Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jammin' with Corliss

Seems you can't move these days without stumbling over a Tales From The Woods event. Last night I tried out Keith's jam session at the Caxton in deepest Shadwell. There was some excellent boogie woogie piano playing from Mike J Clayton from Texas, and a bluesy slide guitar from a guy from Russia, but the highlight had to be Corliss Randall doing an over the top version of I Just Want To Make Love To You. Nearly everyone in the room was brought in at some stage and I've never seen Tony Papard look so scared as when she ran her fingers through his now grey hair. Truly a New Orleans bombshell, even if she has been in London for 30 years.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Legends of doowop

YouTube can get addictive after a bit. I've been having fun keying in the names of great acts of the 50s and 60s and seeing what comes up. On the (white) girl group theme it was interesting how boring the Angels and Reparata and the Delrons (right) looked, although the Shangri-Las were at least wearing leather slacks. And it was great to see garage bands like the Sir Douglas Quintet, Sam the Sham, ? and the Mysterians, Count Five and the Seeds in their prime.
From the 50s there is understandably less choice, apart from the really big names, but I've come across some great footage of Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, the Big Bopper and even Frankie Ford dressed as a sailor singing Sea Cruise, and there's lots more.
But for amusement I suggest you have look at the Legends of Doowop at It'll make you laugh out loud.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The real Dreamgirls

I came across an interesting article charting the rise and fall of the girl group sound:
Although there were girl groups in the 50s such as the Chantels and the Bobbettes, it wasn't until the Shirelles Will You Love Me Tomorrow that the genre really made an impact on me. That was in January 1961, and in the same month Angel Baby by Rosie and the Originals also made an appearance in my top ten. The Shirelles continued to produce a string of great records during the next couple of years, including Dedicated To The One I Love, What a Sweet Thing That Was and Baby It's You, and for a while they seemed to have the field almost to themselves. But a trend was beginning and by year end the first of the great Motown girl groups, the Marvelettes, had hit with Please Mr Postman.
The following year, 1962, I became aware of the Crystals, whose early records Uptown and There's No other Like My Baby, showed little of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound, and there was a hint of what was to come with Little Eva's The Loco-motion. But the girl group sound - usually featuring rather innocent tales of teenage angst - really took off with He's a Rebel by the Crystals, Don't Hang Up by the Orlons and the Exciters' Tell Him. By now we were into 1963 and the girl group sound was becoming firmly established. Among the records to make my top ten in that year were further singles by the Crystals and the Exciters, He's So Fine by the Chiffons, Chains by the Cookies, It's My Party by Lesley Gore, Easier Said Than Done by the Essex, Wonderful Dream by the Majors and My Boyfriend's Back by the Angels. Of course Motown was also getting into its stride, with further girl group hits by the likes of the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Velvelettes and the Marvelettes. And Phil Spector's influence had spread still wider with classics by the Crystals, the Ronettes and Darlene Love. Red Bird produced a number of classic girl group records from the Shangri-Las, the Jelly Beans and New Orleans' own Dixie Cups among others. By 1965 the trend had peaked. No doubt the British invasion had had the same stifling effect on girl group records that it had on many other forms of American pop music.
But now it seems the film Dreamgirls has reawakened awareness of the girl groups - and not before time. It may have been a short lived trend, but it has been revived more than once and the early examples of the genre still sound brilliant today. It's worth getting hold of the book Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by Charlotte Greig if you come across it. Not an exhaustive history of girl groups, but worth a read.

Friday, March 23, 2007

March top tens

My top tens from around this date 1961 to 1965:

March 21, 1961: 1. I told you so - Jimmy Jones; 2. Once in a while - The Chimes; 3. I'm hurtin' - Roy Orbison; 4. Tear of the year - Jackie Wilson; 5. Good time baby - Bobby Rydell; 6. Lazy river - Bobby Darin; 7. Pony time - Chubby Checker; 8. Ram bunk shush - the Ventures; 9. Muskrat ramble - Freddy Cannon; 10. Havin' fun - Dion (pictured right).

March 21, 1962: 1. Hey baby - Bruce Channel; 2. Hey little girl - Del Shannon; 3. B'wa nina - The Tokens; 4. Young world - Rick Nelson; 5. Speak to me pretty - Brenda Lee; 6. Lucky star - Gene Vincent; 7. Teen queen of the week - Freddy Cannon; 8. When my little girl is smiling - The Drifters; 9. A pretty girl is like a melody - Piltdown Men; 10. Dream baby - Roy Orbison.

March 20, 1963: 1. Sandy - Dion; 2. Good golly miss Molly - Jerry Lee Lewis; 3. You really got a hold on me - The Miracles; 4. In dreams - Roy Orbison; 5. Walk like a man - Four Seasons; 6. He's got the power - The Exciters; 7= Baby workout - Jackie Wilson, So it always will be - Everly Brothers, and The puzzle - Gene McDaniels; 10= Let's turkey trot - Little Eva, Remember me - Johnny Burnette, and Why do lovers break each others hearts - Bob B Soxx & the Bluejeans.

