Friday, May 26, 2006

Desmond Dekker dies

Another day, another death - this time reggae pioneer Desmond Dekker who, more than anyone else, helped to popularise ska, rock steady and reggae in the UK. A long time British resident, Desmond's hits included the wonderful 007 (Shanty town), The Israelites, It mek and You can get it if you really want. A dynamic performer, Desmond will be sadly missed. But at last I've now found out what he says in the first line of The Israelites. It's not 'Wake up in the morning, same thing for breakfast' as I foolishly imagined, but 'Wake up in the morning, slavin' for bread sir.' So now you know.

Jackie DeShannon at Dingwalls

Jackie DeShannon's melodic folk rock meets soul meets MOR music style may not please everyone but her first ever live performance in the UK certainly went down well with the mostly middle aged male audience at Dingwalls last night. Still looking very like her promotional photos of the mid 1960s, with long blonde hair, the 61 year old singer songwriter ran through many of her best known and still fresh sounding hits, including When you walk in the room, Don't turn your back on me and Needles and pins. Many of her songs were hits for other people, including Bette Davis eyes for Kim Carnes, Breakaway for Irma Thomas (and later Tracey Ullman) and Come and stay with me for Marianne Faithfull, but her own versions showed she has lost none of her early vitality. She moved into MOR territory with her Bacharach hit What the world needs now and Put a little love in your heart, but it was the early self-penned work that stood out. Jackie's band was excellent and overall it was great to see and hear an under rated 60s legend in the flesh for the first time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More top tens

Personal top tens from around this date 1960-1965:
May 30th 1960: 1= Three steps to heaven - Eddie Cochran, and Robot man - Connie Francis; 3. Step by step - The Crests; 4. Got a girl - Four Preps; 5. You'll never know what you're missing - Emile Ford; 6= Let the little girl dance - Billy Bland, and Happy go lucky me - Paul Evans; 8. He'll have to go - Jim Reeves; 9. Baby my heart - The Crickets; 10. The urge - Freddy Cannon.
May 27th, 1961: 1. That old black magic - Bobby Rydell; 2. Hello Mary Lou - Ricky Nelson; 3. Running scared - Roy Orbison; 4. Little devil - Neil Sedaka; 5. Travelling man - Ricky Nelson; 6. Surrender - Elvis Presley; 7. I'll step down - Garry Mills; 8. Lullaby of the leaves - The Ventures; 9. Sleepy eyed John - Johnny Horton; 10. She she little Sheila - Gene Vincent.
May 24th, 1962: 1. Soldier boy - The Shirelles; 2. I was born to cry - Dion; 3. Good luck charm - Elvis Presley; 4. Shout - Joey Dee & the Starliters; 5. Sing - Jackie Wilson; 6. How can I meet her - Everly Brothers; 7= That's old fashioned - Everly Brothers, and Sharing you - Bobby Vee; 9. It keeps right on a-hurting- Johnny Tillotson; 10. Number one man - Bruce Channel.
May 26th, 1963: 1. Another Saturday night - Sam Cooke; 2. It's my party - Lesley Gore; 3. Falling - Roy Orbison; 4. This little girl - Dion; 5. Hot pastrami -The Dartells; 6. There goes my heart again - Fats Domino; 7. Teenage letter - Jerry Lee Lewis; 8. Foolish little girl - The Shirelles; 9. You can't sit down - The Dovells; 10= If you gotta make a fool of somebody - James Ray, and Rocking crickets - Rocking Rebels.
May 28th, 1964: 1. My guy - Mary Wells; 2. No particular place to go - Chuck Berry; 3. Bama lama bama lu - Little Richard; 4. Dimples - John Lee Hooker; 5. Romeo and Juliet - The Reflections; 6. You're a wonderful one - Marvin Gaye; 7. Long tall shorty - Tommy Tucker; 8. Mona - Bo Diddley; 9. Dead man's curve - Jan & Dean; 10. Shoop shoop song - Betty Everett.
May 28th, 1965: 1. Mr Pitiful - Otis Redding; 2. The price of love - Everly Brothers; 3. It ain't me babe - Johnny Cash; 4. Voodoo woman - Bobby Goldsboro; 5. People get ready - The Impressions; 6. Woolly bully - Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs; 7. We're gonna make it - Little Milton; 8. It's got the whole world shakin' - Sam Cooke; 9. Last chance to turn around - Gene Pitney; 10= Back in my arms again - The Supremes, and Why don't you do right - Fats Domino.

