’65 Stones Tune Known by Few

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.

Rugby typeface — Italy — 1973

Rolling Stones 45-aAmusing 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:

“Sad Day”     The Rolling Stones     December, 1965

Musician credits (and also here)

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.

Netherlands                                                     Sweden

Rolling Stones 45-Netherlands-aRolling Stones 45-Sweden-a

France                                                            Belgium

Rolling Stones 45-France-aRolling Stones 45-Belgium-a

Germany                                                        Denmark

Rolling Stones 45-Germany-aRolling Stones 45-Denmark-a

Yugoslavia                                                        Japan

Rolling Stones 45-Yugoslavia-aRolling Stones 45-Japan-a

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 chronicled 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.’”

Many thanks to 45Cat contributor Deltics for posting this hilarious and withering review from NME (New Musical Express) in 1973:

“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.

Rolling Stones 45-bSomeone 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.”

Rolling Stones jukebox tab“Sad Day” would originally back “19th Nervous Breakdown” in 1966 for the US, Canadian & Uruguayan markets, while in Australia, “Fortune Teller” (by the late great Allen Toussiant) would be used as the A-side instead.

Chart-wise, 45Cat contributor My Friend Jack asserts with respect to the song’s reception in the UK:  “Three weeks on the Breakers list from 12 May 1973, peaking in 2nd place.”

                       1966 EP – Uruguay                    “19.o Colapso Nervioso” + “Dia Triste” (Sad Day)

Rolling Stones 45-Uruguay-aRolling Stones 45-Uruguay-aa

Mid-60s Stones enthusiasts should seek out classic Joe Pass 1966 album Stones Jazz — subject of an early Zero to 180 piece from 2013.

Best-Sellers vs. Worst-Sellers

As I was finalizing my recent Bill Doggett piece, I was trying to confirm the “four million” sales figure that is so often attributed (Wikipedia) to his 1956 smash hit, “Honky Tonk” – an extraordinary number for an instrumental, especially in the mid-50s.  Ultimately, I was  impelled to wield the search phrase “best-selling instrumental single” to confirm that number — and see what other truths I might unearth along the way.

Second item in the search results:  Wikipedia’s entry for “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” that claims this #1 Billboard hit (for two weeks – on the pop chart for a total of nine) is the “biggest-selling instrumental single in the history of recorded music.”  Yes, yes, but how many copies sold?  “Only” two million!  Guinness World Records affirms this achievement.  Sadly, this means that either (1) Guinness is somehow unaware of “Honky Tonk” selling four million copies, or (2) “Honky Tonk” sold fewer copies than is previously thought.

Million-seller “Honky Tonk”:  Only question is how many?

Bill Doggett Honky Tonk LPWorth pointing out that even though “Honky Tonk” would ‘only’ peak at #2, the song would nevertheless spend over half the year (29 weeks vs. 9 for “Star Wars” theme) on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.  Take that, George Lucas.

Since Zero to 180 is more interested in profiling under-recognized artists and songs, I decided to shift my search efforts to see what might be of interest within the realm of “worst-selling” record-holders.  Lo and behold, I would quickly discover an amusing news item from this past August that unmasks a music industry model that just might be a bit creaky and unsustainable:  Worst-Selling #1 Album in Sales-Tracking History!

Disney Channel’s Descendents television series – as a result of Billboard altering their formula for identifying a #1 album to allow “on-demand streaming and digital track sales” – hit the top spot … with just 30,000 (!) “pure” album sales as reports Rolling Stone [the exact same link, by the way, as from Zero to 180’s recent Led Zep piece].

One of Decca’s worst sellers

Alan Freeman 4545 Clunker of Note:  Zero to 180 would like to thank 45Cat’s YankeeDisc for pointing out that Alan LeslieFluffFreeman, MBE and 40-year British disc jockey/radio personality, would enjoy the distinction of having recorded one of Decca’s Worst-Ever Sellers (“and is now, predictably, a rarity and collector’s item“):

“Madison Time”      Alan Freeman     1962

Did you know:   Bill Doggett’s biggest seller would enjoy a resurgence in the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in February and March of 1961 — possibly as a result of King’s contemporary ‘re-boot’ with added vocals.

A Ha Moment:  By the way, I think I just now determined the source of the “4 million” figure, thanks to UK reissue label of note, Ace Records, in the liner notes to their compilation, Honky Tonk!  The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals:

“Still, ‘Honky Tonk’ did enough to earn a gold disc for a million sales (a total of 4 million was mentioned by [King’s Detroit branch manager] Jim Wilson, but who knows).”

Boom!  Bap!   15th Musical Fight!

Vashti Bunyan & the Mid-60s Stones

It’s heartening to see how Vashti Bunyan‘s belated recognition – some thirty years or so after the release of her 1970 debut album, Just Another Diamond Day – has inspired Bunyan to record again, resulting in 2005’s well-received, Lookaftering, and this year’s, Heartleap.

