Bootleg EP – or – Just a Mirage?

It must have been the year before last when I was enjoying a madcap musical romp through Thailand and its wildly imaginative bootleg EP scene — 7-inch picture sleeves using filched images, with four songs often (but not always) by four different artists, produced in renegade fashion without regard for legal or copyright considerations [see “Oddball Beatles EPs Worldwide“].  It was early 2018, most likely, when I made that fateful decision to print out a decent quality scan of a bootleg EP that had made the curious call to bring together the bubblegum sounds of The Archies and 1910 Fruitgum Co. (plus early Dave Clark Five) with “agit-pop” from The Rolling Stones, “Street Fighting Man” — a song that was banned from radio (and whose provocative sleeve was immediately withdrawn) in 1968, a year in which assassination and rioting dominated headlines.

378×400 pixel version of image below

Coliseum = cheeky send-up of almighty Columbia Records (i.e., “Big Red“)

Track Listing

A1  “Street Fighting Man”   The Rolling Stones

A2  “Because”   The Dave Clark Five

B1  “Bang Shang-a-Lang”   The Archies

B2  “Goody Gum Drops”   1910 Fruitgum Co.

Don’t recall why I printed out this image in the first place, but the weird part is that this printout ended up at the top of my “scratch paper” pile, and I began to use the back of it for correspondence, when the librarian in me prompted me to search the 45Cat database to affirm its existence but could no longer find it there … or anywhere else on the Internet!  This scanned image, therefore, is the world’s only proof * of a bootleg EP from Thailand that was almost certainly released in 1968, possibly 1969.

Did I somehow dream up this EP release – Coliseum CLS 1080 – or was it, in fact, actually birthed?  45Cat allows users to easily browse a list of cataloged Coliseum releases, which has entries for two somewhat nearby catalog numbers, CLS 1087 (from 1969, we think) and CLS 1099 (released 1968, confusingly).

CLS 1087 = previously featured here          CLS 1099 = “Sugar Sugar” & friends

Evidence of Coliseum CLS 1080 EP’s existence:  If you Google the terms Coliseum + Archies + “CLS 1080” (as of October 10, 2019), Bill Rousell‘s music sales website will turn up in the search results, with a sales listing for this EP that names the four tracks in identical order.

Zero to 180, you might recall, had previously saluted The Archies five years ago in a piece that acknowledged 1968 to be a remarkably fertile time for truck driving country music.  The Rolling Stones (not to mention Stones sound-alike bands) have also been the focus of Zero to 180’s roving eye more than once over the years.

Rare UK picture sleeve, quickly withdrawn = sold for $17,100 in 2015!

Illicit Vinyl — No Laughing Matter

If the example of Thailand suits your warped sensibilities, you will also likely enjoy browsing the unauthorized vinyl output from the countries of MalaysiaIran & USSR.

           Decca US 451966                                  Decca Lookalike 45 = Malaysia

Furthermore, if you poke around 45Cat’s database in the section tagged asPoland,” you will quickly discover a vast underworld of “postcard discs” — sometimes plain, but often as not, “old-timey” renderings and travel scenes, as well as modernist art images, with one and sometimes two songs on a single-sided “sound postcard”!

All You Need Is Love” – The Beatles – Poland, 1967 = who knew?

Can you guess which early 60s instrumental hit (later covered by Sugar Hill Gang)?

Isn’t it obvious?  “Apache” by The Shadows = Polish postcard disc

.

*Note:  The comment attached to this piece from “Smack” (received ten minutes before midnight on Halloween 2020!) means that this 1968 Archies EP release from Thailand – Coliseum CLS 1080 – is now, once again, back in the 45Cat database, thus making this Zero to 180 piece obsolete.

6/9 Chords, Maj 7ths, and Tritones

With the departure of founding members, Michael Andrew Frank & Keith Bortz, and the arrival of the two RicksMosher & Haller — plus new drummer, Bob Mitchell, who was (get this) from a different high school, The Max had evolved into The Ferns.by 1983, most historians would agree, with bassist Chris Richardson being the lone member (though not initially) from the original Max and the Bluegills era.  This change in personnel would result in a pronounced shift away from blues-based improvisation and toward tighter songcraft with a more contemporary rock sound.

