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In Memoriam – November/December 2010

January 5th, 2011 8 comments

The Grim Reaper took things easy in November ““ so much so that there was no pressing need for an update “” but he could barely stop himself once he got into the swing of things in the fnal month of 2010 (and, alas, has not wasted time getting going in 2011).

A couple of artists fell victim to violent crime: New Orleans rapper Magnolia $horty died in an apparent drive-by shooting (as for the lyrics of her song…oh my), and jazz rock drummer Billy Maddox was shot dead in a burglary in Austin, Texas.

Also desperately sad was the suicide of Barclay James Harvest’s Woolly Wolstenholme. The prog-rocker apparently had gone through mental suffering for a long time. In 1976 he and his band released a most affecting song titled Suicide (which calls to mind Sailing); my choice of it to mark Wolstenholme’s death is not intended to be ironic.

Australian rock singer James Freud also took his own life, apparently giving up his battle against alcoholism. The anguish of those who commit suicide is unimaginable to those of us who have not been on that edge. It’s not the coward’s way out, as the cliché would have it, for it takes immense courage to go through with suicide. Nor is it selfish, because surely their pain overrides all other considerations.

The Grim Reaper launched an onslaught on the world of R&B in late December, claming on successive days Sweet Inspiration Myrna Smith, Dorothy Jones of the Cookies, Bernard Wilson of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, and Teena Marie.

On a personal level, I was sad to learn of the not unexpected death of Cape Town jazz maestro Tony Schilder, who provided me with many hours of top notch jazz entertainment. Tony was an immensely talented musician and a true gentleman. I marked his death over at Star Maker Machine. The guitar solo on the featured song, incidentally, is by Jonathan Butler.

Talking of jazz men, James Moody also passed away; fans of Aretha Franklin, George Benson and Amy Whitehouse will be familiar with the vocal takes on his mood.

Eddie Hazell, 76, American jazz musician guitarist, on November 2

Hotep Idris Galeta, 69, South African jazz pianist, on November 3

Jim Clench, 61, bass guitarist with April Wine and Bachman”“Turner Overdrive, on November 4
April Wine – Tonight Is A Good Time To Fall In Love (1975)

James Freud, 51, Australian rock singer and former member of The Models, of suicide on November 4
James Freud – Modern Girl (1980)

Randy Miller, 39, drummer of Seattle rock band The Myriad, on November 5
The Myriad – A Clean Shot (2008)

Tony West, 72, founder bassist of The Searchers, on November 10

Lee Harper, 65, jazz trumpeter, on November 10

Mimi Perrin, 84, singer and pianist with French jazz vocal group Les Double Six, on November 16
Les Double Six – Let The Good Times Roll By (1964)

Little Smokey Smothers, 71, blues guitarist and singer, on November 20
Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ For My Darling (1960, as guitarist)

Peter Christopherson, 55, member of British avant garde group Throbbing Gristle, LP cover designer (Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Animals; Peter Gabriel’s Melt album) and music video director, on November 24
Throbbing Gristle – Hamburger Lady (1978)

Monty Sunshine, 82, English jazz clarinetist, on November 30
Monty Sunshine – Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Donald Lineberger, 71, banjo player with Bill Monroe and Glen Campbell (on his TV show), on December 5

Trev Thoms, 60, guitarist of British punk groups Inner City Unit and Atom Gods, on December 8

James Moody, 85, jazz saxophonist and flautist, on December 9
James Moody – Moody’s Mood For Love (1950)

Tony Schilder, 73, South African jazz pianist, bandleader and composer, on December 9
Tony Schilder – Madeleine (1985)

Remmy Ongala, 63, Tanzanian singer, on December 13
Remmy Ongala – Inchi Vetu (Our Country) (1991)

Enrique Morente, 67, Spanish flamenco singer, on December 13
Enrique Morente – Tangos de la Plaza

Woolly Wolstenholme, 63, singer and keyboardist of Barclay James Harvest, of suicide on December 13
Barclay James Harvest – Suicide? (1976)

Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), 69, experimental rock musician, On December 17
Captain Beefheart – Ink Mathematics (1982)

Glen Adams, 65, Jamaican reggae musician, producer and co-founder of The Heptones, on December 17.
Glen Adams – I Can’t Help It (1968)

