Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Elgins in Basingstoke

Northern soul ventured south tonight with legendary Motown group the Elgins performing at the Academy, a club usually dominated by snooker and pool, in the outskirts of Basingstoke. Just how much resemblance the group bore to the real Elgins is debatable, as the only one with any claim to membership was Yvonne Vernee Allen (pictured above), who joined after original lead singer Saundra Edwards left in 1968, and this was some time after their classic Motown sides were recorded. Yvonne had earlier recorded a solo soul number called Just Like You Did Me which is worth a listen (see Youtube clip below).
Despite the handicaps of playing to a backing tape and suffering from a cold, Yvonne showed that she has a strong voice. They began with Stay In My Arms (B side of Heaven Must Have Sent You) and followed up with a number which I didn't recognise (possibly Real Love?). Fellow 'Elgins' - Tony and Jackie - tried hard to provide support and Tony then performed rather uninspired versions of In The Midnight Hour and Mr Pitiful before Yvonne finished off with the group's big hits Put Yourself In My Place and Heaven Must Have Sent You. Partway through the set former Wigan Casino and Blackpool Tower DJ Ken Edwards came on stage to pay tribute to Frank Wilson, who died the other day.
This was one of the shortest sets I've seen and not one of the more impressive ones, but it was good to see Yvonne and hear some great soul records being played by DJs doing a 60s Ricky-Tick club (in Windsor) revival set. And I learned something - apparently Elgins is pronounced with a soft, rather than a hard G - unlike the Scottish city.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Whistling in the dark

At the monthly meet-up of the Woodies last night the conversation turned to whistling. It seems to be dying out among the youth of today - when did you last hear a teenager whistling as he or she goes about their business? Some of the guys went to a Golden Years of Variety show at the Hackney Empire recently which featured 89 year old Ronnie Ronalde, who was famous for his whistling and bird song impersonations many years ago. I must admit, I didn't realise he was still alive!
The conversation turned to records of the fifties and sixties which included some whistling, so here are my top ten whistling discs of the era. Of course, other suggestions are more than welcome.
1. Guy Mitchell - Singing The Blues.
Also covered by Tommy Steele, this was a big hit in 1956 and featured one of the most famous whistling intros in pop history. Tommy's version apparently featured whistling through the teeth, rather than the lips -a talent which I pride myself on.
2. Guy Mitchell - Knee Deep In The Blues.
This was the follow up to Singing The Blues - why change a winning formula? - and once again Tommy Steele had a hit with a cover version (again, why change a winning formula?). Oh how I hated the British cover versions of the era - and still do.
3. Dale Wright & The Rock-Its - She's Neat.
Released in 1958, this is one of a number of records which kicked off with a wolf whistle. A good rockabilly number by a former DJ from Ohio.
4. Royal Teens - Short Shorts.
This is another record which begins with a wolf whistle. The Royal Teens - from New Jersey - included Bob Gaudio, later of the Four Seasons, and the song sings the praises of what would later be known as hot pants. Another one from 1958.
5. Larry Williams - Short Fat Fannie.
Larry was one of the unsung greats of rock and roll and this - his first release in the UK in 1958 - was a big hit in the US. It was one of a number of songs of the era to feature the names of other hit records, including Bye Bye Baby (Johnny Otis), Splish Splash (Bobby Darin) and La Dee Dah (Billy and Lillie). (Maybe a topic for a future blog item - other suggestions welcome). Larry moved on to a slimmer model for his follow up - Bony Moronie.
6. Jimmy Jones - Handy Man.
Jimmy died recently and will always be remembered for his first huge 1959/60 hit Handy Man. Apparently when the flute player failed to show up Otis Blackwell improvised with a whistle - very effectively.
7. Lovin' Spoonful - Daydream.
This, a big hit and the title track of the Lovin' Spoonful's second LP in 1966, features one of the best known whistles in pop. Another great record.
8. Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay.
This huge 1968 posthumous hit for the Big O was recorded shortly before he died. It didn't have a final verse at that time, so Steve Cropper added its famous whistle, along with waves and seagull cries.
9. Whistling Jack Smith - I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman.
A 1967 UK hit on Deram, this was possibly the biggest all-whistling UK hit of the pop era. Written by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, Billy Moeller appeared under the name of Whistling Jack, but the whistle was actually provided by John O'Neill of the Johnny Mann Singers.
10. Mama Cass Elliot - Dream A Little Dream Of Me.
This was a 1968 hit for Mama Cass, formerly of the Mamas and Papas, released on RCA.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Frank Wilson and other deaths

Time to catch up on a few recent deaths.
Frank Wilson, who has died aged 71, is best known for recording one of the rarest singles ever - the 1965 Northern soul classic Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), a copy of which sold for £25,000 in 2009. He visited the UK in 2000 and performed the song in public for the first time. Frank was primarily a writer and producer with Motown, initially in LA when the company opened an office there, and later in Detroit, and worked with a variety of artists, including Patrice Holloway (his first production), Brenda Holloway, the Supremes, the Miracles, The Four Tops and the Temptations, and later for Eddie Kendricks and Lenny Williams.

