Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger RIP

The Vinyl Word raises a glass to folk singer Pete Seeger, who has died aged 94. From his time with the Weavers in the 1940s and the McCarthy era of the fifties when he was blacklisted and throughout his life he was a symbol of protest and the left. He wrote or co-wrote Where Have All the Flowers Gone, If I Had A Hammer and Turn Turn Turn and popularised the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome and was true to his political beliefs until the end.
My photo shows Pete (second left) on stage with Peter Paul and Mary at the New Orleans jazzfest in 1995.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rocking show at the Borderline

The Tales FromThe Woods British Rock and Roll Heritage show has become a regular feature of the January music scene in London in recent years and it's fair to say that the shows have become better and better. Last night's show at the Borderline - the 9th in the series - was no exception, with some excellent rockabilly from Mike Berry, blues from Jimmy Powell, sixties pop from Chris Andrews and good rocking support from Sam Hardie and Buddy Britten. As usual, the driving force behind the bands was the Tales From The Woods House Band, featuring musical director and lead guitarist John Spencely (who was credited with choosing much of the material on the night), brilliant keyboardist Claire Hamlin, hard-working drummer Brian 'Bunter' Clark, Robb Davis on bass and Alex Bland and Sid Phillips on tenor and baritone sax respectively.
Three of the acts this time were new to the show (Jimmy Powell, Chris Andrews and Sam Hardie), but it was the return of Mike Berry (pictured below) that was most impressive, ignoring his considerable back catalogue from the 1960s and running through a first rate rockabilly set instead. Mike remains pencil slim and has a fantastic voice, as well as a great self-deprecating sense of humour. Dressed in black leather jeans but not looking in the least bit menacing he began with Blue Days, Black Nights and then moved through Mac Curtis's If I Had Me A Woman and Broken Heart, a new song to me but originally by the Moonlighters. Then it was Elvis's I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine, featuring a blistering guitar solo from John, Warren Smith's Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache, Rock And Roll On A Saturday Night and I'm Gonna Tell On You (originally by George Fleming). You don't often hear many of these numbers performed (never would be more accurate in some cases) but they were excellent and showed off John's in depth knowledge of the genre as well as Mike's great flexibility and ability. Other songs included first rate versions of Marvin Rainwater's Whole Lotta Woman and its B side Baby Don't Go, On My Mind (a Mike Berry original), Rocket In My Pocket, Johnny Horton's Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor, Don Woody's You're Barking Up The Wrong Tree (with woofs from the audience), Sanford Clark's The Fool and Teenage Boogie, originally by Webb Pierce, before finishing with High School Confidential.