Trudy Pitts, 78, American jazz & R&B keyboard player, on December 19
Trudy Pitts – Take Five (1967)
Magnolia $horty, 28, New Orleans rapper, shot dead on December 20
Magnolia $horty – That’s My Juvie

Myrna Smith, 69, member of the Sweet Inspirations, on December 24
The Sweet Inspirations – Slipped And Tripped (1973)

Dorothy Jones, 76, singer of ’60s girl band The Cookies (also backing singers on Little Eva’s The Locomotion), on December 25
The Cookies – Chains (1962)

Bernard Wilson, 64, singer with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, on December 26
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Everybody’s Talkin’ (1977)
Teena Marie, 54, soul/funk singer, on December 26
Teena Marie – I Need Your Lovin’ (1980)

Billy Maddox, 54, jazz-rock drummer drummer, shot dead on December 27.

Billy Taylor, 89, jazz pianist and composer, on December 28
Billy Taylor – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (1957)
Nina Simone – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (1967, as composer)

Gene Kelton, 55, rockabilly singer, on December 28

Agathe von Trapp, 97, member of the von Trapp family, on December 28

Nick Santo, 69, singer with doo-wop band The Capris, on December 30
The Capris – There’s A Moon Out Tonight (1957)

Bobby Farrell, 61, dancer with Boney M., on December 30
Boney M – Ma Baker (1977)

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The Originals Vol. 39

August 6th, 2010 9 comments

Here are five more lesser-known originals, covered in four entries: Wild Thing, Sunny, Angel Of The Morning, Under The Influence Of Love and It May Be Winter Outside. Incidentally, look at the tabs on top to find an alphabetical index of Originals that have featured so far, with links to the relevant posts.

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The Wild Ones ““ Wild Thing (1965).mp3
The Troggs ““ Wild Thing (1966).mp3
Senator Bobby ““ Wild Thing (1968)
Jimi Hendrix ““ Wild Thing.mp3
Marsha Hunt ““ Wild Thing (1971).mp3

One of rock”s most iconic songs was written by actor Jon Voight”s younger brother,  James Wesley, who took the name Chip Taylor. He had a prolific songwriting career before turning to recording records himself in 1971 as a country artist. The first version of Wild Thing, by the New York band The Wild Ones, was released in 1965. Headed by one Jordan Christopher, they are said to have been the houseband of what has been called New York”s first disco, The Office. Taylor wrote Wild Thing for them as a favour for A&R man Gerry Granagan.

It”s not very good, certainly not in comparison to The Troggs version, which replaced the Wild Ones” whistle interlude with an ocarina solo (the ocarina is an ancient ceramic wind instrument). Taylor has recalled that he wrote the song in a few minutes (“the pauses and the hesitations are a result of not knowing what I was going to do next”) and had a low opinion of it. Likewise, The Troggs recorded it in 20 minutes, during the same session that produced their follow-up hit With A Girl Like You. They worked from Taylor”s demo, rather than the Wild Ones” version.  Due to a licensing issue, The Troggs” version of Wild Thing was released on two labels, Fontana and Atco. It is the only time a record has topped the US charts under the simultaneous banner of two labels.

Wild Thing was covered frequently after that. Jimi Hendrix famously set his guitar on fire at Monterey after playing his version of it. In 1968 the comedy troupe The Hardly Worthit Players released a version of Wild Thing being performed by “Bobby Kennedy”, with a producer giving him instructions. Robert F Kennedy was voiced by the comedian Bill Minkin (it”s a myth that it was Jon Voight). That novelty record  was one of the last releases by the Cameo-Parkway label, a noteworthy footnote in light of the next song. Marsha Hunt”s version featured on the Covered In Soul Vol 2 mix.

