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.
True or False? Led Zeppelin have appeared on a K-Tel album.
The band that famously refused to do TV appearances did not, generally speaking stoop to K-Tel‘s level of crass commercialism. Led Zeppelin cultivated such a mystique amongst their fanbase, in fact, that it was thought the band didn’t deign to do singles — obviously untrue when you browse their 7-inch output on 45Cat (each and every Zep album was accompanied by a 45 release, don’t kid yourself).
And yet, unbelievably, Led Zeppelin once said yes to K-Tel: 1980’s The Summit, released by K-Tel UK & Ireland — an album that includes “Candy Store Rock” (from 1976’s Presence), fittingly as the final track:
“Candy Store Rock” Led Zeppelin 1976
Does the band get forgiveness points, since “proceeds from this album are contributed to The Year of the Child to help sick and handicapped children”?
“Hot on the heels of the Kampuchea concerts, K-Tel rush-released The Summitin January 1980, featuring a baker’s dozen of tracks from rock royalty, all of whom donated their proceeds to UNESCO’s The International Year Of The Child (1979). Kurt Waldheim, then secretary-general of the United Nations, was crucial in organizing both the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea and The International Year Of The Child projects.”
Zep on K-Tel cover!
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In 2003, Jimmy Page would even make the CD cover, when “Misty Mountain Hop” made an encore appearance on Time-Life’s Do It Again from the ‘Legends’ series (with liner notes from Ben Fong-Torres), also in synergistic partnership with Warner Special Products.
11311 K-Tel Drive = Minnetonka, Minnesota:
The New “Hitsville USA”?
Thanks to family members strategically located in Minnetonka, Zero to 180 is grateful to have had the opportunity to visit 11311 K-Tel Drive, the corporate headquarters of K-Tel International since 1975, as any music scholar will tell you.
K-Tel’s service in maintaining the commercial vitality of our great nation’s pop hits – long after their initial “expiration date” – has been widely mocked, which is sadly short-sighted, given the company’s honorable efforts in fighting Madison Avenue attitudes (i.e., old = bad) that have unmistakably infiltrated popular consciousness due to a relentless bombardment of advertising that fetishizes newness for the sake of newness.
K-Tel would celebrate 35 years of success in grand style with a supplemental 17-page advertisement in the March 8, 1997 edition of Billboard.(pages K-1 through K-17) that includes messages of congratulations from Sony Music Special Products, EMI-Capitol, Polygram, Curb Records, Select-O-Hits, local heroes The Trashmen, The Castaways, Steppenwolf’s John Kay, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Ernest Evans himself (a.k.a., Chubby Checker). These 17 packed pages include a profile of founder Phillip Kives (K-Tel = Kives Television), who “starred in what may have been the first infomercial: a five-minute spot in support of a non-stick frying pan,” plus a history of the music label (“Original Hits! Original Stars! K-Tel’s Super Gold Music Machine Rolls Right On”) that states the company’s musical inventory to be “approximately 2,700 masters, dating from the ’50s up through the ’80s and beyond.”
Just months after terminating a deal that would have divested its music assets, K-Tel International has restructured the music company and set ambitious plans to become an online music retailer and a distributor of other labels’ recordings.
As part of the change, the company has tapped Mark Dixon, its top financial executive, as COO of the music unit, K–tel International (USA), which remains based in Minneapolis. The corporate offices, however, are moving to Los Angeles, where company president David Weiner will oversee the music unit, international operations, a direct-marketing subsidiary, a home video imprint, and a new Internet venture. Weiner says the move will enable K-Tel to “tap into a larger talent pool.”
By mid-December, Weiner says the company will launch K-Tel Online and develop the site over the next year into a major Internet retailer to compete with CDnow, Music Boulevard, and World Wide Web sites operated by traditional music chains. At the site www.ktel.com, consumers will also be able to order customized CDs made up of tracks from the company-owned catalogs.
