In his profile of Van Dyke Parks from this past April, Elyadeen Anbar wrote that “despite his unfavorable opinions on anglo-pop music [i.e., during Beatlemania’s first wave], Parks did become more interested in songwriting and landed a hit with his composition ‘High Coin,’ when it was recorded by San Francisco beat group The Charlatans” – i.e., on their 1969 debut album — two years after Battyn’s version.
As it turns out, “High Coin” had already been recorded by a handful of artists going back as far as 1965 with Bobby Vee, who, by the way, appears to have muscled his way in on the songwriting credits. Note that the song, however, got passed over for A-side when released in Australia.
“Well, I was working for a group called the Brandywine Singers, playing guitar, and I was earning £3,000 a week playing at this casino in Reno, Nevada. That was a lot of money then… it’d be a lot of money now! And we had a two-week job there, and I got in a Mustang convertible with Hal Brown, the bass player – who went on to become the Supreme Court justice of Alaska – and we drove to this almost ghost town, an old wild west town with a few dozen people left living there, and we got out of the car and walked into the saloon. Hal had his double bass and I had my guitar, and in the saloon there were four guys in the corner, in a crowd of smoke that smelt funny.
“They were the house band, The Charlatans, and they all looked like Neil Young on a bad day! One of them was Dan Hicks. And we asked if we could play a song or two, and they were derisive because I looked like a little square, but I got on and I sang ‘High Coin‘ and they fell on the floor and asked if I’d mind if they recorded it. I was just delighted. They took the song, I went back to Los Angeles, and I was broke… but then I got the news that ‘High Coin‘ was on the radio in San Francisco. And that established me with the counter-culture.”
Back when I did the daily commute to Baltimore and my car radio had better reception, I used to enjoy a great community radio station that shares programming with its owner, WXPN, the Philadelphia radio station known for its “World Cafe” program, and yet operates out of a high school from just across the Chesapeake Bay. You would think a signal of 17,500 watts would reach folks in Silver Spring, but sadly that’s not the case.
I remember phoning the late, great Charlie Coleman from the road, after I’d stumbled upon Worton, Maryland’s WKHS FM, to tell him how much I enjoyed his show, and Charlie asking me right off the bat if I was a fan of “country rock” — the first time I had ever stopped to consider that term.
I have since renewed my appreciation for 1995 retrospective, Legends of Country Rock, Volume 5 of Rhino’s “Hillbilly Fever!” series. Besides the opening track, 1967’s International Submarine Band’s “Luxury Liner” (written by Gram Parsons and released on Lee Hazlewood‘s LHI label), I am also taken with a song – “Rock and Roll Gypsies” by trailblazing Los Angeles country rockers, The Hearts and Flowers – that is almost tied for earliest recording on this CD compilation (i.e., “Grizzly Bear” – an RCA single by The Youngbloods, released in December of 1966, whose A-side would be misspelled on the rear cover of 1967’s The Youngbloods album):
“Rock and Roll Gypsies” Hearts and Flowers Recorded Dec. 20, 1966
Larry Murray: Vocal & Guitar Rick Cunha: Guitar & Backing Vocal Dave Dawson: Autoharp & Backing Vocalr Bernie Leadon: Guitar JohnForsha: Guitar Ray Pohlman: Bass Toxey Sewell: Drums Joe Porcaro: Percussion Jimmy Bond: Arranger Nik Venet: Producer
Grammar police strike again – Rear Cover of 1967’s Youngbloods LP
Rich Kienzle, in his liner notes for Legends of Country Rock, as you would expect, delivers on the history:
The mid-’60s L.A. band Hearts and Flowers featured songwriter Larry Murray and future Burrito Brother and Eagles charter member Bernie Leadon. This group, all but forgotten today, exemplified the talented if commercially unsuccessful country-rock pioneers. Their harmonies were far more bluegrass than folk, not diluted in any way to grab a pop audience. The use of mandolin on a pop record was unusual, as was the use of autoharp, the push-button instrument played by Mother Maybelle Carter. Aside from the Hearts & Flowers, only The Lovin’ Spoonful‘s John Sebastian used one.