Also recorded by: The Capitols (1966), The Standells (1966), The Kingsmen (1966), Manfred Mann (1966), Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band (1967), The Memphis Three (1968), Fancy (1974), The Goodies (1976), The Runaways (1977), The Creatures (1981), The Meteors (1983), X (1984), Cold Chisel (1984), La Muerte (1984), Sister Carol (1986), Amanda Lear (1987), Unrest (1987), Sam Kinison with Jessica Hahn (1988), Cheap Trick (1992), Divinyls (1993), Stoned Age (1994), Hank Williams, Jr (1995), The Muppets (1995), Acid Drinkers (1995), Chip Taylor (1996), Popa Chubby (1996), Danny and the Nightmares (1999), Sky Sunlight Saxon (2008), Trash Cans (2010)

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Evie Sands – Angel Of The Morning (1967).mp3
Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts  – Angel Of The Morning (1968).mp3
P.P. Arnold – Angel Of The Morning (1968).mp3
Skeeter Davis  – Angel Of The Morning (1969).mp3
Nina Simone ““ Angel Of The Morning (1971).mp3
Juice Newton – Angel of the Morning (1981).mp3

The one-night stand anthem was also written by Chip Taylor (perhaps the angel of the morning was last night”s wild thing). Indeed, he told Mojo magazine in its September 2008 edition that Angel is Wild Thing slowed down: “I heard some guy playing Wild Thing real slow on a guitar. It sounded nice. So I did the same, lifting one of my fingers off a chord to create a suspension.” He also credited the Rolling Stones” Ruby Tuesday for inspiration.

The song was first recorded in 1967 by New York singer-songwriter Evie Sands (pictured), for whom Taylor wrote several songs (he also wrote I Can”t Let Go for her; it became a hit for The Hollies). It was on its way to becoming a hit, with good radio airplay and 10,000 copies selling fast. Then the label, Cameo-Parkway (of the Bobby Kennedy novelty record above) went bankrupt, and Sands” record sank. A few months later, Memphis producer Chips Moman picked up Angel Of The Morning (which in the interim had also been recorded by English singer Billie Davies) and had the unknown Merrilee Rush record it, backed by the same session crew that played with Elvis during his famous Memphis sessions that produced hits such as Suspicious Minds (itself a cover, as detailed in The Orignals Vol. 21). The Seattle-born singer had a massive hit with it, even receiving a Grammy nomination. It soon was covered prodigiously, with P.P. Arnold scoring a UK hit with it in 1968.

Angel Of The Morning was revived in 1981 by Juice Newton, who previously featured in The Originals Vol. 26 with her cover of Queen Of Hearts.  Her version sold a million copies in the US and reached #4 in the US charts. Like Rush, Newton was Grammy-nominated for her performance.

Also recorded by: Billie Davis (1967), Joya Landis (1968), Percy Faith (1968), Ray Conniff (1968), Liliane Saint Pierre (as Au revoir et à demain, 1968), I Profeti (as Gli occhi verdi dell’amore, 1968), Dusty Springfield (1969), Skeeter Davis (1969), Bettye Swann (1969), Connie Eaton (1970), Olivia Newton-John (1973), Merrilee Rush (re-recording, 1977), Guys n’ Dolls (1977), Mary Mason (as part of a medley, 1977), Thelma Jones (1978), Rita Remington (1978), Melba Montgomery (1978), Pat Kelly (1978), Elisabeth Andreassen (as En enda morgon, 1981), The Tremeloes (1987), Barnyard Slut (1993), Chip Taylor (1994), The Pretenders (1994), Ace Cannon (1994), Position (1997), Juice Newton (re-recording, 1998), Bonnie Tyler (1998), Thunderbugs (1999), Shaggy (as Angel, 2000), Maggie Reilly (2002), Blackman & The Butterfly (2003), The Shocker (2003), Chip Davis & Carrie Rodriguez (2006), Girlyman (2007), Jill Johnson (2007), Vagiant (2007), Gypsy Butterfly (2008), Barb Jungr (2008), Michelle (2008), Randy Crawford with Joe Sample (2008), Iván (as Angel de la mañana, 2009)

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Felice Taylor – It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It’s Spring) (1967).mp3
Felice Taylor – I’m Under The Influence Of Love (1967).mp3
Love Unlimited – It May Be Winter Outside, But In My Heart It’s Spring (1973).mp3
Love Unlimited – Under The Influence Of Love (1973).mp3

Before becoming an icon of baby-making music, Barry White was something of an impresario. He discovered and produced the girl band Love Unlimited (which included White”s future wife Glodean James), whose success in 1972 set him off on his successful solo career. Just a decade or so earlier, White had been in jail for stealing the tyres of a Cadillac (he credited hearing Elvis Presley singing It”s Now Or Never for turning his life around). After leaving jail, he started to work in record production, mostly as an arranger. Among his early arrangement credits was Bob & Earl”s 1963 song Harlem Shuffle. By 1967, White worked for the Mustang label, owned by Rob Keane, the man who first signed Sam Cooke, Richie Valens and Frank Zappa. In that job, White wrote for Bobby Fuller (of I Fought The Law fame), Viola Wills and  a young soul singer named Felice Taylor.