Alas, Greg Beets would break the sad news — “Where were you when you found out K-Tel declared bankruptcy and shut down its U.S. music distribution subsidiary?” — in the May 4, 2001 edition of the Austin Chronicle. Turning popular wisdom on its head, Beets points out that “although K-Tel’s buffet-style MO [modus operandi] seems quintessentially American,” the company was actually founded in Winnipeg, Ontario in 1962, before Kives moved operations to Minneapolis in the early Seventies.
Kives wasn’t the first (that would be Art Leboe’s Oldies but Goodies series), and he wasn’t without competition (Ronco and Adam VIII), but “it was K-Tel,” Beets observed, “that truly cultivated the form into a pop culture institution ripe for parody.”
K-Tel’s Krass Kommercialism: A Tribute by Greg Beets
During the Seventies, K-Tel’s marketing ploys had the same seedy appeal as a carnival barker’s come-on. The pitch was fast and furious, with deftly spliced snippets of music, song titles rapidly scrolling across the screen, and an overcaffeinated announcer imploring you to order now. Some aficionados swear the ads said K-Tel albums were not available in stores, even though they were — at unhip outlets such as drug and discount stores.
You won’t find a much better snapshot of pop music in the early Seventies than 1972’s Believe in Music. Named for Gallery’s “I Believe in Music,” the album kicks off with the 1-2-3 feel-good punch of “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, “Beautiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone, and “Sunny Days” by Lighthouse. Throw in Donny Osmond, the O’Jays, and a few more weird obscurities like Mouth & MacNeil’s “How Do You Do?” and Bulldog’s “No,” and you have a bass-ackwardly definitive compilation rivaled only by Nuggets.
Maybe K-Tel butchered art for profit. But even if that were true, does it make K-Tel any worse than a record company padding a marginal artist’s album with filler? Though it came at the expense of artistic vision, K-Tel’s Seventies output was nothing if not value-driven. Where else could you get up to 25 hit songs for the low, low price of $5.98 ($7.98 for 8-track)?
That said, the sonic quality of vintage K-tel albums is truly awful. You’ll find better low end on a distant AM radio station, and the flimsier-than-Dynaflex vinyl ensures quick scratches if you so much as breathe too hard on it. And no discussion of K-Tel would be complete without mentioning the blinding colors and screaming fonts utilized in the subtle-as-a-meat-cleaver cover art. But, as the tired old saying goes, that’s part of the charm.
Note: Beets would also voice the widely-held notion that “respectable artists, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, never showed up on K-Tel” — a view that, as Zero to 180’s recent research has revealed, does not withstand factual scrutiny.
It still boggles my mind that Ronco somehow found a way to compile an album featuring tracks from top pop acts – Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, and the Byrds – one would not normally associate with TV-advertised hits labels, such as Ronco.
Jimi Hendrix – third artist listed after The Beatles
In light of this knowledge I began to wonder: Is it possible Jimi Hendrix has appeared on a K-Tel album?
Answer — Yes! K-Tel Japan would include “Purple Haze” on 1971’s 20 Dynamic Hits – an album that would also feature a Beatles track (admittedly, 1961’s “My Bonnie” with singer, Tony Sheridan).
Perhaps the strangest release of all would be K-Tel Australia’s The Legend of Hendrixalbum (date unknown).
3rd known photo of Hendrix on a K-Tel album cover
18 tracks in all – note the curious decision to include a Noel Redding composition, “She’s So Fine” (fittingly, the final selection):
1. Hey Joe
2. Purple Haze
3. The Wind Cries Mary
4. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
5. Stone Free Again
6. All Along The Watchtower
7. Foxy Lady
8. Voodoo Chile
9. Crosstown Traffic
11. Like A Rolling Stone
12. Ezy Rider
14. Johnny B Goode
15. Blue Suede Shoes
16. Gypsy Eyes
18. She’s So Fine
“She’s So Fine” Noel Redding’s Jimi Hendrix Experience 1967
Of course, all of this begs the question — why no Hendrix tracks on US K-Tel releases? Was Warner Brothers afraid that the appearance of a Hendrix track on a K-Tel album might inflict damage on his viability in the marketplace, given the snobby rock press?