Their producer Nik Venet, who’d worked with Lou Rawls, Bobby Darin, and The Beach Boys, hoped the group could fuse country music with politically liberal themes. “Larry Murray was really a country boy,” Venet recalls. “He wanted to be a country artist-writer.” “Rock and Roll Gypsies,” from their 1967 debut album, Now Is the Time for Hearts and Flowers, sold well regionally but didn’t break out nationally. The chaotic sound effects at the song’s end, says Venet, were real. Armed with a portable monaural recorder, Venet went up to Sunset Boulevard and recorded the sounds of an actual 1966 hippies-versus-LAPD riot near a rock club called Pandora’s Box. The group made two albums for Capitol before disbanding.
“Rock & Roll Gyspies”. This is a hit! This is a hit! This is a hit! The song, although written some time ago, is strangely applicable to the happenings on the many ‘Sunset Strips’ across the nation today. On the ending repeat of the song, actual crowd sounds are used from recent Sunset Strip riots in Los Angeles. The Hearts & Flowers, a very popular group from Los Angeles, was being very heavily bid on by many of the major labels based there. Their vocal sound is a unique combination of rock, folk and country, and they utilize strange old instruments, such as the autoharp and dobro in creating new Top 40 instrumental sounds. ‘Road to Nowhere’ is an exceptionally strong back-up side for the debut disc of a group that is definitely going to happen!
Historical note: Release Date indicated above (January 16, 1966) must be a typo if the song was recorded, as Rhino asserts, near the end of December in 1966.
Pickwick International, those masters of mis-marketing, did whatever was necessary to trick you, potential chump, into buying one of their albums — namely, by dressing up outdated material so as to appear fresh and contemporary through the use of titillating imagery, stylish typography, and razzle-dazzle promotional hype.
“NOUVEAU – A NOW RECORD BY DESIGN”
DESIGN – an imprint of Pickwick International
I, too, was initially blindsided by 1966’s Groovy Greats and its alluring cover images that all but promised British beat groups with guitars. But the juxtaposition of a lithe go-go dancer – enveloped in Union Jacks and hoisting a Vox Teardrop* – with monophonic recordings that go as far back as 1949 (albeit “electronically enhanced for stereo”) is an act so openly contemptuous of its intended customer base as to be comical.
Note how the back cover text artfully dances around the fact that the artists featured on this collection of pre-Beatles tracks set the stage for the exciting mid-60s sounds that are nowhere to be found on this 1966 release:
“Today’s scene is psychedelic, kinetic and wild, a free swinging world mad, mad mod and the big beat takes over au go-go from The Strip to Carnaby St. The big names of rock and soul that geared the world for their kind of action are here, blasting and groovin’ for your own freak out! Pow! Zap!“
Pretty humorous to consider that none of the musical artists included on Groovy Greats — Johnny Rivers, Ray Charles, Lou Christie, Bobby Goldsboro, Ronnie Dove, Joe Tex, Chuck Jackson, Bobby Freeman — could remotely be considered mod, psychedelic, or freaky. Or British.
“You’re With It” Lou Christie & the Classics “Probably recorded in 1963”
My edition, somehow, does not contain the typo (“Bobby Golsboro”) that seems to be a standard feature on all other releases — I feel cheated. Ironically, perhaps, the Bobby Goldsboro song “Dizzy Boy” is the one track on Groovy Greats to feature prominent guitar work in a modern style as implied by the album cover images.
The Kapa Minstrel: Affordable Version of the Vox Teardrop
*The Vox guitar being held on the cover is actually a 12-string lookalike – the Minstrel – made by Kapa, a “bargain” guitar made in Silver Spring, Maryland. According to Pat Veneman Stone, her father Koob Veneman, who “opened Veneman Music in Silver Spring, MD in the 1960s,” was the “sole creator and manufacturer of KAPA guitars,” a name that stands for Koob, Adeline (wife), Patricia (daughter) & Albert (son). This guitar reference guide (which locates Veneman Music in nearby Hyattsville, by the way) indicates that approximately 120,000 Kapa guitars and basses had been made by the time the company closed up shop in 1970, with parts and equipment then sold off to Micro-Frets and Mosrite Guitars.
The necks, pickups and electronics originally came from German manufacturer Hofner (in later years, they made their own pickups, which looked similar to Hofner units).
The tuners were made by Schaller. Kapa made his own bridges and tremolo assemblies.
According to one comment: “Actually, while Veneman’s was in Hyattsville, the guitars were built at a plant on 46th Avenue in the (nearby) town of Edmonston, Maryland. I was raised on 49th ave, in Edmonston and remember the place very well. In fact, as kids, we used to dig through the Kapa guitar factory dumpsters and bring home pieces of the refuse.”
