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In Memoriam – March 2011

April 4th, 2011 7 comments

The Grim Reaper must be in need of a holiday after his brutally busy month.In fact, we’re still finding his victims from last month. For example, the 20 February death of doo wop singer Willie Davis was announced only last week.

Among this month’s dead are Carl Bunch, a drummer who toured with Buddy Holly & the Crickets in early 1959. He was in hospital due to frostbite sustained on the unheated tourbus which Buddy, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper tried to rescape by taking the flight that killed them.

Austrian disco-rocker Kurt Hauenstein’ Supermax featured in the Stepping Back series just a few days after his death (which at that point had passed me by; a reader alerted me to it). And with death of St Clair Lee, both male voices of The Hues Corporation are now silent. Another disco voice now gone is Loleatta Holloway, whose Love Sensation was copiously sampled from for Black Box’s 1989 hit Ride On Time ““ including her vocals (“performed” in the video by a slim, young thing). Holloway had more than that in her repertoire, as the slow-burning soul track in this mix, a b-side from 1971, shows.

Country music lost steel guitar maestro and composer Ralph Mooney (whose Crazy Arms was one of the great hits of the 1950s), composers Joe Taylor and Todd Cerney, Opry member Mel McDaniel, bluegrass musician and songwriter Harley Allen and, above all, Ferlin Husky, who with Buck Owen and Jean Shepard pioneered the Bakersfield sound that produced the likes of Merle Haggard and Gram Parsons.

Nate Dogg’s singing-rap style was, in my view, underappreciated. To my chagrin, in his Summer Night On Hammer Hill, Jens Lekman excluded Nate’s contribution to the ’90s hip hop classic Regulate altogether, mentioning only Warren G.

Of all deaths this month (and probably most others), that of London reggae man Smiley Culture is the most bizarre: he reportedly stabbed himself in the heart during a raid by the police, who suspected him of dealing in cocaine. In that light, his humorous 1984 hit Police Officer, about being searched for ganja in his Lancia, is almost spooky.

As always, songs listed below the entries are collated in one downloadable file.

Willie Davis, 78, tenor of doo wop group The Cadets (also recording as The Jacks, on February 20
The Cadets – Stranded In The Jungle (1956)

Jean Dinning, 86, member of The Dinnings and writer of Mark Dinning’s Teen Angel, on February 22
Dinning Sisters – Beg Your Pardon (1948)

William “Beau Dollar” Bowman, 69, funk singer & drummer, on February 22
Beau Dollar and the Coins – Soul Serenade (1966)

Rick Coonce, 64, drummer of The Grass Roots, on February 25
The Grass Roots – Let’s Live For Today (1967)

Johnny Preston, 71, pop singer, on March 4
Johnny Preston – Running Bear (1960)

Herman Ernest, 59, session drummer for Dr John, Lee Dorsey, Neville Brothers, Labelle (a.o), on March 6
Labelle – Lady Marmalade (1974, as drummer)

St. Clair Lee, 66, singer with soul group Hues Corporation, on March 8
The Hues Corporation – I Caught Your Act (1977)

Mike Starr, 44, bassist of Alice in Chains, body found on March 8
Alice In Chains – Man In The Box (1990)

Eddie Snyder, 92, lyricist (Strangers In The Night, Spanish Eyes), on March 10
Al Martino – Spanish Eyes (1965)

Hugh Martin, 96, film composer, on March 11
Vanessa Williams – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (2004, as composer)

Jack Hardy, 63, influential folk singer-songwriter, on March 11

Rita Guerrero, 46, singer of Mexican rock group Santa Sabina, on March 11
Santa Sabina – Invitacion (2003)

Joe Morello, 82, drummer of The Dave Brubeck Quartet, on March 12
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Kathy’s Waltz (1959)

Nilla Pizzi, 91, Italian singer once banned from radio by Mussolini, on March 12
Nilla Pizzi – Amado mio (1947)