“My Bonnie” on this 1972 4-LP set = only US K-Tel LP Release to feature The Beatles!
The Stones on K-Tel: The Truth Is Out There
1982 would prove to be the year the band made the momentous decision that permitted K-Tel UK/Ireland to sell a 2-LP (mostly monophonic) “greats”-only package, Story of the Stones, in Great Britain, as well as Spain, Portugal and (“unofficially”) Japan and Singapore.
Track listing: any quibbles, Stones fans?
The following year, the Stones’ Organization then made the staggering decision to allow “Satisfaction” the honor of kicking off K-Tel’s Best Party Album in the World — a various artists release that would also include “Get Off My Cloud”!
Any Other Ronco LPs with Hendrix Tracks?
Q: Besides Do It Now, are there any other Ronco LPs that feature Jimi Hendrix tracks?
A: Yes! “All Along the Watchtower” would join 43 of its closest friends for Ronco UK’s soundtrack to the film, Stardust, from 1974.
Additionally, in 1974 Ronco Netherlands would release 44 Golden Hits of the Sixties, a 2-LP set that included (you guessed it) “All Along the Watchtower.”
In 2016, Heritage Auctions (“the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer”) sold two acetates of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album — note that the Columbia label for the left image reads “Electric Landlady“(!)
double-Click on image for Super-maximum resolution
“Electric Landlady”: Inspiration for Kirsty MacColl’s 1991 album
Melbourne-born, Helen Reddy would begin her career in 1963 laying down vocals for a Consulate cigarette jingle with Bob Young and His Orchestra.
Reddy’s win on Australian Bandstand would, according to Discogs, spur her big move in 1966 to the United States, where two years later, she would make her official debut in the pop marketplace with Fontana 45, “One Way Ticket.”
Monty Montgomery, Music Director for Bakersfield’s KERN would select “One Way Ticket” as Billboard‘s ‘Best Leftfield Pick’ for the week of May 11, 1968. The song would hit #83 nationally in Australia in May, 1968.
From the songwriting team of Stephen (“Sesame Street“) Lawrence & Bruce Hart
For uncertain reasons (though likely due to runaway 1972 smash hit, “I Am Woman“), K-Tel made an executive decision to include this Laugh-In-era track on a collection of US radio hits from primarily 1973 (i.e., James Brown’s “The Payback“; Love Unlimited’s “Love’s Theme“; Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock“), thus indirectly helping to direct attention to a melodic sense and production sound that seem very much out of place with the rest of the song’s surroundings:
“One Way Ticket” Helen Reddy 1968
American music consumers would find itself treated to “One Way Ticket” via 1974 K-Tel release, Dynamic Sound, while discerning Canadian ears would discover the track on 1974’s Music Power, amidst such 1973 highlights as Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride“; Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie“; and Al Wilson’s “Show and Tell.”
Helen Reddy + Shirley Bassey + Dusty Springfield = butterfly
Aside from the K-Tel and Pickwick LP releases above, “One Way Ticket” otherwise found itself orphaned as a non-album single until the song’s inclusion as a bonus track for the 2-album-on-one-CD reissue No Way to Treat a Lady / Music, Music in 2005 — but for the Australian market only!
As has been pointed out elsewhere, Reddy is the first Australian artist to win a Grammy (for the aforementioned “I Am Woman”), as well as top the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Most music fans in the US (and even quite a few in the UK) are unaware that a major 1970s British rock star put out an album on K-Tel (!) during a period of peak popularity – one entitled Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster, no less. There’s a good reason for this record’s obscurity, as these notes from Discogs make clear:
“Released in a limited edition of supposedly 300 copies. Comes in a beautiful gatefold-sleeve and a 12×8-inch 16-page booklet. This is mostly a spoken-word album containing interviews with people claiming to have seen the Loch Ness Monster. It features additional narrations by Richard O’Brien and Alex Harvey and one short musical track at the end.”
