Archive for the ‘Get This!’ Category

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Happily Everly After

September 9, 2013

Happily Everly After. It sounds like a throwaway Stanley Unwin line. Perhaps something he’d have spokey-woke on the deeply joyous Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake album. Or perhaps not. In any case, I’m referring to Phil and Don, The Everly Brothers. But you knew that already.

everly brothers 1

The Everlys were so close to the front of the queue at the birth of rock ‘n roll they were practically the midwives. Little Richard might’ve been around pounding his piano to welcome this kicking and screaming new born thing into existence, and Chuck Berry would’ve been somewhere by his side, but it was the Everlys who sat by the bed mopping the fevered brow and shouting perfectly harmonised words of encouragement. A close-knit singing duo with a dual love of country music and a twangin’ guitar, they created a vocal style like no-one else. Big brother Don sang the low parts. Phil, two years his junior, did those keening highs. Added to a rattlin’, rollin’ skiffle rhythm, they suddenly had a sound and found themselves at the forefront of the late 50s music explosion. The Beatles were huge fans, approximating the vocal style of the Everlys’ Cathy’s Clown onto their own Please Please Me like the fanboys they undeniably were.

Paul McCartney’s love for the Everlys went as deep as writing On The Wings Of A Nightingale for them in the mid 80s, giving them a hit single long after they’d been confined to the dustbin of yesteryear and oldies radio.

The Everly’s legacy was cemented not by what they did well, but by what they failed at.  Between them, Phil and Don had six children and went through half a dozen divorces – five from actual matrimonial wives and one colossal split from one another. To say they didn’t really get on with one another would be something of an understatement, but nonetheless they muddled through for a good few years, their warm harmonies disguising the icy coldness each felt towards his sibling.

Like many acts of their era, they suffered the somewhat obligatory bad management/bad label deal in the late ’50s.  Their golden early 60s period was knocked off the rails, initially by the advent of Beatlemania and latterly through their failure to capture the mood of a nation during the Vietnam War. This led to drug and alcohol problems, which led on to other issues…..the loathing and hate that each felt for his brother reached its peak in 1973 when Phil threw his guitar down mid Cathy’s Clown and walked off stage. To paraphrase Don (I can’t find the actual quote)  – “The Everly Brothers are dead…..though we died 10 years ago.” Despite possessing fine musical skills and supreme singing voices, a lukewarm and half-arsed approach to what constituted their individual solo ‘careers’ meant that the Everlys became obsolete in the singer-songwriter-rich’70s. Save their father’s funeral, it would be a decade before they spoke again, brought together by Albert Lee who produced their Live At The Albert Hall comeback show, and a mediating McCartney and his gift of the hit single a year later.
ev bros

Proper musicians’ musicans, the Everlys have left an influence far and wide throughout popular (and not so popular) music.

Anthony Red Hot Chili Willi Kiedis named his son Everly. Thanks, Dad.

Paul McCartney (again) namechecks them on Wings’ Let ‘Em In; Sister Suzie, brother John, Martin Luther, Phil and Don…

Neil Young brazenly nicks the riff from Walk Right Back, slows it down a touch, and with the aid of some good ol’ homegrown, writes Harvest Moon and bags himself a proper critic-pleasing return to form in the process. Contrast and compare:

Walk Right Back:

Harvest Moon:

Elliott Smith‘s eye-wateringly perfect Waltz #2 opens with the couplet; First the mic, then a half cigarette, Singing “Cathy’s Clown”. 

And tucked away on the b-side of Lloyd, I’m ready To Be Heartbroken (in itself a we’re not worthy bow-down to Lloyd Cole), you’ll find Camera Obscura‘s lilting countryish ballad, Phil And Don, bathed in pathos and regret and sounding like the heartbreaker it really is.

*Bonus Track!

Here’s the Everlys doing When Will I Be Loved. A microcosm of all that is good about the Everly Brothers – twangin’ guitar riff, skiffley backbeat and harmonies like glue.

 

Now grab your coat and go and get yourself a copy of an Everly Brothers Greatest hits compilation. No home should be without one. And get yerself a Camera Obscura album while you’re there. You’d like them.

Everly-Brothers-Atlas-Sound(crop this image carefully and you’ve got a Smiths 7″ sleeve that never was)

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Carol Rules Oh Kaye!

August 25, 2013

It’s a long story, but just over a week ago I found myself tartin’ around backstage with the Magic Numbers and fell into conversation with their super-cool bass player,  Michele Stodart. A total muso, we hit it off straight away. For Michele, music’s Year Zero was 1964 and her favourite bands tend to be the originals, or those (like her own band) inspired by the originals. Our talk turned from James Jamerson’s one fingered bass lines to the thrill of seeing all three of Teenage Fanclub take the mike at the same time and why I should give Joni Mitchell another listen (I’ve never been a fan. Michele is a super-fan).

michele

Michele.  Ma belle.