Other comments recall time spent at Veneman’s music stores located in Silver Spring on Georgia Avenue near Bonifant Street, as well nearby Wheaton Plaza and Rockville (even Springfield, Virginia).
Hello. I purchased my Kapa bass after Two guys tried to rob me outside of Detroit and take my wallet after a gig. My left pinky finger was dislocated and at nine o’clock before having it set. I needed a short scale bass because my left pinky finger and the one next to it were taped together for a while so it could heal. I went to a store called Junk Yard Guitar in Royal Oak, Michigan and played every short scale bass they had, and they had several vintage basses and the Kapa I picked up sounded better than any of them so I asked the owner if I could take it home and try it and he said no problem. He also had a total of three Kapa basses and I said if this bass sounds as good as I think it does, work with me and I’ll take all three. Well just as I thought it sounded fat, full and more even sounding than both my old fender basses so I took all three. Fast forward several years later and now I own 12 Kapa Basses. I have been gigging with Rockabilly Greats Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding and that first Kapa bass I bought several years ago has been to eleven different Countries, and also made an appearance on the Conan O’Brien show a couple years back and it still has the same strings on it from when I bought it, and still sounds great. I do think I should thin the Kapa herd a bit, Naaah.
Guitar Player‘s Tip of the Hat to the 1967 Goya Rangemaster
Hey, dig those radical split pickups and fret markers purposely aligned left (not center), in direct violation of the unwritten code.
Thanks to the Unique Guitar Blog for clarifying the difference between the semi-hollow body Goya Rangemasters, with the single or double “Florentine” cutaways, versus the solid-body version (above), with a six-on-a-side elongated headstock (as shown on Groovy Greats). There is photographic proof of Jimi Hendrix playing a Goya Rangemaster off stage.
In 2014, Guitar Player‘s Terry Carleton reviewed one of the solid-body Rangemasters in a piece entitled “Whack Job!“:
“We sure liked our guitars to have buttons back in the ’60s. Before our love affairs with pedalboards and rack systems, the more buttons, knobs, and switches a model had, the more potential it had to help one find his or her voice on the guitar. The Goya Rangemaster, with its nine pushbuttons, offered more choices than just about any guitar out there, aside from Vox models that actually had built-in electronics. This  specimen was manufactured in Italy— perhaps by EKO—but the bridge was made in Sweden by Hagstrom.
Other than all of the buttons and the special quad pickup design, one of the weirder features of this instrument is the elongated headstock that looks like a large fish scaler.
Headstock can be pressed into service as a fish scaler
Playability & Sound
Weighing in at about eight pounds, the Rangemaster 116-SB is a double-cutaway model with a very subtle contour. The 25”-scale maple neck plays great, and there are 21 perfectly dressed frets on the rosewood fretboard. A slotted string spacer on the headstock levels out tension while feeding the strings into the 1 5/8” plastic nut. There are six chrome machine heads that feel great to the touch and are nicely accessible, due to the crescent-moon shaped headstock cutaway. The Rangemaster also includes a faux wood-grain pickguard, an adjustable neck, a chrome vibrato with a detachable bar, and a three-way adjustable bridge. The lowmass, surface-mounted Hagstrom bridge feels remarkably smooth and holds its tune fairly well. Living up to its name, the Rangemaster has quite a variety of tonal possibilities. For one thing, there’s almost six inches between the bridge and neck pickups. That’s a big gap, and it makes for a very unique sound. Then, unlike other push-button guitars—of which there were many—the electronics on the Rangemaster 116-SB include two pairs of split pickups, as well as six pickup-selector buttons, three Tone buttons (Lo, Med, Hi), and a master Volume knob. In addition to conventional bridge or neck pickup selections, the Rangemaster also lets you do things like push the 2+3 button to get the bridge’s bass-side pickup and the neck’s treble-side pickup. The result is a very funk-friendly, out-of-phase sound. Finally, there’s the rockin’ ALL button for when you need that “extra push over the cliff” (thank you, Nigel Tufnell), and a master OFF (or kill switch).
I bought mine about ten years ago from Guitar Showcase in San Jose, California, for $400. Today, this 9-button Euro freak is known as one of the Goya “holy grailers,” and it can go for well over a thousand dollars.