The Ferns, as it turned out, would largely be a summertime configuration that was active between college semesters.  As Mitchell expounds:

“The Ferns were interesting because we were nineteen or twenty years old playing original songs in bars and clubs, songs that were written mostly by Rick and Rick. Great songs, but unfamiliar originals nonetheless.  Therefore, the sizes of the audiences were never a serious threat to the fire code limits.  We did cover The Clash, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and [Bruce] Springsteen.

“There was never a shortage of gigs with Newbs [Tom Newbold] as our Manager.  He used to make flyers and posters that looked like ransom notes (different letters and pictures cut out of magazines and glued together).  Then he would staple them to every telephone pole in Clifton.  The venues I recall playing were Shipley’s, B.W. Talgoods, Bogart’s, and The Jockey Club.”

 Note “ironic” use of kitschy album cover  +  Star Wars spoof – with Haller as ChewieFerns-Live-cFerns-Live-b

 It would be a stretch to say The Ferns were contemporaries of The Raisins

Ferns (and Raisins) at ShipleysYes, The Ferns had somehow given someone the slip at Newport, KY’s beloved and bedraggled punk venue, The Jockey Club, and once played a set of their modern rock originals without incident there.

Haller, unperturbed before big Jockey Club show

Ferns @ Jockey Club-aMosher mid-point, unaware of camera      Mitchell — surrounded by pine panelingFerns @ Jockey Club-bFerns @ Jockey Club-c

Rick Haller (music) and Bob Mitchell (lyrics) would collaborate on a song – “Every” – that The Ferns would record on glorious one-inch tape at a 16-track recording facility adjacent to Cincinnati’s legendarily-industrious Mill Creek Valley in the late summer of 1984.

[Pssst:  Click on triangle above to play “Every” by The Ferns]

Rick Haller:  Guitar & vocals
Rick Mosher:  Guitar & vocals
Bob Mitchell:  Drums & vocals
Chris Richardson:  Bass

Mitchell recalls the creative process:

“I wrote the lyrics of ‘Every’ to address all the girls I had fallen for at that point, real and fictional, as if they were one person.  Rick Haller wrote a nice melody for it.  And, he had the best singing voice of all of us.”

One’s ears cannot help but be drawn to the shimmering 6/9 and Major 7th chords being expressed by guitarists Haller and Mosher, in case you’re wondering precisely what that is tickling your ear.  Richardson also points out that it was actually Mosher who came up with the sweet, string-bending bass line on the chorus that helps tease out the “Major 7-ness” of the C Maj 7 chord.

Fern “creation myth” crafted by Manager, Tom NewboldFerns-Live-d

The Ferns would delight in the considerable leap in technical sophistication at Cincinnati’s Reel Pro sound studio — a markedly superior experience to past recording efforts and one that stands.out in Mosher’s mind to this day:

“I remember there was a separate drum booth, very tight quarters.  I think the board was a small Trident?  The engineer knew his room well, and I agree, I am still blown away by the fidelity.  The engineer had a friend in watching the mix, and on ‘Nice Try,’ he used a slap back echo on the snare — he also manually panned the octave guitar part during the “what do you think” section!  This was also, I think, the first time we double tracked vocals, and I think we did some form of that on every song!  We recorded this at the end of one summer, I think the final mix was completed the night before I went back to Syracuse.  It was a great, creative experience in my recollection!”

Another Newbold notable — with sales pitch for Ferns 45Ferns-Live-aBut alas – as Mitchell remembers – the group would not hold together much longer:

“It was the end of the summer of 1984, and we were all going back to our respective colleges.  That was it.  After we recorded these songs, I don’t think The Ferns ever played together again.”

Mitchell would subsequently form a new group, (pre-Snoop) Dog Pound (“after The Ferns wilted”), with Haller and bassist Newbold (a ‘protege’ of Richardson, who gave lessons to the future Fern manager in exchange for 6-packs of Tab cola and lyrics to Raisins songs written primarily from memory), along with – foreshadowing – keyboardist, Tim Miller  (trivia:  Richardson’s second-grade classmate).  Mitchell would later join forces briefly with tight Cincinnati power pop trio, The Castaways.

