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Any Major Nicky Hopkins Collection

February 22nd, 2024 8 comments

 

 

Some time ago, a follower of this little corner of the Internet requested that I add pianist Nicky Hopkins to the series on session musicians. It was a good idea.

On February 26, Hopkins would have turned 80. Sadly, he never got to experience the advance of old age. He died on September 6, 1994, at the age of 50, after an operation relating to his lifelong battle with Crohn’s disease. Matthew Sweet’s Swan Song, on which Hopkins appeared, was released a year earlier. Its title and timing made it the natural closing track for the CD-R playlist.

In his time, English-born Hopkins’ versatility and adaptability made him one of the most sought-after session pianists and keyboardist. On the English scene in the 1960s alone he played with acts like The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, The Yardbirds, Cat Stevens and, especially, The Rolling Stones.

In the US he backed acts like Harry Nilsson, Carly Simon, Lee Hazlewood, The Steve Miller Band, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Art Garfunkel, Gene Clark, Jerry Garcia Band (of which he briefly was a member), Martha Reeves, Tina Turner, Climax Blues Band, Carole Bayer Sager, Jennifer Warnes, Eddie Money, Meat Loaf, The Jayhawks and others.

Hopkins had a particularly close relationship with The Rolling Stones, to the point that he was something of an adjunct member. He played on all their studio albums from 1967’s Their Satanic Majesties Request to Tattoo You in 1981, except for 1978’s Some Girls. It’s fair to say that Hopkins played a substantial role in shaping the Stones’ sound.

The Who also valued Hopkins highly. His presence was central on 1971’s pivotal Who’s Next album. Pete Townshend would have liked him to join The Who full-time, politely inviting Hopkins: “If you would ever like to join a band, we’d love to be considered first.”

He played the electric piano on The Beatles Revolution (the rock version), and later Hopkins played on solo records of all four Beatles, mostly for Lennon but for Paul not until 1989.

Hopkins was an innovator in rock, on par with many of the great names of the era. He was technically brilliant, versatile and creative. His piano could be gentle and melodic, but it could also be powerful, driving a song. His creative input and musical ideas helped shape the songs of many artists he worked with.

The playlist closes with a band Hopkins of which was a member. In 1967, he joined the Jeff Beck Group, which had as its lead singer Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood on bass and future session man Micky Waller on drums. After that, from 1969-70, Hopkins was a member of US psychedelic rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service. All the time he still did session work. One client was Jefferson Airplane, with whom he appeared at Woodstock.

Hopkins released three solo albums in his time. The first was an easy listening effort titled The Revolutionary Piano Of Nicky Hopkins in 1966. In 1973 and 1975 two more albums followed, The Tin Man Was A Dreamer and No More Changes. Among the session players on the former was saxophonist Bobby Keys, himself the subject of a Any Major Collection.

Keys played on many sessions with Hopkins, including several Stones songs and the featured Martha Reeves track, a rousing cover of Van Morrison’s Wild Night. That recording also had Jim Keltner on drums, himself the subject of two Collections (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). Hopkins played with Keltner on several John Lennon songs (including the hit #9 Dream). Hopkins, Keltner and Keys were all playing on the featured Carly Simon track.

All previous Session Players’ Collections are up again. As always, the playlist is tied to fit on the standard CD-R (that is, without the bonus tracks), and includes home-slurred covers and the text above in a PDF. PW in comments.

1. The Beatles – Revolution (1968)
2. Jefferson Airplane – Volunteers (1969)
3. The Who – Getting In Tune (1971)
4. Nicky Hopkins – Shout It Out (1973)
5. Rolling Stones – Angie (1973)
6. Rod Stewart – You’re In My Heart (1977)
7. Martha Reeves – Wild Night (1974)
8. Mood Mosaic – A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass (1966)
9. Cat Stevens – Matthew & Son (1967)
10. Nilsson – Joy (1972)
11. New Riders Of The Purple Sage – Dim Lights, Thick Smoke And Loud Loud Music (1972)
12. Lee Hazlewood – The Night Before (1970)
13. The Steve Miller Band – Never Kill Another Man (1970)
14. Joe Cocker – I Can Stand A Little Rain (1974)
15. John Lennon – How (1971)
16. Climax Blues Band – I Love You (1980)
17. Brooklyn Dreams – A Moment In Time (1980)
18. Badfinger – Lost Inside Your Love (1979)
19. Eddie Money – Gimme Some Water (1978)
20. Tina Turner – The Acid Queen (1975)
21. Matthew Sweet – Swan Song (1993)
BONUS TRACKS:
22. Meat Loaf – More Than You Deserve (1981)
23. Jennifer Warnes – You’re The One (1976)
24. Carly Simon – Night Owl (1972)
25. Quicksilver Messenger Service – Just For Love (Part 1) (1970)
26. The Easybeats – Heaven & Hell (1967)
27. Jeff Beck – I’ve Been Drinking (1968)

GET IT!

Previous Session Musicians:
The Roy Bittan Collection
The Larry Carlton Collection
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Joe Osborne Collection
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ringo Starr Collection

Categories: Mix CD-Rs, Session Players Tags:

Any Major Bizarre Beatles

February 16th, 2024 9 comments

 

With this month’s 60th anniversary of The Beatles’ invasion of the US with their three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, it seems suitable to recycle (with a couple of tweaks) this collection from 2014, which testifies to the hype there was around the band.

 

The Bulldoggs – John, Paul, George & Ringo (1964)
The Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. It was seen by over 73 million viewers. They returned the following week, and on February 23, the show screened a recording from the February 9 session. And just like that, Beatlemania had gripped the US. A pair of British songwriters, Bill Crompton and Morgan Jones, took it upon themselves to educate the US public about their four compatriots by way of a rather poor pastiche of the Beatles sound, drawing on assorted yeah-yeah-yeah’s, whooo’s and Paul-screams and guitar chords which would be a staple of the new genre of Beatles-related songs.

