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Any Major Hits from 1961

November 25th, 2021 1 comment

 

One last anniversary mix before we leave the Year 2021, a date which must have seemed like the calendar of science fiction 60 years ago, when all the songs on this collection were hits. Where are those flying cars we were promised?

Unlike the Any Major Hits from 1971 mix, which drew from both US and UK (and European) charts, the 1961 selection is very US-centric, though some of these songs charted in Britain, too. It was a strange time for pop music, it seems — an interregnum after the frenzy of Rock & Roll and the advent of the British Invasion, the innovation of bands like The Beach Boys, the rise of soul music and Motown, the anarchic power of garage rock. Within five years, there’d be The Beatles’ Revolver album and Brian Wilson’s Good Vibrations (five years ago, in our money, is 2016). Within six years, there’d be Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend doing violence to guitars on stage at Monterey. In 1961, you didn’t see Dick Dale smashing his Fender or Duanne Eddy setting his Gretsch on fire!

But let the record also show that the music of 1961 was the context in which Lennon & McCartney and their cohorts were consumers. In don’t dare to guess how many of these featured songs they knew, but they certainly listened to early Motown, represented here by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, and other R&B records. And Ricky Nelson’s featured Everlovin’, a cover of a record by the Australian band The Crescents, has all the hallmarks of the early Beatles sound. Did George Harrison know the song? Well, it did reach #23 in the UK. And even 35 years later, Van Morrison based his song Days Like This on The Shirelles’ 1961 hit Mama Said.

Of course, at the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, the 1960s were a time of rapid epochal change in the West. But 1961 doesn’t seem part of the 1960s. And some of the music here illustrates this. The musical Grease is generally accepted to be set in 1959, the movie in 1958 (both set at the fictional Rydell High School, named after Bobby Rydell, one of the artists on this mix). Almost any of the tracks here could have featured among the covers on the soundtrack of Grease, the movie.

And one track here was virtually copied for the closing number of Grease, We Go Together, with its doo wop-inspired nonsense lyrics. Barry Mann’s Who Put The Bomp set a template for the Grease song, with its “Boogity boogity boogity” and “Bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop”.

Both songs include the line “Rama lama ding dong” (slightly adapted in the Grease number). That was, of course, the title of the hit for doo wop band The Edsels. I don’t know whether Mann borrowed from the Edsels or they from Mann (who’d become one of the great Brill Building songwriters with his wife, Cynthia Weil). Either way, it sounds more 1950s than 1960s.

Doo wop was still big in 1961, and now black artists actually had hits with their songs, rather than white artists cashing in on their talent. By 1961, the US charts were far more integrate than they had been in the 1950s. On this mix, about half the acts are black. Among them are The Pips, featuring the young Gladys Knight on lead vocals.

I’ll leave you with an observation about vocal styles on two tracks on this mix:  When the UK singer Helen Shapiro recorded her international mega-hit Walkin’ Back to Happiness, she was 14 but sounded twice her age. But when the recently late Sue Thompson had a hit with Sad Movies, she was 36 but sounded like she was 14.

In other words, Thompson was old enough to be Helen’s mother — and in 1961, pop music has something of a mother obsession. On this collection, we have Mama issuing sound counsel to Smokey Robinson and The Shirelles, is lied to by Sue Thompson, provides Kenny Dino (in the bonus tracks) with guilt-inflicting information, and Ernie K-Doe has trouble with his mother-in-law. Still, the CD-R length mix ends with daddy coming home.

So, yes, there are two playlists: the CD-R length one and another with the 18 bonus tracks. I won’t list them, but I’ll point out one: The Impressions’ Gypsy Women, which in its original version already captures the sound of ’60s soul, and so is very much ahead of its time. Other acts among the bonus tracks include Farts Domino, The Shadows, Roy Orbison (with a song that sounds like Only The Lonely recycled), Elvis, Bobby Darin, and a young Tony Orlando.

The mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-ramalamadingdonged covers. The text above is included in an illustrated PDF booklet. PW in comments.

1. Chubby Checker – Let’s Twist Again
2. Bobby Lewis – Tossin’ And Turnin’
3. Chris Kenner – I Like It Like That (Part 1)
4. The Drifters – I Count The Tears
5. Eddie Cochran – Weekend
6. Ray Peterson – Corinna Corinna
7. The Everly Brothers – Walk Right Back
8. Don Gibson – Sea Of Heartbreak
9. Patsy Cline – I Fall To Pieces
10. Sue Thompson – Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)
11. Brenda Lee – Emotions
12. Connie Francis – Where The Boys Are
13. Helen Shapiro – Walking Back To Happiness
14. The Jive Five – My True Story
15. The Shirelles – Mama Said
16. Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry – (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do
17. LaVern Baker – Saved
18. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Shop Around
19. Sam Cooke – That’s It-I Quit-I’m Moving On
20. Bobby Rydell – Good Time Baby
21. Del Shannon – Runaway
22. The Edsels – Rama Lama Ding Dong
23. The Chimes – I’m In The Mood For Love
24. Ricky Nelson – Everlovin’
25. Barry Mann – Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)
26. The Dovells – Bristol Stomp
27. Bobby Vee – Run To Him
28. Curtis Lee – Pretty Little Angel Eyes
29. The Pips – Every Beat Of My Heart
30. Ernie K-Doe – Mother-In-Law
31. The Belmonts – Tell Me Why
32. Shep and The Limelites – Daddy’s Home

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Previously in Any Major Hits:
Any Major Hits From 1944
Any Major Hits From 1970
Any Major Hits From 1971
Life In Vinyl 1981

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Any Major Beatles In French Vol. 2

November 18th, 2021 8 comments

 

 

Here’s the keenly-awaited second volume of The Beatles in French. How do I know it is keenly-awaited? Because The Beatles in French Vol. 1 was unexpectedly popular, with some readers saying they can’t wait for Volume 2.

This second volume covers the French versions of Beatles songs from years 1965 to 1970, or from Rubber Soul to Let It Be. And this means that the new volume includes the French cover of the one Beatles song which practically every Beatles fan of any rank wants to hear performed in French: Michelle. Or, in the case of the cover version, Michel, for in the 1966 rendering by Danielle Denin, Michelle becomes a Michel, and Danielle inserts herself into the proceedings as well. Cependant, les mots vont-ils encore bien ensemble en Français?

The first mix covered the Beatles output over just three years, and the second covers almost six. The compulsion to cover The Beatles was clearly driven by the Yé-yé sub-culture; once that faded, the need to record Beatles songs apparently diminished. One might think that the more mature Beatles songs might lend themselves to the stylings of the chanson, but that doesn’t seem to have panned out that way. There a few exceptions: Johnny Hallyday, still rocking furiously on Volume 1, pulls Girl into that direction on his 1966 recording, Eddy Mitchell (whom we met on Vol. 1) gives us a hint of how good a Gilbert Bécaud version of Fool On The Hill might have been, and Canada’s Gérard Saint Paul shows why The Long And Winding Road is really a chanson. But was there no chansoneer to tackle Something?

If it is your opinion that it is impossible to drag the regrettable Yellow Submarine from the bottom of the ocean, I commend to you the cover by veteran entertainer Maurice Chevalier, who gives the maritime vessel a new coat of paint, and is now travelling on the Green Submarine.

Almost all songs here are more or less contemporaries of the Beatles originals. Anne-Renée took her time, releasing her take of You Won’t See Me nine years after the original appeared on Rubber Soul. By far the newest cover kicks off this mix: Drive My Car, covered in 1998 as Tu peux conduire ma bagnole by German-French synth-pop duo Stereo Total, whose singer Françoise Cactus we lost in February this year.Comme toujours, la compilation est programmée pour tenir sur un CD-R standard, comprend des pochettes faites maison, et ce texte au format PDF. Mot-de-passe dans la section Commentaires.

1. Stereo Total – Tu peux conduire ma bagnole (Drive My Car) (1998)
2. Anne-Renée – Je veux savoir (You Won’t See Me) (1974)
3. Stone – Seul (Norwegian Wood) (1966)
4. François Fabrice – Les Garçons sont Fous (Think For Yourself) (1966)
5. Danielle Denin – Michel (Michelle) (1966)
6. Johnny Halliday – Je l’aime (Girl) (1966)
7. Erick Saint Laurent – Eleonor Rigby (1966)
8. Renée Martel – Entre tes bras (Good Day Sunshine) (1969)
9. Johnny Hallyday – Je Veux Te Graver Dans Ma Vie (Got To Get You Into My Life) (1966)
10. Olivier Despax – Dis-Moi (Here, There And Everywhere) (1967)
11. Maurice Chevalier – Le sous-marin vert (Yellow Submarine) (1967)
12. Les Blue Notes – Tout peut s’Arranger (We Can Work It Out) (1966)
13. F.R. David – Il est plus facile (Strawberry Fields) (1967)
14. Dominique Walter – Penny Lane (1967)
15. Donald Lautrec – L’amour quand tu es là (With A Little Help From My Friends) (1969)
16. Le 25ième Regiment – Lucie Sous un Ciel de Diamants (Lucy In The Sky…) (1967)
17. Erick Saint-Laurent – C’est Devenu Un Homme (She’s Leaving Home) (1967)
18. Marcel Amont – Dans 45 ans (When I’m 64) (1967)
19. Les Baronets – La même chanson (Your Mother Should Know) (1968)
20. Eddy Mitchell – Le fou sur la colline (The Fool On A Hill) (1968)
21. Les Intrigantes – Hello, Goodbye (1968)
22. Bruce Huard – Lady Madonna (1968)
23. Francoise d’Assise & Michel Pagliaro – Hey Jude (1968)
24. Patrick Zabé – Oh! Darling (1969)
25. Marie Jane – Suis-moi (Two Of Us) (1972)
26. Gérard Saint Paul – Let It Be (1970)
27. Gérard Saint Paul – Le Long Chemin Vers Toi (The Long and Winding Road) (1970)

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1971 Vol. 2

November 9th, 2021 5 comments

Here’s a second lot of “best albums of 1971”, following on from the Top 20 of that year’s LPs. On any other day, half of these albums might have made it into the Top 20, especially the Baby Huey album, which provides the stand-out track on this collection. Huey’s psychedelic cover of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come is quite extraordinary; I doubt that Cooke had any references to “funny cigarettes” in mind when he wrote the song.