Felice Taylor, born in 1948 in Richmond, California, had previously released a single as part of a trio with her sisters, The Sweets, and a solo single under the name Florian Taylor. White”s It May Be Winter Outside provided Taylor with her only US hit, reaching #42 in the pop charts. It is a rather lovely version that sounds a lot like a Supremes song (with a break stolen from the Four Tops” Reach Out I”ll Be There). White also wrote and arranged Taylor”s I”m Under The Influence Of Love. The arrangement and Taylor”s vocals are inferior, and the single failed to make an impact. Taylor”s biggest success was with another White song, I Feel Love Comin” On, a bubblegum pop number that reached #11 in the UK charts in late 1967.

By the early 1970s Taylor had ceased to record. In 1973 Love Unlimited recorded totally reworked, luscious versions of It May Be Winter Outside and (title shortened) Under The Influence Of Love for the sophomore album. Both were released as singles, with Winter reaching #11 in the UK charts.

Also recorded by: (Under The Influence) Lori Hampton (1968), Kylie Minogue (2000)

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Mieko Hirota ““ Sunny (1965).mp3
Chris Montez ““ Sunny (1966).mp3
Bobby Hebb ““ Sunny (1966).mp3
Dusty Springfield ““ Sunny (1967).mp3
Johnny Rivers –  Sunny (1967).mp3
Stevie Wonder ““ Sunny (1968).mp3
Boney M. ““ Sunny (1976).mp3

Bobby Hebb died on Tuesday, August 3 at the age of 72. The man had a quite remarkable early life. Born to blind parents, both musicians, Nashville-born Robert Von Hebb progressed from being a child musician to becoming  one of the earlier musicians to play at the Grand Ole Opry, as part of Ray Acuff”s band. In the early 1960s Hebb even had a minor hit with a country standard recorded by Acuff, among others, Night Train To Memphis. Subsequently, afer the success of Sunny, he headlined the 1966 Beatles tour.

The genesis for Sunny was in a dual tragedy: the assassination of John F Kennedy and soon after  the fatal stabbing in a mugging of Hebb”s older brother Harold, with whom he had performed in childhood. The song was a conscious statement of meeting the trauma of these events with a defiantly positive disposition. In 2007, he told the Assiociated Press about writing Sunny: “I was intoxicated. I came home and started playing the guitar. I looked up and saw what looked like a purple sky. I started writing because I”d never seen that before.”

Still, it would be almost three years before Hebb would release the song himself. It was first recorded by the Japanese singer Mieko “Miko” Hirota who made her debut in her home country in 1962 with a cover of Connie Francis” Vacation. Within three years, the by now 18-year-old singer became the first Japanese artist to appear at the Newport Jazz Festival (the line-up of which included Frank Sinatra), having just recently discovered her talent for the genre thanks to a chance meeting with American jazz promoter  George Wein. The same year, in October 1965, she was the first of many to release Sunny, scoring a hit with it in Japan with her rather lovely jazzy version. By the time Hebb got around to releasing it, apparently having recorded it as an after-thought at the end of a session, there already were a few versions, including Chris Montez”s featured here. Hebb”s rightly became the definitive and most successful version, though Boney M scored a huge hit with it in Europe ten years later.

Also recorded by: John Schroeder Orchestra (1966), Cher (1966), Chris Montez (1966), Del Shannon (1966), Dave Pike (1966), Georgie Fame (1966), The Young-Holt Trio (1966), Roger Williams (1966), Richard Anthiny (1966), James Darren (1967), Horacio Malvicino (1967), Billy Preston (1967), Herbie Mann & Tamiko Jones (1967), Johnny Mathis (1967), Andy Williams (1967), Sam Baker (1967), John Davidson (1967), The Amazing Dancing Band (1967), Jackie Trent (1967), Booker T. & The M.G.’s (1967), Gordon Beck (1967), Joe Torres (1967), Nancy Wilson (1967), Dusty Springfield (1967), The Ventures (1967), Shirley Bassey (1968), Eddy Arnold (1968), Leonard Nimoy (1968), Frankie Valli (1968), José Feliciano (1968), Bill Cosby (1968), Mary Wells (1968), Frank Sinatra & Duke Ellington (1968), Paul Mauriat (1968), Gary Lewis & the Playboys (1968), Stevie Wonder (1968), Ray Conniff (1968), George Nenson (1968),  The Head Shop (1969), Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (1969), The Electric Flag (1969), Classics IV (1969), Ray Nance (1969), The Lettermen (1969), Ella Fitzgerald (1970), Del Shannon (1971), Pat Martino (1972), Bobby Hebb (as Sunny ’76, 1975), Hampton Hawes (1976), Boney M. (1976), Stanley Jordan (1987), Cosmoalpha (1994), Günther Neefs (1997), Ottottrio (1998), Kazuo Yashiro Trio (2000), Clementine (2000), Twinset (2003), Christophe Willem (2006), Michael Sagmeister (2006), Dwight Adams (2007), Cris Barber (2008), Giuliano Palma & the Bluebeaters (2009) a.o.

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More Originals

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Step back to 1977 – Part 2

July 21st, 2010 5 comments

In part one of my nostalgic trip to 1977 I recalled the sudden death of my father and how I shoved my rival out of the way in a race for my first true love”s favour. Puberty”s hormones had started to rage in my 11-year-old body. One day in early September I bought a copy of the teen magazine Bravo, familiar to me from the posters that used to cover my older sister”s bedroom walls. This one had Linda Blair from The Exorcist on the cover, and inside the first of a four-part series of Smokie posters. Apart with providing me with excellent sex education, buying Bravo turned me from a casual music fan into an obsessive. My growth was rapid, as the first part of 1978 will show. I might regard most of the sings in this post with nostalgic affection, but I am not proud to associate myself with some of them publicly.

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Baccara – Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.mp3
Baccara – Sorry, I”m A Lady.mp3

I have told the story before how the poetry of Yes Sir, I Can Boogie ignited my passion for the English language, which by 1977 I had learned for a year in school. It was the word “erjitayshin” (as in “Meester, your eyes are full of hesitation”) that send me to the Langenscheidt Englisch-Deutsch dictionary. It caused me great satisfaction to have mastered a four-syllable word. From there, I”d regularly translate lyrics from the snappily titled Top Schlagersongtextheft booklets. As we”ll see in part 3 of 1977, my first celebrity crush on an adult involved the blonde from ABBA, but the Baccara lady in black also gave me strange stirrings, proving that I am not tied to a particular type of woman. The spoken admonition in the Spanish duo”s second hit, in which the white Baccaraette regrets that she is a woman of virtue, also seemed cute and, indeed, sexy to me. In short, Baccara represent the aural and visual stimuli to my nascent pubescent sexual awakening.
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Harpo – In The Zum-Zum-Zummernight.mp3
Flute! This is not one of Harpo”s better-remembered songs. It reached #13 in West-Germany in September, his last Top 20 entry there. Indeed, by 1977 ““ the year he spent a month in Swedish jail for refusing to perform compulsory military service ““ Harpo”s career was declining. Being a bit of a Harpo fan, I bought two more singles by Harpo after this “” Television and a cover of The Troggs” With A Girl Like You, neither of which were hits “” and then the singer disappeared. A few years later he briefly returned to the news when he sustained serious injuries from being kicked by a horse he was training (he lost sight in one eye and his sense of smell). You and I might have boiled the horse down for glue. Harpo, in commendable contrast to you and me, named his next album after the horse, Starter. Apparently Harpo still performs (Northern German and Danish readers can catch him on 30 July at an Oldies-Night in Süderbarup, near Flensburg).
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Boney M – Belfast.mp3
Like Woody Guthrie before them, Boney M had a message of politics. “Got to have a believin”, got to have a believin”, got to have a believin” all the people “cause the people are leavin”. When the people believin”, when the people believin”, when the people believin” all the children cause the children are leavin”.” Right on! It took 20 years for the conflicting sides to listen to Boney M with open hearts and minds before they signed the Good Friday Peace Accord. On this song, Marcia Barrett got to sing lead instead of the more ubiquitous Liz Mitchell. It was co-written by Drafi Deutscher (who in the1960s recorded what may well be the only ever world-class Schlager, Marmor Stein und Eisen) specifically for Barrett, intended for her to sing even before she joined Boney M. Its original, less snappy title was Londonderry, which might locate Deutscher either on the Protestant or the Oblivious side.

