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Step Back to 1975 – Part 2

January 29th, 2010 9 comments

For the second part of my journey back to 1975, when I was nine years old, I dug out an old Arcade sampler of that year. A number of songs featured here were included on that album: I”m On Fire, Down By The River, Moviestar and New York Groove. Some other songs might well have featured here as well, such as Glenn Campbell”s Rhinestone Cowboy, Typically Tropical”s Barbados, Chris Spedding”s Motor Bikin”, or Billy Swan”s Don”t Be Cruel.

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Van McCoy – The Hustle.mp3
What a tune! Disco guitars, strings, flute, horns, a killer bassline and friendly ladies and imposing gentlemen commanding us to do The Hustle. Do it! It”s the sound of summer “75. Before trying to peddle a dance nobody could really do, McCoy had been a songwriter, a producer and a label boss. He co-wrote such songs as Jackie Wilson”s I Get The Sweetest Feeling, Brenda & the Tabulations” Right on the Tip of My Tongue, The President”s 5-10-15-20 (25 Years of Love), David Ruffin”s Walk Away from Love”¦ And then, in 1979, McCoy died of heart failure. He was only 39.

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Bay City Rollers – Give A Little Love.mp3
When the sartorial disaster zone that was the Bay City Rollers had a hit with a ballad “” a cover of the Four Season”s Bye Bye Baby “” it was inevitable that they”d release another retro ballad. And it gave them a second #1 in Britain. Give A Little Love was not a patch on Bye Bye Baby, and yet I preferred it. I suspect I was showing my preference for the understated. Or I was just being in touch with my feminine side because, let”s face it, this song was for all you girls out there for whom it supposedly was a teenage dream to be thirteen. Lucky girls. By the time I hit 13 four years later, I discovered that it was a nightmare being that age. Anyway, in “75 I might have liked the girly song, but within the next year and a bit, BCR would release Saturday Night and Yesterday”s Hero, two real bubblegum pop stompers.

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I Santo California – Tornerò.mp3
The holidaymakers” import hit from sunny Italy in 1975. I really like this song. But I do have a soft spot for some Italian pop, supplementing my great love for Italy. I have no idea how desperately uncool it may be to like songs by Umberto Tozzi (“Ti Amo”, “Gloria”), but I do. There was a German version of Tornerò by Michael Holm titled Wart” auf mich, but the melody is so essentially San Remo pop, it requires the sound of the Italian language. I wonder how many Europeans in their mid-thirties owe their life to Tornerò?

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Albert Hammond – Down By The River.mp3
Albert Hammond – To All The Girls I Loved Before.mp3

Originally a minor US hit for Hammond in 1972, the re-recorded version of Down By The River that became a über-hit in Germany in autumn 1975. The merry tune masks the fact that the song states Hammond”s ecological concerns. It”s pretty well done; starting out as a camping romance poisoned by the polluted river, Hammond ends the song in ways that might have given me nightmares had I understood English then: “The banks will soon be black and dead, and where the otter raised his head will be a clean white skull instead, down by the river.” The b-side could feature in The Originals series, but I”ll post it here, simply because I really don”t like Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias” awful duet.

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Harpo – Moviestar.mp3
A Top 30 hit in Britain only in 1976, Germans got to know the barefooted Swedish singer Harpo in late 1975 with this cheerful and sarcastic number, which apparently features Anni-Frid of ABBA on backing vocals. In Britain Harpo might be remembered as a minor one-hit wonder, but he had a string of hits in Germany between 1975 and “77. In 1977 Harpo was jailed for four weeks for refusing to do his compulsory military service in Sweden. By 1978 his German career had fizzled out. I was loyal to Harpo beyond the call of duty, buying 1977″s Television and 1978″s With A Girl Like You, a cover of the Troggs hit. Both had pink and black covers, neither charted.

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Penny McLean – Lady Bump.mp3
The sound of Munich disco. Penny McLean was one of the three members of the Silver Convention (Fly, Robin Fly), and possibly not the most talented of the lot. The recurring scream on Lady Bump? Not Penny. The spoken bit? Not Penny. Which leaves us with some pretty ropey vocals. The scream was the work of one Gitta Walther and the introductory recital by Lucy Neale (of Love Generation). Penny McLean, you”ll be shocked to learn, was a pseudonym; the singer”s real name was Gertrude Wirschinger, not a moniker to inspire much by way of sexy disco fever. But she didn”t even use it in her career as a folksinger, as part of a duet with husband Holger Münzer called Holger & Tjorven in the 1960s. After her disco career fizzled out, McLean became an author on New Age twaddle, such as numerology. How fitting then that the follow-up hit to Lady Bump (a German #1) was titled 1,2,3,4″¦Fire.

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5000 Volts – I’m On Fire.mp3
Another disco hit, this one from Britain, and much better than Lady Bump, if one can get past the blatant rip-off of Black Is Black. 5000 Volts was basically Martin Jay (whom we would later encounter in Tight Fit and Enigma) and Tina Charles, who would soon score a huge solo hit with I Love To Love. And good for her: when I”m On Fire became a hit, Charles was replaced on the lip-synching Top of the Pops by blonde actress Luan Peters, who also appeared on most single sleeves (she is otherwise best known as the hot Australian over whom Basil Fawlty fawns in Fawlty Towers” “The Psychiatrist” episode). The subterfuge caused a scandal at the time, with the German label replacing the single sleeves for I”m On Fire to depict Tina Charles with Martin Jay and another dude. I don”t recall whether I watched the Disco “76 show of 5 December. I hope I did, catching in the process not only 5000 Volts, but also ABBA singing S.O.S. (months after having a hit with it) and Hello performing New York Groove.

