I love the electric piano that starts off this bright burst of inspirational pop from the Welsh bull himself, Tom Jones:
Inexplicably, “Time to Get It Together” did not enjoy single release upon its release in 1972 – time to write your congressional representatives! Barring an act of Congress, this song remains an LP-only track from Close Up, an album that found its way into record stores in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, Greece, Germany, France & Netherlands.
“Time to Get It Together” would be a title shared by other original songs written and/or performed by Leonard Nimoy, Marvin Gaye, and Up ‘n’ Adam.
My first encounter with a kalimba, the African instrument (also known as a “thumb piano” or, more properly, mbira) was when I read the album credits for Space Oddity in my youth and learned that David Bowie played a kalimba on the title track, Bowie’s first American breakout hit (a.k.a., “Major Tom”). You can hear the kalimba’s shimmering effect in the intro and into the first verse (Bowie, no doubt, getting a strong vibrato effect by rapidly moving his finger on/off the instrument’s sound hole).
Hmm, I wondered – has any popular musical artist ever decided to write a song that celebrates or honors the kalimba itself? As it turns out, yes: Earth Wind & Fire’s “Kalimba Story” from 1974’s Open Our Eyes, the group’s fifth album – and third for Columbia, since switching from Warner Brothers:
How refreshing to see the kalimba makes its first appearance a mere 2 seconds into the song and then proceeds to kick out the jams a little further ways in. Interesting to see this song released as the A-side of a 45 (#6 R&B, #55 Pop), the second of three singles from that album.
Seven years later, Earth Wind & Fire would issue “Kalimba Tree” on 1981 album, Raise! – an interesting melange of deep analog synthesizer, soprano sax, and vocal chants with gentle mbira embellishments.
A piece about the mbira wouldn’t be complete if I failed to mention the work of Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo, whose music not only embraced the instrument from the outset but also featured electric guitar lines that beautifully emulate a master mbira musician.
Rolf Harris Introduces the Stylophone to the Masses
Right after I posted this piece, I was reviewing the musician credits for the Space Oddity album and was struck by the fact that, in addition to the kalimba, David Bowie also played a stylophone during the recording sessions. A few years ago I was introduced to this monophonic electronic keyboard – that one plays with a metal stylus – when I was graciously given one by close friends. I had assumed all this time that the stylophone was a relatively recent invention, but seeing the instrument credited on a 1969 recording, of course, set me to wondering: when did the stylophone enter the realm of popular music?
As it turns out, Rolf Harris – the Australian entertainer probably best known for his hits, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and the Aboriginal-inspired, “Sun Arise” (produced by George Martin and probably the first time most Americans heard a didgeridoo) – is likely responsible for unveiling the stylophone to European audiences for the first time, as this documentary clip reveals:
Rolf Harris demonstrates the electronic instrument using a song from “the hit parade” – John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind,” first covered by Glen Campbell in 1967 – on a program that may have originally been broadcast on BBC in September, 1968.
This film clip, thankfully, answers the question – on which song did Bowie use the stylophone? Answer: the album’s title track (at around the 2:37 mark) during the instrumental bridge immediately following Bowie’s strummed acoustic guitar riff.
Gene Rosenthal, owner of Silver Spring’s independent folk/blues/jazz/gospel/reggae/rock label, Adelphi Records, injects a heavy dose of truth into all this wild, half-researched speculation as to whether Gerry Goffin actually came to Silver Spring, Maryland to record his first (of two) solo albums:
“Gerry actually had family in the Silver Spring area, an Uncle and Aunt as I recall. Gerry himself, met with me here in Silver Spring, prior to the release of his FIRST Adelphi LP (AD 4102) It Aint Exactly Entertainment (Double LP). He has a second release on Adelphi, still in print on CD, entitled Back Room Blood released in 1996, as well as a 3-song CD single also released in 1996. (BOTH include “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination”).
Regarding local involvement: Dick Bangham designed the Label for the 45 single “Spotlight”. The Double LP jacket was printed and fabricated at ITI in Baltimore, which is also where George Massenburg, world renowned engineer and audio designer built and ran his first studio……recording Little Feat, amongst others there. Both the Double LP & the Single were also pressed at the ITI subdivision pressing plant know as Sontec (all located in Cockeysville/Baltimore).
At one point in time, I personally worked on the existing 16 track masters of Goffin at Track, with, I believe, O.B. O’Brien engineering, just doing some alternate test mixes, and editing out a piece of 2″ master tape, which included an “unreleased” title from the sessions called “Ghost Story”……..
