Thursday, March 30, 2006

Porretta line up looking good

The Porretta Soul Festival near Bologna is a must for fans of Memphis soul. This year it's also essential for those, like me, who also love the music of New Orleans. As usual, the line-up has changed considerably since the provisional list was posted a few months ago. So no Shirley Brown and no Bar-Kays. But the newly announced line up is still excellent and I will be making my way to this normally sleepy Italian town come late July. The Friday (July 21) line-up alone is worth the trip with Irma Thomas, Bobby Purify, the South Soul Rhythm Section, and the Boogie Blues Band with James Govan and Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns. On Saturday there's the legendary Howard Tate and James Govan and band again (many of those who went on the Stompin' USA trip last year will have seen James at the Rum Boogie Cafe in Memphis). And on Sunday there's a New Orleans funk feel with the Neville Brothers and Davell Crawford. Unfortunately I can't make it to Memphis or New Orleans this year, but Porretta is an excellent substitute. I can't wait.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My first top ten

I began my personal top ten on this date on 1960 and continued it until the end of 1965. I was only 13 when I compiled the first one (hence the inclusion of some pretty crap records) but here it is, plus the top tens from around this date in 1961 to 65.
March 26, 1960: Sweet Nuthin's Brenda Lee; 2. String along Fabian: 3. Beatnik fly, Johnny & the Hurricanes; 4. What in the world's come over you Jack Scott; 5. He'll have to go Jim Reeves; 6. Who could be bluer Jerry Lordan; 7. Summer set Acker Bilk; 8. California here I come Freddy Cannon; 9. This love I have for you Lance Fortune; 10. Cradle of love Johnny Preston.
March 27, 1961: 1. I told you so Jimmy Jones; 2= Once in a while The Chimes and I'm Hurtin' Roy Orbison; 4. Tear of the year Jackie Wilson; 5. Lazy river Bobby Darin; 6. Asia minor Kokomo; 7. Baby roo Connie Francis; 8. What a price Fats Domino; 9. Pony time Chubby Checker; 10. Good time baby Bobby Rydell.
March 28 1962: 1. Hey baby Bruce Channel; 2. What's your name Don & Juan; 3. Young world Rick Nelson; 4. Hey little girl Del Shannon; 5. Slow twisting Chubby Checker; 6. Bwa nina The Tokens; 7. Clown shoes Johnny Burnett; 8.When my little girl is smiling The Drifters; 9.Speak to me pretty Brenda Lee; 10. Lucky star Gene Vincent.
March 27, 1963: 1. You really got a hold on me The Miracles; 2= He's so fine The Chiffons and Sandy Dion; 4= Baby workout Jackie Wilson and Why do lovers break each others hearts Bon B Soxx & the Bluejeans; 6. Good golly Miss Molly Jerry Lee Lewis; 7. So it always will be Everly Brothers; 8. Remember me Johnny Burnett; 9. Walk like a man Four Seasons' 10= In dreams Roy Orbison and South Street The Orlons.
March 25, 1964: Fun fun fun The Beach Boys; 2. High heel sneakers Tommy Tucker; 3. Heigh ho Big Dee Irwin; 4. Good news Sam Cooke; 5. That girl belongs to yesterday Gene Pitney; 6. Hoochie coochie man Dion; 7. I'm on fire Jerry Lee Lewis; 8. Nadine Chuck Berry; 9. New Orleans Gary US Bonds; 10. I wonder The Crystals.
March 29, 1065: King of the road Roger Miller; 2. Voice your choice The Radiants; 3. Little things Bobby Goldsboro; 4. Don't mess up a good thing Bobby McClure & Fontella Bass; 5. Stop in the name of love The Supremes; 6. Hurt so bad Little Anthony & the Imperials; 7. Baby baby baby Anna King & Bobby Byrd; 8= My girl The Temptations and It's growing The Temptations; 10= Do you wanna dance The Beach Boys and Hold what you've got Joe Tex.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Death of a King

Yet another great New Orleans artist has died - this time King Floyd, who died in California of a stroke on March 6. He was 61. Floyd had a sweet, high soulful voice (and an excellent grunt which he used to good effect on several tracks) and is best known for Groove me, which was recorded by Wardell Quezerque in 1971 and sold two million copies. It was released on Chimneyville but was the first big hit to come out of Malaco and led to that label's later success. Amazingly it was recorded at the same session as Jean Knight's Mr Big Stuff - it must have been quite a session. Hos first eponymous album was followed by Think about it and Well done, both high quality LPs with a good number of self-penned tracks. His later Body English is probably better known among followers of disco, but all his material is worth a listen. I saw King Floyd only once - at the House of Blues in New Orleans - and he was excellent: not particularly dynamic but a great voice. So sad that the King is dead at such a young age.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Apologies to L Ron

