“Sligo”: Area Code 615 vs. 301

Now that I no longer live in the Ohio Valley but the Sligo Creek Valley watershed (which drains into the Anacostia, a tributary of the Potomac), I thought it would be interesting to search 45Cat’s singles database for any songs with the word “Sligo” in the title.  Surprise! That elite aggregation of top Nashville studio musicians – Area Code 615 – put out a peppy instrumental 45 in 1973 on Polydor whose song title contains but a single word, “Sligo:

“Sligo”     Area Code 615     1973

Tune written by Kenny Buttrey (stalwart drummer, who left us this past September) and  Wayne Moss (whose immaculate rapid-fire guitar work on Bob Dylan’s “I Want You” is a career highlight) and can be found on 1970’s Trip in the Country LP.

Area Code 615 single

Brief excerpt from a 2002 interview with Wayne Moss:

What was the difference between the two bands you were both in, Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry?  Both were made up of studio musicians, were they not?

Area Code 615 was basically an instrumental band.  A lot of the membership was the same.  Charlie McCoy was in both bands.  Kenneth Buttrey was drummer in both bands. Myself [Wayne Moss] and Mac Gayden.  All three of the others went on to better and bigger things. Mac Gayden wrote a lot of terrific songs like “Everlasting Love.”  Charlie McCoy was musical director for [TV’s] Hee Haw for twenty-some years and he plays for six different labels right now (as a session musician).  So, we had to replace those people with other folks and in the process of that we ended up with 25 different people in the band.  Dave Doran played with Moby Grape.  Bobby Thompson played banjo on a lot of the Hee Haw shows. Buddy Spicher went on to be musical director of the Crook and Chase show.  There were a lot of good people in and out of the band. Terry Dearmore is now a Unity preacher in Virginia.  John Harris is deceased; he was our original keyboardist.  Guitarist Jimmy Colvard also passed away in the seventies.  Our group made records from 1970-71 to 1976.

Released on Polydor, a “multinational record label established in 1913, currently under ownership by the Universal Music Group” — per Discogs.

“Yeah Man”: Musical Thievery

I am riveted with Peter Guralnick’s biographical account – Dream Boogie – of the visionary musical entrepreneur, Sam Cooke, who also happened to be gifted vocalist.   My attention was particularly piqued by Sam’s fraught – and ultimately unsuccessful – attempt to release the song “Yeah Man” as a single.

Rare 1965 French EP

Sam Cooke EP

Beginning in 1963, Sam Cooke’s managerial and business affairs were being run by Allen Klein – the one who Mick Jagger would later (in)famously recommend to The Beatles as a manager in the wake of Brian Epstein’s tragic and unexpected death – and September of 1964 would find Sam angry and resentful over his failure to override Klein’s decision to release “That’s Where It’s At” b/w “Cousin of Mine” as a 45 on the heels of Sam’s September 16th appearance on TV’s Shindig live music program instead of “Yeah Man.”

As Peter Guralnick writes:

Sam met with Allen [Klein] while he was in New York to discuss the immediate future.  He was still [cheesed] off about the new single release.  He had wanted to put out “Yeah Man,” the litany of dances set to The Valentinos’ distinctive beat that he had recorded in March, but Allen had hated it.  In fact, violating one of his own cardinal rules for managing – not for the first time, and not by just a little – he told Sam it was the worst [flibbity] song he had ever heard in his entire life.  “What the [funst] do you know?” Sam shot back.  [“Yeah Man”] was the kind of stripped-down simplified number he was convinced the kids would go for.  But in the end, he had allowed himself to be swayed by Allen’s opinion, and now the single they had released, “Cousin of Mine,” which Allen had insisted was a cute little song that they could sell pop, had shipped fewer copies than any single Sam had put out in three years, and they had thrown away “That’s Where It’s At” on the B-side [editor’s note:  45Cat very clearly identifies “That’s Where It’s At” to be the A-side for the U.S. market — hmmm].

