Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Studio master tapes, studio outtakes

Ghosts Of Christmas Past (1)

(Originally posted this time last year)

It’s the annual, token Plain Or Pan Christmas posting. And this year it’s a cracker. Boom, boom!

The-Jacksons-I-Saw-Mommy-Kissi-567946

At the televised Michael Jackson funeral/tribute on the telly after his death there was a piece of slo-mo footage that was absolutely dynamite, and it’s stuck with me ever since. I can’t seem to find it on the You Tube (copyright, Rob Bryden) so you’ll need to make do with my 3 4 and a half year old memories.

In it, a barely into double figures Michael, wearing an eye-poppingly bright tank top and very pointy collared shirt, body pops up and down, left and right, back to front, with all the carefree abandon of someone so young and foolish and happy. Watching it was almost tear-inducing, to see what he once was like when faced with the grim reality of what he had become. His wee tailored checked flares flap around the top of his cuban heeled boots in time to his and his elder brothers choreographed moves, their afros bobbing up an down in funky unison. Yeah, the brothers played the music and laid down the groove, but all eyes were on Michael. Without him, they were nothing. Ten years old and he owned the stage, looking right down the lens of the camera and into the homes of millions when he was singing, desperate for the musical interlude to arrive when he could break out the shackles and into his total, uninhibited dance as though his life depended on it. That his bastard of a father was probably standing just out of shot with brows furrowed and fists clenched makes the piece of film all the more amazing.

jackson 5 ebony

We all know how he turned out, but for a few moments at least, remember Michael Jackson as the wee boy who lit up the stage.

It’s worth listening to the voice too. I mean, really listening to the voice. You know he can dance. And you know he can sing. But strip the music away, isolate the vocals and what do you have? Perfection, that’s what. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is not a track I’ll freely run to when I need to hear the Jackson 5. Who does? But listen to this – the vocal-only track.

The control in his voice. The sheer joy he sings it with. The range of notes he can reach. That last note he hits, and holds, right at the end, is sensational. Anyone who tells you they can sing should be made to listen to this then asked to reassess their position on the matter forthwith.

And here‘s wee Michael giving Santa Claus is Coming To Town the same sort of high-octane, helium-voiced treatment. A pocketful o’ dynamite!

jackson 5 xmas colour

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s that vocal-only track of Michael singing the Jackson 5′s I Want You Back – One of Plain Or Pan’s most popular downloads ever. If you’ve never heard it before it’ll blow your mind…

Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions, Studio master tapes

Punctured Bicycles, Desolate Hillsides And All That Jazz

Recorded between London and Manchester almost 30 years ago (September/October 1983), This Charming Man was the record that transported The Smiths up and out of the late-night, Peel-championed margins and into the mainstream, Top Of The Pops and all.

smiths this charming man

A giddy rush of walkin’ talkin’ Motown basslines and chiming staccato guitar riffs, topped off with Morrissey’s yelping yodel, it still sounds exhilarating to these ears as I type right now. Even the much-maligned New York Mix, with its none-more-80s ricocheting rim shots and ghostly guitar fade-ins still does it.

The Top Of The Pops appearance (the band’s first of 11) a few months later in November was superb, with Morrissey battering about his oversized bunch of gladioli in a show of high camp, while the other 3 played like seasoned telly regulars in matching M&S polo necks. Save a select, hip few, this was the first time many folk had actually seen The Smiths and the effect was seismic. It’s no surprise that by that weekend, sales of Brylcreem had risen 110%, old men’s barbers up and down the country were queued out with boys wanting flat tops, “but just leave the front bit, thanks” and any number of grannies were wondering what had happened to that nice chiffon blouse they’d been keeping in their wardrobe for that special occasion. Your David’s wearing it, gran. Teamed up with that cheap glass-beaded necklace our Doreen gave you when she was eight. And he’s off to the Red Lion where there’s every chance he’ll get himself half a light ale and a right good kicking. Me? I was still in my bedroom, listening to Frankie’s Relax until the wee small hours.

Much has been made of the speed at which Morrissey and Marr wrote in the early days. This Charming Man was one such song. Johnny had heard Aztec Camera’s Walk Out To Winter on regular radio rotation and felt his band should be getting the same attention. With a John Peel session coming up (14th September, to be aired one week later), Marr pulled out all the stops to write a catchy, radio-friendly tune in a major key (G, if you’re asking, though really A, as he tuned his guitar up one whole step). According to Johnny, the tune took him all of 20 minutes to write, although he would spend far longer with producer John Porter to perfect the sonics in the studio.

“There are about 15 tracks of guitar. People thought the main guitar part was a Rickenbacker, but it’s really a ’54 Tele. There are three tracks of acoustic, a backwards guitar with a really long reverb, and the effect of dropping knives on the guitar — that comes in at the end of the chorus.”

Listen for that wobbly doiiiinnnngg every now and again – that’s the two Johns (Porter and Marr) dropping kitchen knives on an open-tuned guitar. You can’t do that with GarageBand, kids.

smiths 83

Morrissey, on the other hand, was studio shy. He often had to be coaxed into doing more than one or two vocal takes. His lyrics for This Charming Man were impossibly impenetrable to this 13 year old, and to be honest, not much has really changed over the past 30 years. Singing about some sort of clandestine sexual initiation or other, Morrissey’s words were “just a collection of lines that were very important. They seemed to stitch themselves perfectly under the umbrella of This Charming Man.” The lyrics were almost certainly taken from Morrissey’s faithful notebook, his collection of words in search of a tune, but they weren’t entirely Morrissey’s own.

The 1972 film Sleuth, starring Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier features a scene where Olivier points a gun at Caine calling him ‘a jumped up pantry boy who doesn’t know his place‘.

The 1961 movie adaption of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste Of Honey features two characters discussing their evening. ‘Are you going dancing tonight?’ ‘I can’t, I haven’t got any clothes to wear.’ Delaney would prove to be a rich source of material for Morrissey’s lyrics. But more of that another time.

Stolen words or otherwise, what’s undeniable is that This Charming Man ramped The Smiths up a notch or two and set them off on their all-too brief trail-blazing journey through the mid 80s.

Here’s the music:

This Charming Man (London mix)

This Charming Man (Manchester Mix)

This Charming Man (New York Vocal Mix)

*Bonus Tracks!

Howsabout some more of those studio master tape tracks? Below you’ll find the bass, the guitar, the vocal and a guitar/percussion track. Isolated parts, perfect for your inner George Martin. Or indeed, inner John Porter.

Andy’s bass track:

Johnny’s lead guitar part:

Morrissey’s vocals:

Guitars/percussion track:

charming charlie

Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Most downloaded tracks, Studio master tapes

A Helium-Enhanced Happy Christmas

It’s the annual, token Plain Or Pan Christmas posting. And this year it’s a cracker. Boom, boom!

The-Jacksons-I-Saw-Mommy-Kissi-567946

At the televised Michael Jackson funeral/tribute on the telly after his death there was a piece of slo-mo footage that was absolutely dynamite, and it’s stuck with me ever since. I can’t seem to find it on the You Tube (copyright, Rob Bryden) so you’ll need to make do with my 3 and a half year old memories. In it, a barely into double figures Michael, wearing an eye-poppingly bright tank top and very pointy collared shirt, body pops up and down, left and right, back to front, with all the carefree abandon of someone so young and foolish and happy. Watching it was almost tear-inducing, to see what he once was like when faced with the grim reality of what he had become. His wee tailored checked flares flap around the top of his cuban heeled boots in time to his and his elder brothers choreographed moves, their afros bobbing up an down in funky unison. Yeah, the brothers played the music and laid down the groove, but all eyes were on Michael. Without him, they were nothing. Ten years old and he owned the stage, looking right down the lens of the camera and into the homes of millions when he was singing, desperate for the musical interlude to arrive when he could break out the shackles and into his total, uninhibited dance as though his life depended on it. That his bastard of a father was probably standing just out of shot with brows furrowed and fists clenched makes the piece of film all the more amazing.

jackson 5 xmas colour

Michael Jackson turned out all wrong, but for a few moments at least, he is worth remembered as the wee boy who lit up the stage. It’s worth listening to the voice too. I mean, really listening to the voice. You know he can dance. And you know he can sing. But strip the music away, isolate the vocals and what do you have? Perfection, that’s what. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is not a track I’ll freely run to when I need to hear the Jackson 5. Who does? But listen to this – the vocal-only track.

The control in his voice. The sheer joy he sings it with. The range of notes he can reach. That last note he hits, and holds, right at the end, is sensational. Anyone who tells you they can sing should be made to listen to this then asked to reassess their position on the matter forthwith. And here‘s wee Michael giving Santa Claus is Coming To Town the same sort of high-octane, helium-voiced treatment. A pocketful o’ dynamite!

jackson-5-scooters

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s that vocal-only track of Michael singing the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back – One of Plain Or Pan’s most popular downloads ever.

Deleted by The Man. Pfffft.

 

That’ll probably be me till after Boxing Day. See you on the other side….

Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Studio master tapes

Phew, What A Scorcher ‘n All That…

*Disclaimer 1

I wrote this on Saturday, telling myself I’d finish it later and went out to enjoy the weather. It’s now Tuesday and the storm clouds are gathering.

Y’know, I make a point of digging deep to turn up the rarest of the rare when sometimes it’s the obvious ones that are the best. With the school holidays nearly over, the weather has (naturally) taken a turn for the better and we’re currently basking in what the tabloids of yore might refer to as a heatwave. Phew, what a scorcher and all that. There’s no denying. I’m in shorts. I’ve cut the grass. The smells of barbecuing meats are wafting from somewhere across my back door. The shrieks and high pitched laughter from wee ones in paddling pools is competing for ear space with the football on the radio and I’m contemplating painting my fence, safe in the knowledge that the job’ll be done before the rain comes on. Because at the moment it looks like we’ve as much chance of rain as the Costa del Sol. Great, eh!

Heat Wave was a 1963 hit single for Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. From the collective pen of Holland-Dozier-Holland, the oft-forgotten about songwriting team who are up there with your Lennons & McCartneys and Jaggers & Richards in the Sixties Premier League of hit songwriting teams, it’s sometimes referred to as (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave. Straight off the Motown production line, it’s a Funk Brothers piano-led, hand-clapping, gospel-tinged, giddy call-and-response shout-out to the joys of being in love, ell you vee love and all that, and it gave the Vandellas their first big hit single, reaching number 4 on the Billboard charts. Since then, it’s been covered by all manner of artists, from label mates The Supremes (a facsimile of the original), via celebrity coat ‘n hat checker Cilla Black (Surprise, Surprise, it’s very good!) to Linda Ronstadt’s mid 70s FM-friendly AOR version, replete with subtle bongos and meanderingly polite soft rock guitar solo, the sort of thing you might expect a half-arsed covers band to be playing at a Holiday Inn in the background of a TV movie. The most effervescent covers tend to have been by the boys. Both The Who and The Jam channeled their inner mod and bashed out R ‘n B tinged faithful reworkings. The Who’s version is fast. The Jam’s is faster.

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(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave:

Martha & the Vandellasoriginal

Diana Ross & The Supremesversion

Cilla Black‘s version

The Who‘s version

Linda Ronstadt‘s version

The Jam‘s version

Martha & the Vandellas‘ vocal-only studio outtake. These vocals gained the group a Grammy Nomination. And rightly so. They’re terrific!

*Bonus Track!

Martha & the Vandellas‘ vocal-only take of Jimmy Mack.

That fence painting job? I’m just contemplating, though. Not doing. This weather doesn’t happen too often. I think I’m going to get some sounds on and sit in the sun and enjoy it. I might even pour myself a drink. Costa del Sol, or Costa del Peroni, it won’t matter.

*Disclaimer 2

I’ve since painted the fence. It looks fine.

Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Studio master tapes

Riff Trade

Di’-di’-di’-di’    (pause)      duh-di’-di’-di’   (half pause)    di’-di’

I’ll name that tune in 4, Lionel!”

Go on then, Name That Tune!”

Obviously, it’s Hitch-Hike, the number 30 in ’63 hit for Marvin Gaye, released on the Tamla Motown label…”

Indeed it is. (Show off). Hitch-Hike was one of Marvin’s early hits and, in best Motown tradition was a family affair, featuring the singing secretaries, Martha Reeves and her Vandellas, on backing vocals. A practically perfect 2 minutes-odd ode to finding his runaway girlfriend, it‘s signature stuttering guitar riff briefly lead to a short-lived but groovy (baby) Hitch-Hike dance craze, where participants looked like demented second prize winners in a Paul McCartney impressions contest….

I like the fact that the girl at the end is dancing in her pants on live telly. Nowadays she’d probably just whip them off for shock value and hardly anyone would bat an eyelid.

A couple of short years later, The Rolling Stones put out their version of Hitch-Hike on Out Of Our Heads.  The current issue of Mojo magazine has a good feature on early Stones and listening to it made a good accompaniment to reading the article. Out Of Our Heads is the Stones as garage band; rough, feral, fast and frantic. The guitar interplay between Keith and Brian is brilliant. Who plays what at any given time is hard to work out. Riffs, power chords and super-distorted slashing freak-out leads are all in the mix. Never heard it? It’s never too late…

High on industrial strength drugs (possibly) in his Chelsea loft appartment (maybe) and with a mono copy of Out Of Our Heads spinning on the old Dansette (very likely), Lou Reed suddenly had a thought. An inspiration. A bloody cheek. “A-ha!” he shouted, Archimedes-like, and right there and then pinched the Hitch-Hike riff lock, stock and barrel for his and the Velvet Underground‘s own There She Goes Again.

Di’-di’-di’-di’    (pause)      duh-di’-di’-di’   (half pause)    di’-di’

Can you tell what it is yet?

Fast forward 18 years and we find Johnny Marr in his Kensington flat (probably), mono copy of Out Of Our Heads spinning on the old Dansette (certainly). The Hitch-Hike riff kicks in and Johnny, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, takes the feel of it and applies it to the set of chords he’s been fiddling around with. A bit more subtle than Lou Reed, but listen to the start of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. Ah! D’you see what he did there? Johnny was hoping he could fool the know-it-all journalists who’d no doubt point out that he nicked the riff from The Velvet Underground, the band that anyone who was anyone in a mid 80s guitar band could pilfer and steal their image or an idea or two from. That’ll be you I’m looking at, William and Jim Reid. And Ian McCulloch. And the rest of you. You know who you are.

As Johnny himself said in 1993, “There’s a little in-joke in there just to illustrate how intellectual I was getting. At the time everyone was into the Velvet Underground and they stole the intro to ‘There She Goes Again’ – da da da-da, da da-da-da, Dah Dah! – from the Rolling Stones version of ‘Hitch-Hike,’ the Marvin Gaye song. I just wanted to put that in to see whether the press would say, Oh it’s the Velvet Underground! Cos I knew that I was smarter than that. I was listening to what The Velvet Underground was listening to.”

“If we needed some songs fast, then Morrissey would come round to my place and I’d sit there with an acoustic guitar and a cassette recorder. ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ was done that way.”

Morrissey was sat on a coffee table, perched on the edge. I was sat with my guitar on a chair directly in front of him. He had A Sony Walkman recording, waiting to hear what I was gonna pull out. So I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this one’ and I started playing these chords. He just looked at me as I was playing. It was as if he daren’t speak, in case the spell was broke.”

“We recorded ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ in 10 minutes. I went on to add some flute overdub and strings and a couple of extra guitars, but really, the essence and the spirit of it was captured straight away, and that normally means that something’s gone really, really right. I have a version (get it! get it!) of that take with just the three instruments and the voice on it – it absolutely holds up as a beautiful moment in time. The Smiths were all in love with the sound that we were making. We loved it as much as everyone else, but we were lucky enough to be the ones playing it.”

I didn’t realise that ‘There Is A Light’ was going to be an anthem but when we first played it I thought it was the best song I’d ever heard.”

Andy Rourke also loved There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. He calls it the indie Candle In The Wind. Make of that what you will.

Johnny Marr onstage with The Smiths when they played The Magnum Leisure Centre in my hometown of Irvine, September 1985. It still kills me that I never went. Stupid boy.

*Bonus Track!

Get this – one of those studio outtake thingies that caused Plain Or Pan to go into meltdown a couple of years ago. It’s the vocal-only version of Marvin Gaye‘s Hitch-Hike, every broken high note, breathless fade-out, ‘hmm‘ and ‘yeah‘. Pure soul, man. Pure soul!

Cover Versions, demo, Double Nugget, Dylanish, elliott smith, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Most downloaded tracks, New! Now!, Peel Sessions, Sampled, Six Of The Best, Studio master tapes, studio outtakes

I Got 5 Years Stuck On My Eyes

I got 5 years, what a surprise!Five Years‘, Bowie’s opening track on the Ziggy album ends with that afore-mentioned refrain. But you knew that already. You might also know that Plain Or Pan has now been going for 5 years. Or you might not. Either way, thanks for visiting time and time again. Whether you’re one of the few who choose to ‘follow this blog’ or you’re one of those misguided creeps who ended up here via Google after searching for ‘Teenage Fanny‘ and got the Bellshill Beach Boys instead, those visits (and the numbers they register behind the scenes in the Plain Or Pan office) are what keeps me a-writin’ and researchin’. Not as often as I’d like to, but as someone commented some time ago, “One good post a week is better than 7 posts of shite.” I might be paraphrasing there, but you get the idea.

As is now customary at this time of year, my team of office monkeys gather up all statistical information made available to them and compile a couple of CDs worth of the year’s most popular downloaded tracks and painstakingly create a groovy cover that goes with it. This is not a quick process. Hours are spent refining and re-refining running orders. At least 14 different covers are produced before a carefully-selected random sample of Plain Or Pan’s target audience (that’s you, that is) choose the cover that speaks most to them. This year is slightly different. The office monkeys have gone on strike (they mumbled something about pensions) and time is at a premium (ie, I don’t have any). The tracks, 2 CDs worth are here. The artwork, not your normal CD cover, more of an image that you can use as cover art in iTunes or however you listen to music on your computer, is there, above this paragraph (right click, save as etc etc). The tracklist? I don’t have one. This year you can choose your own running order from the following:

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John Barry – Midnight Cowboy

King Creosote – Home In A Sentence

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (Rare Italian pressing)

Gruff Rhys – Shark Ridden Waters, which samples….

The Cyrkle – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Midlake – Branches

Elliott Smith – Alameda

Peter Salett – Sunshine

Mott The Hoople – Walking With A Mountain

Primal Scream – Jailbird (Kris Needs’ Toxic Trio Stay free mix)

Primal Scream & PP Arnold – Understanding (Small Faces cover)

Ride – Like A Daydream

The Wildebeests – That Man (Small Faces cover)

Dion – The Dolphins (Tim Buckley cover)

Darondo – Didn’t I

Edwin Starr – Movin’ On Up (Primal Scream cover)

Shellac – My Black Ass

The Rivingtons – Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow (the building blocks of Surfin Bird)

The Survivors – Pamela Jean (Brian Wilson recording)

The Heavy – How You Like Me Now? which heavily ‘borrows’ from…

Dyke & The Blazers – Let A Woman Be A Woman (Let A Man Be A Man)

The La’s – Come In Come Out (John Leckie mix)

The Girlfriends – My One And Only Jimmy Boy

The Whyte Boots – Nightmare

James Brown & the Famous Flames –I’ll Go Crazy

The Jim Jones Revue – Hey Hey Hey Hey, cover of….

Little Richard – Hey Hey Hey Hey (false start take)

Suede – The Wild Ones (unedited version)

Lee Dorsey – Holy Cow

Fern Kinney – Groove Me

Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady (alt mix)

Jackson 5 –  I Want You Back (Michael’s isolated vocal – dynamite!!!)

Reparta & the Delrons – Shoes (the inspiration for The Smiths’ A Rush And A Push…)

Dusty Springfield – Spooky

She & Him – Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want (Smiths cover)

John Barry – The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair

A fairly representative selection of what Plain Or Pan is all about, you might agree. In other words, a right rum bag of forgotten classics and demos and cover versions and alternative takes and studio outtakes and the rest of it. Outdated Music For Outdated People right enough.

Missed any of these legendary compilations?

Here‘s the first 2 years, 2007 & 2008

Here‘s 2009’s

Here‘s 2010’s

Download ’til yer heart’s content!

Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Studio master tapes

The Kids Are Alright

When is it that the arrogance of youth takes flight, mortality strikes and reality bites? Some folk get depressed over milestone birthdays – the 21st, the 30th. Many of my friends are currently agonising over turning 40. That wasn’t a problem to me. The day I turned 27 was my biggy. That was the day I realised I’d never play football for Scotland. Truth be told, I knew from the age of 14 12 10 eh, make that 8 that I’d never play for Scotland, but We Have A Dream and all that.

(statisticians note, not my card!)

I had boxes and folders and albums stuffed full of football cards. Like many of my peers my hero was Kenny Dalglish, the swashbuckling, freescoring King of The Kop. I wasn’t a Liverpool supporter, but Kenny played for Scotland more times than anyone else and he was my idol. We even celebrated his birthday in my house (March 4th, if you want to know). A few years ago when moving house I found all those cards again and amongst them was the celebrated King Kenny card, both arms aloft in victory salute, red socks rolled to the ankles, the boyish smile atop the dark blue of Scotland with a rainy Hampden Park in the background. Aye. Boyish smile. Turning the card over broke me into a cold sweat. Kenny Dalglish. Age 27. Clubs: Celtic, Liverpool. Scottish appearances: 59. International goals: 20. Age 27. 27! He’d done all this by the age of 27! I hadn’t. Nor was I likely to.

It’s the same with music. Actually, it’s probably worse (or better, depending on how you view these things when considering your own contribution to the world.) Johnny Marr had done it all with The Smiths and split them up by the time he’d reached the ripe old age of 24. And when written down like that, I realise he isn’t that much older than me. Booker T Jones was only 17 when he recorded Green Onions with the MGs. 17! Seven-teen! The Boy Wonder himself, Sir Roddy of Frame turned up at a recording studio not far from where I’m currently typing at the age of 15 and, as the engineer himself told me a few years later, “blew everyone away, the wee fucker.”  ‘Little’ Stevie Wonder was practically a veteran of the Motown studios by the time he’d reached double figures. You could say the same about Michael Jackson, with his dance moves copped from James Brown and his wee unbroken vocal yelps the icing to his big brothers’ sugar sweet soul.

There are tons more….a 20 year old Steve Winwood vamping on Voodoo Chile with Jimi Hendrix, 19 year old Paul Weller releasing In The City, George Harrison being sent home from the Hamburg-era Beatles for being too young. Feel free to add to the list here…

It’s no’ fair, eh? Listen and weep old folks, listen and weep….

Michael Jackson‘s isolated vocal track on I Want You Back. Released when Michael was 11 years old.

Stevie Wonder‘s isolated vocal track on Uptight (Everything’s Alright). Released when Stevie was 16 years old.

Aztec Camera‘s debut single on Postcard Records (of course!) – A) Just Like Gold B) We Could Send Letters, released when Roddy was 16 years old. The wee fucker indeed.

The Sound of Young, young, Scotland.

Campbell Owens ‘n Roddy Frame ‘n Aztec Camera in 1983