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Hello – New York Groove.mp3
Americans are more likely to know New York Groove in the version by Kiss man Ace Frehley, but it first was a hit for the English pop group and BCR labelmates Hello, who were clearly aimed at the teenybopper market while holding for themselves higher aspirations. Three of the four Hello members were only 19 at the time, and had been releasing records for three years before having their first hit in 1974 with a cover of the Exciters” Tell Him. New York Groove a year later became their only other hit. They also supported Gary Glitter on tour (good thing then that the drummer was ten years older than the other members). New York Groove was written by Russ Ballard, who to my knowledge never released it.

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Juliane Werding – Wenn Du denkst Du denkst, dann denkst Du nur Du denkst.mp3
Essen-born Juliane Werding was just 15 when she had her first hit, a German cover of Joan Baez”s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down in 1972. After that she disappeared from the scene, completed her education, and returned in 1975 with this verbosely titled country number, which translates as “If you think you think then you only think you think””¦that a girl can”t play cards. This is the storyline: like Udo Jürgens in part 1 of the 1975, Juliane fancies a late night drink. Unlike the Greek tavern dwelling Udo, Juliane finds a nice working-class Kneipe in which beer swilling men challenge her to a game of cards, thinking she”ll be easy prey. Of course, she beats them and proceeds to drink them under the table, giving cause for her good-natured taunting in the manner of tongue-twisting posers. In the middle of all that, a man interjects in a disconcertingly creepy manner that he”ll get her next time. On the ZDF Hitparade show, presenter Dieter-Thomas Heck does the creepy guy honours.

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Smokey – Don”t Play That Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me.mp3
I was going to write an essay about why Smokie were uttley naff (and fans of the group will know what I did there). And, of course, they were. But here”s the thing: some of their songs were quite good, in the ways of 1970s pop ballads. I quite like this Chinn/Chapman production, which borrows its riff rather too liberally from His Latest Flame. Anyway, the eagle-eyed reader will have noticed that the heading and the single sleeve spell the band”s name Smokey. As I recall it, the Motown legend Mr Robinson apparently believed that the name Smokey was his trademark alone, suggesting that the public might become confused between his high-pitched voice and Chris Norman”s pebble-garglings. Or that people might not properly process the picture of four white Yorkshiremen on a sleeve, and buy the record in the belief that they were getting a Quiet Storm. Faced with the threat of litigation, our four friends changed their name to Smokie. Incidentally, Sammy Davis Jr didn”t sue Robinson for appropriating the rather indelicate nickname Frank Sinatra called him by.

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The Originals Vol. 35 – Beatles edition 2

January 22nd, 2010 8 comments

Last April “” ten editions of The Originals ago “” we looked at the first of three batches of originals covered by the Beatles. Here we revisit two tracks each from the debut Please Please Me (Anna, Boys) and 1964’s Beatles For Sale (Words Of Love, Mr Moonlight), as well as With The Beatles‘ Devil In His Heart.

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Arthur Alexander ““ Anna (Go To Him) (1962).mp3
The Beatles ““ Anna (Go To Him) (1963).mp3

Few artists will have had their original songs covered by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley. Arthur Alexander did. We already observed that Elvis covered Burning Love (though Alexander didn”t write that one), Dylan covered Sally Sue Brown (in 1988), the Stones covered his You Better Move On (in 1964), and the Beatles his song Anna on their debut album. The Fabs also used to perform three other Alexander songs in concert. Not bad for a soul singer who died in relative obscurity in 1993, aged only 53. Some people even suggest that Alexander influenced John Lennon”s vocal style. McCartney in a 1987 interview said that in those early days, the group wanted to be like Arthur Alexander.

Alexander”s far superior version of Anna was not a big hit, even as it featured the great country pianist Floyd Cramer, whose keyboard riffs Harrison replicates on guitar. It did make the R&B Top 10, but stalled at #68 in the Billboard charts. Released in September 1962, the Beatles “” clearly already fans “” soon included it in their concert repertoire, and eventually recorded it in three takes on February 11, 1963, just over five weeks before their debut album was released. That day, the band recorded 10 of the album”s 14 songs, culminating with Twist And Shout (featured in the first Beatles edition of The Originals), on which Lennon”s vocals are famously shot from a long day”s session and a cold. On Anna, Lennon”s voice is noticeably enduring the effects of his malaise. Strangely, once it had been committed to record, Anna was dropped from the concert setlists. Note by the way that neither Alexander nor the Beatles actually urge Anna to go to him.

A promo single of the Beatles’ version of Anna (backed with Ask Me Why) issued by the US label Vee Jay is said to be the rarest Beatles record, with only four copies known to exist. Vee Jay changed their mind about releasing Anna, going instead for Twist And Shout, since that was going to be performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Also recorded by: Vern Rogers (1964), The Tams (1964), George Martin (1966), Humble Pie (1974), Kursaal Flyers (1977), Jack Denton (1989), Roger McGuinn (1994), L.A. Workshop with New Yorker (1995), Alan Merrill (2003)

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The Donays ““ Devil In His Heart (1962).mp3
The Beatles ““ Devil In Her Heart (1963).mp3

Devil In His Heart appeared on the With The Beatles album, but had been part of the group”s concert repertoire in 1962/63. The Beatles recorded it on July 18, 1963, two days after recording it for the BBC show Pop Go The Beatles. The group came upon the song when they had heard it in Brian Epstein”s NEMS record store in Liverpool. George Harrison, who sings lead vocals on the cover, later recalled: “Brian [Epstein] had had a policy at NEMS [record store] of buying at least one copy of every record that was released. Consequently he had records that weren”t hits in Britain, weren”t even hits in America. Before we were going to a gig, we”d meet in the record store, after it had shut, and we”d search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there”¦Devil In Her Heart and Barrett Strong”s Money were records that we”d picked up and played in the shop and thought were interesting.”