Andy Williams, who died recently aged 84, was the king of easy listening and what later became known as lounge music, but he started out performing soft rock and roll songs including the Charlie Gracie number Butterfly and I Like Your Kind Of Love. He had other big successes for Cadence in the fifties, including Hawaiian Wedding Song and Are You Sincere before moving to US Columbia where he had many successful records, including Moon River, Can't Get Used To Losing You, Days Of Wine and Roses and Almost There. His 'Andy Williams Show' TV programme was one of the biggest US variety shows of the sixties and he had at least 18 gold selling albums. He continued to perform and toured the UK in 2007. Here's his obituary in The Guardian

Czech born Herbert Lom, who was 95, was a familiar face in films from the 1940s onwards, including The Young Mr Pitt, War And Peace and The Ladykillers, and on TV, as the psychiatrist in The Human Jungle. In the seventies he was most famous for his role as Chief Inspector Dreyfus, Clouseau's long-suffering boss in the Pink Panther movies.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sex in the early sixties

Poet Philip Larkin famously wrote: "Sexual intercourse began in 1963 (which was rather late for me) -- Between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP."
Sex really was a banned subject when I was growing up, and it's true that it was only when the sixties really got going, around 1963, that the UK began to become what was later known as the permissive society. When I reached adolescence (around 1959 I suppose) there were few outlets for a developing lad. I remember buying paperbooks in W H Smith which were said to include saucy passages, such as Alberto Moravia's Woman Of Rome, and borrowing the still hard to obtain Tropic Of Cancer by Henry Miller from the library (it wasn't on the shelves and I had to make some excuse about studying it for an exam). This was a time when Lady Chatterley's Lover was still banned and it was only when the court case against Penguin allowed its publication in 1960 ("Is it a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?" asked prosecuting counsel) that things began slowly  to change. I would cycle many miles to Crystal Palace where there was a bookstall that sold rather tame photo magazines such as Spick and Span, Beautiful Britons, Harrison Marks' magazine Kamera, featuring airbrushed photos of his partner Pamela Green, and the incredibly boring nudist magazine Health and Efficiency. At the cinema, the most daring pictures were X rated and therefore banned to teenagers like me - the wonderful Brigitte Bardot in 'And God Created Woman' and Anita Ekberg in 'La Dolce Vita' for example. Like others of my age, I would try to look older in order to get in, and I remember succeeding on occasion and getting in to some of these films while still under age.
 Of course, being a curious teenager I wanted more than this. I would occasionally trawl the strip clubs of Soho - Sunset Strip, Red Mill, Dolls' House and the Carnival Club for example, as I recall. To begin with, and slightly before my time, the strippers weren't allowed to move - merely posing like a still portrait. But times moved on, and as many as six bored looking girls per hour would perform sometimes quite imaginative routines in front of embarrassed looking men (and the occasional teenager). Between acts, there would be lengthy and rather dull musical interludes, featuring 'lounge' records by the likes of Dean Martin and Andy Williams. On one occasion - it must have been around Boxing Day 1961 I'm guessing - three of us went into a completely empty club and got a particularly personal show, as we were the only patrons. Afterwards a lady of the night asked us if we'd seen old Bill - and we didn't have a clue what she was talking about! As the sixties progressed, magazines became more daring and I recall glossy mags such as Bizarre Life and High Heels being published, with pictures and stories about leather clad dominatrices. Movies and books quickly became more explicit - hastened, I think, by the salacious stories in the press about Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, whose photos I cut from the papers to drool over.
The girls were not particularly forthcoming in those days, as Philip Larkin alluded to, apart from some of the convent school girls, and the local fair was the place to go to find a bit of skirt who might, if persuaded, go at least part of the way. It was tough being a teenager then, compared with today's society, where titillation is at the touch of a button on a PC and girls know more about sex than we boys ever dreamed of. Whether this is a good thing or not I'm not sure, but if I was still of that age I'm sure I would take advantage if I could. Oh well, such is life!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beach Boys return in style

