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The Brill Building Covered Vol. 1

November 25th, 2020 8 comments

A number of people lately commented that they had discovered this corner of the Internet only recently. Some might trawl back a few years to catch up — I think most mixes are still up — but not everybody will. So I shall periodically repost good mixes which time has swallowed. “Recycling Wednesday”, we might call it. Here’s one from seven years ago, which in October 2013 I optimistically dubbed “Vol. 1”; I never got around to do a second volume. Maybe this post will be so popular as to get my sorry ass moving in that regard.

 

Brill Building Covered

 

It might be the greatest hit machine in pop history, in the good company of Tin Pan Alley and Motown; its influence on pop music was pivotal. The Brill Building was in New York, but the songs were recorded on both sides of the US coast, and anywhere in between.

The Brill Building, at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in Manhattan, serves as the collective term for the song factory that created an incredible string of classic pop hits in the 1960s. It was really an office block of music publishers, housing 165 of them in 1962. The songs were mostly written up the road, such as in the buildings at 1650 Broadway, HQ of Aldon Music, and at 1697 Broadway, the latter also housing the CBS TV auditorium, now known as the Ed Sullivan Theater.

The scene was a veritable hit conveyor belt, with songwriters working their 9-to-5s in cubicles, expected to turn in their masterpieces at regular intervals, often at command. Many of these songwriters, usually teams of two, have become legends in the trade: Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield, Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann… Some of these were supervised by another legendary pair of writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, or by impresarios such as Don Kirshner, the co-owner of Aldon Music who’d later launch The Monkees. Neil Diamond launched his superstar career from the base of the Brill Buildings, were he started out as a songwriter, as did a youngster named Jerry Landis, whom you’d now address as Paul Simon, and the great, underrated Laura Nyro.

The Brill Building became a byname for a sound in the early 1960s, when producers like Phil Spector recorded them with acts like The Ronettes and The Chiffons (also receiving co-writing credits on some), and bands like the Beach Boys borrowed their songs. Many of the songs were recorded in LA with the backing of The Wrecking Crew, a group of session musicians on whom I intend to spend some time in future posts. In New York, acts like The Drifters relied on the Brill Building to supply their long string of timeless hits. British acts also recorded the Brill Sound. The Searchers did several, The Animals scored a huge hit with one, as did Manfred Mann, and The Beatles played one track, featured here, at their ill-fated Decca audition (they later recorded The Cookies’ “Chains”, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King).

 

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

It is sometimes argued that the Brill Building scene tamed rock & roll. Here music was run by business people as a business. The spontaneity and rebellion of the individualistic rock & roll was now displaced by managed calculation with both eyes on the bottomline, the argument goes.

I don’t quite buy it. When RCA signed Elvis, it calculated on his image. Most labels did the same. In fact, rock & roll had been tamed by the time Phil Spector collaborated with Greenwich and Barry to create hits like “Be My Baby”. Almost concurrent with the Brill Sound, Barry Gordy in Detroit constructed another hit factory that was rooted entirely in commercial calculation. In both instances, the entrepreneurs made their money, and we received a rich legacy of astonishing music.

Rock & roll would soon reassert its rebellion anyway, with the advent of the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, The Who and so on. At the same time, the Brill Building left us with an arsenal of incredible, timeless songs. Featured here are 26 of them, mostly covers. If the mix goes down well, there’ll be a second volume to include all the songs you just cannot believe I have omitted.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-decomposed covers. PW is the same as always.

1. The Beach Boys – I Can Hear Music (1969, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
2. Dion and The Belmonts – Save The Last Dance For Me (1960, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman)
3. The Four Seasons – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (1964, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield)
4. Helen Shapiro – It Might As Well Rain Until September (1964, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
5. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Then He Kissed Me (1963, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
6. The Searchers – Da Doo Ron Ron (1963, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
7. Françoise Hardy – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1968, King & Goffin)
8. Laura Nyro – Up On The Roof (Live) (1971, King & Goffin)
9. Cissy Houston – Be My Baby (1971, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
10. Peggy Lee – (You Made Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman (1969, King & Goffin)
11. Dusty Springfield – That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho) (1969, King & Goffin)
12. Dobie Gray – River Deep, Mountain High (1973, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
13. The 5th Dimension – Soul And Inspiration (1974, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)
14. The Persuasions – Chapel Of Love (1979, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
15. The Beatles – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1962, King & Goffin)
16. The Walflower Complextion – Hanky Panky (1966, Barry & Greenwich)
17. The Mamas and The Papas – Spanish Harlem (1966, Jerry Leiber & Phil Spector)
18. Carpenters – One Fine Day (1973, King & Goffin)
19. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1972, Mann, Weil & Spector)
20. Blue Öyster Cult – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (1978, Mann & Weil)
21. Grand Funk Railroad – The Loco-Motion (1974, King & Goffin)
22. Ramones – Needles And Pins (1978, Jack Nitzsche & Sonny Bono)
23. Tracey Ullman – Where The Boys Are (1984, Sedaka & Greenfield)
24. Dave Edmunds – Baby I Love You (1972, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
25. Bette Midler – Leader Of The Pack (1972, Morton, Barry, Greenwich)
26. Ellie Greenwich – Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home (1973, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)

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In Memoriam – October 2020

November 5th, 2020 6 comments

 

Do you hear the people sing? The remarkable man who wrote those words for the musical Les Misérables died in October, as did two triple-named country outlaw legends, two reggae pioneers, and three men who gave their names to eminent bands. Fans of The Originals will enjoy hearing the first recordings of hits for Waylon Jennings (I’m A Ramblin’ Man), Willie Nelson (Whiskey River) and the classic Mr Bojangles.

The Professor
In his young days, Spencer Davis almost casually came into contact with future music legends, a status he himself attained before he was 30. One of his early bands included future Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (then still William Perks). Then he got a girlfriend called Christine Perfect, who as Christine McVie became a creative force in Fleetwood Mac. And in 1963, Davis discovered 15-year-old Stevie Winwood and roped him and Stevie’s brother Muff into the band that would became the Spencer Davis Group. The band would rack up for UK Top 10 hits and two consecutive UK #1s, all with Stevie on vocals, all ’60s classics, especially Keep On Running and Gimme Some Lovin’.

The band stopped running in 1969, after Stevie had decamped to form Traffic two years earlier. Davis, known by many as “Professor” due to his university education — he had studied German, a language in which the band recorded a couple of novelty records — went to the US and recorded a couple of success-evading albums, reformed an iteration of the Spencer Davis Group to little interest. By the mid-1970s he was working as an executive for Island Records.

The Axeman
Confession time: much as I admire the technical skills and acknowledge the influence of the guitar soloing of Eddie Van Halen, they never were my cup of vodka & coke. Of course they were quite breathtaking in their technique, as is the expertise in synchronised swimming. But that should not detract from how they, and Eddie’s band, practically set the 1980s “hair rock” craze in motion. Eddie was one of the pivotal figures in rock history, and also in pop: his guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s Beat It, which at the time sounded super-hard, helped metal cross over into pop.

The Soul-Reggae Pioneer
Soul singer Johnny Nash was one of the pioneers of reggae in the UK especially. A superb soul singer, Nash recorded since he was 18 in 1958, but the decisive event was when he moved to Jamaica in the 1965. There he was influenced by the rising rocksteady scene, and recorded in that genre himself. That fusion of what would become known as reggae and US soul brought Nash three Top 10 hits in the UK in 1968/69. Three years later he had a #13 hit with a version of Stir It Up, the song by Bob Marley, who still had to break internationally. But soon came Nash’s own anthem: the much-covered I Can See Clearly Now. Another three years later, he topped the UK charts with the lilting reggae-soul number Tears On My Pillow. But that style wasn’t his only trick: Nash also released some very good soul albums, until he semi-retired from the music business in 1980.

The Drumming Centenarian
We have featured several centenarians over the years, but was any as old as 107? That is the age jazz drummer Viola Smith reached before she died five weeks short of her 108th. Her career went back to the 1920s when her concert hall-owner father set up his eight daughters in an all-girl band which he called the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra (later Smith Sisters Orchestra). As her five elder sisters chose all the instruments Viola wanted to play, she settled for drums. The band broke out in the early 1930s, but by 1938 Viola and sister Mildred formed their own all-female swing band, The Coquettes, which lasted till Mildred got married in 1942. Viola then joined the Hour of Charm Orchestra, also all-female, in which she earned the reputation of being “the female Gene Krupa”. All these bands, and some that followed, were stage acts who didn’t put their music to record.

Not surprisingly, starting in the early ‘40s, Viola advocated for equality between men and women in music. In an interview on her 107th birthday last year, Smith said she still drummed on stage occasionally.

The Gospel-Soul Man
In the 1970s, few gospel groups crossed over as well as The Rance Allen Group, a band of three brothers led by, you guessed it, Rance Allen. The lyrics might have been about the Christian faith, though even then many could be taken as inspirational, but the music was soul; channeling Chi-Lites or Sly Stone rather than Andrae Crouch. Indeed, in their performance at the legendary Wattstax festival, Rance and brothers referenced Dance To The Music after delivering a shredding guitar solo. In that way, the group paved the way for acts like Kirk Franklin and The Winans.

Rance himself was a powerful singer with a great range; he could sing ballads and also hit the high notes like the funkiest soul screamer. Later was made a bishop in his church.

The Mr Bojangles Writer
Outlaw country singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker will always be remembered for writing the great Mr Bojangles, a song about a street performer whom he met in a holding cell in 1965. The story of that featured in The Originals: The Classics. Walker never reached the heights of fellow Outlaw singers, like Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings, but he was influential enough to receive a namecheck in Jennings’ Luckenbach, Texas (“Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Jerry Jeff’s train songs…”).

The Other Outlaw
It was a bad month indeed for outlaw country musicians with three names: shortly after Walker, Billy Joe Shaver died (David Allen Coe and Michael Martin Murphey must be getting nervous now). Like Walker, Shaver was a collaborator with Waylon Jennings. And where Jennings was namechecked by Jennings, Shaver was mentioned in song by Bob Dylan (on 2009’s I Feel a Change Comin’ On). Shaver recorded 17 studio albums in his time, but he was especially prolific as a songwriter whose compositions were recorded by other big names in country.  As it happens, Jerry Jeff Walker was among them, featuring here with one of Shaver’s finest songs.