It burned Sam up.  He knew “Yeah Man” would have been a hit, but Allen had been right about so many things, and the thing about it was, the [fathead] wouldn’t back down, even if you put a gun to his head.”

Adding layers of complexity to the story, 30 pages earlier we learned that The Valentinos – a family-based affair signed to Sam’s SAR label that would later produce careers for brothers, Bobby and Cecil Womack – had already laid down the musical groove that became the foundation for “If I Got My Ticket” but had the song rejected initially by Sam — only to subsequently find it re-fashioned by Sam and re-titled as “Yeah Man”!

As Peter Guralnick explains:

[The Valentinos] had another song, “If I Got My Ticket,” something which they had been working on at Soul Station #1 and believed in almost as strongly as “It’s All Over Now” [famously covered by The Rolling Stones], but after a couple of rehearsals, Sam pronounced it “too churchy” and told Bobby it needed more work, they ought to just set it aside until the Womacks had a chance to polish it and turn it into more of a finished song.  It could not have come as a greater surprise, then, when Bobby and his brothers showed up at the studio to play on Sam’s session the following day, only to find him exploring the same groove, the same riff they had worked out for “If I Got My Ticket” as the centerpiece of a new number of his own.

“Yeah Man” was a song he had first come up with in England, a dance number along the lines of the call-and-response vehicle he had devised for Cassius Clay [Muhammad Ali], with a large chorus responding to a series of rhetorical questions (“Do you like good music?”) with a rousing “Yeah, yeah.”  What made it different was the vocal charm, the rhythmic complexity, the agile horns, and booming bass.

My attention sufficiently piqued, I immediately jumped on YouTube in order to hear for myself the song that both offended Allen Klein and embittered Sam Cooke:

“Yeah Man”     Sam Cooke     1965

How amusing then to quickly discover that this song – which already had been thieved by Sam Cooke – would itself get appropriated two years later by Arthur Conley (with the very able assistance of Otis Redding) and get turned into classic soul music homage, “Sweet Soul Music”!

I’m kicking myself for needing assistance to figure out that the song’s signature intro was itself “inspired by” (i.e., stolen from) Elmer Bernstein‘s Magnificent Seven theme song!  For a little bit of extra fun, in fact, play both clips at the same time to see if you can get the two songs songs to line up in sync.

Where do I go to report all this thievery?

What’s even more fascinating is the fact that Peter Guralnick does not, at any point, make reference to “Sweet Soul Music,” which is curious, given that the song is not an obscure one, or even hint at “Yeah Man” laying the ground work for a future hit single.  I checked the index of the book to be sure and found references to numerous songs by title — but not “Sweet Soul Music.”

The Earliest Reggae Recording?

Three years ago, someone paid $99 for this great single by Larry (Marshall) & Alvin (Leslie) that was recorded in 1970 at Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s legendary Studio One:

“Press Along Nyah”     Larry & Alvin    1970

Last year The Jamaica Observer checked in with Larry Marshall (now residing in Florida), who feels unappreciated as a musical trailblazer and unhappy about the lack of financial compensation in spite of his popularity in the record shops, as well as dancehalls.  Click here for lengthy interview in which Marshall discusses, among other things, the particulars of his contractual relationship with Studio One’s Coxsone Dodd, as well as the Babylonian workings of the music business (e.g., the 1986 UK release of Marshall’s 1975 album, I Admire You, against his express permission).

Alvin, by the way, is not, as some (including myself) have hypothesized, Alvin “G.G.” Ranglin of GG Records fame.

Dance Crasher UK includes illustrated listing of all 7-inch Supreme Records releases.

“Press Along Nyah” (Version) on the flip side.

Press Along Nyah 45

Parlor Game:  Can You Pinpoint the Moment Rocksteady Became Reggae

Larry Marshall will be forever linked to his landmark 1968 Studio One recording “Nanny Goat,” a song historians have long noted as having helped define the original reggae sound.  As Howard Campbell writes in the Jamaica Observer:

“Others argue that Toots and the Maytals’ ‘Do The Reggay,’ also done in 1968, and ‘Games People Play‘ by Bob Andy the following year, marked the transition from rocksteady to reggae.  But for most, ‘Nanny Goat’ was the game-changer.”

Boris Gardiner, in a 2012 interview in Real Time Magazine, meanwhile, firmly disputes the received wisdom about “Nanny Goat” (calling it a “thorough-bred rocksteady beat”), as well as “Baby Why” by The Cables (another oft-cited contender for “first reggae song“).  Gardiner ultimately agrees with legendary Studio One house drummer, Joe Isaacs‘ assessment that “Ride Your Donkey” by The Tennors (with its one drop supplied by Hugh Malcolm) has the first true reggae beat.

Coxsone Dodd, as quoted in Peter Simon’s Reggae International (1983):

I remember what changed the whole sound from rock steady to reggae.  We did a recording by the name of ‘Nanny Goat‘ by Larry [Marshall] and Alvin [Leslie].  A very popular record.  At that time, I had been in England and came back with quite a few gadgets … like a delay.  After ‘Nanny Goat,’ we had a series of recordings with that sound but it was like the guitar being on the delay meshed with the organ shuffle.  This was coming on as something new, and this is where the change came from rock steady to reggae. And you can listen to the guitar change in ‘Nanny Goat’ and quite a few of the Cables‘ tunes.”

Lloyd Bradley offers another perspective in Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King (2001):

People Funny Boy‘ [Lee Perry] wasn’t, however, the first example of the changeover from rocksteady to reggae.  That distinction would have to be shared between Larry Marshall’s ‘Nanny Goat‘ and ‘No More Heartaches‘ by The Beltones, with both records’ producers — Coxsone Dodd and Harry J (Johnson), respectively — claiming the credit for entirely different reasons.  Dodd has cited his use of a delay echo unit he’d recently imported from the UK, which he hooked up to the guitar to end up with a distinct skanga … skanga … skanga sound on the previously straight-down timekeeping stroke; a state of affairs that naturally served to hurry the music’s pace along.  Johnson, however, maintains that it was the rhythmic combination he created of arched fingers stabbing at an organ chord, a conventional guitar stroke and a far more percussive bass pattern that produced the same effect

In truth, both men have a point, and you’d expect nothing less from how this story’s shaping up.  But if you listen to the overall feel of each record rather than try to isolate particular elements, each one clearly occupies a different notch on reggae’s chronology.  Harry’s horn-laden piece of harmony may demonstrate reggae’s characteristics but it’s essentially a rocksteady record dressed up in some flash new clothes; Dodd’s tune, however, utilizes what was then cutting-edge gadgetry — as well as the delay echo he introduced at the same time — and, almost immediately, so many other studios began to adopt and adapt that sound through the same technology.  ‘Nanny Goat’ would seem to be linking forward, while ‘No More Heartaches’ ties with the past.  Thus, it could be argued that, while each played a significant part, Johnson’s record is, in fact, the primary example.

What they both shared, although ‘Nanny Goat’ showed it off more prominently, is what was known as the ‘shuffle organ’, a bubbling, brisk-paced keyboard style that allowed former pianists to show off on the electric organs that were by now studio staples.  The first two real reggae tunes showed up on the Studio One and Harry J labels, and each set-up employed one of the style leaders along this new ivory way:  respectively, Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright.  Mittoo, once the Skatalites’ keyboardist, was now, at the tender age of twenty, Coxsone’s resident musical arranger/talent scout.  Wright had become acknowledged as Jamaica’s undisputed master of the Hammond when, as one of Tommy McCook’s Supersonics, his lush, infectious tones had been a signficiant factor in Duke Reid’s ruling of the rocksteady roost.  Wright had now gone freelance, and found regular employment with Harry Johnson.  Johnson had no studio of his own at this point, and booked a room at Coxsone’s for those sessions, which meant that both songs were recorded at 13 Brentford Road, with one of the best electric organs on the island.

Chris Salewicz and Adrian Boot add their two pence in Reggae Explosion:  The Story of Jamaican Music (2001):

There were other contenders for the title of first reggae record.  Because of his guitar sound, Alva Lewis claims it for the tune ‘Bangarang‘, a Bunny Lee production recorded in 1969 at Treasure Isle and credited to Stranger Cole and Lester Sterling:  the song was a development of ‘Bongo Chant‘, a British bop tune from a decade before by Kenny Graham and the Afro-Cubists.  Producer Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee also argues that ‘Bangarang’ was the first reggae song, but not, he insisted, because of the guitar sound but because of novice organ player Glen Adams‘ riffs — Striker was adamant that it was kind of a slurred organ sound, as specialised in by Jackie Mittoo (who was also an arranger and A&R man for Coxsone) that defined the first reggae records.

The 4th edition of All Music Guide – The Definitive Guide to Popular Music (2001) makes a different assertion altogether in its section on Reggae:

In 1966 [Derrick] Morgan issued “Tougher Than Tough,” widely credited as the first record in the rock steady genre.  He continued to innovate in the years to follow — among his most enduring contributions were “Went to the Hop” (the first Jamaican song with an electric bass guitar), “Blazing Fire” (the first song to employ an electric piano), “Love Not to Brag” (the first duet with a female artist, Millicent Patsy Todd) and “Seven Letters” (the first reggae song, produced in collaboration with brother-in-law Bunny Lee).

Patricia Meschino, who authored “As Reggae Celebrates 50 Years, Some of the Genre’s Pioneers Look Back on Its Worldwide Ascent” for Billboard‘s July 1, 2018 edition, identifies a handful of notable candidates for “first reggae song” — including “Long Shot (Bus Me Bet)” by The Pioneers — and also solicits feedback from long-time session bassist, Jackie Jackson, who fingers “Feel the Rhythm” by Clancy Eccles as significant and notes, “Right about there, that was a real reggae song, identifying the heart and soul of reggae and alongside Toots’ ‘Do The Reggay,’ those two songs really helped to put reggae on the map.”

“The Singer Sang His Song”: Leave Them Wanting More

In 1969 Columbia Special Products teamed up with the United Nations in order to help save the world’s refugee population using the proceeds from sales of star-studded hits collection, World Star Festival.  Interestingly, this musical arts venture in humanitarianism predates by nearly two years George Harrison’s groundbreaking benefit concert for the refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in August 1971.

World Star FestivalAnd whereas most of the money from Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh was tied up for years in litigation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, however, optimistically projected in his January 1970 report to the UN General Assembly:

“Although the final results of the sales of the new long-playing record World Star Festival were not yet available since sales were still continuing, it was already clear that this record would yield substantial profits for refugee assistance.  In this connexion, the High Commissioner emphasized the importance of Governments waiving taxes and duties on the record.  A full report on the subject would be submitted to the Committee at its next session.”

One of the top tunes on World Star Festival, “The Singer Sang His Song,” is a Bee Gees contribution that was part of a ‘double A-side’ – paired with “Jumbo” – that was originally released March 1968 (and available only on vinyl until 1990):

The Singer Sang His Song – Bee Gees

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “The Singer Sang His Song” by The Bee Gees.]

Only in the UK,curiously, was this song listed as the A-side — otherwise, in the US, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Singapore & Japan, “Jumbo” was the A-side.

Bee Gees - Jumbo EP

Each artist’s recording on World Star Festival (it later became clear to me) was shortened or altered in some way – presumably as a precondition for release in order to help facilitate participation among these top pop artists.  This realization really hit home once I had become intimately familiar with the World Star Festival version of “The Singer Sang His Song” – and then happened to hear the song’s original full-length mix on YouTube:

Moral of the story:

World Star Festival‘s short version brilliantly leaves the listener wanting more, while the full-length version with the additional minute of extended coda overstays its welcome, one could argue.