Unlike other the other R&B acts covered on that album, the Donays “” Yvonne, Janice, Michelle, Gwen “” were not and never would be well known. Devil In His Heart was the Detroit girl-group”s only single, and it made no notable impact at all, though the flip-side, Bad Boy, received some local airplay. Devil In His Heart was first released by Detroit’s Correc-tone Records, which also had an unknown Wilson Picket on its books. The New York label Brent picked up the national license for the single, and through Brent’s arrangement with the British Oriole label the record ended up in Epstein’s Liverpool store.

But it was not the lack of commercial success that forced the group’s demise, but their mothers. “The mothers wanted the girls to go to college,” Yvonne would recall. “Michelle”s mother was leery about the music world, so they dropped out.” Yvonne carried on recording for Correc-tone for three more singles, as Yvonne Vernee, but without great commercial success. She later became a member of the Motown group The Elgins to tour Britain in 1971 after the band had a belated hit there with their 1967 sing Heaven Must Have Sent You.

Also recorded by: nobody else, it seems.

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Buddy Holly ““ Words Of Love (1957).mp3
The Diamonds – Words Of Love (1957).mp3
The Beatles ““ Words Of Love (1964).mp3

The influence of Buddy Holly on The Beatles (and virtually every act of the British Invasion) is evident. It was a Holly song, That”ll Be The Day, which The Quarrymen performed on that famous acetate, and the name “Beatles” was inspired as a riff on the insect name of Buddy”s band, the Crickets. Yet, the Beatles recorded only one Holly song, the rather minor Words Of Love, which in Holly”s version was released as a single in Britain, but failed to dent the charts there.

Holly recorded Words Of Love on his own, putting each individual part (including his harmonies) to tape and then overdubbing them, apparently the first time that production method was used by a major artist. It was not a hit for Holly in the US either. Instead it was recorded by The Diamonds, also in 1957, who enjoyed a #13 hit with it. The Diamonds, a Canadian group, were mostly used to score hits from cover versions of songs originally performed by black acts. Their version of Words Of Love was, well, different.

The Beatles” lovely version, far superior to Buddy’s (never mind The Diamonds’) appeared on Beatles For Sale, having been recorded on October 18, with John and George harmonising on the vocals (sources differ on that; others say it”s Paul, not George), sounding not unlike the Everly Brothers. Paul, the big Holly fan, later recorded his own cover version of the song.

Also recorded by: Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs (1964), Mike Berry (1999), Jeremy Jay (2009), Jessica Lea Mayfield (2009)

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The Shirelles – Boys (1960).mp3
The Beatles ““ Boys (1963).mp3

Boys was one of two Shirelles songs on Please, Please Me. Co-written by Luther Dixon, who produced the Shirelles on the Specter label, Boys was released in 1960 as the b-side of the group’s big hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Dixon had enjoyed some success as a songwriter, notably The Crests’ 1958 hit Sixteen Candles. The other co-writer, a white boy named Wes Farrell, would go on to greater things yet. He co-wrote Hang On Sloopy with the legendary Bert Berns, was the force behind Tony Orlando’s Dawn (named after Farrell’s daughter) and the Partridge Family, and founded Bell Records, which would later, after he sold it, become Arista.

It was recorded in one take during the mammoth February 11, 1963 session, just after Anna and before Chains (which featured in the first part of originals of Beatles covers). The other Shirelles song on the album was the better known Burt Bacharach composition Baby It”s You. While Lennon sang the latter, Boys introduced Ringo”s vocal stylings to the public. In the Beatles” hands, the R&B number becomes a rocking scorcher in which the backing vocals eclipse Ringo”s voice, which delivered suitably tweaked lyrics.

Boys had been popular on Liverpool”s live circuit. The Beatles performed it in the Cavern Club, where it was the token number to be sung by drummer Pete Best. After Best was sacked, it became Ringo”s song. But it already was before then: as the drummer with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes he would often sing it in concerts, sometimes even duetting the song with the young Cilla Black, who would later become a star herself.

Also recorded by: The Flamin’ Groovies (1979), Mata Hari (1988), Jools Holland & Ringo Starr (2003)

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Dr Feelgood and the Interns – Mr Moonlight (1962).mp3
The Beatles ““ Mr Moonlight (1964).mp3

Many Beatles fans point to Mr Moonlight as the group”s worst recording (presumably ignoring the arcane stuff like Revolution #9 or Within You, Without You). It is indeed doubtful that Mr Moonlight has ever featured on a great number Top 10 lists of Beatles songs. But it isn”t really that bad (this guy makes his case persuasively).

Mr Moonlight appeared on Beatles For Sale, the hotchpotch album released in late 1964 that among some strong original material featured a number of random covers. It may seem that Mr Moonlight was one of those peculiar obscurities the Fabs often dug out “” note how many b-sides and non-hits they covered “” but the song was in fact quite popular at the time. Other bands obviously did the same as the Beatles did. It had been covered by The Hollies in January 1964, and in 1963 by the Merseybeats. Mr Moonlight had also been a Beatles concert staple for a while (going as far back as 1962; it appears on the Live At The Star Club, Hamburg album) , so there are some who suggest that the Hollies and Merseybeats “borrowed” the song from the Beatles.

The song was written by one Roy Lee Johnson, and first recorded in 1962 by the blues pianist Piano Red (Willie Perryman) as a b-side to his single Dr Feelgood, the title of which had become his stage name, and would later be adopted by the British rock band of that name (though they probably picked up the moniker from a cover version by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates). Piano Red, an albino performer who had made his first recording in 1936, was the first blues musician to break into the Billboard pop charts, and as a radio DJ in Atlanta in the 1950s featured a young James Brown on his show. Piano Red”s excursion as Dr Feelgood, a moniker he employed as a DJ, was brief and did little to benefit his career. His career later recovered, with Piano Red appearing on the jazz circuit. He even performed at the inauguration of the German chancellor Helmut Schmidt before dying if cancer in 1985 at the age of 73.

Also recorded by: The Merseybeats (1963), The Hollies (1964)

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More Originals

Coming home

January 19th, 2010 15 comments

And so I’m saying goodbye to lodging on the sofas of WordPress and Blogger, and move into my own home, with my own domain and my own armchair.  Please bookmark it and, if you are a fellow blogger, amend the link: www.halfhearteddude.com

The presentation here is a work in progress. Some of the things WordPress used to do for me automatically, I now must do myself. It’s a bit like leaving the caring landlord who painted your walls (but evicted you for putting a nail into the wall for a framed picture) and having to paint my own walls.

So, to get the housewarming going, a batch of songs on the theme of home, quickly collated by executing a couple of searches on my drives. There was enough for a hundred songs, it seems. Not of all of them are lyrically appropriate; Porter Wagoner’s song about an execution, for example. I’m pleased to have opportunity to highlight the great soul crooner Grady Tate. And the Terry Smith song…well, if anybody wants to know the sound of Cape Town, this is it, authentically.

Gil Scott-Heron – Back Home (1974).mp3
Grady Tate – After The Long Drive Home (1974).mp3
Porter Wagoner – Sing Me Back Home (1969).mp3
Sammy Davis Jr – Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home (live, 1967).mp3
Charlie Sexton – Bring It Home Again (2005).mp3
Bo Diddley – Down Home Special (1956).mp3
Terry Smith – Take Me Home (The Cape Town Song).mp3

Step back to 1975 – Part 1

January 15th, 2010 6 comments

The year 1974 morphed into 1975 without it making much of a difference. I became increasingly football mad, and I was still reading Micky Maus comics. I had the same kindly teacher, spent a large part of the week at my grandmother”s, and music didn”t mean all that much. It was there, I enjoyed it, but the passion that once was there had gone. At the age of nine, I was jaded, fallen off Planet Pop. And still I must cover the year in two parts. The songs in this series here are chosen for their ability to transport me back to the year under review. The songs here evoke the first half of 1975, the smell of spring and Easter eggs.

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ABBA ““ So Long.mp3
After winning the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo on 6 April 1974 and topping the UK charts with the song, ABBA thought they had made their big breakthrough. They hadn”t. Their next notable hit in Britain would be S.O.S., a year and a half later. In West Germany, however, ABBA were a permanent fixture. Songs that made little or no impact in Britain provided the soundtrack to my life as an eight and nine-year-old: Honey Honey, Ring Ring, Hasta Manana (featured in the second part for 1974), I Do I Do I Do I Do and So Long. These songs showed ABBA”s versatility, ranging from bubble gum pop to Schlager to glam rock. So Long is a fine glam stomper.

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Udo Jürgens ““ Griechischer Wein.mp3
Udo merits praise for investing some social commentary in his lyrics. Here he dealt German xenophobia a mortal blow, ensuring that Germans and Gastarbeiter would live in perfect harmony, like the keys on an oompah tuba. The song has Udo stumbling into a suburban Greek taverna whose noble patrons relate to him their longing for the old country because that”s where they are accepted. And the Greek wine “” Retsina is horrible stuff, tastes like the sap of a tree “” encourages them in their confessions of homesickness. I don”t think Udo thought that one through much, well-intentioned though his song was. In his representation, the swarthy immigrants (oh yes, he tells us of their swarth) are heavy-drinking emotive cliché-mongers who have no interest in assimilation, just trying to turn a buck so that they can go home again to live la vida loca. Exactly the image which the German xenophobes exploited in their bid not to accept immigrants.

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Rubettes ““ Juke Box Jive
You can set fashions by it: a decade will be revived about 20 years later. We see it now, with the “80s revival (the “90s revival has already started, in as far as that derivative era has anything worth copying). In the 1970s, the “50s made their comeback. Sha Na Na, Grease, The Last Picture Show, Elvis” death”¦and this song, which implores us to do the juke box jive just like we did in “55. In 1975, that seemed such a long time ago. But if we playfully update the lyrics to do the juke box jive just like we did in 1990″¦gulp!

I had the single of this. I lost ownership of it in unjust circumstances, in early 1978. My younger brother and I were eating soup when I made what must have been a very amusing comment, whereupon my brother spew his mouthful of soup all over my bowl. Naturally I refused to eat any more of the spitsoup. My mother, alas, was an enthusiastic enforcer of the empty plate rule. Seeing my problem, she suggested that we swap soups. That was a non-starter, because fraternal saliva would have polluted my brother”s soup as well “” a problem when other people”s bodily fluids could induce utter disgust. So I struck a bargain with my brother: if he eats both bowls of soup, I”ll give him, erm, the single of Juke Box Jive by the mighty Rubettes. Seeing as he had a pathetic collection of records, consisting mainly of fairy tale LPs, he took the bait. I didn”t really like the Rubettes much anymore, but the loss of any record rankled nonetheless.

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Leonard Cohen ““ Lover Lover Lover.mp3
Laughing Len is not really Top 10 fodder; he never had a UK chart entry, as far as I know. But this was a massive hit in West Germany, his only hit there. I have no idea why, of all Cohen songs, Lover Lover Lover became a hit. Well, it is pretty good and quite catchy. I remember singing it in the street, rendering the chorus as luvvel-luvvel-luvvel. The lyrics are classic Cohen: “I asked my father, I said: “˜Father change my name.” The one I”m using now, it”s covered up with fear and filth and cowardice and shame”¦He said: “˜I locked you in this body, I meant it as a kind of trial. You can use it for a weapon, or to make some woman smile”.”

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Barry White ““ You”re The First, My Last, My Everything.mp3
The sunny sound of the “70s. Because of this song and “Love”s Theme”, and the Philly sound (the TSOP theme especially received much airplay in Germany), I associate strings in soul music with my childhood summers. Poor Barry White has become a bit of a joke in some ignorant quarters. The whole Walrus of Lurve nonsense deflects from White as a serious and gifted musician, the creator luscious arrangements and intricate melodies. And he was, of course, a great singer.
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Bimbo Jet – El Bimbo.mp3
I”ve mentioned before that every year there would be at least one (at least mostly) instrumental hit riding high in the German charts. In 1975, it was the unpromisingly titled El Bimbo by the French disco outfit Bimbo Jet. Apparently El Bimbo, a chart-topper in France in 1974, was based on a track by the Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir, titled Tanha Shudham Tanha. I have a recollection of a female singer, possibly Gitte, singing a German vocal version of this song.

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Sweet ““ Fox On The Run.mp3
A different version of Fox On The Run appeared on the group”s 1974 album Desolation Boulevard; the 1975 single was re-recorded, produced by the band. I wouldn”t have known it at the time, but it”s a song about groupies: “I don”t wanna know your name, “˜cause you don”t look the same, the way you did before. OK, you think you got a pretty face, but the rest of you is out of place; you looked all right before.” Charming.

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Shirley & Company ““ Shame Shame Shame.mp3
I think in 1975 the disco sound really crossed over. Where songs like Rock The Boat could be called soul, there was no such interchange between genres with songs like Shame Shame Shame. Shirley Goodman had been around for a long time as an R&B singer. By the late”70s she had retired. Shame Shame Shame was written by Sylvia Robinson, who in the 1960s was half of the soul duo Mickey & Sylvia. She had a soul hit with the very sexy Pillow Talk before founding the All Platinum Records label on which Shame Shame Shame was published. But Robinson”s place in music history is guaranteed as the co-founder of the Sugar Hill label, on which the Sugarhill Gang released Rapper”s Delight, the first rap hit.

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Teach-In – Ding-A-Dong.mp3
In about 1986/87, Heineken ran a very funny commercial on British TV featuring Spitting Image puppets performing really bad Eurovision Contest songs with nonsense titles, not unlike Ding-A-Dong. None of those were bad enough until the British entry, The Chicken Song, scored maximum points everywhere. Of course, Britain had previously enjoyed success with Lulu”s Boom Bang-A-Bang. Ding-A-Dong was Holland”s 1975 winner of the Eurovision Contest, held in Stockholm a year after ABBA”s triumph. There will be no sorrow if you sing a song that goes Ding-Ding-A-Dong, apparently.

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Kenny ““ The Bump.mp3
Listen to this and tell me that Robbie Williams took no inspiration from The Bump for that song he did with Kylie Minogue! The song headlined a short-lived dance, a strange throw-back to the early “60s, when every dance fad produced a hit single. In 1975 there, of course, was also The Hustle, the disco masterpiece by Van McCoy.

The Bump was Kenny”s first hit, and apparently our five pals, still teenagers, had nothing to do with its production. The story goes that the song had already been released under the name Kenny, from a remixed backing track for an abandoned Bay City Rollers song and featuring co-writer Phil Coultier on vocals and backing vocals. The group Chuff was roped in, with a new lead singer, and renamed to present the song, lip synch style, on Top of the Pops. Kenny did not have much success: four hits in 1975 and, whoosh, they were gone “” except in West Germany, where the group lingered on for a couple of years. Confusingly, an Irish singer by the name of Kenny had been releasing records just a year or two before “” on the same label, RAK, as the group Kenny.

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More Stepping Back

The itinerant blogger

January 13th, 2010 10 comments

Yesterday WordPress deactivated my blog at halfhearteddude.wordpress.com. It”s their service I”m using for free, and they were fair enough not to delete all content (as Blogger have done), so I”m not really that outraged at them “” though it would be nice to know who my accusers are. The e-mail from WP refers only to a DMCA complaint. One!

The blog was zapped just four days after I posted a candid analysis of Old Blue Shades” twattery. The timing may be coincidental, or not. The notion that Bozo”s boys might have leapt into action against my musky corner of the blogosphere is at once flattering and disquieting. Bozo”s twattery remains undiminished, whether or not his goons had anything to do with the blog-zap. Just in case they were, I”ve taken my piece on Bozo off this blog. You know, don”t feed the monkeys.

Happily, nothing has been lost “” except my extensive list of links (which I”ll have to rebuild manually when time allows), my pretty good Google ratings, and probably a fair number of readers who will presume that my blog no longer exists. At last my Facebook friends know where I am (go HERE to be a FB friend), and I hope fellow bloggers will update their links. Of course, that slice of genius, totallyfuzzy, will direct readers old and new to this possibly temporary address.

Perhaps it is a good thing that I”ll have to rebuild a readership, if not from scratch, then certainly from a base of lower expectations. I had noticed that I was studying the blog stats a little too compulsively. In the second half of 2009, the daily average of hits was in excess of a thousand (the highest number to visit my bog in a day was something like 1800). So when the daily stats showed below-average hits, I would feel unnerved by that. I started entering into a competition with myself.

So I can see an upside. That is not to say that I am very annoyed, of course. The zapping came at a busy time, when all kinds of routines in my life have been unsettled and I am in desperate need of a holiday, which I cannot take.

As I said, the amdwhah.wordpress.com address will be temporary, so like the late folk-singer Cisco Houston, I’m just be passing through.

Cisco Houston ““ Passing Through.mp3

Postscript: I owe Bonzo a big snivelling apology, having just come across his poem “Elvis”, written in 1995, when he was 12, and performed in May last year on the BBC. What right do I, a mere mortal, have to sneer at Bimbo the Bard who conjures, from places I cannot and would not much like to fathom, artfully wrought verse such as: “elvis the plastic, elvis the elastic with a spastic dance that might explain the energy of america”. I am not worthy of even being made up of similar molecular matter as Bombo! Bingo, pray for me.

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Answer Records Vol. 3

January 12th, 2010 7 comments

In the third instalment of answer Records, we acquire new perspectives on the story of that beastly Runaround Sue, find out whether the addressee of Elvis” question is, in fact, lonely tonight, and learn why Oran “˜Juice” Jones” girlfriend was cheating on him with that alley-cat-coat-wearing, punch-bucket-shoe-wearing crumbcake.


Sue? She”s just a nice girl

Act 1: Dion ““ Runaround Sue.mp3
Young Mr DiMucci feels compelled to warn us about the adulterous and commitment-shy ways of one Sue, prefacing his counsel with the ominous words “hey, hey, hum-ba-diddy-diddy hey hey”, lest we are in any doubt as to how gravely earnest he is about his exhortations to “keep away from a-Runaround Sue”. Dion tells us that he really loved Sue, “her lips and the smile on her face, the touch of her hair and this girl”s warm embrace”. But when he wanted to take this relationship forward, she put him down and instead went out to fuck every man in town. Well, not every man, of course. Sue had scruples. She fucked only the single guys. Dion hails from the Bronx, so that is an awful lot of guys to fuck. So what Dion is really saying, without putting to fine a point on it, is that Sue is a bit of a slut.

Act 2: Danny Jordan – Runaround Sue’s Getting Married.mp3
But, behold, it seems that Dion was not entirely honest with us about Sue”s heroic levels of promiscuity. “I heard a story about a-Runaround Sue,” Danny Jordan notes, assuring us that “if you knew her, you”d know it isn”t true”. She”s not that kind of girl, Danny protests. And his agenda in defending Sue”s virtue soon becomes clear: she”s now Danny”s girl. Not just that, but quite contrary to being commitment shy, Sue is getting married “” and the lucky guy, believe it or not, turns out to be Danny. At this point we half-expect Dion to pop up and note with the bitter sarcasm borne of his own experience with Sue that Danny should not feel too sure in his polished wedding shoes. Good thing he doesn”t, because things between the two lovestruck cats could get ugly. Even in his absence, Danny demands: “Hey Dion, why do you put her down?” and then taunts: “You were just mad because you couldn”t have her”. The argument would doubtless end in violence.

Act 3: Linda Laurie – Stay-At-Home Sue.mp3
It”s only fair that we give Sue (confusingly called Linda Laurie) the final word so as to set matters straight. She tells us, in a rather sad voice, that it was Dion who put her down, offering as a reason the untrue propaganda of Sue”s alleged promiscuity. There is still a connection between Dion and Sue, as shown in the shared “hey, hey, hum-ba-diddy-diddy hey hey”. But Linda-as-Sue assures us that far from banging every guy in town, she is “just a little stay-at-home Sue”, sitting at home crying as Dion was straying. “Keep away from that boy”, she warns other girls, adding that “he is mine”. So it”s not over? Does poor Danny Jordan know?

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All the world”s a stage”¦.

Act 1: Elvis Presley ““ Are You Lonesome Tonight (Laughing version).mp3
Well, we know the song. Couple has split, Elvis feels lonesome tonight and contemplates by way of Shakespeare-references whether she, in her empty-chaired parlour, is feeling as gutted about the break-up as he does. Here”s the live laughing version again, because it certainly beats the straight version.

Act 2: Dodie Stevens – Yes, I”m Lonesome Tonight.mp3
Yay, she is feeling down! As far as answer records go, this one takes the concept very literally. “Yes, I”m lonesome tonight. And I miss you tonight. I”m so sorry we drifted apart. And my memories strains to those wonderful days when you kissed me and called me sweetheart” etc. Dodie “” all of 14 years at the time, just like Elvis liked them (even if the single”s flip side is called Too Young) “” even gives us a monologue about the world being a stage. We discover what exactly did go wrong. Seems like a manipulative friend of undetermined age came between them. Now Dodie wants Elvis to take her back, as he surely will. A clean, happy, illegal-in-most-states ending.

