Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Robert Quine

Hangover Hop (Live WFMU radio broadcast) 1992 Brian Redman, Me, Robert Quine.
Me, Jeremy Tepper, Quine, Hangover Hop 1992. photos by michael macioce
Since the old links don't work, I thought I should re-post this, since there's no other way to hear this music. These are the last recordings done by Robert Quine whom I've already posted on. Today is his birthday. He would have been 67. He was one of my closest friends and I miss him something awful. These recordings were done for the soundtrack to a film made by a neighbor of his. I've never seen the film and have no idea if it was ever released, or even what the title of it is. It was done in his home studio, he's playing all the instruments (guitars/bass and drum programs). You can get a good idea of what a tortured state of mind he was in in those final months. When these recordings were made it had been five months since his wife Alice Sherman Quine passed away. These recordings show that Quine was playing better than ever in his last days, and also that his style had changed a bit. He was no longer was using the whammy bar or even his trademark Stratocaster, having made the switch to the Telecaster a couple of years earlier. I think some of his best playing can be found on these tracks.
I have already posted on Quine, his life, and death and my friendship with him and have nothing to add to what I've already written. Here's the music:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gillian's Found Photo #33

This guy seems to come from the same gene pool that produced Anthony Quinn and Louis Prima, no? A gene pool that originated in the part of southern Italy known as the mezzegiorno. I guess he got what he wanted for Christmas because he sure looks happy.
I have another possible theory about this snapshot. Having never seen a photo of him, perhaps the fellow with a gal dangling from each paw is the photographer himself, Don Bronstein? Of course that changes the origins of the gene pool to Jewish origins, but Jews and Italians always seem to end up together (see Art Fein's liner notes to Rhino's Louis Prima compilation for more on this theory).
Bronstein, a Chicago native who photographed many Playboy centerfolds (and eventually married a Playboy Bunny), also took the incredible photographs that adorned all the Chess and Checker LP covers including iconic images of Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Dale Hawkins, Sonny Boy Williamson, et al. Bronstein, who died of a heroin overdose in the early 70's is one of photography's great unheralded demi-gods. Has anyone ever seen a picture of Bronstein? Anyone out there ever met him? What did he look like? Bronstein also provided the photos for a book called Chicago, I Will, a photo essay on his beloved hometown, fairly rare today, but since Bronstein is unknown in the art world, it's usually inexpensive when it turns up. Just a possibility and admittedly a far flung one. More than likely, this is just some mook who got some sticky paged back issues of Playboy in his Christmas stocking.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Old Links...

Link Wray
Link Cromwell (Lenny Kaye)
You may or may not have noticed, but the MP3 links from Houndblog before Oct. 15, 2009 no longer work. This is because it was being hosted by a homemade server run by our good friend and technical consultant Brian Redman (who also hosts the Hound Aircheck site).
Well, for various reasons Brian can no longer store these things (the airchecks are still available as full shows and podcasts but you can no longer download individual songs). Anyway, I'd like to thank Brian for all the hard work he's put in and the service he has provided for the first year of the blog and for the Aircheck site, not to mention all the help he's given me over the years with the radio show, the Hangover Hops and my own computer problems. Without Brian, there could never have been a Hound. Anyway, if you missed something, it's probably somewhere else on the web, try the Chewbone and Captain Crawl links on the right side of this page. The Great Lost Hasil Adkins Album is still posted at WFMU's Beware The Blog (here). Remember, nothing good lasts long, so if you see something you like, jump on it. Links after Oct. 15, 2009 will stay up until I run out of space or somebody asks me to pull them down.
I'll be reposting the Quine un-issued final recordings on Thursday (his birthday).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Classie Ballou

Classie Ballou 1957-- Lookin' sharp....
and soundin' good... another Classie classic...
twenty five years later and still soundin' good...
Live At The Ponderosa Stomp- 2009
Most of the musicians I've been writing about in this blog over the last fifteen months are long gone, dead and in the ground with only a handful of obscure sides and sad story left behind.
But not all of them, and here's one who is not only still alive, he's still rocking, playing as well or better than he did when cut his rare and wonderful (and too few) discs. Classie Ballou may not be very well known, but life is strange, so that can change at any moment, and here is where I put in my three cents (inflation) in hopes that he will find the notoriety and cash he deserves, because he may very well be the greatest rocker in the world at this moment in time.
Classie Ballou was born in the tiny country town of Elton, Louisiana in 1937. He folks sharecropped cotton, potatoes, and corn, he was one of two children, although his younger sister passed away at the age of six months, leaving him an only child. Classie learned to play accordion from an uncle, and joined his first band at age nine, playing the rubboard.
He soon picked up the guitar, and in 1952 the family moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana. In Lake Charles he acquired the Fender Telecaster seen in the above photo and hooked up with a drummer named Kee-Dee, and soon the two were appearing in night clubs in Lake Charles, although Classie also had a day job in construction. Technically he was still too young to play in clubs but nobody seemed to notice, and he found regular work plentiful, even putting in a stint with Clifton Chenier's band for six months. Lake Charles had a rich R&B scene at the time, and young Classie was soon playing with Shelton Dunaway and Ernest Jacobs (later of Cookie & the Cupcakes of Mathilda and I'm Twisted fame), and then formed his first band-- Classie Ballou and the Tempo Kings which featured Dunaway on sax and vocals, another sax player known simply as Biscuit, and eventually Cookie Thierry himself joined the group. They played John's Bar and Ball's Auditorium, doing covers of tunes by Fats Domino, Guitar Slim and Gatemouth Brown. Soon he was the hottest thing in Lake Charles. Eddie Shuler, owner of the Lake Charles based Goldband label, one of the greatest recording companies of all time with a mind numbing number of great records (blues, R&B, cajun, country, rockabilly) and artists (including a young Dolly Parton), got wind of Classie through Guitar Gable and hired him to play guitar on Boozoo Chavis' chaotic classic Paper In My Shoe (the recording of which ended with Boozoo falling off his stool, accordion and all), the record that would be the blue print for all zydeco music to come.
Classie cut his first disc for Goldband 1956-- Lovin' Huggin' Kissin' My Baby b/w D-I-R-T-Y Deal (Goldband 1037, the a-side was covered on RCA by rockabilly Milton Allen, my copy of that 45 seems to be MIA at the moment, these came from Eddie G).
A year later ('57) he was recorded by Jay Miller (producer of Slim Harpo, Lightnin Slim, Lazy Lester, Al Ferrier, Jimmy Anderson and many others) in the studio in the back of his Crowley, Lousiana record store. This session was sold to Nasco who issued two tunes--- Confusion b/w Crazy Mambo (Nasco 6000) the same year (a, faster, alternate take of Crazy Mambo later surfaced on a Flyright CD in the UK, as did this wonderful French rocker Hey Ma Ma). Both tunes are wild guitar dominated instrumentals with pronounced Afro-Cuban feel to them. This coming via the influence of Xavier Cugat, one of Classie's favorites. In 1958 he recorded one last time for Miller, in a session that included the great Jockey Etienne on drums and Tal Miller on piano, these sides were released on Nasco's sister label Excello with it's classic blue and orange label-- Hey! Pardner b/w Dream Love (Excello 2134). The a side was another wild instrumental, the flip a swamp pop ballad in the classic south Louisiana mold. These three singles are the entire 50's output of Classie Ballou, he would not record again under his own name until 1968 when he cut Classie's Whip b/w Soul Philly (Soulsville 1001) for a tiny, San Antonio based label.
From there Classie headed for Dallas where he went to college and worked for a promoter named Howard Lewis who had him backing up touring artists like Floyd Dixon, Wilbert Harrison, Chuck Berry, Etta James, and whoever else came through town without their own band. He put in some time touring in Rosco Gordon's band, playing on his Vee Jay hit-- Just A Little Bit, that's Classie playing the classic guitar lick, as well as Gordon's remake of No More Doggin. The Blues Discography credits Lefty Bates with playing on Just A Little Bit, but Classie says that it's him, and I believe him.
In the late 50's Classie Ballou was based out of Little Rock, Arkansas, where he held a three year residency at the Flamingo CLub, playing with the likes of Fenton Robinson, B.B. King, and Wayne Bennett (long time guitarist with Bobby "Blue" Bland and later Ray Charles). He moved to Los Angeles in '62 where he cut some sides for Token (which I've never heard or seen), then settled in Waco, Texas where he's been playing six or seven nights a week ever since. He made an excellent 45 for Lanor in '83-- All Night Man b/w Jealous Woman (Lanor was one of those strange southern labels that seemed to exist in a time warp). This record sounds like it could have been recorded in the fifties, All Night Man is a hard grinding blues with a shimmering slide guitar solo from Classie, while Jealous Woman is an uptempo rocker with funny lyrics about not wanting to watch Dallas and Dynasty with the old lady. He started his own label--Yeah, Baby in 1994, releasing a bluesy disc called The Real Deal produced by his son Cranston.
Family is extremely important to Classie, who raised his own band, these days, billed as The Classie Ballou Family Band he works with his son Cedric (bass), grandson Cedryl (accordion, drums), and daughter CeChaun (drums, sax, accordion, she also fronts her own all girl Zydeco band-- the Zydeco Posse when not working with her father). Although it's not unusual for them to switch up instruments if someone has to take a piss or get a beverage. His wife mans the merch table. Playing mostly in the greater Waco area they can call up tunes from Brick House to Sweet Home Alabama and give them all Classie's unique stamp. Of course they play his own classics-- Crazy Mambo, D-I-R-T-Y Deal, etc., but can pull nearly any good song from the last half century-- Honky Tonk to Jambalaya out of the hat, they'll stomp it out until the dance floor's worn through.
When we opened the Circle Bar in New Orlean back in '99, me and my partner Kelly Keller (the place soon had as many partners as customers) became acquainted with Ira Padnos aka Dr. Ike who was then just laying the ground work for what became the Ponderosa Stomp concert series, now a New Orleans tradition, as well as bringing shows to Austin, Memphis and New York City. One of the first artists Ike brought into the Circle Bar was Classie Ballou. After his first successful weekend stint, Classie became quite fond of Kelly, and would often call to book shows, especially around Mardis Gras and Jazz Fest time. I remember how Kelly would put the phone on speaker when he'd call, and his voice would boom through the office--"KELL-EEEE!
It's CLASS-EEE!" A nicer gent you'll never meet, with a larger than life personality both onstage and off. The Ponderosa Stomp has been good for Classie, spreading his name to the four corners of the globe, I hope somehow, someway, something big comes his way. He deserves it and more. He's as close to a national treasure as exists in American music these days, he deserves some sort of big break, or at least a MacArthur Foundation grant.
Addendum: I forgot on another on of those 80's Flyright LP's (now long out of print) of Jay Miller's un-issued recordings was Classie Ballou's fantastic rendition of Lucille. So here it is.
This entire series of discs which feature un-issued and alternate takes of Jay Miller's entire stable, some of it things that were rejected by Excello and Dot (labels he leased his sides to when he wasn't putting them out on his own labels like Feature and Roscko) can be found over at Uncle Gil's Rockin' Archives, link on the right side of this page.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gillian's Found Photo #32

I love this photo! The red suede boots (from Granny Takes A Trip no doubt), the Les Paul Jr. (just like Johnny Thunders), the Sticky Fingers era poster of Mick, and best of all, the totally glazed, drugged out look in her eyes. Fang really picked a winner this week.
It conjures up everything I liked about the 70's (Quaaludes, Star Magazine, etc.) in one (slightly) faded Polaroid. Wonder where she is today?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Andrew Loog Oldham

"What's is going to be then, eh?" ALO and KR contemplate a bit of the old ultra-violence.
Andrew in the studio with protege Vashti, from Let's All Make Love In London Tonight (dig that board!) Andrew Oldham talking about hepatitis C Mick and Keith talk about Andrew
"(This is THE STONES new disc within. Cast deep in your pockets for the loot to buy this disc of groovies and fancy words. If you don't have the bread, see that blind man knock him on the head, steal his wallet and low and behold you have the loot, if you put in the boot, good, another one sold!)"-- Andrew Loog Oldham, liner notes for The Rolling Stones No. 2 (Decca, U.K., 1964).
I'm glad Andrew Loog Oldham has never been sentenced to that retarded institution of senility, the so called Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. I guess it's nice that they finally decided to ordain the Stooges. For this, along with a $2 Metro Card will allow any of the Stooges to ride the subway in New York City from the Bronx Zoo to Coney Island, one way. They can sit along side such rock and roll greats as Art Garfunkel, James Taylor and (also inducted this year) David Geffen. I have long expressed my hatred for that ill conceived and corrupt institution. If it truly represented rock'n'roll Andrew Loog Oldham (and the Stooges, not to mention never will get ins like Link Wray, Art Rupe, MC5, Wild Jimmy Spruill, Mickey Baker, Jack Nietzsche, and the Bihari Brothers) would have been in there by the second year. But they will never induct Andrew Loog Oldham, even though his achievements have been far greater than those of Abba (whom he once co-authored a bio of, he must have needed the cash that day), Metallica, and Tito Jackson, for he was never one for respectability, and he may have beat the shit out someone on the nominating committee at some point past. It's not likely he gets invited to Jann Wenner's place in the Hamptons. But isn't this is just another reason to love him?
Well, let's not mention that hollow institution again, let us take this time to honor Mr. Oldham, who truly deserves great honors and more, for without his life, ours would have been much duller. For Andrew Oldham was every bit as important to what would become the "Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band In The World-- The Rolling Stones", transformed from a much better than average R&B cover band known as The Rollin' Stones, as Mick, Keith or Brian, and probably more important than Bill Wyman. And better looking. If you don't believe me, just ask him. Or better yet, read his two-volume autobiography-- Stoned: A Memoir Of London In The 1960's (St Martin's Press, 2000) and 2Stoned (St. Martin's Press, 2002). These book(s) shine a 1000 watt light bulb on the man who was perhaps the only really mysterious figure in the orbit of the Rolling Stones (unless you count that strange looking Count and alchemist offspring of Balthus, a one time member of Vince Taylor's Playboys, whose is one of Keith's best friends, and Brian's former roomate, who has always fascinated me-- Stanislas Klossowski). My old pal David Dalton was originally brought on board to help Oldham write the book(s) but soon left the project (he would go on to help Marianne Faithful with her autobiography, which is excellent), and whenever I ask him about Oldham a look comes over his face that is commonly referred to as the "thousand yard stare", then he changes the subject. Andrew Loog Oldham is not a name that brings a lukewarm response, people either love him or loathe him, the sure sign that he's done something right. I never want to meet him.
What's left to be said about the Rolling Stones? Andrew's take on their personalities, at least in print, is what you might've guessed-- Keith and Charlie are basically likable, what you see is what you get types, Brian was an ogre, Bill somewhat dislikable but harmless, and deep, down, inside, Mick is quite shallow. Of course Ian Stewart hated Andrew's guts, and could you blame him? What more do you need to know, or rather, have reinforced? Let's face it, the life of a musician is mostly pretty boring to read about. They spend their lives getting to and from "the gig", and the rest of it in the recording studio. Once in a while they go on vacation, or fall out of a tree. While it's certainly more fun than anything this side of leading armies into battle, playing three chords, having sex with nubile Lolitas and taking lots of drugs, is pretty much all there is to it. Fun to do, getting dull to read about. Can you stand to read another book about the Stones? (If somehow you've avoided such things, the best is Stanley Booth's The True Adventures of The Rolling Stones, back in print as a Vintage paperback). Oldham's life is another story. He had the vision that turned a bunch of blues fans into a Clockwork Orange fantasy set to music. Younger than the Stones themselves, he lived his life with more reckless abandon than any musician this side of Charlie Parker. And he not only remembers most of it, he remembers what he was wearing while he was doing it. Really, I don't think my description is doing these books justice, but they're easy to find, and well worth your time and money. Keep in mind it was Andrew's little touches, like hiring David Bailey to shoot their first two album covers, the classic "would you let your daughter go with a Rolling Stone" hype, and of course, locking Mick and Keith in a kitchen until they wrote an original song, that pushed the Stones to the level of success they could have only dreamed about when they were learning to play Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley tunes. Without Andrew they would probably still be playing Jimmy Reed covers on Sunday nights in a pub with the Downliners Sect and the Bo Street Runners.
A couple of tunes to help pay tribute to our subject-- one is the Stones, Gene Pitney, Phil Spector along Alan Clarke and Gram Nash of the Hollies (also in R&RHOF this year) jamming out a tribute to the man-- Andrew's Blues , it was recorded at Regent Sound, Feb. 4, 1964. The other tune is familiar from Metamorphosis. It is one of the few early tunes not credited to Jagger-Richards, but Oldham-Richards, so it's safe to say Oldham wrote the lyrics to this pop nugget, his take on the girl group sound-- I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys, I've always dug it. It's not the Stones, just Mick and some studio musicians (Andy White, Joe Moretti and John McLaughlin supposedly) on this demo, but it would have sounded right at home on Between The Buttons, or even U.S. only early compilations December's Children or Flowers. The place-- Decca's studio in London, date is usually sited around Feb. of '65. I remember Johnny Thunders and Wayne Kramer's band Gang War used to do a cover version of it.
While I'm on the subject, when will they get around to re-issuing the U.K. versions of the Stones albums? Vinyl only would be fine with me. In those beautiful, laminated Decca covers, without the ugly graphics that marred the American LP's. I've always preferred them (I'm listening to Rolling Stone No. 2 right now, since I had to pull it off the shelf to get the liner note quote right, it still sounds great, clicks, pops and all). Why did their American label-- London screw with the track line ups? Actually, I can explain that. The UK versions didn't contain the tracks that were already released on 45's or EP's, giving the fan maximum value, the US versions were always a hodgepodge of LP, EP and 45 a and b sides. I think the first album that didn't mess with the track listing was Satanic Majesties Request, one of their most underrated discs, don't you love Citadel and 200 Light Years From Home? I'm really not much of a fan of psychedelia except for the 13th Floor Elevators and the Chocolate Watchband and a dozen or so 45 rpm singles, but when it comes down to it, the Stones were the best psychedelic band of all time, think about it, in addition to those two tracks add Please Go Home, She's A Rainbow, Dandelion, Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Goin' Home, Paint It Black, Child Of The Moon, Gomper, I'm missing a few I'm sure but you could put together an album (or, since this is the 21st century, playlist) and make the greatest psychedelic album of all time from it. I'm getting way off the track I guess, except of course that Andrew Oldham produced all those records, which counts for something, in fact, counts for a lot. He was a great record producer, manager, conceptualist, fashion plate and all around nut in the greatest tradition of British eccentrics. His non-Stones productions, mostly on his own Immediate label deserve a separate posting, which I may get around to some day. Not today.
These days Andrew Loog Oldham lives in Bogota, Columbia, and of course, like all shut ins, he has a blog, it's called Everyone Must Get Stoned. I won't bring up Scientology or Sirius Radio, eerrr....except I already did.
Addendum: There's an interesting aircheck of Mick and Keith playing blues dj's on a Danish radio station circa 1970 posted over at Hardluck Blueschild blog. They play some obvious choices (Robert Johnson, Little Walter, Muddy Waters), and some surprising ones (Barbecue Bob and Laughing Charlie, Bertha "Chippie" Hill). It's a lot of fun to listen to.
Addendum #2: As an afterthought I think I should throw in this one, it's from The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra plays the Rolling Stones Songbook LP, yes, it's the version of The Last Time that the Verve sampled for Bittersweet Symphony (one of the best singles of the 90's). Allen Klein made plenty of trouble for the Verve, forcing them to give up 100% of the publishing and writing (even though the Stones only wrote the verses and the opening guitar riff to The Last Time, the tune itself is a gospel standard that had been recorded by everyone from the 5 Blind Boys Of Alabama to the Staple Singers to James Brown, Bittersweet Symphony is now credited to Jagger-Richards with lyrics by Richard Ashcroft, despite the fact that Ashcroft wrote the entire tune, and cleared the sample with Oldham before the disc was released). Klein came close to having the single and the LP pulled off the market just as the record was topping the U.K. charts in 1997. Still, it seems appropriate to include it with yesterday's post. I also really like the version of Play With Fire from that album. In fact, I like the whole album. If you want the whole thing try here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas 2009

My favorite Christmas record, maybe Santa will bring me the picture sleeve....
Rockets Redglare as Santa Claus, Christmas Hangover Hop, '91.
Why is it that at Christmas time, when you really need to lose yourself in TV, the worst movies are on? Everything else is re-runs. If station programmers had half a brain they'd save all their weirdest, whacked out stuff for Christmas week and the week after and get the alienated crowd, which I'm sure is huge (that's why Christmas day is the biggest day for movie theaters). Since I don't have kids, I'm allowed to hate Christmas, which I do. New York City is jammed with morons rushing around, pushing and shoving, no one looks happy. Everyone will be in debt until next August for crap no one needs. I didn't post Christmas discs this year, I'm still sick of them from last year, anyway, there's tons old Christmas rock'n'roll, country, blues and R&B onn the airchecks at the Hound aircheck site, I think the best one was in '93. You can no longer download individual songs, only entire shows, mainly because it was getting rather expensive to maintain the thing. I figure everything that's there is up somewhere else anyway, or most of it, besides, it's been up there for years now and anyone who cares has already gone through itall. Unfortunately since last year's two part Christmas disc posting was taken mostly from airchecks, the song links no longer work. Sorry, but nothing good lasts for very long in this life. Besides since the sound quality ain't so good since it comes from cassette recordings from WFMU's always (in NYC) dodgy signal.
I think I'm sort of in shock that the decade's already over and nothing seemed to happen except everyone died, and the world I knew just seemed to vanish. I blame the worst president ever, but if he wasn't so bad we would have finally gotten a black one. So I guess something good came out of it. Too bad he (Obama) is going to get blamed for the entire mess he inherited. Poor guy. I feel sorry for him.
The whole world I knew disappeared, even the cities I loved-- New York and New Orleans are barely recognizable. The world just seems like a much meaner, uglier place.
They say that crime is going down, but I don't believe it, they're just manipulating the statistics.
If crime's going down, why are two million people in jail? I don't understand the kids today,
why do they want to join gangs and shoot each other? Is it all that bad music, bad movies, ugly clothing, bad jobs, bad drugs and really bad hair cuts? I guess I'd want to shoot somebody too if I was nineteen years old. I came to New York with $200 in my pocket. What would I do if I was just leaving home in this day and age? I have no idea.
The only thing that got better was TV--- we've had some great ones-- The Wire,The Shield, The Sopranos, Big Love, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry Sanders (ooops, that was twenty years ago? My time flys....), Breaking Bad, etc. And great big, HD flat screen TV's to watch 'em on. Orwell in reverse. You wait, it'll end. They're already threatening to raise cable prices by 300%, which would bring my bill to around $500 a month. I hope they don't stop making books.
Awwwy, I don't mean to be a scrooge, I'll leave you with one tune, my favorite Christmas record ever: Canned Heat & the Chimpmunks-- Christmas Boogie. That seems rather stingy, here's another Christmas present for you all, from WFMU's Rock Rock'n'Soul Ichiban blog page, Bo Diddley, live 1959, you just gotta hear his version of Night Train! I guess it's okay for me to give it away here since they gave away my Great Lost Hasil Adkins record (which turned out to be a good thing since they set up a faster connection). Despite a slightly distorted sound on the vocal mike, it's a really great record. It's nearly as good as Bo's Beach Party (Checker, 1963). Evidently, someone pressed up a few copies of this 1959 frat party gig in the early seventies, I've never seen the actual LP, or even knew about it. I wish the garage jam tape from the old Bop comic book would get released. If you never saw the story, this kid invited Bo to his house to jam with his band, around 1963 and the next day Bo and Jerome showed up and played all day with these kids, they taped it and the still tape exists, but Bo's manager wouldn't let it come out, he was too busy pushing Bo's rap record and horrible jams with Ron Wood. Now that Bo's gone, what's the harm of releasing it? Some day it'll come out, I just hope I'm still around to enjoy it. Whenever I think of poor Bob Quine, I think, the little guy waited his whole life for the Link Wray Cadence LP, and then it comes out six months after he dies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bobby "Blue" Bland