March 25, 1964: 1. Fun fun fun - The Beach Boys; 2. Hi 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 20, 1965: 1. King of the road - Roger Miller; 2. Little things - Bobby Goldsboro; 3. Voice your choice - The Radiants; 4. My girl - The Temptations; 5. Hurt so bad - Little Anthony & the Imperials; 6. Hold what you've got - Joe Tex; 7. Yield not to temptation - Bobby Bland; 8. Baby baby baby - Anna King & Bobby Byrd; 9. Don't mess up a good thing - Bobby McClure & Fontella Bass; 10. Do you wanna dance - The Beach Boys.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Luther Ingram RIP

Sorry to hear that Luther Ingram, one of the very best soul singers of the seventies, has died aged 69. Best known for If loving you is wrong (I don't want to be right), which was later covered by Millie Jackson, Luther made some brilliant records for the Koko label produced by Johnny Baylor. These included Ain't that loving you (for more reasons than one) and Let's steal away to the hideaway. Luther, who co-wrote the Staples Singers classic Respect yourself, had been ill for several years with kidney problems. Another great soul man has passed away.
There's an obituary of Luther in The Times of March 22:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Wonder of YouTube

I grew up in a era well before pop videos. The TV pop shows of the time concentrated largely on home grown UK artists who were, in the main, copying or covering the records of American acts. But I didn't like records by British artists. Virtually every record that entered my personal top ten was American. As a result I hardly knew what most of my musical heroes looked like. There were photos in the NME or Melody Maker and occasionally some of them might tour the UK in a package show. But it was a very different world from today. We could listen to the records, but there was little context. Sometimes I didn't even know if an artist was white or black.
YouTube has gone some way to rectify that situation. There are still big gaps, with many artists apparently never having been recorded on film, or at least not having been posted on YouTube to date, but we can at least see some of the greats as they were at the time - usually in grainy, out of sync black and white clips from early live performances or US TV programmes. So we get to see the Johnny Burnette Trio before they even had a hit, Clyde McPhatter, Jimmy Jones, James Carr, O V Wright, Bobby Rydell, Dion and clips of Sam Cooke, Roy Orbison and many others that I never knew existed. Who knows where these clips have been hiding all these years, but it's well worth a trawl through YouTube to see what gems have been lurking away unseen all these years.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Zydeco virgins

With the star turn C J Chenier stuck in the US and unable to perform, the latest Woodies gig at the 100 Club was always bound to disappoint somewhat. A shame really, as I was accompanied by two gorgeous black zydeco virgins, who had no idea what to expect. One of them is going with me to New Orleans so there will be chances aplenty to see and hear the real thing, but there are few opportunities to experience the genuine article in the UK. Despite the star's failure to turn up (his wife is ill apparently) it was an enjoyable evening, with some good rousing blues and rock from CJ's Red Hot Louisiana band (from Texas!) and a number of home based zydeco musicians, whose names I don't know, filling the gap, and doing so pretty well on the whole. There was some great piano playing by the young lad who was at the King and Queen recently (his name somebody?) and a couple of singers who put their all into the show. Not bad, but not quite the real thing.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Spector from Ronnie's past

Not before time, the Ronettes have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their enduring Phil Spector classics still sound as fresh today as they did back in the sixties. And Ronnie Spector has survived Phil's pananoia and abuse and is still around today. No one who saw her at the Town and Country 2 in 1991 will ever forget the great performance she put on that night, and we are still waiting hopefully for last year's cancelled London gig to be rescheduled. Meanwhile Phil's much postponed trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson in January 2003 is due to begin next week when jurors are selected. If the allegations against him are found to be true it will mark a sad end to a truly amazing life and career. As for Ronnie, it would seem that the ghost of Phil Spector haunts her to this day. In a fascinating article in the New York Post she links everything in her and his life to their stormy relationship. Well worth a read:

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Donnie Brooks RIP

Donnie Brooks, who has died aged 71, was little known in the UK but had a string of US pop hits in the early 60s, four of which made it into my personal top ten. He had a number of stage names in his early career and as Johnny Faire he had a US top 100 hit with Bertha Lou. Apparently encouraged by his friends Dorsey and Johnny Burnette he changed his name and had a fair sized hit with Mission Bell in 1960, which made number three in my top ten. Three follow ups also made an impact on my chart - Doll house, That's why and Oh you beautiful doll - before he slid into obscurity. His LP The Happiest, recorded for Era and issued on the London label in the UK, featured the first three of the above.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

New Orleans update

I've now booked my flights, car rental and the first few nights' hotel accommodation in New Orleans for Jazzfest. As it gets closer I'm beginning to feel the usual excitement about my trip. The line up is pretty strong, although so many of the New Orleans greats have died over the years that inevitably it cannot match the festivals of a few years ago. Still, there are plenty of interesting people to see, including one or two who I haven't seen before, including Bobby Charles. And then there's the Ponderosa Stomp to look forward to, which will no doubt prove to be a night to remember despite its move this year to the House of Blues, with its annoying no photography rule.
A few weeks ago I came across a website called MelodyTrip and I'm hoping to do a blog for them on my experiences at the first weekend of Jazzfest this year. Take a look at