Claymation Christmas (Is Here)

Someone went to great effort to animate “Christmas Time Is Here” by The Heptones in this charming claymation-style video:

This song provokes the question:  where exactly does rocksteady end and reggae begin?

Thunderclap Newman’s Rush Follow-Up

I was pleased – and surprised – to see a special section devoted to single releases in the Rolling Stone Record Review, originally published 1971.  The review of “rush” follow-up to UK #1 hit – 1969’s “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman – caught my eye, since The Who‘s Pete Townshend produced and played bass on the original hit.  Says Ed Ward:

“A follow-up to ‘Something in the Air,’ this record has all the makings of another one.  Newman’s trip is a strange one, and this engaging number is a catalogue of children hit by trains, run over, and such, all set to a wonderful tune.

“‘Love is just a game / You fly your paper plane / There is no wind’ — say the words to the fadeout.  Meditate on that.”

“Accidents” was written by Speedy Keen, who penned The Who Sell Out‘s opening track, “Armenia City in the Sky.”  How amusing to learn, as I did just now, that the group met for the first time when they recorded their #1 hit at the behest of Townshend, who was in the throes of writing Tommy and lacking sufficient time to devote to the solo efforts of each of the individuals in the group – Andy “Thunderclap” Newman (piano), Jimmy McCullough (who would later join Wings) & John “Speedy” Keen (guitar/drums/vocal).

Belgian 45

Thunderclap Newman 45Released in June, 1970 “Accidents” would peak at #46 in the UK pop chart – the first of three singles from the group’s one and only album, Hollywood Dream, for which the group would record a very different (and much lengthier) arrangement of “Accidents.”

The group would disband by April of the following year.  Keen, interestingly, would produce debut albums for both Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers and Motorhead.

“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

Vashti Bunyan & the Mid-60s Stones, Man

It’s heartening to see how Vashti Bunyan‘s belated recognition – some thirty years or so after the release of her 1970 debut album, Just Another Diamond Day – has inspired her to record again, resulting in 2005’s well-received, Lookaftering, and this year’s, Heartleap.

The articles I’ve read about Vashti Bunyan’s unexpected artistic resurgence have given me the distinct impression of Just Another Diamond Day being the starting point of her career. I was a little taken aback, therefore, when I saw Vashti’s name on a 1965 Jagger-Richards song in Don’t Stay Up Too Late‘s very thoughtful (and poetic) “100 Great Singles of the 1960s (That Haven’t Been Played to Death on Oldies Radio)”:

“Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind”     Vashti Bunyan      1965

Decca would release this Andrew Loog Oldham-produced 45 in May, 1965 in the UK only.

Vashti Bunyan promo

“Right By My Side”: (Curt) Boettcher & (Bobby) Jameson

I couldn’t help noticing that Bobby Jameson wrote the kick-off song on Michele O’Malley’s Saturn Rings album.  Curt Boettcher, interestingly, would be picked to produce Jameson’s second album (although the first “proper” album under his own name) – Color Him In.  “Right By My Side” is the A-side of the album’s second single issued by Verve (while his first single had been released, curiously enough, as simply by “Jameson” – no first name):

Bobby Jameson — “Right By My Side” — August, 1967

Jameson’s outstanding first album, as it turns out, had been recorded under a pseudonym (Chris Lucey), and its cover, bizarrely, featured a photo of Brian Jones, face down, playing the mouth harp and doing a rudely abstract gesture with his middle finger, I kid you not.

Cubist cover for Jameson’s 1967 verve album

Bobby Jameson LP coverFor those not familiar with this stranger-than-fictional tale, Bobby Jameson’s first album – Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest – is a set of songs that Jameson wrote to order based upon a supplied set of song titles!   As Jameson himself reveals on his website, his artistically successful UK tour of 1964-65, where he appeared on Ready Steady Go and recorded with The Rolling Stones, nevertheless did little for his finances.  Thus, broke and hungry, Jameson was vulnerable when he agreed to take on the character of “Chris Lucey” and write new songs to substitute for those whose titles had already been printed on the album jacket for (the real-life) Chris Ducey, who fled to another label, where he was under contract.  The songs, written over two weeks’ time and recorded with Marshall Lieb (Phil Spector’s bandmate in The Teddy Bears) are amazingly – given the circumstances – excellent and worthy of a world audience.