Youngs man's blues

I'm saddened to hear that Youngs brewery in Wandsworth is to close. They are merging with Charles Wells of Bedford and transferring brewing there. Rather like the withdrawal of the Routemaster the closure of Youngs brewery marks the end of something that makes London special. Whatever the latest drinking fad, whether lager or alcopops, you knew you would always be able to get a good pint of bitter at a Youngs pub. I mostly drink wine these days but still enjoy a pint of Youngs from time to time. No doubt they will claim that the beer will be the same once they move, but somehow I doubt it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Freddie's dead -and so is Ernie

Two bits of news caught my eye today:
* Crap cover artist and clown Freddie Garrity has died. He managed to plumb depths that must have shamed even the most inept British beat bands of the 60s with his manic dancing and appalling voice. Poor James Ray, who first recorded If you gotta make a fool of somebody, never got a look in. Is it just a coincidence that Garrity started out as a skiffle player?
* Ray Nagin has been re-elected as Mayor of the 'chocolate' city (to quote his own words) New Orleans. He has a big job on his hands trying to get the city back on its feet and I wish him luck. It's a pity Ernie K-Doe's posthumous attempt was unsuccessful. I'm sure he could have done the job.

Friday, May 19, 2006

New York revisited

Just back from a very brief business trip to New York - my first since 9/11. I wasn't there long enough to sample any music but I did get a chance to go to Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village and look through some of the vinyl on sale. The guy in House of Oldies says he has 700.000 records stashed away. That is some hoard. I bought a few reissues but prices for the really collectable stuff remain way too high.
My meeting was with the Wall Street Journal at the World Financial Centre which is right next to Ground Zero. This remains just a huge hole in the ground with a subway line running through - a scar in the middle of downtown. It's hard to imagine that somewhere on that site stood the world's two highest buildings. I went on the roof on my first visit to NYC in 1986 (before security concerns stopped all that) and the view was incredible - like looking down from a plane. A few months before 9/11 I enjoyed a free open air gig on the concourse next to the World Trade Centre by Alex Chilton and the original Boxtops. Impossible now to figure out exactly where I was standing.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Uri buys Elvis's house

I see that spoonbender Uri Geller has bought Elvis's first house in Memphis on eBay. Apparently his psychic powers told him how much to bid. Elvis bought the house in 1956 and lived there for a year before moving to Gracelands, having built a large swimming pool in the grounds. Uri now intends to open it as a tourist attraction, presumably with a collection of Elvis's bent spoons and broken watches on display. At least there should be more to see than at Elvis's childhood home in Tupelo which, for a couple of dollars, you can walk through - it takes all of ten seconds. Uri claims to have had an influence on a number of singers, with Johnny Cash among those who have mentioned him or his spoonbending tricks. His website also includes a page on his record collection, displaying a lack of imagination and taste on his part as he lists Elton John, Michael Jackson, The Bee Gees and Charles Aznavour among his favourites. In the 70s he made an LP of his own - spoken, rather than sung. I have a copy if anyone wants it. I've tried to sell it on eBay without success but would be happy to sell it to the first person to offer me a fiver. I'm not saying it's worth as much as that mind you. See Uri here:

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Farewell to Johnny Paris

The sad death of Johnny Paris, the tenor sax player who was the eponymous leader of Johnny and the Hurricanes, of leukemia at the age of 65, brings back fond memories of a time when instrumentals made up a high proportion of the top 30. Some preferred the deep bass guitar of Duane Eddy, others the rhythmic sound of The Ventures, while others (poor deluded fools) preferred The Shadows. But for me, whilst I enjoyed the sound of Eddy and The Ventures, the most exciting instrumental sound of the early 60s was that of Johnny Paris together with organist Paul Tesluck, Dave Yorko on guitar, Lional Butch Mattice on bass and drummer Bill Savich. They made some tremendous records - my favourites included Red River Rock, Reveille Rock, Beatnik Fly, Rocking Goose and Salvation - and the Stormsville LP (an original copy of which I picked up for £1 in a charity shop recently) stills sounds great today. As the popularity of instrumentals waned so did that of Johnny and the boys. But they were a major force in pop music at the time and Johnny was a key part of that exciting Hurricanes sound. The best obit I've seen so far was in The Guardian:,,1770620,00.html

Monday, May 08, 2006

Is this the end for Fats?

Fats Domino's finale at the New Orleans Jazzfest yesterday failed to materialise as he cancelled saying he was unwell. The great man did in fact go to the Fairgrounds to apologise for not appearing, but his no-show could spell the end of his career as a live performer. At the age of 78 he has gone through a lot in the last year, having been rescued from his flooded home following Katrina. But if this really is the end then this truly is Blue Monday. Fats has been part of my life ever since my sister brought home his early 78s back in 1956. I was hooked the moment I heard Blueberry Hill, My blue heaven, Rosalie, Blue Monday and the rest, and it was Fats who above all made me determined to visit New Orleans at some point in my life. I first went in 1989 and have been back many times since and the highlight of any visit to Jazzfest is when Fats is performing. He is more than a legend - he represents everything that was great about the Big Easy, pre-Katrina. His music will last forever. I hope that I will see him perform again. He's still the greatest.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My top ten May 1960-65

My personal top tens from around this date as recorded at the time:
May 10th 1960: 1. Got a girl - The Four Preps; 2. I love the way you love - Marv Johnson; 3. What in the world's come over you - Jack Scott; 4. Shazam - Duane Eddy; 5. Baby my heart - The Crickets; 6. Let the little girl dance - Billy Bland; 7. Sweet nuthin's - Brenda Lee; 8. He'll have to go - Jim Reeves; 9. Chatanooga choo choo - Freddy Cannon; 10. Who could be bluer - Jerry Lordan.
May 5th 1961: 1. Mother in law - Ernie K-Doe; 2. Hey little devil - Neil Sedaka; 3. What'd I say - Jerry Lee Lewis; 4. Lullaby of the leaves - The Ventures; 5. Running scared - Roy Orbison; 6. More than I can say - Bobby Vee; 7. Runaway - Del Shannon; 8. But I do - Clarence Frogman Henry; 9. Love my life away - Gene Pitney; 10. Stayin' in - Bobby Vee.
May 6th 1962: 1. Don't play that song - Ben E King; 2. Salvation - Johnny & the Hurricanes; 3. Ginny come lately - Brian Hyland; 4= What'd I say -Bobby Darin and Twist twist senora - Gary US Bonds; 6. Lose your inhibitions twist - Chubby Checker; 7. Lover please - Clyde McPhatter; 8. A night at Daddy Gee's - Curtis Lee; 9. Last night was made for love - Billy Fury; 10. King of clowns - Neil Sedaka.
May 5th 1963: 1. Foolish little girl - The Shirelles; 2. If you wanna be happy - Jimmy Soul; 3. This little girl - Dion; 4. Another Saturday night - Sam Cooke; 5. Don't say nothin' bad - The Cookies; 6. Two kinds of teardrops - Del Shannon; 7. He's so fine - The Chiffons; 8. Killer Joe - The Rocky Fellers; 9. I got what I wanted - Brook Benton; 10. Forget him - Bobby Rydell.
May 7th 1964: 1. Shoop shoop song - Betty Everett; 2. My guy - Mary Wells; 3. No particular place to go - Chuck Berry; 4= Sha-la-la - The Shirelles and You're a wonderful one - Marvin Gaye; 6. Dead man's curve - Jan & Dean; 7. The matador - Major Lance; 8. I'm so proud - The Impressions; 9. The way you do the things you do - The Temptations; 10= Walk on by - Dionne Warwick and Ask me Inex Foxx.
May 9th 1965: 1. People get ready - The Impressions; 2, It's got the whole world shakin' - Sam Cooke; 3. Mr Pitiful - Otis Redding; 4. I'll be doggone - Marvin Gaye; 5. Why don't you do right - Fats Domino; 6. Got to get you off my mind - Solomon Burke; 7. Don't mess up a good thing - Bobby McClure & Fontella Bass; 8. Peaches and cream - The Ikettes; 9. Ooh baby baby - The Miracles; 10. Let's stick together - Wilbert Harrison.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bobbie Nudie - Queen of the rhinestone cowboys

Bobbie Nudie (real name Helen Cohn) created some of the more ludicrous outfits that country and pop singers have worn over the years. From Elvis to Hank Williams her rhinestone encrusted suits symbolised everything that was tacky about the genre, yet became a must-wear item for dozens of stars. I must admit that I was unaware of her influential role until she died last month at the age of 92, but she and her late husband Nudie Cohn left an indelible impression on the music industry. Together they created suits for the likes of Hank Snow and Roy Rogers and also devised Johnny Cash's Man in Black look. Nudie and his wife did not confine themselves just to suits. Boots, saddles, and belts -- anything with leather tooling -- became part of the line, as well as pantsuits and dresses. And then there were the cars, mainly convertibles with steer horns on the grille and rifles, six-shooters, and derringers as part of the ornamentation. Nudie designed 18 of these. Hank Williams was buried in a Nudie suit and more recently Buck Owens was buried in one of his Nudies. Roy Rogers was another who wore his Nudie suit to the grave. Perhaps the most famous Nudie creation of all was worn by Elvis Presley. That suit, created in the 1950s, was made of gold lame and priced at $10,000. Nudie later said his profit on the King's creation was $9,500. The Nudie look crossed over into rock music in a more substantial way in 1968 when the the Flying Burrito Brothers started wearing them. Gram Parsons's suit, decorated with marijuana leaves, became an iconic image in rock. Other rockers, including Elton John and Keith Richards, soon followed.