Thank God for the Beach Boys. After 50 years, they possibly should be renamed the Beach Pensioners, but they still sounded great on tonight's Jools Holland show. Featuring original members Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine, they effortlessly and perfectly performed Do It Again, an acapella version of Barbara Ann and That's Why God Made The Radio, the title track of their new album produced by Brian Wilson. To think that I've loved the Beach Boys for 50 years - just amazing!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Number fours and fives

Here's another entry for lovers of lists and old records. I've been gradually working through the records that made it into my personal top ten that I listed every week between 1960 and 1965. This time, I'm listing the discs that made it to a highest position of numbers four and five. There's some crap here, particularly in the early years when my taste was still a bit dodgy, but it gets better and most of it is pretty good - from a time when there was some truly great music around.
1960: He'll Have To Go - Jim Reeves; Someone Else's Baby - Adam Faith; Shazam - Duane Eddy; Baby My Heart - Crickets; Happy Go Lucky Me - Paul Evans; You'll Never Know What You're Missing - Emile Ford; Another Sleepless Night - Eddie Hickey; Jellied Eels - Joe Brown; Everybody's Somebody's Fool - Connie Francis; Question - Lloyd Price; Let's Think About Living - Bob Luman; Yogi - Ivy Three; Somebody To Love - Bobby Darin; Why Why Bye Bye - Bob Luman.
1961: Let's Jump The Broomstick - Brenda Lee; Doncha Know - Crickets; Pepe - Duane Eddy; Piltdown Rides Again - Piltdown Men; What To Do - Buddy Holly; Happy Days - Marv Johnson; Wooden Heart - Elvis Presley; Goodnight Mrs Flintstone - Piltdown Men; Lazy River - Bobby Darin; Have A Drink On Me - Lonnie Donegan; I'll Step Down - Garry Mills; Weekend - Eddie Cochran; High Voltage - Johnny & the Hurricanes; I Say Love - Jimmy Jones; I'm Comin' On Back To You - Jackie Wilson; How Many Tears - Bobby Vee; Quarter To Three - US Bonds; Dum Dum - Brenda Lee; Tell Me Why - Belmonts; Don't Bet Money Honey - Linda Scott; Sweet Little You - Neil Sedaka; Tribute To Buddy Holly - Mike Berry; Ever Loving - Ricky Nelson; September In The Rain - Dinah Washington; Joy Joy Joy - Little Richard; Johnny Will - Pat Boone; Happy Times - Tony Orlando;.
1962: He's Old Enough To Know Better - Crickets; Farewell Farewell - Johnny & the Hurricanes; Twist Around The Clock - Clay Cole; Twistin' All Night Long - Danny & the Juniors; Talkin' About You - Tony Orlando; A Matter Of Moments - Mark Dinning; I Know - Barbara George (pictured top); A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody - Piltdown Men; Speak To Me Pretty - Brenda Lee; Twist Twist Senora - US Bonds; Sing - Jackie Wilson; Shout - Joey Dee; I Can't Stop Loving You - Ray Charles; The Stripper - David Rose; Dancin' Party - Chubby Checker; Vacation - Connie Francis; Little Diane - Dion; If A Man Answers -  Bobby Darin; Swiss Maid - Del Shannon; No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile - Everly Brothers; Warmed Over Kisses - Brian Hyland; The Cha Cha Cha - Bobby Rydell; Baby Face - Bobby Darin; Return To Sender - Elvis Presley; Under Your Spell Again - Lloyd Price.
1963: Some Kinda Fun - Chris Montez; Beautiful Dreamer - Tony Orlando; Walk Right In - Rooftop Singers; Ruby Baby - Dion; That's Life - Gabriel & the Angels; Alice In Wonderful - Neil Sedaka; He's Got The Power - Exciters; Walk Like A Man - Four Seasons; Let's Stomp - Bobby Comstock; Teenage Letter - Jerry Lee Lewis; There Goes My Heart Again - Fats Domino; The Bird's The Word - Rivingtons; Not Too Young To Get Married - Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jean; Monkey Time - Major Lance; Blue Bayou - Roy Orbison; I'll Take You Home - Drifters; Honolulu Lulu - Jan & Dean; I'm Leaving It Up To You - Dale & Grace; 24 Hours From Tulsa - Gene Pitney.
1964: When The Boy's Happy - Four Pennies (pictured - aka the Chiffons); Tonight You're Gonna Fall In Love With Me - Shirelles; Abigail Beecher - Freddie Cannon; That Girl Belongs To Yesterday - Gene Pitney; Hoochie Coochie Man - Dion; Ain't That Lovin' You Baby - Everly Brothers; Suspicion - Terry Stafford; Dead Man's Curve - Jan & Dean; Mona - Bo Diddley; Black Night - Arthur Alexander; Every Little Bit Hurts - Brenda Holloway; What's The Matter With You Baby - Mary Wells & Marvin Gaye; Dissatisfied Woman - Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee; C'mon And Swim - Bobby Freeman; Little Old Lady From Pasadena - Jan & Dean; Out Of Sight - James Brown; Baby Love - Supremes; He's In Town - Tokens; Don't Turn Your Back On me - Jackie DeShannon; Big Man In Town - Four Seasons; Getting Mighty Crowded - Betty Everett.
1965: Twine Time - Alvin Cash & the Crawlers; Baby Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Nina Simone; Hurt So Bad - Little Anthony & the Imperials; It's Growing - Temptations; Got To Get You Off My Mind - Solomon Burke; The Clapping Song - Shirley Ellis (pictured right); Why Don't You Do Right - Fats Domino; Something You Got - Maxine Brown & Chuck Jackson; I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding; I Put A Spell On You - Nina Simone; No Pity In The Naked City - Jackie Wilson; Cry No More - Ben E King; These Hands - Bobby Bland; Everything's Gonna Be All Right - Willie Mitchell.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - Mercury label

