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In Memoriam – February 2012

March 1st, 2012 3 comments

The month opened with a headline death, followed by another towards the middle of the month, and ended with a third headline departure: I wrote about Don Cornelius and Whitney Houston; Davy Jones of The Monkees is honoured here with two tracks: his I Want To Be Free from The Monkees” debut album, and the Italian version of the Theme From The Monkees.

We rarely feature band managers, but Jon McIntire merits an exception. The Grateful Dead manager initiated the band”s cult by putting a notice into the sleeve of the band”s 1971 Skull and Roses album. It said: “Dead Freaks Unite! Who are you? Where are you? How are you? Send us your name and address and we”ll keep you informed.” The proto-Facebook Group scheme obviously worked. McIntire also managed country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage.

You may not know his name, but Billy Strange was responsible for some of the finest moments in pop music. A songwriter, guitarist and arranger, he played guitar on several Beach Boys songs, including on the Pet Sounds album, and arranged many of Nancy Sinatra”s songs, including her creepy duet with Frank Sr. He played the guitar on her Bang Bang, and the horns at the end of These Boots Are Made For Walking were his ideas (and I have a great post about that song lined up).

Mike Melvoin”s name might not be well-known either, at least outside jazz circles, but his piano work will have been heard by everybody who reads this blog: it features on the Jackson 5″s ABC, on the Beach Boys” Good Vibrations and on tracks on Pet Sounds (that album again!), on Natalie Cole”s duet with her father, Unforgettable, subtly in the background on Streisand”s Evergreen, on John Lennon”s cover of Stand By Me, on Helen Reddy”s I Am Woman, on Frank Sinatra”s That”s Life, and on We Are The World… On top of that, he sired musicians Wendy Melvoin (of Wendy & Lisa), the late Jonathan Melvoin (Smashing Pumpkins) and Susannah Melvoin.

And talking of departed family members, soul singer David Peaston was 1960s soul singer Fontella Bass” brother.


Don Cornelius, 75, host and producer of Soul Train, suicide on February 1
MFSB – TSOP (1974)

Mike Kelley, 57, artist and member of punk band Destroy All Monsters, suicide on February 1

David Peaston, 54, soul singer, on February 1
David Peaston – When I Remember (1991)

Phil Brown, 58, bassist for UK power pop band The Records, on February 2

Wando, 66, Brazilian composer and singer,on February 8
Wando РMo̤a (1976)

Luis Alberto Spinetta, 62, musician and one of the “Fathers of Argentine Rock”, on February 8

Jimmy Sabater Sr, 75, Puerto Rica-born Latin music singer and tambales player, on February 8
Jimmy Sabater – Bomba carambomba

Joe Moretti, 73, British session guitarist (It”s Not Unusual, Brand New Cadillac), on February 9
Johnny Kidd & The Pirates – Shakin” All Over (1960, as lead guitarist)

Whitney Houston, 48, soul and pop singer, on February 11
Whitney Houston – Star-Spangled Banner
Georgia Mass Choir & Whitney Houston – I Go To The Rock (1996)

Russell Arms, 92, singer and actor, on February 13
Russell Arms – Cinco Robles (Five Oaks) (1957)

Jodie Christian, 80, bebop and free jazz pianist, on February 13

Dory Previn, 86, singer-songwriter and lyricist (Valley of the Dolls, Last Tango in Paris), on February 14
Dionne Warwick – Valley Of The Dolls (1968, as lyricist)
The Sandpipers – Come Saturday Morning (1970, as lyricist)

Betty Barnes (Vivian Jeanette Worden), rockabilly singer, on February 14

Clive Shakespeare, 62, guitarist of Australian pop group Sherbet and record producer, on February 15
Sherbet – Summer Love (1975)

Luke Brandon, 87, country singer, guitarist and producer (for Bobby Bare a.o.), on February 15

Jon McIntire, 70, manager of the Grateful Dead, on February 16
The Grateful Dead – Mama Tried (Live, 1976)

Michael Davis, 68, bassist and singer of MC5, Destroy All Monsters a.o., on February 17
MC5 – It”s A Man”s Man”s Man”s World (1970)

Enrique Sierra, 54, member of Spanish 1980s rock band Radio Futura, on February 17

Joe Thompson, 93, African-American old-time music and bluegrass fiddler, on February 20

Billy Strange, 81, songwriter (Limbo Rock), guitarist (for Beach Boys a.o.)and music arranger, on February 22
Nancy Sinatra – Bang Bang (1966, as guitarist and arranger)
Elvis Presley – A Little Less Conversation (1968, as co-writer)

Christopher Reimer, 26, guitarist of Canadian art rock band Women, on February 21

Mike Melvoin, 74, pianist and composer, session man for Szabo Gabor, Tom Waits a.o, on February 22
Mike Melvoin & Plastic Cow – One Man, One Volt
Barbra Streisand – Evergreen (1977, as pianist)

Koji Kita, 63, member of Japanese pop band Four Leaves, on February 22

Pery Ribeiro, 74, Brazilian bossa nova and jazz singer, on February 24

Louisiana Red, 79, blues musician, on February 25
Louisiana Red – Valerie (2005)

Red Holloway, 84, jazz saxophonist (with John Mayall, Brother Jack McDuff, Etta James), on February 25
Jack McDuff – A Real Goodun” (1965, as saxophonist)