(Photo (C) Paul Camlin)

Michele is a really terrific musician in her own right. Like all the best bass players, her basslines are wee tunes within tunes. Isolate them from the rest of the music and you’d find yourself frugging like a frugging maniac. But it’s not just what she plays. It’s how she plays it. Michele plays her instrument as if it’s an attachment of herself. When she’s lost in the music (and on the evidence of the Magic Numbers set, this is often) she’s headbanging, legs akimbo and hair a go-go like a foxy, female Ramone. That she caresses her guitar like a young wife might her soldier sweetheart when he returns unscathed from a tour of duty in Afghanistan only added to the weak-at-the-knees, heart-a-flutter heightened state of arousal I foun...SPLASH!….

That was the sound of a bucket of ice cold water being tipped over my head. Phew! I went all misty eyed there at the flashback of it all. But now, back to the story.

We got chatting because I mentioned to her that she is hands-down no contest the best female bass player since Carol Kaye. The table tennis ball she was skelping back and forward across the ping pong table was straightaway ignored as she dropped what she was doing to skelp me instead with a hi-five. Table tennis forgotten about, we got down to the business of talking music. And Carol Kaye featured much in our conversation.

carol kaye

Carol Kaye is one of the most prolific, widely heard bass players ever. You might not know what she looks like, or even have heard her name, but you’ll know the stuff she’s played on. I could quite confidently predict that your record collection will feature her Fender bass lines somewhere amongst the grooves.

She is most famous for her work with The Wrecking Crew. I’ve already written quite a big piece about their significance in popular music. I’d urge you to clear 10/15 minutes of your time and go and read it here. While there, you’ll also be able to listen to audio tracks of some of Carol’s best-known work.

A lone woman in a man’s, man’s world, Carol had to work that wee bit harder than the boys in order to gain acceptance. Coming from a jazz background she was schooled in reading charts and in 1963 fell into popular music quite by accident, being in the right place at the right time when the appointed bass player failed to show up on time for a Capitol Records session. Carol stepped in and from that moment on found herself much in demand.

beach boys session carol kayeLook closely…

Throughout the 60s, Carol played on hundreds, possibly thousands of hit records. No-one, least of all her, is actually certain how many. A one-time in-house Motown staffer, she’s somewhat contentiously laid claim to playing some of the label’s finest lines that had always been attributed to the afore-mentioned James Jamerson – Bernadette and Reach Out for the Four Tops and I Was Made To Love Her for Stevie Wonder amongst others. What’s undeniable though is that her high-pitched staccato motifs helped make God Only Knows one of the Beach Boys’ finest. Her 5 note written off-the-cuff intro makes Wichita Lineman instantly recognisable. The opening of Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made For Walkin, the Mission Impossible theme, the breakdown in River Deep, Mountain High. All the work of Carol. I bet you’re humming them right now.

She often played anonymously. The boys in the bands with their Beatles cuts and pointy boots may have looked the part, but often were hopeless musicians. As well as her more well-known stuff with Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, Kaye played some of the trickier bass parts on Love‘s Forever Changes album, Neil Young‘s first LP and the first couple of Frank Zappa albums. What pedigree!

Her indelible stamp runs through the very core of music like the word ‘Blackpool’ in a stick of rock. Responsible for creating the very DNA of popular music, Carol Kaye is an actual living legend. Just ask Michele Stodart.

Here’s just a teeny tiny fraction of some of the music she’s played on;

Andmoreagain from Love‘s Forever Changes LP

Glen Campbell‘s Jimmy Webb-penned Wichita Lineman

I’m Waiting For The Day from Pet Sounds

Porpoise Song by The Monkees

Ike and Tina‘s River Deep Mountain High

carol kaye 1

*Carol fact #1!

Carol played bass on Frank Wilson’s northern soul standard Do I Love You (Indeed I Do). (Indeed, she did).

*Carol fact #2!

Carol is Paul McCartney’s favourite bass player.

I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence … it was the record of the time. The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines … and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded Pepper, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines.

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‘Mon Tae Python

August 6, 2013

 amazing snakeheads

The Amazing Snakeheads are a proper rough ‘n ready rock ‘n roll band. Unlike any number of fellow Glasgow contemporaries, there’s no pose, no preen, no pretence. Just a short, sharp shock of sweaty, sweary in-yer-face claustrophobic riffs.  They’ve just released The Best Single Of 2013 (fact) on Domino Records. It’s called Testifying Time and you can buy it here.

You might have heard it already on 6 Music. They’ve been playing it a lot recently. On Lamacq’s Round Table a couple of weeks ago, the panel waxed lyrical about both record and band so much so that it was played twice before the end of the show.  Mind you, the whole record is done and dusted in 1 minute 5 seconds. They could probably have squeezed another play in before the news headlines if they’d really tried. By the time the news headlines had been read out, I’d bought my copy online.

amazing snakeheads 7

And here’s a thing…

The b-side is even better.

