“Silver Springs” Maryland: Musically Unincorporated

I was recently reminded that Stevie Nicks wrote a song in 1976 that was intended for Fleetwood Mac‘s multi-platinum (i.e., 40+ million) Rumours album but, in the end, used only as a B-side.  This song, interestingly enough, is named for the place where my children were born and educated — Silver Spring, Maryland — a small “city” that, unfortunately, is unincorporated and thus impossible to define.

Silver Spring Maryland USA

It is unclear, for instance, whether Silver Spring includes the nearby communities of Lyttonsville, Forest Glen, Wheaton, Kemp Mill and White Oak — all unincorporated areas, like much of Montgomery County itself.

Silver Spring mapHilariously, Nicks misremembered the name in the plural – “Silver Springs” – not singular, a not uncommon occurrence and easy way to spot folks who are from “out of town.”

It’s not easy being Silver Spring:  EXHIBIT A

Silver Springs MDHowever, the decision to exclude “Silver Springs” from the album’s final running order was no laughing matter and would serve – I now know – as a source of tension that would help drive a wedge between Nicks and the rest of the band.  Ironically, notes Joe Benton in his “September 6th” Stevie Nicks interview, “Silver Springs” would be the comeback single twenty years later for Fleetwood Mac’s live reunion album, The Dance:

Besides ‘Sara,’ there’s another song that’s very special to Stevie Nicks.  It’s called ‘Silver Springs,’ and it was supposed to appear on the Rumours album, but without her knowledge, at the last minute it was pulled and relegated to a B-side, only to emerge twenty years later as the song that launched the band’s reunion.”

Silver Springs-aSilver Springs-bSilver Springs-cSilver Springs-e

As Nicks would explain “in her own words“:

“I wrote Silver Springs uh, about Lindsey [Buckingham].  And I ~ we were in Maryland somewhere driving under a freeway sign that said Silver Spring, Maryland.  And I loved the name. …Silver Springs sounded like a pretty fabulous place to me.  And uh, ‘You could be my silver springs…’ that’s just a whole symbolic thing of what you could have been to me.”
~Stevie Nicks, Classic Albums: Rumours, video 1998

Silver Spring-495 sign“I wrote it for Rumours, and fourteen years ago I walked into the studio and the record was basically done.  It was at the Record Plant, and Mick said, ‘Stevie, I need you to come outside to the parking lot cause I need to talk to you for a minute.’  And I knew it was really serious ’cause Mick never asks you to go out to the parking lot for anything.

So we walked to the huge Record Plant parking lot and he said, ‘I’m taking “Silver Springs” off the record.’  And, of course, my first reaction was, ‘Why?’  And he said, ‘There’s a lot of reasons, but because basically it’s just too long.  And we think that there’s another of your songs that’s better, so that’s what we want to do.’  Before I started to get upset about ‘Silver Springs,’ I said, ‘What other song?’  And he said, ‘A song called ‘I Don’t Want To Know.’  And I said, ‘But I don’t want that song on this record.’  And he said, ‘Well, then don’t sing it.’

And then I started to scream bloody murder and probably said every horribly mean thing that you could possibly say to another human being, and walked back in the studio completely flipped out.  I said, ‘Well, I’m not gonna sing ‘I Don’t Want To Know.’  I am one-fifth of this band.’  And they said. ‘Well, if you don’t like it, you can either (a) take a hike or (b) you better go out there and sing ‘I Don’t Want To Know’ or you’re only gonna have two songs on the record.’  And so, basically, with a gun to my head, I went out and sang ‘I Don’t Want To Know.’  And they put ‘Silver Springs’ on the back of ‘Go Your Own Way.'”
~Stevie Nicks, BBC radio interview, 1991

“Silver Springs” (MD)    Fleetwood Mac     1976

8th piece tagged as Musical Misspellings

Silver Springs-zz

Nashville Teens: 60s Internet Advocates

Yesterday’s piece about the Nashville All-Stars motivated me to take a closer look at a 1960s beat group that has generated positive buzz among the musical cognoscenti – The Nashville Teens.  Taking a peek at their 45 releases quickly revealed a startling discovery:  The Nashville Teens were musical clairvoyants who foresaw the digital age decades before the rest of us with their prescient piece of pop prognostication,  “Google Eye“:

The Nashville Teens     “Google Eye”     1964

The Teens were not actually from Nashville (and no relation to The Nashville All-Stars) but rather a bunch of blokes from Britain.  “Google Eye” would be their second 45 release in a string of singles spanning the 1960s that would include a mix of covers – “Tobacco Road”; “All Along the Watchtower”; “The Lament of the Cherokee Indian Reservation” – as well as originals.  How interesting to learn that “Google Eye” (1) was actually written by a Yank, John D. Loudermilk, and that (2) the song was so far ahead of its time that the record label would consequently misspell the title as “Goggle Eye” on a number of 45 releases:

Goggle Eye 45

 Italy                                          Germany                                    Somewhere

Nashville Teens 45-aaaNashville Teens 45-cccNashville Teens 45-bbb

The Nashville Teens would also release a musical roll call in tribute to the rock & roll pioneers who came before – “Revived 45 Time” – as well as a lament to the “Tennessee Woman” who would ultimately turn her back on them and break their collective heart.