The Mercury record label was formed in 1945 and became one of the major US companies, issuing jazz, country, rock and roll and classical music. In the UK it was initially distributed by Pye before switching to EMI in 1959 and to Philips in 1963 after the parent company was taken over. For my 12 Mercury Vinyl Obscurities from the 1950s and 60s I have excluded releases by some of the bigger names, including the Platters, Brook Benton, Dinah Washington and Jerry Lee Lewis, and concentrated on a few of the lesser names that demonstrate the width of its purely American output. Check out the Youtube links as usual.
1. The Diamonds - The Stroll/ Land Of Beauty. Released in 1957 on 7MT 195. Mint value £25.
The Diamonds were a white Canadian doowop group best known for their covers of the Gladiolas' Little Darlin' and the Rays' Silhouettes. The Stroll was an original song, written by Clyde Otis and designed to create a dance craze, but was based on the popular name for black entertainment streets  popularised by The King Of The Stroll, Chuck Willis. It reached number four in the US but went nowhere in the UK.
2. Gino and Gina - Pretty Baby/ Love's A Carousel. Released in 1958 on 7MT 230. Mint value £30.
This was a one off release by a girl/boy duo and I can find very little information about them, apart from the fact that Gino (and the pair's manager Artie Zwern) apparently wrote Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home) for the Impalas. Anyone have more info?

3. Big Bopper - It's The Truth Ruth/ That's What I'm Talking Bout. Released in 1959 on AMT 1046. Mint value £30.
The Big Bopper (J.P.Richardson) will forever by linked with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens as the victims of that fatal plane crash on February 3, 1959. Brought up in Beaumont, Texas, he became a larger than life DJ before recording his smash Chantilly Lace and writing, and singing background, on his friend Johnny Preston's Running Bear. This Johnny Otis influenced rocker was the third and last of his Mercury singles in the UK.
4. Ben Hewitt - For Quite A While/ Patricia June. Released in 1959 on AMT 1055. Mint value £35.
I was delighted to pick up this double sided rockabilly single this week at a car boot sale for just 50p. Ben was an Elvis soundalike whose recording career consisted of just four late 50s Mercury singles (three of which were released in the UK, along with a rare EP) before being tracked down in the 80s when a Bear Family album was released. He was brought over to the UK to perform, but sadly I missed that show. Good stuff.
5. Phil Phillips & the Twilights - Sea Of Love/ Juella. Released in 1959 on AMT 1059. Mint value £35.
This is probably the most famous swamp pop record ever, reaching number two in the States and being covered frequently since. Phil was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Sea Of love was recorded for the locally based Khoury records and leased to Mercury, but his recording career faded after four Mercury singles. He made an unforgettable appearance at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2005when he performed his big hit, twice, - a spine tingling moment.