Bobby "Blue" Bland rockin' the chitlin' circuit.
Pardon the fuzzy scan, this one sure sounds good on 78 rpm.
Singing live on Memphis' WDIA, the first all black station in America.
Left to Right: Little Junior Parker, Elvis Presley, Bobby Blue Bland, 1956.
Bobby "Blue" Bland (born Robert Calvin Brooks, in Rosemark, Tennessee, 1930) has been for over half a century "The King Of The Chitlin' Circuit", and remains so. His voice is all shot to hell, and he can no longer stand up onstage, but he's still out there on the road, and although he gets plenty of good bookings at places like House Of Blues, casinos and festivals, a good portion of his gigs are still southern "Chitlin' Circuit" clubs where his loyal audience is full of large boned ladies of color, and every table has a bottle of Crown Royal (served in a blue velour bag) on it. He is of the most influential rhythm and blues singers of all time, the source of such standards as Turn On Your Lovelight, Further On Up The Road and I Pity The Fool and had a string of R&B hits that stretched over forty years, he was still making the R&B charts regularly with his Malaco releases into the early 1990's. His career is too long and he has made too many good records to cover in one posting (although I'd recommend to anyone single out there, if you don't own a copy of his Two Steps From The Blues LP, get one, I used to keep it along with Sam Cooke's Night Beat next to my stereo as my "guaranteed to get you laid" records. If you're making out and Two Steps From The Blues doesn't close the deal, you're hopeless).
No, today I shall discuss the discs which emanated from handful of sessions cut between 1955 and 1957 with wild man Roy Gaines or the immensely talented Clarence Hollimon on guitar, for these are his rawest, and to my mind, best, most explosive sides.
In a coconut shell, Bland's family moved to Memphis when he was seventeen. He began hanging around on Beale Street and fell in with a loose group of musicians who wore shiny suits and are often referred to as the Beale Streeters, although they never used that name themselves,-- Johnny Ace, B.B. King, Rosco Gordon, Earl Forrest and Little Junior Parker. He cut his first disc in 1951 fronting a band with Ike Turner on piano and Matt "Guitar" Murphy on, guess, right, the guitar. "I'll Love You Til The Day Die" was released on the b-side of the Chess version of Rosco Gordon's Booted (Booted, in an alternate take was also released by Modern's RPM subsidiary, although Bland wasn't on the flip of that version). He recorded tunes, including a duet with Little Junior Parker for Chess and RPM under the tutelage of Ike Turner before signing with Memphis DJ James Mattis' Duke label who released I.O.U. Blues b/w Lovin' Blues (on which B.B. King played guitar) in '52 and then he was promptly drafted into the U.S. Army. Bland was stationed in Texas and while in the Army did some gigs around Houston and also recorded some sides for Duke including Army Blues b/w No Blow, No Show (Duke 115). When he was discharged in 1955, Duke Records, along with Bland's contract, had been sold to Don Robey, the Houston based, black-Jewish gangster who ran the powerhouse R&B and gospel Peacock label and a snazzy sepia nightclub called the Bronze Peacock. Robey wasted no time in getting Bland in the studio and in February 1955 in Houston, Bland was coupled with producer/arranger Joe Scott and band leader Bill Harvey whose killer group included Connie Mack Booker on piano and Roy Gaines on guitar, for a session that produced his most incendiary disc-- It's My Life Baby b/w Time Out (Duke 141), along with two outtakes-- Honey Bee and Lost Lover Blues that were as good as anything he'd ever record. All four songs feature the voluminous guitar of Roy Gaines (who later cut such classics as Skippy Is A Sissy for RCA and Loud Mouth Lucy for Chart). Having already blogged about Guitar Slim, Mickey Baker, Wild Jimmy Spruill, Pete "Guitar" Lewis and Lafayette "The Thing" Thomas, et al, I think I am running out of verbs to describe wild, distorted, blues based guitar work outs. Brutal. Have I over used that one yet? Gaines' solos on the above sides are truly brutal. If the solo on It's My Life Baby doesn't pin your ears back, there may be something wrong with your ears.
Bland was becoming a popular club draw and soon teamed up with Little Junior Parker and together they went out on the road as the Blues Consolidated tour. Roy Gaines was soon hired away by Chuck Willis who made him his band leader and he was replaced by the equally unique and talented Clarence Hollimon, then still a teenager. Holliman would be featured on Bland's next set of recordings-- I Woke Up Screaming (Duke 146, and from the same session but left in the vault A Million Miles From Nowhere), You've Got Bad Intentions Baby b/w I Can't Put You Down Baby (Duke 153), I Smell Trouble b/w I Don't Want No Woman (Duke 167) and Farther Up The Road b/w Sometime Tomorrow (Duke 170). The latter, released in 1957, would go to #1 R&B and kick off the string of R&B hits that would stretch over the coming decades. His next two records-- Bobby's Blues b/w Teach Me (How To Love You) (Duke 182) and Loan Me A Helping Hand b/w You Got Me (Where You Want Me) (Duke 185) were not hits, but are excellent none the less. We end our discussion with a four song session from 1958 that produced his next hit-- the wailing, ultra-dramatic Little Boy Blue b/w Last Night (Duke 196) and You Did Me Wrong b/w I Lost Sight Of The World (Duke 300). The version of I Lost Sight Of The World posted here is missing the flute overdub heard on the original disc, I hope you don't mind. As Buddy Rich once said (and not to Ian Anderson)-- "there's no sound in flutes". Little Boy Blue, a masterful vocal performance by Bland, would go top ten R&B in October of 1958. These sides all prominently feature the ferocious, nearly out of control guitar playing of young Clarence Hollimon. How he managed to remain such an obscure figure in the ensuing years is a mystery to me. But soon, as Bland's music changed there would be little room for Hollimon's extreme tendencies, and the sound of a distorted guitar would pretty much disappear from Bland's records, replaced by more sophisticated horn charts and often saxophone solos. From 1959 on, Bland's sides would become smoother and more urbane, a formula that proved a winning one for in addition to dozens of hit singles Bland produced a string of classic albums cut with producer Joe Scott (or sometimes our old pal Zephyr Andre Williams)-- the aforementioned Two Steps From The Blues (1961), Here's The Man (1962), Call On Me (1963), Ain't Nothin' You Can Do (1964), and The Soul Of The Man (1965) that presented Bland as a polished, mature, worldly, uptown blues singer. While I'm talking albums, Bland's first-- Blues Consolidated (1959) which features one side of early Bland hits and another side of Little Junior Parker's Duke classics is one of the greatest albums ever made. It was also one of the first blues LP's ever released and became highly influential with younger musicians, nearly every song on it would become a blues band standard.
Bobby "Blue" Bland would tour the world, working 300 days a year or more for the rest of his life (although these days it's down to around half that), as well as all of the achievements mentioned in the first paragraph. While Bland carried on, Clarence Hollimon left Bland's group in '59 and Bland would, for a time, share a band with Little Junior Parker as part of the Blues Consolidated road show, so Hollimon's replacement was Pat "I"m Gonna Murder My Baby" Hare for a couple of years. Clarence Hollimon would resurface in the late 1980's and form an act with his wife-- Carol Fran, the singer/pianist who had cut a string of fine sides for Excello in the early sixties. Too bad they recorded for Black Top. I've made my thoughts on Black Top's production values in my Robert Ward posting last year, I won't go into it again, suffice to say Hollimon was still playing well, but he was recorded badly. He passed away in 2000. The best examples of his guitar prowess remain Bobby Blue Bland's early Duke sides. No home should be without them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

