I’ve always appreciated how They Might Be Giants respect their fanbase and labor hard to provide high value for the entertainment dollar. While their music has always had strong appeal to a younger demographic, in recent years They Might Be Giants have released albums aimed squarely at the school-age crowd, such as Here Comes the ABCs, (released as 25 tracks on CD, 39 on DVD) which has gotten a lot of airplay around our house. Note the clever lyric and accompanying animation sequence for “Alphabet Lost and Found“:
“Alphabet Lost and Found” They Might Be Giants 2005
There is a good reason why this YouTube clip was uploaded under the name of “DisneyMusic” — so says Wikipedia:
“While [the album] was produced and released by Walt Disney Records, the band was reportedly given complete creative control over the project, which at the time was very unusual for Walt Disney Records, which had until then followed a strict artist control policy. As a result, the DVD features a variety of puppetry, animation and live action supplied by personal friends of the group, including A.J. Schnack, who directed the TMBG documentary Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns). For guest vocals on a few tracks, they turned to family: John Flansburgh’s wife Robin Goldwasser, and John Linnell’s son, Henry. The music videos that appear on the DVD were also aired (in part or whole) on the Disney Channel’s children’s programming block, Playhouse Disney.”
Sounds like Alvino Rey‘s “Sono-Vox” being employed in the phased backing vocals — or some simulation thereof, yes?
Divya Srinivasan is the artistic hand behind the animation on “Alphabet Lost and Found” — check out the rest of her work at her website, which includes an animation reel and illustration slide show.
Here Come the ABCs would be the successor to No!, their first formal children’s album.TMBG Flexi-Disc Trivia
For their April 1992 edition, Reflex Magazine would release a “split“ 331/3 RPM flexidisc: XTC b/w TMBG! Side A features “Rip Van Reuben” – a home demo of an Andy Partridge compostion – with They Might Be Giants’s “Moving to the Sun” on the flip side.
I am struck by the number of Scotty Moore–produced 45s from the late 60s/early 70s that are not available for preview on YouTube due to their relative obscurity — most especially the rare Otis Redding tribute “We’re Gonna Miss You, Otis” b/w “Macon,” whose B-side was actually written by Moore, whose spirit left us four weeks ago today.
Fortunately, that’s not the case for a memorable garage rock 45 from 1966 on tiny little label, Down Home, that bears production credits by Scotty Moore, along with session keyboardist, songwriter, publisher and producer Jerry Smith (who played piano on Dick Curless’ 1973 Live at the Wheeling Truck Driver’s Jamboree album). Check out the heavy rockabilly guitar break in the middle of “Ain’t About to Lose My Cool” by The Original Dukes:
“Ain’t About to Lose My Cool” The Original Dukes 1966
Charles Best: Organ & vocals James Hickman: Guitar James Sonday: Drums Richard Martin: Bass, Sax & Harmonica
Not much seems to be known about The Original Dukes, other than they hailed from Indianapolis. Prepare to fork over a little dough should you decide to own an original copy of this 45.
Note the (unintended?) wordplay of the song’s authorship — “Sonday/Best.”
“Ain’t About to Lose My Cool” would make the lineup for Volume 3 of the Greg Shaw-curated Pebbles series of indie garage 45s taken from his own collection of over one million records.
In the inevitable Beatles vs. Stones (straw man) debate, I intensely resent having to pick sides, since the very idea of one without the other is laughable at best. Nevertheless, this lifelong Beatles fan takes a certain fiendish thrill in devoting an entire blog post to those albums in which non-Stones groups play nothing but Rolling Stones tunes.
Kicking off this Stones-ploitation trend, appropriately enough, is their manager and svengali, Andrew Loog Oldham, who would arrange “polite” instrumental versions of early Stones songs for 1965’s The Rolling Stones Songbook under the name Andrew Oldham Orchestra. The Verve, you may recall, sampled the album’s final cut – “The Last Time” – for use in the dramatic opening strains of their huge 1997 hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony” but would not get to enjoy any of the royalties generated (sales, Nike ads, sporting event performances) due to the hardball tactics of the composition’s holder of copyright, ABKCO’s Allen Klein — as this exclusive excerpt from Fred Goodman’s new biography makes clear.
Joe Pass – as noted early in this blog’s existence – would release his seminal survey of mid-60s Stones, Stones Jazz, the following year in 1966. But a couple of other notable ‘Stones-centric’ albums would hit the marketplace that same year: (a) Baroque ‘n’ Stones by The New Renaissance Society and (b) A Tribute to The Rolling Stones by The Pupils.
Four years hence,The Winstons would record their unabashed tribute to the Rolling Stones, notable primarily for its provocative “jail bait” cover, while two years later, The Collection would issue the only album of their career — a musical salute to the Stones, naturally — with a similarly risque front cover image.
The Winstons 1970 The Collection 1972
1972 would also bear witness to one more cash-in effort, Rolling Stones Vol. 2 (unclear whether Vol. 1 was ever issued), by the confusingly-possessive Monkey’s Pop Group, whose only known LP was issued on French label, Les Tréteaux.1973 would bring five (count ’em) Rolling Stone tribute albums, including —
(1) a pair of delightfully kitschy covers from the “group” Rockery:
(5) a tribute album by a group of Dutch musicians who departed at recording’s end with such frenzied haste, history never had a chance to record their identity:By the 1980s, unfortunately, it was clear that Stones-ploitation’s Golden Age had passed. Flash would issue Keep on Rolling in 1981 – impressively on CBS imprint, Epic – while that same year would see the release of Rolling Hits’ one and only album, Rolling Hits Medley, incredibly on major labels (Mercury, Polydor, Philips) in at least 10 countries, including Peru.
I was perhaps five when I encountered my first soundalike cash-in album in the form of a Beatle knockoff group, The Liverpools (as previously recounted), and then again not long after when I got suckered by one of those TV ads for 18 Golden Hits of 1971, as rendered by The Sound Effects (though it is possible I fell for the previous year’s 18 Golden Hits of 1970, which does not even bear the name of the artist-for-hire).
UDiscoverMusic, similarly, writes of a curious and confounding time “when cut-price soundalike recordings ruled the British charts” — 45 years ago, to be precise, when there was a brief change in the chart eligibility rules, and before you knew it, Top of the Pops 18 was dislodging The Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favour from the #1 spot!
Just when you thought the “Honky Tonk Woman” carcass had been picked completely clean, one more interesting thing would somehow turn up — this moving and quaintly rocking tale of a British working-class family:
“The greengrocer venture did not herald the end of Carlo’s musical career. He joined yet another band at this time: Hurricane, which was put together by producer Mal Gray, and included pianist Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee, guitarist Dave Wendels, and on bass Stuart Colman. (Stuart and his wife Janet are Godparents to Carlo’s eldest daughter. He later had success as a producer and had many hit records with Shakin’ Stevens and others). Other musicians involved with the band included Dick Middleton and Matthew Fisher. The band were signed to Decca and recorded an album.
Although their single ‘Mama Was A Honky Tonk Woman‘ had good reviews, they did not manage to achieve further success.”
“Later that year  Stuart joined Hurricane, a band originally formed by Mal Gray (of the Wild Angels). As it turned out, Gray only briefly performed with the band, however they proved popular touring on the Northern club circuit. The other band members were established in British Rock n Roll; Dave Wendells (guitar) and Carlo Little (drums) had both been with Screaming Lord Sutch, while on piano, the incomparable Freddie Fingers Lee added further mayhem.
SC: “Freddie would take out his glass eye on stage and throw it to me to catch. Usually I caught it, but one night I missed and his eye disappeared down a hole in the stage. We had another gig to go on to, but couldn’t go until we’d found Freddie’s eye, so we went under the stage, crawling around with torches and finally found it all covered in cobwebs. Freddie put it straight back in!”
On arriving at the next gig an hour late, the promoter refused to believe their excuses and smacked Freddie in the face. SC: “We did our set, but we didn’t get paid.” The glamorous lifestyle of a touring rock n roller! The band released one single, ‘Mama Was A Honky Tonk Woman’/’Shakin’ an’ Breakin’’ (Decca F13435) which failed to make any impression on the charts despite the ‘B’ side being a strong rocker.”
The use of fuzz bass on the catchy singalong chorus makes for a great hook, not to mention the sweet major 7th key change toward the end that kicks the song into one last gear.
Don Davis, who produced Albert King‘s King Albert album in 1977, would come up with a song title that would get appropriated lock, stock and barrel eight years later by a former blues band from London:
“Honkey Tonk Woman” (Don Davis and) The Fabulous Playboys 1961
“Honkey Tonk Woman” often commands three figures at auction, especially in the UK, where it is considered a “northern soul” or “soul mod” classic.
Twenty-two years or so later, Worrell would arrange “Call My Job” for the mighty bluesman, Albert King. Curiously, Worrell’s contribution to King’s 1978 album King Albert might have faded into history’s background had not this particular detail been noted on the 45 release “Love Shock” b/w “Call My Job,” given that Worrell’s name is otherwise missing from the album credits: (or misspelled):
“Call My Job” Albert King 1978
Text beneath “Albert King” – when magnified – identifies Bernie Worrell as arranger
Albert King: Guitar & Vocals Aaron Willis & Ray Tini, Jr.: Guitar Anthony Willis: Bass Dwayne Lomax: Drums Barbara Huby & Larry Fratangelo: Percussion Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns: Horns Rudy Robinson: Keyboards
Albert King’s 1977 LP ‘King Albert’
Is it fair to assume that Bernie Worrell’s arrangement responsibilities extended to the horns? Album produced by Don Davis, whose name you will see once more in the very near future.
Dave Thompson would point out in his 2001 history of Funk:
“The [Isaac] Hayes/[David] Porter team was responsible for hits across the Stax spectrum, including Carla Thomas’s ‘B-A-B-Y,’ Sam & Dave’s ‘Hold On! I’m a Comin” and ‘Soul Man,’ Ruby Johnson’s ‘I’ll Run Your Hurt Away,’ and The Astors‘ ‘In the Twilight Zone‘ — a song that was subsequently, memorably, borrowed by Blondie as the basis for ‘Rifle Range‘”:
Rhythm Message‘s history of The Astors would have this to say about “In the Twilight Zone,” the group’s follow-up to #63 pop hit, the (Steve) Cropper- & (Isaac) Hayes-penned “Candy“:
“The fourth Satellite-Stax release was ‘In the Twilight Zone’ (Stax S-179), penned by Isaac Hayes, Dave Porter and Sidney Bailey and again with Curtis on lead vocal. This is probably the hardest to find of the three Stax label releases. Whereas “Candy” with its up tempo danceable momentum is understandably a long time favourite on the [UK] northern scene with the ‘oldies’ crowd, ‘Twilight Zone’ complete with its eerie related theme intro and moody mid tempo quality has attracted more recent interest on the rare soul scene in the UK.”
Interesting to note that, at one point early in their career, The Astors would be briefly named The Chips after the (recently-departed) Memphis-based guitarist, songwriter, and producer, Chips Moman.
Billboard would note that, for the week of October 16, 1965, Al Jefferson of Baltimore’s WWIN AM radio would identify “In the Twilight Zone” as one of his top choices for (R&B) “Pick-of-the-Week” — the following week, Reuben T. (Mad Lad) Washington of KNOK in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area would make the same decision.
For those keeping count, today’s piece is (gulp) the 666th posted since Zero to 180 began December 12, 2012. What better way to face down this (meaningless) milestone by paying tribute to a classic television series – and also a musical ensemble – that bravely broke the bounds of conformist thought, intrepid travelers who dared to confront “the fifth dimension.” No, the band in question is not The 5th Dimension (although, good guess) but in actual fact The Grateful Dead, who (not everyone seems to be aware) recorded the theme music to the revitalized TV series in 1985:
Opening & Closing Theme – “Twilight Zone” The Grateful Dead 1985
As Blair Jackson would note in Garcia: An American Life — “The band and [Merl] Saunders worked out a new main theme, which was a short dissonant burst of ‘space‘ ending in a variation of the original Twilight Zone theme by Marius Constant.”
Dennis McNally would document some of the historical particulars of the Twilight Zone experience in 2002’s A Long Strange Trip:
“Few shows could possibly have been more appealing to the Dead and Garcia, who remarked, ‘Man, I live in the Twilight Zone.’ They leaped at the chance to record their own version of the signature three-note motif that identified the show. They didn’t stop there. [Producer Rick] DeGuere and his music director, Merl Saunders, came to a board meeting to discuss the band’s doing all of the music for the show, the ‘stings’ and ‘bumpers’ that set the atmospheric soundscape. Garcia left the meeting early, announcing that he voted yes. Lesh was ‘adamantly opposed,’ recalled DeGuere, and the decision was made to proceed without him.