Shaver certainly was a character: In 2007, he shot a fellow named Billy Bryant Coker in the face with a handgun. Luckily, Coker’s injuries weren’t life-threatening. Shaver said he had acted in self-defence after Coker threatened him with a knife. According to witnesses, Shaver had asked Coker before shooting: “Where do you want it?” Having shot the guy, he demanded: “Tell me you are sorry. Nobody tells me to shut up.” Some years later Shaver told NPR that Coker indeed said “I’m sorry” after being shot. The singer said that Coker had been a bully and “I hit him right between a mother and a fucker.” A court acquitted Shaver.

The Writer
Here’s a thought: the same guy who wrote the lyrics for the silly novelty records by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren in the early 1960s (including the vaguely racist Goodness Gracious Me) later wrote the profound and moving lyrics for the musical Les Misérables. South African-born English writer Herbert Kretzmer (whose brother went on to become mayor of Johannesburg) also wrote the English lyrics for the Charles Aznavour hit She, the Streisand favourite When You Gotta Go, the much-covered Yesterday When I Was Young, and — within hours of John F Kennedy’s assassination — the tribute song In The Summer Of His Years.

Kretzmer was also an award-winning journalist in Britain, as a long-running TV critic and as an interviewer of the likes of John Steinbeck, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Sugar Ray Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Henry Miller, Cary Grant and Duke Ellington.

As before, this post is included in PDF format in the package.

Lisa Schouw, South African-born singer of Australian band Girl Overboard, on Oct. 2
Girl Overboard – Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1989, also as co-writer)

Cookie Monsta, 31, British dubstep producer, on Oct. 2

Anthony Galindo, 41, Venezuelan singer, suicide on Oct. 3

Béatrice Arnac, 89, French singer, composer and actress, on Oct. 5
Béatrice Arnac – Athée ou à Té (1973)

Eddie Van Halen, 65, Dutch-born guitarist, composer, co-founder of Van Halen, on Oct. 6
Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love (1978)
Nicolette Larson – Can’t Get Away From You (1979, on guitar)
Michael Jackson – Beat It (1982, on guitar)
Van Halen – Hot For Teacher (1984)

Johnny Nash, 80, singer-songwriter, on Oct. 6
Johnny Nash – Love Ain’t Nothin’ (1964)
Johnny Nash – You Got Soul (1968)
Johnny Nash – Say It Ain’t True (1975)
Ray Charles – I Can See Clearly Now (1978, as writer)

Bunny Lee, 79, Jamaican reggae producer, on Oct. 6
Delroy Wilson – Better Must Come (1971, as writer and producer)
Eric Donaldson – Cherry Oh Baby (1971, as producer)

Reverend John Wilkins, 76, blues musician, on Oct. 6
Reverend John Wilkins – Trouble (2020) ORDER

Ray Pennington, 86, country singer-songwriter, in a fire on Oct. 7
Ray Pennington – Ramblin’ Man (1967, also as writer)

Brian Locking, 81, bassist with British guitar band The Shadows (1962-63), on Oct. 8
The Shadows – Dance On (1963)
Donovan – Catch The Wind (1965, on bass)

Pierre Kezdy, 58, punk bass player, on Oct. 9

David Refael ben Ami, 70, Israeli singer, COVID-19 on Oct. 9

Harold Betters, 92, jazz trombonist, on Oct. 11
Harold Betters – Do Anything You Wanna (1969)

Kim Massie, 63, blues singer, on Oct. 12

Saint Dog, 44, rapper with Kottonmouth Kings, on Oct. 13
Kottonmouth Kings – Life Ain’t What It Seems (1998)

Paul Matters, bassist of AC/DC (1975), on Oct. 14

Herbert Kretzmer, 95, South African-born lyricist, on Oct. 14
Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – Bangers & Mash (1961, as lyricist)
Dusty Springfield – Yesterday When I Was Young (1972, as lyricst)
Charles Aznavour – She (1974, as lyricist)
Les Misérables Cast (London) – One Day More (1985, as lyricist)

Dave Munden, 76, English drummer and singer with The Tremeloes, on Oct. 15
The Tremeloes – Even The Bad Times Are Good (1967)
The Tremeloes – Me And My Life

Johnny Bush, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 16
Johnny Bush – Whiskey River (1972, also as co-writer)

Toshinori Kondo, 71, Japanese avant garde jazz trumpeter, on Oct. 17

Gordon Haskell, 74, English singer-songwriter and musician, on Oct. 17
King Crimson – Lady Of The Dancing Water (1970l, as member on bass)
Gordon Haskell – How Wonderful You Are (2001)

José Padilla, 64, Spanish DJ, producer of Café del Mar CDs, on Oct. 18
José Padilla feat. Angela John – Who Do You Love (1998)

Chet ‘JR’ White, 40, bassist with Indie band Girls, producer, on Oct. 18
Girls – Lust For Life (2009, also as producer)

Alfredo Cerruti, 78, Italian producer, singer, author, on Oct. 18

Tony Lewis, 62, bassist, songwriter with English band The Outfield, on Oct. 19
The Outfield – Your Love (1985)

Overton Berry, 84, jazz pianist, on Oct. 19

Spencer Davis, 81, Welsh musician, on Oct. 19
Spencer Davis Group – Keep On Running (1965)
Spencer Davis Group – Det war in Schöneberg (1966)
Spencer Davis Group – Mr Second Class (1969)

Viola Smith, 107, American drummer, on Oct. 21
The Coquettes – The Snake Charmer (1939)

Margie Bowes, 79, country singer, on Oct. 22
Margie Bowes – Poor Old Heartsick Me (1959)

Jerry Jeff Walker, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 23
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Stoney (1970)
Jerry Jeff Walker – L.A. Freeway (1972)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Pissin’ In The Wind (1975)

Cal Vin, 35, Zimbabwean singer and rapper, in a hit-and-run on Oct. 24

Stan Kesler, 92, songwriter, musician and producer, on Oct. 26
Elvis Presley with Scotty & Bill – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (1955, as writer)
Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs – Wooly Bully (1965, as producer)

Dolores Abril, 86, Spanish folkloric singer, on Oct. 26

Cano Estremera, 62, Puerto Rican salsa singer, on Oct. 27

Billy Joe Shaver, 81, country singer and songwriter, on Oct. 27
Billy Joe Shaver – Black Rose (1973)
The Allman Brothers Band – Sweet Mama (1975, as writer)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Old Five And Dimers Like Me (1976, as writer)
Billy Joe Shaver with Kris Kristofferson – No Earthly Good (2007)

Lou Pallo, 86, guitarist with Les Paul and His Trio, on Oct. 27

James Broad, singer, guitarist, songwriter with UK indie band Silver Sun, on Oct. 30
Silver Sun – Golden Skin (1997)

Rance Allen, 71, gospel singer and bandleader, on Oct. 31
The Rance Allen Group – There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (1972)
The Rance Allen Group – Up Above My Head (1972, live at Wattstax)
The Rance Allen Group – Harlem Heaven (1975)
The Rance Allen Group – Some People (1980)

Marc Fosset, 71, French jazz guitarist, on Oct. 31

Sean Connery, 90, Scottish actor, on Oct. 31
Janet Munro & Sean Connery – Pretty Irish Girl (1959)

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Standing Together

November 2nd, 2020 27 comments

 

 

Dedicated followers of this quiet corner of the Internet might have found the site down for the past week. What happened? Well, it got attacked by hackers, infesting it with malware. I like to blame the spraytanned sphinctermouth’s agents for it, but it might just have been a coincidence that it followed the post of songs about orange.

Fixing the damage was quite expensive, and due to my current circumstances (thanks, 2020!) beyond my immediate possibilities. I posted of my woes on Facebook, and a number of followers came through in a big way, chipping in with contributions that enabled me to pay a service that removes malware and — importantly, as it turns out — protect me from Sphinctermouth’s agents.

This awkwardly-named mix is my thanks to the people who contributed so generously. It tells of friendship and solidarity. And, in good halfhearted fashion, it’s absurdly eclectic. So we have Syl Johnson covering The Beatles in funky fashion on an LP titled Is It Because I Am Black?, and eight tracks later a Beatle sings a kids’ song. And… I wasn’t aiming for irony. Yes, I’ll say it: I like We All Stand Together. It’s cute, it has a nice melody, and it is highly satisfying to sing along to it. Try it if you don’t believe me.

The reaction of people who came out to save this site has lifted me. They came from different places. They came from JB, who really wants Biden to win next week, and from TG, who supports Sphinctermouth. Music brings us together. Big support came from old friends from the early days of music blogging, and from some people unknown to me, but whom I shall love as I love my old compadres.

The support of kind people on Facebook — monetary and moral — has ensured the survival of the Any Major Dude With Half A Heart in more than technical ways. I was toying with the idea of retiring this blog, albeit with no firm plans of doing so. Their love showed that my work is actually appreciated, and thus has validated and encouraged me. I shall lock that in my heart, and draw from it every time a post gets no comments.

As ever, CD-R length, home-begged covers, PW in comments.

1. Big Star – Thank You Friends (1975)
2. Steely Dan – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (1974)
3. The Undisputed Truth – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
4. Rosetta Hightower – Friendship Train (1971)
5. Frederick Knight – Lean On Me (1973)
6. The Persuasions – He Ain’t Heavy / You’ve Got A Friend (1971)
7. Carole King – We Are All In This Together (1974)
8. Buzzy Linhart – Friends (1971)
9. The Kinks – All Of My Friends Were There (1968)
10. The Kingston Trio – Let’s Get Together (1964)
11. Wilbert Harrison – Let’s Work Together (1969)
12. Syl Johnson – Come Together (1970)
13. Leon Haywood – You Need A Friend Like Mine (1975)
14. Arrival – Friends (1969)
15. Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (1978)
16. Randy Travis – Heroes and Friends (1990)
17. Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (live) (1998)
18. Barenaked Ladies – If I Had $1000000 (1992)
19. Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr. – Me And My Shadow (1963)
20. Paul McCartney – We All Stand Together (1984)

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Any Major Orange

October 20th, 2020 11 comments

There is a saying that when the USA catches a cold, the world catches the ‘flu. Economically that may be true, but these days, when the USA catches Covid-19, the world shakes its head and says: “These clown are even crazier than we are.”

