Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Final farewells of the year

The Grim Reaper has been busy in the few days since I listed those in the music and entertainment business who have passed away during 2014.
Best known among them is Sheffield born Joe Cocker who will forever be associated with his
version of With A Little Help From My Friends, which was a major hit and which he sang live at Woodstock in 1969. Aged 70, Joe began with a skiffle group, The Cavaliers, before becoming the front man of Vance Arnold and the Avengers in 1960. After one unsuccessful single for Decca (the Beatles song I'll Cry Instead) Joe formed the Grease Band and recorded Marjorine, before taking up a residency at the Marquee Club in London. After hitting number one with 'Friends' in 1968 he followed its US success with the Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour, which included Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge. He made several albums during the seventies and eighties, enjoying great success with Up Where We Belong with Jennifer Warnes in 1982. Always too much of a rock singer for my taste, there's no doubting his place in music history over the last 40 years.
Another recent death, at the age of 76, is that of soul singer Jo Jo Benson, best known for his duets with Peggy Scott on numbers such as Soulshake, Lover's Holiday and Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries, which were produced by Huey Meaux and released on Shelby Singleton's SSS International label. Originally from Alabama, he went on to own a number of night clubs and was seriously injured in a shooting incident in 1979. He recorded two soul albums at the turn of the century - Reminiscing In The Jam Zone and Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLcnyauzuCc
From the world of gospel we have lost Leroy Crume, who was a member of the Soul Stirrers and is credited with introducing the electric guitar into the gospel field. I can do no better than point readers in the direction of Red Kelly's excellent blog, which has a comprehensive item about Leroy's life and career.   http://redkelly.blogspot.co.uk/
Another gospel singer, in her later years, who has died is Jamaican Barbara Jones, who is best
known for her smooth reggae recordings in the seventies. Aged 62, she recorded reggae versions of Angel In The Morning, Just When I Needed You Most and Pretty Blue Eyes, among others.
Detroit blues singer Alberta Adams is another who has passed away, at the age of 97. A night club singer and dancer in the 1930s, Alberta won a recording contract with Chess in 1952 and toured with the likes of Louis Jordan, Duke Ellington and T Bone Walker. She enjoyed success late in life when she signed with Cannonball records and released two albums, 1999's Born With the Blues and 2000's Say Baby Say.
It's farewell also to to John Fry, founder of Ardent Records of Memphis. Many Stax artists recorded there, as did Al Green, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, B B King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Also to Larry Henley, lead singer of the Newbeats, who had hits with Bread And Butter and Run Baby Run in the mid sixties and went on to become a major country songwriter with songs such as Til I get It Right. Also to Nashville country guitarist and producer Chip Young, who played with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Skeeter Davis and Waylon Jennings.
The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all. Happy New Year to all my readers. Let's hope 2015 brings us good health and happiness.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Record reviews from 1966

As promised, here are some of my record reviews from the pages of the Croydon Advertiser back in 1966. More to follow (possibly)! You have been warned.