They set to work, and while their music was appropriate and effective, the deal’s business aspects were badly handled, dooming the project to continuous friction among all parties involved. [Grateful Dead legal counsel] Hal Kant had delegated the negotiation of the arrangement with CBS to an associate, who didn’t know the Dead very well and produced a fairly standard contract. The head of the music department at CBS [Robert Drasnin, presumably] didn’t like the deal, since he now had no control, which put Merl in the middle of both an unhappy CBS and the Dead. Very quickly, Mickey Hart took the lead for the Dead in the studio, and proved to have a gift for sound design. Just as they began, he went into the hospital for back surgery, and ordered that all the necessary equipment be set up in his room. At first [road manager] Ram Rod vetoed this seeming insanity, but Mickey pleaded, ‘When I wake up, I want to go to work.’ The Demerol he’d gotten for his surgery proved to be aesthetically stimulating, and he produced music for the first four episodes from bed.”
The loss of Phil Lesh, the band member most closely linked to the musical avant-garde, is a notable one.
Composer, Robert Drasnin, as Variety noted in its obituary posted on May 15, 2105, would have a central role to play:
“While head of CBS’ music department in the 1980s, he worked with the Grateful Dead on music for the revived Twilight Zone series, along with scoring several episodes himself.”
“I’m still grateful that a steady salary for the two seasons The Zone ran
helped make the house payments and put food on the table for our family
of five back when the GD was staggering financially and I was set
running around the country doing low paying solo gigs to support us.
‘Touch of Grey’ was soon to solve that problem.”
Is it merely a coincidence that, just last month, a 1985 Twilight Zone contract between CBS Entertainment and The Grateful Dead — signed by all members of the band — would sell on Ebay for $29,470.70?It is curious the extent to which The Twilight Zone ‘reboot’ is under-remembered, given the caliber of talent that went into not only the music but the writing and acting, as well — as pointed out in arts blog Delusions of Grandeur:
“Writers such as Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jeremy Bertrand Finch, and Paul Chitlik wrote screenplays for the show. It was directed by many different talents including Wes Craven and William Friedkin. Many different mainstream stars made their appearance in the series including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Season Hubley, Morgan Freeman, Martin Landau, Jonathan Frakes, and Fred Savage. The theme music was composed by Jerry Garcia and performed by The Grateful Dead.”
Hooterollin Around music blog (an “appendix to Lost Live Dead“) writes a fascinating piece that draws many musical connections between Jerry Garcia and stalwart session guitarist, Howard Roberts, a musician who is best remembered for having played the original haunting Twilight Zone guitar riff.
Zero to 180 cannot close this piece without reminding everyone of that uncanny musical ‘Twilight Zone’ moment: last July’s discovery of Germany’s The Dead-Heads, who released their debut single in 1966 — just one year after the The Grateful Dead’s official formation!
Zero to 180’s Gallery of Grateful Dead 45 Picture Sleeves
Given the band’s famous disregard towards commerce, I thought it would be great ironic fun to pull together all of The Grateful Dead’s 7-inch picture sleeves from around the world. Interesting to see domestic marketing efforts lag behind Warner Brothers’ international arm overseas, as the Dead would not see comparable investments on single releases, curiously enough, until the band’s tenure with Clive Davis’s Arista label, especially after the unexpected success with “Touch of Grey”:
Rear sleeve of German 45 “One More Saturday Night”: Mini fold-up coffin!45 above references “neu” Jerry garcia solo 45 “Sugaree” / “Deal” (below)
honorable mention: Colombian EP from 1967
This audio playback format was once considered state of the art
Richie Unterberger confirmed my hunch in his review of Rolling Stones B-side “Sad Day” for AllMusic:
“‘Sad Day’ is one of the least-known early Rolling Stones songs. It was never even issued in their native U.K. until 1973, and it didn’t make it onto an American album until it appeared on the 1989 box set Singles Collection: The London Years.”
The song originally came to my attention due to the use of the quirky and futuristic “Rugby” typeface on a 7-inch picture sleeve released in Italy — eight years after it was recorded.
Amusing to consider how out of place time-wise this 1965 track must’ve sounded in 1973, given pop’s explosive growth between those eight years — a particularly fertile time for popular music:
Mick Jagger: Vocals Keith Richards: Guitar & Backing Vocals Brian Jones: Guitar Bill Wyman: Bass Charlie Watts: Drums Ian Stewart: Organ Jack Nitzsche: Piano & “Nitzsche-phone”
Even more amusing to note that “Sad Day” would be the A-side (!) in 1973 over “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” not only in Italy but all of the other international markets indicated below — except Japan, for reasons that will likely never be known.
