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In Memoriam – May 2012

June 5th, 2012 4 comments

The Grim Reaper wreaked havoc in May. Robin Gibb, Donna Summer and Adam Yauch were the headliners, but there were also members of The Dillards and Crowded House who left us. Two blues and soul guitarists died: Charles Pitts, who played on so many of Isaac Hayes’ records (his guitar helped make The Theme of Shaft such an iconic track) and Pete Cosey, who played on many Chess records.

In April we lost Andrew Love, who was involved in creating the iconic intro for Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness. In May we lost another co-creator of a famous Otis intro: Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, who died at 70, provided the driving bass of I Can’t Turn You Loose. Fans of the Blues Brothers will know that intro; it’s played during the long introduction of the band as Jake and Elroy are trying to make to the stage. And on that stage was Donald “Duck” Dunn, the bassist with the white Afro and beard, appearing as himself. Check out the man’s discography.

We also lost Doc Watson, who did much to revive and keep alive the flame of traditional country and bluegrass at a time when the genre was tending towards the glossy pop sound.

First on the list this month is Jim McCrary, one of the rare non-musicians who warrant inclusion in this series. His contribution resides in album covers and rock photography. His LP cover portfolio includes Carole King’s Tapestry (and album cover which I will deal with in a couple of week’s time), the Carpenters’ Offering and Now And Then, The Flying Burrito Brothers’ Burrito Deluxe and The Flying Burrito Bros, and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen. He also took the famous series of photos of Gram Parson in the Nudie suit.

I had never heard of Masud Sadiki before, hut was saddened to hear of another young singer who saw no way out of depression but by committing suicide. The reggae singer from St Kitts leaves a wife and two young children, compounding the tragedy.  Two other mostly unknown musicians are included because they were killed in a shooting in a bar in which they frequently played, alongside three others.

Jim McCrary, 72, photographer of more than 300 LP covers, on April 29
Carole King – So Far Away (1971, live)

Charles Pitts, 65, soul guitarist for Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Isaac Hayes a.o., on May 1
The Isley Brothers – It’s Your Thing (1969)
Isaac Hayes – Theme from Shaft (1973, live at Wattstax)

Lary Donn, 70, rockabilly singer, on May 1
Larry Donn – I’ll Never Forget You (1963)

Lloyd Brevett, 80, double bassist  of The Skatalites, on May 3
The Skatalites – Confucius (1966)

Edith Bliss, 52, Australian pop singer and TV presenter, on May 3

Bobby Thomas, 70, singer with the Vibranaires, Vibes, V-Eights and Orioles, on May 3

Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, 47, rapper with the Beastie Boys, on May 4
Beastie Boys – Pass The Mic (1992)
Beastie Boys – Ch-Check It Out (2004)

Mort Lindsey, 89, orchestra leader, pianist, composer and musical director, on May 4

Jose ‘Tonico’ Perez, 95, member of Brazilian duo Tonico e Tinoco, on May 5
Tonico e Tinoco – Chico Mineiro

‘Sweet Joe’ Russell, 72, singer with a capella group The Persuasions, on May 6
The Persuasions – The Whole World Is A Stage (1970)

Michael Burks, 54, blues and soul guitarist, singer and composer, on May 6
Michael Burks – Make It Rain (2001)

Ernest Warren, 78, doo wop tenor with The Spaniels, on May 7
The Spaniels – Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite (1954)

Everett Lilly, 87, half of bluegrass duo The Lilly Brothers, on May 8
The Lilly Brothers & Don Stover – Sinner, You’d Better Get Ready (1962)

Clive Welham, British drummer and early bandmate of Syd Barrett and Dave Gilmore, on May 9

Celso Chavez, 44, guitarist of alternative rock band Possum Dixon, on May 9

Bernardo Sassetti, 41, Portuguese jazz pianist and film composer, on May 10

Donald  ‘Duck’ Dunn, 70, bass guitarist on Stax, and with The Blues Brothers and Booker T. & the M.G.’s, on May 13
Otis Redding – I Can’t Turn You Loose (1965)
The Blues Brothers – She Caught The Katy (1980)
Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (1981)

Belita Woods, 63, soul singer, on May 14
Belita Woods – That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You (1970)

Doug Dillard, 75, bluegrass & country musician with The Dillards and Dillard & Clark, on May 16
The Dillards – Lemon Chimes (1965)
Dillard & Clark – Train Leaves Here This Mornin’ (1968)

Chuck Brown, 75, funk singer and musician, on May 16
Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers – Bustin’ Loose (1978)

Donna Summer, 63, disco and pop singer, on May 17
Donna Summer – Last Dance (1978)
Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer – No More Tears (Single Version, 1979)

Peter Jones, 45, drummer of Crowded House (1995-97), on May 18
Crowded House – Sister Madly (live, 1997)

Robin Gibb, 62, member of Bee Gees, on May 20
Bee Gees – Marley Purt Drive (1969)
Robin Gibb – Gone Gone Gone (1970)
Robin Gibb – Another Lonely Night In New York (1983)

Robert Nix, 67, drummer of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and Classics IV, on May 20
Atlanta Rhythm Section – So Into You (1976)

Carrie Smith, 70, blues and jazz singer, on May 20
Carrie Smith – Some Rainy Day (1983)

Eddie Blazonczyk Sr, 71, polka musician and founder of The Versatones, on May 21

Masud Sadiki, 37, reggae and calypso singer from St Kitts & Neves, suicide on May 21

Kuly Ral, 35, member of English-Asian group RDB, on May 23

Roy Wilson, 72, member of Jamaican duo Higgs and Wilson, on May 26.

Doc Watson, 89, bluegrass and folk musician, on May 29
Doc Watson – Talk About Suffering (1964)

Pete Cosey, 68, guitarist for Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock a.o., on May 30
Muddy Waters – Tom Cat (1968)

Joe “Meshuguna Joe “ Albanese and Drew ‘Shmootzi the Clod ‘ Keriakedes, members of Seattle folk group God’s Favourite Breakfast, shot dead on May 3

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Step back to 1977 – Part 2

July 21st, 2010 5 comments

In part one of my nostalgic trip to 1977 I recalled the sudden death of my father and how I shoved my rival out of the way in a race for my first true love’s favour. Puberty’s hormones had started to rage in my 11-year-old body. One day in early September I bought a copy of the teen magazine Bravo, familiar to me from the posters that used to cover my older sister’s bedroom walls. This one had Linda Blair from The Exorcist on the cover, and inside the first of a four-part series of Smokie posters. Apart with providing me with excellent sex education, buying Bravo turned me from a casual music fan into an obsessive. My growth was rapid, as the first part of 1978 will show. I might regard most of the sings in this post with nostalgic affection, but I am not proud to associate myself with some of them publicly.

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Baccara – Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.mp3
Baccara – Sorry, I’m A Lady.mp3

I have told the story before how the poetry of Yes Sir, I Can Boogie ignited my passion for the English language, which by 1977 I had learned for a year in school. It was the word “erjitayshin” (as in “Meester, your eyes are full of hesitation”) that send me to the Langenscheidt Englisch-Deutsch dictionary. It caused me great satisfaction to have mastered a four-syllable word. From there, I’d regularly translate lyrics from the snappily titled Top Schlagersongtextheft booklets. As we’ll see in part 3 of 1977, my first celebrity crush on an adult involved the blonde from ABBA, but the Baccara lady in black also gave me strange stirrings, proving that I am not tied to a particular type of woman. The spoken admonition in the Spanish duo’s second hit, in which the white Baccaraette regrets that she is a woman of virtue, also seemed cute and, indeed, sexy to me. In short, Baccara represent the aural and visual stimuli to my nascent pubescent sexual awakening.
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Harpo – In The Zum-Zum-Zummernight.mp3
Flute! This is not one of Harpo’s better-remembered songs. It reached #13 in West-Germany in September, his last Top 20 entry there. Indeed, by 1977 – the year he spent a month in Swedish jail for refusing to perform compulsory military service – Harpo’s career was declining. Being a bit of a Harpo fan, I bought two more singles by Harpo after this — Television and a cover of The Troggs’ With A Girl Like You, neither of which were hits — and then the singer disappeared. A few years later he briefly returned to the news when he sustained serious injuries from being kicked by a horse he was training (he lost sight in one eye and his sense of smell). You and I might have boiled the horse down for glue. Harpo, in commendable contrast to you and me, named his next album after the horse, Starter. Apparently Harpo still performs (Northern German and Danish readers can catch him on 30 July at an Oldies-Night in Süderbarup, near Flensburg).
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Boney M – Belfast.mp3
Like Woody Guthrie before them, Boney M had a message of politics. “Got to have a believin’, got to have a believin’, got to have a believin’ all the people ’cause the people are leavin’. When the people believin’, when the people believin’, when the people believin’ all the children cause the children are leavin’.” Right on! It took 20 years for the conflicting sides to listen to Boney M with open hearts and minds before they signed the Good Friday Peace Accord. On this song, Marcia Barrett got to sing lead instead of the more ubiquitous Liz Mitchell. It was co-written by Drafi Deutscher (who in the1960s recorded what may well be the only ever world-class Schlager, Marmor Stein und Eisen) specifically for Barrett, intended for her to sing even before she joined Boney M. Its original, less snappy title was Londonderry, which might locate Deutscher either on the Protestant or the Oblivious side.

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Rubettes – Ooh-La-La.mp3
When successful acts died commercially in Britain, they lingered on for a while in Germany. The Rubettes benefitted from such loyalties when their Ooh La La La became a hit well past their sell-by date. I thought the chorus was quite catchy, but I obviously did not take the time to translate them. “I’m contemplating having her my bride; she’s got great big tits, that’s what she has. Yes, when it comes down to lovin’, anything goes and everyone knows it, I swear now, for she has a thing about shedding her clothes.” Tom Waits was not going to perform a cover version of that, but it was pretty risque for the pop charts in the 1970s. And then, Rubettes Man engages himself with her clothes-shedding temperament: “I heard my parents footsteps coming down the stairs to see what all the noise was about. So I rolled over to the old piano and I said: ‘Ma, we’ve been playing the blues.’ My mother gave me a knowing glance and she said: ‘Son, is that how you play it with your trousers round your shoes?’” Surely a real mother would have given a knowing look and ask her horny son not to soil the rug…

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Bay City Rollers – You Made Me Believe In Magic.mp3
There are BCR songs I like because they make me feel like a kid again. But this song I like because it’s damn good. It didn’t do very well because by then even the German teen girls had begun deserting the group, though it apparently cracked the US Top 10 (but only #34 in the UK and even in Germany only #24). Soon singer Leslie McKeown would depart as well. So You Made Me Believe In Magic stands as a testament to what might have been. It has a great arrangement (I really like the strings) and the guitar solo – ostensibly by Woody, but I don’t buy that – is pretty good too, albeit rather of its time. In memory of BCR, here’s a great video of the band performing for OAPs; I suspect it was a funny response to their being a teenybopper band.

Anyway, BCR remind me of the Great Poster Debate of September 1977. Bravo carried four different sizes of posters: A4, A3, a double-sided A2 insert called the “Superposter”, and the Starschnitt, weekly pieces of a picture that glued together would produce a life-sized poster (the only one I ever collected was of the Beatles). Although I was not a little girl, there were BCR posters up on the walls of the bedroom which my younger brother and I shared. Although I bought the magazines, we’d take weekly turns in deciding which posters would go up; my brother’s bargaining strategy was that if he had no say, he’d veto any poster going up. One week, the Superposter choice fell between a garish picture of BCR clones called the Dead End Kids on the colour side, and a really cool monochrome photo of Jimi Hendrix (of whom I knew nothing yet, other than that he was dead). Alas, it was brother’s week to choose the posters (pictured on the Bravo cover here), and he opted for the fucking Dead End Kids. I tried all I could to persuade him that Jimi had to go up, even trying to emotionally blackmail him by claiming that our late father, an opera and theatre man, was a big Jimi Hendrix fan. To no avail. The Dead End Kids went up – comedy socks, skimpy cut-off denim shorts with rather too open legs and all. I never got to hear any of their records, but a lot of Hendrix’s.

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Kenny Rogers – Lucille.mp3
Two years ago I was at a party when the electricity went off. The host quickly produced a guitar for an old-fashioned sing-along. But when nobody really remembers complete lyrics, these things tend to e short-lived. So as our host was idly playing as blues riff, I started singing along, making up lyrics as I went along to what I called The Muthafuckin’ Blues. The lyrics of my ditty were more country than blues. You know the deal: my dog gone died, my woman gone left me, and the crops in the field are being left unharvested. Later I realised that, apart from the deceased canine (and the bitter end that my woman who gone left me would eventually meet), I was riffing on the theme of Kenny Roger’s Lucille, from the point of view of the wronged husband.

My mother bought the single on a trip in October to Cologne, at the massive Saturn store, at the time Europe’s biggest record shop. It was our first family trip since my father’s death in June. Before departing, I had been given a new pair of black leather shoes which had a very distinctive smell. Lucille evokes that smell and the very particular memories of that trip.

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Hoffmann & Hoffmann – Himbeereis zum Frühstück.mp3
Carole King – Hard Rock Cafe.mp3

This German cover of the Bellamy Brothers rather good Crossfire played every morning on our radio alarm clock, a modern thing with green digital numbers. Almost like I Got You Babe in Groundhog Day. It was one of three songs that seemed to play in a loop at the time: Carole King’s Hardrock Café, a German cover version of Herman’s Hermits’ No Milk Today by a guy who played the fiddle, and this song. Although I was by now vehemently opposed to any German music whatsoever, I had a sneaking affection for this song. Raspberry ice cream for breakfast (which beats starfish and coffee, maple syrup and cream) sounded like just the thing to fulfill my nutritional needs. I was intrigued by the notion of rock ‘n’ roll in an elevator (you don’t think they meant something other than dancing to Bill Haley, do you?). Sadly, one of the Hoffmanns died young, having thrown himself from a Rio hotel window in 1984. He was 33. I can’t say I liked Carole King’s song much, though it sounds a lot better now.

Part 3 follows soon. And when we get to 1978, when the music will get a lot better.

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More Stepping Back

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Answer Records Vol. 4

February 23rd, 2010 12 comments

Three new answer songs, though one is more a case on expanding on the story of the original. The first answer song here is one of the funniest in the genre. The Carol in the title of Neil Sedaka’s song was his high-school girlfriend Carole King, though we should not be deceived to believe that this was some kind of soul-baring singer-songwriter moment. After Oh Carol became a hit, the budding songwriter, still all of 18 years old, responded with a pretty funny response. Alas, it was not a hit. The third featured song here is the excellent Harper Valley P.T.A., a country song that has crossed over into soul music. Look out on Friday for a version by the great Vivian Reed.

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Love is reciprocated after all

Act 1: Neil Sedaka – Oh, Carol (1959).mp3
Poor Neil, he loves Carol, but Carol acts like she doesn’t love him. “You hurt me and you made me cry,” he whine. But he vows to keep on taking her shit because “if you leave me I will surely die” (there is no time for understatement when you’re in love). Evidently Neil has not heard of George Constanza’s theory of The Hand, because he keeps on begging: “I will always want you for my sweetheart, no matter what you do.”