The album, The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend, was released posthumously: James Ramey, as Baby Huey’s mom knew him, died at 26 on 28 October 1970.

For the past 30 years, you’ve been lucky if a your favourite act released a new album every two years; in 1971 it was not uncommon that an act would release two a year. Two such acts feature on both volumes of the best albums of 1971: Isaac Hayes (Black Moses and the Shaft soundtrack) and Carole King (Tapestry and Music, the latter released as the year ended).

I might have afforded a much less known singer the same accolade: soul singer Margie Joseph, who released a pair of superb soul albums in 1971: Makes A New Impression and Phase II. I picked the latter, but there’s little to separate these two sets.

One album that just slipped into the Top 40 is Stevie Wonder’s Where I’m Coming From. It’s a mere training run for that incredible sequence of Wonder albums that would start with 1972’s Music Of My Mind.

Obviously I was too young to buy any of these albums in 1971 (as a five-year-old, I’d probably have bought something by Dutch child-singer Heintje). But by the time I was 18, I had three of them: Led Zep’s unnamed album (generally called IV), The Who’s Who’s Next?, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory. And possibly Little Feat’s eponymous debut on tape.

These two mixes serve as good companions to Any Major Hits from 1971 and Any Major Soul 1971.

As always, CD-R length, home-nostalgiaed covers, text in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. The Who – Behind Blue Eyes (Who’s Next?)
2. Led Zeppelin – Misty Mountain Hop (IV)
3. Sly & the Family Stone – Family Affair (There’s A Riot Going On)
4. Shuggie Otis – Strawberry Letter 23 (Freedom Flight)
5. Baby Huey – A Change Is Going To Come (The Baby Huey Story)
6. Stevie Wonder – If Your Really Love Me (Where I’m Coming From)
7. Carole King – Carry Your Load (Music)
8. Rod Stewart – (Find A) Reason To Believe (Every Picture Tells A Story)
9. David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things (Hunky Dory)
10. Serge Gainsbourg – Ballade De Melody Nelson (Histoire de Melody Nelson)
11. Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat (Songs Of Love And Hate)
12. Little Feat – Strawberry Flats (Little Feat)
13. Don McLean – Empty Chairs (American Pie)
14. Dolly Parton – The Way I See You (Coat Of Many Colors)
15. Carpenters – Let Me Be The One (Carpenters)
16. The Stylistics – Betcha By Golly, Wow (The Stylistics)
17. Margie Joseph – That Other Woman Got My Man And Gone (Phase II)
18. Isaac Hayes – Theme from Shaft (Shaft)
19. S.O.U.L. – Soul (What Is It)
20. The Persuasions – Good Times (Street Corner Symphony)

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In Memoriam – October 2021

November 2nd, 2021 2 comments

It was a strange month: The Reaper claimed nobody madly famous, but many of those who left us in October were of great interest, as the 12 write-ups testify. Sometimes I wonder what it’s like going through life knowing that you’ve played on, say, The Beatles’ Yesterday, but if you mention it in the pub, the barflies might call you a bullshitter (though I’m sure that this was no situation in which the admirable Kenneth Essex ever found himself in). I find that this is one of the satisfactions in doing this monthly series: to highlight not only the works of the well-known but also the contributions of the people whose names few who listen to the music take note of.

The Main Jay
The second, and longer-serving, Jay of The Americans has died. The first lead singer of Jay & The Americans was Jay Traynor, who died in 2014. When Traynor left in 1962, having enjoyed one Top 10 hit with the band, David Black of one-record doo wop act The Empires replaced him. Black (born David Blatt) changed his name to Jay Black, to keep the band’s name intact, seeing as it was given to them by the legendary Leiber and Stoller. With Black on lead vocals, the band recorded a string of hits in the 1960s, with Come A Little Bit Closer, Cara Mia, and This Magic Moment hitting the US Top 10 between 1964 and 1968.

Check out the featured song, Got Hung Up Along The Way, and tell me if it doesn’t sound like a Style Council song, some 16 years before Weller and Talbot recorded Café Bleu.

The Elvis Drummer
Drummer Ron Tutt left us on October 16 with an impressive curriculum vitae. On stage, the Dallas-born musician was on the drums behind Elvis Presley for nearly a decade, as a member of the TCB (Taking Care Of Business) Band, often getting a drum-solo slot at concerts. Of course, he was the drummer on the famous “Alloha From Hawaii” broadcast of an Elvis concert. He was also Neil Diamond’s chosen drummer, on tour and in the studio, and the same for Jerry Garcia after the TCB Band split after Elvis’ death.

He recorded with Billy Joel, Nancy Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Helen Reddy, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Rivers, Chi Coltrane, B.J. Thomas, Kenny Rogers, Gram Parsons, José Feliciano, Emmylou Harris, Carpenters, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Jerry Garcia, Stevie Nicks and Michael McDonald, and many others. Often he’d also provide backing vocals.

Big hits he played on include Presley’s Burning Love; Diamond’s Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue, Sweet Caroline, I Am…I Said; and Billy Joel’s Piano Man.

The Wham! Bassist
A sought-after bassist who was taught by Motown legend James Jamerson, Deon Estus made his most significant contribution as the bass player on that spectacular run of great Wham! Between 19823 and 1986, and after that on George Michael’s first two solo albums. Born in Detroit, Estus had some success in the soul/disco band Brainstorm in the late 1970s, before going on tour with Marvin Gaye in the early 1980s. After that tour, he remained in London and soon joined up with unknowns George Michael and Andrew Ridgley. As a member of Wham!, he toured in China in 1985.

That year he also released his first solo record, a duet with Amii Stewart. In between session work, Estus released a few more solo records in the late 1980s, scoring a couple of hits, most notably Heaven Help Me in 1989, with George Michael on backing vocals.

The Irishman
With his group The Chieftains, which he co-founded in 1963 and led for almost six decades, Paddy Moloney helped bring Irish folk music to an international audience. It helped that the group played with many international artists, sometimes guesting and on one album a galaxy of stars guesting. Among these collaborations was a superb album credited to them with Van Morrison.

Moloney played the uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), the accordion, the tin or penny whistle, and the bodhrán, a flat Irish drum. He did session work for the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sting, Art Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Roger Waters, Gary Moore, Midge Ure, Herbie Hancock, Ry Cooder, and the recently late Nanci Griffith, among others. He also composed for films such as Braveheart, Gangs of New York, and Barry Lyndon.

Moloney’s death was a big deal in Ireland. Irish President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute: “Paddy, with his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist, notably the uilleann pipes and bodhrán, was at the forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music, bringing a greater appreciation of Irish music and culture internationally.”

The Candy Man
British composer and lyricist Leslie Bricusse had a hand in writing many classic songs from film and musical, many with Anthony Newley: The Candy Man from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; What Kind of Fool Am I? from Stop the World – I Want to Get Off; Le Jazz Hot from Victor/Victoria; If I Ruled The World from Pickwick;  Talk To The Animals from Doctor Dolittle; and the Bond film theme songs Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, hits for Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinatra respectively. Younger (and some older) people might recognise his composition Christmas At Hogwarts from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

But not everybody was impressed with the songs of the multiple Oscar-nominee (and twice winner): In 1986, Bricusse was a nominee, with Henry Mancini, for the Raspberry Award for Worst Song. The offending number was Life In A Looking Glass, sung by Tony Bennett in the comedy That’s Life. It lost out to Prince (for Love Or Money). But the song was also Oscar-nominated — it lost to Berlin’s Take My Breath Away from Top Gun.

The Soul-Funk Man
One day in October I was planning the annual disco mix for late December. The next day, the Reaper claimed the co-writer of a few songs I’d be playing that evening. William Shelby, who died at 65, was the keyboardist and singer with the soul bands Dynasty and Lakeside, and he played on several albums by The Whispers, Shalamar, S.O.S. Band, Carrie Lucas, The Sylvers, Klymaxx, Atlantic Starr, and others.

As co-writer, Shelby co-write and played on hits such as The Whispers’ And The Beat Goes On and It’s A Love Thing, and Shalamar’s Make That Move, I Can Make You Feel Good, The Second Time Around and Friends.

The Beatles Violist
Unless you are the buffest of classical music buffs, the name of violist Kenneth Essex might mean little to you. But I can guarantee that you’ve heard him play. In June 1965, the English viola player, along with two violinists and a cellist, was called to the EMI studios at Abbey Road in London to play on a recording. It was so quick, the string quartet received only half-session pay. The song he played on was Yesterday. According to some obits, he also played on Hello Goodbye (violinist Sydney Sax from the Yesterday sessions also played on various Beatles songs). You might also have heard Essex play on the theme of the UK sitcom Fawlty Towers.

Though a classical musician, Essex also played on records by Cleo Laine, Harry Nilsson, Grace Slick, Freddie Cole, Everything But The Girl, Eartha Kitt, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and — bringing things a full circle — Paul McCartney on the Pipes Of Peace and Tug Of War albums (The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney, who died a day later, also played in the sessions for the latter album). Essex also played on the original soundtrack of The Phantom Of The Opera.

Earlier this year, before his 100th birthday, the World War II veteran raised funds by doing a series of walks. In 2019, just before his 100th, he raised 16,000 pounds by doing a 10km walk.

The Beatles Singer
The story is the stuff of Beatles legend: The band was recording the Lennon song Across The Universe on February 4, 1968, when it was decided that the track needed high-pitched female backing vocals. So Paul went outside the Abbey Road studio building to ask whether anyone in the group of fans camped outside, the so-called Beatles Scruffs, had suitable voices. Two of them volunteered and were invited to join the recordings: Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease. Their vocals featured on the original charity version of Across The Universe, but the teenagers’ voices were excised from the remixed Let It Be version.

Lizzie, a Brazilian au pair working in London in 1968, died of heart disease-related causes on October 4. Gayleen also died this year, on June 24.

The Glitterman
For many, it’s impossible to enjoy the music of convicted sex-offender Gary Glitter, much as it is difficult to hear the music of, say, R. Kelly without that bit of bile sitting in the throat. Alas, as the perp’s music is understandably cancelled, so is the work others created in support of his music. So it is, at least nominally, with his backing band, The Glitter Band, whose founder and trombonist/saxophonist Joe Rossall has died at 75. I say “nominally” because on the records, the only members who actually played were Rossall and Harvey Ellison, who died in 2017. The rest of the band backed Gary Glitter only on tour.

In 1974 The Glitter Band started releasing records of their own, also produced by Glitter’s svengali, Mike Leander. Between 1974-76 they enjoyed six UK Top 10 hits. Most of them didn’t involve Rossall, who had assembled the group to back Glitter but left the group on the last day of 1974. He launched a solo career with yielded a number of non-charting singles between 1975 and 1981.

By all accounts, Rossall had no time for Gary Glitter, certainly not after his former boss’ conviction.

The All-Rounder Composer
People living in the UK will have heard the compositions of Alan Hawkshaw, whose works include the themes of quiz show Countdown, school-soap Grange Hill (via his 1974 song Chicken Man), and the Channel 4 News. Before all that, Hawkshaw already had enjoyed a productive career. He was a member of early 1960s British R&B group Emile Ford and the Checkmates; backed a young David Bowie at the BBC sessions; played with The Shadows; arranged for Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard, Jane Birkin, and Serge Gainsbourg; played keyboards for Donna Summer; composed a song for Hank Marvin that was later sampled by Jay-Z (see the featured tune); and released a 1979 disco album under the moniker Bizarre, having also arranged the disco hit Here Comes That Sound Again for Love De-Luxe.

The Murdered Rapper
The execution-style murder of 19-year-old Swedish rapper Einár, son of a well-known actress, attracted so much publicity that even the prime minister commented. At the 2020 Grammis awards — Sweden’s version of the Grammys — Einár won the “Newcomer of the Year” and “Hiphop of the Year” awards. Shortly after that, he was kidnapped by rival rapper Yasin and his criminal gang. Yasin and another rapper were jailed in July for the crime. Einár received death threats and was using a protected identity. He was scheduled to testify in another trial at the end of the month. It didn’t come to this: on October 21 he was found dead, shot execution style.

The Cover Boy
On October 7, the Dexys Midnight Runners announced on their Facebook page that the lad on the cover of their 1980 debut LP Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, Anthony O’Shaughnessy, had died. Normally I’d not include people on record covers in the In Memoriams, but Anthony commented a few times on this blog 12 years ago, when I wrote about that album cover. Read the story of the cover and Anthony’s comments.

Finally, something for the Spooky Corner: an R&B singer going by the name of Emani 22 died in an accident on October 14… at the age of 22! Nominative determinism at its most lethal.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Robin Morton, 81, Irish folk musician, producer, label owner, broadcaster, on Oct. 1
The Boys of the Lough – Farewell To Whisky (1973)

Ewert Ljusberg, 76, Swedish musician and activist, on Oct. 1

Sebastião Tapajós, 78, Brazilian guitarist and composer, on Oct. 2
Sebastião Tapajos & Pedro dos Santos – Ganga (1972)

John Rossall, 75, trombonist/saxophonist of The Glitter Band, on Oct. 2
The Glitter Band – Goodbye My Love (1974)
John Rossall – Beautiful Monday Morning (1981)

Anoman Brouh Felix, 86, Ivorian guitarist, bassist, percussionist, on Oct. 3
Anoman Brouh Félix – Chinché (1977)

Lizzie Bravo, 70, Brazilian backing singer on Across The Universe, on Oct. 4
The Beatles – Across The Universe (1968)

Hobo Jim, 68, American folk singer-songwriter, on Oct. 4
Alaska’s Hobo Jim – The Beauty Of You (1984)

Pat Fish, 64, leader of UK Indie band The Jazz Butcher, on Oct. 4
The Jazz Butcher – The Human Jungle (1985)

Anthony O’Shaughnessy, LP cover star, announced on Oct. 7
Dexys Midnight Runners – There There My Dear (1980, as cover star)

Everett Morton, 71, drummer & percussionist of UK ska band The Beast, on Oct. 8
The Beat – Hands Off-She’s Mine (1980)

Petru Guelfucci, 66, French-Corsican singer, on Oct. 8

Jem Targal, 74, bassist, singer and songwriter with psych-rock band Third Power, on Oct. 8
3rd Power – We, You, I (1968, also as co-writer)

Jim Pembroke, 75, English-born singer of Finnish rock group Wigwam, on Oct. 9
Wigwam – Wishful Thinker (1970, also as writer)

Dee Pop, 65, drummer of new wave band Bush Tetras, on Oct. 9
Bush Tetras – Too Many Creeps (1980)

Shawn McLemore, 54, gospel singer, on Oct. 9

Deon Estus, 65, bassist (Wham!) and singer, on Oct. 11
Brainstorm – Lovin’ Is Really My Game (1977, as member)
Wham! – Everything She Wants (1984, on bass)
Amii Stewart & Deon Estus – My Guy, My Girl (1985)
Deon Estus – Heaven Help Me (1989)

Kenneth Essex, 101, British violist, on Oct. 11
The Beatles – Yesterday (1965, on viola)
Dennis Wilson – Fawlty Towers Theme (1975, on viola)
Everything But The Girl – Come On Home (1986, on viola)

Paddy Moloney, 83, co-founder of Irish folk group The Chieftains, on Oct. 12
The Chieftains – Away We Go Again (1977)
Paul McCartney – Rainclouds (1982, on pipes)
Nanci Griffith – On Grafton Street (1994, on tin whistle)
The Chieftains feat. Mick Jagger – The Long Black Veil (1995)

Andrea Haugen, 52, German singer of UK metal band Cradle of Filth (1993-94), on Oct. 13

Emani 22, 22, R&B singer, on Oct. 14
Emani 22 – Better Days (2019)

Tom Morey, 86, drummer & ukulele player; surfing engineer, on Oct. 14

Regi Hargis, 70, bassist and guitarist with jazz-funk band Brick, on Oct. 15
Brick – Dazz (1976)

Willie Garnett, 85, British jazz and rock saxophonist, on Oct. 15
The Charlie Watts Orchestra – Stomping At The Savoy (1986, on alto sax)

Ron Tutt, 83, session drummer, on Oct. 16
Neil Diamond – Holly Holy (1969, on drums)
Elvis Presley – Burning Love (1972, on drums)
Billy Joel – Piano Man (1973, on drums)
Emmylou Harris – Boulder To Birmingham (1975, on drums)

Tom Gray, 70, blues-rock slide guitarist, singer, songwriter, on Oct. 16
Delta Moon – Money Changes Everything (1978, as member and songwriter)

Alan Hawkshaw, 84, keyboardist, guitarist, arranger, TV composer, on Oct. 16
Alan Hawkshaw – Chicken Man (1974, also as writer)
Olivia Newton-John – I Honestly Love You (1974, as arranger and co-producer)
The Hank Marvin Guitar Syndicate – New Earth Part 1&2 (1977, as composer)
Love De-Luxe – Here Comes That Sound Again (1979, as writer, producer, arranger, keyboardist)

Franco Cerri, 95, Italian jazz guitarist, on Oct. 18

Lloyd ‘Gitsy’ Willis, 73, Jamaican reggae guitarist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 18
Chaka Demus & Pliers – Tease Me (1993, on guitar)

Ralph Carmichael, 94, pop and gospel composer and arranger, on Oct. 18
Nat ‘King’ Cole – L.O.V.E (1965, as arranger)

Leslie Bricusse, 90, British film and musical composer, on Oct. 19
Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger (1964, as co-writer)
Sammy Davis Jr – The Candy Man (1972, as co-writer)
Julie Andrews – Le Jazz Hot (1982, as co-writer)

Antonio Coggio, 82, Italian composer, arranger and producer, on Oct. 19
Claudio Baglioni – Questo piccolo grande amore (1972, as co-writer and producer)

Allan Wilmot, 96, Jamaican-born singer with The Southlanders, announced Oct. 21
The Southlanders – The Mole In A Hole (1958, as member and bass singer)

Robin McNamara, 74, singer-songwriter and musician, announced Oct. 21
Robin McNamara – Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me (1970, also as co-writer)

Sergei Krinitsin, 65, drummer of pioneering Russian rock band Autograph, on Oct. 21

Tommy DeBarge, 64, bassist and singer with soul-funk band Switch, on Oct. 21
Switch – I Call Your Name (1979)

Einár, 19, Swedish rapper, in witness-execution on Oct. 21

Jay Black, 82, singer of Jay and the Americans, on Oct. 22
The Empires – Time And A Place (1962, on lead vocals and co-writer)
Jay & the Americans – Come A Little Bit Closer (1964)
Jay & The Americans – Got Hung Up Along The Way (1967)

Sonny Osborne, 83, bluegrass banjo player with the Osborne Brothers, on Oct. 24
The Osborne Brothers – Rocky Top (1967)

Ginny Mancini, 97, jazz singer, widow of Henry Mancini, on Oct. 25

Willie Cobbs, 89, blues singer, songwriter and harmonica player, on Oct. 25
Willie Cobbs – You Don’t Love Me (1960)

Walter Herbert/Sy Klopps, 73, singer, guitarist, manager (Santana, Journey, Roxette), on Oct. 26
Sy Klopps Blues Band – Pretty Women (1995)

Rose Lee Maphis, 98, country singer, on Oct. 26
Joe and Rose Lee Maphis – Remember (I’m Just As Close As The Phone) (1964)

Gay McIntyre, 88, Irish jazz musician, on Oct. 26

Russell Hardy, 80, pianist and songwriter, announced on Oct. 27
Ian Dury & The Blockheads – There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards (1979, as co-writer)

Benjamin Vallé, 47, ex-guitarist of Swedish indie-rock band Viagra Boys, on Oct. 27

William Shelby, 65, soul-funk keyboardist, singer, songwriter, on Oct. 27
Dynasty – I’ve Just Begun To Love You (1980, as member, co-lead singer, keyboards, co-writer)
The Whispers – And The Beat Goes On (1980, as co-writer and on keyboards)
Shalamar – The Second Time Around (1980, as co-writer and on keyboards)

Jorge Cumbo, 78, Argentine quena (Andean flute) player, on Oct. 28
Jorge Cumbo – Entre la Tierra y el Cielo (1977)

Raymond Guy LeBlanc, 76, Canadian musician and poet, on Oct. 29

Fan Tsai, 26, drummer of Taiwanese indie band No Party for Cao Dong, on Oct. 30
No Party For Cao Dong – Simon Says (2016)

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Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 3

October 26th, 2021 5 comments

It’s Halloween this week, and to scare the children, here’s the third mix of Murder Songs. I didn’t post one last year, when the pandemic was claiming so many lives. But this year, death by Covid is mostly a matter of choice, at least in countries where vaccinations are freely available. So here we go.

These compilations of murder songs are a bit like a TV crime shows such as Law & Order. At least in some of the cases featured in the songs, the killers have been brought to justice. In some songs, that justice is distributed through the death penalty, which in itself could be defined as a form of murder (in that a person who is defenceless and doesn’t pose an immediate threat is being put to death by people who have the tools to perform that function, usually to extract a firm of retribution).

A couple of songs tell stories that describe acts which amount to vigilante justice. One can’t really justify that sort of thing, of course, but it is quite satisfying when Stagger Lee gets shot in the balls or the killer of Nell in the Cisco Houston song gets his comeuppance. I fear that there’s a bit of Charles Bronson in even the most liberal among us.

Some of our killers here are filled with remorse, and some with none at all. There seems to be a thread of mental illness issues in most of these cases — or all, if psychopathy is a mental illness.

In almost all of these songs, presented from various perspectives, there is a story being told that teaches us something about the human condition. Even the nasty Guns n’ Roses song is a reflection of an uncomfortable reality.

Happy listening!

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-law-and-ordered covers, and the text above and tracklisting below in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

  1. Blondie – Youth Nabbed As Sniper (1978)
    The Vic: Random people, by a sniper
  2. The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays (1979)
    The Vic: Two adults at Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego
  3. Bruce Springsteen – Johnny 99 (1986)
    The Vic: A night clerk, while Johnny was drunk and sad.
  4. Richard & Linda Thompson – Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed? (1982)
    The Vic: She. Could’ve been suicide, but they found some fingerprints right around her throat…
  5. Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone (1994)
    The Vic: Delia. In real life: 15-year-old Delia Green, shot by Mose Houston, also 15, on Christmas Eve 1900.
  6. Grateful Dead – Stagger Lee (1978)
    The Vic: Billy DeLions, thrower of a lucky dice. Here a Delia gets justice.
  7. Robert Cray – Smoking Gun (1986)
    The Vic: An unnamed woman, shot by a paranoid jealous partner.
  8. Barry Manilow – Copacabana (At The Copa) (1978)
    The Vic: Why, Tony, of course.
  9. Eminem feat. Dido – Stan (2000)
    The Vic: Stan’s pregnant girlfriend, tied up in the trunk…
  10. Alice Cooper – Killer (1971)
    The Vic: Do we know? Here the (unrepentant) killer goes off to be executed.
  11. Guns n’ Roses – Used To Love Her (1988)
    The Vic: A complaining girlfriend. The national anthem of Misogynia.
  12. Elvis Costello & The Imposters – The Name Of This Thing Is Not Love (2004)
    The Vic: A fling, according to the self-justifying murderer.
  13. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – Poor Ellen Smith (2020)
    The Vic: Poor Ellen Smith, shot through the heart. 20 years on, the killer gets out of jail.
  14. Cisco Houston – The Killer (rel. 1968)
    The Vic: Blake, the murderer of Nell.
  15. Kingston Trio – Tom Dooley (1958)
    The Vic: Unnamed victim, stabbed by Tom Dooley.
  16. Charley Pride – The Banks Of The Ohio (1968)
    The Vic: The only woman he loved, killed by the singer himself.
  17. Big Tom and The Mainliners – Life To Go (1973)
    The Vic: The singer’s honky-tonk friend, 18 years ago.
  18. Doc & Merle Watson – The Lawson Family Murder (1971)
    The Vic: Charlie Lawson’s family. On Christmas Eve. Why? Nobody knows.
  19. Momus – Murderers, The Hope Of Women (1988)
    The Vic: Sweet Fanny Adams, his wife.
  20. Rosie Thomas – Charlotte (2002)
    The Vic: Charlotte, a victim of domestic abuse.

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Any Major Blaxploitation Tracks

October 12th, 2021 5 comments

Last month filmmaker and musician Melvin Van Peebles died, so this is a good time to launch a mix of music from the Blaxploitation genre which Van Peebles helped pioneer with his 1971 film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.

There are lots of opinions about Blaxploitation movies: some see them as having given African-Americans a presence in film that previously had been lacking; others see them as a denigration of black dignity, much like gangsta rap in the 1990s. The NAACP was critical of many those movies, seeing unwelcome racial stereotypes and a glorification of crime and violence in them, while other leaders saw these movies as vehicles for Black Pride.

I wouldn’t like to offer my opinion on those arguments because, as a white man, it isn’t my place to do so. But there cannot be no blanket opinion about a genre that had many sub-genres. It wasn’t all movies about gritty drug dealers, pimps, junkies, vigilantes and private dicks who are bad mutha-shut-your-mouths, the kind which Quentin Tarantino would later appropriate and fetishize. There were also flicks of comedy, horror, martial arts, nostalgia, musical and so on.

I have enjoyed some films in that genre, including the gritty street movies. Especially as time capsules of a particular time and setting, even the less brilliant ones are fascinating. Some have greater artistic merit and production values than others, but the soundtracks tend to be quite outstanding, regardless of the quality of the movie. It is a happy circumstance that the era of Blaxploitation — roughly 1968 to 1978 — coincided with a creatively fertile period in soul and funk music.

Some of these soundtracks are rightly famous: Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street, Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly. In the case of the latter, Mayfield went as far subverting the tone of the movie, which took an agnostic view on the morality of the drug trade. Mayfield stakes out his position clearly: pushing dope for The Man is bad, and, as he sings in No Thing On Me, “You want it funky, but you don’t have to be no junkie”. But since most of Mayfield’s tracks were instrumentals in the film, with lyrics added for the soundtrack album, that message didn’t resound in the cinemas.

From Superfly, I’ve opted to include Freddie’s Dead, which on the single release was described as the movie’s theme song, presumably because it plays over the opening sequence.

Blaxploitation soundtrack music is usually associated with funky guitars, wah-wah pedals, driving basslines, and brass and/or flutes. It’s fair to say that these elements are common, but this mix shows that these soundtracks mustn’t be reduced to cliché.

Many of the acts here are well-known, but who were Sister Goose And The Ducklings? One (pretty great) song on the soundtrack of 1973’s Gordon’s War is the extent of their recording career, it seems.

For once, this mix doesn’t fit on a standard CD-R (it comes in at 1h45min), but it does includes home-shafted covers, this text in an illustrated PDF file, and a collection of posters of the films featured on this mix. PW in comments.

1. Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street (Across 110th Street) (1972)
2. Barry White – Somebody’s Gonna Off The Man (Together Brothers) (1974)
3. James Brown – Slaughter’s Theme (Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off) (1973)
4. Willie Hutch – Mack Man (Got to Get Over) (The Mack) (1972)
5. Isaac Hayes – Truck Turner Main Title (Truck Turner) (1974)
6. Curtis Mayfield – Freddie’s Dead (Superfly) (1972)
7. Marvin Gaye – Trouble Man (Trouble Man) (1972)
8. Millie Jackson – Love Doctor (Cleopatra Jones) (1973)
9. Edwin Starr – Don’t It Feel Good To Be Free (Hell Up In Harlem) (1973)
10. JJ. Johnson feat. Martha Reeves – Willie D (Willie Dynamite) (1974)
11. Dennis Coffey – Congress Six (Black Belt Jones) (1974)
12. Roy Ayers with Dee Dee Bridgewater – Coffy Is The Color (Coffy) (1973)
13. Monk Higgins & Alex Brown feat. Barbara Mason – Sheba, Baby (Sheba, Baby) (1975)
14. The Originals – Supernatural Voodoo Woman (Sugar Hill) (1974)
15. Sister Goose And The Ducklings – Super Shine #9 (Gordon’s War) (1973)
16. The Hues Corporation – There He Is Again (Blacula) (1972)
17. Lyn Collins – Mama Feelgood (Black Caesar) (1973)
18. Melvin Van Peebles – Mojo Woman (Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song) (1971)
19. Isaac Hayes – Soulsville (Shaft) (1971)
20. Mary Love – Power Of Your Love (Dolemite) (1975)
21. The Dells – No Way Back (No Way Back) (1976)
22. Willie Hutch – Foxy Lady (Foxy Brown) (1974)
23. Grant Green – The Final Comedown (The Final Comedown) (1972)
24. Rose Royce – Car Wash (Car Wash) (1977)
25. Rudy Ray Moore – The Human Tornado (The Human Tornado) (1976)
26. Don Julian & The Larks – Shorty The Pimp (Shorty The Pimp)(1972)
27. The Impressions – That’s What Love Will Do (Three The Hard Way) (1974)
28. H.B. Barnum – Hit Man (What You’re Gonna Do) (Hit Man) (1972)
29. Booker T. & the M.G.’s – Time Is Tight (UpTight) (1969)
30. Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street, Pt. 2 (Across 110th Street) (1972)

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In Memoriam – September 2021

October 5th, 2021 5 comments

September was another brutal month, requiring so many write-ups that I had to exclude some people who might have featured in most other months, such as R&B singer and songwriter Andrea Martin (dead at only 49), Carl Bean (whose 1977 gay anthem on Motown features here), soul bass-player Melvin Dunlap (who backed Bill Withers on many of his hits), or country-rock singer Cody Smith. But since almost every entry takes quite a lot of time for research, and the write-ups take even longer, I have to economise. Still, there are 14 write-ups this month.

The Quo Man
With the death at 72 of Alan Lancaster, only half of Status Quo’s classic line-up remains with us. I always had a soft spot for Alan on account of him being the third wheel in the frontmen bromance. While Rick and Francis were shouting jokes into each other’s ears in bow-legged mid-solo, Alan usually stood a little aside. Having founded the band in 1962 with Francis Rossi, he certainly felt undervalued by the early 1980s, when he temporarily left the band. Later he emigrated to Australia. He soon returned but the break came in the mid-1980s, when Rossi and Rick Parfitt released Status Quo albums without Lancaster, or even his knowledge. They later found each other again in the mid-2010s.

In the interim, Lancaster joined Australian band Party Boys, whose 1987 hit debut album, including the Aussie #1 hit cover of John Kongos’ He’s Gonna Step On You Again,  he also produced. He then founded The Bombers, with long-time Quo friend John Coghlan on drums. Lancaster died on September 26 due to complications from multiple sclerosis.

The Labelle
On September 20, Patti LaBelle played a gig in in Atlantic City at which she called her old friend Sarah Dash on to the stage to sing with her, thus effecting a 2/3 reunion of the soul trio Labelle (Video clip of that performance). Two days later, Dash was dead, aged 76. The two women’s story goes back to 1962, when Patti (then still Patsy Holte) and pastor’s-daughter Sarah formed the group The Blue Belles with Nona Hendryx and Cindy Birdsong. They had some success, and in 1971 — four years after Birdsong decamped to The Supremes — renamed themselves LaBelle. With their flamboyant divas act, crazy outfits and great music, they became stars, culminating in the classic hit Lady Marmalade. Dash, the soprano (hear it at the beginning of Down The Aisle), was the calming buffer between the strong and often antagonistic personalities Patti and Nona.

After the group’s split in 1977, Dash recorded a string of soul and funk albums, did session work, and in the late 1980s worked and toured with the Rolling Stones (whom The Bluebells had supported on tour a quarter of a century earlier). Sporadic LaBelle reunions followed, as well as a few more solo recordings.

The JBs Bandleader
During last year’s anti-racism protests in the US, James Brown’s 1968 song Say It Loud-I’m Black And Proud served as an anthem. Brown co-wrote the track with Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis, who has died at 80. Ellis, a great saxophonist in his own right, was Brown’s bandleader and arranger during the early funk period. Coming from a jazz background — in his younger days, Ellis had played with his contemporaries Chuck Mangione, Ron Carter and Sonny Rollins — he instilled in James Brown’s music discipline, in service of the innovation. A songwriter, Ellis wrote the instrumental The Chicken for Brown. In the event, Brown didn’t record it, but it became a hit for jazzman Jaco Pistorius.

Ellis left Brown’s stable after four years in 1969. In 1972, he founded Gotham, a jazz-funk outfit which has been much sampled in hip hop. He played with other collectives, including those led by the likes of Ginger Baker and fellow Brown-alumni Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley. He worked widely as an arranger, including for Esther Philips’ superb 1972 albums From A Whisper To A Scream and Alone Again Naturally. In 1979 he became musical director for Van Morrison, playing on many of his records, for 20 years.

The Singing Twin
In 1968, Barry Ryan had a big hit with the enjoyably madcap  Eloise, written for him by his twin brother Paul (who died in 1992). The twins initially performed together as a duo, landing three UK Top 20 hits, before Paul decided to concentrate on songwriting. After Eloise, Barry had four more Top 40 hits in the UK between 1969 and 1972. In my view, it’s an injustice that his Can’t Let You Go failed to make the Top 10, hence its inclusion in Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit Vol. 2.

Ryan was more successful in Europe, especially in France and Germany. Living in Germany for a while, he even recorded in that country’s language. With his hit Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt, Barry became the first English pop star from outside the schlager scene to perform on the massively popular TV show ZDF Hitparade (video here). His very good 1972 album Sanctus, Sanctus Halleluja was his last until a brief comeback in 2003. A few singles later, he quietly retired from the music scene.

The Blaxploiter
Better known as the pioneer of the wave of blaxploitation movies in the early 1970s through his film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song!, Melvin Van Peebles was also an innovative musician.  The filmmaker, who has died at 89, scored his breakthrough film, with the help of the still unknown Earth, Wind & Fire, but by then he had two albums and a soundtrack out already. These albums, and most of those that followed, were spoken word: poetry, stories and commentaries set to soul-jazz. Peebles issued altogether 11 albums, including four soundtracks.

The Doctor
In the early 1970s, jazz organist Lonnie Smith adopted the nickname Doctor. Nobody knows where it came from — Smith had no PhD, and you’d not want him to perform your heart surgery — but it kind of suited the turbaned pioneer in the field of jazz-funk. He was part of the George Benson Trio in the 1960s, and recorded with an endless list of jazz acts. Smith issued around 30 albums in his own name between 1967 and 2021. He’s not to be confused with his contemporary jazz keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith, who is still with us.

The Great Composer
The colourful life of composer Mikis Theodorakis has come to an end at the age of 96. In Greece he’s regarded as his country’s greatest composer. Outside Greece, he’s perhaps best-known for the Zorba Dance, from the 1964 film Zorba The Greek. Other films Theodorakis scored include Serpico and Z. Although a classical composer, he drew from all manner of genres; his Mauthausen Cantata, a 1988 series of four arias in remembrance of the Holocaust, is strictly speaking a classical work, but it also draws from folk and religious tradition (as is evident in the featured track from the cantara).

Apart from his musical work, Theodorakis was also a politician of communist tradition, which saw him jailed and his music banned during the rule of the fascist junta from 1967-74. Periodically he was a parliamentarian, once puzzlingly as part of a right-wing ticket, and a government minister. He was a committed anti-Zionist and made some stupid comments that amounted to being anti-Semitic (for which he apologised), but he also had a great love for the Jewish people. Theodorakis doubtless was an unpredictable man in many ways.

The Electronic Pioneer
As founder and leader of the English industrial music group Cabaret Voltaire, which he co-founded at the age of 17 in 1973, Richard H Kirk exerted a great influence on electronic music, from new wave to dance to trance. With his compadres in shaping sound, Chris Watson und singer Stephen Mallinder, the Sheffield-born Kirk drew from glam rock and the experimental work of Krautrock acts like Can and Kraftwerk. In that way, Cabaret Voltaire influenced German new wave acts like Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, who borrowed Cabaret Voltaire’s 1978 title Do The Mussolini for their own 1981 hit single. After Cabaret Voltaire split in 1990, Kirk kept experimenting with sounds under various monikers, even recording a house album. He reformed Cabaret Voltaire in 2009, with himself as the only permanent member.

The White Baccara
As an entirely unironic fan of the 1977 disco anthem Yes Sir, I Can Boogie, I was saddened by the death at 69 of María Mendiola, the Baccara singer dressed in white. On Boogie, María did the intro’s moaning, on Lady she did the spoken intro. That’s the extent of my love for Baccara’s artistry. Still, Boogie and its follow-up Sorry I’m A Lady have the power to evoke the feeling of 1977. I reflected in Baccara’s impact on me as a 11-year-old in the A Life In Vinyl 1977 post. (The one in black, Mayte Mateos, was my first star-crush, alongside Agnetha of ABBA, incidentally.)

María had been the prima ballerina of a Spanish TV ballet, and when she and colleague Mayte formed Baccara, their idea was to fuse Spanish folk music with pop — but their hits, produced by Germans in the Netherlands, were Euro-disco. By 1983 they split, with each carrying on with separate Baccaras. María’s New Baccara recorded a few club hits in the 1980s.

The Girl Aloud
For many British pop fans, the best of the many girl group of the ‘00s was Girls Aloud. They certainly were the most successful. Put together as a result of a TV talent show, the group had 20 consecutive UK Top 10 singles, with four #1 hits, between 2002 and 2012. With the death from cancer at 39 of Sarah Harding, Girl Aloud have lost their first member to the Reaper. Harding was also an actress and model.

The Charlie Brown Drummer
As a member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, drummer Colin Bailey had a hand in creating the timeless classic Cast Your Fate To The Wind, which was written by Guaraldi. But the English-born drummer’s handiwork is probably more famous for the trio’s soundtrack to the Peanuts films, including A Charlie Brown Christmas. Bailey also worked with, among many others, Benny Goodman, Julie London, Joe Pass, Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, Mike Melvoin, Jimmy Witherspoon and, outside jazz, he drummed for Rita Coolidge.

The Newport Man
For fans of jazz and folk, the Newport festivals are an important part of their genres’ development, and it was at Newport that Bob Dylan first was booed for going electric. Now George Wein, the founder of the annual Newport Jazz Festival and co-founder (with Pete Seeger and Theodore Bikel) of the Newport Folk Festival, has died at 95. Before he was a festival founder in Rhode Island, Wein had a jazz club and record label (both named Storyville) and taught jazz history at Boston University. And busy as he was behind the scenes, he was also a prolific jazz pianist.

The Bassist
Just over a week after Wein’s death, a Newport Jazz Festival alumnus died in the person of bassist Bob Moore. Although he had a hit as the leader of the Bob Moore Orchestra with the Easy Listening song Mexico in 1961, Moore’s great body of work was delivered behind the scenes. There he backed the likes of Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline (on all her big hits, including Crazy, Fall To Pieces, Sweet Dreams etc) as part of the Nashville A-Team of session musicians. As co-founder of Monument Records he arranged the first hits for Roy Orbison, and played the bass on songs like Only The Lonely, Crying, Blue Bayou and In Dreams. On Roger Miller’s King Of The Road, he played the instantly recognisable bass intro.

In his long career, Moore regularly backed many of the greatest names in country, including George Jones, The Statler Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, Moe Bandy, Billy Jo Spears, Crystal Gayle, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, B.J. Thomas, and especially Tom T. Hall, whom we lost just last month. He was an uncredited double bass player on Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Now, those Elvis records Moore played on include all the early 1960s hits as well as a number of movie soundtracks. Deep breath now: His Latest Flame, Stuck On You, It’s Now Or Never, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Viva Las Vegas, Surrender, A Fool Such As I, Little Sister, Suspicion, Return To Sender, Good Luck Charm, A Big Hunk O’ Love, U.S. Male, Guitar Man, The Girl Of My Best Friend, Devil In Disguise, among others. Most of the songs on the Elvis movie songs mix posted last week feature Moore.

The Hillbilly
With the death at 98 of Don Maddox, all of the Maddox Brothers & (their sister) Rose are gone. They were a groundbreaking act in country music. Rose Maddox was among the pioneering women in country, even if she, as the frontwoman, still had to take second billing behind her brothers.

The Maddox family had migrated from Alabama to California, a couple of years before the dustbowl sharecroppers from Oklahoma made their exodus there. Living in Modesto, the Maddox kids quickly established a reputation as California’s best hillbilly band (in the days before the term hillbilly was a slur), specialising in what then passed for racy lyrics. Their country boogie won the Maddox Brothers & Rose a recording contract in 1946. They made their breakthrough in 1949 with a song written by Woody Guthrie, titled Philadelphia Lawyer.

It is said that Fred Maddox’s style of slap bass playing was central in the development of rockabilly, and therefore rock & roll. Their use of electric guitars and wild stage shows certainly influenced the new genre. The band split up in 1956. A year earlier, they recorded a song titled The Death Of Rock And Roll, an adapted cover of Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman (Charles got no writing credit for it. Those were different days).

Don, like his brothers a World War 2 veteran, still played in his nineties, including at the Grand Ole Opry in the Marty Stuart Show, and in 2014 headlined the first annual Rockabilly Rockout at Las Vegas’ Gold Coast Casino. In 2019, featured in the Ken Burns’ splendid documentary Country Music.

As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

Barbara Moore, 89, British singer and arranger, on Aug. 26
Barbara Moore – Steam Heat (1972)

Adalberto Álvarez, 72, Cuban son pianist, on Sept. 1
Adalberto Alvarez y Su Son – Buena Pero No Es Pa’ Tanto (2000)

Aleksandr Khrabunov, 61, guitarist of pioneering Russian rock band Zoopark, on Sept. 1

Carol Fran, 87, R&B singer, pianist and songwriter, on Sept. 1
Carol Fran – Emmitt Lee (1957, also as writer)

Alemayehu Eshete, 80, Ethiopian singer, on Sept. 2

Mikis Theodorakis, 96, Greek composer, on Sept. 2
Mikis Theodorakis – Zorba Dance (1964)
Mikis Theodorakis – Songs Of Songs (1986)

MadClip, 34, Greek rapper, in car crash on Sept. 2

Billy Cafaro, 84, Argentine rock & roll singer, on Sept. 4
Billy Cafaro – Marcianita (1960)

Sarah Harding, 39, singer with UK pop group Girls Aloud and actress, on Sept. 5
Girls Aloud – Life Got Cold (2003)
Girls Aloud – Love Machine (2004)

Susan Anway, 70, ex-singer with indie band The Magnetic Fields, on Sept. 5
The Magnetic Fields – 100,000 Fireflies (1991)

Rickie Lee Reynolds, 72, guitarist with rock band Black Oak Arkansas, on Sept. 5
Black Oak Arkansas – You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down (1976)

Ralph Irizarry, 67, American percussionist and bandleader, on Sept. 5
Ralph Irizarry & Los Viejos de la Salsa – Los Viejos (2012)

Sunil Perera, 68, singer with Sri Lankan band The Gypsies, on Sept. 6

Bennie Pete, 45, sousaphonist with New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band, on Sept. 6
Hot 8 Brass Band – Sexual Healing (2007)

Warren Storm, 84, swamp pop drummer and singer, on Sept. 7
Warren Storm – The Prisoner’s Song (1958)

Carl Bean, 77, singer, church leader and LGBT rights activist, on Sept. 7
Carl Bean – I Was Born This Way (1977)

Mike Jones, member of rock group of Man The Destroyer, on Sept. 8

Robin Russell, 70, soul drummer and songwriter, on Sept. 8
The New Birth – Sure Thing (1976, as member)

Michael Chapman, 80, English singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Sept. 10
Michael Chapman – Postcards Of Scarborough (1970)

Roger Newell, 73, English bassist, on Sept. 10
Rainbow Ffolly – Drive My Car (1968, as member)

María Mendiola, 69, singer with Spanish pop duo Baccara, on Sept. 11
Baccara – Sorry, I’m A Lady (1977)
New Baccara – Call Me Up (1986)

Don Maddox, 98, member of country group Maddox Brothers and Rose, on Sept. 12
Maddox Brothers & Rose – Philadelphia Lawyer (1948)
Maddox Brothers & Rose – The Death Of Rock And Roll (1955)

George Wein, 95, music festival promoter; jazz pianist and singer, on Sept. 13
George Wein – Why Try To Change Me Now (1955)
George Wein & The Newport All Stars – Crazy Rhythm (1963)

Melvin Dunlap, 76, soul and funk bassist, announced on Sept. 13
Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Express Yourself (1970, as member)
Bill Withers – Use Me (1972, on bass & as co-producer)

Guilherme Inês, 70, Portuguese rock percussionist, on Sept. 14

Leonard ‘Doc’ Gibbs, 73, soul & fusion percussionist, on Sept. 15
Doc Gibbs – Tingle (1981)
Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home With Me Tonight (1984, on percussion)

George Mraz, 77, Czech-born jazz musician, on Sept. 16
George Mraz & Friends – Going Home (2003)

Mats Paulson, 83, Swedish singer-songwriter, on Sept. 19

Warner Williams, 91, member of blues trio Little Bit A Blues, on Sept. 20
Warner Williams with Jay Summerour – Little Bit A Blues Theme (2003)

Gary Eckstein, 73, Israeli blues-rock singer, on Sept. 20

Colin Bailey, 87, English-born jazz drummer, on Sept. 20
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Cast Your Fate To The Wind (1962, as member)
Julie London with the Bud Shank Quintet – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (1965, on drums)
Rita Coolidge – Am I Blue (1975, on drums)

Sarah Dash, 76, singer with soul group Labelle, on Sept. 20
Patti Labelle & Blue Belles – Down The Aisle (1963)
Labelle – Touch Me All Over (1972)
Sarah Dash – (Come And Take) This Candy From Your Baby (1978)
Keith Richards feat. Sarah Dash – Make No Mistake (1988)

Claude Lombard, 76, Belgian singer, on Sept. 20

Julz Sale, singer-songwriter, guitarist of UK post-punk band Delta 5, on Sept. 20
Delta 5 – Anticipation (1980)

La Prieta Linda, 88, Mexican singer and actress, on Sept. 21

Richard H Kirk, 65, English singer-songwriter with Cabaret Voltaire, on Sept. 21
Cabaret Voltaire – Seconds Too Late (1980)
Cabaret Voltaire – Don’t Argue (1987)

Melvin Van Peebles, 89, musician, film director and playwright, on Sept. 21
Melvin Van Peebles – Love, That’s America (1970)
Melvin Van Peebles with Earth, Wind & Fire – Sweetback’s Theme (1971)
Melvin Van Peebles – Chippin’ (1971)

Peter A Hood, 78, drummer of Australian surf group The Atlantics, on Sept. 22
The Atlantics – Bombora (1963)

Bob Moore, 88, bassist and orchestra leader, on Sept. 22
Sister Rosetta Tharpe with James Roots Quintet – Tell Him You Saw Me (1952, on bass)
Jim Reeves – He’ll Have To Go (1960)
Elvis Presley – (Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame (1961)
Roy Orbison – Crying (1961, on bass and as arranger)

Sue Thompson, 96, pop and country singer, on Sept. 23
Sue Thompson – Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) (1962)

Roberto Roena, 81, Puerto Rican salsa percussionist and bandleader, on Sept. 23
Roberto Roena – Mi Desengaño (1976)

Pee Wee Ellis, 80, saxophonist, composer, arranger, James Brown’s bandleader, on Sept. 24
Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis – In The Middle (Part1&2) (1968)
James Brown – Say It Loud-I’m Black And Proud (1968, as co-writer & on alto sax)
Esther Phillips – From A Whisper To A Scream (1972, as arranger)
Van Morrison – Days Like This (1995, on alto sax, horns arrangements)

Patricio Manns, 84, Chilean singer, composer, and writer, on Sept. 25
Patricio Manns – Arriba en la Cordillera (1966)

George ‘Commander Cody’ Frayne IV, 77, country rock singer, keyboardist, on Sept. 26
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen – Seeds And Stems (Again) (1971)
Commander Cody – Cry Baby Cry (1978)

Alan Lancaster, 72, bassist of English rock band Status Quo, on Sept. 26
The Status Quo – Sunny Cellophane Skies (1968, on lead vocals and as co-writer)
Status Quo – Backwater (1974, on lead vocals and as co-writer)
The Party Boys – He’s Gonna Step On You Again (1987, as member and producer)
The Bombers – Running In The Shadows (1989)

Darrell Bath, British punk and rock guitarist and singer, on Sept. 27
Darrell Bath – Eye For An Eye (2016)

Andrea Martin, 49, R&B singer-songwriter and producer, on Sept. 27
En Vogue – Don’t Let Go (Love) (1996, as co-writer)
Andrea Martin – Let Me Return The Favor (1998)

Nana Ampadu, 76, Ghanaian highlife musician, on Sept. 27

Lonnie Smith, 79, jazz organist, on Sept. 28
Lonnie Smith – Sideman (1967)
Lonnie Smith – It’s Changed (1977)
Lonnie Smith – My Latin Sky (1978)

Barry Ryan, 72, English pop singer, on Sept. 28
Paul & Barry Ryan – Don’t Bring Me Your Heartaches (1965)
Barry Ryan – Eloise (1968)
Barry Ryan – Life’s So Easy (1972)

Olivier Libaux, 57, French producer and musician, on Sept. 29
Nouvelle Vague – Blue Monday (2006, as founder and producer)

Mike Renzi, 80, jazz pianist, composer and music director, on Sept. 29
Was (Not Was) with Mel Tormé – Zaz Turned Blue (1983 on piano)

Les Gough (Allan), Australian bass player, announced Sept. 30
Somebody’s Image – Hide And Seek (1968, as member)

Lennart Åberg, 79, Swedish jazz saxophonist and composer, on Sept. 30

Greg Gilbert, 44, singer and guitarist of English indie group Delays, on Sept. 30
Delays – Long Time Coming (2004)

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Any Major Movie Elvis (and a quiz)

September 28th, 2021 11 comments

What it says in the title… A mix of songs from Elvis Presley movies — one from each. Plus a quiz: guess the Elvis movie from the synopsis. Clue: all the movies referred to in the quiz were made after Elvis served his fatherland. The answers are in the comments section (if some of the comments seem old, it’s because I first posted the quiz in 2008). Not that I expect anybody but the greatest Elvis fan to know most of the answers; the fun resides in the questions. When Elvis went to Hollywood, he hoped to inherit James Dean’s mantle of rebellion. As these questions may suggest, he didn’t even inherit Bing Crosby’s mantle of casually whistling acquiescence.

1. Elvis is a singing heir to a pineapple plantation in Hawaii who becomes, as you do when the future holds a panama hat, a tour guide. He falls in love and sings 14 (count ’em) songs, including that ghastly tune ignorant people tend to call “Wise Man Say”.

2. Elvis is a singing swimming pool lifeguard who couldn’t cut it in the circus. He falls in love. With a bullfighter. Alas, it is not an edgy message movie fighting a culture of homophobia well ahead of its time. The bullfighter is — and the shrewd reader guessed it — a woman.

3. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider. Looking for gold, he falls in love and — don’t say you didn’t see that one coming — gets married to his lady love. Aaah!

4. Elvis is a singing racing driver working as a bus boy (which means, he clears tables, not speed through the streets in a doubledecker). He falls in love with a swimming instructor. And — spoiler alert — together they win a talent competition. Hurrah!

5. Elvis is a singing charter boat pilot in Hawaii who is torn between two girls. In the end (spoiler alert redux!) he goes — gulp — for the good girl.

6. Elvis is a singing bush pilot who takes care of a little Chinese kid. He then, yes, falls in love.

7. Elvis plays a non-singing (!) gunslinger come good. He fails to sing, but — phew — he does fall in love (else what movie would there be?). With a dance hall queen, as you do.

8. Elvis is a singing rodeo rider (again), but with an ethnic twist: he is of Native-American descent. This time, Elvis doesn’t so much fall in love but play the field, going for a mother and daughter combo. Off-screen Elvis preferred the teenage daughters; will he go for the mom on-screen?

9. Elvis is, but of course, a singing racing driver who, plausibly enough, falls in love with a singing government agent in go-go boots. It’s a story all of us have to tell.

10. Elvis is a singing boxer who is supposed to take a fall. But he does fall. In love. With the love interest from movie (1).

11. Elvis is a navy frogman. Oh, but he is. And the novel twist is, at night he sings in a nightclub. Oh, but he does. The unbelievable plot device here: Elvis fails to fall in love but goes treasure hunting instead. Will he find the treasure?

12. Elvis is a singing helicopter pilot. And guess where. No, really, please do take a wild stab in the dark. Why, he’s a singing helicopter pilot in Hawaii. But this movie is not like all the others in which Elvis is a singing action man who falls in love with a pretty girl while being pursued by the town harlot. Here he doesn’t fall in love with one or two women, but romances three, count ’em, of them.

13. Elvis is a singing racing car driver. Incredibly, the thing isn’t called Deja Fuckin’ Vu. Elvis again has three women to choose from, as he did in movie (12) which preceded this one (the 1960s morals had loosened, evidently). And they have some pretty ordinary jobs: drummer, self-help author, heiress…

14. Elvis is the singing heir to a rich Texas oilman who roughs it a bit as a waterski instructor (doing it fully clothed!). Among his clients is a woman who is looking for a rich husband. Oh, the hilarious complications that arise when Elvis falls in love. How will Elvis get out of this one?

15. Elvis is an occasionally singing photographer of stylish advertisements and of nudie pics (nobody showed the Colonel that script, I bet) who experiences psychedelic trips involving people in dog costumes (actually, was Tom Parker at all awake?). Yup, there is a love interest, seeing as you ask.

16. Elvis is a singing US soldier who falls in love with a dancer and sings a German folk song to a puppet.

17. Elvis is a ghetto doctor who doesn’t sing an awful lot. But he falls in love. With a nun. Oh, naughty Elvis. But how could he know of her profession when she is swanning about in civvies. No wimple warning. There isn’t even a happy ending: we never learn whether the nun, played by a TV legend, goes with Big El or with Big Al. No wonder this was the last Elvis movie (a couple of documentaries apart).

18. Elvis is a singing insurance salesman who moonlights as a lion tamer and falls in love with the circus clown’s daughter.

Answers in comments (and in the included illustrated PDF documents).

The movies were mostly terrible (and yet strangely alluring in a camp sort of way), and not infrequently so was the music. Still, there were some stomping numbers, few more so than Bossa Nova Baby (watch great the excerpt from Fun In Acapulco here) with its sample-worthy keyboard line. Written by the legendary Leiber & Stoller, who just a decade earlier had written Hound Dog and other rock & roll classics, it was first recorded in 1962 by Tippie & the Clovers, whose version the song’s composers preferred over Elvis”. Why the bossa nova sounds more like mambo as seen through blue eyes and nothing like a bossa nova is anybody’s guess.

Another Leiber & Stoller composition, one that hints at Elvis’ affection for gospel, is I Want To Be Free, from Jailhouse Rock. It has been an Elvis favourite of mine since I first heard it on 4-disc set of our boy”s rock & roll recordings which I bought when I was 12. The version featured here is the one from the film, not that from the soundtrack (which, it must be said, is superior).

Elvis might have gone soft on us after returning from the army, but on his version of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say, he rocks out. From 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, it was the b-side of the excellent title track. And on G.I. Blues Evis even revisits Blue Suede Shoes. And here’s the thing: the cover of the first cover is note-for-note faithful, the arrangement is the same, but it lacks the ejaculatory power of the 1956 version. The army demonstrably had emasculated Elvis.

From 1962’s Girls Girls Girls, Return To Sender sounds like it might have featured in a pre-army movie. In fact, it sounds like a good companion piece to King Creole. It was co-written by Otis Blackwell who had previously written All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel, Fever (all recorded by Elvis) as well as Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls Of Fire.

For a perfect fusion of Cool Rock & Roll Elvis and Cheesy Movie Elvis, one may turn to What A Wonderful Life from 1962’s Follow That Dream, in which Elvis plays the singing son of a vagabond heading down Florida way et cetera.

There was a period when the crapness of Elvis’ music coincided with the shittiness of his movies to create a sewerage of artlessness. I would locate that point at 1965/66. Some argue that Harum Scarum (1965) was the nadir, and it is a perfectly defensible position; I propose that this was just a stop before the all-time low: Spinout in 1965. There are no redeeming songs at all from that wretched movie. But rules are rules and I had to include one from each film. So you have the pleasure to sample the misogynistic Smorgasbord wherein our hero narrates his philandering ways by way of comparing his conquests to Scandinavian fingerfood. It’s so bad, it really is bad.

Things improved shortly, though not without further humiliations. You Gotta Stop from the following film, Easy Come, Easy Go is a few steps up from his nordic epicurean adventure, and then we get Long Legged Girl (With the Short Dress On) from Double Trouble (you remember Double Trouble, don’t you?), which is a fine performance, poor lyrics notwithstanding. Not that it saved poor Elvis’ dignity. In the same movie he was made to sing Old McDonald Had A Farm. Apparently he stormed out of the studio upon being told that the King of Rock & Roll was required to sing that. But sing that he did, on record and in the movie, for contracts are harsh mistresses. It is a pathetic spectacle.

But improve the things did. In 1967’s Clambake — another cinematic triumph —  Elvis sang Jerry Reed’s Guitar Man, getting deep into his country roots. On Stay Away, Joe (everybody remembers that fiesta of cinematic ingenuity) he reconnects with the blues, in a manner, with All I Need Is The Rain; and in 1968’s Live A Little, Love A Little, he hits on a career highlight with A Little Less Conversation, a song that would returned him to the charts almost 40 years later.

As always, CD-R length, home ducktailed covers, illustrated PDF for easy reading. PW in comments.

1. We’re Gonna Move (Love Me Tender, 1956)
2. Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do (Loving You, 1957)
3. I Want To Be Free (Movie version) (Jailhouse Rock, 1957)
4. Hard Headed Woman (King Creole, 1958)
5. Blue Suede Shoes (G.I. Blues, 1960)
6. Flaming Star (Flaming Star, 1960)
7. I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell (Wild In The Country, 1961)
8. No More (Blue Hawaii, 1961)
9. What A Wonderful Life (Follow That Dream, 1962)
10. I Got Lucky (Kid Gallahad, 1962)
11. Return To Sender (Girls, Girls, Girls, 1962)
12. They Remind Me Too Much Of You (It Happened At The World Fair, 1963)
13. Bossa Nova Baby (Fun In Acapulca, 1963)
14. Kissin’ Cousins (Kissin’ Cousins, 1964)
15. What’d I Say (Viva Las Vegas, 1964)
16. Wheels On My Heels (Roustabout, 1964)
17. The Meanest Girl In Town (Girl Happy, 1965)
18. Put The Blame On Me (Tickle Me, 1965)
19. So Close, Yet So Far (From Paradise) (Harum Scarum, 1965)
20. A Dog’s Life (Frankie And Johnny, 1966)
21. Hard Luck (Paradise, Hawaii Style, 1966)
22. Smorgasbord (Spinout, 1966)
23. You Gotta Stop (Easy Come, Easy Go, 1967)
24. Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) (Double Trouble, 1967)
25. Guitar Man (Clambake, 1967)
26. All I Needed Was The Rain (Stay Away, Joe, 1968)
27. Let Yourself Go (Speedway, 1968)
28. A Little Less Conversation (Live A Little, Love A Little, 1968)
29. Charro! (Charro!, 1969)
30. Clean Up Your Own Backyard (The Trouble With Girls, 1969)
31. Have A Happy (Change Of Habits, 1969)

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Any Major Beatles In French Vol. 1

September 21st, 2021 13 comments

 

The Beatles, to state the obvious, made a big impact throughout Western culture. And in places like France and Spain, they helped give a name to a subculture of 1960s followers of pop culture: Yé-yé. The name derived from the English “Yeah Yeah”, such as in the hit She Loves You.  Building on the already existing rock & roll scene, spearheaded by Johnny Hallyday, yé-yé initially drew from the British “Beat” scene, but expanded to incorporate different genres, from bubblegum pop to baroque pop.

The leading exponents of yé-yé included the likes of Françoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan (who married Johnny Hallyday in 1965), Claude François and France Gall, with Serge Gainsbourg one of the brains behind the scenes. Hardy actually was the first to sing the words “Yeah yeah yeah yeah” on a French recording, on La fille avec toi in 1962, giving birth to the term yé-yé. The yeahs in She Loves You in 1963 cemented it.

Unlike many other European countries, France had a thriving scene of songs in their own language. This meant that many English-language songs would be recorded in French. As the two collections of The Beatles in French show, that didn’t necessarily extend to only the big hits but also to lesser-known album tracks, such as There’s A Place, It Won’t Be Long, I’m A Loser, The Night Before, You Won’t See Me or Your Mother Should Know.

For the yé-yé period, which lasted till roughly 1967, there was an abundance of Beatles covers. After that, they became less frequent. This first mix covers songs which The Beatles issued between 1962 and 1965, and most of the French covers come from the same timespan.

The majority of the acts here are from France, or, like Petula Clark, recorded in French for the French market. But a few performers represent Québec, which had a thriving beat scene itself. The Canadian acts here are Les Bel Canto, Pierre Lalonde, Les Hou-Lops, Les Baronets, Christian & Getro, Les Monarques, and  Jacques Salvail.

Also not French but a star in France was Nancy Holloway, a US jazz singer who in the late 1950s performed at the Moulin Rouge before opening her own nightclub in Paris. But in the 1960s, already in her early thirties, Holloway had a line of hits with French covers of English-language pop hits, such as Don’t Make Me Over, My Guy, Hit The Road Jack, Sealed With A Kiss, and The Beatles’ She Loves You, which features on this mix. She died in 2019 at 86.

Holloway is not the only black act here. Les Surfs, a group of siblings, were stars in Madagascar when in 1963 they tried their luck in France — and after a TV performance became stars, topping the charts with a French cover of Be My Baby. They also had a string of hits in Spain and Italy before breaking up in 1971.

Two other acts came from afar. Tiny Yong was born in 1944 in present-day Cambodia of Vietnamese ancestry (her proper name is Thiên Hương). After her family moved to Paris in 1958, Yong was a teenage actress on the stage and recorded as a singer of chanson and cabaret. She hit her stride, however, as a yé-yé singer, having a string of hits before quitting the recording studios in 1966 and show business altogether in 1970. She then started a new career as a restaurant owner.

You might think that a group named Les Chaussettes Noires might have black members, but the noir in the name refers to socks. The band helped pioneer rock & roll in France in the early 1960s, with future star Eddy Mitchell as their frontman. Mitchell left in 1962 to pursue his solo career, so by the time the black socks recorded I Wanna Be Your Man in 1964, he was gone. And soon after  recording that, Les Chaussettes Noires split. Eddy Mitchell also features on this mix, with his version of You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.

Les Gam’s was an attempt at a French girl group. The quartet emanated from a popular youth choir called Les Djinns, which even made a couple of appearances of The Ed Sullivan Show. Les Gam’s — their name was an acronym of the members’ first names, plus a gratuitous apostrophe — mostly recorded French of covers of English-language songs, such as All My Loving, which attracted some attention, but by 1964 their time was already up.

In their time, Les Gam’s occasionally collaborated with Les Lionceaux (The Lion Cubs), who were founded in the early 1960s as a mostly instrumental band. They backed Johnny Hallyday, and enjoyed some popularity in the slipstream of The Beatles’ success. By 1965, they split.

Given the war France waged against Algerian independence from 1954-62, the name of the Algerian group here seems, well, interesting: Les Missiles. I haven’t been able to find much information about the group, but they were the sons of colonialism rather than local. The group was active from 1963-68. Their best-known song, Sacré Dollar, is a cover of Hoyt Axton’s Greenback Dollar, but the French lyrics are far more militantly anti-capitalist than those of the original. They feature here with their version of I’m A Loser.

As always, the mix fits on a standard CD-R, includes fait-maison covers, and illustrated PDF of the above text. PW in comments.

1. Les Bel Canto – J’en suis fou (Love Me Do) (1965)
2. Petula Clark – Tu perds ton temps (Please, Please Me) (1963)
3. Claude François – Des bises de moi pour toi (From Me To You) (1963)
4. Lucky Blondo – J’ai un secret a te dire (Do You Want To Know A Secret?) (1965)
5. Les Surfs – Adieu chagrin (There’s A Place) (1964)
6. Johnny Hallyday – Quand je l’ai vue devant moi (I Saw Her Standing There) (1963)
7. Nancy Holloway – Elle t’aime (She Loves You) (1964)
8. Pierre Lalonde – Oh! Donne moi ta main (I Want To Hold Your Hand) (1964)
9. Les Gam’s – Toi l’ami (All My Loving) (1964)
10. Chaussettes Noires – Je Te Veux Toute A Moi (I Wanna Be Your Man) (1964)
11. Martine – Il Faut Revenir (This Boy) (1964)
12. Les Lionceaux – Le temps est long (It Won’t Be Long) (1964)
13. Thierry Vincent – Je n’peux l’acheter (Can’t Buy Me Love) (1964)
14. Frank Alamo – Je me bats pour gagner (A Hard Day’s Night) (1964)
15. Les Hou-Lops – Ces mots qu’on oublie un jour (Things We Said Today) (1965)
16. Richard Anthony – La Corde au Cou (I Should Have Known Better) (1964)
17. Michèle Torr – Et le l’aime (And I Love Her) (1965)
18. Les Baronets – Si je te donne mon cœur (If I Fell) (1964)
19. Christian & Getro – Je suis revenu (I’ll Be Back) (1969)
20. Les Monarques – Elle est si belle (No Reply) (1965)
21. Les Missiles – Il faut oser (I’m A Loser) (1965)
22. Tiny Yong – Huit Jours Par Semaine (Eight Days A Week) (1965)
23. Akim – Hum! Qu’elle est belle (I Feel Fine) (1965)
24. Olivier Despax – Ne me mets pas du bleu (Yes It Is) (1965)
25. Dick Rivers – Prends un ticket avec moi (Ticket To Ride) (1965)
26. Eddy Mitchell – Tu Ferais Mieux De L’oublier (You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away) (1965)
27. Les ‘Faux’ Frères – Une fille pour deux garçons (I Like Too Much) (1965)
28. Renée Martel – Un certain soir (The Night Before) (1970)
29. Jacques Salvail – Y’a pas d’mal (It’s Only Love) (1975)
30. Michèle Arnaud – Je croyais (Yesterday) (1966)

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1971

September 9th, 2021 9 comments

 

 

Was 1971 the greatest music year? The riveting recent series on the impact of music in that year, titled 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, made a comprehensive case for 1971 being the greatest year in music, with the release of landmark albums that actually did change music. And the fact that I’ve “recovered” three of these — Tapestry, What’s Going On and Blue — suggests that I might agree with that.

1971 — fifty years ago, FFS! — certainly was a better year for albums than it was for singles, though even among those there were some great cuts. Some of them made it onto the Any Major Hits From 1971 mix.

So here’s my Top 20 of albums released in 1971. As I made my shortlist, I became rather intimidated as its length grew. What would I have to leave out. There are years where I’d struggle to compile a really good Top 20. With 1971, I could have made a Top 40 and feel entirely comfortable commending all of the albums. Just a few 1971 albums that failed to make the cut:

David Bowie – Hunky Dory; Sly & the Family Stone – There’s A Riot Going On; Baby Huey – The Baby Huey Story; Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate; Curtis Mayfield – Curtis Live; Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire de Melody Nelson; Dolly Parton – Coat Of Many Colors; Carole King – Music; Little Feat – Little Feat; Don McLean – American Pie; Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story; Isaac Hayes – Shaft;  Shuggie Otis – Freedom Flight; Led Zepellin – IV; The Who – Who’s Next, and others…

Maybe on another day, this or that album from the list above might displace some of the ones I picked for my personal Top 20. But these 20 are the ones I’ve chosen. Some of them are obvious, others betray my particular personal taste. I’m a little bit too young to have known any of these albums from the time of their release. I think I’ve owned Jethro Tull’s Aqualung the longest. I bought it when I was 12, after my older brother played it for me. I also bought Sticky Fingers early enough to own it with the cover that has an actual zipper. And my mother had Cat Stevens’ Teaser & The Firecat album, so I was sort of familiar with it in my childhood (though I didn’t really play LPs until I was 10 or 11).

Other albums crept into my life in the intervening years: some came into my life inspired by some song or other; some because I felt I had to investigate whether they satisfied their big reputation; some I have no idea how I came to them; I just did. Some I fell in love with instantly (John Prine’s eponymous debut, for instance), others were a struggle to fall for initially and required a bit of work (such as What’s Going On or Blue).

I won’t list my Top 20 in order, and the playlist runs in a random sequence, as far as rankings are concerned. If forced to choose a Top 3, I might go with Tapestry, John Prine and Pieces Of A Man. But one contender I deliberately omitted: Kris Kristofferson’s Me And Bobby McGee, which was released in 1971, but in fact was just a retitled release of KK’s sublime self-titled 1970 debut.

So, what are your albums of 1971?

1. The Rolling Stones – Sway (Sticky Fingers)
2. John Lennon – Gimme Some Truth (Imagine)
3. Jethro Tull – Mother Goose (Aqualung)
4. James Taylor – Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox (Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon)
5. Carole King – Home Again (Tapestry)
6. Gil Scott-Heron – When You Are Who You Are (Pieces Of A Man)
7. Isaac Hayes – Never Can Say Goodbye (Black Moses)
8. Bill Withers – Moanin’ And Groanin’ (Just As I Am)
9. Kris Kristofferson – Loving Her Was Easier (The Silver Tongued Devil And I)
10. Judee Sill – The Lamb Ran Away With The Crown (Judee Sill)
11. Joni Mitchell – All I Want (Blue)
12. John Prine – Pretty Good (John Prine)
13. Cat Stevens – Tuesday’s Dead (Teaser & The Firecat)
14. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey (Tupelo Honey)
15. Roberta Flack – Let Them Talk (Quiet Fire)
16. Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (What’s Going On)
17. Curtis Mayfield – Keep On Keeping On (Roots)
18. King Curtis – A Whiter Shade of Pale (Live At Fillmore West)
19. Barbra Streisand – Space Captain (Barbra Joan Streisand)
20. Elton John – Razor Face (Madman Across The Water)

As ever, CR-R length, home-grooved covers, text in illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

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