Wilson Pickett: 634-5789, That’s A Man’s Way. (Atlantic 4072). Some tremendous soul singing on this pounding effort by the ‘In The Midnight Hour’ man. Good song with a girl vocal group chanting the numbers (it’s the guy’s phone number) in the background. Gets really wild towards the end. Flip is a slower blues-tinged song with organ backing.
James Brown: I Got You, I Can’t Help It. (Pye International 7N 25350). This is great soul-filled singing and shouting from James on a forceful, punchy number. Powerful backing from the Famous Flames with some pumping sax work well to the fore. Very exciting and great for dancing. Flip is slower but with the dramatic singing and strong backing.
Gene Pitney: Backstage, In Love Again. (Stateside SS 490). Typical Pitney material – orchestral backing, dramatic singing with double tracking in parts, building to a climax. Not his best but a good performance.
Elvis Presley: Blue River, Do Not Disturb. (RCA Victor 1504(. There’s absolutely nothing to arouse interest in this song and it’s a disappointing Presley. Flipside is slightly better.
With lyrics by William Shakespeare (adapted by Howard Blaikley) and music by Franz Schubert,  I thought Who Is Sylvia? By The Honeycombs on Pye 7N 17039 ought to be interesting. But no! The vocal is dreary and off key at times and the backing is dull on this mid tempo song. The flipside, ‘How Will I Know?’ is no better – just dull singing of a dull song.
Yardbirds: Shapes Of Things, You’re A Better Man Than I. (Columbia DB 7848). Latest from the successful group and it’s a fastish number with a heavy thumping beat. Quite commercial, with a group vocal and some strange sounds going on towards the end. However, it’s lacking a strong melody. Not bad, but hardly their most exciting disc so far. Flip is a slower number but quite good.
Donovan: Josie, Little Tin Soldier. (Pye YN 17067). Donovan didn’t want this record to be released and I can hardly blame him. It’s the usual Dylanish, pseudo folk stuff sung in a voice lacking expression. Similar styled song on the flip with Donovan’s little boy voice telling a sort of fairy tale with a message.
Hollies: I Can’t Let Go, Runnin’ Through The Night. (Parlophone R 5489). Good intro to upbeat number with a complicated series of vocal harmonies from the boys. A hit, like every other Hollies record, but I fail to see the attraction of this group’s records. Flip is a country and western styled song.
Sam The Sham: Red Hot, A Long Long Way. (MGM 1298). This is a real old fashioned piece of rock from the ‘ Wooly Bully’ man. There’s a gruff, gravel-voiced vocal and the beat moves along at a fair old rate. Perfect for rock fans but otherwise rather dated. Flipis another piece of uncompromising rock and roll.
Junior Walker & the Allstars: Cleo’s Mood, You Know You Ain’t Right. (Tamla Motown TMG 550). Slowish, bluesy instrumental track this one, with a powerful  gutsy sax taking the honours. Strange organ work at times. Not chart material. Flip is more interesting: a punchy vocal which brings back memories of Junior Walker’s Shotgun.
Small Faces: Sha-la-la-la-lee, Grow Your Own. (Decca F12317). This one, by the group who had a hit with What-cha Gonna Do About It is a beaty number written by Kenny Lynch and Mort Shuman. A catchy commercial song with lead singer Steve Marriiott and the boys fairly belting out the lyrics. It’s bound to sell well. Flipside is a raucous organ-led instrumental.
The Ugly’s: A Good Idea, Quiet Explosion. (Pye 7n 17027). The best part of this record is probably the strange bass noise on the introduction. Thereafter it’s a steady beat number which gets progressively more boring. Flipside is, I suppose, a sort of protest about the population explosion.
The Marvelettes: Don’t Mess With Bill, Anything You Wanna Do. (Tamla Motown TMG 546). Unusual bass intro on this one, followed by a soft sexy lead voice and good group harmony on a slowish bluesy song. One of the group’s best ever records. Flip is not so good, but there’s some soft warbling sax work in the backing.
Clyde McPhatter: Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, I Belong To You. (Stateside SS 487). The hitmaker of the late 50s here trying to make a comeback with a revival of the old Connie Francis hit. Clyde talks his way through the song while a girl backing group does the singing. Nevertheless the song builds and builds and gets really exciting. More talking on the B side which is more of a ballad and not really too exciting.
Lee Dorsey: Get Out Of My Life Woman, So Long. (Stateside SS 485). Very similar tune to Lee’s last raucous record ‘Ride Your Pony’ but far superior. Much slower bluesy sort of song with a very pronounced beat. Flip side every bit as good.
Downliners Sect: All Night Worker, He Was A Square (Columbia DB 7817) Rufus Thomas song given a typically British approach by a group who has been trying to get into the charts for quite a while. Backing is noisy but ordinary and vocal is unexciting.
Sandie Shaw: Tomorrow, Hurting You (Pye 7N 17036). Yet another Chris Andrews song from Sandie Shaw. This time a marching song with clever backing arrangement, but it’s not a strong one. Another Andrews song on the B side.