Why It Rules
Like so many of the Italian, Swedish, English, and German guitars of the ’60s, the Rangemaster not only has a great and freaky look, but it plays and sounds like a dream. For whatever reason, these time-tested guitars are still relatively affordable, and that rules! As Goya said in their beat-era Rangemaster ads, ‘Plug it in and turn everybody on!’”
Zero to 180 was browsing Lovin Spoonful‘s 7-inch releases on Discogs and decided to give a listen to an obscure 45 track, “Lonely” – a harmonica instrumental, as it turns out – only to discover upon further examination that this song was released as an A-side for the Brazilian market only!
“Lonely” Lovin’ Spoonful 1967
Zero to 180’s pleased to see Kama Sutra did up the occasion right with a picture sleeve:
Hey, wha’ d’ya know, “Lonely” (or “Solitário”) would also be tapped as a B-side for the Japanese market:
Wow – just discovered the existence of this entry in 45Cat for a US single release for “You’re a Big Boy Now” b/w “Lonely (Amy’s Theme),” with a date of “Jun. 1967” indicated but ultimately “unreleased” – what’s the story?
“God Only Knows” would be sequenced just after the opening track on side one of 1968’s Kafunta album, which enjoyed distribution in the UK, US, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Canada, and Japan. Arnold’s version of the standout track from The Beach Boys’ groundbreaking Pet Sounds would spend its entire existence confined to the album — except, however, in Italy (and nowhere else), where “God Only Knows” nobly served as the A-side of a 1969 single release.
RILASCIATO SOLO IN ITALIA
The reverse side of the Italian picture sleeve includes jukebox title card – plus photo!
“But seriously folks, this is pretty much a song no one should cover. In doing a cover version you either do something completely different with the song and/or top the original. The latter is as close to zero chance as you’ll get, and the former not likely to work considering the power of the original arrangement [#2 Pop – 14 weeks on the charts]. That said, P.P. does a decent job – doesn’t embarrass herself.”
An original copy of the 1969 Italian picture sleeve sold at auction in 2012 for 20 Euros.
This just in: Arnold’s “lost” album of songs recorded in the late 1960s/early 1970s – The Turning Tide – was finally released last August, as reported by Billboard. “Derek” (i.e., Eric Clapton) and the Dominoes (Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle, along with Jim Price & Bobby Keys) served as backing musicians on three of the songs, while Madeline Bell, Doris Troy, and Rita Coolidge share vocals with Arnold on other tracks (with Clapton, Barry Gibb, Caleb Quaye and Arnold serving variously and/or collaboratively as producer).
Those familiar with Jimi Hendrix‘s song catalog might be amused by the quirky decisions made in various ‘foreign’ (i.e, non-US or -UK) markets around the globe — that’s right, it’s another romp through the 45Cat database not unlike the previous piece with The Beatles.
Let us begin our quest with “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” Hendrix’s fourth UK single and an ‘important’ early composition — right away, we note that Germany produced a playfully expressive picture sleeve for this 1967 A-side release.
Norway, on the other hand, would take Hendrix’s ‘wild man’ stage persona and run with it.
Tragically humorous to see “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” as a B-side in 1969, paired with “Fire” for the UK market, however with the A-side mistitled as “Let Me Light Your Fire”!
New Zealand, Yugoslavia, and Germany would also confuse “Fire” with The Doors’ big breakout hit also from 1967 – pop music’s peak year – along with Spain, whose picture sleeve release (below) wins an award for most imaginatively literal interpretation.
“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” would also be used as a B-side on this 4-track EP from Portugal that was released in 1968.
“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” would receive somewhat of a promotion in Bolivia, where the song was sequenced as the second track (side A) of a four-cut EP from 1970 that features “Come On (Pt. 1)” in its first and only starring role as an “A-side” (EP also notable for “Love or Confusion” – a recording otherwise found only on Are You Experienced).
Some of Hendrix’s more adventurous songwriting efforts, such as “Are You Experienced”; “Third Stone from the Sun”; “Little Wing”; “Castles Made of Sand”; “House Burning Down”; “Rainy Day Dream Away” and “Still Raining Still Dreaming” (et al.) would not end up on a 45 release – or, at least, during his lifetime.