Those who pay attention to detail are no doubt wondering – what, uh, is a “Nitzsche-phone”? As former Stones manager (and co-founder of the UK’s great indie label, Immediate) Andrew Loog Oldham would explain in an obituary written for Gadfly Online:
“And then there was the nitzschephone, that mythical instrument! I made that up for the credits on those Stones albums—it was just a regular piano (or maybe an organ) miked differently. It was all part of this package that was created around the Stones. People believed it existed. The idea was meant to be: ‘My god, they’ve had to invent new instruments to capture this new sound they hear in their brains.’ And they were inventing fresh sounds with old toys—therefore, it deserved to be highlighted—it was the read-up of creation, of imagination—getting credit for a job well done. I mean you wouldn’t, for instance, have found a “nitzschephone” on a Freddie and the Dreamers record.”
Kevin Swift would chronicle this December, 1965 recording session at RCA’s Hollywood Studio in a 1966 issue of Beat Instrumental (via Ian Stewart Sixth Stone music blog):
“Keith Richards and Mick Jagger acted as musical directors until the others got the gist of the numbers and then it was a free-for-all with everyone chipping in with their own particular ideas. Charlie Watts was in great form and played the bongos and conga drums like a native. He also tried his hand on a set of gigantic timpani which an orchestra had left behind. Brian Jones, Stu and American session player Jack Nitzsche took it in turns to play the harpsichord, piano or organ. Brian told me that there is a keyboard instrument on every track recorded. He and Stu handled the groovy numbers while Jack Nitzsche played on the slower tracks.
On ‘Sad Day’ and ‘Ride On Baby’, two rather obscure tracks dating from these December 1965 sessions, Ian Stewart and Jack Nitzsche even handle the keys together. Nitzsche plays some piano on both tracks, while Stu plays piano on ‘Ride On Baby’ and organ on ‘Sad Day’, some kind of a rocked-up ballad, which ended up as the US flip-side for the band’s next single release, ’19th Nervous Breakdown’.”
Greg Prevost, in 2014’s Rolling Stones Gear, would pull back the lens and reveal the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the Stones on their musically fruitful recording expedition to Hollywood (courtesy of Rock N Roll Freaks music blog):
“Tiger Beat magazine reported: ‘The normally quiet corner of Sunset and Ivar was transformed into a wild impromptu teenage street carnival for days and nights while the Rolling Stones were taping in the RCA-Victor building there.’ Visitors at the session read like a Hollywood ‘Who’s Who,’ and, to make things even more chaotic, the Monkees were recording in another RCA studio. DJ and Hollywood hipster Rodney Bingenheimer, who was attending the Monkees session, wandered into the Stones’ studio and recalled: ‘It was chaos. It was very crowded. There were a lot of kids outside, hanging around, a lot of kids everywhere. Someone brought a big white duck into the studio, and it was wandering around! Brian Wilson was there too; the Stones invited him down . . . As all this is going on, The Monkees were recording in the same studio at the same time as the Stones were recording. The Stones in one studio at RCA, The Monkees in another.’”
“Sad day indeed, oh my little brothers. This track dates from 1966, when it was the American B-side of ’19th Nervous Breakdown’, and apart from Jagger’s singing and a couple nice lyric touches, it doesn’t really stand out. It’s a little laid-back by current Stones standards, and presumably Brian Jones [Jack Nitzsche] is responsible for the electric piano touches. I can’t see Mick, Keith, and the lads being too happy about this resurrected oldie. The B-side is ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ which was on the B-side of ‘Honky Tonk Women’. For archivists only.”
Puzzled by other similarly dismissive statements made online about “Sad Day” – a song that gets better with each listen – Zero to 180 would help settle the matter by bringing in 45s historian extraordinaire, So Many Records So Little Time, to speak authoritatively on the legacy of this proud and mighty B-side:
“A terribly under rated and overlooked Rolling Stones classic, ‘Sad Day’ got played as much as A side ’19th Nervous Breakdown’ in my bedroom growing up. It wasn’t even name checked on the US picture sleeve [below], and never included as part of a proper album.
Someone at Decca UK had the seemingly good sense/terrible judgement to make it a British A side in April ’73. Huh? Must have been a featured track on one of the many, theme-less compilations Decca were shoveling out at the time.
Corinne hates that I put my foot down recently and situated a small, 45 only, early 60′s RCA stacker on the headboard of the awesome blond Hollywood bedroom set I found at a house sale almost twenty years ago, in factory fresh condition. And ‘Sad Day’ has gotten many more plays in the past few weeks than it’s equally fantastic A side. Just for the record.
Always scour sleeves in used vinyl shops for jukebox tabs. It’s amazing the ones you will find, and the shops could care less about them. A warning though, once you start you’ll have a hard time stopping.”