Carrying more implied menace than a dog-eared copy of No Mean City, it would be the ideal soundtrack to kicking off a Mad Dog-induced square go, big style. Y’know those Pixies tracks where a demented Frank Black barks ‘n yelps his way through all sorts of nonsense in pidgin schoolboy Spanish, just him and Kim on bass, playing in front of a garage band drum beat and the odd reverbed clatter? Vamos. That’s the track I’m thinking of.

That’s what The Truth Serum is like. It’s wild-eyed and wired. It’s the sound of throwing an out of control mental wee bam into a wardrobe before sticking a broom, cartoon-style, between the handles as a temporary lock. Thump! Thump! Thump! Let! Me! Out! Ya! Bass! It’s like a sweary Nyah Fearties covering Pixies, and it sounds every bit as good as that suggests. A broad Scots’ tongue lashing of the highest order. Feral, ferocious and effin’ fantastic.

You know that the guitars are going to come crashing in like a pair of size 10 DMs anytime soon, and it’s all going to kick off, but you’re not sure exactly when. The trick they’ve perfected here is the art of making sure the tension builds and builds until it can’t be contained any more and. Must. Be. Released. Here’s that Pixies track:

Estaba pensando sobreviviendo con mi sister en New Jersey!” goes Frank, all menace and snarl. “We’ll go to California!!!” he screams. Screeeeeeeeeeeee!

Geordie? Geordie?! Geordie?!? GEORDIE!!! TELL THUM!Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! go The Amazing Snakeheads. Terrific stuff.

amazing snakeheads sneer

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Cum On Feel The Neus

July 25, 2013

cycling

I’ve been doing a lot of cycling recently, up and down Ayrshire’s sun-baked coast, and much of it has been soundtracked by Neu! I’ve become a bit fed up of my self-compiled iPod ‘Cycling‘ playlist, a playlist that was put together a year ago with great care and attention, added to sporadically since and been sequenced and resequenced numerous times to reflect the ebbs and flows of an average 30 mile ride – a blood-pumping fast one to start (a track by the essential yet horribly-named Fuck Buttons, the name of which escapes me at the moment), before settling into the groove and rhythm of cycling to the combined output of Underworld, Land Observations, Kraftwerk and the likes. And Mogwai’s The Sun Smells Too Loud. That’s always a good one when it pops up. But I got fed up with all of it and started listening to complete albums instead. Searching for the ideal cycling companion. Did you know, you can cycle from Prestwick to Kilwinning in exactly the time it takes London Calling to play? If it’s not too windy…

NEU! PressefotoKlaus Dinger and Michael Rother of Neu!

As much as I love my guitar bands though, I prefer to cycle to electronic music. Music with a pulse beat. Music that plays repetitively. Music that is enhanced when, between the gaps in the tunes, you catch the whirr of a well-oiled chain snaking through the sprocket. Which is where Neu! come in. Not really pure electronic music, Neu! They play guitars and stuff. It’s just that, in amongst the found sounds and random ambient noises they’ve commited to tape, the band have a knack of locking into a good groove and can go at it for ages. Proper head-nodding music. But you knew that already.

Their track Hallogallo has been a cycling staple for over a year. Rhythmic, repetitive and driven by that very motorik, Krauty pulsebeat that’s required for my type of cycling (“I wanted to be carried on a wave like a surfer”, said Rother, explaining his music a few years back), it’s almost as if it was made with me in mind. Which is frankly ridiculous. If someone had told the band in 1972 that their 10 minute opus would be able to be freely listened to on a portable device whilst someone wheezed their way along the highways and byways of the national cycle network, they’d have accused you of smoking something more potent than the jazz cigarettes they were willingly ingesting.

NEU! Pressefoto

Imagine if after leaving The Beatles, Pete Best had gone on to form The Rolling Stones. Not content with being the founding father in one extremely influential group, he goes on to build another. Dinger and Rother did just this. Both were in a prototype Kraftwerk, before splitting and forming Neu! To paraphrase an old joke, I’d say Neu! play both types of music – arty and farty. The three albums they released in the 70s – 1972’s Neu!, ’73’s Neu! 2 and ’75’s Neu! 75 are hugely influential (not then, of course, but now) and greatly important in the development of the Krautrock sound – “an ambient bassless White-light Pop-rock mantra,” as Julian Cope described it in his excellent (and recently reprinted) Krautrocksampler. Remarkably, I picked up an original in a  book sale in Kilwinning library for 25p!

If you’re expecting to hear verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/fade to end, look away now. If you’re made of sterner stuff, jump right in. It’s a bit like drinking alcohol for the first time. Initially, you pretend to like it, but secretly find it hard to stomach, but before long you wondered how you got by without it.

Hallogallo is the opening track from Neu!

Für Immer is the opening track from Neu! 2. “A greener richer Hallogallo“, to quote Julian Cope again. It’s another terrific example of the Neu! sound – a relentless, motorik driving pulse with textured layer upon layer of chiming, ambient guitar and occasional whooshing flung in for good measure. I think you’ll like it.

millport cycle

*Bonus Track!

The Sun Smells Too Loud by Mogwai. Cut from the same Krauty kloth, but with a heavier guitar. S’a cracker.

And, hey! If you go here, you can download Krautrocksampler as a PDF, for free. Danke schön!

 

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Love Songs

July 1, 2013

It starts slow and understated, and remains so for 15 spine-tingling minutes. Vintage synths hold down eee-long-gated chords as a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar picks out little arpeggios underneath. A wee chiming bit of pitched percussion tinkles away in the foreground, announcing itself like a far-off ice cream van shimmering in the haze. There’s a faint whiff of 1970s BBC library music, of the sort you might hear while the girl played noughts and crosses with the clown as you waited impatiently for something to happen through the arched window. A beautiful wee melodica pops up now and again, backed by the same guitar arpeggios, this time chiming away on a clean electric guitar. Then a polite banjo, picking out that same melody. By the time the flutes flutter in, your world has turned beige and tan and orange, you’ve styled yourself a side parting and the beginnings of a moustache have appeared on your top lip. An Open University degree beckons…

gerard love lightships Gerard Love. Happy to take a back seat when there’s a clarinet around.

Motorhead it ain’t. It’s called All I Have To Do Is Sit And Wait and it’s from a five year old, buried-in-time and long-since forgotten about project of Teenage Fanclub’s Gerard Love. Made to accompany a film about a place called Abbey View, it’s designed to be listened to on the bus from Dunfermline to Abbey View, a journey that takes 18 minutes and 43 seconds, the exact length of the original pice of music. You can find out more about it here. Somehow, I only have it in a slightly edited form, but I’m sure you get the idea. Music for a long summers day, or a short bus journey, if the driver put his foot down a wee bit, or skipped a stop or two, he’d have you in Abbey View before the edited version has faded away.

gerardlove

Of course, this was all a precursor to Love’s excellent Lightships album from last year. It’s just that no-one had really heard it until it sneaked out online for 5 minutes then sneaked itself back in again. Grab it quick.

Above is the aforementioned Lightships doing University Avenue from their Fear And Doubt EP.  Sprung from the same DNA as the above track, with added singing, it‘s a beauty. Stop The Clocks, sings Gerry. Aye, stop the clocks indeed. Sit down, relax, play on repeat. And if you haven’t heard Lightships……………….

lighships fear and doubt ep

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I Wanna Be Indoo-oo-ors

June 19, 2013

Well. This piece is causing all sorts of debate over at Louder Than War. Shoot me down….

Stone Roses, Glasgow Green

Saturday June 15th, 2013

reni 1

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

Gonzoid observationalist Hunter S Thomson said this 30 odd years ago. It’s never been more relevant today. The Stone Roses know all about the money trench and the thieves. For any good men and women attending their show at Glasgow Green, they will now, unfortunately, know all about the negative side.

At a gig of this magnitude, you expect all walks of life to be present; the good, the bad and the downright ugly, but this was something else entirely. Brad Pitt was in town a year or so ago filming zombie slopfest World War Z, and as the afternoon turned to evening, the Green resembled a lost cut of the movie. Had Brad been here, he’d have been looking for direction. Or a way out. It was as if every mental health establishment in the West of Scotland had simply shipped every one of its patients up the Clyde and into the park before flinging the key down the nearest, darkest well and doing a runner. Inside, the park was a human cesspit, a giant soup of slurring, slevering stupids in splatted bucket hats, barely able to stand or sit or stagger. It was horrible.

ian brown 1

This isn’t supposed to sound snobbish, but it will invariably be taken that way in any case. So shoot me down. Music fans, the ‘real’ music fans who are regular gig goers and album buyers and live and breathe music like it’s some all-encompassing need for survival will be now be reflecting on a gig where more of the focus was on what was happening around them than what was happening on the big stage in front of them. Music is for all, and you can’t deny anyone’s right to like a band, but why is it The Stone Roses seem to attract the wrong element?

The ones in wee huddles, backs to the stage and openly sniffing and snorting their Class As off of credit cards and keys and whatever else provided a flat surface. Not there for the music, are they?

The ones pilled, powdered and poppered off the planet who, by default, created their own wee exclusive zone amongst the decent people where they could foam at the mouth and loll around, indifferent or oblivious to the sounds coming from the stage. Not there for the music, are they?

The ones tossing cups and bottles containing overpriced beer (and worse) with joyful abandon into the air and onto the crowd in front of them. Throwing pissiles is, I think, the phrase I’m looking for. There were hundreds of these cretins everywhere. Not there for the music, are they?

And the thugs. The 40-something year-old grown-up hooligans in expensive sports wear, pent-up aggression evidently at boiling point, perpetuating the underlying threat of violence if you happen to glance at them the wrong way. Not there for the music, are they?

mani 1

With all this distraction it might’ve been difficult to focus on the stage. Just for the record, The Stone Roses were terrific. But you probably knew that already. I’ve seen them live a handful of times since 1989 and this was easily the most full-on, the most fluid, I’ve ever seen them.

If the sound of the first album is the sound of a band effortlessly gliding their own meandering way across 60s-tinged psychedelic pop, Glasgow Green was the sound of a band dive-bombing their own material with napalm bombs of funk – the muscled-up Second Coming band giving the first album the workout it didn’t even know it needed.

Bobby Gillespie had earlier invited us to Kick Out The Jams, but if anything, the Roses were hell-bent on doing the exact opposite. The 17 song set was packed full of add-ons, cheeky Beatles riffs when Squire thought no-one was looking and enough improvisation required if anyone still doubted this band’s ability to play. I Wanna Be Adored was given a coda akin to Sly Stone going 15 rounds with Jimmy Page.  Standing Here’s Hendrixian hysterics gave way to a beautifully extended and elongated chiming guitar part that ebbed and flowed like the tide on the Firth of the Clyde. Fools Gold, misplaced (to these ears at least) in mid-set was an astonishing exercise in 10? 15? 20? minute motorik, precision funk, its lazy Krautrock groove underpinned by Mani’s outrageously switched-on bass playing and Reni’s octopus-limbed polyrhythms. The best rhythm section around? I think so. Brown’s vocals, so often the brunt of ridicule and mirth sounded fairly decent. In tune, even. Although it could be hard at times to hear him amongst the out of tune voices barking approximations of the right words back at him.

ian reni 1

The gig, the actual musical part of the gig was an absolute triumph. You’ll read lots of testimonies to that over the next few days and weeks as writers trip over superlatives in an attempt to help you fully appreciate it. In fact, I won’t be surprised if/when the Stone Roses let slip that Glasgow Green 2013 really is the best gig they’ve ever played. They simply were that outstanding. It’s just a shame that it was all played out in such shitty conditions.

The Music

Here’s two versions of I Am The Resurrection, one , a faithful to the album version from Rooftops in Glasgow, June 1989 that I recorded myself on my Dad’s wee dictaphone….

 

The other , below, is from the last time they played Glasgow Green, in the big tent. By this time, the band had stretched it out to almost 11 minutes long. At the weekend, it was even longer. You can read about the first Glasgow Green gig here.

And here’s I Am The Resurrection from Saturday night in all its 12 minutes glory.

(Link removed at the request of video owner)

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The Best Pop/Soul 7″ Ever…

May 28, 2013

…and that’s a fact.

This could be a never-ending pub argument amongst (mainly middle-aged) men who should know better, but let’s cut to the chase here – Stoned Love by The Supremes is the best pop/soul 7″ ever.

stoned love 7 pink

It’s in the measured intro – Jean Terrell’s Diana-aping whispered cooing that gives way to the insistent four-to-the-floor snare ‘n tambourine Motown beat. It’s in the stinging fuzz guitar riff (fuzz guitar!!) that plays like the demented half brother of Ernie Isley throughout the whole thing. It’s in the boot stomps and handclaps that give it that talcummed Northern whiff. It’s in the backing vocal performance, with all the ooos and aaaahs and vocal gymnastics that alone confirms it as a whole mini Motown symphony in itself. But most of all it’s in that wee breakdown around 48 seconds, when everything bar the vocals and kick drum drop out momentarily before it all comes back in again in fantastic, glorious technicolour, strings sweeping in life-affirming joy. Don’t you hear the wind blowin‘? The best pop/soul 7″ ever.

Released in 1970, Stoned Love was essentially The Supremes’ American swansong, albeit a high-charting and successful one, much to Motown mogul Berry Gordy’s disgust. With Diana Ross long-since solo, and Berry Gordy focussed on her and her alone, the 3 Supremes – Jean Terrell, Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson – were able to record without the interference of the hit-obsessed Gordy. Both Birdsong and Wilson had rarely featured on previous Supremes records, their vocals instead being sung by anonymous but greater talented sessioneers. Not here. Stoned Love features both their vocals much more prominently. You could argue that Stoned Love is slightly less-polished than the other more well-known Supremes material, but that would surely be nit-picking of the highest order. The vocals soar like a bird on a summer breeze, although, having listened to the media player above, you’ll know that by now. If you don’t want to handclap like a mains-wired marionette and cry even the tiniest tears of joy whenever this record comes on you might as well bunker down with your crap beard and your Biffy Clyro records and fester forever.

Stoned Love 7

Written by Detroit teenager Kenny Thomas as Stone Love and misheard along the way (despite The Supremes singing Stone Love, someone decided it was called Stoned Love, and it stuck) before being fashioned into the best pop/soul 7″ ever by Frank ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)‘ Wilson, Stoned Love is essentially a plea for peace and love. The general sway of the times may have been towards living and loving in harmony, the hippy movement, the ‘legalize it’ campaign, not to mention the war raging in Vietnam (A love for each other will bring fighting to an end, Forgiving one another, time after time…) but the censors heard things differently. Stoned Love was clearly about D.R.U.G.S. drugs! TV appearances were cancelled. Radio stations dropped it from their playlists, although not before the record had charted and gone to #1 on the RnB charts and #7 on the Hot 100 (and #3 in the UK). Berry Gordy washed his hands completely of it and The Supremes were left to limp on a few more months, to ever-decreasing returns.

For such a sacred cow, there have been mercifully few butcherings of Stoned Love over the years. There was a terrible Motown Remixed album that came out a few years back (possibly for a Motown landmark anniversary, though I can’t be sure) where Stoned Love was remixed, rejigged and extended to within an inch of its life, but apart from that there seems to be a healthy respect for it and it’s so far been left otherwise untouched. The Stone Roses last year chose to use it as their intro music, the ‘love between our brothers and sisters‘ seeming to be pretty apt for the event. They play Glasgow in little over 2 weeks and if it’s anything like the last time they played Glasgow Green, this writer will be praying that the audience of grown-up neds and nedettes heed the words wisely. You can read all about that particular event here.  Poignant and Beautifully Written were John Robb’s words to me. Just sayin’.

Stoned Love

supremes 70s

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There’s No Money Beyond The 5th Fret

April 10, 2013

Tommy Tedesco said that.

Tommy who?

wrecking crew movie

Last summer I went to the Glasgow screening of the above film about The Wrecking Crew, the crack bunch of LA sessioneers who played anonymously on a whole host of things, from film and TV scores via advertising jingles to some of the biggest-selling and best-loved songs of that golden period in early-mid 60s pop music. Tommy Tedesco was a jazz guitarist, and somehow found himself part of that inner-circle of session men and women. Made by Tommy’s son Denny, the film is a celebration of the life and work of his father and The Wrecking Crew. It’s terrific. Denny has, for the past couple of years, been touring the world showing his movie at Film Festivals and special screenings in a bid to drum up the finance required to support the publishing rights of the film. It’s impossible to make a movie about such great music without actually featuring that same music, and seemingly it costs a whole lot of money to negotiate the publishing minefield that the lawyers and money men have put in front of him. If you ever win the lottery and want to help someone out, I’m sure Denny would be more than happy to take your call. If you ever get a chance to see his film, grab it with both hands. Much of the music featured throughout the years on Plain Or Pan is a product of The Wrecking Crew, so if you’re a regular on here, I’d even go so far as to say it’s right up your street.

wrecking crew elvis

The Wrecking Crew were the go-to guys in the LA recording industry. Slicker than the Brycleem covering Bing Crosby’s bald bits and packing more swing than Sinatra with a six iron, they swept aside the old shirt ‘n tied brigade with little regard for history or unwritten rules.

I coined the name The Wrecking Crew,” explains ace drummer Hal Blaine. “We came into the studio with our Levis and t-shirts, smokin’ cigarettes, and the older guys were sayin’ ‘They’re gonna wreck the music business!'”

Working quickly and cheaply, and with the ability to read charts and scores of music at the drop of a cocked hat (they had backgrounds in jazz and classical) they were able to turn their hand to anything at all. Often, they came up with the licks and riffs that we all still whistle and hum today. Uncredited. The intro to Wichita Lineman? The intro to These Boots Were Made For Walkin‘? Plucked from thin air by The Wrecking Crew. Working on flat union fees rather than the gamble of percentage royalties, each musician knew that if they played more than one session a day, by the end of the week after they’d multiplied up the standard session fee, they’d be rich. They were so much in demand that playing only one session a day was not ever likely. Producers would request The Wrecking Crew, then hold off the recording session until the Crew could fit them in. The Wrecking Crew did them all. In and out the studio in the time it took to learn the part and record it before going off to the next one. And the next. And the next.

wrecking crew studio

Without the benefit of hindsight of course, they had no idea that this music they were playing would shape the sound of popular music forever. The roll call of records and groups bearing The Wrecking Crew’s stamp is a super-long embarrassment of riches. Off the top of my head – all of Phil Spector‘s epoch-defining Wall Of Sound records, many Beach Boys records, including the sessions that would produce Pet Sounds and Smile, the Elvis ’68 Comeback Special for TV, The Byrds first album (only Roger McGuinn was considered good enough to play on it. The other Byrds sang, but the rest of the music was provided by The Wrecking Crew), a ton of Dean Martin stuff, Frank Sinatra‘s Summer Wind, the Pink Panther theme, Aquarius by the 5th Dimension, most of The Monkees records (Mike Nesmith was The Monkees’ version of Roger McGuinn), Somebody Groovy, California Dreamin’, Monday Monday and countless other Mamas And Papas tracks, Harry Nilsson‘s Everybody’s Talkin‘, Sonny & Cher‘s And the Beat Goes On. And on. And on. And on. You get the idea?

wrecking crew hal blaine

The Wrecking Crew were seemingly involved in everything. Hal Blaine alone estimates he’s played on 35,000 sessions. Thirty five! Thousand! Playing 3 sessions a day for 7 days a week, that’d take him about 30 years going by my calculations. At the height of their activity, I reckon The Wrecking Crew must’ve been doing 50 sessions a week, easy. One day alone might produce The More I See You for Chris Montez and Coconut Grove for The Lovin’ Spoonful before lunch, Dizzy with Tommy Roe and It Never Rains In Southern California with Albert Hammond in the afternoon and a longer session with Simon & Garfunkel in the eveningHomeward Bound and off to tuck the kids into bed. (In the chronology of it all, doing these 5 particular records might’ve been impossible, but you know what I mean). Not a bad day’s work, and, it seemed, every day in The Wrecking Crew calender was like that.

Of course, sadly, frustratingly sadly for some, without the benefit of hindsight, who knew that they’d be involved in so many solid-gold standards? Taking the gamble of percentage royalties would clearly have been the smart thing to do. Every member of The Wrecking Crew would still be a millionaire now. Hal Blaine knew the value in working hard and to paraphrase from the film wanted to make the ride to success as quick as possible and the inevitable decline as slow as could be. By the mid 60s, artists would want to play on their own records. Crucially, the record companies would allow them to play on their own records, and the slow demise of The Wrecking Crew was set in motion. But at the time, The Wrecking Crew were coining it in. As super-cool bass player Carol Kaye points out, “I was making more money than the President of the United States!” Hal Blaine was also earning enough to have a huge house and a yacht, but divorce saw to the end of that. When the sessions dried up, he ended up taking a job as a security guard, spending his days listening to the radio blaring out the countless hits he had played on. The irony was not lost on him.  Go and see the film when you get the chance, it’s all in there. Check the website for details: http://www.wreckingcrewfilm.com

wrecking crew carol kaye

The Music

You know all the biggies, so here’s  a few less well-known selections from the absolute embarrassment of Wrecking Crew riches…

Carol KayeBass Catch.

Ridiculously funky, even for a white man from the West Coast of Scotland. That’s Carol in the picture above.

5th DimensionAquarius.

The hippy dream set to the most fruggable bassline since the word ‘frug’ was invented.

The Mamas and The PapasSomebody Groovy.

The hippy dream sang beautifully. Michelle Philips. Aaaaaaah.

Sonny & CherThe Beat Goes On.

Written by Sonny Bono, the title is inscribed on his gravestone. Later covered in a big band jazz stylee by Buddy Rich, with his 10 year old daughter doing the Cher parts.

Lee HazlewoodThese Boots Are Made For Walkin’.

Kind of a post-demo, if there is such a thing, Lee’s version takes the same backing track from Nancy Sinatra’s hit single, but he tells the story of how they recorded it. Essential listening!

—————————————————————

The Curios (neither of these were recorded wham! bam! thank you, maam!, that’s for certain)

Brian Wilson haranguing Hal Blaine and co. during the recording of Wouldn’t It Be NiceQuiet please, genius at work.

Phil Spector haranguing Hal Blaine and co. during the recording of Be My Baby. Wonderful!

wrecking crew spector

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I’m Hank Marvin

April 2, 2013

According to some so-far-unconfirmed sources, Richard Hawley, in his National Health milk bottle thick Gregory Pecks and greasy collpased 1950s quiff has Sleepwalk by Brooklyn brothers Santo & Johnny Farina playing on a constant loop inside his head, and, when stuck for inspiration, reaches out and grabs whatever twangy part happens to float past and recycles it under his own name. Cleverly, he also adds his own bottom of the bottle of whisky vocals to it, but disregard them if you can and it all becomes clear.

santo and johnny

Nothing evokes that fuzzy, fuggy end of the prom waltz into the wee small hours quite like Sleepwalk. A shuffling, twanging instantly recognisable piece of late 50s melancholia, it’s got the minor key melodrama down to a tee; The slide guitars streeeeeeeeeeetch off out into the ether. The steel guitars weep like jilted boyfriends who’ve just come off second best in the game of love to the star quarterback. There’s a tiny bit of stand-up slapback bass underpinning the soft-shoe shuffle of the brushed drums and really, that’s about it. Two brothers. Two jobbing sessioneers. Four instruments. No overdubs. Recorded at the famous Trinity Sound studios in New York for $35 during Bing Crosby’s lunch break. Quite possibly.

sleepwalk sleeve

It’s since become something of a graduation piece for budding bedroom guitarists the world over. Master some chords (3 majors and a minor should do) then move onto the tricky pickin’. Sleepwalk is perfect for this, as is borne out by the number of early 60s (and beyond) cover versions by nascent young whippersnappers eager to show off their chops. The Shadows and The Ventures, between them the finest purveyors of the guitar instrumental (with apologies to Dick Dale) both released versions early into their recording careers. Chet Atkins fancy-panted his up somewhat with some jazzy-inflected country licks and none-more-50s rasping saxophone. Jeff Beck’s version is a soulful, we’re-not-worthy bow-down to the original, and even I have been known to dust off the old Telecaster, fire up the Orange amp and crank out my fat-fingered approximation of the tune. King of them all though is Brian Setzer’s respectful yet mental Grammy winning version. A man who out-Hawleys the Hawley and clearly spends even more time than the Sheffield Shinatra dreaming about the good old days of pre-TV households and cars as wide as they were long, his version knocks all others for six. Here’s how to do it:

sleepwalk tab

Bonus Track!

Santo & Johnny Sleepwalk (extended version)

Twangtastic.

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Born To Be With You Triple Whammy

February 6, 2013

chordettes

Born To Be With You was an American top 5 single for The Chordettes in 1956. A largely forgotten piece of bobbysox balladeering, it’s a proto doo wop, proto girl group paen to a just-out-of-reach romance, all minor key melodrama and vocal harmonies. It was quite clearly an influence on the young Phil Spector a few years later. A few short calendar years maybe, but it might as well have been several lightyears, given what happened in the intervening years betwixt and between The Chordettes and the golden touch of Phil Spector. 1956 was Year Zero for rock ‘n roll. The year that Elvis and his gyrating pelvis appeared on television screens with the dual effect of horrifying the moral majority of Americans whilst galvanising youths everywhere into action.

Before Elvis there was nothing.”

John Lennon said that. And after Elvis there was everything. I’ll say that. Firstly, Tin Pan Alley songwriters and their ‘moon in June‘ blandfest of lyrics were given a huge boot up the arse and out the door. As they were leaving, in came bands who played their own instruments, wrote their own songs, presented themselves as a gang and dressed accordingly. In a few short years, the thrill of rock ‘n roll and all its attendant detritus was well in motion. But you knew that already.

Phil Spector was a bit of a throwback to that pre-Elvis era. The auteur of teen angst, he used assorted songwriters to pen the hits, before introducing the song to the musicians who would bend and shape it into Spector’s vision of a 3 minute symphony, before finally introducing the singers to the song and pushing them to the very edge of their limits in order to create pop perfection. Goffin & King. Ellie Greenwich. Jeff Barry. Writing for The Ronettes. The Crystals. Darlene Love. I’m sure you know them all. Phil even got himself a writing credit for coming up with the “woah-woah-woah” part at the end of Mann & Weill’s ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling‘. Clever man, that Phil Spector. Well, he was at one time…

dave edmunds

Spector’s influence reached far and wide, as far even as that hotbed of rock action, south Wales. In 1973, following the huge success of I Hear You Knocking (a favourite of John Lennon, coincidentally), and after a part in David Essex’s Stardust, Dave Edmunds combined his love of early 50s rock ‘n roll with the technique of Phil Spector and produced his own version of The Chordettes’ Born To Be With You. It’s terrific! A wall of 12 string guitars, stratosphere-scraping vocals and galloping, clattering rat-ticky-tat percussion. It’s measured. Precise. Perfect. By the time the brass ‘n slide guitar part comes soaring in, you’ll already have convinced yourself this is the best record you’ve heard all year. Someone like Glasvegas could waltz in and do it in the same style and make it sound even huger. “Coz ah wiz borrrrn…tae be wi’ yooo!” But for the moment, content yourself with Dave Edmund’s 40-year old version. I think you’ll like it a lot.

Pop Quiz Interlude

Q. Aside from The Beatles, name the only other rock/pop artists on the cover of the Sgt Peppers LP.

sgt pepper

A. Bob Dylan (top right, back row) and Dion (7th from left, 2nd back row. Just next to Tony Curtis and behind a wee bit from Oscar Wilde).

Dylan you’ve probably heard of. Dion too, for that matter. Dion was a duh-duh-duh-d’-duh-duh duh dude. His rasping, doo-wopping Noo Yoik Bronx vocal created monster hits. The Wanderer. Runaround Sue. A Teenager In Love. I’m sure you’re singing them now, ingrained as they are in the very fabric of rock ‘n roll.  Dion was also the Marti Pellow of his day – pop idol on the outside whilst rattling to the bones with heroin on the inside. When the hits dried up, Dion found himself label-less, friendless and definitely down and out in New York City. Following a religious epiphany (c’mon! what did you expect?!?) and subsequently ditching the drugs, 1975 found Dion working with Phil Spector on his own version of Born To Be With You.

dion 7

Ironically, it’s less Spectorish than Edmunds’ rollin’ and tumblin’ version. Dion’s is downbeat, introspective and melancholy, sounding exactly like the kind of record an artist makes when they know they’re in the last chance saloon; measured (again) and majestic. At just short of 7 minutes, it’s something of an epic. Jason Pierce of Spiritualized is said to be a huge fan of this record, which makes perfect sense. It’s almost Spiritualized in template, with it’s steady, pulsing riff and inter-woven sax breaks. And the background drugs story was no doubt the icing on the cake for our Jason.

Good records. That’s what they are. Play them. Enjoy them. Pass it on.

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