6. Clyde McPhatter - Ta Ta/ I Ain't Givin' Up Nothin'. Released in 1961 on AMT 1108. Mint value £15.
Not sure which side is the official A side, but both are great. Some of Clyde's best solo material was recorded for Mercury and this double sider is a classic example. I Ain't Givin' Up Nothing was originally recorded as a rocker by Ben Hewitt, but Clyde gives it his sweet R and B treatment, with typical Mercury strings accompaniment.
7. Johnny Preston - Leave My Kitten Alone/ Do What You Did. Released in 1960 on AMT 1129. Mint value £20.
Johnny Preston, from Port Arthur, Texas, had a huge hit with Running Bear and enjoyed more success with Cradle Of Love and Feel So Fine. This, his fifth Mercury single release (and one for cat lovers), is an excellent cover of Little Willie John's song. The flip is a cover of the Thurston Harris rocker and is also worth a listen. Johnny died in 2011.
8. Joe Barry - I'm A Fool To Care/ I Got A Feeling. Released in 1961 on AMT 1160. Mint value £10.
Born in Cut Off, Louisiana, Joe Barry sounded like Fats Domino, but was in fact white. This, his biggest hit, was recorded for the local Jin label but was picked by Mercury subsidiary Smash. Joe died in 2004.
9. The Angels - My Boyfriend's Back/ (Love Me) Now. Released in 1963 on AMT 1211. Mint value £20.
This is one of the best girl group records of the era. They sound like a fairly raunchy black group, warning the guy who's trying his luck with a girl while her boyfriend's away, but in fact The Angels were a demure looking white group from New Jersey. Recorded originally as a demo for the Shirelles, the Angels had a number one US hit with this and the song went on to be covered by numerous others.
10. Lesley Gore - She's A Fool/ The Old Crowd. Released in 1963 on AMT 1213. Mint value £10.
After crying at her party and then getting her own back on Judy, Lesley Gore's third Mercury single was another burst of teenage angst, this time about a boy being treated badly by his girlfriend, and another top five hit in the US. Born in New Jersey, she had a string of hits during the sixties and recorded an album as recently as 2005.

11. The Hondells - Little Honda/ Hot Rod High. Released in 1964 on MF 834. Mint value £25.
This Brian Wilson/ Mike Love song was the biggest hit for California surf rock band The Hondells - a homage to the Honda mopeds that was a US craze at the time. When the song was recorded by former Castells member Chuck Girard, the Hondells didn't exist, but producer Gary Usher quickly assembled a band to tour and the song reached the US top ten.
12. Junior Wells - Girl You Lit My Fire/ It's A Man Down There. Released in 1968 on MF1056. Mint value £15.
To round off my Mercury selection here's some funky blues from blues harmonica player Junior Wells. Born in Memphis (a cousin of Junior Parker) Wells recorded for Chess and had success with Messin' With The Kid and It Hurts Me Too, before joining up with Buddy Guy and performing with him on and off until his death in 1998.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

James 'Sugarboy' Crawford RIP

Another New Orleans music legend has passed on - this time James 'Sugarboy' Crawford, who recorded one of the all-time great carnival songs Jock-O-Mo - based on Mardi Gras chants - way back in 1953. Recorded for Chess, the song went on to be better known as Iko Iko, a hit for the Dixie Cups ten years later, and was also recorded by Dr John and the Neville Brothers among others.
Born in 1934,  'Sugarboy' first recorded with his band The Sha-Wez for Aladdin before being discovered by Leonard Chess. After Jock-O-Mo, with Snooks Eaglin on guitar, he recorded one more single for Checker before moving on to Imperial, Montel and Ace. He was badly injured in 1963 when he was pistol whipped by Louisiana police while he was on his way to a show and withdrew from performing and became a locksmith. Apart from singing gospel occasionally, including the Ponderosa Stomp in 2008, and one performance with his grandson Davell Crawford at Jazzfest in 1996 that was it, so far as 'Sugarboy' was concerned, but his famous Mardi Gras number is still heard frequently in New Orleans today.
My photo shows 'Sugarboy' (right) with Chuck Carbo of New Orleans vocal group the Spiders (who died in 2008) at Jazzfest in 1993.
Here's his obituary on
And here's his I Bowed On My Knees - great New Orleans R & B:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Number Threes