Running Mike a close second was Birmingham's Jimmy Powell, an artist who made some excellent bluesy singles in the sixties with his band The Five Dimensions, including Sugar Babe, which was produced by Chris Blackwell. I've never seen him on a stage before and I was impressed. He's a large man with a strong voice well suited to the blues and also plays harmonica at times and air guitar at others. He began with Susie Q and then did his vocal version of Tom Hark, with words co-written with Jack Good. A swamp pop song followed (One More Time, I think) and then one of my personal favourites, I Can Go Down. Next was  a superb blues number called Ivory, followed by Messing Around With The Blues and Sugar Babe, before finishing with classy versions of House Of The Rising Sun, What'd I Say and Bony Moronie. Definitely a class act.
The top act of the night was Chris Andrews, a man who had hits in his own name in the sixties and wrote top selling songs for the likes of Sandie Shaw and Adam Faith. He's written 800 songs apparently, yet his first eight numbers were rock and roll standards, presumably to please the predominantly rock and roll loving crowd. These included Johnny B Goode, Move It (which he performed on Oh Boy in 1959), Be Bop A Lula, Oh Boy, Rave On, Sixteen Candles, Brand New Cadillac, which he recalled singing at Soho's famous 2 Is coffee bar, and What'd I Say. Eventually Chris got on to his pop hits of the era, including Adam Faith's The First Time, Sandie Shaw's Girl Don't Come and Long Live Love and his own hits To Whom It Concerns and Yesterday Man: all rather bland sixties pop songs but undoubtedly successful. Chris's voice was well up to the job but after the earlier acts his was just a little flat I thought.
The first act of the night, and one of the lesser known ones, was Sam Hardie, a rock and roll keyboard player from Liverpool who was once a member of Kingsize Taylor's Dominos. Sam set the evening off to a great start with some straight ahead rock and roll, including Flip Flop and Fly, Rockin' Daddy, Move Around, Gene Vincent's Rocky Road Blues, a couple of Fats Domino numbers (Country Boy and Margie) and some swamp pop in the form of Joe Barry's Watching Raindrops. Sam's version of Money Honey, performed in the manner of On Broadway, was a highlight, and his final numbers - Larry Donn's Honey Bun - and Little Richard's Good Golly Miss Molly - rocked like mad. A truly great way to kick off the show.
Following Sam it was the return of Buddy Britten, one of the stars of an earlier show, a man who made a number of records in the early sixties on Oriole, Piccadilly and Decca but never had a big hit. His glasses gave him a Buddy Holly look at the time and he played for a while with Vince Taylor's Playboys. He's a good guitarist and has a strong voice (with backing on stage by his wife), and his was an enjoyable set, without quite hitting the heights. His numbers included Rocking My Life Away, I Was There When It Happened, Mailman Bring me No More Blues, Halfway To Paradise, Mess Of Blues and Adam Faith's Don't That Beat All, as well as some of his recordings such as Right Now (originally by Mel Torme), Doug Sahm's She's About A Mover, Money and Long Gone Baby, a Norman Petty song. He finished off with Tony Joe White's Polk Salad Annie and Chuck's Bye Bye Johnny.
Overall this was a highly enjoyable show and Keith Woods deserves much praise for maintaining, and improving the quality of his revival shows over the years. A word too for MC Rockin' Ricky Stevens, who also sang well on Sheila, Del Shannon's The Answer To Everything, Blue Suede Shoes and Summertime Blues, and for DJ John 'Mr Angry' Howard, but the greatest praise must go to John Spencely and the excellent House Band. What a talented bunch they are! Here are some photos of Ricky and members of the group.
Words and photos by Nick Cobban.