David Bowie 1964-6

Hedging his bets- Bowie practices his bartending skills in case this music thing doesn't work out...
Bowie with one of his early groups, I'm not sure which one, 1964....
Early BBC clip, Bowie plugs his "Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Long-Haired Men"
In the early 90's the Rolling Stones played a gig at the Trump Casino in Atlantic City, it was being filmed for some sort of pay for view thing so they invited a bunch of worthless "guest stars" as they often do in an attempt to appeal to a younger crowd. In this case Axel Rose, a truly repulsive excuse for humanity was there to duet with Mick ("I do not look like Don Knotts") Jagger on Sympathy For The Devil. Backstage Mick cornered Axel, and had him tell the story of punching out David Bowie. Jagger loved the story so much he had Axel repeat the tale for Eric Clapton, a friend of mine who saw the exchange said both Mick and Clapton were in hysterics for Bowie is known as a total dog, coming on to any and all attractive women that come near him, whether of not their boyfriend/husband/significant co-dependent/whatever is with them or not. It seems that upon being introduced, Bowie immediately made a play for Stephanie Seymour, and was met with a sucker punch from Axel. I don't know why I like this story so much, I don't hate David Bowie, I can only think of one girl that we both slept with and I haven't seen her in over twenty years.
That said, I do think Bowie was totally over rated, but he made a couple of tunes I liked as a teenager. I bought some of his records, finally giving up with David Live. Like a lot of worthless rock stars (Paul Simon, Frank Zappa, Jim Messina and David Gates all come to mind) there are some interesting sides lurking in his catalog, those from the very start of his career.
Caught up in the excitement that was London in the Swinging London/Beat Boom 60's, Bowie fronted several bands that made fairly cool records. He would attempt to simultaneously
re-create and update the era on the Pin-Ups album (1974, like most rock star "covers" albums, Pin-Ups was recorded while his manager was renegotiating his publishing deal, by not recording any of his own tunes, his manager was attempting to gain leverage over the publishing company, that's why rock stars record cover albums, not because they're dying to do other people's tunes, they lose a lot of money by not recording originals, it's almost always business move, other variations on this type of power play were Lou Reed releasing Metal Machine Music, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' writing Cocksucker Blues, after Mick sang it for the publishing rep to whom he still owed a dozen tunes to, Jagger asked, "wanna hear the other eleven"? and Miles refusing to record any original material in his final years).
Getting back to David (does anyone call him Dave?) Bowie. It seems he never really went about forming a garage band with his neighborhood pals the way most musicians start out. Bowie simply go around and audition for the front man slot in existing bands, and in this fashion, the young singer/sax player found himself fronting four different bands in two years---the King Bees, the Mannish Boys, the Lower Third and the Buzz, in most cases he was given top billing.
His first disc was recorded under the tutelage of producer Shel Talmy who was riding a hot streak with the Kinks and the Who. Released on Vocalion Pop in the spring of '64 Liza Jane b/w Louie Go Home, credited Davie Jones with the King Bees is a pretty good debut. The a-side is the old traditional New Orleans tune Little Liza Jane which had been recorded hundreds of times, with excellent rock'n'roll versions from Dale Hawkins (Checker) and Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns (Ace), given a decidedly garage band treatment with a cool little guitar riff kicking things off, and a fuzzy little solo in the middle, the call and response refrain make it almost irresistible. The flip was a cover of the Paul Revere & the Raiders U.S. hit, and while Bowie can't deliver the type of gritty stomp out sound that the Raiders mastered, it's still a pretty credible record.
It would be almost a year until Bowie's next disc appeared, this time as a member of the Mannish Boys and released by Parlophone, the EMI subsidiary whose roster was topped by the Beatles. The Mannish Boys were a more R&B oriented group in which Bowie not only sang but was part of a three piece sax section. The Mannish Boys seem to be modeled on the sound of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames who were one of London's most popular club acts at the time. The a-side is a cover of Bobby Bland's Duke classic I Pity The Fool, spiced up by studio hotshot Jimmy Page who was brought in to play the guitar solo. The flipside-- Take My Tip which opens with a bass solo is a jazzy, jive talkin', rather snappy tune. It would have sounded right at home in Georgie Fame's setlist. In fact, it practically was since it's basically a rewrite of Yeh Yeh, the tune (written by Sun Ra's baritone sax player Pat Patrick) that was Fame's only U.S. hit (Fame's still around, these days serving as Van Morrison's musical director and organist).
Another nine months would pass before Bowie's third single appeared, again on Parlophone, this time credited to Davey Jones-- You've Got A Habit Of Leaving b/w Baby Loves That Way, show a pronounced influence of the Yardbirds, especially in the harmonica/guitar rave up in the middle section and ending of the a-side, and the distorted guitar breaks. The flipside is more of the same, with a cop from Shapes Of Things thrown in, and a fuzz tone Jeff Beck like guitar solo. It's probably the best record he ever made. Two un-issued tunes from the session that produced this session turned up later on various "Early Years" CD's-- Glad I've Got Nobody and I'll Follow You are both okay garage band rockers, nothing to wet yourself over but worth hearing at least once in your life.
1966 brought his fourth single, third label, third band, and a new name. Now doing business as David Bowie with The Lower Third, Can't Help Thinking About Me is probably Bowie's most autobiographical song. Let's face it, this is a guy who has spent a lot of time thinking about himself. It was also his most produced and slickest sounding disc to date with vaguely protest lyrics ("it seems I've blackened the family name/Mum says she can't stand the neighbors talking"). It's also the beginning of Bowie singing like Anthony Newley, belting it out West End style by last verse. The b-side-- And I Say To Myself is a fairly catchy pop tune, actually I prefer it to the a-side.
By his fifth single, David Bowie was an official solo artist. Still with Pye, Do Anything You Say was his worst outing, a rather pedestrian tune, I don't even have anything to say about it. The b-side is better-- Good Morning Girl, a jazz tinged rocker, except Bowie attempts to scat sing over the solo which kinda ruins what could have been a passable record. I hate scat singing.Hardly worth downloading, but if you're curious, here 'tis as the Yardbirds once said paraphrasing Bo Diddley.
His sixth single and last Pye outing, I Dig Everything is more jazzy pop with organ, bongos, percussion and a chorus replacing the guitars, it's not a bad song at all, but is an awful production, at least to these admittedly tinnitus damaged ears. The b-side-- I'm Not Losing Sleep, another protest-pop tune ("don't look down your nose at me"), suffers from the same type of backing, although at least there's a cool fuzztone guitar riff to hold it together, both sides would have sounded much better had they used the same band heard on You've Got A Habit Of Leaving. In fact, I'm not even sure why I wasted time posting this disc, I guess it's the completest in me rearing its dreary head. If you look at the dates, it seems like Bowie pretty much gave up on rock'n'roll around late '65, he wouldn't record another electric guitar dominated record until The Man Who Sold The World six years later. After his final Pye single he moved over to Deram and recorded a couple of really goofy pop records like The Laughing Gnome and others I wouldn't even bother having around my house. Also, like our last subject, Heinz, he spent some of that time studying mime, which must say something unpleasant about his tendencies-- what kind of person would give up fronting a garage band and start miming? A rather desperate chap I'd say. Much (too much in fact) has been written about Bowie being influenced by the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, but personally, I just can't hear it.
Even his hardest rocking records (the three albums issued in '74-- Alladin Sane/Pin-ups and Diamond Dogs) sound more like Cream/Led Zepplin/Stones/Who influenced British rock to these ears than our beloved American purveyors of feedback, drone and self hatred.
When prod comes to nudge and we must choose our glam rock guilty pleasures (at least those of us who came of age in the early 70's), I guess I've always preferred T. Rex who never strayed too far from Chuck Berry riffs and had the good sense to die young. Besides, I lost my virginity to Electric Warrior at age 14. Or one side of it, remember those automatic turntables that would plop a series of discs on the spinner, then when they all played through you'd turn the whole pile over and let the other sides plop? Well Electric Warrior was in the pile (don't ask what the other four were). The real question is why have I been so pre-occupied with these British wimps all week long? Blame the shuffle button. Next post will be a raw, dirty, American
R&B and blues artist, wanna take a guess who it'll be?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gillian's Found Photo #31