However, there are a couple unlikely Hendrix compositions that found themselves being issued in 7-inch format, such as side one’s ambitious (5 minutes and 29 seconds) closing track for Axis: Bold As Love – “If Six Was Nine” – chosen for the US & Australian markets in 1969 as the B-side to “Stone Free” (no doubt prompted by the song’s inclusion in the soundtrack to that same year’s classic counterculture film, Easy Rider).
“If Six Was Nine” — unlikely Australian B-side
Another unlikely Hendrix track found on a 45: “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” selected as the B-side for “Crosstown Traffic” in 1968 for the Australian market, while serving the same role in 1970 for the Yugoslavian market (although paired instead with “Voodoo Chile”) — the song’s only non-LP releases thus far known.
“Have You Ever Been” — unlikely Australian B-side
But without a doubt, the oddest Hendrix composition to end up on either side of a 45 is the epic underwater fantasy that fills an entire album side on Hendrix’s finest long-player — “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” — which Barclay saw fit to release in 1972, along with another Electric Ladyland cut, “Come On (Part 1),” that, aside from Bolivia, could not be found on a disc measuring less than one foot in diameter [in fact, hilarious to discover that Iran beat everyone else to the punch when bootleggers issued “Come On” on this EP from 1968, the year of Electric Ladyland‘s release].
French 45 – 1972
This French 45 release from 1972 would be the sole non-LP release of beautiful ballad, “Drifting” (with nice vibraphone work from Buzzy Linhart), from the first posthumous LP, 1971’s The Cry of Love.
This pair of 45s from 1967 – Italy (left) & Spain (right) – shares the same design template, if not typography.
The cover design of this “Purple Haze” EP from Mexico (1968) also wins for ‘most literal’ — includes three tracks from the debut album, plus one (“Up From the Skies”) from the ‘new’ one, curiously enough.
“Freedom” b/w “Angel” 45 picture sleeve – Japan – 1971
Zero to 180 is stunned to discover that all three Jimi Hendrix Experience albums received radically different covers and sleeve designs when released in France on Barclay imprint, Panache, as shown below.
1967’s Axis: Bold As Love
1968’s Electric Ladyland
Hendrix, incidentally, would only merit one picture sleeve in his lifetime for the US market — debut 45, “Hey Joe” b/w “51st Anniversary” (released April, 1967 on Reprise).
Last month’s surprising (and under-reported) research results pertaining to The Beatles’ controversial association with K-Tel, I assumed, had tapped the well of Beatledom dry. So imagine my surprise when Zero to 180 researchers poked at 45Cat’s database with a stick and stumbled upon a treasure trove of curious and, at times, downright baffling decisions regarding Beatles 45 and EP releases in “foreign” markets around the world.
Thailand takes the proverbial cake, in terms of audacity, style, and sense of the absurd, with not a single vinyl offering having enjoyed input from EMI or The Beatles whatsoever. My favorite find among these brazen bootleg releases on Thailand’s Coliseum label is an EP that features four tracks from 1968’s ‘White Album‘ – all of them left-field song choices – but it’s the picture sleeve that wins a prize for sheer daffiness:
As one of the 45Cat catalogers notes, this 1968 EP enjoys the distinction of being the only appearance of “Martha My Dear” on a non-LP Beatles release. Only Finland would see fit to include “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” on a (legitimate) 45, while “Glass Onion” would remain an album track solely (if you exclude this unauthorized EP from Iran). “Savoy Truffle” very nearly suffered the same fate — until Mexico’s outsized fondness for George Harrison manifested itself in this impressive assemblage of four (count ’em) George tracks released in 1971, one year after the band had called it quits.
Guinness record for number of George songs on Beatles non-LP release
Actually, that same year Apple Mexico would issue four additional George-packed EPs, particularly notable for the Beatle whose first and only A-side — 1969’s “Something” — had come near the end of the Beatles’ recording career (where his output would be limited to one song per album side):
George’s “I Me Mine” would forever be confined to the Let It Be album, except in Mexico, where the song would be included on a 1972 EP, (also noteworthy for including album-only track “One After 909“), while Venezuela would go one step further by being the only country to issue this waltz on a 45. Also noteworthy is a planned-but-never-issued 5-song EP for the UK market of what would have been the only non-LP appearance of George track “It’s All Too Much.”
