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Any Major ABC of Canada

June 28th, 2022 1 comment

Today I’ll provide a little glimpse into Any Major Dude’s sausage factory. Every day people stop me in the streets and ask: “Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, how the blazes do you come up with all those brilliant ideas for CD-R mixes?” Usually I just tap the side of my nose and sign their autograph books, and politely decline their request for selfies.

It was last week, after just one such episode, or maybe it was while I was having my annual shower, when my interior monologue observed that Canada has produced a good number of famous musicians, with the obvious implication that I should do something about that. I decided that this was a good idea indeed, and concluded that the ABC of … series might be a good platform for that endeavour. It would place discipline upon me by limiting the number of artists that I could feature.

The idea for an ABC of Canada duly put into the works, I set out to make a shortlist of Canadian acts. The letters B, J, L and N selected themselves. And I have fond memories of the song that represents H, so that picked itself. “And out of interest,” I said to myself, “when is Canada’s national day?” Turns out, it’s on Friday, July 1. “Well, in that case, better get cracking,” I instructed myself. Get cracking I did, and here’s the result.

One can argue the toss about some acts I picked over others. Gino Vanelli over Gordon Lightfoot or the Guess Who? Kate & Anna McGarrigle over k.d. lang? Tragically Hip over The Band? Why no Weeknd? No French-language song (but one in Italian)? Well, it’s all a bit random. But having listened to this mix several times, I think it’s a really good one, ranging from rock to nu-soul, folk to indie.

Some of these acts are well-known outside Canada. Everybody knows Joni, Lenny and Neil, and everybody knows at least the voice of David Clayton-Thomas from his hits with Blood, Sweat & Tears. Folk fans will know and love the McGarrigles. April Wine surely are legends in their genre, as are Martha and The Muffins. Acts like Crash Test Dummies, Feist and the Barenaked Ladies (who did the Big Bang Theory theme song), Ron Sexsmith and perhaps Tragically Hip have crossed borders as well.

Readers of the In Memoriam series will have encountered soul singer Eric Mercury in the March 2022 instalment. He was the writer and co-producer of a number of tracks for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway who produced a couple of underappreciated albums.

Perhaps the most interesting, and certainly most topical, act in this collection is Willie Thrasher, an Inuit who was taken from his family at age 5 and placed the Canadian government’s controversial residential school system, which was designed to alienate indigenous people from their cultural roots and force their assimilation into the dominant Western culture. Thrasher left that compulsory system at 16, worked as a forest firefighter, and took up music — returning to his Inuit roots which he incorporated into his folk-rock style, and using his music to speak out on political issues.

Their name might sound like that of a metal or ’80s new wave group, but UHF is a folk-rock supergroup, consisting of singer-songwriters Shari Ulrich, Bill Henderson (of rock band Chilliwack) and Roy Forbes. In the same genre, Valdy is a bit of a legend in Canada, but he doesn’t seem to have made much impact outside the country.

Also from the folk tradition is Oh Susanna, the name under which Suzie Ungerleider used to recorded. She was actually born in the US but has obtained Canadian citizenship.

Jazz singer Salomé Bey was also born in the US but emigrated to Canada in 1966, at the age of 33. Bey died in 2020; this year she was honoured with a commemorative postage stamp.

You’ll find two playlists here: one is a straight A-Z, the other a more ordered sequence of the same tracks.

Though this mix exceeds CD-R length, it includes home-canucked covers. The text above is in PDF, and PW is in comments.

1. April Wine – Roller (1978)
2. Barenaked Ladies – What a Good Boy (live, 1996)
3. Crash Test Dummies – Afternoons And Coffeespoons (1993)
4. David Clayton-Thomas – Anytime…Babe (1974)
5. Eric Mercury – Long Way Down (1969)
6. Feist – 1234 (2007)
7. Gino Vannelli – Wheels Of Life (1978)
8. Hot Hot Heat – Middle of Nowhere (2005)
9. Ivana Santilli – Nostalgia (1999)
10. Joni Mitchell – The Circle Game (1970)
11. Kate & Anna McGarrigle – My Town (1975)
12. Leonard Cohen – One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (live, 1968)
13. Martha and The Muffins – There’s A Song In My Head (1986)
14. Neil Young – Comes A Time (1978)
15. Oh Susanna – Tangled And Wild (1999)
16. Pukka Orchestra – Might As Well Be On Mars (1984)
17. Quanteisha – Someday (2009)
18. Ron Sexsmith – Whatever It Takes (2004)
19. Salome Bey – Hit The Nail Right On The Head (1970)
20. Tragically Hip – Fiddler’s Green (1991)
21. UHF – Day By Day (1990)
22. Valdy – Rock And Roll Song (1972)
23. Willie Thrasher – Old Man Carver (1981)
24. X-Quisite – No Regrets (2003)
25. Yves Jarvis – In Every Mountain (2020)
26. Zaki Ibrahim – Draw The Line (2013)

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PREVIOUS ABCs:
ABC of 1950s
ABC of 1960s
ABC of 1970s
ABC of 1990s
ABC of 2000s
ABC of Soul
ABC of Country
ABC of Christmas
ABC of South Africa

Categories: ABC in Decades, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

Brian Wilson Songbook

June 21st, 2022 3 comments

 

 

Yesterday, on June 20, Brian Wilson turned 80, just two days after his fellow songwriting genius Paul McCartney, who was the subject of a Songbook last week, turned 80 himself. How were the stars aligned (if you subscribe to that kind of thing) that June 1942 to create two such man within two days of one another?

Wilson and McCartney (and his fellow Beatles) ran a pop music innovations race in the mid-1960s, a serious but friendly competition that spurred each other to greater heights. If a winner must be declared, then it is McCartney, who kept going with some great work while Wilson collapsed under the weight of his own ambitions, and fragile mental health. Crucially, where McCartney had the support, even if often troubled, of his fellow Beatles, who shared in the processes of artistic growth, Wilson had to contend with those, in the band and commercial departments, who still wanted fun fun fun songs about hot cars ‘n’ tanned gals.

 

The Beach Boys and their striped shirts. Brian Wilson is front right.

 

When Wilson heard The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album in 1965, he immediately wrote God Only Knows (with Tony Asher), the first track for what would become the Pet Sounds albums. That album, in turn, motivated The Beatles to up their game — from the already astonishing Revolver album — to create Sgt Pepper’s.

Four months before that album was released in June 1967, The Beatles had released Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Forever. Reportedly, when Wilson heard that song, he broke down and cried, saying: “They got there first!” That was quite a concession from the man who by then had already produced the stroke of eternal genius that is Good Vibrations.

Wilson’s attempt to top Sgt Pepper’s — and let’s cut a sad story short — ended in artistic and personal decline following the stressful production of the aborted Smile project, and the disastrous reception of what turned out to be the compromise album, Smiley Smile. Wilson completed that project in 2005 with the release of his Smile album.

In the studio during that productive mid-‘60s period, Wilson didn’t even have the Beach Boys with him. His “band” comprised various members of the Wrecking Crew, the collective of highly professional session musicians. One of them, guitarist Glenn Campbell, actually became a member of The Beach Boys in their touring formation. Carl and Dennis, Jardine and Love would come in to lay down vocal tracks — and, of course, their harmonies were integral to the Beach Boys sound. Mike Love would co-write some songs, though in many cases, the extent of his contributions is a matter of diverging memories.

Actors like De Niro and Pacino have their ways of getting into character; Wilson was a method musician, once even filling his home studio with sand to recreate a beach (as if a feature of beaches is grand pianos just standing there). By then he had already experimented with LSD — a year before that drug reached The Beatles — and other drugs. The riff for California Girls came to him after his acid trip.

The progress in Wilson’s songwriting was as spectacular as that of The Beatles. Between the plagiarised Surfin’ USA in 1963 (for which Chuck Berry rightly got a co-writing credit) and the intricate but appealing Wouldn’t It Be Nice were only three years.

 

So here we have the Brian Wilson Songbook. Nancy Sinatra’s version of California Girls from a 2003 album, features the backing vocals of Brian Wilson and ex-Beach Boy Jeffrey Foskett. Nancy’s version opens this set, so suitably the first voice we hear is Brian Wilson’s. And Wilson closes this collection with a cover of his own song from 2005’s Smile album, Surf’s Up. The Nancy Sinatra track was co-produced by the legendary Billy Strange, who arranged These Boots Are Made For Walking, as well as Duane Eddy and The Ventures, who in turn had influenced the Beach Boys.

Wilson originally offered Don’t Worry Baby to The Ronettes, and was profoundly inspired by their hit Be My Baby. They didn’t record it because Phil Spector declined it. Instead The Beach Boys recorded in 1964. Wilson once said he thought it was their finest moment. It later was a hit for BJ Thomas. Thirty-odd years after Spector vetoed Don’t Worry Baby, Ronnie Spector finally recorded it, co-produced by Joey Ramone, a fan of both The Ronettes and The Beach Boys. The Ramones themselves feature later in the mix with Surfin’ Safari.

Spector might have rejected Wilson’s composition, but fellow Capitol signing Sharon Marie recorded Wilson and Mike Love’s Thinkin’ ’Bout You Baby, which Wilson also produced and arranged, with another Wilson/Love composition, The Story Of My Life, on the flip-side. It was not a success, nor was the previous year’s Wilson job Run-Around Lover. The Beach Boys rejigged Thinkin’ ’Bout You Baby and recorded it as Darlin’ in 1967.

If we have ever wondered what ABBA might have sounded like if they had been The Beach Boys, Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s Swedish cover of Wouldn’t It Be Nice gives us a hint. She recorded it for her 1975 Swedish language LP Frida Ensam, which was produced by Benny Anderson, another genius of arrangement, with Björn Ulvaeus on guitar. The album also included the original version of ABBA’s Fernando (featured on Any Major Originals: 1970s).

There are some Beach Boys songs that are impossible to cover well, unless you change the whole structure of it. Good Vibrations is a good example of that. The original is one of pop music’s towering achievements; covering it straight is to punch upwards, even if you do it competent, as Todd Rundgren did in 1976. So I’ve opted for the 1975 cover by The Troggs, which deconstructs the original’s entire arrangement, and does to it what William Shatner had done a few years earlier with other hits, though The Troggs do it with greater discipline and restraint than old Cap’n Kirk. I doubt I’ll ever love what The Troggs did with it, but it’s good fun fun fun.

The same applies to I Get Around; the psychedelic version by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra — whose version of the Rolling Stone’s The Last Time (featured on the Copy Borrow Steal mix) gave the Verve’s Bitter-Sweet Symphony its hook — is joyfully mad.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-good-vibrationed covers, and the above text in PDF format. PW in comments.

1. Nancy Sinatra – California Girls (2003)
2. The Carpenters – Fun, Fun, Fun (1973)
3. Anni-Frid Lyngstad – Skulle de’ va’ skönt (Wouldn’t It Be Nice, 1975)
4. Johnny Rivers – Help Me Rhonda (1975)
5. Ronnie Spector – Don’t Worry Baby (1999)
6. Bruce Springsteen – When I Grow Up To Be A Man (live, 1985)
7. Dave Alvin – Surfer Girl (2006)
8. Rumer – The Warmth Of The Sun (2015)
9. Linda Ronstadt – In My Room (1996)
10. Andrew Oldham Orchestra – I Get Around (1965)
11. The Troggs – Good Vibrations (1975)
12. Bobby Vee – Here Today (1966)
13. P.P. Arnold – God Only Knows (1968)
14. Carmen McRae – Don’t Talk (1967)
15. Sharon Marie – Thinkin’ ‘Bout You Baby (1964)
16. Jan & Dean – Surf City (1963)
17. The Surfaris – Be True To Your School (1964)
18. Nick DeCaro – Caroline, No (1969)
19. Nazareth – Wild Honey (1976)
20. David Garland – I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (1993)
21. Kirsty MacColl – You Still Believe In Me (1981)
22. Wall Of Voodoo – Do It Again (1987)
23. The Rubinoos – Heroes And Villains (2002)
24. The Smithereens – Girl Don’t Tell Me (1995)
25. Ramones – Surfin’ Safari (1993)
26. Frank Black – Hang On To Your Ego (1993)
27. Brian Wilson – Surf’s Up (2005)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes

Categories: Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs, Songwriters Tags:

Paul McCartney Songbook Vol. 1

June 14th, 2022 4 comments

 

It is remarkable that two songwriters who were at the absolute vanguard in changing pop music in the 1960s were born within two days of one another. They were friendly rivals whose mutual admiration spurred one another on to greater heights.

They were born within two days of one another, but they grew up in very different circumstances. Paul McCartney, who turns 80 on June 18, was born into a war whose effects scarred his hometown of Liverpool throughout his youth. He grew up in monochrome Britain, but in a loving family. Brian Wilson, who turns 80 on June 20, grew up in technicolour California, the son of an ambitious and tyrannical father. Paul and Brian came from vastly different backgrounds, but they had in common a knack for writing songs and innovating on them; Brian mostly on his own, Paul with his friend John Lennon.

Both had massive success and exercised great influence with their respective bands, which even shared the first three letters of their names. Both stopped touring in order to innovate in the studio.

As you would expect, a Brian Wilson Songbook will follow next week, a few days after the great man turns 80. Today, however, we have the first of two Paul McCartney Songbooks, a couple of days before he turns 80. This volume covers his Beatles era; the follow-up will cover — as the fiendishly clever reader will have worked out — Macca’s solo output.

There’s little point in discussing McCartney’s compositions in great detail; many people haver done so to much greater effect than I could hope to do. One thing that does strike me, though, is that Paul’s songs tend to be more adaptable to other genres than John’s. That is true, of course, of Paul’s ballads in particular. Some of them have been spoiled by having been covered too many times, and too often by easy listening merchants. Can one listen to Yesterday without having the fear of Mantovani put into them? Well, in this collection, Dr John exorcises all of these cheesy versions of Yesterday, and puts some meat on the song first known as “Scambled Eggs”. A mention must be made of Una Valli’s excellent interpretation of Yesterday on Covered With Soul Vol. 15.

 

 

I might be open to persuasion otherwise, but it seems to me than Paul’s songs lend them themselves better to soul covers than John’s. The two Beatles specials in the Covered With Soul series, Vol. 14 and the aforementioned Vol. 15, bear out this observation. About half of the songs on the present mix are soul or soul-inflected tracks.

I’ve posted many mixes of covers of Beatles songs before, including track-by-track Recovered mixes of every Beatles album (you will find them all here, among other Beatles-related stuff). I’ve tried not to repeat any previously-used cover on this collection. The only recycled track is Got To Get You Into My Life by Thelma Houston, which appeared on the first of two mixes of songs on which Wrecking Crew drummer Jim Gordon played.

One track here is sort of a repeat, but it isn’t. On the Let It Be Recovered mix, the Long And Winding Road duties were done by Ray Charles, in his version from 1971. Featured here is Ray’s 1973 live recording, performed with the Count Basie Orchestra. It was unreleased until 2006 because the recording track of the orchestra was of poor sound quality. Charles’ vocal track was fine, so some very clever people got the new Count Basie Orchestra into the studio to re-record the instrumental track, and mixed these with Ray’s 1973 vocals.

It was only when I looked over the tracklisting that I noticed that all acts here are North American, except one. Joy Unlimited was a band from Mannheim, Germany. They were headed by Joy Fleming, who probably is Germany’s greatest soul singer — though the pool of contenders may not be enormous. Certainly Joy’s soulfulness belied her very unfunky birthname: Erna Raad. Fleming, who died in 2017, has featured here a couple of times before: on Any Major Schlager Covers with her version of Respect, on Any Major Eurovision with her superb Bridge Of Love, and with Joy Unlimited on Yellow Submarine Recovered.

 

Paul McCartney poster in Germany’s Bravo magazine in July 1966.

 

One act here is not really known as a singer but as a recording engineer and producer: Glyn Johns. Among his many charges were The Beatles, whose Get Back sessions he engineered (his mixes were later released as Let It Be Naked. He’d later also co-engineer McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway album). Between 1962 and ’67, Johns tried to carve out a career as a singer, while engineering acts like The Rolling Stones and the Small Faces. One of his seven singles was a cover of The Beatles’ I’ll Follow The Sun, released in 1965, and it features here.

A little twist: Johns also engineered for Humble Pie, but the present track by the band, a 1975 cover of We Can Work It Out, was engineered by Steve Marriott — who was a member of the Small Faces when Johns engineered them…

One act here actually was co-credited with The Beatles, the only artist ever to be thus honoured by the band. Billy Preston played on Let It Be, contributing that searing organ solo. His version of the song here appeared on his 1974 live album, Live European Tour. And it was engineered by Glyn Johns’ younger brother Andy.

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

1. Pat Benatar – Helter Skelter (1981)
2. Aerosmith – I’m Down (1987)
3. Ike & Tina Turner – Get Back (1973)
4. Thelma Houston & Pressure Cooker – Got To Get You Into My Life (1975)
5. El Chicano – Eleanor Rigby (1970)
6. Billy Preston – Let It Be (1974)
7. O.C. Smith – Hey Jude (1969)
8. Bobby Womack – And I Love Her (1972)
9. Humble Pie – We Can Work It Out (1975)
10. Dr. John – Yesterday (1975)
11. Joy Unlimited – Oh Darling (1969)
12. George Benson – Here, There And Everywhere (1989)
13. Rickie Lee Jones – For No One (2000)
14. Dar Williams – You Won’t See Me (2005)
15. Carly Simon – Blackbird (2006)
16. Sheryl Crow – Mother Nature’s Son (2002)
17. Bobbie Gentry – The Fool On The Hill (1968)
18. Glyn Johns – I’ll Follow The Sun (1965)
19. José Feliciano – She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (1970)
20. R.B. Greaves – Paperback Writer (1971)
21. Ray Charles & The Count Basie Orchestra – The Long And Winding Road (1973/2006)
22. Sarah Vaughan – Michelle (1966)
23. Lou Rawls – Golden Slumbers (1972)

GET IT! or HERE!

Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

More Songbooks
More Cover Mixes
More Beatles-related Stuff
More CD-R Mixes

Categories: Beatles, Covers Mixes, Songwriters Tags:

Ziggy Stardust Recovered (1972)

June 9th, 2022 8 comments

Ziggy

Next week, on June 16, it will be 50 years since the release of David Bowie’s landmark album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I recovered that album some years ago, and posted the story behind the cover to go with it. I’m reposting that story with that first Ziggy Stardust Recovered mix — but I have made a NEW Ziggy Stardust Re-recovered mix. So download them and mix-and-match to your preference.

There is a sweet irony in the cover picture of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: the alien superstar is photographed in a seedy sidestreet in London’s West End, not a glitzy glamour spot. Instead of shining brightly in a metallic science fiction wonderland, the monochrome photo is hand-coloured in the way of postcards from the turn of the last century.

The cover holds not the promise of the story we are coming to hear, but its denouement: Ziggy has come back down to earth as David Bowie. There’s trash, there’s rain, there’s a bin, there’s the sign of the furrier K. West, where the fiction of left-handed Ziggy and the fact of Bowie, holding his guitar right-handed, come together.

Or that’s how I choose to see it. The story of Ziggy Stardust is vague enough to let you project your own ideas upon it. In fact, by writing about the cover, by stripping away a veneer of its mystique, I may be depriving you, if you do not know the story of the cover, of your ability to freely project. Read on at your own peril.

What we will find is that the story of the cover is rather ordinary. The photo was taken on a cold January night in 1972 in Soho’s Heddon Street, then an insalubrious sidestreet, but today a fashionable pedestrian zone. The photographer was Brian Ward, who had studio in the street.

He took 17 photos that night, including the back cover shot of Ziggy/Bowie in the telephone booth. The front cover pic was taken at house number 23, under the big sign for K. West. Apparently Bowie turned up (with a posse of two girls), posed for a few minutes, and quickly disappeared into the rainy night, leaving Ward to develop his black-and-white photos. Did Bowie feel like Ziggy in “Five Years”? “It was cold and it rained and I felt like an actor.”

ziggy-bwThe winning shot was colourised, giving the jumpsuit a blue hue when it was, in fact, green. Have look at all 17 photos of the session at the Five Years site (from which I’ve borrowed one here).

As for the signs on the wall? They were for Paquerette Dresses (4th Floor), Ramar Dresses Ltd (3rd Floor), International Wool Secretariat, Cravats Ltd (main entrance), and T.H. Ferris (2nd Floor)

So, to mark the Ziggy anniversary, here are the two track-by-track mixes of Ziggy covers. Every track of the album is performed in sequence by various artists. On the first Ziggy Stardust Recovered mix, two tracks are by Bowie himself. One is from the famous Hammersmith Odeon concert at which he killed off Ziggy Stardust — obviously the final track, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide — the other a new mix of the largely uncovered Star. In fact, there’s a third Bowie number: The Arnold Corns was a Bowie project on which he test-drove some Ziggy tracks a year before he gave birth to the alien superstar. They feature on both the Ziggy Stardust Recovered and Ziggy Stardust Re-Recovered mixes. One song on the album was a cover itself: It Ain’t Easy was a Ron Davies song. The cover of that on the Recovered mix also precedes the Ziggy LP.

Obviously, each mix will fit on a standard CD-R. I’ve not made home-ziggied covers, but the text above is included in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

ZIGGY STARDUST RE-RECOVERED
1. Old 97’s – Five Years (2010)
2. Cerys Matthews – Soul Love (2006)
3. The Chameleons – Moonage Daydream (2002)
4. Culture Club – Starman (1999)
5. Claudia Lennear – It Ain’t Easy (1973)
6. Midge Ure – Lady Stardust (2008)
7. Cuff The Duke – Star (2013)
8. The Arnold Corns – Hang On To Yourself (1971)
9. Def Leppard – Ziggy Stardust (1995)
10. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Suffragette City (1986)
11. Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide (2000)

ZIGGY STARDUST RECOVERED
1. The Polyphonic Spree – Five Years (2002)
2. Marti Jones – Soul Love (1986)
3. The Arnold Corns – Moonage Daydream (1971)
4. Leningrad Cowboys – Starman (2006)
5. Three Dog Night – It Ain’t Easy (1970)
6. Seu Jorge – Lady Stardust (2005)
7. David Bowie – Star (40th Anniversary Mix) (1972/2012)
8. Contraband – Hang On To Yourself (1991)
9. Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust (1982)
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Suffragette City (2012)
11. David Bowie – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (live) (1973)

GET IT! or HERE!

 

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Categories: Album cover art, Covers Mixes, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

In Memoriam – May 2022

June 2nd, 2022 4 comments

 

The month of May was mercifully less brutal than April, but its music deaths gave us a few good stories, such as those of Régine, the singing inventor of discotheques, Dylan sidekick Bob Neuwirth, or Ronnie Hawkins, who first brought The Band together. Hawkins also connects with Neuwirth through Dylan, and with the Yes drummer Alan White, who also died in May, through John Lennon.

In the comments to last month’s In Memoriam, a reader issued generous praise about this series, but was puzzled as to the omission of two important Benelux artists, from the write-ups. I can understand his point. Here’s the thing, though: In April, there was an excess of significant musicians, or those with particularly interesting backstories, or those whose music has meant something special to me. I check every death for significance and/or stories to tell. Each narrative takes a good while to research and write (and to edit; sometimes I need to shorten them). But at some points I have to draw a line at the amount of work I can do on this series due to the time it demands of me – after all, I do this for no payment (other, perhaps, than the occasional coffees some readers buy me) and have work and family commitments to account for. In April there were 13 entries, which is an absurd amount of work. This month, there are “only” eight, which is still a heap of work. Any other month, depending on my time available, I might well have included Arno Hintjens or Henny Vrienten. And still, there are a few artists whom I would have liked to feature this month — for example Cathal Coughlan of Microdisney or Rick Price of The Move or R&B singer Jewell or Bernard Wright or Norm Dolph — but due to travel, work commitments and an inconvenient bout of illness, I just lacked the time. Sometimes these things are just a roll of the dice…

The Composer
Few prog-rock starts go on to become composers of at least two of the greatest pieces of movie music. But so it was with Vangelis, who wrote the magnificent score for 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) and the Oscar-winning theme of Chariots Of Fire (1981). He also composed the scores for films such as Blade Runner (1982), Missing (1982), Antarctica (1983) and The Bounty (1984).

All the while, he also created prog-rock albums with Jon Anderson, lead singer of Yes, as Jon & Vangelis. That recalled his initial breakthrough, when Vangelis — initially still credited by his proper name, Evángelos Papathanassíou was part of Greek proto prog band Aphrodite’s Child, along with a pre-moms’-favourite Demis Roussos. Vangelis was the band’s keyboardist, flautist and songwriter. Aphrodite’s Child had a string of hits in Europe in the late 1960s and are regarded as influential on prog-rock — Jon Anderson was a fan before he became a prog-rock legend himself — and as pioneers of the concept album.

Vangelis also composed the official anthem of the 2002 football World Cup, and over the past two decades collaborated with NASA and the European Space Agency on symphonic music projects, the last part of which was released just last year.

The Unlikely Pop Legend
It seemed unlikely that of all Depeche Mode members, Andy Fletcher would be the first to go. He also was the one who looked least like a pop legend. “Martin’s the songwriter, Alan’s the good musician, Dave’s the vocalist… and I bum around,” he once said. But he did more than bum around. By all accounts, he was the glue that held Depeche Mode together, and the business brains of the operation. And he knew that, too. In 2013, he described himself as “the tall guy in the background without whom this international corporation called Depeche Mode would never work”.

The Discotheque Inventor
As the month began, the eventful life of French entertainer Régine ended at the age of 92. Born in Belgium in 1929 as Rachelle Zylberberg to Jewish parents, Régine was saved from the Holocaust when she was given shelter in a convent. After the war, she moved to Paris were in the 1950s she effectively invented the discotheque by replacing the old jukeboxes with dedicated disc jockeys working turntables at the Whisky à Gogo. By 1957, she opened the first of her many discotheques around the world (including New York’s famous Régine’s). At one point she owned 22 discos at the same time.

By then she had also made a name for herself as a chanteuse and songwriter who influenced many singers of her generation. Her recording career spanned half a century, from 1959 top 2009.

The Yes Drummer
It was sad month for Jon Anderson: first his collaborator Vangelis died, then long-time Yes drummer Alan White departed from this mortal coil. White replaced original Yes drummer Bill Bruford in 1972, and never left the band for the next 50 years.

Before joining Yes, White made a name for himself as a drummer for the Plastic Ono Band, appearing at the legendary Toronto concert that gave rise to a live album, and on Lennon’s Imagine album. He also swung the sticks to magnificent effect on Lennon’s hit Instant Karma. White also played for George Harrison on All Things Must Pass, and for acts like The Alan Price Set, Joe Cocker, Gary Wright, Donovan, Suzi Quatro and others.

The Dylan Sidekick
In the history of Bob Dylan, folk singer-songwriter Bob Neuwirth, who has died at 82, will be remembered as a one-time best friend, road manager, enforcer and loyal sidekick. He was there when Dylan went electric at Newport and on the UK tour with the “Judas” moment. On the cover of Highway 61 Revisited, we see the lower half of Neuwirth, wearing an orange-and-white striped top and holding a camera. On the video of Subterranean Homesick Blues (the one with the cue cards), the just off-screen Neuwirth has an animated conversation with Allen Ginsberg. After Dylan’s motorbike accident in 1966, Neuwirth receded from the hub of Dylan’s world, but returned a decade later for the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

By then he had introduced Kris Kristofferson to Janis Joplin, and Joplin to KK’s song Bobby McGee. Neuwirth also co-wrote Joplin’s posthumously-released a capella song Mercedes Benz.

Neuwith, a man of sharp wit and cutting tongue, didn’t record his first album until 1974. It featured guest stars such as Kris Kristofferson, Booker T. Jones, Rita Coolidge, Chris Hillman, Cass Elliot (just before her death), Dusty Springfield, Don Everly and Richie Furay, but it was no commercial success. Between 1988-99, he released four more albums, but by then Neuwirth was making his name more as an abstract painter than a music act.

The Hawk
Another one-time Dylan associate left us in May in US-Canadian rock & roll and country singer-songwriter Ronnie Hawkins. In 1975, Dylan cast Hawkins to play the part of “Bob Dylan” in his movie Renaldo and Clara.

Hawkins, born in Arkansas two days after Elvis Presley, began his career in the 1950s when he enjoyed a number of rock & roll hits — mostly covers and knock-offs — with his band The Hawks. That group played a part in rock history as a precursor of The Band: its ever-changing line-up included first Levon Helms as of 1957 and Robbie Robertson in 1960 before Richard Manuel and Rick Danko joined in 1961, and soon after them Garth Hudson. In late 1963 they left Hawkins to form their own band. Hawkins was later reunited with The Band at their farewell concert, which recorded for the film The Last Waltz (he played with them on Who Do You Love)

In Toronto, Hawkins also hosted and accompanied John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their Bed-In campaign.

The Country Cousin
Country singer Mickey Gilley grew up with his cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart and rockabilly pianist Carl McVoy. By the time Gilley hit the big time as a country crooner in the mid-1970s, the careers of Jerry Lee and McVoy had long been on the slide. Gilley was smart enough to recognise a change of wind in country music when in 1980, on the back of the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, his music became more pop-oriented. Between 1980-86, he released 19 singles, of which 18 were country Top 10 hits (nine of them reaching #1)

The Spinal Tap Drummer
Few drummers enjoy a resurrection, but Ric Parnell did. Originally, he featured in the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap as Mick Shrimpton, one of the string of Spinal Tap drummers who meet a freakish death. But when Spinal Tap, on the back of the film’s success, became a recording concern, Parnell was resurrected, to swing the sticks as Mick’s twin brother, Ric Shrimpton.

Parnell initially broke through as a member of British rock band Atomic Rooster, from 1971-74. In between he recorded with Italian rock band Triton, scoring a 1973 hit with a cover of Satisfaction. Short-lived gigs in a number of bands followed. He also did some session work, including on Toni Basil’s 1980 #1 hit Mickey.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.

 

Ray Fenwick, 75, English guitarist and producer, on April 30
Spencer Davis Group – Time Seller (1968, as member)
Ray Fenwick – I Wanna Stay Here (1971)

Ric Parnell, 70, English drummer and actor, on May 1
Atomic Rooster – Save Me (1973, as member)
Spinal Tap – Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight (1984, as member)

Régine, 92, French singer, songwriter, actress and discotheque pioneer, on May 1
Régine – Ca n’sert à rien (1965)
Régine – On la chante (1973)
Régine – La vie by night (1981)

DJ Delete, 30, Australian DJ and music producer, on May 1

Peter Frohmader, 63, German electronic composer and musician, on May 2
Peter Frohmader – Funebre (2010)

María José Cantilo, 68, Belgian-born Argentine singer-songwriter, on May 2

Howie Pyro, 61, bassist of punk band D Generation, on May 4
D Generation – Wasted Years (1993)

Albin Julius, 54, leader of Austrian experimental rock project Der Blutharsch, on May 4