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She without Jheri curl gigolo jerk is like cornflakes without the milk

Act 1: Oran “˜Juice” Jones ““ The Rain.mp3
Picture the pathetic scene as the delightfully named Oran “˜Juice” Jones stands in the rain surveying his girlfriend holding hands with him. Back home, Oran confronts the girl, setting the scene for one of the great break-ups in pop: “Hey hey, baby, how ya doin”. Come on in here. Got some hot chocolate on the stove waiting for you. Listen, first things first, let me hang up the coat. Yeah, how was your day today? Did you miss me? You did? Yeah? I missed you too. I missed you so much, I followed you today. That”s right, now close your mouth “cause you cold busted. Now just sit down here, sit down here, I”m so upset with you I don”t know what to do. You know my first impulse was to run up on you and do a Rambo. I was about to jam you and flat blast both of you. But I didn”t wanna mess up this thirty-seven hundred dollar lynx coat. So instead I chilled.”

That”s right, he chilled. Clearly a man of means, Oran emptied her bank account, cancelled her credit cards, took back every piece of jewellery he had ever bought him, and packed up all the stuff he had not bought her so that she can move out. But not before he gives her a devastatingly cruel and condescending lecture, because, as he notes: “You don’t mess with the Juice!” Just as he does not mess with humility.

“I gave you things you couldn”t even pronounce! But now I can”t give you nothing but advice. “Cause you”re still young, yeah, you”re young. And you”re gonna find somebody like me one of these days”¦ Until then, you know what you gotta do? You gotta get on outta here with that alley-cat-coat-wearing, punch-bucket-shoe-wearing crumbcake I saw you with. “Cause you dismissed! That”s right, silly rabbit, tricks are made for kids, don”t you know that. You without me is like cornflakes without the milk! This is my world. You”re just a squirrel trying to get a nut! Now get on outta here. Scat!” And the final admonition: “Don”t touch that coat!”

Act 2: Miss Thang – Thunder And Lightning.mp3
Having had to listen to The Juice”s tirade, Miss Thang (and doesn”t that moniker just inspire confidence?) sets the record straight as a man, ostensibly Oran, complains, ad nauseam, about thunder and lightning being a quiet storm. In the background, Miss Thang, a material girl, lays it on him: “It’s about time you saw me and him walkin” in the rain. As a matter of fact, that seemed to be the first thing you noticed about me in months.” Oooh!

But she”s only getting warmed up: “Don”t be frontin” like you gonna pull no Rambo on me because no attitudeless, Jheri curl gigolo jerk is gonna put his hands on me.” Ouch! But what of his largesse towards you, Miss Thang? Why, “as for those electroplated slum gold chains you gave me last Valentine”s Day: What, did they have a sale at Chains-R-Us? You walkin” around like you so fly in that $37 rabbit coat [note the knock-down from the $3,700 lynx coat he gave her]. Honey, that coat had to be destroyed last week after it bit the neighbour”s child.” Touché. Still, the loss of Oran”s financial subsidies will hurt, won”t it, Miss Thang? Evidently not: “My man got me a new Gold American Express card, and I”ll never leave home without it. But as you know, I”ve been leavin” home without you, baby.” Pow! “Oh, honey, you packed my bags! There was never any room in that closet anyway. Not with all your budget Ballys and fake Fila.” Boom tish! And Oran needn”t call her a cab. “Because you know that alley cat crumb cake you”ve been dissin”? Well, he”s pickin” me up in his brand new BMW “” unlike that ugly gold El Dorado love mobile you call transportation.” And now she must go, and Oran can drink that hot chocolate he made himself before it gets cold.

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Twattery in Pop: Bono again

January 8th, 2010 16 comments

We should have seen it coming when this occasional series started: that megalomaniac twat Bono will do all he can to monopolise it. I have resisted taking the bait, but the man known to the Irish tax authorities as Loopholin” Paul Hewson and to his immediate family as That Fecking Prat would not let up. And here the man called Bono Vox (which surely is an unprintable Gaelic insult) features for the second time on Twattery in Pop. Read more…

Intros Quiz – UK #1s edition

January 6th, 2010 2 comments

In October, the monthly intros quiz consisted of  US #1s; now it’s British chart-toppers from 1957 to 1988. Not all of them are classics but sufficiently well enough (except number 19, which only people living in Britain in 1986 would know). All songs are in chronological order of reaching the top of the UK charts.

As always, each of the 20 intros is 5-7 seconds in length (OK, one is only four seconds). I will post the answers in the comments section by Monday, so please don”t post your answers. If you can”t wait till then to find out what the blasted number 10 is, please feel free to e-mail me or, better, message me on Facebook. If you”re not my FB friend, click here and become one.

Intros Quiz ““ UK #1s edition

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In Memoriam Vol. 4

January 3rd, 2010 6 comments

Inevitably, I missed a few dead musicians in the In Memoriam series. I picked up three as I perused the AM, Then FM blog.  In my defence, two of those were actors who occasionally sang, but I had thought of both while driving, and then forgot to include them. But how I could forget Sam Butera when I trumpeted his death on my regular message board? And then I came across a few more. As I have stressed, I make no claims of having compiled a complete list of music’s departed in 2009.

So will you please add the following to your In Memoriam folder:

Sam Butera,81,  influential tenor saxophonist and arranger with Louis Prima’s backing band The Witnesses, on June 3.
Sam Butera & the Witnesses – Bim Bam.mp3

Ricardo Montalbán, 88, actor who appeared in several musicals, on January 14.
Ricardo Montalbán – Chihuahua Choo Choo.mp3

Mercedes Sosa, 74, Argentian folk singer and anti-fascist activist, on October 4.
Mercedes Sosa – La Maza.mp3

Blossom Dearie, 84, jazz vocalist and pianist, on February 7.
Blossom Dearie – Give Him The Ooh-La-La.mp3

Dickie Peterson, 63, lead singer and bassist of psychedelic rock band Blue Cheer (whose cover of Summertime Blues is sometimes called the first heavy metal song), on October 12.
Blue Cheer – Summertime Blues.mp3

Bud Shank, 82, jazz saxophonist and flautist, on April 2.
Bud Shank – I Am The Walrus.mp3

Rowland S Howard, 50, member of Australian band The Birthday Party and Nick Cave sideman, on December 30.
The Birthday Party – Nick The Stripper.mp3

Patrick Swayze, 57, actor and some-time singer, on September 14.
Patrick Swayze – She’s Like The Wind.mp3

Brittany Murphy, 32, actress who sometimes sang, on December 20.
Brittany Murphy – Somebody To Love.mp3

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In Memoriam Vol. 3

January 1st, 2010 9 comments

Darren of the Inveresk Street blog rightly pointed out that most of the musicians who died in 2009 featured in the two previous posts lived to a ripe age. As every year, there were exceptions. Poor Taylor Mitchell, for example, was only 19 and had just released her debut album when she was attacked and killed by coyotes. Others who died young in 2009 included Jeff Hanson (31), Steven Gately (33), guitarist Jack Rose (38), Chris Feinstein of The Cardinals (42), Vic Chesnutt (45), Jay Bennett (45) and, of course, Michael Jackson (50) (EDIT: as well as former Nick Cave sideman Rowland S. Howard on December 30). Granted, it”s not a death epidemic of 1970/71 proportions. I”ve tried to pay tribute to a few forgotten people in pop, including session musicians of whom we may know nothing but whose work we know well. What would When A Man Loves A Woman be without Barry Beckett’s keyboard, and Motown without the Funk Brothers, whose drummer Uriel Jones died in 2009?

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Barry “˜The Bear” Beckett, 66, soul keyboard player, producer and A&R man, on June 10
(Percy Sledge ““ When A Man Loves A Woman)

Jeff Wingfield, 69, briefly lead guitarist of The Left Banke, on June 11
(The Left Banke – She May Call You Up Tonight)

Bobby Graham, 69, British session drummer who appeared on classics such as The Kinks” You Really Got Me, Petula Clark”s Downtown and the song featured here, on September 14
(Dusty Springfield – I Only Want To Be With You)

Larry Knechtel, 69, guitarist and keyboard player of Bread (the guitar solo on Guitar Man is his) who as a session man collaborated with Phil Spector on the Wall of Sound productions and played the piano on Simon & Garfunkel”s Bridge Over Troubled Water, August 20
(Bread – The Guitar Man)

Vic Chesnutt, 45, singer-songwriter, on December 25
(Vic Chesnutt – You Are Never Alone)

Tim Hart, 61, singer with folk-rockers Steeleye Span, on December 24
(Steeleye Span – John Barleycorn)

James Gurley, 70, guitarist of Big Brother & the Holding Company and Janis Joplin”s ex-lover, on December 20
(Big Brother & the Holding Company – Combination Of The Two)

Mick Cocks, guitarist with Rose Tattoo (and the fourth member of the group to die since 2006), on December 22
(Rose Tattoo ““ Fightin” Sons)

Kelly Groucutt, 63, bassist of the Electric Light Orchestra whose backing vocals can be heard on the featured track, on February 19
(ELO – The Diary Of Horace Wimp)

Stephen Gately, 33, singer and former member of Boyzone, on October 10
(Stephen Gately – New Beginning)

Hank Crawford, 74, jazz and R&B saxophone player, on January 29
(Hank Crawford ““ Wildflower)

Dan Seals, 67, half of cumbersomely named soft rock duo England Dan & John Ford Coley, on March 25
(England Dan & John Ford Coley – Some Things Don’t Come Easy)

Winston Mankunku Ngozi, 66, South African jazz master, on October 22
(Winston Mankunku Ngozi – Lagunya Khayelitsha)

Louie Bellson, 84, legendary jazz drummer, on February 14
(Louie Bellson – Hot)

Les Paul, 94, guitar inventor and virtuoso, on August 13
(Les Paul – Meet Mister Callaghan)

Yvonne King, 89, of the King Sisters (not the King Singers!), on December 13
(The King Sisters – Sweet Leilani)

Soupy Sales, 83, comedian, on October 22
(Soupy Sales – My Baby’s Got A Crush On Frankenstein)

Jimmy Boyd, 70, juvenile star of the 1950s who sang the original of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, on March 7
(Frankie Laine & Jimmy Boyd – Tell Me A Story)

Duke D’Mond, 66, singer with English comedy troupe The Barron Knights, on April 9
(The Barron Knights – A Taste Of Aggro)

Renato Plagiari, 66, half of the one-hit wonders Renée & Renato and the voice of the UK”s late “70s Just One Cornetto commercial, on July 27
(Ren̩e & Renato РSave Your Love)

Maurice Jarre, 84, film composer, on March 29
(Maurice Jarre – Doctor Zhivago Theme)

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