Apple Mexico’s casual use of Sgt. Pepper tracks on other 1971 EPs (“Lucy in the Sky,” as well as “Help From My Friends,” and album showstopper, “A Day in the Life“) would seem to be unparalled among EMI affiliates while, at the same time, oddly sacrilegeous. And for some quirky reason, it is Italy – not the UK – who enjoys the distinction of having issued the world’s only Sgt. Pepper 45 the year of the album’s release.
Must point out that the Sgt. Pepper EP released on Thailand’s TK label is almost certainly not the work of the band — the bizarro song selection [“All You Need Is Love”; “Lovely Rita”; “Baby You’re a Rich Man”; “Things We Said Today”] being a major tip-off. As 45Cat contributor Tylerl notes with exasperation on the world’s behalf:
“Why ‘Things We Said Today’?? Weird. Needed ‘For the Benefit of Mr Kite’ instead. It’s not on any 45 or EP worldwide. Sad.”
(Bam-Caruso also hits it on the head with his observation “another strange Thailand EP with an inspired sleeve.”)
Sgt. Pepper EP – but with only one track from the album!
“Strawberry Fields Forever” is one of those monumental A-sides from AM radio’s golden age — and yet Odeon Japan would do the unthinkable, when the label made the tragic and misguided decision in 1967 to dilute the song’s seismic impact by leading off instead with a throwaway track from the previous year (“Bad Boy”) that sounds considerably out of its depth.
A recent documentary tribute to “Hey Bulldog,” the group’s last true collaborative effort, would note the song’s exclusion from single release during the band’s lifetime — a factual statement, if you ignore the track’s inclusion on a 1969 EP issued by Thailand renegade label, Coliseum.
the famous Yellow Submarine cover, and yet only one track from the album!
Thailand’s labels would, indeed, take liberties with not only song selection but cover design, as well. For instance, the band depicted on the 1968 EP below most definitely is not the same group that recorded “Sexy Sadie” (Lennon, by this point, wearing a beard and “granny” spectacles) and “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey.”
Note, too, this 1968 EP’s use of a still image from the iconic “I Am the Walrus” sequence in 1967’s Magical Mystery Tour film for a collection of ‘White Album‘ tracks!
However, no one can top Portugal as the only country authorized to include the ultimate Beatles psychedelic track – “Tomorrow Never Knows” – on a vinyl platter whose diameter measures less than one foot (sorry, Iran – I don’t think you got permission).
While there’s no denying James Brown’s pivotal musical influence, Cochran and his backing band, The C.C. Riders, bring their own creativity to bear on “Chopper 70” — an appropriately high-adrenaline way to bring to a close an album that bears the gritty title, Alive and Well and Living in a Bitch of a World:
“Chopper 70” Wayne Cochran 1970
Pastorius would join the band by 1972, when Cochran & C.C. Riders had made the big move to Epic, an imprint of almighty Columbia. Two years prior, Cochran and company would record a pair of albums for King (with the first issued on its Bethlehem subsidiary) that would both be released in 1970.
Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders: ALIVE AND WELL and living in …
… a b*tch of a world
Dave Dexter, in his “Dexter’s Scrapbook” column for Billboard, would file this report on Cochran in the May 23, 1970 edition:
“Platinum-haired Wayne Cochran was driving a garbage truck in Georgia, the father of three sons. Today’s he’s a sizzling nitery star, with his C.C. Riders, and a big gun on Starday-King disks. He blames parents for the generation gap: ‘In this world today, you’ve got to change, you’ve got to move with what’s happening and that way you’ll never grow old. The kids do their thing in order to dig what they are digging more, not so they can hate the kid next to them. I’ve never seen a fight at a teen-age concert and I think I never will.’
Does that make sense, assuming you dig what he’s digging?”
Zero to 180 regrets waiting until now to sing the praises of Cochran, who left us only a couple months ago, as it turns out. Cochran’s large horn-heavy ensemble, I would learn from Matt Schudel’s obituary in The Washington Post, was famously unrelenting, as their “shows had no stopping point: The band kept vamping from one song to the next, as the music and audience reached a point of frenzy.”
Choppers for the teenyboppers: vintage 1970 Raleigh ad
Jackie Gleason, who wrote the liner notes for Cochran’s self-titled 1967 release on Chess, would call the singer (who would often leave the stage to take his show out into the audience) “the wildest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.” Gleason’s dance ensemble leader, June Taylor, apparently “took ideas for her dancers from the C.C. Riders choreography” during Cochran’s extended mid-60s run at Miami’s major soul club, The Barn.
