This song sounds to me like an obvious – and instantaneous – hit:
“Phantom Lover” Marv Lockard 1967
And yet so little information exists about this classic 1967 production from Shad O’Shea‘s Counterpart Records, with its deep bass grooves and warm reverb.
Three years prior, Marv Lockard – as part of The Dolphins – would record a song at King Records (“Hey-Da-Da-Dow”) that would catch the ear of Harry Carlson, who would issue it on Fraternity and have a #69 pop hit in late 1964. According to Buckeye Beat, Kenny Smith, former host of Cincinnati’s “Soul Street” TV show – and subject of a previous Zero to 180 celebration – assisted with the song’s production.
Fun to note that “Phantom Lover” was part of the set list for Portland, Oregon radio’s XRAY FM first annual Halloween Show in 2014.
One thing you will not experience in a Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million: finding something inside the book you just bought, such as a newspaper clipping that pertains to the book in question (typical) or a press release from the publisher (also common). More unusual would be to find cut-up pages of the liner notes to a Marc Bolan & T. Rex CD anthology, which is what I found inside Marc Bolan: The Legendary Years by John & Shan Bramley this past summer in, of all places, Ocean City, Maryland – one of the least literary places on Earth.
Marc Bolan, according to the authors, would try – and fail – to achieve in the U.S. the level of fame that he enjoyed in the UK, Europe and elsewhere. In 1974, around the peak of his popularity, Bolan’s new album would be attributed (to the horror of EMI) not as Marc Bolan and/or T. Rex but as Zinc Alloy&the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow!
Check out the prominent Clavinet in the opening to “The Avengers (Superbad)” from Zinc Alloy’s A Creamed Cage in August – an obvious nod to The Godfather of Soul:
“The Avengers” Zinc Alloy & the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow 1974
As the authors explain:
“Far removed from white swans, magical moons and metal gurus, the new album was awaited eagerly. The final change was to the band’s title. By Marc’s own admission, T. Rex was no more. What he now had was a solo career with a great bunch of musicians and the official band title became: Marc Bolan and T. Rex as Zinc Alloy & the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow. Supposedly, this was to give Marc the scope to bring in changes, as and when he felt them worthy, without confusing his fans. A rerun of the uncertainty surrounding the band’s survival in 1969 when Tyrannosaurus Rex lost Steve Took was not to be allowed to happen again.
Bramley & Bramley help remind us of the album’s historical context:
“A little-known fact is that, although when released the album was accredited to Marc Bolan and T. Rex, and the title was as given, this was not as Bolan had planned it. When the album artwork was first delivered to EMI, the names of neither Marc Bolan nor T. Rex were anywhere to be seen. The artwork was innovative for its time: a cream-coloured sleeve, with an interwoven photograph of Marc in its centre and the words on the cover, Zinc Alloy & the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow were written in a flowing ink-pen style. The sleeve then opened upwards and to either side, each movement taking a little of the image of Bolan with it finally to reveal an airbrushed portrait of his face. In the bottom right-hand corner, in the same style as the name, was the title: ‘A Creamed Cage in August’.”
Discogs.com reveals that Zinc Alloy would enjoy release in the UK, Yugoslavia, Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Japan in 1974.
Last November’s tribute to the funkiest musical instrument known to humankind would seem to designate NRBQ‘s “Stomp” (recorded December, 1968) as among the earliest of recordings to feature the clavinet, even though by article’s end I reveal my trump card: “Attractive Girl” by The Termites — an album track on 1967’s Do the Rock Steady, a Studio One LP that was originally released in Jamaica and the UK.
My gratitude to the mysterious Felix, who points out that Don Sebesky‘s “Water Brother” from 1968’s Distant Galaxy album – based on the recording date – undoubtedly precedes NRBQ’s first recordings for Columbia and highlights the clavinet work of Sebesky himself:
“Water Brother” Don Sebesky 1968
Distant Galaxy, Sebesky’s second album for Verve, would find Larry Coryell (again) on guitar (“Lady Madonna”) and sitar (“Guru-Vin”), along with Chuck Rainey, Dick Hyman and Hubert Laws, among others, providing musical support.
Although a solo artist from the late 1960s through the 1990s, Sebesky enjoys much greater renown as an arranger, whose CV includes Jimmy Dean, Astrud Gilberto, Sonny Stitt, Dionne Warwicke, Esther Phillips, Hank Crawford, Leslie Uggams, George Benson, Maynard Ferguson, Gilbert Bécaud, Paul Desmond, Charles Brown, Wes Montgomery, Willie Bobo, Walter Wanderley, Doc Severinson, Carmen McRae, and Roberta Flack.
Sebesky’s earliest recognition, however, was for his jazz trombone work with Kai Winding, Tommy Dorsey, and Stan Kenton, among others.
Check out the assemblage of talent for Don Sebesky’s 1973 2-LP set
Unfortunately, I’m about to pull another trump card of sorts out of my sleeve: Aaron Kipness’s Hohnet Clavinet FAQ from 2007 in which the question of First Clavinet Recordings is addressed on page ten. Stevie Wonder (to no one’s surprise) is identified as a potential clavinet originator; “Shoo–Be–Doo–Be–Doo–Da–Day,” which opens with a funky clavinet riff, was released, according to the FAQ, in 1966! Upon closer inspection, however, credible sources point to March, 1968 as the song’s actual release date.
The FAQ, additionally, offers Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You” (released January, 8, 1968 and recorded, according to Soulful Kinda Music, three days prior) as an early clavinet recording, which it is.
Nevertheless, “Attractive Girl” by The Termites – a track from their 1967 Studio One LP Do the Rock Steady remains, as best as I can determine, the medal bearer for Earliest Clavinet Recording.
Clavinet Update! Special thanks to Jim Kimsey, whose March, 2016 comment ponied up “Six O’Clock” by (NRBQ fan) John Sebastian & The Lovin’ Spoonful – recorded in 1967 – as a new candidate for “Earliest Clavinet Recording” — now tied with “Attractive Girl” by The Termites.
Bob Johnston – who famously produced Dylan‘s Highway 65 Revisited & Blonde on Blonde and Johnny Cash‘s Folsom Prison, among many other classic albums – left us last August. How startling to discover that Johnston used Nashville’s finest session musicians in 1966 to record a “dazzling anti-masterpiece” (as notes AllMusic’s Mark Deming) that delighted in “punking” the pop radio hits of the day – a Columbia release with the comically bloated title, Moldy Goldies: Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston And His Mystic Knights Band And Street Singers Attack The Hits.
Sean Wilentz, in Bob Dylan in America, would deem it “one of the most obscure rock albums of the 1960s.” Nashville Cream, in a 2012 interview with Johnston, would describe the album as, “superbly demented.”
Check out the vaguely Sgt.Pepper-inspired album cover:
And yet this album was released in 1966 – prior to Pepper!
Listen as Bob and the boys deconstruct Shirley Ellis’s “The Name Game” to hilarious effect (this will require, unfortunately, that you manually drag the “progress bar” all the way to the 25:35 point — very last song on the album). Try not to laugh when Johnston starts to lose it:
Bob Johnston’s entire ‘Moldy goldies/Colonel Jubilation’ album
Leader: Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston Bass: Henry “Big Irish” Strzelecki Drums: Kenneth “Sledgehammer” Buttrey Tambourine: Durl Glin, Kenneth “Sledgehammer” Buttrey Guitar: Charlie “Bugs” McCoy, One-Finger Mac Gayden Upright Piano: Hargus “Pig” Robbins Player Piano: Jerry Smith Harmonica: Charlie “Bugs” McCoy, Henry “Big Irish” Strzelecki Trombone: Wayne “Tailgate” Butler Trumpet: Charlie “Bugs” McCoy*, “Taps” Tidwell Violin: Brenton “Ping-Pong” Banks Vocals: Durl Glin, Princess La Mar Fike, Mortuary Thomasson, Tommy “Mole” Hill Vocals: [Swamp Women] – Incomparable R. Lean, Luscious Norma Jean Owen Producer: Bob Johnston Engineer: Mortuary Thomasson
NoBullying.com, in their April, 2015 piece entitled “Songs About Depression,” reminds us Beatles fans that the song “Every Night” from Paul McCartney’s debut solo album — recorded while still legally a Beatle — was created while the bassist was battling depression.
How nice to see Richie Havens take this song and imbue it with his own very upful feeling:
“Every Night” Richie Havens 1980
Elektra would release “Every Night” b/w “Here’s a Song” as a single. “Every Night” would also find itself in the enviable position of side one, track two on Havens’ Connections LP, released in 1980.
Richie Havens: Vocals & Rhythm Guitar Ann Lang & Gail Wynters: Backing Vocals Andy Newmark: Drums Chuck Rainey: Bass Montego Joe: Congas & Tambourine Elliot Randall, Jeffrey Baxter: Electric Guitar Jack Waldman: Keyboards
When Were 8-Track Tapes Officially Put Out to Pasture?
1980 sounds a little late for 8-track tapes possibly — makes me wonder when production finally ceased for that lowly country mouse of audio playback formats (created by Bill Lear of celebrity jet fame). According to technology-and-society blog, For the First Time (or the Last Time):
“There is a debate about the last commercially released 8-track by a major label, but many agree it was Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits in November 1988. Some 8-track titles were still available through record clubs until 1989. Many of these late-period releases are highly collectible due to the low numbers that were produced. Among the most rare is Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Texas Flood. The record club-only 8-track cartridge that seems to sell for the highest amount is The Police’s The Singles, which has sold for over $200 for a single copy. Another highly sought-after title among collectors has been The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, which has sold for over $100 for an open copy in average condition.”
Amen Corner is one group who has managed to capture the joy of unstructured play time at school — that midday break known as “Recess“:
“Recess” Amen Corner 1969
This song has particular meaning for me, as I am a PTA parent who is heading up a Recess Committee to improve the quality of the daily playtime experience at my children’s school.
That’s Andy Fairweather–Low, by the way, vocalizing a song he himself did not compose (that would be a gentleman by the surname of Henderson) but one he did, nonetheless, produce, along with (early Kinks/Who producer) Shel Talmy, for the entire 1969 album, Farewell to the Real Magnificent Seven, on which “Recess” appears.
One has to wonder whether the Columbus, Ohio combo – Purple Reign – sought legal counsel over the homophonic similarity of the band’s name with the title of Prince’s career-defining album (22 million sales worldwide to date) and movie from 1984, Purple Rain:
“Wish You Didn’t Have to Go” Purple Reign 1968
Note the singer’s ingenious use of “home-spun” echo on the song’s chorus — who needs expensive gadgetry and special effects when you can be your own Echoplex?
How fun to see (as a former Ohio State student who frequented record shops) that Used Kids Records (a subsidiary of Columbus-based School Kids Records) sold this 45 a couple years ago for sixteen bucks. As Buckeye Beat notes, this 7-inch recording is a “split” single, which means a different artist on the flip side — in this case, Touches of Gold.
Check out Hillside‘s built-in ad on the 45 label itself: “For Rent Guitars – Amps – Microphones – Organ – Piano – Speakers – P.A. Systems”:
ABC once broadcast a 4-part television special in 1960 called The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis. This was to be the hip-swiveler’s first television appearance in three years since being discharged from military service.
Poster Art by Al Hirschfeld?
At one point, Elvis threatens to get upstaged by a fresh, jazzy near-instrumental but for the phrase, “uh oh” that sounds as if voiced by a pair of “nutty squirrels” (i.e., poor man’s Alvin & the Chipmunks):
“Uh Oh” The Nutty Squirrels 1959
“Uh Oh” – the debut single by The Nutty Squirrels, a creation of Sascha Burland and Don Elliott – would enjoy release in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia & New Zealand. The duo would follow “Uh Oh” with “Uh Huh” (a 4-song EP) and a third single, “Eager Beaver” b/w “Zowee” — all tracks from their debut Hanover album — before making the leap in 1960 to almighty Columbia, who issued an LP and Christmas 45.
In 1963, The Nutty Squirrels would issue a 45 on RCA and one final LP (A Hard Day’s Night) on MGM the following year.
Wikipedia claims that  “The Squirrels actually preceded the Chipmunks on television in an animated cartoon, but with much less success”;  “Uh Oh (pt. 1)” just about grazed the Top-40 (#45), while “Uh Oh (pt. 2)” climbed to #14 Pop and #9 R&B in 1959; and  The Squirrels would have one last fling with commercial success in 1976 as “Shirley & Squirrely” via a CB-radio novelty single, “Hey Shirley (This is Squirrely),” that reached #48 Pop and #28 Country.
Frankly, I’m surprised how little has been written about (original Fleetwood Mac guitarist) Peter Green‘s wondrous flight of fancy – “Hidden Depth” – a musical simulation of being strapped into a deep-sea submersible and dropped ever so slowly to the ocean’s bottom. Marvel at the musical tranquility:
“Hidden Depth” Peter Green 1970
Sounds a bit like the second set at a Grateful Dead concert with Jerry Garcia on lead guitar, does it not?
From an album whose title – The End of the Game – allegedly expressed Peter Green’s unambiguous intent to sever ties with the predatory and profit-driven “showbiz” machinery. Seth at Julian Cope’s Head Heritage website, however, challenges the conventional wisdom that Green retired his guitar for 8 years or more upon completing his first solo album:
“It’s a commonplace assumption that the “The End Of The Game” signaled on several levels not only a farewell by Green to the trappings of rock’n’roll stardom but a wholesale withdrawal from performing music altogether. But Green did continue recording directly after the completion of “The End Of The Game,” contributing session guitar in a quick succession to records by Memphis Slim, Country Joe McDonald and even Toe Fat (their second album — not the one you and I bought and then consequently spent a weekend beating the floor with both head and hands at how an album with a cover so cool and grossed out could be such a full scale disappointment.) Not to mention two further solo singles on Reprise before 1972 came and passed — roughly the period when Green’s retirement began, continuing for nearly the rest of the decade.”
Front cover employs variant strain of the “future shock” typeface
Seth also picks up on the Grateful Dead-isms, noting that “Nick Buck’s organ colourations [on “Hidden Depth”] take on the same role of melancholy as Rick Wright’s from “Mudmen” [Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds] or Tom Constanten’s emerging springtime renewal in “Quadlibet For Tender Feet” off side one of [The Grateful Dead’s] Anthem Of The Sun.
You can also obtain “Hidden Depth” by somehow getting your hands on a copy of 1971 Warner Brothers sampler LP, Non-Dairy Creamer.
At one point in its week-long tribute to master percussionists, Noel ‘Scully‘ Simms and Uzziah ‘Sticky‘ Thompson, Zero to 180 quoted Discogs.com’s bold claim that Simms is “arguably the first Jamaican artist to release a record single” — but then played the indignant card by loudly noting Discogs’ failure to identify the title of this historic recording.
“The duo of Noel ‘Zoot’ Sims and Arthur ‘Bunny’ Robinson–known first as Sims and Robinson and later as Bunny and Skully–were the first Jamaican artists to record blues ballads and home-grown R&B, initially for exclusive sound system acetates. ‘We started off the first recording in Jamaica on soft wax, for Dada Tewari,’ the now partially sighted Skully wistfully recalls, perched on the kerb outside Kington’s Sonic Sounds. ‘We did the first recordings in 1953 in a little demo studio at the corner of Hanover Street and Lawes Street — he had a little matches box with quarter-inch tape, but he used to do calypso recording in there with Count Lasher [Terence Perkins], Lord Flea [Norman Thomas], Count Owen [Owen Emanuel] and Lord Tanamo’ [Joseph Gordon].
“Skully remembers cutting only two songs at this initial session: ‘End of Time’ and ‘Give Me Another Chance.’ That was the first tunes made apart from Calaypsonians,’ he recalls proudly. ‘That was the first R&B.’ According to Skully, Tewari was not present during the session, which was arranged by the resident pianist. ‘He really wasn’t so much of a producer,’ says Skully of Tewari. ‘It was an Indian who owned the theatre that they call Tivoli. Williams played keyboard, and you had Lloyd Brevett’s father playing bass, a drummer by the name of Percy, and Val Bennett played the saxophone. I don’t know if him release them, but we got £37 — ‘nough money for me and Bunny.”
My favorite ‘Scully’ Simms song is one of his last as vocalist-bandleader — “Small Garden” from 1972:
“Small Garden” Noel ‘Zoot’ Simms 1972
Fascinating moment when I it suddenly occurred to me why the “walking razor” lyric you hear in the first verse, with a chorus that threatens, “Don’t you watch them size, them little but they’re dangerous” sounds so familiar: Peter Tosh sang something very similar for 1967‘s (& 1977‘s) “Stepping Razor” (written by Joe Higgs). Also, with respect to the song’s spoken-word intro, David Katz also points out in Solid Foundation that Simms is “one of the first Jamaican musicians to use Amharic phrases in songs after learning them from Rasta leader, Mortimer Planno.”
“Sublime, rootical, elliptical warning about a variety of blistering, dangerous pest all of us have to cross vines with. The small garden that gathers the bitter weed. Enid on backing vocals. Lovely and profound.”
This “Bunny & Skully” message thread on the Blood & Fire chatboard includes a very helpful discography of Noel ‘Scully” Simms that comes directly from Roger Dalke’s A Scorcha from Studio One discography.
‘Sticky‘ & ‘Scully‘: Analog Percussionists in a Digital Age
It is sad to read a 2003 Jamaica Observer interview with Uzziah ‘Sticky‘ Thompson in which he bemoans the decreasing opportunities for hand percussionists in the new century. Jamaica Observer’s ‘Chordially Speaking’ writes in the introduction about “the death of the reggae percussionist” and that “demand for the [hand percussion] sound has fallen out of favour with contemporary acts.” By way of contrast, this same writer notes the plum work assignments ‘Sticky’ enjoyed going back to the 1960s:
“It was at Reid’s studio that he started playing percussion, rocking on ‘Little Did You Know’ before heading off to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s rising Upsetters label.
Thompson stayed with Perry for five years, playing on outstanding sides such as The Wailers’ Soul Rebel and Duppy Conqueror and Junior Byles’ Beat Down Babylon. In the mid 1970s, he was a regular session player at Channel One where his sound can be heard on The Mighty Diamonds’ Roof Over My Head and John Holt’s Up Park Camp.