Friday, December 28, 2007

Oldies show misses the bullseye

I see that Tales From The Woods is spreading its wings and is now promoting an oldies show at the Lakeside Country Club at Frimley Green in Surrey - a venue perhaps best known as the former home of the World Darts Championship. Fortunately Keith Woods is not bearing the financial risk himself, or so I believe, which is a good thing, since it's hard to believe this will be a sell-out. Craig Douglas? Terry Dene? Wee Willie Harris? Give us a break. This must be the ultimate in has-beens and never-wases.

I remember when I joined the Croydon Advertiser as a trainee reporter in 1965 one of my first jobs was to interview Craig Douglas, who was playing a gig locally. I felt vaguely embarrassed to be given this particular job as Douglas was already well past his sell-by date, and I had always hated his anaemic cover versions. He seemed a pleasant enough chap, but I guess it was indicative of his by then lowly status that the news editor gave this job to the greenest of cub reporters. Wee Willie Harris (pictured) was a joke in his heyday, with his brightly coloured suits and hair and he remains one today, despite his obvious enthusiasm. As for Terry Dene. there's probably been enough debate already in the blog on his second rate cover versions.
Apparently the Lakeside won't admit groups of men unaccompanied by women - a policy that understandably outrages Tony Papard. But they'll be lucky if they get any paying punters at all, male or female. Maybe I'm misjudging the good people of Frimley Green though. They may turn out in droves and pay good money to see this dross and Keith and the artists will be laughing all the way to the bank. After all, it's almost as exciting as a game of darts.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas celebrations

Last year, Christmas Day was spoilt by the news that James Brown had died. This year, the month of December has claimed Ike Turner. Another hero gone and we await the next bit of bad news with a certain amount of dread.

But let's instead celebrate those music greats who are still with us and still giving us pleasure, if only performing occasionally: Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino still survive and long may they do so. So too do Solomon Burke, Sam Moore, Irma Thomas, Art and Aaron Neville, Bobby Bland, Dion (who performed the gig of the year in 2007), Al Green and Dr John to name just a few of my personal favourites. Sadly, we rarely have opportunities to see great soul, blues and rock and roll artists perform in the UK, but trips to festivals, including New Orleans Jazzfest, the Ponderosa Stomp and the Porretta Soul Festival provide opportunties to catch other, often lesser known artists, still performing at their peak.

I hope to go on the Stompin' USA trip next year and possibly to Porretta as well, so I have something good to look forward to. In the meantime, I hope for a happy Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and musical New Year. To anyone reading this blog, have a good one!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top 20s - 1960/61

To complete the series, here are the top scoring singles in my personal top tens for the years 1960 and 1961. Not all classics I admit, but there are some great 45s nonetheless:
1. Wonderful world - Sam Cooke
2. I just go for you - Jimmy Jones
3. Only the lonely - Roy Orbison
4. You gotta move two mountains - Marv Johnson
5. Alley oop - Hollywood Argylls
6. Learning the game - Buddy Holly
7. Perfidia - The Ventures
8= Please help me I'm falling - Hank Lochlin
8= MacDonald's cave - Piltdown Men
10. Devil or angel - Bobby Vee
11= Three steps to heaven - Eddie Cochran
11= It ain't gonna be that way - Marv Johnson
11= Last date - Floyd Cramer
14. Hushabye little guitar - Paul Evans
15. Poetry in motion - Johnny Tillotson
16. Good Timin' - Jimmy Jones
17. Got a girl - Four Preps
18. Robot man - Connie Francis
19. You're sixteen - Johnny Burnette
20. Let the little girl dance - Billy Bland
1. Once in a while - The Chimes
2= Running scared - Roy Orbison
2= Cryin' - Roy Orbison
4. Girls - Johnny Burnette
5. Sad mood - Sam Cooke
6. So long baby - Del Shannon
7. Happy birthday sweet sixteen - Neil Sedaka
8. Calendar girl - Neil Sedaka
9. That old black magic - Bobby Rydell
10. On the rebound - Floyd Cramer
11. Hey little devil - Neil Sedaka
12. I like it like that - Chris Kenner (pictured)
13= I told you so - Jimmy Jones
13= Take good care of my baby - Bobby Vee
15= Cupid - Sam Cooke
15= Without you - Johnny Tillotson
15= Lonesome number one - Don Gibson
18. Sea of heartbreak - Don Gibson
19= Little boy sad - Johnny Burnette
19- Shop around - The Miracles

Monday, December 17, 2007

Death list 2007

The Final Word raises a glass to those musicians and others who have passed away during 2007, the most recent addition to the list being Dan Fogelberg, who died yesterday.