Jewell, 53, R&B singer, on May 6
Snoop Doggy Dogg feat Jewell- Who Am I (What’s My Name)
Jewell – Woman To Woman (1994)

Mickey Gilley, 86, country singer, on May 7
Mickey Gilley – Room Full Of Roses (1974)
Mickey Gilley – Lonely Nights (1981)
Mickey Gilley – Your Memory Ain’t What It Used To Be (1985)

Dennis Waterman, 74, English actor and singer, on May 8
Dennis Waterman – I Could Be So Good For You (1979)

Doug Caldwell, 94, New Zealand jazz musician, on May 10

Richard Benson, 67, British-Italian guitarist, singer and TV host, on May 10
Richard Benson – Renegade (1984)

Trevor Strnad, 41, singer of metal band Black Dahlia Murder, on May 10

Norman Dolph, 83, songwriter and producer, on May 11
The Velvet Underground – All Tomorrow’s Parties (1968, as producer)
Reunion – Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me) (1974, as writer)

Patricia Cahill, 77, Irish singer, on May 11

Andy Chaves, 32 member of reggae-rock band Katastro, in car crash on May 12

Ben Moore, 80, American soul singer, on May 12
James & Bobby Purify – Get Closer (1976, as Bobby Purify II)

Rosmarie Trapp, 93, member of the Von Trapp family, on May 13

Lil Keed, 24, rapper, on May 13

Ricky Gardiner, 73, Scottish guitarist and composer, on May 13
Beggars Opera – Two Timing Woman (1973, as founder member)
David Bowie – Sound And Vision (1977, on guitar)
Iggy Pop – The Passenger (1977, as co-writer and on guitar)

Robert Cogoi, 82, Belgian singer, on May 15

Deborah Fraser, 56, South African gospel singer, on May 15

Vangelis Papathanassiou, 79, Greek keyboardist and film composer, on May 17
Aphrodite’s Child – Rain And Tears (1968, as member and co-writer)
Aphrodite’s Child – It’s Five O’Clock (1969, as member and co-writer)
Jon & Vangelis – I’ll Find My Way Home (1981, also as co-writer)
Vangelis – Conquest Of Paradise (1992, as composer)

Rick Price, 77, bassist of English bands The Move, Wizzard, on May 17
The Move – When Alice Comes Back To The Farm (1970)
Wizzard – See My Baby Jive (1973)

Paul Plimley, 69, Canadian free jazz pianist and vibraphonist, on May 18

Bob Neuwirth, 82, folk singer-songwriter, on May 18
Janis Joplin – Mercedes Benz (1971, as co-writer)
Bob Neuwirth – Just Because I’m Here (Don’t Mean I’m Home) (1974)
Bob Neuwirth – Life Is For The Living (1990)

Wim Rijken, 63, Dutch singer and actor, on May 18

Cathal Coughlan, 61, singer of Irish indie bands Microdisney, Fatima Mansions, on May 18
Microdisney – Town To Town (1987)
Fatima Mansions – Angel’s Delight (1990)

Bernard Wright, 58, American soul singer, jazz fusion keyboardist, on May 19
Bernard Wright – Spinnin’ (1981)
Bernard Wright – Who Do You Love (1984)

Guido Lembo, 75, Italian singer and guitarist, on May 19

Thom Bresh, 74, country guitarist and singer, on May 23
Tom Bresh – Home Made Love (1976)

Jean-Louis Chautemps, 90, French jazz saxophonist, on May 25
Elton John – Honky Cat (1972, on saxophone)

Guillaume Bideau, 44, French singer of Danish heavy metal group Mnemic, on May 25

Alan White, 72, English drummer of Yes, on May 25
John Lennon – Instant Karma (1970, on drums, piano)
Gary Wright – Get On The Right Road (1972)
Yes – Wonderous Stories (1977)
Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart (1983)

Andy Fletcher, 60, co-founder and keyboardist of Depeche Mode, on May 25
Depeche Mode – Dreaming Of Me (1981)
Depeche Mode – But Not Tonight (1986)
Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence (1990)

Steve Broughton, 72, drummer of the Edgar Broughton Band, on May 29
Edgar Broughton Band – Hotel Room (1971)

Sidhu Moose Wala, 28, Indian singer, actor and politician, shot dead on May 29

Ronnie Hawkins, 87, rock & roll, country singer-songwriter, on May 29
Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks – Forty Days (1959)
Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks – I Feel Good (1961)
The Band with Ronnie Hawkins – Who Do You Love (1978)
Ronnie Hawkins – Making It Again (1984)

Dakis, 78, Greek singer, on May 29
Dakis – Mourir ou vivre (1967)

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