US voters will go to the polls in a couple of weeks’ time with an opportunity to get rid of the spraypainted blustermachine of venom and lies which has turned their country into an international laughing stock. And that is of vital interest to the world as well, because a United States that is run sensibly and with something approaching ethics (which, granted, it is only about 30% of the time) is better for the world than one that is so weak that it empowers Russia and China, and so hate-filled that it emboldens Nazis everywhere.

And while they are at it, US voters should also send packing those craven and spineless reptiles in the Houses of Congress who have enabled that racist, women-sexually-assaulting, truth-destroying, hatemongering, psychopathically misanthropic sphincter-mouth in the White House. Do it for your country, and do it for the world. And if you think others will do it for you because Biden has such a great lead: remember 2016!

And all this leads us into the Any Major Orange mix. A random mix (and aren’t they sometimes the best?) of songs that somehow riff on the theme of orange.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes an orange cover. PW in comments, where you might like to add “Orange Songs” to the list.

And, for the sake of love, vote that madman out of office!

1. Earth, Wind & Fire – Evolution Orange (1981)
2. The Attack – Lady Orange Peel (1968)
3. Lemon Pipers – Jelly Jungle Of Orange Marmalade (1968)
4. Peter Sarstedt – Frozen Orange Juice (1969)
5. Love – Orange Skies (1966)
6. Trash Can Sinatras – Orange Fell (1993)
7. Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky (2002)
8. 10,000 Maniacs – Orange (1992)
9. John Prine – Bruised Orange (Chain Of Sorrow) (1978)
10. Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special (1969)
11. Bright Eyes – Bowl Of Oranges (2002)
12. R.E.M. – Orange Crush (Live) (2003)
13. Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks – Orange Crate Art (1995)
14. Tori Amos with Damien Rice – Power Of The Orange Knickers (2005)
15. Erykah Badu – Orange Moon (2000)
16. Mr. & Mrs. Garvey – Orange Nickelodeon (1968)
17. Bob Dylan & The Band – Orange Juice Blues (Blues For Breakfast) (1975)
18. Nat ‘King’ Cole with Stan Kenton – Orange Colored Sky (1950)
19. Eddie Burns – Orange Driver (1961)
20. Gilbert Bécaud – L’orange (1964)
21. Sesame Street – Fuzzy And Blue (And Orange) (1981)

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Beatles Recovered: Please Please Me

October 8th, 2020 8 comments

On 9 October, John Lennon would have turned 80. It’s a troubling math: the original rock & rollers are all octogenarians, or are inexorably heading that way (some, of course, already are nonagenarians). But then, almost all original punks are in their sixties now. And the punks would have been children when The Beatles first hit the scene in 1962/63.

After the initially stuttering success of first single, Love Me Do, the four lads from Liverpool suddenly exploded to become a phenomenon. Nobody had an idea about what incredible history would be launched when The Beatles — aged between 22 and 19 — entered the EMI studios in London’s Abbey Road in 1962 to record their first couple of sides, nor even when they returned on 11 February to record the rest of their debut album.

For the accomplished George Martin, it apparently was an act of penance to be assigned the job of producing these raw amateurs. It didn’t matter much that they didn’t have much material of their own; it was standard to record cover versions as fillers, and that first album was full of them: Anna, Chains, Boys, Baby It’s You, A Taste Of Honey, Twist And Shout (hear the originals of these at …..).

But they also had self-written songs which suggested that these boys McCartney and Lennon had something special. Love Me Do, Please Please Me, I Saw Her Standing There, Do You Want to Know A Secret, or PS I Love You are all excellent to very good songs. Even Ask Me Why, There’s A Place and Misery are not bad, though quite forgettable.

Most of the album was recorded, almost as a live set, on that single day on 11 February 1963. By then, Love Me Do had peaked at #17, and Please Please Me was climbing up the charts, were it would peak at #2. The album cover still suggested Love Me Do was the drawcard, but more or less coinciding with the LP’s release, From Me To You broke big, the first of 11 consecutive #1s.

So here we have Please Please Me recovered, with Carole King singing her composition Chains — which The Beatles covered from The Cookies — and Sonny Curtis giving Do You Want To Know A Secret a flamenco treatment. Towards the end it all becomes a bit novelty, with Mae West drawling her way through From Me To You in the Christmas spirit — you want to hear it, but not for the appreciation of excellence of vocal.

I’m adding the non-album single tracks of the Please Please Me era, particularly She Loves You. Here it is performed by 1980s English comedian Ted Chippington, whose stand-up relied on his delivery of jokes so bad that some idiots would heckle him — and these trapped dupes would be the subject of his jokes. Seeing Chippington in action was a delight. As is his She Loves You, which fuses the Peter Sellers of the past with the Richard Cheese of the future. (The teutonic Sellers version is included as a bonus track.)

As always, CD-R length, home-yeah-yeahed covers. PW in comments.

1. Jerry Garcia – I Saw Her Standing There (1982)
2. Flamin’ Groovies – Misery (1976)
3. The Tams – Anna (Go To Him) (1964)
4. Carole King – Chains (1980)
5. Lee Curtis & The All Stars – Boys (1965)
6. Les Lionceaux – Je suis fou (Ask Me Why) (1964)
7. Mary Wells – Please Please Me (1965)
8. Sandie Shaw – Love Me Do (1969)
9. Keely Smith – P.S. I Love You (1965)
10. Smith – Baby, It’s You (1969)
11. Sonny Curtis – Do You Want To Know A Secret (1964)
12. Sarah Vaughan – A Taste Of Honey (1965)
13. The Smithereens – There’s A Place (2008)
14. The Miracles – Twist And Shout (1963)
15. Mae West – With Love From Me To You (1966)
16. Ted Chippington – She Loves You (1986)
17. The Merseyboys – I’ll Get You (1964)

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More Beatles Recovered:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Beatles Recovered: Abbey Road
Beatles Revcovered: Let It Be

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In Memoriam – September 2020

October 1st, 2020 4 comments

This was a relentlessly nasty month, as the number of 12 write-ups shows — in a month when I really didn’t have much time for that! It was particularly bad for soul singers and bassists. Still listing deaths from Covid-19, because as the orange commander of the Proud Stormtroopers said: “It is what it is.”

The Reggae Legend
To reggae fans, the question of Maytals or Wailers is akin to pop fans arguing about Beatles or Stones. Certainly, the Maytals’ leader Toots Hibbert, who has died at 71, was the one to give the genre its name with his 1968 song Do The Reggay. A gifted multi-instrumentalist — it is said he could play every instrument on his records — Hibbert was also a superb vocalist. Had he been born in the US, he might have been a soul singer. Having grown up in a Christian family before turning to Rastafarianism, he had a background in gospel music, which also found expression in some of his lyrics.

The Inspiration for Michelle
The incredible 93-years-long life of French chanteuse and actress Juliette Gréco has come to an end. As a teenager in occupied France during World War II, Juliette was involved in the Resistance, with her mother and sister. All three were arrested. Juliette was tortured by the Gestapo, but evaded internment in a concentration camp, unlike the other two. Instead, the 16-year-old was kept in jail for several month.

After the war, Gréco became part of the bohemian scene is Paris’ St Germain district (now more famous, alas, as the oligarch propaganda plaything football club owned by the state of Qatar), where she joined up with people like Sartre, Camus and Cocteau (who gave Gréco her first film role). In the 1960s, she was the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s song Michelle.

Gréco had a string of high-profile affairs (with, among others, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Sacha Distel, and Albert Camus), was married three times, and received the highest honours France bestows on civilians.

The Brother of Kool
Ronald Bell co-founded the legendary Kool & The Gang with his brother Robert, whose nickname gave the band its name. And while “Kool” gave his name to the band, Ronald was a musical force behind it, as a saxophonist, as a songwriter and as a producer. He wrote such classics as Jungle Boogie, Open Sesame, Ladies’ Night, Get Down On It, Big Fun, Hi-De-Hi Hi-De-Ho, In The Heart, Cherish, and Celebration. The latter was the song Bell regarded as his favourite, having been inspired to write it after picking up a bible in a hotel room. And that is interesting since Bell was a convert to Islam who took the name Khalis Bayyan.

The Honey Cone
On September 10 I posted the ABC of Soul Music mix, on which the letter H was represented by The Honey Cone. Two days later the lead singer of the featured track, Want Ads, died. Edna Wright, the younger sister of Darlene Love, started out as a backing singer for the likes of The Righteous Brothers, Johnny Rivers, and Ray Charles.

She released one unsuccessful single under the name Sandy Wynns, but her break came when Holland-Dozier-Holland, fresh from leaving Motown, discovered Wright as she filled in for her sister on the Andy Williams Show in 1969. Wright declined a solo deal but took the lead in The Honey Cone. Two years later the group had two mega hits with Want Ads and Stick-Up. After the Honey Cone, she resumed her career as backing singer, but did release one solo LP in 1977, the title track of which features here.

She Was Woman
With her hit I Am Woman, Australian-born singer Helen Reddy carved her name into the pantheon of female singers who articulated the demand for the emancipation of women. It was all the more powerful a statement in a time of rising feminism that Reddy didn’t look like the caricature of bra-burning activists that scared the supposedly silent majority; she actually looked like one of them — as did many other feminists. For a generation of women, I Am Woman (written by a man) became a statement of self-assertion.

The Australian-born singer had her first hit in 1970 with her second single, I Don’t Know How To Love Him, from Jesus Christ Superstar. It was actually the b-side of a track called I Believe In Music, written by Mac Davis, who died on the same day as Reddy. Many more hits followed, especially Delta Dawn, over the next decade. Reddy retired from the music business in 2002, returned to Australia, and became a hypnotherapist there.