Another trip down Memory Lane with the records that reached a top position of number three in my personal top ten between 1960 and 1965. Some more classics (and a few bummers) here:
1960: Beatnik Fly - Johnny & the Hurricanes; What In The World's Come Over You - Jack Scott; Stairway To Heaven - Neil Sedaka; Step By Step - Crests; That's Love - Billy Fury; When Johnny Comes Marching Home - Adam Faith; Love You So - Ron Holden (pictured); It Ain't Gonna Be That Way - Marv Johnson; Mess Of Blues - Elvis Presley; Girl Of My Best Friend - Elvis Presley; Mission Bell - Donnie Brooks; Rocking Goose - Johnny & the Hurricanes; Save The Last Dance For Me - Drifters; Put Your Arms Around Me Honey - Fats Domino; Stay - Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs; Counting Teardrops - Emile Ford.
1961: Many Tears Ago - Connie Francis; Will You Love Me Tomorrow - Shirelles; Gonna Love My Life Away - Gene Pitney; More Than I Can Say - Bobby Vee; That's It I Quit I'm Movin' On - Sam Cooke; Runaway - Del Shannon; Travellin' Man - Ricky Nelson; Surrender - Elvis Presley; That's Why - Donnie Brooks; It Keeps Rainin' - Fats Domino; You Don't Know What You've Got - Ral Donner; Let The Four Winds Blow - Fats Domino; Runaround Sue - Dion; Little Sister - Elvis Presley; God Country & My Baby - Johnny Burnette.
1962: Can't Help Falling In Love - Elvis Presley; Dear Lady Twist - Gary (US) Bonds; Do Re Mi - Lee Dorsey (pictured); Lucky Star - Gene Vincent; B'wa Nina - Tokens; Slow Twisting - Chubby Checker; A Night At Daddy Gee's - Curtis Lee; How Can I Meet Her - Everly Brothers; How Is Julie - Lettermen; Here Comes That Feeling - Brenda Lee; Breaking Up Is Hard To Do - Neil Sedaka; Ya Ya - Lee Dorsey; Things - Bobby Darin; I'll Never Dance Again - Bobby Rydell; Sheila - Tommy Roe; When Summer's Gone - Freddy Cannon; Sweet Little Sixteen - Jerry Lee Lewis; Welcome Home Baby - Shirelles; Spanish Lace - Gene McDaniels; I Can't Help it - Johnny Tillotson; Rumors - Johnny Crawford.
1963: It's Up To You - Rick Nelson; Trouble Is My Middle Name - Bobby Vinton; Come On And Love Me - Freddy Cannon; Wild Weekend - Rockin' Rebels; Let's Turkey Trot - Little Eva; Baby Workout - Jackie Wilson; Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts - Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans; Hot Pastrami - Dartells; Falling - Roy Orbison; It's Been Nice - Everly Brothers; Mad Goose - Piltdown Men; Surfin' USA - Beach Boys; One Fine Day - Chiffons; Shame Shame Shame - Jimmy Reed; Shake Shake Shake - Jackie Wilson; Mean Woman Blues - Roy Orbison; Sally Go Round The Roses - Jaynetts; Deep Purple - Nino Tempo & April Stevens; Fine Fine Boy - Darlene Love; Little Red Rooster - Sam Cooke; We Wish You A Merry Christmas - Big Dee Irwin & Little Eva; Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying - Miracles.
1964: Drag City - Jan & Dean; Anyone Who Had A Heart - Dionne Warwick; What Kind Of Fool - Tams; You're A Wonderful One - Marvin Gaye; Long Tall Shorty - Tommy Tucker; Ain't Nothing You Can Do - Bobby Bland; You Must Believe Me - Impressions; Little Honda - Hondells; Dance Dance Dance - Beach Boys; Going Out Of My Head  - Little Anthony & the Imperials; Night Train - James Brown.
1965: Leader Of The Pack - Shangri-Las (pictured); The Name Game - Shirley Ellis; Have Mercy Baby - James Brown; Stop In The Name Of Love - Supremes; It Ain't Me Babe - Johnny Cash; Ju Ju Hand - Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs; Action - Freddy Cannon; Don't Fight It - Wilson Pickett; You're Gonna Make Me Cry - O V Wright.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Chitlin' Circuit & the Road To Rock 'n' Roll

I've just got round to reading this excellent book. It's a rollocking ride through the history of black music in the deep south and the people who made stars out of Louis Jordan, Roy Brown, Amos Milburn, Little Richard, James Brown, O V Wright and many other R and B and soul artists of the forties through to the sixties. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Impressions at the Jazz Cafe

The sweetest soul sounds of the sixties were made by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Curtis has gone, but the Impressions live on, and gloriously so, as their show at the Jazz Cafe last night demonstrated. Sam Gooden (pictured left) and Fred Cash (right) remain from the original sixties line up and relative newcomer Reggie Torian, who joined in 1973 after Curtis went solo, accurately reproduces Curtis's soaring vocal style.
Their set was basically the same as when they played at the Barbican last year, but the more intimate venue meant that they could relate more closely to the audience (surprisingly not a sell-out), and it quickly became clear that this would be an evening of vintage soul of the highest quality. Starting with Gypsy Woman from 1961, they moved on through a run of other 60s classics - It's All Right, I've Been Trying and Talking About My Baby. It seems hard to believe now, but apparently their 1969 hit Choice Of Colors was considered so controversial at the time that it was only the intervention of US TV host Joey Bishop that prevented it being banned by the show's producer. The Impressions played a big role in raising social consciousness and promoting civil rights.
Next was Woman's Got Soul from 1965 and then their great gospel number People Get Ready. Reggie urged the audience not to take any baggage on the train to Jordan. From the sacred to the profane, next was You've Been Cheating followed I Loved And Lost and then the inspirational Movin' On Up. Seventies black exploitatation was celebrated with Superfly - Reggie suitably dressed in a white coat and scarf (see photo) - followed with Mighty Mighty (Spade And Whitey). Finally the encore - the anthemic Move On Up - again perfectly performed by these exceptional vocalists.
And then they were gone, far too soon, but this was a memorable show by a brilliant, legendary group.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Joe South RIP