“Kitten on the Keys”: Liberace Plays the Boogie

2013’s Steven Soderbergh-directed Liberace biopic was ineligible for Oscar nominations since, as Mother Jones points out, the film was released on cable television (HBO) instead of U.S. theaters due to its “conspicuous gayness.”  Along with Milton Berle, Liberace was one of TV’s earliest stars and, as pointed out in the film, the first to look right into the camera.  The Liberace Show, which went on the air in 1952, enjoys distinction as one of television’s earliest syndicated programs, if not the first.

How curious to browse his discography of 7-inch records in the 45Cat database and see – despite his legacy of million-selling albums and sold-out shows – a considerably vast drop-off of single releases beginning in the early 1960s.  I inherited a Liberace anthology upon the death of my grandmother and was amused to discover that the pioneering pianist threw a bone to the Woodstock generation with his cover of “Suite:  Judy Blue Eyes.”

1970’s ‘A Brand New Me’ – First LP with Warner Brothers

Liberace LPcheck out the amusing typo:  “Stephen Sills”

One of the primary musical motifs in the HBO film Behind the Candelabra that demonstrated Liberace’s dazzling virtuosity was a live set piece “Liberace Boogie” that only enjoyed release, surprisingly, on LP.  And even then, I can only find it on 1956’s Liberace Hollywood Bowl Encore Volume 1, as well as 2000 compilation 16 Biggest Hits.  Even more impressive than “Liberace Boogie” is this clip from Liberace’s 1950s television show – “Bumble Boogie” – that shows his unique take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee.”

In 1956 almighty Columbia would issue a 10-inch release, Kitten on the Keys, that would include a couple prominent boogie numbers, “Yankee Doodle Boogie” and the title track:

Luther Perkins and Liberace, as it turns out, both played the boogie

British Sea Power would later pay homage to the great ivory tickler in a standout B-side from 2002, “The Lonely,” with their deadpan delivery of this delightfully oddball lyric:      “Just like Liberace, I will return to haunt you with peculiar piano riffs.”

“Rise”: The Spirit of Sahm

It was hard not to get swept up in Ed Ward‘s enthusiasm in his October 1, 1970 Rolling Stone review of an up-and-coming Texan band (by way of Prunedale, California) that had been “discovered” and mentored by Doug Sahm.  The band’s debut, a masterpiece in Ward’s estimation, had been released on almighty Columbia’s imprint, Epic, and described as a curious collision of sounds — “Creedence meets The Byrds” (as others have since quipped), with horns, steel guitar, fiddles and a healthy amount of Tex-Mex thrown in — but in a unified and cohesive way, Ward assured us.

I was reminded of Ward’s original review when I read James ‘Bigboy’ Medlin’s tribute to the Texas Tornado himself – Doug Sahm – in this year’s ‘Southern Music Issue’ of the Oxford American, so imagine my complete disbelief when I switched on the Internet to learn more these renegade rockers … only to discover not a single trace of their existence!  Unfathomable.  How could this be?  Even trusty ol’ Discogs.com was bereft of any info about the one and only long-playing release by “Love and the Lovers,” as they are clearly named in the review (as well as the index of The Rolling Stone Record Review, where Ward’s piece had been reprinted).

As it turns out, heh heh, it was just a typo.  If you type the phrase “Louie and the Lovers,” a veritable floodgate of information spews forth.  At the top of the list, interestingly enough, is Ed Ward’s piece for National Public Radio about the 2009 release of the band’s complete recordings by pioneering reissue label, Bear Family, of Germany.  How fascinating to learn from Ward’s NPR piece that, after the band’s experience with Epic, Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler (at Doug Sahm’s urging) would pick up the baton.  At great expense, Wexler would fly Louie and the Lovers in his private jet – their first ever plane trip – for recording sessions in Miami, as well as Hollywood, only to release one single and then shelve a (“long-rumored”) second album that had been planned for release.

Title track “Rise” would lead off their debut Epic album on which the band would be backed by Doug Sahm’s band, The Honky Blues Band:

Not to be confused with Little Louie and the Lovers, who would release one single in 1962 before vanishing.

Even with major label backing and support from A-level musicians during the Miami recordings sessions – Dr. John, Joe Lala, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Flaco Jimenez – as Ward notes in “The Slow ‘Rise’ of a Lost Treasure,” the band’s recordings would fail to make a dent in the marketplace, a situation undoubtedly exacerbated by their decision not to tour.  Over time, however, the music’s reputation would grow — to the point that Sony UK, in 2003, would reissue the band’s debut on compact disc, followed by Bear Family’s decision six years later to release the band’s entire 27-song output.

Louie & Lovers 45

“When I Was a Boy”: Adulthood Stinks

Music fans who only know The Who through their album releases are sadly depriving themselves of a whole other world of Who music:  their non-LP tracks.  And not just singles and EP tracks but also bootlegged/pirated versions of great recordings that, for whatever reason, were officially kept in the can.  What a revelation, for instance, to discover the existence of an alternative version of beloved album — The Who Sell Out, a pastiche of AM radio complete with phony ads & station IDs — that includes two great obscure originals (“Early Morning Cold Taxi” and “Jaguar”), as well as studio versions of two cover songs made famous on their Live at Leeds album (“Young Man Blues” & “Summertime Blues”), plus one that wasn’t (Eddie Cochran’s lesser-known, “My Way”).  How interesting to learn, as I did just now, that Keith Moon did the lead vocal on “Jaguar”!

Al Kooper plays organ on this 45-only version of ‘Who Sell Out’ album track

In recent years, many of these non-LP recordings have been used by MCA as bait to get fans to buy yet another CD reissue of The Who’s back catalog, but you know what?  The remixed and remastered versions of these “bonus tracks” sound dreadful and overly fiddled with.  Thank goodness I didn’t do anything hasty to my bootleg & pirate recordings — where they got the mix right the first time.  Can you tell how annoyed I am when record companies remix musical recordings, not because they should but because they can?

John Entwistle would later gather 11 of these wayward, album-less recordings, such as “Little Billy” (written for the American Cancer Society, who ultimately passed on it), “Glow Girl” and “Faith in Something Bigger,” et al. – and issue these orphans as Odds and Sods.  However, many more interesting songs are out there waiting to be rediscovered, and the better bootleg albums, such as Who’s Zoo and From Lifehouse to Leeds, are worth seeking out.  Who’s Zoo, for instance, performed a great (pre-Internet) public service by putting “Dogs” and “Dogs Part Two” back-to-back to maximize the humor – the kind of thing that their record company would never deign to do.

Master tapes for ‘Lifehouse’ (i.e., ‘Who’s Next’) were once found in a dumpster

Who's Zoo LPWho - Lifehouse to Leeds

Who’s Zoo was also my first exposure to long-lost B-side, “When I Was a Boy,” originally released October, 1971 as the flip side to non-LP single, “Let’s See Action”:

‘Entwistle’ misspelled yet again – hence the joke behind album title ‘Whistle Rymes’

John Entwistle, whose distinctive songwriting had always been deeply infused with dark humor, is simply and utterly dark on this despairing take on mortality.  “When I Was a Boy” would appear to be one of the very few (perhaps only) autobiographical songs released as a member of The Who.  It is hard for me to assume, especially in light of how Entwistle’s life tragically ended, that rock’s finest bassist was writing in character when he penned these tortured lyrics:

When I was a baby, I hadn’t a care in the world.
But now I’m a man the troubles all fill my head.
When I was five, it was good to be alive.
But now I’m a man I wish that I were dead.
My how time rushes by,
The moment you’re born you start to die.
Time waits for no man,
And your lifespan is over before it begins.

Entwistle’s lyric would seem to anticipate rock’s other great meditation on life’s fleetingness, “Time” from 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

Those eager to explore the parallel universe of bootleg and pirated recordings should most definitely pick up Clinton Heylin’s excellent history of illegal vinyl, Bootleg:  The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry.

“Uncle Booger Red & Byrdie Nelle”: Does Don Kirshner Know About This?

There is fascinatingly little to be found on the web about a song called “Uncle Booger Red & Byrdie Nelle.”  I discovered this tune on an oddball compilation album of country music obscurities and social commentary songs entitled, Country Comment, on the Charly label, a European import.  The song is sung by Rex Allen, Jr., and written by two people – someone named Davis and the other one Collins.  Most intriguingly, the song is published by Screen Gems/Columbia, the publishing company of Don Kirshner.  About this track, the liner notes simply say, “The laid-back country-soul approach is demonstrated by Rex Allen, showing a trace of Tony Joe White in his voice but little of his father’s Walt Disney narrator’s style”:

Uncle Booger Red & Byrdie Nelle – Rex Allen Jr

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle to play “Uncle Booger Red & Byrdie Nelle” by Rex Allen Jr.]

I almost gave up searching for information until I stumbled upon the fact that, of all people, Mac Davis is the one who not only sang the song originally but wrote it.  At one time in the 1970s, Mac Davis was pretty hot and even had his own TV show.  Plus, Mac was signed to Columbia Records – which is why I’m stunned to find hardly any history on this song.

Wait a minute – I just discovered the problem:  orthography.  Perhaps it’s a Texas thing, but Mac Davis included this song on his 1970 debut album, Song Painter, and spelled “booger” with an A, not an E.  Apparently, no one had the courage at the time to tell Mac Davis that’s no way to spell the word, “booger.”

Thanks to LP Discography, I just learned who co-wrote the song:  Larry Collins, the gifted guitarist who was a regular performer on the Town Hall Party TV show at the tender age of 10 as half of The Collins Kids.

Rabbit Looping with Uncle Booger Red & Byrdie Nelle

William Kerns of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper, in his 2008 piece extolling the great Independence Day traditions that Lubbock, Texas has to offer, described one particularly colorful activity – “rabbit looping” – enjoyed by Mac Davis and his (now famous) aunt and uncle:

Davis and his family would spend each Independence Day at the ranch near Post owned by his Uncle Booger Red and Aunt Byrdie Nell.   They hunted by day and, when the sun set it was time for rabbit-looping.

“We’d take an old tractor tire and cut the rim out of the middle,” said Davis. “Then we’d replace the rim with basketball netting.  One of us would stand in the back of a pickup driven across a field.  We’d spotlight a jackrabbit, try to catch up to it, then toss the tire so you had this jackrabbit standing up in the netting.

“That was big fun, and I’m not just talking about me and my teenage buddies. My full-grown uncles and cousins were with us every year, too.”

There was one negative.

Davis explained, “Lots of times the pickup driver had to turn suddenly to avoid a big mesquite bush. If I wasn’t careful, I’d wind up flying out of the pickup and into the mesquite.”

Davis said, “But I got to be pretty good at rabbit-looping.”

“Sugartime”: Linda & Paul at Black Ark

Paul McCartney released a posthumous compilation in 1998 of Linda-related recordings, Wide Prairie, that included two tracks from Linda & Paul’s 1977 sojourn to Lee Perry’s famed laboratory of sound – Black Ark – in Kingston, Jamaica.  One of those Black Ark recordings, a remake of The McGuire Sisters’ million-selling hit, “Sugartime,” features long-time session pros Winston Wright on organ, Mikey “Boo” Richards on drums, and Boris Gardiner on bass, with Sir Paul on Wurlitzer electric piano and “toasting” vocals:

“Sugartime”     Linda & Paul    1977

Linda McCartneyBack to Skool for Paul

Rather amusing to note that Paul misspells the name of each and every session musician in his liner notes to Wide Prairie [“Miky” vs. Mikey Boo (drums); Billy “Gardber” vs. Gardiner (rhythm guitar); “Baris” vs. Boris Gardiner (bass); Winston “Write” vs. Wright (keyboards).

1950s Time Capsule in Black & White

Darling clip of The McGuire Sisters harmonizing with Perry Como on his NBC TV show.

“Guarare”: ¡Viva La Ronco!

PBS’s excellent 4-hour documentary – Latin Music USA – did a wonderful job of pointing out just how little I knew about Latin American music and its history.  Thanks to Will Hermes and his sweeping new history of the NYC music scene during a crucial 5-year period, 1973-1977, I have an even better appreciation for how the city’s rich fusion of Latin cultures – Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican and Columbian – created an exciting new popular dance music, salsa (on August 26, 1971 at NYC’s Cheetah Club, to be precise).

I am a little embarrassed to admit that my recent purchase of a 1976 Ronco hits LP, Sound Explosion, resulted in my first and only recording (though certainly not last) on legendary salsa label, Fania – Ray Barretto’s “Guarare” from his 1975 album, Barretto:

“Guarare”     Ray Barretto     1975

Check out the sloppy typo on the cover: Ronco's Sound Explosion

First Latin Crossover Pop Song?

In 1961 Ray Barretto recorded “El Watusi” – a Top 20 hit and the first Latin song (according to thousands of web pages, although I find this hard to believe) to enter the Billboard charts.  You can find this tune on Barretto’s 1962 Tico album, Charanga Moderna.