The articles I’ve read about Vashti Bunyan’s unexpected artistic resurgence have given me the distinct impression of Just Another Diamond Day being the starting point of her career. I was a little taken aback, therefore, when I saw Vashti’s name on a 1965 Jagger-Richards song in Don’t Stay Up Too Late‘s very thoughtful (and poetic) “100 Great Singles of the 1960s (That Haven’t Been Played to Death on Oldies Radio)”:

“Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind”     Vashti Bunyan      1965

Decca would release this Andrew Loog Oldham-produced 45 in May, 1965 in the UK only – and Hong Kong.

Vashti Bunyan promo

“New York’s My Home”: Gordon Jenkins ♥ NYC

Gordon Jenkin’s paean to The Big Apple, 1946’s Manhattan Tower — which combines narration, dialogue, sound effects & mood music, along with the songs themselves — was a bold step forward, artistically speaking, for the phonographic medium.  Could this be one of vinyl’s first “concept albums”?  [Wikipedia cites Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads of 1940 as perhaps the earliest.]

Manhattan Tower IJenkins’ original 4-song Decca EP was later expanded into a 12-song suite and released on Capitol in 1956 as The Complete Manhattan Tower.

Manhattan Tower IIOn “New York’s My Home,” the album’s closing song (and B-side of single, “The Party”), the singer [Beverly Mahr] attempts to prove that all of America’s other great cities pale in comparison to Manhattan, though the shameful mispronunciation of a Chicago landmark – as “Soldier’s [sic] Field” – one might argue, reveals a certain provincial mindset on the part of the songwriter, ultimately:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “New York’s My Home” by Gordon Jenkins.]

Sammy Davis, Jr. would release “New York’s My Home” as a Decca single in 1956 and see it climb to #59 on the U.S. pop chart.

Sammy Davis 45More recently, New York City native, Buster Poindexter, and his band would be spotted at The Cutting Room in NYC, where they would give the song a sly kick in the pants.

Gordon Jenkins:  “Crescent City Blues” Gives Birth to “Folsom Prison Blues”

From Robert Hilburn’s recent biography of The Man in Black, I learned that Johnny Cash was rather taken with Gordon Jenkins’ 1953 musical fantasy concept LP, Seven Dreams, while serving a stint with the Air Force in Germany as a radio operator.  So taken, in fact, that Cash would later adapt much of the lyrical imagery in Jenkins’ “Crescent City Blues” when crafting his signature song, “Folsom Prison Blues.”  In the 1970s, Cash would reach an out-of-court settlement with Jenkins over his unauthorized use of “Crescent City Blues.”

“Beatle Crazy”: Will Somebody Pass the DDT?

Thanks to the research staff at Ace Records for the great story behind Bill Clifton‘s attempt to cash-in on the initial Beatles hysteria, 1963’s “Beatle Crazy” – probably the only Beatle tribute song done in a talking blues style.

Beatle Crazy 45

Clifton, who was born into a wealthy family in Baltimore County, Maryland (a jurisdiction, by the way, that does not overlap with Baltimore City), defied family expectations about his professional aspirations and chose to pursue his passion for bluegrass music, leaving West Virginia University to sign with Blue Ridge Records as part of the Dixie Mountain Boys and perform live on WWVA’s “Wheeling Jamboree” radio program in the 1950s.

Clifton later gained distinction for having organized the first bluegrass festival in 1961 at Oak Leaf Park in Luray, Virginia.   Ace takes the story from here:

In 1963, Clifton left the States and re-located in England, settling in Sevenoaks, just outside of London with his wife and four children.  Under the stewardship of a talent manager named Pat Robinson, he began securing radio and TV spots and, with the field virtually to himself, bought a Stetson hat in a London store to add a touch of authenticity to his cod Western image.

In November 1963, Robinson took Clifton into Regent Sound, a low-budget studio in London’s Denmark Street favoured by the Rolling Stones, to record “Beatle Crazy”, a song penned by Geoff Stephens, a schoolteacher from Southend striving to make it as a songwriter.  Though somewhat overshadowed by Dora Bryan’s “All I Want for Christmas Is a Beatle” (the first known Beatle tribute), “Beatle Crazy” notched up steady and substantial sales well into the New Year and went on to become Clifton’s calling card during his three-year English sojourn (it was released in the States in April 1964).

Clifton eventually returned to America where he continued to perform at bluegrass and folk festivals in his role as roving ambassador for the bluegrass cause.  Geoff Stephens would go on to to pen many hits including “The Crying Game” and “Winchester Cathedral.”

“Beatle Crazy” does feature a few great lines – such as, “These guys between them, they sure got some hair.  I’m losing mine, don’t seem fair” – but the knockout punch comes at the end of the song, literally, when chemical weapons become involved:

“Beatle Crazy”     Bill Clifton     1963