Afterword – from the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme

The Executive Committee,

(1) Noted with satisfaction that considerable progress had been made in the sale of the new long-playing record World Star Festival and that representatives of other United Nations agencies and of non-governmental organizations had contributed to these results;

(2) Expressed appreciation for the fact that a number of Governments had seen fit to waive taxes and import duties on the new record, or had agreed to the remission of such impositions, as recommended by the Committee in its earlier decision on the subject;

(3) Urged Governments which had not yet done so, to consider favourably the remission or refund of duties and taxes collected on the dale of World Star Festival.

“Small Beginnings”: Shorter vs. Longer Version?

Early Yes guitarist, Peter Banks, and vocalist, Colin Carter, formed prog rock ensemble – Flash – in Summer 1971, signing with Capital subsidiary, Sovereign, and recording their first album in November (with early Yes member, Tony Kaye on keyboards).  By 1972 the group had a Billboard Top 40 hit right out of the gate with debut single – “Small Beginnings” (#29) – and album, Flash (#33).

Flash - publicity shot

“Small Beginnings” was also included – in edited form – on several hits anthologies, including 1972 K-Tel compilation, 22 Explosive Hits Volume 2:

Small Beginnings (K-Tel mix) – Flash

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Small Beginnings” (K-Tel mix) by Flash.]

K-Tel's 22 Explosive HitsApparently, the difference in song length between the album version of “Small Beginnings” and the mix offered by K-Tel is not insignificant — here, for purposes of comparison, is the full-length album version:

Q:  Which version do you prefer?

“Play De Music” vs. “Finger Mash”: Festival Sound Clash

In the liner notes to Baba Boom! – Trojan’s compilation of Jamaica Independence Festival songs from 1966-1975 – one piece of text really jumped out at me:

“1974’s ‘Play De Music‘ by Tinga Stewart – a monster hit and the very last one of the archetypal Festival Songs, celebrating the joy of music and its persuasive power to bring people of all persuasions together, that would prove as popular with the judges as it was with the record-buying public.”

“Play De Music”     Tinga Stewart     1974

Written & produced by Ernie Smith

Tinga Stewart 45Lo and behold, the Upsetter himself – Lee Perry – released the oddly-titled “Finger Mash” that same year and (coincidentally or not) it pretty much sounded like an unabashed rewrite of “Play De Music,” despite claiming to have been written by Perry himself:

“Finger Mash” + “Dub the Music”     Lee Perry & the Silvertones     1974

To be fair, the Upsetter mix does feature some trademark Lee Perry sonic surprises.  Sweet falsetto backing vocals, too, from The Silvertones.

Finger Mash - 7 inchHow likely is it that Tinga Stewart stole his Festival-winning song idea from Lee Perry? More importantly, who wins the ’74 Festival Face-Off:  “Play De Music” or “Finger Mash”?

Festival Song Competition:  A Thing of the Past?

Ominous story in the April 12, 2013 edition of the Jamaica Observer about the decision by the Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation to suspend the usual song competition in favor of allowing people instead to “vote for their favorite Festival song as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations” — thus, the “first time since the Festival Song Contest was held in 1966 that it will not be held in traditional form.”

“Weather Report”: Play the Simon & Garfunkel Game

Here’s a fun game – a public service of Zero to 180 – you can play with a group of friends:

  1. Get a time piece (or watch with a second hand)
  2. Click the triangle below to play “Weather Report” by The Tennors.
  3. Make note of how much time elapses before the first person in the room correctly identifies the Simon & Garfunkel song being covered/adapted by The Tennors.
  4. Optional:  wage bets prior to playing the game.

“Weather Report” re-titled take on “The Only Living Boy in New York” would initially be released in Jamaica on Treasure Isle, although “produced by S.E. Pottinger” (not Duke Reid !), as well as on Pottinger-owned High Note.  In 1973, this single would also enjoy release in the UK (on Explosion) and the US (on Duke Reid Greatest Hits).

Compare both 45s below and note the producer credit discrepancy

Tennors & Supersonics 45

An Exceptionally Brief History Behind the Song

The Tennors, who enjoyed a big hit in Jamaica in 1968 with “Ride Yu Donkey” on their own Tennors label, released “Hopeful Village” on Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label in 1970 — and then returned to Treasure Isle three years later to record “Weather Report.”