The Hi-Riders – Stamp Out The Beatles (1964)
Obviously, not everybody was excited about these shaggy-haired louts from England invading the godfearing US of A to corrupt the virgins of the Land of the Free. It is said that Elvis Presley’s ever-charming manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, produced pro- and anti-Beatles merchandise to cash in on the split sentiments. By June 1964, The Hi-Riders arrived on the scene to deliver the promise to stamp out The Beatles. History shows that The Hi-Riders succeeded in their scheme, and went to on to become the biggest band in the world. Sixty years later, a blog named after a Steely Dan song compiled a playlist called Any Major Bizarre Hi-Riders.

Sonny Curtis – A Beatle I Want To Be (1964)
Given The Beatles obsession with Buddy Holly, it must have been a pretty cool tribute when Buddy’s successor as singer of The Crickets surfed the Beatles Invasion wave. Sonny Curtis, in the song he co-wrote with Lou Adler, even samples bits of their music as he sings and raps about “A little British bug from across the way, talks like Southern USA”. Curtis educates the listener about history (and in 1964, the year 1956 must have seemed a lifetime ago): “Remember what happened when Elvis came? One little wiggle and the whole world changed. So mamas and papas lend me your ear, lock up your daughters ’cause a Beatle is here.”

Bonnie Jo Mason (Cher) – Ringo, I Love You (1964)
A future star recording Beatles-related material under a different name was Cher, who in 1964 sought to buy into the Zeitgeist by declaring her love for the drummer. Before her brief stint as Bonnie Jo Mason, Cherilyn Sarkasian sang backing vocals on classics such as The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, The Chiffons’ Da Doo Ron Ron and the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling — and it was the producer of those songs, Phil Spector, who co-wrote and produced Ringo, I Love You. After that, she recorded as plain Cherilyn and in a duo as Cleo to Sonny Bono’s Caesar. Within just over a year of releasing Ringo, I Love You, Sonny & Cher were stars. The flipside of the Ringo anthem was an instrumental titled Beatles Blues, a deliberately bad song placed on the B-side to deter DJs from ignoring the A-side, as they often did. The ploy backfired: apparently radio DJs were thrown by Bonnie Jo’s deep voice and refused to play what they thought was a gay declaration of affection for the Beatles drummer..

Ella Fitzgerald – Ringo Beat (1964)
There were loads of Ringo-themed songs in the mid-’60s, apparently some 50 of them. They included The Rainbows’ My Ringo, Christine Hunter’s Santa, Bring Me Ringo, Treat Him Tender, Maureen by Angie & The Chicklettes, Al Fisher & Lou Marks’ Ringo Ringo Little Star, Three Blond Mice’s Ringo Bells, The Whippets’ Go Go Go With Ringo, Neil Sheppard’s You Can’t Go Far Without A Guitar (Unless You’re Ringo Starr), Ringo Did It by Veronica Lee, I Want To Kiss Ringo Goodbye by Penny Valentine, and Bingo Ringo by Daws Butler (who voiced Huckleberry Hound). Even Ella Fitzgerald got in on the act with Ringo Beat, a rather nice number written by Ella herself (one of her 27 compositions), which naturally features a “yeah yeah” reference and namechecks other contemporary popsters..

The Young World Singers – Ringo For President (1964)
Released in August 1964, the Young World Singers in their cover of the vile Rolf Harris’ song sought to offer an alternative to Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater in that year’s elections for US president, evidently oblivious to the rule that disqualifies those not born in the United States from standing as candidates. And since Ringo was a Kenyan Muslim… In any case, it is doubtful that Ringo, who has acknowledged his limitations in intellectual pursuits, would have been a great president (though the US voters elected a man of even less cerebral qualities to the presidency in 2004).

Of course, it wasn’t cleverness the Young World Singers and the others engaged in the Ringo For President campaign were looking for in their candidate: “He’s our candidate ’cause he makes us feel so great. We could talk about war out on the big dance floor. Oh my gee, oh my gingo…if I could vote, I’d vote for Ringo!” Asked at a press conference in August 1964 about the Ringo For President campaign, Starr admitted: “I’m not sort of politically minded.” Asked whether he would appoint the other Beatles to his cabinet, the conversation descends into a typical Beatlesque farce, with George interjecting: “I could be the door”, and John nominating himself to serve as the cupboard.

Don Bowman – The Other Ringo (1966)
In the early ’60s, there was a popular cowboy hit titled Ringo, recorded by Bonanza star Lorne Green (the Cartwright patriarch), which Don Bowman parodied to coincide with the height of Beatlemania. Bowman notes the death of the old Ringo and the rise of the Beatle by the same name. He seems to be taken particularly with the length of Ringo’s hair. Bowman, who died in 2013, was a country singer, comedian, TV presenter and DJ who recorded this rather amusing novelty number for his 1966 LP titled Funny Way To Make An Album, which also included a song called Freddy Four Toes. Bowman clearly did not compromise his comedy with artistic credibility: other LPs were titled Fresh From The Funny Farm (1965), Recorded Almost Live (1966), Support Your Local Prison (1967) and Still Fighting Mental Health (1979).

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Dick Lord – Like Ringo (1965)
Don Bowman wasn’t the only one to make the connection between Lorne Greene’s hit and the Beatles drummer. The magnificently-named Dick Lord was not a porn actor but a comedian. At the time of recording Like Ringo, Dick Lord was a close friend of the great Bobby Darin. In the song, Dick Lord’s girlfriend is rather obsessed with the Beatles drummer, and Dick Lord’s exasperation at being rejected by the obsessed fan turns to ingenuity as he adopts the Ringo look. Eventually Dick Lord’s girlfriend returns to Dick Lord, informing him tearfully that her Ringo infatuation is over. A great punchline awaits, and I shall not spoil it..

The Bon Bons – What’s Wrong With Ringo? (1964)
A persistent rumour has it that the Bon Bons were the Shangri-Las by another name. It is, alas, not true. What’s Wrong With Ringo was released before the Shangri-Las’ debut single, Remember (Walking In The Sand), was issued on Red Birds Records in September 1964. The Ringo song was released on the Coral label, the Decca subsidiary that had also issued records by Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline and The Vogues, but never had the Weiss and Ganser sisters under contract.