Ritchie Pickett, 56, New Zealand country singer, on March 13

Big Jack Johnson, 70, blues singer and guitarist, on March 14
Big Jack Johnson & The Cornlickers – Too Many Drivers (2009)

Ronnie Hammond, 60, singer of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, on March 14
Atlanta Rhythm Section – So Into You (1976)

Todd Cerney, 57, country musician, songwriter and producer,on March 14
Steve Holy – Good Morning Beautiful (2002, as composer)

Nate Dogg, 41, Hip hop legend, on March 15
Nate Dogg feat Warren G – Nobody Does It Better (1998)

Smiley Culture, 48, British reggae singer and DJ, on March 15
Smiley Culture – Police Officer (1984)

Melvin Sparks, 64, jazz and soul guitarist, on March 15
Melvin Sparks – Get Ya Some (1975)

Armen Halburian, 77, drummer with Herbie Mann”s Family of Mann, on March 16  (no pic available)
Herbie Mann – Hi-Jack (1975)

Ferlin Husky, 85, country singer, on March 17
Ferlin Husky – Giddy Up Go (1971)

Jet Harris, 71, guitarist with The Shadows, on March 18
The Shadows – Apache (1960)

Kurt Hauenstein, 62, leader of Austrian disco band Supermax, on March 20
Supermax – It Ain’t Easy (1979)

Johnny Pearson, 85, British composer, arranger and pianist, on March 20
Sounds Orchestral – Cast Your Fate To The Wind (1965, as pianist)

Ralph Mooney, 82, country musician and composer and steel guityar maestro, on March 20
Ray Price – Crazy Arms (1956, as composer)
Buck Owens – Under Your Spell Again (1959, on steel guitar)

Loleatta Holloway, 64, disco and soul singer, on March 21
Loleatta Holloway – Rainbow ’71 (1971)
Loleatta Holloway – Love Sensation (1980)

Pinetop Perkins, 97, blues pianist, on March 21
Joe Willie ‘Pinetop’ Perkins & Marcia Ball – Carmel Blue (2004)

Zoogz Rift, 57, musician, artist and wrestler, on March 22

Frankie Sparcello, bassist of thrash metal band Exhorder, on March 22.

Syd Kitchen, 59, South African alternative singer, on March 22
Syd Kitchen – Where The Children Play (1999)

Ken Arcipowski, 66, founder member of doo wop band Randy & the Rainbows, on March 23
Randy and the Rainbows – Denise (1963)

Joe Taylor, 89, country musician and composer, on March 24
Leroy Van Dyke – The Auctioneer (1957, as composer)

Derek Parrott, 63, American folk musician, on March 25

Carl Bunch, 71, tour drummer of Buddy Holly & the Crickets, on March 26.

Lula Côrtes, 61, Brazilian psychedelic-rock musician, on March 26
Lula C̫rtes РDesengano (1981)

Harley Allen, 55, country singer and songwriter, on March 30
Dan Tyminski & Harley Allen & Pat Enright – I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow (2000)
Alan Jackson – Everything I Love (1996, as songwriter)

Mel McDaniel, 68, country singer, on March 31
Mel McDaniel – The Big Time (1982)

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Step back to 1978 – Part 3

March 24th, 2011 10 comments

By the second half of 1978 I was clearly done with punk “” much like the rest of the civilised world. Now the word was Grease, even if You”re The One That I Want became unbearably overplayed. Other than a really great roadtrip holiday, the latter part of 1978 seems to have been quite uneventful for me: I cannot remember anything interesting at all happening other than playing football in ankle-deep snow in winter.

John Paul Young – Love Is In The Air.mp3
I knew this track by the Australian singer who prompted two popes to adopt his name in 1978 for quite a while before the event I associate it most with: a summer holiday in what was then East-Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria. Love Is In The Air was on a K-Tel type sampler cassette we played ad nauseam on that road trip in a Volkswagen camper, mainly because we didn”t have much else with us by way of musical entertainment. The tape also included J.J. Cale”s Cocaine, Eric Clapton”s Lay Down Sally, and Eruption”s cover of I Can”t Stand The Rain. I think the latter might have followed Love Is In The Air, because when Young”s song ends, I expect to hear the opening synth notes from the Eruption number. It could be that we gave that tape away to an East German family we met in Prague, with whom we struck up a friendship that extended beyond the holiday (I met the daughter again last year, for the first time in 29 years). To East Germans, all forms of Western media were like golddust. On our later visits to our friends, I”d smuggle Bravo magazines over the border, and act that was regarded as quite audacious, indeed almost heroic.  Love Is In The Air was also the first song I ever sung at a karaoke.

Clout – Substitute.mp3
In this series I have reported on my barely pubescent crushes on Agnetha of ABBA and Debbie Harry of Blondie. They were joined by another blonde in the form of the Glenda Hyam, the keyboard player of South African girl group Clout. The thing is, I turned out have a greater preference for darker women (not that I am inclined to discriminate on the basis of excessive pheomelanin). Alas, Glenda soon left the group, to be replaced by two much less fanciable but more hirsute blokes (who would later joined Johnny Clegg in Juluka). The dudes, no less curly than the rest of Clout, turned up for the follow-up hit Save Me, which will feature in the course of this series. Substitute, a great unrequited love number, is a cover version of a song by the Righteous Brothers. If anyone has the original, I”d be most grateful to receive it.

Supermax – Love Machine.mp3
Austrian disco, long before Falco! Goodness, this played everywhere in Germany, and at the time I hated it. Now I actually like it. Imagine Pink Floyd going disco (in which case the lyrics, with gems like “I am a love machine in town, the best you can get 50 miles around”, would need to be read ironically). Long-haired, moustachoid Kurt Hauenstein”s band was multi-racial (though not as predominantly black as the single cover would lead us to believe), and as such it became the first international multi-racial band to tour South Africa in 1981. It was a thankless venture. The apartheid authorities were not exactly pleased at the racial mixing ““ just imagine the potential of miscegenation among these degenerate disco hippies! ““ especially since the Austrians were also playing in the “homeland” of Venda, which is so off the beaten track that it probably has not seen any international music acts since. And the international artistic community failed to see the humour in anybody touring apartheid South Africa, racial diversity notwithstanding. Even if just a few years earlier the likes of Percy Sledge and George Benson had done exactly that.

Umberto Tozzi – Tu.mp3
A year earlier, Umberto Tozzi had enjoyed a big hit with Ti Amo. I liked that song very much. In 1978, Tozzi had a hit with Tu. By then I was wary of Italian balladeers whose schlock lent themselves to German covers by Schlager singers with an excess of blow-dried hair. Oddly, I don”t recall this being turned into a Schlager. Perhaps the absence of a chorus deterred the Schlager industry. Or perhaps they didn”t know how to translate “ba-badda-darm” into German. A year later, Tozzi released Gloria, which in 1984 became, much to my astonishment, a hit for Laura Branagan. I must confess that I do have a bit of a weakness for the Italian San Remo festival kind of songs.

Robert Palmer – Best Of Both Worlds.mp3
Much as I liked the song back then, it”s a bit of a mess, with its cod-Reggae beat and aggressively out-of-tune vocals. It was a fair hit in Europe, I think, but didn”t even dent the Top 75 in Britain. I think what I found most attractive about it are the minor notes 2:12 into the song. A year later Palmer had a bigger hit with Bad Case Of Loving You. At the bumper car rink at the local Rummel (as a travelling funfair is known in German) that year, the ticket-booth DJ held a name-the-artist competition when Bad Case Of Loving You came on. The prize was something like tokens for five free rides. Trouble was, I was already driving in a bumper car. To my frustration, nobody knew the answer, which I did. I called the answer out to my younger brother, but all I got in return was a deaf “heh?”. Of course, he wasn”t the idiot in that situation. I was. Obviously I should have abandoned my single ride in order to get five freebies ““ and the satisfaction of strutting to cash in my free rides knowing the answer to a tough question none of the assembled ignoramuses knew. File under “Regrets, I”ve had a few”.

Nina Hagen Band – TV-Glotzer.mp3
I must be honest: I don”t like Nina Hagen”s obnoxious vocals much. I bought this single (the cover of which seems to have been used for every Hagen release around that time) because it seemed the rebellious thing to do. There simply was very little of this kind of thing in German music at the time. The indictment of consumerism and the public”s passive, indeed mindless, acceptance of it appealed to my nascent leftist tendencies (translated lyrics are here). The consumerism must have been striking to Hagen, who had come from East-Germany only two years earlier after her singer stepfather, Wolf Biermann, was expelled by the communist regime. Backed by what would become the Neue Deutsche Welle band Spliff, TV Glotzer is a cover of The Tubes” far superior White Punks On Dope.  So Hagen and especially TV Glotzer were hugely influential in the rise of the German new wave movement.

Status Quo – Again And Again.mp3
For the first three years of my record-buying career, I bought loads of Status Quo records. Then I went off them, righteously repudiating the Quo. By the time I was a young adult, I joined the consensus that they were rather ridiculous and easily spoofed cliché mongering two-chord wonders. What utter foolishness! What deprivation did I subject myself to? No good case can be made for Status Quo being rock & roll”s equivalent of Dietrich Buxtehude, but, damn it, for pure energy and fun it”s hard to beat songs like Again And Again. Denims on, strike pose standing with legs apart (position of mirror optional), engage air guitar, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with imaginary fellow guitarist rocking forward and backward, jump in the air with final chord, look in panic at doors and windows to ensure that they were shut…

Olivia Newton-John – A Little More Love.mp3
Livvy”s career was stuttering to a bit of a halt before her appearance in Grease. On strength of that movie I bought her Totally Hot album, which contained rather too much disco-pop and too little by way of quality ballads, such as the wonderful Hopelessly Devoted To You from Grease. It really set the scene for the later Physical, the opening chord for the ghastly “80s. A Little More Love is one of those songs that suffers from a lack of direction. It”s not clear whether it”s supposed to be a West Coast rock number or a disco track. The pedestrian verses call to mind a b-side recorded under duress by Linda Ronstadt, but the glorious chorus sounds like it was written by the Bee Gees in their pomp, even though the song”s composer was John Farrar (who also wrote Hopelessly Devoted To You and You”re The One That I Want). As much as I hate Physical, I was pleased to see Newton-John appear on Glee last year; not as the sweet individual of her doubtless merited reputation, but as a bitch who outdoes the wonderfully ruthless Sue Sylvester.

Al Stewart – Song On The Radio.mp3
I had ended 1977 by buying singles by Harpo and The Runaways. I ended the following year by buying an Al Stewart album. I was staying with family friends in another city for a week or so over New Year”s Eve. They were quite different from my family. To begin with, they were communists. Not communists of the variety that had beards (even the men), carried Mao”s pocketbook and a displayed velvet poster of Che Guevara. These were proper activists, registered members of the German Communist Party, the DKP, and as critical of the corruption of communism in the East as they were of the capitalist society in the West. Communists of the ilk of Nina Hagen’s stepfather Biermann. I never adopted their politics, but I was influenced by them to see the word in a different way. So I was with them when I bought Al Stewart”s Time Passages album. When I asked them to play it, they appeared less than keen; much as I would feel if a 12-year-old asked me to put on their latest favourite record by what I would presume to be an autotuned muppet or derivative emo goon. When they finally relented, they liked what they heard and even asked if they could tape the LP (buying it would just have given profits to owners of the means of production, of course). I felt great validation that adults of intellectual character would like the music I bought.

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