Act 2: Carole King – Oh, Neil (1960).mp3
Ah, relief. Carol, who (in the song) hails from Tennessee, is hot for Neil too, and has been for a long time; ever since she saw him at square dance, in fact. And when she saw him, something skipped a beat. It may be a misheard lyric, but her “bowel skipped a beat” and her “heart felt so heavy like I had too much to eat”. In the obligatory spoken bit, Carol promises to go as far as giving up “a month’s supply of chewing tobacco” if this is going to make her be known as “Mrs Neil Sedakee”, her murderous Sedaka music-hating gran’pappy notwithstanding. And at the end, gran’pappy makes his climactic cameo.

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On a point of pop evolution

Act 1: Barry Mann – Who Put The Bomp (1961).mp3
Sedaka and King had a Brill Building colleague in Barry Mann, who with King’s future husband Gerry Goffin pondered pop’s perennial point of pedantic philosophy: “Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?” It seems urgent that the brains arrive at an answer soon, because Barry would like to thank that man, for these words let Barry dip da dip da dip his rama lama ding dong in his girl’s boogity boogity shoo.

Act 2: The Fabulous Marcels – I Put The Bomp (1961).mp3
Ah, look no further, Barry, it was The Fabulous Marcels (in particular the bass singer) who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp, and they would appreciate your shaking their hands in gratitude — preferably after you’ve washed them having done the dip da dip da dip with your rama lama ding dong. Personally, I think The Fabulous Marcels, for all their doo wop chops and the dang-a-dang-ding-donging of the Marcel’s (of whom these guys may be an extension, cousins or impostors) Blue Moon, are presenting a false picture of pop music’s evolution. Genesis, which provides us with an incontestably complete account of all creation, teaches us that God completed the rama lama ding dong, having cut a ram from the dong, as dusk fell on the sixth day, saw it was indeed good, and said: “Let there be Saturday Night Fever disco light”. Or that’s what I learned in Sunday school.

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The gossip you sow…

Act 1: Jeannie C Riley – Harper Valley P.T.A. (1968).mp3
Don’t y’all be talking trash behine mah back! Well, that’s what the Parent-Teacher Association did to the widow Johnson, accusing her in a letter delivered via her daughter of social and sartorial misconduct so severe as to render her unfit for parenthood. Perhaps the P.T.A. worthies believed that Mrs Johnson was too preoccupied with drunken promiscuity to notice their flaws. They certainly underestimated the victim of their own hypocrisy. At the next P.T.A. meeting — the same night, as it happens — Mrs Johnson turns up in her mini-skirt, and dishes the dirt about adultery and alcoholism and lack of discretion within the respectable nomenclature of local school politics. You can feel Bobby Taylor squirm as Mrs Johnson reveals how many times he has asked her for a date, and his wife quickly dousing the fires of her indignation at her husband’s betrayal as the meeting learns about her liberal use of ice. Mrs Johnson threw all the stones cast by the hypocrites back at them.

Act 2: Effie Smith – Harper Valley P.T.A. Gossip (1968).mp3
And don’t think that the ass-kicking which Mrs Johnson administered to the pharisees of the P.T.A. will remain privileged information. Effie Smith (a veteran of the Big Band scene now turning seriously funky) gets on the phone to her friend Mabel (of course!) as soon as she hears, doubtless lamenting that the invention of Facebook is still four decades away. From Effie we learn about the cause of Mrs Johnson’s widowhood as she refers to the gossip-buster as: “Clyde Johnson who drank himself to death’s wife”. And so it continues as Effie dishes the scandals with absolute glee. Such as the P.T.A.’s secretary, signatory of the note that started all this, who had to leave town twice under clouds of scandal. Effie evidently has no high opinion of the P.T.A.’s dignitaries. Teacher Shirley Thompson, she of the gin-breath, apparently she has “bird legs…looking like matchsticks walking on a loaf of bread”. So, does anyone have any juicy beef on Effie Smith?

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More answer records