Episode Six: Put Yourself In My Place, That’s All I Want. (Pye 7N 17018). New group with a beaty, fast moving commercial number which could get them established. Vocal is loud and so is the backing. Flip is a dated group-styled song.
Adam Faith: Idle Gossip, If Ever You Need Me. (Parlophone R5398). This old song is given a remarkably square and old fashioned treatment by Adam. However, anyone who buys Ken Dodd’s records will no doubt love this one.
The Quiet Five used to be a very popular group in their home town, Croydon. Now they’re beginning to make a name for themselves nationally, but it would seem that Croydon is still their first love if their latest record is anything to go by. It is called ‘Homeward Bound’ released on Parlophone R5421 and on it the boys bemoan  the fate of pop stars who are constantly travelling around the country and never get a chance to go home. It’s a slow mournful song given an attractive tuneful treatment by the group. This is a cover version of a song which is hitting it big in the States for the hit making duo Simon and Garfunkel, but it stands a fair chance of making the charts here.
Polydor, a German record company, are making a tremendous effort to become established as a major company here. A new label, Reaction, has just been started up and with their very first release they look like having a big hit. It’s called ‘Substitute’ and it’s by one of Britain’s most popular groups, The Who. The song, on Reaction 591001, makes up on beat what it lacks in tune. A heavy, pounding beat featuring bass guitar and drums backs up an almost tuneless vocal. Nevertheless it’s quite strong enough to make the charts. The B side, Instant Party, is similar with a heavy beat and a vague, nondescript tune.
A big American star of a few years ago, Del Shannon turns up on Stateside SS494 this week with a song called ‘I Can’t Believe My Ears’. Strange organ sounds open the disc, followed by double tracking and the usual falsetto singing by Del on a slowish song which is reminiscent of ‘Little Town Flirt’. It’s a fair effort but Del doesn’t seem to be able to recapture the magic of his old hits. ‘I Wish I Wasn’t Me Tonight’ on side two, is a sad song dominated by Del’s own echo.
The Righteous Brothers sang it; the Kingsmen sang it. Both groups made it a hit in the States but not over here. The song: ‘Little Latin Lupe Lu’. And now Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels are making it a hit for a third time in America. But I can’t see the record. On Stateside SS498, making it third time lucky in Britain. Like the group’s last disc, Jenny Take A Ride, it may not make much impression. It’s got a solid beat and occasional screaming and whistling in the background, but the singing is dull and there’s nothing new about it.
Wilder still is ‘Baby Don’t Push Me’ by the Alan Bown Set on Pye 7N17084 – but I doubt it will be a hit. The rhythm is jerky and the tune weak.
A lot better, as far as the melody is concerned is ‘Splendor In The Grass’, recorded by Gulliver’s People on Parlophone R5435. The song is written by Jackie DeShannon and has a strong tune and a reasonable lyric and there is powerful backing. This could be a hit – though only on the strength of the song itself.
‘Just How Wrong You Can Be’ by The Epics on Pye 7N 17053 is a fairly pleasant, medium pace song given a fairly pleasant treatment. There’s nothing new about it, but it may well be quite successful.
That grand old man of song, Frank Sinatra, would never have followed up a hit record by bringing out another almost exactly the same, I’m quite sure. But that’s exactly what daughter Nancy Sinatra has done with her follow up to ‘Boots’, called ‘How Does That Grab You Darling’ on Reprise R20461. Sticking to the old theory that if you’ve found a winning combination why change it, the new record should really be called ‘Boots Part 2’. It has the same tune, same backing and the same rather tuneless voice Nancy has – so different from her father.
Another American who obviously agrees with Nancy about follow-up records is Lou Christie, whose latest disc ‘Rhapsody In The Rain’, on MGM 1308, is very similar to his smash hit Lightning Strikes. In Fact, the giro vocal group backing him even go so far as to chant ‘Lightning Strikes’ at one stage. It’s got the same high pitched vocal work and exciting arrangement as the original.
After months without a single release Manfred Mann make a long-awaited return with Pretty Flaingo on HMP POP 1523. It may not be as strong as some of their earlier releases but it’s a change of style and Paul Jones does a fair job.
There are some very strange noises on the intro to the record by the Riot Squad, called ‘I Take It That We’re Through’ on Pye 7N 17092, but the song itself is a drag. This backing, however, which includes some weird Oriental-style sounds at one point, greatly improves it.
I’ve never heard of American singer Edwin Starr before, but his new record ‘Stop Her On Sight’, released on Polydor 56701, is a real gas. The singer’s voice is really great.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mandy Rice-Davies RIP