Here's a list of some of those who have gone during the last year: Kip Anderson, Ingmar Bergman, Michael Brecker, Teresa Brewer, Donnie Brooks, Bobby Byrd, Jimmy Cheatham, Jamie Coe, Ivor Cutler, Dan Fogelberg, Robert Goulet, Merv Griffin, Lee Hazlewood, Ronnie Hazlehurst, Billy Henderson, Pookie Hudson, Luther Ingram, Carol Johnson, Debora Kerr, Yolanda King, Frankie Laine, John Lucien, Nellie Lutcher, Tommy Makem, George Malone (Monotones), Marcel Marceau, Janis Martin, Lionel ‘Butch’ Mattice, Lois Maxwell, Barbara McNair, George Melly, Oliver La la Morgan, Luciano Pavarotti, Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett, Bill Pinkney, Boots Randolph, Bob Relf, Max Roach, Freddie Scott, Flo Sledge, Dakota Staton. Karlheinz Stockhausen, Zola Taylor (pictured with the Platters), Willie Tee, Hank Thompson, Kim Tolliver, Earl Turbinton, Ike Turner, Porter Wagoner, Clarence 'Tex' Walker, Hy Weiss, Tony Wilson, Shakey Jake Woods, Jane Wyman, Eldee Young, Hy Zaret, Zydeco Joe.

To all of them - thanks for the memory. And if there are any important ones who I've forgotten please leave a comment.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tina's shadow hangs over Ike

As expected. the UK newspapers have given quite a bit of space to obituaries of Ike Turner. All of them recognise his unique place in the evolution of blues and rock and roll, but the shadow of Tina and the abuse he allegedly handed out to her hangs over them. The Times, for example, heads its obit with 'Musician whose reputation for beating his singer wife, Tina, came to overshadow his notable contributions to rock and roll'
The Independent has 'Rock'n'roll pioneer better known for his violent partnership with Tina'
The Guardian says 'Tina Turner's infamous ex-husband, he also played a key creative role in rock and roll and blues history',,2227324,00.html
The Daily Telegraph has 'Pioneer of rock'n'roll who came to be overshadowed by Tina Turner, the wife he abused'
Such a pity that Ike's legacy should be tainted by the Tina claims, particularly since there seems little real evidence that the abuse actually took place. As Steve 'Sandy' Lee, who knew both Ike and Tina well, pointed out : "Ike "battered" Tina regularly- by handing her $20,000 to go shopping for clothes - and drive the Rolls Royce, too. Take the Ikettes, and here's another $10,000 - get them some new outfits.Tina was Ike's size. With no question, she could have knocked him out cold. She might have been 1" or 2" shorter, but she was built like a tank."
Of course, in light of the film and Ike's well known drugs problem it's hard to ignore the claims completely. But I can only hope that as time goes by it's Ike's music and his contribution to the evolution of rock and roll, blues and soul that he is remembered for.
On the subject of obituaries, here's one in The Times on Bobby Relf:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ike Turner RIP

There's a report from the US (now sadly confirmed) that Ike Turner has died at the age of 76. It marks the end of a man who can truly be termed a legend. It seems hard to believe that this blues and rock genius, who performed with such brilliance at the Jazz Cafe only a few months ago (check out my review on April 23, 2007), could have passed away. But we all have to go some time, and we can only be grateful for the pleasure he has given us over the years. From Rocket 88, way back in 1950, through the Ike and Tina years (soured by stories of abuse and drug taking) to his later years performing with his Kings of Rhythm, Ike has been a pioneer of rock, soul and blues. His performance at Ronnie Scott's a few years back was one of the most exciting I have ever seen, and the Jazz Cafe show was almost as good. Ike was a true original. Ruthless, arrogant, maybe abusive, he may have been, but he was a great musician and one of the true greats of rock and roll. RIP Ike.

Monday, December 10, 2007

No more Harlem Shuffle

Raise your glass to Bob Relf, one half of Bob and Earl (Nelson) on the 1964 classic Harlem Shuffle, who has died. The original Bob was Bobby Byrd (Bobby Day of Rockin' Robin fame - not to be confused with James Brown's sidekick who also died recently) but he had left the duo to be replaced by Relf by the time of their big hit. Relf had already led several L.A.-based acts in his career, including the Laurels and the Upfronts (featuring Barry White), and was also a replacement member of the Hollywood Flames after Byrd had left to join up with Nelson. The duo recorded several singles for various L.A.-based labels, but their lone hit was Harlem Shuffle, which was arranged by a young Barry White, who played piano.
The duo failed to follow up with any additional hits and soon were splitting for solo careers, but an LP was released in the UK on the B and C label featuring some duets and some solo tracks by both Bob and Earl. Relf recorded singles under the names Bobby Garrett and Bobby Valentino. but didn't trouble the scorers thereafter.