The Humble Singer
Before he made it as a country singer, Mac Davis was a songwriter — and he started with quite a splash. For Elvis he wrote several tracks, including In the Ghetto (originally offered to Sammy Davis Jr, who’d record it a year later), Don’t Cry Daddy, and A Little Less Conversation. He also wrote the above-mentioned I Believe In Music, which eventually became a hit for Gallery.

In the mid-1970s he became a singing star, with hits like Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me, One Hell Of A Woman, Stop And Smell The Roses, and Rock ‘n’ Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life). But perhaps his most famous song is a novelty sing-along number, It’s Hard To Be Humble.

The Cash Drummer
As Johnny Cash’s long-time drummer, W.S. ‘Fluke’ Holland can be heard on most of the great man’s classic recordings, starting in 1960, when Holland joined Cash’s Tennessee Three. Holland was the last survivor of the original trio, with guitarist Luther Perkins having died in 1968, and bassist Marshall Grant in 2011 (Perkins’ successors, Carl Perkins and Bob Wootton are also dead).

Before joining Cash, Holland was drumming at Sun Records for Carl Perkins on such classics as Blue Suede Shoes, Honey Don’t, and Matchbox, and he was the drummer on duty when the Million Dollar Quartet — Perkins, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis (Cash only came in to say hello) — recorded their famous session.

The Jersey Boy
As a founder member of what would become The 4 Seasons, Tommy DeVito was one of the two older guys in the group, along with Nick Massi (Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio were more than ten years younger). The baritone vocalist and lead guitarist was there when his group took in the teenage Valli, and he was still there when other members were replaced by Gaudio and Massi. And DiVito was there throughout the big times of The 4 Seasons until 1970, when he sold his rights to the band’s name to Gaudio and Valli.

The Emotion
Three days before the 21st day of September, Pamela Hutchinson of The Emotions died at 61. The surprising thing is just how young she was in the soul band’s heyday, when they were produced by Maurice and Stephen Stepney of Earth, Wind & Fire. Her sisters and fellow Emotions Wanda and Sheila were 5-7 years older than her, and Pamela joined in 1977 only when older sister Jeanette left the trio to have a child.

The timing was good for Pamela: The Emotions, who had already made a mark by appearing in the 1973 Wattstax concert, were getting ready to make some soul classics, especially the impossibly joyous Best Of My Love and Boogie Wonderland with EWF. For The Emotions, that was the zenith. After 1978’s Sunbeam album, Jeanette returned to the group, and Pamela carried on as a backing singer for other acts.

The Marvel
Georgia Dobbins career stopped before it could even begin — and yet she left an indelible mark on music history. In the early 1960s, Dobbins was the lead singer of the girl-group that would find fame as The Marvelettes. And with her high school friends in what was still The Marvels, Dobbins auditioned at the still young Motown label. Berry Gordy was interested but sent the group away with the advice to write their own songs.

Dobbins took that advice. She asked her friend William Garrett for an unfinished song he had written, and with his permission reworked it to create Please Mr Postman. But before Dobbins could record it with the newly-renamed Marvellettes (and Marvin Gaye on the drums), she bowed to her father’s wishes and left the music industry before she could even enter it. But her song became a mega-hit in 1961 for her old friends, and Motown first chart-topper. It was later covered by The Beatles and the Carpenters. It was also recycled for a song titled, presumably by Dan Quayle, Mashed Potatoe Time, for which Dobbins got a writing credit.

For many years, Dobbins kept her contribution to music history quiet. In fact, she felt that she had let her old friends down by leaving the group…

The Impeacher
Soul singer Roy C Hammond had a long career in soul music without ever quite reaching legendary status. His 1965 song Shotgun Wedding was a Top 10 hit in the UK, and it has been covered by the likes of Rod Stewart. In 1973 he wrote a song about Richard Nixon titled, reasonably enough, Impeach The President, which he recorded with a group of kids called The Honey Drippers. It became one of the most sampled records, including on Janet Jackson’s mega hit That’s The Way Love Goes and Mary J Blige’s Real Love (for which he even got a co-writing credit).

In his later years, Roy C pretty much stuck to themes of sex and infidelity, with all the amorous joys and suffering that involves (let’s say that Roy C was not a militant feminist), with the occasional shot of social commentary.

The Roller
His contribution to rock & roll was negligible, but for two years Ian Mitchell lived what looked like a dream but probably was more of a nightmare. Mitchell was only 17 when he became the bassist of the Bay City Rollers in 1976, just at the end of Rollermania. He replaced co-founder Alan Longmuir, who left the band after being burnt out. Longmuir, who died at 70 in 2018, was a decade older and thus much more mature than the Mitchell, and he couldn’t handle the pressure, so the teenager didn’t really stand a chance. Within less than a year, Mitchell quit the Bay City Rollers in what was an acrimonious split. Mitchell then rejoined his old band from Northern Ireland, Rosetta Stone, who were also managed by the Rollers’ sex-pest manager Tam Paton. Touted as the next big teen band sensation, Rosetta Stone had a couple of minor hits in Europe before Mitchell jumped ship in 1979, and soon after rejoined the now over-the-hill Rollers. He would release a few records intermittently — the last a Christmas album in 2001 — but to no great attention.

 

Erick Morillo, 49, house DJ, producer and label owner, on Sept. 1
Reel 2 Real feat. The Mad Stuntman – I Like To Move It (1993, as Reel 2 Real)

Ian Mitchell, 62, Irish bassist, on Sept. 1
Bay City Rollers – Yesterday’s Hero (1976, as member)
Rosetta Stone – (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice (1977, as member)

Alexander Priko, 46, singer, keyboardist with Soviet dance group Laskovyi Mai, on Sept. 2

Bill Pursell, 94, composer and pianist, of Covid-19 on Sept. 3
Bill Pursell – Our Winter Love (1963)

Lucille Starr, 82, Canadian country singer, on Sept. 4
Lucille Starr – Cajun Love (1968)

Gary Peacock, 85, jazz double-bassist, on Sept. 4
Robert Kaddouch/Gary Peacock – Gary’s Line (2016)

Sterling “Mr Satan” Magee, 84, soul and blues singer, Covid-19 on Sept. 6
Sterling Magee – Keep On (1965)

Bruce Williamson, 49, singer with The Temptations (2006-15), Covid-19 on Sept. 6

Simeon Coxe, 82, synth-player of electro-rock band Silver Apples, on Sept. 8
Silver Apples – You And I (1968)

Sid McCray, singer of reggae-punk band Bad Brains, on Sept. 9
Bad Brains – Stay Close To Me (1980)

Ronald Bell, 68, saxophonist of Kool & the Gang, songwriter, producer, on Sept. 9
Kool & the Gang – Chocolate Buttermilk (1970)
Kool & The Gang – Jungle Boogie (1973, also as writer)
Kool & The Gang – Get Down On It (1979, also as writer)
Kool & the Gang – Big Fun (1982, also as writer)

Roberto Franco, 75, Argentine singer-songwriter and guitarist, Covid-19 on Sept. 10

Diana Rigg, 82, English actress and sometime singer, on Sept. 10
Diana Rigg – Forget Yesterday (1972)

Toots Hibbert, 77, Jamaican reggae pioneer singer and songwriter, on Sept. 11
The Maytals – Do The Reggay (1968)
Toots & The Maytals – Louie Louie (1972)
Toots & The Maytals – Pressure Drop (live) (1980)
Toots & The Maytals with Willie Nelson – Still Is Still Moving To Me (2004)

Reggie Johnson, 79, jazz double-bassist, on Sept. 11
Art Blakey & The New Jazz Messengers – Buttercorn Lady (1966, on double-bass)

Edna Wright, 76, singer with soul band Honey Cone, on Sept. 12
Sandy Wynns – The Touch Of Venus (1964, pseudonym)
Honey Cone – While You’re Out Looking For Sugar (1969)
Honey Cone – Blessed Be Our Love (1971)
Edna Wright – Oops! Here I Go Again (1977)

Joaquín Carbonell, 73, Spanish singer-songwriter and poet, Covid-19 on Sept. 12

Peter Starkie, 72, Australian rock guitarist, on Sept. 14

Al Kasha, 83, Oscar-winning songwriter, on Sept. 14
Aretha Franklin – Operation Heartbreak (1961, as co-writer)
Maureen McGovern – The Morning After (1972, as co-writer)

Alicia Maguiña, 81, Peruvian singer and composer, on Sept. 14

Doak Snead, 70, country singer-songwriter, on Sept. 16
Doak Snead – Come & Get Your Rock (2018)

Roy C Hammond, 81, soul singer-songwriter, on Sept. 16
Roy C – Shotgun Wedding (1965, also as writer)
The Honey Drippers – Impeach The President (1973, as writer and producer)
Roy C – Great, Great Grandson Of A Slave (1977)
Roy ‘C’ – I’m Not Going To Eat A Thing (1987)

Pamela Hutchinson, 61, singer with soul band The Emotions, on Sept. 18
The Emotions – Best Of My Love (1977)
The Emotions – My Everything (1978, also as co-writer)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Touch (1983, on backing vocals)

Georgia Dobbins, 78, early singer with The Marvelettes, songwriter, on Sept. 18
The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman (1961, as co-writer)
Johnny Halliday – Mashed Potatoe Time (1963, as co-writer)

Terry Clemson, lead guitarist of English blues-rock band Downliners Sect, on Set. 19
Downliners Sect – Don’t Lie To Me (1966)

Lee Kerslake, 73, English drummer of Uriah Heep, on Sept. 19
Uriah Heep – The Wizard (1972)
Uriah Heep – Free Me (1977)

Dave Kusworth, 60, member of English indie group Jacobites, on Sept. 19
Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth, The Jacobites – Shame For The Angels (1985)

Tommy DeVito, 92, founder member of The Four Seasons, Covid-19 on Sept. 21
The Four Lovers – You’re The Apple Of My Eye (1956)
The 4 Seasons – Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye) (1964)
The 4 Seasons – Girl Come Running (1965)
Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons – Any Day Now/Oh Happy Day (1970, on guitar solo)