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Rubettes – Ooh-La-La.mp3
When successful acts died commercially in Britain, they lingered on for a while in Germany. The Rubettes benefitted from such loyalties when their Ooh La La La became a hit well past their sell-by date. I thought the chorus was quite catchy, but I obviously did not take the time to translate them. “I”m contemplating having her my bride; she”s got great big tits, that”s what she has. Yes, when it comes down to lovin”, anything goes and everyone knows it, I swear now, for she has a thing about shedding her clothes.” Tom Waits was not going to perform a cover version of that, but it was pretty risque for the pop charts in the 1970s. And then, Rubettes Man engages himself with her clothes-shedding temperament: “I heard my parents footsteps coming down the stairs to see what all the noise was about. So I rolled over to the old piano and I said: “˜Ma, we”ve been playing the blues.” My mother gave me a knowing glance and she said: “˜Son, is that how you play it with your trousers round your shoes?”” Surely a real mother would have given a knowing look and ask her horny son not to soil the rug…

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Bay City Rollers ““ You Made Me Believe In Magic.mp3
There are BCR songs I like because they make me feel like a kid again. But this song I like because it”s damn good. It didn”t do very well because by then even the German teen girls had begun deserting the group, though it apparently cracked the US Top 10 (but only #34 in the UK and even in Germany only #24). Soon singer Leslie McKeown would depart as well. So You Made Me Believe In Magic stands as a testament to what might have been. It has a great arrangement (I really like the strings) and the guitar solo ““ ostensibly by Woody, but I don”t buy that ““ is pretty good too, albeit rather of its time. In memory of BCR, here”s a great video of the band performing for OAPs; I suspect it was a funny response to their being a teenybopper band.

Anyway, BCR remind me of the Great Poster Debate of September 1977. Bravo carried four different sizes of posters: A4, A3, a double-sided A2 insert called the “Superposter”, and the Starschnitt, weekly pieces of a picture that glued together would produce a life-sized poster (the only one I ever collected was of the Beatles). Although I was not a little girl, there were BCR posters up on the walls of the bedroom which my younger brother and I shared. Although I bought the magazines, we”d take weekly turns in deciding which posters would go up; my brother”s bargaining strategy was that if he had no say, he”d veto any poster going up. One week, the Superposter choice fell between a garish picture of BCR clones called the Dead End Kids on the colour side, and a really cool monochrome photo of Jimi Hendrix (of whom I knew nothing yet, other than that he was dead). Alas, it was brother”s week to choose the posters (pictured on the Bravo cover here), and he opted for the fucking Dead End Kids. I tried all I could to persuade him that Jimi had to go up, even trying to emotionally blackmail him by claiming that our late father, an opera and theatre man, was a big Jimi Hendrix fan. To no avail. The Dead End Kids went up ““ comedy socks, skimpy cut-off denim shorts with rather too open legs and all. I never got to hear any of their records, but a lot of Hendrix”s.

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Kenny Rogers ““ Lucille.mp3
Two years ago I was at a party when the electricity went off. The host quickly produced a guitar for an old-fashioned sing-along. But when nobody really remembers complete lyrics, these things tend to e short-lived. So as our host was idly playing as blues riff, I started singing along, making up lyrics as I went along to what I called The Muthafuckin” Blues. The lyrics of my ditty were more country than blues. You know the deal: my dog gone died, my woman gone left me, and the crops in the field are being left unharvested. Later I realised that, apart from the deceased canine (and the bitter end that my woman who gone left me would eventually meet), I was riffing on the theme of Kenny Roger”s Lucille, from the point of view of the wronged husband.

My mother bought the single on a trip in October to Cologne, at the massive Saturn store, at the time Europe”s biggest record shop. It was our first family trip since my father”s death in June. Before departing, I had been given a new pair of black leather shoes which had a very distinctive smell. Lucille evokes that smell and the very particular memories of that trip.