Tennors 45

“Baia”: Carol Kaye as Bandleader

One weekend in late March 2009 I was listening to Bob Edwards‘ radio show while on my way to an event and had to pull over to finish listening to the rest of his interview with legendary session bassist, Carol Kaye – who is estimated to have played on more than 10,000 [!] recording dates.  Bob was a total fanboy as he interviewed this pivotal musician who, quite literally, played on all the hits, and his enthusiasm was infectious.

I have since come across a great instrumental – “Baia” – by Carol Kaye (& the Hitmen) in a rather rare turn as bandleader, and I’m stunned to discover that this 1965 recording seems not to have been released on vinyl back in the day:

“Baia”     Carol Kaye & the Hitmen     1965

This 1996 German release appears to be the only commercial access to Carol Kaye in her one-time role as Recording Artist – who, by the way, wrote 4 of the 16 songs assembled here.  Check out the lineup of musicians:

Bass Guitar – Carol Kaye & Rene Hall
Double Bass – Al McKibbon
Drums – Earl Palmer
Flute – Bill Green
French Horn – Dwight Carver
Keyboards – Ray Johnson
Lead & Rhythm Guitar – Carol Kaye
Percussion – Gary Coleman
Saxophone – Jim Horn & Bill Green
Trombone – Lew McCreary & Dick Leith
Vibraphone – Gary Coleman

Producer – Carol Kaye
Arranger – Carol Kaye & H.B. Barnum
Engineer – Bob Ross
Reissue Producer – Bert Gerecht

Notes

Recorded in Hollywood Circa 1965

 *                           *                          *

Carol Kaye on bass

                                 “The Clique” vs. “The Wrecking Crew”

Carol was part of a group of in-demand musicians, who are most commonly known as “The Wrecking Crew,” although Carol strictly insists she and her colleagues referred to each other as “The Clique:


“Wildwood Flower on the Autoharp”: Fine Arts vs. Popular Arts

In 1967 Sheb Wooley released a great single, where the A-side – “Love In” – hilariously mocked the “free love” sentiment then in vogue, while the B-side proudly proclaimed the simple music of the “folk” to be the kind that touches his soul the deepest:

Wildwood Flower on the Autoharp – Sheb Wooley

[Pssst:  Click the triangle to play “Wildwood Flower on the Autoharp” by Sheb Wooley.]

Wildwood Flower 45

That’s right, another salvo in the age-old battle between the fine arts and the popular arts

And the victor of this particular musical fight?   Naturally, popular music – where all the best brawlers are.

The Mother of All Autoharp Players

Mother Maybelle sure had a distinctive way of picking out the melody lines on her autoharp, as this clip from The Johnny Cash Show can attest:

“Black Mountain Rag”      Mother Maybelle Carter      1970


“Mandolina” vs. The Remarkable Riderless Runaway Tricycle

Media Alert!

A battle has suddenly erupted between two formidable foes who share a common sound — the analog synthesizer.  Not just any analog synthesizer sound, mind you, but a deep burbling one:  pulsating and insistent.

Ronnie Montrose LP

In this corner, wearing a strangely intricate electronic eyepiece, we have Ronnie Montrose with “Mandolina” from 1978’s Open Fire album:

“Mandolina”     Ronnie Montrose     1978

In the opposite corner, wearing an ill-advised sleeveless t-shirt, we have the menacing and flatulent opening theme of Scholastic Video’s interpretation of Bruce McMillan’s classic children’s story, “The Remarkable, Riderless Runaway Tricycle” – also from 1978 (and in the key of D):

“The Remarkable, Riderless Runaway Tricycle”     1978

Note — after the first 15 seconds of the video, you can move the cursor down to the 8:00 mark for a longer disco version of the synthesizer theme from this opening sequence.

Important to note that the aforementioned Moog bass synthesizer part for “Mandolina” was played by none other than Edgar Winter.

And the winner is…

Ronnie Montrose — in a first-round knockout while blind-folded.