This week's found photo came to our gal the Fang with virtually no information about where and when it was taken, but it's a pretty easy guess. Heck, it could have been taken on the set of Beach Blanket Bongos except there never was a movie with that name. Still, this pic says it all, the gal wailin' away on her bongos, the guy jamming on the uke next to her, her sunglasses and tan, it brings us back to the days of surfing before the Beach Boys came along and told the rest of the world about it, crowding up the beaches and the waves with all manner of gremmie. Basically ruining what was a genuine "alternative lifestyle" (don't you hate that term?).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Joe Meek- I Hear A New World

Joe Meek photographed by David Peters, copyright David Peters (sorry for not posting the copyright originally).
While writing last week's post on Heinz Burt, lazy fuck that I am, I clicked on my Itunes (I run my computer's earphone jack through a Cayin T-50 Tube amp with some old ADS speakers a friend spotted on Ebay for me) and let the 91 song Joe Meek playlist play all day (normally I keep the thing on shuffle so the 22,587 songs can come up in the strangest order) and after a day or so lost in Meekdom I decided I really should hip those who have never heard it to what most of his fans agree to be as close to a masterpiece as Joe Meek ever created-- I Hear A New World. I Hear A New World was originally issued as a promo only EP under the name of the Blue Men, and later restored in 1991 by the folks at RPM to the twelve song album that Meek originally envisioned (and then re-restored and inserted into the book Joe Meek's Bold Techniques by Barry Cleveland (Mix Books, 2001).
If you're gonna buy the thing, look for the book version w/the CD, it's a better buy, since you also get the book (which is an excellent book if you like to read about reverb and tape echo), and I prefer the "warts and all" version, taken from the original test pressing to the digitally fixed up version RPM issued. Where was I? I think I started out with a point here...
Right, Joe Meek, and I Hear A New World. Meek, who was Britain's first independent rock'n'roll producer recorded this thing in 1959 and originally thought it might be marketed as a stereo test record. A four song EP was pressed in extremely limited quantities (probably less than one hundred copies), a second EP was planned but never issued and a test pressing of the 12 song LP exists although there's probably only a couple of copies in existence.
The EP, I Hear A New World Part 1 (Triumph), was issued under the name of The Blue Men, while the re-issue credited The Blue Men with Rod Freeman (the group's leader, who also served as Meek's musical transcriber, since Meek didn't play an instrument and couldn't sing in key, Freeman had the unenviable job of turning Meek's off key humming into musical riffs and melodies). What it is, is an outer space pop music concept album, long before LSD, Pink Floyd, laser light shows, and all that made such things a common place part of American suburban growing up which came in the wake of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon in the early 70's. Meek's idea was to create a recording of what he imagined music would sound like on the moon. And he recorded it in stereo, although he was using his home studio at Arundel Gardens (pre-Holloway Road), which was outfitted with three mono recording machines. No one has been able to figure out how he recorded the thing in stereo, although many theories are bandied about in Cleveland's book.
It's not a rock'n'roll record, I guess it would fit closer into the category of electronic exotica
of the Dick Hyman (of Moon Gas infamy) sort. Much use is made of the clavioline, an early electronic keyboard (much like the Solovox Sun Ra played), as well as steel guitar, and what we now called sampled sounds-- dripping water, toilets flushing, etc. all manipulated with Meek's array of homemade echo, reverb, delay boxes and oscillators. On top of this the voices are all overdubbed and run at various speeds, giving it a definite "other worldly" feel. Kinda like the Ran-Dells' Martian Hop. In fact, it sounds sort of what I'd imagine the Teletubbies would sound like if they were a band (long time readers know I loved the Teletubbies and me and my wife watched them every morning for years). Anyway, I.H.A.N. W. was a bit ahead of its time, as Meek would top the charts worldwide with another outer space themed disc-- Telstar by the Tornadoes, three years later. No matter, It's a lot of fun to listen to, especially if you're a pot head. So here it is:
I Hear A New World, Glob Waterfall, Entry Of the Globbots*, Valley Of The Saroos*, Magnetic Field*, Orbit Around The Moon*, The Bulblight, March Of The Dribcots, Love Dance Of The Saroos, Dribcot's Space Boat, Disc Dance Of the Globbots, Valley Of No Return, I Hear A New World (alternate mix). As I said in the Heinz post (below), Joe Meek's music may be an acquired taste, but I Hear A New World is some of his best, all that's missing is the rock'n'roll part. While I'm on the subject of Joe Meek, you garage band lovers should invest in a copy of RPM's Joe Meek's Groups- Crawdaddy Simone which includes the amazing title track from the Syndicats (Meek's answer to the Yardbirds/Stones/Pretty Things), and Diamond's Intergalactic Instro's, 31 instrumental tracks including the Moontrekkers' Night Of The Vampire, some live Tornadoes tracks and Meek humming the demo for Telstar.
* These four tunes were on the original I Hear A New World Part. 1 EP.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gillian's Found Photo #30

