-fronts. You never know when you are going to have an accident. And I don’t necessarily mean vehicular mishaps). I even found it in my heart to overlook the personnel changes which followed the departure of Alan Longmuir. It was an odd thing: Alan, who looked 40 even then, was replaced by Ian Mitchell, who looked 12, who in turn was substituted for Pat McGlynn, who looked nine and three-quarters. Before BCR hit the big time – before Woody and Leslie joined and they had a hit with Keep On Dancing – the original members looked like old dudes, held over from Woodstock. Now the new influx was barely older than I was.

Ian and Pat didn’t last long, and the final album with Leslie McKeown on vocals, It’s A Game, was recorded as a foursome, with many of the songs self-penned, mostly by Eric Faulkner and Woody. There was a slightly incongruous cover of Bowie’s Rebel Rebel. On the back cover, our friends had shed not only their shirts, but their trousers seemed to have fallen off too, revealing the folly of going commando (actually, it probably was a comment on shedding the loony tartan outfits). I can’t say that It’s A Game was a poptastic triumph; my BCR infatuation was already waning on account of pubic growth (and here we enter another good argument against going commando). It did, however, deliver a quite magnificent song, You Made Me Believe In Magic. It is exquisite, perfect pop, crying out to be covered and turned into a massive hit (which it was in Japan, where BCR fever contributed to global warming). The title track was not bad either, at least the chorus.

Indeed, a couple of BCR singles could qualify as perfect pop. Saturday Night, with the stuttering chorus, is a bracing bit of glam pop. Likewise 1976’s prescient Yesterday’s Hero, which borrows the live concert effects from Sweet’s Teenage Rampage. It would be regarded as a classic had it been released in 1973 (which would have been two years before it was originally released by Australians Vanda & Young).

Summerlove Sensation, Bye Bye Baby, Rock And Roll Love Letter (“I’ll keep on rock and rollin’ till my jeans explode”), Money Honey, Give A Little Love, Shang-A-Lang, I Only Wanna Be With you are all fine pop records of their era. I wouldn’t want to listen to those every day, but once in a while, when in a ’70s mood, I do enjoy a bit of Bay City Rollers – even without the nostalgia caveat behind which I sometimes hide.

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