Another death - this time of Mandy Rice-Davies, who was at the centre of the Profumo scandal in the early sixties. I was very interested in the whole story and carried a photo of her around with me for some time. Of course, she is now best remembered for her comment at the trial of osteopath Stephen Ward, when Lord Astor denied having an affair with her or even having met her: 'He would, wouldn't he.'
There are still unanswered questions from the whole scandal (as there clearly are from other Establishment scandals that have been covered up over the years). Here's an entry from my blog on March 10th, 2006, when John Profumo died, which attracted some interest from Profumo obsessives (see the comments).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Death List 2014

It’s that time of the year when The Vinyl Word pays tribute to those musicians and entertainers who have died during the last 12 months. And as ever, there are many on the list, including several who have died just within the last few days.
The latest batch includes Alan Bown, leader of the Alan Bown Set, a group that I can remember seeing on a number of occasions during the sixties. They had several 45s released but their only LP was one side of London Swings Live at the Marquee Club (pictured) on Pye. Other recent deaths include those of Wendy Rene, who had several 45s released on Stax, both solo and with her vocal group the Drapels; Bob Montgomery, boyhood friend of Buddy Holly, who recorded with him in the early days; Raoul Cita, a member of the Harptones; Graeme Goodall, influential Australian recording engineer and record label owner who was a co-founder of Island records and set up the Doctor Bird and Pyramid labels; and soul singer Freddie Houston.
Here is 2014’s list as it stands currently. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all and apologies for those who I haven’t managed to include.
Lauren Bacall – Hollywood actress; Claire Barry – member of the Barry Sisters; Alexandra Bastedo – star of The Champions;  Franny Beecher – guitarist with Bill Haley’s Comets; Jackie Bernard – member of the Kingstonians; Acker Bilk – trad jazz clarinettist;  Jeanne Black – He’ll Have To Stay singer; Alan Bown – leader of Alan Bown Set; Jack Bruce – solo performer and bass player with Cream; Nick Charles – Memphis bluesman; Raoul Cita – member of the Harptones; Little Joe Cook – R & B singer; Bob Crewe – songwriter and record producer; Don Davis – Motown and Stax record producer; Lynsey de Paul – British singer/songwriter; Reather Dixon – member of the Bobbettes; Lee Dresser – rockabilly singer;  Phil Everly – one half of the classic duo; James Garner – Rockford Files star; Anna Gordy Gaye – sister of Berry and ex-wife of Marvin Gaye; Gerry Goffin – songwriting great; Graeme Goodall – ska/rocksteady record man;  James Govan – Memphis soul singer (pictured at the Rum Boogie Cafe in 2011); George Hamilton IV – country singer; Wayne Henderson – trombonist with the Crusaders; Rosetta Hightower – member of the Orlons;  Teenie Hodges – Hi Rhythm Section guitarist; John Holt – reggae and lovers rock singer; Freddie Houston - soul singer; Deon Jackson – Northern soul favourite;  Bobby Keys – Rolling Stones sax man; Glen A Larson – TV producer and member of the Four Preps; Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee – UK wildman pianist; Hopeton Lewis – rocksteady pioneer;  Johnny Mann – leader of his eponymous singers; Cosimo Matassa – New Orleans rock and roll recording engineer;  Rik Mayall – anarchic UK comedian; Mighty Hannibal – R & B singer; Bob Montgomery – co-writer/singer with Buddy Holly; Idris Muhammed – New Orleans jazz drummer; Frances Nero – soul singer; Jimmy C Newman – Cajun country singer; Geoff Nugent – member of the Undertakers; Duffy Power – British R & B singer; Tommy Ramone – member of the Ramones;  Larry Ramos – member of the Association; Frank Reed – member of the Chi-Lites; Wendy Rene – soul singer;  Paul Revere – keyboard player and founder of the Raiders; Rudy Richard – Louisiana bluesman; Mickey Rooney – Hollywood child star & actor; Jimmy Ruffin – Motown soul star; Jim Russell – New Orleans record shop owner;  Joe Sample – Crusaders keyboardist; Dave Sampson – UK singer; Little Jimmy Scott – high pitched jazz/R & B singer;  Pete Seeger – legendary folk singer; Horace Silver – jazz man;  Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith – blues guitarist: Alvin Stardust aka Shane Fenton aka Bernard Jewry – UK pop  singer; Henry Stone – Miami record man; Floyd Taylor – soul singer son of Johnnie; Shirley Temple – Hollywood child star; Tabby Thomas – Baton Rouge bluesman; Jay Traynor – original Jay of Jay & the Americans; Jerry Vale – MOR American singer; Cherry Wainer – fifties Hammond organ player; Little Joe Washington – bluesman;  Houston Wells – British country singer; Robin Williams – film and TV comedian;  Jesse Winchester – US folk singer; Johnny Winter – white Texas bluesman; Bobby Womack – soul superstar (pictured at the Jazz Cafe); Rusty York – rockabilly singer; Saul Zaentz – controversial record producer.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Looking back to 1966

I took a trip back to 1966 the other day to revisit my life as a trainee journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, a local newspaper in south London. As well as my day job of reporting local news, I was part of the 'Young Outlook' team that the paper hoped would encourage a younger readership. My role was to review records as they came out and write about the pop music of the day. Searching through the micro film of the Advertiser at Croydon Library I came across quite a few record reviews that I wrote at the time. They are brief and to the point and focus largely on whether they will be a hit or not, but it was fascinating (to me at least) to read what I thought of records which are now well known but which were new to me at the time. Others, of course, are now forgotten. I received hundreds of 45s from record companies over a period of about three years, some of which I still have. If I had known then how valuable some of them would become I would have taken better care of them!
Over the next week or two I may print some of my reviews (if anyone is interested) but for the time being, here's a report I wrote about Chris Farlowe in January, 1966, a few months before he hit the big time with 'Out Of Time'.
'A star in his own right after five years of hard graft as a relatively unknown singer – that’s Chris Farlowe, a 25 year old from Islington, whose praises are sung by everyone from the Stones downwards, and whose latest record ‘Think’ is currently bounding up the charts (writes Nick Cobban).
Chris has sung in Croydon and Bromley more times than he cares to remember in the past five years, and it was on one of these occasions, at the Star Hotel, London Road, West Croydon, that I went to see him. Later, during the interval, we took refuge in a nearby fish and chip shop where Chris explained his sudden upsurge in popularity in the last few months.
Until last summer his name meant nothing to the record-buying public, although scores of people ‘in the business’  admired his gutsy soul singing. Suddenly last summer, however, things began to happen for Chris. He received a tremendous ovation for his live performance of ‘In The Midnight Hour’ on ‘Ready Steady Go!’ and all five Rolling Stones raved about the ‘coloured’ sound to his voice.
Since then, more RSG appearances and a bluesy recording of the old Jamie Coe song ‘The Fool’ have helped put Chris’s name even more in the public eye. Now with ‘Think’, a song specially written for him by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Chris seems to be making an impression on the charts at last. The results of ‘Think’ are already showing themselves. He has a tour of Scandinavia and a three day stint at the famous Olympia in Paris lined up.'

Monday, December 08, 2014

Remembering Sam Cooke 50 years on

This Thursday, December 11th, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the man who I, and many others, regard as the greatest soul singer of all time, Sam Cooke. His voice both on his gospel recordings with the Soul Stirrers and his later pop and soul records for Specialty, Keen and RCA was a thing of utter beauty, able to move people deeply. But he was not just a singer, he was a songwriter, producer and arranger, owned his own record labels and music publishing company and was the first black artist to retain his own publishing rights with a major record label. Add to that the fact that he was a dynamic performer and you have the complete package. Sam Cooke is one man who
truly deserves the term 'legend'.
I was too young to really be aware of You Send Me, his first smash hit, at the time so my love of Sam Cooke's music really began with his 1960 recording of Wonderful World, which was only a minor hit in the UK but reached number one in the personal top ten chart that I started that year. In the five years that followed every one of his releases made an impact on me, including Chain Gang, Sad Mood, That's It I Quit I'm Movin' On, Cupid, Feel It, Twistin' The Night Away, the great double sider Havin' A Party/Bring It On Home To Me, Nothing Can Change This Love, Send Me Some Loving, Another Saturday Night, Frankie and Johnny, Little Red Rooster, Good News, Good Times, Cousin Of Mine backed with That's Where It's At, the immense double sider Shake and A Change Is Gonna Come, It's Got The Whole World Shakin' and Sugar Dumpling. Not surprisingly Sam was the most successful artist in my top ten by a mile.
When he toured the UK in 1962 with Little Richard I went to the show and was hugely impressed by both Sam and
Richard, who were both fantastic live performers. I was lucky enough to go back stage at the Tooting Granada and meet both of them and get their autographs. The memory now is something of a blur and sadly Sam's signature, signed with a fountain pen, has faded over the years and is now barely legible, but it's something I will always treasure.
Recording-wise, Sam achieved greatness not because of his involvement with RCA, but despite it. The label wanted him to be a singer of standards and many of his LPs, produced by Hugo and Luigi, feature middle of the road material, but made special by Sam's fantastic voice and phrasing. His lasting legacy was in many ways A Change Is Gonna Come, originally a B side and a song which was considered too political at the time, which has become the ultimate civil rights anthem.
I was shocked when I heard of his death in 1964. He had achieved so much but still had so much more to do. I was on my way home from my first job in Croydon - shortly before I began my training as a journalist - and it was just a Stop Press piece in the Evening Standard. I could hardly believe that it was true, but sadly it was. 50 years later, he is still regarded as a major star, perhaps the first genuine soul singer and certainly an immense influence on everyone who has aspired to be one since. His life has inspired two major biographies -' Dream Boogie' by Peter Guralnick and 'You Send Me' by Daniel Woolf - and there have been rumours of a biopic, although nothing of note has transpired.
The circumstances of his death have been surrounded by much speculation and conspiracy theories abound. Was he really shot by Bertha Franklin, the manager of a sleazy motel, while chasing an escort Lisa Boyer, half dressed and drunk? Much of the story sounds far fetched and unlikely and theories range from involvement by the mob or the FBI to a set up by business associates or his wife. His nephew Erik Greene in his book 'Our Uncle Sam' has no doubt that there was more behind it than was revealed at the inquest, which appears to have been something of a sham. He claims that Sam was about to break his links with Allan Klein, who he had hired as his advisor (and who went on to play a major role in the careers of the Beatles, the Stones and others), and long time associate J W Alexander and that Klein in particular would have been financially out of pocket if he had done so. He also believes that Sam was on the verge of divorcing his wife Barbara, who had been having an affair with Sam's 20 year old protege Bobby Womack. Bobby went to Sam's funeral with Barbara in his mentor's Rolls Royce and wearing his clothes, causing considerable disgust in the family and Bobby and Barbara married just three months after Sam's death. Erik is dismissive of Bobby but is clearly unhappy with Barbara's actions after Sam's death.
We will probably never know the truth, although now that Bobby has gone perhaps more information will emerge, but whatever the reason, the fact remains that the world lost a unique talent 50 years ago this week. RIP Sam Cooke.
Nick Cobban