On a slightly more bizarre note, I'm just back from New York where I attended the 50th birthday party in Trump Tower of one of the best paid executives in the world who just happens to be married to a close friend of my girlfriend. It was a very pleasant event all done in the best possible taste. These are people who own not one but two apartments in this prestige development and who are rich enough to spend $50,000 on the event. If only!!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Top 20s - 1962/63

Continuing the theme of the top 20 scoring records in my personal charts, as written down at the time, here are the top 20 from 1962 and 1963.
1. Nothing can change this love - Sam Cooke
2. Palisades Park - Freddy Cannon
3. Hey baby - Bruce Channel
4. Lipstick traces - Benny Spellman
5. Hey little girl - Del Shannon
6. He's a rebel - The Crystals
7. Soldier boy - The Shirelles
8. Stop the music - The Shirelles
9. Let's dance - Chris Montez
10. The crowd - Roy Orbison
11. Salvation - Johnny & the Hurricanes
12. Cry myself to sleep - Del Shannon
13. Love came to me - Dion
14. I wanna thank your folks - Johnny Burnette
15= Workin' for the man - Roy Orbison
15= If you were a rock and roll record - Freddy Cannon
17. Twisting the night away - Sam Cooke
18. Dream baby - Roy Orbison
19. What's your name - Don & Juan
20= It will stand - The Showmen
20= I was born to cry - Dion
1. Sandy - Dion
2. Da doo ron ron - The Crystals
3. He's sure the boy I love - The Crystals
4. He's so fine - The Chiffons
5. Little town flirt - Del Shannon
6. Be my baby - The Ronettes
7. Another Saturday night - Sam Cooke
8. Then he kissed me - The Crystals
9. This little girl - Dion
10. Let it rock - Chuck Berry
11= Send me some loving - Sam Cooke
11= Swinging on a star - Big Dee Irwin
13. Go go go - Chuck Berry
14= It's my party - Lesley Gore
14= Come go with me - Dion
16= In dreams - Roy Orbison
16= You really got a hold on me - The Miracles
18. Foolish little girl - The Shirelles
19= Zip a dee doo dah - Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans
19= Baby workout - Jackie Wilson

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Yet another comeback for Ernie

He may be dead, but it seems there's no stopping Ernie K-Doe these days. Last year he stood for Mayor of New Orleans, thanks to his indomitable widow Antoinette (he didn't win, sadly). Now an obscure track called Here Come The Girls is being featured in this year's Christmas TV ad by Boots and is getting so much airplay that someone has to issue it a single surely. It's a classic piece of N'Awlins funk taken from a 1970 album on Janus, produced by Allen Toussaint with backing from the Meters.
I loved Ernie early classics such as A Certain Girl, I Cried My Last Tear, Te-ta-te-ta-ta and of course Mother in Law, and some of his work for Duke was almost as good. He was one of the main reasons I first went to Jazzfest back in 1989. He looked a mess, wandering around with his bow tie askew and his hair a mess. Once on stage though he was a man possessed with that great voice as good as ever. Indeed so excited was he that he had to be physically escorted from the stage because he wouldn't leave. I always made a point of seeing Ernie at Jazzfest because, whether drunk or sober, he was an entertainer. I last saw him in the street in the French Quarter in 2000, a year before he died. He was with Antoinette and I had my photo taken with him in front of the Ernie K-Doe minibus.
A year or so earlier I went to the Mother in Law Lounge on South Claiborne with John Howard. It was a bizarre experience, with Ernie sitting in a sort of throne looking somewhat the worse for wear while Antoinette bustled around. John and I were virtually the only customers, until Jon Cleary came in later, and John and I were treated to Ernie singing with his small band. I bought a 'Burn K-Doe Burn' T-shirt and Ernie's set was haphazard but unmissable, mostly devoted to the songs of Jerry Butler, in particular a lengthy version of I Stand Accused.
When I went to the Mother in Law Lounge earlier this year it had been transformed into one of the trendiest places in town, but it still featured Ernie wherever you looked, from his throne, to Ernie K-Doe cushions and mugs and a life-sized mannequin. I wrote about it in the blog on May 3 for anyone who's interested. Meanwhile. here's a link to YouTube for Here Come The Girls