I count 12 musicians in this photo (courtesy of Discogs)
Impossible to write about Cochran without making reference to Cochran’s mountainous dome of hair. Neil Genzlinger, in his New York Times obituary, would point out who inspired the decision behind the hairdo’s platinum color — Johnny and Edgar Winter (“Every time the lights over their heads changed colors, their hair changed colors. And I said, “Now there’s the color, if I could figure out how to get it”) — thanks to Cochran’s appearance on Dave Letterman’s NBC Late Night show in 1982.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
(Photo from Michael Ochs Archives via PITCHFORK)
Cochran’s first stint with King would last about two years – from late 1963 through early 1965 – before similarly brief runs with Mercury (1965-66) and Chess (1967-68). King founder, Syd Nathan, would pass the year prior to Cochran’s return to the label (now renamed Starday-King), whose first single release would be an elaborately-arranged two-part Beatles mash-up medley of “Hey Jude” and “Eleanor Rigby.”
King Records Turns 75! Cataloging the Classics
Big tip of the hat to Tim Garry of School of Rock – Mason, OH for allowing Zero to 180 the opportunity to compile a list of classic recordings put out by King Records (and its subsidiaries) in time for the label’s 75th birthday celebration. This special tip-top list of nearly 200 songs – stretching from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s – is a fascinating cross-section of popular music styles (secular, as well as sacred) from the original rock ‘n’ roll era and beyond. This PDF document is to be updated over time, as additional classic King recordings are identified by talent scouts embedded here and abroad — click on link below:
I was ready to abandon K-Tel for greener pastures, when I recalled with great amusement a K-Tel hits collection that someone (okay, Tom Avazian) once tenderly pressed into my eager hands. I can’t imagine anyone would be shocked that a label famed for recycling older tunes had thieved its title – Gimme Indie Rock – from a song by former Dinosaur Jr. bassist, Lou Barlow … and then oddly omitted the title track!
Includes a Dinosaur Jr. song in lieu of Sebadoh’s title track – ironic?
No one should be surprised that a label known for being a step or two behind contemporary pop music trends would embrace 80s and 90s punk and “alternative” rock by the dawn of the new century (I hear some of you grumbling this is not your father’s K-Tel). Nor should anyone be taken aback that this double-disc set from 2000 is a CD-only release that was never pressed onto good ol’ vinyl.
Gadzooks: [insert name of indie band below] on a K-Tel collection!
The CD cover would also break the K-Tel mold by being a 6-panel foldout poster, with liner notes provided by Option Magazine‘s Scott Becker and a quote at the top of the page attributed to Minutemen frontman, D. Boon (“The how, the why, the where, the who – can these words find the truth?”) from a song – “The World According to Nouns” – that was, in fact, written by the group’s bassist, Mike Watt! Oh, K-Tel…
To read Scott Becker’s essay, save image to hard drive and magnify in image viewer
Generally speaking, Zero to 180’s rule of thumb (you may or may not be aware) is to feature under-celebrated studio songcraft that is, minimally, 20 years old, thus enabling indie and punk to fall fairly within the scope of this music history blog. Previous attempts to feature more contemporary sounds, Zero to 180 realized belatedly, would not be a good fit for a historically-oriented website, something that should have been apparent at the outset (nothing personal, Roy Sludge – you know I love you).
And yet, it’s as if Zero to 180 has learned nothing, as today’s piece sidesteps protocol by ignoring Gimme Indie Rock in favor of a modern rock track — power pop, to be more precise — that is a mere 12 years old, but is already showing alarming signs of being consigned to the dustbin of history:
“Misadventures of the Campaign Kids” King of Prussia 2007
Such an obvious lead-off track, Zero to 180 is a little disappointed to discover “Miseducation of the Campaign Kids” to be the third song on King of Prussia‘s 2007 CD release, Save the Scene. The opening chords would seem to be a loving nod to Paul Weller’s demo for The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” — could that have been the songwriter’s intention, I wonder. Yes, there are five YouTube clips of this compelling King of Prussia track, and yet the total combined “views” of these audio clips do not even total 5,000 — a musical injustice that this history blog is attempting to remedy.