Roy Head, 79, blue-eyed soul singer, on Sept. 21
Roy Head – Treat Her Right (1965)

Ira Sullivan, 89, jazz trumpeter, on Sept. 21
Ira Sullivan Quintet – When Sunny Gets Blue (1958; released 1970)

Ramona Galarza, 80, Argentine folk singer and actress, on Sept. 22

Gerson King Combo, 76, Brazilian funk singer, on Sept. 22
Gerson King Combo – Mandamentos Black (1977)

Juliette Gréco, 93, French singer and actress, on Sept. 23
Juliette Gréco – Sous Le Ciel de Paris (1951)
Juliette Gréco – Jolie Môme (Live at Olympia, 1966)
Juliette Gréco – Ta jalousie (1974)

S. Holland, 85, drummer with Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Three, on Sept. 23
Carl Perkins – Matchbox (1957, on drums)
Johnny Cash – Ring Of Fire (1963)
Johnny Cash – Big River (1968, live at St Quentin, on drums)

Guitar Crusher, 89, blues singer and guitarist, on Sept. 23
Guitar Crusher – Why Oh Why (1963)

Max Merritt, 79, New Zealand musician, on Sept. 24

Brent Young, founding bassist of metal band Trivium, on Sept. 25

Eddy Pumer, 72, guitarist of UK psychedelia band Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour, on Sept. 25
Kaleidoscope – Flight From Ashiya (1967, also as co-writer)

Masayoshi Kabe, 70, Japanese bassist and guitarist, on Sept. 26

Jimmy Winston, 75, first keyboardist of the Small Faces and actor, on Sept. 26
Small Faces – What’Cha Gonna Do About It (1965)

Mark Stone, founding bassist of Van Halen, on Sept. 26

Jackie Dennis, 77, Scottish teenage pop singer, on Sept. 28
Jackie Dennis – La Dee Dah  (1958)

Geoff Swettenham, 72, drummer of Beatles protégés Grapefruit, on Sept. 28
Grapefruit – Dear Delilah (1968)

Mac Davis, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Sept. 29
Sammy Davis Jr – In The Ghetto (1970, as writer)
Mac Davies – Rock ‘N Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (1975)
Mac Davis – It’s Hard To Be Humble (1980)

Helen Reddy, 78, Australian-born singer, on Sept. 29
Helen Reddy – I Believe In Music (1970, written by Mac Davis)
Helen Reddy – Delta Dawn (1973)
Helen Reddy – Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady (1975)

Rocco Prestia, 69, pioneering bassist with funk band Tower of Power, on Sept. 29
Tower Of Power – What Is Hip (1973)
Tower Of Power – You Ought To Be Having Fun (1976)

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Any Major Cole Porter Vol. 2

September 24th, 2020 5 comments

Cole Porter - Any Major Collection Vol. 2

Rarely will you hear a vocal performances that merits a good flogging (not literally, of course. We are not savages). I’m not talking about bad warbling to a bad song. I mean singers who have the talent to sing a good song well but deliver a performance of such monumental abomination that the only reasonable punishment would be the metaphorical violence.

I am talking the territory of Michael F. Bolton murdering soul music and then molesting opera territory (though since he appeared on John Oliver’s show I have softened a little on Bolton). But the man I would be leading to the flogging post personally is our old friend Bono. What is Bono’s offence? His part in the duet with Frank Sinatra of I’ve Got You Under My Skin, recorded for the mostly deplorable Duets album in 1993.

Rarely has there been as risible a performance as when our smug friend revealed the full range of his jackassery by croaking his part in tandem with Sinatra and then proceeding to assault the big band break with an aggressively tuneless falsetto. In his delusional mind, Bono doubtless imagined he was improving on a perfectly good instrumental arrangement with what he might describe as harmonies, but which we readily recognise to be a wretched effort at attention-seeking.

Of course, the blame for this is not Bono’s alone. Bono tried his luck, as any one of us might in his position. Bono was just like the fools who stick out their tongue or make goofy handsigns when they take selfies with celebrities. The Duets producer ought to have told Bono, politely but firmly, as you would indulge an overacting child: “That was all very interesting, Bono, and I’ll see how we can use that in the final mix. But no promises, all right champ?” And yet, Bono’s disharmonies made it into the final mix. It is too late now to ask Phil Ramone or Sinatra for an explanation to shed light on what possessed them to submit to the kind of vocal stylings of the sort you or I could do better while driving in the car or crooning drunkenly in the shower, for both men are now dead.

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

The stupid singing is enough to convict Bono in the Supreme Court of Music. But a merciful judge might take pity on the fool in the way that witlessness is sometimes applied as an extenuating circumstance. What makes the severest sentence absolutely inevitable, however, is one of the most egregious instances of an egomaniac singer changing the words which the writer, in this instance Cole Porter, so carefully chose in his endeavour to convey the song’s full meaning. Bono croakingly croons:

“Don’t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win…”

Bono had form with this kind of stuff. At Live Aid, held on a hot mid-summer day in July 1985, he ad-libbed during the Do They Know It’s Christmas finale the insane words: “Do they know that springtime is coming?” Yes, the Ethiopians did. Even extreme hunger could not rob them of the necessary ability to tell apart the seasons. “Springtime is coming” nine months from July, though. It is an extravagant prediction to make when spring is still to be preceded by the end of summer, and the full duration of autumn and winter.

Bono had sung this spontaneous ad-lib at every U2 concert throughout early 1985. By July, singing these words presumably was the unconscious reflex of an unthinking mind. There is no such excuse, however, for “Don’t you know, Blue Eyes, you never can win…”

Changing the lyrics to address a third party — in this case “Blue Eyes” — doesn’t make any sense in the song. In that line the singer is referring to himself, not to somebody else. The words for I’ve Got You Under My Skin are not Bono’s lyrics. They are Mr Porter’s lyrics. Even if he has been dead for a long time, Bono had no licence to turn his carefully crafted lyric into ingratiating doggerel, unless his intent was to satirise them in the manner the comedian Richard Cheese did with the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday (“Tonight we fiesta while tomorrow they die”). Was Bono trying to be a funny guy when he was singing with Frank Sinatra?

Moreover, I doubt that Sinatra was called Ole Blue Eyes by anybody else but the press and those entertaining the illusion of his friendship (he also hated being called the “Chairman of the Board”).

Frank Sinatra tenses up as a man with an earring hugs him.

Frank Sinatra tenses up as a man with an earring hugs him at the 1994 Grammys.

 

And all this leads us to a mix of covers of Cole Porter songs. The first Cole Porter Collection comprised performances from the black-and-white era of music; this one covers the technicolour era, with tracks ranging from the 1970s to the present. Some of them go for Nelson Riddlesque arrangements, other reinvent Porter songs in more modern genres.

As always: CD-R length, covers included, PW in comments.

1. John Barrowman & Kevin Kline – Night And Day (2004)
2. Barbra Streisand & Ryan O’Neal – You’re The Top (1972)
3. Bobby Caldwell – I Get A Kick Out Of You (1993)
4. Conal Fowkes – Let”s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) (2011)
5. Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Anything Goes (2014)
6. Bryan Ferry – You Do Something To Me (1999)
7. Dionne Warwick – I Love Paris (1990)
8. Grady Tate – Don’t Fence Me In (1974)
9. Jane Birkin – Love For Sale (1975)
10. Alex Chilton – All Of You (1993)
11. Lisa Stansfield – Down In The Depths (1990)
12. Freda Payne – You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (2014)
13. Helen Reddy – Blow, Gabriel Blow (1998)
14. Claire Martin – Too Darn Hot (2004)
15. Cybill Shepherd – Let’s Misbehave (1974)
16. Dianne Reeves – I Concentrate On You (2003)
17. Simply Red – Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (1987)
18. Robbie Williams – It’s De-Lovely (2004)
19. Rosemary Clooney – Get Out Of Town (1982)
20. Linda Ronstadt – Miss Otis Regrets (2004)
21. Carly Simon – In The Still Of The Night (2005)
22. George Harrison – True Love (1976)
23. Seether – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (2009)

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Any Major ABC of Soul

September 10th, 2020 2 comments

 

These ABCs of… mixes are a great way to spend some time: making them and, I hope, listening to them.

The concept is simple: one artist per letter (with solo artists going by the first letter of their first name), from A-Z. And that’s where the fun comes in: for most letters there are so many different acts one can choose, and from those so many different songs. My method was easy: instead of surveying every soul artist beginning with B or S, I went for the acts that first came to mind. For X, the search went on for a bit longer…

I set myself a challenge: it was my goal to limit the running time of the mix to fit the whole thing on to a standard CD-R. All the while keeping in mind that I’ll have to enjoy the end result. Well, I’ve listened to the result many times over, and I do enjoy it very much.

PW in comments.

1. Arthur Conley – Sweet Soul Music (1967)
2. Blackbyrds – Walking In Rhythm (1974)
3. Chairmen Of The Board – Pay To The Piper (1970)
4. Denise LaSalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1972)
5. Earth, Wind & Fire – Sing A Song (1975)
6. Flirtations – Nothing But A Heartache (1969)
7. Geno Washington – Michael (1966)
8. Honey Cone – Want Ads (1971)
9. Irma Thomas – It’s Raining (1962)
10. Jimmy Ruffin – Its Wonderful (To Be Loved By You) (1970)
11. Keni Stevens – Never Gonna Give You Up (1988)
12. Laura Lee – Wedlock Is A Padlock (1972)
13. Marlena Shaw – Liberation Conversation (1969)
14. Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – If This Ain’t Love (Don’t Know What Is) (2005)
15. O’Jays – Love Train (1972)
16. Peaches & Herb – Close Your Eyes (1967)
17. Quincy Jones – Betcha’ Wouldn’t Hurt Me (1980)
18. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
19. Sly and The Family Stone – Everyday People (1969)
20. Temptations – Since I Lost My Baby (1965)
21. Una Valli– Satisfaction (1968)
22. Velvelettes – Needle In A Haystack (1964)
23. Windjammer – Tossing And Turning (1984)
24. Xscape – Who Can I Run To (1995)
25. Yellow Sunshine – Yellow Sunshine (1973)
26. Zulema – You Changed On Me (1974)

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In Memoriam – August 2020

September 3rd, 2020 7 comments

This month we lost one of my favourite contemporary singers, and one of the last survivor of the 1921 Tulsa pogrom. The latter died at 100 on August 18, when this list records seven music deaths in one day.