Firstly, an apology to L Ron Hubbard for putting the Ron before the L in my recent item on Isaac Hayes and his decision to quit South Park because it ridiculed Scientology. My mistake is of course inexcusable and I will no doubt burn in hell or the planet Xenu, unless the Scientologists get me first in which case I will probably see the error of my ways and give my millions to the cause. Secondly, why has the offending episode not been shown in the UK? The Times said today that it was because of 'legal reasons' but I suspect it's yet another example of the media running scared of extremists. First it was the cartoons of Mohammed, now it's the Scientologists. Next thing we know we won't be free to say that Catholics are responsible for much of the misery in the third world because of their policy on contraception, or that Ian Paisley is an intolerant Protestant bigot who should have retired years ago.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Lazy Lester - the genuine article

Enjoyable show at the Metro last night by Lazy Lester. He seems to be keeping alive the memory of Excello records single handedly by doing live performances at every possible opportunity. I've seen him countless times over the years. But despite a gradual decline in his vocal ability, not helped by a cold last night, he's still a joy to watch and listen to at 72 years of age (even if most of his asides and anecdotes are rendered unintelligible by his Louisiana drawl). Dave Carroll raised an interesting point at last night's gig: which is preferable - an original, if fading, bluesman like Lester, or a sharper and no doubt technically superior artist like Little George, who supported Lester last night. For me, it has to be the original, even if the performance leaves quite a lot to be desired, because even the best of the new breed can never be anything more than a copyist. Dave, and others, may disagree, but I prefer the genuine article every time. And Lazy Lester - warts and all - is definitely the genuine article.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Isaac's hypocrisy

So Isaac Hayes has stormed out of South Park because they dared to take the piss out of his cult of choice Scientology. It was all right when the programme had a go at Catholics, Jews, Muslims etc but when they turned their fire on Ron L Hubbard's nutty religion it was another matter. I know little about Scientology (nor do I want to) but from what I do know it appears to be a vicious cult which breaks up families and targets those who dare to oppose the beliefs of Ron L Hubbard, as well as holding some bizarre and frankly crackpot beliefs about aliens. It clearly has the ability to snare rich but thick superstars, because present or past members include Kirstie Alley, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Chaka Khan, Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley, Patrick Swayze and Van Morrisson. As for Isaac, I greatly admire the songs he wrote for Stax Records with David Porter and loved Shaft. But most of his records have been turgid and tuneless. I've seen him live (in Porretta) and whilst I had a certain admiration for the image he portrays as a sort of noble black warrior, I'm afraid I found the music really pretty dire. There I've said it now. Hope the Scientologists don't get me.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Rock and roll heaven

The other day I listed some of the soul and R & B artists who have died violent deaths over the years. I thought this might prompt some people to suggest others. It didn't, which probably means that no one reads this blog. Undeterred - and at the risk of being somewhat ghoulish - today I'm listing some more artists from the 50s and 60s who died suddenly.
Plane crash victims have included Patsy Cline, Jim Croce, John Denver, Buddy Holly, Big Bopper, Ricky Nelson, Jim Reeves, Kyu Sokomoto, Ritchie Valens, various members of Lynryd Skynryd and Stevie Ray Vaughan (actually a helicopter crash).
Car crashes have claimed Marc Bolan, Harry Chapin, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Horton.
Other accidents have caused the deaths of Johnny Burnett (boat), Sonny Bono (ski-ing), Duane Allman (motor bike), Randy California of Spirit (drowned), Steve Marriot (fire), Keith Relf (electrocuted) and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys (drowned).
Apparent suicide or self inflicted deaths: Bobby Fuller, Richard Manuel of the Byrds, Phil Ochs, Danny Rapp of Danny & the Juniors (self inflicted gunshot), Del Shannon (similar), the Singing Nun, Screaming Lord Sutch (hanged), Al Wilson of Canned Heat and Faron Young (self inflicted gunshot)).
And of course drug related deaths: Tim Buckley, Paul Butterfield, Tim Hardin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Frankie Lymon, Keith Moon, Jim Morrison, Gene Parsons, David Ruffin and Rory Storm of the Hurricanes. Many people would add Elvis to this last list.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Beatles demo sold on eBay for £3,400

I notice that a demo copy of the Beatles' first single Love me do sold for £3,400 on eBay the other day. Now I sell records on eBay all the time (well over 600 to date - mostly UK stuff that I don't want) but I've never even got close to the selling price of this 45. The best I've done so far is £102 - also for a demo - for Edwin Starr's Stop her on sight on Polydor. Occasionally if the bidding gets hot I can get up to £40 or £50, but mostly the records I sell go for a few quid. It earns me a couple of hundred quid a month which is fine, considering that most of them are bought from boot sales or charity shops for a pound or so. But the Beatles record got me thinking about demos and what they are worth. These days demos appear to be deliberately released as collectors' items, but back in the 50s and 60s demos were a limited run (usually 250 or 500) of advanced copies for DJs, record reviewers etc usually on a white label with a large A on the hit side, or different coloured labels (orange (initially one sided only) or yellow for London, dark green for RCA etc) from normal releases. I reviewed records for the Croydon Advertiser in the mid 60s and still have some of the original demo copies I was sent. Collectors will pay a huge premium for a demo by a band like the Beatles, and for collectable labels like Tamla Motown. But often the demo is more common than the standard release for a record that sank without trace. The Rare Record Guide - the vinyl collector's Bible - does an excellent job at valuing standard releases (even if many of the values are much higher than you are likely to get on eBay) but gives no guidance on the value of demos. What vinyl freaks like me, with quite a few demos in my collection, mostly 45s but also some LPs, need is a guide to what they are worth compared with standard issues. Maybe a whole new guide is the answer.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

March top tens

Here are my personal top tens (as recorded at the time) from this date in 1961 to 1965:
March 12, 1961: 1. Once in a while The Chimes, 2. Good time baby Bobby Rydell, 3. Ram Bunk Shush The Ventures, 4= Havin' fun Dion and Goodnight Mrs Flintstone The Piltdown Men, 6. Wooden heart Elvis Presley, 7. I'm learning about love Brenda Lee, 8. Ja da Johnny & the Hurricanes, 9. Don't worry Billy Fury, 10. Ain't that just like a woman Fats Domino.
March 13, 1962: 1. Hey baby Bruce Channel, 2. Dream baby Roy Orbison, 3.Hey little girl Del Shannon, 4. A pretty girl is like a melody The Piltdown Men, 5. Lucky star Gene Vincent, 6. Teen queen of the week Freddy Cannon, 7. I know Barbara George, 8. Do re mi Lee Dorsey, 9. Please don't ask about Barbara Bobby Vee, 10. Dreamy eyes Johnny Tillotson.
March 12, 1963: 1. Sandy, Dion, 2. In dreams Roy Orbison, 3. Let's turkey trot Little Eva, 4. He's got the power The Exciters, 5. Good golly Miss Molly Jerry Lee Lewis, 6, He's sure the boy I love The Crystals, 7. Butterfly baby Bobby Rydell, 8= Wild weekend The Rockin' Rebels, Brown eyed handsome man Buddy Holly, End of the world Skeeter Davis and The puzzle Gene McDaniels.
March 13, 1964: 1. Good news Sam Cooke, 2. Heigh ho Big Dee Irwin, 3. Fun fun fun The Beach Boys, 4. That girl belongs to yesterday Gene Pitney, 5. Nadine Chuck Berry, 6. I wonder The Crystals, 7. High heel sneakers Tommy Tucker, 8. New Orleans Gary (US) Bonds, 9. What kind of fool The Tams, 10. Abigail Beecher Freddy Cannon.
March 14, 1965: 1. King of the road Roger Miller, 2. My girl The Temptations, 3. Voice your choice The Radiants, 4. Yield not to temptation Bobby Bland, 5. Hold what you've got Joe Tex, 6. Little things Bobby Goldsboro, 7. Hurt so bad Little Anthony & the Imperials, 8. Do you wanna dance The Beach Boys, 9. Boy from New York City The Ad-libs, 10. Have mercy baby James Brown.
More soon...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Profumo - the mystery remains