Zero to 180 (using Newbold’s bass) guests with The Dog Pound – Columbus, 1985Dog Pound + Zero to 180

Principal songwriter, Rick Mosher, meanwhile, would be preparing to make his big move eastward

Ferns & Tritones at Cincinnati’s Bogart’s — Next friday:  male fantasy showFerns (& Tritones) @ Bogart's

The Tritone, as I would learn, is the interval exactly halfway between (i.e., 3 whole steps) a root note and its octave.  Together, the root (e.g., C) and its augmented 4th (F#), or flatted-fifth (however you want to look at it), make for a sinister pairing of notes (commonly known as “the devil’s interval”).  Dr. Willliam Irwin, in his October 31, 2012 piece on Psychology Today‘s website, “Black Sabbath and the Secret of Scary Music:  The Devil’s Interval – Is Evil in the Ear of the Beholder?” would point out the irony of heavy metal’s lumpen reputation, given its origin in the complex and intelligent realm of classical music:

“From the opening riffs of the song ‘Black Sabbath‘ through most of their classic albums, the music can sound downright evil.  It shouldn’t be surprising then that the secret to this sound is something known as the Devil’s Interval or diabolus in musica. The sound is so ominous that this interval was supposedly banned by clerics in the Middle Ages for fear that it would raise the devil himself.  Still, what actually makes this musical interval sound evil?  The diabolus in musica is also known as a tritone (or diminished fifth).  Spanning three [whole] tones, the interval violates a musical convention and sounds dissonant, producing an unsettling feeling in the listener.

“You might suspect that the boys in Black Sabbath rediscovered this tritone in a dusty old tome and purposely used it to create a sinister sound.  But no.  The tritone came to them by way of classical music.  Geezer Butler was a fan of The Planets, an orchestral suite by the composer Gustav Holst.  On the day before Tony Iommi came up with the epoch-making riff for the song ‘Black Sabbath’  Butler played ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ on his bass.  Guess what figures prominently in ‘Mars’?  The tritone.  It must have stuck in Iommi’s subconscious because out it came the next day.  The tritone became a signature element of Black Sabbath’s music and a mainstay in later heavy metal music.”

 1983 Ferns 45 proves that Keith Bortz initially served as the band’s percussionist!

Ferns 45

“Stern Productions”:  playful nod to long-time Fern fan, Joe Stern

*

Ferns Trivia:  Six Raisins of Separation

Legendary Cincinnati band, The Raisins – who would exert a strong influence over the group’s overall sound and musical sensibility – played matchmaker in bringing together The Ferns, when Raisin keyboardist, Ricky Nye, in fact, introduced Mitchell to Mosher during a break at a Raisins gig.

*

These two once substituted subversive lyrics in 2nd grade singalong

“Love Is Only Sleeping”: 7/4 Time Can Be Catchy

22 Words has a fun piece that identifies 6 prominent pieces of pop propelled by unusual time signatures, the most famous likely being Pink Floyd’s “Money,” whose opening bass line is played in 7/4 time.

I’m always surprised when the topic of The Monkees comes up in conversation, and I get the blank stare from fellow music fanatics at the mention of “Love Is Only Sleeping.”   How can so many people not know that great opening guitar riff?   In 7/4 time, no less:

“Love Is Only Sleeping”     The Monkees     1967

Interesting to see how many YouTube audio clips there are of “Love Is Only Sleeping” as recorded by The Monkees – at least twenty, almost certainly more – but all of them with relatively low viewership numbers (in the hundreds and low thousands).  Clearly, there are still vast stretches of the world’s population that appear to be wholly unfamiliar with this classic Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil composition.

Wikipedia reports that “Love Is Only Sleeping” was only added belatedly to groundbreaking 1967 album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. when the song was pulled as the A-side of a single – its title deemed too risque, purportedly.  “Daydream Believer” ended up as the new A-side, with “Goin’ Down” (ironically) being chosen for the flip side.  Thus, you can try in vain, but Googling the phrase “Love Is Only Sleeping” will yield no images whatsoever of the forbidden 45.  As with Johnny Cash’s “Five Minutes to Live,” we are left with the overwhelming heartbreak of an obvious A-side forever in search of a good home.

news items From Monkees Monthly, UK publication

Monkees UK Press IMonkees UK Press IIIn 1967, Portugal’s citizens, curiously, were blessed to have the opportunity to purchase a 4-song EP with “Love Is Only Sleeping” as the A-side, as it were —

Love Is Only Sleeping EPVarious web sources assert pioneering synthesist, Micky Dolenz, as having played Moog on “Love Is Only Sleeping” – in addition to pop masterpiece, “Daily Nightly” – while iTunes states Mike Nesmith as producer of this once-banned A-side.

“Five Minutes to Live”: Death Sentence Commuted to 18 Years

My heartfelt appreciation to Brian Horrorwitz of Trash Palace for introducing me to a great tune that was sung by Johnny Cash and featured in a mediocre film in which he starred:

“Five Minutes to Live”     Johnny Cash     1960

I am especially in awe of Luther Perkins’ guitar lines, who plays exactly the right notes and not a single note more.  Luther’s terse instrumental passage preceding each verse captures perfectly the unrelenting dread – one imagines – of those awaiting execution, while the economy of his playing thrills me in the same way that complex and showy musicianship used to knock me out when I was a wide-eyed teen.

But if you search all of Cash’s Columbia single releases, you will discover that this obvious A-side was never issued as a 45 — nor was it released on any of Johnny’s Columbia albums either.  Neither was it issued as part of a soundtrack album for Five Minutes to Live (a.k.a., Door-to-Door Maniac), as far as I can tell.  Thus, this song, born in 1960, remained in solitary confinement for 18 years until the 1978 release of The Unissued Johnny Cash by Bear Family, (the German reissue label that compiles lavish and scrupulously annotated box sets of American roots rock, country & blues artists) – and even then, it was only available to U.S. fans as a pricey import.

Five Minutes to Live poster

Is it possible that the heavyweight topic of capital punishment made “Five Minutes to Live” too sensitive for radio play?

Thanks to In the Can for the recording session info:

Wednesday, November 2, 1960 :  At Bradley Studio in Nashville, Johnny Cash
records “Five Minutes To Live” and “The Losing Kind”, both of which are
first issued on the LP “The Unissued Johnny Cash” (Bear Family BFX 15016)
in 1978.

Personnel : Johnny Cash (vocals / guitar) ; Luther Perkins, Johnny Western
(guitars) ; Marshall Grant (bass) ; W.S. Holland (drums).
Produced by Don Law.

Ad in Nov. 1975 issue of Unicorn Times


Music that Bridge Nations: “Dixie Doodle”

One of my favorite Link Wray tunes is one that humorously fuses our two American national anthems – “Dixie” and “Yankee Doodle”:

“Dixie Doodle”     Link Wray     prob. rec. late 1958

Interesting to learn that, on the strength of his hugely influential top 40 hit, “Rumble” – a menacing instrumental that was actually banned from radio in several markets including, surprisingly, New York City – Link was able to get signed to Epic, an imprint of the almighty Columbia label, who released “Dixie Doodle” in 1959.  Thanks to Cub Koda’s liner notes in Rhino’s Link Wray anthology, I also learned that “Dixie Doodle” was an attempt by Link to emulate the “Rebel” sound of Duane Eddy, who was hot in the late 1950s (and, some 50 years later, royally received at Glastonbury in 2011).  Fascinating to find out, too, that “Dixie Doodle” ended up on the flip side, even though it was originally pushed to be the A-side, with Confederate money printed as a novelty promotion.

“Dixie Doodle” was released as the B-side to “Rawhide,” which went top 40 in January 1959 (#23) – both songs written by Wray, along with the very able assistance of TV teen dance show host, Milt Grant.

Not to be confused, by the way, with the 8-verse parody of “Yankee Doodle” that was popular in the South during the Civil War.