The Fang's come up with another doozie this week. This photo, according to the scrawl on the back, was taken in Chicago in 1950 at what the photographer described as a "Union Boss Party". If the guy with the squeezebox looks familiar, then the FBI would like to have a word with you, that's right, it's Jimmy Hoffa and he seems to be showing those Chicago Pollacks just how an Irishman would interpret the Polka. Strangely enough, the accordion went missing shortly after the photo was taken and hasn't been seen since.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Heinz' attempting to insert his left hand into his ear the hard way.
His best record.
Heinz & the Wild Boys, 1965
The Tornadoes (Heinz on bass) doin' the Robot, 1963 Part 4 of BBC's The Strange Story Of Joe Meek, Heinz appears 1:01 into this clip....(the whole thing can be seen in six ten minutes clips on Youtube, if you haven't seen it, take the time to watch full screen).
Heinz Burt was born Heinz Henry Georg Schwartze in Detmold, Germany in 1942. At age seven his family moved to Eastleigh, Hampshire, England where nothing much happened for him until he began playing the bass guitar and joined an instrumental combo called the Tornadoes. The Tornadoes were discovered by producer Joe Meek and are best remembered for their worldwide smash-- Telstar in 1963. The story of the Tornadoes and Joe Meek has been told before, Meek himself, one of the most fascinating characters in British rock'n'roll history has been the subject of an excellent biography-- The Legendary Joe Meek: The Telstar Man by John Repsch (Woodford House, UK, 1989), a BBC documentary (clip above), a West End musical and bio pic (both called Telstar, I've seen neither, the film wasn't released in the U.S.). Meeks fans should check out the website of the Joe Meek Appreciation Society and also recent postings over at Rockabilly Ranch.
But today's subject, Heinz, was just a small, but in his own way, quite interesting part of the Meek story. He also made a few really great records. Although he only had one real hit (Just Like Eddie, a tribute to Eddie Cochran which rose to #5 on the U.K. charts in '63), he made some of the best records that Joe Meek ever produced (and some awful ones too), but his good sides deserve a listen, and his career deserves a reassessment, which is exactly what I shall do right now.
Heinz looked like he stepped out of a Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda movie if Kenneth Anger had been put in charge of casting (Meek had him dye his hair platinum blonde after seeing Village Of The Damned). With his Nordic good looks and blond brush cut, he quickly became the obsession of his gay mentor-- Joe Meek, who liked to get behind young talent, so to speak. Meek pulled Heinz out of the Tornadoes and launched him on a solo career, originally grooming him as a British answer to Eddie Cochran, the late U.S. star who was another of Meek's obsessions. Unfortunately, Heinz was straight, and therefore had to do a delicate dance, keeping Meek interested in producing his records and pushing his career while saving wear and tear on his sphincter. Heinz didn't have the greatest voice in the world, but he could deliver a rock'n'roll song convincingly enough. He was also astute enough to know that Meek was his best shot a stardom, and was soon living with Meek at his flat in Hollaway Road which doubled as a recording studio.
Meek got Heinz a deal with Decca and his first solo record, a fairly dreary piece of pop drek-- Dreams Do Come True b/w Been Invited To A Party, a light weight but enjoyable rocker not quite ruined by the goofy girl chorus, was released in May of '63. Two months later, Just Like Eddie b/w You Knock At My Door was released and began its fifteen week run up and down the U.K charts, it would be the height of his commercial success. Meek would also issue a Heinz EP-- Live It Up later that same year . 1964 saw Heinz' first LP-- A Tribute To Eddie. A mixture of Eddie Cochran covers, weepy ballads aimed at teenage girls and a few rockers thrown in, the best tunes are the moody Rumble In The Night and a Billy Fury styled rocker Don't Keep Pickin' On Me.
Oct. '64 saw a new Heinz single on a new label-- Questions I Can't Answer on Columbia, probably his best record. Questions... is based around the classic Louie Louie I-IV-V chord progression and sports a twangy guitar solo by Barry Tomilson, the often brilliant leader of Heinz' new backing band-- The Wild Boys. Questions peaked at #39 on the NME charts and was forgotten within two weeks. His next single, issued in early '65, a version Washboard Sam's (better known in the UK from Lonnie Donnegan's hit rendition) Diggin' My Potatoes given the full Joe Meek treatment, including a twangy 12 string guitar solo from Jimmy Page, at #49 it was his last chart entry. He also had two tracks on Decca's under rated Live At The Cavern LP, I Got A Woman and Somebody To Love, both are credible rockers. Two months later Meek released Heinz doing a rather tepid reading of Dylan's Don't Think Twice, but the flipside-- Big Fat Spider, is a killer in the style that is now known as Freakbeat (I kinda hate that term, but I'm also lazy so I'll use it, just this once). With a fat, reverb laden Duane Eddy type guitar riff riding over a refrain of clavolin and backing vocals, the guitar solo, short, nasty and distorted seems to come out of nowhere and slice the song in half. I think it is, along with Questions I Can't Answer, Heinz's greatest moment.
His next two singles were pop ballads, and his final disc, issued in June of '66 was a return to the Billy Fury styled pop-rockers he started out with-- Movin' In b/w I'm Not A Bad Guy. The flipside features the guitar work of Ritchie "Smoke On The Water" Blackmore (who had played on Just Like Eddie), Blackmore had recorded for Meek with his group the Outlaws as well as a session man. Blackmore would go on to be one of the most arrogant and unlikable cretins in a business full of arrogant cretins, but that's a whole different story. As Meek began to unravel, Heinz' career came to a standstill. I think you know how the story ended, on February 3, 1967, Meek took a shotgun (Heinz' shotgun in fact) and blew his landlady's brains all over the walls of the stairwell at Hollaway Road, then turned the gun on himself. Heinz disappeared from music for a few years, then hit the supper club/oldies circuit to make a living.
It was said he worked in theater and as a mime (I'm a die hard believer that mime should only be practiced on radio), he was married and divorced twice, and in the late nineties was diagnosed with a rare motor-neurone disease, his last show, just weeks before his demise, was performed from a wheelchair. He passed away in April of 2000, age 57. With the Joe Meek revival, Heinz is probably better known, and more popular than any time since Just Like Eddie charted in 1963, too bad he wasn't able to enjoy it. Life's funny that way.
Heinz wasn't the most savage of rockers, he was no Kid Thomas or Andy Starr, but at his best (and Joe Meek must be given much of the credit) he did wax a few genuine classics, along with some very enjoyable if light weight rockers (and some truly dismal drivel), you can put him in my "guilty pleasures" category, but when I hear Questions I Can't Answer or Big Fat Spider, I don't feel guilty at all, they're just great discs. But then again, Meek, at least for American ears may be something of an acquired taste (or lack there of), he was fond of goofy girlie choruses and syrupy strings, and most of his tunes have a definite show tune (or dance hall) feel to them. If you can get by that, or if that sorta thing doesn't bother you, his records were almost always interesting. Meek was fond of all sorts of extreme compression, gigantic echo, bubbling reverb and all manner of strange guitar sounds and outer space effects, all used to good purpose. Many of his effects boxes were self made (he began his career as a radio repair man), in fact today you can buy several types of Joe Meek Compressors. An entire CD of Heinz tunes might just drive you up the wall, but to repeat myself, his best records are great, pop, throwaway trash with a real rock'n'roll feel buried under the layers of Meekdom. Hey, we can't all be Howlin' Wolf.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jerry Lee Lewis Live At The Star Club, Hamburg- Lost & Found