The Vinyl Word raises a glass to Atlanta-born singer, songwriter and guitarist Joe South (born Joe Souter), who has died aged 72. Best known for his big hit Games People Play, Joe was a major figure in sixties soul, pop and beach music, yet faded from view in the seventies following the suicide of his brother, which brought on depression.
His first record of note was the novelty Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor in 1958 and shortly afterwards he wrote songs for Gene Vincent (I Might Have Known and Gone Gone Gone) and later for beach music band the Tams (Untie Me and Concrete Jungle). Recording often in Muscle Shoals, he played guitar on Sheila by Tommy Roe and on recordings by Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. Other well known songs written by Joe included Down In The Boondocks by Billy Joe Royal and (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden by Lynn Anderson. His first record issued in the UK was Masquerade in 1962 but his biggest success Games People Play came in 1969, followed by Walk A Mile In My Shoes, later covered by Elvis. His career effectively came to an end in 1971 following his brother's death.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Downs (and ups) of record values

I received the Rare Record Price Guide 2014 today (yes, 2014 - they like to be well ahead of the game) and I have to say it has been a rather deflating experience. It seems that the values of many of the records that I own, or would like to own, have come down steeply over the last two years since the last guide was published. I'm talking in particular about 1950s and early 60s rock and roll and pop records, the values of many of which have declined by 25 per cent. Rocket by Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones has apparently reduced in value from £200 to £150, while Mr Lee by the Bobbettes has come down from £80 to £60. Other lower value records have disappeared from the guide altogether. It's inevitable, I suppose, as collectors of my generation gradually lose interest or die, with their collections flooding the market.
There are bright spots, of course. Sixties soul records have held their value while some ska and Northern soul records have increased in value. But the biggest rises have come in the field of progressive and psychedelic rock and sixties freakbeat. Zoot Suit by the High Numbers on Fontana, for example, has gone up in value from £600 to £900 and the LP by Locomotive on Parlophone that I picked up last year has apparently increased in value from £375 to £900. Of course, as the guide freely admits, any record is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it on any particular day. But it does seem that time is running out for rock and roll collectors and that the future can only mean lower returns when and if they decide to sell their precious vinyl.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - the MGM label

MGM launched its record label in 1946, initally for movie soundtracks. In 1951, however, they discovered country music, and in particular Hank Williams, and the label quickly became one of the US majors. In the UK MGM was released by EMI during the 50s and 60s. Many of its releases were rather middle of the road, but here's a mixed bunch with quite a few of interest as well. Check out the Youtube links.
1. Marvin Rainwater - Gonna Find Me A Bluebird/ So You Think You've Got Troubles. MGM 961. Mint value £30.
Part Cherokee, Marvin Rainwater liked to wear native American themed clothing and veered between country and rockabilly, his number one UK hit Whole Lotta Woman being a prime example of the latter. This earlier US hit is much more country flavoured. He still performs occasionally today.
2. Dickie Barrett - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/ Remember Me. MGM 976. Mint value £60.
Better known as Richard Barrett, or indeed Ritchie Barrett (Some Other Guy), Barrett promoted or discovered Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, The Chantels, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Valentines (for whom he sang lead) and The Three Degrees. This dramatic cover of the Platters hit shows how good a singer he was and would appear to have been his first solo outing.
3. Clyde McPhatter - I Told Myself A Lie/ The Masquerade Is over. MGM 1014. Mint value £20.
Few, if any, R and B singers had a better voice than Clyde McPhatter as his brilliant work for Atlantic, both with The Drifters and as a solo artist, shows. This double sider was his first release for MGM and subsequent records for MGM and Mercury were less successful, but the beauty of his voice still shone through. After moving to the UK in 1968 drink took hold and he sadly died in 1972. The Youtube clip features both sides of this record.
4. Jimmy Jones - I Just Go For You/ That's When I cried. MGM 1091. Mint value £12.
Jimmy Jones, who died recently, had huge UK success with Handy Man and Good Timin' but this, his third release on MGM (the Cub subsidiary in the US), written by Don Covay, inexplicably failed to make it. It was one of the highest scoring records of 1960 in my personal top ten and is a great double sider - take a listen to the Jackie Wilson-like flipside.
5. Conway Twitty - What A Dream/ Tell Me One More Time. MGM 1095. Mint value £6.
Born Harold Jenkins, Conway Twitty was a mainstay of the MGM label in the early sixties with a string of successful records beginning with the smash hit It's Only Make Believe. The 'man with a frog in his throat' was instantly recognisable and and this version of the Chuck Willis song is well up to his usual standard. Later of course he concentrated on country music and set up the entertainment resort Twitty City near Nashville.
6. Connie Francis - Mr Twister/ Don't Cry On My Shoulder. MGM 1151. Mint value £6.
Connie was even more of a mainstay of MGM and, despite a long runs of hits including Who's Sorry Now, Lipstick On Your Collar, Stupid Cupid and Robot Man, she is now rather forgotten. Featured on one of her more collectable LPs, Do The Twist, this rather basic dance number was recorded in Japanese, Spanish and Italian, as well as English.
7. Sam The Sham & the Pharaohs - (I'm In With) The Out Crowd/ The Hair On My Chinny Chinny Chin. MGM 1326. Mint value £8.
Texan Sam Samudio brought good time rock and roll to MGM with his 1965 smash Woolly Bully and followed it up with a string of slightly offbeat novelty rockers, including this tongue in cheek answer to Dobie Gray's In Crowd. The band dressed in Arab style outfits but faded from view in the late sixties. This one was a two sided minor hit.
8. The Stereos - Sweet Water/ The Big Knock. MGM 1328. Mint value £5.
This doowop double sider was first issued in 1961 and reissued in 1966. The Stereos emerged from several doowop groups, including the Buckeyes, and had a first release on MGM (Cub in the US) with I Really Love You. Later they did the instrumental Stereo Freeze, which came out on the US Cadet label. I think Sweet Water and The Big Knock is a cracking double sider: I foolishly mislaid a review copy I had back in the day, so recently bought this copy from Ebay.
9. Lucas with the Mike Cotton Sound - We Got A Good Thing Going/ Mike Cotton Sound - Soul Serenade. MGM 1398. Mint value £40.
Trumpeter Mike Cotton and his band went from trad jazz to R and B, backing Zoot Money and American visitors such as Solomon Burke and Stevie Wonder. The addition of American former GI Lucas from Cleveland boosted their credibility. Sadly I couldn't find this Mike Raven  produced A side on Youtube, so here's the flip - a fine version of the King Curtis tune (minus Lucas).
10. The Formations - At The Top Of The Stairs/ Magic Melody. MGM 1399. Mint value (demo copy) £220.
This is a Northern Soul classic which gets played frequently but went unnoticed when first released in 1968. Reissued on the Mojo label in 1971, it was originally recorded for the US Bank label and produced by Leon Huff. As this Philadephia group didn't meet success initially they reformed, first as the Corner Boys and then as the Silent Majority.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Songwriter Hal David passes on

Hal David has died aged 91. He probably had no equal as a pop lyricist over the last 60 years or so. Best known as the songwriting partner of Burt Bacharach (left of photo) his name turns up on literally hundreds of records by Dionne Warwick, Gene Pitney and many others.
Among many others, he co-wrote 24 Hours From Tulsa, A House Is Not A Home, Alfie, Anyone Who Had A heart, Blue On Blue, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Don't Make me Over, I Say A Little Prayer, Johnny Get Angry, Magic Moments, Make It Easy On Yourself, Message To Michael, Raindrops Keep Falling On Your Head, The Look Of Love, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, There's Always Something There To Remind Me, This Guy's In Love With You, Trains And Boats And Planes, Walk On By, What's New Pussycat, Wishin' And Hopin', You'll Never Get To Heaven, Sea Of Heartbreak, This Empty Place, What The World Needs Now - the list goes on and one.
Some of his lyrics were sheer genius How about "What do you get when you kiss a girl, You get enough germs to catch pneumonia, After you do, she'll never phone you, I'll never fall in love again."? Brilliant.
A final word too for Max Bygraves, whose dreadful singalong records are such a regular feature of every car boot sale I go to. But he had quite a few hit records back in the 50s and early 60s (eg Fings Ain't What They used To be) and had his comedy moments too, mostly on radio back in those far off days with Archie Andrews for example. I wanna to tell you a story...