Friday, January 24, 2014

UK Heritage Show looks appealing

Looking forward to the latest Tales From The Woods show (number 9 in the series) at the Borderline in London on Sunday featuring some of the UK artists who were making records in the sixties. Not too many hits between them, but one or two half decent records, some of which I'm putting on The Vinyl Word this time. As usual, we can expert superb backing from the Tales From The Woods House Band.

The undoubted star (in my opinion) of one of the earlier shows was Mike Berry, whose early records were recorded at Joe Meek's RGM Studio. I have inside information that he will be doing a rockabilly set at Sunday's show which should be interesting. Mike still tours regularly today with the Outlaws and lovers of TV comedy will remember his role as Bert Spooner in Are You Being Served. Here is probably his best known 45 - his Tribute to Buddy Holly from 1961.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTlcDRB2gbA  A Buddy styled B side - What's The Matter   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS5as2otdSY
From 1962, here's another hit, It's Just A Matter Of Time.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TY5YbtOYhmw
Another melodic 45, this is My Little Baby.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIkVL0VMj9I

Here's one that deserved to be a hit, but wasn't - Lovesick.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJhX2Y9Wm5U  The self-penned B side is Letters Of Love.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ze99GpAqPg
My final Mike Berry selection is Two Lovers, the Smokey Robinson song which was a hit for Mary Wells.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpRa_YGd9hI
Jimmy Powell is perhaps the most intriguing act on the Tales From The Woods bill. Best known for records such as Sugar Babe and That's Alright, I've never seen him perform and I gather that he will be doing many of his original singles. Here's his cover of the Earls' doowop hit Remember Then. I couldn't find it on Youtube so I've uploaded it myself.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTaJlv11cHQ
One of Jimmy's best records was this one, I Can Go Down, on the short-lived Strike label. Listen out for it in Sunday's set.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWWpYsj6TIU
Top of the bill, in theory, is Chris Andrews, who was most famous for Yesterday Man. Chris was a talented songwriter, producing hits for Sandie Shaw and Adam Faith, but his ska flavoured pop records never appealed to me. Interesting to see how he goes down on the night. Here's To Whom It Concerns - a minor hit in 1965.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFNJVPJx4PE
Finally, a 1969 Chris Andrews single which was a big hit in South Africa - Pretty Belinda.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsaPaGrIdMg

Monday, January 20, 2014

Eight years of The Vinyl Word

It's exactly eight years since the first Vinyl Word blogpost was published. I was working as a communications manager at the Department of Health near Waterloo when, bored and fed up with the January weather, I discussed the idea with my mate Nick Tancock, now living in Bologna, who contributed to a political blog at the time. I'm not sure whose idea the name The Vinyl Word was, but it's a good one I think, as it neatly sums up the central theme of the blog. Since then there have been over 850 posts, a similar number of comments (excluding the thousands of spam comments that have been filtered out) and nearly 200,000 page views. Posts on Muscle Shoals, Etta James and Ernie K-Doe have attracted the most views, but I can't help feeling that the reason is that many of them have been by spamsters.
The blog was born the day after Wilson Pickett (pictured) died and I wondered at the time who
would be the last soul man standing. Since then we have lost James Brown, Solomon Burke and Bobby Bland, three of the names I mentioned, but Bobby Womack, Clarence Carter, Sam Moore, Ben E King, Eddie Floyd and Percy Sledge are still with us. Long may they be so.
The blog has catalogued hundreds of music deaths over the years but it hasn't all been bad news. I've been to some fantastic music festivals during that time, including the Ponderosa Stomp, Jazz Fest, the King Biscuit festival and the Porretta Soul festival, and many excellent gigs, along with a few crap ones. I've found some wonderful records during this time, including many at knock down prices in car boot sales and charity shops, and featured many of them on The Vinyl Word. From time to time I have delved into nostalgia for past events, TV shows and personal memories. Hopefully I haven't bored too many people!
My very first post set out the reasons for writing the blog and the sort of topics it would cover, so I'm reprinting it here for readers to judge whether I have been true to my promise. Here it is, from January 20th, 2006.
'People keep telling me that everyone should have a blog these days. Whether anyone will ever read it, other than myself, is another matter, but I hate to miss an opportunity to get into the 21st century, or, in my case, beyond the era of vinyl LPs and singles. The Vinyl Word is dedicated to the discs that we knew and loved before CDs came along, not to mention mini-discs, IPODs and MP3s.
Vinyl records may have surface noise, may have scratches, may even jump and skip, but they are the only way to fully appreciate the great music of the 50s and 60s. The vinyl was thick and heavy and the sleeves of LPs and even EPs (an almost forgotten musical format) told a real story and were often works of art in their own right. And is there anything to compare with a two minute 45 by Little Richard or Fats Domino blaring out from your record player? I don't think so.
They say vinyl is making a comeback - and about time too - but in truth it never went away, as testified by my record collection, which runs into thousands of singles and LPs. It's not just the plastic that makes this form of record so great of course, but the music itself.
I was born in 1946 and remember my sister buying the very first Elvis 78s. By the time I reached record buying age 78s had been replaced by 45s and I began to build up a collection of rock and roll, American pop, 50s R and B, blues, sixties soul and ska records during the 1960s, which I have expanded massively as a result of years of early mornings searches at car boot sales, and routine visits to charity shops.
The content on this blog will focus on the golden musical age of 1956 to 1969. I never did care much for British pop so it will have little flattering to say about the 60s British beat groups or middle of the road crap. But if your interests lie in original US and Jamaican music from that period this may be the place for you.
So welcome to The Vinyl Word - and keep on rocking.'