Jerry Lee Lewis' Live At The Starclub, Hamburg, 1963 is probably the greatest live rock'n'roll album ever made. It wasn't released in the U.S. until the early ninties when Rhino re-issued it on CD (I think it's now out of print), but UK re-issues are fairly easy to find. It's one speed driven, frenzied, rock'n'roll moment, captured on wax forever. Now, Joe Bonomo, who wrote the wonderful Fleshtones bio Sweat (Continuum Books, 2007) has just published Jerry Lee Lewis-- Lost and Found (Continuum Books, 2009), an entire book telling the story of that great LP. It's quite a story and a must for the Jerry Lee Lewis fan, I assume his next book will be the story of Johnny & the Hurricanes Live At The Star Club.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gillian's Found Photo #29

One reader has identified this guy as jazz great Benny Golson who played with Bullmoose Jackson in the early 50's.
No, that's not Bullmoose Jackson, beloved r&b hitmaker of such bodacious classics as Big Ten Inch Record (King), I Want A Bowlegged Woman (King) and Get Off The Table, Mabel-- That Two Dollars Is For The Beer (Bogus). Maybe it's his road manager? Chauffeur? Valet? Bass player? Can anyone identify this dapper, pipe smoking, gent posing in front of Bullmoose Jackson's equipment hauling wagon? He bears a certain resemblance to actor Demond Wilson who played Lamont on the TV show Sanford & Son. Whoever it is, it's a great photo, thanks Fang.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jackie Shane

In my posting about Billy Wright last June, I discussed briefly the tradition of the "tent show" queen in R&B and how many great R&B performers began their careers performing in drag. Well, my friend, collector and record dealer Barry Soltz sent in this wonderful clip of soul singer Jackie Shane (who I always thought was a woman) doing this rendition of Walking The Dog from some TV show in 1965. As you can see, Shane (who also recorded as Little Jackie Shane) was a man who performed (and probably lived) in drag. Shane who died back in '98 recorded for Stop and Sue and is quite revered amongst soul collectors. Great clip! Thanks Barry...

Monday, November 30, 2009

In fact, most blues wailing...Obscure rarities

Or should that be rare obscurities? Either way, a glance at Ebay will tell you these little buggers are getting quite pricey, which takes a lot of the fun out of collecting records. What we have today are five great records by five little known artists, all can be classified in the genre that collectors now call Black Rockers, a classification given its baptism in the recently published second edition of Tom Lincoln and Dick Blackburn's Guide To Rockabilly and Rock'n'Roll 45 RPMs (so you know I'm not makin' it up). This begs the question, just what is a Black Rocker? What makes one record a Black Rocker and another an upbeat blues record or a fast paced R&B record? I honestly couldn't tell you, although I think the influence of Little Richard would surely be one of the marks of a Black Rocker. So whatever you want to classify these five rare discs, they're all long time favorites of mine, and I thought, this being the dreaded holiday season, I'd share them with you, dear reader.
Piano pounder Freddie Hall came from Chicago where he cut a single for Chance in '54 backed by Little Walter's Aces (sans Walter) and didn't record again until 1959 when he cut this crude rocker-- She's An Upsetter b/w I Love This Carrying On for C.J., the first and best of three 45's he'd wax for that tiny label. Ike Perkins guitar playing is especially noteworthy on this one. On his next disc (Little Baby's Rock, C.J. 602) the band would be dubbed the Night Rockers, cuz that's exactly what the were. Oddly enough, in the latest edition of Blues Records 1943-1970 the personal on this record are listed as unknown. One look at the label tells us who the personal were, they're names are printed right there on the label! Someone should write in a correction, I'm way to lazy to get around to it. Anyway, the a-side bears a strange musical resemblance to the Cochran Brothers' Tired & Sleepy (Ekko, 1957), while the b-side is perhaps the crudest Muddy Waters cop ever recorded. A double sided winner.
Not much is known about Square Walton but his first session for RCA, back in 1953 produced two killer singles-- my preference is for the first, Bad Hangover b/w Fishtail Blues, although the follow up-- Pepper Headed Woman b/w Gimme Your Bankroll is also great (I still need a 45 of that one if anyone's selling or trading, my 78 RPM copy has seen better days). These sides feature the feral guitar playing of Mickey Baker as well as Sonny Terry on harmonica and were produced by Leroy Kirkland who was involved in more records than even the most crazed collector could count. Square Walton recorded one more session for RCA in '54, another four sides were cut, again with Mickey Baker on guitar, but none these sides were released. I know nothing about Square Walton and have never even seen a photo of him. Maybe for the best, perhaps he was ugly? I do know he was not Mercy Dee Walton (of One Room Country Shack fame) nor was he Jesse James Walton who recorded for HiQ although he is often mistaken for one or the other.
Alexander "Papa" Lightfoot recorded for Peacock in '49 (one of the rarest singles of all time), Sultan in 1950, Aladdin in '52, and Imperial in '54 (including an earlier, cruder, version of Mean Old Train) before arriving at Savoy who recorded him in Atlanta in 1955 with Edwin "Guitar Red" Maire's band. Both sides-- Mean Old Train b/w Wildfire, the only tunes from that session to see the light of vinyl are wild, distorted harmonica rockers. The a-side a vocal, the b-side an instrumental. Both are first class blues wailers. He wouldn't record again until 1969 when he cut an LP for Vault. Papa Lightfoot never made a bad record. If you ever run into those old Imperial Rural Blues/Legendary Masters LP's that Bear Hite compiled in the late 60's, Papa Lightfoot's Aladdin and Imperial recordings (including the un-issued stuff) are on volumes 2 and 3.
Dennis "Long Man" Binder started out recording for Sam Phillips in '52 although nothing was issued from his one session at 706 Union Ave. He appeared briefly singing and playing piano with Ike Turner's King's Of Rhythm who backed him on his only Modern single- Early Times b/w I Miss You So, two more songs from that 1954 session would later surface, one (Nobody Wants Me) on the great Ike Rocks The Blues (Crown) LP, the other on an Ace CD that appeared in the nineties. Here, on his only disc on Chicago's United label-- The Long Man b/w I'm A Lover, issued in 1955, he's backed by another guy named Guitar Red, Vincent Duling in this case (there are at least three Guitar Red's I know of), as well as Al Smith on bass, the man who produced all of Jimmy Reed's greatest discs. Two more tunes from the session would eventually be issued on Delmark. Binder would record one more record time, for the ultra obscure Cottonwood label out of Clovis, New Mexico in '59 (She's Sumpin' Else b/w
Crawdad Song), then disappear forever.
Our final selection is yet another mystery artist. Joe McCoy cut two singles for the New York based Tiara label in '58. Tiara was the label that released the Shirelles first two singles, before they went on to a stunning string of hits on Sceptor. Anyway, Hey Hey Loretta b/w Too Much Goin' On was McCoy's first and best single for the label, although his second-- Dizzy Little Girl is quite good. No one seems to have a clue as to who Joe McCoy was, or even if he was black or white (me thinks he sounds black, others disagree). Either way, Hey Hey Loretta is a classic rockin' r&b stomper, with a rolling beat that sounds more New Orleans than Broadway. Too Much Goin' On get extra points for putting a UFO in the lyrics. You don't find many records as good as this one.
Classifications are for critics and egghead writers, the line between R&B, rock'n'roll and blues is often non-existant, which is why I chose these five records as they all seem to illustrate my point. The moral of the story being, forget the classifications, records come in two types-- good and bad, and that's all you need to know*.
* I once stopped into a pub in London that was a Teddy Boy hang out and overheard a conversation about what "proper rock'n'roll" was that nearly ended in a knife fight!

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra

Let's Hear It For The Orchestra
copyright Hound Archive