This limited release means that some Alex Harvey fans are willing to shell out £200 (only a couple months ago) or even £300 (back in 2014) for this tribute album to Nessie. These prices are not an abberation, thus affirming the wisdom behind the decision made in 1977 by an elite group of Alex Harvey fans to purchase this long-deleted, vinyl-only release, which finally enjoyed reissue on compact disc in 2009 (John Clarkson’s review also provides a bit of back story).
“I Love Monsters Too” — the album’s final selection, as noted above, is the lone musical track, and a concise one at that: 37 seconds (thus, deserving of inclusion on Zero to 180’s list of short songs in popular music):
“I Love Monsters Too” Alex Harvey 1977
As YouTube contributor Mags1464 drolly observes, the song is “from an album that Alex made while the rest of the [Sensational Alex Harvey Band] were recording Fourplay.” Zero to 180 just figured out why the group is relatively unknown here in the States — according to Discogs, only four of SAHB’s nine albums released in the 1970s were distributed in the US.
Elaborate packaging includes an annotated map of Loch Ness
Dear Diary: Saturday 17 July 1976
[Double-click image below to view in high-resolution]
Seven years prior to Alex Harvey’s run-in with K-Tel, Trojan Records attempted to cash in on Britain’s fascination with its most famous Scottish resident through the release of a horror-themed reggae compilation, Loch Ness Monster that contains, annoyingly, only one musical tribute to Nessie (and at least one dubious song selection — “Suffering Stink,” really?).
1970, coincidentally, would also see the UK release of an album – That’s How You Got Killed Before – by Jamaican ex-pat, Errol Dixon that features “Monster from Loch Ness” (not yet available for preview on YouTube).
In recent years, John Carter Cash would travel to Scotland to perform his own Nessie tribute live in an attempt to “summon the beast” from the depths of Loch Ness — successfully? At least one person says yes:
You may recall me telling you how Tom Newbold dragged me to see Great Plains despite my misgivings. My young befuddled spirit had not yet cottoned onto the ‘radical’ notion that great music (gasp!) isn’t always about great musicianship. In fact, sometimes all the hemi-demi-semi-quavers and musical gymnastics can get in the way. It took me at least a couple decades before it dawned on me that being impressed is not necessarily the same thing as being moved (although it can be pretty magical when the two do happen to intersect). This emotionally-disconnected die-hard music fanatic remembers Newbold telling me about musical moments that moved him to tears, and I remember at the time thinking, I want me some of that.
Ticket stub for both NRBQ shows (spliced together) at Stache’s – Sept. 20, 1984
Newbold would rally a group of us to that first “life-changing” NRBQ show, which was promoted by School Kids Records’ Curt Schieber, interestingly enough. That first night’s performance was so incendiary, Newbold and I found ourselves standing in line for NRBQ’s second show, even though that had not been our original intention. Judy Pinger would tell me later that she and her friend, Diane, ran into the ‘Q between shows at the nearby 7/11, where she got an autograph from the late great drummer, Tom Ardolino (“Tom Ardolino at 7/11” it would read in hilarous deadpan fashion), who was reading Mad Magazine at the time (as noted by Judy in the comment below).
Oh, dear: it says “T.C. & the Cats” was the opener! Don’t tell Mark Wyatt, or he’ll pull the plug on this blog. but wait – didn’t RC Mob fill in at the last minute, Judy?