There’s a lot great music to discover this month; I am surprised that the drum break that opens Steve Grossman’s Zulu Stomp has not been widely sampled. As in the last few months, I’ve created playlists in order of the listings below, and a playlist I have made for myself. This month’s is particularly good.

The Saint Of Lost Causes
The law of averages dictate that most of our favourites musicians tend to die when they are past their prime. It’s very rare that I’m looking forward to the next album of a newly-departed performer, even in the case of somebody like Prince. But in August I was devastated by the sudden death of Justin Towne Earle, one of the few contemporary singers I’d call myself a fan of, more so even than I am of his father, Steve Earle.

He never made a bad album I heard, and his Harlem River Blues album is a contender for my favourite of the 2010s, and Track 2 from it, One More Night in Brooklyn, one of my favourites of the decade. Last year’s The Saint Of Lost Causes was solid with some fine moments. It has his typical warmth and tinge of sadness, and is an agreeable companion. Justin Townes Earle’s music is generally classified as “Americana”, and Earle did justice to the concept: he drew his influences from almost every musical genre of the USA.

Earle was just 38, younger even than the fine musician he was named after, Townes van Zandt. Police say it might have been a drug overdose that claimed Earle, and reportedly he had been on-and-off drugs since he was 12.

The Texan Mexican
Strange paths crossed with Trini Lopez, the son of Mexican person growing up in Texas. In the mid-1950s, Lopez and is band played in the Dallas nightclub owned by Jack Ruby, who’d later murder Harvey Oswald. Then it was Buddy Holly’s father at whose advice Lopez and his band, The Big Beats, were recorded by Buddy’s producer Norman Petty in 1957. They released one instrumental single, and Trini tried his hand at a solo career as a singer. A long string of singles went nowhere, and an idea for Trini to succeed Buddy Holly as the singer of The Crickets fell through. So he returned to club singing — where he was discovered in 1962 by Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra signed Lopez to his Reprise label, and Lopez rewarded Sinatra with a hit, a live recording of If I Had A Hammer. He continued to have a run of hit singles through the 1960s. In between that he designed two guitars for Gibson, both models now much sought-after by collectors, and appeared in a handful of movies, including The Dirty Dozen.

The Rock Opera Writer
We can thank Mark Wirtz and his collaborator Keith West for the concept of the rock opera, one which they pioneered in 1967 with their unfinished A Teenage Opera, from which West released the track often called Grocer Jack, which became a #2 hit in 1967. Wirtz — who was born in in the French city of Strasbourg, grew up in Cologne and moved to England in 1962 — also wrote and recorded the infectious A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass in 1966 under the moniker Mood Mosaic (with vocals by The Ladybirds). It later served as the theme of the legendary German music TV show Musikladen.

In 1970 he moved to the US, where he arranged for a number of big-name acts, but left the business in the late 1970s. He tried his hands at various careers: working a telemarketer, maître d’, blood-stock agent, interpreter, voice-over artist, undercover agent, seminar leader and sales manager. He then moved into comedy, with success, and also became an award-winning newspaper columnist and writer.

The Pogrom Survivor
As a toddler, Hal “Cornbread” Singer survived the Tulsa race massacre, when whites razed a whole thriving district in the black suburb of Greenwood in a pogrom against African Americans. When he died at 100 on August 18, he was one of the last survivors of that act of genocide.

Singer grew up in Greenwood before he became a jazz musician, especially as a tenor saxophonist. He played with acts like Oran “Hot Lips” Page, Roy Eldridge, Marion Abernathy, Coleman Hawkins and Wynonie Harris and recorded under his own name, scoring a 1948 hit with the instrumental Corn Bread, which gave him his nickname.

The Hard Rock Producer
Martin Birch, who has died at 71, was a young recording engineer when he twiddled the buttons for the blues-era Fleetwood Mac, and more as they transitioned towards AOR (he played an acoustic guitar solo on their 1973 track Keep On Going, which he produced and has Christine McVie on vocals). But he made his name as the producer and engineer on all the great Deep Purple albums, and the successor bands such as Rainbow and Whitesnake. From Deep Purple he moved on to Iron Maiden, producing their golden 1980s run. He also worked on albums by Black Sabbath, Wayne County and Blue Öyster Cult.

The Mindbender
As the nominative frontman of ’60s British pop band The Mindbenders, Wayne Fontana has legitimate expectations of striking it big as a solo artist. So after a couple of UK Top 10 hits in 1964 and ‘65 (both featured here), Fontana left the band to go solo. While Fontana had a pair of Top 20 hits (on the Fontana label, coincidentally), the band he left behind scored a huge hit in 1966 with A Groovy Kind Of Love. That’s as good as it ever got for Fontana, by 1976 he quit the music business.

And if you ever thought Austin Powers was anything less than a documentary, listen to the Coca-Cola jingle featuring Fontana and The Mindbenders included in this collection.

The Last Hatchet Man
With Steve Holland, the last of the original line-up of Southern Rock outfit Molly Hatchet has died. The guitarist stuck with the band from its founding until a big fall-out moved Holland and two other members to drop out of a tour in 1983. Two decades later they joined up with former Molly Hatchet singer Jimmy Farrar to form Gator Country, named after their old band’s great 1978 song. They released one live album in 2008. All founding members of Gator Country are now all dead.

The Dealer
The contribution made by Cathy Smith to the canon of music is negligible — backing vocals for Hoyt Axton (harmonising with Nicolette Larsson) and Dan Hill — but her unexemplary life story is tied in with various acts, not always for the better. Born in 1947 in Canada, she went to the US as a teenager and hooked up with Levon Helms and his pre-Band group The Hawks, and then with members of The Band. When the paternity of her newborn couldn’t be established, the kid was known as “The Band Baby”. She had an on-off affair with fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot, whose big hit Sundown is about his troubled affair with Smith (the possessive Lightfoot was not just a victim of Smith’s wiles but also an abuser, once breaking Smith’s cheekbone).

In 1976 Smith became a heroin addict and dealer. Among her clients, according to Bob Woodward in his book Wired, were Ron Wood and Keith Richards. Another client was John Belushi, into whom she injected the drug cocktail that killed him. In a contender for Greatest Backfires of the 1980s, Smith gave an interview about it in the National Enquirer, under the headline “I killed John Belushi. I didn’t mean to, but I am responsible”. As a result of that, she was charged with murder and drug-dealing. Out on bail, she fled to Canada. She later served a 15-month sentence in a plea bargain.

 

Randy Barlow, 77, country singer, on July 30
Randy Barlow – No Sleep Tonight (1978)

Wilford Brimley, 85, actor and singer, on Aug. 1
Wilford Brimley – My Funny Valentine (1990)

Larry Novak, 87, jazz pianist, on Aug. 2

Steve Holland, 66, guitarist with Molly Hatchet, Gator Country, on Aug. 2
Molly Hatchet – Gator Country (1978)
Molly Hatchet – Bloody Reunion (1981)

Michael Peter Smith, 78, singer-songwriter and author, on Aug. 3
Steve Goodman – The Dutchman (1972, as writer)
Michael Smith – Three Monkeys (1987)

Tony Costanza, 52, drummer with metal bands Machine Head, Crowbar, on Aug. 4

Billy Goldenberg, 84, TV theme writer, musical director (Elvis ‘68), on Aug. 4
Barbra Streisand ‎- If I Close My Eyes (1973, as co-writer, arranger, producer)
Theme of ‘Kojak’ (full version) (1973, as writer)

FBG Duck, 26, rapper, shot dead on Aug. 4

Jan Savage, 77, guitarist of garage rock band The Seeds, on Aug. 5
The Seeds – Pushin’ Too Hard (1965)

Agathonas Iakovidis, 65, Greek folk singer, on Aug. 5
Koza Mostra & Agathonas Iakovidis – Alcohol Is Free (2013)

Vern Rumsey, 47, bassist and recording engineer, on Aug. 6

Wayne Fontana, 74, English singer, on Aug. 6
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders – Um, Um, Um, Um (1964)
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders – Game Of Love (1965)
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders – Coca-Cola commercial (1960s)
Wayne Fontana – Pamela, Pamela (1966)

Mark Wirtz, 76, French-born musician and producer, on Aug. 7
Mood Mosaic – A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass (1966)
Keith West – Excerpt From ‘A Teenage Opera’ (1967, as co-writer, producer)

Alain Delorme, 70, French singer, on Aug. 7
Alain Delorme – Romantique avec toi (1975)

Paul Dokter, 59, singer, guitarist of Dutch indie band The Serenes, on Aug.7
The Serenes – Rebecca (You’re Gonna Be Alright) (1990)

Martin Birch, 71, British producer and engineer. On Aug. 9
Deep Purple – Hush (1968, as engineer)
Fleetwood Mac – Keep On Going (1973, as producer, engineer and on acoustic guitar)
Rainbow – Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978, as producer/engineer)
Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills (1982, as producer/engineer)

Salome Bey, 80, Canadian jazz singer, on Aug. 9
Salome Bey – Hit The Nail Right On The Head (1970)
Salome Bey – Lover Man (1992)

Don Martin, bassist of New Zealand new wave band Mi-Sex, on Aug. 10

Waldemar Bastos, 66, Angolan musician, on Aug. 10
Waldemar Bastos – Teresa Ana (1983)
Waldemar Bastos – Sofrimento (1998)

Trini Lopez, 83, singer and actor, on Aug. 11
The Big Beats – Clark’s Expedition (1957, as member on guitar)
Trini Lopez – A-me-ri-ca (1963)
Trini Lopez – Lemon Tree (1964)

Pat Fairley, 76, bassist of Scottish pop band Marmalade, on Aug. 11
Marmalade – Baby Make It Soon (1969)

Belle du Berry, 54, singer of French group Paris Combo, on Aug. 11
Paris Combo – Moi, mon âme, ma conscience (1997)

Carlos Burity, 67, Angolan semba musician, on Aug. 12

Steve Grossman, 69, jazz saxophonist, on Aug. 13
Steve Grossman – Zulu Stomp (1974)

Ewa Demarczyk, 79, Polish singer and poet, on Aug. 14

Pete Way, 69, bass guitarist with rock band UFO, on Aug. 14
UFO – Young Blood (1980, also as co-writer)

Valentina Legkostupova, 54, Russian pop singer, on Aug. 14

Ron Heathman, guitarist with rock band Supersuckers, on Aug. 18
The Supersuckers – Rock-n-Roll Records (Ain’t Selling This Year) (2003)

Jack Sherman, 64, guitarist with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (1983-84), on Aug. 18
Red Hot Chilli Peppers – True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes (1984, also as co-writer)

Sean Pentecost, drummer of Australian metal band Superheist, on Aug.18.

Roger Quigley, 51, singer-songwriter with indie duo Montgolfier Brothers, on Aug. 18
The Montgolfier Brothers – Between Two Points (1999)

Steve Gulley, 57, bluegrass singer-songwriter, on Aug. 18

Cathy Smith, 73, Canadian-born backup singer, on Aug. 18
Hoyt Axton – Evangelina (1976)

Hal ‘Cornbread’ Singer, 100, jazz tenor saxophonist, on Aug 18
Wynonie Harris – Good Rockin’ Tonight (1947, on tenor sax)
Hal Singer Orchestra – Easy Living (1953)
Hal Singer – Cloud Nine (1964)

Lou Ragland, 78, soul singer and producer, on Aug. 19
Lou Ragland – Understand Each Other (1978)

Todd Nance, 57, drummer of rock band Widespread Panic, on Aug. 19

Justin Townes Earle, 38, singer-songwriter, on Aug. 20
Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues (2010)
Justin Townes Earle – Am I That Lonely Tonight (2012)
Justin Townes Earle – Burning Pictures (2014)
Justin Townes Earle – The Saint Of Lost Causes (2019)

Piotr Szczepanik, 78, Polish singer and actor, on Aug. 20

Frankie Banali, 68, drummer of Quiet Riot, WASP, on Aug. 20
Quiet Riot – Metal Health (Bang Your Head) (1983, also as co-writer)
W.A.S.P. – Mean Man (1983)

Ron Tudor, 96, Australian producer and label owner (Fable Records), on Aug. 21

Bryan Lee, 77, blues musician, on Aug. 21
Bryan Lee – I’ll Play The Blues For You (1993)

Steve Sample Sr., 90, jazz bandleader, arranger and educator, on Aug. 22

J. Rogers, 72, soul singer and producer, on Aug. 22
D.J. Rogers – Listen To The Message (1973)
D.J. Rogers – Say You Love Me (1975)

Ulla Pia, 75, Danish singer, on Aug. 22

Walter Lure, 71, guitarist with The Heartbreakers, on Aug. 22
Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers – To Much Junkie Business (1992, also as writer)

Giannis Poulopoulos, 79, Greek singer-songwriter, on Aug. 23

Charlie Persip, 91, jazz drummer, on Aug. 23
Dizzy Gillespie Sextet – Devil And The Fish (1954, on drums)
Dinah Washington – Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat (1957)

Peter King, 80, English jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, on Aug. 23
Everything But The Girl – The Night I Heard Caruso Sing (1988, on saxophone)

Riley Gale, 34, singer of metal band Power Trip, on Aug. 24

Itaru Oki, 78, Japanese jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist, on Aug. 25

Mick Hart, Australian folk-rock musician, on Aug. 25
Mick Hart – Watching It Fade (2001)

Gerry McGhee, 58, singer of Canadian rock band Brighton Rock, on Aug. 25

Chet Himes, 73, recording engineer, reported on Aug. 26
Christopher Cross – Ride Like The Wind (1979, as engineer)

Mike Noga, 43, Australian rock multi-instrumentalist, on Aug. 27
The Drones – The Minotaur (2008, as member on drums)

Ronnie Kole, 89, jazz pianist, New Orleans French Quarter Festival founder, on Aug. 27

Mark Colby, 71, jazz fusion saxophonist, on Aug. 31
Mark Colby – On And On (1979)

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Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

The Originals: 1980s Vol. 2

August 25th, 2020 5 comments

In this instalment of The Originals, we return to the 1980s with a second volume. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, plus a handful of bonus tracks, coming to a playlist of 32 lesser-known originals of 1980s hits.

 

Holding Back The Years
Simply Red’s Holding Back The Years sounds like a cover version of an obscure 1960s soul number, and the versions by Randy Crawford and Angie Stone show just how good a soul song it is. But it is, in fact, a Mick Hucknall composition.

Before Hucknall became Simply Red (would you recognise any of the other interchangeable members in the street?), he was the lead singer of the Frantic Elevators, a punk group whose formation was inspired by the Sex Pistols’ 1976 Manchester gig. They stayed together for seven years of very limited success, releasing four non-charting singles and recording a Peel session at the BBC.

The last of their four singles, released in 1982, was Holding Back The Years, a song Hucknall had mostly written as a 17-year-old about his mother’s desertion when he was three (he added the chorus later). Their version is understated and almost morose, in a Joy Division sort of way. Although released independently, as the cut-and-paste artwork on the slightly disturbing sleeve suggests, they had high hopes for the single. Ineffective distribution dashed those hopes.

In 1983, Hucknall left the Frantic Elevators and went on to found Simply Red (who before arriving at that name were called World Service, Red and the Dancing Dead, and Just Red). The first single, Money’s Too Tight To Mention — a cover version of The Valentine Brothers song (featured on Any Major Originals Vol. 1) — was an instant hit. The follow-up single but one was a remake of Holding Back The Years, now rendered as a soul number. On its first release in late 1985 it flopped. Re-released in 1986, it became a worldwide smash, even topping the Billboard charts.

Talk Talk
Another act covering (part of) itself was Talk Talk who recorded their 1993 hit Talk Talk from an original titled Talk Talk Talk Talk. The song was written by the late Mark Hollis, and originally recorded by his previous band, Reaction. It appeared on the Beggars Banquet punk compilation Streets, which was released in late 1977.

I’ve Never Been To Me
The song that has invited much ridicule, especially regarding what exactly a woman isn’t supposed to see, has been widely covered. Among those who’d never been to themselves were Nancy Wilson, Walter Jackson, The Temptations, and Howard Keel. But the first to lament her lifetime of non-hedonism was Randy Crawford, who released it in October 1976 on her debut album, Everything Must Change. Soon after it was recorded by Charlene, a Motown singer.

I’ve Never Been To Me was co-written by Motown songwriter Ron Miller, whose hits included Stevie Wonder’s For Once In My Life, A Place in the Sun, Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday, and Heaven Help Us All, and Diana Ross’ Touch Me in the Morning.

Charlene was a singer for Motown who also wrote songs and produced. Part of her job was to record demos of songs. In 1976 she teamed up with Miller to release her debut album. Released in December that year, it included three singles which just about reached the 90s in the US Top 100 each. The third of these was I’ve Never Been To Me.

While the song was a minor hit by singer Marti Caine in Canada in 1978, and was recorded by Nancy Wilson and Walter Jackson, both in 1977, for Charlene commercial failure meant the end of the dream of hedonistic stardom. She quit her job and emigrated to England. Then in 1982, a DJ in Florida played I’ve Never Been To Me on the radio, and listeners loved it. Motown re-released the single, and it became a worldwide hit. For Charlene, it would be the only big hit. She scored a minor hit with a duet with Stevie Wonder in 1982.

 

Pass The Dutchie
A drug anthem sung by children, Pass The Dutchie was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, which was unusual for a reggae number.

Pass The Dutchie was a cover of Pass the Kouchie by the Mighty Diamonds (a trio of adults singing about sharing a marijuana pipe), also from 1982. And both can be said to have borrowed their hook from 1969’s instrumental Full Up by the Sound Dimension.

Tom Hark
A staple these days on English football grounds, the impossibly catchy Tom Hark had its origins in South Africa. There was no Tom Hark: the song’s title was either a pun or more likely a sloppy mis-heard rendering of the word tomahawk, the axes gangs in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township used to carry.

Composer “Big Voice” Jack Lerole and his mates used to record in the pennywhistle-based kwela genre, though it was not yet known by that name — the contemporary term was marabi or pennywhistle jive. The word kwela is Zulu for “Get up”, and as kwela-kwela it was also a township term for a police van (after the cops” command “Kwela! Kwela!”, meaning “get in”), the unwelcome approach of which often was signalled by a lookout blowing his tin flute.

Lerole, commonly known as Jake, learnt to play the pennywhistle as a little boy, observing the flautists from Scottish regiments that often played near Alexandra and which influenced a generation of pennywhistlers who adapted the complex techniques of flute-playing to the simple pennywhistle, thereby enhancing its versatility.

Lerole and his bandmembers recorded under several names, mostly as Alexandra Black Mambazo (mambazo is Zulu for axe — or tomahawk), but were signed by EMI in 1956 as Elias and His Zig Zag Jive Flutes; the Elias of the moniker being Lerole”s brother.

Having recorded Tomahawk, or Tom Hark, EMI sold the rights to the song to British TV to serve as the theme for a series called The Killing Stone. On the back of that, the song became a British hit, reaching #2 in 1958 (a concurrent version by bandleader Ted Heath reached #24). Lerole and his band received £6 for recording the song and not a red cent in royalties, even when the song became an international hit again in 1980 with an affectionate cover by the British ska band The Piranhas, whose frontman Bob Grover put lyrics to the song (“The whole things daft, I don’t know why, you have to laugh or else you cry”). On the single cover The Piranhas paid tribute to the original by emblazoning it with the word “kwela”.

After the Alexandra Black Mambazo split in 1963, Lerole enjoyed a fair career, though more as a gravelly baritone singer and saxophonist than as a pennywhistler, having followed the lead of pennywhistle king Spokes Mashiyane into the new mbaqanga style of music. He made a comeback in the 1980s as a member of the multiracial group Mango Groove (which recorded Tom Hark with their own lyrics), on whose first hit, Dance Sum More (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlom0-Z0RBE), Lerole provided his distinctive growling vocals. Before Mango Groove became famous in South Africa, he left the group.

In 1998 he and the reformed Alex Black Mambazo were invited by South African-born Dave Matthews to perform with his group in the US. The band performed to international acclaim and total indifference in their home country. Leralo died in 2003 at the age of 63.

In The Army Now
Also from South Africa, though from a very different cultural context, were the Bolland brothers, Rob and Ferdi. The year 1986 was lucrative for the brothers. First their song Rock Me Amadeus, performed by the Austrian cult singer Falco, topped the UK charts (having been a huge hit in Europe the previous year), and then Status Quo hit the UK Top 10 with their cover of the brothers’ 1981 song In The Army Now.

Born in Port Elizabeth, the Bolland brothers had emigrated to the Netherlands, and started their recording career in 1972 as a folk-rock duo. When that genre became passé they hooked into the electronic sounds of the late 1970s. In The Army Now was a big hit in South Africa, where conscription applied to only white men, many of whom were sent to fight in the war with Angola, apartheid’s Vietnam. The single did only moderately well elsewhere, and the Bolland brothers became record producers, counting among their clients Falco, Amii Stewart, Samantha Fox, Suzi Quatro and Dana International.

Meanwhile, Status Quo’s Francis Rossi had heard In The Army Now on the radio while driving in Germany, and proposed it to his band, which by now had lost bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coughlan. The song took the Quo to #2 in the UK.

 

That’s What Friends Are For
Two songs here appeared on the soundtrack of the 1982 comedy Nightshift. That’s What Friends Are For was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer-Sager, and first appeared on the movie’s soundtrack as a filler in a version by Rod Stewart.

Three years later it was revived by Dionne Warwick, with her friends Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder, as a fundraiser for AIDS research. It was a huge hit and won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group, as well as Song of the Year. The notion of supporting AIDS research in the 1980s was laudable, but musically I prefer Rod’s version.

Harden My Heart
One song from the Nightshift soundtrack that did trouble the charts was Harden My Heart by Quarterflash. By then it already had been a huge hit for the band. Written by its guitarist Marv Ross, the song was first recorded in a sparser arrangement by Seafood Mama, which was a predecessor band for Quarterflash.

Both bands featured Ross on guitar, and his wife, Rindy Ross on vocals and — hello, the 1980s — saxophone. Rindy can be seen holding a saxophone on the single cover of the original Harden My Heart.

Self Control
In Italy one might argue that the original is better known than the internationally more famous cover. The original by Italian singer Raf (or Raffaele Riefoli, as his mom knew him), who also co-wrote it, topped his country’s charts as well as that of Switzerland in the summer of 1984. US singer Laura Branigan’s version was a hit in Europe at the same time, competing with Raf’s version. Her take, for which arranger Harold Faltermeyer traded Raf’s keyboard hook with a guitar riff, became a huge US hit.

Branigan had enjoyed previous success with Italian pop music: her big 1982 hit Gloria was originally recorded in 1979 by Umberto Tozzi, whose 1977 hit Ti Amo she also recorded.  All three songs were co-written by Giancarlo Bigazzi, which explains how Branigan got to record it in time to compete with the original.

 

I Wanna Be Loved
For a prolific songwriter, Elvis Costello has covered other people’s songs widely. His best-known cover perhaps is George Jones’ A Good Year For The Roses, itself a country classic. Others were I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down was first done by Sam & Dave (featured on Any Major Originals – 1980s Vol. 1), and (What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, covered from the Brinsley Schwarz original.

I Wanna Be Loved, a Costello single in 1984 which appeared on the otherwise underwhelming Goodbye Cruel World album (and features Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside on backing vocals), was plucked from obscurity. That’s what Costello said, and he was not exaggerating.

There is very little information about the song’s original artists, Teacher’s Edition, or about Farnell Jenkins, who wrote the song. I Wanna Be Loved was released in on the Memphis-based Hi Records (which counted Al Green, Ann Peebles and O.V. Wright among its roster) in 1973 as a Willie Mitchell-produced b-side to a song titled It Helps To Make You Strong. For the Teacher’s Edition, that second single was the end of the road.

Jenkins had been around for a while already. Previously his band had been called The Conservatives, but that name was changed after Richard Nixon’s election. Jenkins brought out a gospel album in 1977, and continued to be a Chicago-based writer of Gospel songs.

The Only Way Is Up
Another soul singer who tried to make his way at Hi Records at the same time as Jenkins was Otis Clay. Recording since 1967, Clay had a run of well-received but modestly successful records on Hi. The best-performing of these was Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You, which hit #24 on the R&B charts in 1973. In 1981, Bob Seger scored a big hit with a cover of the song, which is added here as a bonus track.

By then, Clay had changed record labels a couple of times. In 1980 he released his records on his own label, Echo Records. Among these was the single The Only Way Is Up, co-written by soul singer-songwriter George Jackson, whose previous credits included the Osmonds hit One Bad Apple and Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll. The Only Way Is Up wasn’t a hit, but was popular enough to prompt Clay to name his 1982 album after it.

Eight years after Otis Clay recorded the song, it was picked up by English house outfit Coldcut which turned it into a pumping dance number for Yazz and the Plastic Population. It became a mega hit in the UK and in Europe, though it didn’t do much business in the US.

As for Otis Clay, he continued to record and earned himself a reputation as one of the finest blues singers, culminating in a Grammy nomination in 2007 for his album Walk a Mile in My Shoes. Clay died in 2016 at 73.

Wind Beneath My Wings
Between the first recording by whistling apartheid fan Roger Whitaker in 1982 and Bette Midler’s huge hit with it in 1988 on the back of the film Beaches, Wind Beneath My Wings had been recorded by many artists, including Sheena Easton, Gladys Knight and The Pips (as Hero), Lou Rawls, B.J. Thomas, Willie Nelson, Patty LaBelle, and Ray Price. Rawls and Knight, as well as country singer Gary Morris, saw some chart action with their versions.

For Midler, the song was a critically-acclaimed worldwide hit, and US #1. It won the Grammy for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

 

1. Otis Clay – The Only Way Is Up (1980)
The Usurper: Yazz and the Plastic Population (1988)

2. Rod Stewart – That’s What Friends Are For (1982)
The Usurper: Dionne Warwick & Friends (1985)

3. Seafood Mama – Harden My Heart (1980)
The Usurper: Quarterflash (1981)

4. Raf – Self Control (1984)
The Usurper: Laura Branigan (1984)

5. Charlie Dore – You Should Hear (How She Talks About You) (1981)
The Usurper: Melissa Manchester (1982)

6. The Textones – Vacation (1980)
The Usurpers: The Go-Go’s (1982)

7. The Mighty Diamonds – Pass The Kouchie (1982)
The Usurper: Musical Youth (1982, as Pass The Dutchie)

8. Elias & His Zigzag Jive Flutes – Tom Hark (1956)
The Usurper: Ted Heath (1956), The Piranhas (1980)

9. Kirsty MacColl – They Don’t Know (1979)
The Usurper: Tracy Ullman (1983)

10. Bolland & Bolland – You’re In The Army Now (1981)
The Usurper: Status Quo (1986)

11. Reaction – Talk Talk Talk Talk (1977)
The Usurper: Talk Talk (1982, as Talk Talk)

12. Frantic Elevators – Holding Back The Years (1982)
The Usurper: Simply Red (1985)

13. Cherrelle – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On (1984)
The Usurper: Robert Palmer (1986)

14. Randy Crawford – I’ve Never Been To Me (1976)
The Usurper: Charlene (1976)

15. Teacher’s Edition – I Wanna Be Loved (1973)
The Usurper: Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1984)

16. The Applejacks – I Go To Sleep (1965)
The Usurper: Pretenders (1981)

17. Four Preps – Love Of The Common People (1966)
The Usurpers: Nicky Thomas (1970), Paul Young (1983)

18. The Crickets – More Than I Can Say (1960)
The Usurpers: Bobby Vee (1961), Leo Sayer (1980)

19. Barry Mann – Don’t Know Much (1980)
The Usurper: Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville (1989)

20. Albert Hammond – To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before (1975)
The Usurper: Julio Iglesias & Willie Nelson (1984)

21. Roger Whittaker – Wind Beneath My Wings (1982)
The Usurper: Bette Midler (1988)

22. George Benson – Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You (1985)
The Usurper: Glen Medeiros (1987)

23. Bonnie Tyler – The Best (1988)
The Usurper: Tina Turner (1989)

Bonus:
Otis Clay – Trying To Live My Life Without You (1973)
The Usurper: Bob Seger (1981)

Jon & Vangelis – State of Independence (1981)
The Usurper: Donna Summer (1982)

Neil Diamond – Red Red Wine (1968)
The Usurper: UB 40 (1983)

Priscilla Bowman & Spaniels – A Rockin’ Good Way (1958)
The Usurper: Shakin’ Stevens & Bonnie Tyler (1983)

Jack Lee – Come Back And Stay (1981)
The Usurper: Paul Young (1983)

Hall & Oates – Everytime You Go Away (1980)
The Usurper: Paul Young (1985)

Dionne Warwick – Never Gonna Let You Go (1982)
The Usurper: Sérgio Mendes (1983)

Floy Joy – Weak In The Presence Of Beauty (1986)
The Usurper: Alison Moyet (1987)

O’Chi Brown – Whenever You Need Somebody (1985)
The Usurper: Rick Astley (1987)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Originals:
The Originals: The Classics
The Originals: Soul
The Originals: Motown
The Originals: Country
The Originals: The Rock & Roll Years
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1990s & 2000s
The Originals: Beatles edition
The Originals: Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 1
The Originals:  Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 2
The Originals: Carpenters Edition
The Originals: Burt Bacharach Edition
The Originals: Rat Pack Edition
The Originals: Schlager Edition
The Originals: Christmas Edition

Categories: The Originals Tags: