Double Nugget, Get This!, Hard-to-find

High Kimpact

Kim Fowley is a throwback to the record industry of old. A wheeler, a dealer, a mover and a shaker, he’s had his fingers in as many musical pies as he could manage at the one time. He’s done it all; manager, writer, producer, artist, promoter, you name it – a great example of a jack of all trades yet master of none.

From the late 1950s onwards he seemed determined to involve himself in as many projects as possible, in the hope that one of them might stick long enough to guarantee himself a financially secure future and his place alongside Andrew Loog Oldham, Phil Spector and Brian Epstein on the Mount Rushmore of pop.

 kym fowley 60s

Fowley might not be as well known or commercially successful as the names above and although he always seemed to be a half-step out of time with the trends of the day, his influence went far and wide.

As The Beatles were clanging their first augmented 7ths off the Cavern Club’s walls, Kim was plying his trade as a West Coast Tin Pan Alley-style in-house writer. His daft novelty pop records credited to fictitious groups like The Hollywood Argyles sold by the bucket-load, even if you’d have trouble whistling them today (Alley Oop and Like, Long Hair, anyone?) His ear for A&R led to The Rivingtons having a hit with Papa Oom Mow Mow, a slice of duh-duh-duh-duh-duh doo-wop so blinkin’ catchy it spawned Surfin’ Bird, a tune that was the catalyst for bringing the brothers Ramone into the same rehearsal room. So, (at a creative stretch) no Kim Fowley, no Ramones.

By the mid 60s, Kim was recording and releasing his own little blasts of garage punk strangeness. Selling less than zero, they quietly found their way back to obscurity before being picked up years later. Fowley’s original material has been oft-bootlegged and deserves to be heard. You’d like it.

kim fowley girls

Animal Man

1968’s Animal Man is the jewel in an off-kilter crown. A Hendrixian squall of strangulated Strats, it riffs along like the snotty-nosed big brother of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, a bass-less, thrilling ramalama. Kim comes across like a proto Iggy, yelping and yowling, barking and burping his way through a list of sexual desires – “I’m a pig! Oink Oink!”, getting pervier and pervier by the second until it fades out in more of that ear-splitting lead guitar.

Bubblegum

Another from 1968, Bubblegum grooves along on organ, restrained percussion and more of that wild guitar. Very of its time. But in a good way. Given that it comes out of the speakers sounding like a tank going into no man’s land, I think this version is the full-fat mono recording.

Underground Lady

66’s Underground Lady is a one chord blues stomp, the kind you’ve heard a million times before, Kim sneering like a young Van Morrison fronting Them, Cuban heels stomping out the beat on the floor below. Young bands like The Strypes would kill for this sound.

The Trip

The Trip famously appeared on the original Nuggets LP. It‘s the claustrophobic, street walkin’, jive talkin’ oral equivalent of being 3 acid tabs to the wind. Itchy, scratchy and faintly unpleasant. It’s an essential listen, obviously.

Following his failed assault on the pop charts, Kim moved into writing and producing, then management. In the 70s he wrote for artists as varied as Alice Cooper, Leon Russell, Kiss and Kriss Kristofferson. He also produced material for Jonathan Richman, although it failed to make the band’s debut LP.

runaways

 

He then recruited 5 disparate female musicians, dressed them head to toe in figure-hugging denim, lycra and the occasional basque, called them The Runaways and set the pulse of every 15 year old mid-Western male racing. The Runaways paved the way for future all-girl acts such as The Bangles, The Go-Gos and Girlschool, proving that for once in his musical life, Kim was a step ahead of the curve.

He’s still going strong, is Kim Fowley. In 2012 he published the first part of his autobiography and just a couple of months ago, at the age of 75, he married his long-term girlfriend. The second part of his story will be written on his death bed and published posthumously. Not your average Joe at all.

Interview, 1977

Kim Fact #1.

When a nervous John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared at the last minute as special guests at 1969’s Toronto Rock & Roll Revival show, it was Kim’s idea for the audience to greet them by holding aloft their lighters and matches. Thus began a 70’s cliche…

Kim Fact #2

He looks a wee bit like Lou Reed, aye?

Cover Versions, Double Nugget, Hard-to-find, Sampled

Van Go!

Van Morrison has the dubious honour of being the most boring, souless, bum-numbing act I’ve ever had the misfortune to endure live in concert. Sometime in the mid 90s (94? 95? I can’t quite remember) we went to see him at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. It’s a terrific venue, unlike the vastness of the SECC it’s built for purpose, and everytime I’ve been there I’ve left wishing all my favourite arena-sized acts would play there. Van’s show that night was memorable for two reasons.

Firstly, Van was playing two nights in Glasgow on this tour. Our tickets, bought and paid for months in advance had gone missing in transit. By the time admin had caught up with this fact, the night we’d planned to attend was sold out. We were offered tickets for the next night instead, in prime middle of the house seats. Problem was, this night clashed with the football, and as a season ticket holder at Kilmarnock FC, I was torn between the big match with Rangers at home or the Van Morrison concert, an act I’d never yet seen live. I chose Van.

Secondly, and more crucially, Van had a bloody cheek to bill his show as a ‘Van Morrison‘ concert. His co-vocalist (I’d say backing vocalist, but as it transpired as the night unravelled, backing vocalist would have been a label more suited to Van himself) was Brian Kennedy, a Butlins’ Red Coat version of Marti Pellow, a Mr Darcy of a plank with flowing locks ‘n red suede coat ‘n cheshire cat grin ‘n all. To say Brian loved/loves himself would be a massive understatement. He posed and he preened and whenever Van gave him the nod, which was often, he’d let his Irish tenor’s warble loose on the best bits of Van’s back catalogue. It was criminal. Van seemed content to scowl and scat and hang onto his saxophone for comfort. Housewives’ favourite Brian performed his expensive take on karaoke for nigh on two hours and we all went home thoroughly underwhelmed. To put the tin lid on it, I think Killie secured a rare victory over the lavishly bonused tax dodgers from the Southside.  Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated, as someone once quipped.

Anyway, long before Van was singing about brown eyed-girls or reminding us how much he loved us, he was Ivan Morrison, vocalist in Belfast’s Them.

van them

A Northern Irish equivalent to The Animals or The Troggs, Them played thumping caveman rhythm and blues with a snap and a snarl. On their second LP you’ll find I Can Only Give You Everything.

Them I Can Only Give You Everything;

A feral Van welds his vocal to a nagging fuzzed-up garage punk stomper. It‘s crazed, demented and absolutely magic; a glorious Cuban-heeled clattering racket, the sort of record that makes me want to throw Jaggeresque handclapping poses, grow my hair into a bowlcut and squeeze my fat feet into snooker cue-thin Chelsea boots.

Talking of haircuts, Beck sampled the riff for his own Devil’s Haircut tune, but you probably knew that already. Actually, he may have played the riff live, rather than merely sample it. Either way, Beck built his record around the riff.

I Can Only Give You Everything is everything you need in a record – it’s just over two and a half minutes long but you know how it goes after two and a half seconds. The fuzz guitar riff NEVER changes at all. A Farfisa (?) organ appears during the second verse before leading the inevitable instrumental break and key change halfway through. Throughout, Van sings with a soul and passion much missing in action that mid 90s Glasgow night. The whole thing kicks like a mule.

*Bonus tracks!

Here’s Patti Smith doing Them‘s Gloria, no doubt at the insistence of Lenny Kaye, guitarist in the Patti Smith Group and also the compiler of the terrific Nuggets LP, the Bible of garage rock.

lenny kaye

I like to think that Lenny discovered Them as a wide-eyed teenager and it was this that prompted him to learn guitar. Who knows?

Patti Smith Group Gloria

Jimi Hendrix Experience Gloria

Van Morrison and Them Gloria

Double Nugget, Gone but not forgotten

Go Compare.com

Here’s some proof, if any was really needed, that everything in music has been done before and will be done again to the nth degree. A regular visitor to these pages once pointed out to me how similar The Libertines ‘Last Post on the Bugle’ sounded to Australian psych-heads The Masters Apprentices 1967 track ‘War Or Hands Of Time’. Making a mental note I promised to myself I’d listen to both records back to back before writing a bit about them.

The Masters Apprentices

I’d forgotten all about this shallow promise until the other day when The Masters Apprentices track shuffled up on my iPod. And I didn’t recognise it at first. “I don’t remember putting those Libertines demos on here,” I thought. Then it clicked. It wasn’t the Libertines. It was ‘War Or Hands Of Time’. And it sounded an awful lot like ‘Last Post On The Bugle‘. It really does. 

Johnny Thunders Pete Doherty

A check on the sleevenotes of the self-titled Libertines second album reveals a wee clue – Last Post On The Bugle is jointly published by EMI and MCA/Universal Music Publishing. A further bit of internet digging reveals that the track is written by Doherty/Barat/Bower. Doherty and Barat you’ll know…..but you may not know that Bower is (presumably) Michael Bower, guitarist with The Masters Apprentices. Voila! Not quite an admission of theft from Pete ‘n Carl (there’s no writing credit on the album sleeve), but nonetheless, they’ve given half the publishing over to a long forgotten hippy living on the other side of the world.

War Or Hands Of Time

When I turn cold, I will be thinking of you
When I’m far away, try to remember what I said
The day I live, I’ll still be dreaming of your love
Wait for the clouds to pass your way
Wait for me I’ll be back some day

Whereas the original track was written about a soldier embracing his sweetheart before heading off to war, Doherty keeps the melody and rewrites the song’s original lyrics to address the break up of his friendship with Carl Barat and The Libertines.

Last Post On The Bugle

If I have to go
I will be thinking of your love
Oh somehow you’ll know
You will know
Thinking of your love
Slyly they whispered away
As I played the last post on the bugle

Go Compare! As I said, proof that everything in music has been done before. Proof, also, that junkies will steal just about anything. Even the melody from an old long-forgotten slice of Antipodean psychedelic rock.

It’s a fair cop, guv etc etc

 

Cover Versions, Double Nugget, Hard-to-find

It’s The Aptly-Named Billy Fury!

Billy Fury. Your granny knows him from such staple Hit Parade fodder as ‘Halfway To Paradise’, ‘Wondrous Place’, ‘Last Night Was Made For Love’….. do I need to go on? Billy and Cliff Richard battled it out for the dubious tag of ‘British Elvis’, but the more sussed among us really knew that Elvis was in fact the ‘American Billy’.

billy-fury

Upturned collar? Check. Lip curl? Check. Half-collapsed quiff? Check. Forget the songs listed above and instead listen to this. ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Shakin’ But The Leaves On The Trees‘ is a hand clappin’ enhanced primal rocker that could’ve sat neatly on any Nuggets-type compilation you care to mention. How Fury got from garage band howling blues to slush like ‘Colette‘ is anyone’s guess but, wow, when he was on form there was clearly no-one like him. His manager obviously gave him his stage moniker round about this time, otherwise he’d have been forever known to the world as Billy Ballad. Incidentally, The Beatles version of ‘Nothin’ Shakin’…‘ can be found on their ‘At The BBC’ album. It sounds pish.

Morrissey was a big fan, so much so that he nicked half his look from Fury. Look here.  As too are those talented wee fuckers in The Last Shadow Puppets. They stuck their own version of ‘Wondrous Place’ on the b-side of their ‘The Age Of The Understatement‘ single. Understated indeed – a churchy organ, some brooding bass, a top vocal and some Duane Eddy twang halfway through. What I like about this lot is that they all look similar, they even sound similar when they sing and they are clearly very talented. A bit like The Beatles. But then, obviously nothing like The Beatles. I’ve already posted their version of Bowie‘s ‘In The Heat Of The Morning’ (here) and if they keep up their high standards of self-imposed quality control I think these two youngsters could be around for years to come. A bit like The Beatles. But then, obviously as I’ve already said, nothing like The Beatles as well.

dave-berry

2 more decent UK garage band rockers to follow. These days, Dave Berry may be more comfortable touring the country in those terrible 60s nostalgia shows alongside such 3rd divison outfits as The Swinging Blue Jeans and The Tremeloes. Back in the day he was equally comfortable blasting out tough R&B tunes as he was crooning pop ballads. One such record was July 1964’s‘The Crying Game’ (number 5, fact fans), much later also a hit for Boy George. The A-side was the pop ballad. The B-side was something else entirely. Along with his backing band The Cruisers, he came up with this proto-punk snarling rabid dog of a record. ‘Don’t Give Me No Lip Child’ is a belter, and given that the Sex Pistols strangled and choked it into something resembling a cover version, John Lydon thought so too.

lip-child-label

Before they became The Who, The High Numbers released ‘I’m The Face’. The sound of Swinging London, it was written by Peter Meaden, their amphetamine-fuelled manager stroke publicist. This tune is essentially Slim Harpo‘s ‘Got Love If You Want It’ with new lyrics designed to reflect the culture of the times – a classic mod-stomper of a record that was a paen to all things Modern (not modern). Of course, as is more often than not the way with fantastic records, the single was a flop. According to some sources, the only copies that were actually sold were bought by Meaden himself, in a crap attempt at chart rigging. Ivy League jackets. Buck skin shoes. I’m the face baby, is that clear? Clear as crystal, little Roger!

high-numbers