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beach Music and the Shag

A few years ago I drove down from New York to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina (a long drive I recall) to catch some early spring sunshine and also to see if I could find some beach music and shagging (the dance, that is). It turned out to be cold and disappointing music-wise, although if I had been interested in playing golf I would have been spoilt for choice as there are dozens of golf courses in the area.
My memory of the trip was jogged by a book that I have just read called It's Better To Cry by British northern soul fan E. Mark Windle, which he describes as 'a 1960s rare soul collector's perspective of beach bands, garage bands and black vocal groups from the south eastern states'. The book features interviews with members of many of the groups that operated in the Carolinas and Georgia in the sixties, most of which are obscure, to say the least, but whose records have been favourites at one time or another in some of the northern soul clubs. Best known of the featured groups are Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, who had a big hit with Stay in 1960, the Embers and the Tempests, while others, such as Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five, The Greater Experience and Ron Moody and the Centaurs, were previously unknown to me.
Beach music, along with the shag dance craze, is very much a local affair, with links into 1950s R and B, Memphis and Detroit soul and white blue eyed soul and garage music. Its best known exponents were the Tams, General Johnson and the Chairmen Of The Board and Clifford Curry, while other acts from the greater Carolina region included the Swingin' Medallions and the O'Kaysions. The 100 most popular beach music songs list gives an idea of the variety of records played around the area over the years.   http://www.digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/best_songs-beach.html/
Much of the music is really excellent and under-rated or little known, but here are a few of the better known beach music 45s.
First the Tams and a highly collectable demo of their 1964 record Hey Girl Don't Bother Me which became a big hit when reissued in the UK in 1971. Although well known as a beach music group they originally came from Atlanta, Georgia.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9jPEsV8URQ
Maurice Williams and Zodiacs were previously known as the Charms and Gladiolas and had the original hit of Little Darlin' in 1957 (covered by The Diamonds) before changing their name and having a US number one with Stay in 1960, the shortest 45 ever to top the US charts. This is the follow up.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gN-DM2Mz17s  
The O'Kaysions were a blue eyed soul band from North Carolina, whose record Girl Watcher was a US hit in 1968.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raJWuz7qQVc
The Tams made a comeback in the late 80s when the film Shag was released and featured this 1987 record, which was banned by the BBC because of the word's rather different meaning in the UK!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH_ODa805D0

Monday, January 13, 2014

More lives to remember

It's time to catch up on the latest batch of deaths - and as ever there have been quite a few.
Reather Dixon of the Bobbettes, died of a heart attack last week aged 68. Reather was only 12 when
she and four other girls from Harlem recorded Mr Lee, a huge R and B hit on Atlantic in 1957 about their school teacher. Other hits followed but Atlantic disapproved of the follow up I Shot Mr Lee, which was re-recorded for the small Triple X label and issued in the UK on Pye International. Other singles included Have Mercy Baby, Dance With Me Georgie and I Don't Like It Like That. The Bobbettes toured the oldies circuit in later years and I was bowled
over by their professionalism and vocals when I saw them at Rhythm Riot in 2011. My photo shows Reather at Rhythm Riot.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cFIxUl7NBM
One of the cult TV shows that I listed on the blog a few years ago was The Champions, about three people with extraordinary powers. One of them was one of the great British sex symbols of the sixties Alexandra Bastedo, who has died of cancer aged 67. She co-
presented Miss World during the 1980s and appeared in an episode of Ab Fab in the 1990s as a former sixties model. As my mate John S commented: 'top totty'!
I haven't seen it confirmed as yet, but I hear that British rocker Freddie 'Fingers' Lee has passed away. A wildman who wore an eyepatch and played with Screaming Lord Sutch in the early sixties, Freddie made his name in Hamburg, like so many British artists of the time, playing with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little
Richard. He recorded some singles for Fontana and Columbia in the mid sixties, but became best known when he appeared in the revival of the Oh Boy! TV show in 1979.
One death that won't be lamented by some in the music business is that of Saul Zaentz, former owner of Fantasy Records, who had a long running battle with John Fogerty, whose band Creedence Clearwater Revival, were signed by Fantasy but who were then cheated over copyright of songs, it was said. Fogerty fought him in court and won, but referred to him as Mr Greed in thinly veiled terms on his Centerfield album. Zaentz went into the movie business and won the Oscar for Best Picture for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus and The English Patient.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pye International's R & B Series

Another blog posting for record label nerds, following on from the last one about EMI's Soul Supply series.
Predating the Soul Supply series by a couple of years, Pye International's R and B series ran during 1963 and 1964 on its red and yellow label. The idea was to badge the blues and R and B releases on the label, most of which were recorded for the Chess stable, at a time when R and B was really taking off in the UK. I'm not sure which was the first 45 to be branded in this way (no doubt someone can tell me) but it must have happened shortly after the change from the dark blue design of the label to the more easily legible red and yellow. It came to an end with the launch of the UK Chess label in early 1965.
Singles by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson carried the R & B badge, although Howlin' Wolf's final release on the red and yellow label, Love Me Darling, didn't have it. Other Chess/Checker/Aristocrat singles were more hit and miss, with the first release by Sugar Pie DeSanto, Soulful Dress, not having the R & B branding, but the follow up, I Don't Wanna Fuss, being part of the series. Similarly Hi Heel Sneakers by Tommy Tucker was logo-less, while the follow up Long Tall Shorty was included. Other more soul flavoured Chess artists were excluded, including singles by Billy Stewart, Mitty Collier, Etta James and Little Luther. But the R & B badge wasn't exclusive to Chess artists as both 45s by the UK's own Cyril Davies were included, as was Alvin Robinson's Something You Got, which was recorded for Tiger.
The R & B branding was extended to EPs from Chess artists such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Tommy Tucker and Howlin' Wolf and to LPs by the same set of artists, although Chuck's New Juke Box Hits album missed out, presumably because it came out in 1962, before the series started.
Pictured below are examples of Tommy Tucker 45s with, and without, the badge, and one by Cyril Davies.

I look forward to someone providing a full listing of records in the R & B series and any other anomalies. There's a challenge!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Soul Supply from EMI

Soul and blues music record collectors of the 60s will have fond memories of Mike Raven, whose shows on the pirate station Radio 390, along with his catchphrase 'the oldest living teenager in captivity', were essential listening. With the demise of the pirates in 1966 Mike moved to Radio Luxembourg where he presented an EMI-sponsored programme called Soul Supply.
EMI launched this soul and blues show with an LP of the same name, with liner notes by Mike, which featured 16 tracks from the Kent/Modern catalogue by Bobby Bland, Lowell Fulsom, Vernon Garrett, King Solomon, Little Richard, Mary Love, Ike and Tina Turner and Jimmy Witherspoon. They followed this up by branding some of their soul releases as being in the 'Soul Supply' series and no doubt these were featured on Mike's shows. Over 50 singles were issued in this series, along with a couple of LPs, but it was hit and miss, as some excellent soul flavoured 45s of the time didn't get the badge. In any event the series was short lived as Mike joined Radio 1 on its launch in October, 1967.
All of these 'Soul Supply' records were excellent and I have it in mind to track them all down at some point.
But for the time being, and to whet the appetite, here are some of them, beginning with the Stateside LP which launched the series.
Many of the Soul Supply 45s were on Stateside and quite a few were on the Liberty label. Others were on HMV, Verve and Columbia, with one each on Capitol, MGM and United Artists.

Apart from the initial Soul Supply LP, only two other LPs bore the Soul Supply logo so far as I know. One was the first LP by James and Bobby Purify on Stateside and the second was this classic release by James Carr.
For a full list of all the known Soul Supply releases (excluding the LP that launched the series, for some reason) check out this link   http://martinsbox.tripod.com/id52.htm