The death of John Profumo yesterday brings back vivid memories of the scandal that engrossed the nation back in 1963. It's hard to imagine today just what an impact the events had at the time. Today we learn about a new political scandal nearly every month (Jowell, Blunkett, Mandelson etc) but the Profumo affair was mega news. An impressionable teenager at the time, I pored over each new piece of salacious gossip and had a collection of newspaper photos of Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice Davies and co.
It's all a long time ago but two intriguing questions remain. The first is the identity of the 'man in the mask' who served naked at parties at Cliveden House, the home of Lord Astor. Was he a Cabinet Minister - perhaps Rab Butler or even Harold MacMillan himself - as has been suggested? The report into the affair by Lord Denning said no - but, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies 'he would say that, wouldn't he?' Perhaps the truth is even more sensational. I've heard the Duke of Edinburgh's name mentioned as a candidate.
The second question is the apparent suicide of the gay osteopath and socialite Stephen Ward - the pimp in this affair - during his trial. Stephen Dorril in a book he co-wrote with Anthony Summers 'Honeytrap' claimed that Stephen Ward was "killed on the orders of MI5". The authors say that an unnamed MI6 officer told them that Ward "was deliberately given a drugs overdose" by Stanley Rytter, who is alleged to have worked for MI5. Dorrill and Summers further claimed in an article in The Guardian (3rd May 1988), that their MI6 contact told them that "Ward was a threat", and that there were "sex photographs, which could damage the Macmillan government and the royal family". A friend of mine, who knew Ward and others in the case, also believed he had been murdered. Maybe Ward just knew too much for his own good.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Johnny Ace

As I mentioned in my last post, Johnny Ace died in a bizarre game of Russian roulette in Houston on Christmas Day 1954. Johnny was just 25 but had already built a big reputation for his live performances and his recordings on the Duke label, owned by the infamous Don Robey. The Johnny Ace Memorial Album (Duke LP 71) relates his death as follows: 'It was the night before Christmas and...a sell-out audience was assembled in the City Auditorium at Houston, Texas, impatiently awaiting the appearance of one of the nation's greater vocalists - Johnny Ace. Duke record star. Suddenly, against this backdrop of Christmas festivities, tinseled with excitement and glittering with expectancy, came a shot that, in a matter of minutes, was heard around the world. JOHNNY ACE - the Beloved - had accidentally shot himself.'
The local paper recorded it thus: Tragedy Strikes R&B Field; Johnny Ace Dies in Russian Roulette Game HOUSTON, Jan. 1, 1955 - Rhythm and blues recording star Johnny Ace accidentally killed himself while playing Russian roulette at a holiday dance here on Saturday (25). The shooting occurred at a show featuring the popular singer and his band. Ace had gone backstage for a five-minute break and had been fooling around with a revolver with one bullet in the chamber. Ace, whose real name was John Alexander, was one of the brightest stars in the r&b field. He rose to fame on Duke Records, coming thru with his first hit, "My Song," in 1952. Since then he has had eight hits in a row, including "Cross My Heart," "Please Forgive Me," "The Clock," "Yes, Baby" and the current "Never Let Me Go." The news of the singer's death caused a big demand for his past record hits. Peacock Records, which owns the Duke label, is rushing out an LP of Ace's sides to meet this demand. In addition, the label is releasing another new single, "Pledging My Love." The label will also release other sides made by Ace recently. Ace was 25 years old.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Soul heaven

Soul and R and B singers over the years have tended to live fast and die young. Many have died of natural causes such as heart attacks, cancer and strokes, or alcohol or drug related diseases. But many more have died violent deaths. Among those who have been murdered or killed are Darrell Banks, Sam Cooke, Tony Clarke, Shirley Brickley of the Orlons, King Curtis, Marvin Gaye, James 'Shep' Shephard' of the Heartbeats, Cornell Gunter of the Coasters, Henry Booth of the Midnighters, Al Jackson of Booker T and the MGs, Samuel George of the Capitols and John Whitehead of McFadden and Whitehead. Several have committed suicide, including Paul Williams of the Temptations, Larry Williams, Hubert Johnson of the Contours, Phyllis Hyman and Donny Hathaway. The most famous R&B suicide was that of Johnny Ace, who shot himself in a game of Russian roulette on Christmas Day, 1954. Many more have died in plane or car crashes, including Jesse Belvin (possibly murdered by white racists), Ted Taylor, Billy Stewart, Otis Redding, Dave Prater of Sam and Dave, four members of the Bar-Kays and Judy Clay. They are gone but not forgotten. For a fairly full list of soul and R&B artists who are no longer with us check out this site