My roommate, R.J. Rothchild, however, surprised us all by leaving after the first show, rightly surmising the improbability of “lightning striking twice” with the same intensity. R.J. turned out to be right (much to my frustration) but of course, I lied when we met up later and told him that the second NRBQ performance was just as amazing as the first. I’m a horrible liar, and I’m pretty certain R.J. saw right through me.
Loveable cut-ups: The RC Mob (with original drummer) switch instruments
Hold on a blippity minute – isn’t this supposed to be a piece about The RC Mob? Right!
As it happened, a local band from Columbus – The Royal Crescent Mob – would open for NRBQ that warm September night in 1984. It always frustrated me terribly (and I suspect, Big Car Jack‘s Ed Goldstein, as well) that ‘The Mob’ had found a way to forge funk and rock in the same combustible way as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, although history would fail to take sufficient note of this “musical synchronicity.” You can see for yourself: the Chili Peppers released their first album that same year, 1984, thus proving that both bands were independently mining the same musical vein, albeit from different parts of planet Earth.
Even worse, although the RC Mob would amuse the crowd at the NRBQ show with their rockin’ version of The Ohio Players‘ 1975 radio hit, “Love Rollercoaster” (which The Mob then laid down on tape the following year on 1985 album, Land of Sugar), the Chili Peppers would steal the Mob’s thunder 11 years later by releasing a hit version that everyone now associates with the former and not the latter, who almost certainly gave them the idea. Oh, the injustice!
“Love Rollercoaster” would be included in the TV ad for K-Tel’s mindbending LP
The scuttlebutt at the time was that The Mob’s guitarist used to mow the lawn for one of the Ohio Players! Ed Goldstein and I would marvel at the band’s formidable rhythm section each time we had the opportunity to see The Mob when they took their seismic road show to Cincinnati. This rhythm section would include not just bassist, Harold Chichester, and drummer, Carlton, but also guitarist, B, who never took a guitar solo — a concept that completely bent my mind. Still does.
Washington-area readers (if, indeed, they exist) might be intrigued to learn that The RC Mob once tore up DC’s fabled 9:30 Club in 1987, back when the venerable venue was kissing cousins (abstract Abe Lincoln reference – get it?) with Ford’s Theater and locally famous for (a) “that smell” and (b) guaranteed encounters with over-sized rats should you dare to venture behind the club. Land of Sugar would also feature stand-out original track, “Get Off the Bus” which may not be as supportive of mass transit as I imagined it to be. In fact, the lyric would seem to advocate otherwise, shockingly:
“Get On (or Off?) the Bus” Royal Crescent Mob at DC’s 9:30 Club July 26, 1987
Just now discovered the source of my confusion: The song would be titled “Get Off the Bus” for Land of Sugar but then (mysteriously) re-titled “Get On the Bus” two years later for 1987 album Omerta. This immediately brings to mind John Lennon’s similar sort of ambivalence when he sang the following lyric on the White Album version of “Revolution”: “But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know you can count me out … in.” Yep, the two situations are completely analogous.
Think of a band whose studio recordings never came close to matching the power of the group’s live performances. Zero to 180’s list would include The RC Mob, and this blogger cries tears of pity for those who never got to witness the band at the peak of their power.
Royal Crescent Mob (L to R): Harold Chichester, B, David Ellison, Carlton smith
“The reason the place stayed open when [former owner] Pete [Herman] was here was because of Curt ,’ [current/final owner, Dan] Dougan said. The ‘Curt’ who Dougan is referring to is Curt Schieber, host of WWCD 101’s ‘Invisible Hits Hour.’ Schieber, one time co-owner of Schoolkids and Used Kids Records plus his own production and record label, started bringing shows to Stache’s under the label No Other Presents in 1983. ’We were doing things in 1983, bringing in the kind of shows, that had never been played in Columbus,’ Schieber said. Schieber and his partner Mark Moormann went out of their way to bring acts which might be considered Alternative or Underground music.’ We knew there was an audience for it, because we were selling the records,’ Schieber said. Schieber brought such bands as The Violent Femmes, The Replacements and The Butthole Surfers through Stache’s doors.’ Stache’s has always been able to offer a well balanced diet of music,’ Schieber said. Schieber brought his final band to Stache’s in 1988.
The bands didn’t stop coming to Columbus. Stache’s has continued to bring in a wide variety of talent. The Red Hot Chili Peppers [see what I mean? aargh! -editor], Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Nirvana are just a few of the better known names that have played the venue, Dougan said. Stache’s has also supported local bands. ’I think the bands in Columbus are great,’ Dougan said. ‘Columbus audiences don’t realize how great the bands are here.’ Stache’s has given artists, who may not be well known to mainstream society, a chance to play, and for Dougan that is what the bar is about, Dougan said. ’It’s not about what’s going to be the next big thing. It’s the other shows, that aren’t big, that make it work; artists who are good at their craft,’ Dougan said. Whoever they are coming to see, Stache’s does have it’s regulars. Lisa Mirman, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, has been visiting the club for 12 years. ‘It’s my favorite hole in the wall,’ Mirman said. ‘It’s the only place to see a band.’
Dougan plans to open a new bar, ‘Little Brothers,’ in the Short North in the old Gene’s Furniture building. ’Same attitude but a little bigger,’ Dougan said. Up until the move Dougan will host a series of benefit shows to finance the new location. The next benefit will be Nov. 27 and at this time Ishkabible and Dog Rocket have signed on to play. Stache’s may be closing, but the memories remain in the stories of the many people who have spent time there. Like the time The Red Hot Chili Peppers played in jock straps [here we go again – sigh], Dougan said. Or, when Sun Ra had 15 people on stage including a group of fire eaters. There is even a rumor that a Stache’s patron smashed out the windows of Nirvana’s van because Kurt Cobain flirted with the patron’s girlfriend. But, when asked about that rumor Dougan just smiled and said, ‘no comment.”
* Johnny Davis would also celebrate Dan Morgan and Stache’s under-sung role in fueling the vitality of Columbus’s 1980s local scene in his piece “Stashed Away” for Columbus Magazine.
On my one and only visit to Northampton, Massachusetts (NRBQ’s 35th anniversary show in 2004), I ducked into a second-hand vinyl shop and came away with a K-Tel country collection from 1976: Country Superstars – 20 Greatest Hits.
Lost to the winds of time, unfortunately, is the institutional knowledge at Canada’s K-Tel corporation as to who made the curious decision to include a “country bossa nova” song from 1964 – Skeeter Davis‘s charming kiss-off “Gonna Get Along Without You Now“:
“Gonna Get Along Without You Now” Skeeter Davis ‘K-Tel version’
But wait: as it turns out, Skeeter Davis’s version would hit two times, the second time being 1971 (thanks, Wikipedia), hence its inclusion on a K-Tel 1970s country compilation. The version above – it just dawned on me – is a ‘new’ arrangement from 1971. The original release from 1964 below sounds markedly different:
“Gonna Get Along Without You Now” Skeeter Davis 1964
Could this be the first county pop number to take commercial advantage of the fresh bossa nova sounds that were sweeping popular music in the early-to-mid 1960s?
US 45 UK release
“Gonna Get Along Without You Now” was written by Milton Kellem in 1951 and has been covered in a wide variety of styles to date – more recently, Zooey Deschanel & Matt Ward (as She and Him) in 2010. Kellem’s name would be associated with a number of 45s, from the 50s & 60s, including a King B-side for Bubber Johnson, ’59’s “House of Love.”
I own 50 or more K-Tel (and Ronco) hits LPs that were issued from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. I almost passed on Music Power recently, since the cover looked so similar to K-Tel’s other offerings from the early 70s, but upon closer examination, I had to admit there were a few tracks i did not recognize — most conspicuously, “The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion)” by Gordon Sinclair:
“The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion)” Gordon Sinclair 1973
Sinclair, who describes Americans as “the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people in all the world,” points out that the U.S. has used its resources and expertise to implement flood control measures on the Yellow, Yangtze, Nile, Amazon, Ganges, and the Niger Rivers — yet “no foreign land has sent a dollar to help” the U.S. during the Mississippi Flood of 1973. Sinclair, unsurprisingly, nurses other grievances, and he’s not afraid to voice them.
Gordon Sinclair: unlikely pop star
Wikipedia picks up the story from here:
“On June 5, 1973, following news that the American Red Cross had run out of money as a result of aid efforts for recent natural disasters, Sinclair recorded what would become his most famous radio editorial, “The Americans.” While paying tribute to American success, ingenuity, and generosity to people in need abroad, Sinclair decried that when America faced crisis itself, it often seemed to face that crisis alone.
At the time, Sinclair considered the piece to be nothing more than one of his usual items. But when U.S. News & World Report published a full transcript, the magazine was flooded with requests for copies. Radio station WWDC-AM in Washington, D.C. started playing a recording of Sinclair’s commentary with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” playing in the background. Sinclair told the Star in November 1973 that he had received 8,000 letters about his commentary.
With the strong response generated by the editorial, a recording of Sinclair’s commentary was sold as a single with all profits going to the American Red Cross. ‘The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion)’ went to #24 on the Billboard Hot 100, making the 73-year-old Sinclair the 2nd-oldest living person ever to have a Billboard U.S. Top 40 hit (75-year-old Moms Mabley had a Top 40 hit in 1969 with ‘Abraham, Martin & John’).”
Does K-Tel’s Music Power include all four minutes and fifty-five seconds of “The Americans”? Just by looking at the length of each track on the record itself, I can see that K-Tel has edited this long-winded diatribe easily by half. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine many other instances where K-Tel would include spoken-word narration with incidental musical backing. Are there other such examples Zero to 180 is legally obligated to ponder.
Original K-Tel ad for ‘Music Power’ LP — Why No excerpt from the Gordon Sinclair Hit?
Blue Mink is a British musical group that enjoyed 6 Top 20 hits in the UK from 1969-1973 but only one chart appearance (“Our World” #64) here in the US. I had assumed from the appearance of their #9 UK hit “Randy” on K-Tel 1973 hits album, Fantastic 22 Original Hits 22 Original Stars, that maybe this winsome Wings-like pop rocker had enjoyed some American radio airplay, but the song – I’m surprised to learn – failed to chart here. EMI issued “Randy” as a single in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Spain & New Zealand — but not in the Americas. K-Tel, therefore, served as the sole American distributor for this one particular Blue Mink track, “Randy.”
K-Tel’s version (it defies belief) is actually a shortened version of the song that fades out ever so tantalizingly around the 2-minute mark, just as twin guitars take joyously to flight — my American ears are still adjusting to the “extended” instrumental solo & other final bits:
Blue Mink comprised top-tier London studio musicians — Roger Coulam (keyboards), Madeline Bell (vox), Herbie Flowers (bass), Alan Parker (guitar), and Barry Morgan (drums). Vocalist Roger Cook wrote the group’s songs with Roger Greenaway.
The previous year Blue Mink had released a single “Wacky Wacky Wacky” that was surprisingly restrained for a song that all but advertised hilarity and hijinks. This 1972 UK television appearance is the only form in which this overlooked single resides on YouTube*:
Blue Mink: Active Supporter of Independent UK Radio
Blue Mink performed the jingle (written by Cook/Greenaway – arranged by George Martin) for early UK independent – Capital Radio – who first went on the air October 16, 1973 with (1) the British national anthem, “God Save the Queen”; followed by (2) a message from station director, Richard Attenborough; (3) then Blue Mink’s Capital Radio jingle; followed by (4) Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” [Capital Radio’s first commercial was for Bird’s Eye fish fingers].