There’s an entirely “unreleased” 2nd LP (CD) from these same sessions.”
Finally, in response to my statement – “It is doubtful that Gerry Goffin set foot in Silver Spring, but not wholly implausible either” – Rosenthal playfully rejoins, “NOT IMPLAUSIBLE AT ALL!”
So, you might be wondering, did Gerry Goffin actually record his double debut album in Silver Spring? Click here to revisit the original blog post – now with juicy epilogue.
I discovered Godfrey Daniel’s one and only album at the local library bookstore that sells donated materials, including record albums and 45s. I was struck first by the label – Atlantic – and secondarily by the following somewhat cryptic text on the back cover:
“Godfrey Daniel fans are a tough bunch to please. They know what they want, and they won’t be disappointed with this, their first recording on Atlantic Records.
Now you can thrill at home to the group that’s been knocking them dead coast to coast with the sound of today. Their honest, throaty vocals, their steady driving beat, makes you want to get up and dance.”
As it turns out, Godfrey Daniel is kind of a “punk” Sha Na Na who specialize in skewed doowop-era takes on what some would consider hoary hard rock “standards” of the late 60s and early 70s, such as “Purple Haze” and “Honky Tonk Woman” — or Led Zeppelin’s uncredited bombastic take on Muddy Waters’s “You Need Love” (i.e., “Whole Lotta Love”):
[Pssst: Click the triangle above to play Godfrey Daniel’s version of “Whole Lotta Love”]
Atlantic, surprisingly perhaps, would issue the group’s irreverent version of Woodstock highlight – Sly & the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” – as the A-side of the group’s lone single released in 1972.
20 years later Tiny Tim would team up with Brave Combo to take a sad song – “Hey Jude” – and transform it into a marvelously daffy and danceable mambo number, but remember: Godfrey Daniel helped pioneer this type of rock parody.
Neil Innes (of Rutles and Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band fame) conjures unforgettable images in this outsized Elton John spoof from Rutland Weekend Television in which the glam rocker straight-facedly sings at the chorus, “Godfrey Daniel, he ain’t done nothing wrong. Let him go back to Ohio – or wherever he belongs.”
Great live performance of Mikey Dread at Glastonbury in 2004 where, in his tribute to The Clash’s Joe Strummer, he slyly mixes up the tempo about halfway through, as he veers playfully from torporific one-drop skank to ska at the drop of a hat:
“Bankrobber” enjoyed release as an A-side (backed with “Rockers Galore”) after first being issued as a B-side (“Train in Vain” – London Calling‘s ‘hidden’ track that ended up being The Clash’s first top 40 hit) — although some markets, such as Germany, Netherlands, France & Australia, got to enjoy all three tracks on a “maxi” 45 released in those nations.
Paul Trynka‘s well-researched and highly-readable biography of Iggy Pop includes this related story about Sonic’s Rendezvous Band – an all-star assemblage of musicians from revered ’60s & ’70s Detroit rock groups:
“Formed by the MC5’s guitarist, Fred ‘Sonic‘ Smith, and the Rationals’ singer, ScottMorgan, with Dum Dum Boy [and former Stooge] Scottie Ashton on drums and Gary Rasmussen – who’d played with The Up – on bass, SRB [Sonic’s Rendezvous Band] would become Detroit’s lost supergroup, issuing just one legendary single, ‘City Slang,’ in their brief history.”
Sleeve credits for the original 45 (that actually plays at 33 rpm) indicate the single to have been “a special preview edition limited to 1000 copies.” Released in November, 1978
Iggy, who had jammed with these musicians in Detroit during his 1977 tour, would later asked them to accompany him on his TV Eye Live promotional tour of Europe. But alas, the personality clash between Iggy and Fred Smith would would make an artistic partnership prove to be unworkable. When Iggy asked the SRB to then back him on successive dates in the US, the band would decline the offer – much to Scott Ashton’s and Iggy’s collective chagrin As Trynka observes, “it would be twenty years before Iggy would again play with the man he frequently mentioned as his favorite drummer.”
Iggy Pop: A Product of His Time?
Illuminating bit of wisdom from Jim Osterberg on Iggy Pop’s function in modern society – taken from Roy Wilkinson’s interview with Iggy Pop in the May 2009 edition of The Word:
Roy: Who’s going to take over after Iggy? Who do you most see yourself in?
Jim/Iggy: Peaches. She’s the closest to me. I would say. But I don’t know if society wants more of that stuff. I think I was able to tap into things people secretly wanted to say and do. But now those conditions aren’t there anymore. Youth is after power and ease. Stuff is what they want, material stuff.
Non-album single, “Bear Cage” reached the UK Top 40 (#36) for The Stranglers in 1980:
A 12-inch single version – the band’s first – containing extended mixes of both tracks was also released.
Once famously dismissed by John Lydon as “hippies with short hair,” The Stranglers got considerably less ink than the Pistols, Clash (et al.) and yet their first seven albums went Top 10 in the UK, while every one of their albums up through 1995’s About Time reached Top 40 or better. In fact, up through “Bear Cage” and the 45 that followed, each and every one of the band’s singles hit the UK Top 40 except their debut, “(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)” (#44) and the “Don’t Bring Harry” medley from their 1979 live EP (#41). Only one of their albums would chart here in the US – 1986’s Dreamtime at #172.
Mojo’s 2006 history of Punk captures the group’s distinctive chemistry:
“The group was strange and singular enough to begin with, satisfying few, if any, of the prerequisites of the punk ethos. Keyboardist Dave Greenfield, a science-minded occultist, actually had a mustache. Drummer Jet Black noticeably mature for a pop star, had played in ’50s jazz combos. Burnel, of French parentage, was a classically-trained guitarist who ran with bikers. Then there was Cornwell, a songwriter and guitarist of uncommon flair, but with a tendency to follow his demons.
“Whether or not they were really joking is what gave The Stranglers their peculiar edge… On the cover of a June ’78 Melody Maker, Burnel provocatively declared: ‘Everyone knows Americans have smaller brains.’ Death threats from Ramones fans followed.”
“Taken from the album The Raven” says the promo – alas, not true for “Bear Cage”
Thanks to Courtney Tullock’s original review in the March 4, 1971 edition of Rolling Stone for tipping me to a 1970 documentary entitled, Reggae, that was directed by Trinidadian-born British filmmaker, photographer, painter & writer, Horace Ové. Originally broadcast on BBC TV, Ove’s documentary deserves credit for being, as Marco on the Bass points out, “the first in-depth film on reggae music to be produced.” Fortunately, YouTube contributor, Copasetic Boom, makes the entire (and extremely rare) documentary available online:
*The Heptones – Message From A Black Man
The Pyramids – (Pop Hi!) The Revenge Of Clint Eastwood
Noel And The Fireballs – Can’t Turn You Loose
The Pioneers – Easy Come Easy Go
*Laurel Aitken – Deliverance Will Come
Black Faith – Everyday People
*The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da/Get Back
John Holt – I Want A Love I Can Feel
*Dave Barker (Tommy and The Upsetters) – Lockjaw
Count Prince Miller – Mule Train
Millie Small and The Pyramids – Enoch Power
*Mr Symarip – Skinhead Moonstomp
The Maytals – Monkey Man
Desmond Dekker – Israelites
Bob & Marcia – Young, Gifted & Black[
[*studio recordings – otherwise, live performances]
Around the 22:05 point in the film, there is a discussion about the use of Jamaican rhythm and musical elements by The Beatles. Worth pointing out that the unedited full-length version of “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” – recorded during the Sgt. Pepper 1967 sessions but only released in 1970 (in shortened form) as the B-side to “Let It Be” – features what can only be considered as a “ska section” at the 1:05 mark in the song. This entire ska motif would be removed from the 45 mix and only get official release on the Anthology 2 collection issued in 1996. The Beatles Bible tells us that “Brian Jones performed on two parts: a ska section with piano, drums, guitar and saxophone, and a jazz rendition featuring piano, drums, guitar, saxophone, bass guitar and vibraphone.”
Charlie Gillett (author of 1970 seminal roots rock history, Sound of the City) writes this review of Johnny Nash’s 1972 LP, I Can See Clearly Now, for the Rolling Stone Record Review, which says, in part:
“It’s strange, but not accidental that the man who has brought Moog and accordion to a reggae record is a show business veteran from Texas, Johnny Nash. This is actually Johnny’s second shot at making a name for himself with the help of the irresistible rhythms of Jamaican music. Back in 1967, he went to Jamaica to record his own song, ‘Hold Me Tight’ and Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid’ with a local rhythm section [i.e., the legendary Lyn Taitt & the Jets], and the record became a huge hit on the island. The following year, first ‘Hold Me Tight’ and then ‘Cupid’ were issued as singles in Britain and eventually in America, and gradually became local hits.”
Later in the review Gillett makes this comment about the title track, which spent four weeks at the top of the pop chart beginning November 4, 1972:
“‘Stir It Up’ was issued as a single here and became a hit despite what must be a suggestive chorus; the melody line of that chorus has surely been planted in the subconscious of everyone who heard it, and will rest there forever. Amazingly, the follow-up single and title track of the album, ‘I Can See Clearly Now,’ is just as memorable, and has a simple ‘philosophy’ lyric that we accept and believe even though it can’t be true. Wishful thinking at its most perverse – nobody can remember a worse summer than the one we’ve been going through in Britain while this record has been selling by the thousands every day. We take it because the arrangement is undeniable. A brilliant pop record.”
You might be surprised to learn (as I was) that Johnny Nash released his first album in 1958 for ABC-Paramount. 1972’s I Can See Clearly Now, you might also be surprised to know, was issued by CBS/Epic in at least eight countries worldwide: US, UK, Jamaica, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Spain & Taiwan (and Yugoslavia in 1974).
One day I hope to hear the album track, “The Fish and the Alley of Destruction” (according to Wikipedia, it was replaced with “Cream Puff” on later pressings) — but until then, I will have to content myself with the album’s soulful and sweet closing track, “There Are More Questions Than Answers,” which features a lovely (and unexpected) steel guitar break around the 1:45 mark:
Charlie Gillett’s Got His Eye on Bob Marley
Towards the end of the review, Gillett has a lot to say about then-unknown Bob Marley:
“There are at least two more songs on the album that could stand as follow-up singles, ‘Comma Comma’ and ‘Guava Jelly,’ both of them written by Bob Marley, one of the great unknowns of Jamaican music, who also wrote ‘Stir It Up.’ All of his songs make magical use of an indescribable interplay between the peculiar rhythms of reggae and haunting tunes; but they still need Johnny’s sympathetic singing to prevent the simple lyrics from becoming banal.
“Bob Marley was involved as a session musician and assistant producer on the LP, as was a Texas musician named John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, who contributed three ‘deep’ songs to the record.”
Johnny Nash & Bob Marley Play a One-Time Acoustic Gig in London
Marco on the Bass relates the story of Johnny Nash & Bob Marley’s historic one-off performance at London’s Peckham Manor School in 1972. The school’s art teacher, Keith Baugh, organized this event and informed Southwark News nearly 40 years later:
“My friend was working with CBS doing promotion work and it was his role to promote Johnny Nash’s single. We were all out in a club called the Bag of Nails in Soho when I ended up meeting both Johnny Nash and Bob Marley. During that conversation they were bemoaning the fact they couldn’t get their single in the top 40 as they could not get any national radio airplay. I suggested as a bit of a promotion they should come down and play to the kids at our school, and a few days later they came down and played two 45 minute sets.”
Midnight Raver also posted Andy Gill’s account of this one-time acoustic performance from the August 2002 edition of Mojo.
Steve Miller Band filters reggae through early 70s rock sensibilities, mon, in the 97-second ditty, “The Sun Is Going Down” – from Recall the Beginning … A Journey from Eden, their seventh album for Capitol:
Four drummers credited on this album – Gary Mallaber, Jim Keltner, Roger Allen Clark & Jack King – not sure who’s keeping time on this track. Album recorded in one day — not unlike Joe Pass’s Stones Jazz album — specifically, on January 29, 1972 (“completed on the full eclipse of the moon”).
Interesting to see Jamaican singer, Shaggy, utilize the bass line from 1973’s “The Joker” nearly 40 years later in his #1 hit, “Angel” (that also borrows from “Angel of the Morning,” a song issued in 1968 rocksteady fashion by Joya Landis on Jamaica’s Treasure Isle label).
Steve Miller Signed to … Apple?
The legalese on the label – “Apple Publishing ltd” – caught my eye …
… and sure enough, there’s an interesting side story there courtesy of Empoprise MU:
“Out of all the Apple departments that were cut by Allen Klein, his decision to effectively close down Apple Publishing made the least sense from a business perspective…Apple also held the European publishing rights for several promising American acts, including the Steve Miller Band…Although Apple Publishing was a large department with a staff that ranged from five to seven people, it was one of the few Apple divisions that saw any return on Apple’s investment. According to Mike O’Connor, Apple was ready to sign UK publishing agreements with both Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson when Klein shut the department down.”