Lyrics to the song can be found here on Bandcamp, where you can also buy the album for only $6.99 – a bargain. Thank you, as well, to Zero to 180 science correspondent, Paul Guinnessy, for once forwarding a flash drive filled with 3.42GigaBytes of songs (e.g, “Misadventures”) from artists – including King of Prussia – who appeared at the 2008 South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas. NPR, in fact, would give the band some coverage, describing the King of Prussia’s debut album as “a trippy collection of songs with elements of ’60s folk rock.”
News Flash: Zero to 180 Filters Out the Rubbish!
The Zero to 180 screenshot above, by the way, shows this music history blog in its infancy at a time when I was still grappling with scope and content issues. After five years and over 700 posts, I finally cottoned onto the necessity of adding several filters to help readers (to the extent they exist) pick out the few interesting bits amidst the mountains of refuse. Consequently, Zero to 180 now has added a handful of “buttons” at the top of the screen to help minimize wasted time you will never ever get back —
Just for fun, find a casual fan of Barbra Streisand‘s music, and study her/his reaction closely when you play a fairly obscure track – “Come Back To Me” – for his/her virgin ears:
“Come Back to Me” Barbra Streisand 1973
Believe me, Zero to 180 is just as stunned as you are to find Streisand’s name attached to a history piece on “experimental pop” — and yet here we are, thanks to 1973’s Barbra Streisand … And Other Musical Instruments being included (#34) in Mojo’s list of The 50 Most Out There Albums of All Time in their March 2005 issue, alongside such (truly) outre artists as Ennio Morricone, John Coltrane, Holy Modal Rounders, Hawkwind, Funkadelic, Captain Beefheart, and (of course) Sun Ra.
Mojo’s Jonny Trunk explains the album’s concept, as a whole —
“The soundtrack to Barbra’s fifth TV special, the plan was to explore – literally (and laterally) – the world of sound and music, as opposed to the world of just Babs again. This Barbra is on a sonic world trip, and the luggage is piled very high, indeed — percussion from all global villages including darabukas, gagakus, o-daikos and baglamas, as well as Moogs, mellotrons, Studers, Arps, a Putney (!) and a Tempophon. And don’t forget the bagpipes. They’re from Ireland.”
“Come Back to Me,” one of the more experimental tracks on the album, finds Streisand, as Trunk playfully puts it, “talking to herself through delay pedals.”
Avant-Streisand: Experimental Pop – emphasis on Pop
Would you be surprised to learn that Billboard would deem …And Other Musical Instruments to be one of their “Top Album Picks” for the week of November 10, 1973?
“Since this is the soundtrack from her TV special, there are plenty of effects one can only enjoy with all the senses. But since you can’t see the things going on as Barbra walks through all the visual settings which are at the core of the program, your imagination has to take command. Nonetheless, her fine tones and majestic power are sheer entertainment. There are lots of off-beat ideas, like an Indian raga effect on ‘I Got Rhythm’ and sound effects on ‘The World Is a Concerto.’ ‘Glad To Be Unhappy’ is Barbra at her ballad best. Ken and Mitzi Welch’s arrangements for TV provide an interesting experience on record.”
The commercial response to Barbra Streisand’s most daring work – before and forevermore – can be shown in the album’s Billboard rankings:
entered the Pop chart at #146 for the week of November 24, 1973;
advanced to #115 the following week, December 1, 1973;
before beginning a downward descent — #132 the week of February 9, 1974;
down to #149 the following week, February 16, 1974;
hanging on at #191 the week of March 9, 1974 before dropping from the charts.
Ten years later, Billboard‘s Paul Grein would report in his “Chart Beat” column that the TV special, unfortunately, had been “poorly received.” 38 years later, a test pressing of Streisand’s … And Other Musical Instruments LP would fetch $30 at auction in 2011.
Hendrix, Beatles, the Stones … and Streisand: K-Tel Luminaries
Barbra Streisand – whose considerable commercial heft makes her, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the world’s best selling female recording artist – would famously relax her “No K-Tel” policy in order to allow “Evergreen” (Theme from A Star Is Born) to appear on 1981 K-Tel release The Elite (US, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and the Netherlands), as well as 1981’s The Platinum Album (UK, Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, Greece, New Zealand & Australia).
Streisand would also give consent for the inclusion of chart-topping hit “People” (from Funny Girl) on K-Tel Brazil’s Sucessos Nunca Esquecidos, as well as special 2-LP set, Stars for Jerusalem, in partnership with Columbia Special Products, under the auspices of The Jerusalem Foundation.