Connect Sonny James’s Dots

To the best of my knowledge, there are only three “connect-the-dots” album cover designs:  (1) John Entwistle‘s brilliant cartoon rendering of the four band members for The Who By Numbers released in 1975;

Who connect-the-dots LP

(2)  Neil Diamond‘s aforementioned Shilo cover from 1970 — one that ABC Arts of Australia, you might recall, would utilize as a vehicle for an art contest in 2009;

Neil Diamond's connect the dots Shilo LP

(3) Sonny James‘s refreshingly unformidable connect-the-dots cover for 1972’s Traces LP.

Sonny James connect the dots LP

James would pantomime his rousing version of “A World of Our Own” – originally recorded by The Seekers – for this 1960s televised performance:

forget the song:  check out the gargantuan bass guitar wielded by the guy on the porch

Zero to 180 finds it hard to believe there have only been three connect-the-dots covers — and all of them released in the 1970s, curiously enough.  Are there others?

While it is true that, three decades later, hip hop artist, J.J. Brown, would take the baton with the release of his 2009 album, Connect the Dots, Brown – regrettably – would deprive his fans the joy of completing the puzzle themselves.

Honorable mention, of course, goes to Jethro Tull for Thick as a Brick‘s elaborate fictional newspaper concept that also included a clever, though puerile, connect-the-dots feature for the kiddies.

Jethro Tull connect the dots

“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.

“Dogs Pt. 2”: Keith Moon’s Jukebox Joke

Back in the days when the jukebox was king, casual music fans often had not a clue that Top 20 hit “Pinball Wizard” happened to contain one of the nuttier B-sides (i.e., drum solo of sorts) that must have provoked, one must imagine, rather lively – and possibly angry – discourse when selected for play at a restaurant or drinking establishment:

Keith Moon’s furious fills are a thing to behold on this hilarious and flip (literally) “sequel” to lesser-known 1968 Who single, “Dogs” — their last desperate run at the charts (“only” #25 in the U.K., #93 in the U.S.) before 1969’s Tommy would prove to hit commercial paydirt.

Uncut’s “Track by Track Guide to The Who’s Greatest Hits” decodes the songwriter credits behind this manic drumming workout:

“A musically unrelated instrumental sequel, “Dogs Part Two,” later became the B-side of ‘Pinball Wizard’ [#4 U.K., #19 U.S.], credited to messers Moon, Towser and Jason; the latter two ‘composers’ being Townshend and Entwistle’s actual mutts.”

In case you are unfamiliar with the prequel to “Dogs Part Two,” note how musically dissimilar these two songs happen to be.

Love how this Malaysian 45 depicts 1965-era Who

Pinball Wizard 45