Monday, March 06, 2006

More rock jailbirds

I am indebted to John 'Mr Angry' Howard for the following:
Jim Gordon was one of the top session drummers in the '60s. After backing the Everly Brothers in 1963 at age 17, he went to California. Hal Blaine, king of session drummers, began to send Gordon his overflow work.During this period, Gordon appeared on Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers (Columbia, 1967) and Notorious Byrd Brothers. Later, Gordon was a member of Derek and the Dominoes, where he had the good fortune to co-write the song "Layla" with Eric Clapton.Gordon worked with Hillman again when he was the drummer in the Souther Hillman Furay Band from 1973 to 1975.Gordon also played with John Lennon, George Harrison, Frank Zappa, Traffic, Delaney & Bonnie, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, and Jackson Browne. Though he was initially known for being a straight-laced guy, Gordon eventually began to use heroin and cocaine like many of his colleagues in the music business.Sadly, in the '70s, severe psychological problems began to manifest in Gordon's behavior. He complained of hearing voices, especially the voice of his mother. By the late '70s, Gordon's mental difficulties - later diagnosed as acute paranoid schizophrenia - had ruined his musical career. Then, in 1983, Gordon brutally murdered his own mother. The insanity defense having been narrowed in California, Gordon was convicted of second-degree murder in 1984 and sentenced to 16 years to life. Most of his time has been served in Atascadero State Hospital. Gordon remains wealthy, thanks to royalties from "Layla" and a handful of other songs.
Tony Papard writes (see Comments) to say how surprised he is that Jerry Lee has never seen the inside of a cell. I must say I'm also surprised that The Killer has escaped the law so long. Similarly Michael Jackson - but the less said about him the better. Chuck Berry, incidentally, did not do time for allegedly snooping on the ladies who visited his club - he claimed it was a stitch-up. One ex-con I forgot to mention is Merle Haggard, who spent time in jail for robbery among other crimes.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A glittering career behind him

As Gary Glitter deservedly languishes in a Vietnamese jail after his guilty verdict, thoughts turn to other rather more significant musicians who have done bird in the past. Among the most famous are Chuck Berry (for alleegedly transporting an under age girl across a state line for prostitution, and later for tax evasion), James Brown (various times in his youth and most recently for domestic violence) and Ike Turner (drugs, rather than wife beating). Leadbelly carved out a career while inside for murder and other bluesmen to have seen the inside of a cell include Bukka White and Champion Jack Dupree (as a Japanese prisoner of war). One of the greatest R & B singers of the 50s Little Willie John died in 1968 while doing time for manslaughter. Several have been locked up for drugs offences including Wilson Pickett, Johnny Cash, John Phillips (of Mamas and Papass), Sly Stone and Steve Earl, while the great Jamaican ska trombonist Don Drummond died in an asylum in 1969, five years after being found guilty of murdering an exotic dancer. No doubt there are many other musicians (and I'm not counting those of the 80s onwards) who have been inside. Contributions are welcomed.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mr TV in wrestling heaven

Another day, another death. This time not a singer but a wrestler - Jackie Mr TV Pallo, the pony tailed bad boy of the ring whose book about the way the so-called sport was fixed was appropriately entitled 'You grunt, I'll groan'. As far as I know Mr TV never made a record, but his death brings to mind Kent Walton who commentated on wrestling in those innocent days when many of the TV audience actually believed it to be a genuine sport. Kent was also famous as a DJ and introduced 'Honey Hit Parade' on Radio Luxembourg, the station that everyone of my generation relied on to get a fix of the latest vinyl releases. The reception was iffy but where else could we get to listen to the rock and roll and pop hits of the day in the era before pirate radio? He was also the compere of 'Cool for Cats', one of the first pop shows on TV. 'Hi cats and kittens' he would say in his mid-Atlantic drawl, a ciggie draped from his fingers. The Radio Luxembourg DJs were the first to make a real impact in the UK. There was Jack Jackson, who would interrupt each record by saying 'title' - a real pain when I was recording the record it on my reel to reel tape recorder. Then there was 'That's it and that's all from yours truly Tony Hall', 'your DJ BA' Barry Alldis, Keith Fordyce who later went on to introduce RSG, Pete Murray, Sam Jaffa, Jimmy Savile (I was one of the first guys (or gals) to join his Teen and Twenty Disc Club) and dear old Fluff Freeman. In these days of wall to wall music radio, downloads and music videos it's hard to imagine just how primitive music broadcasting was in those days, or how hard it was to actually get to hear new releases (unless they were middle of the road hits). I vividly remember to this day hearing Little Richard's Baby face on Housewives Choice - it was just so unexpected. Listening to pop music was almost subversive at that time - frowned upon by bewildered adults and carried out covertly under the bedclothes with a crackly transistor radio. Great music though!