Thursday, December 04, 2014

More music deaths - Ian McLagan and others

Winter is here and with it another batch of music deaths. Most noteworthy is that of Ian McLagan, keyboard player with the Small Faces and the Faces, who also made records with his own band.
My friend Ronnie Cook dropped me an email about Ian which was a pretty good summary of his career. He wrote: 'No sooner had you paid tribute to the British R and B bands of the 60s another one passes. The death of Ian McLagan reminded me that it was through The Small Faces (particular Mac) that I first started listening to Brenda Holloway, Gladys Knight etc in the mid 60s. The first real R'n'B records I actually bought.  Always underrated, I would doubt there has been any other musician who has been a fulltime member of the Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne's bands along with countless others. Pity his solo records were pretty crap.' McLagan was 69 and had been performing until recently with the latest version of the Faces and was about to start a US tour with Nick Lowe. Here's the BBC report of his death. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30326401
By a sad coincidence another Rolling Stones sideman has also died - sax man Bobby Keys, whose sax break on Brown Sugar is one of the most memorable in pop music. Keys originated from Texas and began his music career backing Buddy Holly. As well as playing on many hits in the 60s, including Dion's The Wanderer apparently, he backed Bobby Vee and joined Delaney and Bonnie's band before teaming up with the Stones in 1969. His wild lifestyle led to a temporary suspension from the Stones band but he was soon back in the band and also played on recordings by John Lennon, Marvin Gaye and B B King among others. He was 70.   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11271149/Bobby-Keys-obituary.html
Frances Nero, who was 71, had a record released on Motown's Soul subsidiary in 1965 (Keep On Lovin' Me) and also recorded with Gino Parks for the Shrine label, but it wasn't until 1991 that she had a hit with Footsteps Following Me, produced by Northern soul producer Ian Levine. She had an album released by Levine and also recorded for her own AJA label.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8s_UWDcF8M
Another recent death is that of Glen A Larson, best known as the creator of hit TV shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Magnum PI, Knight Rider and Quincy M E. Less well known is the fact that he was a founding member of the Four Preps, who had a smash hit in 1957 with Big Man and success also with 26 Miles and Down By the Station. He was 77.    http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/nov/17/glen-larson    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9BX1vR4IZg

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Who at 50

I like to think that this blog represents all aspects of music from the late 50s and 60s, but I have to admit that British R and B groups of the 60s don't get much of a look in. I was too much of a purist to accept the cover versions of US soul and blues records by the likes of the Stones, Beatles, Yardbirds etc etc at the time. They were on the whole, I felt, rather poor imitations of what I considered, and still consider, to be some of the greatest records of all time.
Yet I have to admire the staying power of some of these 60s British groups, not least The Who, who have just begun their 50th anniversary tour. There was something anarchic about the Who's first few singles on Brunswick which even now sounds fresh: I Can't Explain, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Substitute and, especially, My Generation. In 1965 when it came out it seemed to sum up the mind set of most of us baby boomer teenagers. Live hard and die young. Yet here we are, still around (most of us), sipping our Chablis, eating our chicken tikka masala and still listening to music from the 60s. 'I hope I die before I grow old'. No chance. We still think we will live forever (although the aches, pains and hospital appointments tell us otherwise.)
I remember going to Paris in 1966 to see The Who play at the La Locomotive club and they were as anarchic as one would expect, smashing their guitars and generally making a lot of noise. It wasn't subtle but it was fun. Keith Moon was on good form as were the rest of the band.
In all the years since then I have taken only passing notice of The Who, the Stones or other British R and B bands. I love my original soul, blues, ska, rock and roll and R and B much more than I love British covers. Yet it's the UK bands that have largely kept the memory of that era alive over the decades. So begrudgingly I have to raise my hat to The Who, and to the Stones, and others, for continuing to keep the music alive. And to all the other baby boomers, of which I proudly admit I am one, who refuse to give up, despite the advancing years, let's keep on rocking.. Long may we last.