Dee Cernile, 46, guitarist with Canadian rock band Sven Gali, on February 25

Ray Lamere (Sugar Ray), 82,Big Band leader, singer and double bass player, on February 25

Hazy Osterwald, 90, Swiss big band leader, on February 26
Hazy Osterwald Sextett – The Call

Davy Jones, 66, actor and member of The Monkees, on February 29
The Monkees – I Wanna Be Free (1966)
The Monkees – Tema Dei Monkees (ca 1966)

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In Memoriam – January 2011

February 3rd, 2011 5 comments

With the death of Charlie Louvin, one of the longest-running performers in music has passed on. With his brother Ira, he started performing in the 1940s as the Louvin Brothers. The country and gospel act was massively influential. Elvis Presley was a huge fan (the brothers were his mom’s favourites). Ira, a racist drunk, died in a car crash in 1965; Charlie continued to record and perform for the next 45 years. Alas, the Louvin Brothers are often remembered only for the cover art of their 1960 album Satan Is Real (the story of which is HERE).

The Cheers’ Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots was one of the first hits for songwriters legends Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller; the motor crash song became a hit shortly after Jamers Dean’s death in 1955.

Two motor accidents claimed musicians this month. R&B keyboard man Greg Johnson reportedly stepped in front of a car in bad weather and was fatally hit, and Alex Kirst of grunge band Nymphs and later a session drummer for Iggy Pop was killed in a hit and run, apparently while walking to a shop for cigarettes.

Two musicians connected to Australia’s Little River Band died within a day of one another. Sherbet’s guitarist Harvey James was a member of the group that would become the Little River Band, and Steve Prestwich joined the band briefly after Cold Chisel broke up.

Finally, Bobby Poe’s 1964 hit with The Chartbusters included in this collection inspired Tom Hanks to make the movie That Thing You Do.

As always, songs listed with entries are in a downloadable file at the bottom of the post.

Gil Garfield, 77, member of ’50s rock & roll trio The Cheers, on January 1
The Cheers – Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots (1955)

Charles Fambrough, 60, jazz bassist and composer, on January 1
Charles Fambrough – It’s Not Easy Havin’ Fun (1997)

Verne Langdon, 69, musician and record producer, on January 1

Gerry Rafferty, 63, Scottish singer-songwriter and former member of Stealers Wheel, on January 4
Gerry Rafferty – Stealin’ Time (1978)
Stealers Wheel – Late Again (1972)

Mick Karn, 52, bassist of British new wave band Japan, on January 4
Japan – Quiet Life (12″ version, 1979)

Gustavo Kupinski, 36, guitarist with Argentinian rock band Los Piojos, in a car crash on January 4
Los Piojos – Tan solo (1999)

Grady Chapman, 81, lead singer with doo-wop band The Robins, on January 4
The Robins – Since I First Met You (1957)

Bobby Robinson, 93, record producer of acts such as Elmore James, Wilbert Harrison, King Curtis, Gladys Knight a.o., on January 7
The Shirelles – Dedicated To The One I Love (1959)
Lee Dorsey – Ya Ya (1962)

Phil Kennemore, 57, bassist of American heavy metal band Y&T, on January 7

Margaret Whiting, 86, jazz/pop singer, on January 10
Mel Torm̩ & Margaret Whiting РMake Someone Happy (1961)

Alex Kirst, 47, drummer of alternative rock band The Nymphs and for Iggy Pop, in a hit-and-run on January 13
The Nymphs – Sad And Damned (1991)

Tommy Crain, 59, guitarist of The Charlie Daniels Band, on January 13.
Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (as guitarist and co-writer, 1979)

Trish Keenan, 42, singer of British electronica group Broadcast, on January 14
Broadcast – The Book Lover (1997)

Harvey James, 58, guitarist of Australian pop group Sherbet, on January 15
Sherbet – Howzat (1976)

Steve Prestwich, 56, drummer of Australian rock band Cold Chisel and briefly the Little River Band, on January 16
Cold Chisel – Forever Now (1982)

Don Kirshner, 76, record producer, song publisher, TV host and impressario, on January 17

Greg Johnson, 58, R&B keyboard player, played with Joe Cocker, in motor accident, on January 20
Joe Cocker – Unchain My Heart (as keyboardist, 1987)

Bobby Poe, 77, singer, songwriter and promoter, on January 22
Wanda Jackson – Let’s Have A Party (as backing musician, 1960)
The Chartbusters – She’s The One (as member, 1964)

Buddy Charleton, 72, influential pedal steel guitarist and backing musician for Ernest Tubb, on January 25

Charlie Louvin, 83, country singer; half of The Louvin Brothers, on January 26
The Louvin Brothers – I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight (1956)

Gladys Horton, 66, lead singer of Motown band The Marvelettes, on January 26
The Marvelettes – Playboy (1962)

Henrik Ostergaard, 47, singer of San Francisco rock group Dirty Looks (not to be confused with the 1980s New York band), on January 27
Dirty Looks – C’mon Frenchie (1989)

John Barry, 77, British film score composer (Out Of Africa, James Bond), on January 30
John Barry – The Persuaders Theme (1971)

Doc Williams, 96, bluegrass musician and member of the Kansas Klodhoppers, on January 31.

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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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