The Ringo song was not the Bon Bons’ only release; also in 1964 Coral issued the follow-up single Everybody Wants My Boyfriend. Anyway, the question of the song’s title concerns the shortage of Beatles songs sung by Ringo. It seems the record-buying public did not share their concern, and so ignored this quite catchy girl-group record (which includes, of course, the “yeah yeah yeah yeah” thing).

The Swans – The Boy With The Beatle Hair (1964)
The Twiliters – My Beatle Haircut (1964)
When The Beatles arrived at JFK Airport in New York in February 1964, they held a press conference, with a Pan Am sign providing the backround. An intrepid reporter asked whether the boys would get a haircut during their stay in the States. John, Paul and Ringo just about avoided responding with the words: “Fuck off.” George Harrison deadpanned: “No, I had one yesterday.” The obsession with the Fabs’ mushroom-heads was intense. Little did those who were exited about these hairdos know what hirsute transgressions were to come before the next Olympics would be held.

Buying into that obsession about hair were a soul duo called The Swans and the better-known doo wop group The Twiliters. The Swans were Jeanne and Tina Thomas, and their song about the boy with the Beatle hair was co-written by Kenneth Gamble, future Philly soul supremo. Jeanne/Tina adore the boy with the Beatle hairstyle and wish he’d come and talk to her at school. Maybe the by is the lead singer of The Twiliters, who will defy all to continue wearing his Beatle haircut.

Frank Sinatra – Maureen Is A Champ (1968)
This tribute to Mrs Ringo is not only a great novelty item, but also something of a historical artifact: it’s the first record to be catalogued on the Beatles’ Apple label — its number being Apple 1 (Hey Jude was the first Apple release, but it wasn’t catalogued). Only a few copies, some say only one, of Maureen Is A Champ were made on acetate before the master tape was destroyed, because this was a private recording to mark Maureen’s 22nd birthday.

Maureen was a big Sinatra fan, so a train of events was set in motion, apparently by Beatles business manager Peter Brown, which involved the great Sammy Cahn rewriting Lorenz Hart’s lyrics for The Lady Is A Tramp, and Frank Sinatra — who by that point was a Beatles fan (and covered several of their songs) — singing the reworked number, with Cahn on piano. We can assume that when Ringo presented his wife with that special record on 4 August 1968, she probably was quite pleased.

Rainbo (Sissy Spacek) – John, You Went Too Far This Time (1968)
Before she became famous as an actress, including her singing role as country singer Loretta Lynn, Sissy Spacek tried to become a folk singer, releasing a solitary single under the trite moniker Rainbo (which she apparently disliked) before being fired by her label for not being a best-seller. The John whom Sissy Rainbow addresses on this breathtakingly bad record would be Mr Lennon, and his transgression would be letting it all hang out post-coitally on the cover of Two Virgins, his avant garde nonsense recorded with Yoko Ono, who also appears naked on the cover.

Sissy loves John and forgives him many things, but she is not one who would endorse exhibitions of public nudity — and in this particular instance I am inclined to concur with her, purely on aesthetic grounds. John and Yoko were not attractive naked people. But if Lennon went too far on a record sleeve, then Spacek (and the chaps who wrote this bizarre thing, John Marshall and Ronald Dulka) overstepped the boundaries of musical decency with that chorus, which supposedly was meant to evoke the Beatles sound.

In 1983 Spacek released a full country album, titled Hangin’ Up My Heart. She was fully clothed on the cover.

Mystery Tour – Ballad Of Paul (1969)
Terry Knight – Saint Paul (1964)

The initial Paul Is Dead rumour preceded the release of Abbey Road by a week. The album’s cover “confirmed” that Macca was indeed dead, but the story began with an error-filled student newspaper article publishd on 18 September 1969 by one Tim Harper for the Drake University’s Times-Delphic. From Harper’s fertile imagination sprang a wild conspiracy theory which caused quite a hysteria. There is an 8-CD series of radio recordings covering in detail the reaction to Paul’s death. The moderately talented Mystery Tour (yes, Mystery Tour) explained why the evidence of Paul’s death, with reference to the Abbey Road cover, of course (apparently left-handers are incapable of smoking with their right hand). We also learn that “John Lennon is a holy man [who]provided lots of clues” as to the conspiracy of Paul’s death and its cover-up. This site has all the answers: it was them Rolling Stones wot dun Paul in, Constable.

Record producer and general music pusher Terry Knight’s single came out before the Paul Is Dead hoax started. He had met the Beatles at a fraught time during the White Album sessions in 1968. Convinced that the Beatles would break up soon, he wrote Saint Paul. His single was released in May 1969, before Harper’s article. Once the rumour had gathered pace, however, Knight’s single was presented as an obituary to Paul, feeding the rumour mill further. Knight himself became the subject of obituaries when he was murdered in 2004 while protecting his daughter from a clearly unsuitable boyfriend.

Mae West – Twist And Shout (1967)
Mae West – Day Tipper (1967)

We’re having Mae West warbling Twist And Shout, so how might the septuagenarian top that? Why, by doing Day Tripper, of course. Her interpretation, as it turned out, was unnecessary, because time has shown the Beatles’ original to be quite adequate, even without the sub-Jimi Hendrix antics at 1:13, which morph into a Chuck Berry-lite solo, and Ms West’s seductive moanings. Her 1966 cover of From Me To You appeared on Please Please Me Recovered.

Big Daddy – A Day In The Life (1992)
Big Daddy aren’t really bizarre; they are inventive re-interpreters of Beatles songs. Still, one has to arrive at the idea to cover A Day In The Life in the style of Buddy Holly, and have balls of steel to end the song with what sounds like a crash.

Keith Moon – When I’m Sixty-Four (1976)
In 1976, The Who’s drummer and Beatles pal Keith Moon contributed his take on McCartney’s music hall number to a documentary titled All This and World War II. The docu scored World War II footage with covers of Beatles songs, by some of music greatest names of the time, including Elton John, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Status Quo, Leo Sayer, Bryan Ferry and so on. And Keith Moon, who quite cleverly recreated the recorded sound of the 1920s for McCartney’s music hall number from Sgt Pepper’s. Except that even in the 1920s, singers were expected to be able to hold a tune. As for the documentary, the concept was to contrast the innocence of The Beatles’ music with the harsh realities of war. Which is an idea one can have but need not necessarily put into practice.

Peter Sellers – She Loves You (1965)
Peter Sellers — a Goon Show alumnus, of course — recorded a series of comedy versions of Beatles songs, some funnier than others, in 1965. His masterpiece is his teutonic take on She Loves You, performed in the character of Dr Strangelove, whose 60th anniversary we are also observing this year (“She said you hhhuuurrrrt her so”… “Gut!”). Recorded some time around 1965, it was released only in 1981..

Peter Sellers – A Hard Day’s Night (1965)
Sellers performs A Hard Day’s Night in the manner of Laurence Olivier as Shakespeare’s Richard III. Released as a single in late 1965 (backed with his take on Help), it reached #14 in the British charts in early 1966. It was obviously too early for Nazi spoofs.

Mrs Miller – A Hard Day’s Night (1966)
Bless Mrs Miller. She was serious and entirely unironic about her singing, but also possessed the self-awareness to know that she was a bit of a joke. She did her limited best, and was aware that there was no consensual admiration of her singing chops. Though she never intended to create comedy — she was motivated to disseminate her art widely as a way of inspiring others — she knew that her cult status was based on listeners deriving amusement from her stylings. Her version of Hard Day’s Night is notable for her lapses in timing and the aggressive licence she takes with reaching the right notes.

The Woofers And Tweeters Ensemble – Love Me Do (1983)
The torture began with an outfit called The Bulldogs, and it ends with canines barking Love Me Do, supported by assorted farm animals. It’s one of the better musical moments on this collection.

This collection fits on a standard CD-R (if you really must), includes a home-whooo’d covers, and the above text in PDF. PW in comments.

GET IT!

More great Beatles stuff:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Recovered: Help!
Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
Beatles Recovered: Revolver
Beatles Recovered: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club  Band
Beatles Revovered: Magical Mystery Tour
Beatles Recovered: White Album
Beatles Recovered: Yellow Submarine
Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66

Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles
Beatles Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2
Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Smile Away (1972)
Beatles Reunited: Photographs (1974)

Categories: Beatles Tags:

Any Major Love Vol. 2

February 8th, 2024 1 comment

 

 

Just in time for your mix-tape needs on Valentine’s Day, here’s a new collections of love songs that say it best when you say nothing at all.

This mix is marked Volume 2, but my numbering is a little bit all over the place. There is a Any Major Love Volume 1, of course. But after that, I compiled a Any Major Love Songs in Black & White mix, which might have been Vol. 2, but wasn’t. And last year I made a Any Major Forever Love mix, to mark a season of weddings I was going to attend in 2023. That, too, might have been Vol. 2, but wasn’t.

So this is Volume 2, and here I set myself a goal: to include only songs that came out since Any Major Dudette and I have been together. So the oldest track here is from 1994 (when we had been together for a few years already), Sarah McLachlan’s lovely Ice Cream, and the youngest is from 2018. The Dudette and I have been together for a pretty long time, and we’re still going strong.

If you are with the one you love, I congratulate you. If you lost the one you loved, I hope you’ll find a new love (if that’s your desire). If you are yet to find your love, or a new love, good luck. And if you’re a voluntarily celibate, rock on!

Perhaps one of the less ecstatic mixes might speak for you: Any Major Impossible Love, when you and the other cannot be together, or Any Major Unrequited Love. All mixes have been re-upped.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-cuddled covers (the photo is by Abdul Gani on Unsplash). PW in comments.

1. Mayer Hawthorne – Finally Falling (2011)
2. Ron Sexsmith – Whatever It Takes (2004)
3. Michelle Featherstone – Rest Of My Life (2007)
4. Mindy Smith – It’s Amazing (2004)
5. Richard Hawley – Baby, You’re My Light (2001)
6. Josh Rouse – Wonderful (2006)
7. Bright Eyes – First Day Of My Life (2005)
8. Neil Diamond – Save Me A Satuday Night (2005)
9. Rumer – Slow (2010)
10. Alicia Keys – If I Ain’t Got You (2003)
11. Corinne Bailey Rae – Call Me When You Get This (2006)
12. The Weeknd – Die For You (2016)
13. Daniel Caesar feat. H.E.R. – Best Part (2017)
14. Kacey Musgraves – Love Is A Wild Thing (2018)
15. Alison Krauss – When You Say Nothing At All (1995)
16. Sarah McLachlan – Ice Cream (1994)
17. Jonatha Brooke – Because I Told You So (1997)
18. The Weepies – Somebody Loved (2004)
19. Mason Jennings – Ballad For My One True Love (2000)
20. Josh Kelley – To Make You Feel My Love (2004)
21. The Crimea – Lottery Winners On Acid (2005)
22. Jens Lekman – You Are The Light (By Which I Travel Into This And That) (2004)

GET IT!

Previously in Any Major Love:
Any Major Love
Any Major Forever Love
Any Major Love in Black & White
Any Major Unrequited Love
Any Major Impossible Love

More CD-R Mixes

Categories: Mix CD-Rs, Songs About Love Tags:

In Memoriam – January 2024

February 2nd, 2024 6 comments

On Saturday, January 14, I kicked back by watching Back To The Future, for the 256th time (it might have been the 257th; I’ve lost count). One thing struck me: if today we were to travel 30 years into the past, as Marty McFly does, we’d travel to 1994. Instead of The Ballad of Davy Crockett playing from a record store in Hill Valley, we might hear Bump n’ Grind by that nice R Kelly blaring out of a car. In 1985, the 1955 #1 song felt like it wasn’t just from another time but from another planet. As I watched, I pondered on just how perfectly chosen this pretty awful song was.

After I watched Back To The Future, I assumed my regular position on the musicians’ death watch. And whose name came up, having died at the age of 98 the previous day: Bill Hayes, the chart-topping singer of The Ballad Of Davy Crockett.

The year 2024 has started off in a hectic manner. Here’s hoping that in the coming months the Reaper will relent!

The Shangri-La
One of the seminal moments in pop is the 1964 Shangri-Las hit The Leader Of The Pack. On lead vocals on the classic record was 15-year-old Mary Weiss, who has gone to the great candy store in the sky at the age of 75.

Mary, her sister Betty and the twins Mary Ann and Margie Ganser formed the group in 1963 in New York, naming it after a local restaurant. They soon were discovered and after releasing a record that flopped, they came within the ambit of the Brill Building, and things took off. In 1964 they had a hit with Remember (Walking In The Sand), written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. It also had Mary on lead vocals (she and Betty shared lead responsibilities).

For a while, The Shanri-Las were huge. They supported The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in concerts. By 1968, however, they broke up and Mary Weiss left the music business, going into architecture and interior design, where she built a successful career.

The Songstress
The obituaries led with her 1968 hit California Soul having been sampled by many hip hop acts, but to her fans, Marlena Shaw was so much more than that. The singer effortlessly traversed soul, jazz and blues, sometimes on the same album. The only singer I can think of who was her equal in that regard was Nancy Wilson.

Shaw was only 10 years old when she made her stage debut, at the legendary Apollo in Harlem. She was introduced by her uncle Jimmy Burgess, a bandleader who taught the girl proper jazz phrasing. She went on to record a few jazz tracks on Chess, and toured with Count Basie.

But her first hit was as soul track, the Ashford & Simpson composition California Soul. The 1969 album on which it appeared, The Spice of Life, is superb, with her co-writes Woman Of The Ghetto and Liberation Conversation the stand-out tracks, in my opinion.

A string of fine albums followed, but no big hits. Shaw gained some attention with her 1974 Marlena Shaw Live At Montreux album; her long version of Woman Of The Ghetto on that set has also been liberally sampled. The following year she released the brilliantly titled Who Is This Bitch, Anyway?, her best-selling album, and maybe her best. On it, she added funk influences to her broad repertoire.

She released her final album in 2003. By my rough count, Shaw has featured on around 25 Any Major Mixes.

The Singer-Songwriter
Trivia question: Who were the only three women to perform solo at Woodstock in 1969? One of them was singer-songwriter Melanie, who has died at the age of 76. Melanie’s performance was unscheduled, standing in after the Incredible String Band (understandably) refused to perform during the rainstorm.

She later had her first hit with a song she wrote about the experience of seeing audience members lighting candles during her set, titled Lay Down (Candles In The Rain). It featured on Any Major Woodstock.

The singer born in New York as Melanie Safka was especially successful in Europe, though she had global hits with songs such her cover of The Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday and her self-written Brand New Key (which got banned on some radio stations for supposed sexual innuendo involving locks and keys). Her What Have They Done To My Song Ma became a big hit in a German version by Daliah Lavi in 1971. Oh, if only Edith Piaf had lived to sing it!

By 1974, her charting career was over, but she kept recording and performing for the rest of her life. At the time of her death, Melanie was working on an album of cover versions.

And the trivia question? The other two woman were Joan Baez (six months pregnant) and Janis Joplin.

The Svengali
I remember my thoughts when I found at, at the age of 12, that the brains — and in two cases, the voice — behind Boney M was Frank Farian. “That lame schlager singer?” I thought. Before he invented Boney M, thus joining the firmament of German disco, Farian had been a marginally successful singer of German song. He had only one really big hit, a cover of Dickey Lee’s Rocky, in 1976. By then he was already producing Boney M, giving voice to dancer Bobby Farrell and — our man was nothing if not versatile — female dancer Maizie Williams.

Boney M really started in 1975 as a studio project when Farian recorded a pretty good disco reworking of Prince Buster’s 1967 song Al Capone, retitled Baby Do You Wanna Bump. Released under the name Boney M (in tribute to a popular TV series of the time), it took off, so Farian assembled the foursome that would go on to have a string of global hits.

A decade or so later, Farian scored even greater success with Milli Vanilli. We know how that story ended. When the scandal blew open, the question should have been: “With Farian’s history, why are you surprised?”

There was a bit of hypocrisy in the overreaction to Milli Vanilli. Nobody ever complained that bands like The Association or even the early Byrds didn’t play the instruments they pretended to have played on record. Nobody complains that the singer we saw on TV acting to be fronting White Plains on their hit My Baby Loves Lovin’ wasn’t the singer on the record (as discussed in the In Memoriam of October 2923 – https://halfhearteddude.com/2023/10/in-memoriam-october-2023/). That sort of thing wasn’t unusual at a time of session people releasing records before there was even a band.

If the Milli Vanilli records were good — and one can debate that — then did it really matter whether or not the singers were the pretty dancing boys. A different ethic applies to the live concerts, which turned out to expose the boys. But those idiots who litigated the “fraud” of Milli Vanilli records? Seriously?

The Hutch
Actor David Soul is best remembered as the guy with the shittier car in Starsky & Hutch, but for a brief time, he was a chart-topping singer (competing with Boney M). In 1966, half a century before it became a reality show concept, the man born David Solberg appeared on the Merv Griffiths Show wearing a mask, calling himself The Covered Man, and released a record under that name.

In 1977, the man born as David Solberg was the best-selling artist in the UK, having scored two #1 hits with the soppy ballad Don’t Give Up On Us (also a US #1) and the superb country-tinged Silver Lady, which sandwiched a #2 hit, Going In With My Eyes Open. Another Top 10 hit followed in late 1977/early 1978, and a #12 hit in mid-1978 closed off Soul’s brief but bright chart career.

Subsequent releases in the 1980s did no business, except for a minor bit in the Netherlands and Belgium with the schlager-like Dreamers.

In 2004, Soul returned the stage in London, talking the lead role in Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Chuck D’s Favourite Jouralist
In August 2021, I asked the English music journalist Neil Kulkarni for permission to use his comments on the passing of Charlie Watts, which he happily gave. Two-and-a-half years later, Kulkarni is featuring in this series as the subject of a mini-obit.

Kulkarni was a sharp writer, in intellect and words, for the Melody Maker, The Quietus, The Wire and many other UK-based publications, print and digital. As one of the very few music journalists of colour in the UK, Kulkarni took the fight to the institutionalised racism he found everywhere. That was how he got the Melody Maker gig: by writing a letter accusing the weekly of perpetuating racism by excluding artists of colour. The letter was brilliantly written, and the editor gave Kulkarni his shot at changing things.

Kulkarni not only wrote about music, but made it as well, being a member of indie trio Moonbears, on vocals, guitar, keyboard, bass. So while I normally do not feature journalists in this series, Neil qualifies by dint of his band (he would have featured anyway, I suppose).

Over the past few years, he was one of the panellists on the mind-bogglingly great Chart Music podcast, recording an episode live on stage in Birmingham just a couple of weeks before his sudden death. Among the fine panelists on Chart Music, Kulkarni was the least guarded one, freely talking about his upbringing and his life (on which he also wrote a book). For all his caustic writings, and for all the personal tragedies he had suffered, he exuded a joy of life that found expression in a wonderful laugh. That laugh, that joy, was extinguished when Neil passed away at 51 from a heart attack on January 22.

Widowed himself in 2018, he leaves two orphaned teenage daughters. His long-time friend and fellow music journalist David Stubbs set up a crowdfunding campaign on the day he learnt of Neil’s death. It is an astonishing mark of the affection and respect many people had for Neil Kulkarni that within three days, £35,000 pounds had been raised to safeguard the future of his children. The appeal is ongoing.

And get this: Upon learning of Kulkarni’s death, Public Enemy’s Chuck D tweeted a tribute by way of a drawing he made of Neil, from memory. How many music journalists have that kind of impact on legends of the game?

I recommend Simon Price’s excellent obituary on The Quietus website.

The Drum Innovator
If Hal Blaine or Earl Palmer were not available, Frank DeVito might have been the Wrecking Crew drummer whom producers might call on. So DeVito played on many of the early Phil Spector productions, usually on percussions. He also appeared on recordings by 1960s acts like Sonny and Cher, The Beach Boys (including Surfin’ USA), Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass (Whipped Cream…), Sam Cooke (Shake), Dick Dale, Ricky Nelson, The Ventures, The Monkees and others. And in 1968, he backed Elvis on his televised Comeback Special, playing bongos in the rock & roll segment.

But his pedigree was established long before that. In the 1950s and early ’60s, DeVito backed or performed with jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Buddy DeFranco, The Mills Brothers, Stan Getz, Horace Silver, Stan Kenton, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman and others.

He played drums on The Mills Brothers’ 1952 classic Glow-Worm, and backed Frank Sinatra on record (tracks like Witchcraft, So Long My Love, and Summer Wind) and on stage (including Sinatra’s 1957 live album).

After his session career wound down, DeVito became an innovator of musical instruments and drum accessories, founding Danmar Percussion in 1970. In his workshop, he would find solutions for drummers who struggled to create a particular sound or faced other problems.

The Politician
I cannot imagine many greater entries on a composer’s resumé than having written a country’s national anthem. Angolan guitarist, singer and songwriter Ruy Mingas, who has died at 84, had that privilege when his composition “Angola Avante” was chosen as his country’s national anthem following its liberation from Portuguese colonialism in 1975.

Mingas then went into politics — in a country that was marked by civil war, fanned by apartheid South Africa and the US on the one side, and the Soviet Union and Cuba on the other. He had already been prominently involved in the struggle for independence, on a diplomatic level. In 1979 the former athlete became Angola’s first minister for sports, and after ten successful years in that portfolio, he served for five years as the ambassador to Portugal.

The Theme Composer
British and European TV viewers of the 1960s and ’70s have quite likely heard the music of British composer Laurie Johnson.

Johnson, who has died at 96, was the composer and in most cases bandleader of TV themes such as The Avengers, This Is Your Life, Animal Magic, Jason King, The New Avengers, The Professionals and more. He also wrote the main theme for Dr Strangelove.

His only UK chart success was with a theme he didn’t write. With a tune titled Sucu Sucu, which served as the theme for the rather short-lived spy series Top Secret, he reached #9 in 1961.

The Krautrocker
As a founding member of Amon Düül II, Chris Karrer was a pioneer of what would become the Krautrock genre, the German art-rock movement of the 1970s. Amon Düül were founded in 1967 in Munich’s radical countercultural art commune scene. Karrer, who was studying fine arts there, played guitar, violin and saxophone for the band, and provided vocals. He was also a composer.

Amon Düül released their first album in 1969. A year later, they wrote the score for the film San Domingo for which they were awarded the Deutscher Filmpreis, the German Oscars.

After Amon Düül split for the first time in 1981 (they reformed in 2010), Karrer released a solo albums and contributed to jazz-rock band Embryo. More solo albums followed in the 1990s, on which Karrer experimented with diverse influences, such as flamenco and sufism.

The Suffragette
It is quite remarkable that of the four principal adult actors in 1964’s Mary Poppins, three were alive when 2023 turned to 2023. A few days into the new year, the Banks children’s mother Glynis Johns joined Mr Banks’ David Tomlinson in the afterlife, at the grand age of 100.

South African-born Johns had only one song in the film, Sister Suffragette. Later she was the first singer to perform the classic Send In The Clowns in the 1973 Broadway musical A Little Night Music; for which she won a Tony. Stephen Sondheim wrote the song specifically for Johns, to compensate for her inability to hold a long note; that is why the song is structured in short phrases and questions.

The Fusing Swede
ABBA fans will want to check out the Ainbusk Singers’ song Lassie, Sweden’s Christmas #1 in 1990, which was co-written and produced by Benny Andersson. He composed the music, while the text was written by Marie Nilsson, who has died 62. I would wager that on his deathbed, Benny will not regard that as his proudest musical moment, but its folk tune and sentimental lyrics about a lonely girl who met the eponymous dog clearly had popular appeal.

Ainbusk (they dropped the “Singers” part of their name in the late 1990s) were a pop-folk group of four women singers, including Marie and her sister Josefine, who died in 2016. They often covered English songs in Swedish, incorporating the folk music of their country in their interpretations.

The Football Legend
Just over a year ago we lost Pelé, the greatest attacking football (or, for our US viewers, “soccer”) player of his generation and possibly all time; on January 7 the greatest all-round player of all time, Franz Beckenbauer, joined the Celestial XI. And like Pelé, Beckenbauer tried himself as a singer, which explains why he appears here.

In 1966/67 the young player, still only 21, released two singles. Neither as a hit, but the flip-side of the first of them, went on to become something of a cult number, a song titled Gute Freunde kann niemand trennen (Nobody can break up good friends). The b-side of the follow up had a suitably clichéd title: One-Nil For Love. Thankfully Beckenbauer subsequently pursued his sporting talent rather than his warbling aspirations.

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.

Jay Clayton, 82, avant-garde jazz singer and educator, on Dec. 31
Jay Clayton – You Taught My Heart To Sing (2001)

Chris Karrer, 76, guitarist and composer with German rock band Amon Düül II, on Jan. 2
Amon Düül II – All The Years Round (1972)
Amon Düül II – Emigrant Song (1975)
Chris Karrer – Bolero Moro (1994)

Tawl Ross, 75, rhythm guitarist of Funkadelic (1968-71), on Jan. 3
Funkadelic – Super Stupid (1971, also as co-writer)

Quinho do Salgueiro, 66, Brazilian samba singer, on Jan. 3

David Soul, 80, actor and singer, on Jan. 4
David Soul – The Covered Man (1966)
David Soul – Silver Lady (1977)
David Soul – It Sure Brings Out the Love in Your Eyes (1978)

Glynis Johns, 100, South African-born British actress, on Jan. 4
Glynis Johns – I Can’t Resist Men (1954)
Glynis Johns – Sister Suffragette (1964)
Glynis Johns – Send In The Clowns (1973)

Ruy Mingas, 84, Angolan composer, singer, guitarist and politician, on Jan. 4
Ruy Mingas – Mu Cinkola (1970)
Ruy Mingas – Pango Dia Penha (1974)
Angola Avante (National anthem of Angola) (as composer in 1975)

Marie Nilsson Lind, 62, singer with Swedish pop band Ainbusk, on Jan. 4
Ainbusk Singers – Lassie (1990, also as lyricist)
Ainbusk Singers – Varje steg du tar (Every Breath You Take) (1993)

Morfi Grei, 64, Spanish rock singer, on Jan. 4

Mike Ross-Trevor, British recording engineer, announced Jan. 5
Fleetwood Mac – Black Magic Woman (1968, as engineer)
Culture Club – Victims (1983, orchestral overdub)

Del Palmer, 71, English singer-songwriter, bass guitarist for Kate Bush, engineer, on Jan. 5
Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) (1985, on fretless bass)

Gene Deer, 59, blues, rock and country musician, on Jan. 5
Gene Deer & The Blues Band – Just Shoulda’ Lay’d Off’a The Booze (1998)

Larry Collins, 79, half of duo The Collins Kids, guitarist, songwriter, on Jan. 5
The Collins Kids – Hop, Skip And Jump (1957, also on guitar)
Tanya Tucker – Delta Dawn (1972, as co-writer)

Terry Goldberg (aka Tom Parker), organist of UK blues-rock band Mark Leeman 5, on Jan. 6
Mark Leeman 5 – Portland Town (1965)

Amparo Rubín, 68, Mexican singer and lyricist, on Jan. 6

Iasos, 76, Greek-born new age musician, on Jan. 6
Iasos – Aries (1975)

Sarah Rice, 68, theatre actress and singer, on Dec. 6
Sarah Rice – Green Finch And Linnet Bird (1986)

Tony Clarkin, 77, guitarist and songwriter of UK rock band Magnum, on Jan. 7
Magnum – It Must Have Been Love (1988, also as writer)

Germana Caroli, 92, Italian singer, on Jan. 7
Germana Caroli – Ehi tu! (1954)

Jacky Boyadjian, 79, French jazz musician (Les Happy Stompers), on Jan. 7

Franz Beckenbauer, 78, German football legend, schlager singer, on Jan. 7
Franz Beckenbauer – Gute Freunde kann niemand trennen (1966)

Guy Bonnet, 78, French singer, composer and author, on Jan. 8
Guy Bonnet – Marie Blanche (1970, also as co-writer)

Phill Niblock, 90, avant-garde composer and filmmaker, on Dec. 8

Gian Franco Reverberi, 89, Italian film composer and musician, on Jan. 8
Gianfranco & Gianpiero Reverberi – Nel cimitero di Tucson (1968, as co-composer)

Diego Gallardo, 31, Ecuadorian singer-songwriter, shot by stray gangster bullet on Jan. 9

James Kottak, 61, hard rock drummer, on Jan. 9
Scorpions – 10 Light Years Away (1999, as member)

Audie Blaylock, 61, bluegrass singer and guitarist, on Jan. 10
Audie Blaylock and Redline – (Is This) My Destiny (2019)

Sigi Schwab, 83, German jazz musician, on Jan. 11

Annie Nightingale, 83, pioneering English BBC disc-jockey, on Jan. 11

Bill Hayes, 98, singer and actor, on Jan. 12
Bill Hayes – Ballad Of Davy Crockett (1955)

Anthony Holt, 83, baritone with English a cappella group The King’s Singers, on Jan. 12

Jo-El Sonnier, 77, country and Cajun singer-songwriter and accordionist, on Jan. 13
Jo-El Sonnier – No More One More Time (1987)

Jerry Coker, 91, jazz saxophonist and educator, on Jan. 15

Enrique ‘Zurdo’ Roizner, 84, Argentine drummer, on Jan. 14
Kevin Johansen + The Nada – El Palomo (2004, on drums)

Dana Ghia, 91, Italian actress and singer, announced Dec. 15
Dana Ghia – Per tutta la vita (1959)

Ernst August Wehmer, 72, singer of German punk band Rotzkotz, announced Jan. 16

Laurie Johnson, 96, English film & TV composer and bandleader, on Jan. 16
The Laurie Johnson Orchestra – Sucu Sucu (Theme from ‘Top Secret’) (1961)
The Laurie Johnson Orchestra – ‘The New Avengers’ Theme (1976, also as composer)

Serge Laprade, 83, Canadian singer and broadcaster, on Jan. 17

Slim Pezin, 78, French guitarist, arranger and conductor, on Jan. 18
Voyage – From East To West (1977, as member on guitar, percussions, and as co-writer)
Mylène Farmer – Maman à tort (1984, on guitar)

Silent Servant, 46, Guatemalan-born techno DJ and producer, on Jan. 18

The Soft Moon, 44, rock musician, singer, songwriter, producer, on Jan. 18
The Soft Moon – Far (2015)

Katelele Ching’oma, 32, Malawian musician, on Jan. 18

Mary Weiss, 75, lead singer of The Shangri-Las, on Jan. 19
The Shangri-Las – Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand) (1964, on lead vocals)
The Shangri-Las – I Can Never Go Home Anymore (1965, on lead vocals)
The Shangri-Las – Take The Time (1967, on lead vocals)

Marlena Shaw, 81, soul and jazz singer, on Jan. 19
Marlena Shaw – Liberation Conversation (1969, also as co-writer)
Marlena Shaw – Woman Of The Ghetto (live) (1974, also as co-writer)
Marlena Shaw – Loving You Was Like A Party (1975)
Marlena Shaw – Ma/Go Away Little Boy (1977)

Charles Austin, 93, jazz saxophonist and flutist, composer, on Jan. 19
Joe Gallivan & Charles Austin – Cry Of Hope (1976, also as composer)

Pluto Shervington, 73, Jamaican reggae musician, singer, producer, on Jan. 19
Pluto Shervington – Dat (1975, also as writer)

Charles Boles, 91, jazz pianist, on Jan. 19

Frank Shea, 93, jazz and R&B drummer, on Jan. 20
Willis Jackson & Brother Jack McDuff – Backtrack (1967, on drums)

Charis Kostopoulos, 59, Greek singer-songwriter, on Jan. 20

Philippe ‘Fifi’ Combelle, 84, French jazz drummer, on Jan. 20
Toots Thielemans – Talk To Me (1961, on drums)
Georges Moustaki – Ma Liberté (live) (1970, on tabla)

Neil Kulkarni, 51, music journalist, podcaster and member of Moonbears, on Jan. 22
The Moonbears – Waxheads (2013, also as co-writer)
The Moonbears – Do This To Death (2016, also as co-writer)

Frank DeVito, 93, session drummer and percussionist, on Jan. 22
The Mills Brothers – The Glow-Worm (1952, on drums)
Frank Sinatra – Witchcraft (1957, on drums)
The Beach Boys – Surfin’ U.S.A. (1963, om drums)
Elvis Presley – Trouble/Guitar Man (live (1968, on bongos)

Margo Smith, 84, country singer, on Jan. 22
Margo Smith – Still A Woman (1978)

Sergei Yefremenko, 51, singer-guitarist of Russian ska band Markscheider Kunst, on Jan. 22

Melanie Safka, 76, singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Jan. 23
Melanie – Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma (1970)
Melanie – Brand New Key (1971)
Melanie – Didn’t You Ever Love Somebody (1983)

Black Kappa, 46, Jamaican rapper, on Jan. 23

Frank Farian, 82, German singer, songwriter, producer, svengali, on Jan. 23
Frank Farian – Rocky (1975)
Boney M. – Baby Do You Wanna Bump (1975, as Boney M.)
Boney M. – Ma Baker (1977, as producer and on vocals)
La Bouche – Fallin’ In Love (1994, as producer)

Anders ‘Dagger’ Sandberg, 55, singer of Swedish dance band Rednex, on Jan. 23

Anders Lampe, 59, guitarist of Danish pop band Bamses Venner, on Jan. 24

Shelley Ganz, lead singer, rhythm guitarist of garage band The Unclaimed, announced Jan. 24
The Unclaimed – Time To Time (1980)

Conrad Chase, 58, actor, singer and reality TV personality, announced Jan. 25

Bruno Amstad, c.59, Swiss jazz singer, on Jan. 25

Michael Watford, 80, house music singer, on Jan. 26
Michael Watford – So Into You (1994)

Michel Hausser, 96, French jazz vibraphonist, on Jan. 26

Dean Brown, 68, jazz fusion guitarist and singer, composer, on Jan. 26
Dean Brown – Feed My Jones (2004, also as writer)

Lillebjørn Nilsen, 73, Norwegian folk singer-songwriter, on Jan. 27

Franco Tozzi, 79, Italian singer, on Jan. 29
Franco Tozzi – I Tuoi Occhi Verdi (1965)

Tony Cedras, 71, South African jazz multi-instrumentalist, on Jan. 29
Pacific Express – Look At The Smile (1979, as member on keyboards)
Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years (live) (1991, on keyboard)

Yuri Ilchenko, 72, singer and guitarist with Russian rock bands Mify, Zemlyane, on Jan. 29

Hinton Battle, 67, stage musical and TV actor, dancer and soul singer, on Jan. 30
Hinton Battle – Is It Too Late (1986)

Chita Rivera, 91, stage and TV actress, singer, on Jan. 30|
Chita Rivera – Ten Cents A Dance (1962)

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