Obliquely Impolite Hand Gestures in the Annals of Pop – ‘Chris Lucey’ & Moby Grape

Chris Lucey LPMoby Grape LP

Artist as Musicologist:  check out Bobby Jameson’s annotated chronological listing of his own vinyl releases from 1963-1977.

Unlikely +/- One-Off Songwriter Pairings

Thanks to Bill Hanke for one of my all-time favorite bits of Beatle trivia:

Q:   Title of the only Harrison-Lennon composition?
A:    1961’s “Cry for a Shadow”

Cry for a Shadow1964 German Beatles 45

Bobby Jameson’s late 1964 single, “All I Want Is My Baby,” was co-written by Andrew Loog Oldham (manager of The Rolling Stones) and Keith Richards – one of two such songs by this unlikely pairing (the other being “I’d Much Rather Be With the Boys“):

Fuzz guitar (maybe) by Jimmy page + backing vocals (possibly) by mick Jagger

Unwashed masses, I turn to you:  any other unlikely/one-off songwriter pairings out there?

“Only Colombe”: No Longer Unreleased

I stumbled upon a Gene Clark “never released” 45 that had finally been issued in 2008 — 40 years after its original recording date — by those fine folks at Sundazed.

Artist:  Gene Clark
Producer:  Gary Usher
A-Side:  “Only Colombe”
B-Side:  “The French Girl”
Recorded:  April 24, 1967
Released:  May 27, 2008

This item appeared in the 45Cat database, interestingly enough, when I used the search term, “Boettcher.”   As it turns out, Curt Boettcher would appear on this recording as a guest vocalist.  Gary Usher, in fact, would use Boettcher’s backing band, The Ballroom, for support, as well as vocal assistance from future Together recording label artists, Michele O’Malley and Sandy Salisbury.

Sundazed’s Scott Schinder tells how this came to be:

“[Gene Clark’s] reticence to tour outside California, combined with the fact that [his debut LP] was released virtually simultaneously with The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday all but guaranteed that Clark’s solo debut would fail to find a wide audience.

“That April (1967), in the wake of the album’s disappointing reception, Clark cut a pair of new tracks – the brooding original composition “Only Colombe” and a haunting reading of Ian and Sylvia’s “The French Girl” for release as a prospective single …

“‘Only Colombe’ and ‘The French Girl’ would go unheard by Clark’s admirers until 1991, [with Sony CD, Echoes] the same year that the artist died at the age of 46.  This release marks the first time that these historic tracks have been issued in their original mono mixes.”

Gene Clark 45

“Astral Cowboy”: Not Enough Echo

Yesterday’s piece about Sagittarius (et al.) brought to mind one particular Curt Boettcher song that too few people have heard, 1969’s (demo only) “Lament of the Astral Cowboy” — one hundred forty mesmerizing seconds, each one of them echo-filled:

Could this be what Gram Parsons had envisioned when he came up with the idea of “Cosmic American Music”?   Curt Boettcher, who would compose/produce for Sagittarius and Millenium and also serve as house producer for Columbia, would briefly form a label with Gary Usher & Keith Olsen (Together Records) and ultimately give “Lament of the Astral Cowboy” to Together artist, Michele O’Malley, for her one and only album release, Saturn Rings (where O’Malley would alter the title slightly to “Astro Cowboy”).

Boettcher would later release a solo album on Elektra, 1973’s There’s an Innocent Face, after the folding of his label.  Sessions for a follow-up album, Chicken Little Was Right, did take place briefly before Curt left Elektra to pursue a career as a session vocalist, and as the liner notes indicate, “there is reason to believe ‘Astral Cowboy’ was planned to appear on Chicken Little Was Right.”