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Hoffmann & Hoffmann ““ Himbeereis zum Frühstück.mp3
Carole King – Hard Rock Cafe.mp3

This German cover of the Bellamy Brothers rather good Crossfire played every morning on our radio alarm clock, a modern thing with green digital numbers. Almost like I Got You Babe in Groundhog Day. It was one of three songs that seemed to play in a loop at the time: Carole King”s Hardrock Café, a German cover version of Herman”s Hermits” No Milk Today by a guy who played the fiddle, and this song. Although I was by now vehemently opposed to any German music whatsoever, I had a sneaking affection for this song. Raspberry ice cream for breakfast (which beats starfish and coffee, maple syrup and cream) sounded like just the thing to fulfill my nutritional needs. I was intrigued by the notion of rock “˜n” roll in an elevator (you don”t think they meant something other than dancing to Bill Haley, do you?). Sadly, one of the Hoffmanns died young, having thrown himself from a Rio hotel window in 1984. He was 33. I can”t say I liked Carole King”s song much, though it sounds a lot better now.

Part 3 follows soon. And when we get to 1978, when the music will get a lot better.

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More Stepping Back

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Step back to 1976 – Part 2

March 16th, 2010 11 comments

The long, hot summer of 1976 brought changes in my life. I had graduated from primary school, and at the age of ten would attend a high school which included in its student population bearded old hippies, some of them as old as 18. And in the summer we were packed off to a church camp while my parents went on holiday in France, the first time we didn”t all go on holiday together.

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Bellamy Brothers – Let Your Love Flow.mp3
The big summer hit of 1976, in its original form by the country music siblings and in its German version, titled Ein Bett im Kornfeld, by Jürgen Drews (like Boney M”s Liz Mitchell an alumnus of the Les Humphries Singers). I certainly wouldn”t have recorded this on my cassette recorder. In fact, it still reminds me of my miserable time on church camp, at which my older brother was a youth leader. For reasons probably related to his being a 16-year-old teenager on a power-trip, he asserted his fascist ascendancy through the brutal persecution of yours truly (my little brother, blond and the youngest in the group, enjoyed the protection of all the girls whom older brother fancied). Sturmtruppenoberführer Big Brother did get his just desserts towards the end of the camp when an insect bite gave him mild blood poisoning. He would be a youth leader again the following year, but that camp turned out to be one of the best fortnights in my life.

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Boney M – Daddy Cool.mp3
Much as I hate to admit it, this is a pretty good song. Indeed, if Boney M hadn”t jumped the Zugspitze after 1977 with shocking songs like Rivers Of Babylon, Hooray Hooray It”s A Holi-Holiday and the hilariously bad “We Kill The World”, they (or Frank Farian, whom we met in part 1 of 1976) might be remembered with greater respect. Daddy Cool, Ma Baker, Belfast and their cover of Sunny are fine disco-pop songs, even if the lyrics were exceptionally bad, especially those of Belfast. And to a boy about to enter puberty, the covers of the first two LPs, featuring the three exotic ladies in various states of undress, were rather appealing. Though I did hope that as a grown up there would be no circumstances that would compel me, by dint of being an adult, to wear anything as absurd as Bobby Farrell”s gold underpants.

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Johnny Wakelin – In Zaire.mp3
Mohammad Ali vs George Foreman. The Rumble in the Jungle. Back in the day, I was actually a Joe Frazier fan, and was delighted to find among my late father”s possessions an autograph by the great man (since faded, alas). He also had an autographed picture of the erstwhile Cassius Clay, obtained when he interviewed The Greatest in 1966 in London while covering the football World Cup there. Sadly, that autograph has gone missing. In Zaire is a novelty number, obviously (Wakelin made a career of novelty songs). And yet, the African percussive beat, though entirely hackneyed, were an innovation in the upper reaches of the pop charts of the day. Wakelin was something of a Muhammad Ali cheerleader: a year before In Zaire, he had a UK hit with Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)..

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David Dundas – Jeans On.mp3
As I mentioned in the introduction, after finishing Grade 4 I departed the safe cocoon that was primary school for the local gymnasium (the highest of Germany”s three tiered school system). My father had gone to the same school, and my elder brother was a student at the converted medieval monastery. My father, whose politics were centre-left, knew that the school”s teaching body comprised many old Nazis, people whom he knew back in the bad old days. Still, he sent me to that hell hole. The teachers were gruseome. The severe German teacher, who”d enter the classroom with big strides and purposefully bang his bag on the table by way of intimidation; the unpleasant religion teacher (doubtless one of the old Nazis) whose forbidding theology I could not follow because I was hypnotised by the strand of white slime that invariably moved between his lips; the geography teacher (definitely a Nazi) who had us standing to attention when he entered the classroom, stopping short from having us salute him with a raised arm; and the biggest bastard of them all: the coach, who systematically robbed me of all my self-confidence because I was not quite the legendary sportsman whom he believed my father to be. And David Dundas” Jeans On provided the soundtrack to my miserable time there.

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Sherbet ““ Howzat.mp3
I am certain that if cricket had caught on in Germany in good time, the country would have become quite excellent at it. Look at the German national football teams who have a way of hitting form at just the right time. That”s the secret to test cricket: winning the decisive sessions, coming back from setbacks, maintaining pressure on equally or more talented opposition. Basically the attributes that made Australia so domineering a side for a decade until a couple of years ago. Cricket fans will know why I”m yabbering on about what really is a minority sport (but huge in India, so in terms of numbers, it”s a significant discipline). The word “Howzat” is typically shouted by bowlers (they are like the pitcher in baseball) when the ball hits the batsman (that”s the guy with the bat) on the leg in a certain position, which the umpire may declare illegal and give the batsman out. Sherbet, being Australian, employed that cricketing term to give a cheating girlfriend “out” (they use another cricket term when they inform the girl: “I caught you out”). None of that made sense to me at the time, of course, even had I known about cricket. After all, I had started learning English only a couple of months before this became a minor hit in West-Germany.

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Tina Rainford – Silver Bird.mp3
If one wanted to locate a song with English lyrics as a good example of what a German Schlager sounds like, Silver Bird would be a most astute choice. Indeed, it was written by a Schlager producer, Drafi Deutscher (an old friend of Rainford”s whose “60s hit Marmor, Stein und Eisen is one of the few truly great Schlager), under the pseudonym Renate Vaplus. It is a song of its time, recalling the likes of Pussycat and the George Baker Selection “” and, indeed, ABBA in their Schlager phase. It was a massive hit. Quite bizarrely, Silver Bird also reached the top 20 of the US country charts. I had long forgotten about this song, so when I heard it again, it proved the powerful impact of music on the long-term memory as all kinds of feelings came rushing back, beaming me back to our living room.

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Ricky King РLe r̻ve.mp3
German-speakers of my generation who may be reading this will not thank me for posting his. Ricky King was a German guitar virtuoso located firmly in the muzak genre. The Fender Statocaster wielding King, known to his granny as Hans Lingenfelder, had been a session man for assorted Schlager types when he released Verde (an instrumental adaptation of a song by the improbably named Italian duo Oliver Onions) and this song, Le rêve. I suspect the only readers who will be interested in this are fellow nostalgist on a quest to recapture the feeling of the autumn of 1976. For everybody else, Ricky King is to Jimi Hendrix as Richard Clayderman is to Al Kooper. Bernhard Brink, who sported a blond afro, recorded a quite horrible vocal version of Le rêve.

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Marianne Rosenberg – Marleen.mp3
As mentioned in Curious Germany Vol. 2, Marianne Rosenberg began her career as a maidenly teenage singer, trilling songs about Mr Paul McCartney. After doing the standard Schlager thing, Rosenberg turned to disco in 1975 with the marvellous Ich bin wie Du (also in Curious Germany Vol. 2), all the time maintaining her secretary-next-door look. Today she is a cult legend in Germany”s gay scene, a status she seems to embrace. Marleen follows the same story line as Dolly Parton”s 1974 hit Jolene (note how Marleen more or less rhymes with Jolene). Marleen is in love with Marianne”s man, and the latter begs the more beautiful (less housewifey?) Marleen to abandon her romantic designs on Marianne”s man. Just hear Rosenberg”s tortured, drawn-out cry of Marleen. And all that is set to a gentle disco beat, so that we may dance and weep at the same time. The song, like many in the Rosenberg catalogue, was co-written by Joachim Heider, whom we met previously as a member of Krautrock band Glory Be in Curious Germany Vol. 3.

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