 Glen Campbell:  The Voice Behind “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius

Tip of the hat to The Big Takeover‘s Jack Rabid for his illuminating and well-researched review in AllMusic of Sagittarius’s Present Tense from 1968, an album centered around its ‘enthralling’ single, “My World Fell Down” – a song that features, surprisingly enough, the guest vocal talents of Glen Campbell:

“The initial 1967 single, “My World Fell Down” — which went to number 70 in the charts — is largely sought after by the most fanatical of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys followers, since it not only replicates that unique and incomparable production value, but benefits greatly from a lead vocal by Glen Campbell.  Not his “Rhinestone Cowboy” voice, it’s the more angelic, boyish Mike Love tones he employed when then touring and recording with the Beach Boys.  As well, real Beach Boy Bruce Johnston sings a key part, as does fellow producer Terry Melcher and vaunted session man Hal Blaine sits in.  Mixing “Good Vibrations” with “God Only Knows,” “My World Fell Down” is a missing link to pre-breakdown Brian Wilson’s obsessions, particularly the bonus-track single version, which blends in pre-psychedelia sounds of a bullfight, an alarm clock, and a crying infant.  Subsequent recordings found Usher teaming with singer/writer/producer Curt Boettcher, whom Usher met while working with Wilson, and some use songs from the latter’s singing group Ballroom and players from Boettcher’s new, real band Millennium.”

“Sister Marie”: Not Meant for LP

“Sister Marie” – a great song that slipped between the cracks – found belated release as a bonus instrumental on the CD release of Sagittarius’s Present Tense (1968 Columbia LP, originally).  According to the liner notes:  “Gary Usher recorded this backing track with Sagitarrius in mind but decided to give it to Chad & Jeremy instead.”  Chad & Jeremy’s version of “Sister Marie,” meanwhile, was released as a non-LP single (that didn’t chart), while Nilsson’s version would end up a mere B-side.  I agree with the 45Cat contributor who declares “Sister Marie” to be “one of the great lost Nilsson recordings”:

“Sister Marie” by Harry Nilsson — February, 1968

In a fascinating bit of coincidence, Nilsson would release his B-side in February of 1968 at the same time Columbia would issue for the German market an A-side also entitled, “Sister Marie,” by the artist, Marquis of Kensington.  Not the same tune, as you can hear:

“Sister Marie” by Marquis of Kensington — February, 1968

Says Chad Stuart on the Chad & Jeremy website:

“‘Sister Marie’ was our last single and if it does anything at all, it clearly illustrates the production expertise which comes from a lot of hours in the studio.  Curt Boettcher’s higher-than- high voice is evident on this track, as is the technical wizardry of Keith Olsen.  Jeremy hated all that “ear candy” as it later came to be called, and in retrospect, I can understand how a Moody Blues sort of bloke like I was then would not get along too well with a J. J. Cale kinda guy like Jeremy aspired to be!”

“Concrete Jungle”: Paradise, in fact, for Joe South

I love the grand Spectorian splendor of this Ray Stevens arrangement for Joe South – “Concrete Jungle” – that was released January 25, 1964 on MGM:

According to PragueFrank, South had recorded this song plus “The Last One to Know” on October 20, 1963 – possibly in Atlanta.

South would go on to produce a version of “Concrete Jungle” for The Tams, who would release a 45 on ABC-Paramount in 1965.  Meanwhile, Ray Stevens would arrange and produce a version for Bobby Allen Poe, who would release a 45 on Monument in 1966.

Joe SouthGoing back to 1958, Joe South released a steady string of singles for a number of smaller, independent labels mainly – NRC, Ember, Fairlane, Allwood, MGM, Tollie, Apt, Columbia – before signing to Capitol, where he had his first big hit with 1968’s “Games People Play” (although, to be fair, 1958’s “The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor” did go as high as #47).

Not only did South enjoy respect from his peers as a songwriter (inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979), but he was also a session guitarist of note who backed Aretha Franklin (“Chain of Fools”), Bob Dylan (“Visions of Johanna”), and Tommy Roe (“Sheila”), among others.

Alaska Coldly Pushes Texas Aside

Joe South’s first 45 is a novelty tune that playfully laments Texas’s